GEORGE P. SHULTZ – MARINE

April 8th, 2012

GEORGE P. SHULTZ – MARINE

Shultz - Original Letter
Shultz – Original Letter

WWII Marines

January 26th, 2014

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

 

 

Ever so often, a person, when hearing I was in World War II, will say, “Thank you for your service.” I accept the thanks humbly and graciously.  Their thanks indicate they believe I have survived great risks, and suffered wounds on the battlefield.  This is a rather common and appreciated comment to warriors.

 

But each time I hear it, I feel guilt. I am an impostor.  The nearly four years I spent in the Marines during World War II were the best years of my life.  Not to say other periods of my life were, or are, not great.  My working years in the logging camp, public accounting, oil exploration, envelope manufacturing, food distributions, lawyers’ office and construction were all- consuming, but not without their worries and frustrations. And I would never give up memories of my marriages and children, but these came later, with great pleasures and large responsibilities.

 

I signed up for The Corps, when I found out I could bypass the draft and become an officer. At the time I thought little of what might be entailled, or where I might be sent, since we were not yet in a war. I gave little thought to the chances of being killed, until  a few months later when I was on my way to Quantico, Virginia for officer’s training. I began to get conflicting feelings: one, that I was invincible, and the other; I would not return.  Perhaps this is a feeling within all warriors.

 

Up to this time of departure, I had not travelled outside California, had lived a repetitive life, and was coddled in the arms of education.  Now I was headed on an exciting train trip across the country, never to forget the luxury of the dining car, and a stopover in the great windy city of Chicago, before landing in Washington D.C. and continuing to Quantico.

 

Yes, training began in boot camp, but this, I expected, and respected.  No soldier can pass up the chance to complain about boot camp.  Was it easier on officer candidates than enlisted men?  I don’t know, but, at least, I can brag about going through those rough ten weeks.  Next, was ten weeks of Reserve Officer’s Class, then ten weeks of Base Defense School.  All this was just more education, like college. Evenings were free, with but little homework, and weekends were spent travelling to Washington, New York, or some nearby towns.  And if I stayed on base, there was entertainment there. And now I was being paid, plus there was a clothing allowance, so I had new greens, blues and whites.  Life was good.

 

I did well enough in Base Defense School to be assigned as an instructor in Seacoast Artillery.  This was right in my ball park. I had lots of math in high school, and surveying in college. I had worked around machinery, and the 155 millimeter gun was like a toy to me.  More complex was the fire control, which at first challenged my lectures, but became easier at later classes.  Two other instructors, both from the Naval Academy, and I, lived off post, but enjoyed all the facilities of the base.  There was a bit of prestige attached to our positions, and I felt it was similar to teaching at a university.

 

As students, we drove to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for live firing practice off the coast, visited Savannah, Georgia by boat and bus on a weekend, and leisurely drove back through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Quantico. The Base Defense School moved to Camp Lejeune, New River, North Carolina that winter, and I took up quarters in the Bachelor Officers Quarters on the beautiful new base.  I set up a practice gun and base-end stations on Onslow beach and instruction continued.

 

Does it sound like I was suffering?

 

Friends and I spent Christmas Weekend, 1943, at Southern Pines in central North Carolina, where I rose early Christmas morning, went to the stables and rode through the quiet woods in light snow fall.  There, also riding was a woman Marine, who rode back to camp with us.  She was the only girl friend I wrote to during the rest of the war, though I knew her only a week.

 

Right after New Years, I was on a troop train for San Diego.  We sat there a couple of weeks, then embarked on a troop ship for Honolulu.  A few days later we were on Kauai, setting up camp for continuing the school.  Unfortunately, while playing golf there, I met a resident, a Japanese gentleman who had studied dentistry at UCLA, who persisted in showing me around the island, and hosting a dinner for me and some of my friends at a restaurant in the rear of a small Japanese store. It was a delightful evening, and my first taste of frog legs.

 

A month later I was on a small freighter, sailing out of Nawiliwili harbor for the Big Island.  We were no longer Seacoast Defense, we were now Field Artillery assigned to 5th Corps Artillery.  We studied our new chores with the 2nd Division at Camp Tarawa, located at Kamuela.  Here we were independent from the 20,000 men division, and I had freedom to travel every weekend: Hilo, Kona Inn, and Volcano House.  Here, also, I was Commander of Battery “A” of the 10th Gun Battalion, with four officers and about one-hundred men, training for “where we knew not”.

 

Then, I was on an exciting invasion voyage to Saipan.  It could have been deadly, but I emerged with out harm and only a couple of scares.  This was followed by a week in Honolulu, to remove any psychological (?) damage.  We travelled, then, to Guam where we prepared for the invasion of Japan.  I was moved to Headquarters Battery as Assistant Operations Officer and helped on plans for landing our artillery. But there was a sort of recess – nothing happening, no decisions, which was explained by the dropping of the atom bomb a few months later.

 

So, you see, my life was very interesting.  I saw a lot, I learned a lot, and lived a lot.  I did my part, but don’t thank me.  I got my thanks.

 

 

 

George W. Parker

February 2011

 

 

The Girls from Santo Tomas

June 7th, 2013

 

 

 

The Girls from Santo Tomas

The war was over; peace had returned to the land.  The soldiers framed their medals and ribbons and hung them on the wall, turned in their arms and turned to the plow, the factory, or school. Mothers came home from the factory and shipyards and turned to the kitchen and office jobs.  Birds were singing again, children played in the streets and all was well in the land.

The government thanked the victorious warriors by sending them to college.  The colleges thanked the government by increasing tuition. All was normal again, capitalism recovered its rightful place, and any pool of money was quickly slurped up.

I got my share too. Returning to Stanford in spring of 1946, I had two quarters to complete, so there I was, living again, with my sister, brother-in-law and three nephews, drawing tuition and some living allowance under what was known as the G. I. Bill.  Though I returned from the war in October, I had been delayed in enrolling, for I had accumulated some one hundred days of unused leave in The Marines but could not use the government assistance until those one hundred days passed.

The house was on Ramona Street in Palo Alto, a half-block fromCalifornia Avenue. At that time California Avenue had a railroad crossing from the west, and a bus route traveled from west of the tracks, east to Middlefield Road,  north to University Avenue, then west through the shopping district, across El Camino onto Palm Drive of the campus, heading for The Quad with that great view of the Stanford Chapel in the distance. I had no car so this was my weekday route to the campus.

Occasionally two girls got on the bus shortly after I boarded, also headed for the campus. They were very pretty, and one, Shirley Silen, was a really sexy blonde with a slim waist, a full bosom pressing against that buttoned blouse, and legs that wouldn’t quit.  The other, Betty, a brunette, was O.K., but that blonde – wow!  We soon got acquainted and I found out they had been living in thePhilippines, where their father, Bert, owned a radio station. When the Japanese took overManila, their family, along with some four thousand other non-natives, was interred in the Santo Tomas University complex.  There they managed to set up their own government, teaching their children, and assigning duties, including some agriculture.  But their captors treated them badly, segregated the sexes, broke up families and many were killed or starved to death. The Allied invasion of thePhilippinesfreed them.

