I forced myself to keep coming to Church. At first it was a contest to see who blinked first. Toni lost. She stopped coming to Church. Now I could glean all the sympathy.
I began to seek partners outside of my Church circle and went to the YWCA USO dance for diversion. I wasted no time. I walked in and danced with Dixie first, she was the tallest; and then danced with the others. Sometimes I went back to Dixie, she was very nice.
One night I met Gloria Garcia, a very lovely girl who had beautiful, dark, wide set eyes. Since I had a crush on Jane Russell, this was a feature I noticed immediately. In our conversations I discovered that she was Mormon and so invited her to go to Sunday evening meetings with me. Her uncle was the Bishop of the Spanish Speaking Ward. I was young and had no problems with cross cultural relations. She was a very sweet person. We attended Sunday evening meetings together and raised so many eyebrows that even I was concerned. Gloria felt very vulnerable and uneasy and I realized that even the Mormons in El Paso were not ready for that even though some of them were descended from the Mormons in the Mexican Colonies.
And then there was Ernestine Hatch; she was an Anglo from Colonia Juarez, a Mormon colony about 120 miles south of the border. She was older that me but really enjoyed the company of men. Will and I and some of the other servicemen enjoyed her company and partied at her house on many occasions. She was a good dancer and a good listener, very intelligent; and was an anesthesiologist at the big hospital in town. She invited Will and I to go down to her ancestral home in the colonies where we had a very nice time. There we rode real working horses on the ranch in a beautiful natural valley uncluttered by civilization. I saw her on a television documentary made in 1997 about the colonies. It was obvious she had never married. She certainly had close relations with men and everyone loved her, but she stayed true to her faith and was a spinster into her 80s.
I had three weeks of leave time that I was going to lose if I didn’t take it. Will had raved about San Francisco and a singles ward that was really great. He convinced me I should take a break and clear my head.
I was on my way to meet another perfect woman with a written introduction from Will. She was April Aaron, a truly outstanding person. In San Francisco I would meet a cast of characters that would have made a great film. I had a list of numbers and the first one was for a place to stay. It was Wednesday, the night of the Singles MIA at Church. Basically it was a dance. I went to the address Will had given me and said Dick would know me. Dick was not there, but some guy let me in, showed me the refrigerator and suggested a place over there to sleep. Then he had to go out. See you tonight at Mutual he said. I had fallen into a coven of Mormon bike messengers and the leader had a three wheel motorcycle that I would see for the next two weeks screaming through San Francisco on two wheels at the intersections. He did not use a horn because he had a great tenor voice that would echo through the canyons of San Francisco. “Yahoo!” Now that I think about it, he just might have been the inspiration for the name of the Yahoo web site. San Francisco is so like that. Bike messengers are revered, they even made a movie about bike messengers, Quicksilver.
April was not there that night but I would meet her later and prove that Will was right. She was a great dancer and a wonderful person. I danced with everybody and someone offered to show me the city and I accepted. She lived at the ‘Jackson House’ on Jackson Street of course; which was the female equivalent of the bike messenger coven I was living in on Oak Street. In the three weeks I was in San Francisco, I met a lot of people and had a different date every night I was there. Every day, from the first night, I met someone I knew on the streets of San Francisco. This was a big city that seemed more like a village where everyone knows everyone else. I would also be reminded of April for years to come.
The following United Press article appearing all over the country was also reprinted in The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball who became the President and Prophet of the Mormon Church.
