Between Philippine Trips
We arrived home in late July 1968, and did our best to become reacclimated to US living. It didn’t take long to realize we were back. The Democratic Convention in Chicago burst upon us, and we could see there was a long road ahead of us as regards the war in Vietnam.
Our lives traveled several paths over the next years. Of course for me there was the University, for Sally there was a deep feeling of a need to become involved with the peace movement, and the children needed to readjust to the American way of doing things. Jim turned 15 in August and he faced the fact that he was in line to be drafted. He joined the peace movement along with many of his classmates at Nottingham High School. Nannette decided to continue her involvement with animals of all sorts. Mark was well into his sixth year and started to develop friends outside of the home.
During our first year at home after the Philippines we talked a lot about how much of the world we had seen, and really how much of the USA we had missed. So in the spring of 1969 we bought a tent trailer and figured we would start to travel around the States. The idea was to wait till the school year for the children was over and then head west. We made a sort of ‘dry run’ and went camping up at 1000 Islands for one weekend to see how good we were at it. We even allowed Nannette to bring her dog, Roscoe, along on the trip. This proved to everyone we were right about not having any pets on a camping trip. The trip proved to be highly successful, and we figured we had made a smart decision to get the camper.
In late June we packed up the car and trailer and headed west. We decorated the sides of the camper with various signs and symbols, and had a large peace symbol attached near the entrance door. Starting in 1969 and continuing through 1980 we traveled west every summer to go camping. This first year was quite typical. My parents were still alive, and living in Hancock, Michigan. It is about 1000 miles to that part of Michigan and we went there first on our way to the mountains. We drove north to 1000 Islands and then headed northwest up to North Bay, Ontario. The original home of the Dionne quintuplets was nearby, and one year we stopped there to check out their homestead.
We often spent the night in Sudbury, Ontario, before continuing on our trek to Upper Michigan. The land around Sudbury is highly unusual due to a meteor strike that occurred almost two billion years ago. As a result the area is rich in minerals and they are being exploited. However, the picture shows the result of the exploitation. In addition the entire area was almost devoid of vegetation due to the great amount of acid rain that occurs as a result of the mining. But the area has worked hard to improve this and in 1992 the city was given the “Local Government Honours Award” by the United Nations.
After out stay in Sudbury on the following morning we continue the journey westward to Sault St. Marie, Michigan. This is a small city on St. Mary’s river between two of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior and Lake Huron. There is a 21-foot difference in levels between Lakes Superior and Huron and the Soo locks are here on the St. Mary’s river to allow freighters to sail between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. It was still about 300 miles to Hancock, so we hurried on our way.
We arrived in Hancock late in the day, and spent the next couple of days with my parents. This picture shows our trailer in Hancock on our way west. You can see the various decorations, and how we all looked in 1969. My folks were a bit upset with my hair, and Sally was wearing a wig for she felt her hair was getting quite thin. The three children all seemed anxious to begin our trek.
Leaving Hancock we now were really on our way to the west. We traveled for a day through Upper Michigan, part of northern Wisconsin, across Minnesota and ended the day in Chamberlain, South Dakota. Setting up our tent trailer went just fine, and we relaxed after the long day on the road. However, soon people were running through the campground shouting. It seems that a tornado was on its way towards us, and everyone was told to go home. Home for us was about 1500 miles away so we just lowered the tent and tied everything down. We could feel the change in pressure, and watched to see what would happen. The sky changed to weird colors and the birds all stopped singing. The wind picked up and we kept a wary eye to the western hills. Fortunately the tornado skipped over, or around, us so we had no trouble.
The next day we passed through Wall, S. Dakota. This is really a world famous stop over. Their big advertising project is: Free Ice Water at Wall Drugs. You will see signs for this store from many hundreds of miles away and it is worth a short stop to check it out. Also, the Badlands of South Dakota are nearby, so it is a last stop before reaching that sight. The Badlands are quite fascinating if only because they are so different from the rest of the landscape. These large mounds of rock just seem to jump out of the ground and appear to be formidable. We roamed around in the area for a couple of hours and then continued on our way to Rapid City. This was our first major stop, and we camped in Custer State Park, which is nearby. Of course this is also the home of the famous memorial, Mount Rushmore, and the ongoing project of the Crazy Horse Monument. Here is a picture of the Mount Rushmore group of four. It is quite a site to see. Of course we had a history lesson in the process, and the kids were easily able to identify Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln,
Another monument was under construction when we were first there in 1969, and in 2006 it is still in the process. The work was begun in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski at the request of Native Americans. Korczak died in 1982. His wife, Ruth, and their family continue the project working with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. The project is progressing at a snails pace, and the most recent picture of the monument doesn’t seem much different than one taken 37 years ago. This composite picture shows the monument in the background and a 1/34th model in the foreground.
The hole that is seen in the background is eventually going to be the open space between the arm of Crazy Horse and the horse. Or so I was told.
Each year we went to Custer State Park we made our way to Sylvan Lake, in the park. The campground here was just perfect for us. It was close to water, a horse stable for Nannette to spend her time at, buffalo nearby, and much exploring to be done. Harney Peak is also close by, and we could climb it to get some beautiful views.
Custer State Park will stay in our memory for quite some time, especially due to an incident on one of our trips. In this particular trip we brought along at least one of our teenage relatives, Gail Pettengill. This is Janet’s stepdaughter. We drove to the park and set up the tent trailer and started doing some exploring. There were so many of us on this trip that we set up a two-person tent for Sally and me and let the kids have the tent trailer. We had a great time cooking our dinner and getting used to the area again. Jim and Gail, along with others of our group, decided to go off and do some exploring. They were gone quite some time but eventually we heard them coming back. They were really excited, with a lot of “Oh Wows” to be heard. They were carrying a number of long stalks of greeneries and they figured they had harvested a field of pot. It certainly looked like it, but we couldn’t be sure.
