My first visit to Kramatorsk, Ukraine was in the fall of 1975. I was required to pay for the transportation, because this was a visit to look at defects and transportation damage. Vera escorted me to the train in Kurski Vokzal in the early evening for the overnight ride. I left her without saying good-bye because I did not want my Russians escorts to see her. She became so mad at me that she stamped her foot on the concrete platform so hard as to require a walking stick for the next several days.
Travel on a Russian sleeper train was in a small room with four beds, no curtains and no worry about male or female. It is normal to take meat, bread, cheese, pickles, vodka, and a knife for a little feast with your traveling companions. That night we drank two bottles of Russian Vodka. The arrival time in Kramatorsk was early in the morning. I was to spend eighty nights on that train before the job was finished.
The first trip on that train gave me the glimpse of the fall of the Soviet Union. People on the train offered me up to thirty dollars for a single Polaroid picture. The edge of railway was cluttered with millions of tons of rusting steel scrap. In addition for the cry for consumer goods there were no scrap dealers. A poor country can not import consumer goods but a poor country does need to use it's scrap. Such was the paradox of the Communist State in decay.
I was one of the first Americans to visit the city of Kramatorsk since the revolution. The town was small and not very interesting. The construction workers were already welding the main parts of the chamber together. The fit up was horrible. The main transformer had been pilfered by someone removing the brass gauges and releasing the nitrogen protection for the high voltage oil. They had bought the wrong equipment in the first place, and this visit showed me that the management of the firm did not want to install it. None of the people who had been involved in Moscow or in the States were assigned to the project. As it turned, out we were to be in big technical and financial troubles in that town for almost three years. Kramatorsk was a city closed to foreigners at the time, so we had to take the evening train back to Moscow.
Volkov was amused with my misunderstanding of the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union. He told me that the flight of Jews at that time would not be permitted because the Jews were leading the scientific community and were vital to the defense of the nation.
By that time I could speak and understand enough Russian to carry on a reasonable conversation with Vera in Moscow. Through Vera I had already met several hundred ordinary people living and working in Moscow. Volkov was an engineer that refused to read the political junk in the Soviet press. He was not a communist, but he sure was a Russian. He told me that I would never understand the Russian soul, and while he understood the value of democracy the Soviet masses were not ready for this type of government. He told me that the closed nature of Russian society would limit my ability to understand the responses of the Soviet government to a specific international event.
Volkov was also amused with the fact that Americans did not use the name Soviet Union when they talked about the country where he lived. The Great Russians, the dominant ethnic group, were less than 50 percent of the total population. There were over 100 different nationalities with dozens of religious creeds. He reasoned that America had been in existence for 200 years and had found the way to assimilate many religions and nationalities into one nation. Volkov was sure that in another 100 years that the social experiment would end and a democratic market economy would take over. He told me that to understand the Russian soul I would have to look beyond downtown Moscow and understand historic Russian sense of insecurity. Russians understood that many Republics would not remain by their own volition as members of the state. There was constant concern that rebellion or dissidence starting at the periphery could ultimately threaten the very existence of the state.
Volkov noted that the civil rights movement in the United States was a glimpse of what could happen to his country if the Russians did not continue to educate and provide social services on an equal basis to all the minorities in the Soviet Union.
Volkov told me that Vera had grown up under Stalin and her studies did not include any real history of Russia because the government felt the truth of the Tsars, religion, and the real influence the Jews had on the revolution would be counter productive to the current situation. He suggested that if I really wanted to understand it could be found in the historical record. It would take me another 30 years to understand.
Vera was assigned a new job that was not related to defense, and she hated it. She was living with her husband in an uneasy peace. Our commercial relationship became more profitable. Ragged one-dollar bills could be purchased with new twenty-dollar bills at the ratio of up to ten to one. There was nothing wrong or illegal when I swapped one thousand dollars with her each trip. She would give me some dollars to buy cheap porcelain items at the dollar shops in Moscow. She would carefully un-wrap the package and replace the item with a valuable antique. Sometimes I would be carrying ten of these items in the plastic carry bag the dollar shops provided to their customers. Moscow customs never paid attention and I declared these items at New York customs as antiques. I sold some of these items at art auctions in New York to obtain money to buy items for Vera's business. The cost per pound was important, because I had to carry these items in my suitcase. The best item of the day was cheap pantyhose.
