NO HOMER HIPPY

“The politically incorrect definition for a lifer hippy is bum.”

Grainy photo of me standing on a bluff overlooking Anchor Point – 1973

The last time I seriously touched on this subject (Homer hippies) was in the early 1980’s. I wrote an editorial for our local newspaper in Anchorage, asking what did unemployed residents do for a living in Homer, Alaska. The piece went viral if you can call it that. Viral back then was a bad cold.

Media as they often do, took my column and twisted it like red licorice to make it appear that I was insultingly asking,

“What do all residents do for a living in Homer?”

That wasn’t the only time the Anchorage Daily News changed wording to one of my editorials. The editor knew I was a conservative. I suppose it was fun for him to do the word twisting.

He was savvy enough to know they’d get more response by spinning my question to include employed, rather than just unemployed citizens. The jobless in Homer back then spent precious welfare dollars on rolling papers instead of newspapers. They could’ve cared less about my inquiry. These folks had more important things to tend to like their crops.

An acquaintance of mine worked for the State of Alaska – as a welfare fraud investigator. I was able to obtain all the numbers I needed regarding unemployment in Homer, along with data on certain cases. This person knew my lips were sealed and still are.

It wasn’t uncommon when this individual checked on a welfare recipient, to find them gone. Poking around and asking neighbors, the state worker discovered they were on a kayak or hiking trip. Recreational gear of all type was usually sitting outside a welfare recipient’s doors. The smell of pot often greeted them after entering. I’m sure it was due to necessary medicinal use. Uh huh.

I incorporated this data into my investigative newspaper editorial, saying that these folks were basically on a never ending vacation, paid for by working stiffs like me. Evidently with help from our left-slanting newspaper in Anchorage, my unlisted phone number was quickly leaked. Before long, I was getting hate calls from Homer residents having jobs. My letter had nothing to do with them. After listening to rants for several minutes, I told one angry lady to bug off and then hung up. This was not before she’d filled my ear with choice obscenities.

A radio DJ from Homer went on the air saying that Michael Hankins had it in for Homer residents. When he called me asking for a live, on-the-air radio interview I could only laugh. I knew he was simply looking for an audience that he didn’t have. Having infamous me on his show would’ve provided such. I politely declined.

Various folks in Homer immediately became lit. Most likely some had never read my whole article. That quick triggered response holds true today. I see it all the time on Facebook and in political forums. After hearing or reading three or four words of someone’s statement, they’re ready to declare war on the message purveyor.

One fellow wrote a response editorial saying that he’d like to take me fishing. It was a veiled threat. I chuckled at that remark as well. I’m sure I did more fishing back then than this guy ever did. I should’ve been taking him.

I had no problem with working-class-residents of Homer. I did though with the hippy generation moving there, and to other Alaska locales, with no intention of ever seeking jobs. There were two groups of hippies back then. A good majority were in it for the “fad” effect. They dressed the part but also held down jobs or were retired. Lifers, as I like to call them are another story.

Lifers like to use the word “hippy” in describing themselves, believing that civilization is more acceptable to this label. The politically incorrect definition for a lifer hippy is bum.

A lifer hippy never intended to work, and is perfectly happy being unemployed. They have no problem letting you and me pay for their lifestyle. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, lifer hippies were everywhere in Alaska. I’m sure they still exist.

These human locusts claimed they were living off the land, but in reality were existing off the government tit. Songs were popular in the 1970’s praising such. We have a new generation of these people. They’re called entitlement freaks by one of my friends.

I hear someone’s doing a documentary on hippies coming to the Kenai Peninsula during the 60’s and 70’s. It should be interesting and I wish him the best. As long as the guy doesn’t bring to light anything negative he’ll be okay. I’ll definitely want to see the finished project.

In the 1970’s, I had moderate long hair and was erroneously called a hippy. This was generally by my parent’s friends, plus out of state relatives. They were well off the mark! On my numerous camping trips to Homer and Seward, the local hippy crowd thought I was one of them. Never a pot smoker, I didn’t fit in and never wanted to. Life was good being an ordinary, average, kind of guy.

I could go on and on yet believe I’ve made my point. I’m sure some working class Homerite will come out of the woodwork, saying I’m talking negatively about them. It’ll probably be that lady I hung up on. Call me whatever you like mam, but please don’t ask me to go fishing.

My freezer is full!

I took this photo early 1970’s. Homer Spit area.

WHERE WAS HONEY?

“Where were these missing students when photographs were taken? Did the school district send investigators to find out? Does anyone even care?”

Where was Honey?

I’ve been working with vintage school yearbooks the past several weeks on a writing project. One thing I noticed in many was an abundance of NO PHOTO AVAILABLE boxes. Where were these missing students when photographs were taken? Did the school district send investigators to find out? Does anyone even care?

The class photo in this yearbook (see above) is from 1965. It shows Mrs. McWilliams’ eighth grade class at Frenship Junior High School in Wolfforth, Texas. Yes, Frenship is spelled that way. I picked this class at random to use as an example.

