Tag Archives: autobiography

Chapter 1981, age 38-39

 Themes and Events:
*  The Rubik’s Cube brain teaser toy becomes the rage.
*  The video game Pac Man shows up in arcades and living room all across the country.
*  The most popular movie of the year was Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
*  The government creates a “superfund” for environmental emergencies and to clean up toxic waste sites.
*  The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in Atlanta publishes its first report on the AIDS epidemic.
*  An article in the New England Journal of Medicine links cholesterol with coronary heart occlusion, the debate over dietary cholesterol begins.
*  Researchers create the first transgenic animal, inserting viral DNA into the DNA of a mouse, such creatures, carrying human genes serve as models for studying human diseases.
*  The Space Shuttle Columbia makes its maiden voyage, becoming the first manned spacecraft to land as an aircraft on its wheels, rather than parachute in and “splash down” in the ocean.
Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Make somebody happy: Mind your own business.
*  Save an alligator, eat a Preppie.
*  Answer my prayers, steal this car.
*  The only way they’ll get my gun is to pry it from my cold dead hands.
Ronald Reagan becomes President
On January 20, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. George Bush Sr. becomes Vice President. Immediately after the swearing in process, news came out that Iran was releasing all fifty two of its American hostages. The coincidence was delightful, but alarming and everyone wondered what we secretly ‘gave away’ to ‘buy back’ the hostages.
The Society of Mayflower Descendants
After what seemed a long fall and winter of waiting, I finally received my certificate of  membership, from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants at Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was admitted to the society as a descendant of John Howland, on January 24, General Society Number #45302 and Minnesota State Number #547.

[Document photocopy: General Society of Mayflower Descendants certificate #45302, awarded upon confirmation of my descent from Pilgrim ancestor, John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley-Howland]

While waiting for the Society’s Historian General to validate the Howland genealogical line, I sent in  supplemental proofs of descent from Pilgrim Richard Warren, also a passenger aboard the 1620 Mayflower.

[Document photocopy: Mayflower Descendants, General Society of Mayflower Descendants supplemental certificate, awarded upon confirmation of my descent from Pilgrim ancestor, Richard Warren.]

We found that John Howland’s wife, Elizabeth Tilley’s parents, John Tilley and Elizabeth Comyngs, came to the New World with their daughter on the Mayflower[1]. Meanwhile, Richard Warren had left his wife and daughters in England and traveled here looking for business opportunities.
So, counting John Howland, Richard Warren and the Tilley family, that meant my immediate paternal family descended from at least five passengers aboard the 1620 Mayflower.

Books read during the year
I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
Better Read Than Dead: The Complete Book of Nuclear Survival © 1981 by Thomas R. Nieman – Effects of a nuclear weapons attack on the USA, fallout shelters. 193 pages.
Cycles of War: The Next Six Years © by R.E. McMasters – Discussion of various economic, social and war cycles that seem to be converging.  217 pages.
Life After Doomsday: A Survivalists Guide to Nuclear War and Other Major Disasters © 1980 by Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D. – How to survive a nuclear war, home fallout shelters, food storage, medical equipment and home defense. 185 pages.
The Alpha Strategy © 1980 by John A. Pugsley – A book touting the purchase and storage of tangible wealth, items produced by man, to counter the effects of inflation.
Stalking the Wild Pendulum © by Itzhak Bentov – On the mechanics of consciousness and experimenting with time. 233 pg.

Music [midi: Dr Zhivago]

Our Bio-Organic French Intensive garden
In May, as soon as we could work with the soil, we began cleaning up the garden. It had been left a jumble of roots, rocks and clumps of top soil from the backhoe work we had done the previous Fall. We removed  wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of old root chunks, small sticks and rocks. There were so many rocks in the garden, and about the yard, that when they were accumulated in one spot, we ended up with a rounded pile about three feet high and eight feet in diameter!

Our neighbor, Bobby brought us two ‘manure spreader loads’ of cow manure, from a half year old, rotting pile beside his barn. One load was spread directly onto the garden before spring tilling, the other was used in the orchard and vineyard.

During the previous winter, Donna and I read a gardening book on the Bio-Organic French Intensive Method. This gardening technique used raised garden beds, deep cultivation, heavy compost additions, and close planting to provide up to three times the vegetable production from the same garden area as common row gardening.

The raised bed method was said to: increase the surface area planted, provide better drainage, while beds densely planted to one species created an environment more compatible with that species. The continuous leaf cover across a four foot to five foot wide bed was said to reduce weed problems and help maintain soil moisture content.

Our first Bio-Organic French  Intensive Method garden consisted of five beds, each four feet wide, and one bed ten feet wide. All the raised beds were twenty-six feet long, with a two foot path between them. Among the crops planted were: Corn, green snap beans on tripod trellises, beets, carrots, lettuce, onions, potatoes, various squash, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

[Photo ca 1982, taken from a ladder: A portion of our Bio-organic, French Intensive garden. We never were able to eat all the vegetables we raised, so frequently gave the extras away to co-workers.]

In our small orchard and vineyard, we planted: three dwarf apple trees, two cherry, two plum, two blueberry bushes, six currents, two Hazelnut, five each Beta and Concord grapes, hundreds of red raspberries and hundreds of Ever bearing and June bearing strawberries. When each tree and bush was planted we added a full wheelbarrow load of rotted cow manure and straw to the hole before refilling. We had spectacular crop success using the Bio-Organic French Intensive Method.

The asparagus bed
(See photo above: The tall wild looking greenery located across the  top, left to center, background is the asparagus bed)
Using shovels and expending a great deal of labor, we dug a five foot wide and twenty foot long by one foot deep hole for an asparagus bed. We shoveled a layer of cow manure into the hole and covered this with a layer of black dirt, added another layer of manure and the top layer of soil.
When the bed was ready to plant, we drove to St. Cloud and bought root stock for one hundred asparagus plants. The individual roots were carefully spaced and each covered with soil.
Over the next couple of years, as asparagus shoots came up in the spring, we added compost, manure from the duck shed and more top soil until the bed was brought up to the level of the surrounding ground.
We allowed the asparagus two years of growth to establish their roots, before we began harvesting shoots. The asparagus bed paid off, providing us with the best tasting fresh vegetables! Over the next few years,  as the early Spring weather warmed, either Donna or I went out to inspect the asparagus patch daily, looking for growth and licking our lips with anticipation.
Fresh asparagus was always cooked and eaten as soon as enough was accumulated for a meal; and those meals frequently included barbequed steak. Hmm Mmm, heavenly!

The Trash Can pit
During late Fall 1980, when we had Butch Chemielewski come out with his back hoe to dig up and turn the garden area soil, we also had him dig a ‘trash can pit’ for the household’s solid, non combustible
waste. The pit was dug in the woods, about thirty feet outside of the proposed  line for our back yard (north) fence. The pit was dug about six feet wide, nine feet long and five feet deep.

Early this spring, Donna and I put a fence up around the pit. When we tossed our first cans and bottles
away, they looked so small compared to the size of the hole, we chuckled and commented that it would take a long, long time to fill with rubbish…and the years passed.
[Photo: The new trash can pit. Used as a landfill for cans, bottles and other non biodegradable, non combustibles. See a picture of the pit in Chapter 2006 when it had become (full) filled with 26 years of family ‘history.’]

In time, the scars created by the backhoe became overgrown with grass, moss, saplings, and flowering wood anemones, everything was covered with leaves that fell every Fall, creating a thin layer of topsoil.

As the pit filled, the weight of the growing refuse column, plus rusting in the lower levels, caused the pile to collapse in upon its self, but slowly we saw the hole becoming more and more ‘shallow’. Eventually, several of the non pressure treated posts rotted away, the fence fell over, the refuse heaped up to become a circular mound contained by the base of the old fence….cans, bottles, tricycles, bicycles, microwave ovens, computers, the jetsam and flotsam of life gathered here in this time capsule of effluent.

The compost bin
During the summer, we built a compost bin to hold the homestead’s raw vegetable garbage, grass clippings, leaves, garden residue, weeds and straw. The composter was comprised of a twelve foot long above ground container made with pressure treated wood. At the corners and every four feet between, we vertically set four inch square pressure treated posts into the ground. The twelve foot long rectangular structure was subdivided into three each four foot square bins, standingthree feet high.

Pressure treated wood planks were nailed along the back and sides, and removable slats were slid into place along the front of each bin, to contain that decaying material.

We filled 2-3 bins per year. Decayed material from one bin was tilled into the garden each spring, another of straw was used for mulch. A third bin, composed of straw and grass clippings were tilled into the garden each fall.

The system worked quite well, by providing a place to get rid of a large quantity of raw organic material in an environment free of hazardous germs and being able to recycle the organics back onto the garden.

Mike and Kay visit
Mike and Kay and their children Joe, David and Laurie flew out from San Bernardino to visit with us between 10-19 July. We picked the family up at the Minneapolis International Airport using both the GMC pickup and Toyota to carry everyone and the luggage home.

Mike, had lived in suburban Los Angeles his entire life, except for four years military service in the US Air Force. Being out in the ‘deep woods’ he was immediately taken with the privacy and natural surroundings afforded our home. Every day during their visit, Mike and I would hike to some part of the property, or wander around the yard discussing in depth the various technologies of gardening, raising livestock, composting, the various types of wildlife, installing a well-drain field- building structures, putting up fencing. We had a great time, it was good visiting with my old friends.

[Photograph facing west: Mike & Kay, David and Joe cautiously inspecting one of Donna’s bee hive frames.
A few months later Donna and I had installed the yard fence that stretched along the edge of the woods in the background and came to the yard gate seen in the photo below.]

Practically every afternoon and into the evening we sat in the back yard chatting, while barbecuing dinner on our red, covered, Weber BBQ. Their son’s, Dave and Joe, explored the woods within view of the house and playing by the pond.
The Air Controllers strike
Between 3-6 August, the US Air Traffic Controllers went on a nationwide strike for higher wages; which they had coming because of the effects of inflation. President Reagan ordered the technicians back to work, but they refused to continue working without either a contract or pay hike. Reagan showed his true colors and sympathies toward the “working man” when a few days later, on Aug 6th, he fired everyone who did not show up for work on the 5th. Twelve thousand Air Traffic Controllers lost their job immediately and the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would hire replacements.

From that date on, the strength of organized unions in the U.S. declined, and Federal support continued to firmly back business at the expense of the worker.

Alexander’s run
Alexander R. Little was an ‘explorer of a bird’. Often, when we’d arise in the morning, we found him roosting on a curtain rod in the living room or above a window in the kitchen, or perhaps just scooting around on the floor. At times, when he was belligerent about going home to his cage at night, we had to close his cage door to keep him in until morning. Usually ‘he had the run of the house’

One afternoon, during the late summer, while we were grilling some meat on the barbecue for our supper, I walked outside with a bowl of barbecue sauce. Now as it so happened, over the last year and a half, I’d become so use to Alexander riding on my shoulder, that I completely forgot that a few minutes earlier, when I went in the house  he landed on my shoulder for a ride. Then going back outdoors to the barbeque, no sooner did I reached the bottom step when I realized Alexander was still riding on my shoulder. As I gasped and slowly turned my head to look at him, he flew off to circle above me.

Alexander had been spending a lot of time sitting on top the front door, just inside the screen looking at all the greenery outside. Now he was outside and free to go where ever he wanted. It didn’t look good from the moment he flew up and circled above the trailer. I called Donna, and we set out following him to a tree about two hundred feet northeast of the trailer. I shinnied up the tall thin oak and coaxed Alexander to hop on my shoulder, but since there were no limbs to hold on to, I was unable to relax my grip on the trunk and try to catch him. Climbing , back down, I called Alexander and offered my finger for him to land on, Alexander swooped down several times, acting like he wanted to land on me, but was in the last instant distracted by his surroundings and flew back to a higher limb. We kept trying to coax him to us until dusk, when he finally flew off into the woods and disappeared.

[Photgraph: An example of the woods on our property. This image take from the side of the driveway looking south, with the yellowish ‘lowland-fen bog’ in the distance.]

A couple nights later we had a light, chilly rain coupled with quite cool temperatures, I don’t suppose the little guy survived; alas, we ever saw Alexander R. Little again. For the next few days I spent some time wandering in a widening circle around where we last saw him, unsucessfully looking for his bright green plumage amongst the litter on the forest floor….

Installation of the homesite perimeter fence
Between 1979 and Fall of 1981, Donna and I frequently worked on the installation of our homesite perimeter fence. Because of the weather and the mosquito problem, we were limited to workingonly  in the early spring and fall.

Before moving the trailer onto the property, we cleared the brush from out proposed fence line and began installing posts. It wasn’t until after we’d actually moved that we were able to come home from work in the late afternoon or run outside right after breakfast in the morning and put in a wood post or two; with quick access to the tools, the fence went up relatively fast.

The nine hundred eighty foot perimeter fence was installed with a east-west width of about two hundred feet and an overall north-south length of three hundred feet. The trailer, garden, orchard were all located in the “upper yard”. Our pond, a shed (built later), and what came to be known as “Snake Flats Wilderness Camping Area” was located in the semi wild “lower yard”. The driveway came into the yard from the west, almost equally bisecting the upper and lower yard.

When we bought the property, we knew nothing about fencing. We borrowed books from the Public library to read, as well as observing how fencing was installed along the local farm fields.

We absorbed a lot of general agricultural technology from the various projects we became involved with around the property.

In order to make our fence line straight we ran a string from a main “corner post” toward the next main support post (separated by no more than one hundred feet) then installed smaller ‘runner posts’ along that line at approximately ten foot intervals.  Usually, I’d wield the post hole digger and pluck out  the top eighteen inches of the hole, then Donna took over to excavate the bottom half foot.

[Photograph: A length of finished fencing on the west side of the homesite, looking north from the driveway at yard entrance. Our Nightstar* sign and eagle are on the tall yard gate post at left.]

It seems that tens of thousands of years ago, a glacier moved across this area and left lots of small stones in passing. These rocks were in every post hole we dug. It was never a simple matter of just digging an easy two foot deep hole. We always hit a good size rock at a depth of about a foot or so and had to pry and dig around to remove it. Most holes also had several smaller rocks, ‘baby rocks’ if you will, accompanying a larger ‘adult rock’. The smaller rocks were simply thrown back in the hole as part of the back fill, the larger rocks were wheelbarrowed to the closest rock pile (down by the pond or next to the (future) compost bin in the back yard).

While Donna held the post upright and level in its hole, I’d carefully back fill soil around the post and begin compacting the soil with the handle end of the sledge hammer. We took turns digging, removing rocks, back filling and compacting. Although we always wore leather gloves, but still, our hands became rough and strong from the work.

When all of a ‘stretch’ fence posts had been installed, between let’s say, a corner of the yard and a gate, we’d lay out a roll of woven wire and secure one end to the corner post and its support. The running
end of the roll was pulled to the gate corner posts where it was secured with a “come-along” and ratcheted tight. The fencing was nailed to the end posts with U-nails then nailed to the runner posts at the proper distance above ground.
Next, we strung a strand of barbed wire at the bottom of the woven wire and three spaced, strands of barbed wire above.
When finished, the fence stood about four feet high. Each season we put in another length of fence and every season the job was closer to being done. Finally, in the fall of 1981 we finished installing the fence and put up the gates.

The fencing materials primarily consisted of:
1) Pressure treated wood: forty seven posts, each six inches diameter by six and a half feet long corner posts ($235.); seventy seven each five inch diameter by six feet long runner posts ($192.); thirty one each four inch diameter brace posts ($54.).

2) Hardware: 4000 feet barbed wire ($74.); 1000 feet of #12 gauge, thirty two inch high welded woven wire ($220.). These prices do not include the cost of our tools, post hole digger, steel U-fencing staples, the come-along, or our many, many hours of strenuous physical labor (love for what we were doing).

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1981.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  Bosom Buddies
•  Private Benjamin
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
•  The Greatest American Her
•  Simon and Simon
•  Magnum P.I.
  Masada, a miniseries.

Movies that Donna and I attended during the year include;
Continental Divide with John Belushi, Blair Brown, Allan Goodwitz, Caril Glynn
Escape From New York with Kurt Russel, Lee Van Cleef, Ernst Borgnine
For Your Eyes Only with Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lynn-Holly Johnson
Modern Problems with Chevy Chase, Patti D’Arbanville, Nell Carter
Neighbors with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Kathryn Walker, Cathy Moriarty
On Golden Pond with Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman
Outland with Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen
Raiders of the Lost Ark with Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Wolf Kahler, Paul Freeman
Stripes with Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P.J. Soles
Superman II with Christopher Reeves, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp
Tarzan, The Ape Man with Bo Derek, Richard Harris, John Philip Law
The Road Warrior (Mad Max II) with Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence,Vernon Wells
Zorro, The Gay Blade with George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro

[1]  John Tilley and Elizabeth Comyngs perished of  the “general sickness” that swept through the small party of pilgrims during their first winter at Plimoth.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1980, age 37-38


Section 4:
Little House in the Woods

-=  Beginnings  =-


Themes and Events:
*  Small pox, one of mankind’s worst scourges is “totally eradicated” (Note 2010: It was eradicated from the ‘wild,’ the disease germs still live on in global biowarfare laboratories).
*  This year Tax Freedom Day falls on 1 May, in 1960 tax freedom was two weeks earlier, on 17 April. Tax Freedom Day is insidiously creeping further and further through the calendar, leaving less money for worker expenses; it fell on 13 February 1930, 8 March 1940 and 3 April 1950.
*  A boardless, role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons becomes a big hit to the consternation of preachers who see it as a work of Satan.
The Official Preppie Handbook hits bookstores, advising the class conscious how to be more  “preppie.”
*  Professional women wearing jogging shoes become a common sight.
*  3M introduces the “Post-it” note pad.
*  The world’s most powerful radio telescope is completed near Socorro, NM. Its huge, 27 dish antenna array (called a Very Large Array) forms a massive Y in the desert, each arm stretching 13 miles.
* Inflation declines  from 18% last year to 12.4% this year.
*  The Equal Opportunities Commission issues regulations making it illegal to sexually harass women in the workplace.
*  The Census Bureau reports the U.S. population is 226,547,000.  The average age of the world population is very low as roughly 1/3 are children under the age of fourteen years.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Beam me up Scotty — There’s no intelligent life here.
*  Exxon suxx.
*  Jimmy Carter does the work of two men — Laurel and Hardy.

My resolution for the future
During the last three months of 1979 and into late January 1980, the spot price of gold and silver bullion went into a parabolic rise. Although gold and silver had been climbing during  the previous year, it was in this approximately four month period that precious metal prices simply ‘went to the moon! Gold doubled from about $375 to over $850,  while silver tripled from about $15 to $42 per ounce.

As the days and weeks passed, there were more and more news stories on television discussing the precious metals, there were occasional editorials in the newspaper, and once in a while, someone at work would wistfully mention how they wished they owned some gold or silver. The idea of making a ‘fast profit’, was spreading, it was a topic you could chat about with a coworker.

Donna and I had just paid off the property, had a well drilled and installed, and were presently saving all our extra weekly income to cover the upcoming cost of a sewage drain field, having a garage built– all the things associated with moving onto our property. We were locked into our plans with no cash for speculative investment.

In retrospect, I see that the rising prices ‘snuck up’ on everyone. Most non financial workers are busy with their job, family, friends and hobbies, mentally absorbed with the events of their daily lives. The economic specialists, the brokers and those who track the markets knew what was happening. But it was only in that last few months to a half year, when  the news media picked up on the story, and began reporting the price rise, did we in the general population begin to become aware of the explosive profit potential. The awareness came upon us like awakening from sleep… slowly and comfortably opening your eyes with understanding, conscious realization slowly filling the mind with awareness and implications from the environment.

By the time the we knew there was a quick profit to be made from running down to the coin dealer and buying a bag of silver change or a bullion bar, prices were already entering a parabolic ‘blow off’ phase.[6]

Although silver spiked to its long held record of $50, for a few minutes during one day, the market closed at only $42. The reality of the situation was that the ‘retail brokers’, being fearful of an imminent  price collapse were not paying $42 for bullion, closer to $32, while pre1965 silver coin only brought about $20 per oz silver content. So, the best price the ‘man on the street’ could get during maybe only a couple week period in the latter part of the rise, would have been about $32 per ounce. That $32 was only 60% of the reported, extreme interday blow off price, that historians are fond of reporting. The same situation existed in gold pricing. On 21 January 1980, gold spiked to a market close of $878 per ounce, but the lucky man who sold at the peak would probably have received no more than about $700 from his local coin dealer-broker.

I remember being in the Waste water treatment plant lab and doing arithmetic on how much profit I could have made over the last month or so, if I’d had $1000 invested in silver. A few minutes later, walking about the building, deep in thought, I realized: ‘If gold and silver prices exploded during the inflationary economic times we were  currently having, then at some time in the future, we would again see similar hard times, and there would be another popular rush on precious metal prices, hence another opportunity to profit’.

That morning, I made a mental note: 1) To keep my mind open to any developing ‘sea changes’ in the US economy, and in the years ahead, when there was again a growing concern over 2)  inflation or 3) other financial-military things were not going well, that I should, 4) begin buying gold and silver.

I never forget the object lesson provided by the bullion price rise of 1980, nor the mental note to my future self, meanwhile time and life passed in their normal seasons…

[The homesite on a frosty Saturday morning. Another season’s work is about to begin as we continued clearing the homesite after the 1979-80 winter break. Panoramic view extending from S (at left) to W (far right), taken from in front of our future garage location. See photo of the garage  at the end of this chapter.]

Buying a John Deere, model #70 tractor
Ever since the previous Fall, we’d been thinking of buying a used tractor to help us move brush, logs and level what would be our yard. This Spring, a supervisor at Landy’s mentioned to Donna that he was quitting his hobby farm and had a tractor for sale. We drove out to his place one weekend and looked the tractor over, listened to it run and watched the fellow drive it about and operate its hydraulic front bucket.

It was a John Deere model #70 with a four foot wide hydraulic bucket on the front, just what we were looking for. Actually it was more than we were looking for. It seemed like a great and powerful beast with its fifty horsepower engine that made a loud, deep  roaring sound with a continuous, sibilant, “chug-chug-pop-pop…” The model JD #70 is a large tractor with huge, thick, five and a half foot high back wheels that were half filled with liquid (to make them heavy and increase traction), the top of the engine compartment stood probably a little better than six feet high with a machine ‘dry weight’ of 6,035 pounds. While sitting in the driver’s seat, your eye level was nearly eight feet above the ground. (See picture toward the end of this chapter)

The owner was asking $1,800 for the machine. Later that the day, we conferred with our neighbor, Bobby, to see what he thought of the price, make and model, etc.

On March 29 we bought the tractor, then received maybe five minutes of instruction on how to drive and operate the beast. With Donna following in the pickup truck, I drove the machine slowly back to Rockwood Estates for further inspection, cleanup and storage, until we were ready to move onto our property. Needless to say, I was not comfortable about driving this large, heavy duty piece of equipment twenty miles through the cold March winds, and with only a couple minutes of instruction.

US attempts to rescue “the hostages”
On April 24, the US military launched a covert operation into Iran in an attempt to rescue the Embassy hostages. The effort failed when the US aircraft crashed into one another on their desert runway killing eight American servicemen and creating fires that could be seen for miles. It was a sad sight to see the photographic images that were shown on the evening news over the next few days: Gnarled and burned out aircraft and happy, dancing, gun waving Iranian soldiers. The Iranians had “gotten us again”, simply because we were not using our intelligence and performing properly.

Although this was a brave and daring mission,  the military was not prepared for this kind of exercise and fouled up. President Carter was blamed for the missions failure, which simply added to his growing reputation as a weak, indecisive, “do nothing” President.

We didn’t learn this fact for another ten years, but one of the great things President Carter did during his term was to signed a bill for secret appropriations to build “Stealth” technology into a new generation of jet fighters and bombers. Stealth technology helps aircraft fly undected through radar.

Alexander R. Little, parakeet extraordinaire
When our first parakeet, Icabod died, we immediately bought a second bird and set him up in Icabod’s cage. We bought new toys, perches, seed blocks and other removable items so Alexander would start out with all of his own things. During the long winter months we spoke to him, taught him to sit on our fingers and to ride on our shoulders.

Alexander became fascinated with “wrestling” with Donna’s hand. Ever so often, while sitting on the couch, reading or watching TV, Alexander would come flying into the front room, land on Donna’s knee and walk up to her hand. Donna would curl her fingers to touch her thumb thereby making a hollow spot, and Alexander would crawl inside. Donna would give him a little squeeze, turn him upside down
and tickle his belly feathers, making the bird wiggle in ecstasy. Alexander loved the attention, he was a ‘personable’ bird. Whenever one of us was at the kitchen table, writing a letter, reading, or chatting amongst ourselves, Alexander would fly over to sit on our shoulders.

Purchasing a new Toyota Corolla
Donna’s and my work schedule at Landy’s was becoming erratic, with each of us being required to arrive at different times of the morning. The length of our individual lunches varied and occasional overtime meant we were alternating waiting in the pickup for one another. As soon as we saw our schedules would remain erratic, we made plans to buy a second vehicle.

Visiting a St. Cloud’s Toyota Dealership, we test drove, then bought another Toyota Corolla. The auto was essentially the same as we owned in El Monte, California, before moving to Minnesota; and the same as I owned when living in Hayward, California.

Our new car was a 1980, Toyota Corolla, two door, with a gray body, costing approximately $3,200. As soon as we bought the vehicle, we took it to a commercial automotive radio store and had an AM-FM-cassette tape player and speakers installed. The car served us well, lasting seventeen years, until 1997.

A growing interest in our family genealogy
During the spring, my father and Uncle Bill, began coaxing me into their hobby of ‘family genealogical research’. I think my Dad and his brother, Bill, had been discussing family genealogy for some time amongst themselves, but figuring I wasn’t interested, hadn’t discussed their projects with me. Then when something about our family history was mentioned and I showed an interest, it wasn’t long before I was included in their research loop.

With growing interest, I checked out a couple “How To’ genealogy books from the St. Coud Public Library and read them in an effort to catch up with my elders and contribute some research information to the effort.

While I was still in the introductory stages of learning, both Dad and Uncle Bill announced they were filing their applications for admission to the National Society of Mayflower Descendants! I was incredulous. They hadn’t told me to what depth their research had taken them. They found that we descended from Pilgrim, John Howland, a passenger on the 1620 Mayflower.

The line of descent came down from:  1) John Howland and wife Elizabeth Tilley,  their daughter, 2) Hope Howland who married John Chipman,  their son, 3) John Chipman Jr. and wife Mary Skiff, their son, 4) Perez Chipman Sr. and his wife Judith Draper, their son, 5) Perez Chipman Jr. and Margaret Manlove, their daughter, 6) Harriet Chipman and husband William Horney, their son, 7) Jeffrey
Horney and wife Catherine Janes, their daughter, 8) Margaret Horney and husband Harmon Anderson, their daughter, 9) Anna Flora Anderson and husband George Grubb, their daughter, 10) Elsie Grubb and husband Glen K. Pierce,  their son, 11) Robert F. Pierce and wife Hazel M. Shafer, their son, 12) myself, Larry F. Pierce and wife Donna, and our daughter, 13) Jane E. Pierce.

The Society of Mayflower Descendants is a prestigious organization, the most exclusive genealogical society in the United States.
I had read somewhere in years past, that members of the Mayflower Society have come from all walks of life, from President to beggar, and that on ‘Society meeting days’ they were all one, cousins and, or, ancient friends whom had all worked together to survive as early settlers on this continent, and whose families have worked ever since to make America a opportune and desirable country to live.

God Bless them all…they would turn in their grave now, only a few hundred years later,  to see how those whom we welcomed behind us, gave our heritage away and squandered the future.

——————–  ∞  ——————

Purposes Of The Society Of Mayflower Descendants Section

1.  To perpetuate to a remote posterity the memory of our Pilgrim Fathers. To maintain and defend the principle of civil and religious liberty as set forth in the Compact of the Mayflower, “For the glorie of God, and advancemente of the Christian faith and honor of our countrie.”
2.  To cherish and maintain the ideals and institutions of American freedom, and to oppose any theories or actions that threaten their continuity. To transmit the spirit, the purity of purpose and steadfastness of will of the Pilgrim Fathers to those who shall come after us, an undiminished heritage of liberty and law.
3.  To promote the interests that are common to all the State Societies of Mayflower Descendants which can best be served by a federal body, and to secure united effort to discover and publish original matter in regard to the Pilgrims, together with existing data known only to antiquarians, and to authenticate, preserve and mark historical spots made memorable by Pilgrim association.

