While times have changed, the hard work and dedication is the same.

June 15, 1965, I started my first job after graduating from Franklin Institute of Boston. I had previously made the executive decision to take a job at Shooshanian Engineering, Inc. (SEI) in Boston in lieu of another job offer closer to where I lived in Andover, MA, 25 miles north of Boston. 

There is a saying, “To be good, you need to be lucky,” and so my youthful decision to work at SEI was a truly lucky decision because I was introduced to HVAC, and I had the added benefit of working for a great boss who, along with a select few mentors, set my career course and guided me in the right direction.  True I had the work ethic of my father as my foundation, but my father was not an engineer and it was Ed Shooshanian, Jim McGrath, and Hank Eggert who were very influential in helping me to be the professional I am today.

Back then, oil was around $0.08 a gallon and hospital HVAC design, the focus of much of SEI’s consulting engineering services, used #6 oil along with constant volume air systems with steam reheat that would provide temperature and humidity control 24/7/365. Energy wasn’t much of an issue back then, and even if it had been, the pneumatic temperature controls really didn’t provide you with a lot of high-performance options.

As an entry-level draftsman (we didn’t have draftspersons back then), I used #4 lead in my mechanical pencils for outer-function features and #2 lead for in-function features. A draftsman would also have an erasing shield to erase any lines on the drawing that needed to be removed. Of course, he (I don’t recall any “she”) back then would also have a small hand brush for brushing the eraser remnants off the drawings, as well as a small rosin bag to powder and absorb the lead graphite that remained on the drawing.

Back then, an HVAC draftsman had several plastic templates to use when laying out the sheet metal and pipe design. A duct template had an assortment of elbows to trace from, while a pipe template had a variety of valves to use when drawing a valve. There was even a lettering guide that was simply a series of lines on a piece of paper that you slid under your drawings and used to more quickly letter the drawing (you didn’t “write” back then) by using the lines as a guide versus drafting faint lines on the drawing to help make the lettering straight.

The drafting paper wasn’t really paper but was instead a coated linen that was less susceptible to tearing. At the end of the workday, you would take the drawing you were working on and put it safely away in a drawing file cabinet.

My starting weekly salary was $75, which wasn’t much even back then. When another more experienced draftsman told me he was making $120 a week I thought, “Wow, will I ever make that much money?”

A lot has changed over the past 50 years, and certainly far more than I can fit into this column.  Today, young draftspeople reading this column probably can’t comprehend what I’ve just written, just like I couldn’t comprehend how a draftsman performed his work using ink instead of #4 and #2 lead years before I entered the HVAC industry.

I do remember how good it felt when you finished a drawing and filled in your initials in the title block right next to the engineer’s initials. I don’t believe the engineer had the same sense of job satisfaction that I had when my drafting masterpiece was completed and sent off to contractors, who would complete an equipment and material takeoff and submit their bids to build what I had drawn. Today, I don’t get the feeling that CAD people feel the same way as I did when they input their initials on to the computer screen drawing. I think today’s technology has erased the sense of accomplishment that one got from drawing an HVAC system on a piece of linen 50 years ago. 

 Certainly, today’s technology has the potential to seamlessly integrate designing with construction and operation and maintenance, as well as numerous other computer and CAD-related features, but I miss my earlier HVAC technology years.