Where was Honey Flowers? For purposes of this hypothetical story, we’ll refer to her as Honey Ann Flowers. Keep that in mind. I believe it’s legitimate to assume Honey Ann had valid reason not to be there. Why didn’t the yearbook company tell us her whereabouts? It would’ve been easy for them to write boldly in her block: HONEY ANN FLOWERS WAS SICK.

Of course she could’ve been visiting relatives with her parents in Austin and didn’t make it back in time for photo day. That’s plausible.

Honey Ann might’ve been on a rafting trip in Colorado. Quite simply, the yearbook publisher should’ve printed for all to see: HONEY ANN FLOWERS WAS ON A RAFTING TRIP.

Miss Flowers might have developed a pimple that she couldn’t cover with Clearasil. There’s nothing more upsetting to a young person, especially girls, than having to view a photo of themselves with blemish on nose, cheek, or forehead. Back then photoshop wasn’t available. The yearbook company had no right to disclose that because it’s borderline personal.

Gut feeling tells me that Honey Ann stayed home that day in 1965 to take care of her brother. Loving parents, Todd and Margaret Flowers both had jobs. Mr. Flowers even worked two. Their babysitter called at the last moment saying she had mumps. With Honey Ann maintaining a straight A average, it was no problem for her to miss school. The unfortunate part being it was photo day.

Honey Ann was upset, but knew taking care of little Richard was the right thing to do. She had plenty of photographs in other yearbooks, so missing this one was not the end of the world. She was raised to help out that way.

The block with her missing picture should have read, HONEY ANN FLOWERS WAS BEING RESPONSIBLE ON THIS DAY.

Let’s jump ahead to 2021. We’ll use the same group of kids as an example. You’ll have to imagine them wearing modern glasses and contacts, because to me, that’s all that changed fashion wise. These 1965 students in the yearbook look very similar to kids today.

So where was Honey Lynn Flowers on photo day in 2021? The possibilities are endless with this new age flower.

Honey Lynn might’ve been out protesting some movement. It’s hard to say just which movement as there are multiple choices.

Perhaps she protested the opening of yet another big box store in her town. Many young people don’t like big box stores, but they love to shop there.

Honey Lynn very well could’ve joined a movement. The constant use by late-night comedians of the term, Ugly Red-Headed Step Child, enraged her including others. The degrading statement was considered a hate crime by several people Honey knew. They advocated the creation of a law making it such. A grassroots movement was begun.

She was possibly at a party celebrating the creation of a new freedom statue in City Park. Never mind the fact that she helped tear the old one down.

Honey Lynn might be missing from the photo because her smartphone was obsolete, and she needed to buy a smarter one at Wal-Mart. iPhones take precedence over most everything with the entitlement generation. The government helps pay for a good many.

My gut feeling being: Honey’s Lynn’s dad, Wild Flowers, convinced the sixteen-year-old that school photos are used by the government and police for conspiracy reasons. He advised her not to go on photo day and she obliged.

Of course some will wonder what a 16-year-old is doing in 8th grade? Well, the answer to that is quite complex.

Dad and mom took Honey Lynn out of school so many times for protests, sit-ins, smoke-ins, rallies, marches, and conspiracy theory seminars, that the youngster became comfortable with being educationally challenged. With her folks being career California hippies from Grass Valley, it’s no wonder that Honey Lynn missed school and her grades suffered.

According to historians, Honey Lynn Flowers’ parents were the first hippies in Northern California. Actually they were beatniks. The elder Flowers started wearing tie-dye shirts and colorful beads in 1954.

Each time Honey Lynn flunked school, parents viewed it as cause for celebration. The peace-loving family saw it as a bonus to them and their carefree girl. It meant free lunches for another four years. Free anything was good, especially herbs, grub, and money; in that order.

Sun Flowers went so far as to inform her teenage child that grades are highly overrated, except of course for eggs. Mom and dad both felt the same way about jobs.

Wild Flowers believes heavily in a conspiracy theories revolving around work, so he avoids the stuff like a plague. Wild seems to be THE role model for this new generation!

Wild Flowers with his old lady, Sun. Honey was an unplanned late child.

REESE ELEMENTARY

“For three years this school was a big part of my life. The red and white brick building had to be for others as well.”

I decided to write this mainly out of finding nobody else seems to have composed anything about Reese Elementary School. If they did – I never found it. For three years this school was a big part of my life. The red and white brick building had to be for others as well.

This project will constantly be revised. What information I have took several days to compile. I own yearbooks from 4th and 5th grade, lacking a 6th grade book because we left school early that year. They were supposed to mail it but somehow the photo album never arrived in Alaska.

I’ll go ahead and publish unedited with flaws and typos on WordPress, as it might be several months before I get back to updating. Hopefully someone out there having attended Reese will find it useful.

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My family moved from Selma, Alabama to a small trailer park located on Reese Air Force Base, the spring of 1963. Mom told friends and family back south that we were in Lubbock, but actually Reese A.F.B. was a part of Wolfforth, Texas. Most of that summer was spent getting acquainted with things before school began. I entered fourth grade that fall.

