Chapter 11, Section 1
Go East, Young Man, Go East
At one time, I had thought Iíd stay at USC the rest of my working days, but with a changed situation there, I began to change my mind, and reconsider James Gibsonís offer to join the staff at the National AudioVisual Center in Washington, DC. Darlene was willing, but we hadnít discussed such a major move with Greg. He was a junior at Culver City High School. We were afraid such a change would be a traumatic experience for him. Would he be really unhappy about the move? He wouldnít be able to graduate with his senior class, and he would miss his friends, we knew that!
"No," Greg had said, "it wonít bother me. It might be a great experience!"
"Are you sure?" we had kept asking.
** Note from Greg -- I do remember them asking and I do remember saying OK. They never let me live this one down. They would always say "you wanted to move here". Did they ask several times? That I don't remember, but in any event, I don't regret moving there because I met my wife Rhonda and some of my best friends. Did I like it there? Not a chance and not a minute. (-:Several times we had asked the same question. Heíd insisted that it wouldnít bother him, and that he didnít have really deep attachments in Culver City. We were never quite sure whether he just wanted us to feel good about the move or he really meant that he didnít mind leaving Culver City. We kept worrying that later heíd be sorry and blame us for any problems he had.
Glenda, our oldest child, had already left the "nest," on June 15, 1968, when she had married Doug Calhoun.
Glenda Darlene McMurry, in the Beautiful Dress She Designed and Made--a Lovely Bride
Douglas Kent Calhoun in his Navy Uniform--a Handsome Groom
They were now happily settled at the Kingsville Naval Air Station in Texas. After Doug earned his wings, he became a flight instructor. When we went to visit them, he had given me a thrill by taking me up in a T-A4 plane.
Glenda and Doug at the Navy Air Station
In the spring of 1969 when this family picture was taken for our church directory, there were only four of us left at home. Actually, Jean wasn't really at home except in the summer. She was ready for her senior year at Redlands University and then she would be on her own.
"Glenn," Gibson said. "Iím sorry. I had to bring another person as my Chief of Information. I figured you had decided to stay at USC. However, the Chief of Distribution position is still available. Do you want it, and can you report by July the first?"
Later I learned why the July 1st date was important. That was the date the contract with DuArt Films would end. Until then they had been the government film distribution agency. On that date, the new National AudioVisual Center was to take over the film distribution duties. Actually, I felt I was more qualified for the distribution job than the information job.
"Jim, Iíll take the job. Iím sure I can work things out to be there on time. However, Greg and Darlene may have to come later. I do have a previous commitment in August at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. It is the last of a series of symposiums on audiovisuals sponsored by the U.S. Office of Education. Could you let me attend this final meeting?"
Gibson thought a few moments and then agreed that I could take the time off to go to Norman. Iím sure he was thinking about how busy Iíd be about then, just getting things organized at the Center. However, he was always the kind of person who would do all he could to accommodate his employees.
So I accepted the new job and notified the USC officials I was leaving. My next step was to call a real estate agent and get our house on the market.
Greg wanted to stay until the end of August so he could go on a trip with the "New Generation" singers. He had been with the group for some time and really enjoyed singing with them. Jean needed a place to stay until her school started. Some time was needed to make contract arrangements with the University of Maryland computer facilities so Darlene could continue her United States Information Agency (USIA) job. She had started this project at USC.
In order to accommodate all family members, we came up with a rather complex plan. I would go in our pick-up and pull our trailer. Darlene, Jean and Greg would live in one of our apartments until the end of August. The one that was vacant happened to be unfurnished. We would move enough of our furniture into it so that afterward we would have a furnished apartment to rent. As usual, our piano became a problem. Then we thought of our friends, the Blumes, who now lived in Redlands. They said they would be thrilled to have it in their home until we could send for it. Mary Blume even thought sheíd like to take piano lessons.
During those weeks of planning and packing, my brother Junior died. That meant a sad trip to Hutchinson for me. That also meant that Darlene was left alone for several days with all the moving plans. However, I knew she was a good organizer.
Darlene continued to arrange lists and/or piles of belongings: (1) Items to be sold at the yard sale with leftovers to be given to Goodwill. (2) Furniture to be taken to the apartment. (3) Items to be packed in the trailer. (4) Heavy articles like our cedar picnic table to be loaded in the Chevy pickup. (5) And, lastly, necessary things she, Greg, and Jean would need at the apartment during their stay there. Of course, each of us had to pack our own personal belongings.
