T H E C O N S T R U C T OR S
The First 50 Year history of
CIANBRO THE CONSTRUCTORS
Ann McGowan ■
DESIGN & GRAPHICS Jean D. Cousins ■
PROJECT MANAGER Lynn M Cianchette ■
D. Terri Hibbard
Cover Photos: (Top from left) L. L. Bean Expansions; Wesserunsett Bridge; and Fort Fairfield Power Plant. (Center) S. D. Warren Biomass; Holtwood Fish Passage; and Mead Paper Mill Modernization. (Bottom) Piscataqua River Bridge Copyright c 1998 CIANBRO CORPORATION, Pittsfield, Maine. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher and copyright holder. This edition printed by PENMOR LITHOGRAPHERS 8 Lexington Street • P.O. Box 2003 Lewiston, Maine 04241-2003 207 784-1341 Library of Congress Catalog number in progress
Dedicated to the Cianbro team of the past and present who have committed themselves to building our company with a â€œcan-doâ€? spirit while focusing on excellence, and creating a family environment of trust and mutual respect and to members of the future team for carrying on this spirit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann McGowan worked as a journalist for the Central Maine Morning
Sentinel for 35 years and retired from her position as the newspaper’s editor in 1996. She started her career as a correspondent/reporter and for 15 years her news beat was the town of Pittsfield. She subsequently held positions as feature writer, feature editor, editorial page editor, assistant managing editor, and finally, editor. Over the years, her work was recognized by the Maine Press Association (MPA) with several first place awards. Between 1996 and 1998, McGowan and her daughter, Jean, earned six first place awards from MPA and the Maine Media Women for their column, Like Mother, Unlike Daughter, featured in the Sunday Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal Sunday. McGowan and her husband, Bernard, reside in Pittsfield. They are parents of five children and they have seven grandchildren. ■
■ ABOUT THE DESIGNER: Jean D. Cousins operates DayJack, a graphic design business, from her home in Berlin, Vermont. In addition to working on “Cianbro The First 50 Years,” she has been writing and illustrating a children’s book. Cousins, a Winslow, Maine native, studied art at the University of Southern Maine in Portland and worked 15 years as a graphic artist/designer for the Central Maine Newspapers in Waterville and Augusta. During her career with the newspapers, she was the recipient of numerous accolades for page design and graphics including a first place award in international competition from the Society of Newspaper Design, plus several first place awards from the Maine Press Association, and from New England Associated Press News Executives Association. Cousins and her husband, David, have two children, Dayna and Jackson. ■ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This book would not have been possible without the Cianbro team who lived the stories and shared them, as well as those who took project photos throughout the years. A debt of gratitude is also owed to Jack Havey and Ad Media for allowing the reprinting of their fine artwork and photographs and to all others who contributed information and material for this book.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
chapter one.............................................................................................................................1 chapter two..........................................................................................................................11 chapter three...................................................................................................................27
chapter four........................................................................................................................41 chapter five.........................................................................................................................57
chapter six ............................................................................................................................79
chapter seven...............................................................................................................101 chapter eight.................................................................................................................. 119 chapter nine...................................................................................................................135 v
he crowd of spectators was small for a football Sunday, but the stakes were high and the enthusiasm of the players unbridled. On fourth and one, the quarterback called a Hail Mary pass play. The offensive guards and tackles blew off the line, flattening their hapless counterparts. The wide receivers went deep and the brown round Thomas E. Dailey object was thrown perfectly, arching high against the bright blue sky and landing in the receiverâ€™s hands as he crossed the goal line and time ran out. . . . . . TOUCHDOWN!!! Final score 6 - 0. No, this was not the New England
Thomas E. Dailey November 1998
Patriots vs. the Miami Dolphins. It was, to my knowledge, the first and only Cianbro Corporation football game between the field staff and the office staff. The location was a beach in Honolulu, the year was 1980, and the football was a coconut. The occasion was the election of Ival (Bud) Cianchette to the office of national President of the Associated General Contractors of America. I was a walk-on in this football game. Our team lost but it marked the beginning of a long and valued friendship with the Cianchette brothers, their families, and many of the key players in the company, including current Cianbro president Pete Vigue. Pete was the quarterback. This book describes the remarkable history of the Cianbro Corporation over 50 years of steady operation. Fifty years is a significant milestone for any compa-
ny, but for a construction company it is rare indeed. Construction is an industry fraught with risk of a magnitude that would make the average person run for cover. It is an industry that produces buildings, roads, dams, and bridges, no two of which are ever alike. It is an industry where competition is fierce and contractors must usually guarantee the price of the projects they construct before they know their cost. To succeed, a company must possess a strong spirit together with engineering skills, the ability to lead, and a Herculean work ethic. Cianbro Corporation is such a company. Fifty years ago, in the aftermath of World War II, the Cianchette brothers launched this company which was destined to become a legend in its own time. They were short on net worth but long on hard work and dedication. They plunged into the construction business
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS with a mere $5500 capitalization and toiled mightily to succeed. From their first job loading hardwood pulp onto boxcars with their bare hands - they learned the hard lessons of the business. Called Cianbro Corporation since 1970, the company is now known as one of the best heavy construction firms on the Atlantic coast. Annual revenues are now approximate $175 million and nearly 1500 dedicated employees work as a team to bring their impressive projects to a timely and profitable completion. This teamwork is no accident. It has developed over the years as a natural result of the discipline, sense of fairness, and camaraderie that the brothers have with each other. These men are unique in the world of construction. They are tough-minded entrepreneurs but at the same time they care more about quality and reputation than they do about quick profits. They have worked side-by-side for these 50 years instilling solid personal values and goals for their employees. They expect the same commitment from them that they themselves have given the company. At the end of each year, the results are communicated and the profits shared generously. Through all of this, there is a collective sense of humor
among the brothers that is extremely rare in this business. They have the grace not to take themselves too seriously as they go about the business of carrying the company forward - and for all their differences, nothing interferes with their respect for each other. Where will Cianbro go from here? My guess is that it will prosper for another 50 years, and beyond. Todayâ€™s Cianbro team, under the leadership of Pete Vigue, is strong and dedicated. This team wins most of its games and Pete is still a very good quarterback. Tom Dailey is a Cianbro director and retired President of the Construction Group of Perini Corporation. He was national President of the Associated General Contractors of America in 1981.
ERHAPS I ALREADY knew
that the Cianchette brothers were not ordinary men. If I didn't, I know now. After only a few weeks into the interviewing process for this book, it became clear that these towering siblings are uncommon men who had uncommon parents. Around their hometown in Pittsfield, Maine, Ken, Bud, and Chuck have Ann McGowan always seemed a bit larger than life. When they walk into a room, people notice; when they speak, people listen. The same was true of their late brother, Carl. Years ago, when he wielded a gavel at town meetings and answered questions with his booming voice, local citizens nodded heads in agreement. They had complete confidence in his rulings. This aura of respect that is so pervasive is not something that appeared
when they became adults or even when they hit their stride in the construction industry. It is something that developed during a lifetime of achievements going back to childhood. It quite possibly began even before they were born because they had remarkable parents, Ralph and Edna Cianchette. It is almost unbelievable that 11year-old Raphael Cianchette had the courage to leave his homeland in Italy in 1906, board a ship in Naples, and travel alone to America to join his father in Northern Maine. He must have been terribly nervous about crossing the Atlantic and anxious about a water boy job that awaited him on a railroad project. But his journey was an opportunity out of poverty and he took it. Just as frightening was Edna Steen's situation. Her father died when she was eight and her mother was left with six children. By the time Edna was 13, in 1908, the family's financial circumstances were so desperate that she was forced to leave school and support herself. She never looked back. She did a variety of
odd jobs and finally landed work in a Clinton woolen mill. By 1918, Ralph, as Raphael came to be called, and Edna were causing a stir with Ralph's Italian family. The customs from the old country included arranged marriages, usually to a cousin, as well as a ceremony in the Catholic Church. The bride Ralph had chosen was not a cousin and she had deep roots in the conservative Baptist church. Despite their differences, they were a good match. They quickly settled into married life and within 12 years, Edna had given birth to six sons and one daughter. The young parents were both gifted with positive attitudes and entrepreneurial spirits. Along with raising a large and lively family, Edna had at times operated a neighborhood grocery store out of her woodshed and made doughnuts that her children sold around the neighborhood. Likewise, Ralph dabbled in several ventures and finally settled into a construction business. Their parenting style was a bit different for the times. In contrast to many
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS couples of that era, Ralph and Edna spared the rod and never worried that it would spoil the child. They believed if you wanted your children's respect, you didn't use violence. They also took a firm approach on moral issues, but allowed their children a great deal of freedom in other areas. Growing up, one of their sons' favorite sports was climbing out an upstairs window at their home and chasing each other around the ledge at the edge of the roof. Their children were allowed to take risks and when they were big enough, were encouraged to work. Chuck was only seven when he began venturing out on his rounds in the wee hours of the morning delivering newspapers. And when any of the boys had an idea for a business deal, it had parental approval. Consequently, the Cianchette boys ran hot dog stands, sold candy bars, and when Ken and Bud were in their early teens, they grew corn for a corn shop and raised broilers to market. Some of their deals made money; some of them didn't. Looking back at the Carl E. Cianchette Contractor business that started shortly after the end of World War II and evolved into Cianbro
Corporation, it is obvious that their parents had equipped Carl and his brothers with all the necessary ingredients for success: The older boys had apprenticed with Ralph and he had taught them how to build bridges and roads. They were never afraid to take risks. They had their parents strong work ethic and can-do attitude, bolstered by a family bond that Ralph called "Us and Company." The story of the Cianchette brothers and the people who have worked with them to build Cianbro is woven together in the following pages. While the focus is on the first 50 years of Cianbro, the story is much more than that. For me, the most amazing part is how the brothers have worked together without a serious rift for 50 years, appreciating each others' strengths and tolerating each others' weaknesses. Anyone who has ever been involved in a family business knows that it is not easy. Of course, the fact that they all loved what they were doing was a good motivator. Ken, Bud, and Chuck say that they never actually sat down and decided who was going to do what. They just started working together and everything fell into place. In the early years, it was
Carl out finding the jobs and Ken and Bud doing the heavy lifting. Later on, after Carl left to concentrate on the concrete business, when the brothers' lineup was Bud, Ken, and Chuck, their strengths became more clearly defined. Bud emerged as the detail man. Ken was the innovative one. And Chuck developed into Cianbro's people person. The depth of the company was a surprise for me. As a neighbor in Pittsfield, I knew they were building more than roads, bridges, and dams and I knew the work stretched from one end of the eastern seaboard to the other. But I wasn't aware of how diversified Cianbro had become. I didn't know they were building microchip facilities or decommissioning nuclear power plants or building fish lifts. . . and so much more. The brothers and Pete Vigue, the current president, and many former and present members of the Cianbro team have helped me piece this story together. They've shared stories about the company's triumphs and troubles and how this Maine company grew through all of them. It has been a privilege to tell their story.
chapter one A new land and new hope
BY Ann McGowan
T MUST HAVE been nearly
impossible for the young lad to hold tight to the hopes that had soared so high in Naples, Italy when he boarded the Canopic, a oneRaphael: stacker, coal-driven Introduction passenger ship. Here in to new America, 12 long country days later, on rough on lad Monday, May 14, 1906, a door inside a Boston detention house was closing behind him. Raphael Cianchette had turned eleven less than two months before. His young life had been one of extreme hardship. As the new century began, Italy was in a period of crisis and farmers living in the Abruzzi region, home to the Cianchettes, were barely getting by.
There was no work and no money. Because of these conditions, Raphaelâ€™s father, Dominick Cianchette, had made a decision the previous year to leave his young family behind and to join his wifeâ€™s brother, Dominick Susi, in building a section of railroad in America, up in northern Maine. Word came back to the farm houses between the villages of Pettorano and Sulmona that more men were needed in this place called Maine. There was a problem finding crew enough to build a link of rail in the time allotted. Even a boy as young as Raphael could be of help. Even if he were small. Money for his passage arrived. So it was that Raphael Cianchette left his homeland fleeing poverty and hopelessness and became one more number in the massive exodus from Italy
In 1905 a relative already in America enticed Dominick Cianchette to leave Italy and come to work as a construction laborer in northern Maine. It was an invitation out of the extreme poverty of Pettorano. Concetta bid her husband farewell knowing they would be apart for a long time. Deep faith and the promise of a better life helped sustain her and their four young children as they waited behind. that had begun 40 years before. An 11-year-old, however, was probably unaware of the political and economic turmoil of his country. He no doubt paid little attention to the reign of Victor Emmanuel III or to the fact that a prime minister named Giovanni Giolitti was making efforts to reform Italy and to make life better for the poor and oppressed. Nor, is it likely that young Raphael
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
was aware of the vigorous economic climate he was stepping into or of the politics on this side of the Atlantic. It mattered not to him that Theodore Roosevelt, president of this young country, was leading a reform of his own called the Square Deal; nor was it significant that John Fitzgerald, whose namesake grandson would lead the country in another time, was the new mayor of the city where he was being held captive. Raphael Cianchette had just one thing weighing on his mind: Where was his father? There had been no familiar faces in the crowd on the dock that cool, partly rainy, spring day as the Canopic pulled into the
dingy harbor of Boston. Dominick Cianchette had not shown up to meet his son as had been expected. Authorities processing the immigrants apparently were at a loss to know what to do with this youngster traveling alone. The brown-haired boy with the hazel eyes did not speak the language of this new land and it was difficult for him to communicate. Any attempts to tell them that his destination was someplace in Maine where he would be working with his father and uncle to build a railroad were to no avail.
They opted to detain him. Temporarily. For the next few days, Raphael stayed in a small, foul-smelling holding room. His daylight hours were spent watching cockroaches scoot in and out of cracks; at night he was kept awake by the sounds of rats gnawing and running back and forth across the floor. The difficult conditions he lived with in Italy must not have seemed so bad as one bleak day in this new place became two and then three. For the previous year, since his
Built in 1900 in Belfast, Ireland by White Star Line, the Canopic, s.s. carried young Raphael Cianchette into Boston Harbor, Monday, May 14, 1906.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM, SALEM, MA
A new land and new hope
FROM ITALY TO AMERICA
North Atlantic Ocean
Rapael sailed from Naples, Italy to Boston. He then joined his father in northern Maine.
United Kingdom France
Abruzzi Region in Italy: a mountainous area that was home to the Cianchette family. rtug
father had sailed for America, it had been necessary for Raphael to shoulder a great deal of responsibility at home. The head of the household was gone and Raphael was not only the oldest child but more importantly in this Italian family, he was the oldest son. The Cianchettes and the other families in Pettorano in the early 1900s lived subsistent lifestyles, surviving by pure determination and ingenuity. Their deep religious faith as Catholics helped sustain their endurance. Multiple generations lived under the same roof. New brides moved in with their husbands’ families. Children, sometimes as young as eight, worked alongside their parents and grandparents, planting and harvesting. It was everyone’s job to make the best use of what little land they had. They grew cabbages, beans and potatoes which
were the mainstays of the family diet. They raised wheat that they threshed for use in pasta and bread. This grain was also grown to feed the animals, most of which were kept under their houses: a cow, a donkey and a few pigs on one side of the cellar; some sheep and goats on the other side. Openings allowed them to wander outside for feed. Pettorano, located in central Italy about 60 miles east of Rome, toward the Adriatic Sea, is in the foothills of the Apennines Mountains and it had been Raphael’s job to take the goats and sheep up into the mountains to graze. It was also common practice to scramble up the Apennines to gather wood to keep the fireplaces going for heat and for cooking. This was another chore that often fell to the children. They would leave before dawn with donkeys
to scour the land for twigs and branches, and make their way back home 10 or 12 hours later with their yield. Because everyone worked, schooling was not a priority. Raphael did, however, attend long enough to learn to read and write in Italian so that once he arrived in America, he would be able to correspond with his mother. That spring of 1906, he left behind his boyhood and his birthplace. He would never return. He also left behind his mother, Concetta, and three siblings: Richette, Mary and Pierino. It would be a while before he would see them again. Just how he made it the 60 miles or so from his home to Naples that spring is not clear. Did someone take him by cart and horse? Did he walk? There was certainly confusion as to just when he was supposed to leave and when he was due to arrive in America. The confusion was complicated mainly by two things: his father could not read or write English, and getting a message into the woods of Maine where Dominick Cianchette was working with pick and shovel was extremely difficult. The Canopic was one of two steamships making regular runs from
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Naples to Boston Harbor beginning in 1903. The other was the Romanic. Both carried about 600 people. Most of those emigrating from Italy traveled “steerage” which meant they paid the lowest fares and had the worst accommodations. They were quartered “below,” near the boilers. Perhaps that is why Raphael was so terribly seasick. That and the fact there was no mother along to look after him and to feed him warm broth. Actually the first three days aboard ship were fine. Full of adventure. Then the rough seas began to take a toll. He spent the next nine days in the tiny space he was assigned, curled up in his bunk, rocking back and forth to the motion of the ship with his stomach hurting and his ears ringing from the constant banging and snorting sounds coming from the boiler room. At least the rocking motion and the loud sounds had stopped as his introduction to America shifted from a ship bunk to a small cot. But before a fourth day dawned, Raphael Cianchette’s temporary detention came to an end. He had
been kept “like a bag of luggage” with no takers. The officials charged with the welfare of this young immigrant had decided to send him back to Italy on the next ship. It wasn’t necessary. Before the ship departed, his father arrived to claim him.
Fitting in: Young Cianchette gets a key job on construction crew
THERE WERE JOBS aplenty in
There was a section of rail to be built in Ashland, coming out of Presque Isle. There was another railroad job in Millinocket and also a dam and power plant to finish. The work was hard — hand labor. That’s how it was done then. The hours were long and since it was summertime in the north woods, the mosquitoes and blackflies were nearly unbearable. Raphael was put to work as a water boy. He hauled more than water, however. Because he already knew how to drive
Maine. Railroads were being built. Power plants and dams were under construction. New mills were going up. And Raphael’s uncle, Dominick Susi, an entrepreneur in the purest sense, was contracting for a good share of the work. In a few short years, in addiWhen the upcountry work was done, Dominick and tion to his brother-in-law Raphael relocated to and nephew, Susi lured Pittsfield where they settled nearly 200 people and reunited the family. from Italy, many of them relatives, to help him. The jobs at first were in northern Maine.
Other jobs included a railroad in Millinocket, and a dam and power plant.
Dominick’s and Raphael’s first jobs were in northern Maine, building a section of railroad in Ashland.
A new land and new hope
a team of horses and a wagon, it was his responsibility to transport dynamite by 50pound lots from the job headquarters to the work sites. His wagon also held much appreciated jugs of drinking water for the men and anything else they needed. When the upcountry work was finished, a crew was moved downstate to Central Maine, in Pittsfield, where Susi had contracted to work on the Burnham dam on the Sebasticook River. This would be where Raphael and Dominick would settle. Enough money had been saved to pay off Susi who had staked their passages to America. There was also money to buy a home, the first farmhouse north of the dam, and to reunite the family. In the fall of the year, Dominick sailed back to Italy for Concetta and the children. Raphael stayed with his uncle and enrolled in the first grade at the rural one-room Carr school on the Burnham Road. He had a good knowledge of figures and, of course, could read and write in Italian. He caught on to English quickly and was soon moved up to his grade level. Once the family was together again and operating an active farm, Raphael
decided to go to the bigger school in town, a distance of almost four miles. It meant walking. So that is what he did. When his formal schooling was finished, he had achieved an 8th grade education. His relatives tell the story that once he mastered English, he refused to speak Italian with anyone other than his parents. At family gatherings when cousins spoke to him in Italian, he wouldn’t answer.
He reasoned that they were not in Italy anymore, they were in America. He eventually lost all traces of an Italian accent.
Ralph upset his family when he departed from the Italian custom of an arranged marriage to a Catholic cousin. Instead, he chose Edna Steen, a conservative Baptist whose father had been a hard-working Scot.
A young wife: And she is not Italian
RALPH LEROY CIANCHETTE, as
he came to be called, helped his father on the farm and also worked on various construction jobs in his teen years. During this time the number of his siblings increased. His mother, Concetta, gave birth to twins, Frank and Annie, followed by three daughters — Doris, Geneva and Inez. Also by 1915 when Ralph turned 20, several Italian families had settled in Pittsfield. All of his mother’s sisters and their families were here as were most of his father’s relatives.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
When it was time to pick a wife, it was expected that he would marry one of his cousins — a custom carried over from the old country. Marriages were generally arranged by both parents of the young couple. Ralph upset his family by not going along with the practice. He had met and courted Edna Steen, a woman four months his junior. She would be his bride. Not only was she not Italian, she was not a Catholic. Worse, she was a Baptist. Worse still, they were married in the Baptist parsonage by Dr. H.M. Ford, a minister of the gospel. A newspaper clipping announcing the September 14, 1918 marriage noted:
...Mr. and Mrs. Cianchette will reside in the south part of town where the groom has a large, wellstocked farm. The best wishes of a large circle of friends go with them to their new home.
One of Ralph’s first visitors at the new home was the village priest. He was not bearing best wishes. Instead he was informing Ralph that since he had chosen to marry outside of the Catholic church, in the eyes of the church, he was
Dominick Cianchette Born in Pettorano, Italy on May 10, 1863 Died in Pittsfield, Maine on Oct. 11, 1937
Concetta Susi Cianchette Born in Pettorano, Italy on Oct. 7, 1874 Died in Pittsfield, Maine on Aug. 21, 1953
not married. The priest’s message was not well received. No one, not even a priest, was going to tell him where he could get married or to whom. He was said to be so irritated he never stepped foot inside the Catholic church again. Ralph had pride. He had determination. He was independent. He had gone through a lot as a child. His bride was a good match for him. Edna Maud Steen, born in Levant, raised in Wellington, and schooled in Harmony and Skowhegan had uncompromising values. She had a conservative Baptist upbringing: Her life was church and family, family and church. Edna learned early on how to fend for herself. Her father, William Henry Steen, died of an apparent heart attack
when she was only eight. He had come from Scotland to Nova Scotia and then to Maine. Her mother, Mary Bowden Steen was left with six children. Edna had a twin brother, Edgar, and three other brothers, Everett, Harold, and William. She also had a sister, Ethel. Mary later married Isreal Huff, an older man who had little means. The family’s dire circumstances eventually made it necessary for Edna to leave school in the 8th grade and start earning her own living. She worked at a variety of odd jobs and when she started keeping company with Ralph, she was employed in a woolen mill in Clinton. While there, she suffered a minor accident and lost the tip of one of her fingers.
The family expands: A tragedy is followed by joy
THE YEAR 1919
left its mark. A tragedy set the Cianchette family into a tailspin. Ralph’s younger brother, Pierino, had survived being a pilot in World War I, returned home from France, was discharged in June and then two months later he drowned in a construction accident. The story is that he was working on a dam and was swimming
A new land and new hope
CHAPTER ONE across the river, bringing a cable from one side to the other. He was just 19. (Six years later, one of the twins, Annie, would also die by drowning.) Despite the sorrow of losing his brother, Ralph found happiness in two important events that followed: On September 22, 1919, Ralph realized his dream of officially becoming an American in a naturalization ceremony in Skowhegan. And, just a few
weeks before that, he and Edna had become parents. Their first son, Carl, was born on August 27. Ralph and Edna were blessed with seven children. They were all born within 11 years. The first five were boys. After Carl came Norris, Clair, Kenneth and Ival (Bud). Then a daughter, Marilyn, was born followed by another son, Alton (Chuck), arriving on May 18, 1930. When Marilyn was born, a relative remembers that Edna was elated. Finally she had a child she could dress in ruffles and lace, something she would take delight in doing. However, the relative also recalls that the ruffles didn’t stop Marilyn from holding her own in the rough and tumble household inhabited by six brothers. By the time most of the children were in school, Ralph and Edna had moved the family into the village on While her children grew up in an era when many parents believed in old-fashioned woodshed punishments, Edna felt that if you wanted their respect, you didn’t use violence. At an anniversary celebration for her in-laws in 1936, the Cianchette matriarch was photographed with all of her children. In front, Bud, Marilyn, Edna, Chuck and Kenneth; in back, Norris, Carl and Clair.
This house that sets adjacent to the Maine Central Institute campus on South Main Street in Pittsfield is where the Cianchette children grew up. It was later acquired by the school and used for faculty housing. But in 1993, as a tribute to the family for all of their years of support to MCI, it was restored in memory of Ralph and Edna and renamed The Cianchette Alumni and Development Center. South Main Street in Pittsfield. The couple gave their children a great deal of freedom. While this was an era when most parents didn’t spare the rod, Ralph and Edna believed that if you wanted to keep your children’s respect, you didn’t use violence. Edna also allowed them to take risks, something that may have played into whatever it was that gave her sons the courage and daring needed to run a successful business one day. “She let us to do things other kids couldn’t do,” relates Chuck. “We used to
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Little Willie nets sweet rewards
family nickname for Ralph Cianchette was “Little Willie.” No one
“We were at home and my mother got a call from Lula Crawford. She told
remembers how the name came about.
her ‘Your husband is on his way home
But the ‘Little’ part was certainly no
and he will be awfully sweet when he
reflection on his might.
gets there.’ Mother went to the
If ever there had been any doubts,
window and looked down the
they were cleared up one day when Ralph
street. She could see a
was in his early 40s.
crowd. She sent us down
This is the story as Ken remembers it:
to find out what was
“Father hung out with a bunch of
cronies in a garage off Main Street behind the former Lancey House Hotel,
“Father was walking right up the middle of
just about a half-mile from our
Main Street. He had tied a
home. It’s where they all told
three-quarter inch rope
lies and played cards.
around the middle of each
“He was there one day when Ray Badger, a local selectman, bet him that he couldn’t lug two 100-pound
bag of sugar and then he had draped the middle of the rope around his shoulders and positioned the sugar so if he bent his knees forward he
bags of sugar from the
could balance the front of the bags on
nearby grocery store
his knees every now and then to take
down the street to our
the weight off his back.
house without setting them down. “Father said he could. He took the bet. It included the
“He had to cross the railroad tracks and a freight train was coming so he had to stop and wait for that.
sugar plus $10 which was a lot
“He won the bet.
of money then. More than a
“Father was very determined and he
climb out the upstairs window, get on the roof and chase each other around the ledge that went all the way around the edge of the roof. We never heard ‘Don’t do that, you might get hurt.’ Other kids were afraid of everything.” Ken agrees: “I had a singleshot rifle when I was 10. When I could get ten cents, I’d buy some ammunition and head for the woods. She never asked me where I was going. The three youngest children are caught by the camera about 1932: Chuck, Bud and Marilyn. “She put up with a lot of nonsense from us. She was very tolerant. But to a point. If you went beyond that point, she came down hard.” That point included smoking. Even Ralph, who enjoyed cigars, respected his wife’s feelings on this score. “He didn’t smoke in the house,” Kenneth remembers. “When he came in, he put his cigar on the shelf above the stove. When he left, he picked it up and took it with him.” Edna set a high example. She worked hard in the Baptist Church and made sure her children
A new land and new hope
CHAPTER ONE were in Sunday School each week. Her son Carl once noted: “She taught us to always deal honestly and aboveboard with people. And to always face what we came to without backing off.” She also taught them the value of money. When her sons had newspaper routes, she made sure that part of their earnings went into savings. And, with her large family, she became an expert in “handing it down and using it up.” While the term had not been coined then, her family remembers that Edna was a “workaholic.” She never suggested that anyone help her. She was out of bed at 4 in the morning and was still up ironing shirts long after everyone else was asleep at night. And, during the Great Depression,
Ralph & Edna’s children Carl: August 27, 1919 Norris: August 6, 1921 Clair: February 26, 1923 Kenneth: September 28, 1924 Ival (Bud): July 19, 1926 Marilyn: September 3, 1928 Alton (Chuck): May 18, 1930
YEAR BORN ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
she added to the family income by operating a small neighborhood grocery store out of the family’s woodshed. Another venture she had was making chocolatesugared doughnuts that she wrapped six to a package and had her children sell around the neighborhood.
Time for business: Ralph takes the plunge
RALPH HAD SOME
enterprises going as well. At one point he had what his sons describe as “A saw rig.” It was a circular saw that he had made from parts of an automobile and he used it to cut up piles of wood for people. At another time, he was in the garage business selling automobiles. But after a while, he sold his interest to his partner. Then he started selling fuel oil for the new oil-burning furnaces. About 1930, Ralph ventured into the construction business, building bridges. He went into a partnership that had a sour ending. Ken remembers that his partner got into financial trouble and Ralph took it upon himself to pay off his partner’s debts. It was thought to be after this, that he was offered a job as foreman on a Works Progress Administration project.
Being photographed in one’s Sunday best was apparently serious business back in 1930. Saving their smiles for later were, Ken, Marilyn and Bud in front and Clair, Norris and Carl in back.
WPA jobs, as they came to be known, were part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program aimed at putting people back to work in order to bring the country out of the Depression. Government money had been approved to turn the old trotting park in Pittsfield into an airport. Ralph was paid $13 a week to run the job. One hundred men were hired to work for him, all receiving weekly paychecks of $11. The way his sons tell the story, the men all had picks and shovels. Their jobs
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
were to dig up the high ground, then take the soil and spread it over the low ground. The problem was they had just three teams of horses paired with three two-wheel carts to carry the fill from the high ground to the low ground. Ralph told his supervisor that he couldn’t work this way. One or two things had to be done: He either had to have more carts or fewer men. He was told there would be no changes. He was also told that the point of the program was not necessarily to keep the workers busy, but to give them paychecks.
By the end of the 1930s, Ralph was having success as a bridge-building contractor. In 1938, he cleared enough on a Topsfield job to pay off the mortgage on the family home. In this photo, Ralph, second from left, chews on his ever-present cigar at the ribboncutting for a bridge he built in Oxford, Maine.
Ralph Leroy Cianchette Ralph quit. The family went without a paycheck for several months. Ralph had his pride. Meanwhile, Edna swallowed hers. To keep everyone fed, it was necessary to ask for a long-running grocery credit at Fernald’s Market. “Mother would make out the list. We’d go get the groceries. The grocer would put the slip in the drawer. He never questioned us,” Ken recalls. This growing family went through an enormous amount of food. Spaghetti was always served on Sunday. Four pounds would be weighed out for a meal. There was never any left. Biscuits were made in large pans. And, mealtime seldom included just Ralph and Edna and the children. Edna was always taking someone in: a niece, a nephew... Grandmother Huff lived with them after her second husband died. Finally Ralph went back to work — in construction. He was back in business. He did a state job and was paid. As soon as the check was cashed, Edna gave Ken several large bills and told him to go directly to Fernald’s to pay off the debt. Ralph had another partner for a while and then went out on his own. He did a lot of small bridges: in Columbia
Born in Pettorano, Italy on March 25, 1895 Died in Pittsfield, Maine on Dec. 30, 1972
Edna Maud Steen Cianchette Born in Levant, Maine on July 19, 1895 Died in Pittsfield, Maine on Sept. 9, 1991
Falls, Mechanic Falls, Oxford. Things turned around. In 1938 he cleared $3,000 on a small bridge job in Topsfield, and paid off the mortgage on his home. One by one his older sons, all towering young men by then, came to work for him. During that period, tragedy visited again. The family was grief-stricken once more when Ralph’s father, Dominick, was hit by a car and killed while bringing his cows across the roadway on Route 100. Ralph’s cousin, Iva Cianchette Cregnole, who watched him through the years says that Ralph Cianchette was as good a man as you could find anywhere: “He was a gentle man. He was sensitive to people’s feelings. He knew what was right and what was wrong. “He started the boys out. He rode them hard. He taught them what they needed to know: ‘You pay attention to business. . .’ “
Cianchettes rally for war, then business
AMILY. THAT WAS what it was
all about. If you stood by each other and helped each other, things would turn out OK. That was Ralph Cianchette’s philosophy. It worked. It The Italian worked very well. In fact it was that work ethic: very philosophy that Town takes moved two of his notice of sons, Kenneth and immigrants’ Bud, to turn over all contributions of their savings after World War II to a third son, Carl, so that Carl could start what today has become Cianbro, a major mover and shaker in the construction industry. “My father used to refer to the family as ‘Us and Company.’ He always said if we worked together, we would do all right,” remembers Kenneth. More about all that later.
“Us and Company.” Ralph Cianchette always stressed to his family that if they worked together, they would do all right. Not long after this 1942 portrait was taken, however, they would be split apart by events beyond their control. The five oldest brothers in the back — Bud, Ken, Clair, Norris, and Carl — would leave home to serve in World War II. Pictured with them are their younger siblings, Chuck and Marilyn, and their parents, Ralph and Edna.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
dented third term. However, when the Having five sons who were either votes were counted, the Democrat who draft age or very close to it must have had become very comfortable in the made for many sleepless nights for White House had bested Ralph and Edna Republican Wendell L. Cianchette as a new Willkie by a sizable mardecade unfolded and gin. The thinking was threats of war became that this was such a criticloser and closer. cal period it would not By 1940 the economy be advisable to change was improving across the administrations. entire country as Americans slowly worked their way out of Meanwhile, life went the Great Depression. It on in Pittsfield, Maine. was, nevertheless, still a Downtown shops and time of uneasiness and markets bustled. Woolen worry as nightly radio mills, the mainstay of the The First Baptist Church in Pittsfield broadcasts and morning local economy, had sufwas an important part of the newspapers updated fered casualties during the Cianchette family life. When the chilEurope’s escalating war. 1930s. But wool was still dren were growing up, Edna made That concern was sure they were in Sunday school each being churned out at a carried into the voting fairly good clip. With war week. She dedicated years of servbooths in November. looming, the small landing ice to the church. In turn, the President Franklin D. Christian education annex built in the strip at the airport that Roosevelt had been Ralph had briefly superlate 1950s was dedicated to her. under fire by members of vised as a WPA project Congress who felt that his New Deal was targeted for improvements. Nearly programs had caused federal spending $500,000 in federal funds went into buildto soar out of control. Opposition was ing runways. Several dozen local jobs also mounting against FDR for the simwere created in the process and Pittsfield ple reason that he sought an unpreceended up with one the best small landing
fields in the state of Maine. After three decades, the Italian population was finally being noticed for its contribution to the community. They had worked hard, acquired homes and farmland, and several of the men, like Ralph, had started small construction companies. An excerpt from Sanger Cook’s history, “Pittsfield on the Sebasticook,” notes of this era: “Their contribution to our return to prosperity can never be erased from the records of Pittsfield.” In the early days, as newcomers whose ways were different, they had been targets for discrimination by some of their Anglo-Saxon neighbors. Relative Iva Cregnole says the prejudice began on the boat. Her father was Dominick’s brother and her mother was Concetta’s sister. While Iva was born in America, she heard stories that her family’s “crossing” was hard. “They were quartered in the bottom of the ship. It was a difficult journey. I remember hearing that one of the kids went up to the next floor and was booted back downstairs.” Credence is given to Iva’s story by an examination of the passenger list of the Canopic’s voyage that ended in
Cianchettes rally for war, then business
Above, first-class travelers names are neatly typed on the Canopic’s passenger record. At left, is part of the third-class list which, in contrast, was hand-written. Some entries are hard to read but, perhaps passenger number 14, listed as Raffaele Cicetta, was the young Raphael Cianchette.
Boston Harbor on May 14, 1906, the day that Ralph caught his first glimpse of America. It seems evident that more care
was given to keeping an accurate list of the first-class passengers. A copy of the passenger record at the Mormon Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, shows that names of the first-class travelers were neatly typed. In contrast, the names of the third-class passengers were hand-written and, in the case of several entries, in hard-to-read script. There were three “Raffaeles,” whose last name began with C making the journey. None of them were logged as Raffaele Cianchette. However, there is no disputing information on his 1919 naturalization record that he was on the Canopic when it docked in Boston on that exact date. Perhaps the passenger who was listed as Raffaele Cicetta was, indeed, the very young Raphael Cianchette. Iva also explained that coming here was particularly hard on the Italian women: “They left their homeland not knowing what they were going to find. The fact that they were able to handle it all once they got here is remarkable. Aunt Concetta was here before my mother. Through letters, my mother asked her what she needed to bring from Italy that they didn’t have in
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
America. Aunt Concetta wrote back saying that she couldn’t find a needle. Of course there were needles here, but she didn’t speak English and she didn’t know how to ask for things. So mother brought needles.” Like Dominick, Iva’s father had arrived in Maine early in the century lured by a construction paycheck. Her mother and older siblings followed in 1912, moved into a farm on the outskirts of town, and Iva was born four years later. Italian was the spoken language at home. Iva recalls that when she arrived at the Lancey Street School in Pittsfield she had three strikes against her: She was from the farm, her English was fractured, and she was a Catholic. When the Civil Rights movement first started, Iva felt sorry for the African Americans. “I understood exactly what segregation was all about. I knew what prejudice was. “They taunted us. They made fun of us.” A judge’s son who was in her class gave her the roughest time: “He was an only child. We were at two extremes. He picked on me constantly. We used to have inkwells in our desks. I remember
one time when I had on a new dress, which was very rare, he took his inkwell and dumped the ink down my back and stained my dress. My mother tried to wash it out but, of course, she couldn’t. “Yes, there was prejudice. A lot of it.” Ralph must have felt some of the same prejudice his cousin Iva endured. But, if he did, he kept it to himself. He never talked about it with his sons.
On the farm: Move enhances opportunities for enterprising brothers
BY THE TIME the
20th Century entered midlife, Ralph’s construction business was going quite well although it meant that he had to spend a great deal of time away from home. The family was used to his absences, however. Bud recalls that Chuck was twomonths old before his father even saw him. He had been stuck on a project up in northern Maine, some 200 miles away from home. After Dominick was killed in October of 1937, Ralph had moved his family a short
Building roads and bridges has come a long way. Ralph puts some finishing touches on an approach to a new bridge using a grader that is being towed by a truck. Dominick Cianchette was hit by a car and killed in October of 1937. distance from their South Main Street house located next door to Maine Central Institute, Pittsfield’s secondary school, to his parents’ farm situated behind the school. He purchased the property from
Cianchettes rally for war, then business
CHAPTER TWO Concetta to allow his mother to buy a smaller home so she wouldn’t be burdened with the farm’s upkeep. The move offered the young Cianchette entrepreneurs opportunities beyond their well-established paper routes. Ken and Bud formed their first partnership and dabbled in two different ventures. “We raised broilers,” explains Ken. “We bought 500 baby chicks from Sears and Roebuck. We raised them and then we sold them. We didn’t make much. I think we probably got enough money to pay for the feed.” Their other endeavor was growing corn. Baxter Canning Company had a corn shop in town and several of the area farmers provided the business with hefty yields of the delicious golden ears each summer. So Ken and Bud decided to get in on the bounty. “We made a deal to plant some corn. It was only a couple of acres. But we planted it and hoed it all by hand. In the fall we sold it.” Again, they allowed that when they added in the price of the seed and all of the work involved, it was not highly profitable. Not enough to bother to do it again. But it was a good learning experience.
