Wings of the Tern Blog

October 29, 2010


Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 4:18 pm

I mention in my book about my childhood interest in Astronomy.  After I lost my initial telescope in a fire during my time in college, I went without for many years.

Alaska was not a good place for star gazing.  During the summer it was always light out and during the winter too cold for standing outside looking into a telescope.  Also, the ice crystals in the air are, effectively, just like smog in blocking the  stars.

When I moved to Fresno and remarried, I got back into the hobby with the purchase of a 10” Mead telescope.  Over the years I improved on my star gazing with the addition of an astronomy tent with a opening in the ceiling, and finally a backyard Observatory.  I updated the telescope with the adding of a newtonian mount and finally a permanent pier for it to be mounted on.

Last month, I retired the old 10” and purchased a new 12” computerized telescope.  I try to have it open each Wed evening for the neighbors to drop by and enjoy the night sky with me.



August 23, 2010

Special Forces

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 1:27 am

While serving with the 11 Aviation Battalion in Vietnam, we had, for awhile, a representative from the Special Forces attached to us.  I don’t remember his name, but I remember that he didn’t fit the mold of what one would usually imagine a SF guy to be like.  Instead of a Rambo, he looked more like a computer nerd.  Small in statue with dark rimmed glasses. I do remember that his hooch was filled with all sorts of exotic weapons that were not the usual issue for standard soldiers.

August 18, 2010

First taste of Yokurt

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 5:21 pm

While I had always heard of Yokurt, by the early 70’s I had never tried any.  While on assignment at one of the Alaska Pipeline construction camps I finally tried some.  I was sitting in the lounge area and noticed some of the other workers were getting these little cups out of a cooler.  All sorts of goodies were available for the workers anytime they wanted them and without cost.  It looked good so I went over and grabbed a little cup for myself.  I opened it up and took a bite.  Yuk!  It didn’t taste very good to me, so I tossed it in the trash can and went back to my book.  Pretty soon, another man retrieved a cup and sat down next to me.  I noticed that he first stirred the cup with a spoon and the contents gained some color.

So – I tried it again, this time stirring the creamy mixture.  I discovered that the fruit was in the bottom of the cup and once stirred together, it tasted real good.

I have loved Yokurt ever since!

June 20, 2010

Fund Raiser

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 2:08 pm

One of the ways that our Air Explorer Squadron’s sponsor, the North Hollywood Optimist Club, would raise money was through an annual dinner that they put on each summer.  One of the club members had a vary large home and yard which he donated for this event.  It was a large affair, completely catered and well lit with outdoor lights.  There was a band for dancing after dinner.

Our bunch from the Squadron were often invited to help out at this dinner.  I’m sure there were other duties, but the one I remember most was parking cars.  Since this event was held in a residential neighborhood, the cars were parked for blocks in all directions so we boys would position ourselves out in front, in our uniforms, to offer our services to arriving guests.  Since many of the attendees were wealthy, it afforded us the opportunity to drive some pretty swanky vehicles.

June 8, 2010

Proud of the Cessna

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 12:57 am

The following Air Scout adventure was  left on the editing room floor and did not make it into my book.

We were all very proud of the Cessna and liked to show it off at every opportunity.  One event that gave us the opportunity, to do just that, was put on by the Optimist Club.  One of the members owned a business at an outdoor mall in North Hollywood and he volunteered much of the parking lot to display all of the youth organizations sponsored by the club.  Getting the airplane to the malls parking lot took some planning and preparation and we were all really excited about it.

The activity began, by one of the boys flying the airplane over to the Burbank Air Terminal the day before.  Several of us volunteered to help tow the airplane the couple of miles from the airport to the mall, and together with some of the adult advisors, we met up at the airplane just after midnight.  After the evening’s traffic died down on the public streets, a police escort showed up to help with the move.  To tow the airplane, we attached the regular Cessna tow bar onto the nose wheel.  Two of us climbed into the trunk of one of the cars and held onto the handle of the tow bar as we slowly moved down the street.  The first attempt almost ended in catastrophe when we got going a little fast.  The Cessna began to shimmy back and forth, and it broke free of the tow bar.  The airplane headed for a parked car, but we all managed to jump from the trunk, in time, and got it stopped. after that, one of us rode inside the Cessna, so as to be able to hit the brakes in case of another problem, and we slowed up on the tow speed.

