Archive for June, 2016

Destination – California…………#190 (80’s)

June 8, 2016

The Gallagher and Burk hillside indention

Scott Willson

The Willson’s having arrived from Phoenix and from the Oakland Airport Gary could ascertain the past, viewing the Gallagher and Burk quarry,  its mountain indention still a prominent landmark on the East Oakland hills.  The scene of his youthful adventures,  Devil’s Punchbowl,  the Sulphur Mines,  a remembrance of an audacious childhood firmly embedded.  Gary’s eldest son Scott having awaited their flights arrival at the airport to Shepherd the family to his Aunt Katherine and Uncle Don DaValle’s condominium  in Foster City.  The DaValle’s having departed on a pre-scheduled vacation to Oregon, Gary told to make themselves at home.  Having acquired a  prearranged rental car from Alamo Car Rental, the Willson taking possession of a new Chevrolet Cavalier it’s odometer registering 16 miles.

Foster City, once a landfill

Following his son down Interstate 880, the old Nimitz Freeway,  to the San Mateo Bridge, crossing San Francisco Bay to Foster City.  The city founded in the 1960’s on engineered landfill of the bay marshes on the east edge of San Mateo, the city  named after T. Jack Foster, the real estate magnate who owned much of the land comprising the city.  Gary son Scott having left Oklahoma City taking up residence at first in Santa Cruz but now installing prefab office systems for a company in San Francisco and working for Don and Katherine at Foster City between office set-ups, delineating computer software programs, the DaValle’s having initiated a sideline software business.

San Francisco At The Beach

San Francisco At The Beach

Old Playland at the Beach

The agenda was in place, the morning finding the Willson’s leaving the condominium,  Gary propelling the Cavalier to San Francisco,  the first of a two-day adventure in the city by the bay.   The inaugural stop being the ocean side Sunset District, the family disembarking off the Great Highway that ran parallel to the sandy beach hosting the breaking waves of the majestic Blue Pacific.  With the famous Cliff House Restaurant within sight, Robert, Sandi and Jan, now shoeless their feet greeting  the waters of the Ocean.  Gary very much familiar with these surroundings as a youth having shook hands with the thundering surf and  the joys of the now departed Playland At the Beach, all fond memories.

a Fulton St. entrance to Golden Gate Park


Continuing their drive up Fulton St to the  10th Ave entrance to Golden Gate Park, the 1017 acre expanse playing host to an array of exhibitions,  the De Young Museum, the California Academy of Science and Natural History with its aquarium and museum,  one of the world’s largest.  Gary finding himself at home in the complex, as a youth having ventured to the park and the Morrison Planetarium at six weeks intervals,  a bus journey across the Bay Bridge and subsequent McAllister Ave. Electric Bus to the Park,  a regular visitor to the changing programming of the planetarium. Not surprising when entering the Academy of Science  to find the pendulum outside the Planetarium entrance still suspended and fluctuating from the ceiling,  giving presence to the earth rotation.   A tour of the Steinhart Aquarium,  the african display with its taxidermy wildlife and across to the De Young museum,  Robert and Sandi  experiencing the vast variety of this realm.

Perpetual Pendulum

Steinhart Aquarium

Steinhart Aquarium

The visit to Golden Gate Park would not be complete without the Japanese Tea Gardens,  concerted in 1894 for the California International Exposition,  its five acres, a  wondrous presentation of walkways thru flowering escapades,  circular bridged paths overlooking the tropical fish laden ponds,  the rising Pagoda and sculptured Buddha’s.

Jan At The Japanese Tea Gardens

Robert and Sandi


Leaving the park, Gary deciding on another landmark visitation, Lombard Street,  the famous crooked street in San Francisco.   The steep incline addressing the ascent, its winding interlude decorated with a panoramic display of burgeoned plants,  the residences inhibiting this visitor attraction,  taking amour-propre in their affectations.  The day waning for the  adventuress family,  Gary directing the Cavalier  onto the El Camino Real to ensue a return to Foster City.

