Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coston E. 'Skip' Powell Part One


Good morning everyone! I'm pleased to be adding another employee history for the blog today! Actually, this history will be a multi phased one, seeing it's length and content. So, with that, look for postings of "Skip's" history over the next few weeks.

I have been corresponding with Skip for some time now and his stories are definitely down to detail, precise and filled with emotion. So begins his story...

Life and Times of a NC Station Agent-1959 to 1968
These recollections were prompted by the stories read on the NC WEB site; http://hermantheduck.org. I read them all; some were familiar, and all interesting. Two areas not covered were; #1 Station Agent (SA). Dale Brinkmeyer did very well from his Passenger Service Agent (PSA) view but the realm of a SA covers additional ground, this 'Life and Times of a NC Station Agent.' #2 ESCORT-a prime SA and PSA Agents' tool - a story I will next attempt.

First, it must be acknowledged that the individuals establishing and maintaining this NC Website deserve our kudos, and financial support. Tho confident it's done for more than monetary reward-Websites are not 'free,' thus there are out-of-pocket expenses. I say this knowing, 'to pry' money from a NC'ite is akin to pulling 'hens teeth.' Since at the age of 70+ my teeth are mostly Dentist manufactured, I'll gladly contribute, even annually.

This site is equally important - in this age of airline debacle, for their and other employees to see 'how it can be AND how it has been done. 'An organization can succeed with creditable leadership giving priority to 'the business and concurrently,' it's prime tool, it's People. Result will be loyal, productive employees and a successful business.

This is a story of 'my Life' during Station Agent years. Perhaps not unique, except it was a chunk of my impressionable younger years. These jottings are non-fiction, not a novel or works of a professional teller of history. Fully aware my composition skills are faulty - maybe lacking, it is self-written, simply words strung together, somewhat sentenced, as pried from my memory of those times. I did seek clarifying help, on various portions, from earlier co-NC folks. I'll freely use names, when recalled, hoping to engender retorts. I believe the only person incriminated herein is I, if not it's an error.

My literary expertise might make more sense, if it's known that I was a country born betwixt the farm hills of Western Pennsyltucky. My birth year included the setting of a 7+ hour cross country air record by Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart vanishing over the Pacific. Following my 3 year Army hitch, I returned to Dad's Chicken Hatchery farm. There I failed, never knowing, 'had I planted those chicks too deep or too far apart.' Thus I sought a better future.

A newly minted, innocent 22 year old, ready to become an 'Airline Man,' I began a 25 year airline career with NC - I began with nothing, departing 25 years later - I still had most of it. Still do.

My credentials are #1 A 10 year (1959-1968) NC Station Agent, and #2 15 years as an initial ESCORT Programmer advancing to its Manager (1968-1983). What really put the NC years in perspective was the later decade plus of working similar jobs with other employers. It was after departing NC that values and ethics learned at NC (note that I did not say RC0 became clear.

Over the following 11 years, I held management positions with three subsequent, large employers having ESCORT similar systems. Experiences across these times made it very-very clear my fortune to have developed what proved to be a unique work ethic during my NC years. This character building was only possible due to the NC philosophical management style and its pursuit of performance and employee job gratification. The 'school of hard knocks' has taught; "Ethics, Performance and Gratification" differ across employers and differing top-down leadership styles. In other words, the NC work environment was unique to NC. In this era of change, it'll not soon be matched.

Under the continuing gaze of the 'Blue Goose,' the long held 'make sense' work environment began to fade. During the early 1980's the NC spirit was replaced with that of RC. Vanishing were ole-timey cost controls and key NC leaders who had made them an everyday reality. One example of events illustrating erosion of NC standards I experienced during this period. Yet another of the many hired 'extraneous experts' appeared. One had the mission to 'root-out' detraction's that might impair the RC image. An imperfect literary memo of mine crossed his desk. His days work made. He phoned to discuss my literary shirt comings. I asked if he understood the memos message, 'yes' he replied. I hung up, never met or heard from him again. While this guy might be deemed harmless, the real problem was that too many of his tripe were appearing.

NOTE: In 1959, the 2-letter code was NO for North Central. About 1968, when Northern Consolidated Airlines of Alaska vanished, it's 2-letter code was acquired and NO became NC. I'll consistently use NC, though at a given time it was really NO, or perhaps RC (Republic Airlines). Wisconsin Central apparently did not have a 2-letter code?

During the 1960's to 1980's, it was a time of NC transition; #1 aircraft transitioned from piston propeller DC-3's to Jet powered aircraft, #2 available seats increased from 800+ to some 4,800 and, #3 Agents moved from prime tools of stubby pencil and reference manuals to keyboards and CRT's as prime computer driven tools. Plus, sadly for some, two sizable airlines (SO/RW) were combined with NC resulting in RC.

I departed RC while 'Herman, the Blue Goose' still rode the tails of its aircraft, prior to the taint of the 'redtail' - thus today, I remain 'pure.'



I'll end part one of Skip's story here...check back again soon for parts two, three and many more!

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