I have a British lineage on my paternal side. I know my family history from a comprehensive genealogy written by a Melatiah Everett Dwight in 1898, entitled The Kirbys of New England. Remarkably, it is still available on Amazon for $35, and also has been scanned so it is readable on the Internet. The story goes back to the Kirby family in a little village named Rowington, in Warwickshire, England. Dwight was married to a Kirby and was enamored with the Kirby family, prompting him to gather all that genealogy. I am fascinated by this detailed piece of work because without computers or anything else he was able to trace the whole lines of the family.
That Kirby family had two sons, one named Joseph, who in 1635, came with his brother to pre-colonial America. I don't think he was much more than the teenager. He settled in Hartford, Connecticut and later in Litchfield, which was a noteworthy town in those pre-Revolutionary years.
Revolutionary War hero
The Society of the Cincinnati
My wife Anne and I have been to the UK and once went back to visit that town of Warwick and the little village where Joseph was born. In the U.S., Ephraim Kirby, my Revolutionary War ancestor, was the great-great grandson of Joseph. After the battle of Lexington, he joined the colonial volunteers and arrived in Boston in time to take part in the Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1776, he enlisted with Washington’s army. His battle experience was heroic, with 7 sabre cuts, left on the battlefield for dead. In all he was wounded 13 times, and Yale awarded him an honorary Masters. Returning to Litchfield, he was quite famous in the town. He was a Jeffersonian during this time that they were just framing the Constitution. Litchfield itself was quite Federalist so there was some conflict there. He practiced law and eventually served in the Connecticut Assembly. Later President Jefferson appointed him Superior Court Judge of the Mississippi territory.
Ephraim also joined a patriotic organization called the Society of the Cincinnati. The Society of the Cincinnati is a national community of fellowship and high purpose, dedicated to the memory of the heroes who secured the independence of the United States. It was established in 1783, as the American War for Independence drew to a close. I'm quite proud of my family heritage because of their role in the Revolutionary War. I myself, am a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Incidentally, Cincinnatus (519 BC – 430 BC) was a Roman aristocrat and statesman whose service as consul in 460 BC and dictator in 458 BC and 439 BC made him a model of civic virtue.
That Kirby side of my family are great savers. They seem to have saved every damn document in their lives. My son in San Jose has a lot of those things, including a letter written by Ephraim about the battle of Bunker Hill. It's written in longhand of course. In one, he described Bunker Hill as a "skirmish" with the "regulars," a name he gives to the British army. Bunker Hill of course was a major battle of the war, and while the US troops lost the actual battle, they inflicted serious casualties on the British, including heavy losses to their Officer Corps, which became significant later. An interesting fact is that Ephraim asked a soldier friend of his to hand deliver his letter to his family at home. That soldier friend was John Jay, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first Chief Justice of the United States.
Ephraim's son, and my great-grandfather, Reynold Marvin Kirby, carried on the military tradition. He became a major in the Army and fought in the War of 1812. During this period he met and married a Southern woman, Mary Barclay, from Richmond, Virginia. While commanding Fort Sullivan in Eastport, Maine, Reynold died in 1842, one year after my grandfather was born. With no family nearby and limited means in Eastport, Mary removed her young family to back home to Virginia. They settled in Staunton, 100 miles west of Richmond, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. So, ironically, on the cusp of the the Civil War, our family suddenly became southern. Reynold's family included my Grandfather, Joseph Lee Smith Kirby (1841 - 1933), whose children included my father, Joe (1883 - 1959), Edmund and Wayt. Being Southerners, the second name Lee sneaked into more than one boy Kirby.
My grandfather entered West Point from Virginia in 1860. When the Civil War broke out, he and many other cadets came home to join the Confederate Army. He became an aide to General E. Kirby Smith, a prominent Confederate general, and subsequently Captain of Engineers. After the war he practiced law, and became Judge for Nelson County, Va.
My Dad, of course, was a Southerner by birth. He was tall and courtly. As a Virginian, he had a slight southern accent, which was attractive, and which he retained his entire life. He wore pince-nez glasses, which added to his scholarly look. He was intelligent and well-read. However, there was not much economic opportunity in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His brother, Edmund, was five years older, and preceded him in coming to San Francisco, around 1910. He found work with the U.S. Customs House, and enjoyed his new life immensely.
Uncle Eddie convinced my father that he ought to come out. This was long after the gold rush and things were still booming. He met my mother about the time of the Golden Gate Panama-Pacific Exposition, which would have been about 1915. My mother's Alma Murray, was a native born San Franciscan, one of three daughters, who came from Irish and French-Canadian heritage. They took up married life in San Francisco. This was after the big earthquake and the Exposition which included a mile of amazing temporary exhibit buildings, including the Palace of Fine Arts, on the West end of the city. My parents loved that exposition.
Dad had a younger brother, my Uncle Wayt, who also moved to San Francisco. Wayt was the hero of the family and a very charming guy. He played the piano and had a lot of talents. Unfortunately, he died of pneumonia fairly young. He had only been San Francisco for a short time.
My father was an accountant, working in the financial district. They had an interest in Marin County, although I'm not sure what caused this, because it was only accessible by ferry. But some friends, the Fergusons, in San Francisco, had bought a piece of land in the tiny city of Ross about 20 miles north over in Marin County. It was wilderness in those days, no Golden Gate Bridge. Of course there was ferry service across the strait to the Sausalito waterfront. The Fergusons bought an acre of land in Ross way up the hill looking westward. They encouraged my folks to buy some adjoining land which my Dad did. This was 1923.
Since there was no bridge, the main mode of public transit was an electric train, probably what we would call today, a light rail. It started in Sausalito and ran up through all those little towns of San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael. My dad continued to work in the city, taking the train to the ferry to work. Considering the time it took his commute into the financial district, one might wonder why they didn't buy a place down the peninsula? The Southern Pacific commute line had been in operation, from San Jose, going right up into the heart of San Francisco. I'll never know why. Anyway, he bought the land and the contractor built a little house for a cost of $5000. It had two bedrooms and one bath, on the side of a hill which was pretty steep. There were two or three other families who lived alongside on the same land. It was right on the outskirts of Ross. Ross became very popular and later populated with wealthy people (not us).
I was born Sunday, June 15, 1924, at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco. My Mother's doctor was Reginald Knight Smith, a popular obstetrician located in San Francisco, and well known in society. When you think about it, expecting a child and having to undergo a one-hour commute to get downtown, that must've been quite a worry for my mother. Scary. Not only that, our family never had a car, for all those years. Here we were up on the Hill about 15 minutes. from downtown Ross, which was on the electric train route. So I don't know how she got to the train to the ferry to the ferry building in San Francisco and then to her doctor? But I suppose there were cabs or street cars that did the trick.
