Throughout most of my high school years there was a kid that lived directly across the street I used to run around with on a regular basis until about the 12th grade when his parents decided to sell their house and move. During the years we ran around together we bought what was called a Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set which consisted of two identical battery operated devices that allowed the user to send and receive Morse code over a fairly reasonable distance via wire or using a light signal. My buddy and I strung a wire from our bedrooms up into the trees and across the street between our houses and over a period of a couple of years would send code back and forth to each other way into the night. Over time and without any formal training I got fairly good at both sending and receiving Morse code.
Stringing a wire between houses and sending and receiving Morse code to and from a friend in the middle of the night like I did with my high school buddy didn't just spring into my mind out of whole cloth. Ten years earlier, before I could barely even read, I had done the same thing between my house and the garage-shop of an old man who lived next door. If you take into consideration my age while in high school, ten years before when I was stringing wires between the houses with the old man, you can pretty much figure I was a fairly young boy. Really young, not only with the construction part of it but dealing with letters, numbers and Morse code as well. I don't think it dawned on the old man one way or the other and it sure didn't me. I did have a little assist from the outside however, my mother, as found in the following two quotes below from the sources so cited. The first having to do with Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs, the second with comic books:
"(My) mother, seeing that using the decoder required dealing with letters and numbers, and me willingly learning them at such an early age, bought a bunch of Ovaltine and sent for another decoder so both my brother and I would have one. The recognition of the importance and the learning aspect of it all is one of the few fond memories I have of my mother prior to her death a couple of years later."(source)
"For some reason reading came easy for me, learning to read at a very early age --- thanks to my older brother. He was three years older than me and when he was learning to read in the 1st grade I was learning to read right along with him. By the time he reached the 3rd grade I was reading 3rd grade books as well as if not better than he was. During that learning period he had assigned school books and while I read some of those books, a good portion of my reading material stemmed from comic books."(source)
The old man was the grandfather of the girl nextdoor who used to babysit my two brothers and myself. He was a sort of Rube Goldberg inventor type guy that seemed like he could fix or build anything. He had a junk filled workshop in the detached dirt floor single-car garage on the back of the babysitter's property. He was always collecting, working on, and making all kinds of stuff he said was to thwart the "impending invasion," meaning by the Japanese.
One day I was snooping around his shop going through his junk, the little guy that I was, when I came across a small rectangular piece of wood that looked all the same as having been a mousetrap at onetime, but instead had coiled wires and other electrical stuff mounted on it with printed words identifying it as a Dot 'N Dash Electric Telegraph Set. The old man told me it was one half of a two part set that when hooked together with wires and a battery could, by using a series of dots and dashes, send messages back and forth between two or more people over long distances --- something he said the two of us could do if I was ever able to locate the other half. In the meantime the old man hooked the half of the set I had up to a battery and buzzer device allowing me, even though it wasn't connected to another set, to at least practice making Morse code sounds, in the process driving everybody crazy. I did however, learn code, at least on the sending side. When the old man saw I was actually getting pretty good at it and I continued to stick with it, as found in Footnote  down the page, he showed me how to build my own telegraph key, which I did. With the homemade key the old man hooked it up to the Dot N' Dash set and I was on my way.
I never did find the missing second half, but while continuing my searching around the shop I came across a much better example of basically the same thing in what was called a Tom Mix Straight Shooters Telegraph Set. The Dot 'N Dash set was made four-to-six years before and sold through the Johnson Smith Company. The Tom Mix set was new, being originally a free box top offer promoted by the Ralston Wheat Cereal Company one or possibly two years before the war. One box top and .10 cents in coin or free with two box tops. Ralston had tried the telegraph gig once before but that product-offer was never designed to actually send and receive, being more of a practice set. The old man, a cereal box top sort of guy, had long since sent for two of the kind that worked, but never got around to hooking them up. In that he had a matched set, as soon as I was able to convince him to do so we wired the two of them together between each of our places.
