The Story of James E. Bennett, Jr.
in his own words
Illinois to Rome, GA - July, 1985 to 1996
Illinois to Rome, GA - July, 1985 to 1996
Wayne and his wife moved out and we settled down in the Condo. One of the first things we did was to remodel the kitchen and put in a new window treatment in the front room. I talked with Don Duck, an ex Bureau engineer that Harza had hired to run the Construction Division, about rejoining them in 1986. He was very interested in me and suggested that I call him next year. Due to the severance payment I received from ARAMCO, I was not interested in working in 1985, but would like to go back to work in 1986.
I agreed to be on the Condo Board, in charge of maintenance. That kept me fairly busy. I stayed on the board until the Condo Association decided to go to a management firm to run the two buildings. The reason the Board went with a management firm was because no one wanted to serve on the board.
I checked with Harza several times in early 1986, but Don Duck was not interested in putting me back on the payroll. During the month of February, I was contacted by Bechtel to see if I would be interested in going back to Saudi Arabia for a short term assignment at the Jubail Industrial Site, which was located just outside the town of Al Jubail. Bechtel was in the process of putting a team together to study the deterioration of Jubail's concrete structures, and to propose an investigation program to prevent or slow down the rate of deterioration. I agreed to go on single status for the length of the study which, for my part, would be between three and six months.
I had to sign a six month contract as Bechtel stated that their minimum contract was six months, but I would have no problem leaving earlier if my part of the study was completed. The trip to Saudi would give me a chance to check on the refund that Kathryn and I were scheduled to receive from the Saudi Government, as the Government had canceled their social security program for all foreign working personnel. The refund was the money that we had paid into the system before they cancelled the program.
I left in March 1986 for Al Jubail, which is located on the coast around 50 kilometers north of Ras Tanura. My part of the study was to review the deterioration of the concrete structures, write a research program on the concrete deterioration, write a maintenance program and a prevention program for new construction. The Jubail Industrial site had areas set aside for housing for both singles and families, as well as areas for large and small stores, schools, indoor and outdoor recreation areas, hospitals, and of course mosques. The areas were being developed very rapidly. I had a small one bedroom unit, with an electric kitchen, on the beach. For a single person the place was very nice. The housing was wired for TV and so I purchased a 13" set.
My last year with ARAMCO, I had worked on the sulfur project in the Jubail Industrial Port so I knew the area. I made several trips to the Saudi Social Security Area Office in Al Jubail to check on the repayment, and in my opinion it helped, as Kathryn received the refunds just before I returned home. I rented a car on every other weekend for shopping, going to the new hotel for dinners, and also visiting some of my ARAMCO friends in Ras Tanura, Dhahran and the gas project in the Southern Area. I enjoyed the work and easily finished my phase of the program in four months. I started to promote my leaving early for the states. The Bechtel Project Manager did not want to release me and offered me a full time contract on married status. The client also asked me to stay and go on their payroll. I would have taken Bechtel's offer, but I knew that Kathryn would never return to Saudi, so I turned it down. I was released at the end of five months so that I could be home in time for our anniversary in August.
In early September 1986, Jack Jones of Harza called to see if I would be interested in going out to Port Angeles, Washington on single status for a few months. Harza had the contract for the design and to oversee the installation of post tension tendons in an old arch dam located just outside of Port Angeles, Washington. I accepted the position and starting working in Washington in late September 1986. My job was overseeing a drilling program and the installation of the cables. The purpose of the cables was to tie the old dam to the rock foundation. This was done by anchoring cables in the foundation rock by grouting and applying pressure on the cables after the grout had set. The cables were stressed by an hydraulic jack to a certain point and then tying off the cable at the top of the dam, thus putting a downward stress on the concrete.