I had one sibling, Joe. He was born in 1919. Joe became a very successful banker in San Jose. I grew up in Ross and went to elementary school there. My grade school was relatively small with about 200 kids. I rode my bike to school even though the hill home was tough-going to climb. There were only two high schools in the entire Marin County, San Rafael and Tamalpais High, in Mill Valley, which is where I went. I used to take the train to school. In the late 1920s, my dad's employer, a rice company laid him off. He soon found another accounting job in San Diego, so he moved our family down there for about a year. At that point, the rice business recovered and we came back to Ross.
When I think about it the fact that our family never had a car during my whole growing-up, this is quite remarkable. Of course, the Great Depression was in full swing. With my dad commuting every day it took him about 15 minutes. to get to the train to get to Sausalito to the ferry so even a one-way commute was between 1 to 1 1/2 hours. We became the greatest walkers of all time. The train went through all of these towns Kentfield, Ross, San Anselmo and as far as San Rafael. At San Anselmo, it split, with one line going to San Rafael and the other went westward to Fairfax. When I was in high school, I would walk down to Ross and catch the train down to Sausalito. There was a special train that veered off into Mill Valley, instead of the ferry dock at Sausalito.
Those years, of course, were the disastrous years of the Great Depression. I was just starting elementary school as the depression got underway in 1930. I entered high school in 1938, after the depression was under recovery. Our family was very fortunate that my Dad held a job in the financial district, and was able to maintain his salary and the job through that awful period. We weren't rich but we weren't hurting all that much either. He certainly had enough money to buy a car, but he just didn't do it. At the end of his office day at 5:15, there was a famous ferryboat that took all the wealthy commuters back home over to Marin County.
In those days every company worked half-day Saturdays. This was goofy, my Dad would get up Saturday, put on a coat and tie, walk down to the train in Ross, down to the ferry in Sausalito and over to San Francisco for three hours. And then reverse that to get home. It seemed strange to me, but that is the way the work culture was those years.
I loved school, and many of my fond memories can be attributed to those years. Though my family lived comfortably, we had limited means. The community was quite wealthy, and the school reflected this atmosphere. For example, growing up I was a stutterer, although it lessened later in life. But at school, my fourth grade teacher worked with me to cure the problem. It always gave me some fear that I would have to make speeches. As I grew, and took on school publication roles, my confidence grew. I was a good student and got virtually straight A's throughout.
Imagine a high school with this tinkling monster
in its shop. The little tiny brass molds, one per
letter, were stored up high, and were called down
by the keyboard one tinkling letter at a time,
to make a line of hot lead type.
I entered high school in 1938. In 1940, I became interested in their journalism curriculum. The journalism teacher was John George. He changed my life, because his enthusiasm just clicked with me. You know that in most lives, there is one teacher who just makes the connection. We had a weekly newspaper. We had our own print shop; can you believe a high school having a print shop? It was very effective in developing kids who became printers as a vocation. And yet, there was no commercial printing company in Mill Valley. But the school print shop had an actual Linotype. Recall that Linotypes were the size of a Volkswagen Bug. They made strange clinking sounds, caused by the little brass mold elements maybe 3 inches long, climbing a conveyor arm to be redistributed back to their alphabetic storage. From there the operator keyboard would call them down by character, into a "line-of-type" of hot molten lead, then stacked to make a printed page, which is called hot lead printing.
So here are these high school kids clicking on the keys with hot lead occasionally splashing on the floor. I fell in love with that whole process. I became editor of our weekly newspaper and editor of the annual yearbook. I give a tremendous amount of appreciation to teacher John George. This was my sophomore year 1939, and our school had 1300 students, so it was relatively good-sized. My life work was settled by those experiences, but I didn't know it yet, only what I really enjoyed doing. John George remained a friend of mine until he died at 80 years. He triggered my life in journalism. Once a bunch of us organized a dinner party for him at the San Francisco Press Club, about 100 people attended.
I had a number of jobs during my high school years. One job was at a distillery, applying labels to whiskey bottles. Another was a printing company, doing final assembly of San Francisco phone books. I had a short-term job at Hamilton Air Field running a forklift.
Through my teen years, my brother and I had two primary interests, sports and big band jazz. We were consumed by sports...the games, the athletes, the statistics, the coaches, the sports columns, all of it. There was no TV, only radio and the sports pages of the newspaper. Mom liked baseball, and occasionally, when she went shopping in the City, she would take me to see a Pacific Coast League game at Seals Stadium. I loved it. As for big band jazz, I couldn't get enough. We liked all the bands; Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman. At the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island, it was our chance to see many of those bands in person. They would appear outdoors in the afternoon and then indoors at night. It was fantastic.
I should also mention that another high school course, which ultimately became really important, was my typing class. My teacher was a tall woman, I guess 6 feet tall, Lois Walker. I can still remember her, walking around while we would be typing saying, "Eyes on the copy!" "Eyes on the copy!" The thing to remember is that in those days there were hardly any young boys in the typing classes. It was all girls, aiming for jobs in business and industry. But I didn't really feel out of place, even though I didn't know that my typing was going to change my life in the military. I remember doing well in a state typing contest. So here I had John George filling my appetite for journalism and Ms. Walker giving me the tools of the trade. She was like a top sergeant with the orders of keeping eyes on the copy.
Sports was a huge part of my life from the age when I could listen to the radio. It was primarily my brother Joe, who got me started. While most of our neighbors and my brother were Cal/Berkeley fans, I don't know why but I got hooked on Stanford.
The Golden Gate bridge was built, and opened in May 27, 1937. It was built just before I entered high school but we were still taking trains and without a car. We didn't actually use the bridge for our family.
When the bridge opened there was a huge celebration around the Bay. Thousands of Marin County and San Francisco residents walked across the new span. The U.S. Navy joined in the celebration with battleships, cruisers and destroyers sailing under the bridge. It was very exciting, one ship had a band playing, "California, Here I Come!" There was a parade up Market Street, I was 13 years old and still remember it vividly.
| I walked the Golden Gate Bridge, and matched the opening theme,
"Go West," with my cowboy outfit.
The Marinship yard had 4 construction ways,
plus two outfitting docks,
which here had 5 ships tied up.
