Chapter 1977, age 34-35

Themes and Events:
*  The television series, Roots is not only a popular hit with 80 million viewers, but sparks an interest in genealogy. Smash movie hits of the year include: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Annie Hall  and  Star Wars. Star Wars  became the second highest grossing movie in history.
*  More and more Americans are becoming conscious of weight and exercise. Liquid protein diets become very popular with the weight conscious, while joggers are seen everywhere.
*  The number of adult Americans living alone has doubled since 1970.
*  The minimum wage is raised from $2.30 to $3.35 an hour. The government signs legislation that will significantly increase the Social Security tax.
*  The neutron bomb become reality, but there is something sick about its concept. It is a device that can kill perhaps tens of thousands without damaging property.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Honk if you love cheeses.
*  Prepare for the rapture.
*  Protect farmland: You can’t eat townhouses.
*  Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer and ex-governor of Georgia becomes President of the United States.
Carter is a democrat who makes people feel like he cares about their problems. Together with Jimmy’s big smile and handsome looks, his pretty wife and “down home charm” we all look forward to ending the recession.

Ordering a mobile home
On 25 February, we placed an order with Sherwood Homes Inc., South Hwy. #10, St.  Cloud, for a Marshfield mobile home, be constructed by Wick Building Systems.

Our mobile homes floor plan
The Marshfield Doral mobile home was 14 foot wide by 70 foot long, all electric with 200 amp service. Among the home’s interior features were:

  • A thirteen foot long front kitchen with half height bow window and  pantry;
  • A seventeen foot long, center front room with entry closet;
  • Large, seventeen foot long, divisible center bedroom;
  • Offset utility area near rear entry for washer and dryer with over head cabinets;
  • Seven foot wide bath with over five foot of vanity top, full length linen cabinet;
  • Thirteen foot long master bedroom with full length wardrobe closet.
  • Other features that were either standard or which we ordered as options were:
  • The roof exterior was one piece galvanized steel in unpainted gray, while the sides were textured aluminum with baked enamel paint. We chose the white enamel exterior in order to maximize reflection of summer heat.
  • The hot and cold water lines were made of copper tubing.
  • We ordered an optional ‘all electric package’, with electric resistance forced air heating, and electric appliances (stove and oven, twelve cubic foot refrigerator, clothes washer and dryer).
  • At the time of manufacture, we had an optional, extra insulation package installed, increasing our homes walls and ceiling to R19, and the floor to R11.
  • We ordered “self storing storm windows”, to be installed during construction. The home design was chosen with most of the  window space being exposed on one side allowing for good southern exposure, while limiting winter heat loss from the smaller window space on the north side of the home.

The mobile home cost $11,933.14 ($11,466.00 book price + $458.64 sales tax + $8.50 Title) which we paid in full with a Cashier’s check from the sale of our gold and nineteen ounces of platinum bullion coins.

Moving to Rockwood EstatesM.H. Park
Nearing the end of April, our new mobile home was delivered and set up on Space #100 at Rockwood Estates mobile home park. Rockwood Estates was a well maintained, large mobile home community located several miles south of Rice Minnesota, on the east side of Highway #10, and about eleven miles north of Highway $23 in St Cloud. The park featured large, wide lots, paved access, maintained roads, an emergency storm shelter, central TV antenna, good tasting well water, sewage disposal and twice weekly garbage pickup.

We’d previously given notice of our intent to vacate the apartment at the end of April and had packed most of our belongings. When the mobile home was ready, we loaded the GMC pickup truck and made several trips up Highway #10, moving our personal effects.

We chose a lot in the park that was situated beside a field, with woods in the background. The mobile home park was located in a rural environment; with a field and woods behind us, it was quite scenic.[1].

