Sunday, June 17, 2012

Calling Bob Poli

Occasionally I get a letter from a former PATCO member who inquires about Bob Poli, who led the union during the 1981 strikeI was not able to interview Bob Poli for my book.  The letters I sent to the addresses I had for him were not answered and those who offered to contact him on my behalf were unable to put us together.  He has tended to guard his privacy in recent years: he did not come to the two PATCO reunions I attended.   (Poli's son, Robert P. Poli, did drop in to meet me after the book was published, however, and I signed a copy for him.)  I heard recently from Larry Sawatzki, of Kansas City, who told me that he wanted to reach out to Poli.  His letter and its postscript is representative of many that I've gotten from strikers.  I'll reprint his letter below with his permission

Dear Professor McCartin,

My name is Larry Sawatzki.  I was a member of PATCO Local 332, MCI TRACON, Kansas City, MO.  I was hired by the FAA in 1973 after four years in the Navy.  I was an active member of the union, serving as facility rep in Kansas City, as well as terminal voting representative for the central region at the last two PATCO conventions.  I was a friend of Jack Maher, Mike Rock, and Gary Eads, as well as many others you mentioned in your book.  I was with Bob Poli in the lobby of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel on election night 1980.  When the national news networks projected Reagan as the winner we, along with numerous colleagues, proceeded to celebrate.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fathers and Sons

I've now talked to a fair number of controllers whose fathers or sons were also controllers.  Their stories never fail to interest me for inevitably they are stories of passion--passion in their relationships (sometimes marked by conflict), in their attachment to the work they did as controllers, and in their feelings about what happened to them and their families.  (Pictured to the left is a PATCO striker and son, 1981.)  This week I've heard from another strike veteran, Pat Garrett, who wrote to tell me his story about being fired and about his dad, who was also a controller, and who, as Pat explains, embodied the passion to which I refer.  I post Pat's letter now in the spirit of Father's Day. 

Dear Mr. McCartin,
I just read Collision Course.  Thank you, for a well written and researched  book.  It provided new details of the union and the strike and brought back a flood of memories, emotions and some responses. I am a fired PATCO member from Santa Barbara, CA and the son of an air traffic controller of 25 years. He retired just before the strike.

Beginning at age 25 I worked as a controller for almost three years with prior experience in retail and a BA degree in geography.  My Dad encouraged me to accept the job. I hesitated because of his negative stories as a controller.  He emphasized that I'd really like the work but may have difficulty