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Three score and ten or more

Friday, March 31, 2006

High School and College Jobs

My memories of the years of high school and the first two years of college are not all clearly chronological. To try to even out the chronological and the non-chronological I will group experiences by type rather that by year. (That might not work out, but it is a thought.) I guess that the first experience type might be the various jobs I had during this period. I have already mentioned setting pins in the bowling alley and caddying for the golf course. I really didn’t do much of these after I entered high school (I don’t think) though it seems like I might have, just because I almost always had a job, and until the end of my junior year (at least) I didn’t drive a car or have a driver’s license. That affects the “when did I do this?’ factor because a lot of the jobs I had involved driving. Jobs I particularly remember are: Working for the “City of Alameda”, (said city was absorbed into Pocatello after I became a missionary); working for Idaho Concrete Products (I think I already explained, how I got my driver’s license while working there); working for the Union Pacific Railroad as a Boiler maker helper , working for the Union Pacific as a Pipe fitter helper (also already described), working as a short order cook at a dairy queen type store (not a Dairy Queen but that type of restaurant, I can’t remember the name but it was on South fifth opposite the Idaho State Campus. I think it might have been called the Polar Bear), working as a fill-in announcer (this meant that when the permanent guys showed up drunk or otherwise incapacitated, or didn’t show up at all, they called me in to work) at Station KSEI in Pocatello, working for a short time as a DJ or announcer at Radio Station KWIK (also in Pocatello). I also taught Ballroom Dancing at a studio upstairs over the Paris Store in Pocatello (actually I went there as a student for six weeks, and then worked there three nights a week for another six weeks. I think I was filling in for someone, but they paid me and that’s what counts). I also sang in saloons (which I couldn’t legally even go into, for part of the time I worked there.) After I started college, I also worked as a cataloguer in the Idaho State University Documents Library, I was the advertising salesman and Business Manager of the Idaho State year book _The Wickiup _ (I think) for two years, and for one year, I was the voice of the Political Science Department’s weekly radio broadcast “Mr. Chairman” (This last was an unpaid gig, but it took a lot of my time and was a great experience.)

One of the really great things in this period was getting a job with a group that called itself the College Housecleaning team. I really can’t remember the names any of the guys who were in charge of the team when I was recruited. Most of them were Korean vets, and we had the opportunity to work, more or less as often as we wished and to drop out for awhile if things got tight in classes. This time period I remember because I worked with the team off and on for most of my sophomore year at GSU. We owned a trailer, a lot of housecleaning implements including an industrial vacuum cleaner, mops, soaps and wall-cleaning dough, and we purchased them out of the income and more or less shared in what was left. We worked mostly on weekends and I made pretty good money, along with everyone else. Everybody on the team graduated except me, so I ended up with all the “stuff”. Around the end of my sophomore year I mentioned this stuff to Arlo Luke who was a fellow student at Idaho State, and whom I talked to at the LDS institute. When I went off on my mission he and another friend, Don Aslett, ended up with all the “stuff”. By the time I got home from my mission three years later, Don and Arlo had organized the “stuff”, made contracts, hired multiple folks and had turned it into what became, ultimately, a multi million dollar company. It goes to show you the difference between putting yourself through school and seeing the real possibilities in a situation (I was the first type, they were the second)

Somewhere in this period, I also sold Lifetime Stainless Steel Cookwear, went to work for a couple of weeks at a place called Signal Mountain Lodge up near Jackson Hole, sold advertising for Perry Swisher’s muckraking weekly (which, I think, was called The Idaho Enterprise), and joined a co-op called SanJay enterprises making radio commercials. We all chipped in money and bought stock, and worked on the commercials, and I don’t think we ever realized a cent in payment, or if we did, I never saw that cent. The final jobs I have to fit into his period included a summer traveling around Southern Idaho and the areas of Utah, Montana, and Wyoming that abut southern Idaho, building all steel (corrugated steel with steel frames) buildings, and a fairly extensive period carrying hod, (and for a brief time even laying brick) for a masonry company, as well as laying sewer pipe and driving a dump truck for Rupert Sorenson Construction Company, (only a short while, but I can remember his name so I had to put it in.) Roughly counting, that is about twenty different jobs fitted into six years, so it is obvious that some of them overlapped and some were really short periods of time but all of them were interesting, and left strong impressions. I will try to discuss each of the jobs above, (and maybe a few others as they come to mind) in the next few posts. Who knows, in spite of my resolve, I may even talk about something political

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Summation and introduction

Summation and introduction.

