This is a monthly column that I wrote for THE TERRITORIAL DISPATCH in Marysville, California from April 22, 2008 to April 10, 2013. I have always loved history and the study of how things change over time. Some of these stories came from my past. Other stories were simply subjects that have fascinated me. I retired the column in April 2013 after producing 61 columns. If you have comments regarding any of these stories, please e-mail me at this link:


Thanks for stopping by!

Larry R. Matthews


1. "Too Much Medication" - April 22, 2008

2. "Gas Pain" - May 28, 2008

3. "Radio Daze" - June 25, 2008

4. "Dave Clark Five Revisited" - July 23, 2008

5. "Gambling Their Life Away" - August 20, 2008

6. "Smokin' At Don's House" - September 17, 2008

7. "The Nuclear War That Wasn't" - October 15, 2008

8. "The Disappearance of Sidney Lloyd" - November 12, 2008

9. "Situation Comedy Heaven and Hell" - December 10, 2008

10. "John McCain and Vietnam War Memories" - January 14, 2009

11. "Just What The Doctor Ordered" - February 11, 2009

12. "Camaro Afterlife" - March 11, 2009

13. "Retrospective" - April 15, 2009

14. "Technologically Challenged" - May 13, 2009

15. "The Giant Icon On Table Mountain" - June 17, 2009

16. "Mel Blanc" - July 15, 2009

17. "Walter Cronkite And His Broadcast News Legacy" - August 12, 2009

18. "Hiking Pains" - September 16, 2009

19. "Celebrity Hits And Misses" - October 14, 2009

20. "My Fortieth High School Reunion" - November 11, 2009

21. "Sci-Fi Movie Icons of the Fifties" - December 9, 2009

22. "A Deadly Legacy" - January 13, 2010

23. "The Days The Music Died" - February 10, 2010

24. "Slang Ramblings" - March 10, 2010

25. "Retrospective Two" - April 14, 2010

26. "Vietnam Deja Vu" - May 12, 2010

27. "Harry Truman and Mount St. Helens" - June 9, 2010

28. "Rod Serling - Through the Zone and Beyond" - July 14, 2010

29. "Born To Be Mild" - August 11, 2010

30. "Memorial To A Rebel" - September 15, 2010

31. "Cult Movie Thrillers of the 1960's" - October 13, 2010

32. "Novelty Songs" - November 10, 2010

33. "The Great North Valley Earthquake" - December 15, 2010

34. "Mondegreens" - January 12, 2011

35. "Tragedy at Cherokee" - February 9, 2011

36. "The Night The Dam Collapsed" - March 9, 2011

37. "Retrospective Three" - April 13, 2011

38. "Auto Trivia Memories" - May 11, 2011

39. "Bob Harrison and Wake Island" - June 8, 2011

40. "The Oldest Local Covered Bridge" - July 13, 2011

41. "Rob Grill and The Grass Roots" - August 10, 2011

42. "The Ongoing Mystery" - September 14, 2011

43. "Burned Out Memories" - October 12, 2011

44. "Manzanar" - November 9, 2011

45. "My Favorite Christmas" - December 7, 2011

46. "Drug Songs" - January 11, 2012

47. "Commercial Memories" - February 8, 2012

48. "Audio/Video Memories" - March 7, 2012

49. "Retrospective Four" - April 4, 2012

50. "Hey Hey, We're (Getting Really Old)!" - May 9, 2012

51. "The Oroville U2 Plane Crash" - June 13, 2012

52. "A Sutter County Hiking Odyssey" - July 4, 2012

53. "Rawhide" - August 8, 2012

54. "Barbecue Sagas" - September 12, 2012

55. "A Building In The Fog" - October 10, 2012

56. "Remembering Jack, Gracie and Hitch" - November 7, 2012

57. "Road Movies" - December 12, 2012

58. "40 Years And The End Of A War" - January 9, 2013

59. "Legacy of 'The Conqueror'" - February 6, 2013

60. "The Turtles" - March 13, 2013

61. "The Final Column" - April 10, 2013

"Too Much Medication" (#1)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published April 22, 2008.

Being aged in the late 50's has been an eye-opening experience. Not so much that I have any real medical problems, but due to the radical change in the American Media over the past decade, I feel that I am really being over medicated.

Ok, so I do take one medication. It's for chloresterol and the brand that I take is the same one that advertises that your ugly old relatives are the reason for your high chloresterol rating. Recently there was a report that this medication did nothing to reduce your chloresterol level. But how do you explain that it's reduced my level by 70%?

Anyway, the media is really the subject of this column. Things have certainly changed in the subject matter that is advertised.

I remember in the early 1970's the shock I felt when a Tampax commercial came on the TV and that was at about 11 PM at night. Up to then the only tastefully "questionable" advertisements had been for Ex-Lax and Preparation H.

Now we are inundated by a multitude of horrifying medications and the subject matter has no limit. Those of us who watch any of the three network evening news programs are inundated with subjects such as Mucous, Erectile Disfunction, a woman who actually keeps a diary of how much pain she has all day (I'd bet SHE'D be fun at a party!) and Sally Field's joy over taking only one pill a month. Not only do we get to hear about how great the medication is, but we also get to hear about all of the ungodly problems those medications cause. I am pretty sure that the cure is worse than the original medical problem.

There have been some very interesting ads. Hey guys, how many of you want to sing about your Sexual Disfunction at the top of your lungs in front of a bar full of patrons! "Viva! I'm an Idiot!" That would certainly make your ego shrink.

How about you and your wife's most erotic moment being in separate bath tubs out in the middle of a cow pasture? I guess when the cow moos you know it's the "right time"?

Most guys I know would rather commit suicide than admit they had a sexual disfunction. By the way, if any of my friends have this problem, please go on notice that I don't want to hear about it!

The bottom line is that I am pretty much appalled by all this. Subjects that you wouldn't talk to your most intimate friend about are now explicitly talked about on TV.

I personally liked the good old days. Even though they advertised horrible things such as Cigarettes, that was pretty much the only bad thing. I'll take those old days as kids could sit down in front of the TV and the parents would not have to explain the "facts of life". We also did not have to lose our appetite at the dinner table by hearing comments about mucous, erectile disfunction and diarrhea.

Maybe someday those ads will be replaced by ads for Bosco, Hai Karate cologne and the old, funny Alka Seltzer commercials. It would be a happy deja vu.

Protecting the brand new Ford Fairlane. January 1956. Saugus, California.

"Gas Pain" (#2)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published May 28, 2008

People of some advanced age, like myself, will fondly remember the old TV Series, "The Twilight Zone". One of the most memorable episodes was the one from October 1963 with William Shatner (pre-Star Trek) as the airline passenger who looked out of his window seat toward the wing and saw a Gremlin crawling toward him. His open-mouth shocked look was classic!

Lately I have had that same, open-mouth shocked look every time I pass a gas station!

When I addressed the problem of high gas prices recently I received the same shocked look from a 30-something. He could just not believe it when I told him that I remembered when you could buy gas for 25 CENTS a gallon! I guess he couldn"t believe that people lived that long!

Way back in the dark ages in 1969, when I graduated from high school, my father gave me his 1956 Ford Fairlane that he had bought brand new. It was pretty basic as it had no seat belts, no power brakes, no power steering (it had a BIG steering wheel), vacuum windshield wipers, an AM radio and a 292 engine with a 4 barrel carburetor. It could lay rubber even though it had an automatic transmission.

I remember being able to fill up its 18 gallon tank for about $4.50.

I also remember being chastised by a friend one day near Clear Lake in 1971. We had driven, separately, down from Eureka and we pulled into separate gas stations in Upper Lake. He gave me a bad time for being "extravagant" in paying 35 cents per gallon when he only paid 25 cents per gallon. By the way, he was driving a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner that got near zero miles per gallon!

On that trip I had stopped by a very remote gas station on Highway 101 and drove right out. Its price was 50 Cents per gallon. I told myself that unless I was almost out of gas I would NEVER pay that much.

I was in the Navy at that time and had to travel a lot from Oroville to Alameda, in the Bay Area. I would always stop by on Northgate Boulevard in Sacramento. They had something going on called a "gas war" where two gas stations near each other would fight between each other to offer the lowest price (boy do we need that now!). The ones on Northgate Boulevard were offering prices somewhere between 18 and 25 cents per gallon.

Gas stations would also compete for your business by offering prizes for a fill up. I remember stations offering a set of special "Flying A" drink glasses, a "76 Union ball" for your radio antenna, a "TigerTail" for your car from ESSO who used to "Put a Tiger In Your Tank" and various Bobble Heads from local sports teams in the area. I had a whole assortment of LA Dodgers bobble heads from Chevron when I lived in LA in the early 1960's.

Those were the good old days when oil companies actually competed for your business and the consumer always turned out the winner. They also put the gas in your tank and washed your windshield and checked your oil. I know that's hard to believe now.

The only solution I see to this present crisis is for us to greatly reduce gas consumption. That may reduce the price. I hope to live to see the day when those who are making enormous profits from us go bankrupt and we are left to be able to operate our automobiles at a reasonable price. Whether that be on ethanol, electricity or some other unknown energy source. That thought makes me smile.

Maybe my good friend John has the right idea. He works for a local radio station and has bought a nice, red, almost-motorcycle that gets over 100 miles per gallon.

As for me I guess it's time for me to finally get rid of that old, gas guzzling 1971 AMC Gremlin that's parked out front.

In 1963 Rod Serling would never have written a "Twilight Zone" episode about gas prices that were almost $4.00 per gallon. That idea would have been too unbelievable - even for "The Twilight Zone".

"Radio Daze" (#3)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published - June 25, 2008

39 years ago this month I first got involved in radio. It was at KAOR, a little 1,000 watt station in Oroville that has now disappeared into radio history.

It was back in the day where a DJ cued up his 45 rpm records or albums, used 4 track carts to play commercials and had to be right on top of every little thing for the 4 to 6 hours you were on the air live.

You needed to make sure that you sounded professional, had no "dead air" and played the records on the right speeds. At first I failed in almost every aspect of these requirements. But, eventually I did pretty well.

It was fun being on the radio but you sure didn't have much time to goof off. You even had trouble getting bathroom breaks. That is why long songs such as "MacArthur Park", "Hey Jude" and "Those Were The Days" were very welcome. Each ran from 5 to 7 minutes. Playing the much longer "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" made it seen like a day off.

After my stint at KAOR I entered the military and did many Armed Forces Radio shows aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany off of Vietnam. Those shows were easy and fun as you really didn't have to worry about FCC regulations. You could pretty well say what you wanted as long as you didn't anger the Captain. That is something I apparently never did as I was never hung from a yardarm.

I was out of radio for many years but when I entered local Yuba/Sutter radio in 1997 I discovered that things had really changed. Automation had taken hold.

Automation consisted of a computer system that allowed the station owner to pre-program all songs and commercials. It would also allow the DJ to do a live show or pre-record the show. Automation allowed the on-air product to sound much better and it also allowed the station owner to reduce his overhead by being able to run the station with fewer people.

The initial cost of the automation gear was eventually made up for by the owner not having to support a big payroll.

It used to be that when you heard a local radio show you knew that there was a live person on the air talking right to you in real time. Now you'll never know if that is true or not. Automation "voice tracks" sound very good and I would say that most of the time what you are hearing has been pre-recorded.

Some may say that radio has become too corporate. That may very well be true. Corporations have bought radio stations just for investment opportunities. That is why you may see one of your favorite radio stations just disappear and then reappear the next day with an entire new format and staff. That happens all the time in the Sacramento area.

I have now been out of radio for several years. But the last 2 years I was on the air were my favorite. I was able to work my regular 8-5 job and then go into the radio station at night for about an hour and record my 5 hour radio show for the next day.

I caught the radio bug in 1962 when I was 11 years old in Los Angeles. I remember hearing a DJ on KRLA introduce and talk about "Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler. I found it so amazing that you could be affecting the lives of thousands of people from a little dark booth in a radio studio. That amazement and excitement have never left me.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to work in radio beginning in the late 1960's with manual equipment and finish my part time radio career with the experience of automation in 2005.

Over the years I worked in several music formats; Current Top 40, Oldies, Country and what I call "Sinatra era stuff".

I also have been able to work with some wonderful radio people. Their help in getting me through some of my radio stumbles will always be greatly appreciated.

Many DJ's have had full time careers for decades at local stations here in the Yuba/Sutter area. Compared to their experience I certainly know that my part time radio career only amounted to a very tiny blip on the radar of radio history in Northern California. But I had a great time.

Do I miss radio? Well, back in 1969 a very prominent DJ once told me, "Once radio gets into your blood, it never leaves." No truer words were ever spoken.

Joe Getty, Me, and Jack Armstrong at Lincoln, California. September 2005. Armstrong and Getty have the top rated talk show in the Sacramento area on AM 650 KSTE. Great show!

"The Dave Clark Five Revisited" (#4)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published July 23, 2008

Several months ago, my favorite Sacramento talk radio morning team, Armstrong and Getty really blew it. They actually criticized the worth of the old rock group "The Dave Clark Five". DC5 had just had two headlines this spring; they had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their lead singer, Mike Smith, had just died.

Immediately Armstrong and Getty received a flurry of e-mails (including one from me) setting them straight that the DC5 really was a great rock group. I, for one, was rather surprised that anybody else but me really cared. After all, the DC5 had their song hits 40+ years ago between 1964 and 1967 and I figured that it was so long ago that all of their other fans were dead.

With hits like "Glad All Over", "Because", "Catch Us If You Can" and "Over and Over" they are still a regular on oldies radio.

I know that every generation has its great songs and every younger generation thinks the prior generation was very old fashioned in their musical tastes. But there are exceptions like my 29 year old son Alan. He grew up listening to (or brainwashed by) my music from the 50's, 60's and 70's and is still a great fan of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Boston and Deep Purple. I am proud to have exposed him to interesting, and somewhat weird music.

DC5 was just one of the British groups that came along on the Redcoat tails of the Beatles in 1964. There were, among many others, the Searchers, Freddy and the Dreamers, The Animals, The Kinks, Yardbirds and Herman's Hermits. And don't let us forget the one group that has stayed together for over 45 years and is still touring - The Rolling Stones. However there is still a great debate over whether or not they really are still alive. Their looks certainly bring up the possibility of their earlier death.

I have actually gotten to see some of these old folks in concert; The Moody Blues, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and the great Paul McCartney. I actually met Peter Noone and consider him one of the best, and funniest, concert acts I have seen.

In addition to British acts I have also seen Steppenwolf, Simon and Garfunkle, the Eagles and John Fogerty. I have also seen, individually, half of the Monkees; Mickey Dolenz and Davey Jones. They were all pretty well preserved and age had not dulled their voices one bit. They even had the presence of mind to leave their wheel chairs off stage.

A few of my "old" friends got together the other day and surprisingly agreed on something; we all had quit caring about "new" music about the same time. That was about when disco died in the mid 1980's and we were all about 35. We all seemed to lose interest and regress back into the past. I have pretty much stayed in the past and have listened mostly to oldies radio stations ever since.

I guess we all decided we really had nothing in common with the new music about that time and were satisfied to just retain our musical memories.

My situation was a bit different because my work in radio did place me in the position of being able to play and review the new music near the turn of the last century. I think there were maybe 3 or 4 new songs I liked. In other words, I was not really that impressed.

But let's face it - we like the old music because we grew up with it and it brings back memories. Every time the 1966 song "Daydream" by the Lovin' Spoonful plays I feel all warm and fuzzy. On the other hand, every time I hear Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" I get nauseous, just like I did when I heard it a million times back in 1968.

It's nice to know that stations like AM/FM KUBA and KCEZ FM in Chico carry on the tradition of playing the "old fogie" music that I like. They are also carrying on the tradition of the old Yuba/Sutter Top 40 stations of the 60's and 70's. Do you remember when KMYC and KOBO played Top 40 music?

Well, I guess I should have not been so hard on Armstrong and Getty. After all they are just youngsters in their mid 40's. Maybe 20 years from now they'll have the opportunity to be listening to an "All - Snoop Dog-Rap-Mariah Carey-Britney Spears all the time" radio station and really love it. And they will be welcome to it.

As for me, I'll just continue to listen to old, obscure "oldies but goodies." I'll also ponder the great mysteries of life - like, "whatever happened to my old Jan and Dean albums?"

"Gambling Their Life Away" (#5)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published August 20, 2008

Prior to the 1980's there was only one city in California where you could legally gamble. That place was Gardena, in south Los Angeles County. It was the "Gambling Capitol of California" for many decades. I happened to live in Gardena from about 1958 to 1963.

One of the most prominent gambling establishments at the time was only two blocks from where I lived. It was the Horseshoe Club that was located on the corner of Vermont and Rosecrans Avenues.

People for miles around flocked to Gardena for their gambling recreation. It was the only game in the state and if you didn't like the card games in Gardena you were forced to travel all of the way to Nevada to toss your money around.

All through my growing up years my parents taught me that gambling was a vice, could become an addiction and existed mainly to separate people from their hard earned money. Those of us who resided in Gardena perhaps carried around a bit of shame. I know at my very young age I certainly did. It surely wasn't something to brag about that you lived in the only city where gambling was allowed.

In the 1980's the residents of California approved the California Lottery and, shortly thereafter, local gaming casinos started appearing.

Now instead of driving 150 miles to Nevada you can just drive a few miles to your local casino and take your chances on winning big.

Let's face it - casinos are now fixtures of our local economy. The tribal casinos provide much needed jobs and income to their tribe members. They also provide very nice places to see entertainment. Over the years I have gone to local casinos to see acts such as Steppenwolf, blues great Robert Cray and the Monkee, Davey Jones. It's great to see these acts that would not normally come to our part of the state.

But never have I gone to any of the local casinos to gamble. Maybe it is my past prejudice of having lived in a seedy little town where gambling was looked down upon.

To me, the irritating thing about the local casinos is some of their advertising. Those TV commercials present a world where everybody is handsome and beautiful, very well dressed, rich and winning! There is much laughter and excitement from the beginning to the end of the commercial. But there are a few things missing.

Each time I have been to a casino I don't see those handsome people. Rarely do I see any winners and some people who I see generally look like they are down on their luck and really, really need to win. I ask myself, "Where are all of the beautiful, rich, happy people I see on TV?"

Logic will tell you that a "big winner" must be hard to find. Certainly if everybody who gambled won a lot of money the casinos would be out of business in no time.

I also note that the casinos are always bragging about their new additions of bigger hotels, showrooms and casinos that they have just completed. Did you ever ask yourself just how they are able to afford to build these classy new additions? Can they afford them if most every gambler is winning big? I think not.

I am most familiar with the two casinos in Oroville. They both started small. Some of their original buildings were trailers. Over the years they have grown enormously.

Don't get me wrong. I know that the law of averages creates some big gambling winners and I say "congratulations" to those who have gotten lucky. They are the ones you hear about. But what of those people who have a gambling addiction that ruins their lives just as badly as those who are alcoholics and addicted to drugs. Certainly the fact that gambling casinos are so much closer than they used to be makes it much easier to feed a gambling addiction.

I am reminded of the elderly lady I knew from Oroville who used her credit cards to gamble and who had to declare bankruptcy. How about the man from Yuba City who has put his family's future in jeopardy due to his gambling addiction?

If you know of someone who has a gambling problem you can contact the California Council on Problem Gambling Hotline at 800-426-2537.

The rare times that I have gambled have not been successful. I will admit that I am not a "winner" and I find gambling pretty boring. When I am in the Reno area my idea of gambling is to play $20.00 on the slots and when it is lost (and I know it will be) I write it off as a fair hour of entertainment. But I would probably have had more fun doing something else.

In September of 2001 I revisited Gardena. The area has become more run down over the past 40 years and the Horseshoe Club is no more. But at the corner of Vermont and Rosecrans is a gigantic, beautiful gambling casino that is much larger than the old Horseshoe Club. Like the ancient pyramids, I just wonder how many ruined lives it took to build.

"Smokin' at Don's House" (#6)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published September 17, 2008

Don was the son of a well respected Oroville doctor and he was my best friend at Central Middle School.

It was 1964 and we were both 13 years old. I look back at that time of my life with some ambiguous feelings. It was certainly not the best time of my life as I had a definite inferiority complex. Not only did I have a bad complexion and wore glasses, but I was also the shortest boy in my class. My 7th grade class picture shows that only one person was shorter then me - and she was a girl!

Don was in another 7th grade class and he was even shorter than me. We hung around together for years giving each other moral support. Yes, I suppose you could say we both felt like we were losers.

Like a lot of boys back then, we would not ask girls out who were taller than us. Maybe it's the same for boys now. Musta been an ego thing. We were both very aware that it was hard to find a girl who was shorter than us. Plus even if we would have found a shorter girl we would rarely have had the guts to say hello to her.

Don and I did try to entice a girl a few times but every time Don would see a good looking, short, girl he would say something silly or idiotic and that would ruin our chances. To this day I am not sure if he did that because he was actually really scared of girls or if he was just nuts. In my mind I still picture Don as a 13 year old version of Barney Fife.

In looking back I think that Don was the perfect friend to help me survive my period of inadequate confidence. Maybe a best friend means someone who supports you in your down times. If that is true, then we were really good friends.

So Don and I spent the 7th , 8th, and 9th grades hanging out with each other doing bike rides along the Feather River, playing "Slot Cars" at the local slot car shop, trying to "skate board" on homemade skate boards and listening to records.

For most of the time Don and I were in junior high school we mainly listened to three bands - The Ventures, The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. We would spin those albums for hours until their grooves died.

We always listened to records in Don's room because his dad, the Doc, would really freak out if we played any of our records on his expensive component stereo system in their living room. I remember I really got chewed out one time by Doc when he came home and he found I was playing my Four Seasons album on his system. I guess he was not a Frankie Valli fan.

The most memorable incident that occurred at Don's house happened during the winter of 1965. It was a cold Saturday afternoon and we had come in from doing some devilment in downtown Oroville. The house was very cold and Don lit a fire in the fireplace.

After a few hours of playing records in Don's room Don asked me if I would throw another log on the fire. So I tossed a big log and it landed with a resounding thump. Don and I retired back to his room to listen to more inane Jan and Dean songs and closed the door. Ten minutes later we smelled smoke. When we opened the door we realized immediately that we could neither see nor breathe!

The house was completely filled with smoke! Our eyes and lungs were full of smoke. The thump that I had heard was the log striking and closing the flue! Panic immediately broke out and we opened the flue and all of the windows and doors.

In going outside we could see clouds of smoke pouring out of the doors and windows. It took over a half hour to clear the smoke from the house. I was surprised that the neighbors had not called the fire department.

I had grown up in a mobile home and had no experience with a fireplace. I didn't have any idea what a flue was. Now I knew. Don and I both prayed for salvation from the wrath of Doc when he came home. After assuring Don that I would take full responsibility for this fiasco I made a quick exit home.

The next day Don called me and said that when Doc got home he had some very choice words about me and I certainly did not blame him. After a long explanation from Don a company was called to clean the smell from their Grand View Avenue home.

Surprisingly, the family did forgive me and I was a regular visitor to their home throughout my high school years. Don's brothers and sister were good friends and his older brother Michael turned out to be a great musical influence on me. He was a big fan of the new rock music. The first time I ever heard entire albums of the Doors, Moody Blues and Cream was off of Mike's turntable.

In looking back I have nothing but the greatest respect for Doc. In spite of my flaws he treated me well and forgave me for smoking up his house. Sadly, he passed away in 1978 at a relatively young age.

I ran into Michael in 1990 when I was a counselor in Oroville. I thanked him for his musical influence and friendship. He said that Don still lived in Oroville.

Shortly thereafter I did run into Don at a local market. He wasn't sure it was me and asked me if I was Larry. After I confirmed who I was we spoke for a few minutes. Our conversation made it obvious that we had nothing much left in common.

But the fond memories still remain. Thanks Don.

"The Nuclear War That Wasn't" (#7)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published October 15, 2008

By 1962 we knew what nuclear war was supposed to be about. We had seen the grainy black and white documentary films of the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There were even some color films of the wounded victims. We tried to not think about the hundreds of thousands of Japanese who died in those attacks. We kept in mind that many times that number were killed in conventional firebomb attacks during World War II.

We also saw films of the atom and hydrogen bomb tests. There were a lot of those in the 50's. Those were spectacularly beautiful in their own way. Their power was so overwhelming that it seemed unbelievable that they actually existed.

There had been a whole flurry of novels written about nuclear war. Nevil Shute's novel "On The Beach" (1957) was the first major effort. It was followed by Pat Frank's "Alas Babylon" (1959). They were both about the aftermath of nuclear war and how to survive it. In 1962, Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler came out with "Fail Safe". It discussed the possibility of a technical glitch causing World War III. "On The Beach" and "Fail Safe" were also made into movies.

Even in the Twilight Zone's first TV season (1959) they included a rather humorous episode about a timid bank clerk who survives a nuclear war - with tragic results.

I suppose that nuclear war was always in the back of the minds of us baby boomers. But who could worry about it seriously? After all, it had been over 15 years since the only wartime use of nuclear weapons and those novels, movies and TV shows were "only fiction" after all. Right?

I was 11 years old and lived in Los Angeles. Being an 11 year old I really didn't watch the news much. But in October of 1962 we started getting safety lectures from our teachers. They were called "drop drills". We were told if we saw a sudden flash of light to "stop, drop and roll". Also to go to the nearest wall, lie down next to it and cover our eyes. We had classroom evacuation drills. In looking back I wonder what was in the minds of my teachers. Did they really believe that these drills would do any good? Would you want to survive if a nuclear war broke out?

My parents tried to tell me what was going on without scaring me. I remember watching the local TV news one night. One local news guy was in a supermarket and one of the ladies in line had three shopping carts full of groceries. The newsman asked her why she was buying so much. Her answer was, "I'm going to get mine before the hoarders come!"

After 13 nerve wracking days the crisis was over and we went back to normal existence. Nobody seemed to really know all the details of what had resolved the crisis.

What we did know was that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. They had been discovered by our high flying U-2 aircraft. President Kennedy had gone on television the evening of October 22nd and announced to the world that he would quarantine all ships coming into Cuba and that all nuclear missiles must be removed.

Kennedy's options were the quarantine or an air strike against the missiles possibly followed by a full invasion 7 days later.

Kennedy's Executive Committee argued over these options. Many military felt that a quarantine showed weakness and that we needed to strike the missiles before they became fully operational and then invade.

Some of these missiles could reach Washington DC. The Cubans and Russians could launch a first strike and hit targets deep inside the US within 15 minutes. That was a shorter time than if missiles would be launched from Russia. Plus the Soviets had a very low number of ICBM's that could be launched and depended more on bombers.

So the quarantine went into place and Soviet ships were turned back. There were a few close calls and Kennedy came very close to launching strikes on the missiles in Cuba. There was even a date and time set for the attack; the morning of October 30th. But the quarantine ended up buying time to negotiate a settlement. What was that settlement? The Soviets would remove their missiles if the US would agree to remove our Jupiter missiles from Turkey and agree not to invade Cuba.

For many years full details of what happened were not available. We now know that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had placed the missiles in Cuba as a power play and to keep us from invading Cuba. We had our missiles on the Soviet Union's borders and he wanted us to feel the same stress. We know that Fidel Castro wanted to launch all of those missiles at us as a first strike as he felt we would eventually invade. He didn't seem a bit concerned about how we would retaliate against his island. Fortunately, the Soviets retained control over the missile warheads.

We also know what would have happened when the US tried to take out the missiles. There would have been an initial air strike of 576 warplanes with 6 days of continued bombing. The US invasion force was numbered at 150,000 troops in addition to 5,868 US Marines already at the Guantanamo Naval Base.

The question has always been, "What would have been the Soviet/Cuban reaction?" We now know that they had many nuclear weapons operational and ready to fire and it is very unlikely that our air strikes could have taken out all of their missiles. Short range FROG missiles would have most probably knocked out our invasion force. There were several Hiroshima-sized yield cruise missiles targeted on our base at Guantanamo. Then their longer ranged R-12 and R-14 nuclear missiles would have been sent into the continental US. Their range of 1,290 miles was just enough to hit New York City.

With our invasion forces and some American cities wiped out, Kennedy would have had no choice but to launch our nuclear weapons against Cuba and the Soviets. That pretty much says it all.

So 46 Octobers ago our world would have ended. Thank god Kennedy handled the crisis correctly.

It seems that every generation has its own "Pearl Harbor": Some event that shocks that generation into reality. The most recent was, of course, 9-11.

My generation remembers the "Cuban Missile Crisis" as just such an event. If things had gone wrong the results would have made the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam and 9-11 tragedies pale in comparison. Of course those tragedies, and all of the good things of our world today, would have never had the chance to happen if the "button had been pushed" on that October day so very long ago.

"The Disappearance of Sidney Lloyd" (#8)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published November 12, 2008

In this day of GPS, Magellan, Tom Tom and other navigational aids it's hard to believe that people still get lost. But they do. Certainly, the recent finding of the remains of millionaire Steve Fossett after 13 months helps to illustrate this point. So you can only imagine what it was like about 100 years ago when somebody disappeared. There was no satellite tracking or air surveillance. Just search parties.

Sidney Lloyd's story was originally told to me by my mother as she was very young when Sid disappeared. For 60 years she was haunted by the mystery. I am glad to know that she lived long enough to know the solution to his disappearance.

The following story was gleaned from my mother's reminiscence and my searches through old archives and newspaper articles:

Sid had grown up in Elba Valley. A little valley that included the small towns of Elba and Almo in the southern part of the State of Idaho. The Lloyd Ranch was just south of Elba, only about 10 miles from the Utah State line.

"APRIL 11, 1920"

It was a cold Sunday morning. Sid's age was near 30 and he had hunted all of his life. He prepared for his hunting that morning by donning his "long john" underwear over his 5'9" muscular frame. To that he added a denim "Rosewood" shirt, suspenders, pants and a heavy coat and gloves. On his head he wore the traditional cowboy hat. In his front pocket he stuck his metal "Skeleton" type house key. In his back pocket he kept a newspaper article from the Burley Bulletin newspaper from the month before. He wore his rubber boots over his leather boots.

It had been a very cold spring. The cold had made surviving a tough challenge for Sid, with a shortage of livestock that year. Sid supplemented his diet with whatever he could kill with his Marlin model 1892 38-55 caliber rifle.

Sid was a loner. He never married and took care of himself. In that sparsely populated area of Southern Idaho most people were very independent. The nearest large town was Burley. It is a good 30 miles over the mountains, to the north, as the crow flies.

That morning, with his rifle in hand, Sid left his ranch and walked east, toward the Jim Sage Mountain Range.

One of Sid's favorite places to hunt was in the Savage Hollow area. It was a favorite hunting area for many of the local hunters. Sid had hunted there all of his life.

That morning he walked the more than 5 miles to Savage Hollow. We will never know how his hunting went that day. We will only know that he took shelter up against a cliff on a rocky ledge overlooking the valley. It had offered a great panoramic view in which to watch for deer. Now the day grows colder and the scene is covered with cold, freezing snow.


Sid did not return that night and Sid's sister, Blanch became concerned. She spoke to their brother Fred who called authorities for help.

Search parties made day long searches for Sid. Ora Matthews, who grew up in Elba recalled, "I was about 5 years old when Sid disappeared. I can remember when my dad, Joseph Whitaker, was helping hunt for Sid Lloyd. Day after day he came back worn out and sad."

Fred Parish, also of Elba recalls, "It had snowed. They tracked him up so far and ran out of tracks...the wind blew his tracks out." Fred also remembers that the search involved a big posse which hunted about three days for the missing man.

Sid's brother Fred took a month off work and searched for his missing brother - to no avail.

Wild tales circulated about what happened to Sid. Cecil Haycock, of Burley remembers, "Many people thought Sid Lloyd was murdered and thrown in a well. That was all baloney...just hearsay, just talk. I know personally that the well was only 10 feet deep because I fell in it once."

And then the search stopped and, over decades, people's memories faded away. But many were still haunted by the mystery.


Dallen Ward's father owned grazing rights on the Bureau of Land Management's land in the Jim Sage range about four miles north of Almo. Dallen was 26 years old and had spent that summer herding sheep.

Standing next to a ledge, Dallen was throwing rocks to drive some of the sheep up the ridge when he noticed a gun. It was a rifle sticking out of the ground, barrel end in some three inches of soft, pine needle-covered ground. It was located near a large cedar tree. He curiously looked the ground over and was shocked to also find several bones nearby. Some time later that Saturday he called his uncle, Almo Deputy Bob Ward, who in turn called local detectives.

That afternoon Sheriff Bill Crystal, Detectives Dennis Dexter and Alan Smith and Coroner Paul Young hiked into the area. They dug and sifted the ground and used their metal detector. They found enough bones for about half of a human body. Some bones were inside the rock crevice near the cliff and near the tree. Others were down the cliff as far as 15 feet away. Some bones had been carried off nearly 100 feet by small animals. All told, 117 bones were found. Never found were the hands and the skull.

In their sifting they found fragments of denim, a rubber boot, parts of a leather boot, two old buttons apparently made of bone that may have been from a man's "long johns" underwear, and a cloth "Rosewood" label from a shirt. Also found was a metal skeleton key, the kind commonly used long ago to lock a house.

The rifle was surprisingly well preserved. It did have visible marks where the juniper tree rubbed its metal and stock. The old weapon, a 38-56, bore the model number 1898 and a patent date of 1898. The stock was octagonal and bore the marking "Special Smokeless Steel" and "Marlin Firearms Company". Later, a discharged bullet was found in the ground under 6 inches of soil. The authorities felt that Sid may have tried to start a fire by placing the muzzle of his rifle next to juniper wood and discharging it. This practice was quite common and explains why the rifle's chamber and magazine were empty.

One of the most interesting things found was in the hip pocket of Sid's pants. There they found a newspaper article from the Burley Bulletin, dated March 5, 1920.

This one bit of evidence provided an important clue in dating and identifying the remains. The clipping and other evidence was sent to the Idaho Forensics Laboratory for analysis. Forensic experts were able to unfold the clipping and determine the date it was published.

Prior to dating the clipping the investigators had felt that Lloyd had disappeared in 1921 and a search for newspaper documentation had turned up nothing to assist in the case.

County Detectives Alan Smith and Dennis Dexter, armed with the new date information were able to locate a Burley Bulletin story dated April 16, 1920 that documented the ongoing search for Sid who had disappeared five days previously.

But there had also been two other mysterious disappearances around that time. It would take more research to formally confirm just who these remains belonged to.

It took almost a year, until June 1986, for the final report to come out. The pathologist's report from Dr. Charles Garrison of Western Pathology Associates of Pocatello concluded that the remains were those of Sid Lloyd and that he had died of natural causes; most likely hypothermia.

This report closed the book on the case. But there were more questions. Wasn't it surprising that it took 65 years to discover the rifle and body? Deputy Ward was not surprised. "It is a most inaccessible area, on a steep rocky side hill, right underneath a cedar tree which has probably been there for 500 years."

Sadly, Sid's brother Fred did not live to see the discovery of Sid's body. He died on December 14, 1969 and is buried in Elba's Grand View Cemetery. Fred's thoughts were full of the mystery of Sid's fate until his final day.

Two of Sid's surviving nephews filed claims for the gun. The gun had little value, except to hang over a fireplace.

Cecil Haycock, then age 86, remembered his friend Sid. "He hunted deer and everything - in season and out, in them days. He even herded sheep. He was bit by a rattlesnake in his younger days. He was not such a bad fellow...a pretty good guy."

As the snow fell on that April day in 1920, Sid was trapped on the ledge. Little did he know as he closed his eyes for the last time the long mystery his disappearance would cause. But now Sid can rest in peace.

People disappear all the time for many reasons. But most are found quickly. From our Northern California area I am reminded of the case of Leonard D.Tomasso. He was a railroad track foreman who drove the final spike into the Spanish Creek Bridge in Plumas County to complete the Western Pacific Railway on November 1, 1909.

In 1950 Leonard, then in his 60's, drove his fiance' from Oroville up the Feather River Canyon on Highway 70 to revisit the site of his historic action. They were also on their way to get married in Reno. But they never arrived. Searches in the deep canyons and pools of the Feather River were conducted with no result. No relatives, or anyone else, have ever heard from them. They, unlike Sid Lloyd and Steve Fossett, have apparently been permanently lost in time and space.

