Bell Aircraft

Sept 1950-Sept 1956

The site of my workplace was about 14 miles north of North Tonawanda, so I soon joined a 4 person car pool.  The other men did not work directly with me, but we were all new hires.  Bill Beauchemin and Gene Sandler were two that I developed a relationship with.  We all were newly hired engineers so it was obvious that Bell Aircraft was expanding rapidly.  The war in Korea was well underway and the US military was getting increased funding.  I was assigned to the Servomechanisms Department where there was a fair amount of Research and Development underway.  I found this out at my initial interview with the Department chief, Frank Andrix.  He was filling me in on the work in progress and repeatedly mentioned guided missiles.  So, to show my willingness I asked him: “Just what is a guided missile?”  He blanched and remarked that I had much to learn.  So learn I did, and I also eventually learned that this type of work was not for me.

I started work at $65/week, and Bell’s policy was that all employees, including Larry Bell himself, had to punch a time clock.  (I suspect however that Larry Bell had someone else do that chore for him.)  The place I worked in was a large hangar that was filled with desks row upon row.  There were engineers, draftsmen and service personnel in the room and behind it were a number of laboratories.  There was also a large computer room and it was filled with Analog Computers manufactured by Electronics Associates, Inc.  My immediate mentor was a slightly older engineer, Frank Giori.  He helped me learn all about a hydraulic servo valve made by Bill Moog, founder of Moog Valve Inc.  These valves controlled a hydraulic fluid that was under high pressure and operated the ailerons and elevators of the missiles.  One day Bill was at our laboratory demonstrating his valve and one of the hoses carrying the oil popped loose and flooded him with the red hydraulic fluid.  He was wearing a nice woolen suit and that put an end to his day.  This was not an uncommon problem in that test area.  The servo valve was a new device and had a long way to go before being commercially viable.

A Trip to Boston and MIT

The work was interesting because I was able to use technical material I had learned in my Master’s program at Iowa State.  But it didn’t take long for even a newcomer like me to realize that what I was working on had no chance of ever being successful.  The basic idea for the work grew out of a laboratory at MIT known as the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory.  (DACL)  I was working on the autopilot for the missile and Bell decided that I should go to MIT and work with the people in the lab so that we could find out all we could about the design of the autopilot.

So, in the spring of 1952 Sally and I packed up our new car, a Chevrolet, and headed to Cambridge, MA.  We found an apartment, at 10 Unity Avenue in the town of Belmont, which was close to a streetcar line, so we were well situated for our stay in the East.  It was delightful being in the Boston area since there is so much of historical significance there.  We visited Old North Church, Bunker Hill, the USS Constitution, Lexington, Concord and all sorts of revolutionary war historical sites.  We also checked out the witches house in Salem, drove down into Cape Cod and up the cape to Provincetown.  Of course we had to visit Plymouth Rock on the way there – it was much smaller than I expected.

We made friends with another young couple, Myron and Betty Scofield.  They lived in a small house right next to ours and we enjoyed being with them.  We often went swimming together but one time Myron fell asleep while lying in the sun and the blanket over him failed to cover the bottom of his feet.  He was in agony for some days after that.  We stayed in Boston till the late fall of 1952 and then headed back to North Tonawanda.

Jim Joins the Family

Around then we found that we were to be parents, and this came as a huge surprise.  We had been married over five years and had had all sorts of fertility tests during most of 1951 to try to find out why there was no offspring.  So with that good news we decided to find a better apartment and we moved to 251 School Road in Kenmore into a second floor apartment.  It was much nicer to finally have our own entrance to our rooms.  We got to know the owners, the Szymanski’s, and they were a pleasant couple.  One time Stan was showing some “adult” movies in his basement and was quite nervous while the feature was playing – perhaps afraid of the police?

They used to stay up late watching wrestling and that caused me some trouble.    The TV was right at a furnace hot air vent vent in their living room and our bedroom was similarly located by a hot air outlet.  The sound would make its way to our bedroom and I found it to be quite disturbing.  We didn’t stay in that apartment very long since with Sally being pregnant we felt a house was in order.  Anyway we moved to our first house, (shown below) 207 Fancher Avenue, in the summer of 1953.  The two level three bedroom house cost $7,500 and I took out a 30 year GI mortgage at about 4½ percent.

207 Fancher

Jim was born August 30, 1953 on our sixth wedding anniversary.  I think Sally and I were each on the verge of total collapse the first night they were at home from the hospital.  He would not stop crying and we were about ready to bring him back to the hospital when he finally fell asleep.  And that was a sign of what was to come.  Jim was a terrible sleeper up until his sub-teens, but at least after the first few years he stopped crying at night.

