Enjoy this chronological history of his adventures during his times of building the roads in the hot Arizona desert, to meeting then presidential candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to later trying to organize a group of penguins, to bringing a Christmas tree to Christmas Island, to trying to locate a dead crewman's casket lost somewhere at San Francisco's airport.
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Out of the Fog - True Sea Stories
By Marvin F. Hopkins
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Captain Marvin F. Hopkins
All rights reserved.
INTRODUCTION TO PHOENIX, ARIZONA - 1922
Our family moved from the western part of Colorado to Phoenix in the winter of 1922. I was eleven years old. Besides my parents, there were two older sisters and one younger brother. We made this long trip in a 1918 Model T Ford touring car. The running boards, fenders and a rack that had been installed on the back of the car were stacked with boxes and suitcases. Spare tires, tubes and tube patching material were tied on all over the car. Crossing the northwest corner of New Mexico from Durango, Colorado to Arizona the roads were completely covered with windblown snow. To guide us across this barren land we had to use the tracks of other cars that had recently gone ahead in the direction that we wanted to go. If there were no tracks we used mountain peaks or mountain ranges in the far off distance to steer by. The sharp outline of a huge rock called "Shiprock" will linger in my memory bank forever. Traveling on a sharp clear day when one could see forever, it seemed to us that across this vast expanse of snow-covered ground, this odd shaped unusual rock loomed in front of us all one day and most of the next one.
In Arizona, traveling through Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams and Prescott the roads immediately became better and maintained but were very mountainous. It was in the dark of the night when we finally came out of the mountains and started the steep decent of the Yarnell Hill grade. On our way down this winding, curving road we started to unsnap and unbutton the side curtains to open up the car to the warm air. By the time we arrived at Congress Junction, we all had removed our lap and body blankets and at Wickenburg, everyone of us had discarded our coats and jackets. It was strange to us to be experiencing such warm weather in the month of January. We arrived in the city of Phoenix, at 3 a.m. My Dad had stopped the loaded Model T in front of the "Ford Hotel" on the northeast corner of Second Street and Washington and had no trouble finding us all rooms.
Early the next morning, noisy clanking street cars on Washington Street and some turning on Second Street in front of the hotel awakened us. We all got up. We went out for breakfast and then went house hunting. That evening we were moving into our new home in Phoenix that the folks had found. It was in the northeast part of the city at 200 W. Pierce Street. The only paved streets that we found were Washington and Central Avenue. The rest were loose dirt. We were told by our new landlord that Phoenix was a city of 46,000. It was closely surrounded by desert with far off mountains to the south and to the north. Coming from a small town of 200 people, I was awed and bewildered.
My Dad got a job as a bookkeeper at a large box factory out on Grand Avenue past Glendale. My sister Margi went to work as a reporter at The Arizona Republican newspaper and my other sister, Rosalind went to work as a telephone operator for the Boston Store on Washington and Second Streets. My brother, Wayne and I started school at Monroe Elementary School on Seventh and Van Buren Streets.
(NOTE: Today, Monroe Elementary School is called Children's Museum of Phoenix. The current use was not the building's original intent. Though the building has housed the museum since the summer of 2008, it has been standing far longer. Opening in 1913, the Monroe School, was the largest elementary schools west of the Mississippi and one of the largest Neoclassical Revival schools left in Phoenix. It was built in 1913 by Los Angeles designer Norman Marsh. At the time, it was billed the "most modern grade school in the United States." The school closed its doors in 1972 due to declining enrollment. Even today, the original bones of the building are surprisingly modern for a building its age.)
Dad traded in the worn out Model T for a 1920 Oldsmobile touring car. I had patched so many tubes on the Ford during our trip that I was sure we did not have a tube left that had any room for another patch. This Oldsmobile was a large car. It had a long wide body with a long, narrow rounded hood shaped like a top half of a large drainage pipe. One summer vacation, Dad got my brother and I a job out at the box factory. We nailed together already cut pieces of leather into lettuce and celery crates. One evening coming home from work I was driving, we were almost to the paved road at Glendale when a rider-less, small saddled pony started to pass by me on the opposite side of the road. There was a young caballero chasing and yelling at the pony in a loud Mexican voice. The pony suddenly turned across the road and he was soon right in front of me. The Oldsmobile hit the pony broadside. It was flipped over towards the windshield of the car with his four legs kicking in the air. The pony had landed upside down with the deep seat of the strange looking saddle firmly wedged on top of the rounded hood of the Olds. It was a snug fit between the large round horn and the deep high back of the saddle. The car was stopped. The pony's four legs were moving like was running upside down in the air or pumping a bicycle.
People had started to gather around the front of the car. The caballero was pressed against the left front fender still screaming and waving his arms at his pony. Some in the crowd was laughing including my Dad and brother. Five men were running towards us from a railroad loading shed. They each had a short coil of small rope with them. They jumped up on top of the fenders and hood. They grabbed the front legs of the pony and held them tight. One of the men took his piece of rope and tied the front legs of the pony like a cowboy would tie the legs of a calf at a rodeo. These men soon had the back legs of the pony bound together. They jumped down from the car, took off their hats, wiped the seat from their faces and said, "Now what?" Their question was soon answered.
