Monday, September 26, 2016

40 Years Ago Today - Prologue 1972-1976 - Excerpt


* What follows is an excerpt.

Author’s Note

I’d like to take a moment to discuss a few things. First, there’s no font for sarcasm. So when my sarcastic jokes and comments bleed through, I apologize if you don’t “get the joke” I’m trying to get across. Don’t worry, my kids, my wife, and sometimes myself don’t get the jokes. I’ve done my best to limit them.

Second, I’ve excluded certain information from my story due to privacy concerns and simple respect for the parties involved. As of this writing, my parents are still alive and as much as I want to share everything, I want to respect their desire to live their own lives without getting an earful from a neighbor or friend about this, that, or the other thing. There are also things that just shouldn’t be shared. One of the biggest in this story is the [spoiler alert] divorce of my parents. For me, it was normal and no big deal. For my parents, it was a huge deal. In my research, I learned more about how big a deal it was and I’m even more amazed that they both not only put me first but still remained friends afterwards. It’s a true testament to how wonderful they are as people and how lucky I am to have them as parents. But I just don’t feel comfortable sharing a lot of details about the divorce.

Finally, I have written and rewritten the beginning to this story many times. This time I intend to finish the story. The story of my life. I began just before my parents met in the early 1970s and have yet to pick a stopping point. Right now, I’m thinking somewhere around the late 1990s when the Internet, email, and digital cameras are just coming into power and sounding the death knell of ephemera.

And it’s okay if you don’t know what “ephemera” means, neither did I when I first heard it. So go grab a dictionary real quick and learn a new word.

Okay, let’s start with the beginning and just see where we end up.


Prologue
1972-1976

My story starts many years before my birth. My mother, Gayle, was born as the youngest twin to her parents Dorothy (Hollingsworth) and Andrew Lester. She was also the youngest of all her siblings: Dan, Diana, Susan, Irving, and Gary (her twin). My father, Gary, was born to Bertha (Phillips) and Claud Richard. He was the second of four sons: Harold, Gary (my father), Dennis, and Randy. I could spend a long time talking about any of these people or their ancestors. But this is my story, not theirs.

Claud Richard often has his name spelled “Claude” and rarely as “Claudie.” Based on his signature on a March 19, 1977 farm lease, he spelled it without the extra “E,” even though the contract has it spelled with the extra letter. There are also several census records and various family photos that have his name written on the back by Bertha where she spells it without the “E.” Names with and without an extra letter are still a topic of discussion within the family. I’ve used Claud’s signature as the definitive answer since it was in his own hand.

My story is an average tale of an average guy.

My father had left the Army in the early 1970s to work for the government in Oxnard, California. My mother had graduated high school and moved to Oxnard with her mother and stepfather. The stars were slowly beginning to align. Around the time of that alignment, in January of 1972, my father went to visit his Uncle George and Aunt Wilma in Sun City, Arizona.

I was actually named after Uncle George and Aunt Wilma, getting my first name from him and my middle name from her.

Before my self-proclaimed average life began, my parents had to meet each other. A mutual friend, Ed Roush, set them up on a date. Ed and his wife Linda lived in an apartment complex that they managed and Dorothy and Ted Hollingsworth (Dorothy and Ted were my mother’s mom and step-father) lived next door in the northwest corner of the second floor.

The apartment complex was on the corner of Nautilus Street and Mandalay Beach Road in Oxnard, just a few blocks from the beach. Dorothy and Ted moved into the apartment in June of 1971 right after their wedding. Gayle met the Roushs when she and her brother Gary drove a load of Dorothy’s personal effects to California in the summer of 1971. Dorothy and Ted only lived in the apartment for about six months.

Ed Roush also worked with my father at Point Mugu Naval Base in southern California. Between all parties involved, namely Ed, Linda, Ted, and Dorothy, my parents were set up on a blind date with each other in January of 1972. They went to El Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant, where my mother spent most of the time in the bathroom sick. Her mother told her to get a tostada but Gayle had never had Mexican food before. She wore a “double-knit pantsuit” that she purchased from Sears. It had long, bell-bottom pants, was blue and grey in color, and had a vest that went to her ankles. Under the vest, she wore a white long sleeve shirt.

