Saturday, December 14, 2013

Virginia Zerfass Deal, San Marcos, Texas

San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, April 9, 1953

Bay Wife Gets Tribute From Oil Industry
Virginia Deal is Artist, Scientist, and Homemaker All Wrapped Up In One

By Dolores Waldorf
Cal-Bulletin Women’s Club Editor

Virginia Z. Deal is a soft spoken young woman with a lifelong habit of asking why. Curiosity and a refusal to accept the traditional, even in the realm of chemistry, are habits she has no intention of changing. Why should she?
Why has made a research chemist of her, resulted in papers and achievements which have caused the Desk and Derrick Club of Los Angeles to nominate her for the May international petroleum exposition award in Oklahoma City of “oil Woman of the Year”. Why has has resulted in her marriage to her chemistry instructor at Duke University, North Carolina.
Since Virginia Z. Deal has been employed as a chemist at Shell Development Company, Emeryville, for nearly 10 years (ever since her graduation at Duke), and she is not a member of the Desk and Derrick Club, the Los Angeles girls must consider her outstanding. Desk and Derrick clubs are for women in the oil industry.
Virginia Z. Deal is a very versatile young woman. Actually a scholar who can work on such problems as ferreting out the destructive nitrogen and sulphur in oil, she is also a artist.
She has shared in the production of a technical paper on “The Determination of Basic Nitrogen in Oils” and she has whipped up safety posters, bond posters, farewell cards for retiring employees and a manual on how to make reports.
She has been a member of a team designing a commercial exhibit with mobiles nad dramatic visual arguments for such prosaic products as insecticides and fertilizers.
A young woman with an enviable complexion and bright, candid eyes, Virginia Deal is pretty, even with her hair drawn back in a severe part and wound in a braided bun. Somehow, it is not hard to see her as both an artist and an scientist.
She explains it all this way: “I always liked to sketch, especially in pen and ink. I might have taken up art, but I liked science. And I became more interested in chemistry when my instructor became interested in me. He said it was because I was the only student who ever asked  questions. My notebooks were filled with whys and question marks. Instructors and students aren’t supposed to fall in love, but we did, ethics or not.
         We were married right after I graduated. But Carl had not yet finished his graduate studies, so when Shell Development wanted to hire both of us, I came on ahead to California. During the war they relaxed their rule against hiring married couples. There are five couples left here.
“We hope they leave it that way. I like working in the same office with my husband. We console each other over our knotty problems in our work but seldom help each other. Usually we are too busy at home.
         There’s never any friction when one or the other has to work late. In fact, I have to do a lot of that. we understand each others problems in a way couples who don’t share the same work never could.”
         The Deals now live in a new house on a knoll in Orinda. He has built fences, bricked about the house, installed a sprinkler system and built furniture. They are trying to work out a planting that will preserve the view but protect the place from the wind.
         Daughter of a nurseryman and a florist in upper New York State, Mrs. Deal still marvels at the geraniums and fuchsias which seemed to grow wild when she arrived here. She is happy that camelias and fuchsias do well in Orinda, expects to have a garden chiefly of native shrubs and flowers.
Until the Deals bought their new home they shared in the housework. They had a nice elastic routine that spared each one from too many stints at the dish pan. But Mrs. Deal thinks the automated dishwasher her husband gave her one birthday was as much a boon to him as it was to her.
          The Deal livestock consists of seven cats (six Burmese,  including four kittens and a Manx cat). Mrs. Deal says Burmese cats have much sweeter voices than Siamese. In fact she is sure she understands every inflection in their voices.
        “I know it sounds as if I were talking about a child, but you can almost know what they are saying.”
        A charter member of the new Conta Costa chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity “alums,” Mrs. deal manages to turn out her share of bean bags and toys for hospitalized children, current projects of the group.

Her “Why?” led to a College Romance

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Aermotor F602

Hello Friends,
It was about this time last year that I set out to rescue an old Windmill in West Texas. It was the South Mill on an 1895 ranch and is probably a 1915 to 1920 era installation. Patent dates stamped on the motor case are all late 1800s and very early 1900s. The self oiling model, as this one is, was first offered in 1915. Pencil inscriptions on the tower from ranch hands or someone servicing the mill start in 1921. The original well was 521 feet deep.

