Bill Van Sandt – The Story of His Career With Graniterock

Posted by Rose Ann Woolpert on Mar 18, 2015

Bill Van Sandt’s time at Graniterock spanned nearly 50 years of the Company’s history. In a 2008 interview, Bill recalled his experiences as a driver in Santa Cruz during the 1950’s and later as manager of the Santa Cruz Branch of Graniterock. This is the first of a two part story of his career, and tells about his early years delivering concrete in the Santa Cruz area.

Bill arrived in Santa Cruz, California, with his family in 1937. They came from Missouri, having moved at the invitation of an uncle who worked in Salinas as a road master for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Bill attended Soquel Elementary, Branciforte Junior High and Santa Cruz High. World War II began while Bill was in high school, and like all the young men in his class, he joined the war effort. Enlisting in the Navy, he served as Seaman First Class on the U.S.S. Holly, a submarine net tender in the Pacific. A net tender’s primary function was to lay and maintain steel anti-torpedo or anti-submarine nets. Nets could be laid around an individual ship at anchor, or around harbors or other anchorages. Net laying was potentially dangerous work, and net laying seamen were experts at dealing with blocks, tackles, knots and splicing.

In 1946, with the war over, Bill came home and went to work for Ruble & Shoemaker, a local concrete finisher. Graniterock’s building materials supply business, known at the time as Central Supply Company, would deliver rock and sand to the job site. Bill would shovel the rock and sand into a scoop, add sacks of cement, and put it all into a 2-yard mixer. The concrete would then be loaded into wheelbarrows. A team of nine men could pour two house foundations per day.

In those years there were no ready mix concrete trucks. In the 1940’s and 50’s there was a Central Supply Company plant in Watsonville for pre-mixed concrete, and there were “bathtub” trucks, also known as Dumpcretes, which could be loaded with 2 yards of concrete for delivery. The problem with these trucks, according to Bill, was that as the concrete was driven to the job site it would separate, so that on arrival it was a tough chore to remix the material. The rock and sand would be a solid mass at the bottom of the truck, and had to be shoveled out by hand.

In 1950, Bill got a job at Central Supply’s Santa Cruz Branch, which was then located at Chestnut and Jenne Streets, close to Neary Lagoon. He was hired to unload rail cars, but soon started to drive a 3-yard mixer truck, one of three at the branch. Bill recalled working on a concrete parking lot being built for the Soquel Avenue Safeway store. He made twenty-two trips in one day for that job. Driving down the highway in his little truck, the vibrations would stop the drum from turning. “You had to reach out the back and pull a lever to start it up again.” Asphalt was also delivered from Santa Cruz. Bill remembered shoveling, by himself, two tons of blacktop from a storage bunker into a delivery truck. “We worked hard in those days.”  The very same mixer truck that Bill once drove is now a part of Graniterock’s fleet of historic construction vehicles, and is often on display at community events and parades throughout our area.

Coming next: Bill’s experiences managing Graniterock’s Santa Cruz Branch.

Back to all Blogs