Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I continued working at The Roane County NEWS for a little over four years, becoming the Advertising Manager and hiring two wonderfully talented sales women. One was a beautiful young and energetic California lady who I quickly assigned the “hard sell” accounts. The other was a sixty plus year old woman with more energy than a three month old pup, sharp as a whip, and who had known every established business man and woman in Roane County for over fifty years!

I took on the new Wal-Mart, Goodyear, Sears, and shops owned by women. Most of these accounts required extra time on the golf course or in back rooms playing poker, and, in general, needed more attention than any of the others.

Together, we were quite a team and effectively increased the advertising inches required to publish the bi-weekly newspaper. The paper at that time was a very large driving force, helping to promote businesses and sports in Harriman, Kingston, and Rockwood, Tennessee. Even though the towns were rivals on the playing field, they came to realize the NEWS was the place to reach their customers.

Corey’s mom and I started our home during the period between the newspaper job and the time that I was hired at Oak Ridge.

I did pretty well during this time and even ran a wedding photography business on the weekends. I used a Koni-Omega Rapid 200 camera and shot in 120mm film in the 6X7 format that required no cropping when printed in 8X10 size. I developed a package of 40 – 8X10’s for $200. It was a sweet package for a young couple just getting started, but the pressure of making each exposure, with two of them combined into a double exposure that depicted the bride looking down upon the wedding scene, was nerve racking!

I only took 4 rolls of film, 10 exposures each, to a wedding – no room for error! There was a system to the madness and every shot came in order and to a prearranged sequence in the tufted album. If “Uncle George” came up and requested I take his picture, I simply hit the test button on the Graphflex flash and, for all he knew, I had taken his photo!

Since the shots did not have to be cropped, I ordered everything developed and printed in 8X10! It was a chinch, but caused me to soak many a “leisure suit” with hard earned sweat!

I was once asked, “Are you the groom sonny?”

No mama, why do you ask?”

You’re the only one here sweatin’, so I figured you were gettin’ married!”

The new home, and the problems we had with builder(s), and the nine month long horror may have set in motion the end of our marriage, but that is a story you will not read here.

Suffice it to say, by the time Corey had reached four years of age, I had accepted an hourly job at the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Oak Ridge Tennessee. K-25 was built during WWII to enrich some of the uranium for the first two atomic bombs.

The head of personnel did not really want to hire me, thinking that since I had a degree I would not stay long in the hourly union ranks. However, to me it was a foot in the door.

After a year and a half working as a second class mechanic on seven day rotation, I was recommended for a “weekly” job. I have always worked hard and even though the union boys kept after me to “slow down” and saying “you’re working yourself out of a job” I remained true to my upbringing and advanced up through the ranks with recommendations from my supervisors.

I worked the weekly job, directing the movement of large equipment, some over 40 tons, out of the UF6 diffusion stream, to refurbishment, and back into service, for over two years. Then one day a job appeared on “the board” looking for someone with television experience.

I had taken a quarter of television production, in preparation for making commercials, at UT. That, plus my good looks, got me the new position!

That led me into encrypted slow-scan video of classified meetings between Oak Ridge, Torrance, CA, and Portsmouth, OH concerning the new enrichment technique of centrifuge separation.

A new day, around 1985, dawned and my facility was transferred into the Telecommunications Division. Somewhere along the way, I moved to the “voice communications” department, and was promoted to a monthly position. To clarify, hourly simply means you are paid by the hour, weekly, by the week, and monthly means you get a check once a month! However, the grades in this level are much higher and normally require a sheep skin! Got one!

I first took a position as “Telecommunications Coordinator” at the Y-12 weapons plant, about ten miles away, but still under the Department of Energy umbrella, and working for the same division head.

Then I was asked to help out my friend Robert Ridenour, the supervisor of the Telecommunications Section, that administered a contract with AT&T and South Central Bell for telephone services, and supervised the incoming calls for adds, moves, and changes at the three plant sites, which included the National Laboratory at ORNL, and the DOE offices within the city of Oak Ridge. This all amounted to over 20,000 telephone lines and data circuits.

Robert ran into a foul pole playing softball injuring himself and was off several months. When he came back, I was in charge! We shared duties for a time before he moved on to something new.

These were probably the happiest times I enjoyed while employed. I had fifteen or twenty great employees, only 4 were men, and the women could all cook. We were blessed with a huge break room and full kitchen and some of the most wonderful meals were cooked there - partly the reason I look the way I do today. I loved them all, even the two guys I was forced to fire over timecard abuse.

I then worked for Patti Pitts, a very intelligent and demanding supervisor that insisted sexual harassment was mandatory! Not really, but it was a running joke.

Patti’s group listened to communications problems and complaints and found solutions for the issues. Mostly we replaced the antiqued 1A2 6-button sets with the then new, now old, Merlin phone systems. Basically, we made secretaries very happy!

Later I did another couple of years as the Communications Coordinator for the K-25 Plant, which continued until about 1999 when DOE awarded a contract to the Bechtel Jacobs Company (BJC) to clean up and shut down the plant, turning it into an open industrial park that DOE could then lease.

The original Communications Division outsourced itself to a private company, but Bechtel Jacobs needed a Communications and Computing Division to continue service for the five year duration of their contract. Truth is, these poor folks are continuing that work today, almost nine years later.

I was given the choice of going commercial or staying with DOE and BJC. I was the only person who dared to stay.

Long story short, I became a Department Head, working under Miller Taylor, overseeing all telecommunications (phones, data circuits, network, cellular, and radio services) after only one interview with my new boss. I never worked harder for any man, than I did while under Miller's supervision, but I never learned more either!

I was under great stress through the first few weeks, but one day Miller told me the secret to managing – “You don’t have to do it yourself, you have to make sure the people with the right knowledge gets the job done! After that, I never pretended I knew every thing. I just let people with the expertise do what they were trained to do, took their advice, and made the decisions based on all the educated input. The other thing I did was to praise them everyday for doing their job. If I got praise, they got praised! I even praised them if they just tried. We were all working for the applause!

Before I left in 2005, I had also become responsible for the computing for BJC. Our computer room had over 300 servers in the beginning, but we slowly cut that back, and I assume they are still trying to consolidate and reduce the number of applications used today.

I also had the maintenance section that installed, replaced, and repaired thousands of personal computers and servers. Quite an accomplishment, if I say so myself, for a big handsome fat guy who started out in one of the lowest ranks.

God blessed me by letting me retire still under the umbrella of DOE, which means I receive a company pension and a 401K. My wife also retired from the DOE arena, so we want for little, and we thank God everyday for His blessings.

Young people being hired today only get offered a 401K. There are no more company pensions – that era is over.

I started working for DOE under a Union Carbide contract, that later became Martin Marietta, then Lockheed-Martin, and finally BJC. Hopefully, I’ll out last them all!


Buck said...

Interesting stuff, Mushy. The IT biz was very, very good to me, as well.

I really enjoy reading about how others have made their way in life; and your story is particularly interesting!

GUYK said...

“You don’t have to do it yourself, you have to make sure the people with the right knowledge gets the job done!”

Yep, a management point that so many just don't get! Some supervisors and managers figure they have to know how to do every thing done under their span of control..and maybe for some this type of micro[management is okay. But I learned the hard way when I was in the Air Force that I didn't have time to micro-manage 65 people..

~Fathairybastard~ said...

That was fun to read. Loved the pictures you put in there, showing how things changed over the years.

My dad tells a similar story from his early years as an officer in charge of air traffic controllers. He had a Sargent who would come in and tell him when he did something counterproductive, and he took the guys advise. They became great friends, and that guy showed my dad how to manage people. They stayed in contact till the man died last year. He lived in Temple, and every once and a while we'd all meet him at the Chinese food place on Fridays. When my folks moved to Temple he was working at the local Jeep place and sold me my old Cherokee. Dad misses him a lot.

Anyway, it was cool to read about you rising up the ladder and figuring out how to be successful. That pension sounds like the deal my folks got from the Air Force. I'm afraid my generation won't ever see anything like that. Good for you. I know you're enjoyin' it. You worked hard for it.

Ralph said...

Great story. I am trying to get caught up on my reading. I also liked the one about Papa John, I underestand how you felt on that one. I want to congratulate you on the paperback version of your book as well.

BRUNO said...

Gee, if I'd had a spot that nice and neat to work in, I'd have never went home at the end of the shift!

That's the difference between a fella with a JOB, and one with a POSITION!

Why, of course my job was a position! Generally bent-over....!

The Egel Nest said...

I found you through David.

Love the comment about the sweatin' groom!

Excellent stuff!

The Egel Nest

Les Becker said...

Sneaky bugger with that "test" button, Mushy... Smart Guy.

Mushy said...

I can see I'm losing everyone's attention!

I have one more that's in the blook, after that...I may lose you altogether!

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Hell, you have me riveted! Mushy me lad, is there anything you haven't done? I'm VERY impressed by the wedding photo tale - you certainly have some balls, no doubts about it. Grin.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Shit, don't be such a drama queen. We ain't goin' anywhere.