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Ex-employees’ book celebrates the HP 'way'


The "How It All Began... Again!" book cover.
“It was a different kind of a work world, a place where, for the most part, our bosses were not our bosses, they were our friends. A place where we worked hard and played hard, a place where we liked going to work in the morning, a place that shared with us the rewards of our labors, a place without time clocks to punch, a place with flexible hours that we managed on our own, and a place where layoffs were avoided at all costs.”
       - from “How It All Began… Again! The First 40 years of Hewlett-Packard in Colorado Springs,” a 188-page book, published in 2015 by former HP employees Les Bailey (worked there from 1962-1999), Mary Lou Bailey (1965-2001), Joetta Hoewisch (1965-2003) and Larry Koperski (1972-2003).
       It's clear that the amiable work environment described above by the authors is heartfelt. They are part of an “alumni club,” consisting of about 200 retirees, which has met socially on a monthly basis for 30 years, including an annual picnic and Christmas party. The club has carried on even though Hewlett-Packard's heyday along Garden of the Gods Road (reaching a high of 2,700 employees in 1984) ended in the early 2000s.
       “We're still stick-together kind of people,” Les Bailey commented in an interview.
       It's an outgrowth of where they worked, Koperski noted. “We were given a lot of trust. We worked together and played together and we're still life-long friends.”
       In fact, that lasting camaraderie had much to do with why the Baileys (a married couple who met at HP), Koperski and Hoewisch decided to tell the story about the design and manufacturing plant for measuring instruments that electronics innovators Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established in Colorado Springs in 1962.

The authors of "How It All Began… Again!" are shown while working on the book. They are (from left) Les Bailey, Mary Lou Bailey, Joetta Hoewisch and Larry Koperski.
Courtesy of the authors

       The authors believe that their heavily researched book - consisting of overall history, product information, individual recollections, amusing stories, community involvement, technical minutiae, key personnel backgrounds and multiple insights into what was known as the “HP way” - might appeal to others who worked there.
       That “way,” as the book shows, was a reflection of Hewlett's and Packard's own views that a “family-style” workplace could actually be more productive than one with strict rules. The owners/friends would often visit the Springs, meeting with individual workers (not just managers) and serving as chief cooks at the local division's annual barbecues. Packard died in 1996, Hewlett in 2001.
       “We realize the book has very limited interest to the general public, and we don't expect national acclaim,” Bailey said. “This is mostly for the thousands of people who were involved with HP over the years.”
       The problem is finding them. The authors hope that a newspaper article will help. “A lot of those people are still in the area, but we don't know how to reach out to them to tell them the book is available,” Bailey elaborated.
       The chapter about how California-based HP came to be here offers a reminder of the company's key role in local history. Packard's main concern about putting a facility in Colorado Springs was the lack of a local university to help develop young engineers. So it was through his influence that a small commuter college became part of the state's higher-education system: the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS).
       An unavoidable sentiment of the book is the disappointment that the HP experience had to end. The large, long-time site at 1900 Garden of the Gods Road is now Agilent Technologies, a spin-off of HP which (since 2014) has also consisted of its own spin-off, Keysight Technologies.
       While a number of former HP employees work at Agilent, the three-building complex has a different feel to it these days, according to Koperski, who has stayed involved as a part-time contractor.
       “When we were there, it was primarily design and manufacturing,” he recalled. “Essentially all our manufacturing is now overseas. What you see in the building is cubicles of people sitting there working at their computers. It's like a mausoleum. It makes you pretty sad, thinking about the old days.”
       The book's title, “How It All Began… Again!”, is derived from a book (by a different author), “How It All Began,” about HP's smaller Loveland division, which had opened in 1960.
       Anyone interested in the book can find out more by contacting Les Bailey at 590-7631 or by e-mailing lesbailey@msn.com.

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