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Salt Lake City’s Main and State Streets

Main and State

I remember approaching Salt Lake City at Christmas time from the north by driving up Victory Road, and as the car neared the west side of the State Capitol, a spectacular view of the Christmas lights on Main Street would appear. Prior to the construction of I-15, that was our family’s customary route returning home from visiting my aunt and her family in Centerville.

Main Street was beautiful and the activity hub of the city for shopping, banking, entertainment, and business in general before shopping malls and suburban sprawl. The street was wide thanks to Brigham Young, who designed the streets wide enough for a team and wagon to turn around. The Christmas lights on Main Street continued for several blocks, but the street was lit all year long for about six miles until just beyond 45th South where it merged with State Street, a street equally lighted and just as wide that ran parallel to Main Street from the State Capitol one block east and continued south for about 16 miles.

The wide, straight, and lighted Main Street and State Street contributed to an exquisite view looking south from the north bench above Salt Lake City. Brigham Young not only made the streets wide, but they all ran precisely either North and South or East and West and were numbered rather than named, which made addresses easy to find. My address was 3236 South 2600 East and could be found easily without a map at 2600 East and just north of 3300 South. It is a simple coordinate system.

Gasoline was less than a quarter a gallon, there were only three or four TV stations to watch, and there was no internet or cell phones. Streets were not just routes, but were objects used for recreation and socializing by young people who were old enough to drive, but had not yet encumbered their lives with homes and families and all the responsibility that comes with those things. Also, automobile manufacturers were under no pressure to build fuel-efficient engines, and muscle cars with powerful engines were very convincing status symbols.

Sunday drives, just for the sake of driving, were commonplace. I remember as a child taking a drive in the country to pass the time. We often found ourselves at the south end of the valley on Dimple Dell Road. As a teenager, when I had my driver’s license and access to a car, I would drive up Parley’s Canyon to Parley’s Summit, just to let off steam when I was frustrated. In 1970, our plans for New Years Eve fell through, and for something to do, we decided to take a road trip to Disneyland over the three-day weekend. Five of us drove to L.A. in one day, went to Disneyland the next day, and drove home the next. At $.25/gallon, and 25 miles per gallon in our Volkswagen Bug, the round trip cost about $15.00 for gasoline and $14.00/night for a hotel room for two nights. We did have to pay to get into Disneyland, but all in all, it was a cheap trip. We thought nothing of driving that far for one day of fun.

Driving was a key part of dating. I went on one date before I was old enough to drive, and my stepfather had to drive Tanya Chatterton and me. It was just too embarrassing, and that was the only time I dated before I got my license and could drive myself. Once I had my license, however, it was like a license to date as well as to drive. Driving gave me control of my life. It gave me the freedom to go where I wanted with whom I wanted.

Millcreek Canyon was a good drive while on a date. A girlfriend and I could stop for a picnic, or just take a walk in the forest. I knew every curve in that canyon where I could pass and where I had to slow down.

Romance was best pursued in a car, especially while parked high on the bench overlooking the city. There were several popular parking spots overlooking the city, but the most popular was Passionate Flats on the north bench looking down at the view of Main and State Streets. Another one was a landscaped, but vacant lot at the top of Olympus Cove called The White House.

Romance eventually gave way to style. The first full-size passenger car I saw with bucket seats and a floor shift was a 1962 Chevrolet Super Sport with a 409 cubic inch engine. The same engine The Beach Boys sang about: “She’s real fine my 409…” Bucket seats looked good with the console and four on the floor between the seats, but they put a real cramp in romantic activities while “parking.”

State Street was a key element in the mating game in Salt Lake City. Young people would drive up and down State Street looking for potential relationships with the opposite sex, but sometimes “dragging” State Street was just to show off your hot muscle car, or just your blue dot taillights. It was the same scene represented in the movie American Graffiti, complete with drive-in restaurants with carhops, but I don’t remember carhops on State Street moving between cars on roller skates. That entire scene from American Graffiti was repeated on State Street every Friday night. Even my music teacher my junior year at Olympus High School was a beautiful young blonde who drove a white ’57 T-Bird. She was single and I’ll bet she spent time on State Street. There were several drive-ins in Salt Lake, but the most popular was called Don Carlos on 9th South and State Street with its famous fry sauce – a combination of ketchup, mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce, and possibly some other secret ingredients. Hires Hamburgers was also a popular drive-in with fry sauce, but it was on 7th East and 4th South. Hires is still there with car hops and the same fare including fry sauce as was served in the 60’s, but Don Carlos did not survive the demise of dragging State Street.

So what factors contributed to the demise of this culture that held the car in such a prominent position in the teenage romance scene? First, was the increase in the cost of gasoline where a handful of people who controlled the petroleum industry decided that, if they worked together, could eventually raise the price of gasoline tenfold. Along with that increase came an increased awareness of air pollution from automobiles, which led to pollution-filtering equipment attached to engines in cars that resulted in a dramatic reduction in gas mileage to 4 or 5 mpg that further raised the cost of driving.

These two factors led to a need to get more mileage out of a gallon of gasoline and the decrease in popularity of big and powerful engines. The muscle car soon was no longer a macho symbol; lake pipes were outlawed, noise ordinances were adopted, and a group of frustrated old men (the Utah Legislature, who wanted to get back at those guys who had better looking and faster cars than they had when they were young) outlawed dragging State Street. They passed a law that would ticket any car that passed the same place on State Street three times within a certain period of time. Driving eventually was no longer a conduit for recreation or letting off steam. Homes were built on Passionate Flats and the White House, and cars were only used for just getting from place to a place to just “hang out” in parking lots.

Gravity Hill is another street that lawmakers legislated away. It is at the end of the road that surrounds Memory Grove at the mouth of City Creek Canyon where it meets the road on the east side of the State Capitol. It is actually an optical illusion. It appears that you are going down hill, but when you let your car coast, it appears to coast up hill; hence its name, “Gravity Hill.” Gravity Hill is still there, but it cannot be experienced legally. You would need to drive the wrong way on a one-way street to experience it. It is just one more example of lawmakers spoiling something fun.

I remember traveling from Salt Lake to California through Nevada. When we approached a town, there would be a sign that said, “Speed Zone Ahead.” We would slow down to 25 or 30 mph while in the town; and as we left the town, there was another sign that said, “Resume Normal Speed.” There were no speed limits between towns and you could make real good time in those muscle cars, traveling well over 100 miles per hour.

President Richard Nixon “nixed” another unique driving experience with his 55 mph speed limit law that was meant to save gasoline when the petroleum industry created their oil crisis to justify the sharp increase in the price of gasoline. The theory was that cars would get better gas mileage at 55 mph than at 65 mph. Nixon required states to enforce the 55 mph speed limit or face losing federal highway funds. Previously, many remote highways in states such as Nevada and Montana had no speed limits. Montana actually gave “Nixon tickets” for “wasting energy” rather than for speeding. Most drivers were irate over the law, but the trucking industry was hit hardest since revenue was paid by the mile, and miles per day were reduced. However, the radar detector business boomed.

Main Street is no longer what it was either. The beautiful view from the top of the hill at the west side of the State Capitol was lost when the LDS Church took over Main Street between North and South Temple for a garden. The garden is attractive, but it is the ugly gaping hole that is the entrance to an underground parking facility that now dominates the view of Main Street from the North and has destroyed any aesthetics that once were or might have been, even with the garden that was once Main Street.

Beyond the garden, Trax has taken over Main Street. I once had a company with offices on the third floor of an office building overlooking Main Street between 1st and 2nd South. We watched the Days of ’47 Parade every 24th of July from the windows of our office as it passed down Main Street as it had done for over 100 years, but the Trax tracks caused the parade to move to other routes.

