Thursday, October 16, 2008
Life History of Michael Dee Hansen – an Autobiography
This story is written for my Children, Grandchildren & Great Grandchildren and is dedicated to my wife. I call it a story because, in many respects, it’s more of a story than a history. Why? Because aside from certain records, I am drawing mostly on my own memory and must fill in gaps & put together pieces as best I can. Whereas a history, by its’ nature, must be painfully accurate as to time and place and is oft-times necessarily dry and dull. In my “story” I have shied away from the uninteresting and inconsequential.
Some events I remember as if they happened yesterday. Others come from recollections recounted many times. I readily admit that I am probably guilty of some embellishment on stories that I have recounted many times over the years. I beg forgiveness. Some fleshing out of a story is required when the memories are distant and the storyteller desires to convey the emotions of the time and the significance of the event.
In addition, if the storyteller desires, as I do, to capture the reader’s interested in his story, the words used and the pictures painted must be inherently interesting. It is my hope that my posterity would pick up this so-called “life history” and read it because it is interesting – not because one of my grandchildren would say to his children, “You should read this. After all he was your great grandfather.”
EARLY YEARS – 1935-41 – 0 to 6 YEARS OLD
I was born in Richfield, Sevier County, Utah on December 28, 1935 to Dee Hansen and Lois Ogden. I have been told that my birth took place in an upstairs bedroom in a house just down the street from the home of my maternal grandfather, Joseph LaRue Ogden and his second wife Elsie. My time in Utah would be short in that my parents moved when I was about six months old to Oregon where my father worked as a lumberjack. We lived in a small trailer house and perhaps my earliest memory of life was when I was about two years old, running into our house and saying to my mother, “Look, the sun is shining.” It’s possible that this is something that I remember because my mother told me of the incident.
The only other thing I remember when living in Oregon took place just before we moved to California. I had a small bulldog. Another little boy came over to play; reached down to pet my dog when he was eating, and the dog gave him a good bite. This may also be something I was told about, but I don’t think so, for I have a clear picture in my mind of a small dog and a bowl of dog food and a small boy being bitten. The dog was put to sleep. Sometimes the sad memories are what stand out from your earliest years.
. . . . . . . . .
Both of my parents were also born in Richfield, Utah and were born into the Restored Church -- but were obviously somewhat rebellious as witnessed by the fact that they both sooner or later took up some habits that led to problems in their marriage. Both ultimately became alcoholics and my father also became a heavy smoker (both habits he managed to give up in his later years).
. . . . . . . . .
When I was five we were living in Yuba City, California. I remember well the trauma of starting into school. I was a frightened child and did the typical crying and begging not to have to go to school. By this time I had a 2-year old younger brother, David Kendall Hansen and I thought that I should stay home and play with him. From all accounts I was skinny and very shy. But I guess I was also pretty stubborn in that I would run away from school and go right back home much to the displeasure of my parents. In the first or second grade I managed to get into trouble on several occasions. One time I decided to shoot a rubber band-propelled hairpin at a kid that I didn’t like. It stuck into his arm! He was a chubby kid and he screamed hysterically. I was so shocked at seeing that hairpin sticking out of his arm, that I denied doing it even though everybody saw me. I don’t remember the punishment but I DO remember the shame I felt.
We had chickens, rabbits and a dog. The rabbits were raised for food and, as I think about it, none of my own children have ever tasted rabbit. We also raised the chickens for food, including their eggs. One old hen took to attacking my head from a high perch on our porch and, it seemed to me, wanted to pull out my hair. One day when I came home from school, my father said he thought I would really enjoy dinner that evening. You guessed it – we had that crazy bird for dinner!
AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE LAW – 1942 – 6 OR 7 YEARS OLD
When I was in the first or second grade, on my way to and from school each day, I would pass a little store that had several machines out in front that took nickels and by actuating a lever dispensed gumballs, peanuts or jaw breakers. I occasionally had a nickel to spend but not often. One day I found a bunch of shiny washers that someone had discarded or lost. A little later I noticed that they were very close to the size of a nickel, except they had a hole in the middle. Out of curiosity I tried one in the gumball machine. Out came some gumballs. Wow, this was great. I filled my pockets with gumballs, peanuts and jawbreakers. I had plenty of my new coins and knew where to get more. I would have a lifetime of treats. For about three days I “spent” a small fortune in washers.
I had no idea that I was doing anything wrong. I simply thought I was a clever boy. Then a big police officer confronted me while I was making a “purchase” and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was just getting some gumballs and stuff for me and for my friends. “Do you want some?” I asked.
Now I don’t recall that I got into big trouble but I must have gotten some punishment (Maybe I had my allowance diverted to the store owner). Otherwise I wouldn’t remember the event so clearly. In my mind’s eye, I can still see clearly that little store with those “gumball” machines sitting out on the front sidewalk.
DIVORCE – 1942 – 7 YEARS OLD
During the early years my father built houses in Yuba City and Marysville, and also worked as a butcher. This is also the time when things fell apart in my parents’ marriage. My father would soon re-marry, as would my mother a little later. My father married Bertha Crowder who was about ten years younger that him and who would become a significant part of our lives, especially David’s. During this period of strife and divorce, my brother and I bounced around from place to place. I remember staying with two different aunts -- Aunt Lillian who taught me to play Canasta and her husband Roy who managed the Hotel Maryville and who let David and I build sand pools in the back yard – They were simply wonderful people.
. . . . . . . . .
And then there was my Aunt Ruby. She was a huge lady -- and I mean huge. She lived in an ancient little house complete with an outhouse and a well with a hand pump to draw water. Aunt Ruby’s size was probably the result of her love for chocolates. She spent most of her day sitting in her sofa chair eating chocolates. The important thing was that to the Hansen brothers she was always a truly cheery and loving person. She would even share her candy.
. . . . . . . . .
Then there were my stepmother’s parents, the Crowders. Grama Crowder was an energetic soul with a stern look and a twinkle in her eye. She used to bathe my brother, my stepmother’s sister Gloria, (who was about my age), and me in a big galvanized tub on the back porch. I remember it well, but I don’t remember being embarrassed. When Grama Crowder wasn’t looking, Grampa Crowder would hand us slices of buttered bread with sugar sprinkled on it, which we loved. If Grama Crowder caught him, she would act like she was furious (maybe she really was). But as soon as she was out of sight, her husband would chuckle and hand us another.
. . . . . . . . .
That summer, Gloria and I would to go to the park with her dog, a big Red Setter, and have a contest to see who could stomp the most bees with our bare feet. The bees were active in the clover and we had thick calluses on our feet. The first one to get stung was the loser. It invariably meant a sting up high in the arch of the foot where the calluses were thinner. I’m not sure what we thought was so much fun about such a dumb game, except the winner got to laugh at the loser hopping around in pain. It was also hard on the bee population. It seems like each time we were ready to head home, Gloria’s dog, being a natural bird dog, would decide to “point” at some bushes. We weren’t usually interested in trying to flush out some bird in the bushes, and because no amount of coaxing would persuade him to come with us, we would simply leave him in his frozen state. Of course he eventually found his way home – without a bird, of course.
. . . . . . . . .
All I know about the terms of my parent’s divorce is that the judge decreed that they sell some houses they owned and set up trust funds for David and me. Many years later, this allowed my wife and me to put a down payment on our first home. I’m sure it was of great financial help to David also.
. . . . . . . . .
One of the places I remember living during these times was Meridian California. I must have been almost seven and I believe we were there less than a year. The town consisted of about ten houses, a roadside store containing a post office branch, a one-room schoolhouse, a small park and an old drawbridge control station (we were right next to a good sized river). We lived in what was once the town gas station.
I remember four things about the time we lived in Meridian – 1) Going to school with kids of all ages in one room, 2) Town pot-luck picnics in the little park every Sunday in the summer, 3) Buying a “real” Squirt from the old fashioned ice tub at the little store – Squirt was originally made from carbonated grapefruit juice with actual little bits of the pulp floating within – I can still taste it! They also had Nestles Orange, Grape and Lime, as well as Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer, and 4) I remember the big red ants and the big black ants that did not like each other. I would round up some of each and place them in a large bottle and watch them fight. I also liked to herd spiders (even though I have anrachaphobia) over large anthills and let the ants overwhelm them. I am still antagonistic towards both ants and spiders. Pretty obvious there was not a lot to do in Meridian.
. . . . . . . . .
At this time in Northern California, whether in Meridian, Yuba City or Marysville, there were three popular pastimes or games that were popular with many young boys. They were inexpensive to play and seriously competitive. The first, which may still be played to this day, is a game called Marbles. I don’t remember all the rules and as I recall there were variations to the rules of play. Suffice it to say, the object was to use your “shooter” and by shooting from outside a circle at marbles inside the circle you could keep marbles you knocked out of the circle. The best shooters thereby became the owners of the greatest number of marbles.
A second popular game also involved a circle drawn in the dirt. It also involved milk bottle caps. Since milk bottle caps have faded into antiquity along with the milk bottles themselves, I will describe them. They were simply small cardboard disks that were pushed into the bottle top and had little tabs that were used to pull the cap out of the bottle. The tabs we cut off. We carried our bottle caps in empty Quaker Oats cartons. In this game, one stood outside the circle and threw caps face-down into the circle until someone landed his bottle cap on another; in which case’ he won the “pot,” thus adding to his collection of bottle caps.
The third game was somewhat similar and was called “popcycle sticks.” In this game we drew a line in the dirt with our toes that was eight or ten feet from a wall. Then taking turns, we would toss our popcycle sticks near or against the wall. The first person to have his stick land on another, won the pot. The idea was to possess the greatest number of popcycle sticks. Riches were measured by your ownership of large quantities of marbles, bottle caps and popcycle sticks. My skills in these games were above average and I was a serious competitor. Therefore, I was considered well to do.
LOS ANGELES – 1943-44 – 8 & 9 YEARS OLD
When I was about 8 years old, my mother placed my brother and me in a boarding house, while she got settled in the Los Angeles area. World War II was well under way (early 1943) and I can remember cities on the West Coast practicing “blackouts,” camouflage nets over the aircraft plants, and our fighter airplanes practicing aerial dog fights high overhead. I liked the time spent at the boarding house. Some of us boys had created a special secret room that you entered by crawling under the house and then climbing up into the space under the stairwell. We had pictures on the wall, some special toys, and candles for light (it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the place down).
One of the inhabitants of the boarding house was a 10-year-old girl named Molly, who we called “Mean Molly.” Somehow she found out about our hideaway and decided to challenge our “boys only” rule. I decided to fight her to keep her out. Big mistake - I didn’t have a chance. It was a one-punch scrap! I suppose it was my first encounter with women’s lib.
Boarding house Sundays usually meant pancakes for breakfast. Because there were so many of us, this also meant we would be served one pancake and then wait maybe 10 minutes or more for the next one. On Saturdays in the summer, we would often go by bus to the Bimini Plunge, a large public swimming pool near the Los Angeles Olympic Coliseum. It is here where Doctors later decided I probably contracted Polio.
This was the summer of 1944. I was 9-years old, and my mother took my brother and me on the famous Southern Pacific Daylight Passenger Train from Union Station in Los Angeles, along the coast to the Bay area and then by bus to Yuba City, to spend the rest of the summer with my father and stepmother. On the train I remember having an almost unbearable headache. It was probably the first sign of the polio bug settling in. I also remember being able to see simultaneously, the locomotive ahead of us and the rear of the train coming out of a tunnel as we wound our way through the coastal mountains.
In Yuba City, it wasn’t long before I began to show symptoms. I tried to climb up a ladder but was too weak. I had a fever and the doctor soon decided I was coming down with Polio and ordered an ambulance to take me all the way to the San Francisco Orthopedic Hospital. The hospital would be my home for the next nine months. My father and stepmother were quarantined for two weeks and could not leave the house. (My father blames me for the birth of my half brother nine months later).
SAN FRANCISCO ORTHOPETIC HOSPITAL – 1944-45 – 9 & 10 YEARS OLD
I have lots of memories of my stay in the hospital -- mostly positive. When living at the boarding house my mother had worked very hard with me to teach me to read. But I had a serious mental block and was about to be put back to repeat a grade. So I arrived at the hospital not only with a serious disease but I couldn’t read worth a darn. Nevertheless, as with many disheartening happenings in life there are often silver linings. For one thing, the March of Dimes was handling the major financial costs. Secondly, and of great significance, the Sister Kenney breakthrough treatment had been introduced -- instead of splints they used hot pads and constant exercise of your limbs to promote recovery and reduce permanent muscle loss. And then there were two other blessings: I was not affected in such a way as to need an Iron Lung and I was not in a particular growth spurt which often results in some limbs being much shorter than others, since Polio inhibits growth in the paralyzed areas until the paralysis subsides.
Some other good fortune -- I was being treated in one of the most up to date hospitals in the country, AND – the hospital had a portable library stocked with a series of books that I grew to love by Frank L. Baum called Oz Book (The Wizard of Oz, The Tin Woodman of Oz, etc, etc). With lots of time on my hands, & a little help from the nurses, I taught myself to read quite well and have been an avid reader ever since. In the hospital the nurses and fellow patients began calling me Ozzie, a nickname that stuck until as a Junior in High School. I finally got fed up with schoolmates saying, “Hey, Ozzie, where’s Harriet?” By the time I graduated from High School I had most of my friends converted to calling me Mike. By the way, I have a collection of Oz books that is growing in value.
. . . . . . . . .
I was still in the hospital when the war ended. I remember looking down from the 7th or 8th floor when we heard a great many automobile horns and saw cars lined up at the gas station to fill up. It was the end of gas rationing. I had become very interested in the fighting machines of the war. In my mind, I flew P-51s and P-38s against Japanese Zeros and German 109s. I even built models of these aircraft - mostly from clay or from cereal box cardboard kits. My skill with clay was such that when I modeled a snake and placed it on the linen closet floor, it nearly frightened one nurse to death when she stepped on it and it appeared to move. She knew who made the snake and was quite peeved until she finally started to laugh with the rest of us. I think she was the same nurse that took delight in taking us up to the roof dressed in our briefs to get some nice sunshine with the cold San Francisco Bay breeze raising goose bumps.
. . . . . . . . .
My most enduring memory of this time was the Christmas of 1945. It wouldn’t be much longer until I would be released from the hospital. In the meantime, a wonderful family, whose son also was recovering from Polio, took us home to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I don’t really remember any specifics! I simply remember a wonderful warm feeling! To this day, whenever I hear certain Christmas songs, such as I’ll be Home for Christmas and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Flame, it takes me back and I am warmed all over again. I truly wish that I knew who those people were, so I could express my gratitude. I expect to meet them in the eternities.
LEAVING THE HOSPITAL – 1945 – 10 YEARS OLD
After leaving the hospital my stepmother and her mother (I believe) continued with the Sister Kenney treatments to help me regain my strength. But, while my legs became incredibly strong, some muscles in my right shoulder and upper arm were not responding well and some paralysis and muscle weakness would remain. When I was still 10-years old, I underwent some post-polio corrective surgery designed to improve the use of my right arm. A length of ligament was removed from my right thigh. One end was attached just to the left of and went over the right shoulder blade. The other end was attached to the muscle in front of my right armpit. The idea was to retain my shoulder blade so that I could better raise my right arm over my head.
I was to keep my arm in a sling for an extended period of time. I suspect that I failed to do so because the surgery was a failure. It’s likely that I caused the ligament to slip off the end of my shoulder blade thus wasting the noble efforts of the surgeons and leaving me with a greater handicap than might otherwise have been the case. Although naturally right-handed, I learned to use my left hand for many things and eventually became truly ambidextrous. I threw a baseball right-handed and switch-hit. I shot basketballs left-handed but could make hook shots with either hand. In Ping-pong, I could play with either hand. Same with Tennis, although I served right-handed.
Also, at the age of ten I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember very little of this except I had a great fear of having my head go under water. I believe David was baptized at the same time in a building across the street from Centinela Park in Inglewood.
. . . . . . . . .
The first year or so after leaving the hospital, the disease left me with difficulty in swallowing and speaking. I could not lean over and drink out of a drinking fountain without the water running out of my nose. When speaking, it was necessary to hold my nose so that I could be understood. As an otherwise healthy 11-year old, both conditions improved greatly over the next year, although I’m sure my handicaps were magnified in my mind.
During this time period, my brother and I were living with my mother and stepfather, John Stanley Tibio -- a man of Italian decent, slim, handsome and intelligent. Most everyone called him Johnny, but my mother often called him “Jack S.” He never was one to talk much about himself; consequently, I knew little about him, except that he was from the Black Hills of South Dakota and kept private, some terrible memories of combat in World War II. Perhaps this accounts for his love of hard liquor.
First we lived in a Duplex in Hyde Park and then into a newly built house in Hawthorne, that Johnny bought under the G.I. Bill. This meant new schools, new friends, new parental relationships, and my embarrassing handicaps. My self-esteem was definitely at a low point. Much would happen during my eleventh year . . .
MOVING TO HAWTHORNE – 1946 – 11 YEARS OLD
In Hawthorne, we moved into a two-bedroom house on 134th Place, about four houses west of Inglewood Ave. It was a small house - but nice considering that the war just ended about a year earlier. The streets were still dirt with no curbs, sidewalks, streetlights or sewer system. These would gradually come later. In the mean time every one had there own septic tank. We also had an incinerator used to burn our trash.
(In the 1940s and 50s, most homes in Los Angeles had backyard concrete incinerators and a residential recycling program was in effect throughout the city. These numerous, inefficient residential incinerators contributed much to the air pollution problem in the Los Angeles Basin. Mayor Sam Yorty was elected on the promise that he would end the recycling program and shut down the incinerators)
Mention of our incinerator brings to mind my conflict with the neighbor’s dog. He was a big mut with a loud bark and lived in their backyard. Whenever I was required to take the trash to the incinerator at night and needed to pass close to the fence between our houses, he would suddenly poke his head over the fence and scare the daylights out of me by barking in my ear. Even when I came to expect it, it was most annoying! Something had to be done! I didn’t want to complain to the neighbors, so I took matters into my own hands. One night I found a large cooking pan, filled it with hot water from the tap, walked noisily toward the incinerator, and when that dog stuck his head over the fence, he got a face full of hot water in the middle of his bark. I was hoping this would teach him a lesson. It did! He would still bark from the other side of the fence but would never poke his head over. Dogs are intelligent people.
