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the Wanderling

"Like so many young boys growing up during my era I loved cowboy-western movies and the actors that showed up in them. As well, right up there with westerns were Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, especially Tarzan and the Huntress, Warner Brothers cartoons, Leonardo Da Vinci, 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."


Up until the start of high school 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 a collection of free premium offers from Ovaltine called Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs. Around the time I reached high school or so they all started getting shunted aside for a growing set of higher priorities, primarily cars with dual carburetors and girls with dual other things.

All the girls I knew then (or wished I knew) and all of the cars I had (or wished I had) are long since gone, but from my childhood I still have, albeit now a little rustic as so am I, the same U-235 Atomic Pistol and the same Code-O-Graphs. So said, I have written a whole page about Captain Midnight, his history and the Code-O-Graphs that shows up elsewhere, but this page, as the title suggests, is dedicated to the history of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

For all practical purposes Buck Rogers was born in the fertile mind of a man by the name of Philip Francis Nowlan (1888-1940), a science fiction author and a quasi prophet of things to come. At the age of 39 Nowlan wrote what amounted to a short novel titled "Armageddon 2419 A.D." It was published August of 1928 in a popular fiction magazine of the time called Amazing Stories. In the first four paragraphs Nowlan pretty much lays out the synopsis of the story as follows:

"Elsewhere I have set down, for whatever interest they have in this, the 25th Century, my personal recollections of the 20th Century.

"Now it occurs to me that my memoirs of the 25th Century may have an equal interest 500 years from now, particularly in view of that unique perspective from which I have seen the 25th Century, entering it as I did, in one leap across a gap of 492 years.

"This statement requires elucidation. There are still many in the world who are not familiar with my unique experience. Five centuries from now there may be many more, especially if civilization is fated to endure any worse convulsions than those which have occurred between 1975 A.D. and the present time.

"I should state therefore, that I, Anthony Rogers, am, so far as I know, the only man alive whose normal span of eighty-one years of life has been spread over a period of 573 years. To be precise, I lived the first twenty-nine years of my life between 1898 and 1927; the other fifty-two since 2419. The gap between these two, a period of nearly five hundred years, I spent in a state of suspended animation, free from the ravages of katabolic processes, and without any apparent effect on my physical or mental faculties."

The full unabridged "Armageddon 2419 A.D" story is available for your reading pleasure in its entirety free and online at a couple of sources. One version is actual scanned pages from the original Amazing Stories. That can be reached by clicking the Amazing Stories graphic above then scrolling down the page and using the Previous and Next icons. A second scanned version can be found by clicking HERE and scrolling down the page. Page can be expanded using the icons. The other is in easy to access and easy to read HTML format found in the Project Gutenberg archives by clicking HERE.

On January 7, 1929, roughly six months after Nowlan's story was published in Amazing Stories, it was published in comic strip form, with Nowlan scripting the stories and laying the groundwork for the strip with a simplified version of the same story line from "Armageddon 2419 A.D" --- except that his hero, Anthony Rogers, was renamed as Buck Rogers:

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Having captured the public's fancy, powers that be came to the conclusion that the character of Buck Rogers was commercially viable enough to attract a large enough audience to support a regularly sponsored radio program. Hence, on November 7th 1932 Buck Rogers aired as a radio serial on CBS under the title "The World in 2432." The story line pretty much followed the same cast of heroes and protagonists developed for the comic strip. The show was known for its use of sound effects including a regiment of marching robots and the crashing rocket ships.

The first comic book appearance for Buck Rogers was in the October 1934 issue of Famous Funnies #3 in a four page story titled "Just as Buddy and Alura Gave Up All Hope" with the script credit given to Nowlan. In 1940 the first full length cover-to-cover comic book version of Buck Rogers was published, again by the same outfit that produced Famous Funnies. That first issue was, however, made up of basically a compilation of previously published comic strips.[1]

As for any early background or history of Buck Rogers prior to exiting the cave in the 25th century, it is, for the most part, rather thin. In the evolution of Buck Rogers through the various media and incarnations his background history grew, mostly from others than Nowlan. However, in the beginning, like I say, initially it was rather thin. The quote below is from the opening panel of the very first comic strip as shown in the graphic above:

"I was twenty years old when they stopped the World War and mustered me out of the air service. I got a job surveying the lower levels of an abandoned mine near Pittsburgh, in which the atmosphere had a peculiar, pungent tang, and the crumbling rock glowed strangely. I was examining it when suddenly the roof behind me caved in and..."

