High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
The Cold War Years at NOTS
The Huse Family chronicle of the 60's
Things got serious on Sunday Mornings going to hear the good Reverend Reed at the All Faith Chapel. My mom Edith claims today at 93 that isn't her. In either case I like the Bow Tie. Oddly enough Dad removed the name sign on the wall when he retired and it now hangs in my workshop. Lots of names of visitors and classmates were written on the back side over the years.
Mom didn't hold the old Brownie very steady. We were always sitting late in the afternoon in the back yard. Dad was probably worried about his GS rating. My sister and I liked whatever we were eating. The Navy removed the fire extinguisher from all homes in l955. The neighbor kids were always emptying them during war games. I brought my family to the old back yard to dig up a few treasures in 1996 and found it was of the few Duplexes remaining on the hill and sported a new roof and paint job. It was vacant and the back door open so we all took a tour into the past. Most Duplexes have been removed and Wasp Rd has been renamed.
Paul and I were checking out my flat tire on our new bikes. Tires never lasted long with all the stickers from the Tumble Weeds. The 52 Ford in the distance belonged to the Bittles. Once Paul got his drivers license, my bike buddy disappeared.
My Cousin Russ always liked to visit China Lake. He always felt the air made him want to get strong. I never did so just rolled the barbells around in the grass. That is David Skaar sitting next to me who lived up by the Club. I only had him around because I was very much infatuated with his sister Karen. Perhaps if I had worked out like my Cousin Russ, Karen might have thought of me more like the football players she hung around with.
My buddy Paul Elder and I worked for $5 a day painting the fence. It took most the winter. Fortune came my way when I told dad in '55 that painting wasn't my thing and started sacking groceries at the Commissary. Tips were better than $20 a day.
We brought the trailer with us from Kirks Trailer Park in Ridgecrest where we lived while the New Duplexes were being built in 1950-51. Just couldn't quite give it up for several years as my Dad Russ used it as a painting studio. Got pretty hot during the summer so we eventually sold it for $150. I'm sorry we did. I would like it today.
With dads 30 vacation days each year and gas at 21 cents/gal, we were always leaving despite the good digs at China Lake. Prep and packing always seemed to be a major deal. It would go on for days. That's Donna with her broom helping with her friend Lee. My sister and I slept up in our home-made luggage rack and mom and dad would sleep on a raised bed that he built in back. In the beginning dad wanted to camp out five nites between motels on our way to Yellowstone; by the end of the trip, and several rainy nites, it was down to four. Mom and Donna were good sports but....
This is my sister Donna (Class of 62) in one of her sweeter moments during a warm winter afternoon in '55. She always said if I didn't ride my bike all the time, her girl friends might like me. I opted for the bike.
Richmond School was in construction during l953. My sister Donna is with her friends Lee Sizemore and Gail who lived next door. All the kids on the block thought the school would be more fun to play at during construction than when finished. How wrong we were as Richmond School was never locked and served us all well during the school year as well as summers.
That's one of the Smith kids who lived next door stealing snow off our '59 Chevy to build his snowman. I guess the snow was better over on the A-side. It still snows in the High Desert I've heard.
We wore out the '52 Plymouth and so Dad bought the neat looking spank'in new '54 Plymouth. Great Car. We improved on the sleeping arrangements due to Mom complaints from previous years. You can see Dad building the raised bed in back with storage underneath. Donna and I slept up in the luggage rack but now with some slats to erect a tent each night. Dad wrote on back of the picture "last minute preparation for the great 1954 mileage marathon". We camped three nights before allowing Mom a motel room and drove to Bar Harbor Maine and back in 30 days. No Interstates.
It's a funny thing about camping in your Plymouth's for 10 years. The ladies suddenly want to stay in expensive digs with showers. So by l960, when mom and Donna had suggested this, Dad tossed out the luggage rack and car bed. There were other changes too, I was off to college and Donna got another new hair do.
That's Mom on the right in August '52. Hadn't been there too long since the fence is unpainted and the trees are small. Next to her is the neighbor lady who's name escapes me but owned the Studebaker in the back ground at 201-B Wasp. New Duplex life is agreeing with Mom since moving and getting out of the trailer. She didn't know that this would be home for the next 21 years.
Leslie McQuerter peddled his bike from Wherry Housing across town to join the bike gang. His Dad ran the Commissary Store. Leslie had the bike with the large spring on the front which really worked in desert biking. Once descending from the Tower on B Mountain, I tried to stay up with him but my thin wheel Western Flyer purchased from the Western Auto Store didn't stand a chance against a spring mounted balloon tire bike. I still have the scars from that tumble. Lt.Cmdr McQuerter was transfer elsewhere in l957 taking away my friend Leslie. This was a way of life as friends came and went since both Military and Civilian personnel live next to each other.
