Tag Archives: utah

Out & About—The All-American Canal

Out & About

Canals always have fascinated me. When I was running around as a juvenile delinquent in Brigham City, Utah, in the earl 1960s, I used to climb in the canal that directed water around the Mormon Temple and ride the water all around the plaza.

When I was over in Yuma, Arizona, this past week, I saw a lot of the All-American Canal. Looks like this:All American Canal

All American Canal

Yes. I wanted to jump in.

The All-American Canal is an aqueduct 82 miles long in southeastern California and is the only water source for the massive Imperial Valley. It provides drinking water for nine cities, irrigation water for the Imperial Valley, and electricity via its many hydroelectric dams.

Along with the Hoover Dam, the All-American Canal was authorized by the 1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act. Construction began in the 1930s and was completed in 1942. It is the largest irrigation canal in the world and moves a maximum of 26,155 cubic feet of water per second. Most water for the Canal is diverted from the Colorado River by the Imperial Dam, located about 30 miles northeast of Yuma.

Originally one of the driest places on earth, the Imperial Valley now is a huge crop land comprising about 630,000 acres, all due to the All-American Canal. Agricultural runoff from the Canal, comprising silt, selenium, and sales, drains into the Salton Sea, sadly, because there is no way for water to drain out of the Salton Sea, leaving a large, polluted lake with pollution becoming even more concentrated due to evaporation. Any fish caught in the Canal should not be eaten since they are known to have high levels of mercury, PCBs, and selenium.

There are five smaller canals which branch off the All-American Canal to help move water through the Imperial Valley, as well as a large network of even smaller canals. The main canal has a total drop of 175 feet, a width between 150 feet  and 700 feet, and a depth ranging from 7 feet to 50 feet.

All American CanalEight hydroelectric power plants have been constructed along drops in the All-American Canal system, all relatively small and providing a combined capacity of 58 MW.

The Canal runs through the Algodones Dunes, an extraordinarily dry and hot area, losing a lot of water due to evaporation. It used to lose 68,000 acre feet per year due to seepage, especially in the Algodones Dunes. Eventually, 23 miles of the canal was lined with concrete to prevent seepage, but that created other environmental problems. In some areas, a parallel, lined canal was constructed and water diverted into it to help control seepage.

Over 500 people, mostly Mexican citizens attempting to cross have into the United States, have drowned in the Canal since its completion because of deep, cold water, steep sides that make escape difficult, and swift currents of up to 5½ miles per hour. It has been called “the Most Dangerous Body of Water in the U.S.” In 2011 the Imperial Irrigation District started installing lifesaving buoy lines across the canal in 105 locations, as well as bilingual signs reading “Warning: Dangerous Water” in 1,414 locations.

All American Canal

All American Canal

All American Canal

All American Canal

All American Canal

All American Canal

Picture of the Moment—Poor snake

When I was in Utah in May, I visited Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake.

It doesn’t look to be an island when looking at maps, but whatever.

There is a lot of wildlife on Antelope Island, including a bison herd numbering several hundred and, of course, antelope.

On my way to see the bison herd, a black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia, also known as American magpie) was snacking on this snake in the middle of the road.

It was so into its meal that it let me get quite close to get this picture.

Black-billed magpie eating a snake

654 South 100 West in Brigham City, Utah

Halls of History—A welcome sight for a hungry 6-year-old boy

Halls of History

I had two purposes for going to northern Utah in late July 2018.

One was to enjoy all the railroad action in the area since it’s one of the great railroad junctions in history with Promontory Point being the location where the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad met in on May 10, 1869, to complete the first transcontinental railroad. That should tell you where I will be on May 10, 2019….

The other was to visit my childhood homes after my mom moved us to norther Utah after my dad committed suicide in 1961 in Palestine, Texas.

I had no idea what the addresses of the first two homes were, only their general location and what they looked like. I did know the address of the third and final home.

It was the first home that I was really interested in, though, because that’s where my mom became an alcoholic. My dad had committed suicide over my mom’s “indiscretions,” and I truly think that alcohol was her way of comforting herself.

