“Mox” riding with friend in Model “T”
1 MOX William Harry Moxley was born in 1904 at Hobart Oklahoma. His family left for Phoenix Arizona when he was so young he may not have remembered the trip. His father, a superintendant for road construction made Phoenix his home base for a good fifteen years. William was the youngest in the bunch. At some point a lot of folks just called him Mox. Perhaps he picked that up during his radio gang years aboard Navy ships in the 1920's or maybe later in the 50's and 60's when he built racing tires. Who knows when it began to stick, but I always called him Bill.
Moxley & Hepworth Family arrive in Arizona
Jeptha Mary Bill Lula Art * Lena Jim Hepworth family noted with astrisk* His oldest brother Jim loved anything mechanical, from a small steam engine he played with as a kid to large separators, graders, or petroleum cracking plants he worked on later in life. As soon as he got things going smooth with one company another would want to borrow him. Bill's other big brother Art liked boxing and truck driving; or at least he liked boxing enough that when a professional came to town for open challenges during the local fair, Art stepped in. The pro could out bob and weave him with ease. After a couple frustrating rounds, Art could see the shorter crouching pro left only one good opening. Art's gloved fist came down like he was swinging a hammer on the backside top of the man's head and cold cocked him. Unfortunately some years later Art's truck driving career was cut short when his brakes failed while heavily loaded going down a steep winding grade. Although not a prankster, once as a young teenager he and a couple friends managed to rig the mayor’s car onto the roof of his office building. A couple days passed before the stolen vehicle was discovered. Perhaps they hired Jim and their dad to get it down.
3 Lena was Bill's big sister. She helped her mom on the farm. The boys and the old man did too when they weren't on a job. And Bill, well he was a little young but sometimes he'd pick up the small stray sheep that couldn't keep up or got lost. He even had his own little flock awhile. The family also had cows. One year the cows ate too much wet alfalfa and bloated. To save them they had to make a cut and allow their stomachs to off gas. Bill had to reach in and pull out partially digested alfalfa. He never cared much for spinach after that. Sunday morning's Bill's mom made sure he was dressed and ready to be sent off to Sunday school. But he and his friends preferred swimming in the canals. The canals were big and supplied irrigation water to all the farms in the valley. They were dug long before the first white settlers or even Spaniards arrived, by the Hohokum, who left the Phoenix area during a thirty year drought around 1300 AD. The settlers merely cleaned out and widened many of the canals where they needed to. One day Bill's mom decided he was out swimming instead of learning about God when he came home with dried mud on his soles. From that point she sewed thread across his coat buttons. If the thread was broken she knew he'd been swimming. It wasn't long before Bill had his own sewing kit. Swimming was just too much fun. Some of the kids at school had their own horses. Most folks in the valley wouldn't give a horse to their school kid when there were other chores for it rather than to follow a child's whims during his leisure times. But there were wild horses. They often ran in herds or packs with the lead stallion out front, the other stallions on flank and in back. Inside of this were the mares, and in the center were the foals. Bill and his friends practiced lassoing stationary objects and even some of the cows and sheep their folks owned until they felt good enough to attempt taking a wild horse. Some of his older friends had already roped and broken their horses. Now it was Bill's turn. The boys would work as a team. If they could herd the horses into a box canyon and his friends keep the flanking stallions away from the horse he selected, there was a good chance. The horse he rode that day he'd ridden many times before. It was from the farm and followed directions well. It was bigger than most of the Indian Ponies, but still it wasn't his. This time they were lucky and able to spook or nudge the herd into an area without an exit. The older boys had run into this pack before. It was led by a big one eyed grey which was very smart. The oldest kid had tried to rope him before but the grey had slipped out of his lasso. This time he'd come in on his blind side. The boy's herded the pack into the canyon. Bill spotted a sorrel he wanted and rode in. The pack galloped then slowed when they came upon a box end. Bill's friends kept the other horses clear while he lassoed his horse around the neck, wrapped a turn or two with the other end around his saddle horn, and held it tight. The older boy went on ahead and came in on the grey's blind side when they reached the end of the canyon. The grey's head and body whirled around as the big kid threw his lasso. It landed across the Grey's shoulders and back then slipped off. His one eye looked squarely at the young cowboy then he ran straight for him. The boy's horse sidestepped out of the way and the grey galloped out of the box canyon taking his pack, minus one, with him. Bill found that his sorrel liked mesquite beans. It wasnâ€™t long before they were best of friends. Soon he learned that his wild horse was in many ways smarter than their farm horses when one day his horse kept stopping in its tracks. Finally Bill hopped off to see what the problem was. Below, through fissures and cracks in the rocks, Bill saw a cavern full of rattle snakes. He headed back to his horse then went around the snake den. About this time he began to feel like a real cowboy. To look the part he and some of his friends rubbed a discarded starchy substance left over from the milking process into their jeans then put them on and rode their horses until it dried. When they dismounted their jeans still maintained the inverted â€œUâ€? shape so you could tell they were real cowboys. The only thing missing was a pair of six shooters.
Bill's Sorrel Later some friends told him about a church or compound where "Holy Rollers" periodically gathered a couple hours ride away. They decided to take a look. From a low hill they saw a couple buildings spaced apart. Centered between these, a long, flat, three or four foot wide strip of white canvas mat ran back until it ended at the base of a podium. To the right and left of the white runner were rows of folding chairs. Linen draped tables "Teed" off the runway closest to the shrub covered hill the boys were looking from. The worshipers placed food on the tables then took their seats.
5 The preacher started his oration and soon captivated his audience. Some of the congregation stood with arms raised to heaven, others bowed nodding their heads in affirmation. The preacher looked out and saw those among them who appeared unsure. He waved them to come forth and join with him to find the heavenly father. Ushers escorted them forward. From there the boys saw the preacher and ushers assist folks rolling down the canvas then help them up and praise the Lord at the end. No one remembers whose idea it was, but the boys had collected handfuls of bullhorn stickers. If one were barefoot, no matter how they stepped on one of those little spiked balls, it would hurt. The boys rolled their reins over the nearest branch in the desert thicket, gave their horses some mesquite beans then told them to wait there until they got back. Soon they were behind the buildings on each side of the canvas runway. Whether one of them knew the preacher would be the last person to roll before supper, or not, was a good question. But he'd moved back to the podium and all attention was in his direction. As soon as it was clear a couple kids on each side dove under the linen draped tables then headed toward the central runway on their hands and knees under cover. One kid waited behind each building to watch out back. After crawling under three or four tables toward the center, the table's right angle turned toward the podium another length or two then ended. Once there the boys put their heads at ground level to look out. The preacher was focused on his audience as he alternated his attention to the right and left of the runway. Each boy grabbed a hand full of bullhorns from his pocket, stretched it out under table cloth and over the runway then cast his stickers towards the podium. The boys got low and watched the preacher raise his hands and give thanks for the food they were about to eat. Then the preacher began to roll. The congregation waited for him to utter something profound upon completion. After two or three rolls he reached the first sticker and visibly jerked his shoulder off the matt to avoid pressing it in further the next time around. In the next couple rolls three or four more stickers went in. The boys could see he was in pain and wondered if perhaps they'd come up with a bad idea. Now he was rolling into the thickest spread. Dozens and dozens broke his skin and he could no longer contain his pain. The congregation looked on him in bewilderment not expecting such utterances. On the last roll his eyes locked with a boy's under the table. It was over. They'd been discovered! The preacher stopped. Not caring that he was placing his hands in a swaths of stickers he pushed himself off the mat, raised his arms, and vehemently preached Hell Fire and Brimstone! "Spawn of the Devil! Stay now and repent or burn for eternity! You must pay for your sins!" The boys were too scared, if they were to burn in hell, better to do it later than now. Not only would they get the preachers whip but another one when they got home, or at least so they believed. They ran like the dickens to their horses and rode off before the worshipers could catch them. None of them saw anybody they knew, not that they had the time to, so they made a pact. No one would say anything ever, well except maybe if it was just them and no one else was around. Soon it was forgotten anyway. The next time they rode out they saw a big dead snake lying on the ground in the morning sun. That afternoon when they came back by it had bloated from the hot daytime sun. They hopped off their horses to take a look. One of the kids started to poke at it with a stick. Bill told him to stop; "Hey don't do that. If you pop him he'll stink to high heaven!" then looked closer. All the way down both sides was a row of scales sticking out. Each was curved shaped and looked like little boomerangs or what was left of legs that had disappeared and atrophied from generations long past. Bill blurted out, "I bet the great granddaddy of this snake had legs like a centipede! What do you think?" His friends just shrugged their shoulders. They didn't know. It was getting late and they still had a long ways to go. Finally they were getting close. Something startled Bill's horse. It bucked. Bill flew off and hit his head. He was dazed a minute then got up. One of his friends hopped down. "You all right?" he asked "Yeah sure." Bill put a foot in the stirrup, grabbed the saddle horn, swung his leg over, then rode and thought; who are these people. He figured they had to be his friends; but who am I? There wasn't anything else to do but ride along. Pretty soon one of the boys turned off the trail. The other guys said, "See you tomorrow
6 Al." as he rode off. Well at least he'd learned one of his friend's names. One after the other the boys broke off and rode home. Pretty soon it was just himself and one other guy. He kept following. The other guy pulled back his reins and stopped. The trail "Y" d off and they'd just entered the left fork. "Aren't you going home? I mean I'd like to have you over for supper but I don't think my folks would since we didn't tell them ahead of time." "No, no that's okay." He looked back at the other fork, knew now that was his way home, turned his horse the right direction, and walked it over. "See you tomorrow Bill." "All right, see you." Now he knew his name, Bill. And he knew the way home. Things were getting better, much better. He played it smooth at dinner. Helped with the dishes, and in the morning it had all come back. As long as Bill did well in school and finished his chores he was free. He loved to hold his breath and swim underwater in the canals. Few could go as far. He and his friends also liked to explore in the desert. One day they decided to look around in the Chandler area where there was a good chance they'd find some arrowheads. One of Bill's friends brought a new guy along. They all left early and arrived before it got too hot. Soon they were spread out digging. Here and there guys started finding things. One guy found a stone maize grinder, another, an arrowhead. Bill was digging in a mound area then found something. He pulled it out, brushed and blew off the dirt, then looked at it. The stone was rounded and smooth and fit in the palm of his hand. At the top it looked like some kind of birds head with its beak turned and smoothed to its left side. A perfectly round eye sat in the middle of its round head. Its body expanded out into concentric circles like a puffed downy chest framed by tucked in wings. The tail billowed out in another smooth elliptical shape that ended with a nipple or water droplet shape. Bill looked again and it was a crouching frog; then a thunder cloud. Bill yelled out, "I found something!"
7 The new kid stepped up; "Can I see it?" reached out and opened his hand. Bill set the stone in the boy's palm. The boy looked at it then his fingers clenched tightly shut and he ran. Bill ran after him. When the boy realized he was going to be caught he threw it. Bill's eyes followed the stone's flight as well as possible. Later he found it. The back layer had split away from the front. He took the pieces home and glued them back together smoothly. By the time Bill went to the seventh grade his brothers had moved out and started their own lives. They often worked for their father building roads and culverts in asphalt or concrete. When school ended Bill worked too. He hadn't filled out yet, wasn't near as big as the other men, and the rubber boots he was given were way too large, but he could shovel concrete. Often the mud chute couldn't boom out far enough from the back of the concrete truck to reach all areas that needed filling. Most of the men could sling a slug or shovelful of concrete mud with pin point accuracy twenty or thirty feet away. One of the bigger stronger men started heckling Bill. "Hey snowbird! Get to work snowbird! What are you doing out yer nest snowbird?" A snowbird was someone who left the hot desert in summer for somewhere cooler then left the cold country to avoid snow in the winter. Bill stayed all year. "I'm not a snowbird!" "What ever you say snowbird." Bill kept shoveling the mud. His rubber boots were so big he tucked his pant legs inside and his boot tops had a three or four inch opening around the top of his calves. It was hot and he was sweating. Suddenly something hit his thigh then slid down his leg. His boot was half full of mud. Bill looked around. Everyone was working. The guy that called him snowbird was over thirty feet away. Bill went back to work. He'd have to clean his boot out when there was a break. A few minutes later another slug of mud hit his thigh and dropped into his boot. Bill looked and again saw nothing. The big guy had just laughed about something with his friend and was back shoveling mud. Further back concrete finishers were smoothing the surface. Bill went back to what he was doing. Later Bill turned and saw the big guy fling a shovelful of wet concrete at him. Bill moved his leg and it missed. His boots were full. He needed to wash them out before the lime that was mixed in started to burn or the concrete began to set. "Don't throw your concrete at me!" Art was nearby checking the forms and overheard. The big guy answered. "What's wrong snowbird, yer boots full of mud?" Art stepped in; "What's the problem?" "Is there a problem? Hey snowbird is there a problem?" "He's been slinging mud in my boots all morning." "Mud gets in everyone's boots. He's gotta get broke in sometime." "Let's go to the office. I'll let Jim know what's happening. You can work it out with him." "Everything's been going fine. I think you and I are the ones that need to work this out." "All right we can do that in the low section by the newly graded area, at lunch." Bill felt a little responsible for putting his brother in that kind of position. At lunch he tried to see how things would work out. The crowd of workers circled in so tight Bill couldn't even see them. It was loud. A lot of them cheered for Art. Some cheered for the other guy. Five minutes later it was over. Art stepped out. "Go over to the office. Have Jim give you the man's paycheck and bring it down." "All right." He looked back at the low section. Seven or eight people were still standing there looking down. Between their legs he could see someone half lying half sitting on the dirt then Bill hurried to the office. When the roadwork was fairly close Billâ€™s dad or one of his brothers would take him to the job. That way he could earn a little money. When work was further off his mom had chores for him on the farm. Of course he still wanted to swim and explore with his friends. One night he went out with a black kid and two white kids. They decided to take a watermelon from someone's farm patch. Apparently the farmer wasn't sleeping. They ducked when the spotlight first came on then ran when the shotgun went off. Thank goodness it was
8 loaded with salt and the boys were far enough away not to be seriously injured. The stinging made it a little difficult to get to sleep that night though. Bill was glad his dad was out of town working and never found out so he just kept things going on the ranch/farm. If a pump broke he fixed it. If it needed parts or Bill had a question he took it to Jimâ€™s. Eventually his dad started to work more out of town while he tried to line up bigger jobs. Jim usually had something for Bill until another big job broke. In the meantime one of Bill's friends asked him if he'd like to go to the Grand Canyon with him and a couple buddies in his model "T". His mom said it was all right since they didn't have many animals anymore and he was caught up with his chores at home.
Model "T" The model "T" was missing a headlight and was a little rough around the edges, but it ran good. They slept overnight in the desert on the way over. The stars in the Milky Way looked like a luminous cloud in the otherwise inky black desert sky. The next day a police car pulled them over. "You boys are driving way too fast." "We didn't see anybody else on the road and my speedometer is broken. That must be why I didn't realizeâ€Ś" "One of your headlights is out too. You should take better care of your automobile. But I stopped you because it's dangerous to drive that fast. Other folks use this road you know. Now open your hood." The driver obliged. The patrolman removed the distributor cap then pulled a wrench out of his pocket. With the wrench he unbolted the retainer holding the distributor rotor in place then removed the rotor. He held it in his hand. "I'm taking your rotor. Next time maybe you'll slow down. I hope you learn from this. There's a store about ten miles down the road where you can buy another one."
9 "We're sorry officer. It won't happen again." The policeman drove off. Bill asked his friend. "What are we going to do? That's a long walk. We might not get a ride." "Don't worry Bill. Last year my brother drove us and the patrolman did the same thing. I have a spare rotor in back." They installed the part, continued their drive and made camp at the rim of the canyon that evening. Early the next morning Bill awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs. His friends were still sleeping. He saw a small campfire about a hundred fifty feet away. Thinking to be neighborly he walked over. A white haired mountain man with three mules was cooking breakfast. "Good morning. How are you?" "Fine lad. Would you like to join me for breakfast?" "I'm sure you need to ration your stock of food." "I've got plenty." He said "In that case, thank you." Bill enjoyed the breakfast the man offered then asked him if it was a very long trip to the bottom. "That all depends lad, on how much food and gear you want to bring down. See that cabin and corral down yonder?" He said pointing. "The outfitter there can set you up with supplies and a mule if you have the time and money for it." "Actually I think we don't have a whole lot of either. I need to get back to Phoenix in three or four days anyway." "I see. Ya know a person could make it down and back in one day if he wanted to." "How's that?" "He'd have to jog down with a canteen of water. At the bottom there's a pool of water to go swimming in to cool off and a small waterfall to fill up the canteen. If he drank enough water before filling his canteen and didn't stay too long at the pool he could jog and hike up to the top before sunset. As long as he didn't go past the pool he ought be able to make it back in time." "That sounds interesting. Thanks for the breakfast. So long" Bill asked his friends if they wanted to jog to the bottom with him; but they didn't. They said they'd meet him back on top at sunset. So Bill left. He did what the man told him and just before sunset was back. They visited a couple more spots and arrived back in Phoenix four or five days later. Bill's friend pulled in front of his house and stopped. It was quiet. Bill hopped out. His friend looked on. "Need a hand?" "No; hold on." Bill went to the door. It was locked. He looked through the window. The furniture was gone! "They've left! Can you take me to my brother's place?" "Sure, hop in." They stopped at Jim's. Jim told him their dad got a job in the Los Angeles, San Pedro area and that he could stay and work for him here in Phoenix. So Bill worked awhile. Then Jim got a call from the owner of a road paving company in Utah who was losing seven thousand dollars a day. The owner let his new son in law take over the job but the son in law didn't know what he was doing. Jim said he'd take a look and left that day. He found equipment experiencing down time or running with galled out bearings. Dump truck loads of asphalt were hardening before getting to their dump locations. Employees were bickering. Jim fixed the equipment. He had tarps set over the loads of asphalt to hold in the heat and keep them from hardening prior to being dumped. He spoke with the employees and let them know the importance of what they were doing. At first the newlywed didn't care for Jim taking over but when the losses turned to profit he kept quiet. Then Jim was gone. He'd done his job. Bill wasn't that interested and excited about heavy equipment or road construction. One day he told Jim that he was going to their folks place in California. "I can't take you. I'm in the middle of a job right now; maybe in a few weeks."