A San Francisco Treat…………..#191 (80’s)

June 6, 2016

Fisherman’s Wharf

Pier 39

The second morning in Foster City finding the Cavalier ascending the El Camino Real,  a recrudescence to San Francisco, another adventurous day for the Willson family and Gary’s rumination with the north bay.   Fisherman’s Wharf still a vista of maritime presence and a historic chronicle of the cities nugatory endeavor.   Arriving at Pier 39, the cavalier finding a statutory residence on Beach Street, an abbreviated distance to the beckoning fanfare of the various enunciated proclamations.

Robert, Jan & Sandi – The Balclutha

Aboard the square-rigged Balclutha

Gary having traverse this wonderland many times before, guiding them on Jefferson Street to the Hyde street pier,  moored at rest in the water was the majestic Balclutha, its presence beckoning an open invitation to come aboard.  The square-rigged whaler was built in 1886,  its presence still communicating a residency of a bye gone era and within it,  an essence of consciousness still remaining of the brazen able-bodied sailors,  the generation who encountered the sailing vestiges of the sea.

Robert and the Thayer

The Eureka

A thing of the past

Continuing on with a tour of the schooner C A Thayer, a lumber bearing wind-driven vessel of sea-going worthiness built in 1895 near Eureka California. Before them a familiar sight for Gary, at berth the Eureka, a member of the  Richmond  San Rafael  ferry boat fleet.   An anamnesis from Gary’s past,  the ferry having spent decades traversing  the bay,  its labor  providing an automotive avenue to Marin County, its tenants bypassing the two San Francisco iconic bridges.  Gary’s remembrance of the Eureka on the Bay, the on-shore ocean breeze buffeting him on the deck of the gallant carrier,  the Ferry’s presence a reminder of the nostalgic memory of his youthful quintessence.

The Pampanito dockside

The Pampanito

Aboard the Pampanito

The decommissioned submarine Pampanito was solace in the water,  a veteran of the Second World War, commissioned in 1943 with a compliment of 10 officers and 70 enlisted men,  receiving a compliment of six battle stars,  a monument to those submariner’s having giving their all during  battle in the Pacific.   Gary perceiving a tempestuous atmosphere  when boarding the battle tested submersible,  a consciousness of immortality reigning from its past duty-bound participation.   Descending into the bowels of the vessel, the family experiencing the circumscribed quarters the crew endured,  the captured ambiance of the surroundings,  giving all who boarded a new perspective of the endurance of a submariner and their dedication.

Marine Terminal 41

The Blue and Gold bay cruise casting its mooring at Marine Terminal 41, the family having been entertained by a gathering of pigeons who conveniently gathered at the first toss from Robert and Sandi’s popcorn bags.  Once aboard, the family experiencing the on-shore breeze that cascaded thru the entrance aperture of San Francisco bay as they passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.   Its brisk breath-taking coercion giving connotation to all who have passed thru this gateway portal to the affable world beyond.   Gary again sensing the aura, the bouquet of the bay,  the tidal breath aspiring thru the Golden Gate,  the dampening wind engulfing him and son Robert, the only ones to stand at the bow.  Once again engendering a faction of his youth, an anamnesis of a buoyant memory still able to experience a childhood recognition of  acclamation.

Alcatraz occupation

 The island of Alcatraz drawing near, known earlier as La Islade las Alcatraces, the island of the pelican, the 47 acres being named by spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala in 17 75.  Acquiring it’s modern day notoriety in 1934 under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, incurring a reputation as a staunch symbol of discipline for 29 years, gaining the callous name, The Rock.  The Bureau of Prison with a softening of juridical prudence and increasing budget cost closed its doors in 1963.  A 19 month occupation by a fractal group claiming to be native americans in 1969 caused major damage to the landmark before being removed in 71.  The Golden Gate National Recreational Area acquired the island and opened it to the public the following year.

