"Even though at first I used bed sheets made into parachutes or tied to my wrists and ankles behind my back a la the glider chute of Captain Midnight, my very, very first serious attempt to build an airplane-like craft that would actually carry me in flight over any distance was based on the glider I saw in the 1947 movie Tarzan and the Huntress, shown below with Tarzan's chimp Cheetah trying to fly it, combined with an already in place obsession with the works of the fabled Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci."
THE FLYING MACHINE: CHINA 400 AD
Below is a page from "500 Years Too Soon" the comic book narration of Leonardo Da Vinci and his Flying Machines as found in TRUE COMICS #58 March, 1947 wherein Leonardo first proposes his flying machine to his wealthy patron. The results of me having come into contact with the Da Vinci story even prior to reaching age 10 --- with the unflagging support and help of my Uncle --- ended with the two of us designing and building an actual flying a machine capable of carrying a man, or in my case, a young boy, me, in flight. So said then, without my uncle's knowledge or approval, I took the craft down from it's construction lair, launching it from the roof top of a two-story building across the street by jumping off and holding on for dear life.
(for the complete Da Vinci comic book story please click)
My mother died while I was still at a very young age. Within days of her death, because my father was just not able to come up with the strength needed to deal with it at the time after caring for my mother during years of her deteriorating health, what was left of our family disintegrated, scattered to the four winds, with my two brothers and myself each ending up living separately under the auspices of a variety of relatives, shirt-tale relatives and foster families.
Several years later my father remarried and a short time after that he called the family, that is my two brothers and myself, back together in an effort at being whole again. My new mother, or Stepmother as the case may be, was at the time, very wealthy and spared little or no expense to see to it that my brothers and I got almost whatever we wanted.
My uncle, who my stepmother brought in to oversee me, was a strong promoter of me building an actual flying machine for a number of reasons, but most prominently so --- cutting to the quick --- because of how it is explained in the following as found in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, so sourced:
"At the time my older brother loved to build model airplanes and continued to build bigger and better models until eventually he was constructing huge gas engine powered remote control six-foot wingspan B-24 Liberators. He was also the apple of my father's eye. My uncle, noticing the situation, decided I too could impress my dad, only through art."(source)
Early on my stepmother recognized the above regarding my older brother's love for building model planes, and seeing he was so good at it set up, just for him and without concern for costs, a complete workshop with every piece of equipment or tool imaginable that anybody would ever want or need to successfully build a model plane or almost anything else for that fact. She also provided an 'open account' at one of the best hobby shops around, Colonel Bob's. What that meant was he could go to Colonel Bob's, take whatever he wanted off the shelves or order it, and with no money exchanged, just sign for it. The bill would go to my stepmother.
Colonel Bob's was located on West Pico straight north on Arlington and to the left a few shops within walking distance or a bike ride from the compound where my brothers and I lived. Often when my older brother would go there I would tag along because next door or possibly upstairs, I don't remember which, was a place that sold model trains that had the most beautiful model train setup that I had ever seen, with mountains, towns, cities, bridges, roads, cars, trucks, and busses. If the train stuff was part of Colonel Bob's or not I don't remember that either. I do know I went there every chance I got.(see)
However, one day when I was inside Colonel Bob's with my brother a small group of men got into a rather heated discussion about the first airplanes. One of the men had a rolled up a comic book in his hand waving it around arguing with another man about the Wright Brothers and Leonardo Da Vinci. The man with the comic book threw it down on the counter and walked out. As it became slightly unrolled I picked it up to look at it. On the cover was a picture of a young man that apparently jumped off of a tower holding on to some kind of winged flying apparatus. The caption on the cover above the picture read '500 Years Too Soon' with a smaller caption lower down that read 'First World Flight.'
My brother signed for his purchase and walked out. The man behind the counter, seeing I was so mesmerized by the Da Vinci story I hadn't seen my brother leave, shook me on the shoulder and said I could take the comic if I wanted because he was sure the owner wouldn't be back very soon to get it.