It wasn't long after that we were sending and receiving code, although I have to admit the old man, who was really good with Morse code and me just learning, sort of tired of it quickly. Eventually he just gave the whole set to me. After that anytime I was able to catch somebody to participate in Morse code with me I did, although pickings were slim. Most of the kids on the block near or around my same age didn't have the letter and number comprehension I had so most of time it was my mom humoring me. She could read and write classic Greek or Latin or some such thing, having even kept a daily diary writing long sections in Latin, so for her, picking up dots and dashes to and from letters was easy. The extent of most of my older brother's interaction was cutting the wires and stealing the batteries.
When I was born my grandfather worked in some high-ranking superintendent office-like capacity for the railroad in the Pacific Northwest. No sooner had World War II broke out than the railroad sent him to the Los Angeles region for reasons unknown. The move did, however, put my grandparents in close proximity to where my family and I lived. One day he had to go to Indio for a few days to take care of railroad business that revolved around some kind of classified wartime military stuff. It was because of the move by my grandfather that I, still as a very young boy, was provided my very first real life opportunity to participate in Morse code.
"Knowing my budding interest in Morse code and telegraphy he said I could tag along and watch how real telegraphers worked as long as I kept my mouth shut. It was just like in the movies. The operator had a window that opened up to the station platform and sent messages back and forth as need be. There was a continuing change of operators but one, easily the youngest of the group, took a liking to me, letting me copy incoming Morse code right along with him and allowing me to send upline code to a buddy of his and receive return messages a couple of times."
Desert Ships, Spanish Treasure, and Colorado River Floods
The complete Dot 'N Dash mousetrap set was never found, although I did nail the half we had to one of the garage-wall studs so we wouldn't lose it in case we ever found the other one, of which we never did. What happened to the Tom Mix Straight Shooters Telegraph Set is kind of a mystery, melting away into the abyss of a onetime childhood I guess.
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THUS THEN ENTERS THE MILITARY DRAFT:
All those easy going youthful family oriented childhood days ended quickly upon the death of my mother. Time passed and not long after a few idyllic high school years, Uncle Sam 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."
IN AS A BOY, OUT AS A MAN: The Draft, Active Duty, Active Reserve
U.S. ARMY SOUTHEASTERN SIGNAL CORPS SCHOOL. LEARNING CODE THE ARMY WAY
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Almost on the first day of Morse code training after arrival at the Army's signal corps school, unlike most of my fellow fledging GI telegraphers floundering around at 10 words a minute even after two weeks, than I was sending and receiving 20 words a minute headed toward 90 within a few days, and was noticed for doing so by the instructor. The instructor, who was a civilian, had worked for Western Union as a telegraph operator for thirty years or more and could himself easily send and receive upwards of 200 words a minute. When he asked if I was a Ham operator I told him no but had for years sent and received code using a Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set. Rubbing his chin a little and looking up toward the ceiling, the civilian instructor, always looking for alternative ways for recruits training under him to learn Morse code, asked if it would be possible for him to see the signal set. Kissing ass as much as wanting to score points and most especially so, make my life easier while at Fort Gordon, I contacted my brother who had all my stuff in storage to locate the set and send it to me. Which he did.
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I gave the set to the instructor and told him he was welcome to it, but if he ever tired of it or it didn't work out like he thought, send it back to my brother. The thing is, when my brother finally found the box the signal set was in, packed away in the bottom of the same box when I put it in storage was a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph, more specifically, a Photo-matic Code-O-Graph. My brother, not sure why the decoder was in the box, after looking it over, just left it there along with the signal set when he mailed it to me.
ANGRY-26 RADIO RIG. MY HOME DURING CUBA CRISIS, KEY WEST 1962 AND FOR TRAINING
AT THE U.S. ARMY SOUTHEAST SIGNAL CORPS SCHOOL, FORT GORDON, GEORGIA, IN 1963
ANG/RC-26 GRAPHIC COURTESY ANTHONY DEBLASI AND KWLF
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After receiving the telegraph set along with my Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph in the mail from my brother, there I was, a fully ingrained member of the United States Army with newly earned PFC stripes --- after having gone through both basic training and a good part of AIT as a private slick-sleeve --- and with my very first big military assignment looming over my head, but, just like when I was a kid, running around all over the place carrying a Captain Midnight decoder with me everywhere I went.