"Situation Comedy Heaven and Hell" (#9)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published December 10, 2008.

I was just a young teenager in the mid 1960's and thought that TV was one of the best things I could waste my time on. Needless to say I spent a lot of time at that endeavor.

Certainly there were some fascinating TV programs at that time. I mostly remember the situation comedies and, until recently, longed for the good old days of the sitcoms.

I have really gotten burned out on most of the current fare of comedies. About the only comedy I now watch on a regular basis is "The Office". I just can't get enough of those ding-a-lings. Maybe that office reminds me of many that I have worked in. But other than that show, I am not really impressed with much else. I find most newer comedies mean spirited, crass and not a whole lot of fun. Maybe I'm just getting hard to please in my relatively old age.

Recently I have been trying to relive some of the good memories of the TV sitcoms of the 1960's. However, I am having a very tough time doing it. I have discovered that what was once "really groovy" at age 14 is just "really dumb" at age 57.

I was a big fan of the "Munsters". Now I am totally ashamed that I ever watched that idiotic show. The same goes for "Gilligans Island", "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Hogan's Heroes". "Green Acres" was just a bit of a step up in the cleverness department so I can still recommend that. I still think Arnold Ziffel (pig extraordinaire) deserved an Emmy.

I also have a warm spot in my heart for "My Three Sons". I spent many Thursday nights enjoying their sanitized, yet interesting, stories.

In scanning through a lot of the old series from that era I find that the funniest show was not a sitcom. That show is "Lost In Space" and it was not intended to be funny. Back then I really disliked most of the crew and family but really loved the villain Dr. Zachary Smith. He was the only one who had any real personality. Even now the dumb story lines and terrible special effects are hilarious. But I would hate to have to sentence anybody to watch an episode. Talk about torture!

Maybe there is only one sitcom from the 60's that I still have a great feeling for. It's the "Dick Van Dyke Show. Even though we are no longer in the Kennedy administration I still feel that the story lines are fresh and clever and hilarious. The adventures of Rob, Laura, Buddy and Sally are still great entertainment. Maybe because the needs that men have with their wives and fellow employees don't really change. The concerns that we had in 1962 are still the same ones we have right now. We're still concerned with keeping our wives and kids happy, being successful at work and making sure that the world never finds out that our boss wears a toupee! Also, nobody has ever been able to fall over an ottoman like Dick Van Dyke.

Back then one of the reasons that I remember really liking the show was that the actor who played their son Ritchie had the same name as I do. Even though he spelled "Mathews" with one "t". Later I was disappointed when I found out that his real name was Larry Mazzeo. Mathews was just a stage name.

Now I am going to alienate about half of my readership (nothing new). I really don't think that "I Love Lucy" is very funny anymore.

"I Love Lucy" debuted on TV in October 1951 and ended production as a weekly series in June 1957. There were later some hour long Lucy/Desi Comedy Hours.

I must admit that I was a big fan of the series. Lucille Ball was a phenomenon and one of the most creative comedy actresses and producers. "I Love Lucy", in its day, was a milestone. Production wise it introduced many major changes in how comedy shows were filmed.

But, then again, I don't think it's very funny anymore. I find it pretty depressing actually. I know that the show has not changed. I know that Lucy and Desi have not changed. Most probably I have changed.

In viewing several of the shows recently they all appear to be the same. Lucy has some hare brained idea that she does not want Ricky to know about. She and Ethel spend the rest of the episode trying to do the silly idea. At the end Ricky and Fred find out about it but then all is forgiven. Seems like the same scenario for all of the 179 episodes. But, I must admit that in those episodes there were some real gem moments like "Vitameatavegamin".

Maybe the real key to my feelings is that when the show was originally on the air we believed that Desi really did love Lucy. But over the years we have found out that they actually disliked each other a lot. He "loved Lucy" so much he couldn't keep his hands off of other women. They divorced twice.

But rest assured that I do not spend all of my time dredging around in the dusty bins of 1960's situation comedies. Sometimes I actually find something I like from the 1980's. Like the recent couple of Bob "Newhart" episodes I saw from 1983. I forgot just how much I really loved that show.

Another guilty pleasure of mine is reviewing my DVD of the old "WKRP in Cincinnati" series. It takes me back to the days when radio was actually live.

Come to think of it, there are also all of those episodes of "Night Court" and "Welcome back Kotter" to review. Maybe there's hope yet for me to find a few more gems.

"John McCain and Vietnam War Memories" (#10)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published January 14, 2009.

John McCain and I served aboard the same ship. No, I never met him and our times aboard the ship were separated by 5 years. But I do feel a connection.

The ship was the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany. He served aboard that ship for a short time in 1967 and I served aboard it for 12 months in 1972/73.

John McCain flew A-4 Skyhawk fighter/bombers and I flew a desk in the Captain's Office. Certainly his job was a bit more dangerous than mine even if you count the paper cuts I received.

John McCain left Oriskany by flying off on a mission and getting shot down into the center of Hanoi. I left by walking off into civilian life from the pier at Alameda, California. Obviously, my exit was not nearly as spectacular as his but I remember it vividly.

But, John McCain's Vietnam story began on another ship. On July 29, 1967 he was in an A-4 Skyhawk aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. His plane was third in line to take off that morning for a strike on North Vietnam. I have seen the flight deck films of what happened over the next few minutes. It is a vision of hell.

The F-4 Phantom jet that sat across the deck from McCain's jet suddenly fired off a Zuni rocket. The rocket was launched by stray voltage from an electrical charge used to start the Phantom's engine. The rocket streaked across the flight deck and struck the belly fuel tank of McCain's fighter. The tank was torn open and 200 gallons of fuel spilled across the deck and ignited into a fireball.

The flight deck footage shows McCain as he opened his canopy, moved onto the nose of the jet and out onto the refueling probe. He is shown jumping 10 feet into the fire and rolling through the flames.

The pilot in the plane next to him fell from his plane into the flames and was killed. As McCain made his way away from the fire, Chief Petty Officer Gerald Farrier ran ahead of McCain with a portable fire extinguisher. Farrier can be seen spraying a 1,000 pound bomb that had been knocked from McCain's Skyhawk. The 1,000 pound bomb was sitting in the flaming fuel. Many others joined Chief Farrier in fighting the fire.

Suddenly one bomb, and then many, exploded wiping out most of the men on the flight deck. McCain was blown 10 feet and shrapnel tore into his legs and chest.

As more bombs cooked off, more planes were set afire and more men killed. Then more bombs and ammunition cooked off.

McCain helped to dump bombs over the side into the sea. He also visited the sick bay and saw men with whom he had served that he could no longer recognize due to their injuries.

The crew fought all day and into the next to extinguish the fires. More than 20 planes were destroyed. Most importantly, 134 crewmen were killed and dozens more injured.

With all of its damage the ship and crew were ordered back to the United States. It would take two years for Forrestal to receive enough repairs to return to duty.

But John McCain decided he did not want to return to the United States. He had heard about the high casualty rate of pilots aboard the USS Oriskany and volunteered to be stationed there. McCain reported for duty aboard Oriskany on September 30, 1967.

On October 26, 1967 McCain was on the flight deck of Oriskany ready to make his 23rd bombing run over North Vietnam. The target that day was Hanoi's thermal power plant that was located right next to Truc Bach Lake.

As he was making his attack run a SAM (surface to air missile) struck McCain's right wing and blew it off. He parachuted into the lake. His chute barely opened as he struck the water. He broke his left arm, broke his right arm in three places and broke his right knee.

Lieutenant Commander John McCain was a Prisoner of War of the North Vietnamese for the next 5 years. He was incarcerated at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. The tortures he endured are well known. The North Vietnamese knew he was the son of an Admiral. For propaganda purposes his brutal North Vietnamese captors offered him an early release but he refused the release because there were POW's who had been in captivity longer. Once again he took the hard way out.

As peace neared in January 1973 I remember my boss in the Captain's Office, CWO Emmett Plimmer saying, "I sure hope that Admiral McCain's son is still alive". At that time I had no idea who John McCain was. But Mr. Plimmer advised me that he was the son of an Admiral and the grandson of an Admiral.

January 28, 1973 was the date of the cease fire in Vietnam. The aircraft carriers Oriskany, Enterprise, Ranger and America formed a victory "V" on the Tonkin Gulf. I still have photos I took and some additional aerial photos taken by USS Ranger pilots. Four aircraft carriers together was the biggest target the North Vietnamese had during the war.

This month marks the 36th anniversary of the cease fire and of the agreement to release the prisoners of war. That date also marked the formal end of our involvement in that war.

Because of the cease fire, John McCain was finally released by his captors on March 15, 1973.

I think about the time that John McCain was enduring the horrors in the North Vietnamese Prison. During that time I finished my last two years of high school, went to two formals, goofed off, cruised around, enjoyed social life, tried to ignore those nasty things happening in Vietnam and then went off to war.

Those of us who lived as free people through that time owe him a lot and we need to remember his sacrifices. None of us really realized just how cruel life could get. But John knew.

I waited until after the Presidential election to write this article. I wanted it to be about the man and not about the presidential candidate.

January 1973 was the beginning of John McCain's road to freedom and his further service to the nation. January 2009 is the beginning of Barack Obama's term as President. My best wishes to him and I hope he will bring as much pride, honesty and dignity in his service to the nation as has John McCain.

"Just What The Doctor Ordered" (#11)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published February 11, 2009.

Those of us over about 50 years old will remember the inane cigarette commercials of the 1950's and 1960's.

Would you believe that there were actually TV commercials with statements from "doctors" who declared that cigarette smoking was good for you? You bet there were. As a matter of fact "Just What The Doctor Ordered" was a slogan for L&M cigarettes in 1953.

Advertising back then had us at a big disadvantage. Most of the time the US Government stayed out of the advertising industry. As long as TV and radio stations did not advertise hard liquor or say nasty words things were fine.

For the most part, most products were pretty mundane. There was no real danger. Toy commercials went on, beauty products went on, beer commercials went on (I loved those Hamm's Bear beer commercials!), and cigarette commercials went on without much protest.

I must admit though, that some of the most irritating commercials were those concerning cigarettes. I was always having to turn off the "Me and My Winstons" commercials or the "LSMFT" (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobaccos) commercials. Their musical jingles and irritating narrations drove me nuts. Plus I really didn't like cigarette commercials as I felt that the product was stinky! Not necessarily unhealthy but really stinky!

Over a few decades, the US Surgeon General produced several reports about how unhealthy cigarettes were and then, suddenly: Cigarette commercials vanished in 1971!

For the record, the last cigarette commercial on TV aired on the Tonight Show. It was for Virginia Slims and aired one minute to midnight on January 1, 1971. That ad featured a model by the name of Veronica Hamel, who later found fame in the TV series Hill Street Blues.

TV advertising was no more and if you really missed Cigarette ads you could always visit them in the magazines.

Certainly cigarettes had been a big part of advertising but we were also used to cigarettes in our daily lives. Smoking was allowed everywhere. There was no such thing as a "no smoking" section in a restaurant or workplace. We all just assumed that smoke was part of the normal atmosphere.

Now when I go to a Nevada restaurant and am asked if I want the "smoking or non-smoking" section I feel that I am back in a time warp. We Californians haven't heard that term for decades.

I have never tried a cigarette, cigar or pipe. My mother told me she would rather that I did not smoke and I stayed by her rules. I am glad that I did. Call me a "momma's boy" if you wish but most smokers who I have ever spoken to wish that they had never started.

My father smoked cigarettes in his younger days and then reverted to cigars and pipes later in life. We talked to him about quitting and we had hoped he had. Then, when he died of a heart attack at age 65 we found cigars in the pocket of the shirt he had been wearing. Who knows if quitting would have lengthened his life. But quitting would certainly not have hurt him.

My boss when I worked for Butte County spent all day with a coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in his other for the entire time I worked with him from 1978 to 1981. He was a good guy and I hope he is in good health.

During that time, I remember that a client came down the hall with a cigar one morning and I was reduced to a long term coughing jag. I finally recovered from it but it was a struggle. We normally just put up with the fumes and didn't think much about it.

Then when I accepted a job in Yuba County in 1981 I did not know how to act when I found that Yuba County had a work place smoking ban. It was really nice to not have to breathe that stuff in all of the time.

I never could understand the attraction that smoking held for some people. I know that some felt it was a form of rebelling or glamour. After all, hundreds of movies from the 30's through the 60's had made smoking "glamorous". Can you imagine Humphrey Bogart without a cigarette? How about glamour queens like Bette Davis without that cigarette in her mouth?

I knew a very attractive young lady who took great pains every morning to carefully apply her make-up, fix her hair just so and put on wonderful perfume. Then she lit a cigarette and the whole beautiful vision just collapsed in smoke.

With all of the restrictions and health knowledge about smoking I am surprised that anybody does it any more. But they do! Sadly, it is mostly the young who start and stay with it at least until they start to fall apart at middle age and then have to try to quit.

I am reminded of the client who I had in Chico many years ago. He was quite a disagreeable and coarse human being. But the main thing I remember about him was that he always had a cigarette either in his mouth or between his fingers. I mainly remember that his two "cigarette fingers" were stained yellow. I often wondered that if his fingers were such a color what did his lungs look like. He ended up dieing of emphysema.

But have things progressed too far? There are cities in the Bay Area that have passed total bans on smoking. You can't smoke inside, outside, in city parks or anywhere. Shouldn't smokers have some rights too? I believe they should.

Smoking, like drinking alcohol, is an enjoyable experience to some. People have their individual reasons for doing their habits. Certainly smoking is not as necessarily lethal as doing heroin or crack cocaine but it has produced a pile of thousands of victims.

I know that it's very hard to give up bad habits. I have quit drinking alcohol - many times. But I still have an occasional adult beverage.

But I think that many will agree that smoking is no longer glamorous or classy. I remember a bumper sticker that was slapped upon many a chrome bumper in the late 60's. It read: "Kissing a smoker is like licking an ash tray". I'll drink to that!

"Camaro Afterlife" (#12)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published March 11, 2009.

My cat likes to ride in my Camaro. More on that later.

I was sitting around the other night listening to "Highway Star" by Deep Purple. It's one of those "fast car" songs that really takes me back. Specifically it takes me back to 1973 with me cruising around this area in my 1969 Camaro. That car was blue and had a 327 engine and I put a lot of miles on it in the Bay area and here in the early 1970's.

I bought it in 1973 when I got back from my second tour of 'Nam that spring. After all, I had spent the previous 7 months floating around in the combat zone on Tonkin Gulf and the money I had saved was burning a big hole in my pocket.

I had sold my '56 Ford the year before and I really wanted to buy a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda. However, there was none to be found and I located the Camaro as an afterthought. It cost me a whopping $1,900.00. Once I bought it I was not disappointed.

We were constant companions for many years and we had many adventures. The most traumatic, and memorable, was in June of 1975 when I was commuting between Oroville and Chico. The new overpass to Butte College over Highway 99 was being built and, one morning, I was brought to a complete stop at the construction zone. Unfortunately, the white Plymouth Valiant behind me did not stop and the Camaro was slammed between the Valiant and the Cadillac in front of me.

I will never forget the Cadillac driver running back, checking the back end of his car and saying "no damage!" and speeding off. I still think he and the woman he was with were not supposed to be with each other and that is why they took such a quick exit. He never checked to see if I was still breathing or not.

Fortunately, I was unhurt but the Camaro was shortened by about a foot. I had the car repaired and it looked good - but rattled a bit. I kept it until 1978 when I traded it in for (believe it or not!) a wretched 1974 Vega. I know - I musta been nuts!

For decades I deeply regretted selling that Camaro. Along about 1999 I saw some kid from Yuba City High School driving an exact copy of it and said to myself, "Look at that brat! I'll bet his daddy bought that for him. He certainly does not deserve it. That car should be mine!" So you can see, I had some unresolved maturity issues.

Finally in 2005 I decided to, once again, take the step into Camaro ownership. I answered a newspaper ad for a 1994 Camaro. The seller was Darryl (a Motley Crew fan) from Magalia. He brought the Camaro down to Yuba City one January evening and I fell in love with it. He even provided me with a few photos. The most interesting was one showing the car with about a foot of snow on it.

The car had all of my requirements. It was red, had a very good stereo system and ran very well.

I was impressed and bought it immediately from old Darryl. That Spring I had the car repainted (still red) and had the engine redone. Essentially it was a new car.

What was this? My fifth mid-life crisis? No it was not a "Mid Life Crisis" that I decided to buy a Camaro at my age. What it was about was that I always wanted another one and the time seemed right. Unfortunately, everyone at work, most of my "friends" and even my wife gave me nothing but friendly hassle about it. "Larry must be having a mid-life crisis. He must be having to make up for some sort of 'lack' or he wouldn't have bought that racy car".

How wrong they were! I just liked the way it looked and it does allow me to relive some automotive excitement.

As an example of the hassle I have had to endure, I received a "greeting card" from my friends Scott and Judy.

The card showed an over weight, sloppy customer talking to a car salesman. In front of them was a low slung, very fast looking car. The salesman asked "what will it take to get you into this car?" The customer said, "steel cables, pulleys and a pound of bacon grease". Unfortunately, the guy looked just like me!

When GM was developing the car in 1966 they came up with various possible names, including "Panther" and "Chaparral". But they settled on Camaro as a good name because nobody really knew what it meant. GM said that it was French for "friend" or "companion". The Ford Motor Company found in a Spanish dictionary that the name meant "small, shrimp-like creature". Some smart-aleck journalist found a definition somewhere that Camaro meant "loose bowels". As for me, the name Camaro still means "sleek and fast".

Happily, General Motors (if they survive!) is planning to produce a new Camaro in the next year. It's nice to know we may have new Camaros cruising along the landscape. But they better be good. They've got big shoes to fill.

As for me, cruising in my older Camaro is a lot of fun. It does help me relive my younger days. Maybe that's what life is all about - keeping around things that make you happy. No matter how old they may be.

Over the years the Camaro has found a happy home in my garage. Even our cat Sammy loves to ride in the Camaro, especially with the T-top removed. I have a photo of her sitting in my lap enjoying the ride. Why she has her tongue sticking out in the photo I will never know. Possibly she is a Ford Mustang fan at heart.

Someone once told me that Camaros were a "poor man's Corvette". Actually, I've never been that much fascinated by Corvettes. But Camaros hold a very special place in my life. I am happy to say that I have owned two of the most fun American sports cars ever produced.

"Retrospective" (#13)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published April 15, 2009.

This month marks my one year anniversary of writing this column. This column is about looking back at history and I thought it would be nice to look back at what's happened in the past year.

I never really gave much of an introduction to this column. There was no explanation about what I wanted to accomplish when I wrote the first one. I just jumped onto a subject, watched it take off, and held on.

It's been a lot of fun producing the column and I have, surprisingly, had no problem in thinking up subjects for the columns. Things just came to me; things that interested me and things that bothered me. Maybe some of the subject matter also resulted from unresolved issues that I had to mull around in my mind.

I first came to TD editor John Mistler with a column about advertising and how much I really hated the gross subject matter that we had to endure in watching TV. Sadly, that situation has not changed at all and I pretty much avoid most TV because of it. After all, who wants to lose their appetite after listening to "sexual dysfunction and mucous" commercials? Here's a thought: Maybe if we stop buying the product the commercials will stop!

One really big issue a year ago was gas prices. Funny, isn't it how a major subject can go away and be replaced rather quickly by a more urgent issue. In May, when I did my column on gas prices some people were amazed that I used to buy gas for less than 25 cents a gallon. Now we're all even more amazed that the price has tumbled and we have much more to worry about. Last spring we had no hint of major layoffs and stock market plunges. Maybe next year at this time we'll be out of this mess and into something else. Hopefully, that "something else" will be regarding something totally unimportant, like how many more plastic surgeries it will take to rebuild Michael Jackson.

I did get some very good feedback on several of my columns. My e-mail account was visited quite a few times regarding the "Cuban Missile Crisis" column that I did in October. It really sparked some memories from folks my age about where they were when everybody thought we were going to breathe our last. They also had quite a few conflicting comments on just how good a President John Kennedy was.

I was thanked on the street by a reader for writing the article on John McCain from this past January. I received a lot of good comments about what a great guy he is and sorrow over the horrible treatment he received at the hands of the North Vietnamese. John may have forgiven them but I haven't.

Several folks were quite upset that he lost the election. In looking back I figure that he lost the election due to his age, his relatively unknown VP pick and an unmovable force by the name of Barack Obama. We'll see if the country made a big mistake or not. I hope we did not.

The article on cigarette smoking from this February sparked some disbelief. Many folks could not believe that it had been 38 years since the last cigarette commercial aired on TV. I agree, those rotten commercials still haunt me as if it was yesterday. Whether you like smoking or not, most of us felt those commercials were really obnoxious.

I did receive e-mails about my August article on gambling in California. One writer took it as an anti-gambling article and pointed out that casinos employ a lot of people and help the economy. I can't argue with that. My purpose in writing the article was to give a history of how it has spread in California. While I am basically against gambling and would like to see it go away, I am more bored by it than anything else. I am much more interested in getting compulsive gamblers who are ruining their lives to kick the habit.

By the way, I spent a few days in Las Vegas last month and am amazed that, even with this poor economy, they are still building new casinos! There still must be a lot of losers in southern Nevada. No, I did not gamble a bit.

My article on local radio in June prompted a few e-mails from people who wanted to get into the radio or media business. I could only tell them that it's a risk to assume that a full time radio job will keep food on the table. Rarely have I seen radio people stay in the business long term. KUBA's Moe Howard is an exception as he has been in the business for more than 30 years - and he still sounds great.

As a matter of fact one of our local sports radio guys was recently laid off from his full time gig. He is one of the best I have ever heard and makes my contribution to local radio pale badly in comparison. Job instability in the radio business has always been the norm.

If you have read any of my other columns you will note that I try to tie a subject into some personal experience I have had. Certainly my articles on local radio, rock music, Camaros, TV in the 60's, and the end of the Vietnam War were just as much about my experiences and foul ups as about the overall subject matter. But then, I've never been one to shy away from bringing up my personal flaws and screw ups to better illustrate a story line.

I've been strongly influenced by certain writers like H. G. Wells and Mark Twain. Also, a great influence was a local writer of history from Butte County. His name was Bill Talbitzer. He wrote the very fine book, "Too Much Blood" about the Juan Corona murders and many stories about Butte County history. Bill was there several times when I had dumb questions about writing and publishing - and he never once laughed at my inexperience.

Wells wrote about fantasy, Talbitzer about history and Twain was an expert about making great fun of himself to illustrate a point. Hopefully I've learned something of substance from the influence of these great writers.

I've already come up with several new column ideas and plan on continuing to write this column for as long as they will give me space in the TD.

Next month my column will tackle just how difficult it is to be "technologically challenged". Don't worry, it'll be very interesting. It will also include info on the fun you can have when you dress up your cat in a football helmet. Obviously, the bizarre writing continues.

"Technologically Challenged" (#14)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published May 13, 2009.

Awhile back my son Alan told me about a web site called "Stuff On My Cat". It's a site where people post dumb photos of their cats. Some are dressed up or just covered with silly stuff.

I was impressed enough with the site to send an old photo of me holding a cat wearing a small plastic football helmet. Yeah, I know it was a stupid idea then and the photo hasn't gained any additional intelligence over the years. But it is pretty hilarious.

Once a photo is posted on the site, people can make comments about the photo. Comments about my silly photo were mostly positive. However the comment that really got my attention was a remark about "all of the antique stuff in the background" of the photo.

Of course, my immediate reaction was "what antique stuff?" When I got to look closely at the photo I could understand the comment. The photo showed my phone - it was a dial phone. The photo showed my stereo system - it was a phonograph with a reel to reel and cassette tape player. Thank god I didn't have an 8 track!

The photo was taken in 1978 and I just didn't notice how outdated the stuff in the photo was until that smart aleck pointed it out to me. Those of us who lived back then just took that technology for granted. We really thought we were hi-tech!

I'm the kind of guy who waits a long time to adapt to new technology. I didn't get a color TV until the late 70's. I also saw absolutely no sense in buying a microwave - until I tried it the first time. Then I bought one right away! Possibly the only technology I readily adapted to was the VCR. I bought a top-loader back in the early 80's when they were about $400.00.

My old phonograph died about 20 years ago and I never tried to replace it. Many of my old albums I have replaced with CD's. Sadly, some of the albums are not available as CD's. I kept most of my old vinyl albums just for posterity. Every once in awhile I get them out and read the jackets. I still remember all of the good times I had with them even with their pops, clicks and scratches.

I got into CD's pretty early but it took me a long time to get an IPOD. I still can't understand how they can cram 700 45's into that tiny little plastic box. But I am sure glad they can. I find it's a great place to archive all of my favorite songs from the stone age.

We got rid of our phone land lines years ago and I really like my cell phone. But I couldn't care less about whether I can take photos with it. As long as I can receive and make calls I am perfectly happy. I also have no interest in texting.

A few months ago I told a co-worker that when I began working for local government in 1974 we only had manual typewriters. She responded, "Gee that was two years before I was born!" Thanks kid for making me feel REALLY OLD!

Thanks to my wife I have pretty much been able to adapt to new technology regarding work over the years. She's the one who insisted in 1998 that we get a personal computer. Since then we have upgraded it and I have learned a lot. I was originally scared of the thing because I didn't think I could ever learn how to use it.

Since that time I have become quite proficient in dealing with computers. I have used them in both my radio and my bureaucratic careers. I also build web sites.

Way back in high school I learned to type on a Remington manual typewriter. That was high tech in 1966.

Then I got an electric that mostly jammed when I tried to type too fast. Then I converted to an IBM Selectric that had one of those typing balls that you could not jam.

About 10 years ago my job brought in our first computer system. We are presently on our second one. It took quite awhile to get comfortable with but I now pretty much enjoy working with it.

However, sometimes I find myself having to drag out the old IBM Selectric and adding info that can't be added to forms by the computer. Computers don't solve all of our problems - sometimes they just create new ones.

I was greatly surprised this Christmas when my wife bought me a new record player. She must have realized that my music listening ability was lacking. It's been great to play some of my old albums after about 20 years. Sometimes it feels awfully good to revisit old friends.

"The Giant Icon on Table Mountain" (#15)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published June 17, 2009.

Over 300 communities in the United States have Mountain Monograms. What's a Mountain Monogram? That's when a community builds a big letter on their local mountain to commemorate either the name of their town or a school in their area.

California has at least 63 of these enormous letters adorning adjoining mountains. We here in the Yuba/Sutter flatlands have no Mountain Monogram. That's mainly due to the fact that we have no mountain - except the Sutter Buttes and that mountain is definitely off limits to any kind of graffiti.

The nearest Mountain Monogram is at Oroville, and the construction of their enormous letter "O" makes quite a story.

It was in February of 1929 and Oroville High School senior Morrow Steadman wanted a project to remind students at the high school of "cooperation and teamwork, both on the athletic field and in our school activities."

He thought a big "O" on Table Mountain would do the trick. After all he had seen how great the big "C" had turned out on the hill overlooking Strawberry Canyon near the University of California at Berkeley. Theirs had been the first Mountain Monogram in California.

That sentiment was echoed by Student Body President Rusty Jacobs. He said that there would be a block "O" on Table Mountain if he and Morrow had to build it by themselves. Fortunately they also had help from a few others including Morrow's brother Ernie.

Classmate Douglas Chambers was Morrow's choice for surveyor for the project. He took a transit shot from the 50 yard line of the OHS football field to Table Mountain. Then they carried a huge paper "O" up to the mountain and laid it out. From their viewpoint 3 miles away at the high school campus they figured out the correct location for the enormous letter.

Those of us who have hiked to the "O" know just how far and just how steep a hike to the location is. I have hiked to the "O" a dozen times and it's almost impossible to imagine packing in sack after sack of cement up that steep grade and forming a mold and pouring the cement.

Just hiking yourself to that spot is an exhausting trip. But the view is worth it. On a clear day you can look southwest and see the Sutter Buttes 20 miles away. You can also look west and see the snow covered coastal range at certain times of the year. Looking toward the east, you can see Oroville Dam and its spillway.

Student Ray Johnson's father owned an automobile shop and he provided a supply of axles. That metal was then driven into cracks in the lava rock to hold the molds so the cement could be poured. Ray Johnson later became a Senator for this area.

Douglas Chambers' Model T Ford along with three other loaner trucks was utilized to bring the supplies up closer to the steep location. One of the loaner trucks was even flipped on its side while attempting to climb a steep incline.

The boys also built a sled to help them pull drums of water and other material up a very steep part of the grade. This was no walk in the park. This project took an immense amount of physical labor.

Somehow the boys brought a gasoline concrete mixer up to the site. It took over 108 sacks of concrete to fill the forms for the "O".

For most of the construction there was just a handful of dedicated workers. But once some of the local girls brought up some food quite a number of enthusiastic workers joined them. It's still a question of what prompted their enthusiasm - the food, or the girls.

Those classmates from the Oroville High School class of 1929 finished building the "O" in a little over 2 months.

When finished it had a thickness of 4", a length of 87 feet and a width of 33 feet.

Over the years the "O" has been fire bombed (with minor damage), received a lot of graffiti and has been scorched by wildfires. It's been changed into a "C", "LP", "69", "USA" and an assortment of other figures. But shortly thereafter the unwanted paint, paper or plastic material is removed and it gets changed back to its original "O" shape.

Way back in 1929 many of Oroville's elders thought the classmates of '29 were nuts for making such an effort. But the "O" has outlasted that generation and several more. Morrow Steadman, who became an attorney, passed away in 1959. At least he got to see his creation make it to 30 years old.

The "O" was dedicated on June 8, 1929 - 80 years ago this month. It has overlooked our valley through the Great Depression, World War II, nuclear power, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, television, landing on the Moon, computers and September 11, 2001. Not to mention microwaves and the Edsel!

In 1989, Dan Wilson who was a reporter in the Oroville area, interviewed all of the principals in this story. I thank him for his efforts and for giving me permission to use information from his research. Without his efforts, much of the history of the construction of the "O" would be lost forever. Thanks Dan!

I am sure that there are many people who have lived in the shadow of Table Mountain all of their lives who take the "O" for granted and don't realize the effort that went into building it.

But now when you drive north up Highway 70 and see Table Mountain with its enormous white monogram you'll know why and when it was built. It's a great inspiration to those of us who have climbed to its steep heights.

"Mel Blanc" (#16)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published July 15, 2009.

I feel sorry for anybody who does not recognize the name of Mel Blanc. But mostly I'd feel sorry for those who have never heard his voice. What an impression he has made on me for most of my life.

He was known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices" and every time I think of cartoons with real personality I think of him. As a matter of fact some of my happiest moments as a kid were while I was watching the cartoons he voiced.

Some kids from the 1950's and 60's will tell you that their favorite cartoons were from Disney or Hanna Barbera studios. But mine were from Warner Brothers; Loony Tunes and Merry Melodies were my favorites. That was mainly due to the voice and personality of Mel Blanc.

Mel was born Melvin Jerome Blank on May 3, 1908 but he later changed his last name to Blanc due to the insults he had to endure from a teacher who made fun of him because he didn't think Mel was too bright. He said that his future would be "blank". Little did he know.

Mel started out in radio and ended up on the Jack Benny radio show doing the voice of Jack's Maxwell automobile. I understand that it was a treat every week to hear Mel start up the old wreck. Of course I never heard the radio show but I did see and hear him do it a few times on the Jack Benny TV show. Mel was one of the reasons I loved that show also.

During World War II Mel provided the voice of Pvt. Snafu, an incompetent member of the armed forces in training/safety films for soldiers regarding what NOT to do in the military.

Mel did have a brief stint with Walter Lantz Studios where he was the original voice for Woody Woodpecker. He introduced the classic laugh and his "Guess Who?" continued to be used in each cartoon even after he later signed an exclusive contract with Warner Brothers.

Even though most people will say that Bugs Bunny was their favorite character of Mel's, I always had a great affinity for Yosemite Sam. He was always getting greatly upset, expending a lot of effort and then getting badly hurt. My favorite line of Sam's was, "Who keeps puttin' footy prints all over my desert?"

Another deeply frustrated character of Mel's was Wile E Coyote. He rarely performed Wile E's voice but always did the "Beep Beep" for the Roadrunner. Wile E was the consummate optimist - in spite of continually being crushed every time he tried to catch the Roadrunner. .

Few people know that the 1964 Jan and Dean song "Dead Man's Curve" was dedicated to Mel. It was based upon the fact that he almost died in a January 24, 1961 car accident on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. In the middle of the song, Jan Berry says, "Well, the last thing I remember Doc, I started to swerve". Obviously a dedication to Mel and his vocal creation Bugs Bunny.

At the time of the accident Mel was doing the voice of Barney Rubble on the, then new, "Flintstones" cartoon series. He was in a coma for 3 weeks and there were false reports that he had died. During his 6 months of recovery from the wreck he continued on voicing that character. He would record it either from his hospital bed or from his bedroom at home. It must have been quite a sight to have all of the actors doing their voices along with all of the technicians and recording equipment wedged into those little rooms. Add to that the sight of Mel Blanc doing the voices while in a full body cast. He had broken almost every bone in his body.

A Mel recording that was very memorable was Pat Boone's song "Speedy Gonzales" from 1962. Mel does Speedy Gonzales with an assortment of comments such as "Hey Rosita, come quick! Down at the cantina they're giving away Green Stamps with Tequila!" (Yes, I do remember Green Stamps and Blue Chip Stamps too!)

Funny how what was fairly innocent back then is considered not acceptable now. You rarely ever hear this song on oldies radio or see Speedy Gonzales cartoons because he is not now considered to be politically correct.

Years later Mel voiced the character "The Frito Bandito" for Frito-Lay commercials. Some people also found that character controversial.

Mel voiced Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Dino the Dinosaur, Foghorn Leghorn, Heathcliff, the Tazmanian Devil and even Twiki from the Buck Rogers TV series. So many characters! Probably the two who sounded most alike were Sylvester the Cat and Daffy Duck. They were essentially the same except that Sylvester slobbered a lot more.

Speaking of Sylvester: one of my favorite cartoon characters was his son Junior. Sylvester and his son had a great relationship. They were always trying to catch the "big mouse" who they failed to recognize as a kangaroo! Whenever Sylvester would fail miserably at catching the "mouse" his son would cover his eyes in shame and say, "Oh the shame of it! Oh father, what will the kids in Troop 12 say?" A classic moment. At least it was, and still is, classic for me.

I found myself many times over the years trying to imitate some of Mel's characters. Sadly I wasn't very good except when I was imitating Sylvester the Cat. Even then, anybody standing within 10 feet needed to wear a raincoat during my attempt. You just can't imitate him without slobbering.

Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny for 49 years and Daffy Duck for 52. No one has surpassed those long-time records of voicing characters.

Mel passed away 20 years ago on July 10, 1989 in Los Angeles. As you would expect, on his headstone his epitaph reads, "That's All Folks!"

After all this time his voice still brings joy.

"Walter Cronkite And His Broadcast News Legacy" (#17)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published August 12, 2009.

Walter Cronkite's death came as a shock to me, even though he was 92 and in ill health. That first night of endless programs, news stories and news clips made me very sad. I had forgotten just how much I had missed the man.

He had retired from CBS in 1981 and we have not heard much from him since. I understand that CBS had promised him a lot of news specials and documentaries. But most never panned out. I took that as a slap at Walter. Hopefully, he felt better about it than I did.

The past month or so has seen a lot of celebrity deaths. From the commercial hypster Billy Mays to the over-hyped Michael Jackson. From the classy actor Karl Malden to the TV poster child Farrah Fawcett, who showed us how very classy she was in handling her cancer.

The media spent, and continues to spend, way too much time on Michael Jackson. He was a very talented man who never actually experienced normal life. I know he brought a lot of joy to many people but his life was very sad.

Only an average amount of media time was spent on Walter Cronkite. Sadly, the media looks more toward the bizarre and the ratings they will bring instead of what is really important. A man like Walter Cronkite needs to be remembered and cherished.

Walter began his national TV news career when he anchored the 1952 Democratic and Republican Convention coverages.

He was the host of the history show "You Are There" in the early 1950's and also hosted the CBS morning show where he occasionally shared hosting chores with Charlemagne the Lion. Charlemagne, by the way, was a puppet.

But Walter really began his TV news legacy when he inaugurated the first network TV half hour evening news broadcast in 1963. His guest interview that night was with President Kennedy.