The Burlington County Times interviewed me in August 1975. It was a good time to be talking about the Russians. You could even buy Apolo-Soyus cigarettes produced by Philip Morris in Russia and the USA.
We set up a team to handle the installation and start up in Kramatorsk with a plan to completing it before the New Year. I was to handle the business and Klingerman would be the engineer in charge. Soderstrom would handle the electrical problems when they arose. Lona would be called if necessary. We had not made a large profit when the job was shipped, and the five-percent due at the end of the guarantee period should have covered the installation cost.
I traveled to Moscow alone when the site was finally ready for our supervision of the construction in October 1975. They had not prepared the necessary documents to receive me for the second visit, since the town was a closed area for foreigners. The courier they sent for me did not speak a word of English. No one from the plant met me at the train station or the hotel, and there was no way for me to contact anyone I knew. That evening I had dinner in the hotel restaurant and saw the poor service and menu that we would have to live with. All day Friday I waited in the small hotel room, which had no space for my bags or hooks to hang my clothes. No one called me, and the hotel director could or would not help me find anyone.
Friday evening I dressed in my brown Hager sport suit, put some American cigarettes and chewing gum in my pocket, and began to explore the town. My first stop was a bar where young men who smoke marijuana hung out. After a few vodkas, the bartender became afraid that the local arm of drunk's control would pick me up. All male communist party member must put on their red bands and walk the streets to pick up drunk's and get them home for work the next day. In Kramatorsk this assignment was about once per month for male members who wished to stay in good standing with the communist party.
A young man invited me to go to another restaurant for dinner. He ordered a bottle of vodka and arranged for two women to sit with us. When the AA group arrived, the waitress became afraid I would be picked up, so she escorted me through the kitchen and down the back steps. I returned to the first bar for a final drink as the evening was young and I was not yet drunk. They allowed me in. After a few more vodka's, it was time to go home.
Outside the bar were two off-duty policemen who were also drinking. They thought they had found a spy, since the authorities had not been informed that I was in Kramatorsk. I protested when the two of them escorted me to the local jailhouse. The next thing I knew my face was in the mud with my hands cuffed behind my back. With enough vodka no one has an accent. No one at the police station would believe my story. My arms were blue from twisting, with a bruise mark on my forehead from being pushed into the wall. Finally they located the chief of police, who had just received the documents that an American was in town. He came with his private car, made excuses, and drove me to the hotel. He saw my anger and wanted to take me to my room on the fourth floor. I refused to be escorted, so he finally left.
Alex Panin, one of the inspectors who visited the States, received the news of my encounter with the police. The next day he made me feel calm at a family picnic in the forests near Kramatorsk. The central committee of that town met from three to six in the morning deciding how to handle the situation. I was very surprised when Panin told me that he was no longer involved and that he would invite me to his house for dinner soon to explain.
On Monday the plant director met me in his office. He asked how my life was in his city. I told him everything was fine except our personnel would require deluxe rooms with a sitting and sleeping area, and with hot plates to make coffee. Not one word was spoken about the police because I was ashamed of my activities. From that point on the local police were my friends, and at times they were used as a taxi service.
The first day on the job at Kramatorsk gave me insight into the mess we were in. The plant was not really operating except to make some liquid steel to set up and test the other equipment. They had three arc melting furnaces to feed their specialty steel shop of the future. The largest was seventy-five tons.
The worker of the Soviet group who visited America was the only man on the shop floor. He did not want to be involved with the project, since he could make considerably more money as a melter. Volkov, the technical leader of the project, was in Moscow at his job. Another engineer who was in the States had a good position at another factory in the town and would not hear of being assigned to this project. They had not assigned a leader or engineer to the construction group. The place was a big mud hole. The drawings and documents were lost, and no one knew where all the parts were located.
The town was famous for building very large presses that they proudly exported to France to make railroad wheels. The factory was being built in the place of one of the old obsolete steel producers of the area. It belonged to the new ministry of energy the Soviets had set up to manufacture all the equipment for electrical generation. This plant was to be used to make the shafts for turbines and generators. They also hoped to make the superalloy for gas turbines and compressor blades. This ministry had become an internal Soviet scandal because it was five years behind. Kramatorsk was the plant that had the lowest priority on their list of problems.
