"Back in Mexico when I was 13 years old, I landed a job in the state of Veracruz. They were working on a gas pumping station for Phoenix. I started out as a 'helper'. So, as I hung around, I watched the welders and I learned how to pipe feed and other aspects of welding. After that job, the company asked me to stay on and I finally got to weld by myself after a couple of years. I worked all over Mexico at that very young age. Then I ended up in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
"Then in 1969, I came to the U.S. to work. Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there wasn't very much safety on the jobs. You didn't care about wearing safety glasses or ear plugs or covering your hands with the protective gloves or your feet with steel-toed boots. So, there were a lot of accidents, bad accidents. I remember once we were working in the North Sea. This crane was carrying this large piece of 48-inch pipe. And they didn't have a flag man. The flag man keeps an eye on everything and everybody that is happening during the job. But the crane operator didn't notice one of the workers was in the way of the pipe he was moving. The pipe smashed him pretty bad. Other unsafe activities like drinking on the job were common on those extended jobs. That isn't how it is anymore. Now, the first thing that happens before you do any work is they have a safety meeting. Then they have another big meeting once a month.
"My biggest job was an oil platform we built for the North Sea. Each leg of the platform weighed 17,000 tons. To get each leg onto a giant barge to be shipped to the North Sea, they used a giant crane called Thor. I went with the barge and stayed out at sea for three months to complete my portion of the job. One of the platforms we built was destined for the waters off Alaska. When they turned it upright, the legs sank too far into the sand and rock. So, they decided to take it out. But the feet were stuck, so they dynamited the sand but with too much explosive. It cracked one of the legs. We were called out to repair what they had damaged. Later they found a better spot with less loose sand."