Oral History Interviews
This group of oral histories features a trove of memories of the IBM years from a range of individuals. Some people were employed by IBM Kingston. Others were in the Kingston and Ulster County region and interacted with IBM employees and felt the effects of IBM's presence in their community.
Click on a name (and then click the play button) to listen to the interview.
Al Griggs, Retired IBMer. Manager in Finance area. A head hunter for IBM contacted Al in 1965 while he was working at Bell Labs. He was hired by IBM and although his career had him working in Kingston/Poughkeepsie and East Fishkill, he continued to live in Kingston.
Bill Davenport, Part owner of the HeritagEnergy Oil Company. In the early 50s, his parents told him not to plan to go into the family oil business as there was not enough business to support two families. He instead decided to become a history teacher upon graduating from Colgate University, but as a result of IBM coming to Kingston, he chose to go into the family business.
Bill Tuell, Retired IBMer. Bill was hired as a IBM co-op from RPI in Electrical Engineering to work on the SAGE program at $2.00 per hour. He has a PhD in Electrical Engineering.
Bob Gaus, Former owner of Simpson-Gaus Funeral Home. He and his parents came from Long Island in 1982 and purchased the Frank Simpson Funeral Home, at first having no idea where Kingston or the Hudson River was. Bob interacted throughout with IBMers and their families. IBM at that time would give a $5,000 insurance policy to the surviving spouse. They would also send flowers or a donation which they no longer do.
Bob Tutt, Retired IBMer. Programmer. He was a Coast Guard Captain graduating from the Coast Guard Academy. In 1960, he saw an IBM advertisement for programmers. He joined IBM without ever knowing what a computer was.
Bob Winrow, Retired IBMer. BA in Mechanical Engineering in 1955. Started working in IBM Poughkeepise. Bob moved to Kingston in 1957 as an Engineer to work in a small building on North Front Street next to an Italian restaurant. He found housing in Kingston discouraging when renting since the city was exploding with IBMers. Bob later became the IBM Kingston Compensation Manager.
Bruce Whistance, Retired IBMer. Started in Poughkeepsie as a Field Engineer in 1974 but worked in Kingston as a Customer Engineer. His tool kit consisted of a briefcase since IBM wanted didn't want it to appear that there were problems with their products.
Cookie Chandler, Retired IBMer. Secretary. Started working at IBM as a co-op in 1964. Cookie was hired full time in the Secretarial Pool managed by Mrs. Ruth Brown. Most secretaries referred to Ruth Brown at that time as "Mrs. Brown" and most came into the secretarial field through Ruth Brown's department and then went on to support their individual department heads. In the beginning of Cookie's career, she had to answer a Call Director with 20 extensions.
Dennis Doyle, Ulster County Planner. He was aware of rumors for some time that IBM was closing in spite of IBM refuting this. He felt communication should have been involved between IBM and the county and city as to what happened with the site.
Dick Coller, Retired IBMer. Electrical Engineer hired by IBM Kingston in 1964. Dick is currently working part time at Tech City overseeing the Kingston facility. He has seen many changes between IBM and the Tech City buildings throughout his career.
Don Moyer, Retired IBMer. Personnel Counselor. Hired in 1955 as a draftsman in Poughkeepsie for the SAGE program and transferred shortly thereafter to Kingston to Building 001 as buildings continued to be constructed around him. Don retired in 1989 as a Personnel Counselor.
Dorey Dabney, Retired IBMer. Manager. Dorey was hired as a secretary by IBM in 1956. He was in management for sixteen years, retiring in 1987. Dorey was involved in many organizations i.e., Chamber of commerce, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers/Sisters, Lions Club, Hospital Board, etc.
Ed Ford, City of Kingston Historian. Born in 1918. Ed also owned Ford Printing business for forty years and had some dealings with IBM. He said IBM contacted him when they first came to Kingston with a request that he “hold his press in the morning” until they contacted him to see if they had work for him to print. He felt that was rather "imperious" of them.
Ed Gerlack, Retired IBMer. Management. Ed left GE and started working at IBM in the early 1950s working second shift on typewriters. Before his interview, he went into the city of Poughkeepsie to buy a new suit. Not having a car, Ed hitchhiked to IBM. Ed lived and spent most of his career working in Kingston.
Fr. Frank Damis, Pastor, St. Joseph's Church in Kingston. Fr. Frank said that his father applied at IBM but wasn't hired and was later told that you needed to know someone in IBM to be hired. Fr. Frank also applied at IBM before becoming a priest; having been a pharmacist and having an education in chemistry, he thought he would have been hired.