Located just across from our trailer was a section of asphalt used for aircraft. Some nights and early mornings, airplane mechanics would bring the T-33 trainers out to that area to test engines. The on and off roar of jet engines would last for hours. I never got used to it. I’m sure not sleeping some nights because of this noise, along with staying up late at night reading The Hardy Boys mystery series didn’t help in my studies.

One day I came home from school finding a big ragged tear in our trailer’s sheet metal. It was just above my brother and I’s bedroom window. Base personnel came over to inspect. They pulled out a chunk of jet engine compressor. When the engine disintegrated during testing it sent shrapnel everywhere. Our home became a pin cushion for pieces of hot metal.

Mrs. Hagan was my fourth grade teacher. I vaguely remember her as having dark hair with glasses. A photo of her kept this planted in my mind. I have nothing but good memories of this lady. She must’ve been patient working with me because I wasn’t the sharpest tack in class.

During recess I played marbles with a group of similar Marblehead’s. Keepsies was my favorite marble game. I ended up with a large bag, being quite adept at hitting the other kid’s marble. One of our younger players died during a routine tonsil removal. That was the first death I encountered of a friend.

We bailed out of swings and did the usual playground routine including merry-go-round and slide. There was a time I brought some tin foil to school. During recess, I took small pieces and wound it around cotton stalks in a field next to our playground. Later that afternoon when the sun hit it just right, there appeared to be fireflies in the day time. It got the attention of Mrs. Hagan and students. She finally put two and two together, after remembering seeing me out there that morning.

1963 – 1964 school year

1963 was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. I still remember Mrs. Hagan wheeling a portable television into our room. Students from other classes came in to watch. I didn’t know what was happening, but sensed it was serious by the tears from teacher’s faces. After perhaps thirty minutes, arrangements were made for us to go home early. I rode my bike to school so that was no problem.

For three years I rode a bicycle to Reese. It was perhaps a half-mile drive so no biggie. Through rain, snow, sleet, and heat I pedaled. There were some rare occasions when mom was not working that she’d take me. I walked the route many times as well.

Just as you came to the base entrance was a silver B-25 bomber perched on a pedestal. There was a gate located close by that WWII airplane that I used to exit the military installation and reenter. On occasion during base lockdown I’d have to enter by the guard shack. The MP’s never asked to search me. That wouldn’t happen these days.

Because there was no air-conditioning in the school, on hot days I would get sleepy and have a hard time staying awake. Other students incurred the same. Mrs. Hagan had a large fan that she used to try and cool things down. The constant drone of fan motor only made things worse.

Larelia Sadler was in my class. I took a liking to her right away as did George Roberts. There was some jealousy between us boys, but Larelia picked no favorite. She treated us both equally.

In a school Christmas play I was Joseph and Larelia was Mary, so ultimately I came out on top, at least in my mind I did.

Other kids in my class that I’ve always remembered names to are: Michelle Barnes, Larry Grady, Todd Mold, Steven Maybe, Nicki McClure, and Thomas English. Of course I could always refresh my brain bo looking at the yearbooks.

A cotton field mentioned earlier sat next to our playground. I’d walk over some days to see how far the cotton had grown. A crop dusting airplane sprayed it one time when we were in class. We weren’t allowed outside. Students watched him from behind classroom windows. This same plane crashed after school was let out. I was told the pilot was uninjured. The plane was still sitting there the following day.

Mrs. Drake was my fifth grade teacher. I recall her having blond hair. Most of my classmates from the previous year were the same, as we were basically all military brats. There were a few new names and some of our former friends were gone. That’s the way it was being in a military family. Ninety percent of the students at Reese had military parents. In our group photo, I was savvy enough to make sure I stood next to Larelia Sadler. That is special to me because she like other kids, didn’t return for 6th grade. That was the sad part on being a military brat.

Mrs. Drake and my 5th grade class

Mrs. Turner was my sixth grade teacher. I really liked her. If I can ever say I was a teacher’s pet, it was in her class. Because I always got to school early she let me clean the chalk board. Sometimes I had help from another fellow who rode his bike.

Mrs. Turner and my 6th grade class.

At the end of the school year dad was transferred to Alaska. We had to leave nine days before school let out. Mom picked me up early that last day and told me that Mrs. Turner had tears in her eyes. I did too because I was leaving kids that I’d been close to for three years. That’s one of the reasons I decided a military career wasn’t for me.

Mr. Harper was principal of Reese. He’d come into the classroom quite often to see how things were going. Thankfully, I never had to visit him in his office.

I’m in both of these photos. Most likely I’m holding a “Hardy Boys” book in the library.

Where special activities were concerned, I belonged to children’s choir. It’s not that I liked to sing. Larelia Sadler was also in there and prodded me into joining. That push on her part helped get me the role of Joseph in a Christmas play. Larelia was Mary. I have a grainy photo that mom took of us on stage.

