Category Archives: __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1962, age 19-20

Themes and Events:
* On 20 February John Glenn Jr. piloted the spacecraft capsule, Friendship 7, into space and orbited the Earth three times.
* Paperback book sales accounted for 31% of the books sold in the U.S., up from 14% in 1961. * Freeze dried foods including peas, pork chops and steaks become a novelty in supermarkets. * There has been a sizable reduction in drug abuse in the country. In 1930 about 1 in 1,070 American’s was addicted, but in 1962 the ratio had dropped to 1 in 4,000. * About 90% of U.S. households have 1 television set, 13% have 2 or more.
* At the beginning of the year there were about 3,200 U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, by the end of the year this number was increased to 11,300 troops.

Promotion to Weapon’s Squad Leader
A few weeks after returning to Ft. Campbell from our training exercise with the cadets at West Point, I was promoted to the rank of Specialist 4th Class, pay grade E-4. My pay increased to $122 regular pay, plus the automatic $55 hazardous duty (parachute) pay, or $177 total per month. This promotion came somewhat as a surprise to me and was achieved in the minimum time allocated since my promotion to Private First Class (Pfc.), pay grade E-3.

The next surprise came a couple months later when I was promoted to the position of Second Platoon’s Weapon’s Squad Leader. Becoming the Weapon’s Squad Leader was an “in house” promotion, not a change in pay grade or rank insignia.

In house pomotions were the manner in which we really rose amongst the ranks. There was an unspoken yet understood condition associated with such promotions: If you demonstrated a continuing ability to handle the job, it would become a permanent assignment and you’d eventually get the official rank, pay and prestige that went with the job. On the other hand, if you failed, you were simply replaced by another upcoming member from the squad. Once in a while, a fellow who was being groomed into a leadership job would lose his position, after which it took a lot of “soldering” on his part to regain favor.

In only a little over a year since my arrived at Ft. Campbell, as a wide eyed “recruit”, I’d moved up  in rank, mastering the weapons and tactics of an airborne infantry Weapons Squad, apparently they liked my attitude and bearing.

Assigned to my squad
The Weapon Squad’s normal combat strength included:
•  Squad Leader (me, now carrying an M14 rifle)
•  Two each 3.5 inch Rocket Launcher Gunners and their Assistants (ammo carriers). (4 men)
•  Two each M-60 Machine Gun Gunners, their Assistant Gunners and an Ammo Carrier for each. (6 men)
•  Also assigned, for logistical purposes (to receive field rations, daily instructions, etc.) were the Platoon’s Radioman, Medic and ‘Mule’ Driver. (3 men)
The squad included eleven permanent troops and three attachments.

 Awarded a semiprivate room
One very nice benefit derived from the promotion was in moving out of the public Platoon bay and into a Team Leaders room. Team Leaders were soldiers who had leadership responsibility, but not the official military rank of Sergeant. Having our own room helped create the small distance of social separation required for more effective leadership. There were four of 2nd Platoon Team Leaders bunked in the room. Although the quarters were more private, there was still considerable in and out traffic. The room contained the same fixtures found in the Platoon bay: each of us had a bunk, one foot locker and two standing lockers. We had no other special frills or privileges. One nice thing, however, was that the lockable door allowed us to sit in the room drinking beer on weekend nights, providing us time to hide our bottles and cans before unlocking the door to whomever might be up and about.

Driving to California with relatives, don’t
While I accumulated time for my fourth Leave, my cousin Jack in Lawton, MI and I began making grandiose plans to drive to Pasadena, California.
In June, on the day my leave began, I flew up to Kalamazoo, Michigan where Jack met me at the airport. We returned to his house in Lawton excited about our imminent trip.  As the day passed our travel plans unexpectedly expanded with the inclusion of Grandmother Elsie Pierce; Jack’s mother- my Aunt Julie; and cousin, Bob. All wanted to go on the trip with us to visit my parents.

What started out to be a great trip, with just a couple cousins bumming across country, turned into a monumental, stress filled disaster!

Imagine five people packed in a car going on a 3500 mile ’round trip’, as summer temperatures approached. Since we were running on a tight schedule there was going to be very little stopping along the way.

When the trip began, Jack and I were in the front seat taking turns driving. Grandma, Aunt Julie and cousin Bob were rather tightly packed in the back seat. As the miles passed, Aunt Julie became angry about something or other and nearly deserted us in St. Louis. Everyone did their best to talk her into continuing the trip. She was mollified by a good night’s sleep, so the five of us pushed on the next morning. We continued our hard and fast drive across the Great Plains.

By the second day, our back seat passengers were complaining of the cramped conditions, they were also hot and uncomfortable. Note:  There was no automobile airconditioning in those days, you simply rolled down the windows and did the best you could to stay cool.
As Grandma’s 1957 Pontiac climbed into the Rocky Mountains at Estes Park, near Denver, Colorado, Aunt Julie informed us that she was afraid of heights. The trip became a comedy of horrors. Here we were, speeding through the mountains, with a road edge cliff always on one side of the car or the other. Aunt Julie sat with her head tilted back on the back seat, a damp wash cloth over her face moaning aloud with fear every time we rounded a “hairpin” turn in the road. Tempers flared and there was continuous grumbling from one person or another.

We made it to Pasadena
The day after arriving, I took cousins Jack and Bob up into the foothills above Altadena, for a short hike in the mountains. Neither of them had ever been mountainous terrain before so this was a new experience. We walked up Arroyo Seco wash (into lower Eaton Canyon, where I slept alone, under an over hanging ledge only a couple years earlier) a half mile then we climbed up to a ridge. It was not a very difficult climb, however, as we stopped to rest on the ridge line, both Jack and Bob became sick to their stomach and were on the verge of throwing up. I think it was the heat and smog that got to them, not the climb. Southern California’s legendary smog is trapped by the San Gabriel mountains, in which we were climbing and neither cousin had any experience exerting themselves in the smog.

Grandma Elsie and Aunt Julie, spent a couple days visiting with my parents, then we all climbed back in the Pontiac and replayed the earlier ordeal by driving back to Michigan. On the return trip we took the southern route and avoided driving over the high Rocky Mountain passes.

A couple weeks after Leave, I was back at Ft. Campbell and settled in to the daily routine, when I received a letter from cousin Jack. Jack blamed me for all the problems we had on the trip. I was aghast and couldn’t believe Jack would accuse me of being the blame for his Mother’s actions or for our agreeing to take the other family members on what was planned as a fast trip. The initial idea for the trip had been mine, but only so far as Jack and I making the drive. The idea of everyone else coming along was their own desire, but with Jack’s and my agreement. Ha! Besides, most of the contrariness shown on the trip was between Jack and his mother. After the trip, Jack and Aunt Julie must have settled their differences, while the blame was transferred onto me. Jack finished his scathing letter saying he did not want me to write back to him. I honored his wish and to this day (2011) there has never been a word between us. [The following paragraph has been deleted]___

The awakening, the images begin
At nineteen years of age, I became interested in psychology and bought several books on the subject from the PX (post exchange) bookstore. As the months passed I began composing bitter sweet poems. Something was awakening in my mind.

I began to visualize images in a way I never had before, they were more active and symbolic. The new and still small voice and visions sought expression. They were I think, the cries of my own maturing spirit seeking a unique identity, not unlike a baby crying at birth. Inside I cried out for love, for internal strength, for perseverance.
One recurrent imagery sequence: I was frustrated because my way was blocked by a large wall composed of concrete block, or rocks. Every time I imagined this sequence, I struck the wall creating a hole large enough for my passage. Strange.
When some of the other soldiers saw my books they scoffed, real troops weren’t interested in ‘psychology’.

Paratroopers live in a tightly regimented world, conditioned to stress, danger and force. That new voice within me was small, it did not pervade my activities and duties, yet it was available to explore at night or on a weekend afternoon, if I had some private time to myself.

Music [midi, Hallucinations]

Visions and inventions
When I had a lengthy period of quiet time to my self, I occasionally became somewhat dreamy, seeing in my mind’s eye interesting devices. Three such conceptualizations that I drew out on paper were:
1) ROLADE.: Robotic Laser Grenade. The size of a hand grenade. Composed of twelve powerful mini lasers, computer interface and 6 radar (in 2007 probably referred to as proximaty sensors) systems and micro aiming controls. The grenade would be thrown or left in a defensive position. Its radar (proximity sensors) would track (activate as) enemy soldiers as they came into range. At an appropriate distance the weapon would fire a lethal laser burst.

2) The Pierce Electrostatic Wave Generator: Uses oceanic wave energy to generate intermittent electrical power. The device is anchored to the sea floor is shallow water. A rotating armature rises from the anchor to a long rectangular plate which rises a foot or two above sea level. As a wave surges toward the beach, it hits the rectangular plate forcing it backwards and down. As the plate arcs backward, a series of gears on the bottom of the armature turn a generator creating an electric flow. When the water from the spent wave withdraws to the ocean it help pull the plate back into an upright position, spring tension accomplishes the final readjustment before the next wave passes. This idea was developed and drawn while I was Assistant CQ (Charge of Quarters) one twenty four hour period. The CQ and Assistant must remain alert and awake for an entire 24 hour period, watching over the barracks, the men, stored equipment, and a hot line telephone from Division and Battle Group Headquarters. During the long night we periodically patrolled the barracks, checked door locks sat in the company office near the telephone.

3) One Man Reentry Suit: (previously unnamed) The One Man Reentry Suit is emergency gear allowing a person to reenter the atmosphere from space and eventually parachute safely to the ground. The apparatus permits a person to skydive into the atmosphere, by providing rocket assisted breaking force, breathable air with systems harnessed to a lockable rigid and partially shielded frame work. It’s life support is composed of the metal skeletal framework with an air tight helmet, air tank breathing apparatus, deflector shields for the body and feet. Fuel tanks feed a rocket nozzle that is part of the belly and chest deflector shield, to assist in decelerating the fall. The frameworks lockable arms terminate in rigid shielded hand controls which control the rockets firing, air supply, movement of the locked framework and parachute deployment.

West Virginia bound
During July, two Company’s from the 501st Airborne Battle Group were sent to West Virginia to become a training foil against the 7th Special Forces. Concurrent with the prolonged war games, but not part of the action, an episode for a television series was to be made. Orders came down for Company B to provide twelve men to take part in the film. When volunteers were asked for, I immediately raised my hand and was fortunate to be one of those selected.

We had an uneventful flight to Clarksburg, West Virginia aboard a large double deck C-124 troop transport. Our detail was then trucked to Camp Dawson, about thirty five miles east northeast of Clarksburg, not far south of the Pennsylvania state line. Camp Dawson was home of the 7th Special Forces Jungle and Mountain Training and Maneuvering Area. Here the Company’s were divided into various sized aggressor units and immediately trucked out to remote locations where the prolonged war games would occur.

Music [midi, Take Me Home_Country Roads]

‘Twilight War in West Virginia’
We few who had volunteered to make the documentary film, were billeted at Camp Dawson, in a large canvas field tent replete with cots and individual lockers. Due to the war games, we were the only ones at the camp, except for a small office contingent, a cook, his helper and an occasional Army truck driver. The few office personnel and drivers had nothing to do with us “actors”, we only saw them at meal times. Our airborne contingent ranged in rank from Pvt. to Sp4, so no one of us was officially in charge; we were under the directions of the civilians who were making the film.

The Television production crew was headed by Mr. Shapiro, who was working for the Army Pictorial Center. As he informed us, we were going to make a thirty to sixty minute television episode entitled, Twilight War in West Virginia. The film was part of the Armed Forces TV Programming, which had a military adventure on nationwide, prime time television every week.

We paratroopers played the role of a guerrilla warfare unit. We wore scrungy, soiled hats and rather tattered civilian clothes. Occasionally, a couple of us wore ragged bandages, to simulate being wounded. We were armed with PPSH Russian submachine guns and an assortment of other Soviet small arms. When the script called for distant views of the enemy, we also filled those roles, wearing green and red “aggressor” uniforms. As aggressors, we were seen either driving trucks, laying about dead, guarding railroad tunnels, arresting and executing town residents, or some other annonymous role.

While making the film, I wore a beige fedora hat, blue shirt with sleeves rolled up, denim blue jeans, my personal, large Ka-bar hunting knife and Army boots. Although the movie had no “stars” per sae, there were about a dozen of us who shared equal time on screen. [Photograph above right: Filming Twilight War in West Virginia.]

The civilian film crew quit work every day at 3:30 PM, at which time they drove us back to our quarters in Camp Dawson. It only took a couple of days, before we found we were free to come and go as we pleased, with the stipulation that we were available for filming the next scheduled work day. Thereafter, most of us caught a ride into nearby Kingwood, WV for the evening.
Kingwood, with a population of about two thousand eight hundred, is located about fifteen miles south of the Pennsylvania state line or about seventy five miles south southeast of Pittsburgh, PA.

Kingwood was a small, old town, with a grassy, tree lined park in its center. The square, block size park was surrounded on four sides by a paved road which was inturn flanked by the town’s businesses. Kingwood was small, infact, walking a full block in any direction away from the park and you were on the verge of leaving town. I think there was a housing development a few blocks out of town, but we never walked inorder to explore someplace as mundane as a residential area.

After seeing us hitchhiking into town several nights in a row, Mr. Shapiro made arrangements to have a two and a half ton Army truck provide us with late night transportation back to camp. The big, heavy duty, canvas covered truck came rumbling up to the Kingwood town square between 10:00 PM and 10:30 PM. The driver would park then wait about one quarter hour for anyone wishing a ride, before returning to Camp Dawson.

Most of the time, particularly on weekends, there wasn’t really anything to do in town except have a hamburger, sip a couple beers, listen to the juke box, and lounge around while chatting with buddies. Even as mundane as that may sound, it was a world better than sitting on one’s bunk back in the boondocks, at largely deserted Camp Dawson.
While the rest of our Company was out creeping around in the West Virginian mountains, eating C-rations, sleeping on the ground, fighting chiggers and mosquitoes, and trying to defend target installations from the 7th Special Forces, we ‘actors’ almost reverted back to civilian life.

Music [midi, Greensleeves]

Miss Jean
While most of the troops sat drinking beer and listening to the juke box, I began spending time in ‘Schwab’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain’. Here, I met a lovely, twenty year old girl named, Jean. I sat for hours talking with Jean while she went about her duties managing the soda fountain. Jean had rather short and curly, auburn ash hair; quiet, deep blue eyes; and a few freckles on her lightly complected, oval shaped face. She stood five foot seven inches tall and had a lithe, good looking, well proportioned form. She was a cheerful person, with a friendly smile, a quick wit and a nice personality. We hit it right off together.

One evening, I asked Jean for a date that coming Friday night. She told me she already had a date Friday, but expected it to end early. If I wanted, she said, we could get together afterwards at the local restaurant for a cup of coffee and talk. I agreed and the date was set.

Friday afternoon after filming, the production crew packed up and left for the weekend. The rest of us bathed, changed our clothes and as was usual, made our way to Kingwood. When I arrived in town, Jean had already gone on her date. Early that evening I lounged around with my buddies, had a hamburger, French fries and a beer whilst killing time, waiting for Jean to return.

The hours ticked by slowly, then the Army truck arrived to take the rest of the fellows back to Camp Dawson. I stayed behind, waiting. Before long, I was the only person stirring around the town square. It was late now and all the business’s were closed. There was literally nothing to do, but walk around the town square, sit on a park bench, then walk some more.

Around midnight, a car pulled into town and stopped infront of the Schwab’s Building. Jean got out and walked over to the offset front entrance, which housed a stairway to several small upstairs apartments. As she went inside, the car slowly pulled away. Her date circled the town square, driving out of town the same way he’d entered a few moments earlier.

Turning back to look at the Schwab’s Building, I saw the lights flick on in Jean’s second story room. I walked across the street, entered the building, went upstairs and knocked on her door. Jean was pleased to see I’d waited and promptly invited me into her room. Since it was late and the restaurant was already closed, she volunteered to make us some coffee. After our coffee, Jean turned on the radio. We danced, our bodies pressed close as the soft music played on. Before long we were stepping on one another’s feet and laughing, becoming rummy from the late hour and our lack of sleep. In only a few hours, Jean was scheduled to work at the soda fountain. Since I no longer had transportation back to camp and was off the next day, Saturday, I asked if it were possible for me to sleep the rest of the night on the couch. She hesitated for a moment, then said, “Ok”.

Jean’s room was an ‘efficiency apartment’ composed of only one room. The room was furnished with a double bed, a couch beyond the foot of the bed, a small table with two chairs set next to the window, a sink, several overhead cabinets, and a small two burner stove. There was a communal bathroom down the hall, that was shared by the other three or four, second floor tenants.

Jean put one of her pillows and a couple blankets on the couch for my use. Little more was said between us as we both climbed partially dressed into our separate beds.

Morning came quickly. We both awoke cheerful, but tired. Jean set a box of cold cereal and milk on the table and brewed a much needed pot of coffee. She seemed quite happy, more so than usual. Her bubbly morning self, might have been attributable to her friendly personality, or I thought, “Maybe she liked the fact that I had been honorable the night before.”, I wasn’t sure. After breakfast, Jean quickly dressed for work, but before leaving inquired whether I’d still be in town after her shift that afternoon. Her question seemed couched in an invitation for us to be together. I agreed that I would be in town all day and could, as a matter of fact, stay the rest of the weekend, until Sunday night.

I lounged about in Jean’s room for an hour, then visited with her in the drug store for awhile. As the day passed, some of my fellow soldiers came straggling into town for the little light entertainment of sipping beer and listening to the juke box. I sat with them for awhile, but still being tired didn’t join the drinking.

Saturday evening Jean and I had supper at a small restaurant a few doors down the street from the Schwab’s Building. When we returned to her room, Jean brought out her spare blankets and made up the couch for me to sleep on again. We kissed, then kissed again. [Several paragraphs have been deleted.]___

One day, Jean gave me a photograph of herself that had been recently taken at a railroad bridge along the tracks near her family’s home. In the photo, she is seen sitting atop the bridge’s concrete side rail, wearing a no sleeve blouse and shorts.
[Next paragraph deleted]___

During the next couple weeks, while we continued filming Twilight War in West Virginia, I worked during the day and lived with Jean at night. After the first night or two, my comrades had the military shuttle truck driver stop below Jean’s window and honk the horn for me. Every night I would open the window and wave them on. On weekdays, an hour before the troops were to be awakened at Camp Dawson, I got up and dressed. Jean made me a cup of coffee, after which we kissed goodbye until evening. I quietly let myself out of the building and commenced jogging through the darkness, approximate three miles back to camp. The route back to Dawson was for the most part downhill along a paved, gently winding mountain road. Fortunately, I was in superior physical condition and had extensive daily experience jogging.

A week later, on Sunday, Jean invited me to her parents home for the afternoon. Sometime during the week, someone had left the family car in town for her use. We drove a few miles out of Kingwood, amongst the wooded hills. Finally, she pointed out her house which sat to the right, just off the road. Although I don’t recall any specifics about the house, I was surprised to find it was an isolated, small, old, one story dwelling that had seen better days.

Inside were three or four teenagers, whom Jean introduced as her brothers and sisters. The interior of the house was dark, cluttered and quite cramped for the number of people it housed. Her father, a coal miner, and one brother were not home at the time. Jean’s mother was doing some clothing repair, hand sewing patches on old clothes at the kitchen table. She was bent over her work and barely looked up as Jean introduced us. Jean showed me through the house and into what had been her shared and cramped bedroom.

Jean’s mother looked much older than I had supposed. She was a thin woman with graying hair and a wrinkled face that looked like it had seen years of adversity. I later wondered if she bore all her children, one immediately after another, and was aged from the biological stress. At any rate, she looked like she’d had a hard life, a life full of semi privation living back in the hills of West Virginia.
Jean and I spent the afternoon walking hand in hand along the forest lined railroad tracks near her house. It was a warm and sunny day, we were young lovers and all was right in the world.

Several days before the film was completed, Jean took time from work and abruptly left with her family to visit an ill Grandmother in Ohio.

Good bye, Larry
A couple days after Jean left, the 501st Airborne Infantry Battle Group, was trucked back to Camp Dawson, their training mission with the Special Forces completed. At the same time, we “actors” finished our filming. The TV crew left for Washington, DC and the 501st flew back to Ft Campbell, Kentucky.

Jean was gone that final week and I’d returned to Kentucky by the time she arrived back in Kingwood.

A week after returning to base, I telephoned Jean. It was good talking to her again, but in the brief time we could talk, she had something important to tell me — she’d missed her menstrual period. I had no qualms about marrying her and told her so. I told her that I could rent housing at the base for us and that I loved her. She said she would wait to see what happened and in the meanwhile would think about what I said.

Another two weeks passed and I phoned Jean again. When I asked what she thought about my plans, she stated, “I finally had my period, so we needn’t worry about that any more.” There was something in her voice, she sounded happy to hear from me, but I sensed a certain indefinable reticence. Only slightly troubled by the imperceptible tone of our telephone conversation, I asked her to write me a letter with the news, whilst hoping to keep our relationship resilient and alive. She agreed to write, then we said our “Good byes”.

As the weeks passed, I once again became wrapped up in the immediacy of military life. For what ever her reasons, Jean didn’t write back, so with time, our ties dissolved.

We never saw one another again.

Music [midi, Dixie]

Race riots at Ole Miss
(See the Note regarding the action at Ole Miss, at the end of this post.)
Here and there across America’s metropolitan areas, disgruntled Negroes were asserting their Civil Rights as never before. Protest marches were becoming more common, angry Negroes were pushing to expand their access to “the system” and the courts were full of Black complaints. In this climate something memorable was bound to happen and it did during September 1962.

At the beginning of the school year, the previously all white, University of Mississippi at Oxford, admitted a Negro named, James Meredith. The locals were angered and a riot ensued. Someone was killed, then a bulldozer was driven through the wall of a campus building. As the story broke across U.S. national news networks, “hot heads” from across Mississippi began pouring into Oxford looking for trouble. With the threat of a large scale riot looming, President John F. Kennedy ordered several Battle Groups from the 101st Airborne Division sent in to quell the unrest.

The 501st Airborne Infantry Battle Group was on alert status at the time the call came down. It was standard procedure that one Airborne Battle Group was always packed and ready to leave within two hours of an emergency call. The high level of preparedness rotated biweekly amongst the divisions five STRAC Battle Groups. When a job called for soldiers and there is absolutely no time to wait for ships and the Marines, Airborne units are moved in to stabilize the problem, or at least contain it until reinforcements arrive .

The airport closest to Oxford was too small for our large C-124 and C-130 troop transport aircraft, so we were shuttled to Mississippi in a squadron of smaller airplanes called, Caribou. There weren’t more than a couple dozen soldiers in each of the small Caribou. As soon as we were off our airplane, it taxied back out onto the runway and took off, returning to Ft. Campbell for more soldiers. There was a steady stream of Caribou landing, unloading and taking off. The men of Company B were among the first contingent of troops to arrive. As soon as we fell into formation, all the Negro soldiers were separated out. It was felt that Black soldiers seen performing riot control would further inflame the already tense situation, leading to unnecessarily increased hostilities among the white residents. The Negro soldiers were to bivouac at the airfield and not take place in any altercations that might follow.

The first wave of Caribou had only brought several hundred of us, mostly troops from Company B. That afternoon we were trucked to the practice football field, directly next to the Ole Miss football stadium. We set up our two man pup tents in several long, neatly spaced rows and stowed our duffel bags inside.

Immediately there after, we were called into formation. Then, arrayed in full battle gear and all carrying rifles, we climbed onto a convoy of perhaps a dozen 2-1/2 ton trucks and were told, “Fix bayonets!” We were instructed to sit somewhat turned in our seat so we could hold our rifles, with their gleaming dangerous looking bayonets, potruding out the side of the truck.
Our convoy left the stadium and slowly proceeded through the streets and into the sleepy small town of Oxford. The trucks moved through Oxford slowly, in a tight convoy. I’m sure that the sight of stern faced paratroopers with bristling bayonets, caused more than a bit of apprehension in the people walking along the sidewalk. It was quite well known that paratroopers were the nations “shock troops”. Everyone stopped their activity to watch as the heavy trucks approached and rumbled down the main street. Here and there people leaned close to speak to one another. There was never any intention of actually using the bayonets, the military was trying to bluff the civilian population with hopes of settling things peacefully.

Over the next few days, the number of military personnel in the area grew. There were groups of soldiers at every corner, jeeps were seen running about, while convoys of soldiers were moved to positions around the county. Some one remarked that Oxford, with a population of seventy five hundred people, had an additional fifteen thousand soldiers.
[Above left: Internet image of 101stAairborne troops in Oxford, MS during the riots.]

One night, about 10:00 o’clock, after we’d settled down in our sleeping bags, there suddenly arose the rapid, staccato sounds of: “BAM! BAM! BAM!…POW!… POW!” Within a couple minutes we were in our battle gear, armed and loaded on the trucks. The trucks started, their lights piercing the darkness beside the Ole Miss stadium. Along side the trucks, sergeants and officers were shouting instructions over the noise to hear one another. Ammunition crates were cracked open and each of us was given several clips of live rifle ammunition. At the same time, we were told not to “lock and load” until so instructed. Looking out from the trucks, we could see the flashing red lights of Military Police jeeps as they combed the neighboring streets. We sat, ready, and waiting to go. Finally, a rumor spread that the explosions had been firecrackers, not gun fire. A while later we were told to disembark from the trucks, turn in our ammunition and go back to our tents. and get some sleep.

The Federal Detention Center
Meanwhile, all the attention given Ole Miss on the national television news, began drawing disgruntled racists and assorted punks in from neighboring states. A handful of Federal Prison Guards and Boarder Patrol Guards were flown into the area to set up a detention center. Before long, the increasing number of arrests overwhelmed the Federal agent’s capabilities. The 101st Airborne Division was asked for assistance in processing the rabble raising outsiders. As luck would have it, my squad was assigned a couple extra soldiers and detailed to assist the Federal Officers.

A makeshift detention center was set up immediately in front of the school bus garage at a local school. The three or four bus size garage bay was located directly behind the rather small brick school building. A row of concertina wire was strung between the sides of the garage then forward to the back side of the school building, creating a holding pen about eighty to one hundred feet wide and eighty feet or so in depth. Outside the compound were two long cafeteria style tables which the Federal Agents were using. A Federal Marshall and several other men were seated at one table interviewing prisoners. The second table had a small collection of confiscated guns, bats and knives laid on top.

When my “reinforced” Weapons Squad arrived, the Federal Agents told my assistant and I what they wanted us to do. [Internet image above right: Federal Marshalls seen holding a group of prisoners. This scene is at a holding location probably on the Ol’ Miss campus and is not at the larger holding pen, with concertina wire and interview tables, where I was working.]

Ever so often a Sheriff’s Jail Bus would pull up next to the school building with five to ten lawbreakers aboard. Members of my squad were assigned to escort the prisoners, two at a time, from the bus to the school’s backside wall, a distance of maybe seventy feet. Here they were ordered to stand spread-eagle and lean forward, their arms outstretched and hands against the wall. Each prisoner was guarded by three troops, two of whom were ready to offer immediate restraint should there be an attempt to flee, the third troop ran a body search for weapons. The searches were conducted in a rough manner, any hesitation, sarcasm or attempted friendliness was met by shoving and or being tripped, or pushed to the ground. We didn’t need to strike any of our temporary charges, they quickly became cooperative.

After being searched, the young men were individually taken to the Marshall’s table for processing and questioning. When the Marshall’s business with each man was complete, the prisoner was put in the holding pen. Each new prisoner was instructed to sit cross-legged with his arms crossed and his hands on his shoulders. They were tightly seated, side by side so there was no movement. The prisoners were not permitted to talk, turn their heads, nor move in any way. Large, stocky, Federal Prison Guards patrolled back and forth amongst the growing rows of inmates. Prisoners who talked or moved were struck hard across the back with a length of rubber hose. Periodically through out the night we’d hear a resounding, “ssSMACK!” as someone learned what it meant to disobey their instructions.

As night progressed, we took turns helping to process the prisoners, two hours ‘on duty’ and two hours off. The night air was chilly, even wearing our field jackets, so it felt good to scoot down in the sleeping bag while still fully dressed. Many of the men who’d been caught during daylight hours, wore only T-shirts covering their upper extremities. It must have been hell for them to sit upright, unmoving and uncomfortable in the cold that night.

During the next couple days and nights, the stack of confiscated weapons on the cafeteria table grew. There were many small bore .22 cal rifles, a few shotguns, a few pistols, a large number and assorted variety of knives, baseball bats, boards with nails driven through one end, chains, etc. By the time we left the detention area, weapons were restacked on the ground in a pile roughly four feet wide, eight feet long and fifteen inches high.

Due to the flood of troops that quickly amassed in the area, the constant heavy patrolling of roads and many subsequent arrests, there were no further incidents of violence at Ole Miss. After a couple week’s duty in the vicinity of Oxford, the 101st Airborne Division was recalled to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

The Cuban Missile Crisis
The 501st Infantry Battle Group was on an extended “field problem” (war games), either in Pennsylvania or along the Cumberland River, in Tennessee during mid to late October, when on the 22nd of the month, President Kennedy froze all military discharges.
Our festering relations with Cuba had sunk to a new low. After the U.S. had stopped buying Cuban sugar the previous year, Fidel Castro secretly invited the Soviet Union to install nuclear tipped missle launch facilities on Cuban soil. The Soviets accepted Castro’s invitation and the missles were shipped along with a Russian military unit. High flying U.S. aerial reconnaissance jets photographed the missile site’s construction and crates carrying missles aboard a Soviet ship in Havana harbor. The “cat” was out of the bag.

On October 22nd, President Kennedy dispatched an ultimatum to Soviet Premier Khrushchev stating that the missile sites must be dismantled or they’d be blown out of existence. The next day, a large U.S. Naval fleet deployed about Cuba creating a complete blockade of the island. Air Force and Army units were redeployed to Florida and bases along the southeastern U.S. coast.

With this tense international confrontation, American’s began buying extra canned food, clothing and considering places to hide should a nuclear war develop. For a week or two conditions were extremely dangerous. There was no question that the war would be fought with nuclear missles.
We Troops out in the field weren’t too concerned about being shipped to Florida, or taking part in an invasion of the island. We figured that at the rate the situation was escalating, by the time we got there, Cuba would be a lifeless, radioactive rock sticking out of the water.

Suddenly, the Soviets capitulated: They knew 144 Polaris, 103 Atlas, 105 Thor and Jupiter and 54 Titan thermo-nuclear tipped missiles had been readied to use against them, and that didn’t even count the heavy bombers and other weapons that had been moved to within closer striking distance of Russia and Cuba.

Stranded in Chicago by a snow storm
As the months passed, my old girl friend Shanna and I had maintained infrequent communication by mail. Her family moved from Tempe, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah. Not long after arriving in Salt Lake, Louis and stepfather Ray separated and subsequently divorced. Shanna wrote inviting me to come out and visit on my next Leave.

By winter, I had enough time accumulated to take a week’s Leave. Rick, another fellow in our Platoon, was going home on leave to Salt Lake, so we traveled together.
Our first flight began in Nashville on a local service named, Ozark Airlines. The old, twin engine ‘prop job’ was small, about the size of a C-123 troop transport. Our stewardess was as old and decrepit as the airplane, we joked aloud, wondering if the airline even had a maintenance crew. The ‘bucket of bolts’ pitched and bucked its way northward to Chicago, causing us to wish we had parachutes incase it began falling apart.

Arriving at Chicago’s O’Hara airport just after dusk, we found ourselves landing in the midst of a major snowstorm. We had a two hour layover before making connections with the jet that would carry us to Salt Lake City. Killing time, we sat in the terminal looking out the large glass windows, watching the snow swirl down in the illuminated areas outside. Before long we heard an announcement broadcast throughout the terminal, stating that all flights would be delayed one half hour, while snow was cleared from the runways.

Time passed. The initial departure time for our transcontinental jet came and went.
Planes were still backed up waiting flight clearance to taxi out onto the runway. Meanwhile, the storm intensified.
Finally, it was announced that all flights in and out of the O’Hara airport were canceled until at least 2:00AM the next morning. Incoming flights were being diverted to other airports while we passengers at O’Hara were being asked to wait.

