There were always connections helping me find a job. My friend Don gave me his job sweeping floors at the downtown dress shop. My mother got me a job at the cemetery. Jim got me the job at the Credit Union League, which taught me a lot. My first real job, found sort of on my own, was at the college radio station. Just like other jobs, it came to me through connections. This connection was my friend Cliff O, who lived in the room next door in the dorm.
KDSU was the college radio station, a public radio station before there was National Public Radio. The hours were limited, going on the air in late morning or early afternoon, signing off just after midnight. The fare was classical music in the afternoon, some news in the evening, more classical music, then jazz to close out the night. Most of the staff were nerds like me, more interested in radio technology than radio, and weren’t afraid to talk to a microphone.
Back in high school I had been part of the radio club. (My memory is dim here.) I had befriended one of the KEYJ announcers and put together some programs for high school news. That experience and my hobby of taking apart radios and televisions made me ideal for the job at KDSU. All I needed was a third class radiotelephone license. As I recall all I had to do was send in my name and address.
During my stay in Mott, North Dakota it happened that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins were on their way to the moon. For this event there were about a dozen of Mott’s finest (plus me) in the lobby of the Mott Hotel watching a black and white TV set that hung from the ceiling. Nobody could see the picture very well, since the TV was small, reception was bad and the transmission from the moon was nothing like today’s high tech HDTV. It seemed that most of the conversation consisted of questions like “What’s that?” “Is that him now?”
Neil Armstrong at Tranquility Base
At the time I did not realize what a monumental occasion it was, but looking back on it from the perspective of today, it is almost overwhelming that it could have happened. All of the computers used on the moon shot, added together, were not as powerful as the computer in my pocket today, and only a fraction of the computing power used to create this blog post. Very few people in the room that night (somewhere about midnight as I recall) understood how it could happen, let alone what it would really mean to the world.
You might ask, “Why were you in Mott anyway?” Money. I had been fired from my previous job. While getting a haircut the next day, I heard that some guy in Mott was looking for an experienced metal building erector. I needed a job, was fully qualified (willing to work in Mott) and the rest was history. A quick phone call to Mott ensured that I could show up on Monday morning and stay in the Mott Hotel. Continue reading
Henry’s shop, with the 1953 Chevy he drove to Alaska.
Henry was possibly my favorite uncle. He always had ideas and aspirations, and his politics were a little strange. For some reason my memory of him has always been linked with the John Birch Society.
Most memorable was his ability to do (almost) whatever he wanted. Build a house. Experiment with an Oldsmobile Diesel engine. Tear down a grain elevator. Build a wooden bull, pagoda or castle. Or drive to Alaska on a whim.
The attached letter describes his trip and his impressions. It’s not clear to whom the letter is addressed, but it would be fun to know! Henry had a huge shop, with dozens of fascinating projects, including many of those I mentioned above. In the back of the shop were a couple of identical 1953 Chevrolet sedans. One of them is the car he took on this trip.
A question for the family … Did Ray go on this trip with Henry? My memory says yes, but there’s no mention of him in this letter.
One day in August I started to drive north from my home in Pettibone, North Dakota. No particular destination in mind, I just planned to see what the country looked like farther north. I had a good old car and some money for gas so thought I could just as well make use of it.