“I would think he must be suffering, anybody like that, we ought to feel sorry for him,” said April Aaron of the man who had sent her to a hospital for three weeks, following a brutal San Francisco knife attack. April Aaron is a devout Mormon, 22 years of age….She is a secretary who’s as pretty as her name but her face has just one blemish – her right eye is missing,…April lost it to the wildly slashing knife of a purse snatcher, near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park while en route to an MIA dance last April 18. She also suffered deep slashes on her left arm and right leg during the struggle with her assailant, after she tripped and fell in her efforts to elude him just one block from the Mormon chapel…”
“I ran for a block and a half before he caught me. You can’t run very fast in high heels,” April said with a smile. Slashes on her leg were so severe doctors feared for a time it would need amputation. The sharp edge of the weapon could damage neither April’s vivaciousness, nor her compassion. “…I wish that somebody could do something for him, to help him. He should have some treatment. Who knows what leads a person to do something like this? If they don’t find him, he’s likely to do it again.”
“…April Aaron has won the hearts of the people in San Francisco Bay area with her courage and good spirit in face of tragedy. Her room at St. Francis hospital was banked with flowers throughout her stay and attendants said they couldn’t recall when anyone received more cards and expressions of good wishes.”
I knew that my next big goal was to get myself a Bay Area address. I loved this place.
Back to the time line. Getting out of the service was a real high. I had almost two months pay in my pocket and the proceeds from my Volkswagen bug and some cash that Chuck owed me for the truck and TV test equipment. I had ordered a brand new white, 1960 four-door Chevy Corvair with gas heater and fold down rear seats. I paid cash and picked it up in Detroit on my way to Ilion, NY.
I had been in the Army for almost three years and never traveled more than 100 miles from home on Army orders. I requested that my termination orders were to cover me for my trip to New York. This allowed me to take hops; which was like hitchhiking on government planes. I had tried to get a high altitude certificate; which would have allowed me to ride fighter jets, but my ears would not accommodate. I went out to the airport in El Paso and looked for a plane going east or north. This was going to be a big adventure. My first plane was a passenger DC3 to San Antonio that I shared with some generals. Now I was in the military grid. My next plane was to Indianapolis on a cargo DC3 sitting sideways and seeing the ground through the gap at the bottom of the cargo door. I sat on a parachute and froze my buns. I then went to the closest bus station to get to Detroit. The fun adventure came to an end.
I was a day early getting to Detroit and my car was not ready. They said to hang around and they would find one. I was so thrilled. It was a beautiful little car, rear engine with a flat six cylinder configuration similar to the Volkswagen bug I had been driving. I started towards New York just before rush hour and the car was so smooth and fast. The speedometer had 160 mph as the top speed. I worried about getting a ticket getting out of town but the traffic seemed to move around me. I got to Buffalo and it was dark. I decided to keep going even though it had started to snow. It was late February and there was a lot of snow on the edge of the freeway. I was glad I had the engine over the rear wheels. That seemed like the best configuration for snow. And then it happened. No traction, I was going sideways and turning the wheel did nothing. I was headed for the edge of the freeway and I went over and down, into a drift and I stopped.
My brand new car! The odometer displayed 200 miles. Now I was glad I had a gas heater. I could cut the engine and the gas heater would keep me from freezing to death. Wrong, the engine had to be running for the fuel pressure to run the gas heater. There was no traffic on the freeway now. No cars coming by to find me. I could not get the door open. I was surrounded by snow. After what seemed like forever, I saw yellow flashing lights and the tow truck pulled me out.
When I got to Ilion I had the car checked out. Everything was okay except for the speedometer. It was kilometers, not miles. They got my car out of the Canadian lot.
The UNIVAC school was in a 100-years-old brick building next to the Remington Arms factory that was much older. Guns used in the Civil War had been manufactured there.
New York was quite different from anyplace I had lived before. I could hardly understand the locals. A few miles short of Ilion, I decided to have a bite to eat in a little town called Frankfort. There was no restaurant or drive-in, only a tavern that appeared to serve food. Well, I don’t drink but I suppose I could eat the food in a tavern. There were a few tables and a lunch counter so I sat at the counter. I thought it would be safe to have a hamburger since you cannot mess that up too much. “I’ll have a hamburger, please.”
“You mean a hamburg?”
“No, a hamburger.”