The mobile home’s lot rental fee was $45 when we moved in on 1 May 1977 and over the next three years rose to $65 by the time we moved out in August 1980, three years and four months later.
[Photograph, Donna, ca 1977 at Rockwood Estates Mobile Home Park, Rice, MN]

Our address became: Larry and Donna Pierce, Rockwood Estates, Route #2,  Box #100,Rice, MN 56367

 During the period from just before we moved to Rockwood Estates and shortly thereafter, I designed and built two wooden items;  an extra medicine cabinet for the bathroom and shelving for our growing collection of cast iron cookery, stainless steel bowls and dry goods storage, seen below.









[Photo above left: 1977 Photograph: The Kitchen storage shelves stood almost 7 feet high. held drygoods, stainless mixing bowls, soup pots, pressurecooker, rotart spice racks. The shelf was used for about six years.
Above right: A 2008 photograph, by 2011 not longer used for bulk antiacid storage.  I made this ‘medicine cabinet’  in 1977, with stained 1″x4″ pine sides and shelves, plain-decorative wooden window shutters, ‘lion head’ ring pulls. At the time of this writing, the cabinet has been in continual use for 34 years.]

Garbage disposal at the mobile home park [2]
At Rockwood Estates we were obliged to purchase our own garbage cans. Wiser now, from the experience of seeing how easily the garbage men destroyed our galvanized garbage cans at the 6th Ave. flat in St. Cloud, we bought two each thirty gallon Rubber Maid cans. The flexible plastic cans flexed back into shape after being bounced on the lip at the back of the garbage truck. Galvanized cans had a tendency to dent  about their midsection, then the tops deformed so the lid wouldn’t fit properly, finally the sides and tops irreversibly collapsed.

Music [album: The Greatest 50 Love Songs., The Girl of my Best friend]

The day Elvis died
What a shock!

On August 16, national TV programming was interrupted to bring a Special News Announcement, paraphrased and abbreviated:

“Elvis died suddenly today at age 42 years. He died unexpectedly of heart failure in the bathroom of his home, Graceland, in Memphis. Factors contributing to his death were: having taken too many various “upper” prescription drugs over a long period of time and being overweight.”

I always liked Elvis and his music. He seemed a cheerful, down to earth, regular sort of person who did not let fame or fortune carry him away. I heard several times that he was always friendly and cooperative with those with whom he worked, both on stage and movies sets. To me, Elvis’s death was one of those events where all you can do is shake your head in sadness at the tragic loss of a familiar, likeable personality[3].

[Internet image: Elvis Presley in casket,  from the National Inquirer tabloid.]

During the days and weeks that followed, we occasionally heard the phrase, “The king is dead. Long live the king.” The statement was sometimes said solemnly on radio and television, and occasionally said with slight derision by someone trying to be cute. I thought it was fitting, for Elvis was the king– the king of Rock & Roll music.

Music [midi: Start Trek, Th Search for Spock]

The Good Earth [4]
When Donna and I left Los Angeles, it was our plan to eventually buy some rural acreage and homestead it. Since arriving in Minnesota we’d saved our combined incomes, bought a mobile home and paid for it with cash. We were both working at one of the highest paying businesses in St Cloud so had a high family income, with large savings potential.

Once we were settled into the mobile home at Rockwood Estates, our minds began to refocus on buying that rural acreage.

One day, during her lunch break, Donna drove to Strout Realty in St. Cloud and picked up a flier of property descriptions and directions to several parcels of unimproved land in the local area.

Late that afternoon, after work, we drove about twenty two miles northeast ofSt. Cloud to look at the first offering.

The Strout sales brochure stated:
No. 186 – 39 ACRES – $8775. …Then make a date to inspect this level to rolling parcel with over 1100 ft. on blacktop county road, 2-1/2 miles to town. 12 acres of woodland with maples, oaks, basswood;
10 acres of pasture; some fencing and cross fencing. Some low ground. Ditch for stock water. On service routes. Nice place for a country home and a real steal at just $8775; terms.”