——————–  ∞  ——————

Questions about installing a drain field
Since buying the property, we’d come to find that we had a ‘perched, high water table’.
We had two points of concern and both reflected on the type of sewage drain field we’d have to install:
1.  The elevation where our proposed drain field would set, was only a couple feet higher than the soggy, grassy transition zone on the edge of the lowland.
2.  There was a seasonal, horizontal, subsoil transport of water down the hill. In the spring when the soil was very moist, excess water which was initially absorbed by the soil and only penetrated about a foot before hitting a hard pan of clay. The moisture slowly seeped along above the hardpan, through the soil, down the slope toward the lowland.  We found that during the spring, holes dug in the yard, soon filled with water.

During May, we hired a Soil expert from the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud campus to help determine what kind of sewage system drain field we’d need. We met the Soil expert at the property and dug several holes about the yard with the post hole digger for him to inspect. He ran a percolation test and analyzed the soil strata. In other words: The expert timed how long it took for water to begin seeping into the holes I dug, then he took a couple soil samples back to his lab in a plastic bag. We received his written report and a bill for $99 a few days later. We were advised to install an elevated drain field. As such, the drainage pipes would lay on top of the ground and would be covered with a couple feet of soil. We didn’t like the expert’s idea at all, so decided to make a few telephone calls to area contractors and ask around for some other opinions and alternatives.

The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s
Mount St. Helen’s, a volcano in Washington, that was experiencing considerable earthquake activity, erupted violently on May 18. The entire top side of the mountain was blown away or dissolved in a huge explosion.
Part of one side of the mountain liquefied and ran down into surrounding rivers and lakes sending a surge of mud downstream. For miles in every direction, the forests were blown flat and destroyed, everything was covered with a varying thickness of ash. Initially, huge, billowing clouds of smoke and ash were raining down all around the area, creating eerie “thunderstorms” complete with lightning and mud rain. Residents in nearby towns wore masks over their faces while motor vehicles stalled with grit plugged air filters. Telephoto images of Mount St. Helen’s taken a few days later, showed an environment looking somewhat like the lunar surface.  Early estimates of damage caused by the eruption were pegged at $2.7 billion.

The drainfield is installed
Continuing our research into the type of drainfield we should install, we  phoned Butch[1], a local contractor from Gilman. Butch met us at the homesite to discuss our high water table. He had considerable experience around Gilman and Foley, installing septic systems and drain fields in low areas and in perched water tables. His experience said that we wouldn’t have trouble with a conventional underground system, particularly with the addition of one slightly illegal modification…

We pointed where we wanted the system installed: on the south side of our proposed trailer location, under the soil that would eventuallybecome our front yard. Butch was free to come out in a couple days and install the field, all that we needed to do was get a permit from the county.

On 19-20 May, Butch and his nephew, Russell, arrived with their backhoe and installed the drain field. Before covering the drain field, the Building Code Inspector from the county was called to inspect it and give it his official stamp of approval.

[1980 Photograph. Drain field installation. A 1250 gallon septic tank and 726 square foot drain field, covered with rock and straw, are being installed by Butch.]

The basic sewage system included: a round, 1,250 gallon concrete septic tank, a concrete distribution manifold, and four perforated PVC drainage lines.

The drainage pipes were laid out in parallel lines of fifty feet length, about ten feet apart and dug in about two feet deep. The PVC pipes were set in a bed of gravel and rock for drainage, then covered with a layer of straw, and finally backfilled with soil.

After the Building Code Inspector left, Butch installed a additional ‘French Drain’. The purpose of the French Drain was to carry away any potential overflow from the drain field, during the spring, when the water table was high. It was only a way to increase the area of the drain field cheaply. It consisted of a one hundred fifty foot long trench dug past the south end of the drain field. A “T” was made with the long center foot leading across our driveway and extending another one hundred feet. The trench was filled with sand and covered with soil, finally planted to grass.

Installation of the official septic system and drain field cost $900, while the French Drain and sand cost an additional $200.[2]

Our next job for Butch and his back hoe, was to install two yard hydrants. The hydrants were to be located in diagonal opposition across the yard in such a way that when a 100 foot garden hose was attached to each, they would reach almost every point in the upper yard. This would be significant for our future lawn and garden watering and for fire fighting and prevention.

Butch dug a eight foot deep trench about 200 feet diagonally across the yard, then working alone, ran the plastic water pipe, made the connections and brought up the risers. I was concerned that we were going to come back to the property after work one afternoon and find the excavation having caved in and Butch buried in the deep narrow trench, fortunately he got the work done without mishap.

Seeding the driveway ditch to grass
In the early Spring, as soon as temperatures had warmed, and the recently bulldozed soil along the driveway ditch was dry, we began seeding it to grass. The first step was to work our way along the driveway ditch removing the many jutting tree roots, broken limbs and rocks. The soil was then seeded to a mixture of both moisture tolerant and shade tolerant grasses. We raked over the seeds attempting to cover as many as possible and create the best possible environment for growth.

By the end of the summer the ditches were filled with knee high grass and looked ever so much like an overgrown lawn. In the years that followed the terrible scars left by the bulldozer faded. Oak and Maple seedling began taking root on the sides of the ditch, while Black Willow saplings took over in the wetter bottom.  Over the years, the ditch became filled with six foot high Reed Canary Grass, a mixture of other grasses, red raspberry, tree saplings and various other plant life. Squirrels, rabbits and grouse were occasionally seen scurrying though the grass and brush, running across the driveway or to hide in the forest cover.

Bulldozing tree stumps from the homesite
At about the same time we were seeding the driveway, we had the Erdman’s back out to do some work with their bulldozer. One weekend afternoon, Dale arrived with a lowboy truck transporting the bulldozer.
We showed him what we wanted done in the homesite:
•  There were over a dozen tree stumps, a jumble of large logs and several large diameter, eight foot high brush piles that we wanted pushed south out of the yard and back into the willowland.
•  Where the stumps were removed, refill the holes with soil and compact it.
•  Spend a few minutes by our small pond and if it wasn’t too mucky, dig it out a little longer and deeper.
•  Finally, the side of the hill, where our mobile home would be set, needed to be gently worked with the bulldozer blade so we’d have a relatively smooth yard surface.
A few days later when we came back out to inspect the finished work we were happy  to find everything done according to our request.

Music [midi: Working Girl, Let the River Run]

Living and working like nomads on the land
Having begun work on the final homesite, we became anxious to push ahead toward completion as rapidly as possible. At the time, it was our hope to move the mobile home onto the property by the end of the year.
In order to utilize our time most effectively, get the maximum enjoyment from being on the property and from camping, we decided to move the Starcraft fold down  camper out to the land and live there.

So, during June 1980, we took up residence on our property and began living like nomads.

Every night after working a full day at Landy Packing Company, we returned to the acreage to work on the homesite. During the weeks that followed we moved rocks, snipped willows out of the south end of the yard and raked debris from the entire acre size yard.

As soon as we had the camper set up, we drove the John Deere Model 70 tractor out to the property and immediately put it to work.  What a labor saving device!  Downed tree trunks that we couldn’t lift with the bucket were dragged out of the homesite with large chains. The tractor never stuttered performing its Herculean tasks.

[Photograph above: Working and living on the homesite. The ‘Starcraft Galaxy 6’ camper became our primary residence during the summer of 1980, as we rushed to prepare for ‘Moving Day’.]

When moving the largest tree trunks, I’d downshift into the lowest tractor gear and slowly edged forward until the doubled chain grew taught, then, the tractor seemed to growl as it’s treads dug into the soil and we steadily moved forward.

We moved several large wood piles of ready to split firewood, dozens of six foot long large limbs and smaller trunks (each requiring two people to roll onto the tractors bucket), at least a dozen large tree trunks and many hydraulic bucket loads of refuse from the homesite area.

We smoothed the areas that were to become the front and backyards, we stood in the elevated hydraulic bucket while trimming the lower branches of trees that were to remain in the yard, and started a rock pile in an out of the way location in the back yard.

Every other night after her job at Landy’s, Donna would go back the mobile home at Rockwood Estates to feed our tropical fish and Alexander R. Little (parakeet), also to pick up freshly frozen ice for our icebox. On Saturdays, she went shopping for groceries and washed work clothes for the following week.

Our time wasn’t all work. We enjoyed the evenings together in our seemingly wild and remote piece of the Earth. We prepared regular meals on the campers propane stove, washed dishes in the sink, slept in comfortable beds. After supper we either sat at the kitchenette table eating pop corn and petting Griz, or walked about in the nearly completed homesite talking, discussing future plans. The period we spent living in the camper was a happy  time, our days filled with labor from before sun up until almost sun down. You should all be so lucky.

[Donna and I worked on the property every night after our jobs at Landy Packing. Donna went ‘home’ occasionally to do laundry and up pick things we needed. The partially dug pond  is in foreground.  Wood piles at center left and right. Camper in center background.]

Electric and telephone utilities
Even though the entire western boarder of our property was a paved and a well maintained county road, there were no power lines passing, in fact, the electric utility line didn’t even come down the road to our property!

In July, Donna telephoned East Central Electric, the local utility, and requested they put us on the power grid. A few days later, East Central sent a line crew out to install two electric poles, thereby bringing the utility down to our property. A third pole, with a transformer, was set on our land near the front of the driveway.

We  had to pay $0.50 per linear foot to have an underground cable installed from the pole to a transformer set up about fifteen feet behind where the mobile home would eventually be located. This was optional, we could have had an over head power line put in for free, but would have had to knock down an additional twenty foot width of forest for ‘line clearance’. We didn’t even see that ‘free option’ as a choice, the forest was not going to be cut.

When the power line was dug in, we were required to pay an installation deposit of $288. The deposit was tacked onto our electric bill at the rate of $16 per month until we moved onto the property and began using the service. There never was an overhead line on the property, telephone and electric cables came in underground.

Making a power distribution panel
Allan Zimmer, a commercial electrician who worked part time at Landy Packing Company, advised us that we’d need an elevated power panel on which to mount our electric meter. Since the commercial panels cost $120, Donna and I decided to make our own. We used four inch pressure treated posts and for the uprights and redwood planking for the panel. The posts were dug into the ground about two and a half feet. The parts may have cost us $15.

One would think nailing a few boards to a couple blocks of wood would involve just swinging a hammer. No so, like everything else involved with organizing and bringing about the execution of jobs on the property, this was a slow and labor intensive learning experience.

Before Donna and I made the power panel we’d never even seen one. (Houses have panels on the exterior or in the basement, the mobile home park had enclosed connection boxes.)

First, we had to find out what all would be mounted on the panel and the size of each item, power/disconnect box, a distribution panel, local 110v outlet box and electric meter. We had to design the panel to hold all the boxes that would be installed, make sure it stood a certain distance above the ground and needed to be made from wood that would not require maintenance (redwood). We had to choose and buy the wood on Saturday, when there was time to shop in St. Cloud. Back at Rockwood Estates, when the tools were assembled, the was wood cut to length and nailed together. Sunday, the panel was taken out to the property where the post holes were dug, the panel installed, the holes backfilled and tamped in. Between the telephone calls, and questions to determine what was needed, the planning, shopping, construction, transport, and installation, the better part of a weekend went into this one small project.

Table: Weekly family income, 1980

Income information Larry Donna Total
Hourly wage $8.08 $6.76 $14.84
Hours worked 40 hours 40 hours 80 hours
Gross income $323.20 $270.40 $593.60
Federal withholding tax $51.92 $39.77 $91.69
State withholding tax $22.02 $16.28 $38.29
Social Security tax $19.81 $16.58 $36.39
Total payroll deductions $93.95 $72.63 $166.37
Net Pay $229.45 $197.77 $427.33

Finalizing preparations to move
During the first days of August we were  in a dither, everything was coming together as we prepared to move the mobile home. We were making phone calls to organize East Central Electric, Benton County Telephone, Allan Zimmer (our electrician),  Butch (sewage connect) , Traut Well Drilling Company (install and connect our forty two gallon holding and pressure tank) and the truck driver who would haul the mobile home out of Rockford Estates. The people all had to be coordinated to meet at a certain time so each could do his job in conjunction with and overlapping the next.

While organizing the mobile home’s connection at the property, we were also having utilities turned off at Rockwood Estates as well as preparing our personal effects for the move.
•  We phoned the Benton County Telephone and East Central Energy with instructions for our service in Rice to be disconnected first thing in the morning on August 11.
•  The mobile home’s skirting and wooden skirt supports were removed and stacked for transport.
•  After the end of the first week in August, we spent each night packing our belongings into cardboard boxes and distributing the weight about on the mobile home’s floor for safe transit. Everything was being either packed, laid down or secured. Fortunately we took a week’s vacation to coincide with the time of our move.

Moving day
August 11, around 8:00AM: The tow truck arrived as scheduled, where upon the driver began reattaching the mobile home’s towing tongue. When not in use the tongue was disconnected and slid back under the trailer, out of sight.

As soon as the utilities were disconnected, the mobile home was attached to the hitch on the towing truck. Donna and I began removing the concrete leveling blocks and stacking them in the bed of our pickup truck, a job that saved us $65 in labor fees. The mobile homes tires were reinflated to proper pressure for moving.

[Photograph, left: 10AM on moving day, the mobile home being hauled out of Rockwood Estates enroute to our property—about 15 miles due east. Phoro right: Our 1977 Marshfield mobile home entering the homesite. Griz is a happy dog, he, like us have been living on ‘the land’ during much of the summer and are now at home.]

As the tow truck was about to drive out of Rockwood Estates with our mobile home, I inquired about “In Transit Insurance”. The driver informed us there was no insurance; if the home met with an accident: if it were struck by another motor vehicle, if it rolled over in a ditch, if the underframe broke while bouncing over a bump or through a pothole, if anything happened, we would bear the burden. We stood listening, dumfounded, with mouths agape and small beads of nervous perspiration forming on our foreheads. Everything depended on the experience of the driver. We were in the same situation as a pioneer with his covered wagon being ferried across a river on a raft.

We drove to the property on a different route than that taken  the tow truck and our mobile home. There was no way we could follow along behind him while wincing and groaning with every bump and pothole in the road. [The Utility workers prepare: The electricians, telephone installer and plumbers stand about chatting, waiting for the mobile home to arrive. The nearly 5 foot tall electric panel between them is the one I discussed making in this post. The ‘post’ seen standing directly infront of the yellow truck is the back ayrd yard hydrant; barely visible in the shadows to its left, is our well casing with an emergency hand pump.]

Everything was approaching a climax. The trailer was enroute, but would all the utility workers arrive as scheduled? It was an emotionally long fifteen miles ride from Rice to our property, enroute a wave of nausea swept over us. We drove very slow with the heavy load of concrete blocks in the pickup’s bed, but still arrived at the property ahead of the mobile home.

We stopped on the driveway by the county road to wait and watch for the tow truck which arrived ten minutes later.

The tow truck driver required a guide to help move the fourteen foot wide by seventy foot long mobile home up the driveway. I’d previously removed trees along the south side of the driveway and measured distances making sure the trailer would fit, but at a slight turn just two hundred feet from the county road, it was a very close fit.

Once in the homesite, the mobile home was quickly maneuvered into the desired location; meanwhile, our electricians and plumbers readied their tools and parts.

The utility connections are made
While the mobile home was in transit to the property, our electrician, Allan Zimmer, and East Central Electric Company’s electricians had busied themselves installing the required and optional boxes on the power panel, including: electric meter, the main circuit breaker, a terminal box (for distributing cables to the mobile home, future garage, and leaving space for other additions), and a small weatherproof outdoors receptacle box.

Once the trailer was in place, the electricians began making their connections at the back end of the mobile home. I helped the tow truck driver block up and level the structure. Donna had to make a quick drive into Foley and buy a length of PVC pipe so Butch could attach the trailer’s sewage line to the septic tank. It was maddening. There was so much to do, so many last minute decisions, so much hurrying here and there to confer with this person and that…

End of day
Five and a half hours later: The mobile home was blocked up and leveled, we were connected to the power grid, the well and the septic system. When the last worker left, we stopped for a moment, to watch him drive down the driveway, his utility truck disappearing in the woods. To him it was the end of “just another day”, to us it was the first few moments of a new way of life.

Into the night, we unpacked boxes and reassembled our belongings into their familiar places. We put dishes, spices, canned goods and toiletries back on their shelves and in cupboards, we rehung clothes in the closet, dresser drawers were put in place, furniture was scooted back into position.

Yard hydrant #2 at extreme left of picture.

Every few minutes, where ever we found ourselves in the house, we’d pause to look out the window and marvel at the view of our forest, it was hard to believe we’d actually made the transition. Not only had all the work of the last few years been brought to completion, but we were well on the way to finding the relative independence that we had left California to achieve.

[Alone on ‘the land’ at the end of ‘moving day’. Our mobile home has been set up and utilities connected. The service workers have left. We are now alone on our own 39 acres of rural land…an eight year dream has come true.]

Music [midi: Deep Impact]

Return of the Visitor
“The development and growth of the homesite has not gone by unnoticed. We’ve had a very interested, special young person here to visit once or twice. As I write and rewrite [3] read and prepare to print these words on 7:04AM Sunday and 5 June 1983, my young friend is tucked into his bed on a cot some fifteen hundred miles from here, in Arizona.

He is camping out in the backyard. A few minutes ago he awoke and felt chilly, he burrowed down deeper under his covers and is drowsily looking at the stars, beginning to drift off to sleep. In the house where he lives with his mother, father and sister, there is a clock on the kitchen wall. The clock hands show through the deep shadows that it is between 1:00AM and 4:00AM.
On his father’s desk there sits a 1957 desk calendar.

Time is beginning to warp now and my young friend is coming for another visit, he’s tunneling through time. He’ll be here in the Spring, soon after the gardens planted; however I have never known what year.
Perhaps the time of his arrival isn’t important in terms of my daily affairs, because he made all of his visits some twenty five years ago.” [4]

Moving day was the busiest day to date in our lives, we were ‘run ragged’; we’d had to make a dozen important last minute decisions, drive to Foley for parts, do some digging, carry the concrete leveling blocks, it seemed we were everywhere at once–it was a nerve wracking day!

It cost $622 to have the electricians install the various electric boxes, do the wiring, parts costs, and labor for connecting the mobile home to the power grid.

[Photograph at left: ‘Daybreak on the land’. Approaching the homesite along the driveway. The picture was taken about a month after we moved onto the property, we were beginning to live the dream we had.]

The Society of Mayflower Descendants
As Summer came and passed into early Fall, both my Dad and Uncle Bill’s application and rigorous genealogical proofs for membership in the Society of Mayflower Descendants were accepted; by their particular  state chapters and finally at the National level. Once they were officially documented members,  both sent me copies of their worksheets, proofs and photocopies of related documents, to assist me in joining.

I contacted the National office in Plymouth, MA and was given the telephone number of the Minnesota chapter, located in the Twin Cities. The Society’s Historian sent me a set  of preliminary application papers and an interview form. I was instructed to fill out the application and have an interview with another member, whom happened to be, Mr. Southworth, ex-mayor of Painesville, Minnesota.

Donna typed the requested information in my application, including the line of descent and related documentation. I made an appointment to visit with Mr. Southworth and was invited a week later to his home for tea.

Mr. Southworth looked over my application papers to make sure they were in order and that none of the required information had been omitted. We had a short half hour chat about genealogy, mostly his genealogy, as he sized up my character: I was a property owner, had completed three years of college, was a supervisor at a local industry, not upper-class by any means, but a diligent, fruitful member of  society.

[Photograph at right: Early morning view from 200 feet east of the mobile home, looking northeast across our fog shrouded east ‘’pasture’.]

I  think he found it quite unusual for someone to qualify for admission to the Society without having first done years of genealogical research. Indeed, I knew very little about genealogical research. And knew very little about the names, people  and “proofs of relationship” that strung out behind me three hundred sixty years, and twelve generations, back to the landing of 1620 Mayflower Pilgrims.

Shortly after visiting with Mr. Southworth, I sent my application to the Society’s historian in Minnesota for verification of the pedigree. If the application passed the state level it would be sent to the Society’s National office for a final check and membership approval. Receiving membership in the Mayflower Society was a process that would require at least several long, apprehensive months of waiting.

The knowledge that I had ancestors whose names and vital records were proven to go so far back in American history, fanned the flames of genealogical interest in my mind. I wanted to know more about my ancestors, about their lives and times, and so began my research into family genealogy.

Nightstar* and the Eagle symbol
After moving to the property and putting our household back in order, we resumed work on the homesite perimeter fence. We fenced the west side (approach from the county road) first, using thirty two inch high welded woven wire fencing, with a strand of barbed wire on the bottom and three spaced strands of barbed wire above. On either side of our driveway we set a sixteen foot long post, which we dug into the ground four feet. The top of the upright posts were connected by  a plank run between the two, high above the driveway

For the last couple years we’d been thinking of a good name for our property.

About the time we moved onto the land, we’d settled on NIGHT STAR*, an acronym I came up with that meant:  Nodular, Independent, Geotropic Habitat with Techniques for Surviving Tornado’s, Anarchy and Reductions in the standard of living Nightstar*
We  had initially envisioned installing a combination, covered storm-fallout shelter, although the shelter was never built, the name NIGHTSTAR* stuck. We refer to our entire property, including: land, well, woods, low land, garage, fencing, etc., as ‘Nightstar*’.
The name was seldom used in social discussions about the property, it was primarily a private name, a name that was used in my journals and on occasion as reference to the really neat and private place we own and call ours. Amongst our family we simply call the house, “home”, the woods to our east,  “the east woods”, etc.

After the tall driveway ‘gate posts’ were installed, I began thinking about making a symbol for our home that could be attached to the overhead cross members. The symbol would have to be simple yet speak of our achievement on the land, it would have to represent Donna’s and my way of thinking. I mentally juggled some ideas, and drew them in bits and pieces as the finish product slowly emerged as an
interesting totem. The finished idea displayed the symbols:
•  A Bald Eagle with wings outstretched (about two foot high by five feet wide), standing on an ax. The eagle symbolized my early American ancestry, our belief in the American values and ideals, while the ax symbolized how much of our homesite and driveway were cleared– by muscle power and the sweat of our brow.

I drew the image of an eagle standing on an ax on large sheets of drawing paper which were stapled together end to end. The design was traced onto plywood then cut out with a saber saw. After sanding, I painted the eagle and ax in appropriate colors and bolted it to stand atop the cross members of our yard
•  The second item made was a sign, with the letters, NIGHT STAR* individually cut from plywood. The letters were painted white, drilled and nailed to a redwood plank (the plank: ten inches high by four feet long by one and a half inches thick).
[Photograph of the Nightstar* sign. It hung above the driveway’s entrance to the homesite for the next 27 years.]

The next two items made were the silhouette of a tree, symbolizing the forested portion of the property and the silhouettes of three cattails, symbolizing our wetland. The tree and cattails were painted green, drilled and nailed to the sign. The tree was attached to the left  (north side- as seen when driving into our
homesite) of the NIGHT STAR* letters, because the woods were located on the north side of the property. The cattails were attached to the right side (south) for the same reasons.

In regard to the star symbol following the name, NIGHTSTAR*. The star combines the acronym “night star” into a visual star, with added reference to our new home in the far northern part of the United States, nearer the North Star.

List of grocery store products used
Still trying to understand what we spent our allocated ‘grocery money’ on, I had Donna save the weekly grocery shopping receipts for an entire year. Every couple of weeks I went through the receipts an itemized the foodstuffs into nine categories. I then entered each item by category and cost into a small
spreadsheet program which I wrote for our Processor Technology SOL computer. As the months passed, it was interesting to note that we did not purchase many prepared or convenience foods.

A categorized list of the type grocery store products we purchased, is seen in the following table. The items in each category are listed alphabetically, not by preference or amount consumed.

General grocery store products used in our household, 1980

BAKERY peas powdered sugar steak tequila
bread plums rice triple sec
dinner rolls spinach rye flour PRODUCE whisky
donuts wax beans salt apples wine
hamburger buns split peas celery
DAIRY sugar corn OTHER
BEVERAGES 1% fat milk wheat flour eggplant 50# bags dog food
apple cider cheddar cheese white flour grapefruit charcoal
canned soda pop eggs lettuce cigarettes
frozen orange juice various chip dips MEAT onions Comet cleanser
grapefruit juice bacon oranges floor wax
DRY GOODS beef roast pears hand soap
CANNED GOODS baking soda chicken plums Kotex
chilies brown sugar ground lamb potatoes laundry soap
corn cornmeal ham strawberries paper towels
green beans instant potatoes hamburger tomatoes plastic bags
lemon juice lima beans lamb chops razor blades
mixed fruit navy beans leg of lamb ALCOHOL shaving cream
olives noodles pork chops beer Spic & Span
peaches oatmeal pork roast brandy toilet paper
pears pinto beans spare ribs rum wax paper

The sum of money spent monthly, in each food category, was entered on a spreadsheet, where a running total was likewise kept for the entire year. The amount spent on a given months category does not mean that was how much was consumed in that category during the month. We periodically stocked up our
freezer and cupboards with food when products were on sale. Hence, most of the January 1980, $75.00  meat products (seen below) were frozen for future consumption.

One thing that became apparent and which we already aware of, was the large amount of alcoholic beverages bought. We were getting together with our new friends Bobby and Arlene quite frequently, usually at their mobile home on Bobby’s family farm. We usually brought along or supplied the alcoholic beverages during our “get togethers,” while they  footed the expense of snacks and desserts. We had a grand time visiting, but the cost of partying was playing havoc with our food bill.

Itemized list of grocery costs by category and month, between December 1979 to November 1980




















Month Total





































































































































Yr. Totals






















Avg. Wkly Expense











We determined that produce from a large garden and fruit orchard, as well as some meat and eggs from livestock would considerably reduce our food bill. As an added benefit, the garden, orchard and livestock would to a degree make us more self sufficient. Every since early 1972, when Donna and I were first together in Arcata, California, it had become our dream to someday have a large garden, raise livestock and become less dependent on the consumer driven economy.

Garage built
During early November, we had a twenty seven foot wide by twenty six foot deep, green, Menard’s pole building- garage installed. We had the building constructed with a 16 foot wide overhead door facing south to the driveway and a standard entrance on the west. While the Menards crew was drilling the holes for their corner post, I had them dig an extra post hole and install a previously purchased twenty five foot tall pressure treated wood pole for our security lamp.

[Photograph, November 1980: Me on the John Deere, Model #70 tractor, filling in the electric cable trench between the main power board and garage, along  the (north) back side of the mobile home.]

As soon as the building was up, we called Butch to come out with his back hoe and dig a trench from the electric panel to the garage for an electric cable. When the trench was dug, our electrician, Allan Zimmer, came out to do a variety of jobs, including:
•  Lay underground cable from the main electric panel to the garage.
•  Set up a distribution panel and circuit breaker box inside the garage.
•  Connect the security lamps  and run a line to the mobile homes kitchen, so we could turn the outdoor lights on-off from within the house.
•  Install a welding outlet in the garage.
•  Run an electric line to the back of the garage and install an outlet for a proposed, future underground gasoline storage tank with pump.

Our ‘Supernova’ security-yard lamp
The security lamps that we installed were euphemistically referred to as a ‘Supernova,’ because of their brightness.

Photograph at right: [Late December 1980, the Menard’s garage and ‘supernova’ security lights. Six years after moving to Minnesota, and the Blizzard of the Century, we entered our first winter actually living on the land. This was a time of great happiness, comfort and well being. Donna and I were in our mid to late 30s, earned a good family income and lived in a beautiful rural setting. Our canoe carrier (Grummand 21ft) is seen on the back of the pickup truck, the Starcraft camper is parked at extreme right, behind garage. The tractor is inside garage on the left side of the overhead door.]

Twenty feet above ground, at the top of the lamp pole was a large bright sodium lamp, similar to a public street light, that was actuated by a solar sensor. Under normal conditions when it grew dark the lamp would come on for the night and turn off when the sun rose in the morning. It didn’t take long to realize we were wasting electricity with the sodium lamp. Donna and I closed the main gate, by the county road, when we came in and left the property, no one could just drive up the driveway. And no one would walk back in pitch dark of the woods during the night. We lived in a rural environment with low population density, the gate was closed and the road beyond was dark. Our home was invisible day and night, being situated between 600-800 feet back in through the woods, and camouflaged by the surrounding forest. We grew to feel that an overnight security lamp was more of an advertisement that ‘someone was living back in there’ than it was security against the improbable. Besides, Griz (German Shepherd cross) watched and patrolled the yard, nothing moved along the driveway or in the yard without his going to investigate.

