Overview: I was born in Ohio, raised in Texas, and grew up in California. I spent the biggest part of 30 years in the hotel industry doing sales and marketing. As part of the job, I ran into three President's and countless movie stars and industrialists. Breakfast with Bill Cosby for three months was a hoot. All in all, it's been a very interesting life so far and hopefully will continue to be so. Many years ago, because El worked for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, we were invited to Budd Boetticher's ranch in Ramona (a town in Eastern San Diego County) for a promotional party. In case the name doesn't mean anything to...
Overview: I was born in Ohio, raised in Texas, and grew up in California. I spent the biggest part of 30 years in the hotel industry doing sales and marketing. As part of the job, I ran into three President's and countless movie stars and industrialists. Breakfast with Bill Cosby for three months was a hoot. All in all, it's been a very interesting life so far and hopefully will continue to be so. Many years ago, because El worked for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, we were invited to Budd Boetticher's ranch in Ramona (a town in Eastern San Diego County) for a promotional party. In case the name doesn't mean anything to you, Boetticher was the writer for "Two Mules for Sister Sara" and writer and producer of other Hollywood westerns like "Blood in the Sand" with Tyrone Power. He had since retired and was training Lipizzaner stallions. As usual, I was storytelling. Bud came up to me and said, "It's my party, my liquor, and I get to tell my stories." He wanted me to shut up and not steal thunder. - Texas: My dad's older brother Carl had discovered Kingsville, Texas, due to his being shipped there after World War II. He left the Navy from Kingsville Naval Air Station and completely sold my granddad on the idea of moving there. I was born in Newark, Ohio, and was six months old when my dad drove to Kingsville to be with his mom and dad. My granddad had left Ohio in '46 to improve his health, and I'm not sure how much Kingsville helped. He had emphysema and Kingsville was hot and humid. Too bad Carl hadn't been shipped to San Diego. I was born in Newark, OH 4/28/48. My grandparents had already moved to Kingsville I think in '46. As I said, I believe I was six months old when dad drove from Newark to Kingsville. Mom kept me on a pillow in her lap the whole way. We initially moved in with my grandparents until Dad found work at the Kingsville Do-nut House on Main/ broadway? I can't remember. Late '49 Dad went to PD training school and had to spend some time in Austin studying before he graduated and started with the PD. I have many photos of him looking like Barney Fife with a fedora busting drug dealers and killers and thieves. When I was a toddler and at a Sunday lunch at my grandparents, my cousin came to the dining table saying "Billy has bang bang." My horrified Dad came into the living room to see that I had removed his police revolver from the holster and was waving it in the air. He flew across the room and knocked the gun out of my hands. Mom nagged the hell out of Dad and told him to find another line of work. Within a few months, he was at Celenese. "Tio" Kleberg was sole heir to the Ranch and about two or three years older. When I was about 12, I was walking around the expansive playground of the Catholic School behind our house and the whole block we lived on. I found a $20 bill and was very excited. I shoved it in my pocket and was quickly heading home when "Tio" drove up on his scooter with a side car. He demanded that I return the $20 which I refused. It makes sense that it was his. I just wanted to keep it. He stopped the scooter, tackled me and eventually stabbed me with what looked like a knitting needle. I gave him the $20 and limped home. I told Mom what happened and when Dad got home from work, she told him. He immediately scolded me saying "are you crazy?" "Never get into a fight with him." Mom thought that "Tio" should apologize and Dad reluctantly called the Kleberg's to tell them what happened. "Tio" apologized and whenever he was in town on break from his East Coast school, he would take me for rides in the sidecar of his scooter. Usually just around the schoolgrounds. I'm not sure that he even had a license. "Tio" grew up and became a Senior VP with the Ranch and never went to the boardrooms where he belonged. He just wanted to be a cowboy and he was a very good one. Outside interests took control of the Ranch and eventually fired him for refusing orders. Now, he's on the board with his incredibly unique mustache/beard and cowboy attitude. A few years back, a contingent of San Diego Zoo officials flew into the private airport on the Ranch. They were jointly entering into a program with the Ranch. It made local TV. They were greeted by the very colorful "Tio" who said "Welcome to America". You can google him to see just how strange he looks. My Dad was a cop in the very early 50's and became the city's first detective. Back then, he knew everybody. "Monty" Moncrief was a self-made cowboy who dressed like the silent screen cowboy actors with his pants tucked inside his custom-made boots. He was well known for keeping a case of Jack Daniels in the back of his truck. Kitteile Pike was my first girlfriend and I didn't have a clue how to act or what to bring when I went over on our fifth and sixth grade "dates." I brought her a plush toy animal on every date. By the time I had basically walked away from the relationship; her bed was completely covered with plush toys. Her dad was my grandparents' minister for a very long time. - High School: I miss Steve Perkins. Mike Bars, Abraham Campos, Billy McCarley and so many others. I was never a team player and I guess that kinda' reflected in my social life as well. I went from one little group to another losing contact with the first group as I went on to the second and so on. After high school, I kept stealing girlfriends from Mike Bars and Steve Perkins and I drifted apart. I never wondered why those relationships were over. Barbara Patzig and Carmen Evans shared a carpool with me for the biggest part of Junior High. They picked on me endlessly. It took a long time to figure out that it was just their way of playing with me and all in fun. I was a member of Dome Painter's Anonymous when I was a sophomore. That supposedly was a privilege reserved only for graduating seniors. The main reason for my little escapade back then was we already knew we were going into a new high school for '65 and there's no point in painting the dome on a Jr. High School. Painters never spoke of their experiences. That's how the practice went on for nearly 55 years. I was apparently one of the last. I just do not remember who my co-conspirators were. I remember the harrowing experience of getting the ladder up there and perching it delicately on the roof crest praying that none of the old tile would crack or break. I remember how we scattered once the cops arrived. What saved me got the others caught. They scrambled down anyway they could and I went down the way we went up. When they scattered in different directions, it allowed me to simply walk to my grandparent's home and call home.Because of that little incident; when I was caught and hazed, they cut off all of my hair except for a "K". Normally, they would just cut a "K" in your hair. They also caught me at a bonfire pep rally at Mo-Pac Field & "pantsed me." That was on a Friday. Monday morning my pants were flying on the flagpole in front of the old school. If you still have the "64 high school album; look on page 2 at the picture of the dome and look at the initials I stupidly sprayed on the building. As a result of all that nonsense, my sophomore year was my ugly duckling year as it took all year for my hair to grow out. I was very self conscious and had no girlfriends that year. There was one day I was practicing vaulting almost by myself. It was a chilly blustery day and the band was out practicing on the field at Mo-Pac as well. Sheri Bull was a senior. and the Drum Major and a contender for homecoming queen when I was a sophomore at KHS. Sherri Bull was prancing up and down and trying to get the band in rhythm and they were not happy with her. There had been rumors that Sherri was so beautiful that all the guys were afraid to ask her out as they feared rejection. The horn section started playing a new Herb Alpert song that wasn't that popular yet. This was before the "Tijuana Brass" days. He recorded many songs with studio musicians including "The Lonely Bull". The entire Band was soon playing that song and she just ran off the field in tears. She ran over close to where I was and the ugly duckling offered the beautiful princess a shoulder to cry on. She just kept crying and muttering how mean and hateful "they" (the band) were. She wrote some very nice things in my annual, but neither of us spoke much of the event after the fact. It is just a pleasant memory. - Pole Vaulting: When I was in Junior High, during 8th grade, I tried out for football and was embarrassingly awful. I then tried track and field. I was slow and couldn't high jump very high. I was about to be told to "pack it in" as I had no redeeming qualities. Abe Campos taught me how to pole vault. In that very first afternoon, I cleared 8'6" and the rest is history. In high school when I was making my name in the event, I was interviewed by the school paper and gave all credit to my coach who was very helpful, but Abe got me started and I never mentioned him. My grandparents lived across the street from Mo-Pac Field (short for Missouri-Pacific), where I spent many hot dusty afternoons practicing pole vaulting. At Gillette Junior High, I used mostly Swedish steel, but did experiment with bamboo. By King High School, it was all fiberglass. They only bought the Skypole brand, and I wished they had tried others. I always used a 140-lb-test pole as I was so skinny. Dodie Miller used a 150-lb-test, as did Dan Swan during our senior year. I pushed that little pole to the limit. It was only 14 ft long. So I was at a disadvantage as the 150-lb-test poles (and up) were all 16 ft and you could have a higher handhold. I just never got over that hang-up. At the '66 Regional Meet in San Antonio, I was practicing and limbering up when an old competitor showed up. Gene Riley was a vaulter from a smaller school in Mercedes. He was in a different classification than King High, but every time I set a record, he later broke it. By our senior year, he was doing 15 ft. He had mentioned many times that he had a cousin who was an Olympian and a 16 footer. Back then, I believe his best was 16 ft-10 in. At the regional meet, Gene introduced me to Billy Pembleton. I was in awe. Billy introduced me to his girlfriend who had been a W.B. Ray cheerleader. She was beautiful and built, but I was more interested in talking to Billy and did not pay much attention to Farrah. Yep, that FarrahFarrah Faucett. I also vaulted during college at Texas A&I. I had one scholarship offer from a small college in Magnolia, Arkansas, but mom and dad did not want me that far away. The track coach at A&I was Ken Kelley. He became a hero, because first, he got Homer Martinez on a scholarship then he got Roberto Martinez. You might remember I think they were both from Falfurrias and won first and second in State in their sophomore, junior and senior years in the mile. They did well at A&I too. I rarely got a chance to go to track meets, but did pretty good when I went. The primo vaulter back then was doing a little over 14 ft, and I wasn't there yet, and neither was Dan Swan. After the lead vaulter graduated, I had more meets and finally got really pissed at Dan as he was getting better and I wasn't. At one meet, he passed on heights until the bar was at 13 ft-6 in., and then went out. Dan never really learned the basic mechanics and totally depended on a big bendperiod. I ended up clearing 14 ft-2 in. I still have that newspaper clipping. The coach came over, congratulated me, and was saying maybe he could get a books-and-tuition scholarship if I was interested. I curtly said, "No sir, I proved what I wanted to," and never vaulted again, calling it quits after that. I was the first in several years to vault over 14 ft. I can remember my freshman year at A&I during track season. Football players were in spring training and we were all going through physicals at the same time. When I stepped on the