The Ensigns trace their roots back to 1620 when an Irish ancestor was the caretaker of the flags for an expedition to Connecticut. Hence, that Irishman adopted the name Ensign (meaning flag bearer) denoting his occupation as was the 17th century custom.
A town named Ensign, Kan., founded in the 1880's, commemorated the civic efforts of the family in that area. The Ensign clan eventually made their way west, settling in Los Angeles County in the pre-World War II era.
In Los Angeles, Horace Oscar Ensign, Ed's grandfather, worked as a school teacher, later transferring to a job in Orange County. In 1949, when a new school was built in Costa Mesa, it was named in honor of Horace, the school's first principal. Today, that school is called Ensign Intermediate School.
As a Costa Mesa kid, Ed pedaled his bicycle everywhere and skateboarded every nook, ramp, and curb in the nearby beach towns and in his Back Bay neighborhood. In his teens, he became obsessed with dirt bikes, intuitively understanding their engines and how they worked.
In 1971, Ed and his father, Don, bought matching Triumph 650 motorcycles and spent lots of their leisure time riding together. Ed's passion for motorcycles continued his entire life, having bought a new Harley Davidson Sportster only weeks before his death.
But unlike his grandfather, Ed's career-oriented education was more practical, developed from an innate mechanical ability. His formal education included attending Costa Mesa High School and some classes at Orange Coast Colleg but, for Ed, learning was a lifelong enterprise that occurred by doing and from research at the workplace.
In 1978, Ed started his optical career at Valtec Corporation, also known as Precision Optical, where he worked nearly his entire career. Even in the 1980 while employed at Exotic Materials, Ed often moonlighted at Precision Optical, working with Al Lambert, who eventually bought Precision's Costa Mesa plant in 1990.