The comic book was of course True Comics, No. 58 with a cover date of March, 1947. The movie, the aforementioned Tarzan and the Huntress, that shows Tarzan's son Boy building a glider-type plane capable of flying while carrying him that turned me on so much, was released at almost the exact same time, Saturday April 5, 1947. I am pretty sure I had the comic book with the Leonardo Da Vinci flying machine story in my possession and read BEFORE seeing the Tarzan movie, but either way, the two events all came together at the same time resulting in my building of and putting into use a flying machine of my own making.(see)
FROM A DA VINCI MODEL TO A BALSA MODEL
COLONEL BOB'S, MY BROTHER, AND THE P-40
My older brother, in a highly one sided position, primarily his, and my stepmother did not get along very well. Any attempt on my stepmother's part to make things right never worked. The fully equipped workshop for building model planes fell on deaf ears. Bottom line he hated her and made her life as miserable as possible. He remembered our real mother and our family and would not accept our stepmother in any role --- plus she interfered with his relationship with our father. He wanted him exclusively and did not like the fact that she took basically all my dad's time. In the end my brother got so belligerent and hard to handle they decided to put him in the McKinley School for Boys in Van Nuys and later in the California Military Academy in Baldwin Hills.
Sometime before the need of a private school, my uncle, seeing my older brother was quickly spiraling down into an untenable position that could possibly end up actually worse for him in real life than how he viewed things at the time, moved the Da Vinci flying machine from the forefront of my activities to the back burner thinking if my brother and I might spend some quality time working together on a mutual project we both liked, using me as a bridge between he and my stepmother, things might smooth out.
In that there wasn't one single thing anybody could think of that my brother loved more than making, building, and flying model planes, my uncle figured building a model plane between the two of us working together just might offer a solution. As soon as he was able to arrange it my uncle had my stepmother's driver take the three of us down to Colonel Bob's to shop around until we found something with a motivating model airplane theme that both my brother and I could agree upon.
It wasn't long before I zeroed in on wanting a P-40. If it was going to be a P-40, my brother insisted that it be only one specific kind, a flyable 36 inch wingspan balsawood stick and tissue creation made by a major builder of model planes kits in those days, Cleveland. The selection, actually more my brother's selection because as I viewed it, the plane-kit and the required expertise and knowledge to construct the thing seemed way out of my league considering it was going to be my first and probably my last attempt, ended up being a Cleveland Designed 3/4 inch scale model Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk.
Over a period of months working closely under the auspices of my older brother's meticulous craftsmanship I actually built it and actually flew it, although I never got around to putting on the insignias or painting it. After a few flights the P-40 simply ended up hanging from the rafters of my brother's shop until one day he beat the heck out it like a pinata. The last time I saw the plane it had been shoved nose first down inside a trashcan as far as it could, her main flight wings folded together tip-to-tip and the rest of the fuselage all twisted and crumpled to pieces. An unfitting end to a fine and noble craft. See:
P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO
(for full view of plans click image, click again to enlarge)
The Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk from the Cleveland Model Company that I built under the guidance of my older brother wasn't my first attempt at building a model plane, especially P-40s. It was just my first (and last) extensive attempt to do so, that is, building model planes with three foot or more wingspans, hand-cut ribs, tissue covered wings and fuselage, glued together on-and-on.
Several years before, right around the closing years of World War II and on my own, found me making and flying a couple different P-40 models, albeit not obtained from some heavyweight model shop like Colonel Bob's, but from my usual source of things in those days --- box top radio premium offers, cereal boxes themselves, and/or comic book ads.
(FROM SUPERMAN, ISSUE #29, JULY-AUGUST 1944)
Over a roughly two-year period, 1942-1944, the Kellogg's cereal company, in a marketing campaign tied in with the war effort, began putting easy to assemble flyable balsa wood model war planes into boxes of their breakfast cereal PEP.
