Bobby Allen

Another Del Norte High School classmate has passed away. He was in the class of 1980.

I remember him as a smart-a$$ed kid always ready with a sarcastic remark — which I like about him.

Born and raised in Crescent City, Bobby Allen passed away February 18, 2011. He spent most of his adult life working in the timber industry — driving truck for the family business, Gus Allen Trucking.

According to the obituary published in the Triplicate: “In his free time Bobby enjoyed golfing and hunting trips with his son James and close friends Jim and Kyle Loftin. He loved rooting for his favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings, and spending Sundays with his mother Jeanne watching NASCAR.”

He was preceded in death by his father Gus and stepmother Joanie Gardenhire and is survived by his mother Jeanne Allen, his wife Debbie and their children. Bobby was jus’ 49 years old.

Out of the Blue

What started as a search for Grandpa Tom’s military records has led me in a direction I never saw coming. For the last couple of years I’ve been inquiring about the possibility of recovering Grandpa’s “Bluejackets’ Manual.”

The BJM as it is known amongst those in the Navy is the bible when it comes to the daily life of a sailor (and at times a Marine.) In this case I got my hands on a 1943 Bluejackets’ Manual, which is the year I had been told Grandpa went to war.

This is where my adventure as book-monger takes that unexpected twist. I selected this particular book to buy because it was procured by a man who had purchased an entire lot of books in Muskogee, Oklahoma around August 1980 – a month after Grandpa Tom passed away.

With my fingers crossed – but not with breath held – I waited for the BJM to make its way from Denmark, where the man was living. When it did arrive I was disappointed to see the name, “Johnston, R.J.,” stenciled on the inside cover.

I thought, “Oh, well,” and put it on my bookshelf, thinking I might get some use out of it one day.

For some reason, I decided to pick it up, dust it off and leaf through the 68-year-old manual. Why I had not seen it before, I don’t know, but on the inside page there was a list of duty stations for “Johnston, R.J.”

Reading through them I realized this sailor was stationed with another sailor I was well acquainted with – my father-in-law. Don Conklin, my bride’s father, like “Johnston R.J.” had served during World War II at both Navy 128 and Navy 10 in San Francisco and each listed Fleet Post Office as their address.

Unfortunately, Don passed away in 2006, so I cannot ask him if he knew “Johnston, R.J.” or not. But there is a chance, the original owner of this BJM could still be alive as he wrote his home address and full-name, Ray Junior Johnston, in the book too.

I have a place in which to start my search.

Bad Ideas Abound

The last couple of days, I have been dealing with a slight case of writer’s block — and while trying to “not think” of something to write I remembered this article I originally published in the now defunct weblog, “InfoCow.”  I’m not sure but I think I wrote it as my bipolar disorder was operating on the manic-side. 

This is an idea for a book full of bad ideas. The bad ideas might include putting poetry on cereal boxes, hitchhiking through Iran with a Salmon Rushdie t-shirt on, and a new super-hero doll called “Super Bin Laden.”

There are moving sidewalks in airports, so why not ones that crosses a city? Slower “feeder” sidewalks could lead up to and away from the high-speed main line that takes you at six-miles-per-hour through the city. It might even become a tourist attraction.

If prisoners agreed to it, would there be any problem piping constant subliminal messages into their cells? They could be continually fed good thoughts, ideas, and life-changing affirmations.

Do your feet get too hot? Have you ever put your shoes in the freezer for an hour before putting them on? Someone should invent a pair of shoes that would keep one’s feet cool — they could be called snowshoes.

Have a door on the wall that doesn’t actually go anywhere. Instead, when it is opened, it reveals a painting and plays soft music.

Breed dogs and cats for a short life, preferably less than two years. “Genetically guaranteed short life pets,”  are for those who don’t want a long-term commitment.

How about this — a horrible foods cookbook: Want a serving of tuna fish ice cream? How about chicken pudding or anchovy soda?

Any takers?  Thought not.