By 1940 I became a junior and now all of a sudden they can put buses to work to get people in between Marin County and San Francisco. Unfortunately this led to a tearing up of the electric train tracks. A horrible mistake, and yet at the time we didn't know what sort of impact that would have. It turns out that the automobile industry and the tire industry were behind this purchasing of public transportation, which they ultimately closed down. The name of the Marin County train transit was the Northwest Pacific Railroad.
I graduated in 1942, and the war was on, so we were looking at our draft boards, and they were looking for us. By this time the Sausalito shipyards got started, probably around 1938. This huge industrial operation to build Liberty Ships was managed by the San Francisco Bechtel Corp. They were famous for being part of the consortium that built the Boulder Dam and other mega-projects. They were ideally suited to take on a huge mobilization effort like first building a shipyard, called Marinship, and then from 1942 building a total of 93 Liberty ships, oilers and tankers.
I was in awe of this industrial giant operation,
as I had a summer job doing simple office tasks.
The yard consisted of 4 ship construction "ways," which was nowhere near as large as the Kaiser operation over in Richmond. And yet they started from a mud flat about a mile North of Sausalito, and employed 20,000 workers in around-the-clock production. One large building still exists there, which was converted from the shipyard warehouse to the California Bay water model after the war. The 1-acre model was used to study water movement in the bay before the actual water model was replaced by computer models in recent decades. I worked one high school summer at Marinship, doing simple administration work, using my high school typing. The job gave me a perspective of industrial might. It's strange now, to think about, as you came south, down the road into Sausalito, and here is this huge shipyard. All of those workers in hard hats, and now we look out there and there's not a vestige of that monstrous industrial site. It's now filled with houseboats.
There was one story from the Pearl Harbor attack that always remained with me. The day after the attack, our high school had an assembly so we could listen to President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech. One of our students was missing. His name was Nobumo Kuwatani, who was a senior like me. We called him Nobe. We encouraged him to come to school, but soon after, in February, his family was swept up in the greatest abuse of human rights in a long time: They were sent to a detention camp in Colorado. I don't remember much outrage at the time, which there should have been. I started a correspondence with Nobe, and continued it throughout the war. When his family returned to Marin, he was awarded his missing diploma.
After graduation I was pretty sure I was going to be drafted quickly. So I decided rather than trying to get into the University of Cal at Berkeley and spending serious money for a school year that might get interrupted, that I would simply sign up for the local Marin Junior College. That way I could live at home and be able to drop out upon being drafted without hurting any of my relations with Berkeley. As it turned out the draft board was slow, and I was able to put in an entire year at the junior college. Later on when I entered Cal they remarkably decided to recognize that year as a full year at Berkeley, meaning that I only had a three-year term once I returned from the war.
Any wartime mobilization is uneven and often unfair. One young man might be drafted, get 12 weeks of basic training and weapons familiarization and be in mortal combat in less than 6 months. Another young man might spend the entire war period farming or in a war industry like the Marinship shipyards, building Liberty Ships or tankers. Our WWII military leaders reasoned that the war would be won with science and technology, so they set up a number of educational programs to exploit the national brainpower. Colleges and Universities trained young people in accelerated programs like the Navy V-12 Officer Training efforts. In my case, I became aware of the Army's ASTP, Advanced Specialized Training Program, a schooling effort to utilize additional expertise before going to combat. So I enlisted into that group.
We all looked good in uniform.
I was inducted on July 2, 1943, at the Presidio in Monterey, and immediately put on a train for basic training at Fort Hood in Texas. My ASTP group then shipped back to California for the study program at Long Beach City College. This was a good period for me since I enjoyed the challenge of school and the new camaraderie of my fellow soldiers. Many of them were college-level men. We were pretty cocky, and secretly made fun of the regular army guys. But by this time of the war, there was a civilian recognition that some of these soldiers in educational programs were observed by parents of soldiers, to be living a relatively cushy existence while their child was in vicious combat and personal danger. I have inferred that there was grassroots protest to political authorities nationally, so that some of those programs were truncated or eliminated. In my case, my group was ordered to Camp Roberts, up the California coast, to become riflemen, as part of the 89th Infantry Division.
Our company was then shipped to Camp Butner in North Carolina. Butner was used as a staging area for shipment overseas. We trained there almost a year. During that period, when I was training to be a rifleman, our company clerk turned out to have some kind of hernia problem, and the Top Sergeant knew he was going to need a replacement. So one day he came to the barracks and asked if anybody knew how to type. Here I was about ready to go overseas. You have to think fast. And that's all they tell you, don't volunteer. But I thought anything is better than being a rifleman, so I said yeah I can type. So I became a company clerk, which ended up putting me in combat, but at a company headquarters, behind the front lines. Thank God for Lois Walker. Life is like that; everything is timing. It's being at the right place at the right time.
With our advanced training shut down, our company had all bright kids who were now riflemen and ready to go into battle as common infantry. I had buddies from Oregon State, Colgate and Yale and other similar schools, so these were really bright people. In the US, each company had two clerks because there was much more administrative activity with soldiers right in close quarters. I was the assistant clerk but once overseas there's only one company clerk, partly because most of the soldiers are away fighting and just don't need much daily paperwork help. At that time I was worried that the previous clerk would get recuperated and come back, but the clerk himself told me not to worry, because apparently he knew he wasn't coming back. He said I was going to be OK. I remember his name, Bill Fales, from Massachusetts.
By this time it's late 1944, and Eisenhower had invaded France and they had made good progress into Germany. Our division was attached to the Third Army. Each company has about 187 troops. There might be three companies in a battalion and there would be about eight or 10 companies in a regiment. My company was then moved to North Carolina, possibly because they understood that with the invasion of Europe, they might still need more troops to complete the final push to Berlin. So we got orders to join 89th Division of the Third Army. In January of 1945 we left Boston on a troopship, bound for battle. When we landed in Europe at Le Havre, the 89th Division was already in Luxembourg.
|Le Havre Harbor, Winter 1944-45|
The harbor had been bombed and the docks were still in terrible condition. So many ships were unloading that we had to come ashore in landing craft. So each soldier had a backpack and a duffel bag. But as company clerk, I also had a typewriter and a heavy box containing all the military records of 187 men in my company. Luckily my Top Sergeant, Charles DeWitt, came up and helped me get the stuff ashore. Trucks took us to a staging camp, 30 miles inland. It was bitterly cold, and no tents had been set up yet. Lucky for me, I shared a tent with the Top Sergeant, so we even got a wood stove for a few days.