A flatbed truck with a hand crank geared winch was crossing the railroad tracks from the vegetable loading shed. With much man power and straining, these men had the saddled pony laying on the road. They freed his legs and he started kicking them again. He rolled over and got to his feet. The caballero was holding his bridle still yelling at him. He mounted his pony and rode off. I was told that the strange looking saddle was a Mexican saddle.
The poor Olds had a bent in radiator and one busted headlight. The long rounded hood was bent in where the saddle had been wedged. My Dad said everything could be fixed and for me to continue driving home. He was still laughing.CHAPTER 2
Meeting Tom Mix on Desert Road - 1926
The summer of 1926, I was 15 years old and lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix then was a small western city of not more than 60,000 population. Central Avenue was a dirt road that extended to McDowell to the south and Camelback to the North.
It was a hot still morning about 5:30 p.m. and I had just finished my paper route on my bicycle. I was passing a downtown garage when I noticed a long, sleek, white, open touring car parked on the driveway in the entrance of the garage door. I changed course and stopped along the left side of the car but saw no one. As I walked around the rear of the car I stopped dead in my tracks. Sitting on the long wide running board was the mechanic and a large man in a white western cowboy suit, shining black boots and a familiar well blocked white hat. They were in deep study of the automobile's manual. I knew who he was before he looked up at me and with a very friendly smile said to me, "Come on son, sit down and help us get this sick horse running again," he said. It was Tom Mix.
I sat next to him and joined in trying to find out the car trouble. We finally nailed it down to dirty gasoline. He ordered the mechanic to drain and flush out the huge fuel tank in the rear of the car then to flush out the fuel lines and clean the carburetor. He had left Tucson the night before and had topped off his gasoline in Florence, 60 miles east around midnight. From then on the troubles began.
The mechanic started his task that had been laid out for him. Tom Mix looked at me and said, "Come on kid, let's go down to that cafe there and have some breakfast."
It was 3'o'clock in the afternoon when his car was ready to go. To top off my days of days, he asked me to go with him on a long test drive. I have never forgotten that hot, still morning and fantastic day in Phoenix, Arizona that happened so long ago.
About a month later, I had received a postcard from him in Hollywood. His trip had been long and hot but with no car trouble. It wasn't until many years later that Tom Mix had been on that familiar road but this time it claimed his life.
It was on October 12, 1940, after visiting Pima County Sheriff Ed Nichols in Tucson, Arizona, Mix headed north toward Phoenix on U.S. Highway 80 (now Arizona State Route 79), driving his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton. He stopped at the Oracle Junction Inn, a popular gambling and drinking establishment, to call his agent, and then continued toward Phoenix. About eighteen miles south of Florence, Arizona, Mix came upon construction barriers at a bridge washed away by a flash flood. He was unable to stop in time. The car swerved twice and then rolled into a gully, pinning his body underneath. He had placed a large aluminum suitcase containing a substantial sum of money, traveler's checks, and jewels on the package shelf behind him. It flew forward and struck Mix's head, shattering his skull and breaking his neck. The actor was killed almost instantly. Eyewitnesses said Mix had been traveling at 80 mph. He was 60 years old.
Thomas Edwin "Tom" Mix was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies. Between 1909 and 1935, Mix appeared in 291 films with all but nine of which were silent movies. He was Hollywood's first Western megastar and is noted as having helped define the genre for all cowboy actors who followed.CHAPTER 3
New Highway - Coolidge to Eloy - 1927
In 1927, I was 16 and most of my family had moved to the new town of Coolidge, between Florence and Casa Grande. My mother has passed away suddenly at the age of 46. My sister Rosaline had married a grand fellow named LeRoy Pond. She was happier to stay in Phoenix. My Dad was to start a general store in Coolidge and my sister Margi and her new husband, Al Wilke, were to start a new weekly newspaper. Margi had become the Society Editor of The Arizona Republican and her husband was a police reporter that had been promoted to Night Editor.
They both had quit their jobs for their new venture. My brother and I had been attending Phoenix Union High School so we transferred to Florence High School, ten miles east of Coolidge. The new and first newspaper in Coolidge would be called "The Coolidge News".
In the summer of 1928 at the age of 17, I had a job of loading 500 to 700 pound bales of pressed cotton from trucks to railroad box cars. There were four men to a team, each with short handled grasping hooks that we lifted at each corner of the bale to move it into the boxcar. The pay wasn't too good on this back breaking job so I started looking for another one. A road contractor was just starting a job to build a new graveled road from Coolidge straight south, twenty miles to a small town of Eloy where it would connect with the highway from Casa Grande to Tucson. The contractor gave me a job of driving a water sprinkling truck. I would be working 12 hour days with a lot of overtime. This would be my start that led me to follow new highway construction in Arizona for many years.
