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Best Reader stories from 1990

Hale telescope, hunting Chinese pandas for Roosevelts, Richard Henry Dana, MCRD, famous San Diegans recite poetry, TJ torture, Jorge Hank, running drugs for Uncle Sam, Lamb's Players, Brute Krulak

Michael Reagan: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...."
Michael Reagan: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...."
  • The Hale blinks

  • Twilight has ebbed to a fringe of lapis on the western horizon, and the stars spin slowly as the dome of the 200-inch Hale telescope on Palomar Mountain blinks awake. Bob Thicksten, the observatory's superintendent, stands on the catwalk that rings the outside of the seven-story dome. We float through space, about 100 feet up, as the dome and the telescope turn toward a distant galaxy.
  • By Neal Matthews, Dec. 13, 1990
The Hale is currently the largest working telescope in the world, but that claim to fame will not hold for much longer.
  • Quentin Young, Ruth Harkness, and the pandas in China

  • The first giant panda ever captured alive and exhibited in a zoo now sits mounted in a glass case at Chicago’s Field Museum, next to its distant evolutionary cousins, the raccoon and the lesser or red panda. It died in 1938 when it was 16 months old and never attained the size of the other two pandas on display, one of which was killed in 1929 by Kermit Roosevelt and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., sons of the ex-president.
  • By Michael Kiefer, Nov. 29, 1990
In quest of a mate for Su Lin, 1938
  • When Richard Henry Dana returned to Point Loma

  • On the 22nd of August, 1859, the little steamer Senator called at San Diego with passengers from Los Angeles. It rounded the point under the lighthouse and entered the harbor’s narrow channel at about 8:00 on a hot blue morning. Its destination was the new wharf, on the site of the present-day sportfishing piers, near Shelter Island, but it stopped in the stream to accommodate one important passenger who wished to be rowed ashore on Point Loma to revisit an old haunt.
  • By Joe Applegate, Nov. 21, 1990
  • The Marines are sitting on a few good acres

  • Master Sergeant Raul Marroquin is my escort. I’d entered the main gate of Camp Pendleton (no problem) and bluffed my way onto the restricted grounds of Edson Range Marroquin's a Mexican-American from the old school, a Vietnam vet with 21 years in the Corps. We walk through chilling sea mist toward ghostly pops and cracks of Ml6s.
  • By Ray Westberg, Nov. 8, 1990
Master Sergeant George Spears: "This is the only Marine base in the United States where ship-to-shore operations can be practiced."
  • Torture in TJ

  • "They apprehended me of work and handcuffed me They took me in on old grey van with, I think, blue license plates—maybe I didn't see them well. the inside of the van was really scratched up, and there was a mattress in back. And they started to kick me in the stomach and climbed on top of me and slapped me hard, twice.
  • By Abe Opincar, June 14, 1990
“[Now] I can’t sleep at night. I just start to think about how they shocked me, and I can’t sleep."
  • Jorge Hank finally talks

  • As word of Vera's arrest spread through the city, Jorge Hank Rhon, principal owner of the Caliente Racetrack and the man Vera had guarded for the last several years was in Mexico City. Ever since Vera's disappearance, the April 20, 1988 murder of Héctor "Gato" Felix Miranda, a widely read columnist for the Tijuana newspaper Zeta, had been laid at Hank's feet. Another of Hank's bodyguards, Victoriano Medina Moreno, was convicted of the murder last August and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
  • By Neal Matthews, May 10, 1990
"After my brother died, I started growing the beard and the hair."
  • I ran drugs for Uncle Sam .

  • Fifty-two-year old Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, who has lived in the San Diego area off and on since 1976, has decided to come forward with the details of his work as a pilot in Central America during the time the U.S. government was secretly arming the Nicaraguan contras. From 1979 to 1986, between his assignments – ferrying cargo and people into the jungles of Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, sometimes returning to the U.S. with shipments of cocaine and marijuana – Plumlee has a blue-collar job in San Diego.
  • By Neal Matthews, April 5, 1990
Drug route from Panama to Pt. Escondido. “Nothing was being done with this information, and a lot of us were starting to get pissed off about flying drugs.”
  • Everybody onstage for the forgiveness and reconciliation number

  • Lamb's Players is not in the same league as the big regional companies, the Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the San Diego Rep, with their out-of-town guest artists and subsidized summer seasons. But it has come to be regarded as one of the best locals and has done so with a full-time core group of only a dozen artists, most of whom have houses, families, and a commitment to making their careers not only in theater but in this theater.
  • By Joe Applegate, March 15, 1990
This classic ensemble theater has been achieved at the price of ensemble everything, where members can't get away from work or each other. During one two-year period, four couples at or near the center of the company went through divorces.
  • A spear in the dirt