The 89th Division had 15,000 people. We got into combat at the end of February, 1945. Recall that this was the time of the Battle of the Bulge, which took place over the period of Christmas, 1944, with the most significant battle being the siege of Bastogne. American air power was grounded due to several weeks of extremely bad weather. By the beginning of February, the front lines were roughly back where they were before the German offensive, although the Allies suffered serious casualties. I remember that I've never been so cold in my life, and I was in a tent office.
In operation up in the combat area, the other company clerks and I would get together every morning for a communications conference. Since our related companies were spread out over a fair mileage of the battlefront, those distances sort of determined how many clerks made the meetings. It might typically be five company clerks at those meetings. It was a time when we exchanged information and helpful ideas. In a way, it was kind of like going to a regular day job, except we knew that our men were fighting in serious combat, and serious casualties were happening. Mine was company L and we had to handle all of the daily happenings. For example, there was something called a morning report, which was produced by the top Sergeant. This would include action occurrences such as one KIA, for killed in action, or one of WIA, wounded in action. The morning report was very brief. I also had to do all of the insurance reports after a soldier's death so that the family could receive the benefits.
In combat, there is just always a serious chaos going on, a lack of information, difficult communications, personnel being injured and killed and documentation required to keep the legal part of the Army running. Being in the company headquarters it was interesting to watch our officer corps in action. Of course the Third Army was under the leadership of General George Patton the well-known hard-nosed driving general who refused to order his troops to "dig in." His attitude was that if you keep moving, this denies the Germans the ability to dig in and cause even more losses. This was in contrast to Field Marshal Montgomery of the British forces who tended to take the cautious route. But by digging in he would lose the initiative to keep pushing the Germans back since their reserves and equipment and mostly their fuel supplies were causing their forces to more or less whither and fail.
Patton had this reputation, which we, his troops, all loved. The Germans were really afraid of him. They thought he was another Rommel and, in a real sense, he was. His commander, Omar Bradley, tolerated Patton's aggressive command, and his unit officers responded well to his leadership style. The head of my division was Maj. Gen. Finley. As our forces advanced, we would take over buildings like schools or auditoriums or industrial buildings for our offices. And we would occupy regular homes for billeting our officers.
Our occupying soldiers were ordered not to break anything in occupied buildings, but it's hard to control soldiers in the in a war situation. Some German families were really grateful to have us arrive and yet there were others who hated us. Which was pretty natural. We destroyed their cities and pounded them into smithereens. From our entry to battle to VE Day, I think in my company's 187-man roster, we had seven men killed and about 25 injured or wounded. Our company felt pretty good about our successes and experiences of combat.
Hitler ended up personally screwing up the Battle of the Bulge. He had hoarded his resources to make that big push, which he thought would demoralize our US troops. But then he ordered his German forces to advance too far forward such that the Americans were able to attack on his flanks and the surround very large numbers of his troops and crucial equipment. These losses just accelerated their failures on other battlefronts, and the Bulge loss was essentially the death knell of the German Western front.
The Germans had destroyed almost all the bridges across the Rhine River, but in an amazing move, Patton's troops saved the railroad bridge at Remagen. Its story became famous after the war. The Third Army flooded into Germany. Our headquarters would move up behind the front, but the army was moving fast, and we office guys had to keep up. At the end of April, 1945, our division had reached the Elbe River, near Chemnitz, and was ordered to advance no further. The Russian army had reached the other side of the river. When VE Day came on May 8, my regiment was in a pretty, undamaged town named Zwickau. We partied all night and could hear the Russians on the other side doing the same.
After VE Day, which was May, 1945, everybody expected that we now were headed to Japan. None of us were looking forward to that. But then the Hiroshima bomb went off and they didn't know what to do with our division. With VJ Day on August 15, and the end of both wars, they could not demobilize all at once, so they installed a "point system" for mustering out. You gained a certain number of points for time in uniform, for time in foreign country, time in combat, and those sorts of considerations. Most of us in my company had enlisted fairly late, and certainly came to battle late. The magic number for mustering out at that time was 44. I had 43, which seems like a pretty good number, but it seems that there were a million of us stuck at 43. In retrospect, it seems they might have picked the number 44 as the threshold to just keep the outflow to civilian life controlled to a manageable surge.
Several of us managed to get furloughs to visit England. We left on a ship from Le Havre, and arrived at Southampton, where a Liaison Officer told us that London would be a madhouse, but we decided to go anyway, and take a chance on hotels. London was delirious with celebration. We wandered among the crowds, and went over to Buckingham Palace. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people everywhere. The King and Queen and Winston Churchill were up on the balcony, waving to the crowds. and included two little girls, one of whom would become Queen Elizabeth. We spent several days in Scotland, before returning to duty.
You won't believe this, but because of my typing skill, I was sent to Paris. WOW! Paris, as a conquering "hero." The American government had made the decision that they were not going to repatriate all this war equipment back to the US. So the plan was to get rid of it here in Europe, however they could get it done. They set up a Foreign Liquidation Commission in Paris, which went looking for a large number of office clerks to handle the enormous administration. No computers in those days, everything was handled with manual forms and ledgers. I remember there were something like 300,000 condoms that we sold to Denmark. It was incredible. We were liquidating everything, from vehicles to all sorts of logistics supplies that a huge fighting army uses. There were no viable industrial companies to buy this stuff so we were selling mostly to governments and most often essentially just giving it away and documenting all those transactions.
|Paris, Le Petit Palais. Several hundred American soldiers and I used it as a barracks.|
I didn't come home until April of 1946, so I was in Paris about a half year. My job in Paris was rather remarkable, I used to walk to work every day under the Arc de Triomphe. We were in really upscale Paris territory. Paris had a museum called "Le Petit Palais." The American Army made a deal with the French for the Palais to become our barracks. If you could see these double bunks extended for a block inside the museum, it was incredible. Just to organize that kind of personal operation was remarkable since this required food operations, housing services, entertainment and the continuing discipline of soldiers who probably weren't all that happy to be in Paris, when they thought they deserved to be home. There were many other administrative operations required for an occupying army, in addition to the equipment liquidation. My best buddy in the 89th division did marry a French girl, as did other thousands who brought home such war brides.
I felt the German soldier was a first-class fighter. His training and his equipment were superior, in some ways, even compared to us Americans, and certainly to any other nation. The Russians depended on sheer numbers of troops, although by the end of the war they had produced some outstanding equipment like the T-34 tank. Some of their aircraft were extremely durable and well armed. Ultimately it speeded up the Russian drive west to take Berlin. The German soldier morale was excellent, probably driven by the fact that some of that their training started even back in the 1930s as Hitler took over and initiated cult-like programs like the German youth organizations. The marches and banners and propaganda was inculcated for years, and showed on the battlefield.