By the Winter of l957 I was getting cool on the Mustang. Donna was happy too. Well it was actually Paul Elder's who had just bought the motorcycle in Ridgecrest and gave up his old Cushman. I noticed that the Bittel's 52 Ford is still in the driveway. Maybe they never left during the five years between pictures.
The final phase of Wherry Housing across town was about to be built in September '56. Maurice Lipp, Head Of Public Works and father of my good buddy Tom Lipp, came by the house that month with several workers and opened the heavy sewer lid just outside our fence . They were trying to figure out the maize of pipes 18 feet down which I had checked out many times over the years. After much disscusion on behalf of Mr. Lipp and crew, I pointed out, that by using toilet paper, which sewer pipes came from the Old Duplexes, New Duplexes, the Hill and our own pipe for 203 Wasp. Mr. Lipp asked, "How do you know this Doug, do you write your name on toilet paper?" I proudly explained that the Huses used color paper, a 50's fad, and you simply flushed and ran outside and watched it float by. To further my research, Sam Gregory who lived over by the Officers Club 1/2 mile away used green paper and it took approx. 11 minutes for it to float by on the way to the sewage plant. Well Mr. Lipp was impressed and ordered the big machinery in the next week to enlarge the sewer line for Wherry Housing. A trench was dug 18 feet deep for the two miles to the sewage plant. That three months to finish the project afforded a perfect playground for the neighborhood. No one got hurt in those days. I often wondered what happen to the color paper idea?
It's hard to ride a bike during a High Desert wind storm. That day I was beginning to think my sister Donna was right about giving my bike up for girls.
This is my dad Russ Huse. He worked in AOD at Michelson Lab where he was given this picture in '72 after climbing to the top of B Mountain (The Lone Butte) over 3000 times. Thatís the mountain seen faintly in the background as the picture was taken in front of Michelson. Another first at China Lake. Typically, Dad would leave work at lunch, drive home to Wasp, change and then run the two miles to the top (1100' elevation gain) and return, shower and go back to work. He started in 1953 and the pace escalated until his retirement in l975. He did this to "keep in shape" as he was a charter member of the China Lake Mt. Rescue Group. Dad encountered Sidewinders, Bobcats, a Mt. Lion, and for years the same family of Foxes. Base Security often got on his case as the patrol truck would stop him because technically Dad was in the wrong area according to his badge. Security worked that difficulty out by letting dad be their "eyes and ears" for intelligence gathering and to call when leaving and returning from his 'Hikes'. After all, these were the Cold War Years. I was home for lunch one day when he came home, made the Security call, then soaked himself down with the hose, wrapped his head in a wet towel and set off in 115 degree heat. So to commemorate this feat of madness, AOD presented him a plaque with this photo attached. Dad always placed a small rock on a pile once reaching the top to keep a record. If you find that pile, your count will be over 3000 rocks.
In l958 something funny happened to Donna's hair. Was it the beginning of the Beehive hairdo or was she watching too much Davy Crocket? In either case, that '57 Chevy parked behind the trees gets my vote.
Just a lazy summer afternoon in the back yard. Fifteen years on Wasp Rd and the dry air wasn't so bad after all, as well as Moms new GS 13 rating.
This was my first Thanksgiving home from San Diego State. College life was good. Everyone rode bikes including the girls and I was smiling.
This was the Big Snow of l960. Even the Navy photographers got out for this one. This location was from the Officers Club looking west down the main drag. Did NOTS have snow plows?
As seen in the photo above Wasp Road was subject to several rumors during the Cold War years. Wasp was the only dead end residential street at NOTS and therefore easy for research because it had a beginning, middle and end and all homes were on the west side. The photo below was taken after some of the residents noticed a large number of children running around for just 7 houses and 14 families. "Let's line 'em up and take inventory" my mom said and so we did across the street in front of Richmond School in l960. Except for a few kids on the end like myself, Donna, Duane Mack, Sue Metcalf and Cora Desamito, a foreign exchange student living with us, all were born in the High Desert and most on Wasp Road. They became known as the 10-year sample. I also remember that several kids didn't show for the photo op. Probably got lost on the wrong street. The consensus was that the Navy had been putting something in the water. Lack of television was ruled out since reception had been ok of late.
