Friday, February 28, 2014

The Night Life #1

This is a souvenir photo of my parents at the Cocoanut Grove.
This is the cover of the souvenir 
photo shown above.
     We all have our favorite music genre and favorite musical artists.  Jayme and I have been fortunate to see a number of concerts.  Some artists more than once.  We consider ourselves lucky to have seen our son, Luke, perform with a number of bands and play at numerous venues around southern California.  
Inside the Cocoanut Grove
     Even though we don't think of our parents as party animals, they also had their favorite music and they attended night clubs when they were young.  I guess you could say they were swingers.   In the years around their marriage in Los Angeles John Armstrong and Adele Hugus lived fairly close to downtown Los Angeles and at that time the public transportation enabled them to move around the city without difficulty.  At least one time my parents went to a popular night club in Los Angeles.  
     The Cocoanut Grove, located in the Ambassador Hotel, was the hot spot for nightlife in Los Angeles.  The Cocoanut Grove was frequented by numerous celebrities including Cary Grant, Clark Gable and Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, and Ginger Rogers1.  Many stars performed there, including Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong.  Bob Hope hosted the 1939 Academy Awards in Feb. 29, 1940.
   The Cocoanut Grove was located less than two miles from the address my father listed on his marriage license.  The Cocoanut Grove remained open until the late 1980s.  The Ambassador Hotel has been torn down.

Note:  Those puffy sleeves on my mother's jacket were made from python.  I remember seeing that jacket in my mother's closet twenty years later.  Yuk!  I am not a snake lover.

1. "Wikipedia." Last modified Feb 24, 2014. Accessed February 25, 2014.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hailey and the Parabolas

    There are many advantages to living close to your grandkids.  One of them is being able to give a little help with homework.  Particularly math homework.
    The other night, Hailey was graphing quadratics.  Of course, the graph is in the shape of a parabola.   I headed home to get some images that I had used in my Algebra 2 class when we were learning about conic sections.   The first photo is of Hailey at a much younger age in front of some fountains at the Irvine Spectrum.  Naturally the water follows a path in the shape of a parabola.  You also notice these things don't you?  

Hailey and the Parabolas

    Hailey competes in archery so I showed the image from Sports Illustrated of the torch lighting ceremony from the Barcelona Olympics.  Another parabola.  (This image was used in my math classes for the last thirteen years of my teaching career.) For a video of the event click on the link and skip forward to 4:35   Barcelona Olympic Torch Lighting   

Let the Parabolas Begin.1
     I love my granddaughters and I love parabolas.

1. "Let the Games Begin"  Sports Illustrated,  Aug. 3, 1992


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part IX Heading Home

    The return trip to California is not etched in my memory as well as the trip to Ohio.  There is some memory of the train traveling quite slow through Oklahoma.  There had been some extremely heavy rain and there was fear of bridges being washed out.  But we made it home without incident.
     We had traveled to Ohio on the trip of a lifetime.

     One regret was that our trip was too late to get to know my maternal grandmother better.  She was there but she was not well and so we didn't get to spend much time with her.  My sister, Diane, got to spend some time with her while brushing her hair and helped her get ready for the family pictures. 
Grandma and Grandpa Hugus with our family

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part VIII Fireflies, Humidity, and Aunt Jane.

On the campus of Bishop Watterson High School
Cousins Dick and Doug, 

Brothers George and Johnny and myself
     My siblings and I were fascinated with fireflies.   There are no fireflies in California.  We were determined to bring some back in a jar.   I can't remember if they all died in the jar or if Grandpa talked us out of it but in any case no fireflies made the trip back to on the train.
     We were not used to the humidity.  I remember sitting on my grandparents' front steps late in the evening just sapped of all energy.  Of course, there is some correlation between humidity and the amount of green vegetation but I just thought it was miserably humid.  I can't find the old picture that showed us sitting on the steps drained of all energy.
     I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my father's older sister, Jane.  Aunt Jane had no children of her own but considered her many nieces and nephews as hers.  As I have gotten older and as I came to know Aunt Jane better, I have become certain that she was quite involved in all the planning that went into the reunion trip.  She was also a reason that many of these photos have been saved.  She remains special to all of her extended family.  
Aunt Jane with a large number of her nieces and nephews in 1955.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part VII Ohio Cousins

