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Alec Anderson

Alexander F. Anderson   (Alec)

 

Born July 16 1934 in Rutherglen, Scotland (just outside Glasgow) and lived there until I was eleven. This of course means that I spent my elementary school days during WW II. Fortunately, Glasgow was at the very far end of the range of German planes and we had much less damage than the south of England. Still there were many things that were not the normal way of growing up. Being wakened up in the middle of the night and shoved under the bed, looking over a pitch black city, carrying a gas mask everywhere for 5 years, seeing all metal fences removed and of course the 2 oz of meat and sugar we were allowed per week. On the plus side the streets were our playground as there was zero traffic. Only doctors got a very small petrol (gas) ration. To complete the evil picture, food rationing did not completely disappear until the early 1950's.

 

Right after the war in October 1945 my father changed jobs and we moved to Carlisle in the north of England (only 10 miles from the Scottish border). Here I attended Carlisle Grammar School, an all boys school with approximately 600 students between 11 and 18 years of age. This is where I was introduced to organized sports. In addition to PE we had compulsory games day, which meant rugby in the autumn (fall) and winter, cricket in the summer and track and field in the spring. Initially I liked cricket but not rugby but by age 14 that reversed and I switched to tennis and became an avid rugby player. Although I ran  (440 and 880) on the school track team I never liked track and field. Eventually, I played on the school tennis and rugby teams for 3 years and enjoyed it immensely. I also played badminton (unofficial) and once a year played field hockey (our rugby team against the Girls High School) and usually got well beaten. All in all I enjoyed Carlisle Grammar School, I got a very good education, learned a lot about sports and formed lifelong friendships.

 

During these teenage years I spent my holidays exploring. Thanks to the Youth Hostels Association I rode a bicycle all over Scotland and a good part of England. However, after three years of unending rain I switched to hitch hiking on the continent and visited at different times France, Denmark, Germany, Austria and Switzerland again using Youth Hostels.

 

After graduating from high school I attended The Royal Technical College (now the University of Strathclyde) in Glasgow where 4 years later I obtained a Bachelors  degree in Mechanical Engineering. This was a family tradition as my father (electrical), my sister (chemical) and my brother (civil) all graduated from the "Tech". In fact, when I first registered the elderly registrar said,  "you must be Jimmy Anderson's boy". Throughout my time here I played for the college 1st rugby team (we had 3 teams) and both played in and ran the badminton club. In my final year I was President of the Athletic Club and as, unlike most USA universities, we only played for the fun of it and although funded by the school the students ran all the sports. My summers were spent gaining the practical experience required by British engineering societies by working in two small machine shops and then Rolls Royce aero engines, while still fitting in my European exploration. This work experience, together with the overall political situation in Britain convinced me to emigrate. Like most British people I chose to move to a commonwealth country and my personal preference was Canada.

A year after I went to Canada, my sister immigrated to New Zealand and when my brother graduated he too went to Canada but now lives in Switzerland. When my grandmother died my mother went to live with my sister in New Zealand. Unfortunately both my mother and my sister have passed on but we have good contact with my nieces and nephews.

 

Using available trade magazines I applied for jobs and one company Canadian Celanese (textiles) in Drummondville, Quebec offered me a job sight unseen. I sailed for Canada in November 1956 and shortly before I left I got engaged to be married to my now wife of 52 years, Eunice.  Drummondville is about 70 miles north of Montreal and is 95% French speaking. This meant two things, one a real experience of cold (48 below) and a very active social life as a new English speaking face (5 Christmas dinner invitations). I continued to play badminton, learned how to curl and was an Assistant ScoutMaster. However, the job did not measure up to the rest of the experience so in May while the snow was still piled high I moved and went to work in Avro Aircraft in Toronto, Ontario. There were many other young and mostly single Brits so my social life continued and my rugby playing resumed. In the summer of 1957 I returned to Scotland to marry Eunice. It was a very hectic two weeks and as I had flown on a charter flight (piston engines) Eunice had to travel to Canada on her own (first time in an airplane). I continued to work at Avro on the CF 105 and play rugby until March of 1959 when on the infamous "Black Friday" (there is both a book and a movie on this event) all 24,000 of us were laid off, over the PA system.

 

Many US aircraft companies sent recruiting teams to Toronto so our choices were get out of aviation, return to the UK or move to the US and most of us decided on the latter. Within two weeks I had accepted a job with Garrett/Airesearch but it took 3 months before our visas were granted. By that time we were broke and I was sleeping on the floor of an apartment with six others while my wife and daughter, Fiona, were crammed in with distant relatives. When we arrived in California I had $5.00 in my pocket and that was it until AiResearch paid my travel expenses.

 

On June 1, 1959 I started work at AiResearch immediately next to LAX (now the Park 1 parking lot). I was hired to work on environmental systems but was lent to the heat transfer department where I spent the next 30 or so years. In those early days the aircraft industry was expanding rapidly which meant ups and downs in employment so we all worked very long hours and most weekends. Somehow, even with this, my two sons were born, Colin in 1960 and Craig in 1968. After the first two years or so I even managed to get back to playing tennis and badminton but alas no rugby. Also, a very diverse group of us started playing soccer after work and eventually entered a team into the Industrial League. As I was a poor player I managed more than I played and trying to keep the peace between Europeans, Middle Easterners and native Americans was quite a task (specially the Scots and the Persians). I am not quite sure how my wife put up with all of this but we survived and flourished.

 

After 3 years of renting in Hawthorne and Inglewood we bought our first house in Inglewood and lived there for the next 10 years. It is while we were living here and when my oldest son was 7 that Joe Bonchonsky recruited me into AYSO.

 

AiResearch was a great company to work for despite the fact that the group I was in was gypsies. After about 3 years in the "main plant" we were shipped off to an old hanger just off the LAX runway where the roof leaked and there was no air conditioning. Just for 6 months they said, which lasted over 2 years. Then as a reward we got 2 years in relative luxury in an office building in Westchester and a brief return to the main plant before the final move to Torrance. In 1982 the company became Allied Signal which in my opinion turned out to be a poor move for the employees. I think you will find that all of us who worked in the aerospace industry look upon the years between 1960 and 1990 as the real heyday of American aviation. The enormous growth of commercial aviation, the Cold War that kept military spending high and the birth and development of space exploration produced amazing progress and kept many thousands of people employed. Garrett/AiResearch played a significant role in all of it.

 

In 1993, having risen to the position of Senior Engineering Manager I could not stand the administrative side and transferred to Advanced Applications where I got to try new ideas and to develop new outside business. After about 3 years this department was dissolved and I returned to heat transfer but only in a research and consulting capacity. I finally retired in 1998 but returned the next week as an outside consultant to continue the research work. Approximately 2 years after this Allied decided to eliminate all outside contractors so we were all laid off. At this time I was recuperating from heart surgery so it did not seem like a very meaningful event.

 

In 1971 we moved from Inglewood to our present address in Rolling Hills Estates and I resigned as Commissioner of Region 7. Even after my youngest son stopped playing in AYSO I continued to referee until I decided to save my knees for tennis, badminton and by then, squash. I am now down to bike riding and squash three times a week.  My children are all grown and long gone. The first and last went through university and Colin who did not is a successful general contractor. Colin lives in San Pedro so we see him and his three children frequently. A little less now that his two girls are both in university. Both the others live in Northern California so we are still in close touch with the whole family. Fiona, although our oldest, has our youngest grandchild who is now 10.

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