But anyway they decided to lay some out on the top of the camper to see if it would dry, since we intended to be in the park a few days. Their immediate attempt was to see if they could make some good tea. Everyone was having a great time, but finally we all went to sleep.
Early the next morning, not long after sunrise, a couple of park rangers showed up at our campsite and wanted to know what we were doing with all that marijuana! This took me by surprise since I didn’t think it was pot, and anyway it had been gathered here in the park. I tried to explain this to the rangers but they were quite skeptical. So I woke up Jim and Gail and told them to show us where they had gathered the weeds. So off we went leading the rangers through the woods and fields. Sure enough, after a bit of a hike we came upon the source and showed it to the rangers. Well, they were still stuffy about it all and I thought that they would cite us for destroying vegetation, but they didn’t do that. Instead they said they would leave us with a warning, but I never did figure out what the warning was. They never verified if it was pot, so the mystery remains. We stayed in the park through that day and then left the following morning to search out our next adventure.
The most harrowing trips we made were in the early 70’s. For a couple of times we camped up above Boulder, Colorado. We would climb the long trail up to Nederland, and then settle down in a campsite on the road to Estes Park. One time we stopped near the deserted town of Ward. Many young people who were pulling out of society populated the area. Drugs were everywhere, the worst being STP. It was dreadful seeing the damage they were doing to themselves. We drove in to Ward to check it out, and some people were attempting to start up an intentional community. However we didn’t feel particularly welcome so we moved on.
A couple of times we drove to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and camped along the Taylor River. One time we camped next to some fishermen and they shared their trout catch with us. The taste was beyond belief. They had set up a couple of hummingbird feeders in the trees near their campsite. These are bright red and filled with red water and some sugar. One day they left and we were bombarded with hummingbirds. These little fliers attacked the red taillights on the camper and our car, as they were desperate for food.
Another interesting spot was along a river at a campsite known as Avalanch campground. One of the times we visited there we had another passenger with us- Vickie Lichtman. We inquired about the reason for the name and were informed that if there was a heavy rainfall we could expect the campground to be flooded. The river was very nice and we enjoyed our stay. We found out that a mile or so up river there was a shelter built over a hot spring. So we made our way up there to check it out. Sure enough there was a crude spa and several naked people were seated inside the shelter soaking in the hot water. Just across the road was the river and there was a deep pool at that point in the river. Well the thought of the chance to soak in some hot water was overpowering and we decided to join them in the shelter after first removing our clothes. We would stay in the hot spring for several minutes and then dash across the road to cool off in the river water. We all had a great time, you may be sure.
Early on in our trips we stopped at Yellowstone National Park. We camped in Shoshone National Forest which is just outside Yellowstone. Of course we all enjoyed looking at the many geysers throughout the Park and the many features due to the unique geological structure of the area. I’ll never forget the first stop there. It was in 1969, and we knew that the first moon landing was scheduled to occur while we were camping in Shoshone. There was very poor radio reception there, but we drove to a high point in the forest and indeed we heard the announcer talking through the landing.
We also toured south of Yellowstone to view the Teton’s and they are magnificent. Jackson Hole is just south of the Grand Teton National Park and this was a great hangout for musicians. It was in the open quadrangle in the town that I first heard a guitar player use the technique of bottle-necking and I was enthralled by it.
Jim came with us on these camping tours just once, in the summer of 1969. Then he got a job as a camp counselor in the Adirondack Swim and Trip Camp and he went there instead of staying with us. Nannette made several trips but she only enjoyed the trip if there was a horse stable nearby where she could hang out. Eventually she stopped coming and one summer we set her up with an equestrian camp near Cortland so she could get all the riding she could handle. The woman in charge of the camp was a former military officer, so she also got all the control she wanted, and then some. Mark stayed with us to the bitter end. The very last trip, which took us through the Canadian Rockies, was done under the duress of either that or go to the camp in Adirondacks where Jim had been a counselor. He opted to stay with us. Also, as I mentioned above, from time to time we took another teenager with us.
A big concern while we were camping like this was the possibility of extensive rain. The tent trailer was pretty good for keeping out the rain, since it had a metal top. One year we tried taking a tube tent with us. This is just a long tube of plastic. In the rain this was horrible, and we never did that again.
Getting out to the Rockies was a long and boring trip coming across the great Midwest. One day as we were driving through Nebraska I suddenly felt a lurch. I looked out the rear view mirror and saw one of the trailer wheels bounding off across the wheat field. We retrieved it and found that what had happened is the nuts holding the wheel had loosened and fallen off. So I stole a couple of nuts from the other wheel and we carefully limped our way into the next town.
As we drove in we found there was a farmer’s supply store right on the main street, so good luck was on our side. We went in to the store and showed the man the nut size we needed and sure enough he had them in stock. So I proceeded to tell him about our bad luck in losing the wheel. Well, he one-upped me on that. He indicated that just a couple of days ago he had purchased a new combine for harvesting wheat. He left it parked alongside his barn, and somehow the barn caught fire and the combine was destroyed along with the barn. I guess there is always something a bit worse that what we think we are facing.
One time when we were in the Black Hills of South Dakota we got to know our next camp neighbors. They were pulling a house trailer and had driven all the way from Texas. The next day they left a little sooner than we did, and coming around a corner we saw that their trailer was wrecked and had one whole side ripped open. It seems that a moose got in the road and in swerving to miss it they tipped over the trailer. That served to make us be more cautious in the way we were riding.
