The Other Clubs

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Who among us liked the ‘OTHER’ clubs.

In my bookcase is my oldest possession, I’ve had it in my grasp since 1976, and its companion is in a bookcase in the back bedroom. That one is titled “The Van Nostrums’s Scientific Encyclopedia.” It weighs a good 12 pounds, and is filled with entries about anything scientific at least up to then. 1200 slick pages, full of chemical, and physics formulas.

The pride takes a cherished place in the bookcase now, but it has been used as a stand to elevate a plant to sunshine level, or raise the height of my computer monitor. I don’t use it often, but if I need it, I know it is there.

It is a two volume set of books; they came in a blue sturdy cardboard case, with a narrow drawer at the top. Inside the drawer was a durable magnifying glass. It was required with the books. The books are “The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary” Volume I is A-O, Volume 11 is P-Z, and supplement and biography. The original “Oxford English Dictionary” is 26 volumes. The compact edition is all 26 volumes miniaturized like something out of “Fantastic Voyage” into two. Each volume is over 4000 pages. Each page is so thin, you can see the printing of the next page through it. I used to slide a sheet of typing paper between each page so I could read it more easily. Each page is printed, showing 4 pages of the 26 volume edition. Hence, the need for the magnifying glass. The print is ‘teeny tiny’.

I consider it to be a manifest of sorts. Every word I write is defined in those two volumes. It even gives the dates of the earliest know ‘usage’ of the word. My daughter, at age 12 or so, inadvertently used the FUCK word. She immediately had visions of grounding and apologized profusely. Instead, although she pleads amnesia to it, I showed her my COED and told her that as an American, she was entitled to say any word she could find in the Dictionary, and yes fuck, nigger, bitch, and a few more select words I won’t mention were in those two volumes. I only asked that if she used them that she pronounced them correctly and used them in context. I am proud to say she has followed that advice.

I got the 70 pounds of books as a free ‘bonus’ for joining the Book Of The Month ‘Club’ 47 years ago. I really have no explanation of how these three books have survived over all these years, they followed me to four different states, and managed to make it back, nothing else ever did. They outlasted a 36 year marriage.

Oh the ‘other’ clubs.

My mother was a card carrying member of the ‘Columbia Record Club’. You joined, and received a dozen “LP’S” for free, and then once a month the CLUB would send you a new album. If you didn’t like it you could send it back or keep it, and $9.95 a month this could continue forever. You didn’t have to take the one they selected, you could change to what you wanted, and the Club didn’t mind if you ordered a different, or many different titles. Through the Columbia Record Club I was introduced to much of the music that shaped my life, Bloomfield Kooper Stills in Super Sessions, Lee Michaels, Blood Sweat & Tears, and on.

There were a few others, not defined as clubs, but they followed the same path. Sperry and Hutchinson Green Stamps – S&H- Blue Chips stamps and the like. Mom belonged to one or an other of these. Fingerhut was one and the other was something along the lines of World of Brass. Can’t really recall the name but they specialized in brass plates and other weird related items.

It is odd that you can basically do the same thing now, but the Club names are a bit different now, names like Ebay and Amazon today.

The magnifying sits on my desk today.

Diane

Diane

Meet Diane.

I was, by her own admission, her first boyfriend.  I didn’t remember, and  by the time she told me we were both 16.  We were walking home from Reno High, cutting last period; it was ROTC for me, she and her friend Char, were like 4.2 GPA, so they could get away with missing a class or two.  I was walking slowly behind them, it was difficult because her friend Char was almost blind.  Her glasses were a full half inch thick.

Our paths met up just under the Keystone Bridge, it was still under construction then. I slipped into a fast mode to get ahead of them, when I hear Diane asking me if my name was George.  I said yes, a bit puzzled, but flattered; I was never been a kid to be remembered by name.

I turned to look at her; I am gobsmacked ( that term was still decades away, but it works) Standing before me is a tall young brunette. 5’8 or 9 at 16. She has long straight dark brown hair.  Her dark brown eyes were two shades darker than Ali McGraw. She was small breasted which meant nothing to me at the time.

Once she realized that I was dumbstruck she spoke out.

“You got into a fight for me in the second grade” she smiled.

“Really?” I stammered.

Diane introduced me to Char, and we began small talk, and finally Char said she had to leave.  Suddenly alone with her I asked a question I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. “Did I win?”  She smiled and said yes.

A half mile north we get to her street on Whitaker, I have been carrying her books since the Keystone Bridge. She invited me in the house and we talk; she is one of the few girls I could talk to, she was smart. And man was she beautiful.