. . . . . . . . .
I had a dog of my own (actually, I think my mother acquired “Penny” for both my brother and me). She was a pure bred, black and white Cocker Spaniel named Princess Pat Penelope. Thus, the name Penny. She went almost everywhere I went and could usually keep up with me on my bicycle. She would often bring in the morning newspaper and if I left my baseball cap at a friend’s house or at the park she would carry it home. Lease laws were basically non-existent in those days and most “friendly” dogs were allowed to roam about a bit. It was very common to see dogs chasing cars and sometimes bicycles (not nice) and the life expectancy of the average dog was reduced by how frequently they were run over by vehicles . . . which eventually happened to Penny. She was a great companion - one that I hope to see in the next life.
. . . . . . . . .
My mother signed me up for Cub Scouts even though I was a bit older, and she, along with a very nice Den Mother, helped me become a Cub, a Wolf, and a Bear and to prepare for Boy Scouts. I have fond memories of this time. They were good times in which to grow up. No television in those days. We listened to the radio. Like most of the kids, I had my favorites such as The Lone Ranger, Suspense Theatre, Gang Busters, The Shadow, The Green Hornet - and my most favorite - I Love a Mystery (with Doc, Jack & Reggie) - which was on for 15 minutes every week night after our bed time. It could only be listened to under the covers with the radio volume turned down as low as possible. Radios in those days were not particularly small and were not battery powered, which made this a challenge to get away with.
. . . . . . . . .
My best neighborhood pal at this time was a girl by the name of Diane Webb. She lived across the street on the next block. We were always together. She was NOT my girlfriend. She simply liked to do the same things I liked to do and was game to get into the same kind of boyish mischief that we might think up. We used to ride our bikes all the way to Manhattan Beach and ride around the pier. There were about ten kids that came to my 12th birthday party – she was the only girl. When everyone lined up for the traditional birthday spanking where the birthday boy gets to crawl along between everyone’s legs and each one gives him a good whack on the butt as he passes thru, she was the reason I couldn’t let myself cry. She moved away a year or so later, back East somewhere. I missed her a lot.
GRAMMAR SCHOOL – 1946 to 1949 – 11 to 13 YEARS OLD
I spent the 6th through 8th grades at Richard Henry Dana “Grammar School” in Hawthorne. Here are some memories of that time – I remember Monty Montana, the cowboy trick rider and roper came to entertain us. A light airplane once made an emergency landing on our playground during class time. How exciting that was! I was a scrawny kid and the only time I would be chosen for a team sport was if it required speed. In the sixth grade I could outrun anyone in the school and that includes the 8th graders. And that is no exaggeration - thanks to Sister Kenney and the endless exercises to build up the leg muscles!
In the seventh grade, some of us concocted an idea where we could swipe a kickball from the school to use at home. Since I knew a way to get up on the roof (it being relatively flat) we arranged to “accidentally” throw the ball onto the roof during lunch recess. Then during class I asked to go to the restroom and was excused by my teacher to do so. I quickly got up onto the roof, found the ball, leaned over to pick it up and found myself looking down through a skylight at the upturned face of my teacher. I got in lots of trouble for that. But as I remember, none of my cohorts stepped forward to share the blame.
. . . . . . . . .
One summer, around about this time, a friend and I decided we were brave enough to visit a large old farmhouse that everyone called “The Haunted House.” It was a very eerie looking structure that stood off by itself, away from the residential area. In appearance, it looked like a larger version of Boo Radleys’s house in To Kill a Mocking Bird. As we approached the property we carefully studied the place and looked all around for signs of life. It was obvious to our sharp young eyes that the only occupants we might find would be ghosts.
The house was situated in a huge yard surrounded by a chain link fence and although we were bare-footed, such a fence posed only a mildly painful problem for our tough feet. As it was sunset & would be dark within the hour, we decided to make our move before darkness overcame bravado. So, in spite of the prominently posted “NO TRESPASSING” sign, we scaled the fence and dropped down onto the other side. As we made our way toward the house, we discovered the grounds were covered with leaves, sharp twigs, acorns, etc, that made for painful, slow going. When we had traveled about half the distance to the front porch – perhaps twenty or thirty yards -- we heard a dog bark. We froze and looked at each with wide eyes. Looking back we saw a very large German Sheppard coming around the side of the house. As he spied us, he let out a low growl and headed our way. We took off running and were over that fence in nothing flat.
I remember this incident because I was so impressed with how painful it was to scale that fence and traverse the twenty or so yards in one direction and how our feet felt no pain when traveling in the opposite direction. Even though we may have had only twenty yards to travel while the dog had forty, I doubt that a shotgun blast could have caught up with us!!
. . . . . . . . .
During the 6th & 7th grades my speech improved significantly although I still had difficulty in swallowing & drinking from a drinking fountain. I even sang in the school choir and was given a solo part that proved quite embarrassing.
. . . . . . . . .
When I was almost 12, I acquired a paper route delivering the early morning Examiner which required getting up a 5 am. The area distributor was Old Lady Marple. It was usually still dark when we met at her house to fold the papers and load them onto our bicycles. She was very gruff, had slightly green skin, but was kindly to small boys and gave us hot Postum to help us wake up. I’ve liked Postum ever since. But what I really need to do here is come clean on two incidents that occurred during my paperboy career that have left little nicks on my conscience:
The first incident goes as follows -- my route was in a hilly part of Hawthorne. I had around 90 customers and it was a job pedaling up the hills, especially on Sunday, when the papers were huge and required a second set of paper bags draped over the handlebars. I often had to zigzag up the street or dismount and push my old Schwinn up the hill on the sidewalk. Once I reached the top I could coast down the other side. One part of my route had a fairly long, easy downhill stretch with no customers. As I coasted down the hill, I closed my eyes for ‘just a second’-- and fell asleep! I left the sidewalk and crashed headlong into a slat fence -- the kind of fence that is woven of very thin slats of wood. I exploded that section of fence like a cannon ball had hit it. It must have made a loud crashing sound. I picked myself up and found I wasn’t particularly hurt. The fence definitely got the worst of it. No lights came on or doors opened and so after awhile, I quietly rode away.
The second incident goes as follows – Marty was an unfriendly competitor who delivered the early morning Times. He was a little older than me and not very nice. One time he and a couple of other Times paperboys stopped me, dumped out my papers, and had a contest to see who could throw them the farthest. Marty’s route covered roughly the same area as mine. One morning I sent a newspaper flying toward a customer’s porch and managed to break several milk bottles. The customer was a nice older woman and so I parked my bike and went up to try to tidy up the mess. When I neared the porch I noticed the Times newspaper had already arrived and was lying nearby. Marty had already made his delivery. Unable to resist, I took the Times and replaced the Examiner in that pile of broken glass. Again I rode quietly away.
There is an overriding factor here that relates to these two incidents. They might be relatively small misdeeds, but the length of time such nicks stay on ones conscience make is not worth getting away with them. Although in Marty’s case it’s a close call.
. . . . . . . . .
When 12-years old I joined a scout troop sponsored by the Centinela Ward and owe a great debt of gratitude to my scoutmaster, Newell Fields, for pushing me along, my mother for encouragement and for working with me on merit badges, etc AND John E. Phillips for conferring the Aaronic Priesthood on me and ordaining me a Deacon. He was also my Deacon’s Quorum advisor and in later years was our Bishop. On my first overnight campout with the troop, I discovered my extreme allergy to Poison Oak and developed a full-body rash. The scout leaders soaked me in the chlorinated pool, covered me with lotion, and tried to convince me that I would actually recover from my misery! To this day, I can develop a reaction to Poison Oak just by being in the vicinity. No kidding! My Scouting advancements were stopped at Star Scout because I could not pass swimming. I had a great fear of getting my head under water and no one could talk me out of it. More about this later.
. . . . . . . . .
I would now like to say a word about prayer. One evening when I was still 12 years old, I was to go roller-skating with a group of boy scouts and Mia Maids from the church. I was in puppy love with one of the Mia Maids and wanted her to see me win the speed skating contest for 12 year olds. I had won it previously (as I have mentioned before, I was truly the fastest 12 year old around – on foot or on wheels) and I felt quite confident and just knew she would be impressed. The only trouble was – about an hour before I was to be picked up by our scout leader, I became extremely sick and had a mild fever! I wanted to go so badly that I prayed with great fervor. I guess the Lord will answer such foolish prayers when you’re young, if you pray hard enough and you believe and it’s not going to lead to serious harm. By the time my ride came to pick me up, I felt absolutely great. And yes - I won the speed skating contest with ease. Was the Mia Maid impressed? I can’t recall -- but I doubt it.
The roller-skating rink where the above took place was a now-extinct outdoor type with a smooth, painted concrete skating surface. In the winter months, even in California, it could be quite cold. On one such cold evening I was hungry and looking for a way to keep warm. I only had one nickel in my pocket and the only thing available from the snack bar for 5 cents was a cup of coffee. I ordered same, added cream and sugar and gave it a try. It was awful tasting and of no use except to warm my hands. To this day, I like to tell people when they offer me coffee that “I tried it once when I was twelve, didn’t like it, and haven’t tried it since.”
. . . . . . . . .
When I was about 13 years old I had a friend who was about 15 and owned a “Whizzer” motorbike. This was a conventional bicycle fitted with a small gas powered motor. You could pump the pedals like any bike, get up to speed and then engage the clutch and it would fire up the motor. Then by twisting the handgrip throttle, you were off and running. Man! Did we ever think that was some nifty machine. But my friend was very selfish with his motorbike and not inclined to let others try it out. However, for an exorbitant price he would consider it.
Since I had no money, and since I really wanted to ride this advanced form of transportation, I agreed to a price that turned out to be very expensive indeed. I agreed to “run the gauntlet” wherein I rode down the street past the other boys while they were all firing their “rubber guns” at me. Rubber guns varied in design but basically consisted of a pistol-shaped wooden barrel and handle. Attached to the backside of the handle was a clothespin. The “rubber” was a section of automobile inner tube that formed a very heavy-duty rubber band, which was then stretched over the barrel and captured by the clothespin trigger. A squeeze of the trigger with your thumb launched a non-lethal, but highly stinging projectile!
My first run was clean and I came through unscathed. Poor shooting. My second run was a different story. With my head down and tucked into my chest, I didn’t see the dog until the front wheel hit it and launched me over the handlebars and face-first onto the asphalt tars of the street. Of course my older friend was mostly concerned about his slightly bent motorbike. But when my other friends helped me up, I had a bloody mouth and two chipped teeth. The price? It was several months before the black tar stains were removed. Six years later one of the two chipped teeth became impacted due to the trauma and required a root canal. Fifty years later I finally got around to having the one tooth capped (which had turned gray) and the other one repaired. Fifty years until I had decent-looking front teeth. A high price -- even before considering the over $1,000 in dental work.
. . . . . . . . .
In the 8th grade, I’m grateful to a very insightful teacher, Mr. Mullany. Largely because of him, I began to come out of my deep felt feelings of not being very smart - or able to do well in school – and a history of not trying all that hard? Mr. Mullany took me aside one day and asked me whom I thought were the best students in the class. I mentioned two or three that were well known to be outstanding students. He then showed me a recent report that I had written on an assigned aviation subject (a subject I was very interested in). He then also showed me the reports that those I named had submitted. To my surprise, my grade was significantly higher than any of the others’. He told me that I had the intelligence to outdo anyone in the 8th grade if I simply wanted to. By the time I entered High School, I had a much higher level of confidence and a desire to work hard, that I would not have had without Mr. Mullany’s extra efforts on my behalf. Mr. Mullany, I hope you are now a teacher on the other side of the veil.
LEUZINGER HIGH SCHOOL DAYS – 1950 to 1951 -- 14 & 15 YEARS OLD
In the summer between grammar school and high school, my mother insisted that I take a typing class offered at the high school I would be attending. I am grateful to this day (as I type this memoir), for her insistence. Do you suppose she was a visionary and knew that I would become part of the computer world and need to be able to type? I began high school at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale. I was about the smallest freshmen in my class. Even most of the girls were taller than me. You might say that I was “a late bloomer.” The classes were definitely less difficult than I feared, and I earned good grades, and was on the Honor Society each semester.
Swimming during PE at Leuzinger was a unique experience. The swimming pool was indoors -- sort of! It had high walls but no roof. When it rained you swam in the rain. To add to the uniqueness, the boys were required to swim in the nude. I no longer remember why, but I’m sure they had good reasons. Maybe it was to encourage swimming rather than standing around looking foolish. Some of the girls claimed they had a peek hole from the girl’s locker room where they could watch us. I never believed it, for if they did, they certainly wouldn’t advertise it. The first day in the pool was the day I lost my fear of getting my head under water. The coach saw me getting carefully into the shallow end, made me get out, and dive into the deep end.
That dive was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but I soon found out that it wasn’t bad at all. In fact I soon learned to enjoy it. Getting over this fear helped me enjoy the ocean and to become a sort of surfer. Before surfboards became a big craze, we used automobile inner tubes to surf the waves in Manhattan & Hermosa Beaches. Mostly we would sit in our tubes with our feet facing the incoming waves. Then as a good wave would come in we would paddle frantically with our backs to the shore and ride the wave backwards. We could get some great rides this way, but occasionally one could get caught in the curl and be flipped over backwards. Even that was fun, believe it or not. Then of course we would have to chase our innertubes, which kept on heading for shore.
. . . . . . . . .
One of my best friends at Leuzinger, Chuck Manning, was running for a freshman class office and I was helping him by making posters advertising his qualifications. He was dressed up with coat & tie to make a presentation at a class assembly. We were riding our bikes as fast as we could because we were running very close on time. Rounding a corner near school we were going too fast and Chuck went down and slid into the mud at the side of the road. He was not only covered with mud, but tore the sleeve of his jacket and ripped a hole in his slacks. There was nothing else to do but go on into the assembly. Chuck asked me to go to the microphone ahead of him and explain what had happened, which I agreed to do. However, when I started to explain, I began to laugh, along with most of our class. I may well have lost a friend - had he not won the subsequent election.
. . . . . . . . .
And then there was my friend Briz.
Robert Brizzolari was chunky and non-athlete looking. He had black hair with eyebrows that met above an Italian nose -- on which were perched glasses with dark frames. It seems he was always being picked on by other boys (and even some girls). And so I felt noble by taking him under my wing as his protector. Besides, not only was he a member of the church and in the same Boy Scout troop, but also his father would take us to LA Rams football games at the Coliseum & the Hollywood Stars Pacific Coast League baseball games at Wrigley field and Gilmore Stadium. In his garage was an old Cadillac LaSalle that had no engine. He claimed his father had given the car to him. So he would sand a little on a fender, spray a little primer on rust spots and generally fiddle around with the car. All the time he would be muttering softly about installing a powerful engine and taking to the road.
Briz was a little older than me and so later on when he was able to legally drive a car, his father would let him drive their Cadillac. On such occasions, I would get him to drive me around to visit girls. He was always a good and loyal friend, even though I didn’t always treat him with the greatest respect. He was so passive and forgiving that it was a great temptation to tease him, to egg him on, in order to get some reaction from him. Because of his personality and his inherent low self-esteem, I always considered myself smarter than my good friend. It would be several years before I realized that in some ways his intellect was far superior to mine. In later years I lost track of Briz. In much later years, I heard he had moved to Anchorage Alaska and using the Internet, I tried to locate him but without success.
A SUMMER SPENT IN RICHFIELD, UTAH – 1950 – 14 YEARS OLD
The summer after my freshman year was spent in Richfield, Utah on my Grandfather Ogden’s Farm, where my brother and I learned the joy of hard work. We were rousted out of bed at 5 am, ate a hearty breakfast, and spent the early hours in the fields, weeding endless rows of sugar beets or hefting bales of hay onto a wagon (called by the locals, “hauling hay”). At around 10:00 or so, “dinner” was brought out to us in the field and we would take a half hour sitting under a tree eating and catching our breath. Then around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon we were through for the day and would head home looking forward to a shower and a real farm style “supper.” Even though I was not yet 15, I was allowed to drive a tractor and on occasion a pickup truck. My grandfather, Ogden, was not only a prosperous farmer, and an important man in local government, but he was also a very patient and forgiving man, as proven by his kind words when I backed the tractor into an irrigation ditch and then later when I dropped a wheel of the pickup into the curbside waterway.
Memories are pleasant of the times spent in Richfield. My brother and I had many caring relatives, including, among others, my uncles Howard, Glen & Dale, and my aunts Carol, Arlene and Francis. Arlene and Francis were both younger than me and one day taught me how to kiss while in a rowboat out in the middle of Fish Lake. That was fun – but a little scary. In the basement of my grandparent’s home was a fine pool table, where we could shoot pool for hours. At the end of the summer when we packed up to head back to California, everyone came to give us a little send off party and my grandfather slipped David and me each a twenty dollar bill. Such memories last a lifetime.
HAWTHORNE HIGH SCHOOL DAYS – 1952 to 54 – 15 to 18 YEARS OLD
Leuzinger High School was overcrowded and two new high schools were under construction in the South Bay Area. During my sophomore year, the new Hawthorne High School was ready for students and since I lived in the area designated, I was transferred to this new school along with about 300 others. Only Freshmen & Sophomores were transferred, with expansion construction scheduled to keep up with incoming freshmen classes. The beauty of this for my class was that we would be the senior class for two and a half years. We even called our sophomore class president the senior class president and owned the senior square for most of our high school years. We, the class of ’54, considered ourselves top dogs and when graduation day came, the Principal of the school announced that the control of the school would be returned to the school administration. Some of the “Boys from Hawthorne” as they were called in the in the music industry, better known as the Beach Boys, were fellow Hawthorne High Cougars.
