Sunday, August 30, 2015

How a 1930s water war between California and Arizona delayed Parker Dam

Parker Dam and Lake Havasu on the Colorado River in 1939. In 1922, six of seven states signed the Colorado River Compact. Upset with its allotment, Arizona refused to sign. So when Parker Dam construction began, Arizona sought to block the project. (U.S. Department of the Interior)

by Scott Harrison
Los Angeles Times

"Water war" has for decades been a term used to describe the political battles over water in the West.

But back in the 1930s, a fight between California and Arizona over water actually veered from cold war to hot war — almost.

In 1934, the Metropolitan Water District began construction on Parker Dam, which was opposed by Arizona. The resulting Lake Havasu would feed the new Colorado Aqueduct.

Before, in 1922, six of seven states signed the Colorado River Compact. Upset with its allotment, Arizona refused to sign.

So when Parker Dam construction began, Arizona sought to block the project.

In March 1934, Arizona Gov. Benjamin Moeur called up the Arizona National Guard. Six soldiers arrived in Parker, Ariz., to observe the construction.

National media, including the Los Angeles Times, ridiculed the deployment.

When an Associated Press photo appeared in the March 10, 1934, edition of The Times, the accompanying caption reported:

"Arizona Troops Leave For (Water) Front.

"Without any flare of trumpets or a band playing martial airs, this squad of Arizona National Guardsmen left Phoenix and arrived at Parker yesterday preparatory to patrolling the dam site to prevent 'encroachment' on Arizona's rights by the Metropolitan Water District. Maj. Pomeroy, commanding the detail, is shown on the extreme right."

For the next several months, the troops patrolled the Arizona side of the dam site.

In November, the construction of a trestle bridge from the California side prompted action. On Nov. 10, Moeur declared martial law. He dispatched more than 100 National Guard troops to block construction on Arizona's shore.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes intervened and halted construction. The troops were recalled.

The resulting legal action led to an April 29, 1935, Supreme Court decision. The April 30, 1935, Los Angeles Times reported:

"Without a dissenting voice, the United States Supreme Court yesterday forced an indefinite suspension of work on Parker Dam by upholding Arizona's right to object and interfere with construction....

"Arizona officials, a dispatch from Phoenix said, hailed the decision as a victory in their battle over the Colorado River, which has been waged for twelve years.

"Gov. Moeur, who last November ordered out the Militia to stop construction, was quoted as saying he was pleased; and he and other State authorities indicated they now intend to let other sides in the controversy make the first move.

"By its far-reaching decision, the Supreme Court virtually justified Gov. Moeur's action in ordering out the troops.

"The decision, written by Justice (Pierce) Butler, assert the dam project never has been authorized by law."

Political compromises were made. Congress passed legislation allowing construction to proceed. Parker Dam was finished in 1938.

1915 Model T drives 3,600 miles duplicating Edsel Ford's road trip of a century ago

"Among the normal fears of the Mojave is the thought of being stranded. It was over 110 degrees. The Model T was running cool. The road was solid but bumpy so we took it slow and steady. Everything was fine until the hard pack soil gradually turned soft and sandy. The Model T was the first to bog down. It stalled and we crank started it only to stall again in the deep sand." We looked around for alternatives and at one point drove the Model T on what seemed to be firmer ground parallel to the road only to find ourselves getting stuck again in soft sand. It took a bit of muscle, but three of us managed to get the Model T back on the road and pointing back towards the way we came." (Historic Vehicle Association)

By Tanya Moutzalias

DETROIT, MI - A restored 1915 Model T Touring Car and its crew of drivers have successfully made the cross country road trip from Detroit in the 100 year-old car to their destination- San Francisco.

On July 17, Historical Vehicle Association President Mark Gessler and Heritage Specialist Casey Maxon began their road trip journey from the Henry Ford Estate adjacent to the University of Michigan Deaborn campus.

They set off to replicate the epic trip taken 100 years-ago by Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford, and friends in the same model, 20-horsepower, 4-cylinder car driven by Edsel Ford.

The most challenging aspect of the trip was being, "mindful of the fact that it is a 100-year-old car and you can't just pound the miles on it like a modern car and just forget about it the next day," said Maxon. He also said the most surprising part was just how smooth the ride was.

The HVA crew tried to chart the same path as Edsel Ford's journey, following the scrapbook of H.R. Caulkins Jr., one of Edsel's friends who documented the trip with a typed log on now-yellowed pages and numerous photographs bound in a blue scrapbook.

Read more about their trip here: 1915 Model T to duplicate great American road trip taken by Edsel Ford 100 years ago

"While the roads were good, they were still not great," Maxon said. "The route they took was the National Old Trails Highway.

At a top speed of 35 mph, the month-long trip was full of adventure for the HVA crew just as it was for 21 year-old Edsel Ford and his six friends.

To say today's drive was an adventure would be an understatement. It became clear why so many were able to travel the primitive roads of this country in Henry Ford's brilliant machine. All five of us concluded that the Model T was easily the most versatile two-wheel drive, commercially available vehicle ever produced. Tackling trails that would make even the most seasoned off-roaders blush, the T performed unbelievably well, the only damage suffered being a broken top latch strap, the result of a bit too much body flexing.

The purpose of the trip was to commemorate "the importance of the automobile in our culture, how it shaped our roadways, how it shaped our nation, how in 1915 it all kind of kicked off," Maxon said.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Many airmen lost their lives in the Salton Sea in WWII

Sonar image of World War II-era Avenger torpedo bomber at the bottom of the Salton Sea. The plane crashed into the sea on Dec. 30, 1947. Navy divers discovered the wreck in January, 1999 while searching for a Piper Cherokee that went down in the sea - killing a husband and wife - on Christmas Day, 1998. (Photo: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department)

Denise Goolsby
The Desert Sun

The primary function of Naval Air Station, Salton Sea during World War II was to serve as an operational base for U.S. Navy seaplanes. In addition, it provided target facilities for the area — pile and floating targets distributed throughout the sea were used for torpedo and skip-bombing practice — and serviced sea planes on ferry flights and emergency stops.

Unfortunately, as happened across the U.S. and abroad during military training operations, many fliers lost their lives preparing for war. The Salton Sea has claimed its share of servicemen. In some cases, the inland lake is the final resting place for these men and their machines.

According to AeroQuest, an aviation archeology organization that locates and documents old aircraft crash sites, 25 U.S. Navy aircraft crashed in and around the Salton Sea between Feb. 13, 1942, and Aug. 29, 1945.

Nineteen of these crashes resulted in the death of one or more crew members.

The first fatal crash occurred on Dec. 27, 1942, when the PB2Y Coronado went down in the sea, killing seven men — including plane commander Lt. William O. Carlson — and injured two other members of the crew. The Navy said the bomber was on a routine training flight when it crashed that Sunday afternoon in the north end of the sea. All bodies were recovered.

On June 20, 1944, Lt. Donald A. Innis, 28, was over the Salton Sea on a rocket-firing flight when a rocket body exploded prematurely on the starboard wing. His F6F Hellcat fighter, which was in a 14-degree dive at the time, went into a slow spin and crashed into the sea. Innis was based at Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake.

The pilot, who joined the Navy in 1940, was stationed at Guadalcanal when Americans seized the island. He was on a new assignment after having also served in the Atlantic.

Salton Sea was used as ‘Wake Island’ movie set

Missing bodies found

The Nov. 15, 1943, edition of the Long Beach Independent reported that the body of a naval aviator “who had been dead for some time” was found at the edge of the Salton Sea, near Bertram. The story said he “apparently had been killed in a jump in which his parachute failed to open.”

Another discovery was made less than a year later, as the story in the Sept. 23, 1944, Fresno Bee reported: Maricopa Navy flier locates bodies of buddies killed in 1942.

“The perseverance of Lt. Cmdr. James F. Patterson of Maricopa is credited by the Navy today with the discovery in a Salton Sea canyon of the wreckage of a Navy plane and the bodies of two fliers missing since Feb. 14, 1942.

“Commander Patterson was the flying companion of the two fliers — ensigns Louis M. Winn Jr. of San Diego and William Page of Ontario. They became separated from Patterson during a search for planes overdue on a flight from San Diego from Norfolk, Va.

“The additional search for Winn and Page was abandoned after many fruitless flights by Patterson. He was assigned overseas but when he returned recently, he renewed the hunt, spotted the wreckage and led Marines over rugged terrain to the spot.”

The back story: On Feb. 14, 1942, a single-engine T-6 Texan (SNJ-2) advanced trainer aircraft — with Winn and Page aboard —disappeared while participating in the search for four F4F-4A Wildcat aircraft en route from Tucson, Ariz., to Naval Air Station North Island near San Diego.

The flight of aircraft flew right into a fast-moving winter storm that brought rain and snow to the mountains of eastern San Diego County.

Only one of the Wildcat aircraft managed to land safely. The three missing aircraft weren’t found until the 1950s. Two of the aircraft, discovered in Canebreak Canyon in San Diego County, had crash-landed just 200 feet apart from one another.

Accidental discovery

Another aircraft known to have gone down in the sea, post-war, was discovered by Navy divers in January 1999 while searching for a Piper Cherokee 180 that crashed into the murky waters on Christmas Day 1998.

The body of Grace Chatham, 82, was found floating in the lake on Jan.1, 1999. The body of her husband, World War II vet Robert Chatham, 80, who was piloting the aircraft, washed ashore and was discovered by campers near Salt Creek Beach on Feb. 12, 1999.

Authorities believe the Escondido couple crashed on the way back from dinner at Chiriaco Summit.

About two weeks after Grace’s body was found, Navy sonar equipment detected an aircraft at a depth of about 40 feet. But it wasn’t the Piper Cherokee — it was a World War-II era Avenger torpedo bomber.

Four months later, after matching the aircraft’s Bureau Number 53477 to official records, it was discovered the bomber crashed into the sea on Dec. 30, 1947, and sank as its two-man crew — a pilot and a gunner —stayed afloat with life rafts until being rescued.

The aircraft lost power on a navigation training flight from San Diego when it plunged into the water.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First Sketch Made in the West

A painting inspired by Thomas Moran’s sketch of Green River tops Christie’s auction of William Koch’s Western artworks.

Christie’s New York still holds the artist record for Thomas Moran, for another Green River oil, painted in 1878. A collector bid $15.8 million for it seven years before the above Green River 1896 oil hammered in at $7.5 million. Editor's Note: Despite Moran's title, his sketch was not the "first" made in the West. George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, Alfred Jacob Miller and Albert Bierstadt were among the other artists who drew earlier sketches during their travels to the American West.

Written by Meghan Saar
True West Magazine

Before 34-year-old Thomas Moran reached his ultimate destination of Yellowstone in Wyoming Territory in the summer of 1871, he stepped off the Union Pacific Railroad and viewed the towering cliffs of the Green River. The artist completed a field study that he later inscribed, “First Sketch Made in the West.”

Moran would return to this first Western subject of his many times during his storied career. His 1896 oil of Green River, featuring a troop of American Indians in the lower right, was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and appeared at auction for the first time, on May 21, 2015, at Christie’s New York. Not surprisingly, this rare work of art landed the top bid, at $7.5 million.

The painting was sold from the collection of American businessman William Koch, who is most famously known in the Old West collecting arena for paying $2.1 million for the only known photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid. Koch has been collecting Western artworks for an Old West town he hopes to build, but he ran out of room and decided to put some of the treasures on the auction block.

The Green River oil was painted a quarter century after Moran spent five weeks with Dr. Ferdinand Hayden’s surveying expedition to Yellowstone to complete an article assignment for Scribner’s Monthly. His visual documentation of more than 30 sites, along with photographs taken by William Henry Jackson, inspired the creation of Yellowstone as America’s first national park in 1872.

Although Moran took eight trips to the West, between 1871 and 1892, he never forgot his first experience of the frontier. His sketch of Green River lived on in his studio as the basis for more than 40 depictions he created of the river’s bluffs. His daughter Ruth recalled that whenever the household needed funds, the family would joke, “Well, it’s time for Father to paint another Green River.”

