It Backfired On Him!

Pat was one of the first female “big ticket” sales people hired by Sears here in San Diego. “Big ticket” meaning big bucks…appliances, TV’s, hi-fi’s, refrigerators, etc. The men felt that they were being invaded and had to protect their turf. They made the women’s lives miserable whenever they possibly could. They stashed inventory, hid customer orders, told returning customers that their sales lady was off that day so they could steal the sale even though the woman might be off the floor on lunch break. In short, they did every petty thing they could think of.

If there were no customers on the floor, the sales guys sometimes eased their boredom by picking at one another. Ed was one of the worst when it came to this and he began making a “cause” out of Pat’s handwriting. Pat scribbles her signature and everything else because she simply doesn’t want to take the necessary time to make things neat. A good part of the time, she can’t even read her own notes. When signing a legal document she slows down enough to make her signature legible.

Ed, on the other hand, wrote beautifully and his penmanship was like a work of art. He couldn’t understand why Pat’s handwriting was so bad and why she didn’t care. He thought there must be some dark reason for this and he was bound and determined to find out what it was. He continued ranting about it every time he got a chance.

It happened that the San Diego Fair was in full swing and on a day off, Pat and a friend decided to go. They went to the art show, the photography show, and the garden show and then started checking out the merchandise booths. Mixed in with the can openers and super detergents, they came upon a booth advertising “Handwriting Analysis”. Pat was intrigued by this since she had been getting so much grief from Ed and she stepped up to get it done. She was delighted by what the analyst had to say. She was told that her handwriting indicated she was open-minded and creative and free and that she had a great zest for life. She could hardly contain herself until she went to work the next day and told Ed and the other guys what she had learned. Ed, of course, was taken aback, in that the findings in no way agreed with all of the negative stuff he had been putting out. He was scheduled to be off the next day and vowed to go to the fair and get an analysis of his beautiful penmanship and show Pat and the rest of the crew what the evaluation of a true craftsman’s work would be.

Two days later, a subdued Ed showed up for work. In a low and even voice, he said that his penmanship had been described as artificial, deceptive, and was definitely covering up a deep, dark, secret. Ed was feeling pretty low but you’ve got to hand it to him…he had the guts to lay it out before everyone.

Strange as it may seem, Ed was one of Pat’s favorite co-workers. As ornery as he was, if caught at something he would always ‘fess up and laugh at himself for getting caught. Pat says that as long as you were on guard, he was fun to be around and was basically a decent guy.

Dave Thomas
June 20, 2015

 

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How My Back Was Fixed On A Front-end Machine

My last two years in high school I was in an occupational program that allowed me to leave school at 2:00 PM each day and go to work at the local Chevrolet/Buick garage. I worked until 6:00 PM on weekdays and on Saturdays from 8:00 AM until 1:00 PM. I washed cars, swept up, and did whatever needed to be done.

Somehow, I had hurt my back. I don’t remember how it happened but it was probably something stupid. I was in misery at work and told the Parts Man about it. He told me I should talk to Frank Prosser, one of the mechanics. He said that Frank had formerly been a chiropractor and might be able to help me. I don’t know how Frank had gone from chiropractor to mechanic. As a mechanic he would have good and steady pay and regular hours but who knows? Frank was the oldest man in the shop and was really a nice guy. I went over and told him about my back problem and asked if he could help. He told me he would be glad to help me and would do so at quitting time and that I should meet him at the front –end machine. That sounded kind of strange but I agreed to meet him.

At quitting time I went to the front –end machine and Frank was already there. He had brought a couple of those fender covers that mechanics use so they won’t scratch the paint on your car. Our front-end rack was elevated some 15 to 18 inches so the mechanic could get under the car and you had to drive up a couple of ramps to get your car up there. Frank spread the fender covers on the rack and told me to lie down on my stomach. He said that this was the only place in the shop where I could lay down but he could still reach me without breaking his own back while leaning over. He checked out my spine and then massaged a couple of areas and applied pressure to them. After a few minutes he had me sit up and he gave me a lecture on how to lift and how to take care of my back. I felt better immediately and the one treatment was all I needed. After a couple of days the soreness was gone. My mechanic friend and his front-end machine had straightened me out.

Dave Thomas
November 5, 2013

 

Plan B

It was February or March of 1958. I was attending the Navy’s Aviation Electronics School in Millington, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis. Pat was working in the Accounting Department at the corporate headquarters of Kroger’s Grocery Stores.