Desert Sand to Moon Rocks

Before U.S. astronauts could collect a single moon rock — there was the desert sands of Spanish Springs — where many of the rockets used by America’s space program were tested. Those tests happened at a facility operated by Rocketdyne at the Sky Ranch Airport, between Spanish Springs Road and Calle de la Plata.

My Uncle Orval Harrison retired from Rockwell/Rocketdyne in early 1970, after spending more than 30-years working on projects for NASA.  Now I’m living in Spanish Springs where Uncle Orval, unknown to me at the time I moved to Nevada, worked.

He was married to Dad’s blood relative, Aunt Frances, an Arne by birth. I believe she passed away in Salem, Oregon, February 19, 1976 at the age of 73.

Anyway, Sky Ranch Airport was a 1940s auxiliary field and the site of the first Reno Air Races, in 1964 and 1965. From 1962 to 1970, once known as Rockwell International, Rocketdyne operated a facility known as the Nevada Field Laboratory.

The main NFL operational support facility was located near the corner of Whiskey Springs and Ironwood Roads, north of Winnemucca Ranch Road.  Between 1974 and the early 90s a privately owned company operated a machine shop and warehouse on the land.

Engines for the Gemini, the Saturn, the Lunar Module, Apollo and the Space Shuttle Program were tested at this area and included three sites. Because of this some parts of the former test area are listed as Superfund environmental clean-up sites.

Of the 126,000 acres, only 1,600 acres were used for testing, the remainder was home to administrative and support facilities. Debris, underground tanks and contaminated soil have since been removed by Rocketdyne, which put in numerous monitoring wells throughout the area.

One of these monitoring wells is located at the end of Axe Handle Canyon Road. Another along Right Hand Canyon Road and the first half of Paiute Circle, with a third at the eastern end of Whiskey Springs Road.

It’s sad to think the next American to head into space may be aboard a craft powered by a Russian-designed rocket — and that Uncle Orval’s hard work is lost to history.

Gomer’s New Job

I found this little piece of humor in one of my news files at the radio station. I thought it fairly funny and worth sharing.

The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, so Gomer, who was not exactly the sharpest nail in the bucket, went in to try out for the job.

“Okay,” the sheriff drawled, “Gomer, what is 1 and 1?”

“Eleven,” he replied.

The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but you’re right. What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?”

“Today and tomorrow,” Gomer answered.

The sheriff was again surprised the man supplied a correct answer that he had never thought of himself.

“Now Gomer, listen carefully: Who killed Abraham Lincoln?” the sheriff asked.

Gomer looked a little surprised himself, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.”

“Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while,” the sheriff instructed.

So, Gomer wandered over to the barbershop where his pals were waiting to hear the results of the interview. Gomer was exultant.

“It went great!” he told them, “First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!”

Off the Wall

My wife was gone for a week’s long visit to her sister’s home in Ramona. Her’s were not the only plans made for the week.

Kay and I decided to paint one of the front room walls the same color we had painted the hallway earlier in the year. It took us a total of two days to finish the work.

Mary came home but didn’t notice the newly painted wall. Instead she headed directly for bed without looking around the house.

Come the next day, she was up early, but still she had not noticed. It was nearly two in the afternoon when I decided to try to get her to “see the wall.”

First I had her go inspect the coat-rack by the front door. She looked it over and said the way I had it rearranged looked great.

With that epic failure, I directed her to the hallway entrance that leads to the back of the house. It’s there that we have her mother’s folded flag in a wooden case as she was as she was an Army nurse in World War II as well as Dad’s.

It had become dusty on the inside as the case had popped open. I used the time to clean the flag off and properly seal the case so it will not get dirty inside again.

She looked at the case and said it looked great. Once more she failed to see the freshly painted wall. 

It was more than I could stand and I blurted out, “What do you think of the wall?”

She responded, “Oh, my! It looks great!”

I’m thinking – maybe I should have used a barn-red paint instead of the “mushroom bisque,” we agreed on.

Knee Deep in the Hoopla

The bride and I were traveling along Interstate 80 and had jus’ dropped into the valley on the north side of the Grapevine. It was difficult to keep a single radio station tuned in for any length of time as we drove along.

