13 August 2011

The end of El Monte

I am told that everyone who was an adult at the time can tell you what they were doing, where they were, when they heard The News.  As is, perhaps, the case in other respects, I am the exception.

Well, partly so, anyway.  I was at work - must have been as it was 10:30 California time Friday the 22nd November.  I do think I recall, vaguely, someone saying this had happened and my not really believing it.

It was not many months before I not only believed it, but felt it.

I am the least political person I know (sometime I must tell the story about Edna's and my, with Harry Frank and ... Roberta? - fleeing Berkeley during the Cuban Missile Crisis), so I am only passing on what I heard.  Lyndon Johnson became president - and de-emphasised space, and re-emphasised social welfare.  This is what I have heard as the explanation for what happened.

What happened in the space industry in Los Angeles is that government contracts - what?  were cancelled?  not renewed?  Can even the government just 'cancel' a contract?  I don't know, but thousands of men - mostly men, I think - were out of jobs.

Some of the horror stories I have heard included suicides - the boss walking into a room full of engineers bent over drawing boards and announcing that they need not come back after lunch - that sort of thing.  Some of these men - like my friend Phil Sollow - were pretty deeply in debt.  After all, everything was booming.  Salaries were rising regularly.  Jobs went begging.  Prices were rising.  Buy now, with borrowed money.  Houses will never be cheaper.

Space-General was very good to me.  I was a very junior employee.  They kept me on until February, 1964.  Then - sorry, John, but we can do nothing else.  Here is a month's salary - I think they only owed me two weeks as severance - as separation money.

In Oroville our telephone number was 1552-J (I think; Peter may correct me on this).  Our telephone didn't have a dial on it.  To call us - or to call any other number in Oroville - you lifted up the telephone (it was, at least, powered from the Exchange; you didn't have to crank a hand-generator to signal the operator).  The operator said "Number, please!"  You gave her (it was always 'her') the number, and I suppose she plugged in your line to someone else's line - or perhaps she dialled a number.  Anyway, you were connected.

In 1963, in El Monte, we had a dial telephone - for local calls.  Toll calls?  Dial '0' and - guess what! - a lady asked "Number, please!"

Edna became a telephone operator - night shift, I think, or 'swing shift' - switching long-distance calls.  She could tell us more about the job, I am sure.

And I started job-hunting.

Early 1964 in Los Angeles in the space industry was not a good place for a very junior techie, with two and a bit years' University education, to be looking for a job.  There were thousands of more-qualified men doing the same.

I do not remember how the suggestion came about that - don't laugh! - I might successfully become a farmer.  I presume I wrote to my father - perhaps even spent what would have seemed extravagant money at the time - on a toll call to him (or maybe I called collect :-)).  Perhaps I suggested it to him, or he to me.  In any case, in May we packed most of our belongings - not, perhaps, a great deal compared to now, but enough to be a significant undertaking - and flew to Honolulu (leaving Judy the Jaguarundi in the good graces of Pan American Airways - and to her doom), transplaned to Hilo, where we were picked up by my family, and taken to the house they rented mauka (away from the sea - as opposed to makai - seaward - the two most important directions in Hawai'i) from Pa'auilo.  There we were to learn the ways of farming in the Big Island.


Marko said...

JJ, I know I've said it millions of times....but you really need to write a book!!! I'd definitely buy it!!! This is awsome writing and I have been reading it every week!!!
Keep it coming.

Happy Birthday Kathleen!!!

John Thayer Jensen said...

I did write a book - two, in fact - and I'll give you free copies of each.

You are interested in Yapese grammar and lexicography, aren't you?


Marko said...

Yea, definitely, I always prefer natural remedies for Insomnia, in place of the sleeping pills.

Marko said...


Edgy said...

I agree with marko, the writing on the entire blog is very good. It's concise and easy to read, descriptive without embelishment, informed but compassionate. For example in the current post:

Some of the horror stories I have heard included suicides - the boss walking into a room full of engineers bent over drawing boards and announcing that they need not come back after lunch - that sort of thing. Some of these men - like my friend Phil Sollow - were pretty deeply in debt. After all, everything was booming. Salaries were rising regularly. Jobs went begging. Prices were rising. Buy now, with borrowed money. Houses will never be cheaper.

I personally think that's better writing then I have found in many novels and articles.

Please write a book dad! I want to read it. This is why I asked you to write about your life on your blog, these posts are a legacy to me, my kids and your whole extended famliy. I know you have more to say, so much more. I would read your book.

much love

John Thayer Jensen said...

Please write a book dad
In my spare time :-)

I am touched by your interest. Supposing it to be the case that I actually (1) had the time, and (2) weren't too embarrassed at the madness of my thinking my life would be of sufficient interest to enough people to be worth a book - there are some slight financial issues. Books are expensive. They need publishers. Publishers are cold-eyed marketing machines who publish books that they think will make money.

There are outfits offering to dump the contents of your blog into a single file. Maybe one day that will happen.

In the meantime, concerning those two books I have already written - how many copies would you like?


sicilianord@aol.com said...