Jobs working right in the corn shop and also at the pea-viner factory in Newport proved to be better opportunities to earn some money in subsequent summers for Ken. During harvesting seasons, those places ran seven days a week and the pay was 30 cents per hour. Meanwhile, as soon as Bud turned 15, he began spending his after-school hours and weekends stocking shelves, sweeping floors, and waiting on customers at the local First National Store. The fertile farmland did, nevertheless, offer Edna a challenge. She already knew most of the “make do” tricks. She had perfected all the “Use it up, hand it down, wear it out” lessons, and even monitored her sons’ growth, knowing precisely how many months into the school year it would be before their pant legs took the inevitable rise to the ankles which meant that it was time for her to pull out the thread and needles for some serious lengthening. Edna was now able to add to her repertoire of thrift. She had grown vegetables before but because of limited land, her gardens were on a small scale. Once she was settled into the farm, she planted and harvested enough beans,
peas, corn, carrots, and such to keep the family in fresh produce all summer and long into the fall. There was also plenty for her larder: On hot August days it was common to find her in a steamy kitchen, her apron wrapped around her, making every move count as she peeled, cut,
Ralph was always figuring out ways to improvise. One of his innovations was a homemade wooden boom. Ken explains that his father couldn’t afford to buy a crane. So he just made one.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Brothers kept pockets jingling
he Cianchette boys could always see dimes to be made. They ran hot dog stands. They sold
candy bars to the workers at the local corn shop. And they all delivered newspapers:
When it was time for Chuck to take over the family newspaper business, he picked up the pace that Bud had set and kept it moving. But Sundays were rough. Chuck was
The three oldest brothers, Carl, Norris and
just a little guy — only seven when he start-
Clair, took on a route for the Portland Press
ed working — and his route went from one
Herald and were assigned the entire town.
end of Pittsfield to the other.
As they grew older and found ways
Advertisements, comics and extra sections
to make dollars instead of the stuff that
made the bundles of Telegrams too heavy
jingled, the route was passed on to their
to carry and too bulky for a bicycle.
younger brothers. When it was Bud’s turn to be the early riser, he turned up the heat. In 1936, the
No reason to give up. Mintoes, the family donkey, could help. Edna took two newspaper sacks,
Portland newspapers, including the Press
turned them into saddle bags for Mintoes
Herald and Sunday Telegram, sponsored a
and each Sunday they were stuffed to the
state-wide circulation drive. The top five win-
brim before Chuck and his companion set
ners would win a week-long trip to
out. “Sometimes I rode her. Sometimes I
led her,” Chuck remembers.
Bud wanted to take that trip. But he
Where the route ended, there was a
was only 10 and one of the youngest
shortcut to get back
vying for the prize.
home. But it was over
His route already included 100 papers.
bare railroad tracks and
He nevertheless hustled around, knocked on
Mintoes refused to
doors, and offered a persuading pitch. When
cross except at cross-
the contest ended, he had added 68 brand-
ings. So after their work
was done, they parted.
It was enough. “It was a great trip. I
Chuck took the short way
remember most of it like it was yesterday. I
and Mintoes meandered back,
was the youngest to go.”
taking the long way around.
snipped and filled quart canning jars — as many as 300 a season — to then be processed in boiling water and set aside for wintertime suppers.
Wingspreading time: Carl is the first out of the nest
CARL WAS THE
first son married and thus the first son out of the house. His bride on Oct. 15, 1939 was Maureen Davis from nearby Newport. As the eldest brother, Carl was often expected to take the lead and he managed to fit that role quite well. He had been the one to organize the first family newspaper routes. He had also been the first to sign on to one of his father’s construction jobs. He learned early on in life how to turn a dollar. So perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone that at age 17 he had a maturity beyond his years and had become quite independent. Independent to the point that he didn’t hesitate to stand up to authority long before it came into vogue. One such incident resulted in Carl quitting MCI just a few months short of his high school graduation.
The Maine Central Institute located right next door to the Cianchette family home on South Main Street has played an integral part in the brother’s lives. As children, the campus was their playground; it is where all of them went to high school; and in their adult years, it became one of their pet charities. They have helped the school with physical improvements and have given a great deal of financial support. Bud and Ken remember what Bud calls “the squabble with the school.” “As a teenager, Carl considered himself somewhat of a businessman,” relates Ken. “In his senior year, he was doing all right in school. He had a good memory and he learned fairly fast. He was doing OK on all of his exams. But he didn’t bring his books home to study and one of his teachers noticed it.” The teacher informed Carl about midyear that if that practice didn’t change, he
Cianchettes rally for war, then business would receive a failing grade even though his tests warranted a higher mark. “Carl wouldn’t accept that so he quit school and went to work for my father.” It was an occurrence that may have caused him regrets. But it certainly did not alter his success and he held no bitterness toward MCI. Years later he worked hard for the school and even hosted reunions down in St. Petersburg for Florida alums. By 1940, Carl was working for Joseph R. Cianchette, a relative and another Pittsfield contractor, who was making some big moves in Maine. Carl had a knack for operating a power shovel that had impressed the boss on a Trenton Airport job. So when “J.R.,” as he was referred to around town, was awarded a large military contract to build an air base at Dow Field in Bangor, Carl was made an assistant superintendent. “He was only 20 years old. That was a big job — the whole airport construction,” marvels Bud. “Some of the 20year-olds today don’t even know how to get downtown.” J.R.’s widow, Estelle, remembers that her husband Joe had been very impressed with Carl. “When he was promoted, some of the older workers resented it because
Carl was so young. But Joe liked the way he worked. He was just so completely interested in the construction business. “
America enters war: Pittsfield family offers up more than quarters
LOOKING BACK, THE 1940s was an
eventful decade for the Cianchette family. With graduations in the early years and weddings later, it seemed as if there was always something to celebrate. Brother Norris graduated from MCI in June of 1940. Clair received his diploma the following June, in 1941. Kenneth was next in line for the June award in 1942. A couple of yearbook notations hinted at the 17-year-old’s promise as well as that of his brothers: “He has ambition plus, a brotherly trait,” was one entry. Another predicted: “. . . Kenneth Cianchette will become partners in a thriving enterprise. We predict that it will be an ultra-modern bowling alley.” Well, it wouldn’t be a bowling alley. And it would be a few years before a “partnership” or anything “thriving” would come to pass. Ken still graduated on time, but life, as it had come to be known in Pittsfield
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the — Franklin Delano Roosevelt Empire of Japan. (War message to Congress, December 8, 1941)
as well as all across the country, had been put on hold six months before with an attack on Pearl Harbor. America was in crisis. The words above spoken the next day by the president summed up the graveness. Celebrations were put aside. All of a sudden, the primary focus of Americans was the war effort. There was still the constant clackity, clack, clackity, clack of the looms at Maine woolen mills. But instead of producing fabric for retail consumption, workers were turning out khaki-colored cloth for the government to be made into military uniforms. Shoe shops retooled so cutters and stitchers could produce army boots. Shipyard crews were building war ships. And airports, including the small one that was being rebuilt in Pittsfield, were being utilized for training troops. In town, the boarding school at MCI was closed to away students and Naval Air
Cadets had taken over the dormitory space at night. They spent their days at the airport readying for combat. In the Cianchette household, sugar was cut back as rationing took effect, and extra dimes and quarters were swapped for savings stamps and bonds to support the serious business of winning the war. But the family sacrificed more than sugar and offered up far more than mere dimes and quarters. One by one, the five oldest Cianchette brothers rallied to their country’s need: ■ Norris enlisted in the Army in October of 1942. ■ Clair was drafted three months later, entering the Army on January 11, 1943. ■ Kenneth’s number came up two months after that, in March. ■ Carl, the only married brother, who by 1943 was also the father of two young children, made a decision about this time to help out by joining the
Merchant Marines. ■ Bud finished high school, graduating in June of 1944. By September he was also gone. Like Clair and Kenneth, his selective service number had been pulled.
When he made the decision to enlist, Norris was working as timekeeper for his father on a bridge in Kittery, Maine. It was the project that would be
Cianchette Brothers World War ll effort Norris: enlists in Army Oct. of 1942, serves in Italy ■ Clair: drafted in Army Jan. of 1943, serves in France and Germany ■ Ken: drafted in Army March of 1943, serves in England and France ■ Carl: joins Merchant Marines in March of 1943, carries war supplies to Europe ■ Bud: drafted in Army Sept. of 1944, serves in Germany ■
CHAPTER TWO Ralph’s last construction job. “A lot of my buddies had already gone. I assumed I’d be drafted,” recalls Norris. He did his basic training in Augusta, Ga. and then went directly to Italy, landing in Naples. With the exception of three months spent in North Africa, near Casablanca, Norris stayed in Italy working his way as far north as the Tuscany region. He was able to make three trips, including a Christmas visit, to his father’s homeland in the foothills of the Apennines. His relatives in Pettorano welcomed him with open arms. “I took a whole jeep full of stuff such as candy and thread. Then I went back for Easter. “I was the first American soldier ever to arrive there.” Norris was a good deal taller than the men in the village and a relative who was showing him around, obviously one with a good sense of humor, was frequently asked: “Are all of the Americans this size?” “He’d tell them ‘No, the bigger ones are coming later.’ “ He was assigned to the motor transportation division, driving and servicing army trucks. Norris made it home in time for Christmas of 1945. When he mustered out, he was a corporal.
Cianchettes rally for war, then business
It was March 15, 1946 and all was well with the world. After nearly four years, Ralph and Edna had all of their family together again. Their sons in uniform were home at last. From left, Bud, Ken, Clair, Norris, and Carl. Bud was only on temporary leave, however. He had to return to Germany for another seven months of duty.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Clair was turning some heads at the University of Maine in Orono in the fall of 1942. He was considered the studious one of the family and was the only one to go on to college. However it was not his ability to hit the books that was prompting looks his way. His athletic prowess was attracting attention on campus. Nicknamed “Bull” because of his size and strength, his reputation as a top-notch shot putter and a tough tackle had preceded him. Any accolades on Maine’s track or
The Kittery Point Bridge in Kittery, Maine, was Ralph’s last construction job. The contract called for replacing this old iron bridge. In photo, a temporary bridge is being finished.
football fields or in the classroom would have to wait. It would be a while before he would resume his routine at the state university and eventually transfer to law school in Portland. “Bull” was destined to spend the next few years of his life between the Ardennes region of France and the Rhineland area of Germany. He drew one of the U.S. Army’s better duties as a quartermaster handing out clothing and supplies. Before he was discharged in March of 1946, he had risen to the rank of first sergeant.
Workers dig out an area so the footing for a new pier for the Kittery Point Bridge can be placed. The bridge was completed in the summer of 1943.
Because their father was encountering difficulties with the Kittery job, Kenneth stayed behind as long as he could. Ken reported for work in Skowhegan the Monday after his high school graduation. His father was finishing up the Wesserunsett Bridge job on
CHAPTER TWO U.S. Route 2. Riprap was needed around the abutments. The punch list for cleaning up also included covering up some graffiti, a chore that fell to Ken: One of the workers, Ralph Goodridge, had painted his initials, R.G., in red lead paint under the bridge. “The only way you could see them was if you were out on the river looking up. But the engineer from the state said they had to be removed. I had trouble believing he was serious. But I had to take a bucket with sand and cement and work my way out there along the bottom flange of the beams and grout them out so they wouldn’t show anymore.” From Skowhegan, they loaded up everything and headed south to Kittery Point. Ralph had his hands full. In addition to running his own job, he was acting as superintendent for another Pittsfield contractor on a connected Kittery road project. Finding good workers was becoming difficult. Because the war had begun and war ships were a priority, the shipyards in southern Maine were hiring everyone they could find. “Father had bid the Kittery job based on an average of 40 cents (per hour). The shipyards were paying big
Cianchettes rally for war, then business
Ralph’s next-to-last job was the Wesserunsett Bridge on U.S. Route 2 in Skowhegan. He was considered a master at using a gin pole, a vertical pole guyed by cables and used with blocks and tackle for raising weight. In this February 21, 1942 photo, top left, the gin pole is anchored in the ice as Ralph’s crew erects a steel span. At top right, workers connect the raised piece to a suspended span. Two months later, in April, the cameraman caught this photo above, of the crew working on the deck. That’s Ralph standing in the center.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS areas of Europe began the clean-up and started life anew. He finally came home in March of 1946.
By the end of June, the Wesserunsett Bridge was open to travelers.
money. He couldn’t compete. He could only keep a crew of old guys — guys in their 60s — who couldn’t get a job in the shipyards.” Ken did whatever the “old guys” weren’t able to do. “I helped drive piling. I poured concrete. The bridge was 85 percent complete by the time I was drafted.” Once boot camp in Fort Eustis, Va., some duty at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, and Signal Corps school at a New Jersey base were behind him, Edna and Ralph’s fourth-born child followed brothers Norris and Clair to
Europe arriving in Scotland on D-Day, June 6, 1943. “We were the replacement pool to fill in for the casualties. There were over 15,000 of us on the ship. We went over on the Queen Elizabeth.” Ken served in England and France and wound up in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army in Germany. After August 14, 1945 when the Japanese surrendered and the war was over, Corporal Cianchette found himself “stuck” in the army of occupation. He was one of the men and women charged with monitoring the peace as people in the war-torn
Carl had been building Dow Field in Bangor when he made the choice in 1943 to report for training to become a maritime officer. The decision must have been agonizing for him. It was enough that he had to leave his young wife and their children behind. But this was a guy who also liked to work out-of-doors, moving earth and building roads and runways. Like so many in his position, however, he was caught up in the mood of the country. He felt it was very important — his patriotic duty, in fact — to take part in the effort to win the war. Thus Carl traded a job that paid well to spend the next year and a half on a merchant ship, working for meager wages and shuttling back and forth between continents hauling war supplies to wherever the action was. However, unlike his younger brothers, because he wasn’t in the regular military, Carl was able to choose his time to
Cianchettes rally for war, then business
CHAPTER TWO leave the service. That choice was made in the latter part of 1945, shortly after V-J Day.
When Bud left Pittsfield in September of 1944, the allies were gaining ground. “Things were looking good,” he remembers. D-Day, carried out three months before under the command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, had been a turning point. Following basic training for the infantry, Bud became the fourth Cianchette brother assigned to the European operation, arriving there during the Battle of the Bulge. During the previous two years, after his brothers had left and while he was still in school, Bud helped out at home taking care of the farm animals and working two jobs. He was still on the payroll at the First National Store for his after-school job and, early in the mornings, he could be found in the kitchen at MCI helping with the Naval Cadets’ breakfast. A 1943 yearbook notation gave an early hint of the business mind of this brother who years later would become
known as “the money guy,” “the dealmaker” for Cianbro. Under a column of “favorites,” Bud’s favorite expression was listed as “Is the money in yet?” High schools everywhere had changed dramatically during the early war years. MCI was no exception: “There were only seven boys in my class. The rest all went off in the service,” explains Bud. “And, I hardly went to school my last two years. I skipped. My mother didn’t even know that.” Once in Europe, Bud was part of a field artillery unit in Cologne, Germany. “We were just replacements to an old National Guard Company that was activated in 1939 out of Chicago. We lifted the bombs. We were lucky. Instead of being up in the front line, we were two miles behind. There was shooting all the time. We could hear gunfire all night long. But things were moving pretty fast.” It was obvious that the allies were winning. “I stayed there. Our unit was ready to go to Japan, and then the war was over.” Bud also remained behind with the occupation forces until October of 1946. While he had been anxious to return home, the upside was that he was able to see quite a bit of Europe, includ-
ing a military R and R to Rome, Italy. Once there, he attempted to find transportation to and from Pettorano and Sulmona, but he was unable to put the side trip together. As for the whole war experience, Bud philosophizes a bit: “If you came home safe, it was a great experience for an 18-year-old from Pittsfield, Maine.” Homecoming for Sergeant Cianchette was in October of 1946.
Carl had three more reasons to celebrate homecoming. His wife, Maureen, and their two young children, Brian and Janice were waiting for him.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Those who waited: Back home the days were long and worrisome
BUD WAS THE last
to leave and the last to return. Meanwhile, for Ralph and Edna and Marilyn and Chuck, there was the waiting. Chuck remembers the letters: “Mother wrote a lot of letters. It seemed as if she wrote to every one of them almost every day. Then we got a lot of letters in return.” As part of the military’s security system, the incoming mail had been censored before being dispatched from Europe. Precautions were always taken. Something could inadvertently be leaked to the enemy. Chuck can’t remember if passages were blacked out or actually cut out. But they learned to read between the lines. “Norris had a code so we could keep track of him. He was an excellent penman. He printed all of his words.” However, Chuck explains, every few lines or so, Norris would change one of the letters within a word from printing
to cursive. After reading it all, the family would go back through it and pick out the cursive letters and put them together to form a word. The code word would spell out his location. “We would know exactly where Norris was.” The chores dealing with the farm animals fell to Chuck and his mother once Bud left. Chuck remembers that his This plaque with five stars was made by Chuck for his mother. Edna treasured the gift as the stars represented each of her sons serving in the war. mother was very strong during this period. She must have been extremely concerned for her other five sons, but she did not give way to her emotions. A surprise to her from Chuck became a source of pride. He was taking manual training at Lancey Street School and crafted a plaque bearing five stars — one for each of his brothers. Edna saw that it was placed in a prominent place for all to see.
When Ralph was a deputy sheriff for Somerset County, he had a different approach to the job. Sometimes instead of arresting people who had failed to pay fines, he just paid their fines. After finishing up the Kittery Point bridge project in 1943, Ralph packed up his tools and equipment, headed back to Pittsfield, and called it quits: “Father finished the job and then basically he retired,” relates Ken.
CHAPTER TWO Actually there wasn’t much he could do. Because of the war, the state wasn’t contracting to build bridges. Plus, if they had been, Ralph would have been hard put to buy equipment or gasoline. Ken notes that also about that time his father’s health began to decline. “He had high blood pressure and circulation problems.” What Ralph did on a part-time basis, though, was work as a deputy sheriff for Somerset County for the next few years: Ken describes how his father handled the job: “He used his own automobile. He wore civilian clothes. He didn’t dress like a cowboy or carry a six-shooter. He did carry a blackjack in his hip pocket in case he needed it. He didn’t chase speeders. He mostly served papers and if he had to pick up someone to take them to jail, he did that too.” Well, not always. Ralph did not always take them to jail. Sometimes when they owed a fine, Ralph just loaned them the money to pay it off. Forget the jail time. Bud was helping his father and mother move from one house to another sometime around the early 1950s after Ralph had retired as a deputy. When
Cianchettes rally for war, then business they were moving an old safe, Ralph went through it and, to Bud’s surprise, kept pulling out promissory notes — IOUs for money owed to him. More than a dozen. “He had a whole stack. Some were for $25. Some $75. He had a story for almost every one of them. Usually they were for people in trouble. Not bad people. They were people he knew. Those were hard times. Instead of putting them in jail, as he was suppose to do, he paid off their bills. “Some of the people had paid him back. A lot of them hadn’t.”
Us and Company: Cianchettes reunite and ready to roll
JUST AS THEY left one by one to go off to war, that’s the way they came back. Carl, the young husband and father, was the first to return. It was great to be home. And after all those months cooped up on a merchant vessel, he was itching to get going, ready to start working again.
Carl was itching to shed his uniform and start his own business. He cleaned up some of his father’s old equipment including this six-inch pump.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
After all those months cooped up on a merchant vessel, Carl was itching to get going, ready to start working again . . . ready for his own construction business. He had the experience and there was a modest amount of equipment left over from his father’s operation that had been just gathering dust for three years: a two-bag cement mixer, some wheelbarrows, a six-inch pump. It wasn’t exactly what you would call a full cart. But it would clean up. What he was ready for was his own construction business. And why not? He had the experience and there was a modest amount of equipment left over from his father’s operation that had been just gathering dust for three years: There was a two-bag cement mixer. There were some wheelbarrows. There was a six-inch pump. It wasn’t exactly what you would call a full cart. And, granted it was not in the best of shape. But it would clean up. It could be put to use. Then there was the 1934 Chevrolet pickup that was originally Bud’s and had been handed down to kid brother, Chuck, when Bud left for the war. It would be just fine as a combination busi-
ness vehicle and family truck. Carl could “confiscate” that. Chuck wouldn’t mind. Then there was the need for capital. If he were going to land some jobs, he really did need more equipment. Carl was, understandably, short of cash. Unlike his single brothers, he had a family that he had been supporting and he had not been able to build up much
in savings during his time in the service. Not to worry. There was Ken — the frugal one. He had been stashing it away — sending money orders home from Germany on a regular basis for his mother to bank. By early 1946, he had $5,000 in a Pittsfield savings account. Carl could borrow it. There was also Bud. He had saved $500 from his army pay. Carl could borrow that, too. To someone outside the family, the brothers’ gestures to Carl may have seemed incredible. But it was all part of their upbringing. It was Ralph’s “Us and Company” philosophy — his “If we work together, we’ll do all right” way of thinking. There is also no doubt that Edna’s Christian teachings played into the generosity shown by her sons — one to the other. Carl also acquired the 1934 Chevrolet pickup that originally belonged to Bud who, when he went into the army, had passed it along to Chuck. That’s young Chuck beside the truck with twin baby goats. If you look hard enough, you can see that one is white and the other is black.
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom
ARL SPENT THE winter
months of 1946 doing what he needed to do to start his construction operation. He bought some new equipment. He Prosperity cleaned up Ralph’s leftovers. He made on horizon: New company several contacts with potential customers. is loaded Launching any with aces kind of a new business is always risky. But one would imagine that starting a venture at the beginning of a brand-new era filled with uncertainties would have been even more of a risk. Americans were settling into peacetime. A post-war boom should come. But when? Carl must have been counting on it arriving soon. Shortly after the war, Harry S. Truman, the Democrat who had stepped
into the presidency in 1945 after the death of Roosevelt, had trotted out a portfolio of new domestic proposals. His 21-point plan was being billed as the Fair Deal, fashioned after FDR’s New Deal. Among other things, it called for an extension of price controls, heavy federal housing subsidies, unemployment compensation, and underwriting full employment.
However, Truman lacked the charisma of his predecessor and had difficulty getting his points across. Thus his domestic legislation fared poorly. Congress rejected most of his proposals in 1945-46 including the price-control measure. Later, that
Carl was ready to get down to business. With his brothers’ help and Ralph’s advice, the brand-new Carl E. Cianchette Contractor company was begun.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
congressional rejection was blamed for an 18 percent cost-of-living increase in 1946. Also ditched was the guarantee for full employment. In the meantime, many of the returning GIs were having difficulty finding good jobs. They spent months adrift, trying to sort out just what it was that they should be doing with the rest of their lives now that they had survived World War II. Such was not the case with Carl Cianchette. He had things pretty well figured out. The 26-year-old had already paid his dues as a player in the construction business as a result of his key role in the extensive Dow Field project. Besides that, his brother Bud notes, Carl had other things going for him: “He was a smart construction man and he was very determined.” There were other factors on his side. He had his father. He had his brothers. Their father helped Carl by playing an advisory role, remembers Bud. “You had to take his advice. He was usually right.” Even though Ralph had only an eighth-grade education, Bud notes, he was a natural-born engineer. “His judgment was excellent and he had an uncanny ability to know how to make
things happen. That was certainly a big asset for Carl.” The strength his brothers brought to the table was and still is unmeasurable. As they landed back in Pittsfield, they were automatically included in the plans. And, of course, having Ken and Bud willing to bankroll the brand-new Carl E. Cianchette Contractor company was the spark that allowed it all to happen in the first place. How could he lose? Carl had a handful of aces to play. Speaking of aces, and before going on any further, Bud has an aside about how Kenneth was able to accumulate so much more money than he did on just soldiers’ wages — Ken’s $5,000 compared to Bud’s mere $500. Yes, Ken was older and, yes, he was in the army longer than his brother. But there were a couple of other reasons, claims Bud, as he does a little legpulling: “I was not as good at poker as he was. And the army issued us cartons of cigarettes when we were in Europe. I
smoked all of mine. Kenneth sold all of his.” Now Bud isn’t actually saying that some of the seed money that Ken provided for Cianbro came from gambling and tobacco but. . . The time had arrived to get down to business. It was March. There were some jobs lined up. Initially four siblings — all in their 20s — would be involved. In addition to 26-year-old Carl, Norris, 24, was ready. And Clair, 23, and Ken, 21, would barely have a chance to unpack their army togs before they had to dig in their closets and fish out their old work clothes.
CHAPTER THREE However, very soon it would become apparent that the construction business was not a fit for all of the Cianchette brothers: Clair would last just a few days into Job One; Norris would hold out a little longer but he would quit before Job Two was completed. But Job One would have tested anyone’s will. Ken and Norris remember that this 1946 early spring task was — to put it bluntly — “a miserable one.” Carl had agreed to take on a project loading hardwood pulp onto boxcars in Burnham, the small town located just south of Pittsfield. Included in Carl’s newly-acquired equipment was a Ford platform truck which was put to immediate use. This is the picture as Norris repaints it: “The wood had been cut in the summer and then it got frozen in during the winter. It was wet. It was slippery. We had to manhandle it several times. We had to put it on the truck. Then we had to take it to the railroad yard, take it off the truck, and pile it onto the boxcar. It was awful.” After a couple of days, Clair, the “biggest and the strongest” of the brothers, said “To hell with this.” “We learned very soon that loading
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom pulp by hand was not the way to make a living. We learned not to ever do that again. Clair learned even quicker,” allows Norris. “He was smarter than the rest of us. It didn’t take him long to figure that we couldn’t make any money at that stuff.”
Pulp exercise OK for warmup: Now it’s time for real job
SO IT WAS NOT a
great job. Every business has to start somewhere. Job Two, adding an expansion to a local mill, was much better. A lot of work, yes, but when it was finished there was a lot of satisfaction. It was a project that could be pointed to with pride. Norris wouldn’t make it through to the end of this one. Three weeks would be quite enough. Being in the shadow of a brother who was just two years his senior, and having to perform menial tasks assigned by that brother, was not exactly what Norris had in mind for his future. They clashed on the job. Or, as one of the other brothers points out, “They both had their own way to do things.” Norris succinctly sums up his departure: “Carl and I were good
friends. If we wanted things to remain that way, I had to leave. We both wanted to be the boss.” Two brothers, two of Ralph’s sons, gave it a try and rather quickly concluded that a career in construction was not for them. But before the first season ended, two more Cianchette brothers, Chuck and Bud, would replace Clair and Norris on the company roster and, with the exception of a couple of minor lapses, they would be right there for the rest of their working lives.
A sign of good things ahead.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Carl had contracted to build an addition onto Hodgkins Mill located on Central Street, near downtown Pittsfield. The price for the work would be a fairly nice sum — $8,000. Fortunately, the building’s owner, Perley A. Wright, was a friend. He no doubt was familiar with the Cianchette family’s work ethic. There were plenty of other contractors around looking for work who certainly could have done the job. He would take his chances with the Cianchette boys. And in a gesture the brothers will never forget, Wright paid most of the contract amount in advance. That rare business courtesy allowed Carl to buy the materials that he needed to get the job done. Perley Wright would have known the difficulties encountered in beginning a new business. He would have known how much a leg up would be appreciated. He was a well-liked area entrepreneur having owned a general store in nearby Detroit and later, a restaurant and bakery, as well as a coal business in Pittsfield. At the time the addition was being built, Wright’s mill was being operated by Earl Hodgkins. He needed more room.
Early mementos: Carl’s first time book reveals a great deal about the brothers’ philosophy. They were always paid last. For the 14 pay periods of the Perley Mill project, Carl took only one week’s pay and Ken just two. Below is one of the last Carl E. Cianchette Contractor checks cashed. Just 13 days prior to this January 12, 1950 paycheck, Ken and Bud joined Carl to form Cianchette Bros., Inc.
Hodgkins had brought in a crew early in 1945 after his mill, located in another part of town, was destroyed by a tragic fire that took the lives of three women workers. Hodgkins started manufacturing woolens for the Pittsfield Hand Knitting Company, which was Wright’s business focus at the time. That endeavor had previously been operating one street away on Park Street. A year after the expansion, Wright bought out Hodgkins’ interests and organized Pittsfield Woolen Yarns Co., Inc.
As the 1900s draw to a close, it is one of about a dozen remaining woolen mills still operating in Maine. A third generation of Wrights keeps it humming. Yellowed time sheets for the project listed as: “P.A. Wright Job (Hodgkins Mill)” show that on the first week, which
CHAPTER THREE ended April 6, 1946, there had been just Carl and Ken readying the site. They worked three days — Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Since the new company’s equipment was limited, it was fortunate that several of their relatives were in the construction business and were headquartered in Pittsfield. It had been necessary to rent “J.R.C.’s backhoe” for nine hours at $20 per hour for a total of $180. It had also been necessary to use three of Forest Frederick’s trucks — a Mack for four hours; a Ford for seven-and-a-half hours, and an International for six-and-a-half hours. Eighteen hours total. The rental rate for Frederick’s vehicles was not included. However, an asterisk noted “*No driver.” Carl and Ken did the driving, hauling gravel, and making preparations for the foundation work. By the second week there were nine people on the payroll. Norris, Patsy Almonte; an uncle, Frank Cianchette; and a man named Charlie Turner all were earning $1 per hour. George E. Morse and Robert Buker
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom were being paid 75 cents an hour and Kenneth Cross was making 65 cents hourly. Carl’s and Kenneth’s names were at the top of the time sheet. However, there were no per-hour or per-week pay figures beside either entry even though they had each logged six days straight during week two. They each were taking a pass. This concept of not taking a paycheck was, in fact, something that all of the brothers would fall back on over the next 50 years whenever the need arose.
Pete Vigue, the man leading Cianbro into the millennium, points out: “The brothers won’t tell you this, but the first people to get paid were always the workers; the second people were the creditors. Then, if there was anything left over, they would take care of themselves.” On the third week of the Wright project, Carl took a check for $60 which appears to be his only draw during the job. Kenneth was paid $50 that same week and before the job ended, he received $60 more. Even if Kenneth had been paid weekly, all of the checks would likely have still been in his pocket by the end of the job. He was still single and although it brought extreme frustration to their bookkeeper, Ken was known to carry around weeks and weeks worth of his paychecks. When the ink was When the company was taking root, the brothers often chose to receive stock in lieu of pay. It was a practice that allowed Cianchette Bros, Inc. to build a solid base.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
of high school. Just as soon as school faded almost beyond being readable, he was out, the curly-haired teenager would get around to cashing them. reported for work. He His defense would be paid 65 always was that when Even if Kenneth had cents per hour plus you are working 70 been paid weekly, all time-and-a-half for hours a week, you overtime. don’t have time to go of the checks would to the bank, much less Chuck obviously have likely still been in spend any money. Of cleared the hurdles of his pocket by the end of course, Ken still had a the Fair Labor the job. He was still meal ticket and a bed Standards Act of single and although it at Ralph and Edna’s, 1938 which dealt so his personal needs with minors and brought extreme fruswere few. “oppressive” worktration to their booking situations. His entire focus keeper, Ken was known during the construcIf there were to carry around weeks tion season of ‘46 was any other labor and weeks worth of his making his brother’s laws regarding new company go. children and conpaychecks. When the struction, perink was faded almost haps they didn’t Chuck had celebeyond being readable, apply to family. brated his 16th birthhe would get around to Where would it day less than a month ever be written before he came on the cashing them. that a kid job. In fact, it was couldn’t give June 10, 1946 when his brother’s Chuck Cianchette business a healthy began that first day of the rest of his life. shove to help get it off He well remembers the Perley and running? Wright project during the summer between his sophomore and junior year For his first week,
the 130-pound 16-year-old was on the clock for 54 hours. Nine hours a day. Six days in a row. He shoveled gravel. He pulled nails. “I remember spending a lot of time hauling lumber for forms and then unpacking it. I did drive a truck some of the time. And I helped mix up concrete in father’s two-bag cement mixer. At first I was on the shoveling end. Then I got promoted to running the mixer.” Chuck loved every single minute of every single day. The work was hard and the days were long as spring turned into early summer. Shirts were pulled off as temperatures climbed while Carl, his brothers, and the others labored shoulder to shoulder. The work force increased from nine to a dozen. Three months and two days after the first spadeful of earth was turned, the job was finished. By July 6, the “P.A. Wright Job (Hodgkins Mill)” was done. Ahead of schedule. And under budget. A cause for celebration? “No,” says Ken. There were no champagne corks pulled and no
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom
beer caps popped. “It was too early for that. We still had too much to do.” But those six words “ahead of schedule and under budget” would become the company’s bywords. They would be repeated over and over again throughout the next five decades.
Ralph had been close by looking over his sons’ shoulders at every pass. And giving advice. If anyone had looked at him closely, they might have noticed that his chest was a little swollen with pride. His boys had pulled it off.
There were other jobs that Carl had committed to for the rest of the summer and fall of 1946. He was good at finding work. The jobs were small in comparison to the Wright project but included some concrete doorsteps and some home foundations. He had acquired one of the first civilian jeeps with a blade that could be used for leveling gravel. Bud was finally discharged in October and was back in Pittsfield and on Carl’s crew for the waning weeks of that initial season. He had turned 20 the previous July. He remembers that one of the first things he was involved with was pouring a slab for a local dry-cleaning business. Cold weather set in and it was time to pack things up for winter. When all was said and the dollars were counted, the gross sales for that first year came to $46,000.
do something different. Carl would finally have some family time with Maureen and the children before it was necessary to go back and do it all over again. Chuck was at MCI in his junior year playing football and basketball and concentrating many of his after-school hours on a very attractive classmate named Helen Esty. After shopping for an automobile, Ken and Bud settled on a sporty Ford Phaeton convertible to take them to Florida where they had decided to spend the winter of 1947. They left Pittsfield on Christmas day and endured a breezy trip down U.S. Route 1, swinging over to St. Petersburg first and then ending up in Miami. Within a few days, they were hired for the Key Biscayne bridge job, specifi-
Diversions: There are some other things to do
IT WAS TIME to
cally to work on the MacArthur Causeway as non-union laborers. Their primary task was loading a barge — an on-site floating concrete plant — with bags of cement. The pay was $1 an hour. They lasted just a few weeks. “We were spending more for food than we were earning,” relates Ken. “After we got done work, we would clean up and go to a restaurant. Then if we didn’t get enough to eat there, we’d leave and go to another restaurant and eat again.”
In the early years, when it was common to close down construction jobs at Thanksgiving time, the brothers kept as many workers as possible on the payroll throughout the winter. Some hauled logs and others were kept busy repairing machinery.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Simplifying tasks just comes naturally
iguring easier, less costly ways to do
months after VJ Day in the Army of
things has served Cianbro well. Time
Occupation. Ken had landed back in
and we couldn’t make ends meet.” While they were there, however, they
and time again, an enterprising employee
Pittsfield the previous March and went right
worked hard. It was all heavy lifting. They
has found a way to simplify a task often
to work on construction for brother Carl.
lugged 94 pound bags of cement and
resulting in completing a job early and, in
Bud didn’t arrive home until October. But
steel reinforcing bar.
the process, under budget.
when he did, he also signed on with Carl
This kind of thinking has always been encouraged by the Cianchette brothers. As a matter of fact, they became masters of the art early on. Sometimes they barely had to try. Take the Florida caper:
and finished out the few weeks left of the
remembers Ken. The bags of cement
were located inside a warehouse adjacent
Ken was looking for a break.
Their job was to carry the bags, some-
some much-needed rest after they
times two at a time, down through the
arrived. Bud had other ideas. He wanted
warehouse, out the front door, around the
to find work.
building and then load them onto the
Causeway was underway in Miami. All the
Christmas day of l946, 22-year-old Ken and 20-year-old Bud headed for Miami to spend the winter. They had purchased a 1936 Ford Phaeton — a convertible touring car
to the canal where the barge was docked.
Florida was the spot. He was hoping for
Construction of the MacArthur
But the job was not run efficiently,
barge. The two young brothers pulled a “Wait
skilled trades were unionized and since
a minute. Let’s look at this picture.” They
neither were members of a union, they
put their heads together, sized up the mat-
got jobs as non-union laborers.
ter and came up with a way to cut their
They stayed on the payroll only a few weeks. As Bud explains, “The pay was just $1 an hour
work in less than half. They noticed a window in the warehouse that was situated between the bags of cement inside and the barge outside. “So, instead of carrying the cement
of sorts. It made for a cold trip down
all the way through the warehouse and
since the car had just side curtains and
out the door, we got a chute, put it in the
no heater. But that was OK.
window and just slid the bags out.
World War II was behind them. Both had been stuck in Europe for several
“I got to rest after all,” jokes Ken.
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom
When Carl landed his first state contract in 1947, a bridge in Dover-Foxcroft, he purchased three dump trucks to add to his “fleet.”
Jobs as bus boys at the Hollywood Beach Hotel turned out to be a much better way to pass the winter for two single guys: “We had room and board and $50 a month,” recalls Bud. There was also an attractive ratio in the work force: 150 waitresses versus just 15 bus boys. Ken and Bud had the only car. Instead of lugging bags of cement in the hot sun, they were toting trays from the kitchen to the dining room just fiveand-a-half hours each day: an hour-anda-half at noon and four hours in the evening. There were plenty of hours left to spend on the beach. There was also time to take flying lessons. That’s exactly what the brothers did, cashing in on their GI Bill benefits. They started in February and six weeks
later both Ken and Bud had their private pilot licenses. “We had a good winter,” concludes Bud. When they returned to Maine, Carl already had a decent line-up for 1947. He had his first state contract. The crew would be building a small bridge 40 miles north of Pittsfield in Dover-Foxcroft. Their brother had negotiated enough work to warrant the purchase of three dump trucks, a bulldozer and a Lorain TL20 motor crane. The Lorain — a combination crane, backhoe and shovel — was one of the first modern backhoes in the area and represented a major commitment of cash. It would do trenches and cellar
holes much quicker than anything else around. It was up to Ken to make sure it paid for itself and turned a profit. Ken was ready. Chuck would do some Lorain understudying when school was out. Bud’s focus was on something else. A restaurant. Once back from the Sunshine State, Bud started building what would become The Wayside Grill on U.S. Route 100 on lower South Main Street. By July the structure would be done, the equipment in place, food delivered, and the crew ready to serve the Grill’s first meal. Bud would cater to the locals, but his doors would open just in time to catch some of the summer traffic traveling through
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
town heading for Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island. “We were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I did everything. I even cooked — short order.” It had seemed like a good idea, but it didn’t take Bud long to conclude that the restaurant business was not for him: “It’s a terrible business. It was and it still is.” After 15 months he sold it to “Aunt Jonnie,” his father’s sister and went back to work for Carl.