"That's not a problem. My friend with the model "T" is going out that way." "All right, I'll tell the folks you're coming." Bill's friend wasn't going anywhere. The car was broken. But Bill wasnâ€™t going to stay either. He took his horse out and slapped him on the rump. "Shoo! Go! You're free now!" At first it didn't want to leave. Then finally it understood and trotted off. Bill told his brother he was taking only one small suitcase and would leave early before they got up. The next morning well before sunup Bill departed. It was still before daybreak when he reached the train yard. An arm reached out and pulled him behind one of the freight cars. "What the! Who?" "Shhh, quiet. You want the train Bull to get you?" "No." "Where are you going?" "Los Angeles." "Come with me. There's a bunch of us headed that a way. See that man up there?" "I don't see anybody." "Up there. He's climbing into the engine." Bill saw a big powerful looking man in the distance step up into the engine. "That's the Bull. He'll shove you off the train going full speed or even shoot you if he has a mind to. Stay away from him. He's already checked the train. There's an empty cattle car a ways back. Come on." The pair headed back. The train started moving. It was also starting to get light outside. Day would break any minute. They reached the car. The door was slid open about five feet. An arm reached out. Bill grabbed it. "Keep your feet clear of the wheels!" said the hobo as he helped Bill climb up along with his suitcase. Then he hopped up himself. It was dark but soon Bill's eyes adjusted. Then he realized there were about ten others in the car. One was younger, about his own age. Bill sat down and soon made friends with him. Hours passed by. The train moved on at a fast clip. Later another hobo climbed into their car from around the outside by sliding his hands and feet on the side boards. "The Bull's comin. I've seen'm before. He's a mean one. Thought I'd let you know." "How long before he gits here?" asked the rider that helped Bill up earlier. "Five maybe ten minutes." Then the hobo went back out. Bill asked what they should do. "He's working back to the caboose. Most time he'll be on the roof. If you can hold onto the back side until he passes by you should be all right." Riders headed toward the door and started climbing out. Some were ahead and some behind Bill and his friend. The train reached a steep grade and started to slow as Bill and his friend came out. They worked their way to the back side of the railcar then looked through the spaces between the sideboards to the front. Moments later the Bull climbed down the ladder off the roof of the car in front. The last rider out of the rail car was still working his way back sliding his hands and feet along the side boards. The other Hobo's seemed to have disappeared into thin air. The Bull yelled out over the sounds of the train rolling over the track. "Hey rider! Get off my train!" The hobo looked forward but couldn't see the Bull so he continued working his way back. "Jump off my train rider!" The Bull swung the upper half of his body out into view from behind the front of the rail car while holding on with one hand and anchoring his feet on both sides of the corner. "Craack!" A whip unrolled and bit the hobo's arm. The Bull yanked back and cracked it again. The hobo jumped and rolled away from the train and the Bull stepped to the small landing at the base of the freight car ahead of the cattle car. The boy's watched through the spaces between the wooden slats as the Bull coiled his whip. The train continued to slow as it climbed and the Bull looked at them through the slats. Then he climbed up on the roof. The
11 boys continued around on the opposite side of the cattle car theyâ€™d exited but couldn't see the Bull. They waited. "It doesn't get much slower! We're almost to the top!" yelled the Bull The boys turned their heads. The Bull was behind them. A whip was coiled up in his free hand. "If you don't want a taste of this whip you better jump." They looked at each other a moment and decided. Bill threw his suitcase. They jumped out and rolled then watched the train depart and walked to the top of the hill. Below was a grove of trees and in the distance a house. They were hungry and walked down. Everywhere trees were loaded with green apples. The boys ate until they were full then settled in for the night. Unfortunately the green apples didn't settle well with them. They were up half the night, having to go to the bathroom. Early the next morning they woke up thirsty then walked in the general direction toward the house they'd seen the day before. A hundred feet or so from the house they found a hand pump and got a drink. "What are you boys doing on my property?" A man with a rifle pointed toward the ground in one hand started walking toward them. Bill's friend ran off. "We were thirsty." "It looks to me like you're by yourself." "You scared my friend off." "Oh Howard please! He's just a boy!" A woman stepped out onto the porch. "He's no boy dear. He's a young man Where are you from son?" "Phoenix sir; I'm on my way to Los Angeles." "Can't you see he's dirty? Have him shower off while I cook up some breakfast." "If you can work I've got a broken fence. The handles on some tools need repairing and one of my irrigation ditches needs to be cleaned out." "I worked on my parent's farm in Phoenix before they moved. I'd be happy to do anything I can." Bill showered then changed into his last pair of clean clothes. He ate a country breakfast then followed Howard out to start work. Before long Howard left him to finish some of the work they started. He got three square meals. They suggested he might want to stay awhile since their son was no longer with them. They seemed like some of the nicest folks he'd ever met. They even gave him a change of clothes that fit and his own room to sleep in. Bill wondered if they had lost their son in the war but didn't ask. He also wondered what he should do as he lay there trying to sleep. The hours passed but Bill couldn't sleep. He heard the faint sound of a train whistle in the distance then the even fainter sound of the locomotive as it began to labor up the base of the hill. His eyes widened. If he hurried he could meet the train at the top where it would be slow enough for him to climb on. He jumped in his clothes, threw on his shoes, grabbed his suitcase, went out the window then raced up the hill. He caught the train and then made his way to his folks place. His father got him work in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area. A stadium was being built and they needed people to tie wire the reinforcing bar into place. Bill started work right away. It wasn't that much fun bending over all day tie wiring re-bar together. One day after work he saw a poster that said, see the world in the U.S. Navy. He went to the recruiter's office then decided to join. Soon after telling his folks of his decision he took a bus to the Naval training Center at Point Loma, San Diego. He went through boot camp and helped plant trees around the new barracks.
In the Navy
13 He decided he wanted to be a Radioman. Some of the guys who finished high school would be selected to go to Radio School right out of Boot Camp. Others would get a taste of sea life first. Bill had gone to work after seventh grade, so had a lot of his friends. Perhaps he should have stayed in school longer but getting a taste of sea life first wouldn't be a problem. Bill was assigned to the deck division of the USS. Seattle. It was one the last coal burners and kept as a flag ship because her gold door knobs and officers state rooms. His job was to do whatever the Chief Boatswain Mate wanted. "Let's go swabbies. Take down these hammocks and paint the bulkheads. When you get done chip the rust off these cleats and primer the bad spots. Take the wet mooring lines out of these lockers here." He stood pointing. "Fake them out on the deck. (run them back and forth in 15 or so foot intervals) Wash them off with fresh water and leave them to dry. When you're done wash out the lockers."
U.S.S. Seattle They hadn't even left port yet. Underway it was even worse. It wasn't long before Bill's hands were full of blisters. "Get this wire rope stowed Swabbie." The rope was rusty, greasy, and dirty. In some places wire strands stuck out that scratched and punctured the skin. "I'm not doing it with out gloves." "What did you do with your gloves?" "You didn't have any, remember?" "Wait here. I'll see what I can do." A few minutes later the Bos'n came back with a grimy pair that had holes in them. "I'll get you a new pair as soon as I get them in." As Bill stowed the wire rope he decided that would be his last job for the Bos'n. As soon as he finished he walked into Officer Country. Entering the passageway he noticed three raised chairs set against the bulkhead. Shoe polish, brushes and polishing cloths were set or draped neatly in place at the base of each. A Filipino attendant walked up. "Why you here?" "It's important that I see Commander Ruble." "Come here." The attendant knocked on Ruble's door. "Gentleman here to see you Commander." "Send him in."
14 The attendant opened the door. Bill stepped in. The door closed behind. A man sitting behind a large desk looked Bill up and down. He had a red beard and looked very serious. "Yes?" "Sir I came into the fleet to be a radioman. For a long time I've worked hard for the Bos'n in the deck division. He didn't even have gloves for me when I came aboard. My hands are full of weeping blisters and the dirt is making them red. Today he gave me these." Bill held up a pair of grimy, worn out gloves. "Strikers (deck division personnel striking for a trade or technical rating) are supposed to put requests through the Chain of Command." Ruble paused. Bill stood tall, chest out, shoulders back looking almost straight at Ruble. "You feel you would be a good radioman I take it?" "Yes sir." "Can you type?" "No sir." "In a week there will be a test. If you can type thirty words a minute you can get into the radio division otherwise you'll stay in deck division. Now go see the cook." "Yes sir." Bill headed to the galley. A couple guys were cleaning. "Is the cook here?" One of them stopped then yelled out. "Hey Amos. Somebody's here to see you." A big black guy stepped out. "What do you want?" "Commander Ruble sent me." "Oh? What's the problem?" "I need to get into Radio Division but I'm stuck in Deck Division. My hands are getting infected." "Let me see. Come on and we'll get them cleaned up." Amos washed them out, rinsed them with hydrogen peroxide, put on iodine or mercurochrome and then bandaged them. "I'm taking some water and snacks down to the Black Gang. Would you like to come?" "Sure but the Bos'n will be looking for me pretty soon." "Don't worry about the Bos'n you're with me." Bill followed Amos through the engineering spaces into the bowels of the ship. They were aboard the last coal burner in the navy, a remnant of the Great White Fleet kept as a flag ship for high ranking officers because of her opulent staterooms. It became hotter as they descended below the boilers. Here sat the large fireboxes where the Black Gang worked. In front of each fire box a pile of coal waited. When the sight glass went from white or yellow to red one of the men opened the gate with a long iron hook. Another shoveled coal in until the box flared back white. Although half of the Black Gang was white they were all covered in coal dust and looked about the same in the burning glow of an open fire box gate; working sweaty men with suspenders holding their trousers up. As soon as a pair stoked their fire Amos brought them water and a snack. It seemed strange and foreign like a little slice of Hell. Bill noticed the Black Gang usually slipped their shovels into the base of the pile while pressing their thigh against the handle between widely spaced hands by bending the forward knee. This way the shovel went in deep then their thigh could assist by being used as a fulcrum while heaving the coal all in one motion. Bill remembered the road crews often shoveled that way. When they returned Amos had Bill sit at a table in back of the galley. He pulled a typewriter out of a locker and set it down. "You're going to learn how to type." He slipped in a sheet of white paper. "Keep your hands positioned over the keys like this. That's your home position. This button is for capitols and this one for spaces. When you hear the bell, finish your word then push this handle to move the carriage to the beginning of the next line." "What should I type?" "Start with the alphabet. Remember to use the finger closest to the letter you want and keep your left hand on the left side and your right on the right side. I have to start dinner. I'll check back with you later. Use both sides of the paper before grabbing another sheet." "All right thanks."
15 A few hours later Amos came back. "Aren't you going to eat? We've already cleaned up." "Oh yeah sure. I lost track of time." Bill ate then Amos asked him to type whatever words he said. "Cat, bat, mat, sat, talk, walk, back, sack. You're taking too long on a lot of these words. You're looking at the keyboard too much. All right that's enough we'll start back up tomorrow." The next day Bill continued and improved. All he did was type, eat, and sleep. He looked at the keys less and less, started copying the words in a book and typing out the sentences Amos dictated to him. Soon it became a matter of speed. "Come on, you need to get a little faster. Let's do it again." The week ended quickly. It was time for the test. He'd made the thirty words a minute cut off the day before. He needed to do it again and with only one or two mistakes. He felt nervous. He took the test then waited for the results. One of the Yeoman called out. "Seaman apprentice Moxley, passed. Report to Radio Division." Bill thanked Amos and was glad to leave deck division behind. He quickly learned Continental code. It was basically like Morse code but designed to go over air waves rather than telegraph lines (Dashes had replaced double clicks). He was soon sending and receiving or typing messages that had gone through the air or ether. The ship he was on had a carbon arc transmitter. The arc length had to be adjusted prior to sending code by entering a small room through a metal door with a dark glass window. Once inside the radioman poured some alcohol onto one of the carbon posts then lit it. After this he'd leave the room, shut the door then press down on his code transmitting key while looking through the darkened glass. With his other hand he turned a handle that reduced the distance between the two carbon posts. Once an arc traveled between the posts he stopped turning the handle and pressing down the key then gave the key a couple taps to ensure the arc jumped across in time with the key.
Pollywogs become Shellbacks after crossing the equator during the "Shellback Ceremony".
Bill and friends One time while out underway a problem arose with the steering or propulsion. Divers went over to make repairs. While the ship was adrift some of the crew went topside to look out on the ocean. A couple sailors noticed a big sea turtle and called for Amos. Amos looked then was determined to catch the creature and make turtle soup out of him. Two other sailors tired of pumping air to the divers also wanted to see the turtle. They decided it would be all right to leave their station a minute or two and went to the side of the ship. They forgot their duty while watching the turtle being netted. When the two sailors saw the diverâ€™s stage set on deck they turned back toward the pump station. The Chief Boatswain Mate grabbed them by their collars and took them over where the divers were getting undressed. After their helmets were removed, from what could be seen it appeared the two sailors were very apologetic. At that point extra duty may have been the least of their worries. At any rate the turtle soup was good. One day when they moored the ship in Tahiti Bill saw a crowd of sailors on the side of the ship. They were throwing coins over the side. The water was very clear. Below an old native man and a boy were in a rowboat. The sailors watched as the boy dove down, retrieved the coins, and climbed back into the boat. A large shark expecting discarded scraps from the ship's galley swam into view. One of the sailors threw a silver dollar in the water. Then another dollar went in. One of the sailors yelled, "Hey stop! There's a shark out there!" Some of the sailors started to grab and press others back. It became quiet when the old man tried to get the boy to dive for the money. The boy didn't want to go in. The old man pulled out a knife, put it in the boy's mouth then pushed him in the water. The boy swam down, retrieved a couple silver dollars, continued on the bottom, grabbed another then swam up toward the rowboat. He reached the surface about four or five feet from the boat. With one hand he pulled the knife out of his mouth and took a breath. With his other hand he tossed the coins in the boat. The sailors cheered. The old man started to reach out for the boy but the boy had turned to see where the shark was. The shark came and bumped his nose into the boy's side. It looked like the boy was rolled over onto its back when they disappeared under the row boat. Everyone watched as the shark and the boy streaked across under the surface followed by a red trail. Suddenly the shark leapt into the air. The boy was riding on the shark's back holding on to his knife handle which was driven to its hilt in the soft spot just behind its head. The shark dove back down to try and shake off
18 his rider but the boy hung on for dear life. The ships photographer ran for his camera. The sailors watched in awe as the shark and boy broached the surface and dove back under over and over. Finally the shark died and the boy swam back to the boat. The old man helped him in. The sailors motioned them to come closer then started tossing silver dollars in. Some twenty dollar gold pieces also made their way into their boat. It was unfortunate for the ship's photographer though. In his hurry to get his camera he jumped over a chain crossing the entrance to the ladder well. The ladder had been removed. He dropped three decks and broke both his legs and an arm. On shore Bill took a look around and found a marina. As he walked by looking at the sailboats one of the boat captains asked him if he'd like to come in for a drink. Bill thanked him and stepped in. Bill asked him about his boat while the captain asked him what the fleet was doing. During their small talk a pair of feet swung into the cabin then landed at the front of the table. As Bill stood the boat captain introduced them. "Bill this is Douglas Fairbanks. He's taking some time off to sail and fish a little between films." "It's a pleasure to meet you sir." After some more small talk and Fairbanks doing some gymnastic maneuvers it was time for Bill to leave. Bill thanked them for the drink, shook hands and departed. Before leaving Tahiti the photographer loaned Bill his camera and asked him to get a picture of the ship in the harbor. On shore Bill noticed that some of the locals were racing barefoot straight up a cliff. The native's hands and feet were tough and adept at gripping roots and vines. Their calves were as thick as most men's thighs. In minutes they were five hundred feet up the steep mountain. Bill looked for a trail to climb then headed up with the camera. After twenty or thirty minutes he'd gotten high enough and got a good picture of their ship in the harbor. It took even longer to get back do
U.S.S Seattle in Tahiti
While the USS Seattle voyaged from Hawaii to Tahiti and Australia to New Zealand Bill learned about transmitters and receivers. He also found out civilian Amateur Radio operators could transmit messages around the world using narrow band width short wave radios that required very little power. He bought up to date books and learned the basics of electrical, vacuum tube, and wave propagation theory along with associated formulas and trigonometry. The transmitter on his ship was old. It blurted across multiple band widths, required excessive power to operate, and had minimal range compared to short wave. When they pulled back into port to install a new transmitter he was assigned to radio school. His experience on the USS Seattle and additional study on his own time proved to be an asset. Bill was at the head of the class when they started learning about short wave radio. Carbon arc was obsolete. Transmitters and receivers were getting smaller and more efficient. Besides, radio had other uses than just sending code. A modulated signal of varying amplitude containing music and people's voices could ride on a transmitted carrier wave then be de-modulated for listening pleasure or important news at the receiving end. They called it A.M. (amplitude modulation) Radio. He believed there would be a good future in radio, especially voice communication. About that time Bill took a day off and went to the San Diego zoo. He was watching a big gorilla in a cage. Another sailor standing in front had just lit a cigarette. The gorilla was making signs that he wanted some puffs off the cigarette. The sailor acted like he was going to him the smoke. When the gorilla reached out for it the sailor burned him. The gorilla pulled back his hand, put it to his mouth, made a whimpering sound and swung back to his water basin. The sailor thought it was funny. Then the gorilla started to drink the water from the basin. It was unbelievable how much water he was drinking. It looked like he would suck the basin dry. After that he climbed up on his swing and started swinging back and forth. As he swung, it looked like he sucked a bunch of air into his stomach. As the gorilla got closer to the front of the cage everyone moved away except the sailor with the cigarette who was curious as to what this big creature was trying do. As the gorilla swung facing toward the sailor that had burned him he forced out a powerful hydrating belch. Everything in his stomach, water, food, you name it, came out in a forced wash. The sailor was drenched. Bill, a few sailors, and the rest of the people nearby clapped. It was a good show. Later Bill went back out to sea and was told to throw the old type transmitter keys over board, which he did after saving all the dime size platinum points. They pulled back in and Bill was transferred to the Battle ship USS West Virginia. The West Virginia carried Amphibious Aircraft or Flying Boats. He went to North Island Naval Air Station and took a class about aircraft radio. Just then some of the students pointed out the classroom window. The US Navy Rigid Airship Shenandoah was attempting to dock at North Island. At 680 feet long, 93 feet high and weighing in at 36 tons it was huge. (Compare to the Goodyear blimp at 193 feet long and 50 feet in diameter.) Her frame was built of a lightweight alloy of aluminum and copper called Duralumin. She was filled with 2.1 million cubic feet of helium which was rare and expensive but much safer than hydrogen. With a range of five thousand miles and being able to reach speeds of seventy miles per hour she was fast too. Apparently at this particular time North Island didnâ€™t have the mooring mast ready for the airship to tether to. A group of sailors grabbed a hold of her bow line to tie her off. A gust of wind elevated the airship. Suddenly sailors holding onto the bow line found themselves fifty feet in the air.
