I was born as a very small child. I’ve always wanted to say that, but it isn’t really true. I was ten and a half pounds at birth and the doctor told my mother that, “When you’re ready to go home, TK will be ready to leave and start school.” It’s funny that he called me TK back then, since that is what I ended up being called in the Navy. More on that later.
I was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada in October of 1949 to an American mother and a Canadian father. My mother’s family had moved up to Canada during the war, where my grandfather ran a plywood factory that made plywood for the Mosquito bombers that were being built in the Toronto area. They housed RAF pilots that were in Canada to train with the planes before heading back to the war. I don’t know much about my father. He was killed by a drunk driver when I was three, leaving me, my sister Barbara and Mom to make our way. My mother then moved us back to the United States where she met my first stepfather a couple of years later. They married when I was five and had my sister Elizabeth a year later. Over the next twelve years, we moved a lot as my stepfather was a plant engineer and was getting opportunities to build new plants for companies all around the U.S. By the time I was to graduate from high school, we were living in Fremont, Ohio and I had another sister, Amanda, and a brother, Daniel. Five kids total in the family.
We weren’t poor, but we were a long way from rich. I was brought up to believe that, if you wanted something, you should work to earn it so I shoveled snow, chopped and stacked firewood, cut grass, washed windows and delivered newspapers, basically anything a kid could do to earn a few bucks. I also sold greeting cards and seeds door-to-door, my entry into “professional “ sales. When I turned thirteen, I got a job as a porter at the yacht club in town. Actually, porter is just a fancy name for janitor, because I emptied trash, cleaned bathrooms and mopped every afternoon after school and every Sunday, I stripped the wax off of the dining rooms and bar area and rewaxed and buffed the floors. It was good training for life.
The summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school, I got a job at the Heinz plant in town working from 6pm to 6am six to seven days a week. I was in heaven, making over $2 an hour! I suddenly had money, but no time to spend it. During that summer, I worked every area of the plant from unloading tomato trucks to running a forklift in the warehouse. I couldn’t figure out why they kept moving me from job to job, but it wasn’t boring. I found out the next year when I came back for a job and was given an assistant foreman’s position in the bottling and canning area. All that really meant was that I relieved everyone else for their breaks and was a part of the cleanup crew when the shift was done, Most important was the big money. I made over $3 an hour and I bought my first car. I paid $50 for a 1959 Fiat 1200, a cracker box on wheels with a four-speed on the column that could hardly get out of its own way, but it was mine.
I graduated from high school in 1967 with very little thought as to what I would do with my life from that point onward. My years at Heinz had taught me that I wanted to earn my living with my mind and not my back and I knew I wanted to do something with electronics and computers, but I didn’t know what. President Johnson was escallating the Vietnam war at the time and every red blooded young man was being drafted, so when a friend joined the Navy, I went down to join the Marines. I thought I was pretty tough at the time, having played football and wrestled, but the Marine recruiter wasn’t in the office and the Navy recruiter was, so I ended up in the Navy. Let’s just say his true calling was in sales.
I left for boot camp in December of 1967, a most pleasant time to visit Great Lakes, Illinois. I can’t remember being that cold before that time or after, but I made it through as a platoon leader in our training company. Our first company commander was a Chief that used to get drunk and come to the barracks in the middle of the night to make us miserable. He taught us to do a lot of things wrong until the Navy caught onto him and replaced him with an E6 Storekeeper who got us straightened out. By the way, I got my draft notice while in boot camp. After boot camp, I moved just up the road to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and started my Electronics training. I graduated as an ETR and was sent to “C” school in Valejo, California for crypto school. This was a communications school which was weird, because I was a radar technician, but I went and learned about the secure radio and was then sent to the fleet.
My first ship was the USS Coral Sea, CVA-43, and old attack carrier out of Alameda, California. Shortly after I got there, we left for my first WESTPAC tour where we sat off of the coast of Vietnam and sent planes in to bomb sites and to support ground operations. There was another Richardson in the ET division and they would call his name first at muster. I guess they got tired of saying, “Richardson, R.E. then Richardson, T.K.” so I became just TK and it stuck for the rest of my Navy days. We were gone for ten and a half months, but I got to see two parts of Japan, Hong Kong, Guam, Singapore, the Philippines, the Sunda Straights going into the Indian Ocean and six glorious days in Sydney, Australia before we came back. Quite a lot of experiences for a kid from Ohio.