  • At exactly 2:00 a.m., I line up in front of the buses with the others. Some hardly spare me a glance; others take in my fatigue shirt, L.A. Angels baseball cap, black Levis, and week’s growth of beard and clock me for a gringo right away. To an Anglo, I could have passed; but to a Mexican, I might as well be Pat Boone.
  • By John Brizzolara, March 8, 1990
I fall behind the others in my rhythm of search, step, step, turn, bend, cut, lift, search…mostly because my back, arms, and knees protest this activity strongly.
  • Brute knows war

  • Five feet 4 inches in height, 120 pounds when he “got his full growth,” Victor Krulak was dubbed “Brute” by his fellow cadets at Annapolis. The now-77-year-old retired marine Lt. Gen. Krulak graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1934 and saw service in World War II. During the Korean war, helped plan the 1950 Inchon landing. In 1956, at 43, he became the youngest general in the history of the U.S. Marines.
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 15, 1990
Admiral William Halsey awarding Navy Cross to Victor Krulak, Soloman Islands, 1943. Krulak had been ordered by Halsey to conduct night-time amphibious raids.
  • The unlikely rescue

  • For an hour and a half, 80-year-old Tony Carrasco had been waiting for a deer to pass within range of his old bolt-action Remington, but now he was getting bored. It was a splendid morning in late October, the sun coming full and strong out of a blank sky. His hunting stand was an outcropping of stone in Dyche Valley, on the remote eastern slope of Palomar Mountain.
  • By Joe Applegate, Jan. 11, 1990
Shane Snider, Mike Baxter. Mike stopped and called out to ask if they shouldn’t go right, but Shane didn’t reply.
  • Famous San Diegans recite poetry on top of their minds

  • A number of San Diegans were called on the telephone and asked to recite, on the spur of the moment, any poem they might know by heart. Some were up to the task; Laura Buxton didn't miss a beat. Michael Davidson immediately launched into Middle English; Jim Sills rattled off "Invictus" with dramatic flair. But a few struggled and were allowed to call back.
  • Compiled by Sue Greenberg, Oct. 18, 1990
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Michael Reagan: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...."
Michael Reagan: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...."
  • The Hale blinks

  • Twilight has ebbed to a fringe of lapis on the western horizon, and the stars spin slowly as the dome of the 200-inch Hale telescope on Palomar Mountain blinks awake. Bob Thicksten, the observatory's superintendent, stands on the catwalk that rings the outside of the seven-story dome. We float through space, about 100 feet up, as the dome and the telescope turn toward a distant galaxy.
  • By Neal Matthews, Dec. 13, 1990
The Hale is currently the largest working telescope in the world, but that claim to fame will not hold for much longer.
  • Quentin Young, Ruth Harkness, and the pandas in China

  • The first giant panda ever captured alive and exhibited in a zoo now sits mounted in a glass case at Chicago’s Field Museum, next to its distant evolutionary cousins, the raccoon and the lesser or red panda. It died in 1938 when it was 16 months old and never attained the size of the other two pandas on display, one of which was killed in 1929 by Kermit Roosevelt and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., sons of the ex-president.
  • By Michael Kiefer, Nov. 29, 1990
In quest of a mate for Su Lin, 1938
  • When Richard Henry Dana returned to Point Loma

  • On the 22nd of August, 1859, the little steamer Senator called at San Diego with passengers from Los Angeles. It rounded the point under the lighthouse and entered the harbor’s narrow channel at about 8:00 on a hot blue morning. Its destination was the new wharf, on the site of the present-day sportfishing piers, near Shelter Island, but it stopped in the stream to accommodate one important passenger who wished to be rowed ashore on Point Loma to revisit an old haunt.
  • By Joe Applegate, Nov. 21, 1990
  • The Marines are sitting on a few good acres

  • Master Sergeant Raul Marroquin is my escort. I’d entered the main gate of Camp Pendleton (no problem) and bluffed my way onto the restricted grounds of Edson Range Marroquin's a Mexican-American from the old school, a Vietnam vet with 21 years in the Corps. We walk through chilling sea mist toward ghostly pops and cracks of Ml6s.
  • By Ray Westberg, Nov. 8, 1990
Master Sergeant George Spears: "This is the only Marine base in the United States where ship-to-shore operations can be practiced."
  • Torture in TJ