The young Jewish bandleader at my hotel took me to a restaurant on Monday evening and pointed out the local KGB man who was following me. I went to his table and asked if he would like a drink. He replied. "I will after eleven, when I am off duty."
The plant assigned, Leon Glusman, a young Jewish translator. His English was not so good, and his ideas about communism were firm and solid. His father was a retired Jewish man with a heart condition. His mother was Ukrainian, with typical the Russian mother's strength. His father fled to the hills during the war to avoid being killed by the Germans as a Jew. His mother dressed him as a little girl during the German occupation to avoid his death. We needed a friend as a translator. The task was begun to win his mind and friendship. He kept his notes in a secret code that he improved over the years. He was epileptic, but he kept this a secret from all his friends.
Klingerman arrived about two weeks later. He was to be the main project engineer and I would return when he needed to go home. He made friends with the translator right away. Because he was a musician he found good friends in the band at the hotel. He saw the impossible situation we were in at the factory. At the first meeting the plant director asked if he could make metal by the New Year. His reply was, "It is impossible unless you declare martial law and make me the martial."
He did not want to be stuck in this town, so he requested a weekend in Moscow, with the understanding that he would pay the costs. In the end they found reasons why he could not go.
The furnace was being thrown together by the construction staff. Thousands of details were lost, stolen, or never furnished in the first place. We needed small things from the states almost daily. The simplest tools were not available. There are no hardware stores in Russia.
The construction crew began work at seven in the morning. We could not have breakfast until the hotel restaurant opened at eight, so by the time we were driven to the plant and changed into work clothes the crew was on their morning break. The crew went to lunch at eleven, the staff at twelve, and we had lunch in a private room at one. The crew stopped at three, so we were with them less than two hours per day. We could not change this schedule so the work was not effective.
We were not the only foreigners in town at that time. A German crew was working on a special steel degassing facility at the same factory we were working at. Another German crew was working on another project in the town. A French crew was installing equipment to burn shapes from steel plate. We were all suffering from the lack of progress on our tasks. We all met for dinner and music at the restaurant in our hotel. This place was full to overflowing every night and the lady door manager was making a profit by selling space at the tables. She was probably angry that we were using up twenty spaces, but we had automatic reservations because we lived and ate in this hotel.
Kramatorsk is a city where the Russians trained young officer pilots. Many of Kramatorsk's young girls had short marriages to these officers. These marriages did not last because they did not meet the approval of the young men's Russian mothers, who exert great pressure over their sons.
In the country, no man would marry a spoiled woman. A Russian mother demands the right to see the blood on the sheet left by her new daughter-in-law on the night the marriage is consummated as proof of her virginity. The young brides at Kramatorsk could offer no such proof and were unacceptable to take home to a Russian mother. Many of these young ladies were divorced by their officer husbands when their training period ended. It was not long before this group of foreigners took full advantage of the opportunities offered in this Russian version of Peyton Place. The rich Georgian Mafia men that controlled the black market in the area had competitors courting their girlfriends and they did not like it. There were fist fights between the French and Georgians on the streets in front of the hotel. The police took care of the problem and the Georgians did not return to that area for a long time. I stayed out of the fights and clear of these women.
The electrical workers went on strike because the company did not have funds to pay them. It was time for Klingerman to go home. I arranged a visa to return alone before New Year 1976. After a short visit with my family for Christmas and a meeting of the board, I headed back to Kramatorsk. Leon, my translator, met me and we went straight to the train station. Vera met us at the station to pick up her consumer goods.
I had six large induction heating projects lined up in Moscow that would have put us in the induction heating business big time but the buying houses were having a hard time getting budgets approved to spend the money. The buyers were telling me that future business depended on how we preformed in Kramatorsk. I assume that Rowan would have lived up to his agreement to give us exclusive world wide rights to induction heating if we began to sell to the market.
The task ahead of me in Kramatorsk was not a construction or engineering problem; it was a political one. I had to find a way to light a fire under the bosses in control. I thought Panin was high in the party structure and could help me. He invited me to his house as he had promised months earlier. Dinner was served by his wife Martha. His teenage sons were very quiet during the meal. After dinner he explained why he had been with the inspectors in America and why he did not want to become involved in my project. He told me that he was a card carrying Communist and attended the meetings. He explained the circles of power that had developed, and said the people in power were looking after their own and living very well. He was only on the fringes of the good life and he had to thank the party for that. He told me he was not even a deacon in the party and only in the back bench amen choir. He told me that the factory where we were installing the equipment was a major scandal for the party and the region. He told me that exposing the scandal would be dangerous for him. I understood and did not try to meet him again for a long time.
