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.. The Big Pool
.. First Sock Hop
.. Halloween
.. Bands and Snake Dances
.. JFK
.. Woodstock
.. Sufferin' Succotash
.. Memorial Day
.. It Can Bruin Your Whole Day
.. Accordion
.. Day In the Life (Part I)
.. Day In the Life (Part II)
.. Day In the Life (Part II)
.. On Becoming a Beaver (...shudder)
.. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
.. Streets of Dreams
.. A Christmas Card
.. An American Bomber in Paris
.. Another Day
.. Another Day II
.. Another Day III
.. Another Day IV


Alumni Sandstorm ~ 04/02/99
>>From:  Jeff Curtis ('69)

Re: The Big Pool
"The largest municipal swimming pool in Washington" in its
day, it looked like Lake Michigan to me the first morning of
swimming lessons. I thought that I liked to "swim" till I took
swimming lessons. The Columbia Basin can get hot in July.
Real hot. But for some reason it always felt like December
in the Yukon during those early morning lessons. Why did
they always make you walk through that ice shower on the
way in from the dressing rooms? The temperature, however,
seemed to have no effect on the instructors. They roamed
the edges of the pool and ruled this domain with an steely
discipline that seemed somehow alien to me. No that's not
quite accurate. I was the alien, completely out of my element.
Something about the smell of chlorine in the morning, smells
like...... well, it just smelled bad. You just knew that this
wasn't going to be fun. The instructors on the other hand
seemed to have actually been born and raised in the icy
waters and had only climbed ashore (with the help of the
gutter along the edge of the pool, I'm sure) to assist the
lowly land children in appreciating the fear and effort it
took to master their fluid realm. I'm sorry. I just didn't
have that kind of respect for the whole thing. My idea of
a quality pool experience had more to do with perfecting
my "can opener" for maximum splash and developing power
and accuracy in the two handed cup technique commonly
employed in the finer water fights. Those, of course, were
activities associated with the free-for-all in the afternoons.
Ahh, yes.... blast your younger brother with a few good
water hammers and then fill your sinuses with chemically
purified water doing cannon balls from the high dive. A
nice concrete lay-down in the scorching sun on a sopping
towel, back through the showers, change clothes (sometimes)
and then down the hill to Tastee Freeze for a dime dip cone.
I lived over by Cottonwood so I had a serious walk home. If
the tar oozing through the pavement on a hot afternoon
didn't get you, the goat heads probably would. But you
could always stop off at the Mayfair Market or Pennywise
Drug and get a Popsicle or an ice cream sandwich or
something. I remember that if you worked it out right you
could pretty much eat your way home. The Big Pool - hated
it in the morning and loved it in the afternoon, kind of a
schizo-aquatic experience that filled many hours of my youth.

-Jeff Curtis ('69)  
Alumni Sandstorm ~ 6/19/99
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69) 

Intimidated (and out-of-it) as I was in the 7th grade 
environment at Chief Jo, I just had to see what a 
"sock-hop" involved. It cost me a dime. The fact that 
this was the same price as a bag of popcorn in the 
school store was not lost on me. I hoped that I wasn't 
wasting perfectly good snack money for nothing. I 
entered the Warrior Gym with The Beatles' "I'm 
Down" blaring with jagged distortion on the sound 
system. But the whole gymnasium was alive with the 
kind of vibrant energy and excitement that only a 
room full of a couple of hundred teenagers can 
generate. Although there was a significant amount of 
"couples" dancing, there was also a throng of kids 
just dancing solo/together and an occasional line-dance 
like the stroll or something. I removed my shoes and 
worried about foot odor for the first time in my life. 
But - ah,  the gym was festive. It was electric. It was 
joyful. It was a happening like I had never seen before. 
It was also going to be a big problem getting up enough 
nerve to ask a real girl to dance with me. From 
kindergarten through the 6th grade, I had seen my 
relationship with girls pretty much like my relationship 
with my little brother. I never asked to have them (him) 
around but didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. But 
both provided an easily accessible shoulder to slug or a 
slow moving snowball target. And, of course, I was 
equally unpopular with both. Now I was faced with an 
unprecedented dilemma. Not only did I actually care 
about how I was perceived by the female population, but 
I also sensed their unlimited power to crush my self 
image with a simple rejection. Who the hell would ever 
consent to dance with me? I had a crew cut in a mop-top 
world. I was outfitted off the rack from JC Penny's 
not Dawson-Richards. And (and this is pretty significant), 
I had NEVER DANCED BEFORE! Why then, you may ask, 
would I want to put myself through the stress of possible 
rejection and the resulting personal humiliation to follow? 
Perhaps love hadn't had the chance to pummel my ego 
into submission in those early years. Or perhaps I needed 
to do this to establish my (minimally) emerging adolescence. 
I really can't say. Something pushed me to make a choice 
and go for it, so I did. 

I spotted the blissfully unaware Maryann Last sitting 
in the bleachers. She was so cute with red hair, blue 
eyes and a great smile - definitely out of my league. 
Hell, I really had no league at that point. But she met 
the most important criteria - no one else had snagged 
her yet. The hop was winding down and this would be 
one of the last opportunities to get "into the game". 
Time was running out! I approached her cautiously. 
She wasn't looking my direction when I approached 
so there  would be no reading her reaction to my 
impending presence. This probably worked in my 
favor. She never had the chance to work up a polite 
rejection and I never had to see her sweating to think 
one up. I had the age old advantage of surprise on my 
side. I walked boldly in front of her and stammered 
"W,Would you l,l,like to dance?" She turned her head 
and looked at me, smiled and said "Sure!". I was blown 

As we walked out onto the gym floor I realized (as I 
previously mentioned) that I was not an accomplished 
dancer. Other than a couple of lessons from older 
teen neighbor Marcy Rue, which never went that well 
anyway, I had never danced before. This was not a 
real good time to have this sudden awareness. But 
I really wasn't all that worried. Observing the dance 
floor earlier had confirmed the fact that pretty much 
any bodily contortions when strung together kind of 
matching the tempo of the tune were acceptable. 
Maybe not at "seizure" levels, but generally a pretty 
broad tolerance of style was evident. I could do this. 

Now, awkwardly facing each other in the middle of 
the gym we waited for the beat to kick in. Pat Barnes 
was doing the DJ duties and I saw him move the 
armature of the turntable onto the 45 he had selected. 
I was ready to boogie!! Crackle... crackle.... hiss.... pop.... 
She wore Bluuuuuuuuuuuuue Vel... vet....... 

OH!     MY!     GOD!    A slow song. I never thought of 
the possibility of a "slow" song. I was going to have to 
touch her. A girl. A real girl! Beads of sweat began 
forming on my forehead. There was no time to make 
any other arrangements. Maryann moved toward me, 
clasped both of her hands behind my neck and put her 
head on my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her 
waist and we began slowly rocking back and forth to 
the music. Feelings both physical and emotional stirred 
in me for the first time, feelings that would become 
more familiar in the coming years. But this was a first. 
As the song ended and we politely thanked each other 
for the dance, I strode out of the gym feeling 
completely victorious. I had met the challenge head-on 
and had come away unscathed. 

You know, you only get a few firsts in your life. And 
they only happen once. I wish that I could remember 
with such clarity more of these events that marked my 
life but I will have to be content with the few that 
have endured. However, one of them will always be 
Bobby Vinton crooning "Blue Velvet", the scene of the 
packed gym at Chief Jo, the excitement of happy 
anticipation emanating from the kids, and a young 
teen girl who took pity on a geeky 7th grader and 
created a fond memory for him. 

Thanks again for the dance, Maryann. 

-Jeff Curtis (69) 

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 10/23/99
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69) 

    Although Halloween is culturally a time of bloody 
spirits, the walking dead, disembodied heads (a few 
disenheaded bodies) and numerous other apparitions 
who's actual existence would make a Steeler linebacker 
wet his cup, all I can remember as a kid growing up in 
Richland was waiting with ironic anticipation for it 
to arrive. Not a unique point of view as I have 
observed with my own kids (and grandkids). 
    The nastiness of it all is its allure. It has its 
own colors - Orange and black. Endless tales of the 
supernatural you MUST believe because it would be 
sooooo cool if they were true (somewhere else of 
course, a long time ago and a long way away). 
Everyone's apparent willingness to embrace a form of 
canibalistic paganism that was never mentioned in one of 
Father Sweeny's Sunday sermons at Christ the King, 
created an environment with real potential for a sick 
and twisted holiday that any kid could really sink his 
teeth into? 
    Sink his teeth into. That's really the point isn't 
it? All of the rest of it is just window dressing. The 
main event, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, 
the overriding compulsion that dominated this last day 
in October was candy. Sweet candy. Lovely candy. 
Endless, FREE candy, Suckers, Sweet Tarts, little 
Snickers and Mars bars, Fruit Stripe gum, Big Hunks, 
Look bars, Paydays, jawbreakers, pixie sticks all 
forms of sweet stuff in lots of colors and shapes -all 
of it free if you just knocked on a stranger's door 
and said the magic words. You all know what they are. 
You said them over and over. The implied threat never 
realized because everybody gave us CANDY. 
    I wonder if Drs. Knox and Reiten appreciated how 
much they owed to the dental deterioration caused by 
the mixture of salivic acids, glucose, dextrose and 
fructose directly attributable to that one night of 
the year. Actually I'm sure they did. Greg Reiten (69) 
always chewed Trident. And what a perfect town. Willie 
Wonka should have such a town.  Seems like there were 
about 50 kids living on every block. All of the 
adults knew they were going to get slammed and had to 
stock up. And all the houses lined up like little 
soldiers shoulder to shoulder. No hills, no long 
winding driveways. I've seen trailer parks that were 
less accessible. 
    The first year that I remember hitting the 
streets, Dad badly underestimated the traffic. The 
poor guy was getting hit hard. He watched with growing 
concern as the bottom of the candy bowl by the front 
door became more and more visible. There was no way he 
was going to stretch the supply till the end of the 
evening. The thought of a frontal assault by hoards of 
3 foot, hypoglycemic, plastic masked demon-neighbor 
kids was weighing mightily on his mind. 
    Then I wandered in the door. My sorry five-year- 
old self with my first bag of loot. Dad saw his 
opportunity and he jumped at it. Yes, that's right. He 
dumped the contents of my Halloween bag into the candy 
bowl and began distributing it to the needy. 
    Now it was my turn to watch despondently as the 
bottom of the candy bowl once again began to shine 
through like a concave, inverse version of Mr. Sauer's 
    Life Lesson Learned: sometimes you can be a hero 
and still get screwed. My dad never came up short 
again. In ensuing years he piled it in like he was 
expecting the entire population of Beijing to come 
    I never came up short again either. I discovered 
that if I worked my way South down one side of 
Cottonwood to its end and then came back up the other 
side, I could just about fill a pillowcase and show up 
home after any threat to my holdings had passed. But 
that night I think I ended up with a roll of 
Lifesavers, two pennies and an apple. You know, I 
always hated the houses that gave you apples. You just 
don't want to be too practical on Halloween. 
Boo Bombers and Happy Halloween! 

-Jeff Curtis (69) 

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 1/27/00
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: Bands and Dances 

   Every Friday and Saturday in the late 60's 
there were teen dances somewhere in the TCs. I 
lived at them. If I wasn't actually playing at 
one (yes, I was in several bands myself) or 
helping whoever was playing with setting up 
equipment, I was in the throng checking out 
the scene. "Check out that amp"..... "What a 
cool guitar"..... "These guys suck". Ah yes, 
its all coming back. There were several 
regular hot spots for live teen bands not the 
least of which was the Richland Community 
House. Every Friday night for a buck you could 
go see a different live band, dance the night 
away and try to hook up with one of the 
opposite gender. For a single dollar. Now 
that's value. An organization of loosely 
associated teens with a couple of adult 
advisors called Richland Teen Action (RTA) did 
all the leg work for these events. The city 
provided the Community House free of charge 
but the bands and an unlucky off duty cop 
hired to provide security had to be paid from 
the proceeds. The dances were held in either 
the Rec Room at the South end of the building 
or the Ballroom at the North side. Eventually 
the city let us "decorate" the Ballroom. Big 
mistake. We painted the whole place flat black 
and did a bunch of day-glow "art" (and I use 
the term loosely) on the walls. I still 
remember a giant Yellow Submarine on the back 
wall that glowed without mercy under the glare 
of all of the black lights in the place (did I 
mention the black lights?) 
   There were what seemed like an 
inexhaustible supply of teen bands. The Battle 
of the Bands at the Col-Hi gym mentioned by 
others in the Sandstorm enticed over 50 bands 
from all over the state. I remember sitting in 
the bleachers for several hours while they all 
did two or three tunes. I think a national act 
called the Talismen played their new release 
called "Take a Walk" or something to start 
things off. But the real entertainment was 
provided by watching the incredible variety of 
groups present. It's still hard to believe 
that there were so many kids in bands then. 
Every kid that got a guitar from his folks for 
Christmas had a band. But there were several 
that persisted and now come to mind: The 
Pastels from Pasco were one of the first "big" 
TCs bands. They actually wrote and recorded 
their own material. I bought my first real 
guitar from their bass player Ron Jones who 
taught guitar at Harris-Morgan and was the 
drum major for the Pasco HS Band. The 
incredibly talented Frank Hames (RHS 69) 
played keyboards with them and they always 
provided a solid performance. Their signature 
trademark was that they each wore different 
pastel colored Beatle boots. It was cool at 
the time but I dare any of them to try that now. 
   Greg Reiten (RHS 69) had the first live 
rock band I ever saw. He volunteered his band, 
The Esquires, to play at our 8th grade party 
at Chief Jo. My only personal experience with 
live performance was a single appearance on 
Teen-Time (KEPR) playing a riveting rendition 
of "Little Brown Jug" on my accordion. 
Needless to say, my perception of performing 
at that stage of my life was that it basically 
buried any chance of being considered popular 
or even socially acceptable. So I couldn't 
imagine a worse fate than to play and sing in 
front of my 8th grade classmates. Yet Greg 
actually volunteered to get on stage and ruin 
his social life. Well, surprise surprise, he 
and his band tore it up in the commons between 
the wings behind the school that day and 
forever changed the way I thought about 
performing. You didn't HAVE to play "Lady of 
Spain" on a squeeze box and Myron Floren 
wasn't necessarily the only musical role 
model. John Beirlien played drums with Greg 
for many years and Greg ALWAYS had a band. 
After the Esquires he formed bands such as 
Flesh, The Parrots and Grandaff - which I 
think was a misspelled attempt at the name of 
the wizard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. 
   The Morning After was a perpetual also - 
ran during that period. Dave Nelson (68), Ron 
Brightman (68), Greg Oberg (68) and Mark 
Paulson (68) always gave it their best shot 
but never seemed to get the respect they 
sought. When big, big, big amplifiers were the 
rage. Those guys built their own speaker 
cabinets instead of shelling out the dough for 
real ones. They made 'em big. They made 'em 
black. But they only put one little speaker in 
each. From the dance floor you saw an 
impressive "wall of sound". But then they 
started playing and it actually sounded more 
like a "small screen door of sound". Oh well, 
their hearts were in the right place even if 
their wallets weren't. 
   But of all the bands before or since from 
the TCs, The Isle of Five had to be one of the 
very best. Again populated mostly by members 
of the RHS class of '68, they had amazing 
talent, ability, taste and top of the line 
equipment. Lynn Stanfield had one of the first 
Hammond B-3 organs in the area and with two 
Leslie tone cabinets miked through two 
powerful amps he could blast the windows out 
of the place when he hit that opening seventh 
chord in "Gimme Some Lovin'". They did a lot 
of Young Rascals material when that band was 
first hitting the charts and they could do all 
the vocals as well as the instrument parts 
perfectly. Robert Magula played drums and like 
his counterpart in the Rascals, Dino Dinelli, 
he sat real low and is still one of the most 
solid drummers I've ever seen. He put 
everything into a performance and was 
literally soaked in sweat when the night was 
over. He used to tear up cymbals like crazy 
too, cracking them around the edges and 
drilling holes at the end of each split to try 
and stop their progress. This was only 
marginally effective and he spent a lot of 
money on hardware. Tom Peashka had a crystal 
clear, perfect tenor voice, could sight read 
charts and played bass like no one else in 
town. He was also known to show up at gigs in 
costume. I remember once he dressed as a 
cowboy complete with chaps and cap guns and 
another time in a mini skirt with his hair 
teased. These guys were hot. I used to go over 
to Lynn Stanfield's house after school just to 
watch them practice. I heard Jimi Hendrix. 
Steppenwolf and Procol Harem for the first 
time over there. But there were lots more 
bands back then and you always had a place to 
go on the weekend to hear live music. Besides 
the Community House dances, the Richland 
Roller Rink had the "big" named bands. Paul 
Revere, Marilee Rush and the Turnabouts, The 
Bards, The Bumps, The Springfield Rifle (I 
still see their lead singer, Jeff Afden, 
jogging at Greenlake occasionally), The 
Wailers, the Sonics and many many more. Pop 
into Ernie's Rack & Que for a quick round of 
pool, head next door to the rink for the dance 
and then top the evening off with a toule of 
Zips and a Zips Special double cheeseburger 
and you had a great Saturday night. 
   In later years the teen dance venue seemed 
to dry up and most live music was only 
available at taverns and bars for the over 21 
crowd. But during the 60s there were lots of 
bands and lots of venues to fill your weekend 
evenings. The RTA dances, CYO (Christ the King 
and St. Pat's) dances. Richland Roller Rink, 
Kennewick Teen Center, High School mixers etc. 
with the likes of the Pastels, The Isle of 
Five, The Shee, Jerkwater, The Parrotts, Mind 
Museum, Dog Years (which we always sounded 
like Dog Ears to me), The Dirge and lots more 
provided some of the fondest memories of my 
teen years in the Tri Cities. 

Jeff Curtis (69) 

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 3/15/00 (revised 11/22/03)
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

It was the Fall of 1963, the waning days of September.
The leaves on the miles of sycamores that lined both
sides of Cottonwood Street were not falling yet but had
begun their annual flame-on. The days were still bright
and hot but the nights had that crisp, cool edge that
spelled the immanent change of seasons.

Bob Avant ('69) and I would reenact line-for-line scenes
from the best selling album by Vaughn Meader, "The First
Family". We were actually getting pretty good at some of
the voice impressions. We even tried out for the part of
the President in Chief Jo's production of "The Mouse
That Roared" using the New England accent that was so
famous. God, we must have seemed like idiots. The
Beatles wouldn't be wanting to hold anyone's hand on
Ed's "really big shoe..." for another five or six
months. Khrushchev and his minions were the bad guys.
Jack and Bobby were the good guys. No shades of gray, 
no mitigations. The global and national situations 
were very easy to get your arms around.

It was the immediate dynamics of my first month of
seventh grade that were unimaginably complex. I was at
the bottom of a pretty tall learning curve that I was
going to have to climb whether I liked it or not. Yes,
the local scene was much more of a concern for me than
anything Washington or Moscow could muster.

However, that particular week one thought dominated my
mind. He was coming.

The President. The same guy that had Nixon sweating like
a pig at a luau on the television debates. The guy that
stared down Khrushchev and sent him and his missiles
packing back to the Kremlin just the previous October.
He was going to stand up in front of us and speak, live
and in color, right there in the middle of the desert.
Wow. This was huge. That Wednesday, as usual, I went to
my Boy Scout Troop meeting in the basement of Christ the
King school. I wasn't in the best of moods that evening.
I was already way behind on a speech assignment for Mr.
St. John. I hadn't even gotten around to picking up any
3 X 5 cards at Densow's yet. Mom made liver and onions
for dinner I think and, you know, that pretty much sets
an ugly tone for the rest of the evening. Plus, before
the Troop meeting, Mike Crawley ('69RIP) had put me in a
full-nelson for about 10 minutes and I was sure that my
shoulders were lining up about two inches behind where
they should have been. Ed O'Claire, our Scoutmaster,
started the meeting and informed us that First Aid merit
badge classes were going to start the next week. Also,
we had a camp out scheduled in two weeks at our "if-you-
campground in the russian olive groves behind the Rose
Bowl. And lastly, our troop had been selected to provide
support services to the pending JFK visit.

My shoulders immediately popped into normal position.
What was that? Did he say we were going to do something
when Kennedy came? Mr. O'Claire continued that our troop
had been tapped to direct traffic in the parking lot for
the event. The parking lot? Not good. Although I was not
familiar with the layout of the site (or even where it
was for that matter) I was fairly certain that the
parking lot would be about as far away from the action
as you could get. Well, we could only park cars till the
thing got started because everyone should have gotten
there by then, right? At least that's what I was hoping.

If I had to traipse around in the hot sun for hours,
waving people right an left in a dusty parking lot and
then didn't get to see the President, well.... it was
going to fall in line with the way the rest of the month
was shaping up. And that just wouldn't do. When the day
arrived Mom and Dad and my brothers got into the sky-
blue '59 Ford station wagon and we headed off into the
sage. The parking lot WAS hot and dusty. I was stationed
at the far end of the lot and didn't even have a good
view of the crowd much less the speaker's platform. I
was in uniform and because of the weather was in the
"summer-shorts" version. I had severe doubts about the
amount of respect or impression of command that could
possibly be generated in the minds of approaching
motorists by the sight of a twelve year old boy in knee
socks and a neckerchief. Nonetheless, I dutifully
flagged folks left and right for a couple of hours until
the traffic subsided. I had no further instructions and
no one was around to tell me what to do at that point so
I wandered over and into the crowd.

 It was Aich-Oh-Tee: H O T! And I was a dusty mess.
People had taken their programs and folded them into
these funny looking, triangle shaped, pirate hats to get
some relief from the scalding sun. Jeez, there were a
whole lot of people with those paper hats on. I wondered
if how to make them was one of those common knowledge
things. You know, like paper airplanes or something? Or
did a few people know how and, everyone else thinking it
was a pretty good idea, just up and figured out how to
copy the process. Either way it still looked like some
kind of low budget Water Buffalo Lodge meeting. But in
all fairness, who was I, in my olive drab knee socks
with green-tasseled garters, to judge?

One of the local organizers spotted my uniformed self
and grabbed me by the arm. He told me to head up front
and help usher. Up front? OK, no problem.

Someone had constructed a seating area for the media and
local dignitaries right up by the speaker's platform.
There were several rows of chairs and a two-by-four
railing between them and the podium. I was positioned at
the head of one of the isles and walked folks to their
seats for the next twenty minutes or so. This was great.
I was actually in the front of a sea of over 30,000
(mostly paper-hatted) folks in the crowd. I was going
to get to see everything.

There was a distant humming, that became a louder
whirring, that turned eventually into a whoop-whooping
roar as the President's helicopter came in from Moses
Lake. The wash from the rotors blew the hell out of

Dust, tumbleweeds and paper pirate hats were flying

There were a couple of large flags on the stage and the
American flag, old Stars and Stripes went down with a
crack. The wooden flagpole had snapped in two on impact.
Nowadays, this would have been associated with some 
kind of poetic irony. But in the Rob-and-Laura-Petre
innocence of the early '60s, this was just an unfortunate
turn of events that required action. Det Wegener ('65), 
with whom I would be a fellow Explorer Scout in a
few years, was actually on the stage and immediately
picked up the flag and the broken pole. He put them back
together, set the flag upright in it's original spot and
proceeded to hold the pieces in place with both hands
for the rest of the proceedings.

I'll never forget how great an accomplishment I thought
that was. He had to have been very hot and very tired
but he never let go of the standard. The potentially
embarrassing problem became a non-incident due to his
diligence. There are probably a few folks still around
that were in the front of it all that day. And a few of
them might remember the flag blowing over. But I'll bet
only a handful remember how that flag got upright and
stayed that way.

Sometimes the good stuff is really good stuff because
its so transparent with no special recognition required.
Det saw a problem and acted to correct it quickly and
quietly. Nice job.

John F. Kennedy stepped out of the helicopter ducking
below the rotors with his hand over his head like I had
seen virtually everyone on the TV show "Whirlybirds" do
several times an episode. Man, did this guy look action
packed. He was introduced to the roaring approval of
around 30,000 onlookers. Some with the paper pirate hats
still on their heads.

 I don't remember a thing he said. I really didn't even
know why he was there till years later reading about it.
That wasn't the point anyway. This was like a rock
concert or something. And I had front row seats. He went
on for a while and finally wrapped it all up. Cool. I
had seen him from about 30 feet away, much closer than I
ever had thought I would get.

But wait! He was coming down to the front of the
railing! He was starting on the right side and working
his way left, shaking the hands of the front row group.
I managed to turn sideways-left and squeeze in between
to rather rotund men. As the President went by I could
hardly see him through the guys in front of me. I stuck
my left hand out and I watched as he came into view.

As it wagged hopefully between the two large tummies of
the men in front of me, the president somehow grabbed
and then shook my skinny little protruding left hand
with his right. He kind of shook the back of my hand
which I quickly retrieved...for posterity.

JFK now having passed us by and gone further down the
line, the two burley boys on either side of me pealed
away. I was kind of dazed. I had really managed to shake
his hand. Wow! Then I noticed that as he reached the far
end of the railing, the President started working his
way back. He was making another pass! This time there
were no obstructions. I was going to get a full-on, up
front handshake.

I really wanted to have something clever to say to him.
I couldn't let this kind of opportunity pass without
trying to engage him in some kind of witty banter. I 
was not particularly known for bantering wittily with
national leaders but you have to start somewhere, right?
And the President of the United States would be a pretty
good place to start, in my mind anyway. I remembered
listening to the radio in the car while on the ride out
there that day and heard a news report about some nut
(or maybe a student driver) that had rammed his pickup
truck into the front gates of the White House.

While absorbing that bit of disturbing information I
thought about what it must be like to find out about
stuff like that happening to your house on the news
while your traveling around giving speeches and such. 
I couldn't imagine. But it gave me an idea.

When he approached and was standing right in front of me
I put out my (appropriate right) hand as I boldly looked
directly into...uh...his right ear. He was talking to
some lady to his left and had his head turned. But then
he turned and looked right at me with those powerful
eyes, eyes in which I thought I could see a touch of
sadness and a touch of mirth, and firmly took my hand.

"Uhhhh.... Mr. President" I clearly heard myself saying
in a kind of out-of-body-experience kind of way, "I
heard somebody tried to park their truck in your living
room....", my attempted cleverness sounding much
flatter than intended. He paused and looked at me for a
moment. All he replied was "Yeah" but his eyes twinkled
and he smiled. Then he moved on. I stood there pretty
much out of it for a while staring at my hand. The
President wrapped up all the glad-handing, his
helicopter wound back up and moments later he was gone
from the desert. Eight weeks later he was gone from the
Earth. I was in Carl Schleer's homeroom class that
November day when the horrible news came over the PA
system. The school officials didn't let us go home but
they didn't expect us to do much of anything the rest of
the day either. I remember a lot of crying. I remember a
lot of anger and uncertainty. I really did not know true
sadness till then and I still think that a lot of us
were too young to have had to get that kind of a dose.