The other part of the Supernova was a battery of four each 150 watt flood lamps. This bank of lamps was wired to a switch in the garage and another wall switch  in the home’s kitchen. The lamps looked down on the yard at about a 45 degree angle, in each of the cardinal compass directions. So, when we came home after dark or left early, we could turn the lights on or off and have a well lighted walk across the yard.
One lamp lighted the driveway and approach to the garage, another our walkway to the front and back doors, another looked over the back of the garage, while the fourth looked east towards a yard gate that opened to the woods.

Preparing for the garden and orchard
In the 40 foot wide by 90 foot long location where we planned to put our  garden and orchard, there had until recently stood a forest. Only a few years earlier we’d removed two large trees, considerable dense sapling undergrowth and stands of red raspberry canes with the chainsaw and our lopping shears. Only a few months earlier, when we moved our mobile home onto the property. There was still one large Maple tree standing in the area that would become the garden. We subsequently cut the tree down and reduced it to firewood size logs, all that remained was the stump. The entire ‘garden area’ was composed of an impenetrable thicket of  roots and many rocks.

During mid November, when the ground had frozen about four inches deep, we had Butch come back out to the property with his back hoe-front loader, and at $30 per hour labor, dig up the garden area.

We instructed him to remove the top six inches of topsoil from the large garden space. The topsoil was to be temporarily piled in a location out of the way. He was then to dig out the area to a depth of about two feet.
Each scoop of soil was simply raised and dropped back into the ground. The digging and dumping, loosened the compacted soil allowing for better aeration and root penetration; it broke up the sod roots and myriad of tree and sapling roots; and made it easier to remove rocks. When the subsoil had been dug, redumped and releveled, we had the frozen chunks of topsoil spread back over the top. We also had a large pile of black dirt moved from beside the driveway (from when Dale Erdman bulldozed the driveway) and spread on the garden [5].

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1980.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  WKRP inCincinnati
•  The Love Boat
•  M*A*S*H*
•  One Day at a Time
•  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  Galactica 1980
•  The Two Of Us
•  Bosom Buddies
•  The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
•  Shogun, a miniseries.

Altered States with William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balabon
Any Which Way You Can  with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis
Blue Lagoon  with Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins, Leo McKern
Bronco Billy with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Scatman Crothers, Geoffrey Lewis
Caddyshack with Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight
Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn, Eileen Brennan, Robert Webber
Saturn 3 with Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Kietel
The Blues Brothers with John Belushi, Dan Aykroid, James Brown, Cab Calloway
The Empire Strikes Back  with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, David Prowse
The Final Countdown with Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katherine Ross
The Formula with George C. Scott, Martha Keller, Marlon Brando
The Mountain Men with Charlton Heston, Brian Keith, Victoria Racimo
Time Bandits with John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelly Duvall
Tom Horn with Steve  McQueen, Richard Farnsworth, Linda Evans, Billy Green Bush
Windwalker with Trevor Howard, Nick Ramus, James Remar

[1]  In addition to being a local contractor, Butch was at the time, also Mayor of Gilman and was sometimes referred to by the local farm population in a jealously disparaging way as, “His Highness”.
[2]  In the following 15 years we never had any problem with the drain field.
[3]  Written into Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, page 29.
[4]  See also “1957: Visions of things to come”
[5]  This pile of top soil was removed from our driveway several years earlier.  See, 1978: Early November: Mechanical work continues on the driveway.
[6] In retrospect, this is how it always works. These are once , maybe twice in a lifetime events at most. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you have to remain alert to the fledgeling development of an economic sea change. Of course, when you begin to buy protective investments, you will be thought of as an ‘odd ball’, but 10+ years later, you could have earned 500% or more on your investment.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1979, age 36-37

Themes and Events:
* OPEC raised world crude oil prices from $18 to $23.50, the biggest increase in five years. Dollar a gallon gasoline became a fact of life… Before the oil embargo of 1974, we were paying about $0.25 to $0.35 per gallon.
* The CPI (Consumer Price Index) rose 13.3%, the largest jump in 33 years. The bank Prime Rate rose to 14.5%. The price of gold and silver skyrocketed as the fear of runaway inflation droves investors to seek safety and others to speculate.
* In March, 3.4 million families (10.4 million individuals) were receiving AFDC (Aid To Families with
Dependent Children). About 40% of all black families with children under 18 years of age are involved, compared with only 6.8% of white families.
* The first Sony “Walkman” radio/tape player becomes available.
* A nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island and the prophetic movie, The China Syndrome, give strength to the anti-nuclear movement.
* The Susan B. Anthony metal dollar is introduced an promptly fails, it looks uninspiring and is too close to a quarter in size.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
* If you can read this, you’re too damn close.
* The best things in life are free, while supplies last.
* The Skylab is falling! The Skylab is falling!

Last payment on our property
We made our final $3000 Contract for Deed property payment to Bobby and Arlene on March 8 and received Full Title to our thirty-nine acre rural property.
Around this time, Bobby rather sheepishly disclosed that he purchase our acreage and an adjoining forty acres in 1969 for $3,000. Now, ten years later, he’d sold it to us for $8,000 (discounting Strout Realty’s fee). Neither Donna or I felt bad about the price we’d bought the land at, nor that he’d made a profit, that was simply good business.[1]

Books read during the year
During the year I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
1.  Living on a Few Acre: The 1978 Yearbook of Agriculture © 1978 by U.S. Department of Agriculture – Covers briefly all aspects of rural living. 432 pages.
2.  Back Yard Livestock © 1976 by S. Thomas. Rural technologies.
3.  Small Scale Grain Raising © 1977 by G. Logsdon. Rural technologies, and others…

A forest fire runs through our woods
On the afternoon of April 17, a grass fire got away from the young men living in ‘The Tin Palace’[2] and swept east-south-east across their field, our woods and into Bobby’s back forty acres. The worst damage done was that it burned three of our large wood piles–five or six cords of firewood.

First layoff at Landy Packing Company
Spring  was a slow time of the year in the beef meat-packing business. Cattle destined for slaughter are more frequently marketed during the fall and winter as native pastures dry up and feed grows more expensive. During the last several years, I didn’t miss any time from work due to the spring slow down. This year, in order to reduce overhead when beef prices were particularly low, the company closed its production line, rendering plant, hide’s processing house and the waste water treatment plant for a week.
A month after being called back to work, beef prices dropped again and the company closed for an additional three days. It was a little unnerving to find that when business was slow you became liable for lay off. When your livelihood dangles beneath a dark cloud, one can never really become comfortable with the security afforded by that job. Since Donna and I both worked for Landy Packing, we had in effect, double jeopardy.

Memories of the telephone system 1979 [3]
During the latter half of the 1970s and into the 1980s, there was a rapid growth in the number of “decorator,” or as they were also called, “personal” phones, that became available. Telephones began to show up on Department store shelves. In time they were to be found in a multitude of shapes and styles: there were replicas of early 20th century wall phones, Mickey Mouse phones and even sculptures of a duck – when the phone “quacked” you picked up the top half of the duck, the receiver. Telephones became cheap enough that you could buy the style and color that suited your sense of decor. At the same time decorator telephones began replacing the standard telephone offered by the telephone company, the ‘rotary dial’ telephones started to give way to the ‘touch tone’ telephone. The ‘touch tone’ phones were popular for rapid dialing and their ability to access computers; however, the touch tone phone and line was rented to the customer at a higher fee rate.

[Internet image, right: Same model Princess rotary decorator phone that we had for a couple of years. It ‘looked’ good (maybe pretentious), but was less functional than the newer touch tone phones;  we ended up sell in the ‘Princess; for a few dollars.]

Meanwhile, the telephone ‘wall jack’ rapidly spread, replacing the old, hard wiring between the telephone and the wall receptacle. With wall jacks located in multiple rooms throughout the house, one could simply unplug the telephone in one room and move it to another room. Wall jacks also allowed you to unplug the phone when you didn’t want to be disturbed by incoming calls.

As the 1970s passed, we found the telephone ringing more and more frequently. Husbands and wives called each other at and from work, friends called to plan a weekend or evening meal, there were more and more dialing errors, but the biggest increase came from business.  We began receiving calls from department stores stating that our catalog orders had arrived, pollsters were using the telephone lines to ask our opinions, and the volume of telephone sales advertising increased. Instead of listening to their spiel we learned to say, “What?… What?… I am not interested in giving you that information. Goodbye.” or “Hello…What do you want?…We’re not interested!”, then rudely hang up the phone.

The most disturbing penetration of our privacy came from employers who were becoming less and less inhibited about calling you at home. Landy Packing Company was particularly  villainous in this respect, we never felt safe from their irritating intrusions at night, on weekends or while on vacation at home. We were subject to receiving calls at any time (of the night) by employees looking for something or another, wanting instructions for a procedure, and needing help fixing equipment…

The driveway is finally installed properly
Being completely dissatisfied with the work previously done on our driveway, we telephoned around and located bulldozer operator with road building experience. It was a sad day in September, when Dale Erdman and his father met with us at the property to assess the situation and determine what must be done. We needed to have a drainage ditch dug along the north side of the driveway. The ditch
would intercept and collect water running off the small hill and channel the spring water. A galvanized steel drainage ditch would needs be installed at the lowest point in the drive way. The roadbed would have to be built up over the culvert and a another channel was needed to drain the water to the Fen Bog.
Soil from the ditches would be mounded up to create an elevated road across the entire length of the driveway, up to the proposed homesite. We would need to have Class 5 dumped and spread on top of the elevated bed to create a compacted road surface. Bulldozing out a drainage ditch beside the driveway, meant removal of a lot more trees.

The Erdman’s had a bulldozer that they described as being equivalent to a big D-8 Caterpillar. They charged $60 per hour labor, which was a little more than a day’s gross labor from my wages. It was estimated the job would take about a day, or eight hours labor. We OK’d the project and returned home feeling sick. Not only did we face a large expense, but the forest would be gouged out. We were use to walking and driving through the woods on the driveway, with trees rising immediately on either side of us. (See photograph, ‘Early driveway’ below)

[Photograph at right is of the early driveway in the summer of 1979, facing west. The  fen Bog is to the left a couple hundred feet. We’re standing at a point half way down driveway from homesite. The future homesite clearing begins is about 200 feet behind camera. The next photo was taken from 150 feet further down driveway looking back in this direction, across this same area, but from the far side.]

Dale Erdman started working in the afternoon, a few days later. We drove out to see his progress after work and were and absolutely amazed to find the driveway progressing well toward completion. I’d never seen a big bulldozer work before, but learned immediately that they are awesome machines. When Dale wanted to remove a tree he hit the tree and over it went, then he’d back up gouge it by the roots and push the entire tree back into the woods.

When the bulldozer’s blade was lowered into the soil, it rolled up a small hill in front. The machine possessed the power and the ability to create a kind of raw carnage as I’d never seen. We realized immediately, that the $60 per hour we were paying, was not too much for the job being done.

[Photograph at right is of early driveway during September 1979, facing east. Erdman Construction is building a proper driveway with their D10 Caterpillar, cost $440. We spent half as much money on ‘half way measures’ & learning. The home site is about 350 feet in front of camera, at the opening near center of picture.]

There wasn’t enough soil removed from the drainage ditches to create the required road bed so Dale dug out three additional areas just for soil. These dugout areas slowly filled with water and over the years became wildlife ponds, one  filled with cattail.
It cost us $440 for the approximately seven hours of bulldozer work.  When the work was done, we asked the Erdman’s to come back in the spring to do some clearing in the home site, prior to our mobile home being moved in.
Finally, we had eight to ten each ten cubic yard dump truck loads of Class 5 spread along the length of the driveway, and with that our driveway was completed.

 Music [midi: Labyrinth Melody]

Dowsing for water
In October, as soon as we had a functional driveway, our concern turned toward finding potable water in the homesite.  We visited the property owners around us to find out what their water situation was. The Bialke farm[4], a half mile to our northwest had water at forty feet. Bobby, about 3/8 mile to our south east also had water at about forty feet. We were just about in the middle between the two, but had no way of knowing if the aquifer was narrow or wide.
Bobby taught us how to dowse for water. He cut and bent a pair of wire coat hangers and showed us how they worked in the yard at his mobile home[5]. He said that, as one slowly walked over a subsoil water source (a good spot for a well), that the wires would cross forming an X over the spot. Donna and I were skeptical, but we each tried the homemade dousing rods. It was uncanny, but the rods did turn of their own volition, and came together over the same spot.
We brought the bent wire rods back to our homesite and began walking around. Near the tree line on the mid-northwest side of the upper yard the dousing rods began to swing together. I approached the location from a different direction and they moved together and rapidly crossed again. Donna walked about with the rods and they closed for her in the same spot. Every time we got within about six feet from that one spot, the rods began to swing together and within another couple of steps they crossed. All we could think of was that a pool of water near the surface must have a different electrical or magnetic effect on the wires than deeper soil. At the precise location where the dousing rods crossed, we drove a stake in the ground topped with a small red flag.

The well
We called Traut Well Drilling Company in St. Cloud and asked them to come out and install the well. Traut came out about a week later and hit water at the location we’d marked. They hit a pressurized aquifer at forty-three feet and sunk a four-inch casing into it. The pressure in the aquifer forced water up the casing to within eighteen feet of the surface. When the well was tested, they found an available flow rate of sixty gallons per minute. Unlike our neighbors, our water did not have a brownish-yellow tinge from dissolved iron. We had a small hand pump installed on top of the well casing to act as a backup water supply in case of emergency. A submersible, three-quarter H.P. stainless steel pump and screen was installed down inside the casing to provide water for our future home and yard hydrants.[October 1979. A panoramic view of the early home site, facing north. Our future driveway enters at center left, passes  just the other side of the two smaller trees at near left. At the cloth arrow (on tree stump at right), the driveway curves north  toward the future garage—where Donna is seen standing (barely visible standing at the right side of the center photograph). The future location of our mobile homes front door would be located just behind the large dead Elm tree  seen at the center of the middle photograph.]

We had Traut Well Drilling install: the well, casing, pump & screen, one hydrant in the back yard, the water pipe rising to the house riser, and a forty-two gallon holding and pressurization tank. The pressurization tank and internal connections were installed after we moved the trailer onto the property and while all the other utilities were being connected. Traut’s billing for the equipment and labor was $1,585.

Icabod P Tailfeathers dies
It was a sad Fall day when we found our little buddy, Icabod, had died. Ol’ Icabod lived with us for his entire life, from the time he was a little feather ball at the pet shop, until his old age. We taught the little guy to screech a few words, sit on our fingers, ride on our shoulder. He was a good little pet and brought tears to our eyes when we found him laying on the bottom of his cage one weekend morning.

Since we’d all been working so hard to buy our rural property and it was always in our mind that Icabod would live there with us, we found it appropriate to bury him there. We gathered our little green friend, his plastic toys and mirror, and placed them in a small box. Later that the day, we tearfully buried him in
a quiet location, about a hundred feet off our new driveway, near the lowland and not far from a large rock pile. I made a little cross with “Icabod” inscribed and put it on his grave. Donna seeded his resting place under the trees with shade bearing flowering plants.[6]

We felt really bad about Icabod’s death and missed our ‘birdie’, so within a few days went to the pet store and bought home another parakeet, who we aptly named, Alexander R. Little.[7]

Selling firewood
That Fall, with a functional road running back into the homesite, we were able to truck several loads of cut firewood out from the homesite. We ran an advertisement, “Firewood for Sale, $60 per pickup load” (three quarter cord) in the newspaper and on the bulletin board at Landy Packing Company. We busted our ‘behinds’ (!) loading cords of wood on the pickup, hauling them to customers homes, then unloading the wood into their garages.

Selling firewood for profit sounded good ‘in theory’, but in practice, it turned out to be too much physical labor for us to accomplish expediently on our weekends. As it was, we were working hard all week, had household work to do, besides get some rest. We could have made good money, since we still had plenty of wood to haul, but after a couple of loads it simply wasn’t worth the additional effort to continue.

A solution to employee theft at Landy’s
Landy packing had an ongoing problem with the employee theft of meat. This was not a situation where entire sides of beef were being stolen, but a continued pilfering of small packages ranging from maybe two to ten pounds at a time. The people with access to specific meat cuts and packaging materials worked in the company’s Boning Department where special orders were filled. The Boning Department frequently worked in two full shifts and occasionally with a small graveyard shift. Ever so often, particularly at night, the company security guards would catch an employee or several employees sneaking beef out to the trunk of their car or to a collaborating non employee who was waiting in the parking lot to receive the meat. Meat was a big item to steal, but employee theft also included tools, various equipment, truck and automotive parts, gasoline, you name it.

One day I happened to walk into the office conference room where there was a meeting going on between the Landy family officers and company’s top supervisors. They were trying to develop a security system to stop the thievery that apparently was running out of control. As I stood back, unobtrusively waiting to speak to my boss, Jim Landy, one of the  family members asked how I would solve the

This presented a challenge, into which I immersed all my spare time for the next two days. I noted the broken security fence, several open gates leading in and out of the property, location of, or absence of security lamps, and the location of the guard shack. I drew out a general map of the company grounds and added, moved or modified security features that would reduce theft. When I was satisfied with the proposal, I wrote up my recommendations, included a redrawn map of the grounds showing the security improvements and gave the plan to Jim Landy.

My plan included: 1) rebuilding the security fence around the employee parking lot, 2) closure of all but one gate onto the premises and funneling employees all through that gate, 3) moving the Security Guard shack to the one open gate, 4) installation of high intensity security lamps in various strategic locations
to illuminate movement anywhere near the perimeter fence and the parking lot.

The company accepted my recommendations in their entirety and implemented each one. I seldom heard any stories of employee theft after that and the security measures remained in effect thereafter.

Setting up the Wastewater Treatment Plant’s chemistry lab
When the waste water treatment plant first went into operation, the City of St. Cloud collected samples of the sewage discharge water from our automatic sampler and took it back to the their own Municipal Waste Water Treatment facility’s laboratory to test. Landy

Packing’s sewage bill was based on the amount of water purchased from the Water Department and the sewage load as tested from the discharge point. The Landy’s were distrustful of the City returning honest test results and perhaps ‘over billing’ for the sewage. It was only good business practice to run our own tests on the same sample and compare figures, in this way, everyone was kept honest.
So, it was no surprise when I was told to, “Do whatever is necessary to set up our own tests for BOD and Oil and Grease…. make a list of all the equipment that you’ll  need. Get my (Jim Landy) approval before placing any orders.” I was already running an hourly TSS test.

[Photograph A at right: The wastewater plant office and chemistry laboratory. Viewed from the  doorway.  Out of view to right: 1) immediate right, refrigerator which was an incubator for BOD, 2) analytical balance on stand, against right hand wall.]

A description of the tests I was to set up is as follows:
1)  Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD): is a chemical procedure for determining how fast biological organisms use up oxygen in a body of water. To ensure that all other conditions are equal, a very small amount of micro-organism seed is added to each sample being tested. This seed is typically generated by diluting activated sludge with de-ionized water. The BOD test is carried out by diluting the sample with de-ionized water saturated with
oxygen, inoculating it with a fixed aliquot of seed, measuring the dissolved oxygen and sealing
the sample (to prevent further oxygen dissolving in). The sample is kept at 20 °C in the dark, to prevent photosynthesis (and thereby the addition of oxygen) for five days, and the dissolved oxygen is
measured again. The difference between the final DO and initial DO is the BOD The apparent BOD for the control is subtracted from the control result to provide the corrected value.

[Photograph B above right. View of the lab, across the room from the door. I set up the quantitative chemistry lab and  procedures. We tested grease & oils, salt, moisture and protein from our rendered “cracks,” also tested the  wastewater plants effluent for BOD, O&G, TSS and pH.]

2)  Oil & Grease (O&G) This test provides am estimation of oil and grease in water and wastewater by a gravimetric determination of fluorocarbon extractable substances from an acidified sample.
3)  Total Suspended Solids (TSS): The TSS measurement we used was determined by pouring a carefully measured volume of influent and effluent water (typically one liter each) into graduated Imhoff cones, then reading the depth of the settled filtrate in the bottom of the cone. Laboratory determinations of suspended solids (SS) in the influent, primary effluent, and final effluent are standard measurements used to indicate treatment plant efficiency.
4)  Acidity (pH) – acidity of the plants wastewater. For chemical feed control purposes and to show the City that we didn’t have spikes that would interfere with their treatment program.

I phoned with the City of St. Cloud Wastewater treatment facility chemist to have the official test procedure mailed were using mailed to me at Landy’s, meanwhile I ordered several industrial chemical-apparatus catalogs.

When the water testing test procedures were scaled to our sewage load levels, I made a list of the
equipment and chemicals that would be needed for an ongoing operation. Shortly after the (price) list was given to Jim Landy thing began to happen. The Landy’s bought a set of very used and somewhat rusty lab cabinets with counter top. Over the next few weeks, I cleaned and painted the cabinets. A plumber was sent  to made the water connections and an electrician installed power outlets above the lab’s shelf top, for the various electric instruments we’d be connecting. Finally, the equipment and chemicals were ordered.

It took another month (hence, 4-5 weekly tests) to work out the procedural bugs and bring our test results close to those the City’s lab was getting. Thereafter, the City workers brought and installed their own sampler at the Second Clarifier’s weir, while our flow proportioned and refrigerated sampler took grab samples a few yards further on down the pipe.

It’s important to realize that the City used a non-flow proportioned, non-refrigerated sample while our was flow proportioned and refrigerated. The difference being, that in the very important BOD test, non refrigerated samples allow bacterial growth to explode, while refrigerated samples have retarded bacterial growth. Hence, non refrigerated samples have a larger ending population of bacteria, who use up more oxygen from the sample water…creating higher BOD test results and subsequent higher water billings. Also, since the City’s water was non flow proportioned, their sample took the same size and frequency of samples regardless of whether it was during the middle of production or between midnight and 6:30AM when the plant was essentially closed and there was no flow. So how could we compare samples—we couldn’t, not really. Actually, the City took half the content of our sample bucket and based their test on those results. I never verbally questioned this procedure. The City was happy to make me (and the Landy’s)  think they were cross testing between their sampler and ours, but in reality they weren’t, and I told the  Landy family so.

Setting up the Rendering Products lab
A little background: After a cow was killed, it was hung on a hook through a rear ‘hamstring’ to a rolling conveyors that went around within the plants ‘kill floor’. As soon as the animal was hung, it’s throat was cut and blood drained down a floor drain to the Rendering Plant. Moments later, when the animal was skinned, its hide went to the Hides plant for cleaning and salting prior to shipment to a leather processing plant.

The carcass was carried from butcher to butcher, pulled along by a chain driven overhead conveyor, where it underwent the  butchering process. At each work station, the butchers performed a specific series of cuts, so that by the end of the chain, the animal was sectioned into major parts. The major parts went into the company’s ‘boning room’ where they were refrigerated while being further reduced, then boxed in bulk or loaded into refrigerated trucks as ‘sides’ of beef.

What was left, that is, the hoofs, slices of fat, head, organs, stomach pouch, etc., were fed through stainless steel chutes to ‘Rendering’, in an adjacent large room.
These ‘byproducts’ were batch cooked and ground into a rather dry, somewhat boney and fibrous, pea sized and smaller, particulate called ‘Cracks’. One or two large truckloads of Cracks were shipped out to a local poultry feed plant daily, where the material was mixed, in several story high automated hoppers, with corn or other protein grains to make poultry feed.

The feed mills bought and paid for our Cracks product based on several criteria, specifically, the amount of protein, oils & grease, salt and moisture content. As with the City Waste Water Tests, Landy’s had been at the mercy of the Feed Mill testers to provide honest tests. It wasn’t long after the Landy family found that I could set up a quantitative chemistry laboratory and carry out a proficient testing
operation, that they wanted to expand the lab in order to test their Rendering Product  and compare results against the prices they were receiving. There had also been an issue of sodium (salt) in
the Cracks, above a given level and the product had to be shipping to one feed mill and below that number it went to another mill. Apparently their product was close to the pivot point and could swing one way to another between truck loads.

After receiving a few congratulations (‘warming me up’ for an additional assignment) on how good a job I had done with setting up and implementing the Waste Water chemical test procedures, I was given the job of increasing the labs testing capacity, to include protein, oils & grease, salt and moisture content.

Of course, they wanted the procedures and equipment set up immediately. Of course…

By this time, I’d been working at Landy Packing for several years and in the owners eyes had developed,  a history of no-nonsense productivity and responsibility. I was seen as thrifty, and known to shop for the best prices and quality when ordering for the company; further more, I  always showed positive results from my efforts. So, this time I didn’t need to provide a list of equipment, but began by ordering a few pieces of equipment right away—to show things were proceeding rapidly.

I took the company’s thick  ‘Rendering Operations’ text home several consecutive weekends and worked out test procedures, as well as a list of the specialized testing apparatus that would be needed for lab testing. Over the next month or so, as the equipment came in, I began running tests.

Right from the start the testing ran into a problem, there wasn’t enough time during my shift to run the tests, operate the waste water treatment plant, test the water, make black grease and keep the place smelly-nice, the floors clean, etc. The swing shift operator was basically ‘labor,’ with no training in chemistry[8].  So, Landy’s told me to hire someone with a chemistry degree to do the Product Chemistry and pump the water plant tanks on Graveyard Shift.

I  ran an advertisement in the St. Cloud Times, hired a chemist (with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry).  Shortly thereafter, I was ‘promoted to ‘Waste Water Treatment Plant Superintendent and Chief Chemist”, the Swing shift operator was Water Plant Operator, and the lab tech became Company Chemist. It was all very official sounding and as such, kept the three of us out on the Meat Cutters Union. When the laboratory began testing, and a data feed loop was developed (ie., daily log books) for owner, Max Landy and the Rendering Supervisor, Herb Johnson, the ‘stars were aligned’ for me to receive another pay raise. (Grin)

As I recall, this pay hike was similar to another I’d received a year or two earlier, 50¢ an hour broken into “35¢ now and 15¢  in three months”…the Landy’s thought process for holding onto that few extra cents just a while longer, was something that never changed.

Looking at Photograph A above: Seen on the counter across the room– the apparatus at right is the Cracks oil and grease extraction cooker, while the two apparatus at left are protein extraction cooker. Reagent storage bottle are seen on the shelf above the sink and a Imhoff cone is on the stainless steel
table center, with solids settling.

Looking at Photograph B above: My various log books are seen on the shelf above the work bench. A multitude of ‘sample test result forms’ and the ‘daily waste water treatment plant log’ are hung from wall hangers. Two long glass burettes used in titration are seen at center front, on the stainless steel table.
Our refrigerator/incubator and analytical the balance didn’t get into either of the photographs, the balance was crucial in weighing fraction of a gram quantities, while the refrigerator was needed to hold– BOD test samples at a set temperature for their five-day incubation.

Iran seizes the American Embassy
A tense situation developed on November 4, that eventually and unfortunately helped topple President Carter’s administration: Iranian (militant) “students” in seized the American embassy in Tehran, taking sixty-three Americans hostage. At first they demanded the return of the Shaw of Iran who fled to the U.S.A. and stayed to receive cancer treatment.
Some fifty two of the hostages were held more than a year. Daily TV new coverage showed the President’s administration unable to negotiate, bluff, or in any way affect the release of the hostages. The standoff made America look weak, it made Americans feel like we were hostage to an inept group of little more that tribal Bedouin hoodlums in a desert country. Iran used every opportunity to rub (The great Satan) America’s nose with their propaganda.

Buying a wood burning stove
Energy costs continued to gyrate and climb for several years after the end of the OPEC oil embargo. World oil companies, refineries and producers were seen making huge profits as everyone between the well head and the consumer tacked on an extra price increment for their own higher profits. Energy costs across the board rose: Gasoline, coal, natural gas, propane and electricity– regardless of its energy source. Our desire to buy a wood burning stove arose from three sources:
1)  The ever-present potential for an electric power outage during winter. We learned from the ‘Blizzard of the Century’ in January 1975, to have respect for the weather, particularly the life threatening severity of winter’s bitter cold.
2)  Since we bought partially wooded raw land, we owned renewable resources that could be burned. There were quite a few dead trees and plenty of annual wind fall amongst our woods. Chain sawing the wood into proper lengths and splitting the pieces for burning in a stove, was all that was required to reduce our electric heating bill.
3)  Finally, we wanted to enjoy winters cheeriness and the warmth of an indoor fireplace.

