We worked the night shift in the North American Aviation Inertial Instruments Lab, located in Downey, California. In a previous Blog, I explained how we came to have a radio in the Lab, even through radios were banned by company rules. We had discovered that “clear channel 50,000 watt KFI” (a local station broadcasting from Los Angeles) started their next 24 hour broadcast cycle at midnight each night. They began the broadcast cycle with a recording of a rooster crowing: it was a very good attention getter. We recorded it and retained the recording for future, unspecified, use. Someone on the night shift (whose identity has been lost to my memory) decided we would signify the start of the night shift by playing the rooster call at the beginning of our shift on the intercom in the Lab. Bright idea, right? Wrong! We failed to investigate the extent of the intercom’s reach before we implemented our plan. This turned out to be a serious flaw in our plan.
This a took place in about 1960. We had a sole-source contract to supply the U.S. Navy with “Ships Inertial Navigation Systems” (SINS) for the Navy’s new atomic powered submarines. This technology was all very new to most Navy personel, so it was common for NAA’s Autonetics Marine Systems Division (us) to host tours of our Labs by High ranking Navy officers. Such tours were usually led by the Vice President And General Manager of our division, Dr. Don Pickrell, Jr. Dr. Pickrell was a WWII era naval officer and he was big on proper naval etiquette when a Navy tour was “on board”.
One afternoon, we decided to implement our plan concerning the use of the rooster call to signal the start of the the night shift. We picked a poor time to do this as we had, as it turned out, subjected a high ranking Naval tour to our rooster call signal of the start of our shift! It turned out that nothing happened to anyone, as I remember. I believe we were the beneficiaries of some good humored and high ranking naval personel. Needless to say, but that was the end of our rooster call signals.