As far as a company clerk like me was concerned, we furnished a sort of centralized information center. The army had a general newspaper like the Stars and Stripes. Andy Rooney was a personality on the Stars and Stripes staff. We had teletypes that kept our company in the information and command loop. So we felt that we were performing a useful service for our own troops, who were carrying the brunt of the battle.
Back in the US, we entered a troop train for the 5-day trip across the country. One notable stop was North Platte, Nebraska, which had become famous for their little town hospitality. Every troop train that stopped there, day or night, for years, was met by local people, bearing pies, cakes, cookies and drinks. I mustered out at Camp Beale, near Marysville, California. I had been promoted from Private, First Class, to Tech Sergeant in just 2+ years, which was the rank between Staff Sergeant and Master Sergeant. I was proud of that.
All of my buddies and I arrived back in California about the same time, which was kind of neat. It was the spring and summer of 1946. We used to hang around Marin County bars and just enjoy our brand new civilian life. It was wonderful. Most of us talked about whether we were going to college. The brand new GI Bill concept was amazing, and aided our decision to head to college. It paid tuition, room and board, and a comfortable amount extra for books and supplies and just ordinary living expenses. More for married vets and yet more for children.
My brother ended up going to University of California, Berkeley. He was four years older than I so I decided that was a good thing to do too. I entered Berkeley in the fall of 1946. It was quite remarkable, with a huge number of young vets going back to college. In my fraternity, Sigma Nu, we had 70 members and only two were nonveterans. So the college acceptance decisions had really swung toward veterans, which of course, it should have.
At Cal, I joined the Journalism School. Surprisingly, back then, it was an undergraduate-only. At the time it was unfortunate that the reputation of the Journalism School was very weak. The rumor was that the English Department tended to dominate them to keep the journalism community less influential. I never understood that attitude or power grab. Looking back, I probably should have majored in political science or history. The journalism school was not very challenging, and a lot of what we did learn was the process of how governments operated. In other words, if you were a reporter on a daily newspaper, you would have to know about the local Departments of Justice and the State government and City Hall processes in order to make sense out of who was critical to know. So Cal Journalism was not a big learning experience of how to write but it was more directed to making sense of the key-people interview processes. They assumed you could already write well. By now, in 2014, the Graduate School of Journalism is very, very highly rated.
The postwar period was a unique time at Cal. With a high percentage of returning veterans you might guess that they were ready to grind out the academics and not spent much time with beer busts and chasing girls. To some extent this was true but in a real sense many of these ex-soldiers sort of felt that they deserved a break from the dangerous wartime experiences that they had survived. This was an important time in the life of the University as it began the massive facilities and staff buildups, which hadn't happened before and won't happen again. Cal was just swamped with veterans.
I essentially entered Berkeley as a sophomore, because recall that I had taken a year at Marin Junior College before getting drafted. I was delighted to find out that Berkeley accepted that as my freshman year. An academic advisor told me that I had gone to one of the best junior colleges is the whole country, which was Marin Junior College.
I was kind of a sports nut at Berkeley. I joined the Daily Californian, which was the legendary student newspaper on campus. I went to talk with the sports editor, Paul Lazarus, (who I just had lunch with in Jan, 2014). Paul let me join the newspaper staff, and my high school newspaper experience was extremely valuable to my new position. If you were new to the Daily Cal you joined on the bottom rung. You were given a secondary sports beat to cover, like soccer or boxing, which were pretty low-level sports. But that was your fate as a brand-new reporter, and was the only fair way to integrate newcomers. You had to pay your dues before you ever got a chance to do the varsity football or basketball or crew.
The varsity sports teams of that period were exceptional, probably due to the presence of ex-servicemen that could be recruited for those sports. Those years of the late 1940s were remarkable in Cal athletic history, probably the best in over 50 years. We had a Rose Bowl football team; our baseball team won the national championship. Our crew team won the Olympic Games. In those days the Olympic crew teams were not recruited from multiple colleges but were required to come from a single college. In this case, the Berkeley crew won the preliminaries to attend the Olympics and then won the Olympics.
Since I only needed three years, I graduated in 1949. I was president of my fraternity and that was fun, and good experience in organizing and leading some pretty casual personalities. Academically I was almost born to compete, I always did very well. At the Daily Californian I moved up the ladder, so in my senior year I was sports editor. I used to write a column every day, and then I would come back to the fraternity house for dinner. Thus my senior year was jam-packed with activities. About every third or fourth weekend I would go home to Marin County for a visit. Our graduation ceremony in 1949 was distinctive because the keynote speaker was President Harry Truman.
When I graduated it was probably logical that I would work on a newspaper. I went to work for the San Francisco News. I didn't know what to do and was sort of flailing around. I visited the newspapers and at the San Francisco News I met a gentleman named Charlie Massey. In our interview, he put a lot of prominence on the fact that he and I were fraternity brothers. So he hired me to be a copy editor, which is kind of an entry level position. The other copy editors were all old-timers and were really down on the newspaper business. Their attitude was, "Kid you need to get out of this job as soon as you can." That was surprising to me because one would think that the newspaper management would want more upbeat team morale and would fire such negative people, unless their talent outweighed their attitudes.
The working environment looked just like the movies. As copyeditor, I sat on the rim of a large rounded table, like a horseshoe, with the Chief Copy Editor sitting in the slot. As written stories came in, he would parcel out each job. The draft stories would either come from reporters or off the teletype machines of Associated Press or United Press. This work culture was chaotic, and deadlines were particularly stressful. I found I didn't really handle that kind of pressure well, and wasn't enjoying it at all. San Francisco News was a Scripps Howard publication and later went out of business. At the time, there were four dailies in San Francisco: the Chronicle, the Examiner in the morning and the Call Bulletin and the San Francisco News in the afternoon. I had to be at work at six in the morning and also had to work Saturdays. Illogically I got Wednesdays off, and the pay was terrible. I put in a year at that job and got good experience. It involved big city news in a big city culture, and I learned a lot about this terrific city, as it grew up from its pivotal role in the West Coast WWII mobilization. Hundreds of thousands of sailors and soldiers came through here on their way to war, its industries were vital to shipping, and they came back to live their lives here.
