Chapter 1973, age 30-31

 Themes and Events:
* During the Vietnam War 59,000 American soldiers died, bringing about a massive public outcry; while at home, 330,000 women ‘quietly’ died of breast cancer.
* President Nixon announced that the war in Vietnam will end at the end of January and the last 23,700 soldiers will be removed within 60 days. A cease fire agreement was subsequently signed in Paris by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho of North Vietnam.
* When Senate hearings into the ‘Watergate break in’ began, White House officials testified, implicating one another and revealing  the use of “hush money” and the existence of an “enemies list”. When it was revealed that President Nixon has a secret tape recording of all his telephone conversations, they were subpoenaed. The tapes eventually became available, but there was found to be an inexplicable 18 1/2 minute gap. The gap (erasure) in Nixon’s, Watergate tape, worked against his defense.
* The Supreme Court recognizes the right to abortion in Roe vs Wade
* Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigns his elected job, in return for the Justice Department dropping tax evasion charges against him. Agnew had been a crooked Governor of Maryland, he was also a very sarcastic person. I think everyone was glad to see him get his comeuppance. Upon Agnew’s resignation, President Nixon appointed Gerald Ford to the position of Vice President.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
* Cancer cures smoking.
* Beautify America– Get a haircut.
* Save water — Shower with a friend.
* Don’t laugh — You don’t know if your daughter is in the back of this van.
* OPEC is a four letter word.
* Nixon has a staff infection.
* Out of Asia, Out of office. Impeach with honor.

Music [midi: Happy Together]

Refinishing the old rocking chair
In January 1973, Donna and I began to learn the process and appreciation of refinishing old furniture. As a wedding gift, cousin Bob gave us an antique rocking chair he came into ownership of while living with his schoolmate, Carl.

Some background on the rocker, a story which we learned several years later: Carl lived in a small, old guest house behind an equally old residence in South Pasadena. After Carl and his wife separated in 1972, Carl asked the eldrely owner of his rental property, if he could borrow a couple pieces of unused furniture that were stored in a locked storage garage. The owner approved the furniture loan, so Carl asked Bob help him move the pieces. While in the storage room, Bob saw the antique rocker and other antiques stacked, and covered with drop cloths, he aksed Carl if he could take the rocking chair to the rented bungalow as well. Carl, agreed.  Shortly thereafter, Bob moved in with Carl and the rocker came to  be recognized as ‘Bob’s.’
Months later, when Carl had finished his college cirriculum and was moving back to Norway, Bob brought the  rocking chair to our apartment. With the approach of Donna’s and my wedding date, Bob moved out of our apartment,  leaving the delapitated rocking chair as a wedding gift.

Donna and I had wanted the rocker, realizing that we could refinished it into a nice piece of furniture. In its ‘original’ condition, the chair looked more like a piece of junk than an antique,  it’s seat had largely disintegrated, it legs were wobbly, the old black finish was scabby and worn.

One weekend, Donna and I removed the rotted upholstery and seat springs. Using a chemical varnish stripper, steel wool and rubber gloves, we removed the old, badly worn varnish from the chair. A week later, the wooden frame was gently, but thoroughly sanded with fine grit sand paper and steel wool, then its age loosened joints were reglued. The rocker was given a coat of oak stain and finished with glossy polyurethane.
A month after the job began, we reupholstered the seat, using a quality fabric with a design similar to the material that was removed. We bought brass tacks  to replace the lost tacks and the subsequent generations of small nails that had been used to secure trim about the wood-upholstery seam.

We finished the project and had in our possession, a very attractive, fully functional antique rocking chair, circa 1900. The rocker has been in the family living room ever since.

Our apartment in El Monte

[Photograph: Our second story apartment  (open door) at 11633 Basye,  Apt. .#30, El Monte, CA. Living room window at left, kitchen  window at right.]

[Photograph, left:  View of the communal swimming pool from our apartment door. Photograph, right: My 350 cc Honda  motorcycle; used for transportation, driving about  two miles to Gregg Iron Foundry.]

Jim and ‘hippie sister’ Sue
After working for the Forest Service in northern California, for a few months, Jim, Sue and her son Van, moved to the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. Both were registered  in the University’s Biology Department, in separate areas of post graduate forest ecology. For the last year they’d been working on their education. Jim and I wrote  each other several times a year, but we were in different worlds now. Jim and Sue were attending classes, studying and writing papers, while working toward their Master’s Degrees.

I was recently married to a woman they’d only met once, was working full time and putting in a great deal of overtime. We were over a thousand miles apart and our lives had become wrapped up in personal pursuits.

Refinishing the desk
In March, Gregg Iron Foundry replaced several desks from its supervisors offices about the company. The half dozen or so old wooden, teachers type school desks, were piled  two high outside, awaitingthe company’s industrial trash collector. After work, with the plant superintendent’s permission, I borrowed a company pickup truck and with assistance, loaded the best desk of the lot into the bed. Back at the apartment, I unloaded the desk next to the parking lot and returned to Gregg for my motorcycle. That evening Donna and I carried the drawers, then the desk upstairs into our spare bedroom — which subsequently became the Study.

