Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mines magazine By Colorado School of Mines. Alumni Association

Mines magazine By Colorado School of Mines. Alumni Association: "Edward V Graybeal Edward V Graybeal and Miss Alice Mathewson were married at St Mark"

While surfing my recently discovered gold (copper) mine, Google Books, for anything about my grandpa E.P. Mathewson, I ran across the following item. This my dad, Edward V. Graybeal. There is virtually nothing outside of genealogy sites and what I've written that comes up under his name. In the first years after he and my mom, Alice S. (Mathewson)  Graybeal were married, three boys, Ned, Jack and Jim came into the world. They were living in Great Falls, Montana where Daddy was employed as a mining engineer.

With the birth of their third son, Jim (James Mathewson) Mom developed a blood clot which resulted in an aneurism which left her paralyzed on her left side. Daddy got an offer to work at the Miami Copper Co. in Arizona. Prior to the move, they went to visit Mom's parents in Staten Island, NY. Grandpa had, by this time, established his metallurgical and mining administration consultancy in NYC. having resigned as general manager from the British America Nickel Corporation. 

There was much concern about Mom's ability to have any more children, the doctors' opinion being that she should stop with the children she had. But with corrective surgeries, which got her back on her feet, she threw caution to the wind and soon my sister was born.

Mom and Daddy were very devoted to one another and his career was doing well, but once again tragedy struck with the accidental death of their eldest son, Ned (Edward V. Jr.) in 1930. Resiliency reigned over the Graybeal household and in 1932 Mom was expecting again. 

In November of that year, Daddy, Jack, 15 and Jim, 13 were on a hunting trip when Daddy, chasing some game up a ridge accidentally shot himself while rushing through some bushes after downing some quail. He fired his gun twice in succession and one of the other adults in the party said "That's a call for help!"  

The boys reached him and Jim was sent for help. Jack stayed with him as Daddy managed his own care, using Jack's belt for a tourniquet. Eventually, they got him down to a car planning to rendezvous with the ambulance up the road.  The boys, driven by one of Daddy's friends in our car followed a quarter mile behind. The car ahead stopped and the dome light turned on. Jack recalled some 60 years later, "I'm pretty sure, that's when Daddy died."

Mom was nearly 7 months pregnant with me when all this happened. She had been in and out of hospitals over the years fine tuning the remedial surgery to assist her walking abilities and was recovering from one of these procedures. Daddy had been converting the cookstove to burn kerosene and it was all apart leaving the family with little to prepare a meal on other than a camp stove. A neighbor came over to finish up the job, and Mom bravely marched on.

But a mining camp was no place for a widow to raise a lively bunch of kids and a plan was made to move to Tucson, some 110 miles south of Miami and the retirement home of Grandpa and Grandma. Mom gave birth in January of 1933 and six month's later, we made the move. 

Mom never remarried, never wanted to replace the man she so loved. She had a degree from the U. of Montana and decided to go into education, specializing in teaching children with special educational needs. Her contract with the Tucson Public Schools System coincided with my first day in school.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Wild Blue Yonder

Jim’s plane, the “Judy G” in my painting from a photo taken by his wingman over Germany. Jim later became temporary base commander at Chelveston, UK

Typical of other families, we dealt with shortages, rationing and the need to feel we were helping out the war effort. We had the requisite flag in the window with two stars on it, thankfully blue. Some people had lost their servicemen and by 1943, our two, Jim and Loren had shipped out to England, assigned to the 8th Air Force. Alice was living at home, with a volunteer job at the Red Cross. Jim would write with regularity and we with “V” mail would cram every word we could on the self- mailing forms. Every so often, Jack would make it down from Miami in his Model A roadster. One had to save up gas or gas coupons for such trips. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) issued a window sticker for your windshield, an A sticker for most people, a B for people in essential work and C for those who had really special needs. The A sticker got you 3 gallons of gas per week, so Jack had to walk to work all the time in order to save up enough for the trip to Tucson.

Word from the front lines was mixed. Jim was doing well, but Loren got shot down over France and was captured. He was sent to Stalag Luft III in Poland. This was the famous POW camp featured in “The Great Escape” starring Steve McQueen. Loren told us that a second camp had been built after that escape and he was incarcerated in that one. Eleven months went by until he and his fellow prisoners were liberated, much to Alice’s and the families’ relief. Loren’s memoir es an interesting account of their efforts to get out of England and back home involving General Eisenhower. Loren regularly attends POW reunions.

As the war effort shifted to the Pacific theater, our warriors, their wives and one child, plus Jack down from Miami, descended on the homestead for a long weekend. The assembled crowd slept on every square inch of available space in the already crowded house. Despite the lack of any hint of privacy, we had a grand time being together for the first time in years. There was discussion about what the future held. Jim was returning to college, this time at UCLA, to get his bachelors degree. They would live in a little house they bought in south Los Angeles on Curzon near Washington Blvd. Jack was finally eligible for the draft (he’d been turned down earlier for being underweight and being employed in an essential war industry at Miami Copper Co.) He spent the next 18 months as a guest of Uncle Sam sightseeing in Japan, a paid vacation in his opinion. Meanwhile, Alice and Loren were hoping that he would get permanent employment as an Air Force plane driver. Mom was looking forward to having the house back to ourselves now that the housing crisis was at an end.

Church life

Mother was a religious person, attending church faithfully. She saw to it that all of her children were christened in the Episcopal faith. Once we were settled in our new home in Tucson, she took us to Grace Episcopal Church, the one Grandpa and Grandma attended, at the corner of Stone Ave. and Third St. We went there until my obstreperous behavior during services led to the suggestion that maybe some other congregation might welcome us. We joined the flock at St. Andrews Episcopal, a mission on the south side of town. Mother liked this church and became the organist. When I got older, I would sit beside her and turn the pages.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal church as it is today. The right side was where we attended. The rectory is out of the picture on the right.

In comparison to Grace Church, St. Andrews was decidedly austere. A tan stucco building, it had no steeple and the pews had no swing down kneeling pads. In fact there was a real made in the garage look about the furnishings. There were two windows either side of the altar. Having no stained glass, the church arranged for one of the congregation who was an artist, to create reasonable facsimiles of stained glass using colored gels for theatrical lighting with some kind of painted on simulated caming which served to bind them to the clear glass window behind.

St. Andrews provided a stopover for a string of ministers on their way to more prestigious assignments, but one, Mr. Dugan, was a family man with a son, Ray who became my buddy. We were both ripe to become acolytes and there was work for two of us. This kept us occupied in productive pursuits. The Dugans were a family of five, a baby, Ray and his teenage sister, Brenda, our nemesis. On Sundays they sat down for breakfast between early communion and the eleven o’clock service. One morning, as the early service was winding down, Brenda, in charge of oatmeal preparation, came in the side door of the church frantically trying to get her father’s attention. Mr. Dugan excused himself (there were perhaps four people taking communion) to see what the emergency was all about.

“Daddy!” she whispered, “the pressure cooker exploded! There’s oatmeal all over the ceiling!”

Mr. Dugan brought the service to an abrupt close and with robes flowing, raced over to the rectory to assess the damage. True enough, most of two quarts of sloppy oatmeal was hanging like stalactites from the ceiling. Breakfast was delayed.

We found ourselves at St. Andrews a couple of times a week for a while. I elected to attend the early service because it lasted only a half hour and opted out of acolyte duty. There was choir practice on Wednesday evenings, giving us boys an opportunity to get into mischief. Ray and another boy, Billy Codd and I were jumping around on a big pile of palm tree trimmings across the street from the church. These were off date palms and the fronds had sharp needles toward the base of the stem and I managed to impale myself on one of them. The tip broke off and sank into my calf beyond reach of my mother’s needle and tweezers. Some thirty five years later, it festered up and I had a doctor remove it along with a wad of scar tissue.

Of the mostly lower middle-income parishioners, one family stood out-the Freemans. My fifth grade teacher at Roskruge Elementary was Miss Freeman, the daughter of this pillar of the church. They owned a poultry ranch outside of town and Mr. Freeman had a new, 1946 Cadillac sedan. That autumn, what they now call the monsoons came in heavily, causing flash floods all along the southeast part of town and beyond. Mr. Freeman was out on the Benson Highway, on his way back home from a business trip late Saturday night. Rain was coming down in torrents, causing him to slow to a virtual crawl, when the front of his car suddenly dropped with a loud clunk. His headlight beams dropped into a frightening sight-the bridge had washed out and a rush of muddy water greeted the front of the car. With traffic approaching from the rear, he got out of the car to try and warn them of the washout. Two cars passed him by, driving off to their doom. It was reported that eleven people drowned that night. It was a sobering tale for the congregation that Sunday morning after.

The Dugan’s were reassigned to a parish where Mr. Dugan could utilize his command of Spanish, in which he was fluent. He always pronounced Tucson “Took-sohn”, his understanding of the way the Papago and Pima Indians said it. When they left it was the end of the informal, family-friendly era. For a brief interlude there was a Mr. Dicus who never saw much future for either himself or St. Andrews. Then, a truly formidable minister arrived, Father Lewis Sassé. A retired military chaplain, “Father” as he was of the alternate, more formal school of Episcopalians that felt a close kinship with the Catholic church and all its trappings like crossing yourself and bowing every time you crossed in front of the altar. I was not up for that nonsense, having achieved my rebellious teen years, but for one thing-the attractive Kate Sassé. Kate was the first girl I’d met so alluring yet so unattainable. She was attracted to “older men”, say 15 or 16 and I at 14 just didn’t cut the mustard. In fact, when I was 16, I still looked 14. Undeterred, I continued to attend church against my instincts to be in her shadow, however one-sided. Another element was the father factor, not the liturgical but the parental. One got the feeling that one misstep and you’d be paying now and in the hereafter. Kate and I both went to high school together but her and my orbits never coincided. The summer after graduation, I ran into her at the swimming pool at Catalina Park. She was alone and I saw to it my buddies didn’t butt into my moment. We talked for a while and she explained that being an Air Force brat, she didn’t make friends readily. “I played with myself,” she told me, then immediately flushed “I mean by myself!” Two years of unrequited ardor, costly. One Freudian slip, priceless!

