In an email from Lee Kyser to Bob Bolton et al, dated April 1, 2008, Lee writes…
The hard hats were a requirement when RFML started. As you recall, Bob, anytime any launch crew member went onto a pad, a hard hat was mandatory. I’m thinking that requirement lasted for 1 – 2 years, maybe changing in late ’62 or early ’63.
For some reason, I was filling in for another crew chief, after I had been off for my 4 day break, so, I wasn’t with any of my regular crew. It was a day shift and some Colonel, with his entourage, was making the rounds.
The Colonel and his 2 escorts came into our blockhouse (#2 at Site 3). After the cordial greetings, the Colonel began asking each individual what he thought of wearing the hard hats on the pads.
The first person, one of the Mechs, said that he would rather NOT have to wear them. I was next and said that I preferred wearing them. I could hear some gasps from behind me. The Colonel looked at me with an earnest eye, apparently surprised at my response. He then asked me to explain why I preferred wearing them.
I told him that I had hit the translauncher several times when out there while wearing the helmet and that I had not suffered any kind of harm. But, I also said, almost in the same breath, that there is the possibility that I would NOT have hit my head if I had NOT been wearing the hard hat since the top of the hard hat was extended at least one inch above the top of my head.
The Colonel commented that that was an interesting point. He then got “NO” votes from the other two crew members and departed the blockhouse.
As soon as the door closed, I got a briefing that was supposed to have been done prior to me going on duty. Apparently, during my time off, the word had been passed around that the Colonel was going to make a decision on the wearing of the hard hats since there had been a lot of complaints about having to wear them. So, everyone was supposed to say that they did NOT like them.
The LO apologized for not briefing me, but, then commented that it might have been a blessing in disguise. By having someone say that they liked them helped to make it appear that the replies weren’t biased.
In short order, the word came down, no more hard hat requirements. I have often wondered if I was the only person on duty that day to have said I liked them.
As the saying goes, “There is always someone who doesn’t get the message!”. In that case, it was me.