Sadly, Reese Elementary is no longer. The building is being used as an adult training center. Something tells me that air-conditioning was one of the first upgrades made.

Two out of three of my teachers have passed away. Mr. Harper the principal is gone as well. It’s logical that many former students have joined them. I’m no spring chicken.

I’ll never forget Reese, my teachers, Mr. Harper, and the majority of students. Something tells me that kids attending public elementary schools these days aren’t experiencing quite the same!

B-25 that formerly sat at the gate to Reese Air Force Base

ALL PHOTOS FROM HERE ON TAKEN FROM MY TWO YEARBOOKS PLUS MISCELLANEOUS NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS

I remember this – November 8, 1965 Lubbock paper
I don’t remember this but I was probably there. That was my Cub Scout Pack. – 1965
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
1963 – 1964 yearbook
I’m in this choir picture – 1963 – 1964 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook
1964 – 1965 yearbook

A GOOD PUPIL?

“The word pupil is hardly used these days unless of course we’re talking about those dark spots in your eyes. Ophthalmologists like to mess with pupils during eye checkups. They dilate them to make sure you can’t see clearly. The procedure is intended to test a patient’s driving skills on the way home.”

Michael Hankins – “Pupil”

I was a “pupil” at one time in my life. Several 1960’s school report cards indicate such. Was I a good pupil? I like to think so.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines pupil as: A young person who is being taught under the supervision of a tutor or teacher, as in school.

I had several outstanding teachers including a couple of imaginary tutors. More on that later.

The word pupil is hardly used these days unless of course we’re talking about those dark spots in your eyes. Ophthalmologists like to mess with pupils during eye checkups. They dilate them to make sure you can’t see clearly. The procedure is intended to test a patient’s driving skills on the way home.

I have all my report cards except 1st grade. Pupil is mentioned on several coffee-stained survivors. I suppose mom and dad inspected them at breakfast, accidentally spilling a few drops of precious Maxwell House while reading.

Gazing at these relics is like cruising back in time. Some of my teacher’s remarks were quite interesting, especially the ones of high praise.

Some of my “pupil” report cards.

Fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hagan wrote:

Michael fails to listen and follow instructions.

Nothing has really changed in that area. What guy does listen and follow instructions? It’s inherent to the species.

Mrs. Drake, my 5th grade teacher was especially observant of my efforts. She wrote the most uplifting critiques of all.

The first 6 weeks:

Mike could do better with a little more effort.

The third 6 weeks:

Mike just doesn’t pay attention.

The fourth 6 weeks:

Mike seems to be improving some.

On the final 6 weeks Mrs. Drake didn’t hold back:

Mike could sure do much better. I just haven’t found the way to get him to put out!

Fifth grade was the year I discovered The Hardy Boys mystery series. I’d stay up into the wee hours of morning reading these intriguing books. Frank and Joe Hardy tutored me on things that I’d never learn at school. Dad and mom didn’t have to pay these guys for private lessons.

A few important tips picked up from Frank and Joe were:

In high school it pays to have a car if you’re going to date.

Hot rods are an acceptable form of transportation.

Hanging with the in crowd is overrated.

It’s okay to be cool and still be friends with squares and introverts.

Adventure comes before homework.

When mom discovered what was going on, she, along with Mrs. Drake thought they’d put a stop to my educational slump by declaring: Lights off at nine. That lasted a good portion of the fourth 6 weeks. Little did they know a small flashlight used the final 6 weeks worked great for reading under covers.

If I ever was a teacher’s pet, it was in Mrs. Turner’s 6th grade class. I believe my quirky sense of humor matched hers. She wasn’t so amused when me and another kid placed Greenie Stick’em Caps on the bottom of desk legs. They popped when a desk chair was sat in, leaving black marks on classroom floor. We were instructed to clean them up under a janitor’s supervision.

In spite of that prank gone awry, Mrs. Turner wrote on back of my last report card for me to visit her that summer. We left for Alaska nine days before school let out. Mom picked me up early that last day. My mother said Mrs. Turner had tears in her eyes. My brother said it was tears of happiness on finally getting rid of me.

Mrs. Turner’s 6th grade class.

I’m not sure where my fictional tutor’s Frank and Joe Hardy are these days? I like to believe they married high-school sweethearts, Callie Shaw and Iola Morton. Author, Franklin W. Dixon never made that clear.

The foursome would now own high-powered metal detectors, poking around golden beaches for treasure chests laden to the gills with gold doubloons and jewels. Of course, their kids and grandchildren would be digging in the sand as well on their own treasure hunting expeditions. Adventure runs thick in Hardy blood.

Age wise, Frank and Joe would be in their mid 90’s. With The Hardy Boys being exercise and health nuts, all of the above is entirely possible where this fictional series is concerned.

I’m so glad they were a part of my life!

Frank and Joe Hardy

LIGHT MY FIRE

“While living in Texas, I learned how to burn ants with a magnifying glass. Just recently, I read an article by a child psychologist, claiming that kids doing such were prone to becoming psychopaths. I’d venture to say that this intellectual wizard never had boys of her own.”

Psychopath?

I can’t say that I dislike all ants. Some of them are fun to watch as long as they aren’t climbing up my leg. I’ve had certain species enter my pants more than once.

The things are amazingly strong. Larger ones can hoist a Cheerio. I’m talking Big O here as in the popular oat cereal. Ants even buddy up and work together to haul food back to their cave. This work ethic should be taught to children in school.

As a child I wanted an ant farm. Some of my friends owned them. Mom was always afraid the plastic ant container would break. What difference did it make when we had them as uninvited guests anyway?

Sugar ants are the first variety I recall. That’s probably not their scientific name, yet it works fine for my reading level. One day there was a line of sugar ants stretched a mile-long across our table to a sugar bowl. It was actually 10-feet, yet to the teeny-legged ants it was definitely a mile.

My brother and I followed the insects down a table leg, across linoleum tile, to a crack in the bathroom floor of our small trailer. The small insects were marching like trained soldiers up a copper water pipe from the ground below. Dad took care of them with a can of DDT bug spray. This stuff came in a green, military issue aerosol can. The Air Force gave it out like candy back then to servicemen, in hopes it’d help keep the mosquito population down. The experiment failed.

As a child, I made the mistake of sitting on grass at our school playground. Unbeknownst to me, the soil underneath was teeming with thousands of Alabama fire ants. All I could do was take off running. Mom used plenty of Calamine Lotion later that afternoon to ease the pain.

Texas red ants were something else. These large creatures were hard to kill. There was a large anthill in front of our home in Lubbock, Texas. My father and another man tossed lit firecrackers onto their lively commune. When fire hit gunpowder, the forthcoming explosion blew ants onto me. I was stupid enough to be standing too close. All the concussion did was make them mad. They took their anger out on soft flesh.

Dad eliminated that colony along with some of his hair, using plenty of gasoline poured on top of the anthill. It was hot that day, and before he struck a match, highly combustible fumes quickly spread several feet. It was like an atomic bomb going off.

This time I was far enough away to not incur injury, but dad and the other fellow got singed. An ensuing fire turned a good majority of the colony into crispy critters. By the following day they were back. It took several more fires to make them move on down the road.

While living in Texas, I learned how to fry ants with a magnifying glass. Just recently, I read an article written by a child psychologist, claiming that kids doing such were prone to becoming psychopaths. I’d venture to say this intellectual wizard never had boys of her own.

Most all of my friends used magnifying glasses for entertainment. We initially started out burning leaves and paper, but quickly advanced to hunting for moving targets. It took skill to keep the pinpoint of light from a magnifying glass trained on a speedy ant. Did any of us turn into psychopaths? I guess that depends on who you ask.

I started to show my son how magnifying glasses worked when he was around 11 years old. A buddy of his had already tutored him. Gunnar demonstrated how to ignite a match with a magnifying glass inside a clear bottle. The snap-on lid blew off from combustion. An elementary teacher taught me that trick around sixth grade. I suppose Mr. Harper would be arrested these days for endangerment.

Black Carpenter ants are abundant in Alaska. They were destructive around our place. A portion of the lower siding around our house had holes made from these pests. They set up shop in the moisture laden plywood. A man at Lowe’s in Anchorage told me the only way to eliminate them is keep wood away from your home. I didn’t say anything at the time, but thought to myself,

“Aren’t houses made mostly of wood?”

I eventually found some granular ant-killer that did them in. The damage to our house? Good ole’ automotive Bondo took care of patching them, along with fixing a few woodpecker holes.

Here in Arizona we have humongous fire ants. These are evidently kin to the Alabama and Texas fire ants, only tougher where outer shell is concerned. I think somehow they got wind that I’m a serial ant killer. I see more and more on our driveway each year.

They’re so resilient, that I’ve stomped a few and the impact didn’t kill them. I’ve missed and had them run towards me as if to attack. They are vicious but I have the ultimate weapon to fight back.

If these guys want to play with fire, I have plenty of it myself. Forget the magnifying glass. I purchased a large weed burner complete with 20-pound bottle of propane. It’s like a WWII flame thrower to me. I’ve used it many times on ants, grasshoppers, and scorpions. Believe me, this thing gets the job done like right now. I named it, “The Antcinerator” for good reason.

It’s unfortunate I didn’t have this tool in Alabama and Texas. It makes dad’s ‘gasoline in the hole’ trick look primitive. Besides, my torch is much safer.

Alaska is another story. Had I ignorantly blasted those pesky Carpenter ants with flame, logic tells me our house would’ve been burnt toast. Even Bondo can’t fix that kind of stupid!

“The Antcinerator”

MUSCLE CAR MADNESS

“One day Richard stopped by to have his car serviced. He had to work that day so “Lewis” asked me to drive him to the Carr’s grocery store on Gambell. I was elated on finding I’d be piloting the GTX.”

Me parked in front of Cheney Lake on Beaver Street.

I was blessed to grow up in Anchorage during the muscle car era. With my dad eventually owning a gas station, I got to drive many of the hottest vehicles Detroit offered. This journey started in 1969. My passion for fast cars began a few years earlier when I discovered Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines.

My father was in the Air Force stationed at Elmendorf. He worked evenings at Marswalk Texaco, located on DeBarr Road and Boniface Parkway. Isaiah Lewis and Doug Sizemore were also employees of this business; Bill Fisher and Joe Ridge included.

One afternoon when I was hanging around the station, Doug Sizemore offered me a ride in his 1963 Ford Falcon. It had a built 260 V-8 under the hood with 4-speed transmission. He banged all four gears while I held on for dear life. I was hooked at that point.

A couple of years later my father and Isaiah Lewis purchased Yeager’s Texaco on Taku Drive. They changed the name to Wonderpark Texaco. I was hired at $2.00 an hour to pump gas, clean floors and windows, plus other assigned duties. It wasn’t long before I was changing oil, lubricating chassis parts, turning wrenches, and of course taking the necessary test drives to make sure all was good.

Richard Watts was a fledgling employee of Carr’s in 1969. He had a ’69 440 powered Plymouth GTX back then, so he must’ve been making decent money. I idolized the young man for his vehicle alone.

One day Richard stopped by to have his car serviced. He had to work that day so “Lewis” asked me drive him to the Carr’s grocery store on Gambell. I was elated on finding I’d be piloting the GTX. It was a moment that’d change my life. I became addicted to Chrysler products because of that one experience.

Richard Watts went on to climb the ladder at Carr’s. A hard worker, he was a positive influence in my life. Ed Moses, a customer of ours, was the same. I don’t recall Ed having a fast car like Richard’s.

A fellow named Tom owned a 1964 Pontiac GTO. It had a 389 with single Rochester carburetor. Tom wanted three, two-barrel carbs installed like some GTO’s came with. Lewis told me it was one of the man’s final wishes as he had a serious health problem.

Lewis made sure that happened. I got to test the car afterwards and found it quite peppy. Only a few years later Lewis told me that Tom passed away. I remember him being a super nice guy.

Tom’s 1964 Pontiac wasn’t as fast as a 1970 455 HO GTO owned by a soldier named Anthony. We called him Bob for whatever reason? I no longer remember his last name although several years back I did.

I test drove Bob’s emerald green Pontiac on a drizzly rainy day. Going about 50 mph on the Glenn Highway, I punched the throttle to see what she’d do. Don’t ask me why female connotations are used for cars, but they were back then. Bob’s GTO immediately went sideways. Luckily I was able to keep her out of the ditch.

Later on I got to try things out on a dry road. To this day I believe it was faster than Richard Watt’s Plymouth GTX. It’d smoke the tires at will.

We had a supercharged Corvair in the shop numerous times. It was unimpressive in the acceleration department. An Army guy brought it up the Al-Can Highway. When the engine tossed a connecting rod, Alaska Towing & Wrecking hauled it away on a wrecker. I’m sure the square Chevy was crushed.

A 1967 SOHC 6-cylinder Pontiac Firebird was fairly quick. It had a 3-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter. I delivered it to a customer who lived downtown near Bootlegger’s Cove. Going through the gears a few times on the way there, before long, burnt clutch permeated my nose. I made sure to roll both windows down and air things out as the owner had to take me back to the station. Thankfully he didn’t notice the pungent odor.

There were Dodge Challenger’s and Barracuda’s in for service on occasion. One 1970 340 Challenger belonged to a young fellow in Mt. View. He must’ve had three pine-tree air fresheners hanging from the rearview mirror. Lewis mentioned with a grin that they were needed to drown out any plant smell. I guess this guy was a big user including dealer. I’m sure it was for medicinal purposes.

I still remember like yesterday, taking that car back to a little trailer on the outskirts of Mt. View. Cisco Kid played the whole way going and coming. Yea, he was a friend of mine too.

We had Mustang’s galore come in for service. I drove a good many of them including a Boss 302. It was quick. The majority were unimpressive 6-cylinder and 289 powered models.

For all the Camaro’s running around town, I can’t recall any of them coming to our shop. I did get to drive several belonging to friends. They were light-weight and snappy with 302, 327, and 350 engines.

A customer living in Muldoon owned a 1967 American Motors Marlin fastback. To this day I believe it’s the ugliest car ever manufactured. The fellow possessing it bragged on how fast his Marlin was. I transported this slug to Action Locksmith on 5th Avenue for new keys to be made. It was absolutely gutless in the power department. I cringed thinking someone from high school might see me in it.

I picked up my own muscle cars and hot rods as money became more readily available. A 1968 Charger R/T 440, 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T convertible, 1954 Chevy sedan with 302, Z-28 Camaro engine, 1972 SS454 Chevelle, Corvette 350 V-8 powered Vega, 1969 and 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner’s (at least 7), 1968 426 Hemi Charger’s (2), 1968 supercharged 426 Hemi GTX, 1975 SS454 El Camino, 1969 SS L78 350 Camaro, 1961 Corvette, 1975 Firebird Formula 400, plus vehicles not worth mentioning like a gold 1970 Camaro Sports Coupe with 6-cylinder engine.

These days I’m still into fast vehicles but not as heavy as my early years. I’ll always keep a Hot Rod in my garage just because I’m a car guy. Right now, that’s a 2021 Charger Redeye. It’ll have to suffice until either a faster vehicle comes along, or I build another.

I’m thinking about a new project. Something tells me this next one will be electric!

Supercharged 426 Hemi GTX now has a new owner.

ARMCHAIR EXPERTS

“Fortunately, I recognized his brain disorder right away and didn’t follow suit. The misinformed guy eventually met his demise doing exactly what he preached.”

Rolling the dice on life

I’ve been on this planet long enough to recognize an armchair expert after only a few minutes of conversation. These are the guys and gals believing they possess intelligence levels equivalent to Albert Einstein; perhaps higher. Know-it-all is a politically-correct term used to describe this less than intelligent bunch.

Where sport’s unintelligence is concerned, armchair quarterback is the buzz word. This group is harmless compared to the other.

An armchair expert told me years ago that wearing a helmet was dangerous while riding a motorcycle. I’ve often heard bikers say that.

“You can’t hear with a helmet on!”, one fool told me. This guy couldn’t hear with his helmet off. He liked to sit up front at rock concerts.

Fortunately, I recognized his brain disorder right away and didn’t follow suit. The misinformed guy eventually met his demise doing exactly what he preached.

“Smoking will never hurt me!”

It’s rare to hear that anymore. Back in the day though, armchair experts mentioned it quite often. Sadly, the big C claimed a good majority of them.

“I don’t wear a seatbelt because they’re so constraining!”

I read a story where an armchair expert claimed their friend would’ve lived had she not been wearing a seatbelt. I’ve read numerous stories where lives were saved by vehicle occupants wearing them.

The latest craze where armchair quarterbacking is concerned revolves around misinformation on Covid 19. I’ve had so many people give me erroneous advice that my head spins. If you don’t have Dr. in front of your name, please, your opinion means little or nothing.

My doctors still advise me to wear a mask when I go out in public. It’s no biggie to me. Been doing it for over a year now. These medical professionals also suggest that I sanitize my hands afterwards. If Rob, the car mechanic, claims that masks are a joke, I’ll look at him just like I do folks saying not to wear helmets while riding a bicycle or motorcycle.

“Fool!”, I’ll think, but not say.

The internet’s full of misleading information on every subject. Conspiracy theories are lying around like trash outside a convenience store.

I’ll make my decisions on Covid 19 prevention based on what qualified professionals say. Most politician’s opinions do not count here. I have about as much faith in their analysis of things as I do Rob, the mechanic’s.

The man upstairs has my full attention. God is the leading expert on this subject. Right now he’s telling me to use my brain, and not rely on flawed advice coming from armchair experts!

A picture says 1000 words

SIMPLICITY

“Late at night things cooled off to the point where you needed a thick quilt to snuggle under. Grandma always made sure my brother and I had two.”

Simple cabin

I’m ready for simplicity. Exactly where to find it is daunting? My Grandma & Grandpa Hankins were successful in living a simple life. They didn’t own a television or phone.

Grandpa & Grandma lived on top of a hill in Vernon, Alabama. A man named Joe Lee rented the drafty old place to them for a song. The wood structure was heated by a stone fireplace. Either wood or coal was burned to produce heat. Most of this went up the chimney.

Late at night things cooled off to the point where you needed a thick quilt to snuggle under. Grandma always made sure my brother and I had two.

There was an outhouse located near thick woods about 50-feet from the door. I’d never use it at night preferring a porcelain bucket instead. I stayed with them many times. Life was good back then!

There was a time when fancy and expensive things owned by other people impressed me. Not so much anymore. From what dad told me, my grandparents were content in not keeping up with the Jones’s. He didn’t use those exact words. Thankfully, I’ve never seen fit to compete with others in financial areas. I would’ve lost before the game began. Far as I know, no first place trophy has ever been handed out.

Mom often told me that money burned holes in my pockets. I didn’t understand her reasoning until my 30’s. My philosophy back then: Money’s meant to be spent! I didn’t understand the principle of saving for a rainy day. I do now having experienced hard times.

Grandma and Grandpa weren’t wealthy. They made do with what Grandpa earned as a painter and wallpaper installer. I remember the trunk of his 1938 Chevrolet having a chalk line inside, brushes, cleaning solvent, along with other painting utensils and knives. I also recall that dull-black Chevy having no brakes. He’d put it in low-gear going down the steep hill to slow things down. Mom would never let me ride with Grandpa during these times for reasons only a mother can explain.