Our work was not done when we arrived at the mall. We still had to hang around, in our cars, to insure that no one messed with the airplane.  So, with the adults in one car and four of us boys in another, we spent what remained of the night in the parking lot next to the Cessna.  Although we all could have used a little shut eye, there just was too much fun stuff going on, all day, to break for home.  After all, there was breakfast with the guys then people began to show up to see the airplane, so we stayed to answer questions about it and the squadron.

Other youth groups, also sponsored by the Optimist Club, began to show up and set up their displays.  The Sea Scout unit had a pretty good size sailboat, and the Ham Radio Club had lots of radios.  Other Cub, Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Explorer units had camping gear and hobby stuff set up as well.  By afternoon, the malls parking lot was full of people mingling around among all the displays and booths.  Again, a nap would have done well at this point.

After all the festivities ended for the evening, we again parked next to the Cessna to watch over it.  We talked and kidded in the car with only a brief escape to talk to a couple of, run a way, teenage girl’s that we spotted walking down the street.  Shortly after 0200 hours, we again towed our aircraft back to the Burbank Airport and I finally got home to bed.

May 30, 2010

Tribute to Rick O’Neal

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 10:52 pm

In the chapter “Fly Boys” of my book, I mention my old Air Scout buddy, Rick O’Neal.  I understand that Rick was killed some years after we lost contact with each other while flying an airplane in the Sierra Mountains.

He was the jovial kid with the old yellow and white Metropolitan car.  One summer, Rick got a job as a tour guide at the William S Heart Park in Newhall, California.  For those that are not familiar with the name, William S Heart was a silent film cowboy and director.  The Heart park sits atop a hill with picnic areas, hiking trails and a herd of American Bison.  His old Spanish Colonial Style Ranch house is now a museum containing Hearts original furnishings, a collection of western art and Native American artifacts. Several of us guys often drove up to visit the place while Rick was working there and sometimes Rick was able to take us into back areas of the house not otherwise open to the public.

Rick was always doing screwball things.  One time while we were all out in the desert hunting Jack Rabbits, Rick got the big idea that he wanted to know how fast he could jump from a moving car.  We started out about one mile per hour and Rick jumped from the car onto the dirt road that we were driving on.  Each time, he would climb back into the car and we would increase the speed.  This continued for some time and each time he was able to remain on his feet.  Finally we reached a speed where no matter how he tried to keep running, the speed of his body was more than his feet could keep up with and he tumbled over and over again in the dirt.

Rick never seemed to have as much money as the rest of us.  At the time, I had a car route with the LA Times newspaper and was making pretty good money.  When the movie “How the West was Won” came out, we both wanted to go see it.  These were the days before multiplexes and all the new movies first came out in the big theaters down in Hollywood.  That particular movie was released in Cinerama and was playing at the Warners Theater on Hollywood blvd.  Cinerama was the wide screen system that came out in the sixties where three cameras were used to shoot the scene. The scenes were spliced together on a supper wide screen that had very noticeable seams.  At any rate, when Rick and I arrived one Friday night to buy tickets, Rick didn’t have enough money for anything but the cheapest seat so I had to buy the same to sit with him.  We ended up in the very last row of the very last balcony.  From out vantage point, that Cinerama Screen looked like a small screen TV.