Family catchup: Class rings, wedding rings, and teething rings
GRADUATIONS, WEDDINGS, AND
new babies in the late 1940s and the early 1950s made for busy times in the Cianchette family: ■ The only girl, Marilyn, graduated from MCI in 1947. ■ Chuck was right behind her in 1948. There were tips from a yearbook entry even then of what would become part of Chuck’s role in life. Decades later, he would be called Cianbro’s “people guy” because of the way he interacts with employees. It would be a natural progression for an 18-year-old noticed for his “winning smile and friendly personality.”
Another commencement, at 10:30 a.m. on June 1 in 1951, was a red-letter morning. Brother Clair Leigh Cianchette, “Bull,” the one who had expressed an early distaste for construction, was one of 28 candidates earning a Bachelor of Law degree at Portland University. ■
Wedding bells Carl to Maureen Davis: Oct. 15, 1939 Norris to Marilyn Bunker : March 14, 1947 Marilyn to Linwood Pelletier: June 29, 1948 Clair to Ethel Morrison: Jan. 23, 1949 Kenneth to Evelene Lancaster: August 24, 1949 Alton (Chuck) to Helen Esty: July 23, 1950 Ival (Bud) to Priscilla Winslow: Sept. 27, 1952
YEAR MARRIED ■
The six Cianchette brothers and their wives stepped out for an evening together back in the early 1950s. Caught by the camera from left to right: Chuck and Helen, Bud and Priscilla, Evelene and Ken, Ethel and Clair, Marilyn and Norris, and Maureen and Carl. One can only imagine how Ralph and Edna felt sitting in the audience. Clair, the third son of that Italian boy who had come to America alone nearly a half-a-century before and of a teenage girl forced to go to work before reaching high school, was a stand-out. Not only was Clair the president of his graduating class, he was also the only Magna Cum Laude student receiving a diploma that day. ■ The wedding march started with Norris. He added another Marilyn to the
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom
Carl Ervin Cianchette Aug. 27, 1919 - April 14, 1997
Family ■ Married Maureen Davis of Newport on Oct. 15, 1939. ■ Three daughters - Janice Harkins, Carleen Carlson, and Jill Lambert. ■ Three sons - Brian, Malcolm, and Steven.
Work ■ His first construction jobs are
with his father’s company. ■ Joins J.R. Cianchette firm in 1940; at age 20 is made assistant superintendent for a large military contract in Bangor. ■ Starts Carl E. Cianchette Contractor company in 1946. ■ In 1949, two brothers, Ken and Bud, become partners and the business is incorporated. The company name is changed to Cianchette
paign and following elections. ■ Pittsfield Town Councilman. ■ Moderator for Pittsfield Town Meetings.
Bros., Inc. and Carl is president. ■ Carl goes on his own in 1962 and forms Cianchette Concrete Corp. ■ Cianbro purchases other concrete companies in early 1970s and Cianchette Concrete is also merged with Cianbro. Carl manages the entire concrete operation until his retirement in 1985.
Affiliations and public service
Military service ■ In 1943, at height of World War ll, he joins Merchant Marines, trains in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., and is assigned to a transport ship carrying troops and supplies to the European Theater of Operations. He is discharged as a commander.
Politics ■ State Representative 1955-56. ■ State Senator 1969-70.
family, Marilyn Bunker from Portland, on March 14, 1947. Sister Marilyn was next exchanging vows on June 29, 1948 with Linwood Pelletier from Presque Isle. Seven months later, on January 23, 1949, Clair married
■ Governor’s Executive Council: for Gov. John Reid in 1965-66 and for Gov. James Longley in 1975-76. Carl chaired Maine’s last executive council. ■ State chairman of Maine Democrats. ■ Key organizer of Edmund S. Muskie’s 1954 gubernatorial cam-
Ethel Morrison from Millinocket. Kenneth’s bride on August 24, 1949 was Evelene Lancaster, a young Pittsfield woman. Chuck married “the attractive classmate,” Helen Esty, on July 23, 1950. Bud held out until September 27, 1952
■ One of the founders of Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield. ■ Trustee of Maine Maritime Academy. ■ First vice president of Associated General Contractors of Maine. ■ First president of Pittsfield Jaycees. ■ Member of Pittsfield Kiwanis Club. ■ Member of Pittsfield Masonic Lodge, St. Omer Commanderie, and Anah Temple Shrine. ■ Organized Florida reunions for Maine Central Institute alumni.
CIANBRO THE CONSTRUCTORS
when Priscilla Winslow, a medical secretary from Stockton Springs, became his life’s partner. ■ All these marriages produced lots of new Cianchettes. The family was right in step with a national trend having their
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
very own baby boom. For several years, Carl and Maureen’s children had been the only grandchildren at Ralph and Edna’s Thanksgiving table. All of a sudden, high chairs were in high demand at Grampa’s and Marmie’s house. On a solemn note, Ralph’s mother, Concetta, died in August of 1953.
Jobs are mix of public and private: Air base work defines future
MEANWHILE, THE BROTHERS
— Carl, Kenneth, Bud and Chuck — were getting this construction thing down pretty well. They even had an office. Well, sort of. Lynwood Cookson, who would be their accountant for 34 years, shakes his head today when he thinks about it: “It was the size of a chicken coop. It was just a small building on Hunnewell Avenue. It looked more like a shed than an office. It sat on posts. We were fairly close to the river and the wind whistled This bulldozer and low-bed truck were part of the equipment on hand when Carl landed his Loring contract in 1951. However, because of the size of the job, it was necessary to go on a shopping spree. He added 13 Ford trucks, a power shovel, and two more bulldozers to the inventory.
right underneath us. There were two little rooms. I was in one and I had a desk. There was also a safe. They didn’t spend much time in the office, but when they did, they were in the other room.” Lynwood was right. The brothers didn’t hang around the office much. While they would get together there on Sunday mornings to go over some details on a current project, it was common for “meetings” to be held in one of their trucks on the way to or from a job site. They were busy in 1948 doing a mix of private and public work: house foundations, excavations, sewer work that had been neglected during the war years. . . They were also in DoverFoxcroft again building a large garage for Rowell’s automobile dealership. It was more of the same in 1949. By the end of that year, Carl had
flung the door open and welcomed Ken and Bud in as partners. On Dec. 30, 1949, two days before a brand-new decade, the business became Cianchette Bros., Inc. Chuck’s turn would come later. Carl, the president, would receive a salary of $10,000 and Bud, the treasurer, and Ken, the clerk, would each be paid $6,000. In these early years, the partnership appeared to be a good ship to sail in. There was no long-range plan, explains Bud. “We just went ahead and worked and it happened.” The routine became Carl lining up the jobs, dealing with the banks, and negotiating contracts while Ken and Bud did the heavy lifting. By 1950, their volume had reached $200,000. A turning point came in 1951. The
Carl and his brothers gear up for post-war boom
CHAPTER THREE Korean War was underway, the federal government was throwing money into military complexes again, and Loring Air Force Base up in Limestone, Maine was targeted for a heavy chunk of that money. The base would become a giant anthill of activity. Perini Corporation out of Framingham, Massachusetts was awarded a job to build underground ammunition storage igloos. Another piece of the work at Loring went as a joint venture to Farina Brothers and Volpe, two other Massachusetts construction firms that would build barracks. The Cianchettes would figure into both projects. ■ They would job out their Lorain crane and the Lorain’s operator, which at this point was Chuck, to Farina and Volpe for the barracks project. ■ And they would do some major work subcontracting for the ammunition storage job. A Cianchette Bros. crew would be working around the clock hauling fill for Perini. The brothers went shopping. In order to do the job, it was necessary to purchase 13 Ford trucks, two bulldozers, and a power shovel. Bud allows that the family has always had a soft touch for
THE EARLY YEARS Limestone
Some of the first serious projects for the new Carl E. Cianchette Contractor firm
In 1946, job one was a project loading hardwood pulp onto boxcars in Burnham. It was a difficult job that would test their will.
Cianchette brothers begin the business of building Cianbro. Atlantic Ocean
salesmen. Joking aside, he points out that the Loring expansion was responsible for the brothers delving into the heavy equipment business and the earthmoving business in grand style. Ken had little to do with Loring. He stayed down in Central Maine working on foundations for a shoe factory in Gardiner, an Internal Revenue Service building in Augusta, and a warehouse in Hartland.
In 1946, their second job was building an addition onto Hodgkins Mill near downtown Pittsfield. In 1947, they had their first state contract building a small bridge in Dover-Foxcroft. In 1951, work on Loring Air Force Base in Limestone would be a turning point that would shape the ensuing years.
But Chuck and Bud have vivid memories of that Limestone summer: In its 50 years, the company has always been a non-union operation. But Chuck spent a few months on the other side. When he arrived in Limestone with the TL20 crane for the Farina/Volpe job, the first thing he was required to do was to join Local Four for operating engineers out of Boston.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
After working for his brothers, where everybody did everything to get things done, the job was a breeze. He went to work wearing a clean shirt in the morning, operated the crane all day, and when he punched out, his shirt was still clean. Since it was a union job and he was not an oiler, there was an oiler working with him doing all the dirty work.
Bud had a bunk in one of the barracks, but he seldom used it. He did go there to take showers and when he could, he would catch a couple of hours of sleep in his pickup. The pay was also great. “I was making big money and working quite a few hours overtime. I was taking home $350. We lived on $50 and put $300 in the bank.” That was not to last. About three months into the project, he left. His brothers needed his help on the Perini job. “I went over to work for Carl for $100 a week.” Wash day at home in nearby Fort
Fairfield, where he and Helen were living, became a challenge once more. Chuck was back doing “everything” including greasing and overhauling the trucks at night. In the meantime, Bud was doing marathons: working 22 hours each day, seven days a week. “We were doing two 11-hour shifts.” Bud had a bunk in one of the barracks, but he seldom used it. He did go there to take showers and when he could, he would catch a couple of hours of sleep in his pickup. The Loring job shaped the ensuing years. The brothers had a heavy investment in equipment and after the work in Limestone was finished, there were still several more years of payments due. They needed to find jobs to keep that equipment busy. Fortunately they managed to do that. Increased funding for Maine highway systems and the construction of bridges for the Maine Turnpike extension from Portland to Augusta played into their hands. They would be able to keep those dump trucks and bulldozers moving building roads and bridges. By 1955 Cianchette Bros. Inc. sales would exceed $1 million.
But by then Kenneth had decided to do something different. He felt that the highway-building pie was being split into too many pieces. Cianchette Bros. was small in comparison to other Maine construction firms including Bridge Construction of Augusta, H.E. Sargent of Stillwater, Thomas Dicenzo of Calais, Frank Rossi of Gardiner, and J.R. Cianchette right in Pittsfield. Thus the brothers were at a major disadvantage. They were meeting expenses, but they weren’t getting ahead, Kenneth recalls. He saw another market that some of the larger contractors were ignoring. Maine towns and cities had begun paying attention to their infrastructures. Municipalities were building up their sewerage and water systems. “It might have been more complicated and less glamourous. But I thought it was something we could make money on. As it was, we were struggling. We were beating our heads against the wall. I felt we were going behind.” Ken proposed his ideas, but Carl wanted to stay the course. Change, nevertheless, was in the wind.
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar STUBBORN STATE ROAD job
that the brothers had contracted to do on Route 9 in Clifton had been the deciding factor for Ken to leave Cianchette Bros. Enough is There are surenough: Ken prises on every job. opts out of Route 9 was no future boulder exception. The pre-bid battles information available on the three-mile stretch of what is known as the Airline Road indicated it was fairly clean. The understanding was that while there were some rocks and boulders to contend with, most were on the surface. The men operating the backhoes and bulldozers shouldn’t have a problem excavating. The brothers figured the job accordingly. Common practice is to bid so much per cubic yard for excavating rock
and so much for earth. On this job, however, the work was figured unclassified. “We got the same price for moving rocks as we did for moving dirt,” remembers Kenneth. “And what we found out after we got there was that the rocks weren’t just on top of the ground. They were everywhere. “It was a misjudgment. We lost money.” Ken laughs when he recalls a light-hearted comment made during the job. “Someone said ‘Do you know why you haven’t seen any cats around here? The reason is that there’s no dirt for them to cover their s - - -.’ “ But there was not a whole lot of humor to be found in Clifton. The brothers’ equipment took a constant thrashing. They would just get
one thing repaired and something else would break down. And they were working six days a week, 12 hours a day trying to keep on schedule. Ken was sure there had
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
to be an easier way to make a living. Easier, at least, than building roads. But Carl could not be convinced. So Ken split from the company. There was no blowup. No one yelled. There was some shifting of stock and by the spring of 1953, Ken was on his own. The matter was closed. “I said ‘I’ll let you do what you want to do and I’ll go do what I want to do.’ “ recalls Ken. Simply put, remembers Bud, “It was just a basic difference of philosophy between Carl and Kenneth.” In typical Ralph and Edna fashion, their sons settled their differences in a quiet, civilized manner. Ken Cianchette, Inc. took root.
Ken flies solo: It’s a struggle, but he keeps out of the red ink.
KEN WAS ON his own. He, nevertheless, still shared the Hunnewell Avenue office space with his brothers. He started out with small jobs and a small crew. His equipment was minimal as well. Ken bought a new crane that he mounted on an army all-wheel drive surplus truck that he also purchased. He was allowed a
few months to make the down payment for the combo and had barely finished paying it when cold weather set in and it was time to clean up for the winter. But even though it had been a struggle, when the bookkeeper crunched the numbers, Ken had made a small profit his first season. Billy Norton, who would spend 32 years of his life working for the Cianchettes, remembers those first days. Ken had approached him in the spring of 1953 and offered him a job. Billy grins when he says that it probably wasn’t just his reputation for being a good worker that had caught Ken’s attention. Billy had a couple of other attributes:
“I had been hauling pulpwood and lumber. I had an International truck and I also had a little John Deere tractor.” In addition to the offer to come to work, Ken told Billy he might have a use for his tractor and truck. “And he did,” recalls Billy. “Whenever we had a need, we used them both.” The first contract for Ken Cianchette, Inc. was in downtown Skowhegan building a new retaining wall between the Maine Spinning
New headquarters built in the late 1950s provided much needed space and helped simplify the record keeping for both Cianchette Bros., Inc. and Ken Cianchette Inc. Lynwood Cookson confers with Opal Emery. Glenys Sprague is behind them and Norma Rogers is in the foreground.
CHAPTER FOUR Company and the falls of the Kennebec River. A crew of four was assembled. In addition to Ken and Billy, Billy’s brotherin-law, Emerson Mercier, was hired along with Linwood Bowley from Canaan. Billy recalls that it was necessary for Ken to borrow a mixer for the concrete. “That was one of the jobs he gave to me. Of course I had never done it before, but he showed me how.” Mixing concrete would be one job of many that Billy Norton would be shown how to do. He would eventually become one of the most skillful and precise crane operators that Cianbro ever employed. But before that, he would do everything from welding to carpentry work to using a pick-ax to shoveling gravel to operating a backhoe and a bulldozer. But as Billy notes, that was all standard Ken wanted a change from building roads. He struck out on his own in 1953 and concentrated on infrastructure work for towns and cities in Central and Eastern Maine.
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar operating procedure. Whether working for Ken or any of the Cianchette brothers, versatility has always been very important. “Everyone was expected to know more than one job.” Once the job was finished in Skowhegan, Ken moved his workers to Pittsfield and did another retaining wall for Joe Buker who was operating the shoddy mill next to the Sebasticook River. Joe wanted a pit to keep coal in. The pit was dug and a wall was built around it. Then he went after the infrastructure work that he had envisioned landing for his young company. Over the next eight years, he came up with several sewer and water main contracts. The money was good and the work included jobs in Brewer, Bangor, Hampden, Old Town, Dexter, DoverFoxcroft and Waterville. Ken also contracted to do several bridges including one on the new stretch of Interstate 95 in Newport. He built additions onto woolen mills owned by the Striar family in the towns of Corinna and Clinton. At one point his men were in Hartland
constructing a building for Baxter Canning for the company’s new potato flakes product. Later on, Ken’s men were back in Corinna working for Baxter again building the first climate-controlled potato storage house in Maine. His crew grew to between 30 and 35; his father’s brother, Uncle Frank, was a key player as job superintendent.
There’s work enough: But Chuck is faced with a decision
THE ECONOMY NATIONWIDE
was generally upbeat during this period with the exception of a couple of years of seesawing in the late 1950s. Americans were buying homes and cars. And new markets had been created because of all those new post-war babies. However, Maine was going through a period of shifting gears. The woolen mills were closing at a rapid pace and workers left without jobs were being retrained as cutters and sewers in shoe shops. Or if they were more fortunate, they were finding work in the betterpaying paper industry. The construction business managed to stay pretty steady.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
ecessity really is the mother of invention. Ken and Chuck will
attest to that. At least necessity gave birth to such devices as the Chinbro Beam Clamp and the Chinbro Pipe Grab. Ken is the curious type. He’s
eases beam and pipe handling He had mentioned his concept to Chuck, but nothing was done about it. Later, however, when Chuck was building a bridge in Winthrop and was experiencing his own frustrations setting steel, he remembered the design and asked
erecting steel faster than ever before. People said we ought to patent it. So we did.” Now what about something to handle pipe? Give Ken a few minutes: “We were putting in a water main in
always reading and when he’s not
Ken about it. By then Ken had
Old Town. In order to pick up the pipe
reading, he’s asking questions and
thrown the drawing away.
and put it down in the trench we had to
when he’s not asking questions, he’s trying to think up easier ways to do things. He’ll tell you the reason he does that is because he doesn’t like to work any harder than he has to. One day he was thinking about how much work it took to erect steel. He had just finished a job and it had been cumbersome having to use a cable choker to lift the steel beams into place.
“I said I would go figure it again.” Ken drew the second plan to scale. Then he made cardboard patterns of each of the pieces of his proposed clamp. He pinned the pieces together and gave the pattern to Chuck. “I showed him how it should work.” This was on a Sunday.
wrap a rope or chain around it. It was time-consuming and troublesome. It was hard to get the chain out from under the pipe once it was in the ditch.” Ken started thinking again. He made a tool. It was painted. And the first “Chinbro Pipe Grab” was ready for a trial run. It worked, too. It was also patented. In fact, brother Norris set up distribu-
Chuck took the pattern and went
torships throughout the United States to
“I thought there should be a
to the company’s repair shop. He
market Ken’s inventions. Both sold fairly
way that would work better. I put
found some scrap steel and started
well, although the income didn’t make the
something down on paper. But then I
cutting and welding. By day’s end,
brothers rich. Once a firm acquired one or
got busy with something else and I
Chuck had the very first “Chinbro
both, they didn’t need to restock and the
didn’t have any more steel to erect.” The idea that Ken had come up with was for a device that would clamp onto a steel beam and allow for more agility in its handling.
Beam Clamp,” albeit, a very crude beam clamp, ready to take to Winthrop. “He started using it and the thing worked,” says Ken. “They were
products didn’t wear out. Eventually the rights to the manufacturing and sales were sold and the brothers concentrated solely on construction.
Laying pipe became much simpler with Ken’s invention of the Chinbro Pipe Grab. Patsy Almonte uses one to guide this section into a trench. There was enough work for both companies headquartered in that tiny office. They worked separately but in harmony. They shared Lynwood Cookson, the bookkeeper. He did two payrolls, two accounts receivable, and two accounts payable. Lynwood recorded the daily numbers as they came in and separated them into the appropriate files. When Chuck returned from Germany
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar and was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1954, he had to make a choice. Should he go to work with Carl and Bud? Or should he work with Ken in Ken’s new venture? One question he didn’t have to ponder was what kind of work he would do. It would be construction. He always knew that. “There was never anything else I wanted to do,” he relates. “Howard Niblock, the headmaster at MCI, called me into his office one day during my senior year and encouraged me to go on to school. I told him I already knew a lot about construction and I didn’t need to go.” Carl also urged Chuck to further his education when he came home from army duty and agreed to help with the costs. Looking back, Chuck has some regrets. “Yes, I wish I had gone. It would have been different.” Had he made the choice, he would have taken up engineering. Math was always his favorite subject. Instead, Chuck’s advanced education was in the College of
Life. He acquired new knowledge at every turn. Even though he was already married and had been out of high school four years before he was drafted into the infantry, he did some learning and maturing in the service. “The army didn’t hurt me,” he says of the two-year interruption in his life. “It helped me with self-discipline and self-confidence.” He explains that because he was small and still growing in school, he was always playing catchup to his classmates. That situation
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
did a reversal in the army. His superiors saw him as a leader and made him one. Their show of faith turned out to be a big boost for his morale. Chuck’s post-army decision came down on the side of Carl and Bud. They would have the services of this 24-yearold who was itching to get back to the work he loved and to his catbird seat on the TL20 crane.
Chuck, at right, studies plans for a project in York. Cianchette Bros., Inc. was low bidder with $316,025 for three new bridges and about a mile of approaches. Work started January 16, 1957. Others with Chuck are, from left, Phil Woods, state highway engineer and his assistants, Ivan Morrison and Jerry Allen.
Carl and Bud had just taken a contract to build five overpasses on the Maine Turnpike between New Gloucester and Gray. “I started as a time keeper and I was doing errands,” remembers Chuck. “In a short time I was doing other things. I was operating a crane erecting steel and placing concrete, and I was doing layout work with a transit.” Finally Chuck became the job superintendent of the turnpike overpasses. “Carl had been doing it but he got busy with other things. So I just automatically took over. I just did it.” Within a year Chuck started acquiring stock and became a partner. “Lots of time we got stock in lieu of pay. We all had salaries. We worked off a drawing account. Whatever we didn’t draw went into stock so the company could grow.” By the end of the decade, instead of building roads, Carl, Bud, and Chuck’s major focus was on improving Maine’s bridges. The company constructed several new overpasses on I-95 north of Augusta and bridges over the York River in York Harbor, the Sandy River in New Sharon, the Androscoggin in Livermore Falls, and also the I-395 Main
The Messalonskee Bridge on I-95 in Waterville was open to traffic in the early 1960s. However, the job was one of the toughest that the Cianchette brothers ever tackled.
Street overpass in Bangor. By 1960, they had landed their first million dollar contract. Interstate 95 was under construction and Cianchette Bros., Inc. was low bidder, with $l.3 million, on twin structures over the Messalonskee Stream located behind Colby College, a half-mile south of the Main Street exit in Waterville. The 1,021-foot spans to be built were for both the northbound and southbound lanes. It was a major coup for the company. Not only should the dollars roll in, but since Waterville is just 20 miles south of Pittsfield they would be close to home. Their wives and children might even have the pleasure of their company at the dinner table on week nights.
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar
From all aspects, it appeared to be their dream job. Instead, it would become their worst nightmare.
Trouble ahead: Things were not going well at Pier N
CARL’S OLDEST SON, Brian, remem-
bers his father’s concerns. Carl was not one to bring his work home but Brian recalls the conversations about the Messalonskee bridge. “I remember my father being very worried.” Things were not going well. “The information that we had was not complete,” adds Bud. “The bridge design was inadequate for the soil conditions. “Chuck lived that thing. He was down in the hole for weeks.” The hole Bud refers to was at the base of the infamous “Pier N.” Twenty piers had to be built. Sixteen presented no problems but the design of the other four became the cause of much anxiety. All 20 were lettered on the specs — A to H and J to U. Pier N was the first of the four to be built. It was to be one of the tallest supports carrying the northbound bridge
over the stream and was to be constructed on land adjacent to the stream. Several weeks went into preparation. The excavation was done. Eventually a watertight cofferdam was built to enclose the work area and to keep any excess earth away from the construction as well as to allow the crew to work in the dry. The pilings had been driven and the concrete foundation had been placed. Then the cofferdam was filled with water to allow the concrete to cure. This would take seven days. In the meantime, gravel for backfill was hauled in and stockpiled next to the new pier foundation. When the seven days were up and the water was pumped out of the cofferdam, the cofferdam collapsed and the pier foundation moved. Chuck shakes his head as he thinks
back to that summer of 1960. “It was the hardest job I’ve ever done. There were multiple problems.” Causing the massive headache for Cianchette Bros. was the makeup of the soil — a combination of soft, blue marine clay over a layer of fine silt and sand. The weight of the stockpiled gravel also contributed to the stress of the unstable soil conditions. After recovering from the shock of the damage and taking some time to regroup, they started over. The debris was removed and both the cofferdam and the pier foundation were rebuilt. But before either task could be completed, it was necessary to take some costly precautionary measures: for one thing, a well-point system to lower the hydrostatic head had to be installed. There was also some stalling by the
By 1960, they had landed their first million dollar contract. Interstate 95 was under construction and Cianchette Bros. was low bidder, with $1.3 million, on twin structures over the Messalonskee Stream located behind Colby College...It was a major coup for the company...From all aspects, it appeared to be their dream job. It would become their worst nightmare.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS the executives of the design engineering firm right down into the cofferdam. He told them that it was necessary to get this project moving,” relates Chuck. “He said ‘We need a decision. Now! Tell us where you want them.’ “ The engineers complied. On the spot. They pointed out where the extra pilings needed to go. “Dave Stevens was a guy who got things done.” “Pier N was finally completed. But with great difficulty.” Then they moved on to the second pier. “We got into that and it was even more difficult. As the pilings were being driven, the sand and water started working up to the surface of the excavation site which would have caused the second cofferdam to collapse,” Chuck explains. At that point, the state and the design engineers recognized the seriousness of the situation. The project was stopped and the design for the remaining three pier foundations went back to the drawing board. After the redesign, the job went forward. Fortunately, the rest of the work went extremely well, recalls Chuck. The remaining piers went up without inciPittsfield dent and the steel erection and the
design engineers. It was agreed that before Cianchette Bros. could proceed, corrections in the way of additional pilings would be needed to support Pier N’s new foundation. But the engineers were slow to move and by not coming forth to pinpoint where the new pilings should go, they were holding up the job. David Stevens, who was the chairman of the Maine State Highway Commission, interceded: “We were working nights, and one night after dark, Dave Stevens brought
BRIDGE LOCATION IN
re a m STREET RTH NO
St skee lon sa
O ILR D RA OA L YR RA NT CE
PITTSFIELD 20 miles north
concrete deck were finished efficiently. “Today we would have handled it all in a routine manner,” he notes. “We would have the expertise. We would have filed a claim much sooner and have put it back to the state and wouldn’t have taken on so much responsibility.”
Chasing the money: Bud and Carl didn’t need the headache
THE AGGRAVATION THAT the
Messalonskee job created was something Bud would have been happy to avoid. He had been having health problems. The previous year, in 1959 at age 33, doctors had concluded he had a heart attack. “Years later it was determined that it probably wasn’t a heart attack. But I had all the symptoms.” He had been refused insurance when he came out of the army because he had high blood pressure, a condition that runs in the family. Both his father and his father’s mother had the same problem. “Hypertension. That was what was wrong with me. In hindsight, it may have been stress related.” The Messalonskee job certainly didn’t help his condition.
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar
FIRST MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT Messalonskee Bridges:
In the early 1960s, Cianchette Bros., Inc. was low bidder on twin structures to be built on I-95 over the Messalonskee Stream behind Colby College, a half-mile south of the Main Street exit in Waterville. The 1,021-foot spans were for both the northbound and southbound lanes. It was thought to be a major coup, but ended up almost bringing the company down.
Major problems were caused by inadequate information on the soil conditions that had been given to the bridge designer and then passed on to Cianchette Bros.
Twenty piers had to be built. Sixteen presented no problems but the design of the other four became the cause of much anxiety. All 20 were lettered on the specs - A to H and J to U. Pier N, the tallest of the supports, was the first of the four to be built.
water pumped into cofferdam
cofferdam collapses when water pumped out
pilings After weeks of preparation, the excavation was done. A watertight cofferdam was built creating a dry area for the crew to work in. Pilings were driven and the concrete foundation was placed.
The cofferdam was filled with water to allow the concrete to cure. This would take seven days. In the meantime gravel for backfill was hauled in and stockpiled next to the new pier foundation.
When the water was pumped out of the cofferdam, it collapsed and the pier foundation moved. A combination of soft, blue marine clay over a layer of fine silt and sand, plus the added weight of the gravel caused unstable soil conditions.
Bud was spending more time in the office than out in the field. His health was part of the reason, but the increase in work volume had more to do with it. The heavy load dictated that one of the partners be at the home base paying attention to details. By 1960, the brothers and their two companies had moved out of their small headquarters on Hunnewell Avenue to a brand new one-story office across the street. Carl took the lead in recouping the monetary losses to Cianchette Bros. caused by the faulty design of the Messalonskee pier foundations, although Bud notes that all three partners put their heads together in an effort to work things out. In addition, Dick Dubord, a Waterville attorney, was hired to represent them and Guy Susi, a registered engineer, served as a consultant. Guy later came on board full time, serving as vice president and the company’s chief engineer. “The bottom line was that we went to the Legislature and got permission to sue the state highway department. It was the first monetary claim we ever had on a project. “We were able to prove in court that we and the designer had inadequate information,” relates Bud. “We were awarded $128,000.”
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
The recovery: Cianchettes reorganize and stick their necks out
THE PROBLEMS INVOLVING
the Messalonskee bridge took their toll on Carl, Bud, and Chuck. They never wanted to go through anything like that again. They had always been willing to put their personal assets on the line, but this job had required going the full limit. If there had ever been a time they felt “up against it,” this was it. The company’s very existence had been precariously on the edge. Bud remembers that it was particularly hard on Carl. Perhaps that trouble-
some bridge job in Waterville was what laid the groundwork for events that would take place within a year. It was 1961 and the company was about to be reorganized. There would be a reshuffling of brothers and a reshuffling of stock. A job in Bangor to build a canal was the impetus. Specifications for what would be called The Kenduskeag Stream Project in the downtown were ready to be picked up. From a contractor’s perspective, it would be a complicated and challenging project but a rewarding one. It was something dif-
The company regrouped again in 1962. Ken returned to Cianchette Bros. and Carl left, taking the concrete business with him and forming a separate company. A canal project in downtown Bangor was a major reason for the changeover. The job was challenging, yet very risky because of the tide action. It called for a 1,000-foot canal to be built between Washington and State streets to narrow up the stream, sewer systems to be installed on both sides of the stream, and 330 parking spots to be created. Ken would see it to a successful completion. PHOTO COURTESY OF CITY OF BANGOR
ferent. It would be interesting work. The city officials in Bangor had decided to narrow the stream’s channel between the bridges on Washington and State streets and fill in the voids to create parking on both sides of the stream to accommodate in-town businesses. The specs called for building two large retaining walls — one on each side of the stream — each about 1,000 feet long, installing sewer systems behind the walls, and filling in the area between the retaining walls and the banks of the stream for two parking lots. Even to a lay person, that doesn’t sound so difficult. But the tricky part would be dealing with the tide action. Mainers think of Bangor as inland, which it is. However, tides from the Atlantic Ocean reach up to Maine’s Queen City via the Penobscot River and spill into the Kenduskeag Stream. Whoever landed the bid would be dealing with tides that average 14 feet and, at times, reach 20 feet. It was one of those jobs where you could make a lot of money. Or you could lose your shirt. Ken and Bud have slightly different versions of how the story unfolded. But, then, this happened a long time ago.
CHAPTER FOUR “I got the plans to bid the job,” recalls Ken. “Bud got a set also. He heard that I had them and he asked me about it. He said that we should bid it together.” Bud remembers talking with Ken about the project and remembers that the project had piqued Ken’s interest. However, he doesn’t remember that a bid was planned from Ken Cianchette, Inc. He recalls what was going on in the Cianchette Bros. side of the office. He and Chuck wanted to do the job. It was, however, going to be very risky and Carl was not enjoying the thought of taking such a large gamble. Bud allows that memories of Messalonskee were still very vivid. “The Kenduskeag Stream project was a big job. But we said if we’re going to grow, we’ve got to stick our necks out. We’ve got to go for it.” Ken, who had a job underway in Corinna, felt the same way. The proposed canal was his kind of project. And, like Bud and Chuck, he was willing to take the risk. Lots of “what ifs” were batted around and it was agreed that Ken would come back into the fold. After being on his own for eight years, his company, Ken Cianchette, Inc. would cease to exist.
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar
The Kenduskeag job was complicated and challenging. But from a contractor’s perspective, it was very rewarding. Ken Cianchette, Inc. was merged into Cianchette Bros., Inc. They did bid the Kenduskeag job. When the envelopes were opened on Oct. 3, 1961, their price to do the work was the lowest at $1,257,940. They were awarded the contract. Bud, Chuck, Ken, and a reluctant Carl had stuck their necks out in good shape. Not long after the job began, however, there was a spin-off. A new company emerged that Carl felt more comfortable about. He had been spending a great deal of time developing a ready-mix and hot top business, one of the side ven-
tures the brothers had started. Yellowed records still on file indicate that on Feb. 28, 1962, the company was reorganized and divided into Cianchette Bros., Inc. and Cianchette Concrete. Shares were shifted. Carl stepped aside. The oldest brother, the founder of the company, opted to go it alone. His brothers were heading into perilous ter-
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
ritory. The ready-mix operation would be far less risky. Also about this time, Carl was very involved in starting a hospital for the Pittsfield area. He did a great deal of leg work to put a plan in motion and then worked hours raising money to make it happen. His efforts paid off when the brand-new Sebasticook Valley Hospital opened its doors to patients in 1963. And, Bud points out, Carl was a person who liked his spare time. He liked to have his weekends free so that if he wanted to go fishing, he could. It was very plain to see that the course his brothers had chosen to travel would not allow for much of that. “Carl enjoyed doing the retail business. We would go with the rest of it,” Bud recalls. Meanwhile the Kenduskeag Stream job was off to a good start. It would become a turning point. Cianchette Bros., Inc. would start to soar. Bud credits Ken for the project’s success: “It was very successful primarily because he did all kinds of smart things that made the difference. “The way he controlled the stream
When the canal project was finished, the residents of Bangor discovered that it not only added much needed sewer lines and parking spaces, it was aesthetically pleasing, as well. for one thing. He built a flood dam and a flood tidegate-type structure so he was able to work in the dry 24 hours a day. He kept the ocean out of the stream and allowed the job to go forward fast.” While Bud notes that the same technique is common today, at that time it was very innovative thinking. “It was a challenging job,” allows Ken. “It may not have been conventional, but we had to divert the river. We had to hold out that tide.” The crew built a cofferdam to go the 1,000 feet from the bridge on Washington Street to the bridge on State Street. “We were going to have to fill behind the
walls with gravel anyway, so what we did with the cofferdam was build a road down the middle so as to divide the thing into two halves. The gravel supported the sheet-piling for the steel wall. We pumped out the area on one side and let the river flow on the other. “Then we built a tide-gate. It’s like a big flap valve that lets the water out, but won’t let it come back in.” Another “innovation” allowed the job to continue during the cold months: Ken convinced the project’s engineer that forms could be insulated for winter construction and that there would be no need for additional heat to cure the concrete. Again, this method is commonly used today. But in Maine, in 1961, it was considered very progressive thinking. The Kenduskeag job was done on time and within budget.
A hold up in Andover: Let’s get a bulldozer in here
WHILE THE CANAL project was
going on in eastern Maine, Chuck was finishing up an equally intriguing job in Andover in western Maine near Rumford. He was building an earth station for the Telstar project.
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar
Kenneth Lyle Cianchette
■ President of Associated General Contractors of Maine in 1978; picked chairman of the year of AGC of America in 1984 for his push for America to pay attention to its infrastructure. ■ Recipient of an annual Maine Meritorous Achievement in Construction (MAC) award. ■ Trustee of Owls Head Transportation Museum. Member of several aviation associations. ■ Served as president and volunteer for non-profit Pinnacle Ski Club in Pittsfield.
Born Sept. 28, 1924
Family ■ Marries Evelene Lancaster of Pittsfield on Aug. 24, 1949. ■ Three daughters — Jane Linscott, Ann Ball and Jean Bradshaw. ■ Two sons — Eric and Jon.
Work ■ In 1942, a few days after MCI graduation, Ken goes to work for his father building bridges. ■ When Carl E. Cianchette Contractor lands its first job in March, 1946, Ken is on the roster. ■ Ken, Carl, and Bud incorporate in 1949 to form Cianchette Bros., Inc. Ken is company clerk. ■ In 1953, he ventures out on his own, forms Ken Cianchette, Inc., and concentrates on sewer and water projects plus bridges and industrial buildings. ■ In 1961, he returns to Cianchette Bros., Inc. First job is a challenging canal project in Bangor. ■ When company buys Snodgrass company in Portland, Ken manages transition.
■ After spearheading construction of Cianbro’s new office building in 1980, Ken eases up on his workload. By 1985 he retires and he and Evelene begin spending winters in Florida.
Military service ■ Drafted into U.S. Army in 1943 during World War II. Arrives in Scotland on June 6, 1943 as part of a replacement pool to fill in for D-Day casualties. He serves two years in Europe with duty in England, France, and Germany. Is discharged and arrives home in March of 1946.
Politics ■ Selectman, councilman, school
board member, and planning board member in Pittsfield. ■ Appointed by Gov. Kenneth Curtis: To serve on the Land Use Regulation Commission and formulate a comprehensive plan for Maine’s unorganized territories; To chair an advisory council for Maine Department of Commerce and Industry;
To chair Mark Maine, a committee charged with encouraging economic development in Maine.
Affiliations, public service and honors ■ On original board of Unity College; served 24 years; awarded an honorary doctorate. ■ Spent hours on improvements for Maine Central Institute: football and track fields, golf course, treeplanting. Cited for efforts in 1998 ceremony; was 1989 MCI Hall of Fame inductee.