 It would be a lot better if you had the time to ease
into the knowledge that downs can follow ups and
sometimes in direct proportion to each other, sometimes
not. We really got thrown into the deep end of the pool
on that one though. The ensuing weekend that November
was terrible. We watched Jackie Kennedy step off of 
Air Force One back in Washington DC still wearing the
bloodied clothes she had been wearing in the tragic
motorcade earlier that day. We watched a guy get
murdered on TV. We watched the horses pull the coffin
down the street to incessant drum rolls. We heard the
bugler hit a clinker when he played Taps at Arlington
and I think we all died a little bit seeing Jackie and
Caroline watch John John's innocent but brave salute as
his father's procession passed by.

The holidays that year were the most somber I hope I
ever have to endure. Time could not pass too quickly. 
My parents never played Vaughn Meader's album again and 
Bob Avant and I started memorizing Bill Cosby's "Why Is
There Air" instead.

Eventually I washed my hand.

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 4/13/00 
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

To Kathy Wheat Fife (79)

RE: Your inquiry as to the purpose of Woodstock -

   The fifties was an era still basking in the post
war glow of victory that so many of that generation
sacrificed their most productive years to secure.
They rightfully felt that America now owed them the
chance to fulfill the promise of a normal life with
homes, marriages, children and good jobs free from
the deprivations of the Great Depression or the
necessary disciplines of a nation at war. This
generation proved more than adept in this pursuit
and the "Baby Boom" was one of the more significant
resultant ripples. However, the trust in an
institutionally dependent system and in particular,
a military oriented approach to all things
authoritative prevailed. The sense of familiarity
and security generated by these proven approaches
were accepted by most as the necessary bedrock of an
orderly society. As their children (and there were a
whole lot of us) matured, some of the weaknesses and
hypocrisies inherent in this blind adherence to
convention became apparent to the younger generation.
This perspective coupled with the natural tendency
of adolescents to distance themselves from parental
authority, a huge step in proclaiming self
sufficiency and its associated autonomy, led to a
reevaluation by the Boomers of all that they had
taken as gospel for many years.
   Cast in this light, traditionally accepted values
of morality and propriety became suspect. There was
no apparent credibility to these norms and the
Boomers could find no justification for their
acceptance on faith in the system alone.
   One..... two..... ah one.. two.. three.. four...
Now, I don't mean to get too heavy here. While all
of the above is applicable, the desire to "party"
was probably the catalyst that moved my whole
generation off the dime, so to speak. It is very
convenient, when one wants to have a good deal of
fun in a somewhat repressive environment, to cast
stones at the source of the repression. And we found
that we could cast stones with the best of them.
   The element that seemed to bind us into a
cohesive unit was the music. The fact that our
parents' generation, for the most part, would rather
walk through a field of goatheads barefoot than
listen to anything sung by Mick Jagger only further
solidified our position on this matter. The success
and influence of recording artists who were about
our age tended to enhance the music's importance to
us. They were on our team, playing with the big boys
in the real world and were winning. Every time a
parent asked us to "turn that damn noise down" or
forced us to watch "The Lawrence Welk Show, brought
to you by Geritol..." or flipped the circuit breaker
to the garage power while your band was practicing,
we grew closer as a generation determined to change
not only the prevailing value set but the way that
those values were derived. The music gave us the
first indication that we actually would have the
power to control our own destinies as well as have a
significant impact on all of society and as a result
became for many of us, the sound track of our
emerging lives.
   The purpose of Woodstock? I'm not sure that the
question applies. As you are probably aware,
Woodstock pretty much just happened. Trying to
assign a purpose to it implies some kind of
preconceived plan. While there were a group of young
adults who coordinated the initial strategy, it was
originally just to turn a profit by hosting rock
concert for about 20-30 thousand people. When half a
million kids showed up, any resemblance to an
organized venture went out the window. Once again,
the primary motivation for those in attendance was
simply to have a great bigass party with their
friends and to make a few more while listening to
the hottest music acts, at that time, in the world.
Now, once everybody got there, something quite
amazing happened. It has been said that if a group
of half a million good-ol'-boys got together with
their Jim Beam and Redman, a good portion of them
would have been dead or wounded the first night. The
mantra of "Peace and Love", perpetually on the lips
of my generation and that graced many a bumper
sticker and black light poster in the 60s, found a
home in New York that weekend. What by all rights
should have been a disaster of nearly biblical
proportions instead became a practical demonstration
of the power that the universal acceptance of an
agreed upon concept can hold. In much the same way
that the result of our parents' collective belief in
the traditional authority structure created a
successful societal model that more or less worked,
the prevailing, almost religious adherence to the
principals of unity, understanding and tolerance
that was evident at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair
in August of 1969 literally saved the day and
created a legend that, as you and your son can
attest, endures to this day. So, in the end, I'd
have to say that there is more of a lesson than a
purpose associated with the Woodstock phenomenon.
You can approach any situation without relying on
the prevailing paradigm. And that even a huge group,
possibly an entire generation, can buy into an out-
of-the-box perspective that not only works but may
be more effective in many ways than preceding
approaches or philosophies. It is pretty much
accepted that there is more than one way to skin a
cat. But the traditional rationale maintained that
no matter what methodology you chose to employ, you
still end up with a skinless feline. If there is a
lesson to be taken from Woodstock I think it would
have to be that for the first time in modern
history, based on a realization that there may be
another viable way and on a desire to reevaluate how
we looked at the world with a freedom to choose our
own values and directions, a generation finally
asked why we had to skin the damn cat in the first
   I've heard it stated the 60s was a time when an
entire generation refused to grow up. I prefer to
think of it more as a time when an entire generation
decided to choose when and how that crossing would
occur. That weekend on Max Yasger's Farm in upstate
New York, may someday be seen as our coming out

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 4/26/00
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: Sufferin' Succotash

"Mom, I'm done eating, can I go out and play now?"
"No dessert till you finish all your vegetables"
"I don't want dessert Mom, just to go out and play."
"Finish your succotash."
"But Mom.."
"I said finish your succotash."

   During the 50s in Richland, the working Dad and
stay-at-home Mom model was the apparent norm. I
remember friends whose Moms worked and how odd that
seemed at the time. Those homes were the ones at which
to hang out after school, however. Moms had a lot of
stuff to accomplish during the day particularly since
the average household was populated with multiple
children. But I'm sure that once Dad was off to work
and the kids were off to school, Moms found time for
some leisure. Well, after the laundry, shopping,
housecleaning etc. was taken care of anyway. Bridge
clubs, soap operas, chatting with the neighbors,
gardening and a host of other activities provided a
form of recreation to the mothers of the 1950s. My
Mom, above all else, preferred entering contests. Not
the "sweepstakes" form of contests which she
disdained. She preferred those that allowed her more
control of the outcome. She was fond of any form of
competition that rewarded the creative endeavor.
Therefore, if the contest format was "Tell us what you
like about Metrical in 25 words or less..." Mom was
all over it. And, to this end, she was fairly
successful. We had a plethora of clock radios, TV tray
sets, lawn furniture and table ware, the fruits of her
victories. She won all three of us boys bicycles at
one time or another. She helped me win a trip to the
Flying Horseshoe dude ranch in Cle Elum when I was
nine. I had my own horse for a week there, but that's
another tale. And the succotash? Yes, I do try to keep
a bit of continuity in these stories. She entered a
jingle contest sponsored by Bird's Eye Frozen Foods
Corp. and won a year's supply of frozen vegetables.
Now, while this initially seemed like a pretty cool
thing to have won, in the "free food" category anyway,
a couple of issues soon surfaced. The first being that
we did not have the storage capabilities for several
hundred pounds of iced vegetables. Mom and Dad rented
a walk-in refrigerator and would have to make a
pilgrimage to stock up on a regular basis. This was
not one of Dad's favorite activities especially when
Mom wanted to go veggie gathering during Friday Night
at the Fights with Rocky Marciano, which WAS one of
Dad's favorite activities. The other problem had to do
with succotash. See, I told you that I'd tie this all
together. When you buy a side of beef you certainly
get a lot of round, sirloin, t-bone and other
desirable cuts of meat, but you also get (mostly get)
a huge pile of ground beef. As it turns out, when you
win a year's supply of frozen vegetables, you get a
lot of peas, carrots, and beans which while they don't
quite stack up with a good porterhouse, are certainly
respectable vegetables. But we also got (mostly got) a
huge pile of succotash. Now I'm not sure why. Maybe
they had a real good year for little lima beans and
corn. Maybe the name dissuaded folks from buying it in
the first place and they had a large backlog needing
disposal. After all, the term "succotash" sounds to me
more like food coming up than going down. For whatever
reason a goodly percentage of our winnings was
comprised of little green lima beans mixed with
kernels of yellow corn. I doubt that I could have
retained a favorable attitude toward this menu item
even if lightly distributed throughout the ensuing
year but it seemed like it was never ending. The
bottomless well of succotash. Long after all other
forms of frozen veggies had played out, there was
still a ton of the now freezer burned stuff. We begged
Mom to buy something else - preferably not frozen. But
the desire to make the most of her winnings and the
fact that even frozen food doesn't last forever,
weighed in against us and in the end we couldn't even
get the dog to eat it. I still won't eat the stuff.
   Meanwhile, the Brownie Cookie Company sponsored a
slogan contest and Mom began focusing her (our)
efforts on it. She worked up a catchy jingle (which I
submitted) and she went into the wait-and-see mode
which usually followed her submissions. I, on the
other hand, went about my normal day-to-day activities
which at the time consisted mostly of donning the salt
and peppers and heading off to Christ the King School
for a brutal day of first grade at the nun-run
Theocracy. For some reason, Sister Margaret Catherine
had taken an immediate dislike to me. At least that
was my perception at the time. Looking back it now
seems like she took an immediate dislike to children
in general, which may have been a prerequisite for the
position as posted, I don't know. Anyway, I had
escaped her wrath on this particular day and was
outside during morning recess performing the duties of
outside doorman for the girls bathroom, politely
opening the heavy steel door as necessary for young
women needing relief. This was a kind of "self -
ordained" position and was drawing the evil-eye from
an ever wary Sister MC. I really can't say why I was
occupying myself with this endeavor. Perhaps it was
because the other recess options were not that
appealing either. The upper, asphalt playground was
packed with kids already and the lower playground, was
at the time, composed of dirt, rocks and tack weed.
Whenever the terrain of the Holy Land was discussed in
class, I always thought of the lower playground and
its sheer desolation. And I wasn't far off. At any
rate, there was no activity happening down there that
would justify scraping goat heads off the bottom of my
dusty shoes when recess was over and God help you if
you actually tripped and rolled into the thorns. It
was about then that I noticed my Dad was not only
present on the upper playground but was engaged in
conversation with the Black Plague. I could see them
both looking at me and noticed that my Dad had
obviously seen what I was up to and had a mild look of
concern on his face. He probably had bigger hopes for
my future. He disengaged from Her Horrific-ness and
walked over to me.
"Hi Jeff, whattheheckareyoudoing?"
"Good, good." He seemed relieved by my lack of
dedication to the doorman thing.
"What's going on Dad?" I said, sure that the Bad Habit
had torpedoed me or something.
"Well, you remember that cookie contest you and your Mom
entered? Well, you won."
"I did? What!? I mean - what did I win?" I said with
both optimism at the prospect of getting something
cool and a bit of suspicion due to the lingering taste
of the succotash.
"Well," said Dad, "For one thing you're going to be on TV!"
Erp! Something seemed to coil in my tummy.
"You get to be in a cookie eating contest! On TV!"
Errrrp, urrrrgh! This time my stomach seemed to
physically flip over.
And things with my digestive tract went downhill from
there. The show that I was to be on was an afternoon
kids program at KEPR and was called Cowboy Bob's KEPR
Corral or something like that. I really can't remember
the name of the show but you know the drill. It was
the TC's version of Yakima's Uncle Jimmy's Clubhouse
(which was BIG time showbiz). I suppose it competed
with K-K-K-Kenny from K-K-K-Korten's - Here to bring
you comic-c-cal cartoons. Of course K-K-K-Kenny gave
away nose whistles he called "humanitones" which were
cool for about 20 minutes which got us down to
Korten's to get them and that was the idea I'm sure.
But the show I was to be on featured a crude ranch set
with two guys, the Cowboy Bob host guy and his trusty
sidekick, a grizzled, bearded prospector character.
The premise, at least the part of the show that had me
watching, was that when it was time for the cartoons,
Cowboy Bob would call on his pardner to serve up the
kids a passel of 'toons and the prospector guy would
take his corn liquor bottle off his shoulder, point it
toward the camera and zoom in. The cartoons would
magically appear from the resulting blackness as if
they were actually contained within the jug. Ahhh,
another Farmer Alfalfa episode. While I pretty much
liked the show, I really had never considered being on
it. Until my Dad showed up at the playground and my
stomach started its gymnastic lesson that is. I
remember heading home from school that day feeling
sick. I remember taking a bath to get ready, feeling
sicker. I remember getting in the car and driving to
the station feeling sicker yet. The set looked
completely different than the picture I had of it in
my six year old imagination. Wires and cameras and
people were everywhere. The familiar part, the ranch
setting was actually quite small. There were about
five or six other kids there as it was a "contest"
after all which indicated the necessity of
"contestants". Errrrp! The grand prize was a 14" black
and white portable television set. Now how wonderful
would that be? My own TV. In my own room. No more
Lawrence Welk. No more Loretta Young Theatre. Just
Superman, Rin Tin Tin, Circus Boy and Ruff and Ready.
Errrrrp, Urrrrrrgh! Gonna have some trouble here
   Lights! Cameras! Action! The show hit the air and
Cowboy Bob introduced all of us and explained our
presence. If he didn't introduce me as the "Little
Green Kid over there..." he should have. I was not
doing well at all. We were all situated around a
table, in front of each of us, a paper plate full of
the multiple varieties of the Brownie Cookie Company's
products were piled high. I looked around and it
seemed as though everyone else was having just a grand
time. You know, the "Oh boy, all the cookies I can
eat!" attitude that I fully resented not being able to
share. When we were given the green light to "GO!" I
watched in peptic horror as my comrades began
destroying cookies with the fervor similar to that
generated by a battalion of army ants in a stockyard.
Hands, cookies and crumbs were flying, mouths were
filled to bursting, cheeks bulging, Adam's apples
bobbing. And my biggest concern was no longer any
thought of winning this disgusting display but rather
how to keep from blowing lunch all over the table on
live TV. Well, it WOULD slow them down wouldn't it? In
the end dozens and dozens of cookies were consumed
before the "STOP!" command was given, of which I
managed to get about half way through one, yes just
one cookie. Cowboy Bob managed some attempt at humor
with a comment about the general swine-like carnage
that took place and about the "polite kid with the
manners at the end of the table". So, okay I didn't
get the TV set. I also had to endure a week of razzing
by my friends, all of whom were watching of course.
The kid that won the TV was simply beaming in a
sandwich cookie induced rapture. Now THAT put me right
to the edge of the barf envelope. But no one was to
walk away empty handed. I was going to get SOMETHING
for my miserable efforts. And I did. They wheeled out
these huge boxes to all of us "losers". They each
contained, you guessed it, a year's supply of Brownie
Errrrrp! Sufferin' Succotash!

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 5/29/00
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: On Memorial Day

I traveled to the wall today
To find my buddy's name
They etched it here with many more
His only claim to fame

He could have gone to college
To make a better life
He could have gotten married
And had children, home and wife

He chose instead to go to war
He heard the duty call
I went with him, my life long friend
We're buddies after all

We walked that road together
And it was pretty rough
Our training was severe and yet
It helped to make us tough

When I'd go down he'd pick me up
He'd never let me fall
And I would try to help him too
We're buddies after all

We shipped out to points East
Together we would try
To stop the killing of the weak
And know the reason why

And in the steaming jungle
With things that bite and crawl
We'd watch each other's backs because
We're buddies after all

But then one day it all blew up
The flame and smoke did fly
Bullets whizzing past our heads
One got me in the thigh

I couldn't move a muscle
Behind an old deadfall
He wouldn't leave me bleeding there
We're buddies after all

He should have kept his head down
He should have crawled away
I'm sure you know the reason
He decided there to stay

He locked a clip into his gun
And gave me a wink first
Then raised his head and M-16
And squeezed a three round burst

The medics could then get to me
Shielded by his cover fire
They got me out and saved my leg
It was his finest hour

But a sniper saw him raise and aim
And got him in his sights
One round missed but one was true
And put out my partner's lights

So I lived to see this place
And I'll pause here for a while
The memorial that spans the ground
Like a black and twisted smile

I found that looking long and hard
Upon that shiny wall
Covered with the names of whom
For duty gave their all

That the answer as to why they died
Is immortalized there too
For reflected back from the gleaming black
You're staring right at you

So I went off to college
To make a better life
I eventually got married
And had children, home and wife

He chose instead to go to war
He heard the duty call
I owe you much, my life long friend
We're buddies after all

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 6/18/00
>>From:  Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: It Can Bruin Your Whole Day...

   Well, are you guys ready for a long one? How about
a tale that took place after I left the hallowed
halls of Mac and headed out into the world beyond the
A-City? If you're in a hurry pass this by. If not,
grab a cup of coffee and let me tell you a story:

After graduation from RHS in 69, having had a brief,
unsavory taste of the economic opportunities in the
local vineyards and cherry orchards, I began looking
for other means of generating income for the summer.
I saw and ad in a magazine and applied for a position
with the Yellowstone Park Company as a fishing guide
on Lake Yellowstone in Wyoming. Now, I had absolutely
no qualifications or background to justify my
employment at this position except for the occasional
channel cat hooked on the banks of the Yakima near
Rick Reils' family "Rancho" in West Richland. I did
not envision that I would be dangling hook and bobber
for a lot of catfish high in the Rockies. None the
less, perhaps the result of an oversight in their HR
department, I was hired. I boarded the train in Pasco
and sat in the "Vista Dome" (remember, "It's really
terrific, Northern Pacific. Vista Dome North Coast
Limited....?") all through Idaho and Western Montana
and ended up debarking in Livingston, Montana. The
Park Company then provided transportation to Lake
Hotel, Yellowstone Lake where, as it turned out, I
would make my residence for the next two summers.
Yellowstone Lake has a shoreline of about 120 miles
and is located at just about 8000 feet above sea
level. It's huge. That's about the same altitude as
the (current) top of Mt. St. Helens. We were warned as
new employees that we may experience light-headedness
for up to two weeks until we became accustomed to the
thinner air and many employees did have a woozy first
few days in the park. After that we just had to blame
it on all of the drinking. The fishing guide part, as
it turned out, was a relatively simple affair. The
lake had a large population of native Cutthroat trout
that would bite on just about anything. The National
Park Service would regularly take temperature
readings at various locations on the lake and it was
not uncommon for fish to hit their thermometers as
they were pulling them back into the boat. I could
catch fish with beer tabs (remember them?) if I
wanted to. Among my duties on the boat dock was to
pilot one of the scenic cruise guided tour boats out
of the marina and around one of the nearby islands on
the lake, chatting about the local topography and
landmarks for about an hour's round trip. The cruise
boats were manufactured by a company in Missoula
called Inland Laker and were basically 35 foot
covered barges with seating for about 40. I still
remember, through many, many repetitions, a good
chunk of my spiel, "Good afternoon ladies and
gentleman. Welcome aboard the scenic cruiser
Absaroka. My name is Jeff Curtis. I'm from Richland
Washington and I'll be your skipper on this tour."
"Absaroka is Sioux for crow or raven. If you'll look
off to your left you will see the Lake Hotel. Started
in 1906 and completed in 1916, with some of its
timbers being hauled in by dogsled, the Lake Hotel is
the second largest all wooden structure in the United
States, the largest being the Grand Hotel located on
Mackinaw Island in Lake Michigan." "The average depth
of the lake......" I would go on for an hour striving
not to let my voice drop into droning monotone. What
a great job for a young guy. Mountains, fishing and a
female to male employee ratio of 7:1. It didn't pay a
lot but who cared? They fed and housed me and I
earned at least as much as I had as a very, very bad
cherry picker. I met and lived with college kids from
all over the country whom, without exception, I have
never seen again. That was something that I never
experienced growing up in Richland. Everyone was
pretty much always there. I don't know if you
noticed, but things got a lot less static as we got

We got one day off a week and on the particular day
off of this tale, two of my friends and I decided to
hike into the back country and do some REAL fishin'.
Not that "drag the spinner behind the boat" crap that
we indulged the tourists with. No sir. We were going
into the deep woods to an isolated mountain lake
untainted by East coast dudes who would frequently
inquire "When do they take the animals away for the
Winter?" or "How do they keep the bears in if there
isn't a fence around the park?" (no I'm not kidding -
every year, same questions, different idiots). I was
accompanied by two fellow "boat dockers", as all of us
who worked at the marina were known, (somewhat
notoriously), Murray from Minot, North Dakota and
Graham from Greenville, North Carolina. Murray had
worked in the Park for a couple of years and had
learned some tricks along the way. He showed me how
to catch trout with his bare hands. Seriously! In the
late spring when the trout were still heading up the
little rivulets that fed the lake, Murray would lay
on the edge of the stream, cup his hand just under
the overhang of the bank and wait. The trout would
feel the warmth of his palm and hover for a moment
just above it. Murray could feel the slight change in
the water flow caused by the unwary fish and with one
smooth, quick movement would flip his hand up and out
flinging the fish onto the ground. It was amazing.
Then he'd stomp a hole in a nearby snow bank, put
whatever fish he wasn't going to eat right away into
it and cover them with snow. Snow bank? Yeah, the lake
is at such an elevation that it stays frozen till
about mid-May. I experienced a raging snowstorm there
on July 4th 1969. I sincerely doubt that there was
any white stuff on the ground for the fireworks that
night in Richland. It was interesting, not
necessarily pleasant, but interesting. At any rate
Murray, Graham and I had high ambitions and all day
to realize them. We drove to Canyon Village, another
major Yellowstone destination. Big canyon, big
waterfall, lots of tourists. We found the trail head
we were after and headed into the wilderness. We had
been hiking and BS-ing for about two or three hours
when we walked out of the woods and into an open
meadow. There are few things as inspiring as a high
mountain meadow in full bloom on a sunny afternoon.
The field was about 500 yards across and a light
breeze had the grasses swaying like waves on the
ocean. Murray and I were engrossed in conversation
but Graham noticed a rather large, brownish ocean
wave on the other side of the meadow that wasn't
swaying very much. In fact it wasn't swaying at all.
Actually, the swaying grasses were washing up against
it like a big brown rock.

Graham said, "Hold it. What's that?"

We stopped and looked at him.
"What's what?" said Murray

"That big brown pile over there."

Now, as a rule, unusual big brown piles encountered
while minding your own business in the forest are not
good things.

"It looks like it could be a bear." said Murray.

The accuracy of this observation and it's seeming
compliance with the aforementioned rule, were about
to become a bit distressing. For at that moment, from
just on the other side of the big brown pile, another
somewhat smaller brown pile rose like a full moon,
turned about 180 degrees and stared at us with black-
button eyes. All three of us knew right away that
Murray was wrong. It wasn't a bear. It was a B  E  A R!
A grizzly and it was huge! It was the south end of a
north bound bruin. We looked at each other and then
back at the bear. Oh great. It had now turned
completely around and was facing us.

"What do we do?" asked Graham getting right to the

"The rangers say not to move, they can't see very
well but movement excites them." Said I, feeling the
need to contribute.

"How about the fact that we're up wind from it?" said
Graham his voice starting to raise up an octave.

"Oh," said Murray, "They can smell reeeeeal good."

I looked at Murray trying not to see him as bear
food. But if so, I was hoping he looked tastier that
I did. I was very skinny back in those days. We both
looked over at Graham. Graham was no longer there.
Graham was running like hell for the trees, his
fishing pole still in the air having thrown it as he
took off. We both looked back at the bear. The bear
was no longer there either. The bear was running like
an Arabian stallion right at us. All bears, despite
their ungainly appearance, can attain the speed of a
quarter horse for short distances, which was just
about how far away he was from us.  Now our fishing
poles were in the air as well and we were no longer
under them.

Park rangers are funny people. At least they think
they are. They have little folksy ways of imparting
woods lore to the uninitiated and seem to have a
grand time doing it. For example, and this came to
mind in the meadow that afternoon, they would ask,
"How can you tell a grizzly from a brown bear?" And
the rollicking answer, "If it follows you up the
tree, it's not a grizzly." This, however, is true to
a point. Grizzlies are too big to climb. They have
developed a rather nasty coping mechanism however. If
the tree is large, they can get a running start and
scramble a good way up it. If the tree is too small
they have been known to knock it down or knock you
out of it by sheer brute strength and weight or
sometimes even chew it till it falls over. I was not
in a particularly receptive state of mind to be picky
about the tree I was going to climb. Quite honestly,
I always had big trouble climbing that damn rope in
gym class. Rex Davis was very patient with me and
eventually, with a good deal of agony and coaching, I
reached the knot at the top. Of course I locked up at
that point and couldn't get back down, but I touched
the knot! Select the proper tree? Hell, what
difference would it make if I couldn't get up it?
Brunch time in Bearville. I can't faithfully describe
what it feels like to be chased in the open by
hundreds and hundreds of pounds of furious teeth, fur
and claws. No car to get in. No door to open and get
behind. And screaming "Mommy" like a little girl just
wasn't going to help anything. We are truly
marshmallows. Soft little fragile marshmallows that
never should have survived the rigors of evolution.
Bottom line - it felt bad. And there was a rather
large, unrelenting amount of uncertainty surrounding
the eventual outcome of this little adventure. Trees
getting closer. Bear getting closer. Trees, bear,
trees, bear. Trees...trees... yes, we made it to the
trees. Now, where is that bear? Never mind!! Pick a
tree. ANY tree. Well, Darwin was right after all. I
instinctively dug down into my simian heritage and
went up that tree like a gibbon. Stayed way up there
for a long, long time too. The bear came right up to
the base of the trees we went up, looked up at us,
snorted and then sniffed around some more. After
about ten minutes he waddled away into the woods.
Whew!! That was a close one. You know, in the movies
or on TV when the bad guys are chasing the good guy
and the good guy ducks into a door way and the bad
guys rush by not seeing him and then the good guy
immediately steps right out of the doorway and goes
the other way? Well, that doesn't happen in real
life. At least not in MY real life. The bear was gone
but not forgotten. I'm sure he knew where he was, but
we didn't. For all we knew he could have been waiting
behind that bush right over there, just out of sight,
watching for us to come down. So there we three were,
Graham (who had an accent like the sheriff of
Mayberry), Murray (who had an accent like everyone in
the movie "Fargo") and I (you know us Richlanders - no
accent at all) chatting away, each in our own swaying
treetop, in the forest, somewhere in Wyoming on a
sunny summer day in 1969. That summer, men were
walking on the moon relying on the latest, cutting
edge technology to keep them alive. I was up a tree
in the woods relying on mankind's oldest instincts to
keep from being bear sushi. The irony is not lost on
me. If I was as "worldly" then as I am now I'd
probably still be up there. But being young and dumb
(when you're young and dumb you can easily think that
you are brave and resourceful when actually you are
just underinformed) we eventually came down from our
lofty security and headed immediately back to the
car, right? No, oh no, we continued on and pursued
the clever trout in the unspoiled mountain lake.. So
I guess, in a way, it all comes down to what that guy
in the cowboy hat said in the movie The Big Lebowski,
"Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats

I don't know about eating any bear but I ate way too
much trout while working in the park those summers
and still can't stand to eat it today. Never did see
that bear again though.