The Naylor's Forest
     For the most part, my mom and dad kept us busy.  I don't know if that is because activities kept us out of trouble or because there were so many family members to visit.
     We took one trip driving north to Massillon, Ohio to see our Naylor Cousins (my dad's sister).  Now, if any of you are familiar with my old hometown, Taft, you will know that it rains little and nothing is green.  What few trees exist have been planted.  There are not many trees around the oilfields. I was fascinated with the greenery in Ohio.  There were trees all over.  I remember that Uncle Everett and Aunt Dorothy had a forest in their backyard.  My cousin, Linda, told me that the house that I remember was under construction at the time.  I had never seen anything like that and thought that it would be cool to live somewhere that had that many trees.  I loved trees.  All types.  And still do.
     Another trip was south to Rushville, Ohio to see my mother's cousins.  They lived on the Hugus Fruit Farm.  The fruit farm had been in Grandaunt Berenice's family for generations.  It was said that Johnny Appleseed had visited the farm. 
     The farm came complete with a pond and a log cabin (now in disrepair).  For a kid it doesn't get any better that that.  When I visited the Hugus Fruit Farm fifty years later, it was just as magical.

     I found out that this cousin thing was lots of fun and Ohio was full of adventure.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part VI Columbus #2 - The Zoo

     Columbus has a famous zoo, so naturally it became one of our destinations while there.  And if a person goes to the zoo they must ride the zoo zephyr - even if they just rode a train for 2500 miles to get there. 
     We must have had a good sized crowd that day because the picture shows that we took up the better part of two cars.  I can't see all my cousins in this picture but quite a few are there.  That is my father standing between his father and brother who are both sitting.  My brother, George, is standing up in the car and partially obscuring my Grandpa Hugus.
Cousins in the front and cousins in the back
My sister, Jane, and the giraffes are posing the camera.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part V Columbus #1

     The week or so that we remained in Columbus at my grandparents went by in a flash.  We were kept busy visiting relatives that I had never met before.    
     Soon after we arrived a reporter from the Columbus Evening Dispatch1  arrived to take a picture of everyone.  It must have been a slow news day because we ended up in the newspaper that week.  I guess a big family who rode a train from California was news.  (This blog post was delayed because I was having trouble locating my copy of the newspaper picture.)  The quality of the picture is poor but it is all I have.  It looks like this copy was pieced together so it is unlikely that the picture was on page one.  You can also see that there was a story to the right of the picture.  I have no idea what it says.  

AFTER LONG TRIP - Col. Elmer J. Armstrong and his wife had never seen all their grandchildren until a 2500-mile train trip from California brought them together in Columbus for the Fourth of July weekend. On the floor are Dianne[Diane], 11, left, and David, 9, right.  Others left to right, are John, 12; Julie, 4; George, 7; Margaret, 1; Mrs. John Armstrong; Jane, 6; John Armstrong; and Dorothy, 2   
     On July the 4th we had a big family reunion.  All of the grandchildren (except the two that were not yet born) came to a picnic at Grandma and Grandpa Armstrong's.    
     One evening we walked to a nearby park and watched fireworks.  I always assumed that the fireworks were on the Fourth of July because out here in California fireworks are always on the Fourth.  However, I visited Ohio last July and I noticed that some towns had fireworks on different day.  So I can't say with certainly that fireworks were on the Fourth.

Note: The title of these blog postings have included 'A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime'.  You might notice that the newspaper photo identifies me as nine years old.  Technically I was nine but I turned ten a few days later while we were still in Ohio.

Grandpa and Grandma Armstrong with their four children, three of their four in-laws, and sixteen of their eighteen grandchildren. (two were born later)

1. "After Long Trip." Columbus Evening Dispatch, July 2, 1955.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part IV (Santa Fe to Pennsylvania in One Mile)