[Photo at left shows the same Goldilocks model with nickel highlights  as we bought.]

On November 12, we bought a Fisher Stove more accurately a radiant heater/fireplace stove. The “Goldilocks” model had a two-step combustion chamber which recirculated wood gases back into the flames for almost total combustion. It had a triple sealed door to keep air out and smoke in, firebrick lining, air tight construction, a bi level cooking surface on top, should we wish to heat water or cook an emergency stew. We paid a little extra and bought the model with attractive nickel-plated pine tree images on the stoves two cast iron doors. The stove was delivered to and installed at our  mobile home a couple days later.

Fisher Goldilocks, nickel stove (420 pounds) $805.
Chimney kit $159.
Hearth pad $129.
Kemstone wall insulator, 48 inch by 54 inch, red brick. $64.
Tax $46.
Labor $130.
Total cost $1,333.

Cost of the unit installed:
With the installation of the stove, Donna and I immediately made a trip to the property and brought back about a half cord of  dry firewood. We stacked the wood behind our garden shed and covered it with a tarp to protect it from the elements. As it was already mid November, we  promptly began heating the home with small test fires. Within a couple days, we’d learned to shovel out the ashes, to efficiently start a fire in the fireplace and began to enjoy the heat and the stove’s hominess[9].

A two month list of our supper entrees
By Thanksgiving, we knew that in about a half year, we’d be ready to move the mobile home onto the rural acreage and start a large garden. We wanted to raise crops and livestock that would best fit the region’s climate and our food preferences.  So in order to understand what we might raise, we decided to take a closer look at our food consumption, particularly suppers. For several months during the Fall and Winter, I kept track of the main course from each supper meal.

Table of main entrees for supper meals December 1979 through January 1980:

1  Sat. Pork chops, creamed corn 1 Barbequed lamb, fruit bulgur
2  Sun. Lamb, rice, fried eggplant 2 Enchiladas
3 Fried chicken, mashed potatoes 3 Left over ?
4 Enchiladas 4 Spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread
5 Tacos 5  Sat. Cold cut meat, large bowl soup
6 Pork chops, broccoli, cheese sauce topping 6  Sun. Hamburgers, buns, fixings
7 Mexican Village: combination plate 7 Steak, baked potatoes with sour cream
8  Sat. Steak, baked potato with sour cream 8 Pork roast, potatoes, carrots
9  Sun. Patty melt sandwiches 9 Tacos
10 Spare ribs, zucchini, corn 10 Lamb chops, turnips, corn bread
11 Spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread 11 Pirates Cove:
12 Ring sausage, spinach 12  Sat. Sammy’s Pizza: Lasagna
13 Tostadas 13  Sun. Lamb goulash
14 Christmas party dinner at friends 14 Pork roast, potatoes, carrots
15  Sat. Ham & cheese sandwiches 15 Hamburgers, buns,  chips, guacamole dip
16  Sun. Curried lamb, rice 16 Pork chops, broccoli, corn bread
17 Chili rellenos, beans, rice 17 Ham, boiled cabbage
18 Pork roast, potatoes, carrots 18 Pirates Cove:
19 Ring sausage, spinach 19  Sat. Pizza Hut: Pizza
20 Enchiladas 20  Sun. Barbecue chicken
21 Steak, baked potatoes with sour cream 21 Ring sausage, spinach
22  Sat. Sammy’s Pizza: Lasagna 22 Metalloid, potatoes, carrots
23  Sun. Kings Inn: Steak dinner 23 Pork chops, turnips, corn bread
24 Lamb, rice 24 Chili rellenos
25 Duck, rice 25 Pirates Cove:
26 Hamburger patties, mashed potatoes 26  Sat. Sammy’s Pizza: Lasagna
27 Mexican Village: combination plate 27  Sun. Lamb chops, wheat pilaf
28 Pork chops 28 Steak, corn on the cob, baked potato
29  Sat. Pirates Cove: 29 Tostadas
30  Sun. Ham, sweet potato 30 Cavatini
31 Pork chops, corn bread 31 Enchiladas

Note regarding meals from the table above: Our non Mexican supper meals were generally served with bread and either two vegetables or a vegetable and salad. The supper beverage was usually, either milk, beer or water.

Music [midi: Casablanca]

Restaurants we frequented
This was a good year for us economically, we were living in our mortgage free mobile home at Rockwood Estates and earlier, in March had finished paying for our rural  property. With both Donna and I working and earning good incomes, we were flush with ‘excess cash’. Some of that excess cash was used to enjoy meals served at local restaurants, including:
1.  The Pirates Cove was a grand and expensive restaurant, situated about thirteen miles north of St. Cloud and overlooking the Mississippi River. The Pirates Cove had a wonderful dining ambiance and great cosine, a perfect place to spend the evening in conversation, while enjoying a particularly good meal.
‘The Cove’ had several dining rooms in which there were  separate, small, four person tables situated next to large, floor to ceiling windows overlooking nature. There was always the low hum of voices in quiet conversation and the gentle sounds of orchestral music playing over hidden speakers in the ceiling. We particularly enjoyed eating dinner at this restaurant during the winter, when we could sit and talk, plan and reminisce, all the while looking out over the floodlit frozen expanses of the Mississippi River.
Dinner at ‘the Cove’ required reservations and appropriate attire. Meals included soup and a small loaf of fresh-baked bread, salad bar, two vegetables and the main course. For our main course, we frequently ordered either the filet mignon, Peking duck, steak and lobster combination, or sea food platter.  The meal cost about $25 for two, including one round of mixed drinks.
2.  Another favorite of ours was the Mexican Village which had a menu of tangy Mexican food combination plates. The restaurant did not require reservations, but without them there was often a half hour wait in line on weekend evenings. A meal at the Mexican Village often began with a pitcher of Margaritas, shared by everyone in our party, and a basket of tortilla chips served with a bowl of delicious salsa.
There was no expected dress code at the Mexican Village, you could eat there ‘dressed up’ or wearing blue denim jeans; however, most men wore slacks and women wore either dresses or slacks. Conversation tended to get loud, there was a lot of laughter and cheerfulness as people leaned over their table telling jokes, telling of interesting things that happened to them at work during the week, and gossiping.
The interior of the restaurant was designed and furnished to resemble eating outdoors in a Mexican courtyard. There were fresco paintings on some walls and photographs of Mexican bandits and revolutionaries on others. The waiters and waitresses dressed in predominately white clothes, somewhat imitating Mexican peons. In the background there was always lively Mexican music, filled with guitars and trumpets, complementing the party  atmosphere.
About half an hour after the Margaritas and tortilla chips were served, our individual meals were brought on very hot plates set in wicker plate holders. A typical meal consisted of an enchilada smothered with mild red sauce and topped with cheese, a taco filled with meat, crisp lettuce, tomato and cheese, a generous serving of refried beans, another of Mexican rice set amidst a bed of lettuce and tomatoes sprinkled with Cheddar cheese. On either a cold winter night or a hot summers eve, eating at ‘the Village’ was a meal that couldn’t be beat. A meal for two with Margaritas cost between $12 and $15.
3-5.  Sammy’s Pizza, Pizza Hut and Shakey’s Pizza, each provided a fast tangy supper meals that were good during either summer or winter. There was no expected dress code at these restaurants, except for the public law requiring restaurant patrons to wear a shirt and shoes. We generally wore blue denim jeans and a sports shirt. These restaurants all had jukeboxes loaded with the currently popular songs, which the teen and college age crowd  played continuously with their quarters.
We usually shared a large pizza with several extra meat and vegetable toppings, and a pitcher of beer. Occasionally, we had Cavatini Supreme at Pizza Hut, or  half order lasagna dinners at Sammy’s.
Donna and I made note of the ingredients in the Cavatini Supreme and began making it on occasion, for ourselves at home.
Frequently, when we ate at a ‘pizza parlor’ we were in a hurry, with intentions of going to the movies immediately after the meal. Dinner for two, at Sammy’s Pizza and Pizza Hut, cost between $12 and $15, including a pitcher of beer.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1979
•  Local Evening  News
•  National Evening News
•  Mork and Mindy
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies
•  Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
•  Benson
•  Fantasy Island
•  The Love Boat
•  The Incredible Hulk
•  Battlestar Galactica

10 with Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, Robert Webber
1941 with John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, Lorraine Gray
Alien with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton
Apocalypse Now with Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando
Being There with Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas
Hurricane with Jason Robards, Mia Farrow, Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard
Love at First Bite with George Hamilton, Susan St.James, Richard Benjamin
Meatballs with Bill Murray, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch
Moonraker with Roger Moore, Lois Chilles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel
Star Trek-The Motion Picture with William Shatner, Leonard Nemoy, De Forest Kelly
The Electric Horseman with Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, John Saxon
The Great Santini with Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O’Keefe
Time After Time with Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, Mary Steenburgen

[1]  By the mid 1980s, 40 acres of semi wooded marginal land within commuting distance of St Cloud was selling for $18,000 or $450 per acre;  and by 2007, the property had an estimated  tax value of $120,000!
[2]  The ‘Tin Palace’ was a 50 foot long, very old mobile home set up on the adjoining property to our north, near County Road #14. The property owners son had several friends living in the place with him.
[3]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2744, “My “Memories of the Telephone System.”
[4]  Norbert A. Bialke: October 6, 1927-April 25, 2002. Died at his home in Foley at age 74 years,  from a battle with cancer. Survived by his wife Dolores, 8 (?) children and 19 grandchildren.
[5]  In making the dousing rods, Bobby cut the hanger hook off the metal coat hanger. The remaining wire was straightened and a small approximately four inch length handle was bent at one end, 90 degrees to the rest  of the wire. The person dowsing held a dowsing  rod ,very loosely by its handle, in each  hand and about a foot apart. The handle wasn’t actually being held as much as the hand formed a small, half inch diameter, open hole into which the rods handle set and was allowed to move freely. The rods started pointed straight out from the dowser, as he moved  forward in a straight line. The dowser moved forward very slowly so as not to jiggle the rods; as he moved over electric?
gradients beneath the soil, the  rods would slowly move together or apart. At the spot where the rods crossed there is a subsurface water source . The rods could go from pointing straight ahead to having crossed at their ends in a matter of three or four small steps , so the indicators movement was quite pronounced over the distance of  7-10 feet.
[6]  We also replanted several chunks of moss at his grave. Over the decades that followed, ever once in a while I’d go off the driveway and down by Icabod’s  resting place to remove fallen branches. Slowly the rocks circling his small grave were covered with leaves, which in time became soil  and so returned to nature. During my last visit in the fall of 2006, I could no longer find the tiny grave. Icabod, now lives on only in my memory.
[7]  Named after Alexander, The Great.
[8]  Recall that I’d completed three years of college chemistry, including: Introductory College Chemistry,  Inorganic Chemistry A, B, and Bio-Organic Chemistry A, B.
[9]  Photograph, ‘The Living room’, in Chapter 1988, contains an  image of the stove.

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

Chapter 1973, age 30-31

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

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

Music [midi: Happy Together]

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

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

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

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

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

Our apartment in El Monte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music [midi: Waltzing Matilda]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refurbishing an old radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music [midi: Amarillo by Morning]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunch consisted of plain and simple – peanut butter sandwiches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

Chapter 1978, age 35-36

Themes and Events:
IBM introduces a 64K bit memory chip.
Space Invaders brings America into the age of the video game.
*  The world’s Human population is now 4.4 billion and growing at 200,000 a day.
*  The first “test tube” baby is born. The blessed event, following  in vitro fertilization, was seen as a breakthrough on the order of the first heart transplant, giving hope to millions of childless couples.
*  South Vietnamese and Mung “boat people”,  refugees are fleeing their homeland in all size boats and rafts after the takeover of South Vietnam by North Vietnam. Many thousands of these once faithful U.S. supporters were being brought to the United States from refugee camps and settled in various parts of the country. Catholic organizations in Minnesota sponsored hundreds, bringing several dozen to St. Cloud alone.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Live dangerously: Take a breath.
*  I fight poverty, I work.
*  Runners make better lovers.
*  Don’t complain about farmers with your mouth full.

Making the first land payment
Over the winter, Donna and I saved every cent we could from our paychecks in order to make the first land payment ahead of schedule. It was our hope to get ahead on the payments in case anything happened to our income. We also wanted to have money available during the spring and fall to prepare for the utilities that would need to be installed before our mobile home could be moved.
On February 24, we made our first $3,368.56 payment of Principle and Interest to Bobby and Arlene, who we were buying our acreage from; we were  invited to stay for supper. Bobby and Arlene were happy to see the money and we were glad to be making the payment well ahead of the due date.
[Looking SW: Our 14 ft. x 70 ft. Marshfield mobile home, lot and garden at Rockwood Estates. Nice park with large lots. We’d recently had a severe thunderstorm destroy our metal storage shed (was on other sided of pine tree at left) so items are set behind mobile home until new wooden shed is built. A field and woods are behind us.]

The property access culvert
On March 19, as early as was reasonable after winter, we had Benton County deliver an eighteen inch diameter by twenty-foot long galvanized culvert and drop it off beside the road where we would gain access to our driveway ad property. When we found that the culvert had been delivered, we hired a local equipment operator named, Ralph Lentner, to bring in ‘fill’ to cover the culvert. It took sixty yards of Class 5 sand and gravel mix to do the job, at $100 cost.

The next weekend we drove out to inspect the job. We had a feeling of accomplishment being able to driving off the highway and onto our property; it was another step toward our goal.
While at the property, we carried a salt block back in about 1000 feet and set it on a rock pile for the deer and other animals.

Our first microwave oven
During mid March, we purchased a 1.4 cubic foot Litton microwave at J. C. Penny’s Department store for $444.00, which at the time was a significant cost.  We bought the microwave for several reasons: to speed up the thawing time for foods taken from the freezer, to reduce the cooking heat in the kitchen during the summer, for quickly warming up foods and beverages. Microwave ovens had been sold at the larger department stores for several years, while they slowly and quietly penetrated household kitchens. Not many people understood how they worked or how to use them, but everyone knew of someone who had one and those reports were positive. When we bought our first microwave we were the first of our friends and acquaintances to own one.

The microwave turned out to be indispensable. We came to depend on its ability to quickly thaw soups, steam vegetables, precook meat, reheat leftovers and heat coffee and tea. It saved a lot of time for a busy family, because as soon as we arrived home from work, we could toss in that evening’s supper meat entrée and have it thawed in a matter of minutes, while other courses were being prepared.
The microwave fell into a category like the freezer, and the automatic clothes washer and dryer, it was very convenient. Being somewhat more utilitarian than an end table, but less than a refrigerator, the microwave became a permanent fixture in our house.

The Litton microwave lasted thirteen and a half years, until the end of 1991 before breaking down. We bought a comparable, new General Electric model and found prices had declined sixty-six percent to $223.00, despite inflation during the previous decade and a half [2].

My job responsibilities expand at Landy’s
As the months passed, I became more involved with the testing of our waste water for discharged contaminants: BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand), TSS (Total Suspended Solids), oils and grease, salt, settleable solids. I filed monthly reports with both the City of St. Cloud and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, also maintained Landy Packing Company’s ‘cracks’ by-product and water test logs.

State Licenses
•  Minnesota Boiler Engineer’s License – Fourth Class: Dept. of Labor and Industry Division of Boiler Inspection, License # 0225474
•  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Waste Water Treatment Facility Operator – Class D, Certificate No. #1750.

The black grease bonanza at Landy’s
Over a period of several months, during the spring and summer , I experimentally worked out a procedure to extract black grease from the wastewater sludge. This salable by-product grossed the company an extra $11,000 a year, or about two-thirds of my annual wages at the time. After demonstrating a small working model made from fifty gallon drums,  the  company bought two large,used steam-heated stainless steel  cooking tanks. The tanks stood about eight foot high, see picture below.

[Above: Left photograph: Employee  Entrance & Black grease storage tank at the waste water treatment plants  east end. I worked alone in this large building on day shift. As a byproduct of cleaning the water, grease laden sludge was skimmed off the clarifiers and cooked. The floating black grease was pumped out to this tanker, later  sold and loaded onto a tanker truck for shipment. When you walk in the employee door and look up there is a high concrete platform, from which the picture at right was taken.
Right photograph: Main floor. Seen  here are two large, light blue 80,000 gallon air flotation water clarifiers and my steam-heated, stainless steel grease rendering/separation tanks. Photo taken from a 16-20 foot high platform looking down and across the waste water plant.  My office and the eventual chemistry laboratory are across the plant in a room at the far distant right in this picture. The boiler seen below is out of the picture at right, against  the buildings far west wall.]I designed the entire black grease rendering system including: method of precooking the grease bearing sludge in ‘grease tank 1’, pumping the greasy material into the cooking tanks, piping steam to the tanks, acidifying, pumping off the black grease, pumping the remaining sludge to the truck tanker.
Two plumbers were sent to the water plant where they worked a couple of weeks  installing the piping. As time permitted, I cut and threaded pipe, installed valves in the various pipe lines and later made modifications.
Because grease and greasy sludge was being pumped through the piping, I had to valve the lines so that they could be blown out with air and steam after use, particularly during the winter. In the colder months the black grease piping had to be pre heated to prevent freezing when the material was pumped to the out door storage tanker.

[Photograph at right: My low pressure 15 psi, 30 horse power boiler.]

Back tracking a little: During the winter of 1976-77 Landy’s enrolled me in a Boiler
Engineers course, a four hour per night, once a week, 3 month class at the
St. Cloud Area Vocational Institute. The class was geared to teach basic
boiler operation and responsibility to employees, who like myself were first
encountering this line of work, and to assist those already in the industry to
upgrading their licenses.  I passed the course and the state exam to become a Fourth Class Boiler Engineer, licensed to operate a 15 pressure , 30 horse power boiler (low pressure – low power)[3].

Wastewater flow chart:

Discussion of the wastewater flow, see the preceding diagram. The description starts with the large blue arrow at the bottom left in the chart; follow the arrows up and around to the City Sewer discharge – the large blue arrow at top right.

1)  Waste water flowed by gravity through a large underground pipe from the main plant, about 300 feet to the waste water treatment plant, where it poured out into a 20 foot wide by 30 foot long and 8 foot deep, below grade concrete sump pit (with access ladder and cat walk).
2) Sensors in the sump were tied to a Variable Frequency Drive that operated a 15 horse power pump directly above the sump, on the WWT plants ground floor. As the water level increased in the sump, a pump was called for which pumped the sewage to up and over a Hydrosieve screen on a second story platform. The Hydrosieve screen removed most of the bone and coarse material. This material slid down the screen into a screw conveyor and collected in a holding tank until being emptied into a dump truck that backed in below.
3) Leaving the Hydrosieve screen, the sewage water flowed by gravity into the Primary Clarifier where it encountered a fine ‘fizz’ of bubbles, the fizz floated much of the grease. The fizz was generated by feeding an air-water mix into the carifier from a pressurization tank. Skimmer arms, skimmed the accumulating grease into a trough, and from there it drained into Grease tank #1 for storage.
4) The sludge in Grease tank #1 was heated and pumped into two steam-heated tanks where I acidified the contents and pumped off saleable black grease. The remaining sludge was pumped to a truck tanker and spread on a farmer’s field as fertilizer.
5) Water moved from the primary Clarifier, over a weir, into a 13,000 gallon mixing tank where Ferri Floc and a coagulant polymer mixed to form a ‘pin floc’ [4]. The chemical feed hoppers and coagulant mixing tank required refilling ever hour or two during day shift. An example of the Waste Water Treatment Plant Log was included in Chapter 1977.
6) When the pin floc entered the Secondary Clarifier, it was floated by an injection of fizz, similar to that in the Primary Clarifier. The pin floc floated to the surface where it was skimmed off by the clarifiers rotating arms, into ‘Grease’ tank #2.  The contents of this holding tank were pumped to the truck tanker and disposed of as fertilizer on farm fields.
7) The much cleaner water now passed over a weir and flowed down under ground to a small concrete room which housed the flow meter and water sample port.
8) The water continued on out to intersect with a City of St. Cloud water main.
9) A small amount of sewage water was collected by a flow proportioning device and pumped into a refrigerated sample bucket in the WWT plants electric – control room.

The puppy who became, Griz
By the time we decided to get a dog we’d purchased our 39 rural property and were clearing trees from the future driveway . We figured if we got a puppy he’d be about a year old by the time we moved out onto the property. At the time, we had every intention of moving onto the acreage that fall, which was seven months away. On March 31 we went to the St. Cloud Animal Hospital where we found several pups from a litter that had just been brought in for sale. One large and active pup caught our eye. The veterinarian told us that the litter was half German Shepherd, quarter St. Bernard and quarter Unknown.
The pup we liked was a mottled black and brown, resembling a small bear, at the same time he was so chubby and large that we thought the St. Bernard in him was coming out. We paid the $25 adoption fee for the six-week old pup and took him with us. It was the pup’s  fur coloration and large size that bought him the name, Grizzly (bear), which was subsequently shortened to Griz and Grizzy.

We made a short barricade across the kitchen-living room entrance to confine the pup to the linoleum floor. For the next couple months, Donna and I went to work on week day mornings and returned home late in the afternoon to clean up “messes” and shredded paper from the kitchen floor. In the evenings and on weekends we had a grand time playing with the little fellow.
As Griz grew his fur coat became a somewhat mottled three colors which matched the fall woodland coloration. A black mantle covered his muzzle and back; his sides and upper legs blend into a light rust brown; while his chest, abdomen and lower legs are white. At adult weight, our small German Shepherd – St. Bernard cross weighed forty-nine pounds.
[Photo above: Griz at about 1-year-old, pic taken while we were camping on the property in the Fall. Gris was never ‘trained’ to do anything, but he knew some 20-25 words. He knew to correctly identify from speech whether to “fetch” or ‘find’ (go and select) a stick, stone, Frisbee, ball, or toy. He knew who to look for when playing hide and go seek-as in “Go Find Mommy” or “Go find, Daddy” or “Go find Jane’, Where’s Jessie (dog)? Listen up! What’s that (while pointing). Sit. Stay. Shake hands. Supper.  Dog house, Come., Go home!, Get out-of-the-way!, Daddy no play! Give me Frisbee (stick or toy, in other words-let it go), “Tug-a-dog” (played with an old item of cloth)…]

Our first vineyard and orchard, choked out
During April and May we cut brush, and planted an orchard and vineyard at back east side of the property. By 31 July, the area was so over grown that our plants were choked out. Adding to the injury of seeing our labor swamped by weeds, the mosquitoes were so bad we were driven out of the orchard, and defeated by their bloodthirsty numbers. The following year only a few of our plants remained alive. We gave up on the area and it returned to the wild. As the years passed this approximately 3/4 acre area grew into dense woods.

Party time in our Starcraft, Galaxy 6, folding camper
In May, we bought a new Starcraft Galaxy 6 fold down camper trailer for about $2,400. The camper was ment to be a base of operations while we worked at our property, and for weekend and vacations around the state. 

[Images above: Photograph left: Our Starcraft, Galaxy 6 pop up camper, set up at Two Rivers private campground. Two Rivers is located at the confluence of the Platte & Mississippi Rivers, north of Rice, Minnesota. We bought a screened enclosure. Our Weber BBQ  and lawn chairs can be seen through the netting.
Photo right: The camper ‘s overall 21 foot long interior (including slide out end beds); had running water, propane tanks for cooking and interior heat; it had electric lights, refrigerator—literally all the amenities and comforts of a very small home. It brought a lot of enjoyment on weekends while we camped and worked on our property, and out at places like Two Rivers, when partying with friends.]

The camper had a crank which raised the roof and sides, we pulled out the ends which became enclosed beds. The interior consisted of a four person table at one  end (see picture above), the seats raised for storage beneath.. On the left was a stove and sink and shelves, with ice chest refrigerator below. We set our camping chest on a shelf top, above a cabinet of drawers. The camping chest is the one I made before we moved to Minnesota. On the right side of the camper were two built-in cabinets with drawers, and small take down clothes closet. The screened windows were made of a clear, heavy-duty plastic film with privacy drapes.
The camper used 30 gallon propane tanks for cooking and interior heating. There was a hand pump to pressurize the water tank so we had running water too. There were no bathroom facilities so we bought a Porta Potty to keep from having to make midnight runs across campgrounds or venture out  into the rain to visit the toilet. We had a portable radio, interior lights that operated off a battery…in a word most of the comforts of home. The camper was fun, it was a lot of fun!

Camping at Two Rivers Campground
From late spring through early fall, there were too many mosquitoes out in the woods for us to work on the property, so, we went camping in state and private parks, most of which were sprayed to reduce the mosquito populations.
Several times our neighbor’s, Bobby and Arlene, came out to join us for a night of partying. Typically they’d do their farm chores and milk the cows then drive to the campground where we were staying. Supper was ready when they arrived. After our meal we’d make pop corn, and have several drinks while sitting around the table, telling jokes, gossiping, and sharing good company. They’d sleep over in the second bed, have a late breakfast then return home around mid morning to do their morning chores. Several times Bob and Arlene hired a local farm teenager to do the milking; when that happened, they’d spent the better part of the weekend partying with us.

Even back in the late 70s Donna and I saw that something wasn’t quite right in Bobby and Arlene’s marriage. Several times when we had dinner prepared, they arrive an hour late—whether we were camping or at home in Rockwood Estates. Bobby shrugged their tardiness off saying he had ‘unforeseen farm chores’, later Arlene would tell Donna privately that ‘Bobby was just screwing around’ to ‘get even’ with her over something or other.

Music [midi: The Best That You Can Do]

Initial homesite development plans
For people like Donna and I, who had lived in the city, in apartment building and mobile home parks, we found ourselves practically  overwhelmed by the enormous increase in our living space. The thirty-nine acres represented a two to three order of magnitude expansion in the our concept of personal privacy, freedom and control of resources. The purchase of the acreage created a huge mental vacuum, from which the question arose, “Now that we have it, how do we use it?”
[Photograph above: The tools we used to clear our driveway and homesite: Chain saw, bottles of water, pruning shears, an axe, gasoline, chain saw bar oil, thermos, sack lunch, and machetes.]
It was our  wish to envelope ourselves into the existing natural order, creating as small a disturbance  and as little havoc as possible in the environment and lives of the wild life forms on the property. We did not want to rush right in and tear away at the forest to create a homesite. We wanted to feel where the best spot for our home would be and utilize that spot so it would fit quietly into the environment with as much harmony as possible.

While thinking over our requirements, the idea of a multidimensional matrix began forming. We needed to plan a multitude of intertwining ideas and resources usage ideas together. We had ecological concerns for the flora and fauna. Small areas of the property needed to be manipulated for more optimum human occupation, while most of the property would remain wild.

We decided to design our land use and future construction (buildings, fencing, etc.) plans with consideration to: The wildlife, proposed livestock, carrying capacities, possible future parasitic population growth, local and long-term environmental factors, potential extreme climate variations, limited social and economic upheaval, war, reduction of living costs to increase discretionary income, extended unemployment, retirement, privacy and aesthetics.

With these concepts rather nebulously in mind we began clearing a homesite. The first abortive clearing was only just begun, about three hundred feet east of the County Road in a patch of red raspberry canes. After spending part of a weekend in that location we decided to move farther from the road, deeper back in the woods.

We spent two weekends about five hundred feet in from the county road cutting fallen dead trees and saplings. As we worked we became painfully of the large number of trees that would have to be cut in order to open the area. Finally we quit work and  sat down realizing there had to be a better place for the trailer.

During the hours we spent working in these two early locations, we learned to use the lopping shears and brush scythe. We also developed an efficient division of labor. When we first began working in the morning we’d both do the same manual labor, but gradually as we tired we began rotating jobs. When I was snipping, chopping and piling brush, Donna would drag it across the clearing to a central  brush pile. Then ever so often we switched and Donna cut brush while I’d haul it away.

Choosing a better situated homesite
The following weekend we moved another one hundred twenty-five feet east (now about seven hundred feet from the county road) into a three-quarter acre or so size patch of wild red raspberries which containing a stand of several large dead Elm trees. The death of the Elms had allowed sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, whereupon grasses and  raspberries had begun to thrive. It didn’t take much clearing before we came to realize the potential wind break afforded by the location and that the ground had a gradual southern slope. The new homesite provided an excellent privacy curtain all around, while providing a good view of our beautiful low meadow to the south.