I have been thinking about this blog, without writing much for about a week.  I have decided that I have gone “off message”.  I called the blog  Three Score and Ten or more because I thought that some folks might be interested in 1. What it feels like to be seventy plus years old and what kind adventures await those approaching Coothood.
2. Reflections on what the world was like  when I was younger, and therefore what kind of things made me the way I am.  

I have let thoughts about modern politics get in the way of that objective.  I am going to try to carry you through parts of my youth, through people that affected me and whom I affected, through some of the many jobs I have had (I think that Patrick is about the only one I know who has been through more professions than I) and generally how the old world stacks up against the new.  

I have a couple of other mini-mantras to bring out, but right now I have got to leave home for a few days to try to paint and fix up a house so that it can be “moved into”.   I will try not to tell the same story twice (but I won’t guarantee it) and I am going to make a real effort not to shift into rant mode when I get back.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


The last pear bloom

The dying ornamental peach

Pruned grapvines on the arch

Pink Rose Camelias

The last pear blossom
Chinese "gooseberries" with my sculpture studio in the background.
Azaleas beginning to bloom

Camellia buds in March

This has been a really strange winter here in South Georgia. It has been much warmer than usual and the flowers and plants have reacted in strange ways. My camellias usually blossom between Thanksgiving and Christmas, often, if not usually, staying in bloom until well after the azaleas bloom in early March. This year, they didn’t even bud until Christmas and the blooms did not begin until late January and early February. It is now March sixteenth and azaleas are barely beginning to bloom as are the dogwood trees.

My poor peaches are just blooming, but I doubt that the fruit will set on them since there were very few nights during the winter when the temperatures reached below freezing. (peaches usually require at least thirty “chill” nights during dormancy) and my favorite peach tree, an ornamental which usually is a mass of deep red flame by now only has blooms on three small limbs. It appears to have died over the winter. (I wonder if trees die of old age? I transplanted that tree from our previous residence in 1974.) I already miss it.

That said, I doubt that there is a more glorious place to live in the spring. The dogwoods are white or pink in solid bloom. My pear trees are just setting fruit after having imitated giant snowballs for two weeks (Now the petals on the ground make a blanket of white.) One pear tree especially is attacked by a flock of migrating birds (I am told that they are waxwings) on almost the same day every year, and the birds eat all the petals off that tree (never damaging the fruit). My grapevines (pruned almost to the bone every winter) are showing tiny buds that will become a tangle of impenetrable foliage by next month that, by August, will hide vast quantities of Muscatines in black, yellow, and red. The azaleas, welcomed by the still blooming camellias are becoming virtual walls of red, pink, and white. The dormant lawns are spitting up small clusters of dandelions and wild turnip while, hanging over the patio, the Chinese gooseberrys (that never have fruit, they are actually a form of rhododendron ) are bursting with clumps of small white blossoms and the holly bush still is covered with red berries. All of these are presided over by an enormous magnolia which, having gone through a blooming cycle already, is dropping a carpet of enormous boat-like leaves under which are hiding tiny gnoles (a lizard resembling, in miniature, the gecko who sells insurance on TV) waiting for the unwary fly, mosquito or scuttling earth bound insect to come within range. The pine trees are just beginning to pollinate, and within a week every car will have a deep yellow coating, and each rain storm will be followed by yellow rivers down the storm gutters.

My pride of feral cats hunches on top of the lawn furniture looking wistfully at the birds around the bird feeder that is hung out of their reach, but pouncing on the unwary robin coming to scratch for worms, or squirrel that is just coming out of the nest to survey the tulip beds for tasty bulbs. (or meowing impatiently for me to put some cat kibble in the frisbee on the patio, for which they will then scramble unless I attempt to pet one or scratch its ears. That one will hiss and spit, notifying me emphatically that I am allowed to feed but not to touch.)