A few days later, after seeing my Code-O-Graph, instead of laughing out loud and ridiculing me out of the room, my civilian instructor brought in a small wooden jewelry-like box carefully wrapped in a soft cloth and set it on the table in front of me. When he opened the box, inside, which was lined with soft red felt, was a solid brass circular code instrument looking all the same as a high quality Code-O-Graph that the Army of the Confederates States of America Secret Service used to encrypt messages right on the spot in the field, which could then be sent encrypted using Morse code and the telegraph to another person with a like instrument on the other end.
As mentioned previously, the kid across the street and I used to run around together until my last year of high school when his parents sold their house and moved. It was he and I that used to send code back and forth to each other using the signal set. His moving away during my last year of high school required us to dismantle our rig between our houses, ending any real use of the set. That, coupled with me receiving the Code-O-Graph from my uncle during the exact same time period, fit perfectly for both the decoder and the signal set to end up tossed into the same box and stored away together, then only to be forgotten to death until discovered by my brother and sent to me while I was still in the Army.
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As a young boy, other than learning Morse code on my neighbor's Tom Mix Telegraph Set he eventually gave me and that at first I eventually lost, the only real possessions I dragged about with me in a continuing fashion throughout my childhood and in good order was a Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Pistol and my growing collection of very highly code related Captain Midnight decoders. The Buck Rogers pistol came and went several times in my life only to resurface, disappear and resurface. The so-called "U-235 Atomic Pistol" was a post war version, the initial version, a pre-war model being a Rogers XZ-38 Disintegrator Pistol, so more accurately it was a XZ-38 the man next door gave me. The one I ended up with in later years was a U-235. They looked the same. How or when the two were changed in my life I have no idea. My favorite decoder, the aforementioned Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph, as depicted above, ended up for reasons unknown to me at the time, mysteriously missing from the rest of my collection by the time I reached high school. That mystery was solved when my Uncle went to his mother's, my grandmother on my father's side, and discovered my decoder languishing away in a box along with some other stuff related to me. To wit:
"When my uncle returned to his home in New Mexico after dealing with the concerns of his mother's death in Pennsylvania, being my onetime guardian and knowing full well the importance that decoders held for me generally as a kid while we were together, one of the first things he did was pack it up and send it to me. The decoder was clearly the missing Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph from my collection and obviously so because it had a small photo of me as a young boy inserted in the square, solving the mystery of where or what happened to the decoder and why it had been missing for so many years."
I had been in the Army for awhile before I was able to finagle my first real leave. No sooner had I left than my First Sergeant called telling me it was important for me to get back to base. I returned to Fort Riley where I was basically kept in isolation for four to six weeks doing nothing but sending and receiving Morse code until I was blue in the face. All that code practice was for one thing only --- to hone my "talent." The military discovered --- after I was caught goofing-off by the ASA replicating the "fist" of a staff sergeant that unbeknownst to me at the time was actually gone from the base on leave --- that I, with almost a minuscule amount of practice, had an uncanny ability to accurately duplicate or counterfeit almost any Morse code operator's "fist" to such a point that what I sent, was totally indistinguishable for virtually anyone to differentiate between messages sent by me and that of any person I was imitating.
As you can tell the Code-O-Graphs that played a major role during my childhood, as odd as it may seem, continued to play a major role throughout my life right on into adulthood. It is my belief, and a belief I still hold to this day, that my early childhood interest and use of the Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs instilled in me an almost innate ability with codes including an early expertise in sending and receiving Morse code, in turn setting the scene for my MOS assignments in the military. Then, even within the military setting, they continued to impact my life --- especially so after my brother inadvertently sent the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph I owned as a kid to me while I was in the Army.
"If it wasn't for the increase in my level of interest in learning more about Morse code in my early high school years I would not have been in a position in later years to have the code sending abilities the Army came to value, which in turn put me in a position to be at the monastery. If you take away nothing else from what I have ever written, try to remember the present moment is shaped both by past and present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. With that said, there is an axiom that goes: This being present, that arises; without this, that does not occur. In my case then, no code, no Army, no monastery."
