REMINDER:  Only 137 days until the Taft Diamond Jubilee -- The Taft Oildorado, Inc., celebrating Taft's 100th birthday, October 15-24 and the dedication of the Oil Worker's monument with Huell Howser present to videotape his program called, "California Gold" for public television broadcast on the West Coast.  This year is also the anniversary of the world famous Lakeview Gusher -- the granddaddy of all gushers -- that spewed 9,000,000 barrels of oil over a year and a half before it stopped flowing.  A historical marker is located at the crater of the gusher on the old road between between Maricopa and Taft. The Taft Oildorado website is oildoradodays.com

REMINDER:  Only 137 days until the Taft Diamond Jubilee -- The Taft Oildorado, Inc., celebrating Taft's 100th birthday, October 15-24 and the dedication of the Oil Worker's monument with Huell Howser present to videotape his program called, "California Gold" for public television broadcast on the West Coast.  This year is also the anniversary of the world famous Lakeview Gusher -- the granddaddy of all gushers -- that spewed 9,000,000 barrels of oil over a year and a half before it stopped flowing.  A historical marker is located at the crater of the gusher on the old road between between Maricopa and Taft. The Taft Oildorado website is oildoradodays.com

 Remember When
Today's article is a letter written by me to my folks after being in combat in Aitape, New Guinea from April 22, 1944.  Our 163rd Infantry Regiment combat team included all the groups that were attached to our combat force.  We had just completed combat after our amphibious landing at Aitape.  We were not there long before we made another amphibious landing.  
That landing was on May 27 at Toem and Wakde Island further up the New Guinea coast from Aitape and then on to Biak Island on May 27, 1944.  We finally came out of combat on August 20, 1944 some four months after our landing on Aitape in April. My folks never knew where I was because Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the South West Pacific Theater, would never reveal which unit was in combat.  My folks knew which unit I was in, but our letters were censored to make sure that we didn't reveal where our unit was located.
    
 Part one in the series of my letter to my folks starts bellow:

New Guinea          May 4, 1944
Dear Folks,
 Just a note to let you know that I am fine and back to normal after being in contact.  Please excuse the paper that I am writing on, but I thought that it would be usual for you to receive a letter written on Japanese stationary.  Anyway, it is the only kind I have at present because my personal belonging have not as yet reached me.  In fact this is a Jap pen that I am using.
    Well I have seen combat and have come out in perfect shape.  I fact we are back in tents and sleeping on cots -- real comfort after sleeping in a foxhole.  Combat is no picnic, and it is an experience that well never be forgotten.  One see many interesting sights -- some things are not very good.    You really find out what was is -- "kill or be killed."  Another thing that interested me was what the "sons of the Emperor" are not willing to die for as we were told a few years back.  They are tough fighters and especially so in jungle country.
    I collected my share of souvenirs.  The Yanks are quite famous for doing that.  I will send my collection home as soon as we are allowed.  I have a Jap rifle, a bayonet, real Jap money -- also some Jap invasion money, rank insignias, a diary and the best of all, a Japanese flag. I would not sell it for a thousand dollars.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention the Japanese sailor uniform I picked up,  It certainly came in handy because I had only one set of fatigues to wear; so when I wash my fatigues, I would wear the  "honorable" Japanese uniform.
(To be continued)
 
Readers' Responses

From Dave Conant Class of 1942, from Hayward, CA
    Hi Pete --  Thanks for the great pictures.  I remember them well.  The one of the guys in the bomb crater must have been taken either before or after I had been shot and taken away, 'Cause I don't see me in the picture.   After I got shot and the shooting stopped, I ran like hell and fell into the crater.  The medic took care of me and as soon as it was possible they hauled me away.   My goodness that was 65 years ago.  Damn, we were young then!!!!!
      And it was great talking to you on the phone the other day.  We do correspond back and forth via the computer often, and that's great, but it's much better talking to one another on the phone.  It would, of course, be better talking in person, but if we can't do that the phone is the best we can do.  Anyway, we should do it more often; so I'm gonna do my best to give you a call back before long.  
       Thanks again for the pictures and all the other great stuff you have sent and will hopefully, continue to send.   Talk to you later.    
Dave
Cheers to us!!  