He was always there when the country seemed to be falling apart or feeling fragile. I will always remember that long weekend of the Kennedy assassination in November 1963. He had announced the death of the President and went on throughout the weekend to guide us through the additional turmoil of the murder of the President's assassin and the fear of the unknown. After all, if the President can be killed, what other terrible things can happen? He reported on the facts and made us feel stable. There was something reassuring about the man and he exuded sufficient confidence to get us through the crisis. Lord knows how little sleep he got over that time period.

He was a big fan of the space program and loved it when we landed on the moon. News people at that time were not supposed to give out personal feelings. But 40 years ago Walter could not help himself. In his comment "Oh Boy!" and his near speechlessness, he embodied the joy of the United States and most of the world.

Walter brought to TV news a vast wealth of experience that he had gleaned over many years of reporting. His experience included being a war correspondent. He had covered World War II by flying in B-17s over Germany and in personally covering the D-Day landings.

He had also covered the Vietnam War. He visited Vietnam several times and in 1968 he gave his personal opinion on the Vietnam War. He felt it could not be won and would result in a stalemate. His short opinion piece was rare for a newscaster. But he felt strongly about a war that had deeply divided the nation. After hearing his report, President Johnson felt he had lost the support of much of the American people. I believe that was one of the main reasons that President Johnson did not run for re-election in 1968.

Walter left a fine legacy for TV journalists. Those who followed his example stayed loyal to the journalist's ethic. Sadly, the news networks and many media journalists have not followed in his footsteps.

Back when we only had CBS, NBC and ABC news and their broadcasts were limited only to 30 or 60 minutes per night, the networks concentrated on the who, what, where, how and when of a news story. Their news divisions were there as a supplement to the entertainment division of the network. The entertainment divisions worried about ratings and the news divisions were not concerned. News divisions were not expected to make a profit. They were there to report the news.

With the advent of the 24 hour news networks things have radically changed. Sadly, now the news is a money making division and has to get your attention to get big ratings. That is why every few minutes there is a "Breaking News Alert". That very important "Breaking News Alert" may exist only to tell you that Michael Jackson is still dead!

Another problem with the 24 hour news networks is that they have so much time to fill that, in addition to any hard news, they have to speculate, argue, rehash and reargue each individual aspect of a story. I think the basic problem is that many times the networks don't actually give themselves time to think before they broadcast something.

Take a look at many of the "talking news heads" at the 24 hour news networks and even at some of the local TV stations. Ever notice that the women look like Swimsuit Models? Ever notice that the men look like Ken Dolls? Many of these folks have never seen the outside of their newsroom. They've never done any investigative reporting. They just read the news. Why? For entertainment. Ratings is the reason.

I could look past the window dressing if the news story quality was of high standard. But many times it is not. Some stories do not include all of the basics of the story and leave you lost. It seems that "happy talk" and entertainment take a front seat to good old, honest and accurate reporting of the news.

When I watch TV news I want unbiased reporting. Tell me the facts and let me make my own opinion. I don't need the broadcaster to tell me how to feel. One problem is that there is a gray area and it is sometimes very hard to find a network or station that will give you just the facts. It is also sometimes hard to tell if a show is a solid "news show" or an "opinion piece".

Who do you trust? Some feel that FOX will just give you "pro-Republican" propaganda. Others will swear that CNN is left leaning and that MSNBC's Rachal Maddow and Keith Olbermann must have been on President Obama's election committee.

I feel that I lived through the "prime time" of TV news and I am very grateful that I was there to see it. TV news is not what it used to be. Technology has improved its visual and audio capability. But, like radio, it has lost a lot of quality in the transition.

In Walter's world, a newsperson's priority was the accuracy of the news story. I hope that one day the majority of the media will realize that accuracy and integrity are much more important than profits.

Thanks for all of those many hours of honest reporting, Walter.

"Hiking Pains" (#18)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published September 16, 2009.

I love to hike and one of my most regular hikes has been to Feather Falls.

I last hiked into Feather Falls in 2008. I've hiked into the Falls a dozen times since 1964 and I must admit that I was pretty winded (aka destroyed!) by the time I had finished the 8 mile hike in and out. The Falls is about 25 miles north east of Oroville.

The shocking thing about this last hike was the fact that young people seemed to move a lot faster than they used to. I could see a lot of the kids just running up those steep paths through the trees while I plodded along. But maybe the truth is that they have not speeded up, but that I have slowed down a whole lot.

I was 13 years old when I first hiked to the Falls. I remember that my dad's boss asked me to carry his backpack in for him. It was pretty heavy but I don't remember it being much of a chore. His boss was very happy when we got to the Falls. The first thing he did was toss the two 6 packs of beer that I had carried in for him into the Fall River to cool them down. I thought the load had felt a little "sloshy".

I actually feel that I am in pretty good shape for my late 50's. I haven't gained all that much weight since I was about 30 and I used to be considered skinny. I do try to keep in shape with a walk of several miles per day during good weather and I also do the treadmill for a mile each night during the cold, wet winter.

But I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to totally prepare for a lengthy hike. Even after all of the hikes to Feather Falls I still get wiped out coming out the last mile. But I do highly recommend that hike as a near-religious experience. The combination of the beautiful mountains, trees, shrubs, wildlife, small waterfalls and the enormous 640 foot Feather Falls itself is a matchless experience. You may go home all sore and tired, but your brain will be refreshed and you will have fond memories of the experience for the rest of your life.

But I have been on hikes that were tougher than Feather Falls. Ones that I would never want to do again.

I would say the toughest hike I ever did was the 3.5 mile hike up Upper Yosemite Falls. That hike takes you three and one half hours. That means that you are plodding along at a mile per hour and zigzagging 135 switchbacks up the hill. It's gratifying to reach the top and I got some great photos of the top of the falls and Yosemite Valley. It is especially great to be able to say that I made it. But once you have made it you still have the two and one half hour hike back down. Your legs are rubber by the time you reach level ground. That is definitely a hike I never want to do again.

The other very tough hike was to the summit of Mount Lassen. It's a 5 mile, 4 hour slog up and down the hill. You gain 2,000 feet. There is no water or shade and the weather can change from clear skies to thunder and lightning strikes in a period of minutes. I must admit that I have foolishly hiked this twice. Once was more than enough but I had to show two of my friends back in 2000 just how tough I was. I was lucky they didn't have to carry me back down. Both times I came back covered in volcanic dust.

But distances and terrain are only a partial concern for hikers. Animals and accidents can put dents into your hiking joy.

I have hiked in the Sierra Nevada area for 45 years and have only run across rattlesnakes twice. Once on Table Mountain near Oroville I ran across a rattler sunning itself on a lava rock. Fortunately he was asleep and I did my best to let him stay that way.

The other incident was on Feather Falls trail in 2004. My friend Scott, who was leading our group, jumped about a foot in the air when he ran across the rattler on the trail. Getting the rattler to scamper off the trail was quite a chore but nobody, including the rattler, was any worse off.

My most memorable hiking situation occurred in June 2002 at Yosemite. My wife and I had decided to hike down the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to the valley. We had gotten down the hill 2 miles, almost to Illillouette Falls Creek, when my wife snapped a bone in her ankle. It just snapped when she stepped on a loose rock. One of those freak "break-a-leg" accidents.

Her accident happened at noon and it took 6 hours for the rescue squad to come down and cart her the two miles up to Glacier Point. Then she was treated to a lovely ambulance ride down into the valley to the Yosemite Medical Clinic. I have nothing but the highest praise and gratitude for all those great people who came to our rescue.

In May 2004 we returned to Yosemite, bound and determined that we were going to finish that hike and we did. The 8 mile hike down into the valley past Vernal and Nevada Falls was wonderful. But it was especially wonderful that we had finally finished what we had started out to do two years before.

In the overall scheme of things, my wife's broken bone was a minor, yet painful and inconvenient event. But hundreds of hikers and climbers have died just in the Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks, mostly due to stupid mistakes being made. But sometimes lack of preparation and/or just bad luck came into play.

Bad luck was the cause of the death of a 9 year old boy and the injury of his 13 year old sister on Lassen Peak Trail last month due to a rock fall.

Also last month, large boulders came down near the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and caused the evacuation of the area. Some boulders were the size of two SUV's. Rocks that have not moved in a thousand years just give way. Gravity is a very strong player

Even at Feather Falls, there have been at least 3 fatal falls. Two young hikers have been swept over the Falls. A girl scout went over in 1958 and an acquaintance of mine went over in 1967. A young Yuba City resident fell into the canyon near the Falls in 1995. So if you go, stay on the trails and don't take chances.

One of the great things about hiking is meeting people and you certainly meet some nice folks on the trail. There is mutual joy in being in the outdoors and enjoying the monumental beauty of Northern California. Those who don't get out and see the country are really missing out.

I especially remember a couple who were in their 80's whom I met on my first hike up to Mount Lassen Summit in 1995. They were plodding along slowly and we had a brief discussion as I passed them by. They indicated that they had done dozens of difficult hikes for decades and that even though they have slowed down they would continue enjoying the outdoors.

I consider them a great example of what I hope for my wife and I. We want to continue to hike and enjoy the natural wonders - if necessary, even in a walker!

"Celebrity Hits and Misses" (#19)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published October 14, 2009.

In 6th grade I had a friend by the name of Dwight Nichols. I don't remember a lot about him except that on one Monday morning at school he came to me and asked, "Guess who I met on Saturday?" I asked him who? He said, "Beaver and Wally." I told him to "quit kiddin!". Then he pulled out a photo of himself with Beaver and Wally.

He said that he had seen them at some shopping mall in Gardena. It was early 1963 and just before "Leave It To Beaver" went off the air. I guess it was just one of their last personal appearances in the Los Angeles area.

To this day I still catch "Leave It To Beaver" once in awhile on TV. It's still a show that makes me feel good. It's what TV was like in the late 50's and early 60's and it's what real life was never like. Every time I see the show I still feel a bit jealous that Dwight met Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow and I didn't.

I had barely missed out on meeting "Little Oscar" a few years before. He and the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile had been scheduled to come to our little neighborhood store and I had looked forward to it. But I ended up getting an ear infection and I felt horrible that day. My mom, being a good mom, did go down and got me a Weiner Whistle. At least she got to meet Little Oscar.

It wasn't until I moved to Oroville in 1963 when I actually got to see some TV stars. The City of Oroville used to sponsor Feather Fiesta Days and hired TV stars to be the parade Grand Marshals. I remember seeing Michael Landon (Little Joe from Bonanza) and Brian Kelly (Porter Ricks, the dad on Flipper) ride by in their new, early 1960's convertibles.

But the first time I actually met a TV star was in 1965 when James Drury came to town. He was all dressed up in his "Virginian" cowboy outfit. He gave me a photo and shook my hand. I was absolutely thrilled that I had finally met a real celebrity. Believe it or not, I still have that photo.

In the Spring of 1974, Paramount Pictures came to Oroville to shoot that horrible movie, "The Klansman". The production was shooting near the old county courthouse and I worked only a few blocks from there. So I used to wander over to the shoot during breaks and lunch to hear the director yell at the actors. I got to see Lee Marvin , Cameron Mitchell and David Huddleston. I missed seeing Richard Burton. I also missed seeing OJ Simpson in his first movie role. No loss.

I have only personally met a few other "celebrities". Two were Peter Noone, leader of the old rock group Herman's Hermits and Vice President Walter Mondale when he was running for President against Ronald Reagan in 1984. The VP was staying at the Holidome in Stockton where I was attending a conference. I had to wade through a gauntlet of Secret Service Agents to get to meet him. By the way, he lost.

The other celebrity that I met was General Chuck Yeager in November 2007. He was at the Christmas Craft Faire in Grass Valley. No one can doubt his incredible aeronautic achievements during war and peace.

You can tell that I had a long period where I idolized various celebrities. However, my opinion of celebrity idolization has changed radically. Not for the better, I might add.

Back in the early days of movies, the studios used to really control the actions and the reputations of their stars. It was very rare when bad publicity would sneak out. You may have really loved a movie star on screen. You may have thought you knew they were a wonderful person, and it was rare that anything but good news about their personal life would be made public. A good image was incredibly valuable to their studio and they could become box-office poison over a rumor about their lack of morality.

Don't I really wish it was like that now. Unfortunately it seems that a slutty image is what many movie, TV, sports and music stars strive for. They seem to make more money off of their lurid image than they do on their movies, TV shows and music.

I can't list the number of times that I have been disappointed by the personal life of a celebrity. Maybe I was totally impressed with a person's acting or music ability. Maybe I thought they were the best I have ever seen and heard. But when I heard about how they really were I dropped them and never paid any attention to them again. A star's big ego, lack of civility, disrespect for their fans or lack of class can make me very unhappy with them even if I may have liked their performance.

Just in the past month there have been examples of a rapper's extreme rudeness and a tennis player's lack of class. It seems that many celebs have forgotten that without their fans they are nothing. But they probably don't care as long as the money keeps rolling in.

Sadly, there are innumerable publications dedicated to covering just that type of behavior. They seem to concentrate on how many scandals, unwanted kids, drug OD's, affairs, childish pranks and outlandish ego fits that the celebrities have. It sounds like those celebs haven't grown up any since high school.

Those publications are all programmed to get your attention and make money for the magazine and the celebrity. Judging from the number of these publications it looks like they are accomplishing making money off of what I call the "Jerry Springer" level of entertainment. The more reports of a "freak show" nature the better.

For decades I looked forward to TV Guide arriving each week. I thought it was great and it was my favorite magazine. But, about 5 years ago, it degenerated into a pint-sized version of "US Magazine". I haven't read one since.

I refuse to put money into the pockets of the publications that make money off of celebrity trash. The only way we are going to change this system is by boycotting those publications and by ignoring those celebrities. The careers of celebrities fade away when they lose their earning power.

I am a realist and know that those celebrities from the 30's, 40's and 50's were not perfect and probably did some pretty nasty things in their personal lives. But, fortunately, I never heard about them and I'd rather have it that way.

Presently, my favorite TV shows are "The Office" and "Big Bang Theory". They are both hilarious. But I sure don"t want to know anything personal about the members of those casts. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Unfortunately, there are very few living celebrities who I would now like to meet. Dick Van Dyke would be one. He had the character to overcome an alcohol problem and has always been a class act.

Of those who have passed on I wish I could bring back the ones with class. Where's Jimmy Stewart when you really need him? He's one I would have been proud to have met.

"My Fortieth High School Reunion" (#20)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published November 11, 2009.

I find that high school reunions are bittersweet. My class has had 7 reunions, of which I have attended 5.

I have great memories of high school. Like my Navy experience, my memories are mostly all good. My memory has somehow erased the rotten incidents - and I know there were rotten ones. Happily, my brain tends to forget those and I am glad for that.

I have spoken with many people who hated high school. They think that a high school reunion would be a horrible experience. Their memories are of being harassed for either being too smart, not good looking enough or just not fitting in.

I remember that my only bad memories of high school were of being made to do uncoordinated things in P.E. and of a few instances of bully harassment. But those are very unimportant memories.

Each time I have attended a reunion I have done it with a positive attitude. I have felt that it was an adventure where I may just find someone, or some thing, that would fill some memory void. Some times I have left the reunion not as fulfilled as I had planned due to the fact that someone I really wanted to see had not shown up.

A year ago I started getting in the mood to attend the 40th Reunion. I figured it was time to build a web site about the class. The web site includes a list of graduates, trivia about the year of 1969 and a memorial section to those who have passed away. Of the 242 graduates, at least 18 have died. Their death causes range from one who drove off of Oroville Dam, to death by cancer, to death by plane crash.

The 40th Reunion was a combination of hilarity, memory reunification and some sadness. But mostly it was a lot of fun. This last Reunion was a blast! (to coin a phrase from 1969).

My first thought when I walked in to the Reunion was, "What are all these OLD people doing here?!" Then I suddenly realized that I too had deteriorated into an old guy.

Various memories stand out from the night of October 17th. Here are a few:

Brian, an attorney from Sacramento, and I were standing around discussing old times when they announced that various classmates would get together on the dance floor for a rendition of "The Stroll". Brian asked me if any of us were old enough to know how to do the stroll. I replied that since the dance, and song, came out in 1958 I doubted that anybody knew anything about it. I remember that the only dance I ever learned to do well was "The Twist" and that was when I was 11 years old in 1962. By the time we were in high school, there were no big popular dances. We usually got on the dance floor and just jerked, slid around, and sometimes fell down.

After watching the classmates do "The Stroll" I was convinced that Brian was right - nobody really knew how to do "The Stroll". BUT they had a blast (there's that word again) doing whatever they were doing and doing it better than I could have done.

One near death experience was related by my friend Richard. He and his wife described his fall from a tree a few years ago that broke a number of ribs and almost proved fatal to him. He barely missed landing on a faucet and qualifying to be in our "In Memoriam Hit Parade"! Fortunately, he has fully recovered. Now days they don't allow Richard on any ladder more than a few inches high.

I told them about a woman who I know who was on a ladder while painting a hallway and fell off backwards. But instead of being worried about her own safety she was far more concerned about whether the paint can would crash down and spill paint all over. So she came down clutching the open paint can and saved the hallway from a paint catastrophe. Fortunately, her physical condition was fine also. Richard's wife says she would have probably reacted the same way. By the way, I won't say who the woman was because my wife would kill me if I did.

After 40 years it was hard to identify a lot of people. Fortunately we all wore name tags with our Graduation photos on them. That's why most of us spent the next 7 hours staring at each other's chests. Some chests, I might add, were more attractive than others.

During the evening, I walked over near the bar and noticed a whole line of bald guys. Seems like more and more of that happens when we get older. My hair has receded but I still have quite a bit of hair left. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to keep most of it. My afflictions have always been more in the areas of being pretty short and half blind.

I got to visit with my old classmate Kurt who I had not seen in 40 years. He and I reminisced about all of the chaos we caused in Drafting class, English and especially when we were on the high school newspaper staff. It's a wonder why either he or I were allowed to graduate. Our visit seemed like the last 40 years had never happened. We both felt 18 again - for at least awhile.

One very nice moment was provided by Ilsa, who lives in Loma Rica. She wanted to make sure that I knew she enjoyed this column. She says that she sits and laughs at the articles. Hopefully, she isn't laughing at the serious ones. Thank you , Ilsa.

I have found that most people get better with time. Even those people you may have really disliked in High School get nicer. They eventually grow up and realize that time is short and maybe it's now time to make amends and move on.

The night of the reunion none of the bullies or snobs existed anymore. Where did they go? Well, maybe they never really existed as strongly as I remembered them. Over the past 40 years their remnants have gradually faded away and left good people.

Maybe these are things to consider if you have a high school reunion coming up. Just remember that life is sweet and good memories are meant to be shared. I hope you have enjoyed these.

"Sci-Fi Movie Icons of the Fifties" (#21)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published December 9, 2009.

Awhile back, my wife was helping family members move from Florida to Nevada and had stopped by The Atomic Museum when they passed through Albuquerque, New Mexico. The museum documents the atomic bomb tests in New Mexico during the mid to late 1940's. Since I had not joined her on the trip she decided to bring me a souvenir from the museum.

What she brought me was a small silver robot named GORT. I thanked her for the shiny, 5 inch metallic figure that really brought back memories. I had assumed that she knew where GORT had come from but she didn't know that he was the robot from the classic 1951 movie "The Day The Earth Stood Still".

I had just been born when the movie came out but I have seen the movie many times and was always impressed with the special effects and the 8 foot tall giant GORT that protected his master Klaatu. GORT could shoot a death ray from behind his visor and did a heck of a job of incinerating any threats.

By the way, actor Lock Martin was the guy in the GORT suit. He was 7 feet 7 inches tall.

Most people think of "Star Wars", "Star Trek" and "2001- A Space Odyssey" when they think of movie science fiction. But the 1950's also produced science fiction icons that made a big impression on the "baby boomer" generation.

1951 also produced a great sci-fi classic called "The Thing (From Another World)". It's the story of a flying saucer that crashes through the ice in the North Pole and a U.S. Air Force group digs out the body of the pilot and preserves it in ice. As could be expected the Thing defrosts and causes havoc until it is fried by electricity. A fitting end for a creature that was pretty much all vegetable. The creature is rarely seen and only in low lighting. It's a very creepy show. By the way, The Thing is played by James Arness, four years before he became Marshall Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke".

Another great sci-fi film was "Forbidden Planet". Filmed in Technicolor it included topnotch special effects for its time. This movie starred actor Leslie Nielson. This was long before he became a comedic actor (who knew back then that he could be funny?)

But the most impressive character in the film was Robbie the Robot. Robbie was a cheeky, comedic, metallic version of a butler. He could pretty much create just about anything the space guys could need. One scene shows him lumbering forward with a huge load of shielding. He states, "This is my morning's batch of Isotope 217. The whole thing hardly comes to ten tons."

The movie came out in 1956 and Robbie was the talk of the playground when I was in first grade. I consider him the 1950's version of R2D2 and C3PO.

As a matter of fact he was so popular that a version of him was added to the cast of that very silly TV show "Lost in Space" in 1967. In the TV series his looks and voice were changed a bit but he still had the same smart aleck attitude. As far as I am concerned the only reasons to watch that show were the Robot and the evil Dr. Zachary Smith.

"Bug" movies were very popular in the 50's and since there were so many of them I will only discuss my favorite. It was 1955's "Tarantula". It starts out with a scientist who is conducting experiments to enlarge creatures. He figured that if he could enlarge animals he could solve the world hunger problem. He has a large assortment of animals from rabbits, to guinea pigs and also a tarantula. He's injected a few and they are getting bigger.

Due to a fire the Tarantula escapes and continues to get bigger! There is something incredibly surreal about seeing a city block sized spider silhouetted at the top of a hill looking down on possible victims or watching it lumber down an Arizona highway toward a town. Good special effects increase the chill factor.

The spider is finally destroyed by napalm dropped from Air Force jets. If you watch the film look closely as the pilot who orders the attack is Clint Eastwood. He is not recognizable behind his oxygen mask but you'll recognize his voice. It was probably his first bit part in a movie.

You can't discuss 50's sci-fi without mentioning giant dinosaurs and the most famous has to be Godzilla. Godzilla was first introduced in 1955 in "Godzilla, King of the Monsters". This production was made in Japan with Japanese actors and was a big hit there.

For the American version new scenes were filmed with actor Raymond Burr. They don't improve on the original film and don't flow seamlessly.

In this film Godzilla is played straight and there are some very creepy scenes and special effects along with some dreary, but appropriate, music. It's a classic and well worth seeing. Most other Godzilla sequels are pretty silly and not worth your time.

"The Thing", "The Day The Earth Stood Still" and "Godzilla" have all been remade, in 1982, 2008 and 1998 respectively. However, in my humble opinion, I consider all of them to be disappointments. Even with glossier special effects they just don't have the atmosphere and quality of the originals. Rumor has it that there is a remake of "Forbidden Planet" pending so cross your fingers on that one.

These and other 50's sci-fi movies are available on DVD and I recommend you checking them out. Some are classics and some just historic relics of our scientific ideas and political paranoia of the times.

As I am writing this I see GORT staring down at me from a shelf. I am reminded of what actress Patricia Neal said to GORT near the end of "The Day The Earth Stood Still" - "GORT, KLAATU BARADA NIKTO!" Nobody really knows what that means but it kept our Earth from being "reduced to a burned out cinder." I am grateful for that.

"A Deadly Legacy" (#22)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published January 13, 2010.

It was shortly after 8 A.M. on Saturday, April 28, 1973. I had just walked outside my parent's house and heard a distant detonation. Then I heard several more detonations. The blasts came from the south.

I turned on a Sacramento TV station and was horrified by the sight of railroad cars and buildings being blown high into the air.

A rail car loaded with 7,000 MK 81 aircraft bombs had somehow caught fire and those bombs were going off in the small community of Antelope - right next to Roseville.

Antelope was made up of a general store, a grange hall and a half dozen homes. The blasts decimated the small town along with great damage to the rail yard and some damage to other businesses stretching from Roseville to North Highlands.

The blasts were so powerful that I was able to hear them in Oroville, 70 miles away.

Just over two months later, on July 4, 1973, I visited the area. The area had not yet been cleaned up. There was nothing left of the grange hall and the general store sites except for a burned pile of wood. Hundreds of railroad cars lay smashed in piles on top of each other.

Later it was found that sparks from a railcar's wheel had set fire to a railcar of liquefied petroleum. That fire had, in turn, set fire to the bombs and set off a chain reaction. Fortunately no one was hurt in this terrifying incident.

Over the years the site was cleaned up and no trace of the incident remained. At least that is what the owners of the rail yard thought. However, in the late 1990's Union Pacific began a remodel of the entire rail yard. Miles of track and ties were removed and the yard was reshaped. Unfortunately, earthmoving equipment also uncovered unexploded bombs from the 1973 accident.

Union Pacific had the first bombs found detonated on site. Unfortunately those blasts shook adjacent houses and sent bomb shrapnel flying into homes in Citrus Heights. Naturally, those citizens of Citrus Heights were very unhappy and Union Pacific was quickly convinced to move the bombs to a weapons disposal area.

Why were bombs being transported through the Roseville area? They had been loaded at the Naval Weapons Depot in Hawthorne, Nevada and were on their way to the Concord Naval Weapons Station near Pittsburg, California. They had been on their way to the Vietnam War even though there was a ceasefire in place at the time.

I had been stationed at the Concord Naval Weapons Station the year before. Back in World War II the base had been known as the Port Chicago Naval Weapons Station. In 1972 I had noted that the town of Port Chicago no longer existed. All you saw then were concrete slabs where homes used to be. What had happened there?

On the night of July 17, 1944 American sailors were loading vast quantities of bombs, rockets, TNT and cordite on the liberty ships Quinault Victory and E. A. Bryan. That ordnance would be shipping out to the South Pacific for the Saipan invasion.

At about 10:18 PM, the time the 1,500 residents of Port Chicago were preparing for bed, an enormous explosion blew the ships and the wharves near them to bits. Residents of Oakland, San Francisco and Alameda felt the earth rock and many thought it was an earthquake.

The blast occurred aboard the E.A. Bryan and there wasn't much left of it. The Quinault Victory was torn into various big chunks - its stern landing upside down 500 feet away.

Portions of the ships and wharf were blown 12,000 feet into the air and flames could be seen shooting skyward from 50 miles away. Most all of the homes in Port Chicago were badly damaged and some buildings 20 miles away sustained cracked windows and walls.

A man who I interviewed several years ago was in a bar in Concord that night when all of the windows burst in. Everyone thought that the Japanese had bombed the Bay Area.

At dawn, search parties set out to locate the Navy crewmembers aboard the ships. Hardly anything of the 321 men was found.

There was never any firm determination of what had caused the blast. Some of the ammunition being loaded was unsafe as it had been left over from World War I. Some authorities felt that it was caused by "rough handling" of the ammunition.

Surviving sailors who had been off base at the time of the blast were firm in their belief that they were all being rushed to finish the loading and they had been inadequately equipped and trained. That combination caused the accident to occur. Of course, since there were no survivors from the ships we will never know.

I helped handle bombs for a time during my Navy enlistment and we were acutely paranoid and very careful while dealing with ordnance. The Port Chicago explosion was always in the back of our minds.

The power of bombs was vividly demonstrated to me off of the coast of Vietnam in 1973. A 500 pound bomb was dropped several miles away from my aircraft carrier. You first saw the blast. Then the shrapnel landing. Then you heard the sound of the explosion. If we had been much closer, we would have never heard anything. Bomb is only a word until you feel it.

I drove past the Weapons Depot in Hawthorne, Nevada in March of 2009. It's now managed by the U. S. Army. It sits on 147,000 acres of desolate desert land and there are 2,427 ammunition storage bunkers spread over that acreage. You can see hundreds of these containers from Highway 95 and some are not very far from downtown Hawthorne. The depot has been in operation since 1930 and it's the largest facility of its type in the world.

Ordnance is still transported all over the United States by rail. Let's hope that future storage and transport of ammunition is done safely. However, every time I see a train go by the explosions at Antelope come to mind.

"The Days the Music Died" (#23)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published February 10, 2010.

Most people think of the "Day The Music Died" as February 3, 1959. That was the day, 51 years ago, of the plane crash that killed singers Buddy Holly, J. P. Richardson and Ritchie Valens near Mason City, Iowa.

Buddy was a great inspiration for other artists such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and had written and produced such songs as "Peggy Sue", "That'll Be The Day" and "Maybe Baby".

Disc Jockey, J. P. Richardson was known as the "Big Bopper". He had only one hit. It was the sing/talk novelty song, "Chantilly Lace".

Ritchie Valens was only 17 but already had two major hit records, "Donna" and "La Bamba".

They all died at an early age and who knows just how much more great music they could have created if they had lived into the 1960's.

I was only 8 years old at the time and was not very familiar with the event until Don McLean came out with "American Pie" in 1971. That song about Buddy Holly and other artists stirred my interest and I discovered the great music of all three of those who died.

But I am reminded of other dates that the music died. I remember on the late afternoon of September 20, 1973 that I was cruising down Larkin Road near Biggs when I heard on the radio that singer Jim Croce had died in a plane crash in Louisiana. His songs, "Operator" and "Time In A Bottle" are classics. A few years ago I was in San Diego and visited "Croce's Restaurant". It's run by his widow Indrid and has many photos and gold records on its walls. It's a fascinating place to visit.

It seemed in the early 1970's that age 27 was a bad age to be. Several major rock singers did not survive it. Surprisingly, the deaths all came within a year of each other.

Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1970 of a drug overdose. His major contributions to music history were "Purple Haze" and "All Along The Watchtower". Also, the unique style of his guitar playing has rarely been successfully recreated.

The very next month on October 4, 1970, Janis Joplin also died of a drug overdose. Her major hits were "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Down on Me".

Nine months later, on July 31, 1971, Jim Morrison of the Doors was the next to die. Jim's very distinctive voice resonated in the hits of "Light My Fire", "Hello I Love You" and "Touch Me".

In Morrison's case you could actually hear his deterioration in his recordings. Over a period of four years the once slim and dynamic lead singer had morphed into a fat, bearded and staggering icon who sometimes could not even make it through a recording session without passing out. It's a toss up whether it was the drugs or alcohol that put an end to his life. He died in a bathtub in Paris, France.

For many years the "Curse of Age 27" was just a memory until Kurt Cobain of the rock group Nirvana committed suicide on April 5, 1994, at age 27. Of those four who died at age 27, they all had drug problems and their deaths were drug related. But Kurt didn't wait for the drugs to kill him. He used a shotgun.

A gun also played a part in the death of Motown singer, Marvin Gaye. I remember that I was in my back yard barbecuing on the afternoon of April 1, 1984 when I heard on the radio that his father had shot him. He was one day shy of being 45 years old. Marvin had forty Top 40 records including "I Heard It Though The Grapevine" and "Let's Get It On".

Death came in a similar manner to soul singer Sam Cooke at age 33. He was mysteriously shot to death on December 11, 1964 by a motel manager. Sam's many hits included "You Send Me" and the first 45 I ever bought, "Twistin' The Night Away."

Assassination by a deranged fan came to John Lennon at age 40 on December 8, 1980. Lennon was an incredibly talented young man who definitely marched to his own twisted drummer and, along with Paul McCartney, wrote some of the best songs ever heard.

"Mama" Cass Elliott was age 32 when she died on July 29, 1974. Rumor had it that she had choked to death on a sandwich. However, the truth is that she died of a heart attack. Cass had a magnificent voice.

Country music lost two major stars in aircraft crashes in the early 1960's. Patsy Cline who had big hits with "Crazy" and "I Fall To Pieces" was killed when her plane hit a mountain near Camden, Tennessee on March 5, 1963.

A year later, Jim Reeves who had country and pop hits with "He'll Have To Go" and "Am I Losing You" was killed when his light plane crashed in the woods on July 31, 1964 near Nashville, Tennessee.

From 1970 to 1981 the Carpenters had a phenomenal string of twenty Top 40 hits including "Close To You" and "We've Only Just Begun". The world was shocked when the sweet voiced Karen Carpenter died of heart failure on February 4, 1983. She was only 32. Her heart had been weakened by anorexia.

I've left the biggest icons for last. Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977 and Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009. Both have four things in common: They were incredibly influential and innovative, they slipped into strange lifestyles due to drugs and self abuse, they had mental health issues and their lives and deaths were very sad. It just goes to show that money and fame don't guarantee a good life. Sometimes they guarantee a lousy one.

Someone asked me the other day if I had been to any concerts lately. I responded, "No. Anybody I want to see live - is dead". Sadly, that is pretty much the truth.

I have CD's, cassettes and even albums of most of the people I have mentioned in this article. What they all have in common is that they died too young and tragically. But they left us a legacy that is so easy to access. Just put in a CD, listen to an Ipod or drop a needle onto an album and they come alive again.

When I met my wife and she told me what her birth date was I thought the date sounded very familiar. She was born on February 3, 1959. So in addition to remembering that date as a day when music died, I also remember it as a day when someone who's made my life very happy was born. Life has a way of balancing things out in a very positive way.

"Slang Ramblings" (#24)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published March 10, 2010.

For most of the 1960's I really hated the term "Groovy". It sounded so dumb and was originally mostly mouthed by hippy type guys on TV shows such as "Shindig" and "Hullabaloo".

There were hit songs that included the term such as, "A Groovy Kind of Love" by the Mindbenders, "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals and "Workin' on a Groovy Thing" by the Fifth Dimension. You just could not get away from the term.

After a few years, I guess the term finally got to me and along about 1968 I began to say it. Right then everybody quit saying it and I felt so out of touch!

I've never been able to keep up with slang terms and I have gotten much worse at it as I have gotten older.

I find one of the most irritating current terms is "Twitter". I know it has something to do with texting, e-mailing or something. When I hear the TV media talk about going on Twitter and Tweeting, my head screams "You people sound like you're 5 years old!" The term irritates me so much I don't want to know more about it. I'll sure as heck never "tweet". I figure if I ever "tweeted" I'd feel like a "twit"! Maybe it will soon go away and find itself in the same dust bin as the term "swell".

"Swell" was around for a long time. Watch any old movie, TV show or commercial from the 30's through the 50's and you will find some soiled kid saying, "Gee that's swell!" I still really don't know what it means other than I assume it means "Gee that's great or wonderful."

Actually the dictionary describes the term as meaning "fashionable". It's hard to imagine it means "fashionable" when I remember the Dead End Kids, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and a lot of other tough guys saying "swell". I just don't think of them as fashionable or effeminate enough to say "fashionable."

In high school there was an assortment of other slang terms we used: "Boss", "Bad" and "Right On!" "Boss" meant Good. "Bad" meant good and "Right On" meant, er I guess it meant "I agree with you."

For awhile the group of delinquents I ran with in high school were so sick of the term, "Right On!" that we used to shout, "Right Arm, left off!" all the time. I know it doesn't make any sense at all. We were not known for our intellect and the good looking girls shunned us like the plague.

"Bad" could mean good but it also could mean bad. According to the rock group Huey Lewis and the News, "Sometimes bad is bad." I'm glad they understand it because I am still confused.

I remember being called "Dude" in high school and really hated it. I still hate it. Fortunately, due to my age it has now been replaced with "Old Codger".

"Stoked" was a term that came about during the first surfing craze along about 1962. It means being enthused about something. Surprisingly, the term came back about a year ago and all the "30 somethings" were saying it. It always reminded me of the nasty possibility of being stuck with a hot poker.

Sometimes the meaning of a word gets changed by historic events. Take, for instance, the word "gay". Back prior to the late 60's it was used in quite a few songs as a term for happiness.

For example the 1966 song by Herman's Hermits, "No Milk Today" includes the line "The company was gay, we turned night into day". In 1958 the Platters song "The Great Pretender" includes the line "Yes, I'm the Great Pretender, just laughing and gay like a clown." Somehow the word now just makes the songs seem "different".

I can only think of one slang term that has stayed the same for probably close to a hundred years. It has remained constant and I still hear it used daily. That's the word "cool". Everybody seems to use it as a term for "good" or "pleasant" and it doesn't seem to ever go away.

"Like" is a very irritating term when used improperly. When I "Like" something, that's "Cool". But when you use it in an inappropriate manner it gets maddening: "Like, you know, I went down town to, like, the 7-11 and it was, like, you know, really Cool".

