Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One of my Favorite Pictures....

....but it's not one of our children. It was a little girl at company Christmas party for Salvation Army children. And yes, it's me in the background hoping she won't damage the flight control simulator.

I really enjoyed working for McDonnell Aircraft un the days before mergers. Although my clock number was 95702, it didn't seem as if I was working for a large company. The head of the company, J.S. McDonnell, would come over the public address system with pep talks preceded with raps on the microphone and his call, "This is Mac, this is Mac, calling all the teammates." And that was how we felt - part of a team - part of a 'family' of workers, proud of our products and proud of our company. They even had annual company picnics at Blanchette Park in St. Charles, across the Missouri River from the St. Louis airport where the factory was located.

McDonnell Aircraft had all kinds of outreach prograns in the St. Louis area. It was a company that cared for the city it grew up in. The planetarium in Forest Park

was named after J.S. McDonnell. All over the city of St. Louis are things reflecting the generosity of the company. It was a day when there was a personal touch to a Company image - a caring touch that impacted many people.

So it was at Christmas when children were invited to share the Christmas spirit.

Our department hosted a number of children from a less-priviledged life style. The little girl above was one of our guests andit is evident that she is getting a thrill from 'flying' a flight control trainer in the departmental training department. I love the expression on her face. And I was glad to be a part of bringing joy into a young persons life.

I don't think the company atmosphere was ever the same after the merger with Douglas Aircraft. It was more like becoming a corporate number instead of part of a company family. Like so many things, the 'family' atmosphere in industry seems to have disappeared. Maybe it has never been there and it seemed that way just to me. Maybe automation, robots, and labor unrest has replaced old-time industrial pride, but I like to remember a time when a company seemed to care about its community and its employees, and employees were proud of who they worked for. Some of the old time things were not so bad.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Clip Joint - circa 1962

I've had a lot of jobs but the one I've not talked about much was as a barber. I know, the barber's Union may come down hard on me for being a non-union scab, and the Commonweath of Virginia may act retroactively on my non-licensed activities. Or maybe the statute of limitations may have run out since it was a long time ago.

However, the more likely reaction may be a protest from the subject getting the haircut. But maybe he'll appreciate the generous crop of hair being displaced to the ground at the time.

For myself, I'd be pretty well off if I had charged today's going rate for haircuts. But those were days when a penny or three counted and any old way we could save was the way to go. I only had one style of haircut and that was a buzz cut or crew cut. Just whack it off with different cutter heads and say, "well, that's another few dollars saved."

I was in a big department the other day with my good half and mentioned that maybe we might buy a clipper with a variety of heads and she could cut my hair. She gave me one of those looks a wife sometimes gives a husband when he comes up with a far-out idea, and said, "I don't think so." I neglected to say I might pay her to do it - maybe the reaction would have been different.

I think she likes my silver locks the way they are and the way Carolyn does the haircut. Yes, I use a lady barber - a no-no in the old days. After all, the barber shop was a man's stronghold years ago - one of those places a lady never set foot in. Now I may be getting along in years, but I am young enough that I never saw a Police Gazette there and it was too soon for Playboy. But times have changed, and so have some barber shops, and so have the two figures in the picture above. But I won't complain if he won't.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Old Navy

"Old Navy" is a correct description of the vessels above - they go back some 70 years - back, in fact, to World War Two or before. They are models of actual U.S. Navy ships, like the cruiser Portland and destroyers Sampson, Jouett, and Davis.

Before the war started I got the idea of making a scale model of every ship in the active Navy. Using an ancient copy of Janes Fighting Ships (the authoritive book listing all Navy ships of the world) I began to make small models of active ships.
Using small pieces of balsa, at a scale of 100 feet to the inch, I crudely shaped the hulls and super structures. Guns were formed with magnet wire, and the vessels were, for the most part, painted with water soluble poster colors. A scale model of the battleship North Carolina is in the set but it is battered with it's superstructure pretty well gone because it was too high for the box it was in.

I don't know what got me off on this project - I think I saw some models made by a neighbor's son who was a student at Annapolis. Also, I often got caught up in the enthusiam a lot of teen agers had about the Navy in the late thirties and early forties. I even tried to join the Navy during the war but was rejected because I was too young (my father was not happy at all about this ill-fated attempt which involved playing hookie from school).

Anyway, this little box of models has somehow survived all our moves and is a reminder of an early-age passion. So has a copy of the 1942 edition of "Janes all the world Fighting Ships" that provided dimensions and outlines of the ship models.
Not all the ship models survived - among the missing is a very complex model of the first aircraft carrier "Langley". However, I'm happy the small number that HAVE survived are still around - they remain a memory of creative times and of a teen-agers love of the Navy. Now that I think of it, my life has involved the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy at one time or another. Not many people can claim that and no one has this many ships that are long gone but not forgotten by the men who sailed aboard them

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On a slow boat....

Six miles an hour in fact. 48 miles in 8 hours. Compare that with an average of about 520 miles in eight hours on an Interstate highway. To be sure, we've come a long way since the days of canal boats.

We took a short journey (an hour and a half or so) north from Indianapolis the other day to the lovely town of Delphi. An hour and half, that is, by church bus which would have, by my calculation, have taken almost 14 hours by canal boat if there had been a canal directly from Indianapolis to Delphi.

In the mid-1800's the Wabash and Erie Canal was an example of the highest technology of the time. it went from Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie to the Wabash River and Evansville, Indiana on the Ohio River and involved 468 miles. Until the advent of railroads, the canal, second longest in the western hemisphere, was a major contributor to the growth of the midwest. Delphi has made the canal a focus for tourism in Indiana and they have done a magnificent job in doing it. There are museums, restored buildings from the 19th century, and artisans plying trades of the time. We rode the 'Delphi', a replica canal boat and it was a peaceful experience. But we wondered what it would have been like with a full passenger list for an extended time. And we didn't see any restrooms - and neglected to ask what one did at a 'necessary moment' on the cruise.

In the center of Delphi we found a typical traditional Indiana town - the kind we love to visit. We ate at a hometown restaurant in a building which had once been a thriving bar with a brothel upstairs. And there were a number of folks going up and down stairs - hopefully to a second-floor dining room.

All in all, a really nice day in a nice town. I'd like to think we all would find joy and peace in visiting local communities and learning about their unique contributions to the history of our country. All to often we're in a rush to get from here to there on the Interstates and ignore the treasures we pass by in the process. Take a little time to slow down - and enjoy the moment.