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Rare photos show construction of Tower of the Americas

Man earned $2.50 an hour as an apprentice for sheet metal workers union

SAN ANTONIO – A man who helped build the Tower of the Americas shared photos of the construction of the tower as it was being built in 1966.

Richard Castillo, a former apprentice with the Sheet Metal Workers Union, shared the photos with KSAT in 2018 on the 50th anniversary of the tower’s opening. Tower of the Americas opened to the public on April 6, 1968.

Castillo worked as a second-year apprentice in San Antonio during the construction of the Tower, which took four months to complete.

“My father worked seven days per week and 10 hours per day. He earned $2.50 an hour, with time and a half for weekday overtime and double pay on weekends,” Castillo’s daughter, Theresa Martinez, told KSAT in 2018.

Castillo remembers that he was impressed by the amount of money he would be earning when he was employed by the Central Sheet Metal Company as part of a 10-man team that was charged with constructing all the air conditioning ductwork for the Tower. The team consisted of two apprentices and eight journeymen.

“My father recalls the housing of the tower was constructed around the base and stood 30 feet above the ground. Most construction materials and supplies were loaded onto the housing and then it was raised for completion of the work,” Martinez said.

Cage elevators were used to bring supplies up to the top of the Tower of the Americas after it was raised, a process that took six days.

Castillo, who has two daughters, is a San Antonio native and has lived here all his life.

His daughters are eight years apart in age and “whenever we ask my parents why it took so long to have a second child, my dad says it was because he was waiting to save enough money. My sister was born in 1969. This is why the family affectionately nicknamed the Tower of the Americas ‘the baby,’” Martinez said.

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