Six months later I was a free man with an accounting job, a new apartment in Menlo Park, a used LaSalle automobile, and a bevy of friends partying every weekend.  I call those my “Salad Days” – a time to play before looking for a wife.  But I kept thinking about Shirley, so one quiet evening I phoned their home and asked for her.  I was told she was not in, and that I was talking with Betty, who asked what I wanted.  I replied I wanted to take Shirley to a movie, with which Betty immediately said she would go with me. What could I do?  I was cornered, so the two of us went out. And a while later we went out again, but when I tried a little smooching, preparatory to necking and who knows what else, I was promptly rebuffed, and told that I should have dated Shirley – “she likes that kind of thing”.

Oh Lord, how could things have gone so wrong?

I took Betty out a few more times; she was more like a sister and I enjoyed her company.  One evening when I arrived for a date, she invited me in.  This was the first time I met her parents.  They were sitting around their dining room table having dessert, with which they plied me.  They had another guest – a wartime news announcer aboard battleships passing on to the troops the developments in the war and at home. He was of moderate build and spoke quietly, but then demonstrated his reporting voice, by speaking emphatically, in an octave lower, and in measured words, as did Edward. R. Murrow.  It was very impressive, as if God was speaking.

He then showed me a device lying on the table – he called it a recorder – a new invention on which you could record voice or music and then play it back. He asked if I would like a demonstration, and turned on a recording he had made a short while earlier at the table. We heard a gaggle of voices, like many people speaking at one time, the clink of wine glasses and laughter. Then the sound of a phone ringing in the distance, and a voice that sounded like Betty’s saying she would get it.

The chatter continued until Betty returned to the room and was asked who was on the phone.  Her reply, “George”.  “Are you going out?” “I guess so”, she answered, “but he is such a bore.”  Needless to say, I turned a brilliant red, and was speechless.  But so was Betty, who had not known the conversation had been taped.

Well, something had to be done about my reputation.  The next time we dated we joined my party friend, David Leonard, a WWII pilot, a bookkeeper with one of my accounting clients, and crazier than I, full of song, patter, and fun. Betty said it was the best time she ever had.

I still think about Shirley

 

George W. Parker

March 6, 2013

AUTUMN

December 15th, 2012

 

 

 

AUTUMN

 

 

Oh, it’s a long, long time from May to December

But the days grow short when you reach September,

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, —.

The yearly seasons emulate life, and I have passed spring, my introduction to this wonderful life, and childhood; then summer with its marriage, children, work, joys and worries; and now autumn, a chance to slow down, to review my past, with memories of its pleasures, and no regrets for my mistakes. Winter will come, but there’s no hurry.

 

Old father time checked

So there’d be no doubt.

Called to the North Wind

To come on out —.

I know, native Californians don’t know autumn like you immigrants. We don’t see whole hillsides covered with red and gold, which ooh and ah you. But we’ll take what we have, and enjoy the occasional garden tree that livens the neighborhood and causes us to slow down, stop, and feast on it.  It’s autumn.

 

Leaves are falling down, ‘round my head.

Some of them are brown, some are red.

This means “get out the rake”, however, now my power mower does a good job of picking them up.  I used to have a magnificent huge apple tree, with a leaf fall so great that the mower couldn’t do it. That, of course, did mean “get out the rake”.  There was a time when we burned the leaves, or hauled them to the dump,  but now I put as many as I can in my compost pile  Soon we’ll have rain, and the sprinklers will be turned off, and the grass will rest, and the garden will turn brown.  I’ll look at it and think about improving it. Mostly I will look at it and think about it.

 

The slanted sun is still warm against the skin, and hard on the eyes. Because the sun’s rays must pass through more atmosphere, the vitamin D gets filtered out, so eat fortified food,  but still cover your head when outside.  The house warms up during the day, but the nights are getting cold, and now we stoke the furnace for a while in the morning after a chilly night.

 

The falling leaves drift pass my window;

The autumn leaves of red and gold.

Autumn means Pumpkins and Halloween, with the children at the door selectively picking out the goodies for their bags, but better yet – football, my favorite armchair sport.  But we will actually attend at least one game; at Stanford.  It’s Saturday afternoon, and we park in the massive field near the stadium.  Student guides direct us to a parking spot, and we walk through the dusty field towards the stadium, carrying a blanket (for it might get cool), binoculars, and water.  We pass by the tailgaters, drinking, and eating their fancy dinners, and wearing colorful clothes displaying their college colors. Children tossing footballs around, practicing for their future.  It’s a happy crowd.

 

The game? Of course we won.  Back over the dusty lot, weaving through the trees, we search for the car, join the slow trail of departing cars and head home.  It’s dark now, and the house is cold.  I bring in firewood and before long there is a crackling fire, warming and illuminating the room.  We bring chairs close to the fireplace and we sit, gazing at the mesmerizing flames while we sip cocktails.  Dinner can wait.  This is autumn.

 

 

George W. Parker

October, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

PEARL HARBOR

December 7th, 2012

 

 

PEARL HARBOR

 

 

Libraries are such beautiful places.  Regardless of the size or institution, there is a calm, unhurried atmosphere about them, be it the small branch library of a city, or a massive edifice at a university.  And I am always awed by the thought that libraries have stored, and available, all the knowledge of the world. Yes, there are annoyances such as whispers which seem to travel farther than muted speech, and, at times, small children pestering a parent.  And at the University of Californiain Berkeley, the parabolic ceiling of the main library (at least when I was a student there) could reflect the quiet talk on one side of the room, to an equivalent spot on the other side; a rather eerie experience.

 

That Sunday morning I valued the quiet of the main library at Stanford University. I could have been at the bus school library, but there would be too many friends there. After four quarters in the business school, I had finally learned how to study: no radio, no coffee or soda; no planning on what to do that night, just a one track mind.  Only a few students were in this great room, hunched over their books, turning pages, scribbling in their notebooks.

 

Though I was deep in my own pursuit, I began to sense an activity in the room, a buzzing, increasing in volume, and students joining and talking with excitement to each other.  The words “Pearl Harbor” and “Japs” were repeated over and over, as the news was passed along.  I arose and joined the group, and got the details of the Japanese dawn air attack on the U.S.fleet in Oahu.

 

I was shocked, but excited, by the event, as were all of us.  Were we about to be attacked?  Would we be bombed, and were there any bomb shelters? I immediately realized my life would soon be changed.  Even though I had enrolled in a Marine Corps program, and was deferred from active duty for another year, I had given little thought to the nations’ disagreements.  I hurried home to the radio, where we all searched for more news.  I was living in Palo Altowith my sister, Jean, her husband,Del, and their two sons, Norris and Jeffry. Del had been appointed “block warden”, and was soon putting up black cloths over all the windows, and then progressed around the neighborhood, advising and inspecting the same.  As the days passed and we got more news, it appeared we were not in any immediate danger.

