My Life Story

by Dick Guertin

Book 1

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Dick Guertin

My Life Begins - 1941

Hi, my name is Richard Leonard Guertin and I was born on Saturday, July 19, 1941 in Putnam Connecticut, the only son of Leonard Alfred Guertin and his wife Annette Mary-Margaret Lussier.  My two sisters were Dolores Lucille, born February 21, 1944, and Suzanne Celeste, born January 2, 1949.  Dolly died on March 21, 2004 from brain cancer.  She was just one month past her 60th birthday.  She was married to Robert MacMillan, who has since remarried Nancy Lee Whitehead, and they now live in Pawcatuck, Connecticut.  Suzanne is still alive and lives with her husband Gerald Gauthier in West Springfield, Mass.  (Gerry passed away in 2018).  You may have noticed that all of our first names are seven letters long.  My parents also chose seven letter middle names.  The other tradition we've adopted is to use the parent's first name as the middle name of the first born of the same sex.  My dad's middle name is his father's first name, and that's true for me too.

My Dad was born in Putnam (CT), and my Mom was born in Fitchburg (MA).  They met when my Mom moved to Putnam to get a job at the woolen mills.  She was walking home one evening after work, and strolled past where my Dad was living.  He was on the porch with some of his friends, and when he saw her walk by, he told his buddies he would marry her.  Sure enough, they got married and spent their honeymoon at the New York World's Fair (1939).

I don't remember my early days in Putnam.  My first memories begin in Ludlow Mass where my parents and I moved at about the time Dolly was born.  One day, my Mom and Dad took me out to the road that passed by our side street to watch a parade passing.  Men were carrying flags, beating drums, and blowing horns.  My Mom bent down and told me, "The WAR is over".  I later found out this was a celebration of the end of WWII.  She later told me that one of the first words I said was "plu-blah", which meant "peanut butter".  I also remember running around in the yard, tripping and falling down, and smashing a glass bottle with my knee.  The shards had to be removed by a doctor, who also gave me a Tetanus shot.  Only a few months later, I stepped on a board that had a nail sticking up out of it, and it pierced my foot.  I was taken to another doctor who gave me a second shot of Tetanus.  I got very ill from the shots and nearly died from the overdose.  I was then told to never get another Tetanus shot because I had a lifetime supply and would have an adverse reaction to another shot.

We moved from Ludlow to Springfield just before I was to enter school.  We moved into an eight-family four-story tenement building at the corner of Dwight and Essex.  Across Dwight Street on the other corner was another tenement building.  The back of our building looked out over a small dirt yard and then a Sunoco gas station over to the next street, which I think was called Patton.  Across Dwight from the gas station was a firehouse.  Dolores used to go down the back porch steps and over to the firehouse.  The firemen began calling her "Dolly" because she looked like a little doll.  Of course the name stuck, and we all started calling her Dolly.  But our parents always called us by our given names, and if they were ANGRY with us, they threw in the middle name too.  They also spoke French so we didn't understand what they were saying about us.  That was very clever of them.

One evening, we had eggs for supper.  I didn't want them, but my parents got me to eat them by telling me I wouldn't be allowed to go to a furniture store with them that evening if I didn't finish the eggs.  So, I ate them.  At the store, my parents were talking to the salesman when all of a sudden he stopped and told them to look at me.  Everyone was staring, and then my Mom said I had lumps all over my face and arms.  They took me to a doctor who diagnosed I had an allergy to something.  The only thing they could think of was EGGS.  It may have been brought on by those earlier Tetanus shots.  Anyway, I had GIANT HIVES, large blisters all over me.  After they subsided, I had scares on my chest, and they are still there to this day.  I didn't eat eggs again until this allergy reared its ugly head again much later.

My Dad wanted to move to Springfield to make it easier for him to commute to work.  He was a railway postal clerk, which meant he sorted mail on a moving train, which ran from Springfield to New York City, and back.  The tenement was only 10 blocks from the train station, and he could easily walk that distance.  His work schedule was 80-hours in one week, but he then got the next week off.  During his "work week", he slept over in New York City, and again when he got home.  Work and sleep, which was basically it.  But on his "week off", we got to spend a lot of time with him.  My Mom also worked.  She was an envelope machine operator for U.S.  Envelope.  She fed the paper into the machines, kept the glue pots filled, and took the finished envelopes off the machine and boxed them.  I remember her bringing home a jar of the "glue", which was a latex mixture that you could put on your hands to form gloves.  They just peeled off.  It was lots of fun for us kids.

During the summer months, the whole family would walk to the drive-in movies because it was more convenient than crowding into a car.  We carried folding chairs to sit on during the movies.  Of course, we paid to get in, just like everybody.  Later, we'd walk back to the apartment, and when we opened the door, the roaches would scurry out of the sink and go hide in the walls.  One summer my dad decided to paint the kitchen, and he added a strong insecticide to the paint.  That stopped the bugs.  In fact, we were then the only apartment that wasn't bothered by bugs in the kitchen.  That remained true until we left.

My parents weren't "well off", but they managed to provide us with a good life.  I remember a couple of Christmas presents in particular, received in different years.  One was a Lionel Train set with a steam locomotive that puffed smoke from a small pellet you dropped down the smoke stack onto the headlamp that had a shallow place for the pellet to rest on the bulb.  The bulb created enough heat to cause the pellet to "smoke".  There were lots of different cars too, like a crane-car that allowed you to lift things from the side of the track and swing them over to drop on a flatbed car.  The other gift (different year) was an Erector Set.  I could build all kinds of things that looked like scaffolding or buildings.  There were plans for a parachute tower, and I built that too.  It used an electric motor that turned a small gear, which turned a much larger gear.  But that large gear had "teeth" missing along one-half of the circle.  As the motor engaged the teeth portion, the large gear would wind a string onto its shaft, which pulled a parachute up to the top of the tower.  At just the right point, the toothless portion of the large gear would disengage from the small gear, and the parachute would drop back down, just slowly enough to reach the bottom, and the cycle would be repeated.  It was wonderful to watch.

On other Christmas Days, our family would visit relatives in Putnam or Fitchburg.  I usually rode in the front seat next to my Dad.  There was a large "shift lever" that stuck up out of the floorboards from the transmission below.  The top of the shift lever had a knob about the size of a small baseball.  My job was to hold the shift lever back toward me as we went down hills.  Otherwise, the shift lever would jump out-of-gear.  I felt important doing this simple task.  One year, my Mom decided to teach me "T'was the Night Before Christmas..." so she'd say it and I'd repeat her.  Eventually I learned the entire story by heart.  Once that happened, she was so proud to have me say it out-loud to my relatives, from memory.  I was nervous at first, but soon realized everyone was enjoying it, so I calmed down.

Essex Street ran East/West from the Connecticut River past Main Street, then Dwight, and finally Chestnut, which was at the top of a hill.  Dwight, where the tenement was located, was at the bottom of this hill, and Chestnut was at the top where Sacred Heart Church was located.  Next to the church was the Rectory, and behind both was Sacred Heart School, run by an order of nuns.

I went to first grade at a public school a few blocks North on Dwight.  At the Christmas break, I went back and walked into second grade.  They said I belonged in first, but I made a fuss.  So my parents were called to school to discuss the situation.  Everyone agreed I had done sufficiently well to get promoted to second grade, but the school administrators cautioned my parents they would NOT allow another mid-year promotion next year.  Well, it didn't matter because I went to Sacred Heart the next year.  Sacred Heart was grades one through, and including, eight.  I was involved in things like "choir", and I loved math and science.  In one of my later years there, I took a small jet engine to school.  It was about the size of my thumb.  There was a solid propellant in a steel cylinder with a latching cap at one end that had a tiny hole through which passed a fuse.  After school, across from the church, I lit the fuse, and to my surprise, this thing lifted off the ground, and began to go around in a circle, which quickly changed into an ever-higher spiral.  The jet went up and up and across the street, and finally ran out of fuel over the church steeple, and dropped down into a rain gutter.  I lost my little jet engine.  But what a thrill to see it fly that high!

I fooled around with fire, as you can see from the jet engine story.  I used to take a spring cloths-pin and rearrange it into a spring-loaded wooden match launcher.  The match was held between the two arms of the cloths-pin, with the spring attached from above so it could be pressed to release one of its metal arms and snap the match out of the chamber.  This also lit the match.  So I had a mini-flame thrower.  Unfortunately, I used it near a girl's head and it set her hair on fire.  I got a good spanking for that one.  And to "break" me of my fascination with fire, my Dad sat me down at the stove with an entire box of wooden matches.  I had to light each one, let it burn for a while, put it out, and place in a bowl of water.  Match after match after match had to be done, and that gets boring really fast.  I was sick and tired of matches.  My Dad's treatment worked.

In my 7th grade year at Sacred Heart, we had a Palmer Penmanship Test.  The nuns had been after me for years to stop writing with my left hand and to switch over to using my right hand.  They would crack me over the knuckles with their clicker, a round knob on a shaft with a small stick attached.  It hurt.  Anyway, the rules for this test were simple.  Copy a few paragraphs from a prepared sheet onto a blank sheet using your own handwriting.  The nun was required to sit in the front of the class and NOT interfere.  When the test results came back, I had gotten the highest grade, and won an award.  The nun brought me up in front of the class to present this award, and when she was done, she turned to me and said, "See, you can do very well with your right hand."  I turned to her and said, "Sister, I did it ALL with my left."  The nuns never bothered me again, but their efforts left me with a problem:  I stuttered.  It wasn't until I saw the movie "The King's Speech" in 2011 that I realized WHY I stuttered.  I got over that in the Debating Club in Middle School.

When both Mom and Dad were working, I was "in charge".  We were latchkey kids.  I also had the duty during winter months to go down into the basement of the tenement where the coal bins and oil tanks were located, and lug two huge jugs of oil up to the 3rd floor to supply our furnace in the living room and stove in the kitchen.  Those were our only sources of heat.  My bedroom was off the kitchen near the back of the apartment, next to the porch.  My bedroom window looked out onto Dwight Street.  The porch wall was just a solid wall... well, maybe not so solid.  It had holes in the mortar between the bricks, and cold air could leak in through those holes.  My parents did their best to plug the holes, once I located them.

I had a sleep disorder, something I've passed onto my children where it is "dormant", but a couple of my grandkids have it.  I "banged" my head on the pillow while I slept.  Yes, I literally would raise my head up, and let it fall onto the pillow.  One Thanksgiving, some of my uncles and aunts from my mother's side were visiting.  After supper, all of us children had to go to bed.  A little while later, one of my uncles asked my Dad, "What's that banging sound I hear?"  My parents took everyone into my room where they witnessed my "head banging".  Someone asked my Dad what would happen if he tried to hold down my head, so my Dad demonstrated.  My head stopped, but my legs and feet took over, and now THEY were rising up and falling back down.  My Mom placed her hands on my legs, and I woke up and asked, "What's wrong?"  "Never mind, just go back to sleep", said Mom.

As graduation from Sacred Heart approached, I had become smitten with a girl who always took the bus to go home.  She'd get on at Chestnut and Essex and disappear southbound.  One day, I brought my bike to school, and when she left on the bus, I followed her.  The bus took me through town, down to Main Street, and then over to State Street which paralleled Essex, just about a mile way.  State Street was also a hill, but unlike Essex, it went up a long way, and I was peddling like crazy to keep up with the bus.  Eventually we leveled out at Winchester Square, and I followed the bus through the neighborhoods.  She got off in a residential area with houses, not tenements.  Now that I knew where she lived, I started back to my home.  I took a short cut on Rochelle Street where I saw a house for SALE.  This was only a couple of blocks from my heartthrob, whose name I can't remember.  Anyway, when I got home I told my parents I found a lovely house for sale in a nice neighborhood.  What was happening was that each weekend we were all going out to developments looking for a new place to live.  I kept bugging my Mom and Dad to take a look at what I had found.  (Of course, I had a different agenda.)  Finally, my Mom said to my Dad, "Let's go look at this place to get Richard to stop pestering us."  And when they saw it, and heard the price, it was just what they were looking for.  So we ended up moving out of the tenement at 98 Essex Street upon my graduation, and into 80 Rochelle Street.

Rochelle Street

Once at Rochelle Street, my life changed.  For one thing, I started to work to earn spending money.  My first job was at a grocery store as a stock clerk, but I hated it, and soon found another job.  This was at a drug store.  People would buy things and I'd ring them up with the cash register.  One day, this guy came in and handed me a half-dollar coin slipped between his first three fingers, two under the coin, and the center finger on top.  I had no clue what he wanted, but the manager saw the situation and came over with something, handed it to the guy and took the coin.  He then told me that if anyone presents a coin in that fashion, they want a condom.  He showed me the rack with all the brands, like Trojan and Enz.  All I had to do was point to the rack and the patron would point to the brand.  I learned something that day about marketing techniques.

In summer, I took a job working in the Connecticut shade tobacco fields.  Every day I came home with tobacco juice all over my arms, and if you ran your hand over it, the hair came off.  I always took a bath to get that juice off, and it turned the water a chocolate brown color.  My foreman was very mean, and would come up behind you, put his hands on your shoulders, knee in your back, and push you down to your knees.  That was his way of getting you to WORK.  I dragged a basket behind me as I crawled down the rows of tobacco plants, picking off the leaves and laying them in the basket.  After a few weeks of this, I couldn't take it anymore.  The foreman was just too brutal, so as we were about to load onto the bus to go home, I came up behind the foreman and gave him a swift kick in the butt.  It literally lifted him off the ground.  Of course, he immediately turned around and started after me.  I was running as fast as I could, through the tobacco field, with my arms outspread to lop off the tops of the plants.  Eventually, he gave up chasing me, and I ran out onto the road next to the field where the bus had stopped waiting for me.  I got a rousing cheer from everyone on the bus, including the driver.  Of course, that ended that job.

I later got a paper route, and remember getting up at 4AM on cold winter nights to get the bundle of papers out of the snow bank.  Our neighborhood was next to Watershop Pond that had some kind of processing plant nearby.  I would stand at the front gate and sell newspapers to the workers as they entered the plant.  This was my "route", and it was EASY.  I sold my entire bundle in 30 minutes.

Those cold nights remind me of another thing.  My father knew a co-worker who lived in Worchester MA (pronounced "wuss-ter"), and he had a large telescope he wasn't using, so he loaned it to my dad.  It was six feet long and about one foot in diameter.  There was a ten-inch parabolic mirror in the closed end of the tube, and the other end was open to the sky.  The parallel light came down the tube and was reflected back up in a cone shape with the tip of the cone near the top.  There was a prism supported by narrow plates that were attached to the inner wall of the tube.  There was a hole that went through the tube that held a lens.  The prism bent the light toward the lens, which then straightened it to form a small disk of light that you could view.  To your eye, it magnified the entire image coming down from the top of the tube.  I could see things up close, like planets.  The entire telescope was attached to a large pipe that was embedded in a circular block of concrete surrounded by an automobile tire.  I could roll this support out into the backyard, turn it upright, and screw the tube on with a pipe joint attached to a metal collar that went around the tube.  It was a very steady platform, and allowed me to explore the night sky.  I could see the moons around Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and the marking on the surface of Mars.  One night with the aide of an astronomy chart, I found what I thought was Uranus.  I came back the next night, and sure enough, that spot had moved in relation to the stars in the background.  Then it got cloudy, and I never found Uranus again.  When I went off to college, my Dad returned the telescope to the original owner.

