Sunday, November 20, 2011
The Life of an Only Child, Moi (The Jack Kretzer Story)
I have been asked why I haven’t shared my past 50 years with you. Probably there are various reasons why you haven’t heard the highs and lows of a life that has never had a goal or mission other than to survive, do the things I enjoy doing, and to be kind to others along the way.
My dad was born in Clarinda, Iowa a community best known for a trombone player that composed “string of pearls”. He had nine brothers and sisters, three of whom lived to be adults. Don’t really know a lot about ‘Hoppy’s’ family other than a couple of trips to Clarinda on the choo choo train.
On the other hand my mom’s family had been in the Hannibal area for several generations. Bertie had two brothers and one sister; she was the oldest. Had she not passed away in 1997 she would have celebrated her 100th birthday this past April. Bertie loved kids.
I was a lucky guy to have a Bertie and a Hoppy!
In my senior year at HHS I won the Michaelman Scholarship from the steel fabricating company in Quincy. Why I was chosen remains a mystery, if excelling in college was expected.
Almost immediately after graduation I went to work for the Missouri State Highway Department, as a Rodman assigned to Jim Minton’s resident engineer office in Oakwood. As I recall, all of our construction projects were in the woods building farm-to-market road that would bring a state highway to within 2 miles of everyone in Missouri.
My second summer after HHS I worked for Michaelman in Quincy ‘bucking’ rivets.
My third summer I sat out in the railroad siding in West Quincy watching a construction worker batching cement to be hauled to the job site.
Another summer I worked in Rock Island, Illinois for a consultant redecking the Arsenal Bridge, a double deck bridge.
Also, I spent a year working for Sverdrup and Parcel in St. Louis, as a Draftsman and part-time Rodman laying out the Mark Twain Expressway (I-70). That year I lived at the YMCA and then shared a small apartment at residential hotel at Euclid and Pine. My landlord was the guy who owned a coffee company that did safari commercials. Can’t remember his name now, but I will! His first name was Dana. (Dana Brown owner of Safari Coffee)
In between I went to MIT. That was an experience that all should have that want to be an engineer. I lived in Baker House, the newest dorm on the campus. I enrolled in Course 1, Civil Engineering. Living away from home was exciting and a problem. Early on I mixed my white and colored clothes and ended up with pink underwear.
My life at MIT could fill a file drawer with the good experiences that I had and the waste of opportunity I brought on myself. Won’t dwell of my academic prowess or lack thereof.
I will recall my people experiences at MIT. Each Saturday we would go to Durgin Park in Haymarket Square at Fanuel Hall for lunch since the cafeteria at Baker House was closed.
At MIT I was accepted into a double quartette called the “Logarithms”. We made a couple of records, 78s. We would sing at the girl’s schools in the Boston area and had one opportunity to sing at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City for a fund raising event for the Alfred P. Sloan School of Management. Afterwards, we went to see the Steve Allen TV show and tried to get to sing on national TV; the log who???
In the MIT glee club I got a different experience in singing, but the same experience in singing at girl’s school. One trip was to Bennington College in Vermont on the border with New York State, so after the concert those who wanted to imbibe could walk across the state line to New York and get a drink.
One of the good experiences was my involvement with the churches in the Boston area. First, I attended Old Cambridge Baptist Church on the edge of Harvard Square. Our Sunday school teacher was a MIT electrical engineering prof, Karl Wilde. There I was introduced to drinking tea with cake donuts. The pastor’s name was Spence Parsons, a real nice guy and a fair preacher.
Somehow I transferred to Tremont Temple Baptist Church on Tremont Street down the street from the Boston Commons. Their pastor was Harold l. Fickett Jr. from California; he was a good preacher and brought the Southern Baptist thinking to an American Baptist church and made it dually aligned.
The deacons dressed in ‘morning coats’ and used trays on the end of a stick to collect the offering. There were two paid soloists, Ruby Slaven and Ralph (it will come to me). I sang in the choir under the organist/choirmaster, Terry Fulham, who later became an Episcopal priest.
I was elected president of the college/career class. One summer the church sent a group to Ridgecrest, North Carolina to a student retreat. That, also, got me a visit to a college friend in Atlanta, Georgia.
One of the projects that consumed my time was the establishment of a Baptist Student Union at MIT.
In my spare time I tried dating girls from New England Baptist Hospital School of Nursing, after a time dating the secretary of Dr. Fickett, a girl from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. For a short time I was interested in a girl, Sally, who attended the female branch of Tufts University.
