When president Kennedy made his now famous speech establishing the goal of landing man on the moon he stated, "in a very real sense it will not be one man going to the moon, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."
So, in a sense GranMa and GranPa went to the moon more so then other Americans because we were both among those privileged to work at the Kennedy Space Center.
How we got there and the years that followed is this story.
The summer of 1965 found GranPa working for Boeing at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana building the First Stage (S1C) of the Saturn V Moon Rocket and very much disliking both his job and living conditions in the New Orleans area.
No one who has followed the construction of the ICBM rocket installation is a true missile gypsy unless they have high ambition to go shoot a rocket from the Cape.
The Smyth family was certainly bonafide missile gypsies having lived in 5 states in 3 years while following the construction of the ICBM Missile Silos.
In our birthplace and native state of Texas, GranMa had left her job working at the county court house and was already working in General Dynamic's Reproduction Department at Dyess Air Force Base when in September of 1961 GranPa left the oil fields to also work for GDA on the Installation and Checkout of the Atlas ICBM Missile Silos surrounding Abilene, Texas. Upon completions of the Atlas Silos we were both laid off in November of 1962.
With GranMa's blessing, GranPa made the decision to follow the Aerospace field in the hopes of improved opportunities for the family.
Following any type construction work is not exactly the best of family living but, GranPa was hoping for something better down the road.
Your GranPa was never one to let the grass grow under his feet or hesitate making a decision so he headed out on a job hunting trip which resulted in him reporting to work for the Martin Company on November 19, 1962 at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas as a Maintenance and Operation Supervisor on the Titan II ICBM Silos.
15 months later in February 1964 GranPa was again laid off after the completion of the Titan II Silos.
GranMa had not worked in Arkansas because of the addition of our little Razorback who became one your Moms, Cynthia Rebecca born on February 27, 1963.
Luckily, General Dynamics was now in the process of updating the Atlas Silos and due to GranPa's old GDA boss, Earl Coon now being GDA's Base Manager at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico it was destined the family now pickup and move from Arkansas to New Mexico to work on the Atlas Silos Update Program. Such was the ways of a Missile Gypsy.
So, we moved to Roswell in February of 1964 and 5 months later in July 1964 GranPa was once again laid off.
Thanks to the goodness of General Dynamics and Earl Coon, the Boeing Company was invited in to Roswell to interview GDA employees for possible employment at Nasa's Michoud Assembly Facilities where Boeing was building the 1st stage of the Saturn V Moon Rocket.
As a result, GranPa was hired by Boeing to be an Engineering Aide and the Smyth Gypsies now moved to Chalmette a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana in July of 1964 and there we were in 1965.
Having earned two weeks vacation by 1965 it was decided the first week would be spent in Florida seeking employment and the second week in Texas visiting our parents.
It had been announced that Bendix was awarded the Launch Support Contract at the Kennedy Space Center.
Having previously been a supervisor over the Ground Support Equipment on the ICBM silos during installation and checkout, GranPa had for several months been making efforts by phone and U. S. Mail to obtain employment with Bendix at KSC and I already had an application and resume on file with Bendix at their personnel office in Titusville, Florida.
GranPa was by now also on a first name basis with the receptionists who answered the phone in the Bendix office and I knew the name of the personnel manager.
When GranPa walked into the Bendix office in Titusville, Florida and told the receptionist "Hi my name is Ray Smyth and.......... "the receptionists looked up and said, "I figured you would show up here one day" Let me tell, Paul Weishaar your here."
She left and came back in a few minutes and said, "Ray, Mr. Weishaar says there is no need in seeing him that it is time for you to be interviewed by one of the work area managers and she was going to set up an interview for the next morning at 8:00 AM."
Interestingly enough we had taken a motel next door to the Bendix office and there was a breakfast place directly across the street from the Bendix office on U. S. Highway 1.
Next morning I was sitting on a stool having breakfast when a man came in and sit down a couple of stools over and after speaking to each other, I said to myself "that's the man who is going to interview me."
After breakfast I went across the street to Bendix office and sure enough I was interviewed by the man I just had breakfast with, Ken Harrington, manager of Work Area 1 which was the Launch Pad Operations at LC-39A and LC-39B at Kennedy Space Center.
In my interview I told Ken that two of my three references were right here at the Cape working for Martin so, please contact them. I then explained, I didn't know where my 3rd reference and former boss with General Dynamics, Earl Coon was because last time I called his phone in Roswell New Mexico it had been disconnected.
Ken replied, "Humnnnnn! - Earl Coon - Earl Coon, the name sounds familiar."
After the interview, Ken said Ray, "I can't tell you anything right now as I need to check on some things but, could you call me back around 4:00 PM this afternoon and I will give you an answer."
I said, "Sure" and thanked him for the interview.
I then got the wife and 3 kids and we took off for Cocoa Beach to see Pan American, Chrysler, General Dynamics, Martin and others I can no longer recall.
I dropped off resumes and filled out job applications for anyone who had a contract at KSC or the Cape.
I spent the complete day in Cocoa Beach and rented a motel on the beach for that night so we could see the launch of Gemini 4 which was scheduled for launch the next day.
That afternoon we drove back to Titusville and with high hopes made the call to Ken Harrington.
Much to my dismay, Ken said he was going to have to give me a negative on a job offer.
He then proceeded to say he had heard a lot of good things about me today and was going to send my application to other work areas and see what he could do for me and he was sort of stuttering and stammering with what he was saying and then he blurted out, "Aw hell, Ray let me tell you the truth of what was going on.
I had made a job offer of "Pad Manager" to your former boss, Earl Coon and he had until 1:00 PM today to either reject it or accept it. Earl accepted it but, had he not I was going to give the Pad Managers job to you."
Disappointed as I was with the negative, I was very much excited to learn my old boss was in Titusville and got his phone number from Ken.
Ken told me to keep in touch that he was going to pass my application and resume around to the other work areas.
Bendix at the time was referring to their different areas of responsibilities as "Work Areas". Later on this was changed to "Departments"
I thanked Ken again for the interview and his efforts and immediately phoned Earl Coon, found out where he lived and went out to his home in Titusville and we visited for a couple hours.
Next day the Gemini IV launch was scrubbed and immediately afterwards we headed back to New Orleans.
So, we missed seeing our first rocket launch. But, left Florida with high hopes and some confidence that one day we would be back to help launch us one of them there rockets.
This was in the days before credit cards and we ran short on funds so, to save money on the way back to Louisiana, We drove straight through after sleeping part of a night in our 1964 Oldsmobile Station Wagon.
However, we had a Boeing paycheck waiting for us when we got back home so we picked that up and headed on to Texas.
Made one other stop back home and that was to phone General Electric and turn down a Test Conductors job offer at Nasa's Mississippi Test Facilities.
I had previously been interviewed by GE and received a job offer which was still valid and we could have taken the Test Conductors job with out even moving from our current resident. But, my heart was in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center.
Turning down the GE offer, gave GranMa lock jaw because it was for $100.00 a month more then I was currently making at Boeing. But, I had faith and confidence that one day I would make it to the Cape and I didn't want any strings attached to keep me from accomplishing my goal.
I thought it unfair to GE to accept a job I might soon want to be leaving.
About a week later, Gemini IV was successfully launched on June 3, 1965 so our visit to Florida was in the last week of May 1965.
After the week in Texas it was back to work at Michoud and every few weeks a phone call to someone in Florida. I surly must have been a pest.
In August we moved from our two bedroom duplex at 2327 Jacob Drive in Chalmette, Louisiana to a rented 3 bedroom house at 822 Pine Street in Slidell, Louisiana and it was there we safely rode out Hurricane Betsy on September 10, 1965.
Come October 1965 an ad appeared in the New Orleans newspaper that Bendix was holding interviews at a local motel for jobs at Kennedy Space Center.
From the Michoud plant, I made a phone call and arranged for an interview appointment just as soon as I got off work that evening.
I entered the motel room and sit down in a chair in front of a table the interviewer was using as a desk and as we started idle chatter, I said before we begin, I would like to tell you that I was interviewed by Ken Harrington last May and he was going to give me a job but, he had already made an offer to my old boss, Earl Co.......... and about that time the interviewer jumped up shook his finger at me and said I know you, I know you and who you are and all about you.
I'm the personnel guy that hired and processed Earl Coon in through personnel.
He said, damn Ray, we don't have any requisitions for a General Foremen and I already know it is going to take a move package to get you to Florida.
Right now I am mostly hiring mechanics and foremen which doesn't include a move package and we don't have any open reqs for General Foreman.
He then ask, what do you know about Cryogenics and Rechargers.
I showed my smarts right off and ask "What's a Recharger?". He then started explaining a machine that pumped liquid nitrogen. I ask are you talking about a Converter. He asked what is a Converter and I explained that a Converter, converted a cryogenic fluid such as liquid nitrogen to gaseous nitrogen.
He said well OK we call that a Recharger at KSC. So, what can you tell me about a Converter or Recharger. I said well not much too it, about same as a piston mud pump in the oil field, you crank her up and pump liquid.
AND then I paused and said "well you do have to chill the pump down first."
I went on to explain the "Chill Down" process and how a piston style pump, pumped a cryogenic liquid which then passed through heaters which converted the liquid back to a gas as it left the pumping unit.
That about ended the technical part of the interview because as I learned later from the interviewer I had said the magic words, "Chill Down" which told him I knew something about Cryogenics and Rechargers. i.e. Converters
As we continued our discussion, he told me that right now they just didn't have any jobs with a move package but, I am going to make some phone calls tomorrow and see what I might do so give me a call sometime tomorrow afternoon just before your quitting time.
Next day with great anticipation, I called the interviewer whose name has long vanished from memory and asked what he had to tell me.
He said, "I want you to go home, clean up, get your wife and be at my motel around 6:30 PM.
This was in sharp contrast to the day before when I suggested I would go home from work, clean up and come back for the interview and he said absolutely no need, we know your wearing work clothes and may be a little dirty but, come on down immediately after work.
Now this guy wants me cleaned up and to bring the wife. So, it sounded hopeful. But, much as I tried he gave me no hint what was going on.
So, I proceeded to Slidell where we had moved to from Chalmette only a few months before, cleaned up, put on my best clothes short of a suit, got the wife and headed back to New Orleans.
When we walked in and sit down the interviewer kind of proudly tossed me several sheets of paper in a package and said, "See if you want to sign those."
I commenced to read and it was a General Foremen job offer in the High Pressure Gas Department (Work Area 5) at a salary of $750.00 per month with a move package and 30 days per diem pay.
I looked up at the interviewer and ask when can I kiss you.
I don't know of a much happier day in my life relative to obtaining a job with the exception of the day Earl Coon hired me to first become a (tongue in cheek) Rocket Scientist.
GranMa was happy too and her jaw finally came unlocked since the offer was $50.00 more then the offer I turned down with GE and $150.00 more then I was making at Boeing.
After a physical and the normal new hire details were taken care of, I happily gave my two weeks notice to Boeing and started preparing for our move to Florida.
The Smyth Bunch were old hands at relocating and our trip from Louisiana to Florida was uneventful with Ray Jr. and I in the pickup loaded with tools, pulling our boat. The wife and two girls followed in the station wagon loaded with our fish aquarium and Debbie's black cat, Sugar. This time we had no collie dogs to move but, I had plans to change that once we were settled in Florida.
I reported to the Bendix personnel office to be processed in on November 8, 1965.
I was about finished with the processing in when, we got a call from the moving van guy who wanted to know were the furniture was going and having already rented a brand new house at 4322 Baker Avenue in Titusville, Bendix personnel told me, your on the payroll so, go on and take care of your moving business and we will call High Pressure Gas and tell them you will be in tomorrow.
So, on November 9, 1965 I sat foot on Kennedy Space Center soil for the first time and after being badged at the main gate to KSC, I reported to the Bendix High Pressure Gas Office at the Converter Compressor Facility for Launch Complex 34 and 37. (CCF-34/37)
The "Converter Compressor Facility" is a building about 2000 feet from the launch pads that houses the Nitrogen Converter Pumps in one end and Helium Compressors in the opposite end with a control room in between the two.
The HPG Department Manager was a short stubby Italian named Ray Guessetto and he assigned me to a group called "The Oxygen and Hydrogen Section" which was headed up by a man named Dave Cook.
I learned this section had a small Portable Oxygen Recharger which converted the liquid oxygen in a 250 gallon tank to gaseous oxygen.
It had been specifically designed to sit at the bottom of the launch pad and connect to a line that ran up the launch tower to charge the stowage bottles supplying oxygen to the Apollo spacecraft fuel cells.
It should be pointed out in our "Gas World", Tanks, Bottles, Cylinders, Vessels, all mean about the same thing when talking about a place that stows high pressure gas. The term Tank Farm or Storage Battery means more then one Tank, Bottle, Cylinder or Vessel.
High Pressure Gas meant we operated in the range of 2000 to 15,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) and the gases we mainly handled at those pressures were nitrogen, helium, oxygen and hydrogen and we did so in large volumes.
The Apollo Program at KSC was not yet active with flight hardware. But, the Gemini program was underway and this Oxygen Recharger was being used to pressurize K-Bottle cylinders which were used to service the Fuel Cells on the Gemini Spacecraft.
The fuel cells require Grade A oxygen and thus the special equipment to produce it.
Normal oxygen used for breathing, welding and other similar uses is Grade B.
As it is with most programs getting started and at the beginning, you have personnel on board for a period of time before they are actually needed so, in truth I didn't have much to do at the time.
I was there about a week or 10 days when the General Foreman of the Oxygen/Hydrogen Section, John LaRoach took off a few days and they put me in charge of the crew operating the Oxygen Recharger which pressurized the Go2 K-bottles.
I expressed my concern that I didn't know anything about the Pico Recharger and after all we were pumping liquid oxygen.
John told me, "Don't worry about it, these guys know what they are doing and just let them do it."
I learned the next day we would be required to stay late and pressurize one of the 12 cylinder manifolds being used to charge the Gemini Fuel Cells for the launch of Gemini 7 on December 4, 1965 or Gemini 6A on December 15, 1965.
It was about dark when the manifold was delivered to us for charging and we proceeded to chill down the pump which is necessary to get it cold so the cryogenic fluid doesn't boil off or flash to cause the pump to cavitate which causes a jolt or bump to the pump which is not exactly smart when pumping liquid oxygen.
Having been assured these mechanics knew what they were doing, I sit back and observed their operations.
After a while every time they tried to pump we got cavitations and I begin to ask questions about which valves they had open to chill down with and just what was the normal procedure to operate this machine.
I learned in a few minutes these two guys were new also and didn't know any more about this equipment then I did and I didn't know squat.
Sufficient time had passed to accomplish most any chill down and I tried to chase the plumbing system out and even though this was a small unit the cover over the pump and everything made it hard to see but, I could tell the heaters were froze over and this sure wasn't normal.
I wrote down the numbers on the valve control panel and went inside the trailer house we used as an office to look over the drawings. I could not locate the drawings and got no answer when I called Dave Cook at home. Mr. Guessetto's office was in same trailer so I called him at home to see if he knew where the drawings might be.
I told Mr. Guessetto something had to be wrong and I wanted to look at the drawings and asked if he knew anything about the unit which he didn't. But, he did remind me that it was not grape fruit juice I was messing with.
I finally found the drawings and sure enough they were using the wrong valves and never would have gotten the pump chilled down.
One of the valves they had open was bypassing straight liquid through the heaters and that was why they were froze up.
I got the valves positioned correctly, chilled the pump down and we finished the operation without further ado.
Little John LaRoach got his butt, chewed out by me the day he returned for leaving me with a couple of dummies. He just laughed.
I continued making my drawings and self familiarization with the Launch Complex 34/37 High Pressure Gas Systems and the Converter Compressor Facilities.
One December day in 1965 Mr. Guessetto came to me and said Bendix would be taking over the High Pressure Gas Systems in the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) on January 1, 1966 and he was going to put me as the General Foreman in charge of those systems.
December of 1965 was also the month this Missile Gypsy got to witness his first rocket launch when on December 4, 1965 Gemini 7 was launched followed by Gemini 6 on December 15, 1965. A few Gemini Photos are shown:... HERE
Go Man Go !! because it so happens this gypsy had worked on the Titan II ICBMs in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1963 which was the same rocket being used to launch the Gemini Spacecraft and in fact I had a Little Rock co-worker and good friend, Roy Edwards now working for Martin on Complex 19 where the Gemini launches took place.
Roy was a Complex Test Conductor (TC) and I was the Complex Maintenance and Operations (M&O) Supervisor on the Titan ICBM Silo #6 at Little Rock Air Force Base in 1963. Between the two of us we ran the Complex Crews under the Supervision of the Complex Supervisor.
That is how it was being a Missile Gypsy, I also ran into people at KSC I had worked with at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, Walker Air Force Base at Roswell, New Mexico and at the Michoud Assembly Facilities in New Orleans, Louisiana. But, none as close as Roy and I was because we had been two supervisors together on the same complex and had to depend on each other.
46 years later we still stay in touch with each other via E-Mail and Christmas Cards.
Taking over the VAB gas systems meant the 3 inch 6,000 PSI Nitrogen and Helium lines running all over the VAB from top to bottom, end to end and many many smaller lines branching off into laboratories and other work areas within the VAB.
By contract the piping had been fabricated and installed by the contractor without regard to cleanness. So, the first task at hand would be to disassemble and take out all the valves so the valves could be sent to the Clean Lab for cleaning and the piping would be cleaned in place a section at a time.
The current emphasis was on the Gemini Program and the Saturn 1B program at LC-34/37 on the Cape side. but, would be shifting to KSC and Launch Complex 39 Facilities as the Apollo Program moved ahead.
With that in mind, Mr. Guessetto wanted to move his office over to the LC-39 area and ask me to meet with a Bendix Facility guy to see if there was any space available in the VAB.
So, I went over to the VAB one morning and met with this guy to see what was available for the High Pressure Gas Departments main office as well as space for the VAB High Pressure Gas Crew to operate out of.
At the time, the VAB was the largest building in the world and it was fairly easy to become lost and or disoriented with your location.
Some body, some place in the Ivory Towers of KSC had decided that this part of the VAB would be given to Boeing, this to Grumman, this to North American, this to IBM, this to so on and so forth.
The VAB building is over 40 stories tall and built with 4 bays to park the Saturn V moon rockets in. In between each bay and on each side is laboratories, parts rooms, vendor machines, work areas and office space in what was called the towers.
In the upper floors of the towers there is many floors with no walls just floors and open spaces. On some floors the area is fenced in with chain link type fencing except it will be 12 feet tall.
I choose a section of one of these screened in areas about mid way up and had the top covered with chicken wire for us to have a place to stow and process the valves we would be sending and receiving back from the Clean Lab.
But, this didn't occur until later and I'm getting ahead of my story.
This Bendix facility guy had a map showing all the different locations within the VAB assigned to Bendix and he starts showing me all the areas he considered suitable for the Departments office space.
One of the areas he thought ideal was on one of the upper floors in a room not much bigger then a bath room.
And, he showed us areas with only the fencing and figured we could put up the normal government type office dividers.
All day long from one end to the other of the VAB and up and down we went.
I was only 31 years old at the time but, at days end I was mental and physical exhausted and ready to give up because this guy had shown me nothing I thought would meet the departments needs.
It was near quitting time and I told this guy it appeared there was nothing suitable.
He said well there is one more place I can show you and he took me to the first floor of the middle tower between the two bays on the west side of the VAB.
The towers between the bays had long hallways with rooms on each side and memory tells me they were about 200 feet long and 15 feet wide on each side or 3000 feet of floor space per side.
The east end of the first floor of this tower was all walled in like a normal office building with the concrete block painted and had vinyl tile on the floor and consisted of 2 rooms each about 50 feet long.
The west end was also walled up but, was not painted and had no tile on the floor. It did have a fence type divider that sectioned off about 30 feet of the room which left a 70 foot long area which had a 6 foot wide roll up garage door that opened up into the bay where the Saturn V rocket was to be parked.
Just outside the west hall door of this tower which was designated "Tower B" was a parking lot.
Nothing could have been more suitable to put the departments main office, section office and have the crew in the other half with a 30 foot foremen office and 70 foot for the crew, workshop and storage.
I asked the facility guy who was assigned this area and he said Bendix. I said are you sure. He looked again and said yes I am sure.
I ask, can my department have it and he said how much of it and I said, "All of it".
He said I don't see why not. I asked why in the hell didn't he show me this location this morning and he said I didn't figure you need anything like this.
So much for guys in charge of facility space.
I went back to the CCF-34/37 area and told Mr. Guessetto I thought I had found us an area and he went over the next day, inspected it and gave his approval.
The High Pressure Gas Department got the whole complete floor and used it as such until Bendix lost the support contract and left KSC 11 years later in 1977.
What an ideal location it was, you could drive right up to the front door on the west side of the VAB and go inside to the office and work area. You could not do that on any of the other three sides and here we were on the ground floor.
I considered myself a hero but, it didn't show up on my pay check.
Fact is, I was in hot water a short time later. We had lots of newly hired mechanics coming on board and by now the mechanics were getting some reimbursement for travel expenses to move to the KSC area as they received a flat rate fee of $1.00 per mile. Move 300 miles they got $300.00. Move 450 miles they got $450.00
Many of these mechanics were broke by the time they got settled in and were needing their move reimbursement checks real bad which was in some cases taking way to long to get their checks.
Of course I was the one they complained to and expected to do something about it.
I had on several occasions made some phone calls both in and out of our department tracking where the paper work was and attempting to get the checks out of our Payroll Department..
In most cases we got satisfactory answers and or the checks out but, then one day enough was enough and I didn't like the answers I was getting.
I've never been one to accept laziness on ineptness towards getting the job done and it don't take me long to be at the next level of supervision or at the top for that matter in the management chain.
So, I just jumped in a car and went to payroll which at the time was in the CIF building and also where Frank Vaughan the head cheese of Bendix had his office.
I tried to explain to payroll that some of these guys were starving to death and needed their funds desperately.
I learned finance had all the approvals and paper work necessary to issue the 2 checks in question but, I was getting flimsy excuses unacceptable to me why the checks could not be issued.
I asked where Mr. Vaughan's office was and the lady I was talking to pointed to the corner and said right around that corner over there but, you don't want to see him.
I said "The hell I don't" and headed for Mr. Vaughan's office.
I told Mr. Vaughan's secretary I wanted to see him and she asked what about and I told her and she said, "Well let me go out here and see what the problem is."
So, she goes up to this lady I been talking too and ask the status of these 2 guys checks and the lady yanks a check out of her IBM Selector Type Writer and says, "It's right here."
This women who had all sorts of excuses a few minutes before had typed both checks in the time it had taken me to explain the problem to Mr. Vaughan's secretary.
I left satisfied I had gotten what I came after and improved the image of Bendix in the sight of a couple of new hires.
A few days later, I received a phone call from Mr. Guessetto and he was screaming over the phone, "SMYTH, what's the matter with you. Don't you like the way I run things."
He was really upset and said "I don't like being questioned how long it takes for me to process paper work for travel reimbursement and I don't like people going over my head."
I said Mr. Guessetto I will be right over and explain the situation. So, I went to his office and tried to make my case that some of these guys were suffering and I was trying to speed things along for them.
I also told him I never considered it going over his head, that I was there, Payroll was there, Mr. Vaughn was there and these guys needed their checks.
Mr. Guessetto had a different view.
He told me I was to never again go outside the department with any thing else and was too just wait and let him or his staff handle the problem.
Needless to say I was disappointed as it was the first time in my life I was chewed out for getting the job accomplished.
Apparently, Mr. Vaughan was made aware of the situation and payroll blamed it on the High Pressure Gas Department for a delay in processing the paper work.
My next disappointment with the High Pressure Gas Department was when we got a Section Supervisor for the VAB crew.
The Bendix support contract with NASA allowed or required each section within a department to have a Section Supervisor who must have a college degree. Each section also had several degreed engineers. Then there was one or more Foreman on each shift to supervise the mechanics. AND there was a General Foreman who supervised the Foreman and overall operation of the mechanics.
Initially the VAB crew only had 1 foreman and about 6 mechanics hanging out in a van type trailer parked at the CCF-39. They were not doing any work because the VAB gas systems had not been turned over to Bendix as yet.
They were however, walking the VAB each day tracing the piping systems out to learn where all the High Pressure Gas Systems were located within the VAB.
One must tour of the VAB was to take all new hires to the very top level and let them see the one white beam among all the others next the roof of the VAB. The White Beam was the "Top Out Beam" which had NASA, Corp of Engineers and Construction Company Logos and was signed by all the different contractor Big Wigs and Workers involved in construction of the VAB.
January 1, 1966 arrived and I moved over as the General Foreman of the VAB crew and we started preparations for removing the gas valves and cleaning the lines.
February 26, 1966 also came and while I had nothing to do with it, the very first Apollo Command Service Module (CSM) was launched from Complex 34 atop a Saturn 1B ( AS-201 ) meaning the Apollo Moon Landing Program was under way.
New hire Mechanics were coming on board the VAB crew at the rate of 1 or 2 each week and I was the one to provide them with a little orientations about the task that lay ahead for not only the VAB crew but, the overall function of the High Pressure Gas Department.
The High Pressure Gas Department's initial responsibility was Maintenance and Operation of the CCF-34/37 facilities and fulfilling those request for nitrogen, helium, hydrogen and oxygen gas that came in from every other NASA Contractor working at the Cape and KSC.
These Outside, Off Premises, and sometimes Odd Ball request fell to the "Support Services Section" which was later named the "Mobile Gas Services Section" and still later shortened to just the "Mobile Gas Section".
As the Apollo Program moved forward and Bendix responsibilities increased, the High Pressure Gas Department would end up consisting of a total of 8 sections within the Department.
After the CCF-34/37 Section, Mobile Gas Section, Oxygen/Hydrogen Section, there came into existence, the VAB Section, CCF-39 Section, LC-39 Pad Section, Electrical Section and then we had a Logistic Section.
The Department Manager, Mr. Guessetto had a staff and then each Section within the department consisted of a Section Supervisor, Clerk Typist, 3 or 4 Engineers and the General Foreman and Foremen to over see the High Pressure Gas Mechanics.
The 3 or 4 engineers with in each section were responsible for the equipment and system drawings, design changes, modification, and most of all the ever changing Maintenance and Operation Procedures relative to the equipment and/or systems.
At the height of activity, the Mobile Gas Section consisted of the Section Supervisor, Assistant Section Supervisor, 2 Clerk Typist, 3 Schedulers, 3 Engineers, 2 General Foremen, 6 Foreman, and 65 mechanics or a total of 83 people.
These 83 people were responsible for the Maintenance and Operation of 115 pieces of Ground Support Equipment all mounted on wheels. Plus, 10,000 K-Bottles (Compressed Gas Cylinders) and the fixed facilities necessary to service and maintain all the Mobile Equipment.
And the Mobile Gas Support Area covered every square foot of KSC and much of the Cape.
But, we are way head of our story and back in January 1966, I was sitting in my white shirt and fancy necktie providing a new mechanic my routine orientations and explaining all that Bendix would be doing in the coming months as we prepared to send men to the moon.
I noticed the mechanic was twitching and appeared a little nervous and he finally said, Mr. Smyth, I am going to be honest with you, I may have bit off more then I can chew here. I'm just an oil field worker from Kansas and I'm not sure I can handle all this rocket stuff.
I said, Hell Red, I'm just a roughneck from Texas myself and I expect you will do just fine.
Robert (Red) Grafing let out a slow quite "Wheweeee" and sit back and relaxed. I never saw a person so relieved and I reckon he thought if this Texas Dummy is a supervisor, I should hack it as a mechanic.
Red went on to become one of the very best mechanics in the department and ended up retiring from KSC many years later after becoming a supervisor himself.
As we prepared for the VAB cleaning operations we decided to start a 2nd shift and I moved my 1 foreman, Jerry Johnson and 6 of our mechanics to 2nd shift.
The first section of VAB piping we cleaned was the lines running from the VAB Storage Battery to where the piping entered the VAB on the Southeast Corner.
I said, WE cleaned and I should explain, the actual cleaning was accomplished by a group within the Bendix Clean Lab Department (Work Area 4) which was called "Field Cleaning"
The cleaning process consisted of circulating acid type chemicals through the piping for a period and then flushing with tricoethylene and freon. Afterwards the lines were dried by pumping hot nitrogen gas through the piping which we called "purging".
During the initial cleaning process of the piping, I became acquainted with the Mobile Gas Section of our Department as they would bring over one of the Portable Rechargers and purge the lines dry with nitrogen after cleaning was completed on each section of line.
My first impression was not good because after backing in to hook up to the VAB piping for purging both the Mobile Gas Mechanics were running around the truck looking for their high pressure flex hose to connect the pumper to the VAB pipe. They were blaming each other for not having the hose saying I thought you got it and the other saying I thought you got it.
I was not impressed and thought what a bunch of undisciplined clowns.
The VAB crew was called on to do other jobs, one of which was to get a temporary supply of nitrogen gas into one of the IBM laboratories while waiting for the permanent lines to be cleaned.
The lab was on the 2nd floor of the west side of the low bay area and we ran 1/2 inch stainless steel tubing from inside the VAB to the outside where the line could be connected to a nitrogen gas trailer.
This was in the beginning and we didn't ask anyone, we simple cut a 3/4 inch round hole in the side of the brand new VAB sheet metal and ran the line out side so it could be connected to a Gn2 gas trailer. Later on and especially in the Shuttle Program you would be shot for doing something like that with out 30 meetings, 15 signatures and 400 pounds of paper.
We cut this hole with the sole authority of E. Ray Smyth, Rocket Scientist.
There is another funny story about this line that is rather disgusting from a taxpayer stand point.
This line was not quite as simple as it might sound being only a 1/2 inch line, but, it was over 300 feet long had a lot of crooks and turns in it to get from outside the VAB to the 2nd floor lab inside the VAB.
However, it only took us about 3 days to fabricate and run the lines which was several 20 foot sections and a few shorter section.
We then disassembled the line and sent the different sections along with the fittings to the clean lab for cleaning.
Well, some of the contractors had seen these Bendix types installing this line and complained to NASA.
According to them, the Davis-Bacon act keeps the support contractor from doing construction work if the construction contractor is still on the job site.
Well they consider this little 1/2 inch line we ran to be construction work so they complained.
Therefore, NASA issued a supplemental contract for the VAB contractor to put the line in.
I was instructed to turn the line pieces over to the contractor when it came back from the clean lab and this I did.
It took the contractor 3 weeks to install the line we had fabricated from scratch in 3 days and even then we had to show them where the different curved sections went.
Then to add more shame, the line leaked in so many different places after the contractor installed it that we had to rework most all the line to stop the leaks.
So much for the Davis-Bacon act.
At some point in late January or early February we made the move to the new area on the first floor of the VAB in Tower B and set up shop.
We did so just in time because additional mechanics continued to come on board and we were out of space at the CCF van trailer.
One of my funny remembrances of those early days is, We peons sometimes referred to government contracts such as Bendix had, a "Meat Market" contract because Bendix was reimbursed based on the number of employees it had and therefore the more warm bodies (Meat) Bendix could justify to NASA the more money that flowed into the company.
The end result is, we had about 25 mechanics in the VAB Section which had built up over something like a 2 or 3 month period starting in January 1966.
We only had enough work to keep 4 to 6 men busy on either shift.
Bottom line, In the beginning stages for several months, I had approximately 20 extra men with nothing for them to do.
I did not think it healthy to have 20 men sitting around all day in our work area doing nothing and being observed by others.
I had an old experienced Cape Mechanic, Jim Griffin who had gone to work for Bendix and I mentioned this one day that it bothered even me to see men sitting around all day doing nothing.
He said I can take care of that. I said well I might need someone fairly quickly. He said, I'll get you a phone number and we will be here in less then five minutes.
Some where in the vast spaces of the VAB Jim had found a room with a telephone. I could call the number Jim provided and the crew or ever how many men I needed would be in my office within 4 or 5 minutes
Jim would never tell me the room number or where it was they went and to this day I still don't know where.
I only knew that when I called he answered and I didn't have men sitting around all day for people to see.
They were out of sight and hide from anyone who might be critical AND Yes, that included my own management.
There is not much excitement in removing a bunch of 3 inch High Pressure Gas Valves and reinstalling them and therefore not much to say about working in the VAB.
As the General Foreman, I ran the crew on the day shift and my foreman Jerry Johnson, ran the 2nd shift.
The VAB Section Supervisor, Ron Madonia and our crew of engineers were in the office next to mine working on the procedures and system drawings.
My office was in the unpainted room with no tile on the floor where we had set up the crews hang out and work area.
The fence wall separated mine and the foreman office from the crew area.
About 2 months passed and I got to noticing and even the day crew mechanics had ask me why was Jerry coming in early and going into Madonia's office pretty much every evening.
I didn't know myself. but, figured it was a free world and since the whole bunch of us had been on the job less then 6 months none of us had really gotten to know one another so, I let it pass with out too much thought.
After all, I was the General Foreman and Jerry was the foreman and he worked for me, RIGHT. ------------------ WRONG !!
One day, my boss Madonia handed me an AVO (Avoid Verbal Orders) which said I was to report to work on second shift the following Monday and he advised that Jerry was going to report in on first shift.
Well, I didn't mind working 2nd shift so much but, then I thought I was the General Foreman and the Foreman was suppose to be working for me.
I told Mr. Madonia that I didn't agree with this kind of management at all.
He said Jerry had thought it would be fair to rotate the shift duty about every 2 months and Jerry had been on 2nd shift over 2 months so now it was my turn.
I asked Madonia if it was so damn fair would he be serving a turn on 2nd shift and he didn't seem to appreciate that very much.
I steamed about the situation the rest of the day and then about quitting time I went in to see Madonia and asked permission to talk to Mr. Guessetto about who worked for who and did he approve of the General Foreman being on 2nd shift while the Foremen worked 1st shift.
Madonia refused my request and said he didn't want his people running to the Department Manager every time they disagreed with one of his decisions.
I said, "Well Mr. Madonia, be advised with or without your permission, I am going to discuss this with Mr. Guessetto."
With that I walked out of his office and went next door to Guessetto's office. He was there and I told him I had something to discuss and he might like to know I came after being denied permission to do so by my supervisor. He said have a seat and I did and explained my feelings about who worked for who.
Mr. Guessetto called everyone "Gumba" and sadly all I got from Mr. Ray Guessetto was "Ya I know Gumba" but, I'm going to ask that you go along with us this time and things will straighten up down the road."
He said, he didn't want to reverse one of his NEW Section Supervisors decisions so soon after he came on board and would consider it a favor if I just went along with the program.
So, with the realization in my own head that I had only been on board a few months myself I decided to not push the issue any further and told myself what goes around comes around.
I did enjoy one more element, when the day shift crew found out they would be working for Jerry Johnson instead of me, they got all up in arms and demanded a meeting with Madonia to protest my being placed on 2nd shift even though I had ask them not to do it.
I ask them not to do it because that was the proper thing for me to do but, inside I was amused and tickled as hell.
Madonia had experience supervising engineers but, had no clue when it came to working a bunch of unionized red necks.
One time we had a crew picnic at Fox Lake Park for all the VAB Crew and their families and we had a great time on a Saturday. Come Monday morning we had a grievances or 2 from the IAM union to answer.
Madonia ask me what's the matter with these guys. Saturday they were all having a good time and now they are mad and filing grievances.
I only laughed and said Ron, they still love us. Saturday was a fun day. This is a work day and they are union.
I didn't have much respect for Madonia as a supervisor and I think it showed. I think it also cost me.
I have this trait in my personality that I tend to tell it like it is and all too often people don't like hearing the truth or facing the facts.
Growing up under a strong disciplinary Irishman father and being raised in the oil fields of Texas left me with a disdain for incompetency, laziness and liars.
My take on life when it comes to a work ethic is, Lead - Follow - or Get the Hell out of the way.
I also think work should be fun and enjoyable and the best way to do that is do the finest job you can and be proud of what you do.
I don't care if it is digging a ditch with a shovel. I've always believed you should be proud of your ditch and dig it straight and deep.
I had trouble doing that in the VAB job because I didn't much care for my supervisor and there is just not much pride to be taken or any challenge in removing and reinstalling a bunch of the same type valves day in and day out.
That all changed one day about 6 weeks into my 2nd shift tour when I was told, Mr. Guessetto wants to see you.
Mr. Guessetto sit me down and said, "Gumba", I been watching you since you got here and I think your shoulders can carrier a pretty big load and right now I need some one to shoulder the load of getting the Mobile Gas Section out of trouble.
I was already aware the Mobile Gas Section was constantly screwing up something and only a few days before they had installed four desiccant filters in the Gn2 line going from the CCF-34/37 facilities to the LC-34 battery without installing a mechanical filter ahead of the desiccant filters and one of the desiccant filters had blown sending all the little desiccant pellets down the line which required the 2000 feet of 3 inch line to be shut down and cleaned.
So, what Mr. Guessetto was asking of me was to take over the responsibility of a screwed up crew of about 30 mechanics and a bunch of ground support equipment all mounted on wheels.
I loved it and welcomed the challenge because I would be back in my element of being outside in the wide open spaces and have the entire space center as my work area.
At the time, the Mobile Gas Section had 5 large nitrogen Rechargers leased from Cosmodyne and here again I was in my element because I had drove large trucks in the oil field and simple loved large trucks or most any large equipment for that matter.
I felt like my hero General George S. Patton. Here I was at the correct time in history, at the correct spot and all I needed was to be turned loose to get the job done.
At the time, one of the primary task of the Mobile Gas Section was making what we called the milk run and that task amounted to taking the Recharger trucks around to all the nitrogen storage batteries and keeping them pressurized.
There was approximately 12 fixed storage batteries at different locations to be maintained and it took about an hour to pump each location so we often had two trucks out making the runs to the different locations.
Depending on the usages sometimes the facilities remained at sufficient pressure and did not require pumping but, the runs still had to be made.
In addition to the fixed batteries we always had several gas trailers located at any number of different locations which required pumping.
For example on one occasion we had 9 Gas Trailers scattered from the VAB to Pad 39A along the crawler way.
The average person never gives much thought to the fact every control valve, indicator light, etc. etc on the launch pad and rocket is connected to a wire running the 3.5 miles back to the launch control center.
The wires run along the north side of the crawler way in 4 inch metal conduits about 5 or 6 feet below ground level. There must be around 50 of these 4 inch conduit pipes and between the control center and Pad A there are 9 concrete boxes i.e. manhole covers where the cables are spliced together. The cables vary in size between 1 and 2 or 3 inches and each cable has umpteen conductor wires in it.
There are air compressors at the VAB/Launch Control Center that keep a blanket pressure or purge on these cables. Not the conduit but, the cables them selves. The cables have Schrader valves i.e. like a valve stem in a tire.
The cables moisture content is monitored and one of the cables was reading a high moisture content and there was concern it could cause a problem during a launch.
Those responsible for the system decided to try purging it a few days with nitrogen gas so, the requirement came to us and we parked a 2400 PSI nitrogen gas trailer at each of the 9 manholes were there is additional Schrader valves to connect to.
Same as some of our other purge operations we would be connecting a 2400 PSI source to a cable which would blow up if you exceeded around 1.5 lbs of pressure.
Nominally a 1/2 inch flex hose is used to connect the gas trailers to something receiving the gas and in this case it was no different but, we had to purchase special regulators to control and fine tune the low pressure required and we also had to purchase small full opening relief valves in case a regulator failed.
Fact is, the volume and pressure was such that we had to install a manifold with 3 of these relief valves in it to carry the volume that would exist coming down a flex hose at 2400 PSI in the event of a regulator failure.
So, the scenario was that a 1/2 inch flex hose was connected between the gas trailer and the regulator and down stream of this we connected a low pressure gage to monitor the pressure and downstream of that we had the 3 relief valves and then from there a flex hose ran down into the manhole and connected to the cable.
We had 9 gas trailers set up this way at each of the 9 manholes scattered up and down the 3.5 miles running between the control center and the Launch Pad 39A.
A fading memory tells me that we purged the cable this way for about a week or 10 days to get the moisture content back down and interestingly enough it was never again a problem.
During this week to 10 days when the trailers got low on gas we pumped them back to pressure with one of our Nitrogen Rechargers.
This was what made the Mobile Gas Section such a wonderful place to work. There was something different going on all the time and I could choose to work in an air conditioned office or be outside with nature. I loved it all and besides I was going to the moon.
In the short time Bendix had been at KSC, the Mobile Gas Crew was among the oldest of crews and at the time was the largest group in the HPG Department.
The Mobile Gas Section Supervisor was A. G. (Tom) Wagner, a real decent guy and one I came to like working for. Upon my arrival one of the engineers kiddingly told me Tom did believe that a General Foreman was over a Foreman. So, it appears my situation and disagreement with Madonia had preceded me to the Mobile Gas Section.
Tom was an import from Holland who came to the U.S. because he was tired of being sent to war by his native country.
He was bald as an eagle on top of his head but, he had grown exceptionally long hair on one side and he kept this combed over the top of his head and down the other side so he looked fine until a gust of wind came along and then he had all his hair falling down one side and none on top. I was always amused watching him try to keep his hair on top.
The Mobile Crew had just been embarrassed by a major screw up and here comes this slow talking roughneck from Texas and they had to be wondering what does he think he's going to do.
First thing I did was hold a crew meeting and let the crew know I was going to do absolutely nothing except observe for a couple of weeks and then I would probably have something to say. I had no plans to be a hatchet man but, I did intend to get the job done.
So, for the first two weeks I did very little except get acquainted and watch the foreman and the mechanics go about their task.
I rode with most of the mechanics on the milk runs to observe their driving skills and spoke only of idle chatter asking about their families and where they worked prior to coming to KSC.
One of the things I observed was every mechanic on the job was putting down "No Lunch", "No Lunch", on their time card meaning they got paid for an hours overtime and they were doing it on 2 or 3 days out of each week.
I knew this wasn't happening but, it had been allowed previously and they continued to fill in the "No Lunch" bit. The foreman were required to sign each mechanics time card so this meant I also had a couple of lackadaisical foreman who would require some attention.
Mobile Gas Foremen at the time were Gary Houghton and Johnny Ellison who rotated between 1st and 2nd shift every 4 weeks.
On one of my outings I observed the #4 Recharger was parked at the Main KSC cafeteria near the CIF building for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
One of the mechanics on the #4 Recharger that day was Christian who I already knew to be a part time preacher which added to my feelings when I checked his time card and sure enough he had put down "No Lunch" on the day he was parked at the cafeteria. To make matters worse the mechanic with him had not put, "No Lunch"
So, I couldn't resist confronting Chris with that and first ask if he was driving #4 on this certain day and he said he was and I then ask if he remembered parking at the cafeteria that day which he said yes and my next question was, what would his church congregation think if they knew he lied and cheated on his time card every week.
He could only duck his head and would not look at me.
After restraining myself for two weeks, I held a joint crew meeting between 1st and 2nd shifts and frankly told them that what I had observed was a lack of self discipline and self pride with most of the mechanics and even the foreman.
I let them know in no uncertain terms that I was a perfectionist, who wanted a self disciplined crew that was proud of their work.
Lackadaisical attitudes were OUT and I expected to see that change NOW.
Matter of fact, this very attitude had already cost one mechanic a promotion to foreman.
Prior to my taking over Mobile Gas, a 3rd shift operation was being considered so the milk runs could be made just before the start of 1st shift where most of the work was performed.
Based on recommendations from the General Foreman I replaced, Tom was planning on promoting a mechanic named Max Arnold.
I informed Tom I had already observed a mechanic I thought more mature and professional who I'd rather have.
We promoted John Vick who previously had a 20 year career with the Air Force as a Master Sargeant and Max was not too pleased with me for a few months.
Unfortunate for Max, I was not there to win a popularity contest. I was there to get a job done using the best tools available to me.
At that first crew meeting, I laid down a few rules and one was that no one was to put "No Lunch" on their time card without obtaining prior authorization from their foreman. AND I told the foreman there better be a reason.
Recalling my very first encounter with the Mobile Gas Crew, my next rule was that the mechanics would rotate driver responsibility once a week and it would be the driver who would be held responsible to have the flex hose and tool box aboard the Recharger.
Third rule laid down was that at each and every stop along the milk runs, while the driver was chilling down, the 2nd man was to call in to the foreman and let him know the pressure, time and what location they were at. Frankly, this rule was nonsense but, it was my tool for instilling responsibility and discipline into what up to now was a group of lackadaisical misfits.
The first meeting was only a start in developing what I wanted and expected in a crew having pride and discipline. AND I don't mean discipline to do my commands. I sought self discipline.
My next step was to review the equipment for improvements to make it safer and easier to work with.
One of my first steps in this regard was to design custom made boxes to hold two flex hoses and mount them on the Rechargers and other equipment so there would be none of this, "we forgot the flex hose" as each unit was going to have on board it's own flex hose as standard equipment.
Both KSC and the CAPE had their own Carpenter Shop, Machine Shop, Paint Shop, Plumbing Shop, etc., etc. and I had learned you could accomplish a lot by filling out a KSC Support Request Form and having your NASA counterpart approve it and you could get most anything requested so, I proceeded to do just that and ordered sand bags and had portable boxes built in the carpenter shop to stow the bags in since all high pressure gas hoses require a sand bag every 3 to 5 feet.
The NASA counterpart to Mobile Gas was Addison Bain, whose age was the same as mine and he too was raised in the west by way of Montana.
Being the same age and having been raised in the west produced in each of us the same rebel or maverick spirit which allowed us to communicate on the same wave length.
A NASA "counterpart" was a NASA employee assigned to oversee the performance of the different segments of the contract assigned to Bendix.
Accordingly, Addison Bain was assigned to over see the performance of Mobile Gas and it was he who approved or disapproved of what we did.
We also enjoyed referring to the counterparts as a "NASA Cat"
Addison or Add as we called him wanted the same things as I did and seldom could we not reach an agreement on most things I wanted to do or those things he desired for Mobile Gas to accomplish.
Proof that great minds move in the same direction lay in the fact in high school, Add drove a cream and black 2 door 1951 Ford and I drove a solid black 2 door 1951 Ford, Shown:... HERE
So, Addison signed the support request to do another of my very first things to get done and that was to eliminate any further desiccant pellets in a gas line by fabricating two stands to hold four desiccant filters with a mechanical filter down stream. All one need do is pick up the filter stand and take it to the pump job. The stand was complete with a pressure gage and valves ready to connect the in and out hoses too and of course the mechanical filter was there to avoid the same mishap that had brought me to Mobile Gas.
I didn't like borrowing or scrounging and I had stanchions and danger signs made at the machine shop to rope off hazardous areas we created in certain areas of our operations.
I did many things to make our job easier because I believe the easier the job the safer the job and it makes for a more enjoyable work place. Even small and simply things such as fabricating a barrel rack to keep from wrestling with oil drums to get the motor oil or other fluids out.
I enjoy designing things and seeing them come to life and all the things I was dreaming up and having fabricated to make our jobs easier and safer was giving me a lot of job satisfaction.
It was also starting to cause me a head ache because, with all the flex hoses, sand bags, warning signs, stanchions, and other things I was acquiring to make our job simpler and safer, I was beginning to need some inside storage space.
About a half mile north of the CCF-34/37 facilities there was a beach house first used as an office by our General Manager, Frank Vaughan in the first few months after Bendix was awarded the support contract.
However, that time had passed and the beach house was now under the control of the HPG Department. So, I visited the beach house to check it for our storage needs.
The CCF-34/37 Section had a lot of high pressure equipment such as gages regulators, etc already stowed at the beach house.