Inventions and innovations ■ Invented the Chinbro Beam clamp, designed to handle all types of structural steel. ■ Invented the Chinbro Pipe Grab, designed to handle various kinds of water and sewer pipe. ■ Invented a giant vacuum machine to harvest peat moss.
CIANBRO THE CONSTRUCTORS
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
AT&T had a satellite scheduled to be launched and the earth station had to be completed in time for the launching. The job entailed erecting a huge bubble of fabric to house a giant horn-like rotating antenna that would monitor the satellite. The bubble measured 300 feet in diameter and was 210 feet high. The antenna was on a 360-degree track. Cianchette Bros. had taken the job on a time and material basis. And it was a good thing they did. Actually the brothers weren’t even low bidders for the job. They were the high bidders. Chuck explains: “They asked for bids to drive pipe piling down to bedrock and fill with concrete, then build the foundation on top. The soil information showed that it was all sandy gravel. This was according to the borings. But we didn’t believe the borings.” Burns and Roe of New York, the engineering firm that was overseeing the job, had opened the bids at a local hotel and then called Chuck back to discuss the Cianchette Bros. proposal. “I felt I had nothing to lose. I told them that the design was wrong. I said there was no way it would work. I said
Constructing an earth station for the Telstar project in Andover turned out to be an intriguing task. The job included erecting this huge bubble of fabric to house a giant rotating antenna to monitor the satellite.
they couldn’t do what they thought they could and that they didn’t understand the soil conditions in Rumford, Maine. “They felt we were wrong.” Nevertheless AT&T decided to have the Pittsfield brothers do the work. But instead of the over $80,000 price tag they had submitted to do the job, AT&T wanted to go the “time and materials” route. “We just provided men and materials,” relates Chuck. In the end, the job would cost the utility company over a million dollars. Huge sums of money were spent for well drillers trying to get pilings down to
bedrock, Chuck remembers. But it wasn’t happening. There was a lot of coarse gravel and boulders between the top of the ground and bedrock. And it is not possible to drive pilings through boulders. After several weeks of failing miserably, falling behind schedule, and tensions mounting, Chuck made a suggestion. “I said we ought to excavate and see what’s down there.” It was agreed. “When we did, we could see that the original borings had gone right through the boulders and the ground was full of boulders.” Chuck made some more suggestions: He said let’s eliminate the pilings. Let’s get a bulldozer in here to clear away all this stuff and let’s put the concrete footing on bedrock. It was done. “We excavated a hole that was more than 300 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep.” The foundation was placed. The job got back on track. After some 13 years of navigating, the Cianchette brothers were finally on the right course. They were landing good jobs and making some serious money. The new partnership did, indeed, provide a good ship to sail in. While
After some tough jobs, brothers begin to soar
CHAPTER FOUR they never formally sat down and said “You be in charge of this. I’ll do that. This will be my job....,” it all just happened. Things meshed. In the Cianchette Bros. reorganization, positions were solidified very quickly: ■ Bud, who had already become proficient in dealing with bankers, lawyers, accountants, and politicians assumed the role of negotiator. He became the company’s money guy and the person to deal with the issues. ■ Ken, who had a new idea every other minute, developed into the company’s visionary and into becoming the key problem solver. ■ And Chuck, with his affable manner, easily stepped into the position of the company’s people guy and trouble shooter. ■ Meanwhile, Carl had found his niche. He was happy with the change and was doing well with Cianchette Concrete. Ralph was still paying close attention to his sons’ businesses. He was in and out of the office on a daily basis and he visited the job sites as often as possible. “I was happy about him coming,” recalls Chuck. “It was a delight to have him around. He was quite a diplomat. He never
criticized or found fault. He was very supportive and helpful. When I would get stuck, he would always show me a better way. He would steer me straight.” The fact that Chuck was able to keep all of his workers busy pleased Ralph. “He always said ‘When I come on your job, everybody is working. It looks like an anthill.’ “His praise helped me to do a better job.”
Family matters: A celebration is followed by a somber time
BY 1962, WHEN
the Cianchette family gathered for Christmas and Thanksgiving, there were usually several missing. Because of the numbers, it was hard to get everyone in the same location all at once. Edna’s and Ralph’s grandchildren now numbered 31. And, of course, there were 16 adults: Edna and Ralph, their six sons, their sons’ wives, and their daughter, Marilyn, and her husband. However, everyone always made it a point to be present at the annual summer reunion at Carl and Maureen’s camp. It was a full day of swimming and boating topped off with lots of good food.
Ralph was still paying close attention. Chuck liked having him visit his job sites. When Chuck got stuck on something, his father always came up with a solution. But this year a spring announcement would be cause for an earlier gathering to celebrate something very special. Edna, who was now answering more to the name of “Marmie” that her grandchildren had given her than to Mother or Edna, was being honored as Maine’s 1962 Mother of the Year. The news came on April 24 from a state selections committee. There had been 18 other nominees. It came as a complete surprise. She had no idea her name had been entered into the annual competition. Edna was selected not only for her love and devotion to her family, but also because of her diligent work in Pittsfield’s
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
and stories. First Baptist Church. She had Then on May 7, she been superintendent of the traveled to the Waldorfchurch Sunday school for Astoria in New York City more than 25 years, and in for a week’s stay to partic1958 a new wing added for ipate in the American the church school had been Mother of the Year festividedicated to her. ties. Edna joined 43 other Edna Cianchette was state mothers there. Before not used to being in the limethe end of the week, the light, although she handled it American Mother of the well. Her photo appeared The family had reason to celebrate Year was chosen. in most of the Maine A woman from Ohio newspapers and she was in the spring of 1962. Edna was chosen as Maine’s Mother of the captured the title. But she interviewed by several Year over 18 other nominees. had a serious edge. Just reporters. One journalist three months before, her son John had asked her what had been her biggest thrill. Her answer reflected back a couple of decades to World War II: “One of the most thrilling moments of my life was the day when my last boy came home and I knew that all of my sons were safe.” A flurry of activities followed the Mother of the Year announcement. Mrs. John Reed, wife of Maine’s governor, hosted a tea for Edna at the Blaine House, the governor’s mansion, in Augusta. Three hundred and fifty people attended. There was another round of photos
been the subject of a great deal of publicity when he became the first American to orbit the earth. The mother was Clara Glenn. The Cianchette family settled back into their routine. They had relished the sweet joy of watching the family matriarch have the moment of glory that she so well deserved. Looking back, it was one of the Cianchette family’s proudest moments. It was talked about for months. But in less than two years, the family would be struck by the depths of tragedy. Clair, the lawyer, was killed in February of 1964. He was only 40 years old. The family was devastated by his death and their hearts were filled with a profound sadness that still remains.
Ralph and his six sons share a table at a Maine Good Roads meeting. On the left side of the table from left are Ken, Norris, Ralph, Bud, and Clair and on the right side are Carl and Chuck.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers ORD WAS SPREADING
throughout the construction industry in Northern New England that three scrambling brothers heading up a company in Northeast a small town in conquerors: Central Brothers Maine were overcome doing qualthe elements ity work. What’s more, they were doing it in adverse conditions. By the mid-1960s, Bud, Ken, Chuck, and the people working with them had become masters at dealing with the elements of the Northeast. Even working with or, more often, working against the tides of the Atlantic was becom-
ing manageable. The General Sullivan Bridge job in Dover, New Hampshire in 1965 had given them the ultimate challenge in that area. The bridge was to be constructed at the entrance to Great Bay over the Piscataqua River on Route 4, the Spaulding Turnpike. It was to By the mid-1960s, work was rolling in for the brothers. Bud, who assumed the roll of president after the 1962 reorganization, was leading the way while keeping a careful eye on the numbers.
be parallel to an existing bridge, the construction of which, according to Chuck, caused one contractor to go broke, thus clearly establishing the high risk involved. “The big thing about that job was the fast-moving tide,” explains Chuck. “All the tide water in and out of the bay goes through this narrow inlet and the tides are some of the fastest you’ll ever deal with. “It was an extremely difficult foundation project and Ken devised a surefire scheme to allow us to build it on schedule and within budget.” Ken agrees that, yes, there was a lot of tide and current to conquer. And then he dismisses the “scheme” as just being out there for the catching. “There was about 45 feet of water and a fast tide that ran in two directions — coming in and going out. And there
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
was solid rock on the bottom of the river. The conventional wisdom was that you couldn’t build a temporary bridge to work from because you couldn’t drive piling into the ledge rock.” The assumption, Ken recalls, was that much of the work would have to be done from barges. Cianchette Bros., Inc. landed the job because Ken convinced the people who needed to be convinced that it was possible to build a temporary bridge or actually a temporary trestle. “I simply figured out that we could brace it off the existing bridge with 70-foot-long braces. “We did it. It worked and it made the job a lot easier. “It was a simple solution that other people didn’t think of,” allows Ken, adding after some contemplation: “Can you imagine working on floating equipment and building a bridge in that current? It would have been nearly impossible.” Extreme temperatures that plummeted and rose from one end of the thermometer to the other also posed few problems for this rapidly-expanding
The brothers’ ability to deal with fast-moving Atlantic tides was tested in the mid-1960s with the construction of the new General Sullivan Bridge at the entrance to Great Bay over the Piscataqua River in Dover, New Hampshire. The thinking was that because of the tides, and because of a solid rock riverbed, work would have to be done from barges and would be extremely difficult. However, Ken figured out a way to brace a work trestle to the existing bridge. company with the can-do philosophy. Although efforts were always made to schedule work when it would be least affected by cold weather, if a deadline loomed on a road job in Northern Maine and it happened to be December, the workers knew how to get things done in the sleet, snow, and sub-zero temperatures of early winter. They also had cultivated a high tolerance for mud season. It’s not a season on the calendar, but any Cianchette Bros. crew member involved with exca-
vating would have gladly attested that it had been arriving in Maine every single year between mid- to late-March and had lingered long into April, always coinciding with the winter runoffs and spring rains. And, when the earth finally dried out, as it usually did, there was always a new appreciation, a universal reverence even. Work, no matter how complex the project, always seemed easier with the approach of May and June which were followed by the welcomed
CHAPTER FIVE shirt-shedding, scorching July and August days of New England summertime. The brothers were older and more seasoned now — Ken was 41, Bud was 39 and Chuck was 35 — and they had a great deal of confidence in themselves and in each other. Their company’s volume had risen to $3 million by 1965 and there were more than 100 people on their payroll. They were enjoying success. Little did they know, however,
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers clean up Maine’s rivers and streams. And there were other opportunities on the horizon that they could never have imagined. Meanwhile, Bud, the new president, was keeping a careful eye on the numbers. He was dealing with the bankers and accountants and double checking bid figures before they went out the door to make sure they weren’t too high but high enough to cover expenses and turn a profit. Ken and Chuck were leading the charge out on the jobs.
The brothers were older and more seasoned now — and they had a great deal of confidence in themselves and in each other. Their company’s volume had risen to $3 million by 1965 and there were more than 100 people on their payroll. They were enjoying success. that they were only scratching the surface. This was still just the beginning. Within five years, their sales would increase six-fold. They would be one of the early pioneers in the construction of pollution abatement systems to
They were developing a solid base. When the circumstances were right, they would be in a position to burst out. They were building up their equipment inventory and adding some talented people to their roster.
Team building: Brothers have knack of spotting raw talent
AS BUD, KEN, and
Chuck reflect back 50 years, it turns out that placing good people in the right places has been paramount to the company’s success. They seemed to have a gift for hiring raw talent. And, while they might not admit it, in going over the qualities they looked for, it appears they sought out people who were very much like themselves — people who were hard driving, smart, untiring, innovative, and who were blessed with good attitudes. When you get them talking, they will go on for hours about “their people” and how great they are. But first, a couple of “hiring” stories from Chuck and Ken: Usually they were pretty choosy about who wore their Cianchette Bros. hard hats. However, there were a few times when either there was an urgency or labor was so scarce they couldn’t afford to be picky. Times when there wasn’t a chance to do the whole routine — interview, check references, call back, decide. Times when they just needed some warm bodies. Right then.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Chuck flashes that grin of his when he tells about a “help” problem on a job that Carl picked up at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor back in 1956 or 1957. “We were the subcontractors. I went over and they weren’t doing well. They couldn’t seem to hire any help, so I put an ad in the Bangor paper. It said that there was a government job going on, paying good rates, and laborers were needed to drill and blast ledge. Anyone interested should report to the gate at 7 o’clock Monday morning. “When I got there Monday, there were more than 100 people who had showed up to go work. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have any method to use for hiring them. And we only needed a dozen. “What I did was look down to see what they were wearing for shoes. If they were wearing work shoes, I hired them. That was about as scientific as I got. “Some of them worked out. Some of them didn’t.” Ken knows the feeling. He had a pipeline job going and the labor market was poor. Worse, he was dealing with someone doing dispatching and timekeeping in the base office who had timid
Clear out of the way: Ken and his
t would probably be fair to say that of
officials that gas would be at their
the three brothers, Bud, Ken, and
doorstep on that date.
Chuck, that Ken is the more moderate
Consequently, if Ken’s crew came
one. That is probably because he is also
in one day late, it would cost Cianbro
the deep thinker, the innovative one.
And anyone knows that when you are
The job got off to a slow start.
trying to develop an idea, it’s best not to
There was a labor shortage for one
hurry it through.
thing and the workers that he had
But make no mistake, he can move fast when he has to. The fact of the matter is, his speed
were green. “We had just two guys who had ever worked on an oil line. The rest had to be taught. I learned
can be almost racing quality when, say,
what I could, then taught the crew.
there is a half-million dollars at stake.
There was a different kind of welding.
Al Bancroft can attest to that.
Along toward the end, we were getting
In late September of 1971, he wit-
nessed Ken leading a charge that result-
It wasn’t enough, however, even
ed in the feat of laying four-and-a-half
though they had been working 18-hour
miles of pipe in just five-and-a-half days.
“We always thought that putting
Al, a field superintendent, came on
down 1,000 feet a day was big stuff,”
the job in the final lap to replace Frank
notes Al. “This was a whole different
Susi who, at this point, was exhausted.
ball game.” Cianbro had a contract with
They had already crossed the Androscoggin River. There were six
Northern Utilities, Inc. to install 52 miles
days left to deadline and they still had
of natural gas transmission pipeline
to go four-and-a-half miles down Lincoln
from Portland to Lewiston. The project
Street and through Lewiston’s urban
was started in the spring and had to be
area and into the city.
done on October 1. Northern Utilities had an agreement with Lewiston city
Ken had about 90 workers on the job. They were not wasting a minute.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers
crew are headed into Lewiston They were digging trenches, wrapping
driveways to enter or exit their homes or
joints, testing for leaks, placing pipe —
all of it. “Ken was all over the place. He was
Six welders were in the firing line, moving up the line at record speed.
driving around in a Buick, showing up
Open trenches stretched as far as the
everywhere,” Al remembers.
eye could see.
Ken was on a tear. However, there was a little problem.
By the time Harland Hatch showed up to “look things over,” eight-tenths of
Actually, quite a large problem:
the job was done. He gave his OK to fin-
Lewiston had an ordinance that said you
ish the rest.
could only open 30 feet of trench at one
“We had the gas there. But with no
time anywhere in the city. The shortest
time to spare. It was late in the
piece of pipe the crew was handling was
afternoon the day before
the deadline,” says
“If we were going to make deadline, we were going to have to have a mile of trench open at a time.” Since Al was good at public rela-
Ken. He allows that it was one “extraordinary
tions, Ken sent him to talk with Harland
effort” by all
Hatch, Lewiston’s city engineer, to see
if there could be some exceptions made to the ordinance. Fortunately, Hatch was very busy and told Al it would be a few days before he would be able to get out to the job and look over the situation. Meanwhile, Ken and his crew kept going amid some loud squawks from residents who weren’t able to use their
hiring methods and was nervous that he might make a mistake. “I said to him, ‘When someone comes in looking for work, send them out on the job.’ “ Several days went by with very little progress and Ken’s patience was wearing thin. He needed to get his project moving. He needed workers. Finally, he confronted the dispatcher. “I asked him, ‘Isn’t anyone coming in looking for jobs?’ “ The dispatcher confirmed that, yes, there had been some activity. But then he confessed that he was having some difficulty making choices: “He said, ‘I don’t know if I should hire them or not. How can I tell if I should?’ “I told him to just look into their ear,” relates Ken. The dispatcher was perplexed. “What good would that do?” he asked. “I said, ‘If you don’t see daylight on the other side, then put them out in the field.’”
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Ken laughs as he remembers. “We were desperate. We didn’t need rocket scientists. We just needed laborers.” Then he tells another story about the same job: Once the work got underway, they were visited by picketers representing Local 798, a pipe-layers union out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “They told me we had to join the union. They said ‘You’ve got to get organized.’ I said ‘I thought we were getting organized.’ They said that if we didn’t join the union, they would have to picket. I said, ‘’Well, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.’ “ They paraded around the fringe of the job for several days carrying signs saying that Cianchette Bros. was being unfair to the pipe layers union. It was a little distracting, but Ken and his crew got used to it. “Finally we were going to be moving three miles down the road to another location to work. So I went over and told them where we would be in case they wanted to follow us. “And I asked them how come they were doing this, anyway. They said they didn’t have jobs, they needed the money
and the union had hired them to picket. “I said, ‘You want jobs? I’ve got jobs. Why don’t you throw down those goddamned signs and come to work for me?’ “ So they did.
Hiring secrets: latch on to the affirmatives, eliminate the negatives
WORK SHOES, LOOKING into
ears, or picketersturned-pipe layers aside, the brothers really did have a handle on hiring good people, building a good team, and keeping the team. Chuck explains, “We always looked for people who had good attitudes and we never kept people we called dissidents. We wanted people who had the attitude that they would do whatever we had to do to get the job done and who were happy in their work. If they didn’t like their work and were always griping, we didn’t want them.” Another thing they didn’t want was a back-stabber. “That was a ‘no-no’ with all of us. We would never allow one employee to run down another. We tried to keep a positive operation.” Bud’s take: “We worked with them.
The crew never worked for us. We worked with them to the extent of whatever it was. If the work was in a ditch, we worked with them in the ditch. “There was never a division between management and employees. We never asked anyone to do anything that we wouldn’t do ourselves. Ken and Chuck were the experts out on the jobs. That commanded respect and people like to work with people they respect.” Chuck adds to that concept: “Whenever I had a difficult piece of work to do, I talked it over with the crew first. I got all the good ideas I could right from them. It was pretty basic but it worked.”
Hadley Moores His initiation to the company was certainly memorable.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers
more of the right kind of people. Good workers do not enjoy working with poor workers. Good people enjoy working with good people,” Ken reasons.
“That is the basic philosophy. You have to find the right kind of people and build a nucleus and they will attract
Hadley Moores was one of the brothers’ “raw talent” hires. He was practically a kid — 22-years-old — when he went to work for them in 1962. He had been on a bridge clean-up job and when that was finished, he was assigned to Ken on the Kenduskeag Stream canal project in Bangor. Between Hadley’s “first day” on the job and the events that transpired shortly after, the Kenduskeag experience provided a grand introduction into the con-
“Give me some men who are stout-hearted men, Who will fight for the right they adore. Start me with 10 who are stout-hearted men. And I will soon find you ten thousand more...”
The results, he points out, were that Cianchette Bros. workers developed pride in what they were doing and took pride when it was done on time. Bud believes that one thing that helped keep good people in the early years when it was common for construction jobs to shut down at Thanksgiving, was finding work for them during the winter. As many as possible were brought into the maintenance shop to repair equipment for the next season and others were given jobs hauling logs and such. Ken admits that building a good team is a slow process. But it is his belief that good people attract good people. He is reminded of an old song and begins to recite the words:
Uncle Frank Cianchette. He could and would do anything.
struction business. “Actually, I never got to Bangor that first day at all,” he remembers, laughing. What happened, he explains, was that there was a truck crane down in the coastal town of Wiscasset where the brothers had just finished a road job. Ken needed the crane in Bangor. The day began at the crack of dawn with Chuck flying Hadley to Wiscasset. “We started out very early in the morning. Chuck landed his airplane on the new road and then he pointed to the truck crane and said ‘You’re going to drive that to Bangor.’ “ Ninety-seven miles. How difficult could that be? “I had never even sat in a truck crane, say nothing about driving one. It had 80 feet of boom sticking out behind it. Chuck dumped me out. I went over to it and climbed in. I sat there. By then Chuck had taken off. But apparently when he got up in the air, he figured out that I probably couldn’t find the keys, which I couldn’t. “He wrote a note on a magazine and threw it out of the airplane. I got out and picked it up. The note said ‘The keys are behind your head.’ They were tucked somewhere behind the seat.” Hadley located them.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
His next 15 hours were 15 hours of agony and frustration. “I headed up Route 1. I had to go through Rockland. There’s a 90 degree turn there. I didn’t know if I could get through it or not. But I did.” At one point, he noticed he was holding up traffic so he pulled over to let it pass and when he did, he couldn’t get the rig back on the highway. Two wreckers had to get him righted. Not long after, he had to contend with a small fire. “Someone had left a rag on the manifold.” He dealt with that. Then the gas line kept plugging up — two or three different times. “By the time I got to Bangor, it was 8 o’clock at night.” He reported to work the next morning. The job included installing sewer lines behind the canal’s newly-constructed retaining walls on each side of the Kenduskeag Stream. When Hadley arrived, one side was all done. However, Ken hadn’t been happy with the way the work had been handled. This was Ken’s first job after rejoining Cianchette Bros. and he had inherited a crew that he hadn’t trained. Their
work was OK, but when he suggested a different way to accomplish the task, they preferred to do it their way. When it came time to move the equipment to the other side, Ken looked
John Ricker A great craftsman.
at Hadley and asked him if he knew anything about laying sewer pipe. Hadley answered, “No, not very much.” “Good,” Ken replied. “You are my new foreman. I’ll tell you exactly how I want the job done and then I want you to do it exactly the way I say.” The working relationship was
established. Ken’s new foreman knew almost nothing about laying pipe, which was the way Ken wanted it. And Hadley was game to try to please his new boss. “I figured if I could get that crane to Bangor, I could lay that pipe,” recalls Hadley. “Although,” he jokes, “I did put the first three pieces in backwards.” Hadley remembers another thing about that job. Chuck visited the site one day and Hadley, who was the inquisitive type, asked him how he saw the company progressing. “I asked him where the company was going. “Chuck said, ‘Well, we hear that there’s a bridge job coming up in a few years or so between Kittery and Portsmouth. We’d like to be big enough so we could build it.’ “I said, ‘I’ll build it for you.’ “ Along with “raw talent” like Hadley was some that was “well-seasoned.” “Uncle Frank” fit that description. Ralph’s youngest brother, Frank Cianchette, was born in 1909. He was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. He, nevertheless, con-
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers
‘son,’ no matter how old they were.” Ken smiles as he thinks about one of the times that Frank used this term to his advantage: “We had taken a contract to tear down a coal pocket in a railroad yard in Bangor. It was built with big timbers and it was like a big grain elevator. Frank had hired some old guy for a laborer. The guy looked like a hobo. He was about 15 years older than Frank. They had a ladder and they needed to use it to attach or unhook something that was about 30 feet off the ground. “Frank put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said ‘Son, you’re younger
tributed to the cause of the second war by working as a crane operator at the shipyard in Portland. He also had a career as a wrestler during the 1930s under the name of “Kid Hannigan.” Since wrestling matches were part of the entertainment on the summer carnival circuit, his nephews became some of his biggest fans. When the carnival came to Pittsfield, “Kid Hannigan” performed and the young Cianchette boys were ringside. “I was 10 or 12-years-old. He’d see us kids and bring us in through the back of the tent. We’d get in free. He was good,” remembers Ken. Frank was also good in the construction arena. He was invaluable because he could and would do anything. He had the Cianchette genes. When Ralph was in business, he worked with him and he was one of the nine on the payroll for Carl’s first contract in 1946. When Ken was on his own, Frank worked with him and when Ken returned to Cianchette Bros., Uncle Frank returned as well. “He had his own way of doing things,” relates Ken. “And he was good at getting people to work for him.” “Uncle Frank called everybody
Carlton Newton A take-charge guy.
than I am. You run up that ladder and fix that for me.’ “The guy got halfway up before he realized what Frank had said. He looked down at Uncle Frank and said ‘Who is younger than who?’ “ Frank brought some of his wrestling buddies into the business. Tarzan Taylor (his real name was George Picard) was one of them. Tarzan had cauliflower ears and he had lost his teeth. It was said that he had wrestled bears. “He was tough,” remembers Ken, smiling again. “He’d come into a diner covered with construction dust and he’d say to the waitress, ‘I’ll have two hamburgers. Raw.’ She’d say, ‘Rare?’ He would respond. ‘No. Raw.’ “ Ken, Bud and Chuck are quick with praise for their team, their people. But they are a bit hesitant to name names for the simple reason that there have been so many who have contributed so much. There have been hundreds of stand-outs. People who have worked hard and efficiently; people who have made the company what it is. Pressed, however, some names trickle forth: ■ “Singing Joe Sickle” was one. His
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
real name was Marshall Giles and when anyone asked him where he was from, he told them he was from Pea Ridge in Harmony, Maine. Chuck explains that “Singing Joe” was his carpenter foreman. “He had the can-do attitude. He was very proud of the company. His favorite expression was one that I still use. He used to say ‘When they make them better, they’ve got to make them bigger.’ “He was a cheerleader for the crew. He’d say ‘If it’s got to be done, we can do it.’ Then we’d get something accomplished and he’d be hooting and hollering. He helped formulate that can-do attitude and helped give self-confidence to the crew and everyone in sight.” How Marshall Giles earned his nickname goes back to a time when he worked for Ralph: “Father had a coupe with a rumble seat. Back then they all traveled together. Joe used to ride in the rumble seat and he’d yodel and sing.” Thus he came to be known as “Singing Joe Sickle.” ■ Harold Caldwell from Auburn was another. He was an excellent crane operator. “In 1958 when we bought the first big crane, he operated it. He had a super attitude. He helped plan the work
Guy Susi Par excellence.
and gave advice on rigging and how best to utilize our cranes. He was a most willing, cooperative guy who set the standards for the crane operators for the company,” relates Chuck. ■ Bud, Chuck, and Ken all have the same look of amusement when they talk about John Ricker. His sense of humor often provided some levity in stressful situations. But what makes them smile is when they think of his relationship with George Bush who at the time was vice president. “It was George and John.” They were on a first-name basis which stemmed from John rebuilding George’s seawall at his Walker Point oceanside home in Kennebunkport. He rebuilt it twice.
However, they all also have high respect for his ability: He worked as a rigger and apparently they don’t come any better. “He is one great craftsman,” explains Chuck. “To be a rigger, you have to have a high degree of mechanical aptitude. Johnny Ricker has an abundance of it. It is almost uncanny. He’s able to visualize things in three dimensions and he’s mechanically inclined enough to assemble what he needs to assemble with speed and accuracy. “It is like some people have good penmanship and some people don’t.” ■ The Newton brothers — Rod, Carlton, and Leonard — were some other go-getters. Rod and Carlton were placed in key spots, advancing to job superintendents. “Rod was a good leader,” relates Chuck. “Another good cheerleader. Everybody liked him. He started out as a carpenter, then he was foreman, then superintendent.” Carlton, who went by “Newt” was a take-charge guy, remembers Chuck. “He had a great deal of stamina and energy. He set the standards and demanded that the workers be efficient and productive. He worked mostly on bridges. We
worked together a lot.” And when a worker wasn’t productive, and it was necessary for him to discharge him, Bud remembers that Newt’s line was always: “The only place we’re going to miss that fellow is on the payroll.”
■ Harris Mathews. “He can do things that nobody else can do. He is a perfectionist,” says Ken. He had hired his friend “Hap” back in 1957 when Ken was on his own and needed help building an addition onto the Striar mill in Clinton. Hap did everything from driving trucks to painting them; from doing welding to electrical work; from being a
Lester Williams He worked his way up from laborer.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers mechanic to operating a crane. His legacy with the company, however, is for his unusual skills in crafting and restoring airplanes. More about that later on. ■ Guy Susi. Par excellence. Those two words best describe this gem, a registered professional engineer who worked for the brothers on a consultant basis almost from Day One and then joined the firm as chief engineer in 1967. His office was likened to “A citadel of information and knowledge that could be tapped at a moment’s notice.” Long-time employee Lester Williams sums up the breadth of Guy Susi’s contributions in a single observation: “Not only was he an extremely intelligent business man, he was also streetwise. At the point when the brothers were growing, Guy Susi kept things in balance.” Bud points out that Guy was his father’s cousin. Their mothers were sisters. And like Ralph, Guy’s parents left Italy early in the 1900s in search of a better life. If Bud had to name only one individual, besides the brothers, who was responsible for putting the company on firm footing , it would have to be Guy Susi: “He was probably the smartest engineer I ever knew.” However, Bud is
Ralph Knowlton A people person.
not limited to one name and while he is thinking about people who made an impact, he talks about his former assistant, Ralph Knowlton: ■ “Ralph Knowlton was a people person and was very influential with public relations, personnel, and development. He had some great ideas as far as team building.” Bud points out that Ralph is responsible for the slogan that remains posted in all the conference areas. It reads.
No one in this room is smarter than all of us.
Lester Williams’ name surfaces as Bud continues. “He worked his way up ■
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
from laborer to crane operator to superintendent,” relates Bud.”He ran the Portland division for a while.” Bud explains that Lester quit once. When he came back, looking for work, the only thing available was a laborer’s job. Lester took it and then worked his way up the ladder. ■ Chuck adds four names of men who left the company but didn’t come back: Al Bancroft, Lou Neron, John Watson, and the aforementioned Hadley “Take-that-crane-to-Bangor” Moores. “They primarily worked for me. They were all high-quality superintendents for the company, but they each left and formed their own businesses.” But not before they made an impact.
Growing time: Snodgrass and Hornbrook are rolled into the company
AS IF THEY didn’t
have enough to do already, the brothers were about to acquire two new companies. By 1967, they were pushing ahead, growing at a rapid pace. They were building dams, bridges, treatment plants, roads, buildings — whatever came along.
They had a realty business with a variety of holdings. Their manufacturing division was turning out Ken’s pipe grabs and beam clamps that were being shipped as far way as Japan. They had made a chair lift for a local ski area and they were manufacturing equipment for wastewater treatment plants with orders headed to such spots as Bolivia and Puerto Rico. Cianchette Bros., Inc. was already pretty well diversified. And then Ellis C. Snodgrass, Inc. fell into their laps. Snodgrass, of Portland, was one of their competitors. His Southern Maine company had a solid reputation for quality workmanship. “He was a major bridge builder; he did a lot of work in paper mills and he was also doing marine work,” relates Bud, as he shakes his head almost in disbelief when he recalls the details of the acquisition. Ellis Snodgrass died unexpectedly and within a week of his death, Cianchette Bros. had purchased his company. He did not have a plan for management succession. Nor did he have a financial plan, explains Bud. “When he
Bob Desjardins A gem picked up from Snodgrass.
died, he had the keys to the office in his pocket. There was no plan to carry on.” Bud adds that Snodgrass had quite a bit of work in progress: There were some bridge jobs, an 11-story apartment house with an attached three-story parking garage in Portland, work at S.D. Warren plant in Westbrook, and some active marine projects. The two companies had a common link that keyed the deal: Ellis Snodgrass had used Lincoln Adam as his accountant. Adam was also Cianchette Bros. accountant. He had been named co-executor of the estate along with Vincent McKusick, an attorney.
CHAPTER FIVE Adam and McKusick were both very concerned about the incomplete projects and that there was no one to manage the Snodgrass company. A call was made to Bud, papers were drawn up, and money was exchanged. “We took over immediately,” Bud notes and looking back, had they had months to think about it, they couldn’t have made a better move. “Stepping into the S.D. Warren job was the beginning of our association with the paper mills doing construction, maintenance, and repair work,” says Bud. “It has become one of our major markets.” The marine work also opened up all kinds of opportunities on the waterfront and along the Maine coast. They would soon be building piers, retaining walls, doing dredging work and the like. And, it would be the Snodgrass move that in a couple of years would land them a job at Bath Iron Works assembling a 400-foot giant crane, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The crane, a Japanese design capable of lifting 300-ton loads, would allow the Iron Works to build ships more efficiently. “John Ricker did the rigging on that
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers job,” says Ken, adding that George Bush’s good buddy had been with Snodgrass. Bud adds that when they acquired Snodgrass, they also inherited the crew which included some “excellent people.” Bob Desjardins, Cianbro’s current executive vice president, was also one of them. Ken filled the management position.
He went to Portland, put a bed in a small office, installed a shower, and stayed right there. “He took charge and brought the whole thing together,” Bud notes. Two years after the Snodgrass merger, another company became available at the opposite end of the state in Madawaska, a community located at the northern tip of Aroostook County. Harold Hornbrook, who had been primarily involved in road building and earth moving, was ready to sell. It was 1969 and the word was out that several highway
A Cianbro crew assembled this 400-foot crane at Bath Iron Works. The crane, considered the largest in the Western Hemisphere when it was erected, is a Japanese design and is capable of lifting 300-ton loads. Once installed, it allowed the Bath shipbuilders to work more efficiently.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
and bridge projects were coming up in the area, including the extension of Interstate 95 and the rebuilding of Route 1, north of Houlton. It was a good time to buy. A decision was made to close the office in Madawaska and move the headquarters to Presque Isle. “We picked up some good people and some excellent earth-moving equipment,” Bud explains. “Harold stayed on and assisted in the supervision of the projects until 1986.” John Watson, an engineer, who had been working out of the Pittsfield office, was transferred to Presque Isle to work with Harold.
A new name: Cianbro is shorter and easier to pronounce
FOR A PERSON, changing one’s name is pretty simple. You just notify the phone company to change your listing in the directory, have the Secretary of State update your driver’s license, and tell your bankers so they won’t think you’re trying to pull a fast one. Then you send out a bunch of postcards to friends and relatives informing them of your new moniker
The Cianchette Bros. management team had no trouble keeping busy in the late 1960s. Jobs were popping up everywhere. Then, when they thought things couldn’t be any busier, two construction companies were purchased: the Ellis C. Snodgrass firm of Portland in 1967, and the Harold Hornbrook operation of Madawaska, in 1969. This photo was snapped in 1968 between the acquisitions. and it is done. A few hours work. No big deal. When it is Cianchette Bros., Inc. changing its name, however, it is not so simple. Especially when the company has several hundred motor vehicles, plus a couple hundred more pieces of large equipment — cranes, bulldozers, backhoes, and such — all scattered from one end of New England to the other and all emblazoned with “Cianchette Bros., Inc.” Add to that the complications of three offices now — all bearing painted signs and all with their cabinets stuffed full of engraved company stationery and billing statements complete with company letterheads. Yes, it would be a lot of extra work
making the change-over. But they would do it anyway for the convenience of their customers. Everyone who has lived around Central Maine for very long knows that Cianchette is pronounced Chin ket, but their customers were no longer just from around Central Maine. “The name Cianchette is almost impossible for anyone to read and to pronounce,” says Ken. “We thought that a shorter name would be easier for people.” So they took the first four letters of Cianchette and the first three letters of brothers and reduced Cianchette Bros. to “Cianbro” thus beginning a brand-new decade in 1970 with a brand-new name.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers
Ival (Bud) Ralph Cianchette Born July 19, 1926
Family ■ Marries Priscilla Winslow Sept.
27, 1952. ■ One daughter — Susan Koch. ■ Four sons — Thomas, Earle, Mark, and Peter.
Work ■ In October, 1946, after army dis-
charge, Bud signs on with Carl E. Cianchette Contractor. ■ Bud, Carl, and Ken incorporate in 1949 to form Cianchette Bros. Inc. Bud is treasurer. ■ From 1962 - 1979, Bud is president of Cianchette Bros., Inc.; from 1979 - 1991, he is chairman of Cianbro, and in 1991, he becomes chairman emeritus. ■ In 1984, he is named president of Dragon Products Co. ■ In 1987, Bud cuts back on his responsibilities at Cianbro and he and Priscilla move from Pittsfield to a new home in Cumberland.
European Theater in winter of 1945 as an infantry replacement assigned to a field artillery unit. After the war, he remains in Europe as part of the occupation forces until October, 1946.
Harness racing ■ Has owned and raced horses since 1960. ■ Appointed by Gov. Kenneth Curtis to Maine Harness Racing Commission. As chairman, he is successful in a move to develop the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stake Program. ■ Member and past president Maine Standardbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. ■ Director of U.S. Trotting Association; former director Lewiston Raceways; former director of Standardbred Owners’ Association of Massachusetts, Inc. ■ President of Bangor Historic Track.
■ Serves in U.S. Army during
World War II. Is drafted in September, 1944, three months after MCI graduation. Is sent to
■ President of Associated General Contractors of America in 1980; president of Associated General
Public service and honors
Contractors of Maine in 1967. ■ Former vice president of Confederation of International Contractors Associations. ■ Director of The Road Information Program; AGC Education and Research Foundation; former director Portland Cement Association. ■ Member of The Moles; member American Institute of Constructors. ■ Chairman of Maine Chapter, Newcomen Society of U.S.; trustee of Newcomen Society of U.S. ■ Director of Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ■ Former director of: Maine National Bank, Fleet Bank of Maine, LaVerdiere’s Super Drug Stores, and Phoenix Cement Company.
■ Recipient of Meritorious Achievement in Maine Construction (MAC) Award in 1976; Maine Better Transportation Association Award, 1987. ■ Maine’s Distinguished Citizen Award, 1980, from Pine Tree Council, Boy Scouts of America. ■ Business leader of the year award, 1990, and Distinguished Service Award, 1989, by Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ■ Hall of Fame Award, Maine Central Institute, 1983; Distinguished Citizen’s Award, Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, 1980. ■ Former chairman of Sebasticook Valley Hospital’s executive committee; former director of School Administrative District 53. ■ Member of advisory committee of Pine Tree Council, Boy Scouts of America; member of Maine’s Judicial Compensation Commission; member of Masonic orders, including Anah Temple Shrine of Bangor.
CIANBRO THE CONSTRUCTORS
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
At the same time as the name change, the other divisions — the realty and the manufacturing — were merged into the single corporation. Cianbro Corporation would be the company’s new identity. It would make things much simpler. Bud points out that about this time there was a change in the tax laws and there was no longer any advantage tax-wise to have the real estate and manufacturing divisions under separate umbrellas. Consolidation made sense.
