Interviewee: Edward A. Mueller
Interviewer: Alan Bliss
Date: May 28, 2004
B: It is May 28, 2004. My name is Alan Bliss, I'm in Jacksonville, Florida at the
home of Edward Mueller, that's M-U-E-L-L-E-R, middle initial "A." I'm conducting
an oral history interview with him, and Mr. Mueller, would you please tell us
where and when you were born.
M: Well, I was born May 12, 1923, Madison, Wisconsin.
B: Who are your parents.
M: They were of German descent, conservative-type people, my father and mother
were married in their thirties, had two children, my brother and myself, I'm the
older one of the two. They both worked, which was unusual in those days
because this is Depression days, and in the thirties, it was kind of the rule that
only one person in the family worked, because of trying to spread incomes
around, but my mother a linotype operator, which was a rather skilled job for a
woman in those days, and my dad was a wholesale grocery salesman, he was
what you called a traveling salesman. He went to small towns within about a fifty
mile radius of Madison and sold groceries.
B: Where did your parents come from?
M: Well, they both came from Wisconsin, my mother from a little town called
Jefferson, and my father from a town called Walkertown. He worked for his dad
in the store, grocery store that his father had, my grandfather. And my mother
went to school, went to one semester of university, and then got a job as a
B: How did she come to be trained as a linotype operator?
M: Well, I think it was just chance, because her father was a printer, and had her on
a, what they called a in those days. To get out a newspaper, you had a whole
group of linotype people that set type. Linotype is a very complicated machine,
and of course, the type is hot metal. That's the way the papers were printed.
You run through--and do it that way. And you had to have a whole staff of people
together to do it. You usually call it a __ room to do this. And of course, they
had deadlines and everything. And my being in charge of one of these for
a newspaper in Madison, I'm sure that's how she got the job. An opening came
and the heck with school and do this.
B: Plus, linotype and typesetting are generally in many newspaper
organizations, those are union jobs. Was your mother a union member?
M: No. She worked for a company that, called it Democrat Printing Company, they
did a lot of library supplies. And the owners resisted the unions, I guess you'd
call it furiously, although maybe not quite that obvious, by giving the employees
the equivalent of what they would have had with the union. I think the argument
with all this was, why join the union, you're getting the same thing now that you
would if you had a union, plus you don't have to pay the union dues, of course.
B: Well, did you grow up in Madison?
M: Yeah, I grew up in Madison and went to the University of Wisconsin for three
semesters. I graduated from a very good high school in town. It's called
Madison East. And that was 1941. Then I went to the University of Wisconsin at
Madison, which was the huge university of the day, many, many thousands. It
was very big back then. I took chemical engineering for three semesters, a year
and a half. The reason I selected that, I think, is because I had a cousin I was
fond of who was a chemical engineer, and I also had a chemistry set when I was
B: This was prior to Pearl Harbor, I guess.
M: Well, yeah, I started school in February of '41. Of course, Pearl Harbor came
toward the end of the first semester. And that had a great influence, because all
of your friends went off and enlisted. All your brothers enlisted and then they
heard stories of how they were flying or fighting or something, and this made
everybody at home going to school very restless, because--of course, we're all in
the draft, most of us just waited until our draft number came up, then decided to
B: Where were you when you heard the news about Pearl Harbor?
M: Well, it was a Sunday, I was at home, the radio came on and we listened,
fascinated. I think I was on a porch. We had an outdoor porch where the swing
went back and forth, I think that's where I was when I heard it. It was in the
B: Were you--obviously, had no advance knowledge. Were you particularly
shocked by the notion that the US was going to wind up having to get into the
war, or had you ? ? ?
M: Well, the country was very divided between and doing something about
it, and America first, let's wait and let someone else put out the fire. And I think I
was the latter one. We used to argue that in high school, I know. I think we're
really well divided. Divided evenly, but that made it ninety-ten, of course, the
minute it happened.
B: Yeah. And did that change your thinking?
M: It changed everything right away, yeah.
B: And your own thinking as well. Did you, you had a service career, I noticed in
1945 and '46 you were in the Phillippines, I guess. How did you wind up getting
into the military?
M: Well, I got, my draft number came up, and in early February got inducted in the
service. Now this is a great surprise because, while entering the University of
Wisconsin you had to take a physical exam, which I failed due to a heart
condition and a punctured eardrum. But when I had to get examined for federal
service, no punctured eardrum and no heart problem. Much to my surprise, I
was not even allowed to take this scholastic at the University of
Wisconsin, and I was excused from the ROTC, which was mandatory. That was
a great surprise. And I chose the, I chose what you did in those days, you went
to an induction center, which in this case was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and
and went through a whole rigamarole of stuff. And on the way you can
choose if you wanted to be a marine, Navy, Army. Well, by the time I got to the
Marines, which I didn't want anyway, they were all gone. The quota for the day,
whatever it was, was exhausted by the time they came to me. There still was a
quota for the Navy. I had no idea I was going to go in the Navy, but I said, I
said, okay, I'll take the Navy. So I took it. I was called a selective volunteer,
which means you went through Selected Service and then you volunteered for it.
Then if you didn't do that you went into the Army. And that's the way __ was
spent. You spent another day or two getting organized, then you went to
wherever you were going to go in case, in this case you went to boot camp at
Great Lakes. I think I went back to Madison for a day or two first, I can't
remember that far back.
B: What year was all this?
M: Well, this was all in February of '43. I started boot camp in February of '43 for a
couple of months, got out in probably April at Great Lakes, which is a rather cold
time of the year. The temperature is very raw, it's not much snow, a lot wind and
rain off the lake, Great Lakes, Lake Michigan.
B: Now you had still been a student at the University of Wisconsin while this was
M: Right. I got very disenchanted with school, I started to hate chemical
engineering, it was not what I thought it would be. And had I stayed, I probably, I
might have flunked or had to change my subjects. I wasn't that dumb, but I just
didn't have the interest. Excuse me. [Coughs.] I'm sorry.
B: Quite all right.
M: the first I got in the Navy was a Sunday, and I woke up to very
disheartened people being taken by a bus down to Great Lakes. You go through
the, because that was the time of day it was, and they give you a huge plate of
food, steal plates, and there are signs all around, eat what you take, do not waste
food. And here's ten times what you've ever eaten in your life, and you try to eat
and eat and eat and you finally realize nobody's going to kill you if you don't eat it
all. But it was terrible, terrible trying to eat all of that food the first day. And then
of course the next day you've got uniforms, and go through boot camp and that
kind of stuff. And I think the boot camp was very typical. We had chief petty
officers in charge, usually of newly enlisted men, in this case, he was from Ohio
State and an athletic core program there. And these guys act as
mentors as much as disciplinarians and so forth.
B: Well, you put your education on hiatus then for a few years.
M: Yeah, but the minute I got in the Navy, about the first thing I ever had anything to
do was clean out a head, a latrine. And there's a whole bunch of chief petty
officers around with all kinds of little on their arms, and I said, my God,
that's for me. No fun cleaning out bathrooms when you can go out and do
something. So the minute I got in the Navy, I said, no matter whether it's
enlisted status or officer status, I realized, get to the top as quick as you
can. Because of cleaning out a latrine on your first day, that'll tell you a lot of
B: So you were set on at least trying to make some advancement in rank. When
you started into the Navy, did you have in mind that you were going to use the
Navy to acquire any kind of special skills or knowledge or experience?
M: Well, because of what was happening during the war, you had, I had to figure out
what I wanted to do and adjust accordingly. I'd always to fly, so if I was an
enlisted person, I wanted to be someplace in the air program. I really wanted to
be a photographer, because I also had photography darkroom. But the
Navy didn't have enough vacancies for that. I had very high grades so I could
get in anything I wanted if there was a vacancy. There were no vacancies in
photography, so I took one in what's called aviation ordnance. Picking up
ammunition on planes, being a rear gunner, that kind of stuff. But then the need
for electronics people came along, I __ entirely. So I signed up for that, got
accepted to that, and I was going to go for training and become a radar operator
or something like that, and the V-12, which was an officer program, opened up.
It meant going back to school, I wasn't sure I wanted to do that, but I did sign up
for that. The ironic thing is after not being around to take ROTC at the university
because of physical examination, I probably passed five or six exams in a row for
officer training. I thought that was very ironic that it was full And of course,
I was a lot thinner then, I was probably only 135 pounds and five-foot-ten in those
days, whereas now I'm 180 and five-foot-nine, nine and a half.
B: So you went into electronics training and then into officer -
M: Yeah. Electronics training, by the time I would have gone into it, I was already in
this officer training. I was sent to Notre Dame. The last place on earth I ever
wanted to go, because some of the P.I. that came out about this program was of
the horrendous physical training, especially at Notre Dame, which you could
expect from their football program, it would be horrendous. Well, it wasn't
horrendous, but I am not a very good swimmer. I was probably the worst
swimmer of 2,000 people in the program at the time. Terrible swimmer. And that
was very, I guess distressing is the word. The classes and stuff weren't bad. I
switched to civil because I figured I'd get outdoors and I didn't like
B: Civil engineering.
M: Yeah. I was an engineer, and the three semesters of__ were a great factor.
And they allowed you, depending on the program you're in, you're even allowed
to take the equivalent of two years and be a deck officer or take the equivalent of
four years and be a specialty, like maybe supply or engineering or something like
that that took more training. The Navy really built up a really good future officer
corps by doing this, although nobody realized that at the time I don't think. But
over the years it really paid off, I think. Even though the Navy trained a lot more
officers [both talking]. That's for sure. But a lot of them dropped out, after the
war everybody dropped out of the Reserve and, you know, wanting to get back to
B: Yeah. I'm going to ask you to get to that a little bit more but let me back up
for a second. Your family is of German heritage. Did you grow up with any
particular emphasis on religious faith or church or ? ? ?
M: Well, Lutheran my mother was Catholic, but she was, I guess you'd call a
lapsed Catholic, and she joined my father's Lutheran church. My father was
pretty strict, he made us kids go to Sunday School church.
B: Notre Dame being, of course, a Catholic university, did that resonate with your
religious background at all?
M: [Laughter.] Well, that's kind of funny, I later went to a Catholic university in
America and I'm still Lutheran, and I went to Lutheran churches when I was at
Notre Dame. They would take, and other churches, they would have __ to
take the kids to church on Sundays. And there was no, during the Navy time
there was no, absolutely nothing, no matter what your reason, you didn't have to
go to Catholic Mass. If you were a private student there you had to go to Mass
every day. If you weren't Catholic you didn't have to go to Mass, all you did was
kind of sleep in the time that you would have gone. You know, you're just
excused from doing anything like that. Yeah. There was no pressure.
B: So you just by happenstance happened to wind up at these two Catholic
institutions of higher learning.
M: Right. Right. And I say, I'd rather_ [Laughter.] Yeah, the P.R. came out
ahead of time, he thought this was one of the most rigorous place and it would
grind everybody to pieces and maybe only one of about every ten people would
even surprise this __ The P.R. was just well, it just was there to, I guess,
that's the way I took it anyways, it wasn't that bad I don't think. __ I really
wanted to go back to __ Wisconsin, but we had no choice, you just went
wherever they sent you.
B: Did your learning at Notre Dame did that change your ideas about what you
wanted to do with your career, with your profession?
M: Well, it solidified the idea I wanted to be a civil engineer, it solidified that pretty
good, but I didn't know what I wanted to do in civil engineering except I probably
started something like construction when I got out of the Navy.
