Fifty years, five decades, half a century is a long time to some. To others it seems like an instant, or just a period when memories were created that provide things to think about, including things you did or things did not do but intended to do. To Bill it means over 50 years of life in the Portland cement and concrete industries, to Bernie it's exactly 50 years, and to Concrete Construction 50 years is its lifetime.
We remember 50 years ago when Bill Avery began CC. In 1956 Bill Hime already had five years in our industry and was a chemist at the Research and Development Laboratories of the Portland Cement Association (PCA); Bernie was just beginning his petrographic career at PCA. Little did we know then that both we and CC would still be around 50 years later or that we would periodically be contributing to the magazine. We remember in CC's somewhat early years, when an associate of ours, Bill Kuenning—who later joined the magazine's staff—got us to contribute an article on evaluating fire damage to concrete structures. It pleases us to still be contributing today.
Fifty years ago our industry was different. Portland cement manufacturing plants were mostly locally and U.S. owned; admixtures were around but not used as extensively as they are today; fly ash was an infant; ground granulated blast-furnace slag was almost unheard of; concrete strengths of 3000 psi prevailed; silica fume and mid- and high-range water-reducers weren't around; steel, polypropylene, and other fibers hadn't yet been commercially used; air-entrainment was actively researched and highly touted; stamped and colored concrete was just beginning; and we thought we knew all there was to know about alkali-silica reaction and sulfate attack. There were visions of buying prestressed concrete elements like buying wood at a lumberyard—just provide the size needed and it would be cut to order.
But back then, our industry wasn't really so different. Portland cement still contained the same calcium silicates, calcium aluminates, and calcium aluminoferrites, but smokestack emissions were uncontrolled and provided fertilizer to neighboring farmers' fields. Cement hydration has remained the same—but we now know more about it. Concrete strengths and other properties are still created by the same hydration phenomena, and interground gypsum, with all of its pluses and minuses, is still used to control concrete setting (but in greater amounts).
During the past 50 years we have learned new things, like alkali carbonate reaction, delayed ettringite formation, deicer attack, the ins and outs of corrosion of embedded steel, how to more quickly analyze portland cement (hours versus days), more efficient and effective petrographic methods of analysis, and how to get super high-strength concrete.
Compared with the age of our earth or the Bible, CC hasn't been around very long. Compared with our lives and generation—thanks to the imagination of Bill Avery—it has successfully been around for a long time. CC has touched and provided its readership with many diverse and informative articles that have made its 50 years both long and short, depending on how you view it. Whichever it is, we are pleased to have been contributors.
William Hime is a principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates and began working as a chemist at PCA 53 years ago.
Bernard Erlin is president of The Erlin Company (TEC), Latrobe, Pa., and has been involved with all aspects of concrete for over 47 years.