The Piscataqua Bridge: Crew rises to biggest challenge to date
THE “SIGN CHANGERS,” the
employees charged with either removing and replacing decals or re-lettering vehicle doors to read Cianbro Corporation instead of Cianchette Bros., Inc. had some work cut out for them in Kittery. There were any number of pickups, cranes, bulldozers, and backhoes that needed their attention, that needed a new logo. A crew had been on the scene there since May of 1968. It would be at least
two more full years, through 1972, before they would be cleaning up and moving out. Cianbro had landed $20 million worth of work for four out of six contracts to build the largest bridge ever to be undertaken in either Maine or New Hampshire. The bridge, in fact, would connect the two states, spanning the Piscataqua River between Kittery and Portsmouth and linking the New Hampshire Turnpike and the Maine Turnpike with a modern high-level structure. This new gateway to Maine, designed by Hardesty & Hanover of New York City, called for a 4,500-foot bridge with a 1,344-foot center continuous-truss span that would be six lanes wide, with full shoulders for
disabled vehicles, considered a rarity then. The breakdown lane would make this one of the widest long-span highway bridges ever built. This was the very bridge that Chuck was talking about that day in Bangor in 1962 after the young upstart Hadley Moores asked him how he saw the company progressing. Chuck confided that he hoped when this bridge job came along, the company would be big enough to build it. Hadley had replied “I’ll build it for you.” They were big enough. Chuck’s prophecy, or maybe it was a wish, had come to pass. The adrenaline was flow-
When Project Superintendent Hadley Moores moved his Cianbro crew into Kittery in May of 1968 to begin the massive Piscataqua River Bridge project his men were primed. They had just finished four bridges in Vermont — at left, 1,020-foot twin spans in West Hartford and above, 830-foot twin spans in Sharon. Both photos show the jobs after the piers were completed.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers 73
CHAPTER FIVE ing. Chuck was in Kittery and Hadley Moores was his project superintendent. Hadley brought in a Cianbro crew that had just finished up four bridges in Vermont. The first two were built in West Hartford, in the White River Junction area. They were 1,020-foot twin spans on Interstate 89. No time records were set in West Hartford. But then the same crew moved up the road to Sharon, Vermont and in nine months built 830-foot twin spans that were 127 feet in the air. “We started the second week in August of 1967 and
by May of 1968 the only thing left to be done was the painting of the two stretches,” relates Hadley. When they moved into Kittery, “The crew was primed and ready to go. Fourteen of us came down. There was Warren Luce, a foreman, Joe Sickle, the carpenter foreman...” Cianbro would share the project with Bethlehem Steel. Cianbro was responsible for the substructures of both the Maine and New Hampshire sides of the river and the Maine approach steel work. Bethlehem Steel had the contract for the New
Piscataqua project marred by tragedy
idway through the Piscataqua River Bridge project, tragedy struck. Four workers fell to their deaths when they were stripping forms from the concrete deck on the Maine approach. Losing their lives on June 24, 1970 were: ■ Noel Alfred Dube, 22 years old, of Rollinsford, N.H. ■ Michael Anthony Wood, 23 years old, of Rye, N.H. ■ George Bernard Dinsmore, 28 years old, of Kittery. ■ Karl Leonard Koski, 20 years old, of Portsmouth, N.H.
Chuck has difficulty talking about this even 30 years later. It was a terrible tragedy. “They were all young fellows. Some were college kids.” What happened, he relates, is that they were working with eleven others from a large movable platform on the underside of the bridge. “The platform was very expensive and was professionally designed to provide the maximum safety for the people working up under this high bridge. It was suspended by temporary steel beams attached to the bottom of the bridge girders which served as a track.”
Cianbro landed four out of six contracts to build the Piscataqua River Bridge connecting Kittery, Maine to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was the largest bridge project ever to be undertaken in either state. Work began in 1968 and the bridge was opened to traffic in 1972.
The track allowed the workers to move the platform back and forth as they removed the forms. At the end of each track, a stop had to be manually put into place so the rollers wouldn’t roll beyond the track. “We had been using it for several weeks and it had been working extremely well. We had been moving it from one bay to the next,” explains Chuck. This time, “For whatever reason, the stop had not been put into place. When they rolled the platform out to the end to remove the lumber, the end roller rolled right off the track.” Eight men were dumped out, falling some 60 feet to the ground. The other four were Lloyd V. Briner,
Donald J. Hooper, Mark Currier, and Richard Heidenstrom. A ninth man, Renoris Dillingham, was prevented from sliding off the platform because his right arm was caught in the supporting cables. All five were hospitalized. The other six scrambled to safety by hanging onto the structural steel: Richard Peckham, William J. Lorenz Jr., Gordon Keith Emery, David E. Berg, Frederick Marshall Jr., and David Constine were helped to the ground by cranes and aerial ladders. Peckham was also hospitalized, and the others were treated and released. Chuck lowers his head after relating the story. “That was a son of a bitch.”
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Hampshire approach steel work. However, Cianbro would do the decks and the finishing up of both approaches, subcontracting the New Hampshire side from Bethlehem. Bethlehem Steel also had the contract for the main span but, again, Cianbro would sub from Bethlehem and place the deck on the main span. Bancroft and Martin was also involved fabricating the Maine approach steel work as subcontractor to Cianbro. It became a job of firsts in bridge building: ■ “We had a great crew. We did lots of things on that job that had never been done before,” recalls Hadley. ■ “We set 21 girders in one day. They averaged 80 feet long. ■ “We poured 5,000 cubic yards of concrete in one week. Most bridges in Maine don’t even have 5,000 cubic yards of concrete. ■ “We had one continuous pour that was 3,500 cubic yards. We started at 4 one afternoon and finished two or three days later. We never stopped. This was for the main pier on the State of Maine side.” ■ However, the most innovative approach to the job was how they handled the columns for the piers.
There were more than 100 columns to be built. The first set of four took nearly four weeks to construct. That was too long. If Cianbro was going to justify its bid, that time had to be cut back significantly. Ideas started rolling and someone threw out a suggestion that perhaps building a mammoth, movable sawhorse
that could straddle each set of four columns might ease the task. “Chuck jumped all over it,” recalls Hadley. “Hadley and I designed it together,” remembers Chuck. “We devised a scheme to significantly reduce the work hours to build a pier.” A gigantic steel sawhorse was erected. The legs set on concrete pads. It measured 90 feet high and 100 feet long. It was braced on the sides and had a big platform on the top enclosed with railings all the way around so a crew could work. There were holes strategically placed in the platform to serve two purposes: to support the reinforcement steel cages, the skeletons for each of the There were several construction firsts during the Piscataqua project. The most innovative was a mammoth movable sawhorse designed to speed up the process of building the more than 100 pier columns. The sawhorse, which measured 90 feet high and 100 feet long, straddled a set of four columns at at time. Openings at the top of the sawhorse supported four reinforcement steel cages, the columns’ skeletons. After the cages were enclosed with forms, the sawhorse allowed for easier placement of the concrete. By the end of the process, the crew was able to complete a set of four in four days.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers
The impressive Piscataqua River Bridge was completed in 1972.
columns, and to allow for easier placement of the concrete. “The platform had to be strong enough to hold the weight of the four reinforcement steel cages exactly in place,” relates Chuck. Hadley concurs: “The highest columns were about 90 feet high. It was
kind of unwieldy because they were so tall and slender. We needed a method to support them.” The cages were in one piece from top to bottom and were fabricated on the ground. “Then we picked them up with a crane and once they got hung in the air, we poured the footings around
them, then put forms around the column cages.” When the four cages were firmly secured into the holes of the sawhorse, placement of the concrete began in tandem. Common practice was placing the lifts of concrete in 12 to 15 feet layers at a
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS one week and when they got to the last several sets, they had the technique perfected and down to just four days. Since the height of the columns differed, new pads had to be made to hold the sawhorse for each set. “The method proved to be extremely safe and efficient which made our price appropriate. It justified our bid,” relates Chuck.
Carl’s back. In 1972, after being separate for nearly ten years, Carl’s concrete and asphalt operation was merged back into his brothers’ business. It was a major growth period for Cianbro. At almost the same time, the company acquired several other similar firms. In photo, Carl, left, chats with Chuck, Ken, and Bud.
time, letting one layer set up overnight and then going back the next day to place the next and so on until the columns were completed. “Our plan was to do them all in one lift,” explains Chuck. For the sidewalk superintendents, it must have been quite a sight: The crane operator kept going down the line, swinging the bucket high over the sawhorse, and placing concrete into the holes — first in number one, then
number two, then three, then four. By the time he had finished four, number one had set up and the whole process was started over again. The first four completed with this method were the tallest, remembers Hadley. “Chuck kept saying ‘If we can get the tallest ones figured out, we’ll be able to do the rest of them.’ “ It was figured out. Instead of four weeks, the sawhorse method cut the time for doing a set of columns back to
Once a set of columns was finished, it needed to be topped with a huge pier cap to tie them all together. Again, the method Cianbro used to do this was contrary to the norm: The reinforcement cages, the skeletons for the caps, were fabricated on the ground and were formed with massive amounts of reinforcement steel, weighing as much as 18 tons. Once one was completed, a crane lifted it into position on top of the piers and then the concrete was placed. The Piscataqua Bridge project was impressive. When it was opened for traffic in 1972, the company was marking 23 years in the business. The brothers had built 140 bridges in Northern New England.
Merger time again: And Carl is back.
Can-do attitude pays off for small-town risk takers
BY THE EARLY
1970s, Carl had been on his own for nearly a decade. His main base was in Hartland, eight miles north of Pittsfield, where he had a small hot-mix asphalt operation and at this point, was running two ready-mix concrete plants. In addition to the original facility in Hartland, he had purchased a similar business in Fairfield that had been owned by Joe Cianchette, Jr. He serviced the Sebasticook Valley area with the Hartland asphalt operation. And the two concrete plants, located about 25 miles apart, offered him good coverage in Central Maine for that trade. Then, in 1972, an opportunity came along that caused the brothers to sit down and re-examine their companies’ situations. Even though Carl’s concrete firm was not connected to his brothers’ business, he was still in constant contact. He knew what they were doing and vice versa. Ten years before, the time had been right for him to leave Cianchette Bros. and go on his own. He liked his business. And the fact that he was based a few minutes from home had worked out well for him.
Now, however, a well-established ready-mix concrete company in Orono called C.M. Page was up for sale. It was time to talk. Bud remembers hearing about the Page business and then discussing it with his brothers. The merits of a merger were weighed. It was decided that acquiring the company would be a good move. But, to make it work, it also made
The paving and concrete business turned out to be a boom for Cianbro. Sales topped $2 million in 1973 and the company become the largest transit-mix concrete business in Maine. Multiple location allowed for almost complete coverage in Western, Central, and Eastern Maine. This crushing and screening plant in Orono was part of the network.
sense to merge Carl’s company back into the Cianbro operation. “We bought Carl’s company back. We agreed to expand them both and Carl agreed to manage the operations,” explains Bud. Expand they did. The next year, in 1973, there were two more acquisitions. They acquired R.K. Brown of North Waterford in Western Maine. This allowed them to get serious about the pavement business. In addition to the hot-mix asphalt plant in Hartland, they now had one in North Waterford and, not long after, decided to install another one in Orono, in Eastern Maine. The second merger was with Mitchell Ready Mix. The Mitchell company had concrete plants in Ellsworth and Bucksport, thus enabling the concrete division to beef up its Eastern Maine coverage. Then, in 1974, they were back negotiating once more and picked up another company in Western Maine. The Cianchettes were from a big family. They grew up always having room for one more at the dinner table. This time the addition to the family was Foster Sand and Gravel, a company that had
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
concrete plants in Canton and Farmington. The multiple locations resulted in almost complete coverage of Western, Central and Eastern Maine. The plants were spaced so that almost any community could be served. Since the setting time of mixed concrete is about an hour, orders could be batched at the plants and mixed while traveling with time to spare to cover the market area. In a few more years, they would acquire Lime Products Company in Union and Warren, which offered another facility for producing hot-mix asphalt and also agricultural lime. They would also buy Lewiston Crushed Stone Company which had a ready-mix concrete plant, and they would add a cement trucking business owned by Allan Mollison in Belfast. The additions would result in Cianbro becoming the largest single consumer of Portland Cement in the state. These moves were also setting the scene for a major expansion in the early 1980s when the company would purchase Martin Marietta, a cement manufacturing operation in Thomaston which they would rename Dragon Products Company. Meanwhile, the initial deals made
between 1972 and 1974 — Carl’s company plus the others — were turning out to be positives. While the mergers and acquisitions were financially tied to Cianbro Corporation, the concrete business was run independently from the construction phase. Carl was comfortable being back with his brothers. “He really enjoyed it,” relates Bud. “He liked the fact that he could operate the business and not worry about the financial aspect. He liked the physical part. He was traveling from one plant to another and was always in contact. We had a radio system that tied all of the plants together so he could communicate with any one of them. “It kept him in control of the whole thing.”
Patriarch dies: No one could have asked for more in a lifetime
been one that was filled with dreams that had come true. He found a new life away from the poverty of Italy. He became an American citizen. He managed to make a living doing what he liked to do. He married a woman he loved and together they produced a remarkable family. He lived to savor his sons’ successes. No one could ever ask for more out of a lifetime.
GOOD THINGS WERE going on.
The Cianchette brothers were making sound decisions. However, the period was marked with sadness when on December 30, 1972, Ralph, the family patriarch, died at age 77. But his life had
Ralph Leroy Cianchette March 25, 1895 — Dec. 30, 1972
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
HE CHANCE OF failure was
something the brothers never dwelled on. Ken, Chuck and Bud always had the attiCianbro tude that since they started from nothtag team: Spelling each ing, they had nothing to lose. They other allows knew they could siblings to always begin again. score If a job interested them, even if it were filled with risks, they would take a chance on it. If it really intrigued them, they would put the whole company on the line. Perhaps that thinking was a carryover from their childhood when playChuck, Carl, Ken, and Bud have something to smile about. Perhaps their expressions reflect the companyâ€™s explosion of new jobs.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
time sometimes consisted of chasing each other around the ledge of the roof at the family home next door to MCI. They never thought they would fall. But if one of them had, and by chance had broken a leg, it would have healed and when it did, he would have been right back out on the ledge with his brothers again. “We would not permit ourselves to fail,” says Ken. “In order to get bonded for work, we had to sign our personal assets over to the bonding company. We never thought that
the bonding company would have to finish the job. It really wasn’t a worry.” Chuck agrees: “I don’t ever remember being discouraged and feeling that we were in the wrong business. Yes, we all did have to mortgage our homes and everything else we owned, and we had to sign on the dotted line. We never gave it a second thought. We just did what we had to.” There were, of course, times when they took jobs that cost them money. When that happened, they cut their losses and moved on. “We made lots of mistakes. We knew we would. We learned by them. There is no textbook for construction,” Ken reasons. “But we felt we would have enough successes to make up for the mistakes. We concentrated on what worked and forgot about what didn’t work.” Having a great deal of compassion for each other helped lessen their losses. The term “burnout” was not used in the workplace until the last couple of decades. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t occur. Complete exhaustion of one’s physical and
emotional strength has always happened when life’s burdens become too heavy. And it happened occasionally to the brothers after a string of 12-hour-days on a job with an immovable deadline hovering. When it did, the brothers spelled each other. Chuck and Ken, the two out in the field, had a keen sense of when it was time for one of them to step in and say: “Get out of here. Go home for a week. I’m taking over.” It happened on the Telstar job in Andover. Ken sent Chuck home. It happened on the Kenduskeag Stream job in Bangor. Chuck sent Ken home. “It was always nice to have someone to back you up when you needed it,” says Ken. “Sometimes you get caught up and you don’t recognize what is happening. You’re working hard and you’re neglecting your home and your family. “I remember when Chuck was working on a big sewer project in Augusta. Come fall, he was trying to get things cleaned up. It had been a long, hard summer. He asked me to put some hot top around his pool at home. I said, ‘I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you do it?’ I sent him home and I cleaned up his project.
CHAPTER SIX “Then around 1964, I was working in Augusta putting pipe for a sewer project under some railroad tracks. We had to do the job on a weekend so we could have the rails back in place by Sunday night so as not to interrupt the railroad schedule. “We started the job on Saturday. It rained all day and then it started turning to snow. We were not getting ahead. The crew worked all day and most of the night. They were cold, wet, hungry, and tired. “It got to be about 3 o’clock Sunday morning. My crew had dwindled and I knew we weren’t going to get it done. I called Chuck at home and got him out of bed. I told him I was in trouble. He arrived down there a few hours later with a whole new crew. He sent me home and he finished the job.” By the mid-1970s, the three brothers were in sync. They were forging ahead as a unit. They could almost read each others’ minds. But by no means did being in sync imply that they were always in total agreement on what projects to bid on or how to accomplish them.
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
By the mid-1970s, the three brothers were in sync. They were forging ahead as a unit. They could almost read each others’ minds. But by no means did being in sync imply that they were always in total agreement on what projects to bid on or how to accomplish them. In fact, Bud, the company president from 1962 to 1979, points out at times there were some rather heated discussions. “We might have disagreed, even argued about something. But in the end we gave in to the one who felt the strongest about the issue. Right or wrong, we supported it,” he relates, and adds that if the decision turned out to be wrong, there were never any “I told you so’s.” “That was not in our make-up. We just went on to the next project.” Ken concurs and cuts to the chase: “We have appreciated each others’ strengths and we have tolerated each
others’ weaknesses.” Their forgetting and forgiving natures obviously played a part in the brothers being able to work in accord. Bud says he has talked with construction families around the country and they are amazed at the relationship: “They just don’t believe that three brothers can get along for 50 years.” Lynwood Cookson, their “chiefcook and bottle-washer” for 34 years still marvels at that relationship. Lynwood, who did everything from bookkeeping to window-cleaning, watched them interact and if, as Bud suggests, the brothers had some disagreements, they were out of earshot of the employees. “It is pretty amazing for a family business. I never saw any bickering. They more or less agreed with each other.” Successful family partnerships in any business are rare indeed. There is usually a power struggle. In considering why he and his brothers were able to work in harmony, Bud notes that he and Ken and Chuck inherited some similar traits. After all, they had the same parents. But, he allows, they all also offered some very different strengths. In the early years, both Ken and Chuck excelled in operating equipment
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
and managing jobs; both also had talent for recognizing and solving problems. As time went by, however, Chuck evolved into an exceptional leader of the crew. “Chuck has always had a great ability to rally people because he treated them with dignity and respect. He was always extremely concerned about their welfare,” continues Bud. Meanwhile Ken’s “astute engineering mind” has probably saved, as well as made, the company huge sums of money. In a nutshell, these two qualities — Chuck’s people skills and Ken’s gift for innovation — combined with Bud’s never-ending attention to detail, probably are the very ingredients that have made Cianbro flourish. Plus one other factor. Well, three or four other factors: Their wives.
The silent partners: Wives play a major role in company’s success
FROM DAY ONE,
it was established that the women they married would not be involved in the business. It didn’t seem like a good idea then, and in
Ken, Bud, and Chuck with the “Silent Partners.” The company’s biggest supporters have been the brothers’ wives. They kept things running smoothly at home so their husbands could focus on building Cianbro. From left are: Ken and Evelene, Bud and Priscilla, and Chuck and Helen. reflection, it was the right move. Decision-making was difficult enough with three and sometimes four siblings. There was no need to complicate matters further. In no way, however, should that imply that the spouses have not been a significant part of the company’s success. Their support has always been unwavering. Priscilla, Evelene, Helen, and Maureen kept things running smoothly at home so that Bud, Ken, Chuck, and Carl could focus on their work. Chuck and Helen’s daughter, Lynn,
sums up her mother’s role with a great compliment: “Dad may be the eagle, but Mom is the wind beneath his wings.” Friends of the family would agree that Lynn’s assessment is not only fitting for her mother but for her aunts as well. “If we’ve had any success, we’ve had the success because of the women we married,” Chuck points out. “There were long spells when we were away. Our wives took care of the children and held things down at home. I don’t know how they put up with us.” Having weekend husbands could not have been easy. The smallest family
CHAPTER SIX included four children and collectively there were 20 children between the four families: 10 girls and 10 boys. But if the women minded, they didn’t complain. Having their husbands gone a great deal of the time was a way of life they became used to. It was a matter of “keeping a balance,” explains Helen. “Yes, Chuck was gone all week. But we always made sure that on weekends we did something together. When the
Most of the brothers’ children have worked in the company at one time or another and three next-generation Cianchettes decided to make Cianbro their life’s work. On the left is Mac, Carl and Maureen’s son, with Lynn and Charlie, Chuck and Helen’s children. They all have key roles in the day-to-day operations.
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run children were growing up, it was the horses. He would take the cattle truck with six horses and a couple of kids and head out to a horse show. I would be right behind him with a trailer with two more horses and more kids and lunch for everyone. We usually took some of the cousins. “The kids competed. They did quite well. It would be an all-day Sunday affair.” Helen adds that during the winter months, it was common for Chuck and their only son Charlie to head out on Sundays for a day of ice fishing. Maureen experienced the apart-allweek marriage for a while. However, after the early 1960s when Carl decided to concentrate solely on the concrete business, he was close to home. But Priscilla and Evelene, like Helen, learned to cope. They were the ones sitting alone in the bleachers during the Little League games and they were the ones meeting with the teachers for conferences. They knew their husbands were busy and they knew that when they could get home, they would be home. Looking back, Ken shakes his head when he thinks of Evelene’s tolerance: “I never made any promises on when I was
coming home. We might decide to work until midnight. I didn’t even call.” And Bud grins when he remembers the line he gave to Priscilla when she asked him what time she should expect him for dinner: “I would always tell her ‘I’ll be home one minute after I’ve turned the corner on Franklin Street.’ “Our wives were pretty busy. They didn’t worry a lot about us. The best thing about the four of them is that they were good friends. None of them were born with silver spoons. They were all very practical and there was never any jealousy.” While their wives did not work in the business, nearly all of the Cianchette children have been on the payroll at one point or another. After a few months, or in some cases after several years, they went on to pursue other endeavors. There are three exceptions: Lynn and Charlie, Chuck and Helen’s children, and Mac, Carl and Maureen’s son, came on board and stayed. They liked the work and these “next-generation Cianchettes” are filling key spots on the Cianbro team as the business heads into the next century. ■ Lynn, who started working for the company when she was in the 7th grade
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS cleaning the office, has myriad responsibilities. She worked out in the field until the late 1980s. However, after her daughter was born, she moved into the office where she has been involved with everything from public relations to purchasing to contract work. ■ Charlie is responsible for the service area of the company: the repair shop, the fabrication shop, the engineering support services, and the equipment. If a crew needs an extra crane on a dam project in the Baltimore area, Charlie is the guy who makes sure one is found; if a dozer breaks down, Charlie’s department sees that it is repaired. ■ Mac is the company’s Northern New England regional manager responsible for more than 60 percent of the total work force. Or to be a little more specific When Cianbro decided to build a new office, they bought a decrepit downtown business block, razed it, and constructed ultra-modern headquarters. Their private investment served as seed money for a federal grant which allowed Pittsfield to rebuild its downtown. The top two photos are the before and after taken from the same angle. The street in the foreground is Hunnewell Avenue. The bottom shot is the current view coming onto Main Street.
— on any given day, he has nearly 1,000 people working for him.
The explosion: Cianchette brothers were causing some buzz
BETWEEN 1975 AND 1982, the com-
pany’s blue and grey equipment was showing up everywhere. There was no shortage of work. Cianbro was taking its share of contracts. There was an explosion of new jobs and Cianbro crews were “right out straight” building hydro dams, treatment systems, roads and bridges, plus they were tackling marine projects and taking on heavy industrial jobs. The brothers were also causing some buzz in their home town: They bought a decrepit downtown business block, razed it, and built a new, ultra-modern company headquarters on the site. Their private investment served as seed money for a federal grant which allowed Pittsfield to rebuild its downtown. Bud, Ken, and Chuck’s crews also rebuilt the town’s municipal building and constructed a shopping center next to Interstate 95. These moves weren’t really surprising considering the business they are in.
CHAPTER SIX But some local eyebrows were raised when the brothers plunged into brand-new territory. They went into the newspaper and printing business by buying the Pittsfield Publishers which produced the weekly Valley Times newspaper. For an encore, they became the fixed-based operator at the Pittsfield Airport. Next, the brothers became the proprietors of the Eaton Mountain Ski area 18 miles away, in Skowhegan. And just when it was thought that these entrepreneurs couldn’t possibly diversify in any more directions — surprise again! They became owners of Speedway 95, an auto race track in Bangor, and then they went into the peat-harvesting business in Down East Maine in remote Washington County. Posey Nason from Newport came up with the peat idea to cash in on the home-gardening craze. He contacted his friend, Ken, and Ken got excited. While there were peat operations in neighboring Canada, Ken points out that there weren’t any in Maine. “Posey had found this bog — peat only forms north of the 45th Parallel — and he thought we could make
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run equipment that was more efficient than the Canadians were using.” Ken got into his creative thinking mode and invented a giant vacuum harvester. Actually the claim is that it is the world’s largest peat-moss harvester. The pieces were made in the machine shop in Pittsfield and it was assembled at the bog. “It would sweep an area 60 feet wide. We’d pick up about 500 cubic yards of dry peat.” The business wasn’t profitable, however. “We ran it for three years. We probably broke even.” By the mid-1970s, there were more than 1,000 people on the payroll keeping a new Cianbro personnel department very busy. Sales were up to $30 million.
But both figures would multiply in the next six years when in 1981, the payroll number would double in peak season to 2,000 and sales would more than triple with Cianbro’s gross climbing to $104 million There were so many jobs underway and things were moving so fast during this period that to the two-dollar bettor, it might have looked like this racehorse called Cianbro was running out of control. It wasn’t. Just ask the brothers: ■ “I always thought it should be going faster,” Bud answers. ■ “We never lost our appetite for more work. It was our life’s blood,” is Chuck’s response. ■ “I thought, ‘Well, maybe we’re going to get there,’ “ Ken replies and explains what he means by “get there.” “I wanted the company to be big enough to compete with the out-of-state contractors so we wouldn’t have to give up jobs to them.” They did get there in grand style. One of the many side ventures of Cianbro was a peat business in Down East Maine. Ken invented a giant mobile vacuum machine for harvesting. The machine was designed to sweep an area 60 feet wide and pick up 500 cubic yards of peat moss at a time.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Managing this rapidly expanding company was no small task in the late 1970s and early 1980s with jobs being landed at a record pace. However, the Cianchette brothers had some skilled people on the management team who helped them keep all of the areas covered.
They not only reached the point where they could compete successfully against the out-of-state contractors coming into Maine but, to keep everyone working, Cianbro began to branch out far and afield beyond Maine borders. Ironically the company became one of those out-ofstate contractors winning jobs away from local bidders in other states. By the late 1970s, after 30 years in business — following that meager start with Ralph’s two-bag cement mixer — Cianbro Corporation was diversified and solidly positioned. It had become the largest construction company in Maine
and was expanding into Virginia and Maryland.
Changes: Presidents, employee ownership and heading south
AS THE DECADE
drew to an end, Chuck had assumed the role of president of Cianbro and Bud was the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. However, Bud was readying for another presidency. In 1980, he would be the man at the helm of the Associated General Contractors of America.
These weren’t the only changes at the core of the company, however. On April 12, 1979, a major announcement was made at a company meeting in Portland: Bud, Ken, and Chuck had decided to transfer ownership of the company to the employees. Realizing they weren’t going to be around forever, they felt they needed to take some action. “We could have sold it as a going business,” explains Ken, adding that a Massachusetts contractor had expressed interest in buying the firm. Or they could have had a big auction, sold off several million dollars worth of equipment, and all retired. Neither scenario was acceptable. Their goal was that Cianbro Corporation be perpetuated. They felt that by giving the employees a stake, it would ensure that the company would continue. A plan was put into place to allow employees to acquire ownership by using company profits allocated to them by way of the profit-sharing plan. Meanwhile, a bridge job in Great Bridge, Virginia became Cianbro’s first major contract outside the Northeast. A crew led by Pete Fournier with major
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
CHAPTER SIX support from Carlton Newton, and Art Bridges left Maine in the spring of 1979 and settled in for nearly two years of difficult work. Others making the move south included engineers Roger Leach and Rick Rackliff, along with John Hill, Joe Sonia, Paul Bacon, Ken Dudley, Richard Brown Sr., Richard Pelletier, Ed Sobey, Robbie Robinson and Lynn Cianchette, the office manager.
Not all work: Finally there is time for some fun It’s racehorses for Bud
feeding end when he bought “a piece of a
ood people were on the management
racehorse” with some Pittsfield friends
team so even though their company
nearly 40 years ago.
was experiencing an enormous surge, Bud and Ken and Chuck were able to ease
He has been buying grain ever since. “It’s a passion. I’m not a bettor. But I
up a bit. It wasn’t necessary to keep up
guess you would have to say that anyone
the grueling schedule that had become
who does this is a gambler.”
their norm in order to get the jobs done. Now they could squeeze out some time for some fun. For Bud, leisure time was and still is
The family had farmland, including a big barn, at the south end of Pittsfield where Hereford cattle were raised. The cattle were sold off and the place was
racehorses: He truly enjoys watching a
gradually converted into a horse farm,
sleek horse fly around the track at top
complete with a training track.
speed. And it is especially enjoyable for
“All of our kids had saddle horses at
him if the mare taking over the lead is one
the farm and little by little we picked up
that he owns.
Since 1962, the name of Ival R.
This bridge in Great Bridge, Virginia became Cianbro’s first major contract outside the Northeast. In the spring of 1979, a crew settled in for nearly two years of difficult work that included an impressive 3,000 foot-long span that was challenging because of its curved design and rise in elevation.
state. He had his first taste of being on the
One of the first brood mares Bud
Cianchette has been showing up under
acquired was in foal and the filly that was
the “owner’s” column in harness-racing
born was named Chinbro Sue after Bud
programs at race tracks from Maine to
and Priscilla’s only daughter, Susan.
Florida. Bud always liked to watch the horses run at the country fairs around his home
“She was an excellent race horse,”
Please see FUN, page 89
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
When they headed back to Maine in early 1981, they had finished a $9.8 million job that included an impressive 3,000 foot-long span that crossed the Intracoastal Waterway at the Albermarle Canal and provided a by-pass around the town of Great Bridge. Because of the curved design and rise in elevation, it had been particularly challenging and it had also been necessary for the crew to take special precautions to preserve the wetland on the site. Pete Vigue was project manager for a complicated job that started shortly after Pete Fournier’s Virginia operation. His crew had taken on the company’s first endeavor in Maryland in the posh community of Potomac where many of the “Who’s Who” of Washington, D.C. reside. The Pittsfield, Maine builders were awarded a $10 million subcontract from another New England contractor, Pizzagalli Construction Company, out of Burlington, Vermont. Cianbro’s undertaking involved some intense as well as some delicate work on a raw-water pumping station in an area 12 miles west of Washington, along the Potomac River. The site is part
CIANBRO EXPANDS In 1979, Cianbro expanded outside the Northeast to do a bridge job in Great Bridge, Virginia. CANADA Soon to follow was work on a raw-water pumping station in the posh community of Potomac, Maryland. Next came work in the nation’s capital. Their innovative approach to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project on the Beltway into D.C. brought them official recognition in Congress.
M.D. WEST VIRGINIA
to construct concrete retaining walls with murals depicting Pittsfield the Potomac River watershed. “It was not an easy task. We did all of the excavation work — 100,000 cubic yards of rock and earth. Then we had to build a weir (a small dam) across the Potomac.” In order to do that, he notes, it was necessary to build an earthen cofferdam for half the river to divert the flow of the water. When one side was done, it had to be reversed to do the other half. “We experienced some heavy flooding during the process. “But the biggest challenge was building a team in an area where we had never worked before,” Pete relates. The work was done for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and Pete’s team included project engineers, Jim Bryce and John Linscott, and field engineers, Mike Mauro and Pearl Littlefield, as well as Wayne Hindle, Carl Morgan, Rick Michael, Tom Miller, George Bell. Diana Burgoyne was office manager and near the end of the job, Bill Belanger replaced Pete on clean-up.
of the National Park System and is divided by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. “It is a very quiet place,” explains Peter Vigue. “The job required that we couldn’t disturb any vegetation or access. Everything had to be replaced as it was originally found.” Special measures also had to be taken
CHAPTER SIX Once a presence in Baltimore was established, the blue and grey equipment started to show up around the D.C. area. After the Potomac contract, Cianbro did an overhaul of an existing water treatment plant in the nation’s capital, a job that was termed very successful. However, it wasn’t until they took on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that their presence was officially noticed. Recognized even. In Congress. Seriously. The bridge on Interstate 95 on the Beltway into D.C. was a sorry mess, to put it kindly. It was crumbling. Huge pieces of concrete were falling into the Potomac below. “You could look right down into the river,” claims Ken. There were big holes. In many cases, Ken says, there was just the reinforcement steel between the cars and the river. Vehicles were taking a beating. The 6,000 foot span, with a divider running down the middle, was in dire need of resurfacing and having its supporting steel work sandblasted and repainted. The Federal highway engineers knew it. But they had a dilemma. Since the bridge has the second highest traffic count in the East (the
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run FUN, continued from page 87
different interest. I studied lineage and bloodlines to decide which mares to
relates Bud, as he explains that Chinbro Sue raced throughout New England and
breed.” Bud also became involved in the pol-
during her peak years was one of the best
itics of the harness racing scene. He was
mares on the circuit. “We retired her as a
appointed to the Maine Harness Racing
brood mare and she raised a whole bunch
Commission and eventually became its
of foals. Some were good; some were not.”
Chinbro Sue’s last colt, Final
There was a statute on the Maine
Supreme, is still around and fittingly
books passed back in 1935 that had pro-
belongs to Susan’s children.
vided for the development of a Maine
Raising and racing horses was a
strain of standardbred horses. The man-
complete change of pace from the con-
date was part of a parimutuel wager-
struction business. “It was a
ing package that had been accepted by the State Legislature. “But no one had done anything about it. “Right around the late 1960s, I was interested in encouraging Maine breeding. Before that Maine had become pretty much of a dumping ground for old horses. There was no impetus for people to want to breed and raise horses in Maine.
Please see FUN, page 91
Bud found a passion in raising racehorses and has had several champions. In photo, he checks on some of his young stock.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
George Washington bridge in New York City has the highest) and so many people depend on it to get to and from work (“Including,” as Ken puts it, “a lot of people who think they are important.”), how could they interrupt traffic during the daytime? The work would have to be done at night. But how could that be accomplished? The new guys in town had some answers: ■ Close one side of the bridge to all vehicles for a night shift from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. ■ Divert all traffic in both directions to the other side of the bridge. ■ Start and completely finish a large section each night. ■ Use a seven-foot rotary saw to cross-cut the designated section of the concrete deck into 12-by-46-foot slabs. ■ Lift out the old slabs with a crane. Lower them to a barge below. ■ Sandblast and paint the exposed steel work. ■ Lift new 12-by-46-foot precast concrete slabs stockpiled on another barge below, and drop them into the holes in the deck to complete the night’s work. ■ Clean up and depart by 5:30 a.m. That’s pretty much how it went.
Pete Vigue says that it looked like an invasion each night at exactly 8:30. One hundred and fifty workers with trucks, cranes, other major equipment, and materials converged on half of the
bridge. In 20 minutes time, they were all busy and continued to work like bees throughout the night. Come 5 a.m., preparation began for a giant exodus. They closed down, packed up, and
WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE Replacement in progress with maintenance of traffic: Cianbro people turned some heads when they rehabilitated the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington, D.C. Because of the heavy traffic, work was allowed only at night. So each evening half of the six-lane bridge was left open and the other half was closed to traffic while the workers concentrated on a designated section. At 8:30 p.m., the crew and all of their equipment converged onto the site. REPLACEMENT PANELS
THE ROUTINE WAS: 1. Saw the old deck concrete into slabs. 2. Lift the slabs onto a barge below. 3. Sandblast and paint the exposed steel. 4. Lift new precast concrete slabs from another barge into the holes. 5. Clean up and depart by 5:30 a.m.
TWO-WAY TRAFFIC ON EXISTING ROADWAY
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
FUN, continued from page 89 There had been some attempts. But nothing
own at the Pittsfield farm, acquiring more
mares and more stallions and consequent-
After his appointment to the commission by Gov. Kenneth Curtis, developing a
A concrete slab is being lifted into place by the crew working on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. departed as quickly as they had come, taking all of the equipment with them. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge returned to normal for the next 15 hours until it was time to do it all over again. There was minimal interruption of traffic and the work was completed seven months ahead of schedule, a feat which was duly noted and recognized. There was a clause in the $23.1 million contract that if Cianbro finished the project early, they would be paid extra for each day they came in under deadline. Likewise, if they went over deadline, they would be penalized that same amount for each day they were late. “We collected a $1.42 million bonus for the job,” relates Chuck and he points to Dick Dooley, Ed Kloeber, and
Because of that program, Bud began a commercial breeding operation of his
ly, more quality racehorses. “I’ve had several champions. The first
Maine breeding program became Bud’s
was a 2-year-old standard bred, named
mission. He appeared several times before
Chinbro Knoxvel, that paced a mile in less
the Legislature, even managed to get fund-
than two minutes, the first Maine-bred
ing, only to have it removed by the
horse to do that.” He was undefeated as a
2-year-old and even managed to win a
“We had to develop a method to generate the funding and not rely on the state,” Bud explains. That success came the year he was
national competition in the Royal Stallion Stake race in Rosecroft, Maryland. “They thought we were a joke. The favorite horse was from California. But
the commission’s chairman. With the
Chinbro Knoxvel beat the pants off all of
cooperation of the harness racing indus-
them. He earned $50,000 and the win paid
try and the owners of the Maine race
a good ticket.” This champion, Bud notes,
tracks, legislation made its way through
is spending his golden years as a saddle
the proper channels and paved the way
horse on the farm in Pittsfield.
for the development of a state breeding
Bud’s best horse, S.K. Hurricane, is
program. Instead of funds coming out of
still making his mark. “He’s the fastest
the state’s general fund, the money would
Maine-bred horse ever. He is 7 years old
be generated from the owners and har-
and has earnings in excess of $160,000.”
ness-racing fans. Bud’s dream was realized: “It has been
Bud muses, “If they had all done that well, I would have been wealthy.”
very successful. The first year the purses for Maine breeding were $66,000. In 1998 they were expected to reach $800,000.”
