Recollections of Bill Moffett as a kid during WWII: for his grandson and family (PART II)

Recollections of Bill Moffett as a kid during WWII: for his grandson and family (PART II)Written July 2017

Introduction: My dad and his family lived in California during WWII. This is a brief look at what life was like for a ten-year-old kid living there at the time. The story is broken into two posts (Part I and II). You can find Part I here, if you’d like to read it first (recommended).

PART II:

Newspaper was another item that was in short supply during WWII in the US, thus helping that situation was a task that fell to my Boy Scout troop. We had a very active troop in our area, both Cubs and regular Boy Scouts. I went all the way through both in all ranks to Eagle Scout. We spent lots of time with paper drives. We went to each house on the block and asked for any old newspapers they might have, then pulled wagons behind our bicycles to carry the papers back to our scout building. There we tied them into bundles that would eventually be picked up by the garbage trucks and hauled away to recycle.

Bill as a Boy Scout

Bill as a Boy Scout in early 1940s (composite photo)

Paper was just one of several types of drives we conducted. Scrap metal of all kinds was vital to the war effort and so we purged vacant lots, old dumps, people’s yards and old buildings looking for anything metal. Tin foil was saved by everyone and rolled into balls. There were contests to see who could get the biggest balls of foil to turn over to the effort. Rubber was another item in short supply, so we had drives to bring in anything rubber; old tires, balls, toys, rubber bands, etc. At that time most of the world’s natural rubber came from South East Asia, and the Japanese had just taken over most of that area. Synthetic rubber was just in the early stages of development. There were bins for recycled items in most of the local gas stations to help people collect stuff.

Another type of drive that we worked on was the government’s drive for money to support the war. We had War Bond drives. Everyone was urged to buy bonds in whatever amounts they could afford. There were bonds in $25, $50, $100 and I’m sure much higher amounts, but that was above my limit. There were drives at school, at work, in scouts, and just about everywhere. Mostly we bought $25 for $18.75 that would mature and pay $25 in 10 years.

Of course, there wasn’t any TV, so what news we got came over the radio or in the newspapers. Additionally, before each movie at the theater, there was a Newsreel that usually updated one area of the war or one specific action or battle that was going on. Dad subscribed to a service that each month put out maps that showed the boundaries between the Allies and the Axis forces worldwide. I kept these on my bedroom wall and updated them as I got news over the radio. I had push pins stuck all over them marking various battles and incidents. It was fun for me to do but it was serious business. Speaking of the radio, kids used to listen to adventure programs like, “Jack Armstrong”, “Captain Midnight”, “The Lone Ranger”, and the “Whistler”. These came on in 15 minute segments starting at 5 o’clock each day.

We did have one “land line” telephone in our house that we could use for local calls. If you needed to make a long-distance call, you had to call a long-distance operator and have her put the call through to the operator in the city you were trying to call. Then that operator would dial the number you were calling. Most of the phone instruments were the “modern dial up” type but in most cases, you had a party line to be shared with another user. You were never sure when the phone rang if it was for your house or someone else’s house. The phone was supposed to ring once for you and twice for the other guy, but you rarely heard which ring it was, so you frequently had to tell someone else to get off the phone, it wasn’t for them. Rural telephones were crank boxes on the wall and shared 8 lines. All rings came thru as someone turned a crank. Numbers were two long cranks and maybe 2 short rings, or maybe one long ring and three short cranks. Of course, you could pick up your phone and listen in on whoever was talking on the main line. If several people picked up at the same time, then the signal got so weak that you couldn’t hear anything.

School was pretty much the same as it is today; seemingly not effected by the war. There were no lunch rooms as everyone had to bring their own lunch, but there were after school athletics, band activities, scouts, clubs and other normal activities except everything had to be over before it got dark so everyone could be home before the blackouts began.

School was about a mile and a half from home so I either walked or rode my bike every day. We didn’t have any school buses. After school most of us played outside with the neighborhood kids. We had about eight or ten kids in the surrounding area and we could almost always get up a game of kickball, football, kick the can, or cops and robbers. Again, we pretty much had to be in once it got dark, but in the summer, we could spend evenings on our or one of the neighbor’s front porches.