Along with this furnace we sold an instrument to measure the chemical analysis of metal. It was a fancy instrument to measure the light spectrum of metal as it was burned with a carbon arc. The results had to be compared to known sample to mean anything. This complete facility was supplied by Siemens from Germany. My customer did not have a set of known samples. I offered to take different samples to the USA for testing so they could use them as standards. They could not because this type of material was a state secret.
This lab equipment was controlled by a simple computer that was booted by setting a series of switches on the front. Finishing this project was to be my most difficult task. I really got stuck one time and had to call a computer specialist from IBM. They sent their service man from Warsaw, and he charged by the clock hour including travel and sleeping time. He arrived, reached behind the computer and turned on the switch. I did not realize that the only thing wrong was that it was switched off. Leon helped me find him a pretty girl and he turned off the clock until his departure on Monday morning.
February 1976 was the International Communist Party Congress. Only communist foreigners were permitted in Moscow. The translator arranged an unauthorized trip to Moscow to allow me to visit Vera. She introduced him to her girlfriend because he could not find a room at the Moscow hotels. He scared us to death with one of his fits. My wallet with passport, visa, ticket and money was lost in the snow at Moscow airport while picking up parts for the job. This was reported to the plant manager and local police in Kramatorsk two days later. The local police saw no problem, as any child would return these documents to the police. When they learned that our trip to Moscow was without permission, all hell broke loose.
In March the authorities allowed me to go to the American embassy to get a new passport, but they would not allow me one night in Moscow. The two trips to Moscow were the turning point in Leon's life. He put aside the religion of communism and began to find practical ways to live his life. He would prove to be very helpful in the future.
Sunday afternoons in Kramatorsk were very dull unless something was arranged for me. Spring had arrived early, so I took a walk in the park with my Polaroid camera. A man was taking pictures of people and they were giving him money. I took a close-up of a large red rose and allowed it to develop on the park bench where a couple could see it. This was an instant success. People began to offer me up to twenty-five rubles for a picture. It was more fun to take pictures of small children for free. My cassette was soon gone.
Kramatorsk was a country town before the Air Base and large factories were built. To house the people they built nine floor block apartments on the side of a hill. As the town grew they continued to build higher on the hill, but the storm sewer system could not take care of the water that was caused by melting snow and early spring rains. It was great fun to watch the ladies take off their boots to cross streets in two feet of water.
Klingerman replaced me in late April. He had been very busy with the project to use scrap automobiles and could stay only about one month. He brought guitar strings, mouth pieces for woodwind instruments, and sheet music for the band. He had a short career as a drummer with one of the bands and was an accomplished musician.
I went home for a month to look after family affairs and to see how Cheston was getting along. Everything was reasonable, so I packed up trunks with the parts we needed to finish the construction in Kramatorsk.
The furnace project was moving along a little better as we were chewing away at the problems. Our biggest problem was getting parts from the States. Telephone conversations with the States were difficult. Reading lists of fittings, between breakdowns in the telephone lines, was a nightly affair.
In the early summer it looked like we could finish soon so we brought in an expert to install the brick linings in the ladle and furnaces. For a brief period we had four Americans on the site including one serviceman from Inductotherm to check out the induction system. The capacitor contactors were humming beyond a reasonable amount and we found that 50-cycle solenoids had not been supplied. This was going to turn out to be a major problem. Leon joined us to make up an American volleyball team and we actually beat the Ukrainian team at the company's country place just before the Fourth of July weekend. We prepared the tables at our hotel and invited 200 people to attend the 200th birthday of America.
Eating in the hotel restaurant became a nightly social affair. Waitresses did not serve you in the same manner as the rest of the world. It was normal for a group to arrive at the restaurant and keep the same table until closing time. The order was placed at the beginning for the whole service. They do not return to the table to see if you need something.
The band stopped playing at ten in the evening unless someone gave them money to continue up to eleven. Almost every night some party would fork over the cash. Working with Klingerman, the band improved their program and quality by using proper strings and mouthpieces for their musical instruments. He helped them with arrangements of the most popular songs. He would practice with them on Saturday morning using his recording equipment, and at times setting the beat at the drums.
