Chapter 5-2 COJVS (1981-1986)

As mentioned before, I had applied for a teaching position at the Central Ohio Joint Vocational School (COJVS). During the interview, I was told that I would be teaching Senior Data Processing, which included Computer Literacy, COBOL, BASIC, and RPG programming, and computer operations in addition to Accounting, Business Law, and Consumer Economics. They informed me that I would be operating a Burroughs B-800 mini computer with multiple work stations. My resume had indicated that in the Air Force I had worked with the Burroughs B-3500 system. Burroughs was a British Company and quite large in the U.S. at one time. What I had not mentioned in my resume and did not elaborate during the interview was that I had never seen the B-3500. It was located in a secure facility nearly two miles from my office and I worked via a remote terminal. I had no idea what it looked like, let alone ever turning it on. The state gave me teaching credit for my graduate-assistant work and five years credit for time spent in the military, which put me higher on the pay scale and the masters degree also put me in another category, which helped, even though my beginning teaching salary was only $31,000 per year.  

I asked for a copy of the computer operations manual which the school furnished and I did some very intense cramming. I reported to the school a week before classes, picked up my lesson manuals, went through orientation with the other teachers, and spent many long hours in the lab starting up, shutting down, mounting disk drives, figuring out how to mount ribbons and paper on the printers, etc. By the time school started, I was ready.

The first order of business was finding a place to live. We looked at a number of homes in the area before settling down at 8665 Renaa Ave, Galloway, Ohio, a home we still own.

Our home – 8665 Renaa Ave., Galloway, Ohio

The first year of teaching was a matter of keeping one chapter ahead of my students in the lesson manuals. I took to teaching like a duck to water, and absolutely loved it. My own kids soon became my assistants in grading papers. I know that I did well, because at the end of the year, my class placed in the top 5 percent of all students in the state. This ranking never changed in all the years I taught, and my students consistently went to state and national contests.

The biggest problem was that the Burroughs B-800 was (to put it mildly) a piece of junk. The compile time for 100 lines of code was originally 30 minutes. I insisted that the school purchase more memory which brought the time down to 6 minutes, still far too slow to be of much use. The backplane only had room for four terminals, so my 20 students had to take turns. When I first arrived on the job, we were still using punch cards for input into the system and our punch-card machines were all donated by the government from the Army supply depot. The IBM PC only came on the market in October 1980 and so PC’s had not been introduced in the classroom. A lot of my instruction was spent on teaching the student how to key punch and hard-wire report punch card machines.

With the advent of the PC, and the ability to attach CRT terminals to mini and main-frame computers, it was obvious that punch cards would soon be obsolete. I had the support of my advisory committee and began to pester the administration for both an upgrade to the existing computer system with CRT access and the acquisition of PC terminals. My direct supervisor (who still used a manual typewriter she had bought in 1930), was afraid of the advances in technology and wouldn’t support my requests. We bumped heads continually over methods of teaching and our views of the future of business. She was stuck in the wrong decade and nothing was going to change her mind.

Finally, the administration began to read the writing on the wall and decided that what I had requested was their own idea (typical of education), and went out for bids. I had wanted an IBM System so I could include PL1 programming into the curriculum. This language incorporated the structure of COBOL combined with the mathematical logic of FORTRAN. However it was an IBM proprietary product. The IBM representative got lost on the way to the school and missed the bid deadline. He said he had been given bad directions. Strangely enough, one of the school board member’s Son-in-Law worked for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and DEC got the bid.

The school purchased a DEC 750 mini-computer with both tape and a 200 mb cartridge drive. We also received two printers, twenty terminals, and six rainbow PC’s. Compile time for 100 lines of codes was now 11 milliseconds. What a relief! The only problem with almost instantaneous compile is that it tends to create sloppy programmers.When you have to wait for your compile, it makes you more careful in preparation. In addition we received an air-scrubber and dedicated air conditioning unit and an enclosed clean room for the DEC 750 and drives. Printers throw out a lot of dust and a clean room is almost a necessity. Our lab was reconfigured to lay computer room tile with all cables under the floor. The only problem was that the air conditioner was so noisy; we had to turn it off in order to lecture.  Our VAX system consisted of the CPU, a line printer, two cartridge drives and a tape drive.  


Since I would be working with a totally different computer system, the COJVS School Board sent me to Shaumburg, Illinois (a Chicago Suburb)  to the Digital Equipment Corporation school.  I attended the Systems Manager and the Commands and Utilities courses.  Each course was one week in length.  


