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Lockport, Illinois

b. 1936

Getting there:
Camping with Ken

the Badlands
The Badlands

June, 1959.   I was to start working at Hughes Aircraft on July 1st. Ken Genoni, who was Fred Glaskiís Purdue roommate, had to be in Long Beach about the same time for a Navy cruise. We decided to drive out together in my car and camp in the national parks along the way. We mapped out a trip that would take about three weeks.

It was about June 10th---a week and a half after graduation---when we took off from Kenís home town in central Illinois. After touching bases in Iowa with Dave Weaver, a Chem-E buddy we knew from Purdue, we headed for the Badlands of South Dakota.

We were traveling in my 2-door blue and white Ford and had the basic camping necessities: tent, sleeping bags and cooking gear. After the Badlands our plan was to visit Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Salt Lake, Bryce and Zion national parks, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Sequoia, and San Francisco before winding up in L.A. We had my dadís 16mm movie camera with us, and we sent each roll that we took back to him to be processed. My parents enjoyed viewing our trip as it unfolded.

Ken in Montana
Ken relaxes in Montana after a day of driving.

In the Badlands news reached us that Russ Printy had died. Russ and his wife Chris were in charge of the musiciansí union in and around West Lafayette, Indiana. My first meeting with them was an adversarial situation, but the Printys and I became good friends as issues were resolved. There was a thunderstorm going on outside our tent as I wrote a letter of sympathy to Chris Printy by flashlight.

Ken and I went through Wyoming and the Big Horns and then up to Montana where we stayed at a ranch just north of Yellowstone. The ranch was owned by a relative of Bob Drake of Lockport. After a night at the ranch we went on to Yellowstone. My remembrance of Yellowstone is that it was below freezing outside the tent when we woke up in the morning.

Ken in Montana
Planning the next day's drive to Yellowstone.

Next we camped in the Grand Tetons, and Ken and I went horseback riding. We rode along a wooded path toward the foothills, and soon we were on higher ground. After awhile we began to hear thunder. It became obvious that a storm was headed our way across the mountains, and we decided to turn back. To the horses that meant that we were headed back to the barn, and they took off at full gallop. All we could do was hang on for the ride of our lives.

After that we traveled south through Utah. We swam in Great Salt Lake and hiked in Bryce and Zion national parks.

at Salt Lake
After a swim in Salt Lake
the Grand Canyon
On the way to the bottom

My most vivid memory of the trip is the Grand Canyon. We camped on the rim (the south rim, I think) and decided to walk down to the bottom the next day. It was early afternoon when we reached the bottom and started back up (the hard part). It was hot, the path was dusty, and it was all uphill. By late afternoon, the rim was still way up there. I could only walk about ten steps without having to rest. We did make it out, but I was dehydrated and sick most of the night. Ken was apparently in better shape than I was, because he brought me 7-Ups that I didnít have the strength to get myself.

We next spent a couple days in a Holiday Inn in Las Vegas where we decided that we had seen enough hills and trees. We cut out the swing through northern California and headed for Los Angeles.

We got to L.A. after dark and camped at a spot on the beach where there were a lot of other campers. By daylight we saw that we were in the midst of a Gypsy camp. We didn't waste any time getting out of there and went for breakfast, where I noticed that my eyes were smarting. Welcome to my new world of Los Angeles smog.

my first california abode
759 N. Richman, Fullerton

We spent the day driving around, getting a feel for this land of freeways, traffic, people, beaches, mountains, and desert. We found Fullerton and Hughes Aircraft, Anaheim and Disneyland, and Buena Park and Knotts Berry Farm. In late afternoon we checked into a motel in Buena Park.

The next day we set out to find a place for me to live. We bought a newspaper and Ken noticed an ad for a place at 759 N. Richman in Fullerton. It was a house at the top of a hill that had space for rent on the first floor---a studio apartment that was walled off from the rest of the house. Mr. and Mrs. Black who owned the house were in their thirties, and they had a son, Billie, who was 15. Mrs. Black's brother, Ray, lived with them, and they also had a tenant in an upstairs apartment.

Hughes Ground Systems in Fullerton in 1959
Hughes Ground Systems Group, 1959

I was interested in the place, but Mrs. Black was hesitant. The apartment was meant for one person and she was seeing two. We convinced her that Ken would be leaving in a week, and I had my new home.

The next day I touched bases with the Hughes personnel department. I wasn't scheduled to show up for another week, but they said I could start work right away. I hated to abandon my friend in this strange land, but we both agreed I should do it because of the extra income. A week later I dropped Ken off at the naval facility in Long Beach. He said he would stop back at the end of the cruise, but I never heard from him again.