John M. Wells, the breakaway of Turner, Cady and Mason from the work-duty ethic was accomplished without any undue upheaval. It was very much like the separation of the John Ward Wells’ family years before. Those who didn’t want to stay eventually left.

With John and Cheney, however, it was an entirely different matter. Theirs was the classic head-to-head confrontation, force against containment, conscience against personal fulfilment. It was the first of two such major confrontations between generations, the second of which, involving George B. would be final.

Shortly after George’s election as president of the American Optical company, Cheney and Gertrude, leaving Florence in Boston, went for a long tour of the Orient. In Southbridge, John was left to cope not only with his own desires vis-a-vis the company, but also with the duty of visiting his mother.

Coped well: Long memoranda concerning his visits and phone calls to Florence, inviting her to Southbridge for Christmas while Cheney and Gertrude were away, were dutifully forwarded to Cheney from the first of October 1936 to the sixth of May 1937. In the company he continued with his efforts to reconcile his own passions for aviation and electronics with the corporate goals.

Radio had led him to aviation. In a letter to his father, “then when radio began to play such an important part in aviation, I realized that sooner or later I was going to learn to fly anyway, and in 1929 I started in. Actually, I wanted to fly with the Harvard Flying Club, but you (Cheney) discouraged me and I dropped it at the time to please you. But now I have carried it on far enough to get both my full commercial pilot’s license & then subsequently the more difficult task of acquiring an ‘instrument rating’ to be appended thereto. I find that I am one of the few private flyers in the country to have gone this far . . .”

Read More