My parents couldn't afford to send me to Catholic High School, and Public High School was a year different because the public system had Junior High School for grades 7 through 9, and high school started in 10th grade.  So I spent one year at the Junior High a few blocks away.  I LOVED IT.  FREEDOM from the nuns!  And now I had access to science and math like I never had before.  My Dad always spent time with me doing math "puzzles", and I became interested in Trig, but didn't have access to a good Trig book at Sacred Heart.  But there was one at the local library near my new home.  I went there to check it out, and the librarian wouldn't let me take it.  She said I was "too young" for that subject.  When I got home, I told my Mom what happened, and she asked me if I thought I could handle it.  YES!  So, she took me back to the library and she asked the librarian this question:  "If Richard can do the first three problems in the book, will you let him check it out?"  She agreed, and I did the first three problems, and got the book.

This was the time when my Dad worked with me on math problems.  He had a formula for determining the number of coconuts in a pile to allow "n" people to take one and then evenly divide what was left into p/q portions without splitting a coconut.  The "n+1" person could not satisfy those conditions.  I then presented him with the problem of "what triangles made of pins arranged like bowling pins have the same number of pins as a square."  Basically, when is T(T+1)/2 = S(S)?  The first is 1:1, and the next was 8:6 (for T:S).  We spent days working on this and finally derived the mathematical solution.  All of this is now in a notebook that I intend to pass on to Zachary, my eldest grandchild.

Junior High also gave me a chance to join clubs, like the Chess Club.  My Mom suggested I join the Debating Club.  "Why?" I asked.  She thought it would help me with my stuttering.  She was right.  After a few debates, I became a relatively good speaker.  What I learned was that I was thinking too far ahead, and stumbling over current words.  By slowing down, I was able to maintain clarity.  This also helped "make the point" in the debate because pauses in speech give listeners a chance to grasp what you're saying.  I still do that today giving Babbage Difference Engine Presentations at the Computer History Museum.

The Debating Club participated each year in something called Model Congress at American International College on State Street.  I participated in that, and got to know some of our state politicians.  That "connection" came in handy later, as I approached high school graduation.  As a delegate to Model Congress, I had to submit a "Bill" to become Law.  My bill was about allowing the earnings of students to be tax-free up to a certain amount so they could use those tax savings for college expenses.  They had to prove they were active students in college.  Well, my bill never made it out of committee.  But, another bill, from another group, made it all the way to passage by both the Model Congress House and Senate.  The Bill recommended "statehood" for Alaska and Hawaii.  That bill made it to Congress in Washington, and the rest-is-history, as they say.

During my stay in 9th grade, my Mom purchased sections of "The Little and Ives Complete Book of Science, Illustrated" from a big market.  There were about 66 sections with about 28 pages in each section.  The entire book had 1840 pages.  I still have that book.  What caught my eye was the article about "Computers".  That led to my fascination with computers.  Remember, this is around 1955, and computers were NOT household items.  I'll cover more of this story later.

As my year in Jr. High was coming to a close, the principals from all four High Schools came to visit at assemblies.  Each would offer reasons why you would want to go to THEIR high school.  But there was something very different in this system.  Three of the high schools were located within a few blocks of each other in the center of the city.  Bus lines took students to ALL three.  There was Technical High School, Classical High School, and The High School of Commerce.  Now, think about those names.  You realize each high school was a prep school for certain college disciplines.  The principal from Tech said: "If you're interested in math and science, we're the school for you.  But if you're interested in languages, psychology or being a doctor or lawyer, then Classical is right for you.  If you are into business or secretarial jobs, Commerce is right for you."  With all three being close to each other, you could easily take a class or two at a neighboring high school.  Someone studying for Mining at Tech could take Latin at Classical.  (I knew a guy who did that.)

What about the fourth high school?  That was Trade High School on the outskirts of the city.  You went there to learn a trade because you didn't think you could make it to college.  They offered courses on nursing, auto mechanics, drafting, and many other trades.  You got a week of class, and a week of on-the-job training (apprenticeship).  Graduates typically went right to work.

All in all, it was a very good system for both college-bound and non-college-bound.  I went to Tech where I took classes in all kinds of science:  Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and lots of Math.  I also took Metal Shop, just to learn how things are made.  I also took French in an effort to break my parents' code.  Remember, they spoke French so we didn't understand what they were discussing.

My sister, Dolores (Dolly), also went to Tech.  Not because she was technically minded, but because Robert MacMillan (Skipper) was going to Tech.  Dolly met Skip very soon after we moved to Rochelle Street.  He would drive his bicycle back and forth in front of our house whenever Dolly was out on the front porch.  Skipper got his nickname because he loved to pilot the little boat that his family had at a summer cottage.  Everyone called him Skip for short.  Anyway, he and Dolly began to date, and although Dolly was a grade behind him, she followed him to Tech.  They got married while I was in college, and had their first child before I graduated.  Skip went to night school to get his degree, and supported his family with a day-job.  He rose to managerial level, and did very well.

For a couple of summers, my cousin Rene Picard and I spent the summer at each other's house.  I went to Putnam one summer to visit him.  The next summer he came to my house to visit me.  We slept in my double bed.  I remember one night we were listening to "Science Fiction Theater" on the radio.  This particular episode was called "A Pail Full of Air".  The story line was that our Sun had gone out, and humans were living in igloos that had a long tunnel entrance with blankets strung the entire length to keep the cold out.  There was a fire, which consumed the breathable air, so someone had to run down the tunnel to go outside with a pail and scoop up liquid oxygen, then come back and dump it on the fire to keep it going, and provide everyone with breathable air.  I remember it well.

One of the students at Tech was Thomas Chechile, or simply, Tom.  One of his friends was John Spies.  Tom could borrow his dad's car, so the three of us would drive around together.  We called John, "Harry", which made us Tom, Dick, and Harry.  We would go into a diner, take three places at the counter, and wait for the waitress.  When she arrived to take our order, we'd begin to argue about what to have.  Eventually, one of us would say to the waitress, "I'll just have a cup of coffee".  Meanwhile, the other two would continue the discussion, and finally one of them would order coffee.  The last guy would shrug his shoulders and also order coffee.  Now, realize that the waitress has been standing here all this time, and if it looked like she would leave, one of use would order coffee.  Finally, when we were all done, we'd call her over and tell her we were just goofing around, and we'd leave her a BIG tip.

One evening, well after dark, both Tom and I had our dads' cars.  We drove across the Connecticut River to West Springfield, and went south a few miles.  There was a new "South End Bridge" crossing the river, but it was closed off at the entrance and exit ramps.  But you could tell it was completed.  They just had the lane stripping undone.  So Tom and I would move a barrier, and drive onto the closed bridge.  We'd race back and forth from one side to the other.

The day after high school graduation, all three of us drove down to Long Island Sound, to a beach we knew about.  We took a tent with us because we planned to camp-out overnight on the beach.  We also brought one bottle of Seagrams Seven, and one bottle of 7-UP with us.  As it got dark, we'd pour ourselves a drink of 1/3 Seagrams and 2/3 7-UP.  Of course, we got lower on 7-UP soon enough to reverse the ratio.  We now were drinking more Seagrams than 7-UP.  Soon we got falling-down drunk, bailed out of the tent and laid on the beach staring up into the night sky.  We probably saw more stars that normal.

Several years later, I heard that Tom died, and nobody could locate John.  Then 50 years later, I went back to Springfield for our 50-year reunion.  Prior to leaving, I got emails from the organizers of the event "looking for lost" graduates.  Both of my friends' names were on the list, so I wrote back and said I heard Tom died, and John had disappeared.  AFTER the reunion, I got another email, only this one came from Tom Chechile!  He was alive and living in Jupiter Florida.  Apparently, someone found him and convinced him to fill out a bio on the reunion web site.  He saw my name and email address there.  That was 2009, and we've been corresponding via emails ever since.

For more information about our trip back to my reunion, I've moved it aside, and you can read all about it by clicking on Vacation - June 2009. @

For my last year at Tech, I had an inspirational Physics teacher, Mr. Ziemba.  He taught in a way that made physics FUN.  We did classroom experiments to "discover" things.  One of my favorites was how we determined the size of a molecule.  Starting with a small known volume of liquid that did NOT combine with water, which was lighter than water, we were able to dilute this substance with alcohol, which DID combine with the liquid.  We continued that dilution process a few steps by taking one drop and adding it a known number of drops of alcohol, until we had a very small percentage of "liquid" in a drop.  We then sprinkled a powder on water, and dropped ONE drop of the liquid into the center.  The powder spread away to form a ring around the liquid, which floated on the water.  The alcohol dispersed into the water leaving just a single molecule thickness of liquid.  Measuring the area of the circle we determined the depth of one molecule across the entire circle.  Remember, we knew the volume of liquid, so volume/area gave us molecular height (size).  I was astounded.

I found out that Mr. Ziemba owned a lot a few blocks away from Rochelle St.  I also discovered he was building his own house on the property.  He did the work himself, and I went to visit him to watch what he was doing.  One spring day, I was coming home from such a visit when it started to sprinkle (mild rain).  As I walked along, I composed the following poem:

- - -

A Sonnet to Summer Showers

Come, see the clouds pile up against the sky,
While 'cross a field some children romp and play.
Beneath the trees the flaunting flowers vie,
While in the air there is a scent of hay.

Look now, the earth begins to lose its light,
As, from across the mountains, rain descends.
The sun is slowly darkened from my sight,
As o'er my head a cloud somehow suspends.

Warm breezes blow across the furrowed land.
I hear the robin sing her sweet refrain -
Not dread, but peace comes to me where I stand;
For now I meet the gently falling rain,

And feel the water dripping from my face,
And know that I am in a perfect place.

- - -

I submitted that poem to my English teacher who had assigned us the task of writing a poem sometime during that school year.  She gave me an A+ grade.  She said it was a good example of a Sonnet in Iambic Pentameter.

During my High School years at Tech, I participated in Science Fairs.  I remember building a moisture detector for my first fair.  This was a simple one-transistor device that could amplify a tiny current to trigger a larger current strong enough to operate an electro-magnetic relay.  By sticking metal probes into soil, the detector could operate the relay when the current flowed between the probes.  The relay, when connected to a sprinkler system, allowed it to be turned on when the current between the probes stopped.  Water in the soil allowed current to flow.  So when the soil dried out, the relay would shut off and the sprinklers would come on to water the grass.  Once the soil got wet again, the sprinklers shut off.  It was very simple, but I won First Prize.

The next year I wanted to build a computer.  That's when my Dad surprised me.  He asked me what I wanted to do for my science fair project, and I told him I wanted to build a simple computer.  He asked me to describe it, and he also asked me how much it might cost.  I told him what I needed in the way of parts, but I didn't know where to get them or how much they would cost.  A few months passed and we went to visit my father's sister in Putnam for Christmas.  At the kitchen table, my Dad pulled out a $100 bill and placed it on the table in front of me.  I had NEVER seen a $100 bill before.  "What's this?", I asked.  "That is what you'll need to get your computer parts", my Dad replied.  And then he told me I would ride on the train with him to New York City to an electronics supply company where I could buy all the parts I needed for my computer.  I was in shock.  My Dad came through for me big-time.  We went to New York.  He "worked" his way down while I rode in a passenger car.  I got everything I needed.

That next Spring I entered my "computer" in the Science Fair, and won First Place.  But this time it meant I would compete in the State Science Fair.  I did that and got into the top group of winners.  My project was submitted to the Westinghouse Talent Search, and I became a "winner" in the top 100 throughout the country.  The "prize" was a round trip to Atlantic City, all expenses paid.  I just signed for everything (free).  This also was my first airplane ride.

By now I was a Senior, and being a winner in the Westinghouse Talent Search brought me to the attention of my State Senator, the same person I met back in Model Congress.  He "nominated" me to try out for the Air Force Academy, and I made it!  Now I was going to go to Colorado Springs for my college education.  So I wrote to most colleges and universities that offered me scholarships, and told them to give them to someone else.  Uncle Sam was going to pay my way.

Air Force Academy - one month stay

No sooner did I graduate from Tech, I was on another airplane heading west to Colorado.  It's June of 1959, and weather conditions coming into Chicago for a short stop were NOT good.  Thunderstorms were ravaging the area.  By the time we got near Chicago, it was dark, and we were being bounced around.  The Captain told us to prepare for a rough landing.  I could see out the window that we were banking to the left, and I could see the runway lights ahead and to the left.  Then we straightened out for the landing.  The props were idling as we glided down.  Then, all of a sudden, FULL POWER was making us speed up and climb.  Every nut and bolt on that aircraft was shuddering.  Finally, the Captain came back on and told us that just as he was about to land, there was an electrical failure on the field, and all runway lights went out.  He couldn't see the runway, so he had to abort the landing.  We were flying around in a big circle.  I remember seeing the same McDonald's over and over again.  Then the Captain told us the lights were restored, and we're coming in again.  Just as before, I could see the runway as we banked toward it.  As we were about to land -- FULL POWER and off we go again into the wild BLACK yonder.  I looked back and could see the runway lights were still on.  What happened?  We circled and circled, and then we stopped circling and we're flying straight.  The Captain came on again, "As I was making my second approach, I was waved off by the tower because the field was hit by a flash flood and was under two feet of water.  We are now heading to South Bend, Indiana where it is only drizzling." Yikes!  How are we going to get to Colorado?

When we landed in South Bend, it was nearly midnight, and the flight crew had put in their maximum hours, so they could not just refuel and take off again.  Since the airport was essentially closed, they called an Agent, rousted him out of bed and got him down to the counter to deal with our group of passengers.  We had basically two choices: 1) Stay with the plane until they got a crew out from Chicago, or 2) get a partial refund in airfare sufficient to pay for a taxi to the local railway station, and train fare to Chicago, and another taxi to the Chicago airport.  There was a train leaving at 3AM.  Virtually everyone opted for the refund.  We took taxis to the railroad station, usually four people per taxi to share the cost.  At the train station, there was no agent on duty, but a sign said we could get our tickets from the conductor on board the train.  Promptly at 3AM the train showed up, we all boarded and bought our tickets, and then tried to settle down to get some sleep.  Well, about an hour later that storm that hit Chicago was now hitting us.  No matter where you sat, you got wet, INSIDE the train.  The roof leaked like a sieve.  It was miserable.  Finally, around 7AM, we arrived in Chicago and took another taxi to O'Hare.  They were using squeegees to push the water out of the terminal.  Apparently the flood was high enough to cover the floors!  Anyway, we went to our airline's ticket counter to continue our flight to Denver.  But we were NOT the only ones there.  The flood had shut down the airport, and there were many flights to Denver that never took off.  We were given standby passes, and told to find some comfortable place to wait.  We went to the sun deck where we could still hear all the announcements, and basked in the sun.  Around 10AM we heard this announcement, "Anyone with standby passes for a flight to Denver on United Airlines, please report to the ticket counter." That was our group, so we ran down, and we asked, "Is there room for us?" "Yes, the aircraft is empty." So we got tickets and ran to the boarding area.  It was the same plane we left in South Bend, even the same stewardesses!  They had a party onboard the night before using those little liquor bottles.  A crew had been driven to South Bend, and they flew back to Chicago to pick us up.  We were both annoyed and overjoyed.  The flight to Denver was uneventful.  But when we arrived, all the guys destined for the Air Force Academy were now nearly a day late.  I was chosen to call the Academy, and when they heard we were waiting to be picked up in Denver, they were relieved we made it safely.  They sent busses to bring us to the Academy.  When we got there, we were harassed something fierce.  How dare we miss a day of training!  Anyway, that's how life started at the Academy for me in mid-June.