Our house was brand new and in a new development area in Kenmore.  No landscaping had been done and there was only a gravel driveway into the yard.  Our neighbors were the Barrett’s, and Bill and I together put in our two driveways.   We did mine first (shown above) and found that we had solid clay that we had to dig and move before we could lay the concrete.  After several days of preparation we scheduled the pouring of the cement and I found out how hard it is to get the concrete properly laid.  We had Bill’s scheduled for the next day and just when we finished his the rain poured on us.  Mine got through it OK, but Bill had to rework his surface since a lot of the cement washed away.

During this time we would drive to Auburn fairly often to visit Sally’s family and in the summer we would drive up to Hancock, about 1000 miles away, to visit my folks.  My job at Bell Aircraft was doing OK – there was a big push in the aircraft industry and technology in general.  We had a number of German engineers come to work with us and the man I met was very competent and I learned much from him about proceeding carefully in our design work and also in analyzing a model of the thing we were trying to construct.  It was obvious that Bell Aircraft could benefit from advanced knowledge on the part of the engineers so they decided to have a competition and send an employee to MIT for a year.  I applied for the position and two of us won – a co-worker Lionel Shub and me.

To Boston Again and MIT Again

So, in the summer of 1954 we left for Boston again – this time for an academic year of graduate work.  There were no restrictions on what we should do there – I guess they assumed we would study engineering.  We rented an apartment at 38 Lee Street in Cambridge so again we were on the second floor in a quite old apartment building.  It was nicely situated since it was about midway between Harvard and MIT and I could walk to MIT each day.  I took four courses each semester, three of them in Electrical Engineering and one in a fringe area like Engineering Management.  I did well in all of them and found again how much I enjoyed studying.  Lionel Shub and I would often do homework together and when we started a problem I would immediately dig in and work away at it.  Lionel would sit there quietly doing nothing and at first I wondered what his problem was.  I was soon to find out that he was analyzing the problem and figuring out the best way to go after it.  My brute force approach usually worked and we would finish at about the same time.  But I think his approach was the better one.

Jim was still in the crying stage and Sally took him to a new pediatrician, T. Berry Brazelton who later became quite famous.  Jim would cut up something terrible when the doctor touched him, and Sally had quite a time calming him down.  He examined Jim and said he had “night wakefulness.”  Sally and I both knew that.  Sally would take Jim to the doctor’s office to let him play there in the hopes he would become adjusted to this environment and let the doctor examine him.  No such luck.  The doctor recommended we let him cry it out at night.  So we tried that for a couple of nights until the landlord came to us and warned us to keep him quiet as Jim was bothering everyone else who were trying to sleep.  So Sally would get up at night with him just to keep him quiet.

Finally it came time to leave and head back to Kenmore.  We passed through Auburn on the way and spent a few days with Sally’s parents.  They had moved out into the country – Throopsville, NY. The place of their house was called “Goose Hollow” because this was a favorite stopover site for migrating Canadian geese.  We decided this was the ideal place to let Jim cry it out.  And boy did he!    This was in the summer of 1955, so Jim was just around two years old.  I think things started to go back to normal after that.  Normal meaning that it seemed possible that we would live.

Their place in the country was very pleasant and from time to time we would drive to visit Sally’s parents – probably every few weeks.  Her father was a retired Pharmacist and had a little difficulty adjusting to the “no work” situation.  But they had lots of friends and busied themselves around the farm.  They liked the whole area very much and purchased a couple of lots in the little cemetery in Throopsville.  Sally and I did likewise as did her brother Bob and Rita.

We all got along very well, and when we visited them we played cards a lot of the time – always an evening of bridge.  Some old family friends of the Corp’s – the Casey’s lived in that same area so we would visit them also.  The children of the two families had grown up together and apparently as youngsters Sally had a crush on one of them – Milton Jr.  Over the years Sally and I would visit them once in a while so I got to know them a bit.  Later after they died, and Sally died, I would continue to drop in a few times a year when I visited Sally’s gravesite.  Their daughter, “Tootie”, lived there with her husband Bob and they were both chain smokers.  She had an older brother Steven that also lived with them in a separate room.  He was deathly ill with emphysema and had to be connected up to an oxygen source in order to be able to breathe.  Well, there was Robert struggling to stay alive and a couple of rooms away Tootie and Bob chain smoking.  Steven soon died but Tootie and Bob continued smoking.  I stopped by there a few times but they were never around so I don’t know what happened to them.

