Ed Kaske was one of the first to respond to our request for origin stories. I apologize for the delay in getting this to print; we liked it so much that we were thinking about a magazine feature before deciding it belonged here. — Chuck Schultz
Chuck’s words “Many ways in — but just one way up” — would be a short description of my career path.
There are many origins in my story and I would not change any of them, as each one led me to the next phase of my career. I consider myself very lucky to spend 40 years in a job that I found challenging and very satisfying.
I was 16 years old — too old not to have a summer job — so my father (who was an estimator) got me a job on something called a burr bench. Half a day in I realized that this was no way to spend a summer chiseling and filing burrs off big gears. As I was formulating a plan to escape, the shipping clerk and his assistant started a very loud argument, which ended with the assistant getting fired. I quickly volunteered to be his replacement and spent the summer packing crates and loading trucks. Occasionally I was assigned to run simple operations on machines, even though I was under 18.
At 17 years old, my hard work from the summer before was rewarded with a request that I return. This time I was taught to set up and run machines in the bevel gear department (Gleason #104s, #114, cutter sharpening and tester set up.) This was fascinating and challenging. I learned so much I would lay in bed at night and go over the lessons of the day. Anything they asked me to do I said yes — and I said yes a lot. I was a big kid, so nobody ever asked if I was 18; lucky for me as that was one of the best summers I ever had.
For many reasons I decided that college was not for me. Not knowing what I wanted led me back to the gear shop. I worked hard — much to the dislike of my union steward — did much more than I was expected to do and learned all the steps needed to calculate set ups and sizes. I worked in different areas when things slowed down and quickly became an all-around machinist.
My company built a satellite plant in another state and moved me to be the gear cutting lead man. Looking at the gear shop through the eyes of someone responsible for others was the next step in my “yellow brick road.”
With multiple ups and downs during the next few years, I landed in a 7-man, 7,500 square foot shop. I was engineering, sales, estimating and purchasing. The owner wanted to grow the company; my options were unlimited. We worked hard, very long hours, and it started to pay off.
As people were added, my job focus narrowed to engineering. I spent what seemed like every non-working moment reading and studying everything I could get my hands on. Computers became affordable. We computerized set up calculations and I taught myself CAD. I attended seminars through the AGMA and other groups.
Believe me when I say effort pays off, always say yes to the next challenge, take responsibility for and learn from your mistakes and, never stop learning. When I retired for health reasons, I left a 60-man 125,000 square foot shop in good hands with people who were like family and guys I trained.