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While stationed at Muroc, my father and mother both met Pancho Barnes, and each has been in her "establishment" many times. My father was fortunate to avoid having his picture posted on her wall of rememberance. Near the end of the war he was doing a night takeoff with a group of his students in a fully loaded B-24 bomber. This was to be a realistic simulation of a night mission over Germany. They had just broken ground when both engines on one side failed simultaneously. To add to their difficulties, the railroad had left a group of boxcars parked on a siding at the departure end of the runway. My father and his crew managed to clear these, but due to the need to trade airspeed for altitude with two engines out, they stalled into the desert floor on the other side of the boxcars. Not everyone got out, and my father suffered a serious leg injury that gave him a slight limp for the rest of his life.
Both my mother and father lost many friends in World War II ("The War" as they called it), and they were fortunate to get through it alive. Years later, my father was made an honorary graduate of the US Air Force Academy, class of 43G, which was his class designation during the war for his military training. I still have his class ring, which is one of my prized posessions.
My brothers and I attended Washington Elementary School, which was torn down to make room for more houses in the 1980s. We had all the usual "growing up experiences", and I really feel for my mother, who had to raise 3 rowdy boys.
My father settled into a career of professional photography during the 1950s. Unfortunately, in order to find work, especially in the winter, he sometimes had to go out of state. So my mother often had to deal with us on her own.
This interest in Ham Radio was just a part of my interest in Science generally, and I became an avid amateur astronomer. I shoveled snow and cut lawns for a year to save up $79 to buy a 4.25 inch diameter Newtonian Reflector telescope and three eyepieces from Edmund Scientific. I still have that telescope. My brother Bruce and a lot of my friends got into this as well, and lots of evenings, Summer or Winter, you could see us in the local schoolyard (the only clear area that didn't have trees obstructing the sky) with our telescopes. One night we were visited by a police officer who had received a citizen report that some people were setting up a bazooka in the school yard. He got the red-carpet treatment, and received a good introduction to astronomy that night, besides seeing Jupiter and its four Galilean moons, plus Saturn and Mars.
Of course we did a lot of other things too. Team tennis was one. Bruce and I were "The Fabulous Kangaroos", a name we took from a professional wrestling tag team popular at the time. Our main rivals were the "Dragoons", another team composed of Jules and Andy Asher, who were good friends. We held the championship in our group of kids for all but a few days during the many years that we did this.
During the Summer, when school was out, we also had massive bicycle races in the same school yard that we used in the evenings for astronomy. These races were extremely competitive. The most exciting part of the track was the gate between the gradeschool and kindergarten play yards. There was barely room for one bike to go through the gate, and "psyching" your opponent into letting you go first was a big part of the race. I still vividly remember coming around the corner and seeing my brother Bruce and Andy Asher laying on the ground slightly bloodied because they raced right up to the gate. Obviously, this whole scene was not a good thing, and the authorities eventually put a stop to these races, fortunately before anyone was seriously injured. My parents would have stopped this immediately if they had known about it, but parents don't know everything, do they?
But Science and Math were my real interests. One of the big influences on me in this regard was Dr. Daniel Q. Posin (also 2, 3) Physics professor at DePaul University in Chicago. All through my grade school years, and even when I was in High School, Dr. Posin had a weekly Science show for kids on WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago. This was one of the two shows that all of us kids went over to someone's house to watch together (the other one, when we were older, was " The Twilight Zone", also linked Here). Like many other kids my age I would also Watch Mr. Wizard (Don Herbert) on Saturdays.
When I was in 5th grade our district's music teacher, Mr Wencil, who gave yearly musical aptitude tests to all the students, gave me a free year of violin lessons. I developed quite an interest in music although, sadly, I had only a little talent, and I didn't work as hard as I should have. Nevertheless, Mr Wencil introduced me to serious music. In sixth grade he invited me to join the River Forest School Orchestra, which he directed at the Jr. High School. I stayed in the orchestra through 8th grade, and played at my own graduation.