A Pretty Picture

An addition to Panoramic San Francisco

Gary found the skyline of the city by the bay as observed from the aquatic vessel, a panorama vestige of  prominence and heritage.  Tony Bennett having painted a melodious picture with his iconic song,  I left my heart in San Francisco, high on a hill it calls to me.  To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars,  the morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care.   The family stood as the Blue and Gold  floating appliance  edged itself within the brine covered pilings that rose like  benevolent corral,  the crew brandishing the securing rigging,  a gangway in place,  the peregrinations fulfilled.


Ripley’s wax museum

The family deciding on  luncheon meal at Alioto’s, Gary in years past  having been introduced to  an aquatic delicacy native to California, the Sand Dab, a seasonal delight in the spring and summer months.  Upon satisfying their appetite, the San Francisco quest traversing onto the pedestrian filled Jefferson Street, which played host to the enterprising business’s and many street entertainers.  Gary having lost his status as a visitors years ago,  introduced his family to the renown Ripley Believe it or Not Wax Museum, a tour acquainting them with the life-size wax replicas of individuals of historical prominence.

A Hill Climber

Continuing down Jefferson, approaching Hyde Street,  the clanging of a bell drawing their attention,  it was the Beach and Hyde Street Turn Around for the applauded cable car.   Securing their tickets, the family finding a position in the very front, Robert standing on the running board, leaning out, a glee expounding from him as the trolley proceeded up the steep incline, then descending to the Powell and Market Street Turn About. The family remounting the car for the return excursion to the Beach and Hyde Street conclusion.

Jan going strong in China Town

Jan going strong in Chinatown

A final objective before the resolute return drive  to Foster City, Chinatown.  During his youthful years Gary having ventured thru almost all areas of the city, but never had a purpose to for an in-depth exploration of the realm known as Chinatown.   Grant and Stockton Street extending eight blocks was the designated tourist path to explore oriental expenditures, open outside markets stocked with varieties of fish and meats stayed on ice, fresh vegetables, fruits and endless shops of clothing, knickknacks and trinkets, the sidewalk filled with a multitude of visitors an everyday occurrence.  Jan continuing to enjoy the emporium and boutiques, but with the family noting signs of fatigue and the sun giving notice of the lateness of the hour they were ready to frequent the car and depart for Foster City, a farewell to the city by the bay, a memory forever inscribed, their expectations having been fulfilled.

A farewell to the city by the bay, a memory forever




A Mother-Lode Acquaintance……#192 (80’s)

June 4, 2016

The reaches of Foster City were diminishing in the rear view mirror,  the San Mateo Bridge beckoned a farewell,  the Willson rental Cavalier crossing to the East Bay turning east on Interstate 580 .  The start of a familiar journey through the Livermore Valley venturing the wind-swept Altamont Pass,  a pilgrimage to the residency of Gary’s parents in the tree shrouded Sierra Nevada mountain town of Pioneer.  Traversing thru Tracey then north on highway 99 to Waterloo Road,  the given name for a five miles section of State highway 88.

Continuing east  thru the Sierra foothill gold country,  passing the village of Martel,  beginning a downhill incline towards the town of Jackson,  the family viewing the relic fixtures of two once  prosperous gold mines still present with their stature and heritage,  the Argonaut and the Kennedy.   The Argonaut at its 1942 closing  having the distinction of being the deepest gold mine in North America,  reaching a depth of 5570 feet,  but also having the distinction of losing 47 miners to a fire at the depth of 4650 feet in 1922,  a rescue shaft was provided from the nearby Kennedy mine but to no avail,  the miners were lost.

