Thank You Washington U

Paul Marion Fleetwood

Copyright 2020 by  Paul Marion Fleetwood


Photo of Washington University.


I got up this morning and looked out the window.  It was raining.  Weather forecast said 100% rain all day.  Read my Bible, prayed and checked the news.  Then for some reason I started thinking about my time at Washington University in St. Louis.
Knowing the high regard that Wash. U is held all across the world,  I wondered how in the world, I was accepted there in the first place.  Surely it must be a lot harder to gain admittance there now than it was then.

I had been out of High School for 8 years when I took my acceptance test in 1955 having graduated from High School in Carthage Texas.  After graduating in 1948 I moved to St. Louis and eventually found employment at McDonnell Aircraft as a sheetmetal assembler and riveter working on the first navy jet fighter. It was the F2H and was  named the "Banshee".  
In the Summer of 1951 I joined the Air National Guard at Jefferson Barracks.  In September our outfit was activated and readied to relocate to Fort Ethan Allen near Winooski Vermont.  I remember, we pulled out from Jefferson Barracks on November 1 to head for Vermont.  There was a foot of snow on the ground in St. Louis the day we left.  

I spent two years in Vermont where I was tasked with starting a Crypto Account for our Squadron.  At one point I had the highest security clearance on the base.  I had many interesting adventures while there.  One of which was to get married to my St. Louis sweetheart while I was AWOL.

After returning to St. Louis with wife and new baby boy, I went back to work at McDonnell.  Wondering what to do with my life, I decided to go to school.  At that time Television was just getting started so I thought maybe I could be a TV repairman.  So I spent the next 15 months, three and a half hours a night, three nights a week studying Radio and TV at Morris radio and TV school on North Grand.

I learned a lot about electronics but that didn't work out too well.  I am visually very color deficient.  Just about the time I was to graduate,  Color TV came on the scene.  Shoot I could repair the darn things but I couldn't even adjust the colors.
So I stayed at McDonnell and was able to move up some there.  I transfered to Final Assembly, and then to Experimental Dept. on the Flight Line.  That was not easily done but Providence was on my side.  I was still trying to decide what I should do with my life.  So one day I went to personnel and asked them if there was some sort of a test that might help me decide what to do next.  They gave me a psychological test that took all day.  Sometime later I got the results.  Electrical Engineering looked like a good bet.

So one day that Summer in 1955 I went down to Washington University and walked in to Brookings Hall.  I told someone there that I wanted to start to College.  Someone gave me an Entrance Exam Paper and I was told to fill it out.  I did and sometime later I was notified that I had been accepted.  That was in the Fall of 1955.

I went full time and worked full time on the third shift at Mcdonnell for a couple of years.  Very little time for homework, what with a job, and a wife and two kids.  I slept in the Evening till time to go to work at midnight.  Then drive to work and work all night.  After work I would head for Wash. U. to class and then home to sleep in the afternoon.  I took advantage of any free time to do homework.  Most of which had to wait until saturday night and Sunday.  I got to the point where I could study Saturday night for 8 hours with out a break and then have breakfast with wife and kids Sunday morning before another 6 hours of study Sunday morning.  Then to bed in the PM to get up at eleven or so and go to work Sunday midnight.

After a couple of years, in the fall of 1958, McDonnell sent me on a Road Trip to Holloman AFB in New Mexico to help on a flight Test program on the F101 Voodoo Fighter Bomber.  We were trying to beat out General Dynamics with their F106 for an Air Force contract.  At that time I was a Flight Test Instrumentation Technician.  For several months I worked about 70 hours a week until we won the contest.  After that I had spare time so I signed up to take a couple of courses at New Mexico State extension school in Alamorgordo New Mexico.  I took Differential Calculus and a Psychology Course.

I was then transferred to the GAM missile test program before returning to St. Louis in May of 1960.  Upon return I was put on the Mercury Space Project.  I sort of alternated back and forth from day to night shift over the next few years while I went to day and night school as work would allow.  I 1965 I graduated from University College with a BS In Math and Science.  I had almost enough Engineering courses to get my E.E. degree.  

During those last couple of years, with my education and my experience was a tremendous learning time.  Everything on Space Program was the latest and greatest and so I was at the forefront in just about everything I did.

I got involved in many exciting programs after that and even started projects of my own.  As a result I moved up the ladder quickly.  I retired in early 1987 as Chief Engineer of the Instrumentation and Automated Systems Branch of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation.  As I write this Story I will be 90 years old in July.  I have had a whole new life since my time at Washington U and McDonnell.  If I can live another 5 years I will be retired longer than I worked at McDonnell.  
I want to express my thanks to Washington University and McDonnell Aircraft and to the G. I. bill that made it possible.  Without my degree it would not have been possible to have the success that I had.   It was hard work, it was fun, and at times exciting.  And through it all I have accumulated enough memories to write a thousand stories.

It's been 55 years since I graduated from Washington University but I still follow all that is going on there.  I am proud of the many improvements that have occured at Wash U  during those years.  As my old boss used to tell me, so many years ago, "KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK".  I'm sure you will!!!

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