CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT

My life has never been dull, but I planned it that way. I believe I chose it from the spirit world before I was born. It’s been very challenging with lowdown times, along with plenty of excitement, and I’ve been grateful for all of it—especially for all the folks who chose to be a friend or an acquaintance. Some stayed a long time; others came and went. I am a kind person and attracted kind people, for the most part. I believe that’s the way life works—you get back what you put out. But that doesn’t mean any of us have a smooth ride—think back to the histories of family and friends…

I got my worldly view starting at age four and living in Bavaria, Germany right after the disastrous WWII. I had been blessed with a Southern Virginia loving family upbringing, I was totally accepting experiencing a strange, harsh-sounding language and bombed out buildings and learned to speak German fluently. My stepfather was a stern Army officer and I towed the line, for the most part. Another highlight were my teen years in the 1950’s living in exotic Tripoli, Libya, a country of desert sand, camels and a lovely seashore once trod by Romans centuries ago. I can’t say I understand the full implication of the history or philosophy in those ancient lands, but I can understand and relate to their humanity, which makes me more accepting of the upheavals that area has been suffering—with no end in sight.

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

My sister Tupper and I in Murnau, Bavaria, Germany

These reminisces are probably typical as we age and are faced with health, financial and social issues. Since I’m a writer and knew that was my destiny from the age of ten, I tend to mull over my life’s ups and downs. Perhaps a reader will glean some self-wisdom from my words.

Viki Williams in 1956--the family Ford in from of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

Viki Williams in 1956–the family Ford in front of our villa on Via de Gaspari, Garden City, Tripoli.

I’ve had some typical experiences—a marriage, the birth of a girl and a boy (both fabulous, loving humans), and a divorce. I chose to pursue a career in journalism, writing for both weekly and daily Los Angeles newspapers, before I wrote several books (Melaynie’s Masquerade – a 16th century historical fiction and several other books based on some true experiences – all available on Amazon:) As an author and a longtime newspaper editor, I felt the next best step was editing books. During the past 15 years, I have guided many wonderful authors, some of them first timers, through a wide variety of books.

Although I’ve generally been very healthy, I was challenged in the past few years with mobility issues that were getting worse, but I thought 2016 was going to be a turnaround year since I was getting a new hip on my right side. Instead, I’ve been dealing with various complications that sometimes come with surgeries, like losing my appetite for several months. The latest involved flashing lights and dizziness. Between various tests and doctors’ opinions (it wasn’t a stroke, as I first thought), I’m slowly moving forward, hopes high. Thank the Lord that we can’t see the future, for the most part. And we’re responsible for our attitudes. I’ve always been an optimist, thankfully, and that attitude has always suited me.

Besides an inner knowing that it will all work out, eventually, it seems I won’t be needing to go on a diet or take drugs for high blood pressure in the near future. Since my operation in January, I have dropped 45 pounds. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this slender. And my blood pressure went down about 30 points. The future looks bright.

BARRACAN MEMORIES -WHEELUS AFB, LIBYA

I keep track of my important keepsakes from my life as a military brat. As a fledgling reporter, from October 1956 to May 1958, I cherished the school newspaper and held onto 17 Barracan newspapers from Wheelus Air Force Base High School just outside Tripoli, Libya. I’m surprised how well they’ve held up considering I’ve moved about 20 plus times since my family left Wheelus for the US in 1958. The photos are a bit blurry, but we didn’t have top quality printing. Nevertheless, the copy is still easily readable. I’ll share more of them as time goes on, but I had to present my first big story on the front page–Ebb Tide is Theme of Junior-Senior Prom–even though I didn’t get a byline. I made sure I didn’t forget this milestone since I wrote in ink: “I wrote this” on my copy!

Barracan May 1958

Barracan May 1958

From the inside of the March 26th newspaper, I found that “Platter Chatter” written by Errol Cochrane announced that the number one song request on Armed Forces Radio was Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star,” and the number two was Elvis Presley’s “Don’t.” Chuck Berry had number six with “Sweet Little Sixteen.” John Carlson wrote the column “Teen Town Tips” and wrote that there would be a Hay Ride at the Teenage Club. Three “six by’s” (trucks) will be used and there was room for 60 people. The cost was quite reasonable — twenty-five cents each! I remember attending this event with Tom Henderson, who was also my date for the Junior-Senior prom. I even remember Tom joking about Johnny Mathis’ latest song, “No Love but Your Love.” Tom thought Mathis’ words sounded like “Nola Fajola.” It’s a funny and poignant memory since Tom passed on a few years ago. The Quidnunc column was high school gossip and written by Sharon Rayl. She reported on those who went to the base theater to see Elvis Presley in “Jailhouse Rock” — like Chuck Montgomery and Betty Hubbard, Bill Butcher and Carolyn Kunz, Steve Gaynor, Karen Gamel, Kathie de Russy and Arnell Gross. There was a new two-some around campus–Al (Atomic Age) Kulas and Mary Pat Riordan. Al Kulas left this world just this year. I wonder where Mary Pat is?

These memories from long ago have been fun to relate, especially since there are so many former Wheelus students who have kept in touch over the years. I have been meaning to scan more copies but time slips away and I’ve had a surgery that delayed me for a while. I had wanted to copy them for our Wheelus reunion in June but the good intention was there without the results. I have new copies for my blog on my To-Do list for later.

MOTHER’S DAY MEMORIES

My mama, as she would refer to herself in the Southern way, was a “pistol,” according to my dad, who called her “Pistol-packin’ mama;” the phrase is from an old country song. He was right: those were qualities an Army officer’s wife had to learn as she stood up for herself and her children (she raised three of us).

Mama on my Wedding Day--she made her dress.

Mama on my Wedding Day–she made her dress.

Garnette Motley Williams
As the seventh of eight children, Mom had practiced being her own person early in life. When it’s Mother’s Day, I remember Mama and all the effort she put into making sure her kids had the best she could give. In retrospect, I can truly appreciate her creative efforts, which came right from her heart. It’s difficult to write this story without tears: Garnette Motley Williams died 41 years ago this month. She wasn’t quite 53. She didn’t go to college, but she knew a great deal about life and how to treat people with love and consideration. She let her heart dictate and then she went for it–whatever she chose to do– with enthusiasm and energy.

Besides being the best wife, mother, sister, cousin and friend she could be, her primary talent was sewing. She tried her hand and/or the Singer sewing machine at almost everything stitchable: slipcovers and drapes, specialized window coverings (swag and jabot, Empire style sheer curtains), men’s shirts and ties, children’s clothing and almost any fashionable garment for women. When I was younger I had a Madame Alexander doll, about six inches tall, and she made tiny outfits for it. Her creations for me assured that I’d be stylish despite my dad’s thrifty habits. She kept the old Singer humming; it came along with us to various Army posts, including Tripoli, Libya. During my teenage years in the Middle East, we found material, probably in an Italian shop, and set up our version of an assembly line to sew clothes for the two of us. Mom and I wore the same size and would pick out a pattern that was suitable for both of us, although we’d use material of different colors and patterns. We didn’t want to look like twins! I would cut out the pattern and sew the darts, for instance, and Mom would put in the zippers and work on anything difficult. I still remember the cotton 1950s style scoop-neck sundresses: hers had a black background with a lively print; mine was red. Those were the years of puffy crinoline underskirts, which girls had to starch and keep clean to keep their outer skirts sticking out. Mom came up with the unusual idea to use soft plastic chicken wire as an underskirt. It kept its shape longer and was easy to keep clean. As I remember, I didn’t wear it often because it was a little too unique, and I was wary that someone might discover it.

In later years, when I was in college, she made me some elegant party clothes: a spaghetti-strap basic black satin dress with a little short-sleeved jacket with a scalloped bottom that I wore to a college dance, and a sexy, form-fitting black wool sheath with a boat neck and long sleeves I wore to several parties. There were many more creations, but the only garment I still have is my wedding gown. I got married in Germany in the ‘60s while my parents were stationed in Frankfurt. My mother found the ideal satin and lace material, and the perfect net for a veil, and it looked divine. It even had a small train. The gown is stored in a box, without all the fancy acid-free tissue of today. Even though I wonder what shape it’s in, it’s comforting to know I still have it. The only garment Mom didn’t make for my wedding was Dad’s suit. Interestingly enough, the wedding dress design is somewhat similar to the one worn a few years ago by Princess Catherine of the United Kingdom.
Years later, Mom made my cousin Penny’s wedding gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses as well. After all the work on Penny’s gown, Mom ironed it, but the iron was too hot and lifted off some of the material on the front of the dress. Mom agonized, but Penny’s sense of humor and practicality wouldn’t let my mother fret. “I’m glad it’s you who did it and not me! It doesn’t matter because my flowers will cover it,” Penny declared. After the ceremony and a few glasses of champagne, Penny cared even less: it was a funny sorry to tell all her guests. I didn’t always appreciate Mom’s talents. Regrettably, especially in college, I envied the girls whose parents gave them money to buy clothes in a department store. It was only later that I figured out that my mama’s talented fingers created original attire for me, and they were sewn with all the love she could give. She created clothes for me that could never be bought.

Oh, my Mama Mia, I miss you so!

A TRIP TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM

I feel my life is an adventure and choose to see the brighter side of life, even when it’s difficult and very challenging. My optimism perks me up, most of the time. And it’s been a bumpy road so far this year. I didn’t plan it that way (of course!), but we all hit the snags which make us stronger and more resilient. I would get a new hip in January and be striding forward easily in  at least 6 weeks–I thought. Nasty complications delayed that process. I was finally beginning to earnestly pursue my mobility, Last Thursday, however, I was starting to see flashing lights and feeling unsteady and dizzy. No pain and even though I had had similar symptoms in the past, this time I was more worried. I might have let the matter rest since I knew it would probably disappear, but I had a house guest (Marla, an old friend from Wheelus High in Tripoli in ’58). Since I was also having trouble forming words or even getting them vocal, she was worried and wanted to call my daughter Heidi to step in, especially since Marla was leaving that morning.

Heidi and I arrived at the Emergency Center at Kaiser Panorama City before 9 a.m. to be checked in, weighed, BP taken, etc. Since I wasn’t exhibiting any dire symptoms, I wasn’t rushed anywhere. Not long after I was wheeled into one of the small rooms off the corridors of the Emergency area. The hallways were cluttered, depending on the action, with portable computers on wheels and all the other machines needed to diagnose and treat incoming cases. Each room also had a small TV on an wall extension and a single window that brought in natural light. I got on the wheeled gurney in the room and was told I could keep on my long pants and shoes on but needed to replace shirt and bra with a back-tied hospital gown. Then I was set up with a blood pressure cuff on left arm and a connection to a stunt to monitor my blood on the right. At least I could lower and raise the gurney when I wanted a change of position. I couldn’t see the monitor behind me on the left very well but it occasionally beeped its presence. It was comfortable and the temperature was cold enough for Heidi’s taste. I needed three extra blankets!

We did a lot of talking in the next 8 hours in-between being wheeled to a CAT Scan, and later in the afternoon, for definitive proof of the admitting doctor and neurologist that it hadn’t been a stroke, provided by an MRI and its jackhammer sounds! We thought we were being released right before noon and planned a nice lunch. We were stuck since MRI machines aren’t ready at short notice. Hunger set in and since lunch was over, they scrounged me a tuna sandwich (as far from gourmet as you can get!) with apple juice, and Heidi found a machine with something better.

What relieved the boredom were the Emergency staff and some of the drama surrounding me. The nurses, male and female were friendly and entertaining and I reached out to them with humorous comments and compliments. Our first encounter was a Latin nurse with a big mustache and bald head. He proudly boasted of his Mexican heritage and when he discovered my birthday was January 1 couldn’t wait to tell me all about his grandmother who had the same birthday and died not long ago at age 105. During the time of Pancho Villa, his mother and her family dug holes to hide from Pancho Villa’s attempts to take over Mexico and even the US. She went on to have nine children.