But every time we did find a station it seemed the one song that was playing was Starships, “We Built This City.” Since that tune came out, I have never heard a single soul admit they like the song.

In fact, “We Built This City,” made Blender Magazine and VH1 Music Channel’s 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs — landing at the coveted position of number one. On the upside, it was Billboard’s Hot 100 number one single  between November 16 and 23, 1985.

It doesn’t matter to me either way what others may think of the tune — because for me it carries some great memories of the bride and me, zipping up I-5, windows rolled down, singing our butts off.  Let “Marconi play the mamba…”

On Hand-Me-Downs

At the end of nearly every summer, we’d receive a box from our Aunt and Uncle filled with hand-me-down clothes. It wasn’t until high school that I came to think of this as uncool, as I didn’t want to be seen wearing used clothes.

It wasn’t that we were poor, because we were far from it. The practice came from the fact that they had been raised by parents who had lived through the Great Depression years.

Those years were followed by the World War II years, in which people were called upon to save scrap metal, rubber and papers. All this went to the war effort and defeating the Axis powers.

Now days though, most of the clothing — save for my skivvies, socks and tee-shirts — in my closet and dresser drawers is second-hand. I purchased most of it new years ago and simply refuse to get rid of it until it’s completely worn out.

I have a sweat shirt that is at least 20-years-old and though frayed around the edges a little, fits me and keeps me as warm as the day I bought it.

My bride thinks I’m being cheap . But the way I figure it — if they’re clean and hole-free they’re jus’ as good as new.

Besides have you checked the price of a new pair of name-brand jeans these days?

Sling Shot

We were moving as quietly as possible along the outskirts of a town believed to be home to a coca-producing operation. The idea was to get in close enough to observe and then bust everyone in one surprise movement.

I was in the fifth position as our squad used a small ditch for cover during the daylight raid.

The going was slow and to add to the situation, it had rained most of the night before and the ground had turned to a mud that caked itself all over everything. Now with the sun beating down, the rain turned to humidity which left each of us feeling drained.

We had stopped in order to catch our breath, have a swallow of canteen-warm water and to reassess our position in relationship with the village. I had jus’ finished moving up and down the line checking on my Marines when I was suddenly and violently struck in the back of the head.

The force of the blow knocked me off-balance and found myself scattered, face down in the muddy goo. I immediately thought I had been sniper shot from behind as did the Marines around me.

They were hunkered down, rifles at the ready, expecting to engage the enemy. However instead of gunfire, snickering could be heard coming from the men.

While it was a struggle, I managed to roll myself over and sit up. I saw one of the Marines pointing to a pile of rocks.

At first I didn’t know what he was pointing at — then I saw the slight movement of a child — maybe seven or eight years old. In his hand he had a slingshot — what I grew up knowing as a wrist-rocket.

The little shit had smacked me in the back of my helmet from a good 100 feet away.

Geared

Back in the day my hiking gear consisted of an old canvas knapsack. It had no frame, no padding, no waist belt, and was too small to hold what you needed.

I also had a walking stick — plucked from a random tree along the way.

My sleeping bag and tent were tied to the outside. I took a light jacket, poncho,  first aid kit, extra socks,  flashlight, rope,  compass,  knife, some matches, my journal and pencils, my canteen and three or four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Out the front door of our home I’d go, walking the quarter-mile east to the old logging road and disappear into the Redwood forest. I didn’t go far — didn’t have too — and I’d have my camp all set up by late afternoon and there I’d stay for a couple of days.

I had no idea how good I had it.

Message in a Bottle

It was the oddest thing – I went outside to bring in our flags and I discovered a bottle setting on our welcome mat. Looking west down our street I saw two teenaged girls walking away.

Each turned, looked my direction and continued walking along the side-walk. So I picked the bottle up, brought it in, removed the note inside it and read it:

“Dear Bottle

Alfred Adler said this, “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not words. Trust movement.”

