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Oral History Interview with Paul Halyard

I’m Paul Halyard and I was born in St. Petersburg, FL in 1935 and I moved to Orlando February 1, 1964. After completing the University of Florida I was living in Gainesville and working at Sperry Electronic Tube Department when a man down the street named Jim Driver’s wife asked my wife if I would be interested in working at the Trane Air Conditioning Company. And so, I went down and saw Jim… Jim hired me and I went to La Crosse, WI and I went to a graduate training program in La Crosse from 4th of July to New Year’s in 1963. And we attended class eight hours a day, five days a week for six months and learned the air conditioning industry. And my assignment when I graduated from the graduate training program was to come to Orlando, Florida and Jim Driver was my boss. Jim ended up by the way, being the Mayor of Winter Park. What a great guy….

LISTEN Part I (20:00)  (text highlights from audio recording)


What was the area like when you came here?

It was February 1, 1964 is when I showed up, and I rented a house at 701 East Concord at the corner of Summerlin and Concord. The house is still there. It’s a two-story, four bedroom two bath house with a detached garage, Spanish Mediterranean architecture and $135. a month. Nice house.

Engineering Work

My first job was sales of air conditioning and following a career here in Orlando, Trane had a program called the Dealer Development Program and we had, Jim had a pretty good network of dealers here. So they wanted me to cross pollinate other areas of the United States that didn’t have the same dealership program that Jim had. So I was transferred first to… Virginia and then to Pittsburg. And in Pittsburg I had a customer who was also working at Disney on the Contemporary and Polynesian Hotel, called Sauer Mechanical Contractors.

Aerial view of Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort on the Seven Seas Lagoon under construction.

And so I joined them, moved back to Orlando and finished up Contemporary, Polynesian, Pirate’s ride, Space Mountain and a number of other projects. One of the most influential projects, I think, that we worked on was the state capital….

Peninsula Engineering Incorporated

In October of 1977, I left Sauer Mechanical Contractors and a kind of famous story, I had a company car and one of my fellow employees drove me to Sonny King Buick. I turned my car in. I then had a ride, hitched a ride with him to the corner of John Young Parkway and Colonial, and Avis had a lot of yearlings, one year old Cameros. The whole lot was full of Camaros. Picked out one and so I now have an automobile.

That afternoon, on Friday afternoon, I went to see my old Toastmaster buddy, Burt McCree. And Burt McCree was a principle in a company called McCree, a second generation company, and he gave me two Sunbank jobs, little five time Sunbank jobs. And he says, “I know you’ve been to air conditioning school and I know that you know all this stuff about air conditioning, but I want you to use five tons on these two jobs. Do not try to do any engineering tricks to get two tons to work just put five tons on.”Well, anyway, I walked out with two jobs before I even started working at my company on Monday morning. And that was, the company I started was Peninsula Engineering, Incorporated. And we started that in October 1977….

Offices on Edgewater Drive and Alden Road

The company grew so much. We had an office in College Park. We had to get more space. I bought a building over in Alden Road near Princeton near McCree’s office, and it’s a 10,000 square foot building, and moved the Peninsula into that building; that was probably done in 1999 or 2000. So I’ve still kept my presence over on Edgewater in College Park. And when I sold the engineering company then I started another company called – I’ve always had another company called Peninsula Forensic Engineering that was for courtroom testimony – and so that’s the company I’ve kept.

Burt McCree, he’s a member of The University Club as well, right? He’s been a member, yes, as has Richard McCree been a member, and Richard McCree, Jr. is a member. A lot of McCrees in the archives….

How did you come to join The University Club?

One of my customers was a consulting engineer called Bill Denson and I’d been playing handball since the 7th grade. We had a coach that had gone to the University of Florida and they had three wall outdoor courts at the University of Florida. And we had a wall at the end of our junior high school and he took tennis balls and took the fuzzy stuff off and we had the pink soft balls that we could play handball with. And since 7th grade I’ve been playing handball. And I really loved handball. And I’d never played on an indoor court before. At the University of Florida we had three wall courts. So when I was invited here by my customer Bill Denson to play I thought I was in heaven. Four wall air conditioned court and you had your own showers. This is really great. So that just sold me on The University Club….


