Bobby Allen

Another Del Norte High School classmate has passed away. He was in the class of 1980.

I remember him as a smart-a$$ed kid always ready with a sarcastic remark — which I like about him.

Born and raised in Crescent City, Bobby Allen passed away February 18, 2011. He spent most of his adult life working in the timber industry — driving truck for the family business, Gus Allen Trucking.

According to the obituary published in the Triplicate: “In his free time Bobby enjoyed golfing and hunting trips with his son James and close friends Jim and Kyle Loftin. He loved rooting for his favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings, and spending Sundays with his mother Jeanne watching NASCAR.”

He was preceded in death by his father Gus and stepmother Joanie Gardenhire and is survived by his mother Jeanne Allen, his wife Debbie and their children. Bobby was jus’ 49 years old.

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Out of the Blue

What started as a search for Grandpa Tom’s military records has led me in a direction I never saw coming. For the last couple of years I’ve been inquiring about the possibility of recovering Grandpa’s “Bluejackets’ Manual.”

The BJM as it is known amongst those in the Navy is the bible when it comes to the daily life of a sailor (and at times a Marine.) In this case I got my hands on a 1943 Bluejackets’ Manual, which is the year I had been told Grandpa went to war.

This is where my adventure as book-monger takes that unexpected twist. I selected this particular book to buy because it was procured by a man who had purchased an entire lot of books in Muskogee, Oklahoma around August 1980 – a month after Grandpa Tom passed away.

With my fingers crossed – but not with breath held – I waited for the BJM to make its way from Denmark, where the man was living. When it did arrive I was disappointed to see the name, “Johnston, R.J.,” stenciled on the inside cover.

I thought, “Oh, well,” and put it on my bookshelf, thinking I might get some use out of it one day.

For some reason, I decided to pick it up, dust it off and leaf through the 68-year-old manual. Why I had not seen it before, I don’t know, but on the inside page there was a list of duty stations for “Johnston, R.J.”

Reading through them I realized this sailor was stationed with another sailor I was well acquainted with – my father-in-law. Don Conklin, my bride’s father, like “Johnston R.J.” had served during World War II at both Navy 128 and Navy 10 in San Francisco and each listed Fleet Post Office as their address.

Unfortunately, Don passed away in 2006, so I cannot ask him if he knew “Johnston, R.J.” or not. But there is a chance, the original owner of this BJM could still be alive as he wrote his home address and full-name, Ray Junior Johnston, in the book too.

I have a place in which to start my search.

Bad Ideas Abound

The last couple of days, I have been dealing with a slight case of writer’s block — and while trying to “not think” of something to write I remembered this article I originally published in the now defunct weblog, “InfoCow.”  I’m not sure but I think I wrote it as my bipolar disorder was operating on the manic-side. 

This is an idea for a book full of bad ideas. The bad ideas might include putting poetry on cereal boxes, hitchhiking through Iran with a Salmon Rushdie t-shirt on, and a new super-hero doll called “Super Bin Laden.”

There are moving sidewalks in airports, so why not ones that crosses a city? Slower “feeder” sidewalks could lead up to and away from the high-speed main line that takes you at six-miles-per-hour through the city. It might even become a tourist attraction.

If prisoners agreed to it, would there be any problem piping constant subliminal messages into their cells? They could be continually fed good thoughts, ideas, and life-changing affirmations.

Do your feet get too hot? Have you ever put your shoes in the freezer for an hour before putting them on? Someone should invent a pair of shoes that would keep one’s feet cool — they could be called snowshoes.

Have a door on the wall that doesn’t actually go anywhere. Instead, when it is opened, it reveals a painting and plays soft music.

Breed dogs and cats for a short life, preferably less than two years. “Genetically guaranteed short life pets,”  are for those who don’t want a long-term commitment.

How about this — a horrible foods cookbook: Want a serving of tuna fish ice cream? How about chicken pudding or anchovy soda?

Any takers?  Thought not.

Desert Sand to Moon Rocks

Before U.S. astronauts could collect a single moon rock — there was the desert sands of Spanish Springs — where many of the rockets used by America’s space program were tested. Those tests happened at a facility operated by Rocketdyne at the Sky Ranch Airport, between Spanish Springs Road and Calle de la Plata.

