Sunday, May 29, 2011

Walter Harper

Yesterday's Person-of-Mystery was Walter Harper.  Famous for being the first man to make it to the top of Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America at 20,327 feet.

(Walter Harper)

Harper was an Alaskan native, and the son of mixed parentage (his mother, Jennie, was an Athabascan Indian) who accompanied Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens, and Robert Tatum, but it was Harper who reached the summit a day earlier than the rest of the party on June 7, 1913.  He was only 21 at the time.

Tragically, he died when the SS Princess Sophia went down on October 25, 1918.

(Mt. McKinley)

Curiously enough, Hudson Stuck, who co-led the expedition to the Mt. McKinley was a British immigrant, turned Texas cowboy and one-time school teacher in none other than San Angelo, Texas.

(Hudson Stuck)

Strange how so much seems to lead back to San Angelo!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Mystery Theme for Today:  Friends in High Places

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Today, I'm off on another backpack trip with the Boy Scouts, this time to Mt. Pinos, California.  So, I most likely won't be able to check in on the contest.  I've auto-posted the answer for tomorrow, so good luck to you all and have a swell weekend – with an extra special thank you to all our veterans!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Down by the Old Mill Stream

Today I'm featuring a photo of my grandparents and my Uncle Barney.  My grandparents, Dick and Marymac, are the ones in the back sitting on the tree branch.  Barney is the one in the rowboat, but I don't recognize the girl, perhaps it was a girlfriend.  Although my grandfather died before I was born, I did know Barney as a child.  My grandfather was the middle of three brothers (actually four, but the oldest, Gilbert, died as a young child) and Barney was the youngest.

I've always thought this photo was a sweet one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mata Hari

Congratulations to Mary, winner of this week's Person-of-Mystery contest!  Nicely done!

The world doesn't recognize the name Grietje MacLeod, but her stage name, "Mata Hari," invokes images of exotic intrigue and espionage.

Margaretha Geertruida "Grietje" Zelle was born August 7, 1876, in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.  Her parents divorced when she was 13 and she ended up living with her godfather.  After a short stint at a boarding school where she was to train as a kindergarden teacher, she had a relationship with the headmaster and was sent home.  Soon thereafter, through a personal advertisement in a newspaper, Grietje met and married a man 22 years her senior, Captain Rudolf MacLeod, a Dutch military officer home on leave from the East Indies.

The marriage was not a happy one.  He was a drinker and a womanizer and she liked to flirt with the other officers.  He became jealous and controlling and despite their money troubles, Grietje liked to live extravagantly.  Despite their troubles, they did have two children, Norman and Jeanne.
(Rudolf with son)


The couple returned to Java and made their home there, but the marriage was not a happy one.  Rudolf was a drinker, wife-beater, and a womanizer, openly keeping a native wife and a concubine.  Their two children took ill with congenital syphilis, and Norman was accidentally killed when he was overdosed with mercury.  Following the death of Norman, the marriage fractured into fighting and acrimony as the two blamed the other for the death.  At a particularly low point, Rudolf caught Grietje with a fellow officer and he whipped her with a cat-o-nine-tails.

(Rudolf standing second from left, Grietje seated far left)

MacLeod finally quit the army and they couple returned to Holland where they soon separated.  MacLeod took possession of their daughter and placed an advertisement in the local papers disavowing any responsibility for her finances.  Penniless, Grietje turned to prostitution for a living.  Working odd jobs, the owner of a local circus told her that her talent lay in dancing.

Taking herself to Paris, and reinventing herself as the Mata Hari, Grietje took on the persona of a East Indian temple dancer adorned with a beaded metallic bra.  Her unique erotic dancing became an instant sensation and she was soon the talk of the town, performing in all the best venues.  Mata Hari took a string of wealthy lovers and lived off her their generosity.  Eventually, the novelty of her performance wore off and imitators crowded the stage.  It seemed as though no matter how low her funds ran, her tastes continually ran on the expensive side.  When things became too difficult, she would return to high class brothels to earn money.

In 1914, she signed a dance contract with a club in Berlin.  However, soon her money again ran out and she returned to Amsterdam.  Back in Holland, she was approached by the German Consul, Karl Kroemer, who told her he was recruiting spies.  He gave her 20,000 francs and assigned her the code name, H21.  Most agree that the Grietje thought the proposition silly and disposed of the invisible ink Kroemer gave her, but she needed the money to return to Paris and continue her lifestyle.

British counter-intelligence was quickly suspicious of the Mata Hari and passed their information along to French Intelligence.  The French had her followed and steamed open her letters, but rather than uncovering evidence on a high-level spy, they revealed a string of lovers and romantic liaisons, embarrassingly, one of whom was a rather high ranking French secret policeman.

At this time, she had fallen in love with a Russian captain, Vadime de Massloff, who was staying in a spa in Vittel, France.  As Vittel was too close to the lines, Grietje applied to French Intelligence officer Georges Ladoux for a pass to see de Massloff.  Ladoux, believing her to be a German spy, granted the pass under the condition that she spy for the French.  Grietje agreed so long as her debts would be paid.

