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These stories are, for the most part, true. However, they are selected for, and edited to, make me look good. I've got lots of stories where I don't shine, those I'll spare us all...    (>38,110 Words)

Really Useful Keys!


Feet in Mouth
Beavers on Kwaj
Youthful Indiscretion
Class Warfare
The Guard Shack
The ZAR Fire
My Marbles
W.R.G. Duane, Jr.
Bill Campbell
Robert Porth
First Zeus Launch
The Savant
Mole on Vacation
SSB Reception
A Kwaja Christmas
U.S. Air Force
OHM's Law
SAC Pilot's Exam
Air Force Academy
Retention NCO
Airman's Pastime
The Mighty B-52
Pilots I have Known
A SAC Story
Lt. Edmund Orr
CBR Team
Attitude Gyros
Western Electric
Single Handedly
The Yellow Line
Midnight Reader
The Bully
Cable Vault Screws
My Days at IBM
Show and Tell
The Demo
Progress is Not Easy
My Job  History
The Liar Detector
Beer Tasting Bet
Two way radio repair
The Ugly Professor
Driver's Ed
An Amazing Sight
Bass Fishing
Coincidence 2
Building a Marine
Stars over Moore's Knob
My Radio Days
Life's Gifts
What happened to Ralph?
Mike King
David Hendricks
MJob  History
 (These stories are not in any particular order, yet.).
WarStories.htm Snippets Glossary
  ABM and EMP A Friend Remembered University Education
    Childhood Stories Secondary Education
A Closed Mouth gathers no Feet
(Once Upon-a-Time on Kwajalein

When I was twenty four, I worked as a civilian electronics technician at the Nike Zeus anti-ballistic missile test facility, run by the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal, located at the western end of the Pacific Missile Range (PMR), on Kwajalein, Island, in the Marshall Islands. 

On a return trip to the island, after vacation, I had just sat down in the connecting bus to our charter flight from Oakland to Honolulu, when a middle-aged man wearing a flowered shirt sat down beside me. 

On the trip to the airport we chatted amiably, and the conversation got around to the Army's Nike-Zeus anti-missile system. Having just finished a tour with the U.S. Air Force, I felt compelled to contrast the Army's Nike-Zeus with the Air Force's anti-missile approach. I raved on about how the Air Force's boost-phase intercept was superior to the Army's terminal-phase interception. 

He listened very patiently, never disagreeing. When the bus reached its destination, we parted company. 

About a week after having returned to the island, my boss, myself and several fellow workers were entering the Officer's Club for lunch, when I was greeted by the outstretched hand of a U.S. Army, Four Star General with his entourage of assorted bird colonels and majors in tow. 

I did a double-take. It was the guy on the bus! 

With his entourage patiently waiting, we chatted like long lost buddies for a few minutes, never once alluding to our previous conversation--he was magnanimous. 

After taking our leave of one another, my boss--who was suitably impressed, turned to me and asked how was it that I knew the head of the U.S. Army Missile Command...


OHM's Law:
(Getting Satisfaction!)

After boot camp in Texas, I spent seven months at Chanute AFB in Illinois going to Link Trainer School, learning to be a Link instructor and repair technician (two schools had been combined).

Failure rate for this course had been 50% until our class, we all passed. I had the highest score in 8 years, and was ask to stay as a course instructor (I mention this because it bears on the story--I think).

I chose to pass on the instructor offer and elected to 'go South' to a SAC base in Georgia, Turner AFB. There I was assigned to the training section where I was to instruct B-52 and KC-135 pilots.

There I encountered a Staff Sergeant I was to work for, Peter Grippando. Right off the bat he had a problem with me. He ragged on me, trying to show me how much smarter than me he was. Since I refused to holler 'Uncle,' the ragging only got worse. 

I could not figure out what his problem was with me. Later I guessed that he may have read my file and may have been intimidated by my AFQT scores; or out ranking me he could be the bully he always wanted to be. Or because he was shorter than me (;-)).

He had a next door neighbor who happened to work in the same section who was also a Staff Sergeant, Andy Gassman. Andy was a nice guy who we all liked, he had a BS in education and use to teach school, he was real smart and was the complete opposite of Grippando. Pete looked up to Andy, they reminded me of Barney Fife and Andy on TV, Andy was always protecting Barney from himself.

This went on for about a year, with Pete toning down his campaign a bit. This may have had something to do with the fact that during this time I took and passed both my Amateur Radio, and Commercial Radiotelephone licenses at the FCC in Atlanta. Both tickets Pete coveted like mad, but never got (don't know if he ever tried). I also won an occasional technical argument, refereed by Andy, of course (:-)).

My last day in the Air Force came and I showed up for work as usual. Pete, a couple of NCOs and officers didn't know that day was my last. So when I announced it, Pete got this weird look on his face. Most were glad for me, well glad anyway (;-)). So that morning I was in and out of the section between getting 'signed out' of different parts of the squadron. 

In the section that morning was a civilian Tech rep that I had worked with the day before, certifying and calibrating my Link trainer. There was an ongoing discussion between Pete and the tech rep as to the wattage rating of a resistor in the duty coffee pot that had burned up. They had calculated the value and were in agreement, and wanted to know if I agreed with them. I did the calculation and came up with a different value. Boy, Pete beamed, the likes of which I had never seen. He shouted "you're wrong!" I don't remember if he said, "I've got you now," but he felt that way, I could see it on his face! He further assured me that he was right because that was the number the tech rep came up with. 

He then walked over to the wall where a Pie chart graphic of Ohms law was, and patted it with his hand while saying to me, "Glen, as you go through life, always remember OHM's Law, it will never let you down!!"

I said that he and the tech rep were both full of Shit! After thinking about it, he said how about if Andy comes up with the same answer? I said, Andy being an adult, is the perfect referee, I'll abide by whatever he says, and Pete agreed.

So, after lunch Andy showed up and Pete asked the question, immediately telling him their answer. Andy went to the chalk board and correctly wrote the formula for deriving the power--according to Ohm's Law, and came up with my answer. Pete was crestfallen, I mean if you had hit him in the gut with a baseball bat, he couldn't have looked worse.

To which I decided there couldn't be a more auspicious time to take my leave, with a room full of people, I walked over to the Ohm's Law chart and patting it, I said--giggling like a school girl, "Pete, as you go through life, always remember OHM's Law, it will never let you down!!" 

Everyone in that room was laughing uproariously.

Then turning, I wished everyone goodbye, and walked out.

Damn, that felt good then, and now in the telling of it!  (:-)))

Later that day, some of the NCOs and Officers in our section, threw a going away party for me--which was one Hell of a surprise to me! It was at a moment's notice, none of them knew I was leaving until noon that day. 

Later, on reflection, I figured they were really celebrating my departure, period! (;-))


The SAC Pilot's Exam

In 1960 I was in the U.S. Air Force stationed at a SAC base near Albany Georgia.

My job there was as a Link Trainer instructor and among my students were SAC B-52 and KC-135 pilots.

Because of that I was required to take the same written exam as the SAC pilots took 90 days before their check ride in their aircraft.

It was an open book test mostly covering SAC rules, regulations, weather, and some flight procedures, and anything below 75 was a failing score.

I had just arrived on the base right out of Link School and I had no exposure to these SAC rules and regulations.

When I first took the exam I failed with a score of 72. The airman giving the exam told me it was OK, he would pass me anyway.

I told him that I had never cheated in my life and I wasn't about to start there; to which he said "Hell its done all the time," he further said that many of the pilots regularly fail and his orders were to pass them anyway.

Because I wouldn't let him change my score, the shit hit the fan in our squadron! It seems that in our squadron I was the only one taking the exam, and the only one to fail, and that reflected poorly on the squadron, and more importantly, on the commanding officer of that squadron.

For weeks assorted officers and non-coms would come around and try talking me into giving in, finally I was threatened with an article 15 and even a court-martial.

Because I wouldn't cooperate I got every the shit detail in the outfit.

A few weeks later the Air Force's Inspector General (God) came to our base to investigate, among other things, the SAC pilot testing and found out what had been going on. The shit really did hit the fan, and a few heads did roll (enlisted only).

Afterward, because the IG found our squadron had done no wrong, thanks to my holding out, my stock shot up, I mean UP! Some of the very people who had threatened me, now wanted to take me out and buy me a beer--Hell a case of beer.

So after that—for a while, I could do no wrong!


Pilots I have Known

In my job as a Link Trainer instructor, I would  have the pilot fly a predetermined flight plan as I acted as an Air Traffic Controller, and run them through the lesson plan, during which time I would put in various problems such as an unexpected cross wind on landing and/or takeoff, or an engine flameout, a fire, etc.

For newbie pilots I would sometimes provide chalk board instruction, answering their questions and clarifying certain things they were weak on.

A majority of pilots hated Link time, some thought it a valuable use of their time, and coincidentally, the ones that felt that way were, for the most part, the better pilots. 

There were three kinds of pilots I had in my trainer, (1) bomber and tanker pilots that flew just about every day--who "flew for a living." (2) transport or MATs pilots, they flew low and slow prop cargo planes, and finally, my favorite, (3) Pilots who no longer fly but have administrative or other non flying jobs, but are eligible for flight pay as long as they log real and Link time and pass their check rides and written exams. __I wouldn't have flown with these clowns on a bet!

One would think that by the time pilots get to the field they would know pretty much everything they need to know about flying their aircraft. Sadly this was not the case with some pilots. Case in point: one day about a dozen MATS (transport) pilots came to our section with a question, and a bet, on how a very important navigation instrument worked. The debate was about the so-called, donut needle on the VOR instrument. Half believed the needle always pointed to the VOR station; the rest thought, correctly, it was a magnetic compass, and it only pointed to the station if you had the station's inbound heading dialed in. We told them which was correct, but some pilots still didn't believe us until we demonstrated it on the trainer. 

I give the pilots high marks for having the "balls" to come over and, exposing their ignorance, asking the question. These particular pilots were, for the most part, long in the tooth, and some were "over the hill," and with all that flying time, should have known better.

The whole experience was a shocker to me--to us all. From there on out I never assumed a pilot knew something, so never worried about stating the obvious.

Link time was a requirement, so many hours per year, and for the SAC pilots, 90 days before their check ride--in their aircraft, they had to do that check ride in the Link.

Most pilots took the check ride in the trainer seriously, a few didn't. One who didn't was a major who flew B-52s. He complained to me how it was a waste of his time. I reminded him that until he passed the check ride in my trainer, he couldn't take it in his aircraft. That didn't endear me to him.

I started grading his performance as he was simulating lifting off the runway at 130 kts.,  at the same time he reaches over and starts tuning his radios. As I'm grading him off for that error, I ask him why he tuned his radio at such a crucial time--breaking ground (now called rotation), he said that's something his copilot would normally do. To try to convey to him that he needs to take this exercise more seriously, I told him that I had graded him off for that numbered test item. He blew up at me, I suggested that he might want to wait until after the "flight" is completed to discuss it, and he calmed down.

The rest of the flight was uneventful except for his sloppy tracking of his prescribed flight path, for which I cut him some slack--he had already failed. 

After the flight we reviewed his performance, especially his tuning of the radios. Because of that one error, he failed, which meant that he would miss his check ride in his aircraft. He was livid at the news! I asked him if he would have tuned his radios during his check ride in his B-52, and he said that his copilot would do that. I said, well how about if your copilot was in the can, would you do it then? He said the copilot wouldn't be in the can...

He went to my NCO In Charge demanding that I change his grade. My Sergeant came to me and I told him what the pilot had done, and he agreed with me.

This went on for weeks with the major threatening to have me court marshaled if I didn't change his grade. During this time several NCOs and an officer or two came to me and suggested that I relent. I said if they would read the line item on the test and understanding the reasoning behind it, came back and told me that I was wrong, that I would change his grade. And I quickly reminded them of the IG's visit (see) and suggested that he might disagree with how WE ALL had handled this situation. They backed off.

A few weeks later the major took the test over with a different instructor--he passed.


The Professor who would be King

In 1969 I was invited to work as an Electronics Technician in the E.E. Department at NCSU, in Raleigh, NC. My job was the design and construction of various hardware related to research projects that were ongoing in the department, more precisely with the Themis Project which was funded by the DoD and the Defense Communications Agency, and later the USAF's Rome Air Development Center. These projects dealt with digital communications, and bandwidth reduction of same.

The Themis project had among it's participants, graduate students, some professors from the department, and me--the only electronics technician. Heading Themis was one of the few professors with any industry experience, that being with Bell Labs in the Digital Communications Group (he worked on Picture Phone{tm}).

One of the professors was an arrogant fellow that rubbed just about everybody he met the wrong way, including his students. He could walk into my lab and talk to me with such condescension dripping from his lips, that after five minutes I had a knot in my stomach and I wanted to grab him by the neck and squeeze until his eyes crossed and his tongue stuck out! But I was told there was a prohibition against that sort of activity, _Bummer! 

His  big claim to fame was that he had attended UCLA Berkeley with Bill Hewlett, and that he had been offered the chance to buy-in early on HP--and he chose not to.

When I first took that job I was paid for only half time, with a promise of full time pay after six months. After I had been there about two or three months, I was at one of our Themis, weekly meetings, this professor--I'll call him Bill, stood up and addressed the group. He said, "I want to report that I have been monitoring Mr. Williamson for the last six weeks, and I want to report that he only puts in an average of six hours a day." The Director--I'll call him Ben, said, "Bill we only pay him for four hours. And I happen to know he also works at home in his own lab an equal number of hours--if not more."

Bill got this really dumb look on his face, and did this nervous gesture he does, and sat down. Everyone was laughing uproariously. I could have hugged Ben's neck!

The news that Bill had stooped so low as to spy on me, trying to discredit my ass, really pissed me off. Not wanting to let sleeping Assholes lie, I made up my mind to "do him good." 

Meantime Bill was gathering information toward purchasing a heat pump, and was asking around if anyone could help. I had some G.E. stock from my time at GE in Lynchburg, VA. I had recently received my Annual Stock Holder's Report, and in it there was a spread on, of all things, heat pumps. So, taking a leaf from my "flesh taking" on Kwajalein, I started with the address label on the Annual Report. I changed it to read:

I had the 15k shares, run off the end of the label, making it look as if the number of shares showing was a fault of the printing process.

After doctoring the label, I told a friend to whom I had loaned the Annual Report, to pass it on to Bill, and mention that he could keep it, that I didn't want it back.

After about a week or two, Bill showed up at my lab with the Annual Report in his hand. He thanked me profusely, calling me, Glen, which he had never done--it had always been, "Mister Williamson." After five minutes, I realized that I wasn't feeling that old knot in the stomach, and I didn't feel the urge to squeeze his neck until...

It had been a week or two, so it didn't hit me at first why he was being so accommodating. Then it hit me, my ploy had Worked! It was working! Not fully convinced, I tested him; I interrupted him in mid sentence. Normally he would keep talking and not pay any attention to what you were saying, and he would usually scrawl at you. This time he did none of that, in fact he abruptly stopped talking, he did it so quickly, I forgot what I was going to say.

A funny note, in calculating how much 15 k shares was worth, I had made a mistake and figured it a around $135 thousand, when in fact it was $1.35 million. No wonder he acted so impressed!

Being a perfectionist, I wanted to milk it for all he was worth.

He started stopping by the lab and inviting me to 'brown bag it' with he and about a half dozen fellow professors, in the department library. A few times I brought my lunch and ate with the group. Inevitably the conversation would get around to stocks and finances, and I usually offered few opinions, and say that's why I have a broker, and grin like Hell. When I appeared to be on the verge of pontificating, they would all stop talking and give me their rapt attention. And when and if I offered an opinion I never heard an argument, it was as if they were the students and I was the teacher. At times it was downright embarrassing! At some point I started to feel sorry for this pathetic man. The fact that he measured people's value as a person based on their "D & B rating," is kind-a-sad.

Most of the department knew what I was up to, and most--especially those who had suffered his condescension, thought it more than appropriate.

Many years after that I was given a faculty position in the ECE Department, sans degree. I had an office on the forth floor in Daniels Hall, room 404 (there's a joke in there somewhere). At the time I remember thinking, how would Bill take the news that I, with no degree, was on the faculty with him? But by that time his mind was taken over by age and he was beyond caring. I know that back in the day, it would have flat "Jacked his Jaws," for sure!

A couple of years later, who should move in directly across from me in the emeritus' faculty office, but Bill Bar.....


