It is possible, grandchildren, that I may not have the time or energy to set down the details of my even more adventurous second quarter century; therefore, in this “epilogue” I shall simply summarize the events that led me all over the world and into a truly “golden” retirement. Some of you might protest, “You have lots of time, Papa Con!” but I am approaching seventy years of age and much of the time left my beloved Phyllis and I intend to devote to us and to the travelling we would like to do.
My entire life has been full of adventure that I would like to record in detail later as Part III of my story. Meanwhile, I hope that you have found the tales of my first quarter century interesting and perhaps amusing in places. The following is but a bare summary outline of the events that led me all over the world and finally here to the peace and quiet of Sandy Point in the Pacific Northwest.
It took me two years to make the adjustment to civilian life in peacetime. I first took a job at Meir & Frank in Portland, Oregon, selling ladies shoes. That was not satisfying and did not last.
|Conrad Frieze, graduation from OSC 1949|
I then got a job in Vancouver, Washington at the courthouse as a draftsman for the county assessor. During that two-year period, I realized one of my dreams—on the veteran’s G.I. Bill I started flying lessons and by 1948 it was time to complete my final year of college. The University of Washington was over-crowded with returned veterans on the G.I. Bill and housing was hard to find in Seattle. I settled on Oregon State College in Corvallis and in June of 1949 graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with an Aeronautical Option.
My ambition was to be in the light plane industry as a designer; however, none of the light plane companies were hiring engineers. It was a bad year in general aviation. Then one day I spotted the new, swept-wing sleek Boeing experimental B-47 jet bomber sitting on the apron at Boeing Field. I was entranced, applied for a job at Boeing, and was accepted as a junior engineer.
That began my lifetime career with Boeing. It got off to a slow start. I was put to work in the Tooling Department designing riveting jigs for the B-47. It was not what I wanted. Every day without fail I would stick my head into the cubbyhole office of Stan Little, the engineering representative and say, “Stan, when the hell are you going to get me a job in Flight Test?”
Wichita Flight Test
1950 – 1953
In February of 1950, my persistence paid off. I got my job in Flight Test on the condition that I would go to Wichita, Kansas, for eighteen months to help set up the B-47 flight test program down there. I was assigned as a flight test Operations engineer, planning test flights, obtaining and analyzing data, and writing test reports.
Except for being in the relative desolation of Kansas from the green mountains and ocean of the Pacific Northwest, it was a dream job. In Wichita, I worked with a happy-go-lucky bunch of flight test engineers and test pilots who would become life-long friends.
I did not stay eighteen months in Wichita—I stayed three years, three months, and six days. As the program built up I received regular promotions until I was a Flight Test Operations Engineer A and the lead engineer on the B-47 flight loads program. Brian Wygle was the pilot, Ross Patrick the co-pilot, and I was the test engineer recording data while we flew the No. 2 B-47A to the limits of its structural design.
On February 19, 1951, I became a father. Our little daughter Stephanie Kathryn was born. Like most men I had hoped for a son, but Stephanie was adorable and was the apple of my eye. I was a proud father and assumed a son (or sons) would come later. (I was dead wrong. It became apparent that Shirley had a great dread of getting pregnant and she instituted a strict regimen of birth control. I accepted the situation, but I fear it laid a brick in the wall that would grow between us.)
[There is plenty that I can fault my mother for, but in her defense, I will tell you what she told me. She told me that she had two miscarriages before having me and that after having successfully delivered me her doctor told her that further pregnancies would be a danger to her life. My mother has a tendency to hear whatever is most dramatic and may have exaggerated her doctor’s advice. It would not be the last time. I spent a childhood (and my adult life) wishing I had siblings so my father wasn’t alone there and adoption seemed to be out of the question.]