The 70's.


      I believe it was about 1970 when the three of us, Sauny, Daniel and I visited Sauny's aunt, Norabelle Clark Wilson in Los Angeles. She lived on a hill very near Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. Her breakfast table had a window that overlooked the stadium. She kept a binoculars on the table where she could see the scoreboard.
      I believe this was about the time we started our interest in bromeliads. We also visited a bromeliad nursery on, I believe, Centinella Avenue, just north of Los Angeles International Airport. We walked around with wide eyes and then bought ten Tillandsias. He assured us that they would grow on the fireplace wall with the skylight immediately above. He said misting would be enough.
      When we got ready to leave it was a bit on the late side, probably around 9 PM, Sunday night. We got out on the freeway, probably the 405, and proceeded north. When we got to about the Hollywood area I realized we had just blown a head gasket in our 1968 Volvo 144S. So I pulled off the freeway got on a city street and parked. It was a rough section of town. There were "girls" walking the street. An occasional car would pull up and stop and talk with the "girls". It was quite apparent what was going on and I was very uncomfortable about it all. I saw a pay phone across the street so I called a towing service in San Luis Obispo and he said he couldn't come down and get us and recommended I call Love's Towing in Santa Barbara. I did call them, a man answered and I explained our predicament. He said all he had available was a car carrier, one of those things you see on the freeway with six or seven cars on it. I asked him how much would it cost and he said he would have to charge $300. I told him to come and get us. He arrived about midnight.

      I was able to start the car and drive it up the ramp onto the car trailer. Off we went to San Luis Obispo. It was a most interesting experience. It was like being on a train. We were the only car on the trailer. It was a kind of Olympian feeling, going along the freeway on this big rig. When we got to San Luis Obispo, I got up in the cab with him to direct him to our home. We got there and he dropped off the car and I put it in the driveway. We paid him and sent him back home with our grateful thanks.

      I figure we got off very easy. If we had stayed there it would have cost a lot more than $300. We would have had a night for three in a motel. It would have cost a lot to have the head gasket changed by a garage. And I would have missed my classes on that Monday. To top it off we also saved the gas it would have cost to drive it home. I really feel we saved a lot of money. With the car in my driveway I was able to change the head gasket myself for the price of the gasket!

      A corollary to this almost disaster concerns the fate of the ten Tillandsias. I mounted them on our brick fireplace and dutifully kept misting them. One died, and then another, and another until I had one left. Sometimes I don't catch on too fast. So I gave up, took the last one out in the backyard and nailed it on a post and hit it with the hose once in a while. It lived!


      At Christmas 1971 there was an envelope on the tree addressed to me. It was a poem from Sauny warning me about the patter of little feet! Yes, our daughter was born on the 3rd of August 1972! We had some friends, the Whitakers. She was a museum quality ceramicist and made beautiful pendants and beads, very unique. Sauny would go over to visit while I was at work and would sit there making beads. One day she stopped about three in the afternoon and said, "I'm going home and have a baby!" She did and took a bath. And she shaved all the places that needed shaving, dried off, dressed and told me about 5 o'clock to take her to the doctor. Which I did. I sat down in the lobby to wait and almost immediately she was standing in front of me, telling me to take her right to the hospital. So I dropped her off and went back home to get her pre-packed suitcase. By the time I got back about 6:15 she was already in the delivery room and the baby Marit Marie Dills arrived just before 6:30 PM.

      Of course proud papa was exhilarated and had no one to tell. I had a meeting scheduled that night at the County Courthouse to get the instructions on how to become a Voter Registrar. Since both Sauny and Marit were asleep, I said to myself, "Why not!". So I went and told everybody about my beautiful little daughter. We did our business and I became a Voter Registrar.


