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What A Course in Miracles May Have to Offer Quantum Gravity

David Clark Harrison, Harvard College AB ’59, Harvard Law School JD ‘63

What A Course in Miracles May Have to Offer Quantum Gravity

It’s never now here.
Just the future flipping instantly into the past.
Things and their implied opposites and variations must all exist.
Non-Being can’t be the opposite of anything.

Keys to understanding the origin and fate of the universe?
The meaning of life?
Clues to our cause?

A couple of book titles from quantum gravity do get one thinking:
Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems.
Adam Becker’s What Is Real?

Becker thinks physicists will find meaning in quantum mechanics.
That is, if they don’t give in to the “Copenhagen Interpretation.”
That says physics has reached the limits of what’s understandable.
He’s sure there’s a pony in there somewhere.

Einstein balked at his own invention and took issue with Bohr.
Bohr, the oracle of quantum mechanics, the mystic at the summit.
The soul of the Copenhagen Interpretation.
As hard to pin down as Hawking’s “quest for knowledge” was in your face.

Rovelli yields to the obvious and bows to the inevitable.
Unifying cosmology with quantum mechanics takes us into the unknown.
Quantum gravity is way over our heads.
This theoretical physicist thinks it’s time to bring in philosophy.

A line has been crossed.
We live in an interesting time.

Time now for quantitative to make room for qualitative?
For what’s necessary to find meaning in anything:
Mind, reason, feeling, and values?

Where physicists can’t take us.
They the consultants, we the clients.
Whose numbers can’t say what difference anything makes.
To those for whom the difference matters – all who live, suffer and die.

The measurers do have a stake in their profession.
Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design get that across.
In the time of Galileo, he could have made a convincing Urban VIII.
A Vatican hardliner bound by authority and his convictions.

Colonizing other planets is comic book science fiction.
An adolescent’s idea of purpose – our cause.
The fanciful offspring of thought unaided by reflection.
For Hawking it was true: “Philosophy is dead.”

What about the rest of us?
Can there be a story that has a place for reason, creative energy, love?
That leaves Matt Damon cultivating potatoes on Mars and gets serious?
That won’t condemn our grandchildren to scavenging on Earth?

Einstein figured out years ago it’s never Now in our universe.
Just an “extended present” which is “neither future nor past.”
Quantum gravity since discovered that it’s never Now anywhere.
Quanta, the particles that make up all matter, tell us time doesn’t exist.

Being is the Singularity if it has no opposite.
The Mind that is timelessness, the eternal Now.
Where there are no beginnings, no origins.
Just Being and just Now -- Reality!

Hope for us if it matters where we belong and are headed.
Because no one can turn off the switch.
No “disturbance in the force” can flip Something back to nothing.

Inquiry stops with the Singularity.
It stops with Mind whose being cannot imply an opposite.
Being is all that there is – one thing, everything, and nothing else.

We of the beginnings and endings, past and future, never Now.
Imagining things -- inside a Mind that’s dreaming.
Pure Reason when it was awake that took in an irrational thought.
A monkey wrench, the idea of separation.
We took aim at Being and knocked ourselves unconscious.

Separation is no more real than non-Being.
Not even in quantum gravity, where all matter is interconnected.
It’s all granular, indeterminate, and relational.
If they’re not connecting, interacting, quanta don’t exist.
It’s a roll of the dice which streetlight they show up under next.
Because they disappear in the darkness – they’re gone.

Faraday, using intuition, and Maxwell, using math, discovered fields.
Lines of matter, electromagnetic waves, that connect matter everywhere.
Where we get light from, telecommunications, electronics.
Information connects matter everywhere.

Show me anything that’s separate!

Separation is just a mad idea; the void that can’t exist.
Yet an irrational thought taken in by conscious Mind has consequences.
The thought that something is that isn’t, that can’t be.
A Mind that’s Reason can’t be itself and hold an irrational thought.
It will either reject the idea and hold onto sanity or lose consciousness.

The Mind in question is us, an extension of the original Mind.
Knowledge for whom separation is unknowable and therefore unthinkable.
We are an extension of Being – our source:
Mind-Love, Mind-Reason, Mind-Energy -- the grammar of Reality.
Innocence and perfection our birthright, our integrity.

Extended Mind that is part of Being cannot cease to exist.
Death is not real: we cannot die.
When corrupted, extended Mind will lapse into an unconscious state.
Mind-fear, Mind-guilt-insanity, Mind-entropy -- the grammar of unreality.

