An Interview with Ed Bowles, March 6, 2012

Posted by Rose Ann Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015

Ed Bowles was born in 1936 in Eagle Pass, Texas, just over the Rio Grande from Piedras Negras, Mexico. Ed’s dad was a border patrolman for the U.S. Customs Agency, his mom was from Mexico, and Ed grew up bilingual. “We’d talk to Daddy in English and Mama in Spanish.” When he was ten, Ed’s parents decided that California would be a better place to raise a family, and they moved to Aromas. Living near the Quarry, Ed and his friends would swim in the lake at the top of the hill and use the showers by the old Quarry softener house. He also remembers swimming with friends in the Pajaro River. “We used to dive in and ride through the culvert pipe near the Quarry. We’d hold our breath, the current would shoot us across and we’d come out the other side.”

Ed’s dad and brothers found work in Hollister with Ideal Cement Company, and during high school Ed worked there as well. Val Verutti , who was Graniterock’s head of RTS for many years, was chief chemist at Ideal Cement at the time, and hired Ed as a “sample boy”. Ed recalls that his Dad was a kiln man, his oldest brother Griff ran the raw end mill, and his brother Leroy ran the slurry silos. Finishing school at age nineteen, Ed married his high school sweetheart, Helen, and they moved to Watsonville.

Ed worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, then PG & E, and eventually found a job as an oiler with Granite Construction. In 1963, Ed came close to death while working on a trenching job near Pasatiempo. He remembers the accident clearly. “The ground was caving in, I was thrown into the chain of the drag line bucket, and the bucket got my foot and sucked me underneath. George Wagner saw what happened, jumped over the ditch and hollered at the operators to stop”.  After four surgeries, three months in traction and almost two years off work to recover, Ed’s friend Paul Mahler told him about a job at Graniterock.  Elmer Neyens hired Ed as an apprentice electrician on March 29, 1965, and he stayed with the Company for thirty years.

When he started, the old primary crusher needed constant maintenance. “Everything was breaking, things were just worn out. The demand was there, but we couldn’t do enough with the equipment we had.  The country had been through the Depression and the War, and after the early fifties, with twenty years of pent up demand, it just all broke loose. But the best we could do was maybe 800-1,000 tons per hour.”

Finally, in 1984, after years of planning and no little trepidation over the risk and expense, work began on Phase One of the Quarry Modernization Plan, installation of the Krupp Mobile Crusher.  Ed recalls the fun of helping put the Krupp together when it and nine engineers, only one of whom spoke English, arrived from Germany. They had built the crusher in Germany and fired it up there to be sure it would work, then dismantled it and shipped it here to be rebuilt, piece by piece.  “They really got the right one with the Krupp. It was the biggest investment ever around here, but that baby could cruise at 3-4,000 tons per hour”.

Ed remembers when a group arrived from Saudi Arabia to see the Krupp crusher in action. One of the Saudi’s said, “I’d like to see it walk”.  They told him, “’You can’t see it walk right now because it’s busy crushing!”  Next, according to Ed, “He went to the office to see Mrs. Woolpert. She said, yes, you can see it walk, but it will cost us $7K per hour to shut it down. They paid it, and he had his camera taking clicks and clicks and clicks. Then they bought one for themselves after that.”

When Ed retired in 1995, the Quarry modernization was complete, and the A. R. Wilson Quarry was ready to meet the demands of future generations.  Ed believes that the years he was at Graniterock were “the greatest years of the century”.  Looking back on it now, it is clear that it took the talent, energy, and enthusiasm of Graniterock people like Ed Bowles to make it all happen.

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