My nephew, Lucas Iverson is growing up so fast. It’s hard for me to believe that he is eleven years old already. Lucas has been through a lot. He was born with Down Syndrome, and that has made his road a bit longer and more difficult, but his mom, Cassie Franklin is such a great mom, and she works tirelessly to get him the best education and the best care possible. Learning difficulties are not the only challenges Lucas has faced. He has had health issues most of his life too. A lot of his problems are in the digestive system, which can be very painful, and while I’m sure there are a plenty of tears and fussing when he doesn’t feel well, Lucas is also a real trooper during these hospital stays. He is a wonderful boy, and very, very brave.
Lucas works very hard in school. He is getting special care and help to communicate, and he is doing so well. His little sister, Zoey has also been very helpful in Lucas’ development. Zoey just naturally understood, from the time she was born, that her brother, while the sweetest brother ever, was not able to do all the things she could do. She took it upon herself to help Lucas to excel. One of the biggest ways Zoey helped him was in learning to walk. She never got upset with him, and never left him behind. She was patient and kind, and Lucas responded so well. They are and always will be best friends.
Recently, Lucas’ mom, Cassie Franklin; her boyfriend, William Burr; and sister, Zoey got to take a trip to Oregon. I don’t know if they knew it was there or not, but they found a whole park that was dedicated to disabled children. This park has Lucas’ communication board there in it, and they were all so excited. The communication board is the same one Lucas uses at school on his tablet. It was an amazing find. Lucas knew immediately what it was and what it was for. It was like finding a place where he could play without having to think about his disability. Everything they played on was for children just like Lucas, and yet it was also geared for Zoey. They could play together, and each could have a fantastic time. I was so excited for Lucas when I saw this, because he could just be a kid, and fit right in at the same time. How very cool is that. Today is Lucas’ 11th birthday. Happy birthday Lucas!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The last two weeks of August were spend visiting our daughter, Amy Royce and her family. In my thoughts throughout the visit was the fact that their 26th wedding anniversary was just around the corner. I found myself thinking that it was amazing that they could have been married 26 years already. I also found myself thinking about just how happy and connected they are with each other. They are loving their life and their home, and it was a pleasure to watch them together. Their marriage has been blessed with two beautiful children and now the family is growing to include Caalab’s girlfriend, Chloe Foster…a beautiful girl and a great blessing to us. I love how their family gets together every week to spend quality time together. It makes their marriage and their family more and more rich in love and happiness.
When your kids get married, you hope the marriage will last, and you know that there are never any guarantees, but you want the very best for them, and that means a happy marriage. I am so thankful that these two “kids,” while young at marriage (18 and 19 years) were able to beat the odds and stay married. Not only that, but they were able to build a beautiful life together and raise two beautiful children, Shai and Caalab, together. They are so blessed and they are a blessing to us. We can’t imagine life without the two of them as a couple. Every year, their love grows more and more rich and beautiful.
Whenever we go to visit them, or they come to visit here, we have a wonderful time. They are fun-loving people, and yet they love being at their house, enjoying their beautiful back yard too. They have worked hard on their back yard, and every time I get new pictures, I love it even more. Amy never could get flowers to do much in Wyoming, but in Washington, her garden and flowers are stunning. Travis has always loved yard work, but like most men, prefers mowing the grass to planting flowers. Nevertheless, they have a wonderful vision for their yard, and it is so restful and peaceful. I just love sitting back there, enjoying the day. Travis loves to barbecue and their guests are, of course, the beneficiaries of his grilling abilities. They also love playing games like pool and corn hole, as well as getting the family bank together for a jam session in their recreation room. It is a wonderfully fun time listening to Travis and Caalab play, while Shai and sometimes Amy sing for us. They really make a beautiful band.
Amy and Travis love going to Ilwaco, Washington for little getaways. It is a quaint little town located across the bay from Astoria, Oregon. They go there a lot, much like Bob and I go to Thermopolis, here in Wyoming a lot. It is a place that is close enough for an anniversary getaway, and yet special enough for them always have a great time, and never get tired of it. Ilwaco is a little town, kind of like Thermopolis, but sometimes that is just what you need. A place with the much needed peace and quiet, far away from the stresses of daily life and the busy lifestyle you have at home. A cute little place where you can have romantic dinners and quiet walks along the shore (a river for us and the ocean for them). It’s just perfect for this happily married couple. Today is Amy and Travis’ 26th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to you both!! We love you very much!!