The Bully

While working for Western Electric Company (WECo), I started on a new job at the Fort Lee SAGE facility at Fort Lee, VA, near Petersburg. I was working with mostly older guys that had already served in the military. Being the youngest among them, I was the butt of the usual derision that older guys visit on the young, which, for the most part, I let roll of my back. But, there is always one Asshole who is never satisfied, and carries it too far, and making life a pain.

One such Asshole regularly ragged on me, relentlessly. He was an ex-navy man who looked a little like the movie actor, Victor Mature, and he knew it. I couldn't understand what his beef was with me. His main theme was that I was ugly and he wasn't. Wishing to be left the Hell alone, I would try various tactics trying to get this clown off my back. Sadly, at that time in my life I had a pretty bad self image, and what he was saying only reinforced it.

This went on for months and no matter what I tried, it only got worse, sometimes I was sorely tempted to go to my supervisor and complain, but I figured--rightly or wrongly, in the long run, that would only make it worse. But I realized this crap was taking its toll, and short of shooting the Son of a Bitch, I had to do something.

One day, at lunch, which we mostly ate in the lunch room there at the facility, an opportunity arose. A group of us were sitting together along with this guy, and he started in on me with this audience taking it all in. He said how I was so hideous and there was nothing I could do about it, Blah, Blah... I looked straight at him, and said in a loud voice, "no (I called him by name which I can't remember) you are wrong, I can have plastic surgery, you on the other hand can't do a Damn thing about your IQ!"

There was laughter--at his expense, and he got this stunned look on his face, which soon turned to one of anger. He muttered something under his breath--which I couldn't understood, and eventually he got up and left.

After that, with a couple of exceptions, he stopped his ragging on me. And, later, believe it or not, we actually became friends...


Bass have No Monopoly on a Big Mouth

My son Lee is an avid fisherman. He taught himself at a very early age, in fact he taught me how to fish, and is responsible for my love of the sport of Bass fishing today. 

He is such a gifted fisherman, that at the age of fourteen or so, he was invited to join The Raleigh Bassmasters. Many is the time he would have the top catch of the day. He developed such a reputation, and was so well liked, that the different boat owners would vie for his choosing their boat.

Note: Unlike some, Lee did this without any help from anybody, it was strictly on his own merit.

We happen to also belong to the Sir Walter Gun Club, located North of Creedmoor, NC. (Lee in also a firearms expert, in his own right--he'll get on me for saying that).

Anyway, one day he and I were at the gun club fishing in one of two Bass ponds on the property. I was using my yellow plastic worm (I caught my first Bass with it), Lee was walking the pond perimeter observing the Bass activity, and casting, testing their "mood." 

As we are enjoying the moment, all of a sudden an Isuzu wagon pulls up near the pond, and two couples, in their late twenties or early thirties, bound out. One of the guys with a rod and a tackle box, heads toward the pond, talking a mile a minute, giving unsolicited advice on Bass fishing to all within earshot. His companions are clearly ignoring him, I'm paying him no mind, so he directs his "advice and pointers," to the youngest there, Lee, who is totally concentrating on the fishing at hand. As the non-stop tips are spewing forth, all of a sudden Lee snags a giant fish! He has hooked a whopper. The Bass fights like no fish I'd ever seen--even on TV with Roland. As Lee is bringing him in, he's so large that Lee steps into the pond to make Damn sure he lands him--which he does!

Lee steps out of the pond, wet from the knees down, holding on to that fish--for dear life, and sporting the proudest look I'd ever seen on him! 

In a subtle way of rubbing it in, Lee nonchalantly strikes the pose of, "it's no big deal, I do this all the time." Picking up on it, it's all I can do to keep from busting a gut!

That Bass was the largest fish I had ever seen taken out of there. He weighed six to eight pounds. Of course, Lee released him back into the pond, with a fond farewell...

The "talker" never stopped giving advice on the best bait, even while Lee was landing the fish. And afterward, he never acknowledged the fish--it seemed to be a non-event to him, but not to his friends, who whooped and hollered...


Coincidence 2

In 1967 I was working as an Electronics Technician at General Electric Communication Products Department, in Lynchburg, VA.

One day at the beginning of Winter, I was leaving for the day when it began to snow. Everybody on the first shift was lined up in the parking lot, trying to get out. The lot was arranged such that how fast you got out depended heavily on other people's benevolence.

Since I lived in Danville, VA, seventy miles away, I was especially eager to get out of there. I was waiting for the car in front of me, as well as the generosity of the drivers to my right on the feeder road. When my turn finally came, the driver to whose debt I would forever be in--or not, was a nice looking young woman. She motioned me out, and I was free! As drove out I waved and smiled a smile of true gratitude, and went home to Danville, which had accumulated a couple of inches by the time I arrived.

The next morning, the roads were surprisingly clear, so I started out for work wondering how it would be up the road. As I got close to Lynchburg I could see that they had what looked like six to eight inches of snow. Thinking that was going to make it bad on the secondary roads near the plant, I was preparing for the worst.

As I neared work, the four lane road that I was on came to a cloverleaf that fed into my road, and there were bumper to bumper cars, relying on the benevolence/decency of those in my lane. As I approached the point where you would or would not--let somebody in, I was thinking of the nice young woman who I was so grateful to the day before.

As it came my turn, I look to my right at the driver who was next--I couldn't believe my eyes! It was her! The very same woman who had let me in line the day before!

I motioned to her to pull out and as she pulled out I waved, as she pulled in front of me, she slowly recognized me and as she was going down the road ahead, she was franticly waving. I never saw her again.

A funny note: After that coincidence, I had paranoid thoughts that she might have thought that it was a put up job, an elaborate "stalking."

For years since then, I've wondered what are the odds of that happening...

Coincidence #1
Coincidence #2
Coincidence #3

My WECo Adventures

In 1957 I was part of a group of itinerant WECo installers putting in a #5 crossbar upgrade to the Central Office in Lynchburg, VA. I worked for several months on the first shift, as the project neared completion they added a third shift and since I was a FNG and not married, I was selected--or so that was the story.

The night I was to start, I arrived at about 11:45 PM, finding the third floor empty and all to myself. Puzzled and thinking I may be on the wrong floor, I went into the darken Frame Room, looking for a soldering iron. Since I couldn't find the light switch I had to feel around for said iron, walking along the main distribution frame and the rolling ladders that were between the frame and an outside wall with very large windows that went from floor to ceiling.

As I reached out for the next ladder, at the level where the clamp-on soldering iron holders were to be found, I suddenly felt a hand!

That scared the Shit out of me! I let out a scream like a girl.

A voice came out of the dark saying "shut up Glen!" "For God's sake keep quite!"

Immediately I was aware of the presents of at least a dozen people in that room, all shushing me.

By that time my eyes had adjusted enough to see my fellow installers standing on "A" ladders, lined up at each giant window. They were peering into the building across the street.  The building was the YWCA, whose third floor was directly across from our third floor, and was the girls dormitory. Because it was late Spring and the lack of air conditioning, the girls' windows were wide open with no signs of shades or curtains. And, the girls themselves were dressed accordingly.

They would lie in bed in various degrees of undress, while reading, and enjoying their midnight readers. No TVs.

** Relating this story now, I must confess to feeling guilty at having given in to my teenage hormones back then. Times and hormones have changed :-((}.

Our routine was to gawk at the girls until 1:00 AM when most turned out the lights, or the weekends when they stayed up past 2:30 or 3:00AM. Yes, we worked weekends  __Yea Overtime!

We took our break at 2:00AM and made sure it was in the company of the telephone operators (who could attest to our presents). Afterward we would work hard at our assigned jobs, until 4:00AM when we all piled into several vehicles, and either go to an all night restaurant (no booze) or more often we would pick up some take-out and crash at either my trailer or our supervision's trailer (booze).

We would continue this--drinking, gambling, and listening to music, until about 5:45AM, at which time we headed back to the office and took our break--again with the operators present.

Afterward we worked like beavers until quitting time, 8:00AM, at which time we would gather en masse, in front of the office, again gawking at the girls leaving the YW on their way to business school, seeing if we could recognize them with their cloths on ;-)).

The final irony to this story is we, as a group, were awarded a commendation for finishing the job two weeks ahead of schedule, and with way fewer mistakes than expected (we set a record).

P.S. As I was writing this, it kept occurring to me that anybody reading this would think it was made up, or at the very least, several stories strung together. It is all true, in fact I cleaned it up a bit--several details I left out because I felt would strain credulity.


WECo Adventures, a Job Well Done

At nineteen, I was the youngest Installer in a Western Electric installation group that went from city to city installing telephone central office equipment. 

Being the youngest in a group of old salts, I was often the butt of jokes and the derision sometimes given to the young by the "veterans." Also, as I was to find out later, a lot of the mistakes made in the installation were blamed on me. 

I discovered this one day after the completion of an unusually large job at the U.S. Air Force's SAGE air defense filter center, at Fort Lee, Virginia. 

The project manager--Captain Cook, a rather stern man whom we all were a little afraid of, gathered all the employees for a mass meeting.

Out of the blue, he called me up to the front. Standing behind me with one hand on my shoulder, he said that the installation was ahead of schedule and was a success, and that he wanted to thank Williamson especially, for "single-handedly installing the office."

He said that he knew I had single-handedly done the job because every mistake found in the entire installation had been blamed on him, therefore "he must have been all over the place." 

I was stunned! But of course I knew that was just his way of putting some wise asses in their place, never the less my, stock had been elevated for a while at least.

From that day on, I was seldom blamed for other people's mistakes...


"Driver's Ed"  1989

I had just finished reading an article in the Readers' Digest about a mother's recollection of her father's teaching her to drive--thirty years ago. And how that memory relates to her--present day--task of teaching her own children to drive. 

The theme is how her father exercised patience with her, and how she is trying to do likewise--but finding it difficult; she wished her father could "come back" and share his secret with her.

Reading this, reminded me of my son, Lee's, early driving experiences. 

Lee learned from "the pro" at his school's Driver's Ed course. 

As I recall, Lee had little confidence in the instructor, and pretty much drew his own conclusions about this new discipline. [1]

Jumping ahead:
Lee's mother did a great thing by trusting Lee enough to help him get his very own automobile--a 1984 Ford Bronco. 

Lee loved the freedom, of which it had a double portion--it was a four-wheel-drive Bronco! Great for "Tooling thru the Tulles." 

Lee soon learned the difference between the Hype of "4-WHEELING," and the deep realities of a vehicle with 4-wheel drive. 

Jumping ahead a little more: 
Not long after Lee got his Bronco, that Fall--late in the season, he and I went camping in the mountains toward Boone. 

Lee did the driving. 

Now, we all know how it is having a parent in the car with us--especially in our early driving years, you know, the first ten to thirty! Well anyway, Lee is very aware he has an "Instructor Pilot" in the Right Seat making judgments on his skills as a brand new occupant of the Left Seat. And, of course, he is right. 

However, I did make a point of leaving my "clipboard" at Home--this time! 

The weather was cold and as we drove West, the road conditions started to deteriorate--a mixture of water from melting ice and the occasional patch of ice that hadn't yet had the sun's warmth. Lee handled all of this as though he had been born to it!

When I was his age, I alternated between being too cautious, and throwing caution to the wind. Nobody ever accused me of having good judgment--ego yes, judgment No!

Lee is one of those people whose judgment has always seemed to be just the right balance between intellect and emotion. 

I made a decision: 
I had known this kid for all of his sixteen plus years, and I had rarely--if ever, found his judgment lacking. So what was different now? The answer was, nothing. --And his proven driving skills up to that point hadn't hurt this premise. 

At that point in time, and on that trip, was the last time I consciously--or unconsciously--critiqued his skills as a driver.  --No more right-foot synchronized brake peddling for me. 

From there on out, I became a tourist. 

Instead of watching the distance between the road's edge and the Bronco's right front wheel, I sat back and took-in the magnificent scenery and enjoyed the rest of the trip; and since that time, I have never looked back! 

Lest it be misunderstood, I am not claiming a parallel between me and the patient father in the aforementioned Readers' Digest story. This is about a young man who is Trustworthy!

[1] One of the most effective learning tools--for some people, is to have an instructor whom you Do Not Trust to give you the real poop! That is to say: you check out everything they say--trying to catch them making a mistake. 

A requirement of course, is that you first must really want to know the subject matter. 

The magic of this combination, is that you pay much closer attention to what's being "shoveled," than you would otherwise. 



In 1962 I was on Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands. I used several of the government ham stations on the island. Most every night I would operate the Navy ham station, KX6BU (Brown Underwear). I would spend my time running phone patches for the people on the island, or for myself, or I would just chew the fat with stations back in the states, other countries--depending on conditions. A good deal of the time band conditions were optimum for other Pacific islands.

One night I was talking to someone on an island in the Marianas. He was about my age and he also worked as a civilian employee, but for the US government. He ask me where I was from, I said I'm from a little town in Virginia I'm sure you never heard of--Danville, Virginia. He came back saying did you go to GW High? I said yes! He said, did you have Lefty Wilson? I said, Damn right! I said, what the Hell is your last name? He told me (sadly I can't recall it today). I said mine's Williamson, Glen Williamson! 

I knew the guy, we were class mates in George Washington High School. What are the odds? We spent the next several hours reminiscing, until the band went out.

When I got back state side to Danville, I looked him up.

I would love to know the odds of that happening...

Coincidence #1
Coincidence #2
Coincidence #3

Youthful Indiscretion
   (My fifteen minutes of...)

During my eighteen months on Kwajalein, there were times things got pretty Damn boring. 

I remember one such time. 

One of my jobs, among others, was to calibrate and repair the test equipment used on the island. One day I was unusually bored and looking for a diversion. I happened to be working on a signal generator (miniature transmitter), and I needed to test it out. So I got the bright idea to connect it to the 120 volt A.C. wall receptacle and broadcast through the power mains to the AM radio in the lab that was tuned to the island's only radio station, AFRS.

I hooked up a microphone to the signal generator and started to broadcast as if I were running my Link Trainer from my old Air Force days. Since I had been stationed near Albany Georgia, I used the same voice procedure I had used there: "Air Force 123 this is Albany Approach. I understand you are declaring an emergency, is that correct?" "Roger, understand you are declaring an emergency. You are cleared for a straight-in approach on runway 27, contact Albany GCI on 125.2 at outer marker..."

The broadcast came out loud and clear on the lab's radio--I was surprised at how it drowned out AFRS, and how loud my broadcast was. I looked around to see the response of the other guys in the lab, they were listening intently, completely unaware of my connection. I chimed in with them while trying to keep up the radio chatter, all the time trying desperately to keep my secret.

My supervisor went out into the hallway to see if others were hearing this and to findout where it was coming from. After a couple of minutes he came back reporting it was all over the building.

It had came out loud and clear on every radio in the whole Damn building--the U.S. Army's Joint Technical Operations (JTO) Building!  __Oops!

One of the secretaries whose husband just happened to work in the island's control tower, called her husband who was also the Chief Petty Officer in charge of the ATC section. She told him of the "plane that had an emergency at the Albany, New York airport." So he alerted God knows who!

Meanwhile, finding out the hornet's nest I had just stirred up, I'm looking under my workbench for a place to hide! 

My response to the news of the aircraft's plight, was, "gosh, I wonder how that radio signal got all the way out here--must be one Hell of a Skip."

Fortunately I had not revealed that I was the source of that broadcast. And, I Never Did!


First Lieutenant Edmund Orr

Lieutenant Orr was the only officer that I had any use for.

That may have been because he was a "Mustang," he had come up through the ranks--he had once been my rank. Also, he was a nice guy and was a 'Fair' man, not a bad combination! It didn't hurt that he seem to like me (:-)). 

Since he was a non flying officer and a First Lieutenant, he was given various Shit jobs around the squadron that nobody else wanted or would take. Sometimes too many people were giving him too many jobs and they were taking their toll. He rarely complained. 

Once, to help him with all his work he started using Benzedrine pills that were given to air crews on long flights. I think the pills revved him up enough to go after the idiots that were dishing out all the jobs, pretty soon he wised up and got off the stuff. Back in the day, it was SOP to take those things in SAC. And, you could tell who was on the stuff, and who wasn't. I never was.

He was the only officer who never threaten or cajoled me when I wouldn't allow my SAC Pilot's Exam scores to be fudged (see).

Two days before I was scheduled to leave the service, we were deep into a big G.I. party (cleaning the barracks), which up until then we had never done. I needed to go to my section to prepare my Link Trainer for the yearly visit of the manufacture's Tech rep.

