FedEx Legends
- Last updated Dec 12, 2013

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Photo Telecom 1987

Photo Ancel Hankins/Jimmy Burk @ DCC

The Good Ole Days

1977 to Present

 

I was recently thinking about the Good Ole Days as I approached my 34th Anniversary (NO NOT WEDDING ANNIVERSARY) here at FedEx. I can remember like it was yesterday my first day on the job at the Memphis Hub. The week I started was probably one of the most significant times in recent history in Memphis due to the death of the King Elvis Presley. My first night on the job was interesting in that we had to set up the sorting tables, yes table not belts since we were still doing manual sorting as we waited on the first automated sort belts to be installed. Even back in the early day’s folks still reminisced about the Good Ole Days. It seems that I have been searching my entire life for the Good Ole Days that all old timers seem to remember so fondly.

My first night on the job may still be the most memorable of my long career here at FedEx. As I was busy sorting packages onto a six foot folding table a young man offered to assist as I am sure I looked a little confused. We worked side by side for about 30 minutes and as the gentlemen began to leave he reached out to shake my hand. As he shook my hand he introduced himself as Fred Smith and I then countered with nice to meet you Fred and I’m Elvis Presley. See all I knew about Federal Express at that time was the founder was a guy named Fred Smith and he was an entrepreneur (not sure I knew what that meant at that time). Anyway Fred turned to me and said no really I’m Fred Smith and I said no really I’m EP. As he walked away he turned and looked back with a slight smirk on his face and a little chuckle. A few minutes later Mike Ducker my first boss slapped me upside the head as he laughed at my early introduction to the Man and the founder of the Good Ole Days and Federal Express.

The hub years were very instrumental in developing me as a young man in search of my mission in life. I had recently been released from the hospital after several months due to a severe motorcycle wreck that almost crippled me for life and I was now ready to look to the future. As I worked my way through the hub I still encountered the good ole days saying from time to time but for the life of me I still didn’t understand what that really meant. Surely my good ole days were not my time related to my motorcycle days or maybe it was. I was determined to make my own memories and hopefully someday really understand what the fuss is all about. Again, in search of who I am or want to be was a big part of my journey at this time. I remember after about 3 days of working under Mike Ducker he took me outside to introduce me to my first fleet of Falcon Jets that he and Federal Express would entrust in me to oversee the daily load and departure of these aircrafts. As I thought about the level of responsibility of managing these multimillion dollar aircrafts I really began to wonder if they (FedEx management) had any idea who they were entrusting these jets too. Remember these were the Good Ole days before the internet so they had no clue that I was a wild and crazy guy who just ran a motorcycle into a car at 65 MPH. Anyway that one moment in my career had a tremendous impact on me as a young man looking to find his way into this thing called independence. The simple fact that Federal Express empowered me to take the lead on making sure all our planes were loaded and ready to launch every night on time “Absolutely Positively” over night. This was my first introduction to the PSP philosophy that some may refer to when talking about the Good Ole Days. The impact you can have on a young person by empowering him or her is a tremendous tool that we need to take full advantage of at all times as we struggle to keep the FedEx culture alive and well.

After several years in the hub I was able to graduate from College and started my journey on finding a way out. And for all of those who worked in the hub, well you know what I mean. The hub is a great place to work, but yet a better place to have worked and perhaps some may say a place we often referred to as the Good Ole Days.

My next stop on this long journey was a move to the Communications Department which consisted of just under 30 FTE’s and one Call Center in East Memphis at 2725 Mendenhall next to Flemings Fine Furniture. The department consisted of 3 groups Voice, Data and Radio. During these Good Ole Days the networks were very much independent and stand alone and with VoIP and other convergence solutions weighing heavily on our minds today some may say that these were the Good Ole Days where life and networking seemed so simple. The department head Jim Barksdale met me on my first day in the communications Department and I was lead to my new office overlooking East Memphis via the Clark Towers. A double whammy was my childhood home was less than a few hundred yards away and I could see my mom and dad from my office window and at times try to get their attention from my office window. Oh yeah, never wave a white towel from the top of Clark Towers because someone may think you’re in need of help and call security . Anyway these were some really good times for me in that I had my own office a few blocks from my parents’ home and was able to show off just a bit for a kid that many thought would spend his time elsewhere not Corporate America. So, this I thought must be what everyone means when they referred to the Good Ole Days and perhaps I can now participate in those discussions as I built my own memories here at Federal Express as I strived to keep the Federal Express culture and PSP alive and well.

The next phase of my career at FedEx began in the 80’s as the company really began to emerge as one the greatest Corporations in the world. I can remember like yesterday traveling around the USA, Canada and Mexico with my boy Randy Roy implementing Call Centers as fast as we could put them in. We also had the luxury of hiring the personnel for these sites which was not an easy task since FedEx was not quite the household name it is today. As a Technical Recruiter I had the opportunity to participate in jobs fairs and even do a few radio spots around the country. Again, this was all so rewarding in the fact they “FedEx” empowered me to make a difference in this company. I can’t say enough how important this is to the FedEx way of life and in developing and promoting our culture. The 80’s came to an end with many changes during which time I was a big part. Things like Fedex looking into becoming a passenger airline and participating in the World’s Fair in Knoxville and of course the Zap mail days and perhaps the biggest move of all the purchase of Flying Tigers. And the thing I found most challenging during these times was our ability to keep the culture alive and well as we continued to build on the FedEx way of life and PSP.

The 90’s also bought about a ton of changes as we expanded our reach globally and we officially changed the name of the company to FedEx but never changing our basic fundamentals like motivating the People to provide the Service while generating the Profits (PSP). The FedEx growth continued through the 90’s and well beyond as we acquired additional companies and integrated the new employees into the FedEx family and culture. The growth and challenges continue to this day with the ever changing market place but with the one continuum being the PSP way of life.

