They Can’t Help It

Okay, Kids, this is about your Mom/Grandma/Great-Grandma, Patricia Ann Lee. It was during World War II, and Pat was living with her Grandma, Maude Lee, in the small town of Eureka, Kansas. Pat’s mom, Melba Lee, was living in Wichita and working at Beech Aircraft as a “Rosie the Riveter” and supervisor.

First grade had been a snap for Pat. She had read her books before school even started, and enjoyed all she learned during that first year.

Pat was really looking forward to second grade. Her school was near home, so on that first day, Grandma Lee walked to school with her and got her settled in. It was only a couple of days before things started going sideways. It turned out that little Miss Pat had become a talker. She talked incessantly from morning to night, and had the rest of the girls talking and giggling all day long. The teacher got tired of trying to shush her, and moved her to a desk that was surrounded by boys. “I’m not sitting with boys!” she yelled. “Boys are dirty, and they stink, and I hate them.”

For the next couple of days, Pat went to school then came home and complained about the dirty, stinking boys. Then, on the way to school, she had a brilliant idea. Between home and the school, there was a lush stand of bushes. Pat ducked into those bushes and found that there was plenty of room for her, and that she was well-hidden. She settled in to enjoy her first day as a truant. At noon, she could hear the kids get out of school, so she, too, went home for lunch.

That first day went well, but was dreadfully boring. Pat took care of this problem the next day by taking books and coloring books to her hideout. Pat enjoyed this subterfuge for a couple of days, but then her teacher walked over from school and knocked on Grandma Lee’s door. After greetings were exchanged, the teacher said, “Pat hasn’t been to school for a couple of days. Is she sick?” That opened the ball, and the two women quickly figured out what was going on. “I’ll take care of it,” said Grandma Lee. “Well, what if she does it again?” asked the teacher. “Don’t worry,” said Grandma Lee. “I’ll take care of it,” she repeated. The teacher left, and Grandma Lee grabbed her yardstick, and went looking for Pat. After a few whacks, Pat decided that attending second grade might be a good idea.

I felt that it was my duty to pass this story along so you would have it for reference. If one of your kids is acting up , and your mind is filled with words like “stubborn,” “bull-headed,” “willful,” and “obstinate,” maintain your calm. You should cut them some slack. It’s in their DNA.

Dave Thomas


Tuning In

Back in 1946 or 1947, there were not TV’s and certainly, no transistor radios you could buy for $9.99. That stuff was still 10 or 15 years or more in the future. Most homes had a radio, but it was generally a big, honking console. The radio provided the evening’s entertainment for a family. My friend and neighbor, Gary Casner, and I wanted radios that we could mess with ourselves without having to listen to the programs the family was interested in. Some good luck came our way in the form of a neighbor who was an engineer who worked for Western Electric in Wichita. Gary and I lived on Cliff Drive, and our neighbors, Romane and Ruth Zlomke, lived on 7th Street in the duplex that is half a block west of State Street, on the north side.

Romane was always working on his car or some other project, and one day when Gary and I came by, he said he would help us build a crystal set. We got all excited about that, and we were soon in the radio business.  Romane came up with most of the parts though I think Gary and I had to buy the crystals. I think Romane got the ear phones at an Army surplus store. The tuning coils we made ourselves, winding them on toilet paper rolls.

Building the crystal sets and then getting them to operate was a good project for us. Keeping the wire touching the right spot on the crystal was a delicate proposition, and keeping a little metal bead touching the tuning coil at just the right spot wasn’t easy either. We picked up a few stations we found, but one of them was probably that wild station out of Del Rio, Texas, that overpowered everything. It was a fun project and lasted as long as our attention spans at the time.

Dave Thomas


Read It Again

Our granddaughter, Michelle, is a very bright young lady and a college graduate. Despite these attributes, she has her lapses just like the rest of us.

A few years ago, Pat and I were living in Keller, Texas, a small community on the northern edge of Fort Worth. Michelle had come from her home in San Diego to visit us in the period between school terms. We had been showing her around and decided to go to San Antonio so she could see the Alamo and River Walk.