The Airman First in Charge wouldn't let me go. Being a short, short timer, I didn't want any part of a frigging G.I. party! So I telephoned Lt. Orr and told him that it was imperative that I prepare my trainer for the Tech rep's visit. Of course I mostly lied... 

So Lt. Orr told the Airman First in Charge to let me go, which he did, he wasn't too awfully happy about it either.  __Bo-Who!

So I go to my section, and my first impulse is to lounge around and to take it easy. Then it occurred to me that it would be just my luck for Lt. Orr to show up.

I go straight over to my trainer and take off the covers, hook up a test-set, and the door to the section opens and in walks Lt. Orr. With the most innocent look on my face I could muster, I turned towards him and said, "good evening sir, it's good to see you! He smiled and said it's grand to see you Willie! We chatted for a few minutes, and then he left, satisfied--I think, that I was a man he could trust.

The evening that I left, several of the NCOs and Lt. Orr, among others, threw me a "Surprise," going away party at my NCOIC's (Sergeant Christensen) off base home--beer, cake, Piazzas, etc. And, it was at a moment's notice too, because none of these guys knew I was leaving until noon of that day. I was so touched, I almost felt like re-upping (;-)).

Not only was I blown away by the surprise party, but Lt. Orr told me that I was the best troop he had ever served with, and he was really sorry to see me go. 

I was embarrassed to say the say the least, but it made me feel good at the same time. I had never considered myself anything more than a mediocre airman at best.

If I'm honest, I think part of where they were coming from was my looking good to the IG (Inspector General). 

You never know, sometimes, what kind of impression you are making, at the time you're making it...


Retention NCO

When I was at Turner AFB in Georgia, I was continually hounded by a Tech Sergeant, Bill Higginbotham, who had way too much time on his hands. He was after me to stay in the Air Force and make it a life's career. He had been given the job of Retention NCO for our squadron. He was on others too, but it seemed that I was a challenge to him.

One day we, he and I, were given orders to go TDY (temporary duty), to MacDill AFB near Tampa, Florida, for two weeks, for some sort of course.

A week or two before I had received my TDY orders for MacDill, I had written my mother to send me several pay stubs from my Western Electric installer's job, the ones with lots of overtime and large totals. I did that to use as ammo against him. Now that we were going to be together for two weeks, I took the stubs along.

When we got there, we spent lots of time in class and drinking at night, where I would fill his head with stories of "golden streets in the private sector!" And of course I would wave the pay stubs under his nose as proof.

By the time we got back, he was sold. In fact, he went to the squadron Commander and resigned as Retention NCO. Which hurt him in getting his next strip. He told the Commander that in all good conscience he could not tell young men to stay in the Air Force, when he was convinced that industry was the only place that had a future. 

After I left there, a buddy of mine wrote me that Higginbotham had resigned from the Air Force two years before his retirement, and took a technician's job with NASA at Cape Canaveral for a whole lot more money.

I think I should have at least gotten a Thank You note (;-)).


Charity begins at the Air Force Academy

One day a Master Sergeant came by the section soliciting money for the Air Force Academy. There were several things that you could contribute to, but the thing he was pushing was a one hundred dollar seat for the football stadium. For that amount they would put a plaque on the back of the seat with your name on it. 

He went to everybody in the section, when he got to me, I laughed, thinking it was a joke. He didn't take that well at all, he bristled and said something to the effect that his time was too valuable to go around making jokes--which I bristled at.

I told him that I had dozens of worthy charities that I had never given to, and that this cause was dead last on my list of causes, and that until I had given to all those other causes, then I might consider his cause. It was his turn to bristle, and he did. He started in on me telling me how wrong I was to be so selfish, Blah, Blah... I told him that the very idea of soliciting the enlisted guys, especially the ranks below NCO, to contribute to something they would never see or benefit from, and that the only people who would benefit were the officers--let them contribute!

In 1959 one hundred dollars was a Hell of a lot of money, at my pay grade it would take me six months or longer to save that much, and I would have to do without in order to do that.

He said that I had a poor attitude, to which I said, that his attitude, "wasn't anything to write home about," to which he growled, and I said, "you know Sarge, you can catch a lot more flies with honey..." At that he turned red in the face, turned on his heels and stormed out.

I would like to say we never saw him again, but alas, he showed up a couple of days later, and just about every other day for the next month or two. He was nuts!

He had gotten committals from several of the troops at first, but when the guys saw that the world didn't end when I refused, they all backed out. At the end of this sorted affair, nobody had contributed one red penny! Ha!

On reflection, I felt sorry for the guy. He was near retirement, his MOS had been phased out, so he was without a job, and some asshole at higher headquarters had saddled him with this Shit job. But, still, I would never, ever, contribute to that absurd cause!

I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but I can't. The Sergeant's OIC, a Captain, had us all on the carpet for some bogus reason, I can't remember exactly what, but the Air Force Acadamy was conspicuously never mentioned.

Anyway, the upshot of all this was all of us in the section, including the NCOs, spent three hot August days--the weekend, on the flight line putting up tents (on concrete) for Armed Forces' Day, or something like that. Which only made us feel even better about our decision!


Every Airman should have a Pastime

I was stationed at Chanute AFB, IL, a training base, to attend a seven month school. Since I was new there, I had to learn the unique rules for that particular base. Among the rules, one "stuck out, loud!" It was a rule that had brought down a lot of troops--especially NCOs; it stated that you were required to salute the base commander--a three star general, whenever you were in sight of him, when he was in his vehicle, and when he was not in his vehicle (salute only the vehicle), and the vehicle even without his flag. Failing to salute meant an article fifteen and a reduction in rank--for NCOs that meant loosing all but three strips (E3).

That enraged everyone! I had always disliked saluting, but now I hated saluting and I resented the officers I had to salute.

One afternoon I had had my belly full of saluting and it dawned on me, if I hate it, the officers probably hated it too. So I started crossing over to meet oncoming officers so he had to salute. That was entertaining for a while, but I wanted to see them sweat, so I got the bright idea to go down to the commissary--the grocery section. There the officers were helping their wives load up their station wagons, and happily some were in uniform. Without being too obvious, I would approach them and would salute and if they ignored me I would hold the salute until they finally returned it, or passed me by. A lot ignored me and never answered my salute. But, the ones (mostly younger lieutenants and some captains) would return it, while juggling their bags of groceries--that was a HOOT! (:-)).

Later my buddies joined in--it never got old.

Every Airman should have a Pastime!!

NOTE: At most air bases, saluting while on the flight line, was forbidden.


The Yellow Line isn't just down the Highway

When I was working as an installer for the Western Electric Company (WECo), at Fort Lee, Virginia, at an Air Defense Filter Center, which was part of the SAGE Project; I had occasion to work in a part of the facility that required a secret clearance, it was the Blue Room.

The 'Blue Room' was off limits to all except those who had the highest clearance. We had heard of a Major that had strayed over a security yellow line, he was placed under arrest and sweated for 9 hours stripped to his boxers. Looking back I think the story was fake to scare the troops straight, back over that yellow line. 

Anyway, one day I went to the "Blue Room" to buzz out some circuits, I was escorted by a Air Force guard who was supposed to stay with me, but he left. After a few minutes the room filled up, the lights went down and some special top secret tests started up. The tests lasted for over an hour. In the meantime it dawned on me that I had No business in that room and I started thinking about the Major. I couldn't remember if I had put on clean underwear that morning or not.

Class warfare, is there any Other Kind

While on Kwajalein I worked as an Electronics Technician. Most Engineers on the island got along with the technicians, treating us, for the most part, as peers. Occasionally you would run across some knothead who acted as if we were beneath them. The newer the engineers were the worse they were about that. The older engineers realized the technician were valuable to have around, and could be the one to pull them out bad situations. It was akin to the 'old salt' Sergeant looking out for the FNG Lieutenant in the movies.

One engineer was a good friend and we use to pal around and drink together. One day he got a new room mate who he had known in the states. We had a few meals together and he seem like an alright guy. One day at lunch he realized that I was a technician, not an engineer like he thought. Well, from then on he was cold, almost rude to me. He would avoid me, and even pretend that he didn't even see me at times.

That really pissed me off, and even hurt a little. I asked my buddy, Kelly, what was up with his room mate, he said that he had a history of being a bit of a snob.

During some of our meals we talked about he and I both serving in the Air Force, and having the same rank, Airman Second (E2).

So wanting to fix this snob’s "little red wagon," and have some fun--at his expense of course! I got this idea, I would con him into believing that I was, in fact, an officer in the Air Force Reserves, which beat his rank of an enlisted E2. I wanted to see how he treated me then. I felt I knew, if I brought this off. I let my buddy know what I was up to and I also enlisted his help.

First I let it drop that I had misunderstood the snob when he told me he was an Airman Second, and I said that was my rank also when I served. But in fact I had been a Second Lieutenant Air Crewman at the time we were talking about. 

His attitude changed toward me somewhat, but I could tell he wasn't completely convinced

I was in the Air Force reserves, but at the rank of Airman Second (E2), and I happened to receive the monthly reserve magazine. The magazine was received by officers and enlisted alike, the only difference would be the address label.

I asked an Army Captain friend of mine what would be the difference in an officer's serial number and an enlisted serial number. He said where my number started with, AF, an officer's would start with an M. He also said that was true for both Air Force and Army, when I asked. So I proceeded to craft a fake mailing label for my magazine by first typing four or five carbon copies of the label, I took the second or third copy and cut it out the same as the original, including the two little notches that were cut out at the top and bottom. Once I had swapped them, you couldn't tell the difference. I was as proud as any counterfeiter who had just turned out a shinny new twenty.

Now came the hard part, since I wanted the "mark" to see the magazine, or more precisely, the label, I got my buddy, Kelly, to casually stop by my room with him on the way to lunch. Before they showed up I planted the magizine, face, and label, down on my bed.

They walked in and we chatted a few minutes, I then pretended that I needed to show Kelly something about my tape recorder. As we were talking, I watch the mark in the mirror. He looked to see if I was watching, and quickly picked up the magizine, took a long glance at the label, then put it down, face down on my bed.

I could hardly contain myself. Nothing I had ever planned and/or tried had ever worked anywhere as well, I almost needed a change of underwear!

This guy fell hook line and "Stinker!" His attitude toward me changed as abruptly as when he first found out that I was a lowly tech. In point of fact, it was almost embarrassing to see him fawn. For the next several weeks I played with him, extracting as much satisfaction as possible, without setting him wise (;-)). About once a week I would give him the news that I had been notified that I was up for promotion from Captain to Major. The next week, the promotion had finally come through, that it was official __Blah, Blah, Blah...

The theme was a constant, "I'm a Major in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and you are Not!"

Several weeks later my tour there was up, and I was headed back to the States; with all that money, and by the way, several pounds of fresh, Flesh!

So the day I left, I was finishing my lunch in the officer's mess with my buddies and coworkers, I said my Good Byes. On the way out I stopped by the snob's table, I shook his hand and looking him in the eye, I said, "be careful how you judge people in the future, a mere job title doesn't make the man." I called him by name (I wish I could remember it), "you're a God Damn arrogant little snob! I'm no officer, I was an airman second just like you. And I'm a technician, and a Damn good one, if I say so myself--and I do say so! 

I looked at everyone at the table, and doing my best Phil Silvers imitation, I said--with a big grin, "Glad to See Yea!"

With that, I turned and left on that "Big Bird in the sky!" 

Boy was I glad to be Finally Leaving!!

That job was like my military service, I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience, but I wouldn't do it again for a million dollars.  __Well, maybe for a million...


My Prospecting Days    See my day in Moab- -

When I was sixteen I quit school at the beginning of the ninth grade. Around that time I had read several articles about people striking it rich by prospecting for uranium. All you needed was a Geiger counter, a canteen, a .30-30 Winchester, and a snakebite kit.

I was bitten by the bug--so to speak. So in between my various jobs, I started saving my money and collecting equipment for my dream trip out west. While working for my brother, repairing and installing two-way radios, I snagged a 55 GMC pickup, and assorted pieces of equipment--and parts to build more. 

About this time, I was starting to feel desperate, because of the "gold rush" mentality going on out west, and the fear that all the surface deposits were all being found, and I was afraid they would all be staked out by the time I got out there. I was right. After the surface deposits, the only way to find the "mother load," was with a ten thousand dollar core drill, along with a geology degree.

By 1957 I was ready to go, I had everything I thought I needed, meantime my mother was suffering in silence over my trip (which was deafening). Unbeknownst to me, she even tried to hire Bill Hathaway to accompany me.

About July I started out with my truck filled with lots of useless "stuff," mostly born of inexperience. I had two Geiger counters, a scintillation counter, a hand gun loaded with bird shoot--for snakes, a Winchester saddle gun. I had a home made shelter that folded out and attached to the truck bed. Boxes of caned goods, water, and lots of things I never used. I did learn a valuable lesson, always have many, many, dry runs ahead of time!

I drove cross country when there were no super highways, in fact very few four lane roads. When I think about it, compared to then, our present day transportation system is a Damn marvel! Anyway, I would drive six hours, stop and have a meal. I would put cans of spaghetti, beans, or soup, on the engine block, after ~ twenty minutes pull over and have a hot meal. To sleep, I would look for a relative safe place and pull over and take a nap, after four or five hours I would wake, wash my face, eat a snack, and push on. Once I found myself in the Ozark mountains, dark, and I was sleepy looking for a place to snooze. I finally found a spot that looked halfway safe, no more than I had gotten comfortable, all Hell broke loose. It seems I had parked in some bootlegger's front yard. It sounded like two bootleggers and their friends were having a dispute. As sleepy as I was/had been, I started that truck and "got the Hell out-a-Dodge!" I ended up driving all the way across the state of Missouri before stopping.

All this time I was sweltering, not having air conditioning in July, the heat and humidity were killing me. About the middle of Kansas the humidity went from near 90% to 20%, it was like a switch had been thrown; I had never experienced anything like it before. Later in Colorado and Utah, it got down in the single digits. You could be dying of the heat, walk to a shady spot, regardless of the temperature, and it would be liveable. To someone who sweats more than most, and who has never been away from the east coast, this was Valhalla.

I drove to Moab, Utah, in the 'Four Corners' area. I used a Scintillation Counter mounted inside a 75 lb. lead shield (reduces background count) which was mounted under a hole on the passenger side floorboard of my pickup truck, with its opening facing the ground. 

Mockup of original outfit
I used a Scintillation Counter inside a 75 lb. lead shield which was mounted under a hole on the passenger side floorboard of my pickup truck, with the opening facing the ground.

Note the strip recorder, which I constructed.

75 lb. lead shield mounted under passenger side floorboard.
Attached to the Scintillation counter was a strip recorder of my own design (a rubber bladder fountain pen, attached to a swing arm that was driven by a modified DC relay--sans core, as the 'meter movement,' all powered by two KT66 audio power tubes. Power was supplied by a vibrator powered 12 Volt to 120 VAC inverter.

The strip chart was 3" adding machine tape. That damn thing actually worked!

Anyway--again, the idea was to drive in a raster pattern over the terrain of interest, collecting data, and later analyzing the strips laid out in rows replicating the survey pattern.

Sadly I didn't find any deposits, but it was quite an adventure for a 19 year old preparing to go into the militaty.

Four Corners Area
Typical Terrain
A Little Moab History
In early 1952 an unemployed Texas geologist named Charley Steen discovered one of the World's largest concentrations of uranium ore near Moab, Utah. Steen became an instant millionaire and set off a modern day mining boom. His Mi Vida Mine is famous for sitting in the largest high-grade pitchblende (uranium) ore body ever discovered in the United States, last valued at more than 160 Million (1953 dollars). This discovery unleashed a massive "uranium boom" on the Colorado Plateau, and turned tiny Moab, UT into "the uranium capital of the world." The mine closed in the 1980s.
My day in Moab
On my prospecting trip in 1958, I was in Moab where I saw the "Steen Estate."  It was a Butte rising nearly straight up with a carved out driveway that lead from the highway circuitously to the top. There were cyclone fencing completely surrounding the base of the butte, as was the driveway on both sides, with gates at intervals. At the time I was there, there were at least three core drilling machines spaced out on the driveway, looking--I suppose, for more uranium. 

Finally, at the top of the butte, the house, grounds and pool was surrounded by a high wood privacy fence. It was all too surreal.


Another prospector of note was Vernon Pick, a middle-aged electrician from Minnesota, who discovered the Delta Mine (Hidden Splendor) northwest of Hanksville in 1952.