Please see FUN, page 93
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Jim Bryce as the guys who kept things moving. Congressman Dan Mica, a Democrat from Florida, was so impressed by the whole thing that he lauded the work on the floor of the House of Representatives. This is what he said:
“We should take notice here in Congress that someone, somewhere in this great bureaucracy has found a corporation that allows the construction of a bridge to be completed not only on schedule but ahead of schedule. I commend whoever it is who owns that corporation.”
The best of times: Work in Maine includes “The Dream Job”
BACK IN MAINE,
major jobs were in progress. Lester Williams was running the show in Brunswick where a $21.2 million hydroelectric project was underway for Central Maine Power Company on the Androscoggin River. Lester has been with the brothers for nearly 40 of the 50 years they have been
incorporated and it’s been a good trip. Like the brothers, he has a passion for the work. “I’m a builder. I like to see things built.” Looking back, he says, the hydro contract for CMP was his favorite job. “I liked it because of the challenge, but mainly it was because of the people on the job. Everyone pulled together as a team: John Dunnell, Ernie Kilbride, Tom Stone, Ed Kloeber. Tom Luckern was there. He was the mechanical superintendent.” Brad Webb and Steve Blaisdell were
on the scene, as well. Much of the job was accomplished during the bitter cold of two Maine winters. There was a massive amount of excavation involved in preparation for the construction of the powerhouse, fishway, spillways, and the dam itself. “The job went well. It was a cooperation you don’t see very often between the client, CMP, with its own people on the site, and the engineering firm, Chas. T. Main, out of Boston. We all worked together toward the same end — to have a nice powerhouse and dam.
One of the smoothest jobs of the era was the Brunswick-Topsham dam. Much of the work for this hydroelectric project for Central Maine Power Company was accomplished in the dead of winter. However, those involved, hailed the finished job as a real team effort.
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
“But we had fun doing it.” Lester allows that in his early years on construction, it was all work, work. Period. “I’m a very serious person. Things are black and white. I had to work and that was it. However, after I had been here for a while, I learned that I could have fun while I was working. I could enjoy it.
FUN, continued from page 91
Ken’s interests turn skyward
at the local airport where he shared his
had always been interested in aeronautics
interest with some flying buddies, includ-
— even as a kid when building model air-
ing his brother Chuck. However, about
of construction was found in flying. He
planes was one of his pastimes. There was the small airstrip that had been built with WPA funds less than a mile from his home. Watching
what piqued his interest. Or maybe
“I learned that from Chuck.” Another thing about the Brunswick hydro job that Tom Stone remembers was the stepped-up emphasis on safety. Lester helped blaze the trail for what today has become the company’s first concern. This job was the first time that safety hours were tracked.
company and went on his own, he bought
take off and land might have been
Ken has a deep interest in antique aircraft. About 1975, he unveiled a triplane built by Hap Mathews and then took to the skies on weekends performing at festivals and fairs as The Red Baron.
corporation. However, after he left the a second 1946 T-Craft.
or Ken, a diversion from the hard work
some of the small craft of that era
PHOTO COURTESY OF OWLS HEAD TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM
Craft) in 1947 which he later sold to the
the stories he heard from his father about the uncle he never knew, the World War I flyer, whetted his appetite for flight. Whatever it was — airplanes in general and old airplanes in particular captured his undying interest. Ken had earned his private pilot’s license, along with Bud, that winter back
Ken enjoyed his time in the air or just
1975, he started sharing his love of flying with more than just his buddies It has become a common occurrence in Maine at fairs, festivals, and fly-ins to look up into the sky and be startled to see a bright red triplane soaring overhead. The pilot always dips the plane and waves from the open cockpit as his scarf whips in the wind. And once he has the crowd’s attention, he manages a series of loops and “Oh my gosh!” maneuvers much to their delight. The return of the Red Baron? No. Wait. It’s Ken Cianchette! He was able to buy plans to build a
in 1947 when they were in Florida working
replica of the World War I Fokker triplane
as bus boys.
designed in 1917, used by the German Air
Bud flew for a few years and then stopped. But Ken became permanently hooked. He bought a 1946 Taylor Craft (T-
Force, and flown by the famous Manfred Von Richthofen. Yes, the Red Baron.
Please see FUN, page 95
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Another mega-job during the early 1980s was the $16.2 million Biomass Boiler project at the S.D. Warren division of Scott Paper Company in Westbrook. Again, much of that work was accomplished out in the cold, in the dead of the Maine winter when blustery, frigid weather was the norm. The project manager, Dave Holt, praised the crew for a production rate of less than nine work-hours per ton of steel as outstanding in any weather. The
Billows of smoke roll out of the S.D. Warren plant in Westbrook as construction of a new biomass boiler is underway. The steel frame is the start of the building to house the boiler. The project was part of a conservation effort by Scott Paper Company to substitute coal and wood chips for oil.
bulk of the structural steel in the 220foot-high boiler building was erected during December, January, and February. Glenn Bradeen was field superintendent and the foremen were Ed Sobey, Galen Huckins, and Linc Denison. The building housed a new steam boiler which was part of a conservation effort by Scott to substitute coal and wood chips for oil. The boiler, expected to save 30 million gallons of oil annually, was intended to supply power and
low-pressure steam for the entire mill complex. And then along came the Madison Number Three paper machine — a joint venture with E.C. Jordan’s engineering firm of Portland. “They did the engineering. We did the work,” explains Ken. The price tag for this Madison Paper Industries project was $185 million with Cianbro’s portion $46 million. At the time it was billed as the largest project of its kind ever to be undertaken by an allMaine team and the largest job ever awarded to a Maine construction firm. Statistics aside, it was definitely a big step up. It was, in fact, much larger than any single commitment Cianbro had ever tackled. Unlike the Messalonskee Bridge project two decades before that was close to home and had seemed like the brothers’ dream job but turned into their worst nightmare, this truly was The Dream Job. It was 30 miles from home base and the Cianbro people were well-prepared to tackle it, having built up expertise working with paper companies for the previous dozen years since the Snodgrass acquisition.
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
FUN, continued from page 93 “The triplane advanced the aerial
me. He said ‘Are you all right?’ I said ‘Well, I have a problem. I don’t know what I’m going to do for an encore.’ “
design,” Ken explains. “I have always been interested in the early planes. I
Flying is not just a hobby for Ken, however. It is a way to get there.
thought that someone ought to be
For years it was a way to go from
involved in how it all started. In order to
one construction site to the next. Now,
demonstrate how those airplanes could
when the leaves are off the trees in Maine
fly, you ought to have one to fly.”
and there is a nip in the air, he makes his
annual run to Marathon, Florida where he
Multi-skilled Harris Mathews was
winters in nearby Key Colony Beach. Not in the triplane. In his Cessna 185.
pulled off-line and tapped to build it. “Hap
When Cianbro arrived on the site at Madison Paper Company in 1980, the workers were well prepared to tackle the huge Number Three paper machine job they shared with E.C. Jordan’s engineering firm of Portland. Experience had been gained doing paper company work for the past dozen years. The expansion came about as a result of a new partnership between a Finnish paper company, Myllykoski Oy, and the New York Times, two firms that had recently acquired an idle mill in Madison. The new machine would allow the mill to become North America’s largest producer of supercalender magazine paper, the paper that the Times uses for its Sunday magazine section. It hadn’t been necessary to go through the bid procedure. Cianbro’s
did most of the work. He had rebuilt and
Once the spring flowers begin to bloom
restored lots of airplanes. He was a
up north, Ken revs up the engine and
Marine Corp aviation mechanic.”
But Hap outdid himself on this one. It is a work of art. “No, I wasn’t nervous about flying it. I had confidence. It was strong. And those people who flew them in World War I did not have any flying experience. I figured if they could fly them, I could.” The greatest danger, he says, is the embarrassment of damaging the airplane on landing — which he has done. “The first year I had it, there was a flyin at Poverty Flats in Clinton. I did some maneuvers and I stood it on its nose. I was still up there hanging and a man ran up to
Forget stock certificates for Chuck
huck is every bit as interested in airplanes as his brother. Add to that a
profound love for antique cars and he needs an abundance of hangar and garage space. “I spent a lot of time learning to fly in Ken’s two-seater Taylor Craft that is still in the family. “I always liked the old airplanes.
Please see FUN, page 97
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Naysayers in awe as Holyoke job defies impossible
t is not conceivable to do two years of work in less than a week. Or is it? The inspection engineers in Holyoke, Massachusetts certainly scoffed at such a notion. Impossible! Holyoke, Chuck explains, is a textile community built around several canals. When the city decided to build an interceptor sewer system in 1978, part of the work included a contract to lay pipe across nine different areas across the canals. Cianbro was low bidder. Cianbro’s job would be to drive two walls of steel sheeting (a cofferdam) across each crossing, de-water it, excavate, lay pipe, back fill, and then pull the sheeting. Yes, the workers would need to do all that nine separate times. It was a $1.3 million contract that was expected to take two years. Lou Neron was the job superintendent, John Linscott was the project engineer, and Chuck was project manager. One day when they were having a discussion with a local official, they learned that every year during the Fourth of July week, the canals are drained for a week to allow the Holyoke industries to work on their control gates.
Chuck was on the scene a few days later and they were discussing the best approaches to tackle one of the tough crossings. Someone suggested, “Why don’t we do this one when the canal is drained. Why don’t we gang up on it and try to get it done during those shut-down days?” The light went on. Chuck’s response was, “Well, if we can do one, why can’t we do all nine?” He was joking. Right?
ized for their day’s work. The plan was to have all the pipe in that first night, with the cushion of the next day for any problems that might occur. “I remember at noon the first day, as usual, things didn’t go like clockwork. The town fathers and the sidewalk superintendents were obviously very critical of this crazy idea. They couldn’t see any pipe going into the ground. They knew we were running out of time. The locals were sure our mission had failed.”
Wrong. He went back to Maine and put out a notice that all sewer and pipe projects underway would be shut down during the week of the Fourth. The crews and backhoes were needed for Project Holyoke.
Two years of work in less than a week.
“We related it to a military operation,” notes Chuck. The army of workers and the machinery moved in. It looked like Holyoke was under siege.
By doing the whole job when the canal was drained, it eliminated all the expense of cofferdams, barges, and any other necessary water-work equipment.
“We formed eight teams and equipped each team with everything that would be required to do their crossing. We had all the materials on site. We counted every gasket and every bolt. We triple checked to make sure we weren’t
“When we got it done, we rented a local restaurant and we had a huge party,” says Chuck, grinning.
lacking anything. “The morning they started draining the canals, each operation was getting organ-
It hadn’t. The job was finished as planned. Way, way under budget and way, way, way under deadline.
“Impossible?” Not hardly. Someone wrote in the Cianbro Chatter a few weeks later: “At Cianbro the difficult can be done immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” But not much longer.
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run
CHAPTER SIX selection was made on merit. But that didn’t mean that a selling job didn’t have to be done: “It was a long process. Actually it was an evolution rather than a process,” relates Chuck. The first person to be convinced that Cianbro was the right contractor was Kip Recor, the project manager for the owners. “Then the New York Times people, who were 40 percent owners, sent their top executives to negotiate. We had to convince them.” Further talks were held with the Finnish owners who had concerns not only about the project but also about the U.S. economy. “Through the evolution, we were able to give them enough comfort and guarantees that allowed them to strike the deal,” Chuck explains. “We were seen to be an experienced builder.” The job entailed massive amounts of concrete and steel work. Early on, someone counted 15 cranes and crane operators on the site: some were placing concrete, others were driving pile, others were setting steel. At the same time, it was noted that the area was alive with workers on the ground and high overhead - laborers, carpenters, welders riggers, burners, and painters.
FUN, continued from page 95 Sometime in the early 1970s, we found a 1928 Waco open-cockpit biplane that had been stored in a barn in Vassalboro for years. We restored it and flew it for many years. Then a few years later, we bought enough pieces and parts to build a DeHavilland Tiger Moth. I keep it over at the house and fly it off the grass strip.” While the Tiger Moth is vintage World War II, it looks to be in the same era as Ken’s triplane. At air shows, Chuck often appears from over the horizon to engage in a dog fight with the “Red Baron.” Then there are his vehicles that stay on the ground. . .
Brother Chuck is also an avid flyer. However, Chuck also collects and drives antique cars. One of the favorites he sports around in is this bright-yellow Cord Pheaton.
Chuck has a couple more birthdays before he turns 70. Yet he has been driv-
bought a Model T Ford from George
ing for more than 60 years. “We were
Benjamin, a neighbor. I had an opportu-
working on the farm in 1937. I was 7 years
nity to drive it. I was 8 or 9. I used to
old. Father and the boys were haying and
have to jack up the wheel in order to
father had a platform truck with an extend-
crank it to start it. I cut my teeth on that
ed body to haul the hay. I was out in the
Model T and I have enjoyed the old cars
field and I said, ‘I’ll go get the truck. ‘ I
went and got it and I drove it around the fields while they were loading hay. “Right after that, Ken and Bud
Please see FUN, page 99
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
It was a long and magnificent run. But it was not to last . . . By 1982, a national recession was in full bloom. The unemployment rate soared above 10 percent for the first time since before World War ll and more businesses failed than in any year since 1932. Cianbro was responsible for a ground-wood facility and the main mill to house the paper machine. Most of the major equipment and the massive highspeed paper machine were being built by Finnish manufacturers. However, once the machine arrived, it was assembled by a Cianbro crew. In what had come to be expected of Cianbro work, the job was done in record time and under budget. And when Madison papermakers made a trial run on the new machine, the paper that was produced was of saleable quality, something considered rare for a start-up operation. Usually it takes weeks, sometimes months to reach that point. Chuck was ever present. He was in Brunswick, in Westbrook, in Madison — sometimes in all of the places in the
years in the White House. The downturn was being felt in Maine. Cianbro was feeling the hurt. Construction activity had stalled. “Work became almost non-existent,”
same morning. Crews at these three Maine projects became used to hearing the whirring sound of his helicopter and then his congenial, supportive voice once it had landed. Cianbro’s new president was keeping on top of things. It was a long and magnificent run. But it was not to last. The other shoe was about to drop and drop it did.
Economic downslide: Recession forces Cianbro to regroup
BY 1982, A national recession was in full bloom. The unemployment rate soared above 10 percent for the first time since before World War II and more businesses failed than in any year since 1932. In Washington, economic issues were dominating Ronald Reagan’s initial
The crews became used to hearing the whirring sound of Chuck’s helicopter as it arrived on their job sites. With multiple projects running simultaneously in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the copter allowed Cianbro’s new president to keep on top of things.
CHAPTER SIX relates Chuck. “We bid a whole lot of jobs and it seems like we were always coming up second or third. The whole industry was starving for work. Some of the companies were taking jobs at less than cost just to keep the cash flow going. Many of those companies are no longer in business.” And because of all of the jobs between 1979 and 1982, Cianbro had geared up to the max. Their employment level had reached an all-time high and they had new equipment sitting idle, gathering dust. When the numbers were in for 1983, a small loss was recorded. When the 1984 figures were dissected, the loss was much larger. However, it was when the budget was being prepared for 1985, that things were brought clearly into focus: “We found that our administrative requests showed another huge increase in overhead. The overhead would amount to about 16 1/2 percent of our anticipated gross,” explains Chuck. “In a business where it is extremely difficult to earn 10 percent, this identified a huge problem.” As painful as it would be, it was time to trim.
Siblings are in sync for a long and magnificent run FUN, continued from page 97
relates. A man in Lagrange owned it for a while and it then wound up in the posses-
In his barn he has three Cords — a
sion of a former Pittsfield resident, Peter
1930 all-weather convertible sedan, a 1937
Frati. Chuck found out that Peter had it
bright yellow Pheaton, and a 1937 four-
and bought it from him.
door sedan. Parked nearby are a 1932
It is a handsome fleet. One — some-
rumble-seat Cadillac roadster, and a 1930
times two or three — are frequently part of
seven-passenger, dual windshield Lasalle
festival parades with Chuck’s family tak-
ing turns behind the steering wheels.
And, he also has the 1936 Packard
“It is very basic,” Chuck says about
sedan that he used for his driver’s test
his cars. “I collect cars like some people
back in 1945 when he was 15 years old.
collect stock certificates. Some people
His father traded it for a new Nash the fol-
enjoy looking over their portfolio. I don’t
lowing year. Getting the Packard back into
care about that. I enjoy investing in the
the family was rather round-about, Chuck
cars and using them.”
Bud goes national as AGC president
n March of 1980, at age 53, Ival R. Cianchette was sworn into the top position of the Associated General Contractors of America. Bud, to people who know him, was well-prepared to take on the responsibility. No one could have known the ins and outs of construction any better than he did. As a boy, he listened to the din-
ner-table talk between his father and his older brothers about the jobs they were working on. Then just days after his U.S. Army discharge in 1946, he went to work as a laborer for his brother, Carl. For 34 years, he had been working with his brothers growing the family business into Maine’s largest construction firm. He had also learned how to lead,
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
having been president of Cianbro for 17 years, and he had come up through the offices of the national AGC so he knew what was expected from the president of this powerful organization. Bud went on the job with an agenda. His mission was to strengthen those regulations necessary for construction work and to eliminate those that weren’t necessary. He planned to be pro-active in dealing with Congress and he planned to encourage the state AGC officers across the nation to do the same. “Too many arms of the government are imposing unrealistic regulations on construction in an attempt to solve all of the country’s social and economic problems,” Bud was quoted as saying when he took over his new leadership role. He allowed that many of the lawmakers were naive about the reality of the construction business. He saw the AGC members’ role as being communicators — to make Congress aware of the shortcomings of their regulations. Dealing with people in power would be nothing new for Bud. Whenever something was on his mind, he knew the channels to take to get some action. When Bud was 25 or 26 years old, he learned how to make the right connec-
A meeting of presidents. An honor that fell to Bud Cianchette during his reign as president of AGC of America was introducing Ronald Reagan at the annual AGC convention in Washington. tions: Back then, for some reason unknown to him, Maine required that forms used on bridge structures for piers and abutments be made out of inch-and-aquarter pine boards, planed on four sides. Bud couldn’t see the logic of the regulation. He had used 4-by-8-foot plywood forms on a school building project in Dover-Foxcroft and found it to be much more efficient. It was less costly and had a good salvage value. He felt
that using new pine boards for every project was very wasteful. The brothers had a bridge job going on in Haynesville and Bud asked the state for permission to use the plywood. After much discussion with the engineers and bridge officials, the plywood forms were allowed on a test basis. The results pleased the people who needed to be pleased and plywood has been used for bridge forms ever since. The 12 months as head of the AGC turned out to be a whirlwind year for both Bud and Priscilla, who was at his side most of the time. They spent hours in the air traveling from one city to the next. Bud delivered speeches and visited chapters all over the country. He and Priscilla also led a delegation to China. “We were guests of the Chinese government. They were attempting to develop business contacts with U.S. firms for joint ventures.” Another honor that also fell to Bud was introducing President Ronald Reagan at the annual AGC convention in Washington. That year, he said, broadened his outlook on the world. “It was very educational. I made lifetime friends and business associates.”
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro
FTER A LONG and wonderful
period of growth and prosperity, the other shoe dropped with a hard thud. As difficult as it was to imagine, especialThe loss years: ly following such a Hanging tight marvelous era, is not enough Cianbro was in trouble. to weather Not that the the storm company hadn’t faced tough times before: The margins had been slim back in the early 1950s when heavy competition for road jobs had prompted the Cianchette Bros.’ bids to be lower than they should have been. Then, of course, there was the design debacle with the Messalonskee Bridge project in the early 1960s that had placed a great deal of physical and emotional strain on everyone involved. But in both instances, this firm built
“We faced the problem by downsizing the overhead substantially. . .It was an unpleasant time for all of us. But it had to be done to save the company.” — Chuck by brothers with an ingrained can-do attitude had hung tight, survived, and gone on to flourish.
This time, however, everyone involved knew that a much stronger fix would be needed. The situation was critical. “We were on our knees, virtually,” recalls Pete Vigue, vice president of operations at that time. “We were struggling. Our relationship with our bank, Maine National, was tenuous. The people we had to respond to — the bankers and the bonding company — were asking us the tough questions.” It was clear, he said, that unless management was willing to make some painful decisions that would adversely affect a small group of people, the whole Cianbro organization was in jeopardy. In addition to a poor economy depressing the construction industry, there were other factors causing stress for the Pittsfield-based company. One thing that contributed to the stalled status was
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
a failed effort to create an ethanol plant. During this time period, there were attempts made to open up new markets. In one, Cianbro combined forces with the E.C. Jordan engineering firm in Portland to explore the possibilities of producing ethanol. Quite a bit of work was done and capital expended. However, after considerable study, it was decided that the idea was not economically feasible. Pete points out that between 1982 and 1984, in further tries to find other markets to add value to the firm, Cianbro purchased Martin Marietta (Dragon) cement manufacturing facility in Thomaston as well as two southern construction businesses. One was Moore and Muncy, a site-development contracting firm in Tampa, Florida, and the other was N.C. Monroe, a firm in Greensboro, North Carolina that specialized in constructing commercial and mid-rise buildings. “We were not equipped to take on, or mature enough to handle those opportunities,” Pete reflects. “Basically, we knew we had grown too fast.” Bob Desjardins, Cianbro’s executive vice president and treasurer, concurs. “The years 1982, 1983, and 1984 were loss years for us. It was obvious that
even if we increased our revenues, we couldn’t do it. We needed to trim the overhead to make things successful. “The jobs had always made money. The only times when we didn’t make money was when the company had too much overhead to sustain itself.” Cianbro was in that situation. “Chuck made the hard decision to cut things back.” It was a role he did not find comfortable. As Pete Vigue observes: “The Cianchettes don’t take pleasure in hurting people. They’ve always liked to help people. Cutbacks meant that people would be hurt.” Nevertheless, after some deep soul searching with Bud and Ken, Chuck, in his role as president of Cianbro, took measures that resulted in the total reorganization of the company: “We faced the problem by downsizing the overhead substantially. It was a struggle. We eliminated several vicepresident positions.” This, Chuck explains, involved some high profile people. “We sat down with each one of them and explained exactly what we were doing and why. We had generous severance packages for each of them. Most of them understood. It was an
unpleasant time for all of us, but it had to be done to save the company. They were good people and it upset their lives. If we hadn’t done it, it would have upset their lives anyway because we would have been out of business.” Alan Burton, Cianbro’s current director of safety and human resources, points out that this mid-1980s downsizing was in stark contrast to the previous philosophy: “What we had said until then was ‘Come to work and retire from here. As long as you perform, you will never have to look for a job again.’ This was the first time ever that we laid off salaried people. It was a very dark period for us.” Just as wrenching was the decision to place all three of the recent acquisitions — the cement manufacturing operation in Thomaston, and the construction firms in North Carolina and Florida — on the block. Bud agreed to take on the responsibility of positioning Dragon Products Company to sell. Cianbro’s ready-mix operations, and lime and aggregate plants were consolidated with the cement manufacturing operation and a buyer was found: The Passamaquoddy Indian tribe. In the bargain, Bud agreed to stay on as president and 208 Cianbro
CHAPTER SEVEN employees were transferred to the Dragon Products Company payroll without loss of benefits. At the time the change was hailed by Bud as “. . .an extremely exciting development” for both entities. Not only would the change-over allow the transferred Cianbro employees good opportunities at Dragon, but it would make assets available to Cianbro that would ensure the company’s continued success and growth. Bud’s prediction hit close to the mark. Dragon went on to do well on its own strengths. And, remembers Bob Desjardins, “Selling Dragon made a profitable year for us in 1985.” Two more positives resulted when Cianbro was able to sell both the Moore and Muncy firm in Tampa and the N.C. Monroe Construction Company in Greensboro back to the companies’ original owners. In trying to assess the impact that those two southern firms had had on Cianbro’s financial health, Bob, who had been sent to North Carolina to coordinate the transition, points out: “We put a lot of effort into bidding some major projects. We were successful at getting the projects. But we were not successful
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro at making any money.” The problem, he believes, stemmed from very tight margins and not being able to hire good people. “We had a lot of turnover. We weren’t getting the productivity that we were used to and we had bid the work based on our previous production rates.
“The Cianchettes don’t take pleasure in hurting people. They’ve always liked to help people. Cutbacks meant people would be hurt.”
— Pete Vigue
“Perhaps,” he allows, “we didn’t thoroughly evaluate what we were getting into in both situations. Optimism carried the day. We didn’t do the in-depth duediligence work that we should have.” Pete Vigue points to the culture as a major factor. “It was totally different. We were dealing with developers who built condos and high-rise hotels. It was most-
ly speculative — very high-risk business. The probability of being paid 100 percent on a dollar was not good.” Pete notes that when you added that factor onto the very narrow margins, the chances for profits were low. Ernie Kilbride goes a little deeper on the culture issue: “When you go somewhere to do business with someone and they have their hand out for a pay-off — a gratuity — it is contrary to our culture.” Ernie, who was the engineering manager for what was called Cianbro’s Southeast Operation, continues: “We refused to participate and lost work in the private sector because we wouldn’t play the game.” He adds that Florida was working through these problems at the time. “A lot of people had gone to jail. Competition was also tough. A number of companies went down there to secure work. Then they would milk it for all it was worth and leave it for the bonding companies to come in and finish.” Chuck has a plain and simple evaluation of the whole southern experience: “It didn’t work out. We found out that we don’t buy someone else’s problems. We start fresh.” Further savings in the downsizing of Cianbro were found in the data-pro-
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
cessing department. “We had a huge crew,” explains Chuck. “The department was costing us a lot of money. We went from 34 people to 12.” Still another decision was to eliminate more than 200 company-owned vehicles. Many foremen, job superintendents, and key people had been furnished with pickup trucks and automobiles. However, after the reorganization, it was a requirement that in order to do the job, the workers had to furnish their own vehicles. Their costs — gasoline, tolls and such — would be reimbursed. “That saved over $1 million dollars a year plus two million headaches,” Chuck notes. “We were having to run the repair shops on weekends and pay the mechanics overtime just to take care of the company vehicles.” In the process, it was also concluded that some of the side businesses and acquisitions had to go. For one thing, Cianbro would no longer be fixed-base operator at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport and, for another, any real estate unrelated to the construction business would be transferred out of the company and consolidated into Somerset Properties. From that point on, the real estate would be operated separately by
the brothers, thus eliminating that debt and responsibility from Cianbro. By August of 1985, the company’s total overhead costs had been reduced by 30 percent and Chuck commented in the company’s September newsletter: “We have bitten many bullets. . . Our future is bright and our opportunities have never been greater.” He further noted, “With the largest backlog of construction in the history of the company, the challenge is to complete that work with the same efficiency and quality that we are famous for.” That backlog included projects underway in both Florida and North Carolina. Crews stayed with them until they were completed.
The upside: Workers gain new skills to add to Cianbro repertoire
A NEW BASCULE
bridge was underway in Boca Raton over the Intracoastal Waterway. It was the first new movable bridge that Cianbro had tackled. This $5.5 million project, headed by Ed Kloeber, project superintendent, and Brian Watson, project engineer, was done in two parts.
The total job consisted of building a fourlane, double-leaf draw bridge that included the approach roadways, control house, and electrical system. Ernie Kilbride was running another bridge job a few miles south in Fort Lauderdale that involved erecting five segmental bridges plus three conventional bridges. While the work was the most complicated concrete work Cianbro had ever tackled and the $10 million project was being done when the company was under a great deal of strain, there was an upside: It was a learning experience for the whole crew. Building segmental bridges — the decks are done in precast sections — is a fairly new technology in the United States. The Florida project got Cianbro into the market and positioned the company to tackle the Albemarle Sound Bridge, another segmental span in North Carolina. That expertise is something that both Ernie and Bob Desjardins predict will continue to serve the company well into the next century. “It’s an up and coming market,” says Ernie. Ernie allows that working in Florida was a good opportunity for him. Today he is Cianbro’s director of engineering as
CHAPTER SEVEN well as the director of purchasing. He shakes his head when he thinks about how he was working in Pittsfield one day and working in Florida three days later: “Chuck came in on Friday and asked me if I would be interested in going to Florida. I asked him when I should let him know. He said he’d like to know by tomorrow. I asked when I would have to report for work. He said Monday morning.” Ernie said “The best way for people “Yes” and he is glad he did. “The to grow is to take on new best way for peo- opportunities.” — Ernie Kilbride ple to grow is to take on new opportunities. That’s always been the brothers’ philosophy. The only limitations at Cianbro are your own desires and ambitions.” The Florida experience was also good for Chuck’s son, Charlie. He was able to stretch out, spread his wings, and do some things he hadn’t done before.
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro Like Ernie, he had a three-day notice to transfer. “Dad asked if I would go. That was on a Wednesday. Holly and I moved to St. Pete that weekend with a U-Haul trailer and a pickup.” The company was finishing up a housing project. “One of the most satisfying jobs for me was in Belle Glade. It was a restoration of a swing bridge over the Hillsboro Canal at the end of Lake Okeechobee.” A swing bridge, he explains, is another kind of movable bridge to allow passage of watercraft. Unlike a draw bridge which opens vertically, “It swings crossways.” Actually the job started out as a disappointment for Charlie. He had asked to manage the project, but was passed over when another person was hired. “The other guy went up and in two or three weeks, he had really screwed things up. The job was behind schedule and behind budget. They let him go and I got my chance.” Charlie was able to turn things around: “I went up and brought the job in ahead of schedule and it was profitable. That was pretty rewarding for me.” Charlie laughs when anyone asks him what his first job was with the company. He says he started working when he was 9- or 10-years old washing coffee cups and
MOVABLE BRIDGES Cianbro became experts in the precision work of building and overhauling three types of movable bridges that are designed to allow clearance for large ships to pass.
1. Bascule bridge:
tilts upward, some types open at one end, others open in the middle.
2. Vertical lift bridge:
a roadway which extends between two towers, the roadway rises, allowing ships to pass underneath.
3. Swing bridge:
mounted on a central pier, this bridge swings crossways enabling ships to pass.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
emptying wastebaskets for his teen-age sister, Lynn, while she cleaned the office. You might say he was a subcontractor. He can’t remember what Lynn paid him, but the money sure got a lot better once he turned 15 and was able to work in the paint shop. He has moved from laborer to truck-driver to wheel-loader operator to millwright to job superintendent and finally to his present responsibility as head of the equipment, maintenance, and fabrication and coating facilities. Charlie has never wanted to do anything else but work for his father’s and uncles’ company. “Even as a kid, I thought I wanted to be a truck driver.” He has had many mentors, but his father has made the most impact: “One thing he always taught me was to watch and learn from other people and to especially learn from their mistakes so I wouldn’t make the same ones.” Mac Cianchette, Carl’s son, was also working in the southern division when the massive trim took place. He was the area manager in North Carolina. “There were a lot of mixed emotions,” relates Mac. “The folks working with me were disappointed.” By the time the news came down, his team was beginning to
After the reorganization, the company went back to basics and focused on what they did best. Building hydro dams was high on their list and fortunately several new jobs opened up including this one on the Penobscot River in West Enfield. come together. “We started with a core of five people. We had built up a work force to a peak of 160. We had three different jobs going in Western North Carolina. We had just started to build our reputation and were becoming well-accepted by the DOT and our private clients. “The people were charged up and excited. “It took a lot of communication and patience with everyone. You know it is hard for you to see it when you are only in one little piece of the operation. Chuck said we had spread out too thin, too fast. That we needed to bring the talent back to the area closer to headquarters. “I helped clean up the work and got out of there.” In addition to the Southeastern
work, Cianbro had crews in upstate New York building a series of bridges and hydro dams. That work was also finished up and the key people were brought back to Maine.
A new era: Back to basics approach works wonders for bottom line
THE LAST PAGE
was ripped off the old calendar and tossed into the wastebasket. A much-welcomed January of 1986 finally arrived. The trying task was over; it was behind them. Cianbro’s financial problems had been faced head on, stared down, and wrestled to the ground. The process had been difficult; the year of 1985 would not soon be forgotten.
CHAPTER SEVEN Now it was time to move on. With the overhead costs in check, Cianbro had positioned itself for a profitable year. The outlook for the next 12 months was quite favorable. The plan was to concentrate on strengthening the core headquarters in Pittsfield and Portland, Maine, Connecticut, and Maryland. Cianbro would go back to basics, doing what it does best. Or, as Pete Vigue sums it up, “We made a conscious decision to concentrate on the geographic areas where we were successful and where we were confident in the type of work we were doing.” Hydro projects, one of Cianbro’s basic areas of expertise, opened up almost immediately with a $19 million job on the Penobscot River in West Enfield and a $17 million project on the Androscoggin River in Topsham at the Pejepscot Paper Mill. Another crew was involved in the Worumbo Hydro project, also on the Androscoggin, in Lisbon Falls, and still another crew was at work constructing a new hydro dam at Benton Falls on the Sebasticook River. Cianbro had stopped being the bridesmaid. Unlike the three loss years, when they were more often than not sec-
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro ond or third or even lower on the list when the bids were opened, the Pittsfield builders were winning their share of jobs and perhaps a little more. Then a bridge disaster in Connecticut was the impetus for a string of jobs that benefited contractors everywhere.
“About 1987 the federal government started spending money on bridge rehabs,” explains Pete Vigue. “It came as the result of a bridge collapse in Connecticut.”
list for major improvements and when the contract was awarded, Cianbro was the recipient. “It was the first project that Cianbro had ever undertaken for the Massachusetts Highway Department.” “It was one of the most successful jobs we have ever done,” adds Mac Cianchette. “It involved building a totally new deck and a rehab of the steel work. It ending up being a $40-million project.” Mac was area manager during that project and shared the work coordination About 1987 the federal government began spending money to rehabilitate existing bridges. The move was precipitated by a bridge collapse in Connecticut. Braga Bridge in Fall River, Massachusetts was one of the first on the list to be funded and Cianbro landed the $40 million job.
This federal funding allowed the Cianbro people to take advantage of what was routine work for them and to move back into the forefront of the construction industry. The Braga Bridge in Fall River, Massachusetts was one of the first on the
with Tom Weaver, project engineer. At the same time, Mac was also overseeing the Merritt Parkway Bridge operation over the Housatonic River in Connecticut where Razor Ray was running the day-to-day operation. Merritt was another rehabilitation job. Once
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
workers began removing sections of the grating with attached stringers, it was discovered that more restoration than anticipated had to be done. Thus changeorders were negotiated for extra work on the 1824-foot-long span. In Tarrytown, New York, the restoration of the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River proved to be challenging. At times, during the rehabilitation, as many as 16 crews, covering a distance of three miles, were working simultaneously. Chet Muckenhirn was project manager for that job and he was
also on the management team for two other rehab jobs: the Harry Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland and the South Grand Isle Bridge in Buffalo, New York. The North Grand Isle Bridge in Buffalo was also on the list for improvements and Cianbro won that contract, as well. The Mid-Atlantic group was extremely busy with rehabilitation work in the nation’s capital. They made improvements on the Southeast and Southwest Expressway Bridges. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge that had won Cianbro friends in Washington in the early 1980s
At some points during the restoration of the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown, New York, Cianbro had as many as 16 crews at work covering a span of three miles.
was also in need of some work. So they took care of that, too. Then they tackled the heavily-used Case Bridge over the Washington Channel that was targeted for $18 million of restoration. As job superintendent, Rick Kumrow did the planning for that aggressive project along with Keith Valdez, Bob Berry, Andi Vigue, Bill Weakly, and Mona Evy.
Special niches: Cianbro takes bridge jobs others won’t touch
BOB DESJARDINS SAYS that having
some special “niches” that other construction companies don’t have also helped move the company back on top. He quickly clicks off a list of special skills in the bridge arena: ■ The precision work of building and overhauling movable bridges is one of the company’s specialty skills, Bob points out. “We really got into that back in 1980 when we did the overhaul on the movable span of the Portland Million Dollar Bridge. “And, we did that whole new bascule span — including the mechanical installation and the electrical work.” Bob explains that Cianbro won two contracts
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro
Cranes reach skyward and steel is moved into place as Cianbro workers progress in the exacting task of building the movable span of the Casco Bay Bridge in Portland.
Building movable bridges is a specialty. In the late 1980s, engineers and millwrights were challenged as they dealt with the double bascule span for a new Niantic Bridge connecting East Lyme and Waterford, Connecticut.
The vertical lift of the Danzinger Bridge in New Orleans, Louisiana added to Cianbro’s movable bridge expertise. At the time it was done, in the mid-1980s, it was reported to be the largest vertical-lift span in the world.
totaling $40.2 million in the mid-1990s to work on the new Casco Bay Bridge that replaced the Million Dollar Bridge. Company experts built the north and south bascule piers, complete with all of the intricate details involved. Experience was also gained when the company did the restoration job on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that involved a movable span, and again on the Boca Raton project. In the late 1980s, Cianbro engineers and millwrights were being challenged and gaining know-how as they dealt with the double bascule span for the
new Niantic Bridge connecting East Lyme and Waterford, Connecticut. Hightech details involving the balancing of an 800-ton leaf kept minds and pencils sharpened, eyes and hands steady. This Niantic Bridge, which has 30 feet of clearance for ships at high tide, has been a godsend to motorists. Because it replaced a bascule bridge that was just eight feet above high tide, it does not open nearly as often and thus has cut down on traffic holdups. In addition to the drawbridge expertise, Cianbro workers are skilled in the vertical-lift span bridges which serve
the same purpose — to allow large seafaring vessels height enough to pass underneath — but are in another form. A $33 million joint venture with Williams Brothers to build the 3,200 foot Danzinger Bridge over a canal in New Orleans, Louisiana opened that door in the mid-1980s. The contract specified a 320-foot long by 100-foot wide movable lift span. That responsibility fell to Cianbro and, at the time it was built, it was said to be the largest vertical-lift span in the world. Williams Brothers did all the approach spans. “We found a good niche there.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
There is not so much competition for Cianbro expertise area: dealing with difthat type of work as there is for the dryficult foundations. In the early 1990s, land overpasses which everyone is bidwhen he was working with the Midding on,” points out Bob. “We have Atlantic group assisting with the hiring found that we have to look for projects of subcontractors for the $33 million that are more complex, Severn River Bridge job more difficult. That’s how in Annapolis, Maryland, we can be successful.” the crew encountered some “extremely difficult ■ The building of segfoundations in difficult mental bridges, such as conditions.” The new were constructed in Fort bridge had structural Lauderdale, is another steel box girders. The niche, Bob notes. vertical concrete pier ■ He counts building columns actually had to bridges where deep cofbe deflected in order to ferdams are necessary for set the box girders in the project as one more place. When the girders area where Cianbro has were set, the piers an edge: Cable-wrapping is another specialty. returned to their vertical “It’s high-risk work. In this photo workers rewrap a large positions. It takes a different expertcable on the Mount Hope Bridge in During the construcise. You’ve got to know Rhode Island. tion, someone made a how to build them and telling comment that the job hadn’t been we’ve been doing them for years.” “a trip down easy street.” ■ Cable-wrapping is still another bridge specialty that Charlie Cianchette However, there were some light adds to Bob’s list. A contract to rewrap a moments. Ernie remembers with amusesuspension cable bridge in Baltimore ment a couple of interruptions by provided experience in this area and has President Bush. The president was sailled to another job in Rhode Island. ing on the Severn River one day and ■ Ernie Kilbride can add another spied the Cianbro equipment near the
naval academy. He headed over and when he arrived at the bridge site he wanted to know if his friend John Ricker was there. He wasn’t. “Another time we were in Baltimore meeting with a granite vendor and the meeting was interrupted by the Secret Service. They wanted to know about the granite work that Cianbro was performing at the president’s home in Kennebunkport.”