Notice that Philip (Francis) Nowlan is given credit as part of the strip, that is, the writing part. Hence, the very opening statement wherein it says Rogers had, when the World War stopped, been "mustered out of the air service," it comes from the pen, hand and creative mind of Nowlan himself, not some hack want-to-be script writer. What is being said is that Anthony "Buck" Rogers was a pilot during World War One not unlike Captain Midnight and oddly enough, in real life, my own mentor.

It is acknowledged that Rogers was in the air service, but from that where is it stated that Rogers was a pilot? Actually, the artist Richard Calkins, most likely under the direction of Nowlan, indicates such through his drawing in the same first panel that the written quote comes from. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, Calkins shows Rogers wearing an aviators helmet and goggles together with a World War One bi-plane painted with the markings of a combat fighter, making clear there is much more to Rogers' statement beyond simply being mustered out of the air service. Rogers, the pilot he was, was much like the person I selected as my mentor in real life during my final two years of high school. He had crossed into Canada at age 16 and joined the Royal Flying Corps flying for the British long before the U.S. entered the war. It was pure coincidence that two of my childhood heroes, Captain Midnight and Buck Rogers, albeit fiction, had similar backgrounds.[2]

Buck Rogers moved from the pages of books to comics to the silver screen in a 12 episode film serial in 1939 with Rogers being portrayed by actor Buster Crabbe, known previously in his screen role as Flash Gordon. In 1953 the serial was put together into a full-length theatrical release called "Planet Outlaws" only to be retitled for television in 1965 under the title "Destination Saturn." For your viewing pleasure I have provided YouTube links farther down the page to both the 12 episode serial and "Planet Outlaws."

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When I was a kid living with my Stepmother she owned a Colt Walker. Even though the pistol was nearly as big as I was, I used to run around day-after-day playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers disintegrator in the other. Now days a Colt Walkers are known to be rare and expensive weapons. In 2008 a fully documented one that was known to have been issued to and owned by a Mexican War veteran sold at auction for $920,000.

The Buck Rogers XZ-38 Disintegrator, or more rightly so, it's lookalike post war U-235 Atomic Pistol, wasn't really my first ray gun, just my favorite. Actually, in a close call with a pre-war XZ-38 given to me by a neighbor, my first ray gun fell under the auspices of the then growing Superman marketing machine. Most people don't know it, but in the early 1940s just prior to the war and before metal couldn't be used for toys, Superman actually had a metal ray gun. Like the Buck Rogers disintegrator it was made by the Daisy Manufacturing Company.(see)

On one of the last family Christmases together I can remember, while my family was still intact and my mother was still alive, my older brother received a Daisy Red Ryder lever-action carbine BB gun as one of his gifts. To ensure a certain sibling equality between the two of us my parents gave me a Daisy-built gun as well. But, in that I was three years younger than my older brother, the gun they gave me didn't shoot BBs or anything else for that matter. Unlike my brother's carbine rifle, what I received was a hand-held pistol called a Superman Krypto-Raygun and, although it didn't shoot BBs, for me and what I liked, it was way much better. The perfect gift. The gun as it was called, was actually a film projector of sorts. Put a film strip in it, pull the trigger and, as the instructions below will show, a battery powered light would shine the story one frame at a time on a wall or wherever you pointed it.

