Days to Remember
HP employees, alumni and dignitaries gather for garage rededication
The morning of December 6 dawned crisp and clear, defying earlier predictions of imminent rain. Sunlight sparkled on frosty lawns and the sky above the tiny 12x18 foot garage on Addison Avenue seemed especially blue.
CEO Mark Hurd hosted the founders’ families, HP employees - several of whom had worked for decades with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard - Silicon Valley notables and historians. Even Apple Computer co-founder and HP alum Steve Wozniak came to pay homage to the humble garage in its restored glory.
In brief remarks of appreciation for those involved in bringing the preservation and rehabilitation efforts for the iconic garage and adjoining buildings to its completion, Mark appeared to respond in the way most folks do who stand before the spot where the founders began their work 66 years ago.
“It’s kind of a humbling thing,” he said.
While out front the usually quiet neighborhood bustled with news reporters and television camera crews, Mark was joined at the garage by Palo Alto Mayor Jim Burch, who proclaimed the day HP Garage Commemoration Day. Mark’s warm appreciations to the neighbors for their patience during 10 months of construction included an impromptu personal thank you to one neighbor and her small son who were snapping photographs from their backyard balcony.
Palo Alto Mayor Jim Burch presents Mark with a proclamation declaring December 6, 2005, HP Garage Commemoration Day. HP and the city worked closely together on the project.
A sampler of guests
Present in the driveway leading to the garage were a corps of venerable HP retirees, many hired by Bill and Dave in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Standing among them was Art Fong, brilliant engineer now 88, who was recruited from MIT in 1946 Bill Hewlett. Former CEO John Young was there.
So was Dave Kirby, 81, who in the 1960s establish HP’s Public Relations department and remained Dave’s speech writer for more than 30 years. And there were many, many others whose names may be less celebrated but were no less integral in building, arguably, the most revered company in technology history.
Susan Packard Orr, Jim and Walter Hewlett, daughter and sons of the company’s founders, seemed pleased with the preservation efforts and the rehabilitation of the house and shed, although they were born long after their fathers labored in the tiny garage. Walter had walked to the ceremonies from his nearby home.
Twenty-six current employees selected from across the company to attend - as part of the HP Ambassador Program, coinciding with the rededication events - drank in the once in a lifetime event.
They mingled with members of HP’s Board of Directors, Executive Council and many were drawn into “Bill and Dave” stories that those who worked with and knew the founders love to tell.
Michael Malone, author and HP alum, called the scene “quite moving” in his subsequent column. He articulated the sentiments of many with an appreciation of the fact that from humble beginnings in a simple garage, the founders had placed the world on a path of continuous innovation, “the likes of which humanity has never known.”
Roger Kohler, head of the Palo Alto historic resources board later said he was very happy with the tender loving care HP has bestowed upon its birthplace and compared it to preserving the laboratory where Edison invented the light bulb.
“This,” he said, “is the 20th century version of the light bulb.”
Revered HP retiree, Art Fong followed Bill Hewlett out from MIT in 1946, and still closely tracks HP news. Here, he discusses HP’s competitive position with Mark Hurd and Anna Mancini.
(Left to right) Former HP CEO John Young, Mark Hurd, Susan Packard Orr and James Hewlett paused their conversation for a photograph in front of the landmark garage.
For six days only
Following the ribbon cutting and reception, the property transformed to the temporary site of tours that included the recreated three-room flat where Dave and Lucile shared the first years of their married life; Bill’s bachelor quarters - really little more than an un-insulated hut - and the preserved garage with a recreated workbench.
Anna Mancini, HP’s Corporate Archivist, made sure that the reconstructed tableaus in all three buildings contained the touchstones that conjure familiar refrains of Silicon Valley legends so often repeated nowadays — the oscillator on the mantel; an upright typewriter; Lucile’s stove with an oscillator panel suspended in the oven; Bill’s cot out back with a shirt hanging on a nail; and, of course, a drill press like the one Dave brought from Schenectady in the rumble seat of his car.
