Monday, February 11, 2019

San Luis Valley Colorado Discovery

San Luis Valley Colorado Discovery

Well, it was not exactly discovered by Zebulon Pike but that poor fellow had a lot to do with the history of the place. Originally it belonged to the Utes and not much happened then so we can skip over that bit. Then the Mexicans seemed to have an interest in the area – I have a story about that from a very good friend and school buddy, Dick Martinez – later if there’s space. Meanwhile back to Pike. It was in Jefferson’s time that the following occurred.

Pike was a young guy and a very very poor writer so I have decided to make up a story about the occasion. As preamble I have to say that Pike and his band of hardy but poorly equipped men had a very difficult time of it. He established over 50 camp sites in the state, none of which have left a trace. He was eventually arrested by the Mexican army for trespassing while camped by the Conejos River. He did however get a very imposing mountain named for him. He, incidentally, had never seen mountains higher that the gentle hills of the Adirondacks and he found it confounding and puzzling to be confronted by mountains as high as 14500 feet.

He was looking for the Red River, instead found the Rio Grande. To begin, a true bit, he started from Wet Valley (look on your map for Westcliffe) which lies hard against the eastern side of the lofty Mt. Blanca, one of the highest peaks in the lower 48 and the southern terminus of the Sangre De Christo Range – part of what is often referred to today as the Front Range, the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

He and his men struggled up through Medano Pass against enormous difficulties accompanied by their trusty Mexican scout who had earlier assured them he knew the territory like the back of his hand. They finally reached the top and were able to look out to the west across the vast expanse of the San Luis Valley, the mighty sand dunes lying below at their feet.

What Pike saw
Pike gazed at the green swath of trees that came out of the mountains far to the west, snaked across the valley and then gently curved south.  He knew they marked the path of a large river which he assumed was the Red River.

He called to his scout, “Hey Jose, Is that the Red River?”

         Jose saluted and said, “No senor general, that is the Rio Bravo, I think.”

         Pike ruminated a minute or so and said, “I’ll write this down. I’m calling it the Rio Grande.” Turning to Jose, “Sound good to you?”
Jose was as tired as the rest and not about to argue. “Si senor general, muy bueno.”

Then Pike pointed and asked, “Jose, what are those trees along the river called? There sure are a lot of them. Don’t seem to be much else.”

“Si, general, they are Alamo arboles. I think you say cottonwoods.”

Pike looked confused for a moment, “Yeah, arbol – tree. Okay, I’m going to call that place down there where the river turns south “Alamosa.” I bet there will be a nice little town down there some day.”

And so there was. It’s where my mom and dad and two sisters moved in 1920 and where my dad opened a J.C. Penney store.
John Hood Senior’s new store – 1920

         Pike and his boys went on down into the valley and made camp about 15 miles south of where the town of Alamosa would stand to the Conejos River. I’ve camped there and my friends and relatives have fished on that river frequently. Menkhaven is up the Conejos – nice cabins.

         That camp or crude fort made from cottonwood poles is where the Mexican Army arrested the lot. People in that area have tried to reconstruct what that fort might have looked like – tourists, you know. It’s near Magote where the wind blew down a fence a few years back.

         A few miles east of where Pike camped is the oldest town in Colorado, San Luis. Near San Luis in a remote setting is a relatively new church, the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen. Ted Turner owns most of the land east and south of this area and lets the local Latino population of San Luis gather wood in his private forests as they have done for centuries.

         Dick once asked me when my dad had come to Alamosa. I proudly told him “Way back in 1920. When did your folks come?” He said his aunts in San Luis had some things that indicated they came in the 1500s with the Conquistadors.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Navy Chiefs

Navy Chiefs. There is lot of lore in our culture about U.S. Navy Chiefs. It’s true that it is the chiefs that keep the ships afloat and doing their job but the rumor that somehow they are loud belligerent demanding SOBs like many of the Army and Marine sergeants is simply not based on any real facts. My experience with Chief Petty officers is limited because of the limited time I spent in uniform but I believe that my experiences with chiefs were not untypical. This brief account will be limited to a remark or two about one such man and a bit more about another.