We parked the pickup truck along side County Road 14 and entered the property from the west side, walking east through the woods. The dense forest canopy nearly hid the sun, creating a shadowy environment amongst the various sized trees and many saplings. The wooded acreage contained a hardwood mix of maple, oak, basswood, poplar, a few young elm, and a some birch. About three hundred feet in, a large dead Elm tree had fallen. Brush and saplings grew up profusely in the area opener to sunlight. We clambered over the fallen trunk and fought our way through a nearly impenetrable thicket of brush.

About six hundred fifty feet back from the road, we found two connected half acre stands of red raspberries commingled with tall grass and stands of saplings growing up beneath several tall, dead Elm trees.
We later found that Dutch Elm Disease had run through central Minnesota a few years earlier wiping out whole Elm forests and killing all the once giant Elm trees on this and all area properties. We found that where ever Elms had lived, the undergrowth had taken over with Maple and Oak saplings, grasses, red raspberry and a few wild strawberries.

[Photograph, September 1977: First photograph of our future property…being from Los Angeles and loving camping we immediately fell in love with this still wild land. Looking NE. Future driveway was installed east to west, immediately behind the Realtor’s sign.]

As we walked about looking at everything, we found there were be four distinct biotic zone, where excessive ground moisture was the limiting factor. These zones were:
1)  The higher wooded area. The wooded area consisted of an approximately nine acre area located in a several hundred foot, variable width strip along the north side of the property.  Amongst the woods there appeared to be three very small hills each equidistant from one another between the east and west end of the property. The woods were high and dry, but gradually sloped down toward the south and intersected a low area, called Fen Bog.
2)  At the intersection between the woods and the bog there was a fifty foot wide brushy-grass transition zone composed of a mixture of grasses and Black Willows.
3)  At the east end of the property the transition zone gave way to a semi wet area of about ten acres
size, consisting of Black Willows, eight foot tall grasses and on locally higher areas, scraggly small trees.
4)  At the west end of the property, next to the County Road, the transition zone rapidly gave way to a Fen Bog. The approximately eleven acre Fen Bog was a semi circular area consisting of a thick underwater mat of decayed vegetation and shallow, standing water. Dense stands of cattails and Wire Grass grew throughout the bog.
The property was a thirty nine acre parcel bordered on the west by paved, County Road 14, which was said to have a school bus passing daily.

Tidal behavior in the Fen Bog
As we came to find out, during the spring snow melt, water collects in the Fen Bog and backs up into the willows, remaining there to some degree, throughout the summer. As the bog fills with water in the spring it backs up into the grassy transition zone toward the woods. The transition zone becomes soggy, but extra ground moisture is only temporary. By late spring the grass strip has dried, at least on the surface.

By analogy, it is as if the water in the Fen Bog were an ocean with one annual tide. In rapid time lapse one can see the spring snow melt being like the tide coming in, with water rushing up into the grassy transition zone. The woods are like sand dunes along the ocean, always high and dry. During the late spring, the tide reverses and begins running out of the grassy area, a process that continues until low tide is reached during late summer.

We later found that, during the Great Depression and Midwestern Drought of the 1930s, a previous owner of the property had plowed the Fen Bog and cleared the Black Willows from the low land. During the drought, while crops on higher ground withered, there had been enough soil moisture in the entire lower area to successfully raise crops. After a couple year long local drought, the rains returned to this area and the twenty five acres of Fen Bog and willow land once again filled with water, putting an end to their agricultural use. Indeed, while hiking about and exploring the willow land, Donna and I found several large piles of rocks that had been removed from those long gone fields and saw tractor ruts back in the willows, where the owners probably became stuck with their tractor several times before giving up the fields.

