JW devised a style of drawing skate ramps, with two-point perspective and a color code that showed you instantly what was transition and what was flatbottom or rollout. We put them up around the main room of the Lemon House. He had made quite a gallery of them.
The skateboard company had a guy whose job it was to make engineering drawings for all the plant' s needs. He had a computer set up to make them, with AutoCad software. "CAD" meaning "computer assisted drafting." I was fascinated by the prospect of learning how to do it. I found that there were classes at the City College, and signed up.
The prerequisite was a class in basic drafting. I hadn't taken a drafting class since junior high school, 1957, and I didn't think I would gain much from it, but I did. It was a simple idea about line thicknesses: How to make the image pop off the page and the dimensions not clutter what you’re seeing, but be there for reference.
I was taking courses at SBCC anyway and guessed there might be something I could glean from their engineering program. I signed up for the prerequisite Eng.101, Introduction to Engineering. I was surprised by the insights I gained from that course too. One of the assignments was to interview a working engineer and write a report about it. At the time, Powell had an engineer named Ralph who was signed on to design the utilities in the new manufacturing facility: routing the power conduits and compressed air lines and dust collection systems, stuff like that. I took him out to lunch at an outdoor cafe on Milpas Street about 4 blocks from the company's neighborhood.
His college degree in marine engineering emphasized ship construction and all the systems that needed to be routed compactly through large vessels. He had expected to be a maritime engineer, but after graduation he had gone to work at the Ford plant that made F-100 pickups. He said he had worked in a large office space with lots and lots of other engineers. He said the place had an excitement to it, like in those old movies of a big city newspaper office where somebody bursts in with a scoop..."Stop The Presses!" Only in the engineers' office, it was more like a bingo parlor when somebody would jump up from the drafting table with a breakthrough..."Eureka!" Poring over the minutiae of every detail of the truck's construction, they were working to redesign a part or system of parts that would accomplish the same function in a way that could be manufactured more cheaply. When an engineer had such an insight that would save even 50 cents a truck, he would earn his pay for years to come with that one flash. Ford was going to build millions of them. Who knew engineering could be exciting?
As we sat there next to the busy noontime traffic on Milpas Street, he started pointing out the Ford pickups driving by that were the model years he worked on. It was comical how many there were, sometimes two at a time; side by side or going the opposite direction. Soon I was able to pick them out and we kept a running total through the course of lunch. There must have been over 30 of them.
Anyway, back to drafting; besides drawing the plans for the small houses I was building myself, I had made some of my living in Hawaii making permit drawings for people who had gotten in trouble with the County Building Department. Typically, a young hippie couple had bought a piece of jungle, hacked a clearing and the put up a one-room cabin with a shed roof. After a long time, if somebody complained or by some random happenstance, a building inspector would happen by, it would get red-tagged to the great distress of the young pioneers. I was the fixer who could imagine their shack as part of a larger design that would meet the codes, that was simply unfinished, and make the necessary drawings so that everything was in order for the County. The permit would be granted, and for the price of my simple drawings and the regular permit fee, the homesteaders could relax and get back to their real life. Nothing needed to be done to the building except staple up the permit card, and the building inspector would drive by and smile and wave aloha. Its bureaucracy appeased, it was known that the County would leave you alone for five years or so, before insisting on progress, if they ever did. No law against running out of money before you finish the whole thing.
In those days I could do my drawings on 11" x 17" Clearprint graph paper, and make Xerox copies for the building department. A mistake or a changed idea would require a lot of erasing or starting over. When I saw AutoCad in action at the Powell factory I knew I had to take the leap into the computer age. Drawings could be done with such easy precision and revised so painlessly that I had to drop in. I took the classes at SBCC and bought my first computer. It was a 486 DOS machine, which was pretty advanced for that day, built from scratch by CompuCad, a local company, especially for computer drafting, with a digitizing pad and a pen plotter, and I was tooled up.
I was able to make professional looking drawings for factory remodeling projects, and amuse myself with artsy ideas that were made easy by the technology, like my PPP Triple Manifold, a variation of the Triple Encabulator Tuned Manifold, a well-known optical illusion. Few people looked at it long enough to get it. It was taped to the inside of my office window. At a glance it just looks like a standard Powell Peralta triple p logo.
Of course, my best use of the setup was to map out the indoor SkateZone as it began to take shape. At first it was the collection of portable ramps from the MacKenzie park demo, plus the growing list of fun- boxes and elements from our parking lot SkateZone events. As time went on, new elements were created, and existing pieces were rearranged. I made a precise floor plan of the building and kept updating the locations of the elements.
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