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  • Writer's pictureAdventures with Jim

Memories and Meaningful Experiences

To my cousin Jim, with whom I shared many memorable and meaningful experiences, often with Tom and Bill and other family members and friends. It was truly a blessing to have our families so close as they were, with a wide range of activities to experience together while growing up.

As I did not have a brother, you and Tom and Bill provided a taste of that experience for me in a sense (with identical twin fathers and mothers both named Mary Louise, how unique is that?!), and I greatly appreciated and benefited from the close ties our families had. Following in no special order are a multitude of vivid but somewhat rambling memories I have of activities we shared, especially during our first couple of decades.

Memories from time at your home on Gettysburg, and ours on Meadowleigh

- Many happy family get-togethers, often on Sundays, usually including dinner. Our fathers as identical twins were pretty close and it was great to visit each other regularly. Usually grandparents were there too. We had a lot of fun times with good food, stimulating conversation, games, and laughter.

- Sharing literature orientation and books – between you and Tom and me, I think we had the whole set of Tom Swift Jr. books. These definitely had an effect on me, Tom Swift was formulated pretty well as an idealistic role model. Later we graduated to harder-core science fiction. You introduced me to E. E. “Doc” Smith’s books, “The Skylark of Space” and the “Lensman” series. For some reason (probably frustration with my inability to identify a pronunciation of the name “DuQuesne” I was happy with) I could never really get into these, preferring the writings of Heinlein, Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, amongst others. Maybe I will go back and take a second look now!

- I remember watching TV after dinner from time to time. You introduced me to “My Favorite Martian”, preferring it to “Lassie”. I thought it was delightfully funny.

- Do you remember a scooter you and maybe Tom made out of some old roller skates? I remember riding it down that road in front of your house that had a pretty good slope on it. It vibrated like crazy, those hard steel wheels on the rough blacktop surface - made my feet go numb!

- You, I think with the involvement of brothers and sisters, constructed a ramp in your yard alongside the house to extend and increase the slope of your yard for sledding (and skiing?) I was impressed with this, it was quite a structure.

- Speaking of sledding, we had great times going over to Tienken Hill to go sledding in the winter, followed up by indulging in hot chocolate. What a fun family activity! I thought that was a huge hill, it was quite a thrill to go down. On one of our later trips, you took your skis over there and skied down it. It’s too bad they developed that hill, great family times were had there by a lot of people.

- I believe that the first time I went skiing at a formal ski area was with you and some others of your family at Mt. Grampian. I think you had a season pass there. To me at the time, it looked pretty big. One chair lift! I remember you and maybe Tom and Bill demonstrating how to ski over moguls. I think I fell on the first one I tried. I recall you were also doing trips to Boyne Mt. at that time, so you had exposure to considerably more challenging terrain. That would have been very intimidating to me given my lack of skill in those days! Not so much, now. Those early experiences gave me a life-long love of skiing in various forms.

- Crazy Monopoly and RISK games in that odd little room in your basement. I think it was the furnace room. You had your amateur radio gear in there too. I was fascinated with that but never really delved into it, although I became intrigued with low-power CW communication. Learning a little Morse code in Boy Scouts and building a BFO for my shortwave radio so I could listen to SSB was about as far as I got with amateur radio, though.

- Interesting evenings in your garage laboratory – You introduced to me to soldering as we disassembled old used circuit boards for their contents. Wherever you got these, my recollection was they were tube-based circuits. I’m pretty sure you gave me one, I think I still have it! It had weird tube sockets that plugged into the circuit boards. The sockets took “miniature” vacuum tubes, I suspect these were 12AU7’s, they may have been early computer circuit boards (flip-flops?). After all, we grew up with vaccuum tubes! Then transistors… etc. You also introduced me to chemistry and associated arts – specifically bending glass tubing with a small alcohol blow torch-to enable fancy setups for distilling liquids and other chemistry projects.