Most of our plans worked, except no buyer was found for the house. The agent then suggested we rent it. As that proved to be quite easy, by the end of June, renters were in, I was on my way east and the rest of my family were in the apartment.
I should add here that Darlene, Jean and Greg stayed in the apartment for only a week. This was the time when the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches were uniting nationally to form the United Methodist Church. Consequently, we had gotten acquainted with the EUB minister, Rev. Dick Burdine, and his family. Since they were going on vacation for the month of July, they invited my family to stay in their home. At the end of their vacation, our friends, the Whitson family, were going on vacation in August and they invited them to use their home. That way, the apartment could be rented before Darlene left. How blessed we were to have such good friends!
The moving plans for my family at the end of August were as follows:
First, when arrangements could be finalized for Darlene to use the University of Maryland computer facilities to continue her USIA job, she would drive our car east and bring our kitty, Ginger, with her. She would time her trip so she could stop in Texas to see Glenda and Doug, and then get to Norman, Oklahoma, just as my convention ended August 29. That way I could ride back to Maryland with her. We also could see her aunt in Enid and make a quick stop in Kansas to see our relatives there.
Second, Greg would fly to Maryland at the end of his tour with the "New Generation" singers, and arrive in Maryland in time to start his senior year at the local high school.
Third, at the end of August Jean would go back to Redlands University for her senior year and graduation in the spring.
Making such a move across the country certainly had it stressful moments. However, we really felt very lucky to have all our plans work as well as they did.
Back to my part of the move. I left my family Friday, June 20, 1969, for Washington, DC. I left them in a quite a mess, but what else could I do? Washington was calling! As I have related above, however, they weathered the mess and did OK without me for those two months.
My pickup with its shell was loaded with all kinds of stuff. The heaviest item was our cedar picnic table. Likewise my trailer was loaded what all the things I would need to live in it by myself for almost two months.
Since I had an A-V conference in San Bernardino that first day on the road, I got only to the California-Arizona border the first night. Of course, all the way to Maryland I had my bed right with me so I could stop anywhere I found a convenient spot to park at night. Usually I stayed in a rest area along the interstate. As we had traveled that same route for many years, I was very familiar with all the scenes along the way as far as Kansas. However, this was my first time to drive it alone.
After two days of travel on I-40 I turned northeast on Rte 54 at Tucumcari, New Mexico, crossed Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and arrived in Kansas. When I got to the farm this time, it was a different situation.
Mom was alone in the house. Dad had died a year earlier. Since my brother Junior had died just two weeks before, his wife and youngest son were the only ones left in the house next to Momís. I spent two days with Mom before going on my way. I also spent some time with Darleneís father. We always enjoyed having breakfast together. He also helped me with transportation as I was getting my car ready for the rest of my long trip.
My first stop after leaving Hutchinson was in Burrton. I felt I had to take a couple hours to say good-bye to my aunt and cousins there. Then I headed northwest to get to I-70.
After three days of travel, I arrived in Maryland. That part didnít seem as long as the first leg of my journey. This time there werenít long stretches of desert, and the cities were closer together. However, since I was eager to get to my new job, I was really happy to arrive in the vicinity of Washington, DC.
Upon arriving in Maryland, my first job was to find the trailer park that Jim, my new boss, had told me about in College Park. There I would live in my trailer until Darlene came and we could get into a house. We wanted to locate in College Park near the University of Maryland because of Darleneís work. We also figured Greg would be attending the university in one year, and College Park was fairly close to the center where I would be working.
My Trailer Parked in the Cherry Hill Trailer Park
His office was in the National Archives Building in downtown Washington, DC. Since I had a truck to park, he had advised me to drive to Prince Georgeís Plaza and take a bus downtown.
I felt excited that morning when I arrived at the Archives Building. It is a monstrous sized building. After all, most of the federal buildings are monsters! In keeping with the other federal buildings, the Archives is made of white marble, adorned with beautiful tall columns, and faced with rows of steps at the entrance.