The years have been both good and bad just like for everyone else but I do think for the most part it has been a great ride and one that I hope will continue for a few more years as I continue to search for the Good Ole Days and hopefully keep the faith of our original culture. Always remember that the PSP philosophy is in our DNA and is more relevant than ever before. As Fred stated recently each element of the PSP is essential for the success of FedEx and each must be in balance with the other to remain an efficient business model. So with that in mind I must say after writing this article it has come apparent to me that today should be the Good Ole Days we all seem to be searching for our entire life as we build on the legacy of this great company. So, no matter how stressed or over worked you may be always reach back to the days when PSP was a way of life not just a story when reflecting on the Good Ole Days. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and we should always be thankful for all we have and not all that we want. The mere fact we are able to come to work for such a great company and have such a huge impact on not just our lives but others around the world as we FedEx continue to change the way the world works. So accept the fact that today is the beginning of our own Good Ole days and enjoy it for some day you will have to tell your family and friends about your good ole days. Stay strong and continue to promote the People philosophy whenever you can so FedEx can continue to be the best of the best. 

Remember working at 2828 Business Park, Building 'H'? Here's a photo of me in about 1995, in the corner office I had for 7 years, when I was working as a Senior Technical Advisor for Miley Ainsworth, in the Telecom Division of ITD.

That office was diagonal from the break room, so I could see everyone who went for coffee or to watch the FXTV broadcasts on the TV stationed there. Having that office in such a strategic place was a great way to stay in touch with people, as I could keep up with everyone as they went for a break. Before Facebook we all had to stay in touch face-to-face!

In those days, I used to try and display BZs on the wall, so I had a habit of framing them and hanging them up on the wall as you can see from the picture.

 

 

 

 

Story about Jim Covington from Winn Stephenson
I'm going to check Snopes on this - sounds fishy.

The story I remember that is a little similar to this was when I worked at Cook Ind in the early 70's. Yes - there were computers then. I was a programmer and Jim Covington was computer ops. We had a IBM model 40, 2 tape drives, a 1403 printer and a gaggle of IBM 2311 disk drives. The arrangement was a square with the disk drives on one side, followed by the CPU, tape drives, and printer to close out the square. The tape drives had a sliding door to load/unload the tapes with a little tab at the bottom to grab for sliding. So the operator could just spin around and with a few steps do all the things operators do. Long setup, but I hope you have the picture of Covington in the center of all the hardware.

As you would imagine, Covington was a whirling dervish as the operator and was a blur in motion. So, he was at the console, up pops a console msg to ready the tape drive. Immediately after that an intervention on the 1403 printer rang out. So JC pops up and moves like lightening to ready the tape drive, grab the tape door to slide it closed and proceeded to the printer to ready it. Unfortunately he did not unhook the printer door from his finger and the momentum launched the tape door into the 1403 printer glass.

Quite a mess. Covington never said a word.

 

 

Jimmy Sowell Story on Jim Barksdale's Travelling Stealth Table

Winn Comment:

I remember this like it was yesterday.  What a hoot!  I don't know exactly how we got it out of JLB's office cause it was quite heavy.
Winn

 

 

 

 

 

FedEx & Space Mountain

Around 1994, FedEx became the sponsor of DisneyWorld's Space Mountain. FedEx was the sponsor from 1994-2004.

I have no direct knowledge of how this transpired, but the story goes, that Disney wanted FedEx to sponsor the ride and approached FedEx. The costs were pretty high, and Disney made some type of proposal which included some re-financing of FedEx jet leases. Disney owned a company supposedly that also was a worldwide leasing company.

This provided FedEx employees & guests use of a small lounge and access directly to the ride.

Above images from UltimateOrlando.com site.

FedEx sponsorship (1994-2004) (Wikipedia Article)

From 1994-2004, Space Mountain's sponsorship was held by FedEx. The 1992 entrance remained very much the same, but now the entrance and exit building was partially demolished, forcing guests exiting Space Mountain to exit into an arcade and gift shop that occupies part of the still vacant space left for the proposed but never built Tomorrowland railroad station. The left hand entrance wall, that served for years as the signage for Space Mountain was demolished in the 1994 refurbishment. The right hand entrance wall was now used for signage and simply had the words "Space Mountain" in a tall, thin, orange font, that was meant to reflect the architecture of the New Tomorrowland.

The large entrance door was kept, but now had storm shutters placed within the frame, creating a smaller entrance. New warning signage and warning spiels also came in 1994. A new, but different pylon tower was placed over the site of the old one. It too featured the new Space Mountain font and FedEx sponsorship. The warning film was also changed in 1994 for updated footage and to also feature FedEx Sponsorship. The film included both the warning footage and the futuristic but funny "SMTV" with its space themed news program. The warning film has so far changed only three times. The original in 1975, and two updated versions both in 1985 and 1994. The FedEx footage was removed in 2005.

The entrance lobby was refurbished with an orange and brown color scheme, but still maintained the blue floor lights, and black vinyl flooring, while adding in a FedEx sponsored intergalactic tracking network mural of the Milky Way. In 1998, the original flooring was removed and a staircase was added in the left hand queue, which is now the Stand By queue. The right queue, which has a ramp instead of a staircase, making it wheelchair accessible, is for the FastPass return line. FastPass machines were also added outside of Space Mountain at this time.

Space Mountain FedEx Story

 

During the time that FedEx sponsored Space Mountain, FedEx employees could enter the ride thru a special company lounge, located out of sight, to the right of the main entrance.

 

Families could get a drink and snack, and were taken thru a interconnected corridor to a place where they were put on the ride, just before the normal line of people were loaded.

 

It was a nice thing to have, especially on a hot day. It was open Monday thru Friday.

 

One of my brothers, also a FedEx employee, took his Family to Orlando and wanted to ride Space Mountain. But he went on a Saturday,,, not knowing it was closed. The line wait was about an hour long at the entrance.

 

He found a maintenance employee and wanted to know where the lounge was. The mx person gruffly told him it was closed, and my brother said, he was with FedEx & just wanted to get his family on the ride.

 

The MX guy gruffly said...Well....Ok....follow me...

