Archive for May, 2017

A-Bomb Witness…………#26 (the 50’s)

May 12, 2017
A Light in the Sky

A Light in the Sky


It was June 3rd, a school night but that didn’t matter, Gary Michael Willson gathered what he needed to sleep outside in the backyard of his home. The most important item besides his sleeping bag was his wind-up alarm clock, making sure it was set for the early morning event.  The weather forecast for the Bay Area was typical, low ground fog entering thru the Golden Gate, tracking north up the delta and Marin and Sonoma Counties.  The East Bay getting  some broken overcast, but as darkness set in,  the sky coming to life with Venus and Jupiter broadcasting their presence.  From his backyard on Greenly Drive, Mike settling in for the night, his alarm set to waken a beholder.


The 12 year old having heard about am upcoming powerful atmospheric nuclear weapons test at the Nevada test site and that on May 5th 1953, the Director of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory had requested permission from the AEC, (Atomic Energy Commission), to add Project Climax, a nuclear device, to Operation Up-Shot-Knothole at the Yucca Flats Nevada nuclear test site.  Climax having been planned for the castle nuclear testing series in the pacific ocean.


The morning of the scheduled detonation at O340 hours on June 4th,  six B-36 aircraft of the 57th air division, from Fairchild Air Force  Base Washington, flew in formation at 33,000 feet over the Nevada test site for 47 minutes to simulate strike, and support activities.  While over the test site, the crews tested IBDA,   indirect bombing damage assessment equipment, and familiarized themselves with operations pertaining to the use of nuclear weapons.  Preceding thee squadron, was a B-36 weather reconnaissance aircraft of the 19th air division from Fairchild Air Force Base.



The time having arrived operation Climax was about to commence.  At 0415 hours,  after several practice runs on a 268 degree heading at  26,000 feet, and a air speed of 250 knots,  a B-36 Peacemaker,  from the 4925th Test Group, Kirtland Air Force Base, with the climax nuclear device,  A 30 point five inch wide, 183 inch long nuclear bomb, weighing 1840 pounds with an 900 pound implosion unit was released and detonated at a height of 13 hundred and 34 feet above area 7 of Yucca Flats.  The bottom of the cloud reaching 35,000 feet, while the top of the cloud attained a height of 42,000 feet.


Mike watched as Project Climax’s nuclear flash briefly lit up the eastern horizon, even with a dim slightly overcast morning sky, this blast was by far the largest Mike had witnessed.  The air dropped atomic device was projected to discharge over 60 kilotons  of explosive, and after viewing the prodigious horizon impression, justified their calculation.  The last verification test Mike had witnessed was on an April Saturday morning, and reported as a 43 kilotons tower detonation, the illumination brilliance of climax was by far eminent.


Mike knew that the news broadcast that night would be as customary,  announcing that a nuclear explosion rocked the Nevada Test Site desert, producing a giant mushroom cloud, bellowing up into the stratosphere, and being observed  as far away as Las Vegas.  He wondered how many people  had taken time out of their life to even acknowledge this page of history.  The youth also having many other congruous questions, why didn’t more of humanity attest to the events of an ever present macrocosm.  Was their inquisitiveness imprisoned, or were they just jaundiced in their resolve and egocentric in their search for the Unrevealed.

A Living Mausoleum……#26a (The 50’s)

May 11, 2017

A living breathing entity, The Public Library

Entering this mausoleum like structure was always gratifying,  with its musty smell that imbued the ambiguous presences of antiquated publications. The building with its silence was mystic, concealing its greatest possessions between the folds of shrouded  pages. The person engaged in employment could only direct, to acquire and instill content was the responsibility of the procurers.  Some came for entertainment,  some to be enlightened with wisdom and knowledge, others coming out of desperation,  searching for an identity,  a place or even a reason.  Young Mike finding the library a never-ending resource of what life was about,  and what it had to offer.  Through books,  he found that he could experience,  the perceptions and consciousness as viewed through the mind,  and eyes of those who substance and knowledge exceeded his endemic entity.