The infamous Argonault Mine

The infamous Argonaut Mine


raversing Jackson, the legendary gold emporium town on Highway 88,  the Sierra Mountain highway again starting an uphill climb for 16 miles passing thru the hamlet of Pine Grove before discovering Pioneer,  a way-stop from a by-gone era, once christened Pioneer Station,  a stopping point to change wagon horses for the continuous journey over Kit Carson Pass.   The Cavalier continuing  a two mile venture on a gravel road into the forest shrouded surroundings, the pastoral cabin and family members waiting for their arrival.


Pioneer, a remnqnt of the past

Pioneer Ca., a remnant of the past







Pine engulfed Buckhorn Ridge Rd.


The Willson’s sequestered retreat aptly christened “the cabin, in reality was a two bedroom 768 square foot retirement home with a 10 by 32 foot deck.   Gary having fond memories of his youthful days, helping his Dad clear the land and lay the foundation piers for the structures construction and was always mindful of the wilderness,  its eminence of discovery and adventure.  Gary sensing a wave of nostalgia addressing ambiance, seeing his family,  it having been several years since his last endeavor to California.   Sandi and Robert greeting their cousin Sarah and her husband Randy James, their Aunt Nancy, the three having driven from the Sonora area.

The cabin floor joist

Randy, Sarah, Robert, Sandi, Jan

The cabin standing structurally strong and stately,  no longer an addendum,  but a final accomplishment, Gary’s mother the architect and his father the laborer and construction initiator,  the finished product a result of their collective efforts.   The wind in the towering pines giving notice to all that listened,  discovering the message, an invitation,  a beckoning call from the wilderness.  Instinct flourishing,  organizing an outing for Robert and Sandi, a first a journey down the old logging road where as a youth Gary and his sister Nancy discovering a sequestered  cache of dynamite, but on this trek to re-explore the abandoned gold mine with the rusted ore car tracks and its natural spring, the spring at one time the family’s only source of water.  It was no surprised to discover the aqua flow still flowering from the mines darken fissure.   A further expedition,  the three following a well-traveled deer trail in an attempt to discover the remains of the old miners cabin from Gary’s childhood ascendancy,  but the recollection of its location was either amiss or the quondam of history having removed its propinquity.

The dream come true

A returning venture to Jackson with Grandma Willson along, turning on highway 49, towards the town of Mokelumne Hill,  the families destination  the mow call me river and a revered swimming area.  Turning east just before the bridge, then proceeding on the narrow  access road that paralleled the river,  soon reaching a widening area with ample parking among the river shrouded forage.   The river a boyhood memory of  Gary’s dad, able to swim there as a youth in the 1920’s,  one of the few times he was able to share companionship with his father.

Mokelumne Beach - A 1920's swimming experience for Gary's Dad.

Mokelumne Beach – A 1920’s swimming experience for Gary’s Dad.

Mom and Smoky on the Mokelumne River bridge

Embarking to the river’s edge,  finding a large expanse of sand resembling a beach,  its granular consistency reaching out into the water.   Gary briefly reminiscing,  experiencing  a similar scene over three decades ago with his sisters,  recalling their water spaniel Smokey and his Father sharing of his youthful experience of this spot.  Sandi and Robert were hesitant but motivated to venture into  the icy waters of the snow embolden flow that emerged from the apogee of the Sierra’s,  the two soon discovering its temporal aperture unsuitable for a sustainable swimming presence.   With a Mokelumne river memory installed,  the family continuing on  to Columbia,  preparing for the next event of the mother-lode acquaintance.

Robert and Sandi at Mokelumne Beach

Grandma, Robert Sandi, Jan and the river sand

Gary’s sister Nancy providing an opportunity to visit Columbia State Park,  with it 30 original buildings from the 1850 gold mining town, her residence within walking distance of this awe-inspiring exhibition.  The family arriving at the park, experiencing  a journey back in time,  the post office,  bank,  the saloon,  blacksmith shop,  all the conveniences of a by-gone era,  but in reality, a functioning town within a park,  the denizen dressed in character of the historic period.   Among the many exhibits, Sandi and Robert discovering the parks gold panning display the most enjoyable, a unique exhibit with water filled troughs containing sand,  embedded with flakes of real gold to be extracted by the celebrating customers, an experience in California Aurelia mineral history.







