"Every now and then, often in reference to Mr. Karavas and thinking the two of us might know each other, I get an email from someone who tells me, after having visited the museum and in casual conversation mentioning something they recalled from material of mine they came across regarding Redondo Beach, and having run it by Tike, it is not always received with full 100% substantiating results --- in other words, it gets pooh-poohed."
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO Footnote 
In Redondo Beach and beyond, Constantine "Tike" Karavas is a well known and highly regarded member of the Redondo Beach Historical Museum. Karavas has strong connections to the South Bay through a variety of means, but especially so via his parents who established and operated a successful flower business in Redondo Beach for many years. Tike's family moved to Redondo when he was in grade school sometime in the early to mid-1940s, taking up residence first on Agate Street then moving to the avenues. From his early childhood through to his late teenage years he combined his educational school years with working for the family business, and it was through those growing up and working years that he was able to build his Redondo Beach historical strengths on --- and if it is one thing Tike knows, it's Redondo Beach. However, even though the two of us attended Redondo Union High together for four years, seemingly at the very same time, with both of us graduating from there the very same year, as far as my knowledge of Redondo Beach is concerned and/or Tike and I knowing each other is concerned, that may be a total other thing:
The same time Tike was growing up in Redondo Beach I too was growing up in Redondo --- and did so on-and-off for a good portion of my life. Actually I started kindergarten in Redondo and graduated from high school in Redondo, although in-between I lived all over the map. No sooner had I walked out of high school with my degree in my hands than I started a dream job with a major Hollywood studio, a stint that a few months over a year ended-up not working out. I returned to Redondo this time not with my degree in my hand but my hat in my hand and found that all my erstwhile buddies and onetime friends, who I totally ignored while I was gone being a Hollywood big shot, were either well established, married, or off to college. I groveled around until I was able to land a job with a small aero-space firm in El Segundo and slowly began working my way up the ladder as a technical illustrator, falling back on skills that were originally taught, developed, and honed to a fine point of expertise in the drafting department at Redondo Union High:
"(J)ust out of high school, I got a job with a company that designed and built the breathing equipment for the U-2, the then super-secret high altitude spy plane. Because of the nature of the secrecy surrounding the plane, working there required me to obtain a security clearance.
"At first working on U-2 related equipment was exciting, like getting to go out to Edwards Air Force Base and Area 51 at Groom Lake fine-tuning, installing, and testing equipment and such, but, after two years, for reasons beyond my control the whole thing started to get stale and I began sleepwalking through my job."
AREA 51 AT GROOM LAKE
Before I really had a chance to do much of anything, either with my job or life, while still in Redondo living at my grandmother's and working in El Segundo, Uncle Sam and the draft came calling, re the following:
"For a vast number of young men growing up around the same time I did, after reaching a certain age, they were uprooted from whatever they were doing by the then in place friendly Selective Service System, otherwise known as the draft, and plunked down into the military. And so it was for me. Following a crowded ruckus-filled overnight 400 mile train ride from the induction center in Los Angeles to Fort Ord I, along with several hundred other potential GIs, at 4:00 AM in the morning, was herded into one of a whole line of cattle trucks and taken to what they called the Reception Company Area. Then, after being issued two pairs of too large boots along with several sets of too large olive drab shirts and pants, and having the good fortune of completing eight weeks of basic without incident I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia to attend the U.S. Army Signal Corps School for what they called Advanced Individual Training, or AIT."
WASHOE ZEPHER, the Wanderling
Unlike a good portion of my peers at the time, the years that passed between my graduation from high school and being drafted were for the most part, really unproductive years for me, at least as far as accomplishing much of anything of value or merit was concerned. It was only after I got out of the military and started college that things begin to change, both in the traditional sense and the spiritual sense.
When I got out, after receiving a good conduct medal and an honorable discharge while in the process taking and getting sufficiently high enough SAT scores to attend prestigious out of state colleges or universities I began investigating the costs. Discouraged by the fees but encouraged by the fact that you retain residency from the state you were drafted, and knowing a number of high quality state and private universities were within easy striking distance of Redondo Beach, once again I returned to California and my old home town.
While Tike was on the road doing battle against the Harlem Globetrotters as a member of the eight-man "visiting team," traveling 100 to 300 miles a day as well as internationally meeting Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, the Pope, and the King of Greece in the process, I settled in using Redondo as a central base of operations. While commuting back and forth to college attempting to grab off an undergraduate degree on the G.I. Bill, and of which I was eventually able to do, my personal family ties, which counted at one time four generations deep in Redondo and maybe even five according to my brother, began to thin, including the death of my grandmother, a long time Redondo Beach resident. After receiving a B.A. along with a California Secondary Teaching Credential, which required an additional fifth year beyond a bachelors as well as student teaching, I matriculated into graduate school. Then, with a fresh graduate degree and a teaching credential in my grubbies, rather that doing anything that remotely resembled teaching or teaching high school, nor ever did, I joined the Peace Corps. By then Redondo Beach, at least for me, especially after my younger brother and his family decided to pull up stakes and move a thousand miles away out of state, the last of us by the way in Redondo, became more of a place of memories, albeit fond memories, than a place to be.
THE EARLY YEARS
My childhood background and upbringing in Redondo is somewhat similar to Tike's, paralleling his fairly closely right up through graduation from Redondo High in 1956. The day I was born my family was living in a little house they owned on the 300 block of south Lucia. Built fairly typical of the day, it was one of those small two-bedroom wooden clapboard homes with a single car detached garage off to the side. It also had a nice long, or deep as they called it, backyard that ran right up to an adjoining oil field just beyond the fence line and a two-wheel rut dirt road now paved and called Maria Avenue.
