My family came to the Mendocino Coast from Southern California in early September, 1949. Pop had been an oilfield “roughneck” in Southern California. One of his six older brothers, Walter, (he also had seven sisters) ran a small store and bar near what is now the Oceansong Restaurant in Gualala, and he wrote us in early 1949 that “the saw mills are hiring.” Mom was tired of the constant moving every few months to the next oil rig in another Southern California town. Lawndale, Filmore, Newhall, Redondo Beach, Carpenteria – I went to the first grade in each of these towns except Newhall (summertime) for short periods. We towed our trailer to Point Arena with our old Buick, and parked it next to the abandoned high school building (since demolished) , and my brother Ron and I entered the combined first and second grade class taught by Mrs. Mae Phillips. Our other combined classes and teachers: third and fourth grades, Mrs. O’Neal; fifth and sixth grades, Ms. Branstrom; seventh and eighth grades (and principal), Mr. Russell.
Pop quickly got a job setting chokers for the Empire Lumber Company in the Wheatfield Forks area of the Gualala River. Soon we moved into one large room of the abandoned high school, then in 1952 we moved into the old McMillen house (also now demolished) across from the Methodist Church. In 1955 we started building our own home behind the grammar school on the corner of Lake and Main, and moved into it in 1956. I graduated from Point Arena High in 1960, went a year each to Humboldt State and Santa Rosa Junior College, then enlisted in the Air Force in August, 1962, when I was too broke to continue in college.
My over twenty-one years in the Air Force were very enjoyable and rewarding, and I would unhesitantly recommend a military career to all young men and women looking for challenges, adventure, and the comaraderie which is so rare in this world and in our busy lives. After Basic Training I went to Indiana University for nine months of intensive Russian language training. Early in the training, I returned to California on leave just long enough to marry my high school sweetheart, Marilynn Miller, Point Arena High Class of 1962. We had three sons, and celebrated our Silver Anniversary in 1988, two months before she died of breast cancer.
Following Russian language school at Indiana University, I went to radio intercept schools in San Angelo, Texas and The National Security Agency in Maryland. After all the training, I was finally sent in 1964 to my first real job in the Air Force, as a Russian language radio intercept operator at Karamursel Air Station, Turkey, on the south shore of the Sea of Marmara. After a year in Turkey, we had a short stay at Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento before the Air Force sent me to the University of Arizona for a degree in accounting. The first I had ever heard of accounting was when the Air Force told me that I would be studying it, and I had to look it up in the dictionary. Two years later I had my degree, then went to Officer Training School (my second hot summer in military training in San Antonio) and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in September, 1968. The day I was commissioned, I was already late for my next assignment, attending Michigan State University for the next fifteen months to earn a Masters in Business Administration.
Finally in January of 1970 I started working at a real job again. I was the Budget Officer at RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge bases, near Ipswich, Suffolk County, England for over five years, the best job of my life. Following England, in 1975 I worked as a command-level Budget Officer, then as an Accounting and Finance Officer, at Scott AFB, Illinois, near St. Louis, Missouri. My next assignment was as Controller for a Military Airlift Unit stationed at Hickam AFB, next to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. My final Air Force assignment was as an Internal Auditor at Travis AFB, where I retired in 1984.
On the day I retired from the Air Force, I had just completed my first month working as an Internal Auditor at Lockheed in Sunnyvale. After ten years at Lockheed, where I got to work on projects involving the Space Shuttle, Hubble Space Telescope, and the Trident II submarine launched ballistic missile, I was caught in a massive lay-off in 1994. I then worked for two years for Power Spectra in Sunnyvale, a ground-penetrating radar startup that didn’t make it, then spent a year with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland before retiring in 1998.
Alice and I married in 1989, and when I retired we finally had the opportunity to indulge our travel bugs in a big way. The first thing we did was our trip of a lifetime (which Alice would like to repeat), a four-month bike trip through Germany, England, Isle of Mann, Ireland, and Wales. This was not a tour. We stayed in bed and breakfast inns and homes, and carried all of our things with us on the bikes. We had done very little bike riding, and nothing like this before in our lives. We had the time of our lives.
Alice and I agree, retirement is hard work, but we both are up to any task we can do together.