Texas Engineering and Manufacturing Company (TEMCO) was founded in Grand Prairie in 1945 by Robert R. McCulloch and H. L. (Bert) Howard. World War II had ended and many of the plants that had produced the thousands upon seemly endless thousands of aircraft and other war materials needed to win the war were closing down. The North American Aviation plant in Grand Prairie, Texas was no exception, until these two North American executives along with other employees found a way to utilize it and keep it open.
With one of the highest production records of any wartime aircraft factory, the Government-built plant at Grand Prairie formerly operated by North American Aviation, Inc., had little chance of postwar utilization. Industrialists studied its possibilities for a wide range of manufacturing. Even Chamber of Commerce scouts came to realize the truth of what J. H. Kindelberger, president of North American, had told them. The huge windowless plant was too big for anything but war production; lighting, air-conditioning and maintenance costs would be prohibitive. It looked like abandonment for the five year-old $30,000,000 facility and the 40,000-odd men and women it had trained to operate its high-production machinery. But inside North American’s workforce the gloom wasn’t so real. `Division Manager Robert McCulloch and Division Comptroller H. L. Howard, with several members of the staff, had been searching individually and on their own for a plan they could test if and when the decision to abandon were made. In huddles over lunch and during studious after-work sessions they surveyed the salvage possibilities of the unwanted resources the Government was releasing. What they came up with was the opportunity of a lifetime---if it worked. Success of their efforts has since resulted in the aviation industry’s most unique and outstanding conversion accomplishments. “We figured we could do what large firms such as North American couldn’t undertake for practical reasons, ”McCulloch recalls. “We could afford to start small and build from there. There were problems, all right, but we formulated an agreement for partial utilization and prorated expenses whereby the Government and we could both profit while the factory could be retained on a standby status as military property.” McCulloch and his group organized the Texas Engineering & Manufacturing Co., Ltd., as partnership on December 1, 1945, with a total investment of $250,000. The company name was chosen as a catchall to attract any manufacturing business, although first and foremost this was to be an aircraft company. They purchased $100,000 of tools formerly owned by North American, and leased $850,000 worth from the government. Twelve of them started the venture---their payroll barely six months later carried 2,000 persons, and they were utilizing over 500,000 square feet of space. Know-how was the most valuable asset the new firm salvaged from the war-weary plant, which had produced 24,000 fighters, bombers, trainers and transports in five years. At peak efficiency it turned out over 700 airplanes in a single month, a record. The New company benefited greatly from key personnel from the former North American plant, such as Ted Beck, chief engineer; Bob Yonash, chief tooling engineer; Otto Witbeck, superintendent of final assembly; Al Graff, general plant superintendent; O. A. Berthiaume, superintendent of sheet metal detail; John Maxwell, director of factory coordination and planning, and many supervisors and foremen – all top in their skill – who became mechanics and leadmen. In turn, they selected the cream of North American’s work force and added them to the team as fast as production could be expanded. “It was an opportunity you wouldn’t expect again in 100 years,” recalled a Temco veteran who had a hand in the picking. “I needed 25 men for maintenance, and I could choose from 1,200 men who had handled maintenance for North American. It was that way in all departments. We had the privilege of handpicking about 300 men out of 25,000.
Temco’s first order was for production components and parts for Fairchild’s C-82 Packet, the AAF’s newest transport, which North American had been manufacturing on a sub-contract. Later when Fairchild’s Personal Planes Division found itself crowded out of its Hagerstown plant with no room for production of its 4-place commercial F-24, Temco was awarded an order for 200 planes with a possibility of increasing the order to 300. Using Fairchild’s jigs and fixtures, which were shipped from Maryland to Temco’s plant. Temco completed its first F-24 in March of that year (1946) and before long was delivering them at a rate of one per day. The company landed its first large contract for commercial airplanes – when Globe Aircraft Corporation, of Ft. Worth ordered 1500 all-metal, two place, 125-hp. Swifts and placed with Temco its Fort Worth facility’s total requirements for subassemblies and parts. In addition, Temco was doing a large business converting surplus military aircraft, chiefly transports. Revamped, the same assembly line that produced thousands of fighters and trainers converted over thirty large cargo planes, including four-engine C-54’s, from military to commercial transports. Smaller planes were also being converted, including twin-engine AT-11 Beechcrafts and even AT-6 trainers, the latter having been manufactured originally in the same plant. Temco’s chief business was airplanes, but its engineers had plans for several products not related to aviation. The first of these was a unique coin-operated popcorn machine – Temco simplified a customer’s design and won a $960,000 contract for 14,000 of them, to be manufactured at a rate of 2000 monthly. The partnership realized its conversion problems wouldn’t be over until it settled down to stable peacetime manufacturing on a competitive basis. “For this we are ready”, McCulloch had commented. At 42 McCulloch had twenty-two years of aviation engineering and manufacturing experience behind him. The group of executives that started this new organization were men who were determined to exercise the initiative, the energy, and the courage that is necessary to continue a growing business. With limited capital, but with years of aircraft experience and knowledge behind them, they were managing one of the largest aircraft conversion centers in the United States, or for that matter the world.