Pan American World Airways Flight 845/26, a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Clipper United States, N1032V departed from Seattle-Tacoma Airport (SeaTac) on March 26, 1955 at 8:15am…a Saturday morning, destined for Sydney, Australia, with stops at Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii. Following its stop in Portland (PDX), the plane took off at 10:21am, with a crew of 8 and 15 passengers on board. It looked to be an easy flight to Hawaii, with plenty of onboard staff to make the trip enjoyable for the passengers. The plane was piloted by Captain Herman Joslyn, with First Officer Angus Gustavus Hendrick Jr; Second Officer Michael Kerwick; Flight Engineer Donald Read Fowler; and Assistant Flight Engineer Stuart Bachman. In the passenger cabin were Purser Natalie Parker, Stewardess Elizabeth Thompson, and Steward James Peppin.
The flight was proceeding as normal, until it hit 10,000 feet, at which point a severe vibration lasting 5 to 8 seconds began. The Number 3 engine, which is on the right side, on the inside, suddenly ripped away from the starboard wing. The damage to the wing caused severe shaking. At the same time, the nose pitched down and the airspeed increased rapidly. Captain Joslyn immediately reduced engine power slow the plane down some, but they were losing altitude rapidly, quickly dropping by 5,000 feet. The damage cause by the engine ripping away included damage to the engines’ electrical system, and the flight engineer was not able to increase power on the remaining three engines. Without the added power on the remaining engines, the Stratocruiser was too heavy at this early stage in the flight to maintain its altitude. She still had too much fuel onboard to compensate. The Stratocruiser was doomed, and there was nowhere to land.
The flight crew ditched the Stratocruiser into the north Pacific Ocean at 11:12am, approximately 35 miles west of the Oregon coastline. The conditions were ideal for ditching, with smooth seas and little wind, but it was a hard impact. As the plane hit the water, seats were torn loose, and several occupants were injured. Nevertheless, no one was killed and evacuation began immediately with the inflation of all three life rafts. The water temperature was 47° F, so getting out of the water was essential. Soon after the crash, a North American Aviation F-86F Sabre flown by Captain W L Parks, 142nd Fighter Interceptor Group, Oregon Air National Guard, located the scene of the ditching. When he saw the smoke flares that had been released, he was able to see the two life rafts tied together. A Lockheed Constellation also rushed to the scene from the south. After confirming that Air Force rescue aircraft were on the way, Captain Parks returned to Portland, because he was low on fuel.
Among the injured was the airliner’s purser, Natalie Parker, who had been assisting passengers with their life vests and seat belts when the airliner hit the water. Because she was standing in the aisle, she was thrown forward, knocking down five rows of seats as she hit them. She was badly bruised and suffering from shock. Nevertheless, Parker assisted the passengers in abandoning the sinking Stratocruiser. When everyone was off, she enter the water and saw that some of the injured had begun to drift away. In an amazing act of bravery and duty, and suffering from shock, Parker swam out and towed the only seriously injured passenger to the nearest raft, some 200 feet away. The Stratocruiser floated for an amazing 20 minutes before sinking. While all survived the impact, four of the 23 persons on board, passengers John Peterson, David Darrow, First Officer Hendrick, and Flight Engineer Fowler, died of injuries and exposure. The survivors were rescued after two hours by the crew of USS Bayfield (APA-33), a United States Navy attack transport.