DEC Rainbow –Almost a useless terminal

The DEC Rainbows were almost worthless. I had far better software on the Mini. Eventually we acquired IBM PC’s and Microsoft software which made teaching of accounting for small business much more practical. Since PC’s were in their infancy, our early software was more text-based than graphical and would seem extremely primitive by today’s standard. There are some of us who still remember Vis-a-Calc, and Word Perfect’s text-based Word Processor. Our school tried almost every PC at one time or another. We had Lisa’s, Apple III’s, Apple 2E’s, Apple 2C’s, Radio Shack TRS-80’s and even a couple of CPM machines. I don’t think we ever purchased Commodore or Atari computers however.

My supervisor would not let me remove all of the punch card machines from the lab and in the back, gathering dust, sat two old machines, relics to demonstrate for my students. Eventually we sold them to a scrap company. My supervisor never stopped believing that they would have a use. Perhaps she thought that we would be able to sell them to some third-world nation.  Our keypunch machines were cast-offs from industry.  They would donate them to the school and my supervisor would just keep stockpiling them in the warehouse.  She insisted that I teach the students how to keypunch.  I steadfastly refused!


IBM Punch Card

The Superintendent, Harry Tolles retired and the school was renamed in his honor to Tolles Technical Center. This was just as well, since we were constantly being confused with Central Ohio Technical College in Newark and kept getting mail addressed to them. They of course had the same problem. A funny thing happened. The school was well landscaped by our horticultural department, and in the flower bed at the entrance to the school and plaque was placed which read “In Memory of Harry E. Tolles.” It looked just like a bronze grave marker. My wife saw it and exclaimed. “Oh my gosh, he died and they buried him in front of the school!”

Student giving a class presentation

I got along well with almost all my students and we worked together well. I taught them to be professional. On Friday’s I required business attire which includes ties for the boys and dresses or business suits for the girls. They actually came to look forward to it and it gave them a lot of confidence when it came time for job interviews. I always stressed honesty and loyalty to the employer as absolute requirements in the workplace. I believe this paid off. Most of my students ended up with very good jobs including:

  • Senior Network Administrator – AT&T Los Angeles
  • Office Manager, Sugar Foods Corporation
  • Systems Analyst, Highlights for Children
  • Senior Programmer, State Department of Transportation
  • Data Processing Supervisor, State Department of Labor
  • Manager, Proton Accelerator Lab, Fermi Institute, Chicagp

I can truthfully say that I was a very good teacher. I liked and respected my students and they responded in kind. Many of them kept in touch following graduation and I still see some of them from time to time. One of my students joined the Church and another’s children joined the Church.

I got along well with the rest of the staff and most of the administration other than the usual disagreements with my supervisor. She told me I could never be a good teacher because my students liked me and because I always smiled. She said that students should fear their teachers and teachers should be very sober and strict. She told me to watch the way they got quiet the instant she entered a room. I actually felt sorry for her. What a miserable attitude she had.  The technology had passed her by.  She had an old manual typewriter that she used.  She didn’t want an electric and absolutely refused a PC.  But, she had the one thing that kept her on board – seniority.  

Our School Director was also the Chairman of the Democratic Party for the county, and also ran a license bureau in London, Ohio.  We used to get a big kick out of morning announcements.  He would turn on the mic, blow into it and announce “Is this thing working?”  He did this everyday.  He would be giving announcements, and get sidetracked, forgetting he was live and make strange comments like “Did you just see that semi going by?”, or “Did John turn in that report?”  

One incident stands out however. Our Director retired. A JVS Director is the same thing as a Principal in a traditional school. We hired a new Director, who was an Ohio State graduate. Ohio State and Bowling Green have entirely different educational philosophies. As part of my annual evaluation, she observed my class. During my review, she indicated she did not like my teaching style, which was a combination of my Bowling Green methodology combined with what I learned during many years as a military instructor, and proceeded to give me her ideas of how I should teach. I told her that I respected her opinion, but when my students stopped being in the top 5% statewide, when they stopped getting the best jobs available, when my graduate placement rate was no longer 100%, and when my students stopped winning state and national contests regularly, I would consider her suggestions. But until then, I intended to continue as usual. That was the end of that conversation. She never brought it up again.

We had some great field trips and class parties with the Junior Class. My Junior Instructor, Duane Barrett had the job of preparing the juniors for my classes. He did a good job and was a good instructor also and my co-conspirator against the “Man.” Another conspirator and free-thinker was Dale Kovach, the history teacher. We three often felt that we were the only really intelligent persons in the building; actually, the most arrogant three in the building. I think it was because we were more urban and sophisticated and our discussions were about politics and things outside the local farming community. Most of the other teachers were far more rural. We were in the middle of Amish country.