I won’t go into everything that happened on that cruise, or this long story will turn into a book, but I did cross the equator and was duly initiated into the Loyal Order of Shellbacks. In fact the Captain positioned the ship using GPS on the equator and we were able to swim across it. At least that’s what he told us.
When we arrived back in San Francisco Bay, it was fantastic, fire boats, yachts of all types and sizes welcomed us and our families lined the Golden Gate Bridge dropping flowers on us. A lot different from the way we were greeted later in the Vietnam War. I went on leave for a couple of weeks and had orders waiting for me when I got back, sending me to San Diego and the USS Ticonderoga, CVS-14 an even older anti-submarine carrier. I spent the next three plus years on the Tico, making several WESTPAC cruises and picking up the two final Apollo capsules and the first Skylab mission capsule. When they were going to decommission the Tico, they were giving early outs to just about everyone, except me. Me they sent to the AJAX, a repair ship stationed in San Diego, where I would spend my last four months of service. It was these four months that convinced me not to stay in the Navy. I loved the work, but I had just gotten married and I saw what long absences could do to marriages, so when my enlistment was over, I got out and went to San Jose State University for electrical engineering.
My lovely wife Sharon and I set up housekeeping in Campbell, California. I went to school all day, carrying a full load of classes and worked each night until 11:30 pm to help pay the bills. I also tutored Algebra between classes to make a few extra bucks. In all, it almost killed me and I made one of my many mistakes and dropped out of college in my third semester to work full time. (I ended up finishing my degree when I was fifty years old.) I bounced around for a few years, trying to find myself, selling real estate until I figured out that electronics was a love and I wanted to be selling technology based products. I applied to companies that I had come to know in the Navy and ended up going to work for Tektronix, Inc. as a bench technician in Santa Clara, CA. I still wanted sales, but I figured that I would learn their products by fixing them and I was right. Ten months later the company came to me and asked me to go into sales for them and I accepted, becoming a Sales Engineer in the Portland, OR area. I spent twenty years with TEK in sales and sales management, getting moved every three to four years as opportunities for advancement opened up. We lived in Oregon, Illinois, Texas, Florida and Toronto, Canada with TEK. My last position was National Sales Manager for their Measurement Business Group for Canada. I retired from TEK in 1997, and have worked for several companies since, mostly in the Bay Area of California. I managed to choose companies with shaky funding that released me when the money ran out. After the third time, I decided that if anyone was going to lay me off, it should be me and I started a manufacturer’s representative business in the Pacific Northwest covering Oregon, Washington and Idaho. After two years, things were going very well, but one of my manufacturers came to me offering too much money to turn down and I went to work for them as their VP of North American sales. I covered Canada, Mexico and the US plus most of South America. I hired, fired and trained distributors and reps in these areas and grew the volume business 70% in the first year and profits by 35%, but too much money was going into engineering to fix old products and I was let go in the fall of 2006 shortly after I had a stroke.
In September of 2007, my left side started twitching and it ran down my arm and leg. I was driving at the time and didn’t think too much about it, but my wife was out of town with my daughter at the time and both of them thought something was wrong after talking to me on the phone. When my wife got home, I went to the doctor and ended up having an MRI that confirmed that I had a stroke, but I was very lucky. The results of the stroke are minimal. I still function pretty normally, I did lose my golf stroke and I can’t play the guitar as well as I used to, but if that’s all I have to give up, I’m way ahead of the game.
Sharon and I celebrated 36 years of marriage and we have one beautiful daughter, Kelley, who works for the USDA in Salinas, California. She has her PhD from Oregon State in plant genetics and loves what she does, lucky girl!
This has gone on way too long, with a lot of rambling. Of course, it is only the tip of the "Tim iceberg."