    The second full day aboard the San Francisco Chief was spent traveling across the midwest.  The train traveled through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.  We crossed the Mississippi River - THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.  We crossed the river on the Santa Fe Swing Span Bridge (now known as the Ft. Madison Toll Bridge).  I was excited to see the mighty river and it was w i d e.  
     The San Francisco Chief pulled into Dearborn Station in Chicago on the evening of the second full day.  It had been about a 48 hour trip.  However we were not done with the trip as we needed to catch a train operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad in order to get to Columbus, Ohio.  At that time not all railroads used the same station.  (There were at least five train stations in Chicago at the time of our trip.)  So we were taken by car for the mile or so trip from the Santa Fe Railroad (Dearborn Station) to the Pennsylvania Railroad (Union Station).  I can't imagine trying to keep track of eight kids and numerous suitcases and traveling through these massive train stations.    
     My memory of Chicago is dark.  The building were tall and the sky was black.  Reinforcing this darkness was the rather dark color scheme used by the Pennsylvania Railroad.  
     We road in a coach car from Chicago to Columbus, Ohio arriving, as I recall, before dawn.  I am sure Grandpa Armstrong had to get more that one car to pick us up. 
     The ride on the Pennsylvania Railroad was a connection to our maternal grandfather since he had been an engineer for the PRR for 44 years.  Grandpa Hugus had retired from the railroad two years earlier.
Dearborn Station in Chicago 
is no longer a train station.
Union Station is still in use today

Pennsylvania Rairoad

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part III (A Physics Lesson and a Hymn)

   Exploring without supervision became the mode of the trip.  We were at an age that our parents felt safe letting us roam around the train or at least my parents didn't want to be cooped up in the cabin with us.   I don't remember our behavior overstepping the bounds of decent manners but we went up and down that train numerous times.  
     My brother and I had our first physics lesson as we crossed the southwest. We were convinced that if we stood at one end of the hallway on the pullman car and jumped straight up that the train would pass beneath us and we would land on the other end of the car.  No matter how high we jumped we landed in the same spot.  Since I wasn't a Physics prodigy it took a few years before I could make sense of that enigma.  In retrospect, it is a good thing we didn't end up at the other end of the car.  Can you imagine if my Dad had stepped out of his cabin just as we were hurtling through the air from one end of the car to the other?  I would have been confined to the cabin for the rest of the trip.
     The modern equivalent of a train trip like ours would probably be a cruise ship.  A feature on the train that isn't necessary on a cruise ship is the observation or dome car. John and I spent many hours up in the dome car on that second day as we crossed the southwest.  We tended to stay in our seats for long periods of time because, as I recall, once you left your seat it might take quite a while before you found another empty seat.

Santa Fe Dome Car

     The second evening on board the San Francisco Chief made quite an impression on me.  As my brother, John, and I sat in the dome car, someone started began playing a guitar and the rest of the passengers started singing along.  I remember that jam session vividly.  It was the first time that I remember hearing what I later learned was the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  To this day when I hear that song, I am taken back to that dome car.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime -Part II (The Loop, Flagstaff, Clovis, and Indians)

     On our train trip to Ohio, the San Francisco Chief left Bakersfield in the early evening and headed up and over the Tehachapi Pass. There was a gain of 3500 feet in around 48 miles.  There were over a dozen tunnels along the climb out of Bakersfield.  This is also the location of the famed Tehachapi Loop1, where a long train can pass above itself.  

The Tehachapi Loop was a unique solution to keep the climb manageable.

     While I reminisced with my brother, John, images of tunnels come to mind although not as vividly as other memories.  
     From Tehachapi, the train dropped down into the Mojave Desert.  Of course this happened at night so there wasn't much to see.
     Early in the morning we awoke to the train slowing down and stopping at Flagstaff, Arizona.  Flagstaff is almost 7000 feet in elevation so we peaked out the window to a tall pine forest and then a perfect train depot.  I remember vividly the brick building and walkway.  The sights and sounds combined for a lifelong memory. 

     As we left Flagstaff, we dropped down into the desert again and I remember people talking about the Painted Desert.  (Some day I am going to drive there and stop to visit.).

     Half-way between Los Angeles and Chicago the San Francisco Chief stopped in Clovis, New Mexico. The train underwent service here and Native Americans sold their wares.  I remember being absolutely fascinated with the Native Americans in their native dress.  Those were real live 'Indians'.  I was amazed because I had never seen an 'Indian' before. 