Every day was a combination of classes, eating, and calisthenics.  We ate in a large cafeteria, and we were not permitted to look around.  Eyes front ALL THE TIME.  Calisthenics were grueling, and after about two weeks of it, I was falling behind.  My drill sergeant took me out of formation at the end of one session, along with another guy, and made us RUN a mile.  At the end of that, I was exhausted, but had to double-time to get to Lunch Formation.  We went in for lunch, and I was making mistakes.  At one point, I took a bite from a dinner roll, and the Officer in command immediately asked me a question.  Of course, you can't answer with food in your mouth, so I was frantically trying to chew and swallow, but took too much time.  My punishment was to just sit there not eating.  At the end of the meal, there's a dismissal ritual, which goes like this... the Officer says, "Gentlemen, you are excused."  We all turn toward him and say, "Excuse me, Sir."  We then turn and look straight across the table and say, "Excuse me gentlemen."  At this point, everyone stands up to pivot and leave.  But when I stood up, I fainted and fell back over my chair onto the floor.  The next thing I remember was opening my eyes with the Officer kneeling next to me taking my tie off.  I COULD SEE THE CEILING!  That was the first time I ever saw it.  A couple of other upper-classmen lifted me up, and held me steady as they escorted me to the Dispensary.  I sat there for a little while, then was taken into a room for an examination.  The doctor listened to my lungs, and told me to lie down on a cot and go to sleep.  I was out like a light.  A few hours later, they woke me up and told me I was going in an ambulance to Lowery Air Force Base in Denver.  I would ride in the passenger seat up front.  OK, but why?  They told me they were fairly sure I had Asthma.  I spent the next two weeks at Lowery, and was tested in all kinds of ways, like "blow up a balloon" test, and allergy pinprick tests.  The verdict was that I had Asthma, probably because I was allergic to egg whites, buckwheat, and Russian thistle (which only grows in Colorado).  My egg allergy was back with a vengeance.  I returned to the Academy with a "special dispensation" note I carried in my pocket.  A couple of days later, I was WALKING to Lunch Formation, and an upper classman saw me and shouted, "Double-time it, mister!" I responded by saying, "Sir, I am excused from double-time, shower formation, calisthenics, ... (and several other things)." "That's impossible", he said.  So I pulled out my doctor's note and handed it to him to read.  He read it, handed it back and said, "Get out of here."

After about a week back from the hospital, I'm called into an office where I'm told that I'm being discharged.  It's an "Administrative Discharge for a Medical reason".  I'm now classified as 1-Y, which means no military service will allow me to join them unless Congress declared war, and even then, I'll be assigned a desk job.  It also meant I was going home.  Now, let me point out, it is only mid-July, just before my birthday.  I'm given an opportunity to call my parents, and my Mom answers.  I'm sobbing, and she wants to know why?  I tell her I'm being discharged because I have Asthma.  But my main reason for crying is when I tell her, "I've cancelled all my scholarships, and can't go to college." Then Mom said, "You didn't cancel ALL of them.  I got another letter today from Michigan State (MSU) asking if you intended to accept their full-matriculation scholarship.  But, I put that letter in the trash, and it's scheduled to be picked up today." She said she'd try to retrieve it, and we ended the call.

My trip back to Massachusetts was less eventful, but I flew on standby all the way.  Maybe it was my uniform that made a difference because I made every flight.  When I got home, Mom had the documents from MSU.  We quickly filled them out and sent them back (post haste).  So that's how I got to go the MSU, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  That short summer in Colorado satisfied my military obligation, and companies wouldn't have to worry about the draft calling me to military service.

My parents

Before getting into more about my life (starting with MSU), let me tell you what happened to my parents.  After I left home, my mom kept working, and my dad got a second job working for AAA as a dispatcher, someone who gets the call from the person in distress, and he then contacts the nearest service station to handle the call.  He worked in an office downtown, operated by AAA.  This provided the extra income they needed to pay for my college room and board.  Eventually, my parents moved away from Rochelle Street.  Something called "block busting" was happening in our neighborhood.  That's a process where an entirely "white" neighborhood is transformed into an entirely "black" neighborhood.  One black family buys a house, and then property values go down, primarily because they don't maintain the property.  Then other houses are sold to blacks.  These were the early 60's, and race relations were NOT like they are today.  My mom and dad held out as long as they could.  My dad tried to get a home improvement loan to increase the value of the property, but the bank wouldn't authorize it claiming it wouldn't be recovered when the property was sold.  Finally, they sold and moved to an apartment, mainly because my dad suffered a massive aortic aneurism.  He survived, but had to undergo kidney dialysis twice a week.  I'll cover more about my parents later, in context and closer in time to events in my life.

Michigan State University (MSU)

In the fall of 1959, shortly after my high school graduation and return from Colorado, my parents took me to East Lansing, Michigan, the location of MSU.  The campus was huge, especially when you consider it hosted about 30,000 students.  East Lansing itself was just a support community.  I moved into Bailey Hall in the Brody Complex.  There were six large dorms arranged in a horseshoe shape, open at the top.  In the center was Brody Hall, the central hub of the complex where six dining halls were located on the second floor, and all kinds of meeting rooms were located on the first floor.  I'll come back to this building a little later.

In Bailey Hall, I was assigned a two-man room.  My roommate was Michael Powell.  Mike and I still correspond every Christmas.  At the end of the first year, we had an opportunity to change rooms, or dorms.  We did some research and found the perfect room on the fourth floor of Armstrong Hall.  The only problem was that it was designed as a three-person room.  But we had made friends with Pat Prang, so all three of us decided to take this room the next year.  Strange thing though, I never noticed if Pat took any showers.

What made the room "special" was its location.  Armstrong was shaped like two long four story sections with rooms on either side of central corridors, but these two sections were offset from each other end-to-end with a cross-connector between the ends.  That's where this room was located, across from a study hall and next or a service elevator.  There was a locked door between this stub and the corresponding stub on the other side.  Therefore, our room was isolated from most of the noise.  There was another room like this in the other stub, and the same arrangement on the third floor, but those rooms were over the laundry.  We couldn't hear the laundry on the fourth floor because of the intervening floor.  We lived in that room for the rest of our undergraduate stay.

College Hobby

Early into my freshman year, I became interested in the Photography Club.  I purchased a reasonably good camera, and we (myself and others) started to recruit girls to "pose" for us.  Nothing provocative, just still photos shot in public with elegant dresses.  This hobby continued throughout my stay at MSU.

It led to an interesting situation in my life.  I was selected to join an intellectual fraternity, and one of our duties was to take disabled (blind) students through registration each quarter.  I noticed that the photo-ID was just a card with name, room, birth date, and a few other things.  There was an empty square in the upper corner of the card.  As we went through registration, the card was stamped with a university seal, specially made for that quarter.  I had access to these cards because I had to carry them for the group I led.  I took a card back to my dorm.  I typed in BOGUS information.  Wrong name, wrong room, wrong birth date, etc.  The next year, I carried this card with me as I took a group through registration.  At the stamp station, I handed them ALL the cards for my group, with my card stuck in the pile.  They routinely stamped ALL cards.  I then took my card out of the pile because the next step was to be photographed along with the card to create a photo-ID.  They then put the cards away until next quarter.  But I now had a stamped card.  Back in my darkroom, I added my picture to the square and had a completely valid photo-ID.  By the end of the year, it was complete with stamps for fall, winter, and spring.  I showed it to one of my models who asked if I could make one for her.  I said "Yes" just to string her along.  Time went by, and she kept asking me for "her" photo-ID, but I kept delaying her with some reason.  Then one day, there was a knock on my dorm room door.  It was campus police there to arrest me.  They searched for the photo-ID for the girl, but didn't find it, because it didn't exist.  But they found mine.  I spent the night in jail.  My parents bailed me out, using money from my Dad's dad.  Finally, I went to court before a judge.  The prosecution presented their case, showing my photo-ID.  The judge asked them if they found any other IDs.  NO.  Was there any witness that could testify about ME using my ID.  NO.  The judge then explained that in Michigan it is NOT illegal to possess a false ID, only to use one, or make one for someone else.  I was innocent on both counts.  Case dismissed.  After the hearing, while still in court, the prosecution returned my photo-ID to me, and I still have it.  They had searched my dorm room after they arrested me and couldn't find the embossing stamps.  I told them I never had them.  "Then how did you get the ID embossed?"  I told them about the registration process and how easy it was to slip through.  Anyway, from this point on, any time I filled out an application for a job, I always had to answer the question, "Have you ever been arrested?" with a "Yes".  I then had to "Explain", which meant saying I was NOT convicted of a crime.  Believe me, this was a life lesson, and I learned it well.

College Girls

In my freshman year, we had a Christmas party over at Butterfield hall, an all girls dorm in the Brody group.  That's where I met Barbara Patterson.  We hit it off immediately.  Shortly thereafter, she took me to her home in Detroit to meet her parents.  I remember she took me up to her bedroom, and we made out.  But luckily her Mom called us down to dinner before we got too far.  We continued to date the rest of my freshman year, but it ended when she wanted me to elope with her, and I found out WHY.  She had false teeth, and wanted to marry someone who would produce children with good teeth.  YIKES!  That was too much for me.

My junior year was when I met my first true girl friend, Betty Ann Feldbauer.  I remember one time when I took her back to her dorm, and there were lots of couples in front waiting until the last minute to part.  There was a curfew, and the girls had to be in by 10PM.  She went in, and as I was returning to my dorm, I wrote a poem in my head, and put it to paper in my room.

"Have you ever watched, at hours late, the procession through the prison gate?  The men who wander away once more, leave lonely inmates behind that door, waiting 'til tomorrow's night, to love again by pale moonlight."

Yah, kind of corny, but strangely I still remember it.  I wrote other poems at various times in my life.  The one above and the "Sonnet to Summer Showers" are two examples.  I wrote another when my sister Suzanne married Gerry Gauthier:

"As Sue walks down the aisle with pride, to become Gerry's blushing bride, she will sense, as most brides must, that marriage starts with love and trust."

And finally this futuristic warning:

"The smell of fish is in the air, but nobody really seems to care.  And now the water tastes really bad, but not enough to make us mad.  And when the smog makes someone choke, people still find time to joke.  When will mankind ever learn!  It's on a path of no return."

Spring quarter, Betty had gone to Flint, MI to complete her Education degree by being a student teacher.  On Friday of Easter weekend, I decided to drive my scooter to Flint, which was only 30 miles away.  But it became bitterly cold along the way, and when I finally got there I was "frozen".  She let me into her apartment and warmed me up.  On Saturday, she posed for me, because I had my camera with me.  We fell in love, and eventually, I proposed to her, and she accepted.  She graduated at the end of that spring quarter, and we drove back to my home in Springfield so she could meet my parents.  After staying there a week, we traveled back to her farm in Webster, NY, just outside of Rochester.  I spent the summer with her, working in the fields picking vegetables.  We went to the Farmer's Market to sell produce.  Finally, my parents came to get me and take me back to MSU.  Just before we left, Betty's mother suggested we invest in a new company that was building across the road from them.  My dad declined.  The company was Xerox.

It was now my senior year.  Betty and I continued to correspond, but as winter quarter closed, she had found another guy in Rochester.  I was devastated.

College <-> Home

Getting home during quarter breaks or extended holiday breaks was a problem.  I was an out-of-state student from Massachusetts (MA).  Most students were from Michigan (MI), so their trip home was relatively short.  But Springfield MA was 750 miles away from East Lansing.  I believe my first trip home was between fall and winter quarters, essentially the Christmas - New Years break.  I took a bus, Greyhound I think, and it took me through Detroit, down to Toledo OH, over to Cleveland, then Erie PA to Buffalo NY, across on I80 to Albany, and into MA finally arriving in Springfield.  This took two days and nights, and I had to change buses more than once.  There had to be a better way.  I don't remember how I got back to MSU, but I believe I called someone I knew at MSU who lived in Boston, and asked him how he got home.  He drove his own car, so I asked if he was willing to take me back.  YES, as long as I was willing the share the cost.  Well, that's simple.  The next time I came home, I used the "student car pool" method.  Drivers would post on a bulletin board that they were traveling to some destination, and would accept "passengers".  I was always able to hitch a ride with someone going to/from Boston or some place in Eastern MA.  They would drop me off at the Springfield exit tollbooth, and I'd call my parents to come get me.  The return trip was just as simple.  My parents took me to the tollbooth and I just waited for my ride to pick me up.  Mass Turnpike was a toll road.

Most drivers took a shortcut the get home.  They'd leave from East Lansing and go slightly north (but mainly east) to Port Huron, MI.  They would cross into Canada over the Blue Water Bridge.  We usually got to Port Huron by late afternoon, and headed straight east to London Ontario.  Of course, we got hungry around dinnertime, so we always stopped at a diner that everybody seemed to know about, just south of London.  We'd go around London on 402 and then across on 3 to Buffalo NY.  It was usually midnight by the time we got there.  The New York Thruway took us to Albany, and that meant driving almost all night across New York.  I was usually at Springfield around 7AM.

One Christmas break, I rode with Vanessa (called Vonie) and two other girls.  As we approached Port Huron, it was snowing so hard the road was covered in a white blanket.  You could only navigate the road by using the reflector posts on each side to give a sense of where the road went.  It was very tricky.  As we approached the bridge, we were talking about turning back.  But we decided to get to the bridge and ask about road conditions.  The toll taker said there was NO SNOW just 30 miles east of the bridge.  This was "lake effect" snow, and only affected the immediate area.  Sure enough, we came out of the snowfall long before London.  The rest of the Canadian crossing was uneventful.  Then we hit "lake effect" snow again around Buffalo.  We continued on I80 (now I90), and got out of the snowfall well before Rochester.

Now it was smooth sailing -- until a semi-truck passed us.  We were doing about 55, but the truck was doing 65.  All of a sudden we were driving in a white cloud.  The snow piled up alongside the roadway was sucked up into the air by the truck's draft.  Vonie couldn't see anything, and she began to panic.  I was sitting next to her, and told her to just slow down, no brake, and keep the steering wheel relatively straight, no turns.  Then, right ahead of us, we saw a reflector post.  We were heading right at it.  Vonie turned left to avoid it.  The car bounced around a little, and we were back on the highway.  I looked out my right side window and thought I could see another roadway paralleling us.  Then I looked forward and saw headlights and snow flying into the air.  "Vonie, you're on the wrong side of the NY Thruway, and that's a snow plow heading toward us!"  She didn't believe me.  So I had to grab the steering wheel and turn us to the right into the median strip.  The truck went by without hitting us.  We were now stopped in the median.  I got out and went around to take over as driver, because Vonie was hysterical.  She got into the back seat, and one of the other girls got in front next to me.  Vonie was crying and stammering and inconsolable.  We continued on, and after a while, I saw another semi-truck approaching me from the rear.  He was going fast, and I knew he'd overtake me.  So I got a good look at the road's path as the truck went by, and was prepared for the instant blizzard.  I followed my own advice, and eventually the cloud dissipated.  Another reflector was right in front of me, but a quick look told me it was a center median reflector.  I turned right and successfully avoided it, but the car went into a skid, sliding across the highway left to right.  I saw a huge metal post that supports highway signs, and if I didn't get the car under control, we would go off the road and hit it.  Well, I was able to stop the skid to the right, and put us into a skid to the left.  We stayed on the road, and finally slowed down enough to recover.  From then on, if I saw a truck coming, I immediately slowed down to let it pass.  It was easier to control the car at slow speeds, and the cloud dispersed quicker.  That was a memorable trip.