Mike discerned that to blame is not to accuse,  accusations are fleeting,  blame is substantive, he blamed his Mother for his addiction to the library.  To him reading was never a school assignment,  it was a cultivation.   At an earlier age he attempted Animal Farm by George Orwell,  but he wasn’t ready for its social meaning,  and red the more understandable Walter Brookes, the Freddy Series.  His mother handing him a book,  The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman.  It was the beginning of a road that had no ending. .  He later discovered a new adventure series,  when his cousin Bud O’Toole introduced him to Robert Sidney Bowen,  and the Dave Dawson world war 2 adventure series,  leaving Mike several of the 1941 thru 1946 published books written explicitly for the school age reading disciples  before his military departing for the Korean war.

Mike’s reading found a world of revelation,  Kipling’s Jungle Book and many others,  Toby Tyler, Tom Sawyer,  Treasure Island,  and then ‘eureka’,   a literary treasure,   science fiction.   Robert A  Heinlein’s Rocketship Galileo,  The Red Planet,   Craigie’s,  The Voyage of Luna One,  Isaac Asimov’s,  Pebble in the Sky, The Stars Like Dust,  and his continuing saga of Foundation,  an endless inexhaustible world emerging.   He knew  it was the ascendancy from reading,  not  curiosity that instilled a desire to explore the realm of the unknown and search out  the reaches of expectation.

Mike reasoned, television was subjective, radio was subjective, even movies were subjective, but a novel was emancipating.

Entering this mausoleum like structure was always gratifying with its musty smell that imbued the ambiguous presences of antiquated publications. The building with its silence was mystic, concealing its greatest possessions between the folds of shrouded  pages. The person engaged in employment could only direct, to acquire and instill content was the responsibility of the procurers. Some came for entertainment, some to be enlightened with wisdom and knowledge, others coming out of desperation, searching for an identity, a place or even a reason. Young Mike finding the library a never-ending resource of what life was about and what it had to offer.  Through books he found that he could experience the perceptions and consciousness as viewed through the mind and eyes of those who substance and knowledge exceeded his endemic entity.

The Stars Like Dust

Mike discerned that to blame is not to accuse,  accusations are fleeting,  blame is substantive, he blamed his Mother for his addiction to the library. To him reading was never a school assignment,  it was a cultivation,  his mother handing him a book, The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman.  It was the beginning of a road that had no ending.  At an earlier age he attempted Animal Farm by George Orwell,  but he wasn’t ready for its social meaning and read the more understandable Walter Brookes, the Freddy Series instead.  He later discovered a new adventure series when his cousin Bud O’Toole introduced him to Robert Sidney Bowen and the Dave Dawson WWII  war adventure series, leaving several of the 1941-1946 published books written explicitly for the school age reading disciples before departing for the Korean war.  Mike’s reading found a world of revelation,  Kipling’s Jungle Book and many others, Toby Tyler, Tom Sawyer,  Treasure Island and then ‘eureka’ a literary treasure, science fiction.  Robert A  Heinlein’s Rocketship Galileo, The Red Planet,  Craigie’s The Voyage of Luna One,  Isaac Asimov Pebble in the Sky, The Stars Like Dust and his continuing saga of Foundation, an endless inexhaustible world emerging.  He knew  it was the ascendancy from reading not  curiosity that instilled a desire for him to sleep outside and view the flash from a nuclear bomb lighting up the eastern horizon of the  sky,  even if only from the confines of his Oakland  backyard.

Mike reasoned, television was subjective, radio was subjective, even movies were subjective, but a novel was emancipating.

