Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How Dad Quit Smoking

My Dad was a cigarette smoker until sometime in the late 1960's.  He started smoking in his late teens, as was common with young men of his generation.  He usually smoked Lucky Strikes, which was a popular, "manly" cigarette, known for (and valued due to) its high tar and nicotine.

I suspect that it's probably nearly impossible for youngsters to believe, but in those days you could buy a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine.

Those letters on the bottom - LS/MFT say
Lucky Strike/Means Fine Tobacco
Remembering this I realize that it was very odd that these machines existed as parents would send their kids to the store for cigarettes, but only if they gave them a note to show to the cashiers.  And the cigarettes were stored in a location that was not accessible to customers - you had to ask for them.

Perhaps the machines were not considered a problem as they were usually only located in places where children were not commonly present, like bars, workplaces, bowling alleys, veterans' organizations, gas stations and suchlike.

And cigarettes were really cheap in those days too.  When I first became aware of their cost, I'm pretty sure that they were 25₵.  Yes, just a quarter.

OK, so what's all this got to do with Dad and how he quit smoking?  I think this story says a lot about Dad's personality - his pride, his determination and his resolve.

One day, in the late 1960's, Dad, who was a manager at Delco-Moraine, in charge of the production lines which made most of the disc-brake parts used in GM vehicles. was talking to his friend and employee, Ruben.  Ruben was a jobsetter - his duties were to relieve other workers, do minor repairs and help out when someones station backed up or they had some problem.

And, in the course of their conversation, one or the other said, "Hey, I need a pack of cigarettes."  The other said, "Me too."

So they walked over to the vending machine.  Arriving there, they discovered that they had just raised the price from  25₵ to 30₵.

"G-d d-mn it!" Dad said, "I'm not paying 30₵ for a pack of cigarettes!"

Reasonably, Ruben replied, "But Bill, what choice do you have?"  He laughed, "What are you going to do?  Stop smoking?"

"H-ll, yes.  I'll quit.   I'm not paying 30₵ for a d-mn pack of cigarettes!"

And he never did.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Jack & Spam & Peaches

By Tim McMullen

Jack & Tim - September 2012
I first met Jack Clausen in his first season with the Forest Service, which was on the Mammoth Ranger District of the Inyo National Forest. I think this was in the late 70’s. At the time our Hotshot crew worked out of an administrative site known as the Guest Cabin, which was above Shady Rest Park. One morning, while driving into the site, I passed a truck with a camper shell parked nearby. I had heard that a new Recreation employee would be staying there for the summer.

I walked over to the camper to see who it was, and out the back comes a man with wild hair and a bushy beard…My first reaction was to jump back, thinking that Charlie Manson escaped. My second reaction was why is he holding a can of Spam in one hand and a can of peaches in the other?

The man introduced himself and, with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face, offered me some of his food. I was still stunned and I think I said something like, "No thanks – I never eat Spam this early in the morning.”

And as we parted after talking that morning, I remember shaking my head and thinking that being around this guy could be like “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” And what a wonderful ride it was!  Such was the beginning, in those first few minutes, of an enduring and loving friendship that lasted over thirty years.

Over the years I found myself often shaking my head at Jack. Sometimes it was in laughter, as when he would call me “Old Man” and I would call him “Easy Money.” He would always laugh and say “I wish.” Always with those twinkling eyes and smile…

Or the time when Jack’s truck went down the Hot Creek service road without him in it and rolled off the road and down the embankment, with everything flying out of his truck (and Jack kept everything in that truck). The fire crew responded to find that Jack was safe and the truck pretty well damaged. But we couldn’t help laughing when we saw all the cans of Spam, peaches, and tuna C-rations strewn along the embankment.

Sometimes I would shake my head because I was in awe of his strength and fortitude, as when he would peddle his Beachcomber, bad knees and all, up to Horseshoe Lake.

Jack with Jim Hoyt 2012
And, yes, I would also shake my head in wonder of Jack’s unique work methods, especially regarding construction. After all, he wasn’t called “Mad Jack” without reason. He loved that name.

Other times it was due to admiration and respect, as I would see him come in the back door to the Visitor Center after work; his hair a mess, his uniform shirt half tucked in and dirty, his green uniform pants covered with paint, and his face dirty. The Forest Service never had a more dedicated or harder worker than Jack.
Sometimes it was sadness that caused me to shake my head, as was the time when I had to talk to him about no longer being a line firefighter. You see, in addition to his recreation job, Jack was quite proud of having taken the Basic Firefighter class and passing the physical test and getting his “Red Card.” He loved wearing the fire crew’s blue baseball cap. Over the years, though, his feet and knees hurt so much that he could no longer be on the fireline. So we talked about still supporting the fire team in other ways by training in logistics to help set-up and run our fire camps (as long as he didn’t serve Spam and peaches). He did so, and Jack was there for you day and night, doing anything and everything to help. He was always willing to respond off forest. He’d put his bike in the back of his truck and off he went. It got to the point that other forests would call and name request Jack to come help: “Send us Jack, the guy with the bike.”

