Retired Lineman and Electrician
Crown Point, Ind.
Started in Industry: 1946
Glenn Zieseniss got his start in the electrical industry courtesy of a milkman. “I lived on a farm, and the milkman quit his job and went to work for the electric line company,” Zieseniss recalls of his start in electric work. “It was 1946, and I had just come home from World War II, where I met the Russians at the Elbe [River]. [The milkman] told me electric work was good work.” On the milkman's suggestion, Zieseniss tried it and never looked back.
Zieseniss started out as a groundman, or “grunt,” on utility line crews, but says circumstances soon led him to work as a lineman. “We were short of workmen then, and there were several of us that started out as apprentice linemen stringing wires,” he recalls. “I started doing mostly 7.2kV line extensions to homes and/or farms in rural areas, and by 1948 was promoted to journeyman lineman, in part because of the shortage of qualified linemen. For the next four years, I worked on increasingly higher voltage lines, and in 1951 and 1952 I worked in an ordnance plant in Illinois that produced ammunition for the Korean War, where I started in the inside wiring field.” From 1952 to 1989, Zieseniss worked as a journeyman lineman and electrician in the Chicago area.
Zieseniss says he saw major changes in equipment and safety materials. “I would say the biggest changes in line work were the use of bucket trucks and improvements in safety equipment,” he says. “When we worked in the ordnance plants, it was all either rubber gloves or maybe some hot-stick work. I've been bitten by 2300V a couple of times, but never got burned, just got bit heavily.”
From 1947 through 49, Zieseniss did a lot of conversion work in Hammond and smaller cities. For the most part, the work consisted of burying conduit in concrete. He also worked with 17 different contractors on schools, hospitals, and the occasional odd job. “In one case an airplane hit a smokestack and that was a specialty job, reconstructing that,” he says.
Zieseniss also served as an electrical inspector for the city of Crown Point, Ind., from April 1984 to March 1998. “On the inspection side, I saw that many contractors were not really keeping abreast of what the Code says for safety,” Zieseniss says. “They seemed to be fighting that all the way.” He says safety is a big thing today for most contractors and utilities, and he points to the increased use of flash hazards and low-impedance transformers as steps in the right direction.
Zieseniss says today's emphasis on design-build may be an example of electrical work going in the wrong direction. “When I was working in the mills, the working prints were excellent,” Zieseniss recalls. “Now you don't know what is going on. The engineers have been priced out of the job for detail work. They leave it up to the guy in the field to figure things out. The prints are just not complete when I see them. In the early years, they had a detail for every column for all the electrical. Nowadays, you have to fight for your spot on that column or figure out what should go on the column.”
In his long electrical career, Zieseniss always enjoyed the freshness of new challenges. “I was never in the same place for very long,” Zieseniss says. “I never was much of one for the maintenance jobs, and preferred building new things and moving on. I was a free electrician to go wherever I was sent. I never drove more than 50 miles for day-in and day-out work, and could always find plenty of work in the Chicago area.”
Zieseniss, who says he has been a faithful reader of EC&M for decades, says something he read in a 1970 editorial has stuck with him through the years. “It was in a ‘Thoughts From Our Shop’ article on page seven of that issue,” Zieseniss recalls. “It said that the inspector must enforce the letter and spirit of the Code that is written, not as the designer or installer would like to see it written. We need to live by laws or else we will have electrical anarchy.”