Howard Auld — power poles and other heights

Elizabeth Babcock

Howard Auld — power  poles and other heightsWhen Howard Auld was born in 1925 in East Weymouth, Mass., he seems to have arrived with a fully formed idea of community service. “You have to pay the rent,” he’d say — and for him that meant getting the job done no matter what it cost in terms of money or glory.

He began his contributions shortly after graduation from Weymouth High School in 1943, as he worked at the local shipyard helping to build World War II destroyer escorts at the rate of a ship every three days. Later he discovered that this patriotic construction work led to encapsulated asbestos in his lung.

Shortly after his 18th birthday, Howard entered Navy service. After basic training and service school at Iowa State University, he was assigned to the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern, shore duty necessitated by his near-sightedness and color blindness.

He arrived by bus at the NOTS main gate in the middle of the night, Sept. 24, 1944, he slept in a tent for his first few months at China Lake.

Hiss first assignment, in the Public Works Electric Shop, required him to learn how to climb power poles. Among many tasks, he helped string the power line out on G Range Road. That wasn’t glamorous work, but it was necessary to accomplishment of NOTS’ mission, so Howard and his Navy buddies (some of whom became lifelong friends) were happy to do it.

Whenever he finished a work order, he took it to be recorded by a young lady in the Electric Shop office — Barbara Huff. Howard asked her for a date in July 1945; they were married that August and were an inseparable duo until his death on Dec. 29, 2013.

When Howard was discharged from the Navy in June 1946, he opted not to take advantage of the G.I. Education Bill, reasoning that he would accomplish more by staying at NOTS.

Always learning from his varied assignments and college courses, Howard passed the engineering equivalency exam in 1964, then secured his bachelor’s degree in management from Redlands University. “I like to say I have a Ph.D. in NWC,” he joked.

His varied career at China Lake included electrical and mechanical engineering, facilities design, and branch and project management.

He was also a mover and shaker in the China Lake community, and after the Aulds moved to Ridgecrest in the early 1970s, their community service went into high gear. In addition to service on the Ridgecrest Planning Commission for 10 years and on the Ridgecrest City Council for more than eight years, Howard made things happen across a spectrum of organizations. His particular emphasis was on fostering the Navy-Ridgecrest symbiotic relationship, and his contributions resulted in numerous honors, among them the only Ridgecrest Honorary Mayor designation ever given by the city council.

That far vision of service that started in a World War II shipyard and ripened atop a G-1 power pole continues today in our valley as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren follow his sterling example.

Howard died in 2013 at age 88. His ashes are buried in the veterans’ portion of Desert Memorial Park, surrounded by the mountains and sky he had loved for most of his life.

Howard Auld’s widow, Barbara, contributed significantly to this article, which is based on several newspaper articles and interviews by Liz Babcock.

Pictured: A young Barbara and Howard Auld. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2019-11-08