STORIES

Larry Burke '56:
Tales of Early Santa Clara Life...

Submitted by Larry Burke, Class 1956
Professional Engineer, with licenses to practice in three disciplines in State of California

Return now with me to a small town of 110 people, a former gold town in the Sierra Foothills now connected with state hwy 49....The time is in the late 1940s, WWII was over, and the people of this small place were trying to reclaim their homes and get their old lives together, most having left town to work in the San Francisco Bay Area shipyards or go to war. All eligible young men had already left for war in Europe or the Pacific. Unfortunately, several did not return.....

For those of us young boys and girls attending our local high school, our best mentors, being only one of each in the entire county, was a doctor, a lawyer, and a CPA. As the CPA was well known by my family, and often chatted with me about what he did, this was the profession that I thought I should pursue in University. Never mind that I built model airplanes and boats since an early age, almost destroyed the garage with my chemistry set, and purchased potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulphur from our local pharmacy in an attempt to duplicate gunpowder, could repair any old auto with ease, and built a hot rod whilst in high school, I thought the genteel CPA profession was for me...

Thus, having acceptable grades in high school, and so oriented, I was eventually accepted into the school of business at Universitas Santae Clarae, the alma mater of both my father and grandfather.

On the first day of registration, I was standing in the business line, with a quiet and orderly group of other young men, waiting to meet the dean of the business school, when I happened to notice a similar line adjacent, but of rowdy young men, pushing and shoving, and generally being impolite. At the head of this not too orderly line was an older gentleman, totally unkempt, coat askew with papers and periodicals sticking out of both coat pockets, speaking in a gruff manner to each person that met him... "What's you name, Son....?" "Why do you want to become an engineer...." "Well, work hard, attend your classes and get good grades, and we will see....!"

Having seen and heard all this, I immediately left the line I was in and stood in the line of hope- to-be engineers. When I finally got to Dean Sullivan, he asked me why I was there, as he noticed my acceptance in business. I gave him a brief overview of my life and asked if I could instead change my major to engineering. He gruffly answered, "Well Burke, you got to work hard, and I am putting you on 6 months probation. You had better work hard and get good grades, and then we will see if you will stay in engineering."

He scared the crap out of me, so I did indeed get passable grades, and was eventually accepted into engineering.

"six muns ago I cud'nt spell enginear, now I are one..."