Were there many club members that were interested in flying? Boy, you’ve hit on a real hot topic because as I was a small child in St. Petersburg the event on Sunday afternoon was to go to Albert Whitted Field and sit and watch the airplanes take off and land.

Paul Halyard pictured as a boy, circa 1930s.

And airplanes in the thirties was just the beginning of aviation. And so, it was quite an event to see the airplane fly. And so my dad was taking flying lessons, and so we would watch him take off and land. And later on, at that same airport at Tropical Aviation, after World War II, I started taking lessons. But it was very expensive. It was $8.00 an hour for the airplane, the instructor, the gas, and everything. So I could afford 15 minutes. So for $2.00 I got two touch and go’s, and they’d put it in my logbook. And so, that’s how I started my flying career. It was 15 minutes at a time with two touch and go’s at Albert Whitted Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Dr. Bloodwell’s Medical Air Evac

Later on, you asked if there were other people at The University Club flying, and one of them was Dr. Bloodwell. Dr. Bloodwell had a medical air evacuation company. “Medical Air Evac” he called it. And he had five airplanes. And so, he needed pilots and I was flying. I flew all around the eastern part of the United States quite a bit. And we had one flight, we took the couple in two airplanes in one day from Orlando to Portland, Oregon across the country in 16 hours, four four hour segments. We landed in Memphis, Wichita, Cheyenne, Boise, and Portland. It was a long flight for a day….

Recreational Aviation

Commissioner Crenshaw, my wife’s mother, and my wife’s grandmother in Jacksonville, would want to come down and visit. So I would take a bunch of guys up there and her and her dog and they would all sit in the back with grandma and we’d bring them back to Orlando. So we were always flying.

Paul Halyard in a Maule MX-7 Series on EDO Floats taking float plane lessons on Lake Jessie with instructor Ben Shipps, November 13, 2015.

Van Connelly was another person. I was his instructor for a while. I instructed him. He ended up being an aviation flight instructor. I noticed in looking through the Bob Showalter interview that some of the people that he had, Elmer Mackey was a ground instructor and my wife took lessons from Elmer Mackey.

Elmer Mackey instructs students in ground school at Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1965.

Another was Bryant Bouslog, and he was the multi-engine instructor that I had when I was learning to fly multi-engine airplanes. And just person after person in that presentation brought back old memories of flying at Showalter Aviation. Very happy memories? Oh, yes.

Showalter Flight Instructor Bryant Bouslog in the cockpit at Herndon Airport, circa 1965.

Although one afternoon I had my first student when I was an instructor and I thought he was ready to solo. And lo and behold, I got him out there. It was a Sunday afternoon. It was light traffic. There was hardly any wind. And so, he went around the patch, and he got within two to three feet of the ground and he took off again. He did this like three times, never landed. And so, my old instructor Ralph Lutz came out to me and said, “Paul, I know what you’re going through. I had a student just like that one time.” “Ralph, what did you do?” “We shot him down.” Pretty soon the guy landed and he said, he didn’t think he wanted to do anymore flying…

Joe Kittinger

Mr. Kittinger is a member of the club, right? Oh yes, when I was on the membership committee Paul Reich was the president. And Paul Reich mentioned to me that we had an opening in the honorary memberships and what did I think about inviting Joe Kittinger to be a member, an honorary member. I said, “That’s great.” And thank goodness. And Joe has been an active member. He’s used the club here.

The F- 4 Project

In fact, when the F- 4 Project was started here we would have our meetings back in the President’s Lounge. And Pat Phillips, and Joe Kittinger, got me aside after the meeting and said, “Look, we’re going to need drawings, permits, and a lot of work, that – you’re an engineer- that you can do.” So I swallowed a smart pill overnight and the next morning I went over to John Elsea’s office and I’m sitting in John Elsea’s office and I said, “John, I’m going to need some help on this project.” I said, “We’re bringing this airplane in. We got to put it on a pedestal. We need structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, you got to get it lit. We got a lot of work to do. And John says, “I tell you what, why don’t we ask George Powell?” I said, “George Powell hasn’t been in the military.” “Yeah, but his roommate at The University of Florida is an admiral and he’s got a lot of experience.”