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 9/03/00
>>From:  Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: Accordion

Okay, fill your coffee cup, sit back and ponder for a
moment if you will the following sonnets from days gone by:

"I'm K-K-K-Kenny
From K-K-K-Korten's
And I'm here to bring you comic-c-cal cartoons
I'm K-K-K-Kenny
From K-K-K-Korten's
Join our cartoon club today
You'll enjoy it more that way
There'll be gifts for each and every one of you...."

"If you need coal or ooooooil
Call Boyle
Fairfax eight, one-five, two-one
Fairfax eight, one-five, two-one
For every heating problem
Be your furnace old or new
Just call the Boyle Fuel Company
And they'll solve them all for you
If you need coal or ooooooil
Call Boyle
Fairfax eight, one-five, two-one
Fairfax eight, one-five, two-one"

I was supposed to memorize Longfellow's "The Village
Smithy" in the third grade and Lincoln's "Gettysburg
Address" in the fifth. While I can still drum up a bit
of "Muscles in his brawny arms are strong as iron
bands..." and "Four score and twenty years ago our
fathers brought forth..." neither rolls off the tongue
with an expenditure of such minimal effort as is
required to pen the two examples of rhythmic pentameter
above. The Korten's jingle and the theme form Starlit
Stairway are apparently hardwired into my cerebral
circuits right next door to the controls for my body's
autonomic nervous system functions like respiration,
peristalsis and golf, the latter having, apparently,
been soldered to the old circuit boards with an entirely
substandard set of components - upgrade not available at
this time. Not the point, however. But as regular
readers will attest, at least with feet to the fire,
eventually I do get around to it and take care of the
business at hand. In this case, I will attempt to
connect through narrative prose the two seemingly
unrelated compositions above into a cohesive and
relevant saga, complete with tales of personal growth,
exotic travel, aspirations of greatness and the now all
too common theme of personal comeuppance. As you will
see, in the instance I will relate, the first led to the
second through a series of winds and twists not unlike a
stream roiling down a valley, wandering hither and yon,
meandering as the topology allows, eventually connecting
points A to B and happily flowing out and on, to valleys
yet untraversed. But, much like the stream analogy, I
wander a bit.... It was a bright sunny morning in the
summer of my 6th or 7th year. With jammies doffed, teeth
scrubbed and Cheerios consumed, in shorts and tee-shirt
I headed out the door to face another Tinkle Street day
full of the promise that can only be fully appreciated
by those unencumbered with the tribulations of
responsibility and schedule. A quick pan of the street
revealed the Gottschalk kids with towels and nose plugs
in hand heading out for the inhuman hazing inflicted on
the innocent by well meaning adults, the pending
suffering rationalized by the authorities in labeling
them "swimming lessons". An icy dip in the Big Pool in
the early hours of the AM under the despotic eye of
Nancy Roy stalking the sidelines with whistle and
wind breaker, was not necessarily my cup of Tang so to
speak. The Gottschalk kids' fate was apparently sealed.
I would anticipate their eventual return swathed in
terry cloth, blue-lipped and goose-pimpled, lower jaws
clacking uncontrollably and count myself among the lucky
for having paid those hypothermic dues previously. Yes,
from where I stood the day was my oyster. I was wide
open and available for any and all activities of the fun
type that may chance my way. My younger brother Mike had
preceded me in performing his start of day routine and
had been scouting the neighborhood for potential
activities of interest. He came cutting through the back
yard from the Sterling's house on Torbett, a bit up
about something or other. "You should see what Steve's
got over there!" he said with enthusiasm. Steve Sterling
(70) was our back-door neighbor and was always tinkering
with some gadget or another. Chemistry sets, erector
sets, crystal sets - he was huge on sets. Some worked,
some almost worked and some just lay there, inert and
defiant, fending off any effort Steve could muster to
breathe life into them. But whatever the state of the
current experiment, Steve was always up to something of
great interest if not importance. "Why?" I said showing
the necessary modicum of disdain for younger siblings
and anything that they considered worthy of my
    "He won it." said Mike trying to make up lost
    "Won what?" said I still feeling aloof but with
interest now piqued.
    "The accordion."
    "An accordion? He WON an accordion?"
    "Yeah, well for a couple of weeks anyway and two
weeks of free lessons."
    "I dunno. He said something about Korten's and Kenny
from Korten's." said Mike, realizing that he had managed
to ferret out a truly interesting diversion for the
morning. We promptly spun about rambled to the rear of
our house and rolled under the fence which separated our
respective back yards.
    Now, at this point. I feel obligated to explain that
last bit of business about "rolling under the fence".
Sometime in the late fifties or early sixties, my
parents and the Sterlings had delved into the area of
home improvement and contracted to have a slabs of
concrete poured adjacent to the back of each of their
homes with corrugated metal covers put over them and
thus, dueling patios emerged. In an effort to enhance
privacy, my dad had a erected a 6 foot, gleaming white
fence between the yards. However, in an equal effort to
promote the omnipresent good-neighbor spirit of the day,
Dad intentionally left about a foot and a half of
clearance between the bottom boards and the lawn,
providing ready access to each other's properties. That
access, however, came at a cost. It necessitated the
commuter lay prostrate on the ground parallel to the
fence and roll briskly 'neath the boards. I still can
find myself smiling at the memory of not only my own
folks but the very respectable Mr. and Mrs. Yesberger
and the aforementioned Sterling parentage and other
dignified adult neighbors diving under the fence, arms
tucked to chest, as if practicing the "drop and roll"
technique so popular among those in the know and aflame.
In order to attend one of the many back yard potlucks or
general get-togethers that dotted the summer time the
alternative, of course, was to circumnavigate the block.
Those opting for the roll-and-tumble form of ingress
decided the extra time and effort to walk the block was
not worth the modicum of dignity retained.
    Not enough payoff in that, so.... hit the dirt, spin
under (being ever vigilant for the twin land mines of
honeybees and/or dog-do) then pop up on the other side
none the worse for wear. It seems a little incredible
now but at the time it became so common no one thought
twice about it. So we found ourselves, Mike and I, just
naturally dropping down and spinning under the fence
without a second thought. We ambled around to the front
of the Sterlings' ranch house where, true to my little
brother's prattling, we came upon Steve squeezing and
squawking the bellowed instrument which was suspended
via shoulder straps on his chest. Steve wore the device
with an obvious beaming pride as if it were the
Distinguished Flying Cross (he was big into Civil Air
Patrol, too). The instrument was laden with pearloid and
chrome, ivory(ish) keys and shiny black bass buttons. He
was pulling it apart and pushing it back together again,
playing keys, pushing the bass buttons, bellows in and
out, creating the overall image of a child reveling in
the enjoyment that accompanies the discovery of a new,
very complex and interesting toy. And to Steve's
ultimate joy it rated high on the "tinkerability" chart.
Not that he was at all interested in it's disassembly,
modification and eventual reassembly. No, the darn thing
by it's very nature seemed to require a tinkerer's touch
to make it perform. Even poorly, evidently. Listening to
the din I became aware that I could do no worse and
asked Steve for a shot at the box. He grudgingly
complied and unslung the instrument from his shoulders.
I strapped on keyboard and bellows, pulling, pushing and
keying in blissful disregard of all things melodic.
    "How did you get this?" I asked, tinted with just a
very light, pastel green shade of envy.
    "I won it at Korten's.... uh...... from Kenny."
replied Steve now groping for the return of his prize.
    K-K-K-Kenny was known locally to one and all (of our
age group anyway) from his TV show and the multitudes of
cartoons that were the basis of his program. I don't
think any rational child in those days could ever get
tired of watching the plethora of animated offerings
that the television brought into our lives and Rough and
Ready, Beanie and Cecil, Fireball XL5 (hey... those guys
are PUPPETS!), Mighty Mouse and Huckleberry Hound spent
many an hour in our eager company. K-K-K-Korten's music
store sponsored the program and understood the allure
very well. Kenny was forever urging us to be the first
on our block to "join the cartoon club today". Just
exactly what the nature of the benefits in belonging to
such an organization were not immediately clear,
however, gifts were mentioned.
    "Did you join the cartoon club?" I inquired.
    "Uh huh" responded Steve a bit distracted what with
all the pushing and pulling requirements of the device
he had reclaimed.
    "Did you get a gift?"
    "I got the accordion didn't I?" offered Steve.
    "They're giving away accordions?" I replied
sarcastically, "Besides, Mike said it was only for two
   "No, I won the accordion and two weeks of lessons
from a drawing of active MEMBERS." He said fully
realizing that he really had been, in fact, the first on
the block. "The gift I got was this humanitone."
 He pulled out an odd looking piece of purple plastic,
about four inches long and shaped, vaguely, like a
little stubby airplane. He held it up to his face with
what would have been the wing section (on an actual
airplane) over his mouth and the tail section (of the
same plane) under his nose. The two sections were curved
and angled so that they efficiently covered the adjacent
orifices and had a hole in each end. The object here, as
I soon discovered, was to push air out the nostrils into
the corresponding hole which routed it through the
connecting "fuselage" and out the hole in the mouth-
plate\wing section creating and oddly unpleasant low
whistle. Skillfully moving the tongue back and forth in
the mouth would change the pitch of the moaning whistle
and tunes could be effectively, if somewhat dismally,
performed. While never reaching the pinnacle of enduring
popularity achieved by the kazoo or it's kissin' cousin
the comb-and-wax-paper, the humanitone offered many
seconds of entertaining distraction for those lucky
enough to have had parents willing to haul them down to
Korten's to join the elite cartoon club. I doubt that
anyone's folks complained about the instrument's brief
popularity, realizing, once again too late (as with the
drum set Santa somehow managed to squeeze down the
chimney last year), that this was not a really great
idea for promoting tranquility in the domestic
    "Wanna turn?" asked Steve holding the device out in
an act of overt generosity.
    "No thanks." I didn't really have a big need to
place over my mouth a piece of plastic through which
Steve had just been blowing his nose. Besides, that
accordion thing had really grabbed my attention. I
immediately scrambled off home and located my Mother in
the kitchen. In another of life's lessons, this one
dealing with the frequent inaccuracy of first
impressions and the slippery slope to which one commits
one's self when acting upon them, the first words out of
my breathless mouth were,
    A fire instantly ignited in her eyes. Lawrence Welk
was a Sunday tradition in our household. You could
pretty much count on two things each and every Sunday,
Mass and the Lawrence Welk Show. Marlin Perkins' Wild
Kingdom, sometimes and Disneyland as often as possible
but champagne music flowed like, well, like (somewhat
unfizzy) champagne from the tube every weekend without
fail. Okay, a lot unfizzy. Lawrence, with his slicked
back curly hair and strange accent, was an icon and
Myron Floren, his accordion wielding sidekick, never
ceased to impress Mom with his razor-sharp bellows work.
The idea of having a real accordion player in the
household lit her up like a klieg light at Carnegie
Hall. I was whisked down to Korten's and did get to join
K-K-K-Kenny's legions with all the associated club
benefits - which consisted primarily of the new
humanitone I now possessed. But the visit didn't end
there. At the back of Korten's and up the stairs was a
narrow hallway lined on each side with small rooms where
music lessons were given weekly in thirty minute doses.
Little cubes of musical endeavor where many a child's
dreams of virtuosity were dashed upon the rocks of
distempo, dissonance and disillusionment. I be "dissin"
the cubes. To be fair I'm sure that a proportionate
number of kids benefited greatly from the infinite
patience of those music teachers that spent many, many
hours gently coaching the tone-deaf and rhythm
challenged. Mom introduced me that day to Mr. Fred
Grazzini, a gentle man of Italian heritage who was an
extremely talented piano and accordion player. I spent a
half hour on pretty much every Tuesday for the next five
years with Mr. Grazzini and even though my skill level
at the instrument plateaued somewhere during the first
year, he never stopped encouraging me and trying to get
me to stretch. It was quite a large plateau, possibly
equal in size to the Russian steppes. There was to be no
stretching here. You know, kids are supposed to (or at
least expected to) rush into commitments without the
proper logical preparation to do so. It's their job. If
kids didn't do such things parents all over the world
would be out of work. Children would be shopping for
themselves selecting the best brussels sprouts and
broccoli. Brushing after every meal and visiting the
dentist twice a year. Going to bed on time and getting
up early enough to make the bed before preparing a
healthy breakfast and heading out to put shoulder to
task in class. Quite a picture. Of COURSE I thought the
accordion was a fun thing! It was. For about a week.
Then it slowly became a pearly-chrome albatross sung
over my shoulders by two straps. The cost of my
impulsive response to the experience at Steve Sterling's
house was that I now found myself frequently in the
bedroom practicing such catchy ditties as "Waiting For
The Robert E. Lee" and "Little Brown Jug" while my
brothers were outside rollicking in the sun, possibly
rolling in honeybees and dog-do with all the other "non-
gifted" children. But the thought of backing out now was
out of the question. I watched Myron Floren on TV and
wondered how many millions of hours of practice it took
to get that good. Then came to the realization that I
didn't really even like the sound of the darned thing.
But I was in for a penny and in for a pound. I dutifully
pushed and pulled, punched and keyed, eventually
graduating from the 12-key bass beginner's model to a
120-bass "pro" instrument. I didn't even have the 12
down yet. Still don't. Mom kept her hopes and dreams
alive, evidence to the contrary not withstanding, that
somehow, someday I would wind up grinning into the TV
cameras as I dazzled the waltzing golden-agers shuffling
around on the studio dance floor with my musical
prowess. To that end she did what she could to, in her
perception anyway, enhance my musical experience. Mom
had a real thing about trying to find gifts that had
some practical application. She would pass on the
frivolous if a truly functional, again in her
perception, item caught her eye. This resulted in
several unorthodox birthday and Christmas presents. I
can still hear Ron Berst (69) as he stood in my room
looking at the most recent of the pragmatic gifts,
stating with incredulity, "A bed? You got a bed for your
    To which I could only respond, "Yeah, a bed.... and
I thought the room came furnished."
    Pushing ahead with this theme, my Mom spotted a
device in a musical catalog that seemingly fit the
"practicality" requirement to a tee, and just in time
for my birthday too. Labeled an "accordion chair" the
device was an elongated, four-footed stool with a
vertical bar extending up from it's front end and
leaning back at a slight angle. The general idea was to
use the available bolting hardware on the vertical bar
to secure your accordion into playing position then
straddle the seat and commence making beautiful music. I
think its main purpose was to create a high availability
situation for the instrument, saving the player from the
repeated drudgery of removing it from its case and
strapping it on every time it was called into service.
However, to me it resembled some warped version of a
Medieval torture device, sure to elicit willing
confessions under duress from even the most pure and
innocent. Besides, considering my ever waning level of
commitment, I really never had a problem with the
availability provided by the more conventional form of
access. None the less, for a while anyway, you could
find my accordion mounted to the chair, ready in a
moment's notice should the urge to practice sweep over
me. I think Dad stumbling over it a couple of times in
the dark put the kibosh on the chair thing and back into
the case went the instrument.
    Mr. Grazzini pulled my Mom aside after one of my
Tuesday exercises in treading the musical waters and
informed her that there was to be a competition, an
adjudication of ability in someplace called Tacoma in a
few weeks and he thought that I was ready to take part.
I told you he was kind. Well, Mom didn't need to be
whacked on the head with a keyboard. I was registered
and began intense rehearsal on my selected piece, a
rousing arrangement of "The Twelfth Street Rag", a
particularly smart selection that combined a catchy
melody with just enough technical difficulty to make it
sound like crap when played by me. But I focused on it
for the next several weeks. Mom made travel arrangements
for us by flagging a ride with Gene Regimbal (the
married son our neighbors across the street, Lou and Vin
Regimbal), Gene's wife and infant daughter. They
happened to be, as a happy coincidence, heading in that
direction to visit relatives and had room for my Mom and
me (and my accordion) in the car. I don't think that I
had been further away from Richland than a picnic at Hat
Rock up to that time and we seemed to be on the road for
years. We climbed through the mountain passes and
cruised between huge walls of dirty snow that lined the
highway standing several feet above the roof of the car.
Now, I thought that was cool! I never knew that there
was that much snow anywhere and kids always have a very
soft spot in their hearts where snow is concerned. The
incredibly wonderful combination of snow's effect on
school cancellation and its versatility as an instrument
of play during those cancellations put it right up there
with the last day of school and Christmas morning on any
kid's top ten list. We drove through a forest of the
stuff and I couldn't unglue my eyes from the window.
Eventually we pulled into a rather large and rather
smelly city, larger and smellier than I ever guessed a
city could be. Gene and his wife dropped us off at the
recital hall where I was to perform, unloaded my
accordion from the trunk and wishing me good luck, drove
off. The hall was a swirl of activity with kids of many
ages and doting parents everywhere to be seen. We found
the location and schedule that informed us where and
when I would be doing my thing and settled in outside
the appropriate room. I pulled my accordion out of the
box and began running through the tune for yet another
spin when I heard the same tune being played nearby.
What a coincidence, I thought. Same tune, same
arrangement, who wouldda thunk it? I looked to see who
was "ragging" away and saw a young girl, a little older
than me just down the hall. For some reason she looked a
bit familiar. And she should have. She was one of the
Boyle Fuel Twins from the Spokane-originated Starlit
Stairway television show.
    See, I told you that I'd tie all of this together.
At our house Starlit Stairway was right up there on the
hit parade with that Austrian polka maniac's show and
the twins' faces were as familiar as our own. Yep, it
was her all right. Now I remembered her playing her
accordion on the show every once in a while. It kind of
formed a bit of a bond between us in my mind when I
watched the show. Now here she was in person, playing
the same piece of music at the same competition that I
was. We were even in the same division. What an
incredible coincidence and my first brush with true
fame. I then noticed that she was playing the tune
fairly well. In fact she was playing it VERY well.
Thoughts like "So THAT'S what it's supposed to sound
like." and "She's going to smear me." started to echo in
my head. We had both been toiling at the same instrument
for the same three years or so. How could she be that
much better than me? Then, remembering the issues that I
had with commitment and effort, the fog lifted and the
light shone on the truth of my inadequacies. As Jimmy
Buffett so poignantly phrased it in his famous boozetown
tune - "... it's my own damned fault." I leered over at
her. For every heating problem indeed! I could see her
on the TV with her gleaming smile, extending her
talented arm out to the left while chanting in unison
with the other clone (er.. twin) "And now the star of
our show..... Mister Ted AUTO!" Sheesh! As I watched she
stood and confidently strode into the judging room. A
few minutes later she came out and they called for me.
Oh great. I get to follow that!. The judges were polite.
They had heard the tune performed properly minutes
before and then they listened to my interpretation. Yet
they did not shoot spit wads at me, fall to the ground
in open laughter nor have me thrown from the room. All
acts of self-restraint that I appreciate to this day.
    When all was said and done I wound up on a Greyhound
heading east with my Mom and a fourth place ribbon
tucked away in my accordion case. Of course everyone
competing that didn't win first, second or third place
was given fourth. I preferred to think of mine as the
"first" fourth place ribbon however. The Tri City Herald
rounded up four of us locals that had been at the
adjudication and lined us up against a wall wearing our
accordions. Had they chosen to do so, they could have
saved the world from a few more badly rendered polkas if
they had mowed us down right then and there. But they
took our pictures instead and posted one with an
appropriate caption in the paper.
    They misspelled my last name by putting an extra "s"
on the end like Glenn Curtiss the aviator. Not a very
appreciative oversight considering that I had traveled
over great distances and faced off against a television
star to earn my moment in the spotlight. But what was
done was done and "Lady Of Spain" was calling me to my
instrument. Or was that just Mom? Probably a little of
both. After all, I had my first\fourth place title to

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 01/13/01
>>From:  Jeff Curtis (69)

Re: A Day in the Life, Part I

The morning summer sun had just cleared the cement gym
wall at Spalding Elementary and had spanked the sidewalks
on the banks of Tinkle street with a rosy heat that would,
by mid afternoon, intensify to the point where tar patches
in the road would melt and asphalt would squish beneath
the soles of your feet. Kids would doff shoe protection as
early as possible in the spring months but it would take
weeks of pavement pounding and street-heat cauterization
before their soles would painlessly withstand all the
rigorous demands of barefootin', eventually hardening to
the point where only the omnipresent goatheads could
pierce their leathery toughness. They said that you could
"run faster, jump higher", supposedly, in a pair of PF
Flyers (that kid in the commercial would leap over a five
foot fence with ease) but you could really take off and
fly like a springbok once unencumbered by any brand of
socks or shoes.

I stepped happily unshod onto the front porch and gave
Tinkle Street a thorough panning assessment. There was the
AEC guy across the street picking up the urine samples
from the anonymous metal box sitting on my neighbor's
front porch. A few houses down and working his way to the
same location was the milkman carefully placing his cream-
white glass bottles immediately next to another of the
same the ubiquitous anonymous metal boxes. I pondered for
a moment, with the pee-and-poo mentality of my impish
preteen self, the exciting possibilities of observing
(from afar) the havoc resulting from some kind of a
container mix up. Since I found myself unbreachably
stumped after a full 20 seconds of thought as to how to
actually pull it off, I dismissed the idea, no matter how
entertaining the outcome, as impractical. My mouth had a
gritty-minty feel to it as I had just put Ipana powder to
brush and brush to teeth in a completely token gesture of
oral hygiene. If they hadn't made the stuff sweet, I doubt
that I would have any true dentition left today. I flashed
for a moment remembering a presentation by Mrs.
Bumgardner, the school nurse at Jason Lee Elementary, on
the proper frequency and methodology to be employed when
one was to be brushing one's choppers. She was a regular
visitor to our home (all medicos seemed to make house
calls in those days) during outbreaks of mumps, measles,
whooping cough or chickenpox. I always felt sorry for Mrs.
Bumgardner. Not for anything to do with physical
characteristics nor with her personality. Just her name. I
assumed that if she had any horticultural endeavors at her
home, she probably would have to take a great deal of care
not to have things in that arena go badly. The last thing
that someone named Bumgardner needed was the natural (to
me, anyway) association with a brown thumb. In fact, the
delicious irony that would be evident from the opposite of
that situation would be nothing short of poetic, "Deary,
have you SEEN Mrs. Bumgardner's mums? They are the finest
blossoms the entire length of Cottonwood Street! And her
ROSES....oh, my....." The seemingly contrary association
between Mrs. Bumgardner and her decidedly un-bum garden
would play well as one of life's happy paradoxes. But for
all I knew she might have lived in one of the California
"stilt" apartments with nothing but pavement for a lawn.
Anyway, she came into Mrs. LeClair's morning kindergarten
classroom and had this huge toothbrush and huger set of
fully articulating teeth. She would then demonstrate the
proper brush strokes to be employed to maximize tooth
cleaning efficiencies. We would all return to our homes
with this new dental enlightenment and smear the
toothpaste around our molars for a couple of good
whollops, rinse, spit and call it a done deal. The
refreshing aftertaste was all the confirmation I needed to
assure myself that I had indeed scoured my teeth fully, as
well as assaulting any nasty, cavity inducing bacteria to
within an inch of their single-celled existences. I wished
then that I could, as Mrs. Bumgardner so vividly
demonstrated, hold my teeth in one hand and brush them
thoroughly outside my mouth. I could do such a better job
of it that way. You know, being able to actually see the
chunk of Sweet Tart here and the bit of Sugar Pop there
all hidden and secure in interproximal obscurity. Now, as
I roll fitfully into the second half-century of my life,
this is a desire I have completely and enthusiastically
abandoned. I prefer that all things anatomical stay right
where they started. Not many are cooperating however.

Clutched in my left hand was the gleaming barrel of a
Daisy pop-gun and in my right, a can of 3-in-one. I raised
the rifle and carefully squeezed a single drop of oil into
the small hole located part way down the barrel. Cocking
the lever, I raised the gun and aimed it right at the back
of Tommy Joe Wood's head. He was across the street hauling
out his dad's push mower, preparing to do the obvious
chore. He had no clue as to my deadly intent, being
temporarily oblivious to my presence. I pulled the trigger
and "POP!" came a loud report followed by a wisp of white
oily smoke from the end of the barrel. Tommy Joe looked
around at the source of the sound. "Gotcha!" I yelled
delightedly, "Blew your head off." I pointed out to
further emphasize just exactly how dangerous I was. I
could tell by his reaction, which was decidedly unruffled
that Tommy Joe was not impressed....or amused. "Good. Put
me out of my misery." or something to that effect was
muttered and then he proceeded to attach the clippings
basket to the back of the machine. His dad and mom were A-
number-one, world class gardeners (very assuredly NOT bum-
gardeners) and had proportionally high standards for all
things botanical including lawn care. They eventually
opened up a very successful nursery in West Richland which
is still there to this day. Tommy Joe did not share this
passion but, evidently, did share in the maintenance
duties. So off he went, lawn mower whirring away, cutting
the lawn, not straight-on but at a forty-five degree angle
to the street leaving a distinctive cross-hatching effect
which was always the signature of the Woods' front lawn.
With his brains, of course, imaginarily blown all over the
yard by my skilled marksmanship. And the three-in-one oil.

All good little children in the fifties were fairly
dripping with firearms. The Mattel Toy Company ("You can
tell its Mattel, It's Swell!) produced more ordinance than
Smith & Wesson, Winchester and Remington put together. In
addition to my pop gun I personally had double holstered
pair of pearl handled Lone Ranger six guns (complete with
mask), a Fanner 50 revolver and a Winchester lever action
rifle, both fine products from Matty Mattel. I also had an
official Zorro sword (complete with mask) that held a
piece of chalk in its tip for tagging the famous "Z"
wherever most inappropriate, but that really doesn't count
in this discussion of true firearms. I can recall no
homicide by chalk episodes then or now for that matter.
Besides, my penmanship always sucked. The Fanner 50 had a
broadened hammer lever, kind of like the business end of a
teaspoon turned upside down which allowed me to deliver a
deadly, continuous spray of fire by depressing the trigger
and "fanning" my left hand over the hammer. The Winchester
replica actually fired projectiles called "Shootin'
Shells". These were basically brass casings almost exactly
like real bullet shells but with a high density spring
inside instead of gunpowder. A plastic slug then clipped
into the shell casing depressing the spring. A "Greenie
Stickum Cap" (small circular peel-and-stick caps) applied
to the butt of the casing completed the shell. They could
then be loaded in a conventional manner into the magazine
of the rifle. A flick of the lever and a round would be
chambered. Pulling the trigger released the hammer and the
impact on the shell would 1)explode the cap and 2)dislodge
the plastic slug which would then be propelled by the
stored power of the internal spring out the barrel of the
rifle to a distance of maybe ten to twelve feet. Or into
the eye of the kid next door, whichever came first. Until,
of course, the spring was used too much and lost its zip
or you inevitably lost all of your slugs. A second cocking
of the lever would eject the spent casing for future
reloading and chamber another round. Lets see them try to
sell THOSE today. A quick browse of Mattel's website
currently touts only Barbie and American Girl dolls and a
line of Winnie the Pooh materials none of which is going
to cause any serious damage to a small child's
psychological development or eyeballs for that matter.
Those elements were vital to having any real fun when I
was a kid. The parental comment "You'll put your eye out."
almost assured an exciting diversion. Mattel made a whole
line of guns that used the Shootin' Shell technology
including an extraordinary belt buckle derringer. You wore
it on a belt as a working buckle and it looked like it had
an embossed image of a derringer molded into it. Until you
pushed out your tummy. Then a hidden lever on the back
would cause the derringer to spring out on a hinge at a
right angle to the buckle and automatically fire a single
Shootin Shell round. You could then unclip it from the
buckle, reload it and kill any of your friends that you
missed the first time around. I realize, at this writing,
that the current condition of my tummy would mean that the
derringer today would be constantly popped out of the
buckle. Maybe I'll have to stick to conventional assault
weapons instead. A good pop gun could also fire a
projectile however. By sticking the barrel into the sod of
my front lawn I could lodge a plug of grass in the end of
the barrel. Firing the weapon would then shoot the plug a
good....two or three feet. With no real pop and no smoke.
Well, no free lunch I guess.

