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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Hi! I'm Carol, Carl's wife. I feel almost as honored to be invited by Charlie to write this chapter as I felt when Carl invited me to be part of his family, which ultimately led to being part of the Gang. I remember when Carl first asked me out on a date. It was in the fall of our senior year of high school. By then Tim was a local hero, in the school as well as in all of Minneapolis. And his brother was asking me for a date! I hoped that, at least, it would be fun and that maybe I'd get the chance to meet Tim and perhaps get to know him.

Well, I did get to meet Tim, and the whole family. But I soon realized that Carl was a pretty wonderful guy in his own right. He wasn't as athletic as Tim, but he was just as smart and just as nice. And, while Tim is really cute, Carl is handsome. Really handsome. Do I sound biased? Well, sure. But it's all true. Handsome, smart, nice. And soon he was falling in love with me. Me! How could I ever have been so lucky?

I had a pretty good relationship with my folks, and soon I had an even better one with Norman and Betsy. They treated Carl and Tim as adults and equals, and Carl and Tim treated them the same way. I quickly became part of the family. I learned about Charlie, Tim's secret love. Charlie was this mysterious presence in the house. He was never there, but they worried about what he'd think, whether he'd like this or that, what he might be doing at any given time. Soon Carl shared with me that Tim was gay and Charlie was his lover, sort of. That seemed strange because Tina was underfoot all the time, and clearly was Tim's lover. They were pretty open about a sexual relationship.

One day Carl and I were driving in his car. I remember that we were headed over to St. Paul on some kind of date. Probably to see some local band. Carl seemed really nervous; like he had something on his mind but was having a hard time saying it. Finally he said, "Carol, we've never talked about sex."

"We've never done anything about it either, Carl."

"I know we've never done anything it. I respect you too much to have pushed it. But it seems to me that we're falling in love and the time to think about sex is upon us."

"Probably so."

"I'm getting embarrassed, but I think the most embarrassing part of this conversation is admitting where it came from."

"I'll bite. Where did it come from?"

"I don't like to admit that I follow the lead of my little brother and his girl, but they insist that you can't have sex with a girl until you can talk about it. They've insisted that we have to have this conversation before I can even touch you in an interesting place."

"Tim's a smart boy. Tina's a smart girl. You're smart too, Carl. Did they have to tell you that?"

"Yes, I'm afraid they did. Talking's difficult. It would've been easier to just drape my arm around your neck and let it fall on your...."

"My what?"

"Your ... tits."

"That was hard, wasn't it?"

"Yes. I'm right, it'd be easier to do it than to talk about it."

"But Tim and Tina say talk first?"


"Good. Let's talk. I'm ready. Don't be nervous, Carl."

"Carol, I'm not a virgin. I have to tell you that before we go on."

"OK. That's interesting. You were dating Virginia Lewis, weren't you? She's pretty loose. Did you fuck her?"

"No. I can't tell you who. It wasn't Virginia, but she'd have liked to. But I'd learned my lesson by the time I was dating her and we didn't have intercourse."

"Carl, pull into the park ahead. There's a good view of the river and we can talk more easily."

"Good idea. It a tough conversation at any time; probably not the best time to be driving a car."

"Does the word fuck bother you, Carl?"

"A little."

"You think you'd like to do it, but you don't like saying the word?"

"Stupid, isn't it?"

"More quaint than stupid. Maybe that's why I love you. So, if you didn't have intercourse, did you do other things?"



"This is hard."

"Come on, Carl. You're a big boy, and I'm a big girl. I know all the words; I know what boys and girls do. Were you naked with Virginia?"


"Did she blow you?"

"Oh, God. Yes."

"Did you use your tongue on her?"

"No. I wasn't up to doing that. I used my fingers."

"So you fucked one girl, and went pretty far with Virginia. Any others?"

"Yes, but I never went beyond hands with any others."

"Were you naked with any of the others?"


"I think I've got the picture. Well, Carl, you're more experienced than I am. My hand has roamed around a boy's dick in the movies and in the car. A couple of boys have had their hands up my skirt and inside my panties, but they never did anything but rub. We didn't get to orgasms. Now we both know where we stand. You haven't done anything to be ashamed of and neither have I. And I'd like to do those things with you. Maybe in the car this evening."

Well, we rarely did anything in the car. Carl thought it was too dangerous. Rather we did it at his house, in his room, on his bed. And damned if his parents didn't seem to mind. I would sort of be embarrassed as we came in and went up to his room. They seemed perfectly at ease. Carl told me his father's line about the back forty acres or the car giving teenagers the capability of making their own decisions - the job of the parents was to guide not dictate. Maybe it was the complete freedom that we were provided that helped us decide that we wouldn't fuck while we were still in high school.