Over the next couple of weeks, we stripped the finish off the desk and used a power sander to grind away nicks and dents. The desk was stained walnut and finished with polyurethane. Our refinishing job was unable to fully convert the desk, visually, from its former occupation to a desirable piece of furniture; never the less, we used the desk for general office supplies, working on hobbies, and tracking investments.

Investing with silver dollars and Wyle Labs
With both Donna and I both working and living frugally, we continued to save a sizeable portion of our income. One of our first investments was in April, buying one hundred U.S. silver dollars for $300. Less than a year later, we sold the dollars back to the coin store for $400, making a 25% annual return on our money–a lesson I never forgot.

During mid April, we began purchasing stocks and ‘playing’ the stock market. We owned several hundred shares of Wyle Labs and some of Champion Mobile Homes during the period. Every night, I checked the newspaper and charted the price and volume movements for our stocks and the DJIA. It was a lot of fun reading about charting, then tracking and pondering the meanings of movements and patterns, but I didn’t know a thing about how other U.S. and world economic factors might affect prices. Over the next six months, as the economy continued to rise, we invested nearly $4,000 and turned an additional $2,000 in ‘paper profits’, a handsome fifty percent increase!

[Photocopy above:  My first stock chart, April to end of July 1973, tracked on a strip of white tag board measuring 6-1/2 inch by  3 feet in length (1 ft width shown above). Volume and price.]

Five and Dime stores, shopping centers, malls
During the 1940s, shoppers went to what would now be called specialty stores for everything. When you needed clothing you went to a clothing store, the clothing store sold essentially only clothing. If you needed shoes you might find them at a larger clothing store, but usually you went to a shoe store. Groceries were mostly bought at a small “mom and pop” grocery store, or maybe at one of those big, new ‘super’ markets. Woolworth’s the  “5¢ & 10¢” store (Five and Dime) was the place to buy your bobby pins, toys, clothes pins, pencils, school supplies, notions and assundry other small goods.[1]  Drugstores had a variety of wares, including, pharmacy drugs, cosmetics, personal care items, greeting cards, perhaps an ice-cream counter, and always a magazine and comic book section.

The individual stores were spread around town, so you visited one, two or more stores in one area near where you parked your car. Then you’d drive several blocks, park and walk to the stores where you had business in that locale. Shoppers always walked from one store to another along the sidewalk or cut crossed the street to get to their next store. The arrangement wasn’t bad except if it was raining, snowing or bitterly cold, then it was seen as more of an inconvenience.

If weather was inclement, one merely dressed accordingly and went about their business, however, far fewer people went shopping in bad weather. We wore rubber boots, raincoats and carried umbrellas if it was raining. In snowy, cold weather were merely wore our boots, coats, hats and mittens. People did not go window shopping or see shopping as a social outing as they came to during the latter decades of the 20th century.

By the early 1950s, the open “shopping center” had been developed and was spreading its influence on shopping habits across the country. Shopping centers were built L-shaped or U-shaped, on two or three sides of a large paved parking lot. By clustering the types of stores people visited most frequently into a single long storefront shoppers spent less time hurrying back and forth to their cars and driving across town. Shopping became faster and more convenient, while at the same time offering more product choices at a wider range of prices.

Shopping centers were composed of a variety of various sized businesses including a grocery supermarket which acted as an anchor at the center or one end of the building, and several of the following establishments: a hi-fi electronics store, record shop, drug store, pet store, travel agency, dry cleaners, beauty salon, fabric and sewing goods, barber shop, and a men or women’s clothing store. During the 1950s and 1960s, the professionals, i.e. doctors, dentists, optometrists and lawyers maintained offices strictly in “professional” buildings or similar settings and did not advertise commercially, all that began to change in the next decade.

By the mid 1970s, another shopping strategy, the enclosed “mall” began spreading across the country. The mall was equivalent to the shopping center, in that it conveniently congregated the most frequented stores under one roof, however, it carried the process further. Small malls were sprawling affairs that stood one story high, larger malls were two, three or more stories high.
Some, such as “The Mall of America” in suburban Minneapolis, is so large  that its security force is about the same size as the Bloomington police force, the city in which the mall is located.

Enclosed malls were beneficial from the view that shoppers no longer needed to walk out doors to the next store in inclement weather. Older customers were beginning to find a trade off had developed between convenience and speed of shopping on one hand and distance walked on the other. With the development of the mall, the distance you generally had to walk across the parking lot to a store front entry, was equivalent to visiting most of side by side shops in the shopping center or several small stores in earlier times. The distance you walked along the mall corridors to and from the various shops inside a mall grew to be further than you would have walked about town  during the 1940s.

Another could be seen in the quality and number of choices afforded shoppers. Mall department stores are very large and carry a bewildering variety of merchandise broken into departments. One must often walk through the length of the store to get to the department they’re interested in. The time spent hurrying along three hundred feet of crowded aisle to quickly check price or quality, becomes tiring and time consuming. Having to maneuver through all the merchandise you’re not interested in ia a waste of time.

