Bob ‘Wimpy’ Lynch passed away last week, 21 April, 2020. He was a childhood friend who was in and out of my life more times than I can remeber. He was not really a car guy but he was a thinker and innovator that bears remembrance. So, hang in there with me as I recount our escapadestogether.
We lived close to one another in Springfield Massachusetts. In the ‘suburb’ of Hungry Hill. The area was composed of primarily Irish and Italians. So, we were a perfect fit. I know we went to grade school together, but my clear memories begin with high school. We hung out and created mischief from the git go.
We went to the same high school and crafted a clever way to “skip” school. We came in late. Entered through the front door, signed in, then left by the back door. Don’t ask me why but it worked like a charm. Before I had a car, we walked to school, about three miles. Our route took us through the train yard and we became very adept at hopping the freight trains in and around the yard. One adventure took us out of the yard on an unwanted excursion. I have previously detailed this in my memoir ‘The Lives I’ve Lived’ (LIL). But rather than lean on you to buy a copy, although you really should, I will recreate the scenario here on these pages. Ref. - LIL pg. 17.
This other side lives in every child. Parents beware and hope for the best. My high school was about three miles from my house. I had two other buddies who would walk to school with me. We would cut through the woods and over dale in an attempt to make a straight line out of the walk. Somewhere before we reached the high school we would pass through the railroad yard. When the trains passed though the yard they would be moving very slowly. We started by doing the usual tricks like placing pennies on the track and flatten them out to the size of quarters. Occasionally, some nitwit, dumber than us, would flush the toilet as they passed us. I do believe that it was intentional. Not funny.
Then we graduated to grabbing the ladder, known as the sill steps, ride along for a few feet, then jump back down. Great fun. Then one day someone, I know not whom, got the brilliant idea of climbing up to the top of a freight car and view the sights. So, we did. By the time we all reached the top of a car the train began to pick up speed and jumping off did not seem very appealing. I don’t know what the other guys were thinking but my analytical brain was already at work. I was not sure, but I hoped that the train would slow for a curve before we got going too fast. Right on the mark. As we approached the Smith & Wesson plant just north of the city, the train slowed down. I didn't know why, and didn't ask. Apparently, the other guys had come to the same conclusion and we were down the sill steps in a New York minute. Solid ground was a welcome sight. The walk to school that day was a little longer than usual, and I don’t think we hopped any trains out of town after that. We were dumb, but not stupid.
Children see different than adults.
Our next misadventure started off as a well-intended created effort. The Wimp wanted to build a gyrocopter. Again, this was in included in LIL pg. 18.
Another off-the-deep-end adventure was seeded in a gyrocopter escapade. A gyrocopter is a type of aircraft that uses an unpowered rotor to develop lift and an engine-powered propeller to provide thrust or forward motion.
A very good friend of mine, Bob ‘Wimpy’ Lynch, had purchased a gyrocopter kit and asked (conned) me into helping him to assemble and build the basic structure. Initially the plan was to build the main structure without the engine and we would tow the unit to test the lift and airworthiness capabilities. Again man (boy) plans and God laughs. Big time.
During construction, the decision was made to build the propeller from scratch instead of purchasing a ready-made prop. You see it coming, don’t you? We attached the completed gyrocopter with a long and sturdy rope to my trusty ’39 Ford four-door convertible, top down, of course. Down the road we went. In our infinite wisdom we didn’t choose a deserted roadway, void of obstacles and folks. We just drove down the street from Wimpy’s ‘hangar’. With Wimpy at the controls of the ‘copter, we got up a little speed and, lo and behold we achieved lift! Up into the trees it rose, an awesome sight to see. Then I heard a crack, or was it laughter? The propeller had succumbed under the strain and the remaining craft plummeted to the ground and was seriously wounded. The pilot, Wimpy, was unscratched. We assessed the damage and decided that it was time to move on to other adventures. This time we made a good decision.
Children see different than adults.
We both barely graduated from high school. The problem was that we were never there. Too many other cool things to do. Shortly after graduating I took a job as an automotive mechanic and the Wimp hadn’t quite made up his mind. My wife, Liz and I live in a three-story tenement just around the corner from Wimpy’s family home. One late afternoon, guitar over his shoulder and slightly inebriated, he trudged up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. He knocked on the door, began serenading us with various Irish lullabies, then sat down with our son Bobby and watched Yogi Bear on TV. He had dinner with us but then stated that he had to move on. Fortunately, he was walking.
Now the enigma of our relationship takes on a whole new dimension. Truly other worldly. For some reason, I can’t really remember why, I decided that I wanted to become an aeronautical engineer. I signed up with the Northrop Aeronautical school in California. I had been attending classes for about a week or two when who shows up in one of my classes, you guessed it, the Wimp. He had driven out to California in his crap-can MG. He attended a few classes and then announced he was headed back home. Off he went in a cloud of dust. I lasted a few more weeks, but I too decided that the Aero bis was not for me. So back to Springfield I went.
However, one thing I did know was that I had to go to college and earn an Engineering degree. We had very little money so my school of choice was a small local college, Western New England College, WNEC. I applied and was accepted. I was there not more than two weeks when who do I see in one of my classes, you guessed it, Wimpy hisself. What the hell?? He too had decided he need some sort of a degree to forge ahead in life.
Now we still lived near each other so we decided to commute together. At this time my son Bobby was about a year old. We would take him to my mother’s house in the morning before classes. But before we dropped him off we would usually stop off at a doughnut shop for a little breakfast, the three of us. At some point in the semester my classes started before Wimpys so I asked him if he would drop me at school and then he could go on and drop off Bobby. Sure, no problem. Again, the next semester our classes were aligned and we were back traveling together. At our first stop at the doughnut shop the waitress greeted Wimpy and his “son” Bobby. It turns out that after dropping me off at my class the previous semester Wimpy went to the doughnut shop with his “son” Bobby and charmed the waitress into providing free doughnut holes for his cute little kid, which he, “dad”, immediately scarfed down. My poor son was turned into a cute little shill!