Animal life on ‘the land’
During several subsequent visits to the thirty nine acre parcel of land, we saw the following animal life:
Mammals: Eastern Gray Squirrel, Red Squirrel, various Chipmunks, Skunk, Woodchuck, Cottontail Rabbit, Whitetail Deer.
Birds: Ruffed Grouse, Pheasant (a flock of forty seen once), Blue Jay, English Sparrow, Oriole, Red Winged Blackbird, Crows, Chimney Swift, Nuthatch, Robin, Grackle, Barn Swallow, Sparrow Hawk, Marsh Hawk, Saw Whet Owl, Wood Duck, Wilson Snipe, Crane, Mallard Duck.
We have seen four types of woodpeckers, including: Downey, Red Headed, Flicker and the nearly extinct Pileated woodpecker [5].
We also found Garter Snakes, tree frogs, several other types of frogs and toads.

[Photograph, Winter 1977-78, Tracks on “The Land.” A variety on animal tracks/paths seen crossing in the snow on the rural Foley property.]

Opportunity seen on the raw land
The land offered us some energy saving opportunities:
1) The forest was large enough to provide a perpetual supply of wood for our part time, wood burning stove thereby reducing our electric bill and giving us a modicum of survivability in hard times.
2) A homesite could be carved out of the area where the red raspberry thickets were. In that location the mobile home would sit on a slight south facing slope with excellent exposure to the low winter sun.
3) The forest, which extended from the southwest to the northwest of the homesite, would provide protection from the frigid northwest winter winds and from much of the ferocious southeastern and western summer gales.
4) The trees would also provide shade from the hot sun on late afternoon on summer days [6].

Purchasing the 39 acres
Donna and I fell in love with the property, it was exactly what we wished for in acreage and the price was right.
The thirty nine acres of raw (unimproved) marginal land was being sold for $8875 or $227 per acre. The owner’s, Bobby and Arlene, were advertising the property through Strout Realty for $8000, while Strout Realty had tacked on the additional $875 for their limited services. After several visits to the property and considerable figuring to determine various payment options, we put $500 down as earnest money to close the deal. Over the next few days a title search was run by the county to verify that the ‘owners’ indeed had the right to sell the property and the Deed Abstract was brought up to date.

The legal description of the property:
The Southwest Quarter of the Southwest Quarter of Section 24, Township 38 North, Range 29 West, 4th Principal Meridian, Benton County, Minnesota, Excepting there from the West 208 feet of the North 208 feet thereof.”

After work, on the afternoon of Friday, September 9, we met with Bobby and Arlene, the Strout Reality agent and a Notary Public at First American bank in St. Cloud.
We paid the ‘owners’ an additional $2000 and made financial arrangements to finish paying for the property with two each $3137.50 payments. The first payment was due on or before 1 August 1978;  the second was due on or before 1 August 1979,  together with interest on the unpaid balance at the rate of 8% per annum. The interest was to be paid in addition to and together with the principal payments listed above. When we made the second and final payment, the Deed would be turned over to us. (See the Contract for Deed document at the end of this chapter.)

Music [Album/midi: A.I., Dreams]

Bobby and Arlene
When the legal papers were finalized, Bobby, Arlene, Donna and I went to Sammy’s Pizza restaurant in downtown St. Cloud for supper, a pitcher of beer and a little celebration.

[1977 photograph, Bobby and Arlene T. whom we bought the thirty nine acre property from- they became our neighbors and close  friends.]

Bobby and Arlene were a fun couple, being jovial, friendly and outgoing. We sat around our table telling jokes, generally talking about ourselves, our jobs, our interests and getting to know one another. The T’s lived on an adjoining farm to our southeast. Bobby’s mother, Anne, lived in the family farmhouse, while Bobby and Arlene lived in a 14′ x 70′ mobile home across the township road [7].  Bobby had taken over his deceased father’s several hundred acre dairy and hog operation. Arlene was a Licensed Practical Nurse whom worked in St. Cloud and did part-time work helping on the farm.