. . . . . . . . .
During my high school days, I became a very good table tennis player. Of course, we called it Ping-pong. My stepfather built my brother and me a concrete ping-pong table on which I practiced endlessly. It was a one-inch thick concrete slab with legs - very heavy, durable and took up most of the garage. Many times I rode my bike to Muscle Beach in Venice and entered weekend tournaments against much older players – some with big muscles. I often won such prizes as a case of motor oil -- which was very difficult to carry home on my bike. One day at school I got into a serious argument (about what, I don’t remember) with one of the big football players. His name was Gerald Switzer. Rather than a fistfight where he definitely would have clobbered me, I challenged him - in front of a bunch of our schoolmates - to a single game of ping-pong and bragged that I could whip his tail. I had seen him play and I knew he thought he was hot stuff.
I don’t remember how we arranged the match, but this I do remember – in front of a bunch of his friends and mine -- he didn’t stand a chance! When the score reached 7 to 0 (considered a shutout and a victory), he asked and I agreed to go to 21. I never played a better game before or since. I don’t know why, but I could do no wrong. When he would slam the ball, I would slam it right back. Incredibly, the final score – 21 to Zero! It may not have been the highlight of my high school days but it certainly was one of them. The lowlight of my ping-pong career was when my brother David, who I could always bring to tears when beating him, began to beat me regularly. I broke several rackets by slamming them against that concrete table in frustration.
. . . . . . . . .
Speaking of fights, I only got into two fights in my life. The first, I mentioned before, was during the boarding house days when I was eight. I picked a fight with a girl much larger than me figuring she would back down. She flattened me with one punch. The second was at Hawthorne High School in the boy’s locker room. I was sitting on the bench between the lockers putting on my shoes when someone passed behind me in the narrow isle way and bumped me pretty hard. I said, “Hey, watch it!” before I looked around. Big mistake! It was one of Switzer’s fellow football players, an even bigger guy whose first name was Shirley. He said to me, “Get up and I’ll knock you down.” Suddenly it was very quiet in the locker room with everyone looking at me to see what I would do. Pride overcame fear. I came up fist first and hit him right in the mouth and split his lip. That was the only blow I got in as he proceeded to pummel me to the floor. After he was pulled off of me and we had visited the PE teacher’s office, he said he was very surprised that I stood up to him. We became good friends. I just wish I could remember his last name. So you see - I lost every fistfight that I ever fought.
. . . . . . . . .
Up through my junior year one of my best friends was Donald Moore. It was at his parent’s home that I first saw a television set. One day as I approached him at school, he turned and walked away. From that day on he would never speak to me. I tried to find out why and or what I could have done to him. If anyone other than he knew the answer, they never told me. I don’t think we had common girl interests or competing goals or anything else. To this day I have no idea. Much later on in life, I applied for an engineering position and was hired at a company where the President’s name was Donald Moore. I even hoped that it would be one and the same person - but it was not. Still a mystery.
. . . . . . . . .
One time, in second year Spanish, I was sitting on the front row alongside a friend - you will hear more about him later. His name was Bill Warner. We had a substitute teacher that day, the same substitute that we had several times previously and whom we definitely did not like. When her back was turned to write something on the blackboard, I tossed a firecracker in the wastebasket in front of her desk. As she turned around, she saw Bill tossing something into that same basket (it was actually trash). The firecracker exploded! She jumped a least foot and had hardly returned to earth before Bill got a quick trip to the Principal’s office. Even though I admitted that it was I who threw the explosive device, she would not believe it since she saw him do it with her own eyes. The principal would not believe Bill either, when my friend tried to place the blame where it belonged. This event put a little edge on our friendship – at least until we graduated.
A SUMMER SPENT IN MARYSVILLE, CA – 1952 – 15 YEARS OLD
My father was the foreman at a slaughterhouse in Marysville, California. He worked hard. I know because I worked there myself during a couple of summers and I watched him. Very early on I knew I was not going to be a butcher, even though two of my brothers were planning to. I decided to be an artist or a draftsman or maybe even an engineer. I determined that I would rather draw pictures than draw a meat-cutter’s blade.
My father also had a portable slaughterhouse on wheels that we could hitch up and tow to neighboring ranches to do custom butchering for them. He kept this outfit on our property and it was complete with everything needed, including a scalding tank for hogs (hogs had to be scalded in order to shave off all the hair). Sometimes, if Dad got a call from a rancher with just one smaller animal to butcher, he would just take the pickup truck, go kill the animal, and bring it home to be “processed.”
Now, this is where I come into the story. I was fifteen at the time, about six months short of sixteen. I remember because I did not yet have my driver’s license. The Sheriff in Marysville would turn his head when some of us younger boys drove tractors and even pickup trucks if it was for the family farm or business. Besides, my father and the local Sheriff were good friends. They might well have been drinking buddies. On this particular day, my dad hands me a note with an address on it and says to me, “Son, will you go pick up a hog from the Jones’ place in Yuba City?” Now I had done this before – WITH my Dad. But when he handed me the note, he also handed me the keys to the pickup truck. He’s sending my off on my own – well, I think to myself, I can handle it. So off I go, feeling kind of proud and with a certain confidence instilled in me by my father.
When I pulled in to the Jones’ place (I don’t remember their real name), a bunch of kids spilled out of the house and started yelling, “Are you the one who’s going to kill Old Betsy??!!” My nerves cracked. Where are you, Dad? I climbed over the rail fence into the hog pen where Betsy was awaiting her fate. She was a big hog and she was staring at me. With trembling hands I raised my .22 rifle, aimed at the spot between and just above her eyes, probably closed my eyes, and squeezed the trigger.
She went down all right, but then came right back up. With a wild squeal she came after me. Oh no, Dad, now I’m dead! Amazingly, I was over the fence just before that hog crashed into it. She then ran around squealing and then stopped, shook her head and stood looking at me from the center of the hog pen. Amid a lot of hollering and loud comments from the Jones’ bunch, I lined up another shot – from outside the pen. This time she went down for good. Quickly, I opened the gate to the pen and went in; cut her throat to bleed her and then cut between the hamstring and forelock to hook the wench line. Then I backed in the pickup and winched her into the back of the truck. Then I slammed the tailgate shut, jumped into the cab and bid a hasty retreat, as they say. I don’t remember if I closed the gate to the pen – probably not.
Now Marysville & Yuba City are called the Twin Cities. A river runs between them. We lived in each town at one time or another. When I left the Jones’ place in Yuba City, I crossed the river and reached one of the main intersections in Marysville that has a traffic light. I must have been happy to wait at the red light while my unraveled nerves raveled themselves back up. These people in the crosswalk - they have no idea what I have just gone thru I thought. Just then I heard this “clunking” sound in the back of the truck. I looked back. Betsy was trying to get up! I could actually HEAR my nerves unravel this time. Panic set in. I grabbed my knives, sprang into the back and wrestled and stabbed. A lady screamed. I think someone said he would like to help but was wearing a suit. Dad, I’m having a nightmare. I really don’t know how long we battled, probably just a minute or two, but I won. I guess I had the advantage because I was high on adrenalin and Betsy was low on blood. Can you imagine what those pedestrians must have thought? When I was 15, I looked, by all accounts, around 12 or 13.
Now to the point of this whole story and what it meant to me, other than now mostly humorous memories-- When I arrived home with my cargo, my father looked at me and noted that there was blood all over me, the cab and the back of the truck. I was ready for him to light into me, but he stood there like he was trying to keep from laughing. After a moment he handed me another note and said, “After you clean up a bit, please go down the street to the Smiths’ place and pick up another one.” You see - he never gave up on me. And that’s the point . . . maybe my Dad knew if some time were to pass, I might never have had the guts to try again. I don’t have the foggiest memory of the second animal I picked up, so it must have gone without incident. You know, the Savior taught this same principal. He has great patience with each of us and gives us that second and third chance to prove ourselves AND loves us even when we fall short. He loves us even when we fail completely.
EMPLOYMENT & MY FIRST CAR – 1952 to 1954 – 15 to 18 YEARS OLD
Outside of the usual mowing lawns, delivering newspapers in the early morning hours, and baby-sitting the two little girls Donna & Diane Musak next door, my first real job was as a part time employee at Tom’s Café, down the street from the high school. I worked two hours each day after school. I mopped the floors on my hands and knees, cleaned all the countertops and cooking surfaces and made sure everything was sparkling clean. It was a very small café, so after developing a routine, I could do a good job within the two hours time allowed. I made .75 cents per hour, which meant I made $7.50 per week. I remember this amount well because it was the right amount needed to buy my first pair of black corduroy “pegger” pants – which were the rage at the time and were required for any boy who wanted to be up to date in his wearing apparel. I was sixteen. This was at a time when boys liked to wear taps on the heals of their shoes. We were not would-be tap dancers, we simply thought they sounded cool as you walked along the sidewalk. They did help your shoes last longer as did the cardboard inserts we used when we wore holes in the soles.
. . . . . . . . .
On weekends my brother David and I sold door to door an item our mother suggested. They were cards meant to attach to your front door that read “No Peddlers” or “Baby Sleeping, Do Not Disturb.” We sold them for 15 cents and 25 cents. Customers loved them, since door-to-door salesmen were an everyday happening and considered a nuisance in and around our neighborhood and also they got a laugh out of buying such an item from a salesman.
We made enough money selling these cards to help me buy my first car, a 1938 Ford Coupe. The car cost $95 dollars and would bring me a lot of trouble. I was a junior in high school and just turning seventeen. The car was old and not in great condition and needed work that I could not afford to have someone else do. It had Ford’s smallest V8 (the Ford 60) that “vapor-locked” every time it got hot - which was often. The transmission continually popped out of gear, the brakes were not good, and it had electrical problems. By the time I would get it running, I often had no money for gas. During the summer I worked occasionally at an auto repair shop for a man who let me spend some of my time working on my own car. He paid me very little (mostly engine and transmission parts) but he taught me a lot. Over time my car benefited from the situation, receiving a newer, larger, hopped-up Flat Head V8 engine. I believe my future “hot rod” troubles had their genesis at this time.
. . . . . . . . .
One of the first trips ever taken in my chariot of dubious dependability was on a Teacher’s Quorum outing to Big Bear Lake. We were to meet at the Centinela Ward Chapel on Saturday morning and car pool from there. Only two of us showed up. My friend Basil White and myself. Basil had no car, so we courageously started off on a trip up the San Bernardino Mountains, just the two of us. I remember it as an almost spiritual experience. When sitting by the lake, eating the lunch we brought along and watching some tiny frogs swimming near the shore, we were both awe struck by the quiet! There was not a sound. We looked at each other and listened in wonder. We decided this was a profound experience and one that we would always remember.
. . . . . . . . .
When a high school senior, I worked the ‘Four-four” plan which allowed seniors with sufficient credits to attend four hours of school and work four hours for a qualifying company. I worked for Acme Auto Electric, winding armatures for starters and generators. It was hard work and involved “piece work.” In other words, we were paid according to the number of pieces we produced in each four-hour period. I had a semi-automatic winding machine such that, the faster I did my part, the faster the machine would go. I became quite fast and made a pretty good wage. However, I determined that factory work was just not for me - if I could avoid it.
A WORD ABOUT TITHING – 1953 – ALMOST 17 YEARS OLD
One day in November or December I was totally broke and forced to walk to work -- even though my car was running. The Ford was simply due to run out of gas at any second. In fact it was a miracle I made it home from church the day before. The distance I had to walk to work was not all that far but the weather was rainy, cold and windswept! On top of that I was to pick up my girlfriend after work and pay for tickets or food (I no longer recall the details of the date). I recall thinking maybe I should have postponed bringing my tithing up-to-date, even though it was something less than four dollars. The price of gas in those days was around .36 cents per gallon and the price for a double-feature movie was less than a dollar, so I would have had enough for both. As I was trudging along feeling somewhat forlorn, I came to a street corner and right in front of me - plastered to the sidewalk - was a five-dollar bill.
TRUE LOVE ARRIVES -- 1953 – 17 YEARS OLD
My closest friends at this time were Harvey Telford, Reynold Rollins, Robert Brizzolari, and Basil White. They would buy gas for my car when I couldn’t afford it. Basil’s sister Kathy was a cute little blond with blue eyes and she made me see that girls could be just as interesting as cars. I guess you could say she was my “first love.” But it’s a truism that first love is very seldom “true love.” My true love arrived the summer before my senior year when I met Geraldine Ruth Ware. I have a clear vision of Jeri walking into church with her mother. Church was being held at the Hawthorne Odd Fellows Hall. I saw her a few days earlier, at a church sponsored beach party, but assumed she was just a visitor (she claims that I never noticed her). I remember thinking that I hoped she had moved into our Ward so I could make her acquaintance. She was so beautiful. A short time later, after an MIA dance, Jeri needed a ride home and I was only too happy to offer her a ride. Over that summer, we gradually got acquainted. When school started in the fall, we went to different high schools, but we went to the same seminary class, which greatly improved my seminary attendance.
. . . . . . . . .
I began spending as much time as I could a Jeri’s house on 141st Street in Hawthorne. Her mother Winnifred was kind enough to allow me to work on my car in her driveway. She even let me borrow her 1937 Ford Sedan a couple of times and on occasion drive her on an errand or two. On one errand, a drunk driver swerved over into our lane and I nearly managed to avoid him hitting us. She said she was glad I was driving because she was sure we would have been in a more serious crash had she been driving. I don’t remember what happened to the drunk driver, but I think he was arrested.
. . . . . . . . .
I also got reluctant permission from Jeri’s mother to drive Jeri in my car to Marysville to meet my father and stepmother. I know Jeri will never forget this trip. I had been working on my transmission so frequently that I had removed all the floorboards. Thinking that was no big deal, we started off sans floorboards. Just past Bakersfield a bitterly cold rain began to fall. Through the whole San Joaquin Valley it poured and seemed to get colder and colder. The heater was ineffective and we were wet from our feet up to our knees. For about 300 miles the only heat we could feel was a little that came in from the engine and transmission. Jeri was not happy but she was still able to favorably impress my parents.
ABOUT MY BROTHER DAVID KENDALL HANSEN – 1953 & BEYOND
At the time David entered Hawthorne High School it is well to understand the conditions that existed in the Tibio home. By this time both my stepfather Johnny Tibio and my mother had become serious alcoholics. Weekends were nightmarish and holidays even worse – certainly beyond my desire to describe. Amazingly they both worked for the Los Angeles Transit Lines, first driving the electric streetcars and then as the company began to replace the streetcars, they drove the electric buses (called trackless trolleys) and then regular buses. Amazingly they managed to consume large quantities of Vodka most evenings and weekends and then get up in the mornings and go to work.
The LATL gave their employees travel passes for their dependants. David and I had such passes so we could travel free anywhere in the LA Transit District -- which reminds me – one day I talked Jeri into ditching school (I believe it was the only and only day she ever ditched) – and by using both Dave’s & my passes, we rode the 5 Car from Hawthorne all the way to Eagle Rock and back, which was the longest trolley car line in the U.S.
. . . . . . . . .+
But free travel passes did not compensate in my mind for the dangerous conditions under which David existed. I had already moved out on my own and left David alone. The one constant in my life when going through my parent’s divorce, and then when moving here and there and everywhere, was that my brother and I were always together (except when I was in the hospital). If I let my mind slide back, I can visualize numerous violent incidents including destroyed Christmas trees and smashed gifts and furnishings. Johnny knocked me out cold one time after I borrowed the family car – his 1949 Ford 2-Door Sedan.
I just could NOT leave David with them any longer. At the end of Dave’s freshman year, while Johnny and mother were at work, I helped David pack his stuff and then drove him to Marysville to live with our father and stepmother. My mother probably never forgave me in this life, but I’m sure she understood that something had to be done. David fit in nicely with our two half brothers Tom and Dennis. He graduated from high school, joined the Navy, saw a bit of the world, settled down, married a wonderful Catholic girl by the name of Diane and had two daughters Dee Ann and Jennifer and a son Tadd.
. . . . . . . . .
One other thing concerning my brother David, that I feel I must relate as a way to at least to some degree relieve another nick on my conscience. I was in high school and had finally learned to swim, although keep in mind that I was definitely not a strong swimmer. David was not yet in high school and was not much of a swimmer either. At this time we were meeting on Sundays in a very nice little chapel in Redondo Beach that was right near the shore and the Redondo Beach Pier. This Chapel even had a cry room and it had a stained glass window over the pulpit that showed Joseph’s First Vision.
This was in the days prior to block meetings. We met for Priesthood in the early morning, Sunday School about mid morning and Sacrament Meeting in the afternoon. Sometimes it was just as easy and actually more interesting to stick around between PH & SS and just wander down to the pier and/or the breakwater. What gives me the “willies” is that I used to take David to where we could walk underneath the pier on the 6-inch wide structural beams that supported the pier. Naturally they were damp and slippery. But if you were careful, holding on to the overhead beams, carefully placing one foot in front of the other, you could travel all over underneath the pier and above the pounding surf. Mind you, we did this in our Sunday best. If my brother had ever slipped and fallen in, his only chance for survival would likely have depended on my poor ability to save him. We probably would have both drowned! If ever guardian angels were there to protect the foolish, they must have been with us. Sorry Dave!!
. . . . . . . . .
David passed away at the young age of 62. He developed pressure & then fluid on the brain. Some in the family have wondered if this might have been the long-term affect of treatment he received as a small boy after being bitten by a rabid dog. At that time he received shots in the stomach. I still remember his picture being in the newspaper. But more importantly, I remember him having such headaches that he would pound his head against the wall if not restrained. And throughout his life he has had occurrences of slightly eccentric behavior (even more so than the rest of the Hansen brothers). He and I got along famously as adults and he always called me “bro.” I love you Dave.