I had a small motorcycle, 250cc I think. I use to ride after classes in a dirt lot that was near our houses. Normally, I rode by myself, but one day Wimpy came by and wanted to give it a try. I was “hill climbing” up some six-foot piles of dirt. Sure, two dummies having a go at it. I never thought to ask him if he knew how to ride. What’s a helmet you say? He mounts up shining with confidence. He cracked the throttle and rocketed up the side of the mound of dirt. Unfortunately, he neglected to roll off the throttle when he reached the crest. He predated Elton John’s Rocket Man, but he sure played the part well. When he landed on the other side he was dazed out of his senses, mostly uninjured. For some reason all he could say was “I need a glass of chocolate milk, I need a glass of chocolate milk”. Fortunately, we were only a few blocks from my house, so we limped and shuffled over there. I quickly mixed him a tall glass of chocolate milk. Recovery was almost instantaneous.
Wimpy was still into partying a bit so his grades were not what they might have been. At graduation time he was hard pressed to find a job. Finally, he landed a job at a local facility, the Springfield Armory, of rifle fame. He had applied at other companies but he had not gotten any replies. I was sitting down for dinner when he burst into my adobe waving a letter. He had been accepted at Electric Boat into their underwater development group. He was in a quandary, now he had two jobs and didn’t know what he should do. Dump the Armory and pack your bags for Connecticut was my immediate reply. And so off he went, once again, in a cloud of dust. One of his first assignments was to get certified as a scuba diver in order to participate in their various underwater development programs. What the hell???
Let’s go back a few years to our high school truancy days. We skipped school a lot, but we always did educational things with our allotment of time. On one occasion it was decided (me) that we should go down to the Connecticut shoreline and try scuba diving. Most were in favor but Wimpy detested the idea and did not want to go thrashing around in the yucky cold water. He went on the drive to Connecticut but did not participate in the diving. BTW don’t ask me how we got our hands on the equipment but things were a little more relaxed in those glorious times. I don’t think we ever went again, but everybody survived. Now you can understand why I was so perplexed when I heard that Wimpy was about to submerge himself in the deep blue sea. From a song I once heard “You've gone your way and I'll go mine cause time changes everything”.
The next portion of our lives becomes a little fuzzy because both of us were moving at a whirl-wind pace, absorbed in our own destinies. I’ll try to recall and present the essence as best as I can, given that the brain cells are quite rusty, dusty and crusty. Any errors can be corrected when we meet again.
As best as I can recall Wimpy became quite absorbed in the Electric Boats two-man submarine program. Or perhaps it was later when he went to work for Links Company. Owned and operated by Ed Links, the gentleman who designed and developed the Links aircraft trainer and simulator. Wimpy use to send me clippings of his accomplishment, which were many and off the wall sophisticated.
Wimpy could be the poster child for how superficial a college degree really is. It gets you in the door but the rest is up to you. As Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. And Wimpy had imagination in spades. BTW share this info with your kids if you dare.
Next, I’ll just quickly summarize because I know so little about this time in his life. He invented and patented numerous variants for utilizing the two-man submarine in the underwater work environment. He advanced the state of underwater welding by leaps and bounds. And get this - he was certified as a hard-hat diver, sacre bleu. He formed his own company and specialized in underwater pipeline welding and certification. I often think that I have accomplished a lot and wore many hats, but the Wimp puts me on the trailer.
But let me get back to our path crossing phenomenon. I often wondered why or how. I really cannot say, but someone smarter than me once said, “We don’t meet people by accident, they cross out paths for a reason”.
I’ll try to keep these in chronological order. Time had passed for both of us. I was living in Huntington Beach California, about 1968 or 1969. I had left Chrysler and was running the AMC Javelin NASCAR racing program. I was on the road and at some podunk track on the east coast. We were testing and during one of the stops I happen to glance up into the stands, which were totally empty except for one guy sitting there by himself. He smiled, I smiled and we both laughed till the tears came. It was the Wimp. Apparently, he had called my wife in Huntington Beach, California wanting to talk with me. She told him was on the road. When she told him where I was he said it was just around the corner from him; and the gods of faith were appeased.
Next encounter. My wife Liz and I were having dinner at the Rusty Pelican in Newport Beach. A guy walks in, comes up to our table and says “man you guys are living the high life”. It blew us away. It was the Wimp and somehow, he had tracked me down once again, right to the time and place I was having dinner. I’ll be damned. As they say, we ate, talked and drank the night away. The next day he was off in a cloud of dust.
I’m sure there is more but it is becoming difficult to write and read these words. Essentially, I find that I deserted a friend. Yes, a genuine friend. We accumulate many acquaintances during our travels through life but we have very few real friends. Wimpy reached out many times and I never reciprocated. Once he sent me a note re a reunion he was setting up at Bottle Park back in Springfield. Bottle Park is a very, very, small triangular plot of greenery sided by Liberty Street, Carew Street and a third leg called, what else, Libcar. It was “occupied” primarily by the Irish, but they were always kind enough to invite a few of us Italians. I turned the invite down and regret it to this day. He reached out to me on many occasions and I don’t think I every reciprocated. Shame on me. I know he will forgive me because he was that kind of guy. I think we both had the same overall objective in life. -- I’m not trying to follow you to the end of the world, I'm just trying to leave something behind. - (Sean Rowe)
Good journey my friend, I‘ll find you soon.