Mem­o­ries of Thanks­giv­ing and Pearl Har­bor Day

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - News -

Amer­i­cans will cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing Thurs­day, a hol­i­day that has be­come the big­gest in the United States each year be­cause it is a guar­an­teed four-day week­end.

In ad­di­tion to our ob­ser­vances, we in East Kern play host to vis­i­tors from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and else­where who flock here to en­joy off-road­ing, es­pe­cially in Cal­i­for­nia City and other desert venues, con­tribut­ing to our lo­cal econ­omy in Mo­jave and other com­mu­ni­ties along the way.


Thanks­giv­ing has al­ways been a big deal in our fam­ily. When we lived in our na­tion’s capi­tol dur­ing the 1980s and early ’90s, my brother Mike was the fam­ily chef. I guess the only thing I re­ally miss about our Wash­ing­ton years is those din­ners, and Mike, who we lost in 2007.

My sis­ter Su­san Wig­gins has taken over the hol­i­day du­ties in our fam­ily and sev­eral times a year we make the trek to Te­hachapi for a de­li­cious meal and the sparkling and of­ten hi­lar­i­ous con­ver­sa­tions that fol­low din­ner.

In our younger years we would travel to Bak­ers­field on High­way 99 in foggy weather freez­ing un­der blan­kets in our un­warmed car from Madera or Riverdale to cel­e­brate with rel­a­tives.

Around this time each year, like all folks who take the hol­i­day se­ri­ously, I like to think about what I’m thank­ful for.


Over the years I have learned to ig­nore the whin­ers who seem to be­lieve that we live un­der some sort of imag­ined tyranny, ig­nor­ing the free­doms and ben­e­fits we en­joy as Amer­i­cans and the hor­rors in much of the rest of the world. I guess it’s all about per­spec­tive.

This is not some­thing new — I’ve been hear­ing it all my life from folks of all political per­sua­sions.

In my younger years, pres­i­dents Franklin D. Roo­sevelt and Harry Tru­man were of­ten re­viled, which is ironic be­cause both men suc­cess­fully took on their era’s worst despots and Tru­man was a World War I com­bat vet­eran.

I once worked for a politi­cian who con­stantly be­rated Tru­man while ig­nor­ing the fact that he was alive be­cause Mr. Tru­man gave the or­ders to drop the atomic bombs that ended the war as my boss waited on a ship off the Ja­panese coast for an in­va­sion that most his­to­ri­ans be­lieve would have been a blood­bath.

He saved my bosses’ life.

Giv­ing thanks

After the usual thanks for health as good as one can ex­pect at our age, I am thank­ful that we live in a place where our friends and neigh­bors here in East Kern work to­gether for the com­mon good rather than con­stantly bick­er­ing with each other.

Every two months lead­ers from Boron, Cal­i­for­nia City, Mo­jave, Ridge­crest, Rosamond and Te­hachapi, along with folks from the Greater An­te­lope Val­ley Eco­nomic Al­liance and Kern Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion gather to share what we are do­ing in our towns to at­tract and re­tain busi­ness and im­prove the qual­ity of life and what we can do bet­ter.

Friends help­ing friends

What makes all this work is that many of us have friends and in our neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ties. A good ex­am­ple is Te­hachapi city man­ager Greg Gar­rett, who grew up in Mo­jave, where he was an ex­ec­u­tive at Scaled Com­pos­ites, and spent Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­days off-road­ing in Cal­i­for­nia City.

Rosamond’s Com­mu­nity Ser­vice District man­ager Steve Perez served as a deputy sher­iff and as our county su­per­vi­sor, and many of us were at school to­gether, some­times play­ing each other in high school sports.

Events like Plane Crazy Satur­day in Mo­jave, and oth­ers in Boron, Cal­i­for­nia City and Te­hachapi, also bring peo­ple to­gether in our part of the world.

Re­mem­ber­ing Pearl Har­bor

Another im­por­tant hol­i­day, es­pe­cially for peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion, will be ob­served on Dec. 7, the date in 1941 when Ja­panese forces car­ried out a sneak at­tack on the Hawai­ian and Philip­pine Is­lands and east­ern much of the east­ern world.

On that ter­ri­ble Sun­day we were vis­it­ing Dad’s mother Blanche Deaver in Or­ange Cove, the small farm­ing town near Fresno where Dad grew up.

The first thing I did after we ar­rived was to turnon Grandma Deaver’s big Philco ra­dio, which, like the one that still oc­cu­pies a place of honor in our liv­ing room, was an or­nate and im­pres­sive piece of var­nished oak fur­ni­ture, as im­por­tant then as a TV is in homes th­ese days.

Our ra­dio was pre­sented to my ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Henry Mack, a Ger­man im­mi­grant, when he re­tired from the Santa Fe Rail­way in 1942.

I was six years old that fate­ful day. When the big vac­uum-tube ra­dio warmed up, the first thing I heard was the anx­ious voice of a man re­port­ing that “Ja­panese air­planes have bombed the Philip­pines.”

Since my mother’s cousin was a civil­ian ge­ol­o­gist work­ing in those is­lands, I ran into the kitchen where the grown-ups and my younger brother Mike were gath­ered, to an­nounce the news.

As we sat by the ra­dio we soon learned that a place called Pearl Har­bor had also been bombed.

Be­gin­ning of change

That was the be­gin­ning of the war for us, the se­cond world con­fla­gra­tion for the adults, and the be­gin­ning of a life-long fas­ci­na­tion with news and, later, the pro­fes­sion of re­port­ing it, which be­gan a few years later when we moved to Riverdale where I wrote a kids’ col­umn for the weekly Riverdale Free Press. By the way, my mother’s cousin, Wal­ter Clay­ton, was mur­dered by the Ja­panese dur­ing the in­fa­mous Bataan Death March as the Ja­panese oc­cu­pied the Philip­pines. I still re­call the evening his mother, my grand­mother’s sis­ter, re­ceived the tele­gram with the sad news. In an ironic book­end to the be­gin­ning of the war, we were vis­it­ing my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents, Henry and Addie Clay­ton Mack, in Bak­ers­field when the war ended and the world went wild with joy and re­lief. That re­lief was short­lived. A year later Mike, Mom and I were en­joy­ing lunch with one of Mom’s friends in a Madera cafe. Dis­cussing the just-ended war, the woman looked at Mike and me and sighed, “There’ll be another war when they grow up.” Sadly, she was right. Have a great Thanks­giv­ing.

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