So that we could reciprocate Love, we were given freedom.
Freedom of thought, freedom of choice.
And we used it – what child wouldn’t? -- to do something dumb.
To make a mistake, which we now have to undo.

Mind even unconscious is real and so is Energy.
Hard to question our bodies’ senses since both are present in the dream.
Long ago, Parmenides and Bishop Berkeley saw through the deception.
They were overruled by Dr. Johnson when he kicked a solid object.

Science still rules the day with its virtual reality headset – our senses.
Even after Einstein’s equations replaced Newton’s familiar universe.
With a “glimpse of reality. . . that seems to be made of the same stuff our dreams are made of.”

This from Carlo Rovelli, pointing quantum gravity toward the unknown.
Toward philosophy and maybe weird metaphysical stuff.
That can’t be any weirder than quantum gravity.

All of science is part of a larger quest.
Not just Hawking’s “quest for knowledge.”
That he believed only science is qualified to lead.
The larger quest for Awakening that we are all qualified to lead.

Because the Mind that’s unconscious is our Mind.
The dream is ours, and every advance we make is toward ending it.
Every invention, discovery, revelation, and epiphany.
Toward returning home to Reality – to peace, truth, and sanity.
Toward healing the separation.

Harvard’s history department claims that “Ideas make history.”
The mad idea of separation got all of humanity in this fix.
Being taken in and letting go of the deception is our story.
One hell of a story caused by one hell of an idea.

Quantum gravity is giving us a start toward awakening.
By taking us to the outer limits of physics.
Newton’s comforting universe of absolutes left in its wake.
Its objects once behaving sensibly but no more.
We’re beyond the point of no return.

Physics won’t restore our familiar environment.
It won’t fix our stricken planet or find another to ruin.
It won’t reveal the meaning of life and give us purpose.
Or solve the origin and fate of the universe by studying matter.
When it’s Mind that needs our attention.

Brain science has yet to establish where consciousness comes from.
Mind poking into brains, globs of gray matter inside their carapace.
Looking for what’s inside Mind that’s doing the poking.
An image with a caption worthy of The Onion.

Mind is our consciousness, the extended Mind with which we think.
Our brains process data from our virtual reality headsets.
They’re data processors.
Colluding with our bodies to keep the illusion in place.

Our VR headset appears to be telling us what’s “out there.”
Our bodies’ senses affirming that our bodies and our universe are real.
When what it may be doing is blocking us.
From seeing what’s Here and Now.

Letting physics and anyone else tell us what it’s all about is a crap shoot.
Better to assume we are all Galileos and everyone else is the Pope.

Time to break up the monopoly of senses and numbers.
Come full circle back to all that Democritus and Aristotle had to work with:
Intuition and reason.
Before there were instruments of science to conduct experiments.

The gift of intuition that listens.
That hears guidance that comes not from a slumbering, delusional Mind.
But from Mind that’s awake.
From Reality.

Guidance that might be found in A Course in Miracles.
That doesn’t ask us to abandon reason for faith.
To abandon freedom of thought and freedom of choice.
Without which Love cannot be.

Guidance that doesn’t demand anything of us.
That we submit to the authority of any individual or institution.
Or obligate ourselves to add to its wealth.
That we subject our minds and bodies to symbolism of any kind.
Or to coercion, guilt, and punishment.

Guidance that doesn’t limit how and when we learn.
That asks its teachers to get out of the way.
That lets us choose whatever source speaks to us.
Whether it’s the Course or something else.
Because it’s not a “bible” – it’s taught in various ways.

Guidance that doesn’t ask us to hold opposing thoughts.
That Reality is Being -- Mind, Love, Reason, and Energy.
And non-Being, too -- separation, guilt, fear, insanity, and entropy.
That Reality is what we observe even though it comes from nowhere.
Changes, acts weird, and disappears like an illusionist’s act.

Guidance that won’t let appearances, magic, and confusion deceive us.
That won’t subject us to the cruelty of dogma and bullying “tradition.”
To the deceptions and hysterics of self-preservation.
To the predatory appetites of unrestrained authority.
To the mystique of the past, revered nothingness wrapped in gauze.

Guidance that responds to quantum gravity’s call for philosophy.
With the one attribute that our VR headset cannot provide: objectivity.
From the same place where quantum gravity is leading us.
To timelessness.
To the only place where Reality can be found: Mind in the eternal Now.

