WHAT PROMPTED ME TO BECOME A MACHINIST?


My Mother and Father were somewhat different from a lot of people you might have met in the 1930s and 1940s. I am eternally grateful to them that they taught me through the example of how they lived their day-to-day lives. My Mother and Father, knowingly or unknowingly, gave me the gift of not indoctrinating me with explicit “rules” on how I must live my life. I was not burdened with religious beliefs or the tenants of racism, rather I was shown, by example, and sometimes by verbal admonitions, the way to live my life according to the golden rule. I was never told what I was to do to earn my living, but it was always clear to me that I was expected to sustain myself by honest labor. My Father was a an auto mechanic, starting at the age of sixteen when he left High School and knew well what honest labor meant. He did not like working for others and did so only when necessary in his younger years. He started his auto repair shop in 1946 and the shop remained open until the retirement of my Brother over fifty years later. My Mother and Father were “people” persons and were active in the civic affairs of the small California town we lived in. They were well liked and respected by members of our community. We ever had much money but we were never poor.

My Grandmother was very vocal in her belief that I was capable of becoming whatever I wanted. Like most teenagers, I did not listen and my academic record at Excelsior high school is dismal. I was expected to work part time in my Father’s shop and I did so grudgingly. Changing mufflers on hot summer day was not my idea of a great way to spend  your time. However, I was was an “A” student in my aeronautics shop classes. I married Patty a year after graduation and never looked back from that time on. 

After graduation  from High School, I went to work in a large, brand new, factory in East Los Angeles. I was the second person hired into that factory and that placed me second from the top on the seniority list. After a short stint as a punch press operator, I became the tool crib attendant for the machine shop that made the factory’s tools. The experience of being a punch press operator, after the novelty wore off, showed me that repetitive production work was not for me and I wanted something better. After I had worked in the tool shop for a short while, I talked my Boss into letting me operate the machines and make simple tools. I demonstrated my willingness to learn and I became the shop’s unofficial apprentice. That is how I learned my trade. I owe a large debt of gratitude to my boss and to the toolmakers for taking an interest in an impatient teenager. After several years had passed, I began to make noises that I felt I was ready to work as a machinist. One of my mentors was a friend of the shop foreman at Revere Copper & Brass, which was nearby to the factory where I worked. Revere was a large operation that manufactured copper and brass tubing. It was a classic foundry. My mentor told me that his friend’s shop had an opening for a lathe machinist. I went over to the shop and was promptly hired. I strongly believe that it was a recommendation by my mentor, Jack, that paved the way for me to get my first machinist job. I stayed at Revere for several years. By that time I had been promoted to machinist and was earning the maximum wage. I left only because I wanted to work in a more modern shop, not a old fashioned foundry shop. Some of the machines appeared to date back to the pre-1900 era. At about that time, my wife and I had decided that it was necessary that I should go back to school and get a college education. That, and my desire to work in a modern shop, led me to look for work elsewhere. I accepted an offer of work in the NAA Research Laboratory machine shop located in Downey, California. I left Revere and went to work at NAA on the swing shift as a research machinist. That is how I became machinist at NAA. 

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