Next door to Tommy Joe's house I spied Roger Smith heading
down his driveway. I very carefully threw my pop gun onto
the lawn and dashed across the street as I knew that Roger
wasn't doing anything as counterproductive as chores and I
might find an interesting diversion by tagging along on
whatever he was up to. "Hey Rog, whachdoin?" I inquired.
"Worms." replied Roger somewhat vaguely. "Nope, Mom got
some pills for them last winter and they're all gone." I
countered apparently assuming the direction of the
conversation. Unpleasant images associated with the color
"purple" and the term "stool" flashed in my mind
fleetingly. "No....EARTHworms...for fishin." he corrected
me. He proceeded around the back of his garage where I
discovered he had been laying a heavy dose of water from
the hose on the lawn. A pitch fork sat upright in the
middle of the soaked area buried to the hilt of its tines
in the sod. "Watch this." said Roger as he grabbed the
handle of the pitchfork and proceeded to pull it back
toward him. He then suddenly released the handle which
sprang forward like a catapult with a "booiiiingggg"
vibration. Nothing. He grabbed its handle again and
repeated the exercise. "booiiiingggg" Then, suddenly,
worms started emerging from the ground like potatoes from
a ricer. Huge ones. Big fat night crawlers, some seemingly
as big as garter snakes, started breaking the surface like
a ball of herring being chased by a school of Chinook. We
both squealed (well, I think squealed is accurate, maybe
we yelped. Yeah I think we yelped) with joy and proceeded
to gather as many as we could and placed them in an empty
MJB can in which Roger had placed a layer of dirt. Our
hands were now covered with a mixture of worm-slime and
mud and, as official card-carrying nine year old boys, we
couldn't have been happier about it. Roger put away the
worm can for use the next day as he had planned a bike
ride out to the Yakima river, just this side of West
Richland by Reils' Rancho, for some serious anything-that-
bites-even-squaw-fish fishing in the morning. We both then
climbed the large sycamore tree in his back yard and for
the better part of the next hour we played "Ripcord", our
version of the famous TV show of the same name that
featured two recurring fellows and their numerous
adventures involving their parachutes. Thinking about it,
I'd hate to have been a writer for that show. I mean, just
how many exciting situations can be centered around two
guys parachuting somewhere? They weren't in an Army
Airborne unit or smoke jumpers or anything. Just two guys
that liked to skydive a lot. On the whole, probably not
much more exciting than two kids repeatedly jumping out of
a tree. But it seemed pretty cool to me and Rog at the
time. Of course we were lacking a few basic props. Like
helmets, or jumpsuits, or an airplane and even parachutes.
But those were minor impediments. We climbed into the tree
as high as we dared and positioned ourselves in a
precarious, downward-facing posture. Feet on a lower
branch and hands on an upper one just as the characters on
TV would do on the wing struts of the airplane
"Approaching drop area." Roger would yell. "CUT!" I yelled
louder and dropped from the tree, rolling forward as I hit
the ground after the fashion of our network role models.
Now, I don't think we fully understood WHY we had to yell
"CUT". It was just one of the (few) things that the guys
did on the show. I assumed at the time that it was a
command to the pilot to "cut" the engine to reduce the
prop wash or something while our heroes leaped into the
void. In retrospect maybe that is exactly what was
happening but logic tells me that most pilots would
probably not welcome nor comply with a command from the
guy WEARING the parachute telling him to turn off his
airplane in mid-flight. Rog and I did series of trial and
error (ouch!) jumps to determine the maximum ceiling in
the tree from which we could leap without out knees
buckling (ouch!) and smashing into our chins (ouch!),
clanging our teeth together with our tongues occasionally
getting in the way (outh, outh!). As I lay in a hospital
bed recovering from disk surgery several years ago I found
myself realizing the dear cost paid for the cumulative
effects of this human "lawn dart" simulation and many
other episodes of abusive skeletal compression over the
years. But when you're nine you can walk through walls.

"Jeeeeefffff......Luuuuunnnnnnch." I could hear my mom
calling from across the street. I had worked up a pretty
good appetite what with all the morning's gunplay and
skydiving and knee banging and worm slime and all so I bid
Roger adieu and blasted off for the ranch house I called
home across the street snatching up my pop gun from the
lawn as I headed indoors for lunch.

The sun was getting pretty high in the sky now and it was
really starting to heat up. Might be a good day for a trip
to the big pool.

To be continued....

-Jeff Curtis (69) ~ Seattle, WA

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 01/20/01 ~ Day in the Life II
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: A Day in the Life ~ Part II  
Continued from Saturday 1/13/01:

"Jeeeeefffff......Luuuuunnnnnnch." I could hear my mom
calling from across the street.  I had worked up a pretty
good appetite what with all the morning's gunplay and
skydiving and knee banging and worm slime and all so I
bid Roger adieu and blasted off for home across the
street snatching up my pop gun from the lawn as I headed
indoors for lunch.  The sun was getting pretty high in
the sky now and it was really starting to heat up.  Might
be a good day for a trip to the big pool.

[Author's note: that was a literary segue, or what passes
for one, the author being a writer of limited experience
in serialized prose.  Or any prose really.  I suppose
just recognizing the fact that I probably needed a segue
speaks well of my intention not to make a total ass of
myself in this forum.  To term it in another manner, if
you don't understand the paragraph above, and after
reading this still wish to, you will have to check out
last Friday's Sandstorm for Part I.]

Breakfast was a fairly standard Cheerios-and-milk deal
most mornings in our home but lunch could be a rather
"iffy" affair.  Making lunches for three growing boys
everyday before schooltime was no small challenge for the
woman of the house.  During the school year Mom had a
cold lunch assembly-line operation going in high gear (we
were fairly religious brown-baggers) each morning before
we took off for class.  It was a process with which the
engineers responsible for the "interchangeable part"
philosophy of the Ford or Colt organizations could have
found no fault.  She laid out twelve slices of Snyder's
Bread ("The big white loaf with the big red band") in
pairs with three lunch bags standing at attention right
behind them.  We each got two sandwiches a day and one of
them was usually a P,B, and J.  The other was always the
disturbing variable.  Would it be the ever popular
bologna and mayonnaise?  Or the exotic olive loaf and
sandwich spread?  Or....shudder....the dreaded liverwurst
and Cheeze Whiz.....gyeeeeck!  We really looooooved THAT
one.  Those got dumped untouched almost without
exception.  What the heck is Cheeze Whiz anyway?  More
like some viscous polymer compound colored with Yellow #5
than a viable dairy product.  I'll bet it would scare the
bejesus out of a real cow.  Maybe they drill for it.  At
any rate there has to be a whole bunch of processing
associated with its manufacture.  A bit more processing
and they probably could make clothing or jogging shoes
out of it.  In fact, in serious consideration of those CW
sandwiches we tossed out, logic tells me that although
bread and meat have long since succumbed to the natural
process of biodegradation, the "cheeze" substance
(word....cheeze....using....loosely) is most likely still
substantially intact, leeching out from some landfill to
taint the aquifers.  You know, it's probably still even
edible (word....edible.....using....very loosely), once
you cleaned it up a bit I suppose.  And how could you ask
for anything that would bring out more of the natural
flavor of gooey yellow plastic than bovine organs ground
up into a speadable, pink-gray paste.
them's eats!

But, as usual, I drift.  Mom would start at one end of
the "bread line" slathering and slicing lineally down the
counter on her way to sandwich creation nirvana, till she
reached the far end and then would work her way back
flipping the tops on each, sliding them into their own
waxed sandwich bag and dropping a pair into each lunch
bag.  I think I had a Roy Rogers lunch box for a while
but quit carrying it when the ridicule became too much to
bear.  Eighth grade I think.  Then three flicks of her
practiced wrist to plop in a bag of chips, and three more
to insert a Sweetie Pie for dessert (another form of
plastic food with just a touch of wax for texture) and
"Whallah"!  Pretty much the same lunch I ate every school
day for ten years or so was ready for my brothers and me
to tote off to school.  Don't talk to me about your
school cafeteria, hot-lunch chili recipes, or how to bake
those famous cinnamon rolls.  I had COW-GUTS PASTE AND
YELLOW PLASTIC CHEEZE FOOD, BABY!  Ahhh the fifties.....

Somehow on the day in question I managed to escape any
obtuse "modern" lunch food and found a quite lovely tuna
fish sandwich (it was probably a Friday) on my plate,
sitting happily on our pumpkin-orange Formica kitchen
counter.  I remember the Formica color very well because
I just saw it on a Brady Bunch rerun the other night in
their kitchen.  Now there's a home decorating endorsement
that's easily ignored.  So that day lunch was a quick
gobbling of the three "T's": tuna, tater chips and Tang.
I loved Tang.  Astronauts or no astronauts I would have
loved it.  It was kind of a beverage parfait.  You know,
it started out kind of wan and diluted, like Gator Aid.
Then as you drank down further it sweetened up a bit.
Finally, at the bottom, it was like getting dessert.
Depending on your preferred ratio of Tang-to-water, there
was usually a sugary sludge clinging to the bottom that,
holding that glass upside down for three or four minutes,
would ooze onto your tongue.  A very sweet and very tart
glop of gluco-citric heaven.

Suitably fueled up from our midday break, my brother and
I went to our room and donned swimming suits and thongs.
Mom gave us each a towel and quarter for the pool.  So,
suited up, cash in hand, and towels draped over our
necks, we headed out into the blast furnace that was a
summer afternoon in the Atomic City.

I remember Mathew Broderick in the movie version of Neil
Simon's "Biloxi Blues" complaining about the Mississippi
summer heat.  "Africa hot" I think he called it.  "Tarzan
couldn't take this hot," he panted.  Welcome to Richland.
Scorch and sizzle, fry and refry, the desert sun did its
solar best to melt you into the ground.  Or the car seat.
But it was all we knew and for those of us who had been
born and raised there, it was just the way things were.
Much like the rain in Seattle, if it keeps you from being
active, well, you just aren't going to do anything at
all.  Oblivious, my brother and I headed out to
Sacramento Street, cut across the Spalding Elementary
playground, headed up Williams to the Mayfair\Pennywise
Drug parking lot, on to Swift (a real boulevard) and down
the hill to the pool.  All without breaking too much of a
sweat but anxious never the less for the respite the big
pool always offered.

The Richland Municipal Swimming Pool, as it was known in
the days before George Prout was paid homage, was a
spectacle to behold.  It was back then, the largest
municipal swimming pool in the state or so I was told.  A
huge turquoise oasis ready to cool your heated brow in
its watery depths.  And for just fifteen cents.  My
brother and I handed up our quarters and received our
change.  I tucked my dime into a tiny pocket on the
inside of my suit.  I thought the little, hidden pocket
was pretty cool and would have found something to put in
it even if I had no change.  We then took a right turn
into the men's changing room.  Although some seemed to
relish the idea of wearing street clothes to the pool and
changing into their swimming togs in that room, most of
the kids I swam with felt that public nudity was
something to be unexceptionally avoided, both personally
and in the voyeuristic observation of others, if at all
possible.  The horrors of Junior High P.E. and the
associated gym showers (mandatory for a grade) were
unknown to us at the time and at this age it was purely
an option, or not as the case may be.  Kind of a no-
brainer.  We shed our thongs and towels alongside many,
many others under a bench and proceeded to the pool area.
We still had one obstacle to overcome however.  I guess
that they didn't trust us to be cleanly little tykes, or
maybe it was just a brief but brutal rite of initiation
for passage to the pool deck.  But for whatever the
reason, one and all were forced like sheep (it was the
only way in) through an area where there were overhead
showers running constantly.  Showers that were, I swear,
fifteen to twenty degrees colder than the temperature of
the water in the pool.  Hey, we were HOT!  We had just
walked a mile or so in conditions that would have had
Captain Gallant of the French Foreign Legion crying
"Mommy" in ten minutes.  I think that my heart stopped,
briefly, several times a season from thermal shock
induced by the contrast in body temperature experienced
in that narrow hallway.  Oh yeah, and I was SOOOO
purified once through them and out the other side.
Running as fast as you can through a shower will not wash
away much.  And cold wet dirt is still dirt.  Well, mud
if you will, but whatever it was, it was going with me
into the pool.

But once that gauntlet was passed, the pool beckoned,
laying before me, a huge vista of cool, sparkling,, the place was a ZOO!  Hundreds of
kids leaping, splashing, jumping, yelling, dog-paddling,
and water fighting everywhere you looked.  Kids on the
pool deck, kids on the diving boards, kids sitting backs-
to-fence, their backs soon to be covered with those
cyclone fence diamonds.  Laughing, screaming, even rough-
housing and horseplay was at hand, signage forbidding
such activities being defiantly ignored.  An invisible
cloud of chlorine hung over the entire area, its
unmistakable aroma rising from the blue waters and
invading the nostrils of the masses assembled with an
acrid chemical assault.  Who cared?  We ran behind the
ubiquitous mosquito sprayer each and every single time
was dragged by a jeep down our street, happily inhaling
God only knows how much DDT.  Well...God and the guys
from the Benton County Mosquito Control District.  A
little chlorine gas was nothin'.  You could call it a
kind of Big Pool "incense".

I stood at the edge of the 3' end of the pool and
pondered my entrance methodology.  To ease in and
gradually adjust to the water temperature or just go for
it and leap?  It couldn't be any worse than the glacier-
fed showers that I had just endured.  So I opted for the
latter, took a few steps back and hit the edge of the
pool deck on a dead run, leaped out into the void and, in
an instant and a half, was enveloped in the dense cool
water that I lived for every summer.  With a loud
"SCHUUUNGK", the incredibly busy din of the pool area
instantly ceased, muffled for the moment by the blanket
of water above.  Rising from the watery depths, I broke
the surface, felt my feet gain solid purchase on the pool
floor and stood up.  It was the 3' end of the pool after
all and the water only came up to my tummy.

"Tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" came a completely obnoxious
shrill from above.  "NO RUNNING ON THE DECK!"....."YES,
I'm talking to YOU!" came the bullhorned voice from above
accompanied by an accusing finger pointed right at me.  A
lifeguard had seen my entry technique and had not
appreciated it one bit.  Too bad, it was some of my best
stuff.  By the time I could react, he was already yelling
at someone else for another infraction of the rules.
Lifeguards must have gone home with throbbing headaches
every night, voices horse from screaming at us about
every little thing.  You couldn't run on the deck.  You
couldn't hang on the ropes that divided the three depth
areas.  Only one kid on the diving boards at a time.  No
climbing the towers and throwing cups of ice water on the
lifeguards.  I honestly don't know HOW we had any fun.

Throughout the afternoon I worked my way progressively to
the deeper areas of the pool until I eventually found
myself in the 12' end.  I grabbed the gutter and hoisted
my drippy self up to the pool deck.  This was the day I
was going to finally take the plunge off of the "high
dive", the three meter board.  Or was it?  I had actually
lined up for it a couple of times before and then
chickened out at the last minute.  Then one day I saw
what appeared to be a five year old girl fearlessly
flinging herself off the end of the board and realized
that I had to conquer this demon or I wouldn't be able to
live with myself.  When you lined up for the high dive
you could climb up the ladder and wait at the top if you
were next, while the kid before you defied pain and
death.  I stood on the top rung, fists clenched to the
metal pipe.  I was hoping for a minute or two to build up
some nerve when the kid on the board just ran out to the
end and dropped off, easy as you please.  I hesitated.
"Hey, kid....get going!" came an impatient voice from a
rather stocky kid below me on the ladder.  "Okay," I
thought, "You can do this."  Pretty unconvincing.
Nevertheless, I managed to unlock my fingers and step up
onto the high board.  "Sweet Mother Of All That Is Good
And Sacred is it ever HIGH up here!"  Way, way higher
than the absolute ceiling in Roger Smith's now famous
parachuting sycamore tree from this morning.  But that
little girl did it.  If she could....well I guess I had
to.  I walked slowly out to the end of the board.  The
pool didn't look nearly as big from up here.  And the
surface of the water seemed below the cloud deck.  For a
moment I wondered if it might actually be possible to
miss the water from this altitude.  "Hey, get movin'!".
Chunky was getting pissed.  Well, it's now or never.  I
closed my eyes and stepped off the end of the board.  No,
no swan dives or jackknifes or cut-aways.  You kidding?
I just pointed my toes and dropped straight down.
Falling, falling, falling...."ka-WHOOOOOOSH!" and into
the water.  I marveled at how hard the water had suddenly
gotten as I slapped through its surface.  Down, down,
down momentarily pummeled by water pressure until my toes
touched the bottom.  I opened my eyes and saw that the
surface of the water was now as far above me as it had
been below me when I was on the diving board.  I allowed
myself to gently float to the surface.  "ka-BOOOOOOOM!"
(I told you that this was a noisy place).  The Stay-Puft
kid next in line had finally run out patience and had
executed a picture perfect, I-give-him-a-ten, can opener
just as I broke the surface.  And, just as I took a gulp
of air.  A blast of water filled every orifice.  Eyes,
ears, nose, and throat were assaulted by hydrostatic
forces beyond my control.  I really didn't care all that
much.  Choking and stinging I managed to haul myself out
of the water focusing solely on the fact that I had done
it.  I had thrown myself with abandon upon the fates and
had survived, no thanks to Rotundo-Boy and his can
opener.  I found an open spot on the deck and proceeded
to lie out for a while, warming in the sun and basking in
the glow of accomplishment.  Surrounded by shivering,
blue-lipped water babies I was at peace with the world
and, for the time being, with myself.

When I again opened my eyes I had been thoroughly baked
on my back and was lying in a layer of pool-water that
covered the deck.  I noticed how warm the ever present
puddle water was and felt the rough concrete of the pool
deck poking my skin from cheek to toe.  I also noticed
that each and everything I looked at was now swathed in a
fuzzy, blue-white haze.  And we all know that eyes blurry
from a chlorine pickling, puckered and wrinkling skin on
the palms of your hands and berry blue lips shivering
with cold even though it was ninety-eight degrees out,
were the three universally recognized indicators that it
was time to call it a day.

I scared up my brother and headed back into the men's
room.  We found our towels and dried off.  I took a
mental assessment of my condition.  My back was crispy
and red, my eyes bloodshot and my ears were full of water
that sloshed way down deep when I tilted my head to
either side.  All in all, a pretty darned successful
afternoon.  I truly felt that I had gotten my money's
worth.  But wait!  I remembered that I still had a dime
left and it instantly started burning a hole right
through that tiny pocket on the inside of my swimming
suit.  There was no question as to its purpose.  Tastee
Freeze was calling and I was listening.

You really couldn't leave the vicinity of the Big Pool
without a stop at Tastee Freeze.  It was established
protocol.  For that dime I could choose between a nice,
soft vanilla or chocolate ice cream cone or they could
hold it upside down and plunge it into a bowl of melted
chocolate that instantly hardened upon contact with the
cold ice cream to become, magically, the highly revered
"dip-top".  They could also dribble nuts or sprinkles and
other assorted toppings to your taste but the mighty dip-
top was my fave.  There was a method of properly
devouring a soft, dip-top.  First, the chocolate shell
needed to be eaten carefully yet quickly enough so that
the ice cream beneath didn't have time to melt into a
leaky mess.  In fact, while working through the outer
shell, vigilant watch had to be kept on the bottom edge
next to the cone part for drippage and timely licks were
in order to lap up any that managed to find its way out.
Once the eating of the shell was completed, several wide
licks, counter-clockwise around the sides of the cone and
several more in the opposite direction quickly turned the
rapidly liquefying dairy treat into a very well managed
affair.  A tongue-swoop over the top, around the side to
the left, and again to the right, pause and repeat.
Never a drip, never a mess.  Once I had licked and lapped
my way down till the ice cream was level with the top of
the wafer cone, I would carefully chomp away the top
portion until I had nibbled it down to the narrow
"handle".  If I had been careful enough, the ice cream
that was inside the part of the cone I had just eaten was
still there and the whole thing now looked just like a
tiny, little ice cream cone which I would happily lick,
lap and nibble till I came to the waffling at the very,
very bottom of the cone.  In a soft cone, this area was
also always filled with the last little bit of ice cream,
not so, usually with the hard stuff.  A scoop couldn't
jam it all the way down there.  But Tastee Freeze ice
cream would flow like magic and fill every crevice.

I popped the last bit of the cone in my mouth and
realized that it was time to hit the trail for home.  We
had walked down to Tastee Freeze through Columbia
Playfield and I don't know why I never noticed till now
but I wasn't wearing my thongs.  I didn't remember
wearing them down from the pool either.  Funny the things
that slip right by you when you are focused on ice cream.
I must have left them under the bench in the men's locker
room.  While I may not have paid much attention to the
fact that I was shoe(thong)less on the way down the hill,
the minute I stepped out of the Tastee Freeze parking lot
and onto the road that led to the playfield I became
instantly aware of three things: 1) the road was rough
and hurt my feet 2) the road was hot and burned my feet
3) I was facing a long walk home with burning and hurting
feet.  I reached the grass and let out an audible
"Ahhhhhh."  I could walk up to the top of Swift pretty
much all the way on the lawn, but after that it was going
to be bad.  Any true Richlander realizes with great
humility the ramifications of finding one's self without
footwear in the summer desert.  My little piggies were
going to take a beating....all the way home.  Sorry.  I
did check back with the Lost and Found "Department" at
the pool but my thongs were history, in all the hubbub of
the afternoon someone had....uhmmm...walked off with
them.  Again, sorry.  Well this was just great.  The
surface of sidewalk and roadway reached their peak daily
temperature at about this hour of the late afternoon and
to make matters worse the city had been resurfacing a
good many of the streets.  This process consisted of a
truck driving down the street oozing some form of black,
molten tar all over the place and then another truck
dumped loose gravel on top of it.  Ironically, a dip top
with nuts comes to mind.  The truck that NEVER came by
was a steam roller.  The normal flow of daily traffic was
expected to eventually embed the rock into the tar and
eventually it did.  But for a considerable time just the
two ruts where the cars stayed centered in the road were
the only finished paving.  The rest of the street was a
gravel quarry for weeks if not months and chipped paint
jobs with little splotches of sticky, black tar decorated
numerous automobiles.  It was also no fun to try to walk
on.  Sidewalks were painful but much cooler than the
black surface of the street on your feet.  But walking
barefoot across one of those newly graveled streets was
really a test of endurance.  The folks that walk across
beds of live coals to demonstrate their self control or
faith or lack of good sense would think twice I'm sure if
they ventured out onto a newly "paved" Birch Street and
immediately had hot tar and gravel affixed to the soles
of their feet.  I managed to stumble and tippy-toe my way
back to the Mayfair Grocery parking lot which was an
older pave job and covered with loose stones (ouch, ouch,
owee, ouch, ouch), not as bad as the demented repaving of
the roads but still very painful to a pair of scorched
and battered dogs.  But I gritted my teeth and with a
final burst found myself inside the grocery's air-
conditioned walls.  The cold floor tile immediately
greeted my abused feet with nearly instant relief.  It
felt like a little piece of one of the cooler regions of
heaven and a second "Ahhhh." escaped my now very un-blue

After a sufficient time to cool the toes, I set out again
down Williams, buzzing up into yards as much as possible.
I also discovered that the white line down the middle of
the street is the coolest surface, other than lawn, on
which to walk.  I tried that for a short distance but was
really not endearing myself to those behind the wheel and
was in danger of becoming a traffic statistic.  So I
limped and hobbled my way on the more acceptable
sidewalks and crosswalks, finally arriving at Spalding
playground where a huge expanse of grass carried me most
of the rest of the way to Tinkle Street.  Then a quick
block and a half and I was back a the little X-House I
called home.  And just in time for Cap'n Cy too!  Cable
TV and cool programming from the big city, Spokane, had

While taking the final few paces to the beckoning safety
of my front lawn, I managed to plunk my left foot down on
a vine of tack-weed that was snaking across the sidewalk
and one of the goatheads buried itself in my heel.
"Yeeeeeooooowww!"  Those things were the worst.  They
could flatten bike tires and even pierce thongs.  Next to
honeybees, they were about the most painful thing upon
which to tred.  I sat down on the front lawn and plucked
the offending thorn from my now fully abused foot, also
picking off small bits of gravel that were glued to my
sole by sticky, black tar.

"Jeff, where are your thongs?" my mom asked, "And you
have chocolate all over your mouth!"  So okay, maybe I
didn't eat that dip-top as carefully as I described.
Nobody's perfect.

To Be Continued....

-Jeff Curtis (69) ~ Seattle, WA

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 01/26/01 ~ Jeff Curtis III
>>From: Jeff Curtis (69)

Continued from Saturday 1/20/01

"Jeff, where are your thongs?" my mom asked, "And you have
chocolate all over your mouth!" As I stood in the living
room of our three-bedroom ranch house I could feel the
heavy dampness of the air belching from the swamp cooler
as it chugged away, squatting precariously on the window
sill. The cool, low breeze was refreshing after my long
sweltering trek but always seemed just a bit too thick and
pushy. Probably because air with any noticeable moisture
content was a very alien sensation to those of us raised
on the arid planet Dune. And unlike those wussie Freemen
and their protective stillsuits, we could endure the
climate for extended periods clad only in swimming suit
and towel! (Author's note: That was a literary reference,
or what passes for one, the author being a writer of
limited experience. The referral is to a work of science
fiction by the Pacific Northwest writer Frank Herbert
entitled Dune. Now, so you won't have to run right out,
purchase and pour over the book to understand the
reference, suffice it to say that Dune, in his tale, is a
very hot and very dry planet the native populace of which
are known as Freemen and who wear a kind of body moisture
capture-and-recycle suit to survive in it's sere wastes.
Total pansies. There is more and I would love to tell you
all about it but in consideration of your valuable time I
suggest, if you simply must know, that you read the book.)

I turned to the large mirror hanging on the wall above the
piano in our living room and even from a distance I could
see what elicited the comment from my mom. I bore a
striking resemblance to one who is ready to take the stage
in a minstrel show. Not drooling chocolate mind you, but a
good, solid smudging was evident. I immediately wiped my
mouth on my swimming towel which brought a "Jeff...stop
that!" command from Mom. Hey, I figured that the current
chlorine content of that towel would surely bleach any
tough stain out as well as completely discourage any form
of bacterial life from gaining a foothold until such time
as it found its way into the wash.