I choose a couple of the rooms at the beach house to lay claim too for the sole use of the Mobile Gas Section and went to the CCF-34/37 General Foreman, Archie Daus and obtained his concurrence those two rooms would be mine and he was to keep his crew out and I would see to it that none of us bothered the stuff he was responsible for.
So, near the end of summer in 1966, my crew cleaned up two of the rooms top to bottom and we put together some shelving and made our two rooms a very organized storage area.
I only had these two rooms cleaned up a couple of months when I got to work one morning and my 3rd shift foreman, Gary Houghton said boy are you going to be mad and he said we destroyed the beach house last night.
I asked what the hell are you talking about. he said, "I don't know, Mr. Guessetto called me about 1:00 AM this morning and told me to get the kitchen and the room next to it cleaned out as fast as possible."
Well the room next to the kitchen was one of the rooms we had rigged up so neatly to keep our stuff in and now Gary said it was all piled into one room.
I jumped in a car and headed for the beach house ready to kick butts. I entered the room next to the kitchen which faced the ocean and here sit some straight back chairs and two lounge chairs.
I asked Gary where the chairs came from and he didn't know because they had been moved in since he had left around 5 that morning.
All our stuff was just piled up in the one room and I'm getting madder by the minute when I next walk into the kitchen and here sits a refrigerator that had been moved in.
I opened the door of the refrigerator and there set a carton of cokes and two six packs of Budweiser.
I said, "Ray Smyth, you better button yo lip cause who ever had this done has lots more power then your little old empire".
About this time Mr. Guessetto arrived to inspect the place and he informed us he didn't know anymore about this then we did.
He had received a call from Bendix security around midnight with instruction to clean the rooms out of the beach house and he didn't ask why. He just followed orders.
Mr. Guessetto did point out the 2 lounge chairs and said how many men are going around the earth right now and it had to have been Gemini XI in September or Gemini XII in November 1966.
The rumor became, the 2 Gemini Astronauts were being brought to the beach house for debriefing as soon as they landed out of fear the normal debriefing area had been bugged by the Russians.
It mattered not the reason, who ever authorized the beer being brought in had the power to do as they pleased and I best shut my mouth.
I never did find out the real reason for the abrupt move out orders and we continued to use the beach house for several more months but, I never bothered to reorganize it because we had started looking forward to our moving to the brand new Mobile Gas Maintenance Shop, K-Bottle Servicing Facility and Equipment Parking Lot currently being completed along the crawler way just west of the CCF-39 Facilities.
NASA had on order 5 new Mobile Rechargers, 4 Mobile Helium Compressors, 20 Helium Gas Trailers and 10 High Pressure Gas Trailers.
However, at this time in 1966 none of the new equipment was on board and we had the 5 Leased Rechargers, 2 NASA owned Dynamic Rechargers, 2 Joy Helium Compressors, 2 Corblin Helium Compressors and 6 surplus search light trailers we had installed gas bottles in to provide nitrogen or helium gas in remote areas. Also had 5 or 6 Small Gas Trailers leased.
It was also 1966 when the wife and I had trouble financing a new home due to my single income not being sufficient for the price house we were attempting to build.
27 years later she retired after advancing to scheduler and working for three different KSC contractors, Bendix - Boeing - Lockheed.
AND, 44 years later we still live in the house we purchased and moved into in July of 1966 as shown:... HERE
And July was also the second test in the Apollo program when the launch of AS-203 occurred July 5, 1966 from Launch Complex 37B.
AS-203 was the flight which had two TV cameras mounted inside the hydrogen tank to observe the reaction of the hydrogen in space. The engineers wanted to observe the reaction of Hydrogen in a weightless condition since the SV-B stage was going to require restarting in orbit to make a translunar injection of the Apollo Spacecraft.
One of the cameras failed on the launch pad and it was announced over the local radio station we were listening to that Mission Control in Houston had announced the launch was being scrubbed.
It was rumored later that KSC Director, Dr. Kurt Debus who was in the control center had said, "Continue the count boys" "We launch em - Houston tracks em" In other words Houston was out of line when it announced the scrubbed launch and Dr. Debus was going to show them who was running things at KSC.
It should be noted here that due to scheduling problems with certain components of the vehicle that AS-203 was launched ahead of AS-202 which was launched from Complex 34 on August 25, 1966 and was another test of the Command Service Module (CSM).
Other then providing the Grade A Oxygen for the fuel cells, The High Pressure Gas Department had very little to do with the Gemini program but, we were located just down the road from complex 19 and observed all the launches in 1966 which were as follows.
November of 1966 completed the Gemini Program and now all the focus was on the Apollo Program. A few Gemini Photos are shown:... HERE
Today when I think of some of the things we did to get the job accomplished at KSC in those early days it sounds a little bewildering and amuses me at the same time.
With everything being new, NASA, Bendix, the employees and very little to work with in the beginning days required much Yankee Ingenuity and the High Pressure Group had some pure genius when it came to scrounging up stuff to get the job done.
The oxygen pad where the Pico Rechargers were being used to pump oxygen was located immediately north of the CCF-34/37 and was nothing more then the wide open spaces with some hard pan shell dirt spread out to keep the units from being in the Florida sand.
Not even a shed for the crew to keep their lunch box in, much less a locker to keep the fire proof coveralls which was protective clothing required for operating the oxygen equipment.
Being a resourceful Frenchman, the General Foreman, John LaRoach found a couple of enclosed type van trailers sitting in the NASA Salvage Yard on Ransom Road, They were in fact surplus Redstone Rocket Trailers which still had the Redstone missile inside.
John simple took a truck over, latched on to both trailers and brought them to the oxygen area were he proceeded to strip the Redstone missiles out and convert one trailer to living quarters for the crew and the other a storage area for other necessities.
After getting the Redstone missiles out John took them back to the salvage yard and dumped them on the ground.
At the time, the salvage yard was in an isolated area on Ransom road with no one around. I assume John's stealing the trailers was ok since nothing ever came of it.
John was in business with equipment and crew out of the weather.
One of the things available to us was a large number of High Pressure Gas Storage Vessels (Bottles) which had become government surplus when the Air Force shut down the Titan 1 and Atlas ICBM sites.
The vessels were of all shapes and sizes and there must have been over a hundred of them stowed next to the Bendix Clean Lab which at the time was located at Wilson Corners on the road to Titusville. The pressure rating on the vessels was pretty much standard for the rocket business which is 6,000 PSI.
The Central Instrumentation Facilities (CIF) had three of the vessels installed as a battery to supply Gn2 to the laboratories in the CIF and this was one of our daily milk run locations.
As previously mentioned we only had a few Gas Trailers and to eliminate as many locations as possible we started taking these surplus vessels and installing them at more or less permanent locations to release the portable equipment for use elsewhere.
Some of these locations would be totally unexpected when thinking of KSC and launching rockets but, it took all of them to accomplish the task at hand.
One such location was at the NASA headquarters building in the industrial area at KSC.
Technicolor had the contract for all photography documentation at KSC and their office and film development laboratory was on the second floor of one of the wings of the headquarters building.
To keep the development solution agitated and moving, the normal method was to insert air into the vat from an air compressor. The problem with air is the fact it's pumped from a compressor being lubricated with oil and even though filters and driers are used, oil particles still exist.
The solution to this when your in the rocket business, is to use a nitrogen source because the supply is so prevalent.
The fix was to go to Wilson corners get one of the smaller vessels, have a 2 ft by 10 ft concrete slab poured to sit the vessel on just outside the headquarters building, run a 1/2 inch stainless steel line up the side of the building to the second floor, run the line inside by cutting a hole in the wall of the headquarters building, add a pressure regulator and safety valve on to the end of the line and connect it into the existing air system.
Bingo, Technicolor is tickled pink and we added another location to the Gn2 Milk Run.
No Drawings, No Engineering, No Authorization, No Monkey Business, just a request and some Yankee Ingenuity got the job accomplished.
Later on, I wrote a support request to have a chain link fence installed around the storage vessel.
Much later on, I learned why a couple of my mechanics always wanted to make the milk run to Technicolor as we called the location. It was several years after my leaving KSC that I was told by one of my former mechanics about some hanky panky that had gone on in the NASA Contract Office which was directly across the driveway in another wing opposite of the Technicolor office.
Since the NASA contract office handled "sensitive material" as it was called, their office area was locked and no one could enter without those inside unlocking the door. That made the area pretty safe for hanky panky.
The story goes that on 3rd shift there was only two ladies working in the contract office and one night they had opened the side door and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette at the same time my mechanics were servicing the Gn2 vessel.
It should be noted here that by this time the Mobile Gas Section had a 3 shift, round the clock operation and the milk runs were being made on 3rd shift so the batteries and vessels were all topped off ahead of the first shift where most of the work was accomplished.
Another unexpected location was the Main KSC Heating Plant which provided all the hot water and or steam used for heating in the various buildings with in the industrial area.
They wanted to keep a positive pressure on the supply water tank to the boilers as well as the insulated hot water lines. So, again the request went out through the central support office and again, I was the one to make it happen and we installed a similar system at the heat plant as we did for Technicolor except we used a much larger vessel.
I don't intend to make this sound as though I did it all because all these things were being coordinated with my Section Supervisor, Tom Wagner and the 3 or 4 engineers we had assigned to our section as well as our NASA counterpart, Addison Bain.
But, frankly the system engineers came to me more then I went to them simply because I had field type experience of being raised in the oil field and they did not.
I know of no better place on earth then the Oil Fields of Texas that could have provided me the knowledge and experience that prepared me for the responsibilities I now had.
I grew up in the oil fields of Texas under my father working on his oilwell work over rig starting at age 12. After high school I went to roughnecking on the big rotary drilling rigs and at age 21, I was a driller and running a 3 man crew.
Machinery such as diesel engines, pumps, generators, trucks, tractors, trailers or most any type of heavy equipment simply held no mysteries for me.
I once told the crew if they would talk to the equipment and love the equipment it would love them and talk back.
I was amused the next day with one of the 2nd shift mechanics told me he had talked to R-12 all night and the Recharger never said a damn word.
An example of why the engineers came to me more then I went to them was Bill Keats who was responsible for looking after our Helium Compressors.
Keats was a graduate chemical engineer and an excellent one from New York City.
He was an unmarried man close to 40 years old and knew his chemical engineering, the problem was he had lived all his life in New York city, always riding the subway and when he arrived in Florida he didn't even know how to drive a car.
After arriving in Florida, he purchased a 1962 Ford Sedan and when he got to work one morning, after the first cold spell had hit, he asked one of our mechanics, Max Arnold to go out and see what was wrong with the heater. Keats said he had pulled out the two little levers but, nothing came out except cold air. Max went out to discover Keats had purchased a car with no heater and didn't even know it.
Here Keats was responsibly for 4 brand new Haskel Helium Compressors powered by a 4 cylinder GMC diesel engine, running a hydraulic pump which powered the compressor and it was all mounted inside a 20 foot van trailer pulled by a tractor truck.
Poor Bill Keats, he was a fish out of water. But, a nice guy and I liked him. It was not his fault he was assigned to the job he had.
A few other fish were out of water as well because the mechanics were hired based on qualification to be "High Pressure Gas Mechanics" and not "Truck Drivers".
This chink in our armor led to many of the vehicular type accidents that could have been avoided had Mr. Guessetto listened to my many pleas for making a few changes.
All new hires were on probation for 90 days and had no union rights relative to equalization of over time or choice of shift. Nor were they subject to being bumped from their shift of work during the 90 day period.
I would be sent a new hire who could be trained to drive a truck and about the time they were just about to get the hang of truck driving they would reach the 90 day plateau and some other HPG mechanic working in another section would bump the new hire to 3rd shift and the mechanic coming from the CCF or other section to now work in Mobile Gas Section had no truck driving experience so I was in a constant state of having inexperienced truck drivers operating huge 18 wheeler type tractor trailers all over Kennedy Space Center.
AND we were not exactly operating on the I-95 Interstate. Most every place we had to position a piece of equipment into was very tight and restrictive, not conducive to avoiding mishaps.
We made more Tractor/Trailer Connects and Disconnects in one day then did a normal 18 wheeler in a year or more.
Overtime equalization was restricted to within each section and not done department wide. I told Tom and Mr. Guessetto the same should apply to choice of shift and not be done department wide.
Mr. Guessetto would not listen and therefore we continued to have minor mishaps and the worse one was the art of dropping trailers immediately after making a fresh hook up of the tractor to the gas trailer.
None of these accidents were real costly or life threatening. Normally dropping a trailer onto the raised landing gear did much more then pull the end connections off the air hose.
However, all such incidents were an embarrassment, cause for concern and created stacks of reports which I did not care to write nor attempt to explain the stupidity of my mechanics.
There simply was no excuse for dropping a trailer when and if you knew what you were doing.
However, a few of our truck tractors were equipped with "Holland" fifth wheels which didn't much like inexperienced truck drivers because you could not visually verify the fifth wheel had locked after connecting whereas a "Fontaine" fifth wheel had a visible lever which indicated it was locked.
I had alignment marks painted on both the front of the trailers and the tractor fifth wheel so there was no doubt to the correct alignment when backing into a trailer for loading.
On one occasion I took one of our tractors and painted each of the different fifth wheel locking mechanism a different color and showed the crew how each operated and how to verify the fifth wheel was locked.
But, my efforts were fruitless when new mechanics were constantly in the loop of shift changes which caused the movement of mechanics from section to section.
Mr. Guessetto, Please, Please, Please fell on deaf ears.
I continued to write Reports, Reports, Reports on accidents, all related to vehicles and none related to working with High Pressure Gas equipment.
1966 rolled into 1967 and we started receiving the first of the new equipment NASA had on order which was the 20 each Eidal 2,400 PSI tube bank type Gas Trailers.
Each section was to be assigned two trailers each so, I picked out a couple for Mobile Gas and me and one of my mechanics, Joe Davidow who could draw, proceeded to design a work bench, storage cabinets and personnel lockers to be fabricated and installed inside our two trailers as well as provide lighting and air conditioning as shown:... HERE
When the support request was passed through the Mr. Guessetto's office for department approval they apparently liked the design because a contract was let and all 12 van trailers were equipped the same.
Although it pleased me to know others appreciated our design it was foolish for the department to do all 12 trailers the same because each section within the department had different needs for the trailers.
Some of the sections such as on the pads needed the trailers for office space and the first thing they did was tear out most of the cabinets and throw them away once the trailers got on the pad.
This was another example of Mr. Guessetto's restrictive or controlled management style of not letting each section decide their own needs or at least consult with them.
In late 1966 Mobile Gas had also taken over the Compressed Gas Cylinder (K-Bottles) operations at KSC which initially had been placed in the Propellants Department (Work Area 7) area of responsibility.
When Mobile Gas took over the K-Bottle operations at KSC I was handed a minor problem because no one but, no one wanted to do the manual labor of handling K-Bottles all day.
To keep harmony among the crew I was forced to rotate the mechanics assigned to deliver K-Bottle on a weekly basis.
On most days, it only took two men to meet all the K-Bottle delivery requirements so, to maintain some continuity in delivery locations and status I worked it, so only one man was changed out each week which meant a mechanic actually had to work K-Bottles for two weeks and then he was rotated out.
This went on for about 6 or 8 months and then one week Glen Hyer and Leroy Tinsley were matched up for a week together and the two guys being the same age in their mid forties hit it off and at the end of the week when it came time to change one of them out they both came to me and told me to forget it because they would like to just stay together and do all the K-Bottle deliveries.
So, I ignored our change out list for about a month and no one said anything and I reconfirmed with Hyer and Tinsley that they wanted to continue on together and just take care of the K-Bottle requirements so, at the next crew meeting I told the crew that Hyer and Tinsley had volunteered to stay on K-Bottles and if anyone objected to that to speak up now because other wise I planned to let the two guys do just that until some one objected.
No one objected and for the remainder of the Bendix contract Hyer and Tinsley ran the operation of the K-Bottles and did so with practically no supervision.
They were both grand father age and mature so, we just turned them loose to get the work orders from the scheduler and do it on their own.
Hyer had been in business for himself having owned a service station in Titusville prior to going to work for Bendix and he was the leader and Tinsley went with Hyer's lead and they never had a problem getting along.
Bendix had an Employee of the Month Program and around 1969 shortly after the Gemini Program ended, I turned them both in at the same time and did it by writing that NASA had their "Gemini Twins" and Bendix had their "K-Bottles Twins"
Never before or since did Bendix have two Employees of the Month but, with my Maverick Ways I thought it would be cute and apparently so did Bendix Management since both Glen Hyer and Leroy Tinsley were made Employee of the month in the very same month and from that time forward they were known as the K-Bottle Twins.
30 years later, I was Vice President of the Space Walk of Fame Foundation, helping the sculpture put together items to be cast in the bronze panels which make up the Apollo Monument at the Space Walk of Fame and we used a photograph of Hyer and Tinsley made with them standing in front of the K-Bottle Fill Station which I had submitted with their recommendation for employee of the month.
I kind of like the thought of their likeness being on the Apollo Monument knowing the "Bendix K-Bottle Twins" I helped create will live together for hundreds of years to come.
Their casting on the Apollo Monument is shown:.. HERE
As our work load picked up, we promoted another mechanic and split our day shift operation so one foreman handled all the Recharger requirements and another the Gas Trailer and K-Bottle requirements.
Although we were still having a few minor vehicle incidents on occasions, I felt we were on our way to becoming a disciplined crew of professionals and I felt I could afford having Max Arnold be the new foreman. Max had also learned by now how I expected things to be done and I felt liked I owed him the chance since I had stopped his being promoted several months previously.
The K-Bottle operation and the new gas trailers were completely filling up the CCF-34/37 parking lot originally intended for personal vehicles only.
There was a low area within the fenced part of the CCF which we decided we could fill in with dirt to provide us some needed room for expansion.
Accordingly, I filled out a Support Request and took it over to KSC headquarters for Mr. Bain to sign and he was not there but, one of his aides, Carl Lipgins was and he wanted some changes made in the justification so I brought it back to the CCF and had it retyped with the changes and this time I had one of my foremen take it over to get it signed and there was no one in Mr. Bain's office to sign it. So, the foremen brought it back to me.
As I sit there looking at my unsigned Support Request with two trips to the head shed wasted and no dirt being dumped to get us the needed space, the thought occurred to me that KSC had a lot of Germany Rocket Scientist in responsible position and the name "SMYTH" was some times taken for German, the Texas Maverick came out of me and I signed the block where the NASA authorization signature goes and took it directly to the Complex 34/37 Support Office and without saying a word handed it to Ruby Gagnor who ran the Support Office and she simply said "Thanks" and placed it in her "In Box" and I left.
Three weeks later the dump trucks showed up wanting to know where the dirt went.
AND that is how the dirt area shown HERE got filled in at CCF-34/37.
Some years later, Ruby became a relative when her son, Bill married our oldest daughter, Debbie on October 23, 1976 and they provided us with 3 of our 8 grand children and 2 of our 4 great grand children.
Another of the unexpected locations we supplied gas too and the very neatest was the Movie Theater at the Visitor Information Center, (VIC)
Same as Technicolor it involved an air system used to blow the lint and dust off the movie projectors. As the film runs through the focusing lens it chaffs off and leaves a lint that must be blown from the lens area.
Using air left an oil film on the lens and the solution was to use dry nitrogen gas. So again the request came through channels and we installed a regular K-Bottle of Gn2 with a regulator in the area where the circle stairs went up to the projection room and this time we ran a 1/4 inch stainless line up to supply the same air hose currently being used.
We always left an extra bottle of gas for the projector crew to switch over too when one was empty and when they made the switch we were contacted through the support office to take over a new bottle and pick up the empty one.
I periodically checked our installation to make sure it was being properly maintained and serviced. Seems that occurred every time the guys told me they had changed the movie being shown.
Another routine inspection required was two Gn2 gas cylinders sitting 525 feet in the air on top of the VAB roof where they maintained positive pressure on an antenna cable to keep out moisture. This inspection seemed to occur at the same time they were launching an Atlas or other rocket from the Cape side.
If it sounds our support tasks were mundane let us address a few that were not.
The Cryo-1 facilities was where the astronauts back packs were prepared and my crew was responsible for pumping up the outside storage battery to 10,000 PSI oxygen pressure using one of our 2 Cosmodyne Rechargers shown... HERE
The astronauts back pack operated using liquid oxygen but, on top of the back pack sit two small round spheres that were pressurized to 7,500 PSI. These two spheres were the emergency supply of oxygen in the event the normal system failed.
Additionally, when the astronauts left their backpacks on the moon to save weight for lift off back to the command module, the top part of the back pack was removed and stayed with them to be used for breathing in the event they could not hook up and had to make an outside excursion to transfer from the LEM back to the Command Module.
It was the 10,000 PSI oxygen my crew supplied to the Cryo-1 facility that was in the two spheres while the astronauts were out walking on the moon.
Those reading this who don't know the explosive power of pure oxygen, won't understand. Those that do will, when I say, "your bottom stays puckered" when the pressure gage needle is quivering around 10,000 PSI while pumping liquid oxygen.
Another task I always worried about and insisted a foremen or myself be there was the removal of two 6,000 PSI gas trailers we had parked on each side of the Saturn V when it was on the launch pad.
Fuel Cells for the Apollo spacecraft operated using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen This in turn required a gaseous supply to maintain blanket pressure and to purge the systems.
It was the task of Mobile Gas to provide the hydrogen and oxygen gas. We choose to do this using four of our 6,000 PSI gas trailers.
On the east side of the Saturn V we parked a hydrogen trailer and on the west side we parked an oxygen trailer.
We kept identical trailers sitting in the Mobile Gas Yard to change out when the ones on the pad got low on gas or in the event of a problem.
During the launch countdown, the two trailers sitting on the pad had to be removed just before T Minus 3 hours which usually occurred in the middle of the night under the glare of 40 or more search lights and all the pad TV cameras being observed back in the launch control center.
T Minus 3 hours was the time in the Launch Count Down when the pad was closed to all personnel and propellant loading commenced.
Needless to say, my bottom again stayed puckered from the time my crew left to remove the trailers until they had the trailers safely back in the yard.
Rest assured, I always made sure we used our best truck drivers for the removal and I made it a rule that the foreman on duty went along to supervise the task for added assurance we stayed out of trouble.
Another special gas we provided was two trailers mixed to a 65 percent oxygen and 35 percent nitrogen which was the mixture the spacecraft was pressurized with while sitting on the pad.
This was supplied in a 2,400 PSI Gas Trailer which was parked down below the top of the pad beside the main Gn2/Ghe storage battery and it was left there during launch.
We also had a 2,400 PSI Helium Trailer that stayed year round at the large liquid hydrogen sphere on the pad. This trailer was used to keep the sphere under constant pressure and to purge the hydrogen lines when required.
It was also my crew who pumped up the gaseous hydrogen battery on the launch pad using one of our two Linde Hydrogen Rechargers.
Although the crew was making strides and I felt we were on our way, it was not 100 percent successful because we continued to be plagued with minor incidents such as fender benders with Mechanics backing into things and I had others problems not to my liking as some of the mechanics had not completely brought into my self-disciplined, self-pride concept.
I also had one foreman that seemed to have a personal problem with my being the General Foreman. Gary Houghton was always making comments that tended to annoy me. Like one evening I had stayed over on second shift watching the mechanics off load a rail car of helium not doing much more then general conversation with the mechanics and talking to Gary when he said "why don't you go home", "We can handle this" and the way he said it was like it was irritating him for me to be there so signs were that Mr. Houghton was not much of a team player. I personally always welcomed my boss being around because I looked on him as my daddy being their to help me out.
Another of the bumps in the road was when we were over on top of Pad 39A purging and drying some of the propellant lines after cleaning and this took several round the clock days pumping directly into the lines with one of the Rechargers.
One night around 2 o'clock in the morning I got a call from one of my mechanics, Roy Hartley who was operating the Recharger on top of the pad. He was ticked off and told me his helper, Macuszonok was drunk and asleep in the cab of the Recharger as he had done a couple nights before and he was not going to cover for him any longer.