Michelle volunteered to drive, and we were happy for the chance to relax. One morning, we headed south and in about an hour and a half, we were approaching a town. Michelle glanced at a sign from the corner of her eye and snorted. “What kind of people would name their town ‘WACKO?’” Pat and I both laughed and said, “Read the sign again, Shell!” She took another look, and said, “Oh. It’s WACO!” She laughed with us as Pat and I watched her face turn red.

Dave Thomas

November 21, 2019


Patio Talk 8a: Summertime!


Summer is coming! We are on the patio, wearing jackets, and enjoying the afternoon. The wind has a slight chill to it, but the sun is out, and we are anticipating the warm days ahead. Thinking of summer, makes us think of past vacation trips, especially those we took when the kids were young.

Pat and I were born and raised in Kansas but have been living in San Diego since 1958. After we had kids we made it a point to get back to Kansas every year to see our folks and let the kids get to know them.

As we made our vacation trips, we refined the route by considering road conditions, scenery and interesting places to stop (like trading posts and souvenir shops). Our favorite way to go was also the shortest so we were very happy about it. The best part was the trip through the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. We passed the copper mines of the Clifton and Morenci areas, went through the spectacular Salt River Canyon, and went through places with interesting names like Show Low, Pie Town, and Tucumcari.

Today, we’ve been talking about the summer Russ and Doug were 10 or 11 and Terri was 8 or 9. (None of us can remember). Pat’s Mom had invited the kids back to Kansas for the summer and they were going nuts with anticipation. To go fishing and boating with Grandma and Grandpa would be the most exciting thing that had ever happened.

Pat and I were trying to figure out how to make it happen. We didn’t have the money for airline tickets. I didn’t have any sick days or vacation time on the books, but Pat said she could work things out with her job and would take them. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea at first, but she convinced me that she would be fine. She was smart, had a lot of common sense, and was a good driver. Her car was in excellent condition. It was a 1969 Renault 4-door with standard transmission, “5 on the floor”. It was a small car, had” quick” steering, was easy and comfortable to drive, and the best part, was that it got 36 miles per gallon.

The day to leave finally arrived and Pat and the kids loaded up for an uneventful trip back to El Dorado, Kansas. Pat only got to visit with her folks for a couple of hours before getting a few hours sleep and heading for home the next day.

The time spent with Grandma Melba and Grandpa Eddie provide the kids with experiences and memories they will never forget. The grandparents spent a lot of their time outdoors, fishing, camping, boating, and shooting. They were thrilled to have someone to share it with and immediately got the kids involved in all kinds of new things. One of the big outings was an overnight camping trip at Lake El Dorado. After a full day of running around, the kids went right to sleep in the camping trailer. During the night, Melba and Eddie were awakened by the screaming of the city’s tornado warning sirens. Not one kid woke up, they were down for the

count. Melba and Eddie didn’t have the heart to wake them and decided to stay right where they were and take their chances. A few days later, the kids got to experience the adrenaline rush of a tornado alert when the sirens went off and they got to spend a few hours in the neighbor’s cellar.

Eddie enjoyed archery so one day they went out in the country and learned what bows and arrows were about. Russ and Doug were starting to get some size on them, but Terri was still small, so it wasn’t as much fun for her. Doug remembers that even with a protector strapped to your forearm, that bowstring inflicted a lot of pain when you shot an arrow.

The house was just as entertaining as any place. It was a 2-story house with the garage occupying the lower floor and the living quarters upstairs. Eddie kept his fishing boat in the garage and he had a lot of tools and fishing equipment there also. He had a wood lathe in there also and helped each kid turn a lamp from a beautiful piece of black walnut.

The yard was just as much fun as the garage. There was a rope swing hanging from a very tall tree that the kids all enjoyed. The most fascinating thing in the yard was the discovery of the locust (cicada) shells attached to the bark of the trees. We don’t have cicadas in southern California so finding the shells or exoskeletons on the trees was intriguing. The kids foraged throughout the neighborhood and collected all the shells in sight. They brought them back to the house and hung them all on the side of one of the elm trees. One of the neighbors said he had never seen so many locust shells in one place.