I gave Carl two high school graduation presents. The first was a really nice sweater. The second, more private than the sweater, was a box of condoms. He showed them to his parents along with the sweater! I turned red as a beet, but Betsy simply said, "Carol, you're the best thing that's ever happened to my son. Take care of him. Love him. Tonight."

My God, what a mother-in-law I was going to get!

Graduation night I lost my virginity. We were used to each other, used to being naked together, used to giving each other orgasms. But we knew this was different. We had talked about waiting till we were married, but had decided that that'd be at least another year. We weren't willing to wait that long. So graduation night we went up to Carl's room. We undressed each other, aroused each other, played a while. Then Carl got out the package of condoms, unwrapped one, and handed it to me. He lay down and I rolled it onto his penis. The idea of positions hadn't ever been an issue; I think we both just assumed that the missionary position was what we'd do, but we didn't call it that. I don't think we called it anything, but we did it. Does anybody's first time go smoothly? Well, it wasn't Carl's first time, but it was mine. And he assured me that he'd neither learned much the first time, nor remembered anything he'd learned. As I remember that first night, he was right.

But clumsy didn't matter. What mattered is that Carl and I melded into one body for the first time. We knew we were in love, but that night confirmed it for both of us. Am I being a little sentimental? I suppose, but love is sentimental. On our wedding night we talked about whether we were glad or sorry that we hadn't waited. We both agreed that the comfort we both got from having our love physically affirmed was the greater value. We were never sorry.

That senior year of high school we talked a lot, and tried a lot of different things. Carl told me about his father's telling him how to masturbate, and how he had to teach Tim, actually placing Tim's hand for him. Carl told me that he'd had a serious urge to grab Tim's dick and jack him off, but he'd resisted. Not long after that Tim began to discover he was gay, and he talked to his family about it. It made Carl wonder about himself, and he couldn't help but remember his urge to jack Tim off when he'd showed him how to masturbate. But Carl had stronger urges directed toward girls. Through high school he had a series of girlfriends, and was variously sexually involved with them. There was nothing serious. He got serious with me in our senior year.

An incident the next year was a shocker for Carl. The family, especially Tim, were really focused on the pending arrival of Charlie. By Christmastime Tim was so excited he could hardly stand it. I think Norman was trying to relieve the tension when he suggested a last family vacation together in Nevis. Tim, Carl, Norman and Betsy headed there for Christmas. I hated not to have Carl with me for our second Christmas, but I accepted his family's need to be alone together one last time. After all, Charlie and I were breaking up their family in order to create two new ones of our own. Off they went. They all shared a room and Tim and Carl shared a bed. After some pretty frank discussion, Norman and Betsy let their sex lives proceed regardless of the fact that they were sharing the room with their boys. And that first night, Tim slipped down in the bed and sucked Carl. The next night Carl sucked Tim. They continued to explore each other's bodies for the rest of the week in Nevis.

When they got back Carl was really shaken up. The night they got back I stayed over at Carl's house. He told me about what he and Tim had done in bed in Nevis. "Carol, it was gay sex, and with my brother! And I really enjoyed it. Am I gay?"

"Carl, relax. Tim has sex with Tina, but he's gay. You can have sex with a boy, even your brother, and still be straight. It doesn't bother me at all, and it shouldn't bother you. The only thing that would've bothered me is if you hadn't told me all about it. But you did. I love you Carl. Let me suck you like Tim did." And I did. And he told me that it was much nicer when a soft female sucked him than a muscled boy, even, or especially, a brother.

Charlie's arrival in the household certainly heightened the sex. Early one morning shortly after Charlie's arrival Tim and Charlie were over at the high school pool. Carl got me up and we headed over to meet them. On the way Carl said, "I'll bet they're going to be swimming naked in the pool. Will it bother you to walk in on them?"

"I guess not."

"One thing's going to lead to another. Are you ready for it?"

"Carl, you're talking in euphemisms. Say what you mean."

"It we catch them naked in the pool there'll be sex play. We'll end up naked as well. We might get to the point of being fully aroused and having an orgasm. Is that clear enough?"

"Yes. I guess I'm cool with that. It certainly seems that that's where things're leading with the four of us."

Well, it certainly did. Carl was the most embarrassed as they jacked him off in the shower! There was quite a bit of sex play with the four of us as we were together from time to time. But except for Tim and Charlie, Carl's and my sex life was limited to each other. And that meant that while Carl had homosexual experiences with Tim and Charlie, I had never had one.

