Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not Bad for Government Work: the Beauty of Moffett's Historic Hangars

Looking up at the arc of Hangar Three from inside the south end looking north.

Several days ago, one of the volunteers I'm working with at the Moffett Historical Society and Museum suggested I go to the other side of the field to see some of the vintage aircraft he and his crew are restoring for display.

Lou Somontes is retired Navy--like a lot of the volunteers--and he has spent thousands of hours restoring some vintage military planes for display in the museum's new Air Wing lot. I don't know much about aircraft, but I'm helping with publicity and was interested to see the work. 

What I got was a rare treat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tribute to Jerry Leiber

When the night has come
And the land is dark,
And the moon is the only light we'll see.
No I won't be afraid, oh I won't be afraid,
Just as long as you stand by me.
                        "Stand by Me" 1961
                        Lyrics and music by Ben. E. King,
                        Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller

Jerry Leiber and his friend and collaborator Mike Stoller were the songwriters who wrote the sound track of the 1950s and 1960s in America.

They were roommates in New York when they were first working together and one day Stoller said to Leiber, "Hey, take out the papers and the trash!" And Leiber, the lyricist, responded with, "Or you don't get no spendin' cash." And with that, the great music classic "Yakity Yak" was born. At least that is the story they tell.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The "Great Moffett Paint Out" is On As Hangar One Sheds Its Skin

The San Francisco Bay Area landmark, old airship Hangar One at the former Naval Air Station Moffett, has a different look these days as the outside panels come off.

The first Great Moffett Paint Out, sponsored by the Moffett Field Historical Association and Museum, is now scheduled for the weekend of September 17-18, 2011, from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day on the grounds of the historic Navy base. We had such an incredible response from local plein air painting clubs--more than fifty artists have responded so far--we decided on a two-day event.

I also thought we would get the most publicity that way: the museum is open Saturdays, so the painters will be introduced to the museum that day.  And Sundays are the highest viewing days of the week for TV news--so if we can get on the news that day it would be great. Thus, I figured,  a two-day event would benefit us all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Learning How To Mend A Broken Heart (Shaped Chair)

One of the chairs Mom left behind. Dad's jumper cables and Mom's Raleigh bike are in the background.  I saved those too!

My sister and I were getting ready for our giant garage sale a year ago, and I saw this gnarly looking chair in the garage--one of dozens of chairs our mother found on trash heaps and junk sales and had "planned to rehab" but never "got around to it."

"Put that horrible thing out in the driveway," I said to my sis. "I'm not going to be recovering that old thing."

She agreed and out it went.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The End of World War II

My father's home on Ie Shima, where he heard the news of the end of the war.  He lived in the pyramidal tent from April through September 1945. It looks primitive: but he did have a radio.

It is sixty six years ago this week that World War II finally came to its end.  I was at an event this past weekend that honored those who served and marked the war's end. I was so impressed by the numbers of people of all ages who walked from table to table; listening, talking about family members who served, and, I was impressed by the pride and patriotism I saw there.

It made me look back to my father's letters from Ie Shima, the little island off Okinawa where he was serving when the war finally ceased. Where the Japanese bombers came over each night. Where the mud was so deep it sucked off their boots. Where the mosquitoes were so thick they wore their shirts buttoned at the wrist, even in the hottest weather. This is what my father--who was not yet my father--wrote my mother when he heard the news. They had been apart since February 1945, and had been married not yet a year:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Friends (and Others) in the Garden

One of my two friends the fledgling blue jays.

I had some almonds in my pocket one morning in early summer when I went out into the garden.  Out of curiosity, I set a few of them on a patio table and sat in a chair nearby to see if the most gregarious birds in my garden--the blue jays--would stop by for a treat.

It wasn't long before they did.  And I had so much fun watching them take the almonds and hide them around the yard--stopping to eat one from time to time--that I got into the habit of taking treats out in the morning for the jays.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

POPs Come to Moffett--I Hope

Plein air painters at work. Photo courtesy of the Peninsula Outdoor Painters Association.

It was at a Thanksgiving dinner with my friends the Seymours several years ago that I heard the term "plein air" for the first time. I've always been interested in art--so this was a rather large gap in my knowledge.

En plein air is a French phrase which means "in open air." So, plein air painters are painters who, like Winston Churchill with his easel, like to sit outdoors and paint.

Three years after that Thanksgiving dinner, a light bulb went on over my head as I stared at Hangar One at Moffett Field.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Mysteries of Brownie the Airline Captain

My friend Keith's father, Exline Brown, is the big man in the back row, fourth from left. The Browns lived up the street from us in Los Altos, and Brownie was a glamorous airline captain. The newsletter is from 1972, when Brownie should have been 67 years old, though his army record might beg to differ.

Thanks to several readers of my blog I've been able to gather more information about my childhood friend Keith Brown's father, Exline Brown.  One woman wrote to say her father owned a flying service and had taught  Brownie (as he was known) to fly. 

Through another site I met Tom Bailey, a former coworker of Brownie's at Hughes Airwest, who is keeping a website and archive for Airwest families. From him, I found the newsletter, above, that included the only picture I have of my lost friend's father.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

D.B. Cooper Redux: Plus! Robin Chapman Reports in 1976!

FBI sketches of the mysterious 1971 hijacking suspect D.B. Cooper.

A friend from NBC called yesterday to tell me I was up on the NBC web page.  Me and David Brinkley.  Me and David Brinkley and D.B. Cooper. In a report filed in (ahem) 1976, Robin (then a reporter at KGW-TV in Portland, Oregon) was on NBC Nightly News, reporting on the status of the D.C. Cooper case, on the fifth anniversary of his 1971 hijacking and parachute jump (with the $200,000 ransom).

With a (possible) break in the case this week, NBC was digging through its archives and produced my report. It is nice to be archival.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Future Dimming For Historic Hangar One

If you look above the white portion of the hangar, you can see the panels at the top have now been removed.

One of the largest unsupported structures in the United States appears to be on its way to oblivion.  With it goes its fascinating military history and its status as a 20th-century American landmark.

The dirigible hangar at Moffett Federal Airfield, known as Hangar One, is coming down.