I attended Marengo Elementary School, which I started in Kindergarten mid-semester as my birthday was in January. We kept mid-year grades; 1A then 1B, etc. until I reached 6th grade. They did away with the half grades at that time and told me I could either go ahead a half grade or stay back a half grade. I went ahead. Our grammar school was K–6, and Junior High was 7–9th grade. Later, I went to South Pasadena San Marino High School and then Stanford University.

My cousin George who was 7 years older than I, enlisted as soon as he turned seventeen and immediately went off to training and duty in the Navy. Everyone had to serve if they were physically qualified and if you were drafted you went into the Army. If you wanted to serve in the Navy or Marines, you had to enlist before the Draft Board called you for Army service. By the way, there was no Air Force at that time. It was part of the Army and didn’t become a separate service until after the war in 1947.

Cousin George and friends heading to war

Cousin George (on right) a bit older than Bill heading to war.

George served until the end of the war and was in almost all the major sea battles in the Pacific in the last half of the war. There was a system to show if a family had members serving in the military. A small red/white/blue flag with the name and relation of the serving member was placed in the house front window. If the member had been killed a gold star was placed beside the name. It was not unusual to see little flags with the Father and two of three sons on it. Everyone just prayed that they never had an army car with a Chaplin show up at their door as that meant that one of their family had been killed. If the service member was just “Missing in Action”, then the family most likely got only a telegram to let them know. I had two other cousins in the war: one was killed and the other was Missing in Action until the end of the war when he was found in a slave work camp in mainland Japan.

My dad, William, was primarily in the music business in the Los Angeles area. I say primarily because he and his partners had interests in several businesses. The music business sold largely musical instruments, pianos, organs, records, record players and after the war televisions. A secondary business was gold mining and at the time that World War II started they were operating on a site in southern Oregon (Holland, Oregon), just outside of the town of Cave Junction. Mom had relatives in the same area, and we visited them often when we went to see how the mining property and equipment was doing. We usually were able to get priority gas to make 4 trips a year. Their daughter Peggy was a year older than I was, but we had some great times riding horseback and doing ranch work. I learned how to take care of horses and cattle, how to milk cows and how to pitch hay. Cousin George joined us for several of those trips before he went off to join the navy.

Bill at Oregon Ranch

Bill at Oregon Ranch

Dad and Mom liked the area so much that dad bought a nearby ranch of 360 acres at Takilma, Oregon. We planned to build a summer cabin on the place where we could relax while Dad checked on the nearby mine. WWII changed all that and we were forced to shut down the mine and delay any building on the ranch.

Dad never did reopen the mine and after the war he moved operations to northern British Columbia, Canada. During the war, Dad sold about five thousand board feet of timber off the ranch. That sale more than covered what he had paid for the property in 1938, and it was impossible to even see where it had been cut. He sold the ranch after the war. One of the reasons that we had to shut down the mine was because Dad’s partner who was the mining engineer, was selected go to Washington DC and serve on the War Production Board. The board decided priorities for all manufacturing in the whole country. Obviously with the shortages of fuel and strategic materials it was vital to control how we spent what we had.

An additional part of Dad’s music business was to install intercom and loud speaker systems in area defense plants. He was a busy man because there was an abundance of war production factories in the Los Angeles area.

I spent a lot of my time looking at the sky. We had numerous aircraft manufacturing plants nearby and it seemed like there was always a plane buzzing overhead. I’m not sure why, but everyone wanted to teach us to recognize various types of aircraft. Schools, scouts, newspapers, all showed pictures of the various planes with instructions on how to recognize them. I made models of most of them and had many flying on strings from the ceiling of my room.

We used to drive by the big factory at Long Beach and it was completely covered with camouflage. Huge nets were installed to cover the plant, parking lots and surrounding smaller buildings. The nets stretched several miles in all directions. On top of the nets they painted small shacks, cattle, plowed fields, autos, roads, and people. Even the runway was painted to look like a corn field and certainly must have been hard to land on. At the time, I never got to see just how real it looked from the air, but we were told that it really hid what was underneath.

