Friday, November 22, 2013

Arizona Navy Deployed In 1934

Admiral Nellie T. Bush on one of her ferry boats. (Arizona Historical Society)

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez

Air Force, Army, Marines and the National Guard. These are the branches of the military stationed in Arizona, and there is one more.

In 1934, the federal government began the Parker Dam construction project to divert Colorado River water to Southern California, but neither the feds nor California got approval from Arizona to build on its land. So, a very unhappy Arizona Gov. Benjamin Baker Moeur declared martial law. Did You Know that is when the Arizona Navy was created and called to protect the state’s water rights?

“The Arizona Navy was a mighty force of two ships," said John Larsen Southard, a local historian. "And they were used to patrol the river and patrol the Parker Dam construction site to ensure that those willy Californians didn’t succeed in building Parker Dam and they’re not taking therefore, Colorado River.”

Southard said the Navy’s fleet was made up of wooden ferry boats that happened to be in the area. Gov. Moeur even named the boats’ owner admiral of this newly formed Navy. Adm. Nellie T. Bush, yes a woman, commanded the ships for two days!

“He backed up the navy with a deployment of the National Guard Troops from Phoenix. In fact if you look at the photos from deployment day, they had rifles at the shoulder," said Southard. "They are equipped. They looked and were a real fighting force.”

It was 40 riflemen and 20 machine gunners lined up along the Colorado River bank. A reconnaissance mission to make sure construction did not happen on Arizona’s side of the river. It was a show of force until one of the boats got stuck in the water and Californians, you know, the enemy, had to help get it loose. Sure we laugh now, but the governor’s act of force worked!

“His deployment of the navy did cause Secretary of the Interior Ickes to delay construction of the dam, and in fact when dam construction was resumed it was allowed to resume, because Arizona had won a project, an irrigation project to be sponsored by the federal government," Southard said.

That project was the Gila River Irrigation system. Southard said Moeur’s navy is still talked about.

“It’s the last occurrence in American history when one state took up arms against another no matter how unlikely it was that the arms would ever be fired," said Southard.

About that admiral I mentioned, Nellie T. Bush. She became a prominent figure in Arizona. She was a justice of the peace in Parker, served in the state legislature, passed the bar in California and Arizona, and in 1932 was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention where Franklin Delano Roosevelt received the nomination for president. Bush was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 1982.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A railroad dinosaur is coming back to life

Steam engine No. 4014, nicknamed Big Boy, was retired in 1959 but will now be restored by UP as a traveling museum

Union Pacific crews are laying 4,500 feet of temporary track so Big Boy No. 4014 can cross a parking lot and reach a nearby Metrolink line. (Los Angeles Times)
By Bob Pool
Los Angeles Times

See video

It's been sitting around in Pomona for nearly 53 years, but now the beast they call Big Boy is making tracks for Wyoming.

Officially known as Union Pacific steam engine No. 4014, the locomotive has been parked at the RailGiants Train Museum in Pomona since 1962, a displaced piece of the past.

Now Union Pacific has reacquired the behemoth and has begun inching Big Boy No. 4014 toward mainline rail tracks that will take it to Cheyenne, where it will be rebuilt and begin life afresh as a rolling museum on steel wheels.

"It's been sitting here in sort of a railroad Jurassic Park," said Ed Dickens, senior manager of Union Pacific's Heritage Operations. "We're bring T. rex back to life."

Big Boy was built in 1941, one of 25 huge steam engines used to pull 3,600-ton freight trains over the Wasatch Mountains between Ogden, Utah, and Green River, Wyo. After traveling more than 1 million miles, it was retired in 1959, when diesel engines replaced steam. Eventually, Big Boy was handed over to the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society's Southern California chapter, which oversees the RailGiants collection.

To get the old locomotive rolling again, Union Pacific crews are laying 4,500 feet of temporary track so it can cross the Fairplex parking lot and reach a nearby Metrolink line. Once it gets to Colton, it will be shuttled onto Union Pacific tracks and start heading east after being converted from burning coal to using fuel oil.

Moving the engine and restoring it are a huge deal in every sense, according to those involved with the project.

To keep the 600-ton locomotive from crushing the asphalt parking lot, workers are placing layers of plywood beneath 40-foot sections of rails and ties. The 2-ton track panels are moved by forklift and truck and leapfrog ahead of Big Boy as it is slowly towed across the lot by a tractor.

At the Metrolink tracks at the northern edge of the fairgrounds, Big Boy will be pulled by a diesel engine that also bears the old steam engine's original 4014 number. A second diesel engine will be hooked behind the steam engine to serve as a brake.

Dickens declined to speculate on what Big Boy's restoration will cost. But he's confident that Union Pacific has experts who will get it running again.

"These engines are our life," Dickens said. "I have the blueprints for this one on my smartphone."

It will take about five years to refurbish Big Boy in what Dickens calls a "frame-up restoration." After that, it will tour the country on his company's 35,000 miles of track, which connects about 7,000 cities.

Those affiliated with the rail historical society's RailGiants Museum say they are sorry to see Big Boy go. But they will still have eight other locomotives and four cars on outdoor display at the Fairplex, said Rob Shatsnider, chairman of the society's Southern California chapter.

"The whole motive of our chapter is railway preservation," Shatsnider said. "Now, the entire country will see him."

Pomona Mayor Elliott Rothman said he also will miss Big Boy. Twenty years ago, he enjoyed bringing his 6-year-old son Jason to the fairgrounds to sound the engine's horn.

Other young rail fans also come to the fairgrounds to watch the locomotive's slow move out of Pomona. High school student Shelly Hunter, 17, has been a member of the locomotive historical society for four years and has come to the Los Angeles County Fair to admire Big Boy for as long as she can remember.

As Big Boy rolls the over the makeshift rails that will take it to a new life, "I'll be keeping close track," Shelly promised.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Huell's Howsers out of this world house

The Volcano House owned by Huell Howser has an excellent view of the surrounding desert from atop the 150-foot volcanic cone it is built on. (LEONARD ORTIZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)


We often wonder who the man was with the insatiable curiosity about the world around him. Huell Howser could get as excited about a single persimmon tree as he could about a state park, botanical garden, out-of-the-way museum or the ordinary lives of California residents.

We watched the late Tennessee native go underground in storm drains, learn about bluebirds with Orange County's Dick Purvis and hug trees as far north as Humboldt in his long-running series, “California's Gold,” for public television.

Visiting one of his own homes is a road trip to remember. Up the Cajon Pass, out to the Mojave Desert, you make your turns east along dirt roads until you come to a house you're not likely to see anywhere except in the middle of nowhere.

The Volcano House outside of Barstow is built on a cinder cone, a volcanic bubble of sorts. It follows the form of the cone with a white domed roof, and from a distance it looks like a snow-capped peak from outer space.

More photos

“We like to joke with our friends that have never seen it before, that we're not sure when it landed,” said nearest neighbor Spike Lynch, who lives a mile away.

Following the space-time continuum, but backward, a step inside is to experience the swinging '60s, a decade many of us joke that if we remember it, we weren't there.

The circular home with 360 degrees of sliding glass panels is surprisingly spacious for a house in the round – two bedrooms, two baths, living and dining rooms and a conversation pit. George Jetson would have been proud.

All the rooms are divided by floating interior walls that share the same domed ceiling. The top of the dome is an observation deck.

The house was built in 1968 by Vard Wallace, a Newport Beach resident who invented a drafting machine widely used in the aircraft industry during World War II.

There are 1,800 square feet of living space, 60 acres of desert, a small caretaker house and a man-made lake that could use a little landscaping. The view in some directions is the distant horizon, and it is so quiet you could hear a pin drop but for the lone coyote howling at dusk.

“Serenity is what attracts people to desert,” said Lynch. “There's nothing like watching the stars come out here.”

The domed roof also shelters a 5-foot-wide moat that was intended as a swimming pool, but proved too dirty after the first few sandstorms.

Howser bought the house on the spot from its third owner, midcentury fan and British developer Richard Bailey, in 2003.

Caretaker Ray Laporte said Howser signed on the dotted line within minutes of seeing the place. An impulse buy, but he rarely used it.

“It's pretty difficult getting up and down the narrow road,” said Lynch. “In fact, when they were pouring the dome, they couldn't find a concrete contractor to go up. It was so steep the concrete would pour out of the back of the truck.”

The problem was solved by a man from Barstow who backed all the way up the 10-foot wide road to deliver the concrete. Lynch recalls that portion of the job took months to complete.

Howser had it on the market in 2009, but ended up giving the house to Chapman University over lunch at the Filling Station in Old Towne Orange with Chapman's president, Jim Doti.

Register reporter Sherri Cruz wrote that in April of that year, while they sat on the patio, Doti asked about the house and Howser said something like: “Oh yeah, I bought that 10 years ago. I hardly ever used it, but I fell in love with the place. Why? Do you want it?”

