Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hrog and Me


I met him at my second drafting job in the Winter of 1987. I was going to college at the time and was one of Ford Motor Company's new co-op students/drafters in Dearborn, MI. My drafting table was located in the Engine and Electrical Engineering Building, aka the "EEE". Hrog "Roger" Kabodian was my checker.

Roger was of Armenian descent, had bushy grey eyebrows, the physique and temperament of a cuddly teddy bear. He had worked at Ford for thirty-plus years and experienced the highs and lows of the automotive design industry. During lunch, he and the other old school board jockeys would hold court at their "Table of Brutality" playing cards and verbally abusing each other in the company lunchroom. Roger was 62 and starting to develop glaucoma - the guys loved calling him "Blinky". Roger could hold his own though and would give as good as he got. On occasion he would forego the table though and take me out to lunch instead.

I was only 19 and relatively green to the wonderful world of automotive design. Having Roger as my first real checker was worth more than all my years of high school and college drafting put together. Besides giving me drawing tips and teaching me the ins and outs of the biz, he encouraged other interests in my life, specifically photography, writing, and travel. He was always giving me advice and supportive of all my creative aspirations. He was protective of me and called me angel. Roger was my drafting dad and mentor.
Once he even got me a company car to drive for a week when I needed school transportation. I'll never forget pulling out of the Ford parking lot in a brand spanking new 1988 Lincoln Town Car, trying to see over the steering wheel. As I glanced in my rear view mirror, I remember seeing Roger shake his head, laugh and do the sign of the cross.

Christmas at Ford was always a big deal with tons of decorations in the lobby and poinsettias being delivered to the secretaries. Roger surmised that you could tell how well the company was doing by the size of the poinsettia plants. He also liked to say that "Designers know all the angles". One of my favorite Rogerisms.

After graduation, I always kept in touch with Roger. Every new city I worked in meant a postcard and phone call to him. I remember going to his retirement party and videotaping the roast portion of it. When it was Roger's turn to speak, he launched into the bosses and ripped them a new one and they still loved him. He also spoke about the new generation of designers and what a sharp bunch we were.
Last week I found that videotape and after viewing it, I thought I'd contact Roger. I wanted to catch up and tell him about Bumpstart and how I was still writing. When I moved to Portland, I had lost touch with him and couldn't find his phone number. After a quick search on Google, sadly his obituary came up instead. He would have been 84 years old now. In my mind he never aged, or rather I didn't want him to age. He was such an important person in my life and creative development. I miss him and wonder what he would have thought of scooters, 'zines, and Portland.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Karen, I'm writing for my sister Jan and me. There are just no words to express our gratefulness at contacting us about our dad. We were both daddy's girls all the way. He always wanted to help young women, as he hoped others would do the same for us. Taking the time to reflect on our dad and put your memories of him in writing is our great New Years blessing! Dad taught us open handed generosity, and the gift of relationships. I know he's feeling so proud that you would give us this gift of memories. I know he's giving you the "thumbs up". What an angel you are. Please keep in touch,
Bless you, Laurie Jackson for Jan and Mom too