We asked thoughtful locals why the 1970s left such a lasting imprint on Austin. We received many provocative answers, which we’ll share here first.
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Fred Thom, a retired administrator who worked for IBM in Austin 1968-1995
The following was developed from notes sent by Thom about the 1970s and how IBM helped shape Austin culture.
The majority of IBM plant/manufacturing management was brought in from Lexington, Ken. The culture was Lexington-driven, but workers were hired from the Austin area, as these were middle-income jobs. IMBers were located in Northwest Hills, Balcones, Round Rock,the U.S. 183 corridor and Nash Phillips Copus and Carrington developments.
My wife and I lived near Lanier High School and our church was in the Crestview area. I was a transfer in from the IBM location in Huntsville, Ala. My wife was in the Women’s Art Guild of Laguna Gloria, where we spent well over 10 years volunteering. This was our exposure to townspeople such as Ronney and Mary Reynolds, Sue and David Hart (Hart Graphics), Ted and Harriet Nagle (Nagle Wire Products). Fiesta at Laguna Gloria was a big part of my family’s activity
Affirmative action had a very positive impact on IBM Austin. Our African-American coworkers, such as Berl Handcox (city councilman), Carl Turner, Leroy Wormley, Nat Bradford and Louis Dotson, were very active in the community. Out Austin senior management was very instrumental in helping to develop programs at St. Edwards University. Many employees were also involved in the August Aqua Festival.
In the 1970s, we remember blue laws, shopping downtown and at Capital Plaza Shopping Center, as well as the opening of Highland Mall in 1971. The streets rolled up at 6 p.m.
IBM Austin built its own sports fields to encourage employee involvement and healthy living plus annual family picnics and Christmas parties We recognized our outstanding employee/spouse athletes at our annual Watson Trophy Dinner with very popular speakers Willie Mays, Don Meredith, etc. I was an advisor for Junior Achievement and many employees like myself were very involved in Boy Scouts.