At first I had thought he meant only trust in action. Don’t trust in voice or words. But reading it over I convey it like, “Trust only movement. Life happens by doing, not talking. Trust movement.”

So should I give action to my thought? Yes! I must trust my moves on a good deep level. Yet talking could also be the movement. I should trust my movement.”

It’s a very cryptic message and I felt obliged to research its possible hidden meaning. I decided to start with Alfred Adler – whose name was familiar – but for unknown reasons at the time.

Adler was a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and a colleague of Sigmund Freud. His most famous concept is the inferiority complex or the problem of self-esteem and its negative effects on human health which sometimes produces a paradoxical superiority striving.

I knew I knew his name for some reason — then — paranoia struck… 

Holy crap! Was this message meant for me?

No. I realized this note was actually meant for someone else and the two girls had left it on the wrong doorstep.

Looking at it from a merely illogical point of view – which the majority of teens have – I realize it’s one of the two girls way of telling a boy she likes, he’d better act soon or risk losing out. Then again, it could be a really good prank on their part.

Jus’ in case — I’m working on a reply.

At the Movies

Having worked the early shift at the Reno Hilton, I was looking forward to having the next day off. I planned to go to the local drive-in theater at El Rancho and 9th to see a movie, with the hope of forgetting about some of my problems for a while.

Before hand, I stopped at the store and bought a 24-can case of beer so I could have a couple as I watched the flick, “Signs,” starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Unfortunately, I had a lot more than jus’ a couple.

In fact, I don’t remember anything about the movie. What I do recall is suddenly waking up and realizing it was daylight.

To make matters worse, I was still parked in the same spot I had been the evening before, but now rather than vehicles parked on either side of me, I was parked in the middle of a Mexican flea-market. I was further distressed to learn I had a couple of Latino dudes haggling with one another over who was going to buy my truck.

I gave them the remainder of my beer and drove away quickly.

Fun with Anvils

Grandpa Bill had a small blacksmith shop attached to the side of his home. I would often spend the day with him as he fashioned horseshoes, fixed hinges and othe items for neighbors.

When he wasn’t pounding on his anvils — he had several different sizes — he was using them for entertainment purposes. He called it, “Blowing up Anvils,” and it involved not only the two blocks of metal , but a fair amount of black powder and a fuse.

He would haul the larger anvil out into the pasture behind the house, place the black powder on top of it, place the fuse in contact with the black powder, stack a second anvil on top of that, lite the fuse and run. After get some distance from the set up, the whole thing would explode with a loud clap and the anvil atop the stack would fly up to a hundred feet or more into the air.

Then he’d start the entire process over — adding slightly more and more black powder to the situation in order to see how high he could get the anvil to fly into the sky. By the time he ran out of black powder, our ears were ringing and we were in danger of becoming deaf — yet we always came away grinning like idiots.

I have since figured out that grandpa’s like grandson’s can act like kids at times.

Driving Her Buggy

There is nothing better than a practical joke that leaves everyone belly laughing.  Sometimes, though a gag can get away from those perpetrating it.

Our house mate, Kay was busy pulling a few weeds in the front yard one early afternoon, when I saw an opportunity to pull a “fast one” on her. I casually involved her in a conversation as she worked away.

As we spoke, I removed a large plastic, green figure of a Preying Mantis from my pocket and hung it from the back of her blouse. Next I went over and sat on the bench and watched her as she continued to yank the unwanted weeds from our flower bed.

Satisfied she had done enough, she started inside the house. Jus’ as she stepped up onto the porch, she felt a strange sensation on her back, saying, “It feels like something’s pulling on the back of my top.”

Kay reached over her shoulder with her right hand and gently tugged at the blouse. She inadvertently felt the something pulling at her top with her hand and felt it brush against her back.

She panicked – screamed and took off running wildly through the house, crying, “Get it off me! Get it off me!”

Her sudden rampage and shouting through the house sent all four dogs into a frenzy and left me confused about what I should do next. Instead of helping my friend, my scrambled mind sent me in the direction of chasing the animal’s outside.

Meanwhile Kay continued to plead, “Get it off me!”