So anyway, we got George Powell and George Powell just pulled the whole thing together. We had meetings every Thursday morning at George Powell’s office. There must have been 10 or 15 people around there and finally we got the thing put together and it was 2014. We were trying to do it for November 11, but it actually got done Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 2 pm. We had Congressman John Mica as the keynote speaker and we had the project dedicated. And I’m really, really proud to be a part of that team. We all got hats to wear that day, Kittinger F – 4 Project hats. So it’s out there at Joe Kittinger Park on the southwest corner of Herndon now called Executive Airport.

Invitation to the Colonel Joe Kittinger F- 4 Phantom II Memorial Dedication, December 14, 2014.

Handball at The University Club

In the old days, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at about 4 o’clock there would be three handball courts and they would all be full. You would have to make reservations to get on the courts. And we had a standing reservation. And we had Dale Jones, Ben Smathers, Paul Halyard, and Jesse Sparks. And sometimes Jesse couldn’t make it and we would have two or three alternates. And we would always be on the court at 3 o’clock and we’d play three games, three days a week.

Then sometimes on Saturday mornings, we had a school principal called Bill Frankus and Bill Frankus was very interested in The Boys & Girls Club here in town. He had an arrangement that you could bring your boys in on Saturday morning to learn to play handball. So I brought my boys in on Saturday morning and I’d teach them how to start to play handball. So it was an opportunity to pass on the opportunity to play handball… Bill Frankus put that program together. You’ve probably heard that name around town. He had a radio show on Saturday nights about jazz. He liked jazz music.

80th Birthday

If you don’t mind my saying, you look very fit and you recently celebrated your 80th birthday. Do you think your years of playing handball at the club has made a difference in your well being? I’d like to think so. I think so. I think it’s mainly genes. My mother and father always looked young and my cousin was a 105 when she died so I think I’ve got a long life ahead of me. So I got to work hard and put some money away.

Paul and Mary Jane Halyard at Mr. Halyard’s 80th Birthday Bash at New Symrna Beach, September 16, 2015.

LISTEN Part II (18:09)


The University Club Book Club

Boy that’s a story within itself. Sandy Dann, bless his soul, he was at college and they had a book club at college and they decided that they would ask a couple of their professors to come to the book club at college. And they had rules and if one person was talking then you could not talk, but you could hold up a card, a challenge card. You could hold up a yellow card that meant you had a mild challenge or a red card meant that you really disagreed with what the man said. But you couldn’t interrupt. And so, a couple of their professors had been going to two to three of these meetings and their was some drinking involved and finally one day Sandy said he got a call from the president of the university and he had no idea what he did this time. So he went in and the president says, “Well, you’re in trouble.” Sandy said, “What did I do?” He said, “It’s what you didn’t do.” “What’s that?” “You didn’t invite me to your book club.” So the president was invited to the book club.

So he brought that book club here to The University Club. And it had run for a number of years and I was kind of late getting in, but I started listening to books instead of reading them… I think about 147 books I’ve listened to. And I really enjoy keeping up with the latest books so I was invited by Sandy to join the book club.

As The University Club is winding down [temporary facility closure] we have left The University Club and have gone over to Christo’s Restaurant for most of us who live in College Park on about once a month on Wednesday night we’ll go over and we’ll have dinner at Christo’s and then we’ll walk to my office which is a couple blocks away and we’ll have the book club meeting there.