Kellogg's was the first cereal maker to offer premiums directly inside their packages of cereal. Most people who were raised on inside-the-box cereal prizes remember the ones offered by Ruskets. However, inside the box prizes came later. Originally Ruskets prizes required you to save coupons from the boxes, then, depending on how many the prize or premium took, save them up and send them in to get your prize --- of which you were able to select which prize you wanted. Later Ruskets simply began putting prizes inside the box, but what you got is what you got.
The inside-the-box free Kellogg's PEP premium offer consisted of a small flat sheet of balsa wood with the parts of the plane printed on it inserted inside a paper envelope. Directions for constructing the planes were printed on the envelope along with a brief description of the aircraft itself. Kellogg's claimed thirty different models, although the number varied from eight to twenty-one to thirty. There may have been a thirty plane run over the span of the promotion. Of course the one I was interested in was the P-40 which meant if I didn't get one right off or trade for one, most likely I ended up having to buy 3,000 boxes.
(for larger image to read instructions, etc., click image)
The other model I built and flew in those days, rather than being a more-or-less flat balsa wood plane like the PEP facsimile above, was a dimensional penny in the nose P-40 cut out of heavy card-stock paper adorned with a Flying Tiger motif and USAAF insignia. The model was a promotional offer through General Mills, their cereal Wheaties, and their hunkering down stud Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy.
(for larger size click image then click again)
The above two offers involved the P-40 and similar war time aircraft. The fact that they flew was to be expected, because after all, they were airplanes. However, at around the same time I became taken by a flying model of Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel was a man, yet he flew. The more I built and flew the Flying Captain Marvel glider-type toy --- built almost exactly the same as the Jack Armstrong P-40, with a penny in its nose and everything --- the more intrigued I became. Here was a man, not a plane flying. In my young mind I could see no reason for such a thing not to be able to happen.
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CLAIRE CHENNAULT AND HIS FLYING TIGERS
JACK NEWKIRK OF THE FLYING TIGERS
FLYING MACHINE: CHINA 400 A.D.
FLYING TIGERS AND MORE
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
EARLY FLYERS FROM ICARUS TO LILIENTHAL
LILIENTHAL GLIDER TYPE IX (TYPE 9)
CLICK IMAGE FOR COMPLETE DA VINCI COMIC BOOK STORY
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DID LEONARDO DA VINCI FLY?
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
NOTE: If you click the comic book cover graphic below an online comic book with the Da Vinci story comes up. Follow the directions and you will come to the complete Leonardo comic book story that had such an impact on me as a young boy, otherwise, please continue:
(please click image then scroll down to read the actual pages)
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WHAT MY FLYER LOOKED LIKE, NEITHER P-40 NOR DA VINCI
Collector card from British cigarette maker Lambert & Butler, used as
the starting point for the final working drawings of my flying machine.
THE WANDERLING'S FIRST FLIGHT USED A HAND-BUILT FLYING MACHINE FROM A LILIENTHAL DESIGN
Even though my uncle had stopped the design and construction of the flying machine we were working on because of my older brother, it was only for a short time. It wasn't long before he discovered it wasn't worth all the effort he had to put forth to stop me, so not a whole lot of time elapsed before the two of us were back feet first into finishing it, with most of our difficulties in doing so stemming from stretching the fabric to a flight worthy satisfaction. Eventually we were able to complete the flyer to such a point we both felt it would actually work.
However, no real plans were set into motion to attempt a flight, and with no prospect in sight for doing so, one day, taking matters in my own hands and without my uncle's knowledge or approval, a friend of mine and I hauled it out of it's lair and up to the top of the second story apartments across the street, re the following:
"It was only a short time after returning from the desert during the summer of 1948 that I, just before school started and around age 10 or so, removed the flying machine my uncle and I built from the hanging position of it's construction lair and hauled it up to the rooftop of the second story building across the street. Then, holding onto the machine for dear life, I jumped off.