It was a very nice area. Kathryn came out and spent several weeks with me at the end of the job. We finished the project just before Christmas, and Kathryn and I drove to Seattle to catch the plane back to Chicago. Wayne had been transferred to Northern California and he, Michele and Desi drove up to the Washington area to spend Christmas with Michele's brother. We met in Seattle on December 23, and on Christmas Day Kathryn and I flew back to Chicago while Wayne and his family drove on to visit Michele's sister. I spent January, 1987 in the Chicago office writing the final report.
Don Duck moved up to be president of Harza and he brought Walt Bodgovich back into the company to be head of the Construction Division. I knew Walt from the days of the Niagara Power Project where he was in the Soils Department. In June, 1987 he gave me a call to see if I would be interested in rejoining Harza full time in the Construction Division as a Senior Construction Engineer. I accepted the assignment and rejoined Harza. The design work at the office was going down and the Construction Division was not very busy, but with my old connections with the company I was able to stay busy till the end of 1987. In January, 1988 due to a lack of work I became a part time worker. I was able to work a sufficient number of hours to maintain the full employee fringe benefits.
At this time our son Jim was given a three month paid leave from work and he elected to take his family to New Zealand. He did a series of lectures in computer science at the University in Wellington, New Zealand. Work in the construction division was very slow, so I took a leave of absence from Harza. and Kathryn and I went to stay in Jim's home in Sunnyvale, California while they went to New Zealand. We had a great time and in fact we looked for housing in the area. We couldn't find a home for the amount of money we wanted to pay (between $200,000 and $250,000).
We returned to Naperville and I started back part time with Harza. Harza obtained the contract to conduct studies in northern Georgia for a series of pump storage plants. This study increased our work load and I went back on full time status in November, 1988. Shortly thereafter we were told to concentrate on the Rocky Mountain site near Rome, Georgia. The Southern Company had already started working on the project but had to stop several years ago, due to money problems associated with their nuclear plants under construction. The Southern Company sold their rights to the project to Oglethorpe Power Association, a state cooperative power organization.
When we returned from Washington to Naperville, we started to look for a house and found one in Cress Creek, a few blocks from our Condo. In fact, in 1962 I had looked at the third house being built in the Cress Creek Development. Cress Creek was a very successful development. We bought a three bedroom, two and half bath home with a full basement, on the golf course. Wayne was working for Mobil Oil Company and he was transferring back to the Chicago area, which was one of the reasons we decided to look for a house. Wayne ended up buying a house on the corner across from our ex-home on Maple Lane.
The Rocky Mountain Project kept the Construction Division busy as the project moved into the construction stage. In November, 1990 I was offered the position of Quality Assurance Manager on the Rocky Mountain Project. Kathryn and I discussed the situation and we decided to move to Rome, Georgia as the Construction Division work load was dropping rapidly, and I would soon be either on part time or on a leave of absence.
One of my conditions on going to Rome was that I would not lose any money on the sale of our home in Naperville. We ended up buying a home on Saddle Mountain. Saddle Mountain is in east Rome. I worked on the Rocky Mountain Project until the civil work was basically complete. The remaining work was in the electrical and mechanical fields. At that point I retired from Harza in February 1994. We decided to stay in Rome. Shortly after retiring we took a six week driving trip to the west coast to see friends and of course to visit Jim and Kathy and their families.
Several months later, Harza asked me to go to China on a short term assignment on an arch dam that I had worked on while in Chicago. The arch dam would be the second highest dam in the world. To get to the dam site required 18 hours by train from Chengdu, China or 8 hours by train from Kunming, China. I completed the assignment in three months and returned home in September. I was asked by Harza to extend my assignment with family status for two years. The job was very interesting and was in a very nice area of China. I did not accept the position as I knew that Kathryn would not come to the boonies in China, and I would not stay on single status any longer.
During 1996 we went on two Tauck tours, one to Hawaiian Islands in February and the other one to Australia and New Zealand in October. We had a great time on both trips. We had sufficient frequent flyer mileage to fly first class both to Hawaiian and to Australia and New Zealand.