One morning was spent shooting Blue Rock. Blue Rock was a brand of clay pigeon sold by Remington. The boys were old enough and big enough to really enjoy this. Terri wanted to shoot, too, so Melba went over the gun safety rules with her and showed her how to hold the shotgun’s stock tight against you to minimize bruising. Then, Melba stood behind her with her hands on Terri’s shoulders so the recoil wouldn’t knock her down. Terri said that it hurt but she really had fun.

At the beginning of the vacation, when they were out driving on country roads, Eddie stopped the car whenever he saw a box tortoise. He kept a lookout for the turtles until each kid had one. This was aa fascinating treat as we don’t have box tortoises in southern California. They kept the tortoises and fed and cared for them until the vacation was over and then turned them loose.

Russ, Doug, and Terri had a summer that was full of “firsts” and highlights. They saw and experienced things that we don’t have in southern California like lightning bugs, cicada shells, chiggers, and tornado sirens. They got to shoot skeet and fish for blue gill also. I’ll end this by recounting one of the stories that Russ will never forget. They were in the car and traveling down a country road. Melba was driving. Russ was riding shotgun in the front passenger seat and Doug and Terri were in the back seat. Russ was watching the countryside while Melba and

the other two kids were jabbering and laughing. Russ saw a semi pulling a Russ kept his eyes on the truck as it was a pretty wide truck to be meeting on this narrow country road. stock trailer loaded with cattle approaching. As they closed within a few yards, at least two of the cattle started urinating, spraying the yellow liquid into the lane of their oncoming car. Russ tried to interrupt the levity of the other three in the car. He wanted to yell, “Grandma, roll up your window!” but it was too late. The yellow stream struck her in the face and knocked her glasses off. At first, they were all in shock as Melba brought the car to a stop. Then, Then, the kids broke out laughing as Melba tried to collect herself and dry her face.

The wonderful summer with their grandparents ended. The grandparents were worn out and the kids’ heads were crammed full of stories of their adventures.

Dave and Pat Thomas May 16, 2018

P.S. There is more to this story and we’ll tell you about it in Patio Talk 8b: Mi Pat’s Wild Ride.


Patio Talk: 3

Pat reminded me of this story. She told me about it when it happened and as one of the participants remembers it better than I do.

It was probably 1997 or 1998 and we were on vacation. It was Pat and I and our grand-daughter, Michelle. Michelle would have been 11 or 12 at the time.

Pat’s friend Charlotte and her family had a beach house in Galveston that they graciously let us enjoy for a week. We had flown into Houston, rented a car, and driven on down. We were looking forward to a few days of just hanging out on the beach and vegetating. When we went into town, we tried to see and do things that Michelle would enjoy like Moody’s Gardens, Joe’s Crab Shack, and the seawall. Our days at the beach house were relaxing and fun and we re-charged our batteries while there.

We drove back to Houston and caught a flight to Wichita. We planned to visit Pat’s aunt and cousins and drive on to Augusta and visit friends. Our flight to Wichita would be in a commuter plane, one of those 10 or 12 seat puddle-jumpers. We climbed aboard and got on our way. When we got close to the Wichita area, the pilot’s voice came over the intercom telling us that an electrical storm was passing through Wichita and we would have to circle for a while before we were allowed to land.

Pat says that after we had been in the holding pattern and making circles for quite a while, Michelle leaned over and whispered “I have to go to the bathroom.Pat pointed out the restroom which was up forward, just behind the pilots. Michelle went forward but immediately came back. “What’s the matter?” asked Pat. “There’s a big window right beside the toilet and anybody can see inwhispers Michelle. Pat whispers back Who do you think is going to be looking in?” “Oh” says Michelle as her face turns red and she heads back to the restroom.

Dave and Pat Thomas
October 16, 2017


West 7th Street

I was thinking about jobs. To be more specific, I was thinking about the availability of jobs for kids. When we were growing up, all kinds of jobs could be had. There were long term jobs and there were also jobs that lasted for a few hours. I remember sometimes having two or three jobs that would fill up the day and the evening.

As I thought about some of the different jobs I had as a young person, I realized that a number of them could be connected to the piece of real estate on West 7th Street occupied early on by the Augusta Skating Rink.

