Friday, April 25, 2008

When PG&E Came to Town

Not long after we moved into the old abandoned high school building, in early 1950 Pacific Gas & Electricity (PG&E, aka Pacific Graft & Extortion) came to Point Arena in a big way. Up to that point in time the generating plant on Windy Hollow Road on the north side of Point Arena stood by itself to provide power to Point Arena only.

That all changed with the building and opening of the Point Arena Radar Station. PG&E sent in large construction crews with heavy equipment. They used the large open space on the west side of the old high school building as a parking area for the equipment. The space had been graveled at one time, but neglected, and now with the heavy equipment parked and moving over it, it soon became primarily mud and mud puddles. After a period when it went from bad to worse, PG&E brought in gravel and spread it generously on the mud and in the mud puddles. It helped. Now when we walked we crunched over gravel, instead of splashing through mud.

Our main purpose for the large, open, flat area, when it wasn’t covered with PG&E equipment, had been as a playground. In dry weather it wasn’t too bad before they put the gravel down. After the gravel, it was a worthless playground the year around. However, that didn’t stop us from trying to make it work. It was so big, so open, so flat, it was hard to give up on it.

It was good for baseball until the batter hit the ball. If it was a grounder, it would never take a straight, predictable hop. If it was a fly ball, trying to keep your eyes on the ball while running over gravel was an accident in progress. Usually a few fast running steps was all it took to lose your balance and fall onto the jagged rocks. When you took your eyes off the ball to save yourself from falling, the ball usually found you. Either way, a thoughtful friend like Bob Seymour would shout, “Way to go, Grace!” as you picked yourself up and inspected the torn knee of your pants, and the blood seeping from the cuts.

I can still see a semi-circular scar on the heel of my right palm where a sharp rock peeled the skin back when I tried to break a fall with my hand.

It didn’t take long until we gave up playing baseball on the gravel, and used the baseball diamond on the Elementary School grounds. It was actually a fair baseball field, with an ancient wooden backstop, and fragmented pieces of chicken wire occasionally stopping foul balls, wild pitches, or errant throws before they landed in the cypress trees beyond.

The faults of the school baseball field really didn’t bother us except during the rainy season. The field had been in heavy use for so long that the pitcher’s mound was a hole, the batter’s box was a hole, and the first, second, and third bases, and the basepaths, were in holes. The holes weren’t very noticeable, and weren’t problems until it rained and water accumulated. The flooding field didn’t stop our games, but we did have to improvise. The pitcher and batter would move to adjacent areas of higher ground, and if the puddles weren’t too big, the bases would move to the closest almost dry ground.

Trying to field ground balls in the mud, and chasing down fly balls was still challenging, but when you inevitably slipped and fell, landing in soft mud was much nicer than on sharp gravel.

My brother Ronald and I still played in our graveled yard when it was just the two of us. Sometimes we would disagree about whether a pitch was a strike, or how many strikes we had, or if we had struck out. Not very often, but every now and then, a disagreement would lead to a fight. Since I was much bigger than Ronald then, I would win our fights even though he was tough and scrappy.

One day I pushed him down, and started to walk away towards our house. The next thing I remember was lying face down on the ground, and the back of my head hurting quite painfully. I put my hand where it hurt, and when I brought my hand back it was covered with blood.

Even at his young age, Brother Ronald had excellent hand/eye coordination, and a good throwing arm. He invariably precisely hit whatever he was throwing at. In this case he was throwing a rock he picked up out of the gravel, and his target was my head.

When I saw the blood on my hand I let out loud cries, which brought Pop running from our room in the old high school building and to my rescue, I thought. However, he ran right past me and started spanking my brother. As I moaned and cried louder, Pop spanked Ronald harder.

About then I heard Mom call from the doorway, “Stop spanking that one and get the other one to the Medical Center before he bleeds to death.”

Pop reluctantly stopped spanking Ronald and stood me up to look at the back of my head. Mom brought a wet towel, and cleaned the blood away to uncover a shallow two-inch gash.

“It’s going to need stitches,” was Mom’s verdict, which inspired me to resume crying even more loudly, more from the thought of getting stitches than from the pain, which was already subsiding.

Pop drove me downtown to the Medical Center. We still didn’t have a doctor, but the School Nurse, Helen Greco, was on duty. She cleaned and shaved around my wound, applied a generous amount of stinging disinfectant, closed it with three stitches, and bandaged it firmly.

Pop looked me over and said, “I think you’ll live.”

I thought it would be a good time to start crying again to see if Pop would resume spanking Ronald, but Pop and Mrs. Greco were chatting with each other, and with me, and I felt the time for crying had passed.

Even if it would get Pop to spank my brother some more.

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