A work of love begins
Immediately after entering into the Contract For Deed, Donna and I began work on our property. Over the next couple years we spent every vacation day and many weekends preparing the land for our mobile home. Because we’d elected to pay for the acreage as soon as possible, we had little extra cash. The lack of cash, the enjoyment of putting in our own labor and ignorance of other techniques left us clearing our future driveway and homesite with a chainsaw, long handled pruning shears, brush scythe, come-a-long, and a sturdy wheelbarrow.[1977 panoramic photograph: Our lowland and woods from as seen from along 125th Ave NE, at the SW corner of the property, we’reooking NNE. I always enjoyed seeing the beautiful Fall colors and the smell of crisp pre winter air. The 1.5 acre homesite was eventually developed in, 1/3 way to the right from the left side of the picture and just behind the tree line, where it was out of sight to passer-bys. The photograph below was taken 1/4 mile to the right (east) of where I’m standing to take this picture, it is also looking across the bog toward the tree line]

[1977 panoramic photograph: Elevated view of the lowland. I took this picture from high in a tree, looking NNW across our property. The homesite was created about 1/3 to 2/5 the way from the left margin of the picture, just behind the tree line. County Road #14 (125th Ave NE) is seen passing at the extreme left. The east property line  (S to N) runs roughly along the right side of the photograph. The picture above this one was taken 1/4 mile to the left while standing on the Co. road.]

Beginning to clear a driveway
The first order of business was to gain access to our property, so we began cutting trees and clearing brush from a path that would become our driveway.

We took a week vacation in mid October and trucked our camping gear, including a new ten foot by twelve foot cabin tent out to the property. With great effort we both carried and wheel barrowed load after load of gear about nine hundred feet back through the woods and set up camp. That was our first opportunity to sleep on the property, that night we heard the calls of wild animals in the woods.

Vacation week was chilly, filled with light showers and not a good time to work. We had a plastic canopy set up over our sawhorse and plywood camp table and cooking area. Although the weather was dismal and cold we enjoyed exploring, planning and working when we could. We made the best use of good weather by continuing to cut a path through the woods to the County Road.
We would cut a tree or two, then saw them into firewood lengths. Old, dry wood was stacked separately for transporting back to the trailer where it would be used in the wood burning stove.

[Photograph: West side of property near County road. Chainsaw and me; cutting trees, sawing firewood and hauling brush. Opening a path through  the woods near the front of our future driveway.]

As time passed our plan for the driveway’s route took into consideration future privacy concerns and aesthetics. We didn’t want passer-bys on County Road 14 to see any significant part of our home, garage or any activity back in the homesite. At the same time. we didn’t want to see or hear traffic passing on the road. In order to create a privacy curtain, we brought the driveway in form the road at one angle, then made a slight curve and changed angle. Passer-bys attempting to look down up the driveway had the view blocked by woods.

When we decided to develop the homesite in an area, between six hundred and eight hundred feet east of the County Road, in an area filled with rhaspberry canes, and dead elm trees. In that area,  of  we found that the woods effectively blocked the noise from passing commuter vehicles, and partially the sound of tractors, trucks and the  other occassional heavy equipment.

Meanwhile, at Landy Packing Company:
The Wastewater Treatment Plant went into full operation. As the weeks passed, I began following a preventative maintenance program of greasing the equipment, changing oil, inspecting for wear; and painting, as there were still lengths of pipe that required ‘color coding’.

[ca 1984 photograph of the interior of the Wastewater Treatment plant, taken from a platform, looking SW, diagonally across the plant. The large, light blue tanks are each 80,000 gallon clarifiers. The  white and brown tanks are slude storage tanks; the green tank and two smaller stainless steel tanks in front (about 8 feet high) are part of the grease extraction process that I developed–in the years after 1977. I worked alone in this large building and was responsible for its operation.]

Since the ‘day to day’ process was similar, patterns were seen developing. A screen needed cleaning ever so often, the clarifier pits needed pumping, scum accumulations in the sludge tanks had to be pumped into a truck tanker for removal, the building sump needed to be pumped twice a day. Floors needed hosing down and squeegying when ever scum spilled on the floor.
As the process unfolded, I worked out a daily log to keep track of the influent, the waste water treatment plants chemical feed, and the volume and time of sludge and scum removal.  The Landy’s always had questions so having my  finger on the pulse of the plant showed my ‘ownership’ of the process.