- Your science fair computer that made use of of relays (36 of them, if I remember correctly, which you constructed yourself) to play Tic-Tac-Toe. While I did not understand how this worked exactly, it really aroused my interest and had a major impact on my eventual choice of careers. I think I was in sixth grade when you built this, it inspired me to design and construct a simplistic “computer” which could do simple addition. The circuit was trivial, it really wasn’t a computer as it wasn’t a clocked “state” machine, but I remember my school classmates being amazed that it could do addition. You also introduced me to the “Geniac” masonite-disk-switch-based computer simulator, that was very enlightening. Especially the somewhat odd collection of early computer science-related documents that came with it. I think that was my first exposure to Boolean Algebra and logic gates.

Good times in Lakeville

- Frequent weekend get-togethers through the summer made for delightful memories! Fun family times with picnics and lots of activities, many associated with the water, which I have always relished. Potato chips never tasted so good as they did when we snuck a few before the actual meal started! Your parents were so amazingly accommodating and gracious, there always seemed to be lots of family and friends visiting. This started soon after your mom and dad bought the cottage, I remember what a find it was, and... all the work it needed. I recall helping some with paint preparation – scraping and sanding. I thought your parents did an admirable job balancing work and pleasure, setting a good example. So many experiences and memories are associated with that cottage! It is a truly gorgeous setting now. Waterskiing – all the initial struggles (for me anyway) of learning how, behind my dad’s 14’ Sea Ray with a 35hp Evinrude. Not long thereafter, your dad got your Crestliner with the massive 50 hp Evinrude V-4. By having Tom, Bill, and I sit in the very back, we could get it to go just about as fast as my dad’s new Starcraft with a 75hp Johnson… ~36 mph. Then, years later, came the amazing custom-modified Sea Ray I/O your dad found with the weird outdrive that had the prop facing forward (originally)… powered by a small Buick V-8. If I remember correctly, it was 215 c.i. and made about 190 hp. It sounded awesome through the boat’s open exhaust system, and made a great ski boat, especially when your dad eventually replaced the stern drive unit with a more conventional one. We all had our special slalom skis and you and your brothers successfully barefooted, especially Bill!

- Opa trying water skiing – successfully! I was amazed, given his age at the time. It really made an impression on me that age does not have to be a barrier to trying new things.

- Swimming out to your raft - “King of the raft” was always “cool” fun on hot days!

- Sailing on Sea Scouts sailboats – Snipe, and another similar boat (a Crescent?). Exciting thing to do was to get a good gust of wind so that the boat heeled over so far the water was just about coming into the cockpit! Showed me how much fun sailing could be! We never went over, while I was on the boat, anyway! This gave me a lifetime love of sailing and I still enjoy going out in my little 14’ Force Five.

- Snorkeling in some of the stumpy bays. That was an adventure, a little eerie at times when you’d see the stumps or the bottom dropping off into the somewhat murky gloom of the depths.

- Fishing off of your dock… you never knew what you’d catch (mostly sunfish/bluegills, though).

- Checking out the weird island in your bay that came and went. Swamp gas, must have been.

- Listening to classical guitar music and the Beach Boys “in your room” when the weather outside discouraged outdoor activities.

- Your hydroplane with a Scott Atwater 5 hp motor. I eventually bought that motor from you, rebuilt the lower unit, but never got the slow lubricant leak completely fixed in the lower unit. I got a lot of enjoyment out of it anyway. (In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the problem probably was a missing O-ring seal on the shift shaft.) It was pretty snappy on my 10 ft. Aluminum jon-boat.

- Your 10hp Johnson – I seem to remember this on a 12’ aluminum boat, used for fishing and excursions like snorkeling. I think we even pulled Bill water skiing with this. With a little struggling and much perseverance on his part, he got up!

