Several weeks ago, I accompanied my daughter to the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place in Chicago. Before the performance, we took a short walk along the lakefront for a rare father-daughter non-cellphone talk.
I hadn't been there in years. On our walk, I wanted to share with my high school senior daughter the joys of construction. I started telling her about one of my first construction projects that just happened to occur not too far away from where we stood.
It had to one of the coldest winters I ever experienced. I was assigned to help coordinate loading several thousands of Crown monuments from several of the Material Service Corp. operations around Chicago. I seem to recall that these 4-cubic-foot blocks cast from returned concrete had been sold to the Chicago Park District and were to be used as erosion protection or boat anchors in one of the Lake Michigan harbors.
When I was finished with my story, the only question my daughter asked concerned the name of the Crown monuments. She asked if there was any connection to the name of the theater. “Sure,” I answered. “Arie Crown was Col. Henry Crown's mother.” So she asked, who was Col. Crown?
Even though I never met him, Col. Crown was one those legends who helped shape my career. At Material Service in the late 1970s and early 1980s, young foremen were indoctrinated with stories of the colonel and his family's activities in Chicago construction. Even though the Crown monument was connected to something as drab as a concrete block, the praise was fitting. You see, nothing was ever wasted, even returned concrete. And just as important, we also knew that every block sold represented another donation to the Crown treasury.
I guess I was so caught up with the production side of the family, it wasn't until sometime later that I realized the Crown family had opted for a more public way to memorialize its legacy than the blocks. A quick Internet search will score hits on several important Henry Crown memorials, ranging from scholarships to athletic centers to endowments. I'm proud to say that my blood still runs red and yellow (Material Service's colors). And I hope my efforts while employed help provide support for the Crown monuments both underwater and above.
This month, we feature a story on monument builders of a much higher degree. I was surprised to learn how important concrete is in creating our nation's legacy. I challenge you to name a monument built in the last 75 years that doesn't have concrete in it. The architects, designers, and owners have come to trust each of you with creating a product that's durable enough to help cast their memorials well into the future. Fortunately, we rarely take the responsibility for granted.
In our Atlas of Concrete Monuments, I think you'll find something interesting. It's my pick of some of the most significant concrete monuments in the United States and Canada. Take a look and feel free to send me more nominations.
Hopefully, you've been involved in something we can add to our list that impresses your daughter's opinion of your career more than delivering underwater concrete boat anchors. No wonder my daughter wants to major in music and the join the Peace Corps to save the world.