Donna and I spent a year working in this clearing, mostly during the spring and fall weekends, when the mosquitoes weren’t out in such force. We cut down eighteen to twenty-four trees, several which were huge, dead Elms.
We cut the limbs off all the  felled trees and dragged them to one of several log piles. Smaller trunks and logs were set straddling the wheelbarrow and moved out of the clearing. The larger tree trunks were left for the future when we’d have them removed by heavy machinery.

Quartering Griz at our friend’s farm
Griz continued to grow and by July had become too large to keep permanently penned up in the trailer. Here in lied a problem. Rockwood Estates did not allow pet dogs in the trailer park. In the early morning and again after dark, Donna or I would take Griz outdoors behind the trailer to run about briefly and relieve himself.
While we were at work, Griz pottied on newspaper we laid in a specific location on the floor.

During the summer we found temporary boarding for Griz at Bobby and Arlene’s farm, where he was chained to an old unused chicken coop with access to its interior. We provided the bagged food, but our friends refused money for feeding and watering the dog. In way of payment, we bought them a large porcelain Weber Kettle barbecue and the associated cooking utensils.

Almost every weekend we picked Griz up where upon he spent the two days with us either camping, loafing, shopping in town or working at the property.

We misjudged how long it would take for us to move out to the property, so Griz spent the winter at Bobby’s tethered to the old chicken coop. By spring  it was apparent that the year old dog was having troubles at his ‘home away from home’. On day while visiting Bob and Arlene, we were standing in front of their mobile home talking when Bobby’s four-year old Border Collie, Nemo, came running down the road from the barn. Seeing Nemo approach, Griz tried to run under the car to escape, but Nemo caught him and tore into him with terrible ferocity. Griz didn’t fight back, his sole intent was to escape. In a few minutes we had the dogs apart. It was then we found  that Nemo often went to where Griz was chained at the chicken coop and “beat him up”. That weekend we withdrew Griz from Bobby’s.

Griz moves to the Wojtanowich’s
Grizzly’s next temporary home was at Andy Wojtanowich’s rural home, only about four miles from Rockwood Estates. We paid Andy’s son Doug, $5 a week to feed and water Griz. Conditions were a lot better for Griz at the Wojtanowich house, as he got a lot of attention from their three younger, near teen age children. Much of the time he was allowed to run free and it was here he learned to catch a
Frisbee. Since there wasn’t shelter available at his temporary home, we bought Griz a dog house; built by a retired man in Foley. We continued to pick Griz up Friday evenings, so we could all be together for the weekend. Since Rockwood Estates didn’t allow dogs, we developed a method of smuggling him in and Griz learned his part exceptionally well. As we approached the trailer park, Griz would climb down off the car seat and lay on the floor. When we parked in our parking space near the mobile home, I’d get out and open the  front door then step inside. Both Donna and I would look around to make sure the ‘coast was clear’.
Donna would crack open the car door and quietly say, “Go see Daddy, Griz.” In a mad dash, Gris would scramble out of the car and make a rush for the trailer door. At the last moment, I’d swing the screen door open and Griz would come bounding in.
Donna nonchalantly followed a few moments later.   d:-)

By the fall of 1978: It was apparent that we weren’t going to be living out on our property another winter so made arrangements for Griz to winter at the Wojtanowich’s

Love Canal, a toxic waste dump
On August 4, evacuation of residents of the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York began. The area where the neighborhood stood was found to have been used as a toxic waste dump from 1947 to 1952 and was found unfit for human habitation.

Mechanical work on the driveway[5] : Part #1
Our first attempt to have tree stumps removed from the driveway found us dealing with an optimistic back hoe operator late in the summer. When we showed him the job he advised us saying, “Oh sure.
I can dig out those stumps.”
We came out to check on his progress the first afternoon that he worked> He’d spend four hours removing two stumps and left gnarly holes in their place. We fired him.

Music [midi: 2001]

During September 1978, about a year after personal computer’s were first introduced in the retail stores, Donna and I  purchased a Processor Technology, SOL computer with 48K RAM. We also bought a Northstar 5-¼ inch external floppy disk drive and a box floppy disks with 96K storage capacity per disk.
The monitor consisted of a nine-inch, black and white (diagonal) Panasonic closed circuit monitor.
The unit cost about $1,850. We named the computer P.A.M.E.L.A which was an acronym for Programmable Auxiliary Machine for Education, Learning and Acquisition. At the time of the purchase we only knew one other family who had a computer and that was my friend, Mike D, who lived in California.

We promptly started a home business called “The Cybernetic Counselor” and used depreciation in
the tax laws to reduce our Federal and State income taxes. Over the next few years the equipment depreciation helped reduce the initial cost of the equipment by reducing the tax bite from our family income. During this time, I was one of the very few people in central Minnesota knowing anything about personal computers’ so figured we could help others set up their equipment for a fee (smile at that happy thought) Business was terrible. Sure we got the tax credit, but couldn’t make a profit in the business. Within a few years, the IRS pretty much closed the tax benefit provided by the ‘home office’ and other miniscule computer centric loopholes.

In retrospect, computer ownership figures came to show that until 1980, there were only one million computers in the world. Since we bought the Processor Technology SOL in 1978, we were indeed  amongst the world’s first one million computer owners.

[1978 Photograph, our ‘Processor Technology, SOL’ computer; named, PAMELA, an acronym for, Programmable Auxiliary Machine for Entertainment, Learning and Acquisition. This article is being edited for posting on PAMELA -6]

One BASIC program that I wrote analyzed our food consumption for an entire year. Donna had saved our grocery receipts, which I separated into nine categories, including: Bakery, Dairy, Canned goods, Dry goods, Produce, Beverage, Liquor,  Meat and Miscellaneous. Every week, I entered each item on the shopping receipt by category, cost and month of purchase. A data run gave either the cash value or percentage of the total for each category by month. With this we were able to see where our food dollar was being spent.

Over the period of twelve months, we found the individual categories accounted for:
Bakery ($171, 7.9%), Dairy ($263,12.1%), Canned goods ($253, 11.6%),
Dry goods ($128, 5.9%), Produce ($238, 10.9%), Beverage ($116, 5.4%),
Liquor ($290, 13.3%),  Meat ($516, 23.8%) Misc. ($195, 8.9%).
We planned future gardens with an eye to reduce the Produce, Canned goods and Meat portions of the expense.
Without realizing it at the time, I’d just begun a lifelong personal interest and hobby with computers.

[Our living room furnishings, during the time we lived in  Rockwood Estates Mobile Home Park…the old driftwood stereo shelves, a tropical fish aquarium, Pamela computer, 19″ color TV, the re-upholstered antique rocking chair, many ancestor photographs in large picture frame..]

Vacationing on the property
On September 9, we pulled our Starcraft Camper onto the property, about 250 feet in from the County road. We spent our days installing a fence along the property next to the county road and continued clearing the future homesite. Also, during this time we pretty much finished creating a map of the property: a photocopy of the original can be seen at the end of this chapter.

Every night, Donna and I celebrated our vacation, our property, and the days progress. We talked a lot, discussing everything and having a good time together.

None loved camping life more than the Griz. That dynamic, gentleman dog, loved the woods, he loved catching popcorn tossed his way, he loved his Frisbee and ball, he was always close at hand, paying attention – to everything, alert to sounds and the creatures of the woods, if you went for a walk, Griz was there. Griz was always filled with happiness and enthusiasm.[6]

[Donna standing in the driveway by our newly installed fencing. The Snow fencing didn’t work as hoped so was removed after the first winter. The Fen Bog seen in the background is all on our property. In the spring migrating cranes and ducks stopped here for a few days to weeks. Blackbirds were plentiful, a flock of pheasants continually nested in the bushes seen behind Donna]

Mechanical work on the driveway: Part #2
In early November, on our second attempt to put in a driveway, we called a fellow who owned a small bulldozer. The operator felt we should remove the top three to six inches of topsoil to expose the hard clay subsoil. He suggested we should have Class 5 added to create the road bed.
We hired him and over the next few days an eight foot wide path  about six inches deep was trenched in through the forest. The top soil was dumped in a large pile beside the driveway. The stumps we wanted out were removed and several ten cubic yard loads of Class 5 were brought in to create the road bed.
Then problems developed.
After the first hard rain, we found that the resulting runoff all gathered in the six-inch trench that was cut through the topsoil. Our road became much more muddy than the undisturbed soil had been. Even when most of the driveway dried, there was an eight foot wide impassable area about 300 feet up the driveway, where there was always a small amount of water seeping through from one side to the others. We surmised there was a tiny spring coming out of the side of the hill, there was just enough water oozing out to keep that area wet.
We were sick over the bad advice, poor workmanship, and amount of expenses that were being funneled into the driveway.
We decided to let the driveway sit until the next year, in the meanwhile I would find out what really needed to be done and get the right people to do the job.
What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1978. (Most are situation comedy’s with a new episode on once a week. We didn’t watch more than about 1 to 2 hours of TV per night.)
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  WKRP in Cincinnati
•  Happy Days
•  Laverne and Shirley
•  Three’s company
•  Eight is Enough
•  Mork and Mindy
•  Project U.F.O.
•  The Rockford Files
•  Battlestar Galactica
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  The Muppet Show
•  The Incredible Hulk
•  The Love Boat

Centennial, a mini series
The Bastard, a mini series

Capricorn One with Elliot Gould, James Brolin, Brenda Vaccaro, Sam Waterston
Coming Home with Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, Bruce Dern
Every Which Way But Loose with Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis
Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Jack Warden
Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nemoy, Brooke Adams
Jaws 2 with Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary
National Lampoon’s Animal House with John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Verna Bloom
Revenge of the Pink Panther with Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Dyan Cannon
Superman-The Movie with Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder
The Wild Geese with Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger

[Photocopy, Vegetation and topography map of our thirty-nine acre property in rural Foley, MN.]

[1]  BASIC is an acronym for Beginners All Purpose Instruction Code,  an elementary computer
programming language.
[2] During June 2003, as part of a project I was working on for G&K Services, I bought the most expensive microwave in Sears Department store. The quality machine with many desireable functions, cost $139.99!
[3] The boiler was first used to keep the sludge lines and valves operational during the winter, then additionally to cook the salvageable black grease (picture above right) and finally heat the black
grease storage tanker (above left) before pumping to a truck tanker for shipping.
[4] Particles of  grease and soil in the water electrically attached to charged sites along the polymer s molecular chain forming tiny ‘brown ‘snow flake shaped particles referred to as pin floc. Air saturated water was pumped in to the clarifier with the fin floc. Tiny bubbles of fizz attached to the pin floc carrying it to the surface, where the accumulation was skimmed off by the clarifiers by the rotating skimmer arms.
[5]  See also Journal 1, The Gordian Knot, page 17.
[6] And it is with stunned silence that as I reread these entries in the year 2008, that my mind goes down a tunnel that opens to the images and senses of those days, while we camped and worked on the property…and it all happened thirty years earlier, it was a different life time. And in sad resignation to all that has gone before, I miss and lament the passing of such a wonderous time in my life. The strength of body, the surges of vitality and power, the ambition of my middle years, the times of passion, where the future yawned endlessly open. Alas, it was a different life time.

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

Chapter 1977, age 34-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









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

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

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

The day Elvis died
What a shock!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was mesmerized, speechless and in awe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City of St Cloud commendation

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Chapter 1976, age 33-34

Themes and Events:
* The CB (Citizens Band) radio make a transition from the “big 16 wheelers” to the family car.
CB antennas become common sights, extending up from the family car and pick-up truck, while driving becomes a “10-4 Good Buddy” experience.
*  Tandy Corporation and a small enterprise known as, Apple, market the first personal computers. Sales are not great the first year, but the excitement has begun.
* The short hair style displaces long hair on many women, as fascination with the hippie styles continue to fade. A new category of book, Harlequin Romances, all aimed at lonely women emerge to find a neglected, ripe and hot market. Personal ads — the kind aimed at securing romance in all its different forms — begins showing up in periodicals.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Have you hugged your kid today?
*  Happy Birthday America!
*  Real people wear fake furs.
* Animals are kind to dumb people.
*  Unemployment isn’t working.

Waste Water Treatment Training
As construction of Landy Packing Company’s  wastewater treatment plant was entering the final phases, the company registered me in a the Area Vocational Institute’s, ‘Fundamentals of Waste Water Treatment’ course. This was normally a two year curriculum, however, with my college education, work experience and in particular the experience gained from helping install the pumps, pipes, etc. at the Landy facility, I was able to skip all the course work except a single core, ‘Waste Water Treatment’ class. The class met four hours, one evening each week, during the Winter Quarter.

I passed the  class and the Minnesota State Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator’s exam to become a Minnesota licensed, Class D waste water treatment plant operator.

How to ‘ask’ for a raise
Ever since the water plant began construction, Max Landy, co-owner of Landy Packing would occasionally stop at the facility to check on progress, and to see who was working or loafing on the job, etc.…Max was a older man in his mid sixties, of  Jewish descent, a person with a rather acidic nature. He was quick to berate anyone, with words and body language. He was brimming with sarcasm and always ready to say something negative to one person, about another person who was also standing in his presence.

I learned early, that Max and some of his extended family, who were company officers, understood one thing — strength. They would ‘walk on’ anyone who appeared weak, cheerful or optimistic; they respected scowls, abrasiveness, and cold treatment. That’s what they gave and what they expected in return from they’re employee relationships.

And so, while the plant was being built, Max told me, (paraphrased), “… Don’t expect a raise until the plant’s in operation…until that time you’re only doing labor and not worth any more to me than labor…if you don’t like it, get a job somewhere else.” I already knew the culture and attitude of the business, his statement wasn’t aimed at me as, Larry, it’s what he would have told anyone and probably often did. Being a quick study, I just smirked, swore under my breath, and went about my work…waiting.

We ran operational tests for a couple days while the factory equipment installers stood by observing and tweaking their machinery. Then, seeing everything worked properly, they left.
The construction crew likewise packed the last of their equipment and pulled out.

On the morning that the wastewater treatment plant officially came online., I was the only one who knew how to run the facility.
The City of St. Cloud engineers and Jerry Mahon, Assistant Director of the City’s Department of Utilities, were coming to inspect the facility and certify that it was in compliance with their mandate[1].

About 8AM, Max Landy arrived at work, parked his Cadillac next to the plant and came inside to ask if it everything was operating properly. He questioned me, looked about, scowled his approval and stalked out of the building. I walked out to his car behind him and in an assertive voice reminded him, “Now that the plant’s in operation, you’ll approve my raise?!” Max opened his car door, stopped for a second to looked back at me, his face becoming red with anger. Then climbing in the car, he shouted a profanity, and something to the effect, “Dammit, you haven’t been on the job one day and already you want a raise (more unintelligible angry mumbling)” and he sped off toward his office parking spot.

I didn’t have to worry about my job. Max loved me, I mean, he probably wished I would fall over dead, but that’s what the Landy’s liked, a gutsy, ‘don’t take any shit’ attitude. As soon as I had them over a barrel, I used the leverage, it was only fair, tit for tat, it was how one did business with Landy Packing. About two weeks later, a substantial $1.00 raise (about 20% increase) showed up on my pay check and that was just the beginning.

Icabod P. Tailfeathers
During the spring we decided to buy a parakeet. We spent much of a Saturday going about stores where parakeets were sold talking to the sales clerks, inspecting their birds, pricing the cages, feed and toys. We bought a booklet on keeping a parakeet, and the cage setup including: a tall cylindrical brass colored cage, feeder and watering containers, perches, a colorful mirror with a bell on the bottom and parakeet feed. That afternoon and evening we put the cage and its stand up, read the booklet and discussed our soon to be new pet.
[Icabod P. Tailfeathers, the first of three parakeets we had.]
The next day, Sunday, we returned to Woolworth’s where we bought a standard green male parakeet. After he’d been at home with us for a week or two and become accustomed to his new surroundings, we began teaching him to climb on our fingers. It took at least a month of continual practice, before he climbed on a finger whenever it was offered. During the second week in his new home we settled upon a good name for the little fellow, Icabod P. Tailfeathers. It was a big name for such a little bird, so we contracted it and just called him, Icabod. However, when his entire name was reiterated, it was spoken with dignity in a high toned, British

Before long, his cage was left open, so after we’d come to the kitchen in the morning, or home from work at night, he’d fly over and sit on one of our shoulders. Frequently, Icabod’s visits during our meals were rewarded with little pieces of food. Often he’d sit on one of our shoulders, or the back of the couch,
while we watched television. He liked running at full gallop across the backrest on the couch, where he could pull a strand on one person’s hair then run across the couch and pull or nip the other person’s ear. Icabod was one of the family, a playful little cuss who spent a lot of time busy sitting on his human friends or scampering around on the table while we wrote letters.

[Photograph: Our living room in the Woodland Hills apartment. The mirror frame, antique rocking chair (a wedding present from cousin Bob) were refinished.  I’d recently made the round, rag rug. We have recently purchased a new coffee table and sofa.]

Garbage disposal at the Woodland Hills apartment
At this time we were living in a high population density, apartment complex, where a cluster of four-plex apartments shared several dumpsters. These steel dumpsters were heavy duty pieces of equipment measuring about four foot high by four foot wide by six foot long, the top was divided in half and each half covered by a hinged sheet metal lid. The idea was to open the lid, drop in your garbage bag and close the lid, so as to control the flies and smell. The problem was that garbage pickup wasn’t often enough. After a couple of days the dumpster was full, its lids were open and trash was bulging out through and above the top. The dumpsters were picked up by a special dump truck with fork lift hydraulics. Steel forks were slid into enclosed channels beneath the dumpster. When the hydraulics were engaged, the dumpster was lifted in an arch over the open back of the truck.
Garbage fell from the dumpster in a rather loud and resounding, “clackity, jangle, bang, whump, whump, thud” all against the background whine of the trucks hydraulic system.

Mao dies
On September 9, Communist Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung died at the age of eighty two years.

• In synopsis, 1976 was a year of work. We both worked 8 hour shifts, 5 days a week and saved what we could of our combined income. I went to night school one night a week and did my homework another night. During the summer months we maintained a small garden at the VA Hospital. The year didn’t contain any great or glorious events, it was just a time of common life, it wasn’t bad, nor particularly memorable, it just was…

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1976:
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  Baa Baa Black Sheep
•  The Bionic Woman
•  Little House on the Prairie
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  Wonder Woman
•  The Six Million Dollar Man
•  The Rockford Files –unorthodox, private detective , my favorite at this time
•  Laverne and Shirley
•  Space 1999

Among the movies that Donna and I saw this year  were:
King Kong with Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lange
Logan’s Run with Michael York, Richard Jordan, Jenny Agutter
Mother, Jugs and Speed with Raquel Welch, Bill Cosby, Harvy Keitel
Network with Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall
Robin and Marion with Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, Richard Harris
Taxi Driver with Robert DeNiro, Cybill Sheperd, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel
The Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, Vic Morrow
The Eagle Has Landed with Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter
The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday with Lee Marvin, Oliver Reed
The Shootist with John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Ron Howard

[1]  The City of St Cloud, in conjunction with the Minnesota Pollution Control agency forced Landy Packing to install the pre treatment facility to remove a large amount of the BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) being generated by the slaughter operation. Until the WWT plant opened, the pollutant running down Landy’s sewage line was threatening to overwhelm the City of St Cloud’s public
waste water treatment plant.

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

Chapter 1975, age 32-33

Themes and Events:
‘MITS Altair’, the first personal computer, is announced on the cover of Popular Electronics as a kit for hobbyists.
*  Atari Corporation brings out its first line of mass produced video games. Mood rings (green for stability, purple for ecstasy, etc.) sell by the millions. The “pet rock” becomes an extraordinary novelty item.
*  Poor car sales prompt the automotive industry to layoff a record 274,380 workers during February. Auto makers begin using the “rebate” to tempt consumers into buying a new car.
*  By year end, U.S. unemployment reaches 9.2%, the highest since 1941. As the recession entrenches, New York City comes close to defaulting on $450 million in notes; the White House arranges
for $2.3 billion in short term loans.
*  As food prices soar, many Americans are prompted to turn to home gardening and canning. The government estimates American’s planted 6 million new gardens during the spring.
*  There are now more than 4 billion people in the world.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  Eat beans — America needs gas.
*  Fast is fuelish.
* If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
*  We’re all doomed, the world is not coming to an end.

Music [midi: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini-2]

Our first Minnesota blizzard
Six months passed since we first entered Minnesota, pulling all our worldly belongings in a small moving trailer. We had what the local residents described as an unusually cold fall and a month just a month earlier, Donna found employment at Landy Packing Company. It so happened that over the months, whenever Donna or I applied for a job, the interviewer would notice  we were from California, then with a smirk, ask if we’ve ever experienced, “a Minnesota winter.

By early January we were accustomed to both the winter temperatures and driving in snow; we agreed between ourselves, that the much heralded, “Minnesota Winter” wasn’t nearly as bad as it was cracked up to be. Unknown to us in this comfortable, new found smugness, was that our learning curve was about to turn up– sharply.

On Friday, January 10th, about 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, it began to snow ever so gently. What began gently, slowly and unobtrusively, increased in vigor over the next few hours. By the time I set down my book and left the house to pick Donna up at work at 4:45 PM, drifts were already forming in the driveway behind our flat.  In fact, so much snow had fallen during the previous four hours, that I almost got stuck trying drive out of the alley in a pickup truck!

Nearing Landy Packing Company, which was only a couple miles away, I found that only one lane was still open on the road. Though still relatively early, it was almost dark and snowing heavily, everything was white, as though the landscape were being erased. Cars were taking turns moving up and down the single snow banked lane. Several vehicles would drive one way down hill toward the plant, then others would drive in a group up hill. Several cars were stuck in rapidly deepening snow, thus closing down  the other lane.
Everyone had to wait a turn, meanwhile it was getting darker and uglier outside.

After picking Donna up, we returned home only to get stuck trying to maneuver into our parking  space.  It took some shoveling and pushing, but we managed to move the truck where it belonged.

At 9:00PM, Donna and I bundled up in our new parkas, gloves and boots and took a several block, forty five minute walk in the storm. Our coats had fur lined, extended tunnel like parka hoods that protected our faces from the howling wind and blowing snow. After being outside for a few minutes, condensation in the snorkel’s fur lining began turning to ice. Snow had made the streets impassable to automobiles. We were surprised to find quite a few young adults out walking in the blizzard. Some were apparently inebriated; several yelled and waved at us, but their jovial message disappeared in the wind and soon their groups vanished in the darkness. We saw a few snowmobiles scooting about and one hearty soul was moving through town on a pair of cross country skies.

We waded down the middle of Division Street, there was no traffic. The traffic lights, like strict little robots, kept uselessly blinking through their timed sequence from green to amber then red, but now for only the occasional wanderer on foot. We stood in the middle of the road, the traffic lights directing traffic that didn’t exist. The night scene was flooded with the bluish — white light from the street lamps. Everything had become either black or white, there seemed to be no shades of gray. It was eerie and lonely. The snow drifts were deepening, snow was blowing across a rippled white landscape, at times it looked like the world was deserted.

Parked cars were being buried with snow. Automobiles left in the downtown municipal parking lot were almost covered. New Cadillac’s in a automobile dealership lot had become large white snowy ripples. By the time we returned home, our legs were cherry red from the penetrating cold, but elsewhere our bodies were warm.

[Photographs above: Blizzard of the Century, 1975. Top: First night, a lull in the storm. View from the  window of our upstairs apartment. No auto traffic, wind sculptured snow, bitter temperatures.
Bottom: The next morning, two blocks from our flat, a row of six Cadillac’s sit buried in the snow in an automobile sales lot.]

Saturday morning, the radio news told that public transportation was closed until Monday, several hundred people were stranded overnight in the St. Cloud Civic Center, all hotels and motels in the area were filled to capacity by stranded travelers. Stores were closed, there would be no newspaper, no mail pick up or delivery. Civil Defense was watching rural areas where electricity had started going out seven hours after the storm began. People without electricity were putting blankets over doors to keep drafts down, some were wearing snowmobile suits to keep warm indoors. Meanwhile, the utility trucks were stranded and the snow plows were not going to be sent out until the wind stopped blowing the snow.

Saturday evening before going to bed, I opened the kitchen window to clean snow accumulations
off out outdoor thermometer. When I pushed open the outer storm window, I instantly felt an odd burning sensation on my arm. The outdoor temperature was -8ºF with a -60ºF Wind Chill Temperature. When opening the storm window I had exposed my arm to a heat loss 130ºF below our comfortable 70ºF indoor room temperature. This was surprising, because I had not expected exposed skin to react physiologically in the same way as it would to hot water–it was so cold there was only a sensation of burning.

Over the next few days, St. Cloudand central Minnesotadug out from the storm and life returned to normal. As the days passed and the severity and expanse of the storm became better known, it became known locally as, The Blizzard of the Century.

During the winter and into the spring, Donna and I attended short term adult evening classes at the Area Vocational Institute. The classes included: gardening, bee keeping, canning, and concepts in basic house construction– things to consider when having a house built.

The knitting machine
During our exploration of ‘back to the land’ technologies, we attended a class on clothing manufacture, using a knitting machine. Knitting machines were new to us; and I suppose, were having a surge in sales, due to the depressed economy and the ‘back to the land’ mentality that affected many folks.

We liked the idea of making some of our own clothing, so in the weeks that followed bought a Brother knitting machine, crochet needles and yarn.
While Donna met with a woman who taught her how to use the machine, I began crocheting; and over the winter made several scarves and pairs of winter mittens. [Internet image above right. A model that looks similar to the knitting machine that we had.]

Using the knitting machine, Donna made several sweaters, winter hats and pairs of stockings. The stockings were too course and thick to wear with our shoes; however, the entire process was a learning tool, bringing us together in our pursuits.

Using a 7 foot, 2″x2″ piece of lumber and wooden dowels, I made Donna a ‘yarn spool tree’ that would hold twenty six large cones of various colored yarn.
Also, with several lengths of  2″x4″s, 2″x2″ lumber, and wooden dowels, I made a rack  that held 81 skeins of various colored wool yarn.
[Photograph at left: The yarn spool tree (standing at left) and the wool yarn skein rack (right) and that I made for Donna.]

The people downstairs
The couple living in the flat beneath us was about Donna’s and my age. The wife, Judy, was a decent, tall and slender lady with the behavior and dress of an ex hippie. The husband, Mark, was probably about my age, a little shorted and a bit stockier, he was beginning to bald and had a snotty attitude. If I had to characterize Mark, I’d say he reminded me of a snotty fat, old lap dog that snapped and barked incessantly at everything and everyone, never realizing for a minute that he was a tiny creature. We never got to know them on a personal basis.

Almost weekly, Mark and Judy had loud arguments. Their voices and her periodic yelps and crying carried right up to our flat. We’d hear yells as they moved back and forth through their rooms, then Judy usually went in the bathroom, slammed and locked the door. As they yelled back and forth through the door we could hear them quite well, particularly when our kitchen sink cupboard doors were opened (right above their bathroom) — which they were (chuckle) whenever the  neighbors argued.  :-)

Frequently, on weekend mornings, as we went down the stairwell to our entrance door, we could smell the unmistakable scent of marijuana seeping out from under the locked door that opened into their bedroom. I think Judy was the “free spirit” in their family, Mark was described above…

The end of Watergate
Early in the year, the chief three defendants in the “Watergate Break In” received short prison terms for their crimes. All spent their ‘time’ in a low security prison where doing time was more an inconvenience than a punishment. President Nixon had already been pardoned for any part he may have played in the scandal by his personally chosen successor, President Gerald Ford.

I had always thought that no man could rise to presidential power without having complicity in some illegal activities. Further, I never did understand why Congress and in particular, the news media, became so excited over the bugging of the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex. Yet this event became important enough to pull down the Presidency — Nixon’s complicity probably only included his knowledge of the affair and subsequent attempts to cover up that knowledge.[1]

I think President Nixon got a bum rap and may well be disgraced by historians. Nixon brought the disagreeable Vietnam War to an end, after Presidents John F. Kennedy started it and  Lyndon B. Johnson escalated it. Nixon also made history by being the first U.S. President to visit China. His act helped seal several decades of hostilities that had grown up between our countries, thus reducing the chances of war and increasing trade. Today we reap the benefits of the increased trade with China, but forgotten is the immense part played by President Richard Nixon [1].
[Hahaha. In retrospect: During the 1980s, when this chapter was origionally being written, the idea of increased trade with China was still being looked on with favor.