Rick and I checked on the status of our flight at the Reservation Desk. We were surprised to find that our ticketing arrangements covered the eventuality of being stranded. Neither of us were even aware we’d paid an extra fee, but were glad we had.
A woman at the Courtesy Desk gave us ‘lodging vouchers’, whereupon we were taken by limousine to a hotel near the airport. The vouchers provided us with a plush double occupancy room, a magnificent dinner in the hotel lounge, breakfast the next morning and round trip limo service. We hadn’t wanted to miss flying out that evening, but the accommodations were the best either of us had ever seen. That evening about 9:00PM we ate in a way neither of us had since entering the Army. First came the soup du jour, followed by a steak and lobster plate, a variety of vegetables and crisp rolls. A business traveler sharing the table with us bought us both a mixed drink to accompany our meal (we were both under the legal drinking age of 21 years). The layover experience was an pleasurable and interesting break from the coarse, Spartan life we lived in the barracks.

The next morning at 9:00AM we left Chicago on our flight to Salt Lake City.

Shanna, her mom and brother lived in a downstairs apartment with windows at ground level, in urban Salt Lake City. I don’t remember much about our four days together except that we took daily walks together and discussed current events in our lives. We still had a ‘sweet spot’ for one another, but neither of us was in a position to do anything about our relationship. I still had a year to go in the Army and Shanna had a year or two to go before finishing high school. Shanna was born in about 1945-46, thus was four years younger than I, about the same age as my sister, Linda.

Music [midi, Gladistor March]

Sergeant Pierce, pay and privilege
On 31 December 1962, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, pay grade E-5. I was filled with pride and satisfaction with my ability to progress so far in such a short period of time; I’d only been in the Armed Service for two years and three months and was only twenty years old. Although I’d risen fast through the ranks, I only weighed 155 lb. and stood five foot ten inches, I was a little on the thin side. Occasionally, walking into the Non Commissioned Officer’s Club brought momentary, quiet stares from the other NCOs, because I have always looked younger than my chronological age. At age twenty, I looked about eighteen. At age forty eight years I was estimated to be about forty. At age fifty two, I looked about forty five years old.

After promotion to Sergeant my pay included:
$180.00 monthly E-5 rate with over two years service
$55.00 mo. Hazardous duty/ parachute pay
$4.20 mo. Incentive/ special pay
$30.00 mo. Proficiency pay
$269.20 Total monthly pay.

Along with the rank of Sergeant, came a variety of privileges, the best of which was moving out of my somewhat crowed quarters in the Team Leaders room and into a two man NCO’s (non commissioned officers) quarters. Sgt. Rudolpho, whom I roomed with, left the barracks for parts unknown at every given opportunity, so I usually had the room to myself every night and most weekends.

Beginning at the rank of Sergeant, one acquired legal authority. In the Airborne, a Sergeant’s word is quite literally, the law.

Another privilege enjoyed by NCOs was not having to stand in line at the mess hall. After two years of being required to stand in line for cafeteria style served meals, it was a welcome relief and time saver to walk past the queue of troops, pick up a tray and move directly up to the cafeteria style serving tables.

Music [midi: The Lion Sleeps Tonight]

Gross times in the Company mess hall
The mess hall was a rectangular shaped room with large windows on two sides. At one end was the kitchen. The kitchen was separated from the dining hall by a long serving table. Privates who were pulling KP (kitchen police) duty served ladles of the different foods onto each soldiers divided metal tray. Usually, one could choose between several vegetables or take a smaller portion of each. There were lots of “hot dishes” or combination meals.

There seemed to be a mystery military problem, how to convert something as common, tasty and wholesome as mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs into a palatable dish. About two-thirds of the meals were tolerable, the rest were only a cut above C-rations.

Milk and coffee were available at every meal, fruit juice was additionally available at breakfast.

Usually there was a dessert served with evening meals: an ice-cream cup, brownie, Jell-O, or pudding. Frequently the brownies were hard as rock, while the puddings occasionally had an odd “off taste”. Every Friday evening, the same type of bland boneless fish fillets were served.

Weekend meals were unusually terrible. Breakfasts consisted of cereal and hard toast, or a very heavy form of oatmeal, with milk, juice and coffee. Weekend lunches were usually cold–toasted cheese sandwiches (with toast that always dry and hard) or something related. Given the opportunity, few soldiers remained in the barracks over the weekend.

Next to the kitchen was the main dining room. This area was for the rank and file: privates, Pfc. and Sp4s. The dining room was filled with several rows of round tables, four chairs per table. There was a juke box sitting against one wall.
I don’t think I ever ate a meal where we didn’t have popular rock playing. Some one was always jumping up to walk over and drop in their quarter and select three songs. When the song, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, became popular, the “colored” fellows played it so often they practically drove the rest of us nuts.
The main dining room wasn’t large enough to hold the entire company at one time so a line formed from the Mess Hall stretching back through the Day Room. Platoons were rotated, so that a different unit was “first in line” for breakfast and lunch. The rest of the Platoons followed at ten minute intervals. Because we ate relatively fast and without a great deal of conversation, vacant spots at the tables continuously appeared allowing the “chow line” to edge forward quite rapidly.
Evening and weekend meals were on a “first come first serve” basis, except when our Battle Group, hence our Company, was on STRAC alert status.

Most of the way across the dining room from the serving table, was a three foot high planter, lightly planted with fake plastic plants. The planter separated the main dining room from the NCOs dining area. Another planter separated the officers dining area from the NCOs. The general rank levels were grouped: privates through Sp4s in the main hall, Sergeants behind the first line of planters and officers beyond the next, everyone always ate in their designated areas.

What’s on TV tonight?
1962: During my enlistment in the Army, I watched very little television.

I saw the following movies during the year, all at the Ft Campbell theater:
Barabbas with Anthony Quinn, Silvana Mango, Arthur Kennedy
Dr. No with Sean Connery, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Ursula Andress
Light in the Piazza with Vvette Mimieux, Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi
Lolita with James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelly Winters, Peter Sellers
Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris
Rome Adventure with Troy Donahue, Susan Pleshette, Angie Dickinson
Sergeants 3 with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford
Sodom and Gomorrah with Stewart Granger, Stanley Baker, Pier Angeli
The 300 Spartans with Richard Egan, Ralph Richardson, Diane Baker
The 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse with Glenn Ford, Charles Boyer, Lee J. Cobb
The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills (as twins), Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith
The Ugly American with Marlon Brando, Eiji Okada, Pat Hingle
Walk on the Wild Side with Laurence Harvey, Capucine, Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter

—————————————————– ♦ ————————————————-

Forgotten Soldiers of the Integration Fight
By William Doyle (author of An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, MS, 1962)

On October 1, 1962, in the early morning, a force of nearly 30,000 American combat troops raced toward Oxford, MS in a colossal armada of helicopters, transport planes, Jeeps and Army trucks.

Their mission was to save Oxford, the University of Mississippi and a small force of federal marshals from being destroyed by over 2,000 white civilians who were rioting after James Meredith, a black Air Force veteran, arrived to integrate the school.

The troops were National Guardsmen from little towns all over Mississippi, regular Army men from across the United States and paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. They had to capture the city quickly; the FBI had intelligence that thousands of Klansmen and segregationists from California to Georgia may have set off for Oxford, many of them armed.

The first troops to reach Oxford found over 100 wounded federal marshals at the center of campus, 27 of them hit by civilian gunfire. Packs of hundreds of rioters swarmed the city, some holding war dances around burning vehicles.

Snipers opened fire on the Army convoys and bricks struck the heads of American soldiers. Black GI’s in one convoy were ambushed by white civilians who tried to decapitate them in their open Jeeps with metal pipes.

The Army troops restored order to the school and the city, block by block. A girl watched a team of infantrymen under attack on the Oxford town square and, according to a reporter at the scene, wondered aloud, “When are they going to shoot back?” Except for a few warning shots, they never did.

Yet when the soldiers left the city a few weeks later, they marched into oblivion. Most were under orders not to talk to the press. The Cuban missile crisis unfolded just weeks later, wiping Oxford from the front pages.

What the troops did in Oxford was so courageous that their commanders nominated them for scores of medals. But an internal Army memo from May 1963 states: “The focus of additional attention on this incident would not be in the best interest of the US Army or the nation . . . decorations should not be awarded for actions involving conflict between US Army units and other Americans.” Memories of what the troops did then faded away.

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1961, age 18-19

Themes and Events:
*  Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, becomes the first man in space, he orbit Earth once in 89 minutes.
*  The worlds biggest single unit radio telescope starts interpreting radio waves. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico used a spherical reflector 1000 feet wide.
*  During January, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States. Kennedy was the youngest President the country ever had. He spoke with a Harvard accent, was handsome, was of Irish descent and became the first Catholic to occupy the White House. It was John Kennedy’s dream of America conquering “New Frontiers” that gave impetus to space related research and propelled our national space program ahead. Kennedy’s concern with civil defense prompted him to advise families to build or buy a fallout shelter. His administration pushed for an increase in physical fitness particularly in the schools.

 My 1st Leave in the Army: Rapid changes at home
Between A.I.T. and our next assignment, my training company was given a weeks Leave.  I returned home to visit my family and friends in Pasadena.
No sooner had I walked in the front door when I was surprised to find the family hadn’t put up a Christmas tree for the holiday season. Somewhat shocked by the unexpected turn of events, I asked if they’d given up on Christmas. Mom explained, drawing some association between the death of Jesus on a wooden crucifix and the wood of a Christmas tree. I didn’t see the connection, but if that was their way, I figured I could live with it for a week.
Between my previous summer’s vacation in Michigan and being in the Army, I hadn’t seen my parents much during the last half-year. It was becoming clear, that during my absence they’d become even more religious and somewhat ‘unorthodox’ in their convictions.
After I left for the Service, no time had been wasted in converting my bedroom into a study for Dad, my clothes and belongings were all boxed up and stored in the closet. Fortunate for me, my twin bed was still available to sleep on. My old civilian  clothes didn’t fit well any more and were beginning to look a little childish, so I walked to clothing store a few blocks away on Lake Street, and bought a new shirt and pair of  trousers.
[Photograph above, early January 1961: I’m 18 years old, just out of Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Ord, CA and visiting home for the holidays.]

Introducing Miss Jackie
I attended church services with the family while on Leave, wearing my uniform each time. During one meeting, I noticed that Jackie, a girl whom I knew from high school, kept looking at me and smiling. I approached her after the services, where upon we had an extended conversation. Jackie wanted to chat, to find out how I liked the service and if I’d tell her about life in the Army.

Jackie was rather thin, five foot four inches tall, had short brown hair and brown eyes, she’d acted more mature than I during high school. Not only did she hang around with a group that seemed older and more popular than were any of my friends, but she had an aura of intelligence and presence that while friendly, was also aloof. Jackie’s father was a licensed medical professional, her family lived in a fashionable neighborhood near the mountains in Altadena.
Her apparent interest and friendliness piqued my curiosity, making me wonder why, after knowing each other for a year, suddenly she was befriending me. What ever relationship might have developed between us was put on hold, because my Leave was almost over.
Meanwhile in the Howard Street neighborhood: My friends were glad to see me and hear all about the Army, “boot camp”, etc. They were all involved with their lives, with previous obligations, school and new friends, so there wasn’t the opportunity to spend much time chatting. I spent much of my week doing nothing.

 Arrival at Fort Campbell, Kentucky
Upon returning to Ft. Ord, I received my Transfer Orders to report to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Those of us going to Airborne School were put aboard a large commercial jet and flown across country.

When our small group arrived at Ft. Campbell we were individually assigned to platoons throughout the 101st Airborne Division. I was assigned to the Weapons Squad of the 2nd Platoon. My address became:
Pvt. Larry F. Pierce, Company B, 501st Infantry Battlegroup, 101st Airborne Division, Ft. Campbell, KY.

My quarters in Company B
My new quarters were in a rectangular (cracker box-shaped), four-story concrete building, with windows all along the side on each floor. There was a double wide door way toward either end and on both sides of the building. Just inside the front doors were wide concrete stairwells leading to the upper two floors where the soldiers were billeted. An outdoor ramp on the back side of the building lead down to a basement storage area and large classroom.

Each floor was divided by a hall that ran down the center lengthwise, from one end of the building to the other.
The recreation area was at one end, on the building’s main floor, above the Rec. area was the 1st Platoon bay, on the second floor was the 2nd platoon bay.
At the other end of the building, the Weapons Platoon was located on the main floor, 3rd Platoon above them on the 2nd floor, and 4th Platoon on the 2nd floor.

At either end of the building were the large platoon bays where most of the soldiers were quartered. Each platoon bay slept about thirty-eight to  forty-four privates, PFCs and Sp4s (Private First Class and Specialist Fourth Class). The platoon bays terminated with a double swinging door. Just beyond the swinging doors, on one side of the hall, was the very clean,  platoon bathroom with ceramic tiles on the walls and floor. Across the hall from the bathroom was the stairwell and “Rifle Room”. The “rifle room” was secure storage for our platoons rifles, bayonets, pistols, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, machine guns, communications radios and a variety of other sensitive equipment.
[Photograph above: 2nd Platoon bay is seen on the second story, center, this end of the building, (peeking over the roof of the Mess hall]

Continuing down both sides of the hall to the next platoon’s bathroom, were small semi private rooms for the NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers). Most of the NCOs were sergeants, but some were SP4s (pronounced “speck four”).

The buildings ground floor housed the Weapons Platoon  at one end of the hall and a divided recreation area at the other. The recreation area was referred to as the “Day Room”. The Day Room was actually two rooms, one room had a television and  several dozen folding chairs.
Soldiers with no plans for the holidays or were in the barracks on a weekend, frequently spent time here watching TV and eating a pizza. The other half of the of the recreation area was the Reading Room composed of a couple of desks, easy chairs, a couch and several magazine racks. The reading room was the least used space in the building. Between the Weapons platoon bay and the recreational area were the various administrative offices: the First Sergeant’s staff and Company commanders office, an officers room and an Operations room.
Extending out from one end of the building, just past the recreational area, was the attached, one floor kitchen and mess hall.
There was a basement where we held classes, were given lectures and had company wide meetings. The basement entrance was to the left, around the side of the building and down an inclined ramp.

The 2nd Platoon bay

The large platoon bay, which housed the rank and file of the 2nd Platoon, had a wide, tiled aisle down the center. On either side of the isle, evenly spaced, orderly cubicles had been created using large, gray, metallic dividers. Inside each cubicle was a walking space, on either side of which was a cot. The metal framed, olive drab-colored cots were about 6’4″ long and composed of  tight, spring held, wire mesh with a four to six-inch thick mattress on top. The beds were all tightly made, there wasn’t as much as a wrinkle seen in any. Several pairs of highly polished boots and shoes sat side by side beneath each cot.

At the head of each cot were that given soldiers two locked, olive drab metal lockers, taller and larger than the type usually seen in school. One locker was only for uniforms and military equipment, the second locker held the soldier’s civilian clothes and limited other private paraphernalia. There was a heavy metal hook attached to the window side locker of each pair of lockers. The hook carried the soldiers web gear, consisting of: a harness, canteen, entrenching tool, two pouches for ammunition clips, and a butt pack; these items were always clean, assembled, packed (minus the ammunition) and ready to go. At the foot of every cot sat the soldier’s footlocker, containing such things as his neatly rolled underwear, socks, official shaving kit, long john underwear, etc.

First days at Ft. Campbell
 It was a custom in Airborne for replacement troops to be lightly hazed and psychologically harassed. I was given errands to run, told to do push ups and generally treated like a third-rate person. Before long, I learned there were two kinds of people: Those who had gone through Jump School and earned their Airborne Wings insignia were referred to as “Troops”; those without “Wings” were simply and derogatorily known as, “Legs.” A major difference between Airborne and non Airborne soldiers was that, “Troops fly and jump. (said proudly) Legs walk. (said disparagingly)”
I found that there was a certain bravado, a dare and do comradeship that developed between the soldiers, derived from the inherent danger and bravado of being a paratrooper.

[Internet image: Jump School, photo taken a couple of years prior to 1961. There were a few minor upgrades in the training structures before I was stationed at Ft. Campbell.]

A few weeks after arriving at Ft. Campbell, I was assigned to attend the Airborne Jump School Training course. There were only about 1/8 the troops shown in the photo above in our jump school training class, making me think the pic was taken when jump school at Ft Campbell first opened, by the time I arrived, jump school classes were sized to handle division replacements.

Jump school
Jump School was apparently designed to accomplish several military needs. The prime purpose was to teach the soldier to safely recover from a parachute jump from an aircraft in flight. Since this was a semi hazardous group effort, not only the proper techniques, but the proper mental attitude needed to be instilled in the individual troops.

So much for theory. Jump  School was tough! I never spent a harder couple weeks in my life. During the long days we were nearly run into the ground with exhaustion. From sunrise until late in the afternoon we carried fifty pounds of equipment, including parachutes strapped to our bodies.

The Jump School cadre appeared to be the most venomous creatures that ever walked God’s green earth. They never talked to a trainee, except for yelling. They would never touch you except roughly. If you needed special attention, which was not a good omen, an instructor would grab the helmet safety strap that ran around your face and shake you silly, all the while screaming obscenities and spitting flecks of spittle in your face. During Jump School we wore all of our web belt and harness gear and parachutes bags. The loads were heavy and unwieldy making us somewhat clumsy, at first. With all this equipment on our back, chest and about our waist, we were required to do push ups, react promptly in everything we were required to do, run  to and from cadre and between the school’s instructional areas.

First thing upon arriving at Jump School in the morning, the day was started with a detailed inspection of our equipment, hands, faces, clothes and attitude. One morning an instructor found a small dollop of white shaving cream on the back of a trainees neck. All the cadre gathered around to look at the unbelievable affront to their procedures and get a close look at that day’s victim. That poor fellow had a special cadre work with him off and on during the morning; he did hundreds of push ups and was run back and forth between instructors until he was unable to walk straight. He and several other miserable fellows, stood at attention beside the Jump School office all afternoon, holding painted rocks out at arm’s length.

After the first few days most of those who were going to be eliminated, were.
One important lesson we learned was how to make a safe parachute landing fall (P. L. F.). In civilian life you might see a recreational sky diver come floating down and land ever so gently on his feet, after a descent from 10,000 feet, but that is not the military way. First of all, a paratroopers main parachute is designed to descend at about nineteen feet per second, perhaps twenty-five percent faster that a recreational parachute, the emergency parachute only slows you to about twenty-one feet per second. The idea is to get the soldier from the 1,200 foot jump altitude onto the ground as fast as possible, reducing his chance of being shot while still in the air, but slow enough so he doesn’t ‘splatter’ when he ‘lands’.
Secondly, a paratrooper is weighted down with packs, ammunition, canteen, entrenching tool, sleeping bag, some extra clothing, some food, an army jacket, weapons, and all sorts of small things. There is a darn good chance if you tried to land on your feet you’d break an ankle, leg, your back or receive a concussion.  “Parachute Landing Fall’s” (PLFs) were rehearsed by repeatedly jumping off a four-foot high platform, while wearing all our heavy gear. We were told to jump from either our left side , right side, forward or backwards. As soon as we’d made a proper P.L.F. roll in the sawdust pit beside the platform, we’d jump back up to our feet, run around the platform and get in line for another practice jump.
Members of the current Jump Class were spread around the school’s training areas and amongst the cadre. There weren’t any more than perhaps twelve troops practicing  P.L.F.s at any one time. The old white, well used wooden platform we jumped from, was long enough so for two trainees to jump at
the same time. In order to keep the flow of jumpers on the platform constant we had to hurry back into line, climb the steps and jump again. Around and around we went. We would jump, roll, run around to get in line, climb the stairs and jump again for what seemed long periods of time. Finally, some fellows became so worn down from the strenuous effort, that they simply fell off the platform, crumpled to the ground and crawled out of the sawdust, eventually they just fell and laid there. It was odd to see really tough men, who were bigger and much stronger than I, reduced to a piece of meat that laid on the ground crying. Finally, when they were too weak to walk, they crawled, sobbing to themselves like babies.
[Above, Internet image,  (James?)  demonstrating how to stand before jumping off platform to make proper PLF. The exercise is done with main and chest parachute bundles, so the extra load is fairly heavy.  Note barracks in background.]

In order for us to overcome our fear of heights we were required to make several jumps from an airplane mockup located on top of a thirty-four foot high wooden tower. We climbed the steep wooden steps loaded down with our heavy, bulky equipment. At the top, there was a small room in which one of the cadre waited, as we filed in. Taking each one of us in turn, he’d hook our harness to a pair of snap link fasteners and yell, “Stand in the door!” The contraption you were hooked to had a pair of heavy-duty nylon straps that went out the door and up to an overhead roller.
The roller was set firmly on a heavy steel cable that angled gently downward over a couple hundred feet to ground level. When a trainee jumped out of the tower top, airplane mockup, he had an exhilarating, but safe ride down the cable to the far end. When the tower instructor snapped, “Jump!”, you had better comply immediately! Any hesitation, no matter how slight, and he’d swing up on an overhead bar, plant both his feet in your back and kick you straight out the door flopping about like an ungainly gooney bird. If and when that happened, cadre on the ground would disconnect the hapless trainee from the cable slide and harass him something terrible.
[Internet image above: Photo taken in early 1960s. ‘The Tower’. Jumping from the 34 foot tower instilled  confidence in one’s equipment. The soldier here are tethered to rollers that slide along steel cables above their heads.]

Fellows who acted tough, bragged, showed any sign of rebellion, or who didn’t instantly and properly comply with instructions, were mercilessly harassed. No person who was “picked out” by the cadre, ever earned their parachutist badge, non ever lasted the day.

As young men entering an elite military unit, we learned a strict, immediate and totally compliant obedience to instruction. This was important, because as a military parachutist, one must follow directions for everyone’s safety. You must learn how to put your main and reserve parachute on, and over your other equipment. You must know how to run a safety inspection on your own and another person’s parachute connections. You must know how to stand properly in the door of an aircraft, assume the correct posture and leap forward into the screaming wind. Then, without thought, you must immediately assume another posture until your parachute deploys. All the while you must “countdown” to yourself and be prepared to deploy the reserve parachute should your “main parachute” fail. While you descend toward the ground, you need know how to guide the parachute away from obstacles, both on the ground and approaching in the air.  You must know how to hit the ground and roll while wearing heavy, bulky equipment and how to gain release from the parachute if it begins dragging you across the ground. You learn to protect yourself should you come down through power or phone lines, how to safely crash down through a tree, how to land on pavement…

At the end of the grueling third week of Jump School, we were required to make five qualifying parachute jumps in order to graduate.

The Airborne Division’s are America’s shock troops. It is their responsibility to move rapidly into a position requiring infantry and to stabilize or hold that position until other military or political units arrive to take control. An aggressive, “I won’t quit and I won’t be defeated.”, attitude and behavior is instilled in the paratrooper beginning in Jump School and reinforced during his entire period in the service.[1]

My first parachute jump
I’ll always remember the morning of my first jump…of jogging in formation through the predawn darkness, up that slight hill to Jump School…being seated side by side, in rows with others inside the plywood mockup of an aircraft, waiting for the trucks to arrive that would carry us to the Fort’s airport.

[Internet image, left: Stand in  the door! Pausing in the doorway for the briefest moment- and a second later,  you’re in a swirl of momentary  oblivion, sailing out and down behind the airplane. An exhilarating, nerve  wracking event.]

I remember looking across the graveled grounds and seeing the now familiar, darkly silhouetted equipment. Everything was black or dark gray in the shadows of night’s darkness. A gentle drizzle fell and the cool wind felt good against my warm flesh. Across the yard were several flood lights. In their dim light I could see tiny particles of moisture falling. I became aware of my fingers gently gripping  the seat on either side of me, feeling the coarse texture of the long wooden bench I was sitting on.
Across the isle from me were the dark, quiet, still forms of the other trainees. There was a faint smell of damp canvas and clothing in the air. I was aware of how good it was to be alive and that I was sensing everything about me with heightened appreciation. Would I survive the day?

We “Hit the blast” three times that day and two the next and Jump School became history.[2]  After our fifth and final jump qualifying jump,  the Jump School Commandant pinned the coveted metal Parachute Badge on each of our uniforms. After the award ceremony each member of the Jump School Cadre gave a short friendly speech, telling us a little about themselves and their families. We learned they were “regular guys” like us, who were required to act exceptionally tough in order to instill the proper training and attitude for our somewhat hazardous duty. The parachute badges that are awarded at graduation were referred to as our “Blood Wings”, because of the hardship endured in earning them.
We never wore our ‘Blood Wings’ on our Class A dress uniform, but purchased replacement badges for secular use. Upon completion of Jump School we began drawing an additional $55.00 per month ‘hazardous duty pay’. For a Private, $55 per month was more than a fifty percent increase in pay, a very  nice and necessary boost in spendable income. [Internet photo, right: parachutist badge identical to my ‘Blood Wings’.]

17 April: TheBay of Pigs
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched an ill-fated attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, by landing a small army of 1500 trained, exiled Cuban’s at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Castro’s army surprised the armed exiles on the beach, killing or capturing all of them within three days.
The defeat was seen as a disaster for the C.I.A. and American’s will to resolve issues in the Caribbean.

Shepard flies the Mercury space capsule
On May 5, Naval Commander, Alan B. Shepard Jr. flew America’s first suborbital flight in the Freedom 7  Mercury capsule. The mission carried Commander Shepard 116 miles high, at speeds of 5,181 MPH on his 15 minute flight.

I’m assigned to the Weapon’s squad
After graduation from Jump School,  I was assigned as an Assistant to a 3.5 Inch Rocket Launcher. The term “assistant”, in reality meant “ammo carrier”. I studied the 3.5″ Rocket Launcher manual, attended classes to learn its operation, care and cleaning, and qualified as an Expert marksman with the weapon. Within a couple of months, I was promoted to ‘Rocket Launcher gunner’ and had an Assistant (ammo carrier) under me.

The rocket launch system consisted of a 3.5-Inch bore Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher (model M20A1) consisting of two aluminum tubes, which had to be screwed together before loading and firing a rocket. The assembled launch tube had a length of 60 inches and weighed 14 pounds. The weapon for the M20 launcher was a High-Explosive Anti-Tank Rocket (model M28)

[Photograph left: 1961, about half of the Weapons Squad during a field exercise. I’m leaning on my  disassembled, 3.5 inch rocket launcher, second from left. Fellow on the right is holding a M60 machine gun.]

I was lucky to have fallen into a Weapons Squad, as I learned on our Battle Group’s first field exercise. When on a field maneuver or War Games, riflemen are sent out on night patrols, to forward listening posts or to stand guard duty. What sleep they miss during such activities is simply missed. On the other hand, the Weapons Squad’s machine guns and rocket launcher crews are set up in key defensive positions and usually not moved until the entire Platoon moves. This state of affairs translated into the probability of more sleep at night and a little less running around through the countryside at other times. Our small benefit was overshadowed by the heavier equipment weight, carried by each member of the Weapon’s Squad during the rest of the maneuver.

[Internet image: an assembled 3.5” rocket launcher and  live rocket with dummy warhead.]

Platoon Sergeant Rameriz
Initially, Platoon Sergeant Rameriz was in charge of the Second platoon. Sgt. Rameriz had found himself a home in the Army ever since he served in the Korean War. He was a relatively short and muscular man of about five foot five inches. His solid frame, dark burly looks and way he crashed through brush during field problems, reminded me of a an old cantankerous bear. Sgt. Rameriz was not a particularly intelligent person, being somewhat more dogmatic, crafty and eager to make sure that nothing ever happened to shed any negative light on his job performance. I think he only had a couple of years to go before retirement and wanted to complete the rest of his enlistment with the least number of problems from the young soldiers, whose job it was for him to lead. At the same time, Sgt. Rameriz was friendly, yet remained distant from the troops as any one in a leadership position might be.

Sgt. Rameriz had a little sideline business with a photo shop. Ever so often he’d announce he would be setting up his professional portrait camera during such and such hours on the weekend. Anyone who wanted a photograph taken for friends or family would show up in their uniform and he’d take your picture. Occasionally he used company or platoon formations as a time to take group photographs. Every one who had a photo taken was obliged to buy several copies. Sgt. Rameriz received compensation from the sale of the photographs, as well as earning price reductions from the developing company for bulk work, film, etc. I had several photograph taken, but felt each time that I was being pressured to do so.

Once, while preparing for a parachute jump, Sgt. Rameriz and I inspected the safety condition of each others parachute. I nearly choked in surprise when Rameriz found a packing error on my main parachute. Who ever packed that parachute had run the static line (that deployed the parachute) through some webbing on the parachute’s canvas cover. If the error wasn’t caught I’d have likely been dragged through the air flopping, in the wind, behind the aircraft until either I or someone else cut me loose. Rameriz called another Sergeant to verify the improper packing, they rerouted my static line. The packers identification card (a number) was removed from my parachute and sent it through proper channels, so the packer could explain his workmanship to his superiors.

13 August: The Berlin Wall is erected
In the face of the alarming rate at which refugees East Germans were pouring into West Germany, through Berlin and in consideration that the United States had declared its intent to protect the independence of West Berlin, Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev ordered the Berlin Wall  built.

Learning to use the M-60 machine gun
In September, just before completion of my first year of military service, I was promoted to the rank of Private First Class (PFC.), pay grade E-3. Now, with one chevron on my shirt sleeve, I was earning $99 regular pay plus $55 hazardous duty pay, or $154 per month; that was more than twice my pay as a “recruit” in Basic Training.

[Internet image, right: A M60 machine gun mounted on its tripod. When in use, a continuous belt of ammo would have fed into the firing chamber.

Since the Weapons Squad team member’s jobs were somewhat interchangeable, I was given training on the M-30 Air-cooled Machine Gun. No sooner had I qualified with the weapon and the new M-60 Machine Gun was deployed among the 101st Airborne units. The M-60 had a much An different design than the old Korean War style M-30s, it was also lighter and fired a NATO compatible 7.62mm cartridge. After learning how to field strip, clean and care for the M-60, I qualified as an Expert marksman with it as well. Then, for a time I was assigned as the Assistant Gunner (tripod carrier), thus learning the ins and outs of machine gun deployment.

Second leave: Dating Jackie
Having accumulated a weeks Leave by early summer, I decided to fly home for a visit.
It was on this leave that I flew my first flight on a 707 commercial passenger jet. Jet aircraft had only been developed some sixteen years earlier so the 707s were a new, fast and luxurious way to travel.

Arriving in Los Angeles I took a shuttle bus to the Green Hotel in Pasadena, rode a local bus up Lake Street to Howard Street and walked the last block home.

Some changes had occurred during my absence. I was happy to find my sister, Linda, had recently been on her first date. Actually she’d been on a double date with a fellow from the church and another couple, I was glad to see she was also growing up and expanding her universe.

My good friend, Mike was attending summer school at California State College in Pomona.
Between his class schedule, round trip driving time to Pomona, and studies, we didn’t have much opportunity to visit.

My other good friend, Ted and his mother, Naomi, had moved out of Pasadena. Ted borrowed his Mom’s car to come over and visit, but we had only a couple short hours together before he had to leave.

I telephoned Jackie with hopes of getting together with her for a while. She was pleased to hear from me. She said her parents had bought her a Volkswagen “Bug”, so she could pick me up right away, if I wanted to go somewhere together. We went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. While we ate our sandwiches, Jackie informed me that she was attending California State College at Los Angeles with hopes of becoming a Grade School teacher.
It wasn’t until then that I realized just how many of my friends and acquaintances were moving on with their lives. It seemed everyone was rapidly preparing for adulthood, such a change from one short year earlier. Before dropping me off at home again, Jackie asked if I’d like to visit with her friend Margo the next evening. I replied, That sounds like fun.” I knew Margo from senior high school, she Jackie and several others had been part of a rather social, intellectual clique. I wondered if she was changing as was Jackie.

The next evening Jackie picked me up as planned. Instead of driving north to Margo’s house in Altadena, we went south to Rosemead. As we drove, Jackie explained that Margo was supposed to be staying at a girl friends house, but was actually staying over night with her boyfriend and it was his apartment where we were going. Well, I certainly would go for a little adventure and was interested finding out what was going on. We arrived at the rather old apartment building and walked up the stairs to the second story. Jackie knocked on the door and the boy friend let us in. Inside, we found the room was lit by candlelight. The apartment was furnished with old furniture and worn, brownish carpets that looked like survivors from the 1940s. The boyfriend appeared to be in his early to mid thirties, had a beard trimmed to a point below his chin, reminding me of an aging “beatnik”; he must have been twelve to fifteen years older than the rest of us. I was surprised to see Margo hanging all over this quiet, older man, sitting deep on his lap, frequently kissing him and demonstrating such affection so publicly in front of guests. The boy friend sat there stoically, taking her affections. Margo played a Brahm’s Symphony No.2 record album on the hi-fi record player while we sat about sipping red wine in the candlelight. It was an unusual night with strange, but stirring music, unexpected behavior from acquaintances and talk about existential philosophy.

