Bill Fox, co-founder of Fox and Associates, Inc.: I met Bill on my first day of working on a survey crew in January, 1979. He and one of the engineering designers drove separately from the two survey crews and we all stopped at a restaurant along the way to our jobsite in Moorefield, West Virginia. It soon became apparent that Bill was the big boss as he conducted court at the breakfast table, talking about the Washington Redskins and all other things of interest.
Bill was a self-made man who had the character and courage to start a surveying and engineering firm; apparently his partner, Bernie Charles had the capital. Bill was larger than life; he could tell the best stories of anyone I’ve ever met. He had worked as a surveyor for another engineering firm in Hagerstown and then worked as a surveyor for the local power company, Potomac Edison. When I met him, he had recently invested in an Electronic Distance Meter (EDM), manufactured by Kueffel and Esser, called the Auto Ranger. Shortly after that, he started his own surveying supply store, complete with an instrument repair and calibration shop.
He was a stern and no-nonsense businessman, but once he became familiar to someone, he was one of the most entertaining personalities to be found. He could spin a story like no other. His stories would start as a fantastic tale, and soon they would morph into such an incredulous yarn, that the listener found himself drawn in by the details and soon the point at which the truth became fiction was indecipherable. It would become quite evident that the end of the story was completely fabricated because Bill would erupt into this hilarious, cackling chuckle that he could no longer avert. This would make the listener wonder if the laughter was because Bill was humored by his own story, or because the naiveté of the listener brought him some inner joy.
I was impressed at how Bill remembered me and greeted me warmly each time I saw him; even though years had passed since I had last seen him. As I would introduce myself each time, he would interrupt with, “I know you; sure, how are things?” Even though he was a business owner, community volunteer and active church member, who knew hundreds of people, he would make each person feel special. In later years, I had the opportunity to meet some of his friends from church. They demonstrated admiration for him in the stories they told me, and they also referenced his wit and mischievousness.
I admit to shedding some tears at his funeral service. Some of his business partners spoke at the service and were moved to open displays of emotion as they tried to justly state all of his merits.
I may have never stuck with the surveying profession if it were not for Bill Fox giving me admonishment and encouragement as he provided me a great example of a surveyor for which to aspire.
Bob Banzhoff, former party chief at Fox & Associates, Inc., Past President of the Maryland Society of Surveyors (MSS), and current board member of MSS: I met Bob while working at Fox & Associates during my first engagement with a surveying firm. He was my party chief and taught me more about surveying than any of the other leaders there. I respected him because he had gone through the school of hard knocks; having worked in a bakery in Hagerstown, Maryland before finding a job on a survey crew. His father was a prison guard and Bob didn’t have a college degree, but he had goals to go far in the surveying profession.
When I worked out of town with Bob, he saw the evenings in the motel as an opportunity to teach class. Even if his crew member “students” were just as happy to drink beer and watch mindless drivel on the motel television, Bob would get out a tablet, pencil and calculator to demonstrate the methods and calculations for slope staking, turning deflection angles to stake a curve, or simple slope reduction of distances. As he drew out a right triangle to depict the latter of those calculations, I immediately remembered some of the trigonometry that I had learned in high school and my interest was piqued.
I guess he saw a spark in me and an aptitude for learning so he would put as much effort into imparting his wisdom as I could bear. He became a mentor for me and his teachings went beyond the realm of surveying; there were a lot of life lessons to be taught as well. His one standard saying that he used on several occasions when people tried to challenge him on a jobsite, was, “Call the cops.” I just liked the coolness in which he delivered the line. Some property owner might be harassing us and claiming that we were trespassing or some other act that they found wrong. Bob would make the statement and usually add, “I don’t have a problem with explaining this situation to them and let them decide what to do.”
He was a drummer in a country and western band, so I sought to emulate him in various ways. I was a drummer without a band, so I never played much. His band played music that was not my style, but yet I aspired to be a drummer on a stage with an adoring audience. In that way he was a kind of hero to me.
Bob later went on to teach at the Community College of Baltimore County. I was impressed even more by him when he served as President of MSS. He is still active in the society as the PR and Publications Chair as well as serving on other committees of that organization. He has participated in Mason and Dixon re-enactments to groups, such as the Boy Scouts, to preserve and teach the history of surveying. His mentorship taught me that being a surveyor is more than just a profession to earn money and that has led me to be involved in MSS and the Pennsylvania Society of Surveyors (PSLS). I still enjoy the meetings of MSS when I get to sit and talk with Bob.
Craig Angle, former co-worker on a survey crew: I met Craig when he came to work on my crew at Fox & Associates (the second time that I worked there) in 1989. Craig was about twelve years older than me, but he was hired as a rodman/chainman, based on his limited experience in surveying. I learned that he had worked at Fox & Associates in the ‘70s with a party chief by the name of Pat Grogan. Pat had returned to work at Fox & Associates after a short hiatus, so when Craig contacted Pat about a survey job, it so happened that we were looking for entry level field staff.
Craig wanted to work on the survey crew because he was actively conducting research for a historically-accurate book about the undercover activities involving the theft of a train during the Civil War. This act had been written about before and was inaccurately depicted in the Walt Disney movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase.” Craig wanted to set the record straight in his first attempt at writing a book, and the surveying work suited him because he could do research at the Library of Congress on rainy days. It was the standard protocol in those days to send the crew home without pay when we had inclement weather. I imagined he also was reviewing in his mind what direction to take his research and writing while he was sitting around, waiting to give a back sight on the traverse.