These days my wife and I are on a mission to downsize. That means selling off or giving away junk no longer needed. We’ve both settled on a little town in Kansas called Alta Vista to call home; at least for 6 months out of the year. Arizona will suffice during winter. Both of us hate cold with a passion.

I don’t own a smartphone or a cellphone. Fancy restaurants aren’t appealing to me, other than perhaps for special occasions. Fast-food is fine for date night. I love piddling around in the garage even if it means nothing accomplished. Televisions are only needed when hockey or Supercross is on. A good book is entertainment enough. Time spent with my pets and wife is more than satisfying. Some of the above might not apply to her. I best not ask.

Looking back to where I’ve been, and where I’m at now, perhaps I found simplicity and didn’t even know it!

Simplicity with a 65″ flat screen TV

SENIOR TIME BLUES

“Teachers did not warn us, those ills will not improve!”

Unidentified man singing the senior time blues

Senior Time Blues

I’m pushin’ 70.

Warped mind say’s 25.

Eyes are losin’ vision.

Friends says my brain is fried.

Colon does not work right.

Doc said to eat some prunes.

Even with a mouth full.

I’m stuck in the bathroom.

Tried some citric acid.

To help my food digest.

Now I have an ulcer.

Poor stomach is a mess.

Read where homo’pathic.

The safest way to go.

Loads of beans and cabbage,

Will force my junk to flow.

Methane gas like crazy.

I’m ready to explode.

Please don’t bring a candle,

Around this pink commode.

There are others like me,

Singin’ senior time blues.

Teachers did not warn us,

Those ills will not improve!

JUNK MAIL

“Mom said there’d come a day when I’d appreciate getting mail of any kind.”

Really cool junk mail

Joleen and I get junk mail all the time. I suppose everyone does. For several years I never opened the stuff. I either tore it up while walking in the door, or ran things through a shredder. That practice stopped after I accidentally shredded a $100.00 rebate check. It was in an envelope that looked like junk mail. Thankfully the company issued another.

From that point on, via Joleen’s instruction, I began the arduous task of opening and inspecting every letter and envelope before destroying. There were many envelopes I couldn’t tear in-half by hand. These items generally contained plastic cards or cellophane advertisements. Our commercial grade shredder took care of them.

Mom said there’d come a day when I’d appreciate getting mail of any kind. She went on to explain that older people, especially those living alone, long for anything to be in their mailbox. She said my grandfather reached that stage in his late 60’s. I doubted that’d ever happen to me.

I’ve opened some interesting junk mail. I don’t know how many pennies and nickels I’ve removed from envelopes and placed in my pocket. This clever tactic was used by companies, in an attempt to get people to actually read the advertisements. I took their money and ran, straight to our garbage can.

I find it interesting that some credit people know exactly what we owe. Sometimes the number is openly printed on envelopes so that the postman can see. These strangers have more insight into our debt than we do.

Many of these mortgage or loan companies offer fantastic deals to pay stuff off, at a interest rate only beneficial to them. Those items of junk mail go straight to the shredder without passing go. I take delight in hearing shredder teeth mutilate them to pieces.

Many charity organizations place free address labels in their mailouts, including small pads for jotting down notes. On rare occasion, pens can be found. Joleen once told me that if you used these items without sending a donation, it was wrong. I believe she was trying to lay a guilt trip on me. It didn’t work.

In my desk is a drawer with labels and notebooks. For people donating from the heart, stimulus gifts like these aren’t necessary to prime the pump. I choose those charities getting my money very carefully. They have to meet special criteria.

Just the other day I received a cool plastic Arizona license plate in the mail. It came from one of our local car dealers. The advertisement has my name in large letters printed on front. I’ve never seen anything like it. It must’ve been expensive to make. That thing is really cool!

This replica plate is a reminder for me to bring it, along with our vehicle, to the dealership and see what our car’s worth as a trade in. I find this very savvy marketing. You can even go online and do the same.

We have a 2009 Chevrolet HHR with 107,213 miles. I’m not quite ready to trade at this point, as our little Chevy panel still has many years left. When I do make that decision, I’ll want my plate back. Now framed, this personalized treasure hangs on my office wall.

Each day now I look forward to the mail truck stopping at our box. I know when it’s getting close because you can hear it miles away. The wreck evidently needs a muffler. I think that postal Jeep truly needs to be traded in.

Hopefully this week or next some good junkmail arrives. We’re getting low on those small notebooks, and I could really use a pen with ink. My old one’s about to die. The silver and black instrument is marked: COLONIAL PENN.

It came in an envelope that I shredded before fully reading the enclosed letter. When I asked Joleen what this company represents she told me,

“Colonial Penn sells funeral insurance.”

Well, the Penn family needs to start making arrangements, because I’m about to bury one of their kind in a Glad trash bag.

Looking back at all the junk mail I’ve destroyed, with the cost to print it and mail out, I’m sure the monetary number is substantial. The wasted paper alone undoubtedly amounts to a small forest.

It really wouldn’t break my heart if junk mail went away, taking it’s bothersome brother, Robocall, along with it!

Junk mail