Finally, I grabbed the damned toy and slung it out the still open front-door, pretending it was a real insect. Then, for my own safety, I decided to wait a few minutes for her to calm down before admitting what I had done.

Soon I copped to my actions. Surprisingly, though she started laughing, saying, “I must have looked funny.”

Then she had me go outside and retrieve the toy bug. To make up for what I had done, I took her to the local ice cream parlor for a cup of soft-serve.  

One morning though, I know I’ll wake up with a big black rubber spider in bed with me.

Del Norte Resident Kitty Harriman Passes Away

Kitty Harriman passed away on June 28, 2011. She was the oldest of nine children and lived most of her life in Del Norte County, where she and her husband Dale raised their children, and later their grandchildren.

In her younger years, Kitty was a waitress, then a welder during World War II. Later she was employed as a bank teller, working at the Crescent City branch of Bank of America.

When Kitty and Dale married, she was able to stay at home as a homemaker. As the children got older, she became very involved in scouting with her son and daughter.

She started out as a den mother for Boy Scouts and a Brownie troop leader for the Girl Scouts. Her volunteer and service work with scouting ended up becoming a major part of her life, and she also ended up becoming an Explorer Post leader.

Kitty also held the position of Assistant District Commissioner for the Del Norte District Scouting Area Council for over 35 years. Her effort, dedication, and commitment to the area’s youth can still be seen in our community today and will always be felt by those lives that she touched.

She was preceded in death by her husband Dale, her brother Frank Gochanour, and sisters Faith Lear and Iris Garvett. She is survived by her sisters, Annice Nelson, and Anna Campbell, as well as her brothers Leon Gochanour, Claude Wyland, and Clarence Wyland. She is also survived by her son and daughter, Donald Charles Maynard II, Jacqueline Roberta Maynard.

Cookie Thief

My wife loves to bake. She had jus’ finished making a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies and she gave me one.

I am — after all — her official taster — when Kyle isn’t around.

Anyway, I had this cookie in my left hand and was getting ready to bite into it, when she asked if I’d like a glass of cold milk to go with it. I told her I would.

As she poured my a small glass, I was standing there with my hands by my side. Suddenly the cookie I was holding was snatched out of my hand.

When it happened I looked down only to find our dog, Chubbs licking his chops. He had devoured my cookie in one gulping bite.

“Hey!” I shouted at him.

Chubbs however was unphased by my scolding, as he stood there sniffing the air for the possibility of another one and wagging his tail with delight. It was the first and only time he proved himself to be a cookie thief — although he was known to help himself to an unattended sandwich or five over his lifetime.

I sure do miss that big ol’ brown dog.

In Over My Head

At one point in my life I wanted to take from my military service what I had learned and apply it towards a degree in nursing. With that in mind, I took a part-time job working the graveyard shift at the local convalescent hospital.

It didn’t take very long to realize I was in over my head and would much rather be out in the streets as an emergency medical technician. It took a “nasty” incident to finally change my mind about my goal path.

Señor Sanchez was nearly one-hundred years old, sharp as a tack and very set in his ways. Often times I would go into his room and find him already dressed, sitting in his wheel-chair watching whatever he found of interest on TV.

One early morning I stopped in to ask him how he was doing and he asked that I help him to the bathroom. It was one of the few things the old man could not do all by himself — as arthritis prevented him from properly cleaning up afterward.

After getting Señor Sanchez to the toilet and seated, I stepped out of the bathroom to give him some privacy. After a few minutes he hollered for me to return, which I did.

As I helped him stand up so I could wipe his bum for him, I noticed his wallet laying on the floor at the base of the commode. I decided to pick it up as I started to pull his pants up.

Unfortunately — Señor Sanchez wasn’t finished going to the bathroom. Without warning, and jus’ as I leaned over to grab both the wallet and his pants, he had an explosive bowel movement.

He literally crapped on my head, in my left ear and down my shoulder. I helped him sit down to finish the job, handed him his wallet and exited the room.