Class Activity Duane Barret is at lower left 

One sad event happened. During September, our class had senior pictures taken. One of my students, Dan Jarvis, was on his way to London, Ohio to have his pictures made and ran off the road, hitting a tree and was killed. I went to the funeral of course. The problem was that in order to receive full funding, a class had to have a minimum of 20 students as of October 31. I found out later that the school didn’t report his death to the state until November. I was never permitted to view the annual report that I was supposed to fill out myself.My supervisor did it and refused to let me see it. If the school had reported the figures properly, my program would have only been half-funded.

In all my teaching career I was only threatened with a law suit once.  One of my students was pregnant, and since we were working with equipment with high EMF output, I gave her alternative work and limited her time on the computer terminals.  What I did not know was that her mother was one of those who searches out ways to initiate lawsuits.  So, she filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming that her daughter was not getting an equal education.  In a preliminary hearing, I presented an OSHA document which directed businesses to limit term exposure for pregnant employees.  I stated that we were obligated to follow OSHA guidelines in the classroom, and that the alternate work given would still qualify her for an occupation in the field.  Her lawyer told her she didn’t have a case and walked out of the hearing.  That was the end of that!

The military recruiters were frequent visitors to the school. The Army National Guard took several of the teachers, including me, to Fort Knox to see the Army in action, hoping we could influence our students to join the National Guard. We actually were able to drive a tank!

 Fort Knox Trip

One of my students David Yoder won first place in the COBOL Programming contest at the state level and was selected to represent Ohio at the National Contest in Houston, Texas. The problem was that David was Amish. He was taking my class in order to modernize the family’s dairy business. The Amish didn’t have modern appliances, electricity or running water in the houses, but the barns had to meet health codes in order to sell milk. He discussed it with his parents and they decided to let him go. I was permitted to take one other student as a voting delegate.

We combined with Westland High School’s Business Department who also had a State Winner and the six of us flew to Houston and rented a van. While there, a number of activities were planned besides the contest. This was a week-long event. We attended a ball game at the Astrodome, went to Six-Flags over Texas amusement park, went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston Beach and rode the bulls and danced the two-step at Gilly’s in Pasadena.

When we got back, my supervisor was upset because we had taken students to a night club event though it was a contest-sponsored event. I explained that the club was open to students only that day, and alcohol was not served while we were there. She grumbled about it for days. I’m not sure how this much exposure to the outside world affected a young man who had never even been to Columbus!


Some of my students over the years 

 As part of my job, I was required to visit the homes of prospective students into the program.  At this time they were in the summer following their sophomore year.  A B+ average was a requirement to get in our program (Duane’s and mine).  We always had more applicants than openings.  So we would review the applications, and start visits.  Duane would choose ten and so would I.  One interview stands out – in fact, I will never forget it.  One young lady lived with her grandmother.  I am going to call her Jill.  When I arrived at the home, Jill was not there.  Her grandmother said she had gone to the store for ice cream and would be right back.  While waiting, I asked her grandmother about Jill.  Was she involved in school activities, community activities, hobbies, etc.  We wanted well-rounded students, those whose interests  were beyond just academics.  She told me that Jill collected lions.  She took me down the hall to Jill’s bedroom, where there were posters of lions on the wall, stuffed lions on the bed, statues on the dresser – lions everywhere!  Grandmother pulled down the bedspread and even the sheets were lion imprints.  Well, Jill came in and I interviewed her and selected her for the class.  During the senior year, Jill became engaged and while on a class break, she and another student who was engaged were comparing notes.  One girl said “I have purchased satin sheets. What kind of sheets do you have Jill?”  Jill replied “Ask Mr. Penry, he will tell you.”  Of course, the immediate response of the class was “Mr. Penry, what were you doing in Jill’s bed?”  For once, I was speechless.  I took the only sane route – Class dismissed!  Kim explained and all was well.  The rest of the staff heard about it (You cannot keep secrets in a school) and had a good laugh at my expense.

Like most teachers, I had alternate employment.  I had my own consulting business, helping people set up PC’s and providing instruction on various software packages.  During one summer, the city of Columbus in conjunction with Ohio State University, established a computer literacy program for the community.  This was called “Summer Tech.”  Many teachers in the area took part as did a host of computer-literate youth who were kept busy repairing terminals, copying disks, and other errands.  David was one of this group.  I taught several courses, including “Visi-Calc Spreadsheet,” “Word Processing,” and “Computer Programming using the BASIC Language.”