“We don’t have that.”
“Then I’ll have what you just said.”
“Are you sure?”
What she brought me was a breakfast sausage patty between two pieces of Wonder Bread on a white plate. If you picked up the bread too rapidly there might be a ring of sausage stuck to the plate with a ring of grease soaked Wonder Bread underneath. I never found a hamburger on a bun with lettuce and tomato while I was in this part of the country. After school, when I left Ilion, I watched the road until I could identify a place where they had real hamburgers.
During the four months I was in New York, I met two young ladies who occupied my time. I was on the lookout for someone to be a mother to my daughter. One of the young ladies I met at Church in Utica; which was the closest LDS meeting place. Her name was Orpha Merrick. She lived in Jordanville, near Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. She was sweet and a faithful member of the Church but I think her father was not a member. Dating was very deliberate. It was not like dropping in and hanging out. The trip from my town to hers was a winding mountain road and a diagonal run of country road that was really a series of right angle turns following the section lines of rectangular dairy farms. I used to like to drive fast in the turns, something I learned from running sand dunes in the El Paso desert with a Volkswagen bug. It was my adrenaline rush. I spun the car out of a turn once coming home from Jordanville and it slowed me down a bit. We spent a lot of time parked and necking and talking and I could see she was hungry to see the world and leave her isolated existence. Near the end of my stay, a new young man came to Church and in a few minutes I knew they were for each other. I recommended that they get together and they did. A few months later they were married.
I met another local girl in the drugstore where I took my evening meal. She was trolling among the UNIVAC students for a serious relationship. We went dancing at the Wishing Well, a tavern about ten miles away; and she invited me for dinner to meet her folks. I tried my best to be charming but her father was not softening. He learned I was a Mormon, was divorced and had a four-year-old daughter, and wanted to go out west to live. He wasn’t impressed with me. That was okay with her, she just wanted to get out of town and see the world. One night when we were necking on the way back from the Wishing Well, she told me she was a virgin but was willing to give it a try. I was a little flustered. I had successfully avoided having sex with anyone other than my lawfully wedded wife and really didn’t want to compromise myself. But, it was tempting. We thought about it for a while and then went home, making a date for the next evening at my room near the school. I lived in a glassed-in porch on the front of a two story Victorian near the school. The landlady was deaf. It was spring and the days were getting longer and the fireflies were out when she walked up to my house. I was uneasy and she came in quietly. I had only one chair in the room and so we lay on the bed and talked. I forgot what we talked about but the end result is that I decided we should not be intimate and we should call it quits for the betterment of both of us. She cried and left. I had mixed emotions. She was pretty and I liked her, but it was the wrong time. At graduation time, I heard that she was marrying one of my classmates, a coarse New Jersey foul mouth that I didn’t particularly like. I felt bad, she deserved better.
These two girls were the beginning of a string of coincidences. Every girl I dated from this time on would marry the next man she met. In many cases I would introduce them to each other.
This was a time of discovery for me in the way of entertainment. I had the opportunity to see some interesting entertainers in Utica, Syracuse, and Schenectady. I saw Spike Jones and the City Slickers with Doodles Weaver, Louie Armstrong and his big band, Victor Borge, and Andre Segovia.
I was very impressed with Segovia. He was in his late 60s when I saw him in a high school auditorium. The stage was bare except for a wooden chair. He walked out and sat and waited for ten minutes for the audience to stop shuffling and coughing. He did not use a microphone and for the next two hours, nobody coughed. Everyone thought it might be his last performance. He went on to play and record for another 20 years after that. He was truly the greatest.
I was at the top of my class and really understood the new technology of digital computers and the mechanics of tape machines, card readers and punches, and programming. My head was buzzing with new stuff that I couldn’t have gotten in any college. The new UNIVAC had ferractors instead of vacuum tubes and gas thyrotrons to fire the print hammers. The head of the class has his choice of assignments. I chose San Francisco and disappointed some guys who also coveted that area.
I didn’t exactly go to San Francisco but it was close; my supervisor had an office there. I went to Oakland, to install one of our largest computers in the Oakland Kaiser Center overlooking Lake Merritt. I got a studio apartment with a Murphy fold down bed on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley about four blocks from the edge of the UC campus.
On my way to Oakland, I passed through El Paso to get the rest of my belongings. I noted on the way that all the girls were pretty in Indiana, at least those working cafes along the highway. I didn’t have much to pick up to take to California. I had bought a tape recorder and had built some speakers while in Ilion; which got me evicted from my first landlady who didn’t like the smell of paint and sawdust in her basement. My next landlady was deaf and didn’t live in the same part of the house as my room so I could fire up the new speakers.
Dee had grown a lot in the four months I was gone; but I still could not take her to my new assignment. I was going there to find a new mama for her.
The installation went well and there was nothing to do but sit in the parts room waiting for something to break. I decided to try my hand at programming to make some programs that would allow me to adjust the printers and the card punch. There were no diagnostic programs for the hardware and no operating system. The boot program had to be keyed in by hand to read a card in the reader; which was in binary, so that another card in hollerith could read the rest of the program in. On top of that inconvenience, when the computer was turned off you had to wait 30 minutes for the program drum to stop spinning before re-applying the power.
Programming was very difficult. There were no compilers for Cobol or Fortran in 1961. The UNIVAC SS-80 did not have core or Random Access Memory. Each program step was written as a single word on the rotating drum. Each program step also had to have the drum address of the next instruction to be executed. By the time a program step could be completed several words would pass under the heads of the drum so you had to scatter the program around the drum and keep track on a tally sheet which locations had been used. Programming was very tedious and slow and subject to many errors that could crash or severely slow down execution.
But let’s talk about the fun part. I had no intention of marrying anyone who was not a Mormon and I now lived in the hotbed of available candidates. Bay Ward was in San Francisco and University of California Berkeley Student Ward was just across the campus from my apartment. Not all the members of that ward were students; in fact, students were the least desirable dates because of their class load and study habits. Singles from all over the East Bay came looking for mates.
My first candidate was Bonnie Bertagnolli, a very tiny girl who had boundless energy and was a terrific dancer. She had been called as Dance Director at University Ward and had the responsibility of teaching ballroom dance. I knew something about that because my mother had been a dance director and I knew the teaching method. She requested I be her assistant and we danced and romanced. I had never been with anyone so petite before. I remember she had wiry, curly hair that itched my neck when we danced close. One evening, it was time to meet the parents and I dutifully came and had dinner. It was very Italian, but not like in a restaurant. Then, after the dishes were cleared, there was a quiet moment, Bonnie disappeared. And then, ta-dah! There she was, wearing a full size accordion, or maybe the accordion was wearing her. This was too intense. I was a cool jazz man and liked to relax. We cooled it for a while but still worked together as dancers. Anyway, our children would have all been midgets.
I dated several other girls who would challenge my resolve to remain chaste.
One was not a problem to me but raised a great curiosity. She was blind, not completely, but would be soon; and she was training in the Oakland School for the Blind just up the street on Telegraph Avenue. She had diabetes and a degenerative retina condition caused by a blow to the head that would make her completely blind in the next few months. I had a great deal of admiration for her. She would put on blackout goggles to further complete her blindness and would navigate all over town using a stick. She was learning to read and write Braille. She even learned to use power tools in a woodshop. She told me of some of the abuses at the school. Some of the sighted staff members would take advantage of their extra sense to peep on the girls in the showers at the school. They also took advantage of their need for affection. She allowed me to use her goggles and stick to navigate the neighborhood and gave me tips about hearing doorways and obstacles. It was an interesting education; but I am glad I am not blind. I am a little deaf in my old age, but it is more of a burden on people around me. I sometimes enjoy turning off the sound completely.
Then, Janet showed up. I remember the first time I saw her. I think it was Tuesday when we met for Mutual. I was sitting on the right side of the recreation hall where we had opening exercises and I looked over my left shoulder to check out the prospects and there she was: red hair, wide eyes, and a big smile, looking straight at me and not looking away when I stared at her. I ducked my head and a few seconds later took another peek. There she was again! I could no longer concentrate. This was something I could not ignore. When we finished the meeting we made a bee line for each other and just stood looking. She was taller than me even in flats. She had beautiful eyes and she just looked back at me. I might have said something stupid, I don’t remember. I was smitten. She was a nurse working for Kaiser Hospital. She wasn’t afraid to touch me; in fact, her massages were terrific. We were in love and that was good. I made sure she knew what she was getting in to. I showed her the pictures of my daughter, we talked a lot and discussed marriage right up front.
We shopped for a ring, a deep blue Lindy star sapphire in a white gold solitaire mount. It was inexpensive, but unusual. I called my mother and made arrangement for us to fly in and meet the family. Janet was very good with my daughter and I knew this was a good move. We took some pictures with the family, especially Janet with Dee.
Mormons marry in the temple for time and all eternity. Toni and I had only been married by a bishop in a civil ceremony. Janet and I wanted to be married in the temple. The Oakland Temple had recently been dedicated and we started to get our temple recommends from our Bishops. No one can enter the temple if they have some indiscretion they have not repented of.
Janet called and said there was something we had to talk about. I picked her up at her parents home in Pleasant Hill. We drove a few miles away and stopped the car to talk. Her Bishop asked her to put off the wedding for six months in order to complete her repentance for an indiscretion she had with another person at about the time we first met. I was in shock! I wept openly. My emphasis on haste did not take anything like this into account. I loved her anyway and could forgive her, but I could not wait.
I knew she felt really bad and shamed and we were not communicating in a way that would allow us to recover from this. I lost her that night. I wished it had not been that way. She would have been a perfect wife and mother.
I told my mother what had happened and she offered to bring Dee out to visit with us. It was spring and there was a leadership conference at the Tri-Stake Center next to the Oakland Temple. We saw the blind girl taking notes with her Brailler and her new golden retriever guide dog. That weekend there was a picnic for the Ward at Lake Temescal. I introduced Janet to my good friend Steve Kovacitch. They would be married in the next year in the temple, have two children, both serving a mission.
I am a good futurist and noticed that IBM was cleaning up on UNIVAC. They had introduced a new computer with transistor logic and Random Access Memory made of ferrite cores and sequentially executed programs that were character based and about twice the efficiency of UNIVAC. They also had a good program assembler called Autocoder. The computer was the IBM 1401, the printer was the IBM 1403 band printer; which did not need adjustment to keep the characters from bobbing up and down on the print line. This computer model family would totally dominate the computer world for the next 10 years. Some of the Autocoder programs would still be running as emulations 25 years from that time.
I was correct in my perception that UNIVAC did not know what to do to compete. I began looking for a job and found a division of General Dynamics that was involved with a device called a charactron tube. This was like a TV tube but instead of scanning dots it would actually shape the electron beam through a stencil and place complete characters on the face of the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). They had developed a printing system that could print on paper at 6,000 lines per minute using Xerox copier technology or print on microfilm much faster. They also planned to use the tube to mark radar scopes with flight identification text for air traffic controllers. I was hooked on technology and was hired. I had to move to San Diego for training.
The training was excellent and I had ready access to some of the best logic and CRT engineers in the country. San Diego was also a beautiful place to live with three climates: beach, mesa, and desert. I wouldn’t mind staying here for a while.
Of course, I went to Church here and met some lovely ladies. One was a very attractive Danish girl who I dated for a few weeks. I introduced her to my new friend John Huish and that was the last time I dated her. A year later they were married.