Category Archives: Reminiscence

40 Years in Space

Originally Written November 2007:

I ran into a collection of imagery of space from the 50s and 60s of the 20th century. Isn’t that amazing how that sound, speaking of the 20th century as so long ago?

One of the images I seemed to remember was of an outpost on the moon created by Frank Tinsley.

Frank Tinsley - Outpost on the moon

But then there was an image of a very early Perry Rhodan novella – and THAT was fascinating. I had not quite started to read science fiction when this novella first came out, but some six years later I certainly read this novella when it came out in the second or third edition – so I knew…

Perry Rhodan - Venus in Danger

… “Venus in Danger” – novella #20!

For many years after coming to the wild west I had my family in Germany collect Perry Rhodans for me and then send them to me in batch, but this had stopped now about 20 years ago.

So I have to admit, I am not quite up-to-date any more.

A few month ago I had realized that and found out that I could actually subscribe to an electronic version of the newest issued and get them in my email in-box. I had not subscribed at that time as I did not think I would have enough time to read them, but at least I got myself a little fix in form of a free issue that was offered – novella #2300!

Can you believe this – 2300 – at 52 weekly booklets that is about 46 years.

Perry Rhodan - Harbingers of Chaos
Harbingers of Chaos

So – what has changed in the last forty to fifty years?

Certainly the cover design feels more modern, but I am sure that the next half century will eradicate that difference. Then there is the price – the old one about 20 cents (at the exchange rate at that time) and the new one weighting in at about $2.50 – with the inflation rate I guess the price has remained stable.

Then there is one noticeable difference. The subtitle of the series in 1962 was “The Great Space Series” but today it’s simply “The Greatest Science Fiction Series.”

OK, now to work – gotta finally read my free novella “Vorboten des Chaos” – and maybe, just maybe, it’s so good that I will indeed subscribe.

Update 2011: I actually never managed to read the free sample and only stumbled across this blog post because in a server crash I had lost many of the images used in this blog and I just noticed there was another blog post without its pictures. So, I set out to find them again and, in the process, ran into some new info…

  1. We are now in the last quarter of the cycle 2500…2599, the second cycle nearly done after I checked last – about right at 52 novellas per year;
  2. There is now an encyclopedia of Perry Rhodan;
  3. A bigger part of the series is now available electronically and if bought in bulk (50 or 100 novellas at a time) it’s rather inexpensive at Eu 1.25

I would not want to read Perry’s on the computer – maybe that was one of the reasons I never finished my free sample, but now that the Kindle is only $140, one hundred Perry’s plus the Kindle is about the same price as buying all the physical novellas.

hmmm…

Luscombe, Lucy and Piper

Digging through ‘things’ I have collected over the year, asking myself which should be thrown out because I have not touched or needed them in years, I ran into some papers that certainly meet the characteristic of not being touched, but which I nevertheless don’t want to toss out. Just scanning and keeping for later is certainly a way out of that dilemma, but with these artifacts, I want to go one step further and put it out on the web because I can imagine that there are others besides me who might enjoy this.

So, here it is…

The following advertisement appeared in several aviation publications in 1987

The only reason I have this ad is, that Lucy, mentioned in this ad, gave it to me personally. In other words, I can answer the question “Who’s Lucy?”

Together with this ad, Lucy also gave me an excerpt from the advertised book. These are the pages that I did not want to discard…

Not all of the dealings at Luscombe Airplane Corporation in 1939 were of a serious business nature. July saw the culmination in marriage of a romance that had started nearly a year before. Lucy Rago, a local girl from the West Trenton area, was an office girl hired in 1935. In September of 1938, a young male customer flew into West Trenton with his distributor to take delivery of a new “50” only to find that his plane was still under construction. Because he was low on money from the trip and couldn’t afford to just wait, Jerry Coigny was hired to work on his own airplane. The office area was off-limits to the factory floor¬†staff, but Jerry was more than just an employee; he was a customer, thus allowed to wander through the office area at will. This afforded Jerry and Lucy much contact with one another; enough to fall in love during the two weeks Jerry worked on his aircraft.

