Archive for April, 2017

A Second Venture North….. #31 (the 50’s)

April 30, 2017



It was 2 years ago that his parents had put Gary aboard  a Greyhound Bus at the San Pablo station, to spend some time with his Uncle Sam and Aunt Bernice in Etna, but this time he would be staying with his cousin Jerry Facey, her husband Fess and their three children, Sammy, Deane, and Trudy.  The Scenicruiser  departing the San Pablo Station at 10 P.M., traveling thru the darken morning hours, arriving at day-break in Yreka to be met by his Aunt Della Eastlick.


On his arrival, a somewhat still sleepy 12 year old finding the morning passing slowly at his aunts, patiently expecting the arrival of his cousins.  A car halting in front of the house, and to his astonishment it wasn’t Jerry and Fess, but his Aunt Bernice providing the journey over Yreka Mountain to Scott Valley and Etna.


The Facey’s house on Diggles Street was separated from his Uncle Sam and Aunt Bernice’s’  by a now vacant Cortez family house, and his cousins three quarter acre pasture.  Gary curious to the whereabouts of Patricia Cortez, and her little brother whom he had made friends with two years earlier.  Once settled in with the family, Gary getting acquainted with his younger second cousins, doing some reading, and playing his cousin slightly out of tune upright piano.  In some aspects it was becoming prosaic, having yet to tap his inventiveness,   Their Etna acreage was not without other occupants, the Facey’s  possessed a Holstein  cow named Boss, a well fed hog housed at the end of the pasture and a number of rabbits and chickens.  Gary was accorded an opportunity to milk the cow, and nurture the animal menagerie, his cousin Fess giving the opportunity of choice.  After experiencing both chores, the youth deciding not to participate in the milking activity, but would adhere to the feeding.


Festus Nimrod Facey was a Mountain of a Man, not only in size, but possessing an aura of sparkling amiability that radiated from his Persona, his disposition was always like Sunshine on a cloudy day.  He could  sense that Gary wasn’t too happy with this visit, the youth being several years older than his second cousins, and presented him with an alternative offer.   Fess asking if he would like to accompany him to work with the Scott Valley County road crew,  the youth quickly accepting  this opportunity to  experience a new venture.   The last time he had accompanied Fess on a work related mission was during his stay with his Aunt Bernice and Uncle Sam, the night of the formidable fire that destroyed Etna’s only sawmill.



The County Barn was the name given the large building where the local county crew stored the road maintenance equipment.  The Etna crew maintained a bulldozer,  two road-graders, a dump truck, and a water tanker with sprayer, to service the mostly gravel and dirt roads that frequented the area.  Fess was the primary operator of the water tanker,  acquainted with all the water supply locations from the numerous Tributaries flowing out of the mountainous terrain into the Scott River.  Among the tankers equipment, Gary discovered an item used during the idle time while the pump extracted water from the local stream, a fishing pole.  Accompanying Fess on the water tanker,  the youth getting very  proficient at starting the gasoline pump motor and attaching the filling hose that extended into the water source.   On one occasions when the road-grader driver called in sick, Fess operated the grader with young Gary aboard,  demonstrating how to run the grader with its many levers for raising, lowering, changing angles and the pitch of the blade, letting the Youngster have a turn at the controls.    Accompanying Fess on the water tanker,  the youth getting very  proficient at starting the gasoline pump motor and attaching the filling hose that extended into the water source.   On one occasions when the road-grader driver called in sick, Fess operated the grader with young Gary aboard,  demonstrating how to run the grader with its many levers for raising, lowering, changing angles and the pitch of the blade, letting the youngster have a turn at the controls.




It was a stormy Saturday afternoon when Fess received a phone call requesting that he take the county pickup and check a road for washout water damage because of the thunderstorm.  Fess asking if Gary wanted to  join him, the two proceeding across the valley in a steady downpour while the storm continued to heighten, raising to a  crowning peak.  The vehicle being buffeted with high winds, and a blinding driven Torrent of rain such as the young man had never seen. Fess stopping the pickup, waiting as the lightning blazed and streaked across the sky, the echoing thunder shaking the pickup, and the  earth seeming to roll in sequence with the sound.  The roar reaching a crescendo,  golf ball size hail stones pelted the surroundings,  Stripping the foliage from the shrubs and bushes and Gary taking notice, dispersed among the hail stones were other smaller animate objects.  Gary couldn’t believe his eyes, the small objects descending from the vaults of heaven and covering the ground were frogs.  Hundreds of small frogs,  recognizable as tree frogs plummeting earth bound.  All he could think of was, “no one will ever believe us!”.  The weather beginning to subside enough for the two to travel on.  Continuing back to Etna,  Fess notified the other members of the county crew about Impending road and culvert washouts,  but giving no mention of frogs.


Fishing on weekends was a given, the rainbow and eastern brook trout were bountiful with a limit of 14,  but Gary discovering, for some reason when it came to fish limits, the residence of Scott Valley couldn’t count.  Gary having only fished for trout once before and not very successful at either bait or fly casting, but was anticipating the challenge.   Fess was an avid bear hunter and deer harvester, his work related Travels of the mountainous county roads enabled him in securing signs of possible bear locations, and enabling his quota during Deer Season,  ensuring that those who accompanied him did the same.



When it came to  fishing, Gary preferred bait over fly casting, using the plentiful grasshoppers captured in the field behind the Facey house, but favored the most trout enticing bait, the hellgrammites, a small crustacean covered larva of the dobson fly, found adhered to the rocks on the shoreline of the small streams. With Fess as in instructor, it wasn’t long before the young man felt confident with the rod and reel, and more important was the confidence in how to read the water cascades and pools, learning to recognize where the fish foraged.   Fess’s outdoor tutorage continued, The city youth introduced to another water homage challenge, this time amphibian, frog gigging, the two traveling a short distance out-of-town one evening to where a rural road bridge crossed a small stream.   Standing at the railing, Gary could see the stream having formed an eddy, about the length of the small bridge in circumference, and was host to a population of bullfrogs, their head visible above the water, beginning  their nighttime communication ritual.  Fess handing the youth a fishing pole with a Three-Pronged Hook attached to the line, Directing him to lower it just below the water level, then bring it up behind the unsuspecting idle frog, gigging It.  Gary didn’t count the number of frogs taken, but it was more than enough for The Facey family to enjoy a meal of frog legs.