Budding Friendships…………….#27 (the 50’s)

May 10, 2017

Linda Grindstaff

The neighborhood having expanded, the Bryant’s having settled in at the new  house on Shone Ave.  Mr. Bryant a banker,  Bev the eldest of the two children  and Donald Theodore Bryant,  known as Don,  a 1/2 year grade senior to Mike in School.    Don’s Mother was a stern looking lady who wore glasses, the lad never picturing her as a Harriet Nelson as portrayed on television.   Mike having somewhat limited contact with Don on school mornings, the two sometimes riding home together when Don took his bike.    He was a little envious because Don’s bicycle was a three speed english bike with hand brakes, sporting a small hard seat that  he thought looked very uncomfortable.   The captious neighborhood news being the house across the street from the Bryant’s that had been damaged by fire was ready to be occupied.  The displaced family and their son whom young  Mike was acquainted with for some unknown reason didn’t return,. the fire giving a reality  message to the lad, that  life threatening perils do exist and before long  a new family moved in, Mike acquiring a new classmate.

The Bryant’s house on Shone Ave.

Mike, Hand & Don

The Grindstaff family occupying the renovated fire damaged home, the daughter Linda enrolling in Mike’s class at Burckhalter.   Mike with two sister at home felt comfortable around Linda and on occasion even walking to and from school with her finding she was attentive to most of what he had to say.  In the spring Hi Flier Kites  always had a big promotional, Mike enjoyed his kite flying episodes, especially when adding three or four five hundred foot rolls of  string sending his flyer soaring into the stratosphere or so it seemed to him.  The Lad was taken by surprised when Linda accepted an invitation to join him at the open field at the top of  82nd Avenue  where one could experience  the evening ocean breeze journeying thru the golden gate coming alive,  embracing the top of the hill, sending the kite with knotted tail soaring into the sky.   Times like this furnished the young man with moments of reflection,  not to be covetous,  but willing to share with a girl his own age these credulous experiences.

Hanks house on Sterling Dr.

The new house entrance behind Linda’s Shone Ave residence was on Sterling Drive and from first observation seemed to be  occupied by another Ozzie and Harriet type family.  A family of four taking up residence,  the boy in the family a year older than Mike, his full name Henry Albert Ball Jr. III,  and seemingly it was a very impressive title, but to all that got to know him he was just Hank.  The word was his father was the  Plant Manager at the family owned Ball Cannery,  his mom Marie a homemaker and there was little sister Jeannie.   Like Mike, Hank was a sports enthusiast and it was evident that possess the physical credentials to support it.

Foto Electric, the ultimate home football game

   The two boys shared common ground, both listened to the radio broadcast of the Oakland Oaks baseball team in the evening hours, the two collecting Topps  Baseball Cards.  On several occasions Mike would be asked to stay for lunch, his mom opening a can of  Franco American spaghetti, something that was cost preventive at home.  He also enjoyed spending the night, both enjoying sports board games such as Parker Brothers Baseball,  Foto Electric Football and even going to the extent of forming teams and keeping stats on player in their Cadaco All Star Baseball game.   When playing under the  hoop on the patio slab behind Hank’s house,  like most young basketball player wannabe’s when playing they would assume the names of their hero’s,  Hank would be Bill Russell and Mike would K.C. Jones,  both All-American basketball players at the University of San Francisco.  Mike finally discovering someone close by his own age to share an interest,  it was a world of sports for the two.

Oaks Park – home of the Oakland Oaks

 The two boys entertaining an idea about going to afternoon ball game at Oaks Park, but when mentioning their idea to their parents the first response was no, but the two emerge persuasive.  It was  rather elementary for the boys to take the Oak Knoll bus to MacArthur,  take the MacArthur bus to San Pablo Ave,  walk the four blocks to the ballpark.  Mike finally convincing his parents and apparently Hank having done the same, the two youngsters were on their way to a Oakland Oaks game at the ballpark in Emeryville.  Twelve year old Hank and eleven year Mike arriving at Oaks Park before game time, once finding their seats and buying a program they directed their attention not to the before game activities on the field  but to the happenings under the stadium,  the two discovering the labyrinth of corridors beneath the structure,  finding the players field entrance way.  With program and pencil in hand, the two waiting patiently for the players to exit from the dressing room to the dugout.  It wasn’t long before players appeared, the boys waving  their programs at the team member,  the minor league players appeared exuberance at being asked to sign,  as were the boys doing the asking.   Hank and Mike relishing more in getting the autographs of the players  than witnessing the game.   This a beginning of many neoteric shared adventures by the two boys.