Thanks for birthday wishes Marko (who are you by the way??? :) ). And I love reading about life when I was born from my dad's perspective. After all it's all about me, isn't it??? Just kidding! Love you!

John Thayer Jensen said...

Kathleen, you need to be very, very careful about these people who comment on my blog. Marko, in particular, is, it seems, a nice friendly, guy - but - I'll whisper a secret - two secrets, in fact:

1) He is from Croatia. Now you know what that place is like. AK-47's firing into the air to celebrate great events, like getting a free beer at the pub, and so forth.

2) He lives in - shock, horror! - Palmerston North. All you would need to do to realise how horrifying that is would be to ask my office-mates.


On the other hand, I love him and his wife, so maybe that tells you something about me as well.


Marko said...

Hahaha brilliant!!! Kathleen, I met JJ 6 years ago, my first day at work at University of Auckland, and there is this man, with big beard and a huge grin on his face, and even bigger cross around his neck. My first thought was "Have I met the man before"? He looked like a Serbian Orthodox priest to me (Possibly a Hawaiian version, for he wore a colourfull t-shirt and was bearfoot). I asked myself "Do I know this man?", for it certainly felt like he knew me. Fearless in confessing Christ, and ignorent of any judgement from others because of it, he was real to me. He had nothing to hide, showed his true colours, even though most of it was black and white to him (no pun intended) and I respected that, and still do. He was transperent about the mistakes he made in his life and offerred me a link to his life story even though I just met him. The reason why I love JJ is because I don't know him as this man I read about. I only know him as a warm, kind, wise old man, true to what he believes. I find it facinating reading about who he once used to be and what change God can make in one's life!!! I only wish that when I am as old as he is, I have the same integrity and passion as him, and that I can be as transparent as he is. His only flaw is his stuborness!!! JJ go and write that book!!! Don't make me ask Eddy to demonstrate his martial art moves on you!!!

John Thayer Jensen said...

What Marko wrote here is quite fascinating. I hope I get to meet this guy myself one day!


David Taylor said...

JJ, can I join the chorus of support for your blogging efforts and encourage you to consider writing something a little more complete! You write beautifully.

I too have very fond memories of JJ from the University of Auckland. When I met JJ, I was just a young fella, and JJ seemed, well, just a little older than the average, and very very interesting. I miss being able to pop into his office for a random chat!

John Thayer Jensen said...

Good grief! David Taylor! Shall I tell them what year that was, David? If Moeroa puts in a comment, then I will know they have the Internet in Heaven.

Feel free to drop in any time, David. I can offer you a Moro Bar.


sicilianord@aol.com said...

Wow!!! The whole Serbian Orthodox thing reminds of a couple. My husbands best friend (of 40+ years) and his wife were married a month after we were in 1987. She is Serbian (her maiden name is Mara Komenevich)and had a Serbian Orthodox wedding, complete with crowns. It was quite fascinating. And I have an 18 year old son named Joshua who my mom says is becoming more and more like his grandfather every day. Josh is very dogmatic in his beliefs, as fas as Josh is concerned, most things are black and white, he is very stubborn and writes beautifully. He speaks very fomally, very much UNLIKE his peers. I sometimes have to ask him what certain words mean. My mom says he's just like my father. Truly an example of nature vs. nuture. And as you can see from this entry, I have the Jensen gift of gab. I just can't stop!!!

John Thayer Jensen said...

Kathleen - you mentioned the crowns. When your brother Johnny and his wife Diane were married - Maronite Catholic wedding - they also were crowned. Lovely!


Marko said...

This is awsome!!! Apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so the grandson is more and more like him!!!...speaking of the gift of the gab...has anyone ever tried having a meal with Johny, Eddie and JJ, at the same table? Poor Susan, all she could instruct me and my wife to do was to "Butt in". "Marko, you will never get a word in, you just need to be rude and butt in". The meal was awsome...it was like eating, and being entertained at the same time!!!! There aren't many places that allow you to bring food into theatres....Just invite JJ and his sons over for lunch...awsome!!! Have you guys seen this awsome link:
sign up now!!!! Great work Eddie!!!

sicilianord@aol.com said...

Well, imagine me, Johnny my little brother, and my Uncle Peter. My Aunt Susan and my mother also have to butt in otherwise they can't get a word in. As my mom has put it since I was about 5 years old, "You are exhausting!!!". My poor husband is joining us this time in Chico and my mom has warned him about how tiring it will be but how it might explain a lot of things my husband has probably questioned over the last 24+ years! Poor Russ! He has no clue what he's in for. 3 Jensens in one room is more than enough than the mere "regular" person. :)

sicilianord@aol.com said...

I meant to say than the mere "regular" person can handle!!!

Elton John said...

And it's going to be SWEEETTT!!!!!!!!!!!!! like sweet has never been invented before. I have the tequila at home and you can bring the lemon and salt if you want. We'll have Uncle Peter on the floor faster than you can 1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila, floor. You can join us Marko and Edgy if you want guys. The more the merrier. The neighbours are to old to care. It's just the toilet paper going on the roof that might annoy them. ;)

sicilianord@aol.com said...

I'll bring the salt, lemon and Milagro! That's the best Tequila I've had!!!!