The artist did have a tendency to minimize signs of civilization in his paintings. He didn’t portray Green River’s railroad settlement, which had about 2,000 residents in 1868, the year Congress established Wyoming Territory. Moran ignored the town’s schoolhouse, church, hotel and brewery, and a landscape scarred by train tracks. Easterners viewing Green River from Moran’s perspective saw a virgin, pristine area, whose only inhabitants were wild American Indians. “I place no value upon literal transcripts from Nature. My general scope is not realistic; all my tendencies are toward idealization,” Moran freely admitted.

Along with Moran’s oil, collectors purchased works by other artists who similarly portrayed a more romantic and nostalgic impression of the frontier.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Retracing history in a Model T Ford

Group follows same route as Edsel Ford's 1915 trip that included stop at Harvey House

Historical Vehicle Association president Mark Gessler is part of a group driving a Model T Ford to San Francisco, retracing the route taken by Edsel Ford in 1915. (Jose Quintero, Desert Dispatch)

By Jose Quintero
Staff Writer

BARSTOW — When Edsel Ford embarked on a trip from Detroit to San Francisco in 1915, once he reached Mojave Desert, he noted in the trip’s log about concerns of “highwaymen” in the area.

Highwaymen were robbers who would hold up travelers at gunpoint, usually on horseback. So when Historical Vehicle Association president Mark Gessler decided to trace Ford’s voyage a century later, horse riding gunmen were not a concern.

Coincidentally, though, Gessler and his crew were hit by thieves who broke into their trailer and made off with tools, some clothing and a small generator. Fortunately, the thieves were not able to get to the prized possession, a 1915 Ford Model T.

It is the same 20-horsepower, four-cylinder model that Ford drove from Detroit to San Francisco on his chronicled 1915 trip.

Gessler and HVA heritage specialist Casey Maxon are replicating the exact trip along the old National Trails Highway taken by Henry Ford’s son and a group of his buddies a century ago. Gessler and Maxon departed from Barstow on Thursday morning after paying a visit to the Harvey House. In July 1915, Ford stayed the night in Ludlow, and stopped by the Harvey House for breakfast before heading to San Bernardino, according to his logs.

The purpose of the trip is to bring national awareness to what Gessler describes as the importance of the nation’s automotive heritage and its impact on shaping American culture. In other words, Gessler is celebrating the birth of the American road trip.

“Over the last century the road trip became an expression of American lifestyle and the Ford Model T helped make it possible for most Americans,” Gessler said. “Edsel’s trip was purely a group of young men, striking out the road and traveling across the country. For us today, 1915 really catalyzed American culture because it was the first time that roads were in shape to be called passable and you could make your way across the country.”

Gessler expects to reach San Francisco on Aug. 18 for the centennial of Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Ford’s trip a century ago also ended at the exposition in San Francisco, where Ford Motor Company had one of the most popular exhibits at the fair — a working Ford Model T assembly line that produced about 18 cars each afternoon. When Ford reached the exhibition in 1915 he returned to Detroit by train. Gessler and his team will return home via plane.

The Model T that Ford used in the trip is not known to exist. But the vehicle Gessler and Maxon are driving across the country has a historical background that includes being driven in Ronald Reagan’s inauguration parade in 1981.

“This Ford has been in numerous parades in Washington, D.C.,” Gessler said. “That’s where we acquired it from. It was owned by the founder of the Washington, D.C. Ford Model T Club. The family that gave this car to us is thrilled that this vehicle is making its way across America.”

The vehicle is actually being driven on the entirety of the trip. Maxon said the throttle lever on the steering column controls the speed and three floor pedals operate the transmission for two forward speeds, reverse and brake. Their Ford is also equipped with “Rocky Mountain” drum-type brakes to improve stopping with a floor-mounted hand lever.

The car has a top speed of 40 mph, but is usually traveling between 20 and 35 mph, depending on road conditions.

“People see this and may say ‘gosh it’s so hot out, they must be miserable driving that car,'” Gessler said. “But the way the car is set up, it’s amazingly comfortable. Riding in this Ford Model T feels like you’re sitting on a porch rocker and there is a nice breeze out. It’s a simple vehicle, but well designed.”