[Photocopy of one of my Waste Water Treatment Plant logs: A worksheet I developed to track chemical additions, waste  removal and other  parameters of Landy Packing Company’s wastewater treatment plant. Special notes were written on the back of the page.]

In general, Landy Packing discharged about 500,000 gallons of water per day. On a daily graphic (above), I tracked the ‘settleable solids’, in an Imhoff cone, noting a huge spike at noon when the Rendering operation washed it’s floors.

GT1 and GT2 were ‘grease tank 1 and ‘grease tank 2’, holding tanks for the greasy scum skimmed off the top of the first and second 80,000 gallon clarifiers. See pictures in Chapter 1978.

Almost hourly, a fifty pound bag of Ferri Floc (ferric sulfate) was added to the chemical hoppers where it was mixed into a tank of water; a batch of Poly (polymer) was mixed up about every three hours. These two chemicals were fed into the 2nd clarifier at a rate which best cleaned the water, without creating excessive foam. I also tracked the influent water temperature and pH (acidity).

During the first few months after the wastewater plant went into operation, I was the only operator. Since Landy’s Rendering operation ran around the clock, washing down the floors of grease, small chunks of animal bone, pieces of hide etc, there were problems developing. Huge quantities of organic material were building up in the WWT plants sump. A lot more than I could remove in from one opportunity for cleaning that I had (it was a matter of having a dump truck available and build up of heavy, greasy foam on the clarifiers). Further, with no one to pump the tanks at night, they were frequently running over onto the floor, creating an odor that wafted out into the surrounding college community, eliciting complaints from residents and the City of St Cloud government.

Before long, I was told to put an advertisement in the St. Cloud Times and hire someone to run a second shift. I was surprised that the Landy’s didn’t want to have anything to do with the WWT other than just monitor it through the costs. I was put in charge of hiring and firing. Although the cost of the plant wouldn’t be considered much with today’s dollar values, it cost a half million dollars in 1975, a time when a half million was a lot[8].

With the hiring of a swing shift operator I was promoted from Operator, to Foreman.

After a two week training period, the new operator took over on Swing Shift. I started work at 6:30AM, got off work at 2:30PM. The swing shift operator started his eight hour shift at 2:15PM.

During the spring of 1977, the City of St Cloud wrote to Max Landy with a ‘letter of commendation’ for my job performance. (See a photocopy of the document at the end of this chapter).
I don’t remember Max ever making a comment about the commendation, but his nephew, Jim Landy, who was corporate secretary and my boss, gave me a big ‘Atta-boy, Larry’ and a copy of the official letter. Although the City of St. Cloud didn’t have any love for Landy’s, they did like how the Waste Water Plant was being operated and had written to this effect, in a official document of approval.

Between my promotion to ‘foreman’ and the City’s commendation, I was given a 50¢ raise, or as Jim Landy put it, “We’ll give you 35¢ now and 15¢ in 3 months. Is that alright?”…it really pained the Landy’s to part with pennies. However, I was in for the long term, and receiving several raises a  year meant I was going to bypass senior union workers who’d been employed with the company for years.

I might ad, that as a Foreman, I was not in the Meat Cutter’s Union; however, what annual pay increases they got, I also received. The $1 raise I was given when the WWT plant went into operation the last year and this 50¢ raise, were based on merit and were in addition to the annual plant wide, Meat Cutter’s wage hikes.

A ‘home computer’ seen in St Cloud
One Saturday morning, during the late summer or early Fall, Donna and I had gone into a retail electronics store to look at stereo equipment. We were looking at stereo systems and individual components displayed on shelves along one wall. As we slowly made our way down the shelves, discussing features and prices, I heard an unusual sound and turned around and look behind us. Across the store, about forty feet away, one of the sales clerks was sitting at a small table doing something and looking up at a small television set on a shelf several feet away. A medium size white dot was ‘bouncing’ back and forth, from side to side within the ‘TV screen,’ all of which made the sales clerk yelp with glee.