B: Okay. Do you remember any particularly influential people or events from your
time as an undergraduate there?
M: The civil engineering department at Notre Dame had experienced people who
had worked in private business. They were not Ph.D.'s. Today the university
system is all Ph.D.-related to get anywhere. Not at Notre Dame. These were
just skilled people. The classes were very small, eight or ten people were all that
I graduated with, and most of these, the ones that weren't in the Navy, were sons
of contractors. Mostly Irish contractors. And they sent their kids here for learning
and for discipline. The discipline, if you were a private person, was pretty tough.
You got kicked out for a lot of things you would never even get a reprimand
but they were very, very strict, outside of, you know, the non-military
people. Military people, of course, military the military taught discipline.
After the war, when everybody was I guess, classes got bigger, but not
much. It took several years before our program got to, well, today it would be a
very respected, pretty well-known program in that field. These professors were
quite good, but they'd leave, and everybody because we'd have this whole
class of, I think, five or six people, on an intricate subject. Well, after a
couple of hours, they'd know you.
B: When did you finish up there in that program?
M: Well, I finished, I got out in, let's see, after five semesters, I got out and went to
midshipmen's school, I got commissioned. and I got commissioned
around V-E Day, which is early May, 1945. Went to New York on a leave for a
couple of days, I went back and kind of hung around and went to San Francisco
in August, spent V-J Day, the end of the war, in San Francisco in August, and
then got shipped to the Phillippines.
B: Did it seem surprising that you were going west across the Pacific when other
soldiers were maybe expecting to turn right around and come back east, back to
the United States?
M: Well, in the civil engineer corps, which I was in, these were part of the service
courses of the Navy. And the Phillippines were the training place and the
storage place for all the young officers that were going to go and be the cannon
fodder when we invaded Japan. And we had an inkling about this. And then
what they did, all the older officers and the men, all had more points, but you
know, they used the point system depending on how long you'd been in service,
and they deployed all the people rapidly, and these young officers just had
to take everything over and just do what they could. Everything was la-dee-dah,
you didn't have to do much, but you had to take care of your people, make sure
they were fed and housed, and when they get their orders, they'd __ and that
kind of stuff. For example, I ended out the war in a place called Samar [Island],
which is right next to Leyte, and I was -
B: Lady, Lehty?
M: L-E-Y-T-E. Right. And Samar is S-A-M-A-R. Forty percent of on the
Pacific were in Samar and Leyte when the war ended, I'm told that. I gathered
that from all the construction equipment I saw. Well, anyway, getting back to
what I'm trying to say, I guess, is in Samar, I was in the we had forty
incidents under one Lt. J. commanding officer, and one chief petty officer
involved. Everybody else was a seaman second or seaman third, seaman first.
All raw recruits. And it was since we didn't have a lot to do, it wasn't but
you just had to keep people from just going off and bothering the natives too
much, and all that kind of stuff.
B: So what did you get to work at when you were ? ? ?
M: Well, I was a transportation officer, I ran in Leyte for a couple months, and I
ran a it's like a motor pool, in Samar for a couple of months, until my
came up and I could go home.
B: How did you wind up being assigned to the transportation officer?
M: Just, I don't know, I really don't know. I think that the second time was because I
had done it the first time. The first time was probably about the only vacancy
they had at the time. It was not, well, if you want to do this, it was just, you are
the transportation officer.
B: Do you think that influenced you?
M: Oh yeah, it certainly did, it our purpose. You see, in civil engineering, you
know quite a bit about construction from school, because all of the school __ in
those days was pretty well-related to either design or construction. So you knew
that sort of instinctively, plus you live in a world where they built buildings and
built highways and things like that. So you see that kind of stuff all the time, so
you kind of know about those things even if you're not a civil engineer. See, it's
just kind of the way it works. Civil engineering is very broad, and involves
working with earth materials to make something that men use, people use.
B: Backing up again just a second to the war and the end of the war, particularly,
the war ended, as you say, in August in 1945. You are in San Francisco at the
time. When you heard the news about the use of the atomic bombs in Japan,
was that a big surprise to you?
M: It did. As I recollected, I don't think that, __ I was going to San Francisco and I
was on leave in Madison, and my cousin there who was a chemical engineer
expressed all the, not the horror so much but the terrific force that's behind this,
so I was pretty well acquainted from what he had told me or had had
conversations with before I had ever gotten to San Francisco. That happened a
few days before the end of the war, which you might remember. I just happened
to be in my hometown at the time. And we had some conversations with
my cousin, who's about fifteen years older, who was pretty knowledgeable about
this stuff, much as you could be.
B: Up until then, had you been expecting that you were going to be part of a large
M: Yes, I really expected that, no question that we would be in the well, it's not the
first line, it's the second or third line, and you come in, you build bases and roads
and things to keep things going, you know? So I did not expect really a lot of
danger of it. But I did expect that there be a lot of people like myself that be
involved in doing this. It wasn't a, it might have been a worrisome thing for a bit,
but the minute the war was over, it changed. See, the war came very quickly.
We thought it'd go on for many more months, and it came to a quick, a pretty
quick end, as most of it realized, you know.
B: As you have looked back at that, thinking about your reaction at the time and the
way that the war did wind up ending so fast, ever have any second thoughts
about the United States' decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war?
M: No, I don't think so. It's just never, to me it's just another weapon, and in those
days you didn't understand what nuclear was, the __ and all the dreadful
things that happened with nuclear-type things. You just didn't know those things.
It was just like more dynamite, you might say.
B: Well, it was 1946 when you got out, I guess, when you returned to civilian life.
M: Yeah, June 1946.
B: And what was your rank when you finished?
M: I was still an ensign.
B: Okay. But you have, in the meantime, acquired a bachelor's degree, bachelor of
science from Notre Dame.
M: Well, I had to go back for one semester to get that. I started school in the fall of
'46, and then finished in February of '47. Each semester, many of their courses
were Navy courses, once I changed over from chemical engineering. So I was
short about fifteen credits, so I had to go back to get my degree.
B: Did the federal government help support you through the end of the degree?
M: Yeah. Yeah, you had the when you got out, you had the 52-20 program, and
you got $20 a week for fifty-two weeks if you needed it, you just had to go in each
week to sign something, and give you twenty dollars, and that's spending money.
And then they paid your tuition and your books, and a living stipend. I don't
remember if they paid it directly to the university, because I stayed in a university
hall or what, I don't remember, but I know I didn't have to pay anything except
B: And you were still single at that time.
M: Still single. I did not have a car or anything like that.
B: So, and you went back to Notre Dame to finish.
M: Yeah, because I had all my credits there, of course.
B: Gotcha. And when you finished it was a B.S. in civil engineering?
B: All right. Then at that point, when you finished that bachelor's degree, what was
your thinking about what you were going to do with your life?
M: Well, I wanted to go to my hometown, which I'd been away from quite a while,
and get a job in Wisconsin. So I got a job in Madison working for a consulting
engineer. Jobs were not very available, nothing like it is today where you've got
maybe ten jobs. When I graduated from Notre Dame, there was one
routine announcement on the board offering you a beginning job in the federal
government. Nobody tried to solicit anybody there for employment. Today you
have tons of people trying to get you to work for them. Not in those days. It just,
there was so many people available and not that many jobs, yet. That happened
later on. But I signed up for a job at a hotel in Monte Carlo and I worked for a
consulting doing rural electrification work, mostly in northern Wisconsin,
away from home. Did that for a couple of years.
B: In dealing with electrification, that just happened to be -
M: the only job I could find, to be honest about it. I applied for a job with the city of
Milwaukee, and maybe thirty people applied for five beginning jobs, you know,
take exams. That was pretty depressing. And I tried to find something that was
out of the hometown, no vacancies. See, a lot of civil engineers work for
governments, that's the type of work it is. Especially in those days, there were so
many consulting firms. And the only other job I had, this firm in Chicago
someplace wanted me to work selling Quonset huts, but I'd seen enough of
those when I was in the service. [Laughter.] I really didn't care too much if I was
in transportation or not, because being young and haven't been home for a while,
stick around home, get a job, get a few years' experience. Engineers, after four
or five years, get what they call "registered," as a professional engineer, this is
very important if you're going to get anywhere in life, to get that, because that
gives you immediate status, it gives you a respectable salary, and it's just one of
those moments you go for. I think every engineer, certainly a great, high
percentage of us try to get this professional engineering status as soon as they
can. But it takes four or five years of experience to get it.
B: In addition to the degree.
M: In addition to the degree, yeah. Well, you can get it without a degree, but you
have to spend more time.
B: The work you did for this engineering company on rural electrification, was that
part of the federal government's REA initiative?
M: Absolutely. REA, the federal government gave grants of money with very low
interest, like one or two percent, to pay back to __ The power system in this
country did not recognize people who were too far away for economical
electricity, like farmers and things like that, people like that. So this other
stepped in and helped him out, simply because the power companies didn't do it.
The greater demand for electrical energy over the years, if the power companies
had decided to go ahead and do this, they would have made one heck of a lot of
money. But they couldn't see any profit in doing it. The federal government had
to do it as a, almost as an emergency in some cases, because some of these
people are very desperate and you can imagine, trying to milk ten cows and not
having electrical power to use a milker, you'd have to have a generator,
something like that. And it was a wonderful program, everybody thought at first it
was pretty socialized and subsidizing, and plus, in a way, power companies
simply missed the opportunity. All of them.
B: When you were engaged in doing that work, how did it strike you, is this
something that you consider to be valuable, worthwhile -
M: Well, it was certainly worthwhile, because these people would do anything to get
electricity. Free land, stop in and have a cup of coffee, that kind of stuff, you
know. They liked to see you coming.
B: So you felt it was -
M: The good thing it was, it was because of priorities. So there was a great
demand right after the war, and for a couple of years this was a good business.
After that it was all built up and you, it just about wiped out for a year or two.
B: So you felt sort of virtuous about what you were doing.
M: Well, a little bit, yeah, not too much. It was a job.
B: So, when did you wrap that up and move on to something else?
M: Well, the company went bankrupt. It didn't go well, the work is seized almost
automatically. The company laid off all the single people and one or two of the
married guys they had and tried to keep going on that. And I took another job in
Milwaukee with a well-recognized firm, and we did the preliminary plans for the
Milwaukee Expressway system.
B: That was Whitney.
M: Amman & Whitney.
B: Amman & Whitney.
M: Whitney is a very prominent, a thin-shelled concrete. In those days, how would
you ever design a roof made only three inches thick of concrete. Unbelievable
that people could do that. Well, he pioneered that. And Amman was the guy that
built, designed the George Washington Bridge and many other bridges. Both
very prominent engineers, although we hardly ever saw the prominent guys.
They had a big New York company, huge New York firm, and a small Milwaukee
firm. Because that's where Mr. Whitney, with his son, lived mostly.
B: Why did the electrification work dry up so suddenly?
M: Well, the lines were all built to all these rural consumers.
B: So you were just don.e
M: We were done, yeah. There was no more lines to build to speak of, you know.
They could do it themselves, you didn't need any consultants to do it, because
you might do maybe ten customers a year, whereas before you had three
hundred to go see. And this is just a nationwide thing. It's almost like the
Depression, to__ another segment of electrification. But after that, people
started using electricity and needed more and more voltage and better lines, and
it's never-ending today. We're still doing everything we can. Now we go
underground. No one ever thought of putting anything underground. That's
dangerous. You don't do things like that. They're up in the air and you put
screwball stuff up there. It just I think at that time, had I __ to see a digital
subdivision like this, I wouldn't have believed it, really, from what I knew and did.