Bikes and buddies

Before girls, there were buddies. Sometimes buddies have good influences on one another, sometimes they are what best could be described as learning experiences. Jimmy Walker was one of the latter. He was a few months younger than I, part of a family in the next block who lived a modest life in a house owned by the Presbyterian church. Mrs. Walker was a widow and the family was somewhat parallel to ours, except not as well off. Jimmy had two brothers and a sister, closer in age and few years younger than my siblings. The house was one of those homes that kids like to visit. Mrs. Walker was the definition of laizes faire when it came to the kids who seemed to have their own agendas, collecting stuff, going places, doing things as long as they didn’t cost anything. There was a faded blue ’36 Studebaker parked for all time in the shade a grape arbor that covered the driveway. Mrs. Walker didn’t drive and the boys weren’t old enough, not that anybody had any gas money.

In the back of the property was a shed, fronted by a pit, about 7’ by 7’ and about 3’ deep.dug out of the caliche soil . The shed was off limits, probably because it was full of black widows so inspecting it was not a high priority. Useless, cast off stuff accumulated in the pit-old tires, broken bicycle parts, and in January, all the Christmas trees we could drag in there behind our bikes. In Arizona, the trees tended to dry out very quickly, making them highly flammable. When we got enough, say a dozen or so, Bob Walker, with show business flair, would take a can of heating oil from the household tank, douse the trees and drop a match into the darkness. The flames would quickly flare up twenty feet, toasting the power line leading from the house to the shed. Although the column of smoke extended fifty or sixty feet into the air, no one seemed alarmed enough to call the fire department.

Boredom was always lurking and Jimmy and I felt duty bound to head it off, no matter the diversion. It was winter and we both had plaid mackinaw jackets with big pockets. I don’t know how we got started, but we went on a shoplifting binge. For about three weeks, we walked down town and raided stores for items we were attracted to, whether we had use for them or not. Priser’s Stationery store was a favorite target. We would come back to his house and compare loot, making sure we each swiped identical objects. On our way home, one evening, we decided to see what the new Firestone store had of interest. I had just pocketed a dash-mounted compass when the store manager appeared in front of me. Jimmy headed for the door, but was immediately collared. The manager herded us into his office and picked up the phone. Cold fear gripped us. What if he called our mothers? It didn’t occur to us he might have been calling the police. His move proved effective, he told us never to enter his store again and if we did-well…Thoroughly chastised, we slunk out the door hoping no one saw us. I still feel that chill when I get near a Firestone store.

Our gang at one time consisted of myself, Jimmy, Snicky Edwards and occasionally Eddie Leigh. We would congregate in Jimmy’s back yard and watch Jimmy shoot baskets in the hoop near the house. I still hear that monotonous pung, pung, pung, as he dribbled the ball between taking shots. Sometimes we’d join in but none of the rest of us was any good at basketball. When Jimmy got tired of pung, pung, pung, we usually took off somewhere on our bikes.

Bikes to us were an extension of our personality, something we boys carried into our car driving stage. The first bike might have been something left by a sibling and there may have been one that was presented to you by your mother on a special occasion, but then there was the one that perfectly expressed who you were and would forever be your favorite.I was on my third bike, the first two having been stolen, a 24” Elgin which I’d bought from Glenn “Champ” Orr, a classmate and customized it to emulate what was then the popular “hardtail” style motorcycle-seat on the back fender and raked back handlebars. Jimmy’s was a hand-me-down with buffalo horn handlebars and Snicky-well Snicky had a Raleigh three-speed (!) We all figured Snicky’s mom gave it to him for Christmas or his birthday out of guilt. (She had a boyfriend.) We had all seen it in Steinfeld’s department store earlier and knew that it was the Rolls Royce of bikes. We were envious in a way because he could accelerate faster than we with his Sturmey Archer gearshift even sitting down, while we had to stand up and put our weight into each stroke. Still, he looked like a goof pedaling down the street with his legs spinning like a runaway mouse. Eventually, when I got a lightweight Schwinn skinny-tire bike, I equipped it with the same gearshift, but that was years away.

A Raleigh bike similar to the one Snicky's mother bought him. There he was riding the Rolls Royce of bikes around with us bums on our hand-me-downs or whatever. What got to us was he could accelerate sitting on the saddle as fast as we could standing on the pedals. We weren't totally in the dark. We knew that Snicky was embarrassed about his mother's boyfriend who would come over for a little afternoon delight. We couldn't imagine what he saw in her skinny frame. Guilty pleasure, I suppose.

We liked to jump our bikes over at the Presbyterian Church parking lot. The lot was depressed about six feet below street level with a shortcut running from one corner across to the alley. We’d start down the path at full tilt, across the lot and up the other end. At the alley the path lifted enough for us to get the bikes airborne about two and a half feet. I came down hard on one jump, breaking my crank and nearly insuring I would be a boy soprano permanently. I pushed the bike to our favorite bike shop, Russell and Shepard, near the 4th Ave subway and showed it to Mr. Russell.

“Yep, looks like it crystallized, alright!” he told me, introducing an arcane term to my vocabulary. Russell and Shepard was the kind of bike shop that attracted kids. The space was typical store with a couple of small show windows funneling into the entrance door. An aisle went down the center of the space flanked by rows of new Columbia, Shelby Flyer or Schwinn bikes in bright colors. At the back of the showroom was a counter where Ruth, Mr. Russell’s daughter held forth, writing up things like inner tubes, NeverLeak, spokes, and installment payments on a small sales pad with a carbon paper insert. It was the first store that would let us charge our purchases knowing that we were dependent on allowances and odd jobs for our money. In the rear half of the store were two mechanics who could fix anything on a bike. They were both Latinos, one large and one small, with a hand with fingers in a permanent tight curl. We called him “One hand”. He was the expert in straightening rims. The other guy could weld, paint and was good with adjusting cones for bearings. He could even fix Sturmey Archer gearshifts. I leaned on him frequently when my bike needed repair.

The broken crank, a nice, chrome one, couldn’t be replaced exactly due to wartime shortages. I felt lucky to get a dull, gray, generic crank made for the next larger bike, a 26”. The half-inch longer crank arms made for faster getaway but I had to be careful not to drag them on the pavement going around corners, particularly with my feet in the toe clips.

In competition with Russell and Shepard was Ingham & Ingham. They had a nice new bike shop on the same street with a big showroom. Aside from Schwinn bicycles, they sold Harley Davidson motorcycles, which had a new imported model, the 125, a two-stroke lightweight model added to their regular line of V-twins. One of our sometime friends, Chester Ice, had access to a new Harley 125 and gave the jump a shot. Approaching the jump at over 30 mph he sailed clear across the alley into the stickers, which punctured the front tire, an ignominious conclusion to an otherwise impressive stunt. He had to push the motorcycle back to Ingham & Ingham, where he “borrowed” it and fix the flat. Chester was employed there for odd jobs partly to keep him out of trouble and being an embarrassment to his older brother Kenny, a motorcycle cop on the Tucson Police Department. Chester managed to get into plenty of trouble just the same.

We toured all the streets and neighborhoods of Tucson, even taking the steep climb up “A” mountain, or as far as we could given that our single speed bikes were almost as heavy as we were. The ride down was exciting and the coaster brakes were put to the test. We decided to take a ride out to Bear Canyon, 20 miles east of town. My back tire had a slow leak and I was going to get a bicycle pump as a precaution, but the store wouldn’t be open until 9:30, too late for our early start. Leaving sandwiches and apples, and in my case, a large folding camera, we headed up to Speedway Blvd., the main route east. Our first rest stop was a gas station at the crossroads of Wilmot Rd, where we stoked up on a drink out of the hose and I pumped up my tire. We were 8 miles out-less than halfway from our destination. My rear tire was slowly losing air even though I had squirted a tube of Neverleak into it. The last 12 miles were much more challenging, it seemed, because there was nothing but desert to be seen and the last couple of miles was on a dirt road with a steep rise at the end. But what lay ahead in the canyon was a magical place called “Seven Falls”. This was ten times better than the adjacent Sabino Canyon, which had been gentrified by the CCC during the depression, CCC standing for Civilian Conservation Corps, an organization to keep unemployed young men out of jail.

Route to Bear Canyon shown on this 1940s map of Tucson vicinity. Wilmot Road was pretty much the end of civilization. “A” Mountain is on the left side of the map

Jimmy Walker's brother Bob, always told him to look into the sun when posing for a picture. (Same true in the 8th grade class picture!)

After spending time skipping rocks across the pools, we finished eating and headed back to the bikes, parked at the trailhead. My rear tire was nearly flat and I had no way to repair it. While the others got packed up, I headed down the hill, putting my weight over the front wheel. The back tire was soon pretty much flat after a few miles and I was reduced to pushing the bike. The others pressed on, promising to wait at the service station. I now wished for light. The sun had gone
down leaving me vulnerable but no traffic came along that evening. Finally, I rounded the turn from Tanque Verde road on to Wilmot. The station was just a quarter mile away, the longest quarter mile of my young life. They were just about to put away the hoses for the night. Pumped up once more, I joined the others for the speedy return down the two-lane pavement to our neighborhood, exhausted but exulting over our adventure. Incidentally, I did buy that bicycle pump the next day, not to mention a new tire and tube.

When I was twelve, a new kid moved into a house just beyond the alley. I didn’t know what to make of him, this kid from Akron, Ohio. Johnny Carlson would remain my friend all our lives. Ramon Cadiz, who lived on the near side of the alley and I decided that Johnny was in need of a proper nickname and started calling him Yoe, short for Johahn. His father was Big Yoe. His mother was Minnie. Minnie established the lifestyle in the household, which tended toward austerity. They had moved to Tucson for Yoe’s asthma and Big Yoe had taken a big cut in pay, there being no Goodyear plant in Tucson. Big Yoe started doing handyman work while building a duplex on a lot he bought across from Roskruge school. Eventually, he said, they would move to the duplex, rent one side and sell the house on 4th Street. This would take a few years.

Ramon's cat "Cocoa"

Ramon Cadiz and I had known one another before Johnny Carlson moved into the house across the alley. Alleys were the conduits to the town and our interests and it was how we visited each other’s homes. We avoided the main streets where possible, taking the back routes whenever possible. Streets were to be crossed. Most alleys ran north and south, with a few east and west, mostly in the east side of town. In some blocks, the alleys crossed both directions. Sidewalks were an illegal attraction as was riding without lights after dark. Front doors were for salesmen and neighbor ladies. Johnny’s, or Yoe’s driveway opened out on to the alley opposite that of Ramon’s back yard. This was very convenient for bicycle traffic.