Well, was it just "Like" the 7-11 or was it REALLY a 7-11 in actuality? (By the way, the term "you know" really irritates me too.)

Anybody who misuses the term "Like" reminds me of Maynard G. Krebs from the "Dobie Gillis Show" but I won't mention that because people will think I am old (THAT could never happen!) Maynard was a beatnik. Beatniks were hippies who played bongos.

Maynard's favorite expression (other than "Like") was, "Work!" He hated work as most Beatniks did. By the way Beatniks came several years before hippies. Hippies rarely played bongos.

Bob Denver, who played Maynard later played Gilligan on "Gilligan's Island". Gilligan's favorite expression was, "Hi Skipper!" Bob always strived for intellectual parts.

Well that's enough consorting with the illiterate. Dig ya next month daddio!

"Retrospective Two" (#25)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published April 14, 2010.

Time has really flown by and it's now been two years since I began this column. It's been a lot of fun to produce and I find it very rewarding to hear comments from you, my long suffering readers.

It's time once again to review some of the correspondence and comments I have received over the past 12 months regarding the articles.

Article subjects have ranged from my ongoing natural reluctance to accept new technology, to comments on society's seemingly unstoppable obsession with dead and living celebrities, to my review of old, grainy 1950's Sci Fi Movies, to my own realization that I am getting older - a feeling that was prompted by my 40th High School Reunion.

Exactly a year ago I wrote a column stating that the year before we were worried about gas prices and we now were going through a tough economic time and that maybe a year from now our economic woes would be lessened and we will have something else to worry about that is less important. I stated "Hopefully, that "something else" will be regarding something totally unimportant, like how many more plastic surgeries it will take to rebuild Michael Jackson."

Well, certainly the death of Michael Jackson last June made me stop and think about all of those bad Michael Jackson jokes that were floating around. Even though his weird lifestyle made him an easy target for ridicule, he was a great talent and must be respected for that.

I received an e-mail from Robert from Montgomery, Alabama about my article on Mel Blanc in July. He had been on a business trip to Yuba-Sutter and had seen and enjoyed the article.

His only criticism was that I did not mention more of Mel's great contributions to the Jack Benny TV Program. He had wished that I had mentioned Mel's Mexican character "Si", and his stint as Jack's French violin teacher. I told Robert that I remembered all of Mel's contributions to that program but Mel had too much talent and there was too little space available to fit it all into one column. Robert said, "Thanks so much for reminding a lot of people what a treasure Mel Blanc was."

My article on my 40th High School Reunion from November prompted an e-mail from Kathleen from Willits. She had gone to Yuba City High School (Class of '67) and wanted to know if I was related to her classmate, Janice Matthews.

I wrote Kathleen back and advised her that I did not know Janice. In the article I had purposely not said where I had gone to high school as I felt that my insecurities, observations and concerns about the reunion were pretty much universal and were applicable to any high school reunion. I told Kathleen that I actually went to Oroville High School. I am sure another universal fact is that those 1960's alumni from the various Marysville and Yuba City high schools feel just as old as I do!

In December I received an e-mail from Tom, a retired US Navy Lieutenant. He had seen my January 2009 article on John McCain on my website. In the article I had mentioned that I had served on the same aircraft carrier as Senator McCain and that my supervisor had been CWO2 Emmett Plimmer.

Tom had been a good friend of Emmett's and was gratified that I had mentioned him in the article. Sadly, he advised me that Emmett passed away in 2002. It just goes to show how small the world has become in the internet age. The ability to connect with people I have not seen for decades (or who knew them) has been incredible.

Dan, a retired Air Force Tech Sergeant, wrote me in response to my article this last January regarding the 1944 Port Chicago ammo ship explosion. He wrote "When I was a kid growing up in Concord I was walking though a freshly disc walnut orchard and tripped on a metal object that turned out to be an unexploded round for a 40mm cannon. We kids took it home and played with it until my dad saw it. I thought he was going to blow his top when he saw what it was." Very scary. I'm glad you're still around Dan!

Glen, from Beebe, Arkansas found the Port Chicago article on line. He commented, "The explosion collapsed the roof of the movie theater in Port Chicago. A search for pieces of the SS Quinault Victory revealed that one of the anchors was found on the bottom of the river close to where she was tied up. The other anchor was found five miles away. Keep in mind that these anchors weighed over 5,000 pounds each. A very long distance for that much weight to be tossed." Thanks Glen. I had previously heard a rumor that one of the anchors had been found in Antioch! Sounds like the rumor really was true.

Robert Voght from Yuba City wrote me about my article on rock star deaths from February: "I wanted to tell you how much I liked your article. I just wanted to add one more artist that I think should have been included in your article. His name was Ricky Nelson and he died in an airplane crash on December 31, 1985. He was an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and actor. He placed 53 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1957 and 1973 including 19 Top 10 Hits. Although at the age of 45 when he died he was not as young as some of the others mentioned, I still feel he deserves a place in your article for his contribution to music and his untimely death."

I could not agree with Robert more. Rick was one of the few teen idols who I felt actually had great talent. But as with the Mel Blanc article, there is a limited amount of space to try to include everything. However, I must admit that not including Rick was a big oversight. Maybe this will motivate me to write an article about Rick Nelson. Sounds like a good idea.

I'm amazed that I have not yet run out of story ideas. But unique subjects just keep popping up and I end up writing about them. Rest assured that I really do like hearing from you and if you have any comments, criticisms or ideas for future articles, please let me know. My web site and e-mail address have been, and continue to be, a forum for discussion. I really appreciate those who have taken the time to write to me.

My column next month will be about my memory of our country's Vietnam War experience and I hope you will find it worthwhile. It's odd how major incidents that occur in your life keep coming back to haunt you. Maybe the more we discuss these things will make it less likely that similar mistakes will be made again.

"Vietnam Deja Vu" (#26)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published May 12, 2010.

In 1965 I was 14 years old when President Johnson ordered the first US combat forces into Vietnam.

I wasn't worried. I figured that all of our prior armed conflicts had only lasted about 4 years and that when I reached draft age in 4 years the war would be long over. Little did I know that our involvement would last another 8 years.

I am sure that others shared my false confidence. The draft was only for those 18 years old and above and this little conflict could not last for long. A third world nation with antique armaments and dirt roads could not possibly last against the great technology of the United States.

I was a "hawk" in those days and so was my dad. But my "hawkishness" gradually faded away. Boys went off to Vietnam and some did not come back. Some were from my high school. All of those classes from my high school from 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968 lost classmates in Vietnam.

I remember that Frank, one of my classmates in the class of 1969, did not come to school for about a week. I found out that his older brother Marine Lance Corporal Larry Liss had been killed in Vietnam. Larry was a medic and had gone out to help a wounded Marine. He and the wounded Marine never made it back alive.

Maybe that's when the reality of Vietnam finally hit me. After all it was one thing to watch Huntley and Brinkley on the NBC Evening News recite the casualty numbers of the past week and another thing to really know people who have lost family members to the war.

In March of 1969 the son of my dentist, was killed by a grenade. David Christianson had been an Army Spec 4 on a PBR (River Patrol Boat) in the Mekong Delta. David had also been a medic and had previously been awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he received in January 1969. David was posthumously awarded another purple heart and a Bronze Star. I still have the newspaper article showing the Army representatives presenting the medals to his parents.

Popular songs came out to protest the war such as "War" by Edwin Starr, "Sky Pilot" by Eric Burdon and "Bring The Boys Home" by Freda Payne. But the most graphic, tasteless, and chilling song was the "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" by Country Joe and The Fish. It's a black-humored song but there is nothing funny about it. Maybe because it's too honest, true and painful. That song is still very hard for me to listen to.

Some went to Canada to flee the draft. Others burned their draft cards to protest the war.

Battles came and went and casualty totals added up throughout the years. The Tet Offensive came in January of 1968 and, even though we won the battle, the attack proved that the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong had not been defeated.

Many Americans felt we just weren't getting anywhere - except losing more Americans.

Shortly thereafter, Walter Cronkite came out against the war. When President Johnson heard his broadcast he felt that he had lost the support of the American public. A few weeks later, President Johnson announced his decision to not run a second time.

The war had been the most divisive incident in American history since the Civil War and those of us who would be subject to the draft in the next year had big decisions to make. We could run off to Canada, apply for a school deferment or either enlist or wait for the draft to take us.

I still had the hope that we had not made a mistake and that we would still win the war. I didn't want to get drafted into the Army so I enlisted in the Navy in late 1969.

I spent two tours in the combat zone off of the coast of Vietnam on an ammunition ship and an aircraft carrier from 1971 to 1973. Luckily I survived to see the ceasefire in January 1973 and our involvement in the war end.

I had felt lucky to not have died in some rice paddy or have been lost at sea like my shipmate Peter Chan. Peter had been blown over the side of my aircraft carrier in September of 1972 and his body was never recovered.

The real end of the war came in 1975 when the North Vietnamese took South Vietnam. An unpopular war had turned into a defeat.

During my time in the Navy we rarely wore our uniforms off base. We were tired of being harassed and being called "baby killers". Some of the American public had turned against the American servicemen due to the Vietnam Conflict.

When the war was over I still saw that same attitude in the media in shows like "Starsky and Hutch" and the "Streets of San Francisco". Every time they had a story line about a psychotic killer or terrorist it turned out to be a demented Vietnam Veteran.

I didn't see any real change in that attitude for many years until the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington DC in 1982. That outpouring of love and appreciation was a wonderful thing to see. But it came too late for many Vietnam Veterans.

Then in December of 1988 I was pleased to have been the coordinator for Yuba and Sutter Counties for the dedication of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento. Many of us paraded throughout downtown Sacramento and saw Governor George Deukmejian dedicate the memorial. It was the highlight of my career as a County Veterans Service Officer and as a Vietnam Veteran.

It had been a long decade of feeling forgotten and having many of our fellow Vietnam Veterans commit suicide over the after-effects of the war and lack of support from the country. But the vast majority of us survived and became successful in our lives.

I am gratified to see that the service men and women of our present wars have been treated with respect and appreciation. Anything less than that is a horrible mistake as we Vietnam Veterans can tell you.

I still have fond memories of those with whom I served. I am dedicated to reminding Americans of those 58,000 who died and those many others who were mentally and physically wounded by the war that many want to forget. Just as important is to remember the lessons we should have learned from our experience in Vietnam.

Are we repeating those mistakes in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? I hope that we are not. Only decades from now will we really know that answer.

If you were to ask if I am proud to be a Vietnam Veteran I would answer, "Absolutely!" For in spite of the way the war was run, just like our fathers in World War II and Korea, our intentions were to try to keep people free. But far too many of us died trying.

Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake - same location in 1940 and 2004.

"Harry Truman and Mount St. Helens" (#27)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published June 9, 2010

First let me make it clear that this article is not about U.S. President Harry S. Truman. It's about the cantankerous old man who was the guardian of Spirit Lake and who, 30 years ago last month, thought he knew better than the geologists about that infamous volcano.

As I am writing this I am looking at a color photo of Harry in his lodge on the shore of Spirit Lake . You can see him looking out the window with his yellow and red oil lamps adorning his front room. On the wall is a large painting of Spirit Lake and Mount St. Helens . That is all gone now, including Harry.

In 1980, Harry was 83 years old and the owner and manager of the Mount St. Helens Lodge which sat at the north base of the volcano. Harry had lived at the lodge for 50 years and was known far and wide as a real character.

On Thursday, March 20, 1980 there began a series of moderate earthquakes around the summit of the volcano, that is located in Washington State about 50 miles north of Portland , Oregon . Things were fairly quiet until March 27th when a rattling blast brought the mountain to life. Moderate earthquakes began to build up at a rate of 6 or 7 per hour.

From that date forward the mountain got more and more threatening with more severe earthquakes, smoke and moderate eruptions. As can be expected, government geologists came from all over to view the scene and the area became a media circus.

As there were very few permanent residents of the area, Harry was interviewed by all of the major media. He had a very gruff demeanor and did not mince words. He judged people by their appearances and was extremely blunt about it. Former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas came to the lodge dressed in his fishing clothes and Harry ran him off the mountain. Later they made up and became good friends and drinking buddies.

Many TV viewers became fascinated with Harry and he received a flood of fan mail. He received three marriage proposals! But he was never really very friendly to those who came to see him. One time a family bought drinks and potato chips from him. Then he told them, "Now, what the hell are you waitin' for? Go on outside and eat 'em on the porch. I don't want you messin' up the place."

Harry really enjoyed all of the media attention but always gave the impression that his beloved mountain would never cause him any injury and all of this was a lot of fuss over nothing. He thought the possibility of a major eruption was a lot of "hooey".

One possession that Harry owned caused a lot of interest. It was his pink-with-gold chrome 1957 Elvis Presley Cadillac. Many tried to buy it but Harry just became annoyed at the thought.

Over the next two months most people were evacuated from the area but Harry refused to leave the lodge. The mountain became more menacing and started to bulge outward. More geologists visited and set up base camps near the volcano and the media stayed on.

Many felt that it was very unlikely that an eruption would occur. There hadn't been a volcanic eruption on the west coast since California 's Mount Lassen exploded in 1915 and nobody had even been injured in that one.

Everything changed on the morning of May 18th at 8:32 AM . David Johnston, a 30 year old geologist called out on his radio, " Vancouver ! Vancouver ! This is it!" David was stationed on the observation post near the North summit when the mountain came cascading down on him.

The bulge on the mountain gave way in a tremendous blast of searing ash and gasses. It was the equivalent to the energy release of a hydrogen bomb.

A 156 square mile area extending northwest from the mountain lay devastated. The upper Toutle River Valley below the mountain became a barren landscape of total desolation. Some areas, buried in ash, resembled the moon. Entire forests were blown down and, from the air, trees looked like blackened matchsticks all laying in the same direction.

Harry Truman, his lodge and all of Spirit Lake were covered over and totally destroyed in seconds.

The once rounded volcano was shortened by 1,300 feet and a mile deep horseshoe shaped hole in the mountain was blown out of the north side.

Cars would not run because of the ash in their air filters. Heat generated from the mud and ash set the Toutle River steaming and boiling and covered Spirit Lake Highway with mud, logs and collapsed bridges and telephone poles. People wore breath masks to keep from inhaling the damaging ash. Interstate 5 was closed several times due to the mud and debris pouring down the Toutle River threatening to collapse freeway bridges.

12 miles from the mountain at Camp Baker , several people were found dead who had been overcome by gas and ash. 12 miles from the volcano had been considered a safe distance.

57 people died in the explosion. It took years for the roads and bridges to be rebuilt.

At the time of the explosion I lived in Oroville and remembered that I had inherited an old post card of Mount St. Helens . I found it and took it into the local newspaper. I told reporter Jerry Teague that I thought his paper might like to print a copy of it. It had been made in 1940 and showed the placid Spirit Lake with a sail boat and the massive mountain behind it. Jerry had me hold out the card and took several photos of it.

The next day the photo appeared in the paper. But, unknown to me, it was not just of the post card. No, they also had to show me holding it with a dumb look on my face. I haven't trusted the media since!

In October 2004 the mountain again made rumblings and the media flocked back to the area. My wife and I decided to visit the area on our drive up to visit Vancouver Island . The crater was steaming that day and had blasted out some debris about an hour before we got to the location.

Once again, it was a media circus and there were thousands of people visiting the area. As you approach the mountain there is a sign that says, "Blast Area". At that point there are still thousands of blackened trees all laid out in the same direction. Some things have not changed at all since the eruption. What has changed is that the area is vividly green and beautiful. I felt quite relieved when we left the "Blast Area" as that is still quite a scary place.

I thought of old, stubborn Harry Truman when we were there. Harry was very much like Mount St. Helens . They both were stubborn and would get their way, no matter what. The mountain would do what it wanted to do in spite of what people wanted.

Harry got his way too. After the eruption someone quoted him as having said that he always thought he would die a "violent, fiery death" and he never wanted to leave his lodge for anyone. Stubborn Harry really did get his way.

Sadly, the mountain also took his '57 Elvis Cadillac.

"Rod Serling - Through the Zone and Beyond" (#28)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published July 14, 2010

On September 22, 1959 , during a TV interview, newsman Mike Wallace asked Rod Serling the following question, "You're going to be, obviously, working so hard on "The Twilight Zone" that, in essence, for the time being and for the foreseeable future, you've given up on writing anything important for television, right?"

This was the attitude of many people when Rod Serling went from writing serious live TV dramas to writing a weekly science fiction series. Back then sci-fi was considered just about the bottom of the barrel subject to write about. For many it was the equivalent of President Eisenhower opting to quit the Presidency to take a job as a town mayor.

Why had Rod, who had won great acclaim and several Emmy Awards for his writing for live TV dramas, shifted to writing for a sci-fi series that many assumed would be beneath him?

The truth is that Rod was frustrated. In spite of the fame, money and status he had earned from his writing for Studio One, US Steel Hour, Playhouse 90 and others he found that he had little control over the scripts he wrote. Many of his scripts had been gutted by sponsors who were either concerned over political correctness or afraid that certain wording would support their competitors. One example is when sponsor Ronson Lighters objected to the line, "Got a match?" Another example is when sponsor Ford Motor Company insisted that the image of the Chrysler Building be removed from a New York City skyline set.

Rod had always been interested in science fiction. As a boy he had read magazines such as Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. This fascination, coupled with the belief that he would have less interference regarding various subjects in his stories if they were placed in a science fiction environment made a series like Twilight Zone a logical choice.

Rod's experiences in life produced ideas for Twilight Zone. He had been an army paratrooper and had been wounded during the liberation of the Philippines in 1945. This experience resulted in at least two war-related scripts for the series.

Now we know just what a great success the Twilight Zone was. Over 5 seasons, from 1959 to 1964 the series received great accolades and several Emmy Awards for many of its 156 episodes. Rod wrote the majority of the scripts. The show is still in re-runs 46 years after its initial run and continues to receive high ratings. Twilight Zone was Rod's most satisfying project. He was able to tackle many social issues that were important to him and had very little interference from sponsors. Sadly, many later projects were less satisfying and some very frustrating for this sensitive and very talented man.

One project was a devastating experience for him. On the night of December 13, 1966 the movie, "Doomsday Flight" was broadcast on NBC. It had been written by Rod and was about a former employee of an airline who had planted a bomb aboard a plane. This was a unique idea back then. Within minutes, bomb threats were called in to various airlines and each had to be taken seriously by the police. Rod was quoted, "I wish I'd never been born."

For many years after the Twilight Zone went off the air he was offered ideas for similar series and he refused them. He was afraid that since he did not want to write a weekly TV series again that any series with his name on it would not have the quality of Twilight Zone. But that is essentially the situation he ended up with when he agreed to do "Rod Serling's Night Gallery".

Night Gallery ran from 1970 to 1973. Rod's name was on it and he introduced the episodes. When he signed up to do the series he felt that he would have some say about policy and content. Sadly, he found that he had no control at all. So for those years he suffered through what he felt were many sub-standard shows and he was quite glad to see the series end. The only real high marks of the show were two scripts that he had written that received Emmy nominations.

In May of 1975 Rod had a mild heart attack. Then he went in for heart bypass surgery on June 28, 1975 and died during the operation. Rod had only lived for 50 years. He was survived by his wife Carol and two children.

Mercifully, Rod did not live to see the very low point in the Twilight Zone legacy. That was 1982's "Twilight Zone - The Movie". Actor Vic Morrow and two children died during the filming of a Vietnam War segment when a helicopter crashed down on them. The few times I have viewed this movie I find it very hard to watch. The memory of that tragedy just seemed to place a dark cloud over it.

I have also seen the actual footage of the event that caused their deaths. It is something I really don't want to see again.

What Rod left for us are some of the most unique and intelligent television scripts ever produced. Both of his TV series were fascinating and his work in narration and performing in front of the camera was always interesting. Even his failures were never boring.

35 years after his death he still lives on in series reruns and in parodies of the Twilight Zone in TV shows, movies and commercials. His voice and face are just as recognizable now as they were half a century ago. I think Rod would find that fact just as amazing as some of his stories.

"Born To Be Mild" (#29)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published August 11, 2010

Over the years when any of my friends have developed the fascination for riding a motorcycle it has resulted in tragedy. No matter how good a rider you are, there is always the driver who does not see you or the rut or rock you fail to see that causes your ride to end in painful tragedy.

One of my closest brushes with death involved one of Honda Motor Company's most pitiful creations - The "Honda 55". The "Honda 55" was a small motor bike (I hesitate to call it a motorcycle) that had just a bit more power than your average Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine.

My friend Eddie had bought one second hand in 1968 to get him back and forth to Oroville High School. Back in those days you just needed a regular California Third Class driver's license, and no training, to run one. He and I spent our goof off days in 1968 and 1969 cruising the dirt trails and back roads flying along at about 25 miles per hour on this pitiful excuse for a motorcycle.

Did I mention that there was no helmet requirement? How did he and I survive? Barely.

On a sweltering August day in 1969 we cruised through the foothills near Bangor and took off up Highway 20 to Grass Valley. We were totally unprepared for the trip - very little money, no coats and no place to stay.

We anticipated that we could sleep in Grass Valley's Memorial Park that night and kind of live off the land. After all, it was hotter than heck in the day time so it must be warm at night - right?

Grass Valley is located at about 2500 feet and we were coming from Oroville that had an elevation of about 6 feet. Over the previous year, we had discovered that the "Beast" was not really meant for two people to ride even on the flat lands. But climbing the majority of the hills up Highway 20 was an impossibility. Drivers on the road that day were treated with the silly sight of both of us pushing the bike up most of the severe hills.

When we got to Grass Valley we decided to go even higher - up to Banner Mountain Lookout. That is a fire lookout that adds another 1,000 feet to the elevation. The problem is, we never made it to the lookout. About a mile or so before we got there we broke a link in the bike chain. Fortunately, we were able to coast the majority of the way back to Grass Valley. We looked pretty stupid riding that thing back to town with the chain hanging across the seat in front of me.

Arriving back in town we stopped at a Chevron Station and were told that there was a Honda Dealer just a few blocks up the street. Those few blocks turned into several miles of pushing the bike up and down the rolling hills of Grass Valley.

Just before 5 PM we finally arrived at the Honda Dealer. The manager was very nice and provided a new link and even loaned us some tools to fix the chain.

We roared off just after dark and headed down to Memorial Park to take in the sights. A baseball game was in play and some ragged looking teenaged girls were hanging around. We tried to talk to the girls by asking if we could bum a cigarette, even though neither of us smoked. We tried to fake smoking but I think we were not very convincing. Even the most unbecoming girl would not give us any notice.

Later that night we lay down on the nice warm grass of Memorial Park and went to sleep. However at about 1 AM the Grass Valley Police came driving into the park and turned on their search lights. We stumbled all over each other to dive behind some trees and monuments to avoid detection. Fortunately they drove off without discovering us.

We did discover one thing at about this time. Even in August it gets terribly cold in the mountains at night and by 2 AM we were freezing to death.

So we headed out on the bike again to find a warm place to sleep. We were shaking with the cold and really tired by now and we discovered something else new. The new link we had put in the chain made a "quacking" noise every time it came around through the engine. Very shortly we were hysterically "cracking up" at the "quacking" and almost lost control to the point that we about fell off the bike.

It's funny how even the most mundane things can be incredibly funny when you are cold and totally exhausted.

Finally we ended up at the "Speed Wash" on E. Main Street. I'll bet you never figured that in a small town like Grass Valley the coin laundry stayed open all night. Well that fact kept us from freezing to death.

I also discovered that night just how hard a laundry table is to sleep on. Believe it or not, Eddie and I were able to sleep on the hard wooden tables for several hours until two officers from the Grass Valley Police showed up and asked us what we were doing there. The GV Police seemed determined to track us down that night! We told them that we were out of money and had to find a warm place to sleep and would be on our way out of this deep frozen town the next morning.

Fortunately they let us stay there for the rest of the night. I have always reserved a warm spot in my heart for the Grass Valley Police for their kindness and understanding toward a couple of fools.

It was a day and night of lessons learned. It was an experience full of hardships but I look back on it now with fondness. The "Speed Wash" is no more (it's now a Mexican restaurant) but the Honda Dealer on Nevada City Highway and the Memorial Park remain the same and when I drive by a flood of fond memories envelope me.

I visited that Honda Dealer a few years ago and they had a "Honda 55" hanging from their ceiling on display. It seemed fitting.

That one night in Grass Valley gave me a brief view of what being homeless was like. I decided I did not want to repeat that experience.

Usually it takes a radical event to break a habit. It took a radical event to cure me from riding that little Honda.

A few weeks after our freeze-out in Grass Valley, Eddie was driving the "puny beast" and I was hanging on for dear life behind him when we went down a residential block on Pine Street in Oroville. As we approached a stop sign I could see that Eddie was going to miss it! I yelled "Eddie, stop sign!" He immediately hit the brakes and we slid on our left side right under an old pick up truck.

I can remember the screech of the truck tires and the grinding sound of the side of the bike slashing into the pavement. I also felt the pain of my left side sliding along on the pavement. Most memorable was the feeling of fear and of being totally out of control.

Fortunately, the driver had seen that we were going to miss the stop sign and he hit his brakes. We hit him just as he stopped dead in the road. I can still remember looking up from under the truck at the bottom of the driver's door.

If the truck had been traveling even a little we would both have been run over by the left rear wheel. As it was, the bike was bent and we were scraped up pretty bad.

That is the last time I ever rode a motor bike. I figured that I had exhausted all of my possible luck when it came to motorcycles. But, in spite of the accident, I feel that the little "Honda 55" left me with enough good motorcycle adventures to last for a lifetime.

"Memorial To A Rebel" (#30)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published September 15, 2010

There is not much east of Paso Robles, California on Highway 46. The two lane road cuts through rolling hills dotted by some vineyards but mainly there is nothing for 40 miles until you get to Interstate 5. Once you get to Interstate 5 there isn't much there either.

The hills were green when we traveled through that area on February 14th of this year. But I am sure that they have turned rather brown and ugly by now like they do in most of California after the summer's heat has its effect.

In the back of my mind was, "I would really hate to have an accident out here in the middle of nowhere. How long would it take for someone to come rescue me?"

The other thought in my mind was, "Where is the James Dean Memorial?" What a way to spend Valentines day - searching for the memorial for a dead movie star. But James Dean is a real movie icon and since his death he has been made into a god by those who worship movie stars.

And he was a great actor. His three major movie roles, "Rebel Without a Cause", "East of Eden" and "Giant" are all wonderful movies and he had a very special, sensitive way of acting that endeared him to movie audiences.

My wife and I enjoy taking side trips to obscure places. She was the navigator on this trip and as we came to the little hamlet of Cholame we passed right through without seeing a sign for the memorial. About a mile east of Cholame we came to the intersection of Highways 46 and 41 and we made a left onto Highway 41 going north. By that time we knew that we had missed the memorial so we did a U turn, went back through the intersection, and headed back to Cholame.

Did I forget to mention that the hamlet of Cholame consists of only one building and that is the Jack Ranch Cafe? Well it does, and we cruised up into the shaded, white-dirt parking lot of the Cafe and found ourselves right in front of the Memorial.

Yes, there it was. The Memorial, encircling a tree, was built by Seita Ohnishi in 1977 and consists of several flat areas where metal plaques of poetic phrases have been laid. Visitors have placed dimes and pennies on these areas along with a few rocks. Additionally there is an upright that shows the date of James Dean's birth and date and time of his death: 1931Feb8 - 1955Sep30pm5:59.

While I am sure that this memorial was really beautiful when it was placed here in 1977, it has certainly fallen into disrepair. The metal plaques need cleaning so that the lettering can be more easily read and some of the letters on the upright showing James Dean's dates of death and birth are missing.

While I was standing there reading the memorial I suddenly realized that we had just driven through the place where James Dean had been killed. A mile up the road, when we had made that left turn onto Highway 41 to go north was exactly the spot where the collision had occurred.

Dean had been in his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder that he was driving to Salinas for a race.

Dean and his mechanic, Rolf Wuetherich, had left the Los Angeles area early on September 30, 1955 and had gotten a speeding ticket just north of the Grapevine on Highway 99 at 3:30 PM. Later that day he had filled the Porsche with gas at Blackwell's Corner on Highway 46 and came upon the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 around 5:30 PM.

As Dean cruised into the intersection, Don Turnupseed in his 1950 Ford Tudor, was coming from Cholame on Highway 46 and made a left turn right into the path of Dean's car. The cars hit almost head on and the Porsche was virtually shreaded.

Surprisingly, the impact caused only minor injuries to Turnupseed. However, Wuetherich was ejected from the Porsche and sustained a head injury and broken leg. He was in the hospital for over a year.

Two California Highway Patrolmen were having coffee in Paso Robles when they were notified that an accident had just happened near Cholame. They and an ambulance arrived at the accident scene and the victims of the accident were taken to the Paso Robles War Memorial hospital. Dean died on the way to the hospital at about 5:59 PM.

"East of Eden" had been the only major James Dean movie released prior to his death. "Rebel Without A Cause" would follow shortly. The evening of his death his studio was screening rushes of the just completed movie "Giant" for his costars Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. A phone call announcing his death near Cholame stopped the screening and brought chaos to the production.

James Dean died at the age of 24. He had been known as a man who took risks but there is no real evidence that he was speeding when he was killed, although reconstruction of the accident showed the possibility that he was going up to 70 miles per hour. The reconstruction also showed that the probable cause of the accident was the difficulty that Turnupseed may have had in seeing a silver automobile in the late afternoon sunlight.

In September 2005 the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 was dedicated as the James Dean Memorial Intersection.

James Dean is buried in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana where another memorial for him exists.

His last known words, uttered right before impact, were said to have been "That guy's gotta stop... He'll see us."

As we left Cholame on the afternoon of February 14th and reentered the intersection of Highways 46 and 41 I found myself taking extra care in my left turn north onto Highway 41. I noticed that any silver Porsche 550 Spyder coming in my direction would be very hard to see in the afternoon sunlight.

"Cult Movie" Thrillers of the 1960's" (#31)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published October 13, 2010

For your Halloween viewing pleasure I thought I would review a few of my very favorite movies of this genre.

During the 1960's there was a variety of low budget, "Grade B" thriller/horror movies that turned out to be very memorable for me. I think that these are my favorite type of horror movies as the producers and directors had to overcome the lack of money by creating an environment where good (or unique) acting, good photography and a fascinating story idea took precedence. They certainly had very little money for special effects.

Shot on a shoestring budget with actors who rarely appeared in any other movie, the following three low budget movies from the 1960's have impressed me and have stuck in my small brain. All were shot in exotic locations such as Kansas, Pennsylvania, Utah and the California Desert. All featured vivid and stark black and white photography. All featured some less than great supporting actors. But the main actors were very good, or at least fascinating. You might want to check these movies out. Each is considered, by many, to be a "cult classic."

CARNIVAL OF SOULS - 1962. The lovely Candace Hilligost, in her only starring role, stars as Mary. But she is very memorable. A car careens off of a bridge and three women are submerged in the river. After three hours Mary appears on the bank of the river. How did she survive?

She becomes a church organist and is then haunted by the phantom of a man. She phases in and out of reality. Is she alive or dead?

Church organ music is the only musical score in this film and it provides a very spooky atmosphere.

There are scenes of more phantoms and we live through the experience with her. There are truly chilling scenes. The movie plays like an extended "Twilight Zone" but it is even better.

It's the only good, scary movie mostly shot in Kansas. Additional scenes were shot at the edge of the Great Salt Lake at the abandoned Saltair Pavilion. At the end of the movie you ask yourself, "Where did the rest of her footprints go?"

THE SADIST - 1963. Arch Hall never gave up on trying to make his son Arch Hall, Jr. a star. He was a movie producer and starred his son in several low budget movies that were not greatly successful. He tried to make him a rock and roll/movie star, to no avail.

But this movie was very different. Arch Hall, Jr. played a psychotic serial killer and he was very good at it. He was incredibly bizarre and scary.

The story takes place in the desert northeast of Los Angeles, where three school teachers from Lancaster become stranded and try to get help with getting their car repaired at a local junk yard/repair shop.

They become captives of Arch's character Charlie Tibbs, and his very young girlfriend Judy, played by Marilyn Manning. Their characters were based upon Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Fugate who committed 12 murders in Nebraska in the late 1950's.

The combination of Arch Hall, Jr's natural unique looks and a bit of eye makeup make him a very menacing and bizarre character. You have no trouble believing that this whiney, immature character would have any problem murdering people with no mercy or conscience. As a matter of fact, he enjoys it.

Even though Judy's character is based upon Caril Fugate, she reminds me a lot of the Manson Family's Susan Atkins. Other than whispering into Charlie's ear she actually says only one word in the movie. But her childish behavior and absolute lack of conscience while people are being murdered show her to be an animal without a soul. Susan Atkins had the same attitude when she stabbed the pregnant Sharon Tate to death 6 years later.

There is nothing supernatural about this film. But it is a fitting Halloween movie. After all, Charlie really was a monster.

Arch Hall, Jr. recently told me, "It was most taxing to me to develop the despicable persona that became Charlie Tibbs. But I had a great coach in director, James Landis."

I asked Arch where the film was shot and if the experience of shooting the movie was as hot and grueling as it appeared to be. He replied, "It was filmed in an area on the east side of Newhall-Saugus, just north of the San Fernando Valley during the summer of '63. The ranch is now completely gone and covered with homes and condos. Larry, it was very miserable, hot and dusty and the snakes were very angry in the heat of the day but were lethargic in the cool of the early morning. I was almost bitten several times in the "pit" sequence when director, James Landis tried handling the snakes himself one day. This was all because the snake handler had car trouble and was late getting to the set."

By the way, rattlesnakes do play a brief, but vital, role in this movie.

Helen Hovey and Don Russell are outstanding as two of the teachers.

Cinematography was by Vilmos (William) Zsigmond. This was his first film. He went on to win an Oscar for Cinematography for "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" in 1977.

I won't go into who lives and who dies in this film. But in the end you will be asking yourself if you would have acted any differently if you had been in the shoes of any of the school teachers. There's was a very tough spot to be in.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD - 1968. Director George Romero was an unknown when he made this little film that was shot in Pennsylvania for $114,000.00. It earned 32 million dollars in its initial theatrical release.

I avoided watching this film until about 20 years ago as I had been told it was very frightening and gory. It is both.

I am kind of a coward when it comes to scary movies and I have to admit that during my first viewing of it I had to keep turning the TV off and on and watched some scenes from between my fingers. Watching it at 2 in the morning did not help bolster my courage either.

In retrospect, the film is much more frightening than it is gory. There are only a few scenes that still turn my stomach a bit. But maybe it's just that I've gotten used to the gore over time.

Later films of this genre have, unfortunately, surpassed the level of graphic violence and gore that is contained in this film.

The film concerns recently deceased people coming back to life and seeking live victims to partially devour. Those victims die and then also come back to life as wandering zombies.

A group of survivors hold up in a farmhouse and board themselves up against the zombies.

Conflicts among themselves and with the zombies comprise most of the film.

One major conflict in the film is between good guy Ben (played by Duane Jones) and unlikable Harry (played by Karl Harman) over the best way to protect them all from the zombies. I came to the conclusion long ago that if they had followed nasty Harry's advice things would have turned out much better for the people in the house. But then the movie would not have kept you on the edge of your seat like it does.

Obviously these films are not for everybody. Their scenes range from the fascinating to extreme tension to the grotesque. In other words, not a bad combination for a Halloween night.

(My thanks to Arch Hall, Jr. for his contribution to this article. He went on to retire as an airline pilot. He flies very cool experimental planes and still performs on the guitar.)

"Novelty Songs" (#32)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published November 10, 2010

Novelty songs are not meant to be taken seriously. But many of them have sure made serious money. These are the songs that are just plain strange, bizarre or silly and tend to fascinate, boggle your brain or make you laugh.

The first novelty song that caught my attention was Sheb Wooley's "Purple People Eater" that came out in June of 1958. Probably the reason that it caught the attention of my seven year old brain was that it was totally idiotic - but great fun! The song included Sheb's less than great singing and the speeded up voice of the little creature. Strangely, it went to number one and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Sheb went on to record a number of more serious albums but he is mainly remembered today for his portrayal of Pete Nolan in the Rawhide TV series. He also played one of the baddies in the movie High Noon.