 

Instead of taking him to the lounge, he took my brother's family to the main entrance and started walking past the main line, telling them to move over...and he walked them all the way to the loading point of the ride, and put them on. My bro said that people were yelling...take me...take me....

 

He was embarrassed a little....but not too much.

 

 

 

Early Photo of Fred Smith going one of the last Falcon flights.

from Money Magazine Article

(Photo taken the day he flew this a/c to Washington for display at the Smithsonian Aviation museum. Paul Benbrook )

 

 

 

More Photos: Courtesy of Paul Benbrook

Fred getting ready to fly our Falcon to the Smithsonian Museum.

 

 

 

FedEx & Concorde Jets

Anything that Flies, Floats in the air or sea or spacecraft

FedEx has always had innovative people looking at any method of transporting goods. Jets, ships, railroad and truck are just a few. Planning for blimps, huge seaplanes, fast ships, space shuttles are just some of the scenarios constantly being analyzed. In the mid 1980's one scenario was to lease several Concorde supersonic jets and crews from British Airways and possibly offer same day International service from Europe and next day service back to Europe. This was an active plan, but the European Consortium wouldn't commit to keeping the Concorde flying for 10 years; they were losing too much on the aircraft.

Reference /Concorde Model --Halfway down the page/

Supersonic Flight (Times Article September 1981)

While many major passenger airlines are trying to return to profitability by shrinking their flight schedules, Federal Express Corp., the pioneer in overnight, coast-to-coast package delivery, aims to become bigger by flying farther faster—faster, in fact, than the speed of sound.

The company is discussing with Air France and British Airways the possibility of leasing two or more of their Concorde supersonic transports. If agreement is reached, Federal Express hopes to begin flying small (under 73 Ibs.) high-priority packages across the Atlantic. According to one plan now under study, the Federal Express Concordes would fly from Washington's Dulles airport to Shannon, Ireland, where subsonic jets would pick up bundles and whisk them to major European cities. A package leaving Washington at 9 p.m. could arrive in Paris by 9 a.m. the next morning, despite losing six hours in time-zone changes. On the trip back through those same time zones, a shipment could leave Paris at 9 p.m. and reach Washington by 10 p.m.that night.

Mainly because it uses about four times as much fuel per passenger as a 747, the Concorde has been a money loser since its maiden flights in 1976. The British and French governments now subsidize it at a rate of roughly $90 million a year. The Socialist government of France's François Mitterrand is considering grounding the prestige plane. Officials of the two nations will open talks next month on the possibility of ending, or at least severely curtailing, Concorde passenger flights.

The plane's dismal record, however, does not deter Frederick Smith, 37, who in 1973 risked a personal inheritance of $3.5 million to launch Federal Express. Smith believes the Concorde's revenues could more than double if he converted it from passenger to package service. Says he optimistically: "It is a potentially lucrative venture." If Smith is right, the Concorde may eventually become more than just a winged white elephant.

Winn Stephenson

I think the Concord project was "officially" canceled due to inability of the Concord basic design to allow a cargo door.

Interesting writeup on Fred Smith

Interesting 1982 Commercial implying difference in way customers are handled at the Post Office versus FedEx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ADMan Extreme - Vince Fagan

Click for Article

Extract:

"Adman Supreme

Although FedEx was always Fred Smith's company, he had help getting it off the ground. One important person was Vince Fagan, whom Smith hired in 1974. Fagan was in charge of marketing and advertising, and was one of the few senior executives willing to challenge Smith and fight for his own ideas. Fagan wanted to target ads at secretaries and executives, not just the people in companies who ran mailrooms and shipping departments. He also wanted to stop using the old-fashioned method of having salesmen call on companies to ask for their business. Instead, Fagan announced, FedEx should advertise, especially on television. That decision led to the famous FedEx TV ads. Some of the humorous ads showed clerks and secretaries who were afraid they would lose their jobs if a package did not arrive on time. The most well-known FedEx ads featured actor John Moschitta playing a fast-talking executive working in a fast-paced office. The company's slogan became, "Federal Express. When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." "

 

 

Knoxville World's Fair 1982

Around 1982 the World's Fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee. FedEx was a major sponsor of the Fair, and Sharon Lucius was chosen as the Manager to oversee the many employees that handled FedEx's exhibits.

I believe that FedEx's pavilion was called Energy in Motion.

Website 1

Website 2

 

BLIMPS: From Wikipedia -Airship Industries

Excerpt:

"Federal Express (FedEx) was reportedly "negotiating the possible purchase of a non-rigid training airship" in early 1981, with the possibility of an order for "75-tonne payload R.150 cargo airships" to follow, and Redcoat—through which FedEx had approached AI—switched its order to the R150, ordering four airships with options on another 10.[21] FedEx was motivated by fuel-efficiency concerns and considered airships suitable for lower-priority 48-hour package deliveries.[22]

However, FedEx stated in late 1981 that its airship plans had been "put aside for the time being"[23] and Redcoat went into voluntary liquidation in mid-1982.[24] The R150 design was inherited by Wren Skyships when AI's rigid division was split off (see below), and Wren went on to propose new metal-clads of varying sizes.[20]"

FedEx Logos

Logo When/Designed by Notes
1973 by Richard Runyan

Article

1994 Lindon Leader at Landor Assocs Article

 

Pilot Memories from 1972 to 2004

Interesting tidbits of FedEx History from ALPA

 

Fedex commemorative Photo of package count and SuperHub

Rhodes College has re-shuffled their links, so I copied an early photo of Charlie Brandon, first CIO of FedEx

This photo captured the charter of Rhodes′ Sigma Pi Sigma chapter on 27 May 1963. From left to right: Charlie Brandon ′65, Prof. Harvey Hanson, Charlie Robertson ′65, Prof. Fritz Stauffer, Walter Roberts (founder of HAO and NCAR), Prof. Jack H. Taylor, Prof. Peyton N. Rhodes.

