“We have to watch him constantly… He takes things apart and puts them back together, turns knobs and pushes buttons, and mimics the other kids…” Such was my mothers account of my first years of life experimenting with my new world, discovering how things work.
I was born at the end of the 1950s in Burbank, California, not too far from Disney Studios. I was a big boy, being 3 weeks late, I weighed 11 lbs, 8 oz. I shared the title of ‘new arrival’ with a big Amana upright freezer which was standing by the Christmas tree when mom and I came home from the hospital. I was a child in the 1960s, a time of amazing drive and development; Apollo, Boeing 747, Supersonic Transport, to name a few. But my world was much smaller at the time.
What characteristics did I exhibit those first few years; where was my interest? My mother continued, “He would move anything that could move. At the age of two, Kenny was such a busy little guy, turning things on and off, like the water taps.” Why did I do this? Was I fascinated with water itself, or just thirsty; did I like to see the water magically appear at the turn of the handle or disappear down the mysterious hole; or was it the sound made as it expelled from the faucet or the predictable motion as it swirled down the drain?
As a minor I learned about material properties. Stingray bicycles were popular with banana seat and high handlebars. I became very proficient riding down our slightly inclined road with no hands. I was demonstrating this skill to my friends one day oblivious to the parked car in my path. I hit the car and received bruises to body and ego. Like a bowling ball plowing through two remaining pins for a spare, my two handlebars were no match for the kinetic energy of my body; they sheared right off — Did you know that welded soft-metal handlebars are never as good as the original?
And who did the welding? My dad was a handyman, my mom was busy with handicrafts; both were very service minded. My father made cabinets and furniture for a living. I enjoyed visiting his shop, examining the machines and tools, and learning how to read blue-prints (architectural drawings). On occasion dad would take me with him to help him measure a job. I became very comfortable with hammer, measuring tape, and basic carpenter tools. As a cub scout I made a small catapult; when at home, I worked on my tree house. My dad taught me how to work. Thanks Mom and Dad for a great start. Such are the clues that may have steered me toward engineering…