Jack Mowry

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ORAL HISTORIES
Interviewed by
Rich Peppin
Interview date
Location
Telephone conference
Disclaimer text

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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Jack Mowry by Rich Peppin on March 3, 2020,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/47280

For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.

In this interview, Jack Mowry, former owner of Sound & Vibration, discusses his career. He speaks about his time at the Case Institute of Technology where he received a degree in Engineering Administration. He details being a member of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and notes how he began publishing Sound & Vibration to replace the ASA magazine, Noise Control. He speaks to the strength of the staff of his magazine and talks about their first editor, Lou Goodfriend. Mowry discusses his time working with B&K Instruments. Lastly, he discusses launching NoiseExpo, a venue for presentations and training courses on noise and vibration control.

Transcript

Peppin:

Today is March 3, 2020. I’m at my home, and I’m [conducting] a phone interview with Jack Mowry. It’ll be about 10 a.m. when we start. Jack is best known for his publication of Sound & Vibration magazine. Jack, I have a bunch of canned questions that I have to ask. A lot of it has to do with ASA-related things.

Mowry:

Okay.

Peppin:

So, some may not be that germane, and we’ll skip over them. Let me just start right now. What’s your present address?

Mowry:

28303 Osborn Road, Bay Village, Ohio, 44140.

Peppin:

Okay, great. I guess you’re retired now.

Mowry:

Yes, our last issue of S&V was published in December 2017. In 2018, I sold the magazine, Sound & Vibration and the website www.SandV.com to Tech Science Press, Nanjing, China.

Peppin:

Now, these ASA-related questions may not relate at all. Were you a member of ASA (Acoustical Society of America) at all?

Mowry:

Yes. I became a member of ASA in 1960, I received a quarter-century Silver Certificate in 1985 and a half-century Gold Certificate in 2009.

Peppin:

How old were you at the time, about?

Mowry:

I was thirty when I became a member.

Peppin:

Okay. Why did you join ASA?

Mowry:

Because I started working for the Brush Development Company in Cleveland, Ohio. The company later became Brush Electronics and then a subsidiary of Clevite. They were the U.S. distributor for the Danish firm Brüel & Kjær. I started as a product design engineer, but then I transferred to sales and started selling Brüel & Kjær instruments. Since their product line was mainly for noise and vibration measurements, I felt it was appropriate for me to become a member of ASA, which I did.

Peppin:

Were you on any committees or anything?

Mowry:

No.

Peppin:

Okay.

Mowry:

I never really participated in any ASA activities — I was just a member.

Peppin:

Right. Gotcha. How about the members of ASA? Did any of them influence you at all? Did you go to the meetings?

Mowry:

Many ASA members were certainly potential customers for Brüel & Kjær products. Also, at that time, ASA had good exhibitions as a part of their meetings. So, we participated in the exhibitions and I got to know lots of ASA people.

Peppin:

Good. Okay. Did you belong to any other organizations besides ASA?

Mowry:

Yes, I became a member of SAE, The Vibration Institute, ASHRAE, IEST, SEM and others.

Peppin:

Yeah. Is The Vibration Institute still around?

Mowry:

Oh, yes.

Peppin:

That was Ron Eshelman, right?

Mowry:

Yes. He’s still living, as far as I know, although we both have voice disabilities. I lost half of my larynx to cancer. So, what you hear now is what you’re going to get (laughter).

Peppin:

(Laughter) Okay. Good, good. Have you ever done an oral interview for any other organization?

Mowry:

Well, again, I’ve participated in exhibitions, you know, when I was selling Brüel & Kjær instruments, but that was really my only participation as members of these other organizations.

Peppin:

Gotcha. Okay, now a little bit of past history.

Mowry:

Sure.

Peppin:

Where and when were you born?

Mowry:

I was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, December 6, 1930. Can you believe that?

Peppin:

1930! Incredible. You’re doing good.

Mowry:

Yeah, I’m doing my best — Lois and I are both enjoying our retirement and are trying to figure out how we can accommodate our bucket list, which we haven’t done yet.

Peppin:

I know. I know what you mean. Well, if you put taking a nap on your bucket list, that might go okay.