(Georges Ladoux)

After a short visit in Vittel, Grietje returned to Paris where Ladoux sent her on a mission to Belgium to seduce the German military governor.  Unfortunately for Grietje, Belgium proved impossible to get to and she ended up in Spain.  Figuring that she could earn money in Spain, she seduced a German intelligence officer, Captain Kalle.  She obtained information on Germany's activities in North Africa and returned to Ladoux.

Ladoux instead disbelieved Grietje and assumed that she was passing along French secrets to the Germans in Spain.  He had her arrested and charged with espionage.  During her trial, no substantial evidence was presented, but disappearing ink had been found in her room and the prosecution made accusations that she had been responsible for the deaths 50,000 soldiers.

(Mug Shot Taken the Day of Her Execution)

She was found guilty and executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917.  She refused a blindfold and reportedly blew a kiss to her executioners.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Mystery Theme for Today:  Cloak and Dagger

I figured I'd change things up a little today.  There is a famous person in this lineup.  But who is it?  You need not name them all to win.  Only the famous one.

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Another stop we made along our way was to the former site of the World War II-era Japanese Internment Camp of Manzanar.  If you're not aware from 1942 to 1945, the United States created a Japanese exclusion zone that covered all of California, the western half of Washington and Oregon and a southern section of Arizona.  What it meant was that if you were a Japanese citizen or someone with Japanese parents and you were living on the Pacific coast, you were confined in a camp for the duration of the war.

There were a number of odd things about this situation.  For starters, Hawaii (which wasn't a state at the time) had more Japanese-Americans than any other American territory, but less than 1% of that population was sent to camps, whereas the entire Japanese population of California was relocated.  Furthermore, Japanese living in 44 other states not in the exclusion zone were for the most part not interred at all.  At its peak, Manzanar was home to about 10,000 people.  While the conditions at the camp were not ideal, they did manage to build gardens, farms, work at jobs, go to school, church, and enjoy recreational activities.

(Original Site Before Reconstruction)

One of the interesting things to me is how the camp is being rebuilt.  Only three original buildings remained, two small stone police buildings, and the auditorium which had been used as a VFW Hall by the local community after 1945.

(Police Sentry Post)

(Smaller Sentry Post)

The auditorium is now the visitor center and a museum.  They've now rebuilt about three of the housing barracks and a one of the eight guard towers.

(Manzanar Guard Tower)

It appeared that they might eventually rebuild more of the barracks, but they actually seemed all the same, so I don't know if they're going to do that or not, they'd have 501 more to build get to the original size.  There was a model in the visitors center and that gave a better idea of the size of the camp.

(Model of the camp)

Another thing that was kind of interesting is that the recreated barracks had rather large wheelchair ramps built onto the outside of the barracks.  Being one for historical realism, I couldn't figure out if I liked that they were allowing more people the ability to see the inside of the barracks or if it detracted from the scene.

(In the end, I photographed the barracks without the ramps so I could use them in my lessons)

(Inside view)

It wasn't just the wheelchair ramps, the fire sprinklers and lighted exit signs also seemed out of place to me.  It almost made it them seem a little touristy.

(Foundations of the Town Hall area)

I thought the most fitting memorial was the commemorative obelisk at the cemetery.  It was very beautiful with the Sierra Mountains in the background and very peaceful.

You may recall, I mentioned that I have a friend Mark Nakamura.  In the visitor center, there was a display with a suitcase with the Nakamura name on it.

When I got home, Mark told me that Nakamura is a fairly common Japanese name and that his family was living in Utah during the war, so they weren't relocated.

One other curious item.  The name Manzanar means "apple orchard."  Years before there was a camp, there was a town that existed in this place that was rather well watered.  Over time, the city of Los Angeles bought up the water rights and diverted the water down to LA.  In time, there wasn't enough water for farming and people left, but since there was a somewhat abandoned settlement, the War Department leased Manzanar from Los Angeles.

You learn something new all the time!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Convict Lake

Shortly after posting yesterday, I realized I hadn't gone back far enough in my retrospective, so today, I'm going to fill you in a bit about more about our trip to Mammoth Lakes last month.  Today I'm going to feature Convict Lake.

Our family loves the Eastern Sierras.  Every time we have been over to that part of the state, our family has had a great time exploring the sites along the way.  My wife was reading brochures about things around Mammoth and she stumbled upon an entry mentioning the beauty of Convict Lake, so this was a little detour we took for her.  Right she was, it was a very pretty spot, particularly for a small fishing lake.

Of course I was curious about the name, but a helpful plaque filled me in.  In 1871, three convicts had escaped a prison in Carson City, Nevada.  A posse pursued them all the way to this lake where one of the lawmen, Robert Morrison was gunned down.  The three continued a little further before being captured.  Two of the three were hung for the murder of Morrison, the third was spared because he was only 19.

The lake was later named Convict Lake in commemoration of the encounter.  I thought it was fitting that the convicts' names appeared nowhere, but that the lawman was commemorated.  The mountain on the left (elevation 12,241 feet) is named Mount Morrison.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vincente Flats Backpack

As you're aware, I'm way behind in my postings, so I'm going to try and give you a last month retrospective and throw in some other stuff along the way.  A little less than a month ago, my middle son, Andrew, came along on his first backpack trip with our Boy Scout Troop.