The Front Steps of the Archives Building during a Celebration of Constitution Day
Performing are the Marching Colonials of Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, VA
The front section of the National Archives Building is where the visitors are shown around, and where the important documents are kept. Chief among them are the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I had been in the building before as a visitor, but this time it was different. I was going to be an employee of the Federal Government! This time I walked right through the front section back into the section where the offices are located. Soon I found Jimís office and was warmly welcomed by him.
The first order of business was my swearing-in ceremony. In other words I had to pledge my allegiance to the United States. It reminded me a little of back many years earlier when I joined Uncle Samís Army in 1942.
Now everything was official, and I really felt thrilled to be the called the "Chief of Distribution" at the National AudioVisual Center.
Jim then took me around to the various offices and introduced me to various members of the staff.
After those formalities, he took me to the storage areas in the rear of the building. I could only stare in amazement at the rows and shelves filled with supposedly important memorabilia. No wonder they wanted to remove the audiovisual materials to a different location.
"Now I want to take you to Suitland where youíll be working, Glenn," Jim said.
The Washington National Records Center
The Suitland facility was a long low building, built on the brow of a sloping hill. When we entered the well-guarded storage facility, I noticed a suite of offices. He pointed to the first on the left which he said was to be mine. He had already hired a secretary for me and had things all prepared for me to start my job.
"Youíll be interested in going down the hall where you can meet the rest of your employees and see where the real work will be carried out," Jim said.
I couldnít believe the size of those rooms, 40í high and 80í deep! There were eight rooms on the right and eight on the left.
"Glenn, youíre work place is on your left and Iím sorry to say itís the very last room down the hall. Youíll have a nice walk from your film library back and forth to your office. It is a temporary place and is not air conditioned or warmed."
We also went out to the back of the building where there were many loading ramps. When I walked back through the storage rooms in that building, I could see why loading ramps were needed. I never did really know just what was in all the other storage rooms.
With that introduction to my workplace, Jim took me back to catch my bus to Prince Georgeís Plaza where my truck was parked.
The next day when trying to get to work, I discovered that I really didnít know exactly where the place was located. Consequently, I was late to work. This happened to me several mornings as I kept taking different routes and sometimes getting lost.
One morning I was reprimanded and informed, "Glenn, you are working for the government now. You are expected to report for work promptly at 8 each morning. Also the building must be closed at 5 in the afternoon and everyone is expected to leave at that time."
Now I knew that this job was going to be different from my years at USC. There we all worked as many hours and whatever hours it took to get a job done. Often we came in early and stayed late. If for some good reason we had to report to work later than usual, nothing was said as most of the time we worked more than an 8-hour day anyway.
The film distribution situation at NAC in July, 1969, can best be described
by an excerpt from a history of NAC that I compiled before I retired ten
|When McMurry reported for duty at Suitland, he did not find a film
distribution program with which he was familiar. Hundreds of prints had
been shipped to the Center. They were everywhere, on the floor, in stacks,
in cast off shelving, and in bookracks made available by the Records Center.
To make things worse, the entire agency distribution program had simply
been dumped onto this fledging Center with its new inexperienced staff...
Gibsonís command to McMurry was, "Itís your baby! If you goof it up, donít expect me to come out to Suitland and bail you out." McMurry, with this "encouragement," set about his task!
How true the old saying: "Things must get worse before they get better!"
McMurry learned this the hard way.
By mid-July, 1969, Gibson had agreed to take on the National Library of Medicineís Public Health Service (PHS) loan program. It was being operated at the time by the National Medical AudioVisual Center (NMAC).
The NMAC library consisted of more than 10,000 prints with an average of two hundred requests per day to be handled. The staff at NMAC had been cut and as a result they could no longer operate the free-loan distribution program. Would Gibson please take over the distribution?
Why, of course. He accepted the program.
To insure a smooth transition from Atlanta to Suitland, McMurry was sent off to Atlanta to learn the system in four days. He did! He memorized the procedure for booking, shipping and receiving with some thought of using it. However, there was already a totally new system approach starting at the Center and McMurry could not integrate the NMAC system without creating massive problems. Therefore, upon returning to Washington, he set about merging the 10,000 or more prints into the new system.