Shopping has moved from Main Street to the suburban malls or the Internet. The LDS Church has made an effort to rebuild a shopping experience on Main Street with the City Creek Center, but that has affected only one block of Main Street. The other two of the three blocks that once made up the hub of activity are all but deserted.

Friday nights on State Street are now no different from any other night. People are just driving from one place to another. State Street is no longer an event in itself. When dragging State Street was banned, young people began to gather instead in friend’s homes, parking lots, bars, or dance halls such as The Boot in downtown Salt Lake.

Many things give way to progress, and I guess you have to say that this is progress. It is certainly faster to travel across the country on Interstate Freeways, but we never get to see the small towns that we had to slow down for about every 20 miles or so. In the days of horse and buggies, one could only travel about 20 miles a day, and towns were built to provide a place for travelers to sleep for the night. Those towns (if they still exist) don’t have the travelers to help maintain their economy anymore.

Some vehicles still function as virility advertisements, but the justification for these vehicles has been taken off our streets to rugged trails in the form of “off road vehicles.” If you ever find yourself in Moab, Utah on Easter weekend, you will see a nauseating display of oversized wheels, roll bars, and the drop steps needed to climb into the doors on raised vehicles that have little resemblance to what they looked like when they came from the factory.   It is my opinion that anyone with an IQ over 75 would feel out of place in such company.

Do I miss muscle cars and dragging State Street, or do I just miss being 16 again? My daughter has never heard of Gravity Hill, and there is something nostalgically sad about that. I love my new Chrylser with all its electronic features. I have thousands of songs stored in a sound system that was unheard of when I was a teenager. The big V8 engine gets almost as many miles per gallon as my old Volkswagen Bug, and there are no loud pipes or racing slick tires that say, “I am a tough guy,” and if it did, no one would be impressed anyway.

Remembering the Old Neighborhood

 

Memories from the Neighborhood

I did not want to experience my old East Millcreek neighborhood from memory so my wife Janeen and I drove to our old neighborhoods. Growing up LDS, we thought of the “neighborhood” as the LDS Wards we lived in. Although Janeen and I did not know each other then, we grew up less than two miles from each other, but since we were in different wards, we were in different neighborhoods. I delivered news papers for several years and my route coincided with the boundaries of my ward. I had to go to every house on my paper route once a month to collect the monthly subscription fee, so I knew almost all he families.

Large old farmhouses dating back a hundred years anchored newer and smaller homes built when the many of the old farms gave way to the post WWII building boom of the late1940’s and 1950’s. Janeen’s family moved into her home in 1951 and my family moved into mine in 1952. The homes were new, the children were young, income tax was 5%, and the parents were aspiring to the middle class when women were meant to stay home as homemakers raising their children and completing the housework wearing dresses, lipstick, elegantly coiffured hair, and smiles always on their faces.

At that time, a few of the old farms remained, but they were soon replaced by either duplexes or more small homes. Now, as we drove through the neighborhood, we saw that some of those small homes have been replaced by much larger homes built in place of two or three of the smaller post WWII homes. These large homes next to the smaller homes shaped an unmistakable contrast between the 800 – 1000 square foot homes built for the aspiring middle class in during the post WWII boom and the much larger 5000 – 6000 square homes built for today’s aspiring upper middle class who want new large homes, but want to stay close to downtown and are willing to buy two or three smaller homes to tear down, just for property in a respectable, east side neighborhood.

We stopped and parked across the street from the house I grew up in. Two of my friends lived in neighboring homes that backed up to the south side of my home on 33rd South, but their homes had been replaced by an office building. My home was still there and appeared to be in excellent condition.

I got out of the car and boldly walked down the driveway to see if my old swing was still there. Although the landscaping in the large back yard had been redone and our cherry tree cut down, my old swing was still there. It was large swing that was made from 3 pipes; two 12 foot long 6 inch vertical pipes connected at the top by a 4” horizontal pipe. My sister LuRae and I enjoyed that swing before we moved to our new home and my dad wanted to take it with us when we moved.   For stability, the pipes were cemented in the ground somewhere between 4” and 6” deep. He dug up the swing and chained it to the back of a borrowed truck and dragged it, with the cement still attached at the bottoms of the posts, along Highland Drive to 33rd South and then East on 33rd South to 26th East. I recall that roads in those days were not smooth asphalt as they are today, but more like gravel and dirt so I guess he got away with it. My mother said she could hear him dragging the swing while he came up 33rd South. I remembered climbing up those poles and learning to pump while swinging and then bailing out at the highest point to land not he soft grass beneath.

I was six years old when we moved into that home and my grandfather did most of the finished carpentry. He showed me how to install a door knob and I proudly installed all the interior door knobs in our new home. The exterior knobs were a little more complicated and installing them exceeded my technical capabilities. Our family spent that summer getting our new home in order. I rode on the pallet my father dragged to smooth out the dirt prior to planting lawn. I also remember trying to help, while not getting in the way, while my parents painted and hung wallpaper. I remember my mother transplanting some flowers she called “forget me nots” from our old home to our new home as a way of staying connected somehow.

Our first winter in that home, I remember my father, wearing a new green and white plaid flannel shirt my mother made him while he built me a snowman in our front yard. A couple of days later he was not feeling too well and thought he was coming down with something. After a few days he felt even worse, he saw a doctor and they put him in the hospital. It turned out he had polio. 1952 was the worst year for polio when 58,000 cases were reported and 3,145 people died from polio that year. That was just three years before the Salk vaccine came out and since then polio became rare.

The next few months were difficult for us. My mother spent as much time as she could at the hospital, and my father’s prognosis was bleak. I remember her telling us that my father would likely be paralyzed, but he would be able to drive a car if it had automatic transmission, which was a very new concept in cars then. My grandmother, Muzz, lived with us and took care of LuRae and I while my mother was at the hospital.

One interesting thing happened just before Christmas. Mom, LuRae and I were driving up 33rd South between 11th and 12th East when we saw some stuffed animals in the road. We stopped and found that a box of 12 must have fallen off a truck and were in pretty good shape, except for the one we ran over. LuRae and I each kept one and we gave the rest out for presents. That was nice, since Mom had no time left for shopping.

It was a particularly bad winter and my mother drove through snow most of the time to and from the county hospital on 21st South and State where the county offices are now.

Children were not allowed in hospitals then and the only time LuRae and I were able to see our father in his iron lung was on Valentine’s Day the next February. LuRae and I never saw him again. Our father died on the 23rd of that month. LuRae, Muzz and I were sitting eating breakfast when Mom and Bishop Tame, (he had been our Bishop in the Grant ward when my father was his councilor) came through the kitchen door. From the look on my mother’s face, Muzz new that my father had passed away. There was a lot of crying and I figured I should be crying, so I tried to cry a little too. Being only seven years old, I did not feel the full impact of losing a father, but it came to me gradually over the next years and decades. The real tears did not come for a long time and I they still come from time to time.

 

Dick and Beverly Jolley lived across the street from us. Beverly was a beautiful woman who taught piano. I took lessons from her for a year. Dick Jolley got me a job with the florist next to his men’s clothing store when I returned home from my mission. Not long after that, he just disappeared. From his office, it appeared as if he had been kidnapped, but there was no ransom demands, and no body was ever found. It left Beverly in a real mess. She had no income, a lot of debt, and since his death was not confirmed, she could not collect on his life insurance. It was probably a decade later, when a young man who, as a child, had know Dick and was on a mission in Southern California when he recognized Dick while attending an LDS ward. Dick was busted! It turned out, that he had left his business, his wife, his three children, and just ran off with another woman from Bountiful and they started a new life together.