Just prior to the war in 1941, Mom had some health issues and needed help around the house. She hired a young lady to live in with us and help around the house. She was a recent refugee from the Netherlands and Mom liked her a lot. She stayed with us for several years during the war. Her Name was Elva Lang. Mom recovered her health and Elva married and moved on. Mom kept in contact with her for many years.

Granddad Moffett lived with us from before I was born until his death in 1943 at the age of 84. He was born in England and moved to the US (Colorado Springs) were he worked as a tailor, married and raised my dad. Dad and Mom lived next door to each other in Colorado Springs until Mom’s family moved to California. Dad followed not too long after and they were married in 1923.

At about age 7, Mom started me on piano lessons, which I continued for about seven years. I always enjoyed playing ball over practicing the piano, so my progress was slow. Mom and Dad thought that since Dad was in the music business that I should know how to play. When I was in 6th grade, I took up the trumpet and later played in the school band through the 8th grade. I was the Boy Scout bugler for our troop.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into my life.

Bill Moffett

Recollections of Bill Moffett as a kid during WWII: for his grandson and family (PART I)

Recollections of Bill Moffett as a kid during WWII: for his grandson and family (PART I) Written July 2017

Introduction: My dad and his family lived in California during WWII. This is a brief look at what life was like for a ten-year-old kid living there at the time. The story is split into two posts (Part I and II). Click this link for Part II.

Bill’s story:

Photo of Bill and father with fish

Bill Moffett with his dad and a very big fish!

Recently my grandson called to ask me what living was like when I was 10 years old. He was working on a Cub Scout project, so wanted me to keep it short. He gave me about two minutes to tell him a story and then said he’d had enough. There were so many things to tell him that I started to think maybe I should write some of my thoughts down, not just for him, but for our other grandchildren, too.

There was no TV, fast food, computers, tablets, cell phones, refrigerators, freezers, polio shots, credit cards, microwaves, and we had Dime stores where you could actually buy something for 5 or 10 cents and so many other things that I can’t even begin to list them, so I am just going to start and tell you how things were then (1943).

My country and the world were engulfed in war. What did that mean to me?

From the day following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th 1941), all the energies of all the people of our (America) country were directly related to the war:

All men over 18 years old had to register for the war draft. Most were drafted within a few days or months of registration and were sent off to the Army and then on to the war front. If you didn’t want to go into the Army, then you could volunteer for the Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard. Those not physically qualified (4F) were put into essential jobs, replacing those who got drafted. A great number of the women went to work doing men’s jobs in construction, defense work, ship and aircraft building, and all sorts of other jobs formerly considered too hard for women. Married women were now allowed to become teachers. Before the war, only unmarried women could teach.

Lots of military and civilian officials believed that the Japanese would land their forces on our west coast and march into the middle of the country. This feeling was very strong when the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Island chain in Alaska, but fortunately that feeling was greatly reduced when the Allies won the battle for Midway Island. The victory cost the Japanese a lot of their Pacific fleet and our planners didn’t think they had the force left to invade the US mainland at that time.

Everything was rationed and most non-essential activities were restricted. I lived in South Pasadena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, and we were under a total black out every night. There were no neon signs, or other outside lights and only about 1 in every 4 street lights were on and they had to have their top painted black. Few traffic signals of any kind worked. All the cars had the top half of their headlights painted black so that no light reflected upwards into the sky.

We had neighborhood Block Wardens who patrolled every night checking each house to make sure that no light escaped from the house. All the upper windows were painted black and all the rest of the windows had to have drapes covering up any light source. All areas had Air Raid Sirens and of course if one of those went off, you had to turn off all lights and sit in the dark. They ran practice alerts about once each week. I can remember several times that Japanese subs actually fired some rounds into Los Angeles harbor and all the sirens went off and we were convinced that we were really going to get it. We had some supplies in our basement so we could hide out if things got really bad, but we never used them.

