Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: Did you spend a fair amount of your spare time doing improvements..?
HAL: Well I tell you what I did while the house was going up. I collected some improvements to be made. I had a big bag of nails coming out of the debris that the carpenters spread around. Yes, when you bought the house you got a front lawn, but you didn't get a back lawn, so I spent a lot of time tilling in the back yard, trying to put in a lawn. It was a long and arduous process, because that is the way an engineer would do it. You know anybody else would just go wham, bam and the lawn would in. But the engineer took plenty of time, and there were a lot of sweaty afternoons putting that lawn in. There was a sprinkler to put in, more engineering to be done with the sprinkler, most of it, flawed but the sprinkler system did go in, and eventually it did work. there were minor changes to be done to the inside of the house, and with a saw and a hammer you could do that. And I had a lot of fun doing that. But there always seemed to be something to done on a Saturday around the house.
INT: I read the story after the breakthrough after the middle, and the comment that was made after you bought the house... Could you tell me that story?
HAL: Well, as part of the buying process and you know we were talking with the sales agent, before we made up our mind even to buy this plot of land as I remember. But the question came up about selling these homes to members of minorities, ethnic minorities, blacks specifically... we were assured that we did not have to worry about anything of the sort happening, that the tract simply was not selling to blacks. We did not ask why, we did not ask how are you doing this, we didn't suggest maybe what you are doing is illegal, I think probably at the time it probably wasn't illegal, or certainly was not, if it was illegal, the laws weren't enforced. It was just the way things were done at the time. This was a lily-white neighborhood for many years, in fact we still do not have blacks in the neighborhood. The Pacific Rim ethnics have come into the neighborhood, and of course they are welcome, but interestingly enough we do not have blacks in the neighborhood. And to my knowledge that remains the case within a considerable radius to this house.
INT: Can you tell me a little bit...? you came here and there was a whole massive spate of development. Can you just tell me a little bit about what you saw, that was going on around you in terms of churches, and schools and freeways, and so forth...?
HAL: Oh, yes,...well. the land was very raw, the whole valley was very raw when we arrived in 1960. It had been undergoing an explosive kind of development since the late 50s, but the worse was yet to come. With the, with the location of huge industries, like Lockheed nearby, with the expectation of employing as many as 20 to 25,000 people in the buildings down at the end of the street, in Sunnyville, to say nothing of all of the other businesses that would tag along on their coattails, to support the 25,000 employees...all kinds of infrastructure had to be built, and built in a hurry. Neighborhoods, schools, freeways especially and expressways, and we just basically had to create an urban infrastructure in a very short length of time. And there were huge efforts put forth in just a short length of time, like between 1958 maybe, certainly by 1960 when we arrived to perhaps 1965/66 when the freeways really seemed to be in place. Maybe 1970 at the latest, the freeways were down and working, but in that length of time there were just huge additions to the infrastructure.. schools went up almost overnight, and if you look at their construction you can see that they went up quickly and they are there today, many of them in need of repair, but functioning. But there were schools just everywhere, every tract that created a neighborhood, there were lots set aside for the location of the school. And the school went in with the houses.
INT: It seems to me you led to some extent something of a golden family life, with conservative human values at this time....did you ever think how you managed to live off the salary, it is very weird...
HAL: Yes, well, I think that was something about those times that we should regret the passing of the most. And that was in those days, with the cost of living with the modest but meaningful salaries that were paid to people like me - engineers like me - low level functionaries, entering business, you could still make enough money, and things were still inexpensive enough, food clothing and housing especially. Maybe more than anything else the housing was inexpensive, and that permitted a single salary to support a family, in our case, of say six. And it wasn't until the children were old enough to go to school, that Terry decided she had had enough of that, and she went back to work at her original profession of medical technologist. But I think that it is very much we should very much be grateful to the Cold War that, the economics of the time and the need for people like me to do the work that I did, permitted a single salary, a single pay roll family to exist in this marvelous environment. Because I personally feel that I benefited from it. I think that our siblings, our children have certainly benefited from Terry's being home, and always being there when they arrived home. The house would be warm, and would smell good and feel good, and she'd be there to greet them, and that meant everything to them, and it meant everything to me. I think when I read of today's circumstances that is the thing I feel should be regretted the most about the current economy, and that is that it takes two salaries to make any kind of life apparently. Because that is what is happening.
INT: Can you tell me anything as well about the well about if you like being able to devote your life to your work I suppose, to your kids, and whether you looked at all at the Bill of Rights about the game, outside events, events happening in America, and events happening up north....??
HAL: Yes, when I first began my work at Lockheed, because that is really when my professional work began, the Navy and the general election I mean they don't really define my professional self. But my work at Lockheed did define my professional self. But when I first arrived at Lockheed I was a one dimensional person I think and that dimension was support your family, you are a trained engineer, and the engineering jobs are in the defense industry. There is the money, take it, don't think about who is buying, why they are buying, how much they are buying, whether it is being efficiently procured, whether the need for all of this gadgetry is real or imagined, don't think anything of that. Just do the job, keep your nose clean, take you 7% per year raise, be happy with it, in fact it was not even that it was more like 2 or 3%, but don't question the politics of it, don't question the ethics of it, don't question the morals of it. In fact, to be an engineer in the aerospace industry then and now you have to be amoral, you can't concern yourself with the morality of what you are doing because technology is not moral, there are no morals to technology, it is amoral. It is the users who the morals or lack them. And engineers think that way, most engineers just go straight ahead, don't think about the ethics of what they are doing, don't think about the eventual application of the technology they are creating, they are doing it because it is fun for them, they are doing it because it is a living, and they are doing it because it is what they are trained to do.