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The above notwithstanding, in the Superman stories, even though he typically goes to almost any extreme to avoid Kryptonite in any form, as Superboy (issue #103 March 1963), he goes out of his way to find Red Kryptonite, traveling thousands of years into the past on an extended journey through time. The following link will take you to a condensed version of the original story, or more specifically part three of a three part segment titled The Three Ages of Superboy. The over-arcing story has the Earth being hit by Red Kryptonite with the following results:

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Although for me as a young boy growing up I loved ray guns of all types and especially so the Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Pistol, it never rose to the level in my life as the Code-O-Graphs until after I somehow inadvertently lost my Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph. After that, taken together, the film strip aspects of the Krypto Ray Gun --- and the U-235 itself as it was --- played a huge role in one of the biggest adventures of my whole life, the revealing by my uncle to me on his death bed of a long-held secret about an object he found on the so-called debris field related to the 1947 Roswell Incident --- an object he said that had all the characteristics in real life of a disintegrator pistol --- a ray gun if you like. To wit the following:


The Krypto Ray Gun, the film projector that it was, made of Kryptonite or not, was the first film strip gizmo I ever had, and in the process sort of set into motion a certain fascination of film strip viewers. Although I don't remember what happened to it exactly, it wasn't my last --- and I remember well what happened to the last. I made a time capsule out of it and buried it and the film strip in a deep hole out in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

"I was fast asleep in my sleeping bag somewhere in the desert near Fort Sumner on the night of, it is thought, Friday, July 4, 1947, when around midnight my uncle, who had been sitting up pondering the stars and possibly his insignificance in the overall scheme of things, through a smattering of clouds, saw a brilliant meteor-like object streak across the night sky arcing downward to the Earth toward a fast moving lightning infested stormy horizon, all the while dissipating a string of quickly extinguishing small glowing hunks or particles dropping in it's wake."

That same meteor-like object that streaked across the sky that night dropping or dissipating a string of quickly extinguishing small glowing particles in it's wake turned out to be a major player in an event of worldwide, earthshaking proportions. In the process of becoming so, it swept up both my uncle and me into that same meteor's wake, or at least the debris from it's wake so to speak.[3]

And so it unfolds. My mother died when I was quite young. However, even before her death, because of her illness my father continued to have to work more and more hours to pay for mounting medical expenses. Through it all he found it extremely difficult to care for my two brothers and myself and work the hours he did. At first he dealt with it with regular day-to-day babysitting, then overnight and weekends with my grandparents and neighbors. Along the way a couple that just happened to be visiting our next door neighbors for Thanksgiving dinner, and of which we were invited to, offered to help by taking one of us kids fulltime. A few days later I was selected and basically fostered out, moving away from my brothers and family even before my mother passed away.[4]

It didn't work out nearly as well as my father had hoped, as the couple, without getting my father's approval, whisked me off to India over a several months period and then, upon return to the states, giving me up, but not to what was left of my family. Still not much more than a tot I even got caught up in a train wreck out in the middle of the Arizona desert in the middle of the night on the way back to California, a wreck that killed four and injured more than 100. Because of the injuries to the person or persons I was traveling with I was left without adult supervision until a Native American tribal spiritual elder interceded to watch over me --- and watch over me he did with some rather startling results. See:


Following all of those events it was a real hardship to keep me with anybody as I kept running away from whoever I ended up with, often staying with people of a suspect nature that I selected myself --- that is until about age 8 or so when I fell under the care of my Uncle. After that up to around age 12 I had a fairly stable 4 years.

My dad remarried a few years after my mother died and called the family, that is, my brothers and I, back together. My Stepmother, who was quite wealthy at the time, was the one that put my uncle and I together long term. Apparently my grandmother had tried dealing with me on-and-off and found I seemed to do my best when my uncle was around. My stepmother made an offer he couldn't refuse, my uncle inturn packing his bags and moving from Santa Fe to California to oversee me.

A few years later my dad and stepmother divorced and my life and times with my uncle came to a screeching halt. He went back to his old haunts in Santa Fe and I went to live with another foster couple which again didn't work out with me again running away. Eventually I ended up at my grandmother's just as I started high school. Except by phone it was 17 or 18 years before my uncle and I caught up with each other again, and after that we saw each other many, many times.