I had a buddy from Cal, Bob Rubin, and we found an apartment together. I did not have any serious girlfriends in college since I was sort of shy. If there was a big event coming along sometimes I would get a friend to find me a date. Nor did I date much in this early period of my first jobs.
I guess this could be called my Life Story in one picture, no
computers for re-write (and without the cigarette).
After a year or so at the paper, I said to myself, "To hell with this, it's boring." And about that time, I saw an ad from the Bechtel Corporation looking for a writer. It was in the personnel department, although it did not mention public relations. I went in to interview with a man named Raphel Dorman. Raf was one of the really good bosses I have had throughout my entire career. For whatever reason it seems like I almost always worked for likable bosses. So maybe that had something to do with me, who knows. Raf ran the personnel department. I was interviewed by a number of people and had to bring in some of my other writings for the interview. Raf was an interesting guy, his father had been at been in the State Department, so he was educated in Switzerland and Harvard, and probably a typical example of the Eastern Elite. A very polished man. His wife was a noted psychiatrist in San Francisco.
When I was hired, he said, "Here are some details about the job. You get paid twice a month, the men's room is down the hall, we have a health plan, and I want you to write health plan brochures for the employees." He asked if I had any questions, and I said, "No I think you covered everything." I got up to leave and got to the door when he said, "Dave, there is just one other thing, don't (expletive deleted) the help." I'll never forget that, even though I have to bleep the word out in this story. At our interview, John Minck mentioned a similar instruction he heard in a talk by one of the HP division managers from Colorado. The manager's warning was, "Don't fish from the company pier!" And then he ended up marrying one of his own production line women.
Bechtel was a very old, important and large San Francisco company. They were well known for being in the consortium that built Hoover Dam in the 1930s, and grew to operate internationally. They had multiple divisions; the power division, the civil engineering division, and the Marinship division of course. At that time they were very active in the Middle East, building oil terminals and oil facilities for various petro-nations. They started in the early 1920s with their founder Warren Bechtel. My duties were mostly to write personnel-related publications and brochures. They had an employee magazine, Bechtel Briefs, and I was the editor for that.
One of the highlights of that early period was that I was told I was being assigned to write something for Steve Bechtel. I had never met Steve, who was the son of the founder. I went over to his office, the secretary said go on in, and I found he was a really charming man. He had gone to Berkeley so we related there. Steve was much like Dave Packard in presence. He associated with people like the CEOs of PG&E, Chevron, and other industrialists. There were maybe seven or eight "City Fathers," and when it came to community projects you would always find the same guys leading the pack. When I left the office, Steve was glowing with praise and yet I had not done anything for him yet. He welcomed me to his company.
There was a local chapter of professional PR people, which I joined, the Public Relations Society of America. But pretty soon I got bored with that job too; I didn't see it as much of a challenge. It seemed like one of my deficiencies was that I would get bored fairly fast, until I got to HP. So even though the writing process was the same, I guess it was more a matter of the job environment. When I joined Bechtel I guess I didn't even know what the term "public relations" stood for. I was pretty green. I was the first person at Bechtel to put out news releases even though I was in the personnel department.
It wasn't long until I thought to myself, I just need a new experience. So I ended up taking a job with the California Wine Institute. I got the job by noticing an ad for a PR person. This was a national trade association with membership of all the high quality North Bay vineyards as well as the mega wine firms like Gallo and Mondavi. The most prestigious name was Louis Martini, whose wines were well known in the Napa Valley. Also Petri, which was a quality wine. The Institute's purpose of course was to promote the culture and glamour of wine drinking and the aura of good living through drinking wine.
Naturally the Institute was organized to promote primarily California wines. We had events like a National Wine Queen. We would take her up to the wine country and shoot glamour shots that could be used in promoting California wines. I was in charge of that promotion, I would hire the photographers, and organize the shoots. One of the first Wine Queens I shepherded around was Carol King, even dated her a few years later. Another queen was Joanne Copeland, during my second year there. Joanne achieved some fame later by becoming Johnny Carson's third wife.
In this job I wrote articles for the Beverage Institute of America. They had magazines like Wines and Vines. The Wine Institute acted nationally but it was headquartered in San Francisco. Actually the wine PR job was a step down from Bechtel in terms of the importance of the writing that I did. When you think about the scope of Bechtel's massive projects, it hardly compares with a bottle of wine and that kind of an elitist industry.
I was with the Wine Institute for about two years. They were nice people, and I spent a lot of time in meetings with their top principals to try to understand the culture and financial operations of their industry. If Gallo didn't like something, he would just get up and leave and that would break up the meeting. He really had that power. So that job at the Wine Institute was the beginning of my writing PR for the media, as opposed to internal publications for employees.
One other significant problem was that I didn't like drinking wine. This became obvious pretty quickly. I went to some function at the Fairmont Hotel, and my boss Roy Taylor was there. I went and ordered a martini, and rejoined my colleagues, who looked at my drink like it was a snake, and I couldn't hide it. Although no one really complained, I knew it was time to leave.
In my continuing search for job fulfillment, I came up with Kaiser Aluminum. Headquartered in Oakland, Kaiser was a huge conglomerate consisting of many divisions; Kaiser Steel, Kaiser Shipyards, Permanente Medical, Permanente Cement and Kaiser Aluminum. Henry J. Kaiser was famous for his bidding on Shasta Dam in Northern California, because his concrete and sand business gave him a considerable cost advantage of the main ingredient for that enormous dam project. I don't remember the interview contact, but I suppose I saw another job advertisement for PR. I then found myself commuting to Oakland, with all of the different divisions in their headquarters building. Kaiser Aluminum was quite the largest. It was large enough that the public relations department had about 15 people on the staff.
So there I was writing articles about the use of aluminum, trying to become an expert. I had been working there about a year when they came to me and asked if I would like to go to West Virginia? Kaiser was building a brand-new plant on the Ohio River, and just getting started in a little town called Ravenswood. They wanted somebody from the staff to go back and live there for a while and become the voice of Kaiser Aluminum in the Ohio River Valley. They wanted publicity for the surrounding area to justify this large industrial intrusion and also to teach people about the widespread uses of aluminum. As you can imagine this was a pretty unsophisticated geography, it was coal country.
I've got say that I was not very confident about the fact that I was going to be the only resident PR person on that site. This was an important industrial project and there would be political and economic and social aspects to what I had to do. On the other hand, I was footloose and fancy free, and it seemed like I could dedicate a little time to such an assignment. They didn't pay me a bonus or anything, but it was a chance for a new experience. I decided that I should go partly because they agreed to a limited time window on how long I would be there. Ravenswood was a little town of about 2000 people south of Wheeling.