It was always said: ” If you make plenty of noise you will never see wildlife in the woods.”   Gary was fishing,  making his way over the rocks on Etna Creek,  Fess having crossed to the other side   It was over the sound of the rushing water he heard a chilling sound.   He froze.   It was what he had been told to do,  but then again, his Instinct said get away from the sound.  The problem was,  With the roar of the rushing water he couldn’t determine the direction of the alarming source.  He knew what the intonation was,  it was the sound of a rattle snake, a scary moment, especially when heard but not seen.   Which way to go, his mind racing, the decision had to be made quickly, Into the river, towards the woods, or continue upstream, The decision was made, back the way he had come, the warning no longer auditable, but a reminder of the exploit remained.


Just the name, Tangle Blue, sounded like adventure to 12 year old Gary , and what was more intriguing ,  Fess, and his brother Albert drove up in a military style 4 wheel-drive jeep.  The question was how to fit three adults, four kids, and the camping equipment into a jeep?, Where There’s a Will,  There’s Away.


The expedition traveled south on Highway 3,… crossing the east fork of the Scott River 16 miles south of Callahan, turning west on what appeared to be a firebreak or logging road paralleling Tangle Blue Creek, the makeshift road ending shy of the lake.  The uphill forest enshrouded incline presenting a problem, the weight distribution in the back of the jeep causing the front wheels to barely make contact with the ground.   Albert solved the problem by sitting on the hood, his added weight up front was just what was needed.



Arriving, setting up camp at the small Lake nestled below a 6900 foot peak, with patches of snow still remaining, undisturbed by the Sun.  The weekend finding Fess and Albert having success fishing,  Gary yet to master the challenge, never having lake fished before,  somewhat dismayed to stand and reel-in a bobber, his youthful impatience’s beginning to show.   Deciding to explore, including the shoreline for a creek exiting the lake, discovering a small stream but with very little water Flow.  Any disappointment was short lived with the beckoning of the nearby peak and the overwhelming presence of  the wondrous surroundings painting an unforgettable picture.


The blonde haired girl’s name was Bobbi Brown,  she was Gary’s age.  She resided one block away on Center St. in a two-story house with her mother,  younger sister and father, who was the editor and publisher of Etna’s weekly newspaper.   The two met after a movie in Etna’s small theatre one evening, Gary introducing himself,  walking Bobbi and her sister home after the movie,  He enjoyed being with her and before leaving asked if he could see her again. This was the beginning of the two spending time together.  Gary experiencing a feeling of comfort he had never experienced before. Fess soon recognized that Gary was spending his evening with Bobbi and kidded him about not wanting to go with him in the mornings, which in many respects was true.


Gary finally deciding to Spend the remaining vacation days with Bobbi and her little sister, the three gathering fishing equipment, hiking up Etna Creek, fishing, or venturing into the wooded mountain area with a sack lunch. The evenings together were transcendent, the clear warm nights provided a wonderful view of the heavens, Gary with his youthful knowledge of astronomy naming the constellations,  planets, and those stars he knew, pointing out the Pleiades, better known as the Seven Sisters, one of the more recognizable groups decorating the heavens.  His conversations with Bobbi was not one of Boasting, but making idle talk of his ventures and of life’s Impressions.   This new incongruous experience and emotion began to play heavy on him,  emitting a secret desire to remain in Etna,  not only because of Bobbi,  but because of the ambiance of Scott Valley,  a Shangri La exponent, a youthful image from Lost Horizons,  a haven from reality unto itself.


The arrival of the family car was expected,  Gary’s father, mother and two sisters having journeyed from Oakland to retrieve their family member, he was saddened that his Scott Valley Visit had drawn to a close.  It was homeward bound, back to school, He and Bobbi  having exchanged address’s, with a promise to correspond.   A  farewell Bidding to his cousins, and the enriching experience, forever cherishing the memory of this past summer month.


Oakland Tribune – An Awakening…..#32 (the 50’s)

April 29, 2017


In the past Gary Willson never realized the gravity of  financial insolvency,  money being something you spend when you possess it,  and abstain when you don’t,  a very simple rule to follow.    Stacking bottles at Koplos Market when the opportune was a means of securing unexpected financial returns, but the job was on a,  “as needed basis.    A more profitable past resource for gains was a lawn  mowing  and grass trimming endeavor that flourished for several months until a month-long vacation to Etna provided an abdication.    Gary was open to suggestion for economic opportunity and as fortune would have it,  they materialized.


His friends,  Hank Ball and Don Bryant,  after  moving up to Junior High secured employment with the Oakland Tribune delivering the daily paper.    Gary also entertained this train of thought upon entering Junior High.    Before applying with the Tribune he accompanied Don on his paper route in preparation to substitute for him during a brief vacation, and to discover the responsibilities of the undertaking.  He considered the responsibility and commitment and also the benefits of employment  versus those of being unemployed,  the bottom line was  financial substance.



Gary’s Mother was upset,  in order to secure a position with the Tribune as a carrier,  you must be bonded,  and for some reason their bank would not provide a bond,  but this setback  didn’t stop the boy’s Mother,  there was more than one bank in town.    With the bond secured, Gary became an independent newspaper dealer with the Oakland Tribune, and in reality he was a delivery subcontractor,  who was billed each month for the papers received.   It was the carrier’s responsibility to go door to door collecting the monthly amount due from each customer and submit his payment to the tribune by the 10th of every month.   It wasn’t unusual for the 12-year-old to go out and collect 70 to 80 dollars in one evening.

The Tribune provided a delivery location and a district manager to supervise and distribute the paper bundles to the carriers.  They also saw to the monthly incentive programs for maintaining complaint free service and increasing subscription circulation.   The papers were delivered by truck six days a week at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon and Sunday mornings at 5:30 a.m. to an old converted garage on the corner of Field St. and Sterling Drive  a short distance from Crest Ave..  The old building was better known as The Paper Shack.   Each bundle of papers came with a route  number on it,  Gary’s route being LW-37,  the LW designating the area district.   Most routes consisted of 40 to 50 customers,  which was about all that newspaper delivery bags could hold.   Most deliveries were made by walking or bicycle,  Sunday was the exception, carts had to be used to deliver the papers because of the comics and advertising inserts that increased the Sunday Edition  size.

