A Life Change

With the Vega loaded, I headed to Lompoc. One of Chris’s friends, Glenn, was going to be riding with me , coming up to Spokane for a visit. That poor Vega was really loaded, it actually squatted in back. Of course the springs weren’t all that good and the back may have been a couple of inches shorter. But it clocked right along. I was happy to have Glenn with me because, surprise, I alternated driving with her and we made it in two days.

With hindsight, it wasn’t the best of moves.  Thinking it would hold the family together, it proved to be just the opposite.  We’re a very close family and I’m proud of every one and what they have accomplished.  Do I think of the what ifs and the things I would have changed?  Often, but it’s kind of late now.  After twenty-two years in the military, of going from top dog to one of the liter was quite a shock to  me.  Thinking, with my experience and education I would have no problem finding a job with Hewlett Packard.  It didn’t happen right away.  Shortly after getting to Spokane and moving into our house Mount St. Helen erupted, May 18, 1980.  It was surreal.  The first thing I remember is the quiet.  Normally you hear birds in the trees and dogs barking and the other noises that happen around you.  All of a sudden they’re quiet, not a sound.  Then the ash cloud rolling overhead slowly blocking out the sun.  That’s when you start feeling the ash rain down, slowly at first and then faster, covering everything.  The kids were down at the Suncrest Community Resort, by the lake, and came driving back into the yard, piling out and running into the house.  We turned on the TV to find out what was happening and got the warning to stay indoors.  There was no school for about a week.  Because it happened so fast people started running low of food and everyone close shared.  About three or four days after the eruption, the kid across the street from us rode his bike to the store and bought a bunch of bread for everyone around where we live.  We all survived.   Life went back to normal.  A guy we met through church turned out to be the supervisor at the Montgomery Ward Service Department and he gave me a job in their electronic repair shop.  I almost didn’t get it because at indoctrination at the main store, the HR person told me I had to shave by beard off.  Ha!  No way was I doing that and I walked out.  I called my friend and told him and he went to HR and told them I wouldn’t be having contact with customers.  They let me keep my beard.  I worked there for a few months and then they cut back.  Being the last, I was let go.  I answered an add for a tech position, maintaining continuous playing music tapes in stores, early Muszak owned by PG&E.  This is before internet and cable.  I know it was before Thanksgiving, because we were trying to get the company to get me snow tires on my company vehicle.  I needed to go around and replace the tapes so the stores would have Christmas Music right after Thanksgiving.  I was going to have to do some quick traveling; Eastern Washington, Idaho, Western Montana, to Northeastern Oregon, back up through Idaho and back to Spokane.  PG&E finally got me tires, after Thanksgiving and I headed east.  Most of the customers were not happy getting their Christmas music late.  I was not happy because I was pushed.  It’s not fun driving across Montana at night on black ice and see the white crosses on the side of the road indicating car accident deaths.  But I made the loop and got back to Spokane and got an interview with HP.  My interview didn’t turn out the way I expected.  There weren’t any electronic technician positions available, so I was offered an assembly position.  Hewlett Packard had a really great reputation as a company to work for and I took the position.

Working at Hewlett Packard proved to be frustrating.  Talking to people that had moved up from California with HP when they put the plane in Liberty Lake, this plant was nowhere like other plants.  Instead of people having pride in what they were doing and working together, there was always competition.  It was what I call the “Kaiser Aluminum Mentality”, everyone was afraid you were after their job, especially the supervisors.  One of the first things I usually did when starting to work on a new module or component was to re-do the outdated and confusing instruction manuals.  And I did this on my own time, redrawing and simplifying.  Making them easier to understand and follow.  Supervisors were interested in quantity more than quality.  One particular problem had been evading them for a long time.  After doing some tests on my own, I called the plant where we were getting our circuit boards from.  I found out they had change the process.  I shared this information with our engineers, who were thrilled to finally find out what the problem was.  My supervisors informed me I was to no longer talk to the engineers but to come to them and they would pass information along.  The engineers were not happy with this and informed the supervisors.  Assemblers were allowed to have food at there station, you always were smelling popcorn.  One time the inspectors complained that they were seeing popcorn in the instruments.  I followed up and, looking under a microscope, found it was not organic popcorn but pieces of packing material.  Later, when I was working final assembly, I was working with the government inspectors.  They weren’t happy with some of the quality being put into the instrument line.  I warned management that we needed to improve or the inspectors were going to shut us down.  Their response, “We’re Hewlett Packard, they wouldn’t dare.”  One day the government inspectors shut our line down, until we proved our assembly and testing procedures were improved.  I was pulled off final assembly.  Back on the assembly line, I had stopped smoking and was drinking a lot of water, so I was going to the bathroom a lot.  Unbeknown to me one of the supervisors started a lottery on how many times I would be going to the bathroom.  I found out about it at my annual review.  My supervisor told me an I exploded, he had allowed that to happen and he hadn’t even wondered if there was anything medically wrong.  I went to HR and complained about that and a few other things.  I was transferred to swing shift.  It really didn’t work out and I quit.  I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard finding another job.  Interviewing with other companies, they wanted to know why I would quit a great company like Hewlett Packard.