Her parents aren’t home, her mom is a secretary at Peavine Elementary, and she would be home soon.  Her dad worked at the title company on 2nd and Vine. He would be home by 5:30 and then proceed to his basement.  Diane gave me a tour, and a peek at Walters’ real love.  Covering most of the small basement space are a multitude of radio machines.  Walter is a HAM radio operator, I forget his call number.  I was invited down a month or two later, when I got to hear Ham operators from England, Greenland, Australia, and Germany, all in less than an hour.  In the back yard of the house is a 30 foot tower, it is his receiving tower.

My only mistake that I made that day was that I also met Rob, her boyfriend. She feared that if he found us together he would start fighting.  A minute after she said that Rob arrives at the door.  Diane introduces us and we eye each other.  That began a two decade period that I probably spent more time with Rob than Diane.

Over the next decade I would see Diane often, and then losing touch, once meeting her twenty years later,  face to face at Barnes and Noble, she remembered nothing.  It was odd that we re-met at a bookstore. One day she handed me a dog-earred paperback book, telling me I might like it. It was ‘The Two Towers’ by Tolkien, which I know consider a major turning point in my life.

Diane was feminine  to a fault but she had a ‘screw men’ attitude, brought to the front by her 1964 Pontiac GTO.  It was actually a Tempest, but she had modified it into a better than GTO power. I AM NOT SAYING, that she had the car sent to a shop.  SHE had modified the car, she bolted on the manifold, and headers. It was well known in town until a fateful night, when she was running free on Huffaker she took a chicane on the road and landed in the front yard of a house on Dewey St.  No one was hurt, unbelievably neither was the car.

In her small apartment at one time there was a glass topped coffee table. The glass balanced solidly on the top of a 421 engine block.  It was halfway rebuilt, not that She sent it out to be done, She pulled the valves and the pistons, she repalced the rings. Did I mention that she was ‘smart’ and had an anti-men attitude?

It is beyond my mind, that I could know this beautiful young woman; meet and mingle with for decades; I still think of her often.

The oddest thing about this whole memory?  I never remembered her having a horse.

 

 

 

 

 

Errett Labbon

Errett Labbon, E. L. to his friends, died on January 2nd, 1974 in Reno, Nevada.  Some of you may know exactly who I am talking about by now, most of you will remember soon.  It stated that he died on his ranch near Reno.

In 1961 he lived on Sharon Way which at that time it may have been a ranch.  Today his house is the only house on Sharon Way, that you can’t enter directly off the roadway. The large house is surrounded by other houses so thickly you cant see it.  There is a non-discript patch of concrete leading several yards  through the trees.  It may have been gated at one time. It has a pool.

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This was one of E.L.’s projects a Vultee V-1A airliner.  In the late 30’s E.L. bought all 500 shares of the Airplane Development Corporation from Gerard Vultee, and after a few years of work the company merged with Consolidated Aircraft forming a company called Convair. Convair would later be known as the builder of the F-106 Delta Dart and then to the Atlas-Centaur rocket.   E.L. didn’t have much to do in the day to day affairs, he just ran the Foundation that controlled the money.

checker

This was another of E.L.’s projects.  It is a Whittlesea Checker Cab, a Marathon, that used to clutter the streets of Reno.  I don’t know for sure if E.L. had any thing to do with Whittlesea Taxi, maybe, but his Foundation controlled the workings of the early Checker Cab Company.

E.L., had quite a life starting as a young boy in Warrensburg, Mo,  onto Los Angeles in the 30’s as a race car driver, mechanic, and car salesman.  The a year or two in England. My mom knew him and always though it when she was a young girl in LA, but now it may very well have been in Reno, or both.

E.L., earned and lost and earned fortunes over his lifetime, real estate, autos, airplanes you name it, but then one fine day in the 40’s he did something, that many Renoites know and understand.  He moved from Beverley Hills to Reno and stayed for the remainder of his life.

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E.L. expanded the horizons of many of our lives when he began KCRL TV and gave Reno it’s 2nd TV stations. The CRL stands for Circle L, the name of his Nevada Ranch.

If you still don’t remember E.L., I have one more hint.

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He made these.

RIP Errett Labbon Cord.

time

A BAG OF STEMS, LEAF, AND SEEDS.

Mapes

 

On a rainy night in the fall of 66, Rob and I are standing under the marque at the Mapes. The neon cowboys whose legs formed the M, are reflected off the wet roadway.

We are waiting for our ‘buy’; we have gathered up $10.00 for a ‘lid’ of pot. It is our first; not only our first buy, but our first ‘try’.  Our dealer shows up on time, and we swap the money for a full baggie of green stuff.  The guy that sold it to us said it was ‘Acapulco Gold’; in truth is was a bunch of homegrown leaf, seeds, and stems, not as much as a pea-sized bud.

We make our way to a friends house, and look at the bag wondering what to do next.  The friend we were visiting knew what had to be done.  He began trying to roll a big joint of still green leaf.  I knew how to roll a Buglar without the little machine, so I did the honors. We lit the small cyliner and sucked hard, and passed it on.  The four of us are soon coughing in unison.

Did we get high?  I force myself to have it be true that we did.

I have been a consistant user of Cannibis, and will continue to be so.  If anyone has objections, let’s TALK.

 

Leaving Reno.

I found a girlfriend in Portland.  She was fifteen, and a Mare Winningham dppelganger,  I was nineteen.  Before anyone goes off the handle, she was officially an emancipated minor, stating that she was on her own in her personal life.  She had papers stating the fact.

I talked Erica into moving to Reno.  We found a place and she found a job as a maid.  I wasn’t so lucky, and we soon found ourselves broke.  I borrowed some money from my mom and bought her a bus ticket to her home town of Alton Illinois.

A few weeks later I have scraped up enough money to prepare myself for an adventure.  A new backpack and a smaller bag.  I have $30.00 in my pocket as I stick out my thumb at the newly opened Vista onramp to I-80.  I stick out my thumb and within five minutes a car pulls over.  I get in and the driver looks over to me and asks if I know how to drive.  I do.  He is a salesman on his way to Denver. He stopped in Reno and stayed to long.  He hops into the backseat as I take control of the car.  A few hours later we are in Salt Lake City.  It is morning and he calls his office and is told that he is needed in Salt Lake so my ride ends.

I get three or four rides to Cheyenne and Denver, still making record time for a hitch hiker. In Denver I am picked up by a guy in a truck with a Camper.  I load my gear in the back of the truck.  He says he is going to Kansas City, but he has to make a detour in Oklahoma, if I wanted a ride.  I am not in that big of a hurry.  The detour takes about three hours.  In the back of the truck he carries a purebred Greyhound and he is on the way to have the dog breed with a Okie bitch.  It was quite interesting.  When we arrive in Kansas City Mo it is dark and I am tired.  I remove my backpack but forget the other small bag.  I am bummed out, but since I couldn’t actually remember what was in it, I shined it on.

It is a little after dusk when I am let out in the middle of Missouri.  It is dark as I search out a place to throw my sleeping bag down.  I am looking for a tree or something I can sleep under.  As I walk I see flashes of light around me, I am baffled thinking I am having an acid flashback, until a small bug lands on my arm and it’s butt begins to blink a pale blue.  A lightning bug; I had never seen one.

The next ride was to good to be true, the guy gave me a ride to the door of Erica’s door.  She greets me with a hug, and all is good.   A few days later I am at her trailer when a package is delivered, addressed to me.  The greyhound breeder had found my small bag, which held an address book.  He had recalled where I was going, and found Erica’s address and mailed back the bag.

After a

 

One Day Love Affairs.

BLACK-WIDOW

At 15, I am a 6’3”, 160 lbs, stick. It wouldn’t be long before I got the nick name ‘spiderlegs’. I am a ‘virgin’ sssh, don’t tell anyone, third base, I have been there. I fall in love everyday; it is rarely returned. The mean guys seem to be the one that have girlfriends; I’m not mean.

My first ODLA, was a girl at Clayton. Her name was Lorna, well, at least that I remember. She was blonde and pretty; not beautiful.

One day I am walking home from school with a friend, he was a better friend of Lorna, and we are invited in to her house to see her science fair project. We said sure, there wasn’t much going on outside. Her project was set up in an unused bedroom; it don’t recall if she had brothers of sisters.

The room is full of several different sized plywood boxes, most of the boxes have been cutaway and screened with fine mesh metal screens. Inside the first small box that I look into, there is a large furry white oval, it is surrounded by hundreds of clear threads. I look closer and perched above the oval is the largest Black Widow I have ever; and never hope to see. Another box holds about 20 smaller, black balls of venom. Another has a multitude of male Latrodectus mactans.

I am awestruck as I listen to Lorna explain what she was doing at each station of the project. I have fallen in love with a ‘smart girl’ who knew she was. I left the house after a half hour, and walked home, shaking imaginary (I hope they were imaginary) black widows off my shoulders. I never saw her again, and I seem to remember hearing that her project came in 2nd in the State Science Fair.

A year and a half later I am at the 7th street pits. We hear gunshots and make our way to the sound. There is a group of five or six people target practicing. We are welcomed into the group. Everyone is armed. It is 1966 so there is only one rifle that wasn’t bolt operated.

I turn and there she is. An angel. She is 5’6”, blond, slender and 15. She is wearing a light blue light cotton, long sleeved plaid shirt. A pair of multi-pocketed khaki pants; those were a high ticket item in 66. She also has on a khaki vest. There are several sewn on patches. One is a NRA sharpshooter award, and the dozen other patches are similar. Her most attracting (not attractive) feature is the Remington .308 strapped over her shoulder and the holstered .38 on her lovely hips. The rifle has a large scope mounted on it. I watch as she fires off round after round, scoring bulls eyes more often that not.

I ask her question after question and she answers them all fully and intelligently, I am once again talking to another ‘smart girl’, they are out there guys, it’s just that they are ‘smart’ enough to avoid fools like us.

It is good that a ODLA is just that, if not, I probably would have been poisoned or shot by now.

A Day at the Races

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It is a hot summer day high 90’s and my wife and I are bored. We hear an ad for Top Gun Raceway outside of Fallon, proclaiming they would be featuring Jet dragsters. We look at each other and within minutes we are on our way. It is an hour long drive, Lori has never been to this part of the state, and it has been a decade or so since I was. We arrive in Fallon. I’m not sure which was to go to get to the drag strip, but at the corner of US 50 and US 95, I see a sign trailer pointing the way to the track. It is 15 miles of highway to the entrance to the track. About 10 miles away we see what we think could be the strip, although the it is difficult to be sure through the shimmering heat waves the stretch before us. Did I mention it was HOT. We pass thousands of acres of green fields, and the final few miles of desert scrub. We turn right and follow the signs to the parking lot; lot is a superlative term for an acre of dirt filled with cars.

We walk the several hundred yards to the ticket booth and pay our admission, and sign a waiver that pretty much says; “if you get hurt here, it ain’t our fault”, we sign and then walk another quarter mile to the north side grandstands. There is a small building next to them that sells beer and a few hot snacks; a small dried out hamburger or hot dog, not really worth eating. We get a beer.

It is a NHRA sanctioned event, but most of the cars we start watching are mostly locals out there for the fun, and it is fun.

We get up and cross the concrete over pass to the south side of the track into the staging area and look at the cars. There are a couple of trailer next to the control building and we buy a hat for me and a t-shirt for Lori.

We begin looking at the cars waiting to be called to the staging area.

As I walk by one, my brain starts to shudder, and kicks me back to the late 50’s. There sits Swamp Rat 1, and sitting beside it is my one time hero, Don Garlits. Don Garlits was the first man to go 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, and 270 miles per hour in a quarter-mile. He even went over 200 mph in an 1/8th of a mile. I am in awe as I look at Swap Rat 1, he has brought it out for the event, it was no longer painted with flames, just a brown primer. I wait in line and ask for his autograph, which he gives me on a small pink piece of paper. My day is made; until I move to the next car.

Sitting next to him I see a woman; not just any woman, but the FIRST woman to have ever won the NHRA Winston world points CHAMPIONSHIP, Shirley Muldowney. I am godsmacked, and I wait in line for her autograph, also on a small pink piece of paper. We had heard nothing of this dual surprise.

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It is several hours later and dark as we get to the Jet dragsters. We move up to a wire fence on the north side of the overpass and see the jet dragster pull up. It is only about 5 yards away from us on the starting line.

The jet begins to whine as we watch, and then it gives a loud bang, causing both of us to jerk to attention, it pops three or for more times, and then we watch as a four foot flame bursts from the rear of the car. It takes another minute, and several more bursts of flame before it begins to warm up. Soon it roars to full power and sends out a cloud of white smoke reeking of Kerosene fumes. We are engulfed in smoke. At full power my wife is now in a trance, the volume and vibrations are effecting her in an almost sensual way. We are oblivious to the fact that if the jet were to fail, and explode we are in a direct path of any shrapnel, that could easily tear through our hearts or brains. We are lucky as the jet dragster tears from the lights and hauls ass down the track. There is another car after that, that we luckily survived.

It is late as we arrive home and get ready for bed, and as I climb in I can smell Kerosene in her hair.