It was a 15/20 minute drive from my house to the Pad A and I immediately jumped in my car and went to the top of the pad. Sure enough Macuszonok was asleep in the cab of the Recharger.
I got him out of the cab, put him in my car and took him to CCF-34/37. There I got him awake and sober enough I was confident he could drive home and told him to go home and to not report to work until he heard from me.
I also took a slice of meat out of my 3rd shift foreman's ass for not being aware this was going on. Of course I'm sure he was and just over looked the situation hoping it would go away.
Sometimes it is not easy being a supervisor when friendship and concern for others has a tendency to stand in the way of good judgment.
Next morning, as was standard practice, I advised our Bendix Personnel office of the situation and together we decided to give Macuszonok 3 days off without pay.
I phoned Macuszonok and informed him of the decision and told him to consider himself lucky he was not fired.
I received quite a surprise about 2 months later when the head of Bendix Security, Riddlehoover showed up in my office at CCF 34/37 with a NASA Security guy and Mr. Riddlehoover begin explaining that NASA had heard something about a Bendix employee being drunk on Launch Pad 39A.
He asked if I knew anything about that and I said yes sir I sure do and I'm afraid it is true.
He then wanted to know what if anything had been done about it.
I explained my mechanic calling me and my coming out and sending the man home for 3 days disciplinary action and showed them the paper work to prove it.
They were both pleased to learn the situation had been known about, handled and disciplinary action taken. End of Incident.
I was certainly glad I was able to tell them that because had I been lackadaisical and done nothing, further investigation would have been done and Macuszonok might well have lost his job.
As it was, action had been taken, the case was closed and the image of Bendix being a responsible company was enhanced in the eyes of the customer, NASA.
I was pleased in another way because my actions may very well have saved Macuszonok his job and also because I never again had any problems with Macuszonok.
By the summer of 1966 we were on a 3 shift round the clock operation and things were on a fast pace to get the Launch Complex 39 in operation.
I was working 12 to 16 hours each day and taking phone calls at night from my foreman to help make decisions they were not comfortable making for themselves.
Each time we refilled the 1800 Gallon Cryogenics tank on one of the Leased Cosmodyne Nitrogen Rechargers the unit was chilled down and sampled to verify we were pumping and delivering gas that met specification for impurities.
One such call I got, the foreman, Johnny Ellison said he had sampled the #5 Recharger 3 times and it failed all 3 times and all I know to do is dump the load and refill it but, I don't want to get in trouble.
My only words were "Dump It" He said "that's all I wanted to hear, bye."
I don't know the cost of 1800 gallons of Liquid Nitrogen or what might have been said had people in high places observed our dumping the liquid on the ground.
I only knew three samples had failed and someone had to make a decision what to do next. "I made it".
For the record, the Recharger was refilled and passed on the first sample.
The foreman rotated shifts once a month and I learned there was one foreman who would not call me at night but, would call another foreman or one of the engineers at home and ask them what they thought he should do. A few of which, as it was relayed to me, a 10 year old would have known what to do.
Foreman, Gary Houghton was continuing to annoy me.
Annual employee evaluations and pay raises came around and it began to show up that Mr. Guessetto had some very unusual management practices.
I can't recall my supervisor, Tom Wagner ever discussing an evaluation with me and I was not allowed to evaluate the foreman working for me nor did I have a say where they received a pay raise or not.
All pay raises were controlled by Mr. Guessetto.
From a management stand point the whole policy Mr. Guessetto followed was very restrictive and limited the capability of those who could if allowed enhance the overall performance of the department.
I learned as a young man that smart managers did not allow the personal like or dislike of a subordinate to interfere with their advancements or salary scale.
I was aware I was not one of Mr. Guessetto's favorites because in past months he had requested written suggestions from all the Section Supervisor and General Foreman their ideas for improving the operation of the High Pressure Gas Departments and a few of mine were not flattering for the office of Department Manager.
But, my suggestions were honest and how I saw it from the stool I sit on.
If you don't want the truth, don't ask. If you want me to tell you what you want to hear, don't waste my time.
On January 27, 1967 we were still operating the Mobile Gas Section out of the CCF-34/37 facility and I was home that evening when television was interrupted with a news flash that there had been a major accident at the Cape. Not much else was said in those first few minutes. So, I tried phoning my foreman, Gary Houghton who was on 2nd shift at the time.
In those days when calling the Cape from Titusville you had to call the Cape operator and ask to be connected to your number. The operator answered and ask, "is this an emergency" and I told her no and she said we are taking emergency calls only at this time and disconnected me.
Of course January 27, 1967 was the evening the Apollo 1 astronauts were killed on Launch Complex 34.
I held a crew meeting first thing the next morning and told the crew to be extra careful because I did not want to spotlight us with any accidents over the next few weeks. Also told them we would now see many changes in the coming months at KSC that would effect how we operate.
By January 1967 I had been with Bendix just over a year and been in Mobile Gas for about 8 months.
I was by now getting comfortable in my job as General Foreman in charge of the Mobile Gas Section of the Bendix High Pressure Gas Department.
However, by this time I was also becoming more and more disgruntled with the management policies of Mr. Guessetto.
I felt restricted and bridled which did not fit my way of getting things accomplished.
A cryogenic tank has an inter tank and an outer tank with several inches of space, depending on tank size, between the two tanks this space is insulated and under a vacuum. Mobile Gas therefore had a very large portable vacuum pump mounted in a former search light trailer.
While the Apollo 1 spacecraft was still in the Manned Spacecraft Operations Building (MSOB), North American had requested for us to bring the vacuum pump over and pull a vacuum on one of the cryogenic tanks in the spacecraft.
On the afternoon this occurred, I went over with the mechanics to over see our task because being that close to the spacecraft I wanted to make darn sure nothing bad happened that Bendix would be responsible for.
The standard interface policy when supporting another NASA contractor when doing something like this was we connected the hose to our equipment and the people being supported connected the other end to their equipment. Whatever we supplied had to meet their specifications and we operated our equipment and they operated theirs.
We got the Vacuum Pump backed in and parked right next to the Apollo 1 spacecraft and connected our end of the hose to the Vacuum Pump.
The North American people were not ready to start so, we hung around waiting for them to tell us they were connected and ok for us to proceed.
Well, North American kept messing around and it was getting late in the day so I called my supervisor, Tom Wagner and told him we may need to get some overtime authorized as our 2nd shift crew was all ready maxed out with support requirements and I had no one to send to the MSOB on 2nd shift.
Tom called back in about 20 minutes and said Mr. Guessetto said to show the North American people how to run the vacuum pump and leave at quitting time because he was not going to authorize any over time.
Tom I said, do you realize this thing is connected directly to the spacecraft and you expect some one who has never seen this Vacuum Pump before to operate it and beside you will be upsetting our mechanics because this is their equipment to operate and be responsible for.
I felt pretty low because this was totally out of bounds and I was becoming more disgruntled as time went along. "Disgruntled" is not the word for I loved my job, I was disappointed as hell in the management I was under.
1966 gave us a glimpse of things to come when the very first Saturn V was rolled out of the VAB and to Pad A on May 25, 1966 which was exactly 5 years after President Kennedy made his now famous speech on May 25, 1961 setting our nations goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth..
The 500F was 1st in the Saturn V series and the F stood for Facility, meaning this was a non flight vehicle being used for "Facility" checkout.
The 500F had no engines but, rather weights to stimulate the weight of the engines. Otherwise it was pretty much the real thing and was instrumented to simulate all the actual facility interfaces and capable of doing a propellant loading of the missile tanks.
Saying it was a Gas Trailer is a mis normer. It was actually a unit we called a Double Bomb Bottle because it was 2 of the surplus ICBM vessels that had been mounted in a surplus Search Light Trailer.
In other words it was a jury rigged affair which in the beginning days was all we had to operate with. But, never let it said it did not fulfill the job because it did and we supplied many a KSC customer with one of our Bomb Bottle Gas Trailers in the early days.
During transit, to and from the pad, the rocket was pressurized and purges were maintained. Normally the storage within all the piping on the Mobile Launcher was sufficient to make the trip. Our Gas trailer was there in the event it wasn't.
However, at this point and time the CCF-39 facilities was not activated and the Mobile Gas Section with our Gas Trailer and portable Rechargers played the roll of a CCF and provided all the Gn2 gas needed on the pad for the 500F testing.
Some added excitement occurred with the vehicle when Hurricane Alma headed for Florida in June and the 500F was still on the pad.
A meeting was held to discuss what to do with the vehicle and KSC Director, Dr. Kurt Debus said, "Boys the 500F is a training vehicle and this is a good time to train the troops so put her back in the barn"
So, we followed the 500F back to the VAB and I was there with the rain generated by the hurricane swirling all around as we made the 8 hour trip back to the VAB which was completed around 11:30 PM that night.
I could have been home. I was there simply because, it was an exciting time in my life, but, mainly I was there because that's just me as my job was also my hobby.
The 500F was returned to the pad in July and the test continued. NASA Reference HERE:
Much as I preached we continued to have the little embarrassing incidents of goof ups and often times I wanted to go cry in my beer over the stupid crap the guys did.
The 3rd shift crew was backing in one night to pressurize a gas trailer parked at the LC-39A Hydrogen sphere and they backed over a 2 inch water line coming out of the ground which ran to a fire hose and an emergency shower.
A 2 inch stream of water was shooting straight up in the air about 20 feet and no one was allowed to shut it off for about 3 hours because the mission rules stated no outage of a system could be done until all users had been notified and concurred to the outage.
Here is the kind of stupid crap I had to put up with:...... We always had two guys on the Rechargers so I ask who was driving and who was helping and learned Lickteag was the helper.
So, I ask Lickteag where was he when Humphrey was backing the Recharger in and he said "I was in the cab with him." I then said, why weren't you out behind helping him get backed in and his immediate answer was, "No one ever told me I was suppose too."
So much for my self-discipline - self-pride theory.
There was even occasions when my best efforts failed to keep us out of trouble.
While still at CCF-34/37, I was in the office one day when I over heard our scheduler, Henry Nipper telling the foreman he had a work order for us to take a Recharger over to the Manned Spacecraft Operation Building (MSOB) and purge the vacuum space on the liquid nitrogen tank sitting behind the MSOB.
I said "NO - HELL NO" we are not going to do that because they are getting ready to collapse the inter tank unless they are damn careful.
I told the scheduler to get hold of our Recharger Engineer, John Szoke and have him go over and meet with the Bendix Work Area 6 guys responsible for the tank, explain the hazard and coordinate this effort with them so the inter tank doesn't get collapsed.
A tank or a beer can is designed to contain something inside and not outside meaning it can take pressure from the inside but, the slightest pressure on the outside will collapse a container be it a beer can or a liquid oxygen tank.
The pressure gauges on the Recharger Control panel read in increments of 100 PSI which meant you could not read in the extremely low pressure range required for such an operation as they were asking us to do.
As mentioned before, a cryogenic tank is built like a thermos bottle and has an inter tank and an outer tank with several inches of space, depending on tank size, between the two tanks this space is insulated and under a vacuum.
Supposedly the insulation in the MSOB tank contained moisture and they wanted to purge between the two tanks to dry out the insulation.
I could have coordinated the effort myself but, our engineers were there to take care of the technical items and I considered it more appropriate to send our engineer over to talk to a Work Area 6 engineer then for a Texas Hillbilly from Lueders, Texas to go over and advise them what they should do.
So our engineer, John Szoke went over and coordinated with the Bendix MSOB engineers for whatever that meant because we sent the Recharger over next morning and started the purge operation. I went over that after noon and as I was standing there next to the Recharger I heard a loud pop.
I ask my mechanic what was that and he said I don't know but, it has been going on all day.
I started looking around and noticed the concrete supports where the large steel bolts holding the tank down were located was cracking the concrete and chipping out the grout under the tank supports.
I thought O'shit - I opened the doors to the tank pressurization controls where the gages were and Jesus Crimne, they didn't even have the inter tank pressurized.
The inter tank was collapsing and the longer we pumped the further it collapsed which was warping the inside tank and moving it around and thus the occasional pop and chipping out of the grout from under the tank support legs.
Bendix was again embarrassed by another stupid incident which I thought I had taken sufficient steps to avoid.
The Bendix Work Area 6 group tried to focus the blame on Mobile Gas but, the fact one of our engineers had went over, pointed out the hazard and initiated a coordinated effort saved us from the embarrassment and it was left to Work Area 6 to explain why their stupidity had destroyed the liquid nitrogen tank.
I felt sorry for John Szoke because he was a very very capable engineer who was from Hungary. He had been run out of Hungary when Russia invaded the country because he was a known freedom fighter.
John was a go getter common sense engineer who I liked a lot, especially when he would say, "Vot da ya think Ray".
On one occasion John asked me about some ideas he had for modifying the Dynamics Rechargers which stripped out a bunch of its remote control stuff we never used and when I agreed with his ideas. I was very much amused when he replied back. "Good vee vill make the Dynamics the Volkswagon of the cryogenics industry."
John had been very embarrassed by the nitrogen tank incident and ask me to install a gage at the very end of the gas outlet on one of the Rechargers so he could run a test to see what pressure showed at the point where we connected the flex hose.
Our little test proved that while pumping with nothing connected the pressure was zero at the outlet of the Recharger.
That satisfied John he was not at fault and he felt better about the situation.
Sad to say but, only an idiot would not have pressurized the inter tank prior to doing the operation described. But, I've never said Bendix didn't have their share of idiots.
I did avoid another incident that could have been terrible embarrassing had I not been there. Fact is, my being there was very much on purpose.
The 14 inch liquid oxygen lines running from the 900,000 gallon liquid oxygen sphere to top of the launch pads at LC 39 are over a 1000 feet in length.
An outside contractor, the Wyle company was in the process of cleaning both the 14 inch line and the 6 inch top off line that ran right beside the 14 inch line and we were scheduled to commence a hot nitrogen purge using one of our Rechargers to dry out the cleaning fluids. NASA Reference HERE:
I had some deep concerns about this upcoming purge operation because again we were connecting a machine capable of 10,000 PSI into a line only rated at 150 PSI and we had no gauges on the Rechargers that read that low.
I had vision in my head of splitting this 14 inch line from one end to the other and told my foreman he was not to start the purge unless I was there.
With the cleaning being done by an outside contractor, I knew darn well if something happened the blame would be put on Bendix if possible.
As it turned out the purge operation was going to commence on 2nd shift so I went on home that evening and foreman, Gary Houghton was to call me with enough time to get there for the initial start up of the purge.
It was a beautiful moon lit night and I drove right up on top of the launch pad in my personal vehicle because this was in the days before guards were on the gate to the pads.
From the top of pad 39A the ocean is quite visible and beautiful in such a moon lit night and Rusty jumped out and was all over the pad exploring and watering down things Dr. Debus might not have appreciated. But, what wonderful memories they hold for me now.
I ask Gary if he had checked things over and he assured me he had. I next ask the same question of the contractor with the same assurance.
I had them explain the hook up for accomplishing the purge operation and was told the 14 inch line was disconnected from the 900,000 gallon Liquid Oxygen Sphere and completely wide open on that end. Gary confirmed this.
Then they showed me the 6 inch top off line was separated at the edge of the pad where it starts down the slope and we were connected into it with the flex hose coming from the Recharger.
We would be sending the gas through the 6 inch line about 200 foot through the pipe in the trench to the top of the pedestal where the pad piping interfaced with the Mobile Launcher. There the cleaning contractor, Wyle had installed a valve and a cross over line that connected the 6 inch line into the 14 inch line which would now carry the gas back to the Storage Sphere where the 14 inch line was disconnected.
I asked the Contractor again "Are you sure that 6 inch cross over valve is open". He again assured me everything was open and ready to purge. I would have checked it myself except it was 30 feet in the air on top of the pedestal.
After asking if everybody was ready I told our Recharger Mechanic, Carl to crank her up but, leave the engine at idle.
The cryogenic pump on the Cosmodyne Recharger was powered with the truck engine through a transfer case with a belt drive to the pump. The lower the engine speed the less volume the pump put out and the higher the speed the more volume. The unit also had a bypass valve and no gas flowed unless the bypass valve was closed.
Back near the Recharger and where the 14 inch line started down the slope there was a 3/4 inch bleed valve installed in the 14 inch line.
After getting the pump running, I had Carl slowly close the bypass valve and we had the 3/4 inch bleed valve open to await the gas to go up the 6 inch line and return back down the 14 inch line.
After a few minutes, I thought sufficient time had passed but, we were not getting any gas out of the bleed valve.
Carl was giving me the thumbs up wanting to open the throttle and start pumping at normal speed and I shook my head No.
My foreman, Gary said "Ray, what's the matter, we have checked everything, crank her up". My instincts told me different. We should have a gas return bleed by now.
Gary's attitude was rather annoying because he had said it in a rather sarcastic way that got my attention.
I went over to Carl and said leave it right where you got it and I started walking the line back to the pedestal and when I got over to the base of the pedestal I could hear gas escaping at the top.
The 6 inch valve on top of the pedestal was closed and we had blown a flat flange gasket out where the valve was bolted to the 6 inch line.
The contractor was there and he didn't want to believe the valve was closed.
They opened the valve and we got the expected gas at the bleed valve.
Had we cranked the pump up to normal speed we would have blown the 6 inch line up because the volume would have been greater than the blown gasket could have let out.
I was pretty upset with the whole situation and told my foreman, Gary Houghton to never doubt my instincts again and while shaking my finger in his face, told him it was time he got on board and paid attention.
I was pretty proud of myself that night and Rusty loved me too.
There was one other night me and my beloved old collie worked together and it was a Friday night and I had just sit down to my favorite meal, boiled shrimp and cold beer, when the phone rang and it was Bill Keats, who had engineering responsibility for the Haskel Helium Compressors.
By this time all our new equipment was on board and Maintenance on the Mobile Gas Equipment was being performed in the new Mobile Gas Shop next door to the CCF-39 facilities and the shop was being run by another General Foreman, H. P. (Rip) Campbell.
Rip and I got along fine, he took care of the Maintenance and I ran the Operations.
However, this was another management situation that I could never understand about Mr. Guessetto.
We knew when we moved into the new maintenance shop we would need additional supervision to oversee and run the shop.
The section supervisor, Tom and I had planned for it to be another foreman.
Mr. Guessetto sent us a General Foreman and now you had a situation of two men being on the same level of authority so who was going to call the shots.
I had been in Mobile Gas a year longer then Rip and therefore it was I who kind of took the lead when it came to overall crew meetings and I more or less called the overall shots as well because after all the maintenance was in support of operations.
As it turned out, Rip was a real decent chap who played things straight and he and I coordinated things together very well and otherwise pretty much stayed out of each others hair.
Rip was sort of laid back and took things in stride when we had to follow a stupid policy or procedure some idiot in the Ivory Towers of KSC dreamed up for us to do, whereas I would holler, scream, cuss and stomp my feet.
Rip held things in and just went ahead and did it. Some years later, he also died a fairly young man from heart trouble.
At age 75 when things tick me off, I still holler, scream, cuss and stomp my feet and if that's what keeps me breathing, so be it.
Although, I fussed and complained about how we sometimes had to approach things due to NASA Procedures, I was always conscious of the fact, there was some pretty smart cookies some place figuring out how all this was going to work to put man on the moon.
Even through Rip and I got along fine, it would have made much more sense and been better management to have a foreman over the shop and under the supervision of the Operations General Foreman.
I had no trouble working for Tom Wagner because we got a long fine and I liked him. but, even today I still think he should have been stronger when dealing with some of the decisions passed down by Mr. Guessetto.
On each Saturn V launch we supported the CCF-39 by connecting 2 of our Paul Gn2 Rechargers and 2 of our Haskel Helium Compressors into the CCF-39 facilities as backup to the CCF.
On one of the launches, we had just completed the Count Down Demonstration Test (CDDT) where we had to run one of our Compressors more then expected and the diesel engine came due a scheduled oil and fuel filter change.
The day after completions of the CDDT, the shop crew changed the oil and fuel filters on the engine and late that afternoon I heard they were having trouble starting the engine.
But, this was in Rip's area and, as stated, I stayed out of his hair and went on home at my regular time what ever it was that day. I seldom left work at 4:30 PM when the regular day shift ended. I only went home when I felt satisfied I was done for the day and were I was being paid for it or not never entered my mind. I had a job to do and an inter soul to satisfy.
When the crew could not get the engine started after doing the maintenance, Rip called over the compressor engineer, Bill Keats and he and the crew worked all day and into the evening with out success. What they tried all day I have no idea.
Keats finally gave up around 7:00 PM that evening and advised our section supervisor, Tom of the situation and as Keats told me later all Tom said was "Well don't you think it's time we called Ray"
And so, I got the Friday night call and once again my buddy Rusty was wanting to go so, away we went with a couple of shrimp and a cold beer in hand.
When I arrived at KSC the mechanics showed me the engine would crank but, then die, crank and die, crank and die which had been the story all day.
I knew immediately it was starving for fuel but, I didn't know the reason other then perhaps the fuel pump was not getting the diesel fuel picked up out of the fuel tank which hung down under the van trailer the engine and compressor was mounted in.
I fell back on some of the tricks learned in the oil fields of Texas and took one of our tractor trucks, pulled it along side the fuel tank and used the air supply hose for the trailer brakes connections from the truck by sticking the air hose in the fuel tank and with rags stuffed in around the hose, turned on the air to pressurize the fuel tank and force fuel to the fuel pump hoping to get it primed.
Well lo and behold once the fuel tank was pressurized and forcing fuel to the engine I noticed diesel fuel was running down the side of the fuel filters.
The little cardboard gasket had slipped off to one side during replacement of the fuel filter and this told me why the engine would crank and die because as soon and it cranked it sucked in air and not fuel and thus killed the engine.
We reinstalled the fuel filter gasket and the engine ran perfect.
Problem solved and I had been there less then 30 minutes fixing a problem the shop crew and engineer had worked with all day.
Me and Rusty had once again saved the moon program and I left with the satisfaction I had earned my keep for the day.
If that sounds conceited it's not intended. It is self-pride which is what I was trying to teach this here rocket support crew.
Me and Rusty didn't go straight home that Friday night and ended up in trouble with the wife. But, that's another story for another time.
Another major task we accomplished was building ourselves a Helium Offload area.
With the arrival of our 20 brand new, 125,000 cubic feet Helium Gas Trailers in early 1967, we needed a place to offload from the railcars to the gas trailers.
At the time, Helium gas was being supplied by the Bureau of Mines in Amarillo, Texas and shipped to KSC in tube bank type rail cars.
There is a long railroad siding south of the VAB along side Contractor Road.
So using our "Damn the Torpedoes Full Speed Ahead" type management we went down to contractor road picked ourselves out a nice open spot about 100 feet wide and had a road grader smooth the ground out and hauled in some hard pan fill dirt to build ourselves a pad to park the gas trailers on.
We next used telephone poles as curbing and built an elevated walk way and filled in between this box we created with the hard pan dirt.
This provided us a pad elevated about 8 inches to back the trailers into and make our hose connection on.
We used several 18 X 18 X 6 inch concrete boxes with 2 feet of unistrut sticking out to provided us stanchions to support the 100 feet of 3/4 and 1/2 inch gas lines we ran the length of the 100 foot long pad.
Having several loading stations greatly enhanced the art of cascading gas.
Cascading is where you take a group of tubes at a higher pressure and empty them into a group of tubes at a lower pressure. In other words you allow the pressures to equalize and after one stage is equalized the next higher and lower tubes are equalized and it is by this stair step method of switching valves back and forth that a 4000 PSI rail car is emptied into a 2,400 PSI gas trailer.
We also designed the piping system so we could back in a compressor for pumping up the high pressure gas trailers after cascading and for taking the rail cars on down to 150 PSI which we considered empty and ready to ship the rail cars back to Amarillo, Texas
The Helium Offload Area may be viewed:... HERE
Our resourcefulness in building the helium off load area paid off in double spades when during the Count Down Demonstration Test for AS-502 in late March 1968 a regulator failed in a control panel on the Mobile Launcher (ML) and the helium was lost from all 3 of the storages batteries located on Pad 39A, Pad 39B and the VAB.
With the AS-502 scheduled launch only a week away on April 4, 1968 the rush was on to make an attempt to get the helium batteries replenished to keep from delaying the launch date.
Therefore the KSC spotlight was directly on Bendix and specifically the High Pressure Gas Department to keep the launch date on schedule.
And even more specifically the CCF-39 and Mobile Gas Section.
Not knowing the quantity of helium usage to launch a Saturn V over a hundred railcars of helium were initial being brought in and parked on the siding south of the VAB.
They were now needed because the unexpected had happened.
We already had two of our Haskel Compressors tied into the CCF-39 so those were cranked up as well as the five Joy Compressors in the CCF.
Being a fixed facility there was nothing extra the CCF Section could do except blast away with their 5 Joy Compressors and keep us running our 2 Haskel Compressors.
But, "Hi-Ho Silver Away", the Mobile Gas Section swung into action and enhanced the effort as we now took our other 2 Haskels and 2 Joy Compressors and connected them into the batteries on the launch pad and the VAB.
Supplying Helium to the CCF Compressors was no problem because they were supplied helium as usual from railcars on the siding at the CCF.
However, the four Compressors now at the Pad and VAB batteries had to be supplied by our gas trailers which had to be refilled from the rail cars sitting on the siding south of the VAB where our helium offload area was located.
The all out, round the clock 7 day effort of the CCF-39 Section and the Mobile Gas Section achieved replenishment of all three helium batteries and AS-502 was launched as scheduled on April 4, 1968.
Afterwards, I was told NASA's Robert Gorman had asked Bendix General Manager, Frank Vaughan if the reason the helium got replenished back to pressure was in the planning or did it happen by accident.
Frankly, I think the reason is because a couple of maverick cowboys from out west had the balls to go build a helium offload area with out asking to many "powers to be" permission to do so.
The problem with asking is too many government procedures kick in and other departments get involved and you spend a year discussing it, a year designing it and another year letting contracts and building it.
I don't recall now but, I expect "the cowboy way" took less then 6 weeks.
Fortunately for the two cowboys, it was in the beginning days when nobody knew much of what was going on and had other fish to fry. In other words no one was paying attention and we just hadn't gotten sophisticated yet.
My fondest memory of this week long escapade was the night we had emptied all the rail cars next to the offload siding and needed more rail cars moved in.
At the time, this was normally done by the FEC railroad but, in the middle of the night, doing what we were doing, calling them in was not an option.
Fortunately, KSC had a gigantic LeTourneau Front End Loader called a "UKE" which was being operated by Trans World Airlines (TWA)
After calling TWA directly to obtain their opinion how best to move about 10 rail cars at one time they said they could do it with the LeTourneau UKE.
I didn't want to go through the normal support office for fear it would take too long so, I phoned in my request through the High Pressure Gas representative sitting on the console in the launch control center as we were already in the count down sequence.
I was told by the control center to stand by for an answer and within about 15 minutes here comes a NASA rep and I forget who from the High Pressure Gas Department and they wanted to know exactly what I was talking about because the phone calls coming into the Control Center became part of the Communication Network which was being recorded, It rather amused me but, they didn't want it recorded we were fixing to push a whole bunch of rail cars down the track with something called a UKE.
Once they understood the need and what I was requesting, the call went out on a non recorded line and TWA showed up in short order with the UKE.
Of course the first task was to move the now half empty rail cars out of the way so we could go down and get another group of cars and move them into place.
After moving the existing cars out of the way, I explained to the UKE operator the necessity of aligning the operating end of the rail cars with the different connection points of the offload plumbing.
A rail car is subject to roll forever once in motion and I expressed my concern of getting the string of cars stopped in the right spot.
We decided I would ride atop one of the rail cars and operate the hand brake of the car. I was to holler down at one of my mechanics and he was going to wave his arms at the UKE operator when I thought it was time to quit pushing.
So, here I was in the middle of the night going to the moon atop a string of rail cars being pushed by a UKE.
I considered it right straight out of western lore and the movies.
How memorable it is for me now as I sit here writing while approaching the age of 75.
Mentioning the movies reminds me of the time, I received a phone call from Bendix Safety asking if I could blow something up. Man that's the last thing a High Pressure Gas Man wants to hear. Are you nuts??
They went on to explain the Center's Director, Dr. Kurt Debus wanted to make a "Safety Movie" and wanted part of it to demonstrate the hazards of High Pressure Gas and/or the Propellants being used at KSC.
I learned the movie was being produced by a bonafide Movie Firm, Bill Gibson Productions in Los Angeles, California
So, I dreamed up and wrote out the idea of simulating the blowing up of a flex hose and worked with the producer to stage the scene using one of our Paul Rechargers, a Gas Trailer and a couple of my mechanics as actors.
So thanks to another of the perks of working on a government contract, I could now add to my resume, Script Writer, Movie Director, and Film Star.
We did have a couple of weeks of fun and several of my mechanics as well as myself got into the movie by speaking Safety Slogans through out and in between the 3 different segments of the movie.
Afterwards it was shown to all 27,000 plus employees working at KSC.
It was also repeated about once a year for at least the remaining Apollo years at KSC.
Afterwards, we all received a letter of appreciation from Bill Gibson Productions and I'm tickled to be able to prove to my grand children and great grand children their GranPa was once up on a time in the movies.
Another amusing thing was the fact, each of us was required to accept one dollar in payment and sign a release form for Bill Gibson Productions. Bill told me by law he had to do that in order to use our voices in the movie.
Like it or not being the General Foreman of Mobile Gas and fulfilling support requirements all over KSC and the Cape did bring you notoriety, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly".
Surprisingly, 41 years after making the Safety Movie, I was able to obtain a copy from the KSC historical office and it is one of the legacy being left to our 4 great grandsons and may be viewed:.. HERE
Another perk if one could call it that was a request from a valve manufacture in Houston, Texas to test a valve rated at 15,000 PSI.
Designing and building a valve rated at 15,000 PSI is no problem. Getting the Teflon or other seat materials to stay together under high flow condition at 15,000 PSI is a problem.
No other place on earth could the valve be high flow tested at 15,000 PSI except at KSC.
Thanks to the foresight of Addison Bain, NASA at KSC had the only 15,000 PSI gas trailer in the world.
Addison and KSC welcomed the testing request because in the rocket business one never knows which direction things are headed and any research type operation dealing in the unknown should not be denied.
At the time, 15,000 PSI gas pressure was unheard of and I can personal testify that once you go beyond the 12,000 range when pumping with our one 15,000 PSI rated Paul Recharger into the worlds only Gas Trailer rated at 15,000 PSI the equipment begins to talk to you and you can actually feel and hear the strain the machinery is under.
The manufacture first sent the valve and extra seats of different type materials to KSC with instruction how to run the test and with our mechanics help I personally ran the opening and closing of the valve with the results all the different seat types blew out of the valve.
They next sent a representative to KSC with additional type seats and while some seats stayed in they pitted from the gas passing by under high flow conditions shown:.. HERE
I frankly don't recall the final results except I do remember receiving a call from the president of the valve company asking if I would be interested in going to work for them in Houston as a company representative.
Apparently, I had impressed the Rep they sent down and on his return to Houston he suggested his company try to hire me.
I was flattered but, shucks I was going to the moon and I didn't want to miss that.
Trans World Airlines (TWA) was the support contractor responsible for all the heavy equipment at KSC and as a results all our new Mobile Equipment was processed through them since TWA was responsible for providing fuel and tires for our Mobile Equipment.
The Paul Recharger was a very unique machine and had a 500 Horsepower V-12 Detroit diesel engine which at the time had never been put in a truck before.
The excessive engine power was not necessary to pull the tractor trailer load, the engine was that powerful to run the 500 KW generator which sit behind the cab and provided the power to run the electric motors turning the 3 pumps and was power for the electric heaters which converted the liquid back to gas.
I had the pure pleasure of going to TWA and picking up the very first Paul Recharger that came in. However, I was not allowed to do it alone, Addison Bain had me stop by NASA headquarters to pick him up so he too could join in on the fun. But, I had the most fun because I got to drive the monster first and deliver it to our work area at CCF-34/37
I was amused when the next Paul arrived at TWA because no one in Mobile Gas was made aware it was in.
I reckon Addison couldn't stand me having all the fun and he wanted to drive a Paul too. So, he arranged for no one to be notified of the next Paul arrival except himself and then one day here he comes driving into the parking lot at CCF-34/37 with a big grin on his face and I think that was the first time in his life he had ever driven an 18 wheeler type tractor/trailer.
I might add the Paul Recharger was not your normal run of the mill 18 wheeler, the Peterbuilt tractor was special built with an extra long chassis to accommodate the generator sitting behind the cab and this excessive length made it bend in the middle when connected to the Paul Recharger Trailer and it was a bear to back up. The Peterbuilt also had front wheel drive which made the turn radius more then excessive.
Back in my Texas Oil Well Drilling days, I had pulled a drilling rig down the highways of Texas that was 12 feet wide, 145 feet long, 16 feet high and weighed in excess of 140,000 pounds so driving huge unique tractor trailer rigs was not new to me.
I should know, I had embarrassed myself when I misjudged the turn radius and completely missed the gate when I brought the first Recharger over and had to back up to get through the gate.
The Haskel Helium Compressors were a unique machine on their own as the compressor was hydraulically operated by a hydraulic pump being turned by a four cylinder screaming Jimmie diesel engine.
Those of us who loved big powerful machinery were in hog heaven with all the new equipment.
AND in 1967 we were looking forward to taking all our new toys and moving into the new Mobile Gas Facilities nearing completion along the crawler way west of CCF-39.
Some old toys got added as well when Mr. Bain arranged for us to obtain a few surplus Air Force type Gas Trailers.
The Air Force Trailers were located on Patrick Air Force Base south of Cocoa Beach, Florida and Addison arranged for us to pick them up from there using our KSC assigned Tractor Trucks.
I was using two tractors and two mechanics to make the move as there was no reason to be in any hurry to complete the task when, in the middle of our moving, Mr. Bain got word some place in the high echelon of the Air Force they were deciding against allowing NASA to acquire the trailers.
Addison got hold of me and said get some more drivers and tractors and lets get those trailers moved on to NASA property and then we will defend our ground.
So, with a simple hand receipt Addison Bain, the "Montana Maverick" essentially stole 25 Gas Trailers from the Air Force.
As the new equipment came in, it became apparent to me, we should develop our own numbering system to identify the equipment so we could sequencely have some order to how the equipment was numbered.
Up to now we had used the last two numbers of the Heavy Equipment numbers assigned by TWA on the Bomb Bottle Trailers which was acceptable when talking of only 8 or 10 pieces of equipment but, as soon as the 20 Eidal Gas Trailers came on board and the TWA numbers didn't even run in sequence, I decided it was time for our own numbering system.
Gas Trailers are most often referred too as Tube Banks because they are made up from several banks or rows of tubes. Thus "Tube Bank" or "Tube Bank Trailer".
Pan American, the Air Force Support contractor on the CAPE side used a number system for their Tube Bank Trailers as TG-?? which like lots of government nomenclatures are backwards and stood for "Trailer, Gas"
We had used our own numbers on the Joy and Corblin Helium Compressors by calling them Joy 1 and Joy 2 and Corblin 1 and Corblin 2.
Accordingly, I sit down and listed all the equipment assigned to Mobile Gas and came up with a numbering system.
I used D-1 and D-2 for the Dynamic Rechargers and P-1 through P-5 for the five new Paul Rechargers and H-1 through H-4 for the new Haskel Compressors. I kept the J-1, J-2, C-1 and C-2 for the Joys and Corblin Compressors.
I used TB-?? for all the new Tube Bank Trailers as well as the Air Force jobs and on the 8 or so Bomb Bottle Trailers I numbered them BB-??
Additionally, with the exception of the Haskel Compressors, all the new equipment had been painted solid white.
I thought it would be better to have the undercarriages painted a darker color and having the experience of K-Bottle Cylinders being color coded depending on the gas being used, I thought it a good idea to do the same with the undercarriage of the KSC Mobile Gas Equipment.
I therefore submitted my suggestions to Addison in writing of how to number and color code the equipment.
I even had one of our high pressure gas trailers painted in the suggested color and numbering schemes to evaluate our thinking.
Once submitted to Mr. Bain, he refined the idea by changing the number of the Tube Bank Trailers to GT-?? for "Gas Trailer" and he eliminated my BB-?? for the Bomb Bottle Gas Trailers so there was nothing in our numbering system for the Gas Trailers except the "GT" designation and that is why this story is written using the nomenclature of "Gas Trailer" because in the real world I might have been using "Tube Bank".
Likewise in the Helium Compressors, Addison eliminated the H-? and J-? and C-? and all Compressors used just the C-? for Compressor designation and same for the Rechargers, Addison simply prefixed their numbers with a R-?
The stool sit up on by the Montana Maverick was apparently a little taller then the Texans stool as this was an improvement over what I had purposed and reflects why Addison and I worked so well together.
Likewise, after reviewing our prototype paint job, we made a few fine tune changes in the color coding scheme. One of which was to require the equipment number in the upper right hand corner on all four sides of the equipment.
Another was a Kingpin alignment strip on the front of all Gas Trailers. A simple requirement but, necessary because some trailers had center marks off center to the king pin and this reflects our attention to detail. We even painted the air hose couplers red and green to indicate the supply and return.
Once we had decided this was it, Addison turned in a final document to make our numbering and color coding method a " KSC Standard " which required approvals from the top management at KSC.
So, I am pleased to know that I was the starting seed that resulted in a "KSC Standard" that so far as I know remains a valid document today.
I've mentioned mine and Addison driving the trucks and doing actual work which is normally a No No when working with union people.
Most all Union Contracts stipulate, management is not suppose to perform work task belonging to the hourly employees because in theory that is taking work away from the troops.
However, I seldom had any problems from the crew when I wanted to drive or operate any of the equipment and there was several reason for that.
First off, I respected the union employees and the contract they had with Bendix and I like to think those under me had the same mutual respect for the position I was in.
In other words, they knew I would stand up for them when they were right and also knew I was going to give them hell when they were wrong.
Likewise, I knew and expected them to give me hell when they thought I or the company was out of line.
The Union Officials of the International Association of Machinist (IAM) changed from time to time but, for all of my 12 years at KSC there was always a portion of the officers and/or union stewards in my section of the High Pressure Gas Department.
I don't think I received anymore grievances then any other section but, we did have a few Mexican Stand Offs that are quite memorable.
I didn't put up with much foolishness and the crew knew there was a line in the sand they had better not cross.
However, I respected their line in the sand and an example of this is one 3 day Holiday week end. I received a phone call from the support office that we had a gas trailer parked at the Bendix Clean Lab they wanted moved out of the way.
By Union Contract, I was required to contact the low man on the over time list and have him move the trailer and if the low man was not available to call the next one on the list.
On a "Call In" the mechanic was to receive 4 hour minimum pay.
I made 3 or 4 phone calls to the low man and the next low man on the list and everybody was apparently out enjoying the holiday.
I decided it would be easier to run out and move the trailer myself then it would be to sit there making phone calls trying to find a mechanic at home.
After all the Clean Lab was in the same building as our maintenance shop and where our yard was located. So, rather then spend a lot of time trying to contact one of the mechanics on this particular holiday, I ran out to KSC and moved the trailer myself.
First thing the next morning, I told the low man on the overtime list to put 4 hours on his time card and explained the reason why he could because I had took work from him by moving the trailer myself.
Of course he was tickled pink because he received 4 hours double time pay for doing absolutely nothing. I received nothing except I was the one responsible for getting things done and it did get done.
Situation like this were rare but, the crew knew I was going to be straight with them and do the right thing.
Interestingly enough this was falsifying time cards and considered fraud in the eyes of the United States Government, we mavericks really didn't care, we called it getting the job accomplished.
On another occasion, we were hot purging the liquid oxygen systems at the LOX Sphere on LC-39B with one of our Dynamic Rechargers and the first two or three days, we sent down a relief crew during the 1 hour lunch break and then one day we had trouble getting a crew down and I went down and told the crew they had to either take a way late lunch or just shut the operation down.
I really didn't want to shut the purge operation down for lunch because you would loose two hours getting chilled back down and back in operation.
The mechanics, Roy Hartley and Tommy Thompson knew that as well as I did and told me, Ray don't worry about it, we will just work through lunch because after all once in operation all they had to do was sit back and monitor the equipment.
They told me for that matter we will just do that every day and you can quit worry about sending down a lunch break crew at all.
They were willingly doing this with out pay just to make it easy and I assume out of self pride for a job well done that I had been preaching.
We were only doing the purge operation on the day shift and for the next 10 days or so they ran the Recharger straight through lunch and ate their sack lunch while continuing the purge.
Shortly after the purge operation was completed and on payday which was a Thursday afternoon, I handed Roy and Tommy their pay checks around 1:30 PM and told them "Thanks Guys" for working through your lunch period, now get out of here and take the rest of the day off.
Here we were once again falsifying time cards. "Fraud" or "Good Management" is for the reader to decide.
On one occasion, The local IAM Union President, Bill Boydston was in my crew and Bill happened to like working second shift. He also happened to know one of my hobbies was wood working.
One afternoon Bill came into my office and ask if I would build him a podium for the Union Hall. He said he didn't want to buy one because he wanted a real heavy large podium and could get $100.00 from the union if I would build it.
Bill also explained there was one union officer who liked to hear himself talk and always talked too long. So, he asked me to provide a built in clock so this long winded talker could see when his time was up.
Those were about the only two criteria Bill offered. "Heavy Duty with a Clock."
I built a massive square podium with 6 inch tall letters of I-A-M cut out and mounted on an angle on the front side of the podium.
I then installed a 24 inch fluorescent light that was hidden with in the podium which shown down on the letters as well as light the top of the podium where the speeches lay. A built in light switch turned the light on or off.
The podium was complete with storage shelves inside and doors on the back side. AND Mr. Boydstun got his clock recessed into the top of the podium on the left hand side.
My work was a gift to the Union because I spent the unions $100.00 and about $25.00 of my own money to finish the podium but, it was a mighty fine podium if I do say so myself.
Of course every IAM union member working on the space center knew who built their new podium and Bill and my crew had much fun telling how they had this Bendix Management guy working for them.
I got my dig back by telling them they will never know how many grievance settlements the podium was going to cost them.
He explained he wanted to present this gavel and have it preside over the International Convention of the IAM Union held every 4 years which was coming up in 1976.
Having a wood turning lathe allowed me to create Bill's gavel and the union even invited me to attend the convention to witness the presentation of the gavel in Hollywood, Florida.
The gavel and sounding block are shown:.. HERE
If it sounds I was cozy with the union, keep in mind there is that line in the sand and I'm probably the only man at KSC who ever fired his entire crew.
I sent the entire first shift crew home and gave them 30 minutes to clear the gate or I was calling KSC Security and having them escorted off the space center.
The problem had arose when Bendix reached the end of a coverall rental contract which furnished coveralls for all Bendix employees.
As can be expected in the final months of a rental contract not knowing where you would again be awarded a new contract, the coverall company allowed the coveralls to become deteriorated to a point were the coveralls were full of holes and missing parts of legs or arms and in general just in terrible shape.
In an effort to avoid this in the future Bendix discussed with the union the consideration that perhaps the men would rather have their own personnel coveralls where each man would be provided 5 pairs of new coveralls to wear and maintain for himself.
There was never a formally agreement or union contract change to do this but, one of my mechanics, Jim Cochran was the union steward at the time and he had agreed in a meeting with Bendix Contract Management this was a good idea and he personal told me he approved of the new method as he thought the guys would like having their own coveralls to do with as they pleased.
Unfortunately for Jim he didn't check with his union buddies.
I had heard rumblings from the troops that this was not acceptable to them and they were not going to burden their wives with washing their work coveralls.
I informed upper management I was afraid we were going to have problems implementing the new method of providing coveralls. They felt the union had agreed and there should be no problems.
Frankly, I think 90 percent of the troops did approve of the new method but, allowed the other 10 percent to lead them down the primrose path.
Wearing regular long sleeve coveralls was a KSC safety requirement when working with Cryogenics Nitrogen and Helium equipment and when operating the Oxygen and Hydrogen equipment flame retardant coveralls were required.
The flame retardant coveralls were still being provided under a different rental contract because to make coveralls flame retardant they must be washed in a soda ash type chemical solution.
After hearing of the rumble within the troops, upper management decided we would simply revise the procedures for all cryogenics operations to require the wearing of flame retardant coveralls.
Flame retardant coveralls are very hot in the summer time of Florida and this of course didn't set well with the troops being made to wear Flame Retardant Coveralls when there was absolutely no need from a safety stand point when handling inert cryogenic liquids.
So, the Mexican stand off arrived the day the new coverall method went into effect and the 10 percenters convinced the other 90 percent that this was a bad idea and the company was not going to push us union guys around.
Accordingly, the entire first shift crew of the Mobile Gas Section of the High Pressure Gas Department refused to wear the flame retardant coveralls.
The situation was coordinated all the way up and down the line of Bendix management but, of course it was left for me to implement our course of action.
I therefore informed the crew they were being insubordinate by refusing to wear the prescribed safety equipment and were being sent home for insubordination.
When one of the rebels spoke out something about being badged and didn't have to leave KSC, I firmly stated, "Look you have 30 minutes to get out of here or I will call security and have you escorted off the center".
The crew all gathered up their personal stuff and headed for the Union Office in Cocoa Beach, and I was very much amused to learn later that when they got there the Union Business Agent scared them all when he said "Boys, you might as well go on home there is nothing I can do for you because there is a contract that outlines the grievance procedure which you did not follow and that leaves you in violation of the contract".
It was now out of my hands and left to the Union and our Bendix Personnel Office to work things out which they did and the mechanics were allowed to return to work the following day.
Win, loose or draw, a new rental contract was let by Bendix to once again provide rental coveralls to the mechanics same as before.
Frankly, the change was made by Bendix in an effort to better serve it's employees and a portion of the union bosses saw it as such. But, a few union members held a different view.
There was one other occasion and I can't even recall the reason or circumstances but, when 6 of the guys ticked me off one day they too got sent home, all 6 of them. Of course we worked things out and they got to come back to work.
I may be among the very few or perhaps the only man Bendix every received a letter of accommodation about from the local president of the IAM Union as reflected:.. HERE
So was I cozy? I think not. I like to think it was a mutual respect thing and that is why Addison and I got to drive trucks and operate the equipment when we desired. AND besides there usually was a mechanic or two sitting on their butt watching us do their work.
As one mechanic put it. I was a SOB but, a good one.
I considered that a compliment and I did enjoy getting things accomplished after being told "NO" because it was often times more fun doing it the rebel or mavericks way.
I spent a lot of my time processing our equipment through the TWA sand blast and painting facility on Ransom Road and we always had 2 or 3 pieces of equipment being painted which brings us to this story.
I had been complaining about the number of Gas Trailers I was able to get processed through the TWA paint shop and a meeting was set up with our NASA counterpart and the NASA counterpart who over saw the TWA Painting Operations.
In the meeting was myself and my boss, Tom Wagner, The TWA Paint Shop foreman and his boss and then we had a couple of NASA guys on TWA side and our NASA counterpart, Addison Bain.
I had planned nothing previous to what occurred but, during the meeting I never had a chance to say anything or choose not to say anything, it just happened as it did and I sit quietly never saying anything as the meeting unfolded and then about an hour later the head TWA NASA guy said "well, I guess that's it" and every body got up to leave and I said, "Hold on, Wait a minute, you'll haven't let me say anything"
The TWA NASA cat says "O, I'm sorry go ahead" and everybody sit down again and when they did I pulled a plastic bag from my brief case and said, "Guys you don't seem to understand the problem" and with that I dumped a double hand full of rust in the middle of the conference table and stated, "That rust came from the frame of one of NASA's 20 brand new Eidal Gas Trailers that cost over a million dollars."