It was a weekend and we decided to go across the river to Arkansas and explore a little. We got to the bridge over the Mississippi and the road ramped up, probably to get the bridge high enough to be above flood level. We crossed the river and were on the downhill straight-away that would take us into East Memphis, Arkansas. Way up ahead we could see something hopping up the shoulder toward us. As we got closer we could see that it was a dog! He was hopping on his front legs and was vertical, with his rear legs curled above his body. Apparently, his rear legs were injured and he had to come up with an alternative way to get around.

I don’t remember anything else about that day…only that courageous little dog getting on down the road. Both animals and humans find a way to cope.

Dave Thomas
December 17, 2014

 

Sam, The Desert Tortoise

ack in the mid-1960’s I had a man named John Grant working for me as an Assistant Foreman. One Monday morning John came in and handed me his letter of resignation and said he was moving to Colorado to work for his father-in-law. We talked about it for a few minutes and I wished him well. Then, he told me that one problem he hadn’t resolved yet was what to do with the desert tortoise named Sam that he had kept as a pet for several years. John was afraid that the extremely cold winters of Colorado might be too much for Sam. He suggested that I might like to adopt Sam and care for him. It sounded good to me so a few evenings later John brought him over to the house.

The desert tortoise inhabits the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. There are two species, one living east of the Colorado River in Arizona and Mexico and the other living west of the Colorado, basically in the Mojave Desert. They are considered to be endangered and if you run across one in the wild, it’s against the law to touch, bother, or harm them. There is a means for adopting those who have been rescued from unsafe conditions.

The desert tortoises live from 60 to 80 years. Mature male tortoises can be from 12 to 18 inches in length with females being somewhat smaller.

In these little stories I’ve been trying to shed some light on the thought processes of animals but in Sam’s case I’ve got to ‘fess up and tell you that I’m up against the wall. He ate, slept, pooped, and hibernated, and I can’t make any funny stories out of that. We turned him loose in the back yard where like a cow, he grazed and slept. We fed him lettuce every day and he really enjoyed that. For goodies or snacks, he seemed to enjoy things that were red. For instance, in our back yard we had 3 hibiscus bushes that were about 8 feet tall and were always full of blossoms. Two of the bushes were red and the other was white. If you picked a bunch of blossoms and put them in front of him, Sam would eat them all but he ate the red ones first.

Sam’s favorite snack was watermelon. He would eat every bit you gave him and when he was done, he would have red juice all over his jaw and face and he would sit there blinking his eyes with a satisfied look on his face. What a feast!

A desert tortoise hibernates through the winter. As the fall season moves in, temperatures drop and the days become shorter. This tells the desert tortoise it’s time to start looking for a place to hole up for the winter. They get sluggish and don’t move around as much though they may start crawling under things or digging holes. Taking John Grant’s advice, at this time we would pick Sam up and carry him into the house and put him in a dresser drawer. He would sleep there until spring when the days got warmer and longer. Then, we would either arbitrarily take him to the back yard to wake up or wait until we heard him moving around before taking him out. As I recall, Sam spent a couple of years in dresser drawers and a couple of years in a closet.

One day, Sam wasn’t in the yard. I checked every square inch and there were no burrows or holes that would have allowed him to escape. Sam had been turtle-napped! It was a shame. We had all enjoyed seeing him out there in the yard. He was docile and seemed to be content with life as he grazed his way through each day.

Desert Tortoise

Dave Thomas
September 23, 2014

 

Cinco de Mayo

It’s almost May and Pat reminded me that we have a Cinco de Mayo story. This took place in the mid-1990’s. I’m a diabetic and sometime in 1993, I got a diabetic ulcer on the bottom of my right foot. My doctors fought it for a year and a half and couldn’t get it to heal. Finally, it was decided to amputate the right leg below the knee. This was done and I got a prosthesis and life got back to normal. The following spring, I wasn’t paying attention and the prosthesis rubbed against the side of my knee and caused a sore that immediately became infected. This had happened before and it meant anti-biotics, at least 2 doctor visits, and 6 weeks in the wheel chair without my leg.

So anyhow, I’m riding my wheel chair and here it is…Cinco de Mayo. Pat and I decided we should join in the festivities by having lunch at Casa de Pico, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Old Town San Diego. We got there and the place was as colorful and beautiful as always. We sat on the patio to take advantage of the warm, sunny day and to hear the music and listen to the chatter and the laughter of the other patrons. Pat ordered a blended margarita in the big glass with the salt on the rim and, being diabetic, I ordered coffee.

As we waited to be served, we talked and admired the holiday decorations. There were some miniature Mexican flags on the tables so Pat took a couple and attached them to the handlebars of my wheel chair. We enjoyed our meal and left the restaurant and then headed for the side gate to leave the area. Getting through the wrought iron gate we needed to go about 50 yards down the side street to the parking lot. Pat was pushing me in the wheel chair and I was teasing and smart-mouthing her about drinking the margarita and maybe being too tipsy to push me. She countered by pushing faster to show that she could handle the job. I was having a heck of a good time and started yelling “faster, faster”. Pat was up to the challenge and in a few seconds was up to full speed. We were flying down the street with Mexican flags flying and Pat sprinting for dear life. We were looking good until we hit the pot-hole. Wham! Pat ran into the back of the wheel chair and I was dumped into the street. Yow, this is gonna’ hurt! Maybe next time I’ll keep my mouth shut.

Dave Thomas
April17, 2016

 

The Augusta Elks Barbershop Quartet

1c Augusta Elks Quartet 1

L. to R.: Al Thomas, Ray Howard, Ross Millison, B.E. “Biddie” Watt

During the 1940’s, Dad was a member of the Augusta Elk’s Barbershop Quartet. He hadn’t been able to join the service during WW II due to heart problems so he tried to do his part in other ways. He was always happy when the quartet sang at the war bond rallies, churches, and local events and sometimes went to neighboring towns to help promote the war effort. Dad sang tenor, Ray Howard sang lead, Ross Millison was at baritone, and B.E. “Biddie” Watt sang bass. They went as far as Kansas City and Oklahoma City to take part in events and barbershop quartet contests.

Any quartet that was passing through town on their way to a contest or an engagement stopped at our house because they wanted to sing with Dad. He was actually a baritone but had a fantastic falsetto voice that made it possible for him to sing the tenor part. Sometimes visiting quartets would stay nearly all night, singing one song after another. Mom enjoyed singing and could harmonize with the best of them so she always joined in. I remember waking up in the middle of the night many times and hearing them sing for all they were worth. 

Augusta Elks Quartet

I remember one weekend when the quartet and wives had gone to Kansas City for a big meeting and sing-off. They came home telling us that the singing had been great and they had met some new quartets. However, Mom said that the accommodations had been scandalous. The hotel had overbooked their rooms and there just wasn’t a place for everybody. Ross Millison was the only single man in the Elks quartet but there were no single rooms available. After some talking, it was decided that Ross would bunk with my Mom and Dad. The way it worked out, Dad slept in the middle with Mom on one side of him and Ross on the other.

Dave Thomas
November 16, 2015

 

The Gooney Birds of Midway Island

I was an aircrewman in seaplane squadron VP 48 (Patrol Squadron Forty-Eight). As the time approached for our deployment to Iwakuni, Japan, story-telling in regard to the flight across the Pacific increased. Our seaplanes had reciprocal engines and due to their range, the trip meant that we would be island-hopping across the ocean. We would first fly from San Diego to San Francisco. Then, we would go to Hawaii, Kwajalein, Midway, Guam, and Iwakuni. From San Francisco on, they were all 10 to 12 hour flights.

vp48p5m_01_10may2002

Martin Marlin P5M-2

Some of the most interesting stories we heard, and certainly the funniest, were about the Gooney birds of Midway Island. A Gooney bird is an albatross with a 7 foot wing span that looks beautiful and graceful in the air but is so clumsy it looks like a clown when taking off or landing.

We got to San Francisco okay, spent the night, and then on to Hawaii for the next night. The 3rd day we got to Kwajalein with no problem. We got up the next morning on Kwaj and it had been raining and the sky was ugly. After breakfast, we went down to the pier and took a boat out to our plane which was tied to a buoy in the harbor. After filling up with gas and lunch supplies (and coffee, of course) we hung the JATO bottles (jet assisted take-off). With a full load of gas and rough seas we would need some help getting in the air. There was a coral reef that formed the outer edge of the harbor so that pretty much defined the limit of our take-off run. The sea was a little choppy but the pilots thought we could get off alright. The pilot increased the power and we started our run down the sea lane. The choppy seas were beating the devil out of us but we got up to speed and they fired the first pair of JATO bottles. This was supposed to put us up on the “step” where we were planing just as you do in a motor boat when your speed is sufficient to cause you to ride on the crest of the waves. Normally, that first pair of JATO bottles gets you up on the step and then, when you have enough speed, you fire the second pair of bottles to lift off.

The pilot fired the 2nd pair of bottles in an effort to get up on the step but it didn’t help. We didn’t have enough speed to fly but we were sure closing on that coral reef at a pretty good rate. Our pilot stayed with it as long as he could but had to give up and pull the power off and abort. We taxied back toward the pier and tied up to a buoy and waited for the boat to bring us four more JATO bottles. The pilot, co-pilot, and navigator had all been watching the wind and the currents as we made our first attempt at taking off and after discussing it, decided that with a slight change in heading we could get enough lift to get off all right. We hung the new JATO bottles taxied back out into the sea lane and this time, got into the air and headed for Midway.

In the middle of the day, we passed the half-way point, the “point of no return”, and Kwajalein Air Control had handed us off to Midway Air Control. We were at 10,000 feet and probably doing 140 knots, and as far as you could see in any direction there was nothing but the beautiful blue Pacific. All of a sudden, the starboard engine belched out some smoke and started making some weird noises. The pilots shut down the engine and feathered the prop as the navigator checked his numbers and calculated our position. As the rest of the crew went to their emergency positions, I fired up the radar and took a couple of sweeps with the antenna. I could see for about 120 miles and there wasn’t a ship in sight. Meanwhile, the pilot had sent a Mayday call and was now talking to Midway Air Control. The pilot gave our current position, heading, airspeed, altitude, and all that stuff. Midway acknowledged and said that they were launching a Grumman UF-1 Search and Rescue plane that will meet us and accompany us to Midway. The Grumman is a smaller seaplane than our Martin P5M but if we went down they could drop us additional life rafts or supplies. For them to make an open-sea landing was not a practical idea.

Grumman_UF-1_Albatross_USN_in_flight_1950s

Grumman UF-1 Albatross

The pilot gave the word to jettison some of the on-board equipment that we could do without and the crew heaved it out the port hatch. The next thing to go would have been our clothing and personal gear but fortunately it didn’t come to that.

It seemed like it took forever for the Grumman to meet up with us. Our navigator figured out what time I should be able to spot him on radar and sure enough…there he was. When he was close enough to eyeball, we were thrilled! The flight on in to Midway was without incident and we made a smooth single-engine landing.

Midway Island had been a waypoint for seaplanes for many years. There was a large concrete ramp extending into the water for launching and recovering the flying boats. They had and maintained several sets of wheels also. The P5M didn’t have landing gear or wheels. The wheels were designed with floats and at the time of recovery were towed by a boat out to the airplanes and attached by a simple pin and clamp device. Then, a cable was attached to the tail at the keel position and the plane was towed up the ramp backwards by a heavy tractor-like piece of equipment known as a Buddha.

We went through the recovery process and after being towed up the ramp our plane was parked on the apron nearby. We were finally in Gooney Bird Land and surrounded by hundreds or thousands of the creatures.

Gooney Bird Landing

Albatross/Gooney Bird About To Make A Crash Landing

(notice the look of terror on its face)

We were on Midway Island almost a month. Most of that time was spent waiting for the new engine and some associated parts that turned out to be faulty. Most of those days waiting for parts were spent either swimming or sitting in the shade of our plane’s wing and watching the gooney birds. They were so graceful once airborne but looked so ridiculous when taking off or landing. Naturally, they walked or ran like a duck, all spraddle-legged and freaky looking. They had to run several yards before getting enough speed and lift to get into the air. After watching them, we decided that the most successful take-offs were those where the bird making the take-off run, ran across a bump or hill or berm that caused enough of an up-draft to give them the lift needed to get airborne.

Landings were really a challenge. Every square foot of ground had a bird sitting on it so there was no clear “runway”. And, the birds always came in too fast. You just knew that any attempt to run on those ugly little feet wasn’t going to work. But, they would come swooping down, lower those feet, and start stepping on the heads of every bird in their path. This went on for several feet until they finally stumbled and crashed.

There were a few birds that could make a decent landing and we didn’t know if they were smarter or just lucky. The birds acted much like an airplane making a landing on a short runway. As they made their approach, they would pull their hose up and into a full stall and then take the power off slowly and settle to the ground. Beating the wings slowly allowed them to control the descent. I’m supplying a link to a video that shows one bird making a good landing as I have just described.

Words can’t do justice to the actions of the gooney birds. Watch the video that I’m providing the link for. There’s a lot of funny stuff on the Internet. Do a search on “Gooney Birds of Midway Island, Gooney Bird take-offs, Gooney Bird landings, etc.” and the results will give you some good laughs.

http://bgamall.hubpages.com/hub/Albatross-Gooney-Bird-Humor

Dave Thomas
October 24, 2014