1.  "Tehachapi Loop, CA." Map. Google Maps. Google, 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Ten Year Old's Trip of a Lifetime - Part I (Catching the Train)

San Francisco Chief traveling through Central California
     In 1955, Grandpa and Grandma Armstrong decided to host a family reunion.  Three of their four children lived close by in Ohio but we lived in Taft, a small town in Central California.  We would need to travel across the whole country.  Flying was pretty much out of the question with such a large family.  At that time there were ten of us, three boys and five girls.  Our ages ranged from Diane at fifteen down to Margaret at age of one.  (Our youngest brother, Dan, would come along in another year.)  This was the first and only time that we took a long trip like this.  I was ten years old and this trip still stands out as the highlight of my childhood.
Bakersfield Depot 
"Santa Fe Passenger Trains." 2011. 6 Feb. 20141
     We drove our '48 Chevy to Bakersfield and caught the San Francisco Chief* at the Bakersfield Depot.  As I remember, the train left Bakersfield in the early evening. Our family occupied two rooms in the same car.  The girls were in one room and boys in another.
      I remember our rooms being somewhat like the ones in these images.  They would have been a little different because these images were from the late 1940s, rather than 1955. 

                                            I think we settled down for the evening although my memory of settling down may be different than what my parents experienced.  I don't know if I would be up for the challenge of taking eight kids across country.

* My memory is that the train was also referred to as the Santa Fe El Capitan, but websites dealing with train history state that  the El Capitan left out of Los Angeles (chair cars only) and that the train that went through Bakersfield went by the name of San Francisco Chief.  So I don't know how we got El Capitan associated with this train.   

1.  "Santa Fe Passenger Trains." 2011. 6 Feb. 2014 <>

Monday, February 10, 2014

Is Peter Gates the Grandfather of Elisha Gates?

     Several of my blog posts have dealt with a great-great-great-grandfather, Elisha Gates.  Some of the posts pertained to his service in the War of 1812 and the Battle of the River Thames.  Some were about his travel between Maryland and Kentucky. 
     Elisha settled near Bardstown, Kentucky and his descendants stayed in that general area for over a century.   Elisha was a leader in his church and so there are numerous records mentioning Elisha and his family.  
     But finding the ancestors of Elisha proved problematic.  I found clues that hinted that Elisha was an orphan child.   It took a trip to the Maryland Archives to find some records that mentioned his parents.  Later I found over forty records pages of records on  As far as I can tell those records had never been microfilmed, which might explain the reason that no researcher had located those records. In any case these orphan records1, clearly identify Elisha's parents as James T. and Mary A. Gates.  
    James T. Gates died sometime prior to 1800.  A newspaper article dated 20 Jan 1800, lists Mary Ann Gates as the owner of a parcel of land at Anchovy Hills.  I believe that Mary Ann Gates is the Mary A. Gates who is Elisha's mother because, eventually Elisha sold some a parcel at Anchovy Hills.  Mary Ann Gates died prior to 10 August 1801, since that is the earliest dates shown in the orphan records.

1787 Will of Peter Gates  Prince Georges County, Maryland Liber T page 255-62

    Recently I found  some records that may push back the Gates family about three more generations.  The will of a Peter Gates2, leaves property to his oldest son, James Truman Gates.  Could this James Truman Gates be Elisha's father, James T. Gates?   I would like to find some more proof but one hint that it might be is the birth record of James Truman Gates, who is a grandson of Elisha3.

I will continue looking for more records to provide more proof that this is the correct family.

1.  "Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 July 2013), Elisha Gates, 01 Jan 1800

2.  "Maryland, Probate Estate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940." Index and images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2014.

3. Kentucky, Birth Records, 1852-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Kentucky. Kentucky Birth, Marriage and Death Records – Microfilm (1852-1910). Microfilm rolls #994027-994058. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky. (Indexed incorrectly as James Freeman Gates)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Is it Uncle Herb or Uncle Jim? Let put the issue to rest.

     Cleaning up my files.  I was looking for a copy of a 1955 newspaper and since the search was proving rather difficult, I decided to file away some photo scans that hadn't made it into the correct folder.  I haven't found that newspaper yet but I found something that should put an old question to rest, once and for all.
     Back on January 8 and 12, blog dealt with a photo that I had found on  I thought that the identifications of Uncle Jim and Uncle Herb had  been switched. Here are links to two blog entries.  
Is it Uncle Herb or Uncle Jim?     Is it Uncle Herb or Uncle Jim? Part Deux
As I was going through some files I found a copy of a Christmas card from Uncle Jim and his wife, Velma.   The card should prove that in this group photo of my grandfather and nine siblings, Jim and Herb were misidentified.
     Thank you, Uncle Jim and Aunt Velma for sending that Christmas card so may years ago.
Ten Siblings 