Difficult foundations challenged crews in the early 1990s during the Severn River Bridge job in Annapolis, Maryland.
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro
Alton (Chuck) Edgar Cianchette Born May 18, 1930
Family ■ Marries Helen Esty July 23, 1950. ■ Three daughters — Tamara Bryce,
Lynn Cianchette, Andrea Maker. ■ One son — Charles.
Work ■ On June 10, 1946, at age 16, Chuck reports to work for Carl E. Cianchette Contractor as a laborer on the Perley Wright mill job. ■ In 1954, after his U.S. Army discharge, he goes on the Cianchette Bros. payroll as a timekeeper for some Maine Turnpike bridge jobs. ■ By the end of 1954, he starts acquiring stock in his brothers’ company and becomes a partner. ■ Between 1979 and 1990 he is president of Cianbro. ■ In 1991 Chuck becomes chairman of the Cianbro board, an office he continues to hold.
Military service ■ Chuck is drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. He serves in the infantry and is trained as a radio operator. He is stationed 18 months in Germany.
camp for underprivileged children in memory of the daughter of Maine’s former governor, Kenneth Curtis. ■ Chosen as 1981 Distinguished Maine Citizen by Susan L. Curtis Foundation. ■ Was a co-recipient with his brother, Bud, for 1990 Business Leaders of Maine award by the Maine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ■ Recipient of 1993 humanitarian award from Spurwink Foundation. ■ Member of Masonic orders, including Anah Temple Shrine of Bangor.
Political affiliations ■ Served as selectman for town of Pittsfield. ■ Maine State Senator for four terms: two from 1973-1977 and two more from 1993 - 1997. ■ Attended the Democratic National Convention as a Maine delegate. ■ Appointed by Gov. Angus King to Maine Ambassadors program. ■ Appointed chairman of Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission.
Professional affiliations ■ Former president of Maine Good
Roads Association. ■ Served on Associated General Contractors of America committees: manpower and training; AASHTO-AGC joint committee; highway and bridges; and industrial process contractors. ■ Former director of Key Bankshares of Maine, Inc.; former director of Bangor Hydro Electric Company; former chairman of Environmental and Economic Council of Maine; former member of executive board of The Maine Alliance.
Public service and honors ■ Former president of Maine Central Institute Board of Trustees. ■ Served as president of Pine Tree Council of Boy Scouts of America; formerly president of Northeast Region of Boy Scouts of America; formerly a member of the national executive board of directors of Boy Scouts of America; member of national advisory board of Boy Scouts of America. ■ Recipient of the 1990 Distinguished Citizen award by Pine Tree Council, Boy Scouts of America. ■ Served as trustee for Susan L. Curtis Foundation which sponsors a
Flying associations ■ Served as president of the Maine Pilots Association in 1976 and was recipient of the association’s Gaddis Cup award in 1981. ■ Is a member of the board of trustees of the Staggerwing Museum Foundation in Tullahoma, Tenn. ■ Is on the President’s Council of Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wis.
CIANBRO THE CONSTRUCTORS
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Nuclear know-how: They took a trip to Wiscasset and stayed
THEIR WORK AT atomic power
plants is yet another field where Cianbro is at the forefront and an area that Bob Desjardins calls a niche market. Cianbro went into Maine Yankee in 1982 in a look-see position. Tom Luckern was sent to observe what is done during an outage. Actually he had been invited into the Wiscasset site to watch the refueling outage as a result of some work Cianbro did at the atomic power plant in 1972. At that time “cooling water” that came out of the plant was raising the water temperatures in the forebay. Maine Yankee decided to upgrade the system and to extend the pipe some 700 feet out into the Back River. Cianbro was hired to do the job. “Then in 1984, we went in and did the first major work during an outage. It was a turning point for us,” relates Bob. Looking back, that initial job was small in comparison to what has transpired over the years. Work continued and a relationship was established. Gary Robbins, a project manager for
the company, has vivid memories of the initial work at Maine Yankee. By 1983, after Tom Luckern’s “observation,” Gary was in the plant with a full crew getting ready for the 1984 shutdown. “It was probably the most challenging job I have ever had. It was our first nuclear shutdown. We had been through lots of mill shutdowns — Lincoln and Rumford “We had been paper mills and many through lots of mill shutdowns. . .But power houses,” he never nuclear.” explains. — Gary Robbins “But never nuclear. Nobody knew what it was all about. We didn’t hire any nuclear experts. We did it all ourselves. We had about 400 people. We had to learn,” Gary remembers. And, he adds, they also had to learn how to work in some very cumbersome protective clothing. Dealing with a massive amount of documentation was another added burden. “We knew we could do the work easily if they would just leave us alone.” But in addition to the physical job, there
was the task of keeping on top of the reams of paperwork required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “It was a 30-day shutdown and they had liquidated damages on us,” relates Gary. What that meant was that if Cianbro didn’t finish the job in 30 days, there would have been heavy monetary penalties for each day the company was late. “We beat it,” he says matter-of-factly. In explaining what a refueling outage or shutdown entails, Gary points out that it is the time plants catch up on capital improvement work. He explains that Maine Yankee had its own workers take
The Cianbro people going into Maine Yankee had to learn to work in very cumbersome protective clothing.
CHAPTER SEVEN care of its day-to-day maintenance. “The difference between their crew and our crew is that we did the capital improvements: “They would have a list of jobs for us: ‘replace pumps, replace piping systems, replace transformers. . .’ “ The company maintained a presence at Maine Yankee up until it was permanently closed and decommissioning was started in 1998. In non-outage times, there was a crew of 20 on the premises and during outages, the Cianbro numbers varied from 300 to 400. Rick Hart and Sam Soule are two of the team members who have figured prominently in Cianbro’s nuclear work. Since the initial Maine Yankee job, the company has done jobs in other nuclear plants including Vermont Yankee. In fact, Cianbro’s acquired expertise in this area led to the decommissioning contract at Yankee Rowe in Rowe, Massachusetts. In 1992, after 32 years of generating electrical power, Yankee Rowe stopped operations. Two years later, a team from Cianbro arrived to start the environmentally sensitive job of decommissioning and dismantling the facility. “I went out there a couple of years ago and we took the reactor, loaded it onto a truck and it was shipped to
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro
Cianbro has a decommissioning contract for the Yankee Rowe atomic power plant in Rowe, Massachusetts. The large cask being hauled on the low bed contains the 300-ton reactor which had been removed from the plant and was on its way to be buried in Barnwell, South Carolina.
Barnwell, South Carolina,” relates Gary Robbins “It weighed about 300 tons. We built a cask and placed it inside.” Gary said that it was handled very carefully, under the watchful eyes of the NRC, and once it arrived in Barnwell, it was to be buried 30 feet underground. Bob Desjardins believes that Yankee Rowe was one of the first atomic power plants in the country to start the decommissioning process. “We’re still there and we will probably be there another year or two.”
Paper mills: Recycling machines, outages keep work rolling in
SHUTDOWNS AND REBUILDS
for paper mills has evolved into still another niche for the company. It has never been easy work because there are always difficult problems that are often tackled under tight scheduling restraints. But Cianbro is in the business of solving problems and so the jobs have been aggressively pursued. The slant that Pete Vigue has is that
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Paul’s short tales
f anyone wants to know what goes on behind the scenes at Cianbro, ask Paul
Bertrand. In the past 35 years he has done everything from laborer to job superintendent to concrete plant manager to maintenance. However, the job he does that brings the most joy to his fellow workers is caterer. Paul’s the guy with the traveling restaurant. Whenever there is a banquet on a job to celebrate safety milestones, which of late has been quite often, Paul ices down steaks, chicken, and salads, packs up rolls, and
Paul Bertrand cuts into a sheet cake, the dessert he usually serves to top off Cianbro safety celebration dinners. He sometimes spices up his fare with a few tales about the brothers.
sheet cakes, and heads out of town. One week his destination is a job site in Rowe, Massachusetts where a crew is decommissioning a nuclear power station; the next week it is Dover, New Hampshire where another Cianbro group is working on a bridge. He fires up some grills and soon plates are piled high with his culinary fare. For good measure, the Cianbro gang may hear a few of his tales about Bud, Ken, and Chuck as they pass through the line: “Did you know that Bud always used to run out of gas? He was always calling the guys at the shop on his car radio and asking them to bring him some. Howard Drake finally got him a two-gallon can to keep in his trunk. Howard told him, ‘Now when you run out, there are two gallons there. But once you use it, you have to remember to fill it up again.’ “Well, Bud called Howard one day and he told him that there was some guy out of gas on the Interstate in Etna. “Bud said ‘Could you send someone over?’ “Howard said, ‘OK, but what does the ■
Please see TALES, page 116
the word “problem” is actually just a synonym for the word “opportunity.” And, companies would be foolish not to grab an opportunity when they have the chance. With that thinking, Cianbro has never shied away from work needing to be done by the paper mills in Maine. They’ve chanced it in companies as small as Eastern Fine in Brewer and others as large as Bowater in East Millinocket, S.D. Warren in Westbrook, Madison Paper in Madison, International Paper in Jay, and Georgia Pacific in Woodland. Mead Paper’s Rumford mill, formerly Boise Cascade, has also provided many opportunities. Routine shutdowns there have always been well-organized and handled efficiently. Then in 1990 the bar was raised when a team of nearly 500 led by Tom Luckern and Dave Leavitt undertook a mill modernization project that involved a paper-machine rebuild, new lime kiln, and paper machine modifications. “The opportunity to participate in a project of this magnitude is positive proof of our standing in the industry,” was a comment made by Tom during the construction. He cited the company’s
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro
work in the industry and predicted that after the successful completion of the Boise job, more pulp and paper doors with even greater opportunities would open up to Cianbro. His prophecy has come to pass: Pete Vigue answered the phone to good news one Friday in February of 1992. Someone from Great Northern Paper Inc. in East Millinocket, a subsidiary of Bowater, was on the other end of the line to let him know that Cianbro would be building their $60-million recycled fiber facility. Cost, safety, quality of work, and qualified crafts people figured into the criteria for the project and was the reason Cianbro scored over three other contractors submitting bids. Planning began immediately in order to be ready for an April 23 ground breaking. Project Manager Dave Leavitt and Industrial Section Manager Frank Susi flew to Greenville, South Carolina the following Monday to fine-tune some budget details and returned to work with Ed LePage, the construction manager, to launch the project. There was still snow on the ground as a crew cleared the site in preparation
Bowater’s recycled fiber plant in East Millinocket was a feel-good project. The $60 million facility, built by Cianbro, slowed down both the rate that landfills are filling up and the rate forests are being cut down. to start the construction. Once the building was completed, the new equipment and machinery were installed and put into motion. This was Dave Leavitt’s kind of project: Not only was the project a boom to the economy and a good job for Cianbro, but the long-term effects will be felt for generations. The new facility recycles newspapers, magazines, and old telephone directories collected from Maine, other New England states, and the MidAtlantic region, and turns them into
pulp which in turn is made into paper. The plant consumes 150,000 tons of wastepaper per year and produces 109,000 tons of recycled pulp. “Doing that is a double benefit to the environment,” Dave points out. “The landfills don’t get all of the newspapers and magazines, so we helped slow down the rate they are filling up. (In Maine alone, the Bowater effort removes about 20,000 tons of wastepaper each year from landfills and incinerators) and we also helped slow down the rate our forests are being cut. “I like that.”
Mead Paper Company, formerly Boise Cascade, in Rumford, has provided Cianbro with a great deal of work from routine shutdowns to paper-machine rebuilds. This photo was snapped during a mill modernization project.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
TALES, continued from page 114 guy’s car look like?’ “Bud said, ‘It looks just like mine.’ “
■ “On Saturday mornings, everyone would come into the shop and pick up what they needed for the next week. You could always go into the office and Bud, Ken, and Chuck would be there. If you had a problem you could discuss it with them. They would usually leave at noontime and go to lunch down at the Embers. “One day they came out of the office to get into their cars and Bud heard his phone ringing. The office door had locked behind them and he started fumbling for his keys. “Ken said. ‘Let’s go eat. It’s probably not important.’ “Bud said, ‘It might be someone who needs a job done. It might be some work for us.’ “Ken said, ‘Let it go.’ “Bud said, ‘What would you guys do if I dropped dead right today?’ “Ken said, ‘Well, let’s see. Today is Saturday so we would have the funeral on Monday and then we would have the auc-
tion on Tuesday.’
■ “We had a gas line project from Portland to Lewiston. Ken ran the job. Al Bancroft was there, Frank Susi, and myself. It was a cost plus deal and my job was to keep track of the footage. When we got to the New Gloucester area, we had to cross a pig farm. The guy didn’t want us in the area. We had to negotiate with him and he finally agreed to let us cross. “We had a mechanic and a couple of the guys didn’t get along with him very well so they snuck some pigs out and put them in his vehicle. The next day, the mechanic retaliated and he put the pigs in the foreman’s pickup. “The pig farmer called the police. I was with Kenneth and we were on our way out to eat at Cole’s Restaurant. Pretty soon we heard Trooper so-and-so on Ken’s radio. “He wanted to know if Ken knew Joe Putnam. “Kenneth said he did. “The trooper said, ‘I have him down here for larceny of six pigs.’ “Kenneth said, “What did they do? Squeal on him?’ “
Please see TALES, page 118
He explained that the recycled paper has various uses including going back into newspapers and telephone directories. The Phoenix Project, completed in late fall of 1996, presented Cianbro with another huge challenge as well as huge rewards. This was another paper mill deal. This time up to 1,200 Cianbro workers, plus another 300 persons employed by subcontractors, were involved in the fast-paced rebuilding of the Number Four paper machine at International Paper Company in Jay. “It was a very demanding job,” relates Dave Leavitt. Production totaled about $1 million worth of work per week. The job involved three stages. During the spring and summer months, crews dealt with the alkaline conversion and the coating kitchen phases of the project. Then on October 21, the Number Four machine was officially shutdown and the rebuild began. The team worked day and night for the next 46 days. “It was an amazing feat,” recounts Gary Robbins. “Having a startup on a paper machine as big as that in such a short time. . . There were at least 800 peo-
A painful mid-’80s trim results in a stronger Cianbro
ple there at one time — all working on the paper machine. They were taking out vast amounts of concrete and steel and replacing it with new. It was something to see.” An added feather in Cianbro’s hardhat was that the project involved more than 1.2 million work hours without a single lost-time injury.
Energy: Crews turn up the heat in boilers of all sizes
STILL ANOTHER SPECIALTY
market for Cianbro is installing, rebuilding, and doing maintenance work on boilers and pressure vessels in large mills. The key to that market was people such as Gary Robbins, Doug Smith, Manley Bragdon, Gary Walker, Dale Gray, and Dick Lorenz. They managed to put together well-trained and highlyefficient crews of fitters and welders to specialize in boilerrelated projects. The rising costs of energy have resulted in an increase in demand from industry for this type of work and, not surprisingly, money is driving the deci-
sions. The people balancing the numbers have figured out that a good overhaul for an existing boiler will provide substantial fuel savings for their mills and will cost much less than a replacement boiler. “It’s been a tremendous market for us. It got us doing work on boilers and pressure vessels in the paper mills and we rebuilt three boilers at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia,” relates Bob. Gary Robbins has been involved in
rebuilding large boilers for companies that generate power including Central Maine Power, Northeast Utilities in Massachusetts, and Florida Power and Light. “We’re talking 100 feet high and 30 feet square. They’re not like the one down in the cellar of your house. They are big boxes full of fire. Lots are burning wood chips. The fire burns at 2,200 degrees — just out of wood.” Gary adds that Cianbro has also done boiler work for P.E.R.C. in Orrington which burns trash.
Building wood-fired boiler power plants to generate electricity was a busy market in the late 1980s. This 40-megawatt plant in Stratton was among the series built by Cianbro. This was a joint venture with CRS Sirrine from South Carolina.
Building new wood-fired boiler power plants to generate electricity also helped Cianbro regain its share of the construction trade in the late 1980s. A fast-track job in Stratton, on the other side of Sugarloaf Mountain where the winds howl and the temperatures dip to double digits below zero, kept workers rubbing their hands to keep warm as they completed a contract that spanned two harsh Maine winters. A 40-megawatt wood-fired boiler power plant was the focus with construction beginning in November of 1987 and ending two years later. Cianbro was awarded $20 million
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
TALES, continued from page 116
“I said, ‘We’ll just fire it up.’ “Chuck said, ‘But how will we know
■ “When we were working on the Portsmouth bridge, we were getting ready to do winter concrete. You have to heat the sand and water so Chuck got this big steam boiler. “He said to me, ‘How do we know if this thing is going to work?’
worth of work as a subcontractor from CRS Sirrine, a firm out of Greenville, South Carolina. “They were the designer, engineer, and construction manager and we were the general contractor,” explains Mac Cianchette, the job’s project manager. “We established some wonderful relationships with the company. It was very successful.” The Stratton job entailed a massive amount of work: the construction of various buildings; erecting the boiler, turbine and precipitator; installing the fuel handling and processing equipment; installing the water and wastewater treatment systems; doing the mechanical and electrical work. There was a lot going on and a lot of
if it is hot enough? We ought to test it.’ “He had me go get some lobsters. We tested it. We had a party on the bridge — a big lobster feed right there on the job. Just impromptu. The guys had been working hard. They all loved to have him come around.”
equipment and material to manage. However, George Bell, the civil superintendent of the job, had things under control and was even lauded by the project owners for his organizational skills. Note was taken that vehicles were kept wellmaintained and neat, and materials were laid out meticulously in the laydown yards. His orderly standards added to the efficiency. Workers didn’t have to spend extra time looking for materials hidden beneath clutter. Cianbro had previously gained experience on a similar project in Fort Fairfield that was winding down just about the time this one started. Another wood-fired boiler to generate electricity was also going up in Athens.
Gary Robbins was assigned to the Athens job: “It was a Babcock and Wilcox boiler and the first boiler that we had built from the ground up. We’ve done quite a few since.” Pete Vigue notes that the wood-fired boilers were a phase and as the century comes to an end, the focus is on gas. “We are working on our third gas power plant right now in Veazie.” Pete Schein, Cianbro’s Northern New England electrical manager, agrees: “The hot thing right now is gas.” He says it is more cost-effective and he predicts that within the next few years there will be several gas-powered plants constructed to fill the void from the closing of Maine Yankee. He adds that the gas line coming through Maine makes it all possible. “Through the years, we went from hydro to bio-mass and now to gas.” Cianbro emerged from its three loss years — 1982, 1983 and 1984 — stronger than ever before. As difficult as it had been to regroup and to start over in 1985, it had paid off. Scaling back the overhead, strengthening the core headquarters, going back to basics, and capitalizing on niche markets was working.
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy HEN THE TIME came for
someone other than a member of the Cianchette family to take over the leadership of the family business, Pete Vigue was A new chosen to do the job. In January of president: 1991, when the That Pete change was made, Vigue was there were some very the pick came capable people in top as no surprise management positions. However, it came as no surprise that Pete was the pick. “He had the most gumption, the most savvy,” says long-time co-worker George Bell. “He will not accept the word ‘No.’ He will always find a way to be successful. He will not be defied. Plus he makes sure that everyone practices the six P’s: Prior planning prevents pisspoor performance.”
Having “street smarts” and being an eternal optimist helped Pete Vigue take on the role as leader of the company. The brothers, Bud, Ken, and Chuck, point out that it was a group decision. A large majority of managers wanted Pete
to succeed Chuck as president. He had earned their respect. As Ken says, “Pete’s a leader, a salesman, a good judge of people, and he has boundless energy.” “He’s also a good negotiator,” Bud adds, an observation that is emphasized by two words from Chuck: “Par excellence.” While Pete freely admits he has worked hard to reach the top position in the company, he also claims he doesn’t have the credentials to be there: “I don’t have a master’s in business. I didn’t go to a sophisticated business school. I only have what I’ve been taught. Maybe some ‘street smarts’ served me well. Some people I have worked with over the years had aptitudes and capabilities that far exceeded mine.” Pete believes it is his eternal optimism, his willingness to work hard and
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
the fact that he not only doesn’t like to hear the word ‘No’, he doesn’t like to use it. When people ask him how he came to be president of Cianbro, he elaborates on these feelings: “One thing I tell them is that I never once in my entire history with the company refused to do a job no matter how distasteful the request was or how it impacted my personal life. I never said ‘No.’ Secondly, I don’t consider myself to be the most intelligent person in the world, so I try to offset my shortcomings with hard work and by putting more energy and effort into what I do.” He gives some examples: Anytime he was asked to work on Sundays or holidays, he did. Fourth of July? Christmas? It didn’t matter. He spent one Christmas in Holyoke, Massachusetts with George Bell and a team cleaning out sewer lines. “A lot of people view doing the nasty jobs as problems that affect their personal lives. I’ve always viewed them as opportunities to learn new things.” And in the early 1980s when Pete was asked to leave his hometown of Pittsfield and move to Maryland to be a project manager in the Mid-Atlantic region, he moved without hesitation: “I
said ‘Yes’ immediately. There were other people who had been asked before me, but they didn’t want to go. I trusted the Cianchette brothers and had a lot of confidence in their judgment. They had treated me fairly and I thought I should respond.” Moving meant that his wife had to quit her job as a teacher and their two children had to be uprooted. Looking back it was an extreme sacrifice for his family. But he loved every minute of it: “It proved to be a tremendous opportunity for me to learn. Mindset is the key. After experiencing one or two situations like that, you create that mind-set and it has a snowball effect. Of course,” he adds, “the whole philosophy means that you have to be an optimist.” Pete’s success has also come from having a good support system — both from his co-workers and his family. Whenever he’s been stuck on something at work, help has been just seconds away. It’s been the same at home, where his wife and children have never failed to provide the calm and support that an executive likes to find at the end of a busy day. Pete was hired by Bud on February 2, 1970. Bud knew immediately that he had made a good hire. The image that flashed
through Bud’s mind that day when Pete walked into the office was of the kid in his neighborhood who used to deliver newspapers and was always looking for odd jobs. Pete was that kid — the one who used to knock on the door after a snowstorm with a shovel over his shoulder. The kid was now 22. The previous summer he had married a former MCI schoolmate, Carole Daily, on the same weekend that Pittsfield celebrated its sesquicentennial. Pete had graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and was working on an oil tanker. When he wasn’t at sea, he was back in town selling cars for Earl Friend Sr. at Pittsfield Motor Sales, the local Ford dealership. He had decided that the maritime work was not challenging enough, so when he came home in January, he asked Earl if there might be a chance that he could buy into his business. It was not a possibility. That same day, Pete heard that Cianbro was looking for workers for the Portland area. An appointment was made for an interview with Bud. “I wanted a challenge and an opportunity to learn. Cianbro was growing. I admired the brothers. These were great people and to someone my age, what I
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy
Pete notes that Chuck is his boss. “As chairman of the board, I report to him. He has made it very, very easy for me. He gives me guidance but he gives me the full authority and the flexibility to get the job done.” With the exception of a couple of months spent in Florida, Chuck is Bud knew immediately that he had made a in the office good hire. The image that flashed through Bud’s almost every day mind that day when Pete walked into the office and while both Ken and Bud was of the kid in his neighborhood who used to stopped working deliver newspapers and was always looking for full time at odd jobs. Pete was that kid — the one who Cianbro in the used to knock on the door after a snowstorm mid-1980s — Ken retired and with a shovel over his shoulder. Bud left to be president of Dragon — both are still active in the company. Bud never occurred to him. “But I can comes to Pittsfield from his home in remember after working here about a Cumberland at least once a week and year or two, I was inspired to want to be when Ken returns from Florida in the a job superintendent. I thought that if spring, he is in and out of the office on a someday I could be a superintendent, I regular basis until he heads south again. would have met my personal goals.” “They are all very supportive of the He did much better and considers management team. We make lots of himself very fortunate to have the decisions every day. They could be secrespect of the Cianbro people who work ond guessing us. Instead, what we get with him and the trust of the brothers.
could see was very positive. They were going places. When I had an opportunity to work for them, I jumped on it. I can’t remember the specifics of the interview other than Bud told me I should show up in Portland on Monday morning.” That he might one day be president
from all three of them is a tremendous amount of wisdom and advice that is extremely valuable in helping us get the job done. It makes it fun and easy.” Pete says as he was learning the business, he absorbed everything he could from the brothers: ■ “Bud is a perfectionist. He is a man with extremely high standards and a no-nonsense approach to business. He has always demanded excellence. I learned how to set high goals from him. “And I learned how to pay attention to details from him also — his housekeeping in the way our equipment, our facilities, and our yard looked; or how a letter would go out. The punctuation had to be correct. It had to have the right font. He set the expectations and I try to live up to them and teach other people. ■ “Chuck is an expert at dealing with people. Not only in a friendly atmosphere but also in adversarial situations. He has taught me how to work with people; how to give and take — especially to give.” Pete says he has watched Chuck give generously to the Boy Scouts and many other projects. “I have learned from him that we have a responsibility to give back — not only to the people in our organization but to our society.”
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
“Ken taught me how to think because he always asks the tough questions and he is always challenging the approach that you take on the job. He is a non-traditional thinker. He is very curious and always asking ‘Why, why,?’ “He has taught us to be innovative and creative and to constantly be looking outside of the box for ways we can become a better company and to always be finding more efficient ways to do things. It is OK that we did it that way yesterday, but what about today?” The brothers have also taught Pete to be humble, he says. “They are humble and while they are willing to talk about the positive things in their lives, they are also willing to share the mistakes they have made. That has helped us not make the same mistakes twice.” ■
Job Status: The future looks bright as Cianbro begins next 50 years
The Mid-Atlantic area is bursting with Cianbro contracts from the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. and it is obvious that the can-do attitude and high energy that is so prevalent in the Maine group, is alive and well in Maryland. Mike Fischer, regional manager, is not shy about talking about his operation: “The heat is here. There is a hotbed of opportunity for people who are willing to take on responsibility,” he says
THERE APPEARS TO be no shortage
of work as plans for the company’s golden anniversary are being made. Crews from Maryland to Maine are working on some key projects; some are just starting and others are down to the punch list:
Two members of a Cianbro crew guide steel into place during construction on a massive replacement skimmer wall for the Safe Harbor Water Power Generating Station near Conestoga, Pennsylvania.
and quickly points out that the MidAtlantic region is expanding rapidly. “We have grown every year since 1995 in revenue and margin. Our goal by 2003 is to do $100 million in volume. Now we are doing $50 million. That is quite a leap but in 1995, just three short years ago, we did $25 million. “When you experience that kind of growth, the opportunities are enormous, especially when you self-perform the work.” To self-perform, Mike explains, means no subcontractors; Cianbro takes a major contract and then also performs the work that could be subbed out. “In this region, we do bridges, treatment plants, industrial facilities in the private and public market and we self-perform in all the major building trades.” He adds, “That’s no easy task.” One of the most impressive jobs in progress is the construction of a massive replacement skimmer wall for the Safe Harbor Water Power Generating Station on the Susquehanna River located on the Northeast bank in Lancaster County near Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Eighthundred feet of the original wall, built in the 1930s as part of the original dam, was destroyed by a flood in January of 1996.
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy
Peter George Vigue ■ Member of Peoples Heritage Bank Board of Directors; former director of Key Bank of Maine. ■ Member of Associated General Contractors of America. ■ Member of executive board of Construction Industry Round Table (CIRT) comprised of top national and international contractors and designers. ■ Vice chairman of Maine Chamber and Business Alliance. ■ Member of The Moles, an elite national group of construction and design people.
Born Sept. 27, 1947 Son of Frederic and Bernadette Ouellette Vigue
Family ■ Marries Carole Daily June 21, 1969. ■ One son — Peter Andre Vigue. ■ One daughter — Michelle Vigue Hodgins.
project manager to assistant to the president to vice president of operations to senior vice president. ■ On Jan. 1, 1991, Pete assumes role of president of Cianbro Corporation, a position he still holds.
■ Summers of 1963 to 1968 works
■ Graduated from Maine Central Institute in June, 1965. ■ In May, 1969, he received a B.S. in Marine Engineering from Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine.
for Thomas DiCenzo, Inc. construction company ■ During vacations and weekends from military school, he sells cars on a part-time basis for Pittsfield Motor Sales. ■ From 1969 to 1970, Pete ships on an oil tanker working as a third assistant engineer. ■ On Feb. 2, 1970, he is hired by Bud to work with Cianbro’s Portland group as a laborer on the waterfront. ■ Between 1970 and 1990, he works his way up the company ladder from laborer to foreman to field engineer to area superintendent to
Public service and honors ■ Former mayor and councilman of town of Pittsfield. ■ Former member of Pine Tree Council of Boy Scouts of America. ■ President of Pittsfield Development Corporation. ■ Board member and former presi-
dent of the Maine Central Institute Trustees. ■ On advisory committee of Kennebec Valley Technical College. ■ Former chairman of Maine Aspirations Foundation. ■ Previously served as a member on the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education. ■ Hall of Fame award, Maine Central Institute.
Professional affiliations ■ Executive board member of University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation.
CIANBRO THE CONSTRUCTORS
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
The work on the $13.2 million contract is going well, according to a recent report from Chet Muckenhirn, project manager. “What the wall is used for is to keep ice and other debris — wood, logs, etc. that get swept down the river — out of the forebay in front of the power house.” There are 26 piers to build and the project involves relocating four cofferdams six and a half times. “All of our work now is below water level. There are 27 people on the crew. It’s a big equipment job. There are some goodsized cranes.” Other work on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania involves a fish ladder for the York Haven Power Company at the East Channel Dam at Three-Mile Island. This is the third fish passage to be built by Cianbro on the Susquehanna. This one provides the last link needed to allow the wild American shad to migrate 200 miles all the way from the Atlantic Ocean, into the Chesapeake Bay and upstream through the Susquehanna to their ancestral spawning habitat in the river’s headwaters in New York State. The two others are fish lifts — elevators and not ladders. They were built downstream simultaneously at the Safe
Mid-Atlantic workers tackle the restoration of the 11th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C. The job actually involved five existing land bridges over I-295. Harbor and Holtwood dams and were up and running when the anadromous sleek, silvery shad began its annual swim from salt water to fresh water in April of 1997. The combined fish passage undertaking has been another one of those feel-good projects: like installing a machine to recycle waste paper that not only cuts down on the used paper deposits at the landfills but preserves the forests. This Pennsylvania effort is being hailed by environmentalists and sportsmen who estimate that once the York Haven ladder is done, two million shad will make their way above the dam each spring and Pennsylvania anglers who
haven’t fished for them since 1928 will once again be able to wet their lines. Kim Kozak, one of the engineers who worked on the Holtwood project, explains that the Holtwood and Safe Harbor lifts are actually elevators with huge hoppers. As the fish approach the areas, the shad are steered through channels, herded through some gates, and finally into the hoppers to be hoisted over the dam. A trapdoor then opens and deposits them back into the river where they keep on swimming against the current. Another big job that is nearly finished by the Mid-Atlantic group is the 11th Street Bridge at the Anacostia Freeway in Washington, D.C. To someone not acquainted with the area, “The 11th Street Bridge” sounds like a single span. It’s not. The project involves the rehabilitation of five existing land bridges which go over I-295 and also includes the erection of two temporary bridges, designed, manufactured, and installed by Cianbro people. All seven bridges are within one square mile and are right in the heart of D.C. traffic. “We’re doing all five bridges at the same time,” notes Wade Simons, project superintendent, as he points out
Gary Gorman, project manager for the 11th Street Bridge project, uses a transit to check the elevation of some of the pier caps. the difficulty because of the changing traffic patterns. “It’s a juggling nightmare.” With all of the headaches, however, Gary Gorman, project manager and Keith Valdez, project engineer, were boasting in mid-summer that the crew of 50-plus had reached 100,000 safe work hours without an OSHA recordable injury. “That’s a feat for this type of work that is rarely accomplished,” points out Mike Fischer. “To put that in perspective, a cut finger that requires a couple of stitches is ‘a recordable injury.’ “ Relining three miles of existing 96inch concrete water line with 79-inch steel pipe for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is another job
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy underway in the Mid-Atlantic region. Cianbro previously relined a mile of water pipe for the commission in 1996. The concrete had been eroding and was not in good shape. During a visit to the job site in July of 1998, Terry Lemieux explained that while the job calls for three miles of pipe, it is being installed over a five-mile area. Sections of the old concrete pipe that are in good shape are being skipped over. Twenty lengths of the new pipe had just been put into place: “We’re going in and pushing it and tacking it.” The Southern New England Regional office in Connecticut is very busy with decommissioning the Yankee Rowe nuclear power plant. Other work includes: performing a plant expansion at Encore Paper in South Glens Falls, New York; working at several Kimberly Clark paper mills; and doing a water treatment project for the city of Southbridge, Massachusetts. In addition, there are some bridge rehabilitation jobs underway including a swing bridge in East Haddam, Connecticut. Cianbro crews will also be doing a rehab job on the main cable and suspension system of the Mount Hope
Bridge in Rhode Island in 1999 as well as a rehabilitation of the Pepacton Bridge in Andes, New York. David Nardon, who was appointed regional manager for the Southern New England team in mid1998, says things are looking very good
A 79-inch steel pipe is lowered as a Cianbro crew relines three miles of an existing 96-inch concrete water line for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. The concrete is old and sections have been eroding.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Words from a 9-year-old girl spawn shift in safety culture
he word in the industry is that anyone who is interested in talking with Pete Vigue about the importance of safety on the job, should plan to have at least four hours to spare. Actually, Pete has an eight-hour program that he gives around the country but when pressed, he can condense it to half the time. Or, if time is really tight, he will give his one-hour speed presentation to anyone who will listen. If Cianbro’s president sounds like a zealot, he is. The safety of the workers at Cianbro is serious business. It is the company’s number one concern and the number one topic when he visits a job. “It didn’t used to be that way,” he says. “Years ago when we walked onto the job site, the first question out of our mouths might have been: ‘How much concrete did we pour today?’ or ‘How much steel did we set?’ or ‘What is our production rate?’ or ‘Are we on schedule?’ “Today the first thing we ask is ‘What is your safety record?’ That clearly commu-
When people call Pete a fanatic about safety issues, he agrees with them. He expressed some of his thoughts on the subject in an interview for the November 28, 1994 ENR magazine. nicates to management on the job site as well as to the workers what is important.” Pete explains that back in November of 1978 he had been hurt deeply by the death of Ted Clements, a co-worker. “He was a project superintendent for us and a very close friend.” Pete notes that Ted was doing a favor for a former small contractor in Greenville by disposing of leftover blasting
Please see SAFETY, page 128
for his area. “I’m very excited about the opportunities and challenges before us. With the growth potential in our region, and the team we have in place, we have an outstanding future ahead of us.”
In the Northern New England region, both the Portland- and Pittsfieldbased operations have plenty of work, including some that will be carried into the year 2000. The company is committed to several paper company shutdowns in the Northeast. Work at Mead Paper Company in Rumford involves over 300 people led by Bob Jamison and Jim Richards. They have been working on four major capital projects and several smaller projects. They have been doing routine maintenance work, as well. Other big projects on Cianbro’s docket include construction management jobs. As 1998 was winding down, a contract was landed in Easton, Maine to build a new french fry processing plant for McCain Foods. Of the $70 million worth of work that is expected to be done, about half will be for the construction phase to be managed by the Pittsfield builders with the remainder being the costs of the equipment.
CHAPTER EIGHT “Typically the owners purchase the processing equipment themselves,” relates Dave Leavitt. Then Cianbro installs it, hooks it up, builds the buildings, installs process piping and does the electrical and instrumentation work. Another construction management job is underway in Biddeford where a new central baking facility is being built at J.J. Nissen/Interstate Baking Corporation, and still another is in progress in Waterville. Philanthropists, Harold and Bibby Alfond, have donated a considerable sum of money, and Waterville area residents have raised additional amounts for the construction of a 55,000-square-foot youth recreation center which will house two swimming pools, a gymnasium and multi-purpose rooms. A crew is also in Bangor at Eastern Maine Medical Center working on the beginning phase of a parking garage and an ambulatory center. The construction management work
This artist’s drawing was done for an expansion at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for a parking garage and ambulatory center. Cianbro began work in the late 1990s on this project.
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy
Construction management work is one of the newer facets of Cianbro. One of the first jobs performed was for L.L. Bean. The famous Maine company needed more room and Cianbro managed an expansion that included a returns facility, a warehouse, and a distribution center. where Cianbro takes on a major contract, usually for a large complex, and manages its own work as well as the work of several subcontractors is a fairly new market for the company. One of the first jobs performed was done in Freeport a few years ago when Maine’s famous L.L. Bean company had a large expansion. The work included a 532,000-square-foot distribution center, a 200,000-square-foot warehouse, and a 135,000-square-foot returns facility. Not all of these jobs are building projects. In fact one of the more recent contracts involved the demolition of 30
buildings for General Dynamics/Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. Before that job was finished in the spring of 1998, Cianbro had “managed” 28 subcontractors and more than 550 people.
