My Formative Years

What are formative years anyway. Webster’s says: “The formative years are the first few years of a child’s life. During these years, basic learning and development occurs. These life basics include mental and physical development and are essential building blocks for life.” Well since the first few years of my life are a blur and my mother was a work acholic (because she had to be) and my father was practically non-existent, it really affected me mentally. Being adopted can be traumatizing to a young child. Especially when siblings are involved. As the oldest of five, I felt abandoned and alone and that feeling stuck with me for most of my life. I had very low self esteem and parents had discussed mental health counseling. I had basically no friends, stayed by myself, and little interest in anything. If I did get interested in something, it usually didn’t last long. I think this is why I got into reading, drawing, and music. Things you do not need to do continuously. However, music and drawing became an obsession, because without practice you never got better.

My first big instrument was the trumpet. I grew up on big ban music, jazz and later, thanks t some depression, the blues. I listened to a lot of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Al Hurt and Herb Albert. Though I don’t play anymore, I still have my old LP’s and now CD’s. Thanks to XM radio I still listen to big band music. My other big musical influence was classical. Most of the kids my age listened to rock and roll, I listened to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata got me interested in piano. Though I never mastered, I still love to tinker. After high school, I went straight to collage where I made the mistake of picking up my first guitar. Never mastered it either but today I own four of them!

Not much I remember about grade school except changing school every two years. Never made any long lasting friends and about the only thing I liked was reading and math. Both would be with me for the rest of my life. My father retired from the Air Force just before I went to high school which I do remember. It was in high school where I had first crush, though she never knew it; my art teacher told me I had no talent; my love of math and geometry would lead me to my chosen carrier as an Architectural Engineer; I hurt my back in football practice, probably what lead me to dislike football. All the girls liked the jocks and I was never going to be one. So no girlfriend for me! I did love being in the band though. I actually made it to first trumpet. Played in the marching band, concert band, and jazz band. During my senior year, several us go to conduct the band during a concert. I loved it and thought about minoring in music in collage.

It was in high school where I learned my work ethic which led me to be a work acholic. I would not find out until 20 years later that it was in my gene’s. My first real paying job was at Spudnut Donuts delivering donuts on base. Since I did not have a car, I actually did it on my bicycle, and had special baskets made to carry the sacks of boxes. I worked my way up to assistant donut maker and started work at 11 pm. At 5am I started my deliveries and at 7:30 I then went home, changed cloths and then on my bike and off to school. I did this for almost 2 years. When I turn 16 my mother got me a job in the kitchen at the Airman’s Club on base. When they found out I could cook, I became the line chef. I loved that job and eventually became kitchen manager. A lot of the other workers were jealous that I got the job, which led to my ultimate fall. I think the bar manager was behind it because when he found out that I was almost 18, and the youngest manager on base, he conspired to get me fired. There were two coolers in the back, one for beer and one for food. I had the food cooler key and he had the bar cooler key. One night the club manger found a case of beer in the food cooler and I got blamed for it. No one want to know what I thought, especially since I had no access to the beer, but no one listened. So I was fired.

Needless to say, my high school years were kinda sucky. I had a couple of dear friends, which I still communicate with. I did finally have a girl friend which lasted a couple of years. She was the sister of my friend and was my date at senior prom. After graduation it was time to decide which collage I would go to. My grades were not good enough to get in the bigger schools but I did get excepted to Southern Illinois University but on probation. I had to go to summer school to proves I was good enough. Needless to say I aced it and was registered into their Architectural program. Will in collage, I learned about fraternities, beer, pizza, parties, bongs, and single malt scotch! I joined a fraternity, Sigma Tau Gamma, and had a blast until my grades started to suffer and had to buckle down. I actually was on the flag football team for a while. During a game in late 1970 I got hurt after slipping on the field. I actually had to be carried odd. Seems I reinjured my back that had been dormant since my senior year in high school. My father drove the 2 hours in ice and snow to pick me up and carry me to the base hospital. There I spent three months on my back recovering. The surgery to fix my back was simple but the doctor said it should have been done years ago. As a result of the two injuries I have had two more back surgeries. Once I recovered I went back to school to finish my degree. By going to school year round I graduated with my class in 1972. With my architectural degree in hand I started looking for a job. That is when I found out you had to apprentice for 4 years, get signed off by two registered architects and take an 8 hour test. Very discouraged, I went to work as a draftsman and illustrator for a firm in Urbana Illinois. I heard that the firm was having a hard time finding good mechanical engineers, so I decided to head back to SIU and get my engineering degree. Again going to school year round, I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. Went back to the same A&E firm and right to work designing plumbing, air conditioning systems, boilers, and steam distribution systems.

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