At the construction site, there was a divorced man on the local staff. He and I became good buddies. It was kind of a nutty situation, in a tiny town, with this major construction project going on. Then I roll in, as the "sophisticated" San Franciscan. My boss back at Oakland was constantly after me to create major publicity in the key media about the plant. That was to be in addition to the sales job I was doing on the local population. In those days, I wasn't all that familiar with national media, although in San Francisco I was beginning to make contacts with some of the national technical trade magazines. There were specialized publications like Chemical Week and Metallurgy Age. These were McGraw-Hill publications, with sales reps and reporters in San Francisco. I had gotten to know Don Hoefler at Electronics magazine.
I finally realized that my move put me out of the mainstream and probably was a bit ill advised. On one occasion, I contacted the New York Times and got them interested in our West Virginia plant expansion. They sent a guy and a photographer down for two days. My boss in Oakland was really excited, because the New York Times was about the top-of-the-line, although the Wall Street Journal would have been just as good. So this guy shows up with his photographer, a very sophisticated man, especially in this backwards location. My situation got his interest up. The plant was still in the foundation stages so there wasn't much to see physically. Eventually I called my boss and told him that the Times was running a huge story the next Sunday. I was pretty excited about that. So the story comes out and it was quite good, all about aluminum and the general plan. But the title lead was--ready for this? "Gay Blade Turns to Rust in Ravenswood, West Virginia." It turned out the story was about me, this gay blade from San Francisco. Now realize that in those years the word gay simply meant an active, personable guy.
It was a fantastic story because even though the title focused on me, as a portion of the content, it really did cover the strategy of Kaiser Aluminum putting a major plant into an economically challenged area. So the story had the kicker, that if this guy Dave wants a martini instead of a beer, he has to go to a town like Marietta, Ohio, 35 miles away. It was a terrific experience for me because the writer and I got to be really good friends in just several days. It also taught me a few things about how to look at a story from the reporter's standpoint. To give him a payoff that he might not have thought much about. My situation in that case was so unique that it became his story lead and no doubt a very catchy title for any Times reader scanning down the page. The assignment in West Virginia lasted about nine months and I was certainly ready to come back to San Francisco. I made some good friends there and the corporate guys liked what I did. But by that time I was about 36, not married yet, just bouncing around with this checkered career history.
There was still one more job in my ceaseless quest for fulfillment. And yet every one of those experiences was useful in one way or another in building my confidence for my ultimate Hewlett-Packard job. When I came back to Oakland, I was still the bottom guy in the Kaiser PR department. At that time the whole economy and industry had a big slump, actually part of the recession of 1957. So there were some of us that got laid off and I was the first. I was called into the boss' office and he said he had two things to tell me. One was that he had some good news for me. He told me they were going to give me a raise, and make it retroactive for about a half year. Then came the second thing, I was fired. It was a strange day, after my good work in West Virginia. In a way, I was glad to be first, because the layoffs from Kaiser went on for more than six months. Those that remained they were just sitting there, waiting for a call to leave, which had to be pretty stressful for that period.
During those years since Cal graduation, my good friend Bob Rubin and I had rented a 5-bedroom home in the Oakland foothills above Piedmont. I decided not to join the Army reserve, which proved smart a few years later as the Korean War started. Three other friends from Cal joined the house, and several were good cooks. They moved in and out as they got married, and situations changed. I worked in San Francisco much of the time and commuted. I had good times in those years as a single guy. I was able to satisfy my love of music when big bands played at the Golden Gate Theatre. Through that I became friends of musician Cal Tjader, and we stayed friends for life.
That's about the time when I first heard about L.C. Cole. Even though I knew some of the PR professionals around the city, I had not heard of L.C. Cole, probably because they were an advertising agency and I was doing PR. They were fairly small, but they wanted to start a public relations office to go along with their advertising expertise. There really was an L.C. Cole, Charlie Cole by name. The more important manager at Cole was Bill Haberman. Bill was a wonderful man but unfortunately got cancer later and died. Bob Orr was the Cole advertising account executive for HP, and he dealt almost exclusively with Noel Eldred for magazine ads.
They had already hired a guy to start the publicity office, but he quit for some reason. Haberman hired me and I did have some industrial experience, so I'm sure that helped with their decision. Their clients were Schlage Lock, Oronite Chemical Company, a division of Chevron; Soule Steel; and Hewlett-Packard. I remember thinking, I wonder who or what Hewlett-Packard is? I drove down to Palo Alto to meet Peter Sherrill, who ran Marketing Services, so I could get an introduction to what HP was and what they did. I also met Noel Eldred, the Marketing Manager, who was Peter's boss. Peter was an arrogant, imperious personality who was not very likable. I think he was an ex-Navy officer. The group that was reporting to Peter included Ron Whitburn who did some sales publications, and Steve Duer who managed the general catalog, among others.
At the time, HP was just one Cole client but I got to know both Sherrill and Eldred, as we worked on some writing projects. Bob Orr really had an easy job on the product advertising creation. He would come down and Eldred would hand him some spec sheets and some photographs. HP advertisements in those days were a pretty simple formula, a headline banner that said NEW!, a picture of the product, and a listing of the key specifications. And price. One of Eldred's guiding principles was that every data sheet and product advertisement must publish a price so that a customer would not have to call in a field engineer or call the local HP office. It was an uncommon industry practice.
I was supposed to write technical articles about products. I was not a engineer, and yet they figured I could write technical articles for electronic trade magazines. To say this was intimidating was a serious understatement. But I figured a way to get it done. I would go to the engineer of the product. He would normally have written some material, already prepared for the instruction manual theory section. He also often would have other material on project descriptions and how the product performed, sometimes intended for the test technicians. I would also ask for some help by asking him on the weekend to elaborate on material from an applications standpoint, using considerable flattery. If one of my articles were published, of course it would have his name on it as the author, which was a nice ego inducement, and the magazines usually paid a modest honorarium.
I can remember I did a lengthy article for Electronics magazine with Phil Hand. It was on microwave power. Phil had invented several instruments that were called microwave power meters. It was a beautiful article, that he basically wrote and I polished up. This was around 1958.
