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You are here: Davis of Iowa > Jim Davis's Biography > Part V                    Click HERE to go to Part VI

Part V



My Early Career Years


Working for Purex –


The first few days after our move were hectically spent purchasing  furniture,  supplies, and food and otherwise getting the house organized.  We had saved some money while in the USMC, after paying off the $500 personal note that I had borrowed just before reporting to the USMC.  Fortunately, the savings were sufficient to get us up and running with our new house.  The pay for my 60 days of unused leave came in very handy.


Cindie and Karen made the move quite easily, as Karen’s mother and father helped us move in. They also watched Cindie as we did some of our shopping, despite their fulltime teaching  responsibility and their part-time clerking at a local department store.  We really liked our house, although the small backyard was unimproved and needed work, it was not a problem.  We made the bedroom closest to the master bedroom a nursery, hoping that our next baby was also a girl. We furnished the third bedroom with a pullout sofa and a desk for my future studies.  The dining room was part of the fair sized living/dining room.  The kitchen was adequate but small with no eating space. The attached garage was the conventional sized two car garage, although we still had only one car.  We settled comfortably into the house.  It was about 15 miles from Karens folk’s home.


Karen connected with a pediatrician and I reported to Purex on June 4th..  I would begin work on Monday June 9th, our second wedding anniversary.  When  I  reported to Purex, I was advised that my job had changed, as between my acceptance of the job and reporting for the job, the plant manager had gained approval to hire a plant engineer for which I was more qualified.  In the meantime, the plant manager had filled the job which was originally offered to me by promoting an hourly employee.  I was elated with this move as it increased the scope of my work to plant wide responsibility and was more technical than supervisional.    I met the plant manager, Alvin Oxley an experienced manufacturing executive, the assistant plant manager, Charlie Beason, as well as the processing supervisor, Steve Barris.  They welcomed me and generously asked if there was anything that they could do to help us in our move to the area.  I liked them all, advised them that we had things well in hand and that I would report to work on the following Monday.


After pretty well setting the house up, I began working on the back yard, which was enclosed with a six feet high concrete block wall.   There was a concrete slab patio about five feet by ten feet immediately outside the sliding glass door from the living room to the backyard,  however, the rest of the backyard was just as the builder had left it.   Preparing the back yard for an acceptable lawn was back breaking work.  However, we soon had a nice grass lawn, with various landscaping planted along the concrete wall.   Karen’s father helped considerably as he was an almost master gardener/landscaper and had acquired considerable knowledge of California plants in the two short years living in California.


My work at Purex after some orientation meetings and tours, began with several cost cutting and environmental projects as well as product quality improvement assignments.  I reported primarily to the plant manager but worked closely with the other supervisors as I worked on  projects in their area of responsibility.  It was challenging, meaningful work which resulted in learning a considerable amount about producing spray dried dish and laundry detergents, household and commercial chlorine bleach and silica based scouring cleanser, the three products manufactured in this plant.  (Two  other Purex plants, one in Bristol, PA and one in Omaha, NE produced bar soap and recovered soap making byproduct, glycerin for commercial sale.)  Occasionally, I would be asked to work on weekends or some double shifts,  for which I was paid pro-rata straight time amounts for the extra shifts.   The extra compensation came in handy.


The summer went quickly and again Karen had a reasonably easy pregnancy.   We socialized with her parents and her brother and his family.  Karen’s folks were eagerly looking forward to grandchild number three.  Fortunately, everyone was enjoying good health.  Karen’s father was extremely busy teaching,  working on their newly constructed Methodist Church grounds and  clerking in a local department store.   We connected with Mother Swanson’s younger sister Joyce and her husband, Merritt  a retired AF pilot, who lived in Southern California.  Seldom did the Stephan’s family all get together although three of the five were in Southern California (Reece, Ruth and Joyce), one in Phoenix, AZ (George) and one in Dayton, OH (Marian).  However, we did see all of them but Marion occasionally.  George a bachelor, who was teaching in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ traveled to California to visit on the school holidays.  We were a long way from my family and unfortunately, we were not able to get back to Iowa for Beverly and Allan’s wedding on August 23.  Beverly had graduated from nurses training and would be working in Ames as Allan finished his last year of college at ISC. 