The Lucia house is where I was living when on the night of Wednesday, February 25, 1942 a huge, giant airborne object of an unknown nature cruised directly over the top of our house, an object, as linked below, the size of a Zeppelin --- and an episode that brings cries of pain to the Redondo Beach Historical Museum, at least as how I saw it.
Before reaching Redondo, the giant object had overflown a good portion of the whole of Los Angeles causing nothing but area wide blackouts, anti-aircraft fire all over the city while withstanding some 1440 direct anti aircraft rounds before it escaped unscathed --- an object of which I along with my entire family were clearly able to see that night. Guns and sirens and searchlights were all over the place that night, and even though it was two or three in the morning the whole block got up to go out to see it.
MY FATHER WAS AN AIR RAID WARDEN DURING THE
WAR AND HELPED WITH THE BLACKOUT THAT NIGHT
THE OBJECT FLEW OVER OUR HOUSE ON S LUCIA ST.
(for more please click image)
My younger brother was only a few months old at the time of the above incident, born while we were still living in the Lucia Avenue house three years after me. It was not long after that, for reasons unrelated to his birth, my mother's health began to deteriorate, reaching a point somewhat rather quickly where she was unable to participate at the full level of care needed in raising three young sons.
With my dad continuing to put in more and more hours trying to make ends meet because of the increasing medical costs, my brothers and I began being farmed out, going from conventional short term babysitting to being with our grandparents overnight or to others several days a week or longer. I had only just started kindergarten at Central School in Redondo, having graham crackers and chocolate milk from a carton before taking a nap every day when my father was offered a suggestion to help ease his burden by a couple that just happened to be visiting our next door neighbors for Thanksgiving dinner, a dinner of which we as a family we had been invited to as well. The couple's offer was to have one of us kids come live with them. After a considerable period of time hand-wringing, at least on the surface, my father agreed and for whatever reason the couple selected me. So, separated from my brothers for the first time --- but not the last --- I was sent by my father to live with the couple on a full time basis. Unbeknownst to him and without his approval, no sooner had I moved in and started a new school under their auspices than they immediately left the country for India taking me with them --- even before my mother died.
The man and woman, who I remember very little or nothing about, even up to the point of not being able to recall their names or what they looked like, with me in tow, ended up at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, South India. The three of us staying at the ashram quite some time, even to the point I ended up missing many months of school. How the visit impacted anybody else I'm not sure, but for me it ended with somewhat startling results.
Returning to the states the couple dropped me off totally unannounced at my grandmother's on my father's side in Pennsylvania --- a grandmother I had never met nor ever even heard of. From there, after surviving a train wreck in the middle of the Arizona desert around midnight one night on my way back that killed four people and injured over 100, I was picked up and returned totally unharmed and without a scratch to the west coast by my Uncle to be with my grandmother on my mother's side, who was at the time living in the mountain resort community of Big Bear Lake. Shortly after that arrangements were made for me to live with a couple that owned a flower shop, arrangements that after a roughly two year absence put me and Redondo Beach back together again.
It must have been just at the close of summer and the start of school in September of 1945 that I found myself getting out of a car clutching a tiny suitcase with nothing but a handful of crummy belongings and sack full of dirty underwear and not knowing how I got there. Standing on the sidewalk not much more than a simple beleaguered young boy with no mother and a father long gone, being taken by a stranger to live with a couple that owned a flower shop in Redondo Beach, a couple I was sure I had never seen or heard of in my life.
The couple's shop was located in what was then considered the main downtown business section of Redondo Beach. The front of the ground-floor shop faced west right onto Pacific Avenue, but going the other way, went clear through the wedged shaped multi-story building ending with a working backdoor entrance on Benita. The couple didn't live in Redondo however. They lived in a house a few miles away right on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach with a whole back lot that ran clear down to Ardmore and the railroad tracks, a backyard in of which they raised a multitude of flowers for their shop. When I lived in Redondo with my family, like I say, I attended Central School, but living with the flower shop people I went to Pier Avenue School in Hermosa Beach, also on PCH. I did, however, spend weekends and almost all other non-school free time in and around downtown Redondo Beach and the front. Interestingly enough, I attended Pier Avenue School at the exact same time as my years later online arch nemesis in things related to the 1942 Battle of Los Angeles C. Scott Littleton did. Littleton, now deceased, who I went back and forth with both online and in emails over-and-over for years, was the avowed expert on the overflight, lived on the Strand in Hermosa Beach at the time.
Although Tike and I were the same age we didn't attend elementary school or junior high equivalent together in that I started Pier Avenue School in Hermosa Beach then left, not returning until the start of high school. When I did, it was Redondo Union High School right at the same time Tike started, graduating in the class of '56. Even though we didn't go to elementary school together, and I'm sure Tike has no recollection of it, he I did meet in those same age years, not in school however, but in and around the flower fields --- primarily because the couple I was living with was in the flower business in Redondo Beach the same as Tike's parents.
While Tike was working in the field for his parents I was selling flowers for the foster couple. A fairly well established western bandleader by the name of Texas Jim Lewis was playing in the newly renovated ballroom on the waterfront near the pier he called Texas Jim's Redondo Barn --- billing himself and his Lone Star Cowboys at the top of the card, with his dance-entertainment-performances easily attracting over 10,000 people on the weekends.
With the way the Redondo front was built in those days, with the flower shop basically being some distance almost directly across the street from the dance hall, it wasn't long before the flower shop people discovered it could be quite lucrative to sell corsages and boutonnieres to couples attending the dances. They also discovered that by putting a tray full of gardenias on a strap around my neck like a cigarette girl and have me walk through the crowds in the dance hall, the cute little kid I was, sold lots of flowers, sometimes to two or three in the morning.