U.S.S. Shenandoah (Public Domain Photo) Various propellers arranged on the rigid airship, each powered by 300 horsepower V-8 Packard engines were rev'ed up to maintain their position. But it was too late she'd already gone up too much. They tried to come down softly in the same spot but were fighting too much wind. It was getting dangerous. Sailors started to fall. Some knocked others off hanging on below as they went. Soon only one was left. The airship increased its clearance from the ground, tipped up at an angle and pulled the last man into the gondola safely. Like the Seattle the West Virginia cruised from Hawaii and Tahiti to Australia and New Zealand, but also from Alaska to Panama and into the Caribbean. Although Mox now worked more with voice communication and aircraft radio he still often used Morse or Continental Code for long distance ship to ship communications. Even so weather conditions could turn code transmissions into white noise or constant static. Some operators could read breaks in the static that were a mirror image of the transmission. They called it reading the back wave. Once, during fleet maneuvers in the Bermuda Triangle radio communications were lost altogether even though the ships were in sight of each other. To maintain contact they sent code visually flashing beacon lights. As a flag ship there was usually a lot of high ranking officers aboard the West Virginia.
One time there was even more than usual. They’d come aboard for a demonstration. Bill carried the transceiver to the deck. It would be the first time aircraft from multiple ships using various caller ID’s and frequencies would be in voice communication with a central command center and be directed either individually or simultaneously. Bill held the radio set tightly in his arm and stepped on the ladder. His foot slipped off the rung. A few steps below the Admirals and high ranking officers were waiting. As he fell Bill knew the radio transceiver was more important than even his own well being. There was nothing he could do but grab the radio with both hands and try to hold it up when he went down. The Admirals looked over when he hit the deck. Bill’s legs were tangled in the bottom rungs. His hands still held the radio while his side was on the deck. But he’d come down too hard to save it; the chassis was broken.
Battleship U.S.S West Virginia
Cannons fire from West Virginia
The Admirals and officers demanded Bill be court marshaled. Lieutenant Rodd helped Bill up and noticed the wet paint. "Gentlemen, this isn't his fault. This ladder has wet paint on it and there's no sign posted to keep people off. The exercise will have to be postponed until tomorrow." That day and through the night the Lieutenant and Bill surveyed the damage, rounded up what ever parts would work and rebuilt the transceiver from the ground up. In the five or more years since Lt. Rodd had worked as an amphibious aircraft radioman during historic transatlantic flights, radio equipment had become smaller, more compact, and in this case significantly more complex. Together they completed the task. The next day it performed flawlessly. The admirals and officers said nothing.
(This experience may have been more beneficial to Bill. Soon after leaving the Navy he installed a similar system at a police station and its patrol cars. It was the second such system installed in the country with those capabilities. In short order it was put to use. Unfortunately at that time most police were accustomed to arriving at the scene after the crime had been committed, then they'd track down the criminals. Here they arrived at a bank robbery that was still in progress. One of their lead men was killed. A few of the officers were a little upset with Bill; but Mox wasn't too familiar with police procedures.) [Letter recommending Bill for police radio installation on next page]
Police radio system similar to aircraft radio system
When Billâ€™s ship pulled into Oahu they dropped anchor near Sand Island. Bill and some of the sailors decided to go swimming. Bill was already past Sand Island when he heard some of his friends yell. "There're sharks out here!" Some of the sailors were getting out of the water and onto Sand Island others were heading back to the ship. Bill saw fins between him and the small island. He decided to continue on over to the pier at the shorefront. Further along he noticed more and more sharks all around him. He wasn't sure what to do but decided to continue toward the pier. By the time he got to the ladder near the end of the pier sharks were jetting by all around him. He climbed to the top. Some people were standing with their backs to him looking over the other side of the pier. "What's going on?" "A rickshaw driver's horse died. He dumped it here." The man said pointing. Bill looked. Water splashed as sharks tore into the carcass. He'd wait until the water taxi came before going back to his ship. Oahu was a great place to stay between deployments. The only two story building in Honolulu was Robert Louis Stevenson's (author of Treasure Island) old place. Like the other buildings it had a thatched roof. Bill rented a room. There may have been an occasional party there in one room or another. But Bill was more into swimming and sailing or trying out surfing. Being comfortable in the water and making friends easily he hooked up with Louie Abrams. Abram's dad had a shipyard where they could build sailboats and yachts. Louie asked Bill if he would like to go bodysurfing with him and one of his friends by the cliffs the next day. "Sailors aren't allowed to swim near the cliffs." Said Bill "You'll be in good hands. My buddy the Duke's a Kanakee and the best swimmer in the islands. He can tread water across a pool in a tuxedo wearing a coat with tails and not get the tails wet." "All right, I'll look forward to seeing you in the morning." The next day they paddled an outrigger out past the break and over to the cliffs. They dropped a weight to anchor the boat then gave Bill some instructions. "Stick close to us. We'll be on either side of you. When we tell you to swim, swim as hard as you can toward the cliffs. We'll lock arms and catch the wave together. Before we hit the cliff we'll dive under and swim back out before coming up. Just keep holding your breath." Bill did what they told him. Before long they were riding a wave. Suddenly it looked like they were headed for the cliffs. Louie and the Duke yelled, "Now!" All three men took a breath and dove under. Their arms were still locked as they swam back maintaining their depth even while in an inverted position. Bill felt a wave pass by overhead and thought they might head back to the surface. It wasn't until the second wave had gone over that they went back up. He pulled in a lung full of air when they surfaced then looked at Abrams and the Duke. They were smiling and laughing about how they got a good ride. Bill was glad he was with confident guys that could handle that situation but had no plans to come back alone. Still he wanted to do as much in the water as he could before his ship departed so he got an eighteen foot wooden surf board. Even though hollow it was still heavy. Just paddling it out through the surf or from place to place and trying to catch some waves here and there was getting Bill into pretty good shape. One day Louie invited Bill sailing off Waikiki. The wind picked up soon after they left. Abram's identified another sailboat to Bill as the Duke's. As they got closer Bill noticed the Duke had an all female crew. Abrams wanted to entice his friend into a race. The Duke looked like he was out just having fun but Louie didn't notice. Louie wanted to compete. The Duke's boat was moving fast on a tight haul just outside the reef. Louie intercepted from a broader angle pressing the Duke closer to shore. Then he tightened up and ran parallel with the Duke on the Duke's windward side. Abram's had cut off his friend's wind and pushed him toward the reef. Within seconds you could hear the bottom of the Duke's boat getting ripped up. Abram's and Bill picked them up. The Duke was mad and Abram's very apologetic. "I'll have it off the reef and taken to my Dad's shipyard before sunset. If we can't fix it better than what you had we'll build you another one. Just let me know how you want it." At that moment it was hard to tell what the Duke was thinking
about Abrams. Prior to Bill's ship departing he was invited by Abrams to a party hosted by his family. It was an enjoyable evening. Bill was thinking of going a little early when he was introduced to Abram's grandfather. The man was quite old. He was sitting in a rocker telling stories. Bill listened. The old man was in the transport business in the days they sailed tall ships and schooners. An educated Kanakee (Hawaiian) who worked for him just returned from another island where missionaries had told everyone that God was going to come the following day on a schooner. Abrams grandfather, who at the time had his own schooner, thought that to be a little odd. "Why is God coming?" "He's coming to meet our people so we can praise him." "How will you recognize him?" "He'll be out on the bowsprit in flowing white robes." "How will you praise him?" "For months the people have been shredding and drying coconut to make copra for his arrival. The missionary's told them the Lord would bless the village once they deliver the copra." "How and when will it be delivered?" "It will be paddled out to the schooner in bales by outrigger at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning. It's all ready to go." "Do you think God is really going to be on the schooner?" "I have my doubts boss. That's why I came back to tell you." "You've done well my friend. Perhaps we can teach a few wayward missionaries the value of honesty and knock our competition down a little at the same time. We'll be there tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM and see if we can beat them at their own game. Grab some sheets. Let's go!" Through the rest of that day and night Abram's grandfather and his kanakee navigator piloted their schooner to the village with the little bay. At 7:00 AM they swept through the bay a few hundred yards off shore. One of the crewmen with a white beard stood at the fore of the ship on the bowsprit gripping a forestay for balance. The sheets he wore billowed in the breeze. It looked good. One of the villagers saw the schooner when it first approached the harbor and alerted the rest of the families. They watched. God, indeed was at the bow of the schooner in flowing white robes. Hurriedly they carried their outriggers to the water. Others manned the two rowing scows loaded and waiting at the end of their small pier. The missionaries were at breakfast with their capitalist friend discussing what they were going to do with their money. (Perhaps build a better church?)At any rate they stepped out to see what the activity was all about; then commented to the capitalist. "It looks like your ship is early." "I don't see why. That's odd. Something doesn't seem right. I don't recognize that ship. That's not one of ours. Stop them! Stop them now or you're not getting paid!" The missionaries ran about in a panic. "Stop! Stop! This is a false God. Don't go. This is a false God!" "No Father. This is God. We know this is God!" they replied as the last of the outriggers shoved off. The schooner set anchor then threw rigging lines out from their davits. God blessed and thanked the local natives as the crew hauled up bales of copra to fill the hold. Abram's grandfather told some of the crew to grab flour and supplies from below as a goodwill gesture. Those he could replace before they sailed the copra to California. As they pulled anchor and set sail another schooner entered the harbor. God and Abram's crew waved as they left but no one on the other schooner waved back. At that point the old man had told enough stories for one night. He smiled at Bill. Bill shook his hand, thanked him for the party then went to his ship.
(Bill noticed Honolulu had changed quite a bit when he returned twenty years later during WWII and met up with Abrams once again.)
Photo card from Louie Abrams to Bill when Bill returned to Hawaii twenty years later. Appears to read; To my friend Bill Moxley "Aloha Nui Loa" Louis Abrams 3-17-44 Hoatian's mid winter regatta crewed on S-5 Betty-Lou II
Bill often worked in the hold of one of the amphibious aircraft or flying boats attached to the U.S.S. West Virginia for fleet exercises during the 1920â€™s. As radioman it was his responsibility to maintain communications with the ship. In those days, that of type aircraft was catapulted from battleships and cruisers using black powder, compressed air, or other means. After landing on the water they were hoisted back on ship with a crane boom.
On Deck West Virginia
Amphibious Aircraft maneuvers
Amphibious Aircraft Attached to the West Virginia
1920's Amphibious Aircraft
During his spare time aboard ship, Bill trained in the boxing gym. When they reached Australia Bill saw a miniature kangaroo called a wallaby fight a rooster. Then he saw full size kangaroo wearing boxing gloves. His owner was challenging sailors to go three rounds with him. One of Bill's friends he'd been training with decided to have a go of it. Although he did better than the other sailors he ended up punch drunk before the close of the second round. Soon they departed. At their next stop Bill barely had time to pick up a pair of Japanese wood block sandals before going back out to sea. Upon seeing the sandals the boxing coach related a story about Commodore Perry opening trade with Japan seventy five years before. Japan didn't want to open trade with the United States
or the west. The Emperor would see no one but allowed Hayashi Fukusai to negotiate. It was determined if an American could beat one of their fighters in hand to hand combat negotiations could begin. Perry looked over his volunteers from aboard ship. Some had taken boxing and others wrestling at the academy. Only one had both and had in fact taught at the academy. Although he was already in his thirties the other midshipmen and officers agreed he would have the best chance. The next day he met his opponent. He had heard rumors that the man had trained since childhood to fight without weapons. His hands were his weapons. As a child the man jammed his fingers into sand. As he got older it became gravel then finally crushed rocks and cobble stones. They said Geisha girls had to feed him because his hands had become calloused calcified clubs. Their fighter waited near the arena. He was big for an Asian. His body looked as hard as his fists. Nearby a four inch thick timber set across two posts. To demonstrate his prowess his club like hand came down on the middle of it. The wood broke apart in a shattering crack. The American knew he would somehow have to keep from being hit. They met in the arena. The American dodged and parried without connecting. The Asian's club like fists came very close time after time. The Navy officer got a jab then another over his opponent's eyes barely pulling back in time to avoid being hit. A small cut started bleeding from the Asian's brow. The American jabbed again then went for a power shot to the body with his other hand that had no effect. Before he could recover his second shot the Asian came down on his arm. "Crack!" The boxer pulled back a broken arm. Now wrestling was out of the question. Also his power arm had become useless. His only chance was to open the cuts over his opponent's eyes. Fortunately with his training and background the pain somehow increased his focus and awareness. The boxer jabbed with his bare fist in a downward motion on the man's brow then quickly backed away. Blood started to flow in his opponents eyes. Again he jabbed and backed off. Suddenly the Asian's heel came across the boxer's thigh. "Crack!" The American stood on one leg. His other had been broken. He couldn't allow himself to fall. The stakes were too high. Fighting the pain he hopped away and saw the Asian trying to wipe blood out of his eyes. He hopped in, jabbed down on the cut then hopped away again. The Japanese man blindly whirled his fist club around and missed. Again the boxer came in, jabbed then backed out. The blood poured into the man's eyes and continued faster then he could wipe it off. The boxer jabbed again then came across his chin as hard as he could. The Asian fell. The boxer looked around. It was finished. The Japanese signed the treaty Kanagawa. Not much was said officially about the fight nor was the tactics used by our own ships as diplomatic as they could have been, but trade negotiations had begun. After hearing his trainer's story Bill went on deck for some fresh air and to try his new sandals. He strapped his feet onto the flat wooden soles. A vertical piece of wood by the ball of the foot and another near the heel of each sandal elevated the wooden soles. They didn't feel very practical but they did let one's feet air out. A big guy came over. Lately he'd been down watching the guys train. "You think you're a pretty good boxer don't you?" "I guess I do all right." "I don't think you could box your way out of a wet bag." "Don't let him talk to you like that."One of Bill's friends said before he could answer. "Come on let's what you got." The big guy said as he stepped in. Bill started to move to the side but his sandal got caught on a cleat. Suddenly he was bent over trying to regain his balance. "Wham! Wham!" Two or three times, the big man's fists slammed into Bill's eyes. Bill saw stars. He didn't know where his opponent was as he fell to a crouch and his knee hit the deck. He covered his face with his arms to block further punishment and tried to open his eyes. Where was that son of a gun? "Have you had enough there boxer?" He was right there above, in front. One thing Bill learned when opponents were this close was you could
feel where to land a good body shot. It came from the legs, swiveled into the hips, and ended in this case with a fist driving up into his opponent's diaphragm and under his sternum. Bill's opponent was too confident to cover his belly when he asked if he had had enough. Transferring power from legs to hips to fists, Bill continued and wouldn't let up. The big guy, incapacitated, had long since had his wind knocked out and was slouching on Bill's shoulder as Bill continued slamming shots into his gut. He stopped when everyone said it was over. The next day Bill's eyes were covered with swollen masses of black and blue. He had to be led by his friends to get around. "Boy that guy sure nailed me. It wouldn't have been so bad if that darn sandal I was wearing hadn't caught on the cleat." "Well I don't think that guy or anybody else will bother you now." "Why's that?" "I saw him in the shower. I've never saw a stomach that full of black and blue in my life." Bill still worked with aircraft communications when he transferred to the U.S.S Langley. The Langley was the first aircraft carrier. It had a wooden deck, elevator, catapult, and could handle over thirty bi-planes.
Bi-plane getting refueled
Bill in back seat of Bi-plane
Bill explaining something to friend at North Island Naval Air Station
North Island Naval Air Station Overall the Navy had been a good experience. One time in Panama Bill tried a different kind of tobacco. When he scooted off his chest high electrical work bench it took forever in slow motion to land on the deck. In our own south he took a girl to the movies and was surprised when the usher came over and asked them to sit in the back. She didn't look black to him. The world was an interesting place. He saw festivals in Seattle and Vancouver. They made a profit on a case of cigarettes bought in Panama and sold in Canada. Then back at North Island Naval Air Station he and a buddy took a plane to pick up parts. They actually stopped in Tecate Mexico and filled the parts crates with beer. But the best part was he had gained knowledge in a field that was in demand in the civilian world. After leaving the Navy Bill worked as an independent. He built radio station transmitters and set up sound rooms from Long Beach California to Prescott Arizona. It didnâ€™t matter if he combined De Forest or RCA parts as long as the equipment worked well. Sometimes at night he fell asleep with a soldering iron in his hand. Often he became the engineer/announcer on stations he built. Live entertainment was common in those days. He could fade out a band in one room, announce a local sponsor, and fade in a group that was ready to go in the next room. He could also set up important newscasts on "chain" mode with other stations in other states.
Various Radio Operator Licenses One station in Long Beach near the water decided to increase power and move up on the hill. Even though the old location could be heard in Australia the owner wanted better coverage. They knew the old location had an exceptionally good ground since the metal in the building's reinforced concrete columns went down to a salt water table. At the new location they installed oversized copper sheets under the building to provide a comparable ground. After shifting transmission to the new station, letters came from Australia asking why they no longer could hear them. Apparently the saltwater ground enhanced the radio transmission. (At that time lower frequencies were used that more easily followed the curvature of the earth or skipped back down off atmospheric layers.)Even though they went to great lengths to provide a good grounding system it wasnâ€™t as good as before. Oh well, that's life. Some of Bill's friends hired on with RCA. Bill worked a short time there on a special project for them but didn't want to invest one out of every four or five dollars of his pay to the company so he moved on. One station he'd worked at had a two mile long antenna strung across a few high towers. Bill also gave tours through a station. He had a light bulb sticking part way out of his pocket. (Most likely some kind of florescent type) When he stepped into high density radio waves the bulb lit up. The tourists would exclaim, "The bulb in your pocket is lit up!" Bill would step out of the field and pull the unlit bulb out. "I don't think so. I just brought this to replace one that burnt out." Then he'd put it back in his pocket and step into the field again." "It's back on!" they'd exclaim.
