What is the likelihood of a gang of thieves all having the same first name? Probably almost nil, but that is what happened with a gang called The Five Joaquins. The fact that they all had the same first name was the whole reason for the name, obviously. Every gang needs a name, and it must be unique. By having the same name and using that name as the gang’s name, it eliminated any argument over which of the men should be listed first. The Five Joaquins were said to be responsible for the majority of cattle rustling, robberies, and murders that were committed in the Mother Lode area of the Sierra Nevada Range in California between 1850 and 1853.
While all the men were listed equally, the main “gang boss” was Joaquin Murietta. Other gang members were Joaquin Botellier, Joaquin Carrillo, Joaquin Ocomorenia, and Joaquin Valenzuela. The gang also included was Murietta’s right-hand man, Manuel Garcia, known as “Three-Fingered Jack.” At least he knew who they were talking about when the said his name. I actually find that quite amusing. To have to speak both first and last name when addressing each other, is quite funny. When they first got started, the gang began to terrorize the towns and gold camps because the Mexicans were being discriminated against in the mines and forced off their land by invading hordes of American miners. It was a type of retaliation, but it doesn’t appear that any such thing happened to any of the five or their non-Joaquin cohort. Nevertheless, it is believed that the gang stole more than $100,000 in gold, over 100 horses, as well as killing over 40 people…28 Chinese and 13 Whites. Three of them were lawmen who were killed while the gang was outrunning the posse sent to capture them.
California Governor John Bigler signed a legislative act into law on May 11, 1853, to create the “California State Rangers,” led by Captain Harry Love, who was a former Texas Ranger. I had never heard of the California State Rangers, but with a former Texas Ranger, I can see how they came to be. The “California State Rangers” had the one mission…to capture the “Five Joaquins.” This was a big undertaking and demanded big money. The California Rangers were paid $150 a month and stood a chance to share a $5000 reward for the capture of Joaquin Murrieta. It was great motivation. On July 25, 1853, a group of Rangers encountered a band of armed Mexican men near Panoche Pass in San Benito County, 50 miles from Monterey. A Battle ensued and resulted in the deaths of two of the Mexicans. One was claimed to have been Murrieta, and the other was thought to be Three-Fingered Jack. A plaque near the intersection of State Routes 33 and 198 now marks the approximate site of Murrieta’s headquarters in Arroyo de Cantua. It is there where he was presumably and officially ruled by the State of California to have been killed. The problem is that the claim was soon disputed and has continued to be. Nevertheless, the result of that skirmish was that the gang broke up, and its activities ended. There were apparently no charges filed, possibly for lack of evidence. Some of the members returned to Sonora, while others remained in California. The killing didn’t stop their criminal activities, however, and they became vaqueros on California ranches, but some went straight, following other walks of life.
In 1945, a Japanese scientist named Shiro Ishii devised a plan of attack on civilians in the United States called Operation PX, also known as Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night. The plan was intended to wage biological warfare upon civilian population centers in the continental United States during the final months of World War II. The plan was devious, and heinous. Ishii planned to spread plague-infected fleas over Southern California using airplanes. The original operation was abandoned shortly after its planning on March 26, 1945. Then, with modifications, it was finalized and placed back of the table to be carried out. The plan was to be carried out on September 22nd, 1945. Unfortunately for Japan, their formal surrender date was August 15th, 1945, and the war was over.
Originally, the Japanese Naval General Staff, led by Vice-Admiral Jisaburi Ozawa proposed Operation PX in December 1944. The code name for the operation came from the Japanese use of the code name PX for Pestis bacillus-infected fleas. The navy partnered with Lieutenant-General Shiro Ishii of Unit 731. Ishii possessed extensive experience on weaponizing pathogenic bacteria and human vulnerability to biological and chemical warfare, and he was an extremely evil man, willing to use his knowledge for the murders of millions of people, especially if he thought it would bring him more power.
In Ishii’s plan, they would use Seiran aircraft launched by submarine aircraft carriers upon the West Coast of the United States, targeting specifically, the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The attack was to be utilizing weaponized bubonic plague, cholera, typhus, dengue fever, and other pathogens in a biological terror attack upon the population of the United States. The original plan was to have the submarine crews infect themselves and run ashore in a suicide mission. When the operation was shelved in March of 1945, it was because Umezu could see the future ramifications, and conveyed as much, when he said, “If bacteriological warfare is conducted, it will grow from the dimension of war between Japan and America to an endless battle of humanity against bacteria. Japan will earn the derision of the world.”
