In preparing for our 50th anniversary issue next month, I've been looking through issues of CC from the 1950s and 1960s. The most surprising thing for me has been how much we knew about making good concrete—and good concrete construction—50 years ago. Article after article cautions finishers not to add water to the mix, to wait until the bleed water is gone before getting on the slab, and to cure the concrete properly. The very first issue describes a new walk-behind trowel machine and shows a way to stamp patterns into a slab.
But what has changed dramatically is the way we work. In those days, “concrete men,” especially finishers, spent a lot of time bent over, or on hard knee boards, or pushing heavy buggies full of concrete. Communications between office and field were difficult at best. And the concrete was more unpredictable, so when things went bad, no one was entirely sure why.
When Bill Avery put out the first issue of CC in 1956, I'm sure he was more worried about staying in business for the next few months than he was about where the industry would be in 50 years. But still I wonder what he would think if he could see us today. I'm sure he would be both pleasantly surprised and disappointed. He would be thrilled by the big pumps and laser screeds and incredible admixtures. But he would shake his head at the sight of cracked pavements and rust-destroyed bridges and spalled surfaces. He would wonder how our industry could still be so fractured, with ready mix producers and engineers and contractors often acting as if the other is the enemy.
All of this has me thinking about where this industry will be in 2056, but we'll talk about that in the September issue. The one thing I'm sure about though, is that 50 years ago or 50 years from now, concrete has and will require knowledge to be done right. There will always be turnover in this business, new people arriving without the basic understanding of the material and its intricacies. That's been the mission of CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION for the past 50 years—one we will continue for the next 50 years—to provide a basic understanding for the neophyte and to raise the level of knowledge among all concrete contractors so that they can do their job right and profitably. To succeed today, and in the future, requires you to build your understanding of what Tommy Ruttura calls “this fickle material.” Keep learning with us and this industry will solve its problems to produce truly perfect concrete in 2056.