Guidance that can explain the strange behavior of quanta.
Granular, indeterminate, relational.
The stuff our dreams are made of because they’re in a dream.
Because Reality is Mind, the laws of cause and effect that govern Mind.
And matter can only be a projection of Mind that’s in an unconscious state.
Its laws of cause and effect – science -- only a mirror image of Reality.

Guidance that shares its view of us honestly, in the light of day.
Affirming and unsparing, encouraging and challenging, never judging.
Respecting the free spirits we really are in spite of our adolescence.
Our addiction to Whatever, our littleness, and going our own way.

Guidance that assures us that we’re endowed with free will.
The opportunity to influence our fate with our own choices.
The necessity of choosing again, since it was our own mistake.
When we chose to reciprocate vengeance instead of Love.
And descended into a nightmare of guilt, fear, and insanity.

Ours is the lead role in this story, a long and perilous Odyssey.
Like the Greek veterans of Troy, we need and receive help.
To navigate past our counterfeit guides and our addictions.
We aren’t in control, but we have our part to do:
Take the initiative and mind our thoughts and choices.
Choices among guides, values, and purposes.

Guidance that enables us to relate to Being.
A sentient, accessible Who, not a scientist’s cardboard-cutout what.
To the Mind, Love, Reason, and Energy who endowed us with feeling.

Who gifted us with values -- things cared for and needed:
Spirit, beauty, purity and innocence.
Reason, enlightenment and sanity, purpose, self-worth and hope.
Love, family and intimacy, community, fairness and belonging.
Knowledge, wisdom and truth, learning, growth and achievement.
Health, wealth and abundance, order, security, protection and peace.
Freedom, joyfulness, creativity and spontaneity.

Celebrations and rewards of Love.
That needs to give and to receive, for we are part of the infinite loop.
Our honored place in Mind secured by being loved and needed.
By a Friend – by gentle, loving kindness.

Guidance that assures us we are not judged and condemned.
We are simply wanted back.
And the choice we are given, once again, is to reciprocate.
To let Love know we want back.
That the free spirits we are, are ready to exercise our birthright.
To change our minds, choose again, and correct our mistake.

We want back because relationships are to Make Happy.
And a world that incubates endless conflict isn’t where to find them.
A world that tempers every moment of joy and laughter with loss.
With the affront of suffering and death endured and sure to come.

My Guide flies me over the deep, blue, pure waters of Lake Parrish.
Shimmering beneath the moon and the stars.
Soaring free from the tyranny of blame.
A magnificent sorrel flying draft horse, my minder, companion, and escort.

Who ferries my son from the desolate hill to the other side.
The hill with the burning crucifix, his hands and feet nailed to it by blame.
Beneath a sky inflamed with the fires of hell.
A tableau of madness brought to horrifying life.

Owen, who was all-everything in school and made it to Harvard.
Who lost his mind to unbearable pain, fear, and impotent rage.
To grievances, abandonment, grief, and misery.
Who lost everything because he couldn’t relate.

Who lost hope, his career, then his mother, and checked out.
Alone, in his childhood home, with rooms empty and the mail piled up.

Owen’s memory tempers joy and laughter with my granddaughters.
And with their father, Andrew, my constancy and hope.
Their family the beacon at the strait that drew me off my island.
To retirement three years ago and grandparenting, my second childhood.

Our Guide is also present in the dream, imagined as we wish.
An emissary from consciousness, timelessness, and Reality.
Indispensable – we accomplish nothing on our own.
Sent to bring us along with insights and creative talent.
Character and resolve – all of our gifts.

So that we get it right and make it back home sooner rather than later.
Using our gifts, if we are so blessed.
Those of us who haven’t lost our precarious hold on survival.
Who yearn for peace, truth, and sanity.
And try not to listen to the counterfeit guide from unconscious Mind.
Who takes our children away.

Is the matter in our bodies all that connects us to our universe?
Or is there also a connection with Mind -- with our own thoughts?
Must Dr. Johnson be the last word, or can we do better?

Will philosophy add anything to quantum gravity?
Turn ambiguity, ambivalence, and confusion into a coherent story?
A worthy cause?

The author of A Course in Miracles must think so.
The visitor from Reality who inspired the Nag Hammadi texts.
Who lifted the stage drop of spacetime and matter.
With effortless miracles that bypassed our wavering laws of science.

Whose Gnostic “heretics” inspired Harvard’s Karen King.
To stand for Reason and open his story to the light of day.
Over the dead body of Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon.
Crossing another historic line to heal an ancient wound.