Ramon had a half-brother who was attending the University on the GI Bill, majoring in drama. He went by the name of C. Thornton Garst, but I can’t remember ever addressing him by that moniker. Garst had an army buddy named Eddie Fundis, a working class friend from their neighborhood back in New York. The two were roommates in an apartment they fashioned out of the garage. It was a fascinating place, mainly because it was off limits to us bike rats. I was impressed because they had a large record collection and a sound system that was salvaged from some old console with the speaker mounted up in the rafters and a record changer on a bench. Eddie had built the speaker cabinet out of plywood and the opera they played filled the room. They were into opera even if I wasn’t. Later they got one of the first LP record players and began a collection of the new medium.

Eddie was a carpenter/cabinet maker and part time scenery builder. Having spent all his money on records, his budget for transportation was limited to a Schwinn heavy duty bike with a Whizzer motor on it. He built a tidy little trailer to carry his tools and he would head down the alley every day to wherever work happened to be. We all thought his rig was admirable if not cool.

Garst and Eddie Fundis would occasionally throw a party and invite friends from the drama department. The opera would give way to livelier fare and they’d get serious about partying. That was really cool. We would show our appreciation by pitching rocks on top of the garage’s metal roof. It was from that roof that we had a grandstand view of their neighbor’s back yard, which was the site of a wedding. We didn’t know those people but we knew they were Jewish and the wedding featured a canopy, or huppah, for the bride and groom. All of this was very exotic in our view, but Ramon, with his New York background, took it all in stride and even told us what to expect as the ceremony proceeded. Of course, we were moved to offer our good wishes in the form of animal noises. This was really what being 12 and 13 years of age was all about-irritating the hell out of anyone older than us.

There was a certain cloud of gloom over Yoe’s house. We were seldom invited inside. Yoe’s parents weren’t on the best of terms. Big Yoe, as he was respectfully referred to though never addressed, started a handy man service. He purchased a Dodge pickup truck, which he parked in the driveway leaving his garage available for shop work. I recall that in his former life in Akron, before the doctors said that young Johnny’s asthma wouldn’t improve unless they moved him to a dry climate. Having to quit his job at the Goodyear plant, lose his retirement and a lot of self-respect didn’t bode well for his marriage to Minnie. It was a marriage made in America. He was an immigrant Swede and she was of sober Appalachian stock. She got the notion that Big Yoe was seeing some widow when he was supposed to be on a job somewhere and started tailing him as best she could. We noticed this and started tailing her. I can’t imagine she wasn’t aware of the three of us but she was always on the lookout for that homewrecker, whoever she might be.

Yoe was about three months older than I and always seemed more mature in his ways. He discovered girls ahead of Ramon and me and began wearing white dress shirts and clean Levi’s all the time in acknowledgement of his newly changed voice. He had the coolest bike of the three of us-a Schwinn tank model with a knee action fork, a built-in horn and a rack over the back wheel. I’m sure it weighed in at 45 lbs. Eventually that wasn’t cool enough for Yoe and he started walking everywhere. Image is everything when you are trying to impress the opposite sex. We noticed that he was drifting away and weren’t sure what to do about it. It was amusing to us when he carried on a conversation with Carol Neston who lived across 4th Street from his house. Carol was a little older, maybe even 15 and already had a reputation for “putting out” whatever that meant. We suspected she dated flyboys from Davis-Monthan air base. She would lean out the upstairs window, her ample bosom in full view and carry on small talk with Yoe-for hours, it seemed. If Yoe ever went up to her room, he never told us.

Our tight little group was having growing pains. We discovered cigarettes and in order to smoke unhindered, we built a “club house” from cardboard cartons between a fence and the wall of the car washing bay behind the Red Cross headquarters. The space was no more than three or four feet wide, giving us enough room for some kind of seat running lengthwise along one fence. Once we all lit up, smoke filled the volume and we’d have to abandon ship. It was here that I felt smoking was not in my best interests and gave it up for life. Of course the fact that an uncontrollable attack of diarrhea struck as I headed home may have had something to do with my decision. It was not my nature to suffer discomfort like that.

Yoe, Ramon and I ran around together on our bikes, sometimes including Snicky Edwards or Homer Gruver. We tended to get into trouble when we associated with those two. Eddie Leigh was a good friend of Jimmy Walker and lived around the corner from Snicky. Eddie was a straight arrow, an honor roll student like Jimmy. His little sister was a different story. Darlene used to hang out with Nan Neston, Carol’s little sister. The two of them were known to drop their panties for the education of older boys. That was a little over the top for me and Yoe. Also, being a couple of years younger than we were, the amusement seemed rather perverse, anyway. Years later, Nan worked as an exotic dancer at a night spot on Speedway.

Homer Gruver’s dad had a real estate business over on 3rd Street, a few blocks from my home. He and our bunch ran around together for a couple of years. He had a younger brother who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage one day while riding his bike. Later, his body was lying in state at a nearby mortuary. Homer asked if we wanted to see the body and we of course were for the idea. We rode up on our bikes and found that Homer and his older sister were the only ones there with the body. We timidly looked into the casket observing that he looked like he was asleep yet not quite natural looking. Homer’s sister said, “You want to feel something funny?”

We looked at one another wondering what could be funny about a dead kid. She grabbed my hand and poked my fingers down behind her brother’s head. There wasn’t any back to the head! I yanked my hand free and stood dumbfounded. Funny? Creepy was more appropriate. It wasn’t the sense that his head felt like an upturned bowl that got to me, but how callous his sister seemed, showing off her little brother’s body like a sideshow curiosity. Homer thought it was funny to see me in shock like that. Yoe and Ramon reconsidered the invitation.

My sister Alice and her husband, Loren were staying with us at the time while looking for housing. He had just been assigned to Davis Monthan AFB, having decided that a career in the Air Force was a much better alternative to that of his other option, assistant postmaster in Douglas, Arizona. Loren had well ingrained saving habits, having made it through the Great Depression at an age when he understood how bad things were for most people. Every day, he’d empty his pockets of change and put the dimes, nickels and pennies in a jar, regularly sorting and wrapping the coins for deposit in a savings account. Loren and Alice drove in the back yard in the afternoon. As usual, as he changed out of his uniform, he emptied his pockets of change to put them with the savings. It was then that Loren discovered the loss of some $80.00-a considerable sum for those days. The suspicion landed on one of my friends-Yoe. I found out later that Homer was most likely the culprit. It was deemed prudent that we lock the back door when we left from then on-a minor inconvenience.

During these early teen years, we rode around on bikes, having our little adventures, gradually preparing ourselves for what was to come in high school. But Tucson Senior High School was a different world and we managed to get split up. First, Yoe dropped out of school after the eighth grade, Ramon, I can’t remember. I guess he went on to high school but his bohemian family was pretty dysfunctional. Eventually, Ramon moved away. Snicky was a year behind me. Jimmy Walker graduated from 9th grade with honors, Eddie Leigh was his usual star student self while I was struggling.

In looking back on all these childhood friends and acquaintances, I’m impressed that these families were all somewhat dysfunctional, with one or more children having no particular moral compass, while their siblings might be outstanding students or at least “normal.” Maybe that was what attracted me to them.

From 9th grader to Senior High

It was just kitty-corner across Sixth Street from Roskruge Junior High to Tucson Senior High School, but a world of difference in every other sense. Classes and study programs were designed around your life goals. Did you plan to attend college? Then you go into the college prep program with more advanced math, literature, languages, science and the like. Everyone not planning to attend college was assigned to classes like metal shop, business English, typing, home economics and other classes with practical value.

In high school, the only class I was a star in was art. Miss Cullough was very encouraging if a bit anal. We were introduced to oils, pastel, pen and ink and watercolor. O’Reilly Motors, a Chevrolet dealer sponsored a contest for school kids to illustrate the latest model in an idealized setting. My entry showed a maroon Chevrolet convertible at a drive-in and it won first place even though it was dreadfully toiled over. I tried doing cartoons for the school paper and had one spontaneous sketch, which I started inking in. She kept after me to tweak this and that until the white correction paint mounded up like a mountain range.

One day she showed me an article in the Saturday Evening Post about the Art Center School in Los Angeles. My interest in cars hadn’t followed the path most car crazy kids embarked upon. Drawing cars and visualizing my own designs satisfied made gasoline flow through my veins. Here was a school that could help me become something I had only just realized existed-a car designer. I liked what I saw and determined to go there when I graduated. The only drawback was the tuition. Reality would hit me in the face soon enough.

My other classes became difficult. Geometry was something I could visualize but learning the theorems was more trouble than I was prepared to give. English and literature were fairly easy except for diagramming sentences. I began to let my homework slide, showing up without finishing my homework assignments. I started flunking first one class then another. In P.E., Johnny Barringer, the coach, used to have the class split up into four teams and play touch football following calisthenics. Being the least enthusiastic about the sport, I opted to dog-trot around the track instead. Another under achiever, future folk singer star Travis Edmondson, was my companion. We made a couple of laps and then sat down in the stands out of sight until class was over. Alice Butts, my Latin teacher had taught my sister ten years earlier and kept reminding me of it and how much better she did. I started skipping classes, hanging out at the building site of Mr. Carlson’s duplex a half block away. Skipping class was easy in those days. The school was on two shifts, one from 7: 40 to 12:30 and from 12:40 to 5:30. If anyone asked, you could say you were in the other shift. I was close to getting kicked out of school. I knew the trouble I was in but I didn’t have any answers.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Drag Racing for Fun and Profit

Again, Charlie Hall was kind enough to fill in some gaps in an area with which he was more familiar, having participated in the first organized events and later with his Allison powered dragster. I attempted to include the lore surrounding his acquisition of that car from its second owner and got it all “inaccurate and mixed up”. He rightly told me that he wasn’t going to write my memoir for me, stating that these were my memories not his. His marginal notes were spiced with “bullshit” and other terse comments along with valuable corrections. Charlie, now in his eighties, has a keen mind and a reliable memory.

Drag Racing

The economy in Tucson was not prosperous in the best of times. Those who liked their cars often found it frustrating to read Hot Rod Magazine and see what people with plenty of resources could and did accomplish The idea of putting a V-8 in a Model A and have your own world beater had already past.