If you have gone through any of my works online you will see as a kid I was big on comic books. The same was true when it came to animated cartoons, re the following:
"Along with the P-40, as a young boy growing up, I loved Leonardo Da Vinci, Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, especially Tarzan and the Huntress, Warner Brothers cartoons, astronomy, the cosmos, rockets to the Moon and Mars, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, along with a myriad superheroes, especially the 'mortal' type such as the Spirit and Captain Midnight. So too, of western comic book heroes and cowboy movie stars such as Firehair, the Durango Kid, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, their horses Champion and Trigger, and their sidekicks Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes, and Andy Devine."
COWBOY CODE OF THE WEST
Now, while it is true in the above quote I specifically mention Warner Brothers cartoons, there was a father-and-son bulldog team from MGM's Tom and Jerry cartoons that showed up in 1949, Spike and Tyke. The first time I ever saw a Spike and Tyke cartoon the first person I thought of was the kid I met in the flower fields, the only person I had ever knew named Tike --- and to this day, it remains the same.
I wouldn't say Tike Karavas and I ran around together in high school or even particularly knew each other very well, however there is one thing I remember quite clearly regarding a conversation the two of us had one day in which he mentioned that his uncle owned a casino in North Las Vegas and there was a chance after high school he was going to go to work for him. The problem I have with me recalling that specific conversation is that Tike and I graduated from high school in 1956 and his uncle didn't open his casino in North Las Vegas until 1964. The conversation would have most certainly would have to had happened while the two of us were in high school because I am not sure if we ever crossed paths after graduation.
Although after thinking about it, it could have been a casino in Northern Nevada instead of a casino in North Las Vegas his uncle owned. In either case it doesn't matter much because when Tike mentioned casinos my ears perked up. Even though I wasn't old enough to legally gamble, be it in casinos in Las Vegas or anyplace else close by, I had been in and around gambling and slot machines since I was ten years old, even knowing members of the mob, some on a first name basis. Of course, none of it was of my own making, primarily through the makings of my stepmother.
When I was in high school, the cypher I was, I don't think anyone even saw me, but I had another life. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year at Redondo while staying on my stepmother's ranch I had flown up in a private plane to a casino in Searchlight, Nevada with her for some business she had with the owner when a working girl, otherwise known as a "hostess," threw the contents of a half empty glass of ice water toward her, albeit missing her totally. When it appeared the woman was about to lunge toward my stepmother following the water mishap, Martello, the casino owner, seeing my stepmother was pulling a nickel plated .25 semi-automatic Baby Browning out of her purse and with me ducking for cover, maintained the distance between the two by slightly nudging my stepmother around before she got close enough to use the pistol, saying he would take care of it. When summer was over I was back in school like nothing ever happened.
THE EL REY CLUB: RESORT, CASINO, BROTHEL
THE WANDERLING AND HIS HIGH SCHOOL CHUMS:
REDONDO UNION HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 1956
"For one of my high school art classes, which was about the only classes I took in those days, I had to design an album cover, so I chose Howard Rumsey. At the time, the girl I was mostly inseparable from, a fellow artist and, although from a staid family, leaning toward a quasi-bohemian lifestyle as soon as she left her house, selected for her album cover Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. I can still remember to this day how little I knew about anything in those days. Here she was, someone I thought as a contemporary and she knew about Scheherazade and stuff like that and I had never heard of it."
HOPE SAVAGE: The Beat Generations Missing Woman
In the hundreds of pages I have on the internet, not counting my brothers and a onetime semi-girlfriend in the quote above that shows up as well in Firehair, linked below, who dumped me for some hunkering down stud she met in college while I stayed back being a working stiff until being drafted, I only bring up five people I attended high school with. Those same five would also have been by pure default schoolmates of Tike's at the time as well. It he would had known any of them for any reason or possibly interacted with any them one way or the other is not known, but for me in my situation, they played major roles in my life. Re the following:
- The person left unnamed who always made sure my classic 1940s Ford woody wagon was tuned up and running that shows up in OF COBRAS, SCARABS, MASERATIS, AND ZEN in relation to master racecar mechanic Joe Landaker, as well as in my road trip to Northern California and staying at his place as found in STEVE JOBS: INDIA, BUDDHISM, AND ZEN.
- The person left unnamed I traveled throughout Mexico with during the summer of 1960 as found in DON JUAN MATUS AND THE NOGALES BUS STATION MEETING wherein I saw Carlos Castaneda, who I already knew, the same day he was in the bus station and met Don Juan Matus. The same trip from a different perspective can be found in THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB as well. In a sell out to Redondo Beach this same travel buddy of mine moved to Hermosa Beach after our trip to Mexico and eventually became a big whoop-de-doo with the city there. He gave the Smothers Brothers, also Redondo graduates, one of their first performing jobs.
- The former swimsuit model I call Sullivan, socially way out of my class and who is THE LADY as found in THE LADY ON THE DOCK, THE PBY, BLACK CATS, AND HIGH BARBAREE the day I went to see the skipper of the yacht come marlin sports-fisher called the Twin Dolphin owned by the multi-millionaire oil heir David Halliburton, linked below. Sullivan also shows up in CODE TALKERS about the Navajos and their secret code talking with the U.S. Marines during World War II, again PBY related.
- And of course there's Kent Lentz, former high school hot-rodder who was largely responsible for pulling a wrecked Pearl Harbor Curtiss Wright P-40 off a mountain top in Hawaii and restoring it to full flight worthy status. Kent plays a prominent role in my main P-40 page remaining a strong underlying presence in almost all other of my P-40 and Flying Tigers related pages as well.