From Don Zumbro, Class of 1952, from Bakersfield, CA
    Hey Pete,    You might remember the time, late May, 1949. There was one special event before the seniors graduated, Block T initiation! All boys who earned a letter in a sport were eligible to join, and it was considered a badge of honor to be a member.
    This year it was a special because the upper class members of the exclusive Block T organization planned a secret event. The initiation was to take place beside an oil ditch on 25 Hill. It was kept from school officials, but all of the students were aware of the time and place.
    This was after school so the hills around the selected area were lined with cars and interested spectators.
    The future Block T members were stripped, fed unknown foods, paddled, had heads shaved, and told to walk down the oil ditch. The oil ditch had been dammed to collect as much oil as possible and was close to shoulder deep. When you stepped from the oil ditch, you were to be hit with chicken feathers.
    About the time we made our oil ditch march, Paul Smith, the famous truant officer, arrived. Everyone scattered and I mean in a hurry. The spectators took off, the Block T members took off, even the oil soaked, shaved, half naked, sickly looking new Block T members.
    It was over 100 degrees and being covered in oil was extremely uncomfortable and also dangerous for your health, but luckily most of us received rides home. The ones who didn't receive a ride probably perished along the road (just kidding).
    After we calmed our parents, the school received no complaints! Would that happen today?
    I believe that was the last "secret" Block T initiation.
    Don Zumbro, Class of "52"

From Elizabeth A. Clark, Class of 57, from Bakersfield, CA
    I, too, am really saddened to hear of the passing of Mrs. Shasteen. She was a valuable mentor.  Her son, Bill, was a classmate of my second daughter at Bakersfield High.

From Trice Harvey, Class of 1955, from Bakersfield, CA
    Big Brain: I was very sorry about Joyce Schasteen's passing away!! I saw her now and again here in Bakersfield. Last December I had a good visit with her at the "Older Taft Gang's" lunch. I will miss this year Thursday Night at the hue The Fort Preservation Society's big fund raiser, you looked great in your Army uniform!! You lead the flag salute in fine fashion, and was a "Dapper Dan"!! Show that picture for all your fans to see???  Little Brain
(NOTE)
    At the barbecue held at the West Kern Oil Museum on May 22, a lady told me that she had seen me in my uniform to lead the pledge to our flag at The Historic Fort 70th birthday dinner and celebration, honoring those who had been born at the Taft Branch of the Kern General Hospital, (called the Fort babies) where my father worked for all of those years until he retired, told me that she thought that I had reenlisted and was going to Afghanistan

From Phillis (Pearce) Philpot, Class of 1966 from Sallisaw, Oklahoma
    Pete:  I read your article that Jerry Hord wrote (Hi Jerry) regarding his Dad, Buck and his up-coming 100th Birthday.  I have to tell you, Buck and Jessie were like my God-parents growing up.  I just lived a couple of houses down from them.  They are 2 of the most wonderful people that God has put on this earth.  I have kept up with them all these years and always will.  I love them dearly.  There's not enought time for me to tell you how precious Jessie is.  I justed talked to Buck last week and he's such a charm.  I really enjoy talking to him.  His memory is better than mine.  They were God sent for me and to many kids in the area of Taft for several years.  Jessie taught me so much.  Buck taught me how to milk a cow in which I loved.  They lived a good healthy clean life which is probably why they have lived so long.  People should take a lesson from them.  I'm hoping to be at the party.  Buck plans on dancing; so, he owes me one!  
     Phillis (Pearce) Philpot   Class 1966

From Richard Williams, Class of 1964, from Pine Bluff. AR.
   I can see several advantages to “the good old days” wooden grandstand bleachers at Martin Memorial shade from the hot sun, and shelter from rain. It does rain in Taft, you know! I wish the present grandstands had such an awning!