Living in South Georgia from the beginning of March to the end of May is a joy that will be paid for by living with scorching heat and swarms of gnats and mosquitoes, relieved only by the occasional afternoon thundershower which, in providing momentary coolness spreads pools of water for the new birth of more gnats and mosquitoes. It is a high price to pay, indeed, but right now, it is worth it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Memories ??
This is not a post of great import.  It is just something that hit me as I came in the house a bit ago.  I had been out to my son’s house to feed his dogs, cats, fish, and whatever else would come eat.  It was late and I was tired driving home, so it was with real relief that I came in the family room (where the television is) and looked at this geezer (thinner and richer than the geezer writing this, but still a geezer) in a lovely white suit, who was playing the piano.

I looked at him and thought I KNOW that guy.  Just then, he quit playing and bowed to applause from the audience.   I scratched my head a little, looked closely at the TV (which was set to the public TV station).   He talked for a moment then went back to the piano and began to play a hot, improvised version of AUTUMN LEAVES.   Suddenly it hit me.  He was a former student at Idaho State College, and I had already written a post which included him.

In my earlier story about my first REAL date, in my Junior year of high school (1951), I mentioned that all the cast and crew for the high school operetta had been moved up into the balcony  because a local guy who had won a famous piano competition had come back to town to give a Community Concert.  I identified him as Louis Weertz, and noted that he had since developed a stage name, but I couldn’t remember what it was.

There, in front of me, on the TV was Louis Weertz.  I am not sure he would be flattered by my failure to remember his stage name.  He is only Roger Williams, whose 1955 recording of AUTUMN LEAVES is the most sold single piano album in the history of recording music.  And all I could remember was Louis Weertz.  Oh well!!  When the aging brain turns to mush, it is always exciting  when one or two of the cells crystallizes for a moment.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Things get confusinger and confusinger (I know that should be "more confusing", I am being cute). I first heard from a variety of sources that DPW is having some problems finding "an American entity to take over the port terminals in question. I mentioned when this stuff first started that a Singapore entity had outbid DPW for the British assets, but discovered that this only included the assets that were NOT in the U.S. Now, this morning, I am surfing the Neil Boortz webpage, having been sent there by Patrick the Born Again Redneck and discovered that, according to an article in WORLD NET DAILY, a subsidiary of DPW is a fifty per-cent owner of Port of Miami Terminal Operations Company, and has been for quite awhile, and that this ownership, which existed before the infamous "Ports Deal" is not considered a part of the deal. (I am sorry this doesn't include links, but, as noted before, I am computer semi-literate.)

I am still embarassed at the attitude of obvious bias that has permeated both the newsmedia and much of our country about this entire matter, but now I am both embarrassed and confused.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Well Now it is Done

Well, Now it is Done!!

Back in the early fifties, Idaho State University had a boxing team, and it was, bar none, the best overall boxing team in the nation.  One of the boxers from the team, a handsome, tall black man went on to the Olympics where he beat a favored Swedish boxer for the heavyweight Olympic crown.  When he returned from the Olympics a big celebration was set up in Pocatello, Idaho to welcome Ed back and let him know how proud we all were for him.   The complication arose when the banquet for the celebration was scheduled at the Bannock Hotel, and, after the schedule was already established, the hotel let the organizing committee know that they really couldn’t serve Ed in the main dining room.  He was, after all, a “negro”.  This was in Pocatello, Idaho, not somewhere in Alabama, and the sh** hit the fan.  

I was so embarrassed.  A fair number of the guys I had played football with were black (actually, colored was then the preferred term, having replaced “negro” years before).  A number of high school and college students protested, picketing the hotel, the letters to the Editor of the Idaho State Journal (it may have still been the Pocatello Tribune then) were blistering.  I don’t actually remember the final result, but I vaguely remember that the banquet was held and Ed attended, but I am not sure.  I was ashamed of my city, and of  some of my friends, and even, for some ridiculous reason, of my self.  My emotions at that time led me to join the NAACP (which was almost totally white folks, most of them Jewish, at that time).   I didn’t participate much in the organization except to contribute a little money and attend two or three meetings, but I couldn’t help still being ashamed that people I knew could feel so negative (and still praise the guy and cheer) about someone’s color.