But I am convinced that Sheb got the idea for his song from a song that came out two months earlier. It was David Seville's "Witch Doctor". It also was a number one song and included speeded up voices. David's real name was Ross Bagdasarian and he went on to have 10 Top 40 songs and several TV series with his group the Chipmunks. He died in 1972 but his son, Ross Jr, still makes millions of dollars per year off the act including a hit movie from earlier this year. Every year I still enjoy hearing their "Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" classic during the holidays.

Ross was the main reason that I used to play my 45's at 78 RPM speed!

Some acts have specialized in doing pretty much nothing but novelty songs. Probably the earliest was Spike Jones and his City Slickers. All of their songs were filled with wild vocals and crazy sound effects. They started out with "Der Fuehrer's Face" in 1942. My two favorites are "Cocktails for Two" and "You Always Hurt The One You Love". Both are from 1944/45 and are really dumb.

In the very early 60's Allan Sherman contributed to this genre with a series of live and studio albums of song parodies, (My Son The Folk Singer, etc) Allan could not sing very well but that was part of his charm (if you can call it that). His biggest hit was "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!", otherwise known as "A Letter From Camp". In between singing, he was also the creator/producer for TV's "I've Got A Secret". Allan passed way in 1973 at the early age of 48.

In 1961 Ray Stevens began his long association with novelty songs. His first song was "Jeremiah Peabody's Poly Unsaturated Quick Dissolving Fast Acting Pleasant Tasting Green and Purple Pills". That one wasn't much of a hit but his next one "Ahab the Arab" was. It included the classic line, "with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes and a bone in her nose, ho ho".

Ray had novelty hits right through 1977. They included "Gitarzan", "The Streak" and a chicken clucking version of Glenn Miller's song, "In The Mood". In between these mindless ditties he took time out to sing a serious number one hit, "Everything Is Beautiful" in 1970.

In the early 1980's a skinny, long haired accordion player from Lynwood, California began his long term career of recording song parodies. "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a series of albums and music videos that made fun of just about every big hit from the 80's and 90's. His biggest hit was "Eat It" in 1984 - obviously a parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It". "Weird Al" also starred in the very much under appreciated movie "UHF" from 1989. People stayed away from the theaters in droves but I liked it.

I must admit that I found "Weird Al" hilarious. I must also admit that after seeing him twice in concert I found that I was missing 50% of my brain cells.

There has been a varied assortment of "one hit wonder" novelty hits. Songs such as The Rivington's "Surfin' Bird" (1963), to The Detergents' "Leader Of The Laundromat" (1964), to Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling" (1972) have continued to suck the life source from our minds.

But the one that really stands out for me is 1966's "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" The song was done by Napoleon XIV (aka Jerry Samuels). There is really no describing it except to say that it was banned in many places for supposedly making fun of mental illness. But many dog lovers thought it was great!

As if the song wasn't wacky enough, I also remember that on the flip side of the 45 the song played backwards and the Warner Brothers Records label was printed backwards. You just can't beat that for being different!

I am sure that the future will produce other Novelty songs. However I doubt that anything in the future can equal the varied and twisted compositions that have been produced to date. Certainly they won't be as innocent or as much fun!

(This article is dedicated to Joe Greer of Sutter - a great connoisseur of Novelty Songs.)

"The Great North Valley Earthquake" (#33)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published December 15, 2010

OK, so it wasn't so great but those of us who lived through it will never forget it.

The morning of August 1, 1975 I had left my home in Oroville and was driving to work in Chico . When I got to work the radio stated that there had been some minor earthquakes during the time of my morning drive. Having driven my '69 Camaro that morning I had not felt a thing other than the normal "rough bounce" that sports cars seem to produce.

I monitored the radio that morning as much as I could. It was rare for this part of Northern California to have earthquakes and everybody in my office building on Memorial Way was talking about the minor shocks that had been reported from Chico to Yuba/Sutter.

At the time I was working for the Butte County Veterans Service Office. I interviewed clients and gave information to people regarding veterans benefits. The morning was uneventful and when I got back from lunch I figured it would be just "another day" of working for Butte County .

Shortly after 1 PM , a very nice lady came into the office and sat down beside my desk. We were discussing benefits when, at 1:20 PM , there began a loud banging and bouncing. My desk faced the hallway and I could see the ceiling jumping up and down. For what seemed like a minute she held onto her chair and I held onto my desk.

When the shaking stopped she got up and ran outside. I don't think I ever saw her again.

I tried to call my family in Oroville but the lines were all tied up.

There was no damage in Chico but I was worried about Oroville. Somebody else in the building said she had heard that there were "fires in Oroville".

It turned out that there were no fires in Oroville but it had absorbed an earthquake of 5.7 on the Richter Scale.

On one side of Montgomery Street in Oroville, many of the houses lost their chimneys. On the other side of the street there was no damage.

At the Wentz and Raleys Markets in Oroville the aisles were buried in merchandise. Store employees remarked that it seemed like the items cascaded into the aisles in "slow motion".

A lady I knew in Oroville said that when the quake hit she did a "dance" with her TV stand. It was one of those very light metal stands and she used one arm to steady the TV and another arm to keep dishes and plates from falling off a counter. She was able to save the TV and all but one dish.

Across Oro Dam Boulevard from her home a friend of hers lost all of her antique dishes.

Damage was severe enough in Oroville that several schools, the County Administration building and the County jail were deemed unsafe and all had to be eventually replaced.

At the time, my wife Sharon was 16 and living with her parents on Feather River Boulevard in Linda. She states that she was lying on the couch watching TV when the broiler on the stove crashed down. At the same time the pictures on the wall began to swing and the house began to shake .

She jumped off of the couch and looked out the front door toward Feather River Boulevard . The ground seemed to have "turned liquid and was moving in waves".

She found it impossible to call her parents at work. The lines were all tied up.

Sharon says, "I was scared to death and thought it was the end of the world".

From Scott Roberts of Yuba City , "I was working for radio KEWQ-AM back then, just off the Skyway at the transmitter location near Lookout Point near Paradise . I was alone that afternoon working the day shift running the regular programming just like any other day. There was an LP playing on the turntable at the time."

"Believe it or not, I was actually on the phone to someone in the Oroville area the exact moment the earthquake hit. There was quite a lot of confusing commotion on the other end of the line for about 10 or 15 seconds before I felt it in the studios. The studio was propped up on blocks, so the whole structure shook with me it in. The turntable needle jumped all over the record."

Laquita Long of Gridley was the operations officer for Gridley's Wells Fargo Bank that afternoon. She stated that the bank was full of customers when the quake hit. Her most vivid memory is of the large plate glass windows consistently bowing in and out several inches during the quake. That went on for about 30 seconds. To this day she is amazed that none of them broke!

All told, there were 51 earthquakes in our area from August 1 to August 7, 1975 . They ranged in intensity from 2.7 to 5.7 on the Richter Scale. The shock epicenters mostly ranged from just east of downtown Oroville to just south of Palermo.

The "big one" on August 1st had an epicenter of 11 kilometers southwest of Lake Oroville.

Fortunately, in spite of the fear and damage, no one was badly injured or killed. We were lucky.

Various authorities have felt that this series of quakes was caused by the "settling" of the ground from the filling of Lake Oroville. After all, the millions of gallons it took to fill Lake Oroville 's 167 square miles of lake area weigh quite a bit. If true, it took from 1968 to 1975 to cause sufficient stress on the Earth's crust to cause the quakes.

However, authorities differ regarding the cause of the quakes. All I know is that our area has not suffered any significant quakes since then.

After having experienced the Tehachapi/Bakersfield quake in July 1952 (that one was "Nasty" at 7.5! I vaguely remember seeing everything falling out of our medicine cabinet) and the North Valley Quake in 1975, I would just as soon that we do not experience another one. But the law of averages says we will.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What was the name of Dudley Doo-Right's Horse? ANSWER: Horse.

"Mondegreens" (#34)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published January 12, 2011

I've been a big fan of Rock Music since 1956 when I was about 5 years old and Elvis first came on the scene.

In spite of my great interest in Rock Trivia, do I understand all of the lyrics to a song? Do I understand what each song is about? Apparently not.

Many times I have been totally enamored with a song and, after 30 or 40 years, I still have no idea what it's about.

Take the song, "Incense and Peppermints" by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, from 1967. From the first time I heard that record I have loved it! But even after reading the lyrics, I am still lost to its meaning. I don't even think the writer has a clue. But I still love the music and the indecipherable lyrics and consider it to be one of my favorite songs. I even love the cow bells! Stupid me.

What makes understanding a Rock song even more difficult than vague lyrics is what are called "Mondegreens" - otherwise known as misheard lyrics.

Writer Sylvia Wright coined that expression from her misunderstanding of a song called "The Bonnie Earl of Murray ". The lyric that threw her was, "They hae slay the Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen." She was greatly effected by the death of Lady Mondegreen and felt sad about it for years. Many years later she was shocked to realize that the correct lyrics were, "They hae slay the Earl of Murray, and lay'd him on the green." Lady Mondegreen had never existed!

I can't list the number of times I have been confused by misheard lyrics. One that I understood correctly, but has confused many others was the line from Jimi Hendrix's song, "Purple Haze" - "'scuse me while I kiss the sky" was misheard by many as "'scuse me while I KISS THIS GUY". Big difference.

In 2004 I saw John Fogerty in concert at Lake Tahoe and he pointed out that many had misheard a line from his hit song, "Bad Moon Rising", - "there's a Bad Moon on the rise" was misheard as "there's a bathroom on the right". Even though I loved Creedence's music I always did think that John had a severe singing speech defect. But how come he speaks so clearly?

My wife was a victim of misheard lyrics regarding the Huey Lewis and the News song, "The Heart of Rock and Roll". For years she thought the lyric, "They say the heart of Rock and Roll is still beating" was "They say the heart of Rock and Roll is Topeka". She always wondered how come a town in Kansas came to be regarded with such high esteem.

Misinterpreting rock lyrics can sometimes be hilarious. Listen very carefully to John Lennon on the Beatles recording of "Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds". You can easily hear him say "the girl with colitis goes by". In actuality what he says is "the girl with kaleidoscope eyes". It sounds exactly the same!

I have no evidence that Elton John was ever enamored with actor Tony Danza. However, some people misheard him say "hold me closer Tony Danza" instead of the correct lyric of "hold me closer Tiny Dancer" in his hit song "Tiny Dancer". Maybe Fogerty's not the only one with a speech defect.

In Irene Cara's song "Flashdance" many misheard "take your passion and make it happen" as "take your pants down and make it happen". The misheard lyric was much more interesting.......

Sometimes misheard lyrics are just plain silly. From Eddie Money's song "Two Tickets To Paradise", take for example the lyric of "I've Got two tickets to paradise" misheard as "I've Got two chickens with parrot eyes." Interesting visual image.

I've always loved "Born To Be Wild" by Steppenwolf but I must admit that I did not understand all of the lyrics. I looked them up one time to prove to a friend that the lyric "get your motor runnin', head out on the highway" did NOT say "get your motor runnin', dead cat on the highway". I think I finally convinced him.

I am absolutely sure that the friend who misheard the lyric from Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours" as "science healed the liver, I'm yours" - was drunk.

Many misheard a lyric in Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" to state, "everybody in a wholesale frock is dancin' to the Jailhouse Rock". Er, make that "everybody in the whole cell block."

My longest period of misunderstanding a song lyric involved the Young Rascals' song, "Groovin'". I must have listened to it a million times since 1967 and every time one portion of the lyrics confused me. Here is what I thought it said: "You and Me and Leslie, Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon." I thought, "isn't that nice. They included the name of a girlfriend into the song." But I did think it sounded strange.

35 years later I finally decided to look up the lyrics and was shocked to find out that the actual lyrics are, "You and me, ENDLESSLY, Groovin' on a Sunday afternoon." Listen to it very closely and you will find you can interpret it either way!

Ok, I know I was wrong....but I still really miss Leslie. Maybe she's somewhere hangin' out with Lady Mondegreen. Maybe in Topeka!


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who is Tony Burrows? ANSWER: He was lead singer on a multitude of one-hit-wonder songs including: "My Baby Loves Lovin'" by White Plains , "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" by Edison Lighthouse, "United We Stand" by Brotherhood of Man, "Beach Baby" by First Class and "Gimme Dat Ding" by Pipkins. He really got around.

"Tragedy at Cherokee" (#35)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published February 9, 2011

Today the craggy hulk of Sugarloaf Mountain looms over the few remaining buildings of what used to be the bustling boomtown of Cherokee. Nestled against the north side of Table Mountain in Butte County, Cherokee once was a rich diamond and gold mining town with over a thousand residents.

It was established in 1849 by Welsh miners. They built stores, mined the mountain and lived amongst the very beautiful area. At one time the town boasted eight hotels, three schools, three churches and at least seventeen saloons.

On November 15th of last year I revisited the town. It was very quiet and the museum was closed and I didn't see a single person. It is very hard to imagine where all of those 17 saloons once stood!

Cherokee was such a big mining success that both General W.T. Sherman and President Rutherford B. Hayes came to California in 1880 to visit the town.

Hydraulic mining was a major part of the mining process and Sugarloaf Mountain bears most of the scars from this practice. By the time hydraulic mining was banned in the 1890's the mountain was pretty much wasted away. As a sort of monument to the era, the miners left what I call the "Bird's Beak". It's a formation that stands on top of the mountain. When the mining died out the town died also.

In 1871, one of the residents of Cherokee was 18 year old Susie McDanel. Susie was very popular and it was said that she "was as lovely as the flowers that grew atop Table Mountain."

Life was very hard in Cherokee. Hard work shortened lives and medical care was lacking. Susie had lost her little brother Thomas in 1869. He had been only 11 years old.

Her father was also named Thomas and he had run the local store that catered to the needs of the multitude of miners who worked to glean their sometimes elusive fortunes from Sugarloaf and the surrounding hills.

By the summer of 1871 her father had also died but Susie and her mother continued to live in Cherokee.

Austrian George Sharkovich was a hulking giant of a man who used to frequent Thomas McDanel's store. Thomas had even occasionally hired George to move heavy crates and boxes.

During the time of his employment he had fallen desperately in love with Susie. But George was uncouth and ill mannered and Susie, being as young as she was, was not ready to set her sights on any man.

As time went on, his desire for Susie must have caused George to begin to lose his reason. No one could have known what devious rage had drilled itself into his mind.

On a Thursday night in June of 1871 the town hall hosted a big wedding. Susie was the belle of the ball that night and she danced with many partners until 3 AM Friday morning. Various witnesses later stated that they had seen Austrian George watching the festivities from outside the building. We can only assume that his frustration grew to a boiling point that night.

As Susie left the wedding she was accompanied by her friend Maria Glass and by a Dr. Sawyer who had offered to walk them home.

As they left, they heard footsteps and when they turned around to look, Austrian George appeared from out of the dark and grasped Susie by the hair. As he jerked her away from her companions he plunged a long knife into her breast. As Maria screamed Susie fell onto the dusty ground and died.

Immediately, Dr. Sawyer and another man pulled their revolvers and fired but George disappeared into the night.

As word of the murder spread, a huge posse assembled and the entire area was searched for Austrian George. No work would be done at the mines until Sharkovich was caught. The only interruption in the search was on Sunday morning when they buried Susie in the Cherokee Cemetery.

It didn't take very long for the news of the murder to reach outlying communities. Bidwell Bar, a mining community 10 miles southeast of Cherokee, received the word and the bridge keeper Isaac Ketchum was provided with an armed guard named McBride just in case Austrian George came in that direction.

That Sunday night at about 10 PM Ketchum and McBride had just allowed members of the posse to cross the Bidwell Bar bridge. Suddenly Austrian George came out of the darkness and pointed his rifle at Isaac Ketchum. Just as suddenly, McBride came out from another direction and disarmed George.

They decided to take Sharkovich to John Bendle's store for safe keeping. Bendle's store was quite a fortress, made of heavy stones. As they arrived at the store, George made a break for freedom by drawing a knife and a gun from out of his shirt. The knife was still stained with Susie's blood.

Fortunately, John Bendle was able to wrestle both the knife and the gun from Austrian George's grasp. As George ran, Bendle fired off three rounds and then jumped upon George to hold him down. But George was already dead. One bullet had struck him in the head and two had struck him in the back.

The sunrise of Monday morning revealed one of the more bizarre and brutal sights in California gold rush history. Even though Austrian George was dead, the miners of Cherokee were not through with their vengeance against him.

Sharkovich was brought back to Cherokee and his cabin was torn down piece by piece and set afire. Then the body of Austrian George was thrown upon the funeral pyre. Nobody bothered to bury the remains of the man who had murdered the most beloved girl in Cherokee.

Susie and her family have now been in Cherokee Cemetery for 140 years. It is not known what happened to the bones of Austrian George Sharkovich.

The mining town of Bidwell Bar has been covered by 200 feet of Lake Oroville since 1967. John Bendle's stone store, that I last saw in 1965, was still standing when the waters covered the area. Fortunately, the Bidwell Bar Bridge and its toll house were moved near the Bidwell Marina on Lake Oroville and preserved so you can still get the feel of what it was like to be at the bridge that night in 1871.

Isaac Ketchum was the bridge tender for the Bidwell Bar Bridge from 1862 to his death in 1905 and he had been buried near the toll house. His body was also saved from the rising lake waters and reburied on higher ground.

Today the town of Cherokee has a museum and some of the old buildings still remain. There is an old stone Wells Fargo assay office that lies in ruins and an old railroad car. But I find the most interesting part of Cherokee to be the cemetery.

Sugarloaf Mountain still remains as the centerpiece of the area. For over 160 years it has witnessed the tragedies and triumphs of the little town of Cherokee.

I sometimes wonder what were Susie McDanel's thoughts and dreams when she gazed upon that mountain so many, many years ago.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who is Paul Frees? ANSWER: American voice actor who supplied the voices of Professor Ludwig Von Drake for Disney, Inspector Fenwick for the Dudley Do-Right Cartoon, the Pillsbury Doughboy and the voice of the evil Meowrice in the animated movie "Gay Puree". If you went to Disneyland from 1967 to 1985 he was your vocal host for "Adventures in Inner Space". He was best known for being the voice of Boris Badenov from the Bullwinkle Show. Paul passed away on 11-2-86.

"The Night The Dam Collapsed" (#36)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published March 9, 2011

Fortunately, most dams don't collapse. As a matter of fact I only know of one California dam that fell apart and caused casualties. Here is the story.

William Mulholland had been a well known and highly regarded civil engineer in the early 20th Century.

He had designed and supervised various construction projects such as the L.A. Aqueduct and the St. Francis Dam. He also built 18 other dams.

The St. Francis Dam was built in 1926 and it was located in the San Francisquito Canyon near the city of Saugus in Southern California . The dam was 195 feet high. The lake formed by the dam was 3 miles long and the weight of the water it held back was 52 million tons.

The day before the break, Mulholland had visited the dam due to reports that there were various leaks. Mulholland felt that some leakage was "normal" and was not concerned.

The dam collapsed on the night of March 12, 1928 , just a few minutes before midnight and 12 billion gallons of water were set free. The wave was about 80 feet high and most structures in the path of the wave were wiped out, including bridges, homes and railroads. Not to mention livestock and more than 450 people.

The wave carved a swath from the Santa Clara Valley to the Pacific Ocean between Ventura and Oxnard . That's a path of devastation 54 miles long.

The towns of Castaic, Camulos, Filmore, Santa Paula , Saticoy and Montalvo were decimated. Many areas of Ventura County were buried under 70 feet of mud. Some of the victims were found in the Pacific Ocean off of San Diego . They were still finding victims of this disaster in the 1950's.

This incident is the second largest cause of loss of life in California after the 1906 Earthquake.

An investigation determined that the cause of the collapse was due to the dam being built on weak rock formations. Amazingly, there were never any criminal charges filed against anyone. Apparently it was felt that the technology of the time did not allow for the weakness to have been detected.

However, William Mulholland apparently never forgave himself for the collapse. He died at age 79 after having hidden himself away from the public for the last 7 years of his life. Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles is named after him.

Food for thought: Let's take a look at the age and size of our local dams.

Englebright Dam, located 20 miles east of Marysville was built in 1941. It's 260 feet high and holds back 45,000 acre feet of water.

Shasta Dam, located 15 miles north of Redding , was constructed from 1938 to 1945 and is 602 feet high. It holds back California 's largest man made lake: 4,552,000 acre feet of water.

Folsom Dam, built in 1956 is 340 feet high and holds back 1,000,000 acre feet of water. It's located 20 miles east of Sacramento .

Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States , is 770 feet high. Lake Oroville contains 3,537,577 acre feet of water. Completed in 1967, it's located 9 miles northeast of Oroville.

The newest dam in our area, Bullards Bar, was built in 1969. It is 645 feet high and holds back 996,103 acre feet of water. It's located 30 miles north/east of Yuba City.

In the 1970's and 80's there was opposition to building new dams. There was a concern about building dams near earthquake faults and the effect dams had on environments of fish and rivers, etc. This attitude brought about the failure of the Auburn Dam project. It had been proposed to build a 700+ foot dam at the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River .

The American River does still flow through the Auburn Dam diversion tunnel, but that is as far as the project got.

Concern about the effects and safety of the dams in Northern California became paramount and many are still concerned about the safety of our existing dams.

But what is the real threat to our local area caused by our local dams?

Certainly Lake Oroville could be a threat. A collapse of the Oroville Dam would flood more than one million acres in eight local counties. But in looking at that massive mountain of rock, I find it impossible to think of anything that could weaken the "dredger pile tailings" that became a dam.

More ominous, due to their age, are the Shasta and Englebright dams. But I was quite gratified this past December when I saw photos of water going over the top of the Englebright dam and handling the overflow just the way it was designed to do. The old girl still does a good job.

Experts state that dams actually become stronger with time. That's a very reassuring thought.

Possibly the most potentially destructive dam is the Folsom Dam due to its proximity to a high population area. The combined population of Folsom and Sacramento is 558,000.

After the 9-11-01 attacks, the dam was closed off to vehicle traffic due to the possibility of terrorist attack.

Well maintained dams are usually not a threat. Let's hope that the powers that be keep a good watch on our Northern California Dams. So far, so good.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Just how big is Oroville Dam? ANSWER: The dam is 6,920 feet wide and comprises 80 million cubic yards of rock fill. A two lane highway could be constructed around the earth with the volume of the dam.

"Retrospective Three" (#37)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published April 13, 2011

Well here I am again with another review of the past year. I recently thought that I might change the name of this column to "Living In The Past With Larry". But then I figured the column was probably silly enough with the title it already has.

The three years I have been producing this column have gone by very quickly. I have always been fascinated with history and I hope that fascination comes out in this column.

Writing about our history and pop culture is a lot of fun. But in researching history you find a lot of very sad events. History is full of happy times interspersed with gut wrenching memories. I try to keep a fair balance in my subject matter.

Here are some of the subjects the column has covered in the past year:

I revisited my role in the Vietnam war in an article from May 12th of last year. I still find it very emotional to remember the losses we took during that time so long ago. I remember the chaos that war caused our country and wish that those killed and wounded could be made whole again. Very hard to believe it's been 38 years since the end of it.

I reported on my visit to the James Dean Memorial near Paso Robles in October. It felt really strange to visit the exact place where he had his car accident. It's still a very lonely and desolate piece of real estate. Hopefully, someday someone will clean up and repair his memorial. It's looking pretty well worn.

I produced a column about the Mount St. Helens eruption from 1980 that appeared in the June 9th issue. During my research for the article I ran across an old postcard from 1940 that showed a photo of the idyllic Spirit Lake with sail boats and Mount St. Helens in the background. I also looked through some photos that I had taken when I had visited the mountain in 2004. I was shocked to realize that one of my photos was taken from the exact location where the post card photo was taken. What a difference! I have posted both photos on the web site.

Rod Serling was my column subject on July 14th and he still has a great effect on me. He was a great writer and I can only hope to be even half as creative as he was in my writing. Even now, just the name "Twilight Zone" conjures up a strange feeling and causes me to reflect on many of his stories.

When I was a department head for Yuba County back in the 1980's I had a big Twilight Zone poster on my door. It seemed very appropriate at the time and has continued to be appropriate in my career in Sutter County government for the past 21 years. Working for the government just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Sadly, the poster has disappeared into the Twilight Zone and cannot be found.

My article from February about young Susie McDaniel who was murdered in Cherokee in 1871 makes it clear that back then innocents suffered in this world. Sadly, the events of January 8, 2011 in Tucson , Arizona prove that they continue to suffer. 140 years later, a few idiots still commit horrible, inexplicable acts.

Carol Hutchinson, who has been a Yuba City resident since 1954, e-mailed me in reaction to my article of last month about the St. Francis Dam collapse. She is a cousin of Highway Patrolman Thornton Edwards. According to her e-mail and my further research, Officer Edwards was notified of the pending disaster that night by a telephone operator. He then rode his motorcycle, with siren blaring, up and down the streets of Santa Paula . He alerted, and probably saved, hundreds of residents. He was awarded medals and hired as their police chief for the next 10 years. It took a lot of courage as nobody knew just how long they had before the wave would hit. He has since been known as the "Paul Revere of Santa Paula ." After his law enforcement career, he became a character actor in western movies. It's always nice to learn more about the subjects I write about. Thanks Carol!

In addition to serious columns, some of the columns have been pretty silly. Possibly the most silly was from January where I visited misheard rock/pop song lyrics (known as Mondegreens). I got a lot of fun comments about the column. Some had misheard the same lyrics that I had heard and had never known what the correct lyrics were.

Steve Smith, from Yuba City , told me he could not believe that for 40 years I misheard the word "Endlessly" as "and Leslie" in the Young Rascals' song "Groovin'". But then, he's kind of a Young Rascals fanatic and probably has memorized all of the words to every song they ever made.

Lorie Thomas, also of Yuba City , told me she thought Yuba City was mentioned in the 1977 Bee Gees' song "Stayin' Alive". She heard, " Yuba City breakin' and everybody shakin' and we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive." Sorry Lorie. That line is actually, "Feel the city breakin'." I doubt that the Brothers Gibb even know Yuba City exists.

Someone recently pointed out to me that the 1943 song "Mairzy Doats" is a Mondegreen. I had thought it was just a dumb song that didn't mean anything. Did you know that the lyrics, "Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats and Liddle Lamzy Divey" actually mean "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy"?! Ya learn something new every day!

Since December, I have added a TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH section to each column. I do hope that some of these questions and answers have motivated some thought on your part. Maybe they have even evoked some warm memories. I'll keep producing them until someone complains.

You may have inferred from some of my columns that I really like pop culture/media trivia. During my years as a disc jockey that was one of my favorite things to talk about on the air. I was always amazed at the feedback that I received from listeners regarding some minor, obscure bit of trivia I had talked about that they found fascinating. Since opportunities in local radio have dried up I hope you will continue to give me an outlet for the music/TV/movie trivia crap that I plan to keep writing about.

We'll see what unique subjects I can come up with in the next 12 months. I already have future article ideas based upon Prisoners of War, Automobile Trivia, Covered Bridges and songs about drugs - yes Drugs. What more could you ask for? Just let me know. Keep in mind that I do love to hear from you.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who is Carey Loftin? ANSWER: He was an American actor and car stuntman. He is most famous as the truck driver in Steven Spielberg's 1971 movie "Duel". He performed stunts in the chase sequences of the 1968 movie "Bullitt" and in 1971's movie "Vanishing Point". He also appeared in "The Love Bug" and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World". He certainly added excitement to some of my favorite car chase movies. Carey passed away on March 4, 1997.

The '56 Ford in September 1970 near Camptonville, California.

"Auto Trivia Memories" (#38)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published May 11, 2011

How did we survive back in the "olden days" without all of the safety features that automobiles are now required to have? After all, I didn't have a car that featured seat belts until I bought my '69 Camaro. Granted, seat belts and air bags have saved a lot of lives but I really remember just how much people resisted buckling up when they were first threatened with fines for not doing so.

But how about all of the things that were associated with cars that have gone away? A lot has gone by the wayside that younger people have never seen.

Remember curb feelers? They were long, thin antenna-like pieces of metal that extended out from the right side of your car to scrape against curbs so you couldn't get too close and scrape your white sidewall tires. White sidewall tires are pretty much gone too.

Have you ever borrowed somebody's car and had to put gas in it and not known which side the gas cap was on? It's always embarrassing to have to back out of the gas station and relocate the car on the other side of the pump to put gas in.

What I remember are cars that had their gas caps behind the rear license plate. That is the way it was on my Camaro and on the '56 Ford I had before it. Seemed like a great place to put the gas cap. Did they relocate the gas caps to the sides because placing a gas cap behind the license plate is more dangerous in a rear end collision? That's the only reason I can think of why they don't have them there anymore.

My parents had a '62 Plymouth station wagon with push button transmission. It was located just to the right of the steering wheel and the buttons were arranged vertically. It was so great and convenient! Makes you wonder why they don't make them anymore.

Back prior to the early 60's most cars did not have power steering or power brakes. In order to compensate for the lack of power steering, the car had a giant steering wheel. Even with that it was pretty tough to turn the wheel when you were stopped.

If you look at photos of most car line histories you will see that most all cars changed their looks in 1974. That is because the government mandated that all cars sold in the US upgrade their models to include bigger bumpers. That change made my '74 Vega GT look a lot better than the '73. It was red with big white racing stripes that made it go faster.

But instead of upgrading the bumpers they should have given Chevy Vegas good engines. The aluminum block engines self destructed every 40,000 miles. They were also greatly underpowered. Being passed by a Volkswagen Beetle while going up hill was SO humiliating.

One of the things I miss most is the full service gas station. You used to pull into a gas station and drive across the rubber line on the ground and it would cause a bell to ding to let the attendant know that he had a customer. He would ask you what grade of gas you wanted (ethyl or supreme?) and pump it for you, check your oil, water and tire pressure. Then he would wash your windshield. He might even offer you a prize (Union 76 orange ball for your antenna?) for a fill up and then charge you just 30 cents for a gallon of gas. No, I am NOT hallucinating! Now those were the good old days!

Now days the only states that require that an attendant pump the gas for you are New Jersey and Oregon . But I'll bet that's all they'll do.

Speaking of gas prices: We visited Death Valley last month and the price at the only station in Furnace Creek was $5.67 per gallon for Unleaded gas. $5.89 for Supreme. Just thought you'd like to know.

One of the most comical mechanical wonders ever placed into a car was in my '56 Ford Fairlane. It had vacuum windshield wipers. Vacuum windshield wipers ran on the vacuum caused by the engine. If you were just cruising along they worked fine. But if you accelerated, they would just stop! One night, coming back from Chico in a driving rainstorm, I learned very quickly just how blind you would become if you accelerated to pass somebody.

Wind wings? Yeah, those were the little glass areas at the front of each front door side window that you could swivel to let air in. Seems like they disappeared along about 1968. That was just about the time that most cars got air conditioning.

Hub caps? Haven't seen one for years. Even when they were popular it seems I saw more laying beside the road than on wheels.

Vinyl car tops? Those really looked great but you had to keep them well protected against drying out or they would crack and degrade. Back in the late 70's while riding in a friend's car her vinyl top deteriorated to the point where the wind got under it and it completely ripped away. It's probably still composting in a field somewhere along Hwy 99 near the Durham/Butte College exit.

Jacked up cars? I remember that a friend "flipped the shackles" on my '56 Ford to raise up the back about 6 inches and make it look "cool". But that was nothing. Many put lifter kits on their cars to raise the back ends to amazing heights. That way they could put really wide tires on the back. A few, not many, also raised the fronts real high and made their cars look (in my estimation) really stupid.

Audio entertainment in cars started out with a basic AM radio. Later, in the late 1960's, you could buy an adapter to add FM stations.

In the early 60's you could also buy a unit that would play your 45 RPM records in your car. Honest, they even "guaranteed" that they would not skip. Dream on!

Playing your own music in your car really didn't become practical until 8 Track players became available in the late 60's. They were reliable and the quality was great but they had one flaw. They would sometimes click from one track to another right in the middle of a song. After hearing that happen with my friend's 8 track player (in his '68 VW), I decided I didn't want one.

Shortly thereafter, cassette players became really popular and I had one of those for many years. As a matter of fact my 2002 Toyota truck has a CD player/cassette combination and I occasionally listen to cassettes in it. Yeah, I know I'm still in the dark ages.

Thinking back on all of this auto trivia makes me nostalgic for the old muscle cars of the 60's. Cars seemed to have more style and individual character than they do now. Mostly, new style cars seem mundane to me. Maybe that's why you've recently seen retro styles successfully reappear on Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros. It does my heart good to see that again.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What Sutter County icon appeared in the movie, "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo"? ANSWER: This 1944 movie, about the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan won an Oscar for Special Effects. There is a scene as the B-25 bombers are approaching Tokyo where they are flying low over rice fields. In the background there is a very recognizable mountain range - The Sutter Buttes!

"Bob Harrison and Wake Island" (#39)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published June 8, 2011

I recently read a book by Laura Hillebrand. Her book is called "Unbroken" and it is the story of Louis Zamperini, who was an Olympic runner in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin . It's a fascinating story of his early years and athletic triumphs. But the bulk of the book is the story of his survival and ordeal as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II.

The book is really outstanding and while reading it I felt a sense of Deja Vu. I remembered that I had heard a similar Prisoner of War story on a very personal level many years before. It took just a short time and a review of some of my old newspaper articles to come up with the complete memory.

I discovered the answer when I found an article I had written for the Sutter/Yuba Times dated July 14, 1983 . At the time I was writing a bi-monthly veteran's information column for that now defunct publication.

The article was about Bob Harrison of Marysville. Bob found himself in a unique position; he had never been in the US military but he, nevertheless, found himself a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

How was a civilian put into the position of being captured by Japanese forces? Bob had been hired by the Morrison-Knudsen Company of Boise , Idaho as a construction worker. It so happened that Wake Island , in the mid-Pacific, needed an airfield and base constructed and Bob and hundreds of other civilian employees were shipped off to Wake to join the small U.S. Marine garrison there. It sounded like a good way to make good money and, after all, that part of the world was at peace.

A few hours after the Japanese attacked the US fleet at Pearl Harbor they also attacked Wake island by air. Wake is across the international date line so the date of the attack was December 8, 1941 .

On December 11th, Japanese ships approached the island and attempted to land. This invasion was repulsed by Wake's gun batteries and their small air force. Three Japanese destroyers and 28 Japanese planes were destroyed.

Then on December 23rd the Japanese returned in force to invade the island. The force included the fleet carriers, Soryu and Hiryu and 1,500 Japanese soldiers. This meant that the defending Americans Marines were outnumbered by more than 2 to 1. After a full night and morning of ground combat, the commanding officer, Major James Devereaux, felt he had no choice but to surrender the island.

The actions against the island from December 8th to the 23rd resulted in the deaths of 52 American Marines and 70 civilians. History has recorded that 820 Japanese troops died in the invasion of the island, on land and on the ships offshore.

There were 470 U.S Marine survivors. The remaining 1,146 civilians, including Bob Harrison, were treated as if they were military by the Japanese and were considered to be Prisoners of War.

Over the next few months, the prisoners were shipped off to other locations. Bob was one of the last 265 prisoners to leave the island. He spent from September of 1942 to 1944 in a slave labor camp near Sasebo , Japan . During that time he was forced to build an airstrip.

He was then shipped to the island of Kyushu and spent his time as a coal miner until his liberation by US forces in September 1945. POW coal miners received 3 bowls of rice daily to subsist on. The water they drank was the ankle deep water they found in the mining tunnels. No protection was given them from the black coal dust.

During his POW experience, Bob saw many prisoners die of malnutrition and brutality. Of the many close friends he had on Wake, he knew of only six who survived the war.

The horrors of being a prisoner in the Pacific have been well documented. Malnutrition, pneumonia, beating injuries, stomach problems, dysentery, beriberi, abscesses, frozen hands and feet, ulcers and bone fractures were all endured by Bob and his fellow POW's. Most all could not help but also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 34 percent of all American POWs in the Pacific died. That is compared to those 4 percent who died as prisoners of the Germans.

After many years of lobbying, legislation (Public Law 95-202) was passed in November 1977 that gave veterans status to those 14,000 civilian POW's captured at Wake, Guam and Cavite . Bob was very proud of his Honorable Discharge Certificate.