A University Club of Orlando Book Club meeting held at University Club member Paul Halyard’s College Park Office. The University Club of Orlando Book Club Members pictured from left to right are: Norm Hull, attorney and law instructor at Barry University, William “Bill” Kreuter, retired attorney, Leon H. Handley, a legend in Florida law, Bill Barnett, retired attorney, Honorable Kendall G. Sharp, U. S. District Judge

So one person presents and then the other people chime in. The beauty about a book club is that you read books that you would never select. Bill Barrett has selected some great books. Bill Kreuter selected some good books. Ken Sharp, Leon Handley, Norman Hall they’ve all selected some books that I would have never selected, but I’ve enjoyed reading….

Did you and Mrs. Halyard attend events here together at the club?

Oh yeah. Yes, we’ve been to many a dinner dance here. And usually at Christmas time there’s always a great, great party at The University Club that was a must-come-to party. And we’ve been here year after year at The University Club for the Christmas party.

Paul and Mary Jane Halyard at The University Club of Orlando Christmas Party, 2012.

Do you remember any special people that you’ve met here at the club?

We had a man here that I met the first day I walked in, is Tommy Singleton. And Tommy was a native, I guess. He was born here in the Orlando area, and he came to us from The Angebilt [Hotel] when The University Club was in The Angebilt he was over there. I asked him one time I said, “What was here at The University Club before it was The University Club?” He said, “Well, I used to walk to Winn Dixie which is in the parking lot across the street.” He said he knew the lady who owned the house here. and so they tore this house down and McCree built this building in I think 1960. And so it’s been here since the sixties. So it’s been here 40-55 years, 56 years. 

And Tommy was someone that you remember from the beginning? Yeah, he was one of the first people I met when I came here. And we had many managers and just great, great staff and great people. As far as the employees here, always outstanding employees.

Tommy Singleton, the dining room manager, Gina Jones, hostess, and Jorge Porzella, masseur.

How has being a member of the club enriched your life?

You never cease the blessings. When Disney stopped doing their construction work they had a man, it is kind of interesting how this man was hired because he’s an interesting person. He grew up in Detroit, went in the Navy, and in Singapore he started dating the ambassador’s wife. And they got married and they came back to Detroit and after getting an electrical engineering degree, after that he was hired by GE. And so, in the fifties, GE wanted to have a real presence at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. And they had the General Electric Theater there that they brought people in to and Stan Graves was in charge of it. And this was- for a young engineer to be in charge of a World’s Fair project for a big company like GE- was a huge job. And I asked Stan the same question you asked me and he said, “Paul, the most important decision ever made was the first decision ever made. I said, “What’s that?” The first person I hired when I got that job was Walt Disney. I said, “Why did you hire Walt Disney?” He said, “The biggest problem we have is controlling crowds. When you get a crowd of people to come to your exhibit, you have to know how to control them. And everything that you design from that point on has to flow. And that’s the reason why I hired Walt Disney.

Well, when Walt Disney came to Orlando, the first person he hired was Stan Graves. He knew Stan and I got along really well together and I’ll never forget they stopped hiring their own construction people. Stan was without a job. And so, there was a project out at Shine Avenue and Colonial listed in the paper. And the man’s name in the newspaper article on Sunday, Ben Smather’s, vice president or president of the bank is in charge of the construction project. Eight o’clock Monday morning, ring, ring, ring. “Paul, do you know a guy named Ben Smathers?” I said, “Yeah, sure do. He’s a member of The University Club.” He says, “Well, is there anyway that you could get, find somebody that could get us an appointment?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll give him a call.” “How are you going to call him? He’s this guy, the vice president of this bank. How are you going to get him?” I said, “Stan, I play handball with him three days a week,” [at The University Club]. “Oh.” So I got Stan the meeting with Ben Smathers in just a drop of a hat. I was happy to meet Stan and Stan was impressed with The University Club.

Paul Halyard’s University Club of Orlando photo.