Boy, did that change in a big way when the Gang went together to Nevis. Somebody got the bright idea that we should all spend some time paired with every other person in the Gang. [Tim just read a draft of this chapter and reminded me that it was I who had suggested that we trade off so everyone got a time with everyone. What does that tell you about me? Don't go there.] It meant that I was going to be paired with a girl for the first time in my life. Since Tina and Merle didn't take that trip with us, there were only three girls: me, Sue and Nancy. I think it may have been the first homosexual experience for any of us. It was also my first experience with a boy other than Carl, Tim, Charlie, and the little bit of playing around I did before I met Carl.

Well, I'd suggested it. I guessed I was up for it. The first night I was paired with Jim. I didn't know him well, but Carl, Tim, and Charlie vouched that every member of the Gang was wonderful. I relied on that, and hoped for the best with Jim. He started out with Tim's rule, "Talk first." It turned out that he was almost as inexperienced as me. He'd had no real experience with girls, though he'd just gotten a new girlfriend, Kara. He guessed he was bisexual, in that he slept regularly with Andy and pined for a girl. He said, "I hope you don't mind if we don't fuck. I want my first time to be with Kara, or whoever turns out to be the 'one'."

"That's fine with me, Jim. You take the lead."

He did. We were only slightly embarrassed as we undressed. We used our hands, but then I made a mistake. Carl and I were used to oral sex, and I started in on Jim. He loved it, and came quickly. But he was used to oral sex with Andy, and wasn't prepared for cunnilingus. I learned that a boy should have that lesson before he has his own orgasm! I got a hand job that evening. It was nice, but fingers aren't as good as tongues.

I got Andy the next day and didn't make that mistake. I'm quite sure that my cunt was the first one his tongue had penetrated. He was a good sport and a fast learner. After that, he was a fast comer as well.

Sue and Nancy were paired before I was paired with either of them. That night they also shared the room with Tim and Charlie. They all did 69. I really don't know if I could've managed that with Tim and Charlie watching! But Sue and Nancy were really good sports. Sue had been through a lot, having been raped before she met Hal. She found Hal, and the Gang, so supportive that she really had no inhibitions with us. So, it came to pass that my first homosexual experience was during an afternoon "nap" with Sue. She was in the room when I came in, and she immediately took me in her arms and hugged and kissed me. Deep kisses like Carl, and also Tim and Charlie, gave me. Then she said, "I think we're both pretty new at this. What would you like to happen?"

I hugged her and simply said, "Everything."

She took off my clothes, then her own. She explored my entire body, with her eyes, then her hands, then her tongue. Every part of me. As deep inside as she could get. I couldn't believe a tongue in my ass, but she pushed in. Then she let me explore her before I had an orgasm. We ended with 69. I'll never forget that experience. I've been especially close to Sue ever since.

We had one less bedroom than couple, so the rule was that when you were paired with your partner, some other pair was with you. Carl and I had Hal and Jim with us one afternoon. Hal and Jim were splendid athletes. Their sex was incredibly rough and athletic. Carl and I were thoroughly aroused watching them wrestle on the floor. Jim actually pinned Hal and sucked him before he'd let him up. Then he grabbed Hal's legs and pushed them up over Hal's head. He had Carl lube him up and then he fucked him - hard. God it was exciting. Then Jim and Hal came over and grabbed me, put me on the bed, pushed my legs up just as Hal's had been, and lubed my ass good. Hal lubed up Carl and he was pushed on top and we were invited to try ass fucking for the first time in our lives. We agreed, and were very gently guided though our first experience. It was wonderful.

I wouldn't trade the experiences we had on that trip to Nevis for anything. And both Carl and I had it completely confirmed that, at least to some extent, we were bisexual, and glad of it.

Well, I guess I'd better move this story along, since you pretty much know our history through college and moving to Bismarck.

Carl did his homework about North Dakota architects during his senior year. Ford, Snyder, and Associates in Bismarck were the top. Carl was the top in his class among the architecture majors, had a pretty good portfolio of designs he'd developed on student projects, and decided that he would interview as well as anybody. He also noted, guiltily, that it wouldn't hurt to mention that he had a brother named Tim, just Tim. As he said, "Greatness rubs off."

So he called Ray Ford the managing partner of the firm, told him who he was, and asked if he could come by and visit. Ford said, "Yes," but noted that they hadn't developed their needs for the next year, and it was really too soon for job interviews. Carl replied that it wasn't a job interview, he just wanted to meet the people that ran the best design shop in North Dakota, if not the whole northern tier of the country.