Commensurate with the increase in the store’s square footage, has been an increase in the number of products and related products in each department. Although the huge department stores are filled with products, they frequently don’t carry the same brands or identical models of a given item as their local competitors.

One example of the complexity that a careful shopper is faced with can be seen as follows: A complete stereo system, with an amplifier, AM-FM radio tuner, CD player, tape player and speakers, commonly vary in cost between $130 and $1100.
Some companies produce only the low price models, while others produce only the high price models. Many companies produce an entire range, from cheap to the most expensive. Frequently, there are only slight variations between models made by same company. Now, to top it off, no one ‘general retail store’ carries more than perhaps a quarter of a manufactures product line for the given item.
Comparing let’s say stereo units at two stores Alpha-numeric numbers represent manufacturer and model. Note there is little overlap so comparative pricing is difficult).

Store A:  1a,  1c   1e   2a   3d  2f  4a  4c  4e  5d   5f
Store B:  1b   1d  1f    2a   2e  3a  3d  6b

In order to compare the models which are available, their quality and price, shoppers have to visit, several shopping centers, a mall and another huge specialty shop or two. Shopping has come full circle. In order to determine what is available and get the best price, you now have to drive to different stores about town and walk across large parking lots through traffic in inclement weather.

From the standpoint of the number of people shopping, there were seldom shoulder to shoulder crowds in the stores on any weekend in the 1940s and early 1950s. The 1960s and 1970s brought crowds to the large stores. During the 1970s and 1980s, malls helped bring about a change in the meaning and concept of “going shopping.” Malls are a concentrated shopping district that attract a relatively large portion of the community to one location, resulting in a very high population density. People did not use to go to town in order to be in close proximity with other people. Fifty years later, in the mid 1990s, shopping had become a pastime and a social event. Malls draw many people who have a minimal need to shop, but just want to be around other people and experience the happy spirited excitement of browsing about in well lit auditorium size hallways with pleasant music, seeing crisp and pretty displays all in a pleasing, nice smelling environment, meeting friends, etc.
Of course, after purchasing this or that little ‘what not’, the individual or family browse through the mall and often stop to buy a little something extra.

There are benches situated along the center and sides of corridor walls for shoppers to sit on and rest, or eat some delicacy they’ve purchased from an vendor along the mall corridor. Benches are frequently filled with shoppers whom are sitting, watching the sea of humanity stroll by. Occasionally a knot of teenage boys or boys and girls scurry past all dressed up in the latest fashions and parading themselves at the busy mall. For the mosty part, the mall corridors, store aisle, and parking lots are filled, filled with strangers who pass anonymously.

When I was a child, shoppers usually knew the store clerk, or owner, by his last name, and he either knew you or your parents name. Today, we are more isolated as individuals in a crowd than we had been as ‘the only shopper in a store,’ several decades earlier.

The facilities and the concept of shopping have changed enormously, yet, were I to choose between the old and the new, I’d select the new. After all, there are more interesting choices and browsing is a rather entertaining pastime that offers lots of fluff, but without any social or personal commitment.

In the 1940s and before, the prime deterrent to shopping was the lack of money. By  the 1990s, everyone had money, so shopping for a specific “hard to find” item, better quality and good bargains  became more of a mental exercise in timing, patience, remembering what items were available and their approximate cost at different stores. It took longer to shop and required more walking by the late 1990s that it had in those earlier decades. We have come full circle in a non joining spiral, having replaced convenience with choice and personal sociability with complexity.

Buying a .357 Magnum
Several factors converged that brought about our decision to buy two pistols:

1)  We both enjoyed backpacking and camping, yet being in remote locations left us uneasy about our safety should anything threaten. We were thinking about doing some more backpacking and wanted to have increased security.

[Photo at right, my Ruger 357 Magnum, Security 6 revolver]

2) The population of El Monte was primarily working poor, Mexican-American families. The social makeup of apartment complex where we lived, was rapidly changing, filling with quite poor people whom had odd customs. Donna and I had a new car, new Honda motorcycle, we were buying a few good quality personal and household items and developing an investment portfolio. Occasionally people we didn’t know would walk along the second story corridor outside and stop, and stand looking into our living room window. We felt the need for some security in the apartment in case anyone ever tried to break in.
One Saturday, we visited several hunting supply and gun stores to look at, price and decide what we might need. Firstly, we purchased a Ruger .357 caliber magnum, six shot revolver with a six inch barrel; a leather holster; cleaning supplies; and a box each of hollow point and armor piercing ammunition for about $200.
Our second purchase included a  .22 caliber, nine shot revolver, with six inch barrel; a leather holster; cleaning supplies; and several five hundred round boxes of “long rifle” ammunition costing about $120.

World economic situation report, 1973
Man has acquired the ability to literally change the face of the Earth. Even during the memory of living men the capacity to radically alter the environment has increased many fold. Scarcely a generation earlier, the laborer with a shovel and wheelbarrow was an essential part of every construction project and horses were called upon to pull and haul. In the matter of only a few years, or decades, before my birth in 1942, human and animal muscle were superseded by an array of giant machines for moving earth, drilling rock and lifting huge loads. With their aid, we gouged away hills, diverted streams, drained swamps, created lakes, laid down a network of superhighways across the continent and erected buildings a quarter mile high.