Music [midi: Exodus]

A day at Miss Jackie’s house
A day or two later Jackie invited me over to her house saying she had permission from her parents for me to spend the night.  Saturday afternoon she picked me up in her new Volkswagen and we drove back up the winding streets to her parents house in Altadena. Her parents weren’t home at the time. Jackie and I went through her record album collection where she selected and began playing Brahms Symphony No. 2 and Symphony No. 4 on the stereo. Jackie went to her room and quickly returned with a book, then led me into the Sun Room, where we sat cross-legged on the floor, to talk.

We took turns reading  passages from her favorite book, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. This was my first real exposure to classical music and poetry, I liked the feelings evoked by these forms of communication. Although alien to my experience, they seemed to reach into a deeper part of the mind, past the bounds of my normal daily consciousness. I savored the music and poetry and stored those feelings and ideas away for future exploration.

Before long we began kissing and doing some v-e-r-y heavy petting… [deletion]…At almost the last-minute, her parents drove into the driveway. Jackie began spraying the room with an aerosol air freshener…

I spent the night in the home’s basement, which had been converted into a very nice spare bedroom. Sunday morning I was awakened by the deep and beautiful, stereophonic soundtrack music from the movie, Exodus, being piped into my bedchamber. No sooner had I rolled over in bed to take my bearings, when Jackie walked in carrying a tray. She’d brought me a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. Setting the tray on the nightstand beside my bed, she bent down and gave me a warm kiss. Wow! This was turning into a heady experience! A while later, we made plans to see one another on my next Leave from the Service.

The next day, with my Leave nearly over, I caught a passenger jet from Los Angeles International Airport and flew back to Ft. Campbell.

Training cadets at West Point
As luck would have it, during the late summer, my outfit, Company B of the 501st Infantry Battle Group, was selected for an excellent assignment. We were transferred to West Point Military Academy in New York in order to teach the first year cadets how to fire small arms weapons and to act as “aggressor” foils against them in a field training exercises.

[Internet image, left: Cadet officers at West Point.]

When we arrived at West Point, several other troops and myself were detailed to give instruction on the firing of the .45 caliber automatic service pistol. The rest of the Company was divided into groups
giving the Cadets a broad spectrum introduction to rifles, automatic weapons, the 106mm recoilless rifle, hand grenades, etc.

My group was given an introduction on how to present the training; how to coach the young officer’s with their shooting posture and proper method of holding the pistol; as well as how to safely operate the firing range.

For the next few weeks, we went to the pistol range week day mornings, had a class every other hour throughout the day, and laid on the grass sleeping during those in-between non work hours.

When we worked, we were professional.

We were quartered at an old World War II, German Prisoner of War Work Camp barracks, somewhere deep in the toolies, yet not too far from West Point Academy.  Any barbed wire that may have once surrounded the camp was long since gone. The camp was surrounded on several sides by heavily wooded hills and on another side by a long lake. We slept in three or four Quonset buildings. The double bunks were arranged in rows on either side of a central aisle running down the length of the building.  Other structures in the compound included: a mess hall,  motor pool compound, a small PX (post exchange), a large bathroom, and an open amphitheater for movies. Since there were no provisions for us to go to town, except on weekends, we were provided with free, top rate action movies nightly.
Since New Your state had a drinking age of 18 we we’re also allowed to buy small eight ounce cups of beer from our impromptu PX.

On weekends, were given leave to visit town. Several weekend evenings were spent sitting in dance club bars in Newburgh, New York. The clubs were really just bars where you could dance to juke box music, if there were any girls to dance with. During our stay, the USO held two dances in an auditorium on the West Point campus. I spent both evenings enjoyably dancing and talking with several local girls. The girls at the USO dances were a completely different type person than “what” frequented the dance sleazy club bars.

A bar fight almost erupted
One evening while in Newburgh I nearly became involved in a fight with a Sergeant who’d been temporarily assigned to our company. We’d been sitting at separate tables with our own friends drinking all evening. When I went up to the bar for another bottle of beer, the Sergeant pushed me saying he didn’t like me for some reason or other. I didn’t want to get in a fight, but was required by conduct not to take any unauthorized crap from another soldier even if he out ranked me, and stood about six inches taller. The sergeant said not to worry about his stripes, the fight would simply be between him and me. I was ready to throw a punch too. Seeing that things were spinning out of control fast, the bartender said he was going to call the police, immediately our friends took us by the arms and began pulling us apart and back toward our seats.

Seeing that the bar and Newburgh were not an appropriate place’s to fight we made an appointment to “have it out” when we got back to Ft Campbell. That sounded fine to me. I quietly hoped he’d calm down and forget the uncalled for hostility by the time we returned to base.

Po’ soldier; no money, nowhere to go
One weekend toward the end of the month, there were about five or six of us (from the same platoon) in town, all of us were broke until payday. Some one got an idea about going to the movies, so we dug out what ever money we had in our pockets and pooled it. Turned out there was just enough to get us into the movie theater, where the war movie, Guns of Navarone, was playing, buy some popcorn with a couple of dollars left over. It only took a moment between all us enterprising young men, to figure how to get the maximum yield from our meager cash….So, we went to a nearby liquor store and bought a half-gallon of cheap, sweet, red wine, walked down the rail road tracks to a private area amongst some trees and passed the bottle around and around until it was gone. With the bottle thrown into the bushes, we walked to the theater and were in our seats just before the show started.
Amazing! I still have to chuckle over that afternoon.
Oh, yes! We hooted and yelled cheers for the American troops during the battle scenes, it’s a wonder we weren’t thrown out of the theater.

Visiting New York City
Twice while we were at West Point, I caught a commuter bus into New York City. Both times I went to the city with fellow soldiers. After the first night in the big city we drifted apart each going his own direction, so both times I ended up wandering around in Time’s Square by myself. What an experience. I browsed through several large department stores, saw a semi-pornographic movie, was accosted by homosexuals, was refused service in a bar catering exclusively to “coloreds”, saw a variety of cripple and half crazed people panhandling on the street. The people in downtown New York City were either untrusting or unfriendly. Once when I became temporarily lost and couldn’t find my way back to the bus station, I tried stopping several people on the sidewalk to ask for directions. They jerked away without eye contact and hurried off without answering my innocent request. Elsewhere in the USA, I’ve found people were friendly and courteous to a soldier in uniform. Although it was quite an expensive treat for a Private’s salary, I stayed in a down town hotel room overnight on both trips and luxuriated in a hot private shower and big double bed.

Field maneuvers against the West Point Cadets
After several weeks providing “small arms” training, our company was divided into double squad strength (about twenty-two men each) “aggressor” units. The cadets were broken into groups of approximately the same size and put in preselected defensive positions here and there about the hilly forest. Everyday the cadets were rotated to a new defensive position, however the aggressor units kept attacking the same spot. We therefore learned the local terrain quite well.

On one occasion, we “aggressors” climbed a cliff, came up behind the cadet’s defensive position and crept up close to their foxholes, unseen. Immediately, before we began our attack, several members of our force threw smoke grenades and small charge explosives amongst the unwary defenders.

Then on signal, we ran down upon the would be Officers with our semi automatic weapons popping off blank cartridges. At the moment we jumped out from behind the brush and trees, the defenders were all slouched in their foxholes looking away from us, down hill, expecting us to come up the hill to them. We fell upon them yelling and whooping as loud as we could, whilst almost choking with laughter. They were caught totally by surprise. Smoke from the smoke grenades blanketed the area turning  the hillside into a confusing hodgepodge of fast-moving gray silhouettes, mixed with loud, abrupt, sharp noises, yells and profanity. The explosive charges were detonating, so there was a nearly continuous ratcheting of gun fire punctuated by loud explosions. One of the explosive charges accidentally rolled and fell into a one man foxhole that I was passing, the cadet in the hole just stood dumbly looking at me in shock. I dropped my rifle, grabbed his coat collar and equipment webbing and pulling him bodily from the waist deep hole.
Immediately, the explosive detonated, cleaning out the foxhole and blowing a cloud of small pebbles, dirt and debris up into the trees. Without a word said between us, I picked up my rifle and continued moving through the hillside defensive position yelling and shooting blanks. At last glance, the surprised young man was laying on the ground beside his foxhole staring in disbelief at what was going on around him.

The fight was canceled
By the time our Company returned to Ft. Campbell from West Point, I’d forgotten about the Sergeant who’d picked a fight with me in Newburgh, New York. About a week after we returned, one of my friends approached me to say, “Do you remember that Sergeant that tried to start a fight with you at West Point?” I thought to myself, “Oh shit, here we go.”, but replied, “Yeah.” The soldier continued, “He went on leave from West Point and flew home to Chicago. His airplane crashed while it was coming in to land at the airport and he was killed.” What an amazing turn of events. Although I wouldn’t wish death on anyone, I remained glad that pesk was terminated. And so ended one of life’s little irritations.

Third leave: The hunt for Miss Jackie
Since my previous Leave about five months earlier, Jackie and I kept in touch by letter. In time, I accumulated a weeks Leave and would use it visiting with Jackie and my friends in Pasadena.
Jackie volunteered to pick me up at the L.A. International Airport and for the start of a fun period together. On the first day of my Leave, I flew across country to Los Angeles arriving as scheduled, but Jackie was not at the terminal. I waited an hour thinking she might have been tied up in traffic, which is of course, easy to do in Los Angeles, particularly on the highway leading to the airport. Finally, becoming concerned, I telephoned her house. Jackie’s mother answered, saying that she thought her daughter was out studying with her girl friend, Margo… I was confused. Everything had been properly planned, it was even Jackie’s idea to meet me at the airport. Now, barely a week later, it was clear something had gone wrong and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. Shortly thereafter, I caught a shuttle bus from the airport to the Pasadena’s Green Hotel, then took a taxi home.

Upon arriving at our house on Howard Street, and finding the family still gone, at school and work, I dropped off my duffel bag and made a sandwich. Still wearing my khaki “Class A” uniform, I walked down the street and around the corner to Mike’s house on Michigan Ave. Fortunately, Mike didn’t have any more classes that day, so after chatting awhile and discussing my problem we decided to try to track Jackie down. By this time it was evening.
It just so happened that I knew Margo, the girl with whom Jackie was supposed to be studying; we’d had classes together in high school and I’d seen her as recently as my last Leave. Mike and I drove up to her house, which was located only a few miles away in Altadena. As soon as she saw me, Margo knew what I wanted. She truthfully told me that Jackie was not there and that her whereabouts were suppose to be kept secret. I explained how Jackie had left me waiting at the airport after we’d done extensive
planning for our upcoming week together. Seeing the injustice done me, Margo broke down and gave me the address where Jackie could be found.

When we located the house, in northern Pasadena, Mike waited in the car while I went to the door. Things had occurred so fast since my arrival home that I hadn’t yet changed out of my uniform. Through the partially opened front door, I could see a couple sitting together and kissing on an easy chair in the unlit semi darkness of the living room. When I knocked, that girl answered the door,
apparently expecting me. She asked me to wait and disappeared to the left. Part of the house, a bedroom extended to my left where I heard some voices then it grew quiet again. About five minutes later, Jackie came outside crying and closed the door behind herself.

Frustrated, nervous and a little angry I asked, “Why in the hell did you just leave me waiting at the airport?!” I told her that if she was “going with” someone else I could live with the truth, but I didn’t want her treachery. I asked, “What have I done to warrant your treachery? Why have I been so dishonorably treated?”  She was standing with her face close to mine, I could see her features in the dim light. She was crying hard now, her face upturned toward me, she was sobbing and began saying,
“Hit me. Hit me. I deserve it.”

During my senior year in high school, I respected and looked up to Jackie, and felt like a very lucky fellow when later she chose to become my girlfriend. But now her treachery and begging to be hit, disgusted me. Her behavior was loathsome and  disturbed. Having said my piece as gentlemanly as was called for, I wheeled about and walked briskly back to Mike’s car, got in and we drove solemnly away. I never saw or spoke to Jackie again.

Military buildup in far away Vietnam
During November, President Kennedy decided to increase the number of American advisors in Vietnam from one thousand to sixteen thousand over the next couple of years.

Sergeant Rameriz was transferred
At nineteen years of age, I was a Private First Class (pay grade E-3) in the 101st Airborne Division. Once, my Platoon Sergeant, Sgt. Rameriz, had occasion to chew me out over some point whose import I’ve forgotten. In his closing statement, he said, “You don’t have the right material for promotion to Specialist 4th Class (pay grade E-4) and I’ll personally never promote you.”

Not long after this, Sgt. Rameriz was transferred and our platoon was assigned a new platoon sergeant. I think Rameriz and Master Sergeant Townsend(?) judged people by different sets of criteria. Where as Rameriz seemed to give greater responsibility and reward to the fellows who were “bigger, huskier men”,  Master Sergeant Townsend  preferred hustle, intelligence and efficiency.

At nineteen years of age, I still looked like a seventeen year old high school boy, albeit very agile, sinuous and tough. Although I didn’t have a commanding presence, I intelligently solved tactic situations, as well as being prompt and efficient in the completion and deportment of my own responsibility, and inspired anyone under me to do the same.

Within months after Rameriz was transferred, I was promoted to Specialist 4th Class (paygrade E-4), which simply demonstrates the importance that leadership personalities play in the affairs of man.

Weapons Squad Team Leader
During the last weeks of the year I became a Weapons Squad Team Leader, in charge of and responsible for a three man M60 Machine Gun crew and two man 3.5″ Rocket Launcher crew, of which I was the Rocket Launcher gunner.




[Photos above:Left: Valentine’s Day Jump,  taken at approx 1000 feet altitude, after jumping from a C-124 transport airplane; below is the Suchon Drop Zone at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
 Right: 1961-62. A picture taken at approximately 1000 ft. altitude after jumping from a C-123 troop transport, over Caretan Drop Zone, Ft. Campbell, KY.  The inexpensive Brownie Instamatic camera used here, dropped out of my hands at about 200 feet and broke upon impact. Fortunately, the roll of film was finished, rolled up and salvageable.]

What’s on TV tonight?
1961- during this year I watched very little television.

Among the movie I saw this year (mostly at the Ft. Campbell theater) were:
Ben Hur with Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet
Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Nancy Walters
Cimarron with Glen Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter, Arthur O’Connell
El Cid with Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Raf Vallone
Judgment at Nuremburg with Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark
Mr. Sardonicus with Oscar Homolka, Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton
One-Eyed Jacks with Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer
Splender in the Grass with Warren Beatty, Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle (A semi tragic love story seen about 3 times in 2 weeks.)
The Alamo with John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone
The Comancheros with John Wayne, Stuart Whitman, Nehemiah Persoff
The Great Imposter with Tony Curtis, Edmond O’Brien, Arthor O’Connell
The Guns of Navarone with Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn
The Misfits with Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lorre, Joan Fontaine
West Side Story with Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno
Where the Boys Are with George Hamilton, Yvette Mimieux, Jim Hutton


[1] THE AIRBORNE MYSTIQUE (copied from the Internet 1 Nov 2000, author unknown)
“In French, they are known as “les Paras”, in German “die Fallschirmjager, in Spanish “los Paracaidistas and, in English, we call them “Paratroopers”. Whatever the language used, the connotation is that of soldiers who are held in awe and respect by their countrymen and possible adversaries.
They form a body of tough, elite, highly disciplined troops for any nation. For some, they have been held back as a general reserve; for others, they have been the first forces employed in time of trouble. More than any other types, airborne forces are most directly and effectively useful in cold war, limited conflict, and general war. In cold war they represent the nation’s “hole card”—mobile forces always ready for rapid deployment—and so are a deterrent force. In limited war they would likely be the first army forces strategically deployed. In general war they could carry out a variety of missions such as reinforcing combat elements already deployed, filling strategic gaps where there were no deployments and interdicting enemy forces by vertical envelopment.
A large part of the viability factor in the airborne as an important part of the force structure comes from the effect of airborne training on the individual. Why airborne? Aside from the practical value of airborne troops, there’s a tremendous psychological mystique that’s established around men who jump out of aeroplanes. The “mystique” is, in reality, a personality change undergone by those who become paratroopers. The change is based upon two major facets: the rite of initiation which allows a soldier to be called a “paratrooper”, and the continued reinforcement of this status.
Jumping encourages self-confidence, determination, self-reliance, masterful activity, aggression, courage, and other items symptomatic of the phallic-narcissistic type, all of which are very important in the military setting, especially in paratroop commando units, which rely heavily on individual action and are aggressive in nature. In a way, even the illusion of omnipotence enhanced by jumping can make a better soldier.
Paratroopers live a life of uncertainty. Not only must they continually be tested in the air, but they are also subjected to frequent alerts for deployment. At least an equal number are due to actual conditions which may require their presence. In recent history, we can think of a sufficient number of actual deployments to know that the paratrooper must be ready. Parachute jumping tests and hardens a soldier under stress in a way nothing short of battle can do. You never know about others. But paratroopers will fight. You can bet on that. They repeatedly face danger while jumping and develop self-discipline that conquers fear. Subconsciously, every trooper knows this. That’s why he has that extra cocky confidence.”
[2]  See 1963, Anatomy of a combat style parachute jump.


Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1960, age 17-18

Themes and Events:
* The Civil Right Bill passes Congress. This year Tax Freedom Day falls on 17 April, in 1950 tax freedom was two weeks earlier, on 3 April. The U.S. nuclear submarine, Triton, completes the first underwater circumnavigation of the globe, traveling 30,708 miles in 84 days.
* Teflon coated cookware comes to market and is met by an enthusiastic public. The first felt tipped marker, by Pentel, are sold. The laser (Light Amplification through the Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is patented.
* The new head of government in Cuba, Fidel Castro, nationalized all American interests in his country. The U.S. retaliated by suspending sugar shipments from Cuba. One thing led to another and animosities grew between the Us government and the communist, Castro regime.
* The US Census shows the U.S.population is currently 179,323,175, up 27,997,377 from the 1950 census, for the largest population growth in population to date. Meanwhile, the world population has grown to 3 billion people, up from 2 billion in 1930.
* The contraceptive pill was approved by the USDA for public use on May 9th. In my younger years, while hiking or riding my bicycle, I would occasionally came across a semi remote “lovers lane” parking spot. In such places I saw  wadded tissue paper and well used “rubbers” laying about the ground, all testimony to the effectiveness of  “lovers lane”.
* Until the early 1960s, one occasionally saw a “condom” dispensing, vending machine, in gas station bathrooms. Before, “The Pill”, sexually active couples relied on “rubbers” much more frequently to curtail an unwanted pregnancy  than they did after birth control pills became available. In these times condoms were also used to protect against syphilis and gonorrhea, which were the only two sexually transmitted diseases active in the American population. The sexual freedom offered by the contraceptive pill gave rise, in the years ahead,  to an era of promiscuity. As promiscuity spread so did the numbers of varieties of venereal disease. By the early 1990s, there was occurring several VD epidemics at once including: Chlamydia, A.I.D.S., Herpes, antibiotic resistant Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Genital Warts…

Pasadena High School, JROTC
When first enrolling in PHS (Pasadena High School), I was surprised to find they offered  JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps). JROTC was something like advanced Boy Scouts, with pre military training,  uniforms, inspections, marching drills, rifle practice, etc. The class sounded interesting, so I registered to take it.

Although time has erased memory of the particulars of the class, I remember the marching drills and the rifle training. Each one of us JROTC students learned the proper method to care for and fire a .22 rifle. There was a permanent rifle range set up adjacent to the JROTC class room and armory in the  basement beneath one of tha campus buildings.
After several rounds of competition between the schools several JROTC classes, about five of us were left as the top marksman.  We became the Pasadena High School Rifle Team, and went into state competitions. We won the shooting completion against several other area schools and were bussed to Pendleton Marine Base for the state championships. I remember exiting the school bus and walking across a corner of the Marine parade grounds, while formations of Marine recruits were marching around learning to follow orders while moving in a tight formation. [Internet image showing a rifle range with targets similar to what we had in JROTC]

During competition, we fired heavy, competition grade .22 rifles from the prone position. Our targets were of the small ‘bulls eye’ variety, hung 50-75 feet away each in its own brightly illuminated lane.

When sighting to fire, the procedure was to take a final shallow breath, gently exhale whilst slowly squeezing the trigger. It seemed that with each heart beat, the pulse of blood flowing through your body would make the rifle slightly rise and fall or arc across the dead center of the bull’s eye. As your breath exhaled, and pulse moved the rifle, your trigger finger slowly pulled the trigger, in that last moment when the micro adjustments were coming together, the target would fall onto the sights, and the rifle would report. The moment you were aware the gun had fired, you could feel if it resulted in a good shot. After each shot we moved our heads to the side and looked down range with a spotting scope to see where  the target had been hit.

Our rifle team didn’t win the state championship, nor were we in second place, but I’d had a small personal time of glory, rising several levels in the state rifle marksman competitions.

After moving from Arizona and with the passage of time, I’d started a new school, made new friends and was moving along in life. I had a tender spot in my heart for my ex girl friend, Shanna, we’d had a great summer together. We wrote to one another, about monthly, frequently enough to keep in contact, but not often enough to make our emotional fires kindle to flame. As teen age kids, our letters were short and talked mostly about school and friends, they were not not the kind filled with passion. I think we both rightfully figured that there was too much time, circumstance and distance for us to ever get together. How could it ever happen? One had to face it, we were teens living with our parents, neither of us had transportation, no money of our own, no jobs, we were in school. You simply cannot expect to maintain a long-term relationship when you live in a child’s world. Fortunately, we approached the problem with only a vague understanding the time and event factors that kept us apart, friends who could never’ be together. So, we occasionally wrote one another and went about the important daily activities of everyday life.

One night, alone in the mountains
One Friday afternoon, I made plans for a solo overnight campout in Eaton Canyon.
It so happens that Eaton Canyon is the same mountainous canyon that Ted and I hiked down returning from Mt Wilson the previous summer. The portion of Eaton Canyon we were use to hiking in was the lower part, the part accessable from northern Pasadena neighborhoods.

Ted and I had been in the lower elevations of the canyon while hiking and exploring many times, so I was familiar with the area. Anyway, I assembled my gear, an old war surplus Army jacket, a canteen of water, K-Bar hunting knife, some bologna, a can of beans and my Boy Scout mess kit. Mom and Dad agreed to drive me up to the closest point and I’d hike back from there. It was only about a ten minute drive on the road, I left from there on foot.

Within about a half hour I’d gone quite a ways back up the canyon and it was becoming dark. Making my way along the dry stream bed, I finally came to a widening in the valley floor, the place where I’d planned to stay the night. There was a bright moon so I could see fairly well. However, there were scrub oak trees around the flat area which created some deep dark areas that were pitch black. As I quietly approached a dark area within the trees, I heard a light ‘crash’ as if something had jumped down from a tree. Then I heard small brittle fallen tree limbs and leaves crackle as something made its way across the cluttered ground. Alarmed, I stopped, tensed up, pulled my hunting knife from its sheath and gulped with a little fear, and looked hard into the shadows for movement. I was worried that a mountain lion might be directly ahead of me and only 50-70 feet away. There had been the occasional reports of mountain lions in the San Bernardino mountains, but they were very infrequent (in those days) and had been reported deeper in the mountain range, not so close to human habitation.

The sounds could also have been a deer, raccoon or other non predator…? Irregardless of what it was, I wasn’t going to challenge it’s right to be there, so after a few short moments, I began backing away. After a minute or so I’d backed out into the moonlight,  not hearing any more movement, I turned and walked briskly back down the canyon, stopping now and again to look and listen. Shortly, I came to a fork in the canyon, one way went back the way I’d origionally come in, the other led into a rather narrow dry river bed channel with steep cliff sides and sandy floor. I veered off into the narrow canyon.

After walking less than a  hundred yards, I found that the base of the cliff  on one side, had an approximate two foot high crevice eroded out at stream bed level. The crevice was maybe twelve feet long, about two feet high and three feet deep (back under the cliff’s overhang). The overhang was just the right size for me to climb into and sleep, safe from attack except from a ‘straight on’ direction.

The thought that maybe there might still be an animal stalking me was still in my mind, enough to make me cautious, but not enough to make me go home. I collected as much fire wood as I though I’d need that night and started a campfire just a few feet outside my crevice-cave. I figured the fire would keep any animals at bay and the smoke would cover my scent.

With a nice fire illuminating the area, I fried my slices of  bologna and heated the can of beans. After eating, I buried the can and washed out my eating utensils with sand, fed more wood on the fire and crawled back into the crevice. Lastly,  making sure I could reach the kindling, to  feed my fire during the night and even pulled some of it  up close up by my legs, to alert me if something tried coming through under the crevice.
[At right an Internet image of the type and approximate size of crevice that I slept in.]

As the fire died down, I laid there listening to the silence of the wild, there was no snapping twigs nor rustling leaves, only the sound of an owl.

Suddenly, it was morning.  I dragged myself out of the crevice stiff and chilly, and stood to look around. Having soundly slept through the night, I was glad to see the gray of dawn. After going to the ‘bathroom’, burying the ashes from my dead campfire and having a big drink of water, I proceeded back down and out of Eaton Canyon on the  several mile walk home.

I had accomplished what was to me at the time, was a courageous deed and faced some modicum of potential danger from some  wild creature the night before. I had faced the creature within, and won.

The family was just getting up and moving around the house when I came in.

My new friend, Mike
Not long after our family moved to Pasadena, probably within a month of the time I met Ted, I  was introduced to another neighborhood fellow, named Mike.
Mike, like Ted, turned out to be a friend for the rest of my life.
It’s funny how you can live in several places around the U.S. as I had, and have relatively few long memories of the people met. Then suddenly, as  if out of the blue, with in a month or two, meet two people with whom you maintain friendship and continued communicating with for over 50 years. And so it was with my new friend, Mike.
I remember meeting Mike at his house and standing around in the back yard chatting for a while while we got to know one another.
As I eventually learned, Mike’s father had a long-term, successful business on Colorado Blvd, in Pasadena; as a result, the family was affluent, but in a  quiet, comfortable way. Their large extended family, who lived in the area, were very close and frequently got together for traditional, old world  pasta feeds.

After chatting for a while, Mike invited me indoors to see his ‘lab’.  We walked to a door in the kitchen, which he opened, then flipping a light switch, he led the way down a flight of stairs into a partial basement.
What I saw at the bottom of the stairs took my breath away. Mike had a ‘complete chemistry lab’ on one wall, a book-case of science books in another area, and various electronics gear including an oscilliscope on a large L shaped work bench. I mean, he had a high school grade science laboratory packed into his basement.

I think why I liked Mike from the beginning was that he was very focused in science oriented studies and he was curious. He was like a teenage scientist; heck, he was a teen-aged scientist!
On the many occasions we were together down in “the lab,'” Mike would be working on a project of his design, or testing a circuit while we chatted, or we’d discuss various theoretical concepts, or talk about the other guys or neighbors in the immediate neighborhood.
Between the two of us, we designed a small robot with mechanical, vice like, gripping ‘hands’. We had discussions of, and at least a partial design for building a Van de Graaff generator – using a coffee can.
From Mike’s enthusiasm for science, I was moved to borrow and read the biography of Nichola Tesla from the  school library.

Ted and Mike were very different people and for the first time in my life I was really learning from and being inspired by others. While Ted was my friend in adventure, Mike was my friend in studied observations. I was neither as free thinking or mature as Ted (despite my being older) nor possessing the dedicated intelligence that Mike had. I was something in between the two, perhaps lending an enthusiastic, creative bend to our endeavors.

[Photograph at right:  Mike ca. 1962, a few years older than when we met.]

In a way, Mike was like a social hub in his location within the neighborhood. Directly next door to Mike lived a fellow named, Russell, whose family had lived in the very large, old multiple story house since its construction in the late 1800s. Russell’s great-grandfather invented a part for oil drilling rigs that prevented oil blowouts when the drill struck pressurized oil formations. Russell’s family had, at one time in the past, been ‘well to do’.
About a block from Mike and Russell’s homes, generally back in the direction of my house, lived the two brothers, Dick and Dale. Dale was my age and Dick a year younger.
Mike lived about 2-1/2 blocks east of our house and Ted lived  a couple blocks to the west, Dick and Dale lived almost in between. During the first few months that our family lived in Pasadena, I became friends with Ted, Mike, Russell, Dick and Dale.






[Photograph, 1959: Mike in his basement lab. The lab’s  focus gradually underwent a change from chemistry to electronics. Many hours of good times were spent here chatting about science topics and life in general.]

 Easter vacation at Crystal Lake
With Easter vacation 1960 approaching several teens from the Howard Street area planned a camping trip. We decided to stay at the Crystal Lake campground in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Azusa, CA., about fifty miles from home. Our group consisted of neighborhood friends, Ted, Russell, the brothers Dick and Dale and myself. We planned what food and equipment to take then divided the shopping and logistics amongst ourselves.  Russell’s mother drove us campers and our equipment to the campground in her family station wagon; no soon were we unloaded when she promptly left.
[Internet image of Crystal Lake: The small lake was a short hike from our tent in the campgrounds. We tried fishing a couple of times, but only a couple fellows managed to make a catch, which were very small- maybe two fish caught 4-5 inches long.]

We hurriedly set up our tents and laid out our other equipment then began looking around for fun things to do. Not more than two hundred feet from where we were set up,  was another group of five or six teenage guys. Our two groups immediately got together; we found they would be camping for a week also.
Early in our vacation, there was a storm which blew down a couple of our combined groups makeshift tarps and tents, this caused some of the fellows to share lodgings between groups. From that time on, a couple of our group slept at the neighbors camp and a couple of their group slept in ours. I had a canvas two-man Mountain tent, the other group had a large canvas square, large enough to cover four fellows. The other four or five young men made tents constructed from a tarp, and old blankets that had been laid over a rope strung between trees, tied at the corners and staked down.

Any time you’d awaken during the night there were always a couple of our expanded camp group sitting around the campfire and chatting and any time of day, several people could be found sleeping or trying to sleep.
With the exception of meal times, someone was always fishing, hiking, involved in a rock fight, climbing on the mountain, or dragging firewood back to camp (which was simply another infraction of park rules). There was a lot of running, shouting, swearing and complaining, particularly as the better food supplies were exhausted.

As the days passed, everyone inspected each others food provisions trying to work out decent recipes from what was available. Neither group had an ideal selection of foods to live high on, so we tried to mix meals that were, if not tasty, at least filling and warm.

After a week of camping, with little or no bathing or changes of clothing, meager food supplies and long hours running around, Mrs. Garner returned for us in her station wagon. We had a great time. If we’d had a good meal, a bath and change of clothes, and more provisions, none of us would have been interested in returning home.

Memories of the Telephone System[1], 1960
By the early 1960s, essentially every family had one telephone in their house, some families enjoyed the extravagance of having two or more. Since almost every dwelling had a telephone, it should be realized that every person in the nation was for the first time in potential, immediate contact with every other person. The shared “party line” had become a thing of the past.

Although the telephone companies advertised declining rates for long distance calls, the average person of the 1960s still didn’t make many out of area calls during any given year. From this period up through the mid 1990s, if you wished to make long distance call, the most economical times were during non business hours, i.e., after 5:00PM on weekdays, anytime on holidays, or on weekends.

When making a long distance call, we had the new option of dialing “station to station” directly by using the long distance area code. If the area code concept was still a little vague, one needed only dial “O” and the Operator would place the call for you. In an Operated Assisted long distance call you were given the options of: 1) “Person to person”, If you wished to speak to a particular person and no one else at the given number. This service was charged at a higher rate. 2) “Station to station”, if you would talk to whom ever answered the telephone at the dialed number. This service was charged at a lower rate.

It was common practice to cheat the phone company out of fees on certain occasions. If you were going to visit a person who had a long distance number as dialed from your home, you could make a toll-free call through the Operator to let your host know, “All was well and you were leaving on schedule. ” This was accomplished by prearrangement: At the time of your departure, you would place a Person to Person call through the Operator to your hosts number and ask for yourself or a fictitious person in their family. The host family receiving the coded name from the Operator knew you were about to leave home as scheduled. The standard response to the Operators inquiry after the fictitious person was to say, “Sam (or who ever) is not here right now.” On the other hand if you wanted to accept the call and chat for a moment or pass on some last minute information the host would just accept the call.

