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Chapter 57

Bits and Pieces

My daughter-in-law suggested I write a "blog." After I checked the meaning of the word, I think that is what I have been doing all along. At any rate, I have given a great deal of thought to this piece and will use it to do a bit of bragging about the people, large and small, different and indifferent who (whom) I have met over the last 72 years.

Mercury Seven Astronauts - NASA

First of all, I want to give credit to Val (larvalbug) who hosts a wonderful web site dealing with birds, bugs, flowers and just about everything connected with nature. She is also a concert musician and one of the best nature photographers I know. She edits my web site and is a member of the exclusive "OINKERS CLUB." Let's hear it for Val. Hip-hip-hooray!

I said I would use this to do some bragging but at the same time have to give credit to some people who made good things happen in my life. One of the first was Bill McDavid, my first father in law. I had a good offer from Raytheon to teach radar in El Paso when I got out of the Army. Bill made me an offer I could not refuse. All I had to do was move to Houston, live rent free in a nice house on five acres, drive two new Oldsmobiles, gas furnished of course, and work ten or twelve hours a day, five and a half days a week. Another perk was socializing with the original seven Astronauts.

Bill managed to supply all seven with new Oldsmobile Starfire model Oldsmobiles. He hosted barbecues for the astronauts and their wives on several occasions and later became partners in the banking business with Alan Shepard. My wife and I were always invited to these soirees and one of the most memorable nights was Alan Shepard's uncensored sixteen millimeter film of his first flight in to space. I can tell you, a lot was left out of the version you see on television. Wally Schirra was another favorite. I always wanted to talk flying with him and all he was interested in was making his car run faster. We swapped out and had a lot of fun. Alan Shepard taught my two oldest daughters to water ski on Lake Travis near Austin. This was while he was grounded by NASA but it didn't stop him from flying Bill McDavid's Aero Commander much the way he flew a T-38 Talon, the aircraft the astronauts trained in. Flying right seat in the Commander with Alan was always exciting.

Gordon England
Bill McDavid was selected by the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce for an award. Part of the celebration included a speech by the Commander of SAC, General Curtis LeMay. I sat two chairs away from him at the awards dinner and loaned him my Zippo lighter to light his famous cigar. He kept the lighter.. with my blessing of course.

Another celebrity I met was Jerry Lewis. The Junior Chamber of Commerce hosted the Miss Houston pageant on a summer Sunday in Houston. Bad choice. Everyone was at the beach in Galveston watching pretty girls for free. Bill McDavid had underwritten the pageant with the hope of recouping his investment with ticket sales. Jerry Lewis was mad as a hornet because the audience was so small. My mechanics had spent a week making sure a 1903 Oldsmobile ran long enough for Jerry to mount it and ride across the stage. When it came time for him to get in the car and go on, he refused, gave me a cussing and walked out on stage. He did his best but he was much better with Dean Martin.

Meeting celebrities makes for name dropping conversation and most of them were regular fellows. Gordon England for instance. I met him when he was head of General Dynamics. When he had a high ranking guest, a "Dog and Pony Show" was in order. Most of the time, I drew the assignment which meant setting an F-16 up in a configuration that simulated flight with all the bells and whistles going. Mr. England always introduced me to the guest who controlled the purse strings for our government as well as foreign.

Another favorite person was John Loyd Mondy, a good old East Texas boy and a good technician. Billy Don Foree was another who taught me a lot about the flight line. Jack Dye, my supervisor and Blackie Hollis. Slim Goodman and Hokie Wolverton, two of the specialists who made the F-16 program work for the Air Force as well as overseas.

I have mentioned Max Booker before but he deserves one more story. I suppose you could call Max a character. One afternoon we were working Doppler Radar on the B-58 Hustler. Our test trailer was hooked up to the airplane and we were just biding our time, waiting on an engineer we called "Tie-in Cobb. A couple of Raytheon Tech Reps appeared and asked if they could borrow a screwdriver, that they wanted to make some adjustments to the Radar. A little background here. The Tech Reps were nice guys but they were always reluctant to teach us anything about the system, much less make any adjustments in the field.

Dad (with a temperamental Polaroid camera) and Dino, Christmas, 1972

Max didn't say a word, just walked over and locked our tool boxes. Then he told the Reps that if they wanted to make any adjustments to tell us what they wanted and one of us would make them. They stood silent for a minute and then walked off to the front of the airplane to look for our supervisor. Max thought it would be a good time to visit the lab located about a quarter mile from the flight line. When we arrived we lost track of time. We were visiting with "Fuse out, Penny In Goss.

We headed back to the airplane and were met by our supervisor who was mad as a wet hen. "Where have you two been for the past hour?" he demanded. "We've been to the rest room," replied Max. "For an hour?" our boss asked. "We can't help if we have nervous kidneys," Max replied.

Nicknames have been one of my favorite topics for years and Convair had a number of good one. "Waitaminute Smith" comes to mind. Any time you asked him to do something, he always said, "Wait a minute." Then there was "Snuffy" Smith who didn't use snuff, "Hokey Wolf" and have never figured out where that came from. "Slim" Goodman who was actually pretty large. "Lo-Cal" who ate Twinkies by the dozen but always proclaimed they were "Lo-Cal." "Suitcase Hamilton," a junk dealer who carried all of his office in a suitcase instead of a briefcase. "Honeybucket," a man who peddled honey on the flight line, "Oodles," a portly supervisor on the flight line and "Go-go Watson," a really eager supervisor, "Lying George" who told a lie when the truth would have been better, "Mountain Man," who didn't know an amp from a volt but somehow managed to work in electronics. "Choo Choo," whose real first name was Lionel.

I just thought of something. These names don't mean anything to you unless you worked with me so I will stop the "Blog" where it lies.

Below at left is a photo of my mother and dad on their wedding day, September 1932. Check out the short sleeves on my dad and the long coat and hat on mother. She looks a bit like a "flapper" don't you think.

Below at right are my paternal grandparents. We called them Mama Willie and Grandad. Real names Willie and Willis Worden. This picture is the one that appeared in the paper with the article about their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Grandad had suffered a bad stroke, thus the reason for the robe. It seems like we spent more time in their home than we did in ours. From about 1942 on, my Dad was on the road and we lived with grandparents most of the time. If I had to pick a set, these would be my favorites, very loving, lots of hugs and kisses. I would do just about anything to please them.

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