 

Jimmy Burk

 

Some memories of the early 1980's

 

I arrived at FedEx around Feb 2, 1980. I was about the 14,709th employ hired. I think Randy Roy was hired a few days later. I was hired as a Senior Engineer in the Telecommunications department.

 

FedEx in 1980

At that time there were around 10,000 couriers in the fleet, and FedEx was flying Falcons and 727's.

 

I believe there were only one or two services. You could get delivery by noon primarily.

 

Overnight Letter/Paks

In 1980 Overnight Letter was added and later, and later, delivery by 10:30 was added as a service.

 

I remember discussions on the Overnight Letter. Some were for it, some against it. But FWS was for it, so it went forward. Some of the objections were the low price charged, versus cost to pick up & deliver it. The first scenario was that we would only pickup Overnight letters if there were other packages to pick up, otherwise there would be a pickup charge.

 

A short OL story

I was a Sr. Technical advisor and around 1984.  Antony Kong & me were called into a meeting of VP's, SVP's, Directors, Fred Smith and with Jim Barksdale on the phone, from a conference. They were discussing a project and several were not being supportive of the direction where FWS was leading the group. I was brought in for technical support if a question arose. A certain Director started pontificating why we should go in the opposite direction from FWS' proposal. Mr. Smith didn't want to hear it...so what he did is look up at the ceiling and proclaimed in a loud tone, to the ceiling or whomever  "O YE WHO Were AGAINST..... THE OVERNIGHT LETTER........" that froze the Director, who then bowed his head and said nothing else.............and Mr. Smith proceeded.  Fortunately it was 7pm on Friday, and a few minutes later, FWS then turned to me and Antony, and said "MR Burk, MR Kong, I am about to say things that are going to be very intense to this management group, that you do not need to hear. You are Excused, Enjoy your weekend....." and we left immediately....

 

Volumes rapidly grew for OL and Courier paks, but these had to be sorted by hand, with handlers memorizing many zip code combinations. Later a prototype project was developed called D03 which used video cameras to capture moving courier paks and OL's, sending the image to keyers to type in the zip code. Diverters would then push the products into bags for those zip codes. The prime contractor went bankrupt before full implementation. Later the Small System Support and projects like Purple Lights would automate sortation of these products while weighing them at the same time.

 

A short time later, HotelPak was added, which placed envelopes and airbills at hotels for travellers, but this wasn't as much a success.

 

Clark Tower

My office was on the 17th floor of Clark Tower and I got a window looking towards the south. Later on that year, the first DC-10 arrived and they announced that it would be passing by Clark Tower around 3pm. I had a good view of the very first wide-body aircraft painted in the purple & orange colors.

 

Data Systems, as Info Systems was known then, had around 230 employees. About 60 of those were in Colorado Springs. The Telecommunications department was probably less than 30 employees and the director was Larry Lake, who reported to Jim Barksdale.

 

The Network Control group was also on the 17th floor. I think the supervisor was Ray Peek. The IBM computers were also at Clark Tower.

 

As I came into FedEx, I felt  part of a growing and thriving company. COSMOS had been launched, Call Centers were being consolidated into the large cities versus having the customers call the local offices.

 

On the horizon in the next year 1-2 years would be the launch of the DADS/Radio System, the first automation device, COSMOS IIa scanning and tracking of packages, the SuperHub and much more.

 

There were still politics and people pushing for promotions, money for their projects and jockeying for visibility; but the company was growing and there would be many new opportunities for growth.

 

It seemed the company did put focus on People. Couriers were given their due as our frontline contact with our customers.

 

Merits

In those days, for a while, you could get a merit every 6 months, if you were under the midpoint of your salary. Fortunately I was brought into the company at about $10 under midpoint to allow me to get my first merit in six months.  And I think the merits were up to 10% of salary, so you could rapidly get to your midpoint.

 

I was immediately assigned to work on the DADS project and for the next 6 months, I probably put in 60-80 hours a week, counting my work at home. It was an enjoyable project primarily because I had freedom to do whatever I needed to get the job done,

and I was doing things never before developed in the industry.

 

New Merit System

About the next year, the company decided to change the merit system, which had allowed you up to 20% a year. They went to merits that were around 3% twice a year if under midpoint, or 3% a year if you were over. But they also implemented a cost of living merit...each quarter.

 

Inflation ran very high in the early Reagan years with interest rates for homes going to 20%. My brother in law who works at FedEx bought his first home, with an 18% mortgage.

 

Inflation ran 3% a quarter. If you were under midpoint your merit could be up to 18%.

  (3% cost of living per quarter and 3% merit twice a year)

 

This didn't last but a year and the entire cost of living raise was factored out.

 

Air Traffic Controller Strike

 

In Aug 1981, over 13,000 of the 17,000+ air traffic controllers went on strike, which was illegal to do. President Reagan warned that he would fire those that went on strike.

 

Air traffic was shut down, for a day, and the government brought in as many of the military air traffic controllers that they could to work with the 4,000 civilian controllers.

 

Pres. Reagan then fired the air traffic controllers and a new system was put in place.

 

No flying at night. There could only be one aircraft in a lane at a time, and no other aircraft could fly at that elevation in that lane, until the first plane landed.

 

This would effectively have shut down Federal Express.

 

With some quick politicing, Federal Express was then allowed to fly at night and the business wasn't affected. But this had a lot of us worried.

 

The SuperHub

 

The SuperHub was a major accomplishment, just to get it built. All packages were previously sorted by hand on a circular belt by employees looking for their zip codes. The SuperHub would automate much of this process and greatly increase capacity. In addition, versus manually unloading the aircraft, the larger 727's could just pull up to the dock and unload/load from there.

 

The effort was led by Mike Basch with hordes of other employees. Since some government bond monies were involved, there were strict policies to ensure proper bidding etc. The Austin Company was the prime contractor and I remember anything they purchased for you, you had to add 10%, even for chairs.

 

I was assigned by Jim Barksdale to go figure out why the SuperHub was mis-sorting around 90% of the packages as they initially tested the system.

