30 January 2010


There was a number of us in high school who were pretty good friends - I think now of Bob Seward, Lee Gunderson, Brandon Wentworth, Ray Leonard, Lanny Cummins - but within our group two friends seem to me to have been the ones I loved the most. I have talked a bit about David Bennum. The other was Delmer Horn.

On his mother's side, Delmer was - he said - descended from pre-Mexican-American War Spanish stock. He looked it, and his mother, more. He had, I think, two brothers and no sister - Peter can correct me. I am vague on the history of the rest of the family. One of his brothers was killed in VietNam. His mother, who had worked in - well, I think it was the Butte County District Attorney's office, if there is such a thing - together with my mother - died of cancer. I think it was after I left high school but, again, am unclear.

Delmer and I were in a small sense in competition. This was principally because we both played the same instruments - horn and trumpet (or, in my case, horn and cornet). He was also much more cultured (in the old sense of 'cultivated') than I - knew not only how to play music, but also understood far more music theory than I. He was interested in history and other matters that I despised (not for any substantial reason but just as the philistine that I was). I spent much more time with David than with Delmer - but in a way, I was closer to Delmer.

We finished high school. I went to University of California. Delmer went, I believe, to the University of New Mexico. I imagined it had something to do with space research at Alamogordo, and it may have done - but from things he said, the (relative) proximity of Ciudad Juárez - concerning which he told me juicy stories - may have been a factor.

In 1962 I was married, and ... was it in the same year? in 1964 when Edna and I came back to California from Hawai'i? - that Delmer was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Delmer had married. I'm afraid it is all so long ago that I don't remember dates, but Edna and I got to know them a little before his diagnosis.

Even today I have had very little contact with death. It is true that my father died, in October, 2006 - but my sister dealt with it almost completely. He was dead when I was told. I remember that someone and I - David Bennum? - came across a just-happened car accident one night, when I was still in high school, and we saw a man in the car who, by the angle his head bore to his body, I now think was probably dead. But we went to a nearby house, informed someone, and were not further involved.

Delmer was dying. I don't recall the details, but I went to see him when he was in hospital. I was terrified. So, I think, was he. I did not know what to say. Neither did he. Well, perhaps he did. I can't recall. I think he may have said something about being afraid to die. If he did, I would have instantly changed the subject. I knew nothing of death, did not want even to know such a thing existed.

Delmer died. He cannot have been 24 years old. He was 2 days younger than I and when I was 24 I had moved to Hawai'i. I have always wondered if Delmer was, possibly, a Catholic. At least, if he was descended from California Spanish, that would have been statistically likely, although his mother had married someone whose surname - Horn - seemed to indicate another background.

I do not know. But in my regular morning prayer, in the list of the dead for whose souls I pray, Delmer's is first. May God grant him rest and peace; may perpetual light shine on him, indeed!

24 January 2010

High School Confidential

OK, the title has nothing to do with confidentiality, but when I typed 'High School,' the next word just filled itself in. Maybe I should have titled it 'Grease.'

Although I suppose the title might lead one to expect me to talk about ... well, matters that ought to be kept confidential. There were such matters in my life, I am sorry to say - but they will remain confidential.

So I must restrict myself to public - and, conceivably, less interesting - topics. So be it.

Oroville High School was Oroville Union High School when I attended. I was told, by my best friend in high school, David Bennum, that the year before I started - or perhaps longer before than that?? - the high school had been much smaller. He himself was from Pentz - by Google Maps, some 12.5 miles from the high school - and, if I recall correctly, Pentz had at the time a school with two rooms, two teachers, and went from grades 1 through 12. The year (1956) that he and I started high school, Oroville High incorporated a number of such small schools from miles around - hence 'Union.'

Be that as it may, David was one of my earliest, closest friends. We had in common a deep interest in astronomy (he is now a lecturer in physics at the University of Nevada at Reno - and he was a musician (trombone).

I was in awe of David. He was much brighter than I, and accomplished both as an amateur geologist (he and his father used to go hunting for types of stone that they polished into gems), and as an amateur rocketist. His were the only amateur rockets I ever remember that actually worked. David's father and mother were patient and kind with me at a time when I was more a nuisance than anything else. On a number of occasions I more or less invited myself to his house, which I adored - it seemed in a much more remote location than mine - to spend the night. I was never turned down. I don't recall exactly when I first met David, but I suspect it may have been during that first year - September, 1956 - June, 1957. I remember no time at OUHS without David being a part of it. We were both in the concert band and the marching band. We were both in the same science and mathematics classes. We were both in the Honor Society, for good marks. My second year in University he and I and another man roomed together.

I suppose music and science were what bound him, me, and a third person together. That third person was Delmer Horn.

I pray regularly for Delmer. He was two days younger than I - and a trumpet and horn player, much better at either than I. Delmer died - about age 22 or 23, I think - of leukaemia.

14 January 2010

Jet Setters

I can't keep up with Susan (although in the stuff I talk about below I did manage to do just that - but only for four days).

I had planned a restful Christmas holiday (24 December through 4 January), followed by two strenuous days at work (5-6 January), and then another holiday (7-17 January).

Instead, sometime in early December, it was decided that Susan would go to Sydney and Newcastle at Christmas.

