Visiting Bill in Los Angeles
In 1994, I was left with the house and land, and four children; Bill, Helen, Ann and Margie. The loss of my wife Marie could never be replaced. The folks at the church humorously had called the house and land we lived on the Ponderosa, which was a name taken from the television show called Bonanza. To me and them it was a place we called "Home" as it had been our home since 1952, and before that we lived in rented apartments, and houses, on or near colleges or air bases. My three daughters were married and lived across the country, and Bill had decided to call Los Angeles his home, so it was up to me to keep the house and land in good shape.
I continued planting a garden each year and went fishing. Along with this I kept the house painted and in good shape. If I had any small problems, Mark and Barbara Ruth, as well as Jimmie, next door, helped me with them.
In December 1994 Bill, Helen, Richard, Toby, Will, Ann, Fred, Margie, Paul, and Perry, came to visit with me for the Christmas holidays. My sister Lucille was also there, and we all had a good time, except for the first family get-together time, we missed Marie.
While Bill was home he invited me to come see him at his home at Los Angeles, California. So I made plane reservations. Before making the reservation I talked to my sister Lucille and was telling her about going to Bill's she asked me to make a phone call to a man named Darwin Vint, in Beaman, Iowa about a reservation for a High School class reunion for her. In doing so I talked to Darwin. At that time he told me he remembered his sister Elizabeth telling him that I was the one that used to dip her hair curls in the inkwell while in the 4th grade at school. So I asked him where she was and he told me that her husband had passed on and that she was living out in Arizona at Apache Junction, half the time and the other in Carlisle, Iowa. I mentioned I was going to California to see my son Bill, and he encouraged me to go by and see her. I told him I would think about it, and after talking to Lucille, she thought it a good idea since Sam Stratton, her daughter's ex-husband lived at Tempe, and was taking care of her two granddaughters at the time, and that his home was only a few miles from Apache Junction, and also Phoenix. The more I thought about it the more it sounded like "a real adventure" since I had never done anything like that before. Just imagine going to see someone that I had not seen since 1924, and this was 1995. This would be just 71 years later. And the more I thought about it the more interesting it seemed. Just like a story out of someone else's book, and by all means not mine.
So I called Bill first and told him about my itinerary and he said he'd take some time off and we would visit places I'd never seen. Next, I scheduled my trip from Gulfport, MS, at 5:35 Pm to Phoenix, Arizona, arriving at 11:30 PM on March 12, 1995. It was nice to have Sam Stratton meet me at the airport. I do remember the airport quite well as it has a winding road, inside the building, at least six stories down from the landing field, down to the highway. We arrived at Sam's at about 12:30 AM and then on the morning of the 13th Sam took me in his car to Apache Junction, at which time I checked in at the Grand Hotel at about 11 AM. From there, after lunch, he took me over to the trailer park, at the edge of Apache Junction, and we located the trailer Elizabeth Boss lived in by using the new GPS instrument in Sam's car. Sam worked for Litton Industries, the parent company that ran the shipyard at Pascagoula, MS, and lived in a very nice home there in Tempe. Another thing of interest is that I did not have a credit card, and Elizabeth used hers for me to make a reservation at the Grand Hotel. However, the Bancorp South Bank at Biloxi, was able to get one before I left on the trip, therefore in checking in at the Superstition Grand Hotel, at Apache Junction, I had no problem, but had to have a credit card to be able to stay there. Most of Hollywood's stars had rooms and apartments there. Up to this time I had no credit card. And didn't need one.
Gulp. Now comes the interesting part of meeting someone I had not seen or known just 71 years ago. So when Sam drove off from her trailer, I for the first time, was on my own. Elizabeth invited me to come in and have a cup of coffee and some cookies. I'm glad women have intuition or such, because I for one time really felt lost. We had a very good conversation and made plans, using her car, to see some of the sights and some of the Apache area. And believe it or not she had a new Buick and it had the push button on the key ring to open the doors. I had never seen that before. That afternoon we toured some of the area, and the next morning she came over to the hotel to pick me up and see some of the desert, and some of the area where the Apache warrior Geronimo was captured or supposed to live. According to history, Geronimo and his small tribe was taken to Fort Pickens, Florida, and it was his or the tribe's reservation or final resting place.