When September arrived, school resumed for Edward and Ruth (and George).  My work continued to be both challenging and educational and Karen’s due date was rapidly approaching.  Karen and I stayed close to home except for my work.  On the early morning of Thursday, October 2nd,  Karen awakened me and said that her water had broken and she needed to go to the hospital.  We were organized for the trip with a “go bag”.  I dressed and bundled Cindie for the ten minute car ride to the Garden Grove, CA hospital.  We called ahead to the hospital alerting them of our arrival.  Karen got settled in at the hospital and since we had a bit of time, I drove Cindie to Karen’s parent’s home, where her mother was waiting for us, having already alerted the school that she would not be able to teach on Thursday and Friday.


Kimberly Diane Davis joined our family –


Kim was born shortly thereafter.   The young doctor came to tell me that I was father of a baby girl.  I was able to see Karen and Kimberly Diane Davis an hour after that.  At that time fathers were not permitted in most delivery rooms for the birth of their children.  Karen and Kim stayed in the hospital two days.  Now we had a competing daughters for the most beautiful baby ever.  Kim weighed 5 pounds 9.5 ounces and was 18 inches tall. In those days there was no paternity leave, so I took a week of vacation to help around the house.   Kim also was put on formula in the hospital.  Kim was a very good baby.   Although Cindie and Kim were only 54 weeks apart Karen handled their care with grace and competence.  It was very beneficial to have Karen’s parents nearby.  I don’t remember what the hospital bill for Karen and Kim was however, it was considerably more for their two day visit than the five day visit with the birth of Cindie at the US Naval Hospital.  Fortunately, our health insurance from Purex covered most of the cost.


The next couple of months passed quickly and soon the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were upon us.  We again had the pleasure of enjoying them with Karen’s parents and her brother and his family.  Cindie and Kim were growing like weeds.  Both were healthy babies.  Cindie had begun walking but she was really riding her rocking horse for all it was worth.  She was barely able to sit on it and  hold on while someone bounced it for her, but she thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Their other cousin on the Swanson side of the family, Lynn, was born on January 4, 1958. The Swanson’s had four granddaughters, their only grandchildren, all  within 16 months!  Karen was quite busy with our two daughters and very happy to be close to her parents and for their help.  The Purex factory was closed for the week of Christmas, enabling the staff to take some time off as well to enjoy the holidays. 


I enrolled in more business management correspondence courses through La Salle University based in Philadelphia.   While in California, I completed about one-half dozen of the courses as they were designed to progress through the courses as quickly as one wanted to.  The more I studied business management the more attracted I was to it.  I had decided that I wanted to pursue a career in management rather than to progress up the technical career ladder.  I enjoyed my work  at Purex and the men that I worked with.  A really serious problem developed one night when I was working late one evening.   One of the employees noticed that a five feet deep pit containing two horizontal storage tanks, one of which contained very concentrated sulfuric acid and the other contained spent sulfuric acid, was partially filled with liquid.   The concrete pit should have been empty.  The employee alerted  a maintenance employee who activated a team to deal with the problem.  One of the maintenance men dressed in knee high rubber boots had carefully entered the pit.  By then we had determined that the concentrated sulfuric acid tank was leaking.  The containment pit had a sump located at one end from which rain water would collect and be pumped out.  There was  a steel grate covering the sump, however someone failed to replace the grate after removing it earlier.  The maintenance man did not know this. He intended to step on grate over the sump.  Instead, he stepped into the pit and his boot filled with the acid resulting in an extremely debilitating acid burn.   Fortunately, he recovered but he had a very  long and painful recovery and a badly deformed leg.


The Purex Southgate plant was land locked and any capacity expansion was limited.  We focused on improving productivity, quality and  product innovations.  My work was involved with all of these functions  and I was able to contribute to the continued growth of the plant. One of the major challenges at that time was meeting the Los Angles County air pollution standards.  Los Angeles suffered from  major air pollution challenges, particularly ozone from the vehicular traffic in the basin as it was nearly surrounded, except for the side which was occupied by the Pacific Ocean, with low elevation mountains which trapped the pollutants in the basin.  I well remember days when our eyes would burn from the air pollution.  It was quite uncomfortable.  Likewise, we had reasonably strict particle/dust emission restrictions.  With the spray drying of detergents there was considerable detergent dust to capture from the hot exhaust dryer air.   Our dust collectors were large containers with many cloth tubes six inches in diameter through which the dust laden air was directed.  The dust was captured in the cloth tubes as the air was directed through the cloth into the exterior chamber.  This filtered air was released into the atmosphere.  The cloth tubes were periodically shaken down/vibrated to cause captured dust to fall into a lower catch chamber where the dust was then recycled into new batches of detergent.  The periodic replacement of the cloth tubes was an undesirable job.