During the Civil Aeronautics Board hearings into the accident, Vice Chairman Joseph P. Adams commended Natalie Parker, the flight’s purser, “. . . all of us feel inspired that a fellow citizen, or just a fellow human being, can rise to such an occasion in the manner in which you did. It is most commendable, Miss Parker.” The exact cause of the loss of the Stratocruiser was not fully determined, because the engine and propeller were not recovered. Th investigation assumed that the most likely cause was a fracture of a propeller blade resulting in a severely unbalanced condition, causing the violent separation of the engine from the wing. This was the fifth time that a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser had lost an engine following the failure of a hollow-steel Hamilton Standard 2J17 propeller blade. Further complicating the matter, was the flight engineer’s attempt to increase the propeller rpm on the three engines simultaneously. That caused an electrical overload occurred which opened the master circuit breaker. This prevented any engine power increase, effectively bringing down the Stratocruiser.
I never thought that I would have much interest in how a guitar was made, but my grandson, Caalab Royce is interested in building guitars, so of course, I became interested too. You do that with your children and grandchildren. Caalab showed me pictures of the guitars he wanted to make, and told me that he could buy a kit to build one, that would include all the parts. I truly believe there will come a day that he will build a guitar, and it will be beautiful, and sound beautiful. I might be biased, but if my grandson makes it, I know it will be perfect.
Recently, I stumbled across an article about a musical wood. That caught my attention. I wondered how wood could be musical. Of course, it couldn’t, as I already knew and went on to find out, but the Sitka Spruce tree is, nevertheless, the wood used for the vast majority of acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and other musical-instrument soundboards. That told me that the wood must have some kind of musical importance. I found out that the wood has excellent acoustic properties. The wood is light, soft, and yet, relatively strong and flexible. The Sitka Spruce is also used for general construction, ship building, and plywood.
Found mostly in Southeast Alaskan forests, the Sitka Spruce is being harvested at such a rate that the end of the instrument-quality supply is in sight. That doesn’t mean that the Sitka Spruce was becoming extinct, but it takes time to grow to some size, so the instrument-quality is becoming less available. The population of the Sitka Spruce is stable at this point, and it grows in Alaska, as well as Washington, Oregon, and California, meaning that there is plenty of places to re-seed this important tree. It really is just a matter of waiting for the growth, and when you are talking about a tree, it’s very different than a puppy. You are talking years for a tree. A Sitka Spruce grows to around 88 feet in height after 50 years, to 157 feet after 100 years. That means that by the time the trees grow to usable size, the guitar builders of today will be long gone, so a new generation will be the ones to use the new growth. I hope that Caalab will have a chance to build a guitar out of Sitka Spruce before the wood is no longer available.
In the middle of a war, the people of a nation become concerned about anyone who might potentially be the enemy, especially if they are living inside the country’s borders. It is really a natural reaction to enemy personnel. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United states became quite concerned about the Japanese immigrants in our country, whether they were here legally or not. Much of the immigration to the United States from Japan began in 1884, when thousands of Japanese arrived in Hawaii to work the sugar cane fields. In the wake of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which drastically restricted Chinese immigration, Japanese people began arriving and began to prosper and started small businesses or became farmers. Most of them settled along the West Coast, meaning roughly 13,000 people of Japanese descent lived in the Intermountain West prior to World War II. The attack on Pearl Harbor, heightened the level of concern about those people.
It was decided that, because their loyalties could not positively be confirmed, the Japanese immigrants needed to be rounded up and put in concentration camps. I suppose this might have seemed similar to what the Germans did to the Jewish people, but the Japanese people were not murdered in the camps, like the Jews were. And so it came to be that the people of Japanese descent from Oregon, Washington and California were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, Wyoming, by the executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt. The prisoners were held at the camp from August 12, 1942 to November 10, 1945, which was actually two months after the end of the war with Japan. The camp was populated with 10,000 people at its largest, making it the third largest town in the state at the time.
I have tried to imagine what it must have been like for those Japanese immigrants to be held in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center for as much as 2 years and 3 months. Of course, the illegal immigrants of our time immediately came to my mind, but there is a difference between these people and the illegal immigrants of today. These people were here legally, and most of them had already become citizens. Unfortunately, that did not calm the worried minds of the rest of the people of the United States. Our nation had been attacked, and the attackers looked just like the Japanese immigrants. Precautions had to be taken. I’d like to think that if it were me, in that position, that I would understand why this was happening, but I’m not so sure I would. After all, these people were not criminals. They were hard working Americans, and yet they were for a time…the enemy, or possibly the enemy.