- Your Mark 20 Mercury – on an old wooden runabout you restored, then on the Minimax you built from the pattern I had (I had built two of them), I was super-impressed with the job you did on that! I remember what a fun ride that was. You know, people are still building those! Did you ever run the Mark 20 on your previous 3-point hydroplane? I do not recollect this.

- The hordes of Glastrons with 65hp Mercurys zooming around the weekend-busy lake. I guess that was the popular sport boat in the late 60’s.

Grandma and Grandpa Kaufeld

- Lots of get-togethers with both families there for tasty ham or chicken dinners, with Grandma’s apple-crisp for dessert. Or white coconut-frosted cake. Always a joy to get together!

- Remember rides on that sledge that Grandpa would pull behind his tractor back to the “sand pit” and beyond, with both of our families aboard or jogging alongside? The tall arbor vitae cedars after the left turn towards the sand pit, with grape vines all over them, with juicy purple grapes in the fall?

- I specifically remember staying with them a couple of days at their house – me, you, and your brothers. We all loaded up in Grandpa and Grandma’s car for the drive there, which was made spectacular by a continual lightning display. We kept spotting, or thought we did, anyway, “ball” lightning. We took our fishing tackle with us and went fishing over at “Shatticks (sp?) pond,” amongst the hundreds of barrels he had stored there. I remember catching small bullheads and some other mostly dwarf fish, but encouraged by rumors of large bass that were reputed to inhabit those waters. Never caught one, though. We picked great big blackberries and Grandma made us blackberry sundaes as a treat. I always liked the rural setting of Grandma and Grandpa’s house, it influenced me to seek out something along those lines for our “dream house”, which is smaller in terms of land, but similar in its setting and exposure to nature. Hard to believe we’re on our 32nd year here!

- Visits to Grandma and Grandpa in Florida. A particularly vivid memory is fishing off the dock in their trailer park with you and your siblings at sunset, catching little “shiners” and just enjoying twilight on Dinner Lake, with interesting discussion of various topics, generally including space and science, among other things. Visiting Highlands Hammock State Park, chasing the armadillos and taking the boardwalk through the cypress swamp. Playing that “Aggravation” marble board game Grandma and Grandpa really seemed to like. Do you remember the tangerine-eating “contest” we had walking through a grove near the place (Krumm’s) (sp?) my family stayed? I think you and I stayed within reason, eating about a dozen, but I remember that Tom ate 32 and got sick later!

- Another vivid memory I have that took place at Grandma and Grandpa’s home was your dad bringing your family in a brand-new just-introduced Pontiac Grand Am and giving a load of us a ride in it. This was not the reduced-size Grand Am of more recent years, this was the larger 70’s era LeMans-sized version with a 455 c.i. V8. Were you there for that? We got quite a thrilling ride in it, the acceleration was immense. Both of our fathers took a lot of pride and really enjoyed their work at Pontiac and I received a lot of rides in interesting new vehicles, I bet you did too.

College Days

- I went along on rides to transport you and/or Tom to and from campus a few times. I remember meeting Mary Jo for the first time, and appreciated the tour of MSU’s computer facilities you gave me. I remember you getting hired by Bell Labs and the crash MS program they put you in...that was at Cal Tech, wasn’t it? It seems to me you got your MS in a year, I found that very impressive, it had to be quite a grind. It took me 4 years at OU, while working full-time at GM Research Labs! But it was sort of fun… I only took one class at a time, could really concentrate on each one. Seems to me you started with Bell in Columbus, Ohio, then moved to New Jersey after receiving your MS, where Gayle and I visited you and Mary Jo once on an autumn vacation trip we took to the East Coast. That was before either of us had children. I remember it being a very nice visit, and an interesting experience driving through New York City during rush hour to get to your place!

- A curious “small-world” incident you related while working for Bell Labs was encountering a high school student I had in my Physics class, Molly Brennan, during my brief stint as a teacher. She was very bright and used calculus to solve high-school Physics problems. She went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and was hired by Bell Labs, where you encountered her. She recognized our last names and made the association.

