Updated July 29, 2011. Please visit again.
Bob Reid (left) and Lewis "Buzz" Nolan at entrance to Sac High
50th High School Reunion,
June 24 – 27, 2011
- Updated July 24, 2011
Several photos taken by Betty Nolan of her and husband Buzz Nolan visits to his Sacramento High School’s 50th reunion, several former members of the Sutter Lawn Tennis Club swim team he coached in the early 1960s, the graves of family and friends at East Lawn Cemetery and commemorative Rose Garden/Vietnam War Memorial near the California State Capitol are posted at www.kodakgallery.com in various albums registered under Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email email@example.com for instructions how to access the pictures those visits.
By LEWIS NOLAN
June 25, 2011 –
Saturday – In
Betty and I arose early, at 7 a.m. at the Courtyard by
Marriott motel on the campus of the University of California-Davis Medical
School and related hospitals. It was at the site that once housed the
We enjoyed an excellent breakfast served by an excellent waitress in the hotel restaurant, whose name was Sarah. My heaping plate of scrambled eggs with hash browns and thick slices of bacon was augmented by Betty picking up a sweet roll at the in-house Starbucks café located just a few steps away. Sarah’s dedication to providing quality service to patrons must provide her sufficient income to be able to drive an older model of what she told us was a BMW.
Even though I basically departed
My mother, Garnett Elizabeth Nolan, died in her own bed at home in 1985 and was buried in nearby East Lawn at a funeral I helped arrange and was attended by my brothers and a few neighbors. Near her gravesite is the burial site of my youngest brother’s wife, Anna Maria Nolan. A short walk from that east-most section of the cemetery is a large mausoleum where my late fraternity brother and fellow U.S. Marine, First Lieutenant Peter Lenhart Siller’s crypt is located next to his parents’ entombments in the El Dorado Building. We placed the fresh flowers purchased at Trader Joe’s on the graves or in provided containers and said private prayers on their behalf.
I learned later that various relatives of old friends with whom I grew up are also buried at East Lawn, a truly beautiful and peaceful cemetery even though bordered by a busy street on the main entrance side and a light rail commuter train to the rear. Among the remains are the ashes of the father of my longtime pal Leslie Crockett, Deane Crockett. East Lawn space has been reserved for her mother, a fabulous ballet dancer and instructor named Barbara Crockett, now described by her daughter and my pal Leslie as “still going strong at 90.” All the Crockett’s were famed members of the San Francisco Ballet Company and central to the founding and success of the Sacramento Ballet Company.
I read recently that over half of all the deaths in
For many years I’ve made it a point to visit Pete Siller’s
crypt whenever in town. I was told long ago that he was entombed in his U.S.
Marine Corps dress blues uniform. An USMC insignia decorates the facing of his
marble space in the El Dorado Mausoleum’s second floor. Remembering his
frequently expressed admiration for the toughness of the Marines and how his
father had served the Corps with distinction in the Pacific Theatre of World
War II influenced my decision to join the Marines when the draft board was
breathing down my neck in the mid-1960s. I was actually drafted into the Army
while a student at
While the fog of my memory of that long-ago period of stress has worsened over the last half-century, I think I happened to talk to a Marine Corps recruiter who was visiting State’s campus in Starkville, MS, and was advised that my prospects of entering the Corps’ officer candidate school scheduled for later in the year were good. Faced with entering the Army as a draftee quite soon or waiting a few months to complete my college Bachelor of Arts degree requirements, I made the “no brainer” decision to go for the OCS option despite being in relatively lousy physical condition and more than a few pounds overweight. I was glad to hear that my close friend Pete Siller had also been accepted into the Marine Corps officer training program. I felt even then that his experience as a member of the high school cross country running team would prove to be an advantage even though he confided in a letter or two of the difficulty he was having with the training program.
