Memories of Thanksgiving and Pearl Harbor Day
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.
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.