Tag Archives: CA

My Western Trip Part~7

18 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites


Bright and early the next morning I drove down to Port Hueneme, CA to visit the U.S. 1Navy Seabee Museum. This museum preserves and displays historic material relating to the history of the Naval Construction Force, better known as the Seabees, and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. During World War II, approximately 250,000 Seabees passed through the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) at Port Hueneme, on their way to or from Europe and Pacific Theaters.  Among many other tasks they were asked to perform, over the course of the war, the U. S. Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU) working closely with the Army Combat Demolition Units (ACDU) were instrumental in removing much of the hazardous materials and obstacles from the beaches in advance of the June 6, 1944 Normandy Invasion.

On my way to Los Angeles to visit several museums in that area, I stopped at the Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, CA to link up with Chuck, who provides mockup modern jet aircraft for the movie and TV industry. My museum guide indicated Producers Air Force had several aircraft, so I was expecting real aircraft. But interestingly, what Chuck does is provide mostly mockup cockpits of various fighter jets for close-up scenes with the actors. His aircraft are full scale mockups, usually from the nose of the aircraft to just behind the cockpit, with fully operating canopies and all the cockpit instruments and controls, including real ejection seats. It was a real education talking to Chuck and hearing all about how he provides the industry with what they need.2

 Chuck had to go to work, so I proceeded on into Los Angeles to visit the Griffith Observatory. DiVoran and I had visited Griffith Park and the Observatory back in the early 1960s when we lived there, but it was a shock to see how many people were there3 that day. Cars were backed up halfway down the mountain waiting for a chance to find a parking space. I went into the lobby and took a look at the fascinating Foucault Pendulum, which was introduced in 1851 by French physicist León Foucault, as the first simple proof of the rotation of the Earth in an easy-to-see experiment. I walked around the outer domes and got a view of the smoggy L.A. basin and the Hollywood Hills.

That was about all of the crowds I could handle, so I headed down town to Exposition Park to check out the California Science Center. The Science Center was a wonderful experience, as there were many displays that interested me. At the top of the list, was the Space Shuttle Endeavour . Aircraft displays, inside and outside, included a 1929 Velie Monocoupe, a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, a replica of the Bell X-1 that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in, a Northrop F-20 Tigershark, a Northrop T-38 Talon, and a beautiful Lockheed A-12 Blackbird two-seat trainer (60-6927), stripped of its black finish, and gleaming silver in the sun. Manned Spacecraft included Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Space Capsules, Pioneer 10, Mariner IV and Venus probes and a prototype of the Viking Lander.




—–To Be Continued—–


My Western Trip~Part 6

11 Jun

 A Slice of Life

By Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane


Next, it was over to Simi Valley, CA for a tour of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. I was impressed with the 24 different galleries, which traced Reagan’s life from his early days as local hero, college standout, glamorous Hollywood actor, then as governor of California, and ultimately to the presidency of the United States. There was even a full-sized replica of the Oval Office in one of the galleries. But, of course the thing that impressed me the most was Air Force One (S/N 27000), also known as “The Flying Whitehouse” and the Marine One helicopter (S/N 150611), both of which Reagan used while President. I asked one of the Docents how they got the plane in the building, and she said, “They built three sides of the new building, took the wings and tail assembly off the plane, so they could bring it in through the fourth opening, and re-assembled the airplane inside. Then they finished the fourth all glass wall. For the full story of how the U.S. President’s airplane got its name, Google “Air Force One.” It’s a fascinating story I think you will enjoy knowing.



Before leaving Simi Valley, I stopped at the Santa Susana Railroad Depot & Museum to get the history of an early California railroad depot and its operations. This was one of the most unusual and interesting small museums. The depot is an example of what the Southern Pacific Railroad called their Standard No. 22 Depot in 1903. The depot has been meticulously restored with many original furnishings and working equipment, that the Docent uses to explain to visitors how the depots operated in the early 20th century. Today, on what was the old Southern Pacific rails, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight trains head up and down the coast, and the daily Surfliner and Metrolink trains ferry commuters in and out of Los Angeles.



Now, because of a time constraint, I headed west to Oxnard, CA where I quickly visited the small Mullin Automotive and Murphy Auto Museums. I also visited the Channel Island Maritime Museum, there in Oxnard, where I learned something very interesting about some of the early 17th century Dutch Maritime painters. It seems that some of them painted in such detail that (with a very strong magnifying glass) one can see that each of the distant subjects in the painting has been given details such as a pipe in the mouth, some with a mustache and all with a nose, ears and even eyebrows. The kind of details you might expect in a close-up portrait painting, but not in a battle scene at sea. And, then there were the fabulous model ships, many of them crafted by the Curator/Docent that took me on a tour of the museum. The model ship detail was outstanding! What a great tour.



Then, to round out the day, I visited the CAF WWII Aviation Museum in Camarillo, CA. This museum is very similar in size and display aircraft to the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum here in Titusville, FL where I volunteer as a tour guide one day each week. They had an AT-6 and a two-place P-51 Mustang, both actively giving rides while I was there, and I got some really good close-up photos of both as they fired up their engines, taxied out with their passengers and took off. I always get a thrill when I hear the sound of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine at full throttle passing overhead.




—–To Be Continued—–

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