Taft: Out and About

Hello All: .

Yesterday, I decided that I had not quite had a fill of driving around the
town, and so I went traveling again, after a nice breakfast with Skip.  We
agreed that we would meet at noon where he eats lunch in town, so I went
ahead and started carousing around the community again. 

It occurred to me, especially after Joyce reminded me, that the Valley Acres
home was probably the place that "all of the family" best remembers because
we spent our adolescent years there, and because it was there that the two
families of Skip and Claire melded.  So I got to thinking about that and also
about some of the interesting things associated with a couple of the other
homes, and I also had to fess up to myself that I had not sent you a picture
of the worst house we ever lived in (the worst one still standing that is),
and so I went out and about again. 

Valley Acres home is the first picture today.  We lived there for five years,
before we starting going off to college and such, with 6 teen-agers, one
bathroom for several years.  :-)  Mornings were pretty dynamic, eh Rosalie?  
Each parent brought children to the marriage, Skip, two boys, Richard and
Orv, and mother the four of us (myself, Joseph, Rosalie and Joyce)  Mom and
Skip were committed to making this all work and it did.  We were very, very
happy there, and I found for the first time in a long time, stability, and a
role model in a male, Skip, who did not have to drink, carouse and party to
have a good time. He worked hard, kept us fed and help keep my mother from
going bonkers I think.  She was a high-maintenance woman, emotionally, and he
just hung right in there. 

One brief aside.  Joseph had been diagnosed with "Valley Fever" in the year
before they married, and we learned much later, that he really had
tuberculosis.  But the doctor told my mother that he had Valley Fever because
he knew that mother would not marry Skip and bring such an illness into the new
family.  He believed that mother needed Skip and love and security of a new family, and he was right of course.  She would not have married with a seriously ill child at her side, believing it would be unfair to Skip.    What do the medical ethicists think about that one?  :-)  We all lived happily in the Valley Acres home.

The next picture is of our earlier home on South Street, a place once
owned by our Snyder grandparents, then sold to my parents after my father
returned from the war, in 1945.  We lived in it for about a year or so, then
moved to 404 Van Buren Street which is the third picture.  South Street
it clearly is the most debilitated home by today's viewing, and it was not
much better then...a little better with a cleaner yard and a little more
sturdy frame, but not much better. 

For all the history of Taft until about 3 years ago, the homes in South Taft
were "owned" but the land they sat upon was not; it was rented from a
corporation.  Consequently, people did not maintain or invest in substantial
upgrades of their homes, and it shows.....:-)  ah, yes, ...it shows. 

We remember sleeping in the back yard during the summer under a huge pepper
tree, with our grandmother in a big double bed, and Grandma Snyder would tell
us stories about Hansel and Gretel (pretty scary) and other such fables, and
we would snuggle in safely till we went to sleep.

But I also remember Granpa Snyder chopping off the heads of chickens and
watching them flutter in the barrel bleeding themselves dry.    I never liked
that and could never do it.   Anyway, now that I have your attention, please
note the very steep stairs on the front of the house.  I will have more to say about them later.

From South St. we moved to 404 Van Buren Street. (one of the nicest Taft homes that we lived in apart from the Center Street location).  It was here that mother brought Joyce home after her birth;  it was here that my father first became ill with cancer and lingered until he went to Sawtelle Hospital;  it was here that I raised pigeons which I refused to sell for meat to my grandmother Dugas (she wanted the babies butchered to eat...she liked that kind of meat....ugh).  It was here that my father tried to become a Watkins salesmen (home base is in Minnesota, at Winona, eh, John), and he was not very good at it. 

It was here that Joseph and I would make costumes for ourselves of Batman and
Robin, and then at night when everyone was asleep, we would creep out the
back door (we slept on the back porch of the house), and we would search for
"crime" in the alley behind our house.  Since it was quite dark, it was scary
and exciting.  Since there was no crime, it was safe.  

It was along this same alley, that Joseph took to building little secret
fires because he liked to watch those flames, and mother went pretty
ballistic when she learned about that.  Joseph, that may have been the first
time that we heard the words, "I forbid you...."  Being raised Catholic, to
violate an "I forbid you" command was a mortal sin, so we were told, and we
could never do that.  Even into our teen age years, when mother said, "I
forbid you..."  we knew the game was over.

As you look at this picture of our Crime Alley, notice the lineup of garbage
cans along the right side.    They are evidence of the success of one
of my high school basketball teammates, Bob Hampton.    After a college
career at USC, he coached for awhile and then took up Waste Management.  He
now provides this service for all of Taft, and Buttonwillow........where is .Buttonwillow, many of you will ask?   don't ask. 