During these years, a local call made from a coin operated, public, “pay telephone,” cost 10¢. Pay phones were located at supermarkets, gas stations, airports, hotel lobbies, some street corners, in large department stores, in the lobby of public buildings, factory lobbies, etc.

Too many mouths to feed at home? (family triage)
By this time, Dad was writing “hardship” letters to his Mother, Elsie  Pierce for partial financial support while he attended Fuller Seminary. Although Grandma Pierce would periodically send some money, her assistance couldn’t be counted on. Mom and Dad never said how much they received, like so much about themselves, they remained secretive. Mom continued working at a local garment factory.

My three fateful choices
I graduated from High School in the late Spring, graduation service were held in the Rose Bowl. When I arrived home after the ceremony, Dad was reading school texts and stopped for a minute to congratulate me and present me with a wrist watch.
Within a couple of days after graduation, Dad asked me to decide what I was going to do, now that I was out of school. He asked if I would be going to work, college or in the Armed Services? Suddenly and unexpectedly, I was faced with adult decisions, yet neither school, my parents, nor personal experience had ever trained me to make such decisions.

I was told to sit in my bedroom with a sheet of paper, consider my alternatives and list them- so that’s what I did:
1) Work? I didn’t know anything about work for I hadn’t heard any “work stories” from Dad. He hadn’t worked in the last five years and before that he never talked about work in front of us kids. Yes, people worked, they knew how to do things, I didn’t know how to do anything, but kid stuff.
2) College? From what Dad said about college, it was hard and he didn’t think I was ready for the commitment it would require.
3) Armed Services?  I didn’t know anything about the military either. The idea of the military seemed to set well with Dad, as he told me that there was hiking, camping and rifle practice. I took J.R.O.T.C. class in high school so was familiar with wearing a uniform, drill practice, saluting, etc. Going into the Army sounded like the best route, but I was “hemming and hawing” with indecision when Dad sweetened the pot, saying,
“If you decide to go into the Army, we’ll send you back to Michigan to visit your Grandmother and cousins for the summer. But when you return at the end of the summer, you must keep your part of the bargain and go into the Army. OK?”
Hahaha, what a deal!
(I took the bait)

[Photograph, 14 February 1960: Left to right: Larry (me), sister Linda, mother Hazel May  (Shafer) Pierce and father, Robert Francis Pierce taken in Pasadena, CA. Photo taken by Ken Milhouse, a cousin to President Richard Nixon. Ken was a Youth group director at the Altadena Baptist Church]

I chose the Michigan/Army route, knowing that I could always go to college after the Army and find work after college. The main problem was, I simply lacked information about my three choices. I didn’t know a thing about the world of work, didn’t have the commitment for college, but ended up on the right path by default.

Returning to Michigan for summer vacation
Soon after the ‘decision making process’, Mom, Dad and Linda saw me off at the Greyhound Bus Station on Greene Street in Pasadena, CA.
For the second time in six years I was embarking on a round trip bus ride across county.
Several days later, my first cousin, Jack, picked me up at the small Greyhound bus station in Paw Paw, MI, about five miles from Lawton. Mom and Dad sent with my luggage, a nicely framed Eighth Grade graduation photograph of Linda. During the trip it was smashed and ruined by shifting luggage in the bus luggage compartment. Jacky drove me to Grandma Elsie Pierce’s apartment rental in Lawton.

Grandma had never returned to the rural Coloma farm, since Grandpa Glen’s death two years earlier.  She lived with her middle son, Jack’s family for a while, then rented a flat, a block from their house.

Grandma, Elsie Pierce’s apartment
Grandma Elsie had an upstairs flat, above a large family garage. It was a nice efficient apartment with a small kitchen, bathroom, one bedroom and a livingroom.  The livingroom couch folded out into a bed, which is where I slept.
The only problem with Grandma’s quarters was that it was upstairs. The  rather steep, exposed outdoor  wooden stairway led up along the side of the building to her flat. During the winter, I imagine this was at times a precarious climb through ice and snow for a 70-year-old woman, for anyone.

Most of the furniture in Grandmother’s semi furnished flat was of a newer, plain, lower quality type, not unlike you’d find in a motel. She had a couple very old pieces (which had decades earlier belonged to her mother, Anna Flora (Anderson) Grubb) that son’s, Bill and Jack, brought over from the farm. Among these was an antique writing-table and a small spindle legged table on which she always kept a variety of potted green plants. Elsie loved African Violets and raised several variety, just as her Mother, Anna Flora (Anderson) Grubb had done before.  [Internet image of the main street through Lawton, MI. ca 2000AD]
No sooner was I situated when, Grandma gave me a set of keys to her 1956 Pontiac and told me to use it at my convenience.

As the summer passed, cousins Jack and Bob, several of my new friends and myself took jobs loading bales of hay for local farmers in order to earn spending cash.

Although we never spoke about Grandpa Glen, Grandma’s loneliness was apparent. She had lost in a moment– her husband, her farm home, most of her farm hobby interests, and all that was their family’s way of life. Now she was an old woman, quaintly passing her time with a few friends and relatives.
Grandma maintained a fairly large garden by the garage, as she pointed out, “Just to keep me busy.”  Indeed ever once in a while I’d  come home from tossing bales of hay and Grandma would be either out weeding or would have a few fresh vegetables on the sink for our supper salad. Grandmother wasn’t canning, just raising some vegetables to eat and mostly give away. She wasn’t as tough as she’d been before, she seemed older, less cheerful, with less gumption. I remember that every time I saw Grandma Pierce, after our family moved away from Michigan, I developed a tear in my eye.
Grandma was always my favorite person, we had similar spirits, she loved me and I loved her. Every few years when I saw Grandma, she looked older and older, she was weaker and less steady, her strength seemed to be ebbing away, her face more deeply wrinkled and hair not as dark, then becoming speckled white. When I saw Grandma, tears well up and I choked them back so as not to make her feel bad. I didn’t like what nature was doing to her.[2]

My Uncle, Jack Pershing Pierce
I  liked my Uncle Jack, He was a friendly, mellow man who was always ready with a big smile and a pat on the back. Years earlier, while visiting their house, he fixed me my first alcoholic beverage, a Grasshopper, while admonishing me not to tell my parents.
Uncle Jack was a college graduate. He served as a Captain in a Transportation unit, in Europe during World War II. It was said that when he went to war his hair was dark brown. He must have seem some terrible things and lived under great stress while in Europe, because when he returned from the war his hair was white. From my earliest memories of Uncle Jack, his hair was white.

After the war, Jack found a job working in a farm supply company, selling Allied Chemical products. Over the years, he did so well that he received promotion after promotion. As Product Manager for central Michigan he bought a large white, wood frame, two-story house in Lawton. The house was subsequently furnished with quality furniture, rugs, draperies, etc., the kind of quality that my family never had in our home.

Finally, Uncle Jack was promoted by Allied Chemical Corporation to the position of Western District Sales Manager for the western half of the United States. When Jack was transferred to his new office in Omaha, NE his marriage with Aunt Julie dissolved.

A few months before I arrived for my summer visit, Aunt Julie and Uncle Jack’s marriage had broken up. Aunt Julie remained with cousins, Jack Jr. and Bob, in Lawton[3], while Uncle Jack moved to Omaha.

 Fun, with a capital F!
My time in Michigan with cousins and their friends was fun! Between the unrestricted use of grandmother’s car, having money from a summer job bailing hay, staying up all hours of the night, going to movies, stopping for hamburgers and fries, visiting, partying, camping out with my friends in the grape vineyards, I was in a teenagers heaven. This was the first time in my life I’d ever had the freedom to be my own person. I tended to be a little irresponsible at times, something that is often encountered in teenagers, something that is part of growing up, it was a time to learn boundaries, other’s expectations and eventually, responsibility.

One dismal damp and cloudy afternoon, when it was too wet to bale hay, cousins Jack, Bob, a couple of their friends and I were sitting in a fast food restaurant in Paw Paw making small talk, wiling away the afternoon, when the song , I Want To Hold Your Hand, by The Beatles played on the juke box. I’d heard of the Beatles, but until that point didn’t appreciate their music. To a group of young guys just “hanging out” having a soda pop and a plate of French fries, the fast and vibrant music lit up and put sparkle in what had other wise  been a somewhat boring and uneventful day.

Skinny dipping in Bankson Lake
One night after attending a movie in Kalamazoo, cousins Jack, Bob and I drove back to their house. Although it was about 10:00PM, we weren’t tired and still felt like doing something. Jack got the idea of raiding his Mom’s liquor cabinet, an excellent choice, so away he went. A few moments later he came back outside with a bottle of wine. We three made short work of the wine, meanwhile we decided to go swimming.
We drove out to Bankson Lake, which is just a few miles from Lawton, stripped naked and went skinny dipping in the moonlight. It was dark and there wasn’t anyone around at that late hour, so we had a good time.
That summer, we did all of our swimming at Bankson Lake, from a sandy beachfront lot owned by the Babson family, my cousins neighbors in Lawton. The Babson’s intended to build a beach house on the property, but at that time had only constructed a short pier with a raft anchored about 100 feet off shore. We had a riotous time swimming, diving from the raft and carrying on until well after midnight.

Exchanging love letters with Shanna
My vacation in Michigan wasn’t all swimming, and working on a farm. Much of the time was spent watching TV, chatting with my cousins and their friends, playing cards with Grandma, shopping, going to the movies, writing letters and other common daily affairs.
Regressing a bit:
After our family moved from Tempe Arizona to Pasadena, California, my old girl friend,Shanna  and I had maintained rather sporadic correspondence. While I was in Michigan, our communications increased. Toward the end of the summer, Shanna, with her Mom, Louise’s  permission, invited me to stop at their house for a few day visit, on my return trip to California.

To the Mackinaw Bridge, or Bust!
After cousin Jack and I earned a nice amount money loading hay bales, we decided to go on a “road trip”.  We borrowed Aunt Julie’s car, ostensibly to go camping at a State Park at near by Lake Michigan. Our real plan was to drive up state to northern Michigan and visit the Mackinaw Bridge.
At first we drove to the Lake Michigan park to see what it looked like and had a picnic lunch. Afterwards, we set out with the attitude, “Mackinaw or Bust”, and we busted!

Having driven to within ten miles of the bridge, something went wrong mechanically with the car forcing us to stop at a gas station. I don’t recall what the problem was, but we were told it  was serious. The mechanic told us the car might break down as we pulled out of the gas station, or with luck and slow driving, we might be able to drive several hundred miles before it failed altogether. We never did see the Mackinaw Bridge. Our trip back south was at speeds not exceeding fifteen miles per hour, all other traffic on the road passed us.

Our stomachs were tied in knots hoping the car wouldn’t break down as we nursed it along, back to the State Park where we were suppose to be camping.

The next morning we struck camp and returned to Lawton. Aunt Julie was upset that the car had troubles. The mechanical problem wasn’t our fault, but it certainly chose an inopportune time to manifest itself. I don’t think Jack ever told his Mom about our abortive trip and it sure wasn’t my business to say anything either.

High speed thrills
I’m embarrassed to write about this, infact thinking back about this period almost makes me pale. I suppose I’m lucky to have lived so long… One day I was driving a group of teen age friends from Lawton to Kalamazoo in Grandma’s Pontiac. We were all talking loud, telling jokes and playing “grab ass” as young males often do, as we wiled away the miles. For some reason, I decided to try and drive the car while sitting on top the front seat’s backrest. One fellow held the accelerator with his foot as I climbed into place. While sitting crouched, hunched over on the seat back and steering with my feet, he pumped the gas and we roared down the highway at 90 mph.

Another night, driving between Lawton and Paw Paw, I treated the same group of teens to a 120 mph ride on a gently rolling, secondary County Road posted for 60 mph Maximum speed. The only way I can look back on these episodes is to shake my head and think, “crazy”, then be thankful that the good Lord has given me another 50 years of life.

As summer came to an end, my cousins and friends were preparing to return to school. Our temporary summer farm jobs were gone and it was time for me to return to California.

Visiting Shanna in Tempe, Arizona
I traveled by Greyhound bus from Paw Paw, Michigan, to Tempe, Arizona, taking a several day layover to visit with Shanna and her family, before returning home. In the year since our family moved to Pasadena, Shanna’s family had moved from Robert’s Road to a small duplex located about two blocks from town.
When my  bus arrived in Tempe, I collected my luggage and carried it the few blocks to their house. It was disconcerting to find Shanna’s brother confined to his bedroom recovering from the Mumps, a disease I never had.
One evening, Shanna and I took the Rapid Transit bus to Phoenix to see the newly released movie, The
Time Machine
. The movie, released in 1960, starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux, was adapted from H.G. Wells book of the same title. The movie was fantastic for its time, something in it struck a chord in both of us. After the show, Shanna called her mother to let her know we planned to stay and see the movie a second time.

Almost fifty plus years have passed since we saw The Time Machine those first two times. Over the intervening years I’ve seen the movie in theaters, on television and video cassette, another nine to twelve times. The only movie I’ve seen as many times, is another time travel movie entitled, Somewhere In Time, which can be read about at the beginning of my handwritten Journal 1: The Gordian Knot, or in this blog in, Autobiography/Chapter 1983.

 An overnight trip to Las Vegas
That Friday, a couple of days after we went to the movie, Shanna’s Mom, Louise, suggested we go on a road trip. Louise and Shanna’s stepfather, Ray, were planning a drive to Las Vegas, some three hundred miles north-northwest of Phoenix.
When Ray came home from work that afternoon, we loaded some pillows, blankets, and sandwiches into the car and promptly left. Shanna’s younger brother, recovering from Mumps, stayed at home in the care of a baby-sitter.

Shanna and I sat in the back seat talking, holding hands, hugging and kissing until our mouths were sore. The hours passed and our minds grew leadened from lack of sleep and the monotonous rumble of the road. We tried to sleep, but the excitement of the impromptu trip and our being together again kept us from anything, but brief naps.
We arrived in Las Vegas shortly after midnight. [Internet image above: Las Vegas strip 1960.]

As is usual in Las Vegas, the “strip” casinos and businesses were brightly illuminated, people were continuously streaming in and out of the casinos, chatting on the sidewalk, catching cabs, crossing the busy streets.
Louise and Ray were fortunate to find a parking place on the “strip” and left us to nap while they went inside a casino to gamble. Shanna and I periodically dozed, and sat holding hands, looking at one another and making small talk. Her parents returned several hours later and found us sitting, snuggled up together and half awake, under a blanket in the back seat.
From the car we could see inside the nearby casinos. People were sitting in front of “one Armed Bandit” slot machines, repetitively dropping  their dimes, quarters and half dollars into the hungry slots, then cranking down the “Bandit’s” arm to spin the wheels of fortune.
All up and down the boulevard (called, “The Strip”) there was heavy auto traffic, taxi cabs were sitting here and there along the curbs or darting back and forth amongst lanes.

At daybreak we left the “Vegas Strip” and stopped for breakfast at a restaurant located on the edge of the desert, just out of the city. While we ate our large breakfasts of sausage and eggs, potatoes, toast, orange juice and coffee, Louise and Ray told us about their small winnings. They’d primed a “Bandit” almost to the point of winning a sizable jackpot, and how someone sitting near them hit a big jackpot… Since Las Vegas was first built as an entertainment and gambling center, it has been a glitzy place, where people do ‘win’ some of their gambled money back  and  “almost win” big.

After breakfast we drove to Boulder Dam, parked and walked across the dam. While standing along the guard rail at the top center of the dam I dropped a paper cup down the side. The cup slid down the concrete, becoming smaller and smaller and finally disappeared from view about one-third of the way down. Boulder Dam, also known as Roosevelt Dam is a huge structure, it’s amazing that such a massive
undertaking was accomplished during the depression years of the 1930s.

Several days after our trip to Las Vegas, it was time for me to leave Tempe and return home, the final leg of my summer vacation.

From our time together it showed that Shanna and I were still sweethearts, and time passed….

My last days at home
When my Greyhound bus arrived in Pasadena, I took a taxi to the family’s house on Howard Street. Although it seemed to me like I’d been gone for a long time, nothing had really changed at home. Dad was still going to Fuller Seminary and Mom was still sewing at the garment factory.
During the first few days at home, I visited with my neighborhood friends, Ted, Mike and Russell. Being as it was already past mid September, they were all back in school and moving along in their lives, so we could only get together in the late afternoon or on the weekend. During our brief visits, the hours seemed to melt away as we exchanged gossip and details of our summers activities. After being home for about two days and well before I had a chance to fall into a routine, Dad reminded me that it was time to keep my part of the bargain, and join the Army.

Volunteering” for the Army
The next morning, Dad drove me to the Army enlistment office in downtown Pasadena. There I took two brief tests that were to determine my basic aptitudes and capabilities. After reviewing the test results, the recruiting Sergeant advised that I could go into any specialty school the Army had. He went on saying that the Army needed men in the Infantry, Intelligence Corps and Airborne. After explaining briefly what each branch expected and offered, I chose to go Airborne.
The plan was for me to be at the Induction  Center for processing on 28 September. After processing I would be sent to Fort Ord, California for Basic Training and Advanced Infantry Training, if I passed the tests along the way I would be transferred to the Airborne school.

 A cheerless send off to the Army
The next week passed in a blur, then it was the morning of September 28, 1960, my day to leave home for good. There was no party, special family activity or favorite meal to send me off with memories of love from home. On the morning I was to leave, Mom and Dad simply drove me down to the Army Induction Center in Los Angeles and left me at the curb. That was the beginning of a period when this boy became a man.

There were thirty to forty other fellows and myself gathered at the Induction Center.
The first order of business was our registration and a couple of hour physical examination. When the exam and paperwork was finished, we were brought together and instructed to raise our right hands and swear our allegiance to the US Government and Constitution, we then became members of the US Army. After the administration of the oath we were immediately assigned a serial number identification; I became, “Pierce, Larry F.,  RA19,6nn, nnn.”

Late that afternoon we were taken to a nearby cafeteria for supper; after the meal we were loaded on a bus and driven to the Los Angeles train station for our trip to Fort  Ord.

The train trip to Fort Ord,  California
Upon boarding the train, each recruit was assigned a private sleeper cabin, which was a nice First Class touch. The conversation amongst us volunteers was upbeat, excited, nervous yet with an air of confidence. We were all going on an adventure and we knew it.

Shortly after leaving Los Angeles, an old Negro coach attendant came through the car, stopping at each cabin to ask if there was anything we needed. I didn’t know about the other recruits, but I felt like a drink and asked the old gentleman how much it would cost for a bottle of booze.. He replied that he wasn’t suppose to supply alcohol to anyone under the legal drinking age of twenty-one years, but for a dollar, he’d see what he could do. The old crook took my dollar and left. A while later he returned with several small, two ounce sealed bottles of bourbon. He gave me one and took the rest on down the corridor, probably to other fellows who’d placed orders. I laid back on my bed, propped up on one elbow, slowly sipping and savoring my drink, while looking at the contents of my shaving bag.

All that I had, or had claim to in the world were the clothes on my back and the small shaving bag which contained: a bar of soap, small towel, razor, tooth brush and a partially used tube of toothpaste.

Over the next hour or so, the sounds of people talking quieted. I sat against the wall in my cabin, looking out the window, listening to the sound of the train as it clicked its way along the rail, lost in thought about my unclear future.

Arriving at Fort Ord
Sometime after midnight, perhaps around 3:00AM, we recruits were awakened and told to ready our belongings as the train would soon be stopping at the Monterey train station. Shortly thereafter, we climbed down from the train and were ushered onto canvas-covered 2- 1/2 ton military trucks for the ride to Fort Ord Army Training Base.
[Postcard image at left, Fort Ord, ca 1942, 18 yrs before I was here for training: Located on  Hwy 1 about five miles north of Monterey, California, was once home to 25,000 soldiers and civilian workers. Founded as a cavalry post in 1917, it became a major training post during and after World War II.]

All that I could see of Fort Ord, in those early predawn hours were long, white or cream-colored wood frame buildings with military vehicles parked here and there. Our several truck convoy stopped in  the middle of the road, in front of a round roofed Quonset building. We climbed down from the trucks and were put into a rough formation. The first order of business was to teach us the basics of how to space ourselves in formation and how to stand at attention. Then forming a line, we filed through the Quonset where we were issued a mattress, mattress cover and pillow. With our arms loaded, we reboarded the trucks and were driven a short distance to a fairly new looking, two-story, concrete barracks.
Once again we were put in crude formation. Then, several sergeants came out of the building, their uniforms starched, their bearing and demeanor proud, sharp and professional. They stood in front of us with their hands on their hips, looking us over with authority and a certain disdain, while a roll call
was taken. We were immediately separated into to several groups.

Barracks assignment
Sergeant Sanchez, a neatly mustachioed Mexican- American, stepped up in front of my group and introduced himself as our Platoon Sergeant. He went on saying, “For the next six weeks of Basic Training, I’ll  be responsible for your training. I’ll be your Mother, Father and big brother…

A few moments later we were taken into our new home and assigned double-deck bunk beds. No sooner had we laid our mattresses down  when we were taken to the company supply room and issued sheets, blankets and a pillow case.

Our first lesson of the day included instructions in the military method of making our beds. We spent the rest of the morning at a quartermaster building having our measurements taken, being issued military clothing and equipment.
{Internet image, amongst the barracks at Fort Ord]

During that first week in the Army, we were given ‘scalp close’ haircuts, taught how to wear and fold our clothes, how to lay out our gear in our personal footlockers, how to polish shoes and boots. We learned how to “fall in” to a formation, follow basic drill marching commands, how to salute and respond when we were spoken to. It was a hectic, interesting time, and if one had the time to think about the events that were occurring, they would have been considered fun.

Basic Infantry, Combat training
As Basic Training continued, we began a daily, early morning program of calisthenics, in order to build up our strength and endurance. We attended lectures on military etiquette and law. We learned to disassemble and clean the M-1 rifle.

One morning we were given a battery of tests to determine our IQs and areas of specialization. My test scores were as follows:

Army Classification Battery– Mental Scores
Test    My Score
EL          109       Electronics
GM         122      General Maintenance
CL           104      Clerical
GT          119       General Technical
RC          114        Radio Code
IN           129       Infantry
AE          101       Armor, Artillery, Engineers

Later, I learned that the GT (General Test) score relates very closely to IQ, while the IN (infantry) score dealt with tactical thinking.

My class graduated from Basic Training in late November. Most of my Platoon went directly from Basic Training to A.I.T. (Advanced Infantry Training.)  Some fellows had enlisted for telecommunications, etc., so were sent elsewhere for their continued specialized training.

Advanced Infantry Training
The six weeks of Advance Infantry Training was more interesting than Basic, because we were given considerably more ‘hands on’ experience with a variety of weapons,  equipment and techniques.

Most mornings, we jogged in formation out to one of the firing ranges where we learned basic proficiency and care of the M1 rifle, BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), M-30 air cooled machine gun.  We continued practice with our M-1 rifles, additionally learning the concepts of defending positions with ‘fields of fire’. We learned to throw hand grenades and dive for cover. We learned to trust our gas masks, how to properly pack our back packs, set up an Army pup tent. We learned to pack our web gear, field hike in full battle gear and use our equipment to the utmost. We were taught how to take compass readings, read topographical maps and avoid capture in a nighttime Escape and Evasion Course.

Escape and Evasion
The Escape and Evasion Course was fun, but like so many other occurrences in the military, it was a little scary and commanded your full attention and wit.
We’d been schooled in classroom exercises and seen military training films on how to escape from the eventuality of our positions being over run. We were told that if captured to only give our name, rank and serial number, and never provide information about our unit size or give away any tactical plans to the enemy.

The final part of this training was a live, night-time Escape and Evasion practicum. On the evening of the exercise, several hundred of us, probably our entire company of recruits, were trucked to the crest of a hill. The platoons were unloaded about 150 feet apart and our training cadre point out some lights about 3/4 mile away across a shallow valley. The lights were our rendezvous area. It was a moonlight night so one could see, but not very well. [Internet image: Soldiers on a night ‘escape and evasion’ training session.]

We were to suppose to sneak across the grassy, brush dotted valley, without being caught. There were unseen by us quite a large number of experienced soldiers waiting out there in the  dark. Our cadre admonished, “Some of you who will be caught might be’ lightly tortured by Escape and Evasion  training cadre in front of all the rest at the rendezvous point”. Hahaha, the extra scare was unnecessary, no one intended on being caught! After being given a few final directions, we were turned loose.

No sooner had we spread out and begun running on our own, when dark silhouettes began rising from the grass, one dropped from a tree, flashlights were popping on, with voices yelling, “Stop where you are! You’re caught!”  I crouched low while continuing to quickly move forward, stopping for a moment now and again to see where the nexus of activity was, then angling my movement away from it.

Before long, I was well away from the foray and creeping across the valley.

Now and again I saw a solitary form in the darkness moving a few dozen yards away moving in the same direction– other trainees making their way through the night. Once, when there was relatively close activity, I dropped flat in the eighteen inch to two foot tall grass and laid still for a few moments. When the sounds had moved on, I raised to my knees to look around, suddenly, there was a rustle beside me, my head snapped to the right. About six feet away, a large cat stood up in the
grass facing me, it swirled about and silently disappeared into the dark. I just stared in wide-eyed surprise, my mouth agape and breathing stopped as I tried to fathom what had just happened.

The cat seemed about two-thirds my size, it didn’t make a warning sound, I couldn’t see color just a large, dark animal that smoothly slipped away from a hiding spot almost within my reach. I suppose it was as scared as I was, with all the humans running around in its territory that night. A moment later, with the creature gone, it was time for me to get moving as well. I stood and began to run stealthfully toward the rendezvous point. With in a few minutes my scare had passed, I was not caught, but had made my ‘escape’ successfully.  It was a thrilling and scary night.

The B.A.R. insight
One gray morning, at the Browning Automatic Rifle range, we were set in bleachers. A handful of troops were called down and given a BAR,  heavy automatic rifle that was partially supported by a strap over your shoulder. We would be using a dead reckoning aim and shooting the weapon from our hip.

The young soldiers were stood about five paces apart and each told to walk up a trail keeping an eye to their side so no one got ahead or fell behind the others. As they walked, electrically controlled targets would pop up behind bushes, logs, and from inside foxholes. When a target popped up, the rifleman was to swung his BAR about toward the target and fire a burst of rounds at it. If the target was hit, it would automatically drop indicating a kill.

I watched as several groups walk up the firing line and observed that most were shooting into the soil in front of the targets. So I made a mental note that when it was my turn, I’d swing my BAR toward the target to where I thought was right, just like everyone else, then I’d raise the barrel a little to compensate for the observed under positioning the others were making.

A few minutes later I had the opportunity to shoot. The targets popped up and I turned on them, raised the barrel just a little and fired. Time after time the gun belched fire and time after time the targets fell, I’d knocked down every target and was congratulated by the firing instructor.
There was a lesson from my observation on the firing line that I’ve always remembered, general common sense is not always more correct than a studied contrarian sense. Its not so easy to explain, other than to say, some times and within reason, marching to your own drum beat brings better results than following the herd.

Initial Chemical warfare training
After having classroom exercises and films about chemical warfare,  the fitting and use of our gas masks, and drills putting the equipment on, we were taken to the Fort Ord’s Basic training ‘gas chamber’. The chamber was a wooden shed like building measuring maybe 20 feet wide and 30 feet long, with a door and several windows.

Learning to trust our gas masks was a little scary. We were told that we would put our gas masks and gloves on, outside, then file thought the tear gas-filled building, That once inside, the group would stand for a few moments, then we’d file back outside.
If we had our masks on properly, we would not be affected by the gas.
So, that’s what we did and our equipment worked fine. Of course, back outside after removing our masks, we could smell the acrid tear gas in the air from the buildings door, which was left open.

After the gas chamber was fairly aired out, we were taken back inside, but this time without our masks on. Once inside, our eyes started smarting from small amounts of gas still in the air. We were told that a tear gas canister was to be popped and that we had to put our masks on before the full strength of the gas hit us. We were told not to worry if we did get any gas in our eyes, as any burning sensation would only be temporary, with no lasting effect. Then the instructor looked around at us, pulled the pin on a canister and dropped it, Immediately gray fog began spewing out of the canister, rising and rapidly expanding like a cloud throughout the room. We trainees suddenly became animated, taking a last breath and grabbing for the mask stored in carriers on our hips. I’ll bet it didn’t take ten seconds for our group of about a dozen fellows to put their masks on, as soon as the seals and head straps were checked, we all began looking around to see how everyone else was faring.
[Internet image above right, typical basic chemical warfare training. Troops gaining confidence with their equipment in a tear gas training environment.]

Aside from the slight sting  we felt, from before the test, the gas masks did their work of protecting us. The room was completely filled with gray smoke, but the only place we felt a sting was on a band around our wrists that was neither covered by our long shirt sleeve or gloves.

It was a little scary to know that a lot of pain, and who knows what else, existed  in that fog of gas just outside our mask, only 1/8 inch away from our face, nose and eyes. When the cadre were satisfied that we were all aware how well the masks had protected us, we filed back out the door, happy to have ‘survived’ the somewhat dreaded ‘gas chamber’.

Toward the end of A.I.T., several from my company were required to pass a physical endurance test in order to qualify for the Airborne Jump School.
The test required us to do a certain number of timed exercises including; sit ups, push ups, pull ups and running a given distance. Out of the twelve or so of us taking the test, two failed qualification.

Until this time, life had been so full and busy with rushing here and there, learning new things, and seeing new sights, that I’d not given much thought to my enlistment for Airborne. The night immediately after I passed the pre Airborne endurance test, the real meaning of “Airborne” began to sink in. That night after “lights out,” I laid on my cot staring wide-eyed at the bottom of the bunk above me. In the quiet semi darkness of the room and within the private confines of my mind, I began to explore and conceptualize the act of stepping out the door of an airplane that was flying.

The visualization of jumping out of an airplane and falling through the air kept me awake. A cold terror crept through me. I forced myself to face that fear. The dangerous course on which I was charted lay before me in the unclear future. I decided to treat each day as I had in the past. The fear would have to be dealt with when the danger became real and imminent.

At the end of A.I.T.  we were promoted from pay grade (rank) E1 to E2. If memory serves me right, the E2 pay grade yielded about $79 per month, which wasn’t much even in 1960.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1960
•  Tales of WellsFargo – a western
•  One Step Beyond – sci-fi fantasy
•  Alfred Hitchcock Presents
•  Route 66- adventure drama
•  Bonanza – a western
•  Have Gun, Will  Travel- a western
•  Maverick – a western
•  Lawman – a western
•  Twilight Zone – sci-fi fantasy

During the year, while in Michigan and into the beginning of 1961  while in the Army, I saw the following movies:
Butterfield 8 with Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, Diana Merrill
Darby O’Gill and the Little People with Sean Connery, Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro
Flaming Star with Elvis Presley, John McIntire, Dolores Del Rio
G.I. Blues with Elvis Presley, Juliet Prowse, Robert Avers
Last Woman on Earth with Anthony Carbine, Betsy Jones-Moorland, Edward Win
Ocean’s Eleven with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Law ford
Pillow Talk with Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Tony Randall, Thelma Ritter
Swiss Family Robinson with John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James Macarthur
The Gazebo with Glenn Ford, Debby Reynolds, Carl Rainer, John McIver
The Magnificent Seven with Yule Brunner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson
The Time Machine with Rod Taylor, Yvette Milieu, Sebastian Cabot

[1]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”
[2] And now almost 50 years after the events of this story unfolded, as I sit reworking and expanding my notes about living with Grandma Elsie for the summer, I break down and sob. That’s one thing about an autobiography, looking for events and memories, you occasionally end touching base with your now deceased loved ones. The years mean nothing when you are together. Here I am, a 65-year-old man, choking back tears,  my  nose running, sobbing- I’m still a little boy, a teen, a young man, the love is eternal.
[3] During the late 1970s, while in the middle age of her life, Aunt Julie developed a brain tumor and died.

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1959, age 16-17

Themes and Events
*  January:  Cuban revolutionary, Fidel Castro, who had  been leading a guerrilla war against his government for several years, brought his army into Havana, and ousted the pro USA, Batista regime. A month later, Castro became Cuban Premier.
*  Sony begins producing a transistorized, portable mini TV.
*  The Barbie doll is introduced by Mattel, Inc. and quickly becomes the most popular doll of all time.
*  During the year, 3,750 new, long playing (33 1/3 LP) records are released.
*  Velcro fasteners are a new product.
*  There are now 32,000 supermarkets in the USA, constituting only 11% of all retail food stores they are selling 69% of the food. “Mom and Pop corner groceries” are fast becoming an acronym of the past.
*  Hawaii becomes the 50th state.