MORSE CODE, HAND KEYS, AND DA VINCI
THE ART OF ART AND ART OF THE TELEGRAPH
MORSE'S GALLERY OF THE LOUVRE
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CASTRO, MORSE CODE, AND THE BAY OF PIGS
From almost the first second Fidel Castro took over Cuba through to the Bay of Pigs and up to and beyond the assassination of John F. Kennedy there were put into place a seemingly never ending series of overt and covert U.S. backed events to alter the results. In pursuit of those endeavors electronic communications became a big part, especially classified communications. Military powers that be soon found themselves in conditions where they had to turn to the more unsophisticated raw and banal communication systems such as CW, i.e., continuous wave, Morse code, spark gap transmitters, and a whole host of alternatives.They also found in the wide net to alter those results the government sometimes needed to engage in the use of somewhat nefarious or borderline individuals that had certain skill sets not typically found in their hallowed halls as well. One such person was a man named Johnny Roselli.
Johnny Roselli, also sometimes John Roselli and/or Rosselli, was a high ranking member of organized crime, also referred to as the mob, the Mafia, the syndicate, the outfit, and any number of other names and titles. Call it what you will, Roselli was an integral part of it all most of his life, from a young teenage boy in the 1920s to his ultimate demise under their aegis in 1976. Even though he was never a don in the classical sense, he carried a huge amount of sway, influence and stature ahead of himself in the mob, most certainly well beyond his made-man status. His position was totally different and unusual in the organization, a role that did not exist before him and that has not been duplicated since.
Following the completion of my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at the U.S. Army Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia, except for a short detour to Fort Benning, also in Georgia, I was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. From Riley, on TDY (Temporary Duty. i.e., serving at a location other than one's permanent assignment), I continued participating in an never ending series of so-called covert related training activities both in and out of the country --- some of it even, up until the time of the assassination of JFK, being sent by the military to Panama, Cay Sal Bank off the north coast of Cuba, and Swan Island located between Cuba and Honduras, Cuba related. Then, as mentioned previously above, returning to Fort Riley everything was "turned" Southeast Asia being basically kept in isolation for four to six weeks doing nothing but sending and receiving Morse code until I was blue in the face.
Somewhere along the way, as part of my training in things clandestine as well as the military's continuing need for more unsophisticated raw and banal communication systems, the Army sent me to a two week two part hands-on workshop or seminar where, after classroom introduction to theory and application, we built and operated our own spark gap transmitters from stuff that could pretty much be just scrounged around for --- and made in the field without using any commercially available or already made tools. In other words, side cutters, screwdrivers and such weren't allowed, so we had to improvise. At the end of the workshop we were all supposed to end up with a viable operative spark gap transmitter, of which I did. Then as a group we shared what we each had done individually to improvise tools and how, that is, what we did, use, or came up with in lieu of screwdrivers, drills, or wire cutters --- or did we implement shortcuts or discover other options. Telegraph keys weren't provided either, so we had to make those from scratch too. Although ignition coils were acceptable, at the end of the seminar we were taught how to make our own induction coils from scratch, along with their application and use as well as learning about devices other than traditional spark gap transmitters that could accomplish the same purpose.
SPARK GAP TRANSMITTERS
Many years after my discharge, or about 10 years after the fact for me, thinking I might write a book someday, I sat down on-and-off over a roughly two year period with a couple of other than Army buddies, yet at one time covertly affiliated with me in some fashion or the other, and wrote down everything either I or we could think of or remember regarding my military service connected adventures. I never wrote a book, but I still have a whole bunch of the notes and their are parts that refer to Cay Sal Bank, used as a staging base for a variety of operations against Cuba, a man known by the code name Colonel Rawlston, which has since become known as a Roselli pseudonym or code name, and a CIA safe house located along Key Biscayne Bay, Florida.