Anyway, our house at 404 Van Buren and our house on South Street, were
actually outside the city limits of Taft, being called Ford City and South
Taft respectively.  No garbage collection was provided there because people
liked taking care of it themselves, and Taft had no control over such
services.  However, Bob Hampton noted that the garbage pickup from Taft was
exceedingly large (hmmmmmm, people dumping in his containers?   hmmmmmm), so he lobbied Kern County Supervisors, and they imposed garbage collection on both Ford City and South Taft.  The tonnage fromTaft itself then declined substantially, and Bob's business picked up a lot as he added hundreds of new households to bill.  Thus in these photos, you have visual evidence of my teammate's political skills and his business acumen.  He is a wealthy man today.
The next picture, Trice Harvey Avenue, is testimony to another basketball
teammate, from Tupman (Tupman you ask....don't ask), who played with Bob and
with me in our senior year, during which we won the Conference Championship,
but lost the Valley Championship to the same Edison High Tigers whom we had
defeated in such a thrilling game in Taft two years earlier in 1953. 

Anyway, Trice was/and is just an incredible person, who could sell you on the
idea that he was truly the son of god, and you would go away believing
it.  Maybe that was why he became a Mormon...they do  have certain strong
convictions.  :-)   Naturally, he became a politician, serving as Supervisor from our section of the county and then later as a Republican State Assemblymen for many years. 

He was out in front on the idea of "ostrich meat" introducing legislation to
help subsidize those poor suffering, ostrich meat producers in
California. Eventually, he secured appointment to an agricultural board when
the Republicans were about to lose the governorship, and then, he managed, as
only Trice could, to get a street named after himself here in Taft.  He is
convinced that the quarterback featured in the
Best of Times (that movie was
made by Ron Shelton who was a graduate of Taft High, a year or so behind me I
think) was a quarterback modeled after Trice himself. :-)  I don't think
so, but then, only Ron knows for sure.

What I know is that I took some time to visit one of my early, best childhood friends, Murray Johnson. We started kindegarten together and while he is a better golfer than I, and has travelled a lot a lot more than I,  we found much to talk about in our present stage of the good life. :-)

I was pretty much finished driving about by then, so I met Skip for lunch and
enjoyed visiting with him and a couple of friends, when I heard mentioned
that one of them was Mrs. Smith, Elton's mother.  I introduced myself to her
and said hello.

Elton was a baseball teammate of mine, who went on to become an excellent
colon-rectal surgeon, and who did procedures on President Jimmy Carter, and
also the surgery on Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. I believe that he assisted in the
surgery of President Reagan when they were looking for the bullet holes.   I
asked him once why he continued to practice at Bethesda Naval Hospital (where
all the Presidents and other politicians go) and he said, "that is where all
of the ash-holes are.?.....his specialty .:-)"  He has a wonderful sense of

   Elton, now going by Lee as his first name, recently concluded his term as
President of his national association of "lower abdominal" :-) surgeons.  He
is one of the very best in his field...tremendous skill and reputation.  I
give you a picture of his house, in Ford City, just across the street from
where we lived once for a few months.   As befits a surgeon, his mother's
yard is tidy, as it always was.  (
After I wrote this, Lee underwent double by-pass heart surgery, and is recoving extremely well.  His time in the operating room will diminish by order of his wife, Carol, and his cardiologist.)

So, house in Valley Acres, house on South Street, house on Van Buren Street,
alley on Van Buren Street, Trice Harvey sign, and Elton Smith's house.

Now, on to the Taft Museum.  Skip and I went up there and looked through a
lot of things.  They were having a special exhibit on Gardner Field, which
was a air pilots training station during World War II.  The display was  extremely well done, and the whole museum is quite informative, staffed by people who
were there, "then" and who know people in town and what really happened.
Gardner Field is named after a Taftian, who unfortunately was killed during
the war.  Even more unfortunately, (Chuck?) Gardner, was killed when he
walked into a rotating airplane propeller.  Not all Taftians are as nimble as

I have included some pictures of some of the statements about Gardner Field
and the war impact on Taft.  In the first one, you will notice as you glance
down the time line, and the description of how the war "hit home," that there
is a notation about the "rubber drive". 

I remember that well!  Although I was only 4 years old, my parents stripped my trike, gave the rubber to the "drive," and my wheels were put away "for the duration."  I was very, very disappointed but my parents reassured me that this would help end the war sooner and that I was sacrificing like everyone else.  (hmmmm, in retrospect.....I liked my trike!)

There are a few other photos of statements about Gardner Field, and an
especially interesting one of a poster about "be patriotic, recycle, reuse and
do with what you have."  When you read the account about the War in Britain, you will find similar messages for Londoners during the war.  Both here in Taft and in London the message was the same.   However, in the present "First War of the 21st Century," we are told that to be patriotic, we need to spend, spend, throw away and spend some more.  I guess things do change...:-)
While Joseph and I were walking  about Taft, taking pictures, two young girls came up to us and asked us if we would take their picture.  I was happy to do so, and here they are!.
Leaving Wisconsin

Taft: The Best of Times

Taft: Out and About

Taft: Memorabilia

Fred, Tom and Sylvia

Joseph and the Dugas'

Crossing the Sierras

Joyce's Home

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