It turns out that this is not the first Aermotor I've owned. After WWII, my dad acquired a Norden bomb sight out of a B29. I remember playing with all the intricate mechanisms of it as a child. I still have the prisms downstairs. Aermotor made the sight for Bell and Howell. I have a lamp too made out of a B29 prop cowling.

Anyhow - as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I drove out to West Texas hauling a trailer and a handful of tools with one pal - Chay Engleman. With the long awaited help of Gil Komechak and his son Matthew, a Windmiller from that part of the World - we laid the tower down from where it stood for eighty five years. 

For the next couple days, Chay and I disassembled the entire thing and stacked it all on the trailer. This was not without the occasional blood spewing injury, run in with cactus or stinging or sticker laden life form. And after a few nights of ranch fun, we headed for home - all 309 miles at forty miles an hour.

When we got home, the trainer wouldn't fit in the driveway, so we unloaded everything on the street - nearly the reverse of loading the trailer in the first place. With the exception of the motor, we stacked it all by the shop. The motor, weighing in as much as a good size engine block - we rocked and skidded it off the trailer on wooden skids. We ended up towing it on the skids down the driveway with my four wheeler - where it sat for a good long time.

As you may recall, there was an administrative process required to reassemble and restore this thing at home. Long and cumbersome to say the least, but in the end, we prevailed and were given the green light - and as it turns out, the green inspection sticker too.  

So I stood in my yard and imagined one day the old mill coming back to life - turning in the wind as it had so many years before - but this time with an innovative, improvised mission and purpose. 

For months it seems I toiled - carrying piece by piece out into the yard and slowly reassembling her. Interestingly, the one variable I'd not taken much store of was whether we would actually be able to get a crane into my yard. So too was I faced with the occasional reality that some of the parts for this old mill were no longer available - and so I had to make them myself. My little Blazer that could made it all the way from Triple S Steel in San Antonio with six 24 foot lengths of two inch galvanized angle iron sticking out the passenger window to the front and a good ways out the back - without incident. Although, carrying 20 feet of 4" by 3/8s angle iron from Green Guy was not so fruitful. 

I had to become friends with the local Windmiller - a 1925 business here in San Marcos without whose help, my mission would fail. And so once a week I'd grab a cup of coffee and drive out to the office of Kutscher Drilling and Well Service on Hunter Road. I do think I actually became a pain in their ass for a while. As one might expect, windmills are great and conquered the West and arid lands everywhere - making uninhabitable land inhabitable. But with the advent of electric service and solar technologies - windmills have found themselves in some parts, lower on the totem pole as they used to be - sad but true. 

And then one day I asked Daniel Kutscher - the proprietor and grandson of the company founder - if I was being a pain. Daniel is a good cat and he does a lot of good things to help people along. A whole book could be written on that. I could see in his face that day his anguish at putting me off again. And to make a long story short - he needed someone to help out on that part of the totem pole and I was it. The next week I started working on Windmills for him. I did a few other things too - hauled hay (hated it), pulled a few pump wells - but mostly helped out with Windmills in Hays, Comal and Blanco Counties. Dirty hard work but it was fun - and I earned my keep. 

As one might expect - now having the inside track - when the tower was finished, we got it raised. And we got the service truck into my yard with a half inch to spare. With all that I was learning at work, I slowly rebuilt the motor, re-tapping all the threads here and there, replacing parts where necessary - and making them if none could be found. I cut and knocked out 54 1920 era rivets - you know, from when things were made out of real metal. The thing cost me a fortune in nuts and bolts. I re-welded the original sail rings. I even pounded out a few things with a five pound hammer and anvil. I very nearly had to build a shop to make it all come true - certainly to improvise tools or contraptions to perform special requirements. And no part on this thing weighs less than a hundred pounds. Lots of people helped me carry things from place to place.