 
Lucy Rago at her desk in Ron’s office

After Jerry left the West Trenton area, he and Lucy corresponded daily. As Jerry was racing and barnstorming in his little Luscombe, much of the news his letters contained concerned the performance of his airplane. When Lucy thought something pertinent to the
further development of Model 50s, she would carefully cover the personal messages with masking tape and take the letter to higher management. Almost before her back was turned to leave the room, the tape would be off and the personal sections read.

Lucy in a Luscombe with an experimental wheel control

Occasionally, Jerry would write a letter to Don Luscombe himself, who at this time was still president, always adding, “Tell Lucy hello”. Don used copies of some of these letters in sales literature. Occasionally when a customer wrote the company concerning this literature, the P.S. “Who’s Lucy?” would be included.

The Christmas following their meeting, December 25, 1938, Keith Funk, another Luscombe
employee, knocked on the door of the Rago household bearing a gift. Jerry had sent Lucy’s Christmas present to the factory, an engagement ring. Lucy later said that the gift made Funk the “greatest Santa Claus in the world as far as I was concerned!”

More letters carried the young lovers through June when Jerry sent news of the sale of his first, well-used Luscombe. The official telegram arrived on June 9, 1939, Jerry Coigny’s deposit and order for a new Luscombe Model 8A was confirmed. The little plane became known as the “Honeymoon Special”, which was stamped on the firewall. When the order was written, Lucy was jestingly listed as extra equipment. After that, customers would jokingly request an “extra” like companion, wife, or girlfriend.

Jerry arrived on July 1, bearing gifts for Lucy’s family. Because of conflict between the families of the couple concerning their wedding ceremony, Jerry and Lucy decided to elope. The other girls at the office helped Lucy smuggle her personal belongings into the factory where they were stashed until the proper moment.

July 12 finally arrived. The little Luscombe 65 horsepower airplane was loaded with Lucy’s belongings and decorated with signs, crepe paper, and old shoes.

The Honeymoon Aircraft

J. H. Torrens, current President of Luscombe, gave a farewell speech and presented the couple with a Lear Radio. Lucy’s co-workers provided her with the necessary “something old, something borrowed, something blue”, and off they flew.

Jerry and Lucy Coigny

A short flight took them to Doylestown, Pennsylvania where they were married in a short civil ceremony. Another flight took them to Wings Field in Ambler, Pennsylvania where Don Luscombe and his wife picked them up and drove them to their estate at Gwynedd Valley. The honeymooners stayed the night with the Luscombes’ and left the next morning for Grants Pass, Oregon, where Jerry had established a fixed-base operation and flying school.

Jerry Coigny’s airplane before leaving the factory – Serial-#804 – NC-2591

Thus far the story of Jerry and Lucy (all images from the Jerry and Lucy Coigny collection).  Maybe the book is still available and if you are interested in the Luscombe story, try the address in the above ad.

Just as a little glance into the past, here are the prices and the equipment list for these aircraft types as in the story above. This was mailed out to dealers and prospective customers shortly after Lucy and Jerry got married:

FLY-AWAY FACTORY, TRENTON, NEW JERSEY
AUGUST 1, 1939
LUSCOMBE “50” (Continental A-50 Engine) — $1895.00
LUSCOMBE “65” (Continental A-65 Engine) — $1975.00
LUSCOMBE “65” SEAPLANE (F.A.w.) — $3170.00

STANDARD EQUIPMENT INCLUDES

  • Wood Propeller
  • Single Ignition Engine
  • 17 1/2 Inch Tires
  • Fully Enclosed Tunnel Type Cowling
  • Carburetor Heater with Hot and Cold Air Control
  • Two Full Size Doors
  • Dual Controls (Stick)
  • Oleo Landing Gear
  • Altimeter
  • Airspeed Indicator
  • Tachometer
  • Oil Pressure Gauge
  • Oil Temperature Gauge
  • Imitation Leather Upholstery (Seat Cushions)
  • Pushout Window
  • Individual Quick Fastening Safety Belts
  • First Aid Kit
  • Quart Pyrene Fire Extinguisher
  • Logbooks
  • Service Manual
  • Five Cubic Foot Baggage Compartment
  • Upholstery, in attractive leatherette, on both doors, with pocket in each door
  • Upholstery in same material on forward cabin walls
  • Rubber heel mats on cabin floor
  • Door Stops