 

After reminiscing about my home, we began to drive through the neighborhood. Our ward was blessed with beautiful young women my age or just a year or two younger and I pointed out their homes as we drove by them. I associated somewhat with these girls in church functions, but I was too shy to date them. A couple of memorable moments stand out. I was on a church picnic in Millcreek Canyon and went for a walk alone with Susan Gallagher. As we were walking, I put my arm around her and felt the transition from her small waist to her hips. It ignited hormones in my body that I would never forget and I would never be the same. I walked her home that night and wanted to kiss her badly, but I did not have the nerve. That missed opportunity is one of my many regrets. At another ward function a bunch of girls and boys were in a car. There were more of us that there were seats and Mary Billiter had to sit on a lap. Instead of sitting on one boy’s lap, she laid across several boys including me. Her bare legs were on my lap and I had no place to put my hands but on those beautiful bare legs. It was wonderful. I was able to feel her legs in a totally acceptable and innocent way and they were some of the best legs ever. That was an experience similar to, but more intense, than the walk with Susan Gallagher.

Those “awakening” feelings were enhanced at school football and basketball games where the cheerleaders would stand with their backs to those of us in the stands and perform their cheers. I grew a particular fondness for the back or women’s knees. In particular, Illana Johnson who did her “Hey Yama Yama” cheer. She had some moves in that cheer that were incredibly sexy. I still think of back of the knees as the sexiest part of a woman’s legs. My entire sexual awakening thing seemed to progress one body part at a time.

 

We drove by Ronny Cottrell’s house who had been a year older than me. It seemed like the boys my age in the ward were of two distinct types: nerds or juvenile delinquents – nothing in between. In the LDS Church, when a boy is 12-13 years old he is a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood which means he can pass the sacrament in Sunday School and Sacrament meeting. The president of our Deacons quorum was Ronny Cottrell. He was of questionable character because his mother worked and his parents were not active in the church. He was not a nerd, but just the opposite – the leather jacket type.   We all liked Ronnie, he was a leader, and the year he was president of our Deacons quorum, the quorum received a trophy for having 100% attendance at sacrament meeting for the entire year. Sometimes, during sacrament meeting, after we passed the sacrament, some of the Deacons would go out in the parking lot and find those cars that had keys in them or were the kind of GM cars where a key was optional and they would drive the cars around the parking lot. I never did that, I only watched once, but Ronnie got into helping himself to cars a bit too much. When Ronnie was 14 he was caught stealing one too many cars and was sent a to reform school in Ogden.   He and some other boys escaped and were found, a short time later, by police officers. While being driven back, one of the boys in the back seat grabbed the drivers head, the car swerved into the oncoming traffic, and all were killed in a head-on collision.

I had seen several people in coffins including my father, but when I saw one of my friends lying in a coffin in a sport coat, it had a affect in me, as if to know that what we did was not just fun and games anymore, but our actions could have serious consequences. Ronny was only 14 years old, but I heard that he did not die a virgin.

 

We drove by Janeen Brady’s house. She and her husband both taught piano lessons, but Janeen was the most talented. Janeen composed musical numbers and wrote plays that the members of the ward would perform.   I was one of her favorite performers and played the lead role in several musicals she wrote. I sang solos, acted, danced, and I had a great time doing it. I even remember the words to a song when wrote that I sang as a solo in a play that she also worte. “I want to marry Mary, she’s the only girl I’ll ever love. I want to Marry Mary, she’s the one that fits me like a glove. And if I live to be a hundred and ten, I know I’ll never find a girl who makes me tumble and then, she leaves the other’s far behind, she’s always on my mind. I want to Marry Mary….” (or something like that) She later formed her own music company called Brite Music which is the company that tore down the two houses to the south of mine and built that office building.

These are just a few of the stories that came to mind as my wife Janeen and I drove through our neighborhood. There are many more stories in my neighborhood and just as many in hers, but she will need to tell those stories herself. Also, each of the storied I have referred to, have much more to them and those memories keep coming out of the past, opening up new worlds that have been all but forgotten. Would I like to go back to those days? Sure I would. Would things be different? Only if I knew what I know now, otherwise, probably not.

 

Random Word Exercise

Random Word Exercise

An exercise for my writing group was to find a random word and write something about what it means or what it means to me.  I thought I would be a hi-tech geek and use a random word generator on the Internet.  There are several, and I picked one that sounded good.  I had never heard of the first word it generated, and I checked Webster’s Dictionary.  I keep a copy of Webster’s Dictionary on my iPad to use when I play online Scrabble.  Webster’s had never heard of the word either, so I tried another word.  I had never heard of the second word, and neither had Webster’s.  By this time, I was feeling angry, the kind of anger that I feel when some egotistical pseudo-intellectual tries to be impressive by using words that few people have ever heard.  I tried a third word and got the same result.  I can’t remember what the words were since I did not write them down, nor did I want to remember them out of spite. The random word generator had generated three words that neither me nor Webster’s had ever heard of.

By this time, I recognized my feelings of anger and wanted to stop the process altogether since I had lost the spirit of the exercise.  I thought of all the jerks that have ever tried to snow me with unrecognizable words, and I wanted to get back at them, and that is where my feelings took me.  I did decide, however, to give it one more try from a different angle.  I got out an old printed dictionary and, with my eyes closed, I opened up the book to a page and put my finger down.  My finger happened to rest on the bottom of the last page of a section, and that part of the page was blank.  Now it was getting funny.  I tried one more time and really missed an opportunity.  My finger fell on the work “poromeric,” which was the next word right after “pornography,” and refers to a kind of plastic that has a high degree of porosity.  That plastic has millions of microscopic pores and is used in making shoes that “breathe.” Too bad; I could have had a lot of fun with “pornography.”  I checked the dictionary on my Mac Book, and “poromeric” was not in there either.  I may have heard of that word if I had majored in Materials Science, but I had not and I had not.  Webster’s Dictionary obviously does not get into materials science either.

So far I have tried four words from two completely different angles, and neither I nor my online dictionary had heard of any of them. There was the word “pornography;” a word that to anyone who goes to church, and has heard all the warnings about that subject, is familiar.  That would not be in keeping with the randomness of the selection since it was just close to, but not the word I had picked, so I did not go there. Plus, going on about pornography could get me where I really don’t want to go—too risky.

I could be one of those jerks and bring out my thesaurus, but verbosity is execrable to me and not indigenous to my domain and epitomizes a virulent shibboleth, and I would need a pejoratively aspirational edition of a thesaurus with words that go far beyond the words in my Pages’ thesaurus. Being a white personality, I would rather use words that my audience is familiar with and not create a hostile relationship with my readers.

When I had calmed down and decided to leave the shoptalk to those in the shop, I tried another less offensive (I kinda like he word pejorative) random word generator. This generator gave five words at once; robbery, pilgrim, bestial, hop, and puppet.

“Robbery” makes me think of my divorce, and I don’t want to go there because when ever I do, I get grumpy and Janeen complains.  “Pilgrim” makes me think of John Wayne. “Bestial” – well I don’t want to go there for the same reason I did not want to go to pornography. “Hop” reminds me of my ex-wife who liked to decorate for almost all holidays with bunnies wearing appropriate costumes. “Puppet” reminds me of what my ex-wife expected me to be. Also, “puppet” reminds me of Mia Love, a less than attractive puppet of the Republican Party and whom I am so tired of seeing on TV and in the newspaper.   I should not get too much into politics—except to say that I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get Mike Lee and Mia Love bobble-head dolls for some of my Republican relatives.