The Shack was lined with counters for folding  newspapers and an ancient desk for  District Manager Scotty, whose responsibilities included checking route numbers on arriving bundles for correct quantity,  and maintaining a large wall route assignment board with all his carriers listed.   This visual perspective was an incentive score board,  each carrier starting with the same number of points,  but change was possible, losing points for receiving complaints, gaining points for new Tribune subscriptions.  A monthly trip, event, or sporting goods necessities would be offered for acquiring a postulated  number of points.  Points could be obtained securing new local customers or by joining Scotty in his company provided car to canvas other areas of the city for subscribers.   Trips included the Santa Cruz Boardwalk by train,  the California State Fair,  Rocky Marciano Training Camp at Calistoga Springs,  Playland at the Beach in San Francisco, and many others,  all meals and transportation provided.   Gary could hardly wait to commence.


Gary’s  route was 3 1/2 blocks long and normally consisted of 43 customers,  starting at Keller Avenue for one block,  then the  2 1/2  blocks of Winthrope Street which terminated at a wheat field and pasture acreage on the south.  The enterprise netted  a little more than thirty dollars profit per month, but it provided capital that he wouldn’t otherwise have.   The biggest benefit was a lesson in responsibility,  he alone was responsible to deliver the newspapers,  do the collecting and procure a money order and transact the payment.  He was obligated every day with no exception,  to be on time and provide his customers with personal service,  whether it’s throwing a paper on a porch, placing it behind a screen door,  or depositing it in a newspaper tube or mail box.  He questioned himself about enduring the long-term undertaking and whether he could be resolute in staying the course, but being a judiciously tenacious person, it was confirmed, he could,  and would.


Sunday mornings Gary would set his alarm for 5:30 a.m. which would get him to The Paper Shack by 6,   do the inserts,  fold papers and start down the hill with his homemade pull-cart,  entering his route on Keller and finishing at the end Winthrope.  On some Sunday mornings, especially rainy ones,  he would attempt to convince his Dad to take him on his route.   The 36 Oldsmobile was superlative for delivering papers, it had full length wide  running boards for standing and  his Dad on many occasion would respond affirmative and a motorized fast delivery was assured.


Being first frequently has it benefits, and  some Sunday mornings Gary would arrive at The Paper Shack location early before all others.  He would walk  to Crest Ave and  from the hill-top,  gaze and bear witness to the artistry of the panoramic view of the city escalating and stretching below  him.   The yellow glow of lights adorning the bay bridge and a similar aspect shimmering from the distant Golden Gate structure.   The silhouette of San Francisco showered in aphotic shadows of a predawn day.  The landscaped topography with the soft luminous effulgence, the glow of streetlights marking the crisscrossing roadways,  a silent composition  prevailing in the sleeping city.   Ever so slowing like the purple hue of a dawning morning sky, ever so gently wakening ,  it began, first as a whisper quietly making itself  known.   Then a disclosure  expressing a sound of movement.   A gaining of momentum starting to build,  becoming louder and  louder, then echoing its boisterous presence.  Then blatantly  bursting forth, giving notice of its  might – the roar of the city, an awakening.



Forthcoming Contrivance……..#33 (the 50’s)

April 28, 2017

Shone Ave raceway

  The morning bus ride to Frick Junior High was crowded and hurried and didn’t coincide with Gary’s conception of a placid morning  journey and the start of his school day.  He rode his bike one morning only to confirm that the downhill ride to Frick was satisfactory, but having to walk the bike up 73rd avenue on the way home was way too time consuming.  Giving his morning bus ride more thought, the solution became obvious, it would entail some adjustment to his morning routine  but also would involve a person who dwelled in an autonomous world, set in his ways  and not easily moved to change.  In essence his solution was conceivable, the only question was asking the question.  Giving some thought to having a host of reasons for asking, but deciding to be straightforward and just ask, hopefully a straightforward answer would be given.  It was done, the question asked,  the answer given, tomorrow morning would introduce a new morning presence,  from now on Gary would no longer have to deal with the morning public transportation, his Dad would drop him off at school on the way to work.

Paul Pierre

The young man’s new arrival time at school was 7:30 a.m., the elder Willson depositing his son  on the 64th Ave side of the school.   Gary discovering that the administration office door was unlocked at 7:30 and Mr. Tabor,  a P.E. instructor opened the gym at 7:45 a.m..   He soon found arriving at school early has its advantages, if necessary he could seat himself in the office and finish uncompleted homework assignments, or most likely fare to the gym,  requisition a ball and participate in before school sports activity.  This introduction to the school day was definitely an improvement,  discovering a former Burckhalter Elementary classmate, Paul Pierre also arrived early seating himself in the office, the two often comparing homework assignment results.  On occasion his friend Hank Ball would follow suit and he too would arrive early, the two organizing a before school touch football game with other early arrivals.  This new arrangement bringing Gary to rethink his morning assessment of Junior High.

Playland at the beach

Main Gate at Travis Air Force Base

Ferris Wheel at the State Fair

The Tribune paper route pretty much limited after school activity, Gary striving to complete his delivery by 5:00 or 5:30 at the latest.  Each month the Tribune offered incentives for acquiring new subscriptions,  those  carriers who succeeded in acquiring new subscribers were awarded points toward prizes and often excursions to exciting destinations.  Gary succeeding to visit to the museum of natural history, aquarium at San Francisco’s  Golden  Gate Park,  Playland at the Beach, Travis Air Force Base and many other locations traveling with other city carriers.   On one occasion the three friends, Hank, Don and  Gary  with several other buses filled with Tribune carriers having qualified for a trip to the California State Fair in Sacramento.  The three having a memorable moment on the ferris-wheel ride when caught targeting the people below with their Pea Shooters, the concessionaire taking them to task and sternly warning them he would  have them expelled if they continued,  the Pea Shooters remaining in their pockets for the remainder of the fair.