Fairly warned by one of the college football coaches, Jim
Hilliard, who had been in a Marine Corps potential officer training program
when he was an undergraduate, I did the best I could to work out that summer
several times a week to get ready for what he had told me was a fitness program
designed to “wear me down” rather than “build me up.” I don’t think I realized
just how physically challenging the OCS PT (physical training) program would
be. Unlike many of the “super studs” in my officer training group who were
college football players or stars in other sports, I soon found that the PT
training regime at OCS was way beyond what my body was capable of – no matter
how hard I tried. I excelled in water sports during high school and managed to
make the college swimming team at
Consequently, once in Quantico and under all the running and
marching expectations expected of officer candidates, I suffered painfully from
too much weight from too many years of over-eating and over-drinking and the
resulting shin splints and other pains from muscle abuse. In short, I just was
not able to keep up with the frequent marches while carrying many pounds of
“782” gear like a rifle and small shovel during frequent forced marches on
hilly trails. I remember scoring fairly well on some of the mental requirements
and leadership evaluations, but fell far short of the physical standards
expected of Marine Corps officers scheduled to ship out to tough infantry
I was among perhaps the lower fourth or third segment of the
members graded in my training company who did not qualify for the gold bars of
a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, mainly because of inadequate physical
ability and endurance. None of the “drop outs” qualified therefore for the next
step in the officer training program called “The Basic School.” Sadly, one of
the really good guys who was a physical leader in my class, Herb Ing, graduated
near the top of our class and went on to Basic School, which at the time was
commanded by his father, a lieutenant colonel. Herb was killed in
I can’t speak for others who didn’t graduate from the USMC’s OCS program, but in my case it was many years before I could face up to the fact that I just didn’t have the physical skills and endurance that it took to be successful as an officer in the U. S. Marine Corps. But I’m just as proud of my service in the Corps now as I was at the time and grateful for the training as a man and learning the skills required for writing, editing and publishing a newspaper. Those skills helped immeasurably in my later success as a newspaperman for the Memphis Commercial Appeal of Scripps-Howard (1969-1984) and later as a communications executive for Schering-Plough Consumer Operations (1984-1996, which became Schering-Plough HealthCare Products and much later merged into Merck, Inc.), and more recently as head of communications and government relations for the national security services firm of Guardsmark in 1996-1997.
I was bitterly ashamed of my failure to qualify as a Marine
Corps officer and was reluctant to volunteer that information for many years.
Many of the really nice guys I worked with on the base newspaper were also
“losers,” in the scheme of things of that era of military enthusiasm for the
Most of us lived in the same “Headquarters Company,” brick
building of two stories in the middle of the Marine base at
Our ISO office was a walk through the town of
base-surrounded town of
Among the names and faces I still recall these more than
forty years later I worked with are those of our unit’s commanding officer, Lt.
Col. Tom Mattimo, who was seen only rarely in our
midst but was never far from our attention; Master Sergeant Mel Jones, a
very-tough Marine who ruled our office with an iron hand but was ultimately
discharged after striking an officer and ended up writing for the Navy Times, a
privately owned and published weekly; Master Gunnery Sergeant Phil “Top”
Kronenburg, a truly wonderful man with the looks and demeanor of a beardless
Santa Claus who offered me a ride to work in his Opel most mornings and hosted
me and Betty for occasional meals at his and wife’s private home in the nearby
town of Woodbridge, VA; Gunnery Sergeant Louis Pescator, a helpful “big
brother” with World War II experience in the South Pacific who served as the
ISO office “news editor” and assignments chief; Warrant Officer “Gunner”
Larson, who stood between us enlisted writers and the high-ranking policy
makers on base when there were disagreements about the nature and handling of
our news stories; a nice lady captain in the Women’s Marines (WM’s) whose name I can’t recall but who sold me at a good
price her portable, manual typewriter for my private use; and a bunch of
enlisted guys from our writing staff of about a dozen. Among them was Mike
Franks, a sharp, “squared-away” corporal with carefully spit-shined shoes and
uniform to match who had been in
Others I still remember include Corporal Mike Barnes, whom I succeeded as Editor of the Quantico Sentry after he got out of the Marine Corps to return to work on Capitol Hill and eventually successfully run for a Congressional seat; Staff Sergeant Frank Burke, a Vietnam veteran who ran our base radio station; Corporal Bruce Upton, a Harvard English major who defined the word “grouch;” Glenn Destatt, whose idea of fun was running several miles in recreational race events, unrealized dreams of covering sports for the L.A. Times and idea of great food the oven leftovers from my wife’s great enchiladas; a fast-talking New Yorker named Barney who was an expert handicapper for racing horses and whose father helped run the Rockefeller Foundation; and others. I also remember non-ISO, enlisted pals including an awesome brain named Seymour Hirsh, who was the No. One grad of Harvard Law School now working as a legal clerk in the base law office; another law school grad from Boston University whose idea of a good time was an excellent dinner with fine wine at Washington’s tony Chez Francoise restaurant that was a current hangout of White House staffers; the unforgettable Ed Murphy, whose widow mother in Boston evidently had the political connections to get him a hardship discharge on grounds of “sole survivor;” and a fun African-American to be around named Pfc Clark, who was originally from a very tough neighborhood in Chicago.