H.S. GRADUATION & FIRST FULLTIME JOB – 1954/1955 – 18/19 YEARS OLD
Shortly before graduation, Northrop Aircraft came to the school and wanted to hire the top two students in Mechanical Drawing. The Industrial Arts department recommended me and Bill Warner (the same friend that took the blame for my Spanish class firecracker). They offered us $1.55 per hour to enter their new Trainee Draftsman program. Thus, three days after graduation, we went to work in Hawthorne as full time employees in the aircraft Industry. It was an accelerated program and I was soon putting to good use my God-given natural skills in mechanical drawing. Now that I was making the “big bucks,” Jeri and I began talking about getting married because by now our relationship was getting pretty serious. At the end of her junior year in high school we were married and Michael Wyman was born in December 29, 1955. At this time we moved into the garage apartment behind Jeri’s mother’s house.
. . . . . . . . .
Before Michael was born, I managed to get into trouble at Northrop. For one thing, the department manager recognized my artistic ability and assigned me to do the graphics for the parking passes used by upper management to park in the preferred asphalt parking area inside a fence, past the guard shack. I had the bright idea that I deserved to make a hand made copy of the pass for myself, so that I would not have to park my beloved hotrod Ford across the street in the dirt parking lot. After awhile the guard, who must have wondered how I rated parking my jalopy in with the exec’s late model cars, decided to take a close look at my pass. That, along with other creative ideas relating to my automotive obsessions, got me fired after only nine months. Not a very good start – what with a new marriage and a new family. So my first son was born to an unemployed ex-Northrop employee.
MY SECOND FULLTIME JOB – 1955/1956 – 19/20 YEARS OLD
I left Northrop Aircraft sad, remorseful, repentant of foolish youthful follies, and determined to be an honest citizen. With that attitude firmly in mind, I applied for a Draftsman’s position at Sonnett Tool and Manufacturing, also in Hawthorne. I put down on my application that I had been fired from Northrop and why. Apparently they were impressed by my honesty and called my ex-supervisor. He confirmed my misbehavior and then proceeded to tell them that I was the best new draftsman he had ever seen. I was hired immediately at over $2.00 per hour. Crime doesn’t pay but honesty usually does. Things were looking up. Jeri was able to have a home teacher from school when Michael was born and returned in January of 1956 to finish high school with her class.
. . . . . . . . .
Unfortunately, this job would last less than a year. It was not because I was dishonest in any way - I was simply too pushy. I worked for a very proud man by the name of Paul Saxman. Many years earlier he was involved in a near fatal auto accident where he had some head injuries including having his scalp pealed back. After being put back together, he recovered completely except that he lost nearly all sense of taste. We used to go to the Jalopy races together and he would always smuggle in a bottle of Bacardi Rum. He claimed it was the only thing he could really taste. No, I did not imbibe.
The Jalopy races were held at the Gardena Raceway on a dirt track. The racers drove old beat up 1930s & 40s stockcars that were loud and exciting. The spectators were definitely not of the same class as Indy fans, but it was great fun. I particularly remember that during the half time break, when many folks went to use the toilet facilities, most of the men and boys chose not to wait in the long line at the toilet facility, but simply stepped up to the wall alongside of the walkway. Paul liked to save time & used this method, as I did in order not be “chicken.” But it was an odd feeling what with the ladies walking past and giggling - only three feet behind you. It was difficult for me to actually go under such conditions.
Now, how did I manage to get myself fired again so soon? Well, I was promised a review after six months, and was given the strong impression that I would get a nice raise. Into my 7th month I brought up the subject to Paul and he said he would get to it soon. I reminded him several times over the next couple of months with the same response. After nine months I decided to complain to Paul’s boss, the owner of company. After all, Jeri and I now had a new baby boy, Michael Wyman and so we could certainly use the money.
When Paul found out, being the proud man that he was, he came to me and said something to the affect that, “Even though you are doing a great job, no one goes over my head as you just did.” And he fired me on the spot. It was a shock! Now I had to go home and tell my wife that I had lost my second job. This didn’t go over well although Jeri was very understanding. Fortunately she had taken a job herself, working at night. She would work for about a year, until just before Deborah Lyn was born on May 23, 1957.
MY THIRD FULLTIME JOB & EL CAMINO COLLEGE -- 1956 THRU 1961
After firing me, Paul Saxman wrote me a fine letter of recommendation and even said that I was leaving the company voluntarily and that I was an all-around fine fellow. What a guy! On the strength of his recommendation and I’m not sure what else, I was hired as a Sr. Draftsman by Bendix Computer Division in Inglewood, where I worked for over five years. I went to school at night at El Camino Jr. College and later took off-campus courses from UCLA. I graduated from Alexander Hamilton School of Modern Business, and also took courses in tool design from LA Trade Tech in downtown Los Angeles.
. . . . . . . . .
At El Camino I had a pair of college professors and some interesting incidents that I would like to describe; one of which, I should feel a bit guilty about -- but I don’t. I’ll tell about it first . . .
Professor Nimrod was hated by all who took his writing class in the last 100 years. He stood all of five foot three, and was the most insulting, belittling, little educator in captivity. He looked a little like and sounded even more like Woody Allen sans spectacles. On the first day of class, there were over twenty optimistic students who were sure he couldn’t be as bad as his reputation. By the end of the semester, there were six of us left. We were masochistic gluttons for punishment. I was simply being stubborn and refused to quit. The little professor had names for each of us and called me “Bonzo.”
As the semester came to an end, having already turned in our term paper outlines, and recoiled at his red-penciled in comments, it was time to turn in the finished term paper. Everyone dropped their papers into his desk tray except me. I wasn’t even close to finishing it. After the weekend, we returned for the last two days of class. Professor Nimrod began handing out the graded papers. I was about to approach him to find out what size whip he was going to use on me or if I was going to get an “incomplete,” when he turned to me and said, “Hey, Bonzo, I seem to have misplaced your pathetic submission, but it’s somewhere in that mess in my office. I remember seeing it, so don’t worry, I’ll find it this evening. I’m looking forward to wearing down my red pencil.”
I didn’t say a word. I know I should have, but just couldn’t bring myself to open my mouth. I had some kind of lockjaw. The next day, when he apologized for having lost it completely, it was too late to confess. He actually said - almost kindly, “Sorry, Hansen, I must have thrown it out with the rest of the trash. I’ll have to grade you based upon the rest of your work.” I received a “B,” along with a mild feeling of guilt.
. . . . . . . . .
Dr. S. R. Ellis was tall and handsome, with a full head of white hair. H was dignified, deep-voiced and looked exactly like a professor of general psychology ought to look. He was 75 years old - but looked less than 60. He told us that the initials in his name stood for “stimulus and response.” He was not the social liberal that most college professors are – in fact, quite the opposite, as the following events will illustrate.
George was a fellow student that loved to debate social issues with Professor Ellis. George was strongly in favor of redistribution of wealth. He felt the rich had way too much and the poor were downtrodden by the well–to-do. Dr. Ellis felt just the opposite. He held that there were too many on welfare that could work, many who took advantage of the welfare system and were content to let the taxpayers support them. They had several lively debates during the course of the semester.
One day the professor handed back our mid-term papers and handed George his with a grade of 40 points out of 100. Now George was a good student and always scored amongst the highest in the class. With a shocked look on his face, he loudly confronted Dr Ellis and asked how his grade could be so low when almost all the questions were answered correctly. He was pretty upset. Dr Ellis explained to George that there were fellow classmates who did not work as hard or prepare as well as he did and did not score very well. So some of George’s points were distributed among these students to improve their scores. Most of the class applauded the point made by Professor S. R. Ellis. Of course the grade he gave George was just to make a point and I’m certain his scorebook reflected the true score. I’ve never forgotten this example.
. . . . . . . . .
Another interesting thing occurred while attending El Camino College. I was working full time and taking an inorganic chemistry class at night. The class had just begun when I was given an opportunity to do some moonlighting work laying out printed-circuit boards. As usual, our financial situation made the opportunity hard to turn down and so with Jeri’s help, I took on the extra work. Whereas, nowadays printed circuits are done by computer layout, even multi-layers, in those days we placed hundreds of small black doughnut on Mylar and interconnected them with narrow black tape. It was tedious and eye-straining work.
In the meantime, at work I was also drawing precision small layouts associated with properties of materials. This was also eye-straining work. What is the point of all this? I started in the back row of my chemistry class and all was fine. Half way through the semester I was given permission to move to the front row so that I could see the atomics tables that hung in the front of the classroom. During the final exam, I had to stand up and walk up to the chart in order to refer to it. I was very concerned as was Jeri. Was I going blind? It turned out to be simple eyestrain. When the close-up work was finished my eyes quickly returned to normal. I have often wondered if it’s possible to cause permanent damage to one’s eyes by such abuse and if so how close did I come.
. . . . . . . . .
At Bendix I worked on the world’s first general purpose, high production computer – the G15. It was considered a breakthrough to produce 300 in one year? I had the opportunity to work with some fine mechanical engineers. One engineer in particular, George Hayashita, gave me numerous design assignments that were way over my head - that stretched me to the limit and helped me to develop as a mechanical designer. I was able to advance rapidly from Sr. Draftsman to Layout Draftsman to Design Draftsman to Mechanical Designer. I worked on the design of almost every conceivable computer related product, including the G-20 Computer, which was one of the first computers to use the new transistor technology. Those were interesting work years.
. . . . . . . . .
The drafting department at Bendix consisted of 6 to 8 draftsmen in a relatively small room. What I remember were the days when one person in the group would be selected to be the brunt of a barrage of insults from the rest of the group. Nothing was sacred and it was no use fighting back because you had no chance. Everything was fair game, your looks, your family, your religion, your birth, your politics, your car, anything they could think of. I guess it was a way of making the day pass more quickly.
For the person under attack, it felt like the day would never end. But you got through it because you knew that the next day it would be over and somebody else would be singled out to be tested. Not that it happened every day, but it was a fairly common form of diversion. I would like to be able to say that I kept myself out of this malicious game, but as a means of retaliation, the temptation was too great. Besides, in some ways it was a lot of fun and did make the game days go faster – at least when you were not in the spotlight.
. . . . . . . . .
Speaking of making the days go faster, I enjoyed aggravating my so-called fellow Draftsmen and Designers – those same individuals who enjoyed dishing out their insults – by exclaiming how fast the day was going. This was especially effective during slow times or between projects – when we were instructed to “look busy.” During such times, the days could really drag. But I always managed to have some work or at least some school homework to do, so when someone would say, “Man, its only 3 o’clock! This day is just dragging by!” To which, I would respond, “Wow! It’s already three? Where has the day gone?” The affect would always elicit groans and an off-color word or two. Just a little harmless revenge, ok?
. . . . . . . . .
One of my very best friends at Bendix was a big black man from the shipping department named Mel. Evidently, when he grew up, he grew in all directions. Mel was not fat – just BIG! He had a wonderful personality and he demonstrated his exceptional intelligence by consistently beating everyone during lunchtime Chess matches. I played against him often, but managed to win only once or twice. Because of the high interest in chess at the time, the Bendix Recreation Association held a Chess Tournament. As luck would have it, Mel played his usual strong games and I played a little “over my head.” All other contenders were eliminated and Mel and I were to play for the company championship in front of a lot of fellow employees.
The results of that game are as clear in my memory as if they happened yesterday. Perhaps Mel was a little overconfident, having beaten me so often. However, I knew of a weakness of his having to do with his use of Bishops and Pawns. After only about a dozen moves, I took advantage of that weakness. Then a couple of moves later, Mel made a small mistake and then another and opened the door for me to sweep in for the kill. He saw it coming and tried desperately to block the inevitable. But it was no use. After staring at the board for a time, he leaned back in his chair and let out a big sigh.
Then he reached out his giant forearm and gently swept the chess pieces off the board. He slowly stood up. He stepped up on his chair and then onto the tabletop and raising his hands to the ski, looked up into Heaven and shouted, “Lord! Why do I have to lose to this Idiot?” Then he dropped his hands, looked down at me with a smile, and reached out his hand as if to shake mine. When I met his grip, he lifted me with great ease, up to the tabletop and raised my arm as the victor. Then he jumped down with a huge THUD and as he walked away he turned and said with a chuckle, “That will never happen again.” And it didn’t.
. . . . . . . . .
Mel also loved to wager on the Giants vs the Dodgers. He was not a big time gambler nor did he have a gambling problem. He simply thought that his Giants were vastly superior to the Dodgers in all respects. Being a dedicated Dodger fan I would often challenge his opinions – mostly for the fun of it. So one day Mel came up with a matrix of comparative team stats upon which he proposed we wager. He had at least thirty items, maybe forty – such things as who achieved the highest team batting average, the most home runs, triples, base hits, stolen bases, strikeouts, RBIs, on and on. Well, I figured the teams were pretty well matched. And, since we were betting on so many records, with only a dollar on each stat, the loser wouldn’t face a major financial crisis. I was very much mistaken. Mel suffered through an excruciatingly painful season, wherein the Dodgers bested the Giants in nearly every category. I don’t remember collecting the money, but I probably did.
“HOT ROD” TROUBLES -- 1954 to 1957
During my last year in High School and for a couple of years after graduation, I was very intent on having the fastest car in Hawthorne. Also during this time I got married and so it became something of a challenge, because with a growing family we didn’t have a lot of money. But I nearly always managed to work two jobs or do moonlighting work even while going to college. I must admit that two significant components of my “hot rod” troubles were the financial strain, and the time I devoted to it. It was definitely an obsession - if not an actual addiction. Jeri would sometimes complain – with due cause – but she was reasonably tolerant, probably because I always worked hard and she knew the love I had for cars.
. . . . . . . . .
In order to have the fastest car, I acquired and installed a Scott blower (supercharger) under the missing hood of my Ford Coupe. In order to have the most distinctive car, I came up with the first ever, metallic orange paint job. The supercharger almost got me killed. When I pushed on the accelerator, about three seconds later, the car would blast off. Then, when letting up on the gas, there was a similar delay before deceleration. This was extremely dangerous. At first I thought this was a function of the supercharger operation, but later determined it was the fault of the throttle linkage that I invented. The paint job consisted of silver metallic glitter (used on Hollywood stage shows) over-coated with a transparent orange lacquer. It was beautiful for about ten days; after which, the sun and outdoor air would begin causing it to crack and craze and fade. It took way too much work to keep it looking good.
. . . . . . . . .
I soon became well known to the Hawthorne police (as well as some Lawndale & Inglewood officers) because my car not only stood out from all others, but because I managed to receive quite a few well-deserved tickets – both moving violations and equipment citations. I once received two tickets within two blocks for the same missing taillight. Patrol cars would often follow me home at night and stop me in front of my house to check my brake pedal height, my headlights, taillights, and even my license plate light. Although I will leave unmentioned some of the more stupid things that my friends and I did with our cars, many moving violations resulted from such things as drag racing up and down Hawthorne Blvd, racing through the new tunnel underneath the LAX runway (we would wind up our engines in second gear, then let up on the gas and listen to the exhaust pipes rap like machine guns), and in general driving too fast.
. . . . . . . . .
We even decided one day to turn the tables on a couple of our favorite police officers and follow them around behind their patrol car -- like they often did to us. This did not go over well. When they pulled someone over to ticket them, we pulled over a little ways back and just watched. We knew that they were aware of our “surveillance,” but since we were certain we were not breaking the law, what could they do? What they did was finish writing the ticket and then walked back to us with guns drawn. Scared the you-know-what out of us! After making us get out of the car and treating us quite roughly, they said we were breaking a law that prohibits monitoring police activities. They would give us a break by not arresting us this time. That was more than enough fun for that night.
. . . . . . . . .
One day, things sort of came to a head. As I was leaving Foster’s Freeze Drive-in, I decided to show off my supercharged power and leave a strip of rubber. No sooner had I made this fine impression, than I noticed a Hawthorne police car a block away making a quick U-turn and turning on his flashing lights. I knew who they were after! I thought it would be easy to lose them in the residential neighborhood, so I tried. Big mistake! When they caught me with the help of other units, it turns out that they were very, very angry. They wrote me up for display of power AND resisting arrest. They didn’t just write me a ticket; they handcuffed me, took me to jail and impounded my car! The Hawthorne Chief of Police visited me in one of his holding cells and gave me some fatherly advice. He told me he was impressed with my car but that I was heading for lots of trouble if . . . well, you know. Only later did I appreciate that he went out of his way to talk to me.
The next day I ended up in a familiar place – the courtroom of Traffic Judge Lester O. Luce. Pronounced “loose” but I liked to call him “Lucy” – not to his face of course. By now the judge and I knew each other too well. Judge Luce had always seemed fair in the fines he had handed me in the past. But now he seemed to have lost his patience. He decided not to give me a choice between time in jail or a fine. It was to be the County jail – period! And, in order to justify a relatively short stay in jail, he made me AND my wife promise to sell my hot rod within 60 days. He also suggested we buy one of those VW Beetles that were just becoming popular. He said to us, “My daughter has one and I drove it. It was a lot of fun. I believe you could even accelerate full throttle and speed shift and no one would even notice.” Those were his words.
So, I received a serious attitude adjusting experience by spending some time in the county jail and the honor farm. What with all you go through in booking, delousing, poor food, and boring hours spent with questionable characters -- it was a big time attitude modifier for me!! Never again would I challenge the local cops.
. . . . . . . . .
Just after returning to freedom and fresh air and before the time I actually parted company with my hot rod Ford, a related incident occurred. What follows has always been humorous to everyone but me:
Since I had 60-days to get my hot rod ready to sell (and not finding any way out of it) I decided to complete some bodywork that I had started. This included “decking” the trunk and installing a nice new ’48 Ford rear bumper. We had recently acquired a 1950 Mercury – a nice, smooth riding car with a great radio but a car that needed a lot of front-end body work. I had already installed a custom grill and re-chromed front bumper on the Merc.
