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Mr. Sweitzer Interview
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Will: Please state your name for the record.
Harry: Okay my name is Harry Sweitzer. Everybody's called my Skip since I was born, so Skip. I live at 34 Hill side Drive in Wayland. We moved to Wayland in 1959, when I was working for Raytheon.
Will: When did You start working for Raytheon?
Harry: 58, no 57 or 1958, I forget.
Will: What town where you working in?
Harry: That was in Bedford. We had a laboratory in Bedford, which I don't think is there anymore. Then I worked in a place called Winter Street, there was a building for Raytheon. I worked there, and then I worked up at the Bedford labs.
Will: What was your job at the Bedford labs?
Harry: Well, I was a specification writer. What was involved in that particular job was to write a purchase specification for a particular piece of equipment. It could be a transformer, it might be a transistor, it might be a hydraulic pump, it could be almost anything, and it was a descriptive document. It listed suggested vendors on it because the engineers would try various piece parts, and the ones they liked, they would tend to write a spec around that and recommend vendors. When whatever it was that the parts were going into would go into production, there would be a series of documents a mile high and the parts list would be on the blueprints. Then they would use those documents to go out and buy the parts.
Will: So it was saying what needed to be purchased and from who in order to build something?
Harry: Well it might be to build a sparrow missile, it might be a hawk missile, it might be a piece of fire equipment, it could be anything.
Will: Did you ever live in Wayland and work in Wayland at the same time?
Harry: Yes I did.
Will: And that was in 1959?
Harry: No, that wasn't until the seventies. I went there from the plant in Sudbury on route 20. I also built the plant in Marlborough.
Will: You built it?
Harry: Well I mean I was in charge of getting it built, which I've never done before. That was exciting. It was a very interesting project. It was about a 65 million dollar project. We had to do a big job on making a highway out there, through Marlborough, accessible. The road had to be widened, and traffic lights had to be put in because there were probably 2,000 people who worked there, so there was a lot of traffic. So that all had to get designed, and we built that and the laboratory.
Will: When were the exact years that you worked in Wayland, or were they on and off?
Harry: Let me think about this. I worked a long time in Sudbury, and in Sudbury I was working on the guidance computers for the fleet ballistic missile submarines. The missile itself. We worked with the Draper laboratory which was part of MIT, and we designed the guidance systems that went into the polaris and trident missiles. We actually built and manufactured the stuff in the plant in Waltham. The next project I worked on, which was really fun, was the Apollo program. We built all of the computers that went to the moon. Everything on the Apollo program, Raytheon built. And that was in collaboration with MIT as well. It was a really fun program. We had the astronauts going through the plant. It was really neat. It's the most fun I've ever had, and I've never worked so hard in my life. Because the name of the game back then was whatever it took, you did it. If you worked 100 hours a week, you worked 100 hours a week if that's what it took to get the job done. Now, that sort of thing was for professional people who graduated from college. You worked however long it took to get the job done.Sweitzer Clip
Will: How did you get to Wayland?
Harry: When I first went to work for Raytheon, I lived in Wakefield. I really liked Raytheon, and I figured I wanted to stay with them. We decided we wanted to move from Wakefield for various reasons, and we settled on this neck of the woods. Weston, Wellesley, Wayland, Sudbury which were central to the Raytheon plants. You never really knew where you were going to get assigned, so it was a much better location than being way up in Wakefield. When I first came down here I worked in Sudbury.
Will: Did they use microwaves, and radar?
Harry: Yes, and there were great things that looked like bed springs up there on the roof that rotated around. They tracked targets and they had some fire-control equipment. Wayland, early on, was largely a plant where mostly navy programs were born. It was an engineering laboratory although we did make prototypes like the first model of something. Then the engineers figured out why it didn't work, then they fixed it and it got put into production.... Does Cobra Jane and Cobra Judy mean anything to you? Have you ever seen the big huge radar transmitters down on the Cape. There's one down there. They're gigantic. They look like a great big office building and they have a slanted face. In each one of those is a functioning element. Instead of rotating mechanically, they rotate electronically. Those type radars were built to protect this country from incoming missiles, and to track stuff up in space. That's what the unit on the cape does. They have one in Alaska. There's one carried on a ship. That was the height of the Cold War, when we were worried about missiles being shot at the country. That's what those were designed to track.
Will: Do you know of any pollution that was given off by a laboratory in Wayland or Sudbury?
Harry: Well, the energy from radar goes out. We would reduce power and see to it that the radar didn't hit the ground until a ways out. Nobody knowingly polluted the atmosphere or the ground or anything like that. Raytheon was responsible for what was determined pollutants. They've going through a great exercise digging down and hauling that stuff off the site.
Will: Did Raytheon support schools or libraries or things like that?
Harry: We certainly supported the schools. In Sudbury we would come down to the school. We would loan instruments to the physics and chemistry departments. We would come back and recalibrate them. We did that kind of thing. We would come down and listen to public speaking, and we would try to mark them on it. We came to the schools and helped training for academic decathlons. Raytheon donated money for the addition to the library.
Will: Did you know anything about Raytheon before you started working there?