Mr Wencil was one of my favorite teachers, but at the time I was too young to understand that this quiet and patient man had grey hair not because of his age, but because he had served as a US Soldier in the Pacific, was captured by the Japanese, and had been a participant in the Bataan Death March. If I had understood the true meaning of this at the time, I would have had even more respect for him. One of the sad aspects of freedom is that we often don't have enough respect for the people who gave it to us.
Surprisingly, for a kid interesting in the things I was, I got only "C" grades in Math. One day in 7th grade the class know-it-all (who got straight "A"s in everything) told me that I was stupid, and would never get "A"s like he did. I immediately replied "Let's see what happens this next grading period, Mr. Smartie". Surprisingly, from then on, I got "A"s in math. I described him as a know-it-all, and I suppose he was, to some extent. But I owe him big time. He shocked me out of "just getting by" and made me work. I would have missed a lot of interesting things in life if he hadn't taunted me that day.
Bob Afton, wherever you are - thanks! You are one of the Good Guys!
This was the first year that we had a chance to visit my father in Florida during Christmas vacation. Naturally, for kids from Chicago, getting to visit an exotic place like Florida was a big deal. My mother and brothers and I got on an Eastern Airlines Lockheed Constellation and flew down to Florida for 2 weeks of visiting with dad. The Constellation was a huge 80+ passenger (well, ok, huge for the time) aircraft with 4 big radial engines which cruised at about 300 mph. The engine noise in the cabin was so loud that conversation was impossible, and our ears rang for at least a day after the flight.
Travel can be unexpectedly educational. One day my mom and I went into a small grocery store in Hialeah, FL. I was thirsty and took a drink from the nearest drinking fountain. Suddenly I noticed that a bunch of hostile people were approaching me with angry expressions on their faces. I (wisely as it turned out) decided to get out of there and worry about finding my mother later. Why, you ask, did people get so angry with me? Remember, this was in 1957, and I, a White Boy from the North, had taken a drink out of the "Colored" drinking fountain. To this day, I wish I could say it was some kind of protest. But it wasn't. I was just too stupid to know about " Jim Crow" laws. One thing that we should be grateful for is that, thanks to Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and many others, kids don't have these kinds of experiences anymore (I hope). This doesn't seem that long ago to me, and it is disturbing to think that when I was in Jr. High even a white kid could get beat up for drinking out of the wrong water fountain. Of course if you were black, you could end up with a lot worse than a beating, or see _2_.
If any of my students are reading this, now you know why I object so strongly to the use of the words like "N...er", N..ga" or variants. These words were part of the whole evil system of Slavery, "Jim Crow", and segregation. Having lived the first 19 years of my life in the time before the 1964 Civil Rights Act I can tell you, with absolute assurance, that it was a whole lot worse than people are willing to tell you now. Using these words isn't "cool" or "smart". It just advertises that you don't know much about life.
In 8th grade I had my first male teacher ever - Mr Butterfield - who was both my homeroom and Science teacher. He was able to direct my generalized interest in science into more organized directions that actually resulted in some worthwhile learning. But we sorely tried him. During one of our class meetings a friend and I organized a filibuster - which was put down fairly quickly by Mr. Butterfield using his dictatorial powers. Its amazing he had the patience to actually teach us a lot of useful stuff. He later became a principal at another school.
As is true for most people, High School was a lot of fun, and also the most difficult part of my life. I still remember a lot of my teachers, Mr. Smith (Algebra), Mr. Wagus (Spanish) Mrs. Cutlip and Mr. Cook (English), Mr. Goker (Biology), Mr. Roberts (Physics), Mr. Woline (Chemistry), and Mr. Woodruff (College Algebra) who also taught my father when he was at OPRFHS. And of course everybody's favorite, Mr. Rossiter (Geometry).