I made many trips from Rancocas to Kramatorsk that year. I lived up to my agreement to keep bringing items to Vera in exchange for rubles we would need to live on in the Soviet Union. Life on the home front had improved, but I could not find the spark in my life. Hill was a good salesman for resistance furnaces, but he did not start the profits rolling in or sell any induction heating systems.
We finally saw some hot metal that they melted in another furnace in our chamber just before Christmas in 1976. They spilled twenty-five tons of liquid steel because they did not correctly set the ladle stopper rod.
I quickly realized that we were in trouble. Controls for the stopper rod were hydraulic and set to close in case of a power failure. The scheme we used was a pressurized line to the ladle car fed with an accumulator. This meant that when the plastic hydraulic line got hot it would fail and one hundred gallons of burnable hydraulic fluid would be spilled on the fire. This was OK as long as the vacuum pumps were working. The mold tunnel was not water cooled and I noted a small red spot on the wall. If the steel got hot enough the chamber would fail and implode due to vacuum. I screamed in my best Russian for all people to clear the area and bring up the fire hoses.
The laws on the books in the socialist state were some of the best in the world when it came to human rights, safety, and ecology. They were just on paper and when the fire hoses were stretched out no water was in them. I did not want the tank to implode so I opened the vacuum release valve and air rushed in. I knew we had about twenty seconds before the air oil mixture would explode. The main door was ten feet wide and thirty foot high held by hydraulic clamps. I released the clamps and ran down the building to where the others were waiting. We all assumed that the blast had done major damage but the main noise had been the large door slamming back in place. Most of the damage was spilled molten steel.
1976 was a long and hard year for me.
We went home for the holidays while they cleaned up the mess and repaired the damage. It was late January 1977 before I packed up the parts we needed to finish the task in Kramatorsk. I decided to handle the job alone to allow Klingerman to work on the startup of the large induction heating job in Michigan.
In 1977 our sales staff obtained an order for a very large specialized heating furnace for the forging industry. Our designers selected rigid carbon fiberboard that was purchased from FMI, Fiber Materials Inc.
News articles and FBI documents during this period suggest that FMI may have been working with the French on carbon-carbon technology. By this time FMI had become the overwhelming leader for fiber winding and pitch impregnation business for the Pentagon. A hot isostatic press (HIP) had been modified to become a high pressure autoclave for the PIC (pitch impregnated carbonizer) process by the Navy. This PIC was installed at Beryllium Corporation after I departed that company and was later moved to FMI in Biddeford, Maine.
In 1977 I did not have a clue that an isopress (pressure cooker) had anything to do with carbon-carbon. I had never heard or read about CoCom and did not have the foggiest notion of how exports were controlled. I knew what I was doing at the time was approved and applauded by my government. I knew only that FMI existed and that they made rigid carbon insulation.
The ministry responsible for this project finally sent a group from Moscow to take over the job from the local staff in Kramatorsk. We wrote an agreement on the work to be finished before my return from a visit to the States, so the task could be finally completed. When I arrived back in Kramatorsk the new crew was nowhere around. The work that had been scheduled was not started. The construction staff started to work again, but this time they had no interest in quality. The work was so bad that the main valve of the system failed. This would take months to repair.
The Soviet system demanded punishment for errors that harmed state property, including an improper design drawing or technical instruction. To protect themselves, a circle of people who were responsible for construction covered for each other so that no one could be blamed. The failure of the main vacuum valve at a critical time in the Kramatorsk job was a criminal act under Soviet law. After the failure, Klingerman inspected the damage with the young mechanic who caused it. The kid was scared to death. He told him, "Don't worry so much, it's only metal that was damaged."
The day after the valve was damaged; a major oil release from the accumulator almost knocked the chief engineer of the factory from a fifty-foot ledge. The young mechanic thought Klingerman had switched the valve that caused this incident. He wrote an official document claiming that Klingerman sabotaged the valve and attempted to murder the chief engineer.
I asked Leon to arrange that the letter be withdrawn or we would leave the project. The young mechanic was given paid leave in a summer resort in the south for the next three months.