I’m embarrassed right now.  I know that some really fine people felt really threatened by the Dubai Ports business, but, after all is said and done, all this uproar was not about substantial evidence or threat, it was (in my opinion) hysteria relating to skin color and nationality and religion. (I know, I read Michele Malkin and the other right wing and left wing columnists—this time in agreement with each other and I couldn’t believe a word of it.)  

I hope that it will blow over, but if I were Muslim, living in the United States, or in any of the Arab countries which have supported us for the past few years, I would be humiliated, angry, and probably ready to join something or someone to try to validate the fact that a great injustice had been done to people who were of my faith, and who looked like me, just because of group hysteria.  I hope this doesn’t have the kind of result I fear, but I do fear, that in the next two or three years we will see results of what happened today that are far more frightening than any result of a port facility run by an Arab company (with an American CEO) could ever have been.  I think that we have proved that we have a raghead Islamophobic  flood running though this nation, just as we had a “four eyed Jap, and kill the Nazi flood when I was a child. And I fear that resolving this will be almost as painful as resolving the results of Jim Crow laws, and so-called separate but equal fictions in schools and employment regarding another group with another skin color.  I pray that I am wrong.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Hard Way to Quit Smoking, Both Times

The Hard Way to Quit Smoking, Both Times

When I was in the first, second, and third grades,  (1940-43) and actually for two or three years thereafter,  my best friend, Donnie, lived across the street from me in Alameda, Idaho, a “suburb” of Pocatello ( On one side of the street you were in Pocatello, on the other side, Alameda),  Idaho.  (Alameda doesn’t exist any more, it was absorbed by Pocatello in what was for Pocatello a really swift move, and for Alameda one of the stupidest moves in history, perhaps more about that later.)

The bombing of Pearl Harbor happened just before Christmas during my tenure in the second grade.  Don and I were imaginative, and managed to find a lot of ways to get into trouble. (Not serious trouble, just stupid kid trouble.).  To appreciate Alameda at that time you must understand that , though almost a part of a fairly industrial little city of about twenty five thousand, it was essentially a little country village.  There was an irrigation canal that bisected the town from west to east, (although the main head gates for the canal was really at the northern border of the community so there was a southerly flow for a few blocks).   Underneath every north/south street on the east side of town was a culvert. As far as we were concerned the canals were there for swimming and wading and catching frogs, and (for those culverts that didn’t have two by four cowcatcher attachments at either end) the culverts were for holding your breath and seeing how fast you could swim through under water.  There were irrigation ditches down at least one side, and usually both sides of every street, and  down the center of some blocks (where one might expect to find an alley).  If  one had a vegetable garden, it was possible to  block one of the ditches and channel the water into  your garden.   The ditch rider (a man who worked for the irrigation company) would turn the water into each ditch two or three days a week).  City water was available for drinking and bathing, but there was no central sewer, so that every home had either a septic tank, a cess pool, or/and outhouse.  And yes, there were a substantial number of homes with outhouses, a source of some mischief for older children, and of pain for younger ones.  (It was not unusual for some of the younger children to find themselves locked temporarily in outhouses by older - ten or eleven year old- children- especially around the Halloween or April Fool period).  