- This was a time when John Denver was achieving great popularity, and you were an avid fan. I think he was a motivator for you learning to play the guitar. I saw a special about him on PBS a few days ago. He was a very special person, and his music was beautiful, it was great to revisit it. You and he could have been very good friends, maybe even brothers! Both of you were avid pilots, musically inclined, had a great appreciation of nature and mountains, and even looked sort of similar.

Later Life

The changes that come with maturity, full-time jobs, and having our own families! Not to mention other responsibilities, and the challenges of physical distance. Our frequency of in-person contact diminished to occasional, once every few years. Some of this can be somewhat alleviated now with social networking tools like Facebook. (But to be truthful, I use it very little because I get tired of sorting the good information out from all the junk I see out there. The good stuff tends to scroll down out of sight before I get a chance to see much of it. I suppose I should tighten up my filters.) The contacts we have are mostly through events that bring the whole family together, like funerals or birthdays. Your dad’s 90th birthday was a big one, a very happy occasion. Really great to see so much of the family in one place! I’m sure you are very proud of your wonderful daughters, as we are of our Wendi and Kevin. I had hoped to take you up on your invitation to visit while you resided in the U.K., but it turned out that you moved back to the U.S. before we could make it happen. What an amazing phase of your life, to work for Google in the U.K.! Your career certainly had some interesting twists and turns! It has been great visiting you, your mom and other family members down in Florida the last couple of years. I treasure the memories of these, brief as they were. I enjoyed the wide-ranging conversation and it was nice to discuss music a little, too as part of this. Playing the piano can be a soothing stress reliever, we were definitely in sync on that! It was interesting to me to see and hear some of the music you’re playing. It’s great to be retired and able to take trips like that! However, this year we didn’t do it due to COVID. We just completed our two-week post-2nd vaccination shot period yesterday, so we’re feeling a little more secure now. I hope you and Mary Jo were able to get vaccinated! We plan to head west after Easter to visit Wendi and Kevin and their families, we haven't seen them for a long time due to COVID.

A major component of both of our personalities which undoubtedly arose from our parents, particularly our fathers, and in me further reinforced by you, were the traits to take the initiative, to get curious, figure it out, design it, build it, fix it. These are characteristics of an engineer, working alone or as part of a team. I didn’t really recognize this for quite a while, getting my undergraduate degree in Physics, going into teaching, then into research. But in college I found I was not cut out for the theoretical aspects of physics so much (it’s all esoteric math), my preference was the hands-on lab work – the construction and implementation of experiments, which is closer to engineering work. I think you figured out early that the direction for you was Engineering. I finally realized this when I worked on computerizing the magnetics measurement equipment I was involved in at GM Research labs, and decided to go for my graduate degree in Computer Engineering, which led to my IBM career in a variety of computer and software engineering roles. (I am still fascinated by Physics in general and Astrophysics in particular, though, and have retained this as an avocation. It is uncanny how the largest structures in the universe are related to, even dictated by, the smallest ones. I enjoy Brian Greene’s books on this. Quantum computing is a related topic that I am following and somewhat mystified by… if a Qbit can be 0 and 1 simultaneously, how can you make use of it? Well, you look at it, and then it assumes a state, and then you also know the state of another Qbit that was entangled with it. I’m still not clear on how to use this productively. But bright minds are doing it! I’ll keep investigating!)

Hopefully one theme you are seeing in all my rambling is that you definitely have been a key role model and mentor to me over the years, and a very great influence on the path my life has taken. There aren’t many people I have encountered whose range of interests line up so closely with my own, and in most of these the depths of your knowledge exceeds my own – I always learn something new when talking with you and greatly appreciate my interactions and experiences with you through the years.

Thank you!

With Love and Respect,

Dan Kaufeld

Gayle, Mary Jo, Dan, and Jim

Gayle, McKenzie, Dan, Louise, Jim, and Mary Jo

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