Woolard ran a power plant at the Chicago missile site |


Jack Woolard was drafted into the United States Army in 1955, but unlike many recruits, he described his job at a Chicago guided missile base as “enjoyable.”

Woolard graduated from Bloomfield High School in 1950 and was married to his wife Beverly in 1953 before joining the military. In the meantime, he worked for Ottumwa Gas and Electric and for a contractor that extended pipelines in the Ottumwa area.

“Three times I have received a notice from the editorial board asking me to report,” Woolard said. “Twice I got a call the next day saying someone wanted to go and would take my place.

“The third time, I said, ‘No. I’ll go and take it off. ‘ “

Woolard visited Fort Chaffee, Ark. for basic training with Jim Carlisle and three others from the Bloomfield area. Before completing the bases, Woolard and Russell Roth of Wayland were called by the captain and told them they were going to be sent to Chicago to operate an auxiliary power station at a missile site.

“The missile site was powered by commercial power, but in the event of an attack it would be powered by auxiliary power,” Woolard said.

He felt lucky to have learned a few things from John Higbee at the Bloomfield Power Plant before going to Chicago. Higbee had shown him how to start the engines at the Bloomfield plant, and the engines at the Chicago missile site were similar except for an air starter.

“Within an hour, I started and started things,” Woolard said.

“There were coaches who came, but I really didn’t need them. I knew how to start the engines.

Woolard said Bloomfield’s motors were set to 60 cycles per second. “If we were to switch to combat frequency (at the Chicago missile site), the frequency changers would go up to 500 cycles per second for the radar part. It was almost unbelievable to me.

The trainers showed Woolard how to go through 500 cycles per second.

“I was a soldier, but Captain Scherer decided I could still do the job,” Woolard said. “Normally you had to be a sergeant for that. Captain Scherer thought I should be awarded three stripes, but he was not entitled to one. They decided it was wrong to jump this high so fast.

Woolard said he had been running the system for six months when officials decided to send him to Camp Gordon, Ga., To learn how to do the job.

“There were 300 guys in this course and I got my number one degree,” Woolard said.

After graduation in Georgia, Woolard was sent back to Chicago. The soldier who had taken his place in Chicago became Woolard’s assistant.

“He must be a real handyman out there,” Woolard said.

There were five missile sites in the Chicago area, and it became Woolard’s job to troubleshoot at those sites if issues couldn’t be sorted out over the phone.

“It was a nice job,” Woolard said. “I was the big dog in that corner.”

Woolard said most people didn’t realize it, but the missiles at the site were ready to go. “If anything were seen on radar, the missiles could be taken out of storage and placed on air launchers very quickly. You could stand them up, plug in an outlet, and you were in business. It wouldn’t have taken us long to take action if we had to go, ”he said.

Woolard said the site was built on a landfill, which was originally a lake off Lake Michigan.

When we got calls to go live, we pulled the levers on the manual system and went from commercial power to that of the military, ”Woolard said, mentioning that he was the one who made the switch. .

“We had to run two blocks from the barracks to the electrical shed, and I mean we ran. We switched as quickly as possible.

After the end of his two years, Woolard was given the opportunity to re-enlist but said, “No, thank you.”

He returned to Bloomfield and he and Beverly, who continued to teach while in service, cultivated for five or six years.

“We had to find something that would bring in more money and there was no adjacent land available,” Woolard said, and he started a series of jobs that used his talents and creativity.

He went to work for Bloomfield Lumber, building houses. (He even drew up blueprints for their house on Morningside Drive.) His next job was as a parts man for the machines and car dealership Mikels.

Always innovative, Woolard borrowed a book from drawing instructor Ron Dabney and drew a pattern to make a gear with a beveled surface. This led to a job at Barker in the engineering department.

“When business slowed down I was told they would have to fire me unless I was willing to go out on the road to do field service repairing chicken pickers and processing equipment at the farm. poultry.”

When Barker’s wanted to move the Woolards to Georgia, Jack refused, bought the newsstand on the west side of the square, and ran the restaurant until one day he had to hand it over to new owners and two big fat guys. de Barkers showed up and offered him a job on the road again.

“I’ve been coast to coast, border to border and beyond repairing equipment again,” he said. “Sometimes I even traveled to Canada.

Eventually, Woolard left Barkers and worked for another company with sales in 14 states for chicken processing equipment.

“When this business started ‘going down the tubes’ I decided to retire and spend more time in our antiques business – Memory Lane Antique Mall,” he said.

Beverly managed the antique mall after retiring from teaching. Both retired after selling Memory Lane.


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