They must have hit it off because they traveled together to meet Gary’s Aunt Wilma and Uncle George a few months later in May 1972. George was a World War II veteran and had many adventures in life before settling down. His wife Wilma had just as many adventures herself. Together, Wilma and George were key figures in Gary’s life as well as mine, acting as parents, grandparents, and of course an aunt and uncle.


On August 18, 1972, Gary purchased his first home. The list price was $19,995 but in the end, due to various fees, the total cost was $20,574.17. The house is located at 600 Foxglove Place in Oxnard, CA. Built by the Woodside Homes, a division of the Tanco Development Corporation, the house was located on Lot 22, Tract 2201-1 and is listed in Book 58, Pages 95 and 96. The three bedroom, two bathroom house is listed as “Plan #4” with 1,013 square feet. Although, according to Gary, the house was less than a thousand square feet. I checked the measurements myself and sure enough, the living area was only about 700 square feet. When the garage was included, it was nearly 1,100 square feet.



The development was built where Gary thinks an orange grove once stood, although Gayle thinks it may have been a lemon grove. Based on what little information I found, they were both wrong, but close. In both 1947 and 1967, that specific plot was an open field but an orchard was nearby. She moved in with Gary by December 1972. Carpet was installed but drapes were apparently a long time coming. Newspaper was taped to the windows for some time apparently. The carpet was exactly what you would expect of the 1970s, long shag. Carpet World, formerly located at 555 North Oxnard Boulevard, installed “Fiesta” in the living room, hall, and closet and put “Barcelona Blue” in the master bedroom and closet. Both carpets were made by 8th Wonder. The living room carpet was olive green, gold, and rust in color and would be referred to as “peanut butter jelly carpet” by my father (because if you dropped a peanut butter jelly sandwich, you wouldn’t see a stain). Much more practical than the solid gold carpet my mother wanted to get. The bedroom carpet was multiple shades of blue.


Three types of roses were planted on January 14, 1973; Lowell Thomas, Pink Radiance, and Matterhorn. In March 1973, Chrysler Imperial and Improved Blaze Climber were added. And later in 1973 John Rivers Nectarine, Rio Oso Gem Peach, Sims Peach, and Mariposa Plum were also planted. To keep the roses, grass, and other plants growing, Gary installed a watering system.


The living room had a six cushion sofa with pale gold color and a bit of shine to it. There was a chair with plain brown arm rests and legs that was olive in color and another that was orange. The coffee table was even more plain and a simple white. Next to the sofa was a speaker with small carved Buddha statues acting as bookends.


The master bedroom had quite the floral pattern for matching drapes and bed spread. The dresser was a four drawer style with various personal effects on top. These included a wedding photo Gary was in as a child, mirror, wallet, and lace doily. The second bedroom was much more plain with simple floral curtains and a white bedspread. All the wall where white with a dark brown baseboard trim.



In May of 1973, Bertha and her second husband Merle Yaryan, came to Southern California to visit. Bertha, Merle, and Gayle went to Disneyland. In August 1973, Gary and Gayle took a trip around the Western United States visiting family and friends.


Gary ordered an engagement ring on February 7, 1974 and presented it on Valentine’s Day a week later. Gayle wrote “got engagement ring from Gary.” The two were married on August 17, 1974. Gayle was 21, Gary was 29. Gayle wore a simple white dress with hand embroidered violets at the bottom. Gary wore a grey blue plaid suit with white shoes and a dark tie. They each sewed their own wedding outfit. Their marriage license was filed on August 22nd.

They were married at the Immanuel Bethel United Church of Christ on Lincoln Avenue in Dolton, Illinois. After the ceremony, they had an “informal picnic” at the Riverdale Park Memorial Building on 137th and Perry in Riverdale, Illinois. It was catered by Bozo’s, an area hot dog place where Gayle used to work. Nearly a week after their wedding, they were visiting family and friends in Nebraska. On August 22, Gayle wrote “stopped at Mullen, Neb. to see Gary’s old teacher Hazel Conser & her sister Hester.”



In June 1975, Gary would graduate from West Coast University with a Master of Science degree. The newlyweds would also visit the House of Yesterday in Hastings, Nebraska and the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago, Illinois. They would also travel to Hawaii in December, around Christmas, and also visited Gary’s brother Harold, who was stationed there with this family. They visited Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii, but spent most of their time on Oahu.