Robert, Gary, Sandi panning for gold

  A return to Pioneer a final evening before the family’s departure, Gary anxious in one respect to continue their journey, but an aura of melancholy beginning to filter thru his inner-feeling facade,  knowing that his mother would travel east to visit, but having no idea when he would see father again.




Entrance to “Shangri-la”……..#193 (the 80’s)

June 2, 2016



California's Central Valley

California’s Central Valley

Upon saying goodbye to Gary’s parents in Pioneer, the family once again seated in the Alamo Rental Car continuing their California venture,  a northern proclivity was enhanced, the engaged vessel accelerating and arriving at the alacrity speed limit posted on interstate 5.   The Northern Central Valley with no reciprocation, its delineation remaining as Gary remembered it, an expanse of agricultural and husbandry endeavors, frequented with small farming communities.  Once departing Red bluff, the scenic atmosphere began anew, to the east, the towering snow-capped peak of Mount Lassen would remain in view for temporal visit until reaching Redding.

Mt. Lassen








The Valley was now belated, the interstate beginning its slow upwards traverse from Redding, reaching out ten miles to embrace Lake Shasta, the third largest lake in California.  Its shoreline encumbrances 365 miles, populated with a host of evergreen trees, pines, fir, spruce and manzanita.  In 1936 the Shasta Dam project was initiated on the Sacramento River,  a ten-year project culminating in 1946, the completion of the lake reached fruition in 1948, the hydroelectricity plant providing power to Redding and the Northern Central Valley.  In the distance, Mount Shasta’s majestic appearance permeated the north-eastern horizon, but to the west another imposing monument coming into view, Castle Craig’s, it towering peaks arising from an elevation of 2000 ft. to 6600 ft. The Craig’s being formed during the Pleistocene period, the glaciers eroding the volcanic and sedimentary, leaving the solid granite heighten vertex vaulting upwards.




Before them an imposing presence was within reach,  its ascendancy dominating the panoramic landscape,  casting a mystical aura of celestial contentment on its ruling realm, Mount Shasta.  the regal snow-covered peak raising 14,179 feet in elevation,  reaching up to embrace the heavens.    John Muir penned,   “Solitary as God, white as winter’s moon”.  Mount Shasta starts up suddenly and solitary from the heart of the great black forest of Northern California,   its ambiance imposing like a dormant volcanic pinnacle,  standing aloof,  excluded from any mountain range.  Completing the 3 hundred 50 mile trek on interstate 5 to Yreka,  the travelers finding California Highway 3,  the avenue west over Yreka Mountain,  thru the small community of Fort Jones,  his mother’s birthplace and the entrance to a  “Shangri-la”  called Scott Valley,  the family crowning the 12 miles to Etna.

The scenic drive still a masterpiece of unblemished carriage,  an assembly of man’s stewardship and mother nature’s artistry.  Gary marveled at the 4 mile wide-16 mile long valley.  a painted containment of the Trinity Alp’s  and the declared wilderness of the Marble Mountains.  As a youth having journeyed with Fess the length and width of this Shangri-la haven,  experiencing torrential thunderstorms and a raining of tree frogs during a hail storm, but also the serenity in observing droves of deer trooping down from their mountainous sanctuary, seemingly knowing that the hunting season has yet begun.


The rural setting fading,  a residential notification making an appearance,  Gary questioning his memory after a thirty-five year absence.  It was 1953 again, the same road, the same houses and the same entrance into town,  Etna’s population of 500 had remained without change.  Gary piloting the car down Diggles Street, a primary approach to the communities lone business street aptly name Main Street.  The remembrance prevailing, the driver pointing out the previous residency of his Aunt Bernice and his cousin Geraldine Jerry Facey where he had spent summers.

The walk to the front door of the house was a long one, not in distance but one of wonderment, Gary not having seen his aunt since the age of 12, but when she opened the door, again it was 1953, she looked just as he remembered her.  Aunt Bernice’s current home on Woodland Street was illustrious, its beamed ceiling, rotunda walled fireplace, Gary totally impressed, but it was to be expected as his Uncle Sam, who passed in 1981, was a renowned building contractor as was his grandfather Potter who’s bridges and building structures remain, as exemplified by the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fort Jones that he built in 1921.

Gary finding their visit rewarding, especially Robert and Sandi enjoying the capacious yard adorned with towering trees, one emitting a very elongated rope swing and the yard crowned with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Trinity and Marble Mountains.     His cousins Jerry and Fess’s dwelling was conveniently adjacent to Aunt Bernice’s residence, a large abode with an attached garage and shop also with an essential spacious yard.

Sandi swinging – Robert in the tree

Robert and Sandi at Great Aunt Bernice’s

A late morning journey found the family following Jerry and Fess and two of their granddaughters south of town then turning at the French Creek bridge onto a mountain dirt roadway in the Cavalier.  The excursion continuing then coming to a conclusion, stopping at what appeared to be a public picnic area with tables and in a tree shaded reach, the calling  sound of the flowing creek.  Jerry, who had the foresight to pack a picnic lunch mentioned it was time to eat.  French Creek that was nearby beckoned, Fess whom on this day like most,  just happened to have fishing poles, Gary and Robert partaking of the invitation, but alas, a catch to no avail.


One extended weekend during Mike’s youthful summer days, his cousin’s family made a captivating camping trip to the Trinity Alps and a fishing expedition to the iridescent Tangle Blue Lake.  The caravan assembly traversing the steep incline of the logging drag trails finding  all seven in an open-air jeep,  Fess’s brother Wilbur sitting on the hood to hold the front end down,  the four youngsters remaining in the back with the camping equipment.  Etna also provided Mike with a young lady encounter, her name was Bobbi Brown, her father was the editor a of the towns newspaper,  they would roller skate,  attend the movie at the Star Theatre,  hike Etna Creek together and in the warm summer evenings  sit under the clear star filled sky and talk,  a new but lasting experience for a 12-year-old.  The summer ended,  Mike returning to his East Oakland Hills home, the two corresponded briefly by mail,  but like the summer,  it also ended.


Aunt Bernice’s Breakfast was déjà vu for Gary and a new experience for the family, his Aunt providing a copious breakfast, making several brands of cereal available, a glass pitcher of milk, its bottle or a carton container never permitted on the table, a bowl fresh fruit, eggs, pancakes, the syrup also in a glass syrup container and to Roberts delight, rainbow trout, pan-fried, their heads and tail still attached, a journey back in time for the eldest Willson.   Gary finding the June mornings crisp at Etna’s 3000 foot level, Fess after retiring from his county road crew employment, subscribed to an occupation that he had maintained as a sideline, an animal processor, harvesting and processing customers personal or vending products.  His previous home on Diggles street sitting on over an acre, with a small barn, pig sty and a Holstein cow providing milk for several customers.

A morning found Robert as an observer.  Fess, backing his pickup to the shop door, the arm of the hoist protruding, its cable lowered,  lifting a hog up out of the bed by its hind legs, then lowering to a metal platform on rollers.  Robert remained watching,  Fess with knife in hand  began the butchering process, a decision to leave was hesitant, but would be  forthcoming, Gary understood, having watched Fess harvest a live steer from start to finish when he was Roberts age.

The allotted time for continuing their journey having finally arrived. saying goodbye was difficult, not so much to his aunt and cousins but to the aura of the past that resided there, deep inside, Gary sheltered a secret desire,  Like Robert Conway in James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”,   It was to someday return, to  “Shangri-La”.