I graduated from Central High School in Fargo ND in June 1940. So, in 1990 I went to our fiftieth reunion. Now that was a trip!
The classes from around 1938 to 1943 had one special difference from
those graduating on almost any other year. As I remember, there were 437 members in my class. But
within just a few years they were pretty totally dispersed all over the world. Most never returned.
After all, why should they? Why should they come back to Fargo, "after they've seen Paree?"
Many of them were in the North Dakota National Guard that spent a number of miserable months at Guadalcanal! And, of course, a number never had the opportunity to return.
Most classes graduate, go downtown get a job, marry a local girl, raise a family, play bridge on Saturday night with their banker and their barber. What is the 50th reunion to them? They've seen their class, their successes and failures over the entire time.
But our class? I had seen about three of them in the ensuing 50 years. For our class and the couple of classes on each side of us, the time was special. We saw many people that we had not seen in fifty years.
Now, that's a reunion!
I took advantage of a rare opportunity in December. I flew to Orlando FL and found the Stallion 51 hangar at the Orlando International Airport. (See: http://www.charlies-web.com/WWII_med/contentsced4.html) I hung around the hangar for three days and was about to give up on being able to get in the air due to weather. Then about 3PM the weather broke and Doug Schulz got in the front seat and I got in the back. The cockpits were identical except for the single fuel selector which was in front and was the reason the owner had to fly there.
We took off and when we got to 500', he said "OK, it's yours!"
Thrilling words for a broken down old WWII fighter pilot. I took over rather gingerly and started
weaving back and forth to see if I retained any coordination. There probably is no greater waste of
time than flying an airplane such as this, straight and level. But I had to get the "feel" of it
again before trying anything. After a considerable stretch of minimal Lazy Eights I felt good about
what I was doing and said that I was going to try a roll. I did, and it came off very well. More
light Lazy Eights and then I did another roll. It really felt good!
I'm in the back seat, after landing.
More Lazy Eights and then I told him I would like to do a loop.
He gave me a speed to enter it at and so I put the nose down a little. When I had the speed, I
pulled it back gently. I had looped one in 1945 out of climb at 210 mph! so I was not concerned
about stalling. The needle and ball should remain centered or one could lose a lot of airspeed. It
was a wide gentle loop and when I was upside down at the top, the speed had dropped to probably
about 70 mph. I was slow enough to feel the tug of the torque from the propellor/engine. I corrected
and came down the other side in what seemed to me to be a great loop. Anytime you can complete a
loop, 45 years after your last flight, it's a great loop! He suggested we go down and "cut some
grass" which we did. I enjoyed this very much as well.
We made a low pass at Kissimmee (with the tower's permission, of course). We headed back to Orlando and entered the pattern, my hour was drawing to a close. He called off the speeds for the pattern and I made a beautiful grease job landing. When I had it under control he told me to "Go around!" This meant I had to pull up the flaps, push the mixture control forward, adjust the trim and give it full power! 61 inches Hg.
"Into the air, Junior Birdman" says the song. Such exhilaration! I came around and made another beautiful landing. When we got out of the plane, the pilot said, "You have a nice feel for where the ground is!" I wear that as a medal!
I was very pleased when he entered the flight in my logbook with the comment, "Great hop, Charles! Good to share this Mustang with a real WWII Driver."
On my way home the next day I got off the plane in Atlanta with the pilot of the 747. I was still walking 5 feet in the air and showed him the pictures. I told him my secret belief that if something happened, I could get a 747 down without killing anybody. He said that if I could fly a P-51, I could fly a 747! Wow!!!
I should mention that they are now located at the airport at
Kissimmee Fl. See: https://www.stallion51.com/home.cfm
I'm writing this on 2006.0116 and I'm still all worked up about it!
