Post College & Mary

After graduation with the permission of the US Immigration, I was allowed to work temporarily with the company I worked for last summer in Chicago. The type of work had no connection with aviation, much less with my major in jet propulsion, but it bought me some time to look for an appropriate job in the aviation industry and to have financial substainment. I worked there for a few months, then decided to have a job placement agency look for a job for me in the aviation industry. The agency found two job openings that would fit my educational background; one in Tulsa, Oklahoma with American Air Lines and the other one in Wichita, Kansas with Cessna Aircraft Co. I flew to Tulsa for an interview with American Air Lines and as I got to the airplane exit to deplane, hot air like that coming from a furnace greeted me. Cessna, on the other hand did not asked for an interview and made its monetary offer of $108 per week ($5616 per year) based on a 40 hr. per week work schedule) came through the mail. The offers from both companies were about the same. I had heard before that working for a company with military production contract will sponsor a non-US citizen to become eligible for a ‘green card’ (authorization from US Immigration to remain in the US and permitted to work). At that time, Cessna was manufacturing jet trainers (T-37) for the US Air Force and it was obvious that the company to work for was Cessna.

Wichita was a mid size city and is centrally located in the continental USA. The climate is represented by four seasons and through the year it was always windy. The winters were cold and the summers were hot. There was nothing about Wichita to be excited about and the topography of the land is dull. I worked in the T-37 Propulsion Department. The airplane was already in production and any engineering work at the time I was hired was directed at sustaining the program. Cessna sponsored the change in my immigration status from student visa to permanent US resident and when it was approved by the US Immigration, I went to Kansas City to be sworn in. At the Wallace where the T-37 jet trainers were being built, I didn’t notice anyone with the color of their skin the same as mine, nor did I saw any Asian around to talk to. I heard from someone that there are Filipino resident doctors at the St. Francis Hospital. I made an effort to go to the hospital to meet with them. There were four Filipino resident doctors and one of them, in particular, was Dr. Tony Manansala who was easy going and very friendly, and we became friends right away. I spent my free time and most weekends in their resident quarters at the hospital. Tony introduced me to some student nurses and arranged dates for me. The doctors, on a few occasions, came to my apartment to cook Filipino food since they didn’t have cooking facilities at their residential quarters. So, life in dull Wichita was made bearable with the company of the Filipino doctors and the dating game with the student nurses. It was on one of these dates, that I met Mary Hasler, a student nurse, who I dated as a substitute because her date was suddenly called to the emergency room and couldn’t take Mary out. For our date in that eventful night, we went to see a movie ,Island on the Sun, starring Harry Belafonte.  After this first date, Mary and I began dating steadily and fell in love with each other, and that was my Waterloo.

My job at Cessna was not exciting and challenging, in fact it was getting to be a boredom as we were not busy. There were other aircraft manufacturing companies located in Wichita but they were making propeller-driven pleasure airplanes, not jet powered. Boeing-Wichita was involved with jet powered military airplanes but I could not apply  there because working on military jet powered airplanes required employees to be US citizens and I was still an alien with a green card. I have heard that Boeing in Seattle was hiring non US citizen to work on their commercial airplane program and I applied for a job in the propulsion engineering department. The prototype Boeing 707 airplane that first flew in 1954 was under development and since this was the first jet powered passenger carrying transport, a lot of engineering development work had yet to be done to make this a viable, certifiable project. In February 1958,the job offer came by mail and I gladly accepted it. The offer was for $122 per week based on a 40 hour-week  work schedule ($6344 per year) and that I was to report to the 707 Engine Performance Staff Organization of the Boeing Commercial Airplane Division in Renton. I was happy to get the job offer and I was anxious to get away from Wichita’s dreary climate, hot and humid in the summer, cold and windy in the winter, and the city was culturally dead.

Mary and I decided that we should get married first before I leave Wichita for Seattle. Since Mary was still a nursing student at St. Francis Hospital and the School of Nursing did not allow married students. If the school discovered one of its student nurse to be married, she would be booted from the nursing program. Mary decided not to informed her parents, the nursing school, and our Filipino doctor friends of our plan. We decided that it would be best for everyone if we kept it a secret so Mary could continue to finish her schooling while I would be in Seattle. She had one more year to go before becoming a full pledge nurse. In one weekend, when Mary was not on duty, we eloped, drove to Enid Oklahoma, which is just of the Kansas border and was married by a Justice of the Peace. By eloping, we saved the Hasler family the big expense of a formal wedding. In Oklahoma, there was no waiting time after one files for a marriage application and can get married on the same day, and there was no blood test requirement. At that time, Mary was short of a few days before turning 19 years old and I was 27 years old and wiser. I took the risky chance to marry an American against the admonition of my mother not to marry an American because of the high rate of divorce. I think the risk was worth taking because marriage was always a gamble regardless of who one would marry but I thought Mary’s family background and foundation was stable.

In a few days after we got married, I left Wichita, drove in my 1956 hardtop Pontiac to Seattle, using the southern route to avoid encountering snow conditions along the way and finally reached Seattle mid-day. I checked in at the downtown YMCA on 4th Ave. ( I got used to staying at YMCAs during my summer jobs in Chicago) until I got orientated with Seattle to know where to find a place to rent.