Pick extracted a million dollars worth of ore before selling the mine to international financier Floyd Odlum's Atlas Corporation for $9 million and a custom-converted PBY airplane.

Odlum was certain the mine was a rich find and his geologists estimated the mine held 540,000 tons of uranium ore with an in-place value of forty dollars per ton. This would have made the mine worth nearly 22 million dollars.  However, the Atlas Corporation only extracted 90,000 tons of ore from the mine before abandoning it in 1957. Local wags then dubbed the mine "Odlum's Hidden Blunder". After Atlas Corporation left several others tried unsuccessfully to extract ore. The Uranus Corporation took over the mine for a short time in cooperation with Central Oil. The Hidden Splendor Mine closed in 1957 and was eventually sold for taxes.

In November 1, 1954 Life Magazine (Color cover - Dorothy Dandrige) published an 11-page article titled "Vernon Pick's $10 million Ordeal," starting on page 112, that detailed the discovery of the Delta Mine. Publicity from this article greatly increased prospecting in the San Rafael Swell and surrounding Colorado Plateau and made the Delta Mine famous. 

An Amazing Sight

I've seen some amazing and mind blowing things, as some of these stories attest. One thing that falls in that category happened in 1969, in Washington, DC. 

I had to fly to Washington, DC, to meet with my patent attorney. After the meeting, it was five PM, and I had to get to the airport before six to catch my plane home. The taxi driver was doubtful that we could make it in time--or so he claimed.

We proceeded there, and on the way we came to one of the widest roads that I'd ever seen--there had to be six or eight lanes going one way. We were in a long single lane road leading to an on ramp that merged into the outer most lane of that highway. 

As we watched, I couldn't believe my eyes, the cars in that outer lane were letting in the cars on the on-ramp. Each car in that outer lane would allow one car on the on-ramp in, and I don't mean some of the time, I mean in every single case. We watched at least twenty five to thirty cars before it was our turn. Like clock work, one by one, everybody "played fair."

I was stunned. I asked the (American) driver about this phenomenon, and he said that it happens every time, and he can't explain it. But, that every time he sees it, he get's a real kick out of it...


Beavers on Kwajalein

One of my jobs was to work on Linden Flight Service's two de Havilland Beavers' com radios and nav aids.

I had the habit of demanding that the pilot take me up to check the quality of the repairs. One day after a missile shot, with the doors off of the pontoon Beaver, a co-worker and myself took just such a ride. I think the pilot had had enough of my crap, so as we taxied out and started our takeoff roll he opened the throttle, and pushed the aileron wheel over into my lap and held it there with his knee, and shouted, "here you fly the plane." I had never flown a plane in my life; the only thing close was that I had been a Link Trainer instructor in the USAF, which I always mentioned two or three times around the pilot.

When I protested that I couldn't fly, he shouted back, "yea you can, you use to 'fly' in the Air Force, you told me so!"

My buddy who was in the "jump seat" in the rear, couldn't hear what was being said for all the noise, and assumed that I could indeed fly, so he set back to enjoy the ride.

Meanwhile, about halfway down the runway we were rolling at about 85 knots, I realized he was serious; he shouted, "take off, take off!" As we started to run out of runway, I looked at the flight instruments and praying, I pulled back on the aileron wheel and started climbing out at about ~300 fpm, I flew it as if I were flying my old Link Trainer (C-47) in IFR conditions--never once looking out the front windshields.

At about a 100 or so feet I did look out the wind shields and realized we had a crosswind (~25 kts) that was pushing us toward the tower where all I could see was what looked like an upraised fist as I rolled it away from the tower.

We continued to climb to altitude ~5,000 feet where we got a radio call that there was an overdue boat out there somewhere and would we keep an eye out for it. So we flew around for what seemed like an eternity. All the time I was waiting and watching for the pilot to loosen his grip on the aileron wheel stalk so I could push it back into his lap--where it belonged, and scotch it with my knee; I sure as Hell didn't want to try and land that thing--especially with a cross wind!

Finally he directed me to the approach end of the island--right over the shark pit--to line up for final approach, at this point I was begging for him to take the wheel, but he kept saying "you can do it!" As we entered the approach pattern he backed off on the throttle and as we started to descend he took the wheel and landed the plane, I was so grateful I could have hugged his neck.

Later back at the JTO building I told my buddy what had actually happened--that I could not fly and had never flown until that day, when he finally understood what I was saying and finally believed me, he turned white and ran into the latrine where proceeded to "loose his lunch." Meanwhile I went back to the BOQ and took a shower and changed underwear. 


Insights that saved my young Ass, and other parts.
(Why didn't I Think of that Sooner?)

You get the work you Dress for

(1)_ When I was working for Western Electric (WECo) on the SAGE Project at Fort Lee, VA, one day my supervisor, Captain Cook (that's what we called him) called me into his office and lectured me on my appearance and personal hygiene. He told me that because we worked along side IBM and Air Force personnel, it was important that we be aware of our appearance, that what goes at the central office, may not be enough where we were then.

I recognized that advice as life changing. That weekend I went to the local department store and bought a suit, ties, dress shirts, socks and a bar of soap. That Monday I came to work in my new suit and tie, and several people didn't even recognize me at first, one guy I knew even addressed me as "sir."

After a few days of the new me, I realized that I was getting the "clean" jobs, I was no longer drilling holes in the hardened concrete floor, but I was testing circuits, charting progress, work I had never been asked to do before. I learned, you get the work you dress for!

During this same time, I found myself, more and more, acting like a klutz. I would make the simplest Damn mistakes, and lots of them. 

Once while going up a ladder carrying an open can of enamel, half way up it dawned on me that I had forgotten the brush. I abruptly stopped, and started to go back down the ladder to get it. I stopped so fast that the paint kept on going, it was one Hell of a mess!

That was the last straw, I took hold of myself and said, "self, you dumb Son-of-a-Bitch, you shouldn't be making all those mistakes. You're not that dumb! You are no less smart than the guys you work with, in fact you have more experience with electronics, or have worked with more and complicated mechanical things than some of these guys. So given a job, and all things being equal, you should do as good a job as anyone else." 

I'd like to say that was the turning point for me, and It Was! 

Almost overnight things improved dramatically. Rather than being up tight and so afraid of doing something wrong, I began taking pride in my work--like I had always done in my personal work and hobbies.

Sit on front row & ask questions

(2)_ In Junior High, I was less interested in school and more interested in, just about anything else, including, motorcycles. In school, I was more and more inclined to sit in the back, not participating, eventually I quit school.

Six or seven years later, I found myself in school again, the U.S. Air Force technical school that had a 50% failure rate. And if failing that seven month school, not only would I miss getting one strip, but I would be "fresh meat" for getting nothing but Shit jobs for the next four years.

So, there was a great incentive to pay attention, in that school--to say the least! And I did, I made sure that I was on the very front row with my hand raised, asking questions all the time. It was so bad that several instructors got on me, and one guy I thought was coming across the desk at me, saying, "...you know Williamson, you can only twist a big dog's tail so far!!" But, that didn't deter me at all, I had the fear of God in me, I swore, to myself I would never fail!

In point of fact, I was so afraid of failing that I got 97% for that seven month course, the highest grade in eight years, and because of that, I was asked to stay on as an Instructor. Also, I was allowed my choice of either instructor or any of several bases. I was told that normally no one would be allowed that many choices, certainly not an enlisted man.  I choose to go to a SAC base in Georgia.

Hell, with that kind of incentive/fear, I could have stuck it out in a university long enough to earn a dozen Ph.D.s!

Editing my words before I speak

(3)_ A lesson I learned during my first of two jobs at GE in Lynchburg. This job was in the QC Department writing test procedures for incoming inspection of components. I also designed and supervised the construction of the different test setups used for the inspections.

In this job I worked for two different engineers which was a lesson in itself. I found myself getting conflicting direction from these guys, which I suffered in silence for about two weeks. One day I had had enough, so I recalled something I had heard as a kid, that the quickest way to sink a ship was to have a committee for the Captain. So I made it a point to tell each one in private my dilemma and share my quotation, except instead of committee I substituted "two Captains." That worked, from then on out, I only got direction from one of them.

Another thing I learned from this was, be careful what you wish for (;-)).
The engineer that was to be my boss--Peter Wickie, made me justify my designs and sometime my written procedures--which was the right thing to do, but at the time I resented it. He also had this maddening habit of glomping onto a single word that I would use and go off on a tangent, the more I tried to clarify my position, the more he would go back to that single word, making it almost impossible to get anything resolved.

So to try to avoid this blind spot, I would think over exactly what I was going to say, trying to edit out any words that might set him off. After a few weeks of failed attempts, I got pretty good at selling my arguments. It really took the pressure off this FNG.

Since that time I have found that the lessons learned from that experience has helped in just about every job I've had since.


My Introduction to the Mighty B-52

My first introduction to the mighty B-52 was in the spring of 1959. On a Sunday afternoon while lying in my bunk on the top floor of one of the squadron's WWII barracks, which lay in the approach path of Chanute's only runway, we heard this unusually loud aircraft coming in for a landing directly over our building. I looked out the window just in time to witness a sky full of fuselage, and then giant tandem landing gear--with gear doors' interior painted ferric oxide green--and then more fuselage, followed by more landing gear, and finally, after what seemed an eternity, the bomber's tail-gun turret--all passing way Too Damn Close.

As I was to find out later, it was a B-52A, Sn. 52-0001 (B-52 number one), making its final landing at Chanute AFB, Illinois. There, it was to go on permanent display and be used as a training aid by the A&E school on base. 

My next encounter with the big B-52 was at Turner AFB, in Albany, Georgia; there I was assigned to the 4138th Strategic Wing's Training Section, as a Link Trainer instructor. Turner was a SAC base where the predominate aircraft were B-52s, and KC-135s.  For the next two years I lived under the the departures and arrivals of countless B-52s day in and day out--and believe it or not, I got use to the noise.  --Well almost.

Speaking of Noise: 
Prior to takeoff, and/or after being serviced, both B-52s' and KC-135s' engines were run-up, making a deafening roar which could be heard anywhere on or off base. If you were anywhere near the runway during takeoff, the sound was Overpowering, testifying to the aircraft's enormous power--or so I thought.

One day while visiting a friend who lived in a trailer park located right at the very end of Turner's runway, I was to feel the real enormity of that aircraft. As I was leaving so was a 'Loaded' B-52, it was roaring down the runway directly toward us. As it got closer, the predominant sound wasn't the roar of its exhaust, but the tremendous sound of eight giant turbo fan engines Sucking Air! The sight and sounds of its passing only a few hundred feet over us was an experience I shall Never Ever forget! 
Note: And that was when it had small engines... 

LINK:  http://www.williamson-labs.com/boeing-B-52.htm


The Guard Shack

On Kwajalein, every morning after breakfast we would all pile into buses for the short trip up the Island to the "Technical Area," where the missile launch facilities, and various RADARs were. 

As the bus would near the Technical Area, it was filled to capacity with a bunch of "zombies," nobody was talking to anybody. We were all setting there as if we had had a really bad night, the night before--as some had. 

On the bus ride, we were required to stop at the "guard shack" where the civilian security guard would board the bus and check everyone's I.D. badge.

There was this particular guard, who when he came on board--taking his time, would speak to everybody--individually; making small talk and cracking jokes--just a happy guy.

When he would leave the bus, he would make some parting remark that seemed to always be original, and very funny--breaking everyone up. 

As the bus started to move out, everybody--I mean everybody, would be in animated conversion with someone else. It was as if a bunch of robots had just had their switches thrown! It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, or more correctly, been a part of. 

His enthusiasm was truly infectious! 

The sad ending to this story was that after about six or eight months on the island, he was fired. The story was that he had been keeping Beer in his water cooler; which just happen to be located in an un-air conditioned wooden shack the size of a phone booth, in the hot equatorial sun just 8 degrees above of the Equator. 

Most believed that he must have pissed off someone in Security, and they used something many in that group practiced themselves, to nail him with...



This story was related to me by one of my students, a B-52 pilot. I laughed when he first started telling me his story, which I quickly learned was a mistake, apparently it was about a friend of his.

The story goes like this:
The winter of 59, near the completion of a yearly check ride of a B-52 crew over Presque Isle, Maine, the instructor pilot (IP) who was sitting in a "jump seat" behind the Aircraft Commander's (AC) position, gave the final instruction, "intercept and turn inbound on Presque Isle VOR's Two Seven Zero radial."

The AC intercepts the radial and begins his coordinated turn (the correct roll and turn rates). The IP became distracted  by a radio call or a call on the intercom, and when he looked back to see the AC's progress, he saw that the AC was not rolling out soon enough on the 270 radial; he excitedly shouts: "Roll Out, Roll Out!" 

The Navigator thinking he heard the command, "Bail Out, Bail Out"--Ejects!

There is Confusion!

Everybody else follows the Navigator, including the AC; the Tail Gunner--who rides backwards in the tail--this is a "D" model B-52, leaves the aircraft by releasing and pushing his guns forward and out; as they fall away, he pushes himself out and his parachute opens.

In less than 20 seconds everybody is gone. Everybody, that is, except the IP, who has no ejection seat. 

He soon figures out that there was NO Emergency--NOW there is!

As soon as the IP gathers his wits, he gets up and goes to where the left seat was, and grabbing the aileron wheel, recovers the aircraft from it's slow roll, back to a straight and level attitude. Since there are no seats at either the pilot or copilot's position (they eject out the roof of the aircraft), the IP cannot use the rudder peddles and he knows he also could not apply the brakes on landing. Under the best conditions, one person landing a B-52 is a very difficult task, but to try doing it with no seat would be fatal! 

Knowing this, the IP calls Presque Isle Approach and declares an emergency! Since he is the only crew member on board, the IP is now the AC, and as such, is in command, making command decisions, i.e., it is his call what to do next. _Should he try to land this thing or should he bail out?

In his mind there is only one answer: he sets the aircraft's autopilot to an easterly heading that would take it out over the Atlantic Ocean while requesting TAC fighters to scramble and shoot down a "perfectly good"--nine million dollar strategic bomber! Then, wearing his chute, he climbs down into the--now open--bombay and bails out over land.

All of the crew was recovered but for one--the Tail Gunner, a master sergeant who had retrained from his former career field of Survival Instructor.

He was finally found six weeks later in his international orange survival tent, which just happened to be covered by snow. He was feeling no pain, but he was running low on dessert. Later there was suspicion that he had purposely eluded discovery hoping to avoid having to testify at the Board of Inquiry.

At the inquiry, it was determined that there was mis-communications among the crew. And, because of the rash of--very sudden, B-52, midair explosions and fires; and the General Order, "Upon getting the command to 'Bail Out,' leave the aircraft immediately!"

As for the IP, he was found negligent in not landing the aircraft. The Board claimed that he could have "fashioned a seat from empty parachute containers on board, and landed the B-52 in a safe manner." Yeah right, sure he could...


CBR Team

In 1959, during my time at Turner AFB near Albany, GA, among my duties, I was assigned to the CBR Team. CBR, standing for, Chemical, Biological, Radiological (now referred to as CBRN), we were charged with  the clean up and decontaminating after an accident involving nuclear weapons, called a "Broken Arrow." 

Because a nuclear weapon has conventional explosives, TNT, as part of that weapon, other teams were also involved, i.e., the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Team. During cleanup, there was some controversy as to which team goes in first; if the weapon is involved in a fire, the TNT, which is immune to all but a detonation, becomes pressure sensitive and can explode if stepped on.

If the CBR Team goes in first, they run the risk of a foot blown off; however, if EOD goes in first they risk plutonium poisoning. As long as I was there, there was no hard and fast rule on that, pretty much which ever team got there first, made the call--that the other team goes first (;-)).

We had protective suits we were supposed to wear, but, they were so hot, that if you didn't have someone hosing you down, you were limited to five to eight minutes before you had health issues. Just the protective rubber gloves would fill up with water that had to be emptied after only five minutes. So we practiced sans suits.

The most common accident we prepared for was the crash of a B-52 with a thermonuclear weapon onboard, at the end of the runway. 

Once we were called to a simulated accident inside the storage bunker where they kept thermonuclear bombs. We put on our minimal suit including a gas mask. 

We entered the area, one by one through the security turnstile, as I emerged out into the bomb area, with my vision limited due to my gas mask, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, the barrel if a M-1 carbine held by my very own security guard. I quickly looked around to see that every member of the team had an armed guard with their weapon at the ready with the safety off--that was scary.