"At first the craft seemed easily able to maintain the same two-story height advantage over quite some distance. But then, partway into the flight, instead of continuing in the direction I wanted, it began tipping lower on the right and turning. Without ailerons or maneuverable rudder controls and with inexperienced over-correcting on my part creating an adverse yaw followed by a sudden stall, the ensuing results ended with a somewhat dramatic drop, crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house diagonally across the way."
As far as the "lack of flight controls mechanisms," unknown to me or my uncle at the time we were building the flying machine, the design we used was based on a Lilienthal model known as Type IX (9). If you take a good look at the graphic at the top of this section, as well as the cigarette trading card, you will notice the wing on the right in the photo, between the 5th and 8th rib, there appears to be what looks like some wrinkles in the fabric. That damage was part of the results of the Type IX crashing, and doing so under almost the exact circumstances as my flyer --- with the same outcome. Little did my uncle and I know, with the information we had at hand, that the design we were using had stalled and crashed when Lilienthal flew it for the first time. If we had known, we could either used another design or taken into consideration safeguards to ensure the same results would not happen to us, i.e., me. See:
LILIENTHAL GLIDER TYPE IX (TYPE 9)
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
Howard Hughes, Da Vinci, and Flying Machines
"My very, very first serious attempt to build an airplane-like craft that would actually carry me in flight over any distance was based on the glider I saw in the 1947 movie Tarzan and the Huntress."
In the 1947 black and white Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie Tarzan and the Huntress, the ape-man's son Boy, builds a glider-type plane capable of flying while carrying him. Before he has a chance to test it, their chimp Cheetah, apparently seeing the glider's potential, steals it. Hanging on for dear life Cheetah jumps off some rocks covering quite some distance through the air before eventually crashing into the trees and falling to the ground. To view the full movie, online and free:
FAST FORWARD TO THE 41 MINUTE MARK FOR GLIDER SCENE
OPTION: RENT FROM AMAZON FOR THREE BUCKS
There wasn't a whole lot things my brother or brothers and I ever did together either voluntarily or involuntarily when our families were whole, but for me, going to Colonel Bob's was one of them. The others were, first, when we were whole, i.e., as a family, all of us camping together in the High Sierras for a couple of full summers living off the land including me watering a lone tree high above the tree line up on the side of a glacier-carved stone mountain as found in The Tree and being able to find and see the planet Venus during daylight hours.(see) Secondly, all of us going to the best place in the world when we were kids, a war surplus store called Palley's.
Not long after my uncle started overseeing me under the auspices of my stepmother than he and I, often with my dad and brothers along, at least in the early days, began to go down to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in Los Angeles. For my brothers and me the place was like Disneyland, sometimes we would spend the whole day there because the place had everything --- big things like half tracks and bomber machinegun turrets to little things like GI issued lensatic compasses and packets of fluorescent green sea dye markers. My brothers and I were always cooking up some kind of an excuse go there with me always returning with a ton of World War II army surplus stuff --- canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and two of my very favorites, an Army Signal Corps J-38 Handkey with a leg-band for sending Morse code and an ESM/1 Emergency Signaling Mirror.
When my dad and stepmother went to South America for a couple of years and once again our de facto family broke up, with my uncle going back to Santa Fe and my younger brother and I going to a foster couple, most of my army gear got lost in the shuffle and going to Palley's, for the couple, at least as far as me and my little brother was concerned, was a thing of the past.
Below you will find an ad from a comic book that just happened to start showing up for the first time around August 1949, about a year after the above aforementioned flight and the exact time my family was breaking up or on the verge of breaking up. With the prospect of me not having the unfettered cash resources that had been provided me so freely in the past, before I moved in with the new foster couple my stepmother arranged for me to get a job at a place not far from where the couple lived where she knew the owner, a place called the Normandie Club --- so I could pick up some extra money. With that money and the comic book ads like the one below I was never without all the Army surplus stuff I wanted.