Business Meetings at the Club

I’ll tell you another story about Stan. We were doing a project… and he said, “Paul, can I use The University Club on a Saturday morning for a meeting?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” I think it was this room we’re in right now.” [The Executive Room]. I said, “Yeah, I’ll make arrangements.” Well, little did I know that the interior designer they had was woman. So three men and a woman showed up here about ten o’clock and I’m upstairs playing handball on a Saturday morning and they come in. I’d didn’t even know they’d come in… and all of a sudden Tommy called, “Mr. Halyard, there’s a woman in the room.” And this was back when you couldn’t have women in The University Club. And so, I didn’t think too much of it. But there was one gentleman that came in on Saturday morning for lunch and he was due about 11:30. So we got her out, snuck her out to the Harley Hotel for lunch early. So that’s the old days at The University Club. It’s not like that anymore. [Because now you’ve had a female president.] And two female managers.

You and Mrs. Halyard have made an effort to give back to our area, to our community particularly in terms of education. For example, there’s the Paul and Mary Jane Halyard contribution to the University of Florida College of Engineering, The Rotary Club of Orlando Paul Halyard Scholarship. You have been involved with The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and their contribution to the UCF College of Engineering. I read that The University Club of Orlando first instituted their scholarship award in 1932 which I think is amazing. Do you think generosity is a character trait of most of the club members?

I think it is pretty much. And also, a lot of them want to do it anonymously. They don’t want – I mean, you’d be surprised at the generosity of some people that you never, never would expect, but they do things. It’s amazing the generosity of the people here in the club. Some of them have a reputation of being stingy or tight and behind the cloak, behind the wall, it’s amazing what they do to help out the community.

Do you see The University Club’s legacy of giving continuing in the future?

Absolutely. That’s what were all about education…. We had a president of ASHRAE visiting us for lunch one day and we had a luncheon here at The University Club. Got through about two o’clock and he didn’t have a meeting until seven o’clock. I said, “What are you going to do for the rest of the afternoon?” He said, “Go back to the hotel and sleep.” I said, “I got a job for you.” We went out and visited three contractors and got three $2500. contributions that afternoon toward the $300,000. dollars we raised. And when we got to a $100,000. dollars, the state of Florida matched us with $70,000. Now we had $175,000 in the bank. That has grown to over $300,000 since ’96 and we’ve given out 63 scholarships in that period of time. So that has really effected Central Florida….

LISTEN Part III (15:12)


How do you think The University Club has added value to our community?

I can walk in for years and years, there were other organizations like Tiger Bay, there was Boom, I mentioned ASHRAE, all these, ROTARY, you walk in and look at the make up of another club, you know all these people because… most of the members of the community, the movers and shakers, are members of The University Club. And it was just so great of an opportunity to know so many people through The University Club.

The Temple of Knowledge

For instance, I’m an engineer, and to meet an architect was kind of rare. But we had an architect here by the name of Don Hampton. And Don Hampton I got to know him here at The University Club. They have a big table here, a long table, and if you come here by yourself you sit at the big table and there’s six or seven. For instance, I was going to buy a car and Mears, Paul Mears, sat at the table over there. And I said, “Mr. Mears, what do you think of Chevrolets this year?” “Oh, they got bad radiators.” “What about Fords?” He said, “Oh, they got battery problems.” I said, “What would you buy?” He said, “I’d buy either one of them, but I just want you to know they got radiator problems and battery problems this year.” He knew. He bought thousands of cars every year and he knew where the problems were. That was just a great, great opportunity to sit at that table and partake of all the knowledge. We call it the Temple of Knowledge. Most people think the temple of knowledge is at the library. Actually, it’s at the bar at The University Club.

President of The University Club

You were elected as President of The University Club in ’96 and during that time you completely renovated the athletics. Would you tell us about that? I’ll tell you what, I took a smart pill on that one too and I surrounded myself with a very, very good vice president: John Keating. And part of being a good manager is knowing how to delegate. And I gave that job to John and he did an outstanding job. I said, “If you’ve got a problem come see me.” He didn’t see me very often, but John Keating took the bull by the horns and he did a fantastic job. Keating did a great job on that….

Who would you like to thank at The University Club?