Now, you might wonder, how do I, your friendly author, fit into this story.  Here is what happened:

A few years after the book in the above ad had been published I started my flight training. During a visit to a friend who had a little motel in Badger, close to the southern part of the Sequoia National Park, I met a local who took interest in me and my flying because he had been a pilot during the war. He took me on a visiting spree around the area to meet local pilots.

One of them had the most amazing private airstrip: Hangar on top of a hill, the short 1000 foot steep runway down the hill. Gravity helped to gain enough speed to get to minimum take-off speed at the bottom of the hill. On landing – the other way around – gravity helped again, this time to slow the plane touching down at the base of the hill, racing up the hill and coming to a stop in front of the hangar. Until now I have no idea what would happen if a plane would run out of momentum during the climb up the hill because the hill was definitely too steep for an airplane under propeller power only.

Another local pilot was Jerry Coigny – yes, the same as in the story above. He had a more traditional airstrip if you can call it that – It started at the edge of a bluff and ended in his backyard. The similarity was that again, independent of wind, you took off in the opposite direction as you landed. The backyard was just big enough to turn a small airplane around. No, not just one turn. You pulled into a tight 90 degree left turn a little bit up an incline, pulled back power and gave full right rudder, and let the plane roll backward in a right turn (you know that light aircraft don’t have reverse, do you?) Then full power and left rudder to complete the 180. On my first visit, I did not really know all that, but Jerry taught me later. He was a retired airline pilot and was still flying his 49 Bonanza (with a wooden propeller!) in and out of his airstrip located at about 4000 feet elevation. He showed us around his estate and was very fond of his restored antique cars.

I finished my flight training a few months later, started to collect flight hours and experience, and ended up buying a 1983 Piper warrior. A sales brochure of the warrior was one other item that I could have thrown out but fortunately not, so I can share it here.

At about 4 or 5 hundred hours, I felt able enough to take on bush-flying. I got in touch with Jerry, he gave me the exact coordinates of his property which I could plug into my Loran (GPS had been too expensive for me then) and I got on the way. I buzzed my friend’s motel first so they could drive up to Jerry and Lucy’s house (the very Lucy that eloped with Jerry decades ago) to pick me up and then pressed on to find that bush pilot’s dream runway. I was used to runways like Burbank so, a strip consisting of only two narrow rungs in the grass just wide enough for my wheels was quite a change.

Jerry and Lucy’s private airstrip

This is also where I learned how to turn around at the end of the runway – in Jerry’s backyard.

Over the years I flew into Jerry and Lucy’s airstrip a few times and it was always a different restored antique car that we or I were picked up in from the tie-down area in the middle of the strip. The last time I was there, Jerry had unfortunately passed away. This is when Lucy gave me the story I told above. Now I don’t know how the story ends – if the airstrip is still there and even if Lucy is still wandering amongst us – probably not because it’s way more than 10 years ago that I was up there last and Lucy was already old then.

Often, when a couple is together so long and happy, the partner left behind often follows rather soon so that they can have new adventures together. If they are together again in the everlasting hunting grounds then I am sure that they fly around in a Luscombe, Bonanza, or maybe in some cute little white space yacht.

Ode to Dad

Dad, it must be about forty years ago that you tried to let us participate in your experience of reading the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda. This was, I believe, your first venture into the world of spiritual awakening.

And I did not understand – and laughed.

Sure, I have the excuse that I was young, but I am an old soul and should have understood if I would have just listened.

I also know that I have used you. I remember that one time when I wanted to have a stand for my slide projector but was too lazy to build it myself. I had a clear vision of what and how I wanted it to be. But I came to you pretending ignorance and asked your advise. Then steered you so that you came to exactly what I wanted. You were so happy that I took your advise that you then built it for me. I know you had the feeling that you needed to show me your worth, but I used that shamelessly and I can’t say that I am proud of succeeding.