Roller Coaster on the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz

One summer month Scotty the district manager posted an unbelievable trip, but it also  requiring a much  higher number of points, meaning new subscriptions.  The excursion was to go by train to the Boardwalk On the Beach at Santa Cruz.  The trip included tickets to all the concessions and an off shore ride on the inboard powered speed boat, plus a meal and snack on the train, Gary knowing from past Tribune trips the meal would be a sack-lunch.   An all out effort to qualify was enacted with door to door solicitation, Scotty supplying transportation for a group of the boys to other Oakland neighborhoods in the evening hours.  Gary found the concerned effort paying dividends, qualifying for the trip, but soon  discovering that with the  good news was the  bad news.  The good news being he qualified, but the bad news,  he was the only one from the LW district to achieve a trip.  His dad dropping him off on a Saturday morning at the Southern Pacific substation at 73rd and San Leandro Blvd.  He could tell by the switch engine type locomotive and the number of cars that in all likelihood this wasn’t a normal scheduled train.  This was his first time on a regular train, having made many trips on the A train across the Bay Bridge, he was looking forward to the ride itself and a new experience.  From his window  he immediately discovered that the passing view revealed the slighted areas of town adjacent to the tracks, but once entering the terrain of the Santa Cruz mountains the scene changed.  Gary was surprised that the train actually stopped on Beach Street adjacent to the Boardwalk, he and the trainload of other Tribune carriers disembarking. The solitary youth not knowing anyone else deciding to go it alone, spending a somewhat doldrums day, the rides not quite as exciting when by oneself.  Having brought his swim trunks, he had a rude awakening when diving into the boardwalk pool, it was salt water, deciding if he wanted to swim in salt water he had the whole pacific ocean before him.  Another disappointment was the speed boat ride, advertised as a once in a lifetime thrill ride, the boat was small able to seat six all putting on bulky life jackets. Boarding from the pier the ride paralleled the boardwalk darting  close to the outlying breakers but maintaining a distance from the beach.  The smell of gasoline and oil from the automotive type motor permeated the boat and Gary deciding the only thrill was the spray when the pilot gave it full throttle when making made turn.  The late afternoon train ride back to Oakland was hot, for some reason either the air conditioning was turned off or maybe the aged Pullman cars didn’t have it, Gary deciding even alone the trip it provided another accomplishment.

The boys all starting with a basic design

Some of the steep hills surrounding the neighborhood like 82nd and 73rd Ave. were such that you had to walked your bicycle up.   Shone Ave., the steep street that coursed up the hill by Gary and Don Bryant’s house was steep,  most riders found it unattainable walking their bike, but like all young people to prove a point Gary managed to pedal his way up using the side to side switch-back method.   When  Life Magazine published a story about 50,000 people attending the soap box derby in Akron Ohio,  it fueled an idea in the young man’s head.  With  2×4’s, a 1×12 board,  wooden boxes,  two twelve-inch  wheels and two of  his sisters roller skates,  he had the material for a down hill coaster laid out before him.  With a design anchored in his head,  he proceeded to assemble his coaster,  a name preferred over a Soap Box Derby designation.  Don and Hank followed with their own downhill transporter, but with far less inventiveness.   Their coaster was basic and simple, consisting  of a board ,  front and rear 2×4’s for mounting the wheels.   The rear wheels fixed and the front ones fasten to a 2×4 with a bolt in the center that swiveled  by using  your feet and a rope.   Gary was more innovative by necessity, he mounted a box in front  and a seat with a back,  that was well braced to support him. At one time he added vertical braces and a plywood roof,  but that was too much and he removed it in favor of a more sporty look . Gary never  won a race,  the reason,  Hank and Don had four wheels which was decidedly faster than  having two fixed rear wheels and roller skates providing the steering.  He couldn’t match their speed, but they couldn’t achieve his antics.  When navigating a turn, the skates would slide sideways sending the coaster into a sliding hazardous looking turn and providing a much more convivial ride.  Hanks residence was on Sterling Drive, the first house past the intersecting downhill Shone Avenue, the starting point of the racing endeavor.  The coasters providing a dangerous but enjoyable ride, the boys ignoring that they didn’t have a means for stopping,  giving no thought to the possibility of automotive traffic, but retaining the knowledge,  there was never any traffic on their neighborhood streets.

The engagement with the coaster was short-lived,  Gary being satisfied with the accomplishment.   He reasoned:  somethings in life can appear equate and mundane but if you behold a search,  the find may prevail as a promontory achievement.

Teenage Mechanism………….#34 (the 50’s)

April 26, 2017

Sign of the times

The bus ride home from Frick Junior High was over, Gary walking with Linda Grindstaff  from the bus stop, the seventh graders making comments about  school and the fads of dress appearance.   Gary having never given serious thought to dress or countenance,  but Linda opened a closed-door.  She was good natured in her comments,  pointing out the differences in classmates.

She was correct, his friends,  Don Bryant and Hank Ball sported flat tops,  and there were other differences that he recognized,  both having expensive brands of  clothes.   Even at Burckhalter elementary,  Don and Hank always dressed better than many of the others,  Gary accrediting their up-scale clothes to an accepted  fact,  their family income,  Don’s father a banker, and Hanks Dad, the general manager of Ball Cannery.

He realized that there were those who appraised a person by appearance or attire, but Gary was more into assessing people by their character, their interest and the way they acted.   The youth was aware of the struggle his family endured to provide the necessities for him and his sisters,  and for the most part felt comfortable in his appearance.  He was discovering that junior high was far different from elementary school,  where you spent six years with the same classmates, in the same room all day.   Your classmates were more like brother and sisters, accepting each other, and for some reason, they always looked the same no matter how they dressed.  With some thought,  it was a truism, like family, Linda was always Linda, and Hank was always Hank,  regardless of what they were wearing.

Gary realized that a midterm class didn’t have a new craze or fad to contend with, unlike the Fall Semester class entering junior high after summer vacation.  There was no school break for the start of the spring semester,  the grade change for the midterm class seemed like a continuation of the school year.   The introduction of style and fad was a new issue thrust upon the new seventh grader.  The latest clothing fad at school was Levi’s,  and because of family finances, and their higher cost, Gary would  settling for a generic brand pair of jeans, but with his new found Tribune paper route income offering to  supplement the added cost, it wasn’t long before he was finally able to acquire his one and only pair of  Levi’s.  It was a well-known fact that Levi’s wearers would go weeks without washing them,  even to the point of hiding their jeans from their weekly wash.   It was commonly believed they would shrink, fade , and lose their distinctly dark appearance if coming in contact with water,  Gary attempting to participate in this long standing practice but to no avail,  no thanks to an alert Mother.

