John McAnany, 57, of West Ashley, a supervising engineer with South Carolina Electric & Gas, started out in the trenches shoveling dirt.
Nearly 40 years later, he watched over a dozen men as they prepared to install a 105-foot steel pole on Coleman Boulevard, eventually replacing the 31-year-old wooden utility pole next to it.
It took five hours of preparation to install the underground base, which included dig- ging around underground cables and pipes before placing a 30-foot tubular steel caisson into a man-size hole in the ground.
Then contractors carefully attached a hydraulic vibrating hammer to the base's top and shook it into the ground, a process that took 10 minutes.
McAnany stood on the sidelines watching the big picture, making sure that no men or equipment came too close to the live transmission lines hanging above them.
McAnany, who grew up in West Ashley, said he wanted to work at the Navy Yard as his father did, but when he couldn't find a job open there, he searched for work at utility companies, knowing a utility would be around for a while.
When McAnany first started, he and other linemen climbed poles with hooks and spurs, and he helped install the original transmission utility lines on Coleman Boulevard.
"I've been up and down all these poles," McAnany said.
Last week, SCE&G replaced 12 shorter 70-foot wooden poles with 11 new tubular steel poles that will carry a heavier load of electricity to a substation off Lansing Drive.
This week, crews will string wire on the poles from the safety of a bucket truck.
The poles were designed to withstand 130-mph winds produced by a Category 3 hurricane.
McAnany, who worked to restore power at river crossings after Hurricane Hugo, said it wasn't the wind but debris sent into the lines that caused major outages after the storm.
Poles typically stay put, which means power can be restored more quickly.
It's been eight years since McAnany has scaled a pole.
And as time has gone by, fewer and fewer of his crew members have been employed by SCE&G.
The linemen who cut trees have been replaced by contracted tree trimmers, and hired police officers conduct traffic.
Some SCE&G engineers watched as contractors installed the new tubular steel poles.
McAnany said they aren't usually on site, as he is every day.
"I bet they'd like to be," he said.
Reach Jessica Miller at 937-5921.