 

Within two weeks I received orders from the Marine Corps to report to the Marine Barracks in Quantico,Virginia, on February 2, 1942.

 

Finals were over, Christmas was coming, and I had a month before reporting for duty.  I took employment with  Price-Waterhouse, one of the big public accounting firms, which, I felt, would provide me with some money and some experience in auditing.  In public accounting firms there are partners, associates and just plain auditors.  I was just a plain auditor, working under various seniors, as needed.  In the month I was there, I reconciled bank accounts, footed columns, and mailed confirmation requests related to four different audits.  One, I recall, was at the Union Oil refinery in Pinole, and another for a lumber company, which took me and the senior to Klamath Falls, Oregon, arriving by sleeper, at four in the morning, and then to a hotel for a foolish attempt to sleep some more.  This was my first travel outside ofCalifornia, except for Lake Tahoe’s Nevadaside.  While I carried an adding machine to most audits, one of the seniors insisted I do all additions in my head: a rather onerous requirement, at first, but surprisingly easy after a while.

 

The Marine Corps Quartermaster sent me a voucher payable to Southern Pacific for travel from Berkeley, California to Quantico, Virginia, via Chicago, Pittsburg, and Washington D.C. with upper berth for night travel, leaving Berkeley the evening of January 29, and arriving in Quantico the morning of February 2.  I was spending my last days in Sacramento at my father’s house where my sister, Marjory and her husband, Manual Dutra also lived.  Southern Pacific graciously allowed me to change my itinerary so I could have some stop-overs.

 

I arranged for a two day stopover In Des Moines, Illinois, to visit my Uncle Archibald, his son Jack and wife, Helen.  This was the house where my grandmother Louisa had lived for several years, and from where her letters kept us apprised of the activities of our many relatives. Here, too did I ;learn this was a dry state, but not if you belonged to the country club where Jack and Helen took me.  Many years later, while surfing the web, I found Candie Wilson, who was Jack’s daughter, and since,  Candie has fed me a great deal of information about the family.

 

My interest in having a few hours in Chicago was to visit some of the hotels whence emanated the beautiful music of the big bands. I checked into a room at the YMCA , wandered around, checked out the ball rooms of a couple of the hotels, but had no money to dine at them.  I looked overLake Michigan–nothing to see, and was never so cold in my life. One nice memory – I found a basement lounge with a great black piano player, and a warm atmosphere. 

 

The next leg was a day trip to Pittsburg on coach, then changing trains with an upper berth for the trip to Washington.  On boarding the train, I met up with my old friend from Sacramento Junior College and Stanford, Bob Woods, who, too, was headed forQuantico, but had no berth reservation.  So we both squeezed into that upper, and, unfortunately, he was no Marilyn Monroe.

 

After the chill ofChicago, and the dismal dirty snow covered scenery toward Washington, I was looking forward to the “sunny south”.  How ignorant I was to think Virginia was in the South.  The latitude of Washington D.C.is the same as San Francisco, but that city doesn’t have the Pacific Coast climate, and I stepped out of the train station to the chill of a light snowfall.  I returned to the warmth of the station, and two hours later boarded a local train to Quantico where the weather had not improved.

 

One and a half months earlier I was engrossed in an accounting text in that quiet library, and now, here I was, standing in line to get issued GI clothing, and nervously wondering what to expect in boot camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George W. Parker

 

July 2010

THE HOLLY TREE

November 21st, 2012

 

THE HOLLY TREE

The tree should never have been planted there – half-way between the front porch and the street sidewalk.  Its limbs and sharp edged leaves brushed you as you walked the path.  That is, before we re-built the front steps to repair termite damage.  Then we re-routed the new stone path in a curve around the tree.  But still, as you stand on the porch, the tree is in your face, and the view across the street is blocked.  But eventually I got used to it.

 This English holly tree was there when I moved here in 1961, nearly thirty feet high with a pyramidal shape, like a Christmas tree.  Each year before Christmas I trim the branches, making sure to get lots of berries.  I distribute branches around the neighborhood, other friends, and any one else who wants them.  They are not universally welcomed, but are easily disposed of if found of no use.

My procedure doesn’t vary.  About two weeks before Christmas I look for fair weather.  I sometimes worry when the window doesn’t open soon enough, but it will happen.  With a glove on my left hand and clippers in my right, I walk around the tree removing protruding branches, and attempting to cut long ones with berries, while shaping the tree. Then I get out the six foot step ladder and rotate around the tree at a higher level.  Next, comes the eight foot ladder, and then the twenty-eight foot aluminum extension ladder.  The eight-footer and the extension ladder are stored in the ceiling of the garage.  As the years progress, removing the ladders from the garage becomes the hardest part of the job, and I sometimes call to Cari, if she’s home, to get me out of trouble.

People ask me how I dare to go up on the extension ladder as it leans against the tree.  Sometimes I just pass it off with bravado, but the truth is – the ladder locks into the branches of the tree, and I feel perfectly safe.  As the years pass, though, the tree grows, and the twenty eight feet isn’t enough to reach the top, so about every ten years I cut some six feet off the top.

The  next step is to string the lights on the tree.  From the attic I bring down six twenty- five foot strings of 9-1/4 bulbs.  I lay each string on the lawn and test for bad bulbs, then starting at the top; I rotate the strings around the tree, trying to get some symmetry in the design.  In both the limb trimming, and the spreading of the lights, I get my year’s worth of exercise.  Up and down, move the ladder, then up and down again.  Then, occasionally, I back off to view my work.  I hook up the lights to the front porch electrical outlet and each evening ‘till late in January the tree welcomes the neighborhood. Then, the process of de-stringing the tree, which, fortunately, is a bit easier.

And now, I’m glad the tree was planted there, but why all this labor?  We live on a dead-end street, with a path at the end that leads to the Burlingame high school.  There is considerable foot traffic during the day, but at night, the darkened path discourages traffic, so only my neighbors (and ourselves) enjoy the lighted tree.

But tradition is strong, and just as long

as I have the will, I’ll string along!

There have been times when neighbors helped.  Many want to hold the ladder, and I have stopped protesting, but few want to climb.  Children have helped distribute the holly, and sometimes helped put the cuttings in the trash barrels.  On my ninetieth birthday a good neighbor gave me a present of having a professional do the job, but this year I did it alone.  Maybe on my one-hundreth? 

George W. Parker

February 2010

THE LAST DANCE

October 1st, 2012

 

 

THE LAST DANCE

The dance floor is thinning. It’s better now. It was “excuse me” and “sorry”, as you bumped your hands and elbows into someone’s back, though you were hugging them close to your body. But somehow, there was room for that one couple to show off their expertise and you were a bit jealous. It’s a big crowd here, this college re-union covering several graduating years.  It’s a nice hotel, but the dance floor is quite small, and too many people at each table, there are eight around your table.  There aren’t many of your classmates left to attend these functions.  Age takes its toll.