My ability to stifle my gag-reflex has always been good — that is until someone else starts the process of throwing-up — which is exactly what happened.  As I was heading for the shower area, one of the other nursing aides saw me and lost everything in her stomach, which caused me to follow suit.

Meanwhile, I could hear Señor Sanchez snickering at the situation.

Iwo Jima

My friend Elizabeth Rose gave me a picture knowing that I’d enjoy the subject matter and the knowledge of who created the piece of work. The ink and water-color limited-edition is simply titled: “Iwo Jima.”  

The artist is retired Lance Corporal of the Marine Corps Erich Pichler. He lives in Reno and most everything I know about him, I found online.

Pichler was stationed at Camp Pendleton for boot camp. After earning his Eagle, Globe and Anchor pin,  he was stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, for 7251 School.

Later his permanent change of station was Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. There, Pichler worked as an air traffic controller.

On October 6, 1996, Pichler was the passenger in an accident where the vehicle rolled at least three times. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a four-and-a-half month-long coma.

The injury affected his entire body, especially his eyesight, hearing, speech and balance. When his condition stabilized, he was transferred to the Kentfield Rehabilitation and Specialty Hospital in Kentfield, California, where he had to re-learn all the basics such as walking, talking, and even swallowing.

He was released from KRSH in July 1997.

According to his online bio, “Erich has had a love of art since he was first able to hold a crayon. He won numerous awards in junior high and high school.  It has taken five years for him to be able to start painting again.”

It adds a new dimension to the old Marine Corps saw: “Adapt and overcome.”

The Want of Justice

While the world appears to be reeling over a supposed miscarriage of justice in the trial of Casey Anthony, who was accused of murdering her child, Caylee, another murder case has played out one final time in Texas.

A 38-year-old Mexican man has been executed for the rape-slaying of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda in San Antonio. Humberto Leal received the lethal injection in Huntsville Prison.

Leal was convicted and sentenced to death by a Bexar County jury. His punishment capped a flurry of appeals that argued he deserved additional court review of his case because authorities didn’t tell him he could seek legal help from the Mexican government when he was arrested in 1994.

President Barack Obama joined with Leal’s attorneys, arguing a delay was warranted so legislation covering cases like his could work its way through Congress. Former President George W. Bush did the same in a similar case back in 2005.

No one seems upset by the fact that a current President or a former President have been pleading to save a convicted murderer’s life. Even Nancy Grace remains silent on the subject.

Obama and Bush sided with the Mexican government, asking Texas to review the fact the illegal alien had not been given access to consular officers. Shortly after the execution, Mexico issued a statement of condemnation and said it had submitted an official protest to the State Department.

Caylee’s death may go unpunished — a Florida jury has found Casey Anthony “not guilty,” — and this has left people screaming for justice. Meanwhile justice has been meted out to a convicted killer and no one is bothering to question why U.S. leaders would want to halt this lawful execution.

This is the real miscarriage.

The Hell of Heel Taps

One of the ways we could tell a Technical Instructor was nearby, was from the sound of the metal heel taps they wore on their boots. A sudden tap, tap, tap as they strode along the barracks was a real attention getter for we recruits.

However one fellow in our flight learned how to imitate that sound by simply snapping his fingers. No one knew it until one evening after lights out, when everyone is supposed to be in bed, except the person on guard duty.

Several guys were in the shower area, shining their shoes, breaking the rules to avoid breaking the rules for not having them properly polished. The person on guard duty also happened to be the same guy who could imitate a TI with the click of his thumb and middle finger.

The guard decided to walk past the showed area, snapping his fingers. The sound echoed through out the barracks and guys scattered left and right, rushing to make it back to their beds before the instructor busted them.

At least one guy busted a toe in the stampede.

By Any Other Name

Naval Air Station Fallon is known among the locals simply as “Fallon NAS,” but few are familiar with the airfield’s real name or the man for whom the field is named. In fact, the airfield represents a memorial to a WWII naval aviation hero and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was born in Aberdeen, Washington, January 29, 1908. Shortly thereafter he moved with his family to Fallon, where he spent his childhood.