- Tike Karavas, although not formally tied in with any or all or even a bit of the above in any way shape or form as it applies to me specifically, when it comes to things Redondo generally, he's the go to guy. Methinks Kent Lentz and Sullivan could use a little more recognition though. So too, Rex Hughes, now deceased, and Barbara Lynn "Bobbie" Brown, who one day in Caesar Hernandez's art class said directly to me, "Fie on you!" Bobbie Brown was the absolute best. There was no finer person in the whole high school at the time.(see)
THE CODE TALKERS
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
ZEN AND THE ART OF WOODIE WAGONS
STEVE JOBS: INDIA, BUDDHISM, AND ZEN
OF COBRAS, SCARABS, MASERATIS, AND ZEN
FIFIE MALOUF: ENTREPRENEUR, SOCIALITE, MADAME
DON JUAN MATUS AND THE NOGALES BUS STATION MEETING
THE LADY ON THE DOCK, THE PBY, BLACK CATS, AND HIGH BARBAREE
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested 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.
"No sooner had I walked out of high school with my degree in my hands than I started a dream job with a major Hollywood studio, a stint that a few months over a year ended-up not working out. I returned to Redondo this time not with my degree in my hand but my hat in my hand and found that all my buddies, who I totally ignored while I was gone being a Hollywood big shot, were either well established, married, or off to college."
(please click image)
ENTERS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD
When I first graduated from high school the job I had lined up as mentioned in the above quote I thought was going to be a life long dream job --- a job I considered would be my career forever. It didn't quite work out that way. Without even breaking 18 months on the job, the company, in a preemptive strike to ward off a potential corporate restructuring or take over, started reducing it's work force. The the area I worked for laid off around 90 people and in a classic last hired, first fired scenario, I was caught up in it. With so many of us suddenly laid off in the same work related field there just wasn't enough positions available in the industry to soak all of us up, especially a bottom rung nascence hiree like me. I was soon back in good old Redondo Beach searching for work and staying in a spare bedroom at the home of my ancient and decrepit and over-the-hill grandmother --- who loved me nonetheless.
Through a very strong recommendation from my former babysitter who knew some very high up people in the company, and is mentioned in conjunction with my dad being an air raid warden during World War II in Redondo as found in the main text above, I was eventually able to land a halfway decent as well as high paying job related to the then super-secret U2 spy plane, a job that at first I ranked right up there as being "exciting." However, after my direct one-on-one boss began disappearing over-and-over for continuing longer periods of time doing ever more weird secret stuff, and with me not receiving any amount of direct supervision, I was spending increasingly amounts of time with really not much to do --- nor did I have the knowledge, ability, or expertise at the level needed to accomplish projects specifically directed toward my boss. In the meantime, the basically non-essential fill-in tasks I was finding to do started to get repetitive or stale and I began sleepwalking through my job.(see)
With everybody near to my boss seemingly having gone nuts over some discovery, along with him disappearing for days and sometimes weeks at a time, and with the two of us no longer heading out to the Area 51 Groom Lake facility doing U-2 stuff, and especially since nobody seemed to care one way or the other, I found myself screwing off more and more waiting for my draft notice to show up. Even though sporadically I continued to receive a paycheck I began working on a marlin boat, going to Vegas, traipsing around Mexico for a whole summer with an old high school buddy that was basically in the same boat I was, a trip by the way that had an extraordinary ending, at least as how it applied to me. For those who may be so interested a well documented version of that extraordinary ending trip can be found by going to The Mayan Shaman and Chicxulub.
Those same years could have been much more productive for me when it came to women too I suppose, but I was finding a good portion of what few old wing-man type buddies I had were jumping from the girlfriend stage to the married stage, having met I guess, someone that they wanted to marry or vice versa. However, at that point in my life it wasn't something that was happening for me. For some reason, marriage was something I just didn't want to get into at the time, even if, like for some of my buddies, it meant getting out of the draft.
My decision wasn't made because of a lack of women either. Using the vernacular of the era, the South Bay was crawling with stews (flight attendants) and bikini clad beach bunnies, all seemingly much better than they were during my high school years. Plus, as I was soon to learn, my low-slung British sports car with two rows of louvers and a belt on the hood appealed to one class while my fully restored 40s wooden station wagon appealed to the other class. It was just that my interests didn't match with most of the girls I met.
That is, until one day a huge major exception occurred ---
That exception started out as one of those mysterious unexplained flukes that just happen to happen for some reason. A friend of my stepmother's who was going through a divorce needed some sort of unnamed help that apparently she thought I could provide. She requested I meet her at a certain time and place in Long Beach. Agreeing that I would, I showed up, but after waiting over two hours beyond our agreed upon time, she never did. Thinking I would come back later, and since I was close to the Long Beach Museum of Art, I wended my way over to the museum when, once inside, the following happened:
"(A)s I was walking around the gallery in the museum --- and totally unprepared for such an event --- I saw a woman that up to that point in time I think was absolutely the most beautiful woman I had ever personally seen in my life. Unwittingly staring at her almost as though I was frozen in a trance, she turned from the exhibit painting on the wall toward my direction and when she did the two of us made eye contact. The exact moment our gaze connected it was a though my life force had been sucked out of me, my knees even buckling from the weight of me standing. Having lost a total sense of dignity and somehow feeling a need for air I immediately went outside, crossing the short distance across a park adjacent to the museum overlooking the ocean. Within minutes if not seconds, for reasons I am yet to fathom to this day, the woman was suddenly standing next to me saying something like, 'Didn't you like the exhibit, you left so abruptly.' I don't recall what my answer was or how one thing led to the next, but soon the two of us were agreeing to have lunch together, although instead I ate breakfast, at a little restaurant she knew just a couple of blocks away called The Park Pantry.