Next week is Thanksgiving, so I guess I will choose the word “pilgrim.”  We have several pilgrims adorning the house for the holiday, including a bunny dressed in a pilgrim outfit that I somehow ended up with from my divorce.

I don’t know why John Wayne called people “pilgrim.”  One of the definitions of “pilgrim”  (yes, it is in the dictionary)  is a traveler or wanderer. In some western movies (in Hollywood, western movies are called oaters because the horses eat a lot of oats), pilgrims are people who have come to town from somewhere else looking for a place to settle down and make a home.  Maybe John Wayne called everyone “pilgrim” in those old westerns because they were always heading for somewhere else, like another saloon.

I wonder why men always gathered in saloons, day and night, in those old western movies.  Most of the action in those movies occurred in saloons where the men were either getting drunk at the bar or playing poker at a table.  What about their families, and did they ever work for a living?  What did their wives think of their men hanging out with those saloon girls with their ample cleavage pushed up.  Speaking of that, could they have pushed those bazooms up so high without duct tape?

I am descended from pilgrims. I have an ancestor, Roger Mowrey, who was one of the founding fathers of Providence, Rhode Island in the 17th century.  I am sure he could be classified as a pilgrim; he may even have hung around in saloons, but who knows.

I may have gone off the intended track here, but maybe not. I could have followed the intended track exactly.  There is not much more I can say about the word “pilgrim” without going into American history, Mecca, or some other such religion-inspired roaming event.  In any case, I need to stop writing so I can go shopping for a turkey, cranberries, yams, potatoes, beans, and of course, pumpkin and pecan pie ingredients.- YUM

Current US Political Scene

 

Our Changing Political Scene
My Ideas
By
Don Halverson

I am going to start with the Utah Senate not recycling.  They do recycle paper, but I know of only one recycling receptacle for plastic bottles and I know of nowhere to put cans for recycling.  The republican legislature takes the position, when asked, that it is cheaper to send it all to the dump.   What about the environment?  They obviously don’t think the environment is worth protecting, even if it costs a small amount of money.

What has happened to our society over the last 40  years?  It started with a gradual and deliberate shift of the wealth of the nation from the middle class to the upper class.  President Reagan did two things that stand out:  One is his “trickle down economics” where the wealth that is moved to the upper class should trickle down to the middle and lower classes, but it never did. The second is when he eliminated the ability to deduct all interest except mortgage interest from income tax.  The upper class does not pay interest on credit cards, but it is a substantial expense for most middle class families.

Since then, we have seen inflation raise the cost of living at a  much higher rate than the salaries of the middle class, and the income of the upper class rise at a much higher rate than the income of the middle class.

As examples:

When I got my first job out college in 1971 with a major utility company, the president of the company made about ten times what I made.  I made about $10,000/year and he made about $100,000/year.  Today, presidents of similar corporations make about one hundred times what a college graduate makes.

I bought a home just after I graduated.  It was a pretty nice home of about 3000 square feet in a new subdivision on the east bench overlooking the valley.  It cost me about two and a half times my salary, and my payment was about one fourth my monthly take home pay.  Today, assuming a college graduate can get a job for about $40,000/year, at those ratios, that graduate could buy a home for $120,000/year.  A house like the one I purchased would now be worth about four times that much.

I purchased a new Mercury Monarch in 1975 for $2500.  In 1981, I paid over $10,000 for a new Plymouth Reliant.  I was doing well and my salary doubled in that time frame, but the price of cars increased by a factor of four.  The wealthy whose income has increase a hundred times can well afford the increase in prices, but the middle class has a hard time with it.

 

The momentum of this shift of wealth has permeated the culture of our lawmakers to the point that they no longer represent us.  Money has become the driving force rather than the interests of the people they represent.  The position that money is everything is what Douglas Wilder, the first African American governor of Virginia, meant when he said, “There is a one word definition of politics in America, and that is money.”

What does that mean?  We elect our representatives to be our voice in our government affairs.  When those representatives stop working for the voters who elected them, their constituents,  and begin working for someone else, we have no representation, and our system of government ceases to operate as it was intended.

Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate member of the U.S. Supreme Court, retired in 2006 and was replaced by Samuel Alito, nominated by President George W. Bush.  Since then, the Supreme Court has shifted more to the right in their decisions.  In a series of decisions from 2010 to 2014, the Supreme Court has eliminated the cap on campaign donations from individuals and has defined corporations and unions as individuals.  Since then, there have been vast amounts of contributions to congressmen in exchange for favors and thus has created the culture of greed and building wealth in our government.  The constituents represented by our elected officials are no longer those who voted them into office, but the donors that build their “campaign fund” treasure chests.  Promises are made to those few wealthy individuals and corporations that contribute the most, and our lawmakers need to make good on those promises by passing laws that favor the interests of those wealthy contributors or they will not get re-elected. The interests of the voters are no longer a consideration.

Political campaigns cost money, and the candidate with the deepest pockets who can purchase the most advertisements, hire the strongest staff, and wield the greatest influence on the media will win the elections, regardless of their character and standards.  Therefore the incumbents have a huge advantage at election time, making it almost impossible for new candidates to get elected. If a fluke happens and a new representative is elected, he/she needs to aggressively raise funds in order to stay in office over any other objective.  They are sucked into the “money” game their first term.

The incumbents have a lock on the system, and even though almost everyone I talk to thinks we should clean house and vote all the incumbents out, but the incumbents just keep getting voted back in because their apponents do not have the money to compete.  Voters  could get past the political rhetoric and actually research what their representatives are doing, but there are a few who will take the time to do that. The majority of voters just vote for the familiar names, and propagate the system.

Term limits and caps on contributions would eliminate this impenetrable “good old boy” network, but the “good old boys” won’t pass them.  Why would they cut off the hand that feeds them?  There is too much money to  be made.

This trend is creating an aristocracy-based society where the wealth of the nation is controlled by an elite few.  This is exactly what our founding fathers fought against in the Revolutionary War.  It also makes the right wing republican “Tea Party”  an absurd contradiction since the term “Tea Party” refers to an activity conducted by our founding fathers in protest of this aristocracy mentality.

 

 

 

 

Safari

Photo Safari

Tana attended Waterford, a private school in Sandy, Utah, along with my daughter Julie.  During the summers, Tana and her family lived in Kenya where they managed a wildlife preserve. Tana’s father, Tim Lagage, shared the experience of the vastness and beauty of Africa by arranging deluxe excursions through Kenya.   In 1998 our family was invited on one of these tours.  Our two oldest children, Amy and Jason, could not get away for three weeks, so my wife Nancy and I and our two youngest children, Julie and Michael, signed up for out first visit to Africa.  It was not cheap—$400/day/person, but everything was included once we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya.

We obtained the required shots, travel visas, and passports and we were given instruction as to what to bring and what to wear.  We had to wear tan or green clothes that blended in with the natural African environment since bright colors alarmed the wildlife, adding to the danger.  At least we did not have to wear those safari hats we see on all those African movies.  I used sky miles for the airline tickets with enough miles left over for an upgrade to first class.  I booked the airline tickets myself, and being an amateur, I did not take into account the overnight date change to Paris, and I had us leaving Paris the day before we arrived there.  The Delta ticket agent was understanding and corrected my mistake a few days before our departure.

This was not going to be the only hiccup on the trip, for as we were about to leave home for the airport, we heard on the news that the U.S. Embassy in Kenya had just been bombed.  A terrorist had parked a truck bomb next to the embassy building, killing 224 people, and over 4,000 people suffered nonfatal injuries.  All flights to Kenya were cancelled, but since we were already in the air, we were able to continue on to Kenya through Atlanta and Paris.