Wartime Play – The war affected every person and every household. These are kids from my neighborhood. This is pretty much how a lot of kids played, making tanks and vehicles from cardboard and wood scraps.

My grandfather, who lived with us, had a hobby as a gardener and had a greenhouse in our back yard and raised orchids and other exotic flowers. He was surprised when several of his local gardening friends came by to tell him goodbye about two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were all Japanese. How did they know?

During the war almost everything was rationed: Gasoline was perhaps the most wide spread item. You had to register all your cars and receive a rations rating for each one. The rating was recognized by a window sticker with letters A thru D. Everyone got at least an A rating which entitled the owner to 5 gallons per month. You had a folder in the car with little coupons for each gallon. If you had to drive to work in a Defense related job then you got a B sticker and maybe 10 gallons. Special needs and emergency services received more gas under either a C or D stickers. Agriculture received unlimited gas, but the gas they were given for their tractors and plows was colored purple and if you got caught with purple gas in your car it was a heavy fine in court. Purple gas burned with lots of exhaust smoke, so violators were easily spotted.

Gasoline was not the only hard to get item, tires were in really short supply. There just weren’t any to be had. And, of course, no new cars or trucks were manufactured between Dec 1941 and January 1946. All the car factories were used to make tanks and military vehicles. All the other big plants were for building aircraft. We had two cars throughout the war: a 1939 Plymouth coupe that my dad drove to work each day and a 1940 4-door Buick sedan that was mom’s car and provided the transport for the rest of the family. I had my bicycle which was my main means (outside of walking) of transportation. There was no “Mom, drive me to the movie or take me to the store or take me over to Al’s house.”

Most food was rationed, and each family received coupons for items such as: sugar, meat, eggs, butter, lard, chicken, fish, and there was no candy, cake, cookies etc. unless your mom had enough sugar to make some for you. Seeing as how most of the sugar was used to can fruits (apricots, peaches, cherries, apples, pears) there just wasn’t any sugar left over for treats. We had an apricot tree and a plum tree in our yard, and we tried hard to get them picked before the birds messed the fruit up. We all sat down each evening to eat and I learned that if I didn’t like what had been fixed, I could wait at the table until everyone else finished and then go to bed hungry. There just wasn’t any food to waste.

Each family had a Victory Garden where we tried to grow vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, beans, lettuce and corn) in patches of ground not being used for some more important task. We were lucky because my dad bought the two vacant lots behind our house and we used those for our garden. Part of it was also used by some of the neighbors. I built a chicken house and fenced in some of the vacant lot for a chicken yard. I started out with 4 dozen chicks and as they grew, I kept one rooster and the hens. Soon I was feeding our family, and some of the neighbors, eggs and chicken pieces. Of course, they paid me and I was able to get chicken feed and keep the cycle going.

One of my most vivid memories that I have of that time was when my Granddad showed me how to kill a chicken so we could cut it up for food. I held it by the legs and put the head down on a stump and hit it with an axe to chop off the head. I did it, but I dropped the chicken and it went running around the yard without a head. Wow! I learned later that it was better to twist the neck.

Some of the things we had to do in the garden were far from big farm ways. For instance, we didn’t have any hives of bees in the area so in order to pollinate our tomatoes, we used small paint brushes and went from plant to plant touching blossoms with the brush. Mighty hard work on the back. We wanted to save the things we grew, so mom would either can them up or put them in the freezer.

Of course, we didn’t have freezers in our refrigerators, in fact we didn’t have refrigerators. We had ice boxes. They were boxes with several doors on the front and shelves on the inside. The biggest shelf held a big block of ice (a cube about 14 inches on a side). The ice was delivered twice weekly by a guy with a truck from the ice plant, who carried these cubes into the house on his back, held with a big pair of tongs. We were able to rent space in the freezers at the ice plant. So, we had a locker there and put in whatever extra fruit or vegetables we could. Dad was also able to get some beef from our cousins in Oregon when we went there to work on the gold mine. Since we got it directly from the farmer, it didn’t count against us in rationing. So, we got the meat cut up and put in the freezer locker.

Mom did all our baking for us. She made our bread, rolls, etc. all from scratch. There were no ready mixes available. Again, since we had sugar rationing, we rarely had jam or jelly to put on our bread or toast. We couldn’t get butter, but you could get a sort of diluted fat mixture that came with a tube of yellow food coloring and you could mix it together and get a mixture that looked like butter. Of course, it didn’t taste great.

There was only a very limited number of what you could call restaurants. And they required ration tickets for just about anything that you ate. There definitely were no McDonalds, pizza shops or “fast food” places to eat. We did make a lot of our own ice cream by churning it by hand after mom made up the mix. We would sit around after dinner and take turns on the crank for the ice cream. It was really good. The restaurants that there were, mostly served travelers or out of town workers, with no other place else to go.

My bicycle got used for another important job. I had a paper route and every evening Monday–Saturday I delivered about 50 papers to houses in our area. The papers came to me every afternoon in a big stack and I would have to separate them and then fold them so I could throw each one into peoples’ yards or onto their porches. We didn’t have plastic to keep them dry or rubber bands to hold them together, so on wet days I had to take each one up the people’s front doors so the paper would stay dry. Saturdays, I had to go to each house to collect money for that week’s papers. The bill was usually about 1 dollar for the week and if I was really lucky maybe they would tip me a dime. Again, there was no help from Mom with the car and on wet days I just had to cover up and try to keep the papers dry.

[End Part I by Bill Moffett] Click here for the Rest of the Story- Part II

A Trip Down the Spanish Steps

In my recent thriller, To Die Again (see description at end of blog), the characters of my story are evading bad guys and do the unthinkable…they drive their small car (think Smart Car) down the famous Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy. Since I just spent some time in Rome and stayed not far from the Spanish Steps, I snapped a few shots to share and take you on a short journey down the famous Spanish Steps.

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Few people are out because it is early in the morning. A neat piece of trivia. In the bottom right of photo you can barely see the top corner of a door. John Keats lived and died in an apartment there. (Photo S. Parks)

Considering the pride the Italians have for their historic landmarks, and the millions of dollars that have been put into restorations over the years, driving anything down the steps is an unthinkable act (and can land you in a boatload of trouble$). Drinking or eating lunch on the steps is discouraged. The steps have been, however, a prime meeting place for young and old alike, since their construction (see the crowds below).

The Spanish Steps on a summer evening 2018. (Photo S. Parks)

A little history might help to understand the what, why, and where of the Spanish Steps. The steps are technically called “Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti.” The 135 steps are located in Rome, Italy, and were built on the steep hillside to connect the Piazza Trinita dei Monti (under patronage of French king) at the top to the Piazza di Spagna (Spain) at the bottom. Or you could say it linked the Spanish Embassy at the bottom (which is now off the end of the plaza) to the Trinita dei Monti church up above. How old are these steps? Plans and ideas for the steps began in the 1500s but due to funding, and social and political disagreements, they did not get built until the 1700s. They were designed by Francesco de Sanctis and constructed from 1723-25. Now let’s start at the top of the stairs and work our way down. The explanations are in the photo captions.

At the top of the stairs is a plaza with the church Santissima Trinita dei Monti overlooking the hill. A road covered in square black pavers passes right in front of it. There also stands an obelisk, which is not Egyptian, but a copy made by Romans of an Egyptian obelisk sometime in the 1st to 4th centuries. It is believed to have been used in a private (ruling class) Roman garden. It was erected here in 1798. (Photo S. Parks)

The large convex curve in front of the obelisk is actually the top of the Spanish stairs. This vantage point offers a wonderful view of the city, including the dome of St. Peters. When the day gets busy you will see vendors here, selling flowers and paintings. On each side of the curve are entrances to the stairs as can be seen in the next photo. (Photo S. Parks)

This is one of the two entrances from the top of the Spanish Steps via the Piazza Trinita dei Monti. You can see a vendors umbrella not yet opened.

After you walk down one of the two upper entrance staircases (one can be seen on the left), they coalesce and end in the first of several platforms on the stairs. In the background, you can see the top floors of buildings constructed on the hillside along the stairs.

On each side of the platform above there are again stairs to each side and they continue down to a narrower platform.

This is the second platform from the top. I love the graceful curves and how easy these steps are to take. You hardly feel the climb going up.

This last section has a central and side staircases bringing it down to the piazza at the bottom. Also note the street straight ahead. It is one of the most upscale shopping streets in Rome. The taxi driver who dropped us off in the area told my hubby it wasn’t safe for me to be on the streets until after 7:30 at night. He then winked and said that was when the stores ($$$$) closed.

Much to my surprise, the early Baroque fountain at the bottom was actually built a hundred years before the steps in 1627-29. I’ve seen Fontana della Barcaccia referred to as the fountain of the long or old boat. It is believed to have been designed by Pietro Bernini (the father to the more famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini). The design was also supposed to be that of a sinking boat, and it is certainly sinking into the street.

Other fun facts about the Spanish steps:

-English poet John Keats lived and died (1821 at 25) in a house on the right at the bottom of the steps (26 Piazza di Spagna). I believe it is the Keats-Shelley House museum now.

-The last restoration of the Spanish Steps was in 2016 and Bulgari donated 1.5 mil toward the cause.

-The steps became famous to Americans after the 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. For younger folks, they also showed up in The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon.

∞  ∞  ∞

If you’re wondering about the book in which I used the Spanish Steps and parts of Rome as a setting for several scenes, check out TO DIE AGAIN, a modern day thriller with science fiction and romantic elements. Links to Amazon and other retailers can be found on my website by clicking here BOOKPAGE.

A woman who doesn’t die.

A human who isn’t easy to kill.

A man who murders for power.

Death doesn’t come easy to Dr. Mona Signoretti, who is closing in on a killer she has tracked for two thousand years. As part of a special FBI unit, her failure to stop him puts at risk the population of Earth as well as the mission to save her part-human race from destruction. When Mona’s undercover role is discovered, and her life-sustaining energy threatened, human FBI agent, Grant Thornton, is assigned to work the case and keep her alive—not an easy task in a world where enemies refuse to die.

Book one of this modern-day thriller series set in the ordinary world, mixes adventure with technology, and politics with science fiction. If you enjoy memorable characters, strong heroes and heroines, and a touch of romance, then dive into the world of Infinitas. Pick up To Die Again by an author of four national writing awards.

The day B-24 Liberator “White Y” didn’t come home

Tens crews launched their B-24 Liberators into the dark, cold morning air on March 14, 1945 from Pantanella field in Italy. Copilot Lt. William Bradley flew next to Lt. Martz, who commanded the aircraft as they headed to bomb the Marshaling Yard at Nove Zamky, Hungary. Their crew of twelve included two navigators, a radar nav, bombardier, engineer, radio operator, and four gunners. The overall mission was deemed a success, but the only man to survive on Martz’s crew had a dramatic tale to tell.

The crew of Martz (pilot) and Bradley (co-pilot)

Memorial Day, where we remember those who have died in battle, seemed an appropriate time to tell a story about a distant Parks relative, Lt. William Bradley, who died in World War II. My husband had become particularly interested in him (a cousin once removed) after he discovered William and his brother were fellow Georgia Tech yellow jackets. The oldest brother graduated in 1941, and William entered that year as a freshman. William left college two years later in 1943, as many young men did, to go to war.

He was commissioned a 2LT in the Army Air Corp in 1943 and assigned to the 781st Bomb Squadron, 465 Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, flying B-24 Liberators. The the unit trained at McCook field Nebraska and operated until the war in Europe ended in 1945.

The only man to survive William Bradley’s last flight was engineer, T/Sgt. Beeson, who told his story about the fateful flight. Today that story and many others are printed in a booklet of the unit’s history published by the 781st Bomb Squadron Association. Below is an abbreviated version of that event told by Beeson in 1987.

The bombing run to the marshaling yard was not different than many others. The flak, while not as heavy as they’d encountered before, had pegged the formation’s location. The crew successfully unloaded their bombs over the target and were preparing to turn and head home. The tail gunner reported flak following their line of flight, bursting closer and closer.

B-24 Liberator over Ploesti oil fields, Romania 1943

An explosion shook their craft. Fire burst on the pilot’s side as flak came up from underneath his seat. A single glance revealed Martz had died. The last thing Beeson saw on the flight deck as he hit the bailout alarm was Lt. Bradley attempting to control the damaged aircraft. Beeson grabbed his chute and dropped into the bomb bay where the bombardier joined him with chute in hand. The plane lurched, and Beeson fell out, facing up where he could see the plane above going around and around. He never saw where it crashed. Other aircraft reported three or four chutes leaving the plane, but the unfriendly Hungarians below with their town in flames likely left them no chance for survival. Beeson lived to tell the tale because he was “rescued” from the villagers’ hands by a German soldier.

So many people have died in WWII and other wars our nation has fought. I appreciate their sacrifice to allow my friends and family to live in this great country.

An Artist Room in Tokyo

On a recent visit to Japan, our last few nights in Tokyo involved a unique twist on hotel rooms. We stayed on the 31st floor of the Park Hotel with an amazing view of the city. What made this room unique from other floors of the hotel, though, had nothing to do with the view or room size. The entire floor is known as the “Artist Floor” where the walls of rooms have been painted by special artists. Each room has a special theme and design brought to life by a selected artist. These are not the designer stylish type themes you might imagine with fine decorating, but are wistful, bold, and playful worlds. Some themes had 3-D touches, bold colors, or even night stars. Can you guess our theme from this photo?

Does sleeping in the Zodiac room mean a year of good luck?

Yep, we were in the Zodiac room. A special placard on the wall had a message from the artist, Ryosuke Yasumoto, that explained a few interpretive twists he added to theme. The English translation isn’t the greatest, but that makes the message all the more fun.

“Welcome to the Zodiac room! 2014, when this artist’s room was created, is the year of the horse, and I was also born in the year of the horse. I just happened to fill this room with items from the Zodiac. I don’t know if I can paint it well, but I just let my brush run free. I painted a cat which was cheated by a rat so that it wasn’t included in the Zodiac. By the grace of God, I also painted a weasel. The 1st day of the month has a similar pronunciation to “weasel” in Japanese. I would be delighted for you to experience the interesting story of the Zodiac from long, long ago.”

The artist’s point about there being no cat in the Zodiac gave me pause. I’d never thought about that before. Cats have been our pets and helpers through the millennia, so why aren’t they in the Zodiac (or did the tiger take their place)? The Japanese zodiac (imported from China but with variations) has a twelve-year cycle with each year having a symbolic animal that corresponds to the year: Rat (born 2008, 1996, 1984, 1872, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924, 1912), Ox (2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925, 1913), Tiger (1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926, 1914), Rabbit (1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927, 1915), Dragon (2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928), Snake (2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929, 1917), Horse (2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1943, 1930, 1918, 1906) , Sheep (2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919, 1907), Monkey (2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920, 1908), Rooster (2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921, 1909), Dog (2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922, 1910), and Boar (2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923, 1911). So what’s your year?

My hubby and I had fun following the artist’s design around the room and bathroom (where the rat played). A dragon took in the entire scene from the ceiling, a snake climbed the wall by the bed, a cat lingered near the window, and a mouse skittered near the headboard. You cans see the ox, horse, rooster, head of the rabbit, dog, mice (rat was bigger and in the bathroom), and tiger in the first photo. Here are a few more for you to enjoy.

The cat with a leash held by a monkey.

Love the forked tongue on the snake.

Here’s the sheep and another cat. The only animal I couldn’t find in the photos is the boar (and the mentioned weasel).

Lots of little mice played in the room.

Various themes on the 31st floor include Samurai, Lucky Cat, Bamboo, Castle, Kabuki, Haiku, Wabi-Sabi, Otafuku Face, Geisha Goldfish, Mount Fuji, and, our room, Zodiac. All the rooms can be seen on a page of the hotel website (click here). Thanks for stopping by True Airspeed Blog. Consider picking up one of my books for your travels.

 

 

Under The Radar Giveaway

This contest has ended and we have winners! Yes, winners. The response exceeded my expectations so I’m giving away an ebook copy of Under the Radar to the second and third place names drawn by a random generator. I have emailed the winners so please check your spam folders. Happy reading!

Winner of the print book: Pat Widder

Winners of an ebook: Pierre Borlase & Diane (no last name)

*  *  *

If a click on the link in my newsletter brought you here, your name has now been entered to win a print copy of the first book in my latest series.

Please check back on Saturday April 8, 2017. I’ll be posting the name of the winner and will contact them by email.

Happy reading!

*If you are dropping in on this blog and reading this message and like to read thrillers (with adventure, exotic places, and a little romantic tension), sign up for my newsletter by clicking HERE and get the FREE ebook Repossessed.

 

Visit to the San Diego Zoo

My last clear memory of a visit to the San Diego zoo had been thirty years ago when my husband and I pushed my beloved, and adventurous, grandmother in a wheel chair up and down the hills of the rambling zoo. No buses (that I can remember) ran in those days inside the park. Since I was in San Diego for a writers’ convention a day early, a fellow author and I decided to check out the zoo again and see how it had changed.

Welcome to the San Diego Zoo

I will admit to sticker shock at seeing typical entertainment park prices, but the facilities, transportation, and animal conservation efforts made up for the price. The only drawback we discovered was not having a kid along to see the wonder in their eyes as they hunted out where the animals were “hiding” in their respective enclosures. Whether timing for feedings or weather for that day, a high percentage of the animals were easy to see and moving around.

A mellow-fellow (monkey).

A favorite was the small red panda which walked along a log perch and then shyly  climbed up a small eucalyptus tree into the foliage. His/her coat was a beautiful tawny red. The much larger black and white panda common in Asia (China) was napping belly up on a ledge behind a log in the next exhibit.

The red panda climbing around its enclosure and headed toward a favorite perch.

The red panda headed toward a favorite perch.

The African savannah and other range animals in the collection were numerous. The zoo is almost finished with a vast new range/display for them to roam which should open soon.

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A curious baby giraffe.

Gazelles. This one happily munching and keeping a close eye on me.

Gazelles. This one happily munching and keeping a close eye on me.

 

african-elephant

African elephant with the larger ears.

For those curious about African versus Asian elephants, the zoo had both. The ears are the biggest difference between the two, but also the Asian elephant has two bumps on its head, smoother skin, and eats mainly grass (African elephants eat leaves).

Asian elephant with the small ears.

Asian elephant with the small ears.

As usual, the meerkats were active, wrestling with one another and ultimately posing for photos. Their endless energy and sentinel, upright stance on their hind legs, makes for great photos. Years ago while visiting South Africa, I had a chance to see these creatures at a wildlife reserve. Two had gotten inside the reserve manager’s house and were standing in the picture window looking out at us. Delightfully rambunctious creatures.

meercat1

Ever seen Meerkat Manor?

As the day wound down, we stopped by the Koalas. Native to Australia, they are delightful marsupials  to watch, and their cuddly expressions are priceless.

kuala-bear-1-copy

koala-2-copy

The day ended with the rhinos. While I’ve seen them in the wild, it was fun to have a close up look at their thick, armored hide.

I also used a rhino midden in my latest romantic thriller novel OFF THE CHART which takes place in South Africa and Zimbabwe. A rhino midden is a huge rut or depression where rhinos defecate. The dominate male uses it to also mark his dominance. These two rhinos looked like I felt after spending the entire sunny day walking around the zoo.

If you enjoy reading novels with thrills, adventure, and a touch of mystery and romance, check out my newest TAKING RISKS SERIES which includes the novels UNDER THE RADAR and OFF THE CHART. It takes place in Africa where my characters might well run into a few of these creatures. Thanks for stopping by. Comments  are appreciated.