On this first trip when Gail was with us we went to Mesa Verde National Park to check it out. The Hopi Indians lived in earthen structures along the side of the mesa, but for some unknown reason some few hundred years ago they just moved out and disappeared. We were able to tour around their structures, and climb the ladders into their dwellings. The ladders that had to be climbed between levels petrified Gail and Sally. But they lived through it!
One time we looked for something different that was going on, and we found a tourist trap where one could try panning for gold. So we got Nannette and Mark into it, and they tried their hand. If they did get any gold it was significantly less than the amount needed to pay for the experience. However, I bought a couple of bags of dirt from the miner with the intention to pan it after I got back to Syracuse. I never did do that and only threw out the dirt when I sold the Standish Ave. house some 30 years later.
Mobile Art Forms
There were a number of long term effects upon our lives as a result of the camping, and I will now describe one of them. As we often were in the Colorado Rockies we met young people who were experimenting with new life styles. One time I saw some people carrying a huge sewing machine up a mountain trail. They indicated that they were camped not far from a resort and anything they made they could sell at the resort for a very good profit. They could work with leather and were merely upgrading their ability to turn out a large quantity of finished goods. Other times I saw people making macramé wall hangings and jewelry made from nails and leather straps. This looked like fun and so I figured I would try it also.
So one year I started to make things to sell at the craft fair put on by the Syracuse Peace Council each December. They called the fair ‘Plowshares’ to link in with the concept of beating our weapons into plowshares. The first year or two I sold necklaces made of leather with beads strung on them. Then I got into macramé and made some interesting hangings. I next tried making jewelry out of horseshoe nails and had some success, but the jewelry was quite heavy as you might imagine. And just making horseshoe nail rings doesn’t go very far.
The next idea was to try to make figures out of the horseshoe nails. The number of different figures could be enormous when one thinks of all the athletic games played and the many instruments in a band or orchestra. This raised two problems – how to hold the figures together and how to sell them. My first attempt at making the figures was to solder them. Well, this never worked out because the solder joint wasn’t strong enough. So then I thought I would use silver solder and this worked better. But, it was very embarrassing if I would sell the figure and very soon the buyer would track me down because it broke. Finally I invested in an oxy-acetylene torch system and braised the nails together. This worked great. The picture to the left is that of a cross-country skier. Five horseshoe nails, two slate nails and two pieces of welding rod make up the figure. The figure to the right is a saxophone player.
Another question that needed to be answered was how would I market the nail figures? One way was to mount them on a metal plate and sell them as trophies or as tabletop decorations. But the best idea was to string them into mobiles. Any number of figures two or greater could be tied onto arms and hung so that they were in balance. The largest mobile I made had 45 pieces, and it was a full orchestra. Brasses, strings, woods, percussion and of course the conductor completed the hanging. This was made for friends of ours, the George Sterns, who had a house with a spiral staircase leading to the second floor. I hung it in the open space of the staircase and it was beautiful.
So now I had a very pleasant hobby to play with. Sally and I decided to call ourselves Mobile Art Forms, and we took out a dba to sort of formalize it. The first place we sold the mobiles was at the Plowshares Craft Fair and it was quite successful. We decided to try going to craft fairs on weekends and this worked out fine also. I made a portable welding stand and we would take that with us to craft fairs. Then during slow times I could make new figures and keep our inventory up to date.
We also had to give some thought about how to display our work. I got intrigued with domes and so built one where the edges were conduit. This was a lot of fun to build, at least the first time, but it required too much time to assemble and disassemble. So we settled for a framed display device as shown in the picture. We would pack all our mobiles and extra pieces into boxes and put our stand into the back of our station wagon and off we would go to the next craft fair. The picture on the next page shows Sally running the stand, but it is hard to see the mobiles because the pieces are essentially just two dimensional and not very large. We went to craft fairs pretty much throughout the entire northeast. The first time we had gross sales of $1000 worth of mobiles was at the Allentown fair in Buffalo, New York. Our sales were not always that high, but we had a lot of fun. We went to the Allentown fair a couple of times and enjoyed it. Sally’s brother Bob and his wife Rita lived in the Buffalo area so we stayed with them during the fair. One year their daughter Linda worked the fair with us, and the three of us had a great time. Our time with Bob and Rita gave Sally and opportunity to bond with them, and we usually had a great time. The scotch flowed easily with them, and perhaps we overdid it a bit. However we always had to back off a bit because the next day we had to go back to the fair, set up the stand, and sit in the hot sun all day.
We enjoyed going to craft shows and one of our favorite fairs was the event in downtown Syracuse. One time I even set up our stand in Syracuse University during a program conducted by the school of Home Economics.
This mobile business started to feel pretty good, so I figured I would try it out full time and see how it worked out. After talking it over with Sally I made arrangements with the Dean of Engineering to go on Administrative leave for one semester to give it a try. The deal was made so that I could keep my benefits, just giving up my salary. I obtained a contract with IBM Owego to teach a course in digital control systems to a group of their engineers during this semester. This augmented our income nicely and Sally would come with me to Owego each week as I taught the course on two successive days.
However I found out that I did not want to do this mobile stuff full time. I found that I spent all my time in my workshop and couldn’t do many things I liked to. So at the end of the semester a little sanity returned to me and I resumed my full time position at the University. After about ten years of this activity I retired from the mobile craft, and stored my inventory in my basement. I had well over 200 figures at the time I closed up shop so I still will assemble a mobile from time to time for special occasions. Some people still approach me to ask for a mobile, especially people who I knew during that period but who never bought a mobile. It brings back happy memories when I assemble a mobile for our friends – perhaps one of these days I’ll make a few and donate them to a silent auction held by one of our political groups.