As Cindie approached her second birthday and Kim her first birthday, Cindie was talking up a storm, learning new words daily and acting as an interpreter for Kim.  Since Kim had Cindie talking somewhat for her, Kim was in no hurry to talk, to learn new words or to make herself understood to mom or dad, she just let Cindie tell us what Kim wanted!  That summer my folks decided to make a driving trip to  California to visit us.  Beverly and Allan decided to join them as Allan had graduated earlier from ISC and was waiting orders to report to Fort Riley, KS for his basic officers training.  Janie was in high school and living at home.  She joined them on the trip.  My folks met both Cindie and Kim for the first time.  It was a joyous time.  Cindie would soon be two years old and Kim one year old.   We enjoyed an early celebration of their birthdays (and a bit late celebration of my birthday).  It was my parents first visit to California although my mother may  have visited California as a baby in 1914-6 with her parents.   When my folks were in California, we visited Hanna Nixon,  Richard Nixon’s mother one evening in her Whitter, California home.  Richard Nixon, the sitting vice-president at that time, was very closely related through his families to my mother’s families, however an actual relational connection could not be established.  I guess the best way to describe it is that many of Nixon’s relatives were connected to some of mother’s relatives by marriage.  Ms. Nixon was most gracious and she and mom discussed some distant relatives with whom both of them were familiar. (Below is a copy of the postcard my sister Janie received from Mrs. Hanna Nixon, President Nixon’s mother.)  While my parents were visiting, we made the round of the local tourist sites, particularly Knotts Berry Farm and Sea World.  Cindie and Kim were too young to do Disneyworld at that time, however, as we will discuss later, they made up for it with their two cousins (Ed and Lee’s daughters) later.   My parents were able to spend some more time with the Swanson’s which is the first time that they had been together since Karen and my wedding.

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My first promotion and employment transfer –


That fall, I was approached about a transfer to Purex’s Bristol, Pennsylvania plant.  The Bristol plant was a large soap making and packaging plant, to which Purex was adding a dry detergent and a liquid detergent plants.  With this expansion, the plant needed a Processing Supervisor, and I was nominated by my plant management.  I discussed this opportunity with Karen.  It would mean moving across the country, a promotion and a compensation increase.    I had not met the management of the Bristol Plant nor had Karen or I been to the Bristol area – which was about 25 miles north of Philadelphia on the western side of the Delaware River.  Karen and I were not offered an interview trip to Bristol as we considered the possibility.   We had no close acquaintances or family in the area, however, we decided that I could not turn down this opportunity.  The transfer would become effective January 1, 1960.  I would be responsible for supervising the new dry and liquid detergent plants which were expected to start-up mid-1960 as well as the existing soap making facility.  At that time there were some 150 hourly unionized employees working in the plant and with the expansion this number was expected to double.  The new construction was being managed by a quite competent engineer from central engineering located in Southgate, Blackie Gattis.  Blackie and I had worked together in the Southgate Plant on a number of projects.  Karen and I looked forward to a new home, in a part of the country with which we were not acquainted, with a new group of friends and with new work opportunities.


The move of our household goods across the country was handled by Purex.  However, we had the responsibility of selling our house and experiencing whatever loss or gain we might have.  We basically broke even on its sale.  We decided to leave California, driving to Iowa with a layover at my parent’s home through Christmas and to complete the trip over New Years.  The three day drive to Iowa and the two day drive from Iowa to near Philadelphia were each a bit long, however the girls travelled well and the trip was uneventful.  It was good to rejoin the Davis family for our Christmas celebrations.


We would be house hunting right after New Year’s and during winter in Pennsylvania, - not the best time to look for a house.  We camped out at a local motel in Bristol, made contact with the plant manager and assistant manager who provided us with realtor contact info, and suggested areas in which to look.  Guided by their suggestions, we looked at some newly constructed houses across the river in New Jersey, which was a fairly easy commute to the plant, although it required crossing a toll bridge ($0.05 each way!) over the Delaware River twice a day.  We purchased a recently completed three bedroom split level/split entry house with some 2000 square feet of finished space for $14,500.   The address was 203 Carl Street, Beverly, New Jersey.  The house was four levels with two of the levels on the left end of the house, when looking at it from the street, being the basement and the second floor, which included the living and dining rooms and the kitchen.  The lower level of the right end of the house had a family room, a bedroom with a bath and an entrance to the basement and to the back yard.  The double car garage which was attached on the right side of the house with its floor level with the family room floor.  This level was one-half story below the kitchen level.  The upper level on this end of the house had the master and nursery bedrooms and two bathrooms.  We set up the lower level bedroom as the girls playroom. The house was comfortable.  One of the big attractions to the house and its location was the large backyard which bordered on neighboring yards of comparable size all of which were open for the many children in the neighborhood to play together.  Our household furnishings arrived, we moved into the house and began the process of organizing our house and our lives for the second time in less than two years  - which is something that we repeated some 15  times in total.  We purchased a bit more furniture.  My office was a desk in the casual room or the kitchen table. 


