In 1968 Merle Haggard released a country song with the lyrics " and I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole. No one could steer me right but Mama tried, Mama tried." The following year I too turned twenty-one and found myself in prison but not for the reasons Haggard sang about. It was the Vietnam Era and I was one of Jehovah's Witnesses. So I began my adult life with thirty other young Witness men in a Federal prison camp at Eglin Air Force Base Florida for selective service violation. Little did I know that a few years later I would be at The Lord's House with one of these young men as a room mate.
In 1971 I was released after serving seventeen months of my three year sentence, the remainder I would finish on parole. After a few years of working and pioneering 1975 was fast approaching. And what better place for a Witness to be at than The Lord's House, I thought. I was , as they use to say unencumbered, so I applied for Bethel service and was accepted.
My first job at Bethel was in a construction crew in the subbasement , that's even lower than the basement, of the newly acquired Towers Hotel. We were to demo. two mammoth oil burning boilers used for heating the hotel. They were to be replaced by smaller more efficient ones by an outside company.In otherwords we got to do the dirty preparation grunt work. Hey, we were just happy to be there at The Lord's House.
There wasn't as much said back in the 70s about safety as there is today. Probably that young brother who had to craw into that old oil storage tank to clean the gunk out would have violated OSHA Confined Space Rules of today. And removing that asbestos that insulated the boilers and piping had to conflict with modern OSH Rules. I guess the Lord would protect us was our naive thinking back then. Asbestosis sometimes takes years to show up. A thought that I find worrisome to this day.