Tag Archives: Job loss

The Contractor~Part 1

6 Jan

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Rocket Plane


Unknown to most Americans; when Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped on the moon in July of 1969, the “Space Race” was essentially over. The U.S. continued to send men to the moon until 1972, but the Apollo manned lunar landing program was spinning down all the while.


By the time the Apollo 11 astronauts returned to earth, construction of most of the hardware for the rest to that program had already been started, completed or cancelled. Layoffs of hundreds of thousands of contractor personnel across the country began, and those layoffs included thousands of contractor personnel at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) where I worked. In one respect, I was fortunate to be in one of the final waves of contractor personnel laid off after the launch of the Skylab and its 3 astronaut replacement missions.


In 1973 Rockwell International (RI) gave me the opportunity to return to the North American Aviation (NAA) plant in California (my point of origin) or be laid off. I had no prospects of a job at the home plant, and the cost of living there was twice what it was here in Florida.   We would have to virtually give our house away as the bottom had dropped out of the housing market, and we didn’t have the money for a down payment of any kind on a house there. On top of all that, DiVoran had let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she hated Los Angeles (we had spent 8 years there while I was going to college) and if I took the transfer back to the home plant, I would be making the trip alone!


The problem with taking the lay-off was that by 1973 so many people had been laid off from the KSC that literally all the jobs in the central Florida area had been taken. A person couldn’t even get a job pumping gas at the local gas station, and Wal-Mart wasn’t here yet. I flooded the area with resumes to no avail. Sometime after my 16 weeks (as I remember) of unemployment benefits ran out, a friend who was a building contractor, helped me get a job with his rough carpenter as a laborer at minimum wage. This was a miracle job, because by then our family was trying to survive on food stamps, and any job was a gift from God. That was a really hard job for this ex-engineer who had spent the last 8 years mostly writing hardware installation procedures for the space program and overseeing their implementation (essentially a desk job).



Then one day at church a friend, who was an electrician and owned his own small electrical business, offered me a job working for him as an “Apprentice’s Helper.” This was another minimum wage job, but at least it had the potential of higher wages if and when the company won a government related contract. I spent the next two years following George around trying to learn the electrical trade. This actually consisted of being his go-fer, digging a lot of ditches and building a lot of shelves in his warehouse/office to support his expanding business inventory.



In 1975 George’s business had dropped off to the point that he had to lay me off. My contractor friend had suggested that with my mechanical engineering degree, and letters of recommendation confirming my two years’ experience in the construction field (even though it was at menial jobs) from the companies I had worked for, he thought I would qualify to apply for my General Contractors License. I studied, took the required classes and applied to take the state Contractors test. While I waited for the test to be given in my area, our family took the opportunity to take a camping trip to visit friends and relatives (see “Our Trip Across America” blog-10/10/2012). It was just about this time that one of my resumes found its way to the Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. (LMSC) and they hired me to work on their Trident I submarine missile flat pad development program. What a marvelous answer to prayer that was. 



—–To be Continued—–



Food Truck Bazaar

27 Sep

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis


We  had a big event come to our small town Monday night, the Food Truck Bazaar. Living in a small town my closest encounter with a food truck was the hot dog stand at Lowe’s home improvement store or at the Catholic Church fair so I was very excited.

The Bazaar set up at one of our local parks on the river and it was one of those wonderful Florida Fall evenings with a nice breeze from the river. We arrived shortly after it began and I knew it was going to be big when we had to search for a parking space. Since this was the first time the bazaar had come to our town, they only sent ten trucks and they were parked in a circle and painted in a variety of colors and each offered different foods; the smells were incredible. Among the vendors, each powered by a generator, was my favorite, Cuban food. Also available were Southern food, British food, a coffee van, a cupcake truck and some others whose names I can’t remember. All except the cupcake truck had long lines.  In keeping with my motto, “when in doubt eat dessert first.” I headed straight for the cupcakes. I shared a s’mores with my daughter and it was truly Yum Yum which is the name of the vendor. I’m glad we went there first, the truck completely sold out, 1,900 cupcakes.











It was a fun time, people brought folding tables and chairs, and families were everywhere. Most amazing was the after effect. Food Truck Bazaar has a Facebook page and it was rocking with comments. The enthusiasm was over the top. Thanks were given out to the local folks who set up the event, photos were posted and comments were flowing. Our town has been hard hit by the end of the Manned Spaceflight Program. It was great to see our community laughing and sharing a spirit of camaraderie, we are already looking forward to the next one.


Learn more about The Food Truck Bazaar   http://goo.gl/b1zEU

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