The Augusta Skating Rink was located on the north side of West Seventh Street about ½ block west of Walnut Street. It was an older, frame building, probably built in the early 1930’s but possibly before then. I suspect that it was one of those forms of recreation practiced during the Great Depression. There was very little money and my folks told me that when they were dating they had to look for free or cheap things to do. They went to the movies, went roller skating, and played miniature golf. Mom and Dad told me that Glen Lietzke (Ross Lietzke’s dad) owned a miniature golf course and they spent a lot of time there. Softball games were a free way to spend an evening and my Dad also pitched for one of the local teams.

The Augusta Skating Rink was owned and managed by a man named Ray Prigmore. My folks knew him well and I think he was actually a high school classmate of Dad’s. Ray lived across the street from the skating rink in a residential enclave containing several homes. The properties were laid out to form a large “U”. Ray’s house was the base of the ‘U”. His front door pointed north toward 7th Street and the back of his property adjoined the Frisco Railroad right-of-way on the south. The eastern leg of the “U” was formed by two small homes with their front doors pointing toward the west. The western leg of the “U” was formed by a duplex with front doors pointing to the east. The northernmost unit of the duplex was inhabited by the Moss family, their daughter, Cleta Moss, being a year ahead of me in school.

My first vague job connection to the skating rink property, is that when I was 13, I had a Wichita Beacon paper route. I delivered the Beacon to Ray Prigmore every afternoon. He was at the tail end of my route so frequently he would be waiting

on the porch for me. I think he wanted to read the news before going across the street for his evening’s work at the skating rink. He was a pleasant man and always asked how I was doing.

As I recall, the skating rink was open every night but Monday. There was a matinee every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The matinee was the time and place for young kids to skate. I don’t believe I was allowed to skate at night until I was 16 or 17. The skaters at night were older and a little too rough for young kids to hang out with.

As we got a little older, say 12 or 13, and became better skaters, Ray would let us be “Floor Manager” on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The Floor Manager was responsible for a couple of things. He wore a whistle around his neck and whenever a record finished playing he would blow the whistle and change the sign at the back of the rink. Most of the time, it said “All Skate” but periodically it would be changed to “Couples” or “Ladies Choice” or “Backwards” or one of the other selections. The Floor Manager’s other big responsibility was to watch for kids that were going too fast or were getting rowdy. Violators got the whistle and might be told to sit out a few rounds. (Now that I think about it, that whistle was used by a different kid each day and was never washed or sterilized. Yuk!) There wasn’t any money in the Floor Manager job. Seems like we may have skated for free that day and might have gotten a Coke.

Air conditioning wasn’t a common feature at that time so on warm nights all the windows of the rink were open. The music was loud so as to overcome the sounds of the roller skate wheels on the wooden floor. We lived a half block to the east, on Cliff Drive, and on summer nights with my bedroom windows open I fell asleep to the sounds of the music from the skating rink.

There is a large gap in my memory. It’s probably due to my having been abducted by Martians and then released at a later date. Or, like most teen-agers I most likely just had my head on backwards. I suddenly realized one day that the skating rink had been torn down and a new building was being erected in its place. Trenches for new footings had been dug and materials were stacked all over the place. One evening, my Dad, Al Thomas, said that he would be working on the new building and I could work for him if I wished.

There were two bricklayers or masons in town, my Dad, Al Thomas and Dolan Brandt. Dad liked working for homeowners, building fireplaces or adding a brick wainscoting or brick veneer to homes. Of course, he also laid concrete blocks, pumice blocks, or limestone. Most of the homes were still of lath and plaster construction rather than dry wall so Dad did plastering jobs as well. Dolan Brandt seemed to prefer doing commercial work so he put up a lot of shops and larger buildings. Dolan was nearly a relative of mine in that he was married to my cousin, Joyce Wilson.

I think Calvin Applegate was the General Contractor for the new building. I never can remember if it was Calvin or Oscar as I didn’t know either of them very well. Anyhow, the new building was to be made of concrete blocks and Applegate hired Dolan to do the work. Dolan then hired my Dad and that’s how I got involved. The official title for my position was “Block layer’s Helper” or simply “Helper”. My job was to mix the mud (mortar) and get it to the mortar board that each block layer worked from. Also, it was my job to get the concrete blocks to the work area and place them so they would be within reach of the mason. Remember, this was in the days before fork lifts, pallets, or trucks with lift gates. A flatbed truck would show up from Safford’s Lumber Yard loaded with concrete blocks and 70 lb. bags of mortar cement. The truck driver would get up on the truck bed and place the blocks or cement close to the edge where I could reach them. You can only carry 2 concrete blocks at a time so it would take a while to offload the truck and get the blocks stacked. Later, as needed, I would carry the blocks to the area the men were working. The ground was uneven, full of holes and piles of dirt and it was faster and more efficient to carry the blocks 2 at a time than to use a wheel barrow. I don’t know how many concrete blocks are in that building, but my fingerprints are on every one of them.

Seems like the next time I opened my eyes, the sign in front of that new building said “Lehr’s Restaurant”. I don’t really know the story of Charles and Thelma Lehr. It seems that they had been living in another town and when I was a little kid, had moved back to Augusta. They opened a restaurant in the Brown building at the corner of 5th and State. People always spoke well of the Lehrs and their restaurant. My folks seemed to know them well, like perhaps they had grown up together.

More time passed and it was the week after Christmas in 1956. Late in the evening, I was sitting in a booth at Lehr’s and drinking coffee with Glen Chalmers, John Luding, and I think the 4th guy was Jack Dornbusch. Glen had been roughnecking in Kansas and Oklahoma and I had been roughnecking up in eastern Colorado. We both decided it was time to get a little smarter and were planning to attend Butler County Junior College in El Dorado. As we discussed this, Jack Taylor came over and leaned against the booth and talked with us. Jack was the manager and chef at Lehr’s and he frequently was out on the floor visiting with his patrons. Jack mentioned that the guy who swept and mopped and cleaned up the place was leaving the next week to attend college in another city and asked if we knew anyone who might be interested in the job. I said that since I would be going to school I was really in need of a night job. We talked about it for a few minutes and made a deal right there.

So, I was the clean-up man, the janitor, the custodian or whatever you want to call it. I started at 9:00 PM and worked the back rooms until the restaurant closed at 10:00 PM. Then, I went up front and stacked the chairs on the tables and swept and mopped the floor. By the time I finished, the kitchen help had put everything away and cleaned the steam tables and I could clean up back there. Jack Taylor had high standards regarding cleanliness so my work was cut out for me.

I enjoyed my job at Lehr’s. The work had to be done well but it wasn’t hard. All the people that worked there were pleasant and fun to be around. After I had been there about a month, Jack approached me one night and asked if I would like to learn to be a “fry cook”. It sounded good to me so the next day I started working the evening shift in front of the grill. Jack worked right there with me and taught me how to blanche French fries, cook a steak to “rare” or “mediumwell”, and how to plate-up a dinner. One of the most memorable lessons took place when some people ordered a salmon dinner. Jack took me down to the walk-in freezer in the basement. He went to one of the shelves and picked up a salmon that was about 3 foot long, even with the head cut off, and frozen stiff as a board. He placed it on the butcher block in the center of the freezer. Next, he picked up a butcher’s saw that looked like a giant hack saw and sawed off a couple of salmon steaks about 1″ thick.

After a few weeks of school and work, Chalmers and I had developed a routine that was working pretty well for us. We both got out of our last class at 2:00 PM and headed for downtown El Dorado and the Blue Goose Tavern. We would set up shop in one of the booths and order a pitcher of beer. For the next hour we would do our homework and suck up that pitcher of beer. Good as it sounds, we both seemed to be getting a little antsy about the situation. After more than two years working in the adult world it was hard to be comfortable in the juvenile atmosphere of the Junior College. One afternoon, I stopped at the courthouse and asked the lady at the Draft Board what my status was. She said I would be called up soon if I didn’t get a deferment of some kind. That was enough for me. I sold my car and joined the Navy.

Dave Thomas
May 15, 2017


7-11 Or Maybe A Million

After supper, one evening, our son, Russ, who was 16 at the time, decided to walk to our neighborhood 7-11 store, a block away, and look at the motor magazines. He knew that his friend, Russ Turley, was on duty that night and would let him browse as long as he liked.

Russ got to the store and started scanning the magazines. He enjoyed all of them that had to do with cars and engines…Motor Trend, Road and Track, Hot Rod, and the rest. Meanwhile, Turley is busy straightening up the counter displays and getting ready for the business of the evening.

Both boys happened to glance out the front window at the same time and were curious at what they saw. Three young men were coming from the intersection and were headed straight for them. The guys looked out of place, like they didn’t belong there. The three men entered the store and immediately fanned out. The first guy stays near the cash register, the second guy goes all the way to the back and stops beside the milk case, and the third guy goes to the last aisle and takes a spot about half way down.

Russ is pretty savvy and immediately figures out what is going on. He starts edging toward the door. Just as his hand touches the push bar, he gets a chill as Bad Guy Number One presses the business end of a revolver to his forehead. “Back up”, he says to Russ. Russ moves back to where he was standing and waits to see what will happen next. The bad guy is starting to get nervous and fidgets a little and then tells Russ Turley to empty the cash register. The intensity of the moment had increased to to the point that Turley was fumbling around and couldn’t get the register open. By now, the bad guy is freaking out and starts yelling. Turley keeps stabbing at the keys with his fingers and finally gets the cash drawer open. The bad guy is both surprised and disgusted when Turley pulled out what little cash there was and handed it over. “Where’s the rest of it?” I just started my shift and it’s been kind of slow tonight”, says Turley. The would-be robber absorbs this news and orders the boys to empty their pockets. This exercise just yields a few cents and makes the atmosphere even more tense.

Finally realizing that this caper is a lost cause, Bad Guy Number One starts waving the gun around and herds the boys toward the back of the store. There is an office back there with an entrance just behind the beer cooler. He pushes the

boys into the office, orders them to sit down on the floor and says they had better not move until they count to one hundred. Turley just nods, but our Russ says “I’ll count to one million!”

The robbers left and Russ Turley called the police and called his boss. When the cops arrived, they interviewed the boys to get descriptions and any other meaningful information the guys could come up with. Fortunately, in his perusal of the magazine rack, Russ also looked at the hunting and fishing and gun magazines. This made it possible for him to identify the pistol as a Colt revolver rather than a Smith and Wesson.

The police came back around the next day. They had caught the three guys and said they were responsible for a number of robberies in small towns around the county. They concentrated on convenience stores that were located close to freeways so they could get away quick. Russ was asked to look at some photos and and help identify the bad guys. One quick look was all it took for Russ to tell the police he couldn’t help them. For one thing, he didn’t have an opportunity to stare at them. Next, one guy had a curly beard, one had a scraggly beard, and one had a full blown Afro. The photos the police had with them were of three clean shaven guys with fresh haircuts. The cops said it was okay because they had enough evidence to put them away.

Dave, Pat, and Russ Thomas
May 2, 2017



We got a notice in the mail that the El Cajon City Planning Commission would soon hold a meeting to determine if they should allow a 7-11 Convenience Store on property adjacent to our neighborhood. This was in the mid-to-late 1960’s and we were living in a development known as Olive Hills Estates. The houses were nice, modern homes but certainly not “estates.

We considered the notice and talked about it and came up with two objections. We had noticed that in neighborhoods with 7-11’s or mom and pop grocery stores there was a lot of trash scattered up the block. It was all candy bar wrapper, soda cups, and aluminum soda cans that kids cast off as they wandered up the street.

The second problem would be the traffic consideration. The driveway for the 7-11 would be accessed from Greenfield Drive, a busy street.

Pat and I went to the hearing and both spoke our piece. Our eloquence was for nothing, as the Planning Commission voted to allow the granting of the permits to build the store. We got the impression that they were more interested in the tax revenues than they were in our efforts to keep our yard clean.

Time passed and a strip mall was built, anchored by the 7-11. It wasn’t really that bad. The neighborhood kids were good about not stringing trash up and down the block. The 7-11 was operated by a man named Bertolucci. I don’t know if he was the franchisee or a paid manager. He was probably in his late 40’s or early 50’s and was one of those red-haired Italians with a ruddy complexion. He always had a smile and was liked by all ages. The kids called him “Mr. Bert” and I think he knew every kid in the neighborhood by name.

Back in those days, the neighborhoods of the city were pretty safe. Even though our kids were young, we allowed them to make the one block trek to the store. We had to approve each trip but they were allowed to enjoy a Slurpee now and then.

One Saturday morning, Pat and I were going someplace with the kids and stopped at 7-Eleven to pick up some snacks. Mr. Bert greeted us and then asked if he could speak to Pat and I privately. He ushered us to a corner and then started telling us about soda pop bottles and how they were returned for a refund of the bottle deposit. He said that the empty bottles were stored out in back of the building until the distributors picked them up and returned them to the bottling plant. He said that our daughter, Terri, then 6 or 7 years old, would stop in the alley and pick up as many bottles as she could carry and then go around to the front door and go in and collect the deposit money for them. Then, she would use her earnings to buy a Slurpee. Bertolucci said he knew what she was doing and didn’t mind because she was a nice kid. However, the gratuities started to get out of hand. Terri was bringing a little friend with her. Then, it seemed that she was bringing the whole neighborhood with her. That’s when Mr. Bert had to put a stop to the great bottle refund enterprise and why he was talking with us. He wanted to make sure that Terri understood that what she was doing was wrong.

Later, Pat and I were alone with Terri and told her that Mr. Bert had mentioned that she was buying a lot of Slurpees and we wondered where she was getting the money. She said she had found this neat place out in the alley where there were stacks of bottles. She said she would gather enough bottles to buy a Slurpee and then go to the store and sell them. She was just as happy as if she had found buried treasure. We had to burst her bubble and tell her that those bottles in the alley already belonged to the store and that Mr. Bert was buying his own bottles from her. We went on to explain that Mr. Bert knew what she was doing but let her get away with it. Terri was mortified. She was the type of kid that always wanted to do everything right and hated to think she had made a mistake. He next time she went to the store she told Bertolucci she was sorry and we all went back to the status quo…peace in the valley.

Dave and Pat Thomas
February 23, 2017


The Coronado Ferry and the Bridge: Part 2

One day, Pat had been doing her regular chores and chasing the boys, who weren’t quite 3 years old, and trying to keep them in line and she was exhausted. She read the boys a story and put them down for a nap. Satisfied that the boys would be “out” for a while, she fastened the security chain to the front door, laid down, and promptly fell asleep.

Sometime later she was awakened by someone ringing the door bell. As she walked to the door, she realized that a chair had been pulled up to the door and that the security chain was undone. Pat experienced a feeling of panic as she got to the door, not knowing if she would open it to the Police or someone else with bad news. She threw open the door and saw a lady she recognized holding the hands of our two boys. She remembered that the lady lived 2 blocks away, across a busy street, and that the bus stop was in front of her home. The woman had seen Pat and our two boys at the bus stop before and was quite concerned to see the boys there by themselves. She asked them where there mother was and where they were going. They told her that their Mom was asleep and they were going to ride on the ferry and see the boats. Fortunately, the boys knew where they lived so the lady grabbed them each by the hand and walked them home. As Pat and the lady talked they quizzed the boys and discovered the rest of the caper. When getting on the bus in the past, they had seen their mother drop coins into the fare collection box so before leaving the house they had found her purse and grabbed all the change she had and put it in their pockets. That’s pretty good thinking for a couple of outlaws who couldn’t count or make change. Pat thanked the Good Samaritan and after that lady left, gave the boys a good chewing out and grounded them.

Having twin boys messes up your understanding of mathematics. You grew up thinking that 1+1=2 so it would follow that 1 boy plus another boy equals 2 boys but that’s not the way it works. This is why they invented the word “synergism”. One imaginative boy added to another imaginative boy equals 5 times more trouble than you can cope with.

As the time got closer for Pat to deliver, I had to make up my mind on driving the long way around or taking the ferry to Coronado. I decided to drive the long way because there were fewer stoplights and less traffic. Taking the ferry would have meant taking Highway 94 which frequently was jammed up and then going through all the stoplights downtown and hoping there was no delay at the ferry landing.

When the time came, we drove the long way around and everything worked out well when we got to the hospital. Pat had a few tough hours of labor but delivered a healthy baby girl that we named “Terri”.


Doug and Russ and their new sister, Terri




The Coronado Ferry and the Bridge: Part 1

My original intent was just to tell you about the Coronado Ferry but after thinking about it and discussing it with Pat the story grew a little. Back in the late 1950’s and 60’s San Diego Bay was a busy place. There was a fair amount of merchant shipping doing business at the 10th Ave. Terminal. The Navy had a lot of ship traffic at the 32nd Street Pier. National Steel and Shipbuilding was building and overhauling ships so there was a lot of traffic around their docks. There were usually 2 to 4 seaplane squadrons stationed at NAS North Island and they made take-offs and landings in the bay at all hours of the day and night. There were also Navy fighter squadrons stationed at North Island and they were visible from many spots around the bay.

The Navy had an Overhaul and Repair Facility at North Island taking care of aircraft that had returned from Westpac deployments via aircraft carriers. The carriers and other ships were docked at the North Island piers and sometimes there were other Navy ships at anchor in the bay. Convair was developing the Sea Dart, a jet-powered seaplane that could be seen taxiing in the bay. The tuna fleet was still operating out of San Diego. The fishing grounds within reach of this port were being “fished out” but the fleet was still pretty large. Toward the west end of the bay at the sub base there was traffic consisting of both diesel subs and the new nuclear boats. The ferry boats were on regular schedules and were plowing back and forth all day long. There were motor launches known as “nickel snatchers” that picked up passengers, mostly sailors, at the foot of Broadway and delivered them to the ships at anchor or over to North Island. Take all of this traffic and throw in the tour boats and private sail boats and you can imagine the apparent chaos all day long.


The picture below will give you some indication of the variety of traffic on the bay. The airplane in the upper left hand corner is a P5M-2 seaplane such as I flew in and it is coming in for a landing. The planes flew up the bay (north) and when over the ferry landing made a slight turn to port to follow the curvature of the bay. As they crossed over the ferry slips, the pilot keyed his mike and announced “Ferry slips” and the Air Controller in the tower would take a final look at the sea lane for traffic and acknowledge with “Cleared to land.”


Being from Kansas, Pat and I weren’t used to large bodies of water or waterborne transportation so riding the ferry was a unique and wonderful experience for us. The bay crossing only took a few minutes but there was enough time to jump out of your car and go lean on the rail or go to the top deck and have a seat and enjoy the ride. I believe there were a total of 5 ferry boats. Our favorite was the Crown City because there was no roof over the cars. The other boats had large superstructures that covered the cars on the deck and made you feel like you were in a garage.


I was stationed at North Island, in Coronado, and we lived in Coronado for 2 years. In 1960, we bought a home in San Diego and that’s where my life as a commuter began. I found that even though it was farther to go south and around the bay and up the Silver Strand, it was faster than going through downtown San Diego and catching the ferry. Also, there was the money consideration. I was still in the Navy and riding the ferry would have cost me 90 cents a day but gasoline for driving the long way around was only 27.9 or 29.9 cents a gallon (I can’t remember exactly).

I was discharged from the Navy in March of 1961 and got a job with an electronics firm on Kearney Mesa which meant that I still had a long commute. We soon found out that Pat was pregnant and that made it tough because our doctor, Jim Turpin, was in Coronado and besides his practice being there, he was also associated with the Coronado Hospital. Our boys, Russ and Doug were born in the Coronado Hospital and we thought it would be a nice thing to have the new baby there as well.


A booklet published by Home Federal Savings

Being new on the job, I couldn’t take time off to drive Pat to the doctor for her pre-natal visits. She figured out that she could ride the bus to downtown San Diego, transfer to the Coronado bus and get off right in front of the doctor’s office on Orange Ave. She would take the boys with her rather than trying to find and pay a babysitter. I guess the bus ride wasn’t bad and the best part was that the bus could go on the ferry! Pat and the boys loved that! To be on a boat and crossing the San Diego Bay with all the other boats and ships was pretty heady stuff.