The End of Bell Aircraft

Life moved along and I found the job at Bell Aircraft to be onerous.  I had taken some interesting courses at MIT and the Bell management was pleased when I said I would set up courses to teach the other engineering employees some of the material I learned.  Of course this was the beginning of the end of my stay at Bell.  I enjoyed the teaching very much and another older employee who had his PhD in Engineering was very certain that I should go back to school.

The fate was sealed on that decision by the failure of the project I was working on.  This was a missile known as the Meteor, an air-to-air weapon.  We had been working on the machine for a couple of years and at one point it was decided it was time to send it out to Point Mugu in California for a live test – that is, actually launch it from an airplane.   I was to accompany the missile and be there when it was finally loaded onto a fighter.  I figured to be there a couple of weeks, but after the tickets were bought and we were to leave early the next week the trip was cancelled.  The whole program was stopped – I would like to think it was because managers knew the missile was a failure and thus decided to not waste any more money.  So all the years of my time spent designing and building something that was only supposed to kill but couldn’t do that made me say to myself – there must be a better reason for my existence.  So with Sally’s agreement I started looking around for a way to go back to school and earn a PhD.

I applied to three schools – to the University of Michigan out of loyalty to my home state, to Iowa State College since I knew them quite well, and to Syracuse University because Syracuse is only 40 miles from Auburn.  I applied for the position of Instructor at each place, and was accepted by all three.  SU and UofM made offers of about the same value to me and Warren Boast the then Chairman of the EE Department said that if he met the same salary offer as the other two he would have to fire half his faculty.  Thus Syracuse won because Ann Arbor Michigan couldn’t move to be as close as 40 miles from Auburn.  So, in the summer of 1956 we sold our Fancher St. house and moved to Syracuse to start classes in September.  The financial situation was quite interesting.  My academic salary started at $7500 for the employment from September to June.  But at that time SU was developing strong relations with companies in Central New York that employed a significant number of engineers –this included  IBM, GE and the Rome Air Development Center (RADC).  Faculty would travel to the site, teach a full weeks material, and then return home.  We received a bonus if we did this during the Academic Year and it was extra income if we did it in the summer.  So immediately my annual gross income at SU exceeded that which I received from Bell Aircraft.


So in September of 1956 we moved to Syracuse.  When I left Bell I brought with me a small research contract that they funded to have me continue on with a project I was working on at Bell.  I had enough money in it to hire a colleague at SU and that was nice.

When I was being interviewed by the Department Chair of the Electrical Engineering Department at Syracuse University I checked to make sure that Syracuse didn’t have a policy against hiring their own graduates.  I wanted to be sure that if I chose to remain at Syracuse after getting my PhD that there would be no policy against that.  With the aid of an agent we were able to sell our house on Fancher without much trouble.  The person, Roger Russell,  who bought it through the agent also worked at Bell Aircraft – in fact his desk was just a couple of rows from mine.  I guess I didn’t communicate too much with my co workers.  But under any conditions this is the way the Bell Aircraft stage of my life came to an end.

Sally and I looked around Syracuse for a place to live and settled on a house on the north side at 340 Loma Avenue.  We bought it for $12,300 and again with a 30 year mortgage.  It seemed to be an easy travel to the University, and was within our price range.  This time our loan was a little higher interest rate – about 5 ¾%.  The house seemed to be in good shape, and it had a front porch that I enclosed with jalousie windows and so we got a little more all around use of the place.  The house needed some additional work but we saw to that right away.  The house was shingled with asbestos shingles and I had installed a fence and gate across the driveway in an attempt to keep Jim from roaming the street.  Also since some of the paint was lead based we stripped that and replaced it with latex water based paint.  We found our churches – I attended St. John the Baptist and Sally went to Calvary Episcopal.  This meant a little bit of juggling on Sunday morning because we had just one car.

When I arrived at the University I found out that the Electrical Engineering Department was housed in the Collendale Campus – the better part of a mile from the main campus.  We were in WW II Quonset huts and the Dean of the College, Ralph Galbraith, was in a similar hut but on the main campus.  He said he was going to keep his office in this hut until the entire college had moved into offices on the main quadrangle.  There was one building on the quadrangle  – Hinds Hall – that was populated by engineering faculty and some of the EE department faculty had offices there.  A new building on the quadrangle of the main campus, affectionately referred to as Building II, was partially constructed – the basement and sub-basement were completed and we were scheduled to move into it at some unspecified date in the future.

Out in the Collendale Campus we were isolated from the rest of the University, and got to know each other very well.  I had the good fortune to work with Dick Johnson.  His PhD degree was from Harvard and in Physics, not EE, and he was a most delightful person to work with.  He and his family were great to be with and the Johnson and Brule parents became good friends.