We had paid our 30 year mortgage in 1993, probably September. It
bothered me a little to be sitting on a huge equity that was not doing too much for us other than
inflation. This would continue whether we had another mortgage or not. So we contacted Gordon and
Diane Hanson and inquired about some form of real estate investment. They showed us a fourplex at
393 Buchon Street. The outside was pretty unkempt but that of course was rather easily taken care
of. We decided to look into it further. They got the man that was reputed to be the best inspector
in town and I went with him while he went over the building, inside and out. At the end he said it
was the cleanest fixer-upper he'd ever seen. So the inside was great, a few glitches but the outside
needed much work. Also it was a Gold Medallion all electric home.
We visited apartment A and noticed that the girl there was wearing a sweater. We asked why, after all it was November. She said they never turned on the heat because it was electric, in the ceiling and they thought some of the circuits weren't working. Also it was too expensive. I knew right them that if we bought it, our first job would be to convert the building to gas!
The asking price was $255,000. We offered $225,000. Refused. We went
up a little. Refused. I believe we did this two, maybe three times. By this time I was convinced of
the potential. So we decided to buy it at her price. We put some of the mortgage on our house
because they obviously wouldn't give a 100% loan and because we wanted some extra to convert to gas
and to fix the rest of the outside. So we borrowed an even $300,000. She signed the papers. Then a
bit later she wanted to kill the deal. Perhaps she thought she could get a better deal. Our realtors
warned her that if she backed out now she could be sued. She had signed the papers and it was not
legal for her to back out at that stage. So we had bought a fourplex.
The apartments were quite large, 850 sq ft each with two large bedrooms, bath, living room and kitchen with a small dining area next to the kitchen.
First we made a few internal repairs. The roof had leaked at one
time and the ceiling cloth had sagged big time. We got that fixed. They had installed a new high
class roof after the leak problem.
We scared the city by taking almost all growing things out of the yard. There were a number of teenage eucalyptus trees, probably seeded by some natural process, no human hands. There was a horrible fig tree right next to the sidewalk on the north side of the lot. Apparently it originally had been cut off at ground level when it was about ten inches in diameter. Nothing had been done to the stump and five suckers had grown out on the building side of the stump. They had grown to be six to eight inch diameter trees. They had the look your hand has if you cup it with your fingers and thumb iup, spread like you were clasping an imaginary baseball. They threw figs all over, made a real mess and a hazard on the public sidewalk immediately next to the tree. There were several yuccas and a bunch of prostrate juniper. The ground sloped up to the parking lot which was between three and four feet above the level at the front of the building. There was about ten feet of fence along the juniper. I think women were afraid to come in from the parking lot at night, It was dark and a good hiding place for someone intent on doing something nefarious! There was no exterior lighting. So, we cut down all the trees and removed the vegetation. There were many empty bottles and cans were buried in the juniper.
We got the backhoe back and had him level the ground back to about five feet from the parking lot. He removed the stumps also.
Then we called the gas company. They put their blue marks on the
street and a man came out and made the measurements for the installation of the meters. They have an
involved calculation of rebates and by the time they finished we had four meters and a blind
connection at no charge. They obviously wanted our business.
Next we got a plumber to bring the gas to the apartments. They were beautifully designed for this installation. There was a wall across the middle of each of them. The kitchen was against the outside wall so we had to bring the gas pipe around the building to get service to the south side, but the north side was right where the meters were. The apartments were identical except that the two south apartments, one above the other, were mirror images of the two on the other side. That meant that we had to punch two holes in the first floor outside wall above the floor level and bring the gas pipes in along the wall that had the counter and the sink and on into the water heater compartment. A second pipe went up inside the water heater compartment to supply the gas to the second floor in that water heater compartment. We used a good deal of silicone to waterproof these penetrations.
We did essentially the same at the south end for apartments B and D.
Of course this required four new gas water heaters, four new stoves and four new wall furnaces. One can see the gas pipes and the overflow pipe. The large iron pipe structure at the left is to keep the cars, p[arked against this wall, from hitting the gas pipes.
