In going away to college I had selected to major in pre-veterinary. This I did because you had to
pick something- It wasn't acceptable to just say you were going to college and you didn't know
what you wanted to do- even though in most cases that was true (and probably still is). Since I
knew I was interested in science and had been working with animals- veterinary medicine seemed
logical. That is until my sophomore year when I was simultaneously taking Biology and Physics.
I was in the middle of cutting up a frog one day and trying to draw pictures of cells under
a microscope and at the same time working on electronics in a Physics class. It was then that I
decided that the electronics (and Physics) turned me on more than the bloody frog. So I switched.
I ended up being a Physics major, which I have never regretted.
One memory I have is of a discussion I had with my Mother after I had taken a
battery of tests for entrance into college. I had gone to F&M and taken a
group of tests which indicated that I should be a forest ranger. I'm not
sure what kind of answers I gave to elicit such a response, but walking around
in the woods never was my cup of tea. I like the lights and conveniences
of the cities.
To get back to the point of this discussion, one of the
questions I was to answer (I think these questions I answered from home) was
what would you have done differently in your life if you had the chance to
do it over. Well, I came up with all kinds of changes that I figured would
impress anyone (like being quarterback of a winning football team, president
of my High School class, helping mankind, etc.- you get the point). I showed
it to my Mother. She said "Now just go back and think about- would you really
have done anything differently and was there really anything wrong with what
you DID DO?" I did go back to my room and think about it. I have to admit
it was a good introduction to introspection and conciseness. I changed my
page of answers to a simple No.
Memories of college are highlighted with the band. I was in both the marching and concert bands.
Our Director was John H. Peifer. He was a $1 a year man who loved music. He made being in the
band a great experience. My Franklin & Marshall College Band Letter from my sweater
We played great music, there was great talent in the band (I'm not sure
I always kept up with the talent), and we traveled extensively. We went to every football game-
both home and away. I did a lot of the driving of John's Station Wagon and the
tailor made trailer that carried the big instruments (it looked much like an outhouse).
The concert Band played concerts during every Spring break- no Ft. Lauderdale
or Daytona Beach for us. I remember the first tour was to New York City, one to the New Jersey area,
and one to the Pittsburgh area (which I helped plan). Part of that trip was a visit by the band
to our farm where my Mother fed everyone her special Beef Barbecue. In all a great experience.
I was the second of the Ball family to graduate from Franklin and Marshall ('58). The F&M
mascot was the Diplomat shown here:
The Diplomat for more info on F&M College Uncle Hiram preceded me graduating
in 1937. Since my going there there were four others from the family who attended
The Balls Who Attended F&M .
Henry Ball, Jr. ('63), David Landau ('64), Hiram Ball Jr. ('68), and Victoria Ball ('71). Quite
a heritage. When I went to F&M it was a men only school (women were imported on the weekends).
Cousin Victoria was one of the first women to graduate after the school went co-ed (for which
Ben and John probably rolled over in their graves).
In addition to the band I was active in the College Radio Station, WWFM.
I was as much interested in
the technology of the station as in the broadcast content. Bob Orkin R. S. (Bob) Orkin was the prime mover behind
the station and did wonders to bring it from a single room with a desk with turntables and the transmitter
to a three room complex with sound proof enclosures. George in the WWFM Studio The fellow who built the transmitter and actually
made it work was also key, but I can't remember his name.
We were part of the Intercollegiate Broadcasting
System and got support through advertising. The advertisements were on records then. I think they
were 33-1/3 speed. Most of the music was on 33-1/3 or 45 rpm records. I managed to spend some time on air
and was the Program Manager at one point. The station was a carrier current AM station which
was transmitted over the electrical systems of the dorms. Today the station
for more info on WFNM has expanded significantly
and like many others is FM. The call letters have been changed to WFNM.
At one time I was a DJ playing what was then the top 40. To keep up with the
Top 40 I remember going to the local Woolworth's in Lancaster every week to
get the 45rpm records of the hit tunes indicated by the Billboard News
Magazine. In this way I collected quite a few songs from that period (1956-58)
which are being enjoyed today by Joe Medsker, a friend who is really into the
music of that period. You name the tune and he can name the artist. Since I
used these records on the air I had them catalogued so I could get to them quickly.
One of my roommates while at F&M was Bill Kirkpatrick. He had a Scottish
background which unfortunately would come out in the middle of the night. He
would put on bagpipe music at 2:00AM and start marching back and forth in the
dorm hallway. We all got to "loving" that music. Bill had one of the first
stereo tape recorders made. I think the brand was Voice of Music (something like that)
and it was reel to reel. There weren't a lot of commercial tapes back then of
anything other than classical type music.
While in school I performed my first nonacademic electronics project. It was
a single channel sound amplifier (35 Watts I think- and there was no need for a
second channel). It was a Heathkit model which I soldered together with loving care.
Yep, it had vacuum tubes (a push-pull circuit for the final amplifier stage) and
a transformer that weighed almost as much as a modern TV. Having built the
amplifier I then needed something to feed into it and a loud speaker so I
could listen to it. Through a student discount I got a Girard turntable
that played 33-1/3 and 45rpm records. I then got a 15" coaxial speaker. For
the speaker I built a bass-reflex cabinet from plywood (about 3ft. high X
2-1/2ft. wide X 2ft. deep). I then sanded it and varnished it
about 10 times with a urethane varnish that my Dad provided. I just finally sold
the changer and amplifier last year when I made a major move to a smaller house.
One reason I bring up the building of the amplifier was to introduce a story
about my Dad. After I built the amplifier he decided that he would build an
AM/FM tuner/amplifier from Heathkit. It was while I was away at school. On
one of the vacations from school I was home and he showed me what he had built,
but mentioned that it wouldn't work. He asked me to look it over. I got out
the Heathkit schematic, opened up the radio and started to look. I have to
admit it took me a while to figure out why all the connections were wrong. It
turns out that he had wired everything in "reverse". Schematics show you what
the wiring looks like from a worms eye view. He had wired it assuming a birds
eye view. Needless to say it was a little embarrassing and a pain in the posterior
to rewire (it had to be disassembled first). Needless to say I always checked
the perspective on a schematic diagram after that (a good lesson for me at his expense).
During the summers I returned to the farm. I worked on the farm some but also
went to Pitt (the University of Pittsburgh) for more info on Pitt
to take German (which wasn't one
of my better subjects at F&M) and to take Organic Chemistry. In this way I
still majored in Physics but was able to also emphasize chemistry. Between my
2nd and 3rd and 3rd and 4th years at F&M, while going to Pitt, I also worked in
the lab at Ball Chemical Company. This gave me a lot of good practical
Speaking of Chemistry, I made it through the General Chemistry course at F&M through
the considerable help of my sister Ann. At that point she had already had quite a
bit of Chemistry. I came home for Christmas vacation (which was before the end
of the semester break) and was working on Redox equations with some difficulty.
Ann drilled me for many hours until I finally got them in hand. I think I would
have had difficulty passing the course without the help.
I remember that this was about the time that latex paints were
being introduced. One of my jobs was to determine how the various pigments
used in the old oil based paints worked in the latexes. I used a Waring Blender
for the mixer which was to duplicate the Cowels Disperser. I was looking not only for
color, but also whether the pigments stayed suspended. Some sank to the
bottom in short order, while others stayed suspended. Surfactants helped in
a few cases. If the pigments seemed Ok in terms of suspension, I painted
a film, let it dry and measured its color. This was with the old 3 point
measurement on a "Color Eye" matching against a reference. It probably took
about a half an hour to take a measurement (of three points on the wavelength
vs. intensity curve. Today that could be done in less than a minute continuously
over the visible spectrum. It was good training, however.
Another eating experience comes to mind during that period. It doesn't
exactly fit into the gourmet category, but I enjoyed it. Every week day
during the summer I drove in to Pitt and went to class. I left school around
noon to head for work at the lab. Just across the bridge over the Allegheny
River was a Park-N-Eat Big Boy restaurant. It got so that when they same me
drive in, they threw a Big Boy on the grill. That along with some
cole slaw and a drink was my daily mid day sustenance. As some people
crave White Castle burgers I craved the Big Boys and their Tarter Sauce every
now and then.
I graduated from F&M in June 1958 and drove almost directly to Louisville, Kentucky
where I went on to the University of Louisville for more
info on the University of Louisville. I had an assistantship working in the
Engineering Physics Department of the Speed School. Most significantly, I did my thesis work
under Dr. J. S. "Shorty" Long Shorty Long who was head of the Paint Research Institute located at the
University and Manuel Swartz, Head of the Speed Engineering Physics Dept.
The importance of this was that my Father G. L. Ball Jr.
had done his Masters work under "Shorty"
Long at Lehigh University a number of years earlier.
My Fathers venture with "Shorty" was most
successful resulting in a patent which had significant commercial value. My venture with
"Shorty" was not as lucrative, but I did manage to meet the objectives laid out by "Shorty"
and got a publication from the thesis work [A REF]. Although I didn't pursue a patent the
results of the work were used and are still used today- i.e. using open celled flexible urethane
foam as a sound absorbing medium.
While at U of L I decided to practice interviewing, expecting that some day I may want a job.
In the course of this practice, I ended up with an offer from a department of Monsanto Chemical
Company located outside Boston, Mass. It sounded great. I'd being doing what I wanted and get
paid for it- Who could ask for more. I expected that I would work there for a couple of years.
Thirty six years, hundreds of Research and Development projects, and hundreds of publications
[A REF] later I finally retired from Monsanto (through a quirk I actually retired from EG&G Mound
Applied Technologies). Note that I retired from that job, not that I retired for good.
My first job with Monsanto for more info on Monsanto took me to Boston. I moved to an apartment in Medford, Mass. I ended up becoming
active in Medford through Masonic organizations (Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, and the Shrine) and
the Medford Lions Club George at Lions Convention in Atlantic City 1961 . Those associations provided me with long time friends, especially Bill
Ring Bill's wife Gail
and Rose Dickerson Rose . Bill died a few years ago, but Rose still makes her mark in
Massachusetts and Florida.
While in the Lions Club I was active on the board and one year I ran the "Light Bulb and Tea" sale.
That was a major project and set the tone for my future activities in public service. It also
set the tone for my participation in Service Club activities such as State and International
conventions- Lots of work- But lots of Fun. Being a bachelor I had the freedom and resources to
attend many of the conventions. My friend Bill Ring also usually participated. I learned a lot
about Roberts Rules of Order, which I well regard to this day. I started through the "Line" of
the Masonic Lodge while there, but that was cut short at the Junior Warden level by a move out of town in 1965.
My work at Monsanto involved mainly government contract supported Research and Development. I
functioned as a Research Polymer Physicist George in the Lab for more info on George's Job History .
One of my long term goals was to get a
patent, emulating my Father. This I did in a much shorter time than I had expected. My first two
patents involved liquid dielectrics that were operable up to 500 degrees C. These were composed
of chlorinated Biphenyl's (those infamous PCB's that today are banned from use).
for more info on George's Patents
My first big project was one with the Navy to develop a vibration damping material to reduce
the noise output of Navy ships. This project was most successful resulting in a compound that
to this day is still the state of the art. It takes the steel hulls of ships and makes them acoustically
equivalent to cork with little added weight.
This material is now used in aircraft, cars, buildings,
and the principle has been applied to safety glass. I got three patents on these. As with the
earlier patents, my net direct benefit from them was 5 silver dollars each. Of course, my reputation
was enhanced by them, but they belonged to Monsanto and the government had royalty free rights
to them, since they had paid for the research. The development was recognized in a Monsanto Corporate Ad
in 1965 published in Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. Vibration Damping Material Corporate Ad
My work in Boston introduced me to traveling. Much of the travel was to
Washington, D.C., so I spent a lot of time on the shuttles. They were
convenient; you just went to the airport and one left every half hour. My
travels also took me all over the country. Most of these were on contracts
and meetings associated with the work. I also was involved in ASTM committees
and as Chairman of Section I of D-20 I traveled to those usually quarterly meetings.
The ASTM work I did initially for Dr. Lucius Gilman, my first boss in
Monsanto (He just died in 1998). The section involved dynamic mechanical properties which was
always of great interest to me.
One thing that happened as a result of my traveling was that I started to collect
mice (actually Meeces- mice with human personalities). My first meece came
from the Pittsburgh airport. His name is Floyd and he has been the mainstay
of my Meeces colony. Since then I have collected hundreds of meeces. Right
now they are hibernating since I haven't found room for them in our new home.
Suffice it to say they are comfortable.
Memories of Boston would not be complete without bringing up Andre' Sigourney,
Andre' a friend who lives
on Nahant. He had a sail boat (30+ ft) in Boston Harbor which we sailed in often. Bill Castro
and I were responsible to make sure that girls were on each voyage. As you can imagine getting
them to go was a difficult challenge (Ha). I also acted as cook, usually preparing swordfish
and baked potatoes before the cruises. Beer, peanut butter and crackers were always aboard
the boat. It was during this period that I discovered that potatoes could explode in the oven.
One way to make mashed potatoes if you're willing to scrape them off the oven walls.
Andre' was a purist- meaning that he didn't believe in a motor on a sail boat. That meant that we had no
idea when we would get back from a cruise. Some lasted an hour, others 12 hours. For Andre'
getting to work didn't seem to be an issue, but the rest of us did need to show up for work. More
than once we had to row in to the shore in a dingy and hitchhike back to town in the middle of
the night. A submarine we tangled with
in Boston Harbor just before running aground in Andre's sailboat
While living in the Boston area I spent some time almost every day at the ocean. I lived in Medford which was
about 15-20 minutes away. Friend Bill Castro lived in Winthrop on the Boston Bay. We hung out there
and at Revere Beach. A favorite haunt was Bill Ashes. Memories are of pizza by the slice (dripping with
olive oil), fried Ipswitch clams (with bellies intact), and Kelly's Roast Beef sandwiches. Submarine sandwiches
were a staple in that period- my favorite was Italian with extra olive oil and hot peppers. Santoro Subs was the source,
especially the one in the dump at Everett, Mass. George with
Bill Castro on Andre's sailboat Andre's crew getting ready to row to the boat
It was at Bill Ashes on Revere Beach that I learned the power of good advertising. As a joke I told Rose (above)
that I would help her social life by putting her phone number on the men's room wall at Bill Ashes. Never did I
suspect the fantastic response. By the time I got home that night, Rose had received at least a dozen phone
calls (that is at least before she took the phone off of the hook). I, of course, received one phone call just
as I arrived home. At the other end was someone shouting "Get my %$#@^ name and phone number off of that wall".
I'm not sure if it was location or the sales pitch (you make your guess on what the pitch was) that created
the success, but I was warned not to try it again. Some people have no sense of humor.
In the Boston area, it seemed you were into either going to the Cape (Cod- and the salty air) or to the North Shore and New Hampshire.
Where I lived most of my friends went North and that was my preference. Consequently I spent quite a bit of
time in New Hampshire, especially with my friend Bill Ring. This was mainly to his place and his Dad's place
on lakes in New Hampshire. I also went skiing a few times, but I mainly watched from the bar. I had learned my
lessons about going downhill uncontrolled on my bicycle on that famous hill in the Village. [Ref Chpt 1]
Chapter 4 ..Busting Some Balls
In 1965 I moved to Dayton, Ohio at the request of Monsanto so we could consolidate the R&D on plastics in one lab.
Indeed there was a degree of culture shot having just spent 5 years in the Boston area, but the work was doing
what I loved most. My work at the Dayton Lab of what eventually became Monsanto Research Corporation included
all kinds of applications of plastics funded by government contracts, mainly.
========= to be revised and continued as George gets to it =========