 

Before my first visit to the SuperHub, I had misplaced my badge, and it was going to take 1-2 weeks to get another one. I knew I couldn't get into the SuperHub without a badge. I went to the Place of Badges and asked for one in 30 minutes. They said no way. I then told them I would call Jim Barksdale and have him call them immediately, if they couldn't do this...because I was doing as he asked......they decided that wouldn't be necessary, I got the badge in 15 minutes.

 

I was looked on with suspicion at first, being from Info Systems, but they adapted to me, and we were able to figure out the issues and get sortation to 100% accuracy.

 

I worked at the SuperHub for a couple weeks from 10pm to about 6pm, got some sleep and then went to my day job. Somehow for many of us, adrenalin kicked in, the job was important and you wanted to do what was needed to make the company successful.

 

The follow up was interesting. The SuperHub group hired their own Computer Consultant as a defensive measure to ensure that the Info Systems group wouldn't tell them what to do. So instead of me telling them what to do, I told the Consultant, who then told them, and they then enacted what I had originally put in a memo for them to do.

 

Eventually, Info Systems did hire some personnel to work with the SuperHub group, and the SuperHub even hired some of the IT people into Hub Systems to keep their issues in focus.

 

So, there were some politics, but to be honest, Data Systems didn't have much expertise in the minicomputer/microcomputer arena at the time. There was really only 1 person in Memphis(me) and one in Colorado Springs(Joe Williams) who had both hardware and software expertise in microcomputer systems at that time. The other Info Systems employees were either Telecommunications or Cobol programmers and support staff.

 

Over the next couple years they hired probably a dozen people with small systems experience into the Telematics group & Hub groups.

 

I got so familiar with the SuperHub that I would give tours of major vendors for the next several years....until they filled in the creek and expanded over it. I was lost in the SuperHub after that and then had to depend on guys like Chuck Sertich, Jim Bentley or Alex Vergos to get me around it.

 

Terminals

Most computer terminals were IBM 3270, or 3270 software running on Honeywell Incoterm computers. There were also some Western Union Teletype 3270's.

 

When FedEx was going thru tough times, many vendors supported the company as they struggled to meet commitments, some waiting many months before receiving payments. Honeywell was one of those companies. The initial computers ran a kind of teletype texting line by line messaging format and protocol.

 

IBM ran a smart screen form type format with BiSync or SDLC/SNA protocols. When FedEx switched to IBM, they were going to buy 3270 terminals to use in the call centers. Honeywell asked to be given a chance to provide these terminals and their controllers were changed to support IBM.

 

So you want Word Processing?

Remember there were NO  PC's in 1980. There were some minicomputers with terminals such as DataGeneral & Digital Equipment and also some hobby type microcomputers such as Apple, Kaypro, Altair. Some smaller companies cropped up putting typewriter and word processing on their systems.

 

Wang was a dominate player but very expensive costing $2000 for a terminal plus you had to purchase a $30K mini computer. There were a few Wangs in the company and everyone was asking for word processing. Another feature of the Wang was that it could also be used as a 3270 terminal and access COSMOS and other IMS programs.

 

 Jim Barksdale didn't initially want to pay that much for the demand, and a smaller company proposed that they adapt their word processing computer and put 3270 on it.

 

This company was called Jaquard and their word processing was good & cheaper.

After development, Jaquard brought in their new system. It was supposed to support 32 3270 terminals,, but could only support 1 3270 session with response times around 30 seconds. Normal response times to access the IBM ran 2-5 seconds on a normal 3270 device.

 

So, Jaquard was out, and everyone started purchasing Wangs.

 

New DADS computer IBM?

After DADS was rolled out in Chicago to support hundreds of terminals in the courier vans, Jim Barksdale sent a request to me to see if we could use IBM's mini computer instead of the DEC computer. He was not high on DEC, and was very high IBM. One benefit of using IBM is that 3270 terminal support was built in, so dispatchers could access COSMOS directly.

 

The original DEC system ran about $44,000 with 4 ISC color terminals.

(In later years, between Jim Moore & Jim Bentley's bartering skills and looking at newer options this price would eventually be cut in half.)

 

I looked at the Series/1 and got some volume pricing. The similar system that would meet our needs clocked in at $130K per system. Prices were still high in those days.

 

So, IBM was out,,,, DEC was in. About 15 years later, these systems would be replaced by HP Unix minicomputers at about $8K each, and then use Personal computers as terminals. Winn Stephenson had used his negotiating skills to get the Unix systems at 1/2 price.

 

 

So, you want to be a Manager?

I had been a manager at Data Communications Corp before coming to FedEx so I had about 2 years managerial experience.

 

I took a job at FedEx to expand my technical expertise in programming and to do something new. Ancel had proposed initially working on DADS for Jim Moore, and possibly then programming a new Comten front end (to the mainframe) that he had proposed. That project wasn't approved.

 

Around 1982-83, my new Director decided I needed to become a manager. I didn't want to become a manager, but he put me into a new process for managers anyway.

 

You had to fill out a 30 page Standard Resume, giving examples on your leadership, projects, and style. This was to be followed by a panel interview from the Directors.

 

I did the Standard Resume, and went on vacation. My director called me on vacation and told me a slot had opened up and he wanted me to come in immediately and interview. So, hesitantly I did. The panel was about 10 directors and VP's. I remember Hank Howell & Jim Tollefson among them. I was asked questions for 2-3 hours and thought I did ok. I later found out that I came in second of all the interviewees. Randy Roy was first, I believe.

 

A few months later, my group received approval to hire 26 new developers based on the work that David Ewing and I had done for the Hub. The director told me, he was going to make me a manager and give me 8 of the people to do the 30 projects...and he was going to do something else with the other 18 postings. 

 

There was a disagreement, I didn't want to be a manager at the time, but he decided he was going to do the paperwork and make me a manager. He said it would be good for me.

 

Anyway I politely disagreed, called Ron Ponder, who immediately promoted me, and transferred me into his group.

