In the American Mold: The Founders of Fairchild and the Pioneer Ethos

In his first-hand account of the voyage of the Mayflower, William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony, noted that those set on going to America minimized the threat of savages, disease, famine, and the journey itself, believing that “all great and honourable actions are accompanied with great … [Read more...]

RoyRogers

He was born Leonard Franklin Slye in a Cincinnati tenement to a part Choctaw-Indian shoe-factory worker and his wife.  He grew up on a houseboat in Portsmouth, Ohio, and on a farm in rural Duck Run.  In 1930, the Slyes migrated to California in a ’23 Dodge, Grapes of Wrath style.  He drove a truck, … [Read more...]

Humor Bag

Medieval Man: Medieval man knew about the Great Chain of Being.  It went:  God-Jesus-Angel-Man-ape-fish-gold-lead-dirt.  That's the Great Chain of Being.  Medieval man knew anything.  The bird?  Goes between the ape and the fish.  What about a rabbit?  Okay, better than the bird but not so nifty as … [Read more...]

Our Game

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.  America has rolled by like an army of steam rollers.  It has been erased like a blackboard and rebuilt, and erased again.  But baseball has marked the time.  This field, this game; it’s a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all … [Read more...]

The Romance of Extinction: Nuclear War Films

  Of all the contrived analyses that cling to science fiction films of the fifties—McCarthyist body snatchers, Russians from Mars, the Bomb in the guise of Godzilla—the most pervasive has been the anemic notion that viewers sublimated the Bomb as the stereotypical Victorians did sex.  The … [Read more...]

A State of Mind

  The surrender of Japan and the assassination of President Kennedy, bracket an era variously known as Pax Americana, Good Times, the Best Years, Happy Days—the American High.  It was a time of solid families, effective schools, and reliable careers, a time when government and institutions … [Read more...]

Crossing the Wide Missouri

  In the late fifties, San Francisco’s North Beach lay at the edge of history, as though the half-millennium of westward migration had halted a few blocks from the Pacific to spawn this subterranean frontier.  From doorways along the teeming sidewalks, the sounds came floating into the night—a cool … [Read more...]

Touching the Sky

  In 1946, the summer I turned eight, old Uncle George moved into the back room of our house in Palo Alto.  Though he seldom emerged, I would sometimes encounter him in his rumpled coat, high-top shoes, and fedora hat sitting out on the porch under a red sky in a cloud of cigar smoke.  He … [Read more...]

Radio Days

While my father trudged through the French winter, fearing he would not survive the war, it was my mother who died of lupus in sunny Pasadena where we had settled for her health.  My grandmother, who had been taking care of her, was afraid to tell a five-year-old the truth.  So she took me back to … [Read more...]

Fragments of Eden

The images are indelible: eighty-five elephants bathing in the river in late afternoon light, a stone's throw from our launch; a pride of lions at the edge of a lake, devouring their kill in the sunset; a giraffe poised in a meadow on the end of a rainbow.  The experience of Africa is essential to … [Read more...]