School dress codes were strict and adhered to, especially the precept concerning T shirts.  The rule being  rigorously enforced, the school code providing that T-shirts could only be worn under a button shirt or pullover sweater.  The students abdicating the rule the minute they were off the school grounds,  it was off with the button shirt,  and behold,  Levi’s and T shirts prevailed.


his well ordained tradition coming to an abrupt end when the  enviable happened,  summer vacation, and the fall semester finding a  new clothing sensation having been marketed.   Ivy League Denims were in, the new clothing sensation taking the school by storm,  pastel colors, button down collar shirts, and denim pants with a decorative belt in the back.   It was a welcome change to some, but others remaining faithful to Levi Strauss.   It didn’t  stop with pants and shirts, a new adage was adopted, wingtip shoes,  and with them,  came the reverbing  sound of horseshoe taps echoing in the school corridors.

Besides the advent of wingtips,  the junior high boys sported a new version of necktie, it was called tennis shoes.  In junior high the boys didn’t dress for gym except for shoes, it was soon realized that the best way to carry your tennis shoes  from your school locker to  gym class,  was with laces tied together and the shoes slung around your neck,  not surprising, the inventiveness of the student body was limitless.   The only apparel that for a time seemed to remain the same was the denim jacket,  and soon it would be altered.    It was officially known as a Varsity Letterman Jacket,  but it was better known on the school grounds as a forty niner jacket,  named  for the San Francisco NFL team.  It was a wool jacket with leather arms, and unfortunately price prohibitive for Gary until a pseudo brand was finally manufactured.  The school environment was transforming,   shirt,  pants,  shoes,  jacket,  hair style,  a teenage mechanism was in development.

Gary reasoned, status was never endowed, only acquired,  and junior high awakened him to a new social perspective. A question remained, did he want to be ushered into this rapidly filling communal,  only time would tell


Acclivous Goal…………………#35 (the 50’s)

April 24, 2017

Scenic Redwood Regional Park in Oakland

The days of spur-of-the-moment activity were gone, no more rounding up the tag-along gang and heading for the hills.   Gary missed those days,  but he having developed a camaraderie with older friends and being the youngest was meaningful,  as he had to prove his capacity for adjudication.    Acquainting Hank and Don to his realm of Sulphur  Mines, the likes of  Devils Punchbowl and his hiking ventures was easy, finding their earnestness passing. The assumption being made, their preoccupation was curiosity, not a yearning for exploration, or fulfilling a beckoning imagination within that he retained.   Gary was ready, having proposed a new outing which entailed residing overnight on a camping expedition to Redwood Regional Park, a secluded park nestled atop the hills overlooking Oakland, the only drawback was that would require permission of their parents.  Having not doubt of his parents permission, he presented his intent to Don and Hank hoping that their power of parental persuasion was strong enough and to his astonishment their parents  concurred.   The preparation was deliberate,  a mental list was made,  sleeping bag,  water,  cooking utensils and substance provisions including toilet paper.  Gary was familiar with the camping needs from his prior trips with his cousin during his summers in Etna.   Hank and Don having never shared information about a camping experiences with Gary,  so he accorded his knowledge concerning what should be taken and all was made ready.   The time  was decided upon completion of their weekend newspaper routes,  they would backpack sleeping bags and provisions,  mount their bikes and depart for their uphill destination.

An entry portal into Redwood Regional Park

The Towering Redwoods reaching upwards to embrace the sky

The Towering Redwoods reaching upwards to embrace the sky

The three-mile northwest ride on Mountain Blvd was insipid to Gary,  having traveled this artery many times before to the Sulphur Mines.   He did wonder about Hank and Don as they were not known to venture in this foothill domain.   Reaching the junction of Redwood Road they proceeded up the two-miles of winding asphalt byway having to walk their bikes a good part of the time on this uphill journey.   Once reaching the summit, crossing Skyline Blvd, the group continued on the now descending Redwood Road soon discovering one of the portal entry’s.   The three youths entering the park seeking  a camping area to spend the night.   They continued on the marked pathways and trails searching for a remote area, wanting an isolated camp site but not one  on public display.    The boys finding a suitable secluded area that looked to have been used for a camping purpose in the past from the presence of a small rock pit.   Sleeping bags spread,  the flames from the small campfire casting shadows on the Redwoods reaching upwards to embrace the sky as darkness entered nature’s domain.   Gary aspired to view the lustrous stars of a clear night sky,  but their celestial radiance  hidden by the arborary towering  redwoods.   silence abounded,   broken only by the sounds of the night,  the  rustling of nature,   a refraining voice,   then solitude.

Breakfast by campfire

Breakfast by campfire was at hand,  Gary was alone in bringing camping cooking utensil, and realizing  he was the only one of the three that had any scouting experience.   He wasn’t surprised that he was the only coffee drinker,  because coffee was considered an adult beverage to some,  but allowable in his household.   Breaking camp,  the group held a discussion  before descending on their long steep downhill journey, having  heard stories of bicyclist losing their  brakes going down the two mile grade of Redwood Road and a disastrous ending.    A decision was made to stop halfway down the curving grade and check the brakes for overheating.   Redwood Road wasn’t as steep as the familiar 82nd or 73rd Ave. it  was just longer and Gary soon discovered you could control your speed without your brakes overheating.   The journey down Redwood Road fulfilled, the three acquainting the wayward Mountain Blvd, the overnight experience was impressionable to the young teenagers.  The boys realizing  it was the first time they were allowed to spend a night without accessible adult supervision.   Gary reasoned, Parental trust is an acclivous goal.

Rocky Marciano vs Max Baer………..#36 (the 50’s)

April 22, 2017

Rocky vs Max

Gary sat among  56 Oakland Tribune Paper Route Carriers and a District Manager.   The bus was leaving from Oakland and would journey up Highway 80 to the junction of 29 and travel north to Calistoga.   He felt exuberant for the concerted effort ,  spending many hours soliciting subscriptions in order to accumulate the required points posted on carriers activity board to justify his presence.    Destination was the training camp location  for The Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World,  Rocky Marciano.    The 75  mile trip thru the picturesque Napa valley,  terminating at  famed Calistoga,  noted for its hot springs,  healing mineral waters,  California’s Old faithful, a geyser mimicking the one in Yellowstone National Park, and the presence of Rocky Marciano,  adding another measure of notoriety.