I had been in and out of the Army, the Peace Corps, spent a good portion of my life Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery and graduated from college. During those years, without me realizing it, my uncle had somehow slipped from the bearded young man he was with a ten-year old boy in tow tramping across the desert to having crossed into his mid 80s.

Now, instead of looking for Teratorn fossils, interacting with tribal spiritual elders, or searching down bits and pieces of crashed UFOs, I was sitting in a chair beside my now pretty much bed-ridden uncle as he was inching towards the end of his days. Out of the blue and completely out of context he asked if I remembered the toy ray gun or disintegrator pistol I used to have as a kid. First thing I thought of was my Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Pistol which I told him I still had and that it was still in fairly good shape except the red flasher up in the little windows didn't work so hot any more. He looked puzzled as if he didn't know what I was talking about telling me the ray gun he was making reference to didn't have little red windows. Picking up a scrap of paper I sketched out what the gun looked like. He inturn, after seeing my sketch, drew his own picture of what he remembered the pistol looked like. Right away I knew what he was talking about. It wasn't the Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Pistol but another toy gun I had as a kid called the Hiller Silver Atom Ray Gun. See:









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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.

Footnote [1]

Above is the cover of the first comic book dedicated fully to Buck Rogers cover-to-cover with an issue date of 1940. As mentioned previously it is primarily a compilation of previously published comic strips, basically strung together creating a book.

For those of you who may be so interested there is an online site that has scanned the individual early black-and-white daily strips starting from the very beginning, presented in an easy click-through day to day basis. To go to that site click HERE. Once at the site if you click FOLLOWING STRIPS it will take you to the next days strip, one after the other.

For full color Sunday strips, published in order starting in March 1930, click the links below:

  1. SUNDAY COMICS: Golden Princess of Mars

  2. SUNDAY COMICS: Fish Men of Planet X

  3. SUNDAY COMICS: Mysterious Saturian

  4. SUNDAY COMICS: Marooned On Venus

Footnote [2]

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The person that eventually became my Mentor was a real-life fighter pilot during World War I as well as the role model British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham used for Larry Darrell, the spiritual traveler and main character in his novel The Razor's Edge. The air war in Europe in those days wasn't all dog fights and blowing 800 foot long Zeppelins returning from bombing runs over England out of the sky. For both sides, after leaving the aerodromes, much of the time was spent flying for miles and miles over farmland with no encounters with the enemy at all. Maugham has Darrell saying, repeating an almost direct quote from my mentor, the following:

"I loved flying. I couldn't describe the feeling it gave me, I only knew I felt proud and happy. In the air I felt that I was part of something very great and beautiful. I didn't know what it was all about, I only knew that I wasn't alone any more, but that I belonged. I felt that I was at home with the infinitude."

Feeling much the same about flying as my mentor did in the above quote, when I was around ten years old I built a glider-type airplane initially inspired from three primary sources, a 1947 black-and-white Tarzan movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress, the drawings of flying machines as found in the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as the actual machines made by early flight pioneers such as Otto Lilienthal.



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One day I took the completed craft to the top of a nearby two story building and holding on for dear life, jumped off. At first the flying machine held fairly steady, maintaining altitude and covering a rather substantial distance. Then suddenly the craft stalled, I lost control and it dropped like a rock from a pretty good height, crashing into the front porch and through the windows of neighbor's house across the street. The machine escaped any real major damage and so did I.