We shared the flight from Paris to Nairobi with medical personnel from Europe who would be providing medical care to those who had been injured in the bombing.  The security at the airport in Kenya was heavy. As we got off the plane, we saw armed guards throughout the airport, each adorned with well-used AK47s.  This was not the time for a bomb joke or even make a sudden move. Those carrying the guns looked like the type who would shoot first and never ask questions later.

The plan was to spend three or four days at each of several large estates owned by third or fourth generation British families whose grandparents or great grandparents had operated  the plantations.  Each of these were extremely large and included luxurious accommodations.  All our meals would be provided, and we would be spending our time experiencing Africa in a way that may become impossible in the not too distant future because of the changing political climate. We were not there to hunt—only to look, feel, hear, talk, photograph and, most importantly, become friends of Africa.

Our first night was spent in Nairobi in the manor house of a relatively small estate called Giraffe Manor.  It was a small version of a game preserve where an abundance of giraffe and other non-threatening wildlife roamed the grounds freely.  I remember it peaceful, green from vegetation, and dark from the shade of large trees, with shrubbery large enough to get lost in.  In the morning at breakfast, we were surprised when a giraffe stuck its head through the window to see what food he could gather off our plates.  A giraffe’s head only inches away is huge. And then there is that tongue!   We were in Africa to see animals, and being that close to the giraffe’s head would be remembered as something wonderful that we will never forget, but it was going to take a day or two to get into the spirit of the adventure and appreciate the thrill of having wild animals at the breakfast table.

We spent the rest of the morning seeing and hearing more giraffes and other wildlife. A small zoo on the property held the wildlife that could be threatening.  The estate was serene and beautiful.  The lush vegetation, exotic smells, and peaceful sounds of the birds and other animals left me with dark green image reminding me that I was in a different part of the world.  It was hard to imagine that politics had raised its ugly violent head just a few miles away.

That afternoon we were flown to a clearing somewhere on the plains of Kenya that functioned as an airstrip.  The only sign of civilization was a solitary windsock. We deplaned and were told that someone would be there soon to pick us up. It was a little eerie when the plane took off and left us sitting on our suitcases in the middle of an Africa plain with no signs of human life except for the windsock for as far as we could see in any direction.  It got even more eerie when 20 minutes passed and we were still just sitting there on our suitcases.  What would happen if no one ever came?  Maybe they got the date of our arrival wrong?  What kind of wildlife would prowl around here in the night?  I had a Weatherman multitool, but I was not one of those guys who could build a shopping mall with it.  We finally saw dust far in the distance from a vehicle coming over a small rise, and suddenly, the scenery became more beautiful and the land around us seemed much less threatening.  It was our host in a Land Rover, one of those vehicles with an open roof so people could stand and see the sights without leaving the vehicle.

We were taken to a camp made up of a large home and several small three-sided cabins.  The cabins and furniture were made from logs or lumber found on the estate. Even the bathtubs were cast concrete and formed onsite.  Transporting goods in Kenya is difficult.  The landing strips can only handle small planes, and there is only one paved crossing Kenya.  All other roads were dirt. The going rate for native labor was only $1.50/day, so whatever could be built locally by natives from local resources was built locally by natives from local resources.

That first evening we ate in the dinning hall with our host, hostess, and three other families or couples.  We received our basic orientation and what was planned for the next few days.  Our strongest warnings were to never leave the vehicle and never leave the camp.  Water Buffalo were responsible for more human deaths than any other animal, and there were plenty of them around.  The plan was to ride in one of the open-topped Land Rovers and see as much wildlife as possible.  Each of the animals was referred to in singular.  We did not see “Cheetahs” we saw “Cheetah” regardless of how many were seen.

Our three-sided cabin overlooked a vast expanse of Africa with Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.  The scenery was breathtaking. That evening, we had just gone to bed when we looked up and saw some kind of wild cat sitting on the rafters above our heads.  We made enough noise that it ran off with its curiosity satisfied.  The next morning at breakfast, we described seeing the cat, and instead of being alarmed, our hostess was excited that we had seen that particular kind of cat so close up.  We shrugged it off, but we were a little uneasy with the thoughts of what other forms of wildlife may freely venture into our bedroom and give us dubious opportunity to see them close up.  A Cheetah cub in need of medical attention was in a cage in the camp. It looked like a house pet, but it was still a wild animal and had to be treated as one—no petting.

I liked to run, and after breakfast, I got into trouble for running along the road outside the camp.  I was warned again about the Water Buffalo and leaving the camp, but I was accustomed to running every morning and the scenery was so beautiful, I just could not resist the urge, but I did not go for any more morning runs.

We got into an open-toped Land Rover and drove somewhere on the 50,000 acre estate to see the African animals.  I expected to spot a lone antelope, zebra, wildebeest, or water buffalo, but instead, we found ourselves among herds of each of these animals. I was amazed that a pride of lions was living among all these animals like they were the best of friends.  I asked our guide how this was possible, and he said the game animals can sense when predators were hungry and going to feed, and they would run off. They usually escaped the lions, with the exception of the old and lame animals who cannot run as fast as the rest.  There are no rest homes for the elderly on the African plains. It is all part of the balance of nature.

One evening about 5:00 p.m., we were just about to go in for dinner when we saw a zebra lying next to a large tree with a couple of large gashes in its side.  It appeared to have been killed very recently by a predator.  The next morning after breakfast, we went to see the same zebra.  A lioness and her two cubs were just finishing picking the last remaining meat off the bones of the zebra.  The entire carcass had been consumed over night.  The lions were quick and efficient. The meat was consumed before it had a chance to spoil.

The meat that spoils is the meat left in the claws of the lions.  Lions don’t get pedicures or manicures.  One of our later hosts told of an event when he was out hunting when his friend was attacked and mauled by a lion. Our host was able to shoot and kill the lion, but the lion’s claws have so many bacteria that gangrene will usually set in within an hour.  He pulled apart his bullets and poured the gunpowder into the wounds. By lighting the gunpowder, he cauterizing the wounds which was very painful, but it saved his friend’s life.

After a few days, we were flown to the game preserve where Tana’s family spent their summers.  Our pilot lived there, so we were not left alone in the wilds this time, and we were happy to have a room with four walls, doors, and windows.

This game preserve was large, about 55,000 acres, with abundant and varied wildlife.  The elephants were most interesting.  We had not seen elephants in our last area, but here they were plentiful.  One day we had just started out in the Land Rover when we heard a loud racket somewhere in the distance.  The guide said it was likely elephants mating and we should definitely not miss such a spectacle.  We arrived near the event and found two elephants mating, as we expected.  All the other elephants in the herd were circled around the two mating elephants sitting with their front legs and trunks high in the air singing their loudest elephant songs, which sounded like hundreds of trumpets.  They were cheering the copulating couple on.  This was not a circus, nor was it staged.  It was elephants in their natural surroundings doing what comes natural to elephants. It would be quite a highlight if Barnum and Bailey could recreate such an event, but they would loose their G rating.

That same day we visited a site that was reputed to be the oldest evidence of humans in the world. It was a small pond where you could see stones that had evidently been shaped by early man into tools or weapons.

Our guides were mostly native Africans with some interesting customs. Wearing sandals because scorpions cannot hide in them is one of the native customs we observed. We were shown a leaf that was rough because of small bumps on the surface that was used for sand paper.   One day I cut my leg on a small branch, and our guide found another kind of leaf and rubbed it on my cut.  I did not think anything about it until the next morning when I noticed that I could not see any sign of the cut.  The cut was gone with no scab or scar.  I asked why they did not market such a wonderful medicine to the world and was told that it is because if you ate the plant, it would kill you.  I am sure that such a plant would never get past the FDA.

We saw a hippopotamus swimming in a large muddy river.  We could not get too close to the river in case a crocodile got too curious. The hippos did not seem to mind the mud; they were having a ball playing with each other.  Julie and Michael were able to feed a bottle to a baby rhino that had been adopted by our hosts.  Julie had always loved animals and enjoyed this as one of the highlights of the trip.

Usually we took short trips in the morning, come back for lunch, and then took another trip in the afternoon.  The food was always ample, familiar, tasty, and served elegantly—just like at home.  Once in a while, however we would go on longer trips and could not come back for lunch. On those few occasions, we would stop next to a tall tree where there was some shade, and our hosts would set up lunch. They would first set up a portable toilet within an enclosure, then the table and chairs with linen table cloths and silverware, and then came the food from warming ovens—all from the back of a second Land Rover. Elegance was never sacrificed.

We visited a small native village where people lived in small huts made from what appeared to be mud.  The people in the village were friendly and were obviously accustomed to being visited by tourists.  The young adults were engaged in a dancelike ritual where they stood in circles and jumped to a drum beat.  They were having a great time.   The bare breasted women were dressed in long, colorful wraps with necklaces and other adornments.  The young children were interested in my movie camera, and I let them view some of the movies I took of them.  We were invited into their homes, and in spite of having to crawl to enter, they were amazingly homey.  There were separate cooking and sleeping rooms, and one of the mothers was engaged in sterilizing a water carrier made from an animal skin by directing smoke into the container.  Our guide told us of a native man who had gone to college and law school and was practicing law in Nairobi, but on weekends he would take off his suit, leave his car away from, but not too far from, his family’s village, put on his native wear, and live with his family in their mud hut in one of these villages.

We rode in a sedan to a larger village located on the one paved highway that goes through Kenya. We stopped in front of some shops, and were swarmed by natives wanting to sell us trinkets. Many of the items were made from copper telephone lines.  This was before cell phones, and Kenya had trouble maintaining a communication system because the  wires were stolen to make jewelry and other items to sell to the tourists.  We watched these items being made in little fires on the ground where the copper was melted and formed.

One of the most amazing things is the honesty among the natives.  There would be dozens of men putting things in front of us or through our car windows.  If we saw something we liked, we would hold up the asking price in either Kenya or U.S. currency, and one of the many hands would take the money.  As I watched, regardless of who took the money from our hands, the currency would be given to the rightful seller.  These men were not far from starvation, trying to support families, yet honesty seemed to always win out. I appreciate a society with such integrity no matter how primitive they may appear.

There was a movie, “I Dreamed of Africa” staring Kim Basinger as Kuki Gallmann and Liam Aiken as her son, Emanuele.  Yahoo’s synopsis of the movie plot is: “A beautiful, inquisitive woman, escapes her comfortable yet monotonous life in Italy to start anew in the wilds of Africa with her son Emanuele and her new husband Paolo. …for a completely new life filled with exotic surroundings, unimaginable hardships and unknowable danger…”

This is a true story, and one of our hosts was a boyhood friend of the real Emanuele.  Emanuele liked snakes and kept several as pets, including a king cobra.  One day his pet cobra got loose and went down a hole.  In an effort to get the snake out of the hole, they poured gasoline down the hole and began to dig to get the snake out.  When they found the snake, it was alive but unconscious from the gasoline.  They found a straw, put it down the snake’s throat,  and tried to revive the snake by taking turns blowing on the straw.  The cobra eventually regained consciousness.  Our host said, “Can you believe I was giving artificial respiration to a king cobra?”  Tragically, Emanuele died from a snake bite a few years later.

The only extremely poisonous snake we saw was a puff adder on the road in front of our Land Rover.  We were allowed to look but not leave the vehicle.

The final 50,000 plus acre estate we visited was run by an attractive young couple.   They were extremely friendly and made us feel at home as if we had been friends for years.  We stayed in a cabin with a small pond about 30 feet across just outside our front door.

One evening after returning from a photo trip, we were relaxing next to the pond and were surprised to see a herd of elephants drinking in the pond on the other side.  We did not hear them arrive, but we were not alarmed.  We had become accustomed to animals of all kinds, and our guides and hosts always protected us from danger.  It just added to the serenity of the total African experience.  We were surrounded by wildlife, both within and outside the camps. That same evening, an armed guard came to our door and said we were to keep inside our cabin until he came to accompany us to go to the main building for dinner.   A lion was perched in a tree within the camp, and from his actions, he was obviously hungry and wanting to feed. We could hear him roar.  I thought of the old zebra left behind by his younger companions as an offering to the hungry lions.  I did not want myself or any of my family to end up like that poor zebra, so we obeyed the warning and stayed put until we were escorted to dinner.

These two events, the elephants and the lion, so accurately summarized our African experience.  We experienced the beauty of nature found in the landscape, the mountains, the streams, and the vastness of the plains with its large numbers and variety of wildlife living together in harmony.  We also loved hospitality of our hosts and the native Africans.   However, there were constant dangers.

Throughout our trip to Africa, there was no TV or Internet; we spent our evenings talking about our experiences of the day, what we saw, and what it meant to us.  We heard stories like the stories about the snake and the lions.  Our final host was impressed with the Leatherman multitool I kept on my hip. It included a small socket set, along with the other features common to a Leatherman.  I offered it to him as a gift for his hospitality.

The plane back to Nairobi was not Tim’s private plane, but a larger twin-engine plane from a much more serious airport with paved runways and a building.  We landed in Nairobi and back into reality.  We were picked up at the airport and driven past some really scary slums and the remains of the American Embassy.   We ate lunch in the best restaurant in Nairobi (according to our driver), and I had another reality check when a very attractive African prostitute propositioned me as I was leaving the restroom.  I politely declined and joined my family at our table.  We had several hours before we had to catch our flight to Paris, so we did some souvenir shopping.  The small items we took with us and we mailed the larger items home.

On the way home we allowed ourselves a few days in Paris to tour the Louvre, Versailles, and the Notre Dame Cathedral among other things, but none of those wonders were as impressive as our Africa experience.

The Jamboral

The Jamboral

I had been a scout as a kid, but I had never been a scout leader until I was asked to be a wolf den leader when I was over 60, retired, and had the time.  This was a church job, and I have never turned down a church job, so I jumped right in.  The challenge was that eight-year-old boys have an attention span of about ten minutes, and I needed to keep them busy for an hour.  In an effort to get organized, I researched possible indoor and outdoor activities and possible field trips, and I developed a spreadsheet showing each week’s planned activities with the materials needed.  I arranged off-site visits to a fire station and the library and arranged for mountain hikes and swimming parties in our pool.  Carpentry and other craft activities were great for winter indoor activities. One week I arranged for a good friend, Val Paulsen, a building contractor, to help the boys build tool boxes from pre-cut and pre-drilled stock. The boys loved that activity, although they needed a lot of guidance.

I learned to loved those boys and looked forward to each week’s meeting.  The boys loved the activities, and I believe were fond of me, as well.  They enjoyed the swimming parties at our pool.  I invited the boys’ mothers and their other children as well.  I enjoyed sitting and talking with the mothers while the boys swam. For lunch, I employed my well-honed skills at grilling hot dogs, and the mothers brought side dishes.

At least two adults are required at every scouting function, and after a couple of years, my male co-leader was replaced by a woman.  I expressed my concerned about the appearance of my sharing the leadership position with a woman, so I was released, only to be called to the position of Scout Committee Chairman.  The Bishop said I had done too good a job as den leader.

About that time, Val Paulsen, who helped the boys build tool boxes, was asked by the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America to organize a “Jamboral.”  This is an overnight event for the entire Great Salt Lake Council held once every 3-4 years for about 14,000 boys and leaders.  There are mostly outdoor and a few indoor activities for the boys, including obstacle courses, mud races, running races, bridge building, and a midway with space for over a hundred booths.

This Jamboral was to be held at the Deseret Peak Complex just west of Tooele, Utah, in September 2013. This complex has a lighted, state-of-the-art BMX (bicycle motocross) track, offering an opportunity for BMX, which is seldom included at a Jamboral.  Val Paulsen knew I was a former BMX racer, and he asked me to put together a BMX activity as part of the Jamboral.

*    *     *     *

BMX is something I got into when I encouraged my sons to get into it.  My older son Jason raced motorcycles and had suffered a bad break in his arm from an accident during a motocross practice back in the early 1990s.  Since his motorcycle was only about a month old and he was probably out for the season, I suggested he sell it while it was still new and he could get a good price for it.  After his arm healed, I recommended racing bicycles instead of motorcycles.  Bicycles are much lighter when you crash and they land on you and they don’t go nearly as fast as motorcycles.

Several years before when Jason was in high school, he was considering helping a friend mow lawns for a summer job, but I suggested he work where he could learn something more useful such as a bicycle shop.  He took my advice and got a job at a local bicycle shop and eventually put together a very good mountain bike out of spare parts from the shop.

Jason took me up on my suggestion to race bicycles and resurrected an old BMX bike I gave him for Christmas about ten years earlier.  He began racing and his younger brother eventually followed suit.  They both took to BMX eagerly and soon became top racers in their classes.  He, his younger brother Michael, and I began going to BMX races together.  Someone described a BMX event as “five minutes of fun crammed into three days.”  I began to race in the 50 and over age group just to pass the time.  I made a lot of friends locally and several others whom I regularly saw at the national races around the United States.  We attended races from Boston to San Diego, and we always went to the Grand Nationals in Oklahoma every Thanksgiving weekend.  I always looked forward to it.  I also raced in Japan on one occasion.  BMX gave me some quality time with my two sons, Jason and Michael.

BMX is categorized by age and gender, which makes it a family activity, but the women in our family did not have any interest in BMX.  I have two daughters, but my oldest daughter Amy was not available because she was doing a surgical residency in Washington D.C.  What fell through the cracks, however, was spending time with my youngest daughter Julie.  I missed out on spending that kind of time with her, but she had no interest in BMX.   As far as my wife Nancy was concerned, I had not been her significant other since Michael was born.  She had her life and I had mine.  We only went places together when she needed a husband for window dressing.

As one thing led to another and my interest in BMX grew, before I knew it, I was fourth in the nation in my age group, I was sponsoring a BMX racing team, and paying salaries to professional racers.  I eventually purchased a BMX bicycle manufacturing company, Staats Bikes, from Steve Staats, a California aerospace executive. Steve had a son who raced BMX, so he had his aerospace engineers design a BMX bike. They researched the tubing options available and the best design for a BMX bike and came up with a bike that was the number one bike for the American Bicycle Association for several years running.  His daughter was running the business for the most part, and Staats Bikes had been providing our team with bikes when, tragically, his daughter was killed in an automobile accident coming home from a BMX race in Reno.  Steve Staats wanted out of the bicycle business, so at Jason’s urging, I wrote Steve Staats a check for his company, including inventory.  Jason had been working for our computer consulting company, but I don’t think his heart was in it, so I gave him Staats Bikes to do with what he could. He had a business degree from the University of Utah and he loved bikes, so I figured it was a good match.

*    *     *     *

 I had never been to an event like a Jamboral, and I needed a plan.  I went back to spreadsheets to design a series of clinics to teach the fundamentals of BMX to as many boys as possible.  I would need BMX bikes and helmets for each boy. The track had a hydraulic starting gate with eight positions as good as any used in national races, but I needed someone who could operate it.  I was hoping to get help from some bicycle shops that sold BMX bikes.   I figured if we could gather enough equipment for two or three gate drops of eight riders each,  we could keep continuous races going.  We also needed volunteers to help manage the track, give basic instruction to the riders who had never raced BMX before, make announcements, help repair bicycles, and get the track in shape.

We had about 6-8 months’ lead time to put it all together.  The track was lighted, and we planned on racing from 5 pm to 11 pm on Friday and from 8 am to noon on Saturday.

We began having meetings, some at Val’s house for the eight to ten key people and some at the Council’s headquarters near the University of Utah for everyone involved.  We held breakout sessions at the Council meetings for leaders throughout the Great Salt Lake Council who were given responsibilities for each major function.  The attendance for the BMX sessions was depressing.   At most, I had three people show up. I gave them handouts and we discussed what was needed, but the follow-through was dismal.  I had no way of knowing what any of the leaders who had attended the BMX breakout sessions were doing since there was no system established for feedback.  One guy said he would contact the bike shops north of Salt Lake so I would contact the rest.  I created a flier and visited most of the bike shops in Salt Lake City.

I also corresponded with the American Bicycle Association(ABA) which manages the BMX racing in Utah. The ABA wanted to support us, but the event was being held on the same weekend as a national race in California.  One of their local BMX race tracks is Rad Canyon, a Salt Lake County facility at about 5400 West on the Old Bingham Highway.  I knew many racers and track managers at Rad Canyon from my BMX days and tried to get them interested enough to offer support, but due to the race in California, the serious riders would not be available.  I asked to have some fliers posted at the track with information on the event and instructions to contact me if there was any interest, but I got no response.  I spent several evenings at Rad Canyon during practice sessions and races trying to speak with anyone who could authorize a booth or some other kind of representation of Rad Canyon at the Jamboral, but I was ignored.

My best support from bike shops was from Canyon Bicycles in Draper, The Bicycle Collective in Salt Lake City, and Salt Cycles in Sandy.  Canyon Bicycles let me borrow a couple of bikes and made sure they were running in top condition.  Salt Cycles helped me with supplies such as tires, tubes, and other spare parts.  I was able to buy what I needed at their cost or below.  I had a connection with Salt Cycles.   It had been the “Staats Bikes” store that my son Jason operated as part of the Staats Bicycles operation.  Jason sold the store to one of the guys who worked for him when Jason received an offer to be the BMX product manager for GT Bicycles in Connecticut.

Most of the bicycles for the Jamboral came from The Bicycle Collective on Main Street and about 2300 South in Salt Lake.  They solicit donations of old bicycles and hold training sessions on how to service and repair them.  They loaned me about ten bicycles and some helmets, but the bikes all needed a lot of work; that is where the tires, tubes, and other spare parts from Salt Cycles came in handy.  I got more helmets from Lake Town Bicycles in West Jordan.

I visited the Deseret Peak Complex in midsummer and found that the track had not been used at all this season and maybe not for several seasons. The track was covered with weeds and was going to need a lot of work.  The problems with the economy had caused Tooele County to lay off all the Deseret Peaks staff expect for one part-time guy.   The starting gate was in a storage building adjacent to the track, and I was told it was in working order.  Although I had raced BMX, I had never operated the gate nor been involved in setting one up.  I was given the number of the person who had operated it before, but when I called him, he said he was not going to be available.  I just figured I could muddle through with that, too.