The Gnostics got their name because of their point.
That we do not and cannot know anything in this illusory world.
We are descended from Knowledge but do not share in it.
How can anything be known inside a dream?

The Church celebrated miracles which proved the Illusion.
Only to unleash its fury on those who absorbed the lesson.
So that it could establish that the Church and our world are real.
That guilt, fear, and insanity must be real.
Or there is no need for the Church.

What then are miracles?
Thus stripped of their purpose: unfathomable mysteries of the divine.
All of one piece with the fanciful plot twists of Greek mythology.
Frivolous fairy tales. Religious mumbo-jumbo. Entertainment. Magic.

These the impurities that Hawking purged from his quest for knowledge.
The foolishness of biblical religion which has no place in science.
The master of black holes was drawn in by the Church.
Past the event horizon without noticing: that the founder is the scientist.
That miracles are his experiments, and they lead us to knowledge.

The laws of science fade away in quantum gravity.
Not to the unknown but to the Known: to Reality.

Its title is to be taken literally: A Course in Miracles.
Our world, a projection of unconscious Mind, makes miracles inevitable.
There is no order of difficulty in miracles.
For the author of the Course and for us.

When we finally see ourselves as he sees us.
As we love our children and grandchildren.
For their innocence and spontaneity.
Precious playmates in our Temenos, the sanctuary of trust and safety.
Secured for us within the Mind, the Love, that created us.

The Christ we were all supposed to be, uncorrupted.
Until the illusion of guilt was imposed upon us.
In service to stewardship that professed forgiveness.
And misperceived, choosing instead to preserve itself.
At the expense of our innocence, our reality, and its own faith.

Forgiveness is not a gratuitous dispensation to be granted to the unworthy.
Sinners all, wallowing in guilt.
It’s a simple acknowledgement that separation never happened.
That we didn’t replace our Parent.
That we are not condemned, because our Reality is innocence.
We, whose worth is beyond question, are blameless.

Background to the Gnostic heresy.
The discovery of its texts at Nag Hammadi, the end of another crucifixion.
The channeled Course in Miracles itself a miracle.
The resurrection of Gnostic Christianity that has no need of labels.

Only Mind and Energy creating and connecting through Love and Reason.
The grammar and idiom that I have chosen to share these thoughts.
Faithful, I hope, to the spirit of the Course but not always to the letter.
The author of the Course lives, and his work speaks for itself.

Quantum gravity leads us into another dimension for a reason.
Hawking’s quest for knowledge is more posture than promise.
All we can aspire to with our VR headsets are perceptions and beliefs.
Bound to be corrupted by the virus, separation.

Quantum gravity, the Nag Hammadi texts, and the Course all converge.
On the thought that the reality of our world, our life, is open to question.
Reason and intuition say so.
And now science may be saying so.

If he hadn’t kicked the bucket, even Dr. Johnson might say so.

All Are Called. Few Choose to Listen.
Titles of books written about the Course by its first teacher.
Maybe Reason in the Here and Now is buried yet in the sand.
The teacher of the texts quarantined by academia wary of religion.

But we can’t be sure when and how our Guide is reaching us.
Maybe many are choosing to listen.
My ballot was only one vote in the midterm elections.
Before it became millions of votes, and our country changed.

Knocking ourselves unconscious was Three Stooges stuff.
When we come to and exit this Vaudeville act, I’ll find time to laugh.
When, not if.
Because we can’t fail if awakening is Love’s will.
For our Parent to fail at anything is as nuts as separation.

I would share my Guide with you to Make Happy:

Respecting our freedom of thought instead of coercion and guilt.
Sharing abundance instead of hollowness.
Bestowing blamelessness instead of judgment and condemnation.
Focusing on the Here and Now and my own responsibilities.
Feeling, sharing, and celebrating thankfulness.

To my dear friends and colleagues from a lifetime:

Sunday school at Wallace Memorial United Presbyterian Church
Eight years at Greentree Public Grade School
Four years at Andover and seven more at Harvard.
One year at the San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune
Eight in Cambridge, the City of Boston, and the Boston Harbor islands
Eight in Hanover and the Connecticut River Basin
Three in Washington, Chesapeake Bay, and national water policy
Two in St. Paul, Grand Forks, and the Red River Valley of the North
Eleven in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, and the Monongahela River Valley
Twelve in Boulder at StorageTek, EDS, and Boulder County Democrats
Eight in Aurora at Anthem and Kaiser’s Security Operations Center
One in retirement, writing and hiking in Crested Butte, Colorado
Two years so far writing and grandparenting in the South Bay, Los Angeles

And to all my family: you are my happiness.