Even though the flight ended not as smoothly as I hoped, primarily because of lack of experience on my part, or as the case may be, none at all, and as I discovered, perhaps the lack of any sort of actual flight control mechanisms as well, I considered my attempt a success --- especially so because of the distance covered before I lost control. I always felt my mentor and I were able to strengthen our bonds as friends initially because of his interest in flying and my early childhood attempt at manned-flight, re the following from the source so cited:

"Although I never attempted another similar human-powered flight after that, my mentor loved the story, and I think it was an early key to our initial philosophical bond."(source)

There is a slight caveat to my 'never attempted another similar human-powered flight after that' found in the above quote. That caveat circulates around what is called the 'Washoe Zephyr,' sometimes referred to as a 'devil wind.' The Washoe Zephyr occurs on a regular basis on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, with an extremely strong portion on the east side of the paralleling Virginia Range, most notedly around Virginia City. Unlike the typical thermally driven slope-flows which blow upslope during the day and downslope at night, the Washoe Zephyr winds blow down the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada in the afternoon against the local pressure gradient. The Washoe Zephyr figured prominently in my reconsideration of a second flight attempt. For more on that second attempt, please see:


Let Me Travel Through the Air Like a Winged Bird


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Footnote [3]


Thinking it was a meteor my uncle saw that night and thinking his friend the famed astronomer and meteorite hunter Dr. Lincoln La Paz might be interested in a fresh strike, my uncle began an effort to contact him. In that it was long before cell phones existed it took a few days for the two of them to connect. La Paz informed my uncle that from all indications whatever he saw streak across the sky that night it was NOT a meteor nor a known aircraft of some type --- but whatever it was, after talking with La Paz my uncle was chaffing at the bit to go to the suspected impact site and see for himself if there was any truth behind the so called Hieroglyphic Writing La Paz heard rumors of as being on some of the metal scraps.

Without getting into the logistics behind it all here, but made clear in Tommy Tyree and elsewhere, while staying at the the location I call the hay shelter on the hill above and behind the debris field, with nothing to do but remain hidden all day, to entertain myself I made and buried a "time capsule" thinking I would come back one day in the future and dig it up.

In those days, traveling in the desert I carried a World War II G.I. canteen attached to a pistol belt along with a couple of "Carlisle" first aid pouches in of which I carried all kinds of stuff. Stainless steel pocket knife with a fold-out fork and spoon. Compass. Waterproof matches. When I was at the debris field it was years before any of the handheld electronic devices we have today, so to entertain myself I carried a toy red-and-black plastic-bakelite film strip viewer, along with a few extra filmstrips, with me. My uncle told me one time if the Earth ever blew-up and formed an asteroid belt around the sun like the one between Mars and Jupiter some far-in-the-future space explorer would still be able to find pieces of plastic imbeded in the rock-chunks --- because plastic junk lasts forever. Well, I didn't want to part with my pocketknife, compass or matches, so for my time capsule I buried the plastic film viewer. With that I took a gas station paper towel I had in my back pocket and using my most favored gift from my Stepmother, a Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen that could write underwater or out in space --- which I wish I still had --- and made a treasure map.

Years passed and I forgot all about it. One day I was moving stuff and ran across my pebble grained faux-leather high school graduation certificate holder. Inside was my diploma along with an official looking "deed" for one whole square inch of land in Canada's Yukon Territory from the Klondike Big Inch Land Company dated January 4, 1955, a really good copy of Uncle Scrooge, Issue #14, June 1956, with a story about Scrooge, his deed and dealings with one inch of land called Faulty Fortune, AND the treasure map I drew for my time capsule.

The next time I saw my uncle in Santa Fe I took the map along. When I showed him the map and expressed the possibility of the two of us going to look for my time capsule he put his hand out in an open-palm "halt" fashion and told me to wait. A few minutes later he was opening a cardboard box he had taken down out of the attic and started rummaging around in it. He pulled out a bag and dumped the contents on the table in front of me. He told me ten years later he had gone back to the debris field and meticulously picked up the pieces strung out in a long line in the dirt near where I had buried a red and black hand held toy film viewer in July of 1947. The celluloid film strip found along with the pieces of the viewer, although highly faded where it had been exposed to the sun and weather, still had enough of the film left curled together and untouched that I was able, after carefully unrolling it, to identify it as being Don Winslow of the Navy, the same film strip I had left in the viewer when I buried what I called a time capsule.