Once again the teenager was the only representative from his Tribune district to qualify for a trip and his hard work wasn’t employed for  enjoying the amenities of the Calistoga mineral spring water.     He was there to observe and analyze the fighter and validate justification for all the adulation given him.   Gary recalled a past experience of meeting an iconic heavyweight champion,  Max Baer.

The boy’s father taking him to a Teamsters Union Benefit Program  held at the Oakland Municipal Auditorium on 10th St.    It was hosted by Harry Babbitt,  a big band vocalist from years past and currently  hosting  a morning CBS radio program.     A featured program speaker was Max Baer,  an idol of Gary’s dad,  who defeated Primo Carnara,  the 6’6”  Italian giant  for the heavyweight championship in 1934.   Max won the popularity contest, but  lost his only title defense,  but to Gary’s Dad,  he’s  still a hero.

When leaving the auditorium after the program,  Max happened to exit onto the street meeting them and others.  With a small group beginning to gather,  he began to pass out dollar bills.   Gary approached,  receiving a dollar and shaking  the champions hand,  his only thought being what a big, big hand.    Later at home,  his Dad took the dollar bill, inscribed the date and that Max Baer had presented it to Gary being be put away for safe keeping,  a treasured memento.


The boxing ring was in a gym size area having portable bleachers on two sides.   The time was approaching for Rocco Francis Marchegiano,  Rocky Marciano to enter.   Gary’s first impression was one of disappointment,  the champion was the same height as his Dad,  5 foot 10,  the youth expecting someone similar in stature as the  6 foot 2  Max Baer,  it was a letdown for the young man.   The Champion sparred with an opponent and again the boy was disappointed,  he and his Dad having attended a heavyweight fight at the Oakland Auditorium Arena,  sitting ringside.   When neighboring ringside, Gary found,  it’s inconceivable not to realize the amount of power and force that heavyweight fighter deliver with their blows, and in Gary’s opinion, the sparring blows were nothing but love taps.   He left disconcerted,  deciding to partake of the amenities provided by  the spring water after all.

The water in the pool was cold and immediately a question resonated, where’s the water from the hot springs?  The question remained unanswered,  Gary having brought his swimming trunks as was suggested,   soon awaken to the reality,  the calescent liquid from the ground wasn’t destined for the pool, instead diverted to the commercial money-making spa’s.  He continued to swim in the mundane temperature of the pool, tooling with the idea of purchasing a souvenir to commemorate this excursion.   Wandering back by Rocky’s training area he was  astonished,  there stood the heavy weight champion of the world conversing with onlookers, mostly kids his age.

Upon returning from his Tribune venture from Calistoga,  Gary’s negative opinion of Rocky had totally waned,   he realized, judgmental  observation should never be made on first impressions,  but on substance,  and Rocky had yet to be defeated in 48 bouts with 42 knockouts, totally destroying Don Cockell, the fight whom he was training for at Calistoga.  Gary having come to the conclusion,  making unjustified  criticism is a loss for everyone.

Neoteric Similitude’s……….#37 (the 50’s)

April 20, 2017

A Junior High beginning

A normal Frick Junior High boys gym class was divided between the two full-time P. E. instructors,  Mr. Perry,  Mr. Tabor and part-time Mr. Svedsen,  each assisted by a ninth grade student designated as an accredited Junior Coach.   Each P. E.  class  consisting of  approximately thirty-five boys  and those students were divided into four units,  providing intramural team competition.   Dressing for gym  amounted  to the boys changing into tennis shoes as the rule was, no leather soled shoes allowed on the gym floor.   Opportunities were afforded those with more stringent athletic desires to participate in  special gymnastics and tumbling,  but Gary being of a lesser stature , although very much a sports enthusiast remained one of those that participated in the normal P.E. class activity.

One day Mr. Perry and Mr. Tabor had the boys assemble in the gym, the class being seated on benches along the wall facing towards the sliding petition that  separated the boys half of the gym from the girls.   Gary having never been present when the petition was opened,  watching as it began to move,  exhibiting the girls class seated on benches opposite them, the boys staring  with perplexity and more striking discovering that  the girls hadn’t changed into their gym clothes.   The girls P.E. Instructor standing mid-court, beginning a dissertation on the proper acceptability of socializing between genders and would like the boy and girls to demonstrate by dancing.   What followed  was the  P.A.  system proclaiming dance music and Gary like the others just set there, both the boys and the girls staring across the gym floor at each other.  After some pronounced encouragement some of  the boys traversed the invisible divide and danced with their girl acquaintances,   the  steadfast in obelisk state finally broken.   This P.E. class introduction to the dance having a secondary purpose,  soon thereafter a notice was posted for an upcoming Friday evening school dance.

No leather-sole shoes allowed on the dance floor

Jr. High realm of music

The latest craze – The Bop

It was Hank’s Dad that was asked to provide transportation to the Junior High Dance, doors opened at eight and the activity coming to a conclusion at eleven, Gary’s Father furnishing the ride home.   The boys entering the gymnasium thru the 64th Ave. door.   Mrs. Vrettol, Gary’s music teacher and some chaperoning parents were seated at a table welcoming the students.   The gym was decorated with posters as well as crape paper and the sound of current popular hits flooding the gym, Doris Day’s, Secret Love; The Crew Cuts,  Sk-Boom; Gogi Grant, The Wayward Wind.  Music knowing no bounds, both classical and contemporary having become a cornerstone in his life he was familiar with all the current hits having become an avid fan of the Burgie Music Box and Lucky Larger Dance Time radio broadcast.   The radio broadcast of the Burgie Music Box starting at 9:30 p.m., followed the Richfield Reporter followed by the Lucky Larger Dance Time airing five night a week having added to his music realm, having discovered that the past and current songs inundating the pulse of  history and current events.

Sue Bowers

Jr. High Gary

Gary having been exposed to dancing as were the members of his Burckhalter sixth grade class, his Mother educating his elementary school class in the graphic art during a periodical weekly participation called rhythm time.  His PTA mom volunteering to teach the classic baroque of the 18th century, the waltz, old fashion square dancing, and letting the class free style with the current craze of the day.  During the junior high dance Gary noticed that the girls would sometimes dance with each other but realized it was only because the boys never asked.  He discovered a chance to dance with redhead Claudia Weber who normally would be with Cashmere Paul, a name Gary pinned on Paul Peterson because of his expensive sweaters.   Paul Peterson’s  Mother operated a dress shop in the Mills College shopping area and was one of the sponsors of the Mills Merchants baseball team he and Hank played on.   He and Carol Ayous having  special relationship,  giving her a silver bracelet sporting his name and walking her home after school until his Tribune Route put and end to this endeavor.    He still enjoyed talking with her on the phone and was lamented to find that she would be moving to Concord.   He soon discovered a very striking petite girl who vivacity signature was dancing cheek to cheek.    Her name was Sue Bowers and her consequential lasting impression resonated with him.  The advent of the school dance filling a needed void, Gary coming to reason that his world was one-dimensional, that it was time to open another door.

The  Frick’s Student District encompassed a broad geographical area and upon graduation the students would be dispersed to either Fremont or Castlemont High.   With Hank moving on to Castlemont and Don discovering other gender interest, Gary questioning if it was time to seek a friend who advocates the neoteric similitudes that inhabit his  world.

Acquiring Tenacity…………….#38 (the 50’s)

April 18, 2017

Anvil and hammer – forge shop

Mechanical Drawing,  Woodshop,   Sheet  Metal Shop,   Forge Shop,   not a course of study for most college prep students,  but Gary decided he wasn’t a normal student.    He participated in just a semester of each shop, declining the advanced course  study that the vocational students engaged in,  Mr Noyes the seventh grade instructor for mechanical drawing, followed by wood shop. Mr. Niosi for sheet metal and Mr. Fraser’s H-8th forge shop.  His friends Hank and Don having no desire to learn the mechanics of the shops, Don also a college prep student, with Hank opting as a Business study major.   Gary reasoned that their lack of vocational interest may have been family related, both the Ball and Bryant families were white-collar workers employed in management,  unlike Gary’s as reflected by his Dad’s occupation.  He didn’t expect journeyman expertise from the  vocational shop classes,  just an introduction, an understanding of the basic fundamentals with some hands on experience.

First projects in Wood and Sheet Metal Shop

Two of the three ninth grade junior high year curriculum electives were college prerequisite,  algebra and a foreign language, either spanish or latin.  Remembering what Mrs Jory his english teacher and class counselor had mentioned after he had difficulties with sentence structuring, that latin was a good means to learn a more in-dept  basis of structuring sentences.  With his high math and language requirement meant, he decided to continue to his interest in sports, applying for and accepted as junior coach assisting the P. E. teachers.

The opening inviting, the boys entered

Gary’s best friend Hank having moved on to the 10th grade at Castlemont High in the spring, Don having completed his final junior high semester, their three paper delivery route vocation having come to a conclusion, the once threesome finding little time to spend together as in the past.   It was a drizzly summer Saturday,  not a day for outdoor activity, Gary having made a mental note that it had been posted at school that the Frick gymnasium would now be open on Saturday mornings for students,  the result of a new experimental program.   Gary on the phone to Hank and Don, proposing an activity that would take them to the school but not to shoot baskets.  The boys managing a ride to the school gym from Gary’s Dad on the pretexts of playing basketball that rainy morning, when in reality having other plans.  The light rain continuing, the three wearing tennis shoes, not really dressed for a clandestine undertaking.  Gary having noticed during his school lunch period, the large storm sewer opening in the draw behind Foster Freeze across from the school and that a number of the metal lags that once barricaded the entrance to this enclosed underground passage were missing.  Gary speculating to his two friends about entering, traversing the mile and half to where the tunneling passage egresses on the far side of  San Leandro Blvd, where the water flow empties  into the canal that links to the estuary of San Francisco Bay.  The three conveying flashlights under their jackets, a necessity to enter the subterranean world of Oakland.

Flashlights in hand,  an entreating  eye towards the precipitous  clouds,  the light rain persisting,  they entered the abyss.  The echoing sound of falling water,  the photonic  encasing them as they proceeded.  The once seemingly radiant beam illuminating from the flashlight beginning to lose their luster,  the darkness ahead seeming to intensify except for the shadowy light filtering down thru the curb drain openings from the street above.    The Three were not long into the journey when the discussion turned from boisterous confidence  to whispered doubts, especially when taking notice, the water level down the center of the catacomb was increasing in volume and its level starting to rise from the unseen rain above.  There was no hesitation when the turnaround decision was made,  it was conceded,  they didn’t have a contingency plan for exiting their confinement,  not knowing what was ahead.     An  irrevocable conclusion was made when Don’s flashlight began to dim and stopped functioning.  The explorers estimated that they had traveled about six blocks,  judging by the number of curb openings above.  An about-face,  the three deciding to exit their subterranean excursion,  a hasten and welcomed return to daylight and a return to the school gym.  Gary reasoning,  it wasn’t the outcome that matters, but the tenaciousness  of the attempt.

Dale Roland Spady

It drew his attention when the person sitting across from his arm-chair in Mr. Conley’s Algebra I Class was in error about algebraic transposition.   His name was Dale, Gary couldn’t recall having any  classes with him except in Mrs. Vrettol eighth grade music  class.   An introduction and after according Dale with an insight to the correct answer to algebra question,  their acquaintance was made.  Gary wasn’t searching or giving thought about acquiring a new friend or associate, especially someone whose domain was miles away from his hillside Mountain Blvd valley home.  Gary, once acquainted,  finding that the two shared numerous interest,  their conversations  levitating  on the same plain and even though Dale resided in the flat land expanse of  Oakland proper, across Bancroft   Ave south of Frick Jr. High, Dale was someone he could identify with.  Notwithstanding,  his new acquaintance was different in some ways, although well versed he was  more of a spectator rather than an innovator, curious but not actively inquisitive.  Dale seemed to  lack the diversity of participating as a social or public activist, whereas  Gary always considered himself multifarious, embossing a wide spectrum of attainable  interest and goals.  Trying not to be critical but concluding that Dale was a pendulum held stationary by a lack of aspiration, deciding if the two were to venture together what was needed was a dose of something Gary had an abundance of, tenacity.