The university plans to use the house for desert studies, astronomy and geology pursuits.

When flares fire into the sky over the nearby Twentynine Palms Marine Air Ground Combat Center, the large white lights hang with the stars for minutes. Lynch likes to tell his guests that the aliens are coming back for it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Archivist revels in state's treasures and mysteries

Jeff Kintop displays a U.S. flag, hand painted on Oct. 31, 1864 to commemorate Nevada's statehood, stored in 'The Vault' at the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City. The flag, which flew over Fort Ruby, is believed to be the first 36-star flag. (Reno Gazette-Journal)

Written by Guy Clifton
Reno Gazette-Journal

A funny thing happened to Jeff Kintop on his career path back to his native Minnesota.

He fell in love with Nevada, and the rest, quite literally, is history.

Kintop, the Nevada state archivist, moved to Reno in 1979 to work on a grant-funded history education project at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“After four years of working at UNR, the grant ended and I had to go look for other work,” said Kintop, 62, who took over the top job at the Nevada State Library and Archives in 2009 after longtime archivist Guy Rocha retired. “I had come from Minnesota (he earned a master’s in history from Mankato State), and I always thought I would end up back at Minnesota, where they have a very large historical society. We already had two kids then, and my wife said, ‘You can find another job,’ and she meant here (in Nevada).”

There was one problem in 1983. The country was in a recession and full-time jobs were hard to come by.

That’s when Kintop received a call from Rocha.

“Guy called and said, ‘I have this part-time opening that doesn’t pay hardly anything, but it’s a job,’” Kintop said. “I took it.”

He worked part time at the Nevada State Archives in Carson City and also took a part-time job as a scholar in residence for Sierra County, Calif., working with the schools in Downieville, Portola and other towns in the county.

Two years later, in 1985, the recession was coming to an end and the job at the state archives was expanded to full time. Kintop became the curator of archives and manuscripts.

“It’s been pretty exciting pretty much ever since,” Kintop said.

One of Kintop’s roles as the archives manager was to be the caretaker of some of the state’s most-prized documents — one-of-a-kind items that tell the state’s history and which are not replaceable. Most of them are kept in a special area known as “the vault.”

The vault is temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled and is protected by halon gas in case of a fire.

The oldest item in the vault is the “First Records of Carson Valley, Utah Territory.

“When John Reese and the first settlers decided they were going to stay the winter, they formed their own government and petitioned Congress to form a territorial government,” Kintop said, explaining the fledgling government kept its records in the small book dated Nov. 12, 1851.

This record book was stolen in 1989 when the State Archives moved to its present location on Stewart Street in Carson City. A worker helping with the move stole the book and sold it to a collector for $800.

It was eventually recovered and returned to the state.

The vault also includes the first U.S. 36-star flag (commemorating Nevada’s admission to the Union as the 36th state). On Oct. 31, 1864, a group of enterprising soldiers at Fort Ruby in Elko County decided to commemorate the occasion.

The soldiers hand-painted their own flag to fly above the fort in the shadow of the Ruby Mountains of eastern Nevada. The fort’s surgeon, upon leaving Fort Ruby years later, took the flag with him to Ohio, where it remained in his family for decades.

When Nevada celebrated its centennial in 1964, the surgeon’s grandson presented it to Gov. Grant Sawyer and it has been in the state’s possession ever since.

Seeing and touching the state’s history — and uncovering it to share with others — has been Kintop’s passion for more than 30 years.

He and Rocha co-authored a book about Wyatt Earp and his family’s Nevada connections titled “The Earps’ Last Frontier.”

Kintop said knowing the names of the people who built Nevada is one thing, but knowing about the people themselves, beyond the names, has been fascinating. In researching a water rights lawsuit from the 1880s, he learned the personal stories and put names to faces of old photographs from some of Nevada’s first citizens.

The best part, Kintop said, is that there are more treasures to be found and more history to be written and shared with Nevadans about their home state.

“There are still mysteries out there,” he said with a smile.

With Nevada celebrating its sesquicentennial over the next 12 months, his office is abuzz with activity — everything from people asking permission to use the copyrighted state song, “Home Means Nevada,” to people needing research on one historical tidbit or another.

Kintop lives in Reno with his wife, Dale. They have two daughters, Krista Phillips and Caitlin Fletcher, two grandchildren and two more on the way.

His thoughts of returning to Minnesota are, literally, history.

“I haven’t thought about it for years,” he said. “Nevada is home. It’s been home for 34 years now. I’ve spent more time here than anywhere else in my life. I love it here.”