View Full Version : As the clouds opened and a might finger came down and the voice said ...

November 22nd, 2015, 09:44 AM
"Go East. young man".

The End!

But as those of you who suffered through all my series of tales over in the Lounge know (http://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread.php/5888-i-m-so-old-i?p=65800&viewfull=1#post65800), I grew up on the East coast.

The time was the 60s. I was in California. Marina Del Rey was still just getting started, they had built parts of the two channel sea walls but not the cross wall at the mouth. Waves rolled in and got funneled up between the two sea wall until they became a wave as high as the rocks themselves.

I was not making very much money so we had an apartment on the cheap side, a place called Venice. It was convenient though; straight up Sepulveda and over Little Santa Monica to the office which was just two doors from Frederick's of Hollywood.

Even way back then, parking in LA was scarce and so the office had lifts in the back, first car in parked on a lift and raised it up to double the available parking spots. We were designing and building CATV systems up and down the West coast and inland to Idaho and Arizona.

What was not scarce were beautiful young women. This was the era of see through blouses, topless gas station attendants (a neighbor always bought gas a gallon at a time just to get the free window wash) and even topless waitresses at the Hamburger Hamlet.

One day we went there for lunch and after ordering drinks, were working on a design for a future system in a new city being built south of LA in Orange County (mostly still orange groves back then). It would have all the utilities underground and so scheduling with the power and phone folk, maintenance and replacements issues and building infrastructure each utility could maintain without disrupting the other two were still totally new concepts and needed to be worked out.

Just about then the food and drinks arrived served by a beautiful (there were a bunch of them in case I forgot to mention it) young waitress and as she handed out the drinks her breast just grazed Al's martini. Without missing a beat he said "But I asked for an olive in my martini!"

Thus endeth the first lesson.

November 23rd, 2015, 09:30 AM
The project down in Orange county was looking like a really long term one, there were no homes built or streets paved and I had convinced management to use extra wide conduit and to place an heir and a spare under the street crossings for future needs so the company decided I should turn my attention north to Oxnard, Ventura and Port Hueneme.

We found a nice duplex in the Ventura Keys with a neighbor that let us dock the sailboat at their pier.

Ventura at the time was still a farming community and many if not most of the farmers were Japanese. It was common to find signage in English and Japanese and small stalls selling Ramen were as common as the ones selling taco and jalapenos. It was 1970 and the one mall was hosting the annual Japanese/American festival. The grand marque proudly proclaimed Japanese/American Week right above the banner proclaiming Tora!Tora!Tora! was now playing at the theater.

Here endeth the second lesson.

November 23rd, 2015, 11:12 AM
"Go East. young man".

Just about then the food and drinks arrived served by a beautiful (there were a bunch of them in case I forgot to mention it) young waitress and as she handed out the drinks her breast just grazed Al's martini. Without missing a beat he said "But I asked for an olive in my martini!"

Thus endeth the first lesson.

It's a good job I wasn't drinking a cup of tea while I sat at my iMac reading this. :rofl:

November 24th, 2015, 07:48 AM
One constant presence in California at the time were the oil derricks. There might even have been more oil derricks than beautiful women but that also highlighted another contrast of the period. While the San Diego mini skirt was intended to reveal, California worked hard to conceal many of the oil platforms incorporating fake palm trees into some of the structures and building fake tepees around others and creating new fake islands just off the coast.

The hills north of Ventura (we'll return to these hills again later) covered the Ventura Oil Field, one of the most productive oil producing areas in California. The waters though were too deep, over 200 feet, to build new little islands and so starting in the late 50s, platforms were built. First to be developed were those in the State waters nearer shore. After a Supreme Court ruling finally gave the rights to areas more than 3 miles from shore to the Federal government, those areas were auctioned for lease and in 1968 Platform "A" was emplaced.

In June of '68 California experienced its first oil spill, a relatively small 2000 gallons of crude from the Philips Hogan platform.

About six months later, near the end of January 1969 the workers on Platform "A" were drilling a fifth well but had not yet put any of the four already completed wells into production. After they pulled the drill bit out there was a gusher, crude oil, drilling mud and natural gas shooting into the air and covering the workers. They tried to install a blowout valve but the pressure, over 1000PSI made that impossible and as we will see, it would have been ineffective even if possible. Instead of installing a blow out valve they simply crushed the pipe, effectively sealing the well head.

Soon, the workers on the platform and folks on boats noticed the surface of the ocean bubbling in several places hundreds of feet from the platform.

By the next day the sea was covered with oil for miles around the platform, surface oil finally reaching as far out as the Channel Islands and south to Ventura. Oil also washed ashore on beaches as far south as Coronado and as far north as Pismo Beach.

This was winter in Southern California with the typical series of storms sweeping in from the sea and so wave action and winds simply swept the crude oil over any booms placed around the spill. The whole area smelled like old oil and dead birds were found on many beaches.

Attempts to close the well continued for several days and the workers on Platform "A" finally succeeded in pouring over 13,000 barrels of drilling mud and over a 1000 bags of cement down the well. Finally flow from the well itself stopped. By that time about 2,000,000 gallons of oil had spilled into the waters and so much natural gas released that some areas had to be evacuated for fear of an explosion.

That was when I first heard the voice.

November 28th, 2015, 04:02 PM
About two weeks passed and everyone thought progress was being made when oil began bubbling up yet again from three new cracks in the sea floor, each about 30 feet wide. Leaks continued despite all efforts and gradually tapered off as winter moved into spring but even into the summer balls of tar and oil sheen washed up onto the beach and the Santa Barbara harbor had to be closed several times.

Spring and summer that next year were unusually hot and dry. The hills turned brown as the sage and scrub died off, and then came the wild fires. There were a whole series of wild fires in the hills from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara inland to Ojai throughout the Los Padres and Angles and San Berdoo (San Bernadino) Foersts. The hills were alive with dancing flames.

The antenna site for the Ventura Cable system was on a peak north of the town and as one of the wild files approached the town I was told that several of the guys had gone up to the headend (where the tower and all major equipment was located) to try to save the equipment. I hit the roof and when we could not reach them on the radios, (the hills and weather often made communications difficult) I decided to drive up myself and get order them out. Sure enough they were there and even tried to argue when I told them to leave. I explained that they could stay, die here or save the equipment, get down and fired or drop everything and leave right now and have a job tomorrow.

After consideration, they chose the latter option and we began the slow drive down the dirt road and back to civilization. About half way down we came to a tunnel of flames as the fire jumped across the road spreading up the hill on both sides. I made them simply drive through and about fifty feet further we came to the paved road and safety.

Fires burned across much of Southern California that year and the Voice asked if I had gotten the memo?

December 2nd, 2015, 09:07 PM
That winter the storms rolled in from the Pacific, torrential rains followed by a few days of Santa Ana winds when the skies were blue and cloudless and the mountains so close you could touch them, the another storm system even bigger than the one before. The ground was soon saturated and the hillsides where the summer's fires had burned off all the grasses, trees and scrub began sliding down towards the sea.

All up and down the coast that winter there were landslides and the Pacific Coast Highway was closed several times by rock slides.

As we expanded the system south into Port Hueneme and there was some really vocal local opposition to the idea of "Cable". One of the complaints was the claim that the cable sucked signals out of the air and so people would not be able to use their antennas anymore. We held meetings around town where we tried to explain how cable would work, that no one had to switch, they would still get the three TV stations from LA but with cable they would also get all the UHF stations (for our younger members that was all the channels above channel 13) as well as the ones from Santa Monica. There would also be a news station and a music station, in all, twelve channels.

During one such meeting I was asked to come forward to explain something and as I walked up the aisle one lady stood up and swatted me with her purse. I swear she must have emptied all her kids piggy banks cause that purse felt like it weighed about fifty pounds and I swear it left the impression of the Lincoln Memorial across my forehead.

Unlike the new city down in Orange County almost all the construction in Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme was above ground and usually in the easement that ran down the back property line.

That brings us to linemen. They are a strange group. It's dirty sweaty dangerous work climbing creosote covered poles and working often only inches away from power lines and repetitious, the same tasks repeated over and over again, every pole or every other pole all over the cities. Usually that also meant climbing over fences as the linemen worked his way down a block.

One day we received a complaint about one of our linemen who was accused of verbally assaulting a homeowner. It turned out to be the nice lady with the purse full of pennies from the meeting the other night. She had looked out her kitchen window only to find "THAT MAN!" in her back yard and up the pole. It seems she ran out and accosted him even holding up her little dog to bite him should he try to climb down.

The best we could determine was that at that point the lineman said something to the effect of "And your little dog too..." (maybe a Wizard of Oz reference) and she claimed he then threw a set of pliers (he said they just happened to slip as he climbed down) at her that made her drop her dog and it was so traumatized that it ran up the the man and even let him pick it up. She said that she was going to sue us since the dog had always been her protector and now it was ruined.

Linemen are not the only strange people.

December 4th, 2015, 10:03 AM
Winter was ending and spring just a little off, Valentines Day was just five days away. It was about 6am and suddenly my bed tossed me on the floor. Doors were opening and closing and I heard china falling downstairs and when I looked out the window, the lights on the Ventura Hills were swaying back and forth behind the masts of the sail boats.

Someone once asked "When did you realize it was an earthquake?" and the answer is just about the second my butt hit the floor. There was no moment of "What's happening?"

As the sun came up reports started coming in. The epicenter had been over 50 miles to the east and we had relatively minor damage. Personally the garage broke way from the house but there were no major collapses nearby. Other areas suffered far worse; two hospitals partially collapsed, highways and bridges damaged, a dam almost destroyed forcing about 80,000 people to evacuate as well as over 1000 landslides, hundreds of aftershocks, natural gas and methane seeps and damage to several water treatments plants.

It was obvious I was living in interesting times.

December 7th, 2015, 07:18 AM
They came around inspecting damage and told us we would have to move out while the house was repaired. Since our lease was up and the owner had no idea how soon thing would get done (there were lots of homes that had been damaged all over the area) we leased another home a little inland. Our renters insurance covered all the moving costs and the movers picked up all our stuff (we didn't have that much anyway) and made the short transition. The first morning in the new house I went out into the garage and noticed a Black Widow. Looking around I spotted dozens more. Not good.

I called the rental agent and they came out. They said that unit had been used to store the insulation when the development was under construction and maybe they came in with the insulation. So they put us up at a motel, the whole house with all our furniture still in it got covered by a monster tent and fumigated for two days. Then they came in and cleaned out all the literally hundreds of dead Black Widow spiders.

At first we thought about just moving to a different unit but since the insulation that had been in our garage was now in one of the other units and we were sure that the one unit that was now spider free was this one, we decided to stay.

But I must admit that allure of California living was getting tarnished.

December 9th, 2015, 07:24 AM
My wife was working as a Legal Assistant at the time. Her boss was assigned as counsel for a guy who had killed several people and had been seen doing so by many folk. The guy had a terrible temper, had been in trouble with the law many times before and was known for carrying through on his violent threats. The trial itself was pretty short and he was found guilty. He swore that he would kill the Judge, the prosecutor, his attorney and "even you missy" pointing at my wife as the bailiffs dragged him away.

Before sentencing he was scheduled for a psych hearing and on that day he overpowered the young legal aid mental health worker and then stepped out of the open first floor window and walked away.

The police contacted us and explained that they would try to have an officer drive by the house and her workplace a couple times a day but suggested that we should both get guns and learn to use them. We did and we went every single week to practice and study under a defensive arts instructor.

Back then there were few California restrictions on hand gun ownership or on either open or concealed carry and the Judge issued permits for all of us.

Time passed with reports of sightings all over Ventura County and from as far away as Seattle but the guy was not caught.

Then the Home Office called. Would I be interested in moving back east to head up system design for what at the time was one of the biggest US cable systems, Dekalb County Georgia.

I got the memo.