Stalwartness Of Existence.. …#39 (the 50’s)

April 16, 2017

Saturn – Once observed always remembered

Occupying the same seat in the same classroom for two subjects could be an asset or a pitfall.   Gary fulfilled this quantum in Mrs. Funnell’s english and Latin classroom,   his desk next to a large wall  book-case containing classic’s written by legendary authors provided irresistible opportunities to ingest their works,  whether during class or after.    He soon realized substituting    “The Classic’s” for studious reading during class time,  could be detrimental to your scholastic grade, but not a deterrent, the only alternative was the library.     


Mrs. Ruth Salo was the Gibson Branch public library’s  librarian and was very much acquainted with Gary, commencing with his school days at Burckhalter.  She was aware of his reading interest and in the past kept him informed of current book arrivals, but with the advent of junior high and the initiation of his paper route, his once routine visits having almost become nonexistent,  one afternoon having an intuitive feeling deciding to renew its acquaintance.   Libraries always maintained an indescribable aura, he reasoned it was a combination of the prevailing silence,  the scent exhaled by the bond of literature on the shelves and the wisdom and knowledge environment  that hovered above like a cloud.

It was good to return to this bastion of the past and forecaster of the future,  it was like addressing a neglected companion.   Gary was pleased to see with Mrs. Salo and feeling somewhat apologetic for not coming by and at least say hello to whom he considered a mentor and to his surprise she responded that she recently had been thinking about him. He must have had an inquisitive look because she continued, asking if he would be interested in joining her and her husband Ed for an upcoming open-house tour of Chabot Observatory.   Engulfed with a rush of astonishment but without hesitation,  the teenager accepting this unbelievable offer.


Nestled in the hills a short distance from Mountain Blvd., two miles from Gary’s home was Chabot Observatory.    The invitation to tour Chabot  was a dream come true as he readied himself in great anticipation.   The evening had arrived, dusk was settling in  with their arrival at the twin domes adorning the observatory grounds and upon entering were seated in a large room with many others.   Gary soon  realized the group was a segment of an organized meeting and the program presentation was for new members.  Waiting patiently for the parliamentary process and procedures to conclude,  the teenage was more than eager to investigate his surroundings.


Their group entering the largest of the domes and were introduced to Rachel,  a twenty inch refractor telescope, who has been adorning her spot of prominent since the observatory was constructed in 1915.   Gary was looking ardently to exploring its application,   unfortunately the telescope was obligated for a prior engagement and a disappointed  group moved on.   The smaller dome was home to the matriarch of Chabot telescopes ,  named Leah,  an eight inch refractor built in 1883 and originally dwelled in the observatory tower on Lafayette Square in downtown Oakland,  eventually moved in 1915 by Chester Burckhalter,  Gary’s elementary school namesake and  Chabot’s first observatory director to its present Mountain Blvd. location.


Lastly it was his turn at the celestial aperture that focused on the electromagnetic radiation emitting from the vast void of the heavens containing the effervescent spheres.    Gary engrossed attention to the eyepiece, focusing his vision and before him a sounding of a soft yellow ringed planetary image appeared.   His psychic froze,  he stood looking at a timeless existence,  nine  hundred million mile of eternity was  captured.   Never had he experience a feeling of being so insignificant and minuscule.    Saturn’s awe-inspiring soft yellow glow was indelibly inscribed in his conscience,  embolden as symbolic to the stalwartness of existence.


His introduction to Chabot Observatory by the Say low’s fulfilling another uncharted void, and as he sat in silence during the short ride home,  inwardly, his viewing Saturn making a lasting imprint.   Gary discerning there’s a reason and purpose for everything,  and tonight the reason for coming fulfilled its purpose, Instilling another road to journey on.


Auto Hierarchy…………….. …#40 (the 50’s)

April 14, 2017

Fourteen year old Gary Willson sitting in the car,  his Dad pulling out of the previous owner’s driveway, the teenager having mixed feelings.   The car was different, it smelled different sat different and it’s dashboard was different, but most of all it had a column shift,  no gear shift rising up from the transmission beneath the floorboard that the person sitting in the middle had to straddle.   The faithful 1936 Oldsmobile,  the never fail to start, the iron horse of mobility, and on occasion, Gary’s moving paper route platform for throwing the Tribune from the running board.  The olds being replaced with this new addition to the family,  a 1948 battleship gray,  four door Chevrolet Stylemaster.   Still there remained that sense of pride he had from knowing the Oldsmobile, with its eight cylinders,  coil front springs,  steel bodied structure ,  this indestructible truck of a car having been part of his world,  he would miss its aura of invincibility



The new car, as referred to by the family,  having something called vacuum shift which made it easier to move the column shifter when changing gears, a sun visor mounted over the windshield and a single hood that raised from the front instead of the 2 side panels on the Oldsmobile.   In one respect he felt elated, the family having moved up in the hierarchy of automobile class,  although never one to brandish an accomplishment,  but still had an awareness of family achievement.   Gary couldn’t help but observe that his two best friends,  Hank Ball’s family still drove a 1946 Ford,  and Don Bryant’s family, a 1947 Chevrolet.   and with his family’s 19 48 Chevrolet accession,  he recognized a sense of escalating  self-esteem.


Gary having toured  the Chevrolet Plant located at 73rd ave. and Foothill Boulevard during his younger cub scouting endeavors, like all budding teenagers, waited every year in anticipation for the new models.  Each fall the plant workers would drive the new models off the assembly line to a fenced in parking area which was donned with a covering in an attempt to keep from revealing their change in appearance.   This practice was more entertaining than practical, Gary and most other inquisitive people having no problems observing the recent production thru the gaps in coverings and deciphering the changes made from last year’s model.   The event like always,  being highlighted by the industries advertisements and sale initiatives, propelling the vicissitude to a waiting audience.


Gary’s discernment of self-esteem from the family’s newly acquired 48 Chevrolet was found to be short-lived due to the actions predicated by the Bryant and Ball families.    The youth discerning a new 1956 Chevrolet parked in Don’s driveway, and a new blue 1956 Ford parked in Hanks.


Taking stock of the situation,  he noted the change in auto hierarchy, concluding that his family’s new car,  just became old.