I learned a lot about newspapering and writing from my work with the Quantico Sentry. Top Kronenburg and a few others did me the favor of recognizing my potential as a newspaper guy and saw to it that I could attend a week-long, Marine Corps conference on public relations in New York City, where Johnny Carson side-kick and ex-Marine Ed McMahon singled out for plaudits some of my writing in a presentation to our group at a hotel. Their behind-the-scenes work also got me named a PR contact for the Provisional Marine Brigade called into DC to help put down a terrible series of riots following the assignation of Martin Luther King Jr. My only notable experience of that few days was my being part of a small squad of Marines providing armed escort service to a squad car of two policemen in dangerous neighborhood. We all came under hostile sniper fire.
Also on the positive side: A commanding general at Quantico got a Letter of Commendation placed in my file following my PR work on his behalf during a public parade of hand-picked Marines in a nearby town. Those and other positive experiences helped offset the silent indignation I felt when on occasion encountering a power-drunk officer showing off his rank at the expense of some hapless enlisted man on base or nearby.
I regret that I lost touch with everybody in a great group
of very smart, patriotic guys I worked with for 21 months. I exchanged a very
few letters with Gunny Pescator, whose World War II injury forced him to retire
a bit earlier than he had planned; he ended up working in public relations for
a Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne Beach, FL, I think I recall. I once wrote
Top Kronenburg when working as a newspaperman in
My marriage with the oh-so-lovely-and-wonderful Betty was strong and I had reasonable prospects of being advanced to the rank of “sergeant,” which would have been quite an honor for me to have because of my hard work and potential in newspapering. But I had long tired of spending my Sunday’s shining shoes and boots, polishing my brass belt buckle and being ever so careful with my attitude and demeanor around men and women who outranked me. I was looking for a way “back in the world” of civilian life.
My conclusion is that unlike many onetime small units whose closeness survived close combat, our small ISO office didn’t have enough “glue” in their friendships to stay together in the face of an unpleasant experience of many of us failing to achieve the officer rank we had sought. Being the low rail on a split fence is not, as I found, the source of pride for most men with normal sized egos.
My term of enlistment was two years, but I got out early on
a “school cut” after Betty put her foot down and insisted that I not follow up
on an opportunity to get out of the service three months early in order to
become a policemen in New York City, part of a national program to strengthen
law enforcement during the so-called “hippie rebellion” against the forces of
law and order. Unlike the experience of the Armed Forces in recent years which
held troops way beyond their enlistment to maintain “all-volunteer strength” in
Iraq and other Mid-East countries in conflict with the U.S., the Marines were
actually “thinning out the ranks” when it came to Vietnam service in the late
1960s. Those with less than 13 months remaining on their enlistment were “hands
off” when it came to deployment to Vietnam, a policy that nullified my orders
to MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) when a cast on my leg kept me
from going; I had broken an ankle when I slipped on wet grass while helping to
unload a truck of big boxes. The service looked for plausible reasons like
medical or family situations at home, higher education and law enforcement
needs for personnel to release enlisted personnel early back when
The times made military service toxic in the eyes of many
Americans and citizens of other Western countries. I recall knowing several
Marines I lived with in the Quantico Barracks who actually purchased male wigs
to wear into
Once I was out of the Marine Corps, I didn’t even retain the
Expert Rifleman’s badge I had earned by shooting the highest score in my
battalion the first time out on the qualification range. Unlike a lot of guys
Even though it’s very old history now that my age is 68, I remain proud of my brief service in the U.S. Marine Corps and am grateful for the base newspaper training experience that stood me well during my working life. I don’t have the medals or the military souvenirs that many of the guys collected. But to this day I continue to stand at public events out of respect when a band plays the Marine Corps Hymn “Halls of Montezuma” and continue to visit the burial site of my longtime friend, Pete Siller, who gave his life for our country. I’ve taken special pride in my son’s distance running feats like being on the state championship cross country high school team and completion of assorted marathons and triathlons, which were way beyond my physical ability.
Fast-forwarding to 2011, Betty and I drove down Folsum where
A remembrance written by Lewis Nolan about his friendship with
Pete Siller and some of their good times together in the Alpha Sigma Phi
fraternity at the old Sacramento State College (now called California State
University – Sacramento) is posted at Lewis’ website at http://lewisnolan.com/update3030/siggyraider.html
(scroll down to the remembrance toward to near the end to see a photo of the
two or go directly to http://lewisnolan.com/update3030/siller1.html
to see a photo of Pete wearing his SCUBA equipment. Also, several websites
about the Vietnam Memorial Wall in
Semper Fi, Pete. I’ve a religious feeling that your spirit is in our Christian ideal of Heaven and among the U.S. Marines guarding the streets there. One day in the hopefully distant future we’ll march together.