Some people hate if not cringe over a great deal of what I write because I make so many references back to my childhood reading comic books and/or sending for tons of box top and radio premium offers. However, in Roselli's case, without finding and going through the aforementioned series of notes I wrote years ago, him using the name Colonel Rawlston, was unforgettable because of those box top offers. If you remember the grandfather of the girl who babysat me and my brothers all the time had a top to bottom garage-workshop filled with all kinds of junk. It was there searching through stuff in his garage I found a Tom Mix Straight Shooters Telegraph Set :
"The Tom Mix Set set was a free box top offer promoted by the Ralston Wheat Cereal Company one or possibly two years before the war. One box top and .10 cents in coin or free with two box tops. Ralston had tried the telegraph gig once before but that product-offer was never designed to actually send and receive, being more of a practice set. The old man, a cereal box top sort of guy, had long since sent for two of the kind that worked, but never got around to hooking them up. In that he had a matched set, as soon as I was able to convince him to do so we wired the two of them together between each of our places."
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Roselli, under the code name Colonel Rawlston, was making midnight raids to a string of pearl-like islands off the northern coast of Cuba, offloading U.S. trained anti-Castro Cuban commandos and weapons using twin V-bottom double-hulled aluminum high speed powerboats. On one of his raids a Cuban patrol boat caught his boat in its searchlights, blowing a hole in the bottom and sinking the boat almost immediately. Roselli was pulled out of the water by the other boat as they machine gunned the searchlights, slipping away into the night. It is not known what happened to any of the anti-Castro Cubans set ashore, but not one of them returned or reported back. Operating out of Cay Sal I was set down on one of those pearl of islands islands alone one night providing communication, not knowing for sure if I would ever be picked up by anybody on the way back. I recall the Colonel Rawlston part of it all because of the telegraph set.
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS AND THE MOB
ROSELLI- WAS MAKING MIDNIGHT RUNS TO CUBA USING HIGH SPEED
ALUMINUM BOATS, INFILTRATING ANTI-CASTRO CUBAN COMMANDOS
AND WEAPONS ONTO THE ISLAND, OPERATING OUT OF THE FLORIDA
KEYS AND THE BAHAMAS HELD CAY SAL BANK 31 MILES FROM CUBA
CAY SAL BANK, LOCATED 31 MILES NORTH OF CUBA SHOWING REMNANTS OF ABANDONED AIR FIELD
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VIDEO OF ABANDONED BUILDINGS, CAY SAL
Several years after being discharged from the Army my Morse code background and my military use thereof came into play again. I was visiting the Castle Air Museum in California's central valley when I came across a story that one of the airplanes on display, a B-29 Superfortress named Raz'n Hell, was said to be haunted --- and not only was it said to be haunted, the ghost was said to send Morse code.
There is a myriad of credible haunting incidents related back to the Raz'n Hell that have been seen, heard, or experienced by any number of regular folk and witnesses, including museum employees, guests and visitors, and even people driving by. Incidents ranging from a worker on the plane being handed a tool he requested only to find he was totally alone on the plane. Others have reported locked or secured hatches opening and closing and from the outside, seeing a ghost-like figure in the cockpit. Also, people in cars have reported the landing lights being on at night when they aren't even hooked up or operable. The following quote, in regards to me, Morse code, any ghost thereof, and the B-29 in question, can be found in full at the source so linked directly below the paragraph:
"It was only when I was told some people have even heard what they thought was Morse code that my ears perked up. I was at one time in the military a notorious code sender of some repute, thought by some of my superiors to have been on par with the infamous Confederate guerilla telegrapherGeorge A. Ellsworth or, just as equally if not more so, thought by the Army Security Agency as ready for the stockade. So said, on par or ready for the stockade, after hearing about the Morse code being heard I wanted to spend a night on the ghost plane, an idea that was easier said than done."
THE GHOST AND THE HAUNTED B-29
CONTINUING WITH THE WESTERN UNION STANDARD RADIO TELEGRAPH SIGNAL SET:
Below is the instruction sheet and operators manual for the Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set. Note in the General Instructions that when operating the set for distances greater than 100 feet to replace the use of flashlight batteries with dry cells, something both my buddy and I had to do because of the distance between our two houses. The following three-page instruction manual will give you almost all the information you will need to know on how to use a Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set or how they operate. Please note the center page is expandable for easier reading.
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THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
DE LUXE S. B. MFG. 200 TELEGRAPH SET
ELECTRIC GAME COMPANY S.O.S. TELEGRAPH SET
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J-38 HAND KEY
ON THE RAZOR'S
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.