We burned cheap gas “buzzing the stem” on weekends and at the witching hour, head out E. Speedway to the favorite hangout, You had to have what today is called “bling”. You had to have those cool finned heads, those multiple carburetor manifolds, those chrome headers, if only for the show. The “show,” for want of a better name would gather at the edge of the parking lot of the Polar Bar drive in on E. Speedway. We’d all drift in and parade before the rows of cars with their window trays loaded with sundaes, milk shakes and burgers. Of course, it wasn’t cool to sit in the car and eat, so we’d congregate inside, taking over one or more booths. After a while, we’d relocate around the cars, discussing the virtues of the latest efforts at extracting more performance out of the mill. It was always hoped that a couple of rivals would agree to a “choose”. This would be the prelude to the rendezvous along a stretch of desert road known as the Mount Lemmon cutoff, a straight section of two lane about three miles long from the base of the mountainto the eastern end of Tanque Verde Road. The distance afforded engines to wind out to ballistic revs. No classes, just “run what ya brung”. Rarely someone would volunteer to act as lookout for the cops, while the troops raced up and down the road using cattle guards for finish lines. Usually, when the cops arrived down the road, the first people to see them would hit the road and alarm the rest. There were numerous dirt trails crisscrossing the desert and they were put to use by everyone scrambling at the indication that the cops were on their way. The local scene didn’t get into organized drag racing until the law effectively shut down our fun and games on the Mount Lemmon cutoff.

There existed an abandoned emergency airstrip near the little cotton farming town of Marana, twenty miles out on the road to Phoenix. It consisted of a 3/4 mile square of asphalt out in the desert. It was perfect. There needed to be a
timing stand and some delineation of the drag strip. Charlie Hall did the timing of the trap speed. There wasn’t any elapsed time recorded but we didn’t really appreciate elapsed times in those days. Charlie had a chart that converted trap times to miles per hour and the stopwatches were triggered by air hoses just like those that once crossed the driveways of service stations. The timing station was in the back of a ’42 Lincoln 7 passenger limo, where Charlie and Jim Cassel read
the stop watches and recorded the speeds. It proved to be an unfailing system, never missing a run.

When it was realized that 3/4 mile wasn’t enough room for a drag strip and runoff room for the faster cars, it was deemed necessary to look for another venue. A timing association with some legal status was formed, opening for competition at Davis-Monthan AFB on the near east side of town. The equipmentincluded trap timing lights, (which were reliable about 50% of the time at first) and elapsed time lights and eventually a real “Xmas tree” starting signal. Talk aboutbig time! Charlie Hall, in his inimitable way, admired the concept that if some is good, more is better, and while we’re at it, why not go for the gold, or in this case the green? He had been an admirer of the unconventional Art Arfons, a drag racer from Akron, Ohio, who, with his brother Walt built a series of a dozen dragsters and land speed record attempt cars powered by the most powerful engines they could lay their hands on at the local surplus yard, calling the cars “Green Monster.” The one that Charlie acquired was one of a series of Allison 1710 cu. in. V-12 aircraft engine powered cars before J-79 jets became Arfon’s engine of choice to power his crowd-pleasing dragsters. Charlie traveled to the National Hot Rod Association Nationals in 1958 at Oklahoma City to check out the car, which had been campaigned by its second owner, Lee Pendleton. This Green Monster had proved its mettle earlier with quarter mile speeds in excess of 150 mph. There is a picture in Hot Rod Magazine showing the car competing with a conventional dragster, and spewing smoke off its tires. Charlie told me that the picture cropped off the finish line, which was only a few yards away. Charlie towed it home, racing it a number of times at the Tucson Dragway. He wrote me his last run netted a speed of 160 miles per hour with one wheel driving
and a broken axle. He proceeded to re-engineer the drive line, clutch and controls, tidy up the square tube chassis, fix the bodywork and paint it over a period of several years. He bought a new trailer and a short wheelbase GMC tractor to pull it. The result was far removed from the basket case of a racer that he towed home from Oklahoma City.
At long last, the project was complete, the car loaded and on its way to Marana for a test run. Out on the highway, not far from the turn off, the rig started fishtailing uncontrollably and ended in a ditch. Once back in the garage it remained, unrepaired for perhaps ten or more years. Not liking to leave a project in such a state, Charlie repaired the damage and parked it, where it remains to this day. Still, while it was in the process of getting shaped up,

Charlie’s Green Monster in its fully realized glory. Charlie could drive the monster on the street with perfect docile behavior, even driving it up onto the trailer. He told me it rode like a Cadillac.

Getting to Know Speed-Sport

Two guys who knew each other from school days, Lyle Fisher and Red Greth, had been campaigning in a fuel roadster called the Speed Sport Special. Things had progressed out of the Ford flat head hot rod to the blown injected 354 cu. in.
Chrysler Hemi engines and trap speeds seen by “rail jobs” which were stock Ford frame rails with no bodies turning 112 mph became tubular chassis with fiberglass noses on ‘27 T bodies with the driver sitting where the engine used to be and a thundering hemi hooked directly to the differential. This was the Speed Sport Special, which flashed across the line at over 180 mph with an ET of 8.2 seconds-a world record in those days

Under that paint was a flowered fabric saturated with resin-The AHRA A Fuel Roadster record holding Speed Sport Special-affectionately called “Old Noisy”.

When I returned to the scene in 1961, Red and Lyle were still at it, though now family men, as was I and running in top fuel dragster class and in super stock class having gained a sponsorship from local Dodge dealer, Bill Breck. We wereall on hand when they took delivery of the ’61 Dodge super stock, which was a totally stripped down four-door with a 426 cu. in. wedge head V8 with a snake pit of intake and exhaust manifolds as a starting point. We were all given a demo ride down Wilmot road by Lee (Springshoe) Seagondollar, one of the Speed-Sport crew, the six of us pushed back in the cheap seat cushions as the stock tires billowed smoke.

In May of 1961, the Speed Sport team were racing at Beeline Dragstrip in Phoenix where they met a couple of engineers from AiResearch Corporation, a defense contractor making jet engine starters. These guys told Fisher and Greth that all the torque produced by a big fuel burning hemi could be produced by a fifty pound jet engine starter their company produced and suggested that one

Don Sullivan and Lee Seagondollar

Turbine mounted to transmission case

Fabricating the tank supports

Speed Sport IV getting charged up

or more of these starters could power a dragster with spectacular results. The boys were skeptical but interested and soon a chassis was fabricated to serve as a test bed. Don Sullivan, an old friend and engineer joined the team with a design for a transmission and motor mount. This consisted of a hatbox shaped case with mounts for three starters and chain drives to an output shaft, which connected to a differential. No clutch was needed because all the driver does is turn on a switch and hit the throttle. The first efforts were only promising. Fifty yards with a shower of snow out the exhausts-much like a fire extinguisher. After some discussion with the AiResearch team, it was decided to use another type of starter, one with a gas combuster, which increased the output substantially while eliminating the snowstorm.

By the time an article I wrote was printed in the September issue of Car Life magazine, it had turned in an 8.75 e.t. and a trap speed of 161 mph. It was hoped that with an aerodynamic body, which I volunteered to design and which subsequently built in California, speeds would increase. In the interim, Fisher andGreth took the car to the NHRA Nationals at Indianapolis where they did daily demonstration runs, smoking the tires the whole length of the quarter. It wasn’t the crowd pleaser hoped for, because it didn’t make any noise-smoke, yes, but whisper quiet. The drill for piloting this car contrasted with conventional
dragsters in every way. After the tanks were pumped up using the borrowed compressor, the car was pushed to the starting line where the crew checked all systems. Red Greth stood by in his metallic racing suit, pulling on his gloves and getting last minute input from Don Sullivan. He then sat down, buckled his harness, flipped an arming switch, a run switch and opened the throttle. Smoke immediately began boiling off the slicks and he rocketed down the strip, trailed by the crew car. Nothing like “Old Noisy”

Speed Sport IV, Going!.

Speed Sport IV, Gone!

First demo run at the Tucson Dragway, June, 1962. A strip record set at 8.75” e.t. and a trap speed of 161 mph. With more control over the wheelspin it could have been much quicker, but more development was needed for the control system.

Clipping from the Arizona Daily Star showing the car in its new bodywork.

I hung around Fisher’s garage off and on as the season moved on through the summer and fall. The turbine car had teething problems. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes it froze up after an eighth of a mile. While the engineers went back to the drawing board to correct the problems, attention was focused on the fueler and on the super stocker. Lyle and Red could disassemble the dragster, freshen up the engine and whatever else was needed in the time poor Seagondollar was able to pull the engine out of the Bill Breck Dodge. It made one wonder why anyone would seriously take one of these cars to the drags. The intake manifold and the headers were immense and were hard to get wrenches around all the bodywork.

This is similar to the Bill Breck Dodge super stocker which Lee Seagondollar piloted to a best time of 12.8 e.t. and speed of 118 mph-not quite as fast as the Ramcharger Dodges who went on to win the NHRA championship in 1963-65.

Chrysler had come up with the daddy of all intake manifolds designed to produce great amounts of torque. One four-barrel located on the right side would feed the cylinder bank on the left and another carb on the left would feed the bank on the
right, the branches crossing like hands folded in prayer. The exhaust came out under the fender, now elevated by the suspension, which purportedly effected a “weight shift” upon acceleration. The rear suspension was another example of
overkill. Most people approached this problem by installing a set of Tractionmaster torque arms. These guys went with a design that involved having the axle housing free to rotate. This was to eliminate spring wind-up when torque was applied. The axle housing was held solidly by the massive torque arms which were pivoted in front of the spring mount. The hope was when the axle attempted to rotate upward as the car moved forward, this force would be transferred via the torque arms against the chassis, lifting the weight of the car in reaction. Like most attempts to harness the power of these 426 cu. in. engines, extreme measures were tried first and gradually, people found that less and less was needed. In the case of torque reaction, simple stiffening of the front half of the leaf springs and good shock placement took care of the problem of wheel hop. Hot cars today can pull 13 second e.t.s pretty much out of the box. Lee managed a 12.8 e.t. at 118 mph, a good showing for the time, I recall. I think Lee had about as much super-stock racing in that season to last a lifetime and Bill Breck Dodge was probably not getting the exposure he hoped for, because the car wasn’t toured much. Lyle and Red were friends with a lot of the biggest names in racing. When they raced the roadster, Chris Karamesines of Chicago stayed at Lyle’s house when he was in town. Chris had the hottest fuel dragster in the Midwest at the time.