Of course we always met interesting people at the craft fairs – especially fellow crafters. One fellow sold plaques that he would customize for the buyer. He engraved the names, or messages, that the buyer wanted onto the plaque they picked out. He would take orders during the day and tell the customer that they could have the piece the next day. In fact at one point he convinced one customer that he had to order them from overseas, HongKong in particular, and that is why they couldn’t be ready right away. Of course in the back of his truck he had a workbench and router and he turned them out at a furious rate in the evening after the fair ended.
It was always a challenge to make the figures realistic and readily recognized. My first attempt at a new action figure was usually a disaster. For example, I made what I thought was a good figure of a skier racing in a slalom event. Gordon Kent looked at it and said it was awful. He carefully criticized what I did and stuck with me while I bent a new set of nails according to his specifications. The knee must be bent in just the right amount and the body balanced correctly over the skis. Once this was done the figure was remarkably good. Another example was with a sailboat. I wanted to give the impression that the boat was really racing fast. So I had the beam way out to the side and hung the boat in a tipped position. Steve Woiler was appalled at what I had done and told me that when the boat is racing at high speed the beam is barely over the gunwales and with his help I made a boat that looked quite realistic. The first musician I made was a person playing a cornet. This one was really good from the start because I had a model of such a player to work from and it got me started on the correct footing. Mary Jo Fairbanks gave this model to me, and I think her ex-husband Bruce first obtained it.
The experience of Mobile Art Forms was quite good for Sally and me. We entered it as a joint venture and together put a lot of time into it. I made all the pieces, but Sally ran the business, keeping the records and all that sort of thing. When we entered a craft fair we often had to supply photographs of our work for jurying purposes and Sally took care of that sort of paperwork also. Of course when we were at a craft fair we both participated in the sales and interacting with the potential buyers.
Other things that happened during this interval included Jim getting married to Jill on June 1, 1975. We planted a nice tree in the front yard on their first anniversary, but it wasn’t put in perfectly straight. It lasted for many years, but in 2005 the people that bought 212 Standish Drive had it cut down. Also the huge evergreen tree that was in the front yard was also cut down at the same time.
The Syracuse Peace Council became a large part of our lives. Sally felt very strongly about the whole peace issue, and we were all concerned about the war in Vietnam. She began as a volunteer with the SPC, and for one year I was on the Board. Then Sally was hired as an employee and became very active. Dik Cool was released from prison where he had been sentenced because of his refusal to serve in military and he had a position with the Peace Council.
Sally really enjoyed working with Dik, although she often found him to be frustrating. One of the important things Dik started was the annual Peace Calendar. This was in the days before the use of computers and so there was a lot of cutting and pasting to put it together. Dik would make a bunch of decisions about what goes where and Sally would carefully fulfill his orders. But partway through he would change things, and much work would be lost. Sally really liked Dik, but his work process drove her to distraction!
The first few issues of the Peace Calendar were assembled in our basement, and so everyone got involved. One year when the calendar was put together Sally was checking it over after it was printed. Lo and behold she found that the number for January 5 had been left out of the box for that day. This caused some chaos and a lot of time was spent putting in the number on each of the already printed calendars. That year they added a new task in the calendar preparation process – date checker. In 1974 Sally was honored by the Peace Council by being awarded the 18th Annual Peace Award. The award was given because her “..good humor touches our lives in her intense and continuing commitment to the struggle for peace and justice.”
As time went on Mark also became involved with the Peace movement. When the Peace Council was housed in the Church Center Mark became the operator of the mimeograph machine. This was while he was a student at H. W. Smith middle school. After school he would come down over the hill to the Church Center to do his work. Jim too was deeply involved with Peace Council and related groups. During the New York State Fair the Peace Council would do politicking against the war and the military. The military often had a tank there, and the Peace Council would maintain a deathwatch over it. Jim was one of those and he would dress in a long black robe and wear a death mask and stand by the tank for extended periods of time.
There were almost daily actions against the war, and Sally participated in most of them. She would picket in front of the induction center – sometimes all by herself. The law required that when Jim turned 18 he was expected to register for the draft. So we had discussions about what to do. We finally decided that we would all go with him to the Selective Service office and bring in a candle and cake to share with the employees. This would give us an opportunity to express to them our opposition to the war, but he would nevertheless register as required by law. During this time the draftees were periodically gathered onto a bus and transported to the induction station. On one of these occasions Jim joined the picket line in front of the bus station and blocked the path. He and many others were arrested for this action. I happened to be teaching a course at University College at the time, and midway through a lecture I was called out and informed that my son was in jail. Upon returning to class I had a good opportunity to discuss the war and my opposition to it. Mostly General Electric employees who were working on military related projects populated this particular class. It was an interesting class.
Nannette had a great interest in animals, and at one point she decided to raise guinea pigs. So I built a small cage for the couple she had, and kept them in the basement. We used cedar chips for a covering, and the aroma of the chips wafted through the house. Well, one thing led to another and at the peak we had some 35 guinea pigs housed in the basement. To this day I think I have an allergic reaction to the smell of cedar chips.
During the first few years upon our return from the Philippines I tried some different activities, outside of the University, to help out where I could. Ruth Colvin was running a literacy program to have volunteers teach adults who are illiterate how to read. I did this for a year or so and found it very rewarding. One man I worked with wanted to learn to read so that he could read the baseball news and statistics before meeting with his buddies. Then he could tell them what had happened instead of having to wait to hear what they had to say.
One of the difficulties was that we had no fixed place to meet and we had to find our own facilities. This caused some trouble because I could not describe to him where we would meet by describing the streets to follow. In fact it was this sort of difficulty that eventually caused me to leave the program.
Another activity that I became involved with was draft counseling. The Vietnam War heated up after we returned from the Philippines. I wanted to help young men who were in danger of being drafted to determine if they were conscientious objectors, CO’s. I went through a training program with the AFSC to learn ways to help young people handle this matter, and then implement their desires. I found that most of the people I counseled were college students. The process to apply for CO status is quite complicated and requires study and careful preparation for questioning by the draft board. It became apparent to me that I was helping well-to-do young white men find a way to get out of being drafted. This bothered me quite a bit, so I checked in to see if there was any way I could do this counseling in the African-American community. I felt that every college student I help avoid the draft would be replaced by a black man.
Indeed I found that through the Bishop Foery Foundation I could do some counseling. The process was that an individual would make an appointment with me to talk things over. This worked somewhat but the number of young black men seeking CO status was quite small, and so that activity just slowly petered out. After thinking about all this I came to the conclusion that the best way for me to work against the war machine was in the University environment. This is where I could be most effective because it was at the University that I had most to lose, and thus my actions would be more than lip service – I would be putting myself on the line.
Sally was quite busy during this period between trips to the Philippines. The experience of reading to Nellie made her consider if there was something more she could do in working with blind people. She decided to look into the possibility of doing brailling for them, and contacted the Library of Congress. Indeed she found out that the LOC has a certification program that she could work towards. They informed her that there were certified braillists in the Syracuse area and she could work something out with them. This group is the Onondaga Braillists Organization (OBO), and several women were members of the group. So Sally got to know Jean Henderson and with her help started to learn to Braille. She started out with just a slate and stylus – this equipment meant that one had to punch each of the dots into the paper for each of the Braille cells. And of course you learned to make the cells from the back side. This picture shows the slate and stylus. The stylus is just a punch with a handle, and the slate has holes in it to guide the stylus into the proper location for each Braille dot.
After a few months of work she took the certification exam from the LOC, and passed it with flying colors. In July, 1971 she received certification from the Library of Congress as a “Volunteer Braille Transcriber”. So, she joined the OBO and they then loaned her a Perkins Brailler. This device has six keys and Braille paper is inserted at the top. Pressing a key causes a Braille dot to appear on the paper in the appropriate position in the Braille cell. It is much faster to use than the slate and stylus, of course. So once Sally was certified by the LOC and in 1971 then she began to Braille for the OBO. They basically did textbooks for schools with some private work for individuals that wanted to send a letter to a blind friend. All the labor they did was free and they only charged for the material they used. You can also see that making multiple copies is tricky. Once the original was completed it was copied onto special paper by a thermoform machine. The blind reader much preferred the original made by the Perkins Brailler as the dots were much crisper. Sally really enjoyed doing this work, even though at times it was quite complex. There were many rules to follow, especially when it came to formatting the Braille for special cases like tables. Brailling the Periodic Table was a particular challenge.
At one point I found a set instructions about how to rework a manual Perkins Brailer into a motortzed and computer driven brailler. So I did this and it worked fairly well. I also found out about the Kurzweil Reader that could scan a document and produce both a voice output and a digital record of the text. This sounded fascinating so I connected the Kurzweil to my computer and passed the digitized text through software that converted the text into grade 2 braille. The software of course had a print output so that output was sent to the motorized Perkins brailler. Thus in one operation the printed text was converted into embossed braille. I put on a demonstration of this in the SU library and it was well received.
Upon our return from the Philippines I again dug into my work at the University and continued along the path towards getting promoted to Professor. But I also realized that spending time with the family and taking advantage of my ability to take time off in the summer were also important goals. My technical work up till this time was in the fields of Control Systems and Networks. However the field of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) seemed to be a natural extension of these areas since the world of digital computers was enlarging. I got a grant to go to a seminar series held in Miami at the Hotel Dural, which was really a tutorial about DSP. Sally and I both went so it was kind of a vacation for the two of us.
I really enjoyed this new field – there is a lot of mathematics involved and it expanded what I could do in Control Systems. So I established two graduate courses and found that there was genuine student interest in them. I was able to do this because of the unique opportunities that existed in the off campus teaching environment. The centers at Poughkeepsie and Endicott were always ready for something new and after teaching the first DSP course for a couple of years I developed enough new material for a second course at the PhD level.
The early 1970’s were highly charged years on campuses around the country, including Syracuse University. The Vietnam War was a constant issue and the students were expressing their distaste for what was going on. At one point the campus got taken over by the students. Barricades were set up, classes were cancelled, the computing center was threatened, and the students took over the Administration building. During this time I was Chair of the University Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (AFT), and also President of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
All sorts of other issues arose at this time. One came about because of my desire to get promoted to Professor. At one point the Chairman of the Department, Wilbur LePage, called me in to his office to let me know that he didn’t think I could get promoted so he said I shouldn’t submit the paperwork that would be needed. This caused my ire to rise and I decided I would do it anyway. So, as a member of the Senate I lobbied strongly to get students to serve on all University committees. Of course this fit in well with the current surge of student power and indeed the Senate passed such a requirement for the University Senate and each College to have students on all committees – most importantly to me, the Promotions Committee. I felt my strongest case was my teaching abilities and my course development work. I am the publisher of a minimal number of scholarly papers. The Department, College and Senate Promotions committees all approved my promotion so that matter was disposed of adequately. Much later I found out what happened on the Senate Promotions committee. A friend of mine, Bill Pooler, was a member of that committee and he told me that at first things were not going well for me. But I had at one time or another told him about the things I was doing academically and he was able to change the minds of enough members of the committee to get them to approve my promotion.