Richland wasn't Oz (or Kansas for that matter) and
clicking my bare heels together and chanting "there's no
place like home...there's no place like home." would not
have magically transported me anywhere. No, it took a good
deal of effort and suffering to get here. But I was home
at last, those dues thoroughly paid. And just in time for
Cap'n Cy too! As my heels cooled and eyes began to defog,
I settled in for a hour or so of kickin' it in front of
the tube. Cable TV and cool programming from the big city,
Spokane, had arrived.

I remember the day the cable guy showed up and worked his
spell on our fuzzy little two channel TV set. At least I
think I remember two channels, one of which was KEPR.
After a short period of mysterious activity he switched on
the set and a crystal clear (black and white) picture
popped onto the screen. It was the skyline of a large city
in the daytime. As I watched a line of gray swept at an
angle from upper-left to lower right engulfing the
cityscape in darkness. The title of the show appeared and
a booming voice announced, "This is...... The Edge of
Night." How cool! I had never seen this show before but it
looked really interesting. That impression lasted for
maybe five minutes. Five minutes of adult infidelity,
sordid pregnancies and gossipy secrets shockingly
revealed. It really sucked. But the wonderful thing about
cable was that a simple click (or two or three or
four...)of the dial took you to another, possibly very
different program. We take all that for granted now of
course, but back then it was a fairly big deal. Mom said
that we'd never have cable. We'd never have color TV. We'd
never have more than one set. Strike three! She was
eventually wrong on all counts.

I loved the Rough and Ready Show on Saturday mornings. In
fact, the whole Saturday morning cartoon thing was
developed back then. Rough was a dog and Ready was his
side-kick cat. The cartoon was a serial and each Saturday
morning they would pick up where they left off the week
before (kind of like this story) in the midst of one
adventure or another. They found a treasure map and for
several Saturday mornings, battled a mad scientist who had
invented an earth boring machine in the Superstition
Mountains while searching for the legendary Lost Dutchman
Mine. They captured a leprechaun and ended up in Ireland
for several weeks caught up in the middle of a centuries
old feud between the little people and a race of giants.
And they were abducted by shiny, metallic aliens then
whisked away for over two months to their home planet
"Munimula" (pronounced moon-ee-moo-la) which is, of
course, Aluminum spelled backwards.

I loved it and kept coming back for more each week. I
admit my homework may have suffered a bit but as you can
see, with Rough and Ready, I was exposed to Geology,
European history and Astronomy in those ongoing Saturday
morning sessions. Educational TV in its infancy. Beany and
Cecil (The Seasick Sea Serpent) - Oceanography, Dudley
Doright of the Mounted Police - Law Enforcement, Tennessee
Tuxedo (a penguin) and his pal Chumley (a walrus) -
Zoology, yes the learning opportunities abounded.

In later years I would get home from school each day and
watch Where The Action Is, a teen rock show with Paul
Revere and the Raiders and it's host Dick Clark. It was a
little like MTV if you remove the psycho-nightmare element
that seems to pervade most of the videos on the air today.
But I guess that's just me showing my age, just as my
parents, in full protest, did when I watched Where The
Action Is. "Oh baby come on, let me take you where the
action is.... Oh baby come on...... It's so neat to meet
your baby where the action is..." Dick Clark on the other
hand, has apparently been embalmed. In fact, I am certain
that he too, will someday be leeching out of a landfill
tainting an aquifer with my old Cheez Whiz sandwich in his

But when I was still single digits in age, Cap'n Cy's show
was a weekday afternoon staple and he always had a bunch
of Popeye cartoons as a sailor theme was in evidence
throughout the show. He would always shout "cha-boon-a-
GOON-ga" before launching a cartoon, for some reason that
was never made clear, but it was kind of his signature.
You know, like Tarzan's? So I sat there that afternoon,
happily watching Popeye get the hell kicked out of him by
Bluto until he somehow managed to scrape up a can of
spinach, fuss with getting it open and then gulp it down.
The proverbial shoe then found itself on the other foot of
course, and Bluto would wind up on the receiving end of a
right solid thrashing. I sat there and pondered the
question as to why Popeye always had such trouble coming
up with a can of the original "whoop-ass". I mean, come
on. If spinach actually had that effect on you and you had
an ever present enemy the size of a gorilla with a gland
problem, wouldn't you keep a case of the disgusting
vegetable with you at all times? Heck, I'd see if there
was a way to I.V. the stuff. Popeye prevailed, Olive Oyl
was saved and Bluto vanquished. My eyes cleared up a bit
and my feet stopped hurting so much.

"Boys, dinner." came the cry from the kitchen. An instant,
dreadful tension crackled through the air like bolt of

I mentioned that lunch in those days, in my home anyway,
might be (sometimes over-generously) referred to as
"iffy". Well, so it could be said of dinner for that
matter. Actually, more so. Mom had a passion for contests
and the two genres that she most favored were the "Tell us
why you use.......... (our incredible product) in twenty-
five words or less" the other being anything that had to
do with taking a perfectly good entree and uhmmm,
modifying it to suit her needs. Or, more accurately, to
her concept of the desires of Betty Crocker or the
Pillsbury Bake-Off folks. Some say that I inherited my
penchant for the written word from her but as you surely
can attest, dear reader, I have seldom if ever (okay,
never!) written anything in twenty-five words or less. Or
even close. As for the cooking contests, my dad, two
brothers and myself frequently found ourselves as the
proverbial guinea pigs, reluctantly taste testing her
latest, moderately digestible concept of cuisine-nouveau.

The Etheridges next door had some real guinea pigs. In
fact, after a couple of months they had about fifty of the
tribblesque creatures. I found that while they were pretty
cute as individuals, they could be fairly unamusing and
kind of icky in large herds. Kind of like people. I also
found that, on occasion, they ate better that I did and I
caught myself envying their diet from time to time.
Depending on the theme of the current cook-off I would
have preferred a simple head of iceberg lettuce... or just
a carrot. An unaltered, raw, all-American carrot. The
aroma wafting from the kitchen did little to stir up any
hunger cravings. Potato Poofs or Cheese Swirl Delight
(word of advice - avoid any food with the term "delight"
associated with it as you would road kill) or one of the
seemly endless variations of spaghetti noodles drowning in
tomato sauce and fried, ground beef were all terrifying

"Okay Mom, what good old American meal have you messed up
today?" I asked with completely rhetorical intent. She was
not amused. In reality she hadn't been experimenting at
all that evening. But the meal was still going to leave a
lot to be desired as she had settled on liver and onions
for the main coarse. Mom thought that I liked liver. I
suppose that's because I had a finely honed denial skill
in those days and could ingest it without really
considering what it truly was. What it truly was... was
pre-liverwurst. The old "Starving children in India...."
saw was going to be buzzing tonight. My brothers and I
doubted if even they would eat the stuff (it being cow and
nasty and all) but offered graciously to ship ours to them
if that meant we could be excused from the (pumpkin-
orange) counter. Again, unamused. We eventually wore her
down in pure duration and were able to leave the vicinity
of the crime but sans dessert. That was okay - it was Lime
Jell-O Delight (with carrots and raisins).

We raced outside to catch the evening action on Tinkle
Street, the street that never sleeps. Well mostly never
sleeps. Okay, has stuff going on... sometimes. The sun was
low in the western sky, dropping toward Badger Mountain
and I appreciated even then that very little could match
the wonder of a summer evening in Richland. The scorching
heat that had inferno-ized the small city throughout the
middle of the day had yielded to a comfortable, quiet
warmth that was calm and soothing. No breeze caused even
the slightest trembling in the leaves of the three huge
basswoods in our front yard. The sidewalks and streets
released stored up heat in a soft, warm radiance and
shadows stretched long, covering all things previously
brilliant in a wash of silently dimming half-tones.
Nighthawks and swallows swooped and wheeled, filling up on
buzzing insects (including those pesky mosquitoes who
apparently had held their breath during the DDT fogging)
and kids full from recent repast, be it liver or be it
normal food, swarmed to the streets to close the day with
whatever opportunity for fun and play presented itself.

Someone on the street always seemed to come up with an
interesting new diversion and then it would spread like
Skippy on Wonder Bread around the block till every kid
around had given whatever it was a whirl. Hula-hoops, yo
yos and kites all had their turn at being the "thing" of
the hour. Home-made innovations such as stilts constructed
from two-by-fours, skate boards (or sidewalk surfboards as
we called them then) crafted from one of your old clamp-on
skates, pulled apart and nailed to each end of the
underside of a piece of wood and many other clever toys
came and went as the next cool thing took its place.

We had admittedly short attention spans but fortune had
blessed us by plopping us onto the Earth at a time when,
due to several factors not the least of which was that
there were just a whole friggin LOT of us, everyone seemed
dedicated to one degree or another on appeasing us and
appeared very intent on insuring that we were fulfilled in
every aspect of our young lives. We, as I recall, did
nothing to actively discourage this endeavor. And as a
result, new and fun things were constantly churning though
our days in an almost inexhaustible manner.

I stood on my front lawn and observed, once again, Tommy
Joe Woods across the street standing near the gutter of
the sidewalk. He had something, a piece of cloth, dangling
from his hand. He carefully rolled it up and leaned way
back, his left hand and face pointing up to the sky and
his right arm cocked in a throwing posture. He tossed the
ball of cloth straight up into the evening sky as hard as
he could, maybe 20 feet or so. As it reached the apex of
its flight and began to fall, it started to unroll and
something shiny dropped out of its middle. The cloth
immediately filled with air and popped wide open dangling
the shiny object tied to strings below it. It was a little
bitty parachute! That was really cool! How did he do that?
As it drifted to the ground I could easily see its
construction. Tommy Joe had taken a handkerchief, tied
four equal-length strings to each of its corners and then
tied the other ends of the strings to two large (shiny)
washers. You rolled the handkerchief into a ball then
wrapped the strings around it till you wound it all up
tight. Then you could rear back and heave it as hard as
possible into the heavens. Sometimes the simplest things
are the most fun. I immediately raced home and swiped one
of my dad's nose rags, found some string and a bolt. That
was all I needed. In a few minutes I too, was rolling and
flinging away right next to Tommy Joe.

This activity did not go unnoticed by the other fifteen to
twenty kids in the immediate neighborhood. Soon the sky
above Tinkle street was blooming with kerchiefs of various
sizes and hues. The swallows and nighthawks continued
their soaring and swooping, fairly unperturbed by the
flack. We tried bigger ones, we tried longer strings. We
threw two (or three) at once. We replaced the washers with
one of those cap rockets; you know - it looked like a
little bomb and you could slide a cap (or five) into a
plate behind its nose so that when you threw it the cap
popped, to create a popping (bomb) version. That's what
was great about these "things" that would sweep through
the neighborhood. Everyone tried their level best to come
up with a new twist, a different approach that would keep
it interesting and alive for as long as possible. Or until
the next thing came along. Superballs. Probably still a
few of those in the rain gutters.

Steve Sterling (70), my backyard neighbor and a member of
the Torbett Street kids was a born tinkerer. When it was
innovation time, Steve was hard to best. He always had a
chemistry set or an erector set or a crystal radio
set.... he was a real "set" oriented kind of kid. And he
was forever thinking of new and better ways to improve the
"fun" status quo. He also was out on Tinkle that evening
(political boundaries were meaningless to us in those
days) and had observed with great interest the activities
that were taking place. He just groked the physics of the
whole thing. Steve figured that if a bolt or some washers
or a cap bomb could pull it off, why couldn't a real kid
(namely him) do it? He started rummaging around in his
carport and came up with an old bed sheet. He then located
some string. Unlike the washers-handkerchief design he
wanted to have a traditional harness and backpack in which
to house his "chute" so he scrounged around till he found
a grocery box.

Back in those days you were never asked for your "paper or
plastic" preference at Safeway. They would just take the
empty grocery boxes that had their tops razor-knifed off
during shelf stocking and pile them out by the registers.
The "box-boys" as they were known would grab one or two
when you checked through and neatly place all your
groceries in them. You would then have a couple of fifty
pound boxes of food to unload at the hacienda. My lower
back is glad that this is not the current methodology. But
Steve came up with one of those boxes and proceeded to tie
a piece of string to each of the corners on its open side.
He tied the opposite ends of the string to the appropriate
corners of the bed sheet. I think it was a twin. Realizing
that he had to have some form of harness with which to
affix the "chute" to his person, he added a couple of
loops of string to the closed (bottom) side of the box.
The contraption was fully complete and ready for flight

Now, though young, Steve was a big boy. It was easily
obvious that neither I nor any of the neighbor kids would
be able to fling him even an inch off the ground. Arnold
Schwarzenegger could not have flung him an inch off the
ground. Not to worry. He simply had to find a proper perch
from which to leap and deploy. He first took a long hard
look at the roof of his house but the difficulty in
actually getting up there along with the inevitable
thrashing from his parents discouraged him from that
avenue. The picnic table in my back yard was just too low
to the ground and not a sufficient test of the full
capabilities of his design. But the fence that separated
our back yards... yes, that was it. It was perfect. He
could clamber to the top of the clothesline pole and step
across to the fence top. Once there, a single step into
the void, parachute fluffs open and he floats gently to
the ground, undulating back and forth under the linen

Mounting the fence proved to be a bit less graceful than
anticipated as the donning of the box/sheet system had
added a previously unanticipated degree of difficulty. The
straps slid down his arms as he tried to maneuver into
position and the clothesline pole swayed dangerously as
Steve tried to steady himself for the step to the fence.
But eventually he succeeded and was in position for the
attempt. It was about at this point that I began to wonder
about the ratio of Steve's weight to the strings that
would be suspending him from the sheet. You know, we
probably should have thought of that earlier but in all
the commotion, it just slid by, under the radar. I began
to feel sure that there was some twine snappage in Steve's
future and mentioned it to him. But he would not be
dissuaded. He had come this far, overcoming many obstacles
to get here and would be darned if he wasn't going to go
through with it. I have a feeling that if, at the time I
mentioned the string to weight thing, he had been on the
roof of his house instead of atop a six foot fence he may
have paid more attention.

But he was ready to go and sure enough, gone he went.
Doing my part I yelled, "CUT!" and without a moment's
hesitation he leaped off the fence with minimal fanfare
and, as it turned out, I had worried about the string for
nothing. In an instant he was on the ground in a crumpled
heap and the chute was still in the box. It never occurred
to us that if the combined length of the string and the
sheet were actually longer that the fence was
high..... well, you get the picture. Steve didn't however,
and proceeded to try the leap a couple more times, all
with the same result. Basically he was doing the very same
thing that Roger Smith and I had been doing earlier that
day while we were playing "Ripcord". It was just that we
didn't bother with trying to make a functional parachute
and accepted the fact that we were going to crash into the
lawn and...p r e t e n d...that we were wearing chutes.
Eventually Steve gave up and headed home, sheet and string
trailing on the lawn behind him, finally fully deployed. I
muttered something about how fortunate for him that he
hadn't decided on the roof thing and headed in the
opposite direction back to Tinkle Street.

By this time dusk was rapidly falling and the radiant heat
rising from the ground was more apparent in its contrast
to the rapidly increasing darkness and the cooling night
air. At that moment the streetlights above flickered to
life and represented the final punctuation of the day.
Parental Decree, "When the streetlights cometh on, you
cometh in." Most of the kids on the block operated on this
nocturnal signal and the Tinkle Street was soon vacated,
one and all having headed into their respective ranch
homes whose windows were now lit as families settled into
their indoor evening activities.

I myself had the latest issue of Mad magazine and half of
a Jolly Rancher Fire Stix stashed in the underwear drawer
in my bedroom (this is not as gross as it sounds as my
underwear were usually not anywhere near that drawer but
carefully scattered around the room). After jammying up
and brushing my teeth, I proceed to nullify the potential
benefits of both of those activities (jammys for sleeping
and tooth brushing for oral hygiene) by pulling my
blankets over my head, flicking on a flashlight and
popping the hot cinnamon candy into my mouth. I proceeded
to fold the magazine's back cover in three places along
the dotted lines provided to see what Jaffe's transformed
picture would reveal. You really have to know Mad to
appreciate exactly what that means and it would take to
long to explain it here. And for too little payoff. As I
read the mag I licked the end of the Fire Stix into a
razor-sharp blade of sugar. Those things could be
dangerous and you had to pay attention to what you were
doing or you could end up with a nasty lip incision. Full
of spicy-hot cinnamon oil. Danger candy. The last thing I
remembered was reading Spy Vs Spy and woke up the next
morning to a flashlight with a dead battery, me drooling
all over a Don Martin cartoon and a Fire Stix stub firmly
glued to my hair.

The morning summer sun had just cleared the cement gym
wall at Spalding Elementary and had spanked the sidewalks
on the banks of Tinkle street with a rosy heat that would,
by mid afternoon, intensify to the point where tar patches
in the road would melt and asphalt would squish beneath
the soles of your feet. Another day had begun.

Epilogue: So all in all it was just another day. Not your
Dickensian best of days nor the worst of days. Just a
pretty good day. It was a paradoxical day. One single day
and yet many, many, many days. Nothing special happened
yet everything that happened will always be special to me.
It was, after all, "my" day. And as I move along in this
life I realize more and more that most things we see and
do and feel and touch, and those whom we encounter and
those who encounter us are all special if appreciated from
that perspective. You get each day only once. Meted out in
individual doses to do with what you will and what you
can. And like the plastic bullets from my Mattel
Winchester, many will get lost in the lawn no matter how
careful you are to try to hang on to them. It doesn't
matter much what you have or where you are. Nor does it
make a real difference if you're old, young or in-between
except in the ability to capture the good that is
happening while it is happening and what joy you can bring
to it, if that is the path you choose to walk. I try
harder these days to smell the aroma, take in the color,
and feel the warmth of things that touch me each day.
These things are what is real. So hopefully in my
ramblings above, I have helped recapture for you a taste,
a sound, a sensation, a memory that you thought you had
lost or forgotten but now have rediscovered. So take this
day from long ago. I don't consider it my gift to you
because it wasn't "my" day after all, was it? It always
was your day, you just forgot you had it. Well, now it's
back. And it's yours to keep. Hey, try not to lose it
again, okay?

-Jeff Curtis (69) Seattle, WA

Post: I would really like to thank all of you who have
responded so warmly to this story. I usually get mail
after a Sandstorm submittal but the responses to this
rather windy entry have been very kind indeed. Folks that
I haven't heard from in years have popped up and many who
have never met me have taken the time to write to a total
stranger. It's all very gratifying. So thank you all very
much and if you don't get an individual response please
accept this as my way of telling you that I'm very glad
you enjoy these tales. And, at the risk of sounding like a
broken record, I would like to extend my warmest thanks to
Maren and Richard for the effort. Yeah, pretty much for
all the effort it must take to get this thing out EVERY
SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR. Even God knocked off one day a
week. Well, leave it to those two to raise the bar. So
thank you Maren, Richard and everyone..... hey, I just had
a flash! I better go write this down - see ya the next

-Jeff Curtis (69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 07/23/01
>>From:  Jeff Curtis (69)

RE: On Becoming a Beaver (...shudder):

The sirens wailed on Tuesday
The children hit the decks
In crouched repose neath wooden desks
Hands covered heads and necks

It seemed to us a game then
A break from math and all
We'd giggle yes, we'd fidget
And await the all-clear call

When it came we all crawled out
And clambered to our chairs
We then resumed our studies
Safe from world affairs

I worried about homework
I worried about grades
I worried if she'd like me,
The pretty girl with braids

I never worried very long
About the threat of wars
If or when the bomb would drop
Within domestic shores 

Was it because I knew about
The work our parents did?
Not really, cause after all
I was just a kid
No, my concerns had more to do 
With maximizing fun
Of skating and of swimming,
Enjoying desert sun

Of Freeze Tag and Red Rover,
Mother May I Please
I'll take my dime and spend some time
Down at the Tastee Freeze

I was free to wander
I was free to roam
Never wonder, never worry
Bout the safety of my home

And I was free to do all this,
Engage in childish toils
Without the hunger, pain or fear
Endured on foreign soils

Because of what they did here
They focused their careers 
The steel men and the fitters,
The Corps of Engineers

On building for the future
Of making war not last
Its horror and its carnage
Relegated to the past

When all was done and truth was told
The awful power proved
The fireballs that lit the Earth
Should not again be used

Don't be ashamed of what was done
Don't hide it in the past
The benefits of history
Once forgotten just don't last

We do not wish to glorify
The violence or the waste
Or argue here semantics
Of ethics or bad taste

We associate with its power
And its intended use
We do not praise but vilify
Those intending its abuse   

We all are children of an age
Where the atom held its sway
Its protection and its power
Was meant to light the way

And so I am Bomber
And a Bomber I will stay
I will not lose this label
Cause you took the bomb away

That was just a hunk of steel
An icon, nothing more
The Bomber that is in me
Isn't bolted to a floor

Its rooted in my history
It never goes away
And it is responsible
For what I am today

So if true intent says "lose the name"
And the bomb's a place to start
You'll never, ever drop the bomb
That's in a Bomber's heart

-Jeff Curtis (69) ~ Seattle, WA

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 12/22/01
>>From:  Jeff Curtis (69)