I kind of laugh, now, when I think about our family.  It is really hard living in a home where everyone is an Alpha.  Over the years, Joyce and I had brought up the kids to be pretty independent.  It was a way to cope with always moving, at least every three years, they had to fend as a family together.  And you can see it in their families now.  It has been a bumpy travel for all four of the kids.  Eventually they found a strong partner.  One they could share life with, not dominate.  And the grand kids.  Like I’ve said all along, “If I’d know how much fun they are, I’d of had them first.”  Of course we had our own bumps traveling through time.  Chris was using the Vega to drive to school.  When they were redoing Big Sandy, she had to drive on a rough, unpaved road and somehow knocked the flywheel cover off.  Rather than fix it, we sold the Vega for $300.  Which meant that Chris drove that car for the better part of a year or more, free.  Another occasion, Joyce and I had left for a short trip and before going had told Chris to leave the Toyota parked.  When we returned Chris’s boyfriend, Shaun, was trying to saw a stump down in our back yard.  The problem was the Toyota was stuck on top of the stump.  With some finessing and going through accouple of chain saws, we got the car back on the ground.  Since I had an eighty mile round trip to Liberty Lake and work, I decided I needed a more reliable car.  We went shopping and I found a Chevy Luv pick up.  While shopping we decided to make it a double deal and found a nice Plymouth Duster for Chris.  It was a pretty sporty little car.  I had made a deal with Chris, that if she could go till she was thirty six, same age as I when I got my first ticket, I would take her anywhere she wanted to go for dinner.  The Duster had some pretty good pipes and really rumbled with you put your foot down.  She di one day, just as a sheriff was going in the other direction.  I won, and I was smart enough not to offer the others the same deal.  Joyce got a call one morning from the Sheriff’s Office, wanting to know if we owned a certain Ford Pinto.  They had come across it in a ditch on the way to Mead High School.  The Pinto was Tim’s first car, and on his way to school after a snow fall the night before, they slid in to a ditch.  By the time we got to the area, Tim and some friends had gotten it out of the ditch and on to school.  Later he got a Toyota Celica that he used while at WSU.  We got a call late one night, he was broke down at a rest stop near Moses Lake.  We ended up towing the Celica back to Spokane.  We use to keep the keys to the cars on a board by the back door.  Joyce and I were gone one day and had left the Van Home.  Kelly decided to take it for a drive.  As she was driving around Suncrest, she saw Mike.  She ducked down, but Mike saw her.  I guess he got a lot of mileage out of it for a long time.  After she got her drivers license, she browed the Luv one Saturday night.  Monday as I was going to work I was having a really hard time, the clutch was slipping pretty bad.  On the way home I had to finally pull off at the Seven Eleven at Seven Mile and call home.  Luckily Mom and Dad were visiting and he came, adjusted the clutch and I got home.  When I asked Kelly if she had hot rodding with it on Saturday.  She told me, “Not very much.”  Chris graduated from high school and moved to California with Shaun.  Tim graduated and started college at WSU.  Kelly ran away and we sign a letter of Emancipation for her.  More as a scare tactic than anything.  The attorney explained it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, that until she turn eighteen we were still responsible.  We sold the house on Greenfield only to have to repossess it when they couldn’t complete the deal.  The House we rented on Rowan turned out to be unlucky.  Mike had so many tickets and had wrecked a Buick we had then that the insurance company made us take him off our insurance.  Joyce and I got a legal separation and she and Mike moved out and found an apartment together.

I was still with HP at the time, and found an apartment out in the Valley that had a garage.  I emptied the house on Rowan and stored everything in the garage.  Being on swing I was able to get a day time job as maintenance man for the apartment I lived in and two others they owned, as well as a medical building.  This was when I quit HP.  Because it was hard finding another job I looked into the possibility of starting my own.  It was going to be a Manufacturing  business.  I had talked to Eastern Washington State Hospital out in Medical Lake.  I was going to be utilizing their patients, so they were going to lease me an empty building on the grounds.  It feel through, I couldn’t come up with the financing.  I answered an ad and found work as a car salesman at McCullum Ford.  Then decided to move back to Sequim, staying with Mom and Dad till I could find my own place.  I found a job working as a car salesman in Port Townsend and later for the Toyota dealer in Port Angeles.  I came to realize, I was not a car salesman.  During that time Joyce and I were meeting for weekends in places like Leavenworth.  We were leaning toward getting back together again.  First I drove down to Ventura California, where Chris was living, and tried leaving some resumes there.  Having no luck there, I returned to Spokane, where Joyce and I got back together.

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