My name is Gary Barnes. I was born in Sacramento, California in 1946, where I have lived most of my life. My introduction to mechanical objects started at a very young age. By the time I was 4 years old, I was taking apart old wind up alarm clocks that a jeweler friend of my father’s gave him. Soon after, my father came home with a box 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch pipe fittings and different short lengths of 1/8" and 1/4" pipe. He had also bought two small pipe wrenches (a 6 inch and a 8 inch). I would spend hours putting pipes and fittings together into different shapes. I can remember one year before Christmas, after the tree was decorated, my father had changed some burned out lights and threw them the trash basket. “WOW what could I do with those? “ I thought. Soon, I found that they would screw into a 1/8 inch pipe fitting, the thread did not match but I didn't care. I remember screwing one into a 90 degree elbow and put a 4 inch long pipe in the other end and that was my welding touch. A little later in life, came Lionel Trains, Erector Sets, Control Line Model Airplanes, Tether Cars, Soap Box Derby race cars and Go Karts. I did play some Little League Baseball but I never really enjoyed it. At the age of 11, my aunt gave me a Craftsman 1/4 inch socket set in this metal hinged box painted a dark gray hammer tone finish for my birthday. That was the start of my very large tool collection that I have today along with that 1/4 inch drive socket set and the 6" and 8" pipe wrenches.
Also at the age of 11, I started working for my neighbor across the street in my neighborhood. His name was Mr. Ogg, and I did all of his yard work. Mr. Ogg owned the "Old Tavern Cleaners and Dye Works" in midtown Sacramento. After I turned 12, Mr. Ogg asked if I would like to work at his business for half a day on Saturdays. I agreed. His daughter Sharon was 18, and I would ride to work with her. By the time I was 14, I was repairing everything at his cleaners, as well as getting a big Scottsman boiler ready for the state inspection every 6 months. There was always something that needed repair. All of the cleaning equipment ran off 20 hp. motor to line shafts and flat belts. My other neighbor across the street in our neighborhood owned "The Piston Ring Shop" just down the street from the cleaners. The Piston Ring Shop was an old school auto parts store that sold everything, and there was a machine shop in the back. When I would finish work on Saturday, I would walk to the auto parts store with that $5.00 burning a hole in my pocket, and I can say that most of the money I just made never made it home; it just changed hands with my two neighbors. Many times after work, I would walk a block over to the "Reliable Electric Motor Repair" shop. I would hang around and watch this old German man work on and repair every size electric motor I had ever seen. That was a time when all kinds of items were repaired and not tossed in the garbage because they stopped working. I always had so many questions about electric motors and controls and he would stop what he was doing and explain everything to me. If I didn't have much to do that afternoon, I would sweep the shop and put tools back where they belonged. He never paid me in cash but he did give me scraps of old copper wire, which I was able to sell at the Learner Co. scrap yard for cash. He even told me how to watch the copper prices on the stock market in the local news paper to see the best time to sell my copper scraps. When I was ready to return home, I would catch the # 3 bus.
At 16 years old, I got my driver’s license. My first car was a 1950 Chevy convertible from my mother’s brother Uncle Willie. The car came with no top, ragged seats, bald tires and in need of a valve job. By then I was working every day after school and a half a day on Saturdays. After high school, I went to Sacramento City College for a two-year program to be an A&P mechanic [Airframe and Power Plant] certified airplane mechanic. I finished the program was drafted into the U.S. Army. It was June 1967, and, I was headed for Vietnam. Because of my school training, I was sent for training to work on helicopters. I served with the 174 AHC [Assault Helicopter Company] and the 409 TC Detachment in Due Pho. We did all the repairs on 30, UH1C ,UH1D and H models that flew missions every day and returned with many bullet holes. Because we were so short-handed, I would also fill in as a crew chief and go out on missions. After 13 months of working on aircraft in a war zone, I really didn't want to work on airplanes the rest of my life.
The employment in my adult life started as a meat packing house butcher. It was a good fit because my father and his six brothers were all butchers. I stayed with a company 12 years and then moved on selling and servicing meat processing equipment. I did that for about six years and then started my own business. I started a custom wood and metal fabrication shop and would build what ever came in the front door. I ran that business for many years until I got tired of all the regulations,, taxes and license that the state of California imposes on small businesses. I worked for some other businesses, from cabinet shops to a large super market chain until a big layoff in 2009. At that point, I retired from full-time employment, and now I enjoy working in my shop at home. I have always loved being in a machine shop and I am an old-school manual machinist in my home shop. I have worn many hats in my life of 76 years. Now I enjoy putting all the skills that I have learned in my life to good use creating and building different objects. I feel it is really sad at this point in our country's history that many young men and women don't know how to do anything with their hands anymore except peruse their cell phones or iPads. But, that’s a story for another time.
Thank you for taking the time to read a bit about me.