Tag Archives: Contractor

The Contractor~Part 3

20 Jan

A Slice of Life 

Bill Lites

 

They say, “All good things must come to an end.” Well, things moved along very well for our little construction business, for a couple of years, until 1981. By that time, our little construction company had expanded into building mostly custom homes and duplexes. We had just finished a new “Spec” home and were in the middle of one of those duplex projects. Wouldn’t you know it, that was the year when the Prime Interest Rate rose to an all-time high of 21% and people couldn’t afford the loans to buy a new home.

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The rise in interest rates happened so fast that we got caught with that one unsold home. In addition to that, the person who had contracted with us to buy the duplex we were building defaulted on his contract with us, and then sued us when we refused to give him his deposit back. This law-suit action unnerved Ivan and Dora and they closed the “Company Bank” on any further building projects. We finally sold the one remaining home, but it took a full year to settle the law-suit over the duplex contract. After the law-suit was settled (in our favor) we were able to sell the duplex, so we didn’t lose any money on either of these projects. But, the days of our little construction company were numbered.

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I continued to work with my contractor friend part-time on a few of his projects until 1984, when LMSC called me back to work on their improved Trident II submarine missile flat pad development program. This job required my full attention on the day shift, with additional hours of over-time, which pretty much curtailed any building contracting work. The Trident II program operated from the brand new Launch Complex 46 facility on the Cape Canaveral AFS. The four-year development program went very fast and ended for me in 1989.

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This time, LMSC offered me a transfer to the Lockheed Space Operations Co. (LSOC), a subsidiary created to operate the Space Shuttle processing program at the KSC, or be laid off with most of the rest of the test organization. Since I didn’t have any prospects for a job with any of the other aerospace companies I had worked for, I chose the transfer. I ended up working on Launch Complex 39 A/B for an ex-Douglas engineer, and friend, who I had interfaced with on the Apollo/ Saturn V moon rocket, way back in 1965, when I was working for North American Aviation. I finished out my 35-year Aerospace career with LSOC helping process Space Shuttle launches and many of its California landing recoveries until 1996 when I retired.

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I had kept my Contractors licenses current, all these years, with the hopes that I could go back to building houses after I retired. However, now land values had gone sky high and availability was almost non-existent. Someone has said that you have to let something you love go before you can get it back. My dream of being “The Contractor” was great but short lived, and it took me many years to get over that desire. But, I finally had to let it go, as the violent ups and downs of the new home market never gave me a decent opportunity to get that dream back. I now had to look for other challenges, such as hobbies, travel and writing, to occupy my retirement time. I’ve done that, and after 20 years, I am still enjoying every minute of my retirement life. I can defiantly recommend retirement. Try it as early as you can. I think you will like it.

Bill

 

 

—–The End—–

 

The Contractor~Part 2

13 Jan

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Cross Plane

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

 

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