We were able to get a tractor to cut the weeds and roughly groom the track, and the Wednesday before the event, a crew of scouts and leaders worked on the track with rakes and shovels and got it in good enough shape for racing.  However, on Friday, the day of the event, it rained heavily in Tooele County.  I went out to the track at 3:00 pm on Friday and found that the rain that morning had left a lake in the middle of the track.  BMX racers can’t go through mud, let alone water.  I had a real problem.  Another scout leader arrived, and we tried to come up with a solution.  There was a lower area off the track that we thought could hold the water that was on the track if we could move the water from the track to that lower area.  I had a 5-gallon bucket in my truck and he had an ice chest.  We began to bail the water.  It did not take long for us old guys to wear ourselves out hauling water, so we rolled over a 50-gallon drum to hold the water.  Another leader came by and found a hose, and he had the idea of syphoning the water from the drum to the lower area. That seemed to work.  Now we could bail the water into the drum without filling it up as the water was being syphoned out.  We had to work in bare feet because our shoes kept getting stuck in the mud. We eventually got the water off the track and were left with just the mud.

Val Paulsen came by to see how we were doing, and as we looked at the track, I told him I did not think we could race on that mud.  Val found a Bobcat, and more importantly, some dry dirt and began to bring the dry dirt to the track.  Val made trip after trip for several hours hauling dry dirt to cover up the mud. As he was hauling the dirt, more volunteers magically began to appear.  It was not long until we had about 20 scouts and leaders with rakes and shovels placing Val’s dirt where it was needed on the track and smoothing it out. I did not know where all these people came from, but I was overjoyed with all the bodies.  We did not make the 5 pm starting time, but by 8 pm, we had a track ready for racing.

While we were working on the track, more people with BMX experience began to show up who could set up the starting gate and assist with managing the riders.  A bike shop from Davis County came, along with a factory racing team they sponsored.  They even had people who knew how to operate the gate.

I had forgotten that while filling out forms earlier in the year, I had requested a sound system, and someone showed up with a sound system. We had music and we could make announcements.  I set up a canopy I had borrowed from Salt Cycles (with the name of my old company on it) to cover the sound equipment.  A few more bikes and helmets showed up, too. I was disappointed, but not surprised, that no one came from Rad Canyon.  They are always trying to recruit riders and missed out on an opportunity to introduce themselves to about 1,000 new riders.

I had designed clinics to teach the boys the basics of BMX riding.  BMX is not just pedaling over mounds of dirt, but using those mounds of dirt to increase speed.  As a rider encounters the front side of the mound, his weight slows him down, but if that rider can jump over the front of the mound and land on the back side, his speed is increased.  As gravity pulls him down, the slope of the mound pushes him forward, increasing his speed. Therefore, jumping is a critical part of BMX and is where all the aerial acrobatics of BMX originate.  I was too old for bicycle back flips when I began BMXing, but I did understand the basic fundamentals of racing, and I practiced my “bunny hops” regularly.  Good BMXers practice sprinting and bunny hopping whenever they get a chance.  Some of the racers on the team I sponsored would go down to Pioneer Park and practice “bunny hopping” over men sleeping on the grass in the park. (Maybe I could speak with the Mayor about a program that would encourage bicycle riding while at the same time discourage public intoxication.)

The problem with the clinics is that I assumed I would have some kind of control, but as the scouts wandered up to the track and saw other scouts wearing helmets and riding BMX bikes around the track, they wanted to get on a bike and give it a try and did not want to wait for instruction.  I am certainly not a strong disciplinarian, and there were scout leaders at the gate giving advice to the boys as they waited for the gate to drop.  With 11,000 boys at the event, the number of boys wanting to ride grew rapidly.  The clinics had no chance.  There were also too many leaders and too much activity for any one man to control.  All we could do was herd the boys toward the track and be sure they had a bike and a helmet.  I organized the transfer of bikes and helmets from the riders crossing the finish line to the riders waiting in line for a bike and a helmet.  The excitement illuminating the faces of the scouts as they crossed the finish line made all the work far more than worthwhile.

The BMX event seemed to be in good hands. It was getting late and I began to think about something to eat and where I was going to sleep.  I had a tent and sleeping bag, but they were still in my truck. It was getting cold, and the good camp sites were taken. Val came to the track to check on how things were going, and he told me where I could get dinner and that there was a room in the main building where I could sleep since I had privileges offered to key personnel.  I had some dinner and returned to close down the track. About midnight, I looked for the sleeping room.  I saw Val’s wife and she told me where it was—behind a bandstand where a band was still playing to a large crowd.  I parked my truck as close as I could to the sleeping room, pumped up my air mattress and carried it, my sleeping bag and a small bag through the crowds into the building. The floor of the room was covered with about 50-60 sleeping bags laid out for other people who had already gone to sleep or were about to go to sleep.  I was able to find enough room in one corner to lay down my air mattress.  The outside temperature got down into the teens that night, and I was really happy to have my little plot of floor in that warm room.  I felt bad for those boys in their tents out in the cold, but not bad enough to keep me awake.  After all, camping out in the cold is the kind of training expected for Boy Scouts.

Taking my dirty clothes off (and were they ever dirty) before I climbed into my sleeping bag was tricky in a room full of women and children, but I managed and slept like a baby after I thanked God for the miraculous turn of events since I had arrived ten hours earlier to see the track under water.

The next morning, I found where I could get some breakfast. It was outside in the cold, but it was a good hot breakfast.  We did not have many riders until the sun came out and the temperature began to rise, but we were going strong by 8:30 am.  A few more bikes and helmets arrived, and we ended up with about 20 bikes and an equal number of helmets for the scouts to use.

At 10:30 am we thought it would be fun to hold some formal races by age group.  A bike shop representative offered some promotional items we could use for prizes for the winners.  Some young women who were hanging around agreed to record the names of the competing riders, and they announced their names as they arrived at the starting gate.  The formal races were a big hit.  The Jamboral was officially over at noon, but due to the long line of riders, we did not end until well after 1:00 pm.

We had no way of knowing exactly how many riders rode the track, so I put my math degree to work. The gate with eight riders was dropping every 30 seconds for about 9 hours in total; that figures out to be 8,640 rider gate drops, but many of the riders rode repeatedly, so I think 2,000 scouts would be a conservative number, and at least half of them had never raced BMX before.  So we were able to introduce BMX racing to approximately 1,000 scouts.  These numbers are wild guesses, but close enough to measure the success of our BMX event.  Amazingly, all the bikes and all but one helmet were returned in good condition.

I did not get a chance to check out the other events at the Jamboral, but I was told afterward that the BMX event was the biggest and most popular activity.  I can’t take much of the credit for our success;  too many people were involved.  I wonder how uneventful it would have been if there had been no rain and if I had known in advance how many people would show up to help.

 

Deseret Peak  BMX Gate
Deseret Peak BMX2013 Jamboral gate1Riders at the Jamboral Gate

 

Deseret Peak BMX track (before rain)
Deseret Peak BMX track
(before rain)

 

 

 

 

On August 3, 2013 I posted the following on Facebook.

My daughter Julie is getting married this afternoon at the Waldorf Astoria in Park City. I asked her via text message if she would have a problem with me attending. She said I could not attend because of “big emotions” of some of the people there. (My ex wife, Nancy, I am sure)

They are so freaked out at the idea of my being there that they asked my bishop to tell me not to attend. They even mentioned hiring special security guards to keep me out. Can you believe it?

The only possible reason I can think of for this infantile behavior is that Nancy is terrified that I may tell my kids the other side of the story behind our divorce which they have never heard.julie wedding w jason

Here is a photo of my son Jason walking my daughter Julie down the aisle.  I should be there instead of Jason.  I wonder how she felt.  What is more important than having her father next to her at this time? What would make a young lady reject her father so?  Ask the one who hired the security guards.

There will be much more to come on this sub ject, but in the mean time I am going to share the short texts I submitted in my Creative Nonfiction class at the U.

Watch for “The Other Side of the Story.”

I welcome your comments.