scales, I weighed in at 145 lb, dripping wet. (Those were the days!) I felt tremendous pressure on both arms squeezing me in a vise-like grip, picking me up and setting me aside. Then a huge black guy laughed and loudly said "Now, let a man weigh in." That was my first encounter with Eugene (Gene) Upshaw. If I remember correctly, he was 6 ft-5 in. and weighed around 300 lb. He went on to the dreaded Oakland Raiders for his entire career and became a living legend. When he retired, he owned a string of Oakland night clubs called "Tuck's Place." He later became the president of the Players' Union. Gene sadly died a few years back. The A&I football team was barely winning a game (I forget the opponent), when a backward lateral attempt failed on a runaround and it bounced right into Gene, who had dropped back to block. He picked up the ball and rolled like a freight train through the opposing line to a touchdown. The ball had been ruled a fumble, and Gene was as eligible as anyone else to grab and go. The team seemed to fumble in Gene's direction a lot after that. In my junior year, I took a physical education (PE) course and hated the thought of studying for finals. Ron Hunt, the teacher, was the track trainer. He was also a trainer for the football team. He treated my shin splints and groin problems. He also held a grudge against me because I had quit vaulting. He heard me complaining about having to study for the damn PE final. In front of the entire class, he issued a challenge. Ron had seen me limber up before vaulting and knew that I was fairly good at walking on my hands. (Those were the days!) Loud and clear, he announced that if I walked the length of the basketball court on my hands, he would exempt me from the final. While I pondered the challenge, he added "Up and back." I groaned and was ready to decline. We were already in the gym that day and both the men's and women's classes had heard the challenge. I couldn't back down. I figured if I didn't try, I'd never know. So I started off, and it wasn't easy. Several times, I faltered and steadied myself. I finally got to the other end and realized, "Damn, I have a serious problem!" I had never turned around before. I turned very slowly and cautiously, and my arms were aching. Once around, I headed back. By now, everybody was cheering, including Ron. I finally made it and collapsed in a crumpled heap. Ron tried to weasel out of the wager, but knew he had to honor the deal. I was exempted from the final and got an "A." -Playing Pool: Kingsville had two multifamily housing areas on separate ends of town, Black Villa down south and Brown Villa beside the A&I football stadium. Moore's Pool Hall was in what my dad called "Colored Town," but we always went to "Mez-kin Town" (my dad again). I never could correct him on that, and he saw no harm in it. Games were 25 cents each. After each game, we'd throw a nickel on the table and call out, "RACK!" An old man named Segundo (Spanish for "second") would walk slowly to the table and rerack the balls. He would take his coin and stick it in his ear. Sam Moore was the first of our group to get his driver's license, and we rode in his father's 1964 Red Ford Galaxy with a 390 cubic inch engine, wire wheels and bucket seats. We went everywhere in that thing just cruisin'. Gas was probably 35 cents a gallon. Gary Carley would call "Shotgun!" and ride up front in the bucket seats, because he was taller, he said. I was always stuck on the benchseat in the back. One night, when we arrived, a knife fight a littler earlier had left blood all over the sidewalk. It made me sick to my stomach. I eventually told my dad about it. The next Christmas, he bought a portable pool table so we could all play at home. By spring, everybody had come over to try out that portable table. I have a DVD made from a VCR tape that my cousin Ken (now deceased) & his wife Sandy made just prior to Ken losing his battle with cancer. Footage shows Gary and Sam on our tiny back patio on our old rusty glider. I guess mom took the pictures, because dad was in the movie. Gary and Sam were side by side with legs spread and displaying "the bird." Good thing my mom was clueless on that one. - Caving: After one semester at A&I, I joined the Spelunkers Club and every holiday went on training trips somewhere to earn my membership. I spent much more time caving than studying, and it showed in my grades. I travelled extensively in Mexico. It was much easier to explore down there than in the States. Here you need waivers, releases and permits. There, you just tell the locals, "If we're not back in three days, send help." - Devil's Sinkhole: When I joined the A&I Caving Club, they had been in existence for two years and had already established a routine of how to educate and train neophytes. I've already mentioned one such training place at Devil's Sinkhole in Central Texas. I went there too many times. We went to Devil's Sinkhole in the Texas hill country to train neophytes on rope work. That sinkhole is a quarter mile around at the top and several acres at the bottom and it is 250 ft straight down. You had to learn how to rappel down and use a Prusek's loop to climb up. That is a knot that you can loosen to inch up and when you put your weight on it, it tightens again and you literally inch your way up. That takes way too much time so, we also learned how to use jumars. A jumar is a mountain climbing tool that is mostly aluminum and loosely resembles a staple gun. The goldline rope is fed thru the device and the rope rests on the aluminum "thumb" of it. We wore one on each leg and one on our harness in the middle of the chest. That way, you lean back and can actually walk up a rope. It is thoroughly exhausting but much more practical than Prusek's loops. Before they let me work on the jumars, they wanted me to rappel down and that was frightening, but fun. Crawling over the ledge in your harness is the scariest part. Once you've cleared the edge and lowered yourself somewhat, it's all fun. I lay back in my harness, relaxed and let the rope glide as I negotiated the 250 feet in a few minutes. I landed with a thump, but was unhurt. They wanted me to do it again and explained that they would haul me up with a parachute harness rigged through an ancient cast iron boom. During the Civil War, the Confederates had mined the sinkhole for guano and made gunpowder from it. They had set up a large boom that extended out over the pit and they had steel cables running through it to haul up large caldrons of guano. Now, I was going to be hauled up the same way. I was told that it was attached to a winch on a four-wheel truck on the surface. I didn't remember a four-wheel truck. Those bastards had tied the rope to the rear bumper of a Scout and it took off like a scalded dog. I went flying through space and in seconds was bouncing below the boom looking for help in reaching terra firma. They just got some slack in the rope and pulled me in. I almost pee'd my pants. I had to do another rappel and jumar my way out and by the end of the day was a bona fide member of the A&I Speleological Club. Three months later after several caving expeditions, I joined the National Speleological Society. My grades were already in trouble. - Ojo de Aqua: We also travelled many, many times to a cave near the village of Bustamante, Mexico. It is very close to one of their National Parks named "Ojo de Aqua" (eye of the water). It is so named due to the deep natural springs that feed the beautiful lake there. That lake is similar to the one at San Marcos in that it seems much shallower than it is. In some places it seems to be maybe twenty feet deep and you can clearly see the bottom and the bubbling springs. It is closer to 100 ft. deep and the water is just so calm and terribly cold that it seems shallow. About ten miles past the park there is a mountain that dominates a peaceful valley. The entire valley has a pungent sweet smell to it. Wild flowers abound there and the local burros (tame and wild) feed on them. The manure from that diet creates an uncomfortably sticky sweet smell over the entire valley. I hope you read this after dinner. The blessing about caving near small Mexican villages is that there is no hassle. No one requires permits, waivers, fees, insurance, etc. We would just tell the local gendarmes "If we're not back in three days---send help". You can drive a four wheel vehicle up part way. Don't ask me how, but, we got a VW Micro-bus up there. That area was called, of course, "The Parking Lot". We would enter Mexico at Nuevo Laredo and drive toward Sabinas Hidalgo. Bustamante is due west of Sabinas. I understand that there is now a 50' wide road that goes past the parking lot toward the cave. That road fell victim to a landslide and probably has not been restored. Back in the day, we had to drive very slow and have someone looking out for large rocks, cactus, etc. It was usually dark by the time we got to the mountain. The cave is "Gruta de Palmito" named after the local small palmetto palms that grow everywhere. Many of us called the cave "los cuevas de los palmitos" It takes over an hour to climb the trail up to the cave entrance. There are many switchbacks and sometimes the trail is steep. Regardless, by the time you reach the entrance you are exhausted. Some hard liners who apparently were in great shape would charge ahead into the entrance. I always took a rest break. Once inside, I had my carbide lamp attached to my hard hat and adjusted to the eerie cave darkness once I had my lamp started and adjusted. Never look closely at your hands or arms while wearing a carbide lamp. It burns! You cannot walk very far into the cave before you could be in trouble. PAY ATTENTION! Just a few feet in and there is nothing but "breakdown" as far down as you can see. Over several millennia, gigantic sections of roof have collapsed and caused an incredibly huge mountain of rubble that goes down to the cave floor perhaps three football fields down. Good lace-up work boots are a necessity. Once on the bottom, I'd always breathe a sigh of relief. I knew there was still a lot ahead, but, at least this over for now. The locals would get this far every Easter to have their celebration in the Cathedral Room. They rode their burros up the mountain and used torches to get down the breakdown and walked to this gigantic room. The ceiling seemed to be hundreds of feet above. The cave formations were ancient and dead. There were no living formations. Nothing was even moist. It's amazing to see, but, sad as well. Stalactites hung from the ceiling. Stalagmites thrust up from the floor. It appeared that once there were probably columns where the two joined together. Everyone enjoyed the immensity and peace of the Cathedral. There was a lot of litter and graffiti around that area. The cave was discovered in 1907 and locals had been coming here ever since. My first trip was 1968. Once past the Cathedral, there were passage ways and tunnels that were challenging. On my first trip; they scared the bejeevers out of me. On later trips, I knew what to expect and how to deal with it. One passage took us past an underground cliff that dropped off into the darkness. It was named "El Paso de muerte". (the passage of death). We later determined that the drop off was "only" about 75 ft. Of course, that was a ledge with another 50 plus feet below it. So, we took our time and paid close attention to where we put our feet. If you don't look down it doesn't bother you as much. The trail is pretty wide. Further on there is a tunnel that is living flowstone. When water drips through limestone too fast to make formations, then it creates what appears to be a sheet of ice over everything. That is flowstone. Obviously, it is very wet and slippery. Just walking thru the tunnel is no big deal until you get to a hole in the floor. Each of us must brace our back against the wall on one side and our feet on the other to "spider" across the hole. Later trips determined the hole dropped over 100 ft. down. On my first trip, I almost froze while "spidering" over the hole. You just have to keep moving and don't let your fear get the best of you. On subsequent trips it was no big deal. I just reminded myself to pay attention. Past the flowstone tunnel was a lot of walking to finally reach what was the known bottom of the cave. Locals likely never got this far. Everything just petered out at a wall. Now, I could look forward to a lunch of sardines, Vienna sausages or kipper snacks with hard bread from the village and water to wash it down. Then, oh boy!