A little over a month ago IBM announced that it was selling its Semiconductor division to Global Foundries – well actually IBM is paying Global Foundries to take the semiconductor division. This includes the IBM Burlington facility which as we know is actually in Essex Junction. Wait a minute, I hear some of you saying, what does this have to do with skiing nostalgia? Well, for me personally there is a direct tie-in.
As I have chronicled in this blog, it was during college that I got hooked on skiing. And indeed, many of my college friends thought I majored in skiing. I was a senior during the winter of 1967-68. Most of us seniors were busy looking for jobs. Times were different then: there were plenty of jobs so it wasn’t a matter of “if you got a job”, but “which job do I want”. Oh there were plenty of rejections and many of us papered our walls with them. But there were also many offers and when one of us got one, we’d compare it with the guys down the hall.
Early in that winter I was reading a Ski magazine and found an ad that said “Come to IBM, Burlington, Vt and enjoy the fringe benefits!”. The fringe benefits included Killington, Stowe, Sugarbush, and Jay Peak! I had already signed up for an on-campus interview with IBM, but now I knew where in IBM I wanted to be. As fortune would have it, the team of interviewers IBM sent to our campus was from IBM Burlington. They were excited that I was excited about IBM Burlington – apparently in those days not everyone wanted to work in Vermont! I was invited to visit Burlington for further interviews.
The interviews in Burlington went well so I returned to campus and waited for IBM’s offer – and waited – and waited! It was the one offer I really cared about and the suspense was getting to me. I had other offers, but didn’t want to reject them until I heard from IBM. Finally it came. It wasn’t the highest salary offer I received, but it was far from the lowest. The same day the offer arrived in the mail I called IBM to accept.
I began work at IBM Burlington on July 8, 1968. The promised fringe benefits began in November of that year. As many Retro-skiers may recall, the winter of 1968-69 was a record breaker in terms of snowfall. The Vermont ski season began in early November and lasted into May. Even with very limited vacation days available, I skied over 50 days that first season. I worked my way around the northern Vermont ski areas: Sugarbush, Glen Ellen, Mad River, Madonna, Jay, and Bolton for night skiing. I didn’t get around to Stowe until spring skiing. That was mainly because Stowe charged a whopping $10 a day – $2 a day higher than any of the other areas. Those were the days, eh?
IBM Burlington gave me a good career and allowed me to continue my love affair with skiing. When I retired in 1999 I was surprised that I didn’t feel more emotion when I was leaving. But the IBM I retired from was not the IBM that hired me in 1968. Why then did the announcement of IBM divesting itself of the Burlington facility cause me to have a more emotional, nostalgic reaction? Well, would I have moved to Vermont to take a job if it had been with an XYZ company instead of IBM? Probably not. Would I be skiing in Stowe and writing this column? Probably not.