Unfortunately, like many prior immigrant groups, the Japanese faced discrimination. Things aren’t always fair, and people aren’t always treated properly. Starting in the early 20th century, Japanese immigrants, as well as Chinese immigrants, were targeted by Alien Land Laws in western states including Wyoming. These laws prevented the Asian immigrants from buying land. In 1924, the United States Congress passed the Asian Exclusion Act, which all but cut off new immigration from Asia. In response, Japanese Americans formed organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens’ League to help address their shared challenges. Despite the attempts of Japanese Americans to fit in, some people expressed ongoing skepticism regarding the place of Asians in American society.
The Heart Mountain facility consisted of 450 barracks, each containing six apartments, when the first internees arrived on August 12, 1942. The largest apartments were simply single rooms measuring 24 feet by 20 feet. The barracks were covered with tar paper. While each unit was eventually outfitted with a potbellied stove, none had bathrooms. The people all used shared latrines. None of the apartments had kitchens. The residents ate their meals in mess halls. When the people first arrived, a barbed-wire fence to surround the camp was not yet complete. The internees protested the construction of this barrier and caused further work to be delayed. In November 1942, they submitted a petition containing 3,000 signatures to the War Relocation Authority (WRA) Director Dillon Meyer. The fence was completed by December, however, and further emphasized the sense of confinement among the internees. Shortly after the construction of the fence, 32 boys were arrested for sledding in the hills beyond the boundary. In response to the perceived overreaction on the part of the camp administration, Rikio Tomo, a Heart Mountain internee, placed an editorial in the Heart Mountain Sentinel asking for clarification about the internees’ citizenship status and constitutional freedoms. Schools were built at Heart Mountain, including a high school, to accommodate the children. These schools served students from elementary school through high school. Roughly 1500 students attended Heart Mountain High School, which included grades 8-12.
The internees provided most of the labor required to run the Heart Mountain camp, while WRA administrators oversaw its general operations. Wages ranged from $12 per month for unskilled labor to $19 per month for skilled labor, including teachers for the schools and doctors in the camp hospitals. In addition, Heart Mountain internees also worked as manual laborers on farms and ranches in Wyoming and nearby states from Nebraska to Oregon. The WRA administrators encouraged activities emphasizing American civics, such as scouting and adult English classes, as part of what they saw as an Americanization process. Committees composed initially of American-born internees provided much of the day-to-day governance of the camps. While these groups provided some measure of self-determination, they disrupted the generational hierarchy. American-born adults in their 20s and 30s were given a higher political status within the camps than their Japanese-born parents.
In 1943, General George Marshall approved the creation of the Japanese-American combat unit. As a result of the low turnout, the War Department extended the draft to the camps. It was decided that while they were not free to go where they chose, these people were needed to serve their country, so a draft was instituted. After they were drafted into the U.S. Army, soldiers from Heart Mountain occasionally returned to visit their families who were still held there. Somehow that doesn’t seem quite fair to me, and many of the prisoners agreed. They thought they should have been given their constitutional rights back before they were drafted. The organization of draft resistance distinguished Heart Mountain from the other relocation centers. The plan, which was given the endorsement of President Roosevelt, was to create an all-Japanese regiment, consisting of soldiers from a previously existing Hawaiian unit and volunteers from the camps. The response from within the camps fell far short of expectations, partly because of a loyalty questionnaire distributed by the WRA. The WRA form was used to determine eligibility for military service and permanent leave. Many of the questions were considered intrusive by prisoners. Others were not as straightforward as the WRA probably intended. Instead of serving as a neutral tool to determine someone’s suitability for service, the questionnaire further alienated many the men. To me it seems that the WRA was somehow not aware of how racist the entire situation really was. For example, question 27 asked about a person’s willingness to serve in the military. For prisoners who felt service should be contingent upon the restoration of constitutional rights to all Japanese Americans, a simple yes or no answer was insufficient. In each of the camps, the draft became a divisive issue. While some prisoners felt military service was an opportunity to exemplify patriotism, others felt that constitutional rights should be restored before agreeing to mandatory service. I doubt if the situation would have ever really been resolved, except that the war ended.