The ‘Fall of Saigon’
On the evening of April 30, we sat glued to our television sets watching Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam being captured by the North Vietnamese. We witnessed a sad and tragic scene. We had not only quit the war with North Vietnam, having been essentially been defeated by a small country, but now the enemy were chasing the last of our people out in a humiliating way. We saw thousands,
maybe tens of thousands of desperate South Vietnamese citizens, who’d been loyal to the U.S.
and their government, attempting to flee. Between April 24 and April 30, as North Vietnamese troops over ran the city, the last Americans scrambled aboard helicopters and fled. A huge mob of people crowded a helicopter pad on top the American embassy. As soon as one helicopter was loaded and rose into the air, another would land to be immediately filled by frantic people. People were scrambling and climbing over one another to get aboard. Meanwhile, the Army of North Vietnam was entering the city, their artillery was shelling the airport, their troops shooting anyone who looked even the slightest bit offensive. There was panic everywhere. Everyone was desperate to escape.  The American military, indeed, America, didn’t look so powerful that day.

One bill, then another
In order to economize, we purchased a used bicycle and in good weather Donna rode 1- 1/4 miles to work in the morning. Occasionally, Donna and another office worker from Landy’s who lived nearby rode their bicycles to work together.

During the late spring, we paid off our GMC pickup truck.

No sooner had we paid the pickup loan when the Government wrote, requiring Donna and to pay a $500 Federally Insured Loan she’d taken out in while attending college. We threw all our resources into paying off Donna’s loan. When we had that bill almost paid, the Government wrote to me, and I was required to begin repayment of my $1000 Federally Insured Student Loan,borrowed in November 1968.

There seemed to be some perverse form of symmetry at work: We were basically living on Donna’s wages and paying Federally Insured government school loans with money the government was giving me as Unemployment Compensation. We paid the last of the loans on December 8th thereby maintaining good credit. It still seemed odd, surreal if you will,  to pay the government with the money the government gave us.

Garbage disposal at the house
While living in the upstairs flat, we initially threw our household garbage into used, heavy duty brown paper shopping bags that were set in a small, open “trash can” out of sight beside the stove.
The twelve inch wide by seven inch deep by seventeen inch high tough bags were used by grocery stores everywhere, to load the families purchases for transport home, they were easily folded and stored flat until needed to hold household garbage in the kitchen trash can.

After several days, when a bag had been filled- with bottles, cans, newspapers and raw garbage, etc., it is removed for disposal. Ninety  percent of the time, we just carry the full trash bag outside to the garbage can. About one out of ten bags seemed to develop a problem; either the bag ripped from over filling or the bottom threatened to fail because some of the contents were wet. Not very often, but
occasionally a bag failed just as it was being picked up and so showered the floor with waste. The problem was compounded if there wasn’t another bag available to transfer everything into.

When the bag was filled, it was taken outside to our thirty gallon covered, galvanized,  garbage can. Twice a week, on Monday and Thursday, the municipal garbage truck could be heard coming slowly down the alley, making its collections. The procedure was for the “garbage man” to hop off the back of the truck, saunter up to your can, look at your trash briefly, then glance at your house. He’d carry the can to the truck, hop it up over the waist high lip at the back of the truck and drop it a couple inches to loosen the contents. He’d tip the can upside down, give it a bang, raise it as the garbage slid out, then half carry and half toss the can back to where it had previously stood. As the truck crept forward to the next house, one or both of the “dumpers” would look into the trash just dumped to see if there was anything worth salvaging.

I’ve never met anyone who knew a garbage man, nor have I ever heard anyone talk to the men while they work. They are most often from the bottom of the social ladder, they are not often white, many are Negro and most appear in their mid twenties to early forties in age. When I was a child, I heard that “garbage men” were often ex convicts who were working their way back into society after a prison term.

Homemade soap
Ever since the early 1970s, while we still lived in Los Angeles, there had developed a commercial fad described as, and called, “Do It Yourself”, which grew from the Hippie era. The “Do It Yourself” house repair and craft mentality was catered to by specialized hardware stores that were a cross between: a hardware store, small lumber company and a craft shop. These stores carried products and
instructions for doing your own interior decorating, wall papering, tile laying, house painting, furniture refinishing, soap making, candle making, small scale wood working, picture framing, etc. Of course such activities were always the prerogative of the home owner or hobbyist, but at that time they seemed to catch the public eye, while the products were brought together under one roof.

It was as a result of this “do it yourself” sentiment that over the previous two years we refinishing first an old desk, a antique radio, a pair of old dressers that were bought from Ted Haynie, and which led us to make our own soap.

Beginning this spring and continuing for about seven years, Donna and I made much of our own bars of hand soap. We got the initial instructions for making soap from a Mother Earth Magazine, while living in El Monte, California. After settling in St. Cloud we ran across another soap recipe, which called for the addition of various fragrances and abrasive materials to make specialize soap, i.e., adding oatmeal increased abrasiveness.

Since Donna and I saw Minnesota as not only a geographical location, but as a new way of life, we wanted to gain a new perspective on cost cutting and survivalist techniques. We set one day aside, deciding to spend it making a batch of homemade soap. After all, we reasoned, it would save a little money, allow us the use of our spare time,  hands, eyes and brain to create something of value for ourselves.

Thereafter, at the rate of once every other year, we made up a double batch, or about eighteen pounds of soap, which provided seventy two bars. The process was quite easy and took about two total man hours labor. Once or twice we rendered bacon and fat drippings for the lard, another time we simply bought fresh lard. The lye used for each soap making session cost $2.00. Since commercial bars of soap
were selling for about 25¢ each, we saved about $16 every two years. Obviously this was more of a hobby interest than a profitable adventure.

If we hadn’t decided to pamper ourselves with a perfumed soap with better lather and use shampoos on our hair, we’d have continued to use the homemade soap. Never-the-less, in the early 1980s, we decided we wanted to have a more fragrant smelling soap, one that didn’t have a tendency to leave a film and one that washed our hair cleaner. When the last of the bars were used, we switched to commercial hand soap and shampoos. The experience taught us that you can easily make an effective soap, good for washing hands, body and hair, it was all a matter of taste. No pun intended.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth Pierce visit
During the spring, my Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth Pierce drove over from suburban Milwaukee for a visit. In a couple years Bill will be retiring from his position as chief engineer at A.O. Smith. They are thinking of selling their nice home in Whitefish Bay and moving to Sun City, Arizona. They are both tired of the cold winters, icy walking and driving conditions, yard work and are looking forward to living in a dry desert environment.

Aunt Elizabeth brought us root cuttings from her Shamrock house plant. The Shamrock was brought to America, from Ireland, by her grandmother when she immigrated here at the beginning of this century.
The plant has been in her family for an unknown period of time, yet it has been handed down and cared for by family members in America ever since about 1910

As this autobiography is written, twenty years later, in 1995 (and again in the years 2000, and 2008), I still have and cherish this delicate little green Shamrock with its tiny five pedaled pink flowers[2].

Our garden at the V.A. Hospital
During May, we registered for a fifteen by twenty foot garden plot at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in St. Cloud. Our garden was one amongst many on a two acre plot on the V.A. grounds. The acreage was plowed, disked and staked out. People who wanted to garden rented the small plots for $2. We bought a hoe, rake, shovel, sprinkler and a few other gardening tools, then picked up a variety of seeds. At the beginning of the season, we planted lettuce, bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and pole beans.
[Photograph: Our first garden (center front only, freshly hoe’d area) at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital gardening area. Our garden was an experimental learning experience, a slight money saver and gave us the experience of raising and eating our own food.]

We drove across town to the garden every couple weeks to weed, water as necessary and follow the progress of the vegetables. We found that a garden requires more precise attention than every two weeks. When there is a particularly dry period, the garden needs watering every few days, while weeding is required following the rains.
The garden was fun to tend and a successful operation, nothing edible went to waste. We raised many more onions than needed so Donna diced the extra, packed them into several plastic storage bags and put them away in our the freezer for future consumption. Over time, the onions became components of  homemade soup and hash.

I’m also hired at Landy Packing Company
During the first days of June, Donna came home with news that Landy Packing Company was going to begin construction of a Waste Water Treatment plant. She’d heard the plant superintendent, Herb Johnson, talking about hiring someone to learn the treatment facility from the ground up. Donna told Herb, that I’d been a chemical laboratory technician and supervisor in previous positions, so
arrangements were made for my interview.

I filled out a job application, which Herb looked over quickly, then we went into a private room for a chat. Herb said he’d try me out in the job, but that I should know from the beginning that I’d have to help build the building and assemble the equipment. The first year of the job would mean hard physical
labor which might not be what I had in mind; I assured him I was interested.

I was hired on the spot, with a starting rate of pay of a mere $3.50 per hour, considerably less than  what I’d been earning working for Gregg Iron Foundry. However, from talking with Donna about procedures, I knew that Landy’s had a policy of starting workers off at a very low wage, then rapidly bringing them up to scale, when they proved their ability to handle the assigned job. I accepted this probability, knowing that once the Water Plant was in operation I would be well compensated for my low starting wages.

Landy Packing Company, 1st Ave. South& 16th Streets, P.O. Box851, St Cloud, MN 56301

Herb Johnson was right, there was a lot of physical labor involved with the construction of the waste water treatment facility!

As is so happened, Landy’s didn’t hire just me to learn the job, they hired six variously qualified men as laborers, to help build the plant, who ever stayed with the job and was most proficient would be awarded the ‘operators position’. During the first week, the first 1-2 fellows quit and over the first month or two our ranks narrowed until there was only me. Of course the fellows who quit were replaced, but by ‘temporary help’, common laborers.

As the work progressed, I learned to use a shovel, also learned how to mix concrete, install scaffolding, lay concrete block, lay reinforcement bar and smooth concrete. Working with the equipment manufacturer installers, I learned first hand about the operation of the water clarifiers and pumps. I learned structural painting with oil and epoxy. I became proficient working with the plumbers, measuring, cutting, threading, doping pipe, and installing various fittings. As time passed, management occasionally asked the professionals and the journeymen about my performance, asking if I was trustworthy, conscientious… “is he any good?”. They were given good reports.
Slowly, over the next year, the water plant went up; our young family was earning good money, we were setting down roots in Minnesota, things were good.

A new television
One thing we bought that made us ‘happy as larks’ was a 19 inch, portable color television. (see picture below). Color TV’s were not real common, as I recall, the mid 1970s was a time  when black and white gave way to color TV. Donna and I had been using a old B&W TV I bought from Jerry Meyers in Arcata, we were happy and proud to have our own color television.

[Photograph: Our living room. With homemade driftwood stereo stand & stereo speakers, paintings, sand candle  (all made in Arcata) and coffee table (just made). Refurbished: old chair & mirror.
Donna’s Anasazi pot. Our new color television at lower right.]

Evicted from our flat!
In early September, about a year after we moved into the upstairs flat of the Donlin rental,  the old house was sold to Mark and Judy Theisen, ‘the people downstairs’.

Almost immediately, following the sale, we began finding evidence that the new owner, Mark, had begun to periodically enter our flat and snoop about while we were at work. When I confronted him of our suspicions, he claimed, “I was making fire safety inspections, which is my right to do.” I asked him to make future ‘fire safety inspections’, while we were at home.

Not long after that, we returned home to find a crossbow bolt pulled half way out of its quiver and a piece of refuse paper absentmindedly left on top the kitchen table. I immediately stormed outside to raise hell with Mark, whom I’d seen working in his small garden. I pressed up near him and while jabbing my finger at his face, threatened him with a fight should I ever find he’d been nosing about our flat again without my personal authorization.

Mark must have fumed over my threat for a couple hours, because that evening he telephoned us from downstairs and gave notice that he was evicting us, effective thirty days after the beginning of the next month. (grin)

Our four-plex apartment in S.E. St. Cloud
It didn’t take long to find a modern two bedroom apartment in the Woodland Hills Apartment complex, about one and a half miles from the 6th Avenue flat. What began as an irritation and extra labor from the forced move, eventually worked out to the good. We needed the extra space and enjoyed the newer facilities afforded by the modern and much larger living quarters.
[Photograph: Woodland Hills Apartments: We were located upstairs on the right side. As I recall, Donna was upstairs  (inside extreme right window) cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast when this hotograph was taken.]
Our complex was bordered on three sides by other apartment buildings, all located in a high population density community, on the south east corner of Highway #10 and Hwy. #23, in eastern St. Cloud, MN.

Our apartment was located in a separate four-plex building, of which there were about ten each four-plexes in the complex. Each building was two stories high and contained four individual apartments, consisting of a central entrance, hallway, stairs and communal laundry room. The apartment housing was laid out with two units on the right, one upper and one lower, and  two on the left.
Tenant automobiles were parked outdoors in their buildings parking lot, electric plug-ins were at each car stantion for engine ‘block heaters’ during the winter.

We moved into Woodland Hills during late September, although I don’t remember the initial rental fee, but by the time we moved out, circa April 1977 (one and a half years later), we were paying $176.00 a month.
By October 1st our address became: Donna & Larry Pierce, 322 14th Ave S.E., Apt#4, St Cloud, MN, 56301

The apartment’s door opened into a large carpeted living room. Beyond the living room was out well illuminated modern kitchen with lots of cupboard and shelf space. We used one bedroom as a combination office and storage space, for the freezer. The apartment provided about 650 square feet area, and was about 25%-30% larger than the 6th Avenue flat.

Cousin Bob visits and the big Christmas
Cousin Bob flew back to visit us for the Christmas holidays and learned something about the ‘famous’ Minnesota winter. When his jet taxied up to the terminal, the passengers exited their flight entering the terminal building through a flexible, heated concourse. Bob brought a mid weight jacket, figuring his warmest California coat would suffice during an upper Midwest winter. After picking up Bob’s luggage, we walked out of the building—only to be immersed by a strong wind and near zero temperatures. It was bitter cold, the air hurt Donna and me, and we were wearing our parkas, Bob simply stopped in his tracks and gasped. He and Donna waited by the doors, inside the terminal while I brought the car around!

That Christmas, Donna had the largest shopping spree ever. We spent about $800 (five months rent) on presents, but mostly, things needed about our home. Actually, we’d put off buying many material goods since moving to Minnesota, meanwhile, paying off school loans and deciding to have a huge Christmas.

Everything was wrapped in colorful ‘Christmas wrapping paper,’ with bows, and ribbons. There was so much, that Santa Claus would have had to make multiple trips to bring it all in the apartment.

Among the many boxes of goodies we opened Christmas morning were, a table top sewing machine, set of top quality Chicago cuttelry and wooden knife rack, skeins of yarn, winter clothing, steam iron and ironing board, bathroom scale, and other items which have been lost to memry.

We had so many ‘presents’ stacked up against a wall in the living room, that Bob shook his head in disbelief and made a few snide statements about our affluence.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1975.
•  Local Evening  News
•  National Evening News
•  Happy Days
•  Welcome Back Kotter
•  Little House on the Prairie
• The Six Million Dollar Man
• M*A*S*H*
• Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
• Swiss Family Robinson
• Sanford and Son
• The Waltons
• Baretta
• The Night Stalker
• Space 1999

Among the movies that Donna and I saw this year were:
Jaws with Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss,Lorraine Gray
Man Friday with Peter O’Toole, Richard Roundtree
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest with Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield
Rollerball with James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck
Shampoo with Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Goldie Hawn
The Four Musketeers with Oliver Reed, Michael York, Rachel Welch
The Great Waldo Pepper with Robert Redford, Bo Svenson, Susan Saradon, Bo Brundin
Three Days  of the Condor with Robert Redford,  Faye Dunaway
W.W. and the Dance Kings with Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed
[1] By 2011, while editing the chapter for inclusion in my blog, about 25 years have passed and much of our industrial capacity has moved off shore to China. The US has become a Service economy living off increased credit and debt. Our cities are pockmarked with Walmart stores which have largely eliminated the smaller ‘mom and pop’ grocery, hardware and variety store across the country. China recycles the money we pay for their merchandies back into our national bonds, allowing us to spend and go still deeper into debt. So did Nixon do us a favor? I think he ment right, but at this time ‘free trade’ has  cost us jobs and all the  good social things that trickle down from full employment. In return for that loss, everyone saves a few cents on miscellaneous items on each visit to Walmart (China store
[2] Despite several close calls over a period of 34 years, the plant died in 2009.


Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

Chapter 1974, age 31-32

Themes and Events:
*  The economy slides into recession as consumer prices rise 12.2% and employment climbs past 7%.
*  Accompanying our slide into recession is great amount of public unhappiness over the Watergate scandal, politicians, the Arab oil embargo and gasoline prices. We have the feeling that somehow the world has changed into a less friendly place.
*  The world’s Human population reached 4 billion persons this year.
*  There is a growing fear that the change in the country’s sexual mores will create long-term health problems.
*  Ironically, in 1969 the first American died of AIDS, a decade before the first case was diagnosed as such.
*  Transcendental meditation gains popularity with many, while shaven, saffron-robed Hare Krishna’s are found begging and chanting on the streets of most American cities.
*  Digital wrist watches become available. “Streaking” (running naked in public) becomes a shocking new form of public display this year.
*  Buttons & bumper stickers: Have you thanked a green plant today? WIN (acronym for President Ford’s “whip inflation now” slogan).
*  Lady Godiva was a streaker.
*  A pill a day keeps the stork away. Marijuana — nature’s way of saying “Hi.”

Stock prices rebound
After the Dow Jones Industrial Average index (DJIA) seemed to have bottomed out and poised to rise, we began accumulating Wyle Labs stock again.
Sure enough, by the beginning of March we were again enjoying a steep rise in Wyle Labs share price and seeing renewed interest in the general market. It looked like we’d been through the worst of the social and economic effects the depressed economy had to offer: Vice President Agnew resigned his office in disgrace, without the US government failing; the Arab Oil Embargo came to an end after what amounted to a several month bad dream; the stock market had its little correction.

Seeing huge profits looming in the months ahead, I opened a “margin account” and began to purchase stocks on margin so as to magnify our profits. As the days and weeks passed I continued tracking our investments on a daily basis. Spring turned to summer and we’d more than doubled our initial investment. We were heady with excitement and gleefully greedy over the paper profits, while expecting still greater profits in the months ahead.

Don and Eulah S. move to San  Diego (D0nna’s parents)
When  Don’s freeway surface engineering job ended in Los Angeles, his employer transferred him to their shop in San Diego.
Don had done a lot of design and troubleshooting work with the concrete road surface grinding machines and his employer wanted to have him in the shop while several new machines were being built.

Don  moved Donna’s trailer from storage in Arcata, to a mobile home park in San Diego. This was the same trailer Donna lived in when we met and while she attended her final year of college at Humboldt State. Don and Eulah sold their home in La Puente and moved into the small mobile home in San Diego. In order to increase their living space, they had a large concrete patio poured, onto which was built a commercially made screen enclosed veranda.

One  thing about Don and Eulah, they were very adaptable in their ability to move and set up housing under a wide range of housing conditions, including: After their marriage they lived in a tiny, eight foot by twenty five foot long mobile home, near Arcata, CA; then in a cabin by Jacoby Creek(where Donna was born), Arcata, CA; a cabin and acreage on the Klamath River, CA; an old two story house in Grants Pass, OR; a lumber company office building remodeled to living quarters, five miles outside of Redding, CA; the modern, ranch style tract home in La Puente, CA; now to the eight foot by forty foot small mobile home in San Diego; later to a larger, twelve foot by sixty foot mobile home at Black Butte mountain, near Redding, CA; and (years later) to a nearly rent free guest house beside Eulah’s daughter, Kedina’s house in the outskirts of Anderson, CA.

Family wages increases
Early in the year, Donna and I received pay raises at work; Donna’s increase brought her  to $735 per month, while mine rose to $4.21/hour or, $729/month.

Growing a mustache
During this time, mustaches were common amongst young adults, and particularly so with the Mexican workers at Gregg Iron Foundry. Wondering how I’d look with a mustache, I left my upper lip unshaven for a week. When Donna didn’t complain, I let it remain. As time passed, the neatly trimmed, two inch wide mustache became part of my style; I had a mustache for about twelve years, from about age thirty one to forty three years old.

Our handy freezer
On February 8, Donna and I bought an item of household equipment that was to become an integral part of our food storage and which remained with us for much of our lives. We purchased a ontgomery Ward model FFT3934, 19.2 cubic foot upright freezer for $279.95. The freezer measured sixty four inches high by thirty two inches wide by twenty six inches deep and could hold six hundred seventy pounds of food. It featured adjustable shelves, four shelves total, a large removable basket on the bottom, juice can and other racks on the door.

During the first several years of ownership we used the freezer to make the best of grocery store sales. In the decades that followed, we additionally packed the freezer with processed garden produce. A freezer is not something one typically thinks about, yet we go into it daily for at least one component of our supper meal. It’s been an ‘out of sight out of mind’ appliance that was always there and  always is filled with a large variety and quantity of meat, vegetables and other perishables—providing options and an emergency supply.

The antique dressers
My friend, Ted, had an aunt who’d recently separated from her husband after a thirty year marriage. The aunt had just moved from Fresno, California to Los Angeles; while becoming situated in the city, she stored some of her belongings in Ted’s garage.

While visiting with Ted one Saturday, told me of the aunts marital problems and showed me several items of furniture she had for sale and asked if I was interested. Among the items were a man’s and women’s dressers, both looked quite sturdy and old, their finish was dark and cracked with age.

Since Donna and I both needed better dressers than what we had, Ted’s offer came at an opportune time,  I offered Ted $10 apiece for the dressers. Ted went in the house, telephoned his aunt with my offer, she accepted and the dressers were sold.

We walked back out to the garage to take a closer look at the dressers, the more we looked at them, the clearer it became that these actually pretty well constructed pieces of furniture. When we removed several  cardboard boxes filled with the aunt’s belongings from the dresser top, pulled out a couple drawers  for inspection, when the dust was roughly wiped away and the wood grain could be seen clearer, it was evident that each dresser was worth more than the $10 that they sold for– if I’d been interested in reselling them, which I was not.

I made arrangements to return the next morning and haul the furniture away.
Donna and I rented a small Rent-a-Truck for the job and brought the dressers back to our apartment. Once they were indoors, we wiped them down with a soft, damp cloth. This was Donna’s first chance to inspect the furniture, she immediately saw that they were older, quality pieces of furniture, something we could restore and be proud of for many years.

Over the next couple months, we used our free time to strip and refinishing the dressers, drawer by drawer, piece by piece. When the old finishes had been  removed, we found the man’s dresser was made from oak and the woman’s dresser facia of Birds Eye Maple veneer.

The man’s dresser was a large, heavy piece of furniture with well defined oak grain throughout its solid, broad surfaces. It had four wide drawers and two narrow drawers, all of which had metal handle pulls. The narrow drawers, on the center left of the dresser, set beside a small door which covers an open cabinet. The small cabinet style was prevalent around the turn of the 20th Century and was used for storing men’s hats.

The woman’s dresser had two, side by side, narrow drawers at the top. Beneath these were four wide drawers each with varying depth. All the drawers had round, wooden pulls. A mirror was fastened to the top back of the dresser by two curved uprights, one on on each side of the mirror.
The front of the dresser, including the drawers, were curved in a way not unually found in furniture, while standing on legs about nine inches above the floor. The dresser surfaces were covered with a beautiful Birds Eye Maple veneer.

Donna and I sanded, restained the dressers and coated each part with a satin polyurethane. Dark oak stain was used on the man’s dresser, and Maple stain on the womans dresser. Research into the approximate date of manufacturer led us to believe the dressers were made ca 1906 to 1916. A reprint of the 1908  Sears and Roebuck catalog showed a dresser almost identical to Donna’s; the same catalog show a men’s dresser somewhat similar in style to mine.

El Monte, California: Armpit of the west
During the two years that I lived at Pickering Apartments in El Monte, CA, the complex underwent a steady decline in desirability. Whenever an Anglo moved out, their apartment was rented someone, racially designated as, “other.” By summer 1974, the complex was peopled by a rainbow of complexions, including: Mexican’s, Puerto Rican’s, mixed breeds, shiftless young whites, poor old whites and of course Donna and myself. Pickering apartments, indeed, the entire El Monte community, was becoming more and more like a Third World enclave east of Los Angeles. I can’t help but wonder how many other communities have been gobbled up by decay as the less fortunate congregate into barrios and ghettos about the core of American cities.
Several events that we personally witnessed, which illustrate the tragic aspect and melting pot nature of the apartments are seen in the stories that follow:
1) There lived in our apartments an old white woman who relied on crutches to walk. One night she came home late and parked her car in the parking lot, almost under our second story bedroom window. While getting out of her car she lost her balance and fell. Unable to help herself up, she sat there on the pavement for God knows how long and began to cry. Eventually, Donna and I were awakened by her faint mewling sounds and looked out the window to see what was the matter. Donna dressed and went down stairs then helped the large, old woman to her apartment. Just thinking about the event has recalled what a sad experience it was, suppose that old woman was your mother.
2) On one occasion a young couple were arguing. The husband ran out into the parking lot, directly behind our apartment, carrying a huge stuffed toy Panda bear. He set the four foot high doll in the middle of the parking lot and ran to his car. Just as his wife came into the parking lot the husband backed the family car out of its parking space and came roaring on around into the driveway. The wife stood by the building sobbing disbelief with anger, as he accelerated down the driveway and ran over her doll!
3) One night while we were falling sleep, two men in their mid twenties began arguing by the breezeway, right below our bedroom window. One was a Negro, the other a Mexican, they were fighting over exclusive dating rights with white girl who lived in the apartments. After verbally threatening each other and talking tough, they began pushing each other. When the Mexican threw a punch, the Negro deflected it, spun around and delivered a karate kick to the Mexican’s face. That ended the fight! The Mexican fellow was in a state of disbelief and somewhat shocked from the kick he received. The two remained there in the parking lot for an additional ten minutes, talking themselves back to calmness. The Mexican fellow asked, “Where’d ya learn to fight like that, man?” The Negro told him he’d taken karate for five or six years and had achieved “black belt” proficiency.
4) Another time: Three or four illegal Mexican aliens rented an apartment diagonally, downstairs from ours. They apparently found work and combined their incomes to buy a television set and some other household goods. One evening when they were gone, someone broke into their apartment and stole all their newly acquired valuables. The young men were ‘up the proverbial creek’. As illegal aliens, they couldn’t go to the police to report the crime or they’d be immediately and unceremoniously deported.
5) During the early summer of 1974, a young Puerto Rican family, consisting of a working mother, the unemployed father and their four year old son, moved in directly next door to our apartment. The fellow spent much of his days laying out beside the swimming pool and pumping his barbells in the grassy area next to the swimming pool. Someone eventually stole part of his barbell set and threw the rest in the deep end of the pool. Several times at night, just as Donna and I were going to bed, their family would gather in the bedroom, that shared a common wall with ours. Apparently they’d bought a tape recorder from the wife’s wages– and did they have fun with it! Mom, Dad and the kid would sing, solo, duets and as a trio. They sang and recorded their gay Puerto Rican songs on tape then play them back while singing along with the tape, or squealing with considerable glee and merriment. Donna and I laid in bed bemoaning the fact that if they at least sang in English we’d be somewhat entertained. Meanwhile, I was getting up at 4:30AM in order to be at work at 5:30AM.

Looking for a home in Los Angeles
Donna and I grew tired of apartment living and began looking for a house to buy. We soon found that the cost of a house was greater than we could afford even with our combined incomes; particularly if we wanted a little cash left at the end of the month for personal discretionary expenses. Since I was working a lot of overtime, we did have a savings, but one can’t count on temporary overtime pay, to meet long term mortgage payments.
Before long we realized we couldn’t afford a standard house, so began looking at townhouses. I’d lived in an apartment style townhouse in Hayward, CA. Townhouses, with their single shared walls, were not really desirable, but there wasn’t anything else available in our price range. The townhouses styles we toured, were two story structures, rather like a two story duplex, there were many of such duplexes in a townhouse community. Each duplex had an equally small front yard and small, walled back yard. The townhouses were expensive also. Whereas the mortgage on a regular detached house carried a twenty five years mortgage at X dollars per month, the cheaper townhouse mortgages were set up for perhaps fifteen years at a very similar X dollars per month payment. The monthly mortgage payments for one were about the same as the other, whereas only the mortgage period differed.
We were in the same predicament whether considering a house or a townhouse; our cash flow was not sufficient to make the monthly payment and still leave some extra cash for discretionary expenses.
Discretionary expenses are just as important as any other expense. You can be frugal for a short time saving money, but eventually you’ll develop a need and the extra cash flow becomes necessary.

