The Tardy Times

                                 Fort Ord in the 1950s

Ken, Tony and Al, draftees in 1954,
  paraphrased Sherman: War Is Heck!

                        ON THIS PAGE:
    Notes and updates                                     Did the Army teach
    for (former) youth                                      us anything of value?
    of the '40s and '50s                                    You be the Judge...

Pvt. Ken McDevitt,  an 'unforgettable' pal at Fort Ord

THE JUDGE: “Curiously, perhaps, considering it's been over 50 years that we were in the Army together, I still think of him quite a bit when I reflect on my two draft years many moons now past, and of unexpected lasting friendships thus forged.”
   Half a century is inconceivable to the young, but in 1954 the young included the future jurist, Pvt. Tony DeCristoforo (above, at right), and his Army friend, Pvt. Ken McDevitt. (below, at left). 
   We were draftees then in an eight-week Army school to train clerks in the bureaucratic fog of war, a metaphor that also describes the climate of the Fort Ord infantry training base near Monterey.
    Half a century later, Fort Ord’s bayonet classes have been beaten into the plowshares of environmental activism and higher education. The decommissioned military post now includes a campus (Cal State Monterey Bay).
DURING a not-so-nostalgic return to my days as a draftee (below, at right), my visit was an odd experience. Our daughter Kenny was with the Lowell High School girls’ basketball team in a summer tournament. The gym had been left behind when in 1994 the Army saluted and lowered the flag. It handed the keys to the civilian Fort Ord Reuse Authority to do something with the fog-blown 20,000 acres where as many as 50,000 soldiers once marched fro and to. We saw the ugly barracks had been converted into ugly dorms surrounded by an ugly military ghost town. The “new barracks” of the “Flying” 63rd Regiment have been abandoned. Nobody said plowshares are supposed to be beautiful.
 When those barracks were new, we regarded our two years of involuntary military service as ugly, tedious and supremely stupid. But friendships thus forged, as Tony says, are lasting.
THE KOREAN Conflict is the approved euphemism for the half-forgotten war that took 33,686 American lives, eight   times as many (so far) as Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1954 it was at a stalemate. It still is. Other recruits (including my brother Conrad three years later) were shipped out to Korea.
   I applied to the Army school for journalists. It was then at Fort Slocum on a litle island about a half  hour from Manhattan. It would have been a primo assignment, but I flunked the security clearance (that’s another good story from McCarthy days, but after 54 years it can await another Tardy Times). Instead, condemned to stay at Fort Ord, I typed Charley Company's Morning Report (three erasures or start again).
  When I was was reassigned to a another office, we were ordered to answer the phone with this script: “Good afternoon, sir!: 20th U.S. Infantry Regiment, ‘Sykes’ Regulars,’ ‘Let's Go!’ Private Ludlow, S-3 Section, speaking, SIR.”
  Someone would wait patiently and finally say, “The trucks are here.”
WHAT ALSO sticks in memory  are touch football games on the densely packed white sands of Carmel Beach, the penniless pleasures of solo hikes at Point Lobos State Reserve and friendships with the late Gene Blank (killed by cancer at 23) and Duane Aasland (retired from the state Department of Real Estate, living now in Bend, Ore.) On the other hand, generations of eligible young women in Monterey had been fending off soldiers since its Presidio was founded in 1776. In 1954 and later, they  wouldn't even look at any GI below the rank of lieutenant. We weren't officers – except in the sense that we office flunkies.
    The luckier clerks wound up in Germany. DeCristoforo looks back with “nostalgic delight” at his youthful adventures in Europe with McDevitt.
   Always ready with a quip, a song or a glass of beer, Ken was a good friend (and mentor) even before we were drafted. He was the feature editor – a grizzled 27-year-old – when I was the clueless 19-year-old editor of the Golden Gater. I dropped out after my sophomore year and dug ditches for nine months as a laborer in Mt. Tamalpais State Park.
IN SAN FRANCISCO on St. Patrick’s Day in 1954, I showed up at dawn in the Army Induction Center, then above a clothing store at Van Ness Avenue and Market Street. Sleeping it off on a bench was Ken McDevitt, the feature editor, very hung over.
  We went through basic training in the same platoon and then to clerk school.
   He liked to sing “Roll Me Over in the Clover,” “I Don’t Wanna Go to War, Gor Blimey” and “Here’s to (insert name), He’s a Horse’s Ass.”
   “He was one of those ‘unforgettable characters’ that is seldom encountered,” Tony wrote, “and I was fortunate that we became friends.”
   Tony, a law grad, was sent to JAG (the Judge Advocate General Corps) with postings to Salzburg and then in Livorno, Italy, a country his parents “had gladly abandoned.”
   The irrepressible Ken and the livewire Tony had formed a friendship with another clerk-school buddy. Pvt. Allen Broussard (at left), the only African American draftee in the clerk-typist class (technically speaking, the Basic Army Administration Class No. 169), was a graduate of San Francisco City College, UC Berkeley and Boalt Hall. He naturally expected to be assigned, like the other recruits with law degrees, to JAG. It was 1954. Al was sent instead to Germany as a highly educated chaplain's assistant.
   “I should have been upset,” he told me. “But it was a great way to see Europe.”
TONY remembers that Al came down from Germany for a visit to Italy, stopping to see his fellow clerk-school grad in Livorno. Tony's white tentmate from Louisiana was going on leave. Sure, he told Tony, his friend could use his bunk. No, he said as soon as he learned that Al was an African American or, as they said in those days, a Negro.
    Tony switched bunks.
    “I don't think Al ever knew why he was sleeping on my cot.”
   Tony today is the Hon. Anthony DeCristoforo, now retired as a distinguished judge of the Sacramento County Superior Court.  He lives in Sacramento, the hub of his large family.
    Ken McDevitt, who met his wife Maxine when she was teaching at an Army base in Germany, would become a English and journalism teacher in San Carlos, where he was a teachers’ union activist. He died of a heart attack 20 years ago. Their three children, with kids of their own, live on the Peninsula and meet my children every summer at Camp Mather.
    The Hon. Allen Broussard (above) had another distinction besides his exclusion from the legal arm of the U.S. Army. I’m guessing he was the only member of the Fort Ord clerk school to become a distinguished lawyer in Oakland, later appointed to the bench as a  judge in the Municipal and Superior courts in Alameda County. 
    At Al’s death in 1996, he was an associate justice of the California Supreme Court.
    War stories.

UPDATE on Martha McDevitt-Pugh, daughter of Ken McDevitt (see column above), from the home she shares in Amsterdam with her Australian partner, Lin Pugh. They founded Love Exiles because American gays and lesbians can't come home if their partners are from other lands.  Martha and Lin came within 600 votes of being honored as the grand marshal of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade last June. Then came an unexpected problem. “Lin was shortlisted in December for a job in Boulder, Colo., causing an identity crisis for me,” Martha told The Tardy Times.  “What if she got a visa to live in the U.S.? Could I give up life in exile? We pondered this for awhile. She didn't get the job, but we were reminded  how lucky we are to live in a country where we have full health insurance coverage.”

Lynn Ludlow

The Tardy Times
September 2008

When no news
is good news

IF JIM McFEELY was worried to death, he never said a word to his friends. Retired as an investigator with the Marin County public defender's office, the former Nader's Raider and onetime coroner's deputy left his home in Alameda every Monday to volunteer in the Alameda County auditor's office. He looked after his mother. A season ticket holder, he cheered for the Cal Bears basketball team. And he didn't happen to mention that, by the way, he had been diagnosed in August with cancer. Prostate cancer. Lymph node cancer. Aggressive cancer. It was 4:30 p.m. on a Friday in mid-December, he said, when the doctor told him, “You are what we call ‘cured.’” Only then did he say anything about it.

Courier notes

MY ONETIME roommate, Robert (Bob) Schaub, known as Pete when we worked in 1958-61 at the old Champaign-Urbana Courier, has been going back and forth from his home in Boone, Iowa, to the Mayo Clinic for bone-marrow disease (multiple myeloma). So far, so good.  Keeping us posted on Bob's situation is another former Courier editor, Art Lane. “Bob is still chipper, and he and Jeanine are still urbane.”
   Is that Urbana wordplay?
   Art is talking about joining George Willhite, another Courier alumnus still living in Champaign-Urbana,  to see the Schaubs in Boone, where Bob was publisher and editor of the daily News-Republican. He sold it four years ago. . . .  As for Art: Winter in Michigan brought so much ice and snow to Saugatuck that it was even too nasty to go ice fishing. “When I went out in coat and galoshes to get my  paper yesterday I found the neighborhood snow blower stalled in my driveway.  The machine had gobbled up a corner of my big Sunday Grand Rapids Press. The workers were picking shreds of newsprint out of the snow-throwing mechanism.  I read all the news that didn’t fit.”. . . From the Courier’s onetime news editor, Stan Slusher, now retired as the ombudsman at the Louisville Courier-Journal, comes a different lament: “Just keeping awake is difficult in summers that bring lots of 90-plus degree days and Ohio River humidity.”         
  Muir League
WE ARE TRYING to organize a little reunion of Muir League kids who met every Sunday night at the Mill Valley Community Church – more than 60 years ago. The youth group was led by the pastor, the Rev. Gordon Lynn Foster, whose unpreaching wisdom imbued us with lifelong concern for social justice, ethical responsibility and, not least, appreciation for folk music and folk dancing.
  Among the septuagenarian Fosterites and onetime inmates of Tamalpais Union High School (where "union" has been deleted along with "Indians," now the red-tail hawks):
    Al Klyce ( Tam ’51) has beautified much of Mill Valley with homes and decks inspired by Japanese design. He says he works on his house for three or four hours each day, and after 26 years it’s beginning to take shape. His wife, Shoko Kageyama, is a locally celebrated artist with a show coming up soon. Three kids.
     Ted Wassam (’50) retired in 1990 from the Palo Alto School District where he was a teacher for many years. He and Jane will soon celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Two kids.
    Lavonne Krefting (’50) died in Pasadena in 1983, age 51. She had married Safford Chamberlain, now 81, a former community college English teacher who studied jazz saxophone with Warne Marsh and later wrote a biography, “Unsung Cat,” about the talented improviser. 
     Jane (Fowler) Kloh, who attended my mother’s funeral three years ago, lives in San Rafael with her husband, retired newspaper circulation executive Conrad Kloh.
    David Freeman
, who lives in Newtown, Pa., abandoned California as soon as he graduated from Tam in 1950. He headed for Yale, then to Cornell for his doctorate in a weird little math sidelight called “computer.” Punch cards. Binary what? Machines as big as a moving van but not as powerful as today’s iPod. He worked at IBM, then as the director of a computer consortium of East Coast universities. By the time he retired at 60, he had seen the computers turn the world on its head. His wife of 50 years, Ellen Freeman, Ph.D, is a research professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
   Nancy Freeman, his younger sister, would have graduated from Tam in 1953 or so. As Nancy Regalado (the surname came with her first marriage, now a memory), she is a New York University professor specializing in medieval French literature.  Her  sisters, Corinne and Marjorie, are married to ministers (Episcopal and Methodist, respectively) whose main concern – just like Gordon Foster’s – is social justice. An amazing family.

Mill Valley notes
AT MELDA'S memorial service, I saw Turo Richardson (above) for the first time in many years. He went to Tam School for Boys but he married calm, delightful, warm-hearted Jane Ervin (Tam ’50). She died a couple of years ago. I saw Turo this year at Jerry Schimmel's 75th birthday party; the guests also included Warwick (Commodore) Tompkins, who was about to skipper a fast sailboat to New Zealand. Back from Germany late last year was his older sister, Ann Tompkins (below). She spent a week in Hamburg for the 75th anniversary of the launching of the Wander Bird, the 80-foot schooner that was her childhood home. It's been restored. "Fabulous week," she wrote. She also visited friends in Amsterdam and London, and explored a bit of Ireland.  attend the 75th anniversary of the launching of the Wander Bird. She was also busy flogging "Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution" (Chronicle Books), which she co-authored with Lincoln Cushing. She had collected posters during her years as a teacher in China. She has lived in Santa Rosa for many years. Missing was another of Jerry's old pals, Tito Patri, a classmateat Tam, whose urban design practice takes him from Frisco to Italy. His brother, Remo, was at the party; another brother, the noted architect Pierro, died about three years ago. Also missing was the ebullient Nina Agins Wolf, who lives in Eureka (and recently came back from the hospital with a nice new knee).
FROM TO TIME I correspond with other 1951 grads: My childhood friend and sometime Muir Leaguer, Carl Rissman, who has moved to Las Vegas, and my fellow trackster, Paul Chastain, who lives in Oklahoma City. At one of the reunions of the Tam Class of '51, I talked with Marian Meadowcroft, who lives in San Francisco. She informed me that her brother, Warren Meadowcroft, also a Muir Leaguer, had passed away. An optometrist, the former Navy officer married his high school sweetheart, Trude Rossman, and they lived in Sunnyside, Wash., until their deaths in recent years.
  I haven’t seen Gerald Hill since he was so active in politics. He is still practicing law in Sonoma. With his wife, Kathleen, they have authored more than 20 books, mostly about wine and food (ask Amazon), but it’s no surprise that he is also a writer of history. His mom was one of my teachers at Park School, and her interest in history may have rubbed off on me as well as Gerald.
PERHAPS you will remember the late Hal Galloway, who assisted Gordon Foster with youth programs. When he passed the bar, he gave me his job as a ditch digger on Mt. Tam (it was a great job) and sold me his souped-up 1940 Ford. His dedication to Democratic politics was rewarded with a job in Washington when Kennedy was elected, but too many cheeseburgers on the campaign trail must have been responsible for his untimely death. I was coaching the student newspaper at SF State in about 1980 when I stopped to talk to Cameron, the student who was the typesetter. When she told me her name was “Galloway,” I tried to make conversation by asking her if she was related to Hal. “He was my father,” she said.
 (Above, that’s little Cameron hugging her father, Hal). She would have been an outstanding journalistic writer, but she chose to go into acting and improv, mostly in the fringe theater scene in Frisco. (See Tardy Stage Notes.)


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