After that Bill would step out of the field, pull out the bulb, move it in and out of the field then explain what was happening. At another station after broadcasting late every evening you would think he would have had enough by the time he got to his apartment. But that wasn't the case. As soon as he got home he was tuning in his and all the other competing stations he could find. In those days the carrier waves made loud howling/squealing noises between stations when you tuned the knob and the station could be too loud or soft when you did arrive. After a week or so of complaints the landlord said she'd have to throw Bill out the next time he channel surfed late at night. Bill opened up the radio and mounted a neon bulb in the circuit on the back of the chassis. He plugged it in and turned the volume down to zero. He turned the tuning knob and watched the neon tube flicker. The neon tube went steady and Bill slowly turned up the volume. Clear music came in louder and louder. He turned the volume back down and rotated the tuning knob again. Again the neon tube flickered. When it got steady Bill turned the volume up to his desired volume. Now he was on another station without blasting and tuned perfectly. He drilled a small sight hole in the front of the radio case and put it back together. The neighbors wouldn't be upset anymore. A week later a few friends from RCA came over. Bill turned on the radio without any volume and asked what station they'd like. When the dial got close Bill looked through the peep hole drilled in the front of the radio and watched the neon tube. When it got steady he slowly turned up the volume. The station was tuned in perfectly. His friends were sitting behind him. One asked, "Hey how'd you do that?" One of the others responded. "It was already tuned. He just turned up the volume." The last friend said, "It looked to me like he tuned it in." "Would you like another station?" "Yes we would." They requested another and Bill tuned it in again without sound. Finally he showed them the peep hole and how to sight in on the neon tube. Bill was technically creative. Business was another matter. About that time RCA or one of the other big corporations decided to scrap one of their radios before it hit the retail shelves because it didn't accurately reproduce sound. It had too much base. They'd already made thousands of the table model radios sporting beautiful bent laminated wooden cases but the final word was pull it. Some smart Jews bought them a dime on the dollar and put on a new name, 'Majestic.' People loved the little radios with lots of base. They sold like hot cakes. If Bill had been more business minded he might have bought them himself, installed a neon light in the front and started a company to be reckoned with. A couple decades later he was surprised to see his name mentioned at a worlds fair on an early attempt at television. (the RCA special project) He and a few friends tried to transmit what they called moving facsimile. The transmitting and receiving station had to synchronize a light chopper source and they sent a man's silhouette. When the man moved the receiving end tried to keep up perhaps like animation frames. Too much movement caused blurring. The funny part was they had small screen oscilloscopes at that time and would have been able to send some type of true dynamic replication even if it wasn't someone's profile. Unfortunately moving facsimile appeared to be a dead end and they all went back about their business.
Bill's involvment in RCA's early T.V. experiments
Bill did notice however a couple years after his buddies visited his apartment some RCA radios had neon light indicators. But Bill had a full plate building and announcing. Announcing was fun. In the meantime he'd gotten married, had a son, got divorced, and for the time being stayed in the radio business. One day a female singer, nicknamed Kelly, came in that did some good Betty Boob style singing over the air. They met after work. She had a daughter a little older than his son. They all got along. Not long afterwards Bill and Kelly married. Bill wasn't doing bad building and announcing at radio stations considering it was the depression.
Kelly's 80th Birthday
Later Kelly had a costume shop during the 60's and 70's in Glendale, California
Another day Bill stopped by a pier at point Loma for lunch on his way to San Diego. An old man was sitting on the bench looking out at the ocean. He looked Spanish or southern Mediterranean. He was wearing a Greek seafarer's cap and work clothes. A large wicker lunch box sat, by his side. "Do you mind if I sit here?" "No, no sit down." Bill opened up his brown bag and pulled out a sandwich while the older man opened his lunch box and pulled out wine, cheese, olives and a pasta dish. He poured two glasses of wine. "Here, take this. It's Pago Pago, my very own wine. Put away your sandwich. Have some olives, cheese and try my Seafood Alfredo. I insist." "Why thank you very much." "I'm here every day watching." "It's a beautiful view." "I watch for my sons. I have a fleet of fishing boats. I like to watch and see when they come back in. I live here in a big house on the end of the point. What do you do?" "I'm a radio announcer. We do live entertainment from our station. I've also built some stations here in California and in Arizona." "Are you married?" "Yes." "Here is my address. I'd like to invite you and your wife to come at seven tomorrow evening for dinner at my home." Bill thanked him for the invitation. When he got home Kelly was skeptical and thought the man was perhaps delusional. The next evening they went for dinner and found a large estate at the address. A butler escorted them in and they enjoyed a wonderful meal. As they left the old man gave them a bottle of Pago Pago. Back at work some of the other guys weren't doing very well. One young guy said he was having a hard time feeding his family. They wanted more money and thought if Bill could start a union for the announcers they'd all be better off. Bill finally agreed. Unfortunately it was a bad time to start a union. Bill was blackballed coast to coast. From that point he couldn't even step into a radio station anywhere. Before Bill left he met the new engineer announcer. The man was confined to a wheel chair. Bill had installed looms of microphone, instrument and amplifier wiring all with white insulation. His replacement asked if he could label or at least indicate what was what. Bill felt bad as he picked up his tool bag. "I'm sorry. I don't work here anymore." He left for the secluded home he rented in Laguna Beach. There he could think of what to do next and relax a little while looking at the plant nursery next door. On the way he saw the strangest thing. An airplane pointed toward the ocean sat perfectly still just above and in front of the bluffs by Hwy (1). He wondered what was holding it up. The wind! Of course, it was the onshore wind rising over the bluff. The plane had throttled back to a point of equilibrium. The flow of air over the bluff was able to maintain sufficient wing lift for the plane to remain stationary. The pilot was just enjoying the view. Of course Bill wasn't going to enjoy telling his wife Dorothy he was out of the radio business. But they had spoken a little of the risks involved if he tried to start a union. Kelly's wasnâ€™t totally dependent on Bill. Together they decided to buy a turkey ranch business in Escondido California even though some of the other local ranchers weren't doing that well or said they wouldn't make it.
Family & Farm life
Darn! The stock market's still down, we'll have to stay on the farm awhile. The bulk of the business was selling fertile eggs or chicks wholesale to other farmers and ranchers. Bill was surprised considering the small size of their brains how well they worked together dealing with rattlesnakes. When one got the snake to strike two would dash in, peck it, and jump back. They'd keep this up until it was killed. Bill hired a guy for next to nothing and let him move into a one room shack on the property. He was a good hand and kept an eye around the place. Occasionally old Smith would shoot a rattlesnake with his long barreled pistol. But one thing he always did was go to the annual turkey shoot. The turkey had to walk across an area framed with heavy boards and railroad ties about forty feet distance. Only his head was visible. Shotguns weren't allowed. Smith always won with his hand gun. Bill wondered if Smith was lying low or hiding from something. But he was good to everyone. In the meantime Kelly and Bill's family continued to grow at the ranch. They bought a Saint Bernard that liked to pull the kids in a wagon and they all made ranch life work.
Rover pulling kids
Kids with goats and Rover One day Bill put the kids, the wagon and Rover in the truck and went into town. They stopped at the feed store. Bill pulled the wagon out and harnessed up rover. The merchant and Bill loaded it up. Outside Bill transferred the feed to the pick up. Next they went to the grocery store for supplies. The store owner had seen the kids being pulled in the wagon by the dog the month before at the local parade. It didn't cross his that mind Mrs. Olsen was in the store with her cat. "Hi Bill. Hi kids. It's a beautiful day out wouldn't you say?" "Hi Clay. You're right. It sure is." Mr. Jones kept a tidy store. Dry goods, canned goods and boxed goods were neatly stacked about five feet high around the ends of the rows for good visibility. By the time a few items were loaded in the wagon Mrs. Olsen walked around the corner with her cat. The cat saw Rover and Rover saw the cat. In an instant the cat had flown from Mrs. Olsen's arms and was running around the store. Rover took off after the cat. The wagon, still harnessed to Rover careened wildly behind. As Rover cut across the corners and down the aisles the wagon followed knocking down stacks of can goods, boxes, or whatever was in the way. Clay Jones ran after Rover. "Stop! Stop!" It was too late by the time Rover went out the front still chasing after the cat. Needless to say that was the last trip Rover made to the grocery store. Bill tied the dog off in the pick up then he and the kids tried to help Mr. Jones restack the cans. "No, no, it has to be done just right or it will fall down. Don't worry I'll finish up. Just never let me see that Saint Bernard back here again." At the coffee shop the next day Bill found out a famous German Sheppard was coming to visit the ranch next door. Whether this canine star of the silver screen was saving damsels in distress or thwarting bank robbers the one and only Rin Tin Tin would save the day. Actually the owners tried to keep at least two Rin Tin Tin's ready to go at all times. The look and intelligence was in the breeding. The problem was Rin Tin Tin was getting older. They needed back ups for future movie serials. After a sip of coffee Bill mentioned he had a Saint Bernard. "Well you better keep him chained up at night until the stud arrives. Rin Tin Tin's a pure bred Sheppard. I couldn't imagine the mess if your St. Bernard got to the bitch first." "I usually don't chain him up but under the circumstances I can it for the next few days. I've got a twenty foot chain I'll hook onto his pulling harness and lock it to a tree next to the doghouse." Late the next night something was in the air. Rover couldn't sleep. Whatever it was he wanted some. The only problem was he was chained up. He stepped out of the dog house and walked to the end. It jerked. He walked back the other way until he reached the end. It was either going to be him or the chain. He
took off full bore to the other end. Slam! The chain stopped him in his tracks. Again he ran full bore. Again the chain stopped him in mid flight. Again and again he continued longer than any sane animal would until finally the weakest link parted. Rover got what he wanted and high tailed it out of there about the time bitch's owner came out. Bill got a call before sunrise and answered. "I chained him up last night! He couldn't have gotten to your dog." Needless to say Rover once again made his mark. Later free German Sheppard Saint Bernard pups found homes pretty quickly.
Rover and mixed breed pups Life continued on at the ranch until one day Bill noticed the turkeys weren't doing well. An area below each eye behind their beaks was swollen and inflamed. Bill called the veterinarian. "I'm afraid it's terminal." he said. "I've seen some already. You'll have to quarantine your turkeys. We don't want this to spread." "A lot of the neighbor's turkeys already have it." "Quarantine them just the same." "I can't believe you can't do anything! You're the veterinarian!" Bill stormed out of his house, grabbed a sharp, clean razor knife and a bottle of iodine, then headed to old Smith's shack and knocked on the door. "Hi Bill. What can I do for you?" "Let's see how many turkeys we can save." Between old Smith, Kelly, and Bill they got a system of handling the turkeys going. Bill cut an X below each eye where the swollen spot was and scooped out what looked like a ball of cottage cheese. Next iodine was applied and the turkey released. Before the end of the week Bill and Kelly's turkeys were doing just fine other than a sunken in spot under each eye. Some of the neighbors didn't fare as well. Whether Bill told them too late, or they neglected his advice, I don't know. Earlier it had been touch and go for the ranch. Bill had bought feed on
credit. Now it started to ease up. One time when Bill was at the bank an older man in a trench coat was asking one of the associates to take him up to look at a piece of property they'd looked at earlier in the week. (The bank and the real estate company worked together.) Earlier that week the two had gotten stuck in the mud during a rain storm. The man refused to take him up a second time. A lower level female associate took him this time instead. Later that afternoon when Bill returned to finish his business he saw the man in the trench coat again. "Thank you my dear for taking the time to show me the property. I think my son and his wife will like it. It's time I retired. I've had enough rain and cold." "Oh, where were you from?" "The pacific north west." "I see, and what did you do?" "Lumber my dear. I was in the lumber business. Cut it. Mill it. Sell it. Now can you tell me what this bank is worth?" "Uh, yes, of course. Here you are." She handed him a piece of paper listing their overall assets. "Thank you. Could you hand me a pair of scissors and tell the man who refused to take me up the hill today that I wish to speak with him for just a moment." She returned with the scissors and the associate. "Now what do you want?" "Earlier this week you continually let me know how difficult it was showing me properties in the local area here. Where I come from we had to deal with rain like that on a regular basis. Any one that complained the way you did would have been fired." "Well we work a little differently here." "I see." The man laid down the trench coat, picked up the scissors and cut open the lining as the other associate walked back to his desk. He spoke with the woman again. "I'd like to open an account." Banded wads of hundred dollar bills rolled out of the lining as the old man cut open the seams. "Could you bring your president here?" "Yes what can I do" His eyes widened as he saw the money. "for you?" "I now have the controlling interest of this bank unless of course you would prefer competition across the street." "I don't think that will be necessary. I'm sure we'll be able to work something out." "I like this town and want to see it prosper. I'm not too interested in all of the day to day comings and goings but I can't tolerate complainers. If you would be so kind as to have the gentleman sitting over there clear his desk and not return I would appreciate it." "Yes sir." "Now that that's taken care of I'm looking forward to working with you folks." Bill had to smile a little as he saw the complainer who obviously thought the man in the trench coat was penniless, leave the premises. He was glad his own situation was looking a little better as he stepped up to pay off a loan. For a change he had money in his pocket. As soon as he came home his son Bill Jr. came up. "Hey dad there's a soap box derby race coming up. Father's and son's build their own race car then see who's can get to the bottom of the hill the fastest. What do you think? Can we do it?" Bill's mind raced. He needed a brake from turkeys and felt the challenge would be exciting. "Sure we can do it. And we're going to win too." Bill researched where he could obtain the best bearings for his wheels. What kind of steering he could build; whether to use spokes or solid rims, how he could build a frame, body and streamlined fairing just like the big race cars but scaled down. When it was finished it looked anything but like a soap box. The question was, was it faster? At least the car and his son with the flight goggles and helmet looked good.
Other Soapbox derby competitors & friends The big day had come. The judge inspected the cars and stopped at Bill and his son’s. “Didn’t you know everyone uses solid not pneumatic tires?” “I wasn’t aware of that. I hope it won’t be a problem.” “Well, you’ve got a nice looking car. Solid tires are actually faster. I’ll let you run but you can’t go to the finals in Los Angeles.”
One of Bill’s midget race cars in a parade sometime after his first soapbox derby car.
“All right, thank you.” They let the cars go down the hill. Bill Jr. and another car took the lead. As the road narrowed Bill cut in front of the other car. The hill steepened. Most of the kids applied some brake. Bill let it fly. For a few seconds one of the other kids tried to keep up without braking. His steering was too squirrely. He slowed. While the crowded pack tried to jockey for position Bill Jr. got far into the lead but something felt funny like his springs were too springy. The finish line would come before the bottom of the hill and would make a gentle turn to the left then go up another hill to help slow down the cars. On a practice run Senior told his son to start the turn from the out side, a ways up the hill then cut in all the way as he approached the turn. He told him if he hit loose sand and the back end started to come around to steer back that direction enough to straighten it out. Now it was the real thing. Bill flew across the finish line just before the turn. The only thing the spectators knew was that the lead car was going way too fast for the course. Bill cut across the turn. People moved back from the fence not sure whether the lad driving the little car was going to slide or roll it over. Just as he came to the inside he hit a patch of sand. Instantly the back slid right. Instantly Bill corrected to the right just enough to straighten her out. Now all four tires slid evenly toward the outside then caught right before hitting the fence. As soon as he had control he pushed the brake then hit the up hill section. He was still going too fast. The end was coming. He turned hard left, slid around then came to a stop at the end facing back to the crowd. Bill wanted to go to the finals, knew his car wasn’t qualified, didn’t like the skinny solid rubber tires and decided to run over to Los Angeles anyway. In Los Angeles they watched various cars get eliminated. Two kept winning. One was a child star. Both had wealthy parents. Bill Senior walked up during the break. “I can’t run because I have pneumatic tires. But I bet my son can beat both of your cars.” “Your car looks good,” said one of the wealthy parents, “but it takes more than looks to beat this baby. Why don’t we just get set for a little unofficial race between the three of us? I’m sure the judge will accommodate a special run. We’ve always supported the soap box derby competition.” “I’ll go with you.” The judge agreed. During the break he announced the unofficial race. Three derby cars sat at the top. T he hill was steep. The cars went down neck and neck. At the bottom a dip would slow the cars before the road leveled out. The child star’s car seemed to come out of the dip like a sling shot while Bill’s car rocked back and forth on its springs. Even the other car passed Bill as it gyrated on its springs. The road leveled and Bill’s car settled back to forward motion. It passed the wealthy child’s car and started closing in on the child star. The gap narrowed and the cars passed the finish line. Bill would have caught up had the line been a hundred feet further. Bill walked over to the parents standing by their son’s and their cars. He put out his hand. “I want to thank you for letting my son run against your cars.” “It was our pleasure. Perhaps we’ll see you next year.” Bill grinned from ear to ear. “I don’t think so but this has been a good learning experience and a lot of fun. Bye now.” “Dad we could have won if the finish line was a little further down. Why are you so happy?” “We’re ready to move on. I can tighten the springs and make the derby car operate better but I think that would be boring. Wouldn’t a little powered race care would be a lot more fun?” “Well sure.”
I'm not too young to race! Bill put a Briggs and Stratton engine in the little car. It did make it more fun. He put it in the parade. Kids from all around the area wanted to drive the little midget race car. He built more of them. He made the front axels from truck tie rods machined on the ends for wheels and bearings. They had simple chain driven locked rear ends. Bill would find a flat dirt lot and drag a leveling grid behind his truck in an oval track shape then trailer in the cars.
Ready, Set, Go! Jan
Kids just want to have fun and race Even in the depression people were willing to pay a little money for some fun. Kids always seemed to do better in the cars than adults. Pretty soon Bill bought a lighting plant to light the track at night and got a circuit going. He put a motorcycle engine in one of the cars and his son did demo runs to drum up business. With the locked rear ends and running on dirt tracks the drivers had to learn how to counter steer and power slide the cars around the turns. All in all it was exciting work. Some of the time was used to maintain the cars. All the while Bill spent less time maintaining the turkey ranch.
On the road pulling midget race cars A war broke out in Europe. Rumors were the United States might get involved. Before long Bill and Kelly sold the turkey ranch and the little race cars. Bill started working jobs supporting the war effort. At one company Bill shaped nose cones for propeller fairings. Spinning sheet metal was formed over a cone shape by pressing a wooden tool down the side. It was actually kind of dangerous and required a lot of strength and stamina. Bill looked for and found a better job at Consolidated Vultee in San Diego California. He started building B-24 Liberators.