The idea of suicide attacks was tabled, due to opposition from Yoshijiro Umezu and Torashiro Kawabe, who did not want Ishii to die in a suicide attack and asked him to instead “wait for [the] next opportunity calmly”. It was then that Ishii devised a final plan using of the biological weapons and fleas…an attack that never took place either. The world never knew of the planned attack until long after the war, when Operation PX was first discussed in an interview by former captain Eno Yoshio, who was heavily involved with planning for the attack. He first spoke of it in an interview with Sankei on August 14, 1977. According to Yoshio, “This is the first time I have said anything about Operation PX, because it involved the rules of war and international law. The plan was not put into actual operation, but I felt that just the fact that it was formulated would cause international misunderstanding. I never even leaked anything to the staff of the war history archives at the Japanese Defense Agency, and I don’t feel comfortable talking about it even now. But at the time, Japan was losing badly, and any means to win would have been all right.” That interview goes to show how horrible some regimes can be.
While flight remains one of the safest forms of travel, there is always the possibility of a malfunction that can have devastating effects. In the case of United Airlines Flight 624, a Douglas DC-6 airliner, registration NC37506, was a scheduled passenger flight from San Diego, California to New York City. Very likely, these passengers had taken this exact same flight a number of times, and possibly on this exact same plane. Nevertheless, this flight was about to be very different…and that difference was going to have devastating effects on the plane and on the outcome of this flight.
Flight 624 took off from Lindbergh Field, in what appeared to be a normal flight. The flight made its first scheduled stop at Los Angeles Airport, followed by a normal scheduled stop at Chicago Municipal Airport. Everything was normal for both stops. In fact, the whole flight proceeded normally until they began their descent into New York’s LaGuardia Airport. They began their descent over Pennsylvania, and suddenly, they had a warning alarm telling them of a fire in the cargo hold. The crew responded to what was later determined to be a false signal of a fire in the front cargo hold by releasing CO2. Proper operating procedure called for opening the cabin pressure relief valves prior to discharging the CO2 bottles, to allow for venting of the CO2 gas buildup in the cabin and cockpit. There was no evidence found of the crew opening the relief valves. Either they forgot or it malfunctioned (which didn’t appear to be the case). As a result, the released CO2 gas seeped back into the cockpit from the front cargo hold and apparently partially incapacitated the flight crew. It would be like being in a closed-up garage and leaving your car running. The decision-making process of the crew became compromised. As things got worse, the crew put the aircraft into an emergency descent, miscalculating their altitude, and as the plane descended lower than it should have, it hit a high-voltage power line and burst into flames. The plane then smashed through the trees of a wooded hillside about five miles from Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, a small town 135 miles from Philadelphia, at 1:41pm EDT on June 17, 1948. When the four-engined, propeller-driven airplane crashed, it resulted in the deaths of all four crew members and 39 passengers on board.
The ship that would eventually become the USS Serpens was built by California Shipbuilding Corporation in Wilmington, California. The ship was laid down March 10, 1943, as EC2 class Liberty Ship that was initially named SS Benjamin N. Cardozo (MCE hull 739). In the course of a little more than a month, SS Cardozo was transferred to the US Navy (USN) on April 19, 1943, and renamed USS Serpens (AK-97) after the star constellation Serpens. USS Serpens was commissioned May 28, 1943, at San Diego, and assigned to Captain Magnus J. Johnson, USCGR and manned by a crew from the US Coast Guard (USCG). From there, the ship led a relatively normal “life” for a ship. At least until the evening of January 29, 1945, when the USS Serpens (AK 97) was anchored off Lunga Beach, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Perry L Stinson, and some of the enlisted men were ashore performing administrative functions.
The remaining 970 crew members were loading depth charges when the USS Serpens suddenly exploded, leaving only the bow of the ship visible. The explosion was devastating, and only two sailors aboard…SN 1/C Kelsie K Kemp and SN 1/C George S Kennedy survived by clinging to the bow section of the ship, after escaping from the “bosun’s hole” inside the ship. The rest of the crew consisting of 198 Coast Guardsmen, 56 US Army stevedores, and Dr Levin, a US Public Health Service surgeon, died…most instantly. Of the 198 US Coast Guardsmen, 167 were reservists. In the immense explosion, nearby ships were damaged, and a US Army soldier on the beach was killed. The loss of the USS Serpens remains the largest single disaster ever suffered by the Coast Guard.