Mr. Rossiter stepped into High School immortality when the administration started to suspect that some of the boys might be smoking in the restrooms at lunch time. According to rumors that were widely believed at the time, they were considering taking the doors off of the stalls in the boy's restrooms to prevent this. Mr. Rossiter, ever attentive to goings on at school, wrote a long poem concerning this issue and posted it on the door outside his room. I still remember the first two lines:
Dear Lord, when I drop my drawers,Mr. Rossiter was our hero! The proposal to take the doors off the restroom stalls was never implemented, probably because it wasn't seriously considered in the first place. But we all believed it was because of Mr. Rossiter's poem. A friend of mine (Paul Lind) actually has a membership card in "Rossiter's RATS" (Rossiter's Absolutely Terrific Students). I didn't do well enough in Geometry to become a member of the RATS, but he was one of my favorite teachers. Alas, he passed away in the mid 1990s.
Let it be behind closed doors!
Since most of my friends had their Ham Radio licenses by the time we got to High School, we hated " Radio Moscow", because one of their primary short wave broadcast frequencies was 7.150 MHz, right in the middle of the "40 Meter" Ham band. Since they broadcast with close to a Megawatt of power (the most powerful AM/Short wave stations in the US are only 50 Kilowatts) they pretty much wiped out 10 kHz in the middle of the band. A lot of hams (including us) used this as a frequency to "tune our transmitters", resulting in a sort of grass-roots jamming that the US Government never seemed to do anything about. It would have been difficult for the FCC to complain, because we did, after all, have a license to use these frequencies. As a result of our little jamming games we did occasionally listen to the programs, and we rapidly became addicted. Not because we were "Fellow Travelers", but rather because their "news" items were so ridiculous that our adolescent sense of "stupid humor" was triggered. If they had hired "The Three Stooges" to do their news, it couldn't have been more hilarious, at least to us. Somehow, I don't think they quite grasped how American Youth (or at least our small segment of it) was responding to their programs!
We also enjoyed listening to Mexican border stations on the AM broadcast band at night. Our favorite was XERF 1570. The station was run by Americans who took advantage of corrupt Mexican officials to put on advertisements in which they sold things to gullible listeners in the United States. A typical product was "Ease Pills" which were guaranteed to cure cancer. No need to see an expensive doctor when "Ease Pills" will cure you for sure! They also had a preacher who, if you sent him money, promised to lay your letter on Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem and pray for you individually there. Given our low level of maturity, we thought this was as funny as radio Moscow, since they were all obvious liars and crooks.
In reality, none of these things were funny. Each of these represented enormous human tragedies, and it was only our immaturity and lack of experience with life that made us laugh. Had we been wiser, we would have cried.
I did join the track team as a quarter-miler in my Freshman year. My father had competed in the 1/2 mile for Oak Park High at the Illinois State Track meet at the University of Illinois in the 1930s. I never reached that level. During my High School years the quarter (440 yards or 400 meters as it is called now) was considered the shortest distance race. I believe now it is considered a sprint. It was during this time that I discovered that my right leg is about 1/2 inch shorter than my left. Although I did OK for a Freshman, that was my only year on a team. In my Junior year, while playing softball in PE, I tore a cartilege in my right knee, and that was the end of any hope of ever again being on a team. A few days after graduating from High School, I went in for surgical repair, since by that time it was getting very difficult to walk. I still have a scar on my right knee which, although it was put there by a licensed surgeon, looks more like it was done with a rusty bayonet. Nevertheless, the surgery was successful, as it ended my difficulty in walking.
College is a great experience. It has all the freshness and sense of adventure of High School, but without puberty. That makes a huge difference for the better. Also, the increased maturity level helps a lot.
My undergraduate advisor was Don Bitzer also 2, who is now famous as the architect of the PLATO system for computer education. He is an amazing person, and having him as an undergraduate advisor certainly made things interesting.
One of the smartest things I did when I was in High School was to go down to the FCC office in Chicago and take the exam for my FCC 1st class Radiotelephone license, the one you needed at the time to operate broadcast transmitters. Armed with this, and the overconfidence of youth, on my first day on campus I walked into the Engineering shop at radio station WILL the university AM-FM-TV station and asked for a part-time job. Amazingly Clarence Berbaum, who was Chief Engineer for radio, hired me on the spot.