The need for equipment for handling film and for additional materials and supplies became evident. Landers came to the rescue by allowing McMurry to order by telephone, following up with appropriate written orders. New racks, booking cards and notices were ordered. The suppliers responded admirably. In the meantime, the combined Information and Distribution personnel gasped with the "paper blizzard."
Paper work from the public arriving at the Center consisted of requests for free-loan films and/or "Where can I get it if you donít have it?"
The first sounds easy enough, just book the film. The film! Who said they wanted only one film? The writer usually requested a half dozen or even more titles scattered all over the school year, with several alternate showing dates for each title. Oh yes, "Please let me know right away if we can get these films."
Immediately McMurry wanted a keypunch machine. Only keyed cards would allow one to keep track of such an inventory. The Census Bureau loaned the Center an IBM keypunch. Card format for a title card was established, title, length, media, track, size, stock, producer, production credit, release year, title number, rack number and sponsor code. With these coded into the card, listings could be made of the inventory.
With format borrowed from the NICEM project in California, booking
cards and booking notices borrowed from USC, computer services from the
University of Maryland Computer Sciences Center, and a hard-working, dedicated
staffóNAC Distribution was a going concern!
The above gives a fair summary of what I went through upon my arrival at NAC. Of course, I had to train someone to use the keypunch. The man who got that job, along with his other duties, was Clarence Dillard. He thoroughly enjoyed punching all those little holes in those cards!
Of course, the sorted cards were of no value until they were used to print data. After arrangements were made with the University of Maryland to use one of their accounting machines to print data from the cards, we were in business!
Ironically, a few months after NAC was asked to take over the National Library of Medicineís films, word came that they had reorganized and wanted to take the films back. That didnít really bother us as by then products from other government agencies were deluging us. The work we had done while handling their films, with the multitude of requests from the public, had served us well in preparation for what was to come as we took over the distribution of more and more productions from more and more government agencies.
With my arrival in July, 1969, the staff at the National AudioVisual Center consisted of Jim Gibson, Director; Bill Taylor, Information; Ralph Collett, Sales; and myself, Distribution. Since Jimís office was in Washington, DC, it soon became apparent that a Deputy Director should be added whose office would be at the Suitland center. Bill Taylor was given the position, leaving the information job vacant. Since this was the original job Jim had had in mind for me, Bill Gallager was brought in for my job and I became Chief of Information. Dick Simpson was also added as a technical assistant to work with the various government agencies that were producing audiovisual materials. Through his work many more of the agencies turned their products over to us for distribution and sale.
Ralph Collett prepared a film catalog shortly after my arrival at NAC. It had film descriptions of about 3500 titles that he had cut from old catalogs, flyers, and brochures. He had organized them into basic subject areas. By November, 1969, fifty thousand copies came from the printer and we now had the job of sending them out to the public.
Of course, most catalogs are out-of-date by the time they get printed. As soon as I was given my new job as Chief of Information, Jim told me that we needed a supplement for the catalog. I persuaded him that what we needed was a complete computer system and then we could publish a complete catalog that could be updated easily.
I wonít try to go into all the details of my problems and frustrations in getting the information computerized, but will just say that it was several years before we were able to publish a complete catalog.
Using boxes and boxes of punched cards, needing to be carefully sorted before being processed, creates inherent problems. Once as I was checking some cards that were supposed to have been sorted, it became clear that something was wrong. They were definitely out of order. After much questioning of all involved, it came out that one of the guys had dropped several boxed of cards on the elevator. He had hurriedly picked them up and tried to put them back in the right order. Now he should have known that it was an impossible job and that as the saying goes "the truth will out and murder will come to light." (Is that Shakespeare?)
The use of IBM punched cards to input our data also meant that all the material was in upper case letters. With the advanced computer technology of today, itís hard to really remember just what it was like in those days. Suffice it to say the government wanted a catalog in both upper and lower case and I had to figure a way to make it. I found a company that said they could take our data and, with proper coding schemes, convert it.
First, all letters would be changed to lower case. Then we made all kinds of rules, such as, after a period and two spaces, capitalize the next letter; in the title, capitalize the first word and all others except the one-and two-letter words.
As you can easily tell no matter how many rules we made, there would be mistakes. I would get the material back and pore over it to find them, and if possible, make another rule to cover some situation, which we hadn't even thought of before.