  • "They apprehended me of work and handcuffed me They took me in on old grey van with, I think, blue license plates—maybe I didn't see them well. the inside of the van was really scratched up, and there was a mattress in back. And they started to kick me in the stomach and climbed on top of me and slapped me hard, twice.
  • By Abe Opincar, June 14, 1990
“[Now] I can’t sleep at night. I just start to think about how they shocked me, and I can’t sleep."
  • Jorge Hank finally talks

  • As word of Vera's arrest spread through the city, Jorge Hank Rhon, principal owner of the Caliente Racetrack and the man Vera had guarded for the last several years was in Mexico City. Ever since Vera's disappearance, the April 20, 1988 murder of Héctor "Gato" Felix Miranda, a widely read columnist for the Tijuana newspaper Zeta, had been laid at Hank's feet. Another of Hank's bodyguards, Victoriano Medina Moreno, was convicted of the murder last August and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
  • By Neal Matthews, May 10, 1990
"After my brother died, I started growing the beard and the hair."
  • I ran drugs for Uncle Sam .

  • Fifty-two-year old Robert “Tosh” Plumlee, who has lived in the San Diego area off and on since 1976, has decided to come forward with the details of his work as a pilot in Central America during the time the U.S. government was secretly arming the Nicaraguan contras. From 1979 to 1986, between his assignments – ferrying cargo and people into the jungles of Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, sometimes returning to the U.S. with shipments of cocaine and marijuana – Plumlee has a blue-collar job in San Diego.
  • By Neal Matthews, April 5, 1990
Drug route from Panama to Pt. Escondido. “Nothing was being done with this information, and a lot of us were starting to get pissed off about flying drugs.”
  • Everybody onstage for the forgiveness and reconciliation number

  • Lamb's Players is not in the same league as the big regional companies, the Old Globe, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the San Diego Rep, with their out-of-town guest artists and subsidized summer seasons. But it has come to be regarded as one of the best locals and has done so with a full-time core group of only a dozen artists, most of whom have houses, families, and a commitment to making their careers not only in theater but in this theater.
  • By Joe Applegate, March 15, 1990
This classic ensemble theater has been achieved at the price of ensemble everything, where members can't get away from work or each other. During one two-year period, four couples at or near the center of the company went through divorces.
  • A spear in the dirt

  • At exactly 2:00 a.m., I line up in front of the buses with the others. Some hardly spare me a glance; others take in my fatigue shirt, L.A. Angels baseball cap, black Levis, and week’s growth of beard and clock me for a gringo right away. To an Anglo, I could have passed; but to a Mexican, I might as well be Pat Boone.
  • By John Brizzolara, March 8, 1990
I fall behind the others in my rhythm of search, step, step, turn, bend, cut, lift, search…mostly because my back, arms, and knees protest this activity strongly.
  • Brute knows war

  • Five feet 4 inches in height, 120 pounds when he “got his full growth,” Victor Krulak was dubbed “Brute” by his fellow cadets at Annapolis. The now-77-year-old retired marine Lt. Gen. Krulak graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1934 and saw service in World War II. During the Korean war, helped plan the 1950 Inchon landing. In 1956, at 43, he became the youngest general in the history of the U.S. Marines.
  • By Judith Moore, Feb. 15, 1990
Admiral William Halsey awarding Navy Cross to Victor Krulak, Soloman Islands, 1943. Krulak had been ordered by Halsey to conduct night-time amphibious raids.
  • The unlikely rescue

  • For an hour and a half, 80-year-old Tony Carrasco had been waiting for a deer to pass within range of his old bolt-action Remington, but now he was getting bored. It was a splendid morning in late October, the sun coming full and strong out of a blank sky. His hunting stand was an outcropping of stone in Dyche Valley, on the remote eastern slope of Palomar Mountain.
  • By Joe Applegate, Jan. 11, 1990
Shane Snider, Mike Baxter. Mike stopped and called out to ask if they shouldn’t go right, but Shane didn’t reply.
  • Famous San Diegans recite poetry on top of their minds

  • A number of San Diegans were called on the telephone and asked to recite, on the spur of the moment, any poem they might know by heart. Some were up to the task; Laura Buxton didn't miss a beat. Michael Davidson immediately launched into Middle English; Jim Sills rattled off "Invictus" with dramatic flair. But a few struggled and were allowed to call back.
  • Compiled by Sue Greenberg, Oct. 18, 1990
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