In mid September, my working partner at Kutscher, Will Martin - started back in school. This freed up my schedule a bit and I made haste finishing up what I could. Just before my mom's 91's birthday I'd finished nearly everything.  I started making plans at work to schedule a lift, checked in with Troy Kimmel to manage the weather, and raced to get all the little things done. You can't put up a windmill on a windy day - it wants to take off on you. Troy said Thursday and Friday would work, but not Saturday. 

On Wednesday night I dragged the generator and welder out into the yard and welded a bolt to the top the the motor for the hood and then cleared a path for the truck. At six o'clock on Thursday morning I let out the dogs and did my dishes - long overlooked - just in case one of my colleagues came into the house for some reason. At eight o'clock I bought a rope at Lowe's and started feeling giddy. At about 8:45, Hunter, Austin, and Daniel showed up at the house as I was tightening the last nut on the tail. Once again we managed to get the truck into the yard and positioned by the tower. The Dillon's cleared their drive so we could get up the hill. Will got out of class at 9:20 and raced home on my bike. He's been parking at my house and taking my bike to school so not to feed the University's coffers with ticket money. He arrived just in time to run up to the top and grease the stand pipe and set in the washers - the bearing on which the windmill turns around. Daniel, whose been doing this since he was a kid offered Will - his nephew - five bucks if he would ride the mill up to the top. It was a command performance. Hunter manned the hoist. Will and I quickly installed the brake assembly - which you can only do while the motor is hanging from the crane. Austin manned the ropes. I then manned my camera. 

By ten o'clock the mill had been "stabbed" - a colloquial term that described the insertion of the moist lubricated standpipe into the windmill motor's eager standpipe receptacle. 

A little oil, a little cleanup and we had a windmill. Daniel, Austin, Will and Hunter signed the tower - like "AD" did in 1921, "Juan" in 1946. I thanked them all. It has now been standing for twenty eight hours and it has not stopped turning once. 

Thanks to Chay Engleman, George Gries, Gil n Matthew Komechak, Aermotor Windmill Co. Jesse Zweibel, Scott Boruff, Alison Brake, Peter Baen, Chuck Nash, AD Welding and Fence, Alex Dillon, Ryan Davis, Milton Deal, Nick Deal, Daniel Deal, Virginia Deal, the ZBOA, Will Martin, Kutscher Drilling, Daniel Kutscher and his clan, all my good neighbors and two great dogs. 

I'm going up the hill to pick up my mom and drive her down to see the "Kasch Mill".

What's next you say? Something spectacular!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Key West and Gib Peters

For a number of years my pal Troy and I would try and make a trip to Key West to hide out before school started - usually at the end of August. Troy was teaching at UT - weather and climate. I was teaching at Texas State - photography. I was also a Policeman in Texas as well.

Mike Peters was an acquaintance of ours from Austin, Texas who happened to be home to Key West while we were there. We stayed at the La Concha. Mike stayed with his family and father Gib Peters. Mr. Peters was a local banker and wrote for the local Key West paper.

Troy and I had cop friends there too. Kurt Stephens, now retired was a great guy and good for Key West. The other cop we knew ended up in prison for selling cocaine. Oh so Conchish.

Part of this trip was going to be a trek out on the water on Gib Peter's Dutchman - I think - a trawler none the less. At reasonably early hours, and the day before we were scheduled to fly back home, we met at the dock with our days supplies and headed out to sea. We were going to go Lobstering.

In short order, we were past the flats and on the reef. I was the only certified diver and hobbled on a tank and fins. Everyone else was wearing snorkels. We found our spot and anchored. After a quick lesson on how to use a tickle stick, down I went. Holy Crap, I was pulling up lobster after lobster, one after the other - and big ones too. I imagined the forthcoming barbecue. When I'd get a few in my bag, I'd come up and throw them in the boat.

The sea isn't silent and I heard the sound of a boat screw closer than all the rest. When I looked up, there was a cigarette boat pulled along side ours. When I surfaced to take a looksee, it was a pair of Game Wardens and they were tossing my lobsters overboard. We all sheepishly climbed back on the boat. It seems we had anchored inside of a newly designated wildlife refuge where anchoring and fishing were not allowed. 

