Short Bio:

return to home

 My name is Algis Ratnikas and I was born in a refugee camp in Munich, Germany, in 1947 to Lithuanian parents. Our family emigrated to the United States in 1950. I remember waking up to the sound of an engine and looking out an airplane window. Below me I distinctly remember seeing the statue of a large woman. I had just turned 3 years old. My father had a arranged for a job picking tobacco in North Carolina. The job did not wait, but he was quickly able to contact a school friend, already settled in Detroit, to act as a sponsor. I grew up on the West side of Detroit and attended McCarrow public grade school through the 3rd grade and then transferred to St. Cecilia's through the 6th grade, where I also took piano lessons for 3 years.
We moved to Dearborn in 1959, where my father had advanced to work as a draftsman for the Ford Motor Company. In Dearborn my mother enrolled her 4 school-age children at Sacred Heart School, which was taught by the same IHM Sisters as we had at St .Cecilia. I soon began playing the accordion because our old piano had been left behind on Tuxedo St. In Dearborn we lived only a mile or so from the Greenfield Village Museum. One summer I happened upon the deserted Ford Fairlane mansion, while hiking in the woods along the Rouge River.
I graduated from Sacred Heart High in 1965 and was accepted to the Univ. of Michigan with a small state scholarship. There I pursued a 4 year pre-med program and concentrated in cell biology. I was very interested in immunology and had spent 2 summers working for Dr. Poulik, a family friend, at the Children's Medical Center on Detroit's near East Side in the electrophoresis laboratory.
At the end of 4 years in Ann Arbor (1969) I received my graduation certificate and draft notice in the mail on the same day. I chose to enlist and selected service as a laboratory technician. I was very much opposed to the war in Vietnam, but figured that my time would be better spent working within the system rather than outside it as a fugitive.
Boot camp was at Fort Knox, Ky., and in the 6th week I contracted spinal meningitis. I was fortunate enough to recover and was sent home for a few months recuperation before returning to start boot camp all over. I then went to San Antonio, Texas, for advanced training as a laboratory technician. Most of my class went on to Vietnam, but I was held back for special orders for paratrooper jump school, which was part of my initial delayed enlistment signup deal. Since this was a volunteer assignment, I respectfully changed my mind and was placed on another hold for new orders. This time I was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. After one year in Colorado I was transferred to the 2nd General Hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
In Germany I had a little opportunity to travel and spent a few weeks in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and London. I bought an old VW bus and drove to wine and beer festivals just about every weekend. In 1972 I received an early out and returned home and soon I enrolled at Wayne State Univ. for a Master's in the Humanities Dept. My interests in the sciences had severely waned and my lifelong love of reading and music, coupled with new interests in art and history made this a natural choice.
During my 1st semester in graduate school I found a large roll of paper, perhaps 20 inches wide. I extended some 20 feet of this across a wall of parent's basement, where I had established my temporary quarters. On this scroll I created my own timeline to help me visualize and study the various art movements, major dates, artists, events etc. that my new studies threw up at an alarming rate. The scroll quickly filled up with numerous scribbles as well as erasure marks due to miscalculated spacing. The utility of the endeavour soon waned as the paper fell apart from the frequent erasures.
At Wayne I connected with a group active in publishing the Fifth Estate Newspaper. The paper had gone through numerous changes and at this time was settling into an Anarchist phase with no external advertising, no pay, a monthly schedule and bills paid through fundraisers and subscriptions along with some book sales. I wrote a few short articles and helped publish the paper and learned some of the details of the whole publishing process as well as a lot of history on left wing politics and the labor movement.
Upon graduation in 1976 with a Masters Degree in Humanities I found myself working in a rubber molding plant, where the products included gaskets, rubber bottoms for car luggage racks, and gas masks. It was time to go. A girlfriend helped departure along and our travel plans focused on Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and then San Francisco, with preliminary side trips to Iowa and Florida.
In San Francisco I settled into a single rented room in Chinatown for $50 per month and lived off of unemployment benefits and food stamps for some 6 months while completing a novel I had begun in Guatemala. Funds ran out and I began working for the manager of the hotel at odd jobs and then as an assistant tile setter. The manager was a major alcoholic. I soon connected with a plumber and learned the tile trade enough to begin taking jobs on my own.
I moved to a house in Bernal Heights with a new girl friend and joined with a small group of people to found "Yellow Phone, Inc." an advertising service that attempted to link customers using the new personal computers that had just become available. The service generated money only by offering computerized dating. At this point I lost interest in the business but was excited in the hardware and enrolled in a SF electronics school. After one year I took on a full-time job with Oakleaf Corp. servicing small computers in the sales offices of automotive dealerships across northern California. One year later I married my girlfriend, became the father to a wonderful daughter, and hired with Becton Dickinson Corp. to service their Automated Radio-Immuno-Assay laboratory equipment. I continued to work for BD to the end of 2004.
In 1995 I revived my old graduate school timeline project. My intention was to create a reliable and easy to use timeline that began right from the Big Bang. Numerous tools all fell into place that made the project work: the computer, the WWW, my own background and interests, and then search engines and other assorted web page tools. The project quickly grew to a large collection of files. Web page counters, search engines and e-mail proved the project useful to a wide variety of users.
In 2001 I began to host a user's newsletter. In Aug 2001 my site host underwent major restructuring and suddenly dropped all hosted web sites with almost no warning. Fortunately I had a spare blank site and managed to transport all my files one day before losing all contact with!

Updates on the Timelines site can be seen in the NL Archive file.

In Dec 2004 I took an early retirement in order to devote full time to the timelines project. In 2005 I took on a partner to form a database version of the project. If you would like to provide support please let me know.

Algis Ratnikas
Return to home