I just didn't really think those things would happen. And the subdivision might be
the size of this house instead of the huge map of Archer, you know, what we
have today. Never dreamed of anything like that.
B: Well, you went from that company to work with Amman & Whitney in highway
M: Yeah. We were doing the master plan of Milwaukee, trying to get the -
B: Hold up for just a second. You say, we were doing the master plan. You mean
Amman & Whitney?
M: Amman & Whitney, yeah.
B: Not just highway engineering, but other planning as well, or just the highway
M: The main job they had was doing this highway plan. They had hardly anything
else to do with the The office was sort of set up to do, they had a contract
to do that with the city, and we worked with the city engineer. They had a very
good traffic engineer, and he would come in and review what we did and we
talked over traffic and that kind of stuff. Now, this is all before anything like
computers, which have revolutionized engineering. Everything was manual. You
had a __ and you'd do a drawing, and you'd have __ come by and mark it
up, the draftsman would read through it. You'd do another drawing, a tracing,
you just did drawing after drawing after drawing, trying to get something done.
That's how we did things in those days. And you'd write reports all the time. A
report of what this activity was, and so forth.
B: When you say highway work, are you referring to limited access highways?
M: Yes. The interstate program came along in 1956, as Congress, it had been
talked about for a long time before then, and Milwaukee knew it needed a limited
access system, so it started planning for this in the mid-fifties or a little bit before
that, maybe. And, you know, it to the interstate for most of the highways
that were built. And that's for all over the place.
B: It had been Milwaukee's intention to build some of this whether the interstate
system came into reality or not?
M: Right, right.
B: How were they going to pay for it?
M: Well, that was always a problem. The old central cities of this country, like
Milwaukee and Chicago, realized after a while that they could not do anything
without having the rural areas, the county. Like the library system, went from a
city library system to a county library system, because the finances, the highway
still had an urban area, but it'd be mostly a county highway system that you tried
to finance to do this. You just couldn't do it yourself. Plus, they were trying to get
the state to help a lot; the state __ in those days only worked with states,
and that's still the case today, they only work with states. So you try to get the
state to build your highways, too, which required a pretty good approach,
because you had a __ in your city, because they'd much rather build
something out in rural Wisconsin where there weren't any problems. And the
needs are, many times, where the money is. So the interstate system changed
all of that, because it made federal government so powerful because it provided
ninety percent of the money.
B: Did Milwaukee consider toll roads as part of the ?
M: Oh yeah, that's part of it, but not to a great extent.
B: But none of this had really ever did come into being until the interstate highway
system, at least in Milwaukee.
M: Right. Right. Or anyplace else, really. Well, no, no, the New York area, you had
specialized regions of the country with real tough problems that did tolls and
other things, you know, to get the highway problem solved.
B: I understand Jacksonville did a bit with toll roads as early as the about 1950 or
M: __ in Milwaukee, they were very see, there was a state highway department,
wants to build, could in those days build a mile-high for $10,000 in a rural area.
B: Two-lane highway.
M: Two-lane highway. Why build a $10 million model highway in an urban area with
all the problems you've got in an urban area to build a highway. The utilities, the
people problems, everything. It's just why do a lousy why take on a tough job
when we can do a nice, easy job? It was that kind of attitude. And why are we
going to put a bridge across a big river? Oh, God, we could do 100 miles out in
the country rather than do that one bridge, two-mile bridge, right? So nothing
was done. So the people in Jacksonville, because of the river situation, had their
toll. They had tolls on the Acosta Bridge, all by themselves, even took an act of
the legislature to get them to do that. That ferry system was terribly against it at
the time because it put them out of business, and there's twice as many people
ride the ferries, how you're going to pay for the bridge, that kind of stuff. Plus,
back in the 1920s, and the city was very progressive this is history again rather
than me very progressive to get that done.
B: I'm going to pause for a moment.
M: Sure, sure.
[pause in tape]
B: Testing. All right. Looks like we've resumed recording. And we were just talking
about the alternative approaches to highway improvements in urban areas, which
is what you were engaged working on with Amman & Whitney and Milwaukee,
and let's digress from your professional career here for just a moment. When
was it that you were married.
M: I was married in September 1953.
B: Would that have been during this same time?
M: What happened was this. In the spring of 1952, I'd worked for__ for about
two years, and a fellow who was a couple of years younger than me, probably,
working next to each other, he did things a lot better than I could do, and I said,
how come? He said, well, I went to the Yale Bureau of Highway Traffic. Oh,
what's that, I said? Yale University, it's like a graduate program in traffic
engineering. Now today there are graduate programs in traffic engineering at
many, many places, but in those days there was only one, or two maybe. And
one was at Yale. How do you get in? Where do you apply, etc. etc. So I applied
and I got a scholarship to go funded tuition and maybe a small amount of
money, but not very much. It would have cost me several thousand dollars to go
there. Well, being young and single, I determined to go there, so in the fall of
that year I enrolled at Yale. Fall of '52. And meantime, the summer, I got
engaged, I certainly got engaged to my wife. Probably engaged in February '53
in New Haven, Connecticut, which is where Yale is. And this was a two-
semester course. It gave you a certificate, not master's degree, but fairly
equivalent to a master's degree, and the graduates were fairly well sought after,
and you could almost have your choice of where you wanted to work. But I
stayed on there two years after we were married; I stayed on two years, I was the
newest member of the faculty, doing a little research, helping the professors out,
teaching a class or two, they had you sort of helped on that. You were only
a year or two older than the students, or the same age as the students. The
students were all in their thirties and twenties. Mostly it was people who had
been out of school several years and realized that they really didn't know as
much as they should to do their jobs.
B: Similar to you.
M: Yeah. And so they came to school, and also, in particular, to get a lot of better
financially and technically __ And today it's nothing to think of going to
graduate school. In those days it was quite a step.
B: Did you quit Amman & Whitney to do that?
M: Yeah, I quit Amman & Whitney. Well, about the time I quit or a little bit
afterwards, the principle in charge lost his life in a diving expedition some place in
the Caribbean. And that sort of put a very bad __ on the company. They just
didn't go under, but they weren't the company they had been before. I really
didn't want to come back to them. I really when I left them, I didn't want to
come back. They offered me a stipend, 'though it wasn't very much.
B: So you really took sort of a flier by -
M: Well, I was still single, so it didn't make too much difference. Didn't get married
until I got out of college.
B: Where did you meet your wife?
M: In Madison, blind date. She was a nurse.
B: She followed you to ?
M: Eventually, yeah. We lived two years there
B: And were married there.
M: No, married in Wisconsin, but moved there came back for the marriage and
took a honeymoon across northern Canada to New Haven.
B: Now, also, before we return to your profession looking back here at some
of the activities you've been engaged in, a lot of government work and a lot of
response to education. Where would you say your political sympathies lay
during these years? For example, what was the first presidential election you
M: Well, I became a registered Democrat, probably in Tallahassee when I moved to
Tallahassee in '55. I was pretty middle-of-the-road, I guess, politically, but there
were no Republicans in Florida in '55, and the very few Republicans there were
never could vote for any local elections because __ the Democrats' primaries
determined it. So I think I became a registered Democrat because of that, that
I've always tried the best I can to vote for the person, but in Florida for many
years, I had the choice of Democrats.
B: Up until then, had you considered yourself a Republican, or -
M: No. Never even thought about it one way or the other.
B: Did you approve, for example, of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, and that
sort of thing?
M: Well, I grew up and lived with that, and Roosevelt was like a god to my parents -
being a teenager, you're more interested in chasing girls than you are worrying
about the president. You that kind of stuff.
B: How about Harry Truman and his work after the end of World War II? The so-
called "Fair Deal" and -
M: Really, I don't think I paid any attention to politics at all.
B: Okay. No strong feelings about Dwight Eisenhower when he became president.
M: Well, only because of what he did with the interstate system. Yeah, he was
admired, of course, and you knew all about him and everything, he was a well-
liked person. Truman was pretty well-liked. What changed was the Korean
War. If the Korean War had not come about, I think we would have had a real
depression, especially in engineering. But it changed immediately. From being
one of five candidates for a job, there were five jobs for every one candidate,
after the war started, after a few months. The Korean War completely changed
M: Because of the demands that the war made on getting things ready and
available, plus all the lethargy after the war first, Second World War was over,
nobody did anything. So you just the Navy was very content to throw away a
few ships a year and keep on going down, nothing much new. And it took
something like the Korean War to make all the research and development and all
kinds of associate engineering come forward again. And then, of course,
followed a few years after that by the Interstate Highway Act and those kind of
federal things, which put a great emphasis back in transportation and
B: So, and then, of course, to a certain extent, people in the employable age group
were getting taken up by the armed forces for work to do with -
M: Right, a lot of acquaintances of course went back in the service in the Korean
War days and stuff. I had a friend in the Reserve as a cook. In the
meantime he had graduated as an electrical engineer. So he got called into the
service in the Korean War as a cook, because that's what he was in. And he got
sent to, I think, Green Cove Springs, and my boss, Mr. Whitney, who was pretty
well in the Naval service, rolled in and said, my God, this man is an engineer,
make him an engineer. So they gave him an enlisted degree in electrical
engineering or something like that, and guess what his job was: replace all the
light bulbs and the lighter fluid at Green Cove Springs. That was his job as an
engineer instead of a cook, believe it or not. But that's just a bit of a humorous
B: Was there ever any talk that you might possibly wind up going back in during the
M: Well, I stayed in the Reserve, certainly, but they never called anybody up for the
Reserve in the Korean Conflict, nor in the Vietnam Conflict. But I was in the
Navy Reserve from about 1950 on. For many years.
B: Did you do periodic -
M: Here, what you did in those days, you went one night a week and one weekend a
month and then two weeks training duty. You had to have a quota of fifty days a
year to keep your status up. And of course, you got paid for this. In most places,
some you could do without getting paid, you just got credit.
B: How long did you stay in the Reserves?
M: Oh, stayed in until I was 21 years well, 21 years of service, I suppose the
Reserve about fifteen or sixteen years.
B: Sometime in the 1960ds, anyway.
M: Yeah. I retired in '67.
B: Well, what was your next career move after you finished up -
M: After teaching two years at Yale, I looked around for a job, we were married and
we spent the two years at Yale. And I added I previously sort of turned down a
job in San Francisco, a place called Contra Costa County, which would have
been a darn good job. I was a registered engineer by this time.
B: __ had the specialization.
M: Yeah, I had, I think, a pretty good background and can do a lot of things, but the
real-live opportunities. I had a chance to be the traffic engineer of Springfield,
Illinois, which had a heck of a problem because all of the rails came into the
central business district, so you've got the same time of day, and you couldn't
move when the railroads were moving, that kind of problem. And then there was
the job I took in Florida, at the same salary. And we said, said, well, we've
saved Springfield, we're just an hour and half away, two hours away from our
folks. If we go to Florida what's going to happen? So we said we'd give it
B: In Florida.
M: In Florida.
B: What attracted you to Florida at the time?
M: Just being in Florida and the opportunities I see.
B: Had you ever been down here before?
M: Never been to Florida in my life. No.
B: How about your wife?
M: No. No. She'd never been hired out of Wisconsin. I've been around more, of
course, but she -
B: And what was the job that they offered you in Florida?
M: The Florida Road Department, it was a road department in those days, was very
political, run by a board of five people who used the department for their own
ends, to be honest about it. Highway ends. And some of these were very kind,
benevolent, good people, a couple were rather dastardly, to be honest about it.