We took a quick trip up Highway 1 to Big Sur, actually due to mudslides, we had to go around and come down through Fort Hunter Liggett to the coast.  Then we hiked up the hills to the Vincente Flats Campground.  Because of the rain and the mudslides, we had the hills to ourselves.

Here's a little clip from that trip.  If you look closely, you can see me from time-to-time also since Mark Nakamura put this one together.

Anyway, we had a delightful time.  Andrew and I shared a tent and he and I amused ourselves making shadow puppets on the tent wall before bed.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lt. Richard K. Maas

We're back and what a weekend!  Thanks for your patience with my lackluster posting, but it just means that you'll be seeing plenty of new material soon.

Today I'm posting a photo of my grandfather, Dick Maas.  I never met him as he died before I was born, but as you can see he was a career naval officer.  Here he is wearing his lieutenant uniform, so I assume this photo was taken sometime in the early to mid-1950s.  He was a supply officer on the USS Boxer, an Essex class aircraft carrier.  He saw action during the very end of World War II and then was there for the Japanese Occupation.  During Korea, the Boxer was much more active.

I thought about him a lot during our weekend trip since the USS Hornet was the same kind of carrier.  Although I found it funny thinking so much about someone I never met.  This photo was interesting to me as my grandmother pointed it out one time as her favorite photo of him.  What was it about this photo that made it her favorite?  I wish I knew.

He eventually reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander, but was denied a promotion to Commander due to high blood pressure.  He retired from the Navy, but a couple of years after that in 1960, he had a heart attack at work and died at age 45.  My father was 16 when his father passed away.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fire Safety Night

Sorry guys, I'm on the road, and didn't have time to prepare a Person-of-Mystery for today.  Today, I'm with the Scouts up in the San Francisco Bay area.  We'll be staying on the USS Hornet, a World War II era aircraft carrier turned museum.

May has been one crazy month for me - lots of fun, but definitely packed with activity.  Here are some snapshots of my Scouts during our visit to our local fire station for Fire Safety Night:

(Book learning part of the night)

(Testing out the fire extinguisher)

(Capt. Gater giving some pointers)

(Working station - Capt. Gater returns from a quick call)

(Waiting for the firemen to return, the boys find a way to get dirty)

(Done with class and getting a tour, the younger boys contemplate the risks of going down the pole)

(Checking out the equipment on the new quint)

(Jaws of Life, always a crowd pleaser)

(Giving the old siren a crank)

(Firing up the restored 1923 Seagrave for the boys)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Albert Memorial, 1903

Postmarked Stratford-on-Avon, United Kingdom, July 4, 1903, 6:15 PM

Miss Jessie Burrows
1153 Univ Ave

Visited Westminster Abbey today and must say it is the finest thing I have seen since I left America.  Words fail to express the grandure and sublimity of such a place.  Attended services in St. Paul's Cathedral this a.m.  I would rather attend church in Stella Academy by far.  Write Later, S.A.C.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Grand Reveal

Yesterday’s Person-of-Mystery was the notorious John D. Lee, convicted and put to death for the murder of 120-140 settlers of the Baker-Francher Party in 1857.
More to come soon...

Sunday, May 08, 2011


Mystery theme for today:  Dressed to kill

Sorry about yesterday.  We had to get our boys to sports in the morning and then our Boy Scout Troop was participating in a Chemistry Day over at Cal Poly (the local university).  I thought I could get a Person-of-Mystery ready in time, but a friend of mine telephoned needing some help at the last minute, so it just didn't come off as I intended, but without further ado, on to today's game:

Who could I be?  That's the mystery!  Go ahead and take a guess and then go enjoy your day.  Check back tomorrow and I'll reveal the answer.  The first correct post will be declared the winner.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Sorry, too many things to do this morning.  Person-of-Mystery will be postponed until 8 am (Pacific Time) tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Gibraltar, 1909

View of the Harbour with the British, American and Russian Fleets
31. January 1909.

Stamp and postmark missing.

Wm. Benton
527 Scotland Ave

Sept. 14th, On the Mediterranean Sea,

We just left Gibraltar yesterday. Noon we get to Marselles.  Thence to Monaco at 8 a.m.  Then we stope at Naples Italy, with in two days from France.  We are having a fine time.  No one sick on this trip.  We had a storm when we crossed the Atlantic.  One day was bad.  All of boys were sick.  I have not been sick yet.  Howard and Paul are so well and having a fine time.

Fred & Alta Hoyt.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"The Witching Hour," 1908

An extremely effective scene in Augustus Thomas' masterpiece "THE WITCHING HOUR"

Postmarked Chicago, Illinois, February 24, 1908, 10:00 AM
Rec'd Ingersoll, Oklahoma, February 26, 1908, 8:00 AM

Miss Jessie Burrows
c/o Academy

Sunday Night
I went to this play yesterday – the greatest on the stage today.  I got your letter also the book – this week – I like it so far, but my eyes bother me like everything.  If I feel anything like myself again I will write.