Almost anybody who is familiar with or has read any amount of my online works knows that as a young boy, besides comic books, I was big on box top and the like offers such as Ovaltine's Captain Midnight's Radio Premiums, especially Captain Midnight's Code-O-Graphs, and more specifically so the 1942-1945 Photo-Matic version that figured so prominently throughout my childhood into adulthood. So, as I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump, falling into a similar or like category. Matter of fact the first comic book ad I ever answered was for me to become a Junior Air Raid Warden, of which the ad appears just below the Army surplus ad. I don't think I was even in kindergarten when I sent for the Air Raid Warden kit. Please notice the two smaller versions of the surplus ad below the Air Raid Warden ad, although similar to the color ad above, both offer signaling mirrors for 35 cents. Signaling mirrors played a prominent role between the famed mathematician, meteorite hunter, and astronomer Dr. Lincoln La Paz and my uncle regarding a pre-Roswell UFO encounter. Remember too, from the main text, every time I went to Palley's I always came back with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff like canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks and Army M43 folding shovels. The comic book mail order made it a lot easier. Notice as well, in those days a kid could order knives, machetes, and axes if one was so predisposed. My dad actually bought a brand new, or at least never used, World War II jeep right off the docks in San Francisco by responding to a similar ad. The jeep, along with hundreds of others, were piled up on the docks just about to be shipped off to the South Pacific when the war ended. The government was selling them off as fast as they could, first come first served for $225.00 bucks.(see)
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Camping in the High Sierras I was traveling with my uncle, my two brothers, a cousin, a boy around my age somehow related to my stepmother by the name of Richard, and a kid my stepmother picked-up the tab on we called Bub President Hudson. The kid was the son of some movie actress my dad or uncle knew that went on-and-on continuously all day and night telling us that his mom was a spy and that she went to school with Tarzan.(see)
VIEW OF MID-AFTERNOON VENUS AS SEEN FROM CALIFORNIA
Both summers we camped in the same place, on the eastside of the Sierras along a fairly large creek that flowed from a year around glacier that in turn fed a number of nearby lakes both above and below our campground. We lived off the land as much as we were able, and, except for a number of journeys to places of interest, we only went into town once a month. The places of interest included the ghost town of Bodie, Mono Lake, the Mammoth Lakes caldera, Manzanar, and a couple of mountain peaks of which Mount Whitney was one. One of the most memorable events was my uncle taking me to meet a man of great spiritual attainment named Franklin Merrell-Wolff.
During the trip to see Merrell-Wolff we drove up to Whitney Portal then hiked to the top of the summit. My uncle had taken me to Badwater in Death Valley, the lowest spot in North America at 282 feet below sea level a few days before and since it was only 85 miles (as the crow flies) from Mount Whitney, which was at the time the highest point in the United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet, we had to go there as well. While on Mount Whitney I signed a guest book for visitors that make it to the top and I have often thought if those old visitor books were still around I could find out the exact date I was there.
In an article by P.S. Watson titled Planets for 1949 found in "Popular Astronomy" Volume 57, Page 23, Watson wrote, referring to the northern hemisphere and more specifically the U.S. at 40 degrees latitude, that at the beginning the year 1949 Venus would be a morning star rising shortly before dawn, but would soon move towards the Sun to reappear as an evening star during the latter part of April and would remain an evening star for the rest of the year --- pretty much eliminating Venus being seen during the daylight hours during the summer of 1949. However, a year later in Volume 58 of "Popular Astronomy," Page 22, Planets for 1950, again by P.S. Watson, it is a different story. For Venus during the year 1950 Watson wrote:
"Venus will be an evening star for the first months of the year but will move towards the Sun to pass inferior conjunction on January 30. After this date it becomes a morning star remaining until the middle of November. Greatest brilliancy occurs on March 7 and greatest elongation on April 11. This will not be a favorable elongation, however, as the planet will not rise during most of this time until the beginning of morning twilight."
What can be extrapolated from the above quote is that after April 11th, going into the summer months of the year 1950 Venus would have been absolutely perfect for viewing during daylight hours if you knew where to look.
