Toward the end of my senior year in 1968, a friend of mine, who worked at Ling-Temco-Vought in Grand Prairie, asked me if I would like to work there for the summer. I talked it over with my parents, I interviewed for a position, I was offered a job, and I decided to take the challenge of my very first job. I was issued a Zero Defects Pledge card, which I had to sign. I carpooled each day with my friend and two other co-workers for the fifteen- or twenty-mile drive to work. This job was quite an eye-opening experience for me – a sheltered, naïve, young girl.
The Grand Prairie LTV plant was built in 1968, and this plant produced the F-8 Crusader and the A-7 Corsair II aircraft from 1950-1989. The Naval Air Station was part of this complex, and its runway over Mountain Creek Lake to the south was busy all day every day with touch-and-go test flights. I worked in the back of a vast complex of buildings. The huge building I worked in was enclosed, but the interior was completely open from one side to the other. Inside, there was an airplane hangar on opposite sides of the building, and in between the two hangars was a two- or three-level expanse of desks where aeronautical engineers wearing ear protection toiled away and rarely looked up.
My job was to proofread MEARs, which is an acronym for an ultra-technical report called Maintenance Engineering Analysis Record or slight variations of that name. In 1968 all of the aeronautical engineers I saw there were men. As far as I could tell, the only females in the entire complex worked in clerical positions, which would be normal for that period. We summer employees were often asked to run errands from where we worked at the back of this complex to the administrative area up front. More than once, I made this long walk through the cavernous noisy manufacturing facility. It was a long dimly lit path through a dark mechanical “forest,” roaring with machinery and accompanying animal calls and whistles. Often I was unable to tell where the sounds were coming from or what lurked in the dark canopy above me. I seriously doubt that I would be allowed anywhere near this machinery today.
I worked at LTV for ten to twelve weeks that summer of ’68, and I made what was pretty good pay for the time. I put most of that money into my college bank account to use at Texas Tech in the following fall, and Mom and Dad let me use part of it to buy some new clothes to take with me.
Probably less than ten years ago, I drove by the former LTV complex in Grand Prairie and found it was at least partially occupied by Triumph. I checked again recently; and it appears, per a 2014 Dallas Morning News article, the Navy turned the complex over to the City of Dallas around 2012, and in 2014 it was a vast nearly deserted complex owned and operated by Dallas Global, who appeared to be trying to revive it. In 2014 it was home to only 25-30 employees, and Dallas Global was looking for tenants – a far cry from the 29,000 workers it once housed.
I didn’t see it then, but later I began to see the humor: I was an eighteen-year-old girl, I was barely out of high school, and I was assigned the task of proofreading documents about building and repairing fighter jets. Offered up that way, it is kind of funny, regardless of the fact that I only checked grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
The F-8 Crusader (the last American fighter to use guns as its primary weapon) became known as “The Last of the Gunfighters.” The A-7 Corsair II was a slightly smaller version of the F-8. From what I have read, they were both successful aircraft, which I’m sure can be attributed to one of the proofreaders employed by LTV during the summer of 1968.