Another significant event was also developing at this time in the English Department. Jo Ann Davis Mortenson had been hired as an Assistant Professor a few years ago, along with two other male faculty members. The time arrived for consideration of reappointment, and the male members were reappointed while Jo Ann was told she was not. Jo Ann’s husband, Peter, was a faculty member of the Department. Jo Ann decided that she was a victim of sexual discrimination and filed a complaint with the Senate Academic Freedom and Tenure committee.
Our procedures on that committee required us to set up a fact-finding committee, which I did, and they found that indeed it looked to them like her complaint is valid. The English Department did not like this and refused to budge on their decision. The next step was to set up a hearing panel to take public testimony from all sides and make a recommendation to the Senate and the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. This was done, and led to a most interesting sequence of events.
I appointed a Hearing Panel of some of the finest people I have ever met. Sam Fetters was a Professor in the Law College, and he was made the hearing officer. Sidney Thomas, a Professor in the School of Fine Arts proved to be a most stable and thought provoking individual. (Years later Sam and one or two other friends and I ended up having lunch each week to settle all the major problems of the world.) There were several other members of the panel, but their names elude me now. We had a few weeks of hearings, loads of controversy, some very strong feelings expressed by members of the English Department, and a final result that recommended that the decision about whether to reappoint should be reconsidered. Well, it turned out that Ms. Davis had also filed a complaint with the State Commission on Human Rights, so the University held off doing anything while that complaint was being handled. She is a very strong person, and kept up the action for many years. Currently she and her husband are faculty members in the English Department; Jo Ann has a part time appointment and Peter is a tenured Associate Professor.
As a result of meeting Sam on this issue, Sally and I developed a relationship with Sam and his family. At the time Sam was living on a farm in Cazenovia and had a few horses on his property. I think this was mostly because one of his daughters was really into horseback riding. Later on he and his family moved into the so-called White House. This is a house donated to the College of Law by E.I. White. The house was given to the College for the express purpose of supplying housing for the Dean of the College. Sam was not the Dean, but the Dean at the time, Ralph Kharas, didn’t want to live there and Sam was selected to have the honor. This White House is in the middle of a golf course in Fayetteville, New York.
We would visit with the Fetters from time to time, and drink a good quantity of scotch. One Friday evening we were there and Sam was rather nervous. He was not his usual self – much less open and cheerful than usual and not smoking. After some questioning he revealed that he had been having some tests made and the next day he would see his doctor to find out if he had emphysema. Sam was a heavy smoker as were both Sally and I. This was all I needed to convince me to quit smoking. I felt that I didn’t have to go through the trauma of facing the possibility of having emphysema in order to convince myself to quit. So Sam undoubtedly added several years to my life. Sam found out that he did not have emphysema.
Another fascinating situation arose over the matter of unionization of the full time Faculty members. The matter came to a head during the year I was President of the Syracuse Chapter of the AAUP. The executive committee of the Chapter met each Wednesday during the academic year, and we had much lively discussion about the issue. Finally one Wednesday it all came to a head and we took a vote about whether we should petition the NLRB for an election. By the narrowest of margins we voted to proceed. This meant we had to have a petition prepared and have a significant number of faculty members sign cards requesting to have an election. The issue was hotly debated around the campus, including at the University Senate. We held meetings with representatives of the various colleges to try to bring them on board to sign the petition cards. Representatives from the Law College were Travis Lewin and Robert Rabin. They decided they would disassociate themselves from the AAUP’s effort to form a union and instead go it alone. I think it was just a different way to say NO.
By the time the election was held the President of the Chapter was Josh Goldberg, and he organized things very well. In fact he hired Nancy Lorraine Hoffman as the office manager. (Nancy later was elected as the representative of our district in the New York State Senate. She was originally elected as a Democrat, but after a few terms she switched to the Republican party.)
The election campaign went on for some weeks, and the Administration was adamantly opposed to the idea of unionization. However one powerful member, Cliff Winters, the Vice Chancellor for Administration, said to me: “John, I hope the AAUP wins this vote because when the negotiations for the contract begins ALL items will be on the table, including tenure.” Cliff used to be the Dean of University College and thus I had a significant amount of contact with him due to the off-campus teaching. I really respected him, and I was surprised that he had such a strong feeling against tenure for faculty members. This is especially surprising since the previous Chancellor, William Tolley, was one of the architects of the AAUP’s “1940 Statement of Principles” which developed their case for tenure and its importance in the Academic world.
With some creative counting of the ballots on our part we lost by only 38 votes and the issue died. Later the NLRB ruled that the NLRB did not cover faculty members at private institutions since we were deemed to be part of management. So that ended the unionization attempts by the faculty.
My academic work proceeded as well as I wanted it to. I thoroughly enjoyed creating new graduate courses and I was able to teach them first at one of our off campus centers and then to graduate students on the main campus.
I often served on departmental and college committees and from time to time on search committees for a new chairman. Wil Lepage stepped down from the Chairmanship in 1974 and following him we had a steady succession of Chairs, all from inside the department. Brad Strait was his successor, and he was a good choice since he is an Orangeman all the way through and served until 1979 when he became head of the CASE Center. He also subsequently became Dean of the College and served as long as he wanted to. Virgil Eveleigh followed Brad as Chairman, and served until 1983. One of the nice things about being Chairman is that you received a good increment in your Academic salary for being the holder of the position, but most importantly, the bonus was not taken away when you were not longer Chair.
These were interesting times in the Department. There was much more play of politics at the time and as a result some friction. The most severe politicking that I was aware of was the case of Steve K. wanting to get Virgil E. fired as chairman. This never happened but resulted in an awful lot of bickering. Part of that time I was academic chairman at the Poughkeepsie off-campus center and that consumed much of my time. The faculty who taught there would fly down and back on a chartered flight by Executive Air. We would fly down in late morning, teach from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., and then fly back to Syracuse. This meant that we got lunch and dinner on the University. One time a faculty member who was a true vegetarian wanted to pick up a gelatin that was not made from horses. So, after teaching at Poughkeepsie he would take the train to New York City, buy his gelatin and spend the night, and then fly back to Syracuse the next day, all at University expense.