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My idea to make a time capsule did not spring from whole cloth, by the way. Somehow I got the idea from my uncle, mimicking his actions. That is, somewhere near or around where we were, my uncle made his own time capsule, burying something OR some-things, pieces and parts he found out on the debris field. I have reason to guess that was the case because there would be no need to bury anything he already had with him that would be worth leaving then come back for. Apparently that is just what he did, come back for whatever he buried. Other than the fact that he showed me he had pieces of my film viewer that he came across in the hills up and beyond the debris field years after the crash I would never have known he went back.

All indications are that the something buried recovered from the Roswell debris field in 1947 turned out to be a device similar to a hand-held pistol, albeit said by some from an advanced alien culture. There are also strong rumors to the effect that an 'extraterrestrial' breathing apparatus of some type may have been found and subjected to reverse engineering as well. See:


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Footnote [4]

Even though my home was thousands of miles away from the raging turmoil of the battlefronts during World War II, living practically on the beach along the Pacific coast we were constant hostage to attack. Although most people don't know it or they don't remember it, the hostilities of the war visited our shores more than once, and sometimes so close it was like it was in our front yard. Japanese submarines prowled the waters all up and down the coast with shipping being hit, torpedoed, damaged and sunk. The mainland being hit with shells, bombs, and by air attacks. A two-man Japanese midget submarine washing up on shore next to the pier in the town where I lived and said to have had two dead Japanese officers inside. Sure, it was nothing like what was happening in either of the two major theaters, but happening none the less.


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After successfully consolidating their wartime efforts in Burma, the Japanese, in April of 1944, launched a major invasion into India. Although I was born and raised in a southern California beach community, as a very young boy I was traveling in India with a couple I had been fostered out to because of debilitating illness faced by my mother at the exact same time as the Japanese invasion. Like thousands of refugees that fled ahead of the Nazi onslaught in Europe, if the Japanese invasion attempts into India has not been slowed down and eventually stopped by the likes of U.S. Army General Joseph W. Stilwell on the ground and members of the American Volunteer Group, the A.V.G., known as the Flying Tigers, in the air, I too may have been a refugee caught up in events much larger than myself, trying to escape the onslaught of the Japanese. See:


Within a few years of the end of the war, as a young boy in the fourth or fifth grade or so, I used to pull a Radio Flyer through the alleys around the neighborhood a few days a week collecting pop and beer bottles for the deposit. After collecting a wagon load I would turn them in various places around of which one was a bar. In the process of pounding on the back door to get someone to trade the bottles in for cash I got to know the dishwasher there, an elderly Chinese man.

Noticing he would meditate in the alley sometimes I started going by the bar and meditate in the alley with him --- even without the necessity of turning in soda or beer bottles for the deposit. Sitting in the shade on the back steps amongst the garbage cans and flies one afternoon, while drinking hot tea out of tiny little cups with no handles in a near ritual-like tea ceremony he insisted on, the elderly (to me) Chinese man told me a story about the bombing of Japanese occupied Taiwan, China by the United States during World War II. He said from ancient times there was a "girl Buddha" whose followers believed that reciting the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, she would, because of her compassion, deliver them from harm. He said even though he himself had not practiced or invoked the mantra, while seeking refuge in the midst of one of the air raids he inadvertently ended up amongst a group of believers who were also running to find shelter from the explosions. Then, while he was within the group, most of whom were verbally repeating the mantra, overhead, pure white and almost cloud-like the "girl Buddha" appeared in the sky above them actually deflecting the trajectory of the bombs away from their exposed path until they reached safety and out of harms way.

It was many years later, as an adult, before I heard of the same bombing related events and the "girl Buddha" from an outside source as related to me by the dishwasher, a confirmation of sorts of the events as well as the name of the "girl Buddha," Kuan Yin.

As for the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, it was brought up in the first place because of a 1940s comic book superhero called The Green Lama that used the mantra much like Billy Batson used Shazam to become Captain Marvel --- to invoke superpowers --- and, in the Green Lama's case, like Captain Marvel, gaining super strength, invulnerability, the ability to fly, and even being impervious to bullets to the point of being bulletproof. The old dishwasher had a six or eight copies of the Green Lama all in like-new mint condition, of which, for whatever reason, he gave to me.

In modern times, located in the U.S. desert southwest half a world away from the Green Lama's Himalayas, in one of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, more specifically the ancient Zuni pueblo site known by the name Kyaki:Ma, there was said to have been discovered amongst the ruins, a sandstone slab inscribed with Tibetan script, one of which was clearly "Om Mani Padme Hum."

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Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs were originally designed to be replaced one after the other on a yearly basis. The Photo-Matic version of the Code-O-Graph, pictured above, was manufactured in 1941 just prior to the outbreak of World War II for issue during the 1942 season. Because of the wartime metal shortage it was continued for use throughout the 1943 and 1944 seasons as well, making it the Code-O-Graph with the longest service life. The following excerpt is from CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT: The Code-O-Graphs:

The second Code-O-Graph was the "Photo-Matic" unit. The badge had a space for a picture of the owner, to make it a photo-ID badge.

The advent of World War II had an impact on the Code-O-Graph availability: the two previous models were made of brass, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, which propelled the United States into World War II, caused the U.S. Government to impose restrictions on manufacturing materials. Copper and brass were considered critical materials, and most of the materials were diverted to war activities. This precluded brass being used to manufacture novelties like radio premiums.

The Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph, although not distributed until 1942, was manufactured prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Since it, and its predecessor, were undated, the newer Code-O-Graph was used for the 1943 and 1944 seasons as well as the 1942 season, making it the Code-O-Graph with the longest service life. The cipher setting scheme was similar to the 1941 Mystery Dial model, but there was only one cipher setting window, labeled "Master Code." The word season used in context here refers to the radio broadcast season --- that is, when the Captain Midnight radio program started with and continued with all new programs for a given period of time before starting with another whole series of new programing.

The following paragraph, albeit containing some redundant material, has within its context additional information as so found at the source cited:

"The decoder, again a Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph, was different than other Captain Midnight decoders in that it was designed to allow the owner to insert a photo of themself in a small open square at the top of the badge, replacing the photo of Captain Midnight that came with it. The idea for doing so was to create a personalized identification badge like those used in defense plants of the era. Once the picture of Captain Midnight was removed and the owner substituted it with a picture of their own, they were supposed to push down the four metal tabs at each of the corners so it could not be removed. As well, although NOT all Captain Midnight decoders were badges, the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph was because it had a pin that went through a little hook on the back so it could be pinned on and worn like a badge."(source)






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Not long after my uncle started overseeing me under the auspices of my stepmother than he and I, often with my dad and brothers along, at least in the early days, began to go down to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in Los Angeles. For my brothers and me the place was like Disneyland, sometimes we would spend the whole day there because the place had everything --- big things like half tracks and bomber machinegun turrets to little things like GI issued lensatic compasses and packets of fluorescent green sea dye markers. My brothers and I, in what was one of the few things we ever did together, were always cooking up some kind of an excuse go there with me always returning with a ton of World War II army surplus stuff --- canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and two of my very favorites, an Army Signal Corps J-38 Handkey, 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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In the above main text my uncle asked me to get a couple of canteens, one of which I say was on a WW II pistol belt I always wore when we were in the field. Along with the canteen I had a couple of "Carlisle" first aid pouches hooked to the pistol belt as well. Considering the timing of the event, July of 1947, more than likely the pistol belt, canteens and the first aid pouches all came from Palley's.

When my dad and stepmother went to South America for a couple of years and our de facto family broke up, with my uncle going back to Santa Fe and my younger brother and I going to a foster couple most of my army gear got lost in the shuffle and going to Palley's, for the couple, at least as far as me and my little brother was concerned, was out of the picture.