Mowry:

Oh, I do that all the time.

Peppin:

Okay, that’s good. That’s good. Okay, let’s see. Did you live other places besides Cleveland?

Mowry:

Again, I was born in Erie. I came to Cleveland to go to what was then the Case School of Applied Science. It subsequently became Case Institute of Technology and its now part of Case Western Reserve University.

Peppin:

Right.

Mowry:

I came to Cleveland in 1948 and it took me six years to finish a four-year course, and I graduated with a B.S. degree in Engineering Administration in 1954.

Peppin:

What about your parents? What were their names and their occupations?

Mowry:

My mother died when I was about six years old, and then my father was kicked out of the house due to infidelity by my grandmother. So, I really didn’t have much of a relationship with my father. Both my sister and I were raised by an aunt and an uncle. Their name was Krueger, and that’s my middle name. My full name is Jackson Krueger Mowry.

Peppin:

And the Kruegers were who, again?

Mowry:

My grandmother was the mother of my uncle, Irwin Krueger, who raised me. He was a general practitioner, a doctor. In those days, he made house calls, and I can’t tell you how many times he answered the phone and I heard him say, “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.” I heard that hundreds of times. In those days, doctors made house calls, so he was always on the road.

Peppin:

Right. I remember. What did you do when you were a kid? Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Mowry:

Well, I became quite an accomplished musician on the flute and piccolo, and I was wondering: what should I do? Should I try to be a professional musician, or should I try engineering? I loved to mess around with electricity and electronics and all sorts of stuff and I said to myself, “I think I want to be an engineer.” So, I wrote letters to two schools: The Case School of Applied Science and I think one of the universities in Pittsburgh. I think I wrote to Carnegie Tech. I’m not sure about that. But anyway, the first letter that came through was from The Case School of Applied Science, and they accepted me, so that was that. I was then determined to be an engineer. I don’t mess around with the flute anymore. I thought, gee, I could participate in music at Case, but then I’d never tried any athletics. So, I decided to do the athletics. Because I had never done any athletics previously, I choose a sport where everybody is starting from scratch. That was fencing. So, I was a fencer for a while, specializing in the epee.

Peppin:

That’s something. So, looking back, were there any people or persons that influenced you in some ways about either engineering or fencing? (laughter)

Mowry:

Well, again, I will never forget one of my professors, a guy by the name of Rib Meredith. He taught engineering management, and he was a terrific guy, loved by everybody. And he wrote on one of my quizzes that came back. He says, “You have a great sense of humor.” And I never forgot that. So, I don’t know if I do or not, but he said that I did.

Peppin:

That counts. Yeah.

Mowry:

But he was, I think, influential. I was not a very good student. I graduated in Engineering Administration, which was the only thing I could pass. I had to take calculus and analytical geometry twice; but I did graduate.

Peppin:

But you did stick to it. That’s something. You know? You didn’t quit.

Mowry:

In between college sessions, I worked for thirteen months running turret lathes at a company called Warner and Swasey, which is no longer in existence. I was working the night shift and tried to sleep during the day. It was very difficult. I remember the shift foreman, a guy by the name of Carl Shrey. One time, I fell asleep standing in front of a running turret lathe, and he called me into his office. He says, “This is not for you. Get the hell out of here and go back to school,” which I did. Then I graduated.

Peppin:

That’s a good story. Hey, that’s nice. Did you do anything like, say, in politics, with rallies, or protests, or anything like that?

Mowry:

No. No, I never got involved with politics. I thought politics was a messy business. If you go into politics, you throw away your privacy, and I greatly valued my privacy, so I never got involved.

Peppin:

Right. Okay. Would you do it again? Like, if you had it to do again, would you go back to Case?

Mowry:

Oh, sure. Case was a marvelous engineering college. I was quite active for a while with the Case Alumni Association. I helped interview applicants for scholarships and so on, and I also did a book for the Case Alumni Association, called The Little Brown Book, which is a marvelous little book. If you knew everything in that little book, you would be considered pretty damn smart. I did that book for the Case Alumni Association. The book is not available for sale. I also published Martin Hirschorn’s autobiography Can You Hear Me? and I am the coauthor with Ghita Borring, a Danish journalist, of Journey to Greatness, the story of Brüel & Kjær.

