Radio days

Vintage Zenith Royal 150 Transistor Radio (8397268271)Radio was different in 1961. I had a brand new pocket transistor radio.

According to Wikipedia, the radio probably cost me about twenty dollars. Adjusting for inflation, that’s well over a hundred of today’s dollars. My memory is foggy on where the money or the radio came from, but having one of those little Zenith radios says something about my interest in technology.

Jamestown had only two radio stations in those days. KSJB and KEYJ. Both are still on the air, but now there are many more. That summer I listened to a few baseball games, but they didn’t hold my interest. Roger Maris was almost a local boy, but that wasn’t enough. KSJB played top ten hits, which did catch my interest. I collected their weekly Billboard Top Ten sheets for years, saving them for decades. It took a while for me to get my first RCA 45 RPM record changer, which allowed me to start buying those top ten records. Nat “King” Cole got the honors of the first record I ever bought: Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.

KSJB had much more than music. One of my grandmother’s favorite shows was the Reverend N.E. McCoy. He preached in the small town style. No asking for money, as not many people in our town had much for money. Most important, from Grandma’s point of view, was McCoy’s hospital visits. He would make the rounds of the hospital in the morning, visiting with all the patients, then give everyone in town an update on his noon-time radio show. From what I know about privacy and HIPAA laws, he wouldn’t have much to talk about today. Continue reading

I said No

IBM Interview Routing Sheet

IBM Interview Routing Sheet

There weren’t any jobs. Nobody came to NDSU in early 1972 looking for engineering graduates. Well, the CIA was looking, and I talked to them, but they decided I wasn’t cut out for that business. I had a brand new degree in electrical engineering and nobody wanted me. The lack of job opportunities drove me to one of the best decisions of my life. I applied for and received a scholarship to go on to graduate school. It wasn’t much of a decision: unemployment or a full ride to graduate school.

The job market totally turned around in the next year. By the spring of 1973 there were dozens of companies interviewing on campus, looking for freshly minted electrical engineers. I was a candidate for a Master’s of Electrical Engineering, and had a good GPA, which made getting interviews and site visits relatively easy.

Many of the companies I talked to don’t exist any more. Who remembers Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? They didn’t make me an offer, which was probably a good thing. A company in Boston did make an intriguing offer. The Route 128 area was rich with dozens of startup companies. But it was too far from home, and the cost of living was far higher than the Midwest jobs I was looking at. Let’s stay in the Midwest, eh?

I’d been on several interview trips by the time the Texas Instruments people called me down. I’d already pretty much made up my mind where to go, but this opportunity was quite the plum. Some real possibilities. The clincher came when I figured out a way to visit my family in Denver on their ticket. I signed up and started making plans. Two things worked in my favor. I knew a young lady who worked in a travel agency, and all the airplane tickets were paper. Continue reading

I’m afraid it’s a perfect day

Kutzky Park, Rochester MN

A perfect morning in Kutzky Park

I love my morning walks to coffee. Thanks to vacations and other complicating factors I hadn’t been to my favorite coffee shop for three weeks. This June morning was the perfect time to get back into the routine of walking the trails along Cascade Creek. A family of ducks swam among the rocks looking for breakfast. Bikers (always looking so healthy) smiled and greeted me warmly. The temperature hovered in the mid-sixties, with the clear sun promising a warm day.

Since the last time I’d been along the creek the wildflowers and naturalized areas on the bank had fully grown, the flowers overwhelmed me with beauty and fragrance. I couldn’t count the varieties of grasses and flowers.

What’s to be afraid of? Everything seemed so clean and well planned. The parks department maintains the edge of the trail, keeping the weeds at bay. In one flower bed they were half way through clearing overgrowth from around the milkweed. No wonder so many people get out early on a summer morning to enjoy the path.

I love taking my grand children over to the park, along the same trail, to the playground. There are usually several other little kids with moms or dads playing on the equipment. Their happy smiles remind me of when I played in Klaus Park in Jamestown, North Dakota. But something has changed. Continue reading

Ad Est Virum

Chrsitmas TreeIt’s all about who you know. My friend’s mother Adeline knew the people at White Drug, and she knew that I desperately needed money for college. I don’t remember who she talked to, but they gave me jobs during all the breaks throughout my freshman year of college. Some of the skills I learned ended up being useful, others not as much. One week I worked in the pharmacy. They had only one job for me. Count pills. Hundreds. Thousands of pills. Put them into jars of 100 each. Using a little tray, I’d count by fives. Five … ten … fifteen … all the way to a hundred. Put a lid on the jar. Repeat until lunch. Once again, I learned that my choice of an engineering career matched my personality.

Another week I worked in the general merchandise part of the store. Right after Christmas Day it was time to clear the holiday aisle for the new things. White’s sold a myriad of types of Christmas light bulbs. Tiny ones. Small ones for tree decorations. Larger ones to use along the roof. Red ones. Blue bulbs. Green. Every color, every size. These were the days before plastic bubble packs; all the bulbs were loose. Just pick out the few that met your needs and pay the lady. Thank you.

My job was to collect all the light bulbs into one large box and move them to storage. It was a huge box. Maybe a cubic yard? Three feet on a side, but light bulbs are light, so it wasn’t a big deal. Except for the little stumble I took going down the stairs. I dropped the box.

What a magical sound; hundreds of glass bulbs shattering. Continue reading