Re: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
    I listen to NPR in the mornings while I get ready
for work. Lately I hate turning on the radio. It messes
up a good night's sleep as I prefer waking up FROM a
nightmare rather than into one. I consider the news
media with a hot topic much like a kid with a sno-cone.
Both will try to suck the juice out of the object of
their attentions until there is no juice left. The
significant difference between the two is, at that
point, the kid stops sucking. Yet I am simultaneously
amazed and dismayed at the amount of juice in the
current sno-cone. It's giving me an upset stomach. I
instinctively try to return to the relative peace and
quite that was September 10th. Usually without
success... All Things Considered...
    So I find it fairly easy to let my mind wander back 
to less stressful times, when my daily ambitions had 
more to do with seeking out rich pockets of fun and
recreational diversions in the neighborhood and less
with trying to stay abreast of every newsworthy event
happening at any given moment across the entire planet.
    So then, it should not surprise you dear reader, 
that during our annual Thanksgiving visit to the Atomic 
City I found myself staring out the front window of my 
folks little ranch house, gazing at a landscape I have 
viewed thousands of times in my life, with a sense of 
inner comfort that only comes from deep familiarity. The
neighborhood, surprisingly, hasn't changed very much in
fifty years. Ranch houses line both sides of the street,
the Regimbals' home directly across the street is 
still pink, undoubtedly many coats of pink but pink
nonetheless. The aroma of Lou Regimbal's fresh-baked
pies still fill their home from time to time, not as
frequently as all those years ago perhaps but still
undiminished in their ability to lift the mood and stir
the appetite. Lou always gave me pie, God bless her.
    Most of the folks that lived up and down the block 
when I was a kid are still there, kids grown and gone,
grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) making regular
pilgrimages to Grandma and Grandpa's house to celebrate
the "special" days that dot our lives. At other times
just to visit and cultivate the bond of family that was
part of the bedrock of our little town all those years
ago and still is to this day. Some of the trees are much
larger. Some of them are gone, leaving strange holes
in the template my memory uses to overlay the scene. But
there is much that is exactly the same as it ever was.
    Sometimes its the plainest, most innocuous things 
that flash you back. Things that are taken for granted 
for years and years. And that Thursday afternoon, with 
the turkey taking f o r e v e r to get done was one of 
those times. Noticing something as innocuous as the old
sidewalk that has passed by the property since before I
was born, with its cracks and sloped curbing triggered
memories long buried. It doesn't look much different
today. A bit worn, more exposed aggregate showing the
wear and tear inflicted upon its surface which supported
decades of skates and skateboards, trikes, bikes and a
million busy feet. I, myself, have a bit of aggregate
showing for similar reasons now that I think about it.
But for whatever reason, the familiar sight of the old
walkway took me back years and years. This isn't one of
those "Ghost of Christmas past" kind of tales as its not
about Christmas at all. And I'm certainly not a ghost...
not yet at any rate. But come along anyway. Sometimes
looking back can help you see where you're going...
    It was the summer of 1960 and the world was just a
really, really great place in which to be a nine-year
old kid. I had recently completed what I considered at
the time to be a brutal third grade year at Jason Lee
Elementary. But with the advent of summer vacation (with
the notable exception of a brief stint in the two-week
ironic, hell of summer CCD at Christ the King) all the
long division, book reports and diagramming of sentences
was behind me. At least for the next couple of months. I
had risen, popped into shorts and tee-shirt, buried some
milky Cheerios in a pile of sugar and gulped them down.
Morning duties complete. What a life. I grabbed my pop-
gun and headed for the door to face one of the seemingly
endless warm and sunny days that, in the Columbia Basin,
lined up in a rarely broken string during the summer
months like floats in the Macy's parade. (See how that
analogy keeps a kind of holiday spirit thing woven in?)
    "Where are you going, Jeff?" asked my mom more out 
of duty than concern.
    "Out" I replied offering the generically obvious
information necessary to make my exit.
    "Well, be careful." said Mom, more out of duty than
    After all, there really wasn't all that much to be
concerned about back then. The "safety in numbers"
principle alone provided that, due to the hundreds of
kids within a few block area, we had the numbers to
overcome a frontal assault by the Red Army if that
should prove necessary.
    And so I stepped out into a beautiful sunny summer
morning armed with my pop-gun and fortified with the
standard-issue exuberance that comes hand in hand with
nine-year-old naivety. Naivety and nearly a whole cup of
sugar on the breakfast cereal.
    I wandered across the front lawn to the sidewalk 
that lined the shores of Tinkle Street and carefully
inspected the terrain. Someone up the street was washing
their car and the gutter was flowing with white, sudsy
water. I wondered for a moment if the soap content of
that water would reduce the polio germ population in the
puddle that always formed, stagnant and slimy, at the
corner of Tinkle and Cottonwood streets. We always
referred to such pools as "polio water", sure that
should even a drop pass the lips, the mysterious,
terrible disease would surely befall you. I thought
briefly about damming the gutter with mud, which was
always a busy and interesting diversion. As the
reservoir behind the dam filled it was necessary to 
keep adding more mud, further and further into the 
street. Finally, when you felt the time was right, you 
could, with swipe of hand or kick of thong, destroy the
structure and watch the flood waters surge down the
street, maybe even overwhelming another kid's dam
further down the waterway. Yes, we found extreme joy 
in this.
    But on this day I noticed that several new ant
hills, about an inch tall, had been constructed in the 
sidewalk cracks by the highly organized creatures and it 
was my mission, yes, my duty, to undo their ceaseless 
labors. I cocked my pop-gun and took aim at one of the 
small ant hills covered with about a dozen workers. POP! 
In an instant both hill and ants were blown away. These
weren't the big, ferocious red-ant variety that would
bite like a pit bull if given the opportunity, but the
little black ants that frequented gardens and sidewalks.
The impact of a pop-gun blast could really do some
serious redistribution on these guys. POP.... and they
would go flying, abdomen over thorax in all directions.
But it never stopped there. As word traveled throughout
the colony, more workers swarmed out to the surface to
see what the hell had happened. POP! And they went
flying, too. But never too far away. They regrouped with
the first lot that I had popped and immediately headed
right back to the nest with an innate sense of duty that
obfuscated any awareness of personal danger they may
face at the hands of a sugar-crazed, well armed, nine
year old human. This process would be repeated over and
over, POP... POP... POP... POP. By now there were
hundreds of ants swarming all over the site apparently
trying to figure out what was going on and attempting to
be useful.
    Yes, creating ant swarms was a really, really good
time. Fortunately for the ants, the payload of a pop-gun
wasn't lethal and the attention span of a nine-year-old
boy, even when concentrating on markedly evil pursuits
was finite. Very finite. About ten minutes finite. Thus
I soon wearied, finding that the amusement had waned
from this activity. I took a last glance at the tiny
melee that was my doing and, satisfied that my work here
was complete, I wandered off to find other sources of
recreation. Later that morning the queen proclaimed it,
"A day that will live in infamy..." Colonists can be so
    From within the house came a mighty "HI YO
SIIIILLLVEEEERR, Away!" (You know, I think I distinctly
heard my son use the phrase "Hi, yo" when talking to a
friend of his on the phone the other day. I'm pretty 
sure they weren't talking Lone Ranger however.)
    Anyway... the TV was on in the living room and 
Silver was rearing back on his hind legs in a very 
impressive and very familiar pose, the ranger somehow 
maintaining a dignified posture on his now nearly 
vertical back. Silver was a poser wasn't he? I don't 
think you could ever find a scene where he didn't look 
good. Oh sure, he was smart and fast and all that. But 
he knew what side was his good side and I'm sure he 
worked the camera. I wonder who did his mane? I really 
loved that show and waited for the closing scene each 
week where "the" question would get asked. You know the 
one. "Who WAS that masked man?" spoken by some naive 
green-horn settler. Some naive settler that apparently 
    I mean, the Ranger was, in my eyes, a dazzling gem 
in a dirt-clod world. He stuck out like Liberace at a 
WWF convention. Now, I don't mean he was a sissy or
anything. Just that he really knew how to dress well.
Sorta natty. Always very clean, you know. And the pearl
handles and silver bullets... niiiiiiice touch! As soon
as that guy made his premiere appearance in Dodge or
Tombstone word would have spread like measles throughout
the west. I doubt that he could have been mistaken for
any other spotless, white-hatted, shiny pantsed, fancy
booted, pearl-handled, silver bulleted, MASKED, all
around good guy on a huge white stallion with an Indian
side-kick. Who was that masked man? Really.
    But all those guys were that way. Ever get a good 
look at Roy Rogers? That guy not only dressed in the 
latest cowboy outfit but he had a million of them. They
probably had to have an addition put on the bunk house
to accommodate a walk-in for his clothes. An entire
dresser just for his colorful scarves alone. Where the
heck could a cowboy get that massive a wardrobe? Must
have shopped at The Ranch Hand's Warehouse or something.
Dale never really looked all that happy about it either.
I think she felt out-dressed most of the time. Ahhhh but
those were happy trails.
    Hopalong Cassidy was the first thing I ever remember
seeing on a TV set anywhere. We were at Bunch Finnegan's
in Kennewick. My dad used to love going there because
each and every time he walked in he would say, "Hi, are
there a bunch of Finnegans in here?" I didn't get it 
for a while. I didn't know what exactly a Finnegan was. 
And the store employees seemed to politely take it in
stride. They didn't act like it was a brilliant turn of
wit that they had never heard before, but they didn't
throw him out either.
    On that visit Hopalong was riding through the sage
simultaneously on five or six TV sets out on the sales
floor. I was instantly fascinated and parked myself in
front of one and watched the show. I was hooked from
that moment on. Cowboys were cool and cowboys were
everywhere on TV in those days. My friends and I loved
every one of them. Matt Dillon, Paladin, Johnny Yuma,
Sugarfoot, Texas John Slaughter, Rowdy Yates, Josh
Randall, Lucas McCain - The Rifleman, Johnny Ringo, 
Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson. Maverick, Pa, Adam, Hoss, 
Little Joe and on and on. I couldn't get enough.
    I had guns and spurs and chaps and holsters. There 
was a brief period of diversion with a coonskin cap and 
a flintlock but eventually even Fess Parker did cowboy
roles. Saturday nights I would don my spurs and six-gun
and walk steely-eyed with Matt Dillon down the main
street of Dodge City, facing off against an anonymous
outlaw in the weekly introduction-gunfight sequence. I
outdrew him every time.
    Oh, to be a cowboy and ride the range. Just me 
and my trusty stallion, doing good and righting wrong 
whenever the need arose. Loved by the righteous, feared 
by all evil-doers, invincible. A beacon of all that is 
good and just. I had similar fantasies about being 
Superman but jumping off the back fence several times 
proved that the flying thing would probably never work 
out, not to mention the resulting owies. Superman didn't 
get owies. But riding a horse, shooting a gun, fighting 
crime in the defense of the helpless and generally being 
a good guy were all reasonably attainable skills, 
contentions to the contrary (about the good-guy thing) 
maintained by both my third grade teacher and the nun at 
Summer CCD notwithstanding. A guy can change can't he?
    So it was understandable that I didn't see the 
car pull up in front of the house that day, me being 
enthralled in Tonto pulling the Ranger's ashes out of 
the fire (again) and all. A man in a very brown and very
businesslike suit approached the door and knocked. He
had a rather large manila envelope in his hand and asked
politely if my mom was here, giving me a wink.
    A wink? Well, at least that indicated that I 
probably wasn't going to be held responsible for some 
heinous act I had unknowingly committed. While I felt at 
the time that a good old "Howdy pardner!" and something 
about how we didn't "cotton to no strangers round these 
parts" was in order, Mom stepped in and spared the poor 
    And since at this point my mom has entered the 
picture, it's time (and necessary) for a little 
background information. Mom really liked bridge with the 
girls. Mom really like yakking on the party line for 
hours. And Mom really, really liked to use her children 
as unwilling test subjects for wildly experimental 
cuisine departures. My mom liked a lot of things but she
absolutely LOVED to enter contests. Particularly those
which required an bit of creativity.
    Sweepstakes and other luck-of-the-draw competitions 
she disdained. But give her the opportunity to leverage 
a sense of artistic composition or a turn of the phrase
into a self-determinable winning edge and she would
light up like Elm Street at Christmastime (and yet
another holiday analogy if you're counting). Don't just
pull out the old Crayolas. No, no! Use a cotton ball for
the tail of the bunny on the grocery bag. And pipe
cleaners for its whiskers. And maybe glue a couple of
buttons on it for eyes. Ding! ding! ding! Ladies and
gentlemen, we have a winner in the 1960 Safeway Easter
Bunny Coloring Contest! Oh, but she was good. Yes, there
was more of craftiness than of craft about her methods
(apologies to C. Dickens - and if you don't get this
holiday reference I apologize to you for its vagueness)
but they were extremely effective and we had the fruits
of her labors, from barbeque grills to bicycles,
reminding us of her prowess all through my childhood.
    "Maam", said the stranger. I really liked the whole
"Maam" thing. Sounded real western to me.
    "I'm from Bar-S Cudahy".
    Now I didn't know what a Cudahy was but that Bar-S
thing sounded like a ranch. I didn't get out to too many
ranches in those days but I had watched enough hours of
cowboy programming to know that any time you put the
word "Bar" or "Lazy" or "Rocking" near any alphabetic
consonant it generally showed up in two places. Someone
was going to put it on a plank and hang it from the
cross-beam at the main entrance of the "spread" and some
cows were going to get it burned into their collective
butts. What the heck was this guy up to?
    He turned and looked at me, "Son, you recently 
entered our "Tell us why you like Bar-S products in 
twenty-five words or less" contest and I am happy to 
inform you that your entry has been selected as one of 
our grand prize winners."
    Well, good ol' Mom. She'd done it again. While it
was true that it was actually "my" entry. Mom helped out 
a little. Like finding the contest in the first place,
getting the entry form, developing a concept, forcing me
to write up an entry and guiding me through numerous
grudging rewrites. I cannot remember what exactly my 
submission consisted of but I can guess.
    Maybe the "clever word usage" approach: "Bar-S bacon
Mooooooo-ves me everyday in every way.". Probably not -
but keep that one in the file if Exlax ever has jingle
contest. Maybe it was the "healthy-lifestyle" angle:
"Bar-S sausage helps me grow up big and strong like a
bull."... yeah, a whole lotta bull with clogged arteries
as hard as copper pipe. And its not really zingy is it?
How about a "bacon-as-brain-food" approach: "The sizzle
of Bar-S bacon in the morning keeps my mind "crisp" at
school." Well, that bacon has curled. One look at my
report card and/or ANY contact with my third grade
teacher (or, again, the CCD nun) would bring them to the
conclusion that I had either a very substantial bacon
deficiency in my diet or that consuming their product
causes mild retardation. Either way I doubt that there
would be any prizes awarded. They would probably be
surprised that I could write at all.
    After a brief conversation with my Mom the stranger
handed over some paperwork and hit the road. Sooooo...
what did "I" win exactly? A clock radio? A year's supply
of bacon? Or frozen succotash (bleeck)? What?
    "Guess what buckaroo?" said my mom. Buckaroo? She 
never called me buckaroo. I wasn't aware that she was 
even familiar with the term but I could tell she was 
trying to be simultaneously mysterious and clever. 
Sometimes that could be dangerous. I took a step 
    "You just won yourself a week at a dude ranch!" she
said excitedly. Now THERE was I term I was unfamiliar
with. Dude ranch? On TV and in the movies a "dude" was
usually the first one to go flying backwards through the
swinging saloon doors with a broken jaw. Or take an
arrow. I backed up a second step.
    "What's the matter?" said my mom looking puzzled.
"Don't you want to go live on a ranch for a couple of
weeks and ride horses?"
    Huh? Ranch? Ride horses? Seriously? I just won a 
trip to live on a ranch and ride horses? Well, GOOD OL' 
    Not many days hence, although it seemed Jurassic in
duration to me, we loaded my gear into our sky-blue Ford
Ranch Wagon, pulled out of the driveway by our ranch
house and headed West to find my dude ranch. Ranch,
ranch, ranch. I had had that word on my mind so often in
the last couple of weeks that the sound of it lost all
meaning. But I was very focused on what that theme
really meant to me. I was going to live on a spread. A
ridin' and a ropin'. A whoopin' and a hollerin'!
Drinkin' red-eye and firing my pistols into the air.
Okay, cancel the last two but I was intent on a lot of
ridin' and at least a little bit of whoopin'.
    The Flying Horseshoe Ranch was (and still is) 
located on the Blewitt Pass highway several miles out 
side of Cle Elum, WA amidst a mountainous backdrop and
surrounded by tall Ponderosa pines. After a long drive
across the desert, this was one of the most awe
inspiring sights I had ever seen. I don't think I had
really ever traveled too far West in those days. Grandma
and Grandpa lived in Spokane so North was the direction
we traveled frequently.
    This was something different. And there was the 
plank on the cross-beam of the main entrance bearing the 
image of a horseshoe with wings on it! Now that was just 
too cool! And there were the cows with it burned into 
their butts! It was perfect. We drove through the front 
gate under the sign and headed for a large group of 
buildings situated at the end of a long dirt road.
    We were pulling into the parking area when I got a
glimpse of the stables. That was my first bit of
whoopin'. The stable toprails were filled with saddle
after saddle and it was literally full of horses, all
shapes, sizes and colors. Oh boy, oh boy! Saddle up
pardner and we'll head em off at the pass! My folks met
with one of the ranch hands to take care of business.
Must have been an administrative ranch hand because I
noticed that he wasn't wearing a gun. He took care of
getting me checked in, escorted me to the bunkhouse and
showed me where I could stow my gear. Which included
plenty of clean underwear with my name sewn into the
waist bands.
    My parents then bid me farewell and said that they
would be returning in ten days or so to pick me up, to
be safe and to have fun. Have fun? How could I not have
fun? Just LOOK at this place! Stables and horses and a
barn and saddles. Wow! This was going to be just the
    About that time I noticed our sky-blue Ford Ranch 
Wagon heading back down the road and out to the highway. 
I realized, for the first time, that my parents had 
left. Left me by myself. Alone. My parents had never 
left before. I mean I was only nine. This was the first 
time I had ever gone anywhere for even one night without 
at least one of them hanging around.
    Suddenly I didn't feel so giddy. In fact I felt
decidedly un-giddy. I didn't know a soul here. And
nobody but nobody was paying any attention to me at all.
    I felt a sinking sensation similar to what the 
Titanic must have experienced that night long ago in the 
lonely North Atlantic. I was just beginning to let the 
reality of the situation seep down deep into my bones 
and was seconds away from bawling "Mommy!" at the top of 
my lungs when a sound came from behind me.
    A young voice was singing loudly "Splish, splash I 
was takin' a bath. Long about a Saturday night...." with 
a dedication and exuberance that momentarily pulled me
from my ever worsening depression.
    "Rub, dub just a splashin' in the tub. Feelin'
everything was alright..." I turned around to see a kid
about two or three years older than me (as it turned out
everyone there was older then me) walking my way and
belting out the Bobby Darin tune with his head back and
his eyes closed. It was as if the ranch and horses and
being by himself were not even on the itinerary. He just
wanted to be jammin'.
    "Well I got out the tub. Put my feet on the floor. 
Took a little spin and then I opened the door... Hey, 
what's your name?" he asked singing stopped and eyes now 
open. He had become aware of my presence as a necessity 
of not bumping into me
    "My name is Jeff" I said sheepishly.
    "Mine's Chris" he said, "Where ya from?"
    "Richland" I replied without much conviction. Boy, 
was I ever feeling FROM there.
    "Hey, me too." he said.
    Turns out it was good old Chris Janos ('65). While I 
had never met good old Chris in person, his mom, Wanda, 
had been my nursery school teacher many, many, many 
years before. She had the best tasting play dough in the 
Tri-City area as far as I was concerned. And, in the 
course of my then pre-school daily activities at her 
place I had an occasional "accident" which required some 
quick thinking on Mrs. Janos' part. Quick thinking and a 
pair of Chris' underwear. So I guess you could say I had 
a somewhat intimate relationship with Chris long before 
I had ever met him. Once again I was beholding to the 
    The fact that we were both "homeys" instantly 
comforted me. The fact that we had shared u-trow never 
came up. So there we stood checking out the splendor of 
the scene while other kids started showing up in ones 
and twos.
    Turns out that not all kids that are sent off to 
summer camp or dude ranches or places like that are sent 
there purely out of the goodness of their parents hearts 
with the concern that they have an enriching experience 
to draw from in later years. Sometimes its just to get 
them out of the house... anywhere. I met some real 
lovely characters that summer. With their help, I 
expanded my knowledge of the human reproductive process 
and associated vocabulary among other things.
    About that time one of the ranch staff walked over 
and told us to head on over to the barn. It was time to 
get our horses. Get our horses? Our horses? Mom and Dad 
who? So off we headed for the barn. To get our horses. 
Chris immediately began belting out Splish Splash again 
which, by the way, was not a golden oldie at the time. 
At the time it was on the charts in the top ten. But I 
age myself.
    Turns out that we were assigned our own horse for 
the duration of our stay at the Flying Horseshoe. Not 
one of those buck-an-hour deals at the red barn in West
Richland, but our own horse to saddle and ride and brush
and sleep with. Well okay. They wouldn't let us sleep
with them but that other stuff was true.
    I wondered which horse would be mine. One of the
chestnuts or a pinto? How about a black stallion like
Fury? Boy there were some cool TV horses back then.
Silver of course and Fury, Flicka, Scout. Yeah, Scout.
Would I get a paint like scout? One by one the horses
were paired up with the young riders.
    "And for you young man," said the staffer, "A
palomino." A palomino. Like Trigger? Trigger was a
Palomino! And what a stud. All right! The ranch hand 
led me out into the corral to my mount.
    Turns out it wasn't Trigger. Or Widowmaker. Or A-
Bomb. No, my horse was named Sunshine. Sunshine? That 
didn't sound a bit powerful or dangerous. It sounded 
like something a girl would name her cat. And, true to 
her name, Sunshine was just a lamb. In fact I think she 
was barely conscious. Turns out that the ownership 
really didn't want inexperienced, nine year old city 
kids riding mustangs named Dyno-mite. Liability issues 
and all. Well, it didn't seem like they had much to 
worry about with me and old Sunshine. After all, she was 
more like a walking pillow than a wild stallion. Oh 
well, at least she was MY horse and that was something.
    We all then headed over to the Chow Hall for a 
hearty and satisfying meal, get acquainted announcements 
and several rousing sing-a-long camp songs:

The rolls at the Flying Horseshoe they say are might fine 
One rolled off the table and killed a pal of mine
Oh I don't want no more of raaaaaanch life
Gee Mom I wanna go 
Gosh Mom I wanna go Oh Mom I wanna go hoooooome
The milk at the Flying Horseshoe they say is might fine
Its used for cuts and bruises and tastes like i-o-dine
And so on...

    I was hugely amused by the fact that they seemed to 
take great pleasure in using music to point out how 
really terrible the place was.
    Then it was off to the bunk house to get some 
serious sack time as we had a long day of ranch life 
ahead of us, starting early the next morning. I really 
don't remember much about the bunk house. After all, 
this was about forty years ago and we didn't spend a lot 
of time in there. And most of the time we were in there 
we were sleeping like zombies, being dead tired from the 
days activities. Or I was absorbing lurid information 
from all the older kids who delighted in sharing it. But 
I do remember that it was a true bunk house. You know, 
with bunk beds and all? Everyone doubled up with a bunk 
mate - two to a bed. Every time I see the scene in 
"Trains, Planes and Automobiles" where John Candy and 
Steve Martin wake up after sharing a bed for the night I 
think about the old bunkhouse sleeping arrangements. But 
in our case, they really were pillows.
    The next morning we were all rousted and again 
headed over to the Chow Hall for a rib-sticking 
breakfast and then out to the corral to saddle up. Well, 
this was it.Time to ride high in the saddle. Maybe I 
could learn that trick where you came running up behind 
your trusty horse and sprung onto its back in a single, 
graceful movement. We'd just have to see about that.
    Right away I ran into trouble. We were all told to
saddle up our own steeds. I identified my assigned
saddle and in lifting it off the fence, found that it
weighed about the same as I did. I collapsed under it. I
managed, however, to recover and drag it across the
ground next to Sunshine who merely turned her head
slightly, chewing away on some hay in bored amusement at
my toils. Well, at least I had a stationary target. But
try as I might, I could not get that saddle all the way
up to the top of her back.
    New discovery: horses are tall. There would be no
springing into the saddle from behind on this day, or
any other. So, to keep me from holding up all the other
(older and larger) riders, one of the hands took pity
and saddled up Sunshine for me. I put my foot in the
stirrup and right then Sunshine decided to move away. I
hopped along with one foot still in the stirrup trying
not to go down.
    New discovery: horses are very heavy. I could just
imagine getting stepped on after falling under-hoof.
Goodbye ranch experience, hello pain. Again one of the
hands interceded and gave me a leg up. Finally I was in
the saddle mounted and ready to go.
    New discovery: horses are w i d e. Very wide. And
Sunshine was as wide as they come. I had a kind of
"splits" thing going on up there with my legs. They
aren't supposed to bend in that direction. For some
reason I got the idea while watching TV that sitting on
the back of a horse was not much different than sitting
on a bicycle. Your legs are just about as close together
as when you're standing, you know? But in reality I was
now resembling an inverted letter "T". But I had caused
enough ruckus and wasn't going to make a fuss and appear
any lamer than I already had.
    They got all of us lined up in single file and we 
began plodding along up towards the hills. When we got 
to an open, straight stretch, the lead rider began 
increasing the pace and causing the horses into what is 
known as a canter. We went from clip... clop... clip... 
clop to clop,clop,clop,clop.
    This was decidedly more uncomfortable. My timing was
such that every time the horse's backside went down, my
rear end went up. Inevitably, when the horse came back
up, my rear was on a downward track and they met with a
"smack" in the middle somewhere. Smack,smack,smack,smack.
Ho-Ly mAcK-eR-aL. We had been at this less than an hour 
but I already had a wicked side ache and my butt was
being abraded away.
    When we finally would again slow to a walk (whew!)
Sunshine had an irritating habit of leaving the trail to
walk over the top of small saplings. This provided a
means to scratch whatever was itching her belly. Of
course I had little or no control.
    New discovery: unlike a bike, a horse has a mind of 
its own and will not always to what you want it to. In 
fact, Sunshine hardly ever did what I wanted her to. I 
was astride a large, hairy, mobile coffee table with an 
evil will.
    We wound our way up into the mountains for the rest 
of the morning. The trees shaded us from the hot sun and
the smell of pine filled the air. From the back of the
line somewhere I could hear Chris crooning, "Please Mr.
Custer. I don't wanna go. Please Mr. Custer. I don't
wanna go." That was becoming more true by the minute.
Chris had been officially dubbed "Songbird" by the rest
of the guys in the bunkhouse and it didn't seem to phase
him one bit. The hits just kept on commin'. "There's a
redskin a waitin' out theeeere, waitin' to take my
haaaaaair....," he wailed into the mountain pines.
    Eventually we stopped and took a break before our
return trip back to the ranch. I found that in time,
with a bit of effort, my legs would again point down and
support me. With bit more time and a little practice I
could walk again. Sitting down was going to be another
matter altogether. When the order was given, and with a
little help, we remounted and headed back down the
    Now, I'm not sure if I just didn't notice before,
having my rear end wear off and all, or if going up is
really quite a bit different that going down, but it
occurred to me that the trail looked a lot narrower... 
and steeper, than it ever did on the way up. In fact, it 
was much, much narrower than Sunshine. Of course, just 
about everything was narrower than Sunshine. But I was 
sure that we were hanging waaaay out over the edge now. 
On my right the hillside rose rocky and steep into the 
trees. On my left, it dropped off just as dramatically. 
The difference was, on my left I was looking at the TOPS 
of the trees below me.
    And we were a long ways up here. We had been 
climbing for hours. What's that?! Loose rocks on the 
trail?! Careful girl, don't slip and stum...oof...ugh... ble.
Sunshine, showing her minimal candlepower, stepped right
on some loose rocks in the trail and stumbled forward
with a disquieting "thud-thud". I was thrown forward and
to the left a but and had to grab the saddle horn to
steady myself. I was now hanging out over the steep drop
of the hillside. My heart was pounding like hoof beats.
I was now acutely aware of each and every anomaly in the
pathway. Sunshine still seemed oblivious to any of my
concerns but somehow managed to accidentally miss most
of the remaining rubble as we wound down the trail.
    "Please Mr. Custer... I don't wanna go... Forward, HO!"
Chris was still at it back there. Well, maybe some music
would help. I started humming what I considered to be
the most appropriate thing I could think of. "You are my
Sunshine. My only Sunshine. You make me happy when skies
are gray...." as the trail grew steeper my singing got
louder, "You'll never know DEAR, how much I LOVE you."
See, I love you, you stupid beast, so don't fall off the
mountain and take me to an early grave.
    I started becoming accustomed to the grade as did 
the horse I guess for she really wasn't messing up her
footing any more. That's when the horse that was
immediately behind me decided to stick its snout into
Sunshine's hindquarters. What on earth would make a
horse want to put its nose and mouth anywhere near where
this one was putting its nose and mouth? Whatever.
    Sunshine took umbrage at the offense however and
decided in a direct approach. She started kicking. Not
just a flip-your-leg-back-a-bit little kick mind you,
but a full, two back legged rear up and wail kind of
kick. We were basically on a clothes line over a sheer
drop off and my horse decided to do rodeo stunts. Now I
was holding onto the saddle horn for dear life and
staring off into what looked like wide open space below
me. My heart was racing like a jack-hammer. "YOU ARE MY
SUNSHINE, MY ONLY SUNSHINE..." The horse behind backed
off for the moment but minutes later he was at it again.
Some guys just won't take no for an answer, you know?
    Well, Sunshine was having none of it, None of it
whatsoever. And she didn't kick this time. This time she
wheeled around in a full 180 and faced the beast
formerly to her stern. Of course, I was sort of
unwillingly committed to turn as well and found myself
facing back up the trail staring at all the other
riders, now halted, who were watching the fireworks.
This action was equivalent to the USS Missouri turning
around in a duck pond. I couldn't believe that she had
actually pulled it off. But that is exactly what she
had done and was now actively dissuading the source of
her irritation from ever messing with her again.
    I was now very aware that the name of the ranch was 
the "Flying" Horseshoe. Up to this point I had assumed 
that it was simply a euphemism with a western theme. Now 
it seemed that it might actually have some historical
precedent. Well, I really did not want to be a notch on
that belt. At this point the lead rider stepped in and
rearranged the line order, moving me and Sunshine to the
front where things could be better managed. I hummed 
"You Are My Sunshine" the rest of the way down the 
mountain and kept it up till we were dismounted back at 
the ranch.
    If I could have stood up for dinner I would have. I
think that sentiment was shared by most of my fellow
cowpokes that day. But surprisingly, as time went on,
the horses became less scary (and painful). The rides
became more fun. Sunshine was still a dreadnought but at
least she was my dreadnought.
    After dinner each night one of the staff would build 
a huge campfire and they would swap ghost stories. We'd
roast marshmallows and let them scare us to the point of
shivers under a night sky as black as cowboy coffee and
dusted with stars.
    They spun a tale of the Doctor called to an 
emergency birth in the middle of a stormy night, who 
discovers shortly after delivery, that the parents are 
both vampires. He promptly drives stakes through their 
hearts but is found dead in the front seat of his car 
the next morning... with a pair of tiny fang marks on 
    And that's where I heard for the first time the 
classic about the couple parked in lover's lane and the 
escaped psycho-murderer who's bloody hooked forearm they
discover hanging from the passenger side door handle
when they get home... THEY DROVE OFF IN THE NICK OF TIME
crackled sparks into the sky and warmed our front sides
while the night air and the spooky stories chilled the
    We bought cans of pop and cooled them in a nearby
stream. Then we'd sleep out under the stars and talk
about things that we didn't know all that much about yet
but thought we did. We'd lay in our sleeping bags and
talk about where we'd been so far in our short lives and
what we valued to this point. We didn't talk much about
where we were going. I think when you're nine years old
you kind of assume that things will just kind of take
care of themselves and don't need a lot of discussion.
That, after all, really is one of the great things about
being nine years old isn't it?
    We got to know each other better and in doing so we
learned more about ourselves. I remember laying on my
back on top of my sleeping bag, hands clasped behind my
head staring into the void of space with my new friends
beside me thinking about vampires and cowboys and if
we'd ever get a man on the moon. As I dozed off I could
smell the aroma of the barn in the calm night air, hear
an occasional whinny from one of the horses in the
corral and thought how great life was.
    One day before too long I saw the sky-blue Ford 
Ranch Wagon headed up the dirt road toward the bunkhouse
churning up a plume of dust in its wake. I was
surprisingly happy to see my folks coming and was ready
to go home. I think I knew that I had gotten all I
needed from this adventure and that in some small way,
life on the banks of Tinkle street would be different
from now on. Not in any big way, you know, but just in
the way that life's experiences add a pinch of seasoning
to who you are and how you see things.
    I made one last trip to the corral where I found
Sunshine rubbing up against the fence scratching another
of her incessant itches. I rubbed her nose and said my
goodbyes. I thanked her for being a steady ride and for
not killing me when she had the chance. I told her that
she was beautiful and that I'd never forget her. Then I
quietly sang our little song, the tune that in my mind
had created a bond of caring and compassion between this
golden horse and its young rider, "You are my Sunshine,
my only Sunshine..." She snorted, raised her head and
looked back at me with her big brown eyes as if I had
just stepped off the boat from China and that she had
absolutely no idea who I was. That's horses for ya.
    And so I returned to my ranch house and the ants in 
the cracks of the sidewalk and the polio water in the
gutters on the shores of Tinkle Street a changed lad,
for one thing, I walked funny for a few weeks. I have
never been back to the old Flying Horseshoe but I can
assure you that in some ways, its always going to be a
part of wherever I happen to be. 