The by-reservation-only tours were open to HP employees for the first three and a half days and then to the general public for the next three. They booked up quickly with people seizing the only chance in the foreseeable future to tour the property. The experience seemed to generate a remarkable buzz from those lucky enough to travel on small buses from staging areas in Cupertino and Palo Alto.
Following the ribbon cutting, the property was opened to HP employees and the public. Tours by appointment only helped to reduce traffic on the normally quiet street.
It all started here
There were a notable number of children brought along by parents, some of whom were taking notes and planning on making reports to their classmates upon their return to school. One of them asked whether Bill and Dave were brothers.
The docent patiently explained that while they were not born in the same family, they were like brothers in many other ways, and that while they sometimes disagreed, they always worked it out and everyone was better off because of it.
“Beautiful,” “Emotional,” “Such an honor,” “Unbelievable” and many other superlatives were heard in murmured tones as groups of 15 were taken through each building by docents every half-hour.
The stable of docents - made up of HP retirees, neighbors and local history buffs - reported that most people were quiet and reverent, almost as though they were touching something larger than life. Most jumped at the chance to have their picture taken in front of the garage.
It wasn’t just the meticulous restoration of the property that elicited these responses although, certainly, that must have been part of it.
Even the house is a far cry from grand. People seemed to really begin to comprehend the leanness of the times once they entered Bill’s Spartan bunkhouse. And by the time they entered the garage, the true impact of the enormity of what began there seemed to settle in on their shoulders.
Responding to questions about if she thought the founders, who were noted for their lack of sentiment, would be pleased, Anna Mancini, who was onsite to answer questions for many of the tours, smiled, looked into the garage and said “We hope so.”
Outside the garage, Dave Kirby said: “People like to visit some place and say, ‘Boy, right here, this happened.’” And his observation seemed to bear out as one-by-one they filed into an otherwise ordinary garage and looked at sets of otherwise ordinary tools.
Each in their own way seemed to somehow absorb an appreciation of how it is that two truly great men began, perhaps, one of the greatest technology stories of all time.
Long-time HP employees wasted no time in examining the workbench and equipment. A few offered up stories and details that will help to enhance the displays even further.
A dedication marker for the late Greg Winter rests just outside the garage. It was Greg’s vision for a preserved garage that served as inspiration throughout the project.
Out of respect
Out of respect for the privacy of the neighbors and in compliance with Palo Alto residential zoning regulations, after the last tour departed December 12, the property is closed and will be used only occasionally for Corporate functions. HP will work with the city to determine future public openings of the property. Employees are able to stop by the property anytime and take pictures of the HP garage through the front fence.
Garage news sweeps media
News of the restoration of the HP garage swept through the media and generated an enthusiastic and voluminous response. From the local to the international levels; print, online, radio and television outlets embraced the story.
Print coverage included feature articles in:
- Reuters - “Garages Have Mythic Power in Silicon Valley”
- New York Times - ”Shrine to Hours of Tinkering”
- Financial Times (Germany) - “Nach dem Prinzip Garage”
- San Francisco Chronicle - “High tech’s lowly birthplace”
- San Jose Mercury News - “Makeover of an Icon”
- Los Angeles Times - “Restoring HP to its Original Condition”
- Bloomberg – “Hewlett Packard’s Hurd Opens Door on Restored Garage” and
- Palo Alto Weekly - “Famed HP Garage Gets Face ‘Lift’”
Online Coverage included:
- CNN.com - where the Reuters story appeared alongside photos of the garage.
- ABCNews.go.com - in Michael Malone’s column “Remembering the HP Way”
- BusinessWeek.com - Techbeat blog
- Wire Photos were carried by:
- Associate Press
- Getty Images
Television and Radio coverage included:
- KGO (ABC) San Francisco -– multiple newscasts
- KNTV (NBC) San Francisco — multiple newscasts
- KPIX (CBS) San Francisco -– multiple newscasts
- KRON (independent) San Francisco
It is estimated that the print coverage alone captured the attention of millions worldwide.