Bill in company uniform with kids
Pamphlet showing various aircraft
Pamphlet sample pages
In the beginning the L.I.B.'s (Loan in Britain) were going overseas to our allies. Soon production ramped up and we used them ourselves. Bill's experience in the 1920's with amphibious aircraft, radio, and electrical power supplies helped him with electrical installations. Also most people who'd ever been on a farm were mechanically inclined having worked on pumps and tractors, or their cars. Building midget race cars from scratch was another mechanical asset. They moved Bill from one section of the plant to another. It was almost too much. Pretty soon he concentrated on electro-hydraulic surface control systems, indication, metering, and gyro control systems. Soon he was testing and troubleshooting as much as installing. One day a friend who'd been at the company longer asked him to lean over the rail so he could hand him an expensive gyro he just pulled out. They were over ten feet in the air. "Hey Bill can you take this gyro and put it down on the bench for me. Just be careful they're about fifteen thousand a pop." "All right." Bill reached over. Just before he got his hands on it the other man let it go. It dropped then hit the concrete floor below and broke. "My God Bill I can't believe you let it fall." "I, you." "I'll have to report you to the supervisor. You're gone man. I don't know how you're going to pay for it." "Hold on a minute. You let go of it before I got a hold of it." "Boys, you saw. Did I let go of it?" "No, no, you didn't let it go." "I'm sorry Bill." Bill looked at them. All of a sudden they couldn't hold back anymore and busted out laughing. "That gyro was beyond repair. It was junk. Hah! Hah! I got you Bill. I got you." Although Bill was glad he wasn't in any kind of trouble the trick had really worried him. He thought if he got the chance he'd pay him back. At morning break they all sat together. His friend always had a thermos and would pour himself two cups of coffee before going back to work. Bill happened upon a small mouse that had died some time before. An idea came upon him. He sat next to his friend at break. The man poured his first cup. The other guys started talking to draw his attention away from Bill. Bill slipped the mouse into the thermos. The man finished his first cup and reached for the thermos to pour the other. He tilted the thermos over the cup. Nothing came out. He shook it over the cup a couple times. It was heavy enough. What was going on? Suddenly a decomposed mouse plopped into the cup with some coffee. He looked in the cup, made some gagging sounds, and ran off. Bill assured him that he put the mouse in after he had his first cup. That was the last of the practical jokes for Bill. There were more serious problems that had arisen. B-24's were blowing up on take off and Bill was slowing down production. The supervisor spoke to Bill. "We're falling behind. We've got to get these planes out!" "Not when the wiring feeding the surface control shuttle solenoids is too small! It's either heating up or arcing. And somehow fumes or fuel is getting into that section and igniting!" "The planes we're sending out are functioning fine! If there's a problem in the field, Field and Service will handle it!" "I'm not going to install undersized wiring, or wiring of any kind, until the fuel or fumes are stopped from entering here." "In that case you can pack your tools and leave." "You can have them!" Bill threw the open tool box across the deck. Tools clanged down the hall. "It's not on my back. I contacted congress. An investigation is underway." Bill tossed the supervisor the confirmation letter and walked out. Two days later the company tracked Bill down."You need to get back to work right away. Come down to
the office." When Bill arrived they told him the investigation was over. One of the assembly line workers wasn't welding up a corner of the self sealing fuel cells. It was leaking into the electrical section. Also they increased the size of the wiring. They asked Bill if he would like to work in Field and Service at twice the salary. He accepted.
They wasted no time. He needed to be overseas ASAP. Although a civilian they made him uniforms to blend in with whatever branch of the service used B-24's. (Army Air Corp ect.) He said his goodbyes to his family and ate a big meal on the run. At the last minute they gave him a physical then he picked up his uniforms. A couple hours later he was on his way to North Africa. A half hour into the flight he was contacted by radio and told he should be dead. The doctor asked if he had eaten anything or exerted himself before his blood work was done. "Yes, I ate a big meal then had to run three blocks to get your office on time." "No wonder. Your blood work and everything else isn't valid. It has to be redone. The pilot will have to turn around." After that problem was solved the first real problem when he arrived one evening over seas was the landing gear folding up on landing. Somehow the factory had come up with a fancy indicator that simulated a picture of the landing gear going up to the bottom of the aircraft or out and extended to land. Apparently the simulator often showed a picture of the gear fully extended when in fact it wasn't. They directed Bill to one of the planes where the gear had folded up and the plane belly landed. After repairs it was ready for service but they didn't want it to happen again. The plane was on blocks. Bill operated the hydraulics and watched the indication. It seemed to work all right. After the second or third time he climbed out again to check the gear. It wasn't quite down all the way. The indication showed it was extended which was true but it wasn't down and locked. Bill ripped out the old wiring and installed a contact switch that was only operated when the landing gear was down and locked. Next he installed another contact switch that could only be operated when the landing gear was in the up and locked position. He set a box in the aircraft with two lights, one red and one green. If the landing gear were up and locked or down and locked the green light came on. If neither set of contacts were made, such as when the landing was somewhere between those two positions, a red light was on. The operator knew whether he was extending or retracting the gear so there was no need for a simulated picture. He just needed to know if it was all the way up or down. The simpler system performed where the fancier one allowed an unknown. The sun came up about the time he finished. At first Bill wondered where all the planes were. There was a runway, some tents and a Quonset hut. Then he looked again. The planes were behind berms of dirt called revetments. This protected the air craft from low level strafing and still allowed them to taxi to the runway. A C.B. (construction battalion) operator drove by with a load of dirt apparently building additional revetments. The command told Bill never to stray from the jeep trail or try to trade with any of the camel drivers that kept fifty yards away from the road. Sometimes dead GI's were found missing shoes. Bill was ready to go when they sent him to Italy.
Removing a piece of 88 mm flak from outer panel of "Ramp Rooster"
Internal Correspondence from Bill
In Palermo the Germans were holding up in a landmark old church. Allied casualties were getting higher. The bombers were waiting. Permission was finally given to bomb the church. Bill's job repairing damaged aircraft continued. He also met and socialized with some of the local people. One evening he was invited to a social gathering but all the jeeps were taken. He grabbed a four wheel drive four wheel steer amphibian. A local man flagged Bill down. It looked like he didn't want Bill to drive the muddy vehicle through town. Bill couldn't understand him and went forward. The man stepped forward and waved him to stop. Bill grabbed the wrong lever. Suddenly a powerful stream of water shot out the side and knocked the man down. Bill was going to stop and say he was sorry but decided to continue. It was an accident.
Bill and Local Italian Friends in Italy The next day Bill found out replacement carburetor floats needed to be installed on the B-24's. It was common practice over a long distance bombing run to maintain high altitude over enemy anti aircraft batteries. Once clear of enemy territory the pilot would drop to a low level often over water to take advantage of the "Surface Effect" to conserve fuel. What no one knew at the time was that the thin wall brass carburetor floats were porous like a sponge under a microscope. After flying hour upon hour at 28,000 feet the sea level pressure in the hollow float would squeeze out through the porous brass and equalize to the outside ambient pressure. When the plane dropped to low altitude outside pressure went back up. The air space in the float was now at a vacuum. It started sucking in surrounding fuel to equalize even though the solder joint holding the two halves of the float together was good.
Eventually the float would become heavy. The heavy float would sink toward the bottom of the carburetor bowl as if the bowl were empty. The lever the float operated opened the fuel metering valve and added fuel when it wasn't needed. The engine would flood then die. Better floats had to be installed. At the end of the war Bill was assigned to look at some enemy planes and plane wrecks for alternate engineering solutions. One of the few he inspected before going home was a Japanese Zero. The carburetor float was lacquered cork. Apparently they had a lacquer that withstood fuel. The whole thing probably cost a dime to a dollar to what we had and it wasn't porous. The cheap float worked. While Bill worked overseas in the war effort his big brother Jim was called by one of the provincial presidents of Mexico (Sonora, Durango I'm not sure) to help build up their road system. Jim was a highly recommended hand's on guy that worked very well with others. Perhaps better roads would help to move the Mexican petroleum faster in support of the war effort. Who knows?
Bill and Jim Moxley At any rate he was in a small desert town south of the border and got pulled over by the local Marshal. The Marshal took him into the local jail. Jim didn't want to pay a hefty fine when he hadn't done anything wrong. He asked if he could make a phone call. When the connection was made he told the marshal. "It's for you." The Marshal picked up. It was the president of Sonora. "You have a man that was personally recommended to me to help Mexico improve our roads! What is your name! Get him out now! He is our guest! Treat him like one!"
Within minutes the Mayor came over and apologized. From there he had the Marshal drive Jim wherever he wanted to go. It was the friendliest town Jim had ever been to. I never saw Jim angry but in some slight way Jim he was a wild man. Before WWII he put together the largest monstrosity of road equipment imaginable. It was so big the frame broke twice before he was forced to dismantle it because of patent laws. Basically just drive it out in the desert. The clearing, grading, tamping and asphalting came out the back, road complete. I wouldn't have been surprised if it painted a stripe. At some point he helped build an aqua-duct in California and designed, built, or modified the equipment to do the job in a working practical way that saved money. Whenever a picture of the owners, investors, and important people was taken on the job, Jim was in the background making it happen.
Friend and Bill in Rome
Bill's future wife Nicky
One of Bill's war time friends that he said Wardlow Rd. in Long Beach, CA. was named after Unfortunately in Bill's case war had taken a toll on his marriage and so he and Kelly got divorced. Aircraft production dropped off too. Then Bill met a man that made a million dollars recapping logging truck, semi truck, bus, and passenger car tires during the war. He had made enough money to retire and was selling out. Bill bought. Bill learned everything he could about the recapping business during the turnover then was on his own. At Flagstaff Tire the foreman told him the big trucks were changing from twenty to twenty two inch rims and that his tire molds were no longer any good. After the employees left Bill stayed and looked at the molds and matrixes until he figured out a way to make them work. The next morning the foreman came in. Bill asked, "Are you sure there's no way to make these molds work?" "No sir. If there was you'd be the first to know." "Well then I guess since most of the tires we'll be recapping will have twenty two inch rims I won't need you anymore." "I thought you might want to keep me on until you got the new molds installed." "Actually these molds will work fine using a wider matrix. I'm sure the drivers won't mind tires that are a little wider than what's available from the factory. But if you couldn't figure that out I guess I won't need you. You're fired." Bill wasn't about to have new molds installed before he even got started. It would have put him out of business. There was a lot of logging trucks in northern Arizona. Bill wanted them to come to him for their re-
tread business. Snow could get pretty heavy in the White Mountains. He had his own tractor trailer to pick up and deliver tires. It actually had a big gasoline six cylinder and performed pretty well for his needs. Except one day when he came around a turn going down the hill. He hit a patch of ice and the trailer swung into the oncoming lane. The rig was still heading down the hill but Bill wondered if the people coming up were blind. They weren't even slowing down. By the grace of God the trailer swung back straight right before they would have hit. Something had to be done. Bill didn't want to continually put on and take off the chains so he installed a sand trap device. Just in front of each set of trailer tires he put in a hopper and filled it with sand. At the bottom he installed a trap door that could be operated electrically from the cab. If the trailer ever started to swing out of control on an icy stretch he just pushed a button and sand fed out under the tires to increase traction. He most likely had the system for the driving wheels too. At any rate after the modification he didn't have to put on chains near as often. One thing Bill and his kids liked to do in the winter was snow ski. The local area tow rope was having problems slipping. Bill modified the pulling wheel and installed two tires next to each other with built up shoulders and a groove between the tires for the rope to ride in. They substantially aired up the tires and put it in use. No more slipping. Now they could put twice as many skiers on.
Bill, almost there.
Daughter Jan, already waiting.
While most of the middle aged and older skiers liked to ski in control down the hill with piped in waltz music Bill was a maniac. If the cool mountain air whipping under his glasses didn't make his eyes water, he wasn't going fast enough. If he wasn't regaining his balance coming out of a turn or dodging through a group of people that should have been retired then why hit the slope? So what if you're in the middle of trying to get your other ski back down? Orthodox skiing was boring. Of course there was always someone that complained but it never stopped Bill. Bill opened another tire shop in Holbrook, then later in Albuquerque, and eventually Phoenix. It seemed logging and semi truck business was better than passenger tire business. Bill certainly wasn't going to make a million dollars like the man he bought the first shop from said he would. Now that the war was over new passenger car tires weren't so scarce and they didn't have to buy re-caps. But he thought he could get more of that business if he expanded into other areas, besides heaving logging tires around all day was getting old. He'd also heard General Tire might move into town.
In the meantime Bill liked to be involved in local competitions. The Kiwanis and other clubs in town were building four man sleds for an upcoming race. Bill couldn't be left out. He came up with his own version. He steam bent some hickory in one of his tire molds for the skis. Built a streamlined fairing and put in port and starboard brakes. Prior to the race his son and high school buddies helped him prepare the slope by packing up snow banks where there were turns in the course. The other contestants couldn't see the need to bank the turns.
Sno-Bowl Carnival ticket Soon it was time for the race. Jack Williams the radio announcer was at the bottom of the hill with a microphone. Bill, his son, and two high school buddies were all ready on top dressed in white. They shoved off down the hill and gained speed as they went through the trees. The sled rose up the side of the bank they built up then hit the straight section that was devoid of trees. Apparently Jack didn't see them coming down since they were all in white. They barreled down the hill past the finish line and to the last turn that would dump them out at the bottom. Bill and the boys built up the last turn after the finish line to help slow the sled down at the end. Unfortunately the sled was going too fast for the last turn and wanted to keep going straight. Even with the brakes on it climbed up the side then rolled up side down and continued in soft snow a ways. Bill and the boys had snow packed in their eyeballs and their faces were red and scraped. Otherwise everyone was all right. Bill went over to Jack to let him know they finished.
Bill and other competitors
Back of photo
Jack was announcing. "The first sled is coming out of the woods now folks." "Jack I'm here." Jack turned his head away from the microphone. "Bill, what happened? Why didn't you run? Hold on a second. Here we are folks. We have a winner. It looks like the Kiwanis Club has it again this year. Here comes the Lyons Club sled now. What a race." "We already ran Jack." "What happened to your face?" "We came in too fast for the last turn, flipped over and scraped our faces. We're not going to die." "Okay, okay, .. Folks apparently I missed seeing Bill Moxley's crew come in ahead of the Kiwanis Club. After passing the finish line they flipped over the embankment. None of the crew is seriously injured. Until next time, thanks again. This is Jack Williams signing off." The head of the local Kiwanis and Lyons Clubs claimed that building banks on the course wasn't in the rule book. Bill said their sleds were so slow they didn't need the banks and that if they wanted to catch up to him they'd have to build faster sleds. Finally they decided next year they'd start over from scratch and use two man sleds. No banks would be allowed on the course. Bill said fine let's do it. About that time Bill got a pilots license and bought a plane that had been designed prior to the war but hadn't really gone into production until afterwards. It was a low wing mono-plane called an Air Coupe. He had fun flying it. It also saved time getting to his other tire shop. One time he got a little wild and pulled along side near a train. Some people were drinking on an open deck section in back of the caboose. One of them waved for Bill to come closer. Bill pulled in a bit closer. The drunk hung off the side of the rail acting like he was going to pour booze on the wing. Bill wouldn't get that close. When a bridge came he peeled up and left.
Another time he was getting ready to fly down over the Mogollen rim from Arizona high country to the desert. He talked with some acquaintances at the airport coffee shop before leaving. They made a suggestion. "You don't need to fly a thousand feet over the trees when you approach the rim. Just skim over the tops. As soon as you pass the edge you'll be five thousand feet above the desert floor. That way you won't have to waste so much time coming down. We've done it a few times already." "All right I'll see what happens." Bill took off and skimmed the tree tops. Soon he approached the rim, almost a straight drop off thousands of feet to the bottom. Everything was fine until he went over the edge. "Whoa! God almighty!" The plane fell so fast it was every thing he could do to keep the tail in back of the nose. He didn't even think about looking at his spinning altimeter. Even though he was headed straight down he had to maintain enough throttle and wind speed to allow his control surfaces to be at all effective. Although this helped him maintain some control of the plane the bottom was coming up fast. Bill looked for the best possible spot to come down. He'd have to fight this massive downdraft enough to survive the landing without something breaking off first. Suddenly he was at bottom. He saw where he had to go and aimed. "What happened!? The plane just leveled out!" Bill was flying level a hundred feet over the bottom. He didn't have to make an emergency landing. Somehow the turbulent downdraft stopped. He was moving freely in the column of air. When he went over the cliff it was like being in a waterfall of air. When it reached the bottom it leveled out. A week later Bill picked up the local paper. The guys that had told him he should skim the trees before going over the rim had crashed. They were dead. He had called the other airport coffee shop after landing that day to try and warn them against it but they must not have gotten the message. Time moved on. Between school and football, Bill's son helped at the tire shop while the other kids bounced back and forth or visited. Bill also started getting letters from Nicolette whom heâ€™d met in Italy during the war. He decided to go back. He'd have one of his men Cal temporarily run the business. Bill and Nicky got married in Italy by the ambassador to Afghanistan.
Nicky and Bill
In the U.S.
When Bill and Nicky got stateside the business was in a shambles. Cal had been using the tire trucks to deliver vegetables. Bill straightened things out the best he could and Nicky started straightening out finances and the books. At some point heâ€™d have to cut expenses. But he still wanted to win the two man sledding competition. One night he waited for the guard to walk away then hopped over the fence where some B-24's were mothballed in the desert. He removed pieces of Chromalloy tubing (a type of tubing that was later used in light weight bicycles) and passed them out through the cyclone fence to some high school kids and his son. After getting home he told the students he was going to blow away the Kiwanis club, refined his drawings, and got other parts together. He steam bent some hickory for skis. Two long ones for the back and one short one for in front. Next he took the front forks off a Hell Bike (a small motorcycle parachutist's used behind enemy lines). He attached the forks to the front ski using a pivoting axis. This freedom allowed the front ski to tip up over bumps while still being able to carve right and left or go straight. On the rear or main weight bearing skis he attached control arms. The Chromalloy frame was mounted to the rear skis on two sets of hinge like pivots which allowed the rear ski edges to roll while still remaining fixed and in line with the frame. Reindeer hide was crosshatched over the top portion of the frame for the riders to set on. A rod or looped control cable fed from the control arm of one rear ski through the tubing of the frame and out to the control arm of the other ski. In this way when the riders leaned left the left edge of the rear skis cut into the snow and carved against the opposing force of gravity. On right turns the right edges carved. The front ski initiated the turns while the back ones followed.
Sno-bob Bill and his son took it up the mountain for a test after the first good snow. Bill said he got it up to sixty miles per hour. Being that low to the ground I'm sure it felt even faster. The race wouldn't be for another month or two. Then word got out it might be cancelled. Bill had other problems on his plate anyway. General tire had moved into Flagstaff. With all his shops Bill had more money going out than coming in. He closed the Flagstaff tire shop then talked with the owners of the new General Tire location. "I know all the guys up here and I just shut down my shop. Why don't you hire me and I'll bring you a lot of business." General Tire hired him. On his first run all his accounts asked, "What are you doing in a General Tire truck Bill?" "I'm just helping out General Tire get some of the business. Don't worry I'll just cap them off down at my shop in Holbrook and bring twenty percent or so of the business to General." "All right, sounds good Bill. See you when you come back."
"For a few months General Tire was happy as clams until one of the owners was in Holbrook and saw Bill pull their General Tire truck into Holbrook Tire. He watched them unload then followed Bill back to Flagstaff. Bill unloaded a truck that was less then a quarter full. The owner stepped up. "I saw you off load at Holbrook Tire." "I'm sorry. I really didn't want to hurt anyoneâ€™s business. Holbrook Tire will be shut down in a few weeks anyway. I'm leaving Northern Arizona. Here's a list of all my accounts. My son is staying to go to college here in Flagstaff. If he comes looking for a part time job keep in mind he didn't have anything to do with this." "Here's your last paycheck." "Thank you."