With much sweat and frustration, we finally published our first complete computerized catalog in upper and lower case. When I think of my own personal computer upon which this writing is being done, and how easy it is to input material, rearrange material, correct errors, etc. and get
printouts of the data, I know that computers today bare little relationship to those we had available in those days at the Center.
My friend, Jim Gibson, who had hired me, was ready to retire a couple years after my arrival at the Center. In 1971 he found a very capable replacement in John McLean. John was a former Navy man who had had extensive experience in photography, graphics, and the production of training films. He had been head of the Naval Photographic Center in Washington several years before his retirement. There was no doubt he was very qualified for his new job as head of NAC. When he first came to the Center, I felt that I had seen him before. Then he told me we had been at the University of Southern California Cinema Department together in 1963-65 when the Navy sent him there to major in motion picture work.
John McLean, our Second Director (better known as Jack) and
Jim Gibson, the Man who Originally Hired Me
By 1974 the staff had grown to 50 people, and the gross income had grown from $900,000 in 1969 to $2.5 million. An estimated 2.1 million people viewed government films during that year. The Center now also handled filmstrips, slide sets, audio and video tapes and special audiovisual packets in addition to 16mm films.
With the growth of the Center, a new home was needed. A building was found just outside Washington, DC, on Central Avenue. The move to a new facility was especially advantageous to me, as it was closer to my home. It was also near a Holiday Spa, which I joined, and I could even go there over my lunch hour. It was a very relaxing place to spend some time away from the frustrations of information gathering and computer problems.
As time went on and the organization continued to grow, re-organization was inevitable. My job of gathering and publishing basic information was taken over by others. Three of my associates, Les Greenberg, John Constance, and Bill Blakefield must be given much credit for their dedicated work. I became a member of Jackís staff for the last four years before I retired. My official title was Staff Information Specialist.
More sophisticated computer operations were introduced and my card punch system had to be integrated into them. We had been getting our computer services from several different companies and the University of Maryland. It wasnít long before we were told that we had to use the General Services Administration facilities. (Government regulations.) Now I had to coordinate this change which meant hours of consultation with their personnel.
Another responsibility was serving as a consultant to the Library of Congress. They also had audiovisual materials to catalog. I was always awed at the size and scope of their operations, and considered it an honor to have a part in helping with their audiovisual cataloging system.
A special privilege I had was to represent NAC at the 1970 White House Conference on Children. As this is being written in 1999, the current President is still having conferences about our children's education, and about crime, drugs and violence among our youth.
Another government installation where I did some work was Norton Air Force Base in California. They had a very complicated record-keeping job. I was amazed at the variety of their activities. They had facilities for processing every kind of film and every other type of audiovisual product one could name.
Part of my job was to serve on various committees involving different governmental studies and seminars. Many hours were spent as a member of the Office of Management and Budget Interagency Audiovisual Study Group. This group met for two years and its stated purpose was to improve the management of audiovisual activities in the Federal Government. My particular responsibility was to compile detailed title information about federally produced audiovisuals.
During my years at NAC I was given the opportunity to represent the organization at many audiovisual conventions all around the United States. In this way my job was a lot like my years at USC. Often Darlene would go with me and we would take our little trailer. We would be able to visit our Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas relatives, and Jean's family in California enroute to and from such meetings.
Returning from Florida after one such trip we ran into a very heavy wind and rainstorm. It was then that we realized that our little trailer was in bad shape. It had sprung several leaks and they were so bad that repairing them didn't seem practical. Too, that experience in the wind, with the trailer whipping this way and that, convinced us that we no longer wanted to pull our house along behind us on our trips. I guess we were feeling old age coming on. We did buy a tent and use it a few times for our trips and that was fun for awhile, but we soon decided to begin using motels. Proof that trailer life was still in our blood came when we bought a used motorhome a few weeks before I retired. Believe me, we made good use of it. With the traveling we did in it and that we had done previously to conventions, etc. when I was working, we covered every state in the union except Hawaii and Alaska. In fact, we visited every capital building in the 48 states. That was Darlene's hobby and we often went out of our way to visit capital cities. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
Sometimes I had to pinch myself to think that I was really a part of a US government agency that was making policy decisions affecting many other agencies and the public who would be using audiovisual materials. Remember that this was during the time when the 16mm film, film strips and slides were very important educational tools. Gradually, as I reached my retirement years at NAC, video cassette recorders and television sets were replacing 16mm and slide projectors. The meaning of the term "audiovisual materials" was changing.
