I enlisted out of high school on July 1955 to join the Navy to see what I wanted to do when I grew up! Before I left the Navy, unknowingly I started my career looking at vessels of foreign countries, an activity I luckily was able to continue at Area 51. The camera we had in the 1950s was manually operated sticking out a window of a Navy patrol aircraft. Those cameras were a far cry from the cameras used on the A-12 (It's a wonder what a decade and millions of dollars can do).
Shortly after I enlisted in the Navy, I was given a battery of aptitude tests and found out that I like electronics. Guess what, the test results were correct. Anyway, I ended up in aviation electronics. Towards the end of my four year enlistment, I was assigned to a patrol squadron operating out of Iwakuni, Japan. My job was a radio operator on a P2V-F. The F meant that the two prop airplane had two jet engines for takeoff and maneuvering. Our job while in Iwakuni was to fly the Sea of Japan looking for suspected shipping vessels that looked more like spy vessels than fishing vessels. We usually never got closer than 100 miles from the China coast, but did get fairly close to the vessels we were taking pictures of. On those flights, my job was to listen to Morse Code for close to ten hours, searching for coded messages which I was given by the captain of the flight. Most flights were uneventful, but on one I received a coded message which I immediately forwarded to the pilot. The pilot in turn gave me a coded message to send back (I had no idea what either message meant). Shortly after I sent the message, the pilot dove towards the water making left and right maneuvers about 50 feet over the water. Within five minutes we had four or five Chinese MIG-21 flying all around us. I suspect if they wanted to shoot us down, it would have been all over. Our armament consisted of two 45 pistols!! About ten minutes after the MIGs arrived out came some American fighters. The Chinese immediately vacated the area.
Carolyn and I are enjoying our retirement very much. God has been good to us. I retired from the big red H (Honeywell or Midwest Engineering South to all you Roadrunners) in 1997. For about four years after retirement, I did consulting for a number of companies. Carolyn also retired from being a full time property manager in 1997, but continued managing one property on a part time basis. In 2002, we both gave up our part time work to do retirement on a full time basis. We both enjoy good health and have enough resources to travel. We have done a lot of traveling and find visiting new places and meeting new friends and old friends exciting. The picture to the left was taken in the 60s when we were in California and I was at the Area. The picture to the right was taken 40 years later when we were in Iceland. Carolyn and I live in a condominium in Largo, Florida. I have been president of the Association for six of the 30 years we have lived here. Believe me that is more than any sane person should be president of an association. I retired from that position for good in December of 2003.
In my 34 years with Honeywell, the programs I enjoyed working the most were the five years I spent working on the Oxcart and Tagboard programs at the Ranch or Area 51, whatever you want to call it. While on the Tagboard program, I spent time at Lockheed in Burbank and at Beale AFB. I started at the Ranch as a flight line Inertial Navigation System (INS) engineer. This was my most significant assignment in my life. Being away from home so much was hard on Carolyn and the rest of the wives, but it was an exciting program with great people. The one thing great about the assignment was that every weekend seemed like a honeymoon! I remember one instant after less than a year assigned to the Ranch, when I had got a scratch on my back about six inches long when I was in the cockpit and raised up too suddenly. I struck my back against the edge of the cockpit (the cockpit edge was very sharp). It happened on a Monday, and I had forgotten about it. On Friday when I got home, my wife noticed the scratch on my back and asked how I got it. I absolutely panicked trying to think of something to say. The only thing I could think of was to say G€śit's classifiedG€ť! God bless Carolyn. She believed me and that was the end of it. The fact that we left work on Monday in scrubby clothes and came home the same way on Friday probably helped.
After a couple of years at the Ranch, I was assigned to Operations. That was such a kick for me to interface with the pilots of the A-12. These guys were the most amazing people I ever worked with. They had talent oozing out everywhere. The INS could be a mysterious beast at times resulting in an interesting job trying to explain to our pilots what had happened in flight. Sometimes I knew the answer, but many times there was a lot of home work to do including discussions with the home office in Florida. I later became the site supervisor for the INS group, which included our operational activities in Kadena. Unfortunately, the A-12 program was cancelled not too long after we had become operational. It still seems to me to have been such a waste. We were really getting good intelligence, and bingo it was over. I was then assigned full time to the Tagboard program (the D-21 drone) and stayed at the Ranch for a few more months until the program moved to Beale AFB. I spent the next year splitting my time between Building 199 in Burbank and Beale. When the Tagboard was cancelled (about a year after the Oxcart program was terminated), Carolyn and I moved back to Florida for good (although this certainly was not the plan at the time).
Meeting the people again at the reunions under a completely different environment than what existed at the Ranch, at least in the 1960s, is probably why Carolyn and I go to most Roadrunner Reunions in Las Vegas. In fact we have only missed one reunion. I think that I must have gone to three or four reunions before I could finally call Col. Slater - Slip! We think the reunions are so much fun, that we wanted to get more Honeywell people involved. With that goal in mind, we started the Honeywell Spooks consisting of people who had worked for Honeywell on the Oxcart or Tagboard programs. We held our first reunion in October 2004 in Clearwater, FL, and held the next ones at the same place in 2006 and 2008 to ensure that we did not have a conflict with the big event in Las Vegas in October during the odd numbered years. But alas, we were not able to kindle a fire in enough people to make future gatherings a viable alternative. This is especially true when one needs to guarantee rooms and attendance to the host hotel. I really salute the gang in Las Vegas that keeps the Roadrunner organization viable.
May God bless you all and our country.