It felt like just another day driving to work today as my wife Jeri and I headed to Long Beach to see ship #279 leave the Boeing facilities and Long Beach, the only difference was that my wife was driving. We took the 605 Freeway to the 91 West and got off at Lakewood Blvd. It has been a year since I last made the drive and nothing has changed. It could easily have been yesterday that I drove to work.
We passed the Flight Room, a favorite watering hole of the old McDonnell Douglas and Boeing crowd. On the other side of Lakewood Blvd , on Carson, was the Thirsty Isle, perhaps the more popular and my favorite of the two. Both bars were always filled at lunch time. It was a chance to unwind, have a schooner of beer and a game of pool before heading back to work
We passed the Heritage Family Restaurant on Carson just past Paramount, or at least that's what it's called now. Back in '79 when I hired in at Douglas, it was called Acropolis. It was a Greek owned restaurant that had a few Greek items on the menu but mostly served good standard American food. They made their own bread. My favorite was the raisin bread. Big, fresh loaves. I have never had bread that good since. They also made their own apple butter. Every once in while, I would stop there after work and take home both the bread and apple butter for the family. My old pal, the late Steve Wallace, and I ate breakfast there every chance we got, especially on those nights when we closed up the local bars and needed something to eat before heading home. It got so that we knew every eating spot and bar in the area. I was only twenty four then so it was par for the course.
Back in those days I was working on the commercial aircraft, The DC-10, later the KC-10 and later still, after coming back from lay off, the MD-80 line and then further down the line, the MD-11. The C-17 was not yet a concept or at least it was nothing I had heard about.
Memories were flooding my head as we got closer to Boeing. I started to feel some emotion. I wasn't expecting that. Thirty-six years of memories working on some of the greatest aircraft in aviation history alongside the greatest aircraft workers in the industry will never fade. How could it? With all that was good about working at the Douglas Aircraft Company, the McDonnell Douglas Company and the Boeing Company, it was the people, in every capacity, that was the company's greatest asset. I know that the McDonnell Douglas company recognized this but I'm not so sure the Boeing Company ever did. No sour grapes here. Just an observation. It is the people that I miss above all else. Some of them have become my life long friends.
The drive home was the same way. Just remembering the old drive to and from work.