Lots of people would love to find a gold mine, stake a claim, and get rich. And if that didn’t work, they would love to stumble on a hidden or long lost treasure. Of course, for most of us that will never happen but that does not mean that those things don’t exist. In 1845, a group of pioneers were traveling by wagon train from Iowa to Oregon. They got as far as the Malheur River about a mile below the present-day Vale, Colorado. They had already traveled about 1,500 miles. They were tired and more than ready to reach their destination, they camped at a spring to rest for the night. The trip had been hard, and they had lost several oxen that had apparently died from poison. When one of the members of the party examined a carcass, his hand was infected and he too died. Tempers flaring within the group of travelers. It was time to bring their journey to a close. They were tough, but this was possibly more than they had bargained for.
Part way through their journey, the wagon train was joined by a man named Stephen Meek. He joined the party somewhere in present-day Montana or Idaho, claimed that he had been to Oregon and knew a shortcut. Along the trail, many of the men had begun to distrust Meek and when the party set out westward from the springs, they split into two groups. One group followed the known route, and the other group went on to Meek’s promised shortcut. The Meek party swung to the south toward the Steen Mountain country. As it turned out, Meek didn’t really know where he was going and soon the group became angry at him, so he fled the wagon train in fear of his life, after only one week. The fighting among the members of the group caused them to split once again at the headwaters of Willow Creek. Part of the group headed towards Huntington and down the Columbia River, while the rest of the party continued to travel along the Malheur River.
Along the way, the party met with trouble again as one member was stricken with fever and died, and just a few miles later, several of the oxen were lost. Their journey seemed to be destined to fail. On August 25, 1845, three of the young men soon went out in search of the stock, walking all day and well into the late afternoon before coming to a small stream. After quenching their thirst, they picked up 15 to 20 pebbles in the creek that displayed an unusual color. Finally finding their oxen, they then returned to the train. They showed their stones to the older men in the train, and the “more seasoned” travelers said they were “copper.” When someone asked, “Was there much of it?”, one of the boys replied, “We could have filled one of these blue buckets.” One of the train’s members, Mrs Fisher, kept a single nugget and the train continued its journey, leaving behind the other stones.
Stephen Meek made it to The Dalles and returned to the train with a party of rescuers in order to save them. The wagon train finally reached its destination at The Dalles in October 1845. The people began the work of settling into their new home, and forgot about the stones until three years later when gold was discovered in California. Then someone mentioned the 15 to 20 “copper” stones found near the spring on their journey west. They re-examined the stone kept by Mrs Fisher, and soon discovered that it was actually gold. Thus began the search for the mythical or long lost Blue Bucket Mine. Though the location of the gold continues to remain a mystery to this day, it is believed to be at a tributary of the John Day River. I’m sure the people of the wagon train were sorry that they didn’t take the initial find more seriously. I have no idea how big the stones were, but I’m sure they left a sizable amount of money on the prairie that day.
When my husband’s aunt, Helen Knox passed away on January 11, 2017 at the good old age of 99 years, her passing left her soul mate, Uncle Frank Knox to carry on alone…at least in that the love of his life was not longer with him. Of course, his sons are still here, and his grandchildren, one of whom I have had the great privilege of getting to know over Facebook since her grandmother’s passing. Yesterday morning, it was Frank’s granddaughter, Kate West who passed along the sad news that Uncle Frank had gone to Heaven to join his sweet wife, Helen. My thoughts immediately went back to the times that Frank and Helen came for visits, and what wonderful and interesting people they were. I wanted to write a tribute to Frank about the times I remembered, but then I read about Kate’s memories, and…well, I hope she won’t mind if I take a chapter from her Lifebook for this story. Her memories are so sweet and so thoughtful, that it became very clear to me and to anyone who read her words, that her grandfather was very, very special to her. Nothing I could have said could even begin to compare to the words of his Kate…or to those of her dad, Greg Knox, who told me that the date of Frank’s passing was the same date he and Helen married, just 71 years later. That is a very special day to Frank and Helen.
