Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Can You Read Cursive?

"Beware the Ides of March!"

This letter is from my best friend, Larry Schieltz, sent in 1970.  He was a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  It was mailed just a few days before we left on our very first ski trip to a real mountain - Killington in Vermont.  The "Bond flick" he mentions at the end was "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."

Click the image to get an easier to read blowup.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Wow! This is my lucky day!

This is a short, but very cute story that always tickles me when I remember it.  The people involved were dear friends who I shared many good times with.  However, I'm not sure I'm a good enough writer to accurately convey its humor and poignancy.

In about 1983 I was the assistant director of the ski school at China Peak Ski Area.  One day I was skiing with my good friend Mary Dawn.

As you can see from the photo Mary Dawn was very pretty, she's also nearly six feet tall.  If you were male and had a pulse, you'd probably notice her.
Mary Dawn about 1983.

So, Mary Dawn and I finished a run and got in line to go back up the chairlift.  As we were waiting our turn our friend Spencer, a fellow instructor, joined the line.  For some now long forgotten reason, I wanted to talk to Spencer about something.

But the chairlift we were taking was a double - only two persons could ride together - so I turned to Mary Dawn and told her that I was going to ride with Spencer.

At almost that exact moment, Brook, a nice young instructor, also joined the line.

Brook was in his first year on the ski school.  He was a bit shy and still trying to find his place in the mildly competitive and modestly ego-driven world of ski instructors.  He had not yet developed the typical instructor's "too cool to be cool" demeanor.

I yelled over to him, "Brook, I'm riding up with Spencer, why don't you ride with Mary Dawn?"

Brook looked at her, and Mary Dawn, who is one of the friendliest people you could ever meet, gave him a big smile and said hello.  Brook looked back at Spencer and me and said, "Wow!  This is my lucky day!"

That's all there is to it.  I hope you can use your imagination to understand why I remember this incident so fondly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How Dad Quit Smoking

My Dad 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.

Dad stopped smoking sometime in the mid-60's.  As I remember, it was a year or two after we moved to Stonequarry Road.  He did not make a big deal out of it, or even mention it.  Someone noticed and asked.  At the time, we all (Mom, my sisters and other family and friends) just figured he decided that it was bad for his health and an unnecessary expense.

Those letters on the bottom - LS/MFT say
Lucky Strike/Means Fine Tobacco
But it turned out there was more to the story.

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.

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₵ a pack.  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.

In 1968, after I got out of High School and started college, I got a job working at Delco-Moraine, a GM factory that mostly manufactured brake and transmission parts.  It was the same place where Dad was a manager in charge of production lines which made most of the disc-brake parts used in GM vehicles.

Working there I got to know many of Dad's friends, co-workers and employees.  One guy I really liked was named Ruben.  Ruben was a jobsetter - his duties were to relieve other workers, do minor repairs and help out when someone's station backed up or they had some problem.

Talking to Ruben one day the subject of smoking came up and Ruben asked me, "Did you ever hear the story of how your Dad quit smoking?"

I was unaware that there was any "story" associated with Dad quitting and said so.

So Ruben tells me:

One day your Dad and I were talking.

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

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

"G-d d-mn it!" your Dad says, "I'm not paying 30₵ for an f-ing pack of cigarettes!"

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

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

So I went back to our Department and told the rest of the guys, "Hey everybody, guess what?  Locker's going to quit smoking because they raised the price a nickel!"

We laughed and laughed.  Everyone was teasing him.  One guy started a pool about how long he'd last.  For a dollar you could pick the date you thought he'd start up again.

But 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 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.