A Slice of Life
That program was conducted from Launch Complex 25C/D on the Cape Canaveral AFS and ended in 1979 when I was laid off with most of the rest of the test organization. It was during this time that I had taken and passed the General Contractors test and received my license. Once I obtained my license, I began working part-time with my contractor friend on some of his new house projects. Luckily, it wasn’t long after Lockheed had laid me off that MacDonald Douglas Aircraft Co. (MDAC) found an opening for my talents, on the night shift, supporting their Delta II program. At that time the Delta II program was being used by NASA and the U. S. military to place their satellites into Earth orbit from Launch Complex 17A/B located on the Cape Canaveral AFS. The night shift job with MDAC allowed me to start a small contracting business of my own, making for some pretty long days.
My part-time construction company was a family affair. I was President and the main go-fer; DiVoran was Vice-President and the company’s new house interior decorator; while DiVoran’s father and mother, Ivan and Dora, acted as the company bank. We all worked very well together at this little construction business.
We would buy one residential building lot at a time. Then, using sub-contractors, we would clear the lot and build a 1500 sq. ft. 3-bedroom, 2-bath, concrete block home with a 2-car garage on speculation. The housing market was good and if the house sold before we finished it (which sometimes happened) the buyers could choose their finish trim, paint colors, carpets, cabinet styles and appliances. Prospective buyers had an allowance for these items, and if they wanted more expensive items, they would pay for any added expense over the allowance.
Typical Cross Section of Concrete Block Construction
We could complete a house in approximately 3 months, which allowed us to (theoretically) turn our investment over with a 10% profit with the sale of each home. In spite of the long hours, I loved this job and was gearing up to do it full-time as soon as my job with MDAC was over. In addition to “Spec” houses, as word got around that our homes were well built and available, we began receiving orders for custom houses that we would build on the owner’s property. Those contracts turned out to be the most troublesome, as it was fairly common for the owners to change their minds about certain aspects of the building process at some of the most inopportune times.
A typical day during this time was; up at 7:00 am, breakfast with DiVoran and the kids, then I was on my way to the current job site. I would put in as many hours as I could on a job site coordinating sub-contractor activities or meeting with potential home owners and bank Loan Officers. Then there were always the multiple runs to the local lumber yard to pick up that extra box of nails, another sheet of plywood or another dozen 2”x4” studs to keep the job moving forward.
Depending on the weather and the progress of the job, the sub-contractors would usually shut down their work day around 3:00 in the afternoon. This allowed me to make it to Launch Complex 17 on the Cape by 4:00 to start my 8-hour shift. After surveying the work schedule and any work related items, and if things in the office was not too busy, I could sometimes get in a phone call or two before it got too late. Good thing I was young and indestructible, as this routine didn’t allow a lot of time for sleeping. Luckily, by the time I got home at 12:30 am, I was really tired and had no trouble going right to sleep. This routine was also very hard on the family life. Breakfast time with DiVoran and the kids before they went to school, and occasionally (if I could manage it) for a short time after they got home from school, was about all the family saw of me, except for weekends.
—–To Be Continued—–