Curious, we walked over and stood behind the clerk to watch. When the clerk stopped, playing for a moment, I asked what he was doing, he replied he was playing a game called (I forget) ‘Pong’ or ‘Breakout’. The clerk asked my name, then typed “LARRY” on the ‘typewriter’.
In a flash, the words “HI LARRY” popped up on the TV screen. I gasped in amazement, how did the TV screen know my name?

Some other words were displayed, to which the sales clerk typed an answer. Suddenly, the ‘ball’ image began bouncing back and forth across the TV screen again, making a musical monotone, ‘bloop… bloop… bloop’ sounds as the sales clerk hit it with electronic ‘paddles,’ that were somehow built into the TV screen?!

I was mesmerized, speechless and in awe.

How did the machine remember my name and how did it know to say “HI”…it had greeted me!? The machine was actually playing a game with the sales clerk?! How did it know what to do, how did it know what he did?
The concept of dynamic memory was unknown to me. Calculators had memory, but only stored a temporary number. What was going on in the computer was far different.

That encounter, my first exposure to a computer, was the closest thing you can have to ‘love at first sight’, between man and machine.

I knew there were hobbyist computers that could be bought and painstakingly assembled, but they looked like electronics projects and only solved mathematical equations, this “Apple” computer looked like a modernistic typewriter, but more than a typewriter, it could play games, figure your checkbook, and write letters. You communicated with through a keyboard and it responded by way of the monitor. Things that you wanted to work on, were loaded into the computer from a  4 inch diameter ‘floppy disk’.

[Internet image, right: Introduced at the West Coast Computer Fair on April 16-17, 1977, the Apple II was one of the very first successful personal computers. With a color display, and the BASIC programming language built-in, it was ready-to-run right out of the box. The Apple II was probably the first user-friendly system. Because co-creator Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs wanted to demonstrate his Breakout game with the new Apple II, he decided to add color, sound and minimum paddle support to the Apple 1’s heir.”]

I went home giddy and in a daze, my mind boggled over the concept of, a computer at home.

During the next phone conversations with my friend, Mike, in California, I found he’d bought a Heath Kit computer, was assembling it and taking the Heath Kit BASIC language course to lean BASIC Programming language[9]. With BASIC (Beginners All- purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) you could write your own computer programs and have the computer do the kind of things you were interested in. Around the end of the year, I bought the Heath Kit BASIC  Programming course, which included a thick  textbook describing the computer commands and  how they were used and a workbook for self testing and practice writing code.

I settled down for the last months of winter, spending a little time every morning learning and practice writing BASIC. By spring of 1978, I was beginning to write long text programs. I didn’t have a computer to  run the programs on, but felt there was going to be one in my future. At the time, our primary concern was to save dollars to meet our next ‘Contract for Deed’ land payment; when that was accomplished, the extravagant thoughts of owning home computer might be realized.

An example of B.A.S.I.C.  keywords
Data manipulation
•  LET: assigns a value (which may be the result of an expression) to a variable.
•  DATA: holds a list of values which are assigned sequentially using the READ command.
 Program flow control
•  IF … THEN … ELSE: used to perform comparisons or make decisions.
•  FOR … TO … {STEP} … NEXT: repeat a section of code a given number of times. A variable that acts as a counter is available within the loop.
•  WHILE … WEND and REPEAT … UNTIL: repeat a section of code while the specified condition is true. The condition may be evaluated before each iteration of the loop, or after.
•  DO … LOOP {WHILE} or {UNTIL}: repeat a section of code Forever or While/Until the specified condition is true . The condition may be evaluated before each iteration of the loop, or after.
•  GOTO: jumps to a numbered or labelled line in the program.
•  GOSUB: temporarily jumps to a numbered or labelled line, returning to the following line after encountering the RETURN Command. This is used to implement subroutines.
•  ON … GOTO/GOSUB: chooses where to jump based on the specified conditions. See Switch statement for other forms.
 Input and output
• PRINT: displays a message on the screen or other output device.
• INPUT: asks the user to enter the value of a variable. The statement may include a prompt message.
• TAB or AT: sets the position where the next character will be shown on the screen or printed on paper.
•  CLS: Clear screen