He was there the day after next, scheduled to spend an hour or so with them that morning. They talked till noon, when Carl invited the whole office, fifteen strong, to lunch. At first they refused, but Carl insists well, and they all accepted his invitation. After lunch Carl asked John Snyder if he'd look over a couple of his designs that he was having problems with. It led to an all afternoon session as Snyder, then Ford, then three other architects poured over Carl's best work - with which he was having no significant problems! By the end of the day they were discussing his future plans, and he indicated he wanted to run his own shop in Grand Forks, but had to learn the ropes in a good shop, and one located in North Dakota. It was obvious to Ford that Carl both wanted very badly to work for Ford and Snyder and would be an outstanding addition to their staff. He had an offer before he left, and he accepted it on the spot.

The trip, including the lunch, cost him almost $500, pretty big money in

1968, but worth every penny as far as Carl was concerned. Ford and Snyder didn't know what had hit them. They really didn't know until one evening, when he was working late, he showed Ray some designs he had sketched out for an apartment proposal the office was working on without success. Tim has already told how the very next day they flew to Sioux Falls and showed off Carl's sketches, which greatly pleased the client.

From that point on Carl was on the design staff of the firm, no longer consigned to the grunt work that keeps an office going. Not everything he did was as successful as those first sketches, but it was clear that he was the rising star of the office. Ray knew that Carl wanted to move to Grand Forks, and there was some discussion of Ford and Snyder opening an office there. Carl declined, saying that he really wanted to be his own boss. He wanted to work a couple of more years in Bismarck and then move on to Grand Forks on his own. Ray and John would be sorry to lose him, but it was clear that they were going to be able to part on friendly terms. It was, after all, exactly what Carl had told them he intended right from that first meeting.

Carl designed small buildings and houses all over North and South Dakota, eastern Montana, and northwestern Minnesota. He developed a good reputation, and was known for bringing in projects on time and under budget. To do that he worked long hours and took great care with details. He firmly believed that it was possible to get the design right the first time, if you took the time to listen to the client, did the right background research, asked the client the right questions, and then created your designs from the client's point of view. Most architects, he argued, drew from their own point of view and then wondered why the client didn't like their wonderful designs. He knew that this approach led to all kinds of change orders, and it was change orders that killed both schedules and budgets. Most buildings would have change orders numbering in two digits and sometimes three. Carl wasn't happy with one, and considered three or four to be a design failure! He worked very hard to get it right the first time.

Carl and I talked long and hard about us as a family. Would I be a stay-at-home mom, or have a career? Would I try to blend a career with motherhood? Did we want children? It made sense while we were in Bismarck to put off having children and have me work. I easily got a job teaching junior high school, and I found that to be interesting, but not something I really wanted to do all my life. The idea of being at home with my children appealed to me. After all, that had been the pattern of my childhood, and I had good memories of times with my mother. The women's lib movement was questioning that decision, but I was secure in my womanhood without the need to prove something with a career. Carl treated me fully as an equal in the marriage, just as his father had treated his mother. Surely Betsy was fulfilled in her life as she watched her two sons mature into manhood. No career woman could possibly have an achievement that exceeded that. Betsy would be my model.

We were delighted when Tim and Charlie moved back to Grand Forks. We knew that it was time for us to plan our move, and Carl told Ray and John that his resignation would be coming soon. They talked about how they'd handle the transition, as they hoped that Carl would continue to work with current clients until projects were finished. That meshed well with Carl's plans, as he knew that it would take a while before he had sufficient clients to keep him busy full time in Grand Forks. Carl very honestly raised the question of client retention. Ray said, very simply, "We're going to have people ask for you. When they do, we'll tell them where you are. If they decide to stick with us, fine. If they would like you, fine. We won't fight over clients; there's plenty of work for all of us in North Dakota and this region."

Carl replied, "I consider the clients I worked with to be clients of Ford and Snyder. If they approach me, that's fine. I won't approach them first." They shook hands on that arrangement, and both sides have kept their bargains. No professional parting has ever gone smoother.

Not long after Carl's conversation with Ray, he got a call from Fred. He got right to the point. "Carl, it's time."

"Time for what?"

"Time to set up shop here in Grand Forks. Tim and Charlie are here, others are heading this way. And you have your first commission."

"My first commission?"

"Yes, Marty needs a gymnasium for a gymnastics school. We have the land, we need a building. How soon can you get here to talk about it?"

Carl thought a little about that, and decided that it was time for action, Tim style. "Tomorrow."

"Good. Come to my house. Marty and I'll be waiting for you. See you in the morning."

Carl and I drove over to Grand Forks early the next morning. On the way we talked about what it was going to take to get started in Grand Forks. Carl told me, "Carol, we don't have enough money saved to make this move yet. I have to rent space, and I have to have at least one, and probably two, people working for me. I need enough money in my pocket to pay those two people for a year; otherwise it isn't fair to hire them."

I said, "Carl, I don't think you really grasped what Fred was saying to you. If he says it's time, he means that the backing is there to make it happen."

