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Almond Historical Society Newsletter
The Almond Dam--Part 2
(Continued from page 2)
Wendell was grateful for a job, even though he was clearing brush and trees
with "a good old axe and cross cut saw," he said. "All the guys coming out
of the service were in pretty good shape, but we ended up with blisters on our
hands and sore backs. But it beat the $20 that the GI Bill was going to pay us
for the next 52 weeks," he chuckled. His father-in-law, the late Harold
Willey, had worked on heavy equipment at the Arkport Dam construction
site, and was the master mechanic on the Almond Dam project.
Victor Stuck of Arkport was very happy when he returned home from
the service to find a job with Bianchi operating a huge earthmover called a
tournapull. Describing the contractor as a "beautiful guy," he said the best
part of the job was the pay: The worst part: getting in some tight spots and
the dust.
John D'Apice of Hornell was in Schillacci's Barber Shop on Loder
Street one day, concerned about his need for a better job. Having just re-
turned from World War II, he happened to look out the window and see one of the gigantic machines go
by, that had just been unloaded at the Erie Depot. "That's for me!" he said, and went to find out how to
get a job on the Almond Dam project. He started out as a "euc" driver, hauling gravel and material from
the Thacher flats up to the dam area.
But the challenge of driving a tournapull obsessed John. While the
"eucs" simply transported materials, the tournapulls were a much more com-
plex machine. Consisting of two parts, the front two-wheeled tractor section
housed the engine and operator, and was attached to the rear "pan" with an
arrangement of lanky hydraulic arms and shafts. By working a series of hand
controls, the driver was able to drop the bottom of the "pan" and scoop up
huge amounts of dirt and gravel as they moved along. Holding an enormous
capacity of 12 yards, it was necessary for a dozer ("snatchcat") to be at-
tached to the front of the rig, providing additional power for the job.
"Every day I watched the guys operating the tournapulls," John re-
membered. He went on to tell that when they stopped for lunch, he watched
where they parked their equipment. "One day I went over to one of the driv-
ers and asked him if I could take the rig out for a `run.' He let me take it, and
the boss came around, wondering who was out working during the lunch
hour. `Who is driving that rig??' he asked, and the guys said, `D'Apice.' He
waved me down and said, `You want to break your neck, eh? Tomorrow morning you are going to start
learning to operate the tournapull,'" John declared.
Nicknaming the device a "mankiller," he explained that the Army surplus equipment had a com-
plicated operating system consisting of two foot-operated throttles, two hand-operated steering clutches,
as well as foot brakes and hand brakes on the back of the steering clutches. Two additional levers were
used to pick up the pan after a load and dump it at whatever height the foreman requested. "It was real
tough to steer, and our hands were busy all the time" he explained, "We always referred to them as `she',
because it took a long time to learn how to operate it, and we never knew what it was going to do," he
laughed. Making the job even more difficult was the fact that traffic was still moving on Route 36 be-
tween Hornell and Almond while a lot of the construction was taking place.
Termed a "very dangerous job", one of the incentives for
the drivers was the pay: John started out at $1.10 as a "euc"
driver, then began at $1.75 on the tournapull, with his pay increas-
ing to $2.75 per hour. Sixty-hour workweeks provided the work-
ers with excellent wages at that time.
In spite of the fact that the huge contraption tipped over
twice with him, John still is enthusiastic about his career as a
heavy equipment operator. "I loved it," he said. "I loved watching
a mountain disappear and take a different shape. When the dam
was finished, three of us took the rigs all the way to the Adiron-
dacks to another project site a three-day trip, " he recalled.
Another vet back from the war, Ed Rawady, was also looking for a job. One day someone told
him, "They need some carpenters up at the dam, and they are paying $1.75 an hour. I didn't walk I ran
up to find out about it. I was no carpenter I had pounded a few nails, but that was it! I really put out
(Continued on page 4)
Tournapull Front
Tournapull Rear
"Eucs" Ready to Go