Walter Mencken 10:06 a.m., Feb. 6
- Community Blog
- Vista Blues
The Other Side Of California...Life In The San Joaquin Valley
"The More Of You That I Inspect...The More I See Reflect!" --Megadeth, from "Angry Again"
I thought that, for a change of pace, I would let you in on a bit of my history. You see, I did not live in Vista all of my life, but in other parts of California and Oregon as well.
This tale is about a place I spent my high-school years (and my first year of college). The place I am talking about is in another part of California...a part that might as well be somewhere else, because in reality...it is!
From 1979-1983, I lived in the Central San Joaquin Valley. The town I lived in was Lemoore...and eight miles west was Lemoore Naval Air Station, home to the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet's Light Attack Air Squadrons.
It was also home to Lemoore Naval Hospital...the only one between Oakland and Point Magu. In 1978, my dad (Robert Bruce) became the Command Master Chief Hospital Corpsman of the hospital, a post he would hold until July of 1983.
Well, in 1979, my grandparents brought me to Lemoore Naval Air Station (Alverez Housing Area) to turn me over to my dad, as part of the divorce agreement he hammered out with my mom. That first night, we went to the Chief's Club for dinner.
Two days later, my grandparents left to go to Reno, then back to Woodburn, Oregon...leaving me with my dad for the first time since 1976. Dad and I got along great, more like "shipmates" than as father-and-son.
I soon enrolled at Lemoore High School--and began to learn more about "The Part Of California That's NOT California." For example, most of the cultural and political values are Midwestern, specifically from the Dust Bowl region.
That meant politically, we were definitely "Red State." I also found out the farther south you went in "The Big Valley," the redder the politics went...as in farther-and-farther rightward. In fact, Bakersfield south to the Grapevine was maroon in political ideology.
In "The Big Valley," agriculture was king. Cotton, raisins, table grapes, grain, almonds, olives...if it grew in our climate, we grew it! Out in the western approaches to the Coast Range, there were still productive oil fields along Highway 198.
Plus, you had the U.S. Navy, of course. LNAS was considered a "master jet air station," and at the time I lived out that way, the squadrons were transitioning from the A-7E Corsair II (the F-8 Crusader's "baby brother") to the new F/A-18A Hornet. In fact, NAS Lemoore was the first West Coast air station to transition it's squadrons to the new "do it all" warbird.
For entertainment, one could hop onto Highway 41 North and head for Fresno. I-5 North took you to Sacramento. U.S. 101 North took you to Monterry and the Bay Area. I-5 South took folks to Bakersfield, the Grapevine, and Los Angeles. 101 South took folks to Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, Solvang, and San Luis Obispo. Highway 99 ran you out to Tehachapi and the Mojave Desert.
The attitudes of the inhabitants was definitely Midwestern...even on the telly, you saw advertisements for seed companies and pesticides like Roundup. Church attendance was very much a part of life out there, and morality (or the lack therof) was a big discussion issue in the "Op/Ed" section of The Fresno Bee.
One of the biggest things that I did learn was that the folks of the valley actually liked having "The Grapevine" bi-sect the southern border of the valley from L.A. County. They often called it "The Far Better Wall Of The Valley."
The weather there was nothing like what one can expect if one grew up in either Nor-Cal or So-Cal. The winters were extremely wet and cold, but the summertime meant wall-to-wall 100+ degree days. Plus, the Tule fog always paid a visit from November to April (which meant my high school day was from 10am to 4pm)...and believe me, it put San Francisco's to shame in thickness and opaqueness.
Still, I actually loved it out there! The library was well stocked, the high school was great (Graduated in 1982 with a "B" average, plus first runner-up for "Most Inspirational"), and I got in my first year of college at West Hills College in Coalinga.
Every July, we had the Air Show, with the Blue Angels being the featured act. I got to actually touch and see the warbirds of the past and the present, and actually pose for a photo in a A-4M Skyhawk light attack bomber (used by the air station's "Agressor Group" (VA-137--"The Cylons") for "realistic air combat training).
It's not a place for everybody, The Big Valley. No surfer dudes, no bikini-clad beach bunnies--just miles and miles of miles and miles, planted with cotton, wheat,or sunflowers! Oven-hot in the summer, frigid with no snow in the winter.
But for five years, it was my home...and worth every day that I was there!
More like this:
- Sailor, Mother, and Father In One--One For My Dad! — June 18, 2012
- Daddy Docent — Nov. 3, 2010
- From My Past--To My Future... — Nov. 4, 2009
- And Now, For Something A Bit Lighter... — Oct. 7, 2009
- When Duke Was King — Dec. 15, 2005