Karen scouted out a local church, which just happened to be a Presbyterian denomination.  She joined the choir, something that she had not previously been able to do with all of our moves.   We became fast friends with the choir director (Paul Bonhe) and his wife (Muriel) who played the piano for the choir.  Choir practice was Thursday evening.  I watched Cindie and Kim, at home when the choir practiced.  After practice, the Bonhes came to our house and we played bridge for several hours.  Karen, relying on our neighbors for suggestions, found a pediatrician, a dentist and various other needed providers.   I tended to the lawn, shoveled the little bit of snow we experienced and did the relatively little maintenance we needed.  The girls were healthy and they had a number of nearby neighbor children their age.  On nice days they played in the expansive backyards and on inclement days they piled into one of the many neighboring homes to play games.   


I enjoyed my work with the new plant management.  The Plant Manager was a crusty, 60 year old Dutchman bachelor by the name of Jack Hutt, who delighted in calling me “Jimmy”  - to which I did not object.  He used it as a  term of affection.   We had a good working relationship, as he was somewhat hands-off and delegated considerable responsibilities to his Assistant Plant Manager and the three Plant Supervisors – The Packaging Supervisor, the Maintenance Supervisor and the Processing Supervisor – me. The Assistant Plant Manager was Russ McKenzie and neat 35 year-old chemical engineer who had been in the Bristol Plant since Purex acquired The Manhattan Soap Company a number of years earlier.  The Bristol Plant was the flagship plant of The Manhattan Soap Company.  One other management person on site was the Regional Vice President, to whom both manufacturing and sales reported.  There were three Regions in the U.S.  Purex had only a small amount of International business which was export sales.   The Regional Vice President was Lyle Loffdahl with whom I had little contact. Russ was a delight to work with.  He was exceptionally helpful, understanding and totally familiar with the current staffing, plant facilities, the products and Purex’s organization.   We developed a close professional and personal relationship.  Our families socialized together frequently, as Russ’ wife, Pat and their two daughters Debbie and Gail, who were 11 and 13 years old respectively, delighted in being with Cindie and Kim.  We frequently celebrated holidays together as neither of us had family near-by.


While carefully following (1) the completion of construction of the new plants, (2) participating in hiring the newly salaried personnel to staff the new plant and (3) interviewing senior hourly personnel who expressed an interest in the key operating jobs in the new plant, I spent considerable time with the foreman of the soap making department (Lonnie) learning the soap making .  Lonnie process was a longtime Purex/Manhattan Soap employee having been promoted to soap making foreman a number of years previously.  He knew soap making very well and was generous with his time and knowledge in educating me. Soap making is an old art of heating fats, typically hog/beef fats and/or vegetable fats, e.g., coconut oil and palm kernel oil, and a caustic, e.g., sodium hydroxide, with steam in a vessel.  Purex used large wooden vessels some two stories high and 20 feet in diameter.  The fats, which chemically are  three long chain (10 to 22 carbon atoms each nearly saturated with hydrogen) carbon products bound together at one end by a glycerin molecule resulting in a molecule looking like a three tined pitchfork without a handle.  The fats react with the caustic soda in a boiling brew to form soap, which is sodium stearate, with glycerin and water as by products.  When the reaction is complete, the vessel is allowed to cool during which the glycerin and water, about 20% glycerin and 80% water, being heavier than the soap layer settles to the bottom.  When sufficiently separated from the glycerin water, the liquid soap is pumped to the packaging area. The glycerin water is separated in large kettles by evaporating the water from the glycerin. The concentrated glycerin is sold to chemical processors for further refinement or other processing. The soap is a long linear carbon chain molecule to which a caustic ion is attached at one end.  The result is a carbon chain molecule which is hydrophobic except for end to which the caustic ion is attached which is hydrophilic.   Having both characteristics at opposite ends of the molecule chain enables the soap to combine with both oil based products and with water, thereby enabling the soapy wash water to combine with greasy materials.  The by-products of this reaction are a molecule of glycerin and three molecules of water.  The glycerin, which is soluble in the water from the reaction is recovered by evaporating the water.  After separating the glycerin/water solution from the soap, this solution was concentrated to 80% glycerin by evaporating the excess water in a large steam heated  vacuum vessel.  The glycerin was sold into the chemical processing market for further processing and inclusion in various products.  In the packaging department, the soap is further cooled and  mixed with dye(s),  perfume(s) and possibly other components..  It is then pressed into bars of soap and packaged. 


