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Where are they now? Richard Arlan Hovious

The Knifley boy who helped Luke Knifley build the Art Theatre
and whose ambition was to become Knifley's first Rocket Scientist


Editor's Note: It says in Richard Arlan Hovious' biography at hovious.com, "Having decided very early in life to become Knifley, Kentucky's first rocket scientist, Richard signed up at a very early age and spent the next 12 years flying on and off aircraft carriers."

That same biography says, "Flight Deck injuries forced Richard to leave the Navy and he became Chief Test Engineer for a major Aerospace firm. He held senior management positions with such companies as General Electric, McDonnell Douglas, and Aerojet-General before becoming Project Engineer and Associate program Manager on the nation's top Space program. His military injuries then forced Richard's retirement and he spent the next 20 years 'following the sun' between homes in Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America."


By Richard Arlan Hovious
with Ed Waggener


I did a lot of writing 20-25 years ago and had about everything published, including a feature story for Penthouse, in the seventies, as I remember. I took a stab at a semi-biographical novel and so help me, the agent in New York returned it with the notation that "Science Fiction isn't selling well."

The following is pretty close to the last 69 years or so as my memory serves me, it's the God's truth, as they said in Knifley, but greatly condensed :

A visit the Navy recruiter's office in Campbellsville, when I was a very young boy, dramatically changed my life.

I was born in 1935 in Indiana, and arrived in Knifley six month's later. My father, Robert Lee Hovious was a schoolteacher at the Knifley school. One of his most illustrious students was Henry Giles, who would later marry Janice Holt Giles. Henry Giles would also become and respected author in his own right.

In later life, my father worked in the oil business and was an avid golfer, hunter, and fisherman. The latter endeavor was one in which he was considered an expert. He published many articles including some in Field and Stream.

I was the oldest child. Knifley folks will remember my brothers Gary Douglas and Robert Lee Hovious, and the youngest, my sister Judith Lane Hovious.

I have many memories of old Knifley of the 1930s and 1940s

I grew up in a time that many would consider the heyday of Knifley, and, before I entered the Navy, I had already mastered a good part of the craft of stone masonry, and showmanship.

The biggest event of the early 40's was Luke Knifley's building of The Art Theatre. I carried rocks for Luke Knifley. was constructed solely of rocks. And I handled a lot of them, I guess. Luke was a great recruiter and almost every boy in Knifley got some of the action.

I had already been working for my cousin Ina Hovious, who owned the skating rink, which before The Art had doubled as a theatre. My pay for setting up the seats for the Sunday night shows was free admission.

Working for Cousin Ina's skating rink consisted off installing skates, and for this, my salary was a free skate.

Pay was better working for Luke

Luke Knifley paid better. When I worked for him, I got free shows and free goodies at Luke's restaurant next door.

Incidentially my dad told me just before he died why we all called Ina's dad "Uncle Booth": His full name was John Wilkes Booth Hovious.

I remember all the many characters who peopled Knifley at the time. My favorite was a fellow who had a serious elbow bending problem and a financial philosophy 50 years ahead of his time: This time last year I wasn't worth a dime - now I owe ten thousand dollars.

Edsel Dunbar

Another favorite was Edsel Dunbar. I brought my extremely upmarket Back Bay Boston wife to Knifley and one of the first people she met was Edsel. As usual, he looked a whole lot less affluent than he was.

Edsel took one look at her and said, simply, "Somebody stole my dog. Man ain't no count without his dog." Much to her distress, that has been my philosophy since. My main ambition then was to get on an airplane and just keep flying.

I almost did. I am a two million miler.

The scariest experience I ever had was in Knifley.

In 1947 rural Adair county was hit by a series of tornadoes. it seems like Cane Valley was pretty much destroyed .It was Saturday afternoon and as usual I and most other Knifley males were in the pool hall when the roof disappeared and a whole lot of disconcerting things happened.

I have around 600 Aircraft Carrier landings and nothing was as frightening as that.

Someone appeared to tell us that a whole lot of the old house was missing.

I think what is left is a composite of several rebuilds. To find the location:If you draw a perfect triangle between the old school house the new one and John Dunbar's home our place would be pretty near the center of the hypotenuse. Or, today, stand on Elkhorn Road to the east of Baker's Grocery, looking north toward the Knifley Elementary School. The Robert Hovious Place will be the dominant landmark, slightly east and about one-third of the way to the school.

The house is undergoing another rebuilding today. Robert and Laurie Barron of Seattle, WA, have recently bought the place for their home, and it is being extensively renovated.

I've been please to know that the house is still known in Knifley as the Robert Hovious Place.

it is a major part of Knifley history. I and the other 33 grandchildren more or less "grew up" there and apparently because of my grandfather's "store", during the depression, and before, all the children of my father's generation knew that they could always get a good meal there.

My grandfather was better know as "Mr. Babe Hovious." His store burned in 1939, and the lot remained vacant after that. It would have been between the Art Theatre and Ina Hovious' skating rink.

When I left for the Navy afterward and returned, it seems like the place looked different each time I came back to Knifley.

My biggest surprise came when I drove up from Columbia, sometime during the late sixties, I think, and when I arrived at the main intersection - something was missing: Knifley.

I finally located the old place but it had been traded to Herschel Sanders for his place and the next time I was there was much, much later probably in the late seventies.

I never returned after that.

Trip to Campbellsville put me in the Navy

For most of the folks at Knifley, before the Wetherby administration built the Casey Creek Bridge, going "to town" meant going to Campbellsville. Such were the patterns of the Hoviouses.

A friend, Dewey Holcomb asked me to ride over to Campbellsville with him one morning. I did. He parked in front of the Navy recruiting office.

I strolled in to look around. The recruiting chief shoved a test in my hand. He graded it, got all excited, and exclaimed, "Boy I can get you into electronics school!"

That was in 1948, 57 years ago. Very shortly after the recruiting office visit, I was on my way to San Diego. I was 13-years-old at he time.

I finished a lot of electronics schools. I completed high school, college, and spent a couple of years in graduate school, with the main objective being to learn to test, "fix," and deploy nuclear weapons.

With that, I also got to fly around the world, at least one time with a nuclear weapon in the bomb bay.

Career ended with crash

There were many aircraft carrier landings and take-offs. One of those landings aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt ended my naval career.

Recuperating, I thought about rocking chair money

While recovering from that crash in a Bremerton, Washington, hospital, I had been thinking about enjoying 52 weeks of Rocking Chair money - unemployment - as a lot of guys did returning to Knifley after World War II did.

I checked in at the unemployment office first thing Monday morning, almost snickered when the counselor informed me that Dearborn Electronics down the road was looking for a test engineer.

I finished the interview in around 10 minutes and headed for Mayfair County Club, near my old base in Sanford, Florida. I was teeing off on the 16th hole when the caddymaster arrived on a cart. I had a call from Dearborn, they wanted me to start the next morning.

My rocking had lasted less than 24 hours!

Career in aerospace

I had spent the intervening years with General Electric, McDonnell/Douglas and Aerojet doing such things as Project Engineer, Program Manager and Engineering Manager on most significant Aerospace Programs of the sixties and seventies.

Most of time was in the General Electric Missiles and Space Division as Test Engineer and Materials Test Manager for the Apollo program.

I was also Director of Product Assurance for McDonnell Douglas but never managed to reach the exalted "scientist" level.

I then went with Aerojet General, which, at one time, built 83% of the Free World's rocketry.

The W71 program was history's first completely operational Early Warning and Surveillence Satellite at the time it was so classified they didn't even give it a name. It is now called the Defense Support Program and is the program that Reagan used to scare the crap out of Gorbachev.

They checked up on me in Knifley. John Dunbar later regaled me with the story of a visit by the FBI out in one of his fields in Knifley. He told me he allowed as how I was a "purty good boy," I learned.

Rocket Scientist: "Chief Scientist Hovious"

Most of our sub-contractors were in the Boston area. At a "Major Status Review, New Research," which was conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a decision was made.

The Program Vice President announced, "The Chief Scientist will be Hovious," and my lifetime ambition was achieved in 10 seconds. My hat size at least doubled!

Speaking tours

I had a chance to do a lot of public speaking during that period, at Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, and recruiting at High Schools and Colleges for General Electric.

The apogee of my speaking career came when I was asked to address the U.S. Naval League in Madrid, Spain.

The Speaker the previous month had been Christopher Columbus XII (or so) who was a Commander in the Spanish Navy at the time.

My speech on the Apollo Program went well and I spent around a month telling myself that probably not a lot of kids from the hills of Kentucky got to address such a group.

My ego was returned to its proper level the next month when the guest speaker was the U.S. Air Force General in charge of all NATO forces in Southern Europe. I asked where he was from, he replied, "Little place just outside Paducah, Kentucky."

From Aerospace to Eastern Maine Maritime

My wife then was heir to one of Maine's oldest companies, Eastern Maine Maritime. which was originally the Knickerbocker Fleet.

Because of illness in the family and on about a weeks notice I left the best job in the Aerospace Industry where the average IQ was around 130 to take over a very old Maine Organization where the IQ's and Challenge was - uh, Less.

This move got a lot of TV, radio and press publicity.

Instead of working, travelling and engineering with some of the worlds best minds I found myself cavorting with tug boaters, and just about everyone else in the Gulf oil patch.

Since I was CEO of the only real capability north of Boston and Georges Bank was scheduled to be the next big drill my treatment at such companies as Exon, Conoco and Halliburton was downright erotic. The big drill didn't happen, though. The tree huggers stopped it.

Professional tourist today

I have been a professional tourist for many years now, hold citizenship or legal residence in seven countries and since I appear to be running out of steam.

At one time we had homes and a life in Florida, California, Acapulca and Paris. No one could imagine how many people around world have looked at me a little strange when I tell some of the Tales of Knifley.

Often, my travels have brought me back in contact with home.It seems like he was Murray and Wallace's brother. I remember once when I was driving through Carthage, Texas, just outside Dallas, back in the fifties and happened to see a Sign saying "Knifley Buick."