Anybody who has read any of my works know that as a kid I was big on comic books, making references to them all the time. I was also big on box top and the like offers, especially radio premium offers such as Ovaltine's Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs. So, for me as I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump, falling into a similar or like category. Matter of fact the first comic book ad I ever answered was for me to become a Junior Air Raid Warden.
When I was just a kid, and I mean just a kid as my mother was still alive, the grandfather of the girl next door who used to babysit me and my two brothers, gave me to use, of which I apparently kept, a radio premium offer he had obtained several years before called a Little Orphan Annie Miracle Compass Sun-Watch. I say I must of kept it as I specifically remember having it several years later. I even write having it when I was traveling with my uncle in the desert as a young boy saying in a small pouch used to carry all kinds of stuff like a stainless steel pocket knife with a fold-out fork and spoon, compass, and waterproof matches. Then I go on to say:
"Always in the pouch as well was one of my most prized possessions, a pocket-sized sun dial gizmo called a Little Orphan Annie Miracle Compass Sun-Watch."
The Roswell Ray Gun
When the time came around for me to spend the summers in the High Sierras, for as young as I was, I had become a fairly seasoned back country traveler be it in the desert or the mountains. Although a lot of the skills were cross-transferable no matter where you were in the back country, there is a huge geographical and weather related environmental differences. In the desert water is the upmost priority. The mountains, especially the High Sierras, not so much. Meaning of course, that my canteen pistol belt I wore or had close at hand wherever I went in the desert, sometimes with two canteens attached, wasn't so much of a priority. Plus we were foraging out from the main camp no more that two days and returning, so again what we carried with us was much less and with several of us we didn't have to duplicate things such as our own coffee pot for example. I was in the High Sierras that I had switched from an army surplus pistol belt to a more-or-less Indiana Jones shoulder bag, thus changing what I did or didn't carry with me.
By the time the summers in the High Sierras came about I no longer had or carried with me the Little Orphan Annie Miracle Compass Sun-Watch, but instead, carried an item of similar use, but overall not as good, called a Frank Buck Explorer's Sun Watch Compass, without ever really knowing what happened to the Orphan Annie one. I remember the Frank Buck one specifically because I used it the morning of the Venus sighting. Notice at the bottom of the advertisement, below right, there is a mail in form that says orders must be postmarked by September 1, 1948. That ad first appeared in the No. 83 issue of Captain Marvel in April 1948, and very few if any comic books before then. The dates indicating I most likely would not have had the Sun Watch by the summer of 1948, but 1949 most likely and 1950 for sure.
FRANK BUCK EXPLORER'S SUN WATCH
ORPHAN ANNIE'S MIRACLE SUN WATCH
FOR INSTRUCTIONS SEE ABOVE LEFT
The boy we called Bub President Hudson was a very young boy, the youngest in our group. Where he came from none of us knew, he just showed up one day and started living with us. Like I say, my stepmother was always taking in strays. How he could have come up with such a story about his mom being a spy and going to school with Tarzan by just making it up out of whole cloth as well as having the last name Hudson, is beyond comprehension if it was not so --- especially if you take into consideration and compare what he said in relation to the background of an actress my uncle knew named Rochelle Hudson.
Hudson (1916-1972) was a starlet starting at age 13. She was also a longtime family friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs the author/creator of Tarzan The Ape Man. She and her mother lived close to the Burroughs estate and they eventually became close friends of the Burroughs family, with Rochelle often being given rides to school by Burroughs' son Jack and going on vacations with them.
During a good part of World War II Hudson lived in Hawaii with her second husband, a naval officer stationed there. Her film career had been interrupted before going to Hawaii starting with the years just prior to the war and into it's early years when she worked as a spy for the Naval Intelligence Service. She and her husband, as a civilian, were doing espionage work primarily in Mexico, but also Central and South America as well. Together they posed as a vacationing couple to detect if there was any Japanese of German fifth column activity in those areas.