After all the work on it, the hotrod had a low battery and needed a push. Jeri agreed to push me using the Mercury. Being very careful, I got the cars in position with an old tire placed between the new rear bumper of the Ford and the re-chromed front bumper of the Mercury. I instructed Jeri to get us going and when I waved her off, the tire would fall away, I would pop the clutch in second gear and we would be off and running.
One small problem – I had the transmission in reverse. When I popped the clutch, my beautiful hotrod stopped instantly -- but Jeri could not!
So after some repair work, I sold the hot rod to a Hollywood producer, got rid of the Merc, and we bought a used 1956 VW, green with red wheels. And Judge Luce was right -- it was a fun car. Jeri and I took our first family vacation in that little car. We traveled to Utah with two very small children, Deborah Lyn having recently joined our family. We visited my relatives in Richfield and returned home for a total of $40 dollars spent. And every time we would encounter another VW on the road, they would flash their lights and wave at us. That was fun too and made up for the lack of air conditioning in a very underpowered little car. It had but 36 horsepower. I had traded 150 horsepower for 36.
Ok, that about covers the hot rod days, except to note that sixteen years later, when our son Mike was getting too many well deserved tickets in his car, he asked me if I had similar problems in my hot rod days. The only reply I could think of was, “How could you even ask me such a question?” Later of course, he heard tell.
MY BLACK FRIEND, RYAN -- 1956
While paying my debt to society as imposed by Judge Luce, I met a nineteen-year-old black kid named Ryan. He was paying the price for joy riding in someone else’s car. I met him at the Wayside Honor Farm where I was to spend the last couple of weeks of incarceration in a minimum-security facility. We were both scheduled for release on the same date. We became good friends and played basketball and handball - when not mopping floors or pealing potatoes. We were released in downtown LA, which was fairly near to Ryan’s home. The County provided bus fare to our respective homes and Ryan invited me to stop by his house on my way to Hawthorne, to meet his parents. I was not expecting this to be a profound experience – but it was!
At this time - the mid 1950’s, racial unrest was very much in the news. Significant remnants of segregation stubbornly remained and looked like they might never fade away. An historic rupture in the stranglehold that segregation had in this country occurred when an heroic Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus. She ignited the civil rights movement. Then in the early ‘60s, Governor George Wallace of Alabama symbolically stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama in a vain attempt to block two black students from enrolling. And it would be more than 13 years later that Martin Luther King would be assassinated by gunshot in the spring of 1968. It was to be a long and sometimes bloody battle to bring racial bias to a more reasonable level.
When I attended Leuzinger and Hawthorne High Schools, there were only a couple of black students. I was unacquainted with them. I didn’t concern myself much with the news concerning racial tensions. I’m sure I felt, on the one hand a little superior due to my good fortune at being white; but on the other hand, empathetic because I could relate the prejudices against the black community to that against the early Mormons as well as the modern LDS church. So my visit to a black community in East LA was an eye-opener.
First of all, Ryan’s family obviously lived in a very poor neighborhood; maybe you could call it a ghetto. I don’t know, but it was old, run down and shabby. When we arrived it was dusk and that made everything seem all the more dreary. As we walked past neighbors, I felt like they were all looking at me. I was feeling very much out of place and as if my white skin made me an enemy. Ryan’s parents were very nice although they could not hide their surprise at their son’s homecoming companion. As they sat us down for something to eat, Ryan’s younger sisters simply stared at me in wide-eyed wonder.
His parents may have asked me to stay the night (I don’t remember), but it was early evening and I was anxious to get home to my wife and new son. I was also uncomfortable and felt out of place. Ryan asked me if I wanted him to accompany me to the bus stop. Remembering the neighbor’s stares, I said. “Yes.” We exchanged phone numbers and I headed home to our neighborhood in Hawthorne, which was at best a lower middle-class section of town. The contrast however, having just left Ryan’s home, was embedded in my soul.
At the time we became friends, Ryan and I were living in a society where we were very much equals in all ways that you could measure. We lived in an identical environment when we met. I was better at handball; he was better at basketball. We were treated equally at Wayside and had the same accommodations. Neither of us had much money. We even dressed alike for we wore what we were given to wear. What Ryan gave me was a gift that may have been hard for him to do, knowing, as he must have, of his family’s humble home. I gained a far better perspective and understanding of the challenges faced by the African-American community. This was a gift that has lasted me all my life.
If I remember correctly, I spoke to Ryan just once by phone shortly thereafter and we then lost contact. Too bad - for I wish we could have kept in contact and let our friendship bridge the racial tensions over the years. For although the black man in this country has greatly improved his position in society, there is still more to be done by him, by his culture and by society in general. I am confident that any person, no matter if he is black, Latino, Asian are even chartreuse, can be a great success – only he must study hard, work hard, keep clean, and learn to speak good English. Not so hard – and then this great country of America will furnish the opportunities.
MARRIED FOR TIME & ETERNITY -- 1957
Just before Debbie’s birth we moved down the street from Jeri’s mother on 141st Street to a two-bedroom house that we rented for $57.50 a month. It was a nice little house and a definite step up from the garage apartment behind Jeri’s mother. The house had no garage but it had the concrete pad in the back for a garage. Because I wanted a covered place to work on my car, I began right away framing a garage using scrap materials available free from the Hughes Aircraft used materials lot. Living next door was another young married couple with one child. They were fun neighbors and sometimes helped me in trying to construct that garage.
During our time there, Jeri and I attended a temple preparation class in Hawthorne Ward, and did our best to be worthy to go to the Temple. It was exciting to get our temple recommends signed by the Bishop & Stake President. And it was an exciting and profound day when we went to the beautiful Los Angeles temple, where we were sealed for Time and Eternity and had our two children sealed to us. Jeri’s mother went with us, as she had taken out her own endowments just a few years before. Although recalling in detail what was said and done on that day has grown hazy after 50 years, the awesome feeling as to their significance is crystal clear. More about our temple experiences later.
BICYCLES GET GREAT GAS MILEAGE -- 1958
To provide a second mode of transportation and to economize, I began riding a bicycle to and from work. I acquired a 10-speed Derailleur and began riding between our home in Hawthorne and my job in Inglewood. I include this bit of personal history for several reasons. First of all, I’m totally sold on the health benefits as well as the pure enjoyment of riding a modern lightweight road bike. Additionally, this gives me a chance to tell of a couple of incidents that were memorable to me – one embarrassing and the other life threatening.
Each Friday after work I would stop at Hawthorne Savings & Loan (later to become Pacific National Bank) to deposit my paycheck. With the brakes located on the handle grips, one can move the right leg over to the left side, ride the bike to a stop while supported by the left pedal, and achieve a stylish dismount. This was my plan when I pulled up on the sidewalk in front of the bank. Just before coming to a stop, I began losing my balance to the right and started to fall toward the big plate glass front window. The only thing I could do was step over my bike and to throw myself face first at the window, saving the situation with my body and the palms of my hands. With a loud, vibrating thud, I found many startled faces staring back at me from inside the bank. Guess how hard it was to go inside to cash my check.
The life-threatening incident also took place on my way home along busy Aviation Blvd, adjacent to one of the LAX runways. Since there was often a good ocean breeze off the runway, along with propeller-generated winds, I usually stood up on my pedals to go fast through the area. As I pushed hard on my right pedal, it broke off – throwing me out into heavy traffic. Only heavenly protection or extreme luck saved me from serious injury or death. Take your
pick – I choose the former.
OUR FIRST HOME – REDONDO BEACH – 1959 – NEW FRIENDS – “TWENTY SOMETHING”
A little less than two years later, thanks to the Trust fund that I mentioned earlier, we bought our first home. It was a three-bedroom house on 182nd Street in Redondo Beach. The house had a nice yard AND came with a large two-car garage. We paid $12,000 for it and put $2000 down. Our house payments were $87.00 per month, including taxes and insurance. It was in this home that our third child, Stephen Paul, was born on July 17, 1960. I was going to school at night and working full time at Bendix Computer Division. Jeri usually had a child she was babysitting during the day, and also did ironings for a lady across the street who had three boys in Catholic School. I know she didn’t like ironing those white shirts and corduroy pants, but the extra money was nice.
. . . . . . . . .
Shortly after arriving in Redondo Beach, we purchased a brand new, bright red VW Beetle. In mid-1960 we crammed eight-plus people into that little car and drove to Big Bear to celebrate the Fourth of July. I say “plus” because in addition to Jeri and her sisters Susy and Bonnie, myself, Jeri’s mom, Don Mudgett (Susy’s boyfriend), 4-1/2-year old Michael, and 3-year old Deborah; Jeri was very pregnant with Stephen Paul. Steve was born 13 days later. What a crazy, fun trip that was. Nowadays it would be illegal.
Another Fourth of July, around about this time, was spent in Marysville. It was a little family vacation. We got together with my father and stepmother at their home on Dantoni Road. My three brothers and their wives & kids were all there. It was a very warm day, as is often the case this time of year. What started out with a couple of kids using squirt guns on each other and then on the adults, soon turned into a minor water fight as the adults retaliated, first with captured squirt guns, and then with garden hoses. Then the adults turned on each other! The battle escalated to the use of various water containers and then to buckets. Everyone was now involved and all were thoroughly soaked. Not only were we laughed out, but it also was a great way to cool off.
Equally memorable, albeit not so laughable, was what happened that Fourth of July evening. After dark we were setting off some fireworks and lighting sparklers. As my sparkler was about to burn out, I would throw it up in the air toward the street, sort of like a sky rocket. I tossed one of them very high and it arched over the street and landed in a forty acre field of very dry hay. Realizing what I had done, I raced across the street. I arrived at my missile’s landing spot to find a rapidly growing circle of flame. Even though I was bare-footed, I began trying to stomp out the fire. It was no use as the circle of fire grew completely out of control.
Someone called the Marysville Volunteer Fire Department and they would soon arrive and put out the fire. But before they arrived, the fire reached the nearby levee where dry grass grew up the side, causing the flames to shoot high into the sky, lighting up the night. At that moment, I had a clear vision of flames racing across the field and burning down half of Marysville and of being arrested as an arsonist. A very humbling experience.
. . . . . . . . .
LOSING A PARENT – SUMMER -- 1960
In June of 1960, my mother was taken to the hospital in critical condition with what the doctors said was blood poisoning due to her alcoholism. As a young Elder, I held the Melchizedek Priesthood, so I went to the hospital with John E. Phillips, full of confidence that I could use the power of the priesthood to raise her from her bed of affliction. She was in intensive care with a doctor and nurse hovering nearby. Her room was dark and depressing, with the only sounds coming from my mother’s labored breathing, punctuated by the beep of monitors. But I was confident, and while John E anointed her, I said a little prayer that I might know the right words to say. When I placed my hands on my mother’s head, I knew right away that she would not survive the night, no matter what words I might say. It would be the Lord’s will -- not mine. Lois Ogden Tibio died on June 17, 1960, exactly one month before her third grandchild was born.
. . . . . . . . .
We enjoyed our time in this home and in the Redondo Third Ward. Jeri served her first stint as Primary President in this ward, having taught and been a counselor in Hawthorne Ward. I was Sunday School President. We made lots of good friends that we keep in touch with to this day and still see occasionally. We were especially close to several young couples and used to get together for parties, dances, picnics, etc. It was a good time. We were also able to buy some new furniture and began to fill up our house. Our television set was a black & white Admiral. When the TV picture would start rolling (horizontal hold), tipping (vertical hold), or became only a horizontal line (whatever the heck), it was time to pull out the vacuum tubes and take them to SavOn. There you could test the tubes on a “tube tester” to find out which one(s) had gone bad. SavOn kept a good stock of vacuum tubes. This was a rather frequent exercise in the days preceding the modern solid-state, digital TV sets.
THE NAKED TRUTH -- 1961 – 25 YEARS OLD
As you may remember, Polio left me with a shoulder blade (scapula) that was not retained by muscle and I told you about how the doctors removed a length of ligament from my thigh and attached it from near the center of my back, over the right shoulder blade, under my arm pit and then to the right side of my chest. This was an unusual operation in those days and naturally there was a follow up study conducted by a group of Orthopedic Surgeons about 15-years later to measure the results. I guess I was an interesting case, so I was invited to participate in a study of this type of surgery and was asked to come to the Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital in downtown LA. Fine so far!
I was asked by a nurse to remove my clothes and put on one of those gowns that tie in the back, which I willingly did. After a short wait, the nurse led me out onto a stage of a small auditorium. I was introduced and then the gown was untied and removed. Now there I was - standing in only my birthday suit - in front of an audience of doctors and other medical folks, under the spotlight, with a doctor and his pointer, a stenographer taking notes (in street clothes), and a photographer taking pictures (also in street clothes). I was so chagrinned with the situation that, in a way, I was happy that my particular corrective surgery was judged to be a failure. Although they embarrassed me - at least they could not crow over their achievement. I assume that medical manners have improved in the years since. However, I still owe a great debt to The March of Dimes and to the medical personnel at the San Francisco Orthopedic hospital.
HERMOSA BEACH – 1961 to 1964 – “PUSHING 30”
In 1961 we bought a larger and nicer home and moved from Redondo Beach to Hermosa Beach. About the same time, I went to work for National Cash Register Computer Division (NCR) in Hawthorne as a Mechanical Design Engineer. NCR was a great company with a very modern building that had a cafeteria and recreational facilities. I worked on a state of the art computer system. The work there was both challenging and rewarding.
. . . . . . . . .
In the same year, I discovered a way to take advantage of the huge popularity of the Volkswagen and the long waiting list to purchase one. VW dealers were not yet authorized to sell the new VW Variant (or “Squareback” as it was later called) or the VW 1500S, as they were not yet approved for import into the U.S. I discovered that individuals could order for import one only, “European” model of any VW through a broker that I became acquainted with in Hamburg. His name was Paul Ziemke. I never did meet him. But he explained by letter & by phone, exactly how to become a VW Importer. Understandably, the dealers were not happy about what they called the “gray market.” Using my name, Jeri’s name, and the names of relatives and friends, I began importing a small variety of brand new, European version Volkswagens. This was somewhat complicated -- but I was undaunted. It involved a letter of credit guaranteeing payment, with the backing of a local bank, a Power of Attorney from each buyer, whose name would match the Bill of Lading, authorizing me to pick up each car at the Long Beach Port of Entry.
Of course it was not as simple as it may sound. Besides getting each car home, cleaning off the Cosmolene that protected the finish during shipping, advertising the car for sale, handling the international exchange of money, and then dealing with the Dept of Motor Vehicles; it was a pretty big chore. After deducting the bank charges, advertising costs, and paying a fee to those whose names I used, I cleared between $300 and $400 per car -- and I earned every penny! Interestingly enough, VW dealers would answer my ads and pay me my price for a Variant or 1500S even though they were not as friendly as buyers as they are as sellers. Within about a year, the State Board of Equalization, under pressure from the car dealers, imposed a large import tax on cars imported by individuals. This affectively put an end to a nice little import business. However, out of the venture, Jeri’s mother ended up with a pretty blue 1500S at an excellent price.
. . . . . . . . .
In the summer of 1962 we took a vacation camping trip to Baja California in Mexico. Along with four other couples and their kids, we hauled our tents and camping gear and set up camp on the beach. It was quite an adventure. The Hansens were the last to arrive because I thought it would be no problem hauling all our gear in a small trailer behind our little VW. We struggled down the coast to the border, wound our way through a hot and depressing Tijuana, and then a hotter and equally depressing Ensenada. Then, at least in those days, one had to deal with the Mexican military police, who liked to coerce you out of as many centavos as they could. Jeri was no longer enthusiastic. She was ready to turn around and go home, but I stubbornly pressed on.
We finally reached our destination and found the others busily setting up camp. The road was about 75 yards from the shore -- the campsite was taking shape about 30 yards from the road. There were no palms swaying in the breeze. But the breeze was nice coming off the water and cooled our ruffled nerves. We were making our camp among small sand dunes and shrubs – not all that picturesque. But the important thing was we were all together, close friends and fellow adventurers.
Our campsite was much like some desert Nomads’, with a central cooking area surrounded by our tents. Some 8-mm film survives, that shows our campsite and its’ inhabitants and is actually kind of impressive. The surf was very tame, the water warm, and the beach dropped off so slowly that it was safe for the kids to play in the surf. We discovered that the soft sand was NOT soft when under the tent floor. It was more like concrete. And when the wind picked up, we had to be very inventive, to keep our tent stakes from failing.
Someone brought a little Honda 250 motorcycle that we rode up and down the beach, usually with wives or kids riding precariously on the back. At night we set off fireworks and one night divided into two teams and fired little rockets at each other from behind opposing sand dunes. Maybe a little dangerous, but very exciting -- and fortunately no one was injured. During our stay there, we took a trip down to the tip of Baja to see La Bufadora, a “blow hole” amongst the rocks, where the ocean waves generate a geyser-like waterspout that shoots a hundred feet up towards the roadway. (The other couples were Dick & Rosalyn Souls, Dewey & LeAnn Cottle, Kay & Louise Harris, Gary & Pauline Sessions)
. . . . . . . . .
While living in Hermosa Beach, two more children joined our family via the South Bay Hospital. Denise Ann was born March 13, 1963 and Lisa Diane was born June 27, 1964. Denise was in the mold of her brother Steve – blond, blue eyes, fair-skinned and pretty (sorry, Steve). Lisa was a different story. Although she has turned out to be very attractive in her own right, my first look at her was jolting! One of the maternity nurses held her up for me to see through the nursery window. I looked at her then shook my head and started looking around at the other babies in the nursery. I was sure there had to be a mistake. This baby had lots of very dark hair, and a wrinkly, pinched, alien face. When Denise was born, I went out that same day and bought a new Oldsmobile F-85 station wagon - to celebrate. When Lisa was born, I went out and bought into a brief period of mourning. I say brief, because this ugly duckling soon turned into a beautiful swan.