We never had a real accident, "that was a good thing!"


A SAC Story

In the late fifties when General Curtis LeMay was head of SAC, there was a fear of being caught on the ground by the recently deployed Russian ICBMS. SAC constantly practiced getting off the ground and into the air ever faster; it was thought the window was less than 15 minutes from first alert to being airborne.

General LeMay was so concerned that the air crews take these training exercises seriously, if a crew aborted a takeoff they were all busted one rank; however if a crew excelled, they were often raised a rank.

One technique for shortening the takeoff time was to takeoff two abreast on runways that weren't intended for such a feat. Because the B-52 pilot could not see the outrigger wheels, which were located near the tip of its sweptback wing, the pilot had to rely on the tail gunner, who in those days rode backwards in the tail turret ("D" model B-52). The tailgunner would call out corrections to the pilot, keeping the outrigger wheels on the runway.

On one such "Seven High" exercise, an overly excited tail gunner called out a "Right" correction when it should have been "Left", and the worst happened... Afterwards, it is said that the tail gunner was seen around the base for the next month or so carrying a painted red brick with the letter "R" in his Left hand.


The Bizarre ZAR Fire

About half way through my tour on Kwajalein we had the excitement of a fire in the antenna of a very powerful radar, the Zeus Acquisition Radar (ZAR). This radar was so powerful (30MW peak) that it used separate antennas, one for transmitting and one for receiving, which were about a thousand feet apart.

The transmitting antenna consisted of three separate antennas, each 80 feet long by 10 feet high, arranged like a three cornered hat.

Shortly after the fire there were people in baskets suspended from cranes, inspecting the ninety foot high, 660 feet in diameter, stainless steel beam-forming fence, that completely encircled the transmitting antenna and building, for bullet holes.

Meanwhile, to find out what had happened, Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL) in Whippany, NJ, over a weekend, sent out a C-130 full of antenna engineers.

Several of us from our lab were sent to assist. I was given the responsibility for designing and conducting the tests on the antenna material--copper strips in fiberglass. That test consisted of measuring the resistance (heating) of copper strips embedded in fiberglass which made up the "lens" of the antenna. 

This is all done in the presents of the island's fire department, the same department that was called when the first fire occurred.

First, with all personnel sequestered within the safety of the shielded transmitter building, the transmitter was turned on for a few minutes--without the antenna rotating. This allows the antenna to heat up, if it's going to. Then it's turned off, the shielded door beneath the antenna is quickly flung open and we run out, remove the shield protecting the Wheatstone bridge connected to the copper strips, and made our measurements. 

To make these measurements the operator must "play" the bridge like a musical instrument, if the sensitivity buttons were not pushed in the right sequence, the test would fail and the entire process would have to be repeated.

I think the wisest thing we did out there was to request that we "choreograph" the steps, and rehearse it--many, many, dry runs!

It went off like clockwork, there were no mistakes--we got good data. 

That weekend was an adrenaline pumping 36 hours with everybody--and the fire department, in attendance.

And, the overtime wasn't bad either...


W.R.G. Duane, Jr.

While on Kwajalein it was my good fortune to have crossed paths with some remarkable individuals, among them was one by the name of Dick Duane, A.K.A., W.R.G. Duane, Jr., A.K.A., William Richard Galt Duane, Jr.

He was born in New York City, and grew up in relative luxury on the island of Mallorca, Spain. He served in the U. S. Army in World War II and the Army of Occupation in Germany as a communications technician. 

In the early '50s he worked for Bell Laboratories at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, testing components of Nike and Nike Zeus defensive weapon systems.

Dick came to the Nike Zeus Project by way of Project Mercury at Cape Canaveral. There he picked up the nickname "Space," while on Kwaj we lengthened it to "Space Ace." When America sent Alan B. Shepard on his sub-orbital flight in 1961, Dick was the Bermuda flight controller. There he was the defense projects communication engineer assigned to Bermuda and responsible for the intercommunication philosophy in operation at the various Project Mercury locations. 

Dick once confided that his formal education only went as far as the tenth grade. Yet he was a self educated, outstanding working electrical engineer, and the acting launch director for the Nike Zeus ABM system there on Kwajalein. He was granted a patent on a method of simultaneously transmitting two messages over the same radio frequency, "Multiplex System Employing Polar Modulation."

Any evening you stopped by his room, there he would be, sitting in bed, a martini in one hand and a dime novel in the other. He loved to read dime novels, he would finish one, toss it in a pile (over two feet high) and go on to the next one… 

Dick was also an avid Ham radio operator. He operated a Heath Kit portable SSB rig ~35Watts, from his room in the Reef BOQ. Several of us on that and other islands, would spend hours talking on 20 meters, his rig would eventually drift up and out of the band, and we would tell him to move back down the band when he drifted too far. We loved ribbing him about that. He had a great sense of humor. 

Among his other accomplishments he invented "dual monitoring" and the hierarchy of communications concept now used universally by missile ranges. 

He also owned one of the first Accutron watches, it was so accurate that, instead of using WWVH, the National Bureau of Standards out of Hawaii, just before a launch, the Launch Director would call Dick for a "time hack." The Nike Zeus Launch Director found the pressure of the job so daunting that  he gave the task to Dick, who did a flawless job. 

I was to find out that after Dick left the island, he met the love of his life, and they were married soon after.

A year or two later they came to Kwajalein for yet another tour for Dick There he was a planning engineer on the Safeguard ABM System, and test director for the first intercontinental ballistic missile track from Meck Island.

I found this out in 1998 while attempting to find out, "whatever happened to him."  Sadly, I was to contact his widow in my efforts. He had passed away in 1996, at the age of 68.

In writing this, I regret that my limitations as a writer prevents my doing him justice. He was a remarkable person, and those of us who were fortunate enough to have him as a friend, won't soon forget him. 


Robert Porth

One of the saddest stories to come off of Kwajalein was about a family on the island who was later the center of one of the most sensational murder trials in North Carolina. The family was the family of Robert Porth, an engineer working for the same organization that I was, Western Electric, Winston Salem. 

Bob was an amiable guy, and everyone liked him. He did look a little slow, like he had just woke up, but he wasn't that way at all, in fact he was quite bright. Everyone who knew him thought he would be the last person to ever do anything wrong.

Around 1962 he and his wife and teenage daughter had finished their eighteen month tour and went back home to Winston Salem. Shortly after arriving their daughter, Kathy, became ill and was hospitalized. They first thought she had contracted a tropical disease on the island. She was hospitalized several times after that, and eventually passed away in May of 1963 (the month I returned), without a diagnosis.

The daughter's untimely death became more suspicious after her adoptive mother was diagnosed with a case of arsenic poisoning about 9 months later in what was theorized a case of cover up and blackmail, by the mother. Kathy was exhumed and it was confirmed that she died of arsenic poisoning. Robert Porth was away on business much of the time so the only person in a position to posion her food was the mother. 

About nine months later the wife disappeared and was later found dead on the side of a highway. Robert Porth was arrested and charged with first degree murder. The trial was a big deal around the area, every mention of him, the tag of WECo Engineer was included, WECo executives would cringe every time, as would most employees--including me.

He was eventually convicted of the first degree murder of his wife Feb 1966 and sent to Central Prison in Raleigh. He had claimed she died from an accidental fall down a flight of stairs. 

While bob was at Central Prison, he used his WECo engineering skills to design and construct improvements that were recognized as "helping to bring Central Prison into the twentieth century."

The fact that he was a model prisoner and that by that time most people--and the parole board, recognized that he was the victim of the system. The real evil was the daughter killing wife and mother. He was released from Prison in 1977. He completed his parole in 1982 and lived out his days, by himself, on a boat in Washington, NC, he died in 1998 at the age of 89. 

After her exhumation, there was no investigation into Kathy's death.  Obituary


First Zeus Launch

I arrived on Kwajalein in November 1961, the first Zeus missile launch was about a month later in December. A group of us were about three quarters of a mile form the launch silo (Mt Olympus), in front of the JTO building. 

The 3 stage Nike Zeus was so damn fast coming out of the hole, if you looked at the hole as it launched, you would miss seeing it, you only saw the smoke trail left behind. I quickly learned to look where it was going, and let my peripheral vision work.

The booster had a thrust of around two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, for 4 seconds. The missile was destroyed by the Range Safety Officer about 3 seconds into the boost phase, it was pretty spectacular.

My lab was beside the Douglas lab where they assembled and calibrated the instrumented nose cones, and I knew the engineers and technicians there.

The story of the reason for the failure was they were testing a new additive to the solid booster propellant, powdered aluminum (it ~ doubled the thrust). The powdered aluminum in the rocket exhaust blinded the Missile Tracking Radar (MTR) and the missile guidance lost lock. That was later remedied by placing an antenna right outside the missile silo to relay the signal. 

After that mishap, because just about everybody was standing outside looking up at the Zeus when it exploded, and potentially could have been rained on by unburned propellant, there was an edict issued that all personnel were to be under cover in future launches. This was immediately ignored.


Beer Tasting Bet ~1983

In 1983, while working for IKONAS/ADAGE, we all were attending a supper hosted by the CEO of Adage, out of Boston. When the waitress came around taking beverage orders, I asked for Coors Classic. The waitress said that they only had Coors Lite, to which I said, "no thanks." Henry Rich, my manager, piped up and said, give him Coors Lite, "they all taste the same."

To which I said, "the Hell you say!" They all taste different, every beer has its own distinct taste! 

Henry said, "they taste the same, you can't tell them apart. I said you want to bet? Just then the Adage CEO proposed a bet, who ever won, they had one day off w/pay, while the looser had to do the winner's job for that day. We shook on it.

Bright and early the next morning Henry showed up with two large grocery bags filled with eight or ten cans and bottles of different brands of beer, a stack of transparent sixteen ounce plastic cups, and place cards.

He went directly to the company break room and began setting up the cups of beer with numbered index cards under each, and on the back of each card the brand name.

By the time he had finished, the room was filled with a dozen, or more, spectators. Henry stepped back and motioned for me to start--to pick out Coors Classic from the field. 

Wanting to make all the proper gestures and ceremony befitting such an occasion, I started out sniffing each beer. Then I sipped a little of each, making the appropriate sound for each.

Right away I discovered the Lite Beers--meant to obscure the target, Coors Classic.

It quickly came down to two beers, Stroh's and Coors, they tasted alike, I really could't tell which was which. At first I suspected Henry had poured a "ringer--Coors twice, but as luck would have it, because the cups were transparent, I could see that one beer was lighter in color than all the other beers. I knew that one was Coors Classic! However, wanting to have some fun, I kept that fact to myself--for a while.

Knowing how very competitive Henry was--national Bridge player, etc., I thought to play with him and have a little more fun at his expense--of course.

At this point Henry was already holding his chin and pacing, as I was ostensibly trying to decide which of the two beers was Coors. 

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, and because I was starting to feel sorry for Henry, I pronounced the Winner, I selected the real Coors Classic beer!

Everybody cheered and congratulated me.

Henry was crestfallen. He said very little. Wanting to break the awkward silence, I said, "Henry, you're a good loser," he looked me straight in the face and said, "No I'm Not!"


The Liar Detector 

Around 1954, at age seventeen, I worked for my brother, Harry, in Petersburg, VA, installing and repairing two-way radios for police, taxicabs, forest service, etc.

At that time I was learning by doing, and  also listening to my brother. In addition, I was pursuing my new hobby of electronics. 

To that end, I had a subscription to a monthly magazine called Radio News (later, Radio Electronics News). One issue had a project for building a lie detector using Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), measured using electrodes attached to the subject's two fingers. Under my brother's supervision, I constructed one using six or eight vacuum tubes, and it actually worked. 

Just how well it worked, I was to find out when one of our customers, the owner of Red Top Cabs, hearing about it, asked me to bring it down to the cab stand and use it on several of his drivers he suspected of pocketing unreported fares.

I set up the equipment in his office with the suspects lined up in the hallway just outside. They were informed about just what was going on, and allowed to sweat for awhile before taking their turn. The first was the most notorious suspect who let it be known that he "didn't believe in lie detectors." 

After being hooked up and with a large meter readout staring him in the face, he was asked several benign questions. Then the owner asked him if he had reported all the money he had taken in the night before. He said YES, four or five seconds later the meter rose to full scale, banging the stops. With a really embarrassed look on his face, he said, "Holy Shit, those Damn things Do Work!" 

The waiting drivers, upon hearing that, all decided they didn't want anything to do with this, "lie detecting crap."



The Savant

Watching the HBO movie, Temple Grandin, reminded me of someone I ran across on Kwajalein.

I was taking a taxi to the Technical Area on the island, and I was sharing it with two older gentlemen--one dressed casual, in a leisure suit, and the other in a dark suit and tie, and sunglasses--overdressed, to say the least, both were in their forties. They both stood out like...

I said something to the casual guy who looked straight ahead, not acknowledging me at all.

The other guy--who I had figured by then was his "keeper," said, "he doesn't talk."

We finished the ride in silence.

Later I found out that he was a brilliant scientist sent from Bell Labs to solve a knotty problem they were having with the, just finished, Discrimination Radar.

And, that he was also responsible for single-handedly designing and causing to be built, an automated production line for making 0.01% resistors--on the fly--an unheard of feat then.

The guy in black, was an (armed) FBI agent.   __What else! (;-)) 

The Mole on Vacation

One day Island Security was called to the enlisted barracks about a man who was on the island without authorization. It was a case of a retired veteran with mental issues who had somehow flown in on a chartered aircraft meant for authorized personnel only. He passed security after getting off the plane, and had gone to the enlisted barracks and secured a bunk--no questions asked. Apparently he was able to do all these things on the strength of his retired military credentials alone. He was a retired Army Chief Master Sergeant.

Not only did this guy land on the island, but he lived there for two weeks before being discovered. To add insult to injury, he was only discovered when he tried to pay rent on his bunk.

The island was supposed to be a very secure place and the Island Security really came off looking bad. 

Keys to the Kingdom

There were Filipino workers on the island, who had mainly menial service jobs. There was one guy who was a supervisor of about ten custodians that cleaned the JTO building--a secure office building. He and he alone was entrusted with the key to the front entrance, which he lost. Each subsequent key met the same fate. Security was suspicious, but kept giving him keys with progressively larger fobs, hoping the more conspicuous the fob the less likely he would lose it. They were wrong, he kept losing them.

Finally they had enough, they put the key on a quarter inch brass welding rod, bent in a one foot circle and welded it together, that he wore around his neck. 

That lasted two weeks until he lost it--again.

The final version that I heard about was another brass ring but with a six inch bright red bull's eye made of sheet metal, drilled in the center with the brass rod running thru the hole.

I think that story speaks volumes about the quality of Security on that island!

Check Point Surprise

One day Island Security pulled a surprise check on our bus, taking us to the Technical Area. After we passed the initial Guard Shack check point, the driver normally proceeds to the various radars, etc., letting people off at each location. This day we were surprised at the ZAR power plant. The Head of Security and several of his lieutenants were in front of a parked patrol car that was blocking our way. He was directing a guard who was practicing an apparently new procedure that he seemed confused as how to carry out. The guard initially told everyone on the buss to get off. As we started to get out of our seats, the Head of Security raised his arms and gesturing to the hapless guard to stop, "not to get off the bus!" "Stay on the bus."

It was funny to watch, and several people said aloud, "Keystone Cops!"

The last I'd heard they had given up on surprise check points.

Filming of the ZAR

During several missile shots there had been rumors of Russian trawlers lying off the island. There was also talk of possible jamming of our radars, in fact I spent most of one night on the roof of the JTO building with a spectrum analyzer and antenna looking for it and a rumored submarine. Neither showed up.

With all this and the recent fire in the ZAR Transmitter antenna, everybody was paranoid and on alert for the next shoe to drop. And it did.

Dispite signs forbidding cameras in the Technical Area, there was a man with a 16mm movie camera filming the ZAR Transmitter, antenna and fence. He was approached by two gentlemen dressed in black business suits and dark glasses--I kid you not!

Anyway, they hauled him off in an island taxi, never to be heard of or seen again, nor the two guys in black...

The ZAR Transmitter manager's daughter

In the early days of ZEUS on Kwajalein there were few dependents there and the only women were the wives of a select few manager types. Several did have their adult children. 

Human nature being just that, some of the women couldn't hide their competitiveness when it came to being the most popular in "paradise." Middle age women wearing skimpy outfits--they were several pounds, and as many years out of place, it was embarrassing. Most didn't have a clue, the more men stared--out of astonishment, not lust, the more they were encouraged.

The few young women there--usually someones daughter, were hated by most of these older women. The gossip and back stabbing rumors flew. I remember a most beautiful young woman who was the target of this treatment. One attribute that you couldn't miss was that she was flat chested. Yet she had a presents that was stunning. She carried herself with dignity and grace--to be clear; she carried herself like she was sporting double "Ds." I had always been a "chest man," but she was the exception that proved me wrong!

I first saw her at a bus stop with some older women, whose body language was 'screaming' their disdain for her. She was not showing any recognition of the vibes directed at her. I wish I had photos, because words fail...

The Shark Pit

At the approach end of the island's runway is the infamous Shark pit. The number of sharks there is said to be on a par with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In fact, several movies that needed large shark populations, came to Kwajalein, Island.

The shark pit has been used as the island's garbage disposal as long as anyone can recall, it's said the Japanese used it during WWII. When ever the native labor goes there to dump the island garbage, as sport and for food, they would shoot sharks.

There is a story I heard the day I arrived. It seems that after the battle of Kwajalein, a C-54 transport carrying 35 nurses with a blood bank, plus wounded, left on their way home. As the plane took off it faulted and fell into the ocean right over the shark pit. By the time the crash boat got to them, they were all dead... 

The Doctors are In

There had been three different doctors on the island in the eighteen months I was there.

(1). The first doctor was from Boston. On his way to the island, it's said that he stopped off in San Francisco and met and married a gorgeous hooker. For the next eight months, he practiced his art and she hers. She was not a street walker, but she could be seen every night walking her dog. She was a hit at every "do" on the island. There was one rather short Army, Catholic Chaplain that could be seen at every cocktail party, standing on tip toe trying to see down her plunging neck line. Eight months after they arrived Island Security accused them breaking his contract and were sent off the island. The story is that the people "protecting" them had a dispute over money. The last I heard, the happy couple ended up in Boston, living together as husband and wife. The word was that, in only eight months, they had accumulated a very nice nest egg...

How I got to Kwajalein

I have been asked how in the world did I end up on Kwajalein, Island?

It was a dark and stormy night...

Around the end of 1960, I was in the Air Force and stationed at Turner AFB, GA. I remember my first real exposure to Kwajalein came from a large 15 page spread in a weekly technical magazine that I subscribed to, Missiles and Rockets. It was a well done article laying out the whole system with explanations easily understood. 

I also remember what I told a friend of mine, I held up the magazine and told him, "I'm going there, I'm going to Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands. I'm going to work on the Nike Zeus ABM!"

I finished my tour with the Air Force and went back home to Danville, VA. My first job application was in Burlington, NC, at the Western Electric manufacturing facility making Nike Zeus components. There I was interviewed by an Ex-Air Force guy, who told me that I was thin on education and that to get a job there I needed two years of tech school. As I started to leave, we started to talk about our Air Force days and that we both had experience with K System airborne radar on B-52s. We talked--told each other lies, for the next three hours. I left there with no prospects.

Soon after I found a job at GE in Lynchburg, VA, in the QC section of the Communication Products Dept. I was there for two or three months when one night I got a call from the head of personnel at Western Electric in Winston Salem, NC. He said, "we've got a job that might interest you, it's on a little island I'm sure you never heard of..." I cut him off, I said, "Kwajalein!" There was silence. I said, "Nike Zeus!" He said, "yes that's right. Are you interested?" I said, "Hell yes!" 

He explained the particulars including the very large salary and benefits--which I never really heard.

I gave my two week notice to GE, and then went to Winston Salem and spent the next week processing in, and left for the island a week after that. It turns out that the head of personnel was an old Danville man who was a popular radio personality (WBTM) there who knew some of the same people I knew. And, apparently, the Ex-Air Force guy at WECo Burlington, didn't toss my application, but passed it on to WECo Winston Salem.

So I arrived on Kwajalein Island in late November of 1961, and left there May of 1963; I was there eighteen months.

I've often thought about that, my only overt act toward going to Kwajalein was the failed interview with WECo Burlington. Everything else was happenstance--I think. __Spooky!

Editing my words before I speak

A lesson I learned during my first of two jobs at GE in Lynchburg. This job was in the QC Department writing test procedures for incoming inspection of components. I also designed and supervised the construction of the different test setups used for the inspections. 

In this job I worked for two different engineers which was a lesson in itself. I found myself getting conflicting direction from these guys, which I suffered in silence for about two weeks. One day I had had enough, so I recalled something I had heard as a kid, that the quickest way to sink a ship was to have a committee for the Captain. So I made it a point to tell each one in private my dilemma and share my quotation, except instead of committee I substituted "two Captains." That worked, from then on out, I only got direction from one of them.

Another thing I learned from this was, be careful what you wish for (;-)).
The engineer that was to be my boss--Peter Wickie, made me justify my designs and sometime my written procedures--which was the right thing to do, but at the time I resented it. He also had this maddening habit of glomping onto a single word that I would use and go off on a tangent, the more I tried to clarify my position, the more he would go back to that single word, making it almost impossible to get anything resolved.

So to try to avoid this blind spot, I would think over exactly what I was going to say, trying to edit out any words that might set him off. After a few weeks of failed attempts, I got pretty good at selling my arguments. It really took the pressure off this FNG.

Since that time I have found that the lessons learned from that experience has helped in just about every job I've had since.

___More shorties to follow...

Bill Campbell

During my time on Kwajalein, I was privileged to meet some remarkable people. There was the guy, Dick Duane, with only a tenth grade education, that was the Launch Director for the Nike Zeus ABM. He had come from NASA's Mercury Project where he was a "wunderkind."

Then there was Bill Campbell, a 40 year old Navy Seabee who was with the Seabee construction battalion out of Port Hueneme, CA, that had come to the island to repave our runways.

I first met him when I was using the Navy,s ham shack, KX6BU, running phone patches. He started hanging out there on a regular basis, mainly trying to learn about Amateur radio. It turned out he was studying for his Amateur radio ticket, and had recently gotten his Novice Class license.

With his Novice ticket he could operate certain bands as long as a General Class ticket holder was present and signed the log, which I was glad to do. Bill was a natural, he had a gift of gab and the patience which is an asset for handling traffic at that ham shack.

There were hundreds of engineers and technicians on that island, and a high percentage had Ham tickets, but most kept it a closely guarded secret. The reason being, whenever someone wanted to talk to loved ones back in the states, or whom ever, they would hang around the ham shack and when the band favored the states, they would knock on the closest ham's door, to run their phone patch--regardless of the time, day or night.

I, of course, didn't know this bit of wisdom, and so blabbed it to the world.

Anyway, with a lot of work and self discipline, Bill earned his General Class ticket and was immediately assigned to the ham shack to run his battalion's phone patches--full time. He was relieved from working on those very HOT runways, crafty those Seabees.

Within a month it was as if he had been doing it for years, and he was handling phone patch traffic faster and better than anyone else there. With his unique banter, he developed a real following, from the islands to the states, even Little America.

A lot of hams--me included, learned a lot about "net etiquette" (just like on the web), from this FNG!

He would greet contacts with, "This is KX6BU, King X-ray Six, Brown Underwear, in the Coconut grove, in Beautiful downtown Kwaj-a-line. This is Bill, Boy I Love Laddies, talking..."

In Ham circles post cards, called QSL cards, were exchanged as conformation of contacts, especially with rare far flung stations like ours, called DX contacts. Bill would make sure that contacts that either asked for, or sent QSL cards, got a card from our local.

There was a gentleman--a good friend, in Cheraw, SC, by the name of Fraser Lyon, W4EOZ, who ran phone patches for hundreds and hundreds of people around the world. He ran countless ones for those of us on the island. We had s schedule every night, or day, depending on atmospheric conditions, seven days a week on 20 meters band, with 15 meters as a fallback. There were times that we had to use (try) 40 meters. We couldn’t use 75 meters for the Loran station nearby. Bill would be on the Navy SSB, 2 kW Collins S-Line rig, and I would be on a similar rig owned by the Army, or later I had my own Collins SSB rig in my BOQ room. I had mounted a huge six element Tri-band beam antenna on the roof of my three story BOQ. Amazingly, I got almost (~95%), as good a coverage with my 180 Watts, than with the 2 kW military rigs.

There were "real characters" on the ham bands, some more popular than others, but Bill was amazing, he had a following like none I had ever seen before. I think his secret was his brand of  net etiquette that he practiced, he was never rude, never condescending, his humor was directed at himself, and he seemed to be genuinely interested in what others had to say.

One event that to this day galls me. I invited Bill around to my room in the Reef BOQ to see and use my new Collins KW-M2 SSB rig that I had bought used from an Army captain for $1,000. 

He showed up dressed in a sport coat, that was the one time I had seen him in civies. He seemed nervous and it seemed that he couldn't wait to get out of there.

Days later I found out why. It seems that he, may have been[3] in violation of the rule against fraternization, that is, he as an enlisted man was not allowed in officer's quarters, and that he could have been prosecuted (so he thought, I'm not convinced). 

Bill's outfit moved off the island to Guam. In a few days he found the Navy ham station and began running traffic. After a few months there, Typhoon season hit with a vengeance. The first storm of the season hit. That day as the eye of the storm approaches his location we were talking on 40 meters. As he was reading off the wind speed, at 120 MPH he was wondering aloud about what was holding his long wire antenna--when in mid sentence he went dead. Later he told me that when the antenna went away the door on his building was ripped off and disappeared.

How I held on to most of my Marbles
(Surviving on Kwajalein)

When I arrived on Kwajalein I realized that, that was a really, really small island, Hell, "there were ships nearly as big." 

I realized that the next eighteen months could be my undoing if I wasn't careful, and I needed a strategy to survive.

I came up with several ideas over the next few weeks and months. The first idea turned out to be the smartest, though it sounded, and still sounds, almost silly. That was to pick one or two spots on the island, and to never go there--avoid them at all costs. The thinking being, that if there is a place on the island that I've never seen, the island will seem larger to me.

So I selected a small area at the far end of the island, near the taxi way (I never picked a second spot). 

Another strategy was to set a limit on the amount of crap I would take, I called this, "my shit limit." Whenever I was feeling "put upon," I would mark my calendar, and if I accumulated two straight weeks of shit, I promised myself that I would quit and get the Hell off the island. I never reached two weeks, I think I accumulated at least six days, once.

One mistake I made, was to take two, two week, vacations every six months, instead of one four week vacation at the ten month point. When I returned after my first, I still had a full year ahead of me, psychologically that was a bitch! 

When people see pictures of the island they say, how could you not like being there, which is a reasonable question. Someone summed it up as well as any I've heard, "being on an small island, is like being on a boat that never gets to port." So it behoves anyone who finds themselves in an isolated place for an extended period of time, to use whatever strategies are available to hang on to their marbles.

At the end of my tour, just before boarding my plane out of there, I took a taxi to that area where there was a little clump of trees. I got out of the taxi and walked around for about five minutes, looking at everything that I'd never seen before. When I got back in that taxi, the island seemed much smaller than it did just five minutes before! 

I went to the airport and left the island for good. "Goodbye island!" 


 Two way radio repair

About 1954 thru 1956, when I was sixteen or seventeen, I worked for my brother, Harry, in his two way radio business, in Petersburg, Virginia. 

I was there because I had dropped out of school, and our father had persuaded Harry to take me under his wing and, in essence, raise me.

During that time I learned about the business of installing and repairing two way radios--mostly Motorola., in fact we were a certified Motorola franchise. Our clients were mostly police, taxicabs, forest service, power companies, etc.

About half way through my "tour" there, Harry decided to quit the business and take a job as an engineer, for which he already had a degree from VPI.

I persuaded him to let me have a go at running the business--after all we had little to lose, since we were going out of business anyway...

At seventeen, I had more responsibility on my shoulders--or felt like it--than before, or since then, and I loved every minute of it. So for the next six months, I was doing everything; early morning I was at the cab stand repairing three radios, noon I was near Blacksburg repairing the Forest Service repeater up a tower on a remote mountain top; by three o’clock, I was in South Hampton County installing  Sheriff Bell's radio in his new 1955 Ford Interceptor; to back at the cab stands by midnight...

By this time, I had a motorcycle--a BSA 650 cc, vertical twin with 9.5 to 1 compression pistons, and a three-quarter-race cam; it was fast!

At the same time, several police departments were getting new patrol cars--Black, 1955 Ford Interceptors, sporting hopped up Mercury engines, complete with twin pipes and a disguised antenna.

Two of these departments, had "sporting' officers who really enjoyed their shinny new toys. In fact, when they heard me brag that my 1955 BSA "Rocket" could outrun their 1955 Ford Interceptors, they both challenged me to a race.

Early one Sunday morning, I rode down to Waverly PD (30 miles SE) and met with two officers, Earhart and Bradshaw, and proceeded to clean their clock! It was pitiful, I left them like they were backing up.

A week or two later, I raced a Prince George County Deputy Sheriff, "Foot's" Loflon. The story was the same, I almost felt sorry for him. 

In both cases, the officers were dumbfounded, it never crossed their minds that a motorcycle could outrun their brand new Interceptors!

They both went to their respective bosses and lobbied for overdrive to be added to their cars. Foots' boss, the Sheriff, consented to his pleadings. 

After it was installed, we did battle--he passed me like I Was Backing Up!
The first quarter mile I smoked him again, but after I peaked at about one hundred and twelve, he started to slowly catch up and then he just walked away, like a bat-out-a-Hell!


Cable Vault Screws

Back in the Day, if you were a Bell Telephone/AT&T employee, there were three things that would get you fired; driving a company car with your arm out the window; standing on the top step of a ladder; and Screwing the operators.

Around 1958 when I worked as a Western Electric installer in the Lynchburg, Virginia telephone office, we worked along side AT&T and Bell Telephone people. For the most part they were some pretty nice folks. 

However, there was this one AT&T supervisor who was held in pretty low regard. He was an arrogant, womanizing bully, and nobody would have missed him if he had fallen into a deep hole. We all wished he would get his comeuppance one day. 

Some of the AT&T techs couldn't wait for that day and were actively looking for ways to make that happen sooner. 

This jerk could be occasionally seen with one of the telephone operators going to the cable vault for some "heavy petting."

A cable vault is where the outside telephone cables enter the Central Office building. These cables are very vulnerable to moisture, so to keep out the moisture the cables are pumped full of Nitrogen under pressure. This was extremely important, so there are alarms all over the building including inside the vault, that go off when the pressure drops even a small amount. When the alarms do go off everybody rushes to the vault to make repairs as quickly as possible.

On one such visit to the vault by the supervisor and his companion, some of the guys had disconnected the alarm inside the vault, waited an appropriate amount of "foreplay" time, and then set off the alarms.

Having spread the word about what was going to happen, everybody--and their brother, came rushing to the cable vault, throwing open the door, and catching these hapless, necked love birds completely unaware.

The supervisor was subsequently fired, and the operator transferred.

Hypnotism in the Air Force

At about sixteen I got interested in Hypnotism. So I went to the local library,  looking for books on the subject. The only book I could find was on "Mesmerism." I don't remember the publishing date, but it was old.

Anyway, I studied it and tried self hypnosis, which didn't work.

My first real subjects were some of the guys that hung out at the local BSA motorcycle shop, run by a friend.

Of the several techniques in the book, the one that worked for me was the use of an auto tail light bulb dangled on a string, positioned above the subject's eyes where it caused eye fatigue. They were instructed to find a reflection and stare into it and listen to the sound of my voice. And that worked--on about 50% to 60% of those tried.

My first "success" was an adult--my best subject ever, I told him he could not open his eyes, try as he might, he wouldn't be able to open his eyes, then telling him to try, he tried and tried and couldn't budge them. Then I told him that I would tell him to open his eyes, and he would be able to, and I told him to open his eyes and he opened them. 

Fast forward six years to the Air Force. One night a bunch of guys were gathered in our third floor room at Turner AFB enlisted barracks. Hypnotism came up in conversation and I mentioned my experiences with hypnotizing several friends years ago.

Several people laughed at the idea of hypnotism, saying they didn't believe in that crap, and knew I had never hypnotized anybody! That pissed me off!

So I asked for a volunteer. One of the skeptics who laughed at the idea said I could try, but he couldn't be hypnotized. 

With about ten guys looking on, I told the volunteer to lie down on a bunk, and started. In less than five minutes he was under.

