I can only attribute my original contact with CH2M to Divine Intervention–I was a partner/employee of a small Mergers and Acquisitions firm I had helped found, but which was now foundering. After a couple of years of moderate successes, a sudden and drastically changed economic climate arose in 1970/1971, and the business world abruptly declared that mergers and acquisitions transactions consummated with the exchange of corporate stock were nothing short of idiotic behavior. My partner and I were forced to close our doors and seek other employment opportunities. Fortunately for me, our door was only across the hall from the CH2M offices. As the result of neighborly comments, usually exchanged in casual conversation in the commonly shared Men’s Room, I was prompted to seek employment with this firm which I understood was looking for some kind of an accountant or bookkeeper, or something related to skills in which I had an excellent background.
Secretly, I had the thought that employment with an engineering firm in a “large” office environment would be highly structured and probably too confining for my independent spirit, a concern which I conveyed to Les Wierson during my interview. I will never forget his reply–he just threw back his head and laughed, replying with a comment to the effect of “Try it, you’ll like it”! I then raised the issue of my age–I was 50 at the time and the average age of the firm’s employees, I discovered, was about 35. Les’s reassuring comment was that it could only help to have a little gray hair in the office! With my major concerns laid to to a tentative rest, I cast my lot with the PDX office of CH2M.
Move the time frame forward a week or so. Carl, the young man I was replacing never showed up to “break me in” and describe what my duties would be. He had claimed that he was planning on attending classes at PSU, but that he would find the time to get me started. It just didn’t happen that way—he literally disappeared from sight and could not be found anywhere! Fortunately for me, Vern Nelson was willing to drive up from CVO daily, for several days in a row to involve me in the intricacies of preparing the Annual Profit Plan, which was rapidly coming due for submission to Corporate Headquarters.
In the midst of trying to get my feet in the stirrups, one day Michelle, the receptionist called me on the phone and declared that the FBI was waiting in the lobby and wanted to talk to me. My mind quickly flew over my recent behavior and, finding no reason for personal concern, I asked her to show them in. They quickly put me at my ease, and informed me that they were seeking information about my predecessor at CH2M. They confided in me only to the extent that this young man I had replaced was living under an assumed name, having acquired the stolen credentials belonging to an attorney in California. Furthermore, Carl had been traced to Corvallis, Oregon where he was implicated in the break-in of a sporting goods store resulting in the theft of several guns. It appeared that Carl was a member of a small group of dissident youths who were bent on saving the world in their own manner.
I supplied them with whatever information I had (I don’t remember that I had even met Carl!) and they went on their way, after cautioning me that I should contact them immediately if I ever heard of or from Carl again. My mind now went to the obvious thought of whether or not Carl had placed the firm in any form of jeopardy and after consultation with Mike Fisher, I spent a number of days, auditing the Petty Cash (limited to $100 !) over the prior 12 months or so, checking both Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable records, and any other areas where financial deceit could have been practiced. I found nothing that appeared out of order, and aside from an occasional phone call from the FBI, the entire incident faded away into my Memory Closet.
My original concerns about a bland environment created by stodgy engineers now flew out the window and from then on, my career with CH2M HILL turned into as exciting an adventure as one could hope for. Nearly 15 years later I retired, a dyed-in-the-wool CH2M HILL employee, my life enrichened, with an abundance of friends and a stockpile of memories that would keep me sated for the rest of my life!
Submitted by C. J. (Gus) Pantazi, hired as the “RAM” of the PDX Office.