Rochelle Hudson was not known to have had any children.
ROCHELLE HUDSON: INGENUE, ACTRESS, SPY
For more on Rochelle Hudson's Naval Intelligence work in Mexico and her interaction with a young Clement Meighan and the Wanderling's uncle see:
CASTANTEDA'S 1960s PAPER ON DATURA
TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
"The ad offered surplus jeeps for $278.00. There were literally hundreds of scams around right after the war saying you could buy surplus jeeps from $50.00 and up and that's what most of them were, scams. After looking into it my dad discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda."
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Even before I reached ten years of age my Stepmother, much to my dad's chagrin, bought a ranch in the Mojave Desert. The property was a whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with ten or twenty acres set aside on one corner for the ranch house, barn, and horse corrals. No sooner had she bought the ranch than my brothers and I moved there, doing all kinds of ranch stuff like ride horses and shoot guns, of which the ranch house had a number of them --- some on the wall and above the doors such as a lever action 30-30 Winchester, a shotgun or two, a couple of .22 rifles, and a very rare antique 1847 black powder percussion revolver called a Colt Walker which was usually kept in a case. Every once in a while I would take the 4.5 pound Colt out of the case and run around playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers Disintegrator in the other. In that the Colt was a black powder revolver and since nobody knew how to load it and everybody was afraid to, it was never loaded. In my later teenage years the Colt was sent to a gunsmith for some reason or the other and while there the gunsmith let me fire three rounds through it.
Almost as quick as we moved onto the ranch than my dad, who along with my stepmother remained living in the city, started to look around at tractors and such. Instead he decided on a four wheel drive World War II jeep to tool around in. Even though none of us kids were old enough to drive legitimately on any of the paved roads around or near the ranch, on the dirt roads and the scrub brush desert lands surrounding the ranch, as well as on the ranch itself, we drove all over the place.
My dad actually bought the Jeep after answering an ad that offered surplus Jeeps for $278.00. After looking into it he discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda.
I still remember as a boy showing up with my dad and brothers. The whole place turned out to be a huge labyrinth of buildings, cranes, railroad tracks, and narrow between the structures roadways. On the docks were literally hundreds and hundreds of jeeps lined up row after row along with all kinds of other military hardware and equipment. The jeeps themselves had been taken right off the factory assembly line to the docks months before for transshipment to the South Pacific just as the war ended and when I was there with my dad as a kid, all of them were still just sitting there gathering dust and getting flat tires.
Other than learning a new word and having it added to my vocabulary, i.e., cosmoline, except for one thing, I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep, how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is. The one thing I remember is that the man who sold my dad the jeep told him he couldn't pick it up until the next day because of some longshoreman rule. The thing is, my dad brought two longshoremen with him and the man who sold my dad the jeep gave it to him. The two longshoremen were provided by a longtime old friend of my stepmother named Johnny Roselli.
During the heat of the summer my dad didn't want to drive down California's central valley on Highway 99 or cross over the Sierras to use the 395, although once to either highway it would have been the most direct to the ranch. Instead he chose to drive down the California coastline on Highway 1 --- and what a trip it was no matter what highway we would have used. A jeep, no top, my dad and three kids, no real back seats and all before seat belt days. At first the jeep wouldn't go over 45 miles an hour. When we stopped for gas for the first time and with my dad complaining, the attendant, who had been in the Army and knew about jeeps said it was because of a "governor," a device or some such thing the Army put on vehicles to ensure they weren't driven too fast. The attendant took a screwdriver, fiddled with a few things, and the next thing we knew the jeep could do over 60! A couple of days later after camping along the way we were back at the ranch.
From there we went from a bunch of kids tooling around the ranch to chasing locomotives out across the raw desert land at 90 miles per hour:
THE BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT
THE JEEP, NEVADA, AND THE RED-HAIRED GIANTS
WORLD WAR II SURPLUS JEEPS
NEW, STILL IN A BOX FOR $50.00
JEEP IN A BOX