Peppin:

Okay, great. Did you do any graduate school?

Mowry:

No.

Peppin:

Okay, let’s see. I’m moving on here.

Mowry:

I did take a two-week course offered by MIT and chaired by Leo Beranek.

Peppin:

Yeah.

Mowry:

So, I did have a little extra education, but beyond that, I guess I could say I was self-taught.

Peppin:

Was that when you were at Brush?

Mowry:

Yes, I left Brush to help start B&K Instruments in Cleveland in 1958

Peppin:

How did that take place? Because you were working for Brush.

Mowry:

The contract between Brush and Brüel & Kjær was cancelled. So, five of us left Brush to form B&K Instruments in Cleveland which became the U.S. representative for Brüel & Kjær.

Mowry:

I stayed with B&K Instruments until 1966. I loved the green boxes (Brüel & Kjær products), I loved the Danes and I loved my job, but I wasn’t getting along with Jim Day, the boss, so I knew I had to leave and get the hell out of there. Well, I hadn’t determined what I was going to do with my life at that point, so I think I had three choices. I could be a sales rep, but I’d already done that. So, I didn’t think I wanted to continue being a salesman. I could be a consultant, but I didn’t think I was smart enough to be a consultant. So, one of the guys who was helping with advertising says, “Why don’t you start a magazine?” I says “well, I don’t know a damn thing about magazines, but that sounds like a great idea.” So, we were replacing the ASA-published Noise Control. You probably remember that magazine.

Peppin:

Yes.

Mowry:

And when ASA stopped publishing that, I thought, “Well, there’s a real opening for a magazine covering noise and vibration control.” So, Lois, my wife, and I talked it over and agreed, “Let’s go ahead and do it.” And of course, I was way ahead, because I knew most of the people in the business. I had been a supplier to them, and they knew me, so I kind of had a head start. Lois had lots of business experience and was deeply into computers. Between us, with help from our contacts, we continued to get things started. Although, for the first three years, we never made a dime. It was pretty difficult to keep bread on the table. I presented courses in noise and vibration control, and I had quite a few clients and made many trips to teach at Ford Motor in Dearborn. I also presented some courses for Wayne Tustin. You remember Wayne.

Peppin:

Oh, sure.

Mowry:

I did a number of courses for him. So, for the first three years, that’s pretty much how I kept bread on the table.

Peppin:

I think you and I met at one of your short courses. I was working for Donley Miller & Nowikas at the time.

Mowry:

Yes. That’s probably true, yes.

Peppin:

Would 1972 make sense for you to do short [courses]?

Mowry:

That’s about right, yes.

Peppin:

Okay.

Mowry:

I remember Donley Miller and Nowikas. Of course, you remember Wally Nowikas killing himself coming into Cleveland in his airplane.

Peppin:

Right.

Mowry:

He crashed into a house on approach to Cleveland Lakefront airport.

Peppin:

I do. I remember. Right.

Mowry:

Yup.

Peppin:

Okay, so more stuff. So, were you ever in the military?

Mowry:

No. In 1950, I was drafted, but was considered 4F. I had a skin condition, so they kicked me out. Otherwise, I would have ended up in the Korean War.

Peppin:

That’s something. Okay. So, right after Case, you went to Brush.

Mowry:

Yes.

Peppin:

Is that right? Okay, good. I’ve got that stuff. I have a simple question. Did you ever write a book, or get something published? Sure. So, we’ll get to that in a second about the history of Sound & Vibration magazine. Let’s do your family. So, your present marital status?

Mowry:

Yes, I’m married happily to Lois, for fifty-one years (laughter).

Peppin:

(Laughter) Yeah.

Mowry:

We got married in ’61.

Peppin:

What was her maiden name?

Mowry:

Morgan.

Peppin:

Morgan. Lois —

Mowry:

Lois Anne Morgan.

Peppin:

And did she ever do any work, or is she a housewife?

Mowry:

Yeah. Well, she was a corporate principal, IT and business manager. With varying emphasis for the entire fifty-one years that we published. Lois was a very distinguished member of the computer techies. She was one of few female systems engineers in the country when we started. She started working for Westinghouse Research, in Pittsburgh, later the Atomic Energy division, and then she went to work for IBM on a special reactor code rewriting project named PDQ. And the last year that she was employed, she was stationed at NASA here in Cleveland, working on lunar travel calculations.

Peppin:

Yeah. How did you two meet?

Mowry:

Well, she was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but her sister was here in Cleveland, whom I knew well. Her sister had regular parties on weekends. So, Lois would come up for the parties. And, I got to know her. The interesting part is just how we got together. Lois was, I felt, kind of unattainable. She was going to marry this lawyer, or that corporate manager, whatever. But anyway, I was working for B&K Instruments at the time. it was May 1961. And I had found out that Lois was going to take a vacation to Nassau with two of her girlfriends. I said, “Boy, what a great idea. I’ll schedule my vacation to Nassau, so I can have somebody to enjoy vacation with.” So, I went down to Nassau, and Lois and I got along nicely. I’ll just condense the story greatly, but we kind of hit it off together, and by Friday, Lois said, “Why don’t we get married?” I said, “That sounds like a great idea.” I rescheduled my return to Cleveland with a stop in Pittsburgh to meet her family. My major concern was how her brother George (six foot two and 250 lbs. of muscle) would react to the news. He immediately said, “Quick, call the relatives before he changes his mind!” I then knew I was “home free.” We got married the very next September. I could tell you lots of additional details about the story, but some things are better just remembered.

Peppin:

What year was?

Mowry:

1961.

Peppin:

Alright. Okay. And what about kids? I know you have one, at least.

Mowry:

We had two. We had a boy — a man, now — John, and a daughter, Jennifer. John is working in California. He spent over twenty-five years in the Marine Corp. He’s now working as director of security for a large Cushman-Wakefield property in Sacramento, CA. Jenn is still working for B&K, which has become HBK. So, HBM and Brüel & Kjær combined companies about a year ago. Jenn is still working for them. She’s managing exhibitions, seminars and sales meetings for the company. Yeah. And of course, I’m still in touch with her, so it’s nice. It’s nice. Yes. Jenn lives just south of us.

Peppin:

Okay.

Mowry:

Jenn is married, and I have one grandchild: a dog, named Bella (laughter).

Peppin:

Whose? Daughter’s or son’s “kid”? (Laughter)The grandchild — whose grandchild is it? Whose child is it?

Mowry:

Jenn did not have any children, so —

Peppin:

No, no. Right. So, in other words, it’s Jenn’s dog.

Mowry:

And son John has two daughters and a stepson.

Peppin:

Okay. Oh, okay. So, you have two grandkids, and a grand-dog.

Mowry:

Yeah.

Peppin:

Okay, gotcha. Gotcha. So, do you have any interests, like sports, or books, or hobbies or anything now?

Mowry:

Well, I’ve been doing work on this damn house, you know, since we moved here in ’63, and I’m still doing the house maintenance. I took up running thirty-eight years ago. I have finished 25 marathons, numerous shorter races and hold many place finishes in my age group at the time. I can’t run anymore, but I still do a couple of miles walking three times a week. I have also been a private pilot off and on since 1955. But I’m currently inactive. Lois and I have done a lot of flying off and on over the years. We have flown ourselves throughout the U.S., to Canada and the Bahamas.

Peppin:

Did you own an airplane?

Mowry:

No, I am a member of a flying club.

Peppin:

A club. Right. Right. Okay. Now, by the way, this will be transcribed, and you’ll have a chance to edit it and make changes or delete things, if you find you want to do that.

Mowry:

Okay. Sounds fine.

Peppin:

Yeah. Now, let’s just go back one minor — and it’s really the last — almost the last thing, but as far as Sound & Vibration magazine: so, you started it off — what did you say, in ’66, was it?

Mowry:

We started the company, Acoustical Publications Incorporated. We formed that company in 1966. And in fact, we’re going to dissolve the corporation this year. But then we published for the first time in January ’67, and the last time in December of 2017. Fifty-one years.

Peppin:

And so, how did it start off? You got special people to write some articles about it?

Mowry:

Yes. We’ve always had great contributors. I think we had the best of the best on our editorial staff.

Peppin:

Yes.

Mowry:

We started out with Lou Goodfriend as the first editor. In fact, I think I mentioned that in that PDF file that I gave you.

Peppin:

Yeah.

Mowry:

That story is in my Publisher’s Notes, which appeared in the December ’17 issue. I mentioned how Lou and I got together. We added I suppose, at least fifty contributing editors over the years.

Peppin:

Yeah.

Mowry:

And thousands of authors of papers. So, I kind of think we were able to attract the best of the best.

Peppin:

Yes. And you organized some exhibits too?

Mowry:

Yes, we launched NoiseExpo in 1973 as a venue for presentation of papers and training courses on noise and vibration control and a product exhibition. We published hard-bound proceedings of the conference papers. NoiseExpo was presented nine times in a number of locations.

Peppin:

Yes. And the magazine stayed as popular as ever.

Mowry:

So, we tried to keep the quality of the magazine at the top. I think we maintained that over the years.

Peppin:

Oh, I think so, too. It was really — I really miss it. I miss that magazine. What happened — so, I guess it flourished, even during a time when magazines became online. How did —

Mowry:

We never did publish an online version. But interestingly enough, the Chinese company is publishing an online-only version six times a year. I haven’t seen any American authors in there. They’re publishing mainly scientific papers from Chinese authors.

Peppin:

Yeah. Right. Right. And many of the papers in JASA are authored by people with Asian names.

Mowry:

So, it’s not the same.

Peppin:

Now, I remember when I was at Scantek anyway, you know, we advertised with you, but you never solicited for advertising, did you? Or, I never got a solicitation. It seemed like the people, as far as I know — we were drawn to advertise in Sound & Vibration because it was the magazine to read in noise and vibration. That’s how I felt.

Mowry:

That’s correct.

Peppin:

Yeah. Yeah. It was amazing. Amazing. It was a big loss, you know, I think, for the acoustical community by it being sort of switched over. But of course, I could see you had no choice. It was mostly you wanted to get out of the whole — you wanted to retire, finally. Right?

Mowry:

Yeah.

Peppin:

Yeah.

Mowry:

Well, again, of course, when the magazine business went to hell in the last five years that we published, you know, both advertising and circulation had started to dry up completely, and we couldn’t support it financially. We didn’t want to go to subscriptions only. It was always free.

Peppin:

Right.

Mowry:

So, Lois and I said: well, we can’t keep it going. We did underwrite it for about the last three years.

Peppin:

Right.

Mowry:

So, I said, “It’s time to close it up.” So, we did, but it was fortunate in a way that the Chinese company was willing to buy the magazine and the website for $100,000.

Peppin:

They got a deal. But how did they find out that you wanted to sell it? Did you put out feelers?

Mowry:

They came to me. I did not find them. But when they said they’re interested in buying, I said, “Sure, go ahead.” So, we worked out a deal in 2017, and closed it in 2018.

Peppin:

Great. What a great story. Alright. So, just a couple other things now. So, do you have any plans for the future, besides fixing the house?

Mowry:

Lois and I would like, while we’re still able, to do a little bit of traveling, but that’s about it.

Peppin:

Yeah. Yeah, I don’t blame you. Okay. Alright, good. We’re almost done. So, do you want to add anything else? You can always do it —

Mowry:

Send me the transcript when you get it done, and maybe I can think of some funny stuff to stick in there-

Peppin:

Right.

Mowry:

-which I will do when I get it.

Peppin:

Okay. That’s great. So, what I do is I send this thing to AIP, they transcribe it, and then I get it first. I take a look at it, and you get it, too. So, you get my —

Mowry:

Okay. Sounds good.

Peppin:

Okay. Alright, Jack. Thanks very much.

Mowry:

Sounds good, Rich.

Peppin:

Okay. It’s wonderful to talk to you. Okay.

Mowry:

Good to talk to you.

Peppin:

Okay. Bye bye.

Mowry:

Bye, Rich.