I love you. I will always love you.
I will never leave you – even if I could.

1

When my father, Max Harrison, died prematurely, in November 1966, I had assumed that Harrison Construction Company records would finally reveal to his heirs what he had been up to all those years.

by David C. Harrison

Courtesy of Caterpillar Tractor
Courtesy of Caterpillar Tractor

Harrison Construction of Pittsburgh, PA uses a Koehring shovel to load an Athey wagon towed by a Cat D8 tractor at the Ruch’s Hill Federal Housing site work project on May 3, 1939.

pg_14-01
Photos courtesy of Caterpillar Tractor

pg_14-02
Photos courtesy of Caterpillar Tractor

Harrison Construction’s heavy earthmoving continues at the Ruch’s Hill site on May 3, 1939.

Courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau Collection
Courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau Collection

A Cat D8 tractor with an R. G. LeTourneau HU scraper is pointed downhill to load. The Ruch’s Hill project contained 800,000 cubic yards of excavation.

When my father, Max Harrison, died prematurely, in November 1966, I had assumed that Harrison Construction Company records would finally reveal to his heirs what he had been up to all those years. I had even imagined a place in our basement where I would find them. No such luck. What did fall into my hands were a few letters, advertisements and some photos, some of which keep me company on the walls of my study where I write this.

This was a disappointment, especially since I’m working on an informal memoir at Andrew’s request, my older son. Depending on what I found, I might have gone to work on a company history instead. As it is, what I think I know, or remember, about HCCo is a few fundamentals and not much else. Without you and my nephew Todd Harrison, who comes up with amazing stuff off the Web, my ignorance would be an embarrassment.

EJ Harrison was drawn to Pittsburgh from Mercer County, no doubt, by tales of great wealth being accumulated by “Pittsburgh millionaires” – Carnegie, Frick, Westinghouse et al and their close associates. He got a business degree from the Duff Institute, which, I’m pretty sure, still exists; became a bookkeeper for the Cronin & Sons Construction Co; and took it over when its alcoholic owners couldn’t run it anymore. (I was told they were found passed out near railroad tracks on the South Side.)

Max was pulled out of Penn State University before he could get a degree – he majored in civil engineering – because EJ needed him to help run the business, and likely because he saw the potential to build a fantastic, money-making family business. This, I was told, alienated Max for a time. He held a job for the Koppers Corp in Chicago, then went to work for the Pittsburgh Railways Co., and only joined his father at HCCo, he told me one day as we were driving across the West End Bridge to his office on the North Side, because EJ offered him more money.

Courtesy of Akron University: Goodyear Collection
Courtesy of Akron University: Goodyear Collection

EJ Harrison standing and Max Harrison

Theirs, I took it, was a financial, not a sentimental, bond. The family aspect of it did prove to be strong in one sense, because Max shared company profits very generously, I was told, with his three sisters and their families, who were, after all, shareholders and directors. But in another sense it was weak to nonexistent: he hired his sons during summer breaks from school but made it clear that they were to pursue careers doing something else. The family business ended with him when it went under, around 1962, but even if it went on it wouldn’t have been led by a Harrison.

The 30’s were good years. EJ put the company in position to land Depression – era job-creating construction projects. He did well with government clients, small projects in and around Pittsburgh. During the war, with Max coming into his own as a company salesman, they were, according to Max, the first construction company on site at Oak Ridge, TN. And it was around this time they built Alcoa’s enormous North Plant in Blount County, TN. Max’s golf foursomes at Oakmont Country Club – he also belonged to Long Vue and probably other clubs – yielded more Alcoa projects and the creation of HCCo’s Southern Division, based at Alcoa, TN. His client base still included government agencies, but it was ties to Pittsburgh’s corporate elite at the Duquesne Club that really fueled his enthusiasm.

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Harrison Construction Co. machinery is seen working at Oak Ridge, TN on May 24, 1950.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission offered to settle a contract dispute in the late 50’s or early 60’s. Max’s lawyer, Bill Booth, told me this when I arrived the summer of ’62 at Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, as an apprentice lawyer. He said Max didn’t take his advice to settle. Max put his trust in the courts instead, went on with his lawsuit and lost.