It’s has been very noisy, with all the talking and the music, but now, many are leaving.  You old folk tire easily.  You’ve said good-by to your classmates, they are leaving, and you are dancing again, on a near empty floor.  You work your way around to the band stand as the piece ends.  You compliment the musicians, and the leader asks if you have a request – it is the last dance, one last dance 

A few years ago you and your wife watched a television movie on the life of Glen Miller, and it brought to mind the song “Moonlight Serenade”.  You didn’t know the words at the time, but you remembered how smooth a dance piece it is, how nice for slow dancing, for close dancing, so you looked up the words – romantic words that fit the music so perfectly.

You ask the band to play “Moonlight Serenade”.

I STAND AT YOUR GATE, AND THE SONG THAT I SING IS OF MOONLIGH

Do you remember your first dance?  Not much.  Vaguely it comes to you: just one little episode – not the dance, but before the dance.  You and your classmate are standing on the gravel driveway behind your house discussing the upcoming high school dance.  You were probably sophomores. You have never danced with a girl before, except your sisters, and, of course, they always led, and belittled you for your ineptitude. You are green, and confused by this exciting new feeling, the first commandment of nature– the hush, hush and no, no of becoming a man.

The question was – what is it like to hold a girl in your arms, especially one you secretly like?  Should you wear a jock strap, in case you get a hard-on, and embarrass yourselves?   You decided to bring them home from your gym lockers and wash them.  Best to wear them and be on the safe side. The dance?  You don’t remember.  Was it in the gym?  Did all the girls sit on one side and the boys on the other?  You’ll never know.  The memory was just a dim light.

Memory is like a train ride across the prairie at night, riding in a dark sleeping compartment. You lie there on your side staring out the window.  You force yourself to stay awake; there might be something interesting out there.  But, for now, it is pitch black.  And then, in the distance, the dim, flickering light of a farmhouse, where some worried mother is comforting a sick child.  That light is your ancient memory flickering for just a moment – the first dance.

 The train runs on, clickity clack, clickity clack, and then you vaguely hear the sound of a road crossing bell clanging, the pitch of the bell increasing higher and higher as you approach the crossing, clang, clang, clang. And then, when you see the flash of a signal light swinging back and forth, the sound goes down the scale, clang, clang, clang.  Not enough of the signal light to bring back a memory. Close, but it evades you.

But, now, you pull into a station – lights all around, people scurrying.  You begin to remember another dance, but you didn’t dance.  You worked in the controller’s office when you were a junior classman, and for a while you were responsible for providing phonograph music for noon dances. You remember them as “Hops”.  You would go down town to Sherman Clay, the great music store, and select several records by the big bands, with vocals you would remember forever.  You would take these 78’s; records that played for three minutes on each side, go into a sound-proof booth and see what you liked.  Then, to school where you played them while you watched your schoolmates spin around the floor.  You didn’t dance but you learned a bit by watching.

I STAND AND I WAIT FOR THE TOUCH OF YOUR HAND IN THE JUNE NIGHT.

 They called it a “barn dancebut it was a pretty nice dance hall just outside Georgetown, where, in the summer, every Saturday night was dance night.  Several of you had come down from the logging camp to taste a bit of the “big life”.  Lots of beer being consumed, couples disappearing out to the parking lot for a while, and lots of whirling on the floor.  And then, when the floor got a bit gritty, all dancers were ordered off the floor, it was carelessly swept and then sprinkled with Spangles, a wax that looked like soap flakes.  You were improving as a dancer, and the beer helped quite a bit.

 Spangles!  That brings back the memory of your mother standing in the kitchen, with a bar of laundry soap in her hand, paring off thin slices, putting them in a pan of water, heating the solution, and then, pouring it into the Maytag washing machine – the electric washing machine, with the wringer that could be swung in several positions – a great invention – it sure beat the wash board.

Spangles!  Another train stop!  You are having a masked ball on Halloween.  You and you wife clear the furniture from your office room, roll up the carpet, and sprinkle Spangles on the floor.  What a party – you discuss the costumes for months, but who was that one fellow who never unmasked, and whom you could never identify?

THE ROSES ARE SIGHING A MOONLIGHT SERENADE

Before the dinner you had all met in a courtyard for cocktails, and chatting.  The noise level was low and you compared notes with your classmates, some who were comfortable old friends.  In the dining room, it was noisy – you could only talk to the person sitting next to you.  So you clink your spoon against a glass, and loudly demand attention.  You pose the question to your dinner mates – “What is the definition of a dance?”  You get the appropriate reply by someone – “We don’t know, what is the definition of a dance?”

Your answer –“A dance is a navel engagement without loss of semen”.  You get a couple of appreciative guffaws, someone says “Hey, that’s a good one”, but you fear it was lost on some, as you hear the mention of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. Your wife gives you a disgusted look, but you don’t care – you still like it – “a navel engagement without loss of semen”.

The stars are aglow, and tonight, how their light sets me dreaming.

She pulls you onto the dance floor, though you would rather sit longer.  And it’s the style of dancing you never liked   You face each other with your fists held high, feinting punches as if you are waiting for an opening to really slug your partner.  And keep those feet dancing – a good boxer keeps them moving.  You wave your hands, hop up and down, and have a stupid smile on your face.  Fortunately, no one notices you – they are  too busy having a good time.

You had taken dance lessons several times, and you forgot them quickly, but she didn’t.  She would say let’s do the West Coast Swing, and you would do a couple of the maneuvers, but then, you couldn’t think of what to do next, while she would look at you expectantly, and you would solve it by going back into a Fox Trot

MY LOVE, DO YOU KNOW THA T YOUR EYES ARE LIKE STARS BRIGHTLY BEAMING?

Another train stop.  The towns are getting bigger, more activity, more passengers, and fuller memories.  You’re at the Officer’s Club on the Marine Corps post at Quantico,Virginia.  It’s the Saturday night dance and you’re kept busy on the floor, mainly with the civilian women who work on the post.  Now the band has left, and a few of you gather around the piano where Bobby Troup expertly plays the current  popular songs, including his “ Daddy”, the composition that has already brought him fame.  He and you are in the same Base Defense class, and you won’t meet again until you are on a troop ship waiting in Eniwetok Atoll until space opens up for your debarkation at Guam. 

Your next station stop is Camp Lejeune, New River, North Carolina, a new installation with beautiful brick buildings. The Base Defense School, where you are now an instructor, has been moved fromQuantico. The Officer’s Club here, is surrounded by the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters and has a dock out on the river.  On Saturday nights, if you don’t have a date with a Navy nurse, or a Woman Marine, you twirl the wives of fellows who don’t dance.  You are all wearing your whites, and the ladies look gorgeous. It reminds you of a scene out of a movie, set at some glamorous Southern country club on a hot summer’s night.

I BRING YOU AND I SING YOU A MOONLIGHT SERENADE.

You travel west across the country and board a ship. There were other ports, but now you are anchored in the coral island of Eniwetok.  The hospital ship, Hope, all white and beaming, is a beautiful site as it stands in contrast to the grey transports and destroyers waiting in the harbor.  Nurses, those beautiful nurses, come ashore, and you dance to the music of Bobby Troup’s orchestra.  He, the orchestra leader, and recreation officer with this all black Defense Battalion defending the atoll with its anti-aircraft artillery guns:  the first Negro troops in the Marine Corps.

LET US STRAY ‘TILL BREAK OF DAY IN LOVE’S VALLEY OF DREAMS.

JUST YOU AND I,  A SUMMER SKY,  A HEAVENLY BREEZE CARESSING THE TREES.

Peace has come, and after the many stops in your life, the train has reached your present station, and you have debarked.  You’re back on this dance floor – with only two other couples now.  You look back at your table, the only one not cleared.  Two glasses, half full of red wine.  It was good wine, but you probably won’t finish it.  Your coat is hanging over the back of a chair, and her jacket on the next chair – you removed them earlier when you were getting too warm.  And, though you can’t see it, there is her beautiful, small beaded, purse on the seat of her chair.  You remember suggesting, as you were getting dressed, that you could put her lipstick and comb in your pocket.  Oh, No!  The purse is as much of the dress as the shoes.

SO DON’T LET ME WAIT, COME TO ME TENDERLY IN THE JUNE NIGHT.

You are no longer singing the words to her. You are both very tired, you haven’t danced this much in years, and now your feet are barely moving, mostly just swaying your hips.  And then, not even that.  You hold each other tightly, standing still, your head against her neck as you savor the sweet fragrance of her perspiration, sweeter than the Chanel No. 5 she dabbed on earlier.

I STAND AT YOUR GATE AND I SING YOU A SONG IN THE MOONLIGHT.

A LOVE SONG, MY DARLING, A MOONLIGHT SERENADE.

 

The last dance.

 George Parker

  © June, 2009

I Don’t Understand

October 1st, 2012

 

 

I DON’T UNDERSTAND

The other day I was driving down the street in my old Ford pick-up when I saw a crowd of people standing around a parked automobile.  In my usual curious way, I had to stop and see what was going on.  There, was parked a sleek little automobile, a two-seater convertible in bright red, with white upholstery.  What a beauty!  And standing nearby was the proud owner.  He was explaining that the car was all electric, and all one needed to do is plug it in to an outlet in one’s garage at night, and the next morning it was ready to go again.  He said it is made right here inCalifornia.  It would only hold two people and cost about 100,000 dollars, but it was going to save the planet. 

The assembled people would gaze at the car, and then gaze at the owner in admiration, for it’s true – a man is known by the car he drives.  There he was, in suit and tie, and a halo over his head.  I decided, right then and there, that I would buy one of those and be an admired owner, an important person; though I knew I didn’t qualify for a halo.

That evening I thought some more about it, and realized that when I plugged it in at night it was going to take nearly all the juice coming into the house, and I might have to give up television or my furnace, but this was for the planet, and for my ego.  I also figured out that the cost of twenty two cents per kilowatt hours to charge this little beauty would be more than the cost of gas for my Ford.  Even worse, I would have to give up my over-alls and wear a suit and tie.  But, what the hell!

So, I talked with a salesman at the sales room and made a deal.  Ten percent off if I paid in cash.  Now,  if I was going to buy a car made in California, I wanted to borrow the money from a California Bank, and, by George, there was such a bank right in my town – The Bank of The West.

The bank officer was very nice, offered me some coffee, which I declined for I had had my daily quota at breakfast, and we drew up a lot of papers – a 100,000 dollar loan secured by my house.  He suggested a car loan would be more appropriate, but knowing the interest rate would be higher, I insisted on the real-estate loan.

So then I said, when the papers were drawn up and signed, “I would like that in one-hundred dollar bills.”

Oh no,” he replied, “you don’t understand.  We don’t give you cash; we just give you a check book.”

“No, no,” I said, “I want it in cash so I can get my discount.  The salesman told me if I paid in cash I would get 10,000 off.”

Well,” he answered, “we don’t have that much money here, you see what we do is…”

I didn’t let him finish.  “How can you lend me the money if you don’t have it?”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “Here is what we do: on our books we debit loans receivable, and credit deposits.  Then we give you a check book and you can pay your bills.  Now do you understand?”

“I’m getting more confused,” I said. “How can you lend me money you don’t have, and how can I give my car dealer the cash to get the discount?  I want to talk with your president. Is that his desk over there?”

“No,” he said “he sells our IRA and ROTH retirement accounts.  Would you like to sign up for an IRA?”

 “The only Ira I know wrote music.  Would you like me to hum ‘Fascinating Rhythm’  for you?”  I threw that in to relieve some of the tension that was building.

He ignored my offer, which was probably best, for I wasn’t too sure of the tune. “You don’t understand,” he said, “our president doesn’t work here.  Just sign the checking account papers and then you can go buy your car. Are you sure you wouldn’t like a cup of coffee?”

Where does your president work?” I requested, ignoring his latest offer. “InSan Francisco?  I see you have an office there.  I’ll go there and get my cash.  If you don’t have it here, they should have it.”

“No, no, you still don’t understand.  You see, our president lives inParis, and that would be a bit out of your way.”  He made a joke of this, but I was serious.  “You see, The Bank of The West is owned by The Banque Nationale de Paris.

“O.K.,” I said, “I’ll just take the cash in francs.  Wait, that would have to be in Euros.”

“No,” he said, “they don’t have the cash either, all banks operate this way, they merely debit loans receivable, and…”

I finished his statement. “And credit deposits.”

“You’ve got it now,” he added.  “This is the way banks all over the world have always operated.  It’s called the fractional reserve banking system. You sure you don’t want some coffee?”

“Wait a minute,” I was getting pretty annoyed by now.  “You charge interest for money you don’t have?”  I’m pretty slow, but then it dawned on me. “And you call yourself  The Bank of The West though you are a French bank, so people will think they are dealing with a local firm.”

He started to reply, but stopped as I reached across his desk, picked up all the papers, tore them in half, then in half again.  He started to talk again, but I just held up my hand and stopped him.  And as I walked out I said, “I guess I’ll just drive my Ford pick-up a few more years and be a nobody, because I just don’t understand.”

Then I phoned the auto salesman and cancelled my order.  I was a bit surprised when he casually  replied, “No problem, I’ll just call the Lotus factory inLondonand tell them to cancel the order.”

Lotus?  I didn’t order a Lotus!  Now I really didn’t understand.  No California car and no California bank

George W. Parker

  ©  January 2010

 

VANITY

September 19th, 2012

 

VANITY

 

Verily mankind walketh in a vain show,

And his best state is vanity.

            This is a phrase from my favorite concert, Brahams’ German Requiem.

My wife, too, is fond of it, and we individually selected its “How lovely is thy dwelling place” for our choir’s music at our wedding.

 

Verily mankind walketh in a vain show,

And his best state is vanity.

 

I assumed that this vanity statement is from the Bible, but googling Bible concordances for an hour, I found no specific reference, and so perhaps this is Brahms’ own philosophy.  And, I agree, conceit, is a noble characteristic.  In fact, I found a statement from someone, I don’t recall who, though I’m sure it was a great philosopher, who stated that “the highest goal of a conceited person is to be complimented.”  Thus my conclusion is that we are all vain, and vanity is a good and desired quality.

 

At a small dinner party a while back I presented this perspective to my wife and the hostess. Wow! did I get smacked?  The barbs were so fast and furious I couldn’t dodge them.  My face is still pock-marked and my ears burnt. “Vanity is not a desirable characteristic,” they claimed.  “A vain person is not a good person, is not pleasant to encounter, and usually does not have the qualities he, or she, proclaims.”

 

Then they brought out the heavy artillery, the 155s: the dictionaries.  And as they read from Funk and Wagnalls, (Funk and Wagnalls! what kind of name is that?): “The quality or condition of being vain; excessive pride in one’s appearance, or accomplishments; conceit.”  Then they opened up Webster’s Unabridged. Dictionary…

 

I wasn’t listening any more; I was under the table, massaging my scalp, as I had severely bumped it while seeking shelter.  But now, my dear host, bless him, sensing the fray was turning bloody, announced that he would be serving dessert..

 

Now I consider myself to be an average person; a fair representative of mankind. If you post peoples’  I. Q.s on an X-Y graph, you’ll find a “bell” or “normal” curve. Some pretty dumb ones on the left, and some geniuses on the right, and right in the middle where it humps up you’ll find me, with an I Q of about 100; an average person, just an ordinary person. So, what I feel and interpret about vanity probably applies to most of us.

 

I need approval.  I exalt in approval. It cheers me to hear compliments, and if I don’t hear them, I will promote myself.  You see, people don’t really know how great I am, so I must tell them; tell them over and over.

My vanity assures me of my position in this world.  And you, too, must be vain, since I, as an average person, represent you. Recognize your qualities. And to inwardly strengthen your belief, be a Walter Mitty; dream of your possibilities.

 

Dream

 

I was rushing along the crowded sidewalk down town when I heard this scream: “Save her, save my baby!”  I looked out to the street and saw a phalanx of automobiles bearing down on this small tot, who had escaped her mother’s hand and wandered into the street. I didn’t need to think twice; I dashed out, dived to the pavement, picked up the girl, while doing a semi parallel roll, and stood up on the far side of the road, holding the crying child as the cars passed.  I crossed back and handed the weeping babe to the distraught mother, while the excited crowd poured accolades on me as I brushed myself off.  I would have hung around and enjoyed the thanks and attention, but I had an engagement and didn’t want to be late, so I threaded my way through the throng, headed for the luncheon where I would be reading my latest poetry.

 

Dream some more.

It was pretty comfortable flying in Air Force One, headed forWashington.

To occupy myself, I spent considerable time in the cockpit, and was even allowed to land the plane at Dulles. I had been summoned by the Joint Chief of Staff to an emergency meeting with the President. A shuttle helicopter landed me on the White House lawn, and I was guided into the Oval Office, where the somber group had assembled.  There was another hot spot inCentral Asia.  Troops were lined up on both sides of the border between Cinderaria and Flagragatia, both countries claiming petroleum rights to the area, and both countries headed by irrational leaders.  Someone had to talk with them, cool things down, and so I was designated a plenipotentiary, and immediately flown, with emissary immunity, to the combat zone. It wasn’t easy, for I hadn’t spoken Urdu for some time, but I prevailed and we shook hands all around. The next day the Dow-Jones climbed 230 points and the price of gasoline went down by twelve cents in theU.S.

 

Verily mankind walketh in a vain show,

And his best state is va-a-a-nity.

George W. Parker

July 2012

A BIG CHANGE IN MY LIFE

August 1st, 2012

 

 

A CHANGE IN MY LIFE

In the 1950s I got most of my news from the newspaper.   I read speeches, opinions, declarations, and both obituaries and great promises about our economy, most of them conflicting with the other.  I had studied some economics in college, but I felt the need to upgrade my knowledge, so when I saw an ad in a local newspaper for an economics course, little did I know that this class would give me a whole new perspective and understanding on how our system should work.

 

 

I enrolled in the class, which was held in Sequoia High School in Redwood City.  The class was presented by a teacher from the Henry George School of Social Science inSan Francisco.  The course used a text written by Henry George around 1879 and was presented in the Socratic Method.  Questions were tossed out and discussion by the students ensued, but the teacher entered in only to keep the discussion going. My reaction to the first several classes was to quit, but because the philosophy was so foreign to my beliefs, I wanted to stick it out and argue my opinions. This was a ten week, once a week evening class, and against my prejudices, I began to see some light by the seventh week.

 Henry George was born in Pennsylvaniain 1839, and after some traveling around on land and on sea, settled for a while in San Francisco.  There, his thoughts on economics solidified, and he wrote his treatise, Progress and Poverty. In brief, he argued, and explained in great and painful detail, that man’s labor and capital belonged to himself, while the things of nature belonged to all society.  Where natures’ supplies were limited, the user should pay rent to the community for the right to use it.  This, he proposed, should be accomplished through collecting the major portion of the rent of that land, or privilege, by a land tax, and the elimination of the tax on improvements. 

His philosophy was affirmed by many world leaders: Leo Tolstoy,  Dr. Sun Yat Sen,  Charles Dow of the Dow-Jones firm, and Winston Churchill, who once declared:  Land monopoly is not the only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies –it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly

I followed up this course by another in San Francisco, stopping once a week on my way home from work in Oakland.  Then, other courses using George’s texts: Social Problems, Protection or Free Trades, and Science of Political Economy.  Joining the school around this time was a new proponent of this philosophy, Robert de Fremery, a delightful gentleman, who had arrived at similar economic conclusions on his own before coming to the School.  He brought with him his (and many others’) conclusion that our banks should operate on a one-hundred percent reserve system.  His book, Money and Freedom, covered the history of money and how the banking system evolved, and how to correct it.  He had many tales to tell, including one where he asked the president of the California Banking Association (or similar name) to have one of the bank presidents debate with him on several questions.  The Association President told him that couldn’t be done, because the older presidents came up through the loan department, and didn’t know anything about the theories of banking, and the younger ones had studied banking in college, and would have to agree with him.

Enough of the subject matter.  Anyone can research it on their own.   This story is how I entered into a whole new phase of life, meeting new people, discussing and arguing with them, socializing and learning new concepts of economics.  These new friends included sympathetic university professors, members of the school in other cities, students and proponents around the Bay Area.

One of the founders of the San Francisco School in the twenties was a Joseph Thompson.  As a youth he worked for Pacific Gas and Electric, and lost an arm in an industrial accident.  He took his workman’s compensation benefit and founded a company building electrical transformers, and fared very well financially.  He and other believers founded the school, and he continued to attend our functions for many years.  He enjoyed being master of ceremonies, and repeated many times that he had been the only president of  The Bohemian Club, whose father had also been president of the Club. He once had to leave one of our meetings and scurry over to the “Grove” to introduce President Hoover. I last remember him when he was recovering from a stroke.  At a cocktail party he told me his best test of his recovery was to “box the compass”, which he proceeded to do perfectly, a recitation I find quite taxing.

I was president of the San Francisco School for one year, but the real work was done by the Executive Secretary, Bob Tideman, who was thoroughly devoted to his work.  His son, Nick Tideman, is a professor at Virginia Tech University of Economics, and I enjoyed a visit by him four years ago, while we reminisced about our activities some fifty years before, when he was just a lad being indoctrinated in Georgism. 

In the late fifties I began leading some of the classes inSan Francisco, and later inSan Mateo.  I read in a news letter of a Frank Haylock and Mary deLong living in San Mateo.  They had studied in the New York Henry George School.  They were responsible for my joining the choir at the San Mateo Congregational Church, and Frank and I began teaching together. We had a program of inviting recent high school graduates interested in economics to a summer class held at the Coyote Point campus of the College of San Mateo. I recall a mother of one of these students phoning the vice-president of the College, William Goss, complaining that we were promoting communism.  Goss turned the complaint over to Tideman, who satisfactorily explained to the mother that George believed that labor and capital belonged to the individual, and land value was created by the community, thus subject to it collecting some of its rent. The philosophy was definitely not communism.

Many of the adherents of George lived in Marin, and a number of them were medical doctors.  We often had seminars (and parties) over there, frequently with Dr. Bud Weedon and his Japanese wife June, whose father had been in the vicinity of Nagasaki when the bomb was dropped, but survived for some time. Another friend in Marin was Lillian Lincoln  Howell, whose father founded Lincoln Electric Company and later the family established the Lincoln  Institute of  Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, devoted to the study of the best use of land.  A local economist friend of mine told me he had recently been to one of their seminars inWashington, D.C.  Lillian and I dated a bit, and she once took my son, George, and her son, Lincoln, to DisneyLand, but we eventually went our separate ways. I checked on a 2006 San Francisco Chronicle story on Lillian, and how she founded the TV station KTSF in San Francisco, devoted to Asian cultures.

Another interesting woman with our philosophy was Irene Hickman, who moved from the Bay Area to Sacramento. She was elected CountyAssessor of Sacramento County in 1966 on the platform of assessing in accordance with the California State constitution, which said that land and improvements will be assessed separately and at one-hundred percent of cash value.

At this time, in the State, land was generally assessed at ten percent and improvements at twenty-five percent of cash value.  Her reassessment caused such uproar, though the tax rate was reduced proportionally, that the governor called a special session of the legislature, and the constitution was modified so both land and improvements were assessed at twenty-five percent of actual value, which didn’t make much sense.  Irene was not long at the job, though, as I remember, she made public her belief in reincarnation (I never knew who she thought she had been), and she was hounded out of office.

Another adherent was Bill Filante, an ophthalmologist inMarinCounty who served for fourteen years in the State Assembly and died, unexpectedly in 1992,  and a Bay Area reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, Harlan Trot, often reported stories favorable to taxing land, but his editor told him to cool it a bit. There are many others studying and arguing land value taxation: legislators, educators, laborers, and philosophers.  What do we have in common, other than seeking justice, and improving the economic life of everyone?  Then in 1975, I remarried, and lost my involvement in the movement and the school which, I believed, had closed.

I have kept in touch with some of the present activists.  Nick Tideman, in 1995 wrote me that both he and Steven Cord, President of The Henry George Foundation of America, had made many trips to Russiaand and adjoining countries, at the invitation of interested groups there, to advise them on the value of land taxation. Many economists felt that during this period, when The Soviet was breaking up and converting from communism to capitalism, was the right time that the natural assets of the country, which, theoretically, belonged to all the residents, should continue to benefit all of them.. Such tax laws were never passed, and today there are seventy seven billionaires in Russia controlling the natural wealth of the country.

So, this was the intellectual and social life of mine during the late fifties and the sixties, philosophies that took me beyond my own personal interests.  Thinking back, it was sort of like belonging to a cult.  These are not popular opinions with people who don’t care to study the subjects, and adherents are hard to come by.  We were enthused when working together, but it was lonely when alone. Since California’s Proposition Thirteen, and the partial freezing of assessments, the School’s influence here is moot.  However, adherents are active in the eastern United States, influencing many taxing jurisdictions to assess land at a higher rate than improvements. I have a different life now, but still follow the land and banking arguments, and am happy that there are still proponents for our beliefs.

  Remember these great economic principles: Man seeks to satisfy his desires with the least effort, and man’s desires are never satisfied!

 

George Parker

March 2010

Addendum, July 2012:I

Wanting to up-date this treatise, I decided to try again to contact Lillian Lincoln Howell.  A year ago when I phoned her residence, I was told she was unable speak with me. I had lost her phone number, but had her address, so there I was, standing at her gate, wondering if I would be admitted.

Admitted I was, to a welcoming family: two small dogs, a pretty girl, Addie, relaxing after her graduation from U.C. Berkeley, her mother, Betty, equally pretty, whose family is a long-time friend of The Lincolns, and now manages the house and is personally dedicated to Lillian, and a Philippine woman who takes personal care of Lillian, who at that time was asleep. I explained my mission was to renew old ties and see if she remembered me. While the caretaker was bathing and dressing Lillian, Addie, Betty, and I spent an enjoyable hour talking.  Then Lillian appeared, decked out in fine clothes and looking radiant.  She was beautiful.

She didn’t remember me, but kept smiling, and seemed pleased to see me as I told her about the years in Marin County when we were activists, and how she had taken my son, George, and her son, Lincoln to Disney Land. Then Lincoln, who had been in the  mansion, La Dolphin, across the street, arrived, a handsome, rugged looking man with a short beard. We chatted some more, photos were taken, and they all escorted me to the street and waved as I drove away.  It was an exciting and satisfying morning.

II 

I had seen on the internet a while back that The Henry George School of Social Science inSan Francisco was now back in operation.  I dialed the advertized number, and explained to a David Giesen my former involvement with the school. He is very anxious to visit with me and hear of the past. I will invite him soon for I, too, am anxious to talk about those stimulating and interesting days.