And the people that worked for them, well, there were several divisions. The
division I joined as a deputy was called Tragic and Planning. Traffic Engineering
and Highway Planning.
B: What year?
M: We came in the fall '55. And that's a year before the interstate.
B: LeRoy Collins [1955-1961] was the governor?
M: LeRoy Collins was governor. And his -
B: Do you remember names of anybody who was on the road board at the time?
M: Yeah, but I don't want to tell. [Laughter.] I can't associate them directly, but I'll
give you some names later on, of influential people. Jones, who he
appointed, is really a good man. He is from Miami.
B: Who appointed him?
M: Collins, I think it was Collins. And he, Collins' primary highway thing, I fairly
well, later in life. He was a pretty good guy, I thought, good governor. His
emphasis on highways was, we must four-lane you, __ Come hell or high
water. So everything was done on __ Four lane US-1. And that was done,
believe me. And in those days, you could get a highway done, if you made up
your mind the first of January we're going to do this highway now, it was done by
the end of the year, you could do it. Except in the city, maybe. But, see, it's
ridiculous that they'd even talk that way, but you could do it.
B: As was Collins' mandate.
M: Well, mandate to get US-1 four-lane, yeah.
B: Did he have ? Did he have the support of the road board with that?
M: Oh yeah, oh sure.
B: So if the governor and city wanted it, he got it.
M: He got it, yup.
B: And other governors, you've probably heard of a governor called Charley Johns
M: Oh yeah. He's a character. I didn't have any association with him. And every
little city in Florida did an intersection improvement, a flow rating here and there.
Oh, the State Department, especially the This is back in the Pork Chop
[Gang] days, if you remember that. Urban areas were neglected and avoided if
possible, because they cause a heck of a lot of trouble. Why do I have to tear
my hair out in Jacksonville or Miami when I could go to Starke, Florida and have
no problems whatsoever.
B: Well, let me ask you then, a little bit of illumination on why that turned out the way
it did in 19 in the state of Florida in the 1950s? Political scientists, people who
make it their business to study the business of state government in Florida, and
the cities, argue that the Florida legislature, all the way up through the end of the
1960s, really, was dominated and controlled by legislators from rural districts in
the north Florida panhandle.
M: I agree with that wholeheartedly.
B: And that, because of that, even though there were an increasing number of
voters voting in elections in urban districts in places like Jacksonville and Miami
and Tampa and places like that, state government tended to function more for
the benefit of less populated, rural counties, especially in north Florida. And that
this turned out to apply particularly in the case of the capital projects and public
works, like transportation projects.
M: Absolutely a true statement.
B: Now what I hear you say, though, also, is that there was some pretty practical
fiscal and engineering issues that mitigated in favor of staying out of the cities
with transportation projects as well.
M: Well, to give you an example. When I was first with the department in the late,
sometime in the 1950s, the department did 27 in Miami, which is a very
prominent highway, it has a US number on it decided they would save money
on it by not putting any drainage on it, if you can imagine such a thing. Because
it is difficult to lay drainage pipes. You've got to trench it, you've got to cover it, a
lot of things, you have consolidation problems of the earth over the pipe things
you don't have today because you know what to do, but those days you didn't
know what to do. So, they said, we will leave out the drainage and do it. Well,
two years later they had to come by and put the drainage in. But the __ were
reluctant to do that, because Miami's a long way from Tallahassee, see. Even
though we had districts, most of the skills needed were in Tallahassee in those
days. Now it's different, it's like seven or eight different districts that have equal
B: When you came, how many districts were there?
M: Five. Five districts. And again, I've made it very disproportionate, because, you
know, they weren't equal to population at that time. They were at the time they
were selected many years before.
B: So the staff of the state road department at the time, they got guidance political
guidance from the legislature and the governor as to where to put the priorities,
but I guess the staff members also had their own sort of agenda as to what it
made the most sense for them to do, given x number of dollars to work on
transportation improvements. It sounds to me like you're saying engineering and
planning staff would think to themselves, I can get a lot more bang for the buck
by putting down a mile of road in the countryside rather than in the city. True?
B: True enough?
M: Sure. Because the political nature of these road board members, as I found out
in 1970, I saw some pictures of the Corkney-Campbell Causeway in Tampa area,
and the __ It should have been done years before. So I asked my district
agent why wasn't this done. Is it __ is it your call? No, Mr. Romero,
She did not want anything reconstructed because he didn't get any credit for
that. Well, if you go and __ a new highway someplace, it's better than
reconstructing a mile of old highway. But these are rotten priorities and it could
be a very bad it could be a safety problem. I immediately said, do something
about it. It also happens with the political thing, you have to build new highways,
you do not care very much about spending money on maintenance, if you can
help it, or redoing things. And there weren't a lot of things maybe to redo, but the
worst you know, we all __ still have bridge problems, because of the nature
of bridges and time and all that stuff.
But this funny board member, I'll give you he's deceased now, I'm
sure, he would introduce himself, hi, I'm Al Romero. I sell insurance. Red light.
Next time I need an insurance policy on my car rental, see Al. Al probably just
tries nominal sums for the insurance, he didn't say, you've got to buy it and it's
ten percent more, just whatever the price was. But he got it where someone else
didn't get it, you see, the political connections. And this is what these guys did,
they did things like that. And many of them helped the governor get elected, you
know. Give extra-good financial contributions, and this is part of their reward.
So, they wanted a highway built in their hometown, or near there, it got built.
See, that's where the politics came in. Now, what we did in this Traffic and
Planning division, we made studies of all the cities and towns and did little
reports, because, you might say they wanted us to spend a lot of money in
towns, you'd use things like one-way streets, and better traffic signals, and
intersection improvement, that kind of stuff. Traffic engineering, which is sort of
an application to the existing system rather than build a whole lot of new
freeways. Of course, the interstate system came along and changed that. But
until it really got going, maybe 1960, it was always these reports that showed
what to do in these cities. And that's why George Simons, because he
would have some plans, and he would see what he had gotten out, not
necessarily meet with him, but see his plans. Maybe it'd dovetail what you did,
with what he was thinking. Now, I did not have a great deal of personal
association with him at that time, but maybe later, you might say, but I realized
what he was doing.
B: As a state planner, you would contact the local planning agencies and -
M: Oh yeah, we'd usually go and, we'd talk to the local planner in the area we were
working in, or the local engineer, whoever it was, usually not at the mayoral level,
we would pick the highest working level, like the public works engineer.
B: Professional staff.
M: Professional staff. Yeah. And we worked well, I won't say very professional,
but certainly man-to-man, about the only thing you ever did for each other, you
might have found somebody to __ with. It's about all you ever did. You
probably would never even do that.
B: Did you find that these local professional engineers and planning staff people
were congenial, I mean, or -
M: Oh, yeah. Sure, because you could do supper there, you wouldn't have gotten
that otherwise. Plus, many of them didn't know what to do. They didn't know
how to do for example, traffic signals were a real problem because they were
very obsolete, outdated, no-good equipment to start with, ill-maintained, that kind
of stuff. So you tried to get all this stuff brought to a reasonable standard. Plus,
at the time, nationwide we were trying to get uniformity in traffic-control devices.
We had the red stop sign, which we never see anything else except red stop
signs today. But there were yellow stop signs until forty or fifty years ago. And
the problem we had was only one company had the kind of material that made
good red stop signs. It was a 3M company in north Florida. And the government
has to buy low-bid. Well, you only have one bidder, you get a real problem that
you could be subject to a great deal of criticism, why did you buy it from only one
person? Whereas if you have the yellow stop sign, you've got many people that
could do that, see, because yellow, you can use paint in beads. Red you can't
do because red is too dark a color. For example, you have always that problem
as a traffic engineer. We had that problem, because a lot of traffic signals are
made by one very good company and a lot of them are made by one lesser
company. The lesser company gets the low bid, but it wouldn't be the equipment
that you needed to solve the problem. How do you get around this politically -
[End side Ala]
M: bids? It can be a real nightmare sometimes, you know.
B: But that was addressed by the move toward uniformity of the -
M: Yeah, the uniformity is what did that, and especially on signs, I had a lot of
arguments, for example, with the city in Miami, who's a very good man and
a friend of mine, why should I change my sign, you're not going to pay for it, are
you? No, no, it's on your street, not mine, you know. Oh, hell. I can't shake
hands with, I couldn't change my sign. He had a different kind of yield sign, stop
sign, that kind of stuff in Miami, and we used the state, which was, in effect, the
national standard. Well, they finally did it, of course, almost had to, but resisted
for years, and __ money for them, no.
B: That was the professional traffic engineer?
M: Yeah. But a lot of people had that attitude, if you're gonna pay me money,
__, just to get equality. I mean, I'm doing fine, why do you come around and
screw it up?
B: Other than questions like that, though, you would say that the local officials
welcomed a man from the state.
B: Because you were taking bringing help.
M: Yeah, oh sure. The big urban areas maybe weren't as receptive as a lot of the
smaller areas, but places like Tallahassee, the city engineer there just loved
having help. For example, Miami had a very, even with the transportation
authority, the executive director of that, who's a man I usually work with, a pretty
good guy, and he will have a meeting with you and talk you over problems and
where we could solve them and that kind of stuff. Yeah. Because there never
was enough money, and there still isn't, to solve all the problems. Never.
B: Probably never will be.
B: You ran across the work of municipal planner George Simons at local cities. Do
you remember the names of any other planners whose work you ran into when
you came into local government jurisdictions?
M: Really, I don't, Alan, and most of the planners I'd see, like the planner in Orlando
was a city employee, for example. I can't think of his name offhand, but he was a
good friend at the time. Tampa, we worked very well with the police chief, who
had the traffic responsibility, and so forth.
B: Do you remember his name?
M: But I don't remember his first name.
B: All right. Remember having any dealings with Mayor Hixon in Tampa?
B: Or Nick Nuccio?
B: Julian Lane?
B: Okay. You moved to Tallahassee in late 1955. How long did you and your
family live in Tallahassee?
M: About eight years.
B: Eight years. What did you think of moving to a place like Tallahassee at that time
in your life? You'd lived in the North or been in the military all the rest of your life.
M: Well, it was nice weather. We came down, we didn't have much furniture
or anything, we had a small trailer we towed behind a car. Came down the
highway and saw all the live oaks with the moss hanging down and everything,
beautiful. So I get to the job the first day, meet the guy, one of the guys I'm
working for, who's an ardent Southerner, very didn't speak much.
B: Who was that?
M: His name was McDylan, Robert McDylan. He was one of the principal assistants
I worked with. Good guy, later on, but. This is funny. I __ notice these
beautiful trees here. They must have been here since before the Civil War.
Around here, Mr. Mueller, it's the "War Between the States." The very first five
minutes I was ever in Tallahassee, at the department and a cup of coffee, I was
told very emphatically, it's the "War Between the States." And I have never
B: Well, you moved to the South in 1955, the year after the Brown v. the Board of
Education decision, which we are commemorating historically this very year, the
fiftieth anniversary of the decision. Did it strike you as unusual to move to a
place, I guess I'm wondering what kind of reaction you felt, if you did notice it, or
how it came to be evident to you, that you were living in a place where relations
between black and white people were different, I guess.
M: Well, the thing that influenced us was, I think, that people got colored nannies, if
you want to use that term, to take care of their children. And almost to educate
them in many cases, certainly look after them. These people were almost loved,
but they had to sit in the back seat of the car. And I never could understand that.
