Alistair Robertson
Primary: 1942-48
Secondary: 1951-54
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Being a member of the kindergarten class of ’42, my years at the Morgan were interrupted from September ’48 thru February of ’51 when my parents decided it was an opportune time to take me back to Calcutta, India, where my father had worked for many years. It was a time to keep us all together for a while, particularly for my parents as we had been separated from my Dad for 8 years during WWII. During my time in India I was sent to boarding school in Darjeeling, high in the Himalayas and away from the heat of the plains - March thru November at school and December thru February in Calcutta when the weather is ideal. On reflection it was a wonderful experience and prepared me well for “breaking” from home. I rejoined my old classmates (2B) at the Morgan in March of ’51.

On returning to Maryfield, our home in Nairn St., the "Swannie Ponds", old friends and the Morgan it seemed I was more interested in sports than studying. I made the first XI in football, loved track and field, played lots of tennis in the summer and I was also a pretty good wing three quarter playing rugby (when forced), but my studies eh! I realized that academia was not my forte. I left the Morgan in Jan. ’54 to join the Jute Industries as an apprentice, but I did continue studies at the Dundee Tech.

After school I joined the YMCA football team with my old school teammate Billy White (now in Australia). We made a great partnership and in no time moved on to play with Arnot in the Dundee Junior League. Very quickly I was attracting the attention of senior clubs, Dundee United, Stoke City and Preston North End. Preston invited me down to Deepdale for a two week trial and offered me terms as a part-time pro. This allowed me to carry on with my apprenticeship until I was 21. They also found me a job with the English Electric Co. (EEC) in Preston. I had a memorable two weeks in Preston and was truly “In the clouds” during the train journey home.

Preston were then a first division club with a galaxy of stars and finished second and third top in the almost four seasons I was with them. However in these days football wages were not what they are today. When I turned 21 EEC offered me a position in the design office of their Aviation division at Warton with a further two year exemption from the National Service. To me this was a “no-brainer” as, although I had made the Preston reserve team on numerous occasions, I could do as well financially as a designer with football on the side in the lower divisions, and establish a career for life.

I was at Warton with English Electric Aviation from ’59 thru ’64. In the beginning I did modifications to the Canberra bomber and the Lightning fighter then moved on to original design concepts for the new Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance (TSR2) bomber. After having two planes flying and 26 in the “Jigs”, the government cancelled the contract putting me out of work. I decided then, that Aerospace might be too specialized so I moved into the general engineering field for a couple of years before accepting a tempting offer in 1966 to do Aerospace contract work in the U.S.

The first job at Lockheed, Georgia was short lived, but they moved me immediately to Fairchild in Maryland where they were converting a Fokker F28 to a Fairchild Hiller F-228 with Rolls Royce jet engines. This turned out to be a great move for me as this is where I met my beautiful wife Cheryl, of now 43 years. However 18 months later Fairchild decided there was no market for this plane. They closed the plant and I was out of work again, a few weeks before our schedued wedding and Bahamas honeymoon in 1968. One of the many times I have appreciated my "Thrifty Scot" heritage.

Fortunately Lockheed, Burbank, California came looking for design engineers for their new L1011 passenger liner. A move to the West Coast, sunshine, Hollywood, Malibu and the abundance of aircraft companies there, sounded great to me. Cheryl and I purchased our first home and shortly thereafter Eileen our first daughter was born. We loved Burbank - the schools were great and our second daughter Kimberly was also born there. Life was good even though we experienced our first earthquake, a frightening 6.5 magnitude quake.

This was followed by Rolls Royce going bankrupt developing the RB211 engines for the L1011, drawing Lockheed into bankruptcy - which resulted in another layoff. Fortunately Rockwell was looking for people for the B-1 bomber in ’72 and I was hired and remained with them for the next 36 years. After the B-1’s first cancelation I transferred to Rockwell’s Space Division in Downey, and worked on the docking module for the first Apollo-Soyuz mission where, on occasion, an Astronaut would show up at ones board and discuss your particular design. An experience that was indeed exciting, and was "threaded" throughout my Space Program life. On conclusion of the Apollo-Soyuz design I transferred to the new Space Shuttle Design team where I remained until retirement in 2008.

In ‘75 after commuting back and forth for a year or so I decided it was too “smoggy” in Burbank so we moved to Huntington Beach, about 40 mins. south of Los Angeles and with a slightly shorter commute to Downey and a cooler and healthier climate. My entire life on the Space Shuttle was dedicated to the Thermal Protection System (TPS) Design, the material that protects the vehicle during the 3000 degree re-entry stage. To the uninitiated TPS means tiles, but there is a lot more to it than that. I eventually became manager of the TPS Design group.

I feel honored to have worked with such a great collection of dedicated professionals and was saddened the other day when I attended a party to commemorate the last Space Shuttle flight scheduled for July 2011. I travelled to many vendors across the USA including visits to NASA Houston and spent many weeks at Cape Canaveral during the early years of the build program. In total it was enjoyable work and mostly always fun. I stayed there longer than I intended not only because it was enjoyable but when Boeing bought us out in ’96 they transferred us all to their newly acquired facility in Huntington Beach, a mere six minutes from my home.

Cheryl and I are tennis members of the local country club, she playing more than me these days as I have developed a mysterious hip problem, 10 years after having my hips replaced. I did have another slight problem in 2008 when I collapsed on the tennis court from ventricular fibrillation causing a triple cardiac arrest, and resulting in having a triple coronary by-pass. I had no previous warning signs, and was very lucky indeed to survive.

Tennis has played an important part in my life. My father introduced me to it on the lawns of Calcutta and post-U.K. being a 5.5 NTRP rated tennis player gave me quick access and acceptance at tennis clubs wherever I finished up. It is also how I met my wife. One fateful day, in Hagerstown, Maryland, she showed up at the courts to watch her father playing and that's all it took!!

We used to play our tennis at Lindborg Racquet Club, Huntington Beach, until increasing land values caused the club to be sold for development. One interesting occasion was the National Senior Tournament held at the club in 1982 where I met Bobby Riggs. You probably remember him as the tennis hustler who lost the much-televised "Battle of the Sexes" to Billie Jean King in 1973 at the Houston Astrodome - but, in his day he was a superb player - he won the triple at Wimbledon in 1939 capturing the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles. Unquestionably a character.

Now in retirement with both children married, we are the proud grandparents of four grandchildren. We have two 13 year old granddaughters, Hannah & Ashley, one 11 year old granddaughter, Natalie and one 11 year old grandson, Mason. Our family all live within a half-hour drive of us and so far they are all doing well.

Fortunately, the journey continues, knowing that the scholastic results one achieved at school need not be the key determinant of the rest of one's life. Perhaps the quality of the school and the staff is the key, and I had the best!

Huntington Beach, California, July, 2011