A note on these photos from Don Claunch:
My grandfather, Ralph A. Mathisen was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming (where I live). He was drafted into the Marines after the start of the World War II, Since he was a carpenter he spend his service time doing his trade. He worked as a Marine carpenter building barracks and other buildings on what is now Edwards Air Force Base on the Mojave desert (formerly Muroc).
After the war he stayed in California with my grandmother, my mother and her three brothers. They settled in El Monte and lived there a few years before returning to Wyoming where they spent the rest of their lives. At some time, I am not exactly sure of the dates, he and his brother started a pre-fab concrete company in California. I do not know if these pictures are of his company or if he was working for someone else.
There are 22 photos of his that I have found that are all labeled “Trona, March 1947”. Some of the photos have other notations that I will include. There are photos of other workers I am sending a, while they may be meaningless, I wanted to include them in case these were residents of Trona at that time.
A note from David Stevens: It is a wonder that I remember anything about this at all because in March of 1947 I would have been four years old but in fact I do. I didn’t see much of what was going on in Pioneer Point but the the walls and roofs of these concrete prefab houses were built in an area behind our house that we called the lot. The lot sat between California Street on the east and the executive quarters on the left. To the south was the AP&CC plant and our house was on the north on Argus Ave.
They cleared and flattened the lot by pushing the large boulders that were on it to the east side. They ran power lines, water and steam from the plant out to the equipment they would be using. When they were all done much of the equipment remained in place for years sitting in the lot. It was still there during the big snow of 1952.
The walls and roofs were made in assembly line fashion. They were moved across the lot on railroad tracks, dried and cured in steam heated enclosures and then put on trucks and hauled one mile to Pioneer Point where the houses were assembled. Later on the same equipment was used to build the Fairway and Wildrose Apartments.
I’ve included a link to a satellite view of what the lot looks like today.
Several years ago Mike Osborn sent me pictures that included some of the concrete prefab houses. You can find them here. They were 2 bedroom houses with a living room and kitchen toward the front. As far as I know they are still standing. Over time most of the owners covered the original flat concrete roof with conventional peaked roofs.
It would be interesting to know how the walls and ceilings were fastened together and how the conduits transitioned from concrete wall to wall and to ceilings.
Alan Bengtson (THS 1968) adds the following information:
Theses were NORMAC houses made by the NORMAC Company. I still have my dad’s brochure on them from the late ’40s. NORMAC went bankrupt shortly after building these in Pioneer Point. Our house was the second to the north end of what is now 8th Street. I lived there the first 20 years of my life. All concrete construction, 6 inch thick walls, 3 inches of lightweight reinforced concrete, sandwiched between 1 1/2 inch layers of normal concrete. Biggest claim was that they were “earthquake proof.” Decades ahead of their time!
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