String on Palo Alto Weekly Website - early experiences at Cubberley 

I think I was "googling" one of the merchants in an old Catamount and came across this "Growing Up in Palo Alto" nostalgia string on the PA Weekly website. I recognize some of the names of the folks there, and share many of the same memories.

This link may be no good in a few months, but it looks like the thread has lasted several months at least... it's at http://www.paloaltoonline.com/square/in ... amp;t=551.

When I moved to Palo Alto in the early 60s (from Texas, which was also a great place to grow up, but in different ways) I knew I had landed someplace special. The kids at Ohlones (with an "s") were friendly, ougtoing, incredibly smart, and easy to get to know. As a 4th grader with a bicycle, I was all over Fairmeadow, Greenmeadow, Wilbur, Cubberley, Ohlones, Charleston Center, and even as far away as Wright's Petland on El Camino. Nobody thought of there being an issue of safety, except with traffic, so we were careful crossing the streets. Within the first week I had discovered Peninsula Scientific - and I thought that HP and Varian looked like incredible places to work (HP had Oscilloscope waveforms in the bricks up on the hill, and Varian had an Oscilloscope image in their green neon signs). I'm now retired from HP, but doing some consulting there.

I also found out I was a *LOT* healthier when I moved to Palo Alto. In Dallas, I had typically something like 20 absenses per year with various ailments (including Scarlet Fever). But in Palo Alto, I didn't miss a single day of school in 4th through 8th grade - I was out one day with a headache in 9th grade, and perhaps a few spotty times in High School. I attribute this to the several factors -

(1) I had probably developed pretty serious allergies to grasses in Dallas. (The tract where we lived from 1956 to 1960 was initially in the middle of former farmland, and full of weeds - it wasn't built-out until we moved).
(2) The California climate was better.
(3) As a result of (2), we kept the windows open more (and my parents were both heavy smokers - so in Texas I was trapped in a closed house with lots of smoke, but not in California). Also in California it was easier to be outside more of the time.

My first experience at Cubberley was when I was in 4th grade - my teacher (Mr. Richard K Empey) had us walk from Ohlones to Cubberley and back (about a half mile - nice walk on a warm Palo Alto afternoon) to work with some Monroe adding machines they had for business classes. These were not the 10-key type, but had ten keys for each column. The carriage portion would shift so you could do multiplication by shifting and cranking doing repeated ads. Division was possible, but you had to use the index register to count how many times you turned the crank before it went negative. (basically iterative long division by subtraction). Pretty cool.

The next time I was in a classroom there was (I think) in a night school class with my Dad (when I was in 7th grade) called "Introduction to Data Processing" or something of the sort. It was taught by William McKeeman who was then a PhD Candidate at Stanford. After the first session of the class, my dad came home and started talking to me about addresses, stored programs, instructions, data, and all that good stuff, and I was hooked on wanting to learn more about the stuff. The first program I ever worked on (it was a class project) was in machine code for a PDP-1. We put it in on the switch register on the unit at Pine Hall at Stanford. It took a character input from the typewriter, then took a second character, added the two and printed the sum.

So if you typed "11", it would type "2". If you typed "a1" it would type "b". I looked in the manual and discovered that if you could manage to get a particular sum, it would switch the color on the ribbon, and I believe we left the machine typing on the red ribbon rather than the black - leaving it as an exercise for some poor grad student to fix it - or just live with red.

This was also my first exposure to video games "spacewar" on the PDP-1 with telephone-buzzer style button boxes for each player (4 buttons, rotate left, rotate right, thruster, and fire weapons). The sun in the center of the screen exerted gravity. I have a later photo of a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) display (perhaps the same one?) that I took when I was in High School at the Stanford AI Lab (in the former DC Power Lab Building). But the first time I saw spacewar, it was on the PDP-1, and nobody had even thought about putting video games in an arcade.

Mr. Empey (the 4th grade teacher), and Bill McKeeman are two of the best teachers I've ever run into *anywhere*.