I picked up a 6 inch long piece of scale rust and said "That came from the frame of one of the trailers and if you don't start getting something done faster then the progress we are currently making then you will have nothing but, a bucket of rust in a few years."
I next passed around several photographs of our gas trailers that were showing rust all over.
Suffice it to say, I got their attention and the results of the meeting was the TWA paint facility went on 12 hours a days, 7 days a week until a great deal of the Mobile Gas Equipment had been sand blasted and painted.
The TWA paint Foreman, Earl Godwin and I became very good friends which has lasted down through the years and he lived only 3 doors down from my mother's house for several years.
I went over 2 or 3 time a week to the TWA paint facilities to check on the progress of our equipment and one day when I went over there was this brand new lime green Fire Truck being painted while our equipment was being ignored.
I ask Earl "What the Hell you doing painting a brand new fire truck that don't need painting instead of working on my stuff." Earl said "because Dr. Kurt Debus himself ordered this, now what do you expect me to do."
We both laughed as he told me the story of Dr. Debus looking out the window of the Launch Control Center on the previous launch and observed one of the fire trucks in the fall back area which was painted in the new lime green color, he remarked "Fire Trucks are not green they are RED"
That was all it took, one of his aides saw to it that the fire truck was painted Red and old Ray's equipment had to wait.
I've told the story many times and I'm still amused by it.
A couple other Debus stories I recall circulating around KSC was one day during construction of the headquarters building he was driving down the NASA causeway going out to Highway 1 and he saw this clump of 2 or 3 Palm trees that was growing out of the ground side ways for a distance and then they all turned up and was now growing straight up.
He thought those trees would look good in front of the headquarters building and so he ordered the clump of trees moved.
Problem was the NASA causeway had a very large drainage canal running down beside it and this clump of trees was on the other side of the canal.
Cost be danged, they hauled in a barge large enough for a crane to go across on to lift the trees out and bring them to the other side and today those trees still grow out by the pond in front of the headquarters building.
Another time the janitors were cleaning Mr. Debus office and he mentioned the fact the plant in his office was looking kind of shabby and they reported this comment to their supervisor back at the shop and management got all excited that Mr. Debus was unhappy with his potted plant.
Appears this was a fairly large plant of a palm variety.
Well, TWA management didn't want NASA's head man at KSC unhappy and they decided the plant must be immediately replaced with an exact copy.
So, they got on the phone and located one of the same kind and size in Orlando. To pay for it they had to get several signatures for a petty cash voucher to get the cash to pay for the plant.
So, away this guy goes to Orlando in a pickup to get the plant and on the way back the wind blows the plant over in the back of the pickup breaking off some limbs and kind of bruising the plant up.
When he got back to the maintenance facilities they said there must have been 20 suits and ties out around the pickup evaluating what to do about this poor beat up plant.
They weren't about to upset Mr. Debus so, it was back to getting signatures for the petty cash fund and overtime authorization was now required since it was by now late in the afternoon and this guy had to go back to Orlando and also a phone call made to get the nursery to remain open.
Not much telling what the plant ended up costing but, come morning Mr. Debus had a new one sitting in his office.
Such was all in the effort to get man on the moon.
As we moved into our New Digs west of the CCF-39 I discovered a few things missing such as a lack of office and crew space where it was needed.
Adequate office space was provided in the Mobile Gas Shop Area but, I knew it would be much more efficient if the Operation Crew was in the back yard area where the equipment was parked and the K-bottle service and storage area was located.
The K-Bottle Shed as we called it, was designed to handle one K-Bottle at a time when we in fact handled 20 K-Bottles at a time because we used pallets which stowed 20 K-Bottles.
Row after row of racks were bolted to the floor in the K-Bottle Shed and rather then use the individual racks, the first thing we did was start tearing them out.
Frankly I was a little gun shy by now and didn't want us being criticized so I only allowed the removal of a few at a time.
But, little by little we removed them all and the time spent engineering and building the racks must have cost a fortune and we never used a one of them. They all went to the salvage yard.
One of my most satisfying contribution to the space program was the design, installation and method we established for the compressed gas cylinder operations at KSC.
Small as they were, when taken into consideration that we were responsible for servicing, testing, filling, sampling and deliver of 10,000 of the cylinders to every conceivable location at KSC it was indeed no small task.
Nitrogen and helium was the largest usages and those cylinders were to be filled at the new K-Bottle Shed in our new facilities at CCF-39.
However, no means of filling had been provided except for filling one cylinder at a time while our method was using a metal pallet and handling 20 bottles at a time as shown:.. HERE
A pallet was four rows deep and 5 bottles wide providing for handling 20 bottles at a time.
Being 4 rows deep made the pallet 4 feet in depth which allowed for loading two pallets side by side on a 8 foot wide standard bed truck so the four rows deep was very much on purpose.
Weight was another consideration and 20 bottles including the pallet weighed around 3700 lbs which allowed us to use a narrow fork lift rated at 4000 lbs.
A fork lift no wider then the 5 row pallet allowed the pallets to be parked in rows side by side.
So there were many things to consider when handle the cylinders.
Probably the neatest was the fill manifold I conceived, designed and had fabricated in the Bendix machine shop.
Using 1.5 inch stainless steel pipe, I designed a rectangle square which matched the gap between two of the 4 rows and was 5 bottles long.
I had 1/4 inch anaconda fittings welded to the two long sides which matched the number and location of each cylinder within the pallet which we attached a flex hose too for connecting each of the 20 cylinders.
With the welded fittings I wanted to make sure my design was safe and satisfactory from an engineering stand point so, I had our engineer, John Szoke do the engineering calculation to validate my design of the manifold.
The other engineering validations of the system came from my father who on many occasions told me "Son, always go hell bent for stout"
The manifold was suspended from the ceiling beams of the K-bottle shed using pulleys and a counter balance which allowed us to raise and lower the manifold when changing out the pallets of cylinders.
The manifold was allowed to move up and down using a flex hose connection design exactly the same as does a Kelly Hose on a Texas Rotary Drilling Rig and by now we know where that design came from.
Within the K-bottle shed, two identical manifold loading station set side by side, one for filling nitrogen and one for helium.
Each manifold was equipped with 1/4 inch sampling valve which allowed us to sample all 20 bottles at a one time.
A 3rd manifold station was provided for vacuuming the cylinders when necessary.
This design established the method we used from beginning to end of the Apollo program for filling and servicing all Gn2 and Ghe compressed Gas Cylinders at KSC.
As mentioned, the new Mobile Gas Shop Facilities provided adequate office space and a locker room for the mechanics but, it was just too far from the yard where we parked and serviced our equipment and where the K-bottle facility was located.
The K-bottle shed was completely open on the back side and the other 3 walls were constructed from a screen type expansions metal.
An extra space stuck out in front of the shed so, first thing we did was use 3/4 inch plywood and wall up this entire front area and then in one corner we built a 20 by 15 foot room for the crew.
We had the electricians install lights and electrical outlets and then shortly afterwards a couple of the guys came in one day with a large window type air conditioner. When I asked where they stole that I was told I didn't want to know.
Took some maneuvering behind the scenes but, after a few months I was able to obtain a 50 by 10 foot office type trailer house which we parked next to the K-bottle Shed and it was from there that myself, 5 foremen, 2 schedulers and a clerk typist ran the Mobile Gas Operations at KSC.
Perhaps the grand kids will one day treasure the photos shown:.. HERE
Another part of our new digs was a brand new house trailer office for Tom Wagner and the Mobile Gas System Engineers which was one of a group of 6 office trailers located directly in front of the CCF-39.
With a new office trailer, Tom wanted to have it a little nicer then his previous one at CCF-34/37 and was in the process of setting it up and was confronted with an obstacle created by the President of the United States of America.
One would not think our President had much to do with running the Mobile Gas Section at KSC but, he had a direct impact and his helping us cost the tax payers a lot of money.
Seems like president Lyndon Baines Johnson (One of my Texas Buddies) had commented one day that the government should reduce the amount of paper work being generated to lessen the storage requirements.
Well now who is to argue with the president, most assuredly not NASA and as a result of this, we could not purchase any file cabinets for stowing our NASA mandated procedures or any other paper records for that matter and this was in the days long before desktop computers.
The only type file cabinet we could obtain was made from cardboard which was in fact a one draw file cabinet made from cardboard which included a small metal clip which tied the drawers together so you could stack the cardboard drawers on top of each other.
Problem was, you could stack two or three together and after a little usage they would crush the bottom ones and the stack would fall over.
Placing four or five on top of each other was out of the question and we normally had the cardboard file cabinets sitting on a table and a 10 X 50 house trailer office didn't exactly provide a lot of extra office space to be wasted.
So, what to do, well Yankee Ingenuity kicked in and Tom said he wanted to borrow a couple of mechanics and as previously mentioned my "go to" guy was Joe Davidow.
Joe and another mechanic who's name I forget, worked a week to 10 days fabricating from aluminum a metal stand the size of a file cabinet with 5 shelves in it to hold five cardboard file drawers.
The aluminum sides, back, top, and bottom was fabricated from aluminum sheeting the guys had sheared to size by bootlegging the shearing through the Bendix machine shop.
The different pieces were assembled together using 3/4 inch aluminum angle iron and stainless steel bolts and nuts to create a 5 shelve unit to slide the cardboard drawers into.
The assembled unit was a little heavy so to make it movable the guys mounted wheels on the bottom.
I could only shake my head when I noticed an office chair was missing it's wheels because I now knew where Davidow got the wheels now on the bottom of the file cabinet.
A couple coats of gray paint from a few spray cans completed the Red Neck file cabinet at a cost I calculated at the time to be around $1,500.00 plus one destroyed office chair.
So, for many years afterwards I always referred to it as Tom's 1500 dollar file cabinet.
At the time a normal 5 drawer file cabinet cost around $39.95 so we could have purchased 37 files cabinets for what Tom's cost and had a real one.
I was glad the mechanics were on loan to Tom so I could lay claim to not being a part of this shenanigan.
So, much for LBJ's cutting cost by not allowing file cabinets.
Another situation was just as bad. The Support Contractors under contract to NASA at KSC simply didn't have the hand tools and roll around tool boxes afforded the Spacecraft and Vehicle Contractors nor were they allowed to obtain any which I expect was a budget type thing.
So, to replace the lack of roll around tool boxes the Bendix mechanics working in the Mobile Gas Shop took available parts carts and enclosed them with aluminum sides and doors which again cost much more then a regular Snap On Roll Around Tool Box would have cost.
I was speaking with Joe Davidow awhile back for the first time in 40 years and one of his first memories to bring up was the file cabinet he built.
We did eventually obtain File Cabinets because when the down sizing started after Apollo 11 we found furniture all over KSC in offices now closed so we just went around and stole what we wanted and took it to our own work area.
I didn't consider it stealing, I called it maximum utilization of government owned property.
Our scheduler, Dave Henderson told me a couple of years back that I sit down in front of his desk shortly after he arrived and ask him what I could do to make his job more pleasant and more efficient.
Dave said he told me he learned to type in the military and sure would like to have a type writer so he could type our work orders instead of writing them by long hand.
He said, 3 days later I walked in and sit an IBM Selector typewriter down on his desk.
Frankly, I don't remember doing that or where I got the typewriter but, sounds like it was nothing more then a typical day at Mobile Gas because as I've stated we didn't let much get in our way when it came to getting the job accomplished.
Getting things done was often times fun when people closed the front door on you and it became a real challenge to get around the rules.
Such was the case when I wanted some storage cases built for our portable radios and the operation log books used on the Mobile Rechargers and Compressor.
We had standard government issued steel book case where we kept the 1 inch black note books which held our operating logs for recording the location, pressures and other vital info during our pumping operations in the field.
When the mechanics were told which Recharger or Compressor to use the mechanic would take the appropriate log book and proceed to do the pumping operation at hand and upon their return the log book was placed in the book case.
The scheduler would then at his convenience use the log book to update the status console and the foremen referenced the log books to learn which units required servicing with cryogenics, diesel fuel and any up coming preventive maintenance which would take the unit out of service.
In other words the log books provided supervision with the current status of the pumping units and those systems in the field which the units serviced.
One particle shelf in our book case held the log books but, they were constantly falling over and you could never look up at the book case to determine which log books were on the shelve or in the field with the unit.
We did not have radios in the beginning but, later on we obtained 6 portable radios which were about 12 inches long, 8 inches high and 3 inches thick.
The radios required charging when not in use and initially we had the charging units and the radios setting all over the foremen desk so they could be plugged into an electrical outlet.
I decided we should build dividers for the log book to keep them standing up right and in an assigned slot to rapidly determine if the log book was in or out.
A divider unit for the radios would like wise allow us one shelf for the radios and some simply wiring and extensions cords would allow all the radios to be plugged in at one location with the radio in it's assigned slot.
So, we made the drawings and filled out a support request for the TWA carpenter shop to make dividers from plywood which would then be inserted into the standard government steel bookcase.
There were also standard dividers available which would hold the individual books up but, they were made wide to hold up to a 3 inch book and I wanted our dividers just over 1 inch to neatly insert each log book into and have each slot identified by unit number. i.e. a place for everything and everything in it's place.
Well shucks, the support request came back through channels disapproved by TWA's NASA counterpart so I went over to TWA to see what the problem was.
As mentioned, I seldom accept "NO" for an answer and after discussing my request with a few TWA supervisors and one or two NASA counterparts I ended up in the directors office of NASA that was over all TWA shops.
He was a gray haired old civil service guy from many years gone by and he patiently explained to me that the United States Government had standard issue furniture purchased under government contract for all government contractors to use and I could have any piece of it I wanted but, the U. S. government was not going to provide me with any custom built furniture.
I could immediately see this was going to be a challenge.
So, I rapidly reviewed my book of tricks and decided kindness and understanding was the best approach for this long time by the book civil servant.
Accordingly, I explained my great pride in working for NASA and that I was trying to do the best job I could on behalf of NASA to keep things on track, well organized and do so in a neat and orderly fashion.
I explained, none of the available furniture would meet my needs same as the government issued chairs would not work in the Apollo Space Craft.
He got a chuckle out of that but, still insisted he was not going to let me get him in trouble by being caught building customized furniture in his shop.
After about 20 minutes of my countering his every concern we became acquainted and he finally looked up over his horn rimmed glasses and said, "You got any body over there that can drive a nail."
I said, "SURE" and he said, "Tell you what I will do, You take these sketches back and redraw them so each different board is shown by itself and we will cut the boards out and what you do with them is your business."
So, we did just that, The TWA carpenter shop cut and grooved the boards and we glued them together and then stained and varnished the dividers and we were in business with no more Radios sitting all over the place and you could look up and see by the slots which log book was in or out.
Persistence and not accepting the first NO you encounter pays off because from that day forward every time he saw me his only comment would be "OK SOB, what is it going to cost me this time." AND, He didn't use SOB either.
YES!, The back door was often times more fun then the front. But, the real fun of course was getting it all done when the rules said, "NO"
AND, I think the old civil servant type enjoyed it as much as I did.
The world will never know of all the people behind the scenes that had the know how and courage to take it upon themselves to accomplish the task at hand while helping put men on the moon from Kennedy Space Center.
Much of our courage and ingenuity not only allowed us to get the job done it saved the American Tax Payer tons of money as was the case when we needed a means to service our 5 Paul Rechargers and 4 Haskel Helium Compressors in the field with Diesel Fuel, Glycol and Hydraulic Fluid.
The RP1 Skid was quite familiar to me as I had started my aerospace career working on the Atlas ICBM Silos at Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas.
We also had several surplus M1 Search Light Trailers and once more with out asking, we simple used our Yankee ingenuity to build 3 field servicing units from the surplus equipment as shown:... HERE
Busy Busy Busy we were, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, round the clock operations kept me occupied with very little free time for myself or the family. But, then going to the moon isn't exactly your ordinary 9 to 5 job.
November 9, 1967 arrived and with it the very first test of the gigantic Saturn V moon rocket which was designated AS-501 and/or Apollo 4.
AS-501 was also the very first use of Kennedy Space Centers Launch Complex 39 and the rocket would launch from Pad-A.
Launching of AS-501 was a major first step in America's moon program and its success or failure would reflect our nations space capabilities which at the time was a high priority due to the cold war with Russia.
For the final phase of the countdown, the Mobile Gas Crew in direct support of the CCF-39 was placed on 12 hour shifts and Tom said he wanted me there when he was not there so he asked me to work the 8 PM to 8 AM shift.
The CCF-39 was located within the hazard area and the Mobile Gas Crew was required to evacuate at T Minus 30 minutes. Accordingly, when the count reached T-30 at 6:30 AM, we fell back to the VAB were the HPG offices were located.
So, after working all night taking care of my responsibilities as the General Foreman of the Mobile Gas Section in the High Pressure Gas Department for Bendix Launch Support, I was standing just outside the VAB at Kennedy Space Center when AS-501 lifted off at 7:00.01 AM on November 9, 1967. I was 33 years 2 months and 11 days old.
AND, it was exactly two years to the day since I had first stepped foot on KSC soil.
As the rocket cleared the launch tower I was caught up in the same emotions as all the other KSC employees observing the launch and suddenly as the rocket cleared the launch tower there arose from the crowd of workers the shouting of "Go Go Go" and the higher the rocket rose the louder the shouting became.
Even with the roar of launch and the sheet metal on the side of the VAB rattling from the shock waves and the ground shaking you could still hear the employees shouting, "Go Go Go"
The shouting had barley died down when it was announced staging had occurred with a successful ignition of the 2nd stage and another loud roar came from one section of the crowd and it was very obvious that was the North America Employees responsible for the 2nd stage of the Saturn V.
The shouting represented the release of emotions penned up by many months of effort and long hours of work preparing the rocket for launch.
The "All Up" system testing of the very first Saturn V placed a burden of stress on all the workers because you most certainly did not want the stage or system you worked on to be cause for a failure of the entire mission and this showed.
It was also about the time of 2nd stage ignition or what was 2-1/2 minutes after launch that the crowd standing all around the VAB started being pelted by small gravel rock and trash falling out of the sky.
The gravel and trash came from the launch pad flame trench that was lined with fire brick and had just been seared and cleaned out by the rocket blast for the first time and that was 3-1/2 miles from were the gravel was falling back to earth.
A few photographs of AS-501 are:.. HERE
A couple months later, we played our usual roll in supporting the launch of AS-204 i.e. Apollo 5 on January 22, 1968 from Launch Complex 37B.
Apollo 5 was an earth orbit test of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM).
Three more months and the second "All Ups" test of the Saturn V designated AS-502 i.e. Apollo 6 on April 4, 1968 was launched from Complex 39A.
As previously told, Mobile Gas played a major roll in preventing a delay in the launch of AS-502 by getting all the batteries replenished with helium after it was lost during the CDDT.
An epilogue to the helium story is that after the successful launch of AS-502 we ended up with about 20 Helium Railcars in various stages of being empty which occurred simply due to the necessity of our skimming off the high pressure portion to expedite the transfer of helium for repressurization of the batteries.
NASA was paying a demurrage fee to the Bureau of Mines for each day the cars remained at KSC and therefore it became our task to transfer all the gas from half empty railcars to other half empty railcars so the empty cars could be released and 150 PSI was considered empty.
In actuality based on pressures we could pump up about 4 cars to the maximum and release 16 railcars.
So, we set out to empty several railcars into another by using one of our Haskel Compressors to pump up one of the railcars to 4,000 PSI which I had come to understand the cars were rated at.
After the first railcar reached 4,000 PSI, we switched over to another and proceeded to pump it up to 4,000 PSI.
Helium railcars were new to us but, were the same as our gas trailers with a valve on each tube and a main outlet valve on the manifold.
However, none of the railcars had any visible markings or signs at all to indicate anything regarding pressures were as, our gas trailers were all clearly marked with the pressure rating.
I had from several sources as well as from Work Area 7 who ordered the railcars come to understand the pressure rating for helium railcars was 4,000 PSI.
Without thinking to much about it, I accepted that at face value and assumed all railcars were 4,000 PSI.
We had recorded the arrival pressures and I knew some were less then 4,000 PSI but, again the word "assume" was there and I had assumed some were simply not filled to full capacity.
On the 2nd railcar we were pressurizing, I was up in the railcar looking around and noticed one of the tubes on the car was steel stamped 2,800 PSI.
K-Bottles and the tubes on gas trailers are steel stamped with the manufactures name, serial number, date of manufacture and one or more hydrostatic dates.
By law, K-Bottles and Gas Trailers require hydrostatic testing to 5/3 of their working pressure after manufacturing and every 5 years thereafter.
When I noticed the tube stamped 2,800, my brain immediately started asking "What's Going on Here" Railcars are supposed to be rated at 4,000 PSI.
I next checked the car we had just filled to 4,000 PSI and the tubes on it were stamped 3,200 PSI.
My brain now said, "Something's WRONG Here !!"
I knew we had a Bureau of Mines book in the office so, I ran down to my office and begin to read about helium railcars.
I came to learn that 4,000 PSI was the pressure rating they sought when manufacturing the tubes for railcars but, after manufacturing the tubes, some railcars were rated at a lesser pressure based on the expansion ratio determined when they were first hydrostatic tested.
To build a railcar, they first used all the tubes rated at 4,000 PSI. Next they put together a railcar with a group of all tubes rated at a lesser pressure and final they put together railcars with rows of tubes rated at different pressures and they called this a row filled car.
The bottom line was a railcar might be rated as low as 2,000 PSI and some railcars were even rated at different pressures by rows.
Boy, was that a lessen in humility. I immediately rushed back to the offload area and took some gas trailers and got the railcar we had over pressurized by 800 PSI taken back down to the correct pressure of 3,200 PSI.
I did not try to hide our goof up. I told Work Area 7 and every body else to quit advertising railcars were 4,000 PSI.
Since hydrostatic testing takes the pressure to 5/3 times above the rated pressure, our over pressurization was not too bad but, had it been a lesser rated car it could have been.
I doubt our situation caused it but, later on the rail cars started arriving at KSC with a sign in the working end stating the rated pressures and if it was a row filled car or not.
The situation also taught me not to rely too much on what I'm told.
In late summer of 1968 we had another dropped gas trailer which cut up some tractor tires and got a lot of attention within both NASA and GSA (Government Service Administration) who provided the tractor trucks at KSC.
I was at my wits end. Guessetto would not listen. Foreman, Houghton continued to frustrate me. Tom was ok but, not a stout leader. I felt restricted in accomplishing the task at hand and continued to be unhappy with my salary situation.
Fact is, after several request to do so, I finally received permission to discuss my salary situation with Mr. Guessetto's boss, Lou Perry
I really had nothing to criticize either Guessetto or Wagner about with Mr. Perry. I simply believed a supervisor should be paid more then those he supervised and that was not the case with me as I had two foremen making more then I was and two others nearly equal.
One in particular apparently thought this meant he didn't answer to me or at least, all too often his actions indicated it so.
I wanted someone in High Management of Bendix to explain WHY this situation existed or prove to me I was thinking wrong.
In my meeting with Mr. Perry I simply showed him the disparity in salaries and I'm sure I complained that one of the things wrong management wise, was that I had no input in the foremen's evaluation or their merit increases nor did the section supervisor.
Near the end of my conversation with Perry, he made a simply statement that he thought he was going to have to make a few changes down in my area.
I reckon I learned a couple of weeks later what that meant when both Ray Guessetto and my boss, Tom Wagner were relieved of duty.
I had mixed emotions, feeling bad on one hand (Especially for Tom) hoping my meeting with Perry was not the cause while at the same time hoping this was going to be a change for the better.
I did have the opportunity to ask Mr. Guessetto why he was fired and he said he really didn't know except he believed it to be because the department did not meet the schedule for developing the HPG launch procedures.
Tom was also not sure why he was let go. But, I think he was actually relieved because he said Perry told him he was not being fired just removed from a management position.
I thought "O-Lord", another Damn College Boy Idiot. Just what I need. God please give me an uneducated county boy with some old fashion common horse sense.
