Transcript of interview with John Cook, 1999
“Another time we were paving, about 1975, we were paving
by Interchange 8A, in fact we’re going over the Cranbury Road Bridge.
And like I said, you were out there, you eat with the guys, you drink with the
guys—you’re out there with the guys, I mean, you talk to the guys,
I mean, you learn about one another’s family, you recognize one another
from year to year, and some guys they’re going with different paving contractors—there’s
a good rapport out there. There’d have to be, because you’re out
there working, you’re looking out for the other guy’s backside because,
I mean, you got tractor-trailers, the only thing protecting you between you
and the tractor-trailer is a rubber cone. We’ve got hit out there a couple
of times, people rear into paving trucks, and stuff like that, and later on,
some people did get hurt seriously. But we were just fortunate enough that,
thank God, none of us did get hurt seriously out there.
“But when it was time for lunchtime, they used to love
kielbasa and peppers—and they used to get the [?] kielbasa, sometimes
we got chicken, put barbequed chicken in there too, and wrap it up with peppers
and onions in aluminum foil, and put it in the hopper of the machine. Now the
front-end hopper of the machine, that’s where the dump truck used to dump
the asphalt, 350° asphalt. They used to use that as the oven, [the] corner
of the hopper. The asphalt used to go through a conveyor belt, come out the
rear end, and that was your paving mat, through the . . . compactors. So we’re
paving along there, the guys put the lunch in about 11 o’clock: I see
them cutting up the peppers and onions and kielbasa. They generally used to
send a guy out for rolls—that was the only thing that was fresh, the rolls.
“So about just over the Cranbury Road Bridge and all
of a sudden, they’re yelling and screaming and hollering, all of a sudden,
everything comes to a stop: paving comes to a stop, they shut the machine off.
They all go running back maybe about a hundred feet back of the machine, just
where the roller had gone over. And they got a pick and two shovels—they
knew exactly where it was. What happened was, it dislodged itself loose out
of the oven, went through the conveyor belt, went into the asphalt, into the
mat. They got the pick and they shoveled it out: didn’t even break the
aluminum foil. But you know, when you ate the stuff—I mean, it was good
kielbasa—it had a little diesel oil taste to it, paving oil taste.
“But hey, I mean, you eat there, you survive with these
guys, I mean, these guys are great people.”