In addition, I taught adult education courses in the evening at several locations while at Tolles and later while at the State Department of Education.  These included Tolles, Delaware County JVS, and Tri-Rivers JVS in Marion, Ohio.  Tri-Rivers was really interesting.  The school was using the same computers as Tolles.  However, they had hired a computer manager who was running a scam.  She claimed she needed an assistant – her sister.  The work the two did in an entire day, I could have completed in 15 minutes!  When I came on board, she was worried and refused to give me access to the programs I needed to teach.  She had it set up so I could not use the compiler program.  I needed it since I was teaching programming.  She wouldn’t let any of the teachers in the school have computer access beyond e-mail and using
BASIC, even though the computers were funded by the state for that education.  I went to see her about my needs and she got belligerent.  So, I went to the Superintendent and reported my observations.  He made a few phone calls and found out that the school was being deceived.  Needless to say, the next day, the school staff and I had the access we needed and she and her sister were filing for unemployment.

Besides teaching, I remained busy at Church. We were part of the 4thWard, and I was called to various positions, Ward Clerk, and then a member of the Bishopric, serving as Second Counselor to Bishop Timothy Ortman. First Counselor was Rick Smith, who died several years later of cancer of the spine. Bro Ortman later became the Storehouse Bishop.  Our chapel in Lincoln Village had been purchased from the Baptist Church who was building a new chapel just west of the city of Columbus.  There was a large wooden cross almost 30 feet high at the front of the chapel over the pulpit.  The Bishop had it removed and taken to the church parking lot where it was cut up for firewood using a chainsaw.  The Baptist Church and much of the west side were furious.  Needless to say, the ramifications were not considered by the Bishop and caused a lot of anti-Mormon sentiment for some time.  Eventually the building was sold to the Egyptian Coptic Church, and a new chapel was built in Grove City, Ohio.

I became active in the local scout district – the Great Southwestern District, part of the Central Ohio Council. 


 In 1982, David and I went to Philmont Scout Ranch with the District. Philmont is located in the mountains of New Mexico and is a wilderness adventure.We went by bus and hiked and camped in the wilderness for five days and nights. We spent several months getting in physical shape, taking hikes with others that were going and breaking in our hiking boots. We bought the necessary gear, since everything had to be packed in a backpack. David was so small, that I ended up carrying a good portion of his weight allowance.

  Trip to Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron County, New Mexico


In 1983, to celebrate the 150thanniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, we held the Kirtland Encampment.We camped at a local scout reservation, Camp Beaumont, and spent much of our time in historic adventures in Kirtland and the vicinity.

 150 year anniversary of restoration of Aaronic Priesthood
Kirtland Scout Encampment 



An incident at scout camp was really quite an experience. We had a curfew and the scouts had to be in the campsites by 10:00 p.m. Then several of us would be assigned as a roving patrol to make sure everything was quiet and in order. I was walking along the lake and saw two scouts walking on the other side. The time was nearly midnight, and I yelled. “You two better get back to camp before I come over and kick your butts!” I got over to the other side and it was a stake president and Brother Vaughn J Featherstone from the First Quorum of Seventies. Brother Featherstone said. “You really scared us Brother.” I was so embarrassed. For years afterward, every time I met Brother Featherstone, he would remind me of the incident. I was hoping he would forget me. Not a chance!

Mary and I were also involved with Campfire, and were leaders for the Council. We were camp leaders at Camp Ottonwe and Camp Wyandot. All of our children were involved.

Campfire Activities

During December of my sixth year of teaching, I received a phone call from the State Department of Education asking me to come in for a job interview. I had previously turned down three jobs at the state level and wasn’t really interested in leaving Tolles. However, to be polite, I agreed to go. The Comptroller needed an assistant to manage a conversion of the accounting system to conform to the state requirements. He had contacted the Vocational Education office in the department and asked if they knew of anyone who had both the computer and accounting background necessary.They immediately identified me.I interviewed at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon and was offered the position at that time. I refused and told them I would rather teach. On Monday morning, I received a phone call from the department and asked me to reconsider. They offered me an Assistant Director’s position and additional $10,000 per year.This would almost double my teacher’s salary. I couldn’t refuse with five children at home to care for and accepted the offer. The job was to start in January. I told them that I needed to finish the semester and couldn’t be there until late January. They agreed.

I informed the school and the Superintendent was livid. He said I was breaking my contract and that he would have my teaching certificate revoked.I called that State Department and talked to Dr. Horn, the Assistant Superintendent and one of the most powerful men in Ohio. He just laughed and said, “Don’t worry about it. He can’t do a thing.”

So, I finished the semester and moved on.

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