 

Other Management Techniques

 

How to become a manager was changed several times thru the 80's as the company fine tuned the process.

 

One Personnel group came in and decided you needed a Masters degree to be anything.

 

Another group later came in and decided you needed Psychological profile testing, even if you wanted to be promoted. And yet another group came in and you needed classes, work exercises, management skills and a panel interview...which was graded solely on whether you answered  2-8 points for each question.

 

In the 90's  general type requirements was put into a standard LEAP process and interviews done by the group hiring the position.

 

 

These are just a few of my memories the first few years. I was busy, proud and content with my work and all the contacts I made at the company.

 

I was especially proud of working for FWS and Jim Barksdale, and later Ron Ponder.

 

Each of them treated me very well and gave me many opportunities.

DC Velocity

The man from Memphis

National – Online – Jan. 16, 2012

By Mitch MacDonald

If there is a greater living and active American CEO than Fred Smith, let that person step forward.The death late last year of Apple Inc. founder and chairman Steve Jobs, and the near-deification process that ensued, gave us pause to reflect on the qualities that make up "the immortal CEO."Our criteria were pretty straightforward: He or she would have built a household name company. His or her influence would extend well beyond a single industry to reach an exalted place in American business and popular culture. More to the point, the individual would still be at it, not retired, deceased, or kicked upstairs into a ceremonial role.

We thought we'd have to extend our search outside our industry—after all, one generally doesn't look to logistics or supply chain management for examples of towering executive machinery. But our ruminations actually led us back to our bailiwick. And to one man: Fred Smith of FedEx.

Examine the record. Smith founded a company and built it into a nearly $40 billion global giant. He re-drew the boundaries of physical distribution, transformed commerce, and changed forever how people interact with one another. He fused transportation and information technology in ways no one had done before. He had a profound impact on collateral industries like marketing and advertising, with commercials that would become the stuff of legend.

Here's the kicker: Smith has been at it, day in and day out, for more than 40 years.

There is no "emeritus" in his vocabulary. He doesn't hold the "president," "chairman," and "CEO" titles for show. While he has always delegated authority, there is no doubt who still runs FedEx. It has been this way, continuously, since its incorporation as "Federal Express" in 1971.

Think about it. Even Steve Jobs walked away from his baby after being fired by his own board. Hell would have to freeze over before Fred Smith suffered the same fate. One can only imagine the intensity of discussions over possible succession in the event something happens to Smith, who turns 68 later this year.

So who compares to Smith. Jobs? He's gone. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds Corp.? Also gone. Bill Gates? Perhaps, had he not stepped away from day-to-day duties at Microsoft Corp. several years back to focus on strategic initiatives and his charitable foundation. Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle Corp.? He hasn't been at the helm nearly as long as Smith. Google's Larry Page or Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg? While their influence on society may someday surpass Smith's, both have miles to go before they can match Smith's longevity. We won't know the answer to that until 2038 or so. That's how remarkable Smith's record is.

It's tough to plow through four decades without some breakage, and FedEx and Smith have not been immune. FedEx's ballyhooed "ZapMail" high-resolution facsimile transmission and delivery service was scrapped after the 1986 Challenger disaster because the satellites to be used for the service were to have been launched through the space shuttle program. Its ambitious quest to blanket all of Europe ended in the early 1990s with the company's withdrawing from all but the continent's major commerce centers due to costs that spiraled out of control. And FedEx's plan to create a network of one-stop stores where customers could print, copy, pack, and ship whatever they wanted—launched by its $2.4 billion, all-cash purchase of Kinko's in 2003—has foundered as the proliferation of affordable and functional desktop software eroded Kinko's relevance.

Yet those missteps are unlikely to cloud Smith's legacy. His place in American business and cultural history is secure. What's more impressive is that he is still writing history, rather than just being a part of it.

There are executives who run bigger companies. Certainly, there are those with more flamboyance. But if you were asked to name the nation's—if not the world's—greatest living and active CEO, you'd be hard pressed to top the man from Memphis.

FedEx's First Commercial

 

Satellites & Chinese & Rock N Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was a manager in the Satellite Engineering group at FedEx around 1984. FedEx had booked a slot on the Space Shuttle to launch a FedEx giant Satellite in the future. We were also looking for alternatives especially after the Shuttle disaster and flights were delayed indefinitely.

 

France, Russia & China were selling their abilities to launch satellites.

 

A delegation from China with the Governor of the province where they launched satellites, was touring the U.S. and meeting potential clients. The Chinese governor did not appear to speak English and said nothing in English during the meeting. Gil Mook had his staff working on a special tour of the SuperHub for the governor.

 

After the meeting was finished late afternoon, and everyone was in the hall, Gil told the Governor, thru a translator that we had had arranged a most special tour of the FedEx hub and facilities that night.

 

Without a translator, in loose English, the Governor replied directly to Gil...

 

"No have time tour hub.....go see Elvis' house.............."

 

So, they called ahead to make sure the Chinese could go tour Elvis Presley's house late in the afternoon.....It was probably the reason they came to Memphis! ....and undoubtedly Elvis was more important than FedEx

The Tandem Systems Group taken at the CAC around mid 1980's.

L-R: Ray Burk , Steve Swanberg, Danny Baser, Dale Teets, Bob Palasz, Gary Holmes, David Windham, Steve Morrison, and Lance Nelson.

Freddie Rice Christmas Poem

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
(with apolo
giestomostly everyone...)

'Twas the Night BeforeChristmas
and all though the Lab

Not a creature was stirring

not even the New Grand Dad!

The cubes were awash

in the tube'swarm glow

While visions on screen savers
danced to and fro
.

The staff was all worried,

morale was starting to fall,
And we had just settled down

for another conference call.

When out in the hall

There arose such clatter
I sprang to my feet

To see what was the matter!

The din got closer,

My eyes soon did fill
With the looming image of one
Robert B. Tonahill!

His stride was determined,

His glance: quite fleeting,
"Call the staff together,

It's Time for a MEETING!"

When what should my

Wondering eyes do detect?