"She said she may have been to the museum before but couldn't remember a specific instance, only stopping in for no other reason except to do so, then she saw me. She said when I left so abruptly she was overwhelmed with the strangest inner feeling, as though she had found something valuable I had lost and she had to return it --- yet she had nothing except for a strange feeling that felt so real."
FIREHAIR: Queen of the Sagebrush Frontier
SEE HOW I REMEMBER HER AT THE MUSEUM
The rest of the year slipped by and we saw each other as much as possible. Then, sometime around the middle of the following year I received a confirmation letter from the Selective Service informing me I would be inducted two or three months before the end of the calendar year and would have to report on a given date at a given time and place. The second I showed her the letter, except for one rare occasion, I never saw her again. Less than three weeks before I was inducted she met some USC dude who in the following year while I was still in the army, having barely a year of service behind me and being nothing but a lowly PFC, she married --- a play on the old gone off to college (him) while I remained nothing but a dunce working stiff (in the Army) trick.
As found in the opening paragraphs at the top of this footnote:
"When I first graduated from high school the job I had lined up as mentioned in the above quote I thought was going to be a life long dream job --- a job I considered would be my career forever. It didn't quite work out that way. Without even breaking 18 months on the job, the company, in a preemptive strike to ward off a potential corporate restructuring or take over, started reducing it's work force. The the area I worked for laid off around 90 people and in a classic last hired, first fired scenario, I was caught up in it."
During the roughly 18 month period that I lived in Hollywood following my graduation from high school I stayed at a place owned by a man named Don, a long time acquaintance of my Stepmother. His house, the living area of which was built on top of a two-car garage had no front, back, or side yards, and so tightly crammed in between neighbor's houses you could hardly slip a playing card between them. The whole of the house was on a narrow twisty car-parked congested street a short distance after entering the Hollywood Hills just as the hills began to rise up off the basin floor, and for me, only a short walk to catch a bus to work.
The living arrangements, with no charge to me, had been set up by my stepmother the summer before when I was working for no pay as an intern or "gopher." Don was a gay guy about 45-50 years old whose primary claim to fame was that he knew Elizabeth Taylor, and according to him, when she was in town they would have private little out of the way luncheons together regularly. Every time I asked if he would take me along sometime he would always tell me she wasn't comfortable with new people or people she didn't know.
Weekdays were always filled with work, at least for me, while the weekends went pretty much nonstop around the clock, that is until Sunday evening. By then everything sort of wound down or stopped. Invariably, after a basically sunrise to sunrise to sunrise weekend Don would quiet down and sit back and watch TV and always at the top of his list was, after the series started, Maverick. Since the next day was Monday and the start of the workweek for me, after the weekend I would typically join him kicking back, in the process I saw most if not all of the early part of the first season of Maverick, all in order and when they were first released.
On what I am sure was my very last weekend at Don's house just before I returned to Redondo after being laid off from my job I watched an episode of Maverick titled "Stage West" based on a Louis L'Amour short story called "That Packsaddle Affair." One year later, although I hadn't gone back to see Don nor been in contact with him since I left, on the anniversary of me leaving he sent me a brand new crisp copy of a just out Maverick comic book that had an illustrated version of that exact same episode of Stage West we saw together on that last weekend.
Typically such an offer of goodwill and friendship wouldn't carry much weight beyond what it meant between say Don and me at the time. However, with neither of us having a clue as to the downstream outflow that was to follow, nor did Don ever learn of it in later years that I know of, it just so happened that the woman who co-starred and received equal billing with James Garner in Garner's own series as found in that Stage West episode of Maverick, was the exact same woman I met several years later in the museum.
(please click image) MAVERICK TRAILS: THE DELL ADAPTION OF STAGE WEST
When people see photographs of the person I met in the museum, especially the photographs above, those that know the gorgeous raven-haired beauty I met in college and took to see my Mentor, mentioned elsewhere, swear she is the exact same person. Although both are near exact duplicates, I can assure you such was not the case, any doppelgänger aspects being pure coincidence. As it was I didn't start college until after the Army. Except perhaps for the above aforementioned raven haired beauty and a possible recent exception, the museum lady still ranks as the absolutely the most beautiful woman I had ever personally met in my life.(see).
Because of a rather low profile mundane existence and lifestyle amongst the masses I never expected again to be in a position to be granted or become a second time recipient for an event of such significance or magnitude to repeat itself. However, such was not the case, although it took 50 years or so before any type of a remotely similar occurrence was to transpire. That remote occurrence involved an unusual convergence of the supernormal perceptual state known in Sanskrit as Siddhis, myself, and a woman of exceptional beauty, spiritual acumen, intellect, and natural talent by the name of Phyllis Davis. Why she was able to carve out time for me or did so is on it's own is a itself a miracle and a little bit comprehension.
PHYLLIS DAVIS CIRCA 1980
Redondo Beach is where I really remember the last time my immediate family was together, that is, intact and healthy with my mother, father, two brothers and myself fully together as a functioning family unit. That remembrance circulates around all of us living in our original family home on Lucia Avenue. A happy loving childhood with a mother and father and playing with my brothers and kids in the neighborhood. A house full of toys and my older brother learning to ride a bicycle. But, most specifically for me, remembering one of my brother's birthdays, one of the last ones we had together for many, many years to come, if at all.
