Letters bind us, Part II

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

If you’ve ever had to equip a lab in a glass factory, from the ground up, while keeping an eye on a house under construction, and staying in touch with your loved ones 700 miles away, you may relate to our lives in the summer of 1971. Dave writes:

7-13-71
I just got back here from a 13-hour day and I am beat. I didn’t write last night because I was tired. I am working very long hours but it is so interesting that the time just flies by. I finally got my main glass-testing instrument heated up and in working order today. What a job, many pieces were missing and some were put together backwards. The whole plant is like that.

Of course this can be expected as the people building the plant have never even seen a fiberglass plant and certainly not glass testing equipment, and so they do what seems right or logical to them. Many of our own hourly maintenance and electrical people are not familiar with anything either.
But that is why, of course, they hired me and I find solving the problems to be very interesting. Actually, it is like Christmas except there are maybe 600 presents all for me to open and put together and make work.

The real difficulty is that no one knows where anything is, in the way of parts and stored items – such as, I need a regular light wire with a standard plug at the end to hook up a necessary piece of electrical equipment. No one has regular light wire or plugs. So after you spend maybe an hour looking for it you go downtown and buy it at the hardware store.

We have a fantastically good purchasing and delivering system here. I ordered all my lab tools this morning and this afternoon they were delivered from Atlanta! In Barrington [N.J.] that would have taken 2 1/2 to 3 weeks.

I went by the house this afternoon. All the block work is now done and a huge trailer is backed up against the foundations with all the parts for our house in it. All the wood parts, that is. They must buy brick and roofing and such locally I’m sure….

I got your letter today, Mary, thank you. I’m tired and I miss all of you so very much.     You’ll love the sky down here, Sal. Big white thunderheads build up in the afternoon.

7-14-71
Miss you all very much but I have been working such long hours I wouldn’t be with you if you were here.

At last all the long-awaited lab equipment has arrived. Tomorrow they are supposed to install it. Now that it is so late it will interrupt my work while they are installing it.

I got my first glass viscosity out today. The glass was only 5°F out of spec. I worked eight hours straight on that project. Finally had to go downtown and buy some stuff to get it to work.

7-21-71
Mr. [Brogdon] is really going great guns on our house. Roof trusses are just about all up. Driveway ground is all bulldozed into place. Garage is all full of leveled dirt in preparation for the concrete to be poured tomorrow. He is calling in plumbers tomorrow, also expects to have it under roof and the front porch blocks laid. He is really moving.

Had a crew of 6 working on it. He says he is finishing up the garage early in case we want to use it to store our things. The place is really looking good….

I am finally getting used to this motel living, I guess. I am sleeping much better and feel more rested.

Things are still all up in the air in my lab. Contractors are working, more or less. The guy from Fisher Scientific finally showed up to tell them how to put things together.

7-22-71
The plant is up and running after a few false starts. Product [insulation – remember the Pink Panther?] looks good…. My new X-ray unit is all hooked up and set up. The guy is coming back tomorrow to train in its operation. It looks so different than the old one that I’m having my doubts that I’ll learn it in the short time I’ll have to learn. Rest of my lab is slowly shaping up. Plumbers and electricians are working on it today.

Still haven’t gotten downtown to get my hair cut yet. I feel all shaggy….

Stopped at the house on the way home. All the wood part of the roof is on and nailed down. Next to go on will be all the shingles. So now at least it is out of the weather… Walked down to the lake through the park across the back of our house. Very nice and quiet, birds chirping, frogs jumping into the lake….

I’m running out of paper and will have to scrounge an envelope.

I have gotten into the rut of working down here. I get up at 6:15, eat breakfast at 6:30, leave for work at 7, unlock the lab area and then get with Mark W. for the daily work requirements. Then work till 6 and eat dinner at the local eating place. Drive over to PT City, look around, take some pictures and drive over here around 8-8:30. Watch a few TV shows, read your mail and go to bed by 11 or 12. Real lively life!

Don’t mind working long hours, the work is interesting, and I have nothing else to do.

Thank you very much, girls, for writing to me. I enjoy your mail. I miss your company….

Love, Dave/Dad                                                                   
SallieS@Juno.com