College Employment

Freshman year, I got a job in Brody Hall's kitchen as a bus boy.  That provided me with spending money.  I noticed how the dishwashing machine worked, being loaded at one end and moving the dishes and silver ware through a 25 foot long chamber where it was sprayed from all sides, eventually emerging at the far end where the dishes were stacked in dispenser carts, and the silver was stored in small buckets.  People in the cafeterias would place their trays of dirty dishes and silver through openings in the walls where people like me would pre-wash them, dumping scraps down a disposal, and moving everything to the mouth of that big washer.  One guy stood on a platform in front of the washer and grabbed stuff from either side, and loaded it onto a conveyer belt lined with spokes to hold the dishes.  One guy, the BEST loader we had, was totally blind!  Yet he seemed to be able to sense where everything was to either side, and in front where the conveyer was moving away from him.  He would rack up a handful of dishes in one pass over the spokes.  It was absolutely amazing to watch.

The next year, I added another job, working as the ticket-taker and movie projector operator at "Movie Night".  One of the perks was that I got to watch all these movies for free.  Every year we had "Forbidden Planet", and I got to watch it often.  In fact, by the time I graduated, I had seen it over twenty times.  It still is my favorite Sci-Fi movie.

In my junior year, I got a job as a switchboard operator in a dorm across campus.  I had a scooter to get around, so it was an easy commute.  I found out about this job when I stayed in this dorm over the previous summer.  Yes, I went to a Summer Quarter, and lived with a black roommate.  He was a very nice guy, but he couldn't use an electric razor.  His beard grew out, and curled back in.  This was difficult to shave, even with a straight razor.  Many times he had to pluck the curled under ends to get them loose so he could shave them off.  I really felt badly for the guy.

In my senior year, I got a different job.  I was the computer operator for MSU's MISTIC computer, located on the top floor of the Electrical Engineering Building.  This was a JOY for me because I was now getting experience with a real computer, which was my goal as an EE student.  I now started interviewing companies for job prospects.  They would send recruiters to campus, and we would schedule job interviews.  I talked to several over the course of the year, and many would offer an all-expenses-paid trip to their facilities for in-depth interviews.  I visited companies all over, mostly in Texas.  But I saved to best for last: Control Data Corp in Minneapolis, MN.  I wanted to visit the company I had decided to join LAST so I could take all these trips for free.  When CDC called back and asked if I would join them, I said, "YES".

I graduated early, at the end of the winter quarter instead of the spring quarter in 1963.  I was one credit shy of graduating, so I took a one credit ballroom dance class to qualify for early graduation.  That class came in handly later in life, as you'll soon see.

My parents came to the graduation, and afterward they told me it was a good thing I had finished a quarter early because they couldn't pay my room-and-board for another quarter.  WOW!  That was a real surprise, and I came to realize how much they had sacrificed to get me through college.

After College Employment -- CDC

After my parents left East Lansing to return to Springfield, I had to prepare to make my way to my new job with CDC.  I sold my motor scooter, a Vespa I think, and with the cash from that sale, and what I had saved from my part-time jobs, I was able to buy a used Nash Rambler.  I packed everything I had into that car and took off to Chicago, then through Wisconsin, and finally into St. Paul, MN.  That's when my car started to sound like a clunker.  I must have thrown a rod or something because it "banged" like a drum.  But it still ran, and I searched my maps for someplace to take refuge.  I found a Frat-house at the University of Minnesota, and they took me in.  I cooked breakfast for the entire house the next morning as a thank-you gesture.  Then I went searching for another car.  I didn't have much money, so I checked out the used car lots.  I found a Pontiac Bonneville convertible I could afford using my clunker as a trade-in, and a loan to cover the rest.  What a "boat"!!  With the top down, it was long and wide and very impressive.

Next, I searched for a place to stay that would be close to CDC.  I found an apartment in downtown Minneapolis that was about 10 miles from CDC, which was in Bloomington.  The rent was $50 per month.  OK, it is now April 1, 1963, and I start "work" at CDC.  The very first thing they want me to do is take an all-day class that will run every weekday for 8 weeks.  This was an engineering class designed to teach you about every flip-flop and circuit in a 3600.  We also learned "computer logic", how AND-gates and OR-gates and shift-networks, and timing circuits, and memory all were interconnected and functioned.  I was having a ball.  This was what I wanted to do, and I ate it up.  By the end of the class, I had the top grade.  One day, while driving back to the apartment, I noticed a trailer park just a mile from CDC.  I drove into the park and saw a sign on a mobile home: "For sale by owner".  I stopped, knocked on the door, and met an elderly couple, Henry and Olga Johnson.  They bought this 50x10 Detroiter new on Oct. 1, 1961 for $4990.  They wanted to move downtown to be closer to their doctor and were selling the mobile home for "$200 down and take over the payments", which were only $69/month.  The balance on the Detroiter was just $3600, and the lot-rent was $37/month, so the combined amount I would pay was slightly under $110/month.  On my salary, I could barely afford that.  I said I'd take it, and come back the next day.  Meanwhile, I was broke, so I went to a bank near my apartment and explained the "deal".  All I needed was a short term $200 loan.  I'd pay the bank back within 90 days.  Considering I was buying property, they agreed.  Next day, I handed over that $200 and signed all the paper work to become the new owner on June 1, 1963.  We also met with the park manager, and there was no problem as long as lot rent continued to be paid.

The next day, back at CDC, I posted a notice on the bulletin board: "Roommates wanted, $50 rent".  Boy was I amazed when TWO guys approached me.  They were paying more than $50/month, and had a long drive to CDC.  So they came and checked out the mobile home.  It had a master bedroom where I slept, a slightly smaller bedroom in the center, and a foldout bed in the living room.  They agreed to take it.  Now I was only paying $10/month for the mortgage AND lot rent combined.  They remained my roommates for almost 18 months.

Meanwhile, back at CDC, I was moved downtown, where I went to work on 160A computers testing tape drives, making sure they started, read, wrote, stopped, rewound, and fast-forwarded properly.  But that didn't last long.  My manager came to me and said, "Corporate wants you back at the training center."  He had no clue why, but the next day I reported to training.  They asked if I would be willing to "teach what I just learned"?  "Why?" I asked.  Well apparently the instructor who taught MY class quit, and now the spring graduates were coming.  I said I'd be willing to give it a shot, but my manager had to approve.  You see, the engineering department paid for my recruitment, and they wanted to recover some of their investment.  So the arrangement was that I'd teach the class, and then go back to engineering for at least four months.  OK.

I then taught an 8-week course, basically similar to the 3600 class, but this time for the 3800.  I LOVED IT.  Watching these guys learn was like looking into a mirror.  I had just been there, and was reliving the "thrill" of computing.  When the class was done, I went back to engineering, but I no longer had the same excitement about engineering.  Teaching was so much more fun.  As I went on with engineering, I began to explore what makes computers "run".  It's all about software.  Hardware is static and boring, but software is dynamic.  I studied the CDC Fortran Compiler, all written in Assembly Language, which is basically the machine instructions in a mnemonic form.  One of the complaints I heard about the compiler was: "It is horribly slow".  I soon discovered why.  Whoever wrote the compiler did it without regard to instruction speed.  Let me give you an example, but in Fortran style instead of Assembler: "I = I * 2", which seems straight forward enough, but involves a MULTIPLY by a constant.  MULTIPLY is one of the slowest instructions in the machine, plus it requires memory references to obtain both 2 and I.  I rewrote it as: "I = I + I", which requires one memory reference to get I, then an ADD to add it to itself.  ADD is a very fast instruction.  By making changes like this throughout the compiler, I was able to DOUBLE its speed, or put another way, cut elapsed time in half.  My compiler was getting twice the throughput when compared to the original.  As you'll see later, this had a BIG impact on my career.

Dee Ann Plein & Marriage

March 1964, and I've been in Minnesota for about a year.  One Friday evening around April 1st, my roommates invited me to come with them to a dance at the Newman Club downtown.  I was reluctant at first, but then decided to go.  Most of us were wallflowers, but once in a while the DJ would play something slow enough that I'd ask a girl to dance.  At one point, while dancing, the DJ suddenly changed to a "swap your partners" mode.  Each time the music stopped (short of being done), you had to turn around and take the nearest girl as your new partner.  That swapping went on until the music REALLY stopped.  At that point I was holding Dee Ann Plein as my partner.  Her cousin, Len Plein, had taken her to this dance.  I escorted her over to the side, where we continued to talk.  She was getting bored, and so was I, so we decided to leave the dance.  I took her back to her apartment, asked if I could call her (she said "OK"), and I went back to the mobile home.  Saturday, I called Dee Ann, but got her roommate instead.  Dee had gone home to Rochester to attend a wedding.  "OK, have her call me when she gets back."  But by Tuesday, she hadn't called, so I called her.  We talked a long time on the phone, mainly about her sister's wedding.  I asked if she would go to dinner with me, and she agreed.  I picked her up and took her to The Black Angus Restaurant.  We had filets and lots of other wonderful food.  I took her back to her apartment, and said, "Good night, I'll call again soon."  We continued to date, mainly by phone, and I began to fall in love.  I had found my soul mate.  I purchased an engagement ring, and one afternoon we went to the movies together.  It was "Robin and the Seven Hoods".  During the movie, I took out the ring and showed it to her.  "Will you marry me?"  She said, "YES".  That was around June, and shortly thereafter I went to Rochester with Dee to meet her parents.  I took an Assembly language listing of the Fortran compiler with me because I was working on it.  I should have left it at home because it became a distraction, and I wasn't spending quality time talking with Floyd and Elvira.  Once I realized my mistake, I apologized and put the listing away.  Fortunately, they accepted me and gave their permission for me to marry Dee Ann.  When we got back to Minneapolis, we enrolled in Pre-Cana classes.  If you don't know what that means, look it up in Wikipedia.  These classes helped us determine our readiness to get married in the Catholic Church, and we passed.

Plans were now in the works for our wedding.  Dee's parents couldn't afford anything very expensive, so the reception was going to be in the basement of the church.  Just about a month before the wedding date, I was driving back to Bloomington from downtown Minneapolis.  The street was four lanes wide, one way out of town.  I came to a stoplight and waited.  The light for the cross street turned red, and my light was also still red (that's a safety feature).  Once my light turned green, I went across the four lanes of the cross street, and got hit broadside by a guy driving down the parking lane.  My car was pushed sideways and his came to a complete stop.  I moved out of the intersection, and got out of my car.  The guy managed to get his car restarted, and he left the scene.  It was a clear case of hit-and-run.  As I went back to my car, I found something lying on the street and picked it up.  When the cops came, they asked if I got his plate number, and I handed them HIS PLATE.  It had fallen off his car from the force of the impact.  Well, later I heard they got him, but he never served any jail time, and I never got any compensation for the damage to my car.  I had to get that fixed at my own expense before the wedding.

Dee and I married on November 21, 1964 in Rochester, MN.  My parents, sister Dolly, her husband Skipper, and their daughter Janice attended from my side.  The wedding was held in St. Francis Catholic Church just a short distance away from Dee's home.  It was a VERY COLD day.  I remember the reception was in the church basement, and at one point we were supposed to have a photo taken next to the car.  We opened the basement door, rush out to the car, took the picture, and rushed back inside.  The high temperature for that day was -21F.  YES, 21 BELOW ZERO.  How could we forget it given we were married on the 21st.

That evening, we left everyone behind in Dee's warm home, got into the car and left on our honeymoon.  The car was my Pontiac Bonneville convertible, with the top UP, but that didn't help much.  We had the heater on full blast, and were bundled in blankets.  We stopped at a motel in Madison on our way to Chicago.

Dee went up to the room, but I stayed in the lobby and started playing ping-pong with a priest.  Eventually, I made my way up to the room.  Dee was very shy, and was in the bathroom.  When she came out . . .  well, enough said.

When we got to Chicago, it was still bitterly cold.  If you're wondering why we didn't go to Hawaii or someplace warmer, we couldn't afford it.  We were only earning about $700/month COMBINED.  With car and mortgage payments, along with lot rent, we didn't have savings to spend on a fancy honeymoon.  But we made the best of the time we had in Chicago, and got home even more in love.

Once we got home again, home being my mobile home, we found my parents staying there along with my sister Sue.  They had done some sight-seeing while we were gone.  We took them to the airport so they could return to Massachusetts.  Since my roommates had moved out before the wedding, we now had the whole place to ourselves.  We both went back to work, Dee to her transcription job at the Kenny Institute downtown, and me back to CDC.  I don't remember how Dee got to work.  She may have driven her own car.

Back to CDC

One day my boss came to me and said he had been asked to send me to Palo Alto, CA to talk to the programming division.  Apparently he had let someone know about my work on the Fortran compiler, and how I had doubled its speed.  The first week of February, I was scheduled to leave.  It had snowed the night before, and the plows had cleared the streets around the mobile home park, but had piled up big mounds of snow at the entrances making it virtually impossible to leave.  Using my big Pontiac, with Dee as a passenger, we made a run for it, and hung the car on the snow bank.  It took several friends in the park to help us push the car over the bank and onto the street.  Off we went to the airport, where we said good-by to each other.  Dee drove home, and I flew to SFO.

When I got off the aircraft in San Francisco, I was wearing my heavy coat, but as I drove up 101 toward Palo Alto, it got warmer and warmer.  By the time I got to the foot of Page Mill Road at El Camino Real, it was so warm I got out of the rental car and took off my coat.  I looked up the hill and was amazed at what I saw.  It looked like springtime.  I found a motel on El Camino, and spent the night there.  Next day, I drove up Page Mill Road to Porter Drive where CDC was located.  It was a beautiful building with a ping-pong table in the courtyard.

I spent the entire week talking to various programmers about what I had done to speed up the compiler.  Finally, on Friday, the last day I would be there, they asked me if I had any questions for them.  Yes, "Is it always this nice here?"  They laughed, and said, "Pretty much."  Then they asked me if I would be interested in working there, in Palo Alto.  "Yes, absolutely!" They said they would give me a raise and pay my relocation cost.  I told then, "I have a mobile home."  "Even better, we can just move that out here."  Well, I couldn't ask for anything more, except, "Where can I park my mobile home?"  They told me there were plenty of mobile home parks to the south, in Mountain View and Sunnyvale.  They said the closest place was in Mountain View.  All I had to do was drive down El Camino Real past my motel and keep going until Palo Alto turned into Mountain View.  So I left and started down El Camino.  I crossed San Antonio Road and was looking at street numbers on the right side of the street.  None of them were anywhere close to what I was told was the address for Larry's Trailer Court.  All of a sudden, the street numbers changed.  I had passed a "Welcome to Mountain View" sign.  What I had been looking at were Los Altos numbers.  But now the numbers were going the wrong way.  I was moving away from the number for Larry's Trailer Court.  I turned around and headed back the other way.  That's when I discovered that Los Altos was on one side of El Camino, and Mountain View was on the other side.  I had NEVER seen such a thing before.  Finally, I found Larry's Trailer Court.  I had passed it going the other way, looking right.  Anyway, I stopped at the manager's trailer and asked if they had any empty lots for rent.  They had a doublewide lot that would easily take a 50x10.  I told the manager, "OK, I'll take it, and here's your rental fee.  I'll send you that every month until we move out here from Minnesota."  That was a deal.  If I defaulted, the lot would be back on the market.

By the time I got back to my motel, it was almost 9PM.  It was too late to call Dee and tell her what happened.  Next morning, when I woke up, I realized I couldn't call her then either because she was at work.  All I could do was leave and take my flight back to Minnesota.  Dee met me at the airport, and as soon as we got done hugging, I told her, "We are moving to California!"  She was stunned.  Then she realized her brother lived in southern California, so she was happy.  We now had several months to prepare to leave Minnesota because my transfer wasn't effective until the end of May.