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 as elaborated in the quote below as found in The Kingman UFO 1953:

"After leaving Los Angeles we headed north so my uncle could visit an old friend who lived along the eastern slopes of the High Sierras. After the visit we headed east toward New Mexico with plans to cross the Colorado River over Hoover Dam. In conversation it came up that the construction of the dam had stopped torrential floods downstream that had transpired since time immemorial.

"As we traveled along, drawing from my super heavily injected academic background brimming with in-depth encyclopedic and intellectual knowledge, information and data all garnered from comic books of course, I told him about a great story I read in a Gene Autry comic called 'The Ship in the Desert' (issue #52, June 1951) and an even better one in an Uncle Scrooge comic called 'Lost Ship of the Desert,' AKA 'The Seven Cities of Cibola' (issue #7, September 1954) wherein wrecked Spanish galleons had been found in the desert in both stories. As near as I could remember, as far as the ships were concerned, the punchline for both stories were associated with an old Colorado River channel covered and uncovered over the centuries by flash floods or some such thing leading to the Salton Sea."



Below is an ad from a comic book that just happened to start showing up for the first time around August 1949, just about a year after the aforementioned flight and at the exact time my family was breaking up or on the verge of breaking up. On top of that, with the prospect of me not having the unfettered cash resources that had been provided me so freely in the past, before I moved in with the new foster couple my stepmother arranged for me to get a job, if I wanted it, at a place not far from where the couple lived where she knew the owner, a place called the Normandie Club --- so I could pick up some extra money. With that money and the comic book ads like the one below I was never without all the Army surplus stuff I wanted.

The thing is, at the time I was a kid and I did kid things. Anybody who is familiar with or has read any amount of my online works knows that as a young boy I was big on box top and the like offers such as Ovaltine's Captain Midnight's Radio Premiums, especially Captain Midnight's Code-O-Graphs, and more specifically so the 1942-1945 Photo-Matic. So, for me as I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump, falling into a similar or like category. Matter of fact the first comic book ad I ever answered was for me to become a Junior Air Raid Warden, of which the ad appears just below the Army surplus ad. I don't think I was even in kindergarten when I sent for the Air Raid Warden kit. Please notice the two smaller versions of the surplus ad below the Air Raid Warden ad, although similar to the color ad above, both offer signaling mirrors for 35 cents. Signaling mirrors played a prominent role between the famed mathematician, meteorite hunter, and astronomer Dr. Lincoln La Paz and my uncle regarding a pre-Roswell UFO encounter. Remember too, from the main text, every time I went to Palley's I always came back with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff like canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks and Army M43 folding shovels. The comic book mail order made it a lot easier. Notice as well, in those days a kid could order knives, machetes, and axes if one was so predisposed.

By responding to a similar war surplus type ad my dad actually bought a brand new, or at least never used, World War II jeep right off the docks in San Francisco. 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 as little as $225.00 bucks.(see)

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"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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In an attempt to clarify which ray gun was the FIRST, I offer the following quote from the source so cited. The neighbor so mentioned was the grandfather of the girl next door that used to babysit my two brothers and myself. The grandfather 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 and was always collecting, working on, and making all kinds of stuff he said was to thwart the "impending invasion," meaning by the Japanese. Electric stuff, vacuum tubes, gears. He was heavy into cereal box top offers and radio premiums, sending for and getting almost anything of interest to him, hence the Tom Mix Telegraph Set so mentioned and besides for me, a Little Orphan Annie Miracle Compass Sun-Watch. For more regarding the grandfather and how he and his granddaughter impacted my life with all sorts of send for offers and stuff, including me learning Morse code at a very young age, please access the link at the bottom of the quote:

"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."


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"My father seemed to spend an extraordinary amount of free time or late into the night reading pulp science fiction books like Amazing Stories or paperback novels of the old west, of which the ones about the old west were almost exclusively by L'Amour or Luke Short. I had perused lightly through books by both authors from time to time out of piles of books my dad had strewn around his place, and because he had insisted --- saying it related to my own experiences lost in the Mojave desert as a young boy --- I even read 'Mojave Crossing.'"


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