In the summer of 1928, the water truck that I was to drive on this new construction job was a monster. It was high off the ground and long. Behind the small canvas top over the driver's seat was a huge black steel tank that held 12,000 gallons of water. This water it carried was to be sprinkled on the spread-out road material of mineral aggregate. This material would then be mixed and windrowed by a long grader with an adjustable long blade and then spread out again for more sprinkling. The grader was pulled by a team of mules that was driven by a man called the mule skinner. He would be either sitting on the grader or walking beside it. When the material was spread out again on the roadbed, a heavy, water filled cylinder roller also pulled by a team of mules, sometimes four in a span, would roll and pack the mineral aggregate into the roadbed.
For the new highway, teams of mules pulling fresnos would cut through the desert, moving dirt, filling in and leveling for the new roadbed where it had been surveyed and staked. A fresno is made of a steel plate. It is long and shape like a rectangular steel box except it is open on one long side and open at the top. It has a long curved steel blade on the bottom and with the team of mules moving forward, the blade cuts the earth and it moves to the back of the fresno until the dirt spills over the sides. They usually hold three quarters or one and one half yards of material. From the back of the fresno a long, curved iron pipe protrudes out from it. The mule skinner, driving his mules will walk on either side of this long bar. This bar is called, the Johnson bar. When it is time for the skinner to dump his load, he keeps his team moving, grabs the Johnson bar at the end, lifts and then tilts the fresno to dump the dirt. Sometimes there will be twelve or more teams in array moving dirt. To lift these heavy loads from a fresno, one should be built like a wrestler, for he has one hand holding the reins driving his mules and the other hand on the end of the Johnson Bar.
I had two places in the twenty mile stretch of the straight new highway to fill my water tank. One was at the north part of new highway. It was a large cement watering tank that was filled by a pump from a deep well. It had been placed there in the desert for grazing cattle. The other one was on the southern end at Picacho Lake. An odd thing to find in the desert of Arizona. The lake water had a sharp odor to it and its banks were lined with tall willows and grass. The lake water was home for many large bull frogs and poisonous moccasin water snakes. The banks of the lake, in the tall grass and willows were also the home of six to 10 feet long, yellow rattle snakes that were six to eight inches in diameter. There were pumps and hoses at each location.
The young and not so young road workers like to party. I was seventeen and all for it. There was something doing almost every night. Dates with the local gals and night picnics on the bare desert, on the willowed banks of the Gila River or a frog leg fry at Lake Picacho and usually a Saturday night dance at a newly built hall in Coolidge. The nights were not made for sleeping so I devised a way that I could catch up on my missed sleep. When I was pumping water from the cattle tank I would first start the pump for the tank to keep it at a certain level amount of water to pump from the tank into my 12,000 gallon water tank truck. The hoses were fire hose size. When I had the hose ready to put in the open 18-inch diameter dome on top of the tank I would get a blanket that I had on the truck I would go up the ladder to the top of the tank. It was hot from being exposed to the desert sun. I would hose the outside top of the tank with the cold water coming from the desert well. When I had a place cooled off, I would put the hose inside of the dome, spread the blanket close to the dome opening, take off what clothes I had on down to my shorts. I would then sit down on the wet and cool blanket, put my bare legs to the knees inside of the dome and then lay back on the blanket and go to sleep. When the cold water would reach my feet and ankles, I would be awake immediately I usually had three hours to sleep.
Excerpted from Out of the Fog - True Sea Stories by Marvin F. Hopkins. Copyright © 2014 Captain Marvin F. Hopkins. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction To Phoenix, Arizona - 1922, 1,
Chapter 2 Meeting Tom Mix on Desert Road - 1926, 5,
Chapter 3 New Highway - Coolidge to Eloy - 1927, 7,
Chapter 4 New Highway - Morristown to Wickenberg - 1931, 12,
Chapter 5 New Highway - Williams to Ashfork - 1932, 17,
Chapter 6 Flushing Out a Quail - 1933, 26,
Chapter 7 Have Another Drink - 1952, 30,
Chapter 8 Foul-Ups - 1956, 36,
Chapter 9 Those Evasive Russians - 1957-1958, 53,
Chapter 10 A Visit to Easter Island - 1959, 61,
Chapter 11 Rough Seas Don't Sleep - 1959, 69,
Chapter 12 High & Dry - early 1960's, 85,
Chapter 13 Burial at Sea - 1962, 88,
Chapter 14 Piracy on the High Seas - 1963, 102,
Chapter 15 Unusual Gift to an Unusual Island - 1963, 137,
Chapter 16 A British Columbia Safari - 1965, 140,
Chapter 17 Galapagos Islands, Iguanas & Penguins - 1965, 147,
Chapter 18 A Slow Jet to Singapore - 1969, 151,
Chapter 19 A Slow Boat from Singapore - 1969, 160,
Chapter 20 A Cruise of Misfortunes - 1969, 169,
Chapter 21 Christmas Spirit in Chile - 1970, 183,