One of the last occasions that we were together, was when I was in College.  Rick had gone into the Army, but had gone AWAL from Basic training.  He ended up in Golletta where our other old Air Scout buddy, Dave Pluth was attending UCSB.  I guess, after some discussion, Rick decided to return to Fort Ord and Dave volunteered to drive him back up to Monterey.  They stopped off in Hollister to pick me up and together, the three us first went to have a beer on Cannary Row.  In a little bar named Flores (named after the Cat House in Steinbeck,s  book) the three of us had a last beer together.  While a young hippy bartender played folk music on his guitar and the smell of rain drifted in through the saloon style doors, we talked about old childhood adventures and the Vietnam War.

May 23, 2010

My Valentine Present

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 2:48 pm

I mention in my book that I’ve always loved to drive European Style Roadsters and was lucky enough to have owned a Alfa Romeo for a short period while I was in the Army.  The roads and weather in Alaska were not well suited for such cars so I never even contemplated the purchase of a Roadster while I lived there.  Actually, one of my co-workers did buy a Fiat Spider, and as predicted, almost never took it out of the garage.

When I first moved back to California, I needed something more practical then a Roadster, so I bought a Ford Explorer, then after getting married, I had family needs to consider.  I did, however, always have a Miata listed on my Christmas list.  This was sort of a joke.

I always started off my Christmas list with items that I had no possibility of getting such as an Airplane or a Miata.  At the bottom of the lists where items like a package of razor blades, which I might expect to find in my Christmas stocking.  Somewhere in the middle I listed those things that I might, conceivably, hope to get.

My wife, Lydia, did agree that one day it would be fun to own some sort of fun car.  Most of our discussions were about old classics like a 56 Chev.  Something to drive to car shows or on warm summer evenings to take to a drive In.  In fact, as a little side story,  when I was dating, one of the little tests to determine if whoever I was currently seeing could be in the running to be a future mate, I would take them to my favorite local 50’s drive In, Fat Freddie’s. I didn’t date that many gals, but all of them, but Lydia, wanted to go inside where it was more comfortable than eating out in the car where we were served by a Car Hop.  Like me, Lydia loved the nostalgia and I think thats when we first talked about Classic Cars.  One more reason why we were married three months later and are still very much in love after seventeen years of marriage.

Getting back to my original story, I remember thinking one time, that after paying off our current vehicle and the next purchase of a car for Lydia, that maybe then, I could swing a Roadster for myself.

When the time came for Lydia to pick out a new car for herself, she was interested in buying a late model, small pickup truck, so off we went on a shopping trip.  We found many such vehicles on the used car lot of a local Chevrolet dealer and Lydia took several out on test drives. They just didn’t drive like what she expected and she soon began to talk herself out of buying one.  That’s when she noticed a small white 95 Miata sitting over in the corner.  She said: “Thats a cute little car.”  After I informed her that it was a Miata she began to inquire from the salesman how much it cost, than began to work him down on the price.  At this point, I was afraid to say anything.  I couldn’t believe this was happening and didn’t want to seem over eager and jinks the whole thing.  Anyway, we ended up driving the Miata home and Lydia thereafter said that it was my Valentine present.

We have had, and continue to enjoy our little Miata.  For many years, it was my car for commuting to work in.  It ended up with my custom license plate “H ONE” (My helicopters call sign), bigger custom wheels, wood gear shift and brake handles and black racing stripes.  Lydia and I joined the local Miata Club and have driven the car on may runs where twenty to thirty Miata’s drive to some fun location over winding roads suitable for Roadsters.

May 15, 2010

Country Living

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 2:31 pm

If you read my book, you know how in love I am of wide open spaces like that I found in Alaska.  When I first moved to Alaska and folks found out that I was originally from LA, they all assumed that I was a city boy.  In actuality, I have always been blessed with lots of room to roam.

My first home was in Altadena, Calif., and was backed up to forest land so I had plenty of room there.  Even the Pasadena Mansion that my family moved to was on a acre of land in the middle of the city.  While the house in the San Fernando Valley was only on a half acre, that was pretty large by todays zero lot line standards and the Valley was more country in those days.

Today, my wife and I live on 2.3 acres in Madera County, Calif.  From our front window, we have an unobstructed view of the High Sierra Mountains to the east.  We love our home. We don’t go traveling as much as we used too because it feels like we are already at some national park.