      We'll never forget the 16th of January 1973. We were in the midst of the rainy season and it became very intense. The water in the lake started to rise. It was only a block away. It crept up the street. We still weren't too concerned . It had come up the driveway in 1969.
      I was teaching a laboratory at Poly. The stockroom told me I had a phone call. Our daughter, Marit, was five months old. It was the baby sitter, Kelly Jerome, our neighbor next door. She said, "There's water in your house but don't worry, I've got Marit next door. Your wife is out in the canoe, looking for Danny (our son!)" Sure, don't worry! I found someone that could cover my lab and three other professors joined me for the drive home, Norm Eatough, Burton Hawley and Neil Moir. We picked our way around and finally got to Neil's house on Atascadero Street, about four or five blocks from my house. We could go no further. Neil had a little skiff which he loaned us. We paddled up Gulf Street to Norm's house, paddled over to the living room window and peeked in to see the water halfway up his TV.
      We then paddled around the corner to Burton's house with the same sad view. And next we paddled around to my house. There was a huge National Guard truck backed up to my front door and Sauny, Dan and Marit were in the back of the truck. So I got in too and Burton and Norm paddled off. Sauny had paddled around the corner, over to the C. L. Smith School and picked up Danny. The truck took us over to a friend's house, Alan and Alice Cooper, on the south side of Madonna Road. We stayed there for the night. Al and I came back to our house after the water had gone down, about 11 PM. Our cute little mutt, Mike, was sitting on top of a big bubble in the living room carpet, whining! We took him back with us.
      The next day was "cleanup". A start, at least. I was committed at school but a number of the faculty came over to help. They took up the green nylon carpet, rolled it up and took over to a ladder up to a neighbor's roof and spread it out to dry. It was very heavy. It took seven or eight of them to snakedance it over. At the end of the day, probably 4 PM they were standing in a line at the front of the open garage door. A big black car came down the street with Big Daddy and Big Mama gawking at the poor peasants and their problem. As they came around the curve in front, with no suggestion, completely independently, they all lifted their right arm in that gesture that says, "Stick it!"
      A lady down on Oceanaire had piled a bunch of stuff at her curb, waiting for the truck to pick it up. A passerby stopped, got out of the car and went over and started picking through it. The lady came to the door and said, "Take it all or don't take any!" The person left.
      We could tell that there had been eight inches of water in the house. There was a line of redwood chips on the side of the toilet. It seems that when Kelly had run out of the house with Marit, she left the front door open. Our house is situated at the bend of the street in such a way that the prevailing wind blows in the front door. And I believe every redwood chip on the block floated into our house!
      We got help for our losses. The federal emergency system gave us a disaster "loan", $2600, to replace the carpet and the refrigerator. A lot of people claimed a lot of stuff that was not really part of the flood problem but we didn't. A bunch of contractor types from Los Angeles descended to take advantage of the flood problem. They replaced a lot of drywall that had been wet. But we didn't think it needed it and we didn't do it. It's now 33 years later and the walls are still OK.
      But it gave us something to think about. We decided we had to add on a two story addition or move. We looked around town and couldn't find anything that attracted us. And our friends, Alice and Alan Cooper, were very capable and encouraged us to add on and said they would help. And then a friend who was a 5th year architecture instructor at Cal Poly, Don Grant, offered to draw plans for an addition. So we decided to go for it.
      In June, when school was out, we started in. We had to dig some deep footings, about thirty inches deep and eight inches wide for a two story. We decided to dig them ourselves. It wasn't just a simple rectangle. We had to put a drain pipe under the slab so the water wouldn't collect at the door of the new addition. Of course the drain pipe had to be buried all the way out to the street. This job, in this adobe soil, almost killed us. We finished just as Helen and Rollie visited us from Minnesota on the 4th of July.
      After the holiday we started putting in the iron. Both Alan and I are "over-builders". If a 2 x 4 is required we use at least a 2 x 6. And besides, iron is relatively cheap. So we put in twice what was required. Some of the internal trench walls had some minor collapses but I said to hell with forming them up. Just take out the extra dirt and we'll get extra concrete. After the inspection I ordered the concrete and a concrete pumper. They came and the pumpman was standing on the iron switching the hose back and forth filling things up with concrete. Part way through he turned and said, "What are you building here, a rocket pad?". He put nineteen yards of concrete in a 20 x 24 foot slab with footings.
      I spent about $1500 on tools right away, a radial arm saw, several drills and bits, several 20 ounce framing hammers and others. I almost forgot to put the sill bolts in the concrete but got them in while the concrete was still soft! Then work started in earnest. Morning, noon and night.
      The first floor walls went up. We bought a 12 foot sliding glass door from Pella. This was a bit extravagant at the time but we've never regretted it. When it came time for the ceiling we did something a bit unusual. There is a street here called Tank Farm Road. There used to be some large 10 acre concrete dishes for oil that was then sent by underground pipes to Avila Beach and loaded on tankers. They were off the end of the runway and after a small accident in the early twenties they were required to put a roofs on them. This roof was quite a thing. They had concentric circles of vertical 8 x 8's. Then they laid 6 x 12's and 8 x 12's around the circles on top of the 8 x 8's with one inch steel pins connecting them. Then they connected the circles with 1 x 8's and 1 x 10's, covering the whole thing with roofing paper.

      They were used for several decades but were abandoned in the fifties or sixties. I don't know what precipitated it, but a man bought the lumber and set up a planer and they took the wood down for resale. The 6 x 12's and 8 x 12's were cleaned up by the planer with no attempt to match the usual sizes. They were close but not like lumber yard criteria. Also, since they were not graded, they had to be used at the lowest rating. That didn't bother us though since we were so overbuilt that there was never a question about our use, We put a 6 x 12 every four feet. And we put an 8 x 12 twenty three feet long over the sliding glass door. It still has the hole for the one inch pin!

      When the beams were in, we installed the floor above. We used 2 x 6 tongue and groove. This makes a very sturdy construction. We still had the hole for the stairs. We had a concrete floor below littered with tools like the radial arm saw. Sauny was the designated receiver of phone calls for the League of Women Voters and we installed that phone jack upstairs. She was talking on the phone one day and happened to look over to the stair hole in which we had a ladder. Good grief, there was an almost year old girl with a curly head of blond hair grinning at her. Her immediate instinct was to jump up and scream and run over to her but that would have frightened her and she would have wound up on the concrete floor eight feet below! So Sauny got up slowly, smiled and cooed and walked over to her and grabbed her! You just can't spank a non-walking one year old for that. Besides you are secretly quite proud that she could do it. She was still a long way from walking. And this was certainly a rather strange way of crawling! This is one of those times when you really understand the old saying "All's well that ends well!"

      We started to frame the second floor. It had windows. But I decided we would just frame the whole thing and put the windows in later. It turned to be a real advantage. When the studs were all in it was late afternoon, time to quit for the day. We were seated on chairs looking through the studs toward the setting sun and the line of volcanic plugs called the Morros. And someone said that there ought to be some picture windows to get that view. So we just sat there and decided where the windows ought to go.
      I put the windows mostly where they looked out on our yzrd. Lighting and ventilation requirements required some of them to be on the neighbors' sides but I minimized their area as much as possible.

      We were going to use twenty foot 8 x 12's for the ceiling. I was by myself one afternoon and I decided to see if I could get one of these very heavy beams up to the second floor by myself. So I hitched a come-along to one end of the beam and lifted it to the second floor level. I put a second come-along on to pull it in. I switeched from one to the other and was quite pleased when it was over half up there and gravity lifted the far end and I just had to tug it in with the come-along.
      Things progressed quite rapidly. The designer, Don Grant, a fifth year architecture instructor had designed it for us. He would stop over occasionally and we would tell him the troubles we'd had and our solutions. He would listen, nod his head and say it was OK. Then, before he left, he would always say we, "should get it buttoned up before the rains came." This was around August and the rains weren't due till November!

      I wanted a big sliding glass door on the ground floor so I got the Pella catalogue and decided on the 12 foot one with two 3 foot outside fixed panels and two 3 foot sliders in the middle. It was $700, a lot of money then. I understand it is now about $2700 for the same door!

      Al and I had a kind of game going. He would call out a measurement and I would cut it with the radial arm saw. I know you can always shorten a board but not lengthen it. So I would always cut it right on the mark and my "furniture fits" got to be a little annoying. So Al would shorten his measurement a little and I, knowing he was doing that, would add a "trifle". We finally got it going where each of us did just the right amount of lying.

      When we were laying out the first floor, Sauny didn't like one part of the design. The wall with the big sliding glass door came straight back and joined the original house kind of in the middle of the arch where the old sliding glass door was. But she said, " Why don't we push it out and have the wall moved out to join the main building at the end of where the sliding door had been, probably about six feet. So we did. It was a great improvement, linking the addition with the main house beautifully. It gave us an extra area which we call "The Alcove".

      The stairs to the upper room went immediately left from the archway (the old sliding glass door). I didn't want the stair support to block the view of the "TV Room" from the front door which such a support would do. So I had my neighbor, Varney Jerome, a welder, make me a zigzag of 1/4 inch thick, 2 inch wide flat iron to go under the steps. I mounted a piece of channel under the 6x12 at the ceiling and hung this zigzag on half inch iron rods, two per step. The other end of the steps were mounted in recesses cut into a slanted 6x12 mounted on the wall and held in my six inch pieces of angle iron on the bottom side. I hope this makes sense. It turned out to be quite sturdy and did not obstruct the view of the addition from the front door!


      About this time, Danny was growing up and was having problems with us. Two incidents about this time might be mentioned. The first concerned the pellet gun I bought for Sauny at Deep Springs. Once she shot at a sparrow and killed it. She never shot it again. We still had it with us and she forbade Danny from touching it. But when he was about 12 years old, he had it in the backyard one day, taking pot shots at various things. Sauny caught him and blew her stack. She snatched it away from him and beat it to pieces on a tree.
      The second incident involved an unfinished rocking chair which we finished before Danny was born. Sauny had a special feeling for the chair having rocked and fed both children in it. It was not the sturdiest of chairs and Danny had picked up the intolerable, to her, habit of popping his now getting large frame into it with reckless abandon and she was afraid he was going to break it. Finally he pushed the button. He flopped into it in a particularly offensive way to her, not showing it the respect she felt it deserved and she again blew her top. She took it out into the garage and beat it to toothpicks with a hatchet and threw it away!


      About this time we finally gave up on our Monterey Pine. It was being killed by the bark beetle (?) that was doing in many of them. We felt if we kept it going that it would be a danger to other trees in the neighbrhood that were not yet infected. So we bit the bullet and hired it done.

      They cut it down and then used a stump grinder. I have tried to plant several trees in its place but nothing has taken.

      I have a Brachychiton bidwillii there now. It may be taking. It has been there for at least four years but it is fuller but no higher. I plan to be patient for awhile yet. If I can get it to grow up it will be a show stopper when it blooms.

      Here is a picture taken before we took the pine down. It was a shame to see it die. I planted it not too long after we moved in. It was about 4 feet high at the time!

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