Mostly, though, I would shake my head out of love for that simple man and having the good fortune of his friendship.  And I mean “simple” in the best of ways. Jack simply wanted to be friends with everyone. I loved him for who he was: he never asked for anything, yet was always so giving, caring, loyal and kind to his friends.

Convict Entrance
How could you not love him for having the same love of being outdoors in the Sierras, especially his beloved Yosemite? Jack simply wanted to preserve our beautiful resources so that everyone could enjoy them and working for the Forest Service was his way of doing this.

And how could you not love him for his compassion for animals, especially his dogs. I would shake my head in both laughter and love as I watched him drive though the Forest Service housing compound with his dogs and everyone else’s, headed up to the Lakes Basin – you could hear all the dogs barking a half mile away - but Jack just had this smile on his face (of course, it helped that he was hard of hearing)…

Mary Mattern, Jack, George Beatty 2012
I saw Jack for the last time in June, in Brentwood, where his beautiful family was caring for him at his niece’s home. He wanted to show me his electric wheelchair and give me a tour of the neighborhood. It was quite hot that day so, before we headed down the sidewalk , I went to my car and put on my old fire crew blue baseball hat…when Jack saw that, he wanted to wear his, too. So his grandniece went in and got his hat for him. And off the two of us went; Jack weaving in and out of the street and sidewalk at full speed, oblivious to anything coming his way, and me running to catch up with him. “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

 Afterwards, we decided to go to an IN-N-OUT for lunch. Jack was the navigator, telling me to “turn here” after I’d already passed an intersection, and me yelling because he can’t hear me asking for directions. A ten minute drive took an hour, and we still got lost coming home.

Bill Schofield, Jack, John Ellsworth 2012
Later he beat me in a game of checkers, with that same twinkle in his eyes and smile on his face…and when it was time to go we laughed and hugged as loving friends would do.

I know he’s in Heaven now, setting up camp and offering to walk everyone’s dogs. Lord knows, there will be plenty of Spam and peaches…

I love you Jack,


Tom Locker writing here -- I've got to add a little information about the Hot Creek accident.

I was the lead investigator on this incident.  It happened at sunset just after Jack had closed Hot Creek for the day.  He had driven his truck down the service road to empty trash cans and clean up litter.  When he came back up he parked the truck on the fairly steep road to lock the gate.  He set the parking brake and put a chock down.  When he started to close the gate he heard a click and saw the truck coming towards him.  As those who know Jack can can imagine, he tried to use the gate to stop the truck but it pushed him and the gate out of the way and down into the creek it went.

Dispatch called me and I went out, taking photographs, measurements and interviews.  Jack was the only witness.  The photos clearly showed the imprint of the truck's tire over the chock block (another "Mad Jack" idiosyncrasy, he used a 4x4 about three feet long).  The Forest Engineer (Leon Silberberger?) was also on the investigation team.  It turned out that this particular model of truck (early 80's Dodge I think) had a known defect of occasionally not maintaining the setting of the parking brake.  Jack was completely exonerated of fault in the accident.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Must Be In The Front Row!

Older folk may remember this Beer Commercial.  These were broadcast in the late 80's and were very popular.  Bob Uecker was the star of many of them.  After this commercial came out, "I Must Be In The Front Row!" became a sort of catchphrase indicating self-importance.

If you've watched the clip you've seen that he was not given a seat in the front row, the seats he was moved to were often called the nosebleed seats then, but are now frequently called "Uecker Seats."In 1984 I went to a game at Dodger Stadium.  I'm pretty sure that we sat in virtually the exact seats that Uecker sat in during this commercial, which looks to me like it was filmed in Dodger Stadium.A remarkable thing about this game was that we saw Hall-of-Fame Member Steve Carlton hit a tremendous Grand Slam Homer off of Fernando Valenzuela, a perennial All-Star and a very fine pitcher.I happened to be keeping score at this game and here are the scoresheets.  I highlighted Carlton's Grand Slam.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

November 22, 1963

On Friday, November 22, 1963 at about 1:30 o’clock pm (in Ohio where I was) I was in the 8th grade in Sister Stella’s class at St. Christopher’s School when we heard the phone ring.  In addition to being our classroom teacher, Sister Stella was also the Principal.  Since there was usually no one in the Principal's Office, Dick Meyers, who sat by the door, was assigned to go answer the phone when it rang (which wasn’t often).

We were in Art Class at the time and we were creating mosaics by cutting up colored construction paper into “confetti” and then pasting them onto a background to form an image.  I was attempting to create a Thanksgiving turkey (ready to be served, not strutting around the barnyard).

Dick returned from the office a few minutes later and said, “I don’t know, it was some crazy lady.  I couldn’t understand what she was saying.”

Moments later the phone rang again.  Dick trudged off to the office again.  When he returned he looked a little pale and while he briefly glanced at us sitting in the room, he directed his comments to Sister Stella saying, “This lady says the President has been shot.  I think you better talk to her.”

My November 22, 1963 classmates
Sister Stella left the room.  She returned to tell us that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.  She notified the other classrooms and staff and then put the radio on over the PA.  Not long afterwards his death was announced.

I was a member of the “Safety Patrol” who worked as crossing guards.  When school let out at about 2:30pm I remember so many of the girls crying as they walked home.