Bill next push was Albuquerque Tire. Bus, passenger, and tractor trailer made up the business. Car tires were easier but didn't make much money. In fact for the work all of them didn't seem to make that much money. Some of the passenger business went to hot rodders. They could eat up a pair of new tires pretty quick so he'd get repeat business on recaps. Bill started to play around with a few different rubber combinations, up the temperature a little and pressure a fair amount and slightly widen the tires. They liked it and kept coming back. Bill was charging only a few dollars more for the custom tires. At the time it just seemed like something that was a little more fun. Bill still had his truck and bus tire business. One day an incident occurred when he drove his tractor trailer loaded with truck tires for deliveries across the Pecos River.
Tire Shop 1952
Bill's delivery truck
The bridge was a steel truss type with one lane going each direction. Cars could pass by each other in opposite directions without incident. The problem would come when two tractor trailers tried to enter the bridge at the same time. Angled lateral trusses spaced at about 150 foot intervals cut down the clearance on the trucker's upper right corner. The road was wider at each end of the bridge and could be seen from the other side before entering. Out of courtesy and practicality when two semi's approached the bridge the one further back would slow and pull to the side until the other truck went through. Bill was almost down the hill and on the bridge when he looked again over to the other side. "What is that crazy son of a gun doing?" Bill asked himself. On the other side a tractor trailer going about thirty miles an hour faster then him was flying down the hill. "He should pull over! I'm already on the bridge!" Bill looked again. The other truck got on the bridge and overlapped into his lane. Without slowing down the other truck started weaving in and out between the lateral trusses. Bill had no choice. He just passed one of the trusses and pulled as far right as he could get. "Wham!!" Both rear view mirrors blew off. One hit the opposing truck and the one hit the side of the bridge. They'd passed by each other. Fear and adrenalin raced through Bill's veins. It quickly changed to anger as he pressed his foot on the accelerator. He reached the widened section of road on the other side and wheeled
hard around. That guy was going to apologize and pay for new mirrors. In his anger Bill didn't even think about the effects of making such a rapid "U" turn. While the cab wheeled around at high speed the rear wheels of the trailer remained stationary merely pivoting in place. When the turn was completed the rig straightened out. With the cab wheeling around at thirty miles an hour and the back of the trailer sitting still, in hindsight the picture is clear. The trailer just about jerked the rig to a stop. Bill slammed so hard into the steering wheel it knocked his wind out. Now Bill was fuming. It wasn't until he got to the parts house and had replaced his mirrors that he settled down. Business was still rolling. Kelly and Bill traded their younger kids back and forth. Of course Bill did move around a lot. Something came up that put into question whether the kids would visit over vacation. Kelly was in Flagstaff visiting her sister Betty and her husband Bert. Bill had gone fishing with Bert before. Bert, Betty, and Kelly were all good but Bill wanted to see his kids and decided to drive to Flagstaff and pick them up. He'd already been up quite some time. It would be a long drive and he'd be pushing it all the way. It was night when he reached the northern Arizona desert. Lighting flashed in the distance. Moonlight bathed the desert landscape until he passed into a desert squall. Rain pelted the windshield. Bill squinted looking as far ahead as he could. "Flash flood!" A river of turbulent grey water washed out the road. He jammed on his brakes and stopped. Bill hopped out of the car headlights peered in the rain. He looked out as Manzanita and mesquite trees and brush swept by. Chunks of the bank and road were calving off into the water. He got into the car to back away before it slipped into the current. He put it in reverse and looked up. "What?! Where was the flash flood?" He put the car back in neutral, set the brake and hopped back out. The road was dry. A cloud had just moved out from under moon. Bill got back in and drove. He was tired and stressed but didn't have time for that kind of nonsense. It wouldn't be that long now. He continued ahead and wanted to arrive early. A ways off to the side a train came up parallel to the road. Bill was moving faster. He could see in the distance the road crossed the tracks. He pressed the accelerator, got ahead then started the turn. All of a sudden the train's headlight was too close. The crossing arm swung down. Bill stopped with only inches to spare as the locomotive noisily passed. Lit passenger windows crossed Bill's view. A man went by that was reading a newspaper. The train disappeared into the distance. Bill looked again. The crossing arm was gone. The tracks were gone. They were never there. He thought about stories of Canon Ball Baker and his co-driver/mechanic during a long continuous race. They both had hallucinations that an ambulance had pulled onto the track and both had ducked for a pelican. How they had seen the same apparitions was a matter for debate. But for Bill it didn't matter. He decided to pull over and take a cat nap. Whatever had happened, it never happened again. What ever issues there were about kids visiting were handled. Bill got back to work. A man came into the shop. He'd heard Bill made pretty good tires for some of the local racers. The man was going to run in the Pan Am a close to two thousand mile race starting in southern Mexico and ending up at the northern border. The heavier American stock cars were allowed an additional tire change over the lighter European cars. The man had used most of his money on his cars and wanted to see how well Bill's tires would hold up. He gave Bill the carcasses he wanted to use. "Build me a set with these. I'll hot lap them with my number two car to see how they do. I need you to put in four inspection holes on each tire." "What do you mean by inspection holes?" "My mechanic will drive and ride with me. Each fender has a hole cut in it to access the tire with a depth gauge without having to get out. If the rubber is worn down too much and we're close to the next station we can milk it in. If it's too worn and we have a long way to go we'll change them."
"I see." At that time natural rubber was still extensively being used. Often tires were shelved for months to increase wear life or â€œage hardenâ€? the rubber but this also reduced traction. Normally this wasn't done to racing tires because races were usually short and they wanted the tires to stick as much as possible. It was more common for semi trucks. Bill wanted the tires to last as long as possible and decided to use a truck compound of rubber. He also jammed up the mold pressure significantly and was extra careful placing the rubber to prevent the slightest bubble from occurring. I'm not sure what shoulder and tread design he employed but he wasn't about to modify his molds or matrixes for inspection holes. He'd have to figure that as he went. Bill's oldest son had come down from a break in college for a visit. The tires were almost ready to come out of the mold. Bill called to his son. An idea had come to mind. "Take the truck down the street to this address!" He handed him a sheet of paper. "Fill up the bed with dry ice and come back right away." Sirens were heard at the same time the tires came out of the molds. Bill Jr. pulled up in the truck. Steam evaporating off the dry ice made it look like the truck was on fire. A police car pulled in behind. "I thought your truck was on fire." Bill Sr. answered. "No sir. We're just in the middle of a process. Dave, dump that tube tank. Boys get on your gloves. Don't let that dry ice touch your hands. Bill, shovel some of the ice into the tube tank. All right let's get that hot tire in there. Now give her a minute. All right flip her over. Give her another minute while I grab the drill. Okay set her upright on the deck." As soon as the tire hit the floor some of the little rubber tits often seen on new tires shot off like glass needles. "Set her down easy boys we don't want it to crack. Pull another out of the mold and put it into the ice while I drill the inspection holes on this one." Bill drilled down into the rubber until he reached the predetermined mark on the bit that equaled the depth of the tread. It was like drilling into wood. Hardened rubber shavings came out of the hole. He made four inspection holes for each tire. After the first he explained to the policeman what he was doing. Everything was all right and the cop left. After all the tires were drilled Bill saw nothing wrong with the first tire. He still had dry ice so he went ahead and quick froze them all again. After they warmed back up they still had a velvet new tire feel. The next morning the man running in the upcoming Pan Am pulled his trailer into the shop. Bill and the boys mounted the tires on his number two car. "I'm taking it down to the local track. I'll swing back after I hot lap them." A couple hours later he pulled his trailer up. Bill and the boys walked over and looked at the tires. The new tire little tits were still on the treads. "Did you hot lap them?" "I sure did. Give me another set for my number one car. I'll keep these for back ups." "I don't have anymore. This is it." "Well I gotta go. I'll put them on my number one car and change to a different set when I wear them out." (The heavier American stock cars were allowed an additional change of tires over the lighter European sport cars) "I think I'll come down at the half way point and see how you're doing. Good luck." A few days later Bill and Nicky checked into a hotel at one of the lay over points. (The race was broken into legs) They met up with the driver using their tires at the hotel cantina. "How are they holding up?" "I can't believe it Bill. Almost half the other stock cars have had to take the time to change their tires. These are barely worn. Come over to the barn where she's parked after breakfast tomorrow. I'll show you before we start racing again." The next morning they slid open the stall door. "That's odd. I didn't notice this before. My fender must have caught the shoulder of the tire." Bill got on his knees to look. Little chunks off the built up shoulder of the tire had been removed. It
looked like they had been paired away by something very sharp. "Your fender is clear of the tire. There is nothing jagged about these cuts. I think someone came in and cut off samples with a razor knife. Maybe they're going to have them tested to see what kind of compound it is. This won’t affect your tires." "All right I'll see you." The driver took his spot and re-entered the race. Word was, that coming down the mountain on the tightest hairpin turns, one of the European's was so good he caught air between the hairpins and went straight practically catching only every other turn on his way down. Now for the American’s, on the last stretch less than fifty miles from the finish line the car with Bill's tires was out in the lead. He had just passed another American Stock car and had the pedal to the metal. So far he hadn't taken the time to change tires when the other's had. The tires were well worn by now but not enough to slow down this close to the finish line. He had the engine wound out for all she was worth. "Blam!!!" she blew. The engine couldn't take any more. The second car flew by. The driver's arm was raised outside the window with the middle finger sticking up. "Son of a gun!" Five or ten minutes later another car went by. They were done. But for Bill it was the beginning. Even though samples of his long wearing tires were taken, chemically it was just a natural compound of truck rubber. Somehow the process of the tires going from extremely hot to extremely cold in an instant had the same age hardening effect on wear as the difference of temperature between day and night over many months except the tires remained soft and velvety like new. They gripped well, wore even better, and chemically were not unusual. Re-caps for passenger car tires were probably about eight dollars. When he built up the shoulder, changed compounds to make a slick or put in a special groove pattern for some of the local hot rod guys he'd charge twelve. I think he just liked the crowd and the excitement more than trying to squeeze out dollars. Before the next Pan American he got a call. "Can you make me a set of tires like the one's you made for that racer last year?" "Well I do have a lot of bus and truck tires to get out. The tires I made for the Pan Am race required a little more work but,.." Bill was thinking, should I charge fifteen or maybe twenty? They’re too much work for fifteen. "What do you want for them thirty, forty, fifty?" "Umm, uhhh.." Bill couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Look, I'll be straight with you. I won't pay a dime over eighty dollars apiece." "Oh, eighty,.. Uh eighty will be fine." Bill got more calls for racing tires. Soon he dropped bus, truck, and passenger tire business and went strictly race. Eventually he dropped the Albuquerque shop and worked only out of Phoenix.
Bill at Daytona Beach, Florida
Bill bought a year old Corvette from a Texas oil man who had special ordered it. Most of the earliest Corvettes were six cylinder engines. This one had a small block 283cu.in.V8, with a two speed blower. Bill thought something was wrong when it felt like there was a dead spot at sixty mph. The man selling the car told him. "Hit the gas man!" The car burned rubber at 60 then took off. Then he yelled over the wind noise. â€œThe tranny and the blower both shift speeds around sixty mph!â€? Later Bill found that the front end got too light over 130mph. One tire would lift and settle then the other one. The shape may have created lift. It was always a fun car around town or for trips where he didn't have to take a lot. It also looked good for business.
Corvette and El Morroco
Bill and Nicky
Inside pages of pamphlet
Show car tires White rubber inlays were fully vulcanized without running together. Bill bought a trailer to haul race tires to different meets. He pulled it with his other car the "El Morroco". It had a big V8 and might have become the new Bel Air but Chevy held back on producing a car with fins when Ford decided to stay with rounded fenders. Few were made. It was easy to spot Bill at the racing meets. He wore a baby blue colored old time English explorer type rimmed helmet over his bald head. Dr. Livingston I presume. But this helmet said Bill Moxley Racing Tires.
Sometimes a driver, especially if he was from California, would come up and say, "Don't I know you from somewhere? I know I've seen you somewhere before." "Well, I'm not sure." Bill would reply. "I know! I know where I saw you. You used to run those little race cars over in California when I was a kid. I loved those cars. I had so much fun that's probably why I got into race car driving. Hey guys come over here. This is Bill Moxley." Bill loved the race crowd. He talked with the drivers and mechanics, found out what engine, transmission, rear end and type of tires they ran. He asked what type of problems they were having. When did they lose traction? When did they get bite? What rpm. were they at when it happened? Were these the tires you were using at the time? Maybe if we tried this it would work better for you. He was interested in getting the right tire on the right car. He wanted to see the guys using his tires win the race. Soon he needed to find out more than what the racers could tell him. Dragsters were lined up to take off. Bill got permission to get directly behind the tire to see what was going on. Wearing ear muffs and goggles he laid chest down mere feet behind the tire. The lights turned green. Hundreds of horsepower threw hot particles of rubber into his face. He didn't flinch. His focus remained where the rubber met the pavement. Some how through all the smoke or perhaps even the way the smoke was generated he gleaned useful information. The way the rubber met the pavement at the start and fifty or a hundred feet varied.
Bill's daughter with her husband and kids visit Phoenix, AZ. in 1955. Small block dragsters were coming in and they didn't have the brute force of the big blocks, yet they could put out more rpm at the end of the run. It was the beginning of the run where they got bogged down. One of the small block drag racers told him. "When I come out of the light it's too much load. My engine rpm doesn't come back until I'm half way down the track." Bill put a set of tires on the back of the dragster that he modified to solve this problem. He divided the tire circumferentially into three sections, the center section and the two outer sections by the edges. On the outer sections he used a harder compound of rubber. On the inner section he used soft rubber. He built the tire so at the beginning of the run the dragster's weight set mostly on the shoulders. This was an advantage for the small
block engine. Since the harder rubber allowed the tire to spin with a less bite, engine rpm remained high. The dragster didn't bog down. As the dragster approached a hundred feet down the track centrifugal force caused the center or soft rubber section of the slick to belly out. With some momentum already gained the added bite at this point didn't hinder rpm. The small block ran away. The driver's race time was substantially reduced. Not only did Bill use different rubber compounds, he modified treads, shoulders, widths, and heights of tires. He also put additional nylon restriction plies to reduce high speed distortion. Bill had told me about tire distortion. Things like the standing wave and the transverse wave and how that if they ever met at the same point in the tire it could blow apart. He also told me that at about that time for a year or more he had more national records on his tires than Goodyear and Firestone combined. It almost seemed like he was more worried about other small shops across the country than the big boys. Perhaps the smaller shops were more creative and attuned to their customers needs during this era. At this point and perhaps another time years earlier in radio if Bill would have been as shrewd in business development as he was with creative technical solutions, who knows we might listening to Moxley radios or riding on Moxley tires. The important thing is there are others like Bill, in this country and over the world that seek answers and overcome problems in the best way they know how. Money for the sake of money wasn't his main driving force. Bill wasn't allowed to run his tires at Indianapolis because technically they were re-caps and at that race re-caps weren't allowed. The funny thing was Bill always knew when a so called spy came in to his shop from one of the big companies. Bill used slightly higher temperatures and substantially higher pressures than they did. As soon as these visitors saw the pressure and temperature gauges on the molds they ran out the door. Sometimes Bill buffed down brand new tires to the cord and built them up the way that would work best for the customer. In many cases he found that a tire carcass which had been used a few times was more flexible and worked better.
Sprint cars in the 50's or 60's A race came up for amateur racers on an oval track. A wealthy veterinarian had his car in the race. It was a beautiful car and he wanted to win. He'd been very busy. If the Queen of England's poodle was sick he'd fly overseas to make it well. Doc Bidurin hadn't had any time to even try the car out let alone practice racing. Roger Mc Cluskey was there in the pit with Bill and the Doc. "Roger, please, you're the only one that can help me. I can't do it. I haven't even driven it or anything else for months. Just put the suit and helmet on and pull back in
the pit when you're done. We'll all crowd around you and we can make the switch before anyone gets there." "I don't know. This is amateur and I'm pro. I could get in a lot of trouble." "I promise you no one will know. You know if there was anything I could do for you I would and I'm in a bind now. Iâ€™ve put so much into this car. Please say you'll do it!" "All right let's go ahead. Crowd around. Give me your helmet." Roger put on the fire suit and helmet, got in the car, and drove to his starting position near the back. It was a nice car. The starting flag dropped. They took off. Mc Cluskey didn't waste any time and started working traffic immediately. He pulled right and left in front of this car and that car clearing each one by inches. The amateur drivers went slower and left larger gaps between their cars and he took advantage. The name on the announcer's lips was Doc Bidurin. "He just cut in front of car #12 folks and is on the straight away. He's stuck between cars five and eight. If I didn't know better I'd say he was touching five's rear bumper. They've hit the turn. Bidurin is cutting to the inside. Five is slipping to the outside. Bidurin's out front he's breaking away. This is unbelievable folks. He's caught up to the back of the pack. He's working the cars at the tail end. If he keeps this up he could get back out front again. He's done it folks! Doc Bidurin has just lapped the lead car. What a finish! Our man on the ground will get a few words directly from him at the winners circle. We want to know how he managed to pull off this extraordinary win. Oh it looks like he's heading to his pit crew. We'll meet him there." Roger pulls up and steps out of the car. Before the crew fully surrounds him a reporter stops and asks. "Where did you learn to drive like that?" "My uh friends. My friends helped me learn." "Can you take your helmet off? We could hear you better and would like to see who we're talking to." Roger put his hands under the helmet and pushed then shook his head no. "I see your helmet is stuck Doc. We'd like to know, exactly what type of doctor are you?" Roger's mind went blank he couldn't think of the word veterinarian. "I, I, I fix cats and dogs." "Oh, so you're a veter" Suddenly the pit crew squeezed between the announcer and Roger. The Doc and Roger changed helmets and the crew spread back out. "You'll have to excuse my crew! Would you please give us some room!? I've just returned from England. The Queen's poodle had a brain tumor. I successfully removed it." "It's amazing how you're able to perform such a delicate surgery on a small animal then fly back and race a car as good as any pro we've ever seen." "I've been blessed I guess." "Well here comes your trophy. You certainly earned it today." "Thank you." As racing speeds increased Bill added more restriction plies to prevent tire distortion. He usually pulled nylon plies around the circumference reducing the overall height of the tire while increasing its width. Finally there came a time for the ultimate test. Mickey Thompson was running a car on the Bonneville Salt Flats for a land speed record run. He had an engine on each axle and needed a set of tires that wouldn't distort at high speeds or have issues with heat or friction. The tires had to be pneumatic to absorb shock, reduce vibration and give constant traction. Bill was awarded the job. Normally tires were mounted and spun on a buffing stand where a wire wheel could remove excess rubber before vulcanizing on the new or replacement rubber or building up the shoulders. This method could do a pretty even job of removal. But for this Bill needed a more accurate method. Every step of the way the tires had to be in perfect balance. Across the street from Bill's tire shop was a machine shop that had a large multi speed lathe. He was able to adapt a buffing or cutting wheel into the cutting tool section and mount the rim with the tire into the main chuck that holds the spinning piece to be turned. Now whenever he built up rubber from the molding process and it needed to be shaped down Bill had an accurate way of doing it.