Our son Daniel worked with a heating and air conditioning company which made a great deal of difference. He put a good bit of sweat equity into this and subsequent outside improvements. He was extremely helpful and I believe we worked well together. He had seen what I could do during the three additions we put on our own home. And I knew the various kinds of work he had done. I think there was a reasonable amount of mutual respect which made it all work quite smoothly.
We had to cross the front sidewalk. So we hired a concrete saw and he cut out a piece of it and a backhoe dug the required trench around the front of the building and the sides.
We installed a four inch PVC drain pipe all around the house in the
middle of the lawn with drains at all four corners. This was connected to the existing drain under
the front sidewalk.
When this was done we had to patch up the sidewalk or do some alternative. We were going to do a good deal of redwook decking so we decided not to replace the concrete but put a sloping redwood walk up to the building. The land sloped a bit so the ground level on the south side was between one and two feet lower than the north side. The entrances were in a recess in the center of the building. The walkway here was about a foot above ground level which was perfect for a redwood sidewalk. For what it is worth it also made the two groundfloor apartments, wheel chair accessible.
Now it was time to work on the outside. We planted a bunch of flowering trees. They included a Stenocarpus sinuatus (Australian Firewheel Tree), a Prunus hybrid, a Bauhinia forficata (a white Orchid Tree), a Chionanthus retusus (Chinese White Fringe Tree) and a Calodendron capensis (a Cape Chestnut). There was a mature Acacia melanoxylon (Black Acacia) tree in the front yard that was to be a bone of contention with the city later.
We built a large deck of redwood. We used the Don Grant method. First we took a bunch of 12 kinch by 16 inch piece of thirty pound felt tarpaper, wrapped them into cylinders and stapled them together. When we had about twenty of them we mixed a sack of Sakrete, putting about three or four inches of concrete in eash. The we took 12 inch pieces of plumber's tape we had prepared erlier and bent ikn a U shwpe with a 1 1/2 inch gap, We worked these down into the concrete, leaving several inches showing. These were allowed to harden and then the tarpaper was stripped off and restapled to use again. We did this several times until we had enough of them.
We chose a straight 2x4 of redwood for a stringer and screwed one of the concrete pillars 12 inches from the end, and then at thirty two inch intervals. We prepared several of these stringers, enough to have the two outside ones 12 inches from each side and then put the stringers at thirty two inch intervals. We screwed several 2x4's across them to level them. We then but blocks under the stringers to lift them off the ground and to level the whole deck.
Lastly one screws the 2x4 redwood crosspieces in place, spacing them with sixteen penny nails so water and small dirt and fall between them, to the ground below.
We constructed about eighty feet of large flower boxes using 4x4 and 2x12 redwood.
Using the Don Grant, architect, method, we made a lot of deck. We put a deck walk along the front of the building from the front access to the northwest corner of the building. Then we built a huge deck along the south side, past the gas meters to the three+ foot dirt wall near the parking lot. We had a sloped walk up to the parking lot. We lined the dirt wall along the back and on the sidewalk side of the deck with 4x4 redwood posts faced with redwood 2x12's. We built a fence of Dan's design along the sidewalk wall, across the back and the along the sloped sidewall to the parking lot.
Dan and I installed a 2x12 redwood belly band around the entire building to break up the flat, plain slab sided two story walls. I had the building painted with elastomeric paint and the roof fascia board and belly band with a dark green. We installed outdoor proximity lighting on the back, front and north sides.
When we bought the place, the south lot line went back about a
third of the way and then jogged into our property about two feet, and then went back to the back
fence. This bothered me since the plat map showed no such jog. So I hired a surveyor to put corner
points on the lot. It turned out that the neighbor was using about two feet of our lot. There was a
stump about halfway back that straddled the lot line. I tried to talk to the owner of the
neighboring lot. I offered to take the whole stump out at my expense. She was extremely
uncooperative. Her lot was several feet lower at this lot line than ours.
So I informed her I was going to pour concrete up, just above ground on our lot and then build a six foot fence on that. I did not need her permission. We sank retainers into the trunk and poured around it. The trunk is still there, we just poured over and around it. And we did it.
Somewhere in all this I had the parking lot re-slurried.
I'm going to bring our several year tree story here, all in one
place. It all started with our first contact with the building. It was a thorough mess. There were
several apparently unplanned Eucalyptus trees and a miserable five trunked fig tree. There was a
bunch of prostrate junifer and a number of yucca. In the back left corner there were too rather
short Monterey Pines which were into the power lines. There was a 62 foot Silk Oak, (Grevillea
robusta), a wonderful tree but it didn't belong eight feet from the building.
So, as described above, we started by clearing the front and north side. Then I contacted the city tree committee for permission to remove the two Monterey Pines in the back corner. They turned me down flat. I think they were afraid we were going to clear everything off the lot and then leave it that way. But I'm patient. there was no hurry.
We started to plant flowering trees. We planted an Australian Christmas Tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus) in the northwest corner, a Flowering Plum, a White Bauhinia, a Chinese White Fringe Tree, a Cape Chestnut with a Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia blakeana) in front. The Black Acacia was still there in all its hugeness!
After the deck was in and the trees planted I decided to contact the Tree Committee again with the suggestion that I take one out so I could plant a replacement to get some growth before we had to take out the other one.
I went to the meeting expecting to have to defend what I wanted to do. A man who apparently had a dominant role on the committee started out with a statement paraphrased here, "Charles, we visited your property last weekend and I want to congratulate you for what you have done. We went back and looked at the Monterey Pines and the one you want to take out is actually the healthier of the two but they both seem to have the borer and are dying. I think we should let you take both of them out. But you have to contact PG&E to get them trimmed away from the wires." I sat there with my lips tight shut (for a change!) and a grin. And they passed the permission.
I called PG&E the next morning and they arranged for a tree company to come out and trim them, almost immediately! I was there and told them they didn't have to be careful, that when they were done we were going to take them down completely. They were hired to trim one of the two trees but they went after both of them and took them down to below the power lines. Dan and I got out the next morning and cut them down to the ground. The backhoe took care of the stumps and leveled the area. I had him get some DG (decomposed granite) to make a parking space next to the sidewalk. We then built a planter box to accomodate a tree, farther from the power lines.
Next on my hit list was the monstrous Black Acacia in the front yard. First I went on the Mediterranean Plant list and asked if anyone knew anything about it. I got several replies, not flattering to the tree. One said that the City of Palo Alto (?) had planted three blocks of them and there were only three trees left. They were brittle and would lose large branches. Next I contacted my insurance company, told them about the tree and the city's refusal several years earlier to allow me to remove it. They told me not to worry that I was covered.
If you click on these two picture you wll get a large copy of each.
I went to the City Attorney and told him I was going to ask to
remove it one more time but that I was no longer concerned about possible damage, that my insurance
company had assured me that I was protected. I also told him that they had admitted that if the
claim was large enough that they might go after the city. The City Attorney just sat there and
Then I approached the Tree Committee again. By this time they knew I knew what I was doing, that I was a bulldog and would not quit. I think the City Attorney may also have put a bee in their bonnet. At the meeting the head man said they had gone out and visited the tree and that they agreed with my concern that it looked as though the huge crotch about four feet from the ground was in danger of splitting and that I should probably go ahead and take it out, with their permission. Which I immediately did. I wanted to get a time lapse of the process and rented a time lapse apparatus from a man at the audio-visual department at Cuesta. The tree came down, the stump was ground down and the time lapse machine hummed. Later I found out that it gave a thoroughly garbled and useless recording. I took the machine back along with a $70 check and left it with the results. He never cashed the check.