logoWhat would I be?spBy Ed Anderson


About age four, 1946 or thereabouts, my father invested in a wind-generator, and had the house wired up for electricity, the first house to have "electric" in the neighbourhood. However, it didn't last too long. One night the wind blew long and hard, and we had the best light we'd ever had. Then - Crash! Down came the wind-generator, never to return to its former glory. No wonder, in those days, wind-generators didn't have any feathering mechanisms to protect them from over speeding during high wind conditions.

At that time I saw an opportunity to take over the small shed that housed the batteries because it would no longer be needed for that purpose, so I made a sweet shop (candy store) out of it. I bought some sweets (candy) from Willie Best and solicited business. Problem was I had only a few customers, my own family. They didn't buy much and they didn't like my prices! I had to charge them more than market price, obviously, to make a profit. Based on the market conditions at that time, I went out of business, and had to eat my stock- which wasn't much anyway. Then I went off to school and my entrepreneurial spirit went into hibernation.

I didn't have too many role models in the early years. My granddad gave me no encouragement in his line of work. He thought school teaching was the thing to do. My dad didn't encourage me either into the fruit and vegetable business. He wished for something better for all his children. However, both my dad and granddad did show me how to get out, meet people and talk to them.

When I started reading the week-end and Sunday papers around age eleven, I noticed a lot of ads for the services, and you could send in for brochures, using a postage-paid form. It wasn't long before I had colourful brochures on Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines. All of them showed the peacetime good life, with no Dunkirk evacuations or Normandy invasions. False advertising? Didn't take me long to figure out what those bayonets on the ends of the guns were used for, and I did not wish ever to be shish-kebabed. I found it tempting to want to join for 20 years and come out with a big pension, but I fought the temptation off. I was determined to find something safer to do, with less spit and polish, and where I had more control of my destiny. How about the Merchant Marine? I set that one aside also, because I didn't exactly like being on a boat, and especially for six-months or more at a stretch. To my personal safety requirements, I added dry land requirement.

After school, I would go to Library. I must have read every travel book there. It was fun to dream about far away places, such as the South Pacific, etc. "KonTiki" was one of the books. Being a beach bum sounded good, but I didn't like the idea of being so far away, and not having a reliable source of income. To my requirements I added "steady income."

When I was about fifteen, the advanced mathematics teacher at school , Mr Roland Turner, gave us a one-hour career and course guidance session. He quickly introduced us to the "process of elimination". With our help he put all the careers we could think of on the blackboard and grouped them into different boxes. Then for each group, he told us what courses we needed to take the following year. Was I going to be a doctor, dentist or vet? No way! Looking at and smelling a sheep's lungs in a formaldehyde solution in a Biology Lab had once reduced me to looking like a white sheet! Was I going to study languages and be involved in government or international commerce? Probably not. When he was halfway through, the teacher warned us. "You have to find at least one box on this board that you want to pursue, or you might find yourself unemployed." I squeezed myself into the "engineering" box. I was good at math and science. There was always a need for engineers. They did things that were worthwhile, and they were respected.

Mr. Roland Turner

Mr. Roland Turner

My parents told me about someone up the road having a good job working at the Post Office in their telephone branch. Sounded like that was the job for me, so I signed up for courses that would lead me in that direction. About the only thing that was different from the rest of the science students, was that I took the extra course, engineering drawing.

AAt school I looked up to some of the older students. I remember David McCann, son of the "lemonade man." I would play football in the quadrangle at lunch time and he would too. He was a Prefect and would collect the tickets at the lunch hall, and take turns at the gate, checking who was late and who wasn't wearing their caps. David was a good guy, and took the time out to talk to me. When I found out that he had won a scholarship to go to University and was going to study engineering, I asked him about it and he simply said to "keep working at it, and you'll get one too." I wasn't as confident. Just in case, I applied for engineering scholarships with the Post Office and A.E.I. out of England, and interviewed with them, but with no success. This motivated me even more to go to University, without their scholarships. When I was seventeen, I was ready, and sat for the advanced level senior certificate, surprising myself by winning a county scholarship to university. Of course I had to wait until I was 18.

At University, the first two years in engineering were general, then we specialized. I chose electronics, because that was the "in" thing and some friends were doing that. Later on, after graduating, I learned that the electronics field was always changing, hard to keep up with, and most things you designed would be improved upon, or copied, and made in some other country, like Taiwan. Straight after graduation, I joined General Electric in the U.S.A., in their manufacturing program. Within two years I knew manufacturing was not for me and transferred into technical sales and service, the career I remained in for the rest of my working life.

Knowing what you're NOT going to be is a very important part of determining one's career. Having just one role model and a word of encouragement here or there is all it takes sometimes for the other part.