Willis "shorty" Creason
§ CO Immense creations are work of longtime concrete 'artist' PLAINVILLE (HNS) - Willis "Shorty" Creson Creson might be called a concrete expert. Like a sculptor shapes works of clay, Creson uses . concrete as his medium. Unlike an artist, however, Creson's creations are immense. They range from grain elevators to 27-floor motels. For 33 years, Creson has traveled over the country building concrete towers skyward. Now in Plainville, Creson is superintendent of a crew building a triangular tower to house microwave microwave equipment for Southwestern Bell. Soaring 150 feet and 8 inches high, the gray structure looms over Plainville's downtown area. The tower, located in the back of the telephone company, will house antennae to receive and transmit transmit microwave radio signals to relay long distance calls. For this job, like many others in years past, Creson Creson is wearing the hat of Jarvis Construction Company, Company, Salina. Concrete construction is a craft of its own, according according to Creson. The three walls of the microwave tower are each nine inches thick. The tower took shape slowly — six inches at a time — as crews worked around the clock pouring concrete into wooden slip forms. Excluding Excluding two halts for freezing weather, the tower took shape over 14 days. As the bottom layer of concrete dried, the slip forms were jacked up, allowing workmen to add another another six inches in height. Steel is added as reinforcement reinforcement as the walls are poured. Workmen reach the top by climbing a staircase through the tower's hollow insides. The tower is anchored anchored to the ground by a series of columns extending extending into the ground — some 39 feet deep and other 27 feet deep. Plainville's microwve tower is the first job of its kind for Creson, but the slip form technique used to build it was learned years ago. . Many microwave towers, such as the one in Hays, are constructed of steel, but when base area is limit- ed, concrete has proven to be more efficient. Another Another crew is building a similar concrete tower in Norton. Norton. Creson, 60, got his start in the construction business business after his discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps after World War II. "I knew if I was ever going to amount to anything, I had to stay with something until I learned it," he said. His first love Concrete has been his construction love. By his second job, Creson already was a foreman. His spe- ciality has taken him around the country. "By the time my oldest daughter was 12, she had moved 54 times," he said. "But by the time she was 19, she was a registered nurse, and now she has a master's (degree) in civil engineering. I guess moving moving didn't hurt her." The family bought a small farm in Arkansas when the children started high school, and it's there Creson's Creson's wife has settled in recent years to wait for her husband's retirement. She often takes a break from her teaching job in summer to accompany him during during those times when work is the heaviest. Her retirement wait may be a few years, for there's something almost addictive about each new job — and the company has asked Creson to stay on. Every job presents a new challenge. "I know it," Creson says of concrete. "I know just as much about this as anyone going. I can do other construction, I just don't like to." Although workers appear tiny atop the tower in Plainville, the structure is almost short in comparison comparison to some other towers Creson has built. Like a chart built into his head, Creson can recall the places, dates and heights. The tallest was the 275-foot grain elevator in New Orleans. Another was a 175-foot Holiday Inn in Wichita. Creson has worked for three companies in his career. career. At one time eight trailers were in his caravan as he traveled from town to town. "It's been good to me," he says of the business. "I've raised four kids. We were never hungry and always had plenty of clothes on our backs." The high-paying business, he concedes, does have its risks. Two of his men were killed in 1949 when they fell 112 feet from atop a grain elevator they were building building in McCracken. Nevertheless, Creson has had few doubts about what he wanted to do. "I was never really scared," he said. "I try to teach my men to be careful and safety-minded. But I can't watch the men every step they take. If a person person watches what he's doing up there, he's not in any danger." Creson said he never worried about accidents. Nor did he worry about getting killed during World War II when he was in the thick of fighting in the South Pacific. He hasn't escaped injury, however. A 12-foot fall onto a concrete base in 1946 caused vision problems still with him today. "But that was the last fall I ever had," he said. "I learned better." Because of the dangerous nature of the work, crews are often kept intact for the various jobs. They come to know and trust each other. There is no special training — just that which comes on the job. The construction of the narrow microwave tower, he said, is more difficult than that of grain elevators. elevators. "It's so small, it's complicated," he said. "There's hardly enough room up there to keep the men out of each other's way, let alone the equipment." The narrow scope of the microwave tower is evident evident in Creson's reduced work crew. About seven to eight men have built Plainville's tower. On elevator job, Creson employs from 10 to 40 men. If the weather stays favorable throgh January, Creson says the tower should be completed within a month, pushing his total stay in Plainville to about three months. As Creson gathers his crew and heads for his next job, Western Electric will begin to install the telephone telephone equipment in Plainville's only skyscraper.