Harry: Well, know. When we first came up to Boston, I was working for General motors. A division of General motors called new departure corporation. New departures made coaster brakes among other things. New departure made ball bearings. I came up here and worked for new departure and worked for places like MIT. I was an engineer so I'd go in and talk to the engineers and we'd talk about designs and loads and what not. Sometimes we'd give them sample ball bearings to use and some prototype. Ultimately that would come up with some kind of production. We would sell them ball bearings. In 57 and 58, there was a depression of sort. I was the last guy in so I was the first guy out. A friend of mine worked for Raytheon. He went to the naval academy and I knew him from there. I made some calls to him up at the Bedford laboratory. I asked if they could use another naval graduate, and they said sure come on up. That's how I got into Raytheon. I didn't really know much about it except that it was local.
Will: Did Raytheon change the town?
Harry: I expect it probably did. There were certainly local people who worked at the local plants, but there were people who worked down here that came from as far away as Chelmsford and practically Rhode Island. We had around 1900 people at max at the Wayland plant. And there were people from Sudbury and from Wayland who worked there. I know at one point on of the managers of the Wayland plant, I forget his name, he live here. There was connection with the town and we were sensitive to the fact that it was pretty tough with the traffic on route 20 when Raytheon was letting out, so we'd have guard and stop lights on route 20. So they would stop the traffic and valve people through. We tried to do support work with schools.
Will: Did you like Wayland as a town?
Harry: I loved it. That's why I'm still here. I'm on my third house in Wayland.
Will: When did you retire from Raytheon?
Harry: In 1989.
Will: Did you work in Wayland up until you retired?
Harry: I worked in Wayland for the last 5 or 6 years. Wayland and Sudbury were part of something called the equipment division, and Wayland and Sudbury were the equipment division laboratories. And we provided the engineering for the plant in Waltham and the one in Andover. They were all connected. Wayland tended to be a navy program. Sudbury started out as an air force facility, but it gradually cut out of that. In Sudbury we started to be in the missiles and space business. And air traffic control radars were a big thing in Sudbury. Between the two of us, we were the equipment division laboratories. The laboratory here was division headquarters. So a vice president of the company had his office in the Wayland facility.
Will: Did Raytheon make you more worried about the Cold War?
Harry: We were right in the middle of it. Mine personally was very involved in the ballistic submarine business. We were all kind of dumb. We all sat there with thousands of missiles. We had them the Russians had them, but nobody really wanted to use them. So it was a deterrent against starting a war. Because nobody was going to win a war that started with atomic weapons because you'd poison the world. So to some extent, the existence of those weapons probably prevented war.
Will: Were there any times when you thought war was inevitable?
Harry: There was always a threat. Does the Cuban missile crisis mean anything to you? That was a close one. We came pretty close to things getting out of control with that missile business, and that would have been terrible.
Will: Was Raytheon a good place to work?
Harry: Yes, yes it was.
Will: At the time, did they give good salaries compared to other jobs?
Harry: Oh yes. Probably better than some of the other jobs. They had personnel departments and human resources. The big difference was the position of women. Most of the women who worked at Raytheon were secretaries. Some of them worked as assembly people. Today, there are lots and lots of lady engineers which we didn't have back then.
Will: Did you see Wayland grow from a rural town to a suburban town.
Harry: Yeah, but it sort of snuck up on you. You didn't think much about what was happening. When we came here, the high school was here. The population was somewhere between 12 and 14 thousand people. When we came here, Wayland was very much a divided town between Cochituate and North Wayland. If you look at Wayland's history, the southern end of town was where the shoe factories were and where the people that went to work from 8 to 4 and got low wages lived. The northern end of town was farms and estates.
Dan: Where there any complaints from the town?
Harry: Certainly not noise because there wasn't any noise. Sometimes things like lighting at night, and when there was something we would try to do something about it. We would lower them or put metal shields over them. I'd say, in general, relations with the town were pretty good. The human resources people were very much interested in that kind of thing. As was I because I lived with the town. We tried to reach out to the town. A few of us would sit around with some of the higher powered folks in the company, and we would try to figure out what we could do to reach out to the town, to reach out to the kids, to reach out to the old people. Practically every year we had an open house. We would open it up, and people could go in.
| The 1950's in America were a time of change and uncertainty. With World War II fading into the past, a new conflict emerged. With the cold war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union escalating, widespread panic and fear began to grip the nation. Many citizens in the country were terrified that communism was spreading like a disease and that soon the Soviet Union may even attack America. They feared that the Soviets could launch a nuclear assault on America and its major cities via the northern reaches of the planet. In defense of this, the U.S. built numerous aircraft defense sites along the northern part of the country to shield them from any possible bomber attacks. One of the sites chosen to build one of these missile sites was North Wayland/Lincoln line in eastern Massachusetts. This was a controversial issue at the time and many residents of Wayland were strongly opposed to the idea. The people wanted the defensive measures taken that would ensure their safety, but they thought it was too big of a risk having the military site right in their backyard. They were afraid that having a missile site in the area would make the town a prime target for any Soviet attacks if they did indeed occur.
Despite the concerns, the installation was built in 1955 and equipped Ajax defense missiles. Hercules missiles later replaced the Ajax system, which were capable of carrying a nuclear payload as high as 100,000 feet. Official records to this day do not reveal if there were nuclear wardheads in town. The system worked like this: if the Soviets launched a bomber attack, the Nike missiles would intercept the bombers, explode, and take down the jets before they could annihilate their targeted city. The site remained operational throughout most of the Cold War and was not disarmed until 1974. To this day the North Wayland/Lincoln site stands as an abandoned sentry, a deteriorated artifact of another era.
The pictures posted on this page may very well be the last glimpses of the area as it was, for development looks to be in its future.