In the process of learning to send and receive Morse code in my early days, beside the Tom Mix and Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set, somewhere along the way I came in contact with the Electric Game Company's S.O.S. Telegraph Set, also with a buzzer and light. If it was before or after the Western Union version I don't remember. I do remember it didn't stand up to the rigors of use my buddy and I demanded, so, even if it was before, the S.O.S. version was quickly superseded and discarded. Although a fun little set and really inexpensive, as I think back, it may have been because it wasn't easily adaptable to the use of the dry cell we needed to power the distance between houses.
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Throughout a good portion of my early to mid childhood years I fell under the direct supervision of my Uncle. During that period the two of us had been overseen even higher up by the ever watchful eye of my Stepmother. It was she who picked up the tab on all of our expenses and adventures.
So said, I was always making crystal sets, having started as a little kid building what is called a 'razor blade radio' or 'foxhole radio,' a kind of primitive or rudimentary device like a crystal set that just "runs on air." Never satisfied with the one I just made I was always trying to make bigger and better ones to pull in farther and farther away stations. Because the signals of far away stations were always weak and the sound low I decided I needed the best pair of earphones I could get. So saying, my uncle took me to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in L. A. to pick out a pair of war surplus earphones with a full set of large foam rubber ear pads. Palley's had everything and we used to go there often with me always returning with a bunch 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, one in its own little case, the other with a leg-band tagged as a KY116/U, both for sending Morse code and an ESM/1 Emergency Signaling Mirror.
Take a look at the beautiful machine work that went into making the KY-116/U, an item, like the formidable four wheel drive jeep, that was made in the time of war for war. Both in their own ways masterpieces each built for a different function but to serve the same purpose --- defeat the enemy. Wartime jeeps and telegraph hand keys like the KY116/U were turned out by the thousands and thrown into extremes as far ranging as the Arctic, the sweltering wind blown desert sands of North Africa and the steaming jungles of the the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, and expected to win the the war with all possibilities of being destroyed any second doing it --- along with their human operators and caregivers. Even so, made for war or not, or to last seconds or forever, there probably isn't a more beautiful piece of machined metal than the KY116/U below. Well there may be one thing: SEE
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WORLD WAR II ESM/1 EMERGENCY SIGNALING MIRROR
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"As a kid it seems like a large portion of almost everything I learned came from reading comic books. Over and over, even today in the stuff I write I often refer back to something I read at one time or the other in a comic book."
Anybody who is familiar with or has read any amount of my online works knows that as a kid I was big on box top and the like offers. As I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump from box top offers, falling into a similar or like category. After I answered the comic book ad to become a Junior Air Raid Warden, and at the time I don't think I was even in kindergarten yet, the rest was easy. As mentioned above, after the war my uncle would take me to a giant army surplus store called Palley's. When my uncle returned to Santa Fe and I began living with a foster couple, comic book mail order took up the slack. Notice in the ad below, in those days, a kid could even order knives, machetes, and axes if they were so predisposed. Below is just like all the stuff I used to order. Since I was just a kid with no mother and father and living with a foster couple at that, the question always comes up, "Where did I get the money?" Not being totally truthful about my age I worked at a place called The Normandie Club.
Take a close look at the full color Army surplus ad below. Back in those days a kid, like I was in those days, could order knives, machetes, and axes if they were 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)
The old man and the babysitter figured prominently in my early life, several times as a matter of fact, some major, some minor. In a way the old man was sort of a progenitor or prototype of things to come, my uncle not coming along until about four years later, just about the time I was entering the fourth grade. The person who I call my Merchant Marine Friend, entered my life after my uncle, just at the start of my first two years of high school. Both the grandfather and the merchant marine picking up the slack beyond and before the formal educational system, teaching and showing me things and laying the groundwork in my young life long before my mentor came on the scene or I was even old enough to start school. The sun, stars, electricity, pneumatics, the speed of light, time. They were all there in an embryo way.
Later in life I discovered that the two men had mutual acquaintances, but neither had ever met personally, with one picking up as the other left. A similar overall philosophy did however, blanket the two at a higher level, and of which then, filtered down to me. Although both, at a much different place and degrees apart, in the end, through me or because of me, or at least as I saw it, their philosophies blended together in a full circle.