Seeing the growth and power of the West, the rest of the world embraced the Western ideology that material improvement was a worthy, desirable and attainable aim for all peoples. As the world scrambled to become Western, the disparity between rich and poor, between industrialized and underdeveloped and between North and South grew. The contrast in the standard of living of people in rich and poor countries in the modern world, is as great or greater than the diference between European lord and peasant in the Middle Ages; probably greater when considering the access to modern medicine, medical treatment, food variety and travel options.

Music [midi: Waltzing Matilda]

Visiting Mom and Dad, Anasazi artifacts [2]
After being forced out of the adobe, Cow Springs Mission building in 1968, Mom and Dad bought a Marlette mobile home. They were living in a small, mostly Navajo occupied, trailer court behind the Tuba City Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation, north of Flagstaff.

During the later part of July, I took Donna to Arizona to meet my parents.

It so happened that a couple days into our visit was July 25th, my 31st birthday. On the morning of my birthday Mom and Dad announced they would like to take us to one of their secret Anasazi treasure troves. I was always keen to visit Indian ruins and explore for artifacts, Donna and I thought it would be great fun, so after breakfast everyone climbed in the Carry-All and off we drove. I should point out that over the years of our family visiting Indian ruins and my parents living on the Navajo Reservation, they had accumulated an interesting, though not large, collection Anasazi artifacts.
[Photograph, left: July 1973. My  parents mobile home and Carry-All auto. They owned and lived in this Marlette Mobile home, behind  the Tuba City Trading Post, Tuba AZ for a number of  years.]
Note to readers of this blog: While on the reservation, my parents did not actively look for Anasazi ruins. They were on the reservation for professional  missionary services and God’s business. What antiquities they occassionally came across, were things the Navajo had found in the desert while tending their flocks of sheep. The curiosities were brought back to the family hogan and left laying around. My parents would occassionally see an old item and ask about it, if the owner had no apparent interest in the item, an offfer was made to purchase it. If it was sold, the name of the seller was written on a pierce of tape and stuck to the item, incase anyone would ever question its providence.
The Navajo had no interest in Anasazi artifacts. The Navajo were relatively new to the area, having  arrived in northeastern Arizona hundreds of years after the Anasazi (“The Ancient Ones”)  departed, abandoning their cliff dwellings and desert citadels circa 1200-1250 AD.)

Awhile later, we arrived at our desert destination, a small, several hundred foot in diameter sandy area surrounded by red sandstone.
The Cow Springs Mission, where Mom and Dad once lived was not far from this spot. Over the years, Mom and Dad had come to this particular sandy area following a  seasonal cloud burst or sand storm to see what artifacts might have been  uncovered by erosion.[3]

Everyone climbed from the Carry-All, spread out and began walking across the sandy area with our eyes scouring the ground. After about five minutes, Donna began clamoring that she’d found a pot. Mom and I ran to her side thinking she’d found a large chard. But sure enough, there, protruding about an inch from the soil was the entire unbroken lip of an Indian pot. I fell to my knees and began to carefully scrape away the sand, exposing more and more of the pot.
As I began to dig around the pot with my bare hands, Dad suddenly began urgently calling for us to come and see what he’d found. We shouted back at him to come and see our find. I kept digging. Mom, Donna and myself vocalizing, “Oohs” and “Ahhhs,” over the pot while periodically stopping to call for Dad. All the meanwhile, Dad kept waving his arms to get our attention and pointing frantically at the ground, still adamant about our coming to his location across the sandy area.  [1973 Photograph: The pot Donna found.]

As I gently removed the small red pot from the sand, it broke into seven or eight pieces, which were later glued back together. The little red round pot looked like a drinking cup or bowl with a small horizontal “D’ shaped handle. It stands about three and a half inches high from its rounded base and is five and a half inches in diameter. It was originally painted red inside and out, then the interior was painted over with black geometric designs.[4]

Dad finally came over to join us. When Donna and my Mom walked back to put the pot in the Carry-All, Dad and I hurriedly walked across the sandy area to see his ‘find’.

When we arrived, I stopped abruptly and gasped in awe, “Whoa!”
There, protruding from the ground and in the process of being uncovered by the shifting sand was the bleached skeleton of an adult human! There was no organic material left on the skeleton, the hair and flesh had long ago decomposed; neither were there any remaining fragments of clothing visible, no folds in the clothing, no leather,  no particles of metal. The skeleton was rather sprawled out face down, making it appear that the person had just fallen forward with arms somewhat outstretched and died. It did not appear that the body was laid out in a funeral ritual. The skeleton’s size made it appear that the person had been at least five feet tall.
Except for turning the skull over to look at the facial area (it had still been two-thirds buried), we did not excavate or disturb any part of the skeleton. We left it in the dignity of its quiet resting place and to posterity, as was apparently the fate intended by nature. We spent another half hour looking over the sandy area hoping we might find another pot. [Photograph, above: July 1973. Skeleton  uncovered by drifting sand about 150 feet from Donna’s ‘pot find’.]

[Drawing above: In search of ancient treasures: Part two of a two piece treasure map. Each at a different scale, showing the location of the places mentioned in this section.]

When we had scoured the area and were satisfied there were no other things uncovered by the sand, Dad said he knew of another nearby location we could check out. We climbed back in the Carry-All and drove a short distance to the old, burned out Cow Springs Trading Post-Mission.
Mom and Dad showed us around their previous home-mission site then pointed out across the desert to a mid distant hill, maybe ½ mile away, a site that was almost in their previous home’s back yard.

After a drink of water and some chatting, we began our trek across the desert, crossing a dry river bed and walking toward the base of a rather inconspicuous small hill. As we approached the hill, a jumble of rocks around the crest indicated what my parents already knew, that this was the previous site of a small Anasazi settlement.

As we climbed the low hill, it became apparent that the rock jumble had been part of the walls of the settlement. We could trace the outline of the small stone walled huts had had existed around the top of the hill. With the abandonment of the village, the buildings collapsed and their rock walls were, over the centuries, working their way back down the hill.  We found the village dump on the south facing slope. It was strewn with various size pottery chards (some of which we collected), but no full pots were found laying on the surface. We didn’t do any excavating at this  small, unnamed ancient village, nor did we see any evidence that there’d ever been any excavation.

Refurbishing an old radio

[Photograph above: The 40-60 year old, wood cabinet  radio I bought in 1973 (left) and subsequently refurbished (right)… is still operational in 2011…]

During the summer, one of the supervisors at Gregg Iron Foundry sold me, a non functioning, vacuum tube AM radio from about the early 1940s for $1. I stripped the very dirty original white paint off the cabinet, sanded, then stained the wood with walnut finish and gave it a final coat of satin polyurethane. Donna replaced the speaker cloth with a similar, blue green piece of textured speaker cloth. The faded ornamental red paper behind the station dial was replaced with red, flocked Contact Shelf Paper. Finally, we took all the vacuum tubes to the supermarket and tested them on a vacuum tube tester, two defective tubes were replaced.

We have [in 1973] the refinished radio in our kitchen and occasionally use it, however, generally listen to music or the news over the TV, on the wireless Weather Radio, the household stereo system, or from radio’s located in our bedroom.

Another ‘trucker’s strike’
For the second time in as many years, southern California grocers and shopers were hit by a ‘truckers strike’. This time, the strike nearly closed down the supermarket meat departments. For about three weeks, there were few cuts of meat to be found when we were grocery shopping. Shelf stocking volume was down to about ten percent of normal and only the very highest priced cuts of meat were seen
to have survived.

The grocery store employees did their best to fill in the refrigerated meat counter with packaged lunch meat: bologna, ham slices, canned hams and sausage rolls, etc. These items didn’t fill the coolers, but were simply spread out in an attempt to cover the bottom of the compartments.

Economically, times were good, so we were amazed that something as trivial as a truckers strike had decimated the market. We were concerned over the prospect of what might happen if there was a serious break in the nation’s food production or distribution infrastructure.

Music [midi: Amarillo by Morning]

Backpacking in the Santa Rosa Mountains
During the summer, Donna and I decided to renew our backpacking adventures. We found a few areas within a day’s driving distance of Los Angeles that wouldn’t be crowded. First, we decided to backpack onto a long table top mesa located the Santa Rosa Mountains. The mountain range is located about one hundred twenty miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, in the Anzio-Borrego Desert State

One weekend, we went on an exploratory trip to the area, simply driving, using binoculars and several maps to locate roads into the area and get a feeling for what special supplies might be needed.
We drove in from Salton City, on the east, then went through Borrego Springs looking back toward the table top mesa from the west.

Over the next couple weeks, we loaded our lightweight aluminum framed packs basedon our individual weights. Since there was no water in the wilderness area, we were required to carry our own. Our individual loads weighed about thirty five pounds each, plus we were taking a five gallon container of water, adding another forty pounds, which we would take turns carrying.

[Photograph: Donna with the packframes (leaning against our new 1973 Toyota, Corolla) prior to a backpacking trip into the Santa Rosa Mountains. Donna’s 22LR and  my 357 Magnum pistols are strapped to our packs.]

We left home an early Friday morning, in August, for our three day trip. As was usual, the drive through the desert, past Palm Springs and down to the Salton Sea, was hot. We stopped to buy a ‘take out’ lunch at a small Mexican restaurant just outside Salton City. We discovered the restaurant during our previous scouting trip and found they made the best ‘beef and bean burritos’ we ever ate! Although we subsequently experimented trying to duplicate the recipe, and have eaten at many Mexican restaurants over the years, no one has ever come close to the excellent taste of those Salton City burritos!

At the base of the table top mountain, we left the main road and turned onto a smaller dirt road that slowly wound up the dry, brushy side of the mountain’s slope. Finally, we turned onto a very poor, rutted dirt road, more like a jeep trail, which brought us up near the top.
After getting our gear out and locking the car, we climbed the rest of the way to the top of the crest—a difficult climb since we were carrying a 40 pound container of water!
Looking down across the table top mesa we noted that there was no hiking  trail for us to follow, just the map and our images of what the mesa looked like from a distance.

We took a break on the crest, removed our packs and sat down, looking about; enjoying the somewhat stark nature of the high desert environment. From our high position, we could see from one end of the tabletop across its entire length. The mesa was about one and a half miles long and a quarter mile wide. Although it looked flat from a distance, the top was intermittently covered with small hills and rills, an occasional jumble of boulders, and large ten foot in diameter isolated rocks. The mesa sides seemed to drop away very steeply. We could not see the mountain’s slope beyond the table top rim, but could see shimmering desert in the distance.
After a break, we shouldered our packs, picked up the five gallon water jug and proceeded down onto the table top.

[Photograph: View from the location where we took our break. Looking across the tabletop; beautiful and pristine scenery in  the hot, arid, Santa Rosa Mountains of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.]

Spread across the mesa, there grew uneven patches of conifer. Where one of the trees had died and fallen, its bleached, gray trunk and large limbs looked like the bones of a great, dead, beached whale. There were flat sandy areas spaced about, in which grew ten foot wide clumps of woody sage perennials with reddish purple flowers. A similar, small yellow flowered species grew in the same sandy areas, in clumps one to two feet in diameter.
These groups of flowering plants were all spread about giving each other several yards space between their individual clumping. Their colors lent an odd beauty to this otherwise high and very dry, sandy environment.

Carrying a thirty five pound backpack across rough terrain is difficult, but carrying an additional forty pounds of water in a unwieldy container was terrible. Every few hundred feet, Donna and I exchanged carrying the water container. Besides the weight of our loads, it was hot, even at the top of the mountain. Our pack belts were cutting into our sides, the high desert air and stress of carrying the water made our mouths feel cotton like and dry.

About half way across the length of the mesa, we found a scenic, bowl shaped area. There was a sandy area beneath the pines on which to set up the tube tent; firewood was readily available; we were only a couple hundred feet from the west rim of the mesa and had an unobstructed view of our surroundings. Dropping our packs, we sat for awhile, rebuilding our strength. The two mile hike from the car to where we finally set up camp was much more difficult than our trip into the Trinity Alps nearly two years earlier. Donna was so stressed from the effort of hiking back in, that she became nauseous and continued feeling ill into the evening

We strung up the bright
orange, polypropylene tube tent and piled brush around the back and front with hopes that it would give us some warning should a large wild animal try to come in the tent after our food or us. We brought our pistols on the trip, having them strapped to the exterior of our packs– just in case. For extra security, we wore the guns in camp and took them to bed with us at night. [Photograph above: ‘Bowl shaped’ area near our camp site in the Santa Rosa Mountains: Donna and I, backpacked down the slope, through this mountain area filled with wild flowers and camped a quarter mile further out on the mesa.]

Saturday morning’s tasty breakfast, consisted of: several cups of coffee, reconstituted Spanish egg omelet with peppers and bacon bits, and pan baked biscuits. After breakfast, we leisurely explored the mesa, carrying only our canteens and pistols. It was beautiful up amongst the rock outcroppings, gnarled pines, grasses, and flowering brush. Being on top of a mesa created an unusual visual effect, it looked as though we were on a flat plane suspended from the sky. In the distance where you would normally expect to see the familiar horizon line of land and sky, from our vantage point on the mesa, we could only see sky. Our small flat world was surrounded by a vast bluish white void.

We walked to the nearby side of the mesa, carefully climbed out on a large jutting rock to sit and enjoy the scenery. The mesa’s side wall fell away beneath us, as cliffs and extremely steep slopes.
Perhaps a thousand feet below, the mountain’s slope moderated and continued at a much more gradual decline to the desert far below. Scanning the mountain side below us with the binoculars, we saw a herd of mule deer picking their way along an ancient trail.

Even though the air temperature was relatively cool at our elevation, on the desert floor below and spread out to our west was the terrible Anza-Borrego Desert. We could see across two much shorter mountain ranges, into the low, whitish colored desert sand in the misty distance. Looking south, down through miles of shimmering heat waves, we could see a whispy plume of dust rising behind a tiny ‘speck sized’ vehicle traveling along a dirt road across the desert.

Lunch consisted of plain and simple – peanut butter sandwiches.

Our legs and stomach muscles were still tired from the previous days hiking, so we spent most of the day sitting and laying about, relaxing, while enjoying the solitude and the sights from our elevated position on the mesa.

During the late afternoon, as the midday heat gave way to cooler temperatures, we began supper. For the meal we made a stew, by reconstituting dehydrated vegetables and adding rice. The finished hearty stew was served in our  green plastic camp cookery cups and eaten along with sour dough bread.

After dark, we returned to sit on the large rock, at side of the mesa. The hour or so that we sat enjoying the sights that evening, made our backpacking trip worth the effort. We sat together in near darkness, all about was an unbroken silence.
Overhead, a crystal clear sky revealed myriad’s of stars, clearly seen from our mountain top perch. Looking down the side of the mountain the irregular features seemed to smooth into shades of gray before disappearing in the darkness. Lo! In the great distance, across an intervening mountain range and the desert, we could see widely scattered house lights.
Donna and I sat out on our rock abutment, chatting, sipping brandy, discussing memories and wondering about the distant lights that shown from both above and below.

The next morning after breakfast, we broke camp and repacked our pack frames. We filled our canteens then discarded the remaining water from the five gallon jug. Although we’d used or jettisoned that extra 40 pounds of water, and eaten the food we carried in, our packs seemed just as heavy as before. Our leg and stomach muscles were still strained from the hike in, so it didn’t take long before we were once again tired while making our way out.

It turned out to be a grievously hot day. We studied the topographical map an decided to cut a path around the high crest at the end of the mesa with hopes of picking up a jeep trail at the  same elevation. Although we didn’t get lost, we learned that following a topographical map, when you don’t really know exactly where you are, leaves one filled with uncertainty. As we hiked, and climbed around rock formations, we stopped more and more frequently for breaks and to take a drink of water. We both finished our canteens before hiking out. The last half mile was a very dry and difficult trek. I plodded along a few paces behind Donna, letting her choose our speed, we walked in silence, both of us suffering.
We had been to a place of solitude and great natural beauty. The table top mesa extracted its price from us in terms of a physical payment, for no such grandeur can be experienced free — it’s nature’s way.

Painting and a sculpture
As previously mentioned in my autobiography, when Donna and I were dating in Arcata, we frequently hiked along the Pacific beach. About half of our beach jaunts occurred right after a  storm, a time when we went to the more rugged beaches, looking for things washed ashore by wave and wind. The most unusual finds I made were two Japanese glass fish net buoy’s. Japanese buoy’s were periodically washed ashore by the Humboldt current that swept up from Japan and came near the shores of northern California. While I was living in Arcata and unemployed, I made a wooden sculpture on which to display the buoy’s.
I wove a short length of net from cord and dyed it yellow-brown in a tea bath. The ‘net’ encased buoy’s we set in place on the sculpture. On an upright board, behind the buoy’s, I painted a fishing boat with a fishing net seen trailing out across the sea to my buoy’s. It was a ‘three dimensional artwork’.

Earlier this year, Mom and Dad were traveling on vacation when they visited Dinosaur National Monument (?). After exploring in the park, they bought a few petrified clams from a local curio shop (?) and had sent me four. I pondered how to display the clams and came up with the idea of making a sculpture similar the one used for the Japanese glass buoy’s.

The petrified clam shells were set into a form fitting platform made from paper mache. The platform was glued to a plank. The entire base surface was coated with glue and covered with sand, simulating the now arid area in which the petrified clam shells were found. I painted a background image on an attached, rotting plank, showing a dinosaur watching a distant volcanic eruption. These two painting sculptures are still with me, in January 2011.

[Photograph, left: ‘Japanese glass buoy sculpture’ that  I made during late 1971, while living  in Arcata. The vertical upright is about 5.5 inches wide, 11 inches tall.
Photograph, right: The Petrified clam sculpture that I  made in 1973. The vertical upright is about 5 inches wide, 8.5 inches tall.]

Buying a safe
As the months passed, Donna and I began to accumulate a little cash, the 100 silver dollars and few other assets that were relatively valuable. By early Fall, concern with the decline seen about our neighborhood, we decided to buy a safe in which to store our valuables. One day, Mike DiGirolamo and I  got together and drove to the Major Safe Company in Los Angeles, where he’d recently bought a safe. I purchased a  fire resistant safe measuring 17″Wx24″Hx24″D with a crinkled tan finish. The safe had two large external hinges and weighed about 300 pounds. We put the safe in a closet and camouflaged it with a blanket and other items [6]. [Internet image left, similar to the safe we bought. Mine is tan, not the light gray shown in this picture.]


O.P.E.C. starts an oil embargo
In early October, The Yom Kipper War, broke out between Israel and her adversaries, Syria & Egypt. As usual, the U.S.A fully supported Israel.
On 17 October, the Arab nations, who were weak militarily, flexed their big “oil muscle” and began an oil embargo against the United States. They simply restricted oil production, honoring their other commitments, while eliminating American and European purchases. This was the first that we common citizens had heard the term ‘OPEC’ (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), and it was our first exposure to the power of a cartel. The Arabs were attempting to raise the price of oil which was denominated in dollars. The dollar was undergoing inflation, hence being devalued, against other currencies, which resulted in the Arabs being paid less and less in terms of purchasing power, for their product. They also wanted the U.S. to alter its support for Israel.

When the embargo started, we were shocked that such a thing could happen, everyone had an uneasy feeling. We were surprised to learn that our great nation, and Europe, were so dependent on a few “camel jockey” countries for petroleum. Soon the big question arose, “Where will we get gasoline?

A week after the Oil Embargo began, the US stock market, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) began to collapse. From its high of about 890, it fell through November hitting a low of about 785 in early December, giving up almost 12% of its gains. After my Wyle Labs stock climbed so nicely during October, I sold them at a profit. The profits were left in our brokerage account, awaiting the next opportune moment to buy back into the market.

Memories of the telephone system,1973 [7]
The Arab oil embargo had a dramatic effect on consumer psychology and shopping patterns. As gasoline prices surged, people began to use their telephones more and more. People who were use to window shopping for the best deal, began telephoning stores to inquire about prices. Not only did the phone system become busier, but harried retail clerks, who use to cheerfully run check prices and availability of stock began doing so grudgingly, if at all.

Wilton-Armetale dishes: A lifetime of wear
In early December, Donna and I found pewter alloy[8] dishes, by Wilton-Armetale, being sold at Bullock’s, an upscale department store in Pasadena. We’d never seen pewter/ alloy dishes and were immediately taken by their almost beautiful simplicity and functionality. We’d been eating off my old Melmac dishes since our marriage and were ready to upgrade to something nicer.

We read a brochure that accompanied the dishes which compared them with standard porcelain or crockery services. The pewter dishes would never crack or break, they could be put in the over to warm or keep foods warm until meal time, each piece was individually hand crafted at the Wilton foundry, and they had a timeless beauty that had been appreciated for centuries.

We went home that night after thoroughly inspecting the dishes, they were simply too expensive to buy without some time to think and discuss between ourselves. We like the Queen Anne Series style dinnerware, with their scalloped edges and antique look. The twelve inch diameter Charger plates cost $16 each, the seven inch Bread and Butter plates were $4.00 each and the small five ounce wine goblets
cost $7 apiece.

In order to put the potential cost in perspective, I was earning $4.00 per hour gross, working at Gregg Iron Foundry, so one Charger cost more than four hours of my labor. On positive side, the dishes would provide a lifetime of service.

During the week that followed we decided to buy the dishes.

Each payday during the next few weeks, we drove back up Pasadena, until we’d purchased: six each Chargers ($96), six each- seven inch bread and butter plates ($24) and six each  wine goblets ($42).

Over the decades that followed, our collection of Wilton-Armetale, Queen Anne style, sand cast dinnerware has been increased by the addition of two more Chargers ($50), a two quart serving bowl ($20)[9] bought for about $2.00 at a garage sale; another  bread and butter plate ($4) costing $1 at a garage sale, bread tray with scene and words “Give us this day” ($7); soup tureen with notched lid and ladle ($39.50), gift from Mike DiGirolamo and family. By the mid 1990s the dollar values of these items have tripled over their original cost—keeping up with inflation.

We continued using the pewter dishes ever since their purchase and during all these years they remained every bit as durable and pretty as they were the day we bought them. I’ve made few purchases in this life that have given as much continued happiness and service as these simple dishes.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1973.
•  Local Evening  News
•  National Evening News
•  Adam-12
•  Sanford and Son
•  All In The Family
•  M*A*S*H*
•  Kung Fu
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Among the movies Donna and I saw this year were:
American Graffiti with Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfus, Paul LeMat
BattleFor The Planet Of The Apes with Roddy McDowell, Claude Atkins
High Plains Drifter with Clint Eastwood
Live and Let Die with Roger Moore, Jane Seymour
Magnum Force with Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Felton Perry, Mitchell Ryan
Oklahoma Crude with George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway
Papillion with Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman
Sleeper with Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Soylent Green with Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young
The Exorcist with Ellen Burnstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller
The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing with Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn
West World with Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Alan Oppenheimer

[1] F.A Woolworth’s opened in 1879 in 1954 the company’s peak year Woolworth’s had expanded to 2850 stores around the world. In July 1997, unable to compete with the giant discounters like Wal-Mart, Woolworth’s filed for bankruptcy.
[2]  See also Journal 9, The People Book.  An encoded map to the Anasazi sites discussed in this autobiography are provided in the article, “In Search of Ancient Treasure,” page 1451.
[3] See the coded maps at the end of this chapter for direction to the sites mention. Symbol decoding instructions are given in my Journals.
[4]  The use of red and black paint, plus the nature of the stylized designs dated the pot to around 1200 AD, which was around the end of the Anasazi residence in this region.
[5] Anza Borrego State Park is the largest state park in the USA, covering 600,000 acres from the edge of the coastal mountains east to the Salton Sea and  south, almost to the US/Mexico border, and equals the more famous national parks further north for varied, unspoiled desert scenery. The elevation ranges from 6,200 feet to just 150 feet; the land beyond the east edge descends to below sea level, and the temperature can be appropriately extreme, with 120°F not uncommon – the average July maximum is 110°F – and a 30°F difference possible between the often cloud covered western peaks and the parched deserts far below. Such is the heat in summer that the visitor centre is open only at weekends, as far fewer people visit here than in the cooler seasons.
Hiking, backpacking and exploring are the main activities; unusually for a state park, camping is allowed without charge anywhere away from the main roads, and entrance to the park is also free.
[6] I still have the safe which is now used to protect important papers and old family photographs from fire and storm, and my digital file back up. Nowdays, the monetary valueables are kept in a safe deposit box at the bank.
[7]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”
[8]  Wilton Armetale pewter alloy is not made with lead, which historically leached into acidic foods.
[9]  All prices given for the dinnerware are taken from the  1973 Wilton- Armetale catalog.

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

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