There ...in his hand!

Was he clutching some Checks?

So we called the staff together,
They streamed down the Hall,
And into the conference room
They came one and all.

They sat 'round the table,
Their voices arose:

"Another stupid meeting,

So, now, Les can doze!"

Just then, through the door,

In strode The Boss,

Sat down atthe table,

just across from Dan Goss.

The noise soon subsided

But, he waited a spell.

"What for?", we wondered
We e
xpected real Hell.


TheBoss soon began,

his tone was quite terse,
"The projects are late!",

And we expected the worse.

Firings,and layoffs,

And Performance Improvers;
Our jobs were all doomed,

our careers: all losers!

But,his tone soon changed;
As we all drew near
:

Listening for the words we
All wanted to Hear!

"Profits are good,"

He continued to speak,
"And, there'll be a payout,
So, relax,don't freak!"

There it was, we had heardit:

No Rumor,No fable!

Just then,there theywere:

Checks scattered the table!

The Boss got to his feet,

While smiles spreadon faces,
We all formed a line
,

We all took our places.

We all shook his hand,

as he handed out money.

But, something seemed odd,

something strange... something funny.

With the checks handed out,
His tone soon changed
His voice soon raised
,

and out popped his veins!

"The projects are still late!",
He started to bellow!

The moment was gone,

no time to be mellow.

"On, Patrick! On, Paul, Ricky,
Smitty and Pe
rk!"

"Get back in your cubes,
And get back to work!"

"On, John! Hurry, Beth!

There's nothing funny!"

"I don't care if you DID
just get money!"

"Get back in your offices,
Ray, Chuck and Fred!

"And don't let me see
any raised heads!"


So we quickly streamed out,
a
nd ran down the hall,
Back into our cubes
,

we flew, one and all.

We worked in real earnest

But, soon, began to smile,
The Boss was a real softie

We knew it allthe while.

For we heard him exclaim,
and some saw himsmirk,
"Merry Christmas to all!

"NOW, GET BACK TO WORK!

Discussion on What Happened to the FedEx Falcons

FWS Story
This story was relayed to me by one of the Directors who took the buyout. His long time admin also took the buyout.

A couple years ago, the admin turned 80. She had plenty of vacation and travelled often. Work wasn't a job to her, she got to be with people she liked to be with.

Her daughter sent a letter to Fred Smith thanking him for a company that would let someone work there and for many years. She wanted him to know how she appreciated what FedEx had done for her Mom.

FWS called the Director and told him he wanted to meet his admin and thank her for her service to the company. He told him he would have called her directly but didn't want to shock her by hearing...this is Fred Smith on the line.

The Director drove her over to Ridgeway to FWS office and dropped her off. She went in to meet FWS and talk with him for a few minutes, and he thanked her for her many years of service.

Comments:

Angela Maynard: Got to love Glo!

Steve Swanberg: So the question remains . . . when Glo finally retires, will she hold the
record for the oldest active employee to have served at FedEx?

Or put another way, how many employes were past 82 when they retired?

And Many Happy Birthdays to come!

Marie McVay: I will always remember our Glo!

And Many Happy Birthdays to come!

Pilot Story:


I was at a nice birthday luncheon today for a friend, and someone told this story about a friend of theirs that was one of the first pilots at FedEx who was in his early 20's when he started.
-----------------
He moved to Memphis to fly the falcons. FWS welcomed him, and asked him how he was doing. He said not too good. I haven't been able to find anywhere that will rent or lease to me. I'm 20 years old, with no job record. Fred went with him, and co-signed his lease so he would have a place to stay.

Later, the pilot, who was quite a character, was known to fly over the speed limit of the 727's...most of the time. When he got the route to Charlotte, the UPS plane always landed first at the airport. (The UPS jet was probably coming from Louisville Kentucky).

He decided that just wasn't right. The cruising speed was around 550 mph and he was going about 632mph. He caught up with the UPS jet in his lane, and was passing him. He contacted Charlotte and wanted to know what his position was to land. They asked him his airspeed...he said 550mph......they said we will get back to you.

A few minutes later the tower contacted ...and said...FedEx you will be first to land.....Your speed of 550mph is faster than the UPS flight speed of 550mph........

Story submitted by Bob Gavin

My name is Bob Gavin. On April 27, 1973 I joined Federal Express as the "City Manager" of Philadelphia. My employee number was 0533. I left the company in October 1981 to open a Sports Bar & Tavern in the Philadelphia suburbs. Eight and one-half years of hard work but absolute joy. From PHL I was promoted to Manager of the New York City and North Jersey areas. In 1976 I was promoted to Vice President of Operations for the Southern Division. A corporate reorganization caused me to work for several months in the Central Division as a District Director. Ultimately I spent the final few years of my tenure as the Director of Field Operations (Industrial Engineering) at the Corporate Headquarters. I was also acknowledged along with scores of others in the book by Robert A. Sigafoos, Absolutely Positively Overnight.

 

Recently I came across your web site which brought back a lot of great memories. Well done! I could regale you for hours on end with stories about the start up days but let me give you just one in this email.

 

Dennis Spina, later a Vice President, was my first courier in PHL. Dennis was a real hustler in the best sense of the word. While Dennis was delivering a package to the Philadelphia Inquirer (Business News Section) a reporter wanted to know more about the company. Dennis and I returned the next day with the company public relations kit. The reporter took the copy from the PR material, changed just a few words, and the story of Federal Express was on the front page of the business section on September 21, 1973.

 

However, in the PR materials there was a picture of Fred Smith standing next to a Falcon Fanjet. While we were at the newspaper the reporter had a photographer take a few pictures of me. Unbeknownst to me, they superimposed my head on Fred's body for the picture published in the paper. I had no idea what Fred's reaction would be so I sent him the article with a note apologizing for what they had done and assured him that I did not have previous knowledge as to their intent to do this. Fred replied with a note thanking us for getting the free advertising. As regarding the picture he wrote, "You got the worst of the deal".

 

I have attached three items. The first is the article itself. The second is a closer picture of my head on Fred's body. And the third is the masthead from that days newspaper. The Inquirer was and is the primary newspaper in Philadelphia.

 

Volleyball on Fred's front lawn, the wild Deregulation gathering at the Saw Mill, with Fred at the University of Pennsylvania while he and Tucker Taylor (my mentor) wowed the Wharton students, standing in for Tucker occasionally at Senior Management meetings, dealing with teamsters in NYC, dinner with Tucker, Art Bass, and wives at Art's house where Tucker spilled his wine all over Paula Bass. Great times. Great memories. Thanks.

 

Have Fun!
Bobby Gavin

Bob Gavin Image 1

Bob Gavin Image 2

Bob Gavin Image 3

 

 

from Richard Dunn: JJ Wood's 1st BERT Letter

 

Chris Apalodimas: Good Bye & Thanks!

After 34+ years, this Friday will be my last day at work with the Voluntary Buyout and Retirement from FedEx.

As for many of us it's been a bitter-sweet time, reflecting on the past and excitement for the future. Unfortunately, time has run up on me and I have not had the opportunity to call or come by and see you all individually, to say 'Goodbye and Thank You'.

I recall a few years ago when a friend retired and sent a short email listing all the amazing things that had happened during his career at FedEx. As I recall my career, it's been an alphabet soup of Technology & Systems that I've worked on; not to mention the opportunity I've had to participate in the broad variety of FedEx's operations.

From my early days as an IMS DBA (PRISM, Purchasing, FAMIS), to my short stint on SUPER system (System Ops, Flight Ops, Hub Ops), to the first launch of Customer Automation (Epson Meter!?!), electronic drop boxes, to Sales & Electronic Commerce (FullView!?! & Virtual Order?!?!). and finally my longer term association with ASTRA & Barcodes (Domestic Ground Ops (remember them?), 2D barcode, ASTRA Printer).

I've been incredibly fortunate to ride with couriers, watch and track airplanes coming in and out of the MEM hub, help launch Customer Automation and work on some of our early electronic commerce initiatives.

I'm very thankful to have worked on all of this with you over the years. I wish all of you the very best and hope to hear from you over the years.

I don't have too many detailed plans for the future. Connie and I will be here in Memphis, I will be working on finding some small consulting or other work, mostly just to keep busy. I can be found on Facebook or LinkedIn, , ,

Good Bye & God Bless

Chris Apalodimas

 

Mark Thomas

Good Bye FedEx

After 31 years with FedEx it is time to say good bye. It has been a good ride. I have taken the buyout and I am leaving with Wave 2. Over the years I have had the chance to work on many exciting industry and corporate changing projects and I have worked with many great people. Looking forward to my life after FedEx.

Take care and best of luck. Keep in touch. I am on LinkedIn and my personal email is below.

Mark

 

Photo submitted by David White Dec 11,2013

Anybody recognize these folks from 1987 photo? Not sure of the exact timeframe, but I'm thinking it may have been around Christmas time as there is a ribbon draped across the PBX cabinet (see Carla's head).

The "Telecom Experiment" was to test whether or not we could do a "self-Install" of a Nortel PBX without involving a vendor. We did it collectively, programming, and cross-connecting with the guidance provided by voice engineering. Several of us had attended Nortel PBX Installation training classes in California to prepare to test the concept.

To the best of my memory from 1987 the FedEx employees in picture were:

Back Row L to R: Greg Nemec, Sharon Roberts, Carol Williams (now deceased), and Carla S. Moore.

Front Row L to R: Marsha Wallace, Jonnie Carrion, Marie McVay, J. David White, & Jon Peacock.

 

More Comments:

Marie McVay: All my gosh, we were babies! This was the era of long curly hair for
ladies.

So miss our sweet Carol Ann......

Thanks David for the walk down memory lane!

MM
Greg Nemec: David,

I do remember this and you have all the names correct. I do not recall the time of year.

Around that time, we were considering self support for corporate PBX installation and maintenance. Not sure why we did not follow through.
John Peacock:

Today at 12:11 PM

Yep, I remember this. We did a great job on this installation and had a great time doing it.

Thanks,
Jon
Drew Perkins: Look at David with the stache!
Nancy Hinds: Look at David with the stache!
Roge Rogers: wow.. what a young looking bunch.. whatever happened to them??
Debbie Jenkins: I thought that was Carla
Rachel Harvey: OMG! Great photo & Marie, you still look the same!
Molly Moss: Several of them haven't change much at all. Great picture.

 

 

Ancel Hankins:

I also spent some time with Burroughs in Memphis. I didn't know Jimmy
then because we worked in different branches. I was the one that put
the round chip in the square hole one night to get Fedex's original
single processor B6700 up and running in time for that night's "turn".
Then we both went to work at DCC. He was a brilliant computer guy, but
Terry Cox and I had to teach him some telecom. The three of us
provided network engineering, help desk and tech support for a small,
rapidly growing IT service company.

When I came to work at Fedex I immediately hired Terry, made him start
on a Saturday because we were cutting the Datacom network over from
Continental Airlines to our B6700.

Jimmy took a little longer. We would have lunch every month or so and
he would get a raise, we'd have lunch and he'd get a raise. Finally,
DADS development needed a programmer to develop SNA protocol for the
DADS processor. Our director, Larry Lake, had a guy in Texas he wanted
to hire to do it, but I convinced him there was a better guy locally
that could do it. So Jimmy came on board and jumped right into the
DADS project and got that part moving. Later, when the Hub folks were
trying to automate their sort equipment, they were having lots of
problems getting stuff to work. I convinced Jimmy that, although it
would be working at night for awhile, and he was working on his house
and had babies at home, it would be a highly visible opportunity for
him. Of course I had no doubt he could make a major contribution.
That's when Jim Barksdale and Fred Smith learned who Jimmy Burk was!!
Jimmy has proven himself time and again since then.

Check out the photo in the General album for a '70's look.

Ancel