‘My’ Famous Tornado

In Apache Oklahoma in 1973 I lived with the charismatic funeral home owner, fire chief, ambulance driver, hearse driver and tornado alert man, Robert L Crews III. In the funeral home. While I was there we sounded the siren for tornadoes twice and watched them approach. Once we even went down into the basement as it came so close. But both times it went back up into the clouds – didn’t touch ground. The clouds on one of those days:

ApacheOK73 (7).JPG

In May we heard of the Union City disaster. We drove there to look-see. The image that stuck the most in my mind was the main street with many buildings completely gone. One shop had some shelves still standing – with product on the shelves – but the roof and walls were gone.

I found this recently:
Union City Tornado Makes History
NSSL revisits its past as it celebrates 40 years with NOAA – by Rachel Shortt

tornado-union-city-1973-path

On May 24, 1973, a tornado rated F4 struck the Union City area and was the first tornado widely documented by science as part of storm chasing field research. NSSL out of Norman, Oklahoma placed numerous storm chasers around it to capture the life cycle on film. As the devastating tornado tore through the small town of Union City, no one knew the tremendous impact it would have on the development of weather radar. Researchers from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory now look back on that day as a significant event in the history of severe weather research and forecasting.

And I was (sorta) there!

For a human interest story, see the New York Times article written in 1993 on the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

A new Okie with a Fringe on Top

I was made an honorary Okie here:

Honorary Okie at the Capitol, Oklahoma City

I got a certificate to prove it. It was full of some congressman’s Now Hear Ye’s, Whereas’s, Wherefores and Wherebys. It wasn’t a green card.

Before I left SA John Murray – on hearing where I was off to – had chirped “Oh! Oklahoma? So Kosie with a fringe on top!”

Here’s my fringe and a surrey with a fringe:

"Kosie with a fringe on top"

Waddaya mean you’ve never heard of Chuck Berry?!

Jim Stanton was aghast! He had just invited me along to a rock concert in Oklahoma City and I had immediately accepted. Now he was exclaiming: Don’t say that! Don’t say you don’t know who Chuck Berry is!

My motto in Apache was I only say yes to all invitations to travel. Only got a year, gotta go everywhere! His follow-up questions had forced me to admit my ignorance.

But I was willing to learn, I had a ball and I have been a Chuck Berry fan ever since!

What I didn’t tell Jim is I had even less heard of Bo Diddley! He featured with Chuck and they rocked up a storm. “My ding-a-ling” was really big just then! (ok, that didn’t sound right, but anyway . . know waddimean. . . )

He played all his hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybelline,” “Nadine,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “Reelin’ and Rockin’,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Surfin’ U.S.A,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” etc.

That was 1973. Recently I saw a 2014 pic of Jim on the internets. That’s him in the red T.

Hi Jim! Never forgotten!

jim-stainton

Some Chuck Berry:
– “People don’t want to see seventeen pieces in neckties. They wanna see some jeans, some gettin’ down and some wigglin’.”
– “I love poetry. I love rhyming. Do you know, there are poets who don’t rhyme? Shakespeare did not rhyme most of the time and that’s why I do not like him.”
– “It amazes me when I hear people say ‘I want to go out and find out who I am’. I always knew who I was. I was going to be famous if it killed me.”
– “I would sing the blues if I had the blues.”
————-
Bo

In 1963, Bo Diddley starred in a UK concert tour with the Everly Brothers and Little Richard. The supporting act was a little up-and-coming outfit called The Rolling Stones.

Red River New Mexico 1973

It’s summer and we’re off to Granma Merrill Patterson’s cottage outside Red River New Mexico with Jim n Katie Patterson. Last year’s Rotary Exchange Student to South Africa from Ardmore OK, Dottie Moffett comes along thanks to Katie’s generosity and insight!

Granma Merrill's Cottage outside Red River

RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Dottie-001

Jim had a birthday. From the size of the fire it looks like it was a big ‘un!

Katie makes Jim a birthday cake!

Five jeeps: Old Red – Pattersons, Old Green – Hrbaceks, Old White – Glen Payne, semi-old White – Mindemanns and New Blue – Manars. We explore the dirt roads and mountain passes in the jeeps with ice-cold Coors and bloody marys in hebcoolers tied to their tailgates.

RedRiver NewMexico 1973 (11).JPG

One night it’s partytime in town! The wicked metropolis of Red River! Jeff Manar drives us there in New Blue (he’s 14). Meet a petite girl who asks me n Dottie how old we are and doesn’t believe we’re 18 so I show her my passport: 1955. I ask how old she is and she laughs and shows us her ID: 1946!! She’s 27! She looks 19. She’s dancing on her own having fun, free as a bird! A real-life hippie on the road in the USA.

She tells us where she’s staying and says we should come and visit.

The next day Jeff drives us out to where she’s staying in Arroyo Hondo in a communal adobe. I’m really looking forward to seeing her again. We ask  a housemate, a guy who is watching the Watergate hearings* all day while filing down a Ford flywheel one tooth at a time to fit his Chevy and then hit the road again one day.

Arroyo Hondo adobe.jpg An adobe house like this

“Sally? Oh, she hitched off to California early this morning to go catch a rock concert out there”.
Oh!

Off to Taos Pueblo where Dennis Hopper and Timothy Leary hung out.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

Hopper starred in Easy Rider, filmed here and elsewhere in 1969:

Taos NM - Easy Rider.jpg

Hummingbirds at the cottage; Walks in the Sangre de Cristo mountains; Drives on the jeep tracks, Fly fishing in the streams:

At Granma’s cottage, Red River
Dottie Moffett & Jim Patterson, Sangre de Christo mountains, NM
Heb coolers filled with ice, Coors & bloody marys

*The Watergate hearings were on TV from May 17 1973 to June 27 1974, broadcast live during the day on commercial television; Some 319 hours were broadcast overall, and 85% of U.S. households watched some portion of them. They led to President Tricky Dick Nixon’s resignation on 9 August 1974 a step ahead of being impeached.