After much consideration regarding my health and the financial ramifications of early retirement, I decided to leave my job at the age of 62. I had been at the Center for ten years. Those years had been very exciting and challenging. Also, at times, they were very frustrating. I sometimes wonder how many years they may have taken off my life. However, I have no regrets about our decision to move East, or the time and energy I gave to my job.
On August 23, 1979, my friends and co-workers gave me a wonderful farewell luncheon. Of course, as is the custom, everyone had nice things to say about me. My boss, Jack McLean, complimented me on my loyalty to the Center, to those for whom I had worked and to my fellow workers.
It is customary to present government workers with a "Certificate of Loyal Service" upon their retirement. The thing that surprised me was that mine said, "in recognition of thirteen years of loyal service rendered to the United States Government." I didnít know that they would include my years of service in the Army Air Corps. Of course, at the close of the war, we didnít get such certificates, just our honorable discharge papers. It was gratifying to know that my years in the South Pacific were still on record somewhere and being honored after all these years. Also, having more years of service with the government meant that my retirement checks would be a little bigger.
Jim Gibson, who first headed the Center and who had hired me, was a great joke teller. He was in his usual good form at my retirement party. After telling a few jokes, he got serious and said that he had been told that the best thing he ever did for the Center was to hire Ralph Collett, Glenn McMurry and Jack McLean. Since I had high regard for both Ralph and Jack, I really felt honored to be named along with them.
Kevin Flood, a co-worker whom I had hired, was chosen to give me a couple presents from the staff. Hereís a quote from his speech as best I have been able to transcribe it from a tape made that day:
"Glenn had a lot to do with the basic foundation of the Center and all the routes it has taken over the past few years. It is appropriate to give Glenn a remembrance of those long routes he has taken and something for those, both long and short, he is going to choose to take. This is for the long routes." (He gives me a US Road Atlas)
"The appropriateness of that gift is more or less obvious, but I think this other one might be less obvious. This is for more detailed routing." (He gives me a router)
That atlas proved very useful as we did lots of traveling all over the US after my retirement. I appreciated the router also, as it was one tool I didnít have in my shop. I never did know just how they discovered that I needed one.
The last person to speak was Jack Landers, representing the Archivist, who was on leave at the time. He said he remembered all the trouble I had caused him when I first came and wanted to get equipment fast to take care of the many reels of film that were arriving at the Center. I also had bugged him for a keypunch and sorter so I could get the computer system going. It was true that he helped me get things faster than one ordinarily could if he had to go through all the government red tape. He presented me with a special commendation certificate. It read, "in recognition of the highest level of professional performance, creative contribution and enthusiastic support for the National AudioVisual Center program since its establishment as a part of National Archives and Records in 1969."
Of course, when it was my time to speak I first thanked everyone for being there. After a few other rambling remarks, I had a gift to present. When I first arrived at my new job as Chief of Distribution, Jim Gibson had presented me with a mashed film can that had somehow gotten through the mail.
I had kept it all these years, and felt it should be left at the Center in honor of all those who have headed the Distribution Branch of the Center. I framed the can and had written the following under it:
"Originally presented to the Distribution Branch, National AudioVisual Center, Glenn McMurry Chief, by Jim Gibson, Director, December, 1969. Remember distribution is the Ďbottom lineí in this business."
Below those lines were my name and the names of all those who had followed me in the distribution department after I became Chief of Information. They were Bill Gallager, Don Richter, Mike January and, currently, Bob Curry. I presented it to Bob Curry. I wonder where it is by now.
At the close of my little talk at my retirement luncheon, I gave a special tribute to Bill Blume. Bill had been the one who many, many years ago at a Calvin Company Workshop in Kansas City, had urged me to come to the University of Southern California. He and his wife had been our friends since we first moved to California and he happened to be working in Washington for several years while we were there. They also returned to California later and we continued to enjoy good times together. Their wedding anniversary was just one day from ours so we often celebrated together until Billís death and his wife moved to Hawaii to live near one of their sons.
So much for my job while living in Maryland. The rest of this section of my life story will deal with home life and my extra-curricular activities.
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