My third experience at Cubberley was when I was in junior high - I took a summer class there in how to type. That was in 1964 - the summer of the Republican Convention where Goldwater was nominated.

(But that reminds me of a story I gotta' tell)... I remember that because I took a day off from typing to actually GO to the convention and watch nominating speeches. Some friends from Texas (Jack and Wanda Eidson) were in the Republican organization down there, and got me a pass that read "Honorary Assistant Sargent-at-arms" or something like that. That got you into the convention hall, but no seat. Between myself and my mom, we had one real ticket (with a great view of the main platform), plus the "Sargent" pass. My mom got onto the floor with a 'borrowed' delegate pass, but I was too young to pass as a delegate, so I stayed up in the seats and in the surrounding areas. We also had access to a hospitality suite through the Texas delegation. When I got away on my own, I "visited" the anchor booths of some of the TV networks - you couldn't go inside, but they were enclosed in glass so you could see all the monitors, plus the video tape units (which were about the size of refrigerators in those days). These areas were separate from the "skybooth" style studios each network had (with Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, and friends). I couldn't get close to those.

Anyway, in spite of "playing hooky" one day during the summer class, I learned to type (fortunately - nobody could read my handwriting). There were two teachers, and they were trying an experiment to help us learn to type faster... they had several TV sets around the room, and a camera mounted vertically pointing at a keyboard. The teachers would type stuff on the screen, and we were supposed to look at the monitor ("eyes on the monitor, space") instead of down at the keys. I think it actually worked pretty well.



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Mr. Richard Finch 

Did you ever look back at your school years and wish that you had been in the class of a certain teacher? Mr. Finch is featured in volume 11, number 3, and this triggered a string of memories that make me wish that I knew the guy a little better.

One was when I had a journalism assignment to "take some pictures of the foreign language department". I was a student of French, and Mr. Finch taught Spanish... but he was in the office when I wandered in there wondering "what in the heck am I going to do about this". With some trepidation, I asked Mr. Finch if he had any ideas, and he immediately went into the language lab, opened up the console, exposing switches and wiring, and made a wonderful pose acting like he was trying to figure out what was broken...

He could have said "go away, I'm busy"... he could have played like he was reading a Spanish dictionary, but that wasn't his style. I didn't even know the guy, but he thought up one of the most fun and interesting pictures I took at Cubberley.

This sort of playfulness should have given me a clue, but it wasn't until year later when I read Wendy Lesser's "The Amateur", where she described the many facets of this wonderful guy, that I really thought "that would've been a neat teacher to study under".

Check out the article "Mr. Richard finch: artist, fencer, linguist", and also, especially if you remember this guy, go read Wendy's book. One of these days I'll figure out how to put one of those links in here that gives me a nickel if you go buy the book from amazon, but it's too late tonight.

I also should upload the picture of Mr. Finch in the language lab... later. (here it is April 2008 finally...)


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Google Analytics 

These are kind of cool - I've got them installed on the home page... still playing around. Just slowly adding things and seeing how they all work.
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1966-1967 

I'm going to try to keep my personal comments over here in the blog rather than in the text of the web pages, although undoubtedly some opinion will creep in - and probably things that interest me more will get more attention than other items.

If there's stuff that should be added over on the main text (like something significant about sports, which I was woefully ignorant about), please let me know and I'll try to work it in. With kids of my own, who both wanted to do some sort of sports, I see how important that is in their lives, and I wish I had tried to be more involved myself (although I was such a klutz, the coaching staff might've been wringing their hands with me).

So, 1966-1967. What was it like?

I was (and still am) a science nerd, and pretty clumsy (still am), and skinny (not so much any more). I had to take the required English (with Gerry Meyer), Contemporary World (with Al Chanteloup), PE (with "staff", but Mr. Jim Yelton taught me how to tumble, and play badminton, both of which I really enjoyed), French 3 (with Miss Tully - which has come in much more useful over the years than I ever expected), AP Math (Duane Hinders), Photo 50 (with Harry Butterfield). I had done biology the summer before at Gunn (with Bob Anderson and Miss Kenton, plus student teachers Mr. Penny and Ms. McIntosh), so I felt like I had bandwidth to do photography.

