Author - Seminars
by Judith Rivers-Moore
Decisions ... Oh My! Career Or Marriage - Or Both
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By Judith Rivers-Moore
Little Miss GS-3
Sometimes memories of one’s past get a little inflated to perfect the who, what, where, when and why.. was. The 22nd and 23rd year of my life did not need inflating, I still pinch myself recalling these amazing and inspiring events. One of the unique experiences of my life happened within a two year period of time while living on the Edwards Air Force Base near Lancaster, California. I knew nothing about this place prior to my arrival. Not a clue that it had the largest free missil base above it in the hills that Russia was aimed at, and that it was a secret and sensitive clearance base.
My new husband had decided to leave Los Angeles, where all our friends and family were. He had interviewed with many areas of California, but decided because they gave him a little more money, low cost housing, and a combined coaching and teaching position in a public school on the Edwards Air Force Base. It would not matter what I wanted… in those days, it was all about what your husband wanted, and the wife just made the best of it. I quit my job, packed our belongings and went to an unseen house. There were several dislikes regarding our move the first year:
● The desert has never been my favorite tundra.
● I had no job and needed to take tests to apply for the government positions. We really wanted to start a family, so I was to take it easy for a year.
●It was difficult to meet people because Air Force could not socialize with the civil service or civilians on the base.
● Most of the military would not talk socially with us as it was a secret rocket missile base., unless they were upset with the coach and then they yelled.
● My husband was constantly gone, or grading papers. I was lonely and very sad because I kept losing babies after two or more months pregnancy. The few people I met had children, were teachers, or were older with kids gone, so those relationships were very unique, and some were strange - like canasta 3 days a week. Others were quite rewarding like, exercise classes at the local gym, and working with my Navajo military neighbor’s children on their school homework.
By the second year, a local Lancaster doctor stated my physical problem would not allow me to ever get pregnant. To keep my mind busy, I decided enough with this no job thing and went after the government tests for a job, (any job). I moved forward with three interviews and received two invitations. My third interview was very interesting. In 1962, they could ask questions that today are out of line during an interview. The employment official at the NASA facility asked, “Do you like working around men? My reply was every job I have had has been around large groups of men. He asked, “Have you ever been fired from a job?” My reply was yes. He continued with, “Why were you fired?” My reply was because this particular boss tried to chase me around his desk. Since I would not let him fulfill his amorous wishes, he fired me. The NASA interviewer stated he might have a special job for someone like me. He would let me know.
I heard from NASA a few days later. Would I come in for an additional interview. I met with he and a Mr. Bailey, the head of Flight Operations. The job was simple, keep the time cards and compute salaries for over 140 flight mechanics that worked on the X-15 program, type some letters for Bailey, and open the safe for pilots and development team. I went to work before the week was over. It took a few months for my sensitive clearance to come through and they gave me the combination to “the safe”. I could open my window blind that looked into the hangar and see two X-15s and the X1E. (That was the plane Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier with a few years earlier.) It did not take long before I realized, I was in the middle of history being made. The place for my desk was in the Technical Order Library. Only 3 women worked in that area, and I had to have a sensitive clearance. That meant I could not tell my husband or friends anything that went on there. I was surrounded by men, coming in and out of the office.
Each of the shops along the long passage to my office was filled with men creating and crafting what the engineers upstairs designed for them. Metals, telemetry, fuels, camaras, communications, etc. All tested on the X-15 to be used eventually on the spaceships the space program planned to fly to the moon. Each person I met had determination and goals. The engineers were another story of progressive ideas. Getting things off the ground and into the space program.
Except for one time, I never had any problems with politeness, They were all very nice gentlemen, in fact all the mechanics, all the engineers, treated me with great respect and friendship. Most of the NASA staff had served in world war II or Korea, and were thrilled to have their jobs. I often saw flight crews work around the clock to meet their schedules. One day I had the experience of standing up to a 3 star General. He came into the TO Library wanting sensitive documents from our files without his clearance badge on. The regular file clerk was off that day, so I had to help him. His voice got louder and louder with anger for my not meeting his needs. His aide had stopped at the restroom and had his clearance badge and information. I just shook my head, politely said, no clearance badge, no files. By the time he hit his demanding fist on the counter and raised his voice three octaves, his aide showed up at the same time as my boss, Mr. Bailey. The general spouted off about my actions. The aide looked between both of us, showing the badges finally. Mr Bailey smiled and said. “She is just doing her job, and I’m glad. Anyone could walk in the back door, off the lakebed, with a uniform asking for our information.” The general settled down, as I finally got the plans from the safe.
Joe Walker and Milt Thompson were very notable test pilots, would put their orange flight suits on in the locker room next to the office that I worked in, and walk out our hangar’s back door. They would get in the X-15 hooked under the wing of a B-52. Chuck Yeager the director of NASA often stood with generals as the plane would take off down the runway to test whatever was placed on the X-15 as it left the fabricated wing and boosted into the outer atmosphere. The X-15 would land on the dry lake bed and sometimes on emergency landings on nearby lake beds to be hauled home. I was always glad I was not Joe Walker’s or Milt Thompson’s wife. Their husbands both had a very dangerous job.
