Monday, February 8, 2010

Basic Instrumentation

It was 1956 when I was a partner with Ben Farmer in a manufacturers agency selling industrial process equipment. Both of us were members of the Cleveland Section of the Instrument Society of America. I had been a member of the Executive Board for several years. Our new President, Francis Hoag was an activist who got us involved with other technical societies. He wanted to increase or expand our educational programs. We already had a Mechanics Training Committee that offered sessions featuring speakers from the instrument manufacturing companies but the interest had been waning and participation lessening. At one of the board meetings I suggested that we start up a new program emphasizing the basics of the technology that involved the measurement and control of temperature, pressure, flow and level as encountered in the process industries. We decided to proceed with the plan. Ben thought it would be a good idea to approach Fenn College for assistance. He knew the President of the college, Mr. Brooks Earnest from his membership in the American Society of. Professional Engineers. He contacted Mr. Earnest who arranged for a meeting with a Mr. Nicholas Rimboi who was Director of the Fenn College Technical Institute which was a prominent extension of the college. Ben, Francis and I met with Mr. Rimboi to explore the idea of presenting a course in Basic Instrumentation. After agreeing to the idea, Mr. Rimboi asked us to name the instructor. Ben and Francis did not respond so I agreed to take on the job.
The first time the course was offered in September of 1956, the response was overwhelming (the highest in the history of the school); 112 registrants signed up. Two, 2 hour classes were created. They were scheduled for Friday nights which would not conflict with my sales activities. One class was to run from 6 to 8 P.M. and the other from 8 to 10 P.M. Each class was to have 16 sessions. The first semester was to serve as an introduction to instrumentation technology acquainting the students with the principles of measurement and control and the equipment employed. The second semester would expand the measurement sector and the third semester the control sector.
The students were a diverse gathering. Some were old and some were young. Their educational background varied from incomplete high school record to graduate engineer. There were electricians and pipefitters, purchasing agents and salesmen, anyone who wanted to know a bit more about the subject. Many of them had more experience than I. Fortunately for me they were all tolerant and agreeable.
The introductory course went well and most of the students stayed on for the other two semesters. To maintain the program, the first semester was offered continuously. This necessitated finding other instructors from time to time. A few of my students filled these needs when I found they were qualified. Overall the whole endeavor was a success, a pleasant one. It continued for ten years and then ended when the Technical Institute was discontinued when Fenn College was absorbed by Cleveland State University.
After some attempts to find a text that fulfilled my objectives, in 1960 I began to consider creating my own. I wanted it to match the way elementary schools present some subjects that is by adding to them as the student moves along. One of my English instructors called it "a text for suburban learning"
Providentially the opportunity arose almost magically. Representatives of the textbook sector of the American School of Chicago visited Mr. Rimboi seeking prospects for authors. When he responded by mentioning my idea, they arranged for me to meet with them that day. They asked me to provide a sample chapter plus an outline of a complete text. I already had my classroom notes which served as the basis for a chapter on Temperature and the arrangement of the course material provided the structure for the outline.
It was not long after I had net their request that Mr. Rimboi and I received an invitation to consider a contract. We became co-authors. Although he did not write a word of it, he earned the role by gathering information from manufacturers and other sources and by converting my pencil sketches to useful illustrations. He also applied the encouragement and pressure to continue. We continued the business and social relationship until his death in 1997.
The actual writing was done in the basement of my home and from start to finish took two years. My wife typed every word (6 copies). It was a tedious effort. The first hardcover edition appeared on the market in 1962. There were two printings. The second edition, also with hard cover, was published in 1966. The third edition, in soft cover, came out in 1975. Due to management changes at the publisher's offices, the fourth edition was delayed until 2005. It was greatly expanded textually and page size with colorful and explicit illustrations. By that time, I had retired from my company and my beloved wife, Anne, had died. I sought help and found two replacement coauthors. One was Tom Weedon, an engineer with broad experience in instrumentation with Diamond Shamrock and later in a consultant firm he started with a partner from Diamond. The other was my son who had joined the Franklyn W. Kirk Company in 1978. He had become proficient in explaining the principles of process measurement and control and adapting to new methods and products. With the aid and guidance of American Tech's Eric Borreson the book has become a successful effort.
At present, the fifth edition is about to appear. It is not a revision but a reformatting in response to suggestions from users to make the book "more teacher friendly". The authors are the same and the publisher's editor, Mr. Borreson remains in place. The publisher is confident that the book will continue its remarkable sales record.


When I was a little boy the world was small too.
I lived in a nice house with a stone stoop and a wrought iron fence.
Ours was a good street and did not wander from it.
There was an ice cream parlor around the corner,
and a playground on the next street.
I had a big brother, Buddy, a loving Momma and a devoted Daddy.
I had a friend named Charles who lived close by
There was another named Bobby who lived down the street.
I had a sled for the winter and a scooter for the summer.
When I was 5, I got an electric train set for Christmas.
I liked my kindergarten teacher.
What more could I want ?
Life was joyful.
When I was 6 all that changed.
We moved to a bigger house that was not as nice
On a street that was crowded and busy.
There was an old empty brewery down the street.
Our house faced the back of a Greek restaurant.
I got a baby brother, Calvin,
he was fun, sometimes.
There were a lot of kids on that street
We were all very active.
We had games to play kneeling down, using checkers and marbles
games for sitting down, like trading sports picture cards,
playing rummy and poker. We even played jacks,
(with the girls), under an awning over one of the stoops, when it rained.
We played standup games that used the two sides of the street and the roadway between them.
We played "hopscotch" variations on the sidewalk; we called one of these "potsy" and used a flattened tin can instead of a beanbag to determine our position.
Boys had a variety of games using an inflated rubber ball,
usually made by A.G.Spalding Co. There was "handball", "Chinese Handball" , "boxball", "stoopball" and "racquet ball". This was before the era of "stickball"
Then there was "hockey" played on roller skates. A chalked straight line behind a manhole cover was the goal and a used rubber heel was the puck.
The girls jumped rope and recited rhythmic jingles as they did.
They could do it with a single or double rope.
They were fun to watch.
Soon after we moved on to that street,
construction of the 14th Street-Canarsie subway line was started.
We kids ran in and around the big pipes
before they were used.
The brewery buildings were demolished,
its storage yard cleared
to make room for a 5-story apartment complex
which would occupy one half of the other side of the street.
We ran up and down the apartment stairs before they had treads.
We traversed the steel girders
that supported the structure and outlined the rooms.
We supplied the workers with soft drinks to make money.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What I did during WW2


Mr. Franklyn Kirk e-mail

Mr. Franklyn Kirk was employed by Ford Instrument Company from 1937 to 1945.

I had never heard of this Ford and had no knowledge of what they did but I did suspect they did not build automobiles. This Ford was Hannibal, not Henry. It wasn’t long after becoming a stock clerk that I learned Ford Instrument Co. made complex naval ordnance equipment. A Commander in the U.S.Navy had an office as did a Chief Warrant Officer who served as Ordnance Inspector. The stock room I was assigned to contained parts that had been inspected and accepted by the Navy and were therefore government property.

I had entered City College in January 1935, taking classes in mathematics and history but had not selected a major. I soon realized that studying engineering made more sense if I expected to advance at Ford Instrument Company. It wasn’t until 1938 that I was able to make the change. I applied for admission to The Cooper Union Night School of Engineering, passed the tests and became a freshman again. In 1939, after completing a year at Cooper Union, I appealed to the manager of the Test Department for a transfer. I was sick of being a poor stock clerk and wanted more of an intellectual challenge. It took two tries and a management change but it worked and I was granted a six-month trial. It was now late 1940 and I had become a married man. My first assignment was to the Spare Parts Section where the spare parts kits for the completed equipment were assembled, treated against corrosion, and packed into large metal boxes. It was not much of an intellectual challenge but it was part of the Test Department. Due to an incident involving the man who had rejected my first appeal, and was now General Manager, I gained notice and was reassigned to the Unit Test Section. Here I got hands-on testing experience. It was 1941.

Ford Instrument had received a contract to design and produce anti-aircraft gun drives for the 1.1” and 40mm. They included an electrical control section that operated an electro- magnetic clutch which, in turn controlled a large electric motor that would move the guns. There were two sizes of electric motors, a larger one for moving the gun mount horizontally and a smaller one for moving the guns vertically. The signal that served as the input to the gun drives was provided by a remote sighting director that was manufactured by others. We were told our gun drives were a temporary solution due to their limited operating cycle. The cork disk in the clutch had to be replaced after six hours of operation. We produced many of them; eventually the were replaced by electro-hydraulic drives made by The York Safe & Lock Co. and the single and double guns were frequently replaced by 40mm quads.

With the entry into the war, the expansion of the company was swift. In 1937 I was one of about 650 employees; at the busiest time of the war I was one of about 8500. It had become necessary to employ men and women with limited technical experience or aptitude and train them to perform unit testing. W e had our version of “Rosie the Riveter”. Her counterparts did very well. The work was tedious and the hours long but we heard few complaints. As these folks took over some of the work, others of us were able to move on to the more complex assemblies.
The most significant and important of the Ford developed products was the Mark I computer. This was an almost incredibly complicated electro-mechanical computer made up of assembled units for addition, subtraction, multiplication, vector formation, for derivative and integral development. There were about 26 input variations necessary to produce two continuous outputs to the 5” 38 caliber gun drives. The task of the test engineer was to interconnect the various units that were housed in a large cast aluminum enclosure about the size of an office desk. Static and dynamic tests were run to ensure that the computer was responsive and accurate. These tests were rerun with an attendant U.S.Navy officer serving as final approval inspector. This entire procedure might take weeks. .

In addition to the in-plant testing procedures, some of us were able to perform inspection and testing aboard ship at the many naval shipyards in the world. A few were stationed in combat areas and were transported from ship to ship by whatever means available. My own field service was limited to the Brooklyn Navy Yard when a squadron arrived for maintenance repair and service. This really made one feel as a participant in the war. I have a few special memories of these occasions. One time I worked 23 hours of one day without relief, grabbed a 4 hour nap in the Marine Barracks and then worked another 16 hours on the USS Taylor. Another time I was on the outermost ship docked downwind of the Brooklyn Bridge when it was c-o-l-d. They used to have the ships tied up three across and three in line. [Shore ? ? ? End of Dock]. A special memory is of a couple of visits aboard the USS Texas when it was docked at Pier 51 on the Hudson River (14th St. Manhattan). It was an old ship with a complement of mature CPOs including a good cook. I had one of the best corned beef and cabbage meals of my life during one of those visits. There was a Chief named McCormick in charge of the gun crews who was great to watch. He had his guys work like clockwork on his commands. We were checking a 40mm gun drive and it was very cold on deck. He used a gasoline blowtorch to warm up the cast bronze housing enough to get the drive to operate. He was a very nice guy and you could tell his men admired him. It was good to see.
There were quite a few installation and test engineers from many companies at the Navy Yard most of the time and they were generally pleasant and hard working and respectful of the crews of the ships. You could always tell when a ship had a tough engagement; the crew was subdued but friendly.

I remember being on the USS South Dakota when she returned to Brooklyn after action in the South Pacific. There were the remains of a twin 40 gun mount that had been destroyed by an unexploded enemy shell. The canvas cover was blood-stained; I felt close to the war.

There was a period late in the war when the Test Department work week was 87 hours. I remember asking for time to get a haircut.





During the Great Depression a great number of small businesses were operating in the homes of struggling families. I can recall buying shoes from a Mr. Osborne who lived in the house across from us on Putnam Avenue in Ridgewood.. His apartment was well stocked with shoes for men and boys. There was a Mrs. Graham who operated a ladies dress shop in her living room in a house in Glendale. I got my first glasses from a Mr. Schultheiss, the father of one of my brother's friends, who was operating an optometrist/optician business from his living room.
My mother joined this group when she started to make artificial flowers in our dining room. The flowers were made from Denison crepe paper following the instructions provided with the paper. She made Jonquils, Poppies, Tulips and Apple Blossoms.
The stems were made using wires wrapped with the crepe paper and the leaves were purchased parts; In the beginning of the enterprise the completed flower was dipped in hot wax but later on we abandoned that operation and offered only the paper version.
In addition to helping with making the flowers, I became the door –to- door salesman at the age of 12.. I would place the completed flowers carefully in a clothing store suit box and go to Forest Hills (the ritzy place) by streetcar and visit each house on a street asking the owner or maid to buy my flowers.
One episode that stands out in my mind occurred when the owner of a house came to the door, looked at me and the open box of flowers and said," I don't want any" and then tossed quarter into the box and closed the door. I rang the doorbell again and then when the man returned, I handed him the quarter saying" I'm not a beggar, I'm a salesman" .
He then invited me into his living room where he examined my flowers, selected a few and then gave me a dollar. I became a happy peddler . I visited that house again a month or so later and sold some

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Early enterprise

When I was a kid about 8 years old living across the street from the back of a Greek restaurant in Ridgewood- a neighborhood in Queens, New York, I learned how to earn a little money. One of the simplest ways was to stick some chewing gum on the end of a bamboo pole and then lower it into the ventilation chamber on the sidewalk in front of a store. The chamber had a metal grating at the top that allowed daylight to illuminate the basement a bit. The grating had openings big enough for the pole to be passed through it. The openings also allowed coins to fall into the chamber when they were dropped by someone standing on the grate while gazing at the merchandise in the store window. I had a friend named Willie working with me in this enterprise. We would walk along the avenue, stopping in front of each store that had a grating and then, on hands and knees, peer into the chamber looking for stray coins. If we saw any, we would lower the gum-tipped pole so that it would make contact with each one and slowly draw it up until we could separate the coin from the chewing gum. Sometimes the store owner would chase us away. We weren’t discouraged though, we would just move on to the next storefront. We must have been quite a sight, a couple of dirty little kids full of energy and enthusiasm. One afternoon we collected almost a dollar; one of the coins was a quarter. Willie and I would divide the loot.
A steadier, cleaner and more productive activity was newspaper delivery. This I did with my brother Bud who was four and a half years older than me. I was his helper. The newspaper was a weekly and we had a regular route in a section of Brooklyn adjacent to our street. Each Friday afternoon we would go to the newspaper building with a wagon to get the papers (about 200 of them) and then pull the loaded wagon about ten blocks to the first house on our route. Occasionally we would stop on the way at a bakery to buy crumb buns or a fruit store for apples or peaches that we would eat before beginning our deliveries. Bud was a great big brother and we enjoyed being together. On the last Friday of each month we were obliged to collect for the paper; most months we had to do this the next day too. The customer was charged eight cents per month but usually would give us a dime. We would turn in four cents per customer so for 200 customers we would net about six dollars a month. I did this for eight to ten years, first with Bud and later by myself. There were other opportunities to make some extra money by delivering papers to advertisers and sales outlets on Saturdays. We did this too. It became a family tradition; my younger brother, Calvin, did it too.
One day when I was about thirteen a man came into the neighborhood and offered us boys an opportunity to earn money selling magazines. As an added incentive he promised a baseball glove to any boy who would sell twenty-five of them. I took that many and went to the neighborhood where I delivered the papers and sold them all in a just a few hours. I gave the man his share of the money, pocketed the balance and then was given the baseball glove. When he asked me if I wanted to sell more magazines, I turned him down and went off to play ball.
Another short-term money-making opportunity that came to Bud and me involved the introduction of a new metal-cleaning fluid named NOXON. It came in a 12oz. can with a screw cap and was being offered for 50¢. We got 25¢ for each can we sold during the one week introductory campaign. At this time Bud was 15 and in high school; I was 10+. We were living near a rather new development of single family homes called Liberty Park; this became our territory. We would approach the front door of a house and, before ringing the doorbell, we would polish the doorknob with the NOXON. When a housewife showed up, one of us would say to her ,"look at that doorknob, we just cleaned it with the stuff in this can, would you like to buy a can for fifty cents" . More often than not, we made the sale. Unfortunately for us, the introductory program did not continue for long.

A Snappy Comeback

A Snappy Comeback

It is always very satisfying to get off a quick and well-timed response to a casual remark. I labeled these “Zingers” and am always ready to relate the occasions of their occurrence and savor the memory.
Here’s one.
I was traveling with the aggressive President (and Sales Manager) of an industrial filter manufacturer from New England (Lexington, Mass.) en route from Lakewood to Bryan, Ohio by way of the Ohio Turnpike. This man was responsible for the rapid growth of his company and singly dedicated to that activity, which means he was quite humorless. Our conversation dealt with current events, history, politics and religion, all weighty subjects. The time and miles passed smoothly and could have qualified as a mobile forum.
We had left Lakewood in mid-morning expecting to reach Bryan before noon. The distance is about 140 miles and the travel time more than two hours. My companion was getting “itchy” when we were getting close to Bryan and lunch time so to relieve his stress, I stopped at a rest area and called our prospect.
The conversation went like this, “This is Franklyn Kirk. I am with the Sales Manager of Balston and we are very close to your plant. It’s pretty near lunch time, so if you will wait a bit , we would like to take you to lunch”
“Thank you for calling and the invitation but I can’t accept it. I have some personal errands; I have to go the cleaners.”
“Just wait, we’ll take you to the cleaners after lunch”
That’s a “Zinger”.

A lazy manager

There was a company in Bedford, OH whose chief product was a dog food but when this episode took place they were canning a Russian stew called Torshunka? for shipment to that war torn country. I have included this information just to emphasize that this is a true event that happened right after WWII. With the help of my office, they had returned a process controller to the factory for repair. About a week after it had been returned to them, I received a phone call from their plant engineer telling me that the instrument had been returned and was not working . He asked me to visit the plant.
The next day I went to Bedford and stopped in to investigate their complaint. What I am about to report is absolutely true. The engineer accompanied me to the spot where the controller was installed and then left. I then opened the door of the controller revealing its internals. The inside of the case was stuffed with newspaper and some of the moveable inner parts were wrapped with string to prevent their damage during shipment. I untied the knots, removed the strings and the newspaper which I carefully unfolded and flattened. Needless to say, the controller worked fine. When the engineer returned for a report I announced,” I know what was wrong with the controller. I removed this newspaper; it's out of date, it’s from last week”.
He said,” You’re joking !”
I said,” Yes I am!” and I left.