When I used my control then, I was cocky about my abilities but I promise that has changed radically.

Now I see that it was you who allowed me to grow up without worries. That gave me the opportunity to develop the ability to manipulate and control. I sure hope that this was not the only ability that I developed. I am grateful for that opportunity – – now.

Now I am reading Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi” myself and I finally understand why you were eager to share your feelings with us.

Time is of no significance – so, finally, I can listen to you and tell you what 40 years ago I was not able to do – – – COOL!

A Blast from the Past – My First Maerklin Train Set

The holidays sometimes give us the opportunity to dig a bit into the past by looking into some old photo albums. In doing so I got reminded of my good old Maerklin trains that I had when I was a little kid. On my trip down memory lane I dug out those old pictures and came even up with some pre-Maerklin documents.

Doesn’t seem that long ago and now I have my successor already older than I was in these pictures. I guess I will have to equip him with some trains of his own. What would be even better – Hello Universe, this is a request! – if I would manage to get my old trains back over here from a friend – Hello Hermann – who has kept them faithfully for so many years but whom I don’t seem to be able to reach any more. But maybe this year he will answer our Christmas mail – just maybe.

The following images first show the pre-Maerklin era, then the early Maerklin and the nearly complete set. I am missing the last phase of the Maerklin era though. After the last image a train station had been added, but I only have the pictures of that in my mind and no mean (yet) to get it out on the internet.

Ritalin and Parenting

While driving down the 101 here in Los Angeles I noticed the following sign…

Ritalin and Parenting

… and it made me think.

NO – Come on! There is no such sign in Los Angeles – – – yet!

But you can find bad surprises in places where they are really surprising – – huh?

Anyways, I want to tell about an old friend of mine. A friend I had hung out with during the last year of high school and most of the college days, and I thought we really knew each other well.

Me moving to the US of A interrupted that friendship somewhat, but meeting each other after both our divorces and a few year of hardly hearing from each other, the spark was there again immediately and we could talk as if no time had passed when we met on one of my visits to Germany.

But I went back to California, we both got married again and had kids – OK, our wifes had. Then it was his time to visit us here with the whole family.

During on of our long talks he told me that his daughter had become so difficult in school that she was now on ritalin. That blew my mind! I mean I hear all those bad stories about our school kids being drugged into obedience but I had never met any such kid. I guess because my reality is so that this stuff does not enter it. But then the only first degree of separation person to introduce me to ritalin is my old best buddy from the college days.

I guess our realities did develop into different directions. Even though I don’t really think in his case it was a replacement for parenting because he was and is a loving father. He must have gotten some really bad information, and that’s the danger of it, that if you are not actively looking for the correct information and trust ‘experts’ you might be traveling down the wrong path.

I know how that is!

Golden Gate Bridge

A friend just told me about his trip to San Francisco. He mentioned that he went over the Golden Gate bridge twice and this reminded me of my first trip to SF.

Many many years ago I had been somewhere at the beach north of Santa Monica to enjoy the sunset. The night before I had had a conversation with my then room mate regarding spontaneous and unplanned actions, and so, when it was time to head back from the beach I remembered that conversation and just went the other way…

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

… and was in SF at one am. Had some food at a Dennis – Always Open, you know – talked to a Texan, was very proud that I understood what he said and then drove over the golden gate bridge before dawn, looked over the bay from Sausalito, drove once more over the bridge during sunrise and headed back to LA.

Was an interesting trip back because my good old ’79 Ford LTD Station Wagon (white) started to make trouble, used a lot of gas and I finally found some little leak of fuel at the gas pump. looked like I had lost a little screw there and so I just put a little plug in there and got home OK.

Found out the day after that I had been very lucky – there was no screw missing, but instead it was a safety hole to drain the gas in case the membrane of the gas pump was broken. By plugging that whole I had flooded the crank case with gas – oops! Could have easily blown up the whole engine – but then again, guess I had decided not to do that, didn’t I?

Funny how these little, insignificant events can come alive again.