The Family Grows Up
Steve was a challenge to me. What boy doesn’t enjoy tormenting his sisters? But it seemed like more than the normal. His reality was sometimes completely different than mine. I would watch and wonder for a few more years before I got the answer. Jane worked for a while and then I asked Jane to consider not working and so we tried to get along on one salary and pay tithing, too. It was working. Pay raises were coming in. We were a big family of five now and things were running smoothly.
About one year after our civil marriage, we prepared ourselves to be sealed in the temple. It was the first time for both of us and we went to Mesa, Arizona, where my grandparents were able to participate in our marriage. Later, after adopting Janie’s two children, we took the three of them to the Los Angeles temple and were sealed to our children for time and all eternity as a family.
I had plenty of time to improve my technology skills and began to learn computer programming. FORTRAN was the language of scientists and I was given opportunity to write programs and submit lessons for one of the largest computers of its time, the IBM 7090. I met a lot of systems programmers and consulted with them on how they could use computer graphics to improve their designs. These relationships were very rewarding.
I was asked to help out on a project near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The FAA was building a huge air traffic control simulator facility for training Air Traffic Controllers. A single hard wired simulator had been constructed to interface with an IBM 7090 to drive about 20 air traffic consoles. Local housewives would be used to pose as pilots and fly their plane according to verbal instructions to test new procedures. The consoles and the controller were manufactured by my company.
My company went through three names in the seven years I was there. They are: Stromberg Carlson, General Dynamics Electronics, and DataGraphics.
We packed up all our belongings and the whole family and drove coast to coast in a 1960 Corvair, arriving in mid-February. On the way to Steven’s first day of school in New Jersey, he saw a boy run and slide on the ice. Knowing no better, Steven tried the same thing and landed flat on his back. He had never seen ice on the ground and he was mortified. Poor Steve.
While we were living in New Jersey, there was an incident that happened that still makes my children laugh. They were in on the whole scheme. A high pressure vacuum cleaner salesman; now there’s an oxymoron; was making his rounds through the girls in the air traffic control simulator office. He was selling very expensive machines to many people on the promise of no payments if they would only refer their friends to be happy customers. Little did they know that their sales contract was with a finance company and they still had to make all the payments at high interest. One girl who wanted to refer me was in her teens, making minimum wage, and still lived with her mother. When I heard her story I got angry and decided to even out this salesman’s karma. “Sure, I would be glad to have a demo.”
Armed with a knowledge of how the sales pitch would go I rewired the plug in my living room, the one that was wired to the switch near the front door. The power would be normal when the switch was on but when the switch was off, the power came from the bedroom socket on the other side of the wall where a toaster was plugged in, completing the circuit. This means that when a vacuum cleaner was switched on in the living room the vacuum cleaner would start up but as the toaster elements heated up and changed their resistance the ability of the vacuum to perform was greatly diminished. The next step was to record the event for posterity on my reel to reel tape recorder.
When the doorbell rang I hustled the children off to bed where they listened as I led the salesman down the primrose path. “We almost busted a gut,” claimed my daughter 40 years later. “We were afraid we were going to give it away.”
The salesman wanted to tell us about the guarantee that covered hitting it with an ax and running over it with a semi-truck but we wanted to see it work, especially the part where we turn on the two vacuum cleaners and it will suck the bag right out of my old wheezy, cardboard Electrolux. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
The salesman seemed to be confused and began to lose confidence in his position. “May I make a call on your phone?”
“Sure, we’ll go in the kitchen so you can have some privacy, (and also record it on the tape.)”
“Something’s wrong, it doesn’t sound right and it won’t do the demo. What do I do? … Yeah, I have a new one in a box in the car.”
By now you can guess that the new one didn’t work either. He suspected the plug and we plugged my vacuum into it and it worked normally (after I checked the front door for barking dogs and flipped the switch). This was one scene that was funnier to experience than it can ever be told. I was leading him on and he was looking for Candid Camera, but it was never to appear.
I told him I would not care to have a repeat demo and that I was sure I could get along with the Electrolux for another 20 years.
I played the tape at the office and everyone enjoyed it except for the young lady who had bought one. She didn’t understand about karma and told the salesman what had happened. The salesman didn’t enjoy it either.
Our activity in the Church there was very humbling. There was only a small branch that met in the VFW hall in Ocean City. Upon arrival, we had to clean up the beer cans, empty the ash trays, and air out the place before anyone else got there. I was immediately drafted into service and I conducted meetings, led the singing, administered the sacrament, and anything else that needed doing. Dee turned eight there, and needed to be baptized. The nearest baptismal font was in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Before the next cold weather, we were on our way back to Huntington Beach in sunny southern California.
After about six months, the company wanted me in Sunnyvale, California to install equipment at Lockheed. We bought a home in Cupertino for about $18,000 in the middle of a walnut and cherry orchard. Today that home has appreciated 30 times over. It is walking distance to Apple Computer corporate headquarters.
I learned a little about building construction there as we were building a chapel with the help of construction missionaries. Jane and I were also called as dance directors and we had a good time getting the kids prepared for a regional dance festival in Santa Rosa where there were thousands of kids participating.
One night near the end of a youth dance, Jane got irritated at me and walked me out the side door and threw a punch at me, catching me completely unaware. I was so totally stunned. I did not remember what happened next. She was angry. I had become angry. I don’t remember how I got home or how she got home. It was a major problem. She had an unpredictable violent streak that would show itself later on.
It was time to move on. Fortunately, the company decided to call me to San Diego to help get out a new generation of film recorders. They indicated I would be there long enough to make home purchase practical if I was so inclined. As a member of the home office staff I got to be involved in the User Group and report the companies future plans to our existing customers. I delivered a few technical papers that were very well received. I also went to trade shows to scope out the competition. Since I knew FORTRAN, I was given some assignments to work on business models on their engineering computers.
We bought a home near Fletcher Parkway, about two blocks from John Huish and his pretty Danish wife. I began to have more travel assignments and stayed away from home more often and decided to try a little sip of gin on the plane. It’s funny how things build. I had not been tempted by intoxicants for about ten years. I kept it hidden, it was my secret. It was the beginning of a slow downward slide.
I began to have allergy problems and went to a very good allergist, Dr. Branden. In discussing my allergies, he was very thorough and wanted to discuss my family situation in regards to stress. After describing Steven and his relationship to the rest of the family, he asked if I would take Steve to Dr. Kurlander, a specialist friend of his, for evaluation. I did not know what this had to do with my asthma, but I said I would do it. Doctor Kurlander gave Steve a battery of tests and said he was Hyperkinetic. It was the only term they had then for ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For the next few years, we played with different dosages of Ritalin until we found a tutor who knew how to help him.