Oh, well, ok, that won't be too bad. I won't have papers to deliver, at least. I might get a bit bored, but nothing worse.

Sue did, indeed, leave on 24 December, flying to Sydney, train from there to Newcastle. She came back to Sydney on the 5th of January, and home on Thursday the 7th.

Friday we are off for our annual time with the Van Boxels on the Hokianga Harbour - and the commemorative Mass. I may say we had a wonderful time. David has almost finished his new house - the kitchen was used for the first time only about a week before we arrived. The weather was excellent (unlike Susan's in Sydney and Newcastle, where it rained much of the time she was there). I managed to risk my life in the western surf at Waimamaku Beach - and astonishing place, really. Sue and I came home on the Monday.

And decided today, after three days' discussion, that she will go to America to see Adele, and her sister Candace.

There is much detail behind this, but fundamentally Adele has been in the States since July, 2005 (according to Susan; it seems impossible to me that it has been that long, but Sue is probably right). She is married, has a daughter who will be two years old in February. We have managed to scrape together money (don't ask from where :-)) for the trip.

Sue will leave on Wednesday the 24th of March. She will actually fly into JFK Airport (which I still think of as Idlewild Airport) in New York - cheaper than flying to Newark, though the latter is closer to Adele. She arrives late on the 24th, US date, and will leave on Wednesday the 7th of April - so really 13 full days there - the most we can manage, arriving back home here on Friday the 9th - just in time to go to the Eucharistic Convention - which I presume she will sleep through, just to catch up!

Life in the fast lane! But we so much want her to be able to spend time with Adele, especially, and with Candace. It would be wonderful if I could go as well, but in addition to not being able to afford it, someone has to keep the Franklin County News in circulation (and keep the income flowing that we get from it) - and that someone is me.

My dearest love to you, Adele, and to you Candace.

And to you, Father Horgan! Father Paul Horgan, SJ, very dear to our family, is currently living in New York, awaiting his next assignment. Father Horgan, we hope and pray that you will still be there at Easter of this year. If you are, Susan is definitely coming to see you!

02 January 2010

High school

Well, not really high school; intermediate school. But I was out of the sixth grade, out of primary school, and for the first time went to different teachers for different subjects!

I think it was this latter that really impressed me. In primary school, we sat in one room all day long, with one teacher, who taught us all subjects. I think I knew that in high school, you had different teachers, in different rooms, for different subjects, and that seemed unspeakably glamorous to me.

Actually, the intermediate school I went to was an 8-grade school - at least I presume so. Its name was "Bird Street Elementary School" and I was trying to find a photo of it on the web just now, but have not succeeded. I found:

  • a lot of Maidu Indian pages - referring to Maidu people who had been at school there
  • a school rating page that gave it a rather humbling 5 out of 10
  • a page that appeared to say that it only goes through 4th grade now - don't know where grades 5-8 go in Oroville

For me, Bird Street Elementary was Big Time.

I remember only bits of it, however:

  • Ida Huganey - she was the principal and in 1954 was about a hundred years old, or so it seemed to me. She was, in fact, pretty old, dressed in what memory would call fairly Victorian dress. A nice lady so far as I recall - which basically means that I never had a run-in with her.
  • Mr Wolcott - the band director. My memory makes him fairly young and I really liked him. I played cornet and we had a real marching band - perhaps a sort of concert band as well. The uniforms were a different issue - see below.
  • Mr Jernigan - 7th grade Science teacher. We dissected the standard cow's eyeball. I was mad on science by now, anyway.
  • Mrs Hubbard - 8th grade Science teacher (it is surely significant that I remember only my science and music teachers). Mrs Hubbard was divorced! I recall being fascinated by this. I had never really heard about divorce before.

My memory may be unreliable, and no doubt Peter can correct me. Something vaguely in my head is questioning whether Mrs Hubbard was, indeed, at Bird Street - or was she at Oroville Union High School? Perhaps my brother remembers.

Those marching band uniforms were, I am told, purple. "I am told" because as I have remarked I am colour-blind - one of several sorts known as "red-green blind." The result is that blue and purple are not very different for me.

But apparently turkey cocks are not colour-blind. And the purple of those uniforms was a red flag to our turkeys. I surmise they are roughly the colour of the blood-engorged wattles on turkey cocks, which may be a challenge to fight.

When my mother was to drive us to band performances, dressed in our uniforms, I had to go from the house to the car.

I ran in terror. The turkeys would see me, come gobbling at me, and if I were not fast, hit me with their wings - the 'wrist' part, I think it was. I was often in tears. I didn't think it was very nice of my mother to laugh - but perhaps it was difficult for her to control herself.

September, 1954 until June, 1956 were my two years at Bird Street Elementary. In September, 1956, I was off to Oroville Union High School.

Footnote -

I just found the 1910 census for Oroville. It mentions Ida Huganey, aged 14, living with her French father (the surname Huganey is a spelling of Huguenot, the French Protestants), her Pennsylvania mother, and her sisters Edna and Annette, at 1316 Safford Street, which I had never heard of, but which turns out to be on the levee (river) side of Montgomery Street - not a nice side of town when we lived there.

So if, as seems possible, that was the principal of Bird Street Elementary, then she was not a hundred years old, only 58, when I started - close enough to a hundred for a 12-year-old boy, I suppose.