Joe Copestakes, at the age of 12, as an enthusiastic ham radio operator, and much later as the Chief Radioman aboard the USS Nicholson DD442, knew more about radio in the ‘40s than most electrical engineers or any of the other technical officers in the U.S. Navy. He also became a very dear friend and mentor after welcoming me aboard our ship, the USS Nicholson DD442, at Pearl Harbor in 1945. I, at the age of 20, an electronics petty officer 2nd class and senior electronics technician aboard, would have fared very badly without his help. He was also later the best man at my wedding in Charleston, South Carolina. We maintained a close relationship through our ship reunions until his death about four years ago. He is sorely missed.

Above. Jan. 1, 1946. St Michael's, Charleston, S.C.
Best Man, Chief Joe Copestakes - Mr. and Mrs. John Hood - 
Matron of Honor, Jerry Tvelia

Joe’s talents and expertise were not unusual or unexpected but the story about the other chief is remarkable in many ways and is the primary subject of this blog. 

Chief Storm Bull and I never had a personal relationship even though he was a crucially important person in my life.  He was in charge of my company at the advanced electronics school I attended located on Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. He was a quiet man of fairly short stature. We all liked him. During our seven months course I came to know a little bit about him. He was a nephew of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and was a well-known composer and concert pianist in his own right. My graduation ceremony at the end of the course was to be held in the elegant concert hall located at the end of the pier. Chief Bull was to play a concert for the ceremony. When my mother, a trained classical concert pianist, heard what was to occur on that day she made arrangements to come out from Denver to attend. That was no small feat in 1944. She wouldn’t have missed it. It was a great occasion even though I don’t recall that she even got to meet him personally.

But the story goes on. After the war Storm Bull became a music professor at my alma mater, The University of Colorado, and was the head of the department of piano music. Even though I never had occasion to meet him at CU, (it’s a very large place and I was in Physics), I was proud to have attended an institution that was home to my old chief. The following clip is taken from Wikipedia.

“Storm Bull (October 13, 1913 – July 22, 2007) was an American musician, composer and educator. He was Professor Emeritus at the College of Music, University of Colorado at Boulder and Head of the Division of Piano.[1]

Johan Storm Bull, the only child of Eyvind Hagerup Bull (1882-1949) and Agnes Hagerup Bull (1885-1950), was born in Chicago, Illinois . His family heritage included the musical traditions of Norway. Both of Storm’s grandfathers were nephews of the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull and were also first cousins of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.[2][3] In 1919, Storm Bull began his formal musical training at the Laboratory Schools of the University of Chicago, the American Conservatory of Music, and the Chicago Musical College. His teachers during this time included Percy Grainger.

In 1929, his debut as a soloist took place at age 16 in Oslo, Norway. He performed Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor with the Orchestra of the Oslo Philharmonic conducted by Issay Dobrowen before an audience which included Nina Hagerup Grieg, the composer’s widow.
In 1931, he studied in Paris with Lazare Levy at the Ecole Normale de Musique and at the Sorbonne. Bull continued his musical training at the Liszt Academy and the University of Budapest. He was the private pupil of the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.[4]

On March 2, 1939, he gave the first North American performance of Bartók's Second Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frederick Stock. He performed with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Clarke and made his concert debut in New York City with a solo recital at Town Hall.[5]

Bull served three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II in a precursor to the Navy SEALS. Bull was a Chief Specialist in Athletics, Underwater Demolition Team. Starting in 1945, he spent two years teaching at Baylor University before accepting a professorship at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1947. During his time at CU-Boulder, his students would include classical musician David Schrader and composer/pianist Dave Grusin.[6][7]

In 1954, Bull was honored as a Fulbright Grant Professor of Musicology at the University of Oslo, Norway. In 1969, Storm Bull was honored with the Distinguished Achievement Award for extraordinary contributions to the cultural life of the United States and Norway by the Scandinavian Foundation at the University of Denver. After thirty years with the University of Colorado College of Music, Bull retired in 1977 as Professor Emeritus and Head of the Piano Division.[8]