My brother's birthday is in October and in 1942 it fell on a weekend. My parents --- the key words here being "my parents" in the plural, that is, both of them --- decided to make it more special than usual. More than special because the future was so unsure in those days, and scary besides, they decided to throw him the best surprise party they could while time and circumstances still allowed it. How do I know it was 1942? Because to pull off the surprise required my brothers and me to be out of the house while it was being decorated and guests, friends and kids secretly arrived --- so my dad took us down to the ocean to walk along the sand. It was not unusual to wander along the beach with one or the other or both of our parents, or even grandparents, so it was no big thing. However, we invariably hunted moonstones on what was called Moonstone Beach in front of the Strand that ran north of the pier in those days. Instead, no sooner had we reached the beach than we worked our way south of the pier to see a highly-muted town event, a two-man Japanese Midget Submarine that had washed up on shore. Even though the sub was roped off blocking any formal access from the front, to get to it my dad took us along a narrow strip between the Horseshoe Pier and the rocks, crossing under the pilings of the straight pier along the water line and onto the beach. When we reached the sub he lifted me up and I was able to look inside through an open hatch.
A few days before, within minutes of the midget submarine being spotted 500 yards off the Redondo Beach pier, a half a dozen airplanes dropped bombs from her last known position to all along her suspected path of travel. Two days later the sub, although virtually undamaged, washed up on shore. The date of the event has been reported as being October 4, 1942 although it doesn't really matter much as the bombing occurred in October, 1942 and I personally saw the midget submarine within days of it washing up on the beach --- and I remember seeing it quite clearly with my dad --- and we were there that day because we had to be out of the house for my brother's birthday.
A then Redondo Beach resident named Max Harris and an avowed eyewitness to the midget sub washing up on the beach, who would be well into his 90s now if still alive, was age 26 at the time and, extrapolated from his own words, describes how he recalls the event:
"It was a quiet morning around 10:00 AM and me and my girlfriend were walking along the beach. All of a sudden out of nowhere, six American bombers flew right over us and started dropping bombs about 500 yards from the shoreline. They then circled back and did it again, dropping at least 50 bombs and then flew away. The next thing I knew about 200 soldiers appeared and they quickly closed the beach.
"Later that day radio news broadcasts said that a Japanese two-man submarine had been sighted off the coast of Redondo and it was destroyed. Two days later the submarine washed up on shore and inside they found the bodies of two Japanese Naval officers."(source)
In the above main text I write that a couple who had been visiting neighbors during Thanksgiving offered to take one of us boys in an effort to ease the childcare burden facing my father. My father agreed and the couple selected me, in turn taking me to India first without his knowledge then without his approval. What I am not privy to in such a scenario is what year Thanksgiving we are talking about, 1942 or 1943. If it was the Thanksgiving of 1943, which I have a tendency to lean towards, I would have been with the couple only a month before going to India. If it was Thanksgiving of 1942 I could have been with them for as much to a year IF I went to live with them right away following Thanksgiving.
No sooner had I moved in with the couple following Thanksgiving and started a new school than the two-week Christmas vacation, or winter recess as they call it now, rolled around and they took me to India, not returning until sometime around the start of summer, in the interim me missing the rest of the school year. They chose the end of the year in order to attend a religious convention held December 26-31, 1943, in Adyar, located on the coast of the Indian Ocean near Madras, about 95 miles northeast of Tiruvannamalai. Tiruvannamalai is where they eventually ended up, residing at or near the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi for maybe five months. Through information told to me by a one time childhood friend, Adam Osborne, now deceased, whose family lived at the ashram at the time, he and I were together during the full moon of April 1944. That would put me still at the ashram proper in early April as the full moon fell on the 8th that month, but, as found out through letters from the woman of the couple to my father, on my way home onboard a ship in the Indian Ocean, by previous reckoning as figured out in British Ship MV Tulagi, toward the end of May, 1944 and most likely back in the states sometime in June, 1944.
On near the very last day of June or so 1944, I was put on a passenger train somewhere in Pennsylvania headed toward Chicago, traveling with who I do not know. If it was or was not the couple who took me to India has never been confirmed. In Chicago I boarded the Number 19 Santa Fe Chief westbound to Los Angeles. After two days of travel from Pennsylvania, sometime around midnight of July 3, 1944, between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams, on a high speed downhill run and behind schedule, the Chief's locomotive, a powerful Baldwin built 4-8-4 Northern with 80 inch drive wheels and clocking out at over 90 miles per hour, hit a marked 55 mph speed limit curve, with the locomotive derailing and sliding in the dirt on it's side off the tracks for well over the length of two football fields before coming to a stop. The rest of the 14 car train ended up in various stages of derailment and wreckage on and off the track, some cars remaining upright with two actually staying on the tracks undamaged. The fireman and three passengers were killed. 113 passengers along with 13 train employees injured, among them the severely injured engineer.
WRECK OF THE NUMBER 19 SANTA FE CHIEF JULY 3, 1944.
(photo from Chris Baird Collection)
While in India or in transit I ended up missing my mother's death and her funeral. No sooner had she been laid to rest than my father, who had been on a non-stop binge since she died, possibly before, hastily left the care of my two brothers, like he had with me, in the hands of others, with each being sent their separate ways to relatives or guardians. Then, without even waiting to see if his haze-fueled plans would be remotely successful he basically disappeared into the hinterlands for several years heavy into alcohol. My older brother went to live with my grandmother's brother and his family in some small town in the lower reaches of the mountains near Fresno, California. My younger brother was sent to live with a couple I was told were, but of which I am still unsure of their status of who they were really, my father's father's brother's son and his wife down along the California-Mexican border.