Each street was lined with trees, which were very healthy because the irrigation ditches ran down between the sidewalk and the trees.   Most of the trees were enormous poplar trees, many two to four feet in diameter and forming a leafy canopy almost across each entire street.  Because the poplars tended to have some large roots that grew under the sidewalks, many of the sidewalks were not level and some were broken.  Walking, or riding a bike down the street could be a little precarious.  The trees themselves, however, were glorious to children.  In the spring, first, little green things appeared on the tips of the limbs.  I now presume that they were seeds.  A short time later the trees leafed out with enormous leaves, and as the summer heat began, the streets were shady and cool.  I wouldn’t say that it never got hot in Alameda at the time, but, except for large buildings like the movie theatres in Pocatello (next door) and some of the commercial buildings, I was never aware of an air conditioned home.  (I doubt that I knew that there were such things.)  My total experience with air conditioning was signs above some buildings and motels that crowed “Air Conditioned Building.” The trees were both most irritating and most wonderful in the fall first, when they changed glorious color, then when they dropped a six to eight inch leaf cover over yards and streets alike.  They were irritating because that spurred a parental charge to rake the leaves into piles.  Most piles were in vacant lots or on the edge of the streets, into which all children under high school age ran and jumped and covered themselves up (and scattered the leaves, requiring a second raking.)   They were mostly disposed of (modern environmental attitudes be damned) by striking a match and tossing it into the center of the pile.  This, in turn, brought about another child’s thrill, Idaho Russet Potatoes, sometimes coated in mud or wet paper towels and placed in the base of the leaf pile. (Others, with more of a sense of food quality than fun, sometimes  buried the spuds a couple of inches under ground before the fire was started, or waited till the fire was mostly ash and coals then scooped a hole in the ashes, putting in the potato and raking up a pile of hot ash over the top.)

Over time, quite a few people had the sidewalk cracking  poplars replaced with somewhat less aggressive trees.  I remember when my parents had the poplars in front of our house removed and replaced with Siberian elms.  At the same time they had a new level sidewalk poured.  In front of the lot next to our house, sometime previously, someone had replaced the poplar with a box elder tree.   This box elder tree was one of the factors in my quitting smoking.  

As a Mormon, smoking was a definite no-no, and kids under twelve were assumed to be “clean”, Mormon or not.  But the stores were filled with little white candy cigarettes with red tips that you could hold in the corner of your mouth and pretend you were Humphrey Bogart or William Bendix.   Most experimental smoking started with a substance that we called “Indian Tobacco”.  It was a weed, with a seed pod that was reddish brown like cured tobacco and grainy like one sixteenth of an inch popped corn.  The trick was to strip these things off the stock and roll them in strips of newspaper (sometimes plain strips of newspaper were rolled tightly and smoked without Indian tobacco, a good way to scorch your insides) then light them and puff mightily.  I don’t think anyone I knew tried to inhale, who knows, it might have been fatal, but they could be puffed pretty well.  No one was going to develop a habit from that stuff.

As I noted above, when I was seven years old, in the second grade, World War II began.  In no time flat, cigarettes were rationed, and they became pretty hard to get, even when you had the appropriate ration coupons.   Now, I don’t know if Don’s dad just had good connections, or if he saw it coming and stocked up a hoard, or if he was a cigarette black-marketeer.  I only know that Don and I discovered a spot in the back of his garage, where he stored tools and things, where he also had a ceiling high row of shelves covered with cartons and cartons of cigarettes.  After some discussion we liberated a carton of Lucky Strikes, and stashed it away somewhere.  We then proceeded to find places where we could light up a cigarette now and then.

The above mentioned box elder tree became an obvious place.  I am not enough of a biologist to know if all box elder trees are like this one,  but in the summer the foliage on the outside was extremely thick, and for about a five foot circumference from the trunk  there was little or no foliage and that space had, for a long time, been our defacto tree house.

We sat in the tree and read comic books and generally killed a lot of time. A short way up into the “tree house” was a burl into which we carved a hole for comic book storage, candy storage etc.  We even had the lid of a tomato juice can tacked over the opening to keep things dry.   Of course, when the time came, this also became the cigarette stash.  We would go up in the tree, and, between us, we would sometimes smoke a pack a day. (We also had Sen-Sen, a licorice breath purifier, mints, and chewing gum in place to try to clean our breath after smoking).  We inhaled, we did what we called French inhaling, which was to suck smoke into the mouth, then force it out with the cheeks and tongue while inhaling through the nose.  It made, what we thought was a very cool, grown up effect.  We blew smoke rings, we just puffed while reading comic books, and had a good old time.

