Jimmie Sober


I was born and raised a poor farmer’s son in the American heartland, Shelton, Nebraska, one of eleven children. Drove a team of horses at seven years of age. First paying job at nine as a shaker working for a Mexican picker where I learned my first Spanish. Also did not start school until nine years, and assigned to the 5th grade because of my age. Did not read or write, multiply or divide at this point, flunked 5th grade, and passed to 6th anyway. Mother and Father said no way, complained to school system, and so I did the 5th grade over again. After skipping a couple of grades because I had to work, I eventually graduated, however, next to last in my high school class. While in high school, I was awarded an athletic scholarship to Kearny State Teachers College which I could not use because I failed in the entrance exam.

Father sent me to Oregon to work, where I was later admitted to Oregon State after passing their entrance exam. Started to play for Oregon State’s varsity basketball team, then was recruited by owner of Chelsea Cigarettes, a semi-pro team playing in the (misnamed) Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF) league in Manila. Made some non-basketball playing friends who were attending UP, and for something to do, and to spend more time with them I enrolled at Diliman in 1956. Stayed two years and left school to join the Navy. Assigned in 1961 to Cubi Point, at Subic Bay, registered at UP Extension in Olongapo. Endured heavy load, and completed in 1962, happy to have graduated, once again, next to last in my class.

After leaving the Navy in 1966, went to Buffalo, New York to work as a test engineer for Bell Aerosystems. By being in the right place at the right time, and through no plan of my own, I became a pioneer in advanced marine vehicles, most specifically air cushion vehicles, (called Hovercraft by the British in England). Because air cushion vehicles were a new technology I had ample opportunity to travel as project manager with the test craft and as the pilot-instructor.

Spent a lot of time in Canada, trained the Canadian Coast Guard, and in Alaska near Anchorage. In 1967 set a record in traveling from Seward to Anchorage, Alaska at an average over water speed of 60 knots which still stands for the distance of 360 nautical miles. In the United States in 1967 trained the Navy, and in 1968 the Army operations, and maintenance teams who operated in Vietnam, then assigned the Navy and Army technical advisor.

Recruited in 1969 by Aerojet General Corporation in El Monte, California, and transferred immediately to Sacramento to provide technical guidance in the design, testing, operation, and maintenance of air cushion vehicles and the training of crews. While with Aerojet General, became project manager of the American Coast Guard Air Cushion Vehicle Program. Created the training program, and with other assigned employees of Aerojet General trained and maintained the Coast Guard operation and maintenance crew. Lectured on Advanced Marine Vehicle technology at Sacramento State, School of Engineering.

Then back to Canada, the Northwest Territories (NWT), to receive by air from England, two air cushion vehicles (Hovercraft) at Yellowknife, NWT. It required 30 days to assemble the craft which were to be delivered to Prudhoe Bay Alaska via the McKenzie River into the Arctic Ocean. Another record set (remember I was a pioneer) the longest trip into the Arctic ever accomplished by an air cushion vehicle, more than 1500 miles, the last three hundred miles over the Arctic Ice Pack. Still stands, as far as I know.

Still at Aerojet General, returned to the Arctic for a Naval Scientific program using an ACV to find the North Pole which moves around quite a bit. Exciting adventure, but we did not locate the pole on that project. During my time in the Northern reaches of Alaska and in the Arctic had the pleasant experience to go from nearly 24 hours total light to nearly 24 hours total darkness. Saw grizzles, polar bears, fox, whales, seals and other animals in the wild. Saw the fox, and ptarmigan change from all white to brown and back to white as the season changed.

Returned to Sacramento, then reassigned by Aerojet General to Tacoma, Washington to develop the operation, maintenance, testing and training programs for the surface effect ship. Same principal as the air cushion vehicle (ACV), but unlike the ACV which could operate over any surface, the surface effect ship could only operate over water. Both technologies used the principle of reduced drag. At Tacoma, while testing the surface effect ship, set an over water speed record for a ship over a measured timed course at a speed of more than 100 knots. That record was broken approximately six months later by, guess who? Bell Aerospace. My first job after the Navy, and Bell was the pioneer in the America’s – North and South.

While at Aerojet Tacoma, Washington, was an invited lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle, and was also selected as a one-year Fellow in the Office of Senator John Stennis, who was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations and the Senate Armed Services Committees. I learned a lot about government during that period, and I believe I have retained that knowledge. After my Senate Fellowship, returned to Aerojet Tacoma for my last assignment as an employee of Aerojet General, training the Navy Team for the surface effect ship program.

Left Aerojet in 1974 to work in San Diego for Rohr Industries. Rohr saw the potential and wanted to get into the advanced marine vehicle business. Rohr had already hired several other engineers whom I knew at Bell and at Aerojet to begin the design. I was hired as a project planner, but shortly after arriving, the Navy sent out a request for proposals to Bell, Aerojet and Rohr to set up in Maryland a Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Facility on the Atlantic Coast. I was tasked to write the proposal for Rohr, and Rohr who had no experience at that time in advanced marine vehicles was declared the winner of a multi-million dollar program with, the Navy stipulation that I be assigned the RDT&E Program Manager and Facilities Director.

Not excited about being transferred to Maryland, I went nonetheless, and spent three years as Director of the Navy Program. The facility, test vehicles and test equipment were valued in excess of $300 million at that time. The Team I was privileged to lead included 108 Rohr persons, and between 24 and 50 subcontract maintenance personnel, depending upon the test schedules. While there, I earned an MBA at the University of Maryland, and lectured at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Rohr recalled me San Diego as Far East Marketing Manager in 1977. I was only at Rohr San Diego a few months before being transferred to Washington, D.C. as Manager of Washington Operations. The purpose of the transfer was to keep the advanced marine vehicle program alive at the Pentagon and the money in the budget at the House and Senate.

The advanced marine program now included the hydrofoil, a Boeing program, and Boeing was the American leaders in that hydrofoil technology. Their Washington Representative and I worked closely together and the Program was saved. After a year in Washington, D.C., I transferred back to San Diego. Two months later, I was back in Washington, D.C. as a Congressman Bob Wilson Fellow in the House of Representatives. After the one year Fellowship I returned to San Diego and made numerous trips to the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, and Taiwan as Far East Marketing Manager promoting advanced marine vehicles.

I developed a desire to stay in one place, as I had children who were growing to rapidly for me to keep up with. I then left the Aerospace field in 1982 and started a transportation company in San Diego which included taxicabs and vans for the transportation of handicapped and the elderly. Advanced from the survival mode to over $1million in sales. Sold the business and retired.

In the period after leaving the Aerospace Industry, and while working in my own business, I became heavily involved in Animal Rights Work, and still advocate for animals whenever I can. I am against killing a non-human animal to eat it, and myself, will eat no flesh.

Just prior to retiring from the business, and then while retired, entered into the study of law, first at UCSD completing a six month paralegal program, and then enrolling at Southern California University where I graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1995.

In 1994 I met the beautiful lady who was to become my second spouse, THE Eleanor Padua Quinto of Dagupan City, Pangasinan, Philippines. A double graduate in both accounting and business administration from St. Joseph in Manila. In the Philippines, Eleanor was at one time, Miss Pangasinan, and later Miss United Way Philippines.

In the United States for a visit, Eleanor entered Nursing School, worked as a nurse for 12 years before leaving the profession and taking a position with Miramar FCU. I returned to work with the State of California where I remain today. I enjoy my work, take nothing home from work, and some days have to think a few moments to remember where I work.