    Here's wishing each and every Bomber, Bomberette and
Bomblet the merriest of Christmases and a New Year
that's a small bit better than the best year you've ever
had. And always remember to focus on what's really
important: to cherish your family, to appreciate your
freedom, to stay happy and to eat a Spudnut.

-Jeff Curtis (69) - Seattle, WA

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 5/9/03
>>From: Jeff Curtis ('69)

Re: Streets of Dreams
    Boy, when we all get on a topic it gets, well,
thoroughly examined. So along the lines of this avenue
of discussion... oops, sorry... My vote for the most
"practical" named thoroughfare has to be Torthay Court
as it connects Torbett and Thayer. Somebody was
probably able to get that one easily through the city
council. Of course that logic would indicate that Elm
should have been named Cottonswift. Can you all come up
with others?
    Along that line of thought, kind of, someone once
told me that your "drag queen" name was the name of
your first pet and the name of the first street you
lived on. Why we all would need drag queen names was
never explained but I would assume that it is always
best to be prepared, at least according to Ed O'Clair,
my old scoutmaster. NOTE: The Mr. O'Clair reference is
in regard to the "being prepared" thing not the "drag
queen" thing. Therefore MY drag queen name, should the
need arise, would be "Inky Tinkle". Seeing that in
print I feel an overwhelming need to apologize (again)
for some reason. Do you have an interesting if not
enticing DQ name you'd like to share with us? I might
point out that Mike Davis, by virtue of last name in
this context, would be my... uh... sister I guess.
    And along that line of thought, while I'm very
happy that the likes of Colonel Sacramento and General
Acacia (whatever - don't get picky on this, I'm just
trying to make a point. "Curb" your criticism and stick
with me for a minute... oops, sorry...) have been
honored in perpetuity, their names forever linked to
the black tar and crushed gravel byways that thread
through the city, there has been a very serious
omission of sorts. In all the plethora of discussion
that has occurred in this publication over the last
several weeks regarding this subject, I have not seen
anyone, anywhere or at anytime offer a plausible
explanation for the naming to the street known as
Tinkle. You know that I could go on and on with such an
easy target but, and here's where you breathe a sigh of
relief, I won't take advantage of this situation at
your expense. I will keep this discussion out of the
gutter... oops, sorry. At least this time. However, it
must noted that IF Tinkle was actually the name of
someone involved on the project I am sure that it would
be debatable if he (or she) would want it immortalized
in white on green at every intersection with other
streets bearing solid and respectable names like...
Butternut. Okay, okay, Butternut doesn't really
intersect with Tinkle but it really works well in the
story. I mean really, how could you earnestly say, for
instance, "Sure, my house is easy to find. I live at
the corner of Tinkle and Butternut." "Hey! Stop that
laughing and get over here!"
    And maybe, just maybe, Tinkle isn't a street but 
a stream? Wow, there's that urge to apologize again.

-Jeff Curtis (the class of '69 which has yet to be 
     associated with a metal of any sort) ~ Seattle, WA

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 12/20/03
>>From:  Jeff Curtis ('69)

Re: A Christmas Card
 Fifty-three years ago my parents moved into a three-
bedroom ranch house halfway up the block on Tinkle Street
between Birch and Cottonwood. Several months later I was
born and I was wonderful, so I’m told. Over the next five
years, my two brothers arrived and together we filled up
the bedrooms of that little house. Santa came bearing my
presents for the first time, and the last time, to that
home. I returned to that house from my first day of
kindergarten and I left there for my senior party the
evening of my graduation from Col-Hi. 

My family lived there through the administrations of
eleven presidents, one of whom was assassinated, one
resigned from office in disgrace and one escaped
impeachment by a whisker. We were there while our
countrymen fought through five foreign wars. We (and the
rest of the neighbors) stood out in the front yard of
that house to watch a tiny basketball-sized satellite
flash through the midnight sky after the Russians put
Sputnik into orbit. Twelve years later on the television
set in the living room of that house we watched American
astronauts stomp dusty footprints into the surface of the

In the sixties, I went off to Oregon and Wyoming in the
summers to work and each time returned to that place. In
the seventies, while in the Army for several years, I
left the country and headed to West Germany, traveled to
Munich and Frankfurt, Paris and London, but when my
enlistment was up, my home on Tinkle Street was still
there. I’ve lived in Seattle now for nearly thirty years
but have made countless trips over the pass through
Ellensburg and Vantage to get back “home” to Tinkle
Street. Fifty-three years, over half a century. 

Last spring, my aging parents began experiencing more and
more difficulty with life’s daily challenges and, needing
a little additional help, moved away from Tinkle Street
into an assisted living center. Two months ago we sold
the little ranch house on the oddest named street I’ve
ever heard of, the only house I’d known my parents to
live in for my entire life. 

Although I may seem awash in sentimentality, I don’t feel
that this is exclusively an event of sadness,
particularly at this happiest time of year. Things change
and things pass on, such is the relentless nature of life
and time. Every room in that little house bursts with
memories of happy times, not so happy times, triumphs,
defeats, birthdays, marriages, parties (and a couple of
hangovers), picnics and poker games. Kids came, grew up
and left and then came back again, first with new spouses
and then with kids of their own. And, after all, that
little ranch house yet stands mid-block on Tinkle Street
between Birch and Cottonwood; it’s just that…we aren’t
there anymore.

Still, I think that memories surrounding the multitude of
holidays that passed though our lives in those walls tend
to linger longest on the tongue with the sweetest
aftertaste and glow brightest in the heart with warmest

So it is in the spirit of all that the little home was 
to us at this joyous season and to the many memories of
holidays past spent under its roof, that I dedicate this
card, an image of a Christmas past:

Many seasons ago and not so far away…

The snow begins falling soon after the darkness of deep
winter has engulfed homes on the shores of Tinkle Street,
the twinkling of household Christmas lights up and down
the block providing colorful counterpoint to the starless
sky. By the time dinner is eaten and dishes washed, a
white carpet nearly covers the lawn and is beginning to
blur the distinction between lawn and sidewalk, sidewalk
and street. The ability of fresh snowfall to round off,
in seamless transition, the indelible boundaries
contained in the everyday landscape is a great part of
its power and magic. And in that process, a day-to-day
vista so commonplace and so familiar is reborn as a 
new world of beauty and mystery; a place of unknown
potential; an exciting, pristine land promising hours 
of exploration and discovery. The snowflakes swirl in
obedient unison to the blustery choreography of the
eddying winds like flocks of birds, in wingtip-to-wingtip
synchronization, repeatedly changing direction in flight.
Gusted flakes hurling themselves against the windows make
a barely audible, tiny crackling as the bottom corners of
the panes begin to round off with their drifting

All the while, in the warmth of a snug ranch house, my
family settles in front of the television to watch A
Miracle on 34th Street. We watch it, though for the first
time, sensing instinctively even during the story’s most
contentious moments that Kris is, after all, the real
Santa Clause and that John Payne, Maureen O’Hara and
little Natalie Wood will end up as one happy (and
undeniably good-looking) family. 

Drinking glasses sit spent, abandoned on coffee and end
tables, their insides coated with the thick yellow
remnants of rich eggnog and speckled nutmeg. Nearby, the
remains of what had been a plate of creamy fudge sits
pillaged, with only two chocolate brown cubes left in
evidence, one with a toothy bite taken out of it’s
corner. On the kitchen counter raw cinnamon rolls lay
tucked into glass baking dishes, all curled up and rising
beneath cheesecloth covers, waiting to be popped into the
oven first thing in the morning. Two pumpkin pies sit
cooling on the yellow Formica and chrome kitchen table,
their warm, spicy aroma filling the room like an
invisible fog. A massive Butterball turkey reclines into
a pan in the sink thawing at the speed of a retreating
ice age, seemingly goose-pimpled and anxious for the
glorious warmth of tomorrow’s oven. 

A huge white wire star with blue lights at each of its
five pointy tips hangs in the living room window facing
out into the night and casts its distinctive glow on our
now white and pillowy front yard. Needled shadows of fir
branches dance red then blue and yellow then green on the
ceiling in random abandon, fired by the flashing strings
of lights adorning the limbs of our Christmas tree. The
last of the bubble-light holdouts finally cedes to the
physics of heat and chemistry, or maybe just succumbs to
the spirit of the eve, and begins a merry, colorful
boiling, matching its peers on neighboring branches in
furious but silent percolation. The lowest branches of
that tree are challenged for space, forced up or aside 
by the glut of brightly wrapped and bowed packages
encircling its trunk; packages that have been thoroughly
examined and shaken in half-playful, half-serious
attempts to discover the truth of their secret,
irresistibly tempting contents.

The room flickers with the undulating glow of black and
white images on the screen. I sit in my father’s lap
partially watching the movie, partially watching my
younger brothers dozing off on the carpet, tranquilized
by the soft flannel of their new pajamas and the treats
in their tummies as is evidenced by tell tale eggnog
moustaches and chocolate goatees. I know that sleep is a
fast track to the joyous glories of the next morning, a
morning that seemingly can never arrive for those
remaining awake and aware. 

But the moment is precious and distinct. I find that
steeping myself in it, lingering in an awareness of the
abundant, pleasant sensations of here and now, is the sum
total of my immediate desire. I sit in silence twirling a
lock of my father’s hair with my finger while the furnace
rumbles to life with a low whispered exhale that
surrounds us in a protective and comforting blanket of
warmth, trivializing the reality of the icy temperatures
outside the walls. The crisp scent of fir swirls
refreshingly throughout the room like a holiday incense
lacing nostrils and adding yet another multi-sensorial
stimulation to the special eve.

I am relaxed in the comfort of home and family. I am
joyful about the surprises and opportunities of the
Christmas morning, finally only a few hours off. I am
content and I am happy. 

I distantly hear the judge in the movie pronounce, “If
the United States Post Office has chosen to recognize
this man as Santa Clause then it is not the place of this
court to disagree... case dismissed!” And as his gavel
echoes a final punctuation of the inevitable, positive
result, I drift willingly into a contented doze that
promises to transport me, in what will seem mere moments,
to a Christmas morning full of wonder and excitement.
Images of frosty panes, electric trains, and candy canes
begin a quiet, wonderful slide show in my dreams.

Outside the winds diminish then cease and the limitless
cascade of icy flakes float down in a slow glide onto the
still whiteness of their own crystalline bed. And all is
silent and all is calm up and down the shores of Tinkle
Street except for the distant rhythmic chiming of sleigh
bells from somewhere above the falling snow…

Well, that’s my card. I hope you caught the moment.
Please accept this vision for the holiday of red and
green as my season’s greeting to the children of the
green and gold. May you receive it in the spirit of
happiness, contentment and peace. And may that spirit
find you no matter where you happen to be, if at no other
time, for every Christmas yet to come. 

Merriest of Christmases Bombers,  

-Jeff Curtis ('69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 05/31/04
>>From:  Jeff Curtis ('69)

Re: An American Bomber in Paris

Just having lived through a practical demonstration of just
how far away Seattle is from Paris - got out of bed at 6:30
am Paris time and was on the go for the next 26 hours until
arriving at my doorstep in the Greenlake area of Seattle - I
find myself foggy-brained and can't tell if I'm tired, just
sleepy or both. Anyway, my wife and I stayed directly across
the Seine from Notre Dame in the heart of the Latin Quarter
of Paris for the last two weeks and had to reluctantly drag
ourselves away yesterday mentally kicking and screaming.

It's a totally overwhelming city. You just never know what
you're going to see in that place. Every time you round a
corner there is something different and wonderful. Friday
night, for example, our attention seized by a rousing tumult
in the street outside our room, we looked out the window and
watched as 40,000 (really) roller-blading Parisians skated
down the Rue de St. Michel in front of our hotel for nearly a
half hour. Apparently this happens every Friday night and has
become a popular tradition in the city. They just kept coming
and coming. They even had gendarmes on roller blades skating
security detail with them. I read that Paris has a division
of these wheeled police gliding through the rues and though
fully armed, may not actually use their side arms while on
skates. NOTE: opportunity to seek out and head for escape
route while gendarme sits down to unlace and remove K2

The following morning (Saturday) I was roused from my
slumbers at 6:30 am by booming PA announcements emanating
from the plaza in front of Notre Dame cathedral across the
street\river. I dressed quickly (I wasn't going to get
anymore sleep with all that noise and it was our last day in
the city anyway) and headed across the Petit Pont (little
bridge) to the ancient cathedral. I had to know what was

As it turned out, over 10,000 Catholics from all over Europe
(and a few from Canada and the USA) were staging what was the
beginning of a three-day, 100 KM pilgrimage from Notre Dame
in Paris to Notre Dame in Chartres which is a small community
with yet another huge gothic cathedral located just SW of
Paris on the Eure River. This walk is in honor of the
Pentecost that commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost
upon the Apostles, fifty days after the resurrection of
Christ - don't be too impressed that I seem to be
knowledgeable regarding this fete's significance as I had to
look it up. Though having been fairly well (read: completely)
sated with, and as such moved away from, all that was
Catholicism by the time I hit my stride as a young adult, I
was nonetheless fascinated by the frenzied devotional
activities apparent among the thousands of pilgrims swarming
all over the cathedral. Euro-boy scouts and girl scouts,
priests, nuns, monks, parents, small children and aged adults
all bustled about carrying regional banners and jockeying for
position in the march-order. Eventually, to the pealing of
the church bells in the enormous towers of the ancient
cathedral (I mentally visualized a deformed but dutiful
Quasimodo pulling on the bell rope and then being momentarily
hoisted off his feet by the pendular motion of the massive
swinging bells), they began marching across the Seine and up
Rue St. Jacques, past the Sorbonne and the University of
Paris and eventually out of the city. The line of marchers
stretched all the way up the street and out of sight while
the cathedral was still disgorging more and more pilgrims,
miles of the faithful, cheerfully and dutifully fulfilling
whatever it was that they felt needed fulfilling. All in all
an amazing and totally unexpected sight. So you see - you
never know what's going to happen or what you will discover
in that ancient town. The stuffy little Christ the King
church of my youth came to mind and suffered mightily by
comparison which was, although decidedly unfair, completely
unavoidable. I have included several photos of the event here
for your viewing enjoyment (displayed by clicking the link
below - thank you Maren).


Earlier in the week we had taken a rather efficient train
ride out into the French countryside to visit Giverny a small
town that is the location of the house and gardens of the
famous painter Monet. I personally like his stuff but the
impressionists do not overly impress my wife. Yet, in an act
of toleration, she accompanied me on this journey. It was
nice to see a bit of the countryside and to experience public
transportation as it could be, given the desire to set up
such a system. At any rate, the place was very crowded.
Apparently more people fall into my camp than my wife's when
appreciating this particular school of art. I have included a
couple of photos here that I found interesting. One is of a
famous Monet painting that I took last Wednesday in the
Louvre (the Louvre with it's 12 miles of corridors and
400,000 objects d'art being a huge argument in favor of
obtaining a Lark or other form of personal automated
transportation), the other being an actual shot of the pond
from which the view in the painting was made (displayed by
clicking the link below - thank you very much Maren).

But you just never know what you will discover in Paris. That
is why I'm sending along the last photo (displayed by clicking
the link below - thank you very, very much Maren).

I found this sign quite by accident a about a half-block from
our hotel and probably less than two Fran Rish stadiums from
the aforementioned cathedral of Notre Dame. My wife (Pasco
Bulldog '70) and son (Garfield Bulldog '98) think it looks
exactly like, and only like, the glass of beer it is intended
to portray. I however, see illuminated green and gold with an
uncannily striking and familiar logo. Besides, what do a pair
of bulldogs know? You tell me what you think. Meanwhile I
need to do some laundry and readjust to this time zone.

Au Revoir mes amis,
-Jeff Curtis ('69) ~ Seattle, WA (but my heart is still on l'Rive Gauche)  

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 4/10/05
>>From:  Jeff Curtis ('69)

Re: Another Day (01)
(Fast) Forward

Remember when you couldn't wait to grow up? Parents telling you what to do
all the time and bigger kids picking on you all the time and you had to put
up with your annoying, smart-mouthed, sniveling little brother that shared
your room all the time. "Boy, just wait till I'm a grown up", you thought.

To be able to go wherever you wanted, whenever you wanted, buy all the
spudnuts you could eat and scarf Zip's Special Double Cheeseburgers for
breakfast. You could lock your annoying, smart-mouthed, sniveling little
brother out of YOUR house and never have to listen to him lying to Mom about
you picking on him again.

Yeah - that'll be the best, you thought. Funny how that stuff seems just
inevitable when you're a kid. It is assumed to just happen all by itself
with no thought or effort on your part. It's your birthright. And cars and
homes and privileges just bloom around you, unstoppable, like morning
glories in a weed patch. Then you get all grown up and find out that....
well, you all know what you find out, how you find it out and how,
sometimes, it finds you whether you want it to or not.

In short, the fact that you have to actually "earn" those things that you
desired (and felt you lacked to one degree or another) way back when in your
youth, at the cost in many cases, of a great deal of blood, sweat and tears,
doesn't necessarily hit you like a ton of bricks one day. Rather, it sneaks
up on you slowly, like an ice age. One day it's just a per-r-r-fectly sunny
young spring day. The next the air has a bit of a nip in it. And the next
you're wearing a coat all day, you can see your breath and you experience a
few unexpected shivers now and then. Finally you get up one morning, you
find that you are a responsible adult, there is this great big escarpment of
ice looming over your house and your cat is frozen to the welcome mat.
Never really liked that cat anyway.

Yep, life as an adult is full of curve balls, sliders and change ups. You
just get one pitcher figured out and they go to the bullpen. It makes one
yearn for the days of Dad's soft underhand lob right across the middle of
the strike zone. Yes, those were the days after all, weren't they?.... easy
and simple, sunny, full of promise....

But my moderately morbid mixed-metaphoric meanderings (and ironic
alliterations) notwithstanding, life is still pretty good. And even though
the grass may have seemed to have been a bit greener way back when, all it
takes is a little bit of watering now and then to keep it from getting too
brown. Oh, and a good mowing every once in a while as well.

But there I go again. I just can't help it. I blame it on my upbringing.
Mostly, just because I can. You see, I was raised in a very unusual place in
a very unusual time thinking all the while that everything was very, very
usual. It was certainly not a "best of times, worst of times" kind of thing
(and not, as certainly, the quality of the prose), but more aptly just "my"
times. When I stood and assessed the world, my world, and its ins and its
outs, its ups and its downs, from the perspective of youth and its
ever-innocent sense of implicit normalcy.

For example, suppose, just suppose, you could take a look at a fairly
typical day from my past, say when I was around ten years old and a seasoned
fifth-grader approaching the end of the academic year at Jason Lee
Elementary School:

I. As The Day Begins

Slime-dripping tentacles slithered out from under the posts at the foot of
my bed, and while furtive visions of me (as Matt Dillon) facing down a bad
guy at the far end of the street in ol' Dodge City rolled through my
Adventureland dreams, the huge octopus worked its way up onto the bedding
and quietly crawled towards my innocent head, deep in REM sleep, resting
easily on my pillow. Unconscious and unaware of the creeping danger, I stood
in front of the Long Branch Saloon, my dusty cowboy boots (with jingling
spurs) just a bit more than shoulder width apart, square to the outlaw,
trigger finger itching and poised just a split second away from the but of
my trusty 45. I caught a barely noticeable flicker of movement as his eyes
narrowed ever so slightly and I was about to slap leather performing my
world famous, lighting draw when...the amorphic cephalopod seized the
advantage and covered my face with his gooey tentacles as cold as the bottom
of the sea from whence he slithered. I screamed at the top of my lungs and
sat bolt upright in my bed. In an instant the octopus on my face vanished
but the sensation of its clammy skin against mine did not. I looked down and
in my lap, and on top of the blankets, in a small heap; a soaking wet
washrag lay in obvious guilt.

"I told you to get up 15 minutes ago!" piped my mom as she bustled past my
bedroom door, "And I warned you that if you didn't, you'd get the water
torture! Now get UP!"

I assume that the above secured your attention. It most certainly captured
mine. I'd like to say that I popped dutifully out of bed at that point, but,
when I was a child, popping dutifully at any point early in the morning was
never my forte'. It still isn't. I groaned, lay back down and placed my
forearm over my eyes to block out the loathsome and irrepressibly cheerful
sun-washed spring morning that was streaming relentlessly through my window.
I could hear the water running, splashing in the bathroom sink across the
hall. I decided that it would be prudent to assume that this was not my
brother brushing his teeth but more likely, my mom with another washcloth
under the faucet. Pop! (dutifully).

I began to forage the room for the day's attire. Do you remember getting
dressed in the morning when you were, say, ten years old? People say that I
have a good; some say a very good memory. My wife wonders why I can remember
all of the words and lyrics to the Starlit Stairway - Boyle Fuel Co.
commercial jingles from over 40 years ago but I can't remember that we are
supposed to be having dinner with the Murphys this Saturday night. I can't
answer that. So I don't even try. I know that if it is to be, I will end up
dining at the Murphys one way or the other, whether I have a firm grip on
that agenda or not.

But..."If you need coal or Boyle."
First twin, "Fairfax-eight, onefive, twoone."
Second twin, "Fairfax-eight, onefive, twoone."
Both twins, "For very heating problem be your furnace old or new...." and so
on. Yeah, I remember a lot of stuff from back then but I really can't
remember any routine or method that enabled my getting dressed before
school. As far as I can recall, it just happened.

I know that I must have pulled some of my clothing from a dresser drawer and
some, undoubtedly right off the rug where it fell after being shed the night
before. And that floor might have offered of the fruits of its bosom
anything from a pair of jeans to a pair of jockeys. Yet even though I
probably went through this ritual thousands of times, I just can't remember
much of anything about it.

I presume that this failure of memory is most likely due to the fact that,
at ten years of age, I couldn't have cared less about what I put on or how
it looked. Actually my wife, in her unending and thankless efforts to keep
me presentable - or at very least to minimize the chances of public
humiliation during outings - mentions occasionally that I still, apparently,
feel this way.

Nevertheless somehow, the morning of this tale included, I would always
manage to show up at school fully (if not a bit shabbily) clothed. I did,
however, from time to time, have a reoccurring nightmare in which I got up
to recite the Gettysburg Address in front of the whole class and realized
that I was wearing nothing but my tighy-whiteys. "Four score and seven years
ago, our fathers brought forth...o,our fathers brou.....Oh my GOD!"...sense
of shock...face reddening...sense of panic...face redder yet...sense of
impending and unending humiliation at the hands of my classmates...head
about to explode due to massive increase in blood pressure. These visions
were more terrible by far than the cold-slimy-octopus-on-the-face ones. Woke
up shaking with the sweats from those with an unbelievably welcome wash of
relief that it was only a dream after all. What cruel games the mind
inflicts on slumbering innocents.

So, I (undoubtedly) gathered then donned the necessary teguments and attired
in the bounty of wardrobe to be found growing wild (literally) in my room, I
crossed the hallway into the bathroom where I proceeded to conduct
experiments designed to answer the question that has stumped 10-year old
physicists for centuries: "How fast must the human hand move through a
column of tap water in order for all of it's molecules to pass completely
unmoistened through to the towel rack"? It was a problem I never solved. But
in the act of experimentation I could always count on the resulting
lavatorial, laboratorial failure to produce quite a bit of lateral hydraulic
displacement. Lateral hydraulic displacement that I was fairly adept in
directing with extreme accuracy at my younger brother. Thus I was able to
moisten many billions of his molecules in this manner resulting in a very
negative and very loud oral denouncement of my scientific efforts.  At this
point my mother would usually take up my little brother's cause and chastise
me soundly for creating chaos on an otherwise peaceful morning.

Chaos indeed! Science has always had to endure the torments and encumbrances
inflicted by those of smaller minds in order to prevail. But prevail it does
and if it takes an under-appreciated soaking or two on the part of my
younger siblings and a verbal wallop or three from the domestic
administration, well so be it. It's not like I was being forced to drink
hemlock or anything. And besides, I was able to completely drench my baby
bro in the process - this I was willing to endure for the advancement and
nobility of science!

Having sated the immediate desire for amusement (and not really
accomplishing anything else of positive or hygienic value) in the bathroom,
I headed for the kitchen to satisfy a grumbling in my tummy that awoke only
moments after the octopus slid off my face earlier. As I entered the room I
noticed that there was no hot-sludge curdling in a pot on the stovetop. No
lumpy cream of wheat or glue-like oatmeal would need to be forced down a
resistant alimentary system on this morning.

I breathed a small sigh of relief. I opened the pantry and examined my
choices for the morning feast; Cheerios - hmmmm, edible if buried under
enough of sugar to look like a snow storm hit a used tire dump; Rice
Krispies - always fun till the well-marketed cacophony diminishes (just kind
of snap-crackles and poops out) due to inevitable soggage. One's imagination
might lead one to picture the sodden, lifeless bodies of three
colorfully-striped yet drowned elves floating face down in a bowl of curdled
milk and processed grain - yuck, moving on. Okay - now here's something

spie-pops-chex. Mom relished innovative and out-of-the-box methods to
economize. When we had gotten down to the last little bit of a box of
cereal, not enough for a bowl and too much to throw out, she would begin to
mix and match whatever was left in the boxes. Mom was the original cereal
tippler. Although her heart was in the right place and it seemed like a
perfectly reasonable idea (to her anyway) I didn't even like the peas
touching the mashed potatoes on my plate and was not ready for my frosted
flakes to be floating in the same bowl with my puffed wheat. Call me narrow.
Call me intolerant. But this was a breakfast amalgam that was not to be.
This was a feeling also shared for the most part by my brothers. Thus the
box of integrated grain-flakes would usually, sooner or later, get tossed
out leaving only cereals of certifiably insular purity and pedigree to be

I reached blindly; scrounging around in the back of the pantry with hunger
in my tummy and time tic, tic, ticking away. My fingers closed on a happily
familiar little box-shaped item. I hoped it was one of the good ones. Oh how
I loved the Variety Pak! Mom usually got them for vacation days at Diamond
Lake or Cannon Beach. They were lovely little versions of all our favorite
cereals. While you can still get them, and today they are really no big
deal, back then they were a wonderful novelty that you just didn't have
laying about every day. Or at least my family didn't. We always seemed to
have the gigantic family-sized economy versions that already had you bored
to death with little oatie rings before the box was half gone. With the
Variety Pak you could flit from Sugar Pops to Sugar Smacks to Frosted Flakes
like a honey bee in a hot house.