This was our first TV set. Donna was either waiting for the TV repeater on Laurel Mt to be fixed so she could watch Howdy Doodie or she was avoiding vacuuming the house with Mom's new Electro Lux. Reception was difficult to receive to say the least and getting up and turning the knob was even harder than vacuuming. Check out our High Desert TV problems in the early 50's Pg.2 40's & 50's
In an effort to maintain his strength during the Cold War Years, Dad went through his trampoline period in '61 between climbs and got fairly good at it. "Variety in exercising is important" he would say and this "will prepare you if there's an invasion". He started small but eventually went to a full size trampoline as the Cold War escalated. This went on for some time until Dad put Mom on a vigorous workout routine and she eventually suffered a mild heart attack. Dad sold the tramp and went back to B Mountain.
Part of my Cold War years at China Lake was researching the Atomic Bomb testing over in Yucca Flats. Telescope Peak rising 11,000 feet over Death Valley gave us a rare opportunity to peer over towards the site area some 150 miles away and watch the flash and cloud. We were always glad the wind was blowing towards Utah those particular mornings. My dad wrote on this picture "June l953 Climax climb". Tests were usually announced in those days. We would leave Mahogany Flats about 10 PM and hike the long 7 miles to the summit arriving about 5AM. It was always cold. In this happy group standing to my left are Stuart Young and Tom Ashburn, fellow Troop 41 comrades. I remember another trip to Telescope when the test was cancelled. The wind was blowing south away from Las Vegas and towards Southern Calif.
Mountain Climbing in the Sierras became a major pastime for Dad and I over the years. During our first month in l950, Dad left our trailer at Kirks Trailer Park in Ridgecrest and drove up Indian Wells Canyon and climbed Owens Peak. He said later it was a lot further that it looked. Before it was over no mountain or peak was too far or too difficult to conquer. The seeds were planted when I became a scout in Troop 41 in the early 1950's. Dr. Carl Heller was a leader and no matter what was planned, it included a summit. When Carl's Explorer Scout unit was formed, it was all mountaineering and the China Lake Mountain Top Picnic Society grew as others joined the summit sojourns. This was the informal beginning of the China Lake Mt. Rescue Group. Just Carl, some young kids, several Dads and some NOTS bachelors in the mix. Before it was over we had climbed all the Desert Peaks, Emblem Peaks,100 Peaks, all the 14 and 13,000 foot peaks, the Cascades and the Tetons. Carl and I spent a week exploring the Kaweahs in 1956 while he was writing for the Sierra Club Climbers Guide. He and Dad went on to climb Mt. McKinley and other 20,000 foot peaks in Peru that I can't spell. This was the environment that I grew up in. Others found The Dust Devil's racing at the Inyokern Airport their thing or just translating the Saturday Evening Post into Russian at the Library as my good friend Bill McGinnis did after school during our Senior year. Well, it was all during the Cold War Years.
I also had a "B" mountain 'thing'. Other than looking at it everyday for years and climbing it perhaps 20 times, my passion for the Lone Butte was strong. As Artist for Burroughs Jr. Hi. monthly newspaper Sand Storm, I drew a few covers with a certain familiar background.
Lots of changes were happening in the summer of '59; Burroughs Hi was history, I'm was about to be fired from KRCK and replaced by the new owner's son, SD State U had accepted my application so I would soon be leaving Wasp Rd, there weren't anymore 14,000' Peaks to climb and a foreign exchange student for the upcoming school year was taking my bedroom. Beside my major issues, The Missile Gap was closing, the Berlin Crisis was continuing, the space race was about to begin and the Jesus movement, Woodstock and Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth" loomed on the desert horizon. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a distant 20 years away and Regan was still six years from hosting Death Valley Days. My High Desert Home and China Lake for those 10 years had prepared me for all that life was to offer in the time during and after, The Cold War Years.
Why would so many people be standing on the RR tracks just east of Inyokern one fine day in 1955 on the High Desert? Hint: It wasn't the runaway diesel engine that the wind blew the 8 miles from Inyokern to the NOTS Engine Room without an engineer clocked at 60mph one windy afternoon in l957. OK, they were waiting for the Clyde Beatty Circus. They had to unload in Inyokern and move the three miles to the site. The circus was hours late and the Navy sent 'speaker cars' around Ridgecrest and China Lake announcing the delay in performances. No internet you know. All I remember is the guy with half a face and those Ridgecrest guys who snuck in under the side show tent to see him. Mom paid the dollar to see the man with no face and then covered my eyes when he unveiled. The desert wind blew of course and half the tent ripped that evening during the high wire act. From that day on, I understood why Circuses were proably a loosing proposition in America.
All climbs started and ended at 203-A Wasp. Donna wondered why in later years she hadn't been included during our peak bagging years. It wasn't the thing during the l950's.