"You mean his backing."

"Of course."

"Carol, I have to earn my way in this world. I can't have Fred just setting me up."

"Why not?"

"I don't take charity."

"It isn't charity. You have to remember two things: Fred really wants to do this. It'd be cruel to Fred to refuse. Second, you are going to do well, and Fred's going to make a lot of money out of this."


"Carl, I didn't marry you for a lack of ego. You know you're going to do well, now act like it."

"Thanks, Carol. I needed that boost."

"Now, what're you going to tell Fred?"

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He's going to tell me, and I'm going to nod. When I get my breath back I'm going to say 'Thank you'."

"Wonderful. Now stick to that plan."

Well, Fred did take our breath away. He would build us a building and lease it to us. He would hire our staff through the sporting goods store, thus providing them benefits at the lowest possible costs. He would bill us for their services. We wouldn't be expected to make any payments on those bills until the cash flow would support them. Thus Fred was not going to be an investor in the business; he would, in effect, just be loaning us money, unsecured. It was a sweetheart deal, and Carl accepted immediately. Carl told Fred, "I should protest that you're making me much too good an offer, but you know that. I'll simply say, "Yes," and, "Fred, I love you." He kissed Fred, and got a lovely kiss back.

Marty hadn't said much, but now he came to life. "Your first commission is to design my building."

Fred put in, "And your second commission is for the sporting goods store; it's needs a building to lease to a new architect coming to town, and he's going to need it designed and built right away."

Fred went right to work with Marty, but Marty has already told you that story. The next day Carl tendered his resignation in Bismarck, agreeing to continue those projects on which he was working, where clients requested him to continue. All but one did, and, in fact, it was almost a year before he was able to close out completely in Bismarck. The office there was sorry to lose him this soon, but they left on good terms, and worked with each other not infrequently over the years. They became his "man on the spot" in Bismarck, and he was the same for them in Grand Forks and often in Fargo. He and Ray and John remained good friends over the years.

Fred's next bombshell was to tell us to go house hunting. "You'll need a house in both Bismarck and Grand Forks for the next year, Carl, as you work out of both offices. I would guess that Carol will be back and forth a lot once this school year ends. I'll buy your house in Bismarck so you'll have the funds to buy a new one in Grand Forks. When you close out in Bismarck, I'll decide what to do with the house. I suspect that Tim'll suggest that we keep it for the Friends of the University. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

It turned out that Fred arranged for the Friends of the University to buy our Bismarck house instead of him. Of course, they were using his money. They rented it to us as cheaply as they could under IRS rules, and we went house hunting in Grand Forks. We found a lovely house on the south side of town, and a commercially zoned vacant lot not far away for the office. We bought the house and the sporting goods store bought the lot.

We only had furniture for one house and now we were living in two. We sort of divided it up, but both houses were pretty sparse. We didn't mind, we expected that period of our lives to last less than a year, and that is, in fact, how it worked out. As we lay in bed the first night in our new house in Grand For, I said to Carl, "It's time."

"Yes, it is," he replied. He rolled over on top of me and fucked me tenderly. I don't know whether it was because it "was time" or because it was the first time I'd been fucked without a condom, but it was the most wonderful fuck I'd ever had. He stayed inside me as long as he could, to maximize the chances of the sperm getting to their destination. We can't prove that that was the exact night, but it was within the range of possibility. In any case, I became the second member of the Gang to be pregnant, and the first of those who would be living in Grand Forks. We could hardly wait. I was due about February of 1976.

Fred's idea of what Carl's offices should look like and Carl's were quite different. Fred pictured Carl as the most successful architect in the whole north of the United Stated, designing buildings all over the region, the nation, and the world. He pressed Carl to think big. How big a design staff would he need to have two dozen major projects going on at once, as well as several dozen minor ones like houses and small offices? OK, if that would take a design staff of at least 14, plus Carl, how big a support staff would be needed? An equal number of junior architects and draftsmen. Secretaries? Other staff? They finally agreed that the building needed to accommodate a staff of 60. Carl pointed out that Ford, Snyder, and Associates only had a staff of 22. Fred considered them small time and told Carl to think big.

Carl felt like he was designing a palace. Every time Fred looked over his shoulder he pointed out that Carl was thinking too small, not grand enough. They finally came to an agreement on a five storey building, with the fifth storey being a penthouse that provided a personal design studio for Carl, a second studio for the number two architect - whomever that turned out to be - and offices for a secretary and two draftsmen. To start, the first and fifth floors would be finished and would hold a staff of up to fifteen. As they grew the second, third, and fourth floors would be completed. It would be nicer digs than the top firms in Chicago or New York had! Carl was simply overwhelmed. But he finally got into the spirit of the thing and applied his usual diligence to insure that he got it right the first time. He told me, "Carol, the only way that I can get this thing right is pretend that I'm designing new and expanded offices for Ford and Snyder. I simply can't think of this as my building and not believe that it's vastly too large and too plush.