I found out there were amazing things for training with the simulators on the Edwards Air Base. Perfect for the training of the first group of astronauts. The first group came to train during 1962 and 63. The base had a centrifugal force simulator and rocket sled that provided each astronaut experiences they might encounter in space. I also found out a few of the astronauts that arrived took flights in the X-15. Each was a unique person that came and changed into flight suits in the locker room next door.
The astronauts were hard to recognize when they put their orange suits and helmets on. This was the first team of astronauts training at the time I was at NASA: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, Neil Armstrong, Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom, Walter Schirra. There were three very difficult to discuss events while I was at NASA. The first was the Cuban Missile crisis. We knew at any minute missiles might land on us. We were based on Edwards with the largest missile range in the free world, housed just above us on a ridge above the dry lakebed. The second was the announcement that John F. Kennedy was shot and later dead coming in over the radio. We were all in a state of shock for weeks. The men, also felt insecure as to whether the space program would go on. It took away a great deal of momentum from many. Yeager and Bailey worked with everyone in a positive, go ahead manner, that must of been very difficult to muster at that time, but they did.
The third was a thought provoking and unique experience at a NASA Awards assembly. The generals etc. and space program officials wanted to hand out awards to each person working at the facility. Mr. Bailey instructed us on what to do, and we all assembled in the North Hangar. I was fine with it all until they introduced Wernher Von Braun. Everyone that went to that stage was to shake several generals hands, Mr. Yeagers hand and Von Braun”s. For many, this would have been a privilege, but all I could think about were the photos in Life Magazine and the killing horror for children and families this man’s V-2 rocket bombs caused the British. I walked across the stage, got my medal, shook hands with them all, with the exception of Von Braun. He fumbled a little as I kept my hand down and moved on. I knew then and now that it was his inventions that allowed us to do the space exploration, but I just could not shake his hand….he had the blood and sorrow of so many on it.
While my GS-3 job was becoming a GS-4, NASA became a mind expanding place to work. Two stories of dedication to the experimental programs and unique inventions are now results recorded in the history books and the air museum in Washington DC and Cape Kennedy.
The test pilots that went out the back door of this NASA hangar were amazing men. They took their lives in their hands on a daily basis for the good of testing and exploring. There was no “I am superior to you attitude.” They were very open and positive, just going to work on a daily basis. Several test pilots died on the base while working for different agencies and the air force, and many more walked away from a downed aircraft.
The engineers were always in a think and dream world. While they could not tell their wives or friends anything, they could talk to me with my sensitive clearance. Two in particular were so excited about their project they had developed over many months. It had finally came to completion. One day they rushed into the TO Library. You have to come and see this. We have the mock up of our invention! We are showing it in the other hangar. The other hangar was at least a quarter-mile away with a long corridor connecting. We rushed along, but my three inch heels slowed me down. I was not going fast enough, so they picked me up by my elbows and whisked me into a very large group in the hangar, all looking at something on the floor… scooting around. There was the sound of great excitement and joy, and camaras clicking as the small machine (looking like a large spider) took off over the floor and moved where they wanted it to with hand held controls. “This is a mock-up of our future lunar lander”, the engineer replied, “Well the larger version will be a lunar module that will assist the astronauts when they land on the moon. It also leads us toward many unique vehicles to get around on the surface of the moon.” When I think back, this was probably one of the first auto controlled items that led to major toy manufacturing in our world, and our moon exploration vehicles.
Everyday, I was reminded of the great minds and courage under the roofs of NASA, Edwards. It was the place you learned about people who did not quit when something failed. You just tried again. Needless to say it was the best job I ever experienced. Had to leave my job after two years as my husband wanted to move to another position in Northern California. But what a history making two and a half years of my life!
By Judith Moore
You’re So Sensitive, You’re Thin Skinned, You’re Crazy
You Blow Things Out Of Proportion
All defensive remarks and replies from a crazy and mentally unkind husband when I would try to discuss his anger, his abuse and his mistreatment the first few years of a very strange marriage he would respond with the words in the above title. Never in my childhood did I deal with that type of treatment. It took just three years to gaslight me into submission. What can I say, why did I stay? Mostly religious beliefs and hoping he would change if I loved him enough. The anger was always present and his fist went by my face into two closet doors in the first apartment we lived in. He would isolate me from making friends and be very critical of my old friends until they were no more. He moved me to a vacant lonely desert air base for breaking family communications.
I learned very early I was in charge of my own happiness. So the question is what are the warning signs for women:
There are many women drawn to the “bad boy syndrome”, the charmer, the pretty boy, the athletic competitive ego driven man.
Understand a long time courtship where you get to know that person and their background is your best protection.
WHEN previously married: If their children do not like them and they have no relationship with their dad, then there is a reason.