While Kate is very sad that her grandfather is gone, she is glad that he is with her grandmother again. They had lived long and happy lives, with 71 of those years lived as husband and wife. When her grandmother passed away, Kate found herself distressed because her grandfather was now without his other half. For Kate, the connection she and her grandpa had was the closest relationship she had with any of her grandparents. Part of the reason is that Frank and Helen lived with Kate’s family for 4 years, from the time Kate was 8 until she was 12. Helen was a little more quiet than her husband was. Frank was always very outgoing, and that made him easy to get to know. The relationship Kate had with her grandfather reminds me of the relationship I had with my Uncle Bill Spencer. Kate’s grandpa, or maybe her dad, taught her the game of cribbage, like my uncle did with me. After that playing cribbage became a ritual. The family used to go camping, and it always seemed to rain, at least one day of the trip. That was all it took for Kate and Frank to get out the cribbage board and pass the time in the friendly rivalry that cribbage always is. Those are the memories that will last Kate for the rest of her life…the memories that will keep her grandfather in her thoughts. She won’t pass a cribbage board without thinking of their games, or hear the rain without thinking of her grandfather. He will always live in her heart, as he will in the hearts of all of those who loved him.
Having moved to Spokane, Kate didn’t get to see her grandfather as often during those last years, and while she feels the regrets that come from a busy life and the difficulty distance brings to staying in touch, I can tell her that for her grandfather, the memories of the fun times with his cribbage partner kept a smile on his face, and she lit up his day with the love that showed on her face for her grandfather. While we may not realize what a huge impact we have of the life of another, they know it. Those around us who care about us, are the bright lights in our lives. That’s what Kate was to her grandfather. Uncle Frank will be greatly missed by all of us, who loved him. We look forward to seeing you again in Heaven, Uncle Frank.
When you think of Indian arrowheads, you usually think of the Old West or the cowboys and Indians. You think of the battles the Indians had over broken treaties and the influx of settlers into the west. That’s what you think of, but that isn’t what my nephew, Steve Moore thinks of…at least that’s not the only thing he thinks about. For Steve, thoughts of arrowheads bring thoughts of obsidian.
You might think that is strange, but Steve has learned the ancient art of flintknap. It all started with his love of wall climbing. He learned to make the hand and foot holds for wall climbing. Then, he started thinking about flintknap. Flintknap is the art of making arrowheads and other weapons from rocks, like obsidian. Steve started with pieces of broken glass, and later graduated to rocks, and even bone. He and a friend named Scott, made a trip to Oregon and brought back a truck load of obsidian, and Steve taught Scott and another friend, Jay how to flintknap. Steve, made some amazing tools to knap with.
Through the years, Steve got out of the flintknapping hobby for a time…twelve years or so, but has recently picked it up again. Flintknapping is a great hobby to engage in while sitting around the campfire or the fireplace in the evenings. Steve made two arrowheads each weekend these past two weekends. His wife, my niece, Machelle told me that when you are flintknapping, you have to learn how not to bleed. If Steve gets that talent accomplished, I know several people who would like to know the trick to it.
Steve likes obsidian the best, because it creates beautiful shine and color to the arrowheads and other weapons. The rainbow obsidian is one of Steve and Machelle’s favorites because of the beautiful colors it contains. The orange of the pumpkin obsidian is also stunning. When I looked at the pictures that Machelle sent me of Steve’s work, it felt like I was looking at jewels. The arrowheads sparkle and shine, almost like diamonds. I was stunned to find that Steve had such a talent, but then it’s pretty typical of Steve not to blow his own horn. That just isn’t his style, so I guess I’ll just do it for him, because as far as I’m concerned, Steve has an amazing talent. These arrowheads and weapons, while functional if they ever needed ammunition, are so much more than that. They are absolutely beautiful. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I suppose a true World War II history buff might know about some of the strange war stories there are out there, and I rather thought I was becoming a World War II history buff, but I had never heard of the Japanese Balloon Bombs. I can’t imagine how a nation could send a random bomb over another nation, not knowing where it will land, or who it will kill…but then, the evil we have seen in the 21st century has proven to be very much the same. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun. Where evil exists, horrible things happen. Such was the case with the Japanese Balloon Bombs. The Japanese were an evil nation at that time, and they didn’t care who they hurt. in 1945, a Japanese Balloon Bomb landed in rural Oregon, ad killed six people . As it turns out, these were the only World War II combat casualties within the continental 48 states. Apparently, the accuracy of the balloon bombs left something to be desired…thankfully.