The session lasted about an hour and a half, surprisingly, most of the onlookers stayed for the whole thing.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes, I tested him to show that he was really under, just about then all the skeptics were no longer skeptics.

About that time I was on a roll, and I gave them my "A" stuff. I had him hold his arm out and told him it would never get tired, and while holding his arm out I tried the "pin prick" stunt, telling him he wouldn't feel a thing while jabbing him with a sterile sewing needle--sure enough, he didn't bat an eye.

I turned and took a little bow, which was followed by mock applause. 

About half way through the session, I started in on age regression, and I was amazed, along with almost everyone else, at what happened.

This guy was about twenty and had a New England accent with a pronounced speech impediment--a combination of thick tongue and baby talk. For some reason I took him back to when he was twelve, and low and behold he spoke with absolutely no speech impediment what so ever! Not only was the impediment gone, but he had a very pronounced Boston accent--everybody was blown away. They all knew this kid, some even worked with him, they all saw the difference.

I asked him to relive something that happened in his neighborhood, and he "reenacted a bicycle accident where he fell down and hurt himself. Again the whole thing was unreal--I was having the time of my life.

I took him back to six, then three, each age I would ask him the meaning of words and pose math questions, trying to find out what age he really was at.

I finally took him to six months, he could only make baby noises--again I/we, were astonished! 

I ended the session by my making baby noises to him, he got this really big grin on his face, started giggling like a baby, and woke himself up.

This is not the end of the story.

He woke up, looked around and said, "I told you, you couldn't hypnotize me."

Everybody in that room let out hoot and laughed like Hell. He was befuddled, he got this weird look on his face and said, what? I said "you were out for over an hour." He said "no I wasn't," I said "look at your watch," he looked and said, "you set it forward." I said, "oh, you remember when that happened do you?" He didn't say a word.

After that, he never spoke to me ever again...

Building a Marine

When I taught Senior Design at NCSU's ECE Department in the mid nineties, I would give a "hands-on" lecture every Wednesday. I hated lecturing, per se, as a way of imparting knowledge, but I did believe in "showing-while-telling." Often I would build some device or other that helped demonstrate some principle I was trying to convey.

One day I was showing filter 'Group Delay' using one of my devices, for some reason one display failed to work properly. 

In the audience was a student, an Ex-Marine, who was a bit of a pain in the ass, most kids thought him an arrogant asshole--as did I. He pipes up saying, "it seems everything you build doesn't work."

I said, "you are so right." "You know, I tried to build a Marine once, but couldn't do it."

He said, "why not?" 

I said, "because I didn't have enough Shit."

The audience roared with laughter--especially the girls!

He mumbled something, stood up and started toward the stage. Just about then one of the kids--a Black Belt, stood up, faced him, and said, "first, you are going have to go through me."

The Ex-Marine muttered something else, and sat down.

The guy never showed up for my lectures again--in fact. I don't remember ever seeing him in class again. 

The Black Belt, of course, got an "A."


SSB Reception, Enhanced

Back in the early 60s, when I was KX6AY on Kwajalein, Island, in the Marshall Islands (PMR), I ran two 2 kW Collins S-Line SSB rigs, Army's KX6DB, and the Navy's KX6BU, with Telrex 6 element Tri-banders at 120 feet with the Pacific Ocean as a ground plane. :-). 

Sometimes, on 20 meters, I would go down to the AM band (14,200 - 14,250 MHz), more often than not, I would hear only the carriers, no modulation--I kid you not! 

I also ran a Collins KWM-2 (180 W pep) using a Mosley tri-band beam on the roof above my room with little trouble making contacts around the world. 

I had often felt that there was even more advantages to SSB (than the 9dBm) due to the received signal's intelligibility (filtering, ability to tune off frequency changing pitch, etc.). 

In Fact to take advantage of this, I built an acoustic delay-line[2] which delayed the audio to one ear ~16 ms more than the other, giving me a pseudo stereo like effect. 

I could de-tune the receiver just a little and the effect was like placing different people in the QSO at different spatial positions within the room, with the receiver noise floor having its own spatial position--it was a Hoot!

To this I also added audio compression (or "Sta-level," as it use to be called).

It all worked really well. It worked with speakers, but it worked best with head phones. The effect of all this, on top of improving the intelligibility, was to relieve a lot of the fatigue inherent in attempting to understand conversations in noisy environments over prolonged periods--which can be pretty taxing during poor reception.

[2] The acoustic delay-line used about twenty feet of 3/16" neoprene tubing, driven at one end by a 16 ohm, electromagnetic ear bud. At the other end was a (piezo) crystal ear bud with a gain stage to make up for the -50 dB inherent loss. The frequency response of the overall system (300 Hz to 2400 Hz) was dictated by the receiver's SSB mechanical filter.

Aircraft Instrument: Attitude Gyro, A.K.A., Artificial Horizon
There is a primary aircraft instrument called the Attitude Gyro (known also as the Artificial Horizon). Its function is to present to the pilot the aircraft's attitude or position relative to the horizon: it indicates pitch (climb/dive) and roll (bank angle/rate of turn).

The standard/conventional instrument display presents a fixed aircraft wing against a moving horizon.

I propose a nonstandard instrument display that presents a moving aircraft wing against a fixed horizon.

The reason behind this departure is based on my experience as an Instrument Trainer (Link Trainer) instructor in the USAF.

Years ago my task was to administer the SAC Instrument Exam to B-52 and KC-135 pilots 90 days prior to their taking the same exam in the actual aircraft.

Among the exercises was a newly added procedure call the "Recovery from Unusual Attitudes." This was where the pilot would close his eyes, and I would take the aileron wheel and put the aircraft into an unusual attitude, e.g., climbing and rolling to the right; diving and rolling to the left, etc...then I would tell the pilot to open his eyes and recover the aircraft.

Invariably--if the pilot had never done this exercise before--he would open his eyes look at the attitude gyro and recover the aircraft the wrong way, backwards--then realizing his mistake, would recover it correctly.

However, once a pilot had gone through this exercise, the next time he was in the trainer, he always recovered the aircraft correctly there after.

All of these pilots were seasoned SAC pilots with thousands of flight hours.

This tells me that the instrument is intuitively backwards, that the basic instinct is to view the aircraft (wings) as moving against a stationary horizon.

BTW: It turns out that the Russians use the moving wings/fixed horizon on their attitude gyros.

Standard Attitude Gyro, Horizon moves

Nonstandard Attitude Gyro, Wings move
One wonders, how many accidents occurred because of this design...
Stars over Moore's Knob

Amateur astronomy has been my hobby ever since I built my first six inch Newtonian telescope at eleven. So when I had my first child, Lee, I wanted to share my love for the stars with him. As he reached the age that I became interested, I would bring out the telescope and show my kids the sights of the night sky. They appeared to enjoy it but it never started anything by way of a hobby.

I was always disappointed with our southern Virginia location, the night sky left something to be desired by way of stray light contamination. It only looked good in Winter at twenty degrees, when an Arctic blast came down from Canada. Then the sky was magical, so many stars you could not see individual constellations, the Milky Way was so bright I'd swear you could read by it. 

As the kids got older, we often went camping, and one of our favorite places was Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC, about thirty miles North of Winston-Salem.

Before the kids were born, I use to rock climb there with friends, and later with my wife, Ivey. Our favorite climbing wall was Moore's Wall, the highest point in the park. One way to get there was an hour's climb up a steep path to Moore's Knob where the stone remains of an old fire lookout tower was perched.

Every time the kids and I went camping, I thought how nice it would be to bring the telescope--but never did.

On one such trip in July, at nine o'clock at night--on a lark, Lee and I decided to hike up to Moore's Knob and spend the night on the top of the old fire tower. On top, the sky was pitch black showing every star in the heavens--it was Breath Taking, even clearer and brighter than any Winter sky I had ever witnessed.


The only light pollution was from a few scattered farms, the surrounding mountains formed a sort of bowl, mercifully blocking the city of Winston Salem's multitude of lights.

We both were blown away, we lay on our seeping bags staring at that wondrous night sky. For the longest time I had wanted to, somehow get across to my kids my profound Love of the Night Sky, the wonder of the Stars, the Planets, the Nebulae, and the Galaxies--especially the Milky Way. 

Yet, there we were, staring at this glorious sight, not needing words, just taking it All in, trying to savor every fleeting moment before it all faded.

We enjoy moments like this most when we can share it with those we love. I'm with my twelve year old son, whom I dearly love and who is my best friend, it can't get much better than that. Or can it? 

There are times in life when at the peak of happiness you know it cannot get any better, but it does! As we lay there absorbing it all, Lee turned to me and said, "Dad, this is the most Beautiful thing I've ever seen in my Life!" I was absolutely Levitating!

Some folks say we don't remember emotions, recalling this thirty years later brings tears of Joy as fresh as then...


My Radio Days:
(...orange glow of a magical Dial--behind which the whole World lay)

Recently I was listening to some original Glenn Miller, it took me back many many years to my childhood during my WWII days.

Among my most vivid memories--aside from the air raid drills, with the family huddled in a closed small room, shades drawn, with only a dim half painted light bulb, and scrap metal drives where no metal object in the house was safe; is the family RCA with its great Shortwave band.

The soft hypnotic orange glow of its # 47 piløt lamp, illuminating its magical Dial--behind which the whole World lay. That Radio transported anyone listening to the most mysterious ends on the globe.

I would sit there and listen for hours, strange sounds, morse code, radio teletype, the BBC with its trade mark, Big Ben chimes, and "This is London calling." So many foreign tongues, having no idea what was being said, except for the occasional, "Allies," or "Third Reich," or "Herr Hitler..."

But hearing Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller--both on the local station and shortwave--with its fading, static, and the quick volume changes; and, of course, my brothers' record player repeatedly playing their favorite five old 78's, was/is memorable--to this day... 

Back then, that Dial with its single dull orange color; the "Pictures" coming out of that old RCA have yet to be matched from any TV, computer, or home theater...


Life's Gifts

When my son, Lee, was about three, one night near 3AM, I took him to the bath room to use the toilet.

He finished, and I helped him dry his hands. As we were going down the hall back to his room, he stopped, turned to me and hugging my leg, looked up and said, "I Love you Daddy."

Just then, I realized that I had just been given one of life's most Precious Gifts, one that I would hold on to for the rest of my life. Recounting it now, brings the same overwhelming emotions as then.

If that little guy could have articulated, "I want a brand new Cadillac convertible, Daddy," I would have been in the local dealer's front yard, tossing pebbles at his bedroom window!


A Kwajalein Christmas
(8 Thousand miles from Home)

I remember the Christmas of 1962, I was living and working on the island of Kwajalein in the western Pacific, part of the Pacific Missile Range (PMR).

I worked in a lab with five or six other technicians. We were occasional friends and “drinking buddies.”

That Christmas eve was like any other day, I wasn't in the Christmas sprite, and I had no plans for any celebration.

That evening one of my buddies came by my room and suggested that after we have supper that we go to the outdoor movie theatre. At the time I thought this a little out of character, but I wanted to see the movie.

Afterwards he suggested we go back to my room and "drink my beer." So back at my room I open the door and turn on the lights and there was the whole gang, shouting, “Merry Christmas,” as we walked in.

On the counter over my refrigerator was a small artificial tree, all lit up, and under it was a wooden toy train with assorted gifts and candy.

I was stunned, in a hundred years this would never have crossed my mind. These were guys not prone to sentimentality, nor was I, but the tears came that night, as they do in the retelling.

We sat around for the next three or four hours drinking, eating, and reminiscing about, among other things, Christmases past.

That was a Christmas I will never ever forget...


My Days at IBM

A&E's Halt and Catch Fire reminded me of my IBM Days.

Around 1984 - 89, Michael Jones and I worked, for three and a half years, as consulting contractors for IBM CPD at RTP, NC, making way, way, too much money.

In those days IBM was starting to loosen their "hiring dress code," they were losing too many talented people to other companies.

With my lack of education, IBM would never have hired me as an EE (Hell they wouldn't even read my resume), but as a "consultant" (that's anybody from out of town), they paid me three times the going rate--go figure!

As a "consultant" at IBM, the amount of influence I had on design, and day to day decisions was unprecedented, I had so much more than my IBM counterparts. In three and a half years, nobody ever said "NO" to me--ever! My manager, Sarkis Zartarian, and I never had a disagreement. For me that was unheard of, most managers that I've worked for, often found me to be "a Royal Pain in the Ass!"

I remember one day, going to work at 4 or 5 o'clock that evening to work on a rush demo to be shown to management the next day. I drove into the parking lot in my brand new red 1984 300ZX Nissan, wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and a denim jacket, sporting a full beard (a no no at IBM). 

 As I was walking into the main building I passed a manager leaving for the night, carrying two oversized brief cases--homework. As we passed we spoke and I was aware of his looking at my yellow contractor's badge and assuming that I was part of the evening cleaning crew. I smiled to myself knowing that I was making three times his salary (six figures)...


Show and Tell
(A&E's Halt and Catch Fire reminded me of my IBM Days.)

We were developing a multimedia communication system based on the PC XT and later the AT as the platform. When we finished we had hi-res color video I/O,  voice reco, store and forward voice/video email using early "shot gunning" via dial-up. http://williamson-labs.com/480_hal.htm

We took the PC with its "sixteen" (8) colors, to a PC that could capture and display live video, with 64K colors. I designed and built a very high res color wheel camera using an RGB spinning color filter wheel (à la NASA) and a special color capture/display card using the latest 224 kbyte NEC serial video DRAM. Our card worked in RGB color space with 6 bit overlay, which displayed in NTSC compatible color video.

On the TV show when they couldn't get their new clone, the "Giant," to run at Comdex, reminded me of when we had a chance to demo our system to the then, retiring president of IBM. He and his entourage were on a year long, worldwide tour of all major IBM facilities--apparently, something all retiring IBM presidents do.

Our manager was Sarkis Zartarian, who was a Dead Ringer for the show's Ex-IBMer, Joe MacMillan. He was the biggest liar and con artist I ever met. He also was a true Visionary! 

Anyway, he had somehow wheedled us a demo with big man. About thirty minutes before our Show & Tell, my prototype capture card Caught Fire and Halted! A "rat's nest" of wire wrap wires had melted and fused together, it was a F...ing Mess!

Panicked and Pissed, I ran trough three very long buildings--wearing F...ing cowboy boots--Ouch, to our lab, gathering tools and Shit, running back--muttering all the way.

With incomplete documentation, I tried to clean and repair that #@$% card--knowing all the while I had no chance in Hell of success. 

Everybody showed up before I could see if the fix had worked. Miraculously, it worked!! Right then and there, I felt like I had just witnessed somebody's Religious Experience!  (;-)

The big man was impressed. The local upper management, who had been looking for an excuse to CAN our Asses, grudgingly let us "live another day."

We ultimately went the way of OS2, and Micro-Channel. Sarkis Zartarian took early retirement, and using the technology we developed and IBM threw away, did pioneering work in early Telemedicine, of which many papers bear his name. 

Sarkis passed away in 2004 in Armenia where he was on the faulty of a technical university.

A Note: Gender differences aside, Michael Jones was our Cameron Howe prodigy. Later Michael went on to Silicon Graphics Incorporated (SGI), as a high level Department Head. Later he developed and sold what is today, Google Earth.

More of my IBM story, http://williamson-labs.com/480_hal.htm



With my lack of education, IBM would never have hired me as an EE (Hell they wouldn't even read my resume), but as a "consultant" (that's anybody from out of town), they paid me three times the going rate--go figure!

The amount of influence I had on design, and day to day decisions was unprecedented, I had so much more than my IBM counter parts. In three and a half years, nobody said "NO" to me--ever! 

For example, we were designing graphic/capture adaptor cards for the XT and AT. We needed the PC interfacing specs from IBM Boca--the owners of All Things PC. Nobody at IBM RTP could get them to even return phone calls, much less come across with information. I contacted them letting them know I was not an IBMer, but a contractor, they were forthcoming--well somewhat...

As it turned out, one of the inventors of the PC, Lewis Eggebrecht, had written, "Interfacing to the IBM Personal Computer," 1st Ed., 1984--which I quickly bought a copy of.

Even that was lacking, it failed to cover RACE and crosstalk conditions that we encountered--and eventually solved.

As is often the case, there was great irony; while by Day I worked at trying to add color depth, live video, stereo audio I/O, etc., to the PC; at Night I would come home to my Commodore Amiga 1000, with its 4096 color video capture/display, hifi stereo, text to audio--all the things we were trying to add to the PC. 