Many new faculty members were hired about the same time as I because the school was growing rapidly with ex-GI’s and everyone had a very positive attitude towards education.  Also engineering received a boost because the Russians launched Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to orbit the Earth. That launch took place on October 4, 1957 and so the Russians won the space race.  The attempts by the US to also launch a satellite were unsuccessful and when a satellite was finally placed into orbit on February 1, 1958, it was about 1/3 the weight of Sputnik 1.

One sad event occurred while we were in the Collendale Campus.  During a seminar Ming-Kwai and Yueh-Ying Hu were called to the phone.  The tragedy was that their youngest child had been found dead in a clothes closet where the child had apparently become entangled in a scarf.  We grieved with them and helped them to handle their loss.  I had more contact with them on other matters.  In 1981 Ming set up the situation so that Ted Bickart and I along with our spouses, went to China to teach courses in engineering.  There will be much more on this later.

Yueh-Ying had originally been hired as a full time Associate Professor while her husband Ming-Kwai was hired as a Research Professor.  It was done this way because Ming’s English abilities were quite limited.  However, when he became fluent in English their appointments were reversed, at their request.  However in the 1970’s there was a lot of pressure to cut costs and the Chairman at the time, Dr. Wilbur Lepage, decided to cut Yueh-Ying’s position.  This was devastating to them because Yueh-Ying was a really dedicated teacher and poured herself into her teaching.  I was chair of the Syracuse University Chapter of the AAUP at the time and our concern was the protection of tenure.  Yueh-Ying had been a full time teacher for about 20 years so it was an easy matter to bring the threat of sanctions against the Department if her firing were allowed to stand.  In the meantime Dr. Donald Kibbey, the Chair of the Mathematics Department gave her a teaching assignment to tide her over.  She immediately was reinstated in the Electrical Engineering Department so all was well.  Several years later she died from stomach cancer.

There was a fair amount of angst within the department about our department being split in two.  Some had offices in Hinds Hall and the rest of us were in Collendale.   Prof. Glenn Glasford led the charge to get us all moved into one building, Hinds Hall, on the main campus.  As he put it we were willing to be “squeezed” into the building and we ended up moving into Hinds Hall.  We were still there in 1963 when I made the transition from being a passive observer of the civil rights revolution to becoming active in demonstrating for civil rights.  This is when I first met Dolores Morgan who in 1999 became Dolores Brulé. That will be discussed in a lot of detail later in this memoir.

I was hired as an Instructor in the Department and this meant I was to teach an undergraduate course.  I found I loved it, and as a result the students also liked my teaching.  On one of my first days I was talking away and decided to sit on the edge of a table in the classroom.  Of course the table was rickety and immediately collapsed when I sat on it.  A nice step toward humility.

I set a goal for myself to get my PhD done in two years.  In order to do this I had to transfer most of my courses that I took at MIT into SU, and this went OK.  I also needed to finish up my dissertation credit but as an Instructor I could only have six credits a semester.  This meant I would be short about 12 credit hours so I bought them off at $30/credit hour.  (Back in 1958 $360 was a significant amount of money especially since my salary before taxes was $7000 per annum.)   I also had to find an advisor for my dissertation and Norman Balabanian filled that role.  I was able to hire him onto my research contract from Bell Aircraft, so everything was in order.

The Engineering College was very involved with off-campus teaching to practicing engineers.  We had programs set up with IBM, General Electric and Rome Air Development Center.  Our faculty would travel to a center in Endicott/Owego, Poughkeepsie, Kingston or Rome and teach a three credit hour course in one 3 hour session.  We traveled to Endicott/Owego either by limousine or by private car.  One time David Cheng and I were traveling together while I drove and I received my one and only speeding ticket.  This was in 1958.  I’ve never received a speeding ticket since then that I couldn’t have torn up or had reduced.

Nannette Evens it Up

Back at Loma Avenue Sally and I decided we wanted more children but that for some reason seemed impossible even after all the tests we had made prior to Jim being created by us.  So, we decided to adopt a baby, in particular a girl since we already had a boy.  We went to the County Welfare offices and got on a waiting list.  Well, nine months after that event, that is, in February 1958, we received a phone call telling us that a week old infant was available – did we want her?  So we jumped at the chance and they told us they wanted us to pick her up almost immediately.  We scurried around the house getting things ready for her.  County Welfare told us that since the only other child was a boy – Jim was 5 at the time – the girl infant must have a room of her own.  I was deep into writing my dissertation at the time and the third bedroom was my office.  So we moved all my things into the dining room and set up the crib in my old study.