I held my breath and pulled the little box from the shadows. AHHHHHH!
Paydirt - a perfectly good (little) box of Cocoa Krispies appeared safely in
my grasp. Sugar and chocolate - a perfect breakfast combination to start any
day off right.

I proceeded to grab a steak knife from the kitchen drawer and slice a
near-perfect "H" shape sideways on the front of the box, following the
perforations as closely as possible. That was another totally cool thing
about the little buggers. They came with their OWN BOWL! Just slice up the
box (cutting up things is a ten-year-old boy's specialty) per the
instructions on the back, fold the flaps open, pour in a bit of milk and,"
voila!" a self-contained meal fit for a king; or a small boy in a hurry to
get out the door.

And the perfect beverage to accompany such a feast was of course a tall
icy-cold glass of Tang. Five or six tablespoons of Tang powder in an
eight-ounce glass of water was quite the early morning energy boost. Just
the thing to get you up and running. Actually, Tang in that concentration
would have had the astronauts bounding across the surface of the moon for

"Eagle, this is Houston. Would somebody throw a rope on Buzz and get him
back in the module...please?" Always wondered how he got that name.
While I sat at the kitchen counter feeling very superior and grown-up due to
the childish lameness of Mr. Greenjeans and Dancing Bear lamely laming out
on the family room TV, I noticed a goodly quantity of milk leaking out all
over the pumpkin-orange Formica. I realized that I must have poked a few
holes in the "bowl" when chopping my way into the box. You'd think that good
old American engineering would have anticipated and overcome such an obvious
design flaw. However, tossing the now limp and empty box into the sink and
tossing the Tri-City Herald sports section over the leakage would solve the
immediate problem. At least until I could get out the door.

I tipped up the drinking glass to capture the last of the Tang from its
depths. Since I frequently added more Tang to a glass of water than was
actually soluble in that volume of liquid, a sedimentary sludge of orange
sugar crystals would usually be in evidence on the bottom of the glass.
Putting the glass to my mouth and raising it high I could watch the sludge
slowly, glacially, ooze down its sides and eventually onto my tongue,
lighting up every taste bud it touched with a tartness of near nuclear
intensity. I pushed away from the counter thinking how really small those
individual cereal packs actually were. I believe they could probably fill me
up if I had five or six of them. Just the one would have to do today however
as it was time to hit the road to school.

To be continued...
-Jeff Curtis ('69) ~ Seattle, WA 

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 04/17/05
>>From:  Jeff Curtis ('69)

II. The Road Most Traveled
There were several standard routes to my elementary school; options
influenced on a day-to-day basis by various factors. This included where the
friends you were picking up along the way lived, and in the fall, for
instance, if there were giant piles of sycamore leaves to wade through in
the yards along Birch Street. Or in the spring, if the bings were ripe on
the trees at the far end of Tinkle. But the preferred path, and the road
most often traveled, was across the field in back of Westgate shopping
center. We called it the "dirt road" Mom always told us not to go that way
as there was an old abandoned irrigation canal cutting through it at one
time, and in its day, contained nasty looking ponds of brackish slime-water
that seemed to lay still, patiently waiting for a small child to slip in and
create a tragic headline in the next day's Herald.
She needn't have worried. I am not aware of a single newsworthy tragedy to
have been the result of its existence. Besides, we were all convinced at the
time that those stagnant pools of algae and pond-scum were the breeding
grounds for the horrific virus that caused the dreaded crippler of innocent
children (just like me). We referred to any such backwashes as containing
"polio water", and we wouldn't get within a hundred feet of them even if
offered a quarter. Let me tell you, a quarter could buy you a whole Hostess
cherry pie and a curvy bottle of Orange Crush, satisfying two of the FDA's
recommended daily servings of the fruit group. However, the ditch was
covered up eventually, then paved over, becoming an extension to Alder
Street connecting it to Van Geisen. Mom wasn't aware that it no longer
existed, however, and thus the dire warning each and every time she had an
inkling that we might be headed in that direction. My brothers and I found
that it was usually better to affably agree than to argue the point, and
then do whatever we had in mind in the first place. I mean really, that
approach always seemed to work for Eddie Haskell. Most episodes anyway.
So merrily we cut behind Westgate's cinder block backside kicking up dust
bombs, tapping stink beetles on the carapace (to see them elevate their
backsides and spray bug-musk like an itty-bitty skunk), and picking up goat
heads in the soles of our Keds.  I didn't often ride my bike this way as I
would likely end up walking beside the big Schwinn, with a flat tire. Or
maybe two. I was on the spy for a couple of empty beer cans. Pop was in
bottles but beer was in steel cans, and no pop-tops, that you could stomp
real hard with your sneakers causing the top and the bottom of the can to
crimp in at the edges, gripping your feet and forming the click-clacking
wonder of "horseshoes" as you clomped joyfully, if somewhat awkwardly, down
the sidewalk. Alas, on this day it was not to be. Apparently the high school
kids were doing their recreational drinking out in the desert and not hiding
out behind Westgate these days.
But I found an old pop bottle cap in the dirt and expertly gripping it
between thumb and middle finger, held it up near my ear and "snap" (sound of
me snapping my fingers) the bottle cap sailed like a tiny Frisbee and
bounced off the back of my brother's head.
"Shut up."
"That hurt."
"Shut up."
"             ."
"Shut up."
"I didn't even say anything!"
"Sh-u-u-u-u-u-u-t   u-u-u-u-u-u-u-p! "
Intelligent conversation is one of the benefits of the non-peer sibling
At any rate, we found the dirt road a little touch of wilderness breaking up
the monotony of the otherwise overly-civilized, paved and curbed journey to
the day's lessons, thus was considered precious and held with great
I emerged at the Conoco station on the corner of Wright and Van Giesen none
the worse for wear, neither drowned nor crippled and with the satisfaction
of having caused my brother some small degree of discomfort.  While waiting
for the patrol boy to extend his red "STOP" banner at the crosswalk,
insuring that no errant motorists would be flattening any little pedestrians
in the intersection, I, for the thousandth time in the last few days,
thought about the end of the school year, now only a few days away, and a
summer of unending frivolity to follow. There was something about the late
spring that always managed to lift my spirits. Longer hours of daylight, the
return of warm weather and, ultimately, the cessation of classroom
obligations, were all contributing factors in my seasonally upbeat attitude.
And that last one was a biggie. It accounted for much joy and optimism
amongst all of those in my immediate social circle. Yep - just a few more
days and I could say goodbye to the fifth grade forever. Life was certainly
good. The fact that sixth grade was just over the horizon had no dampening
effect at all. When you are ten years old, three months or so is nearly
forever, and any pending responsibilities residing that far in the future
could easily be relegated to the back, back burner and dutifully ignored.
The crossing guard stepped out into the crosswalk, unfurled his traffic
control flag and indicated that it was now safe for what had, in the
interim, become a small congregation of youthful commuters, to proceed
across the street. However, he cast a scornful eye on us all, wordlessly
indicating that we would be "reported" if we ran, pushed, shoved or caused
any commotion whatsoever during the traverse. There was plenty of time for
commotion and behaving myself while crossing the street was within the
bounds of even my limited self-control.
From where we now stood, it was a straight shot east to Jason Lee Elementary
School. With morning traffic whizzing by, we proceeded up the sidewalk on
the last leg of our trip. I fell in behind my brother and, with perfect
timing, stepped on the back of his right sneaker, collapsing it beneath his
heel in mid-step. It was a perfectly executed flat tire.
"Hey! Stop it!"
"Shut up."
"That hurt."
"Shut up."
"             ."
"Shut up."
"I didn't even say anything!"
"Sh-u-u-u-u-u-u-t   u-u-u-u-u-u-u-p! "

To be continued...

Jeff Curtis ('69)
Seattle, WA  

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 04/23/05
>>From:  Jeff Curtis ('69)

III. Trash Talk

Jason Lee Elementary School, having been built in 1952, was one of the newer
institutions of preliminary learning in the city. In addition to large,
modern classrooms and expansive playfields, its cafeteria, its gymnasium and
its auditorium each had their own dedicated rooms. A lot of schools at the
time (and today for that matter) had "combo" or multi-purpose rooms that
served two or more of these functions. But good old Jason Lee had a big gym,
a massive cafeteria and a huge auditorium complete with tiered seating, a
stage, lighting and big plush velvet curtains. And it had a unique newness
to it that most other schools in town did not possess. Heck, it was year
younger than I was. Hmmmm....fact: I'm actually older than that school
building; fact: it was considered for demolition recently due to its
advanced age. Neither is a comforting thought.
But that was now and this is then. Back then the hallways sparkled and
seemed huge. I entered the building at the double doors on the southwest
corner, near the office. Lilly Peterson, the first principal of the school
and the only one I would know during my seven-year edu-thon, happened to be
standing behind the office counter, looked up as I entered and gave me a
motherly smile. She was like having a Mom away from home. A sweet, kindly,
silver-haired Mom. I figured that she could afford to be sweet and kindly
primarily due to the fact that she was not required to have frequent, direct
contact with a classfull of restless, hyper-active preteens all day, and
could, due to the license afforded her status, be highly selective about the
who, when and where such contact might take place. As such, she was a
relative breath of fresh air and provided cheery counterpoint to some of the
rank-and-file cadre of bitter, jaded, overstressed, scowling, drill sergeant
spinsters that seemed to bear a huge grudge at being forced to shoulder the
misfortune of having sole responsibility for educating me (and those of my
ilk) in their classrooms  for nine months of their precious lives.
 I retuned Mrs. Peterson's greeting with a valiant attempt at sincere smile
of my own then proceeded up the main hallway and turned down the last of
four wings that stretched off to the right. I was in the second classroom on
the left and as I rounded the corner I saw Robert, one of the larger kids in
the class, a regular gland case actually, facing the wall just to the right
of the doorway and pulling on something that seemed, based on the shaky
undulations he was going through, to be challenging him a bit.  Upon closer
inspection it became as obvious as it was understandable what exactly was
going on.
The wall, for a couple of feet to the right of the classroom door, was
deeper than standard in the hallways. About two feet deeper to be exact.
Additionally it had a foot tall swinging metal flap located precisely
centered on the deep-wall area about three feet off the ground on the
hallway side and another right across from it inside the classroom. The
space in between was occupied by a regular size garbage can and one could
deposit one's waste in there at one's convenience by pushing against the
swinging flaps from whichever side one happened to be on. In this case
Robert had convinced David (who was not in any way a gland case, more
accurately, he was built like a bag of tiny bird bones) to crawl through the
space between the flaps and above the garbage can as a "right of passage" or
with a,  "bet you're too scared", or a "we'll think you're very, very cool."
inducement or something of that nature.
It isn't too hard a thing to manage really. How do you get a ten-year-old
boy to crawl into a dark hole? Just show him one. At any rate David had
taken the bait. And once he had crawled through the opening, with
considerable difficulty and assistance, Jim, Robert's similarly burley
partner on this venture, had seized poor little David's wrists on the
classroom side while Robert had a secure purchase of his ankles. A grotesque
tug-o-war had ensued and David's screams of agony were echoing in the wide
spot between the walls, amplified by the metallic cylinder of the garbage
can inside. First, David's ankles and calves would be visible sticking out
of the hole (Robert leaning back and pulling mightily), and then the whole
lot of them, up to Robert's elbows would disappear into the void as Jim
responded in kind from the other side. I stood fascinated by the spectacle
before me as they went back and forth.  Partially stricken by the unusual
majesty of what was taking place before my very eyes, and partially thanking
my Lucky Charms that David had run into Robert and Jim several minutes
before I had turned the corner that morning. There but for the grace of God,
and probably a few minutes of dallying behind Westgate, go I.
Eventually the bigger boys, now both pulling with equal ferocity in opposite
directions, tired of their amusement (or realized that our teacher would be
along very shortly and would not react kindly to such goings-on) and simply
released little David's extremities, resulting in him flopping, unimpeded,
into the trash can.  Fortunately for him the trash had been emptied just the
evening before. However much he was covered in humiliation, he was at very
least, not being adhered to by old peanut butter and jelly crusts or banana
skins or anything.
The screaming stopped as David slowly raised the flap from the inside,
peeked out at his fellow students staring back at him from their desks. He
let the flap fall. We could hear banging and rumblings inside the wall as he
clambered around, then crawled painfully through the far-side flap out into
the hallway and scrambled to his feet just as our teacher rounded the corner
from the main hall.
"David.... get in that room and to your desk!" hollered Mr. Taylor, topping
off what had to be just a perfect beginning to a long day for David who was
sure that he must be at least an inch taller than he was ten minutes ago.
Whew! That was a close one. Everyone seemed to have skated this time. You
never knew when some antic like this would irk an instructor to the breaking
point and the whole class would be held accountable, resulting in a lost
recess for the morning or something equally unpleasant. A totally
Gestapo-esque punishment philosophy when you think about it, really. It was
certainly best that the reigning authorities knew as little as possible
about these types of goings-on.
As I made my way to my desk I spied, with overwhelming glee, the welcome
presence of the large, clunky 16 mm projector which had been set up in the
back of the middle aisle and two huge metal film cans sitting on the cart
shelf below it. Oh Joy! Oh Happy Day! We were going to watch a movie today
and it looked like a two-reeler.
To be continued...

-Jeff Curtis ('69)

Alumni Sandstorm ~ 05/01/05
>>From: Jeff Curtis ('69)

IV. Lights, Camera and Some Serious Action
Oh God, how we loved it when we got to watch a movie in class. Not a crappy
little filmstrip, although those would do, lacking anything else. But a real
motion picture with color (sometimes) and sound. The lights would dim, and
we would be entertained for some all-too-brief period of time, lazing and
gazing upon whatever edu-tainment offering presented us, and not diagramming
sentences or dividing decimals or naming the capitols of every blessed state
in the blessed union or.... thinking...or anything. Just sit back, relax and
let the miracle of modern technology do all the work while you observed and
absorbed the intended lesson(s). Now that's real teaching! Judging by the
size of the previously noted dual film cans, it was going to be a long
two-parter. We never got two-parters. I LOVED two-parters. Lacking a
three-parter, a two-parter was my favorite kind. I felt that I must have
been living right or something.
Into the room strode our teacher. I had had women instructors for my entire
school experience to this point. Unless you don't count the nuns at Christ
the King as female. I think they count as women, but I swear there was a
time when I doubted they were even human. I did half a year in the first
grade there and won't go into the grotty business of why I, um...moved on.
Anyway, the fifth grade was the first year ever that I had a male teacher, a
remarkable and life-shaping difference.
Mr. Ron Taylor was a heavy-set, jovial looking man in his early thirties
with a crew cut, a sarcastic coolness at times, and a generally happy
disposition that could turn as black as a thunderstorm on the Gulf Coast in
an instant if pushed once too far, or provoked once too often. He and his
family lived right across the street from the school, so he could walk to
work in probably less than a minute. I currently live in Seattle. You don't
go anywhere in a minute here. Less than a minute? Unbelievable.
He loved science and taught it with an enthusiasm that was contagious. I
mean, he had a good go at all the other material too, but the sciences were
near and dear to his heart, and evoking their magic with logic and labs to
the wonderment of the unenlightened (us) seemed to make him the happiest of
all. Thus, a significant portion of our class work and assignments had to do
with astronomy, geology, biology and a touch of physics. He taught
convection with conviction; conduction with electricity and radiation with a
warm glow. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Mr. Taylor strode to the front of the room, sat on the front edge of his
desk, one leg cocked across its corner and quietly did the attendance thing;
glancing up occasionally as he came upon the name of a potential renegade,
or at understood, due to precedent, trouble spots in the seating
arrangement. A wary eye panned in my direction and I quickly opened my desk,
feigning concern for finding my history book, as my elevated desktop blocked
his critical line of sight. The time honored principle "out of sight out of
mind", while applicable in many settings was not the case in Mr. Taylor's
classroom. Sometimes he seemed to have eyes in the back of his head and
could trace the origin of a flying spit wad or a hastily passed note at
twenty paces without ever noticeably looking up from his desktop. As a
result, spit wads seldom flew and notes were rarely passed. Not that he was
despotic in any terrible way. At his best, which had proven to be a
legitimate majority of the time, he was rather good-natured, nearly jovial
in his deportment. He often spoke to, rather than at his charges, which
conveyed a sense of one's being taken seriously, even proffering a bit of
respect. Being taken in any way seriously was far from the normal experience
of the average 10 year old kid, and as a result, Mr. Taylor was generally
well liked by his students and considered to be one of the cooler teachers
on the K-6 campus. But you still had to watch your back.
As I deliberately lowered my desktop, waiting an appropriate (but drawn-out
as long as possible) period of time, his head slowly came into view like an
Atlantic sunrise over the desk's lip.  He was still staring me dead in the
eyes. I had the distinct impression that he had been visually boring holes
through my desk the entire time I was ducking out of sight.
"Did you have your chocolate-covered motzah balls this morning Mr. Curtis?"
he inquired simultaneously demonstrating his surprising grip on the lesser
known intricacies of the Bozo the Clown Cartoon Show and my tendency towards
preferring the Bozo the Clown Cartoon Show to doing my homework. Pretty good
burn when you think about it. Just the kind of attention you really didn't
Kind of stunned from the unsolicited Bozo-slapping, I responded with
something like, "Uhh..myea..huh...mmm. " driving home his point, I believe,
and shutting me up for the rest of the morning, guaranteed. He stood and
spoke to the whole class.
"This morning, " Mr. T opened, "We will be watching the science film, Hemo
the Magnificent, a feature with some animations about the human circulatory
Animations?...oh, this was good...
"I must warn you that there are some scenes in the film that are fairly
graphic in nature and may make you a little queasy."
Really? That gory? It just couldn't get any better could it?
"If you start feeling sick, please feel free to leave the room. The film is
in two reels and will last over an hour"
Bap! Ding! Home,,,RUN! A gross-out film with cartoons that takes over an
hour-long chunk out of the school day. Who could possibly ask for more from
your standard, everyday, elementary academic learning experience? Not I, no
sir, not I.
So my initial assumption was correct and I had surmised rightly that we were
indeed going to get to view a lengthy movie. And it was one from a series
that I just loved. In the fifties, the Bell Telephone Company (there was
only one telephone company in those days) had produced a series of
educational films centering on the sciences and targeted at a wide audience.
Three of my all-time favorites, Our Mr. Sun, The Strange Case of the Cosmic
Rays and today's selection, Hemo the Magnificent were all directed by none
other than Frank Capra. And they all followed basically the same format
involving a very clinical looking laboratory in which Dr. Research, a bald,
professorial gentleman and his perpetually ill-informed dim bulb of a
sidekick discussed a specific theme of scientific knowledge in front of
several large screens. Upon the "magic" screen were projected film footage
illustrating various topics related to the main theme and, oh yeah, cartoon
animations that interacted with the live actors. It was pretty darn cool.
Much cooler than diagramming sentences.
By the time I was ten, we, and by we I mean the youth of America, were
consensually immersed in multitudes of cartoons. Warner Brothers, MGM and
Hanna-Barbara populated the airwaves with legions of characters in action
that were impossible to resist. They were what we watched when we got home
from school each day. They amused us before bedtime and shared Saturday
mornings with us as we lounged on the carpet or couch, still pajama-clad and
bleary eyed. Yet on this day, a school day, right here, smack dab in the
middle of a milieu traditionally devoid of such pleasurable diversions; yes,
amidst the dismal drudgery of my fifth grade class, we were going to be
"forced" to watch real cartoons. Ostensibly, there would be some educational
significance or learning to be gleaned from them.  Lessons subliminally
presented that would quietly rub off on the unsuspecting minds in the
classroom.  My position on the whole matter was very clear. If the Richland
school system felt that I could get a good education through this form of
personal gratification and amusement, who was I to question them? What a
great day this was turning out to be.
"But first, I want all of your math homework assignments from last night.
Pass them in, snappy!"
And there was the rub. Decimal work. Well, there really is no free lunch is
there? I didn't understand why all the fuss about a lot of zeros. And why
the places skipped from tenths to hundredths to thousandths. No one-ths.
And how to divide them. And how to multiply them. Or why I should care.
The previous evening's events flashed in my mind's eye:
Half-way through my homework, while some of the more responsible and
studious pupils in my class were struggling, I'm sure, against these
weighty, decimalic issues, I was taking a very long break to watch first
Yogi and Boo Boo irk Ranger Smith; then Larry Mondello irk Miss Landers; and
finally Buddy Sorrell irk Mel Cooley. That was enough irking for one
A matronly voice rang out, "Boys, time for bed, Get your PJs on and brush
your teeth." This was not June Cleaver or Harriet Nelson or even Sgt. Carter
USMC. This was my own mom and it was time to hit the hay.
"But I have to finish my homework." I said in a barely audible whisper. Not
that I was in any frame of mind to want to be doing homework at that moment,
nor did I care that it would be only half done in the morning (I had a well
practiced skill-set for gross rationalization and highly developed
irresponsibility those days). Morning, after all, could take
care of itself, now couldn't it? Thus, as desired, the whispered comment
relating to my inadequacies went unheard and unacknowledged.
But with the work presently being demanded by my teacher, here and now I was
facing the moment of truth that could not be ignored or rationalized. And
thus, the immediacy of the situation precluded further procrastination and
my point-five, fifty percent, half done homework paper was passed to the
front of the room, mingling with all the other dutifully completed,
one-dot-oh, one hundred percent, totally finished assignments in abject
guilt and shame. But from where I sat, as I watched my paper blend in with
the others and travel hand-to-hand upstream into Mr. Taylor's gaping in-box,
it looked just as complete (for now and from a distance) as all of the rest.
My anxiety began to wane, then disappeared completely as I realized that I
had been granted a temporary stay and would not have to face the
ramifications of my inadequate efforts for at least another day, maybe even
two. Assuming, that is, that there were to be no pop-quizzes, trips to the
board to "show my work", or early grading of papers by fellow classmates.
None of this was immediately apparent, however, and for the moment I was
free to turn my untroubled attentions to current events more enjoyable and
entertaining in nature.
And that attitude fairly well summed up my K-12 academic experience. The
gratifications granted through actual study, i.e. a solid understanding of
the subject matter, the warm and fuzzy comfort of whizzing knowingly through
test material and the total lack of anxietal encumbrances associated with
the inevitable harshness of parental\instructor disapproval, were never
enough to keep me from being easily lured onto the harsh rocks of academic
lassitude by the sirens' song of easily accessible entertainment even for a
mere moment of temporal enjoyment.
The curtains were drawn, blocking the sunny spring day that was going on
outdoors, and the fluorescent tubes on the ceiling started flicking off row
by row. I had at least till tomorrow to deal with the math homework crisis.
As I said, suppressing the call of future urgencies became a well-honed
talent with me, one in which I willingly traded immediate gratification of
the moment for the inevitable tensions of tomorrow. The dismality of decimal
endeavors and all the potential heartache they would bring, could wait.
Right now, far more pleasant (and immediate) happenings were afoot.
There was an anticipatory rustling in the near darkness of the classroom,
attributable to the shuffle of papers, books, desktops and chairs as my
classmates and I settled in. Then the sixteen-millimeter projector whirred,
rattled and rolled as a bright white beam bored through the air and onto the
silver screen which Mr. Taylor had pulled down covering the center of the
black board at the front of the room (covering up some nasty decimal chalk
work in the process).
The film was scratchy. I think that all of the films we saw in school were
scratchy. It was a requirement or something. The announcer began speaking
and sounded as if he was running his index finger up and down between his
ne-ne...". Then the soundtrack finally got a grip on the sprocket (or
whatever soundtracks get a grip on) and his voice steadied into something
The show was simply great. With innovative writing and presentation
techniques, oh yeah, and lots of animated characters, it made the subject
matter interesting to the point of awe-inspiring. Then came the
coup-de-gras. As we watched with untainted innocence, the images of actual
hearts beating; first bird hearts and then a real human heart, complete with
throbbing veins and arteries and blood and slime, blazed in living color on
the screen in front of us.
Now, as a card-carrying ten-year-old boy, this was what I pretty much lived
for. Societal decorum dictated that no matter how much gross-out gore we, as
card-carrying ten-year-old boys desired to experience or could handle, it
was generally frowned upon should we take matters into our own hands and
say, rip the beating heart out of the chest of that perky robin red-breast;
the newly arrived harbinger of spring. So our only real recourse was to see
something like this filmed, graphic depiction from time to time, or to get
lucky driving with your folks in the country, encounter a misguided flock of
starlings swooping up the road into the path of your family vehicle and then
pluck one out of the grill for closer examination or lab experimentation.
This movie had it all and I remained riveted to the screen through the whole
thing, and unavoidably soaked up knowledge of the circulatory and pulmonary
systems as a beneficial side effect. The ever-delicate Kathleen, at the back
of the room however, had had quite enough. I believe that it wasn't actually
the film's fault and that she had downed one to many Pop-Tarts (and Tang)
for breakfast that day. That's easy enough to do. But whatever the root
cause of her malady, right in the middle of the bloody beating bird heart
scenes, Kathleen succumbed to the highly uncomfortable pressures of an
alimentary system in duress and blew chunks all over her desk, the
surrounding floor tiles and, at its outer range, all over the back of
Bruce's shirt, the poor slob who sat in front of her.
It seemed that each and every year, at least one student had to barf in
class. It was stinky but exciting, in its own kind of
"something-has-come-outside-of-you-that-should-never-be-outside-of-you" way.
So it was, "Oh, look at that! " and "Eeewwwwww!" and , "Nasty!". Unless of
course it was you doing the woofing and then it just pretty much sucked in
every way a thing can suck. Vomiting any time was not a treat. Vomiting in
class was not a treat and highly humiliating. Being vomited on in class,
well, it doesn't get much worse than that, does it?
The fact that, due to Mr. Taylor's sharing of his anatomical knowledge, we
knew that the technical term for it was reverse peristalsis, was totally
lost on Kathleen who was humped over, mortified, grunting (and crying).
Bruce, wondering pitifully something like "Why me?" (and now also crying)
was fighting distressful reverse peristaltic rumblings of his own. And all
the rest of us just sat back and watched in a kind of silent, awestruck
respect for the incredible, coincidental intersection of entertainment
events to which we had been blessed on this lovely spring morning.
Then the smell hit us like a sudden wind shift from the rose bowl and
everyone remembered all too vividly what he or she had downed for breakfast
a couple of hours earlier. But in yet another serendipitous turn, Mr. Taylor
hit the lights and shouted "Recess", two of the happiest syllables ever
spoken in an elementary school classroom. So while Mr. Snow, the school
janitor, was summoned with mop and bucket to deal with the mess and Mr.
Taylor escorted a sobbing Kathleen and a stinky Bruce to the nurse's office,
the rest of us poured noisily out the north door of the classroom and onto
the playground.

To be continued....
-Jeff Curtis ('69) ~ Seattle, WA