The Year of 1953 (I was 26 years old)
What was happening in the world:
- Josef Stalin (the Hitler of Russia) dies suddenly and Nikita Khrushchev becomes top man at the Kremlin.
- The cold war between the USA and Russia grows icier.
- The Korea "Police Action" drags on with regular USAF raids on North Korean cities.
- The British capture the Mau Mau leader Jomo Kenyata but mass riots in Nairobi signal the end to British rule in Kenya.
- Edmund Hillary is the first to climb Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak.
- Churchill is awarded the Nobel Prize.
What was happening in the USA:
- The US announces that they have developed a hydrogen bomb and decides that an expanded nuclear arsenal is necessary to counter the "Communist threat".
- The first nuclear test of Operation Upshot Knothole is conducted in Nevada with 1,620 spectators. It is the first nuclear weapon fired from a canon - using a 280 mm cartridge.
- The Rosenbergs are executed as Russian spies.
- America's first nuclear power plant begins operation in Pittsburgh.
- Jonas Salk develops his polio vaccine and we all get lifetime shots. The March of Dimes is a winner.
- The US population begins a mass exodus to the suburbs.
- Walt Disney's 14th animated film - Peter Pan - premiers in Chicago.
- General Motors (GM) builds the first Corvette in Michigan.
What was happening in California:
- Native son Earl Warren becomes Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
- Hugh Hefner publishes the first issue of Playboy magazine.
What was happening in sports:
- In the Rose Bowl it was USC 7 - Wisconsin 0.
- In the World Series it was the Yankees over Brooklyn again 4 games to 2.
- In the NFL championship game it was Detroit 17 - Cleveland 16.
- The Heisman Trophy went to Alan Ameche of Wisconsin.
- The national champion of College Football was UCLA.
- The national champion of College Basketball was LaSalle.
- The NBA champion was Minneapolis.
- The first selection of NFL Player of the Year was Otto Graham of Cleveland.
- The British runner Roger Bannister is the first to run the mile in under 4 minutes.
What was happening at the movies:
- The best movie was Here To Eternity
- Best actor was William Holden in Stalag 17
- Best actress was Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
- Other great movies were:
- Shane (Allan Ladd)
- Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor)
- Light of the Silvery Moon (Doris Day)
- East of Sumatra (Jeff Chandler)
Memorable songs were:
- People who need people (Barbara Streisand)
- South of the border (Frank Sinatra)
- Doggie in the window
What was happening in my life:
- All was going well (so I thought) at my job in the Comptroller's Office at Travis AFB. I got a Letter of Recommendation to the Senior Draftsman Level, and I was promoted to Staff Sergeant. I continued to develop my cartooning skills by making an Album of Facial Expressions to use in my illustrative work. It was fun to poke fun at the "starchy" side of air force life.
- Then, two things happened that changed my last year in the USAF. A new woman officer was assigned to the Comptroller's Office, and she wanted to start telling me how I should do my illustrative work. I had been given considerable freedom up to now, and I didn't respond positively to this. The second thing was that the B-29 unit at Travis was to be reassigned to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. I ended up on the list to be sent to Mountain Home.
- In June I climbed aboard a C-47 for reassignment to Idaho. I became the Senior Draftsman in the Comptroller's Office at Mt. Home AFB. In some ways it was an improvement because once again I was given considerable freedom in doing my illustrative work. A real fun part of it was doing a "Bill-Mauldin-like" cartoon for the weekly air base newspaper (The Strata Courier). I took full advantage of the opportunity to poke fun at Air Force life - especially the officer rank. The main character is a guy named Dugan.
- In August, I was asked if I wanted to re-enlist in the Air Force for another 4 years. Although I had enjoyed my successes as an illustrator over the last 2.5 years, I had also gotten my "fill" of military life. I wanted to take another try at civilian life. I was older now and less confused about myself and the world. So, I turned down the re-enlistment.
- On September 15, I was discharged from the USAF. As a "free citizen" again, I took the base bus into Boise and caught the Greyhound back to Oakland. I remember our lunch stop in Winnemucca, Nevada - out in the "boonies". Then, a 6 PM drive down the main drag of Reno (Virginia street) with the glare and glitter of its all-night casinos. It was my first look at the glamour of Nevada's gambling life.
- It was a long 11-hour bus ride from Boise, Idaho to Oakland, California - this included a lunch-stop in Winnemucca and a dinner-stop in Reno. We pulled into Oakland at about 9 PM as a summer dusk was settling over the city of my childhood. It had been over 3 years since I left here on a cold February morning in 1950. I hiked out San Pablo Avenue to MacArthur Blvd, and caught the bus out to the Dimond District. I had many memories of the past as I watched Oakland slip by my window as night settled over the city. Many sights looked just the same as they had 3 years ago - when I was a student at Arts and Crafts. But one thing was different - it was me. I was 3 years older, more mature, and still trying to find a place and reason for me in life.
- Ma, Dad, Betty, and Tom were living at 2302 Damuth Street in a place they had moved to while I was away in the Air Force. It was located at the top of a steep hill in the Dimond District just a few blocks from Laguna Avenue.
- Ma was now 53, Dad was 70 and retired from the Post Office. However, he had gone back to work as a janitor at the Bentley School in Berkeley where Rich was living while he continued at Cal. Betty was 28 and still working on-and-off as a nurse. Tom was 11 and going to school at Bret Harte.
- Using a portfolio of artwork I had prepared while I was in the USAF, I went out to find a job somewhere in the field of Commercial Art.
- My first success was at the Don Cass Sign Shop on East 14th Street. I got a job there working part-time as a sign painter.
- My second success was at the Modernair Corporation on South Preda Street in San Leandro. They produced commercial valves of all types, and I was hired full-time as a draftsman. I left the part-time job at Don Cass and worked at Modernair full-time. Then, just before Christmas, there was a management upheaval at Modernair and the guy I worked for (Myron Hahn) was fired and I was laid off with him. It was the first and last time I was ever laid off. However, in early 1954 I was rehired by Hahn's replacement (Dave Combs) to do part-time freelance drafting work.
- My third success in the commercial art field was doing freelance assignments for a company called United Displays in Berkeley. After seeing my portfolio work, the owner (a guy named Frank) gave me a variety of freelance jobs mostly involving signs and cartoon work.
- Several times Ma went with me when I had to deliver finished art work to customers in places like Berkeley and San Francisco. I remember one trip in particular when I drove back through Golden Gate Park after delivering an art job. It was pitch-black in the park, and Ma was terrorized. I did this freelance work mostly at nights for about 5 months. I didn't make a lot of money at it, but it was interesting and challenging.
- When I came back to Oakland from the Air Force, I bought a 1948 4-door Dodge. Dad and I found it in a lot on Broadway's Auto Row. It gave me good service for over 4 years. At the end of 1953, I was busy and reasonably happy exploring the field of Commercial Art.
<---- What was happening in 1952
What was happening in 1954 ---->
Dugan's Air Force
Comics I wrote while in the US Air Force
Oakland and the Mormon Temple
Back in Oakland after a long 11-hour bus ride from Boise.
Aboard a Greyhound bus going through Reno on my way back to Oakland.
2302 Damuth in Oakland
I was back home living with my family.
A view of the Dimond District from the hilltop backyard of our place on Damuth.
At 53, Ma was still an avid gardener. She loved the Bougainvillea at the front window. For some strange reason, she did not like the spectacular growth of Shasta Daisies at the curb.
One of Ma's favorite roses.
An extraordinary collection of photographs
Fishing Baja 2000
Fishing the Sea of Cortez off Cerralvo Island
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