I finished my Junior year at Tempe Union High School.

 Moving away from friends in Tempe
The summer of 1959 began with sorrow. Dad received his Masters Degree from Arizona State College at Tempe and the family was once again packing to move. I had a lot of good memories of Tempe, had made many friends, was “going steady” with Shanna, moving was not on my list of priorities.

I remember the day we left. The moving van had just picked up our household goods. We made a final tour of the house and yard to make sure all of our belongings had been removed. The family then climbed into our old Chevy, whilst waving and saying, “Good bye” to our friends.

Shanna was just down the block, standing alongside the road in front of her house. As we drove
past, she and I quietly and sadly waved goodbye to one another. Tears welled up in our eyes. I looked back at her until our car turned the corner off Roberts Road and drove out of sight, then sat back empty, in cold silence. Mom and Dad hadn’t even turn their heads to acknowledge Shanna. They were glad to see us apart; our move to California, if for nothing else, would without doubt break the romance between this Mormon girl and myself.

Our new home in Pasadena, California
Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Pierce, 1089 East Howard Street, Pasadena,California

The neighborhood we moved into was lower middle class, made up of skilled workers, a few small business owners and even fewer professionals. Where as, our house in Tempe  had been relatively new and looked much the same as all the other houses in the subdivision, our Pasadena residence was built during the 1920s or 1930s and looked it.  The houses up and down the street all appeared to have been built across widely differing times  and of different architectural styles. It was the kind of ha odge-podge neighborhood where on one side of the street you’d see a modern ranch style house with immaculately manicured lawn and shrubbery. Across the street there’d sit an eyesore house or duplex with paint peeling from the poorly maintained structure, its yard gone to weed.
Down the block, on a double sized lots were several two-story houses, best described as small mansions. The racially ‘all white’ neighborhood was as mixed up looking, as it was socially. Growing along the quiet street were tall palms.
[Photograph, taken ca. 1986, 27 years after we moved to this rental house at 1089 E. Howard St., Pasadena, California. The family lived here during my senior year of High School.]

Being there
The reason our family moved to Pasadena, was so Dad could pursue his education.

As graduation from Arizona State College at Tempe grew closer, Dad applied for and was granted admission to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The goal from the original plan, was that upon graduation from Fuller Seminary, Dad would become a licensed Baptist preacher.

Soon after moving into the Howard Street residence, Mom went out looking for a job. Once again, she found employment as a seamstress, at a small factory on the west side of Lake Street, just north of Colorado Blvd.

Our family joined the __ Baptist Church, located near Lake Street. I never had any real friends at the church so attendance became more boring and irrelevant than usual. [Internet image left:  __ Baptist Church, probably 30 years after we attended. The church looks the same in this photograph.] Please note, that the church message and friendly behavior of the congregation were everything one would expect from a solid Christian church, my issues were personal and family related.

Introducing Ted Haynie, a new friend
Not long after moving into the Howard Street neighborhood in Pasadena, CA, I met Ted, who was himself a relatively new arrival.
Ted was as interested in hiking, camping, exploring and science fiction, as was I. We hit it off as friends right away and before long became best friends. Ted lived with his divorced  mother in a house on Rio Grande Street, a block south and a block  west of us. His mother, Niaomi, was a fairly attractive red-head who earned her living as a waitress. At the time, she was working in an all night restaurant at the end of Rio Grande, across Lake Street, only a block from home. Niaomi let Ted do just about anything he wanted. With that kind of background I don’t know how he managed to have kept out of trouble, but he had. Ted was an introspective, inquisitive and congenial fellow, who made friends easily.
[Photo at right is Ted taken years later, in 1971, age 26. When we took our hike up Mt Wilson, ted was  about 14 years old, a couple of years younger than I.]

Behind Ted’s house was a solidly built, but long unused shed which Ted converted to a bedroom. I recall the occasion when we cut cardboard boxes and nailed the resulting flat cardboard rectangles between the interior wall studs, to give the place a better appearance. Ted always slept on a cot, up against one wall in his ‘outback bedroom’.
The outside of the shed had been painted white at some time in the not too distant past. The front side of the shed had a door and  a large, maybe four-foot wide window composed of smaller glass panes.
The shed interior measured about ten by twelve-foot. Besides the cot, the room was also conveniently furnished with several folding chairs, a card table, an old repainted dresser that doubled as his work bench, and a rope hung high on the wall across one corner for hanging some of his clothes. At the time of our meeting, Ted had a taxidermy hobby. As I recall, he had stuffed and preserved a small alligator and maybe a few other creatures.
The detached, private room, also substituted as a meeting place for an assortment of neighborhood high school friends, a place to play cards, have a cigarette and an occasional sip of Gin. For the time and place, I suppose Ted was about as close to being Huckleberry Fin as one could be .
(The ‘shanty’ bedroom was Ted’s by choice, he could have used a bedroom in the house, but preferred the renovated shed for privacy—it was ‘his house’.)

Ted and Carol
Ted had a girlfriend, a quiet, pretty, shapely and slender, redheaded girl named, Carol, whose last name I never knew. Every once in a while, Ted would mention having gone to Carol’s house to watch TV or the two of them being driven to a movie theater by her parents,  but that was as far as the conversation went. Ted made mention of these incidents and never carried the topic out any further. As far as I was concerned Carol could have been a cousin, just someone whose name came up in a conversation because there it ended.
I don’t think Carol’s parents liked Ted very much, because in these, their high school years, they didn’t get together very often. As time passed, I seem to remember hearing that Carol’s parents wanted her to go on and make something of her life, which meant eventually marrying someone with “better prospects” than Ted.

So, Ted and Carol developed what should be thought of as a secret relationship, there was over the years, always a fire smoldering for one another, but the flames were not at all seen publicly.
One afternoon, when I happened by Ted’s house, I walked into his converted ‘out back’ bedroom to find him and Carol undressed, under a sheet on his bed, making love. I think, Ted said, “I think you know Carol?’ I blustered something like, “Ohh…yes… glad to see you again.” Then made an excuse to promptly leave.
I didn’t know Carol other than for seeing her momentarily a couple times, so her image and the love story from these early years is vague in my mind. But, after walking in on Ted and Carol, I knew there was more to their relationship than Ted ever mentioned. It seemed a very private matter in Ted’s life. We all have private landscape in our lives, places we don’t invite others, their relationship was such a landscape.
Never-the-less, Ted and Carol had an unusual love, and it spanned the decades. I know, because over the last 50 years I’ve seen glimpses of that landscape and the characters who played out their lives like moths fluttering around life’s light.[1]

Last year of high school
As Fall approached, I was registered in Pasadena High School. The school district was short of classrooms, so the entire senior high school class was relocated to Pasadena City College. I spent my entire senior year at P.C.C. as a high school student.

During my high school years I played the trumpet in music class. By my senior year I played good enough to qualify for the marching band. So, with my senior year, very frequently the members of the marching band were out on the football field practicing marching formations while playing our music. During these practice sessions, that was the first I ever heard the term ‘smog’ and became aware of an occassional slight gray haze in the air.

[The Official Tournament of Roses Program above, shows the crowd lined streets, flower covered floats, precision marching bands, pomp and pageantry . It was a warm morning and became somewhat uncomfortable walking those several miles up Colorado Blvd. while playing our instruments and wearing our Pasadena High School Marching Band  uniforms. Not to complain, it was fun to be involved in a pagent that most people in the USA watched on their televisions!]

To be honest, I was never a good at playing the trumpet. With any instrument, there are some people who are able to make really sweet music, I was not one of them. I could play, but…Several times at a game, after hitting a really sour note, the band member in front of me would turn around with a pained look and shaking their head in feigned disgust. (smile)
On several occasions we played for high school football ‘play offs’ in the Rose Bowl Stadium.

The hike to (and from) Mt. Wilson
Ted and I enjoyed hiking and many times climbed in the San Gabriel Mountains just north of  Altadena. Every few weeks we’d go on a hike, usually up Eaton Canyon and clamber around the dry wash or climb the slopes.
One day we decided to take the “mother of all trips” and go all the way to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, home of the  100 inch Hooker reflector telescope.
On a smog free day, radio and TV transmission towers could be seen rising from the top of Mt. Wilson. It was our plan to hike up and northwest through the neighborhoods in the morning, climb a ridge to the highway and hitch hike for a car ride the rest of the way to the Observatory.
One Saturday morning well before dawn, I met Ted at his house for a large breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee and orange juice, fortified with a shot of gin. (Note: I was not allowed to drink coffee at home and since my parents ‘got religion’, there was no longer any alcoholic beverages in our house.) After our hearty breakfast we put our sandwiches and a canteen of water each in daypacks and began the hike.
We walked  several miles NW across northern Pasadena and Altadena, passed up behind JPL (Jet propulsion Laboratory), then up Coon Canyon and climbed into the foothills.

By noon we’d scaled the steep slopes of Coon Canyon and came out to stand on the highway to Mt. Wilson. Realizing that we weren’t even half way to the summit, we immediately began hitch hiking. After a few minutes, we caught a ride and arrived at the Observatory around 1:00PM. We had a leisurely lunch, sitting at a vantage point overlooking Pasadena. The Mt. Wilson Observatory is at 5715 feet elevation and Pasadena, about 900 feet. Then spent an hour or so wandering around the Observatory site and looking at the solar photographs in the Visitor Information Center.
After our tour and resting, it was time to plan the trip home. Looking over the side of Mt. Wilson we could barely see the distant streets and individual houses of Pasadena, about five thousand feet below and several miles away. As far as we figured the walking distance, our ‘neighborhood’ looked deceptively close, ‘just down hill and a walk away’. We discussed hitch hiking back down the mountain road, but realized if we did so we’d end up in La Canada, still a long walk from home. On the other hand, if we simply went right over the side of the mountain, it would be ‘all down hill’ bringing us to Altadena in a matter of a couple of hours.

[Looking down Eaton Canyon from Mt Wilson. Ted and I went over the mountain side from  Mt. Wilson, straight down into the canyon . Our homes were near the center right in the picture.]

After studying the terrain features below and discussing our plan- to make sure we had the route and logic right between us, the adventure began. We simply stood up, attached our canteen and equipment belts and walked out of the flat, graded observation area and right over the side of the mountain, on a route toward the community far below and away.

Within a few moments, we were gleefully bounding at breakneck speed, sliding and hopping in great leaps down the mountain. In less that an hour we had descended about three thousand feet, or half the elevation. Then the going became slower. We were between two ridges in a narrow valley making our way along a small dry stream bed.
At first, when the mountain shadows began to spread over us, we didn’t notice them. As the sun sunk further in the western sky and purple twilight settled in the deep mountain canyons, we realized how far we still had to go and how little time we still had for rapid movement. [Internet image at left: Photograph of Pasadena (extreme right in pic) taken from Mt. Wilson. This surface photograph shows the elevation and hints at the roughness of the mountain slope]
All too soon it was dark and we were still following the dry stream bed down a narrowing canyon hoping it would led us out of the mountains by the easiest route. Finally the trees all about us blocked out even the stray light that otherwise would have scattered in from the city. Before long we weren’t able to even see a step ahead of ourselves. During that time we stopped ever so often to light one of Ted’s matches and check our compass bearings and see what was around us in the very deep shadows.
In one location of zero visibility, I stopped, crouched down and felt around to find a stone, then tossed it just ahead in the canyon. My Gosh! The rock didn’t hit the ground, it just went “clickety clack click” and became quiet!  As a pang of fear ran through us, we gasped in realization of the danger immediately ahead. Unseen directly in front of us, only four or five paces away in the dark was the lip of a dry  waterfall.
What should we do?
After chatting for a few moments, we decided to leave the stream bed and climb south, up onto the mountain shoulder to our left. We reasoned that once we climbed above the Live Oak trees, which grew along the dry stream bed, that we could see by star light. There was also a good chance of running across a bulldozed fire trail. After some rough climbing, we did fortunately come out on a fire trail.

Altadena’s north-eastern neighborhood was now an expanse of lights no more than fifteen hundred feet below us. Having climbed out of the darkness from the wooded canyon we could see by not only starlight, but by light scattered from the city.
Our legs were becoming tired from hours of climbing. The exertion coming up out of the canyon caused us to drink the last of our water, our canteens were empty. Ted  suggested that we simply sleep over night on the fire trail and go the rest of the way in the morning. I thought it was a good idea too except for the thought of my parents, who would be angry, perhaps not from concern for my well being as much as that I was not home by the expected time thereby creating a hard to deal with situation involving broken rules.

Once on relatively clear ground and able to see quite well, we briskly made our way down the fire trail and off the mountain.
Around 9:30PM, we walked through the backyard of the first house encountered at the upper northeast edge of Altadena. After another half mile, we wearily laid down, spread eagle, in someone’s front yard. The grass had been watered earlier in the evening and was still a wet. Our legs were just about to develop cramps so the cool dampness of the grass nourished our strength. It felt good to just lie there.
After a few minutes of rest, we were back on our feet and walking southwest along the partially lit streets and sidewalks into Pasadena.
Block after block passed as we became more familiar with our surroundings. Because of the late hour, most the homes were dark few people were still awake.
Eventually we came to our neighborhood. Happy to be home after such a magnificent ordeal, Ted and I tiredly said our goodbyes. I turned up my driveway and Ted trudged on to his house, two blocks away.
Within minutes of arriving home, I was soaking in a bathtub filled with warm water, exhausted from the long day and strenuous activities.
My Mom and Dad weren’t so much worried as they were mad about my getting home at 11:00 PM, they’d called the police and asked them to keep an eye out for us. They didn’t ask about my adventure so I didn’t mention the day’s events, or of coming down out of the San Gabriel mountains, Angeles National Forest in the  dark. And so ended the most physically demanding, single day I have ever spent in my life .[2]

We were two lucky teenagers: In about nine hours, we’de come down from a 5,700 foot mountain, much of the descent occurring after dark, neither of us were injured, nor did we didn’t encounter any mountain lions, rattle snakes or poison oak.
Years later, Ted later pointed out, “Back in those days, not a month went by that the Sierra Madre Rescue Squad wasn’t out rescuing someone off the mountain trails (the trails!) – it always on the Los Angeles area TV news.”

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1959
•  Cheyenne – western
•  Wagon Train- western
•  Bat Masterson – western
•  77 Sunset Strip – investigative drama
•  Ozzie and  Harriet – comedy, drama
•  Rawhide – western
•  Sea Hunt – adventure, drama
•  One Step Beyond – sci-fi, fantasy
•  The Rifleman – western
•  Twilight Zone – sci-fi

Movies that I saw with my neighborhood friends this year;
Compulsion with Dean Stockwell, Bradford Dillman, Orson Welles, Diane Varsi
Journey To The Center Of The Earth with Pat Boone, James Mason, Arlene Dahl
On The Beach with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins

[1]  The evolving story of Ted and Carol was occasionally revisited, when I inadvertently had a glimpse of their quiet yet smouldering relationship, seen in Chapters 1964, 1994, 1995 and 2009+.
[2] Considering how far we walked, the straight line distance between our neighborhood and Mt Wilson was 4.6 miles. This distance does not take into account the elevation changes made coming down the mountain or  getting back up to the fire trail, nor following the meandering stream bed through the mountain, or the street lay out once back in the city.  Altogether, we may have walked five miles in the morning and ten miles during the afternoon  and night, covering  perhaps 15-16  miles during  the 18 hour hiking period. Of this, maybe four miles was urban, while the remaining twelve miles were rough, trailess ground, requiring us at times to pull on tree branches for assistance in climbing slopes.


Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1958, age 15-16

Themes and Events:
* The Boeing 707, the first U.S.made jetliner, begins commercial passenger service with a Pan American flight between New York and Paris.
* There is a worldwide boom in the use of “credit cards” as the debt medium becomes widely available to the public.
* This is a peak year for the “Drive-in ” theater with 4063 outdoor screens nationwide.
* The Hula Hoop is introduced and becomes a national pastime fad selling 100 to 200 million units in about six months.
* President Eisenhower signs a bill that creating NASA (The National Aeronautic and Space Administration).
* The North American air defense system introduces interactive computing, with punch cards giving way to continuous calculating. This leads to networked computers accessible by remote terminals.

Life goes on – on Robert’s Road
Dad was just about finished with the two years required to earn his B.A. Degree (Bachelor of Arts) in History when it was decided that he should continue an additional year to earn the M.A. (Master of Arts) in History. Mom was still working as a seamstress at the garment factory.
Sometime during the year, Mom had the misfortune to run the needle, of her industrial sewing machine, through the end of her left index finger. The painful experience caused her to miss several days work.
In order to reduce our house rental cost, we moved two or three houses down the block south on Roberts Road to:

Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Pierce, 411 Roberts Road, Tempe,  AZ.
The “new” house was essentially the same as the one we moved from, but had a different owner with a lower monthly rental fee.

[A circa 2007 Google Street View  image of  411 Roberts Road. There were few trees in this fairly new, but dusty subdivision in 1958 and  no sidewalk. The Roberts Road subdivision was largely located in the country with few houses between it and the main street in Tempe, about a mile away. Behind the back yard was an irrigation ditch and beyond it, a  large farm field. Shanna Carr lived down the street to the right 3-4 houses.]

New neighbors
A new family moved into the subdivision and rented a house about three houses down the block from us. The Carr family consisted of the Mom and step Dad, a son about ten years old, and daughter, Shanna Lee, who was a couple of years younger than myself. As the weeks passed we occasionally saw one another while loafing around our yards, but there was little communication. I supposed she was always in the house doing homework or watching TV. At the time, I was usually either at school or in a different neighborhood, hanging around with Charlie and the fellows, or at church functions, so had few recollections of Shanna other than our seeing one another occassionally across the mid distance of several properties.

[Drawing: Map of Tempe, Arizona showing key locations mentioned in this story.
1) Our house on Roberts Road.
2) Shanna’s house.
3) The corral where ‘my horses’ were kept.
4) The riding stable/corral where Shanna’s horse was housed.
5) Charley’s house.
6) the Dairy Queen.
7) Garment factory where Mom worked.
8) The Baptist Church we attended was in this area.
9) The squiggly line on the roads around Roberts Road was my ‘paper route’.
Not numbered) Tempe Union HS was located at the bottom right of the map.
All our Halloween pranks were pulled in the square residential area  delineated by 8th to 13th street and Roosevelt Rd to Mill Ave. Tempe Union HS is seen at the bottom of the map]

Learning to drive the car, but…
After my sixteenth birthday, I took the high school’s short Driver’s Education course and received my Driving-Learner’s Permit. Upon completion of the course, I passed the written and driving exams and was issued a Arizona Drivers License.  Normally, this achievement was a real joy, a passage to manhood as it were, for a teenager living in suburbia. Possession of your own drivers license, meant you’d passed one of the coveted hurdles on the road to adulthood. With the driver’s license you could become really mobile. Whereas a very few high school students were given cars by their parents, most were allowed to use the family car for an occassional date or for some other important, local social activity.

I should point out that at this time most families only had one automobile, affluent families had two or more. In any case I was refused use of the family car for any purpose, except on one occasion. Once, while Dad was heavily absorbed with studies and it was time to pick Mom up at work, he conveniently “let me” do the job for him. It was only a three-quarter mile drive straight drive down a semi rural road, to the garment factory.

Grandma Elsie Pierce ill and our impromptu vacation
I think it was during the spring of the year that Grandma Pierce became ill,  apparently there was concern that she might not recover, so the family took time from work and school and we drove back to Michigan to visit with Grandma Elsie and Grandpa Glen Pierce. I remember Grandma was in her bed when we visited, but I don’t remember that she was quite as sick, by the time we arrived, as she had been a few days or weeks earlier. Anyway, after a day or two to visit and pray for her, we left. Grandma recovered splendidly, and if my memory serves, she was back to her health with in a couple of weeks. I don’t remember what ailment she’d had, but she made a full recovery.
On our return trip to Arizona we drove southwest into New Mexico and visited Carlsbad Cavern.

During mid morning, we took a guided tour with maybe fifty other people on a developed, paved trail deep into the cave. The ranger was right in suggesting we bring our sweaters, it was chilly in the cave.  It seems like we walked for a couple of hours, always going deeper, winding around on the trail, going down steps, to the point that my legs began to feel the stress. The interior of the cave was unbelievable!
There were enormous auditorium size rooms and larger, filled with stalactites and stalagmites, there were rooms filled with ornate veils, multi-hued deposits, and small ponds that were so clear they looked three feet deep, but were more like fifteen feet deep. The cave was awesome and beautiful, in an alien way. [Photo above, Internet image: Entrance to Carlsbad Cavern, New Mexico.]

Around noon, after about a 1.5 mile subterranean hike with frequent stops for natural history discussions, our tour reached a fairly well lit cafeteria, deep in the bowls of the earth. The cafeteria had small packaged lunches, of what I recall being foods like, a simple peanut butter and jam sandwich with a orange and napkin served in a small cardboard box, with a paper cup of water to drink.
We took the opportunity to relax at one of the few tables. After lunch it was only a short walk to an elevator that brought us back up to the hot desert surface.

Mesa Verde NP and White Sands NM
There were two other grand places we visited during vacation while still living on Roberts Road; most notably were, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Mesa Verde was a visually interesting large Anasazi cliff dwelling community.

On another trip. we were traveling from one historic site to another when it so happened we found our route would be passing White Sands National Monument. To tell the truth, it didn’t look like much of a park. There were only a couple crude camping sites, it was summer and hot. I think we were the only people ‘overnighting’ in the park. Fortunately, we arrived in the late afternoon and took a spot near the base of a dune. I admit the dunes were pretty impressive. I’d been to both the east and west coast, and had climbed on the large sand dunes along Lake Michigan, but these great white dunes dwarfed what I was familiar with.

Early the next morning, as the sky was just coloring with dawn, the family had awakened and I crawled out of the tent to look around. It was  a nice cool and refreshing morning on the desert; the ground was cool so I didn’t put on my shoes. I told Mom and Dad, that I was going to climb the near by sand
dune and would be back in a few minutes.

[Internet image: White Sands NM. At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies a mountain ringed valley called the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. The snowy white dunes rise to more than 60 feet and cover 275 square miles. The dune field is about 10,000 years old. Sand blows in from a seasonally-wet lake bed where gypsum continues to form. There were no developed campgrounds in the park, but a  one-mile hike off the scenic drive leads to backcountry campsites.]

Since all we could see was sand, distances were deceiving. It turned out that the ‘near by’ dune was a little further across a sand plain than it appeared, it was also taller than it looked from our campsite. Once on the crest of the dune, I hoped to have a panoramic view of the vast dune field, but found my view blocked by the slightly taller dune immediately behind it. So, I bounded down one side and climbed the second.

The sun was above the horizon by the time I was at the top of the crest on the second dune, the air was warming and the sand was starting to become uncomfortable to walk on. Still unable to see much of the dune field and knowing it would soon be breakfast time, I started retracing my  route to camp. By the time I was back on top the first dune, the sand was hot, so hot that I had to sit down and raise my feet to get them off the sand for a few moments. The next 10-15 minutes were painful. The sun was rising, the sand was burning my feet. I had to briefly run, stop,  sit, and raise my feet, but then my hands would burn touching the sand. So I’d run some more, try kneeling in the sand and raising my feet off the ground behind me and try balancing so as not to touch the sand with my hands.

Needless to say, I was glad to get back to camp. My feet were red from being nearly baked. I didn’t complain about the misadventure other than to say the sand was hot, no one guessed the true situation I’d encountered. A few days later, some dry skin on my feet, flaked and fluffed off.

The church cleaning job
I kept my newspaper route for about a year then quit taking a better job. The new job was custodial for the small Baptist Church we attended. The job involved sweeping the floors and dusting the pews and chairs. It wasn’t hard work by any means, but it was hot in the closed building, even in the morning without the air-conditioned turned on. The job required about three to four hours work every Saturday morning and paid better than I made delivering newspapers.

Summer of the horse
Mr. Rose, the pastor of our church, was a ‘Western’ buff. He always wore cowboy boots, a cowboy style hat, western shirts and a bola tie. His wife wore fancy Indian style Squaw dresses, turquoise jewelry and sandals. The family had two sons, Bobby and Rickey, both of whom were younger than I.  Their eldest son, Bobby, and I, occasionally hung around together, when I was putzing around in our neighborhood. The two boys always wore cowboy boots and frequently western style shirts and hats. All in all, the family had a fairly heavy investment in the western  clothing motif. Complementing their lifestyle and western interest, the family leased a local, several acre fenced pasture, were they kept four horses and a  several dozen bales of hay. Their horse lot was a block from our house, just across 5th Street, at the very end of Roberts Road.

Every few weeks, Bobby would stop by the house to ask if I wanted to go horse back riding with him, I never turned him down. For the most part we rode bareback, taking 1st Street down to the bridge over the dry Salt River. Here we crossed the river bed and rode out into the desert that later became Desert Botanical Garden and Papago Park.

During the early summer of ’58, the Rose family made plans to visit an ailing relative on the east coast. In their absence the church was scheduled to  have a series of different preachers and Dad was asked to give several sermons. Meanwhile, I was offered the outstanding opportunity to feed and water their horses for the summer. As payment for my work, I was allowed to ride the horses all I wanted.
I jumped at the offer.
That summer was great. The best summer ever!
Every morning, I got up at the crack of dawn, took a bridle and walked to the end of the block to feed and water the horses. When they had finished their hay and feed, I’d put a bridle on the brown mare and lead her out of the pasture gate, swing up on her back and ride home for my own breakfast. After household chores were finished, I was out riding, stopping at home during the mid day heat for a peanut butter and jam sandwich and glass of milk.
I spent much of the summer on horseback.
It so happened, that on Hardy Road, near 8th Street, which was only a few blocks from our house, there was a riding stable and horse barn which rented stall space for other Tempe horse owners; remember that and we’ll come back to the point in awhile.

 The Superstition Mountains
Meanwhile, over the previous year or so, I’d attended the local Boy Scout troop meetings. Our family didn’t have enough money to buy me any scout clothing, not that I would need a complete outfit, but a shirt would have been nice and would have made me feel more part of the group. Anyway, I learned the Scout Oath, read and reread the thick Scout Manual, practiced various Indian lore, like making snares and dead fall traps. I loved the wilderness and survival skills. At the meetings we often played such fun games as Dodge Ball and  Capture, both of which were rough and tumble exercises in agility and speed played by several combined troops. Once we had an overnight campout not far from Tempe, however, the best adventure  by far, was the ascent of South Peak in the Superstition Mountains.

Several troops, their leaders, and adult assistants took a bus  out-of-town on the main highway to Apache Junction, then onto a gravel road to the base of the Superstition mountains.
We embarked on a narrow but beaten trail which wound around, up and about up the mountain. We weren’t in a hurry, but we didn’t dawdle as we worked our way higher and higher in the canyon and across slopes.

[Photograph: The Superstition Mountains as seen from Apache Junction, Arizona. I climbed to the South peak, with several senior Tempe Boy Scout troops ca 1957-58.]

There was a long known tradition that one shouldn’t wander off alone in the Superstition Mountains.
Somewhere in the mountains was, “The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine”, said to be guarded by spirits. Everyone knew the stories: that people had died trying to find the gold, that maybe there was an evil spirit, maybe a greedy land owner, maybe renegade Indians that protected the hidden mine. As we hiked, we kids chatted amongst ourselves, watched out for rattle snakes, looked for mountain lions, kept an eye on the fellows in front of and behind us, and watched the ridges for any ‘strangers or Indians’. It was good to be alive, hot and sweaty, climbing to a peak in the traditionally forbidden mountains.
If there are glorious feats and deeds that boil in the blood of a young man, this was one.

Around noon we came upon a large, open and slightly sloping mountain saddle, where we stopped for lunch. After the break, we made our way up across the saddle and one last rise to South Peak. The summit was topped by a group of boulders, which we climbed, several fellows at a time, just so we could say we had stood at the highest point on the peak.

I don’t think it took over a quarter as much time to get back to the base of the mountain, as it took climbing up. By the time we were on the bus and starting to drive out, it was dusk. We arrived in Tempe around 8PM, I walked the mile home.
It had been a great day.

Young love on horseback
As previously mentioned, a girl named Shanna Lee Carr moved with her family, into a tract house just down the street from us.
During the first few months she lived on Roberts Road, I seldom saw her. I later found why Shanna was seldom seen, she had a horse and was spending most of her time riding or hanging around at the horse stable, located several blocks away, on Hardy Road.

[School  photo: Shanna Lee Carr, ca. 1959, 15 years old.]

With the arrival of summer I began caring for the Rose family horses. One day while riding past the commercial stable, I came across Shanna riding her Palomino mare. We began chatting and I found that Shanna was a fun person to be with. She had medium length light brown hair and blue eyes.
Although she was several years younger than me, we were both the same height and had slender builds. We became friends right from the start and thereafter went riding together daily.
Soon our bond developed into a teenage love.

My parents took an instant dislike to Shanna, possibly because her family belonged to the Mormon faith. Mom and Dad didn’t want her around our house. Their attitude, though typical and irritating, was no problem for Shanna or myself.

As the summer progressed, almost every morning Shanna would be waiting for me either in her front yard or at the pasture where I fed the horses. Almost every day we rode out into the desert several miles north of Tempe.
This was a good time for two young people smitten by their first love. A summer of walking and racing our horses, talking and exploring, kissing and enjoying a unique time — this was a happy, exhilarating time.

[Photograph, Papago Park Tempe, AZ: We often rode our horses to this desert area which was located only a couple of miles north of Roberts Road. See the map above: We’d cross the dry Salt River, then Mill Blvd. (not shown), that ran from  Mesa to Tempe to Phoenix and enter the desert. Occasionally we rode bareback sometimes using saddles, always with canteens and usually me carrying my #25 fiberglass recurve bow and a quiver with arrows. This was a large, hot and quiet area with little reason for people to visit. While in Papago Park, we occasionally saw another 2-3 person group in the distance, hiking or struggling to ride their bicycles on a dirt road or across the desert.]

Halloween warriors, 1958
As Halloween approached, we teens heard a rumor that there was a new custom called, “Beggars Night.” Beggars Night was supposed to be the night before Halloween. On that night, if you knocked on a household door and called out, “Beggars Night”, they were to give you some candy the same as they  would the next night, on Halloween eve. We’d never heard of Beggars Night, never the less, decided to see what fun we could find practicing it.  As a group of us (Charlie, his brother, myself and several others) walked down the sidewalk on Beggars Night and not seeing much of any activity in the neighborhoods, we decided to give the new “holiday” a test. We simply stopped at the house we were passing and knocked on the door. The old man who answered the door was grumpy as hell, yelling and cursing at us as he chased us off.

We sulked away, grumbling amongst ourselves, planning some light revenge for the following night.

The next night was Halloween. We met at Charlie’s house just after dark, when the streets were full of little “Trick or Treaters” and their parents. We went back through the neighborhoods toward the house where the grumpy old man chased us off the previous night. Arriving at his house, we found lawn chairs conveniently sitting in his side yard. Two chairs were quietly set on the front porch right next to the door.

The garden hose was uncoiled and one end wrapped around the chair’s arm rests so that it pointed directly at the corner of the front door that would soon be opened. As one fellow knocked loudly on the door and a couple yelled, “Trick or Treat” in unison, another turned the water hydrant on full force. Immediately we ran around to the side of house and began walking fast down the sidewalk. Pausing to look back for a moment,  we saw the glow of the front pouch light as it came on, then we heard the door slam shut. We continued walking away, laughing over or coup…suddenly the home’s rear porch light came on. A moment later the family car was heard starting and its headlights flicked on. Now concerned about being caught or identified, we began a headlong run through dark backyards, making our way zig zag across several residential blocks. We found a good hiding place between some shrubs and a wooden fence in an alley. We stayed by our hiding spot for about ten minutes, chatting amongst ourselves, while giving the undoubtedly angry old man some time to give up his search and return home. In these and other pranks, nobody was ever hurt nor was there ever any property damage. We were neither malicious, nor bullies, we were teenagers looking for excitement in the suburbs.

School Dances
By the Fall of this year I’d begun attending all the high school dances. I didn’t bother telling my parents I was going to a dance, just said I was going over to hang out with my friend, Charlie. Ususaly there were 3-5 of us that  would walk over to the high school and chat for awhile with others who showed up, then we’d enter the gym. The dances were chaperoned by several teachers, one of whom played ‘single’ popular songs on a portable 45 rpm record player. When the ‘soft music’ played the teaches walked around the dance floor separating couples who seemed to be holding one another a little too closely. At any one time, about half the kids would be dancing and the other half sitting on the bleachers chatting, or milling around gossiping with friends. While we did dance a few dances, our main reason for being at the dance was to be hanging out with our friends. I suppose in retrospect, the school was helping put boys and girls together in a sanctioned way, so we’d develop experience in dealing with one another. We were just starting to date and before long would become young adults, pursuing a higher education or beginning to work. The enclosed photograph provides an image identical to one you would have seen at Tempe Union High School. [Internet photograph: Typical mid 1950s image of a high school dance, held in the school’s gymnasium.]

Grandpa, Glen Kenyon Pierce dies
During the midafternoon of 2 November 1958, we received a telephone call from Uncle Jack P. Pierce, in Lawton,Michigan.  He was calling with bad news, Grandpa Glen K. Pierce had died.

Grandma, Elsie, had been visiting for a couple of days with Uncle Jack’s family in nearby Lawton. Grandpa had some fruit trees that he wanted to prune during the week, then he was to drive over to Jack’s for a big dinner and to spend the weekend. When Grandpa didn’t show up the day he was suppose to and he didn’t answer the telephone, Grandmother phoned a neighbor to go check on him. The neighbors went down to the farm and found Grandpa’s new Pontiac still parked in the driveway and the house doors locked. So, breaking a window to gain entry, they began looking through the house. Grandpa was found dead in his upstairs bed.
Uncle Jack continued, telling Dad that Grandma Elsie, would be staying at his house until plans had been made and she felt like returning home.

I laid on my bed weeping all afternoon. I loved Grandpa dearly. Dad flew back to Michigan for the funeral. Grandpa’s body was laid to rest in the Lawton Cemetery. Grandpa died in his sleep, at age 71 years, of a myocardial infraction. After his death, Grandma Elsie did not return to the farm for several years. Her sons, my Uncle Bill and Uncle Jack brought Grandmother what clothes, a few pieces of furniture  and miscellaneous she wanted and she took an apartment in Lawton, MI.

The Kennedy family buys the farm
During 1957 and 1958 my Grandparents had been negotiating the sale of their farm to a family named, Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy worked in Benton Harbor, but wanted to live on a hobby farm and raise his family. He had no experience with farming, so part of a possible agreement to buy the farm was that he be taught how to operate the equipment, care for the orchards and sell the produce. He worked part-time on the farm for two years. Sometime before Grandfather’s death, an agreement was reached to sell Mr. Kennedy the farm on a Contract For Deed. After Grandpa’s death, Grandma met with the  Kennedy’s and sold the farm to them for cash. It turned out to be a good deal, financially, for the Kennedy family.

When I visited the farm, some thirty years later, Mrs. Kennedy expressed regret to me that they should so have profited from our family’s misfortune. In the late 1980s they were about to retire themselves, sell the farm and move to Arizona.

 Our extended family begins to dissolve
Until my Grandfather Pierce’s death, the family was tied together by my grandparents visiting each of their son’s families and they in turn, visiting their parents on the farm. Although my Dad’s family moved to Arizona, Grandma and Grandpa Pierce came to visit us just about every winter. Between their travels and the farm, which was a focal point, the family was held together by memories and periodic visits.
After Grandpa Pierce’s death and the sale of the farm, the family had lost its patriarch and focal meeting place; we lived in Arizona, Uncle Jack and Aunt Julie became separated and divorced, Uncle Bill’s family lived in the suburbs of Milwaukee, WI.
We, the six grandchildren from our three families, drifted apart.
Enjoy your family and close friends all that you can, when you can, things change, you all grow older, folks move… you can never get it back. In the end all you have are the memories.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1958
•  Cheyenne –  a western
•  Sugarfoot –  a western
•  Dragnet –  police drama
•  Maverick – a western
•  General Electric Theater –
•  Wagon Train – a western
•  Zorro – a western
•  Sea Hunt – scuba diving adventure/drama

The only movie that I saw with my  neighborhood friends this year was,
The Fly with Vincent Price, Al Hedison, Patrica Owens, Herbert Marshall

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1955, age 12-13

Themes and Events
* January. The Chinese Communists who controlled mainland China, threatened to attack Quemoy Island which was occupied by the Nationalist Chinese government in exile. As the possibility of war increased, President Eisenhower received authorization from Congress to use US military force to in the protection of Quemoy.
* [Internet image left] Bill Haley’s and His Comets song. “Rock Around the Clock“, and Chuck Berry’s songs like, “Roll Over Beethoven” start the “Rock” musical revolution.
* The young Negress, Rosa Parks, made her place in history on December 1st, by refusing to give up her
seat on a  bus to a white man. A boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, city bus line was coordinated by
the then unknown Baptist minister named Martin Luther King eventually resulted in desegregation on the bus. Her act of defiance spurred other Negro boycotts, eventually becoming a rallying point for the Civil Rights movement.
* The Soviet Union and her Eastern European allies formed the Warsaw Pact. During the summer, the Soviet Union successfully launched its first IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile).
* Egypt announces that oil has been discovered on the Sinai Peninsula.

Going to the movies
In the early to mid 1950s movie admission cost 25¢ to 30¢ per person, while a box of plain, salted popcorn cost 10¢ to 15¢. Popcorn was not optionally buttered and the containers were all one size.

Movie makers didn’t overlook the public’s interest in science and technology, or the growing number of world-wide reports of UFO sightings. Among the classic science fiction films to come out in this period
were, This Island Earth and a couple of years later, Forbidden Planet.  These films portrayed intelligent alien humanoids as friendly or ambivalent. The aliens and futuristic humans moved between star systems in “flying saucers” powered by some form of ‘antigravity drive’. For defense, the travelers used pistol sized, ‘ray guns’, that emitted beams of light that  vaporized their target. Lasers hadn’t been invented yet or at least were unknown to the public.
Human heroes consulted with wise old scientists, used radar (which was only a decade old) and had access to room sized computers (new). The human heroes won their battles with a combination of quick wits and luck.

YMCA camp
This summer was one of two when Mom and Dad sent me to YMCA camp for a week. The camp was located in the mountains, high amongst pine trees, up somewhere near the middle of the state, I don’t recall the specific site,  but I do remember, camp was fun!!

It seems there were about one hundred to one hundred fifty boys at our, non co-educational camp . Among the activities were: target practice with the .22 cal rifle and archery equipment.
We had several horseback riding sessions, riding out in group or 12-15 on trails leading back into the higher hills, learned to put the saddle on and cinch down the straps, put the bridle on, and afterwards brush down the horses. We had daily leather crafts, several night hikes and daytime foot races.

Of honorable mention was a massive, camp wide, “Capture the Flag” game, where the camp groups were divided onto separate hills, each with a flag to protect. Some protected the  team’s flag, the rest ran in groups of five or so, trying to sneak up the other hill and grab the ‘enemy flag’. The game was a thrill involving patience and stealth, then bursts of high-speed running and jumping, evasion.

Every day we had an opportunity to buy a few things from the camp store. We weren’t allowed cash,
but did have script which we exchanged, usually for things like candy bars or soda pop.

Unlike modern summer camping for children, we didn’t have nightly campfire sing-a-longs, nor were there any swimming facilities.  We did however, sing at meal times, when everyone was gathered around their dining tables. One “table” would sing a song poking fun at either the camp director, one of his assistants, another cabin counselor, or another cabin group. It was all good-natured and after every song there would be a “counter” song, everyone would yell, laugh, clap and happily go about talking-eating-looking about, pointing and waving to new friends, etc. It was great to be away from home, seeing new sights, doing new and interesting things, making friends and for a kid, living life to its fullest.

We slept in bunk beds in wooden cabins. Although we were suppose to go to sleep after “taps” was played, on several occasions we snuck out of the cabin to look around or had a pillow fight while our cabin counselor was gone to the bathroom.

A bug collection for Grandma and Grandpa Pierce
When Grandma and Grandpa Pierce came to Arizona on their extended midwinter visits, they showed an interest in the small desert animals collection and study I was working on (see similar Internet photos from 1954), so I gave them the collection and associated paperwork, and started another. Below are Internet images of a few of the creatures in the collection, which also contained several types of scorpion, lizards, tarantula hawk, wolf spider, Black Widow spider and maybe a dozen other creatures of the desert.

The Cold War, Cuba and Civil Rights
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was running for reelection to a second term in office. Some of the problems that developed and would haunt his administration were:
1)  There was a revolution developing in rural Cuba. At the time, Cuba was a major tourist attraction. Havana could be seen as a sort of eastern Las Vegas, with gambling and good times, all set in a
tropical paradise and located only a few miles from Florida. however, things were changing rapidly: Poverty stricken rural Cuba was being taken over by the citizen army of Communist backed guerrilla leader, Fidel Castro.
2)  One of our high-flying U-2 spy aircraft was shot down over Russia while on a photo reconnaissance/ spy mission. The pilot, Francis Powers, was captured and held up before the world as an example of US aggression.
During the mid 1950s the “U-2″ incident was a very important issue. Now, some forty years later, we still catch one another’s spy’s and major catches still make headlines, but the incidents are seen as ‘briefly sensational’, not confrontational.
3) Meanwhile across the southern USA: Negro militancy, the US Supreme Court and tough southern attitudes about ‘blacks” were butting heads. In Little Rock, AR. schools were desegregated. Elsewhere
“literacy tests” were used to stop southern Negroes from voting.
Political districts were gerrymandered in order to keep Negro children in or send them to inferior schools. Negro adults were usually excluded from jury duty.
In the fall of 1955, a black civil rights leader named, Rev. Martin Luther King, led a bus boycott  in
Montgomery, AL. As a result segregated seating on the city bus line was abolished.
4) On 27 May the population of the United States became 165,000,000. {On 17 August as I’m editing  Chapter 1955 of my autobiography as a post in my WordPress blog, the US population is: 311,136, 762, 88% larger in 56 years.
5) The minimum wage jumped from 75¢ to $1.00 per hour.

Seeing an Atomic bomb explode
One day during the Spring, the Tucson daily newspaper ran a news article stating that city residents might be able to see an A-bomb explode in Nevada at a given time the next morning. The idea of seeing an A-bomb sounded like fun, so, as planned, the next morning, our family awoke before sunrise, quickly dressed, drove to and parked on top of a hill a few miles from home.
Sitting in the car, almost holding our breaths with anticipation, we intently looked toward the northwest, as Dad, watching his wrist watch, gave us a minute by minute countdown. At the end of that last-minute, with only the faintest hint of dawn piercing the eastern horizon, we saw the phenomena occur.
Far away, over the horizon to our northwest, there occurred a flash which quickly settled to an expanding orange glow. It looked much like half of an illuminated orange (fruit) set in the distant sky. The orange glow sat on the horizon for perhaps ten to fifteen seconds then dissipated back to darkness. The distinct glow had appeared no larger than the tip of a finger held at arm’s length. The flash and orange glow was the nuclear test at a Nevada test site some four hundred fifty miles away.
Years later I found the above ‘closeup’ image and description of the test we saw:
[Internet image: A-Bomb, 1955. Operation Teapot, Apple-2 tower shot, May 5, 1955, Nevada Test Site. Teapot was authorized by President Eisenhower on 30 August 1954. This series of fourteen shots (most detonated between February and May) proof  tested a broad variety of fission devices with low to moderate yields. The devices combined several innovations to create a new pattern of fission device that would dominate the design of all later weapons. They were tested for a broad variety of tactical weapon applications, including air defense and anti-submarine warfare.

Our family didn’t buy a television until about 1955 when we lived in the court on East Limberlost Road. Until this time, I occasionally watched a little TV after school at my friend’s house…. before we got down to the really serious business of playing and riding our bicycles.
Our family’s first television had a twelve-inch tube displaying black and white images. It was semi portable so sat on a stand and was given a prominent position in the front room.

During the mid 1950s, I don’t remember seeing color televisions and definitely no remote controls.
At left,internet image: Although this was not the  same model or year as our first TV, it has an essentially the same look.

To me, the first forty years of wide, scale public television programming (roughly from 1948-49 to the mid 1990s), television was a pretty nice medium of entertainment. Some seasons had better
programming than others, but there was usually at least one really good program and several fairly good ones that we looked forward to seeing every week.  The programs I enjoyed were as follows:

What’s o n TV tonight?

  • Topper
  • Disneyland
  • Rin Tin Tin
  • Superman
  • Science Fiction Theater
  • Dragnet

Movies that I saw alone or with a friend this year; This Island Earth with Jeff Morrow, Faith Domerque, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller

The movie, This Island Earth, was so exciting to me as a 12-13 year old that the concept of what alien worlds might look like stuck with me and was partially responsible for my developing the SRAPO project in later years.


Above left is the billboard advertisement for the movie, This Island Earth.  Above right, an image from the film showing alien (Jeff Morrow) in the monitor, talking with the hero, human scientist (Rex Reason), over an alien device called an ‘Interociter’, this was a far sighted science fiction communications concept in 1955.

Movies the family saw together (parents choice):
A Man Called Peter with Richard Todd, Jean Peters, Marjorie Rambeau, Jill Esmond
All That Heaven Allows with Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel
Marty with Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Ester Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli
Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, William Powell

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1954, age 11-12

Themes and Events:
* During March, the United States exploded its second Hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands. The monster explosion was much more powerful and violent that the scientists estimated, being 600 to 700 times more powerful than the A-bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Before the H-bomb was detonated, we common folk weren’t too concerned about nuclear weapons. Afterwards, seeing the destructive ability of this new super bomb, public concern with nuclear weapons and the possibility of nuclear annihilation grew.
* Computers, which made their appearance during World War II, had grown in processing capability. In 1954 the first commercial UNIVAC was sold. Advances in medical research and techniques allowed for the first successful kidney transplant. The popularity of television became so great that a large number of radio stations switch from drama and the spoken word to musical programming. “TV dinners” are introduced at grocery stores and the term “TV table” is coined for the small folding table you eat those dinners from. Chain supermarkets have become such a huge success in recent years that they now account for 40% of the food sold at retail level.
* Elvis Presley, a self taught 19-year-old, makes his first record, Country and Rhythm and Blues — the record heralds a revolution in popular music.

[Photograph above: Larry, 12 years old, 1954. Taken in the front yard of our rental home in the court at Limberlost Rd ,Tucson, AZ].

Valentine’s, mine and Dad’s oldie to Mom
On this day I gave Mom a Valentines Day card that shocked both my parents, on the card I wrote:
“From Tartastilina = Larry
To Iduss Miduss of Miduss = Mommy”

Decades have passed and this still makes me chuckle, because I remember where the little rhyme originated. One day, I was snooping through some of my parents files, curious to see what sort of things grownups saved, I came upon a letter that Dad wrote to Mom years earlier, when he was in the Navy. Dad had written a little homemade jingle  in his letter that I thought was both cute and startling. Naturally, I memorized the poem then hurriedly put away their private papers. The poem read, in part:
Idus Didus Oh Midus, Buckets, _(deleted)_, Apple cider Idus  [Robert]
I suspect Dad was feeling a little nostalgic for Mom’s company when he wrote those words. Of course he never realized they would go on into posterity– some 55+ years later. (grin)

Snooping through dad’s soft porn
Behind my parents bedroom door hung a nude picture calendar of movie star Marilyn Monroe. At my age I wasn’t too excited about the picture, but it was interesting to look at on occasion, though I never let anyone know I was studying Marylin’s curvy features.

Dad had a book-case in the master bedroom, in which he stored his large coin collection, books, some curios and a small, oblong wooden box, that was kept locked. One day while at home alone, I went exploring and found a small key. And yes, it happened to fit the lock on the mysterious small wooden box. I was rather surprised and perhaps delighted to find the divided box filled with several hundred small photographs of naked ladies. I became so nervous at having discovered Dad’s secret treasure trove that I hurriedly closed the box and put the key away. An opportunity to explore the contents of that box more thoroughly never presented it’s self again. It wasn’t long after this, perhaps during the summer that Dad burned his collection of “naked lady” cards. About an hour or so after the fire, I nonchalantly walked past and peered into the incinerator  hoping to find some salvageable remnants to study, but they were all burned to ash. Nothing was ever said to me about the photographs so I don’t know for sure why Dad burned them. He probably saw things had been moved or were out-of-order in his dresser drawer organizer or on the book shelf, so began suspecting the presence of a ‘snoop’. HelloooO! Snooping is just part of what 11-12 year old boys do.  8-)

Since moving to Arizona, an environment so different from our home in the upper Midwest, the family jumped right into exploring. On weekends we visited the ‘Old Tucson’ movie lot, where a movie
title, ‘A Stranger In Town’ with Greer Garson was being filmed; we  visited museums, state parks filled with many kinds of cactus, the ruins of ancient Indian town, and US Cavalry forts; everything that was within a weekends driving distance. I thought that driving to, exploring and seeing the many new sites were fun and exhilarating adventures.

Moving to East Limberlost Road
During early summer, our family moved across the city to the northern outskirts of Tucson and rented a house at,
912 East Limberlost Road,Tucson,Arizona
Phone Number: 4-6838.
Ha! The phone company doesn’t assign numbers like that any more!

We moved because the aircraft construction contract at Hughes Aircraft Co. was completed and Dad was laid off. He found a job working as a maintenance electrician with Portland Cement Company, about thirty or so miles NNW of our home. Dad got the job through his cousin, Dorothy Grubb Mount’s husband, Wayne Mount, who was a foreman at Portland Cement.

Dad was happy to have the job, but it was long drive to work and worst of all, it had rotating shifts.
Frequently, he went to work as part of a carpool with several other men. For two weeks he’d work days, the next two weeks would be “swing shift” and finally the dreaded “graveyard” shift. We kids were told in no uncertain terms to keep it quiet around the house  when Dad was sleeping. That wasn’t a problem during the school year, but during the summer, between loafing, playing indoors and out, having friends over, etc. we occasionally got in trouble.

The house court on East Limberlost Road
Our new house was one of ten houses situated in a court that spread along a U-shaped loop whose legs terminated on East Limberlost Road, we lived at the bottom of the loop. There were houses on either outer leg and two in the middle, we lived in the second house from the road in the middle. All the
houses were two bedroom ramblers with rose white stucco exteriors, each had an attached “car port”, and a lawn. Of all the places we lived, I enjoyed this the best. There were several families of kids about my age to play with, we had daily free access to the court swimming pool, while the desert offered many places to hunt and explore.

The family who owned the ten unit court lived in a much larger and nicer house on the east side of the property. Their house was surrounded by tall privacy bushes and a lush lawn. Beside their house was a large swimming pool which was opened to court residents. During the couple of years that we lived here, I spent a lot of time with the other kids at the pool. Once in a while, there were several week long periods when we kids didn’t swimming for even a day.

One day while playing tag and running along the edge of the pool, I slipped, fell on my face breaking my top, left center tooth. The tooth broke horizontally requiring a cap. I don’t know if porcelain caps were available at the time, but I ended up with an ugly gold cap. Instead of having a nice smile, I had a smile punctuated by a front tooth with a gold cap. When you’re talking to someone and their looking at your eyes then you smile and their gaze shifts down to your mouth, you get confused signals. Are they wondering, ‘what is the matter with your teeth?’ The resulting embarrassment and self-consciousness caused me, thereafter, to smile with my mouth closed. Twenty years later I had the gold cap replaced with a porcelain cap that looks just like my other teeth. It has been real nice being able to smile broadly without concern.

Sixth Grade: At Amphitheater School
Linda and I began attending Amphitheater School, located about a mile from home. During Sixth grade I was assigned to the math class taught by my cousin Dorothy Grubb Mount. Dorothy was Dad’s first cousin, her father was my Grandma Elsie Pierce’s brother. Having Dorothy as my teacher was fun, and a responsibility. I was attentive in her class and did my studies and assignments thoroughly, as a result I earned an “A” in math. That was the only time I ever excelled in a math class.

Academic performance: Q for questionable?
On the otherhand, my academic performance from about Second Grade through High School was frankly, less than  outstanding. School subjects were not hard for me, they were for the most part, irrelevant and boring. If I liked a teacher or some section of the particular topic being presented, I studied enthusiastically, but only when I took an interest in the subject.

Although in the later years of school, my parents more or less required that I bring books home and study thirty minutes nightly, I seldom studied. My grades were almost entirely based on what ever attention and learning soaked in from the teacher’s discussion during class. Every year I received report card grades of an infrequent A, maybe one or two B‘s, mostly C‘s, and on occasion a D.
A spanking always followed those lower grades.

Over the years several teachers became riled over my lapsidasical lack of interest and the incongruent nature of my capabilities, which occasionally showed through. Several teachers said things to me that either hurt or were irritating and which I never forgot. Put in perspective, I suppose across the span of our lives, we are all bound to hear inaccurate assessments and ignorant statements made about our person.  Two that I remember, were:

“Dumbest kid in class”
During Second Grade, our teacher, a rather curt young woman, would have groups of six to eight students come to the front of the class and sit in a circle, in prearranged chairs. We would then take turns going around and around the circle, each reading from our Dick and Jane readers. Meanwhile, the other two-thirds of the class, who were still seated at their desks, continued work on another project until they in turn were called to the reading circle.

On a couple consecutive days, I stumbled over the pronunciation of the new words we were suppose to have learned at home the previous night (but didn’t). In a fit of desperation, the teacher snapped at me in front of the others, stating, “You’re the dumbest kid in class!” The statement shocked more than embarrassed me. Looking around I saw that the other kids didn’t react to or care about what the teacher said, so her abusive words were soon overlooked, but not forgotten.

“You’re 6 months ahead of the class”
In Sixth Grade the entire class was given an IQ test and a standardized achievement test. Several weeks later, when the tests had been assessed, our “Homeroom” teacher called us individually to his desk, where he told us privately, where we stood in relation to the rest of our Sixth Grade class.
When I was called, I went to the teacher’s desk to hear him say (paraphrased), “Your test scores indicate you’re six months ahead of the class average. Frankly, I find that hard to believe.”  I shrugged off the teachers sarcasm and returned to my seat, thinking to my self he was ignorant for making that statement.

Friends in the Limberlost court
Just to the east of our house, across the court driveway, was a family named, Smith. The family was headed by the rather high-strung, religious and recently divorced, Mrs. Mary Smith [1]. Her children descended in age, from Mike, age 11; Christy, 9 years; Wendy, 7; and Gregory, about 5 years
Mike Smith and I “hung around” together all the time and became close friends. Although Mike was a couple of years younger than I, we were the same height, he was extremely bright for his age and had an adventurous spirit.

Kick the Can, a popular game
Ever so often during the late afternoon, particularly toward dusk, the kids in out court would get together and play a game called “Kick the Can” which was a cross between Hide And Go Seek and Tag. The usual players were Mike, Christy and Wendy Smith, Linda and I, the court owners youngest son, also a girl my age named, Sandra, and periodically, Rob, all who lived in the court.

Rules: Everyone gathers around and one person is chosen, “It”. An “X” is drawn on the ground and a tin can placed on it. One person gives the can a hard, running kick. Immediately, everyone else, except the person chosen “It”, runs to hide. The game is played within specified boundaries, which no player can leave. The “It” person brings the can back to the X, closes his/her eyes and counts to some predetermined number, i.e., 50 or 100. After counting, the “It” person sneaks around looking for the other hidden players.
When he sees one of the others, he runs back to the can and loudly shouts the name of the player he spotted and where that player was seen. The “caught” player must come out and stand idly near the can while the “It” player returns to his search for the others. With each find, the “It” player runs back to the can to shout the identity of the most recent player caught. The “It” person must always be on guard, because any ‘uncaught player’ can sneak back and kick the can again, thus freeing those previously
‘caught’ players.  If  this occurs, the “It” player must return the can to the X and immediately return to hunting the others who have run off to hide again. When all players are caught a new “It” person
is chosen.

The ice-cream man cometh
During the early afternoon on hot summer days, a small white truck would come along East Limberlost Road and turn into our court — it was “the ice-cream man”. We could tell the vehicle was coming while it was still several blocks away, because it played loud carnival type music through a loudspeaker. The ice cream man drove very slowly through areas that were heavily infested with children, giving everyone plenty of time to run home and beg nickels and dimes from their parents. It was a treat to run back outdoors on a sweltering day,meet with your friends and buy a popsicle, fudge bar, Sundae cup or drumstick. We’d then sit under a tree or in someone’s car port savoring our delicacy whilst chatting or planning our next playful activity.

Exploring the desert north of  Tucson
The desert began right across Limberlost Road from the court. It extended about 1/4 to 3/8 miles to the Rillito River. Beyond the river was a short flat expanse which rose abruptly to the desert hills. There were few or no houses to be seen anywhere in this area. The desert was sparcly covered with a mix of prickley pear and barrel cactus, a few creosote bushed and the occasional tufts of some kind of desert grass.

The Rillito River bed was dry most of the year, and periodically flood filled during the winter’s rainy season. At this time, rainfall from the distant mountains would rush down the dry bed, filling the river from bank to bank with a dangerous, fast moving and boiling current. When the flood waters receded and the river bed began to dry and crack, thousands of toads could be seen hopping about congregating near the dwindling ponds and puddles of water. On the far side of the river channel was a slightly higher area which was covered with a large area of dense tall brush. This seven to ten acre strip of bushes was honeycombed with trails. On occasion one would see a jack rabbit or a coyote.
Deep in the bush there were several old couches, fire sites, and remnants of shelters habitated by hobo’s.

We lived at the extreme north edge of the city, beyond Limberlost Road there was nothing but desert. Here and there were cottonwood trees, but the primary vegetation was creosote bushes, prickly pear and Cholla cactus, all growing from sandy tan colored soil.
Here and there scattered randomly across the desert there were pieces of cardboard, an occasional sheet of corrugated tin, a derelict and burned auto or pieces of gray, weathered lumber. I mention this because during the several years we lived on Limberlost, I became interested in animal life. [Internet image of an area that looks similar to the area of desert described here.]

Seldom did any of the other kids wander out onto the desert with me, usually I walked alone; just me with my cap, pocket knife, occasionally a canteen and my bow. Thinking back, I usually went in the desert toward the middle of the day, when the other kids were either watching TV, having lunch, maybe taking a nap, or had gone somewhere with their parents. Besides, none of them had an interest  to just walk about exploring the brush, the dry river bed, collecting bugs or things of that nature. Life hasn’t changed.

The aerial photograph, below, was taken 45-50 years after our family lived on East Limberlost Road.  When first viewing the aerial image, I was startled and temporarily lost, almost everything was different, only the geometry of previous large land holding, and major roads remain the same, all the topography had become a high population density, residential area. The people who live here have no clue as to the life’s that were lived and of those who played and crossed the once wild landscape beneath their feet. During the mid 1950s there were probably not more than a couple dozen houses in the entire area shown above, the rest was desert.

Aerial map: Internet image from Google maps: East   Limberlost Road and home environs.

Limberlost road is the east -west road seen running across the center of the picture, the Rillito River cuts diagonally across at the top. The Amphitheater Grade School where we kids attended school, is southwest  off the Prince road at left.

I’ve marked three locations on the aerial picture  with a small yellow square:
1)  Lower left. The yellow square is just below the house (seen as a white dot) that our family lived in. My friend Mike Smith, lived in the house to our immediate right. The court owners house was just to the right of the court on Limberlost Road and their swimming pool, to the east beside the house, now gone. The vacant field behind (east) Mike Smith’s house and south of the owners, use to have several
large cottonwood trees, a horse barn and corral, it had a very ‘western cowboy’ look, but was vacant by the time the aerial photo was taken.

Just north of the court, directly across Limberlost Road is a white house, that was the only other house I remember in the whole central portion of the picture. The entire area across Limberlost Rd was desert; as was the area north, on the other side of the river.

Behind the our house to the south, were large blocks of desert, now filled with housing tracts. Town was to the south-west.

The area I use to explore,  hunt and play by myself was to the north east, where there is now a large square subdivision. I use to hike across the desert on my way to the usually dry Rillito river bed.

2)  Yellow square in river bed at top of picture: There was a hobo jungle across the river bed from the yellow square. It was in the location of this yellow square that I was shooting my bow and arrows when a horse rider wanted to try them out (see ‘Of bows and arrows’ short story below).
3) The yellow square on the right side of the aerial image: Marks the stable where the horse and rider came from mentioned above; buzzards use to circle high on the thermals above this area, and Prickly Pair cactus grew all about. The entire northern desert area in this image was sandy, hot and dry, it was a great place for me to play, hunt and explore as a 12 year old.

Of bows and arrows and a runaway horse
Frequently, I went out on the desert and hiked to the Rillito River bed. Usually I carried a stick to poke at things. One year for my birthday, Mom and Dad bought me a twenty five pound pull, fiberglass recurve bow and several wooden arrows.  Before long, I’d purchased a quiver and replaced the arrow’s ‘target tips’ with much more durable ‘field tips’.

One afternoon while in the dry river bed shooting arrows,  along came a Mexican man of about twenty-two years age, riding a nice looking horse. I was shooting at a cardboard box when the rider stopped nearby to watch. As we chatted, he said he was exercising one of the horses from the racing horse stable, just  around the bend in the river. After watching me for a few minutes, he asked to shoot my bow, I said, “All right, if you let me sit on your horse.”  Shortly thereafter, I climbed up in the saddle and the man prepared to shoot the bow.

All of a sudden, the horse began skittering and prancing around then wheeled about and took off in a full gallop back along the trail from whence he’d come. At first, I tried to stop him by pulling on the reins, but my efforts had no effect. My YMCA riding experience hadn’t prepared me for a run away horse. As the animal galloped his head stretched out and mane flying, all I could think of was riding him until either he decided to quit or I was thrown. Alarmed and scared, I bent low over his back holding onto his mane Indian style, with one hand and the saddle horn (chicken style) with the other. On we dashed, speeding like the wind along the river bank and out across the desert.

Finally, the sweaty horse galloped up to one of the riding stable corrals slowed to a walk then stopped. When I rode up, another trainer, an older Mexican man, was in a corral walking a horse  around in
circles. He stopped and yelled out at me in broken English, “Hey! Where is ???”  Without answering I swung down from the saddle and with weak knees lit out across the desert back down the horse
exercise trail toward the river bed. Shortly thereafter, while running along the river bank, I passed the trainer who was running lickety split toward the stable. As we sped past one another, he yelled, “Where’s the horse?” I yelled back my reply, “Stable! Where’s the bow?” He yelled, “Cardboard box!” We both kept running pell mell in our own opposite directions. I retrieved my equipment, then still a bit shaken, hurried off across the desert toward home.

Bug collecting and ‘the FBI’ club
The  small creatures which lived in burrows on the desert floor, under the old boards, cardboard and tin were different than the types I’d seen in Michigan’s temperate woods. As my interest turned into a hobby, I collected examples of the various life forms that I could catch.
For preservation, each creature was put in its own labeled jar of rubbing alcohol. I borrowed books
from the school library and wrote about the creatures ecology, including its description, habits, food preferences and adaptations to the hot and arid conditions. Among the creatures in my collection were a Gecko lizard, Blue Racer lizard, Black Widow spider, Tarantula, Tarantula Hawk (a wasp), Horned
Toad (a lizard), Black Back Scorpion, Yellow Back Scorpion, a large centipede, a millipede, and a bat.

Soon after moving to East Limberlost Road I started a club named “The Federal Bureau of Investigation”. The club consisted of a couple of new playmates, Linda and myself. I made each
of us a “FBI Club Identification Card, which my parents thoughtfully preserved over the years for me. At twelve years old, I stood 4 foot 9 inches and weighed 73 pounds.

Traveling across the USA on a Greyhound bus
During the early summer Grandma and Grandpa Pierce sent my parents money to purchase me round trip Greyhound bus ticket so I could travel to Michigan and visit  them. As a mere eleven year old I was excited and nervous over my up coming big adventure. It wasn’t often that someone my age got to travel across country on a bus all by themselves. As the departure day approached, I packed a suitcase and Mom made a small cardboard name tag which was pinned to my shirt.

Internet  image: The Greyhound buses I traveled on were similar to the one shown at right.

The family drove me to the Tucson Greyhound Bus terminal and waved good-bye as the bus pulled away.
So, at eleven years and eleven months of age I traveled across the USA alone, changing busses two times, (once in St Louis, MO) buying my own meals, and looking out for my own welfare. That was the first time I was really allowed to demonstrate an important responsibility. Of course, the alternative to personal responsibility would have been becoming lost somewhere on the North American continent. During the several day trip, I  sat looking out the window at the passing scenery, occasionally
chatting with what ever adult passenger was seated next to me, and looking about at the sights of people talking and riding the bus.
During the 1950s, riding Greyhound Bus Lines was a convenient and inexpensive way to travel, the people were just common folk. Over the years, the use of private cars and airplanes for long distance travel cut into Greyhound’s profits. For several decades, extending probably back into the 1970s, Greyhound increasingly become the mode of transport for the relatively poor. The social class of individual people (as opposed to tour groups) traveling long distance by bus declined, both racially and socially.

Meanwhile back on the farm: Grandpa Glen Pierce had come out of retirement and taken a part-time job, working rotating shifts, at some type of military hardware factory near Benton Harbor,
It  was a real joy being back on the farm, running, playing and visiting all the neat old places I had enjoyed so much: the foot bridge behind the barn needed rebuilding, a new Tarzan vine needed cutting, I had a bow and arrows to make…

Grandma tells me the old family stories
While visiting my grandparents, I slept with Grandma, downstairs, in her big double bed. Often she
was up until sometime after I’d gone to sleep, but once in a while, if I was up
late and she went to bed earlier than normal, we’d have a chance to talk and sometimes that talk was about our ‘old time family’.
Among the interesting stories she told me were:

1.  “In the old days,” seven (or several) Anderson brothers and their family rode west on horses with covered wagons and their families. Most of the brothers and families traveled together, from near Xenia, Ohio to Iowa. She thought her maternal Grandfather, Harmon Anderson’s family, came later; traveling part way by river boat, then by train.[2]
2. When Grandma was a child, her mother Anna Flora told her about how her own father, Harmon Anderson had gone to fight in the Civil War. After Harmon had not been heard from for a long time and fearing the worst, his wife, Margaret (Horney) Anderson, who was at wits end, went to a fortune-teller. The fortune-teller told Margaret that Harmon was not dead, that he would soon be coming home, but when he did come, he would look so different he wouldn’t be recognized.
It wasn’t long after this, while the young Anderson children were in town that they passed two bearded, partially crippled and limping soldiers returning from the war. They didn’t learn until returning home later, that one of the men was their fatther, Harmon. When the children first came home and saw one of the soldiers, at their house they were afraid and ran and to hide in the barn.
3.  Grandma Elsie, also said that when she was a child, and she’d  done something wrong to really rile her father, George Grubb, she’d get out of the house in order to avoid his temper and the sound thrashing that was sure to follow.  She’d run upstairs to her bedroom, crawl out her window and run across the porch roof, climb down the trellis and run over to the neighbors until tempers quieted down.

Ha. Isn’t it interesting how we all remember our fathers as such ferocious ‘spanksters’? I guess Dad’s have a generic knack for being able to scare the ‘bejebbers’ out of a wrong doing child.

4.  Several times, Grandmother told me of a haunting experience she had a few years earlier, on the night of 30 December 1950, the night, unbeknown to her at the time, that her mother, Anna (Annie) Flora Anderson Grubb, died.
Grandma Elsie and her Mother had been emotionally close to one another their whole lives. Grandma said she was laying in bed going to sleep, when suddenly, just beyond the foot of her bed, she saw standing the glowing image of her mother. Grandma said she sat up in bed startled and frightened. Anna’s glowing image told her, “If you are afraid, I can not come back.” The apparition then disappeared.
The next day Elsie and Glen received a phone call from relatives in  Grand Junction, IA,
informing them that Anna Flora had passed away during the night.

September: SEATO
During September, SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) was formed with alliances and pacts between the USA, Britain, France, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

Movies I went to see with my friend Mike Smith’s family:
20000 Leagues Under The Sea with Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas

Movies our family saw together (parents choice), all seen at the drive-in theaters:
Bad Day at Black Rock with Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger
Demetrius and the Gladiators with Victor Mature, Susan Hayward, Michael Rennie
Jivaro with Fernando Lamas, Rhonda Fleming, Brian Kieth, Lon Chaney
Magnificent Obsession with Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Rush
River of No Return with Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Rory Calhoun, Tommy Rettig
The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurry, Jose Ferrer
The Naked Jungle with Charlton Heston, Eleanor Parker, William Conrad
The Silver Chalice with Paul Newman, Jack Palance, Virginia Mayo
White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen

 “[1]  Forty two years in the future, in a typical correspondence letter, from my father,  I learned Mary Smith died on 7 Feb 2006, at or near, Prescott, AZ.
[2] From the  October 1900, Greene County, Iowa obituary of William Anderson, elder brother of my ancestor, Harmon Anderson:
“In 1856 they came to Iowa driving a Conestoga wagon, typical of the Pennsylvania Dutch. He [William Anderson] was the only one of the brothers to make the entire trip overland. He came overland from Ohio and was some six weeks in making the trip. Now the journey can be made in less than 48 hours. At that time, Des Moines was his Post Office and nearest trading point. Many were the changes in his ninety years. Steam applied to navigation had been in use but three years when he was born. The first railroad was built when he was but fifteen years old. He was thirty-four when the first telegram was sent. Our country was war on four different occasions during his lifetime.
It is interesting to recall some of the changes brought within the 90 years he lived. Steam had applied to navigation but three years before he was born, and had become of little practical value up to that time. He lived through the years of the War of 1812, the War with Mexico, the Civil War, and the late Spanish-American War. The first railroad in America was built when he was 15 years of age. He was 34 years when the first telegraph message was sent. In his boyhood the farmer gathered his wheat by the handful, reaping it with the hand sickle. It was trampled from the straw by oxen, threshed out with the flail. No other 90 years of human history can compare with the 90 years which mark the limit of his earthly life.
In the autumn of 1856 with his family he moved from Greene Co. Ohio to Greene Co. Iowa on a farm about 3 miles southeast of Jefferson, which he had purchased the fall before. For 30 years he lived upon the same farm but in 1886 he sold the old homestead and purchased a farm of M.B. McDuffie, to which he removed and where he resided until the spring of 1899, since which time he has made his home with his eldest daughter, Sarah C. Snodgrass of this city
William Anderson was the father of seventeen children, thirteen of whom were yet living and were present at the funeral. He had 50 grandchildren all but two of whom were living and 18 great grandchildren. His immediate posterity on the day of his death, living and dead was 85 souls, 79 of whom were still living, and nearly all were in attendance at the funeral.
He was one of six brothers and two sisters, of whom only two brothers survive him; Abijah Anderson and Robert Anderson of Spring Valley, Ohio. Two other brothers, Preston and ♥ ‘Hiram’ (Harmon) came west many years ago and settled in Greene County.

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1953, age 10-11

Themes and Events:
* Jonas Sauk announces the first successful vaccine against poliomyelitis. During the previous year 50,000  Americans were struck by polio, 3,300 died from a Polio epidemic that peaked in the  U.S.A.  from 1942 to 1953. During the epidemic there were periodic forced closings of swimming pools, movie theaters, and other places where children gathered in large numbers.
* The 29,000 foot high, Mount Everest, was successfully climbed for the first time by Edmund Hillary, Tensing Norkay and a Nepalese tribesman.
* The Soviet Union explodes its first Hydrogen bomb. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin dies. Queen Elizabeth II ascends to the throne inGreat Britain.
* Televisions are now in 60% of all American homes; the first issue of TV Guide is published. The wide
screen Cinemascope process for making and showing movie, begins to rapidly  expand in theaters. Low cost aerosol cans become common place dispensing everything from dessert toppings to oil based paint. Sales of the game Scrabble make it one of the best selling board games in history. Playboy Magazine goes into publication with a nude photo of actress, Marilyn Monroe.
[Photo above left: A school picture of me, in ’53.]

Eisenhower and a booming America
On January 20 General Dwight Eisenhower, was inaugurated as President of the United States.  During World War II, ‘Ike’ became popular as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces. Eisenhower was nearly bald; a mild mannered man with a big friendly and warm smile.  Ike liked to play golf, so the most common image we, the public, had of him was as he puttered around out on the golf green.  At the time golf was a leisure sport of the ‘well to do’.  America was booming industrially and these were good times. Perhaps with everything going so good for us, we didn’t need the image of a “working” President. Eisenhower’s Vice-President was Richard Milhouse Nixon.

Personality clashes on the farm
In the spring of 1953 while after living on the farm all winter there occurred two sad personality clashes. During these brief periods, the inevitable friction caused by two families living together flared into arguments; unfortunately my behavior was a catalyst for one of these quarrels.

On one warm, early spring afternoon, I went outdoors to play. In doing so I did not wear my rubber goulashes to protect my shoes from becoming muddy. Mom saw me outside without my rubber boots and called me in to put them on. I didn’t do what I was told,  but continued playing. A few minutes later Mom came out and scolded me for not obeying her instructions, then Dad came to the window and shouted at me. With the threat of a spanking rapidly becoming a possibility, I began to cry.
Between Mom and Dad yelling at me and my crying, Grandma was drawn out onto the back porch to see what was the matter. When Grandmother didn’t see why Mom and Dad were getting so excited about getting mud on my shoes, she jumped into the situation on my side. Then tempers really boiled over. I was immediately sent to bed, in Grandpa’s room although it was only the middle of the afternoon. Then a yelling match developedbetween the adults down in the kitchen. Later, when things quieted down, Dad came upstairs and whipped my butt good.

In the second altercation, Grandma and Mom got into an argument in the kitchen. Grandpa, Dad, Linda and I were seated on the couch in the front room watching a weekend TV program when suddenly the yelling suddenly started. We immediately quit watching our program and sat apprehensively looking at one another and toward the kitchen where all hell was breaking loose. No one moved or spoke as we tried to make sense of what was going on. Finally, Mom came running out of the kitchen, through the dining room and into the front room with Grandma right on her tail.
Grandma was mad and was yelling, “This is my house and I’m not going to be told what to do in it.” Mom was crying. It was a very sad occasion, doubly so because I hated to see my Mother and Grandmother, both of whom I loved so very much, angry with one another.

A family temper trait?
There seemed to be a predisposition toward a rather quick temper that has come down the family line. This disposition to “fly off the handle” over  misunderstandings or other occasional trivia is directed at family members, not unrelated persons. The route followed by this trait seems to have come through
Great-grandmother, Anna Flora Anderson Grubb to her daughter, my Grandma, Elsie Grubb Pierce, then to my Dad, Robert F. Pierce, and unto me. Except for a child getting a cuff upside the head or a smack on the rear end — just to make the threat more real — I’ve never heard of or seen any violence from these  momentary tempers flare-ups. I think that in me this trait was more prominent
in my younger years, for having grown to middle age I seldom become angry[1]….and later still, at age 69, I no longer seem to get angry over anything, simply feel sad or have hurt feelings.

Swinging on broken tree limbs
On the Fourth of July holiday, my aunts, uncles and all the grandchildren gathered at the farm. As was usual, the adults were all in the house. The women in the kitchen each putting together a different course for the evening meal. The men were seated in the front room watching a sports activity on TV.

Meanwhile, we grandchildren were behind the barn climbing on Grandpa’s large scrap lumber pile, climbing trees, etc. As we played, I found several partially broken Maple or Oak branches. Normally these branches stood out from the tree above our heads, but broken they hung down to where we could reach them. What was particularly opportune about this was, that these branches hung down right over the top of the ravine that ran along and behind the barn. After selecting the strongest branch and giving it a test tug, to make sure it wouldn’t break, I swung out over the ravine and it’s mucky spring water bottom.

After several of us tried out our new swing and finding it fun, ran to the house to fetch our parents so they could see our neat invention. None of the adults were interested in our new “Tarzan vine” particularly if they had to expend the energy get up and go outdoors. However, after persistent and prolonged nagging by us kids, the eight adults finally gave in and traipsed out. We guided them across the farm yard, behind the barn, through waist high weeds, to a good vantage point beside the gully.

Since I had found the branches, was eldest and instigated the affair, I got to swing first. I took hold of the limb and backed up the hill, then, with a mighty lunge took off in an arc over the gully. Midway in my flight, the broken limb came free. With the limb still clutched in my hands, I continued flying outward and down, through smaller branches, finally descending into the gully and landing in the mud. A little shaken and disoriented, but mostly embarrassed, I crawled back up the slope and out through the brush.

Once everyone saw I was all right, the adults laughter and chides began, shaking their heads and laughing they turned away and walked back to the house.
We didn’t swing on broken tree limbs after that!
Some forty years later, my Uncle Bill still remembered that episode an brought it up to me, we both had a good chuckle.

Moving toArizona
During the summer of 1953, the family moved to Tucson, Arizona, where Dad had found employment at Hughs Aircraft Company in Tucson.

One late afternoon during the trip we encountered a quite scary dust storm.. We’d stopped for supper in a small town in either Kansas or Oklahoma, after the meal we turned  south off the main street and proceeded out of town. Lurking at medium distance was a huge ominous dark cloud, that sat upon the ground and extended from horizon to horizon. As we drove closer, the dust cloud loomed higher, finally enveloping us in a very low visibility swirling brown environment of low visibility. When we arrived in Arizona, Dad had to file a claim with the auto insurance company as the car’s wind shield was pitted.
Above, an Internet image, ca 1935: This ominous wall of billowing sand  is very similar in look to the storm  we encountered.

For the rest of the summer and briefly into the school year we rented and lived in a duplex. Dad found employment as an electrician at Hughes Aircraft Company south of the city.  Living in Arizona was a lot different than Michigan. Arizona was hot and dusty, there were the brown looking Mexican people who spoke Spanish, there were odd looking animals, and equally odd looking plants.

One evening around 8:00PM while Dad was at work, Mom, Linda and I were in the front room listening to the radio, coloring and playing. Mom got up and walked into the kitchen for something. Suddenly, in a very excited voice Mom called me. Somewhat apprehensive, I jumped up and ran to her as she backed out of the kitchen pointing to a corner of the floor.

Talk about surprise! Running back and forth along the bottom of the door was a huge, ugly twelve to fifteen inch long brownish-yellow centipede.  The miniature monster ran on dozens of legs which extended out from along the sides of its body, each leg ended in a sharp looking point; the creature also appeared to have pinchers at both ends. This was not the kind of thing we were use to seeing back east. Mom watched it for a moment, then determining it wasn’t going to attack, she hurried across the room and opened the door. The centipede ran outdoors and disappeared into the dusk. That episode taught us to on the alert for Arizona’s exotic and potentially poisonous insect life. As the weeks, then years passed, I found Arizona’s desert environment an interesting place to live and explore.

Memories of the Telephone System, 1953 [2]
The only problem I could find with the telephone service in the early 1950s was that nearly everyone still shared a “party line” with one or two other families. In order to identify which family was receiving a call, the phone had a ringing code; for example, one family might have two short rings, a second family on that line might have two long rings, while a third family might have one long and one short ring. Everyone on the party line heard the ringing, but only the family whose code was rung was suppose to answer the telephone. Occasionally, a person confused the code and answered someone else’s call.

The real problem was with the busy bodies” who would quietly and carefully pick up the phone and listen in on the party line conversation. I think everyone did this in varying degrees so no call was really considered private.
Anyway, when a “busy body” picked up the phone, you could almost always hear a tell tale “click,” occasionally you’d hear a radio or children talking in their background. Also, if you were on the phone more than a couple minutes, invariably, someone from the party line would pick up their phone and sarcastically say, “Hurry up!” or “Get off the line! Other people want to use the phone!”
Through the decade of the 1950s, all the residential telephones I recall seeing were of the substantially built, heavy duty, glossy black and rotary dial variety.
As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, telephone numbers were lengthened a digit or two. Inorder to help people remember all the numbers, the first two digits were said as an alphanumeric code, for example, EDgewood 2486 would be dialed, ED-2486. The pneumonic made it a lot easier to remember those long strings of numbers. As telephone service penetrated suburban America, “private lines” replaced  the party line and it became more and more common for chatty conversations. As the number of telephones increased, the telephone company adopted seven digit phone numbers, for example, 387-2486. The seven digit number persisted into the 1990s.

Grandma and Grandpa Pierce visit Arizona
A few weeks after we moved to Arizona, Grandma and Grandpa Pierce drove out  to visit on an extended vacation. They rented a furnished apartment in Tucson and immediately began seeing the sights. Both were very taken with the Arizona desert with its rugged hills, mountains, vegetation and the beautiful sunsets.

As a hobby, both Grandparents began learning to draw desert scenes. Grandma bought a box of artist quality pastel chalks and several related instruction books. Grandpa bought a professional watercolor set. Both bought artists tripods, canvas stools and the appropriate drawing paper.  When they were not with us they were learning to draw or at some location in the desert creating images.

Grandpa Pierce’s drawing
Years, after Grandpa Glen’s death, in 1959, when I’d grown to adulthood, Grandma Elsie, gave me a water color painting that Grandpa had made during a visit to Arizona. Description: In the five by seven inch painting, the observer is looking across the desert toward a reddish yellow sunset. In mid-distance are the coarse outlines of brushy vegetation, closer rise the dark silhouettes of several desert palm. For years I kept the painting in my Baby Book, then in 1985, noticing how fragile it had become, I had it professionally mounted and framed. This is the only piece of memobralia that I know to exist, which was touched by and fashioned by Grandpa Glen Pierce’s mind. My Mom and Dad have a framed, small pastel chalk drawing made by Grandmother Elsie during this same general time period.

My Mom and Dad have a framed, small pastel chalk drawing done by Grandmother Elsie during this same general time period.

Our tract home in south Tucson
After several months we moved into a nice tract home on Rincoln Road.  This was the nicest most modern house we’d lived in to date and was the first time we’d lived in a suburban housing development.  The houses were neatly organized in their tract home community. All were one story ranch style with a light pastel stucco coating exterior. Linda and I were registered at the Peter Howell School.
Photograph at left: The family lived in this tract house at 748 Benton Blvd, Tucson, AZ, located on the south side of the  city, while Dad worked at Hughes Aircraft Company. My bedroom was located in the rear left corner seen here.

A block from our house
was a forty to sixty acre parcel of undeveloped desert that was fun to explore.
It didn’t take long to learn about “jumping” Cholla cactus, Prickly Pear cactus, scorpions, tarantula’s, Velvet ants, centipedes, Black Widow spiders and many other dangerous or potentially dangerous denizens of the desert.

The desert had a wonderful earthy smell when wet. The hours just after a rain were quite enjoyable, the break in the desert heat appreciated by man and the little beasties. Immediately after an infrequent Arizona rain, all the insects would come out of their holes and hiding places and creep around darting this way and that across the desert.

On occasion several neighborhood playmates and I had rock fights with some older kids in the nearby desert. One group would hide around several abandoned and stripped cars, the others would simply stand out in the desert. We were far enough apart where there was little chance of actually being struck by a rock, but there was just enough danger to keep it interesting.

While living in south Tucsonour family attended the St James Methodist church, where Clovis B. Snider was minister.  When we lived in Michigan Mom and Dad would occasionally send me to church alone and periodically they would attend as well.  After moving to Arizona and far from the rest of the family, we began attending church more frequently — as a family.

Movies that I saw alone or with a friend this year;
Abbott and Costello Go To Mars with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Mari Blanchard
Shane with Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon DeWilde

Movies the family saw together (parents choice);
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Charles Coburn
King of the Khyber Rifles with Tyrone Power, Terry Moore, Michael Rennie, John Justin
Niagara with Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotton, Jean Peters, Casey  Adams
The Living Desert An interesting science documentary of animal life and survival in the southwestern American desert.
The Robe with Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Jay Robinson

[1]  And  yet much later, being 65 years old at this writing, now retired and having moved to Texas…I find that I really don’t become angry. I’m more prone to sit and listen to the other person and almost do things their way, simply because having things ‘my way’ is no longer as important as it once was. Besides if a person doesn’t like something and can’t solve it, they can simply just move on, why become angry?
[2]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

Chapter 1952, age 9-10

Themes and Events:
• The first successful open heart surgery was performed at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
• The first full scale Hydrogen Bomb in history is exploded by the U.S.A. at Eniwetok Atoll in the
South Pacific.
• The first pocket size transistor radios are introduced –by the Japanese.
• This was the first year in seventy one years that there were no lynchings in the United States.

Moving to far away California
Soon after the end of the 1951-52 school year, Mom and Dad stored our household furniture in the barn at Grandma and Grandpa Glen and Elsie’s farm and we drove across country to Los Angeles, California.  Lockheed or McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation was hiring to fill an airplane manufacturing contract and Dad was looking for a better paying job.

We rented a very  small, furnished, one story, unattached bungalow apartment in a sun baked, dusty court of about a half dozen apartments. The bungalows were owned by Mr. Brodrick Crawford who was the gruff speaking and  popular star of the weekly television series, “Highway Patrol”.
Our bungalow consisted of essentially three rooms:  a small kitchen, front room and  bedroom, and of course a bathroom.  In the front room were two couches that opened into twin size beds. The couches were separated by a small end table with a lamp on top.  Mom and Dad slept in the bedroom, while Linda and I slept in the front room on the fold out beds. (Above image: Hollywood Freeway 1952)

These apartments were located immediately south of a major airport that was undergoing extensive construction.  I’m not sure, but think it was probably the Los Angeles International Airport.  Several times, after the  workers had gone home for the day, some of us children who lived in the court would walked over to the construction area and play.  It was particularly exciting exploring the long dark subterranean, concrete tunnels that were being built. I suppose when the project was finished, these “tunnels” were concourses from the main terminal to the individual airline boarding areas.

 Night of the Unidentified Flying Objects
A very interesting phenomena occurred one evening during the summer of 1952.  It wasn’t long before bedtime, the family was sitting listening to the radio, when suddenly a nationwide news story interrupted local programming.  Several saucer shaped, “Unidentified Flying Objects” had been detected on radar near Washington, DC.  Over the next hour or so, we sat nervously listening to the radio.  Live radio coverage continued to fill the airwaves regarding the spectacular and
disturbing effect. A small group of UFOs flew to Washington and hovered high over the White House.  People in the streets saw strange lights in the sky that zigzagged one moment and hovered motionless the next.
Commercial and military radar followed the movement of these night sky visitors.
Occasionally a UFO would accelerate and almost instantly fly off the radar screen. Then one or two others would be seen crossing the radar screen at great speed to join the small main body of craft above or near Washington D.C.

The radio announcers’ voices were excited, there was occasional confusion as they tried to figure out what was going on.  We sat silently looking at the radio, aghast at the implications, listening intently.

Several jet fighters were scrambled from a nearby Airforce Base (Patterson, NJ?) to intercept and investigate the U.F.O.s.  As the military aircraft approached Washington D.C., the UFOs began to move away. The jets accelerated inorder to over take the retreating glowing lights, but the U.F.O.s dodged and zipped away at right angles to their previous flight paths. Finally, in an incredible burst of speed, the U.F.O.s climbed high in the sky and whisked out of sight, then off the radar screens… and they were gone. The phenomena was headlines in nationwide newspapers for several days.

(Internet images, 1952: Above, UFO’s over capitol building. Below, radar images, UFO’s over Washington DC.)

There were 3 nights of intense activity over Washington, D.C. On July 19/20, July 26/27 and August 2/3, the skies above the nation’s capital were crowded with UFOs darting here and there, over the White House, over the Capitol Building, over the Pentagon.

They were seen from the ground, seen and also detected on radar from control towers at Washington National Airport, Bolling Air Force Base across the Potomac River, and from nearby Andrews Air Force Base. The radar operators conferred by telephone to ensure they were tracking the same targets. In many cases, airline pilots flying in the area were able to provide visual confirmation of radar  tracking.

The appearance of unidentified objects flying with impunity over the heart of the American government and its military establishment was embarrassing to the Department of Defense, whose responsibility it was to protect the country from airborne intrusion. A flood of questions from reporters led the U.S. Air Force to call its biggest, but also most embarrassed and confused press conference since World War II.“
A few years later the Soviet Union and United States began a new form of rivalry, the “Space Race”.

Moving back to the rural Coloma farm
Toward the end of summer a lot of workers, including Dad, were laid off at the aircraft factory.  I don’t think Dad looked for another job in California, we just packed our few belongings and drove back to Michigan.
It had been interesting living in dusty, arid California, but I was glad to be going back to Michigan where my relatives lived.
(Photograph: Front of farm house. In 1952, my bedroom with Grandpa Glen was inside of the
smaller facing windows upstairs at the left side of the house. I fell asleep every night, looking out over the countryside from the small window just to the right of the fireplace chimney.)

For the next six months or so, our family lived with Grandma and Grandpa Pierce on their farm near Coloma.
The farm was the best place I ever lived as a child. There was so much to explore and do. It was a place to hunt the imaginary Mastodon, it was the home of the dangerous Saber Toothed Tiger, it was a place of fun and fantasy, it was a place to grow.

When we moved into the large, remodeled three story farm house, Mom and Dad were given a furnished upstairs bedroom, which incidentally was normally Grandpa’s bedroom. I slept across the hall in the guest bedroom with Grandpa. The guest bedroom had a large, steel tubing, double bed against the wall. Right near the head of the bed was a small window that looked out over the front yard. I slept next to the window each night going to sleep whilst watching summer give way to fall and fall to winter.

(Photograph: Backside of farm house, ca 1945 The back of  the G.K. Pierce farm house as seen from along the driveway, near the chicken coop. The back door was the most frequently used door as the cars were mostly parked by the near by barn, left rear of photograph.)

My sister, Linda, slept down stairs with Grandma, on her large wood framed, double bed. Grandmother’s bedroom was inside the two windows seen at the center of the lower level. Of course at Linda’s and my age, we  were always asleep by the time the adults came to bed. Being asleep ahead of time was desirable in Grandpa’s case, because he snored quite loudly, making it difficult for anyone to go back to sleep once awakened.

 The Shafer side of my family
We didn’t visit my Mother’s side of the family very often and I don’t know why. Up until the early 1950s, about the only contact we had with the Shafer side was to visit my maternal Grandpa, Pearl Shafer.  Very seldom did we ever visit the Shafer’s and very seldom were we ever visited by them.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, we lived only a few miles away, between a fifteen and thirty minute drive  from my Shafer Aunts and Uncles, and Grandpa Pearl Shafer’s farm.
We saw Grandpa Shafer more frequently than all my Shafer uncle’s families and other relatives from that side, all put together; too bad, it was an opportunity for a lifetime of contact that has been lost.

(Photo left: 1942, Pearl Elmer Shafer and Alma Delight Kellogg Shafer visiting my parents in Brookfield, holding me when I was 3-4 months old.)

Grandpa Shafer occasionally came to visit us.  The visits were short, lasting only a couple of hours at a time. Usually, my Dad was at work when Grandpa Shafer visited. There was no animosity between Mom’s father and my Dad, I think Grandpa Shafer just didn’t get up and about until later in the day and that’s when he visited.  He would sit at our big, round wooden dining room table and chat with Mom, occasionally stopping to play rough house with Linda or myself.

While we lived in Michigan we visited my Shafer uncles and their families perhaps two or three times and that’s about all they visited us.  As time passed, correspondence between these people and my parents diminished, becoming basically nonexistent after 1953. The only person Mom seems to have kept in touch with over the years, was her nephew, Duane.  I don’t know why the relationships were allowed to dissolve, but as a guess: The Shafer’s were high school educated people with a non too affleuent farming history. My paternal side of the family were all college educated, except for my Dad, who at the time had finished two years of college. The Shafer’s had been rural farmers during the 1800s, while my dad’s family and the Grubb family had been teacher, professor, small businessman, a railroad station agent, large land owning farmers, and much more urban in outlook.

The slowly dissolving relationship with the Shafer side of the family can be seen earlier in this autobiography:  Right after my birth, Grandma Alma Shafer came to Illinois for a week to help her daughter, my Mother, with the household chores.  Not long after this, Mom took me on a trip to Michigan.
Together with her sister in law, Aileen, we greeted Mom’s brother, Harry Shafer, who was just returning home from World War II, England.  Also, during the first couple years of my life, I received quite a few Christmas and birthday presents from the combined Shafer family.  By 1952 the Christmas present exchanges had dwindled to zero.
Although I was way too young to understand such things at the time, the exchange of presents is a good indicator of shared feeling and felt obligation.

What ever socialization was lost on the Shafer side was certainly made up for on my paternal side of the family.  While we lived in Coloma, our family visited Glen and Elsie’s retirement farm almost every weekend. It was a great place to play, and did I ever play hard there!

Memories from the Pearl  and Alma Shafer farm
While Glen and Elsie, my paternal grandparents, had been college educated, professional people during their working years and retired to a ‘hobby farm’, my Shafer granparents Pearl and Alma, were full time, life long farmers with at most, only high school educations.
My Dad’s family had a small 15 acre fruit farm for retirement income, the Shafer’s a 40 to 80 acre fruit farm. Glen being an engineer, designed and remodeled their large old farmhouse. Pearl built a one story board home with tar paper siding immediately next to that of his Kellogg inlaws (literally, a dozen yards away).

Everything about the Shafer farm seemed old, and used, there was not with the same feeling  of prosperity, neatness and detail encountered at Glen and Elsie’s farm.

The included photographs, show a partial portrait of the farm’s home and yard.

The Shafer’s were a hard working family. Grandpa, Pearl, an easy going man, worked the large fruit farm and had a seasonal fruit picking crew of southern workers billeted in several ramshackle  cottages near the barn.  I might point out here that Grandpa Pearl’s mother was Elsie Easton, daughter of Pulaski Easton the California Gold Rush ’49er I’ve written a story about in category, My Family in History.
Grandma Alma who was probably the more organized and efficient of the two, was for many years,  supervisor in a  factory.
(Photo above: My mother, Hazel, age 3-4  years, ca. 1924, she is standing at the corner of a drive-in corn shed, also seen in the 1941 photograph below. Below: 1941, my mother’s cousin, Duane seated in the Shafer farm yard.)

In 1946, Grandma, Alma Delight (Kellogg) Shafer, suffered a fatal stroke while attending a movie in Hartford, with husband Pearl, and grandson, Alan. Alma died a few days later at the age of fifty six years. Grandfather, Pearl Shafer, continued living alone on the family farm until his death fourteen years later.

I remember Grandpa, Pearl Shafer, and can easily recall his image.  My memory of him comes from my childhood, when I was between the ages of about four to eight years old. In these memories: “Grandpa is always wearing faded coveralls. He never seems to be in a hurry, he walks slow, moves slow and talks slow. I think he spends a lot of time sitting at his cluttered kitchen table, also watching television. I know he likes watching the Red Skeleton Show, infact I think he looks a little like Red Skeleton. Grandpa likes to raise bees. He has lots of bee hives and never gets stung. I’m afraid of bees. Grandpa is a good person, cheerful and friendly, but I don’t like to get too close to him. Although Grandpa likes me, he has a funny way of showing it, everytime I come near him, he pinches me or pulls my ears. Both hurt. Grandpa can sit still, smile and wiggle one or both his ears.”

My paternal grandparents: Glen and Elsie Pierce
Although my father was the youngest of three sons, I was the first grandchild born to Glen and Elsie.  Being the first grandchild put me in somewhat of a special relationship with Grandma.  From my earliest memory, Grandma Elsie and I were true blue buddies.  Grandma spared no effort to spoil me and she stood up for me whether I was right or wrong.  I loved Grandma as long as she lived, and after.  When she aged, and was alone there were times we leaned on each other for support.  As I write these words, it’s been decades since her passing, yet tears well up in my eyes at the thought of her.  I loved Grandmother Elsie (Grubb) very much, she has been one of my closest friends in this life.

Grandma Elsie (Grubb) taught school, had been Principal of a small school and raised three sons in her younger years.  Since retiring to the fruit farm, she  was busier than ever..  During the 1940s and ’50s, she kept a large house, maintained three large gardens, did lots and lots of fruit and vegetable canning, helped sort and pack the farms fruit, raised chickens and sold eggs.
Grandma was smart and clever.  She had a tendency to be pushy and if pushed, she got mad, fast.  She was never mad or pushy at me, Grandma and I were pals. (Photo right: Elsie Grubb, abt 45 yo, ca. 1934).

I’ve heard from my Dad that when he was a boy, on occasion when Grandma got really mad the family would duck and the dishes would fly.  Once she broke a dish over her middle son, Jack’s head for not being apologetic enough for arriving home late for supper.

The combination of her being smart, clever, a little pushy and aggressive worked out for the good, when it came to selling fruit farm’s product.  I recall taking several trips with Grandma and Grandpa, in their 2- 1/2 ton truck, to a large open fruit market in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  On such occasions the truck was loaded with either: bushels of apples, pears, plumbs or peaches; some of which I helped pick , grade and pack.