MY MOTORCYCLE AND ME – 1961 TO 1964
At NCR in 1961, I met a fellow with a beautiful BSA motorcycle. He was big enough to fill a doorway and loved Mexican food so hot it caused copious perspiration to form on his forehead and run into his eyes. We became good friends and he let my ride that nifty machine of his a couple of times. In the mean time, several of my close LDS friends rode similar motorcycles. I soon decided I wanted to buy my own machine. I also felt like I had a chance to convince my wife that it would be good, economical transportation – after all, my friends had been able to convince their wives. So after some serious hesitation on Jeri’s part, along with promises to be careful on my part, I went out and bought a brand new Matchless 650 motorcycle. And it was truly beautiful! And powerful!
. . . . . . . . .
While living on 24th Street in Hermosa Beach, my brother David stopped by for a visit. If I remember right, this was about the time he was being discharged from the Navy. I had just returned from work on my new Matchless. At a certain point, he asked me if he could take it for a ride. I may have hesitated for just a moment, but then said, “Sure, but be careful Dave, it has a 650cc engine and it takes off pretty fast.”
“Don’t worry,” he replied, “I can handle it.”
Well – ordinarily, he probably could – except that before getting used to the handling of such a machine, he made the mistake of attempting a U-turn in front of the house. He wanted to travel in the opposite direction from where I had parked. He gave it just a little too much throttle, failed to lean quite enough, and crashed into our neighbor’s old pickup parked across the street. The truck was unscathed, my handlebars were bent, and David was unhurt, but very embarrassed. He declined my noble offer to try again; but instead, helped me to straighten the handlebars.
. . . . . . . . .
It wasn’t long before two of my LDS motorcycle buddies invited me to ride on up into the San Bernardino mountains and attend the Old Miners’ Day Celebration in Big Bear. Even though such a trip made me a little nervous, what with my limited riding experience, it sounded to me like a great opportunity to put my new machine through its’ paces. As I remember, there were five of us on three motorcycles -- but I had no one riding with me – probably because I was not the most experienced and my rider would likely have been more nervous about the trip than even I was. As it turned out, this was fortunate because I managed to lay my motorcycle down on a sharp turning freeway transition between the Harbor and Santa Monica freeways. My inexperience would not allow me to lean into the turn enough to keep out of the gravel along the edge of the pavement and so down I went and skidded to a stop.
The motorcycle seemed ok and I was in no pain so I started picking up the bike. As I did, I noticed blood dripping out of the glove on my right hand. I lowered the bike back down and sat myself down right where I was. By now my friends had come to my aid and suggested I take off the glove and assess the damage. It turns out that my ring finger had come between the handle grip and the roadway and I was now missing half of the first joint. Using duct tape and a handkerchief we made a temporary bandage.
Before continuing on our way, we rode to a local hospital emergency room where I got a tetanus shot and where a young intern Dr. enjoyed what was probably his first transplant on a live patient. He removed some skin from the inside of my right forearm and used it to cover the end of my shortened finger. Fortunately I had insurance with NCR that covered the procedure and we were on our way. And we had a great time even though I remember my finger did a lot of throbbing. Now I occasionally I like to tell young people about my shorter finger & the transplant. I tell them that sometimes the end of my finger will itch and the only thing I can do is scratch the spot on the inside of my forearm. They usually say, “Wow, no kidding?” Not true of course.
. . . . . . . . .
While working at NCR and looking to earn a little extra money, I took a moonlighting job working a night shift at Litton Industries in Woodland Hills. I worked as an engineering drawing checker. It was an interesting job checking someone else’s design and documentation. However, it required leaving NCR promptly at quitting time, jumping on my motorcycle, and attempting to make the trip from Hawthorne to Woodland Hills in 30 minutes. On a motorcycle it was sometimes possible even in the rush hour traffic - you know how motorcycles can keep moving even when the traffic is nearly at a standstill. Being on two wheels was a definite advantage and allowed me to work two jobs for nearly nine months, which was about all the time I could handle sleeping from 3:00 am to 7:30 am five days a week.
. . . . . . . . .
The above provides the backdrop for the only other major motorcycle mishap experienced during five years. And it happened on the ride from one job to the other on the Ventura Freeway in light traffic. While traveling in the fast lane at about 60 mph, the rear tire suddenly went flat and the motorcycle began whipping back and forth. The bad part is that I knew I was going down and had time to think, “Oh NO, this is gonna hurt!!” When I stopped tumbling and rolling, I found myself close to the center divider fence. I set up and carefully moved over to lean against the fence.
I was certain I must have broken something, so I began moving things – arms, legs, neck, hands & feet. Amazing! Everything seemed to work without any sharp pains. I removed my gloves. No additional shortened fingers! I took off my helmet. It was cracked! Hooray for helmet laws. Later, I discovered two chipped elbows and strawberry scrapes on both knees and one hip. Minor problems indeed. My machine fared much worse and would be out of commission for several weeks.
. . . . . . . . .
By the time we had five children and I had a few other close calls, I decided I might be pushing my luck. I also wanted to be around for my wife and kids, so it came time to put away the fun machines and be a little more conservative. I was also about to take a job that required moving to Minnesota. The Twin cities are much less friendly to motorcycles than sunny California. To this day, as this is written, I sometimes get the urge to go out and get some bugs in my teeth. Maybe one day in the future.
INVENTING A THREE-WHEEL MOTORCYCLE - 1963
One of my LDS motorcycle buddies was Dewey Cottle. He was very creative and was constantly coming up with ideas he wanted to turn into inventions. He could also charm the fur off a cat – but that’s a story that will remain untold, at least by me. He had an idea for a three-wheel motorcycle that was interesting to me and we launched into building a prototype. I will attempt to describe it. Basically it was a Triumph motorcycle joined to a pair of Honda rear wheel assemblies that replaced the Triumph single rear wheel assembly. Each rear wheel could pivot independently so that you could lean into turns just like any two-wheel motorcycle.
Why a three-wheel motorcycle? What’s wrong with two wheels? The answer is that we had in mind a finished product with a nice stylish body enclosing the rider and that he would not have to put his feet down when coming to a stop. This would require a device that would lock the rear wheels into “tricycle” mode as you approached a stop and when you started up again, would unlock the rear wheels so you could lean into the turns in “bicycle” mode. Being a mechanical design engineer, I proceeded to design such a device and arranged to have it fabricated by a friend who owned a metal fabrication shop.
When the mechanical prototype (less body) was finished it was time to take a test ride. We were both quite confident that our creation would work perfectly because we had tested the mechanism. And the fact is – it did work perfectly. But we did not recognize a significant psychological factor that a broken ankle would soon uncover. Dewey claimed the first test drive because it was originally his idea and because we built the machine in his garage. Excitedly, we moved our machine out to the street in front of his house.
The plan was for me to follow him on my motorcycle as he took our new three-wheel motorcycle around the block. At first all went well. He started off, unlocked the tricycle mode, and demonstrated how he could lean both ways and weave back and forth. Then as he came to the stop sign at the end of his street, he reengaged the tricycle mode and came to a stop - without putting down his feet! Terrific! Then - as he tried to make a right hand turn - our dream creation seemed to take it upon itself to turn left, crashing into the curb and breaking the ankle of one of its’ creators!
So what happened? We discovered a couple of simple facts that made our three-wheeler very dangerous. When you turn a tricycle, you simply turn the handlebars in the direction that you wish to go. HOWEVER, when you turn a bicycle or a motorcycle, you first turn the handlebars slightly in the opposite direction! This upsets your balance and causes you to lean in the direction that you wish to turn, which is necessary to successfully turn a two-wheeler. When Dewey tried to turn right the machine was in tricycle mode, but he was thinking in bicycle mode. Before he knew what was happening, he instinctively turned left, and ended up with a painful but minor broken ankle. We determined that the mental agility required to operate our machine was its’ downfall and decided to abandon the project before someone got hurt more seriously. Maybe someday digital technology will make this invention possible.
LIFE IN EDEN PRAIRIE, MINNESOTA – 1965 TO 1967
In 1963 I took a job with Data Display, Inc in Inglewood, CA. It was a modest sized company and I was the mechanical designer assigned to a very important project. Within about a year, Data Display was acquired by Control Data Corporation of Minnesota and immediately made plans to move DDI to St. Paul. They made me a very attractive offer to move with them, including all moving expenses and incentive stock in CDC. After conferring with Jeri, we decided it would be a great adventure and an opportunity for a California family to experience the Mid-western United States. We would spend the next two years doing exactly that.
We were given the necessary time to travel to the Twin Cities to look for a house to buy. This was all very exciting. We found the life style in Minneapolis-St Paul contrasted greatly with that of Southern California. For certain we were going to have to adjust to serious changes in the weather. Our first house-hunting trip was in early spring. Jeri and I were exploring downtown Minneapolis and shopping at Dayton’s Department store. It was bitter cold – at least as far as two, soon to be transported, Californians were concerned. The temperature was in the mid-forties and we were bundled up as best we could (We were probably shopping for warmer coats). We noticed, however, that many in the crowd of shoppers were very lightly dressed, in short sleeved shirts or even T-shirts. We asked each other, “Are these people crazy?” Later we fund out that they had just endured an extended period of 20-below temperatures and that to them this was actually balmy weather. The natives call it “acclimatization.”
. . . . . . . . .
We looked at some nice homes and soon narrowed our house hunting down to two neighborhoods – one in Coon Rapids and the other in Eden Prairie. It was a flip of the coin choice, so we chose Eden Prairie, with the deciding factor being that we would rather have our letters to family and friends come from Eden Prairie than Coon Rapids. Silly? Maybe so.
We purchased a beautiful home directly from the builder. It was a white, colonial style house with twin dormers. It had a full basement, and sat on a quarter acre lot. Construction was nearly complete, but we were still able to select carpet colors, floor tile, etc. The builder actually lived just down the street from us in one of the homes he built. He seemed to fit perfectly my image of an old time Minnesota native – and a very friendly chap. By the time we had signed to buy the home in MN and had placed our home in CA on the market, I was working for Control Data at their newly formed Data Display Division in Roseville, north of St Paul and commuting back to CA occasionally, to help Jeri arrange the big move.
In the meantime, I began living in a “convenience” apartment at the Paul Bunyan Motel and driving a company furnished 1965 Mustang rental car. The car was red and a joy to drive. The thing I remember most clearly about the Paul Bunyan (aside from the 20 foot high statue of Paul Bunyan complete his ax) were the thin walls and having to listen to the passionate sounds coming from the couple in the next room. Very disconcerting to a fellow far away from home.
. . . . . . . . .
When it came time to move, we packed our five kids and our essential stuff into the Olds and headed out. Our plan was to meet the moving company at our new home. Logistics required that we drive almost straight through, stopping only once for the night. At one point, after driving for an extended period of time, I became very sleepy. My forehead started feeling numb and I began to have that double vision that happens when your eyes no longer want to focus. It was late at night, along a straight two-lane highway somewhere in Nebraska or Iowa. With almost no traffic and only cornfields as scenery, there was little to occupy my mind -- only the fear of falling asleep and running off the highway.
I tried slapping my thigh, sticking my head out the window and even tried holding my left foot up off the floor until the pain would wake me up (this had worked in the past). Nothing seemed to help. I didn’t want to wake Jeri or the kids, but I also did not want to crash with a carload of my loved-ones. But it seemed like I was making such slow progress! I looked at the speedometer to check my speed and was shocked to see that my fears had caused me to slow down to less than 25 MPH. At that rate we were never going to get there -- so I pulled off at the next wide spot in the road and went fast asleep.
When the moving van arrived and we were in the process of moving into our new home, it was time to buy a washer and drier (our old ones were not worth moving); so we called Sears to inquire as to how we could open a charge account. We pretty well knew what we wanted from the catalog. They said they would deliver them the next day and we could come into the store at our convenience and arrange payment. Evidently, your credit was good in MN until you proved it bad – a far cry from Sears in CA. We were thrilled.
LEARNING TO BE A LEADER OF BOYS AND MEN – MINNESOTA -- 1965 TO 1967
My first days at Control Data were interesting to say the least. I accompanied the project transferred from California. One of the enticements to get me to move to MN, was that I would remain the project leader. I had no idea that this would come with any problems. They would not turn out to be technical problems, but personnel problems. The company assigned three engineers to work under my direction. They were without exception, much senior to me in terms of experience and education.
I was 29 years old (and according to everyone I met, I looked maybe 22), whereas the youngest among them was over forty. Naturally there was an underlying (but very close to the surface) lack of respect for me as team leader. It would take me several months to gain their respect. It required my learning tact and using diplomacy at times & firmness at other times. The two years that would follow yielded great experience in terms of developing leadership skills as well as understanding what motivates people.
In MN I was faced with a California-like commute. Our new home was located in the outskirts of Minneapolis and the company was located in Roseville, which is a suburb of St. Paul. I could either travel through downtown Minneapolis or around via the 494 beltway freeway. Either way, this commute was something I was used to -- from years of California commuting.
. . . . . . . . .
Our arrival in MN was just in time for Indian summer. This is followed by the truly spectacular fall season that the mid-westerners seem to take for granted! The leaves turn yellow red and orange, accented by the evergreens that refuse to change color. All of this is then reflected in the azure blue of the many lakes. During this season, one can’t help feeling certain anticipation and a renewed confidence in what life has to offer, in this part of God’s Kingdom.
Then came the event that fall, which I will always remember. I was walking to my car from the company lobby. It was a brisk, quiet, almost sunny day. Then there they were -- those first huge snowflakes floating down from heaven above! I know I grinned from ear to ear. These snowflakes disappeared the moment they landed. They were a subtle hint of what a MN winter could bring – there would be days when we would say, “Enough, already!!”
TURNING THIRTY IS FOR THE BIRDS – MINNESOTA -- DECEMBER, 1965
After getting to know quite a few people in our new Minnesota Ward, our new friends (with Jeri’s help) threw me a surprise birthday party. First of all, I did not want to turn thirty and reaching this age hit me harder than has reaching any other decade. Secondly, I felt like this was an occasion for mourning – not an excuse for a party. Looking back now, I should have enjoyed it more, since the next ten years between thirty and forty would be very interesting years.
By about this same time we were able to finish the basement of our MN home and thus expand our livable space. The basement became a great storage area, as well as a playroom for the kids. It even had its’ own fireplace. It was nice in both winter & summer. The stairway down to the basement is remembered for the trip downward made in the little rocking chair by Deborah when launched by her big brother Michael. Both the girl and the chair survived. The rocking chair, since restored, has become a sort of family heirloom. All the kids try to see if they can still fit in it when visiting us, but few can. Denise can for sure.
Occasionally we would be completely snowed in. During a major blizzard, the schools and most businesses would shut down, highways became impassable and everyone pretty much stayed home. It was great. Our Eden Prairie home had a cozy fireplace (actually more than one) so we just gathered together as a family, played games, read books, watched TV, etc. We usually had wonderful relaxed times during such snowstorms. Because of such winter conditions, television was very popular. At this same time, color television was coming into its’ own. I was very impressed with the technology and the colors -- so much so, that I talked Jeri into my bringing home a rented color TV set to try out. It was beautiful, even though it seemed as like the only good color programs were the cartoon shows and the colorful NBC peacock logo.
FIRST WINTER IN MINNESOTA – 1965 TO 1967
We were soon to find out there were things we were not used to coping with – such as the demands of that first winter. Five kids needed winter clothing (parents too, of course). Once we were all outfitted, then keeping track of each person’s snow jacket, fur-lined boots, snow pants, mittens, scarf, etc, etc, would turn out to be a daunting task. – particularly when going to church, where your children’s things tend to get mixed up in the foyer with fifty other winter outfits.
We also were to find out that our California cars didn’t work well in MN! The first winter my VW Beetle spent most of it in the company parking lot under a mound of snow with just the antenna sticking out to indicate it was still there. When the temperature got low enough, it simply would not crank over. The 1963 Oldsmobile was better, but there were times when a lot of “jump-starts” took place in the company parking lot when the temperature at the end of the workday was in the minus 20s.
One very cold morning as I was backing the Olds out of the garage to go to work, the engine died. When I tried to restart it all I heard was the “click” of the starter solenoid. Because I had had recent problems with the battery connections, I determined that this was very likely a recurrence of the problem. So I opened the hood and tightened the battery connections, got back into the car and tried again to start it.
“Click - click.”
The next most likely connection was under the car at the starter motor. As I slipped a large piece of cardboard under the car – I’m in a shirt and tie – and prepared to slide under, Jeri came out of the house and asked what was going on? I replied, “The car won’t start, so I’m getting underneath to jiggle the starter cable. When I do, will you try starting it?” As I wriggled the starter cable, Jeri moved the shift lever out of “REVERSE,” put it into “PARK”, and when she turned the ignition key of course the car stated right up!
“Well,” I said, “I – uh -- guess I fixed it. Thanks for the help.” I’m not sure I ever told my wife that she actually fixed the problem.
In the winter, when the many lakes freeze over, ice fishing becomes a very popular activity. The natives do it up in a big way. Though some folks will hunker down next to a hole cut in the ice, many drag little ice-fishing houses out onto the ice. These structures often contain such things as a heater, cooking equipment, great food, a couple of 6-packs, and even a radio or portable TV. Although I have looked inside one of these mini mansions, I have never had a great interest in fishing, so I was never tempted to try ice fishing. On the other hand, I have been mildly interested in deer hunting – not in actually shooting a deer – but in traipsing through the woods and enjoying nature. I was to get a memorable, first hand experience during the second winter in MN.
One amazing experience is what they call an “Ice Storm.” On rare occasions, a cold rain falls that immediately turns to ice as it lands, turning trees, street lights, power lines, park benches -- literally everything it touches into ice-coated, light-reflecting objects. At night everything takes on a crystalline fairytale appearance. It’s quite eerie and even a little dangerous to drive through – because it’s both distractingly beautiful and at the same time deceptively slippery.