Christmas Card from Uncle Jim and Aunt Velma

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Trip For An Eight-Year Old

     Garna Bell McBee was born on Feb. 5, 1928.  She had a tough childhood.  Her entire childhood was spent in the Great Depression; roughly all of the 1930s.  Her family had come from the Dust Bowl; from the hardest hit part - the Oklahoma panhandle.  They left Oklahoma and headed to California, looking for work. 
    Her father, Guy McBee, was a meticulous and hard worker but the family moved around to find jobs.  And in the midst of this her parents separated.  They eventually divorced in 1937.
    So Garna moved even more often as she spent time with her father and then her mother.  At times she even moved in with other relatives.  
    One particular time about the age of eight, she was supposed to be with her father.  But he needed to be off working a job. So he hired an acquaintance to care for her. The job must have taken longer than expected.  And unfortunately this family grew tired of having an extra person around so they took Garna down to the train station and bought her a one-way ticket to where her dad was working.  If that seems bad it got worse.  For some reason they failed to notify Guy that she was coming.
   When she arrived at the end of her ride she got off and sat down on a bench to wait for her father.  After a lengthy stay someone at the train depot noticed her and asked her what she was doing.  She told them that she was waiting for her father.  They eventually asked for the name of her father.  She responded "My father is Guy McBee, the tile setter".  With that information the helpful strangers along with the police tracked Guy down and he showed up to take her home with him. 
     Events like this had a profound effect on Garna's life.  Times have changed.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The 100th Anniversary of the Birth of John B. Armstrong

     One hundred years ago today, my father, John Blandford Armstrong, was born on U. S. Army Military Post in Arapahoe County, Colorado. 
     He spent the first twenty years of his life following his father around the world from army base to army base.  The family spent time in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, the Panama Canal Zone, and the Philippines.  The family ended up in Ohio and that is where he finished high school and college.  After earning a masters degree from Ohio State University he followed the love of his life to California and married her there in 1939.
     In the time prior to World War II, jobs were scarce so he worked odd jobs, including delivering refrigerators.  Later he found work at a vitamin company.
     He served in the infantry during World War II, participating in amphibious landings in Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and southern France.  He earned a Silver Star near Mignano, Italy.  
     After the war he landed a job with Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) and spent the next thirty years working in the oil industry.  His work took him from Santa Fe Springs to Taft to Signal Hill (all in California) as well as brief stints in New Orleans and Edmonton.  
     John and his wife, Adele, retired to Laguna Woods in Orange County. He passed away on June 25, 1996 and is buried at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, San Diego, California.  At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife of 56 years, nine children and nineteen grandchildren. (He did not live to see any of his great-grandchildren.  There are seventeen great-grandchildren, although that is not yet a final count.)  


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Richard Pius Miles, O.P. - First Bishop of Nashville

    My sister spent her entire life, after the age of eighteen, as a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.  As it turns out she was not the first Dominican in our family.  Our great-great-great-granduncle, Richard Pius Miles, (brother to our great-great-great-grandfather) was a Dominican priest and the first bishop of Nashville.  Fortunately, I was able to relay this fact to my sister shortly before she passed.
    Richard Pius Miles was born in 1791 in Maryland.  At a young age he migrated to Kentucky with his parents, Nicholas Miles and Ann Blacklock.  He joined the Dominican Community in 1806 and was ordained a priest in 1816.  After serving a a missionary in Kentucky and Ohio for over twenty years, he was appointed as the first provincial of St. Joseph Priory in Somerset, Ohio. A year later, in 1838, he was consecrated a bishop and assigned as the first bishop of Nashville.  He served the community in Tennessee for over 22 years. When he died in 1860 the Catholic population had increased from about 300 to over 12,000 Catholics. 
     He is buried inside St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows, the "Old Cathedral" in Nashville.
Richard Pius Miles, O.P.

History of St. Joseph Priory in Ohio

O'Daniel. Very  Reverend V. F., The Father of the Church in Tennessee; or, The Life, Times, and Character of the Right Reverend Richard Pius Miles, O. P., the First Bishop of Nashville    Washington, D.C., The Dominicana, 1926

“The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the United States: Embracing Sketches of all Archbishops and Bishops”    John Gilmary Shea The Office of Catholic Publications, New York, 1886

"Richard Pius Miles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." 2009. 28 Aug. 2013 <>