Frank Almquist, Retired IBMer. Engineer. Frank worked at IBM from 1959 to 1997 as an engineer. He had a choice to work at RCA in Alaska or IBM. Frank said he basically “flipped a coin”.
Frank Brice, Retired IBMer. Frank was hired in 1974 as an Associate Programmer, leaving in 2008. He said there were two people per office until he became a staff programmer, then he had his own office. When coming to Kingston, he felt the development between Albany Avenue and Ulster Avenue was rather haphazard.
Frank Grimaldi, Former owner of Century Buick. Frank graduated with a high school diploma to become owner of an automobile company. He said IBM probably made his business as he was always around IBMers and they were a big part of his business. As a result, when IBM left, he was probably hurt more than his fellow dealers. He enjoyed his friendship with IBMers saying they were just like everyone else.
Frank Skidmore, Retired IBMer. Programming Manager. Frank was hired in 1966 as a summer hire. “If you were a son or daughter of a former IBMer, you were pretty much guaranteed a job.” His employment was contingent upon his completion of programming school.
Geddy Sveikauskas, Publisher and CEO, Ulster Times. Geddy came to the area in 1968 and started the Woodstock Times in 1973. He felt the population of Woodstock consisted of three populations: hippies; red necks (locals) and IBMers.
Hal Holly, Retired IBMer. Hal was hired in Poughkeepsie as an Engineer in 1955. He was on strike working for another company, and IBM would not hire anyone who was on strike. After the strike ended, he was hired. Hal started as a designer on the Mod C typewriter. He said there was little housing available in the area when he moved to Kingston.
Jack Finch, Former Principal at the Myers school in Hurley and a realtor. Jack also was a member of the Kingston Common Council and a County Legislator. As a Board Member of the Heart Association, Jack attended a presentation given at the IBM facility in Kingston. Jack said IBM was a very generous community-minded company.
Jack Matthews, Retired IBMer. Jack is a local Kingstonian. He applied to IBM while in the Navy. IBM told him to see them when he left the Navy. He was hired to work third shift (11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Through IBM’s encouragement for employees to take IBM’s educational courses, Jack became a mechanical designer.
Joy Hogan, Former Superintendent of Public Works in Kingston. Jay was employed by the city of Kingston as an engineering aid in 1969. He believed that IBM was the first of the white collar companies to come to Kingston.
Jim Steipp, Retired IBMer. Jim started work in the publications department at IBM in 1969 in New York City at the Time Life Building. Jim was a photo journalist in military service which he believed helped him get into IBM.
Jo Ann Cella, Retired IBMer. Administrative. JoAnn was a graduate of Katherine Gibbs School in New York City. She applied to IBM as second generation since her dad worked at IBM and was happy there. JoAnn became an IBM committee person and then went to work in the IBM Club and later in Education.
John DeJoy, Retired IBMer. Management. John graduated from Hudson High School and did not go to college due to a death in his family. He joined IBM in 1955 on the assembly line in the Typewriter Division. Later, John joined the World Trade Division and traveled worldwide for most of his 52 years with the company but always returned home to Kingston where his family lived.
John Moriarty, Retired IBMer. Programmer. John graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a Masters in Economics. He was hired by IBM in Kingston in 1965 as a Programmer but spent much of his career in Poughkeepsie, living in Kingston. He believed his children received a good local education on all levels.
John Shults, Former owner of Shults Paint Company, Canfield Supply Company and others. John said he was instrumental in helping to bring IBM to Kingston. While John was skiing with friends from Kingston, Tom Watson and his wife came into the ski facility. John knew Mr. Watson, introduced him to his friends and they discussed IBM and the Kingston area while John danced with their wives.
Kathy Dittus, Retired IBMer. Programming Manager. Currently an elder care attorney. Kathy was hired by IBM in Westchester County in 1968, retiring 1993. She was an Associate Programmer. Her project transferred to Kingston. Upon retiring in 1993, IBM allowed employees the opportunity to retrain with IBM funds. Kathy took a paralegal course at Marist College which IBM financed, then continued on to attend law school which she paid for.
Kevin Godbey, Retired IBMer. Joined IBM 1981, leaving in 2011. Kevin was a Business Analyst in Corporate Headquarters in Armonk but worked mostly from home. Before joining IBM, Kevin said the only businesses in the area having advancement and benefits for employees were Central Hudson, the New York Phone Company and IBM.
Len Waters, Retired IBMer. Electrical Engineer. Len graduated from the University of Buffalo. He was hired by IBM in 1957 to work in the military products division (SAGE).
Louis Klein, Life-long Kingstonian who became an attorney. Lou was also a former Chairman of the Ulster County Legislature and former President of the school board. He felt that IBM had a major impact on the schools in the area as the construction of new buildings was made with IBM in mind.
Lowell Thing, Retired IBMer. Technical Writer. Lowell started working at IBM at the age of 36. He majored in broadcasting working as a classical music announcer at WCBS and WINS in New York City prior to joining IBM. Lowell is a former FHK Board member and participated greatly in our IBM exhibit.
Michael Bruhn, Retired Judge. Mike was born in Kingston and as a young person remembers the Kingston Airport and businesses that had to be demolished to build IBM, one being the Airport Inn. IBMers did not have much of an effect on what took place in the court that he presided over as they generally were not litigious people or involved in major crimes.
Pat Finch, Retired IBMer. Secretary. Pat attended Dutchess Community College and joined IBM in 1963, retiring in 1993. Pat commented that the company, Drake, Beam and Morin, which IBM hired in 1993 to help employees transition into the workforce, was extremely helpful. Pat is presently a Board member of FHK and participated in the interviewing process for the IBM exhibit.
Pat Murphy, Wife of John Murphy, former IBMer. Pat said that prior to IBM coming to Kingston, Kingston was a small sleepy town, almost frozen in time. Most local businesses were small family businesses. Many Kingston natives thought IBMers were carpet baggers.
Peter LeVangia, Retired IBMer. Programmer. Peter was recruited from North Eastern University by IBM in 1969. He began working at IBM two weeks prior to his graduation so that he could attend programming school which had already begun.
Phil Sinagra, Retired IBMer. Manager in Personnel. In 1956, Phil interviewed in the evening with IBM and accepted a position to work second shift washing pots and pans after leaving Empire Markets where he was on the fast track for a management position. Phil always wanted to work at IBM and was willing to begin work at any job he was hired to do as he felt there was great opportunity for advancement.
Richard Schloss, Retired IBMer. Staff Engineer. Rich started working for IBM in 1954 at a former bowling alley on Grand Street where he said the floor sloped where the bowling lanes had been. Rich mentioned that there was no security check upon entering the building.
Ron Costello, Retired IBMer. Mechanical Designer. Ron began his career in 1955 in Poughkeepsie while working on the typewriter line. When the Typewriter Division moved to Kingston Ron moved with it. While working in Kingston, he took a drafting course. The best job Ron said he had was working in the Graphics Department.
Susan Levangia, Retired IBMer. Technical Publications Manager. Susan began working for IBM in 1969. She said the dress code changed from not allowing pant suits in 1969 to those becoming commonplace in 1985 and then casual Fridays in 1995 where casual attire was allowed.
Suzanne Thing, Suzanne is married to Lowell Thing, a retired IBMer. Suzanne moved with Lowell to Saugerties, NY from New York City in 1970. This enabled her to have her first contact with IBM by meeting IBM neighbors, etc. She grew up in NYC and had to adjust to the quiet of a country lifestyle with an infant daughter.
Ted Benson, Kingston native who worked for a contractor hired by IBM. His father worked at IBM and he remembers the Family Days at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. Having graduated from Kingston High School in 1961, he said many of his classmates went to work at IBM.
Ted Wiands, Retired IBMer. Manager, Manufacturing Engineering. Ted joined IBM in 1952 having previously been in the Korean War after joining the Navy. Ted attended a tool and dye making school in Poughkeepsie (the requirement was for 6400 hours which came to three and one-half years of schooling). He felt there was a good future to this job.
Thomas Woitasek, Proprieter of a Barbershop in Kingston. Tom owned his barbershop since 1968. He said approximately 40% of his customers were IBMers at that time. They seemed to make their appointments for any time of the day.
Vikki Hanast, Retired IBMer. Program Director. Vikki spent 30 years with IBM. She remembers Mr. Gerstner coming to the Kingston Plant and being asked if the rumors were true that the plant was closing. Mr. Gerstner said the rumors were not true but the plant closed one year later.
Walter Maxwell, Former owner of WGHQ radio station. Walter left IBM in 1974 after working there five years to join his father-in-law’s radio station. He enjoyed his time with IBM and felt it was the best thing that happened to the area. He also thought many people in the community took IBM for granted and realized it after IBM left the area.
Win Morrison, Retired IBMer. Programmer and current owner of Win Morrison Real Estate. Win interviewed with IBM in 1956 when they visited his high school. His class consisted of 41 students and he was the only one they hired. He started out in the Typewriter Division at age 18 earning $52.00 a week.