And in addition, the AMIGA, with its custom audio and video processors, was faster, by far, than the IBM PC XT & AT.  (It also beat the socks off the newly released, B&W Macintosh!)

Later, the AMIGA 2000, had an optional 386 adaptor card that could run MSDOS/Windows at the same time as AMIGA OS, which I used in a Airport Tower simulator design. It worked beautifully!

Today, a lot of the color animations on my web site, http://williamson-labs.com/, were done on my AMIGA 2000 and 500 more than twenty years ago. 

Coincidentally, the iMAC that I'm writing this on today, have some of the very same features.

No matter the beautiful designs of Gordon Clark, or Cameron Howe's elegant coding, today's technology is a direct reflection of the Joe MacMillans and the Sarkis Zartarians of the world, the Visionaries, not the Technologists. 

Today's television has at least thirty 'parents,' when it comes to the technology, but is the reflection of one Visionary, a ruthless, hated SOB, and driven Genius--David Sarnoff!

Of course we need both, but, Like it or Not, the first order effects are from the Bill Gates', the Steve Jobs', and the David Sarnoffs' of the world...

Progress is Not Easy

The story of Philo Farnsworth (he invented Television) is Inspirational, exciting and--my personal favorite--Damn Depressing. 

I would like to see a chart or graphic or some sort of representation of the relative contributions (technical, financial, "political," etc.) of Armstrong, Goldmark, Farnsworth, De Forest, Edison, et al., even David Sarnoff--to the "Invention" of Television. 

There is a disjoint between what people (read that, all of us) expect to be "Fair & Equitable" and what is required for humankind to get out of, and stay out of, "Caves." 

The Thinkers Think!  --The Doers Do!

If all of the Thinkers had sat on their thoughts--we would still be living in caves. 

If all of the Doers had Not Done, we would still be living in caves--regardless of what the Thinkers had thought! 

I don't like it, but it seems immutable--a physics thing--a Law of Nature: For mankind to survive, there seems a requirement that the Greedy feed off of the Artisans. And, the rest of us keep quiet because we are the beneficiaries of this process. 

The people--by their deeds--who have brought about the most momentous changes to mankind--good & bad--were the Doers, and--in the main--were not nice people. 

Looking at Sarnoff's history, he seems the archetype of that dichotomy. 

Once, in a blue moon, is born a soul that is both a Thinker and a Doer--Edison, Eastman, Land, Westinghouse, etc.; or a duo--Wozniak & Jobs, etc. 

As evidence of this Fact of Life, less than 1% of inventors benefit directly from their inventions--most die bitter and impoverished people. 

If one is innovative and desires Peace-of-Mind, one should suppress the urge to invent!  "--lie down til the Feeling Goes Away." The preceding "LOAD" are my reluctant conclusions, not my beliefs!

The Demo

We demoed our stuff, and the color wheel camera to three IBM site managers who were there to determine our status--to CAN or not to CAN, our Asses, and who just happen to be good friends of our "NTSC" competitor, Charlie Kunzinger. 

I will never forget the scene: They walked in, obligatory 'pleasant chit chat,' and all three lined up in front of the SONY KV-1270-Q hi-res RGB monitor. I turned on the light box which held a colorful transparency, the camera spun-up, and finally I turned on the monitor; as the monitor warmed up, I walked behind and to the side of these three guys and waited. As the image came on the screen, there was an audible gasp from all three, and--so Help-me-GOD--at the same time they all rose up on their tip toes: talk about body language! If they had risen any higher they would have been Levitating! 

The image was perfect! 

To prove we weren't "hosin-em," I went over and put in several other transparencies. 

They said absolutely Nothing! 

They sat through the rest of the demo: voice mail; store & forward video mail; video conferencing in the form of live whiteboard annotation; voice reco--that worked without a head set (keyboard commands). It was Outstanding!. 

They thanked us politely for our time, and left.

The project was CANCELED!   --Sarkis took early retirement...

What ever happened to Ralph?

Shortly after Ivey started divorce proceedings against me and I had moved out of our house, she called me at my workplace, Northern Telecom, and told me that she had done "a terrible thing." She said that she just had Ralph--our beagle that I bought for her as a puppy just before our marriage, and who had grown up with our kids, and was the beloved family pet, "put down."

I ask her, "why in the Hell did she do that," and she told me that there were new neighbors next door, and that Ralph had been barking at night--keeping them awake[1], and that they had complained, and she was so embarrassed that she decided to have him "put to sleep."

I ask her why didn't she give him to me instead, or to someone else, or even to the animal shelter, but not killing him, to which she had no answer.

We ended the conversation, by my saying, "...since you killed Ralph because he 'Embarrassed' you, I guess I got off pretty Damn lucky!"

Though she never asked me to not mention this to the kids, it was implicit that we would never, ever, tell them. The story would be that Ralph was so sick that to avoid his suffering, he had to be, "put to sleep." 

At the time my main concern was to protect the children from the truth, and for over thirty five years we have. 

During that time it occurred to me that unbeknownst to me, the kids might have thought that I was responsible for Ralph's demised. Of course there was no way I could be sure without spilling the beans.

I have no way of knowing whether or not Ivey ever told them--if I had to guess, it would be "not."

Looking back now, and knowing how it feels to lose a family pet--cat or dog, it is truly hard to understand how someone who has had a pet for over ten years, who your kids loved, could kill that pet,  just to placate next door neighbors, whom you didn't even know.

I really loved that little guy, and that only added grief on top of the Hell I was already feeling from the separation and later divorce. Maybe that's the reason...

I really don't know how Ivey could live with having done that to that innocent, loving little guy...

As Paul Harvey use to say, "Now for the rest of the story."

After the new neighbors had moved in next door, they started accumulating dogs one after another, for a grand total of five. As would be expected, the dogs barked at all hours. The neighbors, as a family, were dysfunctional, to say the least--even down to their pets. 

Meanwhile, this went on for more than sixteen years, and not wanting to "look bad," to the neighbors. Ivey would not complain to them about their barking dogs. __Poor Ralph...

I like to think of 'Ole Ralphie' looking down--from wherever dead dogs look down from, and smiling with a big toothy grin, expressing doggie satisfaction!

I Miss You Ralphie Ole Boy...

[1] For the ten years I lived with the family, to prevent Ralph's barking and keeping the neighbors awake, I built a doggie door with a timer that let him out after nine AM, and closed for the night when he came in after nine PM (sensors in his bed).


Mike King (1953 - 1997)
'Engineer Extraordinaire' 

Why I'm Writing This 
Mike King was a self taught Electrical Engineer--a feat few have ever accomplished!

Since Mike did not finish College, I'm going on the assumption that his parents were disappointed--as most parents would be--at his never having gotten a College Degree. 

What follows is my attempt to put into some sort of prospective the way the system really works and the difference between being an Engineer and a person with an Engineering degree. 

This is not meant to suggest that Mike's Mom and Dad are mistaken in their value of a College Degree. Quite to the contrary, after having met Mike's Dad, the more I feel like I'm "preaching to the choir."

A Point of Reference 
There is no disputing that a College degree--a diploma--is necessary in the work-a-day world, regardless of what you know! Bummer!

What the Engineering Student Faces 
When a student enters Engineering school--or any College level school--they are quickly faced with the reality that there is so much to learn and so little time to learn it. This inevitably leads to the choice of, "do I take the time to understand this stuff, or just commit it to memory and regurgitate it on tests, with the hopes that I'll pick it up one of these days"? It boils down to getting "good" grades--with a better chance toward a good job--on the one hand; or taking the time to learn the subject (with the inevitable lower grades), while risking one's job future. Every student makes that choice and it is usually some compromise between the two. 

For some, it is not a balance, they go for one extreme or the other and, in either case end up at a disadvantage. Their grades are great, but they are dumb as a rock; or they know the subject but their GPAs are low and the H R people (who are also dumb as rocks) rank them down at the bottom. Again, one can say it isn't fair--and they'd be right--but that's the way the game is played! 

The Great GPA Myth
As one might deduce from the above, there seems to be three types of student coming out of this: 1) the student with the high GPA--Grade Point Average; 2) the student that made the compromise between learning something and an acceptable GPA; 3) and finally the last, the student who came to the University because they had a-need-to-know! At this point one might well ask what about the drop out that didn't make it through? The answer is, there are many reasons why a student drops out of engineering school, but let's say there are the ones that just cannot get it, and then there are the ones that recognized the system as a waste of their time, and were bored to death. 

Super Stars 
If I take stock of the outstanding Engineers that I have known and now know, their one common feature is that--to a person, they had remarkably low GPAs or they never got a degree, and coincidentally, just happen to love Engineering/Technology. 

And, I might add: I have yet to meet their counterpart that could be described as a good Engineer! 

A Conversation with the Chancellor 
Several years ago Nick England and I were in conversation with Larry Monteith, NCSU's chancellor, about industry's misguided use of Grade Point Average in judging our graduating students. Larry agreed and admitted that as an undergraduate, he had graduated with a 2.0 GPA, and that his son had just recently graduated with a 2.1 GPA. At this point we suggested that: why the Hell don't YOU get the word out to industry that GPA is a useless method of measuring our engineering students. Of course this is a bit like trying to get the Emperor--himself, to admit he is nude!

What Parents Want 
All Parents wish for their children a better life than they had. To that end they work hard and save to help put their children through College. Believing that without a college education/degree their children, will have a hard time of it. And, they are Right, but maybe for a different reason than they might imagine.

My Prospective 
I have been on the ECE faculty at N.C. State going on 5 years, and have had a relationship with State, off and on, for more than 28 years, in fact that's where I first met Mike.

I promise you, most of our Engineering students have only one salable item upon graduation, their "sheep skin" (cloned and un-cloned). After four years, they--in the main, have absolutely no marketable skills, many will remain that way. But that Engineering Diploma is an entrée to the job marketplace, a place where those without a diploma--regardless of their abilities, will seldom feel welcome.

Engineer Types 
In the world of Engineering and Technology there are three basic kinds of people, and their derivatives: There is the "Nine to Five-er," the Professional, and the "Zen (and the Art of Motorcycle Repair) Type." And in this world there is a place and need for all three.

Without exploring all three categories, I want to describe the last and maybe least appreciated and least understood. There are people who are born with a insatiable curiosity--no matter what their life's pursuit--they will carry that burning need to understand with them--wherever they go. With this curiosity comes an intuition--a sixth sense, that allows them to view the world on several levels: the aesthetic eye of the Artist; the pragmatic eye of the Engineer; and the "binder" for all this, a native intelligence, or common sense--which allows them to deal with the world using measured portions of each. It is my considered opinion that I have just described Mike King.

--what the Hell did he just say? --He's raving again, we've got to get him back on his medication.

The System 
Because the university system is designed to pass through as many graduating students--at the least costs, and minimum effort by the faculty, it loses (and has lost for some time) its real purpose: to Create Engineers! 

It is reduced to a four year science course. If you want to create scientists this is what you do, but Engineers are not scientist, and hold on to your shorts, scientist are not Engineers. Engineers Design; they use and create the derivatives of science.

Is it Art or is it Science? 
The "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair type." There are operative words that describe the elements making up these special people: The Root Word or wellspring from which everything flows is: Curiosity. Without curiosity, the rest would not be possible: Intuition, Fun, Enthusiasm, Fun, Motivation, Fun, Tenacity, Fun, Work, Fun, Pride, Fun, Ego, Fun, Satisfaction, Fun, Dissatisfaction, Fun, Rigor, and finally, Fun!

Ecstasy & Agony 
There is an emotion that is the baggage of Innovation, Design & Engineering: it is what Edison called "the Ecstasy of Success, and the Agony of Dissatisfaction." He said show me a man who is satisfied and I will show you a failure." Mike enjoyed that moment of success, but almost immediately become dissatisfied with it and made it even better. I think without this emotion we would most probably still be living in caves! 

This is where it Gets Deep (get out the hip boots John)
The manifestations of this Zen like experience can be described as "Being One with the Motorcycle," it could even be called a religious experience, it certainly is an emotional experience--part Art, part Science. One feels what he or she is working with is an extension of themselves. I think most people have fleeting experiences with what I am attempting to describe: that tennis match where you could do no wrong, the piece of software that came together so well and fast you felt, at times, you might only be an observer to some magical process. None of what I have tried to describe implies a lack of Rigor, or attention to detail (read that as "Work") quite the contrary, but the required rigor and energy is rarely in the consciousness. 

All of the education in the world cannot "Teach" this Trait/Gift--sometimes Curse.

.Random Platitudes 
All of this is by way of suggesting that regret over one's offspring's not getting or having a College Degree is a wasted concern, albeit a degree is a job hunting advantage.

Sometimes you have to make the choice: do I Work to Live, or do I Live to Work. If one lives to work, is it really work? Tom Edison also said, "...he had never worked a day in his life--it had all been fun."

I would much prefer that my children love their life's chosen profession--not hate it as do so many. 

Where's the Meat? 
OK, OK, The Knot-Head who is writing this Cra...Stuff, claims to be writing about Mike King: Where's the Meat?

If anyone who has worked with Mike didn't see him in the third "Engineer Type," we all have wasted time writing and reading this! Mike might be the Archetype of the Zen Engineer--though he might not have described himself in quite those terms.

The Bottom line... The Finish Line...
The one thing missing in most University experiences is the connection with the Real World. Mike would have been the perfect person to teach these soon-to-be Engineers what Real Engineering is all about.

It's their loss, It's Our loss...



David R. Hendricks, 1964 - 2006
From Student to Friend...

In my lifetime it has been my good fortune to have met and known a few very extraordinary people; David Hendricks is at the top of that list.

I first met David in 1994, as a student in John Sutton’s and my class, ECE 480 at NCSU.

David use to say how much he had learned from us, and how grateful he was. For my part, it is I who am grateful, I learned so much more from him. I learned the true meaning of "Character" and all that word implies. Whenever I think of David I think of Courage, which he demonstrated every day of his life. None of us will ever know the pain he endured on a daily basis, and yet, he rose above it and excelled in any endeavor he took on.

His accomplishments are too numinous to list here; however, one comes to mind that is "typical David." His project for ECE 480 was voice recognition in an automobile--something that had not been successfully accomplished up to that time. John and I both tried to talk him out of it, explaining that a lot of renowned people had hurt their careers attempting that very thing. He thanked us for our suggestions and concerns, but that he had his heart set on it and would try anyway. 

As it turned out we were dead wrong! He had succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination. I remember the day he demonstrated it to John and myself. With the windows rolled down--the wind blasting in, cruising down the highway at 60 MPH, it worked flawlessly. And, it worked without a headset, allowing "hands free" operation: this was the "holy grail" of voice recognition. He had placed a microphone on the visor for "hands free" operation--the very thing that made it functional and that no one else had achieved. 

David put himself thru school, he worked for Northern Telecom as an Electrical Engineer for over ten years, he only needed the diploma.

It was an interesting 12 years, David went from one of my best students to one of my closest friends. I can't believe he's gone.


Retirment: 2001

McGraw Hill Publishing Co., Authored "Circuit Integrity Series"  1999 - 2000

Patent Law Attorneys, Washington, DC, Expert Witness, graphics Adapter: 1999

NCSU/ECE Dept., Faculty member, ECE480 Senior Design: 1993 - 1998 

AT&T/Bell Labs's Holmdel, NJ, Consulting, Graphics Supercomputer: 1992 

IBM CPD, Consulting design engineer, Network Adapter: 1989 - 1991 

IBM New Designs Gp, Consulting design engineer, PC A/V: 1985 - 1989 

Northern Telecom, Senior design engineer, New Products Gp: 1979 -1981 

IKONAS Graphics, Senior design engineer, Raleigh, NC: 1982 - 1985 

NCSU EE Dept., Research technician: 1969 - 1979 

GE Mobile Radio Products design lab, Lynchburg, VA: 1967 - 1968 

Invention, Speech Bandwidth Compression Patent: 1963 - 1970* (*patent)

WECo/Bell Labs, Nike Zeus ABM, PMR, Kwajalein, MI: 1961 - 1963 

GE CPD, Lynchburg, VA, Electronics technician: 1961 

USAF/SAC Link instructor: 1959 - 1961 

Uranium prospecting, Four Corners Area, Utah: 1958 

WECo installer, SAGE Project, and various Telco Offices: 1957 - 1958 

Two Way Radio repair and installation, Petersburg,VA: 1954 - 1956 


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