Construction of the new detergent plants proceeded as expected and soon we were into start up of the spray dryer, essentially a steel silo of  20 feet in diameter and 60 feet high, into which heated clean air is blown at the base.  The detergent to be dried is a water slurry which was pumped into the top of the dryer, through spray nozzles and under pressure sufficient to atomize the solution.  The water was evaporated and the powdered detergent fell gently to the base of the silo.  A conveyor belt moved the dried product to storage bins for further blending and packaging. 


The start-up of both the dry and liquid detergent plants went relatively well, with normal start-up problems mechanically and the usual challenges of training and leading shift foreman all of which were graduate chemical engineers and only one of whom had previous industrial experience.  This was my first experience of leading newly graduated chemical engineers and introducing them to chemical manufacturing.  It was difficult to find engineers who would work shift work and gradually we moved to promoting talented hourly employees who had leadership skills and capability to supervise the small crew of five hourly personnel in the spray drying department.  The dry detergent plant operated twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to avoid  the lost time of starting up and shutting down the spray dryer.  Other operations were typically one, two or three shifts, five days a week.  The dry detergent packaging line operated in a building contiguous to the building where the spray dryer was sited.  The detergent powder was conveyed from the storage bins to a feed hopper for the detergent packaging line, which typically operated three shifts per day, five days per week.  The weekend production was stored on the weekend and packaged during the following week. 


The liquid detergent was a blending operation of several chemicals in a large mixing tank all of which was operated by a single operator.  The finished bulk product was stored in large tanks in the liquid detergent processing area and pumped some 100 yards to the packaging line which was equipped with modest on site storage.  The liquid bottling line was located  in a large building where the bar soap was packaged.  The liquid detergent processing operation was typically a one shift, five days a week requiring two operators, with the bottling line operating a  two shift, five days per week operation. 


Within the first year of operation, the liquid and dry detergent plants were operating as expected, producing about five different dry detergents and a single liquid detergent.  We had the normal mechanical, electrical, staffing and related operating issues; however, everyone  was generally satisfied with the new operation. 


I followed the 1960 presidential election with considerable interest because of our near close relationship to Richard Nixon.  The coverage of the campaign was fairly reported by the major TV networks and the then stellar newscasters, including Edward R Murrow, Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner and Walter Cronkite.  I did not participate in politics at that time nor donate to any campaigns.  However, I was disappointed to see Richard Nixon lose to John F. Kennedy, however, I do believe that John F. Kennedy was the better choice as he governed well and he guided the country with respect to space exploration, public service and a balanced approach to politics.


As year-end approached, Karen and I considered how we would celebrate our Christmas holidays, some 1000 miles from my family and 2500 miles from Karen’s family.  We decided that with the difficulties of traveling with a three and a two year old, that we would stay at home and join the McKenzies  to celebrate the holidays.  The McKenzies thoroughly enjoyed Cindie and Kim and showered them with Christmas gifts and attention.  The girls were growing nicely, enjoyed each other’s company and played well together.  They were wonderful girls.


With the beginning of the new year, I continued to be interested in pursuing a business career instead of just manufacturing management.  I enrolled in business courses taught in the evening at Drexel which was located about 25 miles from home.  Typically, I took only one class, meeting one evening a week.  These were basically entry level business classes, which expanded on the correspondence courses that I took previously.  I continued to excel in these classes as well.


The Purex plant continued to operate effectively, meeting and excelling the requirements for production of the various products produced there.  We had no serious labor issues, no significant maintenance or repair challenges or other operational difficulties.  It was pretty much operational normal.  We were settling into a somewhat steady routine. 