Leon asked me to get into a black Volga that would be outside my hotel at exactly eight that evening. The car drove about three blocks to a small housing complex surrounded by fences. A guard opened the gate and I was in the living quarters of visiting communist dignitaries. Leon had pointed out this place to me more than a year earlier. The front door opened on to a plush lobby where a lady greeted me in English. She escorted me to a suite of rooms fit for a king. The man in the room introduced himself as Alex.
Alex worked for the Minister of Trade for the Ukraine in Kiev and his primary client was Paton Institute, where the world-famous builder of electroslag furnaces, Dr. Medovar, worked. Alex had two excellent bottles of Armenian cognac and snacks including black caviar. I told him I would prefer vodka and. pushing my luck, asked if he had vermouth. To my surprise there was a bottle of dry Martini on the shelf.
He had an invitation for me to meet Medovar at Paton Institute in Kiev and to speak to a group of metallurgical students at Kiev University. Alex was the first person in the world to hear that I planned to become the boss of Consarc in the near future.
As he continued to drink he told me about his trips to France, Germany, Japan and Great Britain in search of business for Kiev. He said the Republic of Ukraine was separated from Russia in its export activities. He told me Medovar had done a stupid thing when he signed an exclusive contract with Machinoimport, and wanted my help to break this stranglehold.
His parting request was that I bring him as many equipment brochures as I could find, because his other duty was to set up the advertising for Paton Institute. He promised in return to translate my sales literature and pass it around. He also put in a sales pitch for his firm's translating capacity at seven dollars per page. As a parting comment he said that the problem was solved and not to worry about it. I believe this was the real reason the party let him use the plush quarters that night.
The chief engineer from Kramatorsk traveled with me by train to Kiev because he was interested in buying one of Medovar's furnaces. Alex was who he said he was, and took me to meet the people at the Institute. The Paton Institute wanted to do business with my sister company. I spent the entire day with Medovar and promised to talk to Consarc about his proposition. The next day I had a delightful private tour of the sights of Kiev.
I spent more than a month at home during the late spring of 1977. Hill collected materials for Alex and wrote a letter introducing our products. I collected Inductotherm Industries materials that included Consarc. The package of material was completed with some of the papers that salesmen drop off in the lobby. Stan Meyers, president of Consarc, did not want to discuss business with Medovar.
Alex was waiting in his cheap hotel room when I arrived the next time in Kramatorsk. I told him there was nothing I could do with the Consarc matter but in the near future I would be in control of the situation, and if Paton could shake away from Moscow, perhaps some business would be possible. He drank the bottle quickly as he began explaining the reasons the Soviet economy could not get off the ground. In his mind it was the lack of communication between the departments of government and the factories.
He wanted to find a way to obtain a system of information he had seen in use in England on his last visit. This was a simple cassette film reader with an attached printout device. Some enterprising advertising group had developed a system to put subscribing companies' sales information in film form. With a shelf full of cassettes and an index system a potential customer could find the source of supply and as much data as the selling company was willing to provide. Size, weight, performance data, and other information could save the engineer time during the design phase. If the engineer could not find an item it was necessary, but expensive, to design the item himself. The problem with the Soviet Union was that the communist state did not have a simple advertising agency, and factories did not seek customers because they did not have salesmen. Cheston did not have this system of cassettes in operation, but I promised to find out about it and tell him where he could buy it. He thanked me for the documents I had brought him and gave me another request. He wanted small samples of aluminum sheet and gave me the specification numbers on a small piece of paper.
I returned to my room to find a letter under my door.
The accounting group at the factory had a birthday celebration for their boss at the hotel restaurant. Carter had announced the neutron bomb and everybody was worried. They told me this bomb would kill people and leave the buildings standing. The wife of the chief accountant pulled me to the dance floor and extracted a promise: I would call Carter to request that Kramatorsk be off limits for the neutron bomb.
I was the only person from our company in Kramatorsk during the summer and fall of 1977. It was hard work, and I began to worry that we would have to default. The factory ran completely out of money so I was able to go home for a while. Jody had resigned herself to the times and family problems were minimum. She was accustomed to me being away. Ruble, president of Inductotherm, was at a loss as to how to solve his quality problems in Kramatorsk. I had a problem with the phase balance scheme he had provided, and Inductotherm did not have enough experience to offer a solution. This job was dragging my company into an economic hole. I was not at home finding new profitable sales. The job had to be finished and I was determined it would be soon.