INT: Now the Kennedy's' seem to me to you know represent if you a like a great deal of the sort of golden age, if you like. Can you tell me what you saw of them, what you liked, and what they symbolized?
HAL: The Kennedy's came on the scene at just the right time for Terry and me. The Kennedy's represented the best that the political system could come up with, the best that it could possibly create. They emerged from the political morass that had known flawed presidents forever, and flawed administrations, and the Kennedy's came and they had style, they had class, and they were of a different generation. We could identify with them, Terry and I, because they were our age, so to speak, within a decade or 15 years of our age, which is close enough. And they brought a different feel to the White House, and made you proud of your executive, of your national executive. Kennedy's had style, they had Pablo Cassals into play, they wined and dined the world's greatest in the highest of fashion, and Jackie was gorgeous, and Jack was a heroic figure, and his brother Bobby was going to get Hoffa, and it was just too good to stand.. it was too good to last, and it didn't last, but that is what the Kennedy's meant. And then when Kennedy stood up and said "within this decade we will land a man on the Moon, and return him to Earth safely..." or something of the sort, well of course it is a vision fulfilled. We are in the right place at the right time, at last, and it represents high water mark, in terms of the hubris of the nation, in terms of the personal gratification, satisfaction for me as a technologist, and it represented the pinnacle of political experience for Terry, because she had always been a bit left of center, and the Kennedy's were absolutely the best expression of all that the Left could offer, at least that was feeling at the time. has history proved it different? I think history has proved me a bit starry eyed, but it was a wonderful tonic at the time, a wonderful tonic....
INT: How did you feel when it all stopped short...oh the tape, oh this is going wonderfully well, are you happy James....??
INT: So we were talking really of the sort of Golden Age, could you tell of how you felt.
HAL: When the, when the Kennedy's came on the scene politically, during the primary elections and then after he was elected president, he just, the Kennedy family, but Jack in particular and Jackie especially as well, just seemed to be the natural fulfillment of the American political process, they seemed to be the best that the process could bring forward, and represented a new and glittering age that was about to emerge, and we would be the direct benefactors or the direct participants happily. the Kennedy family were so powerful in appearance, they were so, so the men were so manly and the women were so feminine and yet they all played touch football, it was a marvelous family dynamic that they put on display. and then the way that the Kennedy's transformed the White House and invited dignitaries and luminaries and artists to entertain at dinner, and Pablo Cassals comes with his cello and plays in the White House and everyone is dressed to the nines and it was just a wonderful spectacle, and we thought that Kennedy was the magnificent, magnificent is hardly the word but he was a marvelous president because he displayed for the world what we felt, Terry and I, what we felt was the best kind of presence that the United States could present politically to the world. Bobby was a marvelous force it intrigued me that the brothers could work that way in the government, here's the president as the older brother and the younger brother is the, is the club wielding attorney general, who's going to get the bad guys you know the Mafia and Jimmy Hoffa and all those folks. It was, it was great imagery, it was wonderful theatre and then Kennedy stood up and he said, within this decade we will send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth, and it seemed to Terry and me, but especially me that this was the perfect gesture to make, and I was at the right place at the right time, with the right skills to take advantage of this marvelous adventure that Kennedy was laying out, and thinking it was just the first of many such wonderful adventures that that the land would contribute to world history. It was a, it was a great and glittering that lasted hardly more than a few months when you think about it, but it was a marvelous time to be an American citizen, because the, you could be proud of your executive, you could be proud of the man you'd chosen to be your executive leader, and no matter what luck he might have with congress or with labor or what, he just had a presence and he made you proud of the political system who put such a person in power. It was it was a great time.
INT: Can you tell me where you were and how you heard of the news of the assassination and how you felt.
HAL: Most people I think will tell you that they know exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news came to them of the assassination, and I'm not any exception, I know exactly what I was doing, I was walking down a corridor in a place called the satellite test center, a dreadful place to work, but I happened to be working there, and I was just coming in to and administrator office and there was a radio playing and I thought how odd, there's a radio playing in the middle of the afternoon, and I stopped to listen and it was the news of the assassination. Then it was absolutely mind-numbing, to think that such a thing could happen, and you know it was the usual reaction is denial, they're joking, no they're not joking, oh my goodness who could do such a thing. Not a thought about were do we go from here, it's who did it get the guilty one right, and then there was the matter of recovering the body moving it to Washington and that kind of thing, it was the logistics of the aftermath of the assassination was all kind of unreal, so mechanistic and so proforma, but the assassination itself, the moment of that the news came to me I was somehow aware that things had really changes, I didn't know how or why and yet it was, it was a profound moment and the proof of it, ... was the fact that I remember exactly what I was doing at the time. Now later the really bizarre event later in the weekend when Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated himself by Jack Ruby, that occurred to us, that news came to us over a car radio, we were in a parking lot of Queen of Apostles Church, had just either come out of church or just going to church, the news comes on and Lee Harvey Oswald's assassinated and that struck me as particularly bizarre because it seemed like to me a setup. Now this guy has been put out of the way, by the people who wanted him out of the way, it all seemed to unreal, too much to accept that the whole thing was somehow co-incidental and randomized. it was the combination of Kennedy's assassination and the Oswald assassination that leaves me to this day, you know seeing that as kind of the cusp of the whole thing, the high water mark or the turning point or the watershed event in our lives and in the life, the political life of the nation and especially in the Aerospace industry, oddly enough because nothing was ever quite as, nothing was ever quite as glittering after that time, I can't explain it but when I think back in 1963, the high water mark of my experience at least in aerospace in terms of my total acceptance of the inevitability of good works that really never met it's fulfillment.