This happened at a time when his remarkable salesmanship had advanced his career in construction and politics. He traveled a good deal to meet with important people – leadership networking was his first love. The force of his personality got results. He was in demand. Too much so, I came to believe, because this profitable, admired family business, that could have lasted generations, needed closer supervision than he was able to give it.

In going through the pages of your outstanding books – from my nephew Todd Harrison I received the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpike editions – I was struck by the similarities in landscape and equipment, so that Harrison’s men and machinery couldn’t be distinguished without the captions. In one important respect I do believe Harrison stands out. The guy that ran it, from the mid-40’s through the 50’s, was all about character. So many of the blessings of life that came to me, and still come, came because people trusted and admired Max Harrison. He leadership-networked both his sons into a world of opportunity where, almost literally, we could have had, or done, anything we wanted.

In the summer of 1967, not long after Max died, I was able to organize a meeting at the Duquesne Club with some of Pittsburgh’s corporate elite. I wanted them to hear a presentation by an MIT professor whose students had designed a new community to be built on Boston’s Thompson Island. When it was over one of the corporate attendees, I think speaking for all of them, said he was there to honor the memory of Max Harrison.

The summer of 1954 Max set me up to work at the company’s shop at 51st St. and AV RR along the Allegheny River. The experience I got threading rods and welding supplied me with metaphors for a poem that drew the attention of Dudley Fitts, an authority on English literature at Andover. Its publication in The Mirror, with his blessing, was all that distinguished my otherwise nondescript secondary education.

That was also the summer that I traveled in a Harrison green pickup, with Ronnie, a conscientious coworker, across the border to lend a hand with the Ohio Turnpike project. Four or five of us were lifting a LeTourneau tire on the back of a pickup when I shifted my grip, thinking the direction was up when the direction was down. I heard a snap and realized it came from my left arm which had disappeared beneath the tire. Next thing I knew a doc in East Liverpool with a very attractive nurse was putting me out to set my arm.

Courtesy of Ohio Cat
Courtesy of Ohio Cat

Harrison Caterpillar D8 with a No. 90 pull scraper working on the Ohio Turnpike on June 21, 1954.

But having one arm in a sling wasn’t the end of my summer job. Max had me transferred to a project on a city block next to the old Duquesne Gardens, off 5th Avenue in Oakland, where Pittsburgh’s minor league hockey team, the Hornets, used to play. My job, when I wasn’t on lunch break checking out the Gardens, was directing traffic with my good arm.

The summer of 1954 was also when I was invited into Uncle Bill William’s shack. It stood right there in front of the shop, where equipment routed around either side of it. It was where this good man and loyal employee lived, who had simonized Max’s Buicks and Cadillacs for years at the Western Avenue office. Providing an aging employee with a place to live, a steady job and income, was a small sample of the consideration Max showed, I was told, toward all his employees, whatever their race or ethnicity.

Near Bill’s shack was a steam jenny. I used it to clean the engine of an end-of-life Harrison pickup that I would then drive crazily around the shop on lunch break. Three guys on break, eating sandwiches from their lunch pails in back, got up and scurried inside when they saw me coming. That summer I took mother’s Buick out for a spin after dinner, along US Route 40 west of Washington, PA. It was after dark. I got the old girl up to 100 mph. The same idiot was behind the wheel of that pickup, so they did the right thing.

Doing night shift at the Pittsburgh Asphalt plant, a company subsidiary, was a novelty. Dan Cowan, another good fellow, came by the house and drove me to work that night. We were supplying asphalt for a paving job, Pittsburgh’s Liberty Tubes. I remember being seated on a platform high off the ground but, unlike other jobs I was assigned, the only task I recall was staying awake.

My reward for that summer at the 51st Street shop was a trip to Knoxville to visit Betsy, a pretty girl Max’s friend Pete Gettys, a sand & gravel competitor, had introduced me to that spring. So what did I do? I rented a Chevy Impala at the airport and drove Betsy down two-lane roads at 80 mph, with my left arm in a sling and my right arm around her. Why am I still alive?

My favorite company summer job, by far, was 1957, when I was turned loose on a Caterpillar D8 rigged with a single fork in the back that I used to subsoil Max’s Tennessee River farm. 17

I would rise at 7:30, start the pony motor, then get the big engine running, get seated and start manipulating the gears and that fork. I had a pair of Chippewa boots and I got a nice tan, and by the end of the summer, Curt Hart, Harrison’s Southern Division VP, happened to be there one day and told me he would have hired me even if I weren’t the boss’s son. Being the son and grandson of hard-ass heavy construction executives, you don’t hear praise much, and that’s OK. But it was as close as I ever got to feeling like there could be a place for me in the company. For just a moment, it felt like I belonged.