This was an interesting fact that I never knew while I was at Fort Barrancas, in the CCC in 1934 -5, and back again with the Army Corps of Engineers in 1943, and thought I knew the area quite well. Now back to the trip that Elizabeth and I made out on the desert toward the Grand Canyon. We went to see Tortilla Flat, a very nice small resort town, 18 miles out from Apache Junction. We looked the place over, had a nice lunch, and had an ice cream cone that cost $5.00 each. We acted just like kids at a party. After arriving back in Apache Junction we went to the Methodist Church for an evening service. From there she dropped me off at the hotel and the next day Sam came over and picked me up and took me over to Phoenix where I went on over to Bill's at Los Angeles and arrived there on the 15 of March. And before I forget it, there at Sam's home in Tempe, he had a yard full of orange and grapefruit trees that produced the best tasting fruit I had ever eaten. Sam, in my sister Lucille's opinion, was the best ex-son-in-law she ever had. I leave the rest up to you.
Next, I arrived at Huntington Beach on Thursday March the 16th and Bill met me at the Airport. After having lunch at his condo he had arranged for us to visit Disney World and see the sights. In doing so he had a card that gave us the pleasure of seeing or participating in any event there, and there was a lot to see and do.
We went on rides, all around the area, and then on special rides, known as "Out in Space", and on old trolleys that we had to use a safety belts to be safe. Then at four PM every day we went to see the parade called Leo the Lion. It was just like seeing Mardi Gras in Biloxi. Crowds were lined up at least a half hour ahead of time and all that. In the parade they had a float known as Leo The Lion, and in front of it, as well as behind it, they had a hippo, a rhinoceros, a alligator, and numerous animals, running around, all operated by remote controls, from the floats. Some of them had gifts f or the people, and all in all it was a splendid sight to see, and the crowd was well behaved.
On the 17th Bill had arranged for me to see the Universal Studios, at Hollywood, and a visit to New Port Beach, the News Area, and to see the Pacific Ocean.
On March the 18th we visited Balboa Island, and visited the sites there. This was known as the Millionaires Hangout, and we did not stay very long. A sandwich was $15.00 each, but the view and seeing all the yachts was probably worth it.
Also on the 18th, Bill had arranged for me to visit Rockwell Industries and to actually go aboard a space shuttle. So at 3:25 PM, I had the privilege of doing just that. Bill's friend Helen arranged this, as she was secretary to the president of Rockwell Industries. I was quite impressed by the huge shuttle, and went aboard it and went through the different areas. After the tour I was asked to give a statement as to "Just What I Thought was the Greatest Improvement in the Air and Space Industry." So I filled out a form saying that I thought the jet engine was one of the greatest improvements made by man in the past twenty years. This statement was made as a result of actually living and experiencing my 25 years of air travel for four years in WW2 with the U S Army Corps of Engineers, and for 20 years with the U S Air Force. The other year or so was with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
On Sunday the 19th Bill an I went to Church at a local Presbyterian (PCA) church in the morning and rested up in the afternoon.
On March 20th at 3:20 PM, I was on my way back to Gulfport, MS, via Continental Air Lines, and arrived in Gulfport, MS at 8:30 PM. However, I must tell you what happened the rest of the day out in California. The newspaper headlines read as follows: "Mission Accomplished: Swallows Have Returned." "Tradition: Lured this year by insects, the tiny birds that stop off in San Juan Capistrano didn't disappoint fans." by Jeff Bean. At 8:07 a.m. Sunday, tradition continued as the legendary bells of Mission San Juan Capistrano clanged to signal the legendary return of the swallows from South America.