-it was back the way we came. I took two more training expeditions to Gruta de Palmito before being involved in discoveries. - Music: Most of the summer of '65, I stayed with my aunt and uncle in San Antonio. I had two cousins there. One was too young to be much involved; I was pretty close to the other. Ken was lead guitar for a garage band called The Fugitives, and they wanted to cut a vanity record in hopes of creating more interest in them. They had been pretty successful playing the military bases around San Antonio. There were quite a few. They wanted more, and so we went to a small studio called Alamo Audio. I had been a "roadie" for them, lugging instruments and equipment from place to place, but was never a band member, just a "go-fer." I had told my cousin Ken that they really needed to introduce one of their own songs and he agreed. Their lead singer, Ken and I worked together and came up with "You Know She's a Woman." It was typically early 60's with twangy lead guitar. But it had some interesting vocals requiring emotion, and the lead singer just did not have that quality in his singing. The owner of the studio said "Guys, it's your money and I'm glad to take it. But if you want this song to be as special as it can be, your singer needs to put some emotion into it." He just didn't have it and Ken turned to me and said, "Wanna give it a try?" The studio owner said, "Son, make it sound interesting. Make it sound like you're having an orgasm." I wasn't sure I could do that, but I gave it my all and two takes later, we had a good cut with lots of moaning and groaning. The lead singer was livid and had left. Ken told me not to worry about it. I went back to Kingsville and did not give much thought to the recording until months later when they mailed me my copy. I still have it and made it into a CD. The thing was, they never promoted it and the record went nowhere. The following summer, I went back to San Antonio for a brief visit and my cousin bitterly complained about the flop record. I jumped all over him and told him it was his own fault. He had a case of the records in their garage. I made a list of all the English language radio stations in San Antonio, grabbed the case of records and started knocking on doors. I left a copy with any station that would allow it. You may recall that San Antonio radio stations had the most powerful broadcast capability in all of South Texas. Before end of summer, "You Know She's a Woman" charted and ended up the fifth most popular song of that summer. I assume that stations in other key cities like Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth had gotten copies from San Antonio stations. I told anyone who would listen that I had done a recording, but no one believed me. Now it was on the air, and most still did not believe me. I am a verifiable "one hit wonder." The flip side has "Louie Go Home," which was originally written and performed by Paul Revere and Mark Lindsey. I have both their version and that of The Fugitives. I did lead vocals on "Louie Go Home," and I like our version better. In late '68 and early '69, I had become involved with some folks who called themselves the Down South Family. They had this image of young, hip professionals, who led a successful commune. It was anything but. No, it was a group of very savvy young businessmen who used the young and dumb hippies and surfers to work for free. It didn't take long to figure that out. They operated a successful surf shop in Corpus Christi called, of course, Down South. They had great connections in the Texas music field, and I wanted to get involved. I had long thought of having a rock festival in Kingsville at Kleberg County Park in Flato Pavilion, where they held cattle auctions. It was in a natural (maybe man-made) amphitheatre that I thought would be perfect to hold a large audience watching a rock festival. I knew it would be tough to pull off, and I brought the idea up with the folks at Down South. This was before my time in Austin and before Woodstock. Down South liked the idea and put me in charge of securing the facility and getting all necessary permits. We did it by the book and were completely legit. The only exception was that I called it "a small picnic, family friendly atmosphere, bringing top entertainment to Kingsville, which had long been musically neglected." I was with a garage band called Community, and we had planned on performing; but the quality of talent became too great for a group as amateur as ours. I made arrangements for security, portable toilets, water supplies, insurance, trash removal and park cleanup after the event. We even had food vendors. I did interviews with the Record News and kept referring to the event as "family friendly and picnic atmosphere." Down South was planning a full-scale entertainment rock venue. The headliners would be a new and successful group called "Texas," plus some heavy hitters from Corpus, Austin and Houston. Groups that were successful in the club scene desperately wanted to try this new evolving venue that was sweeping the nation back then. After all contracts were signed and all was in place, I finally realized what we had done and I was honestly scared and thought that we'd get arrested or something. Finally, after more press coverage and coverage all over A&I, some at UT Austin, some coverage in the Corpus Christi Caller, the day came and we didn't have a clue what kind of audience we'd have. We were prepared for about 1,000 people and even had Navy medical personnel volunteers just in case. We ended up with about 3,000 peoplefar more than anticipated, and soon after bands started, officials knew it was not as it had been promoted. They cut the power and there was a lull in the action. I knew several people from King High that came from farm and ranch families and asked for their help with generators. The Navy medical volunteers procured several from the base, and sons and daughters of local farmers and ranchers brought some from home and before an hour had passed, we were back in business. Cops were everywhere and I did several announcements about do not do drugs here it just isn't cool or safe. Apparently, the message sank in. There were no arrests, no serious injuries and a good time was had by all. The group "Texas" brought the house down. They went on to rock and roll fame as ZZ Top, that little 'ol band from Texas. The Kingsville-Bishop Record News came out on April 28, 1969, my 21st birthday. There was a banner headline photo above the paper's name. It was probably taken with a fisheye lens. The paper claimed about 1,000 attended, but anyone who attended knew the truth. They called it a "music festival" which, it was; just not country or pop. I clipped out the article and photo in the paper, mounted it on a piece of quarter inch plywood and varnished it. I still have it. My final parting shot at Kingsville, I thought. If you know where Bandera, TX is; about 12 miles distant is Medina, TX. Almost equidistant between the two, there used to be an old country bar hangout called the Silver Dollar Saloon. I had been keeping company with some big country boys from the area and we played cards together and drank lots of beer at A&I. In the fall of '68 long before I was 21; they took me to the saloon. I had stayed at the goat ranch of a dad of one of the guys and after dinner, we went for drinks at the saloon. We had been there maybe an hour when two really sloppy drunks stumbled in the front door together. I learned an appropriate hill country saying that night when one of my group described the two as "knot kneed, snot slingin', commode huggin' drunk." One was older and the other was black. Both were definitely cowboys from the way they were dressed. They were badly unshaven and looked pretty awful. The older one raised his cowboy hat and looked very familiar. The owner of the saloon went over to talk to them and shortly after, they reluctantly nodded "OK" to something. Employees put sound equipment and two stools on the stage, then produced two electric acoustical guitars. The drunken duo were introduced and stumbled onto the stage. They were Johnny Cash and "Country" Charlie Pride on a weekend drinking binge together. Cash sat down and promptly threw up. It was disgusting. They got off to a slow start, but soon found their stage presence and performed three songs very well. It ended up as a very memorable night. I just barely got by each semester and was on scholastic probation by my junior year. I got off that and messed up again in my senior year and earned scholastic withdrawal. I was really upset and so were my parents. I told them I had a job waiting in Austin and really did not. I had made arrangements with a guy I knew from A&I who had taken summer classes at A&I to get his grades up to help him finish at University of Texas, Austin. He had a dorm-like studio with two bunk beds on opposite sides of the small room. It was one bathroom and no kitchen. We cooked on a hot plate. His stepdad had founded What-A-Burger and was very wealthy. You'd think they would have set him up better. I stayed with him until I did get a job and could afford my own place. I landed a very interesting job at a beer and wine bar located near the Vulcan Gas Company. It was a cooperative of several businesses, most of them counterculture. It even included Armadillo Press, which back then did underground comics featuring characters like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Mr. Natural. It was December of '69 and the in-thing. The Gas Company had a large venue that brought in major entertainment, like Edgar and Johnny Winters. They frequently performed there and I got to know them a little. The large dance hall was always trying to improve their light show and I got crazy one week and spent much time perfecting an off-the-wall idea. Imagine a cheerleader's megaphone that was a hexagon and lined with mirrors. I showed it off to the guy in charge and he loved it. We placed a strobe light shining into the small end and a medium-sized crystal at the large end. The result was a rainbow of colored light flashing with the strobe across the walls and ceiling of the dance floor. It was a hit. I just dreamed big, aimed high and kept getting mired in mediocrity, although it has made for some interesting parts of my life. Many professional athletes from all the sports lived in the Austin area and frequented the Gas Company. They loved the effects as well and I came to know several of them. I was a man with a dream on a mission. Bill Graham of Fillmore East and West was my hero, and I wanted to be a rock impresario like him. Now, just maybe, I had people with money who could invest and fulfill my dream. I found a sizeable, appropriate warehouse and got a student architect to work up blueprints to my specifications. I envisioned a large dance floor on the upper level and youth-oriented retail shops on the lower level. There would be a helipad on the roof with a dressing and staging area and an elevator/stage wired with plenty of power. It would be lowered from the roof and left suspended 15 feet over the dance floorkind of a twist on what Disney did in Tomorrow Land at Anaheim. I researched all potential costs from construction to insurance, bringing everything up to code, maintenance, advertising, entertainment. I was in love with Janis Joplin and thoroughly researched her. I knew she got her break when she was waiting on tables serving beer at Treadgill's Pub, a converted gas station/beer bar just outside Austin. I knew she performed with Treadgill's Hootenanny Hoot, a group he formed that featured her and Julie Joyce on vocals, with husband Chuck Joyce on lead guitar, and of course, Ken Treadgill. I joined a bowling league, a very specific one, to bowl against Chuck and Julie and came to know them. I had done my research and presented a proposal to the city for a business permit to operate such a facility so I could start construction. I had the backers lined up; I had thorough knowledge of the prices of available talent. Janis topped the list at a whopping $30,000 for a 45=minute gig. Jefferson Airplane was a close second at $28,500; Led Zeppelin was $25,000; while Bonnie, Delaney and Friends were a mere $8,000. My list had almost 50 of the top performers at the time, and I had been in touch with all the managers representing them. The city freaked out and hit me with an insurmountable amount of additional expensive requirements. It was over before