Weather in Minnesota

In the last 12 months before we moved to California, I first was living with my two CDC roommates.  One June evening at about 5:30, I was outside washing the mobile home.  My roommates opened the door and said programming on TV had been interrupted to issue a severe weather warning.  I looked toward the western horizon and saw a black wall rolling toward us.  I quickly packed up and went inside.  At 6:10, it hit us.  At 6:15 we were being blasted with 120mph winds.  We had to keep a few windows slightly open to allow the wind to pass through the trailer; otherwise, we would have been blown over.  At 6:20, it relented, and by 6:30 we were back to having a bright sunny sky, just as though nothing had happened.  I went out and did the cleaning job all over again.  There was a lot of debris plastered against the outside walls.

OK, let's take a look at fall and winter.  I went to work one morning after a night of "snow showers" where both rain and snow come down.  It got VERY COLD during the night, and the roads had patches of "black ice" in spots.  I drove very slowly and carefully, finally turning into CDC's driveway to the parking lot.  As I tried to straighten out of the turn, the wheels had no traction, so I kept on turning.  I made a 180-degree turn in the driveway, ending up on the outgoing side pointing in the outgoing direction, so I just drove back out to the main road, made a careful turn, lined up with the driveway, and came through to the parking lot just fine.  But that "spin" really shook me up.

Towards the end of winter, we had nights and days that ran from -30f to +30f and back to -30f.  That's right, 30 below zero to 30 above zero back to 30 below.  That's a 60-degree spread, and NOT going above freezing.  Imagine going from 30 above to 90 above!  That's slightly below freezing to really HOT, in one day.

In April 1965, the snow and ice melted very quickly, and we were hit with massive flooding.  The St. Croix River got so high it overran the Lift Bridge in Stillwater.  The Minnesota River nearly overflowed its banks.  One bank got inundated and fell away from under a power plant, sending part of the plant down the river.  That caused considerable damage.

Then, tornados hit us on May 6, 1965.  Dee and I went outside to watch the funnel clouds pass over the trailer park, but they didn't touch down in our area.  They DID touch down in the northwest section of Minneapolis.  Six major tornadoes hit the area, four of them classified as F4, causing a lot of damage.

Finally, as Daylight Saving Time approached, St. Paul and Minneapolis got into a quarrel about when to switch to DST.  On May 10, 1965, St. Paul switched to DST, but Minneapolis and most of the rest of Minnesota stayed on standard time.  I worked for CDC home-based in Minneapolis, and had to abide by CDC's time.  But I was working in St. Paul, and parking was prohibited when I had to report to work.  How goofy is that!  Anyway, in the next year, the U.S. Congress passed a Unified Time law.  Basically, any state that switches to DST must do so as an entire state.  You'll note that Arizona still doesn't switch.  If you don't believe this, look it up on the World Wide Web.  It's all there.

As Dee and I prepared to leave Minnesota at the end of May 1965, there was a "Definition of a Minnesotan" going around.  It went like this: "Someone who has a driveway full of snow, a basement full of water, no roof on their house, and can't tell time."  We went to bed the night before we left with a rainstorm pounding the trailer.  Everything was packed inside, ready to be hauled away.  We could NOT get to sleep, so we got up at about 1AM, got in the car and left.

Trip to California

We drove south through the night to Albert Lea, then turned west and finally, at daybreak, reached Sioux Falls, SD.  We had breakfast there, and then continued west past the Bad Lands.  We took a slight detour to Mount Rushmore and spent the night nearby.  Next day, we continued west through Casper WY and onto Cody WY.  As we came into town, my car was not steering very well, so we rolled into an auto repair shop.  He had the tools to fix my car's front end.  I think the bearings were shot, and he was able to replace them.  Of course, we spent the night in Cody while he did the work.  Next day, by noon, the car was ready.  I don't know what we would have done without this stroke-of-luck, to drive into a shop that had exactly the right tools to fix our problem.

We now headed into Yellowstone National Park.  Remember, by now it is June, and we are driving past snow banks piled several feet high along the roadside.  We stopped at all the sites possible along the route.  Most of what we saw is in our movies, like the Paint Pots, Yellowstone Lake, and Old Faithful.  We left through the west entrance into Montana.  Within 10 miles, we were in Idaho, and went almost straight south on US20, to Pocatello where we spent the night.  Next day we continued down into Utah.  We went around the Great Salt Lake and picked up I80 heading west again.  We crossed into Nevada and spent the night in Elko.  Next day we made our big push west, driving through Reno NV, and then into California.  I80 drops down into the Sacramento area, and the temperature went UP.  We put the top down, and continued west.  As we approached the Bay Area, we drove through some hills, and all of a sudden it got COLD again.  We put the top up, and continued into the Bay Area.  Gosh, we hadn't seen this much traffic since we left Minnesota.  We drove over the Bay Bridge, and down 101 to Mountain View.  We finally got to Larry's Trailer Court, but of course, our mobile home wasn't there yet.  We spent the next few nights in the same hotel where I had stayed on my visit to CDC.

Then we got a call from either the manager of Larry's, or the trucker hauling our mobile home.  It was ready to be parked.  We rushed down to Larry's and got movies of the tractor pulling away from the mobile home.  Our home was ready for us to occupy.  We checked out of the motel and into our relocated home.

Early Life in California (1965+)

One of the first things I did was build a shed along side the mobile home.  We got to know our neighbors, in particular, the Cummings who lived next door.  They loved to play Yahtzee.  We called our neighbor's place "the house with the rattling cup".

In early 1966, Dee got pregnant.  Dee had gotten a job at El Camino Hospital (ECH) as a Medical Records Transcriber, so we decided to use ECH as our prenatal facility, and on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1966; Stephen Richard Guertin was born at ECH.  Dee got an epidural injection to get through labor virtually pain free.  Later that day, at suppertime, the nurse came in with Thanksgiving dinner, but Dee was afraid she might not "hold it down" so she ate desert first.

We now had our first child, and were learning how to care for an infant.  Dee placed a plastic washtub in the kitchen sink, and used a baby carrier to prop up Stephen in the tub to give him a sponge bath.  It worked great!  Stephen had his own room in the trailer, and his changing table was along side one wall.  He'd spray the wall almost every time we took off his diaper.  Boys will be boys...

About 9 months later, in 1967, Dee got pregnant again.  Every indication was that she was carrying another boy.  Larry's Trailer Court would tolerate one child, but not two.  So Dee started looking for a new place.  As she came back from ECH, she roamed the streets of the neighborhoods along the way.  One of them was called the Cuesta Park Neighborhood.  It was within walking distance of ECH.  After church one Sunday, she asked me to drive through that neighborhood to see what was "for sale".  Each place had a Realtor's marketing sign with a stack of sheets that described the property.  There also was a phone number to contact the Realtor.  As we came down Drucilla Drive, we saw a sign planted in the front yard that simply said, "For Sale by Owner".  No phone number, nothing.  So we decided to stop and ring the doorbell.  The Purcell family lived there, and they invited us in to see the place.  Dee and I loved it, because it had a big back yard, and lots of trees and shrubs.  We asked how much they wanted, and were surprised by, "$5000 down and take over the mortgage."  The total was only $27,500 and that was a really good price for this section of Mountain View.  So I told them I'd let them know.

Dee and I went back to the trailer and figured out what we had in savings, and what we could get for the mobile home.  We could handle the $5000.  So the next day, I called them and said, "We'll take it."  "What!" "We'll take it", I repeated.  Then he tells me he put the sign up Sunday morning (the prior day) and didn't expect to sell it this fast.  "What's the problem?" I asked.  He was being transferred to Los Angeles, but not until January 1st, about four months away.  "OK, we can wait, but I'd like to complete the sale."  He agreed, and was willing to pay rent from the time we took ownership, until they left.  That was fine by us.  It gave us time to sell the mobile home and save up more money.

Everything worked out just great, and on January 1st, after sunset, Dee and I made our first visit to our "new" house.  While we were looking around, the doorbell rang.  I opened the door, and there stood an oriental gentleman with a gun pointing at me!  "Who are you?" he said.  "I'm the new owner."  He put the gun down and smiled, and then said he was protecting the property.  Then I smiled and we exchanged proper greetings.  That was my introduction to David Oku who still owns the house next door, but now his son is living in it.

As Memorial Day approached in May of 1968, Dee was admitted to ECH for delivery of our second boy, Michael Edward, born of May 29th.  When Dee got home, we now had to use the second bedroom.  We had one boy in each of the smaller bedrooms, while we occupied the master bedroom.  Dee had to stop working to take care of both boys.

On September 13, 1969, we purchased a lot at Hidden Valley Lake (HVL) in Lake County for $6750.  We thought it would be a good investment.  But it was a Private Community, which meant potential buyers of our property were NOT able to enter the area to see the property.  We then realized it was a "bad investment".  But there was an up side.  There were campgrounds at HVL.  In late March 1970, we purchased an Aristocrat Trailer from Elmer Fairbanks.  We used that trailer to go "camping" at HVL.  I remember one trip in particular.  I always placed my work coveralls in the closet of the trailer, just in case.  We were just past Calistoga on Hwy-12 when one of the tires on the trailer went flat.  I pulled over, went to the trailer, got my coveralls, put them on, and proceeded to change the tire.  I used the car jack to lift the trailer.  There's a spare on the front hitch, and I easily took it off and replaced the tire.  Then I noticed the kids... they were completely amazed.  They even remarked about me having my coveralls, as though I had anticipated the event.  "No", I told them, "I'm just prepared for any emergency."  They may have learned a valuable lesson that day.

On another trip, we went up the HVL to show Joe and Jean Vistica our property.  They had a camper truck.  A one point, Joe and I went sailing on the lake using a sailboat we rented at HVL.  The wind came up, and we were having troubles maneuvering.  We couldn't tack properly.  It took us a long time to get to shore.  Jean and Dee were chuckling because Joe and I were poor sailors.

By September 1986, we realized HVL was costing us money.  We had "water standby" fees, and property taxes, etc.  Then one evening, we were watching KQED, and they were having an auction.  One of the items was a property at HVL.  We called KQED and spoke to the person in charge of the auction.  We wanted to donate our property.  At first, she was reluctant, but I pointed out that if they sold the property they were advertising, they could continue to advertise OUR property.  So she agreed to accept our donation IF the first property sold that day.  Well, it did, and our property took its place.  It was also sold, to Joseph Mattys in San Francisco.  We were able to take a $9500 deduction on our taxes.  That saved us enough to make the deal worthwhile.  We finally unloaded our HVL property.

OK, back to the Aristocrat trailer.  In July 1972, we went in a trip to Phoenix to visit Dee's aunt Mabel.  To get there, we went to the Grand Canyon first.  That was my first trip to the Grand Canyon.  Another would happen later with a Boy Scout troop.  You'll learn more about that troop later.

Joe and Jean lived on Drucilla Drive, and belonged to the Pioneer Camper Club, along with another neighbor down the block from us, the Spinelli family.  There were others on Leona Lane, just around the corner from us, and more in the Cuesta Park Neighborhood.  We were invited to "join the club", which we did.  Someone would plan an outing each month, and as many of us as possible would go camping, as a group.  One time we went to Lake Berryessa, and someone hauled a motorboat behind their camper truck.  Several of us went for a ride on the lake, and had to turn back when we got hit by a rainsquall.  It was miserable, and we were afraid the waves that erupted on the lake would swamp the boat.  This was my SECOND bad experience with a boat on a lake.

Several times, in winter, we'd go to Strawberry, a town up in the Sierra.  What we liked were the out-of-the-way sledding areas.  We have home movies of these adventures.  One year, on our way to Strawberry, we stopped and spent the night at a truck stop.  We had a small TV with us; and watched the 1976 Winter Olympics.  Dorothy Hamill captivated us, and she won the Gold Metal that year.

Eventually, we got tired of camping, and backed the Lo-Liner into our garage, placed it on jacks to preserve the tires, and started using it as a storage facility.  That trailer is STILL parked in the garage.  We had to pay yearly vehicle fees, until finally we converted to a "Permanent Trailer" license.  That reduced our cost to just $10 once every five years.

One year, a Cursillo friend of mine, Peter Kulish, was down on his luck.  He became homeless.  So I offered him the use of our trailer, still in the garage.  He slept there, and used our guest bathroom, when necessary.  That lasted over a month, and finally he found a cheap apartment.  He was very glad we helped him.

One summer, our entire family went back to Beltsville, MD to visit Sue and Dan Endres.  One afternoon, our family borrowed their car and drove into Washington, DC to go visit the National Mall and Museums.  We parked near the Redskin's stadium, and took a bus downtown.  By the time we were done, it was dark, and we knew the busses would stop running soon, so we hurried to the nearest bus stop that had a sign indicating it went past the stadium.  When we got off, we found we were on the opposite side of the stadium from where we had parked.  So we started walking across to the other side.  As we were approaching a house about three houses away, we saw two guys come down off their porch and stand on the sidewalk looking toward us.  Then, all of a sudden, a police officer on a scooter pulled up along side us.  I noticed the guys go back up on the porch.  The officer asked what we were doing in this "dangerous neighborhood", and we explained about the car parked a couple of streets ahead.  The officer escorted us to our car, just to make sure we got there safely.  Dee and I could see that the kids were scared.  We thanked the officer, and got home just fine.  When we told Sue and Dan, they said we were "lucky".

Dick's Work History

As you already know, I was transferred to CDC in California in June 1965.  I spent most of my time improving the Fortran compiler.  One of the major changes was to something called "Overlay and Segment".  It was a way of breaking a large program into discrete pieces, not more than two layers below the top level.  The first layer was the "Overlay" portion, and the second were "Segments" of any particular Overlay.  When the Main program tried to call upon a routine in an Overlay, and it wasn't in any currently loaded Overlay, then the current Overlay and any loaded Segment associated with it were discarded from memory, and the new Overlay containing the desired routine was loaded in its place.  Then the call to the routine proceeded.  Likewise, routines in an Overlay could call upon a routine in an associated Segment, using a similar strategy.  The amount of memory space was pre-calculated by the compiler, and stored in a small table appended to the Main code.  When the Main was loaded, the largest Overlay space was reserved, and the largest Segment space was reserved.  Each has a calculated load address in memory.  So now, any time an Overlay was needed, it was guaranteed the memory space would be there for ANY Overlay, and likewise for all possible Segments.  A VERY LARGE program could now fit in a much smaller space.  Back in those days, memory was expensive, and most computers came with very little memory space.  Page swapping of memory later replaced Overlay & Segment.

One day, another programmer came into my office to ask some questions.  That was the first time I met Bill Kiefer.  He and I became good friends, and we worked together for 40 YEARS, from 1965 through 2005.  We worked on the CDC 3800 designing an operating system for the Naval Research Lab (NRL) in Washington DC.  Toward the end of that project, we frequently made round-trips to Washington to test the operating system on the Navy's 3800.  Then, in 1967, CDC cancelled the 3800 in favor of the new 6600 created by Seymour Cray.  The Navy dropped the OS we had developed and wanted the 6600 instead (newer is always better).  Bill and I then started working on the 6600 systems.

Several times, the hydraulic disk drives on the 6600 "crashed".  That's the term we used to describe a disk-head smashing into a spinning disk, scratching it beyond repair.  The engineers kept records of when these events happened, and interviewed the staff asking them what they might recall about those dates and times.  Eventually it was tracked down to the men's and women's bathrooms.  A toilet flush in both bathrooms at the same time caused a reduction in water pressure, and the hydraulic drives would loose their water barrier between the disk and the disk-head, and result in a crash.  They closed one of the bathrooms and turned the other into a Uni-sex bathroom, until the plumbing could be changed to supply better pressure to the disk drives.

Some time after that, I flew to Philadelphia for a three month stay where I developed a "Checkpoint - Restart" facility for the 6600.  What that had to do, on demand, was take a snapshot of an executing program and preserve it on magnetic tape.  That meant halting the program, and dumping the core contents of that program, AND all associated output files, and all the remaining input files, in order, onto magnetic tape.  The first record written on the tape was a small dictionary of all the components that followed.

There were two 6600 systems in Philly.  One was at Westinghouse, were I was doing the development, and the other was at Temple University.  After I got both Checkpoint AND Restart working at Westinghouse, I took the dump tape to Temple and restarted there!  It worked like a charm.  Westinghouse was very impressed.

One day, I got a call from Bill Kiefer.  He wanted me to return to Palo Also for a very important "event".  We discussed it, and I agreed.  So I wrapped everything up with Westinghouse, and came home.  A few days later, 25 CDC employees QUIT!  Bill and I were part of that group.  All of us, in one way or another, had been involved with the NRL OS.  Todd Morcott had obtained all the code of that system from CDC, and had leased a 3800 computer.  He was starting a new company, called InterAccess (IA), which would compete against IBM using "Summit", the time-sharing system we had developed for NRL.

At IA, we (collectively) worked on making the "final improvements" to Summit that had been left undone because CDC abandoned the project.  My checkpoint-restart and overlay-segment experience came in handy getting the bugs out of the page-swap logic.  We were encountering "thrashing", which is where a program progresses VERY SLOWLY, because the computer spends a lot of time swapping pages.  I was able to write very simple Fortran programs that would "thrash" like crazy.  I was also able to show how very simple changes to that program would allow it to run smoothly, and quickly finish.  This discovery was so important I was later encouraged to write an article entitled "Programming in a Paging Environment" for Datamation, and it got published in 1972.  I still have a copy of that issue of Datamation.  I created a webpage with images of the article, and although it may load slowly, you're welcome to read it: Programming in a Paging Environment @.

In March 1970, eighteen months after we started at IA, a truck rolled up to the loading dock around noon.  It was from CDC; and they were there to take away our 3800 computer.  Todd came out to tell us that he had failed to pay the 3800's lease, and it was being "repossessed".  They gave us an hour to "save" anything we needed, and then they unplugged it and took it away.  We were now unemployed.  We left that very afternoon and went down to the unemployment insurance office to register.  When I got home and told Dee, she took it very well, and suggested we take time off and visit her brother in San Diego.  So we loaded the trailer and headed south.  After visiting in San Diego for a while, we started back up the coast road, highway 1.  We stopped in Long Beach were I interviewed with a company.  Eventually, we got home after a nearly month long vacation.  I called Bill Kiefer to find out how he was doing with job prospects, and he had just gotten hired a week earlier by Stanford University.  Then he said, "They are looking for another programmer.  You should come in and interview."  After giving me the name and phone number of his manager, John Schroeder, I gave him a call, introduced myself and told him Bill referred me.  He set up an appointment for me the next day.  Everything went fine during the interview, and then John asked me, "How would you insure that entries into a database are not lost?"  I said, "I'd write a transactions log tape."  John said, "RIGHT ANSWER, you're hired."  Well that was June 6, 1970 and it started my career at Stanford that lasted nearly 41 years.

My Stanford Career - 1970-2011

Bill and I were assigned to work together.  Our first task was to go visit Louise Addis, the chief librarian at SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).  She took us into a room with a Teletype machine, and typed a command, which was: "find title nuclear".  She then invited us to follow her to the conference room.  I said, "But it hasn't given an answer yet." She replied, "That's the problem, it takes twenty minutes to get the answer!"  So we were there to discuss an alternate implementation of a database system to what they were running.  Their system was called "SPIRES", which stood for "Stanford Physics Information REtrieval System".  It was all written in PL/1, an IBM proprietary language.  The description of the database was embedded in the code itself.  That meant they could only deal with ONE database.  But most importantly, it was SLOW.

When Bill and I returned to campus, we reported this to John Schroeder.  He authorized a "SPIRES-2" project, and suggested we might want to collaborate with the BALLOTS project (Bibliographic Automation of Large Library Operations using a Time-sharing System) headed by Hank Epstein.  So we combined our groups, but OUR group was just Bill and I.  We were then directed to a graduate student across the way from our location.  He was Tom Martin, and he was working on a database schema.  So we now had all the initial participants.  What we didn't have was a programming language to handle implementation.  I was given the task of investigating different languages (because of my Fortran experience).  Fortran would NOT do because it lacked string manipulation functions.  Assembly language was VERY difficult to program.  Cobol was too "wordy" and also lacked certain functionality.  I ran an experiment with PL/1, to see how it would do.  I keypunched a simple PL/1 program, stuck a JOB-card in front, waited in line at the card reader for the IBM-360 we were running in the Data Center, and loaded it into the computer.  I walked away, and didn't get far when a voice announced over the PA-system that the 360 had "crashed".  Everyone who had submitted a job in the past few minutes would have to resubmit.  So I got back in line, and tried again.  The same thing happened!  But this time the operator asked that "Dick Guertin" come to the operator's window of the machine room.  So I went down the hall to speak to the operator.  Apparently my four-card PL/1 program was crashing the machine.  Well, that didn't bode well for PL/1.  When I finally got a simple program coded that would NOT crash the machine, I discovered it translated into a huge amount of machine code.  Given our limited memory on the machine, PL/1 would NOT work.  What could we do?  I discussed all this with Bill and he told me he had just read an article in the "Journal of the ACM" about a language developed at Stanford by Niklaus Wirth, which served as a compiler for creating Algol-W, a variation of standard Algol.

http://www.fh-jena.de/~kleine/history/ @ has the following quote: "The 1960ies saw a number of approaches to replace assembly language, but nevertheless work close to the machine architecture.  Wirth's PL360 is the best-known example.  He created it to write the Algol-W compiler at Stanford.  The PL360 Reference Manual defines the language.  Otherwise, there's Wirth's article 'PL/360, A Programming Language for the 360 Computers' in JACM 15(1), of January 1968, and Richard Guertin has a textbook meant for teaching courses at Stanford."  Unfortunately, the link to the textbook is outdated, and it is now located at "PL360TXT.HTML". @

I asked the machine room operator if he ever heard of PL360, and "Yes", he did.  He told me Michael Malcolm, a graduate student working just a block away, was running it.  I found Michael, and he had a card deck of it in the bottom drawer of his desk.  We took it to the machine room card reader, and got it transferred to mag-tape.  I now had a copy I could use for myself.

What really surprised me was that PL360 was written in PL360!!!  I asked Michael how this could be, and he told me an Algol compiler on a Bendix machine could read PL360 code and create an object deck.  That could be linked to create an executable program, which in turn, could compile ANY PL360 program, including itself.  This is known as bootstrapping in the industry.  I learned a new trick that day.  I could make modifications to the PL360 source code, compile it with the old PL360 compiler, and get a new PL360 compiler with my modifications.

I added several extensions to PL360, like EQUATE statements, COMMON PROCEDURE and GLOBAL PROCEDURE, both referenced by EXTERNAL PROCEDURE.  Eventually, I spent a long time, in the Aristocrat trailer, writing a textbook about the language.  It was published by Wadsworth Publishing in 1977, and was titled: "Introduction to PL360".  Wadsworth told me it would take a year, or more, to be published.  They always dealt with paper copy, which included the "revisions".  But, I had stored my manuscript as a text file, and could edit it using Wylbur, Stanford's text editor.  When I showed this to Wadsworth, they had never seen a manuscript in this form.  I took a portable terminal with me to Wadsworth in Belmont, connected it to a phone using an acoustic modem, logged into Stanford, and demonstrated my ability the make global revisions throughout the text in just seconds.  Again, this was something they had never seen before.  But they agreed to try electronic editing.  We were done within a month.  By that time they had found a place that could take an electronic text file, and turn it into typesetting plates for printing.  Believe it or not, it was AT&T who had been turning out phone books this way for several years.  Wadsworth started giving away these textbooks, for free, to professors at educational institutions in an effort to get bulk orders for classroom use.  But that never went very far, so Wadsworth eventually gave up.  They had only printed a few cases of the book, and they had two cases left.  I bought those "remainders" for a few bucks.

SPIRES Development

OK, let's get back to the early 1970ies.  Tom Martin was the "idea" guy, and he had some really interesting ideas.  For one thing, he advocated hierarchical data structure, NOT flat tables.  This meant a record would be a self-contained entity with all of its fields.  He allowed for FIXED length fields, REQUIRED fields, and OPTIONAL fields.  FIXED were "fixed" in both length and occurrence.  REQUIRED had to have at least one occurrence, but it could occur multiply.  REQUIRED could also be either FIXED in length by the same amount for every occurrence, or variable in length.  OPTIONAL was just like REQUIRED except it could have NO OCCURRENCES.  These three types were organized within a record in the order:  all FIXED (if any), all REQUIRED (if any), and finally OPTIONAL.  The record had to have a KEY, which was either the first FIXED field, or the first REQUIRED field.  You could have FIXED fields before the REQUIRED KEY.

What created the hierarchy was Tom's concept of "Chinese Boxes", where a field could be defined as a structure containing a set of FIXED, REQUIRED, OPTIONAL fields.  Each occurrence of a structure was another instance of this same set of fields, AND any of them could be another structural field!  The design limited the depth to ten levels.  As a simple example, imaging a "date" being defined as singular occurrences of: Century, Year, Month, and Day.  Another "date" would have the same sub-fields.  Probably a better example would be an Address structure that consists of:  Street, City, State, Zip Code and optional County.  Structures were allowed to "float", meaning they could appear within other structures.  Thus "Home-Address" could contain "Address", and "Business-Address" could also contain "Address".  You only had to define the Address structure one time, and reference it from other structures, as needed.

Every field could, if desired, have "processing rules".  These were a series of actions to be performed upon the data associated with the field during INPUT or OUTPUT or both.  As a simple example, there was a "character to integer" input rule that transformed a numeric input into a fixed-length binary value.  There was a corresponding output rule for transforming the binary value back into character form.

Bill and I implemented all of this in PL360 code.  But we were concerned about how users would edit their data, and what operating system would handle the execution of the database program, and file storage.  The "answers" to both of those problems were already running on Stanford's mainframe.  They were Wylbur and Orvyl, the "Wright" systems.  Wylbur was a text editor, and Orvyl was a time-sharing operating system that had its own file system overlaid on top of IBM's OS.  It was a very elegant solution, and meant we didn't have to worry about those aspects within our project.

One thing we realized very quickly was that we could use our own databases to hold meta-data and executable scripts.  This eliminated the need to program everything in PL360.  We created our own scripting language around the commands we had built into SPIRES.  We also created files to hold "definitions".  The main file was FILEDEF that held records of file definitions, including its own definition.  OK, so here's another case of self-recursion.  In order to build FILEDEF, we had to write code that would read a card deck of "fields" that defined FILEDEF, and create the target file from that data.  Once FILEDEF was created (empty), we added records to it, and then modified our code to read the file's records, and scan through the fields as though it was reading through a card deck.  We successfully bootstrapped "File Definition".

The command language of SPIRES was defined by a meta-language called "BNF", which stands for "Backus-Naur Form".  Again, Tom Martin had a twist on the standard form of BNF.  Instead of bottom-up, ours was top-down.  What that meant was that the BNF scanned the commands left-to-right as long as it could succeed to recognize matching tokens, and do semantics as-needed (actually specified in the BNF syntax).  Upon failure, it would try an alternative-scan, if given.  It was VERY efficient, and VERY easy to read and understand.  The entire language is documented within the SPIRES "EXPLAIN" file, which documents most of SPIRES.  John Klemm was instrumental in writing most of the documentation.  Users learned how to create their own databases with SPIRES in classes held by Peter Tuttle.

We needed command language for more than just SPIRES.  There was SPIBILD and SPICOMP too.  The ANALYZER was a program that could read BNF and produce the tables to be linked into each program.  This became another instance of self-recursion because the ANAYLZER was controlled by such a BNF table.  You could alter the BNF language and analyze it with the ANALYZER to get a new ANALYZER.

Within a couple years of getting started, SPIRES was fully operational, and began to be used for many different applications.  SLAC was the first user, since essentially, they had commissioned the rewrite of the old PL/1 SPIRES.  They had setup an email system where physicist from around the world could send a search request within the body of a message to a specific email-address.  That was picked up at SLAC and converted into an actual search of SPIRES databases associated with High Energy Physics (HEP).  The resulting records were then sent back to the requestor as a response to their original email.  It was a great way to get the data to users anywhere in the world.

The SPIRES Consortium

By the end of the 70's, 25 institutions from all over became interested in using SPIRES, and a Consortium was formed.  Bill and I made many trips to other sites to present workshops on SPIRES, and every spring there was a workshop at Stanford.  We had members from Japan, Britain, Newfoundland, Ontario, Alberta and US sites like SLAC, Berkeley, Princeton, RPI, UCLA, UWV, Fermi-Labs, and many others.  What surprised everyone was that SPIRES was less than one-megabyte of code, and still is today.

I remember a couple of these Consortium trips very well.  The UWV trip was where I rode on "People Movers" that took you around the entire campus.  At the Fall Workshop in Edmonton Alberta, I visited "The Great Mall".  And at the Fall Workshop in Ottawa Ontario, I had a strange experience.  We all went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant, and the waiter who took our orders did NOT write anything down.  But he returned with exactly the right items for each of us, and there were twelve in the group.  We asked him how he did it, and pulled out a pocket tape-recorder!  Later, as we were returning to the hotel, I was sitting in the front passenger seat, and I said, "Something has happened to my Dad."  Everyone around me heard it.  That evening, back in my room, the phone rang.  It was my sister calling from Springfield.  It was October 1, 1988 and my had Dad died just a few hours earlier...  Somehow, I knew it in advance.  The next day, as we met at the airport, I told everyone what happened, and they were amazed.  I already had tickets to visit my parents, but now I was going "home" to attend a funeral.

The "feeling someone has died", is actually very common.  It's called the "sixth sense".  There's a related sensation called an "out-of-body experience" or "near-death experience".  My mother told me about such an experience she had as a teenage girl.  She had eaten raw pork, and got a tape-worm in her gut that consumed everything she ate.  This emaciated her, and she was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where they had a treatment that poisoned the worm to kill it, but there was a danger it could poison the patient too.  She had to walk the halls to stay awake, aided by a nurse.  One time, she went back to bed, and had a near-death experience.  She left her body and had a vision of walking down a hallway with doors on both sides.  Her dead aunt was standing at the end of the hall, beckoning her.  Then, a door opened, and her mother appeared between them.  Her mother turned to the aunt and said, "Leave her alone".  Her mother then turned to her and said, "Go back, you're not ready yet", and she returned to her body.  The good news is that shortly after, the treatment successfully killed the worm, and she expelled it in her feces.  She was the first survivor of the treatment, and she had two bottles full of tape-worm to prove it.