George W. Parker

July 2012

LION HUNTING IN THE SIERRA NEVADA

July 18th, 2012

 

 

 

GEORGE’S TALES OF THE WOODS

 

LION HUNTING IN THE SIERRA NEVADA

 

 

Her name was Vendla.  Vendla Kivi Ajo.  Try saying it: Ven-d-la Kee-vee-ah-ho.  The Vendla has a little lift to it, and the Kivi Aho rolls off the tongue. Vendla Kivi Ajo! What a pleasure to speak it.  It’s not just a name, it’s a picture. We all have words we like to pronounce and this is one for me, for it also brings back memories and events I would probably have forgotten, and faces I still can imagine. Another I have is “cronartium ribicola”: white pine blister rust.  It is a disease that travels between the wild gooseberry and the pines.  I like to say it for it makes me sound knowledgeable, but, in truth, it is the only thing I remember from the Forestry class I took at Cal.  But I do remember the delicious red fat prickly gooseberries, and someday I’ll write a story about them. Another word I like to say is “Nawaliwily”.  I pronounce it nye-willy-willy.  Fun, isn’t it?  This is a very small seaport on the island of Kauai, north of Lihue, that large ships can enter and depart only at high tide, and, at the time I was there in 1944, as you drove along the adjacent highway you could not see the water, but you could reach out and nearly touch a massive ship that appeared to be sitting on dry land.

Oh, yes, Vendla: she is the girl who led me to lion hunting

Our favorite picnic spot near the logging camps was the road crossing of Silver Creek.  It was our favorite, because it was the only water area nearby that was usable.  Most of the streams in the area were in a deep ravine or canyon, fast flowing over a rocky bed, and sheltered by tall trees and brush.  This creek, which eventually flowed into the South Fork of the American River, wandered through a flat, somewhat level area, sandy on each side and scattered tall Pines around.  Our site was just upstream from the ford crossing, and though the water was only 2 to 3 feet deep, it was ideal for cooling off prior to lying on sand in the sun, with a beer or a soft drink, and talking and singing with friends

This particular Sunday might have highlighted a special celebration, for it seemed there were more of us there this time.  From Georgetowncame Freddy with a girl.  Freddy, a husky young man in his late 20’s, had been a “cat skinner” (tractor driver) for several years in the camps.  He had now become a California State Highway Patrolman, and I suspect, cut a fine figure in his uniform.

His guest was Vendla, a pretty, black haired young girl of Finnish parentage, just graduated from high school.  It seems she and I found something in common, for the two of us wandered down stream, discussing the problems of the world, and what fortunes the future held for us.  She invited me to visit her in Georgetown the next Sunday to have dinner with her parents, and we strolled back to the partying group.  Our reception was of a “what have you two been up to?” nature, except for Freddy, who was seriously, and properly, offended and embarrassed, but Vendla and I offered no apologies.

The next Sunday’s dinner was delightful, as were her parents.  Both small sinewy persons, her father was the manager of the gold mine nearby, and had I not been invited for that day, the family would have gone to Rocklin, a small town a short way west of Auburn for a sauna.  Rocklin had a large population of Finns, who enjoyed their masochistic practice of sweating over hot rocks, then jumping into icy water.  I’m glad they didn’t suggest I join them some time.  They might even have added switches on my back for further cleansing.

That afternoon Vendla took me for a ride in their family car on one of the back roads.  Vendla had just finished high school and was ready to sow her wild oats, to become a woman of the world, to be emancipated.  We parked for a while and did a little necking.  My attempts at petting were rebuffed, but to express her new freedom she told a joke using the “F” word.  I was not shocked, but somewhat surprised, for I would not have said that word before women, such were the mores of that period.  And as I parted that evening for the camp, we arranged to go to the “barn” dance outside Georgetown the next Saturday night.

The following Saturday, ready for some fun, I appeared at her house around seven, but found to my disappointment, that she was ill.  She was lying on a cot on their screened-in front porch, in no mood or condition for dancing and insisted I go alone to the dance.  Some of us from camp had been to these Saturday night dances before, but no others had come down this evening.  Nevertheless, I found partners to dance with, and before the 12:00 o’clock ritual of passing the hat to get the band to play another hour, I made friends with another lone lad.

I’ll call him John for I have no recollection of his real name,  but when he told me of his summer job with Jay Bruce, the Lion Hunter, it took me back 10 years to a matinee at the Varsity theater inPalo Alto where Jay Bruce appeared on stage, prior to a lion movie.  Californiahad two official State Lion Hunters, one for Southern California, and one forNorthern California.  When a lion, or you could call them pumas or cougars, posed a problem for domestic animals or humans, the hunter was called to action, tracking with dogs, to dispose of the cat.  John told me he and Jay were camped in a deserted house along the road I would be taking back to camp.  I don’t know how he got to the dance, but he asked if I would drop him off on my way home.  When we arrived at this shack, set back away from the road, he suggested I spend the night with them.  Since my family in camp had expected me to stay all night in Georgetown, I accepted.  We silently entered the dark and bare cabin, but nevertheless awakened Jay, who, after being introduced to me, asked “well, did you get any tonight?”.   With our negative replies, I was given a dirty stinking sleeping bag, which not even a dog would use, but I growled softly and immediately went to sleep.

The next morning Jay prepared us a hearty breakfast with his camping equipment, took us out back, where his dogs were tethered, and into his pick-up truck where we took off on a dusty narrow road into the back-country, that is, even more back than the country we were in already.  The dogs were left behind and surprisingly quiet, probably very content to spend the Sabbath in rest.

First, the three of us rode in the cab, Jay calling out the name of the animal tracks he could see through the windshield, tracks I could not even see, let alone identify.  Then he rode on a front fender, where he got a better look, and after a while, signaled us to stop.  John and I got out and he showed us the tracks of a large cat, which, he said, he would pursue tomorrow with his dogs.  We traveled a bit farther on this road for he wanted to check a steel trap he had set.  There, in the trap, one leg crushed, I saw the ugliest bird in the world – the turkey buzzard.  It was not only ugly, but difficult to kill, for it took him some time, pounding its head with a large stick. Kill it, he must, for, being injured; it would not have survived if released.

We drove back to his bivouac, said our goodbyes and I returned to camp.  I heard, sometime later, that he had bagged a lion in that area; a lion I helped him find.

Now, I hear you say!

“You call that lion hunting?  You didn’t even get scared. You didn’t shoot a lion, you didn’t see a lion, and you didn’t even hear a lion.  You just saw some footprints!”

My reply; “That was as close as I want to get to a lion in the wild”.

 

But you; you got to meet a lovely maiden, see our picnic spot, meet Jay Bruce, and, if you had been there, petted his dogs.  I never saw Vendla again.  The next summer I checked in on the Kivi Ajos in Georgetown.  Vendla had gone to Alaska, I think married.  Mr. Kivi Ajo had died of lung disease, and Mrs. Kivi Ajo was deliberating her future.  I enjoyed seeing her several years later, serving as postmistress and clerk at Balderston’s store, a few miles northeast of Georgetown.

And thus, the closing of another chapter in my life, and Tales of the Woods

 

George W. Parker

Burlingame, CA

2008