I didn't think too much about school because at the time I thought as long as you
had a good school, it shouldn't make any difference what the proportion of
people were in the class, __ have good schools, and they should be equal
schools. I didn't give a darn what the composition of the class was, this was
School. And at that time, you thought all teachers were good, you didn't -
you just thought that. And practically all teachers were white, of course, and had
a fairly good background, I would guess, by today's standards. I don't know, I
really don't know. Our children weren't, we sent them to the public schools in
Tallahassee, one in '56 and one in '59.
B: Who are your children, by the way?
M: One was, the boy's named Linn, he lives in Sorrento, Florida, which is near
Safford, he's an engineer. Very good job with a contracting company. And my
daughter is a nurse, she lives in Gainesville, works for a hospital, got a very good
B: Work for Shands?
M: No, it's North Florida Regional [Medical Center].
B: Oh yeah.
M: But she took some training at Shands. That's probably why she doesn't work
there [laughter]. I won't get into that, but you know, these large municipal
hospitals that have to do all the indigents, just problem and problem. And
financial problems. It's just a very difficult situation for hospital people. And I
guess, sometimes __ big enough, that much better as far what they do, but
maybe it's a little better, I don't know. It's private, so it's easier to handle.
B: Well, let's see. You moved to Tallahassee, you're working for the state in
transportation planning for the state, you're traveling along to different parts of
the state, getting to know people in local government in the various cities, some
people in the private sector, I guess. How long did you stay at planning with the
state road corps?
M: Well, planning and engineering for eight years, and then I got an opportunity to
take a job with a genteel, private organization that dealt with the public called the
Highway Research Board. Very prestigious in Washington, D.C. So I took that
job. I was very unhappy in Florida, because the political situation, my boss set
himself up in business and, due to political connections -
B: What was his name?
M: Mel Conner. He was ten years older than me. He's the guy who hired me. He
was ten years older than I was, and he resigned about '62 and led a private
practice. And in effect, the work we had been doing as a government agency, he
wanted to get as a private person. And he was set up by one of the governor's
favorites, who was helping the governor get elected -
B: Can you tell me the name of that person?
M: Well, his name was Sy Deeb, he lives in Tallahassee, a very influential
B: Sy, S-Y?
M: S-Y, as far as I know.
B: And the last name is?
B: D-E-E-B. Where was he from?
M: I suppose Syria or someplace.
M: You mean what part of Florida. Tallahassee.
B: Oh, okay.
M: Yeah, he was a developer in Tallahassee. Very influential with the government in
power at the time.
M: Yeah. Yeah.
B: Okay. But he supported Mel Conner in going into private practice.
M: Yeah. And then a very acrimonious, not very good situation that I discussed.
Even though I was promoted to take Mel's place after he left. The fact that this
opportunity came along which was a unique one and the fact that I had these
political prompts, I could see really no way out of it for the next several years. I
did not want to, you might say, go public and make it a real issue or something
like that. I thought that would ruin everything, you know. So I got the heck out.
B: The governor at that time was -
M: Oh, let's see.
B: No longer LeRoy Collins.
M: No, it was Bryant, I believe.
B: Farris Bryant [governor, 1961-1965].
M: Farris Bryant.
B: From Jacksonville.
M: Well, from Ocala, really.
B: From Ocala?
M: Yeah, well, he was in Jacksonville later. But we looked upon him being from
B: I got you. And Sy Deeb had been a political supporter of that governor.
B: Mel Conner's job with the state road department up until then had been in -
M: Chief of the Traffic and Planning Division.
M: And I was the deputy of that.
B: He took over from Conner when he left.
M: I did.
B: You did. Oh really.
B: And how long did you stay in that job?
M: I stayed about a year, then I left.
B: Okay. When Mel Connor started trying to grow his business, on the strength of
doing work that, I guess, that your department had been doing up until then, did
he get help from others in the administration, say -
M: Well, the chief engineer, who was a guy I sort of reported to, his name was Al
Church, a very fine man, he said, Ed, we've got a really bad situation here, can
you give this guy some work. I said, well, I can give work here or there, but he
wants to do this or that. He says, let the guy do something, he says, a lot of
pressure. Then he asks me, he says, is he really an alcoholic? And I said, I
don't know. And at this point, I didn't really know what an alcoholic was. I
certainly didn't have any idea how you dealt with one. And I realized, many
years afterwards, that Mel was a bad alcoholic. And that's part of the problem.
Because when he went into business for himself, he was even more of an
alcoholic because he did not have the money, and I've run into some very bad
situations with him before. I was kind of_ no, I must admit, I'm very
conservative, I just don't tolerate that. And most days, it was not a disease, it
was about habit, if you understand my meaning. So you didn't know how I
mean, personally, I, myself, had never been exposed to anything like that, didn't
know how to treat it. If I had, then I would have done things __ different. But I
still would have had the acrimonious situation, I just wouldn't have dealt with it,
probably. And you can see, your boss leaves, and says to you, well, I'm gonna
push you hard for work, well, why do you have to do what I'm doing.
Because I'd been doing it well, we'd been doing it very cheaply, and I thought
B: And what kind of work was this?
M: Well, this was traffic and planning work, he was doing the same thing. One job
he got right away was to figure out where to put interstate __ in Tallahassee,
which was a heck of a political problem, where do you locate it.
B: Interstate 10.
M: Interstate 10, yeah. You __ develop the town where it is, through town, south
of town, etc., etc., and that kind of stuff. That was one job he had. And he did a
lot of the planning for a lot of the other cities in Florida, too. After I left, there was
nobody there that would face up to him much. So to give you an example of how
these things worked, the guy that took my place was a man named Paul Bunker,
a district engineer from, district traffic engineer from Lake City area.
M: B-U-N-K-E-R. Nice guy. Good guy. Good at working with people, but not that
well-educated professionally. He probably wasn't even a graduate, as far as I
can remember. Well, he needed a house in Tallahassee. Who builds the house
for him? Sy Deeb. Gives him a good price under very reasonable mortgage.
Paul Bunker is indebted to Sy Deeb for the rest of his life. See? That's the kind
of thing that happens. It's not that you know, you've got to have someone build
your house, the house is good but the mortgage was at a very good interest
rate, you know, a couple of points under I don't know, all that I know
was that it was a very good bargain for Paul. Paul had almost no money of his
own and he needed a house. He had a family and so forth. And that was the
kind of thing that happened. And that's what these guys did, these political
people, they did favors for you and, of course, would expect some favor later on.
You've got a job to do and you've got to select
B: Well, stuff like that.
M: Rather than the guy you don't know who might because the money's
about the same, see. It's the selection. One thing I found out too, later. When
people running for office, they need money for the political campaigns, civil
servants do not give a lot of money to people running for office, but consulting
engineers do. So the politicians finally figured out, well, if we can give some
word to consulting engineers, we can get contributions for our political party. The
way we do this is we just don't let them increase their staffs, they have to get the
work done, nobody argues about that, so we'll hire consultants, i.e., the
consultants probably can be influenced to give us political contributions. And,
although that's never been said anyplace I can remember, that is a part of what
happened in Florida, and all around the country, perhaps. Because the rise of all
the private consultants occurred with the demise of the more government
officials, which is probably good in the long run, but I wasn't happy at the time
B: When do you suppose that trend really started to gain ?
M: After we had some more money involved, like the interstate. So I'd say the
sixties. Early sixties. Forty years ago.
B: You think the fact that the federal government made all that money available in
the pipeline for road-building helped influence that?
M: Oh sure, because there's no way that the proper, even if it had, you probably
couldn't have found the interest to do the work for the salaries they could offer.
So we would have had to hire a consultant. It's just accelerated the process,
because a lot of the designs, especially urban areas, were all done by
consultants. And this is pretty good money. You know, you get a lot more
money doing a mile in an urban area than you do getting a mile in a rural area.
B: For example?
M: Plus, the technology got far more sophisticated than a government person could
really cope with. Even the very best highway departments in the country, like
California, could just not cope with the technology aspects that were demanded
in doing the new work. And __ a more sophisticated technology, your data
acquisition, that kind of stuff, then you ever thought of doing before. I mean -
B: Well, a department of the State Department could deal with it if they hired people
who had the expertise, I guess.
M: Yeah, but they're not allowed, because you don't have any vacancies, you can't
get them first through the governor and then to the legislature. For example, you
have a well, what's happened, not __ but the last twenty or thirty years, is
maintenance always used to be done by state forces. People with state jobs. A
lot of it is done now by contract, which nobody argues about. But the first ones
that were done, who got the contracts? Well, a guy who's affiliated with the
governor, maybe. See? Because none of the state people are for the
governor, unless they a guy or something. But an outsider coming in and
say, we can do we have good arguments each, but we could do a good
maintenance style for you, give us some work, for a price. Fine, what's wrong
with that? Plus, it makes sense that the guy got the job, because he's a friend.
You know, usually you don't bid on those things, or bid very strongly on them,
you see what I mean?
M: So that has happened a lot. And no one objects I don't either I'm
doing a lot of contract maintenance, in fact, I might do even more. But it's how
you do the selection. See, it's not like bidding, where you have ten people build
a house, we've got plans. Things like that, you're just selecting on qualifications,
looking at resumes, that kind of stuff. And there's a lot of ways you get a full
B: The technology of road-building, you said, was changing during this period of
time. The late fifties, the early sixties.
B: __ the interstate highway?
M: Yeah, because as you more bridges, you tried to build them better,
cheaper, more uniform. This led to things like processed concrete. You might
Show all the bridges you see in Florida are made of concrete. They're
what's called processed concrete, they're usually made in big sections and put
into place, whereas before they were all formed in place with wooden
and stuff like that. Still concrete, but a little different kind. And the interstate just
forced people to think of better ways to do things. Now why the other states
don't use concrete like we do, they use steel, which is fine, we use steel too
when we can't use concrete. Certain shapes and certain conditions you can't
use concrete, you much use steel. But steel costs more, and it especially costs
more in Florida, because there aren't that many iron mines around here.
B: You've got to transport it further.
M: Right. Move it someplace, yeah.
B: You said that it was hard for a state road department or a state agency to hire the
technology, the expertise that it needed. How come? Because you need it -
M: For example, out of there, I was about the only guy with a semi-graduate degree.
I actually managed to hire a graduate, master's degree guy from Purdue. That's
the only one I've ever hired. Some of these, the chief engineer of the state road
department before I came, bragged that he'd never been to school a day in his
life. He was just a real good cracker, redneck kind of guy that got along with
people in the political situation.
B: Who was that?
M: Oh, his name is he had a brother work for me he ran the turnpike for a while.
I may think of his name. I'd remember if I hear it, but I can't remember it
offhand, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to hide it, I just can't remember it.
B: Let me know if it pops up.
M: Yeah. Yeah. But Al Church, for example, was a graduate, but he was
considered a Yankee because he was born in Chicago and moved to Florida
when he was a kid. He was a Yankee.
B: Al Church -
M: He was our chief engineer under the Bryant administration.
B: All right. Gotcha. He succeeded Mel Conner.
M: No-no-no. This is chief engineer for the highway department.
B: Oh, the road department. Okay.
M: is from the
B: All right. So you hired this man from Purdue.
M: Yeah, I hired this man from Purdue, who was a little bit of a character, but he
moved down, and he knew what he was doing, and so forth, and so on. Yeah,
for example. He was one of the very few people you ever could hire, and
probably was hired as much because he's a character other jobs, come to
think of it.
B: If it was hard, you've got all this highway money coming into the state to build
interstate highway systems. It's coming out of the federal government through
the gas tax structure of the Interstate Highway bill. The state uses the money to
put down concrete and steel and build bridges and grade highways. But you
can't use that money to hire the expertise?
M: Oh, sure, sure, yeah, you do.
M: Yeah, you do. You use either state money, funds that aren't matched by federal,
and sometimes that's used because it's another less layer of review. But many
times you used the federal money, sure.
B: Though it was easier, apparently, to use that money to hire outside consultants to
do some of this.
M: Oh, it was easy to do, sure. Because the work's got to get done. You know
about the work that has to be done, i.e., how do we do it? Local forces, outside
sources, a combination, what. See? And if you did this in like, a more objective
way, you'd say, well, we've got thirty man-hours, and we need eighty man-hours,
we've got to hire fifty man-hours, see? But they said, let's get the fifty man-hours
and then worry about what you're going to do. Because we want to get
somebody to take care of that, some buddy of ours or something.
B: Okay, yeah.
M: So this is not a great evil, but it is an evil.
B: And apparently this suited the political parties.
M: Oh yeah, sure, sure. And if you're going to ask somebody to work for you, you're
not going to select an enemy, right?
M: You're going to select a friend. Well, who's a friend? A man who gave me
money for my campaign, a man who got some orders from me. A man that
helped me when I was a kid. You know, that's everybody does that, you know.
B: All right. So, if by 1962 or so, you have advanced in the road department, you've
got a clear-eyed view of how all of this works, and apparently it's starting to make
you a little bit less than comfortable the situation.
M: That's right.
B: Maybe you had this opportunity, now you say, to move to Washington, D.C.
What was that outfit?
M: It was called the Transportation Research Board, but at that time was the
Highway Research Board. Been in business for many years, and they provide
research and advice to highway departments in the federal government. They
have a team of people in various fields of highways, like myself, I was in traffic,
and they go around the country. Actually, you go around the country and talk to
highway departments, spend a couple of days and figure out what their problems
are and go back, maybe advise them, here's a publication that might help you, I
saw this as a problem, will this be of any very genteel. You have a whole
bunch of publications, __ And then you have a big annual meeting once a
year. It's a very nice job, in a way. You do a lot of travel, if you love to travel, it
was fine, but with a growing family, I wasn't too enamored of this all the time, it
was fine once in a while, I made it on about five or six good trips a year.
B: Where did you live?
M: Well, I lived in Fairfax, Fairfax County, Virginia, the outskirts, near the Shirley
B: And was this a for-profit corporation, or -
M: Well, it's a division of the National Science Foundation, which it exists only to
give advice to government. That's one thing these people existed to do. It's
private in that sense, but it's financed strictly by mostly public agencies, and the
only very well-respected at the time, well, still is. Very genteel. It never said,
you guys get rid of this way you're doing the thing, we'll maybe show you some
research to do it better, you know. But they did nothing as far as they were trying
to __ anybody's thoughts or anything. And they operated by subscription. For
$5000, this is how we but we'll provide you the services for $10,000, to the
Swe give you these services. They negotiate a contract every three years
for this kind of service, nominal at first, then they got pretty expensive as time
went on and the powers became greater. It was a nice job, in a way.
B: How long were you there?
M: Eight almost eight years.
B: Did you miss Florida?
M: Yeah, quite a bit. Traffic in Washington was lousy, and nobody really tried to
correct it. In my opinion there was lots you could do, but because of the
attitudes, political attitudes in Washington, I don't think anybody tried very hard.
That always irked me. But I don't know, maybe it's just me. And I got tired of
commuting after a while, and then a job came around in Florida.
B: Were there friends, people, associates that you missed in Florida, relationships
you had formed down here?
M: No, a few, yeah, a few, but not very many. They were pretty casual
relationships, they were not very brotherly-type. They were just people I had
known and would look up if I was around, and that kind of stuff. But not that I I
mean, occasionally a few Christmas cards, but that's about it, yeah.
B: People that you worked with -
M: Part of this is because I'm with my family, my attention has grown, concentrate
on my family at this time, and so forth.
B: All right.
M: My wife is working part-time some of the time, and so forth.
B: What did she do?
M: She's nursing. Dermatologist in the Washington area for a bit.
B: So your kids were all moved into schools up in the Washington, D.C. area -
B: You worked there and lived there for eight years, until what year?
M: Until 1970. In 1969, all around the country the state highway departments
became departments of transportation, federal government said, this is good, go
ahead and do it.
M: Because of transit. Other opportunities besides highways. The Urban Mass
Transit Administration was formed a few years before, and they -
B: This is a function of the federal government and the Johnson's Great Society.
M: Well, I didn't look at it that way. Yes, the __ But anyway, the department of
transit they're all going broke, like in Jacksonville and other places, they
could not get the equipment needed. Transit always has to be subsidizing. It
cannot start by itself no matter where you live in the country, every system is
subsidized by government. And that's the way it is. And usually if you're a
conservative person, you don't want to get in a situation where you have to
subsidize something, that's not good. All this money going out, and what's
coming in, see? Whereas if you build something like a highway, that's money
going out and we're getting something from our dollar, see what I mean? So you
put the two together, you've got a little dichotomy, a little irritating maybe to
some people. Well, in Florida in '69, we created a Department of Transportation
under Governor [Claude] Kirk [Jr., 1967-1971]. Governor Kirk appointed the
Head of the Road Board, which was abolished, because it was supposed to
be a professional engineer running this, no board or anything, and appointed a
man from Miami, who the legislature refused to confirm in December of '69.
B: Who was it?
M: I think it was an Irish name, his first name was Michael or Mike. Can't think of his
last name, might have been O'Larivey, but I don't think that's it.
B: Why would the legislature torpedo him?
M: Because they didn't like Governor Kirk being a Republican, and they were all
Democratic, and it's supposed to be a professional engineer, and this guy just
He was a nice guy, I met him a couple of times, and he was not
objectionable. He did not spend full time on the job, which was what they
thought The fact that the guy wasn't a professional engineer and he was
not going to spend that much time on it, we won't confirm him. Well, here the
governor's got a problem. It's the last year of his tenure, he's got to run for
reelection, what's he going to do? Well, the inside story is this: I had a neighbor
named, in Tallahassee named Don, I can't think of his last name but I will pretty
soon, and we were neighbors, very good friends, and he was a reporter for one
of the newspapers He knew a lot of the ins and outs of government. Well,
Kirk appointed him to be his principle assistant in some areas, and he also ran
the department that gave out the liquor licenses, I can't think who the name is.
Now this is highly, could be highly political and very lucrative, because a guy
wants a liquor license and the permit is $6000 or something like that, it'll cost you
$10,000 to get it for a thousand under the table. This guy was very honest, that's
what he did, and he cleaned it up. The governor asked him to find a candidate to
head the Department of Transportation.
B: Now this is somebody that you had known -
M: It's my neighbor.
B: back when you used to.
M: Many years. Yeah. Ten years, eight, ten years. And we exchanged Christmas
cards and casual he was a good friend. Still is, although I haven't seen him in
a very long time. And their two kids played with our two kids, that kind of stuff.
We lived next door to each other in Tallahassee. Anyway, he asked me to help
him. So I said, well, I sent him half a dozen resumes, and after a month or two of
doing this, he says, Ed, would you like to I said, well, I don't know, Don.
I've heard a lot of things about Governor Kirk I don't like. I said, my main thing is,
is he enriching himself by his office, Governor Kirk. Because I've heard about
the problems he had with consultants and stuff, that's a nightmare. So.
Yeah, so I don't know. Well, come down for a meeting, he'd like to talk to you.
So I did, I went down there to Lakeland, he had just been recovering from an
operation. It wasn't bad, he was a little subdued, as I found out later. But after
fifteen minutes he offered me the job, and I took it. And we didn't tell much about
it, I mean, I didn't, he didn't say, I've got to do it this way or that way, he just kind
of_ me out a little bit, my background. Now previously, he had talked to the
guy in Maryland who worked for Governor [Spiro] Agnew, a very political guy and
not a very good situation. If that guy had been hired, my God, the scandals in
Florida __ But fortunately, that did not happen, but he did talk to other people
before he talked to me, and of the people I said were all good people I had
known, I don't think they followed up on any or many of them. I gave them
people I knew who I knew could do the job, see, because I knew a lot of people
around the country. When I got the job, I came in April, and -
B: This might be a good place to pause for a moment.
[pause in tape]
M: This man's name was Don Meiklejohn. M-E-I-K-L-E-J-O-H-N.
B: He had been Kirk's proposed candidate.
M: No, he was an advisor to Kirk. And Kirk asked him to find a transportation
secretary. That was the title of the job at that time.
B: And you said he had been a newsman as well?
M: Yeah, he worked for the Perry chain, and he was, he loved to dig into things, he
was a good writer. He, I think he worked for the Tallahassee Democrat, too. But
he was a good reporter, he did that all his life as far as I know. And I think
afterwards he moved to Washington, but I lost track.
B: Why do you think Kirk settled on you?
M: Well, just 'cause he didn't have anybody else. __ hadn't worked for the
department before, I think he thought I could do a better job quicker because I
knew the department, I didn't have to go through the learning process that way.
Because most of the guys were still there that had been there seven, eight years
before. They maybe advanced a little bit, but also, when you have someone
who's working with you who leaves and then comes back, it's all what is
this guy going to do to me? Does he remember when I snuck in, does he
remember when I did this? What does he remember, when I was good to him
and maybe promote you know, that kind of stuff. He had a little bit of that
attitude. But I think the main reason was because I had been there before. It
certainly wasn't because of my looks, because at that time I weighed thirty or
forty pounds more than I do now. I was pretty chubby. And had more hair. But I
didn't get it on my looks, I assure you that. Yeah.
B: And Kirk offered you the position?
B: With no particular strings attached?
M: No, I worried directly about what to do about but as I explain in a minute
that was very easily solved. I got here, the first thing was getting confirmed, that
was the great problem, of, we thought, nothing to it. I just talked to the legislature
in an interview, and the main thing -
B: Who did you talk to in the legislature?
M: Probably the Transportation Committee. A group of committees. practically
all Democrats, right. And they just interviewed you, and there was really no
problem, I had to make a statement where they asked me if I was a Communist.
I asked if I said something that might have leaned somebody that way, I said, no,
no, we, you know, something like that. oh, detrimental.
B: That's a funny one.
M: And then I just well, I'm not going to brag, but in a week or ten days
problem. The department had problems, the main problem was, I think, the top
guys did not like the governor and the way he operated or tried to operate. They
didn't, when there was a road board member mechanism before, they didn't have
quite the political aspects that they had before, but it was still political, subject to
a road board. But it took so long to get five or six guys in the federal
requirements, so you didn't have too much of that influence, these guys were
mostly, I say pretty good guys, as far as I could tell. I didn't know any of them
personally, but it was a lot different, it was __ so far. And the problem with the
governor's club was this: there's so much work you had to get done, the
gentlemen were going to do the work, were going to get the work done, there
was no question about that. Now you, as a district engineer, we had five districts
you've got to decide if you can do the work or you can't do the work during the
time__ we have. If you can't do the work, you have to use a consultant. So
that's the first thing. You do not decide not to do the work. You must do the
work because we've got to get it done, keep concentrating because the
department is very criticism for being __ So what we would do, see,
before, when you had a job come up, the governor might recommend one or two
people, maybe. For one job.
