90-year-old Henry Ford Trade School alumnus reflects on the meaning of education
After he celebrated his 90th birthday, Jack Accurso – a 1949 alumnus of the Henry Ford Trade School (HFTS) contacted Henry Ford College, asking for a copy of his transcripts. When the HFTS closed in 1952, it turned over all its assets and records to Henry Ford College.
“I wanted to see [my transcripts] again. It had been so long. I want to show them to my children and grandchildren,” said Accurso, of Shelby Township. He has four children, 10 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He was married to his wife, Rosemary, from 1956 until her death in 1993.
“The HFTS has been important his whole life,” said daughter Donna McIntyre.
A gleaming badge, an important letter, and Gate 4
A native of Detroit, Accurso attended a parochial school from kindergarten through 7th grade. In 8th grade, he attended the now-closed Burroughs Intermediate School in Detroit. After school one day, he was taking a walk and happened to see a young man wearing a gleaming badge, which caught his attention.
“It said ‘Henry Ford Trade School.’ I talked to him about going there, and he told me I needed a letter of recommendation to get in. Miss Kennedy, my English teacher, wrote a letter on my behalf. Three weeks later, I was accepted. I got a letter telling me to go Gate 4 at Ford Motor Company World Headquarters in Dearborn. I went to take the acceptance test, and passed it. I had to take a physical, and I passed that. Every day when we went to school, we got a free lunch. Ford fed us a warm meal at lunchtime every day. I even got to cook once under the supervision of Ford cooks!” he recalled.
Army special mission: “I didn't know where I was going until I got there”
At HFTS, Accurso studied pattern-making, sheet metal, and drill-pressing. After graduating from HFTS, he worked as a metal pattern-maker at Ford, beginning in 1950 until his retirement in 1998. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving from 1953-55 between the Korean and Vietnam wars.
While in the military, Accurso learned helicopter maintenance, which he taught to fellow soldiers. Along with two other G.I.s, he was summoned to the Pentagon, where they were given orders for a special mission overseas. The three were sent to Turkey, where they taught Turkish soldiers helicopter maintenance and pattern-making.
“I didn’t know where I was going until I got there. There were weeks at a time when I went overseas to teach helicopter maintenance,” said Accurso. “I remember being at the Pentagon. It’s an unbelievable place.”
Education is what you make of it
After his honorable discharge from the Army, Accurso returned to Ford and civilian life. He got married a year after his stint in the military, and he and his wife raised a family. He looks back fondly on his time at HFTS.
“I liked it a lot. I enjoyed working on mechanical things. I got a good education at HFTS. I wish the trade school still existed [see note below]. But since most everything’s on computers now, I don’t know what a trade school would be like,” he said. “You’ll only get an education if you want it. It’s what you want to make of it. If you wanted to learn, you could learn a lot. HFTS had very good instructors. I got a good education there, which led to a great career.”