After my return to the states, between the time I left the train station in Williams, Arizona but before I went to live with the flower shop people, I stayed with my grandmother on my mother's side on and off for an unknown period of time. During that time two very high impact occurrences transpired in my life. First, following my return my grandmother became increasingly concerned about my seemingly askew perspective on things. In turn, because of her concerns, she contacted my Uncle, who lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to see if he had any idea where my father was. Almost immediately, after being totally unsuccessful in locating my father in any of his old haunts, my uncle came out to assist, one of the first of several trips before he actually remained on a permanent basis.
Secondly, I had only been with my grandmother a short time when I went shopping all day long in town along her daughter (my mother's sister, otherwise known as an aunt) and her daughter's two children (otherwise known as first cousins). Returning at the end of the day we pulled up in front of the garage and I got out of the car opening the two side-by-side wooden garage doors. There, only a few steps from where I stood, right in front of me on the garage floor in the glare of the headlights, in a slowly expanding pool of blood, was what was left of the husband of my mother's sister. The whole back of his head blown out from the blast of a double barrel shotgun he had stuck in his mouth.
With everything in a major turmoil with adults screaming. kids crying, and cops and ambulances all over the place, not knowing how it was done or by who, I ended up somehow in bed that night. The next morning, although I personally wasn't very high up on anyone's priority list considering the circumstances, it was eventually discovered I was not only not with any of the cousins, I was nowhere to be found. Weeks, possibly months went by when my grandmother was contacted by a sheriff from a department in a distant desert community saying they had found me, that I was OK, and basically all she had to do except for some minor paperwork, was to come and get me.
Apparently the night of the shooting a neighbor who was trying to help found me walking around my aunt's property in some kind of a semi-dazed state and without consulting anybody, under her own initiative, carried me into one of my cousin's bedrooms and covered me on the bed fully clothed and in the confusion all but forgotten. The next morning, miles, and miles away from where I had been the night before, I was found wandering out in the middle of the desert by an old desert prospector, with no idea who I was or how I got there. Eventually the prospector, the honorable man that he was, albeit living on his own prospector-like desert time, took me to the authorities who contacted my grandmother, re the following:
"The sheriff told my grandmother that the old man informed him he was driving along Old Woman Springs Road located down and behind the mountains from Big Bear Lake on the high desert floor when he noticed an unusual group of vultures circling in the thermals. They didn't seem to be zeroing in on an unmoving carcass of some kind, but moving their circle as though following something possibly injured but still alive. Reading the signs of the desert like a book and using his intuition as much as his curiosity, the old man turned north on a dirt road that led toward the old Bessemer iron mine thinking he might be able to get closer and get a better look. When he reached a point about even with the general eastward movement of the vultures he pulled over to the side of the road and standing up on the seat of his open top jeep peered out over the desert with binoculars to see if he could see anything. Sure enough, visually sweeping the area under the vulture's circle through his binoculars he saw some distance off the road what looked like and turned out to be, a young boy all by himself out in the middle of nowhere walking along almost if he had no clue as to where he was or what he was doing. However, the old man said, such it would seem, was not the case. It was as though the boy knew exactly what he was doing, but why he was doing it was a mystery.
"If the boy was following the vultures with them acting as guides or they were following his lead it didn't seem to matter as the young boy walked straight to and into, only to then sit down in the middle of, one of the most unusual features in all of the Mojave Desert, a creosote ring. But not any creosote ring the old man said, but a specific one, with a huge diameter the likes of which he had never seen. By all description and location, without knowing it, the young boy had walked to, selected out, and sat down in the middle of what, after it's discovery 30 or 40 years later, turned out to be, and has since been given the name King Clone, the oldest known living thing on Earth, dated as being over 11,700 years old."(source)
Sometime in mid August of 1945 my uncle, as nothing more than an innocent bystander --- and officially proven to be such at a later date -- got caught up in some kind of situation that attracted the attention of the atomic energy folk at Los Alamos. Two men flashing badges and dressed in civilian clothes showed up at his home early one morning and took him without explanation to a secured area inside the Los Alamos facility. After two days of questioning about what he saw he was released primarily through the efforts of famed astronomer and mathematician Dr Lincoln La Paz. In a footnote on the La Paz page so linked the following is found:
"(A) serious radiation mishap occurred at Los Alamos that killed one of the scientists working there. His death did not actually happen until several weeks after the accident, and it wasn't until his death that it was reported --- and then, at the time, the real cause of his death was not released. In any case the accident happened on August 21, 1945. During my uncle's conversation with La Paz over coffee and the fact that it circulated around radiation and it's effect on living things --- such as my uncle's interest on radiation impact on plants --- La Paz let slip that a fellow scientist was severely burned by an overdose of radiation the day before."
One way or the other, however the events involving my uncle unfolded, it must have been just at the close of summer, sometime between that August 21, 1945 date and the start of school in September of 1945 that I found myself getting out of a car clutching a tiny suitcase with nothing but a handful of crummy belongings and sack full of dirty underwear and not knowing how I got there. Standing on the sidewalk not much more than a simple beleaguered young boy with no mother and a father long gone, being taken by a stranger to live with a couple that owned a flower shop in Redondo Beach, a couple I was sure I had never seen or heard of in my life.
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
SANTA FE LOCOMOTIVE #3774
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
WORLD WAR II HAND CRANK PORTABLE AIR RAID SIREN
Living in the house next to the house I lived in on South Lucia was a girl named Mary Lou who used to babysit my brothers and me. While I am not sure of her age, that is, if she was into her teens or not, old or young, as my mother saw it she was old enough to babysit us. She lived with her parents along with her curmudgeon old grandfather. He was a sort of Rube Goldberg inventor type guy that seemed like he could fix or build anything. He had set up a junk filled workshop in the detached dirt floor single-car garage on the back of their property collecting, working on, and making stuff he said was to thwart the "impending invasion," meaning of course, by the Japanese.
Amongst the junk in his shop was a portable hand held, hand-crank air raid siren similar to the one pictured above in conjunction with this footnote. It wasn't unusual to find Mary Lou's grandfather out in his shop at all hours of the day and night for one reason or the other. On the night the giant object flew over our he was awake during the early morning hours working in the garage while at the same time monitoring emergency-band radio frequencies like he often did when he became aware something big was going on. After hearing gunshots or anti-aircraft guns in the distance he grabbed his air raid siren and went out on the street. It was his siren that woke my father and it was he that gave an early warning to the rest of my family and other residents on our street.
One of my fondness memories of growing up during those Redondo Beach being babysat days was that my babysitter Mary Lou, who lived next door, had a life size cardboard toy fighter plane-type cockpit --- colored on one side with dials and printed only in black and white on the backside --- with a movable square cardboard joystick. It was a Quaker Oats mail-in offer called a Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Training Cockpit, and although I didn't have one myself, I played with hers so much it might as well have been mine. Of course, like many of the toys of the era, because of the war, it was made out of cardboard and paper, something kids in those day got used to quickly. Another around her house toy, although really belonging to her grandfather and out in the garage, that I loved and when given the chance I played with practically incessantly, was a just before the war nearly all paper box top offer, only through the Ralston Cereal Company called a Tom Mix Straight Shooter Telegraph Set.
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DOT 'N DASH ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH SET
THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: The Radar Dilemma
WESTERN UNION STANDARD RADIO TELEGRAPH SIGNAL SET
To my dad my older brother, the first born, was like a prince. In my young mind as I saw things or how I felt it in my bones, my dad lavished, if not all, an inordinate amount of his affections and care towards him, leaving me feeling shortchanged in the bargain. In order to counteract that lavishness and have my dad aim some of that affection in my direction, I did everything I could to gain or establish an equal level of worthiness. The difference was that my older brother received his worthiness, at least as I saw it, with no effort on his part, but I had to continuously prop up mine diligently, making any outcome dubious or short term without my constant input. Thus entered into my young childhood me being a Junior Air Raid Warden.
During World War II, on our block and for several around, my dad was an air raid warden, a position he not only relished, but a fine one at that. My older brother didn't care about it one way or the other, but I saw it as a window of opportunity to upgrade my status in my father's eyes. If my solution did or didn't work relative to my dad is nothing I have any real recollection of, however I liked it. On my own initiative and a little help from my mother, I became a Junior Air Raid Warden primarily on the basis of responding to an ad similar to the one below and reading comic book stories such as Edison Bell. In the process of doing so, amongst my peers and adults on the block, I raised my importance beyond any recognition simply from just my dad, making me understand for the first time, sadly though, that there was a much wider world of significance out there.
JUNIOR AIR RAID WARDENS
The aerospace firm that hired me as a trainee technical illustrator basically out of high school did so with me having only two years of high school drafting experience. Even so, it basically meant in an off-hand way if you skewed it enough, I was being paid for my drawing abilities. Soon after I was hired I met a few other employees in the same department doing technical drawings who, like me, fancied themselves as 'real' artists. Soon some of us began hanging out on Friday nights after work, usually at some little out of the way place talking way late into the night. In general, at work, it seemed all we ever talked about was girls, cars, and sports. As artists of course, even though most of us didn't know what we were talking about, in either case, our conversations always seemed to lean toward the heavier side of things. Philosophy, religion, existentialism.
A couple of miles from my job was the Mattel Toy Company. Some of the people in the group knew some people at Mattel who also fancied themselves as artists and some of them joined us as well. One of the people that used to show up at those get togethers was Carlos Castaneda, who just happened to be working at Mattel at the time. Now, most people, especially those who know little or nothing about Castaneda's pre-Don Juan background, find themselves at a total loss as to why Castaneda would even bother to show up at our small, unprestigious, under-the-radar, and unheralded group of so-called artists. Over and over it comes up: Why would a person in their right mind, of such stature as Castaneda, entertain the possibility of participating in such a group of nobodies? The answer is quite simple. First, at the time of the meetings Carlos Castaneda was NOT the Carlos Castaneda he came to be AFTER he met the mysterious and powerful Yaqui Indian shaman-sorcerer he came to call Don Juan Matus. Secondly and most importantly, in those pre-Don Juan days, Castaneda likened himself as an artist --- and truth be told, our group was openly receptive to artists that had not made it simply because none of us had.
As for Castaneda being an artist, it is weaved throughout his early personal history and background. According to his own words, on Monday, July 24, 1961 in a conversation with Don Juan and published in Castaneda's third book Journey to Ixtlan (1972), Don Juan admonishes him for never assuming responsibility for his acts and Castaneda writes:
"He (Don Juan) dared me to name an issue, an item in my life that had engaged all my thoughts. I said art. I had always wanted to be an artist and for years I had tried my hand at that. I still had the painful memory of my failure."
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Although Bobbie, written with an annoying circle over the "I" when she wrote her name, and I made a promise to catch up with each other in ten years, we never did. However, when I was crawling my way through eight weeks of basic training at Fort Ord a few years after high school doing KP, dodging bullets, and cleaning muck and mud off my boots, she was teaching in a community adjacent to the city of San Jose about 50 miles north of where I was taking my basic training. We were never able to work out any sort of a convenient get together time in the short amount of time I had before being reassigned, but she did say in a note or letter she thought it was kind of "neat" that she was educating the country while I was defending the country.