One of the things that we had to get used too when we moved out to the country was the critters.  About every three years, we get inundated with small black beetles that come up into the house through the walls.  This occurs in the spring time, especially if the winter was a wet one.  Also, because we had so much rain this year, our neighbor, across the street grew a bumper crop of tadpoles that have now become little frogs, about a quarter of a inch in length.  They all migrated across the street and straight into our yard with many finding their way into our house.  This is good to some extent, in that they eat the bugs.

So, my first chore of the day is to go around the house and collect all the little bugs and all the little frogs that I can find and relocate them.

May 4, 2010

Where are they Now?

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 5:50 pm

Many of the dad’s and men associated with Air Explorer Squadron III, including my own dad, have passed away.  This includes our Scout Master (Mr. Miller) who I recently learned had worked on Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra.  His son John (the fire buff) went on to retire from the Baltimore Fire Department.  Davy Jones, the son of the race pilot, John Paul Jones, became an Engineer and lives in the LA area.  My old friend Tom Cagan works for HP and Dwight Obenchain retired from the Santa Monica Police Department.

Rick O’Neal, also a Air Scout chum, was killed in a small airplane in the High Sierras and my very good friend, Dave Pluth, recently died from a heart attack.  He had settled in Switzerland and had become a professional photographer.  At the time, Dave was in Africa on a remote shoot and miles away from medical help.

A good number of my college friends became Air Line Pilots, most are now retired.  This includes my good friend, Mike Ward, who is a retired Delta Airline Captain and now lives  on Orcas Island in Washington.  Not far from where the writer, Ernest K Gann, had lived.

Some of my other college friends are scattered about.  Ed Shiostuka followed in his dads footsteps to become a farmer.  Jerry Whites went onto retire as a Production Test Pilot for Boeing and Norell Rose became a Goat Rancher in Oregon.  Harry Laws learned how to fly helicopters and dusted crops out of King City, California.  Another old college friend, Ken Strong, became a commercial fisherman.  Mike Hindman, is now retired and lives near me in Fresno.  We get together often.

Of the Army and Alaska group of friends: Jim Porter started a small Airline in Pago Pago, then went back to work for Evergreen as the base manager in Galvaston, Texas, for awhile.  He and his wife now run a Bed and Breakfest down south somewhere.  Jim Eastman is retired from flying helicopters for the Calif Department of Forestry (CDF) and  lives in Colorado.

April 27, 2010

Ferry Flights to Alaska

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 4:07 pm

During the years that I worked in Alaska, I made many flights up through Canada.  In the 70’s it was pretty straight forward and (most of the time) hassle free.  I’m glad that I don’t have to do it now with all the Homeland Security issues.

Flying into Canada was always a pleasure.  The Canadian Customs people were always polite in welcoming a Ferry Pilot through their country.  The US Customs people were mostly Ass Holes.  After several days on the road and finally reaching my home state, instead of being welcomed home, they treated me like some kind of crook.

I will always remember one occasion when I landed at Northway, Alaska, to clear customs.  It was late in the afternoon and I was anxious to be inspected and get back on the road so I could make it to Anchorage that day.  While the custom guy was asking questions and inspecting the aircraft I began to climb up on the helicopter to inspect the rotor head in preparation for my next take off. I had done this on many previous occasions, but all of a sudden, the customs guy got really mad and demanded that I climb back down.  He had me follow him into the office where he got on the telephone to someone else.  At the end of his telephone conversation, he hung up and apologized for the delay.  He said that I had matched the description of someone who was trying to carry in 100 tons of Marianna into the states.  My response was “In a Alloutte II?”  With all my gear and fuel, I (maybe) had about 700 lbs of usable payload remaining.  I wondered what part of my current look was the key to his suspicion.  At the time, I had a beard, baseball cap, leather flight jacket, blue jeans and tennis shoes.  I looked just like every helicopter pilot who flew in Alaska!

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