The market was an interesting place, with many dozens of truck of all different sizes parked in rows separated by driving lanes.  There were lots of farmers and ‘purchasing agents’ walking about, calling to one another,  and climbing on the trucks to inspect produce.

While at the market, I stayed with Grandpa, either sitting in the cab of the truck, or atop the stacked bushel baskets on the flatbed.  Meanwhile, Grandma went to find a buyer and ‘horse trade’.  She had a knack for trading and always seemed to get a little better price than Grandpa.  There were always a few bushels with the very best of their crop placed right at the back of the truck, within easy reach of the buyers.

Before the buyers arrived to make their inspection and purchase offer, I was instructed to be readily available on the back of the truck.  If a buyer asked to have the top of a bushel basket removed for inspection, I would innocently take the top off one containing their best produce and quickly hand out several of the largest, shiniest best apples for inspection.  Once the produce had been inspected and a price worked out, we were given a ‘dock number’, where the produce was to be taken for unloading by the workers.

Although Grandma was a bit outspoken and aggressive, this trait was counter balance by her being generous with her family.

Elsie wasn’t as organized or as fastidious as her husband, Glen.  Her bed was never really well made and her dresser was a study in disorganization. Opening one of her dresser drawers was like opening a ‘jack in the box’ toy.  Items of clothing were stuffed into the drawers so that each drawers contents were under compression.  When a drawer was tugged open, thus releasing the pressure, clothes fairly popped up and out, making it difficult to reclose the drawer.  Although Grandma had cluttered drawers and a overstuffed closet filled to the brim with clothing and women’s hats, the large farm house was always clean and orderly.

Grandpa, Glen Kenyon Pierce was a tall, quiet, educated and easy going man.
Although he was  organized and excellent at planning detail, he was not fussy. Grandpa was not nearly as outgoing as Grandma and he tended to be a little aloof.  I think Glen and I share a common faculty, in that we both live more within a world of ideas, being perhaps a bit more introverted than the women in our lives.
 I must have taken after Glen in other respects too, because I am neat and orderly, clothing in my dresser drawers are always folded and organized in batches.  Whereas Elise’s’ clothes  closet and dresser were packed to capacity with clothes, Glen was rather  Spartan.  In his closet, suits and work  clothes were hung nicely and spaced.
His dresser drawers were only half filled and his clothes,  appropriately folded.  Everything seemed to have a place and everything was in its place. Grandpa was neat. Grandma was relatively messy when it came to such things.  My own dresser is filled to capacity with clothing, but everything is organized, creating a composite of  my grandparents traits.
(Photo left: Glen Kenyon Pierce, abt 53 yo, ca. 1940)

For as long as I can remember, Glen and Elsie slept in separate bedrooms.  At the farm, Elsie slept on the main floor, in a bedroom that overlooked the farm yard, facing north.  Glen slept up stairs toward the back of the house, his windows overlooking the south and west orchards, except while we lived at the far, then Grandpas and I took the upstairs East facing bedroom.

Unlike my parents, I don’t recall seeing my Grandparents openly display affection for one another.  I should point out that by the time I was ten  years old and old enough to really know my paternal Grandparents, Glen was already sixty five  and Elsie, sixty three years old.  Glen and Elsie were born during the Victorian times of the late 1880s, a period when virtue and appearances were very important.  They were products of an era when public displays of affection were not considered

Glen was a Bell Telephone Long Distance Telephony eresearch engineer and later an Engineering teacher.  He personally remodeled their farm house’s interior and exterior.  He installed indoor plumbing, remodeled the large old barn, built a chicken coop, planted peach and apple orchards, designed and built a large mechanical apple sorter.  Glen was a tall quiet man who spent a lot of time working alone. He knew what he was doing and when he was done you could see his work was professional. It didn’t matter what he was involved with, whether it was planting acres of orchard, moving the produce to market, designing architectural modifications to the house, electrical work, or plumbing, he was good at it all.  That’s not to say he did everything himself by hand. He hired work crews and machinery as was required. He was a modern engineer in his time, using the equipment available in that time.

ClymerElementary School
During the fall of 1952, after our return from California, Linda and I were enrolled at Clymer  Elementary  School. The small, rural school was located about one mile NNE of my Grandparents farm, on Clymer Road, in the southeast corner of an intersection. The two room building sat in the country, surrounded by cornfields on two sides.
It had First to Fourth Grade classes in one room and Fifth to Eighth Grade classes in the other.  In terms of student numbers, I seem to recall there being twenty five to thirty children in each room.  The building had a two room basement. In one room was located its furnace and coal room, while the other basement room was occasionally used  to show educational movies.

Each class room had one teacher who tried to spread her time as equally as possible amongst the four grade levels in her charge.  From what I recall, this method of teaching wasn’t conductive to a real learning experience.  The teachers presented new materials or problems to one grade, while the other grades worked on their own arithmetic, spelling or reading. After 15 or 20 minutes she would move to the next grade level and pick up where she left off. When the teacher’s attention was occupied working with the kids in one grade level, many kids in the other grades would eventually finish their work then sit looking absentmindedly around, drawing pictures, whisper or half heartedly working on other assignments.

The school bus route came past the farm on the final leg of its journey to school. Fortunately, Linda and I only had a five minute ride going to school. The trip home was terrible, because the driver followed the same route in the afternoon as he did in the morning; the first kids on in the morning were the first ones off at night. Although we had a five minute ride to school, it took us forty five minutes to get home.  Consequently, Linda and I walked home more often than we rode the bus.
Winter afternoons in southwestern Michigan weren’t usually very cold, so except on stormy days, we preferred to walk home, arriving back at the farm a half hour before the bus passed.

Early recollections of  television
During 1949 or 1950, my grandparents bought a television[1].  They were the first ones I  knew to have a television, so we enjoyed watching the programs everytime we visited the farm.  During the fall and winter of 1952, while we lived on the farm, I found  thrills every Saturday morning watching Tom Corbet- Space Cadet[2] and Space Patrol (with Commander Buzz Corey) Other particularly important TV programs for a boy my age were The Roy Rogers Show[3] and Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid, Howdy Doody, and The Lone Ranger.

When my Grandparents and parents watched TV, they preferred: The Jack Benny Program, You Asked For It, You Bet Your Life (with Groucho Marx), I’ve Got A Secret, and The Liberace Show.

Usually, on Saturday morning  the adults were busy: The men were either at their jobs or working about on the farm, the women were involved with cooking, dishes, grocery shopping or light farm work. Linda usually tagged along with my Mom, so I had frequently had the television to myself.

Internet images of the TV programs I watched during the early 1950s:
Left to right: Roy Rogers and horse Trigger;
The Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver;
Hopalong Cassidy and Topper,
and best of all, Tom Corbett , Space Cadet (standing center)

One Saturday morning, I saw the strangest thing imaginable during a commercial break! Considering all the TV programs available during the early 1950s, we saw very few Negroes, essentially all the actors were ‘Anglo’.  Once in a great while, you’d see a Negro in a program, but when you did, they were always portrayed as happy go lucky, lazy, lapsidasical, and perhaps cute. They all spoke with a strong Southern accent and were frequently dressed in ragged, tattered clothing.  Negro roles included: slaves; unemployed agricultural laborers;  friendly, smiling, comical, and sometimes musically oriented servants.

Until that day, I’d never seen a Negro make a commercial.  Lo and behold!  A well dressed Colored man was shown walking up the concrete or marble entry stairs to his East Coast style brown stone house.  As he casually came up the steps, all dressed so fine and dandy, like a well to do middle class White, he paused momentarily, smiled and spoke directly to the viewing audience.  The Negro admonished us to buy Pepsodent  toothpaste.  Even as an eleven year old,  I understood that this was not the way things were done, it almost making my eyes pop out!
After that, “black and white” TV took on a whole new meaning.

By 1995, some forty three years later there are several ‘all Black’ TV situation comedies and others programs with jerky acting, ‘token’ white people filling the roles  once reserved only for Blacks.  Most current commercials are Black and working class oriented. State & local TV news now feature Black on Black homicide, or Black drug arrests with essentially every scheduled broadcast.

Television use to be a middle class gadget, now its geared to and produced for the lower classes.  For the most part, during the current 1990 to 1995 period, weekly programming consists of: situation comedies, nearly continuous sports events, police and hospital dramas, daytime soap operas, children’s cartoons, biased national and international news, program and movie reruns, and infomercials (half hour long sales pitches in a news style or testimonial format).

Elsie’s gardens, canning, cooking
Grandma Elsie, maintained three large vegetable gardens on the ‘retirement farm’ where she grew the full range of common vegetables. Grandpa used the tractor, plow, discs and harrow to roughly prepare the soil every spring, after which Grandma did the planting and weeding. Although the gardens were never named, I’ll name them here for sake of description.

The largest of her gardens
was North garden (see G1 in drawing below), located between the house and the barn. North garden was approximately seventy feet wide and one hundred fifty  feet long. It was bordered on one side by the driveway and on the other by a  tractor trail that ran from the barn, past the homes back door and on south out to the orchards. This garden was only partially planted every year yet it contained huge quantities of tomato, cucumber and various squash. The chicken coop was only about a hundred feet from the North garden, so white and reddish brown chickens could always be found rutting around amongst the plants looking for bugs and pecking the ripe tomatoes.

The second garden, South garden (see G2 in drawing, where Grandma Elsie was working at the time of her 1940s photograph), was located just south  of the house, beyond a ten foot high or taller, hedge of honeysuckle bushes. It was roughly a square, or about twenty five to thirty feet wide and as long, and partially planted to vegetables (including rhubarb) and several ornamental bushes. South garden sat beside the previously mentioned tractor trail. In one corner of the garden was an old two hole outhouse, which was only conservatively used by the male  grandchildren.  South garden was used to raise such perennials as rhubarb and gooseberries, also peas and string beans.

The third garden, Long garden (G3),  ran south beside and parallel to Spring Hill Road. It was located only about a fifty feet from South garden and only a short walk from the home’s front door.  It was a long narrow patch of ground being about twelve feet wide and about one hundred feet long.  Long garden was planted to row crops such as different varieties of carrots, lettuce and beets. There was so much produce from these gardens they were only partially  harvested for consumption and canning.
Besides Grandma’s gardens, Grandpa had two small areas under cultivation, each being perhaps a half acre in size. West of the house, downhill and near the woods, was a small cornfield. About six hundred feet south of the house, in the middle width of the farm, was a small field of potatoes. (Photo ca. late 1940s,  Grandmother Elsie working in her ‘south garden’. ‘Long garden’ is just beyond trees behind her.)

Grandma did a lot of canning. One section of the basement wall had five foot high shelves running along it. The shelves were packed with glass jars filled with her tasty canned jams and jellies, various vegetables, vegetable mixtures, relish, many types of canned fruit, pickles and chicken.

Grandma made pies quite often, and when she did, she made a several at a time. It seemed there was almost always either an apple, pumpkin, rhubarb or mincemeat pie, partially eaten and waiting for sampling in the refrigerator. I particularly liked her apple pies with their thick crust and sweet apple contents. After baking apple pies, Grandma would apply a liberal sprinkling of granulated white sugar to the top of the golden brown crust.
To my young palate, her pies were the golden gilt on the lily.

As great as Grandma Pierce was at canning and baking, for some unfathomable reason, when it came to breakfast, she never got the hang of making a good plate of bacon and eggs. Perhaps she spent too long making a tall pile of toast, squeezing fresh orange juice, pouring the milk or setting the table — all while the eggs and bacon sat in their skillets frying. All I remember is that her eggs were always cooked to a leathery consistency and the thick, slab cut bacon was almost always overcooked and burned.

What ever was lost at breakfast, was made up for at lunch. Grandma always had either homemade soup, crackers and cheese or a tasty sandwich’s of one sort or another. Her supper meals were also tasty, hearty and robust, often containing chicken or pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, string beans or corn, white bread, and for us kids, whole milk.

Introducing the rest of the  family
During those years (ca 1946-1952) that we lived in Coloma and then on the farm, my entire paternal side of the family would gather for holidays, some birthdays and less frequently on weekends. By 1952 the family consisted of Grandmother Elsie, age sixty three years and Grandfather Glen, sixty five years,  their three sons, their son’s wives and six grandchildren.

The eldest of my grandparents son’s was Uncle Bill (William Glen Pierce, born 1914, age thirty eight in 1952) and his wife Aunt Elizabeth (Hubble), also thirty eight years  old. Bill was an mechanical engineer, a serious sort of fellow and the last of the three son’s to marry. His eldest son, Richard, was one year younger than myself, while their daughter, Margaret, was the youngest of the grandchildren,  born in 1948.

Uncle Bill and I began writing to one another after I left home and joined the Army.  We maintained close contact with each other for over thirty five years and were in many ways closer than my own father and I.

The middle son, was good natured, Jack (Jack Pershing Pierce, born 1918, age thirty four in 1952).  Jack married Julie (Wilkinson). Their sons were, Jack Jr. at the time called, ‘Jacky’, who was two years younger than I, and son Robert Charles, or ‘Bobby’, as he was called in those days, born in 1947.

My Dad, born 1920, age thirty two,  and Mother, Hazel May (Shafer), born 1921,  were the first married of the three son’s, while I was the first born of the grandchildren, being born in 1942,  my sister, Linda was born in 1946.

Family “get togethers” at the farm
In 1952, during the family get together’s, we grandchildren were naturally segregated by age into two groups: 1) the “Big Kids” – including myself, 10; Richard, 9; and Jacky 8;  the “Little Kids” – Linda, 6; Bobby, 5; and Margaret, 4 years old.

These were exciting times for we grandchildren. There were buildings to explore and play in, there were woods and ravines to explore, a stream, “Tarzan vines” to swing on. The twenty acre farm was a place for kids to run absolutely wild – and we did.

At family get togethers, the “Little Kids”, looking for fun and direction to their activities, wanted to tag along where ever we oldsters went. This always developed into a game of “Ditch the Little Kids”.  We’d run away and hide, or try to hide, from our younger siblings, so the game immediately became a sort of Hide and Go Seek.  If the youngsters gave up on us and found themselves something to do, we’d reignite their interest and the chase.  We’d climb about amongst the fruit crates on one side of  the barns split loft, then climb and tumble amongst hay and straw bales in the other half of the loft. We’d slide down the hay chute into the bottom level of the barn where the cow and pigs lived. We ran through the woods around the barn, ducking our way past bushes that bordered one of Grandma’s gardens and sneak up to the house. Steal through the house so as not to upset or cause suspicion amongst our parents then hurry down the back steps into the basement.

As we ran wild and carefree, we’d occasionally sneak into the chest freezer that set beneath the basement stairs. In the freezer was always stored four or more half gallon cartons of variously flavored ice-cream, i.e. vanilla, chocolate, an off flavor and Neapolitan. We made sure there were always several large spoons stuck in amongst the cartons.

On occasion, Grandpa would make a batch of homemade ice-cream for the family. We kids learned fast to keep a check on the ice cream’s progress as Grandpa turned the crank on the icecream maker.  Shortly after the ice-cream had thickened and he’d returned upstairs to visit, we “Big Kids” and occasionally the “Little Kids” would pry the lid off the freezing cylinder and sample the sweet goodness.

On these big family get-togethers, the adults always stayed in the house. The women could usually be found in Grandma’s kitchen, sitting around the kitchen table, leaning against the counters chatting and helping prepare meals. The men sat about in the front room chatting while watching baseball, football or what ever sports event that happened to be on TV.
Of course, we children always were outdoors playing, except for meal times and when it became too dark to see.

Grandkid construction projects
Over a period of several years, cousin Jack and I built a tree house in a large tree just south west of the front yard, near Spring Hill Road. At the height of its glory, the tree house consisted of a non level triangular floor without walls or roof. Access was almost always made using one of Grandpa’s fruit picking ladders.

As our early years passed, we kids attempted a variety of construction projects about the farm. Most of the projects resulted in one or more of Grandpa’s tools being temporarily or permanently lost. Since we only put the tools away, at most, half the time, Grandpa usually had to make a mental note of where we were “working.” Later, if he couldn’t find a tool, he’d look around on the ground at our latest construction site. Occasionally, a well rusted tool would show up the following spring after the snow melted.

It seemed Grandpa always had several hand saws and hammers in various stages of rust, in either the barn or basement workshop. For all the lost tools and spent nails, Grandpa never scolded any of us kids directly. The most he’d ever do when we began a new construction project, would be to shake his head and groan, with full knowledge that he’d soon be looking for his tools and would have to buy more nails in the near future.

Eisenhower President, Nixon V.P.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Supreme Commander of the Allies during World War II,  was elected President of the United States in November; Richard Milhouse Nixon is elected vice president.

  A bridge behind the barn
Near the northeast side of the barn, near the front doors, was a spring fed creek that came out of the ground and ran west, downhill through a ravine and eventually to a small stream. The  width of the muddy spring fed creek made it difficult for us kids to get from the south, barn side, to the north side of the farm. It was an obstacle that needed crossing several times a day so we could explore a thicket of Staghorn sumac and dig in the sand hill, or watch cars pass on the paved road.

In order to remedy this problem, we placed a solid wooden packing crate on either side of the five foot wide muddy area then laid two twelve foot lengths of old lumber across the boxes. The boards were set one atop the other so they wouldn’t break when we ran across them. The slope of the ravine on either end of the boards made it easy to run down one side straight across the bridge and on up the other slope. Our bridges planking boards were quite old, being left over from the house remodeling project that Grandpa finished about ten years earlier.

Of secret places and solitude
At times when I was playing alone, I would cross the bridge and go into a small peach orchard uphill from the sumacs. This was a private place out of everyone’s sight, a place I’d go to sit, be quiet and appreciate nature. I sat on the ground facing west, downhill, looking out over the sumacs and the woods below.
On my left was the spring fed creek, ravine and woods, behind me the peach orchard and a small rise. On my right, a sand hill rose cutting off view of the passing, paved county road. Several times I came here to make myself a crude bow, several arrows, spears and stone headed axes.
At various times, armed with my most recent weapons, I’d stalk downhill through the sumacs and into the swamp area below, while exhilarating daydreams of hunting prehistoric beasts or seeing a real fox filled my mind.

The sand hill
My grandparents had six or eight one hundred fifty foot long rows of grapes planted on the sand hill in the farms northeast corner. The rows ran east- west, parallel to the paved county road, but were set back up on the hill and about seventy five feet in from the road. At its highest point, the sand hill rose about eight feet higher than the road. In an area that extended between the grapes rows and the road there was a particularly sandy strip that looked like it had been a sand dune at one time.  In that strip of sand, Grandpa and Grandma reported occasionally finding flint Indian arrowheads. We grandchildren did a lot of digging on the hill, making underground “forts”, we found quite a few natural pieces of flint, but never did find any chipped pieces. Once we dug a hole in the highest point of the hill looking for an Indian burial chamber.

The Tarzan vines
From the back of the farmhouse the property sloped down hill toward the west to a steep wooded ravine maybe eight hundred feet away. Flowing from north to south at the bottom of the ravine was a four to six foot wide and eight to twelve inch deep stream. The previously mentioned spring that ran downhill from beside the barn emptied into this stream about one hundred yards north. Here there
were long “Tarzan” vines hanging from amongst the tree tops along the ravines embankment. The best vines were rooted on the steep wooded slope uphill from the stream. When a vine was cut we could walk back up the slope with the free end in hand, turn and holding tight, make a death defying swing way out over the gully. Without question, a drop from the end of the arc would have meant at least a fifteen foot fall, then a terrible rolling tumble downhill into the stream at the bottom of the grade.

[1989 photo looking downhill and west from directly behind the farmhouse. In the 1940s and 1950s the grassy area encompasing the entire center of the image, was a well mowed, hearty, orchard filled with row after row of peach trees. At the bottom of the hill was a large area  planted with   corn.  The Tarzan vines were on the edge of a ravine in the woods at the bottom of the slope, in the top left corner of this picture. The spring fed creek behind thew barn, comes down from the right side of the picture. A chicken coop and the barn are a couple hundred feet to the right.]

Winter Sledding
Much of the farm was on the west slope of a hill with a stream (and the Tarzan vines) as its western boarder. The slope started beside Spring Hill Road, at the houses front driveway, and continued past the back door, past the chicken coop and on down toward a small cornfield near the deep wooded ravine. We kids could start near the front of the house, take a running start to build up speed, flop down on our sleds and slide up to three hundred feet down the hill.
When the snow surface was glazed over just right, a single ‘sledder’ could slide all the way down, almost to Grandpa’s small cornfield.  (About to where the trees at mid distance jut out a bit from the right.)
When all the relatives were together for Christmas or New Years holiday, a floodlight on top the  windmill tower was turned on.  With illumination we could stay outdoors and play at night until we were tired and worn out from exertion in the cold. It was wild, it was fun, and, it was glorious!

Dad, almost electrocuted
When my grandparents bought the retirement farm, it had a working windmill located about half way between the back door and the barn. Apparently they didn’t want to depend on the windmill, so a electric pump was installed in a below grade sump pit beneath the windmill tower.  In about 1940, at around age twenty, before my Mom and Dad were married, Dad was in the sump pit working on the wiring for the new pump. While working he accidentally grabbed hold of a live electric wire. The current surging through him made it impossible for him to let go. Instantly realizing that he was being electrocuted, he managed to throw himself off balance and fall and in doing so the wire was pulled from his hand. Lucky for him and lucky for us.

More than once our family line has persevered against fear, danger and the possibility of imminent death by fast thinking and luck.
Recall that colonist ancestor, John Howland, was washed from the deck of the 1620 Mayflower on its voyage to the New World.  John had gone on deck while the ship was being pitched and tossed about in a terrible storm. When he lost his footing and went overboard, he happened to grab hold of a halyard that was trailing in the  water. He held on to the rope though was at times submerged, finally he was rescued by the crew who pulled him back on board.
And consider ancestor, Margaret Seybert, a young pioneer girl who surviving a Shawnee Indian attack that killed most of her family, taken captive, then later escaping from the Indian village.
Or Civil War ancestor, Harmon Anderson, captured and held prisoner of war; then barely surviving conditions at the notorious Confederate Andersonville stockade in Georgia.
Or maybe even my twenty one military parachute jumps from an aircraft flying 145mph at 1200 feet altitude.

Movies that I saw alone or with a friend this year;
Red Planet Mars with Peter Graves, Andrea King, Orley Lindgren

Movies the family saw together (parents choice);
Above and Beyond with Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker, James Whitmore, Larry Keating
Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Joey Walsh
High Noon with Gary Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado
Jumping Jacks with Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Mona Freeman, Don DeFore
The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima with Gilbert Roland, Angela Clarke, Frank Silvera
The Snows of Kilomanjaro with Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner
The Story of Will Rogers with Will Rogers Jr., Jane Wyman, Carl Benton Reid, Eve Miller
With a Song in My Heart with Susan Hayward, Rory Calhoun, David Wayne

[1]  The first commercial TV stations began in 1941, and by 1950 there were 104. About 4 million households had TV sets by then and relied on television for diversion.
[2]  ‘Tom Corbett, Space Cadet’ actor dies at 85, Updated:10:41 a.m. May 17, 2006
LOS ANGELES – Frankie Thomas, who became famous in the 1950s for his starring role in the TV children’s show “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet,” has died. He was 85. Thomas died Thursday of respiratory failure at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his stepdaughter, Julie Alexander. Thomas began acting on Broadway in the early 1930s and soon ventured west to Hollywood, where he appeared in films including “A Dog of Flanders,” “Boys Town” and “The Major and the Minor,” as well as four Nancy Drew movies. In 1950, he beat out actors including Jack Lemmon to win the title role of Tom Corbett, a Space Academy cadet who was training to become a member of the elite Solar Guard, 400 years in the future.
“Frankie looked like the all-American boy,” said Jan Merlin, who played the wisecracking cadet Roger Manning. “Everyone in the room knew immediately this was the guy we were going to get.”
The show aired on CBS, ABC, NBC and the DuMont network and spawned popular phrases including “Blast your jets,” “Don’t fuse your tubes” and “Spaceman’s luck.”
Thomas quit acting when the series ended in 1955 and, over the years, worked as a television and radio writer, bridge instructor and author of mystery novels, including “Sherlock Holmes and the  Masquerade Murders.” He is survived by his stepdaughter and a stepson, James Aicholtz. At his request, Thomas was buried Tuesday in his “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” costume.
[3]   Roy Rogers Dies at 86 :    LOS ANGELES  6  July 1998 (AP) — Roy Rogers, the singing “King of the Cowboys” whose straight-shooting exploits in movies and television made him a hero to young fans and No. 1 at the box office, died today. He was 86. Rogers was a Depression-era truck driver, peach picker and country singer who in 1937 landed a $75 a week job as singing cowboy atHollywood’s Republic Studio.
In 87 modest-budget films, armed with a guitar, six-shooters and charm, he rose in salary and popularity to “King of the Cowboys.” For 12 years — 1943 to 1954 — he was No. 1 Western star at the box office in a magazine poll of theater operators.  Loaded with fights, always fair, and chases that corralled the bad guys, films with names like “Under Western Stars” and “Song of Arizona” were especially popular in small towns. His television series, which ran from 1951 to 1957, and thereafter in reruns, had similar appeal.
Rogers preferred to play down violence, shooting the gun out of the villain’s hand, rather than hurting the villain himself. He criticized other, more violent Westerns.  “When I was a boy, our parents taught us that hitting below the belt was a cowardly thing,” he once said. “I don’t believe this kind of thing is `entertainment’ no matter how you look at it.”
In many films and in the television series, he co-starred with Dale Evans, whom he married in 1947. Featured were his famous palomino horse, Trigger, and his dog, Bullet. His sidekick in films was bewhiskered Gabby Hayes, in television Pat Brady.  Rogers’ rodeo grossed $425,000 on a tour of state fairs, and he estimated it cost $30,000 in 1960 just to answer his fan mail. Rogers was born Leonard Slye (some references say Sly) on Nov. 5, 1911, in Cincinnati, of part-Indian ancestry. The family moved to California  in 1930.
He was getting some singing work on radio when “I heard a rumor they were testing for singing cowboys out at Republic,” he once said. “I guess you could say it was fate.” He recalled that the only way he was able to get in the studio was by waiting until the workers began returning from lunch and sneaking in with them.
The couple became well known for their Christian beliefs and spoke at many religious gatherings, including some of evangelist Billy Graham’s. She wrote several inspirational books.  “In the Bible, it doesn’t say you’re going to get by without having troubles,” Rogers once said. “I’m not a fanatic about religion. I think it’s a practical way of life.”

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Chapter 1951, age 8-9

Themes and Events
* The Univac 1  (filling the entire  room in photo at left) and Ferranti Mark 1  were the first commercially manufactured computers put into use, they were used at the U.S. Census Bureau and at Manchester University in England, respectively.
* The term “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined to describe the Rhythm and Blue songs that became popular amongst white youth.
* Paperback books enjoy a boom year in sales, leading an increasing number of publishers start their own “softback” lines.
* The Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb.

End of the piano lessons
When I first began taking piano lessons, I enjoyed the novelty, but as the months passed, having to practice scales and play the same monotonous tunes every day became drudgery.  During the summer months, when my friends came over to play touch football, in our rather large side yard, I had to sit in the house and practice the piano.  I don’t know why I wasn’t allowed to play outside first, then do the piano practice routine when my friends were gone.  Never-the-less, in the fullness of time, Mom grew tired of her practice too, so, much to my relief the piano lessons and dreary daily practice were terminated. Amen.

Our east coast vacation
During the summers of 1950 and 1951, our family took vacations to the eastern seacoast. The trips, made in our new car, resulted in visiting many very interesting historical sites which were all related to either the Anglo colonization of America,  Revolutionary War or the Civil War.  Although I’m unable to unravel in my mind the order of our travels during these vacations, we visited such places as: Fort Ticonderoga; Kennebunkport, Maine; Boston; the Pilgrim’s Plimoth Plantation by Plymouth, MA;  Valley Forge, PA; many historic buildings and alleys in Philadelphia;  the Capitol building and monuments in Washington, DC;  Kings Mountain Battlefield; Bunker  Hill; Jamestown and  Williamsburg, VA; the Smokey Mountains; and New Orleans.

Southern racial attitudes
During one vacation, after touring Civil War battlefields in Virginia, we drove across several southern states enroute to New Orleans. When we stopped for gasoline I saw an unusual, but not unheard of sight: Southern gas stations had two drinking fountains along the side of the building, not one, like we had at gas stations at home in Michigan. The taller, clean and snow white porcelain drinking fountain was labeled “White”. The other, a short, very dirty old fountain was labeled “Negro”. The gas stations also had three bathrooms labeled:  1) White – Men,  2) White – Women  and  3) Negro.

In context of “modern” attitudes, the social attitudes of the South seem very prejudiced. However, looking at the situation from the viewpoint of a 1950s southerner, forty years earlier Negros weren’t even provided “facilities” and eighty five years earlier they’d been slaves. There was always progress being made toward “equality”. The rate of progress just wasn’t fast enough for some Negros, particularly one’s who found they could capitalize on the evolving status quo, to their own social and economic gain. Today’s Negro heroes and leadership, including, Reverend Martin Luther King, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Malcolm X, and others sprung from their scurrying between one Black – White social confrontation and another, between one photo-op and the next.

Care and cleaning of the Chevrolet
Where ever we traveled, we stopped to see the museums associated with historic attractions.  We slept in motels at night and spent our days traveling between points of interest.  Often when we took our motel room early in the afternoon, Dad used the opportunity to wash and “shammy” the Chevrolet before the family went out for supper.  Mom and Dad took good care of the car and it lasted them many years.

Tonette class
During Third Grade I learned to play the “tonette”, an instrument very similar to the English Recorder.  I did quite well in Mr. Otto J. Hara’s music class, because I could already read music from my “old, piano playing days”.

The Sunday School blaas
Often on Sunday mornings during good weather, Mom and Dad would send me to Sunday School alone. I had to ‘dress up in slacks and wear a white shirt with small bow tie. The outfit looked odd to me and the bowtie was tight and pinched my neck. I think I rationalized those occassional Sundays, supposing one might as well be dressed uncomfortably for a chore whose purpose you don’t understand and which you really don’t want to do!
Ha! I never thought about it until later years, but suppose Mom and Dad shuttled me out of the house so they could return to bed for sex. At the time, Linda was still very young so it would have been easy to keep her distracted and occupied, but they knew I was inquisitive… and nosy.
Occasionally, the rest of the family would show up for church services which was even worse, because it stretched the hour for Sunday School into nearly two hours with the addition of Sunday morning worship services.
I was bored to death and died a million times, sitting through those long eloquent sermons when there was so much to do outdoors!

Adventures in Storyland
Our Third Grade Music Class put on a play for the community, entitled “Adventures in Storyland’.  We “actors” had simple, homemade costumes appropriate for our parts.  I played one of a half dozen “milkweeds” who sang a nursery rhyme. On the night of our grand performance, the short musical play was fun, but standing infront of an auditorium filled with people, was scary.

A game I learned from my Mom and played on occassion with Linda or classmates at school was the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.  In the game, two children count to three and simultaneously present their right hand which must be formed in one of three particular shapes: 1) a ‘fist’ signifies an imaginary rock, 2) an ‘open flat hand’ represents a piece of paper or 3) the index and middle finger open while the thumb, 4th and 5th finger are closed to imitate ‘scissors’. The winner is determined by noting: rock smashes (beats) scissors, scissors cut (beats) paper and paper wraps (beats) rock. So each object beats one object but loses to another. When in my middle childhood years this was a fun game to occassionally play.

By 1951, I was old enough to be allowed to attend the Saturday afternoon movie matinee by myself. The Loma Movie theater was located on Main Street, only two or three blocks from our house. The main feature always had an associated cartoon, a newsreel and a “cliff hanger serial” movie. Admissions to the matinee admission cost 25¢ and my box of unbuttered popcorn cost 10¢.

Movies I saw by myself or with a friend (my choice);
Superman and the Mole Men with George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jeff Corey
The Red Badge of Courage with Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, John Dierkes, Royal Dano

Movies that the family saw together (parents choice);
Captain Horatio Hornblower with Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty
David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Raymond Massey
Jim Thorpe-All American with Burt Lancaster, Charles Bickford, Phyllis Thaxter
Quo Vadis with Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov
The Great Caruso with Mario Lanza, Ann Blythe, Dorothy Kirsten
Westward The Women with Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Hope Emerson, John McIntire

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Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963