One day at the close of the summer (I am not sure of our actual age at that time but it was eight or nine years old) we heard a fire siren. (Not unusual, the village fire station was only a block away), and Don commented that maybe we should get down and see where the fire engine was going, but neither of us made a move till the engine came down our street and stopped right at our tree.   It seems that some neighbor saw smoke drifting out of the foliage of the tree and called the fire station.  The man driving, stopped, looked up in the tree, laughed out loud because he knew our parents, and we were, to make a point, busted.   Everything we owned came down out of the tree, our mothers came out of their houses (as did a number of other neighbors) and we were dragged home.  I don’t know what happened to Donnie as he got home.  We barely had time to agree what lie we were going to tell about the source of the cigarettes before we were dragged into durance vile.  I do know that I faced the most serious parental discipline of my short life.   The tree was declared off limits forever (which didn’t really hold up) but I decided at the time that no cool French inhaling was worth the wide variety of punishments and restrictions that followed, and I abruptly quit smoking forever.  (Can you imagine, almost a year of your mother an father smelling your breath every time you entered the house – in addition to other punishments which will not be discussed, but I’m sure that anyone with an active imagination can figure most of them out).

Why then do I mention in the title “Both Times”?  Well, it was my senior year in High School, I had started hanging out with a totally different friend named Don.  His father and mother had faded out of the picture and he was, in a sense, being fostered by his uncle who was in our church and our ward.(parish, if you will).  My mother heavily encouraged me to hang out with Don and be a good influence.  I did, and, to a degree, I was.   We really became very close, and we began to double date together, study together, sit together (with a bunch of other guys) at church and generally were buddies.  I was, at that time, going through a lot of thought about my faith, and in some ways, was having a hard time, and I am pretty sure that Don was going through a lot of the same stuff.

He had (or at least drove, but I think it was actually his) a ’49 Ford.  Now, I hear a lot of cars from my youth being called classics, but the ’49 Ford, at that time (the 1951-52 school year) was an acknowledged “bomb”.  It would out drag almost anything that was truly stock.  It would go from 0 to 60 in what seemed to be a heartbeat, and it would go 85 miles an hour in second gear. (Manual transmissions were about all we had at the time).   I don’t have any idea how fast it would go in third gear but it was faster than anyone sane would want to drive on Idaho roads at the time.  (Bing Crosby filmed a movie in Idaho about that time and was quoted as saying “I don’t know how Louis and Clark made it across Idaho, the roads must have been better then”)

One night we double dated, and after taking our dates home, we decided to go for a ride, so we started south on US 91/191 toward McCammon,  Incom and Salt Lake City.  Sometime, about half an hour into the ride, Don pulled out a pack of cigarettes.  I had been hassling him about smoking, trying to get him to quit (He didn’t really smoke very much), but for some obscure reason, when he offered me a cigarette, I took it.  I was driving, so he lit my cigarette, and I began to smoke as I had when I was in the tree.  I deeply inhaled, blew some smoke rings, French inhaled, you know how guys need to show off sometimes.   Suddenly the road began to have curves that were never in the pavement.  It seemed to actually be moving from side to side and up and down which caught Don’s attention immediately.  I believe his comment was something like “What the HELL?????”
I took my foot off the gas, (I don’t even want to think about how fast I might have been going), and with Don holding the steering wheel to help me, I got the car stopped by the side of the road.  Strangely enough the road was still moving from side to side and up and down as I staggered out, leaned over the left fender and threw up.   My insides were not satisfied with having emptied themselves, so, with Don supporting me to keep me from falling to oblivion into the sage brush, I moved to the shoulder of the road, where I had the dry  heaves  until I was so weak he had to drag me over to the car door.  As he got me in, went over to the driver’s side and started the car, I remember screaming “STOP”, opening the door and falling to my knees back on the road shoulder with another session of dry heaves.

I don’t know how long  I knelt there, but I think I passed out as we were going home.  I can honestly say, that from that time to this, I have never had a temptation to smoke.  On a couple of occasions I have had the opportunity to kiss young ladies who were shocked as we got close and I smelled tobacco on her breath, to see me back up, almost nauseated.
The interesting thing was that, I think, from that time till we graduated and he moved to live with either his father or mother somewhere (I still really miss him, he was a great friend) I don’t think Don smoked any more either.