it began. My backers pulled out and the dream dissolved before my eyes. I had a little seed money and threw a "Feel sorry for yourself" party at the home of one of my backers. About 35 people came and everybody was getting boozed up. A stage band was there and I got to the microphone and was slurring my words as I tried to do a Janis signature piece "Piece of my Heart." I heard a very loud and strong voice coming from behind the stage doing the words the right way. I turned and there she was. I started crying, as I was so emotional anyway. She just kept singing and put her arm around me. After that one song, we started drinking Southern Comfort together, her favorite. We ended up passing out drunk together, as did several others. I woke up the next morning with a horrible hangover and Janis beside me. . I just wish I had been sober enough to get to know Janis at least a little. Never try to out drink an alcoholic. She was just waking up and asked the time. Someone told her and she screamed "Oh shit!" Then she called her limo driver and sped off to the nearest airport. She had a gig in Houston that night. So the dream ended. But in a way, I slept with Janis Joplin. A few months later, she died. I've always guessed that Chuck and Julie told her about the end of my dream. I returned to Kingsville and A&I and studied like hell and got my grades up enough to graduate. Got my degree and came to California to pursue another dream. - California Bound: I received my Business degree from A&I in June of '71 and immediately moved to Corpus Christi. I ended up as an apartment manager at a rat-and roach-infested dump. But at least I had a roof over my head. I then got a job on full commission as an employment counselor. I was fairly successful, and as soon as I had some money coming in, I moved out, quit that apartment manager job and got my own apartment. After a few months, I was sick of Corpus and my job and saw no potential in South Texas and Houston or Dallas. Even Austin held little appeal. I had previously visited a place in California called Laguna Beach and had fallen in love with the community. It was relatively small (about 35,000), beautiful and definitely a resort city. I had a friend in San Diego and arranged to stay with him for a while in hopes of finding work there. San Diego is only about 65 miles from Laguna. I left Corpus with almost $400 and figured that would hold me for a little while until I could find work. HA! In my brief Corpus job as an employment counselor, I did some good placements and some awful ones. One good one was for a guy in his early thirties. He was educated, bright, business wise and gay. He and his lover had run a classic car dealership in upstate New York. When they split all he got was a classic '66 Rolls Silver Cloud (one of my all-time favorites). I got him a job with an ad agency and he was successful. When I decided to leave Corpus and Texas, I gave them two weeks' notice and was immediately fired. All "placed" applicants had to stay in touch with their counselor for a while and he soon discovered I was gone. He had my apt. phone and called. He told me he could get me a walk-on as an extra in a What-A-Burger commercial they were filming. What-a-Burger was headquartered in Corpus. I would receive at least $350 and I jumped at the chance. I never saw him at the shoot, but was walked through my "role" and it seemed incredibly dumb. I had to show up in a khaki work shirt, old jeans and work boots. I had the necessary wardrobe. I was to exit a beat-up truck, point at the What-A-Burger sign on the roof and walk in and order a burger by holding up one finger and smiling. That was it. After that we were rewarded with a free juicy burger. I never knew until later that the camera was never turned off and they were shooting the extras while we ate. I bit into the burger big time and mustard shot up the side of my face. That damn embarrassing thing ran for two years on TV. My dad told me once I was settled in Calif. My wife saw it in Phoenix when she was still at Arizona State. I never saw it. - Hotel Stories – Laguna: Two weeks later and without even a chance of a job, I really rolled the dice and drove to Laguna Beach and literally started walking the streets of the town knocking on doors and filling out applications. The second place I stopped was a 175-room, all oceanfront, high end hotel. I could hear a confrontation in the back office while I sat in the lobby filling out the application. A middle aged kinda' sleazy looking guy stormed out and was followed by a sophisticated looking well dressed grey haired older man. The older man looked at me and said "What can you do son?" I replied that I had just graduated college. He retorted "That did not answer my question." I then said "I can do anything I set my mind to sir." The hotel owner had just fired their only bellman and needed a replacement quick. He hired me as a maintenance man and put me on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift. I did that for a few weeks which allowed me to become very familiar with the Surf and Sand Resort Hotel. Then I became the night bellman and the night auditor came on at 8 p.m. The old night auditor really liked me and wanted to help. He would check people in and page me wherever I was to come to the lobby to take them and their luggage to their room. It did not matter if you only had one bag. They did not get a key until I took them to their room. Obviously, people felt obliged and gave me a tip for every check in. It may have been only a dollar, but I got a tip. I soon realized that the longer I could stay in their room explaining all the features of the room, showing them the Pacific Ocean at the base of their balcony and explaining the amenities of the hotel, the larger the tip. Things were lean in the winter months, but $1.75 per hour plus all the tips I could hustle, kept me going. The first apartment I had was a converted 1930's garage with a crudely done concrete finish in the "living room" where the car was parked. The "bedroom" had a dirt floor with loose wood boards laid over. The "bathroom" was a modular unit taken from an RV. The shake shingle roof over the bed had a hole in it and I could gaze at the stars while trying not to freeze as I slept. In late 1971, just after I was hired at the Surf and Sand Resort Hotel in Laguna Beach, the owner knew that I was struggling financially and had heard of an opportunity that he passed on to me with the warning not to let it interfere with my current job. I could make a quick $100 by working one night on a yacht serving hors d'ouevres and drinks to a very exclusive group. I quickly followed up and was advised on the where and when and had to show up early to select a tux to wear while serving. The yacht was over 100 ft. long and was quite fancy. It was a converted WWII mine sweeper named the "Wild Goose." I had no idea who my employer was. I just knew it was an exclusive crowd with many politicians and community leaders. I assume the hotel owner had been invited and that's how he knew of the opportunity. I was a good server and never spilled anything all night long. I was very courteous to all the guests and just did my humble servant thing. It was a long night, but finally, the guests were leaving and I was wondering how and when I would get paid. I had to change back to my street clothes and was guided to the bow of the ship where people filed single file past the owner as he paid them in cash. He was a very large barrel-chested bald man with a huge gut and I did not have a clue who he was. Some of his friends called him "Duke." Then, it hit me. I had spent the evening on John Wayne's yacht and was about to meet him and shake his hand. I got my $100 bill and thought maybe I would not wash that hand for awhile. The hotel owner confirmed the next day that indeed, it was John Wayne and he wanted employees to be quiet about it. I came to know a bar called "The Little Shrimp." It was a gay bar that had been there since WWII. It was a favorite hangout for everybody and I occasionally went there after getting off work around 11:30 p.m. They specialized in exotic rum drinks and I grew fond of one called a "gold Cadillac." It used 101 rum and had a lot of ice in it. They could really sneak up on you. One night, I walked in close to midnight as I had walked from the hotel two blocks away. I saw one old drunk on a stool with his head on the bar. Then there was an empty stool next to an old haggard looking woman who was obviously drunk. When my drink was served, she said "what's that sissy drink?" I told her what was in it and offered her a sip which she promptly accepted. We struck up a conversation and I wasn't sure what to say as I had no idea who she was. So, I started talking about seeing a recent TV rerun of Jane Fonda's "Cat Ballou" movie. I was going on about how great I thought Lee Marvin was playing the washed up old drunken gunslinger. The old lady said "You know, Lee got an academy award for that." I said I did not know that and the old drunk guy with his head on the bar raised up to address the old lady and said "Col. Maggie, I do appreciate your kind words." I had chosen to sit between two drinking buddies out on a drunk together. I was sitting between Lee Marvin and Martha Raye. I ordered another golden Cadillac and we talked for another half hour. I doubt either one of them remembered that. If you've ever been gifted with or bought homemade preserves or pickles it came in a glass Mason jar that likely had the name "Kerr" on it. Mason invented the jar in the 1850's and sold his rights to die almost broke. Kerr perfected the product in 1903 and improved it in 1913. His son used to "winter" at the hotel. I knew him from my bellhop and desk clerk days. He was a very wealthy man who generally stayed for a month or more around Oct. to Nov. or even later depending on the weather back home. Several staff members knew him and accused him of being a "snowbird." It was all done in good fun and he understood, but did not like it. One day he confronted an older desk clerk and said "I am not a snowbird. Being a member of a family like mine carries an incredible amount of responsibility. I have to escape from time to time so I don't feel like my community owns me." He was on countless boards and in far too many organizations. Spring and summer were great. The incredible weather brought guests in throngs, and now, I was also doing the valet parking for Towers Restaurant on the top tower floor. When I was off duty, the hotel did not have a bellman or valet parking attendant. I was it. On Friday and Saturday nights, I worked like a madman, but could easily get $100 plus per night in tips. Saturday nights were a really big event for the Towers Restaurant and the rich and famous came out. One really old lady would arrive in a 1930's gorgeous Rolls Royce Ghost (I believe). Her chauffeur would open her door and a small step would drop down from the car to allow her to easily step down from the huge automobile. The Rolls was purple and so was she. She usually had a beautiful purple designer floor length dress and always wore a purple turban. She was Corinne Griffin and had been a very successful silent screen star. I believe she had retired to Rossmoore's Leisure World in Laguna Hills, just over the hill from Laguna Beach. Mr. Rossmoore also came to the restaurant frequently. It took me a while to figure that classic old car out. It was a standard shift and a strange one. Her chauffeur was a very large body builder who was probably also a male nurse and he drove the car with ease. It's very difficult to park a car that's almost 30 ft long. A successful aging actor named Sterling Holloway lived in South Laguna high up on the mountain so as to have an incredible view. He, of course, had the home custom built and it was massive. He had been a successful character actor in the 40's and early 50's in many movies. By 1954, he was in TV's "The Life of Riley," if you remember that. You would probably remember him best as "Gizmo" the inventor in the mid 50's "Superman" series on TV. He had a gravely, high pitched voice that sounded very odd and landed him his most financially rewarding gig as the voice of "Winnie the Pooh." I did my grocery shopping in South Laguna as it was far less crowded, much easier and I didn't have to navigate the insane traffic on Pacific Coast Highway in South Laguna. I could shop at a Von's store there. One day I saw him pushing a shopping cart and literally came face to face with him. He smiled and said "Hello." I could not think of his name and stupidly blurted out "Oh you're, you're..." He laughed and said "Yep that's me." I was horribly embarrassed and apologized profusely. He assured me it was common and he was glad that he was still recognized by the public. He was a kindly old man and I kinda' figured he was gay. He introduced himself and I did the same and indicated I was the bellhop at the Surf and Sand. That occurred in October of '72. In early December that year through the hotel, I received an invitation to attend a Christmas Party at his estate. I was totally flabbergasted, nervously cautious, and curious. I wanted to see that estate. The invite included directions as it was complicated and involved two security gates. I wore my best which wasn't much to speak of back then. I took a bottle of cheap wine and walked into this large modern gorgeous huge place with a million dollar view. He was in a tux and I really felt out of place. He introduced me to a few friends and encouraged me to enjoy the hors d' oeuvres and the hosted bar. I was nervous, but nobody did anything awkward. It was just a large group of folks who knew or had worked with Sterling over the years. He was a gracious, generous host. Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors were among his guests that day. I think they were a couple and that would prove the gossip rags right. The Whitehouse Press Corps stayed at the Surf and Sand Hotel whenever Nixon was in San Clemente (10 miles south). The press corps preempted all of our regular guests. We usually got two weeks' notice and had not only to stop taking reservations, but decline all of those already accepted. They would fly into El Toro Marine Base in nearby Tustin, California, and in-mass check into the hotel. Luggage arrived first courtesy of the Marine Corps. We hustled like crazy to have all luggage in the right rooms before our guests arrived. I came to know many of them including Dan Rather. They were at the hotel three or four times a year, whenever Nixon was in San Clemente. After several visits, one of them suggested that I talk to an NBC lighting tech named Cleve Ryan, whom Gerald Ford named postmaster for Air Force One) about playing on their softball team. I did that and Cleve agreed and I started playing softball on the outer grounds of the Nixon Compound in San Clemente with the White House Press Corps. I also came to know Ron Ziegler, Nixon's Press Secretary. When I was still a bellhop, I went to work at 3 p.m. and left at 11 p.m., getting home around 11:30ish. Every night at 10 p.m., I went up to the kitchen on the top floor of the tower to get dinner for myself and the night auditor. I owed him a lot. This would have been '72 and Nixon had just been reelected, but wasn't terribly popular. He was in a mess with the media. I believe this was the early stages of Watergate. One night, he must have gotten away from his "handlers." I had just exited the kitchen which opened up to the hallway from where you entered the restaurant and elevators. I had the dinner tray resting on my belt and reached out with one hand to close the kitchen door. Just as I turned, there he stood. He was unshaven, a bit rumpled, but unmistakably Richard Nixon. He muttered "where's the damn entrance?" He apparently had snuck past a group just entering the restaurant and missed it. He also knew, apparently, that the majority of the press corps was inside at the bar enjoying themselves. I was in shock and stuttered as I said "Mr. President, it's right behind you. sir." The hotel owner liked me and the way I handled myself with their exclusive clientele and promoted me to front desk clerk which was a financial disaster. I lost all my tips and $650 per month did not make up for it. Once, when he was checking out, he commented that I looked pretty glum and I said "Yes sir." This was a conversation I had no right to get into, but I told him about my financial situation and said I saw no way out. He told me he would make a few phone calls. Two weeks later, I got a call from a Hilton Hotel senior VP who asked if I would be interested in training in L.A. for a position in Hilton Hotel Sales and Marketing. I gave two weeks' notice and started commuting to L.A. and Beverly Hills five days a week for the next three months. - The Beverly: I had already met more celebrities than I could ever imagine. Paul Lynde, Joel McCrea, Joe Namath and Kurt Gowdy, many press stars, Pancho Gonzalez and now, it would get even stranger. I did most of my training at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and had to be assigned to every dept. so I could understand how the hotel operated. When I was with the credit dept, I had to confront and cut-off credit for Vince Edwards (TV's DR. Ben Casey). I trembled as I told him he could no longer bounce $10,000 checks off the hotel. He was a big man and very upset. I had breakfast every weekday morning at the hotel coffee shop. After the first week of doing that, I was joking with another sales trainee about Saturday morning cartoons and "Fat Albert." He said "Who?" I then imitated the "Hey Hey Hey" signature laugh Cosby did for the characters voice. Immediately, I heard another "Hey, Hey, Hey." This time done right. It was Bill Cosby and I was very embarrassed. He laughed and came over to join us. He lived in one of the penthouses and had breakfast in the coffee shop every morning. I had the privilege of breakfast with Bill Cosby for three months. I pulled duty in every department. I served time in housekeeping, front desk, and even the credit dept. That was one very painful assignment. There was a falling star who was once extremely successful. He was bouncing $10,000 checks off the hotel. I had to confront Vince Edwards (TV's Dr. Ben Casey) to advise him, his checks were no longer acceptable. When I graduated the program, the General Manager took me (the other two had quit) to the top floor restaurant (L'Escoffier) and provided me with a celebratory cocktail. As we walked into the cocktail lounge, the general manager remarked "Good afternoon Paul, Joanne. How are you?" It was Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and I was literally speechless. I was introduced to them as the most recent sales graduate and I stammered badly. Mr. Newman then said, "If he's going into sales, shouldn't you teach him how to talk?" A book that was required reading for the Hilton Hotels Sales training I went through was titled "Be my Guest" and was written by Conrad Hilton to tell his story of how he started with a boarding house in San Antonio, NM and built it into Hilton Hotels worldwide. In the preface was a story he had left out about when Hilton bought out Statler Hotels. Col. Statler had a large successful chain of hotels with major hotels in major cities across the U.S. In L.A.,an official press conference was held at the L.A. Statler Hilton in the early '50's. The media asked Col. Statler what determined the success of a hotel. He said "Three things determine a hotel's success. Location, location, location!" Conrad Hilton was asked the same question and he responded. Connie said "I agree with the Col. Three things determine the success of a hotel. Service, service, service!" That book at one time was in a night stand drawer by the Gideon Bible in every Hilton Hotel room in the world. I still have my copy. - San Diego- Hilton: After that, I got very lucky and was assigned to San Diego. I have bounced from hotel to hotel to hotel since then. The celebrities were always there and it did not do a damn thing for my income or job security. I ventured out of the industry on occasion, but always came back to it. It's a terrible business with zero job security and low income. It has been exciting though. At smaller, less sophisticated properties, the bookings were a lot more fun. I started in San Diego at the Hilton on Mission Bay where I booked groups like Mothers of Twins. Most of them brought their kids and I kept doing double-takes as I walked around the property. I did not get to see my last "gift" to that property, as I had moved on. I sure heard about it. It was a huge group requiring all 300 rooms and with several group meal functions. It was a lucrative account with a twist. The Doberman Pinscher Society brought in around 400 animals who were supposed to be kept in cages and most were. It only takes a few to cause problems. It was a horribly run-down property and needed to be refurbished anyway. My ex-boss called me at my new job to tell me about what happened and told me not to feel guilty as it would allow the hotel to get the financing necessary to redo most of the rooms and the ballroom. The most interesting flight I ever had was back when I was still at the Hilton on Mission Bay. I was approached by the flight crew of the Columbia; the Goodyear blimp that used to cover all the major sporting events in San Diego. Now, it's MetLife. The crew was looking for a "crew rate"; it's a greatly reduced rate offered to airline crews who visit multiple times per year. I had to get authorization from the GM for such a low rate, but he thought it would be good PR; so we did it. I always got them into the best available rooms usually on short notice. After several visits, a crew member came into the sales office on a special day. The small staff was celebrating my birthday; 26th I think. He shared some of the small cake they bought for me and said, "Well, we need to give you a birthday present." Two days later, I was onboard the Columbia preparing for a thrill. Once I was strapped in, the ground crew dropped the tie lines and the captain revved the twin Lincoln engines and we were off. We took off from Montgomery Field only a few miles from where I have now lived for the last 32 years. The top speed was 36 mph, and still within a few minutes, we were over Mission Bay on a beautiful day. We were at about 1,000 feet and the captain asked if I would like to try the captain's chair. I reluctantly agreed and changed seats. After I was strapped in, he showed me how to operate the airship and it was weird. Everything was aluminum. There were two large pedals on the floor. Push left to veer left and right to veer right. That was simple enough and I played with it for awhile maneuvering over Mission Bay. There was a large wheel adjacent to the right side of the captain's chair and it controlled the nose. You turn forward to go down and backward to go up. The captain looked out the window and saw a water skier directly below us and said we should get closer to take a good look. I slowly eased the nose down and was skittish about that. He said "No, go down lower and pushed the wheel sharply forward. We nosedived at least a couple hundred feet and I was terrified. Then, I looked out the window and watched the skier about three hundred feet below. That calmed me and I relaxed. We swapped seats shortly after that and when we landed, I got my "Airship Pilots Card" indicating that I had piloted the Columbia. I still have it. - Royal Inn: After 18 months, Hilton wanted to transfer me, so I jumped to the Royal Inn at the Wharf on San Diego Harbor (the Big Bay) right by the Star of India, the oldest merchantman tall ship still sailing. The Royal Inn was a larger small chain property with 650 rooms and a 20,000 square foot convention center. I booked a rowdy group with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they had several hospitality suites and much booze. I was invited to one of those suites to meet one of their guest speakers. I still spoke about Kingsville and the King Ranch and the "old days" and they had mentioned it to him. Slim Pickens wanted to meet me. It was on a Friday and they would be in-house until Sunday. After work, I went to the hospitality suite and there was Slim. He was pretty well lit when I arrived and insisted that I have a few with him. I did, and we hit it off. We were drinking "Bourbon and Branch water" as he put it. He was raised in Bakersfield, California, a hot, miserable town that used to have more cattle than people. Slim was a Depression Era child and ended up doing rodeo as a way of making money. He said he got busted up pretty bad riding broncos and bulls and ended up as a clown. He insisted that being a clown was actually safer and paid better. Uh huh. If you remember the movie "Doctor Strangelove," at the end of the movie is a cowboy yelling "Yee-haw!" as he rides an atomic bomb on its way down. That was Slim. Just south of the Hotel del Coronado (the "Del"), built in 1888, are many high-rise towers built before the California Coastal Commission existed. These days, such a project would never be approved. They are very expensive condos and have been home to many notables, a few of whom I have bumped into. The popcorn king Orville Redenbacher lived there. When his product was accepted by the Costco Company, he was at their annual vendor food fair at our convention center. He was a very interesting, very wealthy old codger. A more interesting past resident of Coronado Towers was Dick Van Dyke. He lived in the towers for about a decade. In December of'75, my wife-to-be was my live-in girlfriend of a few months. She was working at the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. We hold an annual "Big Bay Parade of Lights" each year just before Christmas. A large fleet of yachts and sailboats is assembled and they decorate them lavishly with lights. It is quite a spectacle. That year ('75), the organizers had asked for a Bureau employee to be one of the judges. Everyone there knew how bloody cold it could be on the water just before Christmas. The job fell to Eleanor and she gamely accepted. She took it very seriously and was determined to bundle appropriately so she could see all of the yachts and judge them fairly. I, of course, got cold and soon found the bar on the very large yacht we were on. That year and several to follow, the parade featured Dick Van Dyke as Grand Marshall. I figured I'd never see him and so did not consider the possibility. I'd get a drink and then go up on deck to let El have a sip or two. For awhile, I believe, I was getting Irish coffee and El is a "tea-totaler" so she asked me not to bring any more booze to her. I then switched to my drink at the time, Johnny Walker Black (JWB) soda with a twist. I elbowed my way into the bar and soon was standing beside Dick. He's tall and looked down at me and said "thirsty"? I replied "more cold than thirsty." I then ordered my JWB and he soon was drinking the same with me. I asked if he had to be on deck to view the yachts and he said "Nope, I'm just a celebrity attraction, so I'm staying inside for warmth and this." He then held up his glass. I was getting a little "snockered" and he was well into it. He did have some great stories and seemed like a really nice guy. I later learned that his drinking days almost ruined his career and marriage. He did not know when to stop. – Sheraton: Then Royal Inns went bankrupt and I spent the next five or so years with Sheraton. Sheraton was very sophisticated, and the solicitation process was unbelievable. We dealt with high-end associations and major corporations. I dealt with the American Medical Association, American Bankers Association, and even the Cattleman's Association. They had two properties side by side on Harbor Island across from the airport. One was 500 rooms (back then-now, it's 750), the other was 350 rooms. There was also a third property on Shelter Island, the next manmade island a little further on. My Sheraton Director of Sales was definitely trying to fire me, but couldn't because I always met and exceeded quota--and Corporate Sales knew it. So then, he started sending me out on little field trips and encouraged me to get to know my counterparts at the Sheraton hotels where I stayed. I'm sure he was anticipating a transfer for me. On a trip to Sheraton Universal at Universal Studios, I really hit it off with the Director of Sales, Margie Sitton. She was well connected at corporate and knew my situation. She came right out and told me she would love to have me work for her, but had no openings. I laughed and told her I appreciated her honesty, but I had no plans to leave San Diego. We figured since that awkward situation was over; we'd just have some fun. In those days Telly Savalas (Kojak) lived at the Sheraton Universal and Margie took care of his reservation arrangements and special requests. She told me of a favorite game he played because he was such an egomaniac. I did not believe her and she called me from my room one day when he started to play his game. First, he called the switch board operator and asked her to page Mr. Telly Savalas. Then after the page ran a few times, he would come running into the lobby making a big fuss to answer the page and create a grand entrance. I watched the whole thing and still could not believe it. Years later at Sheraton, I had to be on a sales blitz to San Francisco as corporate thought that this might be beneficial for the San Diego Region. It wasn't. We stayed at the Sheraton Palace hotel which is a grand and glorious very old and tired hotel. At least then it was. We were returning from a long day on the streets going to appointments and making others promoting our three hotels. The others went to their rooms. I went to the bar, had one drink, then headed for the elevator. When the elevator door finally opened, I stepped into a very crowded elevator filled with mean looking big guys in Brooks Brother's suits, starched white shirts and skinny black ties with wingtip shoes and very noticeable weapons. I also saw a frightened looking bald man in the middle of that crowd sweating profusely. One big guy stared at me and said "Get out now!." I got off on the next floor. Gerald Ford had been staying at the Sheraton Palace and "Squeaky" Fromme had just taken pot shots at him. I damn near wet my pants. I took El to the Tiki Bar at the Sheraton Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. I knew that Frankie Laine kept his yacht there and occasionally lived aboard. He was a very famous singer from the 40's and 50's. If you remember the TV series "Rawhide" with Clint Eastwood; the theme song, "keep those doggies moving--rawhide" was done by him. We went to the bar and ordered two mai tais and were slowly sipping on them when he walked in and sat down next to me and ordered a drink. I looked over and said "Hello, Mr Laine. I didn't know you were in house." I identified myself as being on the sales staff and he just started chatting away. He was a very personable, friendly old lush who had retired to San Diego and hung out on Shelter Island and in our Little Italy section of downtown. I stupidly asked for an autograph and he was very willing to do it. I still have it on a bar napkin. It made our Saturday afternoon and I truly felt that I had made a friend. He always spoke from then on whenever I saw him around town. - Airport 77: In early 1977, I was Area Sales Manager with Sheraton Hotels and was an active member in the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) with friends at many local hotels. I had heard a rumor about a Hollywood flake calling around with a laundry list of demands trying to find out what hotel could handle his needs. A friend at a resort hotel on Shelter Island confirmed that she had been approached and could not meet his demands nor would she bother. Hollywood types had a bad rep about slow-pay or no-pay for groups and hotels avoided them. I was curious and followed the list of demands my friend had given me. It included a fleet of rental trucks of specific dimensions, a dock for their exclusive use, rolling clothing racks, a fleet of 50 ft or larger seaworthy boats our dock could handle, etc. Additionally, he need a "block" of guest rooms reserved over specific dates for 75 rooms and unlimited access to at least one good-sized ballroom. I checked our books, made contact with all the necessary people required to meet all requirements and called Ken Grossman with Universal City Studios. I had to go through a gauntlet of assistants and gave each the same message. "Tell Mr. Grossman, I have his preferred dates available for six weeks and have fulfilled his demands list. I just need his approval to start things moving." Ken Grossman finally got on the phone and demanded to know who I was and what hotel I represented. After I replied he just said "Oh yes!" I asked, "Does that mean I should start things moving?" His response was "Yes, please." I contacted all the folks I had previously called and set everything up and submitted a "booking sheet" for 3,150 room nights. I had given them the convention flat rate of $65 per night per room. That's over 204 thousand dollars. Next day, my Sales Director and General Manager called me in for a meeting and wanted an explanation of what this was all about and I told them. The cast and crew of "Airport '77" would be staying with us in a few months for about six weeks. Immediately they were skeptical and stated there was no history of performance for such group. I was reminded that we were a convention hotel, not a Hollywood hang-out. Then, they tried to hi-jack my booking and called Ken Grossman. He refused to talk to them and would only deal with me. He signed the confirmation and I had booked a movie. They were shooting an underwater scene off our coast using a submerged balsa wood 747 jet. It was a very dramatic scene in the movie. One morning while they were still in-house Ken Grossman walked into my office and asked if I wanted to go with him for the last day of shooting. I asked my Sales Director and he said only if he could go too. We had to take off our dress shoes and were given deck boots, but still had our three piece pin striped suites as we boarded one of the service ships that had been docking at our marina. We went out three or four miles off the coast and had to climb a rope net to board a large ship that housed the cast and most of the crew that day. I was introduced to Jimmy Stuart, Jack Lemmon, George Kennedy and Brenda Vacarro. My boss was as stunned as I was. It was a day for the memory books. In late '77 early '78, I had already established my reputation as an achiever. I had triumphantly returned from the heady days of the Sheraton World Conference in New York. I told you about that. I was named Southern California Salesperson of the year and my reward was New York City in January of '77. About (40) of us had dinner with the CEO of Sheraton at Windows on the World (top floor restaurant at World Trade Center). Back then it was Bud James who had come from CEO of Del Webb in Phoenix and was much more laid back than his east coast predecessors. The meal was fantastic. The evening was politically uncomfortable. I was terrified. We were (110) stories up and way above the clouds. Then, next evening was dinner at the Inn on the Green in Central Park. That was followed by an evening at the Schubert theatre watching the original cast of "Chorus Line" in that cold, drafty cramped historic old theatre. Once back home, my reputation was established and convention photographers followed me and El everywhere at public events. The close up pic shows me in my prime. The larger one shows what the close up was cropped from. The Fellow in the tie was the Regional Director of Sales for Hertz and the guy in back had previously been a political frenemy. - The Bahia: Then Sheraton wanted to transfer me out of town. and I jumped to an independent owner on Mission Bay and became Director of Sales and Marketing for both the Bahia and Catamaran Hotels. Back then the Catamaran was a dump and the Bahia was the prime property. At the Bahia Hotel at the time, there was the Mercedes Dining Room and the Mercedes Cocktail Lounge. They were strategically on either side of one of his prize autos. It was a 1902 Mercedes. I was so accustomed to seeing it; I just did not get that excited about it. Bill Evans led a life of excesses and was paying for it when I worked for him. He was on a strict low sodium low fat diet because he's had a heart attack at 58. He was 60 when he hired me. I lasted a little over two years and finally left in disgust after two hard years of battling him for anything and everything that made sense. I fought long and hard to get him to change the names of the two hotels from "Motor Hotels" to "Resort Hotels." Then I had to battle him to get a convention brochure printed so that I would have a professional piece of collateral material to send to meeting planners. I got both, but, it cost me. He died a year after I left and his heirs made many changes. They hired a Director of Sales at each hotel and a full sales staff at each. I had been it; the one and only. His son little Bill went to Cornell and got a degree in Hotel Management. Once home again, he made many more changes. He also had the Mercedes "jury rigged" so he could drive it cross country in a prestigious motor car race. He damn near destroyed that car; but, he got it back home. He soon discovered that the owner of