Then I met Marion Louise Perrigo outside of the subway station across from Park Street Church. My, I can still have vivid pictures in my mind of the Boston area. Marion got my attention when she asked “what’s your major maladjustment”?
You must understand that I grew-up with a preference for a wife that shared my values of no smoking and drinking. At cjhs I think that I gave a speech about the evils of smoking and drinking.
We were married in September of 1958 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Had three ministers perform the ceremony and I sang to Marion. Our honeymoon was in New York City at the Governor Clinton Hotel. Saw a Broadway play.
After the wedding we lived in Hannibal with my folks for three months before we moved to Columbia where we enrolled in Mizzou. I was in civil engineering and Marion completed her bachelor degree in nursing and master’s degree in public health nursing.
We moved to Poplar Bluff, Missouri where I worked for the Missouri State Highway Department in a resident engineer office. We lived there from 64 to 68 when we relocated to the St. Louis area and I worked for the Missouri State Highway Department in Kirkwood and Marion became a nursing professor at the St. Louis community college in north St. Louis County; we lived in Florissant, Missouri.
While in Poplar Bluff John Scott and Kara-Lynn Scott were born in the hospital in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Anyone ever travel 80 miles in a 58 vw for false labor??
Nothing particular happened in Poplar Bluff. I worked part-time, as choir director at a General Baptist church and later at Second Baptist church.
One of the fellows in our resident engineer office was Davey Crockett, cousin of Roy Acuff. One look at Davey and you knew that he was related to the singer of the ‘great speckled bird’.
The district engineer was interested in getting the engineers in district 10 licensed as professional engineers. That got me to study and to take the two required tests, which I passed, but could not become a registered professional engineer until I had received my bachelor degree. Gee, I forgot to say that we left Mizzou with me 3 credit hour shy of my BSCE. The best thing that Marion did for me was to get me to go to summer school in 1968. I spent the summer at Columbia and worked part-time for the bridge office in the City of Jefferson.
When we moved to Florissant, I was a professional engineer assigned, as a senior highway designer in the Kirkwood office. While there, I was promoted to District Highway Design Engineer, a fancy title for a squad leader. Today ‘I are a manager’ with no formal training in how to go about those duties. I can remember that it took me two weeks to get up my courage to evaluate Bill Summerfield, senior draftsman in my squad. On the plus side I will take credit for mentoring Bobby Orange, a Black draftsman who knew absolutely nothing other than where the office was located; Larry, to his family, went to the community college and got his associate degree.
After about four years at the MSHD I made a decision to leave the safety of the department and go to the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council and work in regional planning. Tough to leave a safe job for life and take a chance on something unknown.
During this next period, my life almost ended in an auto accident where I tangled with a Bi-State Transit bus. Landed in the hospital for 8 months with the first 30 days in intensive care with a tracheotomy. It is interesting to note that the day of my accident Marion had an appointment with an attorney to discuss divorce. Shortly after I returned home Marion told me to pack and leave. I ended up moving back to the Parkedge Hotel in St. Louis.
Our divorce took about four years because I fought for custody of J. Scott and Kara-Lynn. In the end the judge told Marion that he thought that she was not a nice person and awarded her custody and me the bills.
For about 6 month in 77 I moved back to Hannibal, worked for Crane and Fleming, as chief engineer, and lived with my folks on Gemini, possibly the house that Nancy and Russ now live in. During my tenure with Crane and Fleming, I traveled throughout the state marketing our services.
In August I decided to take a job with a consulting firm in St. Peters, Missouri. Before I was to go to work I decided to have a hip replacement done at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.
The night before surgery was memorable. They forgot to take an x-ray, until late. The intern, who visited with me talked about knee surgery. My roommate was naked and in restraints and kept asking for me to call a cab so that he could go home. The next morning laying on the gurney outside of the operating room I heard the staff saying that they couldn’t find the x-ray.
I lay there thinking that I should just tell them to take me back to my room. Then I said to myself, no, get the surgery done.
When I woke-up in the recovery room with cold blood coursing through my veins, I found myself in traction. When they placed the pin in my truncated femur, they split the bone and placed a wire around the broken bone and placed me in traction. I spent 16 weeks in traction before they decided that it wasn’t working. I then went into a body cast like I had in the 8th grade. Body cast didn’t work either, so they then removed the artificial hip and released me on crutches in March of the following year.