We looked at mobile homes.
Finally, we’d found something that we could afford. With the concept of mobile home living fresh in our minds, we began to inspect mobile home parks. We found a park within reasonable driving distance of our places of employment, it was clean and well kept. One problem we found with the park was that it was set on the side of a hill with terraced spaces. The trailers highest on the hill were butted up against the Pomona Freeway. Traffic on the freeway made the air reverberate with a continuous low volume ‘humm’ and we were concerned over how unhealthy it would be having the continuous exhaust fumes, from so many thousands of passing vehicles, just a few hundred feet away.
The manager of the mobile home park informed me, that if I used a motorcycle going to and from work, I’d have to push the bike out of the park (about 800 feet) in the morning before starting the machine and push it back in, in the evening, so as not to disturb the other home owners.
What ruined our hopes of living in the park was the space rental fee, the cost was ‘out of sight’! Space rental was $125 per month, at a time when our apartment rented for $140 per month. We were aghast. The vacant space had a rent value that was about the same as our apartment. When we did the arithmatic, totalling the estimated principle and interest payment on a new mobile home, plus the space rental, we came up with a figure similar to buying either a new house, or townhouse!
Donna and I returned to our car and drove half way out of the mobile home park then stopped along the side of the road to discuss what we’d learned, we were in a state of shock. It was immediately obvious that there was an entry price for home ownership. It didn’t make a difference what form of construction the house had, the over all cost, the mortgage payment, loan periods, interest rates, or associated space rental fee…the monthly payments were formulated to fit that minimum entry price.
A fvew minutes later, while driving back to our apartment, the concept of ‘compression’ struck me. The idea didn’t present itself as, ‘We can’t afford this or we can’t afford that.’, but came as an image of a sphere, with equal forces pressing on it simultaneously, from all directions. Housing costs and space rental rates became insignificant, they were only part of a broader concept that was forming.
Donna and I felt as though we were being compressed into an even tighter and tighter economic coil. We both worked. We had the cheapest forms of transportation available, but were still priced out of a decent home. We felt like we were on the edge of society and on the periphery of our social class, left unable to afford the American Dream. All that we could afford would be small and unacceptable, we were trapped in a psychological quagmire that spiraled downward into less and less.

Music [midi: Aliens]

Overpopulation in southern California
The highways and freeways were crowded, driving in the Los Angeles urban region was an exercise in tactical motoring. The legendary Los Angeles smog stung our eyes. On really hot days the yellowish brown layer of photo disassociated hydrocarbons sapped our strength and left us feeling lethargic.
Camping facilities in the mountains were jam packed every weekend. At the campgrounds, large groups of Others were seen playing ball in the roadways. As you drove through the grounds looking for a campsite, these groups made way, but glared at you with contempt as you passed. Day and night, trail bikes roared up and down the campground trails and past your campsite. By night, drunken groups roamed through the campground.  The beaches were packed with people and parking there was difficult to find.  Southern California had a third truckers strike and for awhile, fresh meat almost disappeared from supermarket shelves.  There were waiting lines at movie theaters that were often a block long. Several times we’d gone to see a newly released, popular movie, only to be turned away at the door, because the theater was full.

Effects of the oil embargo on Main Street
The Arab Oil Embargo was having a catastrophic effect on American attitudes. Not only was the price of gasoline rising to unheard of prices, but there were cars waiting in gasoline lines a block long at most service stations. The local and national TV news networks exaggerated the situation, showing people getting into fights with one another while waiting in gas lines. On several occasions disgruntled patrons pulled guns on people who happened to cut in front of them without waiting their turn in line.
I never saw any violence personally, but the lines of vehicles waiting for gas did exist, it often took up to fifteen minutes to get to the pump. I was riding a very fuel efficient motorcycle to work. Several times while waiting in a queue, people would look my ‘bike’ over and comment on how they were thinking of buying a motorcycle themselves. People were concerned and irritated over the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and the loss of their time waiting in gas lines.
The Embargo put an end to the Full Service gas station. Gas station attendants had already stopped wearing uniforms and no longer checked your car’s oil level or tire air pressure, with the embargo they quit washing windshields as well.
By the end of 1974 many gas stations offered a gasoline price menu where the price was determined by whether you wanted ‘Full Service’ or ‘Self Service’. Customers made their choice by driving up to either the Full Service or Self Service gas pump islands. If you wanted your windshield washed and someone to pump the gas for you, you chose the Full Service island and paid an extra 3¢ to 4¢ per gallon for that service. At the Self Service island you pumped your own gas, then walked into the gas station to pay the bill; if water and squeegee were available you could wash your own windshield. Things were just  beginning to change from better to ‘less better,’ where the new normal was most often slightly less desireable than what it replaced.

The oil embargo ends
Although the oil embargo ended on March 18th, there was no decrease in the price of petroleum products, nor for a long time, any shortening of lines at gas pump. We consumers continued to be milked of our money by the entire petroleum industry infrastructure. In an effort to minimize the effects of the energy crisis, the half baked idea of year around Daylight Savings time was instituted in various states across the country.

Compression or expansion
As previously mentioned, Donna and I felt as though we were being compressed into a tighter and tighter economic coil. We felt as though some unseen, powerful economic force was pressing in on us from all directions. The forces held us tightly in their grip, movement was impossible. We both worked, yet were unable to grasp the American Dream. The housing we were able to afford, was too small or otherwise unacceptable in meeting our requirements. We were trapped in a psychological quagmire that spiraled downward into less and less. In every way we were being squeezed, while paying higher and higher prices.
After looking at the mobile home park, that was butted up against the Pomona Freeway, and finding space rental rates extremely high, we left for home, barely speaking. As we drove, a small voice spoke in my mind, it said,
I cocked my head quizzically, wondering what prompted the word, ‘expand,’ to jump out within me, almost as an auditory expression; a moment later, its meaning exploded in my mind and became amazingly clear:
When you are being offered only one route and that route is to a smaller and smaller life space — expand! Don’t accept the game rules as they are. Rewrite the game in your favor. If you can’t afford to rent one twelfth of an acre for a mobile home , then buy ten, twenty or forty acres!

Various factors in our life were beginning to converge into a single point. At the time we didn’t know what this meant, but the seedling thoughts would grow and become our life’s blood. Like children we began to awaken in a new world.

Music [midi: Sirius and Eye in the Sky]

The Limits To Growth
During the early part of the year, I purchased and read the book, The Limits To Growth. Toward the end of the book was a ‘World Model Computer Run’ for variables discussed in the text. The computer run displayed several curves, including:
• A food per capita curve which increased in value until about 2025AD then dropped precipitously.
• A population curve which continued to rise until about 2050, then it also plunged.
[In 1972, The Limits to Growth was published which challenged one of the then core assumptions of economic theory – that the Earth was infinite and would always provide the resources needed for human prosperity. It was based upon the first research to make serious use of computers in modeling the consequences of a rapidly growing global population.
The Limits to Growth sold twelve million copies in 37 languages. Whilst the book did not predict exactly what or when events would occur, it gave an overall theme, it pointed out that if the world’s consumption patterns and population growth continued at the same high rates, we would reach our growth limits within a century. The message was that this outcome was not inevitable. People could change their policies – and the sooner the better. Limits to Growth was full of complex graphs (complex, for the time) which predicted if global policy changes weren’t changed by 2000, “Population and industrial capital reach levels high enough to create food and resource shortages well before the year 2100.”

As I sat in our Study room, contemplating the books message and the meaning of the computer runs, tears welled up in my eyes. I knew that by some complex method unknown to me, there would be political, economic and military shifts of great magnitude well before the food per capita curve dropped around 2025 AD. The ecology of Urban Man would be tried, the city would be no place to live. Fleeting, almost unintelligible images drifted through my mind’s eye, I understood that conditions in the city would rhythmically worsen as we approached and passed the turn of the millennium. Out of the images evolved the knowledge that we needed not only land for our home, but facilities for producing our own food, a water supply and other basic utilities. Somehow, we needed to set up a refuge, a cushion against coming adversity.

Strout Realty & United Farm catalogs
I wrote to Strout Reality and United Farm for their large real-estate catalogs, which primarily advertised raw land, tillable acreage and working farms for sale across the nation. When the catalogs arrived, I methodologically read through them, comparing land costs in each state with similar properties listed for sale in California. I also studied the photographs showing vegetation in the background.

While pouring over the catalogs, Donna and I began to organize our thoughts ecologically:
We eliminated the,
1) Southwest, because of its lack of precipitation.
2) California, because land prices were ten time higher than in other desirable areas of the USA.
3) The Northwest, because of its mountainous terrain , cloudiness and dependence on timber related industries.
4) The southeast. I’d lived in the Tennessee -Kentucky area for nearly three years while serving in the Army, it just wasn’t my area.
5) The northeast, due to its very large population densities. Later we learned about a regional ‘acid rain’ problem.
6) The great plains, due to the flat, featureless grasslands and their susceptibility to drought.
7) The central Midwest, because of very expensive farmland costs and proximity to major metropolitan areas. In case of a nuclear war there would be a radioactive fallout problem. The potential radioactivity problem also fit into several areas previously mentioned.
Gradually, our search for a habitable environment narrowed to Minnesota.

The decision to move to Minnesota
During April, we agreed to move to Minnesota.
There was so much we didn’t know…
Life would be so different from what we were use to…
We would be packing our belongings and moving away from family and friends.
We’d be moving half way across the continent to a state neither of us had ever visited. We had no idea what town we’d settle in.
… and we’d be doing all this without jobs, without the security of an income.

I began reading the books, The First Time Farmers Guide, and One Acre and Security.
Was it a gamble? How much would we really lose by leaving our apartment in El Monte, or a job that was working me six to seven days a week? Would we miss the smog or minority population hostilities? Would the quality of our life be diminished by leaving the crowds on the freeways, highways, malls and stores? Would we miss the ‘lack of opportunity’ we encountered when looking for a house of our own?

Minnesota was a northern American state, it had the same basic culture as Michigan, where I lived as a child. It was basically the same as Iowa, where my father, Robert Francis Pierce, was born and my Grandmother Elsie (Grubb) Pierce and her mother Anna Flora (Anderson) Grubb lived. Minnesota was seen rather like a ‘regional’ home. We intuitively knew and understood that people lived and worked there like anywhere else in the country, so in effect, moving to Minnesota shouldn’t be any different than moving to a city in another part of one’s own state, except for the weather, types of vegetation, etc.

We inventoried our belongings, deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to give away or discard and the meltdown began.

Buying a GMC pickup truck
In May, we traded in our essentially new Toyota Corolla and purchased a new 1974, GMC 1/2 ton pickup truck. The truck was bronze colored (with a orange tint) and had no amenities other than a radio. We had a heavy duty bumper installed with a trailer hitch as well as a second gas tank. Driving the truck was odd compared with the small short Toyota, due to the perspective of sitting so high above the road.

The ‘camper shell’
Knowing we would be sleeping on the road, for perhaps an extended period of time, we ordered a forty inch high camper shell. The shell was white, with a gold and orange stripe, that matched the color of the truck. We ordered the camper with extra insulation in the walls and roof, as well as with screened, sliding windows on either side. When the camper was mounted on the pickup truck there was about a five foot clearance between the truck bed and the roof. We could scoot about inside with relative ease, but could not stand up.

Making a ‘food cabinet’ for camp
I also made a one foot deep by two foot wide by three foot high, camping cabinet from quarter inch plywood to carry much of our food, cookelry and dishes. The plywood was nailed and glued to a wood frame made of one by two inch lumber. It had two hinged doors that were held shut by sliding a small dowel through an eyelet between the doors, which then overlapped both doors. The cabinet interior was painted gloss white, the exterior gloss green. Brass carrying handles were mounted on both sides near the top. A paper towel dispenser was mounted on one side with a small spice rack beneath it.
The cabinet had three shelves. The top two shelves were used for food storage, i.e., bread, jam, canned foods, boxed dry goods, coffee, vegetables. The bottom shelf held our Melmac camping dished, cups, silverware in a tray, and stacked pots and pans. In the many years since moving, that we used the cabinet, ‘campground livestock’ (raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks and Blue jays) never figured out how to get into it, try as they frequently did. While camping, the cabinet was meant to be taken out of the truck and set on the campground picnic table for use .

Music [midi: Men at Work, Land Down Under]

Further expansion of my job responsibilities
By summer, I’d been working at Gregg Iron Foundry for two years. Although I was initially hired as a Sand Technician, to test the properties of the various molding sands used in casting production, my duties expanded. A couple months after starting the job, I began inspecting and sorting the previous days failed castings. Over the months, the company came to realize that I was really a ‘jack of all trades’, capable of intelligently and responsibly performing many specialized tasks, among which were:
1)  I was trained how to operate Gregg’s two large, industrial volume, semi-automated sand mixing machines. The operator had to be on his toes and ever vigilant while making the different grades of sand, not only would poorly made batches stop production, but poor, borderline batches would lead to a higher, casting failure rate. Whenever one of the regular sand mixer operators was absent, I filled his job. Sometimes, when there was a major order that needed to be filled quickly, I had to come back and work in the evening, from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM, then swing back the next morning for my regular day shift. [Image at right: A somewhat similar sand mixing machine. Gregg’s control panel was wired to set on an elevated platform, with the mixing apparatus to the side and below and emptying onto a conveyor belt.  The machine is about 8 feet high and 10-12 wide overall. In operation, everything is covered with bentonite and other resin sands so is not as pretty as seen in this products sales image.]
2)  Next, I was trained to assemble or set up “pattern boxes”, as a replacement for the regular employee who performed the job. A rigid, wood or aluminum casting pattern was sandwiched between two aluminum boxes. Casting sand was poured in one side and compressed against the pattern. The box was then turned over and packed with sand on the other side. After both sides had been packed with sand, the pattern was removed from the center. Molten iron was finally poured into the remaining cavity through a hole at the top of the mold which was part of the pattern. This was really a tricky job requiring a good sense of timing, speed and organization. First, one had to make sure all the patterns were delivered from the pattern storage room for that days production. These were organized and boxed according to their use schedule for the day. While putting the patterns in the aluminum boxes, all nuts, bolts and screws had to be tightened or replaced,all the sliding parts had to be rigid, tight and close fitting so the sand mold would not break when it was removed from the pattern box. Dents had to covered over or smoothed so there were no irregularities, etc. The production workers all had different projects, some might work on an order for several weeks, others might have an order that was finished in half hour. Since their pay was partially
based on volume, having to wait for the next pattern box drove them ‘up the wall’.
3)  As commodity prices rose with inflation, the company wanted to keep a tighter rein on purchasing and storing inventory. I was given the weekly, Saturday morning, job of running an extensive production materials inventory.
4)  Once a month, also on a Saturday morning, all the department supervisors, the plant superintendent and myself (bottom of that totem pole) met at a local restaurant. The company paid for our breakfast while we discussed production, personnel problems, ideas on coordination and making any process more efficient. The meetings were interesting. Although I was not a supervisor and didn’t
approach their pay rate, my ideas were as good as any, because I worked all over the company, doing all sorts of things and saw opportunity from a different perspective.
5)  One major responsibility job I was taught was to preheat the induction furnaces. Every other Saturday, one of the company’s two induction furnaces was relined with refractory brick and a special fireclay mortar. Sunday morning, the operator had to come in and slowly increase the temperature of the furnace while filling it with scrap iron. Large, overhead, push-button driven electromagnets
were used to pick up the metal and lower it into the furnace. Every hour or so the temperature was increased through a series of heating cycles. If the furnace heated properly and was loaded quickly enough, the whole thing was molten and came up to a predetermined temperature so the operator could go home around 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM. I had to start up a furnace every other Sunday and usually didn’t get home until 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM. There was seldom any one at the plant on Sunday, so I worked alone, sitting by the furnace controls watching dials, alert for any flashing lights and alarms. Between setting adjustments and adding fresh iron to the furnace, I read books, magazines or the newspaper. It wasn’t stressful in terms of labor, but it was a long twelve hour day.
6)  As part of my expanded quality control work, I was taught to cut thin sections of failed metal castings, polish them to a mirror like surface, then take photomicrographs of the iron matrix. I was in the process of learning to distinguish between the different grades of iron, and the heating and cooling problems involved when I gave notice to quit working at Gregg.
From Spring through the middle of the year, I had less and less free time. Finally, in July, I literally worked thirty out of thirty one consecutive days! This state of affairs did not make for a great deal of personal happiness!

Giving ‘notice’ at work
Donna and I gave notice of our intent to quit work in early June, a little over a month before our planned date of termination. This gave the companies plenty of time to hire replacements and even to begin training them in our job responsibilities.

The management at Gregg Iron Foundry thought so highly of my job performance, that upon my request, they wrote in their records to show that I was “laid off” work. Having been ‘laid off’ work, I would be able to draw Unemployment Compensation when we arrived in Minnesota. Since I had been making fairly decent wages and working so much overtime, I would draw nearly the maximum compensation the state of California allowed.

A visit to Mexico
During late June, my work schedule allowed Donna and I to ‘have a whole two day weekend together’ (said with sarcasm). We decided to take this ‘once in a blue moon’ opportunity to take a trip south. Since we were planning on moving out of California in less than month, we wanted to see Donna’s parents one last time. Also, since neither of us had ever been to Tijuana, Mexico, we thought it would be an exciting, last chance for ‘foreign adventure’ to see the city before moving to the north central U.S.A.
The plan was that on Saturday morning we’d visit Tijuana, then spend Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon visiting with Donna’s parents.
Just after mid morning we parked on the U.S. side of the boarder, walked through the check point and hailed a Mexican taxi for a ride into town. Mexican taxi drivers make their pay based on how many ‘fares’ they move from location to location. As we were transported from the boarder, to town, we saw Mexican drivers zipping about almost haphazardly. The drivers weren’t fazed by the fact that the highway was half paved and half dirt, nor that there were large potholes. Our driver seemed quite content when other drivers passed him in the wrong lane, that we occasionally drove in the wrong lane nearly hitting pedestrians and other vehicles.

Our mouths hung agape as we bounced, swerved and sped along in one lane, then another on a crazy, death defying race into town. I don’t know about Donna, but I wedged myself a little deeper into the seat and held on for fear of an imminent wreck.
We exited the taxi, in downtown Tijuana, paid the driver and watched him speed away in as cloud of dust, back toward the boarder for another hapless tourist. Considering the road, drivers and the looks of our immediate environment we were glad we left our new pickup truck on the U.S. side of the border– where it was safe.
As we turned and began walking along the side walk, we found ourselves confronting nothing less than a gauntlet of shop keepers. One, two, three or more men were standing in front of each store, each yelling, calling, gesturing for us to enter their shop.
Periodically a man would walk up and stop in front of us, blocking our way, and try in a friendly yet intimidating way to coax us with broken English to enter his store. You could see in the eyes of the men along the sidewalk, that as they looked at you, you were not seen as a person. In their eyes was the steady glare of fully focused concentration, a primal excitement filled their gestures, they were hunters intent on their prey. We ignored them as best we could, while continuing to make our way along the side walk, paying attention to strange sights and sounds of a Third World country.
In general, the people looked greasy and unkempt, their clothing seemed somewhat discolored, perhaps due to stains or simple grime. The sidewalk and walls of buildings that we passed, looked exceedingly filthy, with greasy spots and patchy discoloration . There were small pieces of paper and unidentifiable clumps of clutter in the gutters and on the road, store windows and fixtures were dirty, the cars were old. It was quite interesting to see how everything changed so instantly going from one side of the boarder to the other, like night and day. Meanwhile, daytime temperatures were rising, it was going to be a hot day, the air was dusty, both adding to the discomfort we felt in the strange surroundings.

In one of the many wrought iron specialty shops, we were reminded of a sobering fact of Third World life — child labor. At the back of the shop was an old porcelain bathtub, about a quarter full of some overwhelmingly strong smelling black paint, mixed with what we thought was turpentine. Beside the tub, worked a little boy, about seven years of age. He dipped a tin can into the foul smelling mixture and poured the paint over the wrought iron goods which the shop sold. As we browsed through the small store, the boy stopped working, turned around, leaned against the tub and began eating an orange. It was a pitiful sight. Here was a child with a strong aromatic smelling, wet black paint up to his elbows and splattered over much of the rest of his body and clothes. He was working in a room filled with , noxious fumes that almost made our heads spin and was eating an orange, while paint dripped from his arms and hands.

A few moments later, we walked back out to the street, where we confronted by a group of men, all shop keeper who’d gathered in front of the store. Several spoke at us in broken English, trying to coax us into their shops. Several others were discussing Donna in Spanish, apparently thinking we didn’t know any of their language, yet not trying to disguise their thoughts. We knew just enough Spanish to know, “Senora….chinga,” meant, “woman…fuck”.
We walked about town a little longer, browsing through a regular, commercial “5¢ and 10¢” general merchandise store and trying to communicate with several people who knew no English. We left Tijuana by mid afternoon, and drove back to San Diego for a visit with Don and Eulah, Donna’s parents. Arriving at their home, Donna and I immediately consumed two cans of beer apiece, not only because we were hot, dry and thirsty, but because of the culture shock. That was our last trip to Mexico.

The California One Way moving trailer
With almost all of our worldly goods packed in a cubic pile of carboard boxes and stacked in the apartment’s living room, we had a Mayflower Moving Company representative come and estimate the cost of transferring our belongings to Minneapolis- St. Paul. We intended to have the goods held at a warehouse until we found a house to rent and could move in. The estimator quickly determined that the cost of moving, not counting warehouse fees, would be $1,300. We choked back our scoffs and thanked him for coming by.
In the local newspaper’s Personal Ads – ‘Camper/Trailer Sales’, we found a covered, “California One Way” trailer for sale with an asking price of $600. We went to see the trailer, it was exactly what we were looking for in size and condition. The trailer had two axles and four wheels, excellent for hauling a heavy load. It had “off yellow” colored plywood sides and a white fiberglass top. The ten foot long trailer stood about six foot high in the center and was six feet wide. With the trailer we could pull our belongings to Minnesota, store it for a few days; then when we found a house to rent we could turn around and sell it for nearly the purchase price.
We pulled the trailer over to my friend, Ted’s house in Pasadena, where he let us store it for the next couple weeks until we moved. We quickly cleaned out the trailer’s interior, washed down exterior and repacked its wheel bearings with grease.
About the second week into July, I sold my 350cc Honda motorcycle. In the remaining days before we moved, Donna took me to work in the mornings. After work, I either found a ride home with fellow employees or walked the couple miles.

Impeach the President over Watergate?
In July, the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend that President Richard Nixon be impeached on the charge he personally engaged in conduct designed to obstruct justice in the Watergate case.

How a ‘learning curve’ works
Earlier in the year the stock market turned up. After the Dow Jones Industrial Average index (DJIA) bottomed and was poised to rise, I began accumulating Wyle Labs stock again. By the beginning of March we were enjoying a steep rise in share prices and seeing people take a renewed interest in the overall market.
Seeing huge potential profits looming in the months ahead, I had opened a ‘margin account’ and began purchasing stocks on a 5 to 1 margin inorder to magnify our profits. As the days and weeks passed, I continued tracking our investments. Spring turned to summer and we’d more than doubled our initial investment. We were heady with excitement and gleefully greedy over the paper profits, while
expecting still greater profits in the months ahead.

From rich to poor, overnight.
July: Over the last six months, my profits in the stock market mounted. I’d bought many shares of Wyle Labs on margin, which earned us a ‘paper profit’ of around $5,000 (8-1/2 months worth of my net wages), which was at the time, the cost of a lower priced new car.
While I’d bought the right stock as a growth vehicle, I was unaware that there was a lot of auxiliary information to know about and track in the economy and markets, and that one needed an exit strategy. I was a young man and young men are sometimes fools, or fooled. And so it was with me. I didn’t understand the behavior of a slowly declining stock market, also known as, “The Slope of Hope”.

One afternoon during mid July, following a brief, but sharp market decline, I received a telephone call from my stock broker informing me that my margin account was going into default. He advised, that I would need to pay off the margin or settle with cash. Donna and I were aghast over the arithmatic! Just a day or two earlier, we’d been ahead, with thousands of dollars of profits, how could a small decline wipe us out?
Being ‘long’ on margin can create a lot of money fast, if indeed your stocks rise, but being on margin acts like a double edged sword, it cuts both ways. On a ‘five to one margin’, if prices drop $1, you lose $5. We lost all of our paper profits ‘in the blink of an eye’. Three days before we were to leave for Minnesota, our tidy sum of ‘seed money’ evaporated, it was simply– gone.

Donna and I were shocked with disbelief, dumfounded, we walked about in the apartment, amongst the packed boxes, shaking our heads trying to understand how this could have happened. We couldn’t cry over the loss, we were drained, dazed and confused.
Around the year 2000, a crude saying became popular: ‘Shit Happens!’ We could have used that saying on the afternoon of the margin call, there was nothing for us to do, but feel as ragged, shrug, and get on with our life.

Lessons from along the learning curve:
1)  Know the market better, keep learning, follows the broad stroks of thew news, not so much the daily activity, which is ‘noise’.
2)  Don’t use margin accounts.
3)  Have sufficient cash assets set aside tomaintain your solvency during times when the market moves at a slower pace than expected or it actually goes against  you.
4)  It’s preferable to deal with the market personally and not take the advice of a stock broker/financial advisor, which leads back to point 1) above.
5)  Put your investments into several diversified catergories, so that ‘all your eggs aren’t in one basket’ when the unexpected happens.
* The unexpected does happen and it happens when you don’t expect it; you can count on that, its an axiom of life, it’s Nature’s Way.

Leaving L.A.
During the third week of July, we quit our jobs and set about packing our small moving trailer. Friends and relatives were invited to come help us carry our heavier furniture downstairs to the trailer, and say farewell. We rented a moving dolly to move the freezer and safe down the stairs and out to the parking lot.
About 11:30 AM, our helpers arrived and the bulky items were loaded. Donna promptly went to a nearby fast food restaurant and bought us all hamburgers, French fries and soda for lunch. When she returned with the food, Ted, cousin Bob and his girlfreind Charlene, Donna and I, sat on the floor in the empty living room, eating, reminiscing and making small talk.
Within forty five minutes of the time we ate, Donna and I said our, “Good Byes” and pulled out of the Pickering Apartments parking lot, enroute to Minnesota.
I don’t think our friends and relatives had positive thoughts about our moving. It was rather sad to see their half hearted waves as we drove away. I wondered if they were perhaps upset with us for so enthusiastically and optimistically leaving their lives. While we had chosen to depart on a grand adventure, they remained in L.A., and this was at a time when California, the legendary ‘Land of Milk and Honey’, was already being seen as a myth.

Visiting my parents enroute to Minnesota
My Mom and Dad were still living in their Marlette mobile home, at the trailer park behind the Tuba City Trading Post. We visited with them from the afternoon of the July 21st, all the next day and into the morning on the 23d. It was only a year earlier when my parents first met Donna, when we came to visit them on my 31st birthday.
Donna and I originally had plans of taking U.S. Highway 40, south of the Rocky Mountains, through Arizona, New Mexico and the panhandle of Texas, then swinging north toward Minnesota. Mom advised us saying we shouldn’t have any problems driving up through Colorado, would save ourselves a lot of extra driving and have a scenic view to boot. She and Dad looked at our maps then pointed out a main road they’d been over several times, stating, ‘The mountains along that route aren’t bad at all’. We decided to accept their judgment and follow their advice, after all they had been over the mountains several times and seemed to know what they were talking about.
We spent a good part of our visit, driving between several Trading Posts, where Donna and I bought two handmade, wool, Navajo Indian rugs.
(Photo above ca 1974: My parents 12 ft x 60 ft (?) Marlette mobile home and Carry All at Tuba city, AZ)

The drive across country
Most of July 24th found us driving along U.S. Highway #160, slowly creeping over the San Juan branch of the Rocky Mountains. Nearing the high passes we had to drop down a gear and make our way at speeds in the ‘one to twenty mile per hour range’. If we hadn’t been pulling the trailer loaded with all our personal effects, we’d have zipped right over the mountains, but the load was creating a tremendous drag on our progress as we climbed the elevations.
At one or two points, while we were creeping over 9,000 to 10,000 foot high mountain passes, we were afraid the truck wasn’t going to make it. My parent’s assessment of the route being an easy one, for our heavy load, was wholly inaccurate. When we crossed the Great Divide and were coming down hill, we were worried about the brakes burning out and failing.