The only thing I knew for sure was that the home was directly behind Food Town, which later became Food King. I also knew that Food Town was on Main Street. I felt sure that something as big and as necessary as a grocery store probably would still be there. It wasn’t. I didn’t have a clue what to do.

I gave up and went to the Brigham City Courthouse and then to the library.

Brigham City, Utah, courthouse

Carnegie Library in Brigham City, Utah

I asked at both places if anyone knew where Food Town had been. Nobody did, but the librarian suggested that I stop at the Box Elder Journal offices across the street. They also didn’t know but being a newspaper, they had newspapers from the 1960s, and they set me up to browse the January 1964 papers. That was how I found the front-page newspaper item about one of my juvenile delinquency episodes (Police looking for passer of bad checks). Food Town had full-page advertisements in every paper, indicating that there had been two locations.

Food Town advertisement in the Box Elder Journal from January 1964, Brigham City, Utah

I went to 81 North Main Street since it was just a block away from the newspaper offices. There was a new Justice Center/DMV building there. Off to 870 South Main Street. There was not a Food Town or Food King there, but look what I found:

Location of old Food Town in Brigham City, Utah

It’s not a Food Town but I knew that was the location I was looking for. I parked, walked around back, looked across the street, and there it was:

654 South 100 West in Brigham City, Utah

House numbers were few and far between; the best I can determine is that the address is 654 South 100 West. The current view of the back of the strip mall from the house is quite different from what I remember.

Location of old Food Town in Brigham City, Utah

When I lived there in 1961, I could watch the food trucks arrive and the expired food being tossed out on the loading docks, a welcome sight for a hungry 6-year-old boy.

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Halls of History—Why me?

Halls of History

I attended Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah, for grades one through four, and half of grade five. There wasn’t a lake within fifty miles….

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

I went by the school on July 25, 2018. As I was looking through the front door, the principal came out of his office, saw me looking in, and opened the door to ask what he could do for me. I told him that I had attended Lake View from 1961 to 1965, and that I was in town exploring my childhood. Although the school was closed for the summer, he invited me in.

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

Lake View Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

I didn’t remember anything about the interior of the school, probably because I spent more time skipping school than attending school….

I used to know the names of all my teachers, grades 1-12, and I believe I have a list of all of them, but I can’t find it right now. I do remember my Lake View Elementary teachers:

Mrs. Larson, first grade—Mrs. Larson lived next door to us. She had a beautiful garden full of Nasturtiums, so beautiful that I destroyed it one afternoon when I skipped school. She knew exactly who had done it. To this day, I love Nasturtiums but in 42 years of gardening, I have never had any Nasturtiums in my own gardens.

Miss Richard, second grade—I was in her very first class. After she put up with me, she either quit teaching or moved to a different school.

Miss Fonnesbeck, third grade—See below, Mrs. Gilmore, fifth grade

Mr. Boyd, fourth grade—The most popular teacher in school.

Mrs. Gilmore, fifth grade—When the State of Utah took me away from my family, Mrs. Gilmore took a special interest in me, even coming down to the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden, 19 miles, to visit me.

I kept in contact with Mrs. Gilmore through 1995, visiting her a couple of times in Case Grande, Arizona, where she had moved after retiring from teaching to be with her son. I also came out to her in late 1993, at which time she told me that Miss Fonnesbeck had been fired because she was a lesbian.

Mrs. Gilmore’s son wrote me when she died to tell me how much she loved me. I guess we each made an impression on the other, although I’m not sure why she would take such an interest in a juvenile delinquent child of ten who had no relation to her. Was it just her being a good teacher? A good person? Did I remind her of someone in her past? Were there others like me in her years of teaching?

Since that day when I read the letter from her son, I have always wondered why. Why me?

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Halls of History—Blaming Walmart & Amazon

Halls of History

When I was a juvenile delinquent living in Brigham City, Utah, I think I did everything except rape and murder. My most prolific delinquency task was theft. I was pretty good at it, even for a child whose age still was in the single digits.