Van Voorhis attended school at the Oats Park Grade School. He later graduated from Churchill County High School in 1924 where his classmates knew him as “Clint.”

A 1929 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, he earned his pilot wings in 1931. Van Voorhis served with numerous aviation units stateside and overseas.

He reported for duty to Bombing Squadron 102 as Plane Commander of a PB4Y-1 at the height of conflict in the Pacific during WWII. Van Voorhis died on July 6, 1943, near Hare Island in the Western Pacific.

After a 700-mile flight alone, he launched successive bombing and strafing attacks on Japanese ground installations, destroying a radio station, anti-aircraft emplacement and at least four enemy aircraft in the air and on the water in six successive attacks. He was caught in his own bomb blast and crashed into a lagoon, ending his life.

The Naval Air Station Fallon was dedicated in his name November 1, 1959. At that time the 14,000-foot runway was one of the longest in the world and remains the longest in the U.S. Navy.

In 1956, 13 years after Van Voorhis’ death, a destroyer escort was launched bearing his name with the official Naval designation of DD-1028 from the shipyard in Camden, N.J.  The vessel was in service for 17 years, including the Naval blockade of Cuba in 1962, before being decommissioned ten years later.

In 1982, then Nevada Governor Robert List issued a proclamation designating May 31 as LCDR Bruce Avery Van Voorhis Day in the state. In November 2010, the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame inducted Van Voorhis into its Hall of Fame.

From the Sea to the Desert

Four Iowa-class battleships were built during World War II including the USS Missouri, the keel of which was laid on January 6, 1941, at Brooklyn Navy Yard. Her armament included a main battery of nine 16 inch guns and twenty 5 inch anti-aircraft guns.

There were five mounts on each side with two guns in each. When she was modernized in the 1980’s four of the mounts were removed and were replaced by Tomahawk missile launchers, leaving only 12 now.

This has led to a tenuous connection between the great vessel and the state of Nevada.

The Missouri was launched January 29, 1944, and commissioned June 11, 1944. She was assigned to the Pacific Third Fleet and steamed into Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve 1944.

The USS Missouri was part of the force that carried out bombing raids over Tokyo and provided firepower in during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. During the war’s final month, the “Mighty Mo” served as Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s flagship for the Pacific Third Fleet.

The Mighty Mo secured its place in history as the site of Japan’s unconditional surrender September 2, 1945, thus ending World War II. The ceremony for the signing of the surrender was conducted by General Douglas MacArthur.

But her story does not end there.

The Mighty Mo’s main battery firepower became a legend in Korea, with her nine 16 inch guns hurling 1,800-pound shells as heavy as Volkswagens over 23 miles in defense of U.S. land forces at Inchon. Nearly thirty years would  pass before her next return to active duty.

In 1955, the Missouri was decommissioned and mothballed at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. However in 1986, the USS Missouri was recommissioned after undergoing an extensive modernization and refurbishment.

In 1991, the Mighty Mo was deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. The Missouri’s final operational mission occurred December 7, 1991, when the battleship led the way into Pearl Harbor marking the 50th anniversary of the attack that dragged America into World War II.

The Missouri was decommissioned for a second time in 1992 and was struck from the Navy’s ship registry three years later. By August 1996, the Navy had approved the USS Missouri Memorial Association as caretaker for the battleship and Pearl Harbor as its final resting place – making it official May 4, 1998.

At present, the Mighty Mo’s U.S. Naval Gun Factory 355 resides at Nevada’s Hawthorne Army Depot, where much of the older material’s taken from the vessel during modernization has been stored and is currently being turned into scrap metal. Factory 355 holds its own place in U.S. history – as it bore witness to the formal surrender of Japan.

Capturing a Moment

One of my fondest memories of Independence Day happened in Crescent City in 1976. It was the 200th Anniversary of our nations founding, but that isn’t the only thing that made it special.

Michelle made it special, too.

She was a year or two younger than me and we knew one another from high school. That entire Sunday, the two of us spent the day walking around Beach Front Park.