Writing a simple programming:
10 INPUT “What is your name: “, U$
20 PRINT “Hello “; U$
30 INPUT “How many stars do you want: “, N
40 S$ = “”
50 FOR I = 1 TO N
60 S$ = S$ + “*”
90 INPUT “Do you want more stars? “, A$
100 IF LEN(A$) = 0 THEN GOTO 90
110 A$ = LEFT$(A$, 1)
120 IF A$ = “Y” OR A$ = “y” THEN GOTO 30
130 PRINT “Goodbye “; U$
140 END

Running the above program:
What is your name: Larry
Hello Larry
How many stars do you want: 7
Do you want more stars? yes
How many stars do you want: 3
Do you want more stars? no
Goodbye Larry

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1977 (most are weekly shows)
•  Local Evening News                  •  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies
•  National Evening News            •  The Walton’s
•  Laverne and Shirley                  •  Wonder Woman
•  Three’s company                        •  The Rockford Files
•  Eight is Enough                          •  Fish
•  The Muppet Show                      •  M*A*S*H*
•  The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams
•  Roots, a miniseries.

Movies that Donna and I attended this year include;
A Bridge Too Far with Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery
Annie Hall with  Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Paul Simon
Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon
Day of the Animals with Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Leslie Nielson
Orca with Richard Harris, Will Sampson, Charlotte Rampling, Bo Derek
Slap Shot with Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean, Jennifer Warren
Smokey and the Bandit with Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason
Star Wars with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, Alec Guinness
The Deep with Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Louis Gossett Jr.
The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood, Sonrda Locke, Pat Hingle
The People That Time Forgot with Patrick Wayne, Doug McClure, Sarah Douglas

[1]  In this phjotograph, Donna, is standing behind our mobile home at Rockwood Estates. The field with woods discussed are seen in the background, behind her. Donna is wearing a recently purchased, Navajo made sterling silver bracelet housing a large chunk of spider web turquoise; this quality bracelet cost about $350.
[2]  See also Journal 12, Point of View, page 2100, “Archeological Digs”
[3]  Sixteen years later, on January 8, 1993, the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s 58th birthday, the US Postal Department released, from post offices nationwide, a 29¢ First Class Postage stamp bearing the image of a “young Elvis.” St Cloud, Minnesota had 16,000 of the stamps and was sold out before noon, Foley, having an unknown number, was sold out within two hours of opening. So great was the demand for the Elvis postage stamp that the postal Department first printed 300 million stamps, twice the normal number for a commemorative, then printed an additional 200 million.
[4]  See also Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, page 12.
[5]  There have been a few Pileated Woodpeckers on the property ever since we first bought it. Never more than one was ever seen at any time. They seem to nest in the wood to the east of the homesite,
occasionally flying to the west of the homesite to peck bugs from standing dead trees.
[6]  I kept records of our electricity usage for several year before and after moving the mobile home onto the property. It turned out that at a constant rate of $0.07 per KwHr that we saved about $280
per year. The saving derived from the combined factors of: southern exposure, summer shade, wind break, and use of our own firewood supply in the wood burning stove.
[7]  Their house was located one quarter mile east of County Road 14 (later renamed 125th Ave N.E.), on Elk Road. Anne lived in a yellow brown brick house on the south side, while B&A lived in a mobile home on the north side ofElk Rd.
[8] About 53 years worth of the cost of my hourly gross wages in early 1977, or about $1.92 million in 2007.
[9] BASIC an acronym for ‘Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code’.

City of St Cloud commendation

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

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