Boy!!, was I in for a much welcome surprise come September 20, 1968.
Ron Cotton was the name, a tall slender man with a constant sly grin on his face.
On his first walk through visit to the Mobile Gas Area, I voiced my concerns regarding our Tractor/Trailer accidents and told him a step forward would be to restrict the mechanics choice of shift to within each section and not department wide to reduce the constant influx of mechanics with no truck driving experience into the Mobile Gas Section.
He ask, "Why haven't you already done that." I replied "Guessetto wouldn't let us." Ron said, "Well lets do it." I said, "We may have trouble with the union" He said, "Fine, I'll take care of that, Consider it done."
AND, that was all there was to it and believe it or not the guys and the union never said a word. I think they understood and were as tired of dropping trailers as I was and besides overtime was being equalized by sections and not department wide so a precedence had even been established.
I also explained my frustrations with foremen, Gray Houghton and ask Mr. Cotton to please move him to another section within the HPG Department or whatever it took but, please get him out of my hair.
I don't recall Mr. Cotton saying much of anything to that but, I was shocked a week later when I was in the shop office and got a phone call from him and he says "Ray if you don't want Gary Houghton working for you then I don't want him in the department PERIOD. So, we are firing him and it's your job to tell him so. Give him two weeks notice he is being terminated."
I filled out an AVO (Avoid Verbal Orders) and gave it to Gary and explained the reason why he was being terminated.
I was never so surprised in my life as well as all the others in my crew. Gary went around showing the AVO to everybody asking if I could do that.
AND, there in is a lesson in management. Because of the way Guessetto managed things and handled employee evaluation and merit increases, Gary just never felt he worked or had to answer to me and yet I was responsible for all he did or didn't do.
I was beginning to think, I just may want to keep this here "College Boy"
It is never pleasant to take the lively hood away from anyone and I felt bad about doing it. But, then like your children it is some times necessary to use strong discipline to get your point across. Also sometimes necessary to go beyond what you would like to do just to set an example for the other employees.
Rip Campbell even complained asking me if they couldn't move Gary some place else.
Once Mr. Cotton made the decision, I never even considered suggesting a different course of action because it was time the lackadaisicals were shook up.
The firing of Gary got every ones attention and greatly improved attitudes while creating something of an understanding department wide.
There definitely had been a CHANGE in the Bendix HPG Department and everyone knew it.
On another early discussion with Ron Cotton about my frustration of dealing with the accidents, he suggested I create a safety board of some sort and make it large enough it could not be ignored by anyone and especially the mechanics.
One of the talents passed to me by my father is the ability to design and pictures things in my head and portions of the board started coming into view even as Ron spoke.
After he left, I sketched out on paper my initial thinking of what we might do in the way of full filling Mr. Cotton's suggestion.
I knew I would have to depend on our scheduler, Dave Henderson to provide data for the board from the work orders he processed so, I consulted with him how we could best do that and ask for his ideas of what the safety board might look like based on the data he was already collecting but, would require compiling into a summary of the totals.
Memory escapes me but, I'm confident I also discussed the board with one of my mechanics, Joe Davidow who could also see things in his head and was excellent when it came to designing and building things.
Joe could do anything and had already built and helped design our equipment status console in my office as well as several other things so Joe was one of my go to guys when the unorthodox popped up.
I knew we had to have the capability to easily change the data and I'm sure Joe and Dave helped me decide how best to accomplish that which ended up being house type numbers we could slide in and out of the small channel brackets we fabricated and installed on front of the board.
We had small plates sheared to size in the Bendix Machine Shop, spray painted them white and stenciled black numbers on them to create our data numbers.
I either wrote a support request or bootlegged the board through the TWA Paint Shop to have the board painted which was in fact a sheet of 1/8 inch aluminum.
Anticipating some future picture taking, I wanted the board portable so we installed it on a wall in the Mobile Gas Shop using a grooved molding which allowed us to remove the molding on just one end to slid the sheet of aluminum (board) in and out.
To make sure the mechanics clearly understood it was their safety board and their record, I had each of their names engraved in black plastic at the Bendix Machine Shop much like a desk name plate and installed them on the bottom of the board.
I was pleased with the end results shown HERE because it allowed us to document by the numbers most of the task we where charged with on a daily bases. I might add it was also laid out in real neat fashion which included the Bendix Corporate Logo.
Official use of the board commenced on November 15, 1968
Only time would tell if Mr. Cotton's idea would succeed. I became more hopeful when a short time after the board went up 3 or 4 of the mechanics complained their name was spelled wrong which at least indicated they were paying attention to their safety board.
AND, as each week passed with the numbers climbing without an incident, there was a remarkable change in attitude of the entire crew and it wasn't too long before they were all vocally expressing concern and even helping me worry about having accidents. Imagine that !!
What a relief it was to finally have the mechanics become very conscious of the fact we were all in this together and were a team whose individual performance effected us all.
As we approached the end of a 6 month period without having a single incident and having driven our tractor/trailer rigs equal to half the distance to the moon I thought it time to celebrate our current success and give the guys some recognition.
I contacted Bendix Public Affairs officer, Bill Lylery who was a former news reporter for the Star Advocate in Titusville and arranged for him to do an article in both the Bendix Monthly News Letter and the local Newspapers of Florida Today and the Star Advocate.
The resulting article and photograph are shown:.. HERE
Our 6 month accomplishment was by no means the end. It was simply a milestone marker on the way to a higher goal of avoiding any accident.
During our 6 month run on the safety board we had supported the first manned Apollo launch which was AS-205 i.e. Apollo 7 on October 11, 1968 from LC-34 which was to be the last use of Launch Complex 34 and 37.
Within a couple of weeks after launch an additional work load was placed on Mobile Gas when NASA decided to close the Converter Compressor Facilities for LC-34 and LC-37 and maintain the Gn2 battery pressure using the Mobile Gas Paul Rechargers.
Complex 34 and 37 were being temporarily mothballed until they would once again be used for the Skylab Program. Part of the mothballing was to maintain the Gn2 purges on the electrical boxes to keep moisture out and thus the need to keep the battery pressurized.
With the shut down of the Complex 34/37, another surprise was handed to Poor Old Me when I was given responsibility of the Oxygen and Hydrogen Mobile Equipment which included the Gox Pad, Two Foremen, and Several Mechanics.
During this 6 month period Mobile Gas also supported the Launch of:....
By the 3rd launch of the Saturn V Moon Rocket which was AS-503, the Mobile Gas Section had settled into pretty much of standard procedure for supporting the launch.
The Mobile Gas Mechanics and Foreman not assigned to the Launch Crew carried on our normal support requirements from the Helium Offload Area on contractor road were we would temporarily park extra Mobile Gas Equipment.
Admittedly, our support request on the day of a launch were few and far between and we made sure all our in house work was caught up and then some.
On the morning of launch day, I would report for work at 3:30 AM as did all the Mobile Gas personnel assigned to the Launch Crew.
After we had removed the oxygen and hydrogen trailers from the top of the pad at T-3 hours, the crew and I hung out in our normal work area on standby in the event the CCF required our back up support.
Our immediate work area was not equipped with the communication network like the CCF and the VAB storage battery was so, I kept up with the count down progress by listening to a local radio station or walking over to the CCF were there was a count down clock as well as headsets I could pick up and listen to any channel I choose including the one the astronauts were talking on to Houston and the control center.
When the Mobile Gas Crew left at the T-30 minute mark and fell back to the VAB storage battery I would take a headset with me to listen to the final minutes of the count down.
Apollo 8 was going to be the first time man had ventured away for the grasp of his own planet and therefore 7:51:00 AM on December 21, 1968 was a triumphal moment in the history of man as he was being launched to orbit the moon and I was there playing a role.
I was really absorbed in it all so much so that after the launch I went to the CCF and stayed until late that afternoon listening on the headsets to what was being said between Houston and the astronauts.
I was listening when Frank Borman told Houston the S-IVB stage was following a little close and they may have to thrust away from the booster.
Houston came back and was giving the instructions for firing the thrusters when Frank complained he didn't understand why they were making it so complicated. Houston then advised Borman they had calculated their course and by doing the thrust this way they could avoid a mid-course correction that had been planned for later in the mission.
Man was leaving his planet for the first time and here I was a 34 year old county boy from the sticks of Lueders, Texas right in the middle of it all at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
One other thing was sort of standard procedure for a launch day and that was after the launch, personnel were allowed to take the remainder of the day off, if desired.
The hourly troops had to punch out and were not paid. The salary people had given so much of their own time, the government was way ahead so it didn't matter much that we did get paid.
Another standard procedure was the Bendix sponsored company launch party at Royal Oaks Country Club on the night following a launch.
Work Hard - Play Hard was pretty much a part of our standard procedure also.
By the time we had reached our 6 month milestone on May 15, 1969, Ron Cotton had moved on to bigger things and was now the Manager of Complex 39.
However, Ron had not forgotten us and having been the instigator of what we had accomplished thus far, he ask our Bendix Safety Department to create and present us with an award plaque.
I was told, Ron Cotton informed them he really didn't give a damn about precedence or the details, just get a plaque and present it.
So, while it took a few weeks to obtain the plaque it was presented by the Bendix Safety Department on June 6, 1969 with all the Bendix Big Wigs present as shown:.. HERE
It had been a most satisfying and pleasant past 6 months because my new boss, Ken Epley who had replaced Tom Wagner a couple of weeks after Ron Cotton came on board was without doubt the finest person and boss I ever worked for.
Ken was a supervisor's supervisor who knew how to manage and work people while at the same time keeping our bosses upstairs happy.
He was 20 year retired Navy but, had worked a few years in High Pressure Gas for Pan Am on the Cape. He was therefore also knowledgeable on the technical side of the house.
On Ken's first day, Monday October 14, 1968 one of our engineers went around introducing him to every one and when they caught up with me in the tool crib area, Ken shook my hand and said, "Heard a lot about you - ALL GOOD"
We hit is right off and within a month or two, Ken told me one day. Ray you take care of our business over there and I'll stay over here and take care of this paper work.
Ron Cotton was a stickler for doing weekly reports and they didn't have to be perfect. They had to be above perfect and done Ron's way.
Ron was known to send a weekly report back two or three times with red marks all over indicating what was wrong and what he wanted changed.
Ken would chuckle and show me his weekly report that Ron had sent back with red marks all over it. He did so cheerful because we were working in an almost perfect environment from a disciplined management stand point.
Our line of management from the bottom to General Manager, Al Bruckner at the top knew where each stood and all our goals were the same. "Get your job done to the best of your ability, we are here to back you up when needed."
Dr. Hans P. Bruckner better known as "Al" had come from Pan Am on the Cape Side to Bendix on March 3, 1966 as an Assistant to the General Manager and then when Frank Vaughan resigned in November of 1969, Al became General Manager of Bendix Launch Support.
Al was a former pilot in the Luftwaffe during World War II and had come to the states in 1955.
With his education and experience in aerodynamics, he was hired by Pan Am during those early days of the Cape when ICBMs still flew on wings.
Too my regret I was seldom in personal contact with Al but, greatly admired his disciplinary ways as he had a strong conviction that if you had time to do a job over you certainly had time to do it right the first time. Moral of Story, "Best you don't Screw Up"
From top to bottom I now fell under a line of management that could not have been any better for those of us on the bottom.
One day, Ken called and was asking me the details about an occurrence that was going to be passed up to our Director, Mike Stroop and it was a little difficult to explain and Ken was having a hard time understanding and he finally said "Ray this is going to get all messed up by the time you tell me and I tell Cotton and he tells Stroop - You call Stroop direct and I'll call Ron and tell him what we're doing."
My calling the director was not the norm but, everyone knew and respected where he stood in the chain of command. We just no longer had to be concerned about petty stuff.
Of course, I let Mr. Stroop know why I was calling him direct.
On another day we had a task to do which allowed for some options and I was stumbling around spelling them out to Ken the different ways we might do it when he said "Ray, it would be much simpler if you would just go do what we need to do and tell me what you did when you get it done."
How sweet it was. I was in hog heaven headed to the moon.
Crew morale was running sky high and it was pure pleasure to go to work each day.
With the motivational success of our Safety Board and some experience seeing how little Pop Warner boys respond to receiving a trophy, I got to thinking perhaps the Big Boys at Mobile Gas might have the same response and suggested to my five foremen we implement a quarterly trophy award for things like, most suggestions turned in, most suggestions accepted, no absentee and a couple other categories I can no longer recall but, we had five or six categories and the deal was, I would put in $10.00 each month and my five foreman would contribute $5.00 each month to pay for the trophies and they all agreed to try it.
Mean while our suggestions turned in and implemented went through the roof and our absentee record was the best in the department.
A photo of one of our award ceremonies is shown:.. HERE
Came time for our annual employee evaluations and I got amused with our shop General Foreman, Rip Campbell when we were handed a stack of papers for evaluating the foremen. Rip said, "Look here at all this paper work you created for us. Are you happy."
I didn't understand his complaint. He only had one foreman to evaluate, I had five foremen and a secretary. How double sweet it was!! Ron Cotton was a manager's manager.
AND, it didn't hurt when my own evaluation included a large merit pay increase. Thanks, Ken and Ron
Fact of the matter, Bendix came out with a standard policy that required a supervisor to make at least a minimum of 10 percent above the highest paid employee being supervised.
When Ron Cotton moved to Complex 39, Dave Cook became Manager of the High Pressure Gas Department. But, not much changed for me because Ken Epley was a protective wall which kept me happy and isolated from all the company politics.
It didn't hurt that Dave had known me since day one and while he was no Ron Cotton, he too made a decent department manager.
It also helped that by now we had things on auto pilot and were smoothly sailing along.
O" But alas it was not to last. I was about to loose a wonderful chain of command and be placed among the most stupid bunch of clowns one could ever imagine.
One thing I've learned in my working life is that in large corporations the top 2 levels of management are usually highly qualified and capable as is the 2 lowest levels of management. In between it is rare to find middle layered management with much capability to manage the job or the people.
Most middle management I call "Poly-Wogs" because they are running around wondering if they are going to be a big fish in the pond or discovered for their stupidity and remain a minnow.
Sadly, I would soon be swimming with some very bad "Poly Wogs".
From the Mobile Gas perspective AS-506 i.e. Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969 was no different then any other Saturn V launch.
As with all Saturn V launches, we worked our fannies off night and day prior to the launch and up to T minus 3 hours and then we had absolutely nothing to do except be on standby in case of power failure and we had to take over the pumping of nitrogen and helium at the CCF-39 with our Paul Rechargers and Haskel Compressors.
Once we reached the T- 3 hours, my crew and I would stay in our crew area in the K-Bottle Shed and play cards or dominoes.
Ken was different from Wagner in that he wanted me there during the final hours of the count down to liftoff which meant I was there at the same time as he was.
A keep sake of Apollo 11 is the Car Pass we were required to have in the vehicle windshield which KSC security used to check us off as we came out from the CCF hazard area to the fall back area as required at T-30 minutes.
It took 2 vehicles for Mobile Gas and 2 for the CCF-39 crew to evacuate the CCF area at T-30 minutes and each vehicle required the car pass and a list indicating who was in the vehicle.
The CCF General Foreman, Dan Myers and 9 other crew members remained at the CCF to continue operating the equipment right up to the last minute of launch and then they were required to enter the office of the CCF which had been poured with solid concrete too create a blast room for protection in the event the rocket exploded on the pad.
Dan recently confessed they never missed seeing a liftoff which meant they were never in the blast room as called for.
On Apollo 11, I do recall telling the crew to try and absorb as much of these hours as they could because they were helping write history.
Today, as I write 40 years later, it doesn't seems like I absorbed enough because the details are becoming a fading memory.
Surprisingly, I was able to make out 3 white figures as the astronauts made their way across the swing arm to enter the spacecraft.
Apollo 11 was the first time personal cameras were allowed on KSC and I took a few personal photographs shown HERE I wish I had taken more.
Apollo 11 launched on time as scheduled at 9:32:00 AM July 16, 1969 and 4 days later on July 20th man stepped on the moon for the first time.
In four days I went from Rocket Scientist to Manual laborer because four days later as we prepared for the moon landing I was home on this Sunday helping a neighbor pound down a 2 inch water pipe for an irrigation well for his yard.
On the day of the moon landing, I was 34 years, 10 months and 21 days old. It had taken me 3 years, 8 months and 11 days after arriving on KSC soil to land man on the moon.
A few Apollo 11 photos are available:.. HERE
Videos of the Apollo 11 launch and landing may be viewed:.. HERE
John F. Kennedy and our nation's goal had been accomplished and sadly the contractor employees now faced layoffs and those remaining faced managing the down sizing and reorganizations.
Accordingly, the Mobile Gas Section became part of the Propellant Liquids and Life Support Department (PLSO) shortly after the first moon landing.
Don Taggart was the Department Manager and he had an assistant, Bob Laws.
Fortunate for me, Ken Epley stood between me and these two clowns.
I call them clowns because Taggart was an old Bendix productions guy whose idea of managing was based on producing so many items a day and when your running a support operations you just can't get it done thinking as he did.
Other then the Milk Run operations, The Mobile Gas Crew never knew what they would be doing for the day until they arrived at work that morning because the support request for Gas Trailers, K-Bottle Cylinders, Purge Operations, etc., etc. had been pouring in from late evening the day before and through out the night and up until mid morning.
Unlike the beginning days when I was in the VAB, the Mobile Gas Crew did not have any excessive numbers of mechanics and it often times took a magician to sort out, correlate and accomplish all the days activates required to meet the requested support.
On top of meeting the daily request of all the contractors at KSC, we had to sandwich in the servicing of our own equipment to keep the Gas Trailers and K-Bottles filled sampled and ready for the next delivery.
Like wise our Rechargers and Compressors required filling with cryogenic liquids, sampling and servicing ready to meet the support request as the orders came in.
So, scheduled production was not our thing, ours was by the seat of the pants, hit and miss, reshuffle the cards type operation all day long, day in and day out.
We had to respond to others and it was always a challenge.
Fortunate for me by this time, I had 5 good foreman, Wayne Sanders, Dale Turner, Don Tarkelly, Joe Beatrice and Max Arnold.
Foreman, John Vick had been reassigned to work for Rip in the Maintenance shop.
At some point Ken promoted Wayne Sanders to an engineering specialist and we promoted a mechanic, Jim Cochran to foremen.
In addition to his being a mechanic, Jim was the area Union Steward and I use to get amused with him because I could tell every month the day after the unions monthly meeting.
Jim would be out the next day all pumped up raising hell with me about something saying he had to "Police the Contract".
It got so obvious to me that I would tell him "you attended another union Pep Rally didn't you" he would just grin and we would continue our fight.
I must have got tired of fighting because when Ken moved Wayne to engineering we made Jim a foreman and got him out of my hair union wise.
My analyzes was correct, Jim became just as much a company man as he had been a union man and was to become a very fine conscientious foreman.
I still get tickled when I think about him wearing a brand new necktie to work on his first day as foreman.
It was Bendix policy for supervisors to wear neckties and when a mechanic was promoted to supervision, It had been the mechanics custom to cut a foremen's necktie off on his very first day.
Jim knew this but, still went out and purchased a brand new necktie and wore it in.
His new tie only lasted until noon when the crew took him down and cut his tie half into and he came into my office wearing half a tie and crying about his new $10.00 tie being in two pieces.
I could only laugh and remind him, you big dummy didn't you do the same to Max Arnold. Ya but, I didn't think the guys would do it to me and I had to tell him your on the other side of the fence now.
Jim was responsible for hanging a nick name on me that some of the mechanics still call me today. He knew I was pretty much a country boy having been raised in the farming and cowboy country of West Texas.
Bendix Field Cleaning had an old 4 X 4 canvas topped surplus army vehicle sitting in their area of the parking lot and it didn't even run but, one night when Jim was on 3rd shift he and the crew pushed the thing up in front of my office trailer, installed two large red flags on the front and added signs to the doors which stated "The Corn Shucker's Staff Car"
So, the crew got to calling me "Corn Shucker". Thanks, Jim
We had three foremen on day shift and one each on the other two shifts.
The 3rd shifts main task was to make the milk runs to keep the Gn2 batteries and the gas trailers being used through out KSC pressurized.
2nd shift finished the day shifts left over task and took care of everything that came in on 2nd shift.
Most of our task were accomplished on 1st shift and I had 3 day shift foreman of which, one was responsible for the Oxygen and Hydrogen operation. Another took care of all the Nitrogen and Helium operations while the 3rd took care of all Gas Trailer and K-Bottle requirements.
The foreman rotated shifts and responsibilities once each month.
We had a scheduler in the office to issue the work orders to the appropriate foreman and I had a clerk typist to handle my reports and take care of all the paper work generated.
I oversaw all the operations and took care of making sure we had the tools necessary to accomplish our mission.
If a task was unorthodox, hazards or something out of the ordinary, I made sure we understood the request and was headed the right direction to fulfill the requirement.
I spent some of my time in meetings and made regular field trips to check on the status and condition of the many pieces of equipment we had located from one end of KSC to the other.
I have no idea if the Safety Plaque Ron Cotton had insisted we be given in June 1969 had any influence or not but, I expect it did because in November 1969 the Bendix Safety Department implemented a company wide safety award plaque program to be rotated between sections within each department.
The plaque was good for one year and had 12 places to engrave the winner of the plaque for that month. Winner of the most months got to keep the plaque at years end.
The monthly winner would be based on which section had done the most to promote safety following guidelines established by Bendix Safety.
There were several guidelines. But, some of them were, which section submitted the most safety suggestions and most implemented and other similar things and of course the main one was which section had the best accident record.
The three sections within the PLSO Department were:....
"Life Support Section", which maintained and provided the scape suits and breathing apparatuses to all the contractors handling hypergolic propellants.
"Propellant Section", was responsible for handling and delivery of liquid propellants in the large tanker trailers.
"Mobile Gas Section", had the functions herein explained.
The Mobile Gas Section started out a little slow and let Life Support win the first month of the new program which was November 1969 and that got me and Ken awake cause we couldn't let that happen.
Once awaken the Mobile Gas Section won the 2nd month or December 1969 award.
Don Taggart had a requirement that neither Ron Cotton or Ray Guessetto ever had which was the General Foremen were required to attend the departments weekly staff meeting.
In the first meeting after the Mobile Gas Section had won the plaque in December, Mr. Taggart said that Life Support had painted a sign where the safety plaque had hung which said "Here is where our Safety Plaque Belongs"
As the meeting was breaking up, Taggart ask me if I was going to paint a similar sign where the plaque now hung in the Mobile Gas Shop. I answered with "Hell No, we are going to just keep the plaque."
AND, for the next 11 months the Mobile Gas Section won the plaque 9 times.
It got to be funny, I walked in Ken's office one afternoon just as he was hanging up the phone and when he saw me he started snickering because he had just learned we had won the plaque once again and did so after they had changed the rules for the third time trying to keep us from winning.
The department and safety had changed the rules no less then 3 times attempting to make the playing field more level as they described it. Made no difference the level or the rules, Mobile Gas won.
It was all the more funny because Taggart and Laws had sort of looked down on the Mobile Gas Section as some sort of morfidite orphan they had taken on to show how it's done when in fact this bunch of former misfits was now a group of fine toned professionals who was showing them how to run things which apparently was a little hard for them to deal with.
Ken and I loved it and would get our giggle box turned over often when we pulled some unexpected trick out of our magic box.
One month the K-Bottle Twins were delivering Life Support some K-Bottles and noticed the technician were building a display to show the different breathing and safety apparatuses provided by the Life Support Section.
Well, they should have kept it hid because the mechanics came back and told me about it and the wheels begin to churn and I came up with this idea of creating a safety display using a K-Bottle I had cut in half length wise a year or two before for training purposes.
K-Bottles are nominal pressurized to 2200 PSI and can be a real hazard if not handled with some care because they contain sufficient volume and pressure to become a projectile if the valve gets knocked off.
We created a fun display by making ourselves 3 sticks of fake dynamite and connected that to an alarm clock with some curly wire to simulate a time bomb and then mounted it all inside this half of a K-Bottle cylinder.