Friday, September 23, 2016

2016 Beat The Blerch Virtual 10k

Race morning was off to a good start. I heard back from a research source that I had only dreamed of hearing from. So I was super stoked to have somebody to send questions to. On top of that, everyone got out the door a few minutes early today so I actually got suited up AND out the door by 0700. Easily 15 to 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

The race was decent. The first loop I could tell I was going too fast but I was just a bundle of nerves knowing that I'd be sending my questions and hopefully getting answers for my project. The second loop I slowed down in an attempt to save some go-go juice. By the third loop I was tired and ready for the suck to be over. The fourth loop I was still tired but since I was in the final stretch, I knew I'd be able to finish with a decent time.

Along the way I saw my dad out walking. The Supervisor's wife and friend out walking. Sam from down the street waiting for the bus with his mom. Anyway, also saw my across-the-street neighbor walking the dogs (and almost got tripped because I didn't move to the other side of the street like a smart person). And there was Omar who was talking to my dad. But since I was running a freaking race, I didn't really talk to anybody. Just waves, a few quick hellos, and a holler at my dad that I'd catch up to him later.

And that was pretty much it.


Photos:



Weather:
Temps were about 75F. Sky was mostly clear. Humidity was moderate. Temps were cool enough at the start that my brain went "oh, it's not 120 degrees so maybe you should put gloves on." I was dripping with sweat by the second loop so clearly my brain was wrong.

Fluids and Fuel:
Coffee before the run. Plain water during the run (two small bottles). Recovery was GenUCAN Hydrate, coffee, two eggs, two slices of toast, three links of sausage, and yogurt.

Aches and Pains:
Slept funny so all day yesterday I had a pain in my neck (literally). Slept normal last night so my neck was only slightly sore today. No real issues during the run but I could feel my Ogre Toe grouching about the effort. Oh, I officially named it Ogre Toe because it's hairy and has an ugly toenail. But the shoes and the pace were likely at fault. Other than that, just a pulled hair that gave a pain and the rest of the run was fine.

Gear:
Wore shorts and a t-shirt. Specifically my KR Endurance race kit (including hat). Didn't have any issues except that pulled hair. The pre-greasing probably helped.

Today's Motivation:
I knew I'd have barely any time this weekend to get the race done so I decided yesterday to just bump things up and do it today. Worked out pretty well.

Naughty Neil:
Been eating fairly well lately. Snacked maybe a little too much last night. Made crack slaw for lunch today and it tasted....meh. It was better with ketchup. Needs like a gravy to go with it. Not horrible though.

Splits:
Loop 1 - 16:53
Loop 2 - 17:22
Loop 3 - 16:51
Loop 4 - 16:49
Extra Quarter Mile - 2:49
Finish - 1:10:46

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review - The Mathews Men by William Geroux

It's been ages since I've done a book review but I think this one is worth the time. Earlier this year my wife sent me a few emails about events at the local bookstore. I attended a few of these as they related to history and my new profession at the museum. But in all honesty, they were a bit of a bust. The hour and a half on the road to and from the bookstore wasn't really worth it. Sure, the books looked interesting but most had nothing to do with my either my job or something that interested me.

Despite this, I continued to go to those that at least sounded interesting. I've been a fan of history for a long time and I felt I owed it to the authors that came to the store to at least browse their wares. I'm glad I kept going because I finally stumbled onto a book that was not only an educational read but was also entertaining.

And maybe a bit gruesome.

The Mathews Men by William Geroux starts with a fisherman gutting a shark and finding body parts. And a ring. The ring belonged to a mariner from Mathews County, Virginia. The state of Virginia has four main peninsulas; the Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula, and the Virginia Peninsula (sometimes just called "The Peninsula"). The fourth peninsula is the Eastern Shore, located between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. I live in the Northern Neck between the Potomac River and the Rappahannock River. Mathews County is all the way at the end of the Middle Peninsula between the Rappahannock River and York River at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay.

Being so close to water, Mathews County has quite the maritime history. How that history played out during WWII, along with the proximity to where I live, is what struck me as interesting enough to buy the book. When I met Mr. Geroux at the bookstore, I was lucky enough to be the only one there. So he gave me a one-on-one summary of the book. While he talked, I could tell that he was a great storyteller and the kind of guy you'd like to sit down to dinner with. I may have also felt some sympathy for him as I was the only one to show up at the event. Small-time, struggling, or new authors will always have a spot in my heart.