The idea that a rodman/chainman was intelligent enough to endeavor such a feat was awe-inspiring to me. After getting to know Craig I started to ask questions about his background. We had some things in common; he grew up in Waynesboro and was now back to live with his parents in his boyhood home. My parents both worked in Waynesboro and some of my Mom’s family lived in Waynesboro. As I learned about his previous work in surveying, I asked what other types of jobs he had. He had a degree in Psychiatry and had worked at a mental health facility near his home. When he realized that he no longer could stand to witness Electroconvulsive therapy (sometimes referred to as Shock treatment), he decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a career as a photographer.
He eventually landed a job, working for talent agents, doing publicity photos of country and western stars. He showed us albums full of photos; head shots and live concert photos of the likes of, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and others. He said that it was fun but after he divorced his wife, he decided to come home and do a different type of photography; he took photos of machinery that was manufactured at a local machine shop, for their operating manuals. That was another supposedly lucrative job, but then he got the idea for writing the book mentioned above.
Craig quit his job at Fox & Associates over a difference of opinion with his party chief at the time. I had begun working in the office, overseeing the field crew in the Frederick, Maryland office. I had told him that I wanted an autographed copy of his book when it was finished and he made sure that I got one. That gave me the dream and determination to write a book of my surveying career. I recently searched for Craig and found his obituary from 2013. I missed the chance to talk to him more about the labor of being an author.
Ed Pinto, founder of Pinto Engineering: I met Ed while I was employed by Buchart-Horn in York, Pennsylvania. Eduardo Gomes Pinto had emigrated from Portugal, after receiving his engineering degree from the University of Paris. He had worked at Buchart-Horn for a while and then left to start his own firm, with the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certifications. He was able to get portions of projects as a sub-consultant on government contracts. Some of this work that was usually subbed out was surveying. At first Ed had no surveyors and that’s why he subbed his surveying work to Buchart-Horn.
Eventually Ed decided that he would need to hire a surveyor. I was anxious to work at a small firm that would allow me to operate a survey department, using my own judgement to build the business and develop more work. When I interviewed with Ed, he was agreeable to this plan, but he didn’t really mean it. He told me that he would rely on me to provide the expertise needed to develop a viable survey group; that was okay unless we needed to spend money for equipment or business development.
I think what made him such an interesting character was how uniquely different he was. My co-workers and I would always discuss his actions and antics to try to find some logic to his strange behavior. We surmised that some of it was the cultural differences. When we tried to talk to him about these supposed differences, he would rant about how difficult it was in Portugal and how easy we had it in the United States. One of his recurring statements was, “Do you realize how difficult it is to live under a dictator?” We just wanted to say, “No, tell us”, but he was not able to relate anything more than the fact that we were privileged.
I must admit that I did not have a lot respect for Ed, but he was very interesting and I learned a lot from him; mostly, how not to treat your staff and clients. His accent was very thick and made it difficult for some people to understand him. This didn’t bother me since my wife and I had hosted exchange students from Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken, and the accent is similar. I must say that it was a challenge to work under someone for whom you have little respect.
I did, however, admire him for what he was able to accomplish with his limited abilities and intellect. Even though he had terrible people skills and little capital, from what I could determine, he managed to keep the firm afloat until he reached retirement age and then sold it to another owner. Ed has since passed away, but his memory will remain strongly with me.
Dave Davidson, third generation owner and now Chief Financial Officer of C. S. Davidson, Inc.: I met Dave shortly after his wife, Linda had hired me to run the surveying operations of their Gettysburg, Pennsylvania office. Linda and Dave were part owners, along with Dave’s mother. Linda also served as the human resources officer, head of accounting and treasurer of the corporation. Dave’s grandfather, Carl S. Davidson, was the founder of the firm in 1923. When he died, he left the ownership of the firm to his son, David Davidson, Sr.
David Davidson, Jr. was born in 1950 and after graduation from high school, went to Lehigh University in eastern Pennsylvania. He considered pursuing a degree in writing because he had an aptitude for it, but he was also led toward civil engineering because of the chosen profession of his forefathers. He obtained his bachelors and master’s degrees and was working in the Peace Corps when he learned of his father’s sudden death due to cardiac arrest. Dave apparently inherited a portion of the firm and so he came back to York to work at the firm until he felt qualified to assume the helm.
I had seen Dave at a township planning commission meeting once while I was working at Buchart-Horn. I remember thinking how young he was to be the President and CEO of a medium-sized engineering firm. As I got to know Dave, I realized he was very intelligent and had some of the best philosophy about how to run an engineering firm, of anyone that I knew. He taught me the importance of the language in a contract; what to include and what to specifically exclude. He also stressed the importance of taking the right kind of projects and how it is necessary to turn down opportunities sometimes. He made it clear to me that there’s no sense in exposing the firm to liability if you can’t at least assure that the venture will be profitable.
After I had worked there for about six months, I made the comment to my wife that I hadn’t received any kind of verbal admonishment (I think I just referred to it as yelling). That’s when I started to realize that Dave was probably the best boss ever. As we worked through a large project that I was managing, which had a lot of difficulties, Dave demonstrated patience as he pointed out the actions and inaction that I had taken which led to loss of revenues. He also proved to be a very good writer, when he would write the cover letter for each of the company newsletters while he was CEO.
When he decided that he would want to retire someday – I think he was in his fifties and harkened back to the memory of his father dying at that age – he realized that his daughter would not want to maintain the firm and it wouldn’t be fair to his employees to sell out to a competing engineering firm, so he offered stock to key, senior employees. When that did not provide a viable ownership transition, he set up an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and through a loan from a bank, started to distribute stock to the employees.
He continues to impress me with his financial prowess, even though he was not formally trained in that part of the practice. He is still active in the firm as he approaches the age of 70. He still continues to train me in the financial aspects of operating a firm and we work together at times to increase the profitability of the firm.