Don Garlits appeared at the Tucson Dragway with the legendary “Swamp Rat” fuel dragster while I was working at KGUN-TV and the boys had him bring it tothe station for a live broadcast of the news. That caused quite a bit of excitement.Soon after that I got a job offer in California and we departed the Tucson scene.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Introspection or the Terrible Twenties

Charlie Hall and Yoe agree you didn’t “get” that way, you simply came that way!

As a boy of 20, I must say I possessed no special insight into my mother. She was no “stay at home” mother for obvious reasons. We could hardly survive without her income. Daddy’s insurance kept food on the table while she got her teaching credentials. Much of the time I was in the care of Grandma and Grandpa and their helper, Millie. By the time I was four, The university cut Grandpa’s teaching time in half and after casting about he was engaged for a consulting job in Hong Kong. He and Grandma were gone to the Far East for a couple of years. In the interim, I attended nursery school, then kindergarten while Mom continued her studies. Mom was very immersed in this evolving profession. In the years to come she enrolled in post-graduate studies at various universities around the country. These necessitated long term arrangements for my care and supervision.

In the early years we had a young black woman named Annie in for housework, but I don’t remember her being there for my care. After Mom and I started at Miles Elementary, I didn’t really witness any of her training and skills being put to use, even though I was attending the same school. Her classroom at Safford had a lot of training aids she had devised to help teach her pupils to get through their lives. I know there was never money for equipment aside for the most basic items like walkers. A lot of the equipment and training aids were made by herself and by people she cornered for their talents. She couldn’t take time to wheel the kids to the blackboard during class so she acquired walkers crafted from wood and tailored to fit, with rudimentary seats which gave the kids mobility.

Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways, some can speak but can’t walk, others can’t do either nor can they use their hands. Mom, being lame, could understand their problems to a greater extent than someone without any disabilities. She fostered self-reliance to the degree it was possible. Albert couldn’t walk but he could use his hands to great advantage, shooting apple seeds at his targets, sometimes me. Rosie Jacobs was a strapping horse of a girl afflicted with cerebral palsy, which affected her speech and cognitive abilities. Always cheerful, wide spread eyes and a spontaneous, toothy smile greeted our mother who would always take time to counsel her personally once her18th birthday mandated her departure from the school system. Her large, extended family whose various members were involved in the furniture business founded by the immigrant Jacobs. They had busy schedules to keep and kept Rosie bouncing from cousin to brother to sister, taking on whatever menial work they could think of. But she loved our mother, who never talked down to her and made her feel worthy.

Charlie Hall wrote me following a comment I had written about one of his charges, Stanley. Charlie had given Stanley a ’53 Lincoln Capri, a veteran of the Carerra Pan Americana road race, for his graduation from high school. Charlie had a bet on with the dean of boys that Stanley, not the shiniest nickel in your pocket, would make it out of high school with a diploma and Mom, at Charlie’s behest embarked on a program of tutelage that brought his grades up to par and ultimately him into a cap and gown. It was an act of love typical of her and of course Charlie, paying off handsomely for Stanley in the long run.

Mom wasn’t a “touchy-feely” person, and I don’t blame her lameness for that. She showed her affection differently, such as when she found something that would have been of interest to you, she would be sure to clip something from the newspaper, or open a page to a magazine to the article, or whatever she found. Other times she would make inquiries on your behalf, talking to someone who could be of help. If the internet had been available in her time, I can imagine all the help you would get if you dropped a hint. When our boys were little and they received a package of hand puppets made by Oma from Germany, Mom made sure a photographer from the Arizona Daily Star came to the house and covered the event. Clippings were sent to Oma who was amazed and gratified.

She had a lot of love for a lot of people and I was one of them.

Jimmy Walker and I swore the B-24 buzzing our part of Tucson was knocking bricks off the chimneys. My brother Jim suggested it was his buddy, Russ DeMont, at the controls. He was a bit wild in his youth and he had been assigned to ferry these bombers out of the modification plant south of town.

While I was not a totally out of control kid doing drugs or getting adorned with tattoos, my friends and I managed to get into the usual lower level mischief, with the exception of the brief shoplifting episode with Jimmy Walker when I was about 11. Yoe and I were fooling around in a sewer excavation across from neighbor Nellie Kemp one night and started bombarding her front porch, scaring the bejeezus out of the old dear. That was the only time we had the cops called on us. Mom was there to get the message from the police and grounded me for a week. Mostly, my punishment was to go apologize to Miss Kemp, which was just as awkward for her and I know for Mom as well.

During the war, Mom had a victory garden in which she planted anything that would grow. Aside from tomatoes, the only success we had was summer squash, my favorite fruit. We had bushels of the tasteless vegetable and we had little success in sharing our harvest. By the end of our agricultural endeavor, the only thing we had to show was a four foot by thirty foot depression in the back yard.

Other bounty included figs and pomegranates, but the figs were a favorite of june bugs and pomegranates were too difficult to peel to be enjoyable. Once sugar became available again, Mom had success with our sour oranges, which came from a tree shielding our bathroom window. Tucson had streets lined with these bitter but ornamental oranges, providing great ammunition for noontime fruit fights at the high school. Every year the canning jars would come down from the shelves in the storage cabinet by the back door. She would cut the oranges into thin slices, leaving a portion of the rind and boil them in a slurry of as much sugar as she could round up, fill a collection of saved jars and place them in a large aluminum canning pot over a low heat. There were four equally spaced toggle clamps to secure the lid and a little round vent button that rattled gently while the mixture simmered. The resultant marmalade was much anticipated, particularly if the right amount of pectin were present and it jelled to the proper consistency, not spilling from the bread when applied. It was then that the small bits of rind added a pleasant chewy component to the spread. What marmalade that wasn’t given away to family and a few close friends, we ate all year long, on toast, biscuits and waffles.

The roomers she took in, occupying the front bedroom and a portioned off section of the back bedroom, never intruded in our lives to any extent. Just like most families, dealing with the wartime shortages and sacrifices, we took it in stride. Doing one’s bit for the war effort took a little proactive effort and we let the YWCA across the street know that we had some space. Before long, a woman in her late fifties appeared at our front door with a slip of YWCA notepaper with our address written on it. Mrs. Murdoch was assigned the bedroom overlooking the front porch. A couple of months later arrived Mrs. Miller, for whom we improvised a bit of privacy in the back bedroom by arranging furniture and screens to leave access to the bathroom for the family. Much of this took place while Alice was off in Florida with Loren, Jim and Jeanne and their new baby. We had a corrugated galvanized steel garage in back, sheltering the blue 1941 Ford sedan of our neighbor up the street, Mr. Burger. He came by one day to see whether we could find a place for his niece to rest her bones. Bea was a woman in her indeterminate twenties, from my point of view older than Alice but not so old as our other ladies. She was put up in the back porch opposite us. It wouldn’t be for long, we were assured. That meant when Alice returned, Bea would have to find other accommodations. There was always the living room.

Jim and Loren had received their overseas orders, piloting B-17G heavy bombers out of England, an occasion I had to celebrate because finally we had a couple of heros in the family to brag about to my buddies. Mom’s mind was more and more on the well being of her young men and was glued constantly to all the news that was broadcast over our two stations. I would get bored with them and insisted in changing the station to play music, not all of which was soothing. “Turn off that blatt!” she shouted at me. The threshold of wartime nerves had been crossed.

Mom was not big on discipline. It was the big picture she was concerned about. She held on to the hope that whatever worked on the older children would work on me. On rare occasions she’d threaten to “get the stick”, a threat I could easily outrun, but playing that card left me with a pang of guilt. In the company of my friends I was not developing good study habits. This slippery slope led predictably to poor performance in the classroom. As the homework assignments became more and more frequent, I fell inevitably behind the curve, little could prevent failure lacking a strong hand extended to this floundering student. Mom did her best to get me to knuckle down, but she couldn’t very well chase me all over town to do it. Influences by my smarter peers did have some positive effect but not enough to keep me from dropping out of my junior year at Tucson High.

The strong hand extended by Jack and Gerry got me over the hump at high school and filled a void in my life at a time when Mom had despaired of finding any solution to my delinquency. It was really good to have them as proxy parents. I wish it could have gone on longer, but they were young, newly married and certainly needed to have the privacy they deserved.

College, the Next Course, or Where I Found God

The decision to enter the University of Arizona was not accompanied by a clear career direction. Jim had recommended journalism with an art minor, but Art Center was where I wanted to go. With the obstacle of substantial tuition there and the U of A essentially free, the choice was made. Most of my friends from Tucson High were enrolling there, anyway. If it hadn’t been for a couple of classes, “Classicsm” which was based on etymology and “Logic”, I think the time spent there would have been a total waste of time. Cohen and Nagel’s “Logic and the Scientific Method” was the text and Matthew Schneck (one of Mom’s professors) was the instructor. Dr. Schneck liked to get the freshman students while they were still malleable, then not have much to do with them till they were in post graduate studies. Frank Keating provided the picture, commenting that the young lady was wearing a look of adulation expected by him. Mother took a course in psychology from him and from Dr. Simley, father of one of my high school classmates, Ann with whom I was slightly acquainted.

As is evident, my cartoons for the Kitty Kat showed a New Yorker influence.

Frank Keating and I attended those two and possibly other classes that were otherwise required of freshman students. I
didn’t take any art classes at that time but I discovered that the campus humor magazine provide an outlet for my creative proclivities. My iconoclastic cartoons were welcomed by the young editor Pete Kesling, himself a cartoonist. (He was recently featured in a Ken Burns documentary about the transcontinental adventure of Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, his bulldog Bud and bicycle-turned-car mechanic Sewall K. Crocker in the 1903 Winton touring car and Kesling’s attempt to replicate the journey in his own restored Winton.)