It would turn out to be very expensive to get through that first winter - not only the cost of outfitting our family with winter clothing; but it was necessary to upgrade our transportation. Jeri took Christmas season part time job as a sales clerk at Dayton’s Department Store in downtown Minneapolis. As spring finally became a reality, we were faced with all the things relating to a new house, including enough landscaping to make our home fit decently into the neighborhood. Since I wasn’t likely to prove worthy of a raise form Control Data soon enough to put us in financial fat city, it was time for me to look for some “moonlighting” work that I could do on Saturdays and/or evenings.
Jeri finished up at Dayton’s, which had kept us afloat, and I subsequently took a part time job with Anchor Fence selling what mid-westerners call “hurricane fence” and what Californians call “chain link fence”. Anchor’s product was very expensive - all aluminum, square posts, vinyl-covered 1 inch mesh – beautiful. Although I became a top salesman for Anchor, many customers could not see paying three times as much as they would pay Sears. So I also arranged to sell for Midwest Wire and Steel, a wholesaler of inexpensive steel, 2 inch mesh fencing sold by Sears. So now when a customer says, “Anchor fence is good looking, but I just can’t afford it.” Then, I could almost always sell them a Midwest fence - at a better price than Sears.
Anchor Fence Midwest - Sears Type
During the winter months when no one was selling fencing, I worked at night as a machine designer for a company that manufactured dry food handling equipment.
After a long winter, Spring somehow always arrives. It may have had the natives wondering if it would ever show up, but it always does. Spring in MN is far less spectacular than fall. Sure, there are a few buds on the trees & the birds have begun to return; but as the snow disappears, it reveals a depressing, uniform grey. Because of the inevitable pot holes and the sludge left on the streets, no one has washed their car for months. I had the interesting experience, at this very time of year, of flying to Southern California to attend the Spring Joint Computer Conference. What an amazing contrast – shiny cars, clean streets, green grass & bright flowers everywhere. In early spring, CA has it all over MN, at least was far as the weather goes!
SUMMERS IN MINNESOTA – 1965 TO 1967
The standard joke concerning the long winters in Minnesota follows:
Californian asking a Minnesotan, “Hey Joe, what do you do here in the summertime?”
Joe’s answer, “Well, if it falls on a Sunday, we usually go to church.”
We soon found out that during the summer, when the gnats become annoying to new arrivals such as we were, the natives never seem to notice them. You could carry on a conversation in the yard with a neighbor who is native to this part of the world, and while you’re busily waving the gnats away from your face, they seem totally oblivious of them flying in and out of their nose, ears and sometimes even their mouth. Neither Jeri, nor I, ever adapted sufficiently to develop this skill.
Another interesting thing, albeit, a little bizarre, was the march of the Salamanders and frogs. For those who don’t know, a salamander is somewhat like a lizard (see photo), except fat and slow-moving. Sometime during a wet part of the summer, thousands of these creatures begin a determined migration. I have no idea where they think they are going – or what they plan to do when they get there. There are so many on the move that it’s hard to avoid stepping on them. When you drive down the freeway, it’s “squish-squish” - “squish-squish”-- and the air is permeated with a swamp-like odor.
The same thing sometimes occurs with frogs at a different time in the summer. I suppose that experts in the world of reptiles have an explanation for this behavior. Maybe they know who amongst the frog leaders gives the signal to start this Minnesota hopathon. Or maybe it’s Nature’s way of controlling the population – since many will never arrive at the destination they have in mind. Whatever the reason – it is an awesome spectacle
. . . . . . . . .
Eden Prairie Mormons attended the Minneapolis First Ward, Minnesota Stake. We met in a beautiful stake center building. At that time, the MN stake covered a very large area, including western Wisconsin. Early on, the Elders Quorum assigned me and another Elder, Dick Lewis, as “ward teachers” to visit five far flung and somewhat inactive Elders. Because of the great distances involved, what is now called “home teaching” took us several evenings, especially in the winter. As a result, Dick and I got to know each other very well. He was and still is one of the Lord’s great priesthood holders. We were a lean and lanky pair and we did a pretty good job. Dick and his wife, Deanna, were quite busy producing, and then subsequently raising a very large family. We have kept in touch through the years.
In our ward, in addition to my calling as a ward teacher, I was called to be Young Men’s Superintendent (now known as the Young Men’s President). As I remember, with this calling you also became the Institutional Representative to the Boy Scouts of America. My responsibilities included working with the Young Women’s leadership and thus I was soon drawn into working on the Ward Road Show and helping plan a Stake Youth Conference.
The Youth conference would consist of a bus trip, stopping off at Niagara Falls, then on to see the Book of Mormon Pageant in Palmyra, and finally a visit to the Sacred Grove. Niagara Falls is impressive and the pageant was great, but the Sacred Grove experience was the most memorable thing to me – for an unexpected reason.
By the time we arrived at one of the most significant places in human history, the youth had become loud, boisterous and irreverent. It’s understandable that when young folks are cooped up for many miles in a bus, it can lead to a lot of singing, joking and kidding around in order to pass the time. As we entered the Sacred Grove parking area, the driver pulled the bus up near the path leading to the entrance and turned off the engine. I found myself thinking, “We just can’t turn this wild bunch of young people loose to desecrate this special place.” Before anyone could restrain them, they began spilling out of the bus and heading for that beautiful grove of trees. That’s when a remarkable thing happened.
As each person entered that lovely, sun-dappled place, they immediately became whisper quiet and reverent. There was a powerful spirit there. A spirit that reaches right into your soul. It was felt by each of us -- even those who had been the most irreverent, just moments before. What a beautiful and testimony-building experience. I say to anyone who reads this – Joseph Smith, the boy prophet, did in fact see and receive instructions from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in this very spot. Thus began the restoration of all things as foretold in biblical scriptures. If you have any doubts, simply read the Book of Mormon through, including Joseph Smith’s testimony, and then go and stand in the place where I stood in the Sacred Grove.
When working with the youth on a Road Show & spending days on a traveling Youth Conference, I would often kid with them and even play a few pranks on certain of the young men. This was to cost me.
One YMMIA evening after holding a Board of Review for one of the Boy Scouts, I was heading out the foyer, only to find my VW sitting there, blocking my way. Right in the foyer! AND – it was facing crosswise to the direction pointing outside! I suspected 10 or 12 Boy Scouts, using the team work we taught them, lifted my little VW up the steps and into the foyer. Even though a bit aggravated, I couldn’t help smiling. Of course, no one admitted having any idea how the car found its’ way into the foyer. But somehow, there were a lot of young people just hanging around to see my reaction. And before anyone would help me to lift, I had to admit that whoever did it had gotten the best of me, that I deserved the back strain, and that I must beg a little.
. . . . . . . . .
In the Fall, when the trees drop their leaves, most folks rake them into piles and on “burn days” - when it was allowed - simply burned them and spread the ashes in their flower beds. We had ¾ acres and lots of trees in our neighborhood. So when it was time to rake them into a pile, I worked hard and created a huge pile of leaves that one could genuinely be proud of.
This being our first summer in MN, I didn’t realize that with this quantity of leaves, one should rake them into a number of smaller piles in order to avoid a spectacular or uncontrollable bonfire When I put the match to my creation, the flames could be seen from the freeway which was at least two miles away. The neighbors came out to shake their heads and ask each other what this Californian was doing, setting off such a huge blaze. Fortunately no one called the fire department and no man-made structures were burned.
. . . . . . . . .
Of course, MN has its share of tornados, as it’s located in the Midwest’s tornado alley. One sunny and hot Sunday morning, when we were on our way to church, the temperature was 98 degrees. While sitting in Sacrament meeting, the sky suddenly began to darkened, a stiff breeze picked up, and the temperature plummeted. By the time the benediction was given, the temperature had dropped to 67 degrees, the skies had become dark and ominous, and a tornado warning was announced. The Bishop suggested that we congregate in the church basement until we could get an idea as to how eminent the danger. The basement was hot, humid and crowded, so Jeri and I decided to gather up our kids and head for home – tornado watch or not.
Yes -- we made it home safely -- after speeding down the 494 freeway; all the while, imagining funnel clouds everywhere we looked. Later we would witness the destruction to the neighboring town of Fridley where a mile-wide twister mowed down the trees like a huge lawn-mower and flattened many well-built homes in the process. Had we seen this prior to our dash home from church, we may well have elected to remain for a while in the church basement.
As far as MN church members, it gives me a warm feeling to recall one Jack Billings. He was a smaller version of KFC’s Colonel, grey hair, beard and all. It seems he was usually a greeter at the door as we came into church services. He greeted me as “Brother Mike” and Jeri as “Sister Mike.” Anyone privileged to know Jack Billings, could not help but be drawn to the church. He was the true Latter-day Saint.
. . . . . . . . .
Just for the record . . . I must credit MN with summer activities that can’t be beat: With over 10,000 lakes one can always find a great place for water skiing. And if you get tired of one lake, or want new scenery, move your boat to another. You just can’t beat it. The other unbeatable experience was the Independence Day fireworks display we could watch. They were set off on the far side of Lake Minnetonka and thus were displayed in the sky as well as reflected off the surface of the lake. Truly magnificent!
SECOND WINTER IN MN -- HUNTING TRIP - 1967
So this brings me to my MN friend, Elton Forsee who worked with me at Control Data. Elton was the genuine MN outdoorsman. I mean, he was the real thing – you can judge for yourself -- as I tell you about a weekend hunting trip that he invited me to go on with him. As it was late October and the weather was cold and snowing, I dressed in full foul weather hunting gear, grabbed my hunting rifle, and took a seat in Elton’s Jeep Wagon. It was just the two of us and it was a cold Friday evening.
Elton was not dressed nearly as warmly as I and I noticed that he didn’t bother to zip up his parka or turn up his collar. Also, the whole way to the hunting cabin, he drove with the driver’s side window rolled down. And I was too proud to ask him to roll up his window, even though, with my collar up, the back of my head was frozen stiff. This was just the start of my test as a Californian trying to keep up with a true Minnesota outdoorsman.
I was looking forward to a nice warm cabin that must surely be waiting for us. It was not to be – no one else was using the cabin and so it was as cold inside as it was outside. Although it came equipped with a good-sized pot-bellied stove and plenty of firewood, Elton, being the hardy soul he was, suggested that we simply roll out our sleeping bags on the cots and get to sleep early. Then we could get up before dawn, fire up the stove, have a quick breakfast, and be after those deer before they knew what hit them. I couldn’t argue with him because my jaw was clamped shut in order to keep my chattering teeth from giving me away. I simply nodded my head, trying to look enthusiastic.
Curled up in my sleeping bag, I never did thaw out because the MN cold is exceptionally “seeping.” It seemed like forever before Elton’s built in alarm clock informed him it was time for us to arise and face the day. You know how a couple of pounds of ground round feel after it’s been out of the freezer for a half hour or so. When you squeeze it, it’s soft on the outside, but squeeze a little harder and you can tell it’s still frozen solid inside. That was me – after helping stoke the fire in the stove and eating a quick breakfast, I was slightly thawed on the outside but stone cold on the inside. A little food and some hot chocolate relieved my self-imposed lockjaw and so I inquired as to what our plans were for the day. Elton pointed to a tiny outboard motor that was stashed behind the stove (to keep it warm enough to start I supposed) and informed me that we would attach the motor to a small rowboat and cross a small lake to our happy hunting grounds.
When we left the cabin is was just beginning to get light in the East. The wind was whipping a fine snow horizontal to the ground. It was colder than blue blazes -- to use an expression that I heard somewhere. The lake was not so choppy as to make crossing dangerous. The thing that stands out in my mind was Elton facing into the wind as we crossed the lake with his Parka half way zipped up and his ear flaps blowing in the wind. In the meantime I was convinced I would surely crack into pieces when it came time to climb ashore.
We landed on the far shore and stashed our little boat. What lay ahead of us was a winter wonderland of snow-covered woodlands. No matter the cold, the green and white beauty assaulted the senses. Once among the trees the wind was but a breeze. A hint of the sunshine to come could be seen in the rays of light beginning to pierce the canopy. We hiked several miles through God’s handiwork on a trail blazed by other hunters. We then reached the narrow end of a meadow that widened out to half a mile wide and at least four miles in length. Here we rested a moment, checked our guns, and Elton presented a plan that he had worked out days in advance.
Elton’s plan called for us to split up and travel along opposite sides of the meadow, keeping to the trees. The hope was that one of us might flush out our quarry, so that the other could get in a good shot as the deer bounded across the open meadow. We were to take our time, slinking quietly through the woods and meet up around mid-day at the far end of the meadow. He assured me that this plan had worked before with the only minor concern being bullets meant for the deer coming close to the hunter on the opposite side. So, he said, “If you don’t have a clear shot, get behind a tree.”
By this time, I had begun to thaw out nicely. I trudged carefully through the woods, quietly reciting lines from the Jabberwocky as I went,
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms my beamish boy.
Oh happy day, Calloo Callay, He chortled in his joy.”*
* Full text at the end of this chapter.
Somehow I was reminded of this poem, particularly that part of it. This was a poem that I memorized in high school. By midmorning, even though the temperature was hovering around zero, I was feeling warm and was enjoying the outing immensely. At one point I stopped and stood under the branches of a tree and looked out over the meadow, wondered where Elton was. I had long since lost sight of him. I was warm as toast, with the sun shining right on me and having just hiked a couple of miles. I unzipped my parka and even lowered the hood from my head. I stood quietly enjoying the scene. At the same time that I realized I was getting thirsty, a bird landed on a branch above me and dislodged some snow that fell onto the barrel of my deer rifle. Without thinking I went to lick the snow off the barrel.
Now, even a transplanted Californian should know better than that!
My tongue stuck fast to the metal. I didn’t panic at first, thinking that blowing warm air on the point of adhesion would soon loosen it. That didn’t help; plus I was having trouble keeping my lips from also getting stuck. I removed my gloves and tried applying warm hands to the barrel, but they were too cold to be of any help. What if I was to fire off a round, thought I. That would certainly warm the barrel. But the recoil might rip my tongue right out. Finally, after much frustration, I got angry enough to simply rip my tongue off the barrel, leaving a significant part of it behind.
So that is what I remember most clearly about this hunting trip. I don’t believe either of us ever got off a shot at a deer. Back at the cabin Elton asked what I was cleaning off the barrel of my gun. I just shrugged my shoulders and refused to admit my folly. Later I could tell others and get a laugh out of them, but I could never tell Elton. At home I stuck my tongue out at the mirror and the mirror responded likewise. Not a pretty sight. Other than my tongue, this excursion was, for the most part, a wonderful experience and definitely memorable. What remains is a lasting place in my heart for the MN countryside and the character of a true outdoorsman. After we moved back to CA, Elton and I began a game of chess by mail. Before we were half way through the game, changes in employment and circumstances caused us to lose touch.
. . . . . . . . .
My hunting experience with Elton brings to mind the time, earlier that winter, when I went bow-hunting with Michael who was 10 years old. I had recently purchased a fine “recurved” bow called a “Black Widow” and had been doing some target shooting. Not that I was an expert marksman, but I actually did fairly well, at least with stationary targets. When the winter bow-hunting season arrived, Mike and I took off to enjoy marching through the woods in search of big game. We never found living targets to shoot at, but we finally set up several stationary targets and had a great time. And – we only lost a few arrows. It wasn’t too much later, that someone broke into my car and stole my Black Widow. So there went my Robinhood-like career.
RETURN TO CALIFORNIA – 1967
In the fall of 1967, I was contacted by some CA acquaintances that were starting a new computer company, Computer Communications, Inc. I was offered the position of Manager of Product Engineering, which would include product styling as well as the mechanical design of a full line computer system. The offer included a nice salary increase, a big stock option, and full moving expenses to CALIFORNIA! After just two years in MN, we would soon return to sunny CA.
We sold our MN home ourselves to some members of the church and Jeri located the home we purchased in Redondo Beach on Fisk Lane, a single story, three bedroom with a two story added bedroom and bath built on in the rear, accessible via a circular staircase. I liked the bright blue carpet that came with the house, and after we repainted the exterior yellow with white trim, I was certain we had the nicest house in the neighborhood. We would be in Redondo Third Ward, where we already had a number of good friends. Jeri was called to work in ______________ and I soon got very involved in the scouting program.
BUILDING A BOY SCOUT TROOP – 1968 to 1970
Troup 880 was unequipped, unorganized and all in all a pretty sad bunch. We had a fairly large number of boys, including Mike who was 12 at the time. I was called to be the Scoutmaster and Assistant Deacon’s Quorum Advisor. Keith Smith was called to be the Deacon’s Quorum Advisor & Assistant Scoutmaster (that’s the way it works in the Church). Within a few months we had everyone including ourselves in full uniforms. In less than a year we were a fully equipped, full fledged back-packing troop with several training hikes completed and were ready to tackle the “Silver Moccasin” week long hike through the Angeles Crest Mountains. Keith and I were very proud of the Troop. Over the next two summers he and I had a lot of interesting experiences -- mostly fun, but some not much fun at all – one time we were reported lost on radio & TV, causing parents to worry (we had simply taken an alternate trail). One time, having strayed into a “High Fire Danger” area, I was cited by the Forest Ranger, had to go to court, pay a fine & have the troop do camp ground repairs. There were a few other less than wonderful experiences; but for the most part, the Boy Scout experience was fun, exciting, and did a lot to build character in these young men.
SHOW PICTURE OF THE SCOUT TROOP
One incident that’s humorous now - but not at the time – occurred shortly after one of our summer long term hikes & camp outs. We were sitting in Sacrament meeting. It was a warm Sunday afternoon & I had dozed off. Suddenly Jeri nudged me and whispered that the Bishop wanted me to come up to the stand. As I came out of my stupor and started up to the front, I realized that I did not know why I was going. Was I to give the closing prayer? Was I to bare my testimony? No, it wasn’t Fast Sunday. No clue! I felt a little river of perspiration run down my back. I actually had to ask the Bishop, “Why am I here?” It turns out he simply wanted me to report on our last scout outing. Gad Zooks!