New Name – New School……#28 (the 50’s)

May 8, 2017

Frick Junior High Oakland California

Mike was no more, the excitation use of his middle name in school would remain behind at Burckhalter Elementary, henceforth it would be Gary who enrolled in the 7th grade at Frick Junior High.  Crestfallen was what described his sentiment, not quite a disappointment,  just something a little less. These were  Gary’s thoughts as he arrived at what would be his new academic home for the next three years.  He reasoned the circumstance that caused a sense of disillusionment to surface was his midterm graduation which propelled you directly into a new environment, no summer vacation or extended pause before entering junior high.

The  building was three stories high, the upper floors with their echoing hallways accessed by three stairwells,  the center stairs for going up and the two end ones for descending, with administrative offices occupying a  center hub downstairs on the Foothill Blvd front side of the building.  The facility also sustained a full service cafeteria, auditorium, orchestra room, mechanical drawing, wood, sheet metal and forge vocational shops.  A large partitioned gymnasium area separating the boys from the girls for intramural indoor sports and a small array of portable classroom buildings.  The educational structure with its manicured lawn setback a distance from the Foothill Blvd thoroughfare, with the 64th Ave side of the school displaying the shops and gym also complete with a large black top area, large tennis practice backboard and an array of outdoor basketball backboards with hoops.   The remainder of the voluminous two city square block domain consisted of baseball backstops and dirt flag football playing areas.  Gary estimating the Low-7 class size at close to 150 students, with the rest of the student body class’s much the same, making the total enrollment at Frick around nine hundred students.

Don Bryant

Henry Albert Ball – III – better known as Hank

He wasn’t alone that first morning, his friends Don already a June semester 7th grader and Hank a midterm 8th grader directing him to the posted home room assignment lists before going their separate ways,  soon discovering he was in Mrs. Bigelow’s home room class in one of the portable buildings.  Most of the faces surrounding him were no longer the familiar ones he saw every school day for the last six years at Burckhalter.  Another new experience was a locker assignment, home for the books and since the Boys didn’t dress for gym,  just the girls, a place to stash his needed  tennis shoes for gym class. His subjects consisted of English,  Social Studies,  Art,  Mechanical Drawing,  Arithmetic and P.E.  each subject in a different classroom with a different  teacher.  One of the first things Gary experienced was how fast the school day would elapse in comparison to sitting in one elementary classroom with one teacher for all day.

Key System public transportation to Frick Jr. High

Key System public transportation to Frick Jr. High

His  school day at home starting no different from the past, awakened to the voice of his mother’s normal morning epitaph,  “if you want any a breakfast you better get a move on”.  That’s where similarities parted,  no longer was walking to school an option,  or even mounting his bike considering the hills and the distance.  Frick Junior High was thirty-five blocks or 3 1/2 miles by bus,  making bus transportation a necessity.  Key System, Oakland’s public bus transportation service  scheduled additional bus’ s before and after school for city-wide student transportation.  The school provided complementary bus tickets in book form at not cost to students living a designated distance from the school.  In the Mornings Gary would meet Don and Hank, the three walking to the Greenly Drive coach stop by the Water Works, catching  the  7:45 bus able to arrive at school with time to spare.   He was fortunate if running late for the 7:45 bus, from his hillside living room window having a perfect view of the entrance to the  Oak Knoll Naval Hospital 3/4 of a mile away able to see a later second bus pulling into the hospital’s main gate stop, the view provided time for him to walk the two blocks to the bus stop.   The Seminary #56 or Oak Knoll Bus as it was known, would disembark the students three blocks from Frick on Seminary Ave. either prior to or at the intersection of Seminary Ave and Foothill Blvd.