In the 1980's, we made several significant improvements that few database systems can replicate.  We added the ability for a user to code their own processing rules to input, output, search, or index fields.  We were able to do this by incorporating scripting language directly into the database definition.  Two special PL360 coded rules allowed you to "$CALL" upon your code, named by a USERPROC key of a structure containing UPROC statements.  The advantage of this scheme was that Bill and I didn't have to keep adding new PL360 coded processing rules.  Users constructed their own processing rules.  With USERPROC in place, we then added a fourth class of data fields called VIRTUAL following OPTIONAL.  These fields made use of $CALL to execute user-defined code that could retrieve other fields, manipulate their values, and create new values that were the values of these VIRTUAL fields.  In other words, VIRTUAL fields don't physically exist in records, but are "constructed" from other data in some way.  A simple example would be an AGE field that takes input values like "years:months:days", and produced the internal form of a date (ccyymmdd) by subtracting from the "current" date.  The output rule takes an internal form of date and subtracts it from the "current" date to get "years:months:days" as output.  So you can store your BIRTHDATE as an internal form of date, and every time to display AGE, you see how old you are TODAY.  Each day, you get older.  For example, my BIRTHDATE is "July 19, 1941", and today is "January 19, 2013", so my AGE is "71:6:0".

In preparation for another workshop, John Klemm decided it might be fun if we did a parody on the Bartles & Jaymes commercials(™). He staged a scene that looked like the porch in their commercials.  Bill Kiefer & I dressed in farmer's clothing, just like the actors in the commercials.  Since we had just completed some date-extensions in SPIRES for the accounting department, which allowed August to stretch 3 days longer, John included that in the caption of the picture, which looks like this:

IMAGES TOP
Guertin and Keifer's SPIRES

I attended another workshop in St. John's Newfoundland, at which I gave a talk about another improvment I made to 'searching'.  It was called 'indirect search', and it allowed two or more databases to be linked via their indexes and goal-keys.  Cars and Drivers are a good example.  Cars have as their key the 'license-plate' number of the vehicle.  Indexes point to records for things like 'color' or 'model'.  There's also a 'drivers-license' index based upon the drivers of those cars, which could be several people.  Separately, there's a Drivers database keyed on 'drivers-license' that describe each person -- their name, and other personal information, along with the 'licence-plate' number of the vehicles they drive.  You can search in Cars for 'color' and get the 'license-plates' of all the vehicles with that color.  Those values are then used to search the 'licence-plate' index of the Drivers records to find all the drivers who drive a vehicle with that color.  You select Drivers, and 'indirect search' Cars to make this all happen.  What's important here is that 'color' is NOT in the Drivers records.  It's only in the Cars records.

In the spring of 1988, I attended another SPIRES workshop.  There was discussion by Bo Parker and John Sack of replacing SPIRES with a rewrite in C.  Harold Finkbeiner was going to do the coding.  I leaned over to Louise Addis, who was sitting next to me, and told her SPIRES could be run "under emulation".  She immediately stood up and interrupted Bo.  Louise: "Dick says SPIRES can be run under emulation.  Have you considered that option?" Bo asked me to elaborate, so I told them it would be simpler to write an IBM-360 machine language Emulator in C, and run SPIRES under emulation.  He challenged me to "prove it".  I said "Yes" and started working on that project.

I created the Emulator using Small-C on a Kaypro computer using floppy disks.  I then moved it to my Macintosh, and added the C-equivalent of Orvyl.  It was robust enough to run SPIRES as-is.  At the next workshop, I had the Emulator running on a Mac laptop.  After Harold reported that he wasn't going to be able to recode "formats" and other key features of SPIRES, I was asked to come forward.  I brought the Mac laptop and connected it to the projectors, and launched the Emulator, which began executing a SPIRES core image.  Everything worked, including "formats".  And there was a collective cheer from the audience.  Of course, I had to show them that I wasn't connected to the mainframe in any way.  That was easy... I just lifted the laptop into the air, and showed them the empty socket for connecting elsewhere.

My son, Michael, was attending Chico State University at the time, and was taking a Computer Science class.  He asked his instructor if he's be interested in having the class see a functional emulator, so I went to Chico to visit his class and demonstrate the capabilities of "emulation".  In May 1992, I filed for and got an official government Copyright for the Emulator.  In 2005, I got a certificate, which amended the Copyright for "xlong/xshort", a C++ data-type that allowed Big-Endian emulation on a Little-Endian machine.

Web documentation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_Physics_Information_Retrieval_System @

SLAC WWW Wizards @

http://web.stanford.edu/group/spires/spiexp/ (SPIRES Explanations file) @

Birth of World Wide Web

Having mentioned the Web, let me interject a significant event in my life that happened in December 1991.  In June of 1991, Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Europe had created something he was calling the "World Wide Web".  But it was strictly local to CERN.  SLAC heard about it and sent a team to study its potential.  They brought back the code to create a Web site, and on Friday, December 13, 1991, the first Web site outside of CERN was launched at SLAC.  This now made WWW a reality since it was communicating between two sites.  SPIRES became the "killer app" for this venture because it now served HEP data via web pages instead of the old email system.  I attended celebration parties for this event.  See the "SLAC WWW Wizards" link above.  Other physics labs quickly joined WWW, and word spread like wild fire.  Senator Al Gore sponsored legislation to keep WWW "free", and now commercial use of WWW began to take hold.  Everyone was creating Web sites, and Internet traffic increased by leaps and bounds.

Early Retirement

In 1993, I "retired" from Stanford University for the first time.  Stanford offered something they called SERI, the Stanford Early Retirement Incentive.  It truly was an incentive.  Anyone who could meet the "rule of 75" from September 1992 through August 1993 would qualify for SERI.  The "rule" was that your age plus years of service to Stanford had to be 75 or larger.  Well, in July 1993, I turned 52, and I had started at Stanford in June of 1970, so I had been there 23 years.  That was 75 years, which met the rule.  The incentive consisted of three perks:  1) 10 months severance pay, 2) continued participation in the Tuition Grant Program, which paid college tuition for my children, and 3) group medical coverage by Stanford for the rest of my life, and my spouse's life if she survived me.  Dee and I discussed it, and figured I could get another job, so I retired under SERI, but continued to attended SPIRES workshops.

The Research Libraries Group (RLG) heard about my retirement.  They called me, and asked if I would be interested in writing the equivalent of SPIBILD (the SPIRES file indexer program) in Pascal.  Well, I knew Pascal, and I certainly knew SPIBILD, and this was the job I needed, so I accepted.  I got a new TIAA-CREF retirement contract with them, so I was still contributing to my retirement using the same vendor (TIAA-CREF).  It took a few years for everything to be coded, and my Pascal-SPIBILD worked correctly.  Unfortunately, the rest of their system, called Phoenix, ran 30 times slower than the PL360 equivalent (SPIRES).  Phoenix crashed and burned, and I left RLG in 1998.  Then, within a month or so, I got a phone call from Susan Plass, the current SPIRES manager at Stanford.  She wanted me to come in to "interview" a prospective new-hire.  All I was told was that they were looking for a DB person.  Fine, so I did the interview, and reported back to Susan that this guy didn't know anything about Databases.  I asked Susan: "Why are looking for a DB person?" She said: "To replace YOU."  I immediately responded: "I can replace ME, and I'll work half-time." Susan: "You're hired!"  So now I was back at Stanford, working on SPIRES again, and they "bridged" me as though I had never left, mainly because RLG was an "affiliate" of Stanford using SPIRES.  Amazing.

When the mainframe was retired in 2005, I had a Unix version of the Emulator running, so a Unix machine was dedicated to taking over the SPIRES load, using my Emulator.  Most of the employees who serviced the IBM mainframe were laid off.  Of the 13 who dealt with the operating system, text editors, or other home brewed software, 12 were let go.  I was the only survivor, because of SPIRES.

I realized the Emulator would need to evolve to handle execution on Intel-chips, which handled 4-byte "long" and 2-byte "short" values with reversed bytes.  That would be difficult to code in C, but it might be possible using C++.  So in the summer of 2005, I took a C++ course in San Francisco.  I learned about constructors and destructors, user-defined data-types, and methods to handle them.  As a final assignment, the teacher asked us to write a C++ program that used everything we learned.  I chose to impliment packed-data types, something from the IBM suite of instructions.  I'll not go into details, but I successfully wrote a program that would accept floating-point style values as input, and then perform a series of mathematical operations on them, such as ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, DIVIDE, etc.  All of the results from those operations was output in floating-point notation, such as: 23 / 57 : 0.40350877192982456140350877.  Notice the degree of precision.  That was one of the benefits of packed-decimal.  These values also had an exponent-byte so you could deal with numbers from E-127 to E+127.  I got an A+ grade. 

I continued to be employed until the decision was made to pull the plug on the Unix machine, but that decision kept getting pushed forward in time.  That gave me the time to fabricate an "alternative" solution.  There still were SPIRES applications that couldn't "go away", and for which there were no known vendor supplied solutions.  What I did was move these applications to AFS, a free user-owned space serviced by a cluster of Linux machines.  I had upgraded my emulator to run on Intel-chips, which are "little endian" architecture, compared to "big endian" IBM architecture.  What I did was create "C++" data-types called "xlong" and "xshort".  Variables declared as "xlong" were treated as "long" on big-endian machines, but they did byte-swaps of the four bytes on little-endian machines.  All of this was done in C++ using user-defined data-types which didn't require constructors or destructors.  But I had to code all the "methods" to deal with virtually every combination of xlong, xshort, and either of them combined with int, short, long, etc.  This greatly simplified my Emulator because any reference to emulated values were defined as xlong matching the IBM architecture, while locally coded values were long, matching the Intel machine architecture.  I got a Copyright for xlong/xshort in October of 2005.  If you want to see more about these data-types, visit the following web-link:

http://web.stanford.edu/group/spires/uspires/xlong/ (xlong/xshort Documentation) @

One of the things I learned from "Forbidden Planet" was the concept of self-maintaining machines.  I designed the AFS version of the system to be self-maintaining so I didn't have to monitor it.  It took care of itself, submitting jobs automatically to process files that needed to be updated each night.

Running under AFS uncovered some restrictions.  File locking didn't work across machines in the cluster, so everyone using SPIRES was forced to login to a single machine.  The scripts that launch SPIRES made sure the user was on that machine, otherwise, they weren't allowed into SPIRES.  Each night the self-maintenance script would check that at least 9 machines were available, and the last assigned SPIRES machine was reused.  But if that machine was unavailable for some reason, the default machine was switched to one of the remaining machines.  This eliminated downtime.  Meanwhile, SLAC was trying to create INSPIRE as a replacement for SPIRES.

Final Retirement

By the middle of 2010, Stanford was telling me they were NOT going to fund my position the next year.  They were asking me to retire, which would be my 2nd retirement.  I said I wouldn't retire.  I had a plan, as you'll see next.

On January 31, 2011, I was given 30 days notice of layoff.  I had 10 weeks of vacation coming, and my layoff date was in March, so when you add 10 weeks, my official termination date was May 16, 2011.  On March 10th, I was invited to a "retirement party" where I received a special crystal from Louise Addis that was fabricated within the Stanford Linear Accelerator.  The inscription on the base read, "The SLAC SPIRES Team".  That was very special to me.

I also got "Staff Emeritus Status" which is the highest honor Stanford can bestow on a staff employee.  I must give credit to Paul Beirne for this because he petitioned the University to grant this honor.  Thanks Paul.

While I was on "vacation", I received paychecks for the entire period, and then on May 17th, I got my final "severance pay" equivalent of an entire year's salary.  Since I was turning 70.5 in January of 2012, I used the severance pay to cover the rest of 2011, and in January 2012, started collecting Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from my retirement accounts.  January 19th was so significant to me that I held a 'Very Merry Unbirthday Party" at La Paloma Restaurant in Santa Clara, and invited Glennis and Richard Dickenson to join us.

The beauty of this method of "retiring" was that severance pay.  I had locked in my other retirement benefits, so if I simply retired, I gained, or lost, nothing.  But a "layoff" required Stanford give me severance pay, which was a definite gain for me.  That was my plan, and it worked as I expected.

    Partial list of Stanford managers:

          John Schroeder
          Jim Moore
          Sandy Laws
          Rich Levitt
          Tilak Dhar
          Susan Plass
          Bryan Wear
          Anne Pinkowski

Back to Earlier Life in California (1974+ the rest of my life)

Around New Year of 1974, Dee and I decided to try for another child.  Dee didn't want another boy, so we followed prescribed methods for improving the odds of having a girl.  With our third child coming, we started to make significant additions to the house.  We added a Family Room on the patio.  We designed that room with closets on one side, and a window at the far end.  The contractor wanted to know why we didn't place the window between the closets, and we explained that we intended to add bedrooms on the other side of those closets.  They would be as wide as the closet space, and would extend to the window.  The contractor said that was a smart design.  When the room was done, Dee tripped going out the patio door, and to protect the baby in the womb, she twisted and hurt her elbow as she fell.  Luckily, it didn't affect the baby.

On September 4, 1974, Kathryn Dee Guertin was born at Kaiser hospital in Santa Clara.  We got there the evening before, and waited in the car until midnight to avoid paying for another "day" in the hospital.  While waiting, some nurses were leaving their shift and saw us in the car.  "Why are you here?" they asked; and we explained.  They told us our medical coverage would pay for everything, so we could have registered earlier.  I must say, when Kathy was born, Dee didn't believe the baby was a GIRL.  She got what she wanted, and she was very happy about that.

That summer, before Kathy was born, we went to the World's Fair in Spokane, WA.  The most interesting exhibit was a movie entitled "One Man and his House", which was a Kinoautomat (1967), the world's first interactive movie, conceived by Raduz Cincera for the Czechoslovak Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal.  At nine points during the film the action stops, and a moderator appears on stage to ask the audience to choose between two scenes.  Following an audience vote, the chosen scene is played.  Each segment initially diverges from its alternative, but then they come together again.  So the director simply films two versions that come together at nine points.

Church Community at St. Williams

We originally were in St. Joseph Parish, but we switched to St. William Parish in Los Altos because we weren't "being stimulated" at St. Joseph.  We heard there was Adult Education over at the Parish School, so we started to attend.  Then we found out there was a Folk Mass being held every Sunday in the Parish Hall right next door to the School.  This was a wonderful experience, and became the source of many friendships.  The two priests who served this community, Fr. Joe Bonadio and Fr. Bob Gavin, baptized Kathy in the St. William Hall.

By now, the Catholic Church had adopted new rules for the laity, and was allowing non-priests to serve as Eucharistic Ministers, those who distribute the communion hosts and cup.  I was one of the earliest members to be trained in such duties, and I've been a Eucharistic Minister ever since.

New bedrooms

In 1978, we added a pair of bedrooms by converting an existing bedroom, nearest the Living Room, into a storage room and hallway.  The storage room had no windows, so it had to have a ceiling vent.  I use it as my "computer room".  The hallway ran from the center hallway to the backside of the house.  The bedrooms had back-to-back closets, taking up the same width as the hallway.  Each room would be for the boys.  Kathy's room was the neighboring room to the hallway, but we had to move the window of that room to view out the side of the house instead of into the back yard.  It all "worked" perfectly.

Sports & Spiked Brownies

By the time the new bedrooms were built, Stephen was about to turn 12, Michael was 9.5, and Kathryn was 4.  The boys were active in school sports, especially soccer.  At some point, I was asked to coach the team, and that turned out to be a wonderful experience.  Our team practiced how to control the ball, and how to defend against the other team.  Both Steve and Mike were good defenders, and both served as goalie occasionally.  Eventually, I graduated to referee.  What I liked best about all of this was being involved with my boys as a dad.  I was also their mentor for school math.

Dee became interested in soccer, especially when she discovered that our neighbor, Laura Oku, was already on the team.  Dee tried out for the team, and made the roster.  I played the role of sideline supporter.  Other husbands did that too, and many wore T-shirts with the team's name, or some slogan on them.  I remember two in particular --  "I'm a women's athletics supporter", and "My wife kicks balls".