The seed for that smooth blending came about almost as if karma, destiny, fate, or a something just like it but with no name at all stepped in at very important stage or time of my life. In the very beginning it was the grandfather of the girl next door who used to babysit me and of which he is fully discussed here in Western Union Telegraph Set. Later during my first two years of high school, aptly bridging the gap between my uncle and mentor, was my Merchant Marine Friend. In an embryo sort of way the grandfather was a kind of a progenitor or prototype of things to come, being there teaching and showing me things and laying the groundwork in my young life long before my uncle or mentor came on the scene or I was even old enough to start school. The sun, stars, electricity, pneumatics, the speed of light, time. They were all there very early on, offered without hinderance and easily absorbed at my level of understanding.
One of the interactions with the grandfather, and ranked right up there as one of the ones I was most fond of, and of all things, believe it or not, turned out to be nothing less than a radio premium offer, albeit one from an era long before I was ever aware of them.
If by pure happenstance you were an unknowing person who just stumbled into the old man's seemingly ramshackle shop, taking no more than a quick glance around, the junk pile dump of a place it appeared to be, you would think he would never be able to find or keep track of anything. However, he had his own way of doing things and in that own way had some things he considered to be of a high personal value and because of that they were treated and kept in a special way.
One of those valuable things --- at least to him --- was an item I was absolutely fascinated and intrigued by, except he would rarely let me touch it. The item was a 1922 antique called an Ansonia Sunwatch, designed to fit in a pocket with a folding lid that covered a sundial and compass. On a sunny day, following the instructions and placing the Sunwatch in the right direction, a person could discern what time it was.
As an alternative to his prized Ansonia he let me use an item of similar intent anytime I wanted, an item that he didn't hold in nearly as high esteem, but for me I loved it. As I viewed it, it just as good if not better. Actually, it was a radio premium offer from Ovaltine like the later-to-come Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs, only from the year 1938 called a Little Orphan Annie Miracle Compass Sun-Watch:
LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE MIRACLE COMPASS SUN-WATCH
Playing around his shop and getting into things and experimenting with all kinds good and weird stuff all came crashing down one night. Less than three months into World War II a giant airborne object of an unknown nature appearing out of nowhere overflew Los Angeles and surrounding communities in an event that has come down to be known as:
THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: 1942 UFO
The huge object, as big as a Zeppelin, was able to withstand over 1440 direct anti aircraft rounds before it escaped unscathed, disappearing in the night sky out over the open ocean south of Long Beach. Well before reaching Long Beach the object had skirted the north side of the Santa Monica Mountains eastbound before turning south into the L.A. basin. After entering the basin it then turned westward just missing the Baldwin Hills by basically following Ballona Creek towards the ocean, turning south along the coast where the creek flows into the Pacific. Continuing south it reached a spot between the Edison generating plant and the Redondo Beach pier where for reasons unknown it turned diagonally inland. In doing so the object crossed directly over the top of my house. When it did, even though it was two o'clock in the morning or so, almost everybody on the block was outside to looking at it, and they were outdoors thanks to the old man who had a portable hand crank siren that he took out in the street and cranked up. In what I have written about the object I have reported I heard sirens, but others who write about the event don't all agree with my assessment. There may not have been sirens universally all over the whole of the L.A. basin or even Redondo specifically, but our block had a siren, thanks to the old man.
WORLD WAR II HAND CRANK PORTABLE AIR RAID SIREN
The second part of the event circulates around what I remember or don't remember about the events that night. The remembrance part involves the old man's grand daughter, my babysitter. When the object flew south from Santa Monica down the coast it did so just along the surf line. In doing so it went right past the house of C. Scott Littleton who lived on the Strand in Hermosa Beach. Littleton, now deceased, is considered THE foremost authority on the L.A. object. He too, like me, was also a young boy at the time of the overflight, albeit a year or so older. Although he uses a lot of my material to substantiate what he saw Littleton always adds that he felt I was to young to remember all the subtle nuances that I have interjected in what I have written about the object. In other words, he knows everything and I don't know anything.
