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Judsonia resident helped construct Greers Ferry DamOriginally Published September 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 27, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
JUDSONIA — Houston Bell of Judsonia said he “just talked to the right boss” when he got a job building the Greers Ferry Dam.
“I knew they were building a dam, so I just went up there and asked for a job,” he said. “I worked as an oiler [at the concrete plant].
“One time I was oiling one of those mixers and saw that it was slipping. I hollered and told them what was happening. If I hadn’t noticed it, that mixer would have fallen into the hopper. I saved them some money there.”
Bell, now 94, worked on the dam for about a year and a half when he was “about 38 or 40,” he said, and he had to join a union — “Ironworkers, I think,” he said.
“That was the first time I had ever worked on a dam,” Bell said. “It wasn’t scary work.
“I drove back and forth from Judsonia every day. When we got toward the end of the job, the boss asked me if I would continue working just a half-day a week. I said, ‘No.’ That was too far for me to drive for just a half-day of work.
“They did tell me they would take me on to their new job. They were going to Yellowtail, Montana to build another dam, but I didn’t want to go there.”
Bell quit his job at the Greers Ferry Dam and went fishing.
“I just took two weeks off and went fishing,” he said with a laugh. “Then I began working for Matthews International Corp. making bronze markers for cemeteries.”
Bell worked for the bronze company for 17 1/2 years, retiring when he was 64.
Prior to his work on the Greers Ferry Dam, he worked on pipelines for Northern National Gas in Iowa for 8 1/2 years.
“I helped put in pipelines for five towns,” he said.
Bell, who was drafted into the Air Force in 1944 and served in World War II until 1945, said he did not attend the dedication of Greers Ferry Dam in 1963, nor has he attended any of the dedication ceremonies since.
“I did drive up there and dug up a piece of a rosebush they had planted where JFK had been,” he said, laughing. “I’ve still got it.”