Marino to me that the aluminum samples Alex wanted were obsolete materials used for aircraft skin. I decided Alex was pulling a fast one and that he would not get any more gifts.
After spending Christmas with my family, I headed back to Moscow. I had a deal with the Pan Am stationmaster in Moscow. He would upgrade me and those traveling with me to first class in return for several hours of current sports on tape and about twenty pounds of fresh vegetables.
The stationmaster had been fired, and for the first time I had to pay full rates for the fifteen trunks of parts I was taking to the project. I had a full set of water-cooled leads to replace faulty ones that were supplied by Inductotherm. I hoped, but could not believe, that this third time they would work.
Getting eleven trunks from the baggage claim area was no easy task. I was experienced, but it was not easy to drag the trunks a few feet at a time while waiting in the customs line. Leon always met me at the end of customs to assist with the work. This day we were early and only Vera showed up to get her load of goodies. Thanks to Vera's help and her bag full of rubles, the baggage was delivered to the train station. Leon arrived with the tickets about ten minutes before the train's departure time. In Moscow there were always enough time to load the trunks into the baggage car. At Kramatorsk station we had three minutes to run to the back of the train and, without the help of porters, get the trunks off the train.
The Inductotherm cables leaked again. I asked Leon to contact Panin with an urgent request for help. He agreed to help me machine copper parts to replace the entrance for the electrical power. This solution was ugly, but it worked. Once again I was stuck and had to go home to America.
Klingerman was too busy on another project to help me in Kramatorsk. A decision was made to bring in someone with hands-on expertise to finally get the job finished. Lona arrived at the site early January 1978 to help me get the job done. He had his game plan to complete before the arrival of our technical expert.
Maynard Gray worked at Special Metals for many years as shop superintendent; he later worked at Cannon Muskegon. The type of information he gave the Russians was legal and approved by American authorities at the time. As it turned out, he learned more than he taught. He was drugged with medicine almost to the point of being unconscious because his doctor gave him medicine for his flu and extra pills for the trip.
I arrived a couple of weeks later to find that the management of the plant was still not organized. They had accomplished almost nothing during my absence. The final tests were doomed to fail before they started. No one seemed interested in utilizing the long operating experience of Gray. We did complete a melt in the thirty-ton furnace. It was completed by the seat of my pants using a technology that was made up during the melt. I was able to experiment with gas blowing on the surface of the melt. This process was later patented by Consarc and named gas purge. This melt should have been a success, but a major hydraulic oil leak in the chamber caused us to freeze the metal in the ladle. We returned to our hotel in disgust.
Gray taught the customer's furnace operators how to patch the refractory in the small furnace. They knew he was a very knowledgeable man and really wanted to learn from him. His physical condition did not allow him to work long hours. Everything was going wrong again. Volkov returned to make a melt. It went well, except the stopper rod system in the ladle did not allow us to pour the metal. They finally arranged a technical meeting for Gray. They asked him deep and stupid questions. He was a hands-on man, not an academic. It was a waste of talent and time, so I sent him home. He was paid with rubles, as agreed. He tried to change them to dollars at the Moscow airport. The banks will not change to dollars unless you show that you bought them in Russia using dollars. To avoid an international scandal, they allowed him to take the rubles out of Russia, which was against the rules. Later Gray sold me the rubles for dollars. That gave me the problem of smuggling them back to the Soviet Union.
By mid February it was certain that our company could not finish the project within our ability to finance it. Volkov understood the situation and Leon was in complete agreement with my stance. The local Chamber of Commerce filed a damage claim in excess of $6 million and these documents were processed and sent to Ruble in Rancocas.
The new technical director of the plant was informed in simple terms that the furnace had cancer and the methods we were using to cure it would kill it. He was told that Cheston was nearly bankrupt. The furnace was his. It was up to him to make it a success if he wanted to use it. After my meeting two days later in Moscow there were only a few hours remaining to visit Vera before my departure to New York.
I made a very quick trip to Rancocas to explain that the pending suit was a bluff and to pick up the final hydraulic fittings that had gone missing. I was going to finish and quit this project, even if they sued us.