Foster Freeze across from Frick Jr. High

Foster Freeze across from Frick Jr. High

Oak Knoll Bus boarding on Greenly Drive

Oak Knoll Bus boarding on Greenly Drive

The  school day starting every morning in home room with an attendance check and the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements,  the remainder of the twenty minutes used at the student’s discretion normally for last-minute homework additions.  The curriculum for seventh grade students was predetermined with no electives.  Besides Mrs. Bigelow’s home room,  Gary started his day with Mr. Tabor’s physical education class, Mr. Alves social studies,  Mr. Noyes Mechanical Drawing,  Miss. Jory’s English, Mr. Templeman’s art class and Mr. Dostones  arithmetic.  The school bell system something new to the junior high arrivals, elementary schools having limited use for the bells, Burckhalter sounding two bells five minutes apart at the start of school, then  proclaiming the beginning and ending of the lunch period and a singular bell at the finish of the day and of course the continuous bell for a fire drill.   The Junior High bell system similar, a two bell system announcing the beginning and end of each classroom period, the students having five minutes between classes to get to their lockers before the sounding of next bell.   Gary was impressed,  Frick having an open campus, the junior high students able to leave the school grounds during the lunch period.  The school providing a full service balanced meal cafeteria, a book of ten tickets costing  $2:50 or $3:50, the higher priced tickets included a bountiful desert.  Across the street from the school on Foothill Blvd were two student drawing establishments.  The Doggie Diner, a single counter small establishment providing a variety of hot dogs, chips and soft drinks, Gary surmising that  the school was the primary reason for  the business location.  On the corner of 64th and  across Foothill from the School gymnasium, was a Foster Freeze, a dispenser of soft ice cream and fountain accouterments, when not frequenting the cafeteria finding a chilidog from the diner and a root beer shake from Fosters a fulfilling treat for a seventh grader.

Gary becoming comfortable with his new surroundings, a new experience, new name,  new school,  new teachers,  new curriculum,  new friends and another new journey on the road of life.

Another Discovery……………#29 (the 50’s)

May 6, 2017

Oakland storm drainage tunnel.

Always one in the pursuit of discovery,  rather than be discovered,  Gary was being summoned to Mrs. Jory’s counseling office,  Mrs. Hazel Jory was also Gary’s english teacher as well as the Low- 7th grade Counselor.   He instinctively concluded that something must be forthcoming about his lack of academic achievement in english, having difficulty with the grammar structure aspect.   Never to be judgmental, but known to render an observation,  the seventh grader wondered what he had done to warrant a bidding from this austere iconic looking monument of discipline.   She bore a remarkable  resemblance to Nelda Rehfuss another epitome of chastisement he endured in the 5th grade.   Braving the unknown he stood at her doorway expecting a discipline expression and a commanding oratory,  but instead he received a smile and an  invitation to be seated.

Once seated the interview began, Mrs. Jory explaining the reason for his presence was his academic future,  that this was an initial interview for students concerning their course of scholastic endeavor.  Students could select from three alternative studies,  vocational, business or college preparatory.    The Counselor explaining that  this assessment was preliminary in determining the student’s future course of study.   The farthest thought from the seventh graders mind was choosing class subject,  especially  knowing that in all probability electives would not be a prerogative until  the eighth  grade, but having already come to a decision that college was his objective.  He was aware that before graduating from high school he would have to attain at least two years of a foreign language, chemistry, physic and subsequently four years of higher math, starting with Algebra thru Calculus.   He did bring it to Mrs Jory Attention that he was interested in taking a half semester of each of the vocational shops as an elective in the 8th and 9th grade.   With the interview concluding his train of thought returned to what was really on his mind that day, something he had planned to do when school let out.