We mounted a normal K-Bottle cylinder and this half K-Bottle on a fork lift pallet and painted them all up in a normal color coding scheme.
We painted a face on the K-Bottle cap of the complete K-Bottle and fastened a sign to the face as though the K-Bottle was talking to you.
The sign read as shown:.. HERE
Sadly the picture of the complete display is currently misplaced. We hope being used for the Space Walk of Fame Apollo Monument.
Once again we won the Monthly Award Plaque and the Life Support Supervisor, Bob Clew was fit to be tied. All I can say is he should have kept their Safety Display hidden.
For several months, our little K-Bottle Man (Safety Display} made the rounds of Kennedy Space Center being displayed in the Lobby of KSC Headquarters building. MSOB, CIF, Machine Shop, Cafeteria, Launch Pads, etc., etc.
We would leave it in an area for a month to 6 weeks and then move it to another location.
It had been on display for a few weeks in the lobby of the Launch Control Center when we got a call to get it out of there and to destroy it.
The call had came down from Bendix Security and I never did find out just who but, it appears some high ups in NASA had seen it and were afraid some one might replace our fake dynamite with the real stuff and blow the place up.
Perhaps the concerns were justifiable because this was in a period after Kennedy Space Center had received a few bomb threats and was also in the days of airplane hijackings and blown up airplanes.
We got it removed back to our area and while I did not destroy it, I did disassemble the display and got rid of our fake dynamite.
Fortunately our little K-Bottle Man and Safety Display had already made the rounds at KSC and helped us achieve another month of winning the Safety Plaque.
Hopeful it had also educated the KSC employees in the hazards of handling compressed gas cylinders. (K-Bottles)
Mobile Gas was operating like a Swiss watch and our support functions for launching a Saturn V were down to almost perfection.
Supporting the CCF 39 and coordinating with their General Foreman, Dan Myers was automatic because each of us knew exactly how the other would respond.
Most all the Saturn V launches occurred in the morning hours and I with the rest of the Mobile Gas Launch Crew, Mr. Epley included would report in at 3:30 AM on the day of the launch.
1969 was coming to a close as we launched AS-507 i.e. Apollo 12 on November 14, 1969
During 1970 we only launched one Saturn V Moon Rocket and that was AS-508 i.e. Apollo 13 on April 14, 1970 which lost its oxygen supply and was aborted on the way to the moon and this caused a delay in the launching of the remaining moon missions.
Lack of launches in 1970 didn't keep me unoccupied as I had volunteered to be a Head Coach in the local Pop Warner Football program which involved over 600 kids in the City of Titusville.
In 1970, 21 teams made up the Titusville Hurricane League and each team was normally sponsored by a local business at a fee of $250.00.
The teams were named after those in the NFL football and my little team of 10, 11 and 12 years olds was to be the Cardinals after the St. Louis Cardinals.
I thought a better name would be the "Bendix Cardinals" so, I contacted those in high places at KSC Bendix and ended up with our General Manager's Executive Assistant, W. N. MacDonald discussing it with me because I was not only asking for the $250.00 fee, I wanted to make sure it was ok to use the Bendix logo on the kids helmet and to wear the Bendix logo on our coaching shirts.
Mr. Mac as I called him thought it a fun idea and arranged for the $250.00 fee and also provided me with the same Bendix logos we used on our hard hats at work for me to use on the boys helmets.
I contacted the St. Louis Cardinals Football team in St. Louis and was able to purchase the exact same decal they used on their NFL helmet and paid for those myself at a cost of $2.00 per helmet. So, the boys had the Cardinal Decal on the side and the Bendix Logo on the front.
I had been a Pop Warner assistant coach in 1969 but, now a head coach and no one to turn too. I had played football in high school and was a TV fan of the NFL but, it had been 17 years since high school and I wasn't sure I knew what I was getting myself into but, I had some other fathers helping and we charged ahead.
It was great family fun. We practiced Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday evenings and played our games on Thursday night.
Lucked out and won the 1st two games, tied 3rd, lost 4th, won 5th and 6th then tied 7th and 8th game which gave the Bendix Cardinals the championship of the Minor Division in the Titusville Hurricanes.
So happened, the Titusville Hurricane League invited the St. Louis Cardinals All Pro right tackle, Bob Rowe to be the featured speaker at our annual football banquet where I presented him a framed picture of the Championship Bendix Cardinals which was same as shown HERE
Other then being Minor Division Champs of the Titusville Hurricanes Pop Warner Football League and the one Saturn V Moon launch, 1970 was pretty uneventful.
There was one exception to the uneventful when on Friday September 18, 1970 Ken Epley left having resigned from Bendix to move to Canton, North Carolina.
I had lost the finest boss I ever worked for but, I understood Ken's leaving. He had lost his only son several months before in the Viet Nam war and it was a family matter that they wanted to return to North Carolina where the family roots were located.
When Ken resigned, Bob Laws became the Supervisor of the Mobile Gas Section and it was pretty much all down hill from there.
I think Rip Campbell pretty well summed up Bob Laws when one day he said. "Bob was the only boss he ever had that he could take 1 problem to and leave with 3."
As for me, without being too cruel, I considered Bob Laws the most Gutless Moron I ever had for a boss. Bob had no concept or idea what we were trying to accomplish or how to get it done.
He constantly harped about following the procedures and don't do it unless you have paper work and follow the paper work to the letter.
I tried to explain we often had to use a little common sense because our procedures sometime don't cover all the steps when we received an odd ball request.
The truth of the matter is, in our Mobile Gas Operations the procedures had to be treated as a guideline with a lot of common sense sliced in between to get our jobs accomplished.
Bob Laws didn't understand that so, me and my foreman carried on knowing damn well we worked for a gutless wonder who would never stand with us in the event of a mishap.
A perfect example of how little he knew of what we were doing was the day he called and said he had been informed the Gn2 battery at the now abandoned clean lab at Wilson Corners had been left pressurized and although the responsible party was the Clean Lab Department our group had been tasked to safe the system and he wanted a meeting with our group to decided how to accomplish the task.
I told Bob there was no need for a meeting I would just send up a couple of our mechanics to open the fill valve and bleed her down.
He sort of raised his voice and said, "Ray I want this to be a coordinated effort between the engineers, foremen, scheduler, you and myself so we make sure we are all in agreement on how to handle this situation. There will be a meeting in the shop office at 1:00 PM and I will expect you there."
So come 1:00 PM, 2 engineers, our scheduler, myself and Mr. Laws met in the shop office and Mr. Laws opened the meeting and explained the problem of this Gn2 battery no longer in use and being left pressurized which now required being secured to a safe mode and he went around the table asking each of us our opinion on how best to accomplish this gigantic task and each of us replied back with open the damn fill valve and bleed her down.
To all of us the task was as simple as letting air out of a bicycle tire but, to Laws it was a major decision and one he was afraid to make.
And that is one example of why I think my gutless wonder reference of him is justified.
On another day there was a minor support task over in the MSOB area and if you followed the procedure to the letter you could not accomplish the task.
So, out of orneriness I choose to not do the job since a delay was not going to hurt anything and I wanted to use the situation to make my point about procedures.
Next day, the MSOB Department Manager is calling Laws raising all kinds of hell and Bob calls me.
I explained the problem with the procedure and reminded him I was following his orders. He ask if we could change the procedures and I told him we could but, then the procedure would not work when we took the equipment to the pad area.
He said. "Well can you go over and get this taken care of." I respond "SURE" but, what about following the procedure and he meekly replied back "Well Ray, this is different".
Yup !, it was different alright. My ass, not his and your an idiot.
We had two grade A oxygen gas trailers, both on the list of launch critical equipment.
One was the Go2 trailer that came off the pad at T- 3 hours. We kept the 2nd trailer in the yard to backup the first trailer and to swap out if and when the pad trailer got low on gas.
Outside the astronaut suit room was a rack of 20 K-Bottle cylinders all manifolded together for supplying grade A oxygen to the astronaut suit room.
This manifolded rack of cylinders required pressurization and the only way to accomplish that was to take over one of the two grade A oxygen gas trailers and transfer the gas from the trailer into the manifold and return the trailer to the backup parking location in our yard.
The manifold volume size was so small compared to the gas trailer that the gas pressure in the trailer wasn't lowered much more then 25 to 50 PSI and this was exactly how we had been doing it since day one.
I got a call one day from Mr. Laws and he said, "Ray I just learned we used one of our Launch Critical Gas Trailers to do something over at the MSOB, Please tell me that's not true. "Well of course it is Bob", that is the only way we have of doing it and I explained the Grade A requirement and the fact we had always done it this way.
He replied back "Well I don't know what else you could have done. But, you shouldn't have done that."
He hung up the phone and having taken the call on a phone in the K-Bottle shed I picked up a K-Bottle cap and flung it across the building. Taggart and Laws were driving me nuts !!
Another small thing that ticked me off one time while working under Taggart and Laws was their stealing my car.
Back when I was being critical of the Holland Fifth Wheels, I became well acquainted with the Administrator of The Government Service Administration (GSA) and he learned then that I made the mechanics take care of the vehicles and kept them clean and he showed his appreciation by making sure I got one of the first air conditioned sedans at KSC.
Initially for several years at KSC none of the vehicles were air conditioned and as soon as GSA started providing air conditioned cars the GSA administrator made sure I got one.
Sadly, the department manager, Taggart thought he deserved one more and took mine away from me.
The GSA administrator didn't like that much and was going to give Bendix hell over it but, I figured it would just cause me some pain so, I ask him to let it slide.
Paper Work, Paper Work, the idea with both Taggart and Laws was to cover your ass with the paper work and the hell with getting the job done.
Well that's not true either - They wanted the job done but, since neither of them knew what they were doing and were so afraid of their job, they wanted to try and create enough paper work to cover up their stupidness.
I wasn't so hard headed I didn't know that the paper work was necessary when working under government contracts but, I was confident in what I was doing and always ready to take my lumps and be responsible for what I did and not try to cover up my mistakes with paper.
Paper work can sometimes get in the way and Taggart and Laws tried to create check list for everything we did including locking up the place at night and checking off on the check sheet that we turned the light switch off. How dumb is that?
I'll never forget the check list they had made for us to use when we parked the Paul Rechargers at the CCF for support of the CDDT and Launch.
We parked them in on one of the launches, hooked them up and went down the 3 or 4 page check list making sure we checked off each and every item line by line.
Sure nuff, we got it all done and this stack of paper work on each of the units was completed perfectly even to checking off having QA put stickers on the gas cap and battery box which was something we had never done and was totally stupid.
We were in the countdown and getting close to the T- 3 hour mark which is the critical hour when you start loading the rocket with oxygen and hydrogen and I walked over for a final check of our equipment at the CCF.
Kiss my petunias, neither of the Paul Rechargers had any liquid nitrogen in the tank. Both units were reading around 500 gallons in a 3000 gallon tank. In other words they were empty and could not have pumped Gn2 for very long had we had to come on line to backup the CCF.
I very hastily got the propellant section to bring over a couple of tankers to refill both units with Ln2.
After filling, I couldn't imagine how this happened so, I went and reviewed the check sheets to look for the problem.
It was quite simple, Taggart, Laws and the engineers left off a place to check the Ln2 Tank level. No place was provided to check one of the most important things.
Our concentration to get the paper work all straight was so intense it removed from us the ability to think and look after the important things of the task at hand.
On all previous launches I had made sure of only 5 things. Connected to CCF, engine oil ok, fuel ok, Ln2 tank full and would this sucker crank and pump.
Pilots use check sheets for flying airplanes and there is a place for check sheets when doing complicated and multiple task. But, in my world I prefer good old common horse sense and people trained to do the job blindfolded.
So much for the Taggart and Laws way.
I was in a constant state of frustration with the procedures.
Having designed and installed the K-Bottle fill system myself, I took two of the mechanics accustomed to working in the K-Bottle shed and told them to go slow because I was going to sit in a chair and write the exact method and ways they went about filling and sampling a pallet of K-Bottle Cylinders from beginning to end.
I knew how we did it. But, I wanted to watch and write down each and every step along the way and afterwards do it again according to how I had it wrote.
I then took the procedure to one of our engineers and told him this is how we do it and let's get this procedure published exactly the way it is written.
Accordingly, the procedure was put through the Bendix Tech writers and then reviewed by Bendix and NASA Engineering, Safety, Management and you name it about 10 different signatures were required to approve our procedures.
Within a few weeks the procedure came back to me all printed up with all the signatures.
So, I got the two mechanics who had previously helped me through the process of writing the procedure and we proceeded to fill us a pallet of new cylinders per the procedure.
Just as I had figured, the procedure would not work simply because it was no longer as I had written it.
The process is quiet simple, we kept the last cylinders filled connected to the fill manifold to maintain cleanliness between fillings and then we disconnect and remove it and positioned a new pallet under the manifold and fill it.
Of course, there are other steps like sampling and purging before filling but, in a nut shell you, remove the old, install the new , fill, sample and wait for the next cycle or pallet of cylinders to be filled.
Our procedures were wrote something like this:..........
With our brand new K-Bottle fill procedure and it's 10 or more authorized signatures we could go no further then Step 5 because the tech writers reworded things and overlooked the fact that in doing so they had us installing a new pallet before the previous pallet had been removed. In other words they had relocated Step 6.
AND, under Bob Laws instructions, I could no longer fill K-Bottle Gas Cylinders.
Yet, I had designed the system, helped my mechanics install the system and then wrote the operating procedure.
I only complained about the procedures because I was being told by my supervisors to follow the procedures by the letter and knew if I didn't they would not back me in any decision I made necessary to get the job accomplished and yet I had to do that constantly in order to provide the requested support.
It is simply impossible to write procedures to fit every occasion when the equipment your using is mobile and being used in every conceivable way.
AS-509 i.e. Apollo 14 was launched on January 31, 1971 and it turned out to be a very sad day for me.
January 31 was on a Sunday with the launch scheduled for 3:23 PM in the afternoon.
As it turned out, we were in the fall back area an extra length of time due to a light rain stopping the count at T-8 minutes.
In accordance with our normal routine we had evacuated the CCF-39 area at T-30 minutes, passed through security for check off and parked our vehicles at the VAB Gn2/Ghe storage battery which was our assigned fall back area.
It was also my normal routine to take a head set with me and plug into one of the network boxes at the storage battery so I could listen to the countdown discussion between the Houston and KSC Control Centers and the Astronauts sitting in the Apollo Spacecraft atop the Saturn V.
I was on the headset oblivious to anything else when someone shook me and said I had a phone call.
Being Sunday, GranMa Jackie was home and some how, some way she tracked me down through the CCF-39 crew who gave her the phone number at the VAB storage battery.
When I answered, GranMa was crying and could barely talk but, she informed me my mother had phoned from Texas to let us know my sister Iva, had passed away at age 32 from a long known about heart disease caused by rheumatic fever when she was a child.
I had to tell the wife there was absolutely nothing I could do at the moment because my personal car was in the hazard area at the CCF-39 parking lot and I would have to wait for the all clear after launch.
I told her to arrange for me a night flight into Abilene, Texas and I would be home as soon as the launch was over and the area cleared.
I made the necessary notification to my supervisor, Bob Laws and arranged for one of the foremen to take my place while I was gone.
After a 40 minute delay the weather cleared and Apollo 14 was launched at 4:03:02 PM January 31, 1971.
Knowing the traffic into Titusville was usually tied up for hours immediately following one of the moon shots, I decided to take the North Road out of KSC all the way to Scotsmore, Florida and then back track back down I-95 to home which I did and had no delays due to traffic.
I caught my flight out of Orlando that night and January 31, 1971 remains fixed in my mind for two obvious reasons and a third, the commander of Apollo 14 was Alan Sheppard the very first American Astronaut who had first flown aboard Mercury's Freedom Seven on May 5, 1961 some 10 years previous.
As we headed down the road of 1971 the Mobile Gas Crew was still riding atop the wave of morale that was created under the supervision of Ron Cotton and Ken Epley.
In spite of Taggart and Laws, Mobile Gas won the 1971 Safety plaque the majority of the time to make it two years in a row.
However, we were able to only muster strength to win 6 times. But thanks to Liquids winning one month that gave Life Support 5 times to our six and thus the 1971 Safety Plaque came permanently to Mobile Gas.
"Two years in a Row - Not Bad for a Corn Shucker"
That is how and why both the plaques hang in my home office and computer room today because when Bendix lost the contract in 1977, I made sure the plaques came to my house.
I hope the telling of this story and the plaques will one day be an influence on the 4 little great grandsons I have as of July 1, 2009.
So, Ray IV, Christian, Bentley and William Lucas when one day you read this just remember, as my father and your Great Great Grand Father, E. R. Smyth once told me, "you come from good stock."
The only other launch for 1971 was AS-510 i.e. Apollo 15 on July 26th.
Saturn V Moon Launches were by now pretty much routine business. Mobile Gas remained accident free and we cruised along on automatic.
1972 was to bring to a close the Apollo Moon Landing Program.
AS-511 i.e Apollo 16 was launched on April 16, 1972 and AS-512 i.e. Apollo 17 was launched 8 months later on December 7, 1972
Apollo 17 was a night launch and things were so routine by now, I was off duty and this being the only time a Saturn V had been launched at night, the wife and I took our children, Debbie, Ray Jr. and Becky down to the Indian River to watch the launch.
After a slight delay due to a faulty signal, liftoff occurred at 12:33:00 AM and the sky lit up all around the area and as the rocket rose in the sky, you could have read a newspaper in Titusville some 15 miles from the launch pad. I was amazed how well and how wide an area was lit up by the rocket flame.
The flight commander of Apollo 17 was Gene Cernan and little did I know that 26 years later I would be pressing his hands in clay to cast his hand prints in bronze for the Apollo Monument at the Space Walk of Fame in Titusville, Florida.
Gene was one of the more friendly astronauts and I enjoyed meeting and visiting with him. Gene was also at the ground breaking for the Apollo Monument on July 16, 1999 and I was able to show him his hand prints which had by then been cast in bronze.
Perhaps I should explain, that I was the Vice President of the Space Walk of Fame Foundation and we obtained all the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts hand prints in bronze to be displayed at the Space Walk of Fame in Titusville, Florida.
Fund raising and construction of the Apollo Monument was a 10 year project and it was completed and dedicated on July 17, 2009.
In 1999 I had put a shovel in the ground along side of astronauts, Gene Cernan and Wally Schirra and in 2009, I attended the dedication.
I was also the one who obtained astronaut Alan Bean hand prints in clay and an amusing story worth telling is when Alan first placed his hands down on the clay he jerked them back, folded his arms and said, "Nope, Nope, You guys know I'm an artist and as you know us artist are a little weird and different so we can't do this like everyone else, got any ideas"
I giggled and asked Alan "when we were about to light the fuse with your butt sitting on top of the rocket did you have your fingers crossed"
The only ones who know why his fingers are crossed are Alan and I and those we have told the story too.
The Apollo hand prints are expected to last hundreds of years and as the years go by, I expect people will one day be wondering what in the world was wrong with Alan's hand. To view Alan's hand prints, Click, HERE
With the cancellation of the last three Apollo Moon Missions, the Skylab program was implemented using left over Apollo hardware.
Four Skylab launches in 1973 kept us pretty busy but, by now we were doing things with a lot less people as things had been refined to the tenth degree.
For each launch a special badge was provided for those essential personnel required to enter the pad and upon entering the main gate at the pad, you were required to place your normal picture badge in a rack just inside the gate.
This procedure had existed since the Apollo 1 accident. At the time of the Apollo 1 fire it came to light that it was not known who or how many employees were on the launch pad and if a major disaster occurred then there should be a record available of who was on the launch pad.
By wearing the special badge issued for each specific launch and leaving your picture badge at the gate to the pad, a record was available of the numbers and who was on the launch pad in the event of a disaster.
A different rack was provided for each of the major companies with employees working on the pad. Being a Support Contractor, the Bendix rack was one of the last in the double sided 20 foot long row of racks. Of course NASA's rack was up front followed by the spacecraft and stage contractors.
In the initial launches of the Saturn V, the badge racks were completely full and often times you had to place your badge in with someone else badge because the racks were all full.
By the time we were launching Skylab I was amazed by the reduction in number of badges at the gate. I often times used the NASA rack up front because it was empty of badges as was all the other contractor racks.
In other words the first few launches had hundreds of people working on the launch pad and by Skylab there were probably less then 50 total at any one time.
AND by Skylab, the Mobile Gas Section had reduced it's work force considerable. We no longer had a 3rd shift and my Clerk Typist had disappeared as well as a good number of mechanics, all taken by the pink slip.
One amusing observation I made after the layoffs was the fact that in the heyday of KSC when things were going wide open, there was an over abundance of good looking mini skirts running around all over KSC and we even had an exe Playboy Bunny employed.
After the layoffs came all that was left was the old hags and married gals which indicated to me that when push came to shove we did know who was getting the work done.
The Skylab Launch Dates are shown below:............
A few Skylab photos are available:.. HERE
Hard now to believe we went 20 months or nearly 2 years between the last Skylab launch and the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission with Russia. But, the last launch of all the Apollo Saturn Rockets occurred on July 15, 1975 when we launched an Apollo Spacecraft atop a Saturn 1B from Launch Complex 39B which was the Apollo Soyuz Test Project (ASTP)
A few ASTP photos are available:.. HERE
At the end of the Apollo Saturn Program I was 40 years, 10 months and 16 days old and had been with Bendix 9 years, 8 months and 7 days.
AND, what an exciting and satisfying nearly 10 years it had been.
I believe, I had one of the very best jobs at KSC. I could work inside or outside and my work area covered every square foot of the space center. Each and every day was something different and within certain limitations I was the one in charge calling the shots for those functions which Mobile Gas had responsibility.
After a few bumps in the beginning, The Mobile Gas Section of the Bendix Launch Support Division at KSC was something I was proud of being responsible for and being the principle figure in fine tuning it to a point of perfection. I considered it second to none.
Proud also of the part the Mobile Gas Section played in the historical adventure of landing man on the moon for the first time and returning him safely to earth.
I believe the only explanation for our success was the elimination of the constant influx of mechanics due to shift rotation and the safety board hanging in the Mobile Gas Shop.
I might add, it didn't hurt to have a General Foreman raised in the Oil Fields of Texas by a stern old Irishman Father.
I am proud to let the grandchildren know that when you parked one of the huge Paul Rechargers you better not leave an old lunch sack or rags or anything else in the unit because you would catch it from the G. F.
There were some basic rules in Mobile Gas that all knew and that was to keep the vehicles clean inside and out and they were to always be parked in their assigned space by the numbers.
All work areas and all the equipment was maintained in a clean condition and you better put stuff in it's assigned spot. A place for everything and everything in it's place was the rule.
It was "One Way Ray" and the only way was the RIGHT WAY.
It has to be hell to work for a perfectionist but, I believe the satisfaction of a job well done makes it all worth while.
My own son, Ray Jr. tells me I am NOT a perfectionist. He says he is the perfectionist and I'm absolutely RIDICULES.
I recently phoned my oldest daughter, Deborah Kay and when I asked what she was doing she said "O Daddy I have been out in the back yard pulling weeds and I am so glad you taught me to do that when I was little because now I know how it is to have things nice and pretty."
AND, that is how it was in the SMYTH House and Mobile Gas at KSC.
The Apollo Program and Bendix had allowed GranMa and GranPa to live the American Dream.
We had a brand new 1970 Chevrolet Kingswood Estate Station Wagon and a 1968 Plymouth Convertible sitting in the driveway of our 3 bedroom, 2 bath, double car garage home in Titusville, Florida with both of us drawing top dollar salaries that paid for it all.
Our family of five played Pop Warner Football during the week and went to Church on Sunday. It don't get much better then that.
After Apollo - SkyLab and the Apollo-Soyuz Project, it was on to a Shuttle Planning Group within Bendix Launch Support to determine how KSC was going handle all the propellants for the Shuttle. But, that's another story for another time.
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