Another note that relates to my experience hiking with Boy Scouts – On the aforementioned long term hike, I found myself carrying one of the younger boy’s backpack (along with my own, of course). I had been bringing up the rear to make sure no one was left behind. We were hiking a particularly steep section of the trail, heading for one of the higher points on the map, when I came upon one of the boys. He was sitting propped up, leaning against a tree with his backpack lying beside him. His face was red and he spoke to me with a faltering voice designed to elicit sympathy.
“I can’t go on!” he said.
“You have to go on,” I replied. “I can’t leave you here for the buzzards.”
He looked up in the sky in search of buzzards and said, “Really. I can’t go on! It’s too hot and my backpack is too heavy! The trail’s too steep! I COULD DIE.”
I picked up his pack, reached down and helped him to his feet. “You’re not going to die -- unless I decide to kill you right now. Let’s go.”
So we went -- and somewhere, within the next mile or so, I made a vow that I was not going on another of these hikes. This is just too miserable, I said to myself, “I’ll prepare the boys and let some of the fathers endure this torture.” But then we would get home and show pictures & tell parents how much fun we had and what an adventure it was. The miserable part fades away. And then in no time at all, I would again find myself hiking along a difficult section of trail - pushing some boys along - and remembering that I had vowed not to do this again. To me nature has a way of dimming the past unpleasant things by bringing the pleasant memories to the forefront. Although it’s probably a stretch, I believe it is, in a way, similar to childbirth. Memory of the incredible pain is dimmed by the love & bonding of a new baby. Otherwise why would a woman ever go through that travail a second time? It’s mind-boggling to realize that my wife has done it SEVEN times!
Two other notes that relate to Troop 880 –
1) Our 1963 Olds F85 was by this time on its last legs. It was hard to start and would hardly run. But in the event that there was not enough transportation available from parents, et al, and I would have to load up scouts & their equipment in the Olds, it would start right up and run like a top. No kidding! I even ran out of gas at a point in the Angeles Crest Mountains where we could coast all the way down to a service station in La Crescenta. Then after the scout outing, I would park the car. The next morning it was hard to start & would ran so poorly that it could hardly get out of its’ own way. This happened more than once! Explanation? I think I have an idea.
2) Over her mother’s objections, I took Debbie on one of our mountain hikes & an overnighter. I think she was 10 or 11 years old. Of course she was the only female with the troop -- but she was the best hiker of all. She remembers it well.
THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL AUTOMOBILE – 1970
In 1969 my obsession with automobiles led me to read several articles about a car that was considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful production car. It was an Italian-built, Ford powered, mid-engine, 5-speed sport car called the Mangusta by DeTomaso. It was styled by Giorgettto Giugiaro who also styled Lamborghinis.
As fortune would have it, I had begun cashing out some of my Control Data stock and could actually afford to buy a car that cost $11,500 (a lot of money in the summer of 1970). I had been able to take a quick look at a red Mangusta (Latin for Mongoose) in Hollywood. Then, as luck would have it, I discovered a green one near our home at a Manhattan Beach sports car dealer. I walked into the dealer’s show room dressed in levis & tee shirt (barefooted, no less), with $5,000 cash in my pocket, and started looking the car over. The sales guy was in no hurry to come over to talk to me – probably because I looked like a twenty-something beach bum. But as I started climbing into the driver’s seat, he hurried over.
“Sorry sir,” he said, trying to be a polite, “we would like only serious buyers to sit in the car.”
“That’s me,” I said, “and I would like to take it for a test drive.”
“Please sir. We can only take the car off the showroom floor for a qualified potential buyer.”
Showing him a wad of $100 dollar bills, I said, “If I like the way it drives, you have my promise that I will become a cash buyer.
Two days later I brought the car home to a very surprised – or maybe I should say shocked – wife. To put it mildly, she was angry. She told me that I was crazy to buy such an expensive car with only two seats -- when what we really needed was a good family station wagon like the new Ford Country Squire. The next day I went to the local Ford dealer and paid cash for a beautiful light green, wood sided County Squire Station Wagon.
As time passed, Jeri would occasionally drive the Mangusta. I’m sure she would deny this, but I think she liked the attention she got whenever she was behind the wheel. One time she was pulled over by the police. When she asked them what she had done wrong, they said, “Oh, nothing. We just wanted to look at your car.” Right! What better way to kill some time than o pull over a pretty girl and check out her unusual car.
1970 DeTomaso Mangusta – Mine was “Anti-establishmint Green”
Only 402 Mangustas were built of which maybe 150 still survive – currently one, nicely restored, will sell at auction for more that $60,000.
LEADING BIGGER BOYS – 1970 to 1972
One day our Stake President, Lewis Cobabe, called on the phone and asked if he could come over to talk to me. I assumed he wanted to talk about his son who was a Sr. Patrol Leader in our Boy Scout troop, a boy who sometimes needed some extra parental push in order to advance as he should. After President Cobabe arrived, we sat down to talk. When he invited my wife to join us, it was a clue that there was something else on his mind. There was no mention of his son. Instead he got right to the reason for his visit. He wished to extend to me a calling to be the Elders Quorum President in our Ward. To say I was shocked would be to understate my reaction. I was actually stunned. I didn’t know what to say. Here I was, completely comfortable and fully engaged in scouting. I couldn’t say to him, “You can’t be serious!” because I knew he was. It was not in me to refuse to consider it. I have always believed that if the Lord thinks you can do it, then you can. As I recall, I expressed my surprise, conveyed my feelings of inadequacy, and looked at my wife with a desperate look that said, “Help!
Being an Elder at the time and attending Ward Elders Quorum meetings, I knew that there were over 90 Elders. I would be responsible for their temporal & spiritual welfare. That was a truly awesome thing to consider. Right away, I needed to select two counselors and had not a clue. I felt I had to become more righteous & prayerful. I had no choice. Maybe this was a part of why I was called to this position. I can testify that I became a better man than before and that the Lord blessed me with inspiration in not only selecting my counselors, but in many other things that were related to this calling.
OFFROAD RACING, CALIFORNIA & NEVADA – 1972 to 1982
It all started when I needed a little welding done on the Mangusta chassis and met a fellow named Arnold Mowrey. Arnie had a shop just around the corner from our house, where he not only did welding, but was just finishing building a single-seat offroad Dunn buggy for a customer by the name of Steve Kelly. Between the two of them, listening to their enthusiasm, I became quite fascinated by a form of racing that was reasonably safe and within reach financially. I still had some stock I could use as needed to finance a competitive race car. I chose to build a 2-seater, rationalizing that I would have a son to be my copilot.
While Arnie was busy building the race car, I decided I could build an odometer driven, onboard computer that would record every bump, turn & obstacle during a pre run. The idea was to reset to the computer at zero when the race started and then have an ongoing readout in advance of each element on the race course. During pre run things went well & we loaded the computer. However on the day of the race, it poured down rain and everything was quickly covered with inches of mud including driver co-driver AND computer. It was of no use! It also could not be used to pre run the course with a pre run vehicle because gear ratios, tire sizes, and odometer gearing could not be made to match.
Our first race car – the Mowrey Special – at Borrego Springs prior to our first race. That’s Steve discussing strategy. Note the onboard computer sticking up above the dash in front of the driver & Co-driver.
Over the years, I would have a couple of different partners with whom to share expenses and driving challenges. The first was Ray Larsen who helped me put together a Sponsorship Proposal. With the added support of minor sponsors and an endorsement from Mikey Thompson we were able to firm up a significant sponsorship from Open Road, a major manufacturer of motor homes. By the time we had three race cars with Open Road’s colors and logo, and had finished well in our first sponsored race, Open Road announced that they were going out of business!
At about this time, Ray Larsen, for personal reasons, checked out of off road racing. Shortly thereafter, I joined forces with James Mahan, a long time off road racer from Henderson, NV. James would later move to Newbery Park for a short time to work with AutoMecca on related ventures including construction of the AutoMecca SportsVan. About eight years later, Steve would marry his daughter Tracy.
This was a later, acquired single seat class 9 racecar (1200 cc limit). This is actually down in Mexico and this little car could really scoot.
Mike’s bike stolen.
AutoMecca Picture in magazine.
Dodgers moved to Coliseum
Lakers & Rams
MOVED TO WOODLAND HILLS – 1973
Woodland Hill 3rd Ward
Dropped couch over the rail – Lou & I
House on DaVinci Ct
Mike rolling his car
Steve jumping his bike in middle of Mulholland Dr
More off road racing – Mike breaking tranny in racecar
Missing H.S Reunion 20 year
Working for Compucorp on Olympic Blvd Santa Monica
Fog at end of day in W LA then new day in Woodland Hills
1937 Ford Pickup.
Litton . . . Rainbird . . . Lagocalc . . .
Honda Civic – the Sinister Civic
The Stansbury Group
MOVED TO SIMI VALLEY – 1978
Last place I thought I would live.
White flight bussing
Rolling the Civic off the freeway.
Cartoon Map 1983 & 1987
House on Township Ave
Stake Mission Chuck Mercer - 37 Ford used in tracking
Denise -- Cesarean Section
Taking care of Jeri’s mother
Magic Maids / Magic Maintenance MM in Littleton, CO.
MM Motor home
Painted heart on 118 Fwy – Eric Cryder
Chatsworth train tunnel - Mike Wirth, David Parker & Adam, some girls Look at picture or include it.
MOVED TO PLEASANTON – 2000
Sold business – Magic Maids/Maintenance
MaXXan Systems – Start up company –cubicles stress good $ but . . .
Joe Stoddard -- Paul Olarig
Duplex on Palomino
Getting out of debts left over from business
Deb in Benicia, Karen in Berkley, Denise in Elk grove
MaXXan Layoff Paul & I same time. Joe later.
I joined Lustre-Cal Nameplate Corp June 4, 2003.
About my open heart surgery and this was my response to LC employees asking how I felt – see below:
MOVED BACK TO SIMI VALLEY – 2003
OPEN HEART SURGERY – NOVEMBER 7, 2005
The doctors at Kaiser Permanente had been keeping an eye on my leaky mitral valve for a number of years. At the end of ’03, our regular doctor, David Carrington referred me to the cardiology department
To all my Lustre-Cal Family . . . many of you have either asked me directly or have been checking thru Carmen as to how I am feeling. After ten days, here’s a first-hand report --
I have a lower than normal energy level & drive. For the first time in my life I understand how it feels to “be tired.”
BUT, I have a very high cherishment of my Life, my Family, my Friends, my Country, my religion, and even my job. How is it that I now have a better sense of smell, that I can see & hear better? How is it that I can understand the words I read better than before? How is it that I now see my wife not only as she is now, but as I knew her when we were teen-agers? Why is it I think often of and dream often about my parents, my brothers, grandparents and old friends long past? How is it that I like that damn cat more and like to have our smelly Cocker Spaniel laying at my feet? Why did I allow that little spider to walk slowly across my desk and safely to his destiny? Is it the higher level of oxygen now in my blood stream? Or, did I have a “near death” experience wherein the Lord sent me back to appreciate His creations and to do something significant with my life to make it worth His putting up with my guff? I now have an even more profound faith in the reality of our Creator. The evidence of His hand in the design of my old body is more than can be denied. And the times we live in, with medical technology unknown a generation or two ago, is truly amazing.
I’m feeling just fine . . .
Thank you all for your concerns,
Miracles I have seen –
Lustre-Cal gave me a week off so we could make arrangements to relocate back to the Los Angeles area. They agreed that Simi Valley would be ok as far as handling the greater LA sales area, but they wanted me to train at the factory during the rest of May and have an office set up by mid-July. This did not give us the time to try to move back into our home on Township. Besides that, our tenants were fairly new and had a lease still in affect. So we needed to find a place to rent for a year or so.
Accordingly, Jeri and I took a trip to Simi, stayed with Lisa and Ron and spent some time looking at rentals. The pickings were slim, especially since we did not want to pay more that we were receiving from renting our house. We filled out one application and left messages concerning others that we were interested in. Nothing came even close to panning out. At a certain point, Jeri had to leave it up to me to work the problem while she was in Pleasanton. Can you imagine the daunting responsibility – of picking out a home that will make your wife happy! I spent a couple more days working diligently without results and was ready to give up.
Something pushed me to look at one more house, even though my time had run out -- I needed to leave to return to Pleasanton within hours. There was no time to fill out an application, be screened, approved and negotiate a lease. It actually seemed quite hopeless. This was confirmed when I arrived to look at the house. There were at least six other interested parties roaming through the place. A quick look added to my frustration. The house was nearly perfect, the price was right, and I was certain Jeri would like it. I stood there looking at the owner as he answered a barrage of questions from other would be renters. He glanced over at me and then took a second look. Excusing himself from several people, he came over to me and said, “Do you remember me?”
“You look familiar,” I said, not really remembering him at all. “I’m Mike Hansen.”
“Yes, I remember you very well from Micom. We worked together. My name is Rojelio Douglas”
“Oh yeah . . . right!” I said. He did look vaguely familiar. “Those were some interesting years, working at Micom,” I added.
He certainly knew me better than I knew him, for he said, “I remember that you owned a home here in Simi.”
Whereupon, I proceeded to explain our dilemma in some detail, mentioned that I would like to lease his house, and told him he would get an excellent referral from our current landlord. He was interested from the standpoint that he would be renting to someone he knew, and someone who was a Simi Valley landlord himself and would understand how to take care of his property (his previous tenant was a bit of a problem). So, while other folks were filling out applications, we shook hands and I left with a gentleman’s agreement that ultimately gave us the house. Who would have thought! I believe this to be one of the Lord’s “tender mercies.” I consider it a small miracle.
Jeri’s Asthma nebulizer
Post polio syndrome
Taking care of Jeri’s mother - service builds love.
A balloon fight in Provo
MY EPIPHANIES – AS A CHILD AND AS A YOUNG ADULT
I didn’t learn the definition of an “epiphany” until later in life?? It’s when you discover something of profound and significant impact on your life. My first epiphany was when I discovered as a 7 or 8 year old that summer vacation from school was not as long as the school year. I just couldn’t believe it – I thought it was half & half and that it only felt shorter because I liked summer and school days seemed longer because I was anxious for the start of summer vacation. I was truly jolted.
Another, and far greater epiphany occurred in my life when I was nearly 20 years old. It had to do with reading the Book of Mormon. I was reading it as a challenge, just to prove I could do it. I never really bought the Joseph Smith story where he told of being visited by Heavenly Beings. Nice story, even beautiful, but really now! Too far out! Surely if God was ready to restore His church as it was when His Son was on the earth - before the great apostasy, the falling away, and the dark ages - He would appear to Billy Graham or maybe Jerry Falwell, or He might even make the Pope a prophet and give him twelve Apostles as in the original church.
My epiphany was when I realized the simple & indisputable fact that Joseph Smith, an uneducated man, about the same age I was at the time, could not have made up the incredibly complex story of peoples, nations, timelines, genealogies, new names, wars, a monetary system, etc as told in the Book of Mormon -- certainly not in one dictation and in so few days with no editing. An epiphany? Yes, because now I had no choice but to acknowledge that the young man Joseph was a Prophet, and that whatever he said about seeing the Father and the Son and receiving instructions from an angel, was in fact a reality. I suddenly knew it just had to be. Yes, I’m sure that the spirit spoke to me uninvited, but pure logic also spoke loud and clear. That book WAS the Word of God; just as sure as the sun and water allow us to inhabit this sphere! It not only proved that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, but I realized that it proved there is a God in Heaven and that Jesus Christ was His Only Begotten Son. Now that’s an epiphany!
*The Jaberwocky, by Louis Carroll
Something about each of our kids.
Michael Wyman – He was born the day after I turned twenty. Being little more than a child myself, I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel about this wiggly, squirmy and demanding little person. He was probably two months old when, after I changed his diaper, he quietly lay there looking up at me. I reached down and let him take hold of my finger. A tight feeling rose from my chest up into my throat and my eyes misted over. I knew at that moment a father’s love. I knew I loved my son and always would. As I write this, Mike is now 50 years old. I have difficulty thinking of him as a middle-aged adult. I still see him as youngster. He is what they call a “baby boomer”, born between 1946 and 1964. According to recent studies, one of the characteristics of those who grew up in the “60s is a stubborn determination not to “act their age.” I think this describes Mike (and to some extent his father). He has always worked for himself. I can’t remember a time when he held a regular job as an employee. He has run or owned such businesses as printing, sign-making, a wrecking yard, used book store, E-bay business, etc. He is very well-liked and inspires loyalty in those who work for him. I have not spoken politics to him, but I imagine him to be a Libertarian. At this time, he still wears his hair like a man from the 60s. He is great fun to be with and loyal to his family, although like many of us guys, he is very poor at keeping in touch regularly. I could say a lot more and likely will before I’m through with this autobiography.
Deborah Lyn – Our second born was such a sweet child. It was a pleasure to have a girl to contrast Mike’s boyhood aggressiveness. She was very bright and learned things quickly. She was able to read early on and has always been an avid reader. Debbie did well in school, had lots of friends and was generally pretty neat. She could even get herself up for Seminary early in the morning. I had confidence in her ability to pick things up, so I had no qualms about teaching her to drive. As we were about to sideswipe some parked cars, I grabbed the steering wheel and we swerved to miss them. The same thing happened as we were about to run over some roadside barriers. I began to shake. I yelled at her, “Can’t you see those things?” She replied, “Yes Dad, but I can’t tell how close they are.” It turned out that she had very poor eyesight in one eye and thus had virtually no depth perception. Once that was corrected, she soon became a good driver. It wasn’t until her teenage years that she and her mother began to lock horns. And did they ever! In many ways she was a lot like her mother and if I was called upon to arbitrate a dispute, I had a hard time not saying that I understood Debbie’s side; which, of course led to a dispute between her mother & me for not backing her up. It took me a while to realize what a mistake it was for parents not to stick together.
In spite of a firm belief in her own code of good behavior, she could sometimes be led astray.