We then had some discussion about what name to give our new family member.  Sally had a very dear friend in Auburn who also was adopted – Nannette Cadzow – so it was a shoo in that our new daughter would be Nannette.  We picked the middle name Louise because Nannette Louise Brulé  seemed to have a good ring to it.  So everything was set and Nannette, who was born on February 19, 1958 joined us a day later, when she was 10 days old.  She was baptized at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church because Sally had agreed to raise our children as Roman Catholics.  It is necessary for me to point out that Sally considered herself a Catholic anyway because she was a member of the Episcopal Church.

So we had a new way of life set up for us with the addition of Nannette.  Of course Sally figured this would be a breeze since she had not been in labor for the birth of Nannette.   Thus she tried to live her life the same as before the adoption and just factor in the new child.  This soon proved to be too much and she became ill in the process.  We were able to hire a housekeeper who took over much of the work while Sally recovered.  The housekeeper was Mary an African-American woman – at that time called a Negro – and she took over so that Sally could recover and I could continue on with my dissertation, research and teaching responsibilities.  I had set my sights on graduation in June and there was no changing that.  Mary was with us a short time, a month or so, but by the time she left Sally was back on her feet and able to function with now two children in the family.

One thing we did on Loma Avenue was to institute the Holiday eggnog Party.  Each Christmas season we invited most of the Electrical Engineering (EE) Department to our home on a Sunday afternoon.  Sally’s parents always had such a party and she wanted to continue the practice.  It became quite a tradition and we continued it on Standish Drive after we left Loma Ave.  The party included the use of a number of red glass cocktail glasses and a huge leaded glass bowl to hold the eggnog.  The recipe for making the eggnog was the same as that used in the Corp parties.

Nannette was a very precocious child and the gate we had put up across the driveway to keep Jim from roaming proved to be a godsend for Nannette.  She was often in physical trouble because of her activities.  In fact we went to the Emergency Room at St. Joseph’s hospital so often that they would recognize her as we came in.  One morning we came down stairs and found her standing on a shelf in the kitchen and in front of a cupboard she had opened.  The cupboard held our OTC drugs like aspirin, vitamins and the like.  Well a bottle of vitamins was open in her hand and it was almost empty.  We sort of panicked and tried to establish how much of it she had swallowed.  We were not able to get a reliable answer so off we rushed to the ER and they immediately decided that they would pump her stomach.  I never had that done to me, nor did I watch it as they did it to Nannette, but from the agonized look on her face when they returned her to us I found out it must have been horrible.  However, we never had that particular problem with her again.

Jim also had his events at Loma Avenue.  He would get out of bed at probably any hour in the night and roam around the house.  He was there when he was between 3 and 7 years old.  Our neighbor’s house, the Melilo’s, was just a few feet from ours, and faced a large picture window in the dining room in our house.  So one time Frank Melilo let us know that he and Jim would see each other quite often.  Frank worked at Muench-Kreutzer Candle Factory and would go to work about 4:30 a.m. and that is when he would see him.

The Melilo’s were somewhat older than us, but we got to see them from time to time. Eventually Agnes Melilo came down with cancer. She was under treatment for some time but eventually it was determined that all medical intervention was useless and that she would die soon. The MD said she should receive an injection of a pain killer often each day and wanted someone to do it. Sally had some nurses training and they asked her to do the injection reassuring her that she need not worry about doing it wrong as she was going to die shortly anyway. Sally was very moved by the condition of Mrs. Melilo and at one point felt that if she skipped a shot Agnes would die more quickly. This was a blunder and it wasn’t long before she resumed the ordered shots. Shortly then she died a peaceful, drugged, death.

Mark Completes the Family

While we were living on Loma Avenue and shortly after we adopted Nannette Sally had a miscarriage. This was a source of sadness, but we thought it was kind of usual for a pregnancy to follow an addition to the family. Sometime after that Sally became pregnant again and we hired a part time housekeeper, Mrs. Hopkins, to help out in the hope to prevent another miscarriage. Since we were going to have an increase to the family we decided we should look for a larger house and one closer to the University. After some searching we found an ideal place at 212 Standish Drive in the Bradford Hills section of Syracuse. The picture is of the house at the time we moved in to it. Mark was born on November 19, 1960 and we moved in the first week of January, 1961. The new house cost $27,500 and after the down payment coming from the sale of 340 Loma Avenue our mortgage came to $119.00 per month. We felt we could handle that so we were all set.

Even though it was mid winter the move from Loma Avenue to Standish Drive proceeded well without a hitch.  We had a lot more house now and thus no problems in finding where to put things.

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