the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas really wanted the car. That cross country race drew an incredible amount of attention to that little two seat buggy. Bill Jr. sold the car to that casino owner for one million dollars. It was on prominent display in the collection at the Imperial Palace for some time. Meanwhile, little Bill discovered that the Mercedes Benz motor car company would pay up to 5 million dollars for the car in good condition. The owner of the Imperial Palace had been complaining that the 1902 Mercedes was an unsalvageable wreck and he felt cheated. Bill Jr. was on the phone quickly and flew to 'Vegas with a cashier's check for one mill. He shipped the car back and took it to a local that I know. A Mr. J.W. Cooley is an expert on antique motor cars and has his own museum. I have spoken to him several times over the years and got this story from him. The Mercedes was sent to Mr. Cooley and he restored it as faithfully as anyone could. Little Bill then contacted the Mercedes Benz CEO to advise him that the auto had been restored and they were welcome to visit and view it. His team flew over from Germany viewed the car and liked it. They even drove it around town. They presented Little Bill with their check for 5 million dollars and shipped the little buggy back to Germany. The owner of the Bahia and Catamaran Hotels was very right wing and conservative and very Republican. He loved Ronald Reagan and hated Jimmy Carter. He had strongly supported Reagan and had contributed heavily for which he was rewarded. Reagan had just won the election, but had not yet been sworn in. One Day Bill Evans (the owner) announced that Reagan would be visiting the hotel to thank the staff for their support. Evans had tried to get all of his employees to contribute to the cause and support Reagan. I was putting together a convention brochure and had a scheduled photo shoot that day and figured I would miss the event. After the photo shoot was done, I went to the ballroom on the top of the main tower six stories up with a beautiful view of Mission Bay. The "receiving line" was still lined up and Reagan was on a riser bending over to talk with and shake hands with each and every employee that showed up. I figured what the hell, and got in line. When we spoke, he asked who I was and I told him. He said he knew photo shoots could be grueling and unpredictable and shook my hand. He was a big man. That's three Republican Presidents I bumped into one way or another. I'm a Democrat. As Will Rogers once said "I'm not a member of any organized political organization. I'm a Democrat."- C.O.Y.O.T.E.: The Bahia operated a paddle wheeler, named the Bahia Belle, between the two hotels and Vacation Village another independent Mission Bay hotel. After I had established myself and had some credibility I booked an all female group called C.O.Y.O.T.E. One should always determine what acronyms stand for. They only used about 70 rooms, but had lunches every day for four days and banquets every night. Great for food and beverage. They wanted something different for their last night and I booked them on the Bahia Belle cruise on an exclusivity basis. They were all extremely good looking well dressed professional looking women. We served them shrimp and crab claws and call-brand liquor and had a live band. The owner was on board with me as the organizers had requested. Toward the end of the evening with the owner (Bill Evans) by my side, I finally asked them what the acronym stood for. The president smiled and said "I wondered when you would ask. It stands for "Cut Out Your Old Tired Ethics." We are the San Francisco professional escorts union." In other words, they were the San Francisco hookers union. I choked on my scotch/soda and the owner broke out in a belly laugh and called for an extra hour on the cruise on his dime. He loved it. - Little People of America: Do you remember the name Billy Barty? Billy was a TV and movie star and a dwarf. He made some decent money and founded Little People of America (LPA). It is an organization dedicated to helping little people with their health and financial problems. Little people have lots of health issues. Many of his first members were the survivors from "The Wizard of Oz." You remember all the "munchkins." He wanted to hold a convention in San Diego and was checking out several hotel sites. He had a long list of demands that the big corporate chains refused to comply with. I was at the Hilton Inn on Mission Bay and it was a rundown desperate Inn. I had no problem convincing the general manager to comply with the list and I booked the group. It was 150 rooms for three days (in a 300 room hotel), with only one organized meal function. The final banquet was their only organized meal and they got the cheapest stuff on the menu. But we really needed the business. We drained the pool so their folks could wade into the shallow end before swimming. Swimming can be a serious problem for little people. We assigned them mostly to the Garden Lanai section as anyone in the high-rise had to be assigned to a lower floor as they could not reach the buttons on the elevator. They required stepstools for the banquet chairs and the risers to the speaker's podium were also equipped with step stools. It was sad and funny at the same time. It definitely was a memory. Billy drove a specially outfitted new 1973 Cadillac El Dorado. This tiny little guy (maybe 3 ft tall) was a big man in many ways. – Sanderling- Antonio de Benedetto: Years later, at a North County hotel in Encinitas, California, I worked for the Sanderling Inn. It was a small four diamond property with a tiny little meeting room. Back then, they were the best around the area and enjoyed a lot of business from the Del Mar racetrack. It was a short season and winters were long and lonely at the hotel. I got there in May and they wanted to me improve their summer business first. I knew that they got some of the headliner performers from the fair prior to track season and set to work trying to get much more. I really sucked up to the 32nd Agricultural District bosses as they call the shots for the Fair and pony season. I met the young lady in charge of booking the performers and invited her to lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant directly connected to the hotel. It had a remarkable ocean view from our hilltop location. After lunch, we did a thorough tour of the Inn. I showed her several rooms including the bottom floor rooms with kitchens and the top floor presidential suite. The same room on the freeway view end of the Inn was the "governor's suite." About two-thirds of the inn had at least partial ocean views. That summer, we were blessed with groups like the Charlie Daniels Band, and even the fraudulent Milly Vanilly. I met Neil Sedaka as he complained that he did not have an ocean view room. His manager had made reservations and did not go through the system I had with the fairgrounds folks. I immediately corrected the situation and advised him to go through my contact at the fairgrounds next time. He said, "No, I'll call you personally." Kenny Loggins stayed with us that summer. I also had the opportunity to meet Charles Bronson who stayed at the Inn several times during horse racing season. He wanted to know how he could be guaranteed an ocean view room each time. I told him there were no guarantees, but he should call me and I would do what I could. He called me from then on. I had a problem with the Boathouse Restaurant caterer as she had access to our reservations system and routinely booked our most preferred room the "Presidential Suite" for her wedding couples. I was checking reservations one morning as usual to be on top of important arrivals. I found that the reservationist had booked someone into the "Governor's Suite" even though' they had requested the presidential. She said it couldn't be anyone important. Some guy named Antonio de Benedetto. I knew who the upcoming headliner was and went to the General Manager (GM) and complained bitterly. He wondered why I was so strongly defending this guy De Benedetto. I showed him who the weekend headliner was and he said "Oh shit. Fix this if you can." I contacted the restaurant caterer and told her of the situation and she wouldn't budge. I said I would provide champagne for their wedding meal and provide one night in the Governor's Suite at a very reduced rate. She wanted it complimentary. I talked to the GM and he agreed. So it was done. When our guest arrived, I was on the phone talking to my dad in Corpus Christi. He was slowly recovering from a heart attack several years earlier and called me on Fridays at the office to chat. Our guest walked into my office and walked straight to me with his arms outstretched. I said "Dad, I've got to go. I think Tony Bennett wants to hug me." He walked right up to me and kissed me on both cheeks and hugged me. He had been told what I had done to honor his request and he was grateful. I was in shock. I did, however, learn much, especially respect. Early on I worked with the OX-5 Pioneers of America. They were a small group and quite elderly. This was around '75 and they were really old timers then. The OX-5 was the engine in the early war planes the U.S. had developed for WWI. These guys were fighter pilots from that war. Many of them went on to become airmail pioneers as well. Years later at two different hotels, I worked with the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. We've got many still left in San Diego. I'd go to their hospitality suites and listen to their war stories. Several of them had been on warships that the Japs sank. These guys were blown clear of the ships by the bomb blasts that sunk their ships. Amazing! - Other Hotel Groups: I've also had fun with many groups. Some I booked myself; others I inherited from predecessors. At the Bahia Hotel, I worked with the American Association of Body Artists. These folks were tattoo artists extraordinaire. They did incredible work and most members were heavily tattooed and wore tiny swim suits to allow as much exposure to their body art as possible. Fantastic to admire, but I was never persuaded to do that to my body. One group, I'm proud to say, I booked myself and it paid off for me for decades. A fellow named Milt Larsen just walked into my office at the Bahia one day and was inquiring about the possibility of holding a magic convention at the Bahia. The catch was, they would use all of our guest rooms and all of our function space and they did not want any public allowed. I didn't know if that was even possible; so I got the owner involved. After Bill Evans was brought up to date on our discussion; he said "Hell, I own the place. I can do anything I damn well please." It may not have been legal, but the restaurants were closed to the public for three days. It was booked as "the Magic Castle Convention." Milt and his older brother had started the Castle in the Hollywood Hills in the early 60s and it's still a prestigious pricey private club. Membership fees are in the thousands unless you are a magician; then it's in the hundreds. Milt and his brother had both been successful writers in the 50s in Hollywood and had done well. They just loved magic and wanted to be independent. The Castle is constructed from two Victorian mansions joined by additional construction. You can go to magiccastle.com
to get a thorough idea of how neat it really is. Milt's most recent achievement was to guide and influence young Chris Angel to make him the Las Vegas headliner he is today. Hotel employees were sworn to silence and enjoyed three days of impromptu performances, along with scheduled ones in a competition that became a lifetime memory. As a result of the fun and success of the convention; Milt told me that anytime I wanted to visit the Castle, just let staff know that I had worked with him on the convention. I did that for 30 years, visiting once every four or five years until I wore out my welcome. Milt is still the owner, but in a retirement home in Santa Barbara. I now have a magician friend that gets passes for me. I've been five times over the decades and El and I will visit again in October. - My Mother's Funeral: My Mom passed in November of '75 (at age 49). Dad was a basket case and I wasn't too well off either. I had been flying back and forth between San Diego and Corpus several times and flying solo as we could not afford airfare for El as well. I stayed in hotel rooms because I could not stand the parade of South Texas country hicks who meant well by bringing over food but had no social skills whatsoever and always blurted out the most hurtful, stupid things. Sam Moore was the only person I remembered at the funeral. When Dad and I walked behind Mom's coffin as it was carried to the gravesite, Dad stumbled and fell. I caught Dad but lost my footing in the process. From the crowd, Sam's hand instantly shot out to grab and stabilize me. It was all over in seconds and he faded into the crowd. A photographer got a shot of that tragic moment and it made the Kingsville Record newspaper. Sam Moore was either still in the Army or just out. I was pretty sauced when I went to his house and met his wife. I believe he married Charlotte Myers. Family & Friends- Home Life: I met my wife in my "final days" at the Hilton on Mission Bay. She was Publications Editor for the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. I was a Sales Manager at Hilton. The Bureau sent El on the only field trip they ever asked her to do. It was at Hunter's Pointe very close to what used to be Candlestick Park in South San Francisco. I saw the Bureau's table and thought that it was messy looking, so I went over and arranged their brochures in what I thought was a more professional looking manner. That ticked her off, and she visited my booth and "rearranged" my brochures. I knew I had to get to know her and made a date for when we were back in San Diego. I wanted to impress her and knew that taking her on a date in my hatchback Pinto wouldn't do it. I traded cars with my boss, the Director of Sales. He was going to drive up to Laguna Hills to Leisure World to visit his parents and his car was a gas guzzler, mine wasn't. We traded cars for a weekend and I picked El up in a '70 Corvette that really went through gas and was in dire need of engine work. It ran badly. I hope she was impressed. It's a memory. My wife and I lived together for five years before getting married. We even bought a condo in East San Diego County together before marriage. Back then, the best way to get started was with a condo in less pricey areas. I guess we were waiting for each other. One day Eleanor (El) said "Bill, are you going to marry me or not?" Immediately, I dropped to one knee and proposed. While we were making all the plans, I lost my job and our wedding budget got tight. We had an open air ceremony near the tip of Point Loma by the old lighthouse. We had almost a 360-degree view of the city on one side and the harbor and the ocean on the other. Thankfully, we enjoyed a one-day Santa Ana condition. It was cold and cloudy the day before and the following day. A Unitarian minister conducted the ceremony for $100. The National Park Service did not charge anything for use of the spot we had selected. It was planned for New Year's Day 1979. The reception was held on a 1930's world class diesel yacht that was supposed to sail us and our guests around San Diego Bay. It never happened. The old skipper who was rebuilding the engine by himself died while still working on it. He never finished the job and the yacht could not go anywhere and did not have electricity. It was still docked at the Kona Kai Club (a private yacht club and resort hotel) and I figured our guests would be happy with that. They were. The yacht rental was $100. We continued living in the condo until a nearby brush fire scared the hell out of me. We listed and sold and were able to find a new three-bedroom, two-bath house in Linda Vista that is close to everything interesting about San Diego. It was very modest, but met all our needs and was decent sized at 1,540 sq. ft and is on a double cul de sac. That was over 32 years ago and we're still here. I've had lots of time to make improvements, including half-walls, bay windows, crown molding, patio deck and aluminum cover and the old Jacuzzi. The bedrooms are carpeted, everything else is tiled. I had a lightweight, green, concrete roof tile installed nearly 20 years ago along with three good-sized skylights. About 80% of our furniture is from the 1920's or 1930's in Art Deco style. What isn't deco is craftsman from an earlier period. (Circa 1880's). So it doesn't have an ocean view or any view to speak of, but it's quite comfortable and is definitely home. The only thing I regret is that we never had kids. The hotel industry was so insecure that from day to day I never knew if I'd have a job the next day. That's just the way that business is. I'm an only child as is my wife. That's why we have a living trust leaving everything to the University of Oregon in Eugene. The Bolen living trust will provide scholarships for needy students. Initially, all went to University of California San Diego, but I never even heard from them. No follow-up at all until we dumped them. Now, I am semi-retired and waiting to turn 66 (two more years) so I can collect SSI. Thankfully, my wife is well employed and we've both been very good in investing in two paid off homes IRAs, 401Ks and the stock market. So hopefully, we can retire comfortably when we are ready. On paper, I'm solid. I am a terrible flyer. Flying has always frightened me. I do alright until we hit some bumpy air, then I freak. I used to have a few beers and smoke when flying long distance, but usually ended up arriving a bit sloshed. Now, I just stare out the window and hope. I always insist on window seats. Somehow I feel assured somewhat if I can see the ground. I have had very pleasant experiences with helicopters. One year El and I went to the Grand Canyon and took a helicopter ride over the canyon. It was amazing. We were flying a little over treetop level when suddenly the bottom dropped out and we were a mile high peering through the Plexiglas bottom of the helicopter. I loved it. We've also taken the tourist scenic helicopter flight over the major points of interest in San Diego. We've done that twice and I want to go again. – Genealogy: I have been involved in the frustrating pastime of family genealogy for well over 25 years. The Bolen lineage stops with one Nathaniel Bolen. He was a drum major in the war of 1812. Back then drum majors led soldiers into battle, not marching bands onto football fields. It's pretty obvious he and his parents date well back into the 1700's, but there are no records as the British apparently destroyed them when they burned and sacked D.C. and most of Virginia. So it's a dead end from there and lots of conjecture. When El and I were making our wedding plans, I, of course, invited my Dad and stepmom. I was unemployed at the time and told Dad that my only regret was that I had no family history to pass onto El. Within a few weeks, he mailed a book titled "The Hanover Story" The story of a small Ohio village. That book had a few pages dedicated to a great-great uncle that I was aware of. George Robert Bolen was a well known family member who is buried in a small family cemetery in a rather unusual place. The book claimed that George Robert was a direct descendent of Colonel Robert Bolling who escaped Cromwell's Roundheads in England to find safety in the new world in 1650. He married a granddaughter of Pocahontas and the family prospered and became "landed gentry." When Woodrow Wilson entered the Whitehouse, he was a bachelor. While President he married a Bolling. When he became gravely ill during WWI, she basically ran the war effort. For over 25 years I thought that I was a Bolling. I even joined the Bolling Family Association and attended their reunion in 2001 in Virginia. While there, I took a DNA test to confirm that I was a Bolling. After we returned, I was informed that I was not related. Oh, that interesting family cemetery was on a farm once owned by a Bolen. FDR decided he wanted to create a large national park and bought out hundreds of small farmers during the depression to create the Shenandoah National Park. Our family cemetery is in that National Park and it is a rite of passage for family members to visit at least once in their lifetime. It is on "Pignut Mountain." I kid you not. That is the name of the place. I have a relative who lives not too far away and he is the keeper of the keys. It takes a four wheel drive to get there as there is no road. So the Bolling family dream was over and I was burned again and just quit searching until recently. About 9 months ago, my cousin Terry told me he was on a trail that seemed solid that would lead us to an almost unbelievable revelation that goes way back in American history. About four years ago that cousin was visiting my Uncle Carl and Aunt Novella in San Antonio. They have long been acknowledged as the experts on Bolen family history. They mentioned to Terry that they believed that my great-grandmother's family was related to a very famous ship in early American history long before this was a country. "Grandma Skip," who passed in 1965 at 90 years of age, was a Victorian woman that was very loved by all. She moved in with Grandma and Grandpa Bolen just three years before she died. Carl's revelation excited Terry and sent him searching the Internet seriously. Within a few years he had worked up an "outline" of how he thought he could track the historical lineage back almost 400 years. Sadly, Carl and Novella developed serious Alzheimer's and ended up in a full-care facility. About two years ago, one of Terry's sisters e-mailed me, indicating that Terry was onto something. I discovered that he had indeed made the outline connection, but had not yet filled in all the gaps. I discovered that he had based most of his outline relied heavily on one book. I contacted the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. They required all the major certificates as "primary" proof and anything else would be "secondary" proof or conjecture. They need birth, marriage and death certificates and will accept census reports, photos of headstones and not much else. Terry was amazing in the information he was able to locate on ancestor.com.
There were however, major gaps and omissions. But, how do you fill in almost 400 hundred years? Just when we both were starting to get a little discouraged we both discovered that in our family albums we each had an obituary for a Miss Pearl Mason, my great-grandmother's first cousin. Pearl had successfully connected the dots in 1950 and had become a member of the Society. She died in 1965 at the age of 90. Thanks to Pearl, all we had to prove was that Pearl's dad was my great-great-grandmother's brother. We did so with very old census records. From there, it was all birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, and obituaries. We finally successfully connected all the dots to the requirements of the Society. George Soule was an indentured servant to a wealthy Englishman. He served as a tutor to the Englishman's children. He arrived on our shores around December 20, 1620 aboard the Mayflower and helped to lay out the village of Plymouth. He worked alongside Miles Standish and was good friends with him. He worked with John Alden and attended the first Thanksgiving. Only (24) names are accepted by the society and George Soule is one of them. He was my relative. Well, everything is now official. I've been accepted as a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD) in Plymouth. Last November 10, the California Society formally accepted me and the San Diego Colony (as they call themselves) is to contact me early in January to join in their group. I don't have a clue where all this is going, but, it sounds like it might be a fun ride. I received my official membership proclamation from the California Mayflower Society and now have my membership card. I feel like a pedigreed pooch. All because of a man named George Soule, my very distant relative. Most folks I tell could care less, but, that's ok. I have a sense of connection and satisfaction about how long my family has been in this country. Now, I guess I'll have to start making plans to travel to Plymouth, Mass to see the village and find out if George Soule is buried there. I hate flying and that would be a 6-hour flight. - Current Friends:Rose and Paul Ramond are friends who are into property investments. They have a "Katrina fix-up" in New Orleans. Paul has totally restored the 4,500 sq. ft house and is trying to get $500,000 for it. Rose and Paul are also the primary executors of our living trust. They also have a loblolly pine tree farm in Mississippi, several acres on the island that Kona is on in Hawaii, not to mention several time shares. No, they are not rich. They are up to their eyeballs in debt.