M: Contractors. And consultants, design consultants. Because the contract is all
done by bids. And if the governor didn't like that, he'd get mad, and the people
who sent it over, the people who sent it over got mad because the governor
didn't take the recommendation. So I solved that by sending over we got ten
jobs and twenty design consultants. Take your choice, governor, I don't care.
And nine times out of ten he'd always take the first choice. See, you just I just
found out that, and part of this was __ or whatever, I don't know, they just
irritated the governor at that facility, and they could have done it so easily. They
still have, the governor would still have, you might say the governor's the
problem. But you could not criticize the way that the department, because all it
did was send I had never made the decisions, the district engineers made the
decisions. I would tell them, now, if you've got a $10,000 job, don't take a $5,000
man, you know. If you've got a lesser guy that you really think you want to help,
take a small job you know you can do, don't handle something you can't do. Just
play So we'd send over a whole batch of them at a time. The governor
never turned down anybody, all, all, with one exception, never changed a thing,
out of forty or fifty different jobs. And that was the secret to solving the problem.
It doesn't sound like much, but that's what did it.
B: What was the exception?
M: Well, one guy, this guy in Lake City, I had one job, and the governor referred him
onto another job. that I can remember.
B: Any idea why?
M: Oh, I suppose the guy got to it and said, governor, I'd rather do this job than that
job. I guess, but I don't __ The guy later offered me a job.
M: He also offered me a job before. I didn't take it. But, I mean, it was, I thought it'd
be the most difficult problem, I never knew how I was going to get out of that
problem, because I just you have no idea how I dreaded it, because of what I
had before, with my old boss. It was no problem at all. So the other problem is
we've got to get the work done, we've got to get the jobs out, then you have the
problems, you build 1-10, or 1-95, or 1-4, or wet areas, so how do you do that.
Well, the press always you're going to build 1-4, you're going to build 1-10,
what're you going to do? And you know, whatever you say, you're wrong. But I
found out that getting the contracts ready, the design contracts ready to build the
__ procured and that kind of stuff, was such a daunting, exhausting task, that
we were lucky that we could have had any jobs at all on 1-10 or 1-95 or wherever
it was. We were lucky that, well, we're going to do 1-10 this week and next month
we're going to do 1-4, because that's the place we've got contracts with. But we
never said this to the press, but that's what it turned out to be. And during the
rest of Governor Kirk's term, we got a lot of jobs ready, a lot of the roads opened,
he came to a couple dedications I set up, nobody showed up much for them, but
he came and gave a little talk, I gave a little talk, and so forth. It worked out
really well. He was not hard to work with, he was, he had a staff meeting every
Monday and, for a half-hour or so, with his aides, and we just talked for, very
generally, nothing, nothing really politically, just how's it going and that kind of
One time I managed to, and this is about the exception, one time I managed to
have problems getting a decision from the Coast Guard on a bridge someplace,
the Bridge Highway or something? Who's the guy that does this? Well, it's
Admiral such-and-such. And he called his secretary and says, get Admiral Such
on the phone with me, I want to talk to him. We never got through to him, but
was going to do was tell him, get the hell out of there. get this damn permit
from this man, we've got to get this bridge built, see. That's what his way of
doing things was. My way was never like that, I would find out who the guy is,
who's his principal assistant, call them, maybe visit him, talk to him nice, see
what happened I would never do anything like that. That's confrontational,
that's the way Kirk did things. Well, I'm not a confrontational person, and I don't
think it works pretty good for highways, anyway. Maybe it does for politics, but
not for highways. And then the other problem we had, and that was the attorney
general, was named Faircroft. And you could never get a decent legal opinion,
because he was anti-Kirk. You know, if you needed a legal opinion to do
something, concerning highways or something, you've got to keep it out of his
department rather than go in it. Plus, the legislature, mainly the guys who
worked for the lawyers who worked for the transportation committee had
previously worked for the department, and they were quite anti-department,
which distressed me greatly, because some of these guys were new, had been
sort of friends before. Here they were fighting the department. You used to work
for the department, you know. Florida has laws -
B: They had that attitude because they wanted to put a spoke in Kirk's wheel, is that
M: Kirk, right, and of course, were out for themselves, to get a name for themselves
and influence the legislature and so forth.
B: Were you among the -
M: The one dastardly problem of Florida is, you pay people to sue you when you
cadet their land.
M: Only two states sued us, at the time it was only one state. Very bad lot, because
you want a bad piece of property and you get a fair appraisal for it. Say it's a
$10,000 piece of property, and you've hopefully got a $10,000 well, I don't want
to take that, I want more. Fine, we'll give you $11,000. You get ten percent
more almost by asking. No, that's not good enough, I'm going to hire a lawyer.
So __ whoever gets to $15,000. Fine. But the lawyer gets paid on the basis
of $15,000. All he got for you was $4,000. The difference? The judge
because he supported the judge in getting elected. Ahhh, a ten percent fee
Well, this is what happens, and these guys are getting rich. Rich!
B: And you all are paying.
M: And they get like sixty or a hundred, two hundred dollars
when they should
have gotten ten dollars that kind of a thing. And to me, it's exorbitant,
criminal. And do you suppose I could ever get anybody interested in that
problem? Solving it? No. Governor [Reubin] Askew [1971-1979], a very
virtuous man for a governor, probably wouldn't even hear of it. Because he's a
private lawyer and wants to get fees. But that is the worst one, the worst
problem we've got in Florida, and there are so many rich people in this town,
lawyers, from representing you in condemning land. I had this with the
transportation authority too, later on. But that is one of the worst problems ever, I
tried to quietly solve it, because you can't do it publicly, nobody understands it
and thinks you're kidding them or something, I don't know. Terrible problem.
Still is. I think. Why do you pay someone to sue you? Why would you do that?
B: How much of an impact would -
[End side Alb]
M: Well, it's probably a, I would say it's a third to, I would say it's -
B: Would you say it's had on road-building costs overall?
M: Oh, it's probably, I would say it's a third to doubly the __ cost.
B: The cost.
M: Yeah, it has nothing to do with the construction. Oh, absolutely. I'll give you an
example later on, when I worked with __ Take off any government, agency in
Florida, they will do their best to negotiate. They do not want to go to court,
because if they go to court the fee is always more, always more. Plus the
attorney, the judge looks on the attorney and says, well, you get twenty percent.
And you get twenty percent of the whole amount rather than the difference that
you got for the guy. Because you didn't fight to get, you know, the state offered
you a certain amount, all you ever got for him was the amount between that and
the amount you got, see. But the judge would give the lawyers a fee, arbitrarily,
just like that. Yeah, and then you'd have to pay it. Plus, they provide all kinds of
expert witnesses, some of these guys we these appraisers. Yeah, what
kind of appraiser works for you, a pretty honest appraiser. We had another guy
that worked with the lawyers, and they were not as good, as honest as you felt
your appraisers were.
B: Hired guns.
M: Well, certainly, yeah.
B: Governor Kirk was up for election during the same year that you came on board.
M: Yeah. They thought he'd be reelected. __ [laughter].
B: And he was defeated by Reubin Askew, whom you just mentioned, and
apparently you continued on in the Askew administration.
M: Yeah, what happened is, right after he was elected, end of the year, start of next
year, he had wanted someone who turned him down. Took a job in a college, or
something. So, he was kind of stuck. I interviewed with him, and so I'm not
taking any part in an election, except that he gave a couple speeches that were
technical speeches that I would have given anyway, but at the governor's request
to this group or that group. Otherwise, I did appear at one public thing in
Tallahassee with him once with a friend of mine. That's all I did. Because I had
a lot to do with this __ department, really, and so I went to see him in January,
we had a talk, and he said, well, I want to get somebody else set up, but in effect,
will you continue on? I said, yes governor, [laughter], and there's no
problem with chicanery, things will be the same. Now I didn't know what he
would do for selection for consultants, you know? So I did the same thing I did
with Kirk: he would have ten jobs, give him a list of consultants, he took every
one, and after a few months he said, never don't bother about that. You select
them. So he got out of it entirely. Whereas before, Governor Kirk had reserved
that privilege for himself.
B: Where you a member of the governor's cabinet?
M: I guess you'd call it that, yeah.
B: Did you vote on cabinet decisions to do -
M: Oh, no-no-no, no-no-no. All we ever did was have staff meetings.
B: Oh, okay.
M: That is under both governors.
M: Governor Askew had a staff meeting, he had an actual breakfast meeting in the
mansion. Governor Askew is hard to know, and probably being a see, the only
reason he kept me is, I was a Democrat, see, a registered Democrat, even
though it didn't make much difference. I just want to put a person, as I told you,
but he had a very, the lieutenant governor was a real thorn in his side. Guy
B: Tom Adams.
M: Tom Adams, yeah, God. And the governor, I knew enough about people by this
time that I could just tell the governor was just biting his tongue not to chew him
out in public or, with eight or ten department heads.
M: And the governor was a rather virtuous man, said grace every meal, never
any bad words, I never heard him say a bad word I can __ Kirk never said
anything too bad, he said "hell" and "damn" a lot, but I mean, you know.
B: What did you think of Kirk as a governor?
M: Well, I only knew him about the last year, I didn't know, hardly, didn't think about
him. He certainly was a character. The thing he should have done in life is be
George Jessel. He's the best after-dinner humor speaker in the world.
[Laughter.] Absolutely, the man is tops at that. Absolutely tops. Absolutely tops.
As a governor, he's probably not one of the best. He used the wrong technique.
I don't know how you governor, about that confrontation, I think you have to work,
get it all that stuff. But he decided to do it by and maybe
because we're all Democrats, I don't know. I don't know. Now, we had to work a
lot in the department with the representatives and legislature, some were
Democratic, some were Republican, I never asked. I asked, what's your
problem? In fact, one guy, he was a Democrat, I thought he was a Republican.
And we talked about things, and it, but I mean, these guys would come in with
their problems. Well, I just tried to solve it on a problem basis. Yeah, we can
build that road on the __ coming up in January, and all that stuff. Or, we can't
do that, we need, you know, I found out enough about it, I'd just do it on a
technical basis, and that was it. And a lot of them had problems, a lot of them
were happy with what I said, a lot of them weren't. I'm sure of that. But that's the
way I decided to handle it. Now you see, I was, when I worked for this job in
Washington, I had been to forty-four different highway departments, and I knew
what was wrong with the way you ran highway departments. They're just two
things: politics, two kinds of politics. One is the politics like the consultant
section, the external politics, if you want to look at it another the other is
internal politics, how you advance people. Usually, sometimes it's done by
cronyism, sometimes it's done on merit. Florida was mostly cronyism, I mean
I mean, people put in a resume, what they did, for the selection committee
and that kind of stuff. We said that from cronyism you couldn't keep up. Well, it
had been __ before, well, Bill should take the job because he's my buddy, see.
But those are the two problems I found out looking at all these highway
departments, the good ones and the bad ones, were these two kinds of politics.
The politics at the head, with the outside world, and the politics inside because of
the way you advance people in the departments. Simple. It just, when you get to
forty-four departments, you get an idea what's wrong. Or right, for that matter.
B: Well, you came into the state DOT, the FDOT at a time when it was sort of
responding to this mandate to do other things besides just road-building.
M: Including transit and aviation and stuff.
B: And aviation.
M: Oh, yeah.
M: No, ports weren't even considered at that time.
B: How about the Cross-Florida Barge Canal project?
M: It was all gone by the time I got there.
B: It had been deauthorized?
M: It had been deauthorized, yeah. It was a dead issue.