The other beauty of the lathe was at slow speeds while Bill continually added restriction plies around the circumference he was able to maintain constant tension. At each step the tire became shorter and wider. Upon completion it was an extremely wide well balanced tire with excessive layers of restriction ply. What modifications he did to his molding equipment while building the successively wider tires I'm not sure. But he did put everything, but the most routine jobs that the other employees could handle, on hold. He charged five hundred dollars per tire. The man picking them up commented. "My God they're as wide as they are high." Thomson made a successful run. At higher speeds he noticed that some floating occurred with the vehicle. Sometimes only one tire touched the ground at a time but when it did it had good traction. The tires didn't distort or have any issues. Although at any point a given tire might be less than an inch off the ground for a hundred feet, when it did engage the ground and go from an unloaded state to a loaded state it performed well. Bill hoped this would benefit his business. He had patent's pending on his restriction ply techniques for reduction in high speed tire distortion. Mickey Thomson took the tires to the lab at Goodyear. The next year he ran another land speed record at Bonneville. This one had an engine on each wheel but he didn't need Moxley tires anymore. Bill always said all the court cases he lost he should have won and the cases he won, he should have lost. Maybe he got in a case with General Tire when he delivered eighty percent of the tires to his shop with their truck. Maybe the Judge let him off because he was a little guy trying to survive. Who knows? But this case Bill felt he should have won. He sold his airplane, but not before one last hair raising adventure with it. From what I thought I heard, he had a variable pitch Beech Roby propeller on it. On Take off you could decrease the pitch and increase the engine rpm and pull a pretty steep climb. This is something analogous to being in first or second gear in a car. Once your airspeed was up you could increase the pitch and back off the throttle.
Bill and Nicky with the Air Coupe At any rate a vibration was felt half way to their airport. As they continued it got worse. It was pretty bad when they landed. When they got out they found most of the bolts holding the propeller in had either worked out or were loose.
Letters Bill sent to Nicky while she visited family in Caracas, Venezuela
From some point about that time his business leveled off and eventually started a slow decline. But Bill had other things he could do for excitement. Sailing was one of them. He bought an early design catamaran and sailed around Lake Roosevelt. He had nephews in Phoenix that liked the water too. Sometimes he'd bend water skis for them in his tire mold. He said he could make oak as soft as putty. One of his nephews was an avid scuba diver. Bill must have convinced him to let him try it out. Heck he'd body surfed with the Duke and was a natural in the water. Bill went in with the tanks. Whether he went in separately or separated himself from the others is a good question. Whatever the case he found it was interesting. He looked at this and that. After a while he thought he might head back up but heard speed boats going by all over up there. He decided to get further away from the area before going up. By this time people were starting to get worried. Bill was a pretty heavy smoker and wasn't a teenager. Bill finally surfaced where there wasn't any boat noise. He was a long ways away and began swimming back. When he finally returned they said they'd been searching for him for almost an hour. "Sorry, I heard speed boats and didn't want to get hit with one of the propellers." Bill continued to maintain his business while Nicky kept the books. Then he decided to cut his wooden catamaran in half length wise between the pontoons. In the middle he added a main hull for the wheel house, seats, ice box, and sleeping quarters. About that time (mid to late sixties) his daughter Jan (my mother) started sending her boys to visit during part of vacation. Sometimes one of us would get there a little before rest of the family. I don't know why on one of the earlier visits I spent so much time barefoot. It was Phoenix and it was summer. You had to run at a full dash to get from one spot of shade to the next. I think I was so young I kept misplacing my flip flops. Bill had sold his tire shop to a guy named Dub Boyles. Dubâ€™s sign was already up when I got there.
Bill in one of Dub's cars I remember going into the shop. There was rubber dust on the floor. I got to look around with Bill and see some grooving irons and buffing wheels. Johnny Cash was on the radio singing about Folsom Prison. I met Dub then went into the office where I spent some time trying to get a free coke out of an old style coke machine with a lift open top. Sometimes weâ€™d go to the ice cream soda shop across the street or into Weavers second hand store. Weaver rolled up to greet us in his wheel chair. I never saw someone missing so many body parts, a leg here, a foot there, some fingers here, an arm there, or an eye or ear here. Bill said he was in a hunting accident and someone thought he was a deer.
I don't remember if it was that summer or the next summer when I visited and learned Morse Code (Actually Continental Code). I still remember all the letters. What for? Who knows? A storm came when we sailed on the lake. When the wind hit it broke a few battens in the full batten sail. The next day was sunny and calm. They didn't have anything called attention deficit when I was a kid. We were anchored a hundred feet from the dock. Bill had to do something and told me to hold the line to the row boat. Bill didn't come back right away. I started to get bored so I laid the line across the deck to see what it would do. As the row boat bobbed up and down the rope would scoot and stop then scoot again across the deck. That was more interesting than holding it. All I had to do was grab it before it went over the edge. Bill still hadn't come back. Being bored I thought it would be fun to see how close the end of the line could get to the edge before I grabbed it. The last time I got it within inches. This time I would get it on the very edge. The boat had a bigger bob. I missed by six inches. When I looked over the edge it was already a couple feet away. I didn't see anything to grab it with. For a couple seconds I froze. Bill came over. "Where's the boat?" I pointed. He dove in and got it. I felt pretty bad when he was drying out his clothes and the money in his wallet. I didn't want to tell him I was playing a dumb game. I probably should have. The problem was Bill liked to tell stories. As soon as that gravelly voice, with all the varied inflection, intonation and colorful speech started, people listened and went along with the conversation. Well once we got back to the cafe at the marina what do you think happened? Naturally some old time stranger and he started talking like they were best buds. So it got out. But you know what? I think they knew I understood the seriousness of what I did if only because I listened so intently. At that point they said it could have happened to anyone and we moved on. Bill had a family of Boston Terriers. Whenever a car went down the long gravel drive past the two small red brick cottage rentals he had in front of his place they'd bark and jump like pogo sticks. I've never seen Boston's that were quite like his and Nicky's. Boo Boo the mother was fairly muscular. Moby Dick was as hard as a rock and had muscles popping out everywhere. His smaller brother was almost as muscular as he was. Gi Gi was fast and lean. Ginger was normal and looked a bit chubby in comparison. All of us kids liked to sneak them table scraps. But what I liked to do was get down on the floor about a foot and half from Moby Dick and have a staring contest. After about six seconds his eyes would start to quiver or waver side to side. That was my cue to look away. I told my big brother to try it. I guess he didn't look away fast enough. Moby Dick butted his nose against Eric's. I heard my brother scream out and start crying. He had a bloody nose. When I told Bill why it happened, he said Moby Dick didnâ€™t like to be stared at and asked how I would like someone staring at me.
Moby Dick Sailing as a pup
Moby Dick, Bobo, Gigi
Skipper's ribbons and one 1st place Moby Dick took from his brother. Skipper was the show dog and could stand in place on a pedestal without a leash. One time Bill put Moby Dick in a show to increase the number of dogs so Skipper could place higher. Moby Dick was in a harness. Bill had the leash wrapped up all the way to his hand to hold him steady on the show box. The Judge did a little poking and prodding then he bent down to get a closer look. All four feet left the show box. This little sixteen pound dog got air even though Bill's leash hand was wound up tight. Moby Dick's nose brushed the judge's before Bill pulled him back. "I am so sorry." Said Bill The judge stepped back and looked at Bill. "He was just trying to kiss me on the snooter." He had already made his mind up. Moby Dick won. Skipper got second place. Coming home Bill cracked the windows of the station wagon so they wouldn't get too hot when he stepped into the store. He heard barking but knew they couldn't get out. Then he heard a whelping sound like it was from a big dog. He and the owner of an unleashed dog ran out. The man's dog was lying with its head and shoulders between the curb and wheel well of Bill's car. It didnâ€™t make any sense until Bill got down and saw Moby Dick wedged between the fender, tire, and curb holding onto the other dog's lip. Bill knew to separate them. Heâ€™d have to get in close enough to rub Moby Dick's lip against his teeth. He'd done it before when Moby Dick and Skipper got into it. That time blood from Bill's hands had gotten splattered on the ceiling. Thank God it had only happened once. Bill got Moby Dick to let go. "I'm really sorry about your dog." "What kind of rabid maniac of a dog do you have?" "If you would have had your dog on a leash it wouldn't have happened." Bill hooked a leash to Moby Dick and set him down. Moby Dick started pulling himself toward the other departing dog and master. Something was wrong. He was dragging his hind legs behind him. Bill picked him
up and put him in the car. He wondered how his dog pulled himself out of the cracked window. After squeezing most of his body through he must have gotten caught between his lower back and hind legs and injured it. A few days later he was fine. Clarence, another old timer invited Bill to go fishing up in the mountains. He pulled up in his pick up with a big camper. Bill and Moby Dick hopped in and off they went. Bill was in the passenger seat with the dog on his lap. They'd made it to the forest when they pulled in for gas. Clarence rolled down his window. The attendant walked up and asked what grade of gas he wanted. Everything was fine until the attendant bent down about a foot or less from the window and looked inside. Moby Dick leaped out of Bill's lap. His nose slammed into the attendant's nose and blood gushed. The attendant rocked back on his feet. Bill and Clarence hopped out. "Are you all right? Can we help you to the bathroom?" "No, I can make it. I've been hit before but never like that. I guess I shouldn't have put my face so close to the window." Bill wanted to tip the attendant enough for a nice dinner. He wouldn't take it. As long as no one was in their space Moby Dick sat there even with the window open. Bill had black and blue marks on his legs where his dog's paws had pushed off. They found a camping spot with a picnic table in an area with a pasture next to it. On the other side there was a stream and a cliff. Clarence, Bill, and Moby Dick shooed off some cows then settled in. Ten minutes later a Bull walked into camp. "Shoo! Shoo! Get out of here!" Clarence and Bill made noise and clanged pots and pans but the bull didn't care. The bull was nosing around the picnic table and knocked over a box of corn meal. "What's wrong with your dog Bill? Why isn't he chasing off the Bull? You're the one that said pound for pound nothing could take him. You made it sound like he could whip his weight in wild cats." "I don't know Clarence. May be he knows when he's out gunned." "Heck Bill he's just meandering around like their almost friends. It's like he's inviting him over. You know kind of like, your place is my place. Now he's up on the table with him. Your dog is spineless." Moby Dick was quiet. He was passing this way and that way near the Bull's face. Hey if the dog didn't care, the bull didn't care. Suddenly Moby Dick lunged and latched down on that Bull's nose all the way to his molars. The Bull's eyes opened wide and he rocked up and bellowed. You'd think that bull had spurs in his groin. By the grace of God the bull rock'n rodeo'd out of camp without destroying it. Within seconds the bull figured out rocking and kicking wasn't going to do a thing. He started twirling around then swinging back and forth. When that didn't work he twisted his head and made figure eights. None of it made the pain go away. In fact it made it worse. Finally the bull stopped gyrating around and started walking away with his head down. Moby Dick let go and went back to camp. Clarence commented how it was amazing such a small animal could do that to a big one. Later they saw an eagle being harassed by small blackbirds. The eagle flew higher and higher in some of the thermal up drafts. Finally he became a speck above the cliff. Even Moby Dick watched. The speck grew faster and faster as it came down. Soon his features were clear. The eagleâ€™s wings were tucked close to his body. You could see the wind buffet the diving bird's partially tucked in wings like speed bumps. As he plummeted closer to the ground he slowly opened his wings and made a "U" turn that took him half way back to his highest point. The blackbirds separated then tried to regroup. The eagle pulled the maneuver off two or three times before leaving. Bill enjoyed the trip and settled back to his routine at home. One day a little black dog got inside the yard. All the other dogs raced to it like hyenas. Moby Dick was in the lead. The little dog rolled on his back and barked in submission. Moby Dick whirled around and fought back his brother's and sisters until Nicky could open the gate and let the little dog escape. Bill said Moby Dick got his intelligence from Rockefeller breeding. Eventually they got old and died. Moby Dick sat for days over the spot Skipper was buried in the back yard before he finally left.
Our whole family came to Bill's during part of one summer vacation. We sailed on Lake Roosevelt. We caught a cat fish that tasted like mud and someone got a scrawny dove with a pellet gun. It wasn't much of a meal. We stopped at a picnic area set down our ice chests, supplies, and leaned an old time British Sea Gull outboard motor against the tree. After a short swim we came back for lunch and Bill's motor was gone. Sometimes things happen but sailing was fun.
Ready to go!
Wait for me!
Eric up on mast
Catfish for dinner
Lake trimaran that Bill built after adding a cabin (note the narrow hull upside down on blocks to the right) One day an odd thing happened to Bill. Over the years, from the tropics to the desert, his bald head had gotten too much sun. His doctor gave him a new type prescription healing cream. Bill rubbed some on his head, ears, nose, and a little on his cheeks. After that he rubbed his hands together and took Nicky to work. Nicky, in her spare time kept their yard looking nice. On his way home Bill stopped by the nursery to get some fertilizer for her. The fertilizer was in a pile sitting in the sun. For some reason Mox stuck his hand in it. The fertilizer was hot. His hand was black when he pulled it out. He went to the washroom and tried to wash it off but for some reason his hand stayed black. He went back out in the sun and looked around the nursery awhile then got the attendant. "Could you
shovel some fertilizer in a bag for me?" "Yes sir." He said with a peculiar look on his face. "You know about twenty minutes ago I stuck my hand in this fertilizer and my hand turned black." "Well don't look now mister. You're black all over." "You're kidding me." "No sir I'm serious as a heart attack." Bill went back to his car and looked in the rear view mirror. Wherever he put on the cream his skin had turned black. The spots he missed like his chin and neck were still white. Heat or sunlight made the cream react. He decided to drive home and see if he could wash it off. People going by looked twice. An older black man pulled alongside and turned his head. Something was wrong here. His eyes opened wide in disbelief. Obviously Bill couldn't explain it. He had to keep going home. Once there he found it wouldn't come off. He called the pharmacist and got the phone number to the lab that concocted the cream, nutraderm, nivea, or whatever it was. They asked a few questions, admitted they'd made a faulty batch, said it wouldn't hurt him and told him it would last only a week or two. "Give us your address. We'll send you a case of the good stuff free of charge." Bill liked sailing and decided since he was retired he wanted something that could take him around the world. Catamarans and trimarans were faster than mono-hulls (single hulled vessels) mostly because they didn't require heavy ballast to keep them upright when under sail. The Polynesians had explored thousand of square miles of ocean and populated islands throughout the pacific using multi-hulls like outriggers and catamarans. Although Catamarans with two hulls were faster than trimarans having three (at least in the 1960's) they could flip over more easily. Bill researched various designs. He decided a trimaran would be safer and that a low aspect ratio would be easier to handle than a boat whose mast was taller then its length. This would also reduce the chances of flipping over. He thought the three hulled boat would have more room than the two hulled catamaran. Arthur Pivor was well known trimaran designer. He used a "V" type chine (bottom) on the main hull and on his outer floats. Usually one of the outer floats didn't touch the water until the boat was weighted that direction. In articles Bill found out that in heavy seas the Pivor design had a tendency to oscillate from one flat portion of the "V" to the other while the outer hulls rocked in and out of the water back and forth. This action would cause a squiggly line in the headed direction; worse than that it could cause the vessel to broach (turn at right angles to) oncoming seas and become swamped. Also since the outer hulls were configured in a somewhat shallow "V", boat stresses from a no load situation (pontoon out of the water) to loaded (pontoon in the water) would change drastically. Additionally there was nothing in the boat to provide directional stability or good upwind capability. (Basically in that era most believed multi-hulls didn't have good up wind capabilities) Finally Bill came upon a Hedley Nicole design he liked. The main or center hull had a surfing bottom that started out sharp then bellied out toward the back and cut off. There were no flat sides to oscillate on. It was to be made in wood and fiberglass. The outer hulls would be narrow displacement type and remain sharp from bow to stern. From what I saw he used the plans only for reference since he modified them quite a bit. The construction required marine plywood bulkheads that continued through the wings and outer hulls. Longitudinal stringers were notched into the bulkheads then five ply eighth inch Douglas fir planks were diagonally laid over and attached to the stringers and bulkheads to form the hull. At this point the main hull was built up side down. After this layer was secured, glue was applied and the same type planks were nailed cross wise over the first set using silicon bronze hold fast nails. Over ten thousand of the small nails had to be driven with another person on the inside backing them up, bending them over, then finishing it with a simultaneous hit. On the outside fiberglass was applied with resin and hardener.
Center hull bulkhead
Completed hulls upside down on blocks
Top deck stringers
View of bow
Wheel house on deck
Bill said it was a monocoque type of construction where the skin itself provided considerable strength and explained saying, "Put your fingers in a Chinese finger cuff. The harder you pull the tighter it holds. Under tension the cross planked Douglas fir acts the same. Now put a raw egg end to end between your palms and press evenly. You can press as hard as you want and the egg won't break until it's shifted because the pressure is evenly distributed along the curvature. The boat is similar. Only something very hard and sharp can be forced through." He continued, "Now look at the wings connecting the hulls together. I've made them like upside down airplane wings. In this way air moving rapidly along the surface of the water will effectively hold the boat down in a storm rather than flipping it over. So the boat really has reverse dihedral and negative incidence, the very opposite of what a low wing monoplane would have. I also incorporated something utilized in front end tire alignments of race cars. It is a small amount of 'tow out' for increased directional stability. The outer floats are a couple inches further apart in front than in back. They're also six inches lower in the water than my reference plans which will help the boat track up wind better."