I was quite surprised at the Photo 50 - three of us that knew each other pretty well had all gotten this "Photo 50" thing on our schedule, and didn't have a clue what it was. We had all signed up for Photo 1, and figured you probably needed to have 1 through 49 before you took 50... but that wasn't the case. Photo 50 was an experiment that Mr. Butterfield wanted to try. It was designed to cover the material from "Photo 1" (theory and technique) but in an accelerated mode. The assignments would be generated from the needs of campus publications, including the Catamount (newspaper), Totem (yearbook), Cub (Student handbook), Folio (literary magazine), and the Palo Alto Times Thursday "High Times" column, which often needed photographs. (Those were worth $5, which was a lot of money in those days). My other two buddies in Photo 50 were Hal Sampson and Charles Scott. Hal has worked in hi-tech in the Sunnyvale area since graduation. Charles (as he now likes to be called - back then it was "Chuck") is an attorney in San Diego, and is actually representing me in a probate issue down there right now. Knowing him gave me the courage to try to work a "conservatorship", with an elderly relative in San Diego. So the old school tie goes on 40+ years later.

Photo 50 was the start of my photojournalism gig in high school. We were the trainees, and the trainers were Mr. Butterfield, the Journalism and Yearbook staff, and the current photographers, namely Scott LeGear and John Kehres. Initially we got the easy assignments where you could "take your time", shoot lots of pictures, and present only the best... things like "foreign exchange students"... ("Did you bring some sort of clothing or artifacts from your home country we might use in a picture?"). They would let us tag-along at sports events in case we managed to shoot something useful. It was all great fun. We had deadlines every two weeks, that culminated in the photo staff driving prints down to "the lithographer", where they would produce half-tone negatives needed to print the pictures in the newspaper. There were a lot of wonderful folks in Photo 50 - I remember Linda Mooers, Gretchen Wooding (now a doctor - specializing in allergy in Northern California), Pat Davis, and probably others that aren't coming to mind right now. We were all pretty excited about the prospect of being "published"... and probably all a little nervous as well.

I actually did get photographs published (as did many of my colleagues) in a book written about our times at Cubberley: "Hassling", by Sylvia Berry Williams. Sylvia Williams was an English teacher, and she ran the Catamount one of the years I was there. She was a wonderful woman, and very perceptive about much that was going on. To understand Cubberley in depth during those years, I recommend this book highly. One of the photos was of the 67/68 Student Body President, bearded Tim Wise, posing next to a photo of Che Guevarra. The other was Sidney Walton, the multicultural director in the Palo Alto schools, and later superintendent of Sausalito Schools. Below is a photo of him taken (I think) in early 1969.


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Two weeks later 

This site has been in my thoughts a lot the last few weeks, but has unfortunately had little progress.

I'm kind of torn between trying to use one of these cutesy template website builders to make cool little navigation tabs and graphics, versus just getting the material going.

Right now, I'm pretty much decided to do bonehead html and worry about the cutesy later if I have opportunity.

I've added a table to allow selection of the school years I have in my archive (I'm open to hosting others). Also, I've been trying to figure out google analytics.

I've never had a "hosted" site like this before. I did a very early website for my employer back in 1995/1997 but I always had 'root' access on the unix box I was running the thing on, so I could tinker away with the configurations to my heart's content. Doing it "hosted" is a little awkward, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.

I'm going to try to open up the 'content' a little at a time, so that I can watch the effects, whatever they may be, and try to make some early corrections in how I do this before I get too much work invested.

I've instrumented the home page with google analytics at least, and I'm going to experiment with the google ads (hopefully to make this site self-supporting eventually) Unfortunately I have to do this stuff in little snatches, so it's going slowly.

The main page is in the google cache at this point, but not this blog.


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