Across the hall from me another drama unfolded as nurses and staff rolled in a enormously  heavy older woman in a wheelchair who was moaning and screaming in pain. They tried for a long time to lift her onto a gurney but couldn’t. They finally rolled her into the hall and assembled 8 men to transfer her. Then they tried to find the proper pain medication for her many complications (heart disease and diabetes) while she didn’t hesitate making any pain sounds she could. I tend to be a silent sufferer but admired her ability to help herself any way she could. She had family support–husband and grandchildren–at least. I could see a great deal of the drama since my sliding glass door was open and the curtain back. The sound echoed so nothing was completely private.

It was an interesting day, to say the least, but I was delighted that I was healthy and was sent home with advice to take one baby aspirin a day.

Heidi took a selfie of the two of us in the Emergency Room. She has a wry look on her face as she waits patiently.

Version 2

GHOST ENCOUNTERS — SO CAL

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, whose 400th birthday was the other day, Hamlet said to Horatio: There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I have always been interested in the supernatural; I’ve had some experiences and know many friends who have had them as well. It’s a great topic for articles and stories. I’ve written a short book on Amazon about a true fascinating positive encounter—Angels in Uniform—and I interviewed a man who was living in a haunted house. The interview, upon which I based this blog, was published in the Daily News Southern California newspaper when I had a column.

Glen Peterson had bought a dilapidated “castle” in the Santa Monica Mountains and began restoring it years ago. Resembling a German castle on a hill with its bell tower, gables, decorative wood beams, courtyard and guest house, the home was built in 1939 by Theodore Spurkuhl, a Paramount Studios director of photography known for his pioneering use of spotlights. Spurkuhl worked with many of the film greats: Ronald Coleman, James Cagney and Fred MacMurray, for instance, and was noted for his work on “Beau Geste” starring Gary Cooper.

SparkuhlHomeSparkuhl Home

Spurkuhl put a great deal of energy into building the home. Since it was wartime, he even added a secret room in case the Japanese invaded or the Germans won the war. His descendants, who visited the site while Glen was restoring it, thought the cinematographer might have put too much intensity into the building project since he died in 1940.

Before Glen bought it, the home was owned by actor Nick Nolte, who purchased it in 1975 during the filming of the TV miniseries, “Rich Man, Poor Man.” The other primary actor in the series, Peter Strauss, had also bought property nearby. Coincidentally, Strauss’ property was later sold by Glen, who had been a real estate agent, to the National Park Service. This 1970s miniseries was featured on a PBS documentary “Pioneers of Television” not long ago.

The 70s were wild and crazy for Nolte. I remember seeing his old yellow Cadillac broken down by the side of a mountain road one day. Nolte and his friends partied quite a bit and the house suffered a good deal of damage. It was finally abandoned to birds of all types, squirrels and various other animals. It was a mess of animal droppings and the like when Glen began his restoration.

One evening after the house was beautifully finished, Glen was home alone enjoying a quiet evening. While listening to a new Terence Trent Darby recording and near the end of the song, Glen heard a loud knocking on the back door. He checked both inside and out and found no one. Back inside he restarted the song. The knocking began again at the exact same place.

This time he checked the windows, “I had repaired the windows just that morning,” Glen recalled, specifically to keep them from opening due to strong winds. They were all still closed, and he began the recording once more.

Glen played the song eight times, and he told me, “the pounding kept happening at the same time each time.” Every time it happened, he checked for a reason for the knocking, but found none. On the ninth try, the record played through to the end, and there were no further knocking sounds.

The mysterious last two lines of the song that finally played were: “No grave can hold my body down; this land is still my home.”

WHEELUS AFB AMERICAN TV PROGRAMS

My starring role as Louise

My starring role as Louise

Wheelus AFB in Tripoli, Libya, had a TV station back in the 1950s-1960s with some imported programs from the US and some local American talent from the base and in town. I was picked for a few moments of fleeting fame on American military TV long ago. Perhaps a few hundred people actually saw the program broadcast.

Since Hollywood didn’t come knocking on my door with a contract, I chose a writing career instead. No big script or book deals or a big budget movie, yet…alas. Although I did make some attempts to get my screenplay about Sir Francis Drake produced then ended up writing an historical fiction novel about him: MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE

My “starring” role on TV was to portray the fictional “Louise” while Joe, a talented pianist and airman played the song of that name. Maurice Chevalier, French actor and singer is known for singing the song at least 50 years ago. Two of the lines are:

Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise.

Birds in the trees seem to twitter Louise.

Joe (I can no longer remember his last name) had a half-hour TV program, which featured him playing piano. It was broadcast in the evening to every home with a TV set at Wheelus Air Force Base. I don’t remember if I even knew when or how often, but I did save the photos taken for the special occasion. My family had not brought a TV to Libya so Mom and Dad did not catch my debut.

Keeping his program unique was probably a challenge for Joe. One day he came up with the bright idea to play famous songs named for women: “Marie,” “Charmaine” and “Louise,” for instance, and have a girl in the background who represented each particular song.

He would play five songs. He already knew two Italian girls to feature, but he needed three more females to represent all the songs he had in mind. Apparently reasoning that the high school physical education program would provide him with the best choices, he came out to the Wheelus tennis courts one morning. The male mind is always intriguing! Maybe it was our grace hitting a tennis ball during physical education classes, or perhaps what our legs looked like in shorts that influenced his choices?

I had never considered myself a talented tennis player, although I did improve over the years. I was still in the hitting-the-ball-too-high stage, and lucky to make it over the net. My legs, however, were shapely.

Joe picked me, Judy Jones, and Vicki Scola and we all agreed to face the cameras. I was supposed to be a French Louise and had to find a beret and a scarf since my portrayal was a variation of the famous French Apache dance (based on Parisian gang culture and named for the US Native American tribe). I’ve still got the now tattered beret and the orange scarf.

I don’t recall that we did much if any rehearsing since we simply had to sit or stand, as the case may be, and look sexy. When Joe played each song, the camera panned from his playing to the appropriate girl and the painted background scene behind each of us.

No lingering fears of cameras linger; I don’t think I was nervous. One of the young Italian girls apparently did get the jitters; her underarm perspiration shows on her pretty dress.

Was that my “15 minutes of fame?” Fame is so ephemeral.

Between the two Italian girls, I’m in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe’s at the piano, the star of the show.
Between the two Italian girls, I’m in beret and scarf. Wheelus students, Judy Jones and Vickie Scola, are on the right. Joe’s at the piano, the star of the show.

Between the two Italian girls, I'm in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe's at the piano, the star of the show.

Between the two Italian girls, I’m in beret and scarf. Judy and Vickie are on the right. Joe’s at the piano, the star of the show.

DATING IN MODERN TIMES

Online dating, or should I say, dating aps, etc. are alive and well these days. I suppose some couples still meet each other at parties, weddings, grocery stores and social events, but searching the Internet, especially through dating aps,  is probably the easiest method and gives searchers the most information. Like advertising, however, the “truth” can be a scam…or as the old saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.” I’ve had some fascinating adventures in the dating world, which brings to mind another saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” The previews of the two stories below are absolutely true–I wrote them when the experiences were fresh in my mind. The first one was submitted to Playgirl magazine but rejected. I always thought they may have felt it was too bizarre since the incident happened before the Internet revealed the dating world can be awfully peculiar and eccentric. I met the subjects of these stories through ads in the Singles Register, a now defunct Southern California newspaper.

My book on Amazon.

My book on Amazon.

Weird Dates and Strange Fates#1

Here are two excerpts from my Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noted a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it, four-inch black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.

MELAYNIE’S MASQUERADE ON AMAZON

The following is an excerpt from my historical adventure/romance Melaynie’s Masquerade. To purchase as an Ebook or as a softcover, go to Amazon: http:Melaynie’s Masquerade

Sir Francis Drake, me and Melaynie

Sir Francis Drake, me and Melaynie, the heroine

My “actors” for a teleplay on a local Westlake Village TV station

*****

Diego had seen Melaynie leave by herself that morning, her cheeks rosy, a distant but peaceful look in her eyes. He was pleased his young friend was taking some time to be by herself; she had worked as hard as the men in building the fort. His contented thoughts were jarred a short time later when he saw Jerome saunter out the stockade gate, a lascivious look upon his scarred face.

The merry little stream washed over Melaynie’s dappled sunlit body, caressing her erect nipples, flowing through her legs, cleansing the sounds from her ears. It was so soothing she failed to hear the snap of wood or the rough sigh.

Jerome stood on the stream bank, his good eye riveted by the sight of tiny breasts floating on the water, glistening in the flashes of sunshine. The curly blond pubic hair clearly hid no male genitalia. It was a surprise he would never have imagined. The boy had always seemed just a bit too feminine, but no matter. He’d just as soon stick his cock in one hole as another. It would provide excitement of a sort he hadn’t bargained for, and this time she didn’t have her knife on her. Perhaps he could frighten her into giving it up to him whenever he wanted, especially if he threatened to divulge her secret. His mouth hung open as if he were contemplating a meal to be devoured, as he quickly slid out of his breeches.

The sucking sounds of a foot in mud and the splash of a body entering water finally alerted Melaynie. She righted herself and let go of the branch, but it was too late. Jerome was in the water and reaching for her breasts.

“So, this is what ye’ve been hiding from me, Christopher,” Jerome sneered as he grabbed her, twisting her nipples. His breath was foul and his jagged teeth looked rotten.

She grimaced in outraged anger as she tried to hit him, but he laughed at her efforts. Although the water was not deep, the soft, slippery stream bottom kept her off balance. He pinned her arms as his wet open mouth clamped down on a nipple. She opened her mouth and lowered her head to bite at his thinning dirty hair, and when she had some in her mouth, pulled back as strongly as she could. Her feet found a solid place, and she drew her knee up and slammed it into him quickly. He stumbled backwards to protect his genitals, and the knee caught him on the chin.

“Ye want a fight, do ye?” he laughed derisively rubbing his hairy chin, his walleye askew while the other glared in lust. He had not lost his balance and lunged at her again, this time firmly catching her pubis with his long-fingered hand.

She shuddered with revulsion and twisted her body around and out of his grasp, throwing him off-balance. Neither of them heard the first ominous sounds of something heavy sliding into the water from the opposite bank.

MOTLEY MEMORIES

My maternal grandfather, Edwin Pendleton Motley, who was born in Anson County, North Carolina, 12 years after the Civil War in 1877, descended from old American stock. His ancestor, Joseph Motley, came to the American colonies from Scotland as early as the 1730s. I’ve read they were Scots-Irish and also that they were Welsh. What the heck, we all come from the same source!

In 1903 Edwin married Bertha Jackson Seago, also from North Carolina, and they ended up in Danville, Virginia by 1910. They had 8 children: 7 of them had fairly long, healthy lives. Mama Jake, as we called my grandmother, had her first baby in 1904 and didn’t stop until Anne was born in 1926. Whew! She didn’t keep that slender waist for long. My mother, Bertha Garnette Motley, was second youngest. A typical photo of that era, posted below, shows all the sisters lined up on the Motley porch steps. My mother was in the polka-dot dress at the top next to her red-headed sister Anne.

Daddy Ed and Mama Jake

Daddy Ed and Mama Jake

From stories I’ve heard and the poems I’ve read, my grandfather, known as Daddy Ed in the family, was a bit of a romantic. He played guitar, wrote poetry and sang to me as a baby. I wish I had more memories of him but he died at age 70, when I was only 4. I was told that I would run to meet him every evening when he came home from the family furniture store, where he handled the accounting. He would bring me some kind of little gift—a piece of ribbon or some kind of trinket to play with.

The following poem tells something of his loving nature and sense of fun. It describes his first meeting with his future wife, Bertha.

There was a young lady who lived in N.C.,

And this little lady was as busy as could be,

She was here and there waiting on her nieces,

Her nerves gave out and she nearly went to pieces.

Her brother-in-law, the Doctor, sent her to school,

In the State Normal College to learn the golden RULE.

She boarded with Mother Hartsell, whose daughter Grizelle,

Grew to be a fine lady and was considered a belle.

This young lady Bertha, while going to school,

Was forbidden any company by the McIvor rule,

She went with Mother Hartsell on Sunday to dine,

With Mrs. Vuncannon, the weather was fine.

At the table that Sunday, just across from her plate,

Sat a tall, lanky boarder, wasn’t this just her FATE,

She glanced at this soreback from under her lashes,

While he turned scarlet and all colored splashes.

I can just imagine how flattered she must have been to have received this poem. I only wish she had lived long enough for me to ask her lots of questions. I did discover she loved large families and would have big family reunions in the summer. She was talented with a sewing machine and clever with running a household and managing money. She could also be a disciplinarian. When my cousin Paul and I threw a bunch of unripe peaches at a garage next door one summer, we were disciplined with a switch to our legs.

The Motley girls on the stairs of the family home on Berryman Avenue in Danville, Virginia.

7 Motleys #2

LA – LOTS OF FILM LOCATIONS

Old Army truck from MASH

Old Army truck souvenir from MASH TV series in Santa Monica Mountains – Malibu Creek State Park
In Southern California, the entertainment capital of the world, it’s not unusual to see large white trucks parked on local streets—film crews have come for a day or two of filming. It could be for a commercial, a TV show or perhaps even a glamorous exciting movie! On my way to Trader Joe’s to get groceries recently, I saw them lined up about a block long on the street bordering a local park. I get a kick out of seeing the long trucks full of dressing rooms and imagining who will use them. When the rooms are small, it’s not going to be anyone famous.

Not long ago, one of the local car washes looked like it was open for business, but they were using it for some kind of film shoot. Since the car wash didn’t want to lose its regular clientele (it was on the weekend), a man and woman were sitting near the entrance handing out free washes because of the inconvenience. Recently, an Italian restaurant had cameras outside for some kind of production. It’s an older restaurant that was remodeled not long ago, and that factor may have made it more appealing for filming.

The Los Angeles Times prints a map and a list of “permitted shoots” for the week in the Business section. Not long ago NBC was filming in Studio City, and a couple of other productions were being shot in other parts of the San Fernando Valley. And then there are the commercials, like Purina One being made in Encino, and Mazda whose shoot was in Griffith Park.

One of the best, almost perpetual film sets is a natural one: Malibu Creek State Park, 7,000 acres located off Malibu Canyon Road in the Conejo Valley. I was living with my family in that general area when it opened to the public in 1976, and we were eager to hike through it. The State of California combined the old 20th Century Fox movie ranch, extensive property owned by Bob Hope and 250 acres belonging to Ronald Reagan from 1951-1967. The valley and surrounding Santa Monica Mountains were once the territory of the Chumash Indians and later to Spanish settlers.

On one of our first family hikes, there were still some movie sets around—the dome-shaped homes of the apes in “Planet of the Apes,” which starred Charlton Heston, for instance. What looked like a shallow concrete pool was the miniature set for “Tora, Tora, Tora,” a movie about World War II. The lovely home used for Cary Grant’s film, “Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House” is still there and used for an administrative office for California State Parks.

Some of the many movies made in that scenic area included: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The park was supposed to be South America and one of the characters actors in it, Strother Martin, lived nearby in Malibu Lake. Elvis Presley made “Love Me Tender” there, and in the classic 1941 film, “How Green Was My Valley,” the area posed as Wales.

A more recent film made by Mel Brooks: “Robin Hood, Men in Tights” was filmed there. I met Mel Brooks shortly after his film came out. I was doing an interview in Santa Monica at the Pritikin Institute. He and his wife, Anne Bancroft, were having dinner in the Pritikin banquet hall and I introduced myself. I couldn’t resist telling Mel how much I liked his funny movies, particularly the Robin Hood movie. He had one particular joke in the film that applied to the area’s history: the actors used a real fox as a messenger and as it ran away, the line was, if I remember correctly: “There goes the 20th Century Fox!”

One of the most popular shows on television, “MASH” was filmed in Malibu Creek State Park. The area must have resembled Korea. I missed the opportunity to ask my dad, who had fought in the Korean War, if he had ever watched “MASH.” The TV set is now long gone, but they left behind an old Army truck, which stands as a souvenir in the area that was once the set.

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