My Uncle Orval Harrison retired from Rockwell/Rocketdyne in early 1970, after spending more than 30-years working on projects for NASA.  Now I’m living in Spanish Springs where Uncle Orval, unknown to me at the time I moved to Nevada, worked.

He was married to Dad’s blood relative, Aunt Frances, an Arne by birth. I believe she passed away in Salem, Oregon, February 19, 1976 at the age of 73.

Anyway, Sky Ranch Airport was a 1940s auxiliary field and the site of the first Reno Air Races, in 1964 and 1965. From 1962 to 1970, once known as Rockwell International, Rocketdyne operated a facility known as the Nevada Field Laboratory.

The main NFL operational support facility was located near the corner of Whiskey Springs and Ironwood Roads, north of Winnemucca Ranch Road.  Between 1974 and the early 90s a privately owned company operated a machine shop and warehouse on the land.

Engines for the Gemini, the Saturn, the Lunar Module, Apollo and the Space Shuttle Program were tested at this area and included three sites. Because of this some parts of the former test area are listed as Superfund environmental clean-up sites.

Of the 126,000 acres, only 1,600 acres were used for testing, the remainder was home to administrative and support facilities. Debris, underground tanks and contaminated soil have since been removed by Rocketdyne, which put in numerous monitoring wells throughout the area.

One of these monitoring wells is located at the end of Axe Handle Canyon Road. Another along Right Hand Canyon Road and the first half of Paiute Circle, with a third at the eastern end of Whiskey Springs Road.

It’s sad to think the next American to head into space may be aboard a craft powered by a Russian-designed rocket — and that Uncle Orval’s hard work is lost to history.

Gomer’s New Job

I found this little piece of humor in one of my news files at the radio station. I thought it fairly funny and worth sharing.

The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, so Gomer, who was not exactly the sharpest nail in the bucket, went in to try out for the job.

“Okay,” the sheriff drawled, “Gomer, what is 1 and 1?”

“Eleven,” he replied.

The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but you’re right. What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?”

“Today and tomorrow,” Gomer answered.

The sheriff was again surprised the man supplied a correct answer that he had never thought of himself.

“Now Gomer, listen carefully: Who killed Abraham Lincoln?” the sheriff asked.

Gomer looked a little surprised himself, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.”

“Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while,” the sheriff instructed.

So, Gomer wandered over to the barbershop where his pals were waiting to hear the results of the interview. Gomer was exultant.

“It went great!” he told them, “First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!”

Off the Wall

My wife was gone for a week’s long visit to her sister’s home in Ramona. Her’s were not the only plans made for the week.

Kay and I decided to paint one of the front room walls the same color we had painted the hallway earlier in the year. It took us a total of two days to finish the work.

Mary came home but didn’t notice the newly painted wall. Instead she headed directly for bed without looking around the house.

Come the next day, she was up early, but still she had not noticed. It was nearly two in the afternoon when I decided to try to get her to “see the wall.”

First I had her go inspect the coat-rack by the front door. She looked it over and said the way I had it rearranged looked great.

With that epic failure, I directed her to the hallway entrance that leads to the back of the house. It’s there that we have her mother’s folded flag in a wooden case as she was as she was an Army nurse in World War II as well as Dad’s.

It had become dusty on the inside as the case had popped open. I used the time to clean the flag off and properly seal the case so it will not get dirty inside again.

She looked at the case and said it looked great. Once more she failed to see the freshly painted wall. 

It was more than I could stand and I blurted out, “What do you think of the wall?”

She responded, “Oh, my! It looks great!”

I’m thinking – maybe I should have used a barn-red paint instead of the “mushroom bisque,” we agreed on.

Knee Deep in the Hoopla

The bride and I were traveling along Interstate 80 and had jus’ dropped into the valley on the north side of the Grapevine. It was difficult to keep a single radio station tuned in for any length of time as we drove along.

But every time we did find a station it seemed the one song that was playing was Starships, “We Built This City.” Since that tune came out, I have never heard a single soul admit they like the song.

In fact, “We Built This City,” made Blender Magazine and VH1 Music Channel’s 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs — landing at the coveted position of number one. On the upside, it was Billboard’s Hot 100 number one single  between November 16 and 23, 1985.

It doesn’t matter to me either way what others may think of the tune — because for me it carries some great memories of the bride and me, zipping up I-5, windows rolled down, singing our butts off.  Let “Marconi play the mamba…”