I heard Gib arguing with the Wardens about the maps and the buoys and like all Game Wardens, they weren't having any of it and proceeded to issue Captain Gib a $750 ticket. He turned to me - the only cop on board and said. "well say something", like I might be able to sway their judgement. He was, after all, trying to show us a good time. 

Well when they left, we did too, running toward the mud flats, a place we could dive and where we might see dolphins. It was a beautiful warm day, and despite our run in with the law - the day crept to its end. 

With the sun hanging on the horizon and beneath the clouds, we raced toward home. From the deck I spied the sun, and then to its left a water spout. I, also a photographer, and right here before my eyes I had a waterspout backlit by the sun - wow - I needed my camera. I'd put it below and so I hurriedly stepped into the galley space to get it - and as I stepped down, the boat skidded to a stop. My first step was about twelve feet long and I ended up in the bow, along with everything else that wasn't tied down. I was unhurt, and found my camera, and rose to the deck only to find us stranded in the sand - a boat length outside the channel. We were good and stuck too - and when the sun goes down, it goes down fast.

Before long and after a few chats with the harbor master - we sort of decided that getting towed out wasn't going to work - and that we would sit it out until the tide returned at 4am. 

Ok, this was cool. It was an adventure after all. Troy, bless his heart tried as he could and tried has me might - but couldn't help Mike and I try and salvage our boat - and there we were, beneath the stars, the Gulf Stream storms popping their lighting in the distance. 

It was peaceful, quiet, and fun - although we had eagerly anticipated a crazy night of drunken debauchery on Duval - which this night would elude us. And then we ran out of beer - too early - and food as well. Dammit.

But in what must continue to be the most fantastic pizza delivery of all time, we called Pizza Hut by cell phone from seven miles out at sea, and ordered two giant pepperoni pizzas. Yes - it's true - and the pizza boy did deliver using the harbor taxi, showing up by boat and leaving with a handsome tip. He probably told that story to his friends at the High School the following Monday morning.

It was Gulfstream storms in the distance, clear starry skies, calm warm water - like a bath. And shallow enough to step right off the boat and walk a hundred yards shin deep. Alas - no beer. 
And as God and the heavens predicted the sea began to rise - and in due time freed us from the sand. 

At 4AM, we turned the screw and headed for home. Oh wait - and we'd bent the propeller shaft too. It was slow going - not unlike watching your washing machine dance on the floor when a pile of towels bunches up on one side. And with one loud outburst from Gib - "God Dammit" - we were home.

It was all good fun.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Red Hook, New York


We left the City in Friday afternoon traffic and followed the parkways along the Hudson River North. The tall buildings fell farther and farther away in the landscape, replaced by taller growing trees, wildflowers, grassy meadows and the depths of forest darkness. So too did wide roads gently narrow into the winding country side.

On top of a hill, past a crooked mailbox and row of tall pines we arrived at the vintage cottage for which this trip was intended. Built from 18th century timber this 1930’s era stone cottage overlooks the Hudson Valley and the distant Catskills beyond. The apple hedge lines the driveway with giant spruce, ferns, and tiger lilies throughout the large groomed landscape.

The gray skies were looming as the view vanished to the approaching rain. We opened a bottle of wine and waited. The first drops fell slowly, dotting the teak wood deck and immediately soaking in. As I looked across the yard, I could see the entire rain event as the drops became larger and fatter – first in the distance and then falling before me on the now soaked porch. Lightning and thunder and heavy rain, the gutters spilling over –drains blocked by fallen needles – and ripples as if in a pond on the flooded deck with each new juicy drop of rain. With a flash of lighting, the thunder followed – the lights flickered and the alarm sounded. We’d arrived in America’s Loire Valley for the weekend.


The wild turkeys ran on the lawn. Water droplets sparkled like diamonds and covered the shaded plants. The dusk turned blue. We drove into the one town near hear – the back yard of BARD College of Liberal Arts. On their campus stands the new $64 million stainless steel Frank Gehry designed theatre arts building. It is the second most expensive private liberal arts school in the country with exceptional schools in both film and photography.