At the time I interviewed Bob he was in his late 50's but looked much older. His ordeal permanently affected his health and he never completely recovered. Bob is gone now, but he and his experience remain as one of the most unique and memorable that I have ever had the privilege to write about.

I know that Bob would want me to mention one more thing about Wake Island as I know that what happened on the island after he left bothered him a lot. I had previously mentioned that he was one of the last 265 POW's to leave the island. However there were 98 civilian POW's who remained.

The remaining civilians were kept on Wake to do construction labor. On October 5, 1943 , aircraft from the American carrier USS Yorktown attacked the island. The Japanese commander Rear Admiral Sakaibara, fearing imminent invasion, ordered the execution of the remaining civilians. 97 were blindfolded and machine gunned on the north side of the island. One had escaped and remained free long enough to return to the site of where the others were buried and chisel a message on a large coral boulder, "98, US PW 5-10-43". He had included himself in the total. That unnamed, lone survivor was later captured and personally executed by Admiral Sakaibara. Sakaibara was executed for his war crimes on June 19, 1947.

World War II veterans are dieing at the rate of well over 1,000 per day. If you know one, be sure to thank him or her for the service they rendered. This article is my way of thanking those who endured the unendurable.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: How many Americans are still entombed aboard the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor ? ANSWER: Of the 1,177 who died aboard the ship, 948 are still entombed.

The Oregon Creek Covered Bridge.

"The Oldest Local Covered Bridge" (#40)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published July 13, 2011

The northeast county line between Yuba and Nevada Counties bounces around a lot. Therefore, for a long time I was not sure in which county the Oregon Creek Covered Bridge was located. It turns out that the old bridge is in Yuba County .

The bridge is unique for several reasons.

The weathered old span, now in its second century, crosses Oregon Creek. It's unique as it is probably the only covered bridge that goes in the wrong direction. A flood in 1883 swept the bridge off of its foundations, shifted it around and beached it 150 feet downstream. Solon Chatfield, with the help of oxen teams, moved the bridge back to its foundations by inching it along on logs and planks. There was no technology at the time to turn the bridge around so what had been the south end of the bridge prior to 1883 is now the north end.

Historians are vague as to the date the bridge was built. The date shown on the bridge is 1860. However, other sources have claimed both 1860 and 1871. Still, many historians feel that it was built in 1862. If true, that would still make this former toll bridge a candidate for the oldest covered bridge in the West.

To get to the Oregon Creek Bridge you drive 20 miles northwestward on Highway 49 from Nevada City . You go through North San Juan and continue for a few miles. Make a right where you see the Oregon Creek Campground area.

The bridge is located just right down the road a bit, at the intersection with Allegheny Road .

In addition to the age uniqueness of this bridge, it's also unique in that it is one of the few covered bridges in California that I'd refuse to drive across. Take one look at it and you will know why.

Another candidate for the oldest covered bridge in our area is the Bridgeport Covered Bridge located in Nevada County

Authorities agree that the Bridgeport Covered Bridge was built in 1862 and it is the oldest covered bridge in continuous service.

One thing is for sure; the Bridgeport Covered Bridge is definitely the longest single span covered bridge in California . If you measure it from pier to pier it is 208 feet long, which is shorter than one in New York state. However, if you measure it from portal to portal it is 233 feet long. One thing that is not in contention is that it does have the longest roofline in existence, for a single span covered bridge.

It was erected by D. Ingerfield John Wood who was president of the Virginia City Turnpike Company that served the mines of Nevada 's Comstock Lode . He transported all materials from his mill in Sierra County .

Huge granite blocks anchor the bridge. But anyone who visits the bridge and looks upon it from a side view of its amazing length will really wonder what is holding it up. Is there some sort of magical source that keeps it from collapsing?

I first visited the Bridgeport Bridge in 1973. It is the most beautifully preserved of the Covered Bridges in Northern California . The bridge has been repaired and restored several times. The last time being after the major flood damage of 1997.

I have spent many hours in the shade of this bridge swimming, hiking and barbecuing. It's a great place to spend a summer day.

The bridge, locate at Nye's crossing, is in Nevada County . You can locate it by heading east on Highway 20 from Marysville. Turn north on Pleasant Valley Road and proceed to the South Fork of the Yuba River . It's located on the left.

The Bridgeport Bridge's most recent claim to fame is that it was briefly featured in the very beginning of the movie "The Christmas Card". The 2006 movie was filmed almost entirely in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area.

By the way, covered bridges were not designed to protect people from the snow and rain. They were designed to protect the wooden bridge roadbed from the elements. Wooden bridges last twice as long when they are covered.

For the record, there are two other covered bridges in our general area. Both are in Butte County. There is the Honey Run Bridge (built in 1894), east of Chico and there is the Oregon City Bridge (built in 1984) north east of Oroville. Both, located in beautiful areas, are well worth a visit.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What is the oldest bridge in Northern California ? ANSWER: It's the Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridge, built in 1856. Its parts were built in Troy, New York and shipped around the horn of South America to San Francisco by clipper ship. It was then sailed up the Sacramento and Feather Rivers to Marysville. Then it traveled by horse and wagon to Bidwell Bar. It still stands near Lake Oroville .

"Rob Grill And The Grass Roots" (#41)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published August 10, 2011

Rob Grill died July 11, 2011 . Who, you say? Well if you are a fan of oldies rock music, you have heard his voice thousands of times.

He was the lead singer and bassist for the Grass Roots.

He died at age 67 in Orlando, Florida and had been the voice of the Grass Roots for 45 years.

In 1966, songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri of Dunhill Records were looking for a group to take over the band name Grassroots. That previous studio group had had a minor hit with "Where Were You When I Needed You."

At that time, Rob Grill was in a band called the "13th Floor" with band mates, Warren Entner (guitar) , Rick Coonce (drums) and Creed Bratton (guitar).

Dunhill liked the group's sound and they immediately became the Grass Roots, having split their new group name into two words. Their first effort was to re-record "Where Were You When I Needed You". On various of their greatest hit compilations you can find both versions. But I feel that the newer version is an improvement upon the original. The song uses the same instrumental track, but the vocals are fuller and Rob Grill does the lead.

I first became aware of the Grass Roots in June 1967 when their first hit, "Let's Live For Today" was released. It was a Top 10 hit and lasted nine weeks on the survey. It put the Grass Roots on the map.

The group was afraid of being a "one hit wonder" for the next 15 months but they broke that quiet streak by recording their biggest hit, "Midnight Confessions". That hit, released in September 1968, climbed to the top 5 and sold over a million 45's.

" Midnight Confessions" was also a break in style for the group. From that time on the group's records all featured a strong horn section.

Other big hits followed: "Bella Linda", "The River Is Wide", "I'd Wait A Million Years" and "Heaven Knows" saw them through 1969.

Creed Bratton left the group after the "Lovin' Things" album that produced the hit "The River is Wide".

Later, Rick Coonce and Warren Entner left. They had tired of touring. Dennis Provisor (keyboards, vocals) and Joel Larson (drums) took up their chores.

Hits in the 1970's continued: "Baby Hold On", "Temptation Eyes", Sooner or Later" and Two Divided By Love" kept the airwaves full of Grass Roots songs through 1971.

Creed Bratton is probably the best known member of the group. But it's not because of his excellent musicianship or his bizarre behavior while he was a group member. (He was well known for his running nude alongside the group's tour bus. Apparently all it took for him to do that was for a fan of the group to dare him.)

His fame came much later and continues. He is a well regarded cast member of the TV series, "The Office." His fictional character, also called Creed Bratton, is very bizarre and is based upon his odd antics while a member of Grass Roots. In real life he is well known as being a very nice guy. Creed continues to perform and record albums.

His leaving the Grass Roots was apparently due to his unhappiness with the direction that the music was going - in spite of how profitable it continued to be. All in all, the group had 14 Top 40 songs from 1966 to 1972. They sold over 20 million records.

After the end of their recording career in 1975 the group continued to perform live shows right up until Rob Grill's death. Rob remained the only original member.

The Grass Roots provided a lot of great music for me from my last half of high school through my Navy stint. As I was writing this I was listening to "The Grass Roots All Time Greatest Hits". I guess you can say I'm still a big fan.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What was the longest running prime time Western TV Series? ANSWER: Gunsmoke. It debuted on September 10, 1955 as a half hour series. It began its run as an hour long series in September 1961 and broadcast its last episode on September 1, 1975 . From 1952 to 1955 Gunsmoke was also a radio series with William Conrad as Matt Dillon.

"The Ongoing Mystery" (#42)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE by Larry R. Matthews - Published September 14, 2011.

The gray ship cruised off the northern coast. War roared on both sides of it. But the ship was neutral and flew a large flag. It was not there to attack anyone or to take sides in the conflict.

Its complement of weapons amounted to a total of four .50 caliber machine guns. Certainly those guns were considered ineffectual against the overwhelming array of anti-ship weaponry the warring factions could bring forth.

The ship should have had nothing to fear. After all, its country was neutral in this life and death struggle between several countries. In spite of this, the Captain remained cautious. Per his orders, he kept his vessel in international waters.

Until recently the ship had been off of the coast of Africa . But with the advent of war, the ship had been sent to monitor communications between the warring countries. In other words, it was a spy ship and was there to gather secret information.

On a Thursday morning the ship slowly headed northeast, paralleling the northern coast at 5 knots. The weather was bright and clear and the crew of almost 300 enjoyed the beautiful day. Some sunbathed on the upper deck.

That morning it had been noted that various aircraft had spotted the ship. But that was expected as the combatants were surveying the area while combat between their land forces intensified.

At 1:55 PM two unidentified jet fighters came down and strafed the bridge of the ship with rockets and 30-mm cannons. They first hit from bow to stern. Then they crisscrossed the ship in an attempt to destroy the engines. The armor piercing bullets sliced through the ship's sides like butter. The attacks came in waves of every minute or so.

15 minutes later two jets dropped several napalm canisters on the decks of the burning ship. Very few sailors were left alive on the top decks.

At 2:24 PM the torpedo boats arrived. At this time the Captain ordered a much larger flag raised so that the attacking forces could realize they were attacking a neutral vessel. But it did no good.

The unidentified torpedo boats launched 5 torpedoes. One hit the ship with a tremendous explosion.

The attack lasted over an hour and resulted in over 800 bomb, rocket and bullet holes in the ship. Obviously, the attackers were very serious about sinking it.

All during the attack the ship broadcast identification signals and requests for help to its fleet. Their fleet initially sent out fighters to protect them. But the fighters were recalled prior to their arrival when the attacking force called off the attack, admitted the error and apologized.

The ship did not sink. But there were 34 crewmembers killed. 171, or two-thirds of the crew, were wounded.

The attackers stated they could not see the flag or the ship's number. They stated that the ship resembled an enemy ship.

The ship's crew stated that there was no reason for the attack. They were in neutral waters and their ship was well marked with their ship's number and their flag was well displayed. It was a bright and clear day and their ship looked nothing like the ship the attackers had misidentified them as.

The date: June 8, 1967 .

The location: Off the Egyptian coast during the Arab-Israeli Six Day War.

The ship: the American ship, USS Liberty.

The attackers: The Israeli Navy and Air Force.

Some feel that the Israelis attacked the Liberty to remove any intelligence the Liberty may have collected that contradicted Israel 's claim that they were attacked first by the Arab forces.

To me, that seems to be the only logical reason why the Israelis would attack a clearly marked American ship. Then, as now, they considered America their greatest ally.

Why did the Johnson administration not openly criticize Israel for this attack? Some think that the lack of criticism was a trade off in order to stifle Israel 's criticism of America 's Vietnam policy.

Secretary of State, Dean Rusk stated, " I just don't believe that it was an accident or trigger-happy local commanders. There was just too much of a sustained effort to disable and sink the Liberty ."

On June 8, 1997 , the 30th anniversary of the attack, the Captain of the USS Liberty William McGonagle, spoke at Arlington Cemetery . "For many years I have wanted to believe that the attack on the Liberty was pure error. It appears to me that it was not a pure case of mistaken identity. I think it's about time that the state of Israel and the United States government provide the crewmembers of the Liberty and the rest of the American people, the facts of what happened."

More than 44 years after the attack, the sailors of the USS Liberty and their families are still waiting for that explanation.

(For an excellent book on this subject, I recommend "Attack On The Liberty" by James Scott, 2009.)


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What non-professional "singer" had a number one record? ANSWER: Unbelievably, the record was MR. CUSTER "sung" by Larry Verne. In September 1960, this novelty record about the " Battle of the Little Big Horn", stayed on the Top 40 survey for 10 weeks! Larry Verne was a photo processor who worked down the hall from the record producers. The producers used him to record the song and his sad, southern accent version of the song was a big hit. It was a hit in spite of the fact that Larry could not sing! Justifiably, he never had another hit record.

"Burned Out Memories" (#43)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published October 12, 2011

For most people, the sound of an old song or even the title of a song can bring back memories. Mostly, when I hear an old song it brings back rich, nostalgic thoughts about the "good old days".

But there is one song that brings back a very mixed memory. The song is great, and after 50 years, I still really like it. But it has a connection to a traumatic event that even now brings back bad memories.

The song is Elvis Presley's "She's Not You". It's a melodic love song that made it all the way to #5 in August of 1962.

I had always really liked the song but had never had a chance to pick up a copy. In the Summer of 1969, just after my high school graduation, I found out that a friend of mine had a 45 of it.

My friend Jim lived in the Thermalito area just west of the Feather River and Oroville's city limits. Jim offered to let me borrow the record so I could tape it. It turns out it was also one of his favorite songs.

While in high school, I had made a habit of borrowing other people's records and recording them on my little 3" reel to reel tape recorder. Yes, even today I'm still pretty cheap.

I remember Jim's old house on Thermalito Avenue to have been a rather large, wooden, cavernous structure, topped with two enormous air conditioning units. When I went to his house to pick up the record, it was very hot outside and the air conditioning was in full roar. It was loud, but it sure felt better than the 110 degree August heat.

He gave me the grand tour of the house and grounds that day. I remember that the back of the house faced a large, overgrown field that stretched to the back of another house about a block away. The grass was about 2 to 3 feet high.

Jim said it was no rush to return the record so, naturally, I forgot about returning it for a few months. I did take the time to record it on my tape recorder. Then I proceeded to play the record over and over. I can still see that black RCA Victor label going around and around. I never did get tired of hearing it.

Finally, in early October, I remembered to return the record. Fortunately, the heat had subsided a bit and my visit to his house was a bit more comfortable. Jim took the 45 and placed it among his hundreds of other 45's and LP's in the living room. I thanked Jim and told him I would see him again before I entered the Navy in December.

A few days later, on October 12th, the heat had increased and the winds had grown strong. The heat felt almost like it had in August and the 40 mile an hour winds made it seem like a blast furnace.

Having nothing else to do besides watch the trees and grass blow around, my friend Scott and I were cruising that afternoon. As you could imagine, we looked quite dashing riding in his red '62 Ford Falcon. It was not quite a chick magnet.

About that time a little boy who lived across the field from Jim's house was out playing with matches in the high winds. The grass caught fire. As luck would have it, the high winds were directed toward the south; right toward the back of Jim's house. The flames raced off toward his place.

Scott and I saw the smoke and immediately thought of Jim's house. We raced to the scene and got there just as the flames reached the back of his house. It probably did not take more than 5 minutes for the flames to eat through the one block distance of grass and hit his house like a blow torch.

Right after we pulled up, so did the Butte County Fire Department. As we got to his front door Jim came out carrying his two Siamese cats and I took them from him. You could tell that their feet had been badly burned. Then he went back in to get his dogs.

He came out the front door a minute later, coughing and covered with soot, and carrying one of his dogs. By that time the firemen had moved us out of the way as almost the entire house was a mass of flames. The house was like a big bonfire, with flames leaping more than 30 feet in the air.

Then the fire jumped Thermalito Avenue and set fire to an out building across the street. Happily, the firemen were very good about putting the fire out. We were amazed that they were able to stop it mid way across the next field before any other buildings were destroyed.

Jim survived the fire with very few injuries. But I am sure that the mental trauma effected him for many years. His two cats survived the fire but had to be put to sleep due to their burn injuries.

I took a photo of the smoking ruins later that day. The photo, which is not of good quality, is included with this article. (It was taken with a Polaroid "Swinger" camera.) You can still see the two massive air conditioning units that came down from the collapsed roof.

The next day I walked through the ruins of the house and found a large, hardened pile of black vinyl and burned paper and cardboard that was the remains of Jim's record collection. Somewhere within that pile was the 45 of "She's Not You".

I know that the most important thing is that people survive a fire. Jim had his life. But there have been many times that I wish I had been tardier in returning the 45 to Jim. The 45 would have survived and may have somewhat been able to console him in the loss of everything else. After all, there were no possessions left from Jim's prior life. He had lost everything.

In August of 2011, Scott and I revisited the site of the fire. There are now many houses across the street from where Jim's house once stood. But his old lot is bare and the grass is very high and the trees are much taller. Time has erased all evidence that a house ever existed at this site.

Maybe maintaining your sanity in life means balancing out the good with the bad memories.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What motion picture has won the most Oscars? ANSWER: Actually it's a three way tie between "Titanic" (1997), "Ben-Hur" (1959) and "Lord Of The Rings - Return Of The King" (2003). Each won 11 Oscars.

"Manzanar" (#44)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published November 9, 2011

Ron Nakashima was a good friend of mine in 4th Grade. We both attended Amestoy School in Gardena, California in 1961. There was a large percentage of Americans of Japanese ancestry in that southern California town.

One day he told me that his parents had been imprisoned in Manzanar. Being 9 years old, I had no idea what that was. I thought they had committed some crime. He really didn't say much more about it but he acted like there was some shame associated with it. I felt for a long time that they had done something very wrong to be sent wherever Manzanar was.

My generation, born shortly after World War II, grew up very proud of those who had won World War II. Justifiably, we should be very proud. But that does not mean that mistakes were not made by those who ran the country at that time.

As I grew up I heard the full story of Manzanar and of the 9 other Japanese Internment Camps that ranged from California to Arkansas . California had two: Manzanar, in the Southern California desert and Tule Lake , near the Oregon border.

I heard that Marysville was one of the 17 temporary assembly centers where Japanese-Americans had been put under military guard.

Imagine this: One morning you wake up and are told that since someone of your race has attacked the country, you, your family and thousands of other families would have to sell all of your worldly possessions, give up your job, and have to live in tar paper shacks out in some desert for an unknown length of time.

But you, and most of your family were born here and have always been loyal Americans. That did not matter. Three quarters of the 120,000 who were interned during World War II were American citizens.

Was it done out of real fear? Was it done out of racism? Was it done just to protect you and your family against retaliation? Probably there was some truth to all of these possibilities. The official reason is that the government of the United States could not trust you because you were of Japanese descent.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and President Franklin Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066 set the stage for the internments.

After decades of wanting to see Manzanar, my wife and I visited the site on April 16th of this year.

That afternoon we stood in the arid desert a few miles south of the small town of Independence off of Highway 395. You could look across the sand and see Mount Whitney and Mount Lone Pine staring down at you from their 14,000 foot heights. Just the same as they did between 1942 and 1945 when this 500 acre plot of land incarcerated 11,000 people.

Of the 8 guard towers, one still stands. There are remains of their gardens, the stone military sentry posts and the haunting white obelisk that stands in their cemetery. Foundations of some of the 504 barracks are still there. There were 36 blocks and between 200 to 300 people lived in each block.

There is also new construction. There is a visitors center and they have recently constructed re-creations of two of the barracks and the mess hall. The visitors center offers films and artifacts regarding the internment. Some are quite emotional and inspiring.

The barracks were primitive. They featured an oil stove, cots, blankets, mattresses filled with straw and one hanging light bulb. Up to 8 people lived in a room 20 by 25 feet. There was very little privacy.

The barracks were either too cold or too hot. Summer temperatures rose as high as 110 degrees. Winter temperatures dipped below freezing. The wind always seemed to be blowing.

That afternoon we walked the same land that thousands of internees had walked. We visited the re-created buildings and drove the route through the camp that took us past their gardens and their cemetery. The concrete foundations of their barrack buildings seemed to speak out to us in the silence. They tried to tell us what it had been like to live in that plot of land for those many years. But unless you actually lived it, there is no way to know the feeling of depression, frustration, humiliation and betrayal that most all must have felt.

In spite of thousands of Japanese-American families being held in camps, there were 26,000 Japanese-American sons who served in World War II. Some served as interpreters in the Pacific. But most served in Italy and France in the 100th/442nd Infantry Battalions. They suffered 9,846 casualties and the 100th/442nd was the highest decorated Army unit for its length of service and size.

Why did they serve? After all, their families were treated like enemy aliens in camps that were located in god forsaken areas of the United States .

I believe that most served in order to prove their patriotism and to prove that the United States had been wrong to incarcerate their families. They served to show that prejudice due to race is just flat out wrong.

The camps closed by December 1945 and the Japanese-American families returned to try to put their lives together. Most all of their property and jobs were gone.

It wasn't until 1988 when the U.S. Civil Liberties Act sent $20,000.00 and an apology to 82,000 former internees. By then, thousands of the internees had passed away.

But the internees survived and had children such as Ron Nakashima. After all of these decades I hope that Ron is well. I hope he also has found that his family's experience at Manzanar is nothing to be ashamed of. It was an ordeal to overcome and they did the United States proud. I hope the U.S. Government does itself proud by never repeating its mistake.

For the record, there is no evidence of any Japanese-American committing any act of sabotage during World War II.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who were Tsutomo Yamaguchi, Takejiro Nishioka and Akira Iwanaga? ANSWER: They were three Japanese civilians who were near ground zero, and survived, when the atomic bomb destroyed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 . In an effort to escape what was left of the town they took a train to travel to an area of safety. They all ended up in Nagasaki just in time for the atomic bombing there. Once again, they were near ground zero and survived!

"My Favorite Christmas" (#45)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published December 7, 2011

I was 10 years old when Christmas rolled around in 1961. My mother set up an aluminum Christmas Tree. She seemed to think it was very pretty and I agreed. It was fashionable in the early 60's to have fake, aluminum Christmas Trees. We also had a green and red rotating light to shine on it.

Like most 10 year olds my life, at the time, was centered around school.

I was a very shy child and I had had a bad year in school. Mrs. Whitlock was my teacher in 5th grade at an elementary school in the Los Angeles area. I have terrible memories of Mrs. Whitlock. Every Friday we would have tests and her idea of motivating students was by humiliating them. We would take the test. Then we would hand the test to the student behind us. Mrs. Whitlock would then give us the answers and the student behind us would grade the test. Then the test would be given back to us.

That, in itself, was not bad, but then Mrs. Whitlock would call out for us to bring our papers up to her based upon how many answers we missed.

"How many of you missed one?" and so on. Each week I would worry so much about the possible humiliation of being called up in front of the class with the worse score that I would usually bomb the test. Then I would suffer the ultimate humiliation when the other students made rude comments.

To this day I really dislike Mrs. Whitlock and, I must admit, there are very few people that I have really disliked in my life.

Fifth grade was a real trial for me. I was supposed to be smart based upon the I.Q. tests that I had taken. But I.Q. tests do not take into account that even smart students learn at different speeds and in different environments. Apparently, I was one of the slower learners in the stressful environment created by Mrs. Whitlock. I am sorry to admit that a few times I faked illness in order to not have to go in on Fridays.

To this day I feel that a student's grades should be kept confidential and that motivating a child through humiliation is a terrible thing.

I suppose that the main reason why I kept my sanity that year was because of my parents. They were both loving and supportive. My mother was a stay at home mom; as many moms were in 1961. My father was an auto mechanic who worked just a few blocks from our mobile home park.

My parents were never rich. Much of the time they barely made ends meet. But I didn't know that until much later. I believe that making your kids feel secure, in spite of all obstacles, is a hallmark of being a good parent.

In addition to my parents, there were other interests that helped me reduce my stress that year. One of them was the then current crop of late 50's/early 60's music.

Some of my friends who had record players would bring them over to my house some nights. We would set the record player up on the patio and rock out. Some of the kids would dance. We would play "Charlie Brown" by the Coasters and "Stagger Lee" by Lloyd Price. I even had a 78 RPM record of Elvis doing "Jailhouse Rock" and the Everly Brothers doing "Wake Up Little Susie". Even then I had the idea that some day I would be a disc jockey. My biggest wish for the Christmas of 1961 was to get a record player of my own.

I was also a big Soupy Sales fan. Soupy had an early evening show on KABC TV in Los Angeles and I watched it every weeknight. He threw pies into people's faces, you know. He also had puppets by the names of Pookie, Hippy, White Fang and Black Tooth. He was my hero because he spoke to me at my level. He had a wonderful way of treating children with respect and he was so irreverently funny. That fall he released his first album for sale. It was called "The Soupy Sales Show" and I really wanted it.

I also loved the Chipmunks. David Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) created a wonderful cartoon and recording empire when he created the Chipmunks in 1959. I then felt that their song "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" was the greatest Christmas song of all time.

Every evening just before Christmas I would stare at that lighted tree for a long time and hope that some of the presents under it would bring me some of those special things that I wanted.

On Christmas morning of 1961 my hopes were all satisfied. After I had torn away the bright wrappings I found a great record player. I also found a copy of "The Soupy Sales Show" and "Let's All Sing With The Chipmunks" record albums under that tree.

I am sure there were more presents that made me happy that year. But those three presents really made my Christmas. My parents, as always, had come through for me. Maybe they had realized just how many demons I had fought that year.

My new record player played 45's, albums and 78's. My record albums spun around and around and that music helped me survive fifth grade in spite of Mrs. Whitlock.

So much time has gone by. My heroes, Soupy Sales and David Seville, have both passed away and hardly anybody has a record player anymore. I find that kind of sad.

Today I recognize that my parents didn't have enough money to get me everything I wanted. But I know that they were always there for me when I needed them. Sometimes the most basic things are the most important.

The Christmas of 1961 remains my favorite Christmas. It was the combination of surviving a rough school year and the realization that my parents really were miracle workers for me.

My parents remained miracle workers for me until their deaths. My father in 1980 and my mother in 2004. I am still amazed at how hard they worked and how much they cared about me. You could not have asked for more supportive parents.

That Christmas, 50 years ago, is such a sweet memory. I hope your Christmas of 2011 is just as sweet.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What is the best selling Christmas song? ANSWER: Written by Irving Berlin in 1940 and recorded by Bing Crosby, "White Christmas" has sold over 50 million copies since it was recorded in 1941.

"Drug Songs" (#46)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published January 11, 2012

Ok, so before you send your nasty e-mails and phone calls to the TD editor with accusations that I am promoting drug use, please hear me out.

For the record, I have never smoked a joint. I know, it is hard to imagine that anybody from my baby boomer generation never smoked pot is hard to believe. But I made a commitment when I was very young to not smoke anything, and I never have.

Don't get me wrong, one drug - alcohol, has taken its toll on me and I have had my share of self humiliation caused by excessive alcohol consumption over the years. All episodes were greatly humbling. I am sure there are some episodes, thankfully, that I no longer remember. Fortunately, none of these episodes resulted in a DUI or public humiliation. But these experiences allowed me to change my ways and to be able to live to the ripe old age of senility in which I presently find myself.

But let's get to the root of this article. Pop culture has produced a lot of songs about drugs. A lot of the drug songs go back to the 1930's but, in this column, we will concentrate only on some of the songs from the period of the 60's and 70's.

ALONG COMES MARY was the Association's first hit record. This record from June 1966 was well received and was thought of as a very nice up-tempo love song about a young lady named Mary. In reality, it was a song about a man's love for smoking weed. No kidding.

THE PUSHER was off of Steppenwolf's first album from 1968. It was written by Hoyt Axton who later wrote "Joy To The World" and "Never Been to Spain " for Three Dog Night. The song is best known for John Kay's repeated screaming of "G** D*** the Pusher!" That's why you have most likely never heard it on the radio. It's actually an anti-hard drug song and promotes the death penalty for drug dealers. However, it also seems to indicate that smoking pot is no big deal.

AMPHETAMINE ANNIE was recorded in 1968 by Canned Heat. Written by Bob Hite, it chronicles an acquaintance's drug struggles with methedrine along with her physical deterioration. It also stresses the fact that "Speed Kills"! Sadly, three members of the group (including Bob Hite) died at a relatively young age of either drug overdoses or heart attacks.

DON'T STEP ON THE GRASS SAM was from Steppenwolf's second album from 1968. Written by John Kay, it was based upon his viewing of the Joe Pine TV talk show. Seems that the discussion was about marijuana and the pro-pot representative's opinion was badly abused by Joe and a politician named Sam. I have always believed that Sam was Sam Yorty, the then mayor of Los Angeles . However, John Kay does not identify Sam in his book, "Magic Carpet Ride". It's a bouncy little tune that ends with the sounds of a drug bust and the marijuana being flushed down a toilet. Very classy.

WHITE RABBIT from 1967 was from Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" album. Written by Grace Slick, it was based upon Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Looking Glass" stories. While the song promotes taking pills or eating psychedelic mushrooms to make your head "bigger", I understand that Lewis Carroll just simply smoked Opium while he was writing his books.

THAT ACAPULCO GOLD by Rainy Daze briefly visited Top 100 radio in 1967. Written by J. Carter and Tim Gilbert, it's a 1920's style comic ditty about a young couple who take a quick honeymoon trip south of the border to see "the streets that are lined with bricks" of Acapulco Gold. They also state that it can "teach old dogs to do new tricks." But they probably couldn't remember how to do them shortly thereafter.

COCAINE by Eric Clapton was written by J. J. Cale. It was a minor chart hit in 1977 but I found that it was a big "sing along" event when I attended one of Eric's concerts in 2001. It's anti drug and Eric should know what he is talking about as drugs just about killed him several times.

WILDWOOD WEED was written by Jim Stafford and was a very memorable hit from 1974. It's a comedic story about two hayseed brothers who stumble upon pot that is growing on their farm and accidentally smoke it. Brother Bill finds himself the next morning sitting naked on the windmill. The other brother has to fly up there and get him down. The song goes downhill from there.

THE NO NO SONG, from 1975 has to be one of my favorite songs of all time. It mentions pot and cocaine but it's also about moonshine! I think it is one of Ringo Starr's best songs. This song relates the fact that whether it is cocaine or moonshine, misuse can ruin your life. The point of this song is that Ringo is giving it all up because he is "tired of waking up on the floor". Surprisingly, the song was written by Hoyt Axton who wrote "The Pusher".

LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS was recorded on March 1, 1967 . Was it about drugs? Who really knows? It was included in the Beatles album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Most everybody thought it was about drugs due to the LSD initials in the title. Plus it is very psychedelic sounding. The story goes that the idea for the title of the song came to John Lennon when he looked at a drawing his son Julian had made. Julian said it was of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." John Lennon always said it was not about drugs. Surprisingly, John never liked the Beatles' version of the song; liking the Elton John version better. (John Lennon played on both recordings).

PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON was always rumored to be about smoking pot. I am including it in this article to verify that its author, Peter Yarrow, emphatically states that it has nothing at all to do with drugs. It's basically a fairy tale. Written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow, it was a huge hit for Peter's group Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963.

Many of the above songs from the 60's and 70's have a humorous theme to them. Maybe back then it was funny. However as time has gone by I find drug use less and less funny. Could it be that our humorous acceptance of "soft" drugs decades ago has resulted in the acceptance of hard drugs that have now proven to be much more destructive?

Since these songs came out the Meth epidemic has gotten worse. People 20 or 30 years younger than me look older than me. And God knows you don't want that! Many won't make it to my age.

The United States is the biggest market for the Mexican drug trade. Maybe someday Americans will finally realize that quitting drugs is the only answer to the early deaths, violence, social disorder and financial loss that drugs cost us. That cost includes the sad fact that many won't be around to see their children grow up.

Mass murder is now epidemic in some areas of Mexico due to the Drug Cartel wars. Let's hope we'll be able to keep that horror out of our country. As for me, I don't plan to take a trip down to see the "streets that are lined with bricks" anytime soon.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who had the most Number One Top 40 Hit songs, Elvis Presley or the Beatles? ANSWER: In spite of Elvis having 114 Top 40 records from 1956 to 1981 he only had 18 number one hits. The Beatles, with 52 Top 40 records from 1964 to 1996, hit number one a total of 20 times. How does that compare with the Rolling Stones? They had 8 number one hits. Creedence Clearwater Revival? Sadly, none!

"Commercial Memories" (#47)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published February 8, 2012

I plan to sue Barry Manilow. He's the genius who came up with the TV commercial jingle, "I am stuck on Band-Aids brand and Band-Aid's stuck on me". Yeah, I know that it's been 30 years since that commercial ran but occasionally I still find it running amok through my brain.

Commercials, effective ones at least, have that addictive quality that stays with your mind. I can remember commercials from over 50 years ago that were classic. I know I'm nuts, but some of my best television memories were commercials.

Does anybody else remember that the sponsor of The Lone Ranger was Cheerios? Over the years, whenever I hear "Hi Yo Silver!" I have this great urge to buy Cheerios. The fact that I think of it as a warm memory means that I was completely brain washed by General Mills.

Animated characters bring forth good memories. I remember the Hamm 's Bear and the bouncy little theme song ("From the land of sky blue waters, etc"). Even though I was just a kid in the late 50's when those commercials aired, I still get thirsty when it dances through my brain. I recently noticed that Hamm's Beer is still in business.

Another animated animal memory is the Saint Bernard dog for Dr. Pepper. That one makes me thirsty too. ("Frosty, Man, Frosty!")

Additionally, I can never forget the little animated cowboy, Marky Maypo, in the "I want my Maypo!" commercials and Bucky Beaver for Ipana Toothpaste. Ipana Toothpaste is long gone but you can still buy Maypo.

Around 1965, one of my favorite commercials was for Hai Karate cologne. It shows a rather nerdy man showing up at his date's apartment. She smells the Hai Karate and becomes extremely affectionate toward him. He has to fight her off with various karate chops. One chop completely splits the coffee table. The announcer advises us that the scent drives women so wild that there are self defense instructions included in every package. "Hai Karate - be careful how you use it." Sadly, it never worked quite that well for me. 007 Cologne was a waste of time for me also.

There were several instrumental hits in the mid-60's that were associated with certain commercials:

Teaberry Gum had various folks dancing the "Teaberry Shuffle" to the Tijuana Brass song, "Mexican Shuffle".

Alka Seltzer produced a commercial called "No Matter What Shape (your stomach's in)". It shows various bellies reacting when people walked, jumped and bounced up and down. My favorite part was the one person prodding another's stomach with his finger. The T-Bones had a hit record based upon the music from this song.

Benson and Hedges 100's cigarettes were promoting that they were just "a silly millimeter longer" than king size. So they proceeded to show some of those size disadvantages in a humorous way. The commercial was accompanied by the music of The Brass Ring with a song called "The Dis-Advantages of You."

Diet Pepsi used the soundtrack of Bob Crew Generation's "Music To Watch Girls By" to illustrate "The Girls Girl Watchers Watch". I definitely watched.

I'm such a nerd that I have copies of all of those songs.

It's very rare that I like any of the new commercials now days. One series of ads that I find consistently likeable are the Jack In The Box commercials. They always have a likeable and funny premise to enjoy.

On the other hand, I find myself switching off the TV or changing channels immediately when any erectile dysfunction advertisements come on. There are several subjects that I just don't want to hear about on my TV. I still don't understand why those ads find it so attractive to have two bathtubs out in a cow pasture. Doesn't sound erotic to me. Hot tubs I can understand. Rusty old iron bathtubs just don't get it.

Possibly the most bizarre commercial of that type is "Smilin' Bob" and his "male enhancement" commercial. Enough said about that.

Another type of commercial that makes me run the other way are the ones that state, "But Wait!" In other words they are willing to send you twice as much product for the same price. You only have to pay a double dose of shipping and handling. I am convinced that the double charge is the only way they make a profit.

One of the most nauseating commercials on the air is for Colon Health. The commercial is usually broadcast around dinner time and it features a woman who repeatedly refers to diarrhea, bloating and gas. She does it in such a happy, smug and self satisfied way that it makes you want to punch her in the face. Especially if she has ruined your appetite.

In my very first column, back in April of 2008, I wrote about just how crude TV medication commercials had gotten to be. I had hoped by now that they had improved in the areas of tactfulness and class. Sadly, they are just as disgusting and seem determined to tell me way too much about things I do not want to know anything about.

From these commercials I have learned that no matter what possible good the advertised medication may do for you it may also cause dry mouth, chest pain, headache, muscle ache, allergic reactions, swelling of the face and tongue, blurred vision, unsafe drop in blood pressure, loss of hearing and vision, death, suicidal tendencies (and yes, diarrhea, bloating and gas).

Remember: if you develop a pain in the brain for more than 4 minutes caused by viewing idiotic TV content you should turn off your TV for a week. I, Doctor Larry, highly recommend that remedy as it helps you regain your sanity.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What was the number one record and TV show forty years ago this week? ANSWER: In February 1972 the number one record was "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green. The number one TV show was "All In The Family" starring Carroll O'Connor.

"Audio/Video Memories" (#48)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published March 7, 2012

I remember a time when there were no remote controls in the living room. We got up to change channels. Sometimes it was a pain, but mostly it was fine because there were only two or three channels to choose from anyway.

I remember the dial included stations from 2 through 13 and a strange little spot called U. It stood for UHF but that dial never seemed to bring anything in.

When I lived in Los Angeles we had a total of 7 channels. We had three network stations and the rest were independents. That was actually a good array of entertainment and they all came over the air. Cable TV did not exist. I got to watch "The Twilight Zone", "My Three Sons" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" with no problems.

When I moved to Oroville in 1963 we only had two channels you could receive - Channel 12 in Chico and Channel 7R in Redding . We could not quite receive any Sacramento channels.

It was great in the late 1960's when local cable TV came to town. We were actually able to receive about 10 channels. Some as "far away" as San Francisco !

I didn't get a color TV until the late 70's. That's in spite of the fact that NBC bragged about being the "All Color Network" way back 15 years before. Obviously, their promotion had no effect on me.

I grew up with AM radio and it served its purpose. We had news and music and nobody complained. I remember my mom's old white plastic Silvertone radio that sat on our kitchen table. We had some very good times with that radio.

It wasn't until the mid 70's that converters for FM stations came out. I remember hanging one under my AM radio in my '74 Vega. Up until the 70's, most FM stations were bastions of either classical or underground "head music", so many people did not care if they received FM or not.

I remember how cool it was to listen to my transistor radio, via earphone, in bed at 3 in the morning. The quality was not so great but who cared? There was something mystical and special about listening to a long distance AM radio station in the middle of the night. Your imagination ran wild over the fact that you were hearing live radio from as far away as Los Angeles or Salt Lake City .

I impressed a girl once by connecting my 3" reel to reel battery powered tape player to my car radio speaker. I played her some of my favorite "Lovin' Spoonful" songs. She was amazed and impressed that I could actually play recorded music in the car whenever I wanted. That was just prior to 8 tracks and cassette car players. That was just about the only thing that impressed her about me.

I always had imagined that it would be great to record TV programs with the touch of a button. I thought that for many years until it became a reality in the mid 80's when VCR's first came out. My first one, a top loader, cost me about $400.00 and I was so impressed! Believe it or not, I still have some of those old clunky VHS cassettes that I recorded movies on way back then. But some are getting a bit shaky.

I had a good friend back in the late 80's who tried very hard to get me to buy his Sony Betamax recorder. Sadly for him, VHS became the standard and Betamax never caught on. I'm sure it's now being used as a door stop in his apartment.

Funny how some technology catches on really fast and other technology just lies in the dustbin of history. I don't know anybody now who has a reverb or any 4-track record albums.

When a friend passed away a few years ago I inherited his Zenith Trans-Oceanic radio. It was built the year I was born, 1951, and it has AM and several short wave frequencies to scan. It can bring in all sorts of strange programming from across the world. Some in languages I cannot identify. It is a tube radio and it reminded me of how long it used to take for TVs and most radios to warm up.

I also remember tube testers. They were the odd looking console-like gadgets you would find in various supermarkets and hardware stores where you could bring in your tubes to test and see if they were any good.

Maybe I have just too many controllers in the living room. Last spring I found myself foolishly trying to change the TV channel with the controller for the portable heater. I'm not sure that I really know what some of the controllers control. It's like all of those extra keys on your keychain. You'll never remember what they belong to.

I wrote a few months ago that I still listened to cassettes. As you can imagine, my collection of cassettes is getting smaller by the day. I have had to throw many out because the tape has just become unplayable due to decades of play, heat, cold and moisture.

But even when cassettes were new they had various problems. I can remember many times playing a tape and having it just stop playing. When I popped it out of the machine I discovered that the tape had unwound inside the machine and I had to pull it out. Sometimes it was so wrapped up inside that I had to cut the tape to get it out.

I won't even get into just how awkward it was to clean tape heads with a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol.

I also remember leaving a cassette hanging out in the player on a hot day and having it deform. It was pretty difficult to pry it out of the slot.

A nasty little memory for me was when I borrowed some albums and 45's from a good friend of mine. When I returned them, he wasn't home so I just put them in the front seat of his car. Unfortunately, it was summertime and they melted into a distorted pile of vinyl. I've always felt bad about that. I wonder if CD's are as prone to melting. I hope to never find out.

By the way, I do realize that there are some out there who think that I am very old fashioned because I still consider CD's high tech. But I don't mind being old fashioned. I even still really like playing my old record albums.

Now with cable TV we have the choice of dozens or hundreds of channels. But I still have the same problem I had when I only had a handful to choose from. It's still hard to find a program worth watching. Oh well, I still have my old VHS copy of "American Graffiti" to watch if I get bored.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What was the quickest demise of a prime time TV show in broadcast history? ANSWER: The premier of the TV show "Turn-On" was broadcast on February 5, 1969 . George Schlatter, producer of the hit "Laugh In", had great hopes for this series. Basically, it was a computer that generated jokes, graphics, animation, lots of noise and no laughs. I saw this show and was appalled by its bad taste and the fact that it wasted a half hour of my life. ABC affiliate stations and its sponsor Bristol-Myers hated it also and dropped the show. Its first show was its last show. Tim Conway was its only host.

"Retrospective Four" (#49)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published April 4, 2012

Well, here we are. Four years and almost 50 articles since I began writing this column.

Each April I have set aside this space to discuss what has occurred here in the past year. So here we go.

I think I have become my father. He used to sit around and talk to his friends and relatives about the "good old days". At that time it seemed pretty boring to me. But after achieving my advanced age I can certainly see why he enjoyed those discussions. I guess that is what I do in this column - sharing memories and history in order to relive the past. I also hope that I have entertained and/or informed you in the past four years.

Some of the subjects of articles have been quite obscure. On October 12th I wrote about a spectacular house fire that I had observed in 1969 and how a certain song always brings me back to that sad event. (Elvis still lives in my brain.)

On July 13th I wrote about the two oldest covered bridges in our area. By the way, since that article came out, the Bridgeport Bridge has developed some structural issues and is now closed to all traffic. Let's hope it can be repaired and reopened. It's 150 years old this month and there will be a birthday celebration from April 27th through the 29th.

I received a lot of e-mails regarding an article I wrote on September 14th about the USS Liberty. I was very surprised when I received e-mails from four of the crew who had survived the 1967 Israeli attack on their ship.

Navy crew members who wrote me were Donald Pageler, Joe Lentini and Joseph Meadors who is the President of the USS Liberty Veterans Association. Also writing me was Bryce Lockwood who is the only surviving member of the Marine Detachment that was stationed aboard the Liberty . All expressed thanks to the TD and to me for the article.

It was evident that the crew members all felt that the attack on their ship by Israel , that killed 34 and wounded 171, had been intentional and that they felt Congress should publicly investigate the matter further.

Over the years I have made a concerted effort to avoid religion and politics in this column. Therefore, my only purpose in writing the article was to once again bring this bizarre incident to the public eye. After reading James Scott's book "Attack On The Liberty" it was obvious to me that there were a lot of unanswered questions, and unhealed wounds, resulting from the attack.

Possibly a new, public investigation of Israel 's role in the attack can help heal some old wounds that the survivors of the USS Liberty justifiably still have. I am sure that whatever the truth is, the friendship between the U.S. and Israel can survive.

I received an e-mail from Chuck Frank regarding my article from November 9th about the Manzanar internment camp. Chuck related the following information regarding an internee he knew: "Henry Oda was a young Japanese boy from the Sacramento Delta who was interred at the Tule Lake Camp. After his release he went to work for Lockheed and developed the SR71 Blackbird. He suggested the tail design. The aircraft ended up receiving every conceivable record of altitude and speed."

I just goes to show that anybody, no matter what background, race or religion, can contribute immensely to the United States and be a success. That is, when he or she is given a fair chance and prejudice does not get in the way.

Rick Kellogg from Wildomar, Ca. reads the TD on line and commented about some aspects of my Christmas story from December: "I watched every episode of Soupy Sales. My favorite was the guy who came to the door (but you couldn't see him) and he'd offer Soupy a bowl of food to eat. Soupy would put some in his mouth. Then he'd show the box.........Gravy Train.......and Soupy would blow it out of his mouth. And as for your "favorite" teacher..........I had one of those too, my junior year of high school. I still shudder when I think of what he did and said. He was so intimidating, and I think he enjoyed it. Keep up the great work, Larry."

Judith Kite, from Loma Rica, wrote regarding my article from February 8th about "Commercial Memories": "I loved your column. Great memories. Of course, in those days, TV had only 3 channels and to change them you had to get off your backside and actually walk to the TV. In these days with hundreds of channels I find there is not much worth watching. I do enjoy the Geico Gecko line dancing. You have a Lewis Grizzard feel about your writing. He was one of my favorites."

Ken Manies wrote, "You're a brave man to admit you drove a Vega". I had mentioned past Chevy Vega ownership in my "Audio/Video Memories" article from last month. I do acknowledge some shame when admitting that I am a prior Vega owner. After all, I quickly learned that the aluminum block engines self destructed after 60,000 miles and that you could barely go 45 MPH when going up hills. It's a toss up as to what was worse; Vegas or Ford Pintos.

As with my past work in radio, there are periods of time when I don't receive any feedback from the public regarding the quality, or lack of, of the product I produce. This year, however, I have received a very nice sample of comments from you. It's nice to have some feedback to know you are still out there. Keep in mind that comments, be they good or bad reviews, are appreciated.

Due to your nice e-mails, I have decided to continue with this column for another year. We'll see what bizarre tales of the past I can come up with. Several ideas are already germinating in my well-worn brain.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What actors in the TV series M*A*S*H appeared in the entire series? ANSWER: M*A*S*H ran from September 1972 to September 1983. Alan Alda (Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce) and Loretta Swit (Major Margaret Houlihan) were the only actors to appear in the entire series. William Christopher (Father Francis Mulcahy) almost made it. He appeared in the entire series except for the first episode when someone else played the Father. Gary Burghoff (Corporal Walter O'Reilly) was the only one to appear in the movie and the TV series. He quit the TV series in 1979. He won an Emmy for M*A*S*H in 1977. The last I heard, Gary Burghoff resided just up the road in Paradise , Ca.

"Hey Hey, We're (Getting Really Old)!" (#50)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published May 9, 2012

When Davy Jones passed away on February 29th I must admit that I got pretty misty eyed. I had seen Davy in concert back in September of 2007 and was very impressed with him. His energy and musical ability made it obvious that he really loved what he was doing. He was incredibly likeable.

In this era where a lot of 60's rock stars have passed away, I really had to figure out why the death of a Monkee depressed me so. After all, only two of the Beatles are still alive and very few of the original Beach Boys. For some odd reason, none of their deaths bothered me as much.

I came to the conclusion that I was saddened not just because of the fact that I liked Davy Jones but of what his death represented. It was the first loss in a rock group of people I had really liked. Over the years I felt that I had gotten to really know and like the band members.

In 1966, when the Monkees TV show first went on the air, a lot of us "macho" teenaged boys would never admit we liked the Monkees. The general consensus was that the Monkees' music was "bubble gum". But, secretly, we bought their records like crazy.

The Monkees were known as the "Pre-Fab Four". Everybody knew they were selected from a casting call for a TV show. Everybody knew that Don Kirshner tightly controlled their music and that they wrote very few of their own songs.

As with most rock groups, there was some dissention within the group and with those who controlled their careers.

They were hired initially to appear and perform in their half hour TV musical/comedy series. The records they appeared on were at first just a supplemental part of their career, but quickly became a very popular phenomenon.

Rumor had it that they did not play their instruments on their records. That is correct. It is also correct that many groups of that era, including the Byrds and the Beach Boys, used studio musicians on their recordings. But there were exceptions to this rule. There were some groups such as The Turtles, the Lovin' Spoonful and the Beatles, who played their own instruments on their recordings.

So the Monkees were not unique in not playing on their own records. However, they did not like this situation. Finally they did win the right to play on their own records after they forced out Don Kirshner. Only their first two albums featured studio musicians.

Davy Jones (born 12-30-45 in Manchester , England ) began appearing on British TV at age 14. Before being chosen as a Monkee he was a triumph as the Artful Dodger on Broadway in "Oliver". Davy sang lead on many of the Monkees hit recordings and played tambourine.

Mike Nesmith (born 1-30-42 in Houston , Texas ) was a guitarist, vocalist and song writer before becoming a Monkee. He had written the hit "Different Drum" for Linda Ronstadt's group "The Stone Poneys". Mike played guitar and sang lead on many album cuts and wrote songs such as "Papa Gene's Blues" that appeared on Monkee albums.

Mickey Dolenz (born 3-8-45 in Los Angeles , California ) was a show business veteran before he became a Monkee. At age 11, he played the part of "Corky" in the 1950's TV series "Circus Boy". He sang lead on most of the big hits and played drums and guitar.

Peter Tork (born 2-13-42 in Washington DC ) came from New York 's Greenwich Village folk scene. Among his friends from that period was Steven Stills, who referred him to the Monkee casting call. Peter played guitar and did vocal backings. His main claim to fame as a Monkee was his lead on the very bizarre song "Auntie Grizelda".

I credit the TV show with having brought the music of the Monkees to the forefront, but I never really liked the TV show. It was quite popular for awhile but had pretty well spent itself by the end of the second year and was not renewed.

But the music continued on. Some of my favorites are, "Last Train to Clarksville ", I'm A Believer", "She", "Mary Mary", "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You", "Shades of Gray", " Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Daydream Believer", "Valleri" and "Listen To The Band".

I distinctly remember riding my bicycle down to the record store in the hot Summer of 1967 to buy the 45 of "Pleasant Valley Sunday/Words". It was well worth the trip.

After the Monkees split up in 1969, both Davy and Mickey performed individually in oldies concerts. I got to see Mickey perform in May of 2000 along with Bobby Sherman and Peter Noone (Herman of Herman's Hermits). Mickey put on a great show but he wouldn't come out to sign autographs. My wife has yet to forgive him for that. But she was able to get Bobby and Peter's autographs that night.

Mike went on to win the very first Grammy Award for a music video in 1981. It was for the compilation of music and comedy videos he called "Elephant Parts". That video has some very memorable and hilarious segments.

Peter became a music and social studies teacher. He has acted in various TV series and has performed in an assortment of bands.

Over the years, they have all participated in Monkee reunion tours to one degree or the other.

Why is their music still popular? A quote from Betty Shaner-Ledford, who attended Davy Jones' Oroville concert in 2007 gives us a clue:

"I thought he gave a very entertaining performance, and even though his voice was not as strong as when he was young, it was still good. I had a tremendous crush on him when I was about 16 and can remember watching the show with my friend, and that we would not miss it for anything. I still love their music and have felt they got a bad rap over the years for being a studio band. I was much more into their music than the Beatles or Elvis or even the Beach Boys. I think they had some very good songs. I have some of their music on my Ipod in my car and I still enjoy listening to the oldies. It takes me back to being 16 again, as only music can."

I have enjoyed the music of the Monkees for over 45 years. I have also had great respect for the individual members of the group. Unlike many artists who have done outrageous things and lived outrageous lifestyles in order to gather attention, you have mainly heard nothing but positive things about the members of the Monkees. The two concerts I have attended have been great fun and my good memories of the Monkees were reinforced by those performances.

Their music represented innocence in the middle of a very tumultuous period in our history.

So that's why I got emotional about Davy Jones' death. I also know that my day will always be brightened every time I hear "Daydream Believer".


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who was Don Kirschner? ANSWER: He was a successful music producer who was instrumental in the success of the careers of writer/performers Carol King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka and Barry Mann in the 50's and 60's. After he produced the Monkees he produced the music and an animated TV show for The Archies in 1969. Later, we produced the late night series "In Concert". After leaving that series he produced "Don Kirschner's Rock Concert" from September 1973 to 1981. Don Kirschner passed away on January 17, 2011 at age 76.

"The Oroville U2 Plane Crash" (#51)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published June 13, 2012

It seems that several occurrences in my past made me aware of both sides of this story.

I had worked in advertising for the Oroville Mercury Register newspaper in 1974 when their building was on Bird Street . I got to know and like the business and the people.

In the late 1980's my son, Alan, was a newspaper carrier for the Mercury. By that time the newspaper had moved to Second Street , north of the Feather River . Alan carried papers for the newspaper for about a year and we lived a mile from the newspaper building.

In 1981 I began working for Yuba County and as part of my job duties I gave monthly briefings to new military retirees at Beale Air Force Base regarding their veteran's benefits. I had noticed that out in front of the base headquarters was a U-2 that had been placed upon a pedestal. It had been involved in an accident just north of Oroville back on January 31, 1980 .

I remember when that happened. I was driving home from work in Chico and was just north of Oroville when I came across a group of Air Force Security personnel, with automatic weapons, who had staked out an area along Highway 70. Obviously, they were taking no chances with the security of a spy plane. The U-2 had crash landed out in the volcanic rock area west of the freeway. The area is flat and the pilot was not seriously injured. My research indicates that the pilot had passed out and the plane was so aerodynamic that it had crash landed itself. Apparently just then the pilot woke up, panicked, and ejected from the ground. His only injury was a broken nose.

Little did I know, at the time, that a later U-2 crash would connect Beale Air Force Base, The Oroville Mercury Register and the people of Oroville in a tragedy.

At 2:17 PM on August 7, 1996 Jeri Vering had just finished paying her newspaper subscription to Oroville Mercury employee Dusty Smith. She went out the front door into the warm, bright sunshine. Just then she heard a loud "pop" and looked up. She saw something flaming and black, heading right down toward her...and it weighted 40,000 pounds.

Captain Randy Roby, the pilot of the U-2, had taken off from Beale Air Force Base at 2 PM on that Wednesday afternoon. His U-2 aircraft had recently undergone routine maintenance. The Captain was performing a functional check of the plane. He headed northwest from Beale and approached Oroville.

He was 15 minutes into his flight when something went terribly wrong. The Captain relayed to Beale that he had an in-flight emergency. Then suddenly there was an explosion.

People on the ground have described the noise as a "pop" but it must have been quite a large explosion. The Captain grabbed the ejection release. He felt the thrust amid the noise and smoke as he was launched into the air.

Dusty Smith saw Jeri Vering outside her office door. She seemed in a panic, not knowing which way to run. Then the plane hit.

An explosion and fire ripped through the building, knocking employees off chairs in a blinding flash. Employees facing the wall of flames and smoke inside the newspaper's office had no idea what had caused the devastation. Picking themselves up, the 17 employees headed for a back exit just as fast as possible.

Outside, the wreckage was scattered in a widening circle from where the plane was sitting, nose down, after impacting with an employee's car.

The employees could not believe what had happened. They saw the aircraft, a 12 foot high pile of rubble that protruded from the paved lot to just above the roofline of the building. That was all that was left of the 63 foot aircraft.

It had been a miracle that nobody in the building had died. The plane had just missed entering the Mercury Building and had missed three homes on Second Street . A deviation, a few feet either way, could have resulted in devastating losses. But there was a loss; the lady customer had died.

But what had people seen? A resident had thought he heard a sonic boom, but it was the explosion of the aircraft. He looked up to see the spiraling aircraft, one wing engulfed in flames, as it plummeted almost straight down.

Faint crackling noises could be heard as the aircraft dropped lower and lower. Then another smaller explosion was heard just prior to it hitting the ground. The ground suddenly shook and there was a loud roar accompanied with billowing black smoke.

An employee of Butte County Adult Services heard an explosion and saw a shadow going over the building. She first thought it was a bomb and then realized it was a plane when she saw a parachute coming down.

An employee of California Department of Forestry Cal Fire Headquarters saw the pilot land in a grass field right next to their office on Nelson Avenue . She said that it was obvious that the pilot, who had lost his helmet, had not survived. Another CDF employee covered the pilot's body with his parachute.

The California Highway Patrol office is only a couple of hundred yards from the newspaper building. The first officers on the scene found the fire and destruction but also saw civilians picking up parts of the plane. They apparently did not realize that there could be secondary explosions. Prior to the authorities being able to fully secure the accident scene, many persons came to the area to see the destruction.

Officials from Beale's 9th Support Group indicated that they found wreckage from the plane up to a quarter of a mile from the impact area.

A later investigation determined that the cause of the crash was due to a malfunctioning air conditioner that melted hydraulic lines and started a fire inside the plane. The pilot died when his ejection seat flew him through the debris of the disintegrating plane.

Captain Roby has been called a hero as many felt he had done his best to steer his malfunctioning plane away from more populated areas.

I visited the new Oroville Mercury Building in August of 2002. In the front of the building, in place of the old building and parking lot, was a little park with benches and a trickling fountain. There was no memorial plaque.

Since that time, the newspaper has moved from the old location on Second Street . It has relocated across the Feather River back into Oroville.

Last month I found that the only reminder that a U2 had crashed in Oroville is a weathered wooden sign that is located at the Cal Fire Headquarters, on Nelson Avenue . It states, "Some Gave All. In Memory of Capt. Randy D. Roby who gave his life trying to save the people of Oroville, Ca. - Aug 7, 1996 - U2 Crash."

This article is dedicated to the memory of Jeri Vering and Captain Randy Roby and to those who tried to save lives that day.

On November 22, 2013 a new plaque was placed on the corner of Nelson and Del Oro Avenues to commemorate the U2 crash.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Where can the world's largest thermometer be located? ANSWER: It's in Baker, California on Interstate 15. It's 134 feet tall and includes 4,900 lights. It was built from 1971 to 1991. It costs $5,000.00 per month in energy costs. I guess the sight of it helps get your mind off of having lost all of your money in Las Vegas .

Scott greets the Galloping Llama.

"A Sutter County Hiking Odyssey" (#52)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published July 4, 2012

This Spring, my old friend Scott and I came to several conclusions; we were getting up in age, we needed to lose some weight and we both hated treadmills. Additionally, we are both history enthusiasts and wanted to learn more about Sutter County .

Therefore, we decided to do some walking. We decided that our first objective would be to walk the Sutter County District One levee. The levee runs 17.3 miles from Marcuse Road north , up river to Pease Road . The District One's website is very friendly. It states, "Levee District One encourages people to walk on the top of the levee as well as ride their bikes." So we took them up on their offer.

Our levee hikes, which began in late January and finished on April 2nd, ended up with us hiking over 28 miles. That total includes 11 miles of backtracking. We walked from 3 to 6 miles each hike.

Here are some of the highlights of our levee hikes:

The Feather River Bridge is located at the southernmost part of the levee we hiked and crosses the Feather River on Highway 99. The original span was built in 1958. We got to see the new, additional bridge under construction in March. At that time just the pilings were completed. Further construction is apparently being delayed due to labor problems.

In our hike north from there, we found out that you can find a lot of quiet and solitude along the levee and river area. There are a lot of small lakes and tributaries along the river and the area is beautiful. Certain parts of the levee offer a great view of the valley, Highway 99, Garden Highway and the coast range. The hike in the southern region of the levee hike is pretty solitary. We saw a few homes located near the levee but rarely did we see anybody.

As we approached the Shanghai Bend section of the levee, we discussed the levee break of December 1955 and we were impressed with the great improvements to the area. It was almost possible to image just how horrifying it was the night that the levee collapsed and flooded Yuba City . But the new, enormous levee gives a feeling of confidence that it won't happen there again. We also wondered, however, if those who moved into the area in the past 20 years knew of the area's past flood history. Street names in the area such as Wild River Drive and Rapid Water Way should give them a clue.

We saw where the Yuba River merges with the Feather River and then we crossed under the Fifth and Tenth Street bridges. As we came north to the area where the new Willow Island Park project will be constructed we saw very few homeless camps. If there were a lot of homeless there, they must have been out of sight. They've all been served eviction notices since we were there that day. We finished our levee hike just south of Pease Road at Levee District 9's gate.

Scott then asked me, "What's next?" I responded, "I guess we could walk around Sutter Buttes!" Well, we weren't crazy about doing a 40 mile hike around the entire Buttes, so we decided just to hike the South Butte area. We ended up hiking from Yuba City, along the bike path from Hooper Road to Acacia Avenue in the town of Sutter, north to the Fremont Monument, west on Pass Road to West Butte Road and back to the town of Sutter via South Butte Road.

We began our hikes on May 22nd and finished on June 12th. We ended up hiking over 23 miles in that area.

Here are highlights from those walks:

After walking through the town of Sutter we found ourselves walking by the beautiful old stone house that was built by George Brittan in 1859. Just past that property, someone had hung a dead rattlesnake on a fence. We hoped that would be the last one we would see.

We next came across a concrete road bridge that had the following markings on it: "E. S. Wadsworth, District No 3, Sutter County , March 1937". That little bridge is the same age as the Golden Gate Bridge .

As we came near the Fremont Memorial, we were both surprised to see a llama galloping toward us along the fence line. She was very friendly to Scott until she found out he had no food for her.

When coming to the Fremont Memorial I was very pleased to note that it looks great. Years ago the plaque had ended up missing but the new one looks brand new.

A few miles farther along Pass Road we looked into a bridge culvert and saw a very large rattlesnake sunning itself down below us. We knew it was alive because it kept flicking its tongue at us. Needless to say, we didn't go down and shake hands with it.

We found Pass Road a rugged, yet beautiful, area with a combination of ranches, orchards, farm animals, towering buttes, rolling hills, rock walls, rattlesnake skins, hopping masses of small grasshoppers and many gas wells (some with a lot of motor noise).

After having turned left onto West Butte Road we enjoyed the cool sight of the green water of the Sutter Bypass.

Then we came to the intersection with South Butte Road and the century old Long Bridge . The Long Bridge , all 3,600 feet of it, was closed and abandoned in 1938 and crosses the Sutter Bypass. It's hard to imagine having to drive a car across that narrow bridge. We found the old bridge fascinating. It's amazing that it still stands after all of the floods we had in the 20th Century.

A few feet past the Long Bridge we were again approached by an animal wanting food. This time it was a beautiful brown and white pony. Sadly, again, we had to disappoint it. Obviously, we looked like a soft touch to these domesticated farm animals.

A quarter mile farther we came to the Stohlman Cemetery . It's a private cemetery and its oldest grave goes back to 1859.

From the cemetery, it is less than a 4 mile walk east to Sutter. During that walk, we discovered another historic concrete bridge with the notation, "J.C.A., 1909, Sup. Dist. No. 3". The notation also included some fancy etching and a couple of face cameos.

We also got to see the rather depressing sight of what is left of the Southridge Golf Course. What used to be a nice green area now just looks dried up.

It was 96 degrees when we stumbled into the South Butte Market in Sutter. We celebrated the end of our hikes by buying some soft drinks and some great deli sandwiches from the friendly folks there.

It's one thing to drive by countryside at 60 miles per hour and another to walk past it. Walking gives you time to really see the sights, smell the fresh air and do some discovering. Our hikes through Sutter County were greatly enjoyable and gave us a lot of exercise and satisfaction.

I am sure that you are curious about whether or not our 52 mile odyssey of hikes this spring resulted in any weight loss. Nope! But we sure had a great time and learned a lot of unique details about Sutter County history.

I am also sure that drivers who raced past us felt sorry for the "two homeless guys" wandering along the road. But we decrepit wanderers were having a great time, mile after mile!


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Here is a challenge; I have been unable to obtain information regarding when the Long Bridge was built and by whom. It seems that the local libraries and museums have no information about the bridge. My guess is that it was built about 1909. If you have the correct information on who built this bridge and when, please advise me. I will give credit in a future column to whomever gives me the correct info!

TV Cowboys had a big influence on kids in the 1950's.

"Rawhide" (#53)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published August 8, 2012

Dust, cattle, horses and cowboy yells. Yes, that was the television show Rawhide. When the show came on the air on January 9, 1959 I was 7 years old and I loved every minute of it.

The decade of the 1950's featured a multitude of cowboy TV shows. In 1959 there were 32 western series broadcast in prime time. Most of them were slanted toward kids and, therefore, were not very realistic. Shows featuring Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger were great for a good many kids but I liked more realism in my TV cowboy shows.

The show Gunsmoke was the first adult TV western and I liked Marshall Dillon, Miss Kitty, Chester and Festus just fine. But I guess I liked grit better and Rawhide was very gritty.

Charles Marquis Warren was the producer on the show and Warren gleaned much of the historic detail for Rawhide from an actual diary from George Duffield, who served as a drover on cattle drives from Texas to Missouri in 1866. From this diary, much of the terminology that was used in the show was obtained; terms such as "drover", "beeves", "trail boss", "ramrod", "point" and "drag".

The two lead characters in the series, Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates, were patterned after the John Wayne and Montgomery Clift characters from the 1948 movie " Red River ". They had a fairly close, father-and-son-like, relationship.

Two other major characters were scout Pete Nolan and the cantankerous cook, Wishbone.

The actors hired to fill the roles of these four main characters were pretty much unknown.

Paul Brinegar was hired to play George Washington Wishbone and he had played a similar part in the movie "Cattle Empire" (1958).

Sheb Wooley was hired to play the scout Pete Nolan. Wooley was somewhat better known. He had played Ben Miller, one of the bad guys in the movie "High Noon" in 1952. He may have been better known as the singer of the hit novelty song, "Purple People Eater" from 1958.

Eric Fleming was tagged to play trail boss Gil Favor. Fleming had a very deep and memorable voice. His meager claims to fame came from appearing in low budget sci-fi movies like "Conquest of Space" and "The Queen of Outer Space".

Possibly the most unknown actor was the one hired for the part of Rowdy Yates. Clint Eastwood had only done bit parts in low budget movies. He appeared as a pilot in the sci-fi movie "Tarantula" but he was totally unrecognizable behind his oxygen mask. He also appeared in "Revenge of the Creature" and "Francis in the Navy".

There were 217 episodes of Rawhide produced. All were an hour long and in black and white. Episodes tackled the subjects of racial prejudice, larceny, the occult and the struggles one would anticipate along the trail.

Sometimes the series took on the look of an anthology, with episodes concentrating on one character, whether he be a series regular or a guest star.

The last episode of Rawhide aired on January 4, 1966 . A year prior, Eric Fleming had quit the series over a salary dispute and Clint Eastwood had taken over the reins of trail boss for the last year.

Whatever happened to the main stars of Rawhide?:

Paul Brinegar: Paul went on to guest star in the series Lancer (1968-70) and Matt Houston (1983). He also guest starred in Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter" (1973). He passed away on March 27, 1995 at age 77.

Sheb Wooley: Sheb continued to record comedy albums under his alter-ego "Ben Colder". He also sang on an album called, "Songs From The Days Of Rawhide" in 1960. I have heard that album and it's pretty good if you like country songs. He passed away at the age of 82 on September 16, 2003 of leukemia.

Clint Eastwood: Rawhide was just the beginning for Clint Eastwood. He is a movie star and cultural icon. He's an actor, director, producer and composer. He also was the mayor of Carmel, Ca. Like Sheb Wooley, Clint sang on an album to celebrate the Rawhide series; "Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites". I am sure we have not heard the last of him, but probably not as a singer.

Eric Fleming: After leaving Rawhide, Eric appeared in "The Glass Bottom Boat" with Doris Day. Then on September 28, 1966 he was shooting footage for the movie "High Jungle" on the Huallaga River in Peru . During a scene, he fell into the river and drowned. His body was found 4 days later. He had planned for that movie to be his last. He was going to be married and go into teaching. He was only 41 years old when he died.

Those who worked on Rawhide have a lot to be proud of. The series got up to number 6 in the ratings and continues to be one of the most well liked western series from the era of the Golden Age of TV Westerns. Clint Eastwood claims that his years on Rawhide, his only TV series, were some of the most rewarding of his career.

By the way, Frankie Laine sang the theme song over the series credits each week.

The series is available on DVD so you can still "Head 'em up and move 'em out!"


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What were the longest running TV westerns? ANSWER: Rawhide - 7 years. Wagon Train - 8 years. The Virginian - 9 years. Bonanza - 14 years. Gunsmoke - 20 years.

"Barbecue Sagas" (#54)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published September 12, 2012

Since it's still barbecue weather I guess I might as well share my barbecue stories. I have a long and sordid history with barbecuing that involves various technologies over several decades. I have no idea when they began to manufacture modern barbecues but I do know that they were around when I was just a kid along about 1955.

My first encounter with a barbecue was memorable. Being 3 or 4 years old, my world of interaction with adults was mainly with their knees. After all, that is just about as high as my eyes reached.

I remember being beneath a barbecue and seeing an iron rod sticking out from it. Little did I know that the rod was used to stir the charcoal briquettes. I remember reaching up and grabbing that rod. I also remember the almost electric shock of feeling the intense heat of that bar. Oddly, I did not cry out as I apparently did not want any adults to know how stupid I had been in grabbing it.

I pretty much stayed away from barbecuing until the mid 1970's. I guess I had post traumatic stress from my incident as a kid.

My first barbecue was a Hibachi. It was about two feet long and a foot wide. I needed something very mobile as we used to take it to Bidwell Park in Chico and picnic along Little Chico Creek. It was a lot of fun and I got used to not burning myself.

However, the problem always was how to cool down the barbecue so it could be transported home. I solved it easily by submerging the cast iron Hibachi in the creek. That worked very well until about the fourth time when the Hibachi cracked in half. I learned that cast iron cracks easily when extreme heat meats extreme cold. Very similar to pouring hot water on your iced up windshield.

After buying my first home in the late 70's I decided to invest in a cheap version of a Weber grill. I figured with my poor track record with grills that I didn't really want to pay much for one. You'd never know how long it would be before I destroyed it.

Several times per year we had big get-togethers in my back yard where we would play croquet, drink a lot of beer and barbecue large amounts of steaks and chicken. Each time I would pile on the charcoal briquettes, pour a large portion of starter fluid on the pile and hope for the best. Sometimes it heated up quickly and other times it was a trial to get to the point of cooking.

The fake Weber grill worked great for about 4 years. However, on one memorable Fourth of July, after I had lit the briquettes and loaded up the grill with a large portion of chicken and steaks, one of the legs on the grill collapsed. I guess it had rusted out.

Spilling across the freshly cut grass, the chicken, steaks and hot charcoal crashed together in a steaming pile. Intermixed with the pile was a multitude of grass blades. I guess you could say that the grass provided a nice salad to the meal.

For the next hour or so other guests and myself worked at rinsing off the meat and cooking the meal in the oven in the house. I later gave the barbecue a decent burial.

My next adventure in barbecuing came when I purchased an electric barbecue grill. It was the easiest to use as it only took about 5 minutes to heat up. It was great as it didn't need charcoal. It stayed great until that black day when I was cooking for about 50 people and it died half way through cooking. Once again, it was time to revert to the kitchen oven.

I finally had to give in and get a gas barbecue grill. I had always been afraid of them as I have had a history of blowing myself up. If any of you have bought my book (thanks to both of you!) you know that I have blown myself up twice. One time was with a grenade detonator and the other was with a gas heater. I was rather singed both times.

I have been very careful with the gas grill and, so far, have not blown myself up. However, I did discover that you really do need to clean the grill at least once every 5 years or so or you will have grease fires.

That concern was graphically demonstrated one afternoon when my friend Scott and I were barbecuing beer-can chicken. We left the barbecue for a few minutes and returned to find flames streaming from the sides of the barbecue. Amazingly, the barbecue survived the temperature of 800 degrees without melting. But the chicken didn't fare too well.

Since that time I have been meticulous about cleaning the barbecue.

I always felt that one great advantage of having a gas barbecue is in case you have a power outage, you can always cook on the barbecue. That did happen one time a few years ago and it was great except for the fact that we ran out of gas half way through cooking. Now I always make sure that I keep an extra bottle of propane available.

Recently, Scott bought his first gas grill. Amazingly, he came to me for advice regarding proper use and safety precautions. With my track record I am at a loss as to why he came to me for barbecue safety advice. So far, so good. But I'm still awaiting the sound of the major gas explosion that should be coming from the direction of Bogue Road .


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who Was Wimpy? ANSWER: Wimpy was a character developed for the Popeye cartoon strip that debuted in 1929. Wimpy's full name was J. Wellington Wimpy and his catch phrase "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" was first used in 1932. The comic strip and Wimpy's character were developed by E. C. Segar.

"A Building In The Fog" (#55)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published October 10, 2012

It is Saturday, June 28, 1945 and World War II in Europe is over. The Pacific war against Japan continues to rage on.

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Smith, Jr. is at the controls of a twin engine B-25 Mitchell Bomber. Bill is a veteran of the war in Europe, having participated in 50 combat missions as the pilot of a B-17 bomber. When he recently returned to the U.S. he reacquainted himself with his wife Martha and finally got to meet his new son William Franklin Smith III.

With him that morning is the plane's crew chief, Staff Sergeant Christopher Domitrovich. Nine months before, in September of 1944, Chris had been shot down during the Operation Market-Garden invasion of the Netherlands . With the help of the Dutch underground he escaped capture after hiding for a week in a haystack.

Also on board is 20 year old Navy Petty Officer Second Class Albert Perna. Albert is a last minute addition to the flight. Albert is going home to console his parents. His brother, Anthony, had recently been killed in the Pacific.

Bill's mission is to get the B-25 to an airfield to pick up his commanding officer. From there he, his plane and SSGT Domitrovich would, most likely, be reassigned to the Pacific.

What could have been a very routine flight has been complicated by heavy fog. To add confusion to the flight, Bill has misidentified an island he had sighted down through the swirling fog. That misidentification has placed the aircraft on a deadly course.

Shortly before 10 AM , Bill barely avoided hitting a skyscraper. How had he ended up in the middle of the city? Then suddenly, at exactly 9:55 , his aircraft's windshield was filled with the sight of limestone blocks and windows with people seated behind their desks. He pulled back on his control column and his plane went into an almost vertical climb. But his B-25, the "Old John Feather Merchant" was about to disintegrate into the northeast face of the Empire State Building in New York City .

The Catholic War Relief Services occupied the 79th floor of the Empire State Building . That office had been sending much needed food and clothing parcels to the needy in Europe for the past two years. On this Saturday only about half of the staff was on duty.

The twelve ton plane entered the 79th floor at 250 miles per hour and the plane, the explosion of its gas tanks and the explosion of six yellow oxygen tanks blasted through the office and the elevator shafts.

Killed immediately were Paul Dearing, John Judge, Jeanne Sozzi, Maureen Maguire, Margret Mullins, Mary Kedzierska, and Anne Gerlach. All had offices in the north and middle sections of the floor.

Amazingly, there were survivors. Joe Fountain was severely burned. But he, Kay O'Conner, Ellen Lowe, Therese Fornier, Charlotte Deegan, Theresa Scarpelli and Anna Regan found refuge in an office in the south part of the floor where they attempted to seal themselves in from the smoke, survive their injuries and await rescue.

Moving swiftly, the plane's 1,100 pound nose wheel and one of its 2,700 pound engines went completely through the building and fell through the roof of the Waldorf Building on 33rd Street .

Outside, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street , the intersection was showered with flying metal that resulted in injuries to many pedestrians and damage to vehicles.

Before the engine left the building it severed the cables to the building's elevators. Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver's elevator number 6 was at the 76th floor when its cables were sheared away. She and her elevator fell at terminal velocity and crashed into the basement of the building. She was weightless for much of the 1,000 foot fall.

Many people had been standing in the lobby right next to the elevators when they heard the screaming and howling sound of the elevator and the crash.

Seventeen year old Coast Guardsman Donald Molony had been across the street from the Empire State Building when he heard the crash and saw the flames blast out through the fog. He had quickly run over to the Walgreens drugstore and appropriated first aid materials. For the previous eight months, Donald had been in medical school and now it was time to put his training into practice.

Donald and a fire crew found Betty Lou Oliver still alive in the blasted remains of her elevator car. Donald was the first to ease himself down into the cramped space to give Betty first aid. Donald was also credited with rescuing and treating at least a dozen more people who had been trapped in the flames that day.

Those seven survivors on the 79th floor also were rescued by fire crews. Sadly, Joe Fountain died of his severe burns three days later.

Amazingly, it took firefighters less than an hour to put all of the fires out.

The majority of the survivors from the 79th floor continued to work for Catholic Relief services for decades.

Donald Molony received various medals for his bravery. Five years later, after joining the Marines during the Korean War, Donald Molony survived eight combat wounds.

Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver's crash into the basement broke her back and both legs. But she recovered after eight months and went on to have three children and to become a grandmother. Betty's plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator stands as a Guiness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall. I am sure that record will never be surpassed.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith's attempt to fly from La Guardia Field to Newark Field and his getting lost in the fog resulted in the deaths of 14 people and injuries to 26. The incident also produced many heroes.

It was the first major plane vs. skyscraper crash in New York City history. Fifty-six years later, more heroes were called upon to help when the World Trade Center towers were attacked. Sadly, very few were rescued on that day.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: When was the Empire State Building built? ANSWER: Construction started on March 17, 1930 and it was completed 410 days later on May 1, 1931 . 3,400 workers constructed the building. It is 1,454 feet high and consists of 104 stories.

"Remembering Jack, Gracie and Hitch" (#56)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published November 7, 2012

In what seems like my never ending quest to relive my childhood, I have recently been delving deep into the archives of TV series from the 1950's.

For some reason there are three series that really bring me back to the era when I was a youngster. I had remembered these series in a vague way. But recently, in reviewing these epics, I have found a very nice warm feeling of recognition:


Jack performed in vaudeville, had radio shows, movies and then his TV program aired from October 1950 to September 1965.

Jack was the master of the slow take. His reaction to something humorously bizarre resulted in a quizzical, blank stare at the audience that always elicited laughter. His rather effeminate, long legged walk and his supposed stinginess also were trademarks.

Jack's shows took place on stage and on sets depicting his home, his backstage TV show or his infamous bank vault.

Jack's humor was always self-deprecating. He made fun of himself and his staff did everything they could to help that humor along.

Jack sometimes had a guest star, but he was also surrounded by series regulars. Dennis Day was the Irish tenor who played dumb and Don Wilson was the rather large and loveable announcer.

Eddie " Rochester " Anderson had the most unique relationship with Jack. In an era where African-Americans played subservient roles to whites, Rochester was Jack's equal. Granted, Rochester played his butler. But he was always smarter and had more common sense than Jack. The rest of the series characters treated Rochester as an equal also. It was a rare case of racial equality in 50's TV.

Mel Blanc and Frank Nelson played irregular character actor roles. Mel played Jack's bank vault guard and the Mexican character Sy. Frank was the guy who always replied "Yessssssss?" in his silly, bizarre voice.

Jack was always 39. Even when he died at age 80 on December 26, 1974 I believe that his soul was that of a much younger man.


I believe that when Gracie Allen died on August 17, 1964 , America lost a national treasure. If you've never seen Gracie's work, you have missed a lot.

She and George Burns started out in Vaudeville in the 1920's and were in radio in the 30's and 40's. George and Gracie's TV show aired from October 1950 to September 1958. She retired at that time due to health reasons.

Gracie always played the confused, ditzy type of person who never got anything right. She had a voice like Betty Boop. She was an expert at misstating the facts in a hilarious manner. There was no meanness in Gracie's character. There was a sweet innocence about Gracie that melted your heart at the same time as her cluelessness made your eyes roll and your mouth laugh.

George Burns played straight man to her for decades and during the TV show he frequently spoke directly to the audience, making comments about Gracie's mad plans and misinterpretations of the facts. But even when Gracie really caused a lot of confusion, George always seemed to speak of her in tones of love and affection.

Bea Benaderet played next door neighbor Blanch Morton. Bea had a great comedic laugh. This was prior to her doing the voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones from 1960 to 1964. Bea also went on to play characters in Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies.

Announcer Harry Von Zell played himself. He always played the befuddled victim of Gracie's crazy schemes and he was continually being fired by George.

Gracie died at age 69. George stuck around until he died at age 100 on March 9, 1996 . George stayed very successful in show business, mainly playing the same character he always played - himself. But he did play God in the movie "Oh, God." His old age became his straight-man and I have always felt that he never really recovered from Gracie's death.

Some may have "Loved Lucy", but George and I both "Loved Gracie".


In looking back at this anthology series, I find great humor in it. In spite of the fact that most all of the segments involved murder, it was very light hearted.

Each episode began with Hitch's self drawn caricature of himself and of his own shadow crossing over it. Then the theme music " Funeral March of a Marionette" is heard. Shortly, you are faced with Hitch himself saying, "Good Evening".

Mr. Hitchcock did not take himself, or much else, seriously in this series. As a matter of fact, he spent a large part of his time making fun of his sponsors. Hitch did exactly what the title said; he presented other people's stories. Hitch also made sure that the story showed that crime did not pay. He did not direct, nor did he write the stories. In spite of that, his personality carried the series from October 1955 to September 1965.

I am sure that some people watched the series only for his intro and outro. But sandwiched in between were very good mysteries and guest stars that would go on to bigger things. I noticed that many of the character actors also appeared in the "Twilight Zone" series.

Hitch directed 61 movies. Some of his best movies, including "North by Northwest", "Psycho" and "The Birds" were filmed during the years that he hosted this series.

Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899 and died April 29, 1980 at age 80.

All three of these series were funny and entertaining. Anyone could watch these shows and be entertained and parents would not worry about inappropriate content. It's too bad I can't say the same thing about today's TV. It just goes to show that genuine talent, good humor and a respect for your audience can have a lasting effect. Even after more than half a century.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What was Alfred Hitchcock's most unique movie cameo? ANSWER: Hitchcock appeared in walk on rolls in 39 of his movies. His most unique appearance was in the movie "Lifeboat" (1944). The entire movie was filmed aboard a small boat with an isolated and limited number of characters. How did he show up? A character in the film held up a newspaper that showed an advertisement for a weight loss program. His photo appears therein.

"Road Movies" (#57)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published December 12, 2012

1971 was a great year for Road Movies. What are Road Movies? Well, my definition is a movie wherein the vast majority of the time the action takes place in vehicles traveling over long distances.

There have been a lot of movies about cruising the nation's highways, but 1971 produced three of my favorites and here they are:

VANISHING POINT premiered on March 13, 1971 . Barry Newman, playing a car delivery driver, starred in this movie about a chase between a white 1970 Dodge Challenger and everybody else on the road. For no good reason, Barry's character Kowalski bets his drug dealer on a Friday night that he can drive from Denver , Colorado to San Francisco by Monday morning. Wild car chases across the Utah , Nevada and California deserts ensue.

Along for the mental ride, and acting as Kowalski's seemingly ESP-gifted blind guide is DJ Super Soul (Clevon Little) who broadcasts out of remote KOW radio in Goldfield, Nevada .

Along the way, Kowalski meets an old prospector who collects rattlesnakes and a hippie with a girlfriend who likes to ride motorcycles in the nude. Kowalski also runs across a desert band that includes singers David Gates, Rita Coolidge and Delaney and Bonnie in cameo roles.

The movie is replete with flashbacks of Kowalski's past war, racing and police career experiences along with the story of the tragic death of a girlfriend. We get the impression that Kowalski really is a moral guy but has been through so much that he hasn't got much left to live for.

The movie features a solid rock soundtrack, majestic desert scenery and great car stunts that relentlessly drive you to the flaming conclusion.

I first saw this movie at the drive-in in Alameda in early 1973 and it made me want to drive my '69 Camaro even faster that I usually did.

The British version, that I like better, includes seven extra minutes of footage along with actress Charlotte Rampling as a hitchhiker. That version makes the movie a bit more mystical and makes you wonder, "Was this all a dream?"

TWO LANE BLACKTOP premiered on July 7, 1971 . Who would have thought that folk singer James Taylor and the Beach Boys' drummer Dennis Wilson could not act? Well, fortunately, in this film they don't have to. Additionally, their lack of acting ability does not detract from the quality of the film at all.

Taylor and Wilson 's characters are known, respectively, as the Driver and as the Mechanic.

There are actually three stars of the film. They are a gray 1955 Chevy, a yellow 1970 Pontiac GTO and the actor Warren Oates.

The Driver and Mechanic leave the Los Angeles area and head east on Route 66. On the way they pick up a young female hitchhiker, played by Laurie Bird.

How do they make their living? By winning drag races and they intend to cross the country by hitting the drag circuit.

Eventually, they run across Warren Oates and his GTO. He is quite a character - he continually lies. As the movie progresses, the facts in the stories about his life continue to change. Warren Oates, along with his character's insecurities, is one of the highlights of this movie.

Eventually, an agreement is made for the Chevy and the GTO to race to Washington DC . But that is not really important. The important things are the interaction between the characters, the great cinematography and stunts in this movie.

The movie ends up in Tennessee with everyone going their separate ways. How does the movie end? Does the Chevy crash or does the film just break? You'll have to see it to come up with your own interpretation.

DUEL premiered on November 13, 1971 . Have you ever been tailgated by a very large truck? Was the truck relentless and did it cross your mind that the truck driver may be trying to kill you? It has happened to me.

That is the premise of Duel. The film was based upon a short story by Ray Bradbury. The film stars Dennis Weaver and was directed by Steven Spielberg. As a matter of fact it was Spielberg's first movie as a director. He was very limited by time and budget but successfully completed filming this tense little film in 13 days.

This was a made for TV movie that proved so popular that it was later released in theatres with new scenes added.

Dennis Weaver's character, David Mann, leaves his Los Angeles home early one morning and heads north up Highway 5. He has an important business meeting to attend to. He turns east on Highway 14 into the desert near Acton where he passes an ominous looking old semi tanker truck. We assume that the old, rusty, haggard truck is carrying gasoline because the word "flammable" is written on the back.

For some reason David has irritated the truck driver and the truck driver spends the next 90 minutes chasing David across the desert.

This is a tense psychological thriller. We have no idea why the truck driver is trying to kill David and we never really get a good look at the driver. What we do see is Dennis Weaver's masterful performance as a man forced to live on the edge of his sanity.

The truth of the matter is that Weaver's performance forces us to put ourselves in his place. What would you do? Would your emotions jump from surprise, to anger, to terror and finally to near acceptance of death the way they do for David Mann?

There is plenty of action. There is the sight of the truck bearing down on the little red car and David losing control of his car and smashing into a fence near a cafe. There is the truck coming off the road and smashing into glass cases at a roadside snake farm as it chases David to keep him from calling the police.

There is a scene at Chuck's Cafe where David is resting after having been run off the road. He observes the people in the diner and strongly suspects that one of the men is the truck driver. But which one? Should he call the police, confront the driver or just drive off to get away? Naturally, he makes the wrong decision.

The vehicles used in the film were a 1970 Plymouth Valiant and a 1955 Peterbilt truck. Spielberg chose the Valiant only because it was red and it would stand out against the desert colors. The Peterbuilt was chosen due to its ominous long snout and two glass plate windshield that gave the truck a "face".

The movie was filmed northeast of Los Angeles in the areas around Canyon Country, Acton, Soledad Canyon and Aqua Dulce. Some film landmarks such as a tunnel and the old cafe still exist.

I find all three of these films fascinating. In addition to allowing us to see a whole lot of vintage vehicles, these movies also provide a "snap shot" of the American experience in the early 1970's. There is quite a lot of rebellion and fear here.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What are the years of production for the Dodge Challenger? ANSWER: The classic period for this muscle car was from 1970 to 1974. From 1978 to 1983 there was a weak, mundane version produced that in no way resembled the classic lines of the original Challenger. In 2008 the present Challenger version was introduced. The Challenger will most probably cease production in 2013. It may be replaced by a new version of the Barracuda.

"40 Years And The End Of A War" (#58)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published January 9, 2013

40 years is a lifetime ago. But the end of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was an experience I will never forget and, to me, it seems like yesterday.

The U.S. had been involved in Vietnam for 12 years and, by January 28, 1973 , those of us who were still there really wanted out.

And most of the people of the United States wanted out. The peace talks had been going on for many years with no result. Over 58,000 Americans had been killed and 143,000 wounded. By that time, most felt that a military solution was not possible and that a negotiated settlement was the only way out.

My experience on Tonkin Gulf is not important to this story except to say that I spent the period of October 1971 to July 1972 aboard an ammunition ship, the USS Mauna Kea and from August 1972 to September 1973 aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Oriskany. Both ships spent 9 month cruises in the Vietnam combat zone during those times.

That last year of the war had been a roller coaster. We went from great hope to deep depression every time one of the peace feelers failed.

In October of 1972, President Nixon's National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger and the North Vietnamese had concluded a secret peace agreement. However, South Vietnam 's President Thieu wanted revisions. In response, the North Vietnamese published the secret agreement in what President Nixon felt was an attempt to embarrass the U.S.

Then President Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II which was a bombing campaign over the Christmas holidays. This massive bombing and mining operation of Hanoi and Haiphong eventually pressured the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table.

Pressure from the Nixon administration convinced the South Vietnamese to also accept the peace agreement. Nixon advised the South Vietnamese that the peace terms would be enforced by U.S. military supplies and U.S. air power.

The peace treaty was signed on the 27th of January, 1973 and the next day four of our aircraft carriers, along with their destroyer escorts, assembled on Tonkin Gulf . The assemblage was to celebrate the "Victory in Vietnam " that the peace treaty symbolized.

The carriers formed a "V for Victory" pattern with the USS Enterprise out front and the USS Oriskany behind. The USS Ranger was to our left and the USS America to our right. The above photo was taken just after the formation had broken up. We were all so proud and relieved that the war was over and that the U.S. had seen the war through to an "honorable conclusion".

Aboard those carriers and destroyers were approximately 20,000 sailors and Marines. It was the largest American target the North Vietnamese had during the war.

I vividly remember the Oriskany's captain coming on the public address system (called the 1MC) and announcing the cease fire. I still remember the cheers of 3,500 sailors and marines aboard my ship. Two months later we cheered even louder when he announced that we were heading back to the U.S.

A lot happened during the spring of 1973. Our combat role in Vietnam ended and our Prisoners of War were released. Things seemed to have stabilized in Vietnam .

But then, in the spring of 1975, the North Vietnamese attacked and took over South Vietnam . By then the Watergate scandal had occurred, Nixon had resigned and Gerald Ford was President. Congress had no heart to send sufficient military supplies or air power to save South Vietnam even though the South Vietnamese had been promised they would be sent.

Whatever happened to the aircraft carriers in the above photo? The USS America was sunk as a target ship on May 14, 2005 in the Atlantic Ocean .

My old ship, the USS Oriskany, was sunk as an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico off of Pensacola , Florida on May 17, 2006 . I was fortunate enough to visit her the day prior to her sinking.

The USS Ranger is still awaiting her fate. She has been in storage at the Bremerton , Washington shipyard since she was decommissioned in 1993. It looks like she will eventually be scrapped.

The USS Enterprise finished her last cruise this past November and will be decommissioned in mid 2013. Her 8 nuclear reactors will be removed and she will be scrapped.

Here are several quotes that provide food for thought about the Vietnam War:

After the fall of South Vietnam, Richard Nixon was asked what he would have done if he had remained as president at that time. He said, " I would have bombed the blazes out of Hanoi and Haiphong . Since Congress hadn't appropriated any funds, I would have probably been impeached for giving the military such an order, but so what? I would have saved thousands - no - let me correct that; millions of Southeast Asian lives."

Bruce Herschensohn, in his book, "An American Amnesia" stated, "The peace in Southeast Asia , which demonstrators demanded and our 94th Congress enacted, caused millions of deaths. More were killed in just the first year of peace than during the preceding decade of war."

Folk singer Joan Baez had been a major supporter of the peace movement during the Vietnam War. But, in its aftermath, her opinion of Vietnam 's communist government changed. On May 30, 1979 she assisted in publishing a signed statement in major U.S. newspapers. It read, "Open letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: We have heard the horror stories from the people of Vietnam - from workers and peasants, Catholic nuns and Buddhist priests, from the Boat People, the artists and professionals and those who fought alongside the N.L.F. The jails are overflowing with thousands upon thousands of detainees. People disappear and never return. People are shipped to reeducation centers, fed a starvation diet of stale rice, forced to squat bound waist to ankle, suffocated in connex boxes. People are used as human mine detectors, clearing live mine fields with their hands and feet. For many, life is hell and death is prayed for."

I am proud to have been at the time and place shown in the above photo. I just wish that the peace would have held and that South Vietnam could have kept its freedom. I also wish that the millions of people who were murdered in Vietnam , Cambodia and Laos in the peace that followed would have lived. God knows that the Vietnam Veteran tried to save them.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: What was the number one record 40 years ago? ANSWER: In January of 1973, "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon was number one for 3 weeks. Mick Jagger did background singing on the song. The song, allegedly, is about Warren Beatty.


THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published February 6, 2013

During John Wayne's movie career he appeared in 152 movies. His roles ranged from bit player to leading man and he played everything from a newspaper reporter, to a soldier, to a cowboy.

His first feature was as a bit player in 1928's "Hangman's House" and his last film was "The Shootist" in 1976. In his last role, he played an aged gunfighter dieing of stomach cancer.

Most everybody knows that he passed away of cancer on June 11, 1979 at age 72. He had previously undergone cancer surgery to remove a lung in 1964.

He was incredibly popular for most of his career. From 1949 to 1973, he is listed as being in the Top Ten of motion picture stars every year except for 1958.

I can remember my father being all excited over the opening of John Wayne's new movie "The Alamo" in 1960. He was a big fan of most all of John Wayne's westerns.

He was one of my biggest movie heroes. My two favorite movies of his are "The Quiet Man"(1952) and "Shepherd of the Hills" (1941). In both he plays a tough, but sensitive, man undergoing a struggle with his own internal demons. Both films are beautifully acted and filmed. These films were rather unique in that he plays neither a soldier nor a cowboy.

But even in the best of careers you can produce a clunker or two. One of John Wayne's worst movies was "The Conqueror". This movie, filmed in 1954 and released in 1956, was directed by Dick Powell and also starred Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendariz, Agnes Moorhead and John Hoyt.

The film had John Wayne playing Genghis Khan in unlikely makeup and with an even unlikelier stilted and ridiculous accent. Wayne brought to the role the same style of elocution as Tonto and the Frankenstein Monster. Sound silly? It was.

The movie was filmed over a 13 week period in western Utah's Snow Canyon, which is located just a few miles north of the town of St. George.

After finishing the initial shooting, the production returned to Hollywood for the required studio footage. Along with the cast, producer Howard Hughes shipped 60 tons of Utah desert sand to Hollywood to make the sound stage look realistic.

The movie was released in 1956 to mainly negative reviews. Some said that the movie was unintentionally hilarious. John Wayne himself stated that the lesson of the movie was "not to make an ass of yourself trying to play parts you're not suited for".

Howard Hughes had financed the film and, for various reasons, withdrew the film from circulation. He bought up all copies of the film and would not even allow it to be shown on television. Paramount obtained rights to the film shortly before Hughes' death in 1976.

So the film died a very quiet death. Unfortunately, the legacy of the film has lived a much longer life than the film or those associated with it.

Get out your map of Nevada and Utah. Find St. George, Utah and go directly west 140 miles. You will come to Yucca Flat, Nevada. Why is this important? It is important because, in 1953, there were 11 above ground nuclear tests at Yucca Flat that produced immense clouds of radioactive fallout. By the way, the wind blows from West to East in that part of the country.

Look at the body count: By November of 1980, 91 of the 220 cast and crew of "The Conqueror" had developed cancer. Forty-six had died including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendariz, Agnes Moorhead, and Dick Powell. Pedro Armendariz committed suicide with a gun when he found out he had terminal kidney cancer.

Experts felt that under normal circumstances only 30 of a group that size would have contracted cancer.

But could the increased cancer percentage in those who worked on "The Conqueror" have been just a fluke? What type of cancer rate existed within the residents of the St. George area? Test results show that there were increases in breast cancer, melanoma, bone cancer, brain tumors, leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, and gastrointestinal tract cancers within the residents of that area from the mid-1950s through 1980.

So was it just John Wayne's 6 pack per day cigarette habit that killed him? Or was it the 13+ weeks of breathing in the tainted Utah sand that did it? Probably nobody will ever really know. But I do believe that the preponderance of the evidence leans toward radioactive fallout being the primary cause of cancer for the majority of those cast and crew who developed it.

I've often wondered just what Howard Hughes did with all of those 60 tons of "hot" sand he imported into California. I hope they are sealed away somewhere in a nice lead-lined coffin.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: How many above ground nuclear tests were conducted in the State of Nevada? ANSWER: There were 207 above ground nuclear tests detonated from 1951 through 1962. Since that time, only underground nuclear tests have been conducted. Underground tests are safer, however there has been radiation leakage from some of those tests. Nevada is the most nuclear bombed area on Earth.

"The Turtles" (#60)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published March 13, 2013

No, this article is not about amphibians. It's about the rock group.

Who knew that a second rate surf band from a Los Angeles high school could do so well? A band that was not populated by "teen idols". But one that was populated by "regular guys" who, for a time, just wanted to play popular music and be famous.

The Turtles had originally been known as the "Crossfires" and the "Nightriders" and had done well locally at business openings and sock hops while the members were going to Westchester High School . But more was wanted by the band - Howard Kaylen (Lead vocals), Mark Volman (Vocals), Jim Tucker (Guitar), Al Nichols (keyboards), Chuck Portz (bass) and Don Murray (drums).

Some of the groups in the mid 1960's were a waste of my listening time. But the Turtles made me sit up and take notice. Why? Because of their vocal harmonies and catchy songs. I first noticed them in August of 1965 with "It Ain't Me Babe". Everybody knew that this was a Bob Dylan song and most bands were jumping on either the "Dylan" or "British Invasion" bandwagons to cash in on the new sounds. But the Turtles' version of this song was different because it didn't sound like Dylan and it didn't sound like a redo of any Byrds' song (whose Dylan penned "Mr Tambourine Man" had been going nuts on the charts that summer.)

After hearing this song I was really interested in seeing what these guys looked like. When I saw them on "Where The Action Is" (or rather WAS), I was shocked to see that these guys didn't look like your typical rock stars. They looked like the guys down the street. In other words, they looked (sadly) like me!

The two singers were Howard and Mark. Howard was not overly distinguished looking but had a great voice. Mark looked like your average plus-sized guy with big hair. They looked like your next door neighbors or guys you went to high school with that were not prone to being jerks.

In addition to their great music, they were funny! You should see some of their TV performance videos.

As time went on they made other great music, "Let Me Be" and "You Baby". But they really hit big in March of 1967 with a song written by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon called "Happy Together".

"Happy Together" went to Number One for 3 weeks and spent 12 weeks on Billboard's Top 40. What a monster! Vietnam Veterans have noted that this song got them through the war. A lively and lovely song of hopeful love that gave the Vietnam War veterans an imagined love to come back to. Hopefully, those veterans found that idealized love.

Two months later the group followed up with "She'd Rather Be With Me". This song really got to me. I actually liked it better than "Happy Together". Hearing the song now, it reminds me of unfulfilled love while in high school (and there was plenty of that). It still barely edges out "Happy Together" as my favorite Turtles song.

Later that summer the Turtles also produced "You Know What I Mean" and the "cosmic" sounding "She's My Girl".

At the beginning of The Turtles' recording career, record producers had happily discovered that the band could actually play their own instruments so there was no need to bring in studio musicians to record the instrumental parts when recording. This was a rarity during this era.

Therefore, their live performances were outstanding, based upon the talent and experience of all of the band. The dues these guys paid doing live performances as "The Crossfires" and "Nightriders" paid off in a big way.

By mid 1968 the hits had slowed down a bit and the Turtle's' small record company, White Whale, was hassling the group to do another "Happy Together" hit. To get the label off their backs, Howard Kaylen decided to write a song he knew they would not like. He wrote it as a joke expecting White Whale to immediately reject it. He reversed the chord progressions of "Happy Together". Then he deliberately added dumb lyrics like "you're my pride and joy, et cetera" and "gee I think you're swell". He also rhymed "groovy" with "movie". The result was "Elenore". Howard was very surprised that White Whale loved it and it went to #6. Not bad for a song that was supposed to tank.

In January 1969 the group had their last Top 40 hit with "You Showed Me". It was a cover of a Byrds album cut. It also went to #6. I remember the cover photo for the 45 single sleeve. It showed the group naked. Thank god they all wore fig leaves. They certainly showed us!

In May of 1969, near the end of the Turtles' career, the group was surprised to receive an invitation to perform at the White House. It was for Tricia Nixon's wedding party. She was marrying Edward Cox. Despite the fact that the group members didn't agree with Richard Nixon's politics, it turned out that they were Tricia's favorite rock group.

At the end, the Turtles fell out of favor with their label when the hits dried up. The group found they had very little control over what material was released.

After the breakup of the Turtles, Howard and Mark went on to join Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention as "Phlorescent Leach and Eddie". I also note that they performed background vocals for Marc Bolan on T-Rex's 1971 "Electric Warrior" album. I consider that T-Rex's best effort, by far.

Much of the Turtles' later recordings were not released when the group was together and it took several years for a lot of their very good and very bizarre recordings to be released in collections.

I have the double LP of "Happy Together Again" that was released in 1974 (great cover!) and also the 5 CD set of "30 Years of Rock n' Roll" released in 1995. Both collections are very enlightening as they include all of the hits and a lot of weird, yet good, material.

Did the Turtles leave a legacy? You bet they did! They left some great, unique music and some wonderful humor. No group came close to being like them for many, many years. The only one that did is the "Bare Naked Ladies", who reminds me so much of the Turtles, with their catchy and bizarre music and silly/satiric humor. I find it hard to believe that the Turtles didn't have some influence on them.

I was fortunate to see the Turtles live in 1984 at the "Happy Together Again" oldies tour. What a wonderful evening of great music and hilarity.

Amazingly, the Turtles still tour. They appeared in concert at the California State Fair this past July.

I would find it difficult to believe that you aren't at least a bit familiar with their music. But if you aren't and think you would like to hear some music from "the olden days", you might want to invest in a greatest hits package and find out why I still like these guys so much.


TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE MONTH: Who was Ron Dante? ANSWER: He was the lead singer on various hit records during the 1960's. He was lead singer for the Archies' "Suger Suger" (1969), the Cuff Links' " Tracy " (1969) and the Detergents' "Leader of the Laundromat" (1964). That last song was a parody of "Leader of the Pack" and included the immortal line, "I felt so messy standing there, my daddy's shorts were everywhere!"

"The Final Column" (#61)

THE WAY IT USED TO BE - By Larry R. Matthews - Published April 10, 2013

That's right. This is the final "The Way It Used To Be" column. After 5 years and over 60 columns I feel that I have covered most all of the nostalgia topics in my brain.

This column began in April 2008 and I have covered many subjects regarding pop trivia and history. Subjects ranged from the silly to the deadly serious and from the sublime to the ridiculous and obscure.

Certainly, this longevity pales in comparison with columns produced by several other columnists who have produced columns in the TD for decades.

What has kept this column going these 5 years? Mainly, it was the fun I had in writing it. I also firmly believe that it is very important to pass on stories of the past to future generations. There are so many lessons to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of history. History to me is not just what you read in a textbook; it's a living, breathing thing.

So if the column amused you or enlightened you occasionally over the years, I feel it has served its purpose.

The e-mails I have received also encouraged me. I can't tell you just how much I appreciated and enjoyed your comments.

This e-mail is from May 21, 2012: "I have been intending to e-mail you for such a long time just to tell you how much I enjoy reading your column in The Territorial Dispatch. I had given up on ever being able to enjoy a cup of coffee and reading the paper again. Now I have the Dispatch and my coffee and your column---I am a happy camper. Thank you for all the time, energy, and thought you put into each column. I look forward to many more times with you and my French Roast! Sincerely yours, Marjie Collins, Loma Rica."

It was interesting to tell stories and connect with readers. In response to the column on my various barbecue catastrophes, Wayne Shatswell from Marysville wrote on September 14, 2012: "In this week's TD I read with amusement and memory of a similar incident my family experienced a few years ago at Ft. Bragg, Ca. While on a camping trip to MacKerricher State Park, we used a small cast-iron BBQ which we sat near the edge of the ocean so a wave could cool it. When the next wave came and went it was gone! It was never found; perhaps it became part of tsunami debris."

Last month, after my column on the rock group "The Turtles" was published, I received a very nice e-mail from Jim Tucker, an original member of the group. Jim played rhythm guitar on their biggest hit records from 1965 through 1967. I was very happy to know that one of my music icons resides in our area. His e-mail made my fond memories of The Turtles' music even more memorable.

In addition to The Turtles, my columns have also documented the careers of the Dave Clark Five, Grass Roots and the Monkees. I guess you could say my musical taste is still stuck way back in the 60's. But I offer no apologies.

Here are some of the articles that elicited the most reaction from readers:

"The Nuclear War That Wasn't" from October 2008. A summary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and just how truly frightening it was.

"John McCain and Vietnam War Memories" from January 2009. How Senator McCain and I had a common connection during the Vietnam War.

"Technologically Challenged" from May 2009. My sometimes clumsy and comic reactions to new technology. By the way, I still really like playing records and cassettes and I've never "Tweeted" in my life. I'd feel like a "Twit" if I did. No offense to you "Tweeters" out there.

"The Days The Music Died" from February 2010. A history of those music stars who died too young. Yes, I do still listen to Buddy Holly and Jim Morrison.

"Harry Truman and Mount St. Helens" from June 2010. How a stubborn old man matched wits with an active volcano - and lost.

"Mondegreens" from January 2011. A humorous look at misheard song lyrics. I still have people giving me new ones all the time.

"The Ongoing Mystery" from September 2011. The almost forgotten, deadly attack on a U.S. Navy ship by a friendly nation.

"Commercial Memories" from February 2012. From the Hamm's Bear to Hai Karate Cologne, I celebrated the amusement and nostalgia that old commercials can bring.

Why did I become a writer of history and trivia? My mother wrote family histories and took a lot of family photos and I found them fascinating. I guess I learned to appreciate and document history from her.

Experiences that helped shape my vision of history and pop trivia were growing up in the 50's and 60's and really being "into" the music and social changes of that period. Also, serving 4 years in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam and working 5 years as a part time disc jockey for KUBA and COOL104 radio stations gave me a perspective on history and the media.

I am a writing freak and I won't ever quit writing. Since August I have been working on a photo history book about the building of Oroville Dam for Arcadia Publishing that I expect to be published early in 2014. So far, researching for photos and interviewing people who witnessed the dam's effect on the Oroville area during the construction has been a great experience.

I also wish to add that my relationship with the Territorial Dispatch has been a very rewarding experience.

I plan to still keep THE WAY IT USED TO BE web page active. You can access it either of two ways: directly at http://ffhiker.tripod.com/index-5.html or through THE WAY IT USED TO BE COLUMN Facebook Page. You can also keep in contact with me at my e-mail address: writerlarry@hotmail.com. The 61 articles will be kept available for anyone who wants to stumble through them. Along with the articles are animations and photos. Like many of the subjects I have covered, these articles will some day also become ancient history.


The rest of this web site will concentrate on comments, whether positive or negative, that I receive regarding the articles. I appreciate any and all comments.


On April 10, 2013, Territorial Dispatch Editor John Mistler wrote:

Editors Note:

Larry Matthews has been a pleasure to work with. We have also enjoyed The Way It Used To Be. We encourage Larry to write more for the TD in the future.


On April 13, 2013, Cindy Crenshaw-Martin wrote:

Although I live in Oklahoma, I have been able to subscribe to the Territorial Dispatch for 2 years, and among the many gems in that enlightening paper, your column is one of them! This morning when I saw you were writing your last column, I felt a sense of sadness, because you wrote of times and music I was familiar and fond of! I'm glad you mentioned the ways to read all your columns, so I thought I'd let you know that I look forward to reading all 61! What a treat, thank you!

Please Send E-Mail to Larry Matthews at:


This page was created May 28, 2008.

This page was last updated December 7, 2013.

This page has been visited times!


You can check out more of my web sites by clicking on: