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Frank Grober Jr. Email

Where do you live now? Oakland, California

How many years were you in the desert? I lived on the base from birth in 1951 until I went off to college in 1970. I had some short stretches in China Lake after that with a long one from 87 to 94 followed by living in Davis, Carmichael and then Oakland since.

Are you willing to help with pictures? Don't have any to speak of.

Are you willing to help with stories? Sure I've got a few.

How many people have run across "A Girl's Guide To Missiles"? Karen Piper who is now a professor at the University Of Missouri I believe and has written extensively on various environmental topics came to China Lake in 71 at the age of six and grew up there and worked on the base for a while before achieving a reasonable degree of success in the great outside world. Piper did an interview about the book on National Public Radio and the Time Magazine web page had a bit about it. It may be bound for a reasonable degree of success.
Now despite some misadventures in grad school I have a high opinion of academics who typically follow the rule that to filch, from the Bible, narrow is the way and straight is the path on getting your facts straight. I am also inclined to think well of people from the Valley  and I was all in favor of reading about someone's experiences on the base and around the valley. Unfortunately the bits I've run across in a two and a quarter excerpt on the web page BookBrowse, the National Public Radio interview, and professor Piper's Facebook page seem to be loaded with errant nonsense. I look forward to reading the whole book. That should be soon because I am first on the list to receive a copy when it reaches the Oakland library system. I would have bought it and read it by now, but based on what I saw I was disinclined to support the endeavor financially. Here's a bit from BookBrowse: "Our duplex had one dying cottonwood. It also had no garage, no garbage disposal, and no washer-dryer hookup. Instead we went to the base laundry; my dad insisted we avoid the one off base which was better. 'He was probably worried about me being able to get on base again.' my mom explained later. She didn't have a badge." O.K. at least she didn't claim the women had tp beat their clothes on rocks when Mirror Lake was filled with water after the winter rains. I distinctly recall the houses my family lived in including one in the same class of housing and a street away from where her family landed having washing machines. We didn't have dryers, but we got by using clotheslines which as Professor Piper should know are environmentally preferable. Unless her dad was trying to keep the navy from finding out about her family they would all have had dependent passes of some sort making it unlikely that anyone would have been stranded off base. She also paints a picture of the base in 71 being virtually without vegetation. Allowing as how things changed later the base in 71 had plenty of trees and green lawns. I won't give her a pass on details when she was six because she says her mother read the manuscript before publication. The National Public radio interview discusses failings the Sidewinder allegedly had including this bit: Piper ...North Vietnamese figured out pretty quickly just to attack when it's like, raining because the Sidewinder if it's hazy, it would get attracted to the sunlight reflecting off the clouds. Mary Gross ...Because it was heat seeking. Piper ...Yeah exactly. Now Piper as I said writes on environmental matters which of course includes how infrared radiation is involved in the greenhouse effect so I'm not giving her a pass on the science here. The Sidewinder was supposed to head towards the infrared from a jet's exhaust. The Sun is a fair amount hotter so its radiation peaks at different wavelengths. If somehow the missile could get confused and chase sunlight why wasn't this noticed before the missile was introduced in 1956 and the start of bombing of North Vietnam I believe in 1965? I also have a general problem with the story about fighter pilots refusing to fly missions with the defective Sidewinder being their sole air to air weapon. Then again from BookReads describing President Kennedy's visit to the base in 63 "Bleachers await him, full of women wearing pearls and pith helmets." Any guesses about how many people in the valley even owned a pith helmet? On her Facebook page Piper complains about people who wanted a "Go Navy!" book giving her bad reviews on Amazon and asking that anyone who is familiar with the book and likes it please write a good review. Perhaps she forgot to mention that knowing something about china Lake would be a good prerequisite for writing a fact based good review. Of course that didn't seem to stop one person from posting "I haven't gotten a chance to read the book yet but I marked all the b.s. reviews as not helpful." Of course perhaps the fans have an advantage over us mere mortals because they can see into our souls. "As others have said, those ridiculous ones from China Lake just provide more evidence of how necessary your book is to tell the truth. And deep down I they know it too - you hit a nerve." Oh we poor deluded China Lakers. We aren't complaining about someone getting the simplest facts wrong and delivering a generally incorrect view of a community, we simply are offended by the truth although deep down we know Piper is right. Yeah, who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? Now there are no penalties for publishing nonsense and it may be that Piper's fanciful tales will sell better than something that could at least pass for the truth in a good light. There aren't enough people who know anything about the valley to impact sales so we may fulminate all we want without changing things. Still I have to say something. remember that straight is the way and narrow the path stuff? I would have been shocked if one of my professors had ever written something like "A Girl's Guide To Missiles. The world of scholarship doesn't warn of eternal damnation, but any self respecting scholar should have internalized the rules early in their career. And finally, I learned about paragraphs in grade school and I apologize for a long unbroken block of text, but the website doesn't seem to believe in paragraphs.

Pat Rampy Email

Where do you live now? Inyokern

How many years were you in the desert? 67, off and on.

Are you willing to help with pictures? Maybe

Are you willing to help with stories? Probably not.

Born here in 1951, got away from 1976-1996 but had to return to care for my mom. Now she's gone and I'm still here.

Jeff Hunt Email

Where do you live now? Pensacola Fl

How many years were you in the desert? 71 thru 86

Are you willing to help with pictures? yes

Are you willing to help with stories? yes

My father was employed as a DOD contractor at Michaelson Lab, went to Las Flores elm, James Monroe, and Burros High, lived in the Deeter housing track on Sherri St. Joined the Navy in 86 and left Ridgecrest: haven't been back since, still a lot of memories though. 

Rick Gillette 

Where do you live now? Phoenix Arizona Metroplex

How many years were you in the desert? 6

Are you willing to help with pictures? None

Are you willing to help with stories? None

Graduated 8th Grade from James Monroe School in 1960. Left for Arizona that summer.. Have great memories of Ridgecrest, not so much my school years.. Great website .. thx for the memories!

Jorg Email

Where do you live now? Green Valley, Ca

How many years were you in the desert? Just visit about every year.

Are you willing to help with pictures? If I can

Are you willing to help with stories? Unsure

Thanks, a lot of information on sites around the Hwy 395 area we weren't aware of.

Our website is http://www.avita.us.
Once a year we go overseas and the rest of the time we enjoy camping... often to the desert.


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