While Virgil was chairman we had a really bad situation develop over a faculty member who eventually got fired. This man, John S., was hired out of Brown University where he had a research laboratory. Much of the push to hire him came from Steve K., since their work was in the same general field. So, he came here in fine shape and started to set up his lab with some funding supplied by the University. He taught at the Poughkeepsie Center while I was Academic Chairman, and I found that he was highly unreliable. He did not necessarily meet his classes as scheduled, gave everyone A grades, and other strange activity. Also, equipment that he purchased seemed to disappear rather mysteriously. One time he decided to put on a big party in his residence in Syracuse and even had a number of friends of his who lived in Toronto fly in to the party on a chartered plane. It was a gala affair, and everyone had a good time. But, then it was found out that he had told the plane company, Executive Air, that this trip was an extension of the flights they were chartered for teaching in Poughkeepsie, so they billed the University for the service. Well, all hell broke loose and further checks were done on his background. Phone calls to Brown University turned up the charges that he had also manipulated funds there, and in addition sometime during his tenure at Brown there was a suspicious fire in his laboratory. Apparently no one had bothered to check his references at Brown University. I am not sure how it came about but shortly thereafter he left Syracuse University.
Our next chairman of the department was Norman Balabanian, and he served from 1983-1989. Norman left the Department in 1990 Sally wrote the following:
SOME WORDS TO LEAVE TOWN ON
(she said dangling her participle)
Norman’s been here a long, long time.
I’ll say goodby with a bit of rhyme.
When I say long I’ll make it clear
I think maybe Norman’s ALWAYS been here.
At SU he earned his BS, MS and PhD
So he’s a natural home-grown variety.
When John came here to get his degree
He was already a member of the faculty.
And as John’s advisor he never lost sight
Of making sure John knew how to write.
Even now when proposals are written he’ll say:
“It’s written wrong, do it over Brule'”
Norm has a drive, a push and a flair
And though he’s short you know he’s there
He’s stood on a justice platform or two
Which helps both the cause and his stature too.
In the 60’s we thought the war wouldn’t cease
So he ran for Congress on a platform of Peace.
On our car his poster was taken around town.
His ideals were high the vote count was down.
We’ve kept his poster for many a day
And now it’s time to give it away.
No wonder, Norm, you lost that race-
There isn’t a single hair on your face.
He’s a damned good cook, a real gourmet.
I’ve eaten his meals and I know what I say.
Do you think his taste buds will still be keen
When Bostonians on Saturday eat baked beans?
Politician, Educator, Crusader and Cook.
Enough characters there to fill a book.
But one thing is omitted from this tome-
I’ll enter it now before they roam
What’s the best part of his life? that’s a cinch
It’s the woman he married, Rosemary Lynch.
Norman first moved to the Boston area and thence to Florida. He died in 2010.
We had another bad situation develop while I was chair of the tenure and promotions committee of the Department. It seems that a faculty member, K., had been hired while Norman Balabanian was chair and his teaching evaluation after the first semester was quite bad. Faculty members were evaluated by the students during the last class of the semester before any final examination. Each student filled out the form, then they were collected and put into an envelope which was subsequently delivered by the faculty member to Mary Jo Fairbanks who was the person to put all the numbers together. So when the evaluations came back Norman had a serious talk with K.
The performance by K. improved remarkably and everyone was pleased by this. This went on semester by semester until the end of the Spring semester of his 7th year. The letter granting him tenure letter was sent, since his research work was deemed adequate for the granting of tenure. He taught a course in the summer session, and again passed out the evaluation form. After the class one of the students felt she wanted to amend the document she had handed in, so she went to Mary Jo to ask her to let her change it. Surprisingly Mary Jo gave her the envelope containing all the evaluations so that she could identify and pick out hers. The student looked through the stack and said: “The form I filled out isn’t in here.” Then the checking started. Bob Belge became involved and in checking over the forms he noticed that K.’s name was never misspelled on any of the forms yet he had a very unusual name. Also, certain words describing the high quality of his teaching were always misspelled in the same way. What he had done was to swap envelopes that were filled with rating forms. He had filled out the forms and put them in a large envelope. When the students brought him their forms in an envelope he just swapped them.
The senior faculty members of the department were convened and shown all this evidence. Then K. was called in and was given the option of either resigning or facing the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee of the University Senate since we would bring charges against him. He resigned. There is a footnote. He applied to another University and gave the name of some faculty members in our department as references. At least one of these faculty members knew why he had resigned. Yet, K. was hired by this other University.
One time when I was serving as Chair of a Search Committee I got into a very negative situation with the Dean. The Dean was Jim Luker and one day he showed up at my office and was furious. He felt that I hadn’t been conscientious enough in keeping him informed about the activities of the Search committee and he really climbed all over me for that. I found him to be a very difficult person to talk with – which was probably part of the reason why he would always put me off when I tried to see him. At one point I actually had to threaten him, through his secretary, that if he wouldn’t see me then I was going to write to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and to the University Senate and blow the situation open. After that I could see him when it was absolutely necessary.
The next chairman of the Department was Kamal Jabbour. He was born and educated in Lebanon, and received his PhD from the University of Salford in England. He applied for a position with us while he was still in England, and at one point called the Department to get some indication about what he would be faced with in coming here. He was originally offered a position as Visiting Professor, and he wanted to know the differences with that as compared to a normal full time appointment. I was asked to speak with him and I advised him about the lack of setup money as a Visiting Professor and that any time spent with that appointment would count as time to tenure. After working it all over he decided to come over and join us. Kamal is a very well organized individual and gets things done on time and in order. He was elected Chairman in 1989 and served two years. (Kamal resigned his position at the University in the Spring of 2007 because he had accepted a lucrative position with the government at the Rome Development Center.)
Kamal was Chair of the Department for two years, 1989-91. At that time the Dean of the College was Dr. Steven Chamberlain. Steve had received his PhD from Syracuse University, and was a researcher in the Institute for Sensory Research. At the time he was appointed Dean he was the director of the Bioengineering Department in the College of Engineering. Steve was a very powerful person, had many strong ideas about what should be done, and ruled with an iron hand. Somehow he and Kamal became enemies, to say the least. It was clear that Kamal would never get promoted to Full Professor certainly as long as Steve was around – even though he might not necessarily still be the Dean.
I am not sure why Kamal’s term of service as Chair of the Department lasted only two years, but he was promoted up and out of the job. Kamal has always done a lot for the College and Department, but must have rubbed some people wrong. Anyway Kamal was replaced as Department Chair in 1991 by Don Weiner, a long term Professor in the Department. Steve continued on as Dean until 1995 when Ed. Bogucz was appointed who at that time was a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Steve went back to the Institute for Sensory Research and served there for some time until he was summarily retired after a short time. Finally in 2006 Steve resigned from the University. Ed. Bogucz moved on to become Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Systems in 2003. He was replaced as Dean by another faculty member of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Eric Spina who has since been appointed as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost. Shiu-kai Chin was then appointed Acting Dean of the College until he was replaced in 2010
Don Weiner is a very meticulous faculty member, and demands much of his graduate students. He has had many PhD students, and requires extensive dissertations. Somewhat the opposite of me. It is not unusual for his students to have some 300 or more pages in their dissertations. I told my PhD students that if they couldn’t describe what they did in 100 pages then they didn’t really understand what they were trying to do.
The story went around that at one time that a faculty member had his driveway at home covered with blacktop. It seems that he was told there would be a 3 inch cover. Well, after the job was done he went out and took borings and found that in some places it wasn’t a full 3 inches. He refused to pay the contractor, and this dragged on for some time. In frustration the contractor finally came back and ripped up what they had laid down. That’s the rumor, anyway.
Anevent involving Don came during the period of final examinations. It seems that his room was right next to another room where the teacher was giving a final examination to her music class. It seems she was playing some music very loudly – so much so it interfered with Don’s class. He tried to convince her to lower the volume but she informed him in no uncertain terms that the music had a large dynamic range and she would not compromise her examination to satisfy Don’s concerns.
Don served as Chairman from 1991 until 1996, when Carlos Hartmann took over. A major reorganization of the College was underway – Departments were merged in some attempt to improve efficiency. Carlos was officially installed as Director of the combined departments of Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Computer Science.
Of course during the 10 years between our two sabbatical leaves to the Philippines our family was growing up and finding their own lives. Jim married Jill on June 1, 1975 and they moved on to New England where they found employment as house parents in a halfway house for disturbed youths. About that same time Nannette received a bequest of $1000 from one of Sally’s relatives who died. She immediately sunk the money into a used Ford Mustang and from then on I could expect to receive desperate calls for help when the engine died, or the muffler fell off, or any number of similar catastrophes.
At one time Nannette was driving Sally’s car out around Chittenango someplace and was paying more attention to her companions in the car than to the traffic. Suddenly she plowed into the rear end of a car that had stopped for a left turn. That ended Sally’s car and broke Nannette’s jaw. She was taken to a hospital in Oneida and we drove out there to be with her. The hospital decided to transfer her to Syracuse, so an ambulance took her with me inside with her. Sally drove our car home. The ambulance driver was absolutely insane. He drove with siren blazing and at extra high speed – climbing up and around banks to pass stalled traffic and very nearly got into an accident just before reaching the hospital in Syracuse. But, we lived through it, although Nannette certainly remembers what it is like to have your jaw wired shut for 6 weeks.
Another step I took involved interviews by the FBI. If a soon to be graduate applied for a job with the military or the Defense Department the FBI would check their backgrounds by interviewing people that might know them. Thus faculty members were high on the list that the FBI wanted to talk with. I felt I did not want to cooperate with getting my students involved with the war making branches of the US economy so when the FBI showed up at my office door and indicated they wanted to talk to me I immediately interrupted them and let them know I was not going to cooperate with the FBI in this matter. I preempted the conversation in this manner so that I took that stance before the name of the individual had been mentioned.
Of course lots of people were refusing to pay the “war tax” on their telephones, and I too did that. However, this meant telling the Payroll department what I was doing because the government would contact that department in an attempt to garnishee my wages so I had to warn payroll this might happen. When I explained what I was doing to one of the employees there she became seriously upset. In fact I was contacted by the supervisor about this to let me know about the chaos I was causing in that person’s life. So, the biggest problem I had in the tax matter was soothing the trauma of one clerk in Payroll.
The vast majority of the research money that came into my department at that time came from the military. Not only is much of the work in the electrical engineering department rooted in military needs but also we were teaching Master’s Degree level course work at the Rome Air Development Center in Rome, New York, and so all those students were associated with war making activities. As the sign outside the Griffiss Air Force Base says – “Peace is our Profession.”
As time went on we found that the urge to return to the Philippines was still strong with us. So we searched around for a sponsor again, and found a program run by SEATO, the SouthEastAsiaTreatyOrganization. Also I was able to once again get sabbatical leave support for the trip, and had an easier time convincing the Syracuse University Administration that the University should support my application.