Friday, February 27, 2004

Summer, 1965

We went to Jackson, Mississippi, to spend the summer between George Rodney’s graduation from State and his beginning graduate school at LSU.

He had a job at an oil company, whose name I have now forgotten. It might have been American. They had some rules for employees that would probably not be tolerated in this more PC age. For example, they kept a close watch on their employees’ personal financial lives. They reasoned that these people were spending large sums of the company’s money and if they were personally undisciplined with money, that they would probably be the same with the oil company’s money.

This was a small office. I think there were five production engineers, and that summer they had two summer engineers. Besides George Rodney, there was a student from Mississippi College with a degree in, maybe, geology. This was the other person who was involved in the infamous search for the number of days in the year. They were working on a report that involved average oil production per day. They needed to know the number of days in the year. It was decided that in order to have a check that each of them would independently add the number of days in January to the number of days in February etc. They did that and when the answer came up 365, they looked up with goofy expressions on their faces. They decided not to tell their boss what they did.

He worked in an office in downtown Jackson on Capitol Street. Everyday they played some kind of gambling game with coins to determine who paid for the afternoon snacks. At the end of the summer they insisted that George Rodney pay for the last day’s snack since, as far as they could remember, he had eaten free all summer. I packed lunches for us to eat every day.

So every morning we left our little apartment, got on our bikes, and rode in opposite directions to our jobs. If it was raining, I rode the bus to my job at the medical center. I am ashamed to say that I worked at the computer center of the University Of Mississippi Medical Center.

When George Rodney got to the office the first day, his boss had one question for him. “DO you play bridge?” He said yes, but he should have answered yes, but badly. The office had a daily bridge game at lunch but one of the foursome had transferred and they badly needed a new player. He was it. George Rodney always had a good time but bridge was not his game. He never learned the rules for bidding, for example, he wanted to use logic to figure out how many tricks he thought his team could make and bid that. Once the whole office flew to Louisiana to the Port Charles oil fields. On the way down, he played bridge as a partner to the man who was boss over the whole region. He played very well and the man talked to him about joining the company permanently. On the way back, he was that boss’s partner again and played poorly. The job was not mentioned again.

We found a small apartment on Fortification Street about halfway between the Capitol and the university medical center. We moved in as soon as we could but the gas company could not turn the gas on for a few days. Our stove was gas so for those days we built little twig fires in the gravel parking lot to cook our food. Our neighbors felt sorry for us but we had a great time.

I worked in the computer center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. They were working on ways to predict the blood flow through the hearts of dogs. They would measure the increasing amount of dye put into the blood stream of the dog going into the heart and then measure the amount of dye going out. All this data was then sent to the computer center where the engineers there tried to develop mathematical models to predict the blood flow. It was a summer spent fitting curves using least squares on up. I have little real memory of what I did that summer and I don’t think I learned very much. Computer technology was very primitive then.

We had a little bit more money than we usually had. We decided to rent a piano and take piano lessons. Neither of us had much of a musical bent and that was soon confirmed but we enjoyed the summer.

Our apartment was very close to Baptist Hospital. My parents came and spent a night on their way to Florida. Mother did not sleep a wink because of all the ambulances she could hear throughout the night. At home, if she could hear the ambulance, she could usually figure out whom it was going for, and all she could think about were all the poor people in Jackson going to the hospital with no one knowing who they were.

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