It is a strangely odd place – between the Hudson River and points beyond – a land grant, protected indefinitely from development – destined for eternity by the Getty fortune. Dark and deep forests abound – intertwined by multi-million dollar estates – the names of which include Liebowitz, Cornel, Clermont, Wilderstien, Livingston, Brokby and Gould.

I had a Mexican fusion pork tacos for dinner – and a couple of the best margaritas ever. I could not be in New York.


The skies were still threatening and plans to fly by private plane to Lake Placid are put on hold. With my first cup of coffee, I showered outdoors on the deck at the side of the shed – overlooking the forest and meadow and barn and pond below. It rained lightly throughout. There is a small road just past the barn – but unfortunately no one drove by.

With antique auction in the town square this morning and a circus performing at BARD and Tea tonight at Edgewood – the eighth oldest country club in the country, founded by the Livingston’s when King George was in charge here – we have a lot to see. Tomorrow I will gather my gear and shoot the house and grounds.

An Old Writing from the Island of Navarino

My pants are sagging but I’m not wearing boxers.

It has been a long haul and you’d think after the flight from Puerto Williams I would have figured out this Chilean airport thing. Here I am, only an hour early and I’m still 30 minutes earlier than anyone else. As the sun rose across the Tierra Del Fuego, I recalled for a moment of my worry in Puerto Williams that I might miss my flight. No one else seemed concerned. The airline office had one desk and a wood burning stove, a cord or two of stacked wood and they sold school supplies as well. The twin Otter sat on the runway not 40 feet from the security area. Check-in was not performed in the traditional sense. You just handed over your ticket and then walked with your things around the magnetometer – which was turned off - and then outdoors onto the runway, putting everything you carried on a cart by the loading door of the plane and then quickly hopped on board – No ID required. My new Chilean friends Andres and Rodrigo were the last to board, arriving three minutes before takeoff. We were off the ground in about 100 feet, with the co-pilot looking back from time to time to be sure everything was buckled down. We headed North – for from here, there is nearly nowhere South to go. Five minutes before take-off is enough here. It’s about fifteen minutes for a real jet.

Perhaps Ferdinand Magellan was blessed by such a sunrise when he named this place the land of fire, the sun just cresting the Eastern landscape and lighting the dense shroud of clouds over the calm morning straights.

As I look now down the aisle on the plane and see the many passengers loading their things in the overhead cabins, smiling to familiar faces – it seems everyone knows everyone here - the flight attendant carrying a stack of newspapers, Chilean hugs and kisses among the flight crew – including the mechanics and baggage handlers, and the flamenco guitar playing overhead, I too am saddened about leaving.

What a great adventure this has been, with Brian and Christopher along for a good bit of it. I could ask for little more in travel companions. My computer is filled with new images, my imagination runs wild in excitement with the possibilities - new friends and new places .  I am heading home. And waiting at my door will be my loyal peroita negra Kodak– who will have sat anxiously at the foot of the door since the day I left. I will again be allergic to everything, will have a gym to workout in, will have students to talk to, a fraternity to advise, rent to collect and responsibilities abounding.

It has been a long haul down here in Chile. My feet, my ankles and my back are sore. I am completely out of clean clothes. My bag is as dusty as the Chilean road. I paid as much from my overweight bag as I did my ticket. My pants are sagging but I’m not wearing boxers and I’m on my way home.


Virginia Zerfass Deal

My mom is 90 now and still sharp as a tack - although she is not so good with valences. A few years ago, she was the guest speaker at the American Chemical Society meeting at the University of Texas. She was a hoot, telling stories from back in the day about washing her hands with benzene and the creek behind the lab occasionally spontaneously combusting. Best to my mom - for without her good Chemistry, I would not be nearly the concoction that I turned out to be....

Career Synopsis for Virginia Z. Deal

Virginia Zerfass Deal (Mrs. Carl Hosea Deal, Jr.) “Ginney”
Born Sept. 20, 1922, Dansville, New York (up-state near Rochester in farm country)
Education:  Dansville Schools, Duke University (BS Chemistry)
U.C. Berkeley, Diablo Valley College, Mills College.

Children:  Julia Z. (1956)
Carl H. (1958)
Milton Z. (1959)
Nicolaas R. (1964)

Hobby:  breeding Burmese cats

Ancestor Johann Adam Zerfass was born in Pennsylvania in 1742.
The family came to New York State in 1813 in a covered wagon for the rich farmland.
Virginia played in that same wagon, still in the Zerfass barn, as a child.

As a child, Virginia was interested in science, music and doing pen and ink sketches.  Her parents bought her a requested chemistry set and a wonderful $3 microscope.  After a few unplanned explosions, Virginia’s chemistry was moved to the concrete basement of their home on Zerfass Road.

Her family raised fruit trees and shrubs for the wholesale trade, and fared relatively well during the depression years.  At least, on the farm there was food to eat.
She was graduated from High School in 1939 and continued on there one more year as was allowed, because of the economic depression.  Her last summer there was spent working gratis in a hospital assisting at autopsies and other laboratory work.

She was accepted at Duke University in North Carolina and entered with the help of a government loan available to science students.  During this time she held a part-time job involving analytical problems with an analysis for fluorine on an NDRC project (The National Defense Research Committee was formed in 1940 to fund scientific research toward the war effort).  She was Art Editor of the “Archive” (a Duke literary magazine), president of the Pegram Chemistry Club, Staff Artist for the Zoology Dept. and was also a member of the Phi Mu fraternity (“sorority”).

While at Duke she met her future husband, Carl Deal, who was a North Carolinian in chemistry graduate school.  She was the only one in his “Quant and Qual” class who asked questions, he said.  Her lab notebooks were full of “why’s.”  They were given permission to “date” by Prof. Paul Gross (“Pappy”), head of the Chemistry Department.

On April 15, 1944 they were married in the Duke Chapel.  They accepted jobs with Shell Development Co, the research labs for Shell Oil in the San Francisco Bay area of California (sometimes referred to as “Petroleum U.”).

By now the U.S. was in WWII.  Shell was in a hurry for the new chemists to arrive.  When Virginia went to CA to start work, Carl was still in graduate school in the East.  Ginney went by train from Raleigh NC, changed in New Orleans, changed in LA and again changed trains in San Francisco.  She was met at the train in Oakland CA by the personnel manager of Shell, Mrs. Elizabeth Ainsworth, who was holding up Ginney’s wedding picture.  Mrs. Ainsworth took Virginia to her own home in Berkeley, as she thought it improper to put a young lady in the same hotel where they put the “men” hirees.  Mrs. Ainsworth became a long-time friend and was also the sister of John Steinbeck.

Working in chemistry was very different in those days.  In 1949 Virginia’s annual salary was $4,632 with $595.20 withheld federal taxes.  Carl’s annual salary was $6,036 with $813.60 federal tax withheld.  Even so, their combined salaries were more than the salary of the company’s president.  This was very different from today, when CEO’s now may take 1000x or more of the salary of an average worker.

Virginia’s official job as a chemist was analytical research in the fields of viscosity, molecular weights, polarography, potentiometry and the development of test methods.  She had 4-5 lab assistants whose work she supervised.  They were doing the first potentiometric titrations.

Most of her “bench work” was applied research, working with all sorts of concoctions that only an oil chemist could cook up; finding a method of analysis for some compound which might be so transitory that no one had ever had it in hand and, if necessary, designing an instrument to aid in its analysis.

There were many semi-official tasks which added variety.  One was an assignment outside the analytical department to compile and illustrate a manual on the preparation and presentation of technical information.  It was called “The Report Manual” and was 3” thick when finished.  It was for the staff to use in writing their various kinds of reports and in giving verbal presentations.

She and her husband designed and constructed an ACS (American Chemical Society) exhibit for the California State Fair (Subject:  Chemistry in Agriculture) which was awarded a gold plaque as the outstanding educational exhibit.

She was requested to design pages for a Shell “Safety Calendar” in which each month showed many safety violations – game: find the violations.

She made many cartoon posters to facilitate the sale of War Bonds during WWII.

She illustrated many a farewell card for departing friends and decorated service anniversary cakes.

When she first came to Shell, the Physical Chemistry Department was making penicillin in the “The High Lab” (this was a multi-story room for accommodating very tall distillation columns).  Cutter Laboratories were just around the corner, and Shell was doing the first pilot plant development for mass penicillin production.  That was one of the first things Virginia worked on.

The only other women in her department were lab assistants and office help.  There was only one other female chemist in the whole company, Eleanor Mitts, in the Organic Department.

Virginia was featured in the “Women at Work” section of the Petroleum Engineer Magazine in 1954.  She was a California nominee for “Oil Woman of the Year” (Desk & Derrick Club) and she was the first woman to give a paper before the API (American Petroleum Institute) in the West – and only the second in all API history.

Virginia enjoyed her association with the ACS, especially the California Section, which always met at U.C. Berkeley.  She once sat beside Linus Pauling at a dinner meeting where he was to be the speaker.  There were many interesting people and names around in those days that made marks in history.  The Deals would often picnic in the Berkeley hills with George Pimentel and his wife in the ‘40’s.  Carl knew Robert Oppenheimer, and was friends with Dave Packard, before his name became forever hitched to Bill Hewlett.  Carl’s first “office mate” was Al Nixon, who later became President of the ACS.  There was a Shell Research Club which was an affiliate of Sigma Xi: this group had regular meetings with splendid speakers.

When the war ended, Virginia had several PhD’s as underlings (back from the war).  They worked together very well, and were good friends.  It was thirty years later before Ginney learned how much these men resented coming back from war to work for a “woman.”

Some of the (now) funny things that happened in the lab those days were:  people using the lab ovens (meant for lab samples) to bake potatoes, lab assistants snuffing out cigarettes in acetone, sinks equipped with benzene for washing hands and people not often wearing goggles or gloves.

At the sink in the analytical lab was a big vat of hot chromic acid for cleaning glassware, and stored beside it the glass cover.  Next to this were three cans of solvents: acetone, MEK and benzene.  These had a pinch clamp on a spout of tubing which dribbled into the sink and out into Emeryville Creek and into the Bay.  Every 2-3 weeks the creek would catch fire and one time it burned down the railroad trestle!

When Virginia was about two months from giving birth to her first child she was “released” to give birth and to return whenever she wanted.  Well, she did in fact return at the age of 66 to the relocated Westhollow Research Center in Houston.  But times had changed.  They refused to hire her as an employee, but used her as a “temp” through Kelly temporary services.  In this way they avoided any benefits and prevented her the few remaining years of service needed to earn her pension.  When her husband Carl died three years later, she lost all pension benefits.

This is another big difference today in that big companies no longer “care” much about employees.  There was a time when people had real loyalty to their company, and the company would take care of its people – but seldom any more.

Late in life Virginia went back to work at the Westhollow Research labs library in Houston.  She did things for them which usually never got done, because they needed a chemical background, some technical know how and computer skills.  She put their 1500 periodicals into a very fancy database, set up the library CD-ROM system, and provided instructions for the library staff and chemists for how to use it.

Two of the papers Virginia co-authored were:

            Determination of Basic Nitrogen in Oils
            V.Z.Deal, F.T.Weiss and Theodore T. White
            Analytical Chemistry 25 426 (March 1953)

            Potentiometric Titration of Very Weak Acids
            Virginia Z. Deal and Garrard E.A. Wyld
            Analytical Chemistry 27 47 (January 1955)

Virginia’s career in science came at an extraordinary time and place.  The post-war years carried the momentum of war-driven efforts toward peace-time objectives.  The San Francisco bay area was a western crucible for science, with U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University, the Lawrence labs and a host of emerging industries closely aligned.  The atmosphere was positive and ambitious, and R&D efforts looked forward beyond the horizon.  Shell Development Co. had the culture of an extended family, and the president of the company knew the face of every employee.  Social gatherings and company outings were common, and there was a real sense of camaraderie in the workplace.

Her interest in science began with a chemistry set, a microscope, and some unplanned explosions.  She pursued this interest through college, and launched into her career as a woman, by filling the void of absent soldiers.  Her first project was the penicillin pilot plant in support of those soldiers, some of whom later made it home to work under her at Shell.  Today there aren’t those barriers to “women in science” which Ginney launched through long ago, but there are still chemistry sets and microscopes.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jauntje - Short But Precious Times

After eight years of not being able to travel anywhere outside my small country called Holland. A complete stranger that I met during my work in Amsterdam, offered me to come and visit him in the United States of America.

I was overwhelmed by this gesture of hospitality. At that same time I was happy to hear that there are still people in this bitter world that are like that. Some people in my surroundings where skeptical about this gesture. They thought that such a gesture could not be without that person gaining something out of it! In my sometimes naïve thinking, I was convinced that this was not the case and was happy to take a chance and go on an adventure like this.

My mom always wanted me to go out and see the world while I can. Because I might not get a second chance. She never had the opportunity to see the world when she was younger. She never had that chance.

Not having any spare money to afford a journey like this. I had to postpone the journey for two years.

The stranger in this story is in fact Carl H. (Huge) Deal III. During those two years we stayed in touch through e-mail, friends that came to Amsterdam and an additional visit by Carl to Amsterdam.

Then finally on the 18th of December 2000 I finally packed my bags and headed out to San Marcos Texas. Never to have flown in my entire life the adventure started right there in the Amsterdam airport “Schiphol”. Here it was that I left my crying girlfriend and mother to go on my (according to my mom) Well Earned Journey.

When boarding that plane for the first time I felt like a small child going out of his neighborhood for the first time. When the flight attendants explained the whole safety protocol, I felt like I was the only one paying attention. I probably was the only. Even looking on the provided books on safety protocols. After that the plane was ready to take off. I felt ready and happy about my trip. On the plane I was sitting next to an American family of which the father worked in Amsterdam for a year in a company exchange program. They where returning to the US, to spend time with their family during the holidays. Which reminded me of Carl who had been in a similar situation in his youth.

Because of all the beautiful sights outside the plane and the thrill of just flying prevented me from sleeping. Which I wanted to do because this would speedup the long trip ahead of me.

Finally arriving in Newark I had to change from International flights to National flights. And having to check in my luggage with US Customs this took quite a while. Once I found my luggage I went to the bathroom. From there I went to US Customs. They saw that I was coming from a different direction than the rest of the people of my flight. So they decided to check who I was and what my purpose in the US was. After mentioning the word police and having answered a couple of questions about police work I was allowed to continue. Without people checking any of my bags.

The next flight was soon to leave so I made my way to the next gate. This plane was much more comfortable. There was more leg space. Next to me sat a girl that was about my age. She just came from Spain where she learned how to dance Flamenco. Dancing was the thing she lived for! We talked about music and dancing. She lived in a town near the Mexican border.

Finally I arrived in Houston. This is where Carl and his friend Troy were waiting for me. They welcomed me in the US. There was not much time to talk because the next flight to Austin was waiting. They had three tickets. One of them was a first-class ticket, which they gave to me. After flying that long trip with just a couple of inches of leg space this was a welcome relief. They told me I could have free drinks. So I order a beer. This was the first time I was confronted with the age drinking limit of 21. The flight attendant asked for my ID-Card. It felt kind of strange having to show your ID just for a beer. But I was in a strange country and had to adept.

This flight was a very short flight to Austin. When we arrived Troy went to his house in Austin. Carl and I went to his (Huge) House in San Marcos. Since meeting Carl in the US everything seemed to be HUGE. I saw the house on videotape that Carl mailed me before. But in real life that house seemed twice as big. I was finally there. We sat down on the couch and drank some drinks with Taggerd, a roommate of Carl. After that we went to sleep.

The next day: