2021: Reunion

(This is actually a year late. I started work on in the late August of 2021 but then we all started trading Covid and writing slipped a few notches down my list of prioriites.)

Despite the focus my work requires, it often gets a bit lonely in my studio, so I usually have either music or a movie running while ‘making stuff’. My choices in video skew towards old favorites like the epic historical dramas of the 1960s/70s, but every so often I find something of more recent vintage as was the case when I watched The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw last week. Starring Kenny Rogers as professional gambler Brady Hawkes, the film is one of five made-for-TV westerns built on the storyline and success of Kenny’s 1978 hit single The Gambler and tells the story of Hawkes’ efforts to make his way to a high stakes poker game in San Francisco scheduled to be played on the night before the enactment of the Street Betting Act of 1906 that will ban gambling and eliminate Hawkes’ way of life.

Luck of the Draw includes plenty of horses and gunfights, but it also includes newer technology such as internal combustion engines and semi-automatic firearms that highlight changes in the way of life on the frontier as it closes. More interesting to me though were the frequent reunions with old friends Hawkes meets up with during his odyssey, a group made up of actors and characters from the classic television Westerns I’d grown up watching on our little black and white Zenith three decades earlier. Some of the stars like Hugh O’Brian (Wyatt Earp) and Chuck Connors (The Rifleman) had weathered those thirty years in good shape while others like Clint Walker (Cheyanne) had – in the patois of the movie’s time frame – ‘been ridden hard and put away wet’. As the members of that second group came and went on the screen I had to wonder if it wouldn’t have been kinder to avoid replacing our collective mental picture of them from their glory days

It brought to mind a recent reunion of my own, that of my high school graduation. It was the first such reunion I was able to attend. I was a first lieutenant and a company executive officer midway through a field-training exercise when the first one happened and the second came up while I was attending graduate school 4000 miles away. After that I was too caught up with being a dad, teaching college, running a business and in general living life to catch the next three, but somehow everything fell together in August of 2021 to make it possible for me to attend the 50 year reunion of the Kenai Central High School graduating class of 1971.

Kind of.

At first it seemed as though history would repeat itself as a series of unforeseen events and minor disasters prevented my Beautiful Saxon Princess and I from attending in person, but the blessing/curse of technology allowed me to attend via ZOOM hook-up – and even with that miracle of modern technology I came close to missing out, having lost track of days on the calendar. That confusion continued even after making the connection as I watched a parade of what I took to be the parents of my classmates introducing themselves, but when I glimpsed the reflection of my own grizzled features in my laptop’s screen I realized that those equally grizzled figures were not my classmates’ parents, but were in fact my classmates themselves. There were one or two trim individuals who looked like they’d been sleeping in Tupperware for every one of the 18,250 nights since commencement but most of them were packing as many extra pounds as me, and what hair they had left was as white as mine.

I didn’t care – I was just happy to see them all, even if it was via technology. Attending a school on the ass-end of the world comes with a social awareness different than what you pick up in most schools; it seemed like I was sitting in classes next to cousins rather than strangers with all the of fighting, arguing, and bickering you’d expect in an extended family, but upon closer scrutiny it’s obvious the peculiar social cohesion goes beyond that. There’s been discussion that there are actually two parts to the Baby-Boom generation: the stereotypical, student radical Big Chill group born right after World War II and a second smaller wave made up of those of us born in the first half of the fifties. There’s even been a name suggested for that second group – the Jones’s – but the discrepancies between the two wavelets involves much more than names. There are several factors involved in the formation of the Jones’s mini-boom, formative events quite different that those that molded our older siblings:

  • Their cultural milepost was Woodstock while ours was Watergate.
  • They entered a red-hot war-based economy with decent wages and reasonable mortgages while we dropped into an economy crippled by ‘stagflation’ and the oil-embargos of the Seventies.
  • Most tragically, they saw the British invasion transform popular music while we had to endure the musical travesty known as disco.

All of which made the KCHS class of 1971 appear out-of-step with our older and younger class mates starting in the fall of 1967 with our freshman year faculty sponsors throwing their hands up in the air at our first class meeting (“we’ve never seen a class with such an attitude”) to comments by former upperclassmen in the 1980s (“your class was just funny that way – not funny “ha-ha” but funny-“yeesh”). Maybe that “collective individualism” is why I’ve felt a fraternal attachment to my classmates even though I hadn’t attended any of the earlier reunions – the fact that something about being born in 1953 has us all marching to our own drummers.

We still seem to be marching to those drummers though that cadence has taken us over some rough existential terrain:

  • We’ve taken a beating – out of 150 that walked across the stage only 120 are still alive.
  • We’ve taken a beating – most of us have been married for a LONG time.
  • We’ve taken a beating in that we have a higher than average number of veterans.

You could also read the effects of those difficult journeys in the lines and worn expressions of the faces I could see via the ZOOM hook-up. Even though we are relatively young and yet to reach the biblical allotment of ‘three score and ten’ there was a moment when I began to rue the use of the video link that, as was the case with The Luck of the Draw, it would have been kinder for some to be only remembered from their glory days…but in the end I was glad for the link. Despite those lines I could still see that:

  • Carey is still gracious and beautiful.
  • Jim is still quick on the uptake with a wickedly funny comment.
  • Rick still looks like he could bench press an engine block.

…and I was glad to have had the chance to see my cousins one more time.

1966: A Friendly Umbrella In a Stormy Life

I turned off the TV and reluctantly admitted to defeat.

 Batman was terrible.

I had been a “bat-fan” since the summer of 1964 when Julie Schwartz had Sch-rewdly rescued the comic from cancellation by making just three changes:

  • The chest emblem changed from a generic bat figure to a bat superimposed on a yellow disc which could be trademarked.
  • The current team of artists was replaced by comics’ superstar Carmine Infantino.
  • Tales of aliens and costumed supervillain antics were replaced by more realistic detective stories.

This fundamental change was dubbed “The New Look”, and when I first learned about it I assumed it would be like Peter Gunn with capes and Batarangs. Unfortunately, producer William Dozier had been introduced to the Caped Crusader via the goofy 1950’s incarnation and the 1940’s Columbia serials Batman and Batman & Robin, both bearing little resemblance to any of the more serious eras in the books. It didn’t help that the Anchorage station carrying the Bat-series aired the first two episodes out of order, making it difficult to understand what was going on.

I tuned into that first episode shivering with anticipation. Events of the yet-to-be seen first episode were recapped with a voice-over narration over a series of still photographs, which led me to conclude that I’d be watching a puppet-show like Fireball XL5 or Supercar. Then the animated opening credits ran, and I readjusted to the idea of an animated cartoon like Jonny Quest, but when the credits cut to an opening scene of a less-than-buff middle-aged man in a costume that only faintly resembled my hero, I knew that I was screwed. I suffered through the rest of the episode, tuned into the second/first/? Episode broadcast aired two nights later and forced myself to continue to watch the show, fervently hoping for a change in quality, but by Easter I’d given up hope.

…which was why I was less than excited about the announcement in March of a new show called The Avengers. The story was buried in the middle of the weekend edition of the Anchorage Daily News and held little real information about the upcoming show other than it would star Diana Rigg1 and Patrick McGee. This Rigg lady could be either the Wasp or the Scarlet Witch, and if Mr. McNee would be playing Captain America I hoped he’d been hitting the gym a bit more often that Adam West did. With my luck, Iron Man would be portrayed by a now elderly Jack Haley wearing his Tin Man outfit from The Wizard of Oz.

It was all so depressing.

Not that I had much to be happy about at the time. I was heading into the Summer of No Bedroom, and I was feeling like a refugee in my own home. The previous winter my mom had decided I was too old to be sharing a bedroom with my little sisters, and that Dad needed to make a bedroom for me. Space was at a premium, so by the process of elimination the attic became the site of my new digs, and we got a good start in late February, but by late spring construction had come to a halt. Unfortunately, this happened after I’d already been moved out of that room I was sharing with my three little sisters.

The move had been inexplicably caused by Mom and older sister Robin securing summer jobs just as school was ending. They’d be working at a fish cannery in Clam Gulch about 30 miles south of Sterling. The original idea was that we’d spend the work week with them, and then return home to Dad for the weekend. Unfortunately this proved to be unworkable, so the new plan was that the younger sisters and I would stay in Sterling while Mom and Robin would shuttle between the ranch and the cannery. The situation seemed a winning proposition when A) Mom promised to pay me for babysitting, and B) Robin uncharacteristically allowed me to crash in her room. Unfortunately my fortunes just as quickly reversed when A) Dad halved the baby-sitting rate2 and B) Robin revoked crashing rights in her room. I also lost use of the living room couch because each trip would include two to three fellow cannery workers tagging along for showers and laundry, and they would be crashing at the house overnight.

After trying (and discarding) the living room floor, the top of the clothes dryer and the cargo space in the station wagon as sleeping quarters I began to panic. But then a Classics Illustrated adaptation of Robinson Crusoe gave me an idea: I’d make my own home. We were having a relatively dry summer, so I made myself a room at the back of one of the outbuildings by stacking military surplus pallets together. Modest insulation and cushioning was provided by four-foot square pads stuffed with what we suspected to be horse-hair, and a garden hose stretching from the back kitchen door provided a modicum of communication with the rest of the family during the night.

…which seemed to last forever. Granted there was enough sun at 10:00 PM for reading comics, but sleep didn’t come easy knowing that both bears and moose could be wandering around the ranch just out of sight in the brush. Even worse than the big critters were the little ones – mosquitoes, and an even tinier and more voracious flying pest we knew only as the “no-see-um,” made a bug-buffet out of the smallest bit of skin left uncovered, and I’d invariably wake up looking like pin cushion.

Oddly enough, my sole window of respite came on Saturday nights when the younger kids were down for the evening and the teenagers & adults were either doing laundry or out on the town giving me a chance to sprawl on the couch and watch TV. This worked out kind of nice as it also give me a chance to see the aforementioned Avengers television series that I had lost interest in when it became clear no superheroes were included in the cast.

Equally confusing as the first Batman episode aired the previous January, the inaugural episode of the Avengers opened with a man fleeing across a giant chessboard neatly bulls-eyed in the back by a throwing knife, while a voiceover with an upper-class British accent announced:

“Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state have to be avenged by agents extraordinary.”

“Two such people are John Steed – top professional and his partner, Emma Peel – talented amateur”

“Otherwise known as The Avengers.”

Then the  camera cut to the two coolest-looking characters I’d ever seen in my thirteen years of life, specifically a fortyish man equipped & umbrella sipping champagne with a slim leather-clad brunette who moved like a cat1 The title card (THE AVENGERS) flashed then was followed by a flawlessly composed series of BW stills and the most totally bad-ass TV theme EVER!

The episode itself bore little resemblance to any other detective or spy show I’d seen and involved mechanical men attacking various characters with following episodes featuring similar fantastic story lines set against the background of a particular aspect of British life. I didn’t learn until decades later that this was a calculated move on the part of the producers – The Avengers was an existing show retooled to maximize sales to the United States by featuring stereotypical versions of English settings, characters, and life that appeal to “potato farmers from Idaho” as expressed in another British export years later3.

I wouldn’t have cared had I known at the time. I was just then beginning to understand that the British made up the bulk of my ancestors4 instead of just being people with odd accents playing the bad-guys every other week on The Wonderful World of Disney. I soaked up every nuance of British history and culture that The Avengers showcased each week while repeating the dialog to myself in hopes of acquiring the slight drawl and soft R’s of the British accent.

…and that theme music! I wouldn’t realize it until years later, but the music established the characters, their relationship, and the setting, every bit as much as the plot and dialog.

  • The music opens with brass fanfare that would easily fit into a military parade.
  • As the fanfare recedes a harpsichord starts a rhythmic repeating pattern, reflecting John Steed’s conservative Edwardian style.
  • At the third repetition of the harpsicord’s pattern, a string section joins in reflecting Emma Peel’s fluid manner and Carnaby Street style.

The harpsicord and strings smoothly blend, symbolizing how the two leads interact, while echoes of the brass introduction punch through occasionally at just the perfect moment, symbolizing the action that is interspersed just as stylishly in each episode.

…and just as I’d get totally caught up in the show it was over and time to shut the television off and head out to my fort and bedtime. But despite being located a hundred feet from the house it didn’t scare me so much anymore. With the “almost” midnight sun of June, July and August, the likelihood of critters sneaking around in the few small trees and underbrush around the house soon lost its terror for me, but it could have been lonely.

No one ever used the garden-hose intercom I’d so laboriously installed, nor did anyone even come out to the fort to inspect my sleeping arrangements, but I was OK. I’d just dust on a coat of OFF! Insect repellant, snuggle down in my blankets, and go to sleep to visions of bowler hats and jumpsuits while a harpsicord and a string section wove a musical backdrop as I was “avenging” with my friends in England instead of sleeping in a fort made of pallets and barrels in Sterling, Alaska.

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Notes

  1. That same summer I came across a year-old issue of PLAYBOY featuring Belgian lass Hedy Scott as the centerfold/Playmate. Given her uncanny resemblance to Diana Rigg. my friend Jesse and I nearly came to blows over whether or not Scott and Rigg were the same person.
  2. Unfortunately, it was a pattern that would repeat itself for the next thirty-seven years. Dad couldn’t resist the temptation to take advantage of me in every business or financial agreement we ever made.  
  3. As Time Goes By – an excellent BBC rom-com that aired 1992-2005.
  4. I am well over 75% British. Those maps that come with the results that testing firms send you with the colored dots showing the location and number of DNA matches? Mine are clustered in western England and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

2022: “…like a breath of fresh air!”

As the clock flashes 0230 in the inky blackness of my bedside table I hear a “whooshing” across the room and feel an unfamiliar pressure in my nostril. My thoughts are jumbled but then quickly coalesce into the following thoughts:

  • I’m Commander Kit Draper, deputy commander of Mars Gravity Probe Three.
  • I’ve found coal that I can burn to make oxygen.
  • Batman’s ghost should be showing up any time now.
See the source image

Then I roll over at which point I detect a plastic tube of some kind trailing down the back of my neck and over the edge of the bed. My nostrils itch, but as I absentmindedly scratch my nose I find a round plug, which could be the biggest booger ever or –


“Shai Hulud”
the oath explodes as I blink against the persistent darkness  “I’m wearing a Fremen still-suit !” and as I reach for my maula pistol  I instinctively shudder as I recall the memory of the size and voracity of the Arakeen sandworm.

…then I blink yet a third time into full consciousness and ruefully admit that I really do need to make better late night entertainment choices than Robinson Crusoe on Mars or DUNE. At the side of the bed I spot the oxygen therapy set-up my doctor has prescribed for me, the neat little compressor politely chugging out a symphony of what my grandson Jayden describes as “factory noises” as it dutifully works to keep my blood oxygen level at a more therapeutic level.

Like many other medical devices I initially thought of an oxygen tank as a white flag in my battle to beat the reaper. My older sister (and fellow spondylitis inflictee) won’t carry a portable unit as she feels it “shames her”, but to be honest, if I were her I’d feel much worse about how she “sweats out” our nephew Zac into hauling the heavier base unit from place to place in the house for her.

…but in the last two days I’ve made some interesting discoveries.

  1. First off – it’s not an oxygen tank, but rather an oxygen concentrator, so It’s not something I have to worry about running out of – as long as we have power…and given he innate misery of an un-air-conditioned Tennessee summer a reduced oxygen level is the least of my worries if we lose power for an extended period of time.
  • Secondly, I’ve learned first-hand the connection between anoxia and depression, albeit in a backwards sort of way. I’ve been living my life against a backdrop of sadness which I’d assumed was part and parcel of life with chronic pain…but within an hour of the first gulp of additional O2 my wife began eyeing me with suspicion and muttering things like, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband” and “Keep smiling like that and your lips will crack and fall off!”
  • …and thirdly – Mars Gravity Probe ONE was the site of all the phantasmal mischief brought on by COL Dan McReady (as portrayed by Adam West!)

Update on Oubliette

Between age and the -Rona I’ve been having real issues with basic mobility much less creativity. At best I’ve been able to revisit a rotating group of projects – concept designs, short stories, paintings, models, and cut-paperwork I’ve started in the pat but have been forced to shelve before completing them. Taking an idea all the way to completion is quite often a wish rather than a reality to I try to organize my work into a series of small victories and chipping away at old ideas is a good way to keep working.

….like this rendering.

Oubliette is a project that I have had in the works for more than twenty-five years. Set approximately three hundred years in the future, it is a first-contact story set against the background of a solar system that is a bit different than the one we have now, starting with the red dwarf star that occupies the space the planet Jupiter does in our times.

The aliens in question are the h’Nifeh, an  aquatic race living at a technological level equivalent but not identical to that of humanity, and instead of being slimy, fanged, skeletal-framed or pumping acidic blood in their veins they’re nice – in every aspect. They’re nice-looking and noble in nature and rather that looking like something left after an explosion in a auto shop their ship and equipment are as well designed and functional as those usually attributed to humans.

Pictured here is DuudLee, the father of the h’Nifeh family featured in the story along with his environmental suit. Scattered amongst older posts are additional concept designs if you’re interested in what I’ve worked up so far

1964: The Community Hall

(This post is a bit of a mystery. It wasn’t long after publication that I realized that my first book (The LIfe and Times of A Midnight Son: Growing up in 1960’s Alaska) needed to be a bit longer and this story was one of a dozen or more that I wrote in an effort to achieve that goal. As was the case with earlier writings those stories were published before being added to the book-manuscript…but I’m not sure if this one was included. In my extended post-COVID daze I was unable to find in among my WordPress files online and it wasn’t saved on any of my thumb drives or the two computers I used in maintaining this blog. It finally came down to digging up the archive copy and retype it word for word)

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“She’s a doll, she’s a queen, she’s a tantalizing teen.”

“And Karen is her name (they call her Karen).”

David”

“At a party she’s a stomper and a rock and roll romper.”

“Everybody’s glad she came.”

“…DAVID!”

“Hey that’s Karen!”

“DAVID RALPH DEITRICK!”

NBC had great hopes for its “umbrella sitcom” 90 Bristol Court, but of the three sub-series, Karen, was the only program to survive – and I was very glad. Why? Well, it could have been the mental escape it provided from the isolation brought about by the move from Anchorage to the Peninsula, but then again I was on the cusp of puberty, and quite smitten with the fetching Debbi Watson, star of the teen sitcom re-running in my imagination. How smitten? Smitten enough to miss the car stopping and becoming totally bewildered when my inner review of last night’s television feast was interrupted.

“Huh?”

Hiyako Jocko-san! We’re late!”

Dad motioned me across the gravel parking lot. It was our first regular Sunday, and unlike the post office, drug store, and local Air Force station, we hadn’t thoroughly checked out the church beforehand. The week before, a larger-than-usual congregation brought about by a missionary farewell took us to the Elk’s Hall, so I was looking forward to seeing the “real” chapel and comparing it to the one we’d just left in Anchorage…but at the moment I was confused because I could see no church. I looked around, but was met with only the lush greenery of 1964 Soldotna, and a rather dilapidated storage building made of grey, weather-beaten plywood. There was nothing to compare with the majestic 11th and E chapel that we’d been attending for the previous two years in Anchorage

…and then I realized with a shudder that the storage building was the church.

As rare as compliments were from Mom, she remarked very loudly at the reverent way her son was walking into church, but little did she know, it was shock rather than religious fervor prompting my reverent manner. “Church” was a single windowless room measuring forty by sixty feet, with a single door at each end, and walls covered with butcher paper. Environmental comfort was provided by what I suspected to be a Soviet heating unit left over from World War Two suspended from the ceiling in one corner. There were no bathrooms, and seating consisted of multiple pairs of old leather covered bus seats welded together, which meant that the first order of business on Sunday morning was moving the seats from the perimeter of the room where they had been placed for the teen dance the night before and lining them up into rows. In the process we would air the place out and sweep up the dirt and detritus left over from the previous evening1.

…not that the seats stayed put for very long. The dispersed geographical nature of our congregation meant that meetings usually held at separate times on Sunday were held back-to-back in order to save time and gas, so the seats were periodically rearranged like a great upholstered square dance changing from pew-like rows for the main worship service to separate clustered squares that would accommodate individual classes in Sunday School.

Life with attention-deficit disorder was already a losing proposition for a kid in the 1960s and attending church in this manner was particularly torturous with Sunday School class as the absolute low point. Four different instruction groups ranging from adults to toddlers were presented simultaneously in that one room, and I had difficulty paying attention, especially as I’d been held back to a church history course that I’d already completed in Anchorage the year before. I was also bemoaning the fact that there was a dead-ringer Debbie Watson look-alike in that class I had just missed2.

“She sets her hair with great precision,

It’s her favorite indoor sport,

And by the light of television,

She can even write a book report.”

So it was that I spent most Sundays leaning over with my head in my hands, fingertips surreptitiously stuck in my ears so I could alternately fantasize about Karen, or the Karen clone in the next class over – that is until the day we had Roberta Jackson for a substitute teacher for Sunday School.

The Jacksons were one of the cornerstone families in our congregation, a family with five sons that made every other young man feel totally inferior. To a man they were muscular, handsome, musically gifted, mechanically talented, and blessed with the coolest haircuts ever, that I was never able to duplicate no matter how much tie I spent in front of the mirror, or how many tubes of SCORE Clear blue gel I troweled on top of my head. I desperately wanted to hate all of them, but I couldn’t because they were just so damn NICE.

Given the family’s musical talents, it wasn’t a total surprise when Roberta brought a guitar case with her when she was asked on short notice to cover our class. At first she was a little hesitant talking to us, until she pulled out an electric guitar from the case and started to sing. I was loathe to halt my internal re-run, but if you’ve ever listened to someone picking an unplugged electric guitar, you’ll know it has a very delicate sound – and as Sister Jackson began to play, it was all too apparent that her sons had inherited their talent from her. Rather than sounding like a musical instrument, the notes were more like the ripple of a wind chime magically blending together in melody.

Fingertips popped out of my ears, and I leaned in as she began to sing.

“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.

I keep my eyes wide open all the time.

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

Because you are mine, I walk the line.”

For a moment I was confused – I knew that Johnny Cash had written and recorded the song a long time ago, and I couldn’t figure out why Sister Jackson was singing it in Sunday School, but then it hit me, and I had to fight the tears. Left to her own devices to teach a mob of unruly brats, Sister Jackson had reached to us in the way she best knew how to express love – through music. It was then that I also realized that she wasn’t singing about her husband, or an old boyfriend – she was singing to someone Higher, and in this context, walking the line entailed more than mortal affections.

…and in that moment the heater kicked into operation, simultaneously deafening and desiccating us all. Scant seconds after that explosion of sound a bell rang, prompting closing prayers, and before I knew it we were on our way home…but for the first time since leaving Anchorage I wasn’t scowling as we bounced and weaved along the thin concrete ribbon that was the Sterling Highway, running through the snags and stumps of a decades old forest fire. To be honest, our family’s church membership was more a matter of appearance than devotion, and I still hated the fact that we’d moved from Anchorage, but this particular Sunday had been different as Sister Jackson’s music, for the first time ever, prompted a spiritual feeling in my heart that was both unmistakable and indefinable. Was it a manifestation of Divine Power? It was a long time ago and I was only eleven, and as I try to conjure up memories of what I felt in my heart my mutant razor memory is for once a little hazy, but I do know that the experience was enough to start me pursuing matters of faith, not just for appearances, but for myself.

…and it was the last Sunday that I hummed a television series’ theme song to myself during the opening hymn.

Notes:

  1. Cigarette butts, soda cans, and an item of girls’ underwear during one memorable occasion…as well as other items you really don’t want to know about.
  • Her name was Kristi, and I was totally twitter-pated and unable to talk to her. I would daydream about her constantly though, and as a prepubescent eleven-year-old, those dreams revolved around a scenario in which I save her after she falls into the Kenai River only to be rewarded with a kiss of gratitude when she recovers consciousness.

“Karen” written by Jack Marshall, Bob Mosher, and performed by The Beach Boys.

1979: Look Before You Land

I really struggled when I got my medical grounding, but to be honest I was a much better platoon leader than I was an aviator. I was a B- pilot but my tour as a platoon leader/battalion staff officer snagged both Army Commendation (ARCOM) and Army Achievement (ARAM) medals for me…and I eventually “snagged” a second-hand SPH-4 helmet for Christmas last year.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

Another lesson from the “can’t tell a book from its cover” manual.

I was a flight student at Fort Rucker in the fall of 1979. The course of instruction was a little different then than it is now; each class wore a different colored hat (my class wore green) and our primary flight training was conducted in the TH55 – a small two-place helicopter manufactured by Hughes that was powered by a reciprocating engine and equipped with a manual throttle that you had to roll on and roll off as you changed power settings.  Taking to the air in the TH55 was not so much matter of sitting in an aircraft as it was strapping one to your back and then taking off.

Individual classes would fly either in the morning or the afternoon, taking off from a large central airfield and splitting up between various stage fields all over…

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1977: Three Rounds With the Reaper

From 2015. Most of the time I rerun posts about four years after first publication but as you can see it’s been almost twice that long for this one. Why? There’s so much going on that I’ve considered revising it into three separate posts but with my health issues and COVID I’ve been just spinning my wheels.

…and then I got the word about Bob – my former brother-in-law featured in the first of these vignettes. He’s moved on to the other side of the veil now so it only seems fitting to share an all-too-brief insight into his life.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

1977 was an interesting year. Jimmy Carter was sworn in as president, disco swept through the pop music industry like a vampire in a blood bank and Star Wars permanently warped reality for an entire generation of junior-high boys.  It was also the year I got married…and the year that I narrowly avoided getting killed several times. I don’t know if it was bad luck or the “bullet-proof” mentality that plagues young men in their mid-twenties but marriage and widowhood came close to synchronicity with Lori that year.

It wasn’t the first brush with eternity though –I’m an Alaskan boy and life is quick on the last frontier. Within ten years of graduation there were a half-dozen deaths out of my high school class of 150, which is not a big surprise considering how extensively Alaskans are involved with boats and airplanes.  Three of my own near-death episodes stand out…

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1970: The Great Escape

In military terms I am conducting “retrograde” operations with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an auto-immune disease similar to rheumatoid arthritis which is very painful and prone to periodic flares. This latest bout with the disease has kept from doing much of anything so I’m falling back on reruns again…and as the historic 4th Avenue Theater in downtown Anchorage is rumored to be scheduled for demolition this summer its only proper a cinema-related post should be this week’s offering

David R. Deitrick, Designer

1963

As much as I loved the sweeping epic motion pictures of the Fifties and Sixties I did not see “The Great Escape” when it first came out. Oh, I saw all the previews and was extremely interested in the subject matter but wasn’t able to actually see the movie because I was on the losing side of an ideological divide as vast as  Crown & Colonists or Union & Confederacy.

I was a Fourth Avenue theater kid and the “The Great Escape” was being shown at the Denali.

In those days before the Good Friday earthquake  there were just two movie theaters in Anchorage and they were located at the two ends of Fourth Avenue. Kids from the west side of town went to the Fourth Avenue theater while the kids from the east side went to the Denali….and never the twain did meet.

 1970

 “You’re…

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“…oops!’

I recently wrote a post about my family’s trip to Fairbanks (see 1967: Second City). In that post I referred to the Tom-Tom, a drive-in/kid hang-out just east of the downtown area, Since then I have been informed that while the alliteration was correct the content was not, and that the name of the place was actually the Tik-Tok drive in.

Sorry for any confusion.