Karen, Cindie and Kim were all doing well, except both girls had more colds and sore throats than we and the doctors wanted.  Their doctor recommended that both girls have their tonsils out to reduce these issues.  Hence that summer both girls had their tonsils out at a small local hospital.  The procedure went well. Both of them stayed over-night.  They shared a crib and when Karen and I went to their room the next morning, both girls dressed only in their diapers, were standing in the crib looking at us crying for attention.  I do wish we had taken a camera,  as I will forever remember this sight.  Karen continued her smoking which bothered me, but it was a sore subject with her, consequently we did not discuss it. 


We did not enroll the girls in any summer camps or nursery schools.  We did however, have them attend vacation bible school, even though we weren’t regular church attendees – other than Karen participating in the choir.  Both girls were good readers, Cindie especially.   Karen worked with them on pre-school learning tasks.  Karen, began having difficulty sleeping.  She discussed it with her doctor on one of her annual visits.  The doctor suggested that she try a glass of  wine before retiring at night to see if that helped.  Karen followed her doctor’s suggestion.  Having a glass of wine before bed did improve her sleeping however, it was frequently more than one glass of wine. 


One particularly funny – although not that Karen or I let on to it at the time - was an event that happened in their downstairs playroom.  Cindie for some reason thought that it would be nice to use some Crayolas to decorate the wall of their playroom.   When Karen or I discovered it, we swatted Cindie’s bottom – it seems that physically paddling mis-behaving children was acceptable at that time, although I don’t remember any other time when either Karen or I resorted to this.  Kim observed the discipline and approached us stating that “I too colored on the wall.  Do you want to spank me?”  Karen and I were amused and playfully swatted her bottom as well.  As will be covered later, Cindie and Kim were wonderful daughters and never did we find ourselves in a position of having to discipline either of them!


I explored the possibility of joining an active USMCR unit.  As luck would have it, there was a  USMCR 155 mm Howitzer Battery based in Trenton, NJ, about twenty miles north of where we were living which had the need for a Platoon Commander.  I received orders dated June 8, 1961 to join Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines, 4th Marine Division, USMCR based in Trenton.   I spent one weekend per month as well as two weeks each year on training exercises.  I joined the Battery for the two week summer drill in Virginia Beach, VA that summer.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, our unit, as many other reserve units around the US, particularly the southeastern part of the country were on a standby alert.  Fortunately, we were not activated and stood down relatively quickly. 


The summer of 1961, Karen’s folks and her uncle George decided to spend the summer traveling the country.  Her folks purchased a pick-up truck and a camper body for the truck.  After school was dismissed for the summer, they in their pick-up camper and George in his station wagon - in which he slept- headed for New Jersey as part of their summer travels.  They arrived in mid-July just before  my two weeks of summer camp with the USMC.  Karen, Cindie and Kim packed their bags for a two week trip to New England with her folks and George.  They skirted New York City, drove through Connecticut, spent time in Boston as some of the historical sites and then drove the Maine coast.  They camped out, slept in the camper and station wagon, cooked many of their own meals either at the camps or in the folks camper “kitchen”.   Cindie and Kim had their first taste of lobster, fresh from the ocean.  Kim’s comment to her mother was, don’t tell dad how much I like lobster! They all had a wonderful and educational experience.  Karen’s father who was particularly interested in history, especially American history, insured that the entire traveling party was well educated with the local history.  I returned from USMCR summer camp and was able to spend a few days with Karen’s folks and George before they left us to return to their respective homes and teaching assignments.   I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time that they stayed with us.  Karen, Cindie and Kim thoroughly enjoyed being with them for almost four weeks and particularly enjoyed their driving trip through New England.


After Karen’s folks left, Karen and the girls adopted a six month old Siamese Cat for the girls upcoming birthdays.  They named him Phoo Phoo Si.  Phoo Phoo became the love of our lives and provided us considerable entertainment, as he was exceptionally active and very loving.  They girls continued playing with our neighboring family’s children in our back yard or in one of the many home’s recreation rooms.


On November 8, 1961 my grandfather Tom Davis died after losing a battle with leukemia.  I flew to Iowa to attend his funeral services.    He laid in his coffin at their home near Clemons, Iowa for the viewing by his family and his beloved neighbors.   Fortunately, grandmother Mary Davis was in very good health, as were dad’s other brothers and sisters.  The total number of members in my generation of the Davis family was 34 of which 33 were living.  The one loss was a cousin of mine who died in very early childhood of an unknown disease.  Shortly, thereafter grandmother Davis purchased a small house nearby and moved into this comfortable house close to her many of her family where she lived for another almost nine years.


Christmas 1961, we decided to make the long drive to Iowa for a Davis Family Christmas.   I took vacation and we decided that we would drive it in one long day, with Karen and I sharing the driving and the girls hopefully sleeping a significant portion of the time.  It was about a 20 hour drive, but all of it except about 30 miles was on interstates.  It was the first of many Davis family Christmases with all of we six siblings, our spouses and our children attending.  Dick and Judy missed several of these Christmases over the years because of deployment with the Navy, we missed several because of being located too far away for a driving trip, particularly over a short time frame.  Nancy missed some because of being located too far away to make the trip, however, we had a remarkable stretch of family Christmases at the family farm from 1959 through 1995.  Our immediate family was blessed with a closeness reinforced by the family Christmases and later the family summer one-week vacations, typically in the Ozarks.  Upon return from Iowa, we enjoyed a belated Christmas with the McKenzies.  They hosted us for a feast and gift exchange.  As was typical with Russ and Pat, they showered gifts on Cindie and Kim.  Pat and Karen had collaborated on a common gift from Pat to Russ and from Karen to me - flying lessons.  I had not thought much about flying, but Russ had been considering it, in part because our Packaging Supervisor at the Purex plant, Bart, was a long time private aviator with his own plane and many interesting stories about his flying experiences. 


Later that spring, Rus and I enrolled in a program to learn to fly. It was located at a nearby private airfield.  We spent several weeks learning about flying sitting at a desk and reading the required manuals.  We both passed a short informal written exam about what we needed to learn in ground school.  We then separately spent several weeks in 30 minute sessions flying with an instructor learning to handle a Cessna 172.  Through the summer, we took the necessary lessons, twelve in all as I remember.   Near the end of one of the last lessons, the instructor told me to land the plane.  I complied with a reasonable amount of skill.  The next lesson, he instructed me to take the plane off from where it was parked near the hanger.   After doing so, he instructed me to do a series of touchdowns, i.e., near landings where the wheels touch the runway and then power is applied to the engine and the plane is again flying.  Then repeating the process about five times prior to landing it at the end of the lesson.  The final flying lesson was a short planned navigational trip from the airport we were using to two other towns about 40 miles away and returning to our airport.


Upon the  competition of that trip, the instructor told me that I would be on my own for my next flight, that I had completed all of the flight training that I needed.  I was required to pass an aviation physical exam and apply for a private license, which I did.  Russ had completed his training prior to me, as he was more anxious to get into the air than I was.   A couple of weeks later, I soloed for the first time. 


By the time I had soloed, I had become convinced that I was going back to graduate school and that the cost of flying a private plane and financing a possible two year MBA program was not compatible.  More on this as we get caught up on some other developments.


I continued my limited business studies at Drexel and my USMCR work with the Lima Battery in Trenton.  On June 22, 1962 I was promoted to Captain, USMCR and the following month we spent two weeks of summer camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  I enjoyed my continued involvement with the USMCR  however, I resigned from this position in middle of August the following year.


In October 1962, President Kennedy announced his plan to land a man on the moon by 1970.  "We choose to go to the Moon", officially titled the Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Effort, is a September 12, 1962, speech by United States President John F. Kennedy to further inform the public about his plan to land a man on the Moon before 1970. Kennedy gave the speech, largely written by presidential advisor and speechwriter Ted Sorensen, to a large crowd at Rice University Stadium in Houston, Texas.



President John Kennedy, 1962


Work at Purex continued to be rewarding although, I was a bit anxious to figure out what my next move might be.  There were no opportunities to move up organizationally at Purex’s Bristol Plant.  I discussed the opportunities with Russ McKenzie, continued taking evening management courses at Drexel and thought about what I wanted to do next.  I explored with Lyle Loffdahl the opportunities in Purex in non-manufacturing departments. 


After USMCR summer camp, I took a week of vacation and Karen, the girls and I did a driving trip to New England, partially to see for myself what they had experienced the prior year and partially to visit with a cousin, Willard Ware.   Willard, as reported earlier was a first cousin of my mothers, who had graduated from William Penn University and later earned his MBA at Harvard Business School.   Willard had a successful career with a large pharmaceutical company, then purchased a small machine shop in Worchester, MA.  He still owned the company which he built into successful envelope manufacturing company, but was in the process of selling the company to his employees through an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan).  In discussing my career with Willard during one private quiet afternoon, he responded to me that I “should attend Harvard Business School” (HBS).   I had heard of HBS but had not seriously considered taking two years from my working life and going back to school.  However, the more that I learned about HBS and thought about the possibility of earning an MBA from HBS, the more intrigued I became. 


We returned from the visit with Willard and resumed our busy life of raising two daughters. Cindie began   kindergarten that fall at a school only a few blocks from our house.   Karen and Cindie’s teacher soon became alert to Cindie’s vision problem.  An eye exam detected that she had a combination of astigmatism and near sightedness. She was fitted with glasses, the wearing of which were a bit of a challenge for a five year old.  Cindie excelled at her school work, particularly with her improved vision.  Kim missed having her older sister at home all day and anxiously looked for her return from school.  Karen and Kim found things to keep Kim reasonably occupied.


Work at Purex was going well, but was not seriously challenging, flying was of interest to me, but not as much as making a major career advancement and the USMCR was clearly a side interest, not a career path.   Purex gave me no encouragement that I might move into a different aspect of the business, further convincing me that I had no real prospects of reaching top management with a marketing company, while “pigeonholed” in manufacturing.  I researched HBS, its admission procedure, the economics of attending HBS and not having an income for almost two years and decided that even with little savings we had and the probability that Karen would not be able to acquire even a moderately well-paying job during the two years,  that I would go for it.  I never considered an alternate MBA program nor an evening MBA programs that were available from a number of universities.  (All of these alternate programs required on campus classes and none of them began to compare with HBS, in stature or future job prospects.)  I learned that the requirements for an admission application to HBS was taking  an “Admission Test For Graduate Study In Business” from the Educational Testing Service, located in Princeton New Jersey and submitting an application, which included an essay.  The tests were administered in various locations around the country at various times of the year.  I sat for the exam the following February in Philadelphia.  In the meantime, I began making preparations, at least mentally, to quit Purex and go to graduate school.  Karen and I discussed this move, the sacrifice that it meant for our family, as we would be borrowing the cost of tuition ($1750 per year) and the cost of our living during the almost two year period.  I discussed it again with Russ McKenzie, who encouraged me to go for a HBS MBA.  I stopped flying and we increased our savings modestly while we prepared to make the leap into a whole new world.


Christmas 1962 again was celebrated at our Davis family Christmas at the farm.  We  had a wonderful week of family gathering, attending the Hartland Church annual Christmas pageant, making and eating homemade ice cream and exchanging gifts.  Fortunately, everyone in our family was in good health, a blessing we would enjoy for many years to come.    Our driving trip to and  from Iowa was uneventful.     Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Phoo Phoo Si disappeared one night and we never found him.  The girls were particularly disappointed over his disappearance.   We promised them that when we were settled after my HBS work, we would adopt another Siamese Cat to replace him.  Upon returning to New Jersey, I focused on preparing for the GMAT exam and my application, including the essay that was a required as part of  the application. 


After taking the test, I had no idea how well I had done.  I was able to finish most sections of the exam.  At that time there were only two parts to the exam a verbal and a quantitative part.  I anxiously awaited the results of the exam, which I received by mail two weeks later.  My results were 33 on the verbal and 41 on the quantitative with a total of 602.  I no longer have the accompanying letter which detailed the percentiles in which these results placed me.  As I recall the verbal score put me in about the 60th percentile, the quantitative score put me in the 85th percentile and the total score put me in the 70th percentile.  (A report on Google as I am writing this seems to confirm these rankings.)


With the test results posted for HBS to access, I mailed my completed application along with a check to cover the modest fee that HBS required.  About March 20th, I received a letter from the HBS admission officer advising me that my application was complete and that I would be advised early July as to my acceptance to HBS.  I immediately called the admission officer and explained that I was very appreciative that I was being considered for the HBS Class of 1965, however we owned a house that we would need to sell and a family to move to Boston,  so if I was to be accepted,  that I needed to know as quickly as possible.  He responded that he understood.  


Early in April, I received a letter from the Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Program that I had been accepted to HBS for the Class of 1965!  Karen and I celebrated by reviewing all of the things that we needed to do asap.   The first was to contact the realtor who sold us the house some three and one-half years earlier.  We had made the minimum down payment on the house when we purchased it.  In the short time we had owned it we accumulated only a minimum amount of additional equity.  We hoped to get possibly $2000 for our equity.   Unfortunately, real estate was not very strong at the time and in the end the realtor agreed to purchase it from us by paying us only $500!   We also had about a $1000 in my Purex retirement account which I could withdraw.  We had modest other savings and knew we could borrow our full cost of tuition, which was $1750/year, and living costs through HBS if necessary, which we ended up doing.


 Click HERE to go to Part VI