The old student union (under a cloud, prophetically!) It had just opened when I was a freshman and became a popular hangout. The Co-Op, or "Coop" as it was known, had a juke box fountain, grill, booths and pool tables. The bell tower had the bell from the U.S.S. Arizona and an abstract sculpture adorning the front facade called the "Bird of Peace" in which the bird had its head tucked into its upraised wing. Kitty Kat editor, Pete Kesling, thought it was hilarious and featured it satirically in several of his cartoons. All the available pics show the new student union, opened in 2000.

The classrooms were located in the new Liberal Arts building that housed the Philosophy and Psychology department—three days a week with Cohen & Nagel and two with Classics learning Latin and Greek word derivations. It was the former that provided Frank and me with the fodder for our witticisms, which we chalked on the sidewalk to share with everyone who cared to read them. Some of them we kept as our own, e. g. “TING-LLID” “There Is No God—Long Live Isadora Duncan” and “John Stuart Mills needs canon fodder!” a reference to Mills’ Canons. We thought we were being very original, but later found out that such activity was popular among college students more into philosophy than football at better universities. Fortunately, the chalk washed off when they turned on the sprinklers.If it walks like a duck. . .

In taking this class, I knew pretty soon that I was in over my head, but somehow the lessons learned helped me to recognize the everyday arguments we are all subjected to and to make sense (or not) out of them and has given me reliable service all my adult life. This is not to say that I am never fooled by the sales pitch whether of a pyramid scheme or pronouncements coming out of the White House, but if I stop long enough and subject their statements to the Cohen & Nagel test, well, I rest my case. The text, published in 1934, attempted to answer the question “What is logic?” and to carve a path through what had become a jungle of Babel confusing psychology, mathematics, science and pedagogical order, while addressing the role each of these disciplines played. In my case, “a little bit of knowledge” has proved to be my navigational beacon to a rational life.

My comprehension of this body of knowledge in class was simplistic, but no more so than the faithful get from attending church. What I had not gotten out of my exposure to the Episcopal Church was faith, something to fall back on in lieu of reasoning things out when pondering the wisdom of my next act. Sure, the ceremony I could follow and Christian ethics made sense, (note I didn’t say Christian politics), but when it came to “faith”, I floundered on the shoals of logic. The best I could come up with for the existence of God was the inference that lacking empirical evidence of the existence of God, God must exist to explain where everything that exists came from, a logical fallacy. Was it that alternate religions were tempting? That answer has to be “No.” Presbyterians didn’t have to kneel, but that advantage wasn’t worth learning a whole new litany of moves. Judaism featured a lot of music in a minor key, but things like phylacteries and

Matthew M. R. Schneck PhD. Professor Emeritus Philosophy and Psychology, University of Arizona (World’s 7th smartest person, so it was rumored.) Can't say who the lady is-some sycophant, I suppose.

yarmulkes seemed so—Jewish. Catholicism was out—that much was impressed on me when I started dating Monica Shea. (“You don’t want to get too serious about this Catholic girl or her mother will want you to take instruction!”) But Schneck, in his arrogant way, inculcated logic into those of his flock who were open to it, namely me, by default and my close friend Frank Keating, whose new cry was “There is no God!” (. . . but Aristotle and Schneck is his prophet?) I would never place Schneck on the same level as a Messiah or even a prophet—more of a guru.

The difference between Frank and myself in our syllogistic revelation was that he was reacting to a Catholic environment and I was merely ambivalent about my Episcopal upbringing. We both became devotees to Aristotelian argument as it provided a cupboard full of logical fallacies. Every question was put to a litmus test, using these fallacies to analyze its legitimacy. How was it presented? Was it an “argumentum ad hominem? (the abuse of the one advancing the argument. “I knew John F. Kennedy and you’re no John F. Kennedy!” Benson to Quayle, vice- presidential debates) an argumentum ad populum?(the appeal to the prejudices of the people) Does it beg the question? Post hoc, ergo propter hoc? (after this, therefore because of this).This is still the kind of analysis my mind goes through when I hear some politician or snake oil salesman get started and it usually saves me from knee-jerk reactionism so much in evidence today.

What I think was missing in all this was any meaningful social development. Adherence to the values any group larger than my immediate circle of friends was still somewhat alien to me. If I didn’t recognize the social hierarchy it was rooted in the largely feral character of my somewhat freeform existence. In this, I differed from, say, an engineering geek who, when confronted by the technically challenged, could take comfort in the knowledge that there existed support in substantial communities of geekdom, even if he was a misfit in the wider population.

Less popular groups, like the few atheists around, would be better off keeping a low profile, as their position, however well protected under the Constitution, is considered counter to mainstream tenets. But even atheism has its doctrine. Atheists know what they are against and what they are for. It has been spelled out for them in many writings.

Whose side are you on, anyway?

In the search for something to become a part of, be it religious, philosophical, scientific, whatever, I couldn’t avoid one of the obligations facing fit young men of that time—the draft. Spring of 1953 found the Korean conflict, war, police action—call it what you will, in its third year, definitely not on my radar. I didn’t even know anyone who had been sent to Korea and with the draft, one might have expected to know someone. All my friends, as it happened, were 4-F thanks to health issues that had brought them to Arizona in the first place, whereas I happened to be born there. I was classified 1-A now that my short-lived college career was on a sidetrack. I had taken training and went on to become an electrician’s helper on the B-47 modification line at Grand Central Aircraft, the former Consolidated plant that had employed Mom ten years earlier.

The inevitable letter from Draft Board 13, ordering me to report in. climb on board a bus and be taken to Phoenix for a pre-induction physical. The date was April 1. April Fool!

In the free time available while there, I walked over to a nearby record store and purchased E. Power Biggs’ recording of Bach’s Trio Sonatas for Organ, Vol. II. Why should I have taken on such a momentous work to absorb when there was so little time before I would be put on a bus for Fort Ord, CA to start my basic training? Well, denial. What else?

Basic training consisted of eight weeks of infantry training, marching, rifle range, calisthenics (Army "daily dozen"), more marching, K.P., "G.I.-ing the barracks, inspections-usual thing. Once that was over, you were assigned to advanced infantry training, artillery training, wheeled vehicle mechanics school or some other specialty. Luckily, I got the grease monkey training and the term couldn't have been more accurate. I couldn't believe how much grease was contained inside the CV joints on the front axle of a 2-1/2 ton truck. We took classroom instructions on how the internal combustion engine works, how to perform various routine minor and major maintenance proceedures and shop instruction on how to change spark plugs (not an easy task) replace filters, fluids etc.

I was envious of our theory instructor, a corporal who had an M.G. TC and really had it made. "Had it made"-that was what everyone else had going for them as far as all G.I.s were concerned. This guy lived off post somewhere in Monterey and never got his hands greasy because his part in our training was strictly classroom. I hoped that somehow I could swing an assignment like that when I got out of training. What a dreamer!

Yours truly over on the left side of the group (purple caption). We shortly after got our orders and I was soon headed for Germany, but first, two weeks leave and home for the first time in a long time.

I didn't fully appreciate my good fortune during those second eight weeks. Somehow, my name didn't make it to the duty roster. The result was that I never had to pull KP and had every weekend off. Just a clerical error, I suppose. Out of the whole class of us, half were given orders to head to Far East-meaning the mud of Korea-and the other half were heading to USAEUR, which likely meant Germany. During those eight weeks, I had been hitch-hiking up to Berkeley where I had friends, including a girl I had become infatuated with. It soon became apparent that our romance was to be a long distance one because I was definitely going somewhere, far away.

My financial picture was slightly above penniless when I set out, but in those days, a guy in uniform had pretty good luck hitching rides. I first headed for Berkeley to break the news that I would be gone to Germany for the duration of my service-news that obviously didn't go well with my girlfriend. She didn't have a picture and I didn't have a camera, but she promised to send me one as soon as I got overseas. Then I was on the road again, heading down the San Joaquin Valley on Highway 99. A big rig gave me a lift and we motored off into the night. Not the powerhouses of today, the truck labored up the Grapevine at walking speed, if that fast. We pulled into Los Angeles where I snoozed the rest of the night in the lobby of the bus station. I stopped in Riverside overnight, staying with Jim and Jeanne before heading across the desert.

My first ride was a long one, taking me as far as Indio. The Coachella farmland was blistering hot and I was dressed for the foggy and cold Monterey peninsula. As I was dragging everything I owned in my duffel bag, I knew there were khakis stuffed in there somewhere, but it was late and I didn't want to chance missing a lift. There I sat, on my bag by the side of the road. There was the unmistakable fragrance of greasewood shrubs wet from an afternoon thunder shower and it filled me with such a longing to be back in Arizona. After maybe three hours, a family in a Nash stopped and asked me where I was headed. Tucson was on their way, so we became a party of five, taking up room for six with my duffel bag jammed in beside me.

My arrival was tearful and joyous for both Mom and myself. There was much to talk about, for me having undergone a transformation from a 20 year old adolescent into a 21 year old man. There were friends to visit, catching up to do, fences to mend and less than two weeks before I would be on my way. I had sold my Lincoln to my friend Yoe and he had finished it up instead of sitting beside it like me in the picture. Mom was still getting around in her '50 Stude Champion. I think it was at this time that I cashed in some of my savings bonds to get her a new refrigerator, replacing the one we had from the beginning and which had finally become prone to breaking fan belts.

Returning to camp, I joined the rest of my half of the class and a couple of plane loads of other recent trainees on a chartered DC-4 heading for Camp Kilmer, N.J. to be processed for shipping out on a World War II troop ship for Bremmerhaven, Germany, the port of entry on the Baltic Sea. A couple days and we were headed up the gangplank on what would have little resemblance to a cruise ship-or I learned about vomit from that!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What's Life without Music?

The Credo from Bach's Mass in B Minor

Music is an acquired taste. It’s in all parts of our lives but when we are young and open minded and the exposure to music is constant we can be open to any kind, be it bebop or Bach. At some point, the door to music is opened and we enter. In my case, it was the player piano at my grandparent’s home where I spent a lot of time up to the age of six and the case full of music rolls were 100% my grandparent’s taste, which is to say—"middle"classical. That is to say, music that would find acceptance in the parlor an early 20th century upper middle class home-Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven, Mendelssohn etc.