This job was a blast. It involved everything from operating transmitters to studio work to recording guest speakers and concerts on campus and covering local ballgames. At the Illinois State High School Track Meet one year I was the on-site technical coordinator for the network that we originated. It was a lot of fun, but after the meet it took me several hours to put away all the equipment and haul it out to the gate. By that timeI was the only one in Memorial Stadium, and the gate was locked. I finally managed to attract the attention of the studio operator, who called the police. I got a lot of ribbing from my co-workers for quite a while after that.
I actually met Eudora Welty once, as I had to ask her permission to record a lecture that she gave one evening. Her agent was with her at the time, and when I explained that the recording would be aired one time only on an educational station, she turned to her agent and said "That violates the agreement, doesn't it?" He agreed that it did. At this point she signed the paper and told her agent "They'll never find out." Ms. Welty's individualism, or just teasing a naive student? I don't know.
I ended up working for WILL for all 4 years that I was at U of I, working my last shift the day before graduation. WILL has a newsletter for former employees and occasional reunions, both of which I greatly enjoy.
During the Summers of 1964 and 1966 I worked for Walt Kean in his engineering office. I did several things there, one being to help tune the antenna for WPOK (1080 AM - now off the air) in Pontiac, Illinois. Also I designed the 2-tower antenna for KGFX (1060 AM) in Pierre, SD that they began using in 1967 when they went from a 200-watt station on 630 kHz to a real high-power operation. It appears that this is still in use, according to the KGFX History Page (scroll down to 1967).
At about this time I embarked on another adventure. My father, who you remember was a WWII pilot, had always wanted to buy an airplane. After college I started taking flying lessons from Henry Douglas, a local flying instructor who personified all the Hollywood images of the tough (and foul-mouthed) flight instructor. When I took lessons from him he was about 70 years old and I soon discovered that when he asked students to read a dial it was because his nearsightedness prevented him from reading them easily. He was a good instructor, though, and I earned my Private Pilot's license and an Instrument Rating. Meanwhile, my father and I pooled our "extra" money and bought a 1956 Cessna 172 (N5637A). We had a lot of fun with this plane. We later sold this one and bought a 1966 model (N1139F).
Unfortunately, Betty had some serious health problems and died in July of 1982. We had been married for 10 years. In the months before her death, I tried to prepare the children (and myself) for the inevitable. Nevertheless, the hardest thing I ever did was explaining to 6 and 8 year-old kids that their mother was dead, and they would never see her again. The children and I grieved for a long time. Of course, having become a single parent, I found that two active young kids kept me on my toes.
In 1988 Siemens, a huge German Telecommunications company headquartered in Munich, Germany bought GTE's telecom group. Since the US headquarters for Siemens Telecom at the time was Boca Raton, FL, rumors of "Hurricane Siemens" sweeping us all to Florida were rampant. Unfortunately, as often happens in American industry, this came to pass in June of 1990. It was unfortunate that this happened just as my son was finishing his Junior year of High School and my daughter had just graduated from Middle School. It is tough to move during High School, and it was a tough decision to move. Reality, however, prevailed. When you are a single parent with two teenage children, not everyone wants to hire you, and I had a guaranteed job offer with Siemens, with the prospect of a lot of interesting work.
And then the most amazing thing happened. Two women in Illinois who have been friends of mine for decades wrote a letter to me in late 1991 explaining that their youngest sister's husband had just died and they were in Bloomington, IN to be with her. I had completely lost track of Rosann, as she had married her husband Lester just before my wife Betty died and had moved far away. Ten years and several moves later, she was a faculty member at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN and a new widow. She had many of the same issues with grief that I had. By all accounts her husband Lester was a good, decent, hardworking and loving man. One of my regrets is that I never met him.
We had a long-distance courtship (that involved LOTS of long-distance phone calls and some airline travel) culminating in our marriage in Bloomington in 1994, the month after my daughter graduated from High School. As they had promised to do, my son was my Best Man, and my daughter was a Bridesmaid.
I am truly blessed to be Rosann's husband.
One of the things I did was participate as one of the Siemens representatives on the DSL Forum, an international group that had as its goal the rapid commercialization of DSL high speed internet access. Among other things, I became one of the people working on security for Siemens products that use Internet Protocol for telecommunications. As part of that effort I am one of many co-authors of a document written in response to a Presidential request after 911 about securing telecommunications infrasructure from hacking by terrorists and criminals.
Alas, the collapse of the "dot coms" in 2000 and 2001 caused the Siemens telecom group to get into a profit crunch. And the tragic events of 911 had far-reaching economic effects as well. In March of 2003, after many previous rounds of layoffs, my whole department, along with 1/3 of the remaining workforce in Boca Raton was let go. So my 35+ year career in Engineering came to a close. The whole telecom industry (the hottest thing going a few years before) was in disarray, and jobs were nowhere to be found. So I used the opportunity to take early retirement. Since, at least on the books, I had been a Siemens employee for 35 years, I was treated very well in this, and I am still the webmaster for the "Siemens Book Club", which is mostly attended by people who worked there at one time or another.
One of the couples we have as friends are an engineer and a math teacher. She had been telling me for years, "Bob - when you finally get laid off, you should look into education. The world needs more Math teachers." I took her advice and enrolled in the required courses in the School of Education at Florida Atlantic University. I also passed the Math Subject Matter Expert's Test that is required for Math teachers. At this point I am a pool sub (I go to the same High School every day and fill in as required) and I'm happy with that. In the future... well, who knows.
The crystal ball, as always, is cloudy, and the road behind us (or ahead of us, as our contemporaries would say), unclear.
I leave you with one of my favorie poems from High School: the subject is Abou (Ibrahim) Ben Adhem, an Arab Muslim saint and Sufi mystic.
During this 35+ year career, I was fortunate to have many inventive and intelligent supervisors and co-workers who encouraged me to exercise my creative inclinations. This resulted in the following US Patents, on all of which I am either the sole or a co-inventor.
The following table lists these patents as of this date. Click on the patent number to be taken to the corresponding web page at the US Patent and Trademark Office:
|6,628,762||2003-09-30||Method for the transmission of a high-bit-rate digital signal.||Dr. T. Ahrndt|
|6,144,734||2000-11-07||Low-pass filters for splitterless POTS and data transmission.||-|
|4,771,463||1988-09-13||Digital scrambling without error multiplication.||-|
|4,719,643||1988-01-12||Pseudo random framing generator circuit.||-|
|4,590,601||1986-05-20||Pseudo random framing detector circuit.||-|
|4,590,600||1986-05-20||Dynamic digital equalizer.||P. U. Lind|
|4,584,696||1986-04-22||Transmission response measurement||P. U. Lind|
|4,486,627||1984-12-04||Cable load status detector||S. J. Chmura|
|4,272,721||1981-06-09||Analog-to-digital converter alignment circuit||-|
|4,041,248||1977-08-09||Tone detection synchronizer.||L. A. Tarr|
|4,018,991||1977-04-19||Multifrequency signal parity detector.||-|
|3,946,164||1976-03-23||Precise tone signal generator||-|
|3,881,062||1975-04-29||Totalizer circuit for coin operated telephones||R. V. Burns|
|3,875,526||1975-04-01||Two-frequency alternate tone generator.||R. P. Dimmer|
|3,823,273||1974-07-09||Subscriber's telephone circuit.
[an electronic voice Integrated Circuit]
|R. T. Cleary|
|3,760,269||1973-09-18||Multi-frequency tone detector.||L. A. Tarr|
|3,582,565||1971-06-01||Tome [sic] channels for multifrequency receivers.||R. V. Burns
R. T. Cleary
You will note that a lot of the informational links on this page are from Wikipedia. I understand that some people object to use of Wikipedia as a source of information. As one teacher I know says "Would you trust an encyclopedia that anyone can edit?"
My answer: Yes, but with conditions.
Among the advantages of Wikipedia are the following: