New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for November / December 2006

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

Since the storm many of our members have moved or changed their email addresses. LocSec Gerry Ward reports that she gets quite a few bounced emails when she sends out information to the membership. Each month Gerry and I receive a printout from National Mensa that contains names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of New Orleans Mensans. If your information is not correct with National Mensa, we will not have correct information either. You might miss some of the our emails, or even worse, an issue of La Plume. Fortunately it is easy to update your information with the national office. Go to, click on “members” and log in by entering your membership number (found on your membership card), then click on “profile update” and enter the correct information.. If you are computer averse, you can write to American Mensa, LTD., 1229 Corporate Dr. West, Arlington, TX 76006-6105. Please take a few minutes to make sure your information is correct.

This issue contains reminiscences from Smitty and Joe Hopkins. Both men have led colorful lives and have some interesting memories. Another of Patricia DiGeorge’s lovely watercolors graces the cover.

Shore Duty

by Joe Hopkins

When I became eligible for shore duty, they offered me two choices. One was on an island I hadn’t heard of, (Eleuthera in the Bahamas) the other was Atlantic City Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Atlantic City was close to Philadelphia, Pa., which was known as a good liberty town. It was a resort town, and the Miss America pageant was held there. That sounded good to me.

My transfer got me there the day after the pageant ended. That winter was the worst seen in the area in about 20 years with snow on the ground and freezing temperatures. Just as things began to thaw in the spring we got the announcement that the base would be closing. It would become an FAA facility. The squadrons of planes would be leaving first and the support groups shortly thereafter.

The seagoing Navy was often referred to as the Black Shoe Navy while those in aviation were the Brown Shoe Navy. There was a friendly rivalry between the two groups. Here I was, straight from the fleet, assigned to an air base. But I was sure I could survive in Brown shoe territory.

One of my regular duties was the maintenance of the electronic equipment in the control tower. So when the Chief told me the anemometer atop a 30-ft tapered pole rising from the roof of the 3-story tower needed attention I didn’t suspect anything unusual. I told him I would take care of it right away. I took some tools and a meter, went to the roof of the tower and began climbing the pole on which the anemometer was mounted. The pole was about 24” in diameter at it’s base but tapered to about 4” at the top. The anemometer weighed maybe 10-15 lbs. I weighed about 240. As I climbed to the top I could feel it sway a little with my movement. It didn’t bother me a whole lot. I reached the top and got comfortable, trying to minimize my motions in order to limit the swaying

Then I heard the roar of an airplane getting louder and louder. The squadron of propeller driven fighters was leaving. The roar became deafening as the plane passed directly overhead. But the noise was not the worst part of it. The blowback from the propeller caused the pole to swing back and forth what seemed like 4 feet either way. All I could do was hold on tightly as the next one was close behind. The only sound louder than the roar of the plane’s engine was the laughter coming from the Chief on the ground and I think, the pilots as they flew over.

When I was safely on the ground the chief told me that I should have waited until tomorrow when the squadron would be gone. That it was the custom for departing squadrons to buzz the tower as they left,“ Any Brown Shoe knows that,“ he said. My fingerprints are probably still on that pole

Starting School

by Clarence Smith

In the fall, when I was four years old, my mother got a job as teacher in the school at Ashwood, Oregon. Ashwood was a tiny town, in the same part of the state as Spray. The school had only one room and Mom taught all eight grades of grammar school in this room.

The road into Ashwood was a very narrow, one track road down the side of a cliff into the valley. Every mile or so there was a turn-out, a wide place in the road, where two cars, or wagons could pass each other. The rule here, when two vehicles met, the downbound one had to back up the hill to the closest turnaround. This made sense. The rule came from the horse and wagon days, since it was easier to control a horse drawn wagon backing uphill. Even cars were much more liable to lose control backing downhill. Also Most of the cars in the area were Model T Fords, and they had to back all the way up the road out of the valley. The reason for this was, the Model T had no fuel pump, the gas tank was just under the windshield and fed the engine by gravity. When one was driven up a fairly steep grade, the engine below the gas tank, and the gas wouldn't feed to the engine. When that happened, the only thing to do was let the car coast back to a reasonably wide place, crank up again and back up the hill, which kept the fuel tank above the level of the motor. It wasn't very far in miles to Madras, the closest town, but it was a hell of a trip.

When we arrived in Ashwood, there was a tiny schoolhouse already built, but there was no place for the school teacher to live. We stayed several days with a nearby family, while the whole town came out to turn an old barn next to the school, into a house. This was a really big social event and everyone got into the act. The ladies set up big tables in the yard and each cooked her specialty. Each tried to outdo the others. It was a banquet every day. The men brought tools and did the carpenter work. Of course there was no plumbing or electricity. No one in Ashwood had plumbing or electricity.

As you can imagine, it was a tremendous job, just trying to clean up the evidence of years of non housebroken horses and cows. They put down boards for a real genuine floor and patched up the holes in the walls and roof. The final result was far from luxurious. It was colder than a penguin's ass in the winter, and the rich odor of the previous occupants never did completely disappear. When compared to the average home around there, it wasn't too bad. Some of the houses had only packed earth for floors. We had not only a wood cook stove, but also a small heating stove and the neighbors kept us supplied with wood for both our house and the school. Water had to be carried from a well at the neighbor's house, and the toilet was a one hole affair, well away from the house. Since nobody had indoor plumbing, we were comparatively well off. We had kerosene lamps for lighting.

Lola had an admirer who hung around a lot of the time. His name was Ira, and he had a beautiful sorrel horse which he let me ride. This made him my friend for life. Ira was a local cowboy who was a trick rider and he loved to show off, riding by at a full gallop while standing on his head in the saddle, vaulting from side to side, or leaning far over to pick up a handkerchief from the ground. This impressed me much more than it did Lola. To her he was just an ignorant cowboy and didn't have any ambition to be anything else.

For my fifth birthday, Lola sent away for an automobile for me, and Ira put it together for her. She told me that he hit his thumb with the hammer and didn't even cry. This impressed me with Ira even more. I really loved that little green pedal car, I had a great time racing around the big yard, pedaling as fast as I could, shouting "Ahoogah, ahoogah, get out of the way."

There were not many kids around Ashwood, and the tiny school was plenty big to hold everyone. There were no desks, not even for the teacher. Everyone sat on benches except for the teacher who had a chair. Not only did Lola have to teach all the grades, she had to keep the place clean and make a fire in the wood stove every morning to get the place warm enough by the time the kids came to school. To make the fire in the morning, she would lay the sticks of wood over a little kindling in the stove, slosh kerosene on it, then strike a match. Ordinarily this was all that was necessary, but once there must have been a live coal at the bottom. When she threw in the match, there was a big "FOOM", and Lola lost her eyebrows, eyelashes, and a good deal of hair. She was not really hurt, but she was very careful to stand clear she started the fire from then on.

All of the older kids had chores to do, but some of the younger kids would get together after school and weekends, to play together. I would sit with them around a sagebrush fire and listen to them tell stories. Sometimes I would make up stories of my own. One time one of the kids threw a handful of .22 shells in the fire, then everyone lay down behind the sagebrush, listening to the explosion of the shells, and the whistle as they went past.

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