Dick Millerick took to creating music and instead found a career based on clockwork.
“A lot of the time, it’s all about time,” says Millerick, proving there’s a connection between his original plan and the one that took root.
Millerick, 79, grew up in Connecticut. He started working for Timex in the 1960s, and in 1992 the company brought him to Little Rock to lead the industrial engineering department at the Timex factory.
When Millerick was a child, his father, Joseph, worked as a personnel manager for a watch company in Forest Hill, Connecticut. But Joseph Millerick had himself gone through Wesleyan University in Middlebury, Connecticut, before that playing the piano to accompany the tracks of silent films in theaters in that area.
“He was playing the background that was combined to go with the film,” says Millerick.
Millerick began piano lessons at age 6 or 7 and enjoyed growing up in a family home where spontaneous musical gatherings were the norm.
“We would get together with my dad and he would play the piano,” Millerick says. “My sister was a much better singer than me but I was a better pianist.”
His mother, Louise, was a home economics teacher. She didn’t play or sing but she was always there for the music.
“I’m sure she liked it,” he said.
Millerick majored in music while attending Ithaca College in upstate New York, with plans to graduate and teach music.
“I didn’t like the story,” he says. “I could pass all the music lessons, but I couldn’t pass the history ones.”
He would later attend classes at the University of Hartford, but for now he was ready to go to work.
“My first job was at General Electric,” he says. “I signed up for their management training program. I was with supposedly all the Cal Tech boys and all the bright students that General Electric hired, and I liked it. I had a good moment with them and I was able to keep pace with them very well.”
A few years later, he got a job at Timex.
“I started with Timex thinking I was going to make watches. It was the start of the Vietnam War, and instead of making watches, I was making fuses for 105mm/155mm howitzers,” he said. “It lasted probably almost four or five years, until I started making watches.”
The fuse, he explains, is the brain of the shell.
“At that time it was mostly mechanical, with gears like a watch movement would work,” he says. “The fuse is the nose of the shell, which can be set to explode in time, or it can be set to explode at the point of detonation.”
He sometimes followed shipments of fuses to military proving grounds around the country.
“They were shooting them, testing them and making sure they were up to their specifications and I was meeting some of the generals coming back from Vietnam,” he says.
Over the years, he has also visited Timex factories around the world to view operations and assess safety and productivity issues. There were meetings and other obligations, but not many visits. Looking back, he sees this as a missed opportunity.
“I went to Spain, Portugal, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, France, Scotland, England, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada…”, he says. “I’ve traveled to major cities around the world and haven’t even taken the time to visit their highlights. I was one of the few with Timex to travel that much.”
Timex’s Little Rock manufacturing facility, which opened in 1945 and closed in 2001, has manufactured watch parts and die-cast watch cases for 22 million watches – estimated to be about 80% of the company’s annual production – and sent them to assembly facilities elsewhere. Millerick ran the North Little Rock distribution facility when he left in 2006 to work for Afco Steel. He retired in 2010.
Millerick has been known to sit in front of a small grand piano during happy hour or over dinner, entertaining friends with a show tune or two.
“I love everything from ‘Over the Rainbow’ to ‘Phantom of the Opera’,” he says.
His music collection dates back several decades and is organized in several sections of his house, chronologically by year of purchase.
“I have everything from 78s to 33s to 45s, you name it, with all the old records, then later tapes and records and everything,” Millerick says. “But lately it’s just listening to music on the radio or TV.”
Millerick’s wife, Sandra, died in 2003. His son, Rick, died in 2012. His daughter, Kelly Orr, lives near him in Roland.
Millerick has been a member of the Elks Club of North Little Rock for 59 years. He recently joined other club members to watch the Kentucky Derby. He can’t wait for the chance to watch the Preakness Stakes on Saturday with the Elks.
Yet sometimes he wishes he had more to occupy his time.
“I’m a little bored,” he admits. “I prefer to work.”
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