During this writing period, I became aware of the size of HP and concluded that this company was really going to go places. What happened was that L.C. Cole was assigned the task to write the 1957 HP annual report. So they gave the job to Bob Orr in advertising. Bob just didn't understand the purpose of an annual report and he wrote a strictly marketing piece. Naturally an annual report is supposed to be primarily a financial document with the products and company purpose in the background. What he came up with was incredibly bad. It was about 10 pages. It was all selling, and when the project was reviewed, Frank Cavier the financial guy, said they were not going to have that job published. It was assigned to me, to modify. I got to know Frank, and submitted an improved version. This was an important project for me because I not only got to know Cavier but I also got to know Packard.
Packard said that from then on, Kirby was doing the annual reports, so I then was assigned to create the the 1958 annual report. When the time came for the 1959 edition, we structured it around the large acquisition of the Sanborn Company, a large, prominent medical instrument company in Waltham, MA. I was still at Cole, but once I hired in at HP, my department always got the annual report job. I worked with Eldred on the marketing side of the report presentation and since they had substantial financial content with the statements and auditing, all that came from van Bronkhorst.
So, had it not been for that annual report, I might still be back at L.C. Cole working on minor PR jobs or ghosting technical articles.
Anne and I were married at St. Bridget's
Church in San Francisco
My roommate, Bob Rubin, by then was working for the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley. Several years before the games, he was putting a staff together. His job was public relations and publicity director, so he was involved with sports 24 hours a day. That was great for me because I loved sports, and the Olympic Games was a major regional promotion on the horizon. Bob said, "One day you'll want to meet my secretary, she's attractive and she just got here from Minneapolis." Unfortunately my attitude was, "Oh yeah, I'll meet her someday, there are certainly enough single women in San Francisco."
But I did meet her, and her name was Anne Nicolas. There was an impromptu dinner party hosted by my married friends, Paul and Betsy Purdom. I saw Anne playing bridge, and I was immediately taken by her looks because she was a very attractive redhead, with a beautiful fair skin. She came out here simply because she had heard about how great San Francisco was. She had attended the University of Minnesota although had not quite graduated. Even in the late 1950s, it was quite daring for a young single woman to travel across the country and relocate, without the promise of a job upon arrival. She did have a girlfriend from Minneapolis, living here, so she was able to briefly stay with her until she found an apartment and job.
We were both a little older, she was 29 and I was 35, and it might have helped too that Anne was an avid skier and like me, liked sports. She worked at the Olympic Games of 1960, so I spent time there too. We had gone to the 1959 Big Game between Stanford and Cal when it rained buckets, so there was fun in the courtship, and I proposed just after the Olympic Games.
We got married in July, 1960, and began married life in an apartment in San Francisco. Anne was working for the architecture firm, Skidmore Owings and Merrill, so it was convenient for us to remain in San Francisco. For a while I continued to commute to Palo Alto, but we finally decided to move and found a place to rent along Embarcadero in Palo Alto. That didn't last long, and we found ourselves a home in Ladera near Portola Valley, which was pretty nice. It was a really convenient commute for me, a couple of miles to HP on Page Mill Road.
Anne quit her SF job, and since we married late, we started on our family of three children. Daniel Smith Kirby, John Barclay Kirby, and Rachel Anne Kirby (Fitzgibbon), all wonderful children who have made us very proud. There are five granddaughters, and one step-grandson. Anne and I were married for 50 years, and celebrated our 50th anniversary with family and friends, shortly before she died.
I mentioned earlier that the Kirby family were great savers of family records. My grandfather in Virginia had accumulated a large cache of papers that he refused to send to my father in California, I think he feared that the California mentality would just toss out this historical material. So he moved them to Dad's spinster sisters who remained in Virginia. When they died, Dad thought the papers would come west, but instead, arrangements had been made to donate them to the Powell Library at Duke University. So Dad was again disappointed, but the deed was done. My brother and I have visited that library occasionally to look at some of the material--it turns out that there were 16 large document boxes full. In arranging the visit, they bent over backwards to please us. As we arrived at the Duke campus gate, the police already knew we were coming and greeted us as Mr. Kirby, pretty unexpected. We browsed through some and ran the local Xerox for quite a time to bring some home.
Dave Packard and NY Stock Exchange President
G.Keith Funston, talk to the HP Specialist.
Most people can recall media news showing brand new companies and their public ceremony that always accompanies their listing of their new company stock onto the New York Stock Exchange. Their management team gathers on this high balcony as the trading day opens. Short speeches are made and the CEO is given some sort of symbol that recognizes their new Exchange membership and ability to be publically traded.
HP had started in 1939 as a sole partnership between Dave and Bill, and remained that way until 1947, when they incorporated as a "closed corporation," with just Dave and Lucile, Bill and Flora as shareholders. By the time that HP annual revenues grew to $25 million in 1957; they decided to go public. Hewlett-Packard stock was first offered November 16, 1957, on the Pacific Stock Exchange for $16.00 a share. Previous to this, Dave and Bill had shared some of the company success by offering shares of equity to key managers by setting up several associated companies, named PAECO and DYMEC. But finally, in 1961, they determined that they would move from the PSE to be listed on the NY Stock Exchange (Big Board). It was considered a prestige trading floor, and the entry requirements to the Big Board showed that the new member corporation had arrived.
For this symbolic occasion, on March, 17, 1961, Packard chose a team of key managers to gather in New York to be with him on the introduction day. I went along as the PR representative, even though I still worked for L.C. Cole. Hewlett Packard knew New York City well, because large contingents of marketing and field sales people met there every spring for the National IEEE Show, held at the NY Coliseum at Columbus Circle. Most of these large groups of people stayed at the nearby Essex House, a high quality hotel at the Southwest corner of Central Park. It is now a Marriott Hotel. So it was logical to house the stock event visitor team at the Essex House in Midtown even though the NY Stock Exchange was in the Financial District, almost 5 miles downtown. The NYSE tradition was for the new company to ring the opening bell at 9:30am, and buy 100 shares of one's own company stock.
In the morning, with adequate time allowed for getting down to the financial district, Packard casually decided that it would be more expeditious if the group just took the subway downtown. That would have been a great idea, and a different experience, except that no one told him that a change of subway lines was necessary, probably down near Penn Station. In any event, the entire group got lost, partly because as visitors to New York, no one had taken those particular subway lines. The upshot was that the HP party missed the opening day trading event, and arrived about an hour late. It was no big loss, because the actual starting of HP trading didn't result in any mad scramble for buying HP stock. It started at about $16 per share, and if I remember correctly, it stayed there for some months. The period around 1960 had been in a mild economic recession, so high tech wasn't very popular for another year or so. Packard never mentioned that suggestion again.