It came time to design the sign over the main entrance. Tim came by and simply said, "Follow the family tradition. Your name is Carl. You aren't going to be working alone. You are 'Carl and Associates'."

"I don't have any associates yet."

Fred put in, "I know, and that won't do. You need to find a senior architect, two juniors, a receptionist, and a secretary by the time the building's built."

Carl thought a long time about his staffing problem. Hiring a senior architect was obviously the way to go, but it had considerable potential danger. An experienced architect as good a Carl would likely be older than Carl. (Thank goodness Carl was able to be realistic about his own talents. Had he not been willing to recognize that he was head and shoulders ahead of his contemporaries, I don't think he could've successfully pulled off Carl and Associates.) An older architect would quickly perceive that Fred was the moneybags, even if Fred were never around. That would undermine Carl's leadership position, even though he'd clearly be the boss. He finally decided to look for three or four top quality new guys - either right out of architecture school or with just two or three years experience. They'd be younger than Carl, but just by a few years. He'd try to build that group to be his core team of senior architects in just a few years.

Fred liked the idea, and added, "To get the right people right out of school, you're going to have to pay well. You have to entice them to come to a new firm and to the frozen, windy wastes of North Dakota. What's the going rate for a good new graduate?"

Carl though it was about $23,000. Fred said, "Good, we'll pay $45. If you're waving money like that around you'll get who you want. Now go find them."

Carl decided that he didn't want to try to entice the best and the brightest from the East or West Coast to North Dakota, regardless of pay. He wanted people who had gone to school in the region and might be expected to like living in Grand Forks. He decided to contact six schools, his alma mater the University of Minnesota; North Dakota State University at Fargo which was the school that trained architects in North Dakota (there was no program at UND); Montana State University at Bozema; as well as the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa State. Rather than just sending a job description to the department or placement office, he telephoned the dean or head of the department. He'd learned from Tim to be direct and completely honest. He simply said that he was starting a new design firm in Grand Forks, and wanted to hire the best young architects available, and was willing to pay double the present market rate for the best. Who were they; considering the current graduating class and thinking back three years? In an afternoon's calling he had 8 names; four were current students and four recent graduates. He figured that a powerful recommendation from the dean was all he needed to start on the current students. For the recent graduates he tracked down where they were working. He knew one of their bosses, and found a mutual contact for the other three. He narrowed his list to seven.

He called all seven directly and told them what he was interested in. He wasn't specific about pay, but did indicate that he'd be willing to pay above the norm. All were at least interested, and eager described most of them. So he invited all of them for an all-expense-paid trip to Grand Forks to talk about plans for a new design firm. They'd arrive on Thursday, and the discussions would begin at dinner that evening and end with lunch on Sunday. Tim and Charlie agreed to play meal hosts for Thursday dinner at their house, and that certainly added a little spice to the trip. Everyone stayed in a motel in town and met together in a conference room Fred made available in his offices.

Carl was very straight forward. He was looking to put together a team to form the basis of a new design firm he was founding. All of the seven visitors had been highly recommended. In exchange for a free trip to Grand Forks he wanted to pick their brains about the new firm, current trends in architectural design, and the ideal design for a building to house such a firm. He was very much in hopes that some or all of them would eventually join the firm, but at this point he was offering no guarantees.

It was quite a weekend. Beginning with Tim and Charlie's dinner it was a smashing success. Tim and Charlie regaled the group with stories of the Olympics, Washington, the Johnson ranch on the Pedernales, and the joys of life in Grand Forks. Fred talked about his business and involvement with the University. The whole thing was carefully staged to impress, and to make it clear that Carl had the background and connections to implement his dreams. It'd be up to Carl, over the next three days, to convince the group that he had the talent and would be a good guy to work for.

One of the young men, Franz was his name, did stand out in one way. He hadn't realized who Carl was; that is, that Carl was Tim's brother. Since Tim never used a last name, there really was no way for anybody to catch on that Carl had a famous brother unless you were specifically told or introduced. Franz seemed quite startled to be meeting Tim and Charlie. He was fairly quiet at dinner until, waiting for a lull in the conversation, he gave a little speech. Clearly he'd been composing it during the meal.