Instead of going to work for Pickett, Ray and Silver I became the Director of Engineering and Planning for the City of St. Peters, where ‘Greg the hammer’ was and is living. This was a heady experience, because after two months on the job my boss, the city administrator, resigned and recommended that I be named acting City Administrator in addition to my duties, as Director. I learned that I could handle multiple responsibilities and accomplish things for which I had no training or experience. I wanted very badly to be City Administrator, but they hired a guy from North Carolina. I did create the first annual softball game between the staff and the elected and appointed officials with the warring political fractions doing the umpiring.
I then spent the next four years in Florissant, as Director of Public Works/Water/Health. One of my accomplishments was an electric vehicle demonstration project funded by the department of energy. Has anyone ever driven an electric vehicle??? Neato!!!
When mayor Eagan decided to replace me. I spent the next six months trying to peddle my knowledge with electric vehicles to area communities.
In 1981 Mayor Schoemehl of the City of St. Louis appointed me to be Director of Public Utilities. This job was another kind of challenge. Because of poor fiscal management the city almost went bankrupt. My department of 650 employees was downsized by 100 positions overnight without losing any responsibilities for water system for 1,000,000 people, 55,000 street lights, Soulard (PUBLIC) Market, building lighting and electrical, the Macarthur railroad bridge, and two power plants for the two city hospitals. The current high-pressure sodium lights in St. Louis and the water supplied to the cities of St. Peters and Saint Charles were my doing.
When I fell out of favor with the comptroller, the mayor’s chief of staff called in a favor and a consulting firm, Campbell Design Group, hired me, as a special whatever. That job lasted 12 months. I even had to play poker with the county court from Jefferson County and CDG reimbursed my losses.
I then formed a consulting firm called Jack Kretzer and Associates that did small projects for the private and public sectors. Our private sector client’s thought that we were the JKAA national bank, so they were slow paying. Kara-Lynn was president and I was principal and chief engineer. JKAA was the training ground for individuals from the unemployment office. Spent a lot of court time recovering our accounts receivable.
In 1978, Bertie came to live with me and take care of me, J. Scott, and for a brief period of time, Kara-Lynn.
Also, during this period, I ran for St. Louis County Executive against ‘mean gene’ Mcnary, who was then trying to build a domed stadium for the St. Louis Football Cardinals. 38,000 people voted against ‘mean gene’ and I lost. I don’t know where my ‘wild hair’ ideas come from.
In November of ‘88 Bertie and I loaded up my car and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts for me to work for the City of Worcester, as a principal civil engineer. This was at the time Michael Dukakis was running for president and telling everyone about the ‘Massachusetts miracle’, a big lie. After 21 months, I was laid-off with 13,999 other city employees.
Tried to find work in New England without success and decided to move back to Florissant. No luck finding a job in the St. Louis area, but in the beginning of 92 I became Winnebago County Engineer in Rockford, Illinois.
New learning experience about employee empowerment and republican/democrat politics.
During this time, I fell and broken my good hip. Had never met the surgeon before the operation, but it was the first time I have awaken from surgery feeling good.
Planned and implemented a lot of road and bridge construction with the public happy about our projects, even a toll bridge.
At one point the chairman of the county board wanted his wife’s best friend’s husband to be county engineer and got the county board to buy out my appointment.
During this time bertie’s health began to fail. If someone you love ever wants to give you a hug, say thank you and hug them back. A lesson I learned the hard way.
When Bertie passed away on December 27, 1997, I took her home to Hannibal to be buried and continued west to work for the Arizona Department of Transportation in Yuma, as District Maintenance Engineer. That lasted six months. Since I was 62, I took my social security retirement.
From September of 2000 to January of 2001 I worked for the Town of Quartzsite, Arizona, as Director of Public Services.
Since living in Yuma, I have been in Kiwanis, served on the board of Habitat For Humanity, am a member (token) of the League of Women Voters, active in the Arizona Reform Party, a member of the Arizona Historical Society, and am now working to get a statewide petition signed to require new voters to prove citizenship.
Never made a mistake in my life, but I have learned many great lessons.
Regrets of my life have been:
Didn’t know that Wayne King joined the navy in our sophomore year,
Can’t recall taking Sandy Skeen to the senior prom,
Took 15 years to get my BSCE,
Have not taken time to maintain relationships with the Class of 53, and
My inability to have a lasting marriage.
I have had a challenging professional career that included:
Becoming registered, as a professional engineer in Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania,
Planting seeds of employee empowerment,
Handling responsibilities for which I had no training, and
Involving the public in capital improvements.
Would I have changed something along the way, maybe?
- Jack Kretzer
Posted by Doc at 4:35 PM