Key System – Public and School transportation

After school Hank and Don almost always walked up Foothill Blvd to Seminary Ave. to board the bus for the journey home.   Gary sometimes joining  them, but finding the first bus was always crowded and on many occasion you would have to stand with no empty seats, which was inconvenient with an arm full of books.   Some days he preferred to amble along the path behind the school above a storm drainage canal running diagonally between Brann St. and 62nd Ave and 60th and Camden, then wait for the second bus at the Camden stop on Seminary Ave but on this day his normal  routine would differ.

The light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel

Leaving the school grounds,  taking his time he crossed 62nd and Brann St. to the path above drainage canal but this time stopping at the open storm drain canals source,  a large cement entrance opening going under Camden St.   Climbing down the embankment, the canal having a small amount of flowing water, the opening edifice showing signs at one time of being gated.  This was not just a large storm sewer pipe  but more like a tunnel and from the chalked markings on the entrance walls he deciphered that many others had entered into this chasm of darkness.  He stared into the black void,  judging that there must be a turn in the darken tunnel otherwise daylight would be visible at the other end.  Making  a decision to access the passage, assuring himself that this wasn’t much different from his entering the darkened sulphur mines on Leona Creek.  Entering, discovering signs of others before him,  empty bottles, cardboard boxes frequented the passage, there being no heavy rain to clear the spewed debris.   Touching the wall and looking back at the entrance opening behind him as a way to maintain a bearing, knowing as long as you can see a lighted opening even if its located  behind you, gives one a sense of reckoning.   It was decision time after progressing deeper into the catechism, giving thought to reversing his direction when the aperture made a subtle turn and he could see the glow of daylight now in front of him.   Continuing  towards the light, finally stepping out into the bright daylight his destination accomplished, gazing about searching for some familiar landmark.  It wasn’t very difficult to find a benchmark, he was across the street  from the entrance gate to Mills College on MacArthur Blvd.   Later upon further investigations discovering the weathered drainage canal originated at lake Alviso, known as Green Lake,  located on the college campus and whose water source was no other than another exploratory that he had experienced,  Leona Creek.

The enlighten seventh grader would share his experience with others,  learning that he wasn’t solitary in his discovery.  Still he felt an embracing perception of nostalgia from acquainting a familiar cohort with this new discovery, now knowing the  disposition of Leona Creek,  it’s inauguration and its final destination.


KCBS Radio…What Is It???…#30 (the 50’s)

May 4, 2017

Red Blanchard

“Sounds good”  Gary replying,  Hank having  just asked Gary if he wanted to join him and Don Bryant in signing-up for Police League summer baseball.   The three having played a lot of sandlot baseball in the past.  The sandlot field was on Sterling Drive not far from where it intersects at the top of the hill with Crest.  The field was on a vacant plateau area on the downhill slope between Sterling and Greenly Dr. and large enough for the game and with an added attraction, rusting away was an old model T ford, a relic of the past that provided the boys with a vision of someday of building and having a hot rod.    The vacant field needed  work,  the three boys would bring their push lawnmowers from home and attempt to mow the infield tall grass as best they could.   On many occasion they manage to get enough player to enjoy a game of  hardball.     There was one  major problem,  when a player failed to keep their eye on the ball hit to the outfield,  it would disappear in the unmowed section of tall grass and the game would come to a stop so everyone could  look for the ball.

One of the fields at Arroyo Viejo Park

The boys signing up for summer Police League baseball, co-sponsored by the Oakland Recreation Commission and the Oakland Police Department  and were given the date to be at Arroyo Viejo field for an organization meeting and team assignments.  The three discovering their  team was sponsored by the Mills Merchants,  a group of merchants located in the Mills College area.   It was Gary’s first association with a sponsored team and all players received a dark blue T-shirt with their sponsors name,  Mills Merchants across the front.   Games and practices were scheduled weekday mornings and afternoons,  supervised by the Oakland Recreation Department.  The sporting event was strictly a student participation activity held weekdays in the morning or early afternoons, Parents and the parental team manager almost never in attendance.   An Umpire for the game was supposed to be furnished by the Oakland Recreational Staff, but on many occasions wouldn’t show up.  Gary was the team utility player, playing three different positions,  relief pitcher, third base, and right field, unlike Hank who was in the starting lineup at 1st base,  he didn’t always start.   On occasion when the umpire was a no-show,  Gary volunteered to take the position behind the pitcher and umpire.  It wasn’t a job he relished,  especially when he had to make a call against his own team, but the gratifying element was that he received the game ball in exchange for his umpiring role.

The journey up 73rd Ave.

A single counter diner across from the Chevrolet Plant.

The team wasn’t very good and after the second game Don’s interest began to waned, finally deciding to quit.   Gary  wasn’t too surprised as Don wasn’t into sports like Hank and with Don’s departure it gave him an opportunity to borrow Don’s baseball glove as it was an expensive Rawlings a far better glove that his.   Outfitted with his #33  Whitey Lockman Louisville Slugger bat and Don’s professional glove,  Hank and Gary would bicycle the streets of Oakland to one of their three league playing parks,  Arroyo,  Elmhurst or  Brookdale.   When  returning from the late morning games at Arroyo or Brookdale the boys would stop at Pop’s Diner,  across the street from the giant Chevrolet Plant complexes on 73rd and Foothill Blvd.   It was a small lunch counter and fountain  for the plant employees,  no tables,  just a counter with  backless stools.   Hot Dogs .20,  Hamburgers .25,  Bottle Coke .10 cents and a small diminutive gray-haired man behind the counter, known to all as Pop.    The trek up 73rd Ave. grade and then  the steep and tiring dirt path that let you avoid following the roads long switchback  and at times Gary  developed leg pains for the effort,  but well worth the time saved.

With the advent of television, radio still had a captive younger audience especially with personalities like Red Blanchard who broadcast five night a week at 9:30 p.m. on 740 a.m. radio dial.   It was a live audience  KCBS  program from  their studios in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.   The opening dialog, “What Is It ??? ,  Bully, Bully, Bully”,  the password was Zorch,  and Red never-failing to mention his so-called 1916 Jaguar Pickup,  this was the Red Blanchard Show.   Gary was aware that live radio was waning and soon would be an event of the past with television becoming the predominant home entertainment,  but Red was the number one nighttime  radio personality in San Francisco and both He and Hank were devoted  fans.   It was unbelievable when Gary heard the news he couldn’t believe it.   Never had a word been mentioned, not the slightest suggestion,  the name of the program having never surface.   The Mills Merchant baseball team was going to San Francisco for a live broadcast of the Red Blanchard Show.

Red with Lowell Thomas

Red  in the background with Lowell Thomas

Red's so-called 1916 Jaquar Pickup

Red’s so-called 1916 Jaguar Pickup

The adrenalin was pumping as they entered the KCBS Studio,  Gary looking about, taking in the memorable moment,  the broadcast studio being a large room with rows of seating for about one hundred.   The baseball team was seated in the front row before a raised stage holding an array of musical instruments including a piano and organ.  There were several people positioned behind microphones and directly in front of  Gary sitting at a table,  center stage,  was a man with red hair.  In front of him loomed a large microphone with a KCBS placard on it  and on either side were whistles,  horns,  noise makers and other sundry items.   The show began with his famous,   “WHAT IS IT???”  sequence and then his theme song,  “The Organ Grinder Swing”,  some character impersonations,  followed by an episode of  Tombstone Borgardus with sound effects  blasting  the studio.   Then the unexpected, Red with a hand-held microphone,  coming off the stage,  starting down the row of Mills Merchants team player, asking each their names and positions.  A reverie come true, never in his wildest dreams could Gary imagine an opportunity like this.  The thirty minute live broadcast over.   It was an iconic moment for Gary, a  true radio fan meeting a true radio personality.