I'll be honest, when I started the book, the shark part was a bit gross. But I pressed on. There were maps. And more maps. And photos. And more photos. And notes. And more notes. And by the time I was into the second chapter, I was hooked. Kind of like that shark.

Geroux's writing style was a bit choppy at times but I adapted to it once I saw the pattern. He would essentially tell the story of the many Mathews men in chronological order but would often revisit where they were or what ship they were on later. This served as a good reminder but I think most of the time we saw the same people in other spots was simply because there were so many people from this one county that they seemed to be everywhere.

The two most educational parts of the story were the Merchant Marines and the U-boats. I knew about the Merchant Marine but I, like many others I'm sure, never realized how many of them lost their lives during WWII in combat. And I never realized how little, if any, wartime benefits they saw despite being killed in combat. They were civilians but risked their lives just as much as any soldier on the battlefield. As for the U-boats, I had heard they came close to the east coast of the United States, but I never knew how close. To think that the U-boats could see the lights off Cape Hatteras or the Ferris Wheel at Coney Island is a little scary, even today.

As I finished the book last night, I didn't expect to revisit it so soon today. As I sat researching my own little history project, I sifted through photos my parents took in 1975. I could see a few sights I recognized and a lot that I had no idea where they were. Hawaii was pretty obvious. So was the House of Yesterday. I had heard stories about the trips but never got a lot of details. Which meant I had to do research on my own.

And that's where U-505 circles back around and surprises me. In some of the photos from 1975, I found a steam locomotive and a submarine. While researching the locomotive, I discovered it was located in Chicago at a local museum. Something clicked in my head and I remembered reading just last night that U-505 was also at a museum in Chicago. Sure enough, a little sleuthing later and I finally identify it.

The little story has nothing to do with the book, but it was an odd connection that happened by chance. It also lit the fire under me to write a review. After all, I have a soft spot for new authors, especially when they write good books.










Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Knight Rider - S1 E7 - No Big Thing

Knight Rider
Season 1
Episode 7
No Big Thing

Overview
Michael saves the day. And the woman. And his boss Devon. And the bad guys end up behind bars.

Competition
Merv Griffin had Laurie Beechman, Morgan Fairchild, John Houseman, Isabella Rossellini, and Regine. And of course Dallas and The Greatest American Hero. And HBO was showing "The Battle of the Champions" boxing bought between Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor. You can see the entire fight on YouTube.



The Car
KITT can operate on any combustible fluids thanks to the synthesizers. KITT can also apparently drive faster than a normal car in reverse. I've never tested how fast a car can go in reverse so I'll just take their word for it.

Overheard (from my son William)
"He did nothing and they broke his tail light."

"They broke his tail light."

"Those aren't cops, they're bad guys."

"KITT, you told him to go in reverse."

"It looks like a bar fight."

"Man he can punch."

Source:

The Free Lance-Star. November 12, 1982 - https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=leBNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=H4sDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5019%2C1829117

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Clawing My Way Back

Skipped yesterday's planned run and instead did it today. Plus an extra mile. Not because I'm looking for extra credit but just because I was in the mood to push myself a little more. This morning I saw Mrs. Brown walking her dog. Mrs. Carle walking Biscuit. The mystery woman walking her chocolate lab. Mr. Brady walking his dog. And my dad. So after I finished my 3 loops, I caught up to my dad and did another at a walking pace. So all in, 6 miles.

Photos:
It was hard to avoid a Carpe Diem joke.


Weather:
Temps were about 70F. Sky was overcast. Wind was light. Humidity was moderate.

Fluids and Fuel:
Had some coffee before the run. Plain water during the run. Recovery was two eggs, yogurt, a slice of bread, and more coffee.

Aches and Pains:
None.

Gear:
Wore shorts and a t-shirt.

Today's Motivation:
Actually felt like running today. And once I was out there, the weather felt awesome so I wanted more. And after 3 or 4 miles, I was feeling even better and wanted even more.

Naughty Neil:
I avoided cake today. And ate fish tacos for lunch. And tried to do better with food. Still not great though. But better.

Splits:
Loop 1 - 17:35
Loop 2 - 17:45
Loop 3 - 17:09
Loop 4 - 26:20
Finish - 1:18:52