"I need to tell you all something. Where to start? I've never been introduced to an out gay couple before. I know one couple at the University who are roommates, and their closest friends know that they're really more than roommates, but we're sworn to secrecy. You can't have any idea how liberating it is to be in this company where everybody seems to accept a gay couple as normal. You see, I'm gay. And I've never been able to say that to anyone but a very few very close friends who I know would never tell anyone. When I left Madison for the trip up here I dreamed that I might be going to a situation where I could really be me. But I thought it was a pipedream; it'd never be a reality. Now here I am telling strangers that I'm gay; telling a possible future employer that I'm gay; being me for the first time in my life.... Oh, God." He was just barely able to rein in his tears.

Tim was on his feet instantly, draping his arm around Franz' neck and saying, "Being out is wonderful. I was so lucky that I was able to come out in high school. You're lucky too. Some people go a lifetime without reaching this stage. And I can assure you that you're safe here."

Carl said, "If I can deal with a gay brother, I can easily deal with a gay architect."

Tim whispered something in Franz' ear and then went back to his seat. Then he restarted the conversation on a completely different topic. When it was time for everyone to leave Franz stayed behind. Tim assured Carl that he'd get Franz to the motel. I'm sure that Tim and Charlie had a long talk with Franz about being gay and about being gay in Grand Forks.

All seven of the young architects had wonderful ideas about how to run an architectural design firm; where to get clients; how to maintain schedules; how to rein in costs. They got started on what the building should look like, and it was like a three ring circus. Carl admitted that they never came to much agreement, but he never pushed them to try to create a final plan. They had lots of good ideas, many of which he would incorporate into his design. At the end of the weekend, six of the seven indicated an interest in coming to Grand Forks. We had a feeling that the seventh, a man from Montana, might have been turned off by our acceptance of gays, and the fact that he'd be working with a gay co-worker. Charlie had picked up on a few vibes that suggested that, and was glad that the man self-eliminated. None of the others seemed even slightly disturbed by Franz' announcement, nor by the obvious connection to Tim and Charlie.

Carl assured them that he'd be firming up plans within a month.

Thorough background and reference checking turned up nothing negative that would eliminate any of the six. Carl had insisted that Fred and I join all the meetings, and we had, but chose to be mostly silent observers. Now we shared our very positive thoughts about the entire group with Carl. Fred simply said, "Hire them all." I agreed with Fred - they were all tops.

Carl replied, "That's way beyond my budget."

"It's not beyond mine. Who said anything about a budget, anyway? Who would you eliminate?"

"I liked them all."

"Hire them all."

He did. They were all given a choice of starting date. The three that were currently employed were encouraged to stay with their present jobs until late in the year, or even early in the following year. The students graduating were offered either a June or September starting date, but asked to take September if they had a productive way to spend the summer. Only one came on board in June.

OK, in the order that they would arrive, here they are. I think you'll enjoy meeting them, because they became a big part of our lives - for the rest of our lives.

Nelson Graffs came from NDSU in Fargo, arriving in mid-June of 1975 - a year after Tim and Charlie took up their duties at the university. We had no office, and little for him to do. However, Carl put him to work as the site architect for Marty's gym. It wasn't a big enough job to require a full time architect, but it saved Carl a lot of time and let Nelson get his feet wet. It also assured a really first rate job on the gym.

NDSU did not have a separate school of architecture, so Nelson had been in the College of Arts and Sciences. He'd graduated second in his class; second only to a math whiz kid who'd graduated at age 18 with nothing but A's.

Pam Zimmerman joined us in September from the University of Michigan. She and Tim had talked about Ann Arbor at his dinner, and it turns out that she'd seen him as both diver and gymnast in Ann Arbor. She was the only one of the six, well seven if you count Carl, that had a graduate degree in architecture - a Masters. She was also the only woman among the six, or the original eight for that matter. Carl would've liked a more balanced staff, but was glad to have at least one woman. There had been no female master architects at Ford and Snyder.

A little later in September Franz Holtzer arrived. He was a native of Green Bay and graduated near the top of his class at the University of Wisconsin School of Architecture. Franz' specialty was school design, and Carl was hopeful that the firm could successfully penetrate that market - which was fairly lucrative.

Reggie Donaldson joined us in October, also from the University of Wisconsin. He came from Hurley but during his high school years his family had lived in Ironwood. He'd had Big Paul as his wrestling coach in his junior and senior years of high school! He'd spent two years at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, then moved to Madison to complete his architecture degree. He'd graduated top in his class in the School of Architecture.

Preston Wiggans arrived just before the end of the year. A graduate of Iowa State University, he grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota. No school in South Dakota had a full program in architecture, so he'd elected to go south to Iowa for school. He'd stayed in Iowa to work following graduation, joining a firm in Des Moines. He'd been with them just over two years and was ready to move on. He felt he was stagnating where he was because they simply weren't adding partners as fast as they were bringing in new, young architects. Moving on was expected for a least half, and making partner in the place meant several more years of grunt work. It wasn't an inspiring situation. However, Preston admitted that it'd been good experience.

Next to arrive was Johann Michaels and his wife Janice; they moved to Grand Rapids in April. Janice hadn't been at the interview, but we'd flown the two of them up to Grand Forks so that Janice could see what she was in for if Johann accepted Carl's offer. Johann had graduated from the University of Minnesota three years before, in 1972. Carl had graduated the year before Johann arrived. They had a good time comparing notes on faculty members they'd had in common! For the past three years Johann had been working for a firm in Brainerd, Minnesota. He liked the work, and was ready to move to being a senior architect. However, the firm was small and content to work very locally. That meant a considerable lack of variety in the work and not sufficient challenge to satisfy Johann - just the type of guy Carl was looking for.

Janice was a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, a school with an outstanding reputation in the East. She'd studied interior design, and had been doing freelance interior design in Brainerd. They'd been delighted when Carl's offer included a salary that meant that she didn't have to work, as they were eager to start a family. Carl suggested that they'd have interior design work for her on a project by project basis, and she was eager to pursue that with him.

Johann and Janice had been "going steady" at Mankato High School in Mankato, Minnesota, where they'd both grown up. By their senior year of high school they were unofficially engaged and trying to figure out how their romance would survive college. Johann really wanted to attend the University of Minnesota, and had a full scholarship in the School of Architecture. Janice was interested in Interior Design and realized that a more specialized school would better meet her needs. The Rhode Island School of Design was eager to have her and she was eager to go. They had decided that neither of them should derail their college plans just so they could attend the same school. They realized that their love would be put to a test, but were determined that they would "make it." They were a long way apart, ran up big phone bills, and got together every vacation, usually at home in Mankato, but sometimes in Providence where RISD was located. They made it and got married in Mankato the week after their graduations.

June saw the arrival of the last of the team, Dirk Nixon. A native of Bismarck, he'd attended NDSU. There he'd made a big name for himself playing ice hockey, running track (his speciality was the 50 yard dash) and graduating summa cum laude. He was the Tim of his graduating class, and seemed to handle it every bit as well as Tim did. He was now working at a first class firm in Fargo and getting ahead. In a way Carl was surprised that he wanted to move, but he'd been caught up by the excitement that Carl exuded for the new project. Carl was pretty sure that he would quickly become Carl's number two, but that had to wait to see what developed. Like Carl, he had work to clean up in Fargo, so when he arrived in June it was understood that he'd be part-time until everything was finished up in Fargo. That worked out well for Carl, who had brought a full team on board faster than he'd be able to generate work for the team to do.

Carl and I had a very serious talk with each other about the team. We needed to figure out how they might relate to the Gang. Might they ultimately become part of the Gang? They all seemed to be wonderful people, just the kind of people who now made up the Gang. Would we expand? Carl and I thought not. We decided, after some considerable conversation and soul-searching, that we needed to keep work and the Gang separate. All of the Gang members would be meeting many people through their work. Not all would be as exciting as the team looked like it might be, but some would. If we started moving to expand the Gang it would lead to all kinds of complications: mixing work with social life, and possibly sex life; a question of who gets invited and who doesn't; and a much higher profile for the Gang if it was allowed to grow. Even the existence of the Gang wasn't widely known. After all, we all talked about the Gang very comfortably and openly, but generally just with other members of the Gang. We worked hard not to make it appear to outsiders as an exclusive club or clique. The easiest way to do that was to just not talk about it outside of the Gang itself. After reaching our conclusion about the team we shared it with Charlie and Tim who completely agreed. We decided to talk about it with Gang members as they moved to Grand Forks, and each, in turn, agreed with our conclusions.

Carl admitted to me that there were a couple of members of the team who had "pretty hot bods," male and female. But other than that kind of pillow talk with me, there was never any sexual involvement with the team. Whether there was amongst them we only rarely knew, and neither cared nor wanted to know. When there was, they were very discreet and it never impacted on work nor good relations among the team, which made us believe that there probably was very little going on.

I got bigger and bigger as the winter of 1975-1976 went by, and was ready for motherhood when the big event came. Having new life grow inside you is an incredible experience. I felt sorry that Carl couldn't experience it as well as me. However, he made every effort to share the experience. We were both ready to greet our child as the date drew close in February.

That February was quite a month for us. Fred had given the group work space in his offices until their building, "The Carl," was built. It was ready by February, 1976, and they moved in with a grand celebration. They used the occasion to invite every possible client they could think of from North and South Dakota and northern Minnesota. Several hundred came, and Carl and Associates, Inc. was properly launched.

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