I had gotten involved in stamp collecting (philately) when I joined the Boy Scouts. Sadly, every Boy Scout den I joined closed just weeks after my joining. Hmmmm. Maybe they knew something. Anyway, my interest in stamp collecting took me to the attic of our house, where the Boy Scouts manual said old letters and envelopes with stamps could be found. Sure enough. Unfortunately, though, I found a ton of letters addressed to me from my grandmother in Texas. All unopened, but all saved. The stamps intrigued me.

I took all the letters and hid them, taking them with me to Texas when my grandmother adopted me in 1965. I showed them to grandma, at which point she understood why she had never heard from me after mom had taken us there. Four years in Utah. As a juvenile delinquent.

When President Carter signed the extension of the Freedom of Information Act, I went to Brigham City, Utah, to get my juvenile delinquent records. I got them. I was amazed at the things I did as a child.

One of the things that WAS NOT on the 39-page list documenting my delinquency was my theft of a Harris Liberty Stamp Album from the Ben Franklin Five & Dime store.

Harris Liberty stamp album

I had taken the album with me to Texas, and had it until April 1993 when I left it in College Station as I abandoned the State looking for a new life. In 1978, though, while in Brigham City, Utah, I stopped at the Ben Franklin store, which was just a block from the Courthouse, asked for the manager, explained what I had done 15 years ago, and gave him $20 for the $4.95 album. Interest….

He was surprised, to say the least. When I was in Brigham City on July 25, 2018, I stopped by the Ben Franklin store. Sadly, it was there no more. It its place was a vacant storefront, Union Block Marketplace.

Brigham City, Utah

I was a little sad, wanting to blame Walmart and Amazon….

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Halls of History—Police looking for passer of bad checks

Halls of History

When President Carter signed the extension of the Freedom of Information Act in 1978, I went to Brigham City, Utah, looking for information of my youth in 1962-1965. I found a lot, so much so that the Courthouse officer who completed my request called me “one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents.” He gave me 39 legal pages, single-space typing, documenting my juvenile life in northern Utah.

When I was in Brigham City in July 25, I went looking for my old stomping grounds, defined as places I lived and places where I practiced my juvenile delinquency. One of the places I practiced was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mormon Church in Brigham City, Utah

Mormon Church in Brigham City, Utah

I used to steal lots of food out of the kitchen, money out of the offering plates, and anything else that could feed me since I didn’t get much food at home. Checks come to mind. I stole some checks at the church out of a coat hanging in the coat closet and proceeded to write bad checks throughout the city…. at the age of nine.

I found documentation of one of my weekend check-writing escapades on the front page, albeit below the fold, of the Box Elder Journal newspaper for January 23, 1964.

Box Elder Journal newspaper, Brigham City, Utah, January 22, 1964

I firmly believe that the only reason I’m not in prison for life or dead at the hands of a Utah law enforcement officer is because the State of Utah took me away from my alcoholic mom and stepdad in August 1965, and my wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965. She laid down the law, giving me both love AND discipline. She told me the rules, told me what would happen if I broke a rule, and kept to her word. It only took me twice to learn that she was serious.

She had me for 7½ years, and by the time I graduated from high school, she had made a fairly decent person out of me.

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Out & About—Could it be that old?

Out & About The World

I got my first bicycle when I was 8 years old (1963) and living in Brigham City, Utah. Granted, I stole it, but….

On the first day I rode my beautiful new bike to school, I parked it in the bike rack at the front of the school. This was back in the days when no one stole things (!), so bikes were not locked.

When I visited Lake View Elementary School on July 25, 2018, the entrance to the school had been moved to a different street. The school principal, who was on site when I was there, told me that re-positioning had occurred in 1981.

I went to the street where the entrance once had been and found a bike rack overgrown with weeds. Wow. I wonder. Could it be that old?

Bike rack at Lake Vew Elementary School in Brigham City, Utah

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