Upon my return to the site in late February, no car picked me up and nothing was accomplished that day. Volkov arrived at noon on the day they planned to make the final melt. It was scheduled to start at midnight, so I could arrive at six in the morning to complete the metallurgical process. They had not done the work I requested and everything was falling apart. The plant director's father became seriously ill, so he left for two weeks. His assistant was told that I would stay no longer than March 8 and that Metallurgimport should come to make the final settlement.
A senior member of the ministry arrived to act as the final authority to settle. They tried to force me to stay another month. Leon again stuck his neck out and bought train tickets to Moscow without approval. I refused to be a captive.
On the third of March 1978 the crippled furnace was put on line. The Inductotherm induction coil failed due to poor design, to put the icing on the cake. We needed a final melt, so they installed the smaller furnace. It appeared that this time it would work. During the final inspection I saw that the hydraulic hoses were not correctly installed. Clear written, verbal and demanding instructions were issued to correct the small defect. The task should have taken no more than an hour. They did not follow my instructions.
During the day we typed the final agreement to repair the failed coil, including payment for shipping charges. They would give us a confirmed letter of credit for the last five percent payment that we could collect when we placed on ship two percent of the value of the contract in spare parts. They became greedy and tried to get too much. My only defense was to disable the laboratory and hide the software for the computer. My friend in the laboratory was in sympathy with my position, but I told her to inform her boss quickly to protect herself.
The technical director of the plant knew how much work had gone into that software, and that his fancy lab was useless without it. There was a risk of being arrested for theft, but by this time most of the people were siding with me. We sat down to fight it out again, with the understanding that the software was my bargaining chip.
The final protocol was in English, at my demand. Leon was controlling the typing, with the buyer controlling the drafts. As they kept adding small items, Leon, God bless him, was removing expensive ones on my signal. The buyer told me later that he agreed with my method to settle the affair, since he knew that certain parties were getting greedy.
Metallurgimport demanded that his clients be treated to a very good banquet with all the trimmings. The plant prepared for the final melt to start at four the following morning. The weight was removed from my shoulders, and I did really enjoy that last supper in Kramatorsk. Late that night my bags were packed for the trip home. One small bag was packed to hand carry. It contained my Ukrainian national dress suit.
The melt proceeded like a charm and the whole system behaved. By nine, when the bosses arrived, we were ready to pour the metal. All the operators and helpers from all shifts were in the area. The pour was started for all to see. The damned hydraulic hose, which they had not repaired, broke. The operators poured the metal in black smoke and spilled a lot. They closed the sight glasses, presented me with roses and handshakes of real friendship. The bosses thought we had made a perfect melt.
As I walked alone at nine in the morning down that long shop, I felt pain in my heart for good friends that would never be seen again. Leon met me at the mini bus with a large smile on his face. He knew what had happened and how the workers had covered for me.
My bags were already in the bus upon my arrival at the hotel at 4:30, just in time to go to the train station. The restaurant and hotel staff came to the front door to wave good-by to their American friend in full Ukrainian national dress. They were surprised to see me in Ukrainian dress.
Flowers were needed for Vera for International Women's day on the eighth of March. This day was a paid holiday in the Soviet Union but is celebrated as a combination Mother's day and Valentine's day. I managed to find some March flowers at the train station in Kramatorsk.
Vera met me at the train station in Moscow on the eighth of March 1978. The yellow flowers were a little wilted and she understood that I might not return for a long time. She also seemed relieved that my travels would no longer take me to the Ukraine. Vera was confident that we would be married sometime, so she had prepared a shipment of things for our new home. Most of the items could not be exported from the Soviet Union at the time.
Customs agents at the old airport in Moscow were not busy on the day of my departure. After a full inspection they disallowed most of the items. My mood after the situation in Kramatorsk gave me the will to put up a big fight to take the ton of things that Vera had given me. Customs agents would not allow the items because they were not bought with dollars. My argument was that the USSR had paid me in rubles for my services for three years and that these legal rubles were spent in the open market. Fifteen minutes before flight time they finally allowed me to take the items. Aeroflot wanted dollars for the airfreight that was already checked to New York.
After another big argument they agreed to accept rubles as far as the next stop in Frankfurt. With baggage to New York already on the loaded for a through New York flight, it was easy to agree with them. New York customs agents asked me what was on the four baggage carts. When they were told about my troubles in Moscow the man let me pass without duty. The only remaining problem was what to tell Jody about the newfound goodies.