University of Nevada, Reno




Watching flights into space

By Jean


JeanWe moved to Indialantic, Florida, when my daughter was in eighth grade. We were in Florida for 46 years. I left when my husband died. We got there and never wanted to leave. We got sand in our feet, as they say.

We used to go in the car and look right across and see the launch. We got into the Space Center and laid blankets on the ground and watch. It was so exciting. I had hoped to die there, but it's not going to work out. I still own my home there. It’s not a good time to try to sell.

The kids all walked to school in Florida, except in high school, they had to take the school bus. The school was a block from us, and it was a brand-new house. They all went through the Brevard County school system.

Don went to Florida when he got an offer from somebody he met at North American to work at the Space Center. He was in on launch countdowns and all the activity behind the scenes. He had a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. At Crosley, it's all appliances that Crosley built. He had to go into big cold rooms and stuff like that. ... We said, well we’ll take the transfer to Florida. We’ll try it. 46 years later -----

Through the years, we saw many shuttle launches. Whenever there was a launch at the Cape, as many of us as could go would go up to witness it. And when we couldn’t make it there, we could see the launch from the pool in our backyard. We didn’t always have to get up to the Cape to witness it. We had to take the easy way sometimes, because we couldn’t take all our lives off.

Apollo 19, the last Apollo launch, was Dec. 7, 1972, and that was significant, because that ended Don’s part of the program. We went up that night and laid on a blanket. It was a nighttime launch. We set it off in glory.

A couple of years later, they offered transfers, and we went to California to see if we would take a transfer instead of a layoff. After seeing the housing prices and the traffic, it just didn’t seem like home to us. They let us fly there to look it over, which was nice of them, but we came back and said, "Forget it."

This brought a big change in our lives, as you can imagine with a family. Don looked around for a business he could do that we could survive on for a while. We didn’t know if they’d rehire or not. It was a gamble. He looked around and looked around and came home one day and said, "We’re going to make candles." The whole family pitched in and helped.

We ended up being a business called Palm Candles. Don and the boys would go into the field in the heat and cut down palm trees and brought them home. We would use the palm tree as the base of the candle. They would cut the palm tree about six inches high and hollow them out. My husband was talented and would make different designs on the candles. It involved all the kids. Everyone helped. They’d spend Saturday in the field cutting down trees and cutting them into lengths to bring them home. They’d come home wet and dirty, and they never complained. They knew that was what we were doing to survive, and they were wonderful.

In 1983, Don had been interviewing, and he came home one day to the plant, which is where we made the candles, and said, “No one wants to hire an old man.” He was so talented and educated, and I thought that can’t be. In 1983, he got a call from the space agency—a contractor—and he went to work there and retired from there.

It was a happy day when he got hired again. The boys were going, “Oh thank God.” He eventually sold the business to somebody else. That was hard work.


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