I'm sitting somewhere on the Kings Kern Divide on either Mt. Thunder or Jordan in '57. Most of these peaks had been climbed by very few in the mid-fifties. Mt. Erickson only had four signatures in the Sierra Club tube, one was Norman Clyde's.
My last of the 14,000 foot peaks was Mt Sill which offers a magnificent view of the the class 4+ pitches up from the U notch to the summit block of N. Palisade (14.242'). Dad and I had climbed N. Palisade the previous year in l958.
Mt Darwin has an interesting summit and is just under 14,000 feet. I wanted to do a "handstand" but opted for the stance due to the wind.
It took the Cold War to bring a President to China Lake. It took me two days to overcome all the confusion of a Presidental visit to finally meet the President. It wasn't easy. The countdown started when JFK gave the Commencement speech at my graduation from San Diego State University June 6th, l963. It was a madhouse and I didn't contribute any money for the receptions that followed. Air Force One flew to China Lake the next day June 7th, and was sorry I missed that day as the Presidential motorcade used Wasp Road as a shortcut route to the ranges. The Navy made all of us paint our fences on Wasp since the President might look at those great New Duplexes. As it happened, the motorcade did about 55mph down Wasp Road. I'm glad I missed that pass by as I was still in San Diego preparing for an afternoon departure to Hawaii to celebrate my graduation. When my flight arrived in Ohau about 7PM, United announced that Air Force One would be landing in about 20 minutes and they wanted a crowd to greet the President. Well, why not, the third time is the charmer, so I wandered over with about 100 people from another flight and we waited. Thousands of persons were screaming from behind the runway fence and I've always assumed someone wanted a smaller VIP crowd for the President. Air Force One made it's timely arrival and JFK walked the tarmac over to this little group and started shaking hands. He was only a few persons to my left and working my way. When we made eye contact, I said that I was thrilled to meet him since I had missed him at my graduation at State and again at China Lake. Mr. Kennedy replied with that wit he had, "Well son, I'm glad I finally caught up with you" and continued on. He spoke to this girl next to me only so briefly who broke down crying so we hugged in our joy of meeting the President. Her name was Clair Hartzell from Stanford U. We had a great time in Hawaii.
A Passion for Mountain Climbing . . . . . .
It was amateur rocket time in '58. Life Magazine was doing a feature article on the fad and I decided my chance for 15 minutes of fame was better than most. My friend Don Pottorff was a darn good welder and built the ramp and lathed the rocked. I managed to 'appropriate' from the Pilot Plant some solid state fuel and through some adult contacts got access to an actual launch facility at NOTS. Perfect setup for a cover story. Despite several successful launches the previous months out on the Randsburg Rd., this rocket fizzled on the pad one hot August afternoon with lots of VIP's standing around. Don took his ramp home and I got a job at KRCK. So ended my 15 minutes of fame and the cover of Life. Standing left to right in the second picture taken the day of the launch are Rich Slates-Range Supervisor and fellow mountain climber, Doug Huse-Production and Appropriation Manager, Jim Bray-Propellant Chemist and Assistant Boy Scout Leader, Troop 41, and Don Pottorff-Design Fabricator and Class of '58. The failure on the pad didn't help the Cold War situation at all.
This was our home for twenty years until my parents retired in '73. 203-A Wasp Rd had three bedrooms,1 1/2 baths, about 1700 sq feet and a very tall TV antenna. My biggest thrill until I left in '59 was dialing 7177. At no cost you could get the house painted, the broken window replaced, a broken pipe or air conditioner fixed, order a pallet of fence lumber and get all the trees and grass you could plant. Water was also free. Rent in l957 was $75/mo. Our phones were on a party line but rang separately. Mr. Sizemore at 201A Wasp was always mad at me for tying up the line. The only stipulation the Navy had was no clothes dryers due to power considerations. So clotheslines were in all the back yards. I can remember during the winter months trying to jam my leg down a frozen pair of Levis just prior to school. I was always late.
Dad wrote on the back of this picture: "I don't know where we are or when; it's Doug and me - the way it should be all of our lives."
Dad and I on his namesake peak: Mt.Russell, a 14,000 foot peak north of Mt. Whitney in the summer of '53. No wilderness permits required.
In Honor of Russell O. Huse,
A great High Desert admirer
who passed away on
May 1st, 2004 at 96
The beauty of this story is in the collaboration between the webmaster and the author. All of the text was written by Doug Huse, all the pictures were submitted by Doug and he assisted me in the layout so that it appears in the precise order in which he lived it.
After all, thats the very theme of this website!!