We never held hands, locked arms or even kissed. Instead we did something far more intimate: we talked and laughed.

I’m telling this for a purpose.

No one would know about this except her and I — save for the fact that jus’ shared it. What “it” is — is a memory, something that we all have, but few of us share with others.

The reason I’m bringing this up is tha fact that not all of us will leave behind stone and metal monuments with our names inscribed up it. Not all of us will be able to establish a foundation or a trust in our name that will last through the years.

But what all of us can do is spend a few minutes everyday or even once a week, writing down some of the things we recall, those moments in life that were special, our thoughts, etc. It doesn’t matter if your grammar or spelling are perfect, the idea is to set down these things that will disappear with our passing onto paper.

And maybe — if you’re brave and willing — you can post them to an online journal created by you. It’s jus’ a thought.

To keep this in perspective — I have yet to convince my bride, my son or any of my friends to start and maintain this activity. So don’t feel alone if you come to the conclusion you’re not interested in such a project.

Coloring the Water Tower

There used to be a water tower in the area of U.S. 101 and Wonder Stump Road. I know this because one of my best friends in high school used to live out by it.

I won’t mention his name as I don’t want to cause any problems for him.

He, myself and another guy used to climb up the water tower, to the catwalk and paint the named of girls we liked on the side of the tank. While the ladder to gain access to the tower was about 30-feet off the ground, we found an ingenious way to get up there anyhow.

We avoided the ladder and free climbed the legs. Sometimes we would race one another to see who could get to the cat-walk first.

I won only once that I can recall.

The structure has undergone some changes over the years including legs that are a smooth surface now and the removal of the old cat-walk. These gradual  modifications actually started shortly before I graduated from high school.

One day we discovered the authorities had put up cone-like guards around the legs, much like one would do to keep a squirrel from invading a bird feeder. We wandered around the tower for a few minutes finally concluding it was pointless to try climbing it.

But still we had all this paint with us, as we had plans to blazon the names of our current crushes on the side of the tank again. So we concluded that the only thing left to do was paint an old tractor in a nearby field.

I wonder what the farmer thought when he saw his green John Deere was now a bright blue and yellow.

A Giant Outing

It was a scouting trip to see the Giants play at Candlestick Park. School had jus’ let out and we we’re going to get to see Willie Mays in action.

Seven of us kids piled into Captain Kelly’s station wagon for the nearly 400 mile trip to the Bay Area. I sat in the very back of the car, in the seat that faced backwards.

After traveling all day since before dawn, we pulled in to the main gate at Hamilton Air Force Base. We spent the night in one of the many old open barracks for the night.

The following day, we pack ourselves up in the station wagon and the “short trip” into the city and the ball park. It took us nearly an hour to find the entrance to the parking lot, to get parked, enter the stadium and locate our seats.

For me, much of my time was spent wandering around the ‘Stick, watching all the people and sometimes watching the baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies. I also gorged myself on hot dogs and soda pop.

Finally, when my feet got tired, I returned to my seat and started watching the game. I have no idea what inning it was – but Willie Mays was at the bat – and thought he never got to first base, he did hit plenty of foul balls.

Like I said, I wasn’t paying much attention and while I heard the bat hit the ball, I had no idea where it went. Within a second or two though, I realize the foul-tip was coming right at the section we were sitting in.

It was like a slow-motion dream, everyone around me jumping up, reaching for the baseball. But somehow though and very much to my surprise, the ball ended up landing in my hands.

I was the envy of everyone around at that moment.

After the game, as we were heading for the parking lot, I stopped and bought a replica baseball bat as a souvenir. Once at the car,  Captain Kelly promptly took it away from me, fearing I’d use it on one of my fellow scouts.

I got it back after we returned home.

As for the baseball foul-tipped by Willie Mays – I think Adam and I used it in a neighborhood game.  Eventually, it was lost or forgotten, never to be seen again.

The replica bat, though, I managed to keep ever since. And incidentally – the Giants beat the Phillies, three-to-one that day.