An eyewitness account of the disaster stated that, “As we headed our personnel boat shoreward the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us, and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”
The Coast Guard initially though the explosion was an enemy attack. They actually continued to think that until July 1947. By June 10, 1949, it was officially determined not to have been the result of enemy attack. Unfortunately, there would be no real answers as to what happened. The remains of the 250 men who lost their lives were originally buried at the Army, Navy, and Marine Cemetery in Guadalcanal with full military honors and religious services. Later, however, the remains were repatriated under the program for the return of World War II dead in 1949. The mass recommittal of the 250 unidentified dead took place in section 34 at MacArthur Circle, Arlington National Cemetery. The remains were placed in 52 caskets and buried in 28 graves near the intersection of Jesup and Grant Drives. The two survivors both earned the Purple Heart injuries sustained.
My grandniece, Siara Kirk has had a wonderful year. Prior to this year, Siara had gone through some things that were very hard, and then she met her future husband, Chris Kirk and her whole life started to turn around. The year 2021 ended very well beginning in early September, with Siara walking boldly up to Chris in the local Loaf and Jug convenience store in Casper and telling him that she liked his freckles. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. They found that they had a lot in common, including a love of exercise and travel. They especially love couple’s exercise, and the stuff they do is amazing. Their love blossomed, and on March 20, 2022, Chris proposed, and Siara accepted.
Siara has always been into exercise, and for over seven years, it has been her dream to become a certified personal trainer. With lots of hard work and perseverance, that dream came true on April 19, 2022, and she couldn’t be happier about that. Siara has always set goals for herself…a bucket list, if you will. She has been slowly (or maybe not so slowly) checking things off of her list. Siara has worked at Platte Valley Bank since July of 2015, so I assume the Personal Trainer work will be done as a side hustle…or as I prefer, side gig. Still in the world of personal trainers, I suppose side hustle might be more fitting.
It has always been Siara’s goal to be married to a man who treats her like her dad treats her mom. That goal came true on July 23, 2022, that dream came true. Chris treats her like the princess she is, and they are perfect for each other. Another one of Siara’s longtime goals, has always been to travel to New York. California was on that list too, but she and Chris took that trip two summers ago, and now the plan is to take the much-anticipated trip to New York this coming June. They are both so excited and are busy making plans as to what all they will see. I’m sure it will be just as many things as they can pack into their time there. It’s good to be taking these trips while they are still a couple, because Siara and Chris both want to have kids someday in the not-too-distant future, and I know they will be amazing parents.
Siara and Chris enjoy taking joint trips with her parents, Chantel and Dave Balcerzak too. They have gone several times to see the 80s Hairbands, and that has become rather a tradition. They also went on September 17, 2022, to watch a Wyoming Cowboys game. They are all fans of the Pokes, as are most Wyomingites, so going to a game is always great fun. This year was such a great year for Siara, and I’m sure the future will be wonderful too. I can’t wait to see what “Bucket List” items she checks off next. Today is Siara’s birthday!! Happy birthday Siara!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My aunt, Ruth Wolfe was the person I most closely resembled. She was my dad, Allen Spencer’s sister, and for most of my life, I didn’t really know that I resembled her. Nevertheless, I am built like she was. I laugh like she did, something I found out after she passed away, and I laughed, but when I did, I heard her laughing. I thought, “How could that be?” I had never noticed that I laughed like her before. I began to wonder how I hadn’t noticed it before. Whatever the reason, I did and do laugh like her, and these days, it is a pleasant reminder of her, and the memories are very sweet.
I always loved Aunt Ruth…and her husband, Uncle Jim too. They lived what seemed like such an exciting life. When they moved away from Casper, Wyoming, they moved to Reno, Nevada, and later to Vallejo, California, and finally to Newport, Washington. While Washington was rather a calm place, almost a retirement of sorts, Reno and Vallejo seemed like an exciting, party kind of place…and maybe it was. People go through different phases in life, and maybe they were in a phase of looking for some excitement. A small town, like Casper, Wyoming, while not tiny, is certainly not as exciting as a place like Reno, Nevada or Vallejo, California. Still, Newport, Washington, and especially the mountain top property they purchased, was certainly more like the places she lived when she was growing up. It was almost like going back to her roots.
I think that some of the happiest times in Aunt Ruth’s life were when she and Uncle Jim were on the road, traveling. They liked to see the world around them, and they loved showing up unannounced to surprise us. I don’t think they ever thought about the fact that they might find us out of town, and to my knowledge, they never did…or at least if they did, they never told us about it. I suppose if they had told us they were coming, it would have ruined the adventure of things. I don’t think any of us ever minded the surprises that came with their unexpected visits. My parents were always happy that they were there. It was like running into a favorite old friend…but they were old friends, even more so than some siblings are. Aunt Ruth and my dad were just 19 months apart. They were the youngest of my grandparents four children, and in many ways, that did make them close, even though they were brother and sister, and not brother/friends, like my dad and their older brother, my Uncle Bill. Today would have been my Aunt Ruth’s 97th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you very much.
In a very different time in America, being a communist was not accepted, and it really shouldn’t be accepted now, but that is not the opinion of every person in the United States today. Nevertheless, on October 20, 1947, saw the beginning of the notorious Red Scare. At that time, a Congressional committee began investigating the Communist influence that was, or at least was suspected of infiltrating one of the world’s richest and most glamorous communities…Hollywood, California.
One of the greatest fears after World War II, was that the Cold War began to heat up between the United States and the communist-controlled Soviet Union. Conservatives in Washington were working hard to remove any communists in government. Then, they set their sights on those people who were alleged “Reds” in the liberal movie industry. During the investigation that began in October 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) questioned a number of prominent people. During the interviews, the committee asked point-blank, “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
It might have been fear or maybe a sense of patriotism, but some witnesses, including director Elia Kazan, actors Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor, and studio honchos Walt Disney and Jack Warner, all gave the committee names of colleagues they had suspected of being communists. That began a more grueling interrogation of a small group known as the “Hollywood Ten.” All of the “Hollywood Ten” resisted the accusations, complaining that the hearings were illegal and violated their First Amendment rights. The 10 were Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo. While they weren’t convicted of being communist, they were all convicted of obstructing the investigation and each served jail terms.
The Hollywood establishment, after being pressured by Congress, started a blacklist policy. The blacklist involved the practice of denying employment to entertainment industry professionals believed to be or to have been Communists or sympathizers. Actors, screenwriters, directors, musicians, and other American entertainment professionals were barred from work by the studios. This was usually done on the basis of their membership in, or alleged membership in, or sympathy with the Communist Party USA, or their refusal to assist Congressional investigations into party activities. The policy brought about the banning the work of about 325 screenwriters, actors, and directors who had not been cleared by the committee.
Those blacklisted included composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker, playwright Arthur Miller, and actor and filmmaker Orson Welles. The policy wasn’t always strictly enforced, and even during the period of its strictest enforcement, from the late 1940s through to the late 1950s. The blacklist was almost never made explicit. It was rather the result of numerous individual decisions by the studios and was not the result of official legal action. Nevertheless, the blacklist quickly and directly damaged or even ended the careers and income of scores of individuals working in the film industry.
Most people today wouldn’t remember a 1920s show called “Our Gang” unless they happen to be an old black and white movie buff. The show was about a “gang” of young kids, and all the mischief they got into. Of course, they weren’t bad kids, just adventurous kids. One of those kids was Robert E “Bobby” Hutchins, who was born on March 29, 1925, to James and Olga (Constance) Hutchins in Tacoma, Washington. His father was a native of Kentucky and his mother a native of Washington. Young Hutchins was a popular child actor who played “Wheezer” in the “Our Gang” movies. His short movie career began in 1927, when he was just 2 years old. He was only eight when he left the series in 1933. Hutchins was given the nickname of “Wheezer” after running around the studios on his first day so much that he began to wheeze. The nickname fit him so well that it was incorporated into the show. Wheezer appeared in 58 “Our Gang” films during his six years in the series. For much of his run, “Wheezer” was portrayed as the tag-along little brother, put off by the older children but always eager to be part of the action.
As would always be the case with a show like “Our Gang,” Hutchins eventually outgrew the series, so he and his family moved back to Tacoma, where he entered public school. After he graduated from high school, he joined the US Army Air Forces in 1943, enrolling in the Aviation Cadet Program with the goal of becoming a pilot. Hutchins was killed in a mid-air collision on May 17, 1945, while trying to land a North American AT-6D-NT Texan, serial number 42-86536, of the 3026th Base Unit, during a training exercise. Hutchins’ plane struck an AT-6C-15-NT Texan, 42-49068, of the same unit at Merced Army Air Field in Merced, California…later known as Castle Air Force Base. The other pilot, Edward F Hamel, survived the crash. Hutchins’ mother, Olga Hutchins, had been scheduled to travel to the airfield for his graduation from flying school, which would have occurred the week after he died. He is buried in the Parkland Lutheran Cemetery in Tacoma, Washington. When you see him acting the “Our Gang” movies, it’s really sad to think that his life would be cut short at the age of just 20 years. Nevertheless, he was doing what he really wanted to do, and serving his country in the process.
I can imagine a number of nicknames a stagecoach driver might want to have, one that no one would want to have. George Green was one of the most popular stagecoach drivers in the Sierra Mountain Range, driving for the Pioneer Stage Company between Placerville, California and Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. George had the nickname “Baldy” because of the sparse amount of hair he had on the top of his head. It was not the nickname “Baldy” that George would learn to hate, however. George was known for his good looks, standing about six feet tall with a large full mustache, but it was not his good looks or large mustache that earned him the nickname he hated either.
During his days as a stagecoach driver, Green drove many famous people including Ben Holladay, Horace Greeley, and Vice-President Schuyler Colfax. Nevertheless, Green was apparently not a very scary driver. On May 22, 1865, near Silver City, Nevada, three men robbed his stage of $10,000 in gold and greenbacks. I guess word must have gotten around, because more robberies followed that first one, and not only would the robbers not leave him alone, but the robberies were big news and the stories sold lots of newspapers. The Territorial Enterprise commented that Green had narrowly escaped scalping, and someone placed a sign near the robbery location saying, “Wells-Fargo Distributing Office, Baldy Green, Mgr.”
Green just couldn’t catch a break. Two years later his stage was robbed twice on successive days, and following another robbery on June 10, 1868, Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise stated: “Baldy Green is exceedingly unlucky, as the road agents appear to have singled him out as their special man to halt and plunder, and they always come at him with shotguns.” Two more robberies occurred the same month, and you might say that the writing was on the wall. No one came right out an accused Green of being involved, but it had come to the point that they couldn’t take the risk of keeping him on anymore. Green was fired. Whether he was guilty or not, he was the driver most likely to be robbed. While he was never given that nickname, it is rather a fitting one.
Green didn’t let that stop him, however. He then went to hauling freight in Pioche, Nevada. I guess either he figured out how to stop the robberies, or freight haulers were less likely to be robbed. Either way, he managed to have more success in that trade that the stagecoach career. Later on, he even served as Justice of the Peace in Humboldt County, Nevada.
Since man had power on the earth, man has also had power outages. Power outages are one thing, but rolling blackouts are another thing altogether. “A rolling blackout, also known as rotational load shedding, feeder rotation, or a rotating outage is an intentionally-engineered electrical power shutdown in which electricity delivery is stopped for non-overlapping periods of time over different parts of the distribution region.” This type of shutdown…rolling blackouts…are a supposed to be a last-resort measure used by an electric utility company to avoid a total blackout of the power system. I can understand that in a serious heat wave, even though it is a dangerous maneuver, and I can even understand it in an overload caused by an unexpected cold snap, even thought that is also seriously dangerous.
I don’t know a lot about the energy industry, but I do know that some of the recent cuts in types of energy resources are very dangerous when it comes to making sure that we have enough energy for our country. It seems that these states who don’t regularly need large amounts of energy for heating and cooling, don’t have a way to “stockpile” any either. Rolling blackouts are used as a response strategy to cope with reduced output beyond reserve capacity from power stations taken offline unexpectedly, such as an extreme weather event. So, when an emergency occurs, their solution is to have these rolling blackouts. California has done this for years.
The theory behind the rolling blackouts is a “measure of demand” response. If the demand for electricity exceeds the power supply capability of the network, it’s time to have a planned blackout. Rolling blackouts might be limited to a single city or state, or they can be district or nationwide. The whole thing depends on the network and the stockpile of energy resources. Rolling blackouts generally result from two causes. These are insufficient generation capacity or inadequate transmission infrastructure to deliver power to where it is needed.
For California the rolling blackouts had began on June 14th, 2000 due to a heatwave. Other dates for rolling blackouts in those first couple of years were January 17-18, 2001, March 19-20, 2001, and May 7-8, 2001. These were the beginning dates of the California electricity crisis which included extremely high prices and rolling blackouts. In reality, the “crisis” was a direct result from the manipulation of energy of a partially deregulated California energy system by companies like Enron and Reliant Energy. I wonder too, if the mismanagement wasn’t also on the part of the state’s mismanagement. The recent power outages in Texas from the freezing weather were also rolling blackouts, and the problems they caused were far worse than the California rolling blackouts, because of all the things that froze up from the severe cold. The reality is that one way or the other, our government has to stop limiting the production of our energy resources. That is my opinion, and I’m sure some would disagree, but these rolling blackouts are ridiculous.