At the end of each season, her team would have some social event to celebrate the season.  One time it was a picnic at Cuesta Park.  We all contributed something.  At the end of the third season, we had a potluck at a team member's house.  Not only did Dee and I attend, but also Laura and David Oku.  There were "awards" given out to "most improved player", etc.  Then we settled into the social aspects of the event, eating snacks and chitchatting.  I wandered into the kitchen where I noticed a couple of bottles of rum sitting on the backside of the counter.  In front of them was a plate of brownies with a sign that read: "Spiked Brownies".  I remembered back to my college days when I started smoking  "Rum Soaked Crooks", a brand of cigar that had rum soaked into the end you put into your mouth.  So I thought, "Oh, rum soaked brownies", so I took a couple.

I went back into the living room.  After eating the first brownie, I noticed it had a strong taste of chocolate.  Dee was sitting on a hassock, so I went over to her and asked her to take a taste of my second brownie.  She agreed it had a very strong chocolate taste.  I continued wandering around the room, nibbling on the brownie, and just as I was about to eat the last bite, someone tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around, and it was the host of the party who asked, "Do you know there's Marijuana in that brownie?"  "No", I said, adding, "There's always a first time for anything."  At this point, I went back to where Dee was sitting, and told her about the brownie.  Then I sat on the other side of the hassock so we were back-to-back.  I was facing the couch where Laura and David were seated, and we struck up a conversation.  Then, all of a sudden, my vision began to change.  I was looking through a hazy ring, which was collapsing into a narrow tunnel.  My skin began to feel like two-inch thick rubber, and I felt like a radiator giving off heat.  I turned around to Dee and said, "I don't feel very well".  Laura heard me, and as I turn back toward her, she said, "OMG, you're turning GREEN!"  I said, "I think I'm going to throw up."  David and Laura both jumped up, grabbed me under my arms, and helped me to the bathroom.  Dee followed them in.  I knelt down in front of the toilet, and hurled my brownies.  Meanwhile, we were talking about what might have caused this, and I mentioned the Marijuana laced brownies.  "But others have eaten brownies, and you're the only one sick", said Dave.  I replied, "I can't be the only one."  And immediately we heard "CALL 911" from someone in the living room.  "I'm NOT the only one", I said, adding, "Get me up, I'm done here, and I want to see what's happening out there."

When I returned to the living room, there on the floor, in front of the couch where he had been sitting was the team's coach.  People were applying CPR.  I maneuvered over to the couch and sat next to him.  I made eye contact with him, and asked, "Did you eat any brownies?"  He nodded "Yes".  "How many?" I asked.  He held up three fingers, and I said "Three", and he nodded "Yes" again.  At this point, the Paramedics arrived, and they took over from the people applying CPR.  They continued to treat him for a heart attack, but I told the guy nearest me that he had eaten Marijuana laced brownies, and may be suffering from a drug overdose.  But he ignored me.  I suspect they didn't want to get involved in a drug incident.  Meanwhile, the remaining brownies "disappeared" down the toilet.

CCD

As Steve progressed into junior high, I took on the job of being a CCD teacher, and Steve was in my class.  CCD stands for "Confraternity of Christian Doctrine", or what you'd call Religious Education.  There's nothing like a group of young people with their hands in the air asking questions.  "Do we have Free Will?"  "If we do, how can God know the future?"

I remember that pair of questions because of how I answered them.  The story goes like this... There was an evening news anchorman named Van Amberg who always started his broadcast with the phrase, "Good evening, here's what's happening."  One evening, at supper, the news was about to begin, and I told Steve what Van Amberg was going to say, BEFORE he said it.  When he did say it, Steve was surprised that I had "predicted the future".  I told the class about this incident, and added that I barely know Van Amberg, but I know enough to make this prediction.  I could be wrong, and he could say something else.  But that's not the case with God, who "knows" everybody very well, so God can make similar predictions, but God can't cause them to happen.  "Knowing" something, and making it happen are two different things.  We have Free Will, so God doesn't control us, but He "knows" us and is saddened when we make bad choices.

CURSILLO - 1979+

As a member of St. Williams Church in Los Altos, we heard about weekend retreats called Cursillo.  Dee wanted to go on such a weekend, but the men were supposed to go on a weekend, then the women.  So Dee asked me to attend the Spring 1979 weekend.  I had to get a sponsor, and fortunately for both of us, Sylvia and Joe Villasenor were willing to be our sponsors.  I made my weekend in San Francisco at St. Benedict's Parish Hall.  It started Thursday evening and ended Sunday on 04/22/79.  Several of my St. Williams friends also were there, including Bernard Lilly in the bunk next to me.  And on the team was Charlie Knell.  But what really blew us away was what happened Sunday morning at 6am.  Hundreds of people showed up to sing to us!  I remember lying in my cot in the middle of the gymnasium, having people file past the end of my bed, singing and throwing flowers on me.  I recognized one guy in particular -- my co-worker from Stanford, Bill Kiefer.  When I realized it was 6am, and these people had driven from over 50 miles away, I broke down in tears.  It was an experience that changed my life.

At one of the talks given during the weekend, the presenter's subject was "Leaders", and he made a compelling case for why WE could all be leaders.  At the end of his talk, he handed out crosses carved from a single stick of wood.  He had made enough for all the "Candidates" and the "Team".  I began to wear this cross, and I've worn it every day since that weekend.  It represents who I am, a Christian.  Many people over the years have asked me about my "pendant", and I explain it is carved as a Jerusalem Cross, and is the cross that I bear.

After my weekend was over, I returned on Monday to work at Stanford, and was greeted by Bill Kiefer.  We talked about my weekend, and I found out he had made a weekend before me, and learned about my weekend.  Of course, Bill and I have been friends for many years.

Dee made her weekend in early May, and we've both been active in the Cursillo Movement.  Over the years, I've worked on several teams for other weekends -- three times giving talks, once on the Cook's team, and once on the Core team as Assistant Head Cook.  I've also worked three Anglican weekends in the Rollo room giving talks.  I was the "token Catholic" on these teams (inside joke).  I remember one of those weekends in particular.  It was held at Trinity Church in San Jose, and they had a bell tower that was used to wake us up each morning.  But there was a woman on this co-ed weekend, who had a bad back, and couldn't sit at the tables for very long.  I heard she was thinking about leaving the weekend.  I found her lying on a cot, sobbing.  I sat down next to her and told her the Parable about the man on a cot lowered through the roof into the room where Christ was teaching, and how he was cured.  She stopped crying, thanked me, and said she would stay.  The team made arrangements to keep her on the cot, and still participate.  During the final skits, held Saturday evening, she was in the skit, on her cot, being carried around by the others.  She had a wonderful smile on her face.  It was an uplifting event, in more ways than one.

By 2000, I was attending meetings of the Secretariat, the organizing group for our local Cursillo chapter.  We had split off from San Francisco because: San Jose became a new diocese, and we had grown beyond San Francisco's ability to handle all of us.  I volunteered to take over the Cursillo Database, a fledgling system being run from a PC in Dave Leverenz home.  People had to call him to get information from the Database (DB).  Since I was a DB expert at Stanford, it made sense that I take over, and do something to improve access.  I transformed the FileMaker Pro DB into a Spires DB, and created a Web interface so people could access the DB from their browsers.  I couldn't mount the DB on Stanford computers because that would be a violation of Stanford Policy.  So I obtained my own domain name, "cursillodb.dyndns.org", and mounted the DB, and the Web interface, on my Macintosh in my home, acting as a dedicated Web Server.

I was supposed to be the DB chairperson for three years, but by 2003 everyone said I should stay on since the DB was now a vital resource of the San Jose Cursillo.  I continued running the DB and Server until I was forced to quit in 2014 when a new version was created by the Secretatiat.

Boy Scouts - 1979-87

In 1979, Stephen joined Troop 84, and on February 17th, he left with them on a bus trip to La Paz, Mexico.  Troup 84 was known as the "Traveling Troup" because they had their own Trailways bus, and the Scout Master, Richard Webster, and his Assistant, Homer Knab, were licensed to drive it.  Michael was in Cub Scouts, but he was about to graduate into Boy Scouts, so they allowed him to come along on this trip.  When they got half way down the Baja Peninsula (BaHa), the bus broke an axle.  They were stuck.  But amazingly, the town just down the road had a fully equipped repair shop, so the bus was towed into town, and repaired.  But given the delay, they decided to just go to La Paz, and then take a barge back up the Gulf of California to San Felipe, where they took route I5 back into the US, and home.

Michael then joined Troup 84.  On June 15, 1979, the bus was now ready for a BIG adventure... a trip around the US taking the southern route to Florida, then north up the East Coast to Boston, and then the northern route back home.  The entire trip was going to take about six weeks.  They needed adult chaperons, so I volunteered to take the trip too.  We left Mountain View, and drove all night.  Our first major stop was at the rim of the Grand Canyon, but we just spent 5 minutes there looking down into the canyon, and then got back on the bus.

What was interesting was that there was "no smoking" on the bus, and we only stopped for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then slept-over at some military or public shelter.  The only time I could smoke a cigarette was at an eating stop.  I quickly realized I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms.  At a gas station, I picked up a package of Tic-Tac, the orange flavor.  They fit in my breast pocket and I could suck on one for about 5 minutes before it dissolved.  But, amazingly they satisfied my craving to smoke.  The orange flavor tasted like nicotine, and the oral satisfaction was like having a cigarette in my mouth.  My cigarettes were normally kept in my breast pocket, so even the act of reaching for them was substituted by reaching for the Tic-Tac.  I began to cut back on cigarettes, and by the time the trip was over, I was no longer smoking.

I have to thank Kathy for this transformation because just before we left on this trip, we were waiting at a left-turn signal at Miramonte and El Camino, and Kathy was standing on the drive-shaft hump between the front and back seats.  She asked me a simple question: "Daddy, why do you want to die?" I responded by saying I didn't want to die, and then she asked: "Then why do you smoke?"  I had no good answer, and I vowed to do something about it.  This bus trip did it.

We saw many things on this trip, but the boys and I realized the Scout Master was only there for his own pleasure.  He didn't really care for the boys.  As an example, in New Orleans, he was out in front, leading the troop, but was not looking back.  At an intersection, he crossed the street and kept going.  But the boys had to stop because of a red light.  When we finally crossed, he was out-of-sight.  We had no idea where we were going!!

When we got to Florida, we visited Disney World, but didn't stay very long.  We did take the submarine ride, and the boarding area was like a shed with a corral (slang: waitomazium) arranged to move you over toward the ride.  Stationed along the walls were guys in sailor outfits.  Someone going the opposite direction from me was smoking a cigarette.  Suddenly, a hand reached over to him and took it right out of his mouth.  The "sailor" then pointed to the signs saying "No smoking".  I took out my Tic-Tac and gave him one.  As we passed each other again about 5 minutes later, he said: "Hey, that worked!"

On our trip back toward Georgia, we went past Cape Canaveral, but didn't stop.  By the time we got into West Virginia, it was obvious to everyone that we were just baggage.  For example, we're driving along, and everyone needs to go to the bathroom, and all of a sudden, he pulls into a gas station.  Hurray, we can take our leave.  When I got back to the bus, I thanked him for stopping to let us go to the bathroom, and he said: "Oh, that's not why I stopped.  These are the lowest gas prices I've seen on this trip." (Gulp!)

Dee had left to visit her sister in Beltsville, MD on June 16th.  When we got to Washington, DC, we went to visit them.  We rejoined the troop and continued on to Boston.  Once there, my parents came and got us, and we left the troop.  We then booked flights from Hartford, back home, where we joined Troop 80 instead.

Our first Troop 80 meeting was in September 1979.  This troop was headed by Jim Galbreath, and his style was MUCH more supportive.  The boys ran the troop, and Jim was a gentle guide and mentor.  This made a BIG impression on Steve and Mike.  They now felt useful, and were learning by doing it themselves.  Michael stayed in Troop 80 all the way through Eagle Scout with Palms.  One of the things he liked to do was the "Who's on First" routine, along with his friend, Lee Grey.

One of the things Troop 80 did was a paper-drive, to collect newspapers and turn them into a recycling company.  They made money that way to fund outings and other scouting projects, like the Rube-Goldberg machine they exhibited at yearly Scout-O-Ramas.  One year, they set up this contraption in OUR backyard to get it ready.  Troop 80 was really a life-changing experience for Steve and Mike.

In May 1987, Mike was hit by a car turning left through a gap between cars waiting at a red light.  Mike was taking lunch to Steve at the gas station on the other side of that light.  Mike was riding his moped in the bike lane, and he ran full tilt into the car crossing his path.  He flipped over the car and came down on the other side, and broke a leg.  It was a nasty break, with a bone sticking out through a hole in his leg.  He had to have a metal rod inserted from his hip to his knee.  Once it was fully healed, he had to have the rod removed because the doctor told him another accident would NOT be repairable with the rod in place.  Fortunately, today, you'd never know he had that injury.

Shortly after Mike's accident, we bought a Ford van from one of our church friends who happened to work at Ford AeroSpace.  It was a 1984 van in excellent condition.

Australia & New Zealand - 1987

Once Kathy got into elementary school, Dee could go back to work.  Instead of going back to ECH, she decided to work for the Mountain View School District part-time on lunch-duty.  When Kathy went to Graham Middle School, Dee went with her, but now as a classroom-aide.  Eventually, Dee became a specialist, working with the educationally handicapped and special-needs kids.  She's still doing that work today, but back at Benjamin Bubb School where she started.

In middle school, Kathy had become a good soccer player, and her team went on a trip to New Zealand and Australia from 07-04-1987 through 07-23-1987.  They needed chaperons, so Dee and I signed up to go with them.  It was a WONDERFUL adventure.  We flew to Los Angeles, and then boarded a New Zealand flight that stopped to refuel in Hawaii.  We were then supposed to stop in Fiji, but there was a military coup happening there, so we just flew on to Auckland.  From there we took a local airline flight to Christchurch.  Lucky for us, we brought a collection of electrical adapters.  All our electrical gadgets were 110V 60-cycle.  But New Zealand (and Australia) run 220v 50-cycle.  Each morning, we went to play soccer, and I immediately noticed that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West traversing the Northern skyline from right to left.  That's upside down and backward from the USA.

On one of the tours of Christchurch, we visited the original settlement built by the English.  They built their houses in the winter, according to the way they built their houses in England.  That summer, they discovered their "sun room" was on the wrong side of the house.  They should have turned the houses 180 degrees, but it was too late.  From New Zealand, we went to Brisbane Australia.  We toured "the gold coast" and "surfer's paradise".  The girls played against local teams.  We also visited Queensland and went to a bird sanctuary.  Finally, we boarded a commuter plane to Sydney.  We toured all over Sydney independent of the soccer team.  They had their own "home stay" and tour arrangements.  One evening, we went to a restaurant that was located near a liquor store.  All the restaurants were BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle).  I suspect that relieves them from liability because they don't serve liquor.  You bring it in yourself.

When it was time to go home, there was dissention in the ranks.  Some people wanted to try going to Fiji now that the coup was over.  The simplest solution was to return to Auckland and then go wherever we wanted.  Some went to Christchurch again, but we decided to come home via Hawaii.  We left late on my birth date, July 19th, crossed the date line, and landed in Hawaii early on my birth date!!!  I had almost two full days of "July 19th".  I made videotapes of the trip, and recently transferred them to DVD.

Link to Book 2 (below)

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© 2012 [Written from 2012 into 2018]

ISBN: 3F137C3F142B57D28D09D8A83C80A
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