Somewhere along the mountainous route, one of our trailer tires went flat. We disconnected the trailer, jacked it up and took the tire back to a gas station we’d recently passed. We bought a new tire to replace the flat, then had a tube put in the flat for a spare. That night, somewhere around Colorado Springs, Colorado, we slept in our camper.
We spent July 25th (my 32nd birthday) driving north past Denver, then northeast out of Colorado on U.S. Interstate #76, and into Nebraska. We drove through Nebraska on Interstate #80 (renamed from #I-76 at the state line) with concern and wonder.
It wasn’t until we arrived in Nebraska, that we realized there was a drought in progress. We knew practically nothing about farming, but knew enough to realize that the miles and miles of corn shouldn’t have been stunted, yellowed and drooping in late July.
I’d known about the irregular, Midwestern drought cycle for several years, but had never seen first hand, what it really meant. The numbers which make up data points on graphs represent something real and in this case ‘crop shortfall’ could be seen in stunted, parched corn, yellowing stalks and dry, cracked ground during the middle of the growing season. Seeing so many miles of corn under severe stress made us ever more concerned with the future droughts as they affected mankind’s food supply.
We spent a long hot, dry, dusty afternoon driving across the plains, along the Platte River. By evening, with an orange sun sitting low in the sky, we tiredly celebrated my birthday over a pizza and cold bottles of beer, in small restaurant at Grand Island, Nebraska.
On July 26th, we drove north through Iowa and into Minnesota, bound for Minneapolis-St. Paul. We noted with growing excitement as the flat to slowly rolling plains gradually gave way to farms with clumps of trees, then scattered hardwood forests.

Our first day in Minnesota
Although we were happy with our first glimpse of Minnesota’s natural environment, we were disappointed with metropolitan Minneapolis-St. Paul, which was simply a smaller version of Los Angeles. Here and there along the streets we saw older, barefooted, teenagers with scraggly long hair (the “hippie” era was drawing to and end) sitting on street curbs; small groups of Negro males milled around in front of bars and liquor stores.
We drove through the Twin Cities, only stopping for gasoline, and continued our trek north toward Duluth. In suburban Duluth, we found a small mobile home park that would house our California One Way trailer for $5 a month. We were suprised over the cheap price, so disconnected the trailer and treated ourselves to a motel room that night. We’d been on the road for a week; by this time we longed for a hot shower, a big soft bed and to relax watching some television.
We had a good, long, deep sleep that night, our first night in Minnesota.

[Photograph: Our new, 1974 GMC pickup truck with camper, towing a used ‘California One Way’ trailer. We have just arrived in Minnesota with all our possessions packed in the trailer. ]

The next morning, we ate breakfast at Sambo’s Restaurant in Duluth. Breakfast came with a particularly pleasant surprise: About ninety five percent of the people in the busy restaurant had a fair complexion and had very light colored hair. At least fifty percent of the people had blonde hair, Donna and I are brunette.
What a difference, compared to L.A.!
Another nice element we noted, all the while driving through the Midwest, was the music played on many local radio stations. In Minnesota, we found the popular northern European beat and style of music called ‘the polka’. Realize that all over the U.S.A. there were radio stations dedicated to Pop music, i.e., rock ‘n roll, hard rock, country and western, etc. There were also radio stations that catered to the local ethnic makeup. In southern California many stations played Cucaracha band style Mexican music, while broadcasting, at least part of their show in Spanish. We were irritated by the tinny trumpet and guitar sound of L.A. radio, we didn’t know Spanish and weren’t interested in learning a foreign language in our own country. The polka beat and style was a musical form more to our liking and taste.

Finding a new hometown
In order to find out what Minnesota had to offer and select a town to settle in, we decided to make a grand tour of the state.
In each major town we would:
1)  Buy a local newspaper to check the classified section for job opportunities, home rental costs and raw land cost.
2)  Visit the Employment Office to determine local economic conditions.
3)  Drive crisscross through the town several times, to get a feel for the neighborhoods, condition of homes and streets.
4)  Watch for building activity, the condition and existence of shopping centers, book stores and libraries.
5)  Observe vegetation types, farm conditions and crop types.
6)  Gain a general impression of the area on a simple, “like or dislike” basis.

If the above criteria were positive, we’d locate the local Chamber of Commerce and obtain their Directory of Manufactures. On the other hand, if the town failed any of the criteria, we would immediately cease our investigation and move on.
Our circuit of the state included the following larger population centers: Minneapolis – St. Paul, Duluth (becoming economically depressed), International Falls (acid smell in air from pulp industries), Bemidji (chronically depressed), Detroit Lakes (tourist area), Sauk Center, Alexandria, Little Falls (did not appear progressive, old buildings, no new investment), St. Cloud (an excellent town or small city), Rochester (too urban, high prices for land, rent and homes).
We spent about two weeks on the road, driving in a large loop around Minnesota, looking for a hometown, observing the changing biotic zones that diagonally crossed the state and enjoying the variety of scenery Minnesota had to offer. Unlike our hurried trip across the United States, our tour of the state was slow and leisurely. Frequently we stayed in Minnesota State Park Campgrounds using our camp cookelry to prepare breakfast and supper meals. We usually didn’t get on the road until mid morning, then planned our driving time as much as possible so as to end up in a campground before late afternoon.

St. Cloud’s attributes
St. Cloud was a very small city with a population of forty five thousand which had just been elected the nations ‘All American City’ of 1974. Among the amenities, we found while scouting the city were: it had two new shopping centers, was central to three colleges and a trade arts school, there were two bookstores, five movie theaters, many restaurants and a variety of price level homes and apartments to rent, the streets were clean and well maintained.
Since there were several colleges, there would be a large number of young adults with progressive attitudes in the community. St. Cloud was located on the Mississippi River and had a fairly picturesque look. The newspaper classifieds showed raw acreage costs were much cheaper than in California. Since St. Cloud was a small city surrounded by agricultural land, there were a variety of occupational opportunities. The city gained its income from an industrial and agricultural base, it had a dual economy.
Geographically, St. Cloud seemed to be located in a transition zone. No more than a hundred miles to the southwest were the beginnings of the Great Plains, yet sixty miles to the northeast was the edge of the less populous, coniferous forest. St. Cloud sat within a diagonal band of mixed deciduous forest that ran from the northwest to the southeast across the state.

Watergate pulls down President Nixon
In early August, President Nixon released transcripts of conversations he held six days after the Watergate break in. The tapes reveal he ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the investigation, bringing about an increased cry from the public and politicians alike to impeach the President.
On August 8th, President Richard M. Nixon announced to the country via television broadcast, that he was resigning. His voice was broken and he was seen nearly in tears. Except for being caught up in the Watergate scandal, Nixon was a good President. He’d ended the war in Vietnam and opened the trade door with China, after America had turned its back on that populous country for so many years. I was sad to see him leave.
During Nixon’s last couple of days in office, General Alexander Haig was put in temporary command at the White House, to ensure that the transfer of Presidential power went according to the law. What a strange sight it was to see a military general speaking for the White House, speaking for the leadership of our government. One couldn’t help but wonder if there existed the threat of a ‘palace coup’ that we weren’t being told about.

Gerald Ford is sworn into the Presidency
On August 9th, Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as thirty seventh President of the United States. With this resignation, Richard Nixon became the first President to resign from office, while Gerald Ford became the first President to reach the position without a national election.
General Alexander Haig stepped down from his temporary position and business-as-usual returned to Washington. While it lasted, the threat of impeaching Nixon, his subsequent resignation and Ford being sworn in as President, was an exciting affair filled with concern for we average citizens. Ford was a good President for the time. He was a calm, friendly, patient man, rather like a father or uncle figure, there to help guide us through the inflation, declining economy and growing shortages we were experiencing.

Camping at Kathio State Park
Through the St Cloud Times newspaper classified ads, we located and phoned several apartment and flats that were for rent. We were not impressed with the apartments due to either their rental rates or the neighborhood location. The flats were small and oddly shaped, seeming too much like remodeled basements with only a few, small windows.
Finally, we found a picturesque house who’s upstairs flat would be vacated in about six weeks. The dwelling was located on the S.W. corner of 6th Ave. South and 4th St. South. It was efficiently located, being only one block to Coburn’s Supermarket, two blocks to the theater, three blocks to down town and about four blocks to the city’s Public Library. The house exterior was painted blue with white trim and had a red front door. There were several large, old oaks standing in the front and back yard.
The six week period was a long wait for a rental to open up; however, we liked the quarters, neighborhood, the proximity to both St. Cloud State College and town, and were not in a hurry. We paid $160 for October, the first month’s rent. Then, with well over a month to wait before our flat became vacant, we went camping.

We took a campsite at Kathio State Park on the confluence of the Rum River and Mille Lacs Lake, about seventy five miles, by road, northeast of St. Cloud.
We unloaded our green plywood camping cupboard, ice chest, installed a green plastic tarp over the picnic table, put up a clothes line and settled in. About a hundred and twenty feet down the road from our site was a hydrant for water; restrooms were several hundred feet behind us. Across the campground road was a swale of cattails, and an approximately half mile wide expanses of marsh that eventually led across the Rum River. When the sun rose each morning, the marshy area to our west, glowed in the sunlight, ducks and other birds could occasionally be seen flying up and about in the wilderness. There were enough pine trees throughout the campground to create mottled shade during the entire day.

[Photograph: Camping at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park campground, Onamia, Minnesota while waiting for our flat rental at 357 6th Ave,  St Cloud, to become available on October 1. Donna is seen here cooking breakfast and standing beside the food cabinet that I made.]

It so happened that our campsite was located in the corner of the campground, right on a turn in the road. Much of the traffic passing through the campgrounds passed by and turned in front of our site. We spent many an hour during the next few weeks, watching other campers come and go, also listening to the folly of neighboring site camping errors, their problems and ‘shouted’ frustrations.
During these leisurely times, we slept in our pickup camper, but spent the rest of the day outdoors, mostly seated at the picnic table or preparing meals.
Many breakfasts consisted of either cold cereal; occasionally oatmeal; or pan biscuits, toast, or pancakes served with hash or Spam and eggs.
Lunches usually consisted of sandwiches or canned soup. The sandwiches were often: bacon, lettuce and tomato; or lunch meat; or peanut butter and jam sandwiches, The soups we liked were Campbell’s canned: Chicken Noodle, Cream of Chicken and Vegetable Beef.
We cooked ‘gourmet’ camping suppers of BBQ steak, hamburger patties, spaghetti and meatballs, or pork chops; while frequently roasting corn or potatoes in tinfoil amongst the campfire coals; salads and canned vegetables were also prepared to accompany our supper.

Every day we spent some time listening to the national news on our portable radio, we were always interested in the drama unfolding in Washington D.C. We were shocked that a President of the United States was being considered for impeachment; we were dumbfounded and a little saddened when President Nixon actually resigned.
Several times we visit the park museum, rented canoes and paddled on the Rum River. We visited all the surrounding towns and camping areas to shop and ‘sight see’. Many hours were spent at the picnic table, writing to our friends and relatives back in California, describing how we’d decided to settle in St. Cloud, discussing the differences between Los Angeles and rural Minnesota and telling of our camping experiences.
At the end of our second week’s residency at Kathio State Park the Park Ranger stopped by our campsite to say, “Since you’ve been here so long you ought to put up a mail box“. We had been expecting his visit, because the Minnesota state park system had a rule that campers may not stay more than two weeks in a given campground.
We took the park rangers hint, the next morning we repacked our gear to leave.

Visiting Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth
We still had at least three weeks before our apartment flat became vacant, so decided to take a road trip. We phoned my Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth Pierce in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin and advised them that we could visit if they’d like some company. Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth were always gracious people, there was never any problem socializing with them. They promptly invited us to come right over, stating they would be watching for us.

[Photograph 1974: Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth Pierce at their home in Whitefish Bay,  Wisconsin.]
We arrived two days later. Donna and I were given cousin Richard’s old bedroom to sleep in and shown the bathroom for washing up. Once again, we luxuriated in a hot shower. During our several day visit, Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth took us out to dinner twice.
We were also taken for drinks at a reconstructed 1920s type gin-mill (‘speak easy’) bar, who’s entrance was actually from an alley. As part of the ambience, a ‘secret password’ was required to enter the establishment”, then a’ secret bookcase’ rotated to allow passage and access to the barroom. The bar was festive and busy, the atmosphere made exciting by 1920s era Charleston dance music; employees wore period costumes. The night club was packed with affluent customers, all of whom were groomed and dressed nicely (a necktie was required for entry), all were gregarious.

One day, Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth took us to a park landscaped in many floral arrangements. It was interesting to see all the different types of flowers growing in so many patterns across the grounds. The park reminded me of Pasadena, California’s, Rose Bowl parade, where the floats are covered with flowers of different colors and types, all so pretty and fragile.
One morning, Uncle Bill worked about his yard spreading manure, and showing me the different types of roses he was raising. Later that day, we visited several retail ‘yard and garden centers’ to look at the different types of roses that were for sale. While on that brief run to town, we were also taken past the A.O. Smith factory, where Uncle Bill was Chief Engineer. Bill pointed out that in years past, the houses all around the company had been home to employees. Now the homes were falling into disrepair and the neighborhood was rapidly becoming a Negro ghetto. Current A.O. Smith’s employees drove to work from the suburbs, speeding past the old homes where their fathers had once lived.
We had a nice visit with Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth. They were relatives whom I always admired, but seldom saw. Yet, considering the few times we were together, we always kept in contact.

The Presidency is yours, for a pardon
On September 8, a month after Nixon’s resignation, President Ford granted a “full, free, and absolute pardon” to the ex-President for any part he might have played in the Watergate scandal. Everyone wondered if Nixon and Ford had worked out a ‘deal’ before Ford was selected to fill the office of the Vice President. There were too many other problems in the economy and in our lives to worry about ‘what if’ very long.

Biding our time at Charles A. Lindbergh S.P.
Returning to Minnesota, we set up our camping gear at Charles A. Lindbergh State Park in the outskirts of Little Falls, a small city about thirty miles north of St. Cloud. Lindbergh State Park was located forty miles west of Kathio State Park, where we previously stayed for two enjoyable weeks.
Lindbergh S.P. was not as nice a park as Kathio S.P. Although it did offer camping, it seemed to be geared more toward day use and picnicking. The campsites were crowded by brush, the overhanging deciduous and conifer trees cut out too much sun light, making the sites look dank and dismal. The park had trails leading around and about through one particularly heavily wooded area, Donna and I walked the trail several times. We also took the park’s guided tour of the Charles A. Lindbergh home. This was the house that the famous air navigator, Charles Lindbergh, grew up in as a child.
After about a week at Lindbergh S.P. we packed up our camping gear and returned to Kathio S.P. for our last week of the camping life.

As September approach, air temperatures quickly cooled. We had a several day period when it grew very cold, by our standards. Donna and I spent one late afternoon sitting at the picnic table chatting whilst bundled up in stocking camps, coats and gloves. A family drove slowly past, looking at our California auto license plate, camping gear and the way we were dressed. We heard them say aloud to one another, “If they think it’s cold now wait til they see our winter.” Hahaha, they were right, three and a half months later, St. Cloud had what earned the name, “The Blizzard of the Century .”
At the end of September, we packed our camping gear and drove to Duluth to pick up our trailer. We returned to St. Cloud prepared to move into our flat; however, the previous tenant stayed in the apartment right up through the last day of their rent.
The owner had plans to clean the flat the next morning and asked if we could wait one more day before moving in. Donna and I agreed, then left to stay at a local picnic area that allowed overnight camping. The small campground was located on the east bank of the Mississippi River next to a bridge, in Sauk Rapids. We appreciated that the park had a shower room, which we made good use of. That evening, we unpacked only the minimum of our gear, realizing we’d be moving into our new flat before the next day was over.

Our first home in St. Cloud, Minnesota
We spent the afternoon of October 1st and much of October 2nd moving and unpacking our belongings in the upstairs flat of our new flat at 357 6th Ave So.
Our private entry was the houses front door. Just inside of the door was a flight of stairs to the second story. At the top of the stairs, a U turn took you down a short landing past the bathroom to our bedroom, with windows overlooking the front of the house. A simple left turn from the top of the stairs took you into the living room.
A right turn led down a short hall into the kitchen.
All the rooms throughout the flat were carpeted, except the kitchen and bathroom. In the front room and bedroom the walls were covered with wall paper, the kitchen walls were painted beige.
Our home was heated by natural gas, but used propane from an outdoor tank to fuel the oven and stove. One interesting aspect of the upstairs (attic) flat was that it had a sloped ceiling in a portion of each room. The ambiance of the old house was imagined to be like living in an old European house. It had a much more individualistic style than anything we’d seen in California, we immediately fell in
love with our quarters.
The apartment was unfurnished except for the standard appliances and the few pieces of furniture we brought with us: our antique dressers, the driftwood bookcase, my large homemade stereo speakers, leather trunk, the metal chairs I refinished, a small Formica kitchen table, a homemade coffee table, and the antique rocking chair.

Of particular importance, was our need for a bed. Reading the St Cloud Times newspaper classified ads, we found that there was an estate sale being held only a block away. We hurried over the house and were fortunate to find and buy and old metal frame bed for $5! Making several trips, we carried the heavy bed parts home, piecemeal. It didn’t take long to discover that the bed springs were sagging, which not only hurt our backs, but left us piled together in the center of the bed every night. We stiffened the underlayment with a sheet of plywood which helped considerably for a time. Eventually we bought a brass bed and mattresses with modern spring suspension.
A couple days after moving in to the flat, I registered with St. Cloud’s Employment Agency to receive my Unemployment Compensation from California. Fortunately, my records at Gregg Iron Foundry arrived showing that I was ‘laid off’, not a ‘voluntary quit’ With all the overtime work I’d done at Gregg, my wages were such that I qualified for almost the maximum compensation claim.

The antique kitchen table
One day in mid October, while Donna and I were driving up Highway 10, east of St. Cloud, we passed an antique shop. We’d never done business with antique shops, but enjoying the few antiques we had, decided to stop and browse. In a back room, we found an old, double drop leaf, wooden table that had been painted white. We thought that if we could strip the paint off and refinish it, we might have a interesting piece of furniture. We bought the table for $30.
During the next few days, we bought sandpaper, chemical paint stripper, paper towels and a scraper. We immediately disassembled the table and began applying the stripper. As the paint was peeled away we found the table had received no less than  five coats of different colored paint during its life time. After a great deal of sanding to smooth out the nicks, cuts and a few cigarette burns, the table was stripped, exposing it’s pretty, light oak grain. We stained the wood with a ‘light oak’ finish then coated it with polyurethane.
Finally, the table was reassembled and its bolts tightened. When the job was done, we stood back and admired the outcome, we had a nice, rustic and somewhat distressed antique table! We estimated the table’s manufacture to have been circa 1920 AD. It looked like it had been used as a kitchen utility table, since there
were scuff marks from a meat grinder’s screw clamp along both ends.

“I’m sorry to inform you about Jim… “
My old buddy Jim (from Pasadena and later Arcata) and I continued with our mail correspondence, but were down to exchanging correspondence only a few times a year. Jim and Sue were still living in Washington and working on their graduate degrees. I owed Jim a letter since sometime before we left California, so as soon as we moved into the flat, I wrote ‘Sir James and hippie sister Sue’ with our new address.
A couple weeks later, while we were outside sanding and refinishing the kitchen table, the postman brought a letter addressed from Washington state. I was surprised to hear back from Jim so fast. Upon opening the letter, I found my letter and a brief note — from Jim’s sister. She said she was sorry to inform me that Jim died of a brain tumor, only a couple weeks earlier. She was temporarily in Washington (from Pasadena, CA) to collect Jim’s belongings when my letter arrived, recalling I was his friend, she wrote back to me right away.

Donna and I were stunned
Jim was dead? …a brain tumor!?
What terrible news!

Jim was one of the few best friends I ever had. In reflection, there was certain pattern to the tragedy. Jim had a small cancerous growth removed from his chest during the summer of 1967, then had cancerous lymph nodes removed from his armpit in the summer of 1971 at Arcata. We realized that in both cases a few cells had escaped the surgeon’s scalpel and planted themselves elsewhere. Apparently some had gone into his brain.
I immediately telephoned Jim and Sue’s old number, hoping to speak with Susan. The telephone operator gave me her new number and rerouted the call. Sue answered the telephone and finding who was calling, became somewhat emotionally distant. She was obviously past the initial grief she’d experience over Jim’s death.
Sue told me, Jim had become difficult to live with, even before he began having headaches, they hadn’t been getting along together… She and her son, Van, had set up a household with a boyfriend student from the University (maybe before Jim went to the hospital). There wasn’t much for me to say, the thoughts and memories of my “little hippie family” imploded, collapsing down a black hole. What had been one of the two happiest summers in my life, spent with a terrific group of people had become only a fond memory. The characters from that passed drama, had gone their separate ways: Jim was dead, Sue was happily living with someone else, Patty was back living with her husband, I had married and moved to Minnesota.
One likes to maintain happy old memories, freezing their various elements in time; Jim’s death was a reality that hurt.

Selling the ‘California One Way’ trailer
A few weeks after moving into our new home, we placed a classified ad in the St. Cloud Times, advertising to sell our “California One Way” moving trailer. We asked for and received $600, the same price paid for the trailer in California. Since we had to replace a tire during the trip to Minnesota, it had only cost us the price of the tire to move all of our belongings!

Our meals, winter 1974
In the months before leaving California, we’d experienced an oil embargo and the resultant long car lines at gas stations; we had moved across country after losing thousands of dollars in the stock market; during our trip we found a severe drought occurring in the Midwest; the USA was at the time, in a very deep recession; while neither of us had employment.
The earliest attempt to understand our food consumption patterns were done in November, with an eye toward developing a future stockpile of our favorite foods. We were concerned and were doing what we could, under the circumstances to ensure our prosperity, if economic conditions grew worse. Donna was beginning to learn to make homemade soup and we were experimenting with homemade sauces for several of our Mexican meals.
In the following table: I have not included: margarine, peanut butter, jam or honey; however, these spreads were frequently used during breakfast meals. Coffee included a teaspoon of dehydrated milk and a teaspoon of sugar (As the years passed, we grew to enjoy our coffee without the sugar or cream
substitute additions.) Eggs had salt and pepper sprinkled on them.

November Meals


Friday, November 1

Saturday, November 2

Sunday, November 3


Corn fritters, toast, orange juice, coffee Egg with vegetable omelet, biscuits, orange juice, coffee Left over roast, left over potatoes, fried eggs, orange juice, coffee


Bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches, milk Left over macaroni casserole, milk Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk


Macaroni-cheese-tuna-pea casserole, salad, bread, milk Liver and onions, boiled potatoes, peaches and cottage cheese salad, bread, milk  


Monday, November 4

Tuesday, November 5

Wednesday, November 6


Oatmeal, toast, milk, coffee Soft boiled eggs, toast, grapefruit, coffee Fried eggs, left over biscuits, breakfast sausage, coffee


Left over macaroni and cheese casserole, bread, black tea Left over bean soup, milk  Ham sandwiches, milk


Fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, carrots, coleslaw, milk Hamburger patties, left over potato patties with gravy, mixed corn and carrots, bread, milk Tacos, beer


Thursday, November 7

Friday, November 8

Saturday, November 9


Ham and eggs, toast,  orange juice, coffee Soft boiled eggs, toast, black tea Breakfast sausage and eggs, left over corn bread, orange juice, coffee


Lima bean soup, milk Left over lima bean soup, water Split pea soup, left over chitin, black tea


Pork chops, spinach, peaches and cottage cheese salad, bread, milk Meat loaf, baked potato, cucumber salad, corn bread, milk Spaghetti with leftover meat loaf, bread, milk


Sunday, November 10

Monday, November 11

Tuesday, November 12

Breakfast Eggs, hash brown potatoes, grapefruit, coffee Eggs, biscuits, orange juice, coffee Ham and eggs, toast, orange juice, coffee
Lunch Toasted cheese sandwiches, water Left over split pea soup, bread, water Meat loaf sandwich, water
Supper Liver and onions, boiled potatoes, carrots, cucumber salad, corn bread, milk Tacos, beer Fried chicken, spinach, mashed potatoes with gravy, peaches and cottage cheese salad, bread, milk


Wednesday, November 13

Thursday, November 14

Friday, November 15


Oatmeal, grapefruit, toast, coffee Egg with vegetable omelet, toast, orange juice, coffee Sausage and eggs, toast, coffee


Vegetable soup, saltine crackers, black tea Split pea soup, bread, black tea Left over metalloid sandwich, water


Pizza, beer Ham, boiled potatoes, big salad of lettuce and tomato, bread, milk Chuck roast, potatoes, lettuce and tomato salad, bread, milk


Saturday, November 16

Sunday, November 17

Monday, November 18


Left over roast with potatoes, eggs, orange juice, coffee Ham and eggs, biscuits, coffee Breakfast sausage, eggs, toast, grapefruit, coffee


Vegetable soup, saltine crackers, water Lima bean soup, bread, water Lima bean soup, bread, water


Burrito’s, beer Enchiladas, beer Mousada Kreas (Greek: hamburger, potato, tomato and cheese casserole), bread, milk

Donna finds a job at Landy Packing
Donna answered a classified job advertisement in the newspaper and on December 9th, was  hired as an Accounting Clerk with Landy Packing Company. As it so happened, Landy Packing was approaching the end of a union strike that had lasted two or three months, several of company’s office personnel quit during the strike, Donna was hired as a replacement.
Landy Packing was a beef meat packing plant located on the banks of the Mississippi River, just south of the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud campus. It had several hundred workers and was one of the highest wage paying employers in town.
Donna was hired with at a starting pay rate of $4.35 per hour, or about $20 per month more than she earned at Weyerhaeuser in the City of Industry, California. Starting a new job at a higher pay rate than was made at the previous place of employment, was a good omen and an excellent start. Over the years, while working for Landy’s, Donna became an Accounting Supervisor, supervising Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and Payroll at the corporate office, which during Landy’s heyday, processed the accounting for five smaller affiliated companies.

[Aerial phot post card of St Cloud, ca 1973-74: Above Highway 23, looking west across the Mississippi River and  downtown St. Cloud, toward the top right is the Crossroads Mall. Our first home was located just off the left side of the photo and about 40%  of the way up from the bottom.]

Economic recession: 1974
By the end of the year, the U.S. economy was in a deep recession. There was a lot of talk in the news media about how the recession could turn into a depression, as bad the Great Depression of the 1930s. There was a lot of doom and gloom in people’s minds. During the year, we’d had an oil embargo, there were still very high gasoline prices; the President and Vice President of the United States had both left office in disgrace. The national unemployment rate, consumer inflation and wage inflation were escalating; people were concerned with the economy, their jobs, and prices.
With Donna working full time and earning decent wages, and my drawing unemployment compensation, we were fairly well insulated from the nation’s economic problems. Because of my California unemployment income, I was not anxious to accept the first job offer that came along, infact, turned down several offers that had the combination of low pay and little chance for advancement.

My home studies: Fingers Of The Future
While ‘unempoyed’ during the winter, I began spending my days both at the library and at home, reading books and taking copious notes on futurology. Over the next six months I read twenty six books and many magazine articles dealing with current world affairs which were oriented toward man’s ecology. The authors looked ahead in their discipline and made projections based on various assumptions and current trends. There were predictions regarding the US and world economy, future cost and value relationships, political conditions, international affairs, housing, weather, food availability, etc. Where dates were included, with a prediction, I wrote the information down and stored the data in a (cardboard) file folder.
When I was unable to find any other books in the St. Cloud Public Library, or the St. Cloud State University Library, which looked at the future of these topics, I began compiling my notes.
The predictions were separated into categories and arranged in chronological order. The completed study was typed (on a typewriter) into several dozen pages and titled, Fingers Of The Future. I made photocopies the work, and sent them to selected friends and relatives, including: My parents, Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth, cousin Bob and a friend in California.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1974.
•  Local Evening News
•  National Evening News
•  Happy Days
•  M*A*S*H*
•  Little House on the Prairie
•  Sanford and Son
•  Chico and the Man
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.
•  The Night Stalker -favorite

During the year, Donna, and I went to the following movies:
Blazing Saddles with Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks
Chinatown with Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway
Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry with Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, Vic Morrow
Earthquake with Carleton Heston, Ava Gardner
The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow
The Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad
The Tamarind Seed with Julie Andrews, Omar Sharif

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Filed under Autobiography, __3. Searching: 1964-1979

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

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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