Bill Denson

I would say there’s more than one person. Chronologically the first one would be Bill Denson for being my sponsor for membership at The University Club. The second would be Dale Jones because the first Light Up Orlando they ever had, the whole town, primarily at 8′ o’clock, they shut down. And so, they had a Light Up Orlando and unbeknownst to me The Metcalf building over here at the corner of Pine and Orange was being renovated by Dale Jones and they put a board out front and listed Peninsula Engineering as the engineer for the project. I hadn’t bid on it. I didn’t know about it. But my name, our name was up there. And I’d never done a large building like this. I’d done a lot of little buildings, but this is an 11 story building and I didn’t have the insurance required and so forth.

Dale Jones

So, Monday morning I met in his office at 8 o’clock. I said, “Dale, thank you for putting my name up there, but we don’t have air and emission insurance to do a big job like this. He says, “Why do we need air and emission insurance?” I said, “Well, if we make a mistake you can sue me.” “Paul, we don’t sue people. We make it up on the next job. Now get busy.” That started Peninsula Engineering. We started doing big jobs then. He really turned the tide.

Leon Handley

The next person I’d really like to thank that introduced a whole new world to me is Leon Handley. Leon and I have traveled, mainly he goes with Sneed and them, but I took Leon to Venezuela with Sneed and a friend of mine we were doing a project down there. And so we took a week off and toured Venezuela in a Beechcraft King Air and went all the way down to Angel Falls… all the way down to Brazil. And went across the border and had supper one night, slept at a monastery, and in miners’ beds when the miners were out in the field, we just slept in their beds at night. We’ve done a lot of different things. We went to Estonia together and over to St. Petersburg, Russia on a Rotary trip. We’ve just been great traveling companions. He’s open up the world of travel to me. And, like this year, the fall of this year, I’m going to Antarctica. And this will be all seven continents that I’ve had the opportunity to go to. And basically because of Leon opening my eyes to the world.

What do you see as the future of The University Club?

I think it’s got a great, great opportunity in the future because when this club comes back in two, three how ever many years it is, this is going to be the hot new place. Right across from the library, same location for 70 years, and we’re going to have a great location, great parking, and I’m really looking forward to it….

Orange County Building Advisory Board

I tell you one of the benefits of being a member of The University Club is the ancillary benefits. I mentioned earlier about Don Hampton. He’s an architect and he told me one day sitting at the long table, “Paul, you ought to be on the Orange County Advisory Board. We need a mechanical person.” “I don’t want to go there and sit around and listen. I’m not interested in doing that. I’ve got a business to run. I can’t do that, Donald.” He called me a couple times and finally he came over one afternoon in front of my office and he came in and he said, “Get in the car.” And so, he took me to the Orange County Building Advisory Board and I became a member of the board… I moved up from a member to the chairman. And you’re supposed to serve one year. Well, Linda Chapin, she was Orange County, I guess they call them mayor, she was chairwoman back then. She reappointed me eight times. I’ve been on that board for eight years. What a great experience to be serving on Orange County Building Advisory Board. I fought it. I fought it, but I’m so glad that Donald Hampton prevailed and got me to do that. Because it really opened my eyes to community service.

Tuesday Nights

Well, my children, and my sisters know that on Tuesday night, don’t call Paul. Because if your telephone rings in the bar at The University Club, you buy drinks for everybody. So they know not to call Paul on Tuesday night. You don’t have a telephone ringer on your phone at all because it can cost you some money. So the children all know that. And they know that The University Club is just part of my life.

Paul Halyard with his granddaughter Jackie Halyard who works as a Christian missionary overseas.


I don’t know about other cities, I mean, people moving to other cities. I mean, I don’t know if other cities have what we have here. They probably do, but I’m not familiar with it. I am familiar with this. And I’m not moving any place. I’m staying here.

Read  PASS IT ON, Life’s Important Lessons by Paul Halyard

Read The David Odahowski Story by Paul Halyard

Read  The James B. Brown Story by Paul Halyard


Interview: Paul Halyard

Interviewer: Jane Tracy

Date: June 3, 2016

Place: The University Club of Orlando

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