B: Okay, so you never really had any -
M: I had personal thoughts on it, but not as, no thoughts when I was in office.
B: Was it a novelty for you to get involved in this business on public transit, mass
transit, as we call it?
M: Well, we had one guy, we had a little transit set up there before, a guy named
Jim Hunter, ran the, and he got no attention from anybody. He was -
B: When you say, we had before, you mean -
M: Well, before I got there. There was a transit function.
B: The Road Department.
M: The Road Department. Well, see, at that time it was the DOT.
M: And he, he just had an office on the floor, but he was entirely ignored. He did
whatever he did, he did a few things to nobody treated him very seriously.
Well, I treated him seriously. And at this time, there was public money coming
down for transit, we needed a policy, what could we do. So I talked to Jim, I said,
well, we just talked, we agreed the policy is this: we will not spend any money on
operating transit systems around the state. No money. But most of the money
coming down is eighty-twenty. We will put in ten percent, in other words, make
up half of the difference. So the local government and ourselves are partners,
matching the federal funds. And most of this goes for transit equipment or
buildings. Something tangible. Which is__ like highway-building. And that
scared everybody, because operating costs, Miami, for example, could easily
have absorbed everything else in the state, for example. And __ operating
costs, because you get unions, you get all kinds of tough, things that are tough.
So that was the policy we had, which is still around today. Except there are
some projects now like Jacksonville, for example, wants to try to move from here
to there, it's going to cost $80,000 this year to try it. The state may fund part of
that, part or all of that.
B: What does eighty-twenty mean? Oh, eighty-twenty.
M: Yes, eighty percent federal, twenty percent state or local.
M: And the state, now the state can put it all on twenty and do it, but we thought it
was best to get the local participation, which usually came out of city funds, in
this case, because we're all cities, we're not counties in transit. So transit and
aviation, nothing to do about airports and all that stuff that we thought at the time.
I don't think they still do much. But we can do a lot about airport safety for
private aircraft. That's what we try to do on the small scale, and we did
preaching safety to small airports, and checking on private planes. Of course,
some of the guys who did that had their own private pilot's licenses and that kind
of stuff. But that was just a thing, and wanted to do something in the
aviation, no sense trying to do anything with the big airports, because they,
they've got their own ideas and their competition with each other, and all that
stuff. Plus, they know what to do, they've got all the it's just different, the way
they get the money, you don't get it through the federal Department of
Transportation, a very bad one.
B: So most of what you did as DOT Secretary in Florida really still continued to
revolve around roads?
M: Oh, God, ninety percent, probably. And it still will, always will be, as long as we
have the kind of things we have, because you have no idea the pressure that's
put on maybe it's not so much today, to get something done. Got to have
this road done. Why does it take eight years? Why do you have to do this? And
you just spend, detail after detail trying to explain and get something done. It's
almost a very disheartening process trying to get anything done, especially
today. It was bad enough when I was working at it years ago, but I don't know
if I could even stand it today if I didn't have or something.
B: Was the Turnpike Authority something that related to your department when you
M: Yeah, that came in just before, and they made the wrong decisions there, they,
the turnpike was __ by a guy named Thomas Manuel.
B: Emanuel or Manuel?
M: Manuel. M-A-N-U-E-L. Very fine job. Very fine. And we took it over, and
B: You took it over.
M: Well, it was before I got there. The state took it over. The districts absorbed the
various parts that the turnpike was in.
B: All right.
M: And they balanced the command structure of the turnpike. One of the guys
came to Tallahassee as a representative, but that was about it. All the
maintenance, everything was done, they tried to do it on a routine basis, with the
state maintenance forces and the turnpike workers combined. It didn't work very
good. They should have always kept it separate, separate agencies in the
department, __ But they didn't. It was already done by the time I got there. I
would have left it just exactly as it was and let it operate that way, but I don't think
that was the intent of the legislature, they wanted to combine or something. But
see, they're toll roads, DOT never built any toll roads, and the you know,
they're and the turnpike, had that plus they __ run very well, I
thought, very well, very well. And they're pretty real criticisms, and this man was
a fine man, think it broke his heart, too, to be deprived of that.
B: Did you make changes in the way that operated then during your tenure?
M: I really didn't have enough time to do that.
B: You took it the way it was -
M: The way it was being handled, and the one thing we did do, we got some more
projects added to the turnpike. Are you familiar with Orlando at all?
M: Well, you know where SeaWorld is.
M: Well, there's a road connection there when you get on the turnpike system to get
the finance, and we did a few adjuncts to the turnpike system around the state,
little adjuncts here and there, that we could reasonably say are turnpike projects
to, because there was no way to fund it otherwise. And most of the stuff we did
on our own, I don't think the legislature exactly liked it later on, because they
found some control over it, but that's what we did a little bit. Kirk was pretty good
at thinking of things like that, I think he thought of these ways to do it, you know,
try to get a project here, a project there, on turnpike funds. See, even though the
turnpike was __ into the DOT, __ and revenues and all that stuff was like it
was a complete entity by itself. It just was the way they did the maintenance.
They would still charge it to turnpike funds, but they would do it with state forces
instead of the routine maintenance forces that the turnpike had. Those people
were employed by the DOT if you wanted to so you've got And the
toll-takers and stuff, that was just a separate division that did that stuff.
B: Were there road board members who still tried to exert influence in highway
M: I never had anybody try to influence me that was a road board member. I did
meet one or two of them here or there, but I don't think anybody ever really tried
to influence me.
B: And how long did you stay on that?
M: I stayed on twenty-six months until I left in August '72, excuse me, I left in no, I
left in April '73 to join the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. In the meantime,
Governor Askew tapped his own man. So I said, governor, I've got just a few
months to go to get my ten years' pension or whatever it was, fine, then stay on,
and if you want to leave, fine, just don't bother the new guy. So I did, I just had
an office and a safety project that I started that I finished in a couple months, and
I got a job offer from the Transportation Authority.
B: Who did Reubin Askew appoint to succeed?
M: Danny Walter Rebels.
B: All right. That name rings a bell, where was he from?
M: Well, he was from a consulting firm, he was, I knew him a little bit, I __ wanted
that job, he's not a professional engineer. To me, that was see, that job was
the best government professional engineering job in the state. And it had, for
those days, a pretty good salary. It just was something that you loved to __ in
doing that. It was just that kind of a job and that's the way I treated it. Well, this
guy's got to be, he was kind of looking out for himself, I thought, very aggressive,
very, pretty good. And, for example, he got appointed I left in April, but, let's
see. I gave that job up in August the year before, and he came in August or
September. And I stayed down in this staff job for a few months getting this
safety project done, and just keeping out of his way, and doing a few things to
keep busy until I got this job with the Transportation Authority. And before, see,
the legislature didn't meet until April, and he was worried about being confirmed.
He called or visited every one of the legislators to make sure he'd get confirmed.
M: Which I would have never done.
M: I would say, well, you don't want me, the heck with it. But he actively,
aggressively did that. He I never expect him I know after a while the
governor got very tired of him, but he couldn't get rid of a Republican, because
__, acted politically somewhat. Not too much, probably, getting the governor
elected, I think. Afterwards he a consulting firm in Miami, which is now one
of the largest in the state.
B: Well, how did you wind up coming to Jacksonville, then?
M: Well, I just had an offer. The chairman of the Transportation Authority, who'd
been there before I'd been to the Transportation Authority once or twice
and said, look, there's no way that DOT can build your bridges and all the things
you want to do. You're going to have to do it yourself through tolls just like
you've done for years. I can help you a little, but you know, a little marginal
supplement, but you've got to do it yourself. Just as, you know, you know,
people are couple of times, and was in the seventies, -
B: What was that last name?
M: Sollee, S-O-L-L-E-E.
B: All right.
M: He would venture all around the state and was working with the Transportation
Authority. But for the last year or two they had been in a, I say, a stand-put
status. They had just gotten authority to take over the transit but they hadn't
done anything with it. So they decided, you know, they wanted to do something,
so they asked for Arthur to retire and hired me.
B: They had consolidated government here by then.
M: Yeah, by then. They had. And that was a very great advantage, believe me.
And the authority was good businessmen, somewhat political, but a pretty good
bunch of people that are all, we're all friends, although we didn't always see eye-
to-eye when I was working there, but the chairman and I had a very good
relationship. His name was Wes Paxson. P-A-X-S-O-N.
B: All right.
M: He was a Republican.
B: What was his business?
M: He in electrical business, electrical engineering business. He later owned
Auchter Company, A-U-C-T, A-U-C-H-T-E-R. He doesn't own it anymore. In
fact, he rigged a bid and got sent to jail. [Laughter.] Long after I left. But that's -
B: A bid to do with the -
M: Electrical, with his own business.
M: He was off the Authority by that time.
B: I see. But, I mean, a bid for work from the Authority, or from another government
M: I wasn't around, I'm not sure it was even, I don't think it was even a state, but I
B: Anyway, he was the head of the board when you were hired and he lost -
M: Yeah, yeah.
B: And how long did you stay here in that job?
M: Oh, I stayed here about eight years. And the main thing we did was trying to get
the Dames Point Bridge built. But all the time getting the studies, the designs.
We did it once, and the DOT would not back us up, they were worried about
finances, running over and all that stuff.
B: The state or ?
M: The state, yeah. You've got the tollbooths, so no federal money involved.
M: There's a story behind that, but I won't tell you that. So after waiting a few years,
they redesigned and bid it and came in at enough to get the bid. But I find the
traffic projections were -
[End side Alc]
B: All right, we're resuming with the interview with Ed Mueller. And at this point in
the interview, he's talking about his experience with the Jacksonville Expressway
Authority. Did I name that correctly?
M: Transportation Authority.
B: Jacksonville Transportation Authority, sorry.
M: Used to be Expressway Authority, but when it took over the transit they made us
the Transportation Authority. The transit, initially private I mean,
we're public we took over the transit system, they couldn't make the goal
list, so we're going to make the goal list. To their astonishment they could not
make the goal but they had to still subsidize it, you might even have to think
to raising fares, you had to get your matching money from the city council,
because __ any way to do it oh my God. So they were resigned -
B: Did that surprise you, or was this a -
M: Well, I just, I didn't say much about it, but it just, sort of something gradually, it
didn't sink in over one day, it took months for them to finally realize this.
B: Why couldn't they get the subsidy from the ?
M: Well, it's not permitted. You had to do it by the highways you build, like, vehicles
that operated on them, for example.
B: And that was the only money that the Authority had.
M: Only money it had, and it had to take that, a little bit from that from the, see,
tolls, that was the source of funds. In the tolls, the only it was backed by the
gas tax, but we never used it, it was just backed.
M: So you get a better bond rating. And better, lower interest rates.
B: So they thought they would run transit as strictly an enterprise fund.
M: Right. And they __ Well, it just We could be making money on this.
So every year we work out a budget, and ask for money from the city council,
which for years was done. After Zurrey came in and they took off the tolls and
stuff, then they used and gas tax for
B: Referring to Mayor Tommy -
M: Tommy Hazouri. Yeah.
B: I see.
M: They just used that money to they didn't have to ask the city council for it,
Administrative funding based on the half-cent sales tax, which was one that
you collected by tolls. One __ we had right away in this, and I had known
about it from the beginning, we charged a fifteen-cent toll, and the cost of
operating and maintenance were gradually eating up the difference between
what the fifteen-cent toll brought in and what we had So eventually we
would be operating which just can't happen.
[End of Interview.]