My other close friend from my
Bob was kind enough to drive me and Betty to the site of an
elegant, private club where our class reunion and dinner was scheduled. I had
been to Arden Hills quite a few times for swimming meets long ago, but with all
the real estate development in the plush, neighborhood well to the east off
I didn’t recognize but a handful of my classmates, many of whom like me had much expanded waistlines since our high school days, with many showing gray hair if any. Among attendees were Gerald “Buzzy” Chernoff (whom I did not see), Bruce Fletcher, son of the owner of a very large drug store; Richard Lattimer, the elected organizer of the so-so event; Dennis Ghisletta (who sat at our table with his wife and who had been a terrific baseball player at Sac High who was drafted by a major league team but didn’t play because of an injury); Nancy Hoos (onetime girlfriend of Bob Reid whose uncle Earl Hoos taught swimming lessons and coached the AAU swim team at Sutter Lawn) who is now married to a man who looks to be in his mid-30s and who wears a mustache and goatee; Kathy Howell, a once a stylish, young beauty now showing her age but still rather aggressive and loud; my lifelong friend and onetime business partner Bob Reid; Pete Price, son of onetime District Attorney John Price who pulled him out of Sac High in our senior year and put him in a private school after Pete, yours truly and others were caught up in a crackdown on truancy; and Doug Sykes, a great athlete I went through elementary, junior high and high school with who earned an M.A. in history from Cal-Berkeley).
Among the missing were several of my onetime pals who were quite popular in our high school years including “cheerleader and drop-dead pretty” Merry Millward, “queen bee” Marty Klinefelter, Judy Sherman, Vicky Perry, Dan Dittman, Dick Hyde, Harry Singer and Bob Zanders. I’ve tried several times to locate my good buddy and school football player Zanders on the Internet and at his supposed employer at one point, the California Highway Patrol, but failed. We parted company after I stupidly said something I shouldn’t have mentioned about a brief relationship with his girlfriend whose company I once enjoyed.
The class reunion event organizers put up a poster listing the names of 18 classmates they had found out about who had died. The names included several I knew. Among the deceased were Jim Hunt, who sweet-talked away my onetime girlfriend Diana Doody at Kit Carson Junior High; musician Elwood Orr, baseball standout Robert Belden; Eddie Sizemore; and my date for the senior ball Judy Wessler, a tall and lanky looker who was brave enough to stop me in a school hallway and ask me to escort her to the blowout dance on short notice.
Back during our times at Sac High, the school operated a
“classification” system later thrown out by a
While I was familiar with the Arden Hills club on the
distant outskirts east of town because of swimming in meets in the early 1960’s
hosted in their big pool (the team was the best in
Unlike on previous visits to my old home grounds, I just
didn’t have the time to drive by our first family home in
Also missed on this trip were visits to the Sacramento homes
of my brothers, Pat at 6933 21st Avenue, and Bill at 3054 34th
Street (I regret we didn’t take their photographs nor see Bill’s daughter, Kate
Nolan, who is working as a registered nurse in Crescent City, Calif., far to
the north near the Oregon border), and the onetime thriving commercial district
of downtown Sacramento on and near K Street including such familiar places as
Sam’s Hofbrau House and its fantastic hot turkey
sandwiches and nearby Mel’s Drive-In that was a magnet for guys cruising to
show off their hot rods. Our trip to
California for a fraternity reunion and other reasons in September, 2009 (URL
to the seven-part series of travelogues from that trip is at http://www.lewisnolan.com/2caldream09.htm)
– the travelogues detail some of the places either missed or re-visited during
my short walks down Memory Lane in 2011, with links to about 85 posted photos
and also to an earlier trip to the area in 1995. I have in my
While still at Arden Hills during the 2011 trip, one of my
former classmates whom I had not remembered quietly suggested that Betty and I
stick around even though the crowd was beginning to thin out by 7 p.m. He had
something to do with the organizing committee and had once been an FBI agent.
He advised that it was probable that a special prize for the class member who
traveled the farthest to attend the 50th reunion would be awarded to
me. However, tired after standing around and shaking hands for much of the
evening, we decided to head back to our hotel, with Bob Reid doing the driving.
It was ironic that we again drove on a bridge over the