Well, it just so happens I remember a great deal from those days, which in turn allows me to know a lot. For example, I remember my mother nursing my brother who was three years younger than me. Seeing barrage balloons floating in the sky tethered to the ground over the shipyards in Terminal Island where my father worked. But, most importantly I remember well the 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 the girl who lived next door and babysat my brothers and me, owned. It was 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. The same time I was using the Tom Mix Telegraph Set with her grandfather was the same time I was playing with the Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Cockpit AND the same time the fly over occurred.
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If you clicked the above Airplane Pilot Cockpit ad you would have learned that the cardboard cockpit toy wasn't made available to the public until November 6, 1941, roughly four months before the overflight of the giant object. Now I am not sure what the shelf life of a cardboard toy would be with a bunch of kids playing with it, but if was still usable after six months and I remember playing with it, it had to be right around the same time as the February 1942 event
Because I enjoyed the Capt. Sparks Airplane Pilot Cockpit toy so much, and played with it so often Mary Lou decided to downsize it from our or her use to my use exclusively. She did so by upgrading to a different much more sophisticated model. Where the Capt. Sparks Pilot Cockpit was a cereal box top offer, and a good one at that, the new one was a big bucks go to the store and buy it model called an Einson-Freeman Pre-Flight Trainer. She didn't actually give me the old Capt. Sparks one per se' after she got the new one, but for all practical purposes it became mine --- although she never allowed me to take it home. I remember specifically the new one because it didn't have a square joystick like the one I played with, but a circular steering wheel. I also remember she didn't allow me to use it much, leaving me relegated to the use of the old one, which I recall was fine by me.
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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
BATTLE OF L. A.: THE RADAR DILEMMA
1942: THE GREAT LOS ANGELES AIR RAID
SAN CLEMENTE ISLAND AND THE 1942 UFO
ALBERT NOZAKI: 1942 WAR OF THE WORLDS
OF THE YUKON
HOW HE BECAME A MOUNTIE
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN TELEGRAPH KEY
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN RAZOR BLADE RADIO
DOT 'N DASH ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH SET
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"My stepmother, who you may recall was quite wealthy, in her new found motherhood role, noticed my younger brother and myself, along with a bunch of other neighborhood kids, spent an inordinate amount of time 'playing cowboys' --- with cowboy hats, capguns, holsters, boots, etc., and in doing so we often ended up in the street. Using her logic, she thought, what could be better than having their own real ranch to play on, especially so, not in the street."
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE: Their Life and Times Together
So that's what she did, she bought a ranch. A whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with twenty acres set aside on one corner for the ranch house, barn, horse corrals, you name it. Then off we went to ride real horses and shoot real 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 genuine antique 1847 Colt Walker handgun in a case. Every once in awhile 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.
No sooner had we moved onto the ranch than my dad 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 bursh 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 similar to the one below. The ad 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.
Living on the ranch in the high desert of the Mojave in those days were heady times. With the war finally over almost everything was doing nothing but going upward. All kinds of things were happening, especially in the aircraft and automotive fields and happening in the desert besides. The ranch was located not far from Muroc Dry Lake the same place Edwards Air Force Base was located. So too, the ranch wasn't far from Mirage Dry Lake either. On the ground at Mirage were nothing but numberless hot rods and belly tank lakesters. My uncle would take us out there to watch some of the hopped-up Ford flatheads hitting 150 mph. In the air, flying right over the ranch, were B-36s and flying wings. Higher up they were testing the Bell X-1 and breaking the sound barrier.
For us, 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 all the while watching B-36s and flying wings and hearing and sometimes feeling the sonic booms from the X-1.
THE BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT
HOSTESSES, SOUND BARRIERS AND BIG BA-BOOMS-----
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WORLD WAR II SURPLUS JEEPS
NEW, STILL IN A BOX FOR $50.00
JEEP IN A BOX
"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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I'M IN LOVE!
MARIA, THE FEMBOT FROM FRITZ LANGS 1927 MOVIE METROPOLIS
IN LOVE? BEWARE OF WHAT YOU WISH FOR
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