Kennedy was sort of “our President” since he was the first (and so far only) Catholic President and of course he was also Irish, like lots of the students, so his death hit many of the children very hard.

Dear Readers – thanks for visiting.  I would really appreciate it if you would please leave your own stories (if you have them) about these events in the comments.

December 7 , 1941

Pearl Harbor was attacked on Sunday December 7, 1941, well before I was born, but both my Mom & Dad remembered it.

Mom & Dad were both 12 at the time.  It was about 1:00 o’clock pm in the eastern US where both Mom & Dad were, when the attack occurred.

Dad was at the farm of a family friend between Gibson & Kellenburger roads in Phoneton, Ohio.  He and the son of the family who owned the farm had been riding horses that morning.  They’d put the horses away and were walking back towards the house when the boy’s Father came out and told them.  Sometime since then the farm became a nine-hole par-3 golf course (now defunct) called Willow Pond.  So the area has changed a lot, but the buildings were still there in late 2009.  Dad used to comment that, “Right there at the corner of that barn was where I heard about Pearl Harbor.”

Mom was at home at 151 Clark Avenue in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  After Mass they came home and she and Aunt Eileen were playing.  Daddy Con went down to the local Pub for an ale and talk.  He wasn’t gone long when he came back and told them about the attack.
Hawaiian Division Emblem

Our relative who had the most vivid memories of Pearl Harbor was of course, cousin Vernon “Bud” Hale, who served with the US Army’s Hawaiian Division.  He was at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii on December 7th, 1941.

Dear Readers – thanks for visiting.  I would really appreciate it if you would please leave your own stories (if you have them) about these events in the comments.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Accident Report

Forest Supervisor                                                         
Inyo National Forest
873 N. Main Street
Bishop, California  93515

Thomas Locker
Casa Vieja Guard Station
Inyo National Forest

August 9, 1979

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 13 of the CA-1 (Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation).  I put “bad decisions” as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

On the day of the accident, I was providing logistic support to an Environmental Analysis Team analyzing options for cheatgrass reduction the Red Rock Creek drainage near Jordan Hot Springs.  My assignment was to pack the Team’s supplies and equipment on a mule string.

We arrived at Jordan at about 1500 hours.  My assistant packer, Bill Schofield, and several members of the Team unsaddled the horses and removed the mules’ packs.  We hobbled the animals for the night.  As we planned to continue on to Redrock Meadows the next morning we only took that evening’s supplies from the packs.  After cooking dinner and finishing cleanup, since there had been reports of considerable bear activity in the vicinity, Packer Schofield climbed a nearby tree and looped a rope over a branch.  We hoisted the packs, which contained surveying and scientific equipment as well as food, about 50 feet above the ground.

After this the rest of the party went down to the hot springs.  I remained in camp by myself.  I had planned to finish a book I had brought along.  Unfortunately I had forgotten to take it out of the pack before hoisting.  I knew that the total weight of the packs we had hoisted up was about 400 lbs. and that I could not lower and raise them by myself.  I decided to use one of the mules.

After refastening the hoisting rope with a slip knot, I scooped a few oats into my hand and went towards the pasture.  “Vudu” was the closest mule and I quickly enticed her with reach.  This was probably not the wisest choice as Vudu can often be skittish.

After untying the hobbles, I wrapped the bitter end of the hoisting rope around her chest, tying a loop just behind the forelegs.  I then pulled the slipknot loose.  The packs dropped about two or three feet, taking the slack out of the rope.  The sudden tug and the rattling of cans and equipment spooked Vudu.

She began to run, kicking and bucking until the packs snagged against their supporting branch.  At this point I would say that the mule panicked.  The bucking became extremely violent and the loop I’d tied around her chest slipped back to her belly and rear legs.  The next couple of kicks freed her from the rope and the packs began to fall.

Knowing the value of some of the equipment in the packs, I grabbed the rapidly moving rope, in the process tangling my left foot in the line.

I weigh about 150 lbs, the packs about 400 lbs.  When I realized that I would not be able to stop the packs, I released the rope.   Imagine my surprise at being jerked off the ground by the tangles around my leg.

Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up towards the supporting branch.  At about 25 feet, I met the packs, which were now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the broken right ankle.  Slowed only slightly by this impact, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the packs hit the ground, leaving me hanging momentarily by my right leg approximately 45 feet in the air.

Unfortunately, when the packs hit the ground, the cord tying them together snapped, freeing all the packs save one.  Now devoid of the weight of most of the packs, only approximately 50 lbs. remained at the other end of the rope. As my weight was now greater, I began a rapid descent back towards the ground.

In about 25 feet, I encountered the remaining pack on its upward journey. This accounts for the broken tooth, several lacerations of my arms and upper body and the partially detached ear.

Here my luck changed slightly. The encounter with the attached pack seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of packs and suffered only three cracked vertebrae.

I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the pile of packs, in pain, barely able to move, I lost my composure and presence of mind.  I untangled the rope from around my now-broken ankle and lay there watching the pack begin its journey back down upon me. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone.

I hope this explanation adequately answers your inquiry.


For further reading on this subject see: