Pratt & Whitney in Detroit and Los Angeles

With Aphasia, whenever I find myself thinking about saying something that I can’t think of a word, my brain goes on overtime. My brain tells me about remembering stories but I can’t come up with the words to describe them.


Last week I played golf with a new friend. He said that he was in Michigan, just near Detroit. I told him that I worked in Detroit with Pratt & Whitney from around 1977 to 1981. I could not find the words to describe what I worked when I worked in Detroit except that I was an Accountant.


I started on Google, trying to find the word. I looked at the occupation to see if I could find what I was looking for in the right word. Nope. I used words on “manufacturing.” I knew it was a two-letter word. It came through after a few days – “Tools and Die.” Many in Detroit did this for Pratt & Whitney (PW&A) to build airplanes for PW&A.


After I started the Financial Management Trainee at PW&A, my full-time was with the vendor auditors who played progress payments for contracts for the Pentagon. I started in March with them in 1979. My boss was Fred Viggiano, and we stayed friends after I left. He and I still talk about the times at PW&A.


In 1979, Fred and I went to Detroit to audit several companies. We stayed at the Pontchartrain Hotel in downtown Detroit. On June 25, Hugh Masakela, the trumpet, played at the bar at the hotel. I found a woman having a drink, and I said hello. We started talking. We agreed to extend our phone number and decided to see you again in Detroit. She worked for Chrysler and bought a place in Detroit. She took me to several Detroit areas, including a Greek restaurant and a Detroit Tigers game. We went to Mark Fidrych, “The Bird.” We went to his last attempt at a comeback on August 12, 1980.


My boss, Fred Viggiano, would go with us on our first time on a vendor, and then we did it ourselves. The first time we went to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, we went to the Marina Del Rey Hotel, which was a fun place. Turtle Races at Brennan’s was a lot of fun since I was still 24 years old. 


One of the places was Azusa. Azusa has an unusual name. Initially, I heard that Azusa came from saying that it stands for “A to Z in the USA.” In reality, historians say the more likely explanation is that the city name comes from the Native American word asuksagna, which roughly translates to “skunk place.” 


During the audit, I found that the progress payments had an uncorrected expense of $1,000,000. When I told Fred that I found this issue, he said I needed to tell him they needed to write a check back to PW&A. I was nervous. He came with me to discuss with the company. I couldn’t say what I needed to say since I was scared. Fred finally said, “you guys have to repay the $1,000,000 to PW&A”. 


In January 1980, one of those we went to California. I went with one of the auditors, Cathy O’Conner. We stayed at the Marina del Rey. We were planning on doing several audits for about three weeks. We had dinner at a nice restaurant next to the hotel on the first night. The first time we found out about “clear the palate.” We looked at each other when they took sorbet before we had dinner and wondered what that was. We laughed.


Cathy became good friends. She had friends in Los Angeles who had moved from college to California. They took us to San Diego with friends, and we had parties. I think I slept on the sofa that night. We were crazy. She went to Providence College. One of my favorite stories told her about a friend she met in a freshman year named Ott. He was friends for four years at school. In his senior year, she realized that his name was Art, and his accent made him think his name was “Ott.” She realized that he was probably made fun of by his name.


On January 20, 1980, Super Bowl XIV played Steelers against the Rams. We found out that we needed to go away from the hotel since they had those dates for the Super Bowl. Cathy, me, and my friends drove to Las Vegas for the weekend. I had never been there. On Monday, we were back in Marina del Rey.


One of my soccer friends at Penn State, Matt Bahr, was the rookie kicker for the Steelers. I called him at the hotel and laid a message that I was in Los Angeles and wanted to say hi before the game. Hopefully, I was hoping he had an extra seat (I didn’t ask). He called me back, and we had an excellent talk. There were no seats available since his parents and brothers and sisters were there. He started the first field goal to lead the first game, 3-0 and found the Super Bowl, 31 – 19.


We also went on a Friday day off because one of our vendors was unavailable. Cathy and I went to drive through the cost. We walked along with Santa Monica and saw a movie filming there. One of the actors was Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck. We found it later the movie was “Xanadu.” They were on the beach working on rolling skates. I took some pictures with Cathy in the background, and he took one of me too.


Olivia Newton-John

I left Pratt & Whitney in 1981 and left a lot of great friends there.

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