Wilmer Stevenson / Personal Projects / Steve Temple Photography / Portland, OR
Wilmer Stevenson, my maternal grandfather, (known to family and friends as Steve) lost his job at the hosiery mill in Pennsylvania due to the depression. He and his new bride, my grandmother, headed west to Los Angeles seeking new opportunities which he found at another mill, Mission Hosiery. Only a couple months after getting his new job the workers decided to strike forcing Wilmer to take job washing windows. The strike ended after 9 months, the workers having gained nothing but lost wages for their trouble. Soon after World War II started, there was more need for troop and materials transport than hosiery so he went to work at the shipyards. It was during this time he wanted to learn a trade and started attending night school at Glendale High School to learn machining. Upon gaining his new skills as a machinist, he went to work for Castaloy Corp. making tools and parts for the war effort. As the war ended, so did the need for materials supporting the troops, and he eventually went back to work at as a knitter in the Theme Hosiery mill. In 1952, the family moved to Simi Valley and bought a chicken ranch. At about this same time he went to work for Rocketdyne as a machinist. Rocketdyne was located on ‘the hill’ over Simi Valley and this is where they did their engine tests as part of the R&D department. He was making parts never made before, for rocket engines that had never existed before. In time, Wilmer became a lead man during 2nd and graveyard shifts. The parts he made were components of the larger rocket engines used to propel our first forages into space. He worked on all manner of large machines from day to day, but his micrometer was one of his most prized tools. Wilmer retired in 1971.