Looking ahead: Company is poised to take on different markets
AS CIANBRO PREPARES to enter
its second 50 years, as well as a new century, the company is in a growth mode. Markets that could never have been imagined a half-century ago are opening and should keep today’s and tomorrow’s Cianbro teams busy for a very long time to come. Engineers and others working on bids are entering new territory as they calculate numbers, including fast-chang-
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS SAFETY, continued from page 126
caps and powder. Ted brought the material down from Greenville, backed his truck up into the Cianbro yard, and was sorting it on his tailgate. “In the process some caps exploded in his hands. He died three months later. I have never gotten over that. “And three or four years before that, Mac Rollins, one of our foremen, was killed while working for us in Lincoln on a job that Ted Clements was running.” The date was December 16, 1975. Pete explains that a water line was being installed across a roadway and wooden barricades, cones, and lights had been set up to narrow down the traffic. At dusk, as the job was being shut down for the day, someone crashed through the barricades and hit Mac. These were bad times for the company even though Cianbro’s safety record was as good or better than other firms in the industry. “We got frustrated and upset, and on the personal side, it was devastating to have your friends die.” However, Pete continues, “We reluctantly accepted that we were in a very dangerous and hazardous business and the environment was such that it was inevitable people were going to get hurt.
As much as we anguished and as frustrated as we became, life went on.” That reluctant acceptance ended in 1987. What resulted in a major shift in culture came about because of six small words uttered to Pete by a 9-year-old girl during a funeral. The child’s father was an iron worker and had been killed a few days before as the result of a fall while repairing a bridge in Connecticut. As Pete was talking with the family, she came up to him in tears, pulled on his coat sleeve, and asked, “Why did you kill my daddy?” “I thought I had been through tragedy and bad experiences, but I had never had anyone tell me that I had taken someone else’s life. That broke my heart.” The victim was a veteran construction man who had worked for Cianbro off and on for several years. At the time of the accident, he was standing on a bed ladder 90 feet above the Connecticut River and working under the Singing Bridge on the Merritt Parkway. He had an iron worker’s belt on with all of his tools and was wearing a life preserver and a safety belt around his waist with an attached single tie-off safety strap. The strap, or lanyard
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ing costs on materials. Sometimes markups are made or figures are trimmed in a matter of seconds in preparation for bid deadlines, all done with the confidence that they have been able to gather correct information and that they won’t be putting the company at risk by figuring too low. The pressure can be enormous and as Pete Vigue says, “It’s not a place for someone with a heart problem.” One of the newer markets that Cianbro is tackling is in sophisticated technology thanks to recent work at National Semiconductor in Portland, maker of microchips for computers.
Mid-Atlantic manager Mike Fischer, standing left, confers with President Pete Vigue, standing right, on changes to be made in preparation for a bid. Bryan Libold, seated left, and Bill Holmes, seated right, review the pricing.
CHAPTER EIGHT Although, John Hill says there is some difference of opinion as to whether the work should be categorized as high tech or heavy industrial. Whatever it is called, it is entirely different from anything the company has done in the past. While National Semiconductor was perfectly comfortable having Cianbro do much of the building project, moving and installing its multi-million dollar “tools” for their clean room took some talking. Cianbro did not have the “credentials.” It was something Pete had heard before. “That’s an obstacle we are constantly overcoming: “When they say ‘You can’t demonstrate to us that you can do the work. You’ve never done this before.’ The argument I give them is that before we built the Piscataqua River Bridge in Portsmouth, we couldn’t demonstrate that we had the credentials to do that. But we did it. Before we built Madison Paper, we couldn’t demonstrate that we had ever built a paper mill. Yet we did it and completed it under schedule and under budget. Before we went to Maine Yankee, we couldn’t demonstrate that we had the ability to work in a nuclear power plant. We didn’t have the creden-
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy tials for that either.” “Before we went to National Semiconductor, we couldn’t demonstrate that we had ever worked in a microchip facility. And it wasn’t until an out-ofstate contractor had moved the first tool and dropped it and destroyed it that we were afforded an opportunity to move the tools. Since then we have moved
Work progresses on the National Semiconductor facility in Portland. every tool that has gone in there.” The tools, Pete explains, are sometimes no bigger than a desk but are valued at as much as $10 million. “They are very sophisticated pieces of equipment that have to be rigged into place. There is absolutely no margin for error. On top of that, the environment in which they are located, the clean room, is 1,000
times cleaner than an operating room in a hospital. Our people are physically covered as if they were working in a medical facility. “Credentials are important,” Pete agrees. “But it is not credentials that make a successful job. It is the people, the team, and the ability to plan, schedule, organize, and work safely and efficiently that make an organization successful in this business.” Charlie Cianchette points to the rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment plants that were constructed in the 1970s and 1980s as a good future market. Most of them need work and in some cases they need to be enlarged to increase the capacity. “What is happening now,” explains Charlie, “is that they are replacing worn-out processing equipment, putting in new piping, and adding fancier treatment equipment.” He notes that the work is already prevalent in both the Mid-Atlantic and Southern New England areas. They have done several and there are several more ahead. He adds that Mike Fischer brought expertise in this area to the company. Another market for Maine, coming on the tail of the gas pipeline being built
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS SAFETY, continued from page 128
as it is called in the industry, was attached to a cable at his right. In an effort to reposition himself for his next work activity, he unhooked the lanyard and before he could rehook it to his left, he slipped and fell into the water. He was taken to shore by a boat and then died in an ambulance on his way to a hospital. Representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did a site investigation and evaluated the work procedures. “They essentially gave us a clean bill of health,” relates Pete. “The general position was that there was nothing we could have done. We had done everything required by law.” When confronted with a child’s innocent question, however, Pete couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps there was something that could have been done. He was operations manager at the time and when he came back to Pittsfield, he immediately shut down all of the jobs — company-wide. “No, I didn’t ask permission from anyone. I gathered the team and I asked the question: ‘What are we going to do to see that this doesn’t happen again?’ “ Answers spilled forth: We immediate-
ly introduced the 100 percent tie-off. Anybody who went in the air 10 feet or more was tied off 100 percent of the time. We used a double-lanyard system. We went beyond what the law required.” In addition, Cianbro’s safety people, led by Paul Falconer, started working with the manufacturers of the safety belts they had been using to develop a full-body harness. “If you fall in a safety belt, the odds are 90 percent that you’ll hurt your back and stomach. If you fall wearing a full-body harness, you can hang indefinitely. “In 1987 no one was using a fullbody harness and there were no requirements for a double tie-off.” The efforts didn’t stop there. An intense program was begun in both safety education and training. “We put it in front of everything else. We made it our number one priority. We built safety processes into all of our planning activities for complete projects as well as individual jobs. It requires people to identify the hazards first and then eliminate them.” To drive home the importance, discipline was imposed on workers at every level. If an individual was caught or identified as not being tied off, that person was sent home
Please see SAFETY, page 132
An air view of the Piscataway Wastewater Treatment Plant taken in the spring of 1998. The Mid-Atlantic group completed modifications to this Accokeek, Maryland facility. Rehabs of treatment plants built in the 1970s and 1980s are expected to be a big market as the new century dawns. through the state, will be the gas-distribution network, Charlie says. This work will involve work in Maine’s towns and cities to run the pipes down the streets to connect the gas to homes and businesses. “We haven’t been a distribution contractor for years. We used to do sewer and water.” And after years of working in nuclear power plants, and taking on the Yankee Rowe decommissioning job, Cianbro is prepared for this complex
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy
CHAPTER EIGHT work as other nuclear facilities ready for dismantling. During talks with owners of atomic power plants during the spring of 1998, there was a keen awareness of the collective knowledge that Cianbro possessed. Negotiators from away were impressed with answers to tough questions. John Hill, who had been project superintendent for several upgrades at Maine Yankee, was one who couldn’t be stumped. “You tend to retain that information,” he says. “You don’t know how much knowledge you have or how helpful the information is until someone else needs to know. To you it seems insignificant. But to the people asking the questions, it is important. You rattle off the answers because it is just a natural thing.” Pete Vigue sees the company’s many faces as the key to the future. “We will continue to diversify our business,” he notes. “Every one of the markets we serve is very cyclical, even on federally- or statefunded jobs. We cannot depend on how much money is being spent and we’ve learned that in order to meet our goals in growth, we have to be diversified. “The company is extremely healthy
from a financial end,” he adds. “We’re setting some strategic goals that will expand our operation beyond the current boundaries we are now working in. We have a very, very bright future.”
Extra strengths: proper training and right frame of mind important
PETER SCHEIN, WHO heads up the
electrical work for the Northern New England team, points to a steppedup craft training program as one of the best things going for the company. The company has always done quite a bit of training. However, for the most part, the training was focused on specific skills to do specific jobs. Cianbro has incorporated the Wheels of Learning curriculum as an effort to offer more opportunity to their workers and to upgrade the construction labor pool in general. Peter points out that there is a great shortage of trained workers. Older, highly-skilled craftspeople are retiring and they aren’t being replaced. “Fewer people are entering construction than in the past. Therefore training has become important. “It’s pretty new. We’re trying to
A stepped-up craft training program, offered by the company and incorporating the Wheels of Learning curriculum, has two pluses: it offers Cianbro people a chance to enhance their skills, and because of a shortage of trained workers, it upgrades the construction labor pool in general. Alan Burton runs a class at the Pittsfield office. catch those who don’t go to vocational school.” Cianbro made a commitment to the program in the summer of 1997 to establish regional, on-going programs, and since has offered a series of classes which have focused on electrical, instrumentation, and millwright skills. Pipe fitting and iron working classes are also scheduled. “We are the first large contractor in Maine to do this. We have certified trainers.” Peter notes that the Wheels of Learning is a nationally accredited program which offers different skill levels.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS SAFETY, continued from page 130
for a day without pay and if it happened a second time, the person was terminated. If their supervisor knowingly allowed it to happen, the supervisor was treated likewise. “Key managers have been asked to leave because they didn’t have the right attitude. They didn’t demonstrate their personal commitment to safety. This was not fun and games,” says Peter. “We’ve learned to accept the fact that we control the actions of our people by setting the priorities and then holding them accountable, and we can control the environment in which our people work. If people won’t buy into that, I’m not going to another funeral.” Consequently “safety first” has become a mind-set at Cianbro. Lost-time incident rates are the first item on any agenda at any meeting at any level. And, for the good of the people in supervision, the rates they are reporting had better be at zero. And they usually are. There has been a dramatic turnaround. As bonuses, Cianbro’s paid-claim losses are a fraction of what the industry average is and 10 percent of what they used to be. Cianbro’s workers’ compensation insurance is also a fraction of what it
once was and, according to Pete, about 45 percent less than the industry average. As president of the company, Pete sees that Cianbro management has two primary responsibilities: “We have a moral obligation to see that our people go home in the same condition they came to work in, and we have a fiscal responsibility to manage the company in the most costeffective way possible. “This safety program allows us to meet the moral responsibility as well as the fiscal responsibility.” He explains that because their workers’ comp and claims-paid costs are both low, it makes it easier to compete. These savings are passed on to clients. “I’ve said to our people ‘If we have to hurt people to be successful, we’ll shut down the operation. We’ll go sell shoes or groceries.’ “It would be great to say that all that we’ve learned in safety is by design. In looking back, much of what we are today and much of what we are doing is by design. But some of it is the result of what we learned the hard way through our mistakes. “The frustrating thing for me is that it took a 9-year-old girl to teach me what my role and responsibilities are as a manager and a supervisor. That is pretty painful.”
“It doesn’t matter what part of the United States you are in. You can take Level l in Maine and if you move to Oklahoma, you could take Level 2 there.” Being the “local contractor” in four different locations is an added strength. While the Portland operation as well as the Connecticut and Maryland regions are actually satellite branches of Cianbro, they function quite independently, hire local people, and are looked at in their areas as local contractors. This fosters trust with clients who quickly come to understand that the company is there for the long haul. It’s not a situation of moving in for the quick buck or “Here today, gone tomorrow.” “There is a lot of support from Pittsfield,” explains Bill Kleinfelder, electrical project manager of the MidAtlantic Region. “Yet, we’re pretty selfsufficient. We have our own human resources and safety group here and as we become busier and busier, the equipment comes down and it stays.” Ernie Kilbride says it makes sense that to be successful in a region, a local presence is necessary. “Plus we can’t manage the work from 500 miles away.”
Cianbro’s new leader gifted with gumption and savvy
grow. You can’t allow those wrinkles in Giving people room to stretch and just plain didn’t show up for work. Alan the road to get in the way. You have to grow is a strength that has made for also would ask the foremen about the skill learn and move on and forgive and forhappy employees and as a result, satisfactor and found out that it was important get. People have done that with me. That fied customers. That includes allowing but it was not the overriding thing. is how to gain trust and loyalty, and people to make mistakes. Anyone who Alan eventually started getting it establish relationships.” has ever grown in a company knows right. Now he relies strongly on the that the best college of learning is per“Triple A” method: attitude, adaptabiliAlan relates that when he was first sonal experience and, unfortunately, the ty, and aptitude. put in the position to hire people, he most impressive lesHe doesn’t sons are the misalways hit the mark, Giving people room to stretch and grow is a strength that takes made along but when he asks the way. the right questions has made for happy employees and as a result, satisfied cusJohn Hill, who during an interview, tomers. That includes allowing people to make mistakes. worked his way up a lot can be deterAnyone who has ever grown in a company knows that the best from laborer to projmined. “I look for a college of learning is personal experience and, unfortunately, the ect superintendent, positive, can-do attimost impressive lessons are the mistakes made along the way. still marvels at findtude. And adapting that attitude ability is essential when he first came because in this busito work for the comness things are pany 25 years ago. “The company hired them for the wrong reasons: “I was changing all of the time. Plus sometimes allowed the freedom to think and act, 25 and I hired people who were younger it is necessary to transfer people around. and get the jobs done in our own way; if than I was who looked like they were Aptitude, the ability and willingness to you made a mistake, you weren’t critiphysically capable of doing construction learn, is also very important. If you go cized for it. It was just considered anothwork — people with big muscles.” on a job and act like you know everyer step toward improvement.” thing, the old timers will make you When someone didn’t work out, prove it.” “Here’s the way I look at it,” adds which was often, Alan would go out on Alan Burton, who heads up the safety To add to Alan’s Triple A system, the job and ask the foremen why. They and human resources department, “if there is a natural winnowing process would give him a variety of reasons: the you are not making any mistakes, you that works pretty well and has strengthperson had a poor attitude, or was not flexaren’t doing anything. That is how we ened the work force. Gary Robbins ible, or had not been willing to learn, or
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
CIANBRO GOALS ■ We will eliminate at-risk behavior and achieve zero injuries
points out that each summer during peak construction season, the company takes on anywhere from 500 to 600 extra people to get the work done. “Then they retain maybe 50 out of that bunch — probably 10 percent. Each year, they keep picking out the good ones and over the years, they have developed a good crew.” George Bell, “We’re in the lion’s den manager of with meat drawers on. We are a major support group equipment as well as the fabrifor the company and cation and coateveryone needs someing facility, was thing yesterday.” one of those — George Bell summer hires picked to stay on. That was over 25 years ago. He had been going to the University of Maine in Orono to become an engineer. “I figured I would work another year to get some money and then go back to school.” Instead he stayed and has done a variety of jobs, from working out in the field to
doing estimating work with the engineering crew. He has a colorful description for what he is currently up to: “We’re in the lion’s den with meat drawers on. We are a major support group for the company and everyone needs something yesterday. But I like it. The harder it gets, the better I like it.” George says what sets Cianbro apart from other companies is the people: “If there is a catastrophe or a problem that has to be dealt with, you can find a core of people who will pull together and take care of it.”
Cianbro will be the construction industry “Employer of Choice.” We will: ■ Continue to employ and retain the best people in the construction industry; ■ Develop and nurture our people; ■ Reward our team members for hands-on skills, can-do attitude, team spirit, and results; and, ■ Treat all people with honesty, fairness, dignity, and respect. PEOPLE
We will: ■ Double our revenues, improve our gross margin, and reduce our pre-discretionary overhead ratio; ■ Double our net worth; and, ■ Fund the retirement plan to ensure all team members are rewarded equitably. FINANCIAL
We will: ■ Meet our customers’ standards; ■ Complete each project on-time and within budget; ■ Develop innovative solutions to our customers’ problems and needs; and, ■ Demonstrate every day that we are the “Constructor of Choice.” CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
■ We will focus our business where our team and core competencies can add unique value for our customers. ■ We will develop new business areas that logically extend our existing strengths and geographic reach.
FOCUS AND DIVERSIFICATION
■ We will complete the acquisition of the Founders’ ownership interests and remain 100% employee-owned.
A Cianbro worker straddles a large tank made at the fabrication shop in Pittsfield.
Cianchette legacy carried into firm’s next 50 years
T TIMES IT seems as if the com-
pany’s first 50 years have passed quickly. But when Bud, Ken, and Chuck look back and think of all the work that is behind them and all of the faces that are missReflections ing today, it seems and like a very long time indeed. predictions: Their personal Brothers losses have been would do it painful in the last all again decade of the century: Carl, their big brother and the founder of this small construction firm that grew so large, died on April 14, 1997 at age 77. His lifetime had been one of service and he had made a profound impact on everything and everyone he touched — his family, Cianbro employees, his favorite charities, state government.
And, Edna, their mother who taught them by the example she set, died on September 9, 1991. She was 96. Ever the optimist, her sons say she was still saving for her old age up until shortly before her death. They like to tell the story about the time she wanted a messy willow tree at the side of her driveway replaced with a shade tree. She was about 90 years old. Bud suggested planting a shrub instead, pointing out it would be something she could enjoy. “I would enjoy a shade tree,” she responded. Bud then reasoned that it would take too long to grow. To that his mother “Yes,” Ken, Bud, and Chuck would do it all over again. It has been hard work, but it has been work they loved. As they look beyond the first 50 years, they see continued diversification, continued growth, and continued opportunities for Cianbro.
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
countered, “I’m in no hurry.” An oak tree was planted. Carl’s wife, Maureen, and Ken’s wife, Evelene, two of Cianbro’s most ardent supporters, also died: Maureen on September 19, 1994 and Evelene on November 12, 1997. And the brothers’ lost their only sister, Marilyn, back in 1989. Bud, Ken, and Chuck sat down together one morning in October of 1998 to do some reflecting and looking ahead. Yes, they agreed that they would do it all over again. Building a successful company from the ground up has been hard work, but for the most part, it has been a wonderful experience. And, yes, they would have to agree that Ken’s $5,000 and Bud’s $500 of army savings given to Carl back in 1946 to start the business, along with Chuck’s sacrifice of his 1934 Chevrolet pickup, turned out to be good investments. “I would say we got a fair return,” Bud says with a grin. Some of the older people in Pittsfield still refer to the brothers as “the Cianchette boys.” The label is one of affection. Even though the residents watched the brothers evolve into astute and successful businessmen respected up and down the eastern seaboard, they
are still remembered as “boys” returning from the war and starting a business with outdated equipment and an abundance of energy and determination. It has been enjoyable to see them “make it” and to watch them brush off the construction dust from those early years to step out as leaders not just in their industry, but far beyond. These brothers, who never spent a day in a college classroom other than to speak to students, have been elected state senators and appointed to governors’ commissions; they’ve been presidents of state and national organizations; they have been named to halls of fame and have been recipients of meritorious achievement awards; they’ve been chosen for distinguished citizen awards and humanitarian awards; they’ve been named business leaders of the year and have been called the ideal businessman’s businessmen; they’ve been acknowledged not only for their monetary generosity but also for giving of their time to charitable causes; they’ve served on college boards, hospital boards, and bank boards. . . As they reminisce, much of what they say when they reflect on the last 50 years of work is not surprising:
When the brothers reflect on the company’s best jobs, the Madison Paper project tackled in 1980 stands out.
Best jobs? The Madison Paper
Company project tops the list: “It proved that Cianbro had capabilities that most people weren’t aware of,” comments Ken. Chuck agrees, “It was another milestone in the growth of Cianbro.” The Piscataqua River Bridge is mentioned by Bud: “The job was well-executed and well-planned.” “And,” adds ■
CHAPTER NINE Chuck, “the Kenduskeag Stream job was a good one. That elevated us a bit.” Ken mentions the restoration of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington, D.C. Not only was it profitable, it turned some heads because a small Maine company showed the nation’s leaders what the Maine work ethic is all about.
Worst jobs? An easy subject
but hard memories. The Messalonskee Bridge: the nightmarish situation when the foundation for the bridge’s Pier N moved and the cofferdam surrounding it collapsed. “It was the worst job, but it probably taught us the most,” says Chuck. “If we hadn’t put that fill up next to the pier foundation maybe we would have gotten by,” is a fleeting thought he shares. But Chuck quickly realizes that the fact that they had hauled in gravel and stockpiled it next to the foundation as it cured wouldn’t have made any difference in the end. The soil conditions were the cause of the trouble, and when they started work on the next pier foundation, things were just as bad. At that point, the state and the design engineers recognized there was a serious design problem, so the project ■
Cianchette legacy carried into firm’s next 50 years was called back to the drawing board. “We had bad information. It gave us a lot of headaches,” remembers Bud. “There was more pain and suffering on Pier N than years of other jobs put together.” Carl’s very first job — the pulploading in Burnham is also included in the “worst jobs” list. “Jesus, yes,” comments Ken. “But we finished the job. We didn’t want to do it again.”
The road job in Clifton, the one with all the boulders that caused Ken to leave and start his own company, is another one they would never want to go through again. “What it did,” says Bud, “is beat the hell out of some new equipment.” A road job and parking lot that they undertook in Georgetown was another one they would like to obliterate from memory: “We didn’t have enough money. We bid it too cheap and we worked in the winter when we shouldn’t have.” And a bridge job in York was yet another one of those contracts that built character but had few other redeeming features. This time it was the lack of proper equipment: “The crane wasn’t big enough; the pile hammer wasn’t big enough. . .” ■ Favorite piece of equipment? For Ken, there will
For a construction worker, it is often a love/hate relationship with their equipment. When a deadline is hovering and a bulldozer breaks down, it is frustrating. When Ken and Chuck were in the field, they had some favorites: For Ken, the purchase of a TL20 Lorain crane in 1947, in right photo, made life on the job a whole lot easier. It was likewise for Chuck in 1958 when the Manitowoc 60-ton crane, in photo above, was purchased.
always be a spot in his heart for the Lorain TL20 motor crane that Carl bought in 1947. “It was my favorite at the time,” he says. Bud reminds him that it was a
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
big step up from the Byers Bear Cat they had been using before. Bud remembers that relic as: “That 1930s antique, the indescribable piece of junk that Paul Susi gave up on.” Chuck’s favorite was a 1948 Manitowoc 60-ton crane that was purchased in 1958 after the York bridge project where the equipment had been too small. “That set the tone. At the time it was one of the biggest lift cranes in the state. It taught us that the bigger equipment was the key to our construction efforts. We used that crane right up until 1991 or 1992.” And Bud, the numbers person, allows that his favorite was probably “That thrashing machine we bought for the office in the ‘60s. It was our first Burrough’s business machine. Glenys Sprague ran it. It made a big difference.”
Favorite individual jobs?
“I used to like to pay the bills at the end of the month,” reveals Bud. “I’d go through the list. . .” Ken couldn’t narrow down the choices and Chuck likes them all: “It’s exciting to do the bidding. It’s exciting making plans and working on innovations that make the jobs go and get the crew excited. . . “ ■
Smartest moves? “To stay
together and not let the little things overshadow the big picture,” is the first thing mentioned. On a par with that Chuck says was “Choosing the right mates. For whatever reason it was, we did. I see examples ■
The brothers consider the 1967 acquisition of the Portland-based Snodgrass construction firm as one of the company’s wisest moves. It not only opened the door for work in Maine paper companies, but it also positioned Cianchette Bros., Inc. to take on marine projects. This 67-foot tugboat is part of Cianbro’s marine inventory. At 125years-old, the Fannie J. is said to be the oldest working steam tug in the nation. Today she is powered by diesel, however, and often works eight-hour days, five days a week hauling barges and cargo to construction sites around the Portland harbor.
every day of a spouse holding back opportunities, not giving the support that you need to concentrate.” Hiring good people is also high on the “smartest” list. “If we’ve done anything right, it’s choosing the right kind of people to represent the company,” relates Chuck. “Acquiring Snodgrass,” is also right up there, adds Bud. Buying that Portland construction company opened many doors: “It allowed us to expand in the Portland market. We wouldn’t have done the S.D. Warren biomass project or the gas pipeline. We probably wouldn’t have done the Madison Paper job. And the marine business came with it.”
Hardest times? Without
hesitation Bud says, “It was when I went to those four funerals in two days.” He was referring to the four deaths that occurred in the accident during the Kittery bridge project. Another rough time was in the mid1980s. “The downsizing was tough. It was not a pleasant task.” ■
Do differently? Chuck laughs:
“If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t ■
Cianchette legacy carried into firm’s next 50 years
CHAPTER NINE make so many mistakes.” Bud catches the spirit: “We’d bid the jobs a lot higher.” Ken gets serious and says, “If we had moved to the Portland area, we would have had an easier time of it.” Bud adds, “Back in the 1960s, I thought we should go to Phoenix, Arizona. It was a growth area. Here, in order to make a living, it meant taking jobs away from others. In Phoenix, all you had to do was be there.” They actually considered both places. “We talked about it. We talked a lot about Portland after buying Snodgrass. But our roots were too deep in Pittsfield and our kids didn’t want to move.” ■
Best era? “Right now.” Goals for the future? “To
stay healthy,” answers Bud. “And to be around to watch the company and my grandchildren grow.” “To keep on doing what I’m doing,” says Ken. “That’s working for my children and not getting paid. Plus working for Chuck.” During the summer of 1998, Ken was in high demand for his free services. He built a pond for a daughter, was involved with some heavy land■
scaping for a son’s business, and was recruited by Chuck to help him build a new hangar. “To see the company grow,” adds Chuck. “And to have time to spend with my grandchildren and partake in my hobbies: the airplanes, the old cars, and tree farming — the 300-acre wood lot that I hope to continue to manage.”
What’s ahead for Cianbro?
“Continued diversification, continued growth, and continued opportunities,” says Chuck. “The company is now in a position to take advantage of any opportunity,” notes Bud. ■
■ Any advice? “I recommend that anybody learn how to do the work correctly,” says Ken. “Do it right. Gain a reputation and keep the employees happy. If a person can do that, he’ll do all right in business. And make sure you use proper equipment for the job.” Bud would tell people to look at the market, the financing, the whole picture. Then entrepreneurs need to be careful and make sure they know what they are doing. The best counsel the brothers ever received was from their father, and
whenever anyone asks them for advice, they pass this gem along: “He always said, ‘You be darned careful what you promise someone that you will do. But once you say you will do it, you make sure that you do.’ “It’s all building relationships, building trust,” reasons Chuck. “He hammered that right into us.”
The heritage: Cianbro philosophy is stamped in concrete
RALPH’S BIT OF
counsel has served as the cornerstone for both the culture and the philosophy that has developed over the years at Cianbro. His sons built on it and in talking with the current employees, it is much alive today. Lester Williams was concerned a few years ago that the philosophy might be forgotten because the company was growing so fast and Bud and Ken had semi-retired. He talked with Alan Burton about it and the two of them held meetings with the brothers. By the last meeting, the philosophy was spelled out in black and white so there will never be any questions about what it is. “The people who worked with the
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
and the friends. We are all that way. It’s brothers in the early years knew the phione of the reasons for our success. losophy. But we needed to make sure it was carried on. Their word has always “Everybody carries the same mesbeen their bond. That process has helped sage: treat everyone like you would like make this company what it is. to be treated. We’re all a team.” “When you understood the philosoJohn has an important message to phy, you could watch it happen,” relates the brothers: “The Cianchettes need to Lester. “I have sat in meetings know that the philosophy of with them when they were the Cianchette family will be making serious decisions for carried on by all of us forevthe company and trying to er.” come up with the right Lynn Cianchette, one of answers. They would be askthe three younger Cianchettes ing, ‘How will this affect our working in the company, people? How will it affect our hopes that what John says is business?’ Time and again I’ve true. “It is important. It is what watched them go through the makes us Cianbro. It would be “The brothers need to process.” easy to change, to go with the know that the philosoflow, and do what everyone phy of the Cianchette The word “family” is used else does. over and over by Cianbro peo- family will be carried on “We’re not a glitzy, glamby all of us forever.” ple. Ask them why they work ourous show-boat company. — John Hill We keep it simple. We’re confor the company and they’ll tell you that it’s because of the peotractors and we build things. ple, and because of the family feel the We’re traditional, maybe even old-fashcompany has. ioned, and our word is our bond,” Lynn John Hill says it well: “It’s like you relates. “It is important, as we continue have two families and they are true famto grow, to maintain a consistent image ilies. I don’t come to work in the mornthroughout the company. We must coning just to collect a paycheck. I come to tinue to ask ourselves: ‘Would Chuck, work for the challenge and the people Bud, and Ken approve of this?’ “
The CIANBRO Philosophy
When the Cianchette brothers started their company in 1949, they created both a company and an extended family. Following the lessons taught by their parents, “treat people with dignity, honesty, and respect,” the Cianbro family exercises this principle to this day. We are committed to this principle, which sets the standard for all of our actions.
We believe anyone we associate with deserves to be treated with dignity. Dignity requires creating an atmosphere for people that is safe, challenging, enjoyable, and supportive of individual needs and development. The Cianbro family takes the time to listen, to work toward understanding each other, to forgive, and to care about one another. We are committed to working together to reach our personal and company goals. We treat our employees with dignity at all times, recognize our achievements, measure our growth, and continuously strive to improve. Honesty requires representing ourselves truthfully, dealing fairly, and acting on facts rather than speculation. We believe honesty is the cornerstone of dignity and the precursor of respect; thus, we treat everyone honestly.
We know that respect is earned. Therefore, we must individually demonstrate integrity through our actions and through holding ourselves accountable. A result of respect (trust) is the foundation of relationships and a source of empowerment and freedom to act. We respect and take an active role in the betterment of our communities and environment. Members of the Cianbro family are accountable for their actions, their destiny, and each other. When we make a commitment, we fulfill that obligation: our word is our bond.
CHAPTER NINE Mike Fischer, who was hired as regional manager for the Mid-Atlantic region in February of 1996, was aware of this difference in Cianbro right from the start of his employment. Considering the toughness of the industry, he was immediately impressed with the tenderness shown for the people who work in the organization. “Construction is not for the faint of heart,” he allows. “It can be cut-throat and it is extremely competitive. It is not a business that caters to the individual as a rule. It is a tough, tough show. “And, you’ve got to be tough and hard-driving at times,” Mike continues. “But you’ve got to do it without destroying people. Most companies can’t do it. This company can. The balance is the secret.” He says it’s the brothers’ philosophy of treating their people with dignity and respect that provides that balance. “It’s because of the Cianchette brothers and because of Pete who is living out that philosophy.”
Cianchette legacy carried into firm’s next 50 years It is Mike’s belief that Cianbro, through its philosophy and culture, has developed the ability to make construction a rewarding career. As Pete Vigue looks ahead, he feels that the real challenge now is to perpetuate the organization. In the past, there has been a continual evolution that has kept people working and the company moving ahead. He mentions moving into mechanical and electrical areas in the mid- to late-1970s as two milestones that allowed Cianbro to reach far beyond its basic transportation work. These transitions opened
The last decade of the 20th century has been a busy one with a wide array of contracts keeping the Cianbro team hustling. In 1994, the management group lined up for a photo at the annual stockholders’ meeting.
doors for work in the pulp and paper industries and for supporting the utilities and also helped to grow the company to 1500 employees with an annual revenue of $175 million by the late 1990s. Pete remembers that the mechanical jobs — boiler work, working on pumps, turbines, and paper machines — started on a small scale back in 1974 at the Lincoln Pulp and Paper Company when Dale Gray taught some of his coworkers the basics of pipe fitting and welding. “Those same people today are some of the key leaders in all of our mechanical work.” He names Gary Robbins, Doug Smith, Manley Bragdon, George LePage, and Ed LePage. And Pete credits Peter Schein with fathering Cianbro’s entry into electrical and instrumentation work. When the company was involved with the Madison Paper job in the early 1980s, it became apparent that this expertise should be part of Cianbro’s repertoire. Peter
CIANBRO THE FIRST 50 YEARS
Schein, an independent electrical contractor, had subbed for Cianbro before and the quality of his work had impressed the bosses. Consequently some talks were held, Peter gave up his business, came on board, and over the next few years trained and developed a top-notch electrical group. “Those skills — mechanical and electrical — are very critical skills the company has developed over and above the civil structural skills which went back to the beginning,” Pete Vigue explains. That evolution, always searching out and adding new proficiencies, needs to continue in order for Cianbro to stretch and grow. But just as important, maybe even more so, is the heritage and the culture bequeathed from Cianbro’s rich past that must be part of the future. “The Cianchette brothers have left us with a tremendous legacy,” says Pete. “The legacy isn’t in terms of equipment or real estate. It is a philosophy that they have managed their lives by. “Very simply stated,” he continues, “it is treating people with dignity and respect. It is honoring your commitment. It is recognizing that we as a company and as individuals have a responsibility
When the company was involved with the Madison Paper job in 1980 it became apparent that electrical and instrumentation work should become part of Cianbro’s repertoire. This move eliminated subcontracting that portion of the job. Over the years, the Cianbro team has developed a topnotch electrical and instrumentation group. to make this world a better place than it was before we entered it. We simply cannot be a part of the economy; we’ve also got to be a part of society and we have to give back.” A good example of “giving back,” he points out, is how the brothers have shared the success of Cianbro with their team — “their people.” “They have shared the ownership of
the company.” By the end of 1998, 84 percent of Cianbro stock had been transferred to, and shared by, all company employees, while accumulating an additional $40 million in the employees’ retirement account. It is expected that by the end of 2001 the Cianbro team will have purchased all of the stock. “We do that with the profits from the company,” Pete notes. “That is a gift from the Cianchette brothers to the people who have built the company and who will continue to grow the company.” He points to the slogan Ralph Knowlton introduced years before: “No one in this room is smarter than all of us.” What that translates to, he explains, is that by working as a team — a unit — every person can make a difference. “There isn’t one person in the organization that doesn’t affect the success of the company. “The challenge for us,” Pete acknowledges, “is to continue an atmosphere of open communication and trust similar to that fostered by the brothers. Then we can move forward successfully and prepare this company for the next generation and give them the same opportunities we have been given.”
An honest approach to their daily lives combined with positive attitudes, treating people with dignity and respect, and working together are traits Ralph and Edna passed along to their children.
Their teachings are the cornerstone of the culture and philosophy of Cianbro Corporation.
PPROACHING ITS 50TH anniversary, Cianbro
is one of the East Coast’s largest and most successful construction companies. Employing approximately 1500 team members, this employeeowned company generates annual revenues of $175 million - almost exclusively from self-performed work. With regional offices in Pittsfield, Maine, Bloomfield, Connecticut, and Baltimore, Maryland, Cianbro has established a service territory that extends from the Carolinas to northern Maine. Throughout its history, Cianbro has safely and efficiently planned, managed, and constructed many technically complex and environmentally sensitive projects for a wide variety of public and industrial clients. A total commitment to safety combined with the enthusiasm of an innovative team of construction professionals, has enabled Cianbro to build a durable reputation for completing projects safely, on schedule, and on budget.
PARTIAL CLIENT LISTING: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
MARKET AREAS INCLUDE:
Heavy Industrial Pulp and Paper, Power Generation, Chemical, Utilities, Petro-Chemical,
Construction Management & Commercial Building
Electrical & Instrumentation Metal Fabrication Hydroelectric Marine
Lock and Dam
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Amtrak Ashburton Filtration Facility City of Baltimore Baltimore Gas & Electric L. L. Bean Blue Plains Treatment Facility Bowater/Great Northern Paper Central Maine Power Connecticut D.O.T. Domtar Gypsum Eastern Fine Paper Eastern Maine Medical Center Encore Paper FMC First Urban Paper Fisher Plow W.R. Grace Georgia-Pacific GPU Holtra Chemical Manufacturing International Paper Kimberly-Clark Lincoln Pulp and Paper Maine Energy Recovery Maine D.O.T. Maine Yankee Maryland D.O.T. Massachusetts Highway Dept MBNA of America
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McCain Foods, USA Inc. Mead Paper Merrill’s Marine Terminal National Semiconductor J.J. Nissen Bakery/Interstate Brands Noell, Inc. Northeast Recycling Northeast Utilities New York D.O.T. New York State Thruway Authority Pennsylvania Power & Light Pfizer Piscataway Waste Water Plant Poland Springs Water Potomac Electric Power RESCO Safe Harbor Water Power SCM Chemicals Tamko Roofing Virginia D.O.T. S. D. Warren/Sappi Washington D.C. D.P.W. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Yankee Atomic Electric
Over 85% of our business is from repeat clients.
CORPORATE OFFICE PETE VIGUE, PRESIDENT P.O. BOX 1000 HUNNEWELL SQUARE PITTSFIELD, MAINE 04967 PHONE • 207 487-3311 FAX • 207 487-3861
NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND REGION MAC CIANCHETTE, REGION MANAGER P.O. BOX 1000 HUNNEWELL SQUARE PITTSFIELD, MAINE 04967 PHONE • 207 487-3311 FAX • 207 487-3448
SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND REGION DAVE NARDON, REGION MANAGER 40 EAST DUDLEY TOWN ROAD BLOOMFIELD, CONNECTICUT 06002 PHONE • 860 286-3000 FAX • 860 242-6276
MID-ATLANTIC REGION MIKE FISCHER, REGION MANAGER 711 PITTMAN ROAD BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21226 PHONE • 410 636-3000 FAX • 410 636-3111
We invite you to visit our website at cianbro.com ■ Engineering News Record annually rates the U.S. general contractors based on their annual revenues. Companies are ranked on their overall volume and also by their volume for each market area.
1997 ENR Top 400 Contractors CIANBRO RANKED Top 400 Contractors..........................181ST Top 25 in Bridges................................14TH Top 20 in Semiconductor Plants........ 16TH Top 15 in Pulp & Paper Mills..............7TH Top 25 in Power.................................. 21ST Top 5 in Hydropower............................5TH
A look back at the first 50 years of the Cianbro Corporation.