In 1957 was also when I rammed the ‘dozer into a dead tree off the field thinking I would remove it when all those dead branches coming down almost removed me. Then there was the day I decided to remove a wasps’ nest from a tree along the driveway by ramming the tree with a company pickup, which, of course, wound up in the shop. And I drove an inebriated company employee back from Harrison’s annual clambake in the same pickup so fast, on a curvy two-lane road after dark, that it restored instant sobriety. Why am I still alive?

The year before, Max sent me to work with a crew paving runways, laying pipe and building an access road for an Air Force unit stationed at Blount County Airport. They had me banging the underside of dump trucks with a mallet to loosen the load when they backed up to the paving machine. I operated a Barco dirt tamper (sometimes on my foot) and helped lay pipe under a hot Tennessee sun.

But the excitement this time was provided by something called a Sheep’s Foot. This invention of the devil was supposed to pack down dirt along the edge of 45-degree fill, part of the access road. I had to navigate along the edge to do any good, and the damned thing had no brakes. Losing control would have been fatal. I recall waking up one night in a sweat, pulling up the mattress at my feet, with all my might, in an effort to apply the brakes.

Just to prove an accident could happen, I once backed up a Euclid heavy dump truck maybe one inch too far onto a depressed fill site, in Knoxville, and that’s all it took to back it right over on its side. It made the evening news, but I wasn’t injured. Why am I still alive?

That same two-lane road gave me experience operating a kidney-killer LeTourneau scraper – I scraped too deep my first shot and had to be rescued by a ‘dozer. And a grader, though the ride was recreational only. A government project inspector came along one day and needed to know if the road was properly graded. I told him it looked OK to me. Fortunately, the inspector found an engineer to answer his question and I was off the hook.

Courtesy of Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

A LeTourneau Super C pan is working on the Eastern Ext. of the PA Turnpike on August9, 1949.

Another time being the boss’s son thrust me into a supervisory role when a ‘dozer operator asked if it was quitting time. I looked at my watch, as if that would settle the matter. It took a moment before I realized he was asking permission to quit. And that was the extent of this experience running a heavy construction company

I liked the Harrison cap and the company badge that was attached to it. I liked working out in the sun and around all the dust, the heavy equipment and the guys. Everyone was decent to me and to one another. The only time there was an awkward moment was when some white workers at the airport job were being a bit too casual with their conversation and a black worker showed up who could have been offended. But he got a fast, gracious apology and, I don’t think, would have taken offense anyway. It wasn’t an ugly moment at all, just awkward.

Otherwise, a whole lot of classy individuals were taking care of their jobs, working well together and being professional. The one instance where I clearly didn’t belong was when I was replaced in the cab of the Euclid one day by a union driver. He just showed up, got in the cab on the passenger side and indicated he was taking over.

That was my one experience with labor-management relations in mid-20th century America. It was the one time where I felt just a little of the pressure company management, and companies around the country, felt from an aggressive labor movement. I didn’t take sides – poets who dig ditches in the summer to make a buck aren’t exactly involved – but it did make an impression. I could see Max’s side of it a little better, but I also respected labor’s side of it. If that irritated Max what fun it was to hear him complain about one of my cousins he employed who joined a union picket line at a Harrison project. Why is my cousin still alive?

Eighty-five bucks a week. That’s what we were paid, and it was more than most of my classmates probably earned at their summer jobs.
Construction jobs paid well then and they still do. Construction, mining, and manufacturing – these are the bedrock jobs for a thriving middle class, and I had a little part of it.

What ties my career to my father’s career after my formal education wasn’t anything to do with business, at the office or in the field. It was leadership networking. It’s where his career really took off, and mine. At least insofar as I enjoyed it and got any results. His networking got results for the company, elevating it from just another construction outfit to one that was noticed. It was, I’m certain, because of the quality of its work, the character of its chief executive, and how vividly he brought himself and his enterprise to life.

I’m damned proud to be a Harrison, and a large part of it is because of him, and because of his company.

His networking also got results for him, because he hugely enjoyed it. When he would come home from work, busting through the back door in his straw boater, a man of good cheer and upright bearing, I could tell he had come straight from the Duquesne Club. He had been Building the Best for the Best, his company motto. He had been living it. He wasn’t a major figure around town, exactly, but he was a force unto himself. I wish you could have seen him, known him.

And I wish he could have known you. Your work is clearly a labor of love, and with these recollections, I hope some of my respect, my appreciation, comes through. I hope some sign comes through that, if Max and EJ were here, they both would be feeling pretty good that somebody out there was paying attention.

Thank you so much for your very kind inscription, Enjoy the history as your family helped make it. Max and his father did make history. All their employees, and all the companies and their employees featured in your books, made history.
I’m so glad I don’t have to root around in the basement to find a record of it.
Thank you, Edgar. Keep up the good work!

Sincerely, David C. Harrison

Courtesy of Caterpillar Tractor
Courtesy of Caterpillar Tractor

Harrison Construction uses Caterpillar D8 tractors with LeTourneau pans to handle heavy earthmoving at the Kanawha Airport in West Virginia on May 28, 1945.

Courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau Collection Caterpillar RD-8 tractors with LeTourneau bulld
Courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau Collection

Courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau Collection
Courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau Collection

Caterpillar RD-8 tractors with LeTourneau bulldozers and scrapers grade the North Park Playground in Allegheny County during May, 1936. The project required excavation of 460,000 cubic yards.

 Photos courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau
Photos courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau

 Photos courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau
Photos courtesy of HCEA: R. G. LeTourneau

Two LeTourneau Model A Tournapull scrapers were used by Harrison Construction on this highway relocation between Johnstown and Southmont, PA, circa 1940.

 Courtesy of HCEA: Euclid Collection
Courtesy of HCEA: Euclid Collection

A Euclid TS-24 scraper is push loaded with Euclid TC-12 and Caterpillar D9 tractors in this cut section along the Erie Thruway (Interstate 90) near Platea in Erie County, PA, circa 1958.

 Courtesy of Akron University: Goodyear Collection
Courtesy of Akron University: Goodyear Collection

N. T. "Whitey" Franklin, Vice President in charge of construction, surveys work at the Pittsburgh Airport in 1960. The massive 7.9 million dollar contract called for the excavation of 8 million cubic yards of material to build a new runway. A Marion 111-M shovel is loading a B Tournarocker in the background.

EDITORS NOTE: David C. Harrison upon reading accounts of Harrison work in two of my road building books wrote the poignant well-crafted letter describing the human side of growing up in a heavy construction family business. It is used here with his permission.

"Harrison Construction" first appeared in "SHOVEL" Winter 2015, an official publication of the Historical Highway Heavy Civil Construction Association. 10415 Turnstall Road, New Kent, VA 23124. Edgar A. Browning, Editor and Publisher. (804) 932-8232.

06-03-07

Re:  Character reference, Larry M

To whom it may concern:

I take great pleasure in providing a character reference for my dear friend Larry M.  Larry and I have been friends and in regular contact since we met in Washington, DC over 25 years ago.  13 years ago he and his companion, Mary, introduced me to my wife, Rebecca.  As in all matters involving Larry, it turned out very well.

I've not had business or financial dealings with Larry but from the sidelines I've observed him handle many transactions and have come to admire his competence both with money and with people.  He is open in his relationships, business or personal, straightforward and honest.  He is an able man who usually succeeds in whatever he undertakes.  If there are complications he will work them out to the best of his ability, to everyone's satisfaction.

Two very remarkable traits are his commitment to public service and the phenomenal number of friends and acquaintances he has made here and abroad.  As a highly respected journalist with the National Observer and the National Journal he developed an expertise in Middle Eastern and environmental affairs that made him well worth listening to.  In his company, on many occasions right up to the present, I've had the rare privilege of meeting others worth listening to and learning from them.

I can't begin to name all the causes Larry has contributed generously to over the years with his time, leadership skills and money.  They span the range from international peace to community theater.  But I do know that once he commits, Larry is often the one they choose to run the show.

People gravitate to Larry and why shouldn't they - he shows one and all respect, entertains them with a masterful sense of humor, and gives a great deal more than he takes.  The truth is, he loves people and enjoys their company.  And they love him back.

I've learned much from my friend, Larry, but especially this, that a friend can be trusted to be who he is and depended upon through thick and thin.  This is a person I would want at my side under any circumstances.  I commend him, sincerely and enthusiastically, to anyone who asks my opinion.