Much to my wife's displeasure I decided to stop and see if they were related to the Adair county folks. We both about had a stroke when I walked in: The owner was Rollin, Wallace and Murray's brother. By the time we stopped exchanging memories my wife was really upset. That was the last time I ever saw Rollin Knifley again!

A note on this effort

One of my best friends in Aerospace was Frank Knolle, an Air Force Colonel and the first astronaut selected for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which never got off the ground, literally.

He had a favorite saying: If I had more time , I could have wrote a shorter letter. I agree, so please condense this down to something legible.

(Editor's note: Wouldn't. Couldn't. I only hope Mr. Hovious expands this into a book.)

Principle home, now, is Spain

Our homebase is Marbella, Spain.

I was in the first group sent to Spain by President Truman to bring them into the 20th century.

It's been quite an experience for a farm boy from Adair County, Kentucky.

Retirement in Spain

I returned to Spain as often as I could, then retired here 20 years ago.

Spain has always been our best friend in Europe. I have never detected the slightest anti-Americanism until "W."

Recently, a caravan parked crosswise in the crosswalk in front of the U.S. Embassy with a huge sign on top. It simply stated, "Honk if you hate George Bush."

Spain has been named the noisiest country in the world several times. But never has it approached the level of the next several hours outside the Embassy--makes you proud!

Two children

I have two children. My daughter Anne Michele was born in 1965, in Florida. She is now married to Paul DeStefano.

My son, Matthew Richard Hovious, was born 10 years later in California. Matt Hovious is an author, cartoonist, and the genealogist who is webmaster of hovious.com

His first novel, Secrets of the Painter, was published in January, 2002, by iUniverse. Matthew has worked as a cartoonist, publishing work both in Spanish and in English. He published the first comic book ever in Panama. It was a collection of strips about bumbling policemen, and it was so popular that it went into four printings.

And one other of importance: Beauregard, the great dog "Bo"

Edsel Dunbar had it right, "A man ain't no count without his dog."

Bo is probably the world's best known dog. He is the perfect Husky and travels everywhere with me.

He is known to the Italians as "Bellissimo", Brits as "Gawgeous", Spaniards as "Hermoso" and to Latin Americans as "Aiiieeee -Lobo,"

Latin Americans are terrified by him. An example: the Santo Domingo airport is always jammed on Sunday afternoon, with mostly Dominiyorkers returning home to Queens.

Bo flies special cargo and has to check in first class with me. After being assured by several hundred that they were all going to Madrid first class, I let Bo out of his huge box for his "happy flying pill." Within seconds that entire half of the airport was empty!

Another time we arrived at the Marbella airport (Malaga) with ten checked-in bags, two carry ons and Bo. I expected to be in Customs at least two hours. We had everything loaded on our rental bus in 10 minutes. The customs "Jefe" owned a husky too, and that was as good as a Masonic handshake.

I am currently trying to decide where to "hang it up".

My email, for accolades is : richard@hovious.com

If you've taken offense, or for critical comments for any mistakes, misquotes, misdirections, or misunderstandings, or offenses against history, contact Knifleyan and Chelfie by maternal lineage Ed Waggener: ed@columbiamagazine.com

Or just holler at Adair County Deputy Donald Knifley and tell him you read about his brother, my cousin, Buddy Knifley's, back home running mate! "Buddy" was the nickname for the late Coakley Ray Knifley.

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Knifley's first rocket scientist



2004-11-16 - Knifley, KY - Photo courtesy. KNIFLEY'S FIRST ROCKET SCIENTIST -- that's what the little boy at left, Richard Arlan Hovious shown in a Knifley School photo, had the ambition to become. It was a goal that came closer to realization seven years later when he went to Campbellsville. AT RIGHT is the boy's father, Robert Lee Hovious, and the pretty girl beside him is his sister, Opal Hovious, in a photo in front of the Robert Hovious Place. It was circa 1934, and Hoviouses were ready to go to an event at Knifley High School. Opal Hovious later married Murray Knifley, who was for many years Chief of Police in Columbia.
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Knifley's first rocket scientist today



2004-11-17 - Knifley, KY - Photo courtesy. RICHARD ARLAN HOVIOUS is shown here in a recent photo with his famous dog, Beauregard. Click 'read more' for the rest of the story.
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Old home in Knifley



2004-11-19 - Knifley, KY - Photo courtesy. The Robert Hovious Place in Knifley was named for Richard Arlan Hovious' grandfather. (For more of his story, click 'read more' below. The house stands on a small knoll, facing Elkhorn Road. The house is about one-third of the way between Elkhorn Road and Knifley Elementary, would be slightly to the left (west)over the rise. Robert and Laurie Barron are presently remodelling the home.
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Father and son



2004-11-19 - Knifley, KY - Photo courtesy. AUTHOR/CARTOONIST MATTHEW HOVIOUS is shown above in a recent photo with his father Richard. Click 'read more' for the full story.
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