The idea of a balloon bomb was to send in a bomb that was silent. The problem is that balloons are hard to control. They go with the flow of the wind currents, so you don’t know where they will land. Then again, the Japanese were at war with the world, so they really didn’t care where the balloons would land. The six people who were killed by the Fu-Go or fire-balloon bomb, as they were called, were a Sunday School teacher Elyse Mitchell (and her unborn child), her 13 and 14 year old students, Jay Gifford, Edward Engen, Sherman Shoemaker, Dick Patzke, all of whom were killed instantly, when the bomb exploded. Dick Patzke’s sister, Joan was severely burned, and died moments later. The group had stopped for a moment, because Elyse Mitchell was feeling ill, and while her husband, Reverend Archie Mitchell talked with construction workers in the area, the six victims went to investigate a balloon they saw. It would prove to be a fatal mistake. The group had been going on a Saturday afternoon picnic near Klamath Falls, Oregon. They had only walked about 100 yards from the car. One of the road-crew workers, Richard Barnhouse, said “There was a terrible explosion. Twigs flew through the air, pine needles began to fall, dead branches and dust, and dead logs went up.”
Made of rubberized silk or paper, each balloon was about 33 feet in diameter. Barometer-operated valves released hydrogen if the balloon gained too much altitude or dropped sandbags if it flew too low. The balloons were filled with 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen and the jet stream drew them eastward. They were designed to travel across the Pacific to North America, where they would drop incendiary devices or anti-personnel explosives. I would think the hydrogen alone would make a horrible bomb, but attached to the balloon was the actual bomb. The Japanese released an estimated 9,000 fire balloons during the last months of World War II. At least 342 reached the United States, with some drifting as far as Nebraska. Some were shot down. Some caused minor damage when they landed, but no injuries. One hit a power line and blacked out the nuclear-weapons plant at Hanford, Washington. But the only known casualties from the 9,000 balloons…and the only combat deaths from any cause on the U S mainland were the five kids and their Sunday school teacher going to a picnic. What a valiant victory for the Japanese that was.
My cousin, Dennis Fredrick and I have been emailing back and fourth for a few weeks now, and it has brought our relationship back to what if used to be, years ago. Time and distance make it difficult for people to stay in touch…even relatives. That is what happened with Denny and me, and now that we have begun to move our relationship back where it should be, I think we are both much happier about it. It’s amazing just how much you miss of someone’s life. The years go by so fast, and before you know it you can feel like you hardly know them anymore, and that is a sad thing to see happen between cousins. The good news is that it’s not too late to change all that, and that is exactly what Denny and I have set out to do.
Denny recently retired, and that has given him more time to devote to the family history. It’s perfect timing, because I have some pictures that I wanted his opinion on, and he has found some great documents that most of the family had never seen before. Denny’s mom, my Aunt Laura Fredrick has been working on the family history for years, and being the oldest of my grandparents’ children, she had the opportunity to have a copy of her parents’ marriage certificate. With her passing, her years of hard work on the family history were passed on to her son Denny. Now, with Denny’s extra time, and my knowledge of Ancestry.com, it is my hope that we can make some the information available online, as well as to other family members who are online, but maybe not on Ancestry.com.
Of course, the family history is not the only thing that Denny and I have been talking about. There are so many memories to talk about. Our families were so close when they lived in Casper. we loved it when they came over. There was always something fun going on. The conversation was interesting, and there was a closeness between the families. After their move to Oregon, we didn’t get to see them as much. That is the part that both Denny and I feel a loss over. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to catch up on the past, so that’s what Denny and I intend to do…making up for lost time. That is our ultimate goal. It might be a long road, but it will be worth it in the end. Today is Denny’s birthday. Happy birthday Denny!! Have a great day!! We love you!!