Flashback | 1959—The Year Began with a One-Eyed Dog

While I was fever ridden in bed at my American Consulate General Karachi apartment oddly enough I dreamt of my childhood. In particular 1959 featured many events, some which could be described as trivial, but nevertheless would affect me for the rest of my life…

<feature photo of George Reeves (Superman) and his beloved one-eyed schnauzer named Sam by eBay.com

Walter Elementary School | Torrance, California

Our teacher read “Silver Chief, Dog of the North,” while it rained like cats and dogs outside.

I sat in Mrs. Shoulder’s fifth grade class at Walteria Elementary. The class listened, spellbound, to our teacher read “Silver Chief, Dog of the North.” Silver Chief, the son of a Husky whose father was a wolf had learned to distrust people until a Canadian Mountie named Jim befriends him…

The Los Angeles Herald newspaper had reported that George Reeves—Superman—had had his one-eyed dog stolen in Hollywood…

Superman-George-Reeves-Adventures-TV-series-c
George Reeves as Superman by iflmylife.com

The loss of Superman’s one-eyed dog in January wasn’t front page news. Unfortunately, the actor George Reeves who played Superman committed suicide six months later. Our class, mostly the guys, mourned the loss of Superman. We understood what it meant to lose a faithful dog. If my dog Sargent didn’t meet me after school at the stop sign everyday I don’t know what I would do.

Musicians Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson perished in a small plane crash in Iowa…

Although we were too young for their music everyone was saddened by the loss of the rock n’ role trio. My classmate, Leo McKenna, sketched a drawing of the airplane crash from the newspaper, but we were more fascinated by the fact that classmate Tina Kohler showed up to school without shoes and was sent straight to the principal’s office. How could she be so daring?

Twenty-two college kids had stuffed themselves in a phone booth…

On Friday’s Mrs. Shoulder read to us from the Weekly Reader. We all laughed when she showed us the picture of all the kids stuffed in the phone booth. Mrs. Shoulder gathered all our eyes and said, “Now class, don’t get any ideas,” which, of course, caused us boys to imagine…

Mom and dad announced they were going to the Fox theatre to see “Some Like it Hot,” with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe…

On Friday night the baby-sitter Carla from across the street talked to boys on our phone half the night, despite mom’s warning not to use our phone. Carla scared me when she shrieked and said, “What was that?” I had seen the shadow cross the front porch blinds, too.

One weekend I snuck up on the Chinese man’s upstairs apartment behind the Acosta’s who lived across the street… 

Instead of chasing me away the Chinaman waved me in. The odor of what he called incense opened up a new world I had never imagined. Strange jars labeled, “Herbs” lined a shelf in the small room. The Chinese man showed me his sword collection and told the story of the brave adversary Dalai Lama who lived in a place called Tibet. It was located on top of the world. I had never heard the word adversary but it must have meant that the Dalai Lama was a special guy. Last week, Mrs. Shoulder read Lost Horizons to us at school. I thought the Dalai Lama might have been right at home in Shangri-La.

My brother, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, returned on shore leave with a present I would never forget…

tiger_jacket
picture of tiger jacket by japanloverme-store.com

My  image of  Asia was completed when my big brother returned home on what he called shore leave. He had been to Japan at a place called Okinawa on a U.S. Navy ship. He brought me a present, what he called a tiger jacket.  The jacket’s odor reminded me of the Chinaman’s apartment across the street. Asia—China, Tibet, and Japan—had become the most mysterious place on earth…

NASA, the U.S. space company introduced America’s first astronauts on T.V. Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton…

gordo_chimp
“Gordo” chimpanzee astronaut by pinterest.com

The astronauts would replace Superman as my heroes. None of them owned a one-eyed dog, as far as I knew. However, the CBS newsman Walter Cronkite said that the astronauts owed a lot to a brave chimpanzee named Gordo. My classmate Leo McKenna drew a neat picture of Gordo at school.

 

Another tragedy occurred at Portuguese Bend… For decades road crews had labored over buckled pavement along a stretch of Palos Verdes Boulevard. The underlying rift had caused nearby houses to slide into the Pacific Ocean. Victims had fallen over its craggy cliffs. Suicides had plunged into sharp boulders rising above crashing waves. Legend claimed that ghosts haunted nearby cliffs and lighthouses, havens for the apparitions that would never leave their final port of call…

point san vicente2 - Copy - Copy

I heard dad tell mom that a teenager and his girlfriend had driven their car off a cliff above Portuguese Bend, on the other side of Palos Verdes, which was a hill above Torrance (south of Los Angeles, CA) where I lived. I wondered if their ghosts would join the “Lady of the Light” who haunted the Point Vicente Lighthouse that we had visited on a field trip.

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Author Note: June 7, 2018

Because of the personal impact of the incidents he has described that occurred more than half a century ago, the author is pleased to announce that he has just finished writing a mystery novel that takes place in 1959.

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dkmatthews.com

The novel PORTUGUESE BEND begins with a harmless fifth grade field trip where a tragedy occurs that affects young Rick Dempsey for life. It ends at Point Vicente Lighthouse seventeen years later when Rick and girlfriend Gina confront an evil that would attempt to tear them apart before ending their lives…

For my followers and casual readers–Please stay tuned to future “1959” Foreign Services Messages. They will reveal background and anecdotes that influenced my novel and will hopefully lead to the publishing of PORTUGUESE BEND.

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