My relationship with music started at Grandpa’s house on Campbell Ave. When they moved to Tucson they thoughtfully brought along their Weber upright piano with the Aeolian Pianola option along with a bookcase full of piano rolls, all what you call classical. In the years since the move from the humidity of Staten Island to the dryness of the desert, the mechanism had become decidedly wheezy, something that others had tried to fix with gummed tape on the cracked bellows, a temporary remedy at best. The more notes being played at once, the more the system was taxed. A composition like Liszt’s Les Preludes would bring things almost to a standstill!

This example is identical to our Weber Pianola. I have a memory of pumping furiously away one afternoon in a futile effort to convince Arthur Brinkmeyer that I was suddenly empowered with the musical skills of a prodigy. The ruse didn’t work of course. Arthur was more interested in how much noise we could make than the music.

A music roll at its largest size would contain one movement of a larger piece and the smaller rolls would contain a composition perhaps 5 – 10 minutes in length. There were even smaller rolls by other makers, which were the standard 3 – 4 minute ditties. There were only a few of them, probably bought by my aunts and uncle when they were making their own
musical choices. There was one I played over and over, Berceuse by Chopin. In 1945, there was a movie out called “A Song to Remember” starring Cornell Wilde and Merle Oberon that was based on the life and love of Frederick Chopin. In it pianist José Iturbi performed a stirring rendition of the "Heroic Polonaise". We had another Chopin Polonaise, the "Militaire". This I found frustrating, not being able to pump the now iconic piece to life on our own piano.

A wondrous collection of bellows, chain drives and 88 spaghetti-like hoses (which don't show here) were what you needed to produce the great music of the world. Some households chose popular songs and ragtime ditties, but in the Mathewson home, appreciation of the classics was the order of the day. Since both Grandma and Grandpa were deaf, I couldn't say how much of it they appreciated.

Mother noticed my inclination toward the Muse, and as soon as she could swing it financially, she signed me up with Miss Genevieve Westerman for piano lessons. At about eight, I was appreciative of music too advanced for me to perform and totally unmoved by the music that was within my ability. I was soon inspired to skip my music lessons and pocket the six dollars I was to give Miss Westerman. Not always, though. I did learn, somewhat, the easy part of the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony, which I enjoyed playing.

It was that piece that almost caused a calamity among the bass players of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra during a Sunday afternoon concert at the University auditorium. My fidgety propensities got the better of me and I departed my seat next to Mother and slipped backstage, where I discovered a grand piano. A little Beethoven didn’t seem out of place as long as it was pianissimo. At the intermission I heard the musicians returning from the stage complaining that they couldn’t keep on key with someone behind the curtain plunking away on the piano. Fearful for my life, I quickly became invisible, slipped back and settled into the seat by my mother’s side, saying I'd been to the bathroom.

The label of one of the family favorites-“No News”, by Frank Crummit and the exact model of Victrola it was played on.

We had a Victrola at home, a table model with doors in the front to act as a volume control. A modest collection of records, 78s of course, kept in a carrying case with metal corners and a handle, which ranged from novelty, "Two Black Crows", a vaudeville act and Frank Crummit performing “No News” and “The Three Trees” to a few more dignified classics on the order of Carouso arias and from Gounod to Moussorgsky’s Boris Godinov with the great bass Feodor Chaliapin as Boris in the death scene. My finances enabled me to add to the collection only occasionally, widening my musical choices to include Debussy, Satie and Puccini. Anything that was familiar had to be relegated to the “old chestnut” bin. It sometimes comes back to haunt me that many of the “old chestnuts” that are so familiar to me I can't even identify. For example, here’s a Wichita NPR radio station’s top "old chestnut" list:

1 Beethoven: Symphony #5
2 Pachelbel: Canon in D
3 Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
4 Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire
5 Brahms: Piano Concerto #1
6 Mendelssohn: Symphony #4
7 Beethoven: Fur Elise
8 Mozart: Violin Concerto #3
9 Tchaikovsky: Waltz of the Flowers
10 Schubert: Trout Quintet

At the top of my favorites list would be Bach, the father, of course. I’ve said elsewhere that his "St. Mathew Passion" ranks highest, but I enjoy so many of his works they would be on a revolving stage. The Trio Sonatas for Organ, Cantatas by the bale, works for unaccompanied Cello, Violin and Keyboard, Suites for Orchestra, Well Tempered Clavichord, etc, etc. After Bach? Who knows—Stravinsky? Khachaturian? Bartok? Prokofiev? Copeland? Brahms? Adams? Zappa?

The last remaining recordings of the Victrola era.

Old Time Radio, Not Much, but The Only Radio We Had

There were two radio stations in Tucson up to around 1946 when we got a couple more. When they were broadcasting locally produced fare, the music tended to stay in the popular realm, popular included Bing Crosby, Sammy Kaye etc. with some Mexican programming in the early morning (La Hora Mexicana) some country western, with the accent on Sons of the Pioneers, Bob Wills and Gene Autry, but no classical programs. But they had several network programs which carried the Metropolitan Opera broadcast, the Firestone hour and the Telephone hour, these latter having light classical music with guest soloists. Other programs we regularly tuned in were these 15 minute shows following the news that featured live dance bands like the Dorsey brothers, Glenn Miller and Harry James alternating with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. On Sunday mornings we listened to the Mormon Tabernacle broadcast while we ate our breakfast.

The Howard Communications Receiver. This beauty probably wasn't essential to Jim's and Jean's household which was on the move back East. When we got it, Jim had tried to domesticate it by giving it an "antique white" paint job with questionable success.

One of the treasures that Jim left with us when he was transferred from his base near Stockton, CA during the middle years of the war was a massive radio with several bands of short wave and the requirement for an outside antenna. This latter being a job I felt totally qualified to install, having already operated a crystal set. I got a couple of pieces of 1 X 2 which I nailed to the attic vents, attached the insulators and the antenna wire and ran the lead down to the dining room window near the radio. It even had a hookup for a second speaker, which we mounted over the door in the kitchen. It was a huge improvement in reception over our old AC-DC superhet. We could get Phoenix stations during the day and west coast stations as soon as the sun went down. I spent hours slowly tuning in distant AM and short wave broadcasts. We purchased an RCA turntable attachment and had the man at the radio shop install a plug in the back of the radio so we could listen to our record collection. What a difference a few vacuum tubes made!

My record collection in its early days

During my junior high days, I was still clinging to big band music that my brother Jim had favored, such was hero worship in my world. When I tried to impress my classmates at a Friday afternoon hop, nobody cared for my Glenn Miller records, preferring more contemporary artists like Johnny Mercer, Vic Damone, Frankie Laine etc. Once I broke away from the "oo-ah, oo-ah" of Miller's trombone section, I caught up to the rest of the crowd and picked up on Les Paul and Mary Ford, The Mills Brothers, Vaughn Monroe, Louis Prima, Perry Como. Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra, the Harmonicats and many others. Singles were the usual offering although some artists would produce albums of 10" discs.

Records were quite costly back then, but the record stores had listening booths, which were available to prospective customers. Sometimes, a clerk was required to institute the listening session. Phonograph records were sold in an appliance store downtown on Congress Ave. called Grabe Electric. When I was older, I had a good rapport with a musically knowledgeable clerk who steered me to different composers and performers and when in 1948, the Columbia Record company introduced the long playing record, or LP. It introduced smooth playing vinyl to the ears of the public. The new records were so quiet as to be almost mystical and they would contain up to 25 minutes of uninterrupted music on each side. What a godsend! Fortunately, my collection of 78s had not grown significantly and consisted mainly of Glenn Miller recordings, a Beethoven string quartet, Tchaikovsky's sixth symphony, arias from Puccini's "La Boheme" and "Madama Butterfly", three 10" recordings of Walter Gieseking playing Debussy and Eric Satie.

My first LP player-a quantum leap in quality sound, quiet
and the vinyl records played 25 minutes per side.

The credit department at Grabe’s enabled me to finance the $29.95, ($205.14 in 2006 dollars!) price of the new Columbia LP attachment (probably layaway, now that I think of it) and my first purchase was Beethoven’s 5th symphony and it cost $4.98, ($34.11 in 2006 dollars!). My income was strictly allowance and odd job so by necessity, my collection grew at a glacial rate but each note on the disc was assimilated with sponge-like thoroughness! Imagine, an entire hour-long composition with no more than one trip to change the record. Beethoven's 6th and 7th symphonies followed, then Khachaturian's Gayne ballet suites, Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony and string quartets of Debussy and Ravel. When I wasn't listening to the records at home, I whistled the music as I pedaled around town, such was my immersion in this world.

My musical appreciation gained momentum and I gradually moved up through the romantic, through the impressionistic into the bombastic. My mentor at Grabe’s, obviously a connoisseur of modern music shepherded me through Stravinsky’s three ballet suites, Firebird, Petrouchka and the Rite of Spring, and on into Bartok. I remember talking with my friend at Grabe’s about Stravinsky and that I must hear this new recording of "Petrouchka"! “There’s a little trumpet solo on this recording that’s such a treat!” So there was. The London recording with Ernst Ansermet conducting L’Orchestre d’La Suisse Romande in its red jacket was my next purchase. The improved range of hi-fi recordings found a new audience for harpsichord performances of baroque composers such as J. S. Bach, Archangelo Corelli, Francois Couperin, Henry Purcell and Domenico Scarlatti. I purchased several albums during the early days of collecting. The premier artist was Wanda Landowska.

My first LP player-a quantum leap in quality sound, quiet
and the vinyl records played 25 minutes per side.

In 1949 and 1950 I lived with my brother Jack and his wife Gerry while attending my junior and senior years of high school and musical theater was peaking on Broadway. In their orbit, I found myself attracted to some of the big productions of the time like “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma!” They invested in season tickets at the Phoenix community theater artist series and we traveled the 90 miles to attend varied artists such as The First Piano Quartet, Victor Borge, Andres Segovia and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The student body at Miami High was entertained one day with a concert by the excellent Arizona State University concert band. During their performance of the final movement of the 5th Symphony of Dimitri Shostakovich, the steady beat of the tympani built and built in a crescendo at the end, I was feeling shivers up and down my arms. I had to have that symphony that restored the composer's reputation after being officially denounced for an earlier composition, "Lady MacBeth". The steady, march tempo of this movement pleased Stalin with its message of triumph of Soviet communism. Played slowly, it has a barbaric momentum, speeded up, it has almost a joyful message. All I know is, it made a deep impression on my young ears.

My intellectual friends, who felt they should be on top of all things avant garde had nothing on me when it came to music appreciation. One friend, Frank Keating, felt challenged by the level of my taste in music, insisting that he was as sophisticated as I in this area. At one point he conned me into trading his album of Bela Bartok playing the complete piano preludes called "Mikrokosmos" for one I had that featured orchestral arrangements of the same by Tibor Serly pieces and "Two Portraits for Orchestra". I felt real remorse at trading albums with him. He couldn’t abide my “advancing” to Bartok without lingering in the garden of the classic and romantic periods first. I still pine for some of the recordings I no longer have. The care of records has never been high on my list, but for a record to go missing is a major problem. I still have all of those first purchases, even though I seldom play them.

Mahler, Debussy, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Bartok. Just a sprinkling of composers who, by turns dominated my interest.

By this time, a summer of creativity hit me. I needed something special to play music on—an expression in three dimensions with a 12” speaker to get the benefit of a custom made audio amplifier I had made. It had a “push-pull” circuit that promised outstanding performance. Unfortunately, it also had an annoying 60 cycle hum that seemed to elude every effort to quell it. I designed a low table with a somewhat egg-shaped contour that fit atop a base with two turntables-one for LPs and one for 78 rpm records. Hiding the speaker, mounted in the table surface was an abstract cutout splat-shaped cover, reminding one of a giant sea bird that had chosen my creation to relieve itself as it passed over. I thought it was great.

As I progressed from early through contemporary music, it seems that I peaked with Schoenberg. He was a composer of twelve-tone music, though not all of his music could be so described. I purchased a copy of his third string quartet on an eclectic label called “Dial”. Much as I wished to absorb this music, I seemed to reach an impasse. Afterward, I concentrated on infilling my collection. But there was another world of music I had not really tuned in on.

At the University of Arizona,my philosophy professor, Dr. Matthew M.R. Schneck. had a reputation for great intellegence. I asked him who he thought was the greatest composer, figuring to see where my collecting should head next. “The greatest artist of all time, and I include DaVinci and Michaelangelo, was J. S. Bach and his greatest work was the Mass in B minor, the most sublime part being the Gloria.”

Well, I had it in a nutshell, now, I thought, and immediately contrived a way to purchase the composition. It ran three discs and about two hours in length. I had to special order it at Grabe’s and was performed by the Robert Shaw Chorale on the RCA label. After getting four subsequent versions of it over fifty years, I can’t stand to listen to that recording anymore. Its pace was too slow. Sadly, my favorite recording was by the Berlin Symphony under the leadership of Fritz Lehmann, but which has some bothersome skips. Another Bach choral epic, the St. Mathew Passion became my all time favorite and remains so today. Bach became my steady company for life.

The new student union became my favorite place to spend time, either in the “Co-op” cafeteria or in the music listening rooms, where you could check out LPs and play them in private. Their collection wasn’t large but contained works by many composers I hadn’t familiarity with, such as Benjamin Britten, Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius.

The following summer I got a job at the same aircraft plant that Mom had worked in during WWII. I decided to share the ride with one of my co-workers -a black guy who introduced me to the world of jazz. It is a little vague in my mind who the artist was that he played for me, but my guess is that it was someone cool like Miles Davis. It took a while for the seed to germinate, but eventually, jazz was on my mind continuously. I was introduced to Turk Murphy and the Yerba Buena Jazz band by an artist friend who had done a group portrait of them for an album cover. There was a jazz club in Berkeley near the UC campus that I’d spend hours listening to combos play.

During my overseas tour in Germany, I found the post exchange, (PX) to be a fruitful source of music and the prices were a bargain. I picked up contemporary jazz such as Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, Phil Woods, Coleman Hawkins and Chet Baker-mostly white jazz. Traditional jazz wasn’t so appealing then but later became more a part of my music.

Before there was a Brubeck quartet, there was this trio

While jazz was my new interest, I never abandoned classical music. Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” was all the rage during the mid-fifties. I had a recording of it and in Bamberg, went to a performance of it conducted by the composer. Bach continued to be the anchor of my collecting and while on leave in Paris, picked up a recording of his Trio Sonatas for organ by Marie-Claire Alain-a very extravagant indulgence.

One part of my collecting that doesn’t give me pride of ownership was a period when trying to reach a common ground with my significant other, I subscribed to the Columbia Record Club, accumulating a glut of movie music and lush orchestral crap like Mitch Miller and Jackie Gleason, which neither of us particularly liked. Gradually, I found that Welda’s and my tastes in music already shared some common ground and if I didn’t constantly play composers such as Bartok and Hindemith, we could coexist, musically.

American composers got my attention for a spell, Ernest Bloch, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, William Schuman, Howard Hanson, Charles Ives, Walter Piston and David Diamond. These composers made me realize that not all music has to possess European genes to be significant. Prior to my discovery of this rich source of music, I thought that George Gershwin and Ferde Grofe and Edward MacDowell were all America had to offer. Samuel Barber changed all that. In more recent years, I included Philip Glass, John Cage, John Adams and Leonard Bernstein.

Radio in a large metropolitan area used to afford a wide choice of most kinds of music, but since the large broadcasting conglomerates came in and bought most of the stations, music of all genres has become very predictable and homogenized, with programming centrally planned based on advertising revenue. For many years, KJAZ in Alameda with its staff of knowledgeable D Js provided the best jazz fare on the West coast, if not the whole country. Sadly, it went belly up in the nineties. A public station at the College of San Mateo, KCSM, inherited a good part of the KJAZ library, but not the D Js.

Classical music, once being broadcast over two stations in the Bay Area has been reduced to one, which is owned by the Bonneville Corporation out of Utah which sets the monotonous tone of its daytime broadcasting. Everything that is played is so familiar to its audience that it has been reduced to background music. Its better fare is played at night when you want to watch TV.

This brings me to streaming audio sites on the internet. After scanning dozens of stations from major population centers over the globe, I found one that plays entertaining long hair music from my old alma mater, the U of A, KUAT in Tucson, of all places. As I write this, KUAT has played a variety of works that are usually below the radar by composers I've never heard of. There are many stations online I could go to, but this one is the most consistently interesting. I do miss the total immersion I experienced whenever a new record was played over and over until I had absorbed every note and nuance and committed it to memory. This youthful concentration, like practicing hoops in the back yard, is what helped found the body of music I call mine. While much more music is accessible to listen to, buy or download than at the beginning of my exposure, I find I don’t listen as critically as I did then. That’s part of life. All first time experiences tend to stay with you.

Rock and Roll

In the middle sixties, when our family was living in Berkeley, there was much happening, musically. The San Francisco sound was dominating the airwaves with such as Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jimmi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish, Grateful Dead. The East Bay had its Sly and the Family Stone and the peninsula produced Santana.

This was not to say the British Invasion wasn’t a big part of the music scene and there were folk singers like Maria Muldaur, Joan Baez, Bud and Travis and Linda Ronstadt, who became an integral part of the scene drawing arena sized crowds, (well, maybe not Bud and Travis, but I had a personal acquaintance with them, Travis while in Tucson High and Bud when I was at Art Center School).

My friends at work really turned me on to the Beatles and it seemed like they were turning out a new album every few months. Drew and Todd were crazy about them, too. We were submerged in Beatlemania at our flat in Berkeley. I collected all their latest albums and we played them over and over. For some reason, I never was a collector of the Stones or many other groups. I didn’t feel the need because the music was everywhere, though I did get a few Joan Baez albums and a Jefferson Airplane album.

As the kids got older, I became more interested in what they were playing. Of course, they collected music themselves, but it was basically limited to the bands that were popular at the time. When we moved to Mountain View, on the peninsula, they got instruments and formed their own bands. Todd joined a band called “The Feds” which was a step up from garage band level and opened for some touring acts that played in local clubs.

My exposure to rock and roll was inevitable when Michele took up the drums. A natural at anything she took up, she started dating another drummer, Brian McLeod, a very talented drummer-percussionist who was member of Group 87. He introduced her to the leader, San Francisco composer, trumpeter and electronic music composer, Mark Isham. Mark had a recording contract with Windham Hill and had already produced a couple of albums and a tour was being planned to promote them. These were in the realm of ambient music, sort of free-form and allowed the musicians ample opportunity for improvisation-and they needed a percussionist. Michele tried out and got the gig. This was big, as it was a European tour, followed by a North American tour. One of the high points of the European tour was an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival where their performance was televised on French television.

Michele and Mark Isham’s group on a pre-world tour concert in Palo Alto’s old Varsity theater.

Mark Isham was a Windham Hill artist when Michele played percussion in the group on tour

We became great fans of Mark’s music, but Michele’s career with his new age group ended with the tour. But with Michele on her own, living in San Francisco, she and two friends started a girl group called “Three Color Sweet”. External and personal problems besieged the girls, threatening the band. Although the girls were quite close and supportive, the band began to show signs of breaking up just when recording their first album and then the husband of the lead vocalist put away his checkbook. Rock musician and guitarist extraordinaire, Ronnie Montrose was producing the album, but without funding was forced to call it quits, having accomplished only a demo tape. Ronnie was so impressed with Michele's playing that she became the drummer in his band.

Michele keeping the beat while Davey Pattison wails and Ronnie Montrose strutting his Strat at a concert in Santa Clara, CA.

I can’t say that his music really had a hold on me, although when I attended his gigs at various venues and watched Michele banging away on the drums, it was very eardrum abusive but exciting experience. Michele worked on album art for several CDs during the nineties and performed on the "Roll over Live" album.

Music has been an influence on me and on every member of the family. While the kids have taken their own musical paths, I have been affected by their interests and have absorbed much of them into my musical stew. As they have gone on their way, I have largely returned to my core musical interests, classical and jazz. I still like rock and could listen to the Beatles over and over. Hip-hop and rap annoy me, I'm afraid. This is due to the-thud, thud, thud-exposure one endures on a daily basis while out and about. For me it is anti-music. I can't make out the lyrics and presumably those are the most important part of the writing. It all reminds me of the mocking oratory of the black power movement when Angela Davis and Bobby Seale held forth during the sixties. Every word seems to have a dropping tone which loses effect after about three words. When stream-of-consiousness poetry was popularized by Alan Ginsberg, I could appreciate it. Rapping seems to be the unintended offspring gone terribly wrong. So much for my curmudgeonly tirade.