In the wheel house
Dick Hughes lifts floor cover off engine
He didn't want to stop. "There will be no 'chicken coops' on deck. The deck will be clean and air streamed. Only the covered wheel house or cockpit will stick up above the deck and it will have a slanted windshield. I'm installing two rudders that can work independently with feet and hands. If we catch an oceanic wave and get too far ahead of the swell we can cross them to slow ourselves down." It was amazing what he was doing for his retirement on social security. A younger man named Dick Hughes started helping Bill finish construction on the boat. It was like a forty one foot ark being built in the desert. Meanwhile Bill kept up on yachting news especially when it involved trimarans. About this time the mono-hulls Windward Passage and Blackfin were battling back and forth in the racing circuit. To see who was the faster they raced against each other and the other contestants from Newport Beach Ca. to Honolulu Hi. A man named Eric Tabarly, who had an unusual trimaran asked if he could join the race. "We're sorry sir this is strictly a mono-hull race. The rules won't allow your type boat to enter." "I see. Is there any way I can leave afterwards?" "You can do what ever you want (I don't know if it was one or six hours) after the last boat leaves. You won't be eligible for any trophy or compensation." "Thank you." Eric Taberly waited the required time after the last boat departed then left. In Honolulu at the end of the race the crew aboard Windward Passage jumped and waved their arms
when they came in first and saw Taberly's trimaran follow in behind them. It wasn't until they got ashore they found out Taberly had checked into the hotel the night before. Although Bill's trimaran wasn't so radically designed for speed and had more room inside, that kind of news assured him he was working in the right direction. During summer vacation my brother or I would come over to Phoenix to help. I remember the main hull was upside down in a small lot behind the tire shop he'd sold. We had weights holding a long bolt of fiberglass that was unrolled down along the wooden hull. Bill was applying resin with a paint roller. It was evening, the best time to work in summer. The desert air charged. Dust devils started to swirl. Edges and sections fiberglass without resin started to lift up. We ran back and forth putting more weights on to hold it down. Bill continued rolling more fiber glass down with the resin then would quickly make another batch by mixing in catalyst hardener. After a little while the resin would thicken and then harden. You had to work it within a time window. We beat the window and it didn't rain later that night. We came back the next morning. Some of the weights were still sitting on top. Bill was on the other side of the hull from me on his ladder. I pulled a weight off and tossed it to the ground. "Hey be careful you'll hit the trailer." Bill's older brother Jim was still working and had built him a trailer. "What trailer?" I said. I was still pretty young and hadn't thought about the trailer. Bill came around and discovered the trailer was gone. Someone had stolen it late the night before.
Jim Moxley still working a few years later at 91
Buffed pretty clean, huh?
Jim and daughter look over equipment to be fixed.
The old and young of it
Both my brother and I came visit Bill the next summer. The boat had been moved to a bigger lot close to his house. It was right side up. I remember Bill telling me to go back to his garage and grab a certain tool. I think I was telling myself the name of the tool over and over as I walked behind a few houses by the ditch and finally got to the garage. When I looked at the bench under the window all I saw was pile of tools so high it was overwhelming. I started to lift a tool here and there then started to think, "Was that a screwdriver or did he want pliers?" When I realized I'd forgotten I went back and told him I couldn't find it. Bill told me a trick on how to find things. "Use the seeing eye. Get a good picture of what the tool looks like in your mind. That way when you move the other things out of the way you'll recognize it right away." It actually worked pretty good, especially if you didn't have a super organized garage. A guy started helping Bill either that year or the next for room and board. At some point later during a visit to Bill's I helped Dick (the man helping Bill) on a side job painting and made a few dollars. Dick took off awhile and crewed on a sail boat an acquaintance had. I guess Bill appreciated Dickâ€™s help so much that he built him a small twelve foot or so trimaran as a surprise when he got back. The last couple times my brother and I visited while the boat was still in Phoenix we spent a lot of time wet sanding the hull's with fine sandpaper. At least the wing section was together and provided shade from the hot sun. We didn't always work. Bill showed me how to make a ring from a quarter by tapping down the edge. I didn't use one of the new quarters with copper sandwiched in the middle. To do it you needed a flat plate of iron or steel and a small hammer. I used a ball peen hammer but only on the flat side. All you had to do was roll the quarter on the plate between your fore finger and thumb while lightly tapping it flat on top. For a Junior High kid I was surprised I found the patience. Eventually the edge would roll out and widen until it looked a lot like a silver wedding ring. At this point you drilled out the center being careful not to drill away the date that had rolled up on the inside. Bill helped me there. It was neat. At some point later during the school year Bill transferred the boat to California. He did it in three trips by dividing the boat into sections. The main hull was one and the wing float combinations made the other two. By building an interlocking sandwich affair with the bulkheads we were able to re-align and re-attach the sections quite securely at the other end in California. After gluing and bolting the prefabricated sandwich overlaps together which were already aligned and drilled before disassembly in Phoenix it looked like a ninety percent finished boat. Nothing was farther from the truth. A lot of detail work was still ahead. Now Bill spent most of his time in Long Beach California while Nicky stayed in Phoenix.
Bill and Grandson Bryan before haircut
Bryan, Eric, and Jan, Bill's daughter
La Bella Anni on blocks in Long Beach, CA. Multi-Hull City was the name of the place Bill set the boat on blocks. Dow chemical had some big tanks next door. Other people were there working on their boats too. Most boats were outside but some were worked on in an old spread out building. A guy named Fox had the sleekest molded fiberglass catamaran I ever saw. Another guy and his wife had a trimaran a spot or two behind us that was quite a bit different then Bill's. It was one of only a few other trimarans on the lot that he said he'd like to sail. Another man was building an air boat so he could give high speed tours of Long Beach to at least twenty people at a time. It had a radial airplane engine on back with a six foot hardwood propeller. The leading edge of the propeller was molded aluminum. If one were to look down upon it from above they would see a rectangle. Even from the side it was rectangular but thinner and the front edge rolled up to the top edge in a radius. Basically it was a flat bottom boat. I was standing next to Bill when the owner asked him if he would like to ride on their first test run. Bill declined. He had too much to do. After we walked away I said, "Bill you're kidding me. That looks like it would a heck of a lot of fun. I wish they would have asked me." "That boat with its large flat bottom will ride so rough even you won't like it. The boat will feel like its slamming into concrete." He replied The next day the boat was back inside the building. All the 2"X 8" cross pieces were cracked. Bill told me that if they would put even a little "V" shape into the bottom of the boat they wouldn't get such horrific
pounding. I do believe Bill said something to them but I don't think they wanted to re-do the hull. However Bill explained to me and probably to them ways it could have been accomplished by adding PVC foam (A closed cell resilient plastic foam), some light frames and fiberglass to the bottom. Instead they opted to replace the 2"X 8"s with 2"X 12"s which further stiffened the hull. These also cracked. Unfortunately they had somehow convinced Bill to ride that time. Bill's tail bone and spine could have done without it. Of course Bill could have done without smoking two or more packs of cigarettes a day or grinding fiberglass without a mask and working with resins without a respirator. I'm sure he didn't wear a respirator when buffing rubber off tires earlier on, but his lungs weren't the weak link. He could swim the length of our pool underwater for fun in his late sixties. By this time my brother Eric had his driver's license. He often drove the 1968 340-S Barracuda my dad bought a few years before. It took an hour to get to Long Beach from our house. Sometimes Bill rode. He'd tell Eric when to "stab it" (slam the gas) if traffic was heavy and we needed to get into an almost non-existent spot the next lane over. Thank God Bill drove a 1965 Dodge Dart with a six cylinder instead of the "Cuda". To him an inch was as good as a mile. I know. One time we were in the rough side of town looking for nautical parts at second hand stores. I remember barreling down an off ramp from a bridge in Billâ€™s dart. A big old car coming from a cross street at the bottom almost stopped ten or fifteen before the stop sign then lurched and stopped half way in our lane. Arms were slowly flailing out of their windows. The driver was slouched and they looked right at us. We went by at about fifty five miles an hour an inch from their bumper. They all sucked wind when we went by. So did I. Bill could read a situation pretty fast and had good depth perception. He was a swivel neck, knew what was going on all around, and liked to work traffic. A year or two earlier after driving eight hours from Phoenix Arizona, when he was about fifteen minutes from our place in California he ran into road construction. The left fork going to our house was closed. He decided to drive through the construction around ditches, pipe, back hoes, and moving equipment. Workers in hard hats turned. A foreman tried to flag him down as he rolled through at twenty miles an hour. Bill rolled down his window and yelled. "I'm ram rodding this outfit!" He dodged around and exited the other side. When he got to our place he mentioned he had gone through a construction zone. My mom asked why he didn't just go around. He just went the way he knew. Sometimes Bill, Eric and I ate at a greasy spoon in Long Beach nicknamed Dirty Dorothy's. All that morning before going to lunch Bill had been trying to lay down some fiberglass on a wood panel. It hadn't gone well at all. The longshoremen were on strike. No ships could be loaded or unloaded. In fact President Nixon had to have medical supplies sent to Hawaii by plane. The fact was a shipload of dry shredded coconut was sitting and rotting just a few miles away. Swarming Copra beetles started flying all over Terminal Island. The panel Bill was working on was covered with wet resin that would harden within minutes. Beetles had landed all over it and got stuck in the resin. Bill kept picking them off as he worked his brush on the fiberglass. Finally too many beetles kept getting stuck and he gave up. We went to lunch. According to the newspaper tensions were high between the union and anyone trying to cross the picket line and take their jobs. Apparently the strikers were ready to hit any scabs over the head with tire irons that tried to cross. I didn't notice anything unusual at the restaurant. Some people were crowded around the chalk board specials so we went straight to a table. The place was crowded with workers taking lunch. Sometimes Bill would talk kind of loud as if to pull others into the conversation to agree with him. "You know it's these damn unions that are ruining this country! Hell, they'll have a guy dig a hole in the morning and fill it up in the afternoon just so he gets paid all day! Why do you think prices for everything are so inflated? It's because they're paid so much. By the time they've laid their hands on something the price gets so jacked up the average guy can't afford it anymore! Can you believe it? We have a ship loaded with coconut just sitting and rotting at the dock because those sons of.."
"Bill! Bill!" Eric interrupted Bills dissertation in mid sentence. Rough, burly workers at nearby tables were looking our way. "Look over there at the chalk board. That big guy with the stick isn't pointing at lunch specials. Those are longshoremen going over their next wildcat strike." Bill looked and listened. His voice dropped in volume. "Oh, I guess your right Eric. What do you think about the soup?" All the burly workers looking at us turned back to what they were doing. In hindsight it's easy to see where Bill was coming from. Longshoremen were well paid, Jimmy Hoffa was corrupt and Bill had been blackballed when he tried to start a union for radio workers back in the depression. In my opinion Hoffa was in it for himself not the union. I feel some of the earlier turn of the century industrialists that had no issue working children twelve hours near unguarded rotating equipment while disregarding child labor laws written in 1860 were in it for themselves too. It's a balance that has to be constantly nudged toward center. Everyone should get a "Square Deal" as Theodore Roosevelt would say. Bill continued building the boat. Afterwards he jokingly said he thought he might write a book on how to build a boat on Social Security. Speaking of that, I remember him telling me one month when Lyndon Johnson was in office his Social Security check came in stamped Health Education and Welfare. He and none of his other retired friends would cash their checks. New checks were mailed with the old heading, Social Security back on, before any retirees would cash them. But going back to the boat book, I don't know if it would be a hundred percent accurate title. I remember when I was about thirteen or so back at the co-op in Phoenix. Bill was buying his last sheet of marine plywood for the boat deck. He asked where the stack of marine plywood was. Traditionally Marine Plywood uses better quality glue, is pressed together under higher pressure, no knots are allowed on any veneer or ply inside or out, and only one to two small fill plugs are allowed on some of the inner sheets. You could dovetail it with a router if you wished without splintering the edge. PT Boats made of it in the 1940's had to withstand a terrific beating. The quality was reflected in its price. "Gee, we haven't been getting much call for marine plywood lately. But I do have a stack up there in back. Hold on I'll get one down with the fork lift." The lumber assistant pulled a sheet onto the forks then came down with it. Bill looked at it. There were two plugs on the top. (Plugs fill in areas where knots have been cut out) The edge had splinters. There was a knot the size of a thumbnail and another plug on back. "This looks like exterior. I'm not going to pay over twice the price of an interior grade when this looks like exterior!" An older lumberman walked up. Bill recognized him then said to him, "I used to buy a lot of marine plywood here. What happened?" "The price has gone up and the quality has gone down. We're sending prime raw lumber to Japan. They mill it, keep the best wood for themselves, process it then send what they don't use back." "I'll be. What's that up there?" Bill pointed to a sheet hanging below an exhaust fan in the roof. "I think its marine plywood. It's been there a year. We had a little water drip down on the aisle when the rains came and put it there to catch it." "Can you bring it down?" "Sure." "Look at that. It's not even bowed. All that's wrong is it has a stain. I'll take it." There were a lot of people. The lines at the registers were long. Bill stood the sheet of plywood up and waited. Ten minutes later the women at cash register closed. "I'm sorry. You'll have to go to another register." We got in back of another long line. Half way through they started having difficulty at the register. It was a busy day at the cop-op and we'd been there a long time getting nowhere. Bill tipped the plywood down. "Let's go Bryan. Grab an end." Needless to say I had a slight surge of adrenalin but went along. Even though we didn't get caught now I was accessory to the fact. So I guess a more accurate title to his book would have been how to build a boat on
Social Security and the once in a blue moon five finger discount. It wasn't always about Bill though. If someone was working hard or struggling to make it but needed a little nudge or hand up and he was in a position to do it, he would. On the flip side he once told me, "Be humble at first. Find out all you can. Wait until you know you can do better. Then chop their legs out from under them." So like most of us he had a compassionate and a competitive side. At this point the boat was nearing completion. He built an "A" frame mast to eliminate turbulence around the leading edge of the main sail and set it two thirds back from the bow. This allowed two fore sails in what he called a "high speed slot" configuration. Like a bi-plane the leading edges of the fore sails would produce two long low pressure areas to pull the boat ahead. Keep in mind he had to rummage through second hand stores to make this happen while his Social Security checks trickled in. We moved the boat some time in 1972. Traffic was stopped outside the Henry Ford Bridge as I walked along side a twenty three foot wide sailboat being hauled across at three miles an hour. We pulled up to a crane. The operator was a little concerned. He'd lifted mono-hulls and set them in the water before but never a trimaran. Slings and belly bands were set along with shackling some straps into pad eyes on the deck. The crane slowly picked up the load. Bill rode across on the deck. I guess if something happened it would happen to him too. Soon the boat set nicely balanced in the water and he removed the straps. Bill motored to a nearby slip and we tied her to the pier. Within months my brother was finished with high school. He and Bill took some Celestial Navigation classes and practiced sailing. Sometime they'd throw a plastic gallon milk jug overboard and sail back around to pick it up for man overboard practice. I came down on weekends. I remember leaving Long Beach and sailing out a narrow channel between two long rock breakwater jetties. The wind was in our faces. Every boat we passed was tacking back and forth against the wind. Way off in the distance a Quarum catamaran was sitting in the channel. Eventually we caught up. It was trying to go up wind. The sails fluttered when it tried to make headway. We hadn't tacked the entire length of the transit to open water. If multi-hull sailboats weren't supposed to go up wind very well then the "La Bella Anni" (The name of Billâ€™s boat and Latin for 'The Beautiful Years') hadn't heard.
Eric, Bill, Bryan
Bill's son Jay
Jan by La Bella Anni
Docked and stepping off
Eric checking sails
Bill looking out
The next stop was free moorage in Glorietta Bay San Diego. After that we sailed out of San Diego bay in the lee of a cliff by Point Loma. As soon as we cleared the cliff, "Wham!" the wind hit. Bill's boat was too stiff in the water to dump wind. It had to either accelerate or damage the rigging. The insulators to all the mast stays or guy wires shattered. He put the insulators in as lighting arrestors. (Some people ground the rigging to salt water)Bill went back in and modified his rigging so all sheet lines coming in the wheel house went on hinged cam cleats. He set the tension with bungee cords. Now a sudden gust would flip and release the lines. They worked. You could see the hinges float a little when the wind put on a strain. When a heavy gust came, the flip and release sounded like a shotgun going off. Finally in 1973 the big day had come. We began the first leg of our maiden voyage around the world. It wasn't a race. If a place seemed nice we would plan to stay awhile. We went south to go around the Baja peninsula then would head back north into the Sea of Cortez. It was summer. Fog was known to sometimes develop along the coast line but we had a radar reflector on top of the mast to warn large commercial vessels of our presence. We also had a radio direction finder that would indicate the angles of various land based radio beacons on our charts. With this we could triangulate our position as long as we picked up two or more stations. We determined our speed through the water with an impellor log and a pressure sensitive type indicator. Our magnetic compass was liquid filled, about six inches across, and corrected for deviation (adjusted for metal aboard ship like the engine). At this point there wasn't a need to use the sextant but we did take into account charted set and drift, (direction and strength of currents) and also variation (charted local magnetic effects on the compass). I wanted to see the world and wasn't especially concerned if the voyage continued past the summer vacation or whether I missed my senior year of high school. In some aspects Bill had been conservative when putting his rigging and sail together. The mast was significantly shorter than the length of the boat. Although this reduced stresses on equipment and made sail handling easier it also reduced sail area. At this time we didn't have a spinnaker. To go down wind we opened the fore sails in a wing and wing configuration. In this scenario if the wind was very light your speed was slow. Bill had also built the boat strong and filled all unusable spaces with foam floatation. When combined with supplies
put onboard the boat sat slightly deeper than anticipated. Earlier Bill had bought a 1942 Universal Blue Jacket Twin gasoline engine at a garage sale to move the boat under power. Since the exhaust port ended up deeper in the water than first estimated it wouldn't idle while still cold against the back pressure. This also made it a little hard to start. When it was warmed up there was no problem. One just had to maintain a higher RPM than idle speed until it got warm. It had a heavy flywheel. Both pistons went up and down simultaneously with alternating spark. While one piston was compressing the other was exhausting and when one was on a power stroke the other was on intake. The engine was able to move the 42'long by 23'wide boat at six knots. It was located under a removable floor section in the wheel house and set on close grain four by fours between bulkheads six feet apart. The boards flexed like humming bird's wings on start up then smoothed out. Bill enjoyed sailing, rather than motoring, the boat to his slip or anchorage whenever possible. Finally we left for Mexico. We progressed southwards. The wind was light and on our backs but we moved along steadily. We waved at fifty foot Mexican fishing boats as we passed by each other in the late afternoon. They waved back. It was hazy with about two miles visibility. Bill compared our dead reckoning position from our speed through the water including set and drift and compass course to our position determined using the radio direction finder. The two points were almost identical. He decided to remain eight miles off the coast of Mexico to avoid congestion closer in. These were international waters in 1973. Light patchy fog appeared as evening approached. Fishing boats were no longer to be seen. Bill turned on our high intensity running lights. We alternated duty watches, four hours on four off. Bill and I stood our watch then my older brother Eric and his friend Mark stood theirs. Another four hours passed. Bill got up for watch. He decided to let me sleep a little longer. The wind barely kept the sails open. He finished his turn over with Eric and Mark. The boys headed for their bunks. Bill went on deck to roll up the sails and possibly start the engine for motoring afterwards. The masthead light and radar reflector would serve as a beacon to other vessels while we sat dead in the water. The La Bella Anni rotated 180 degrees while still remaining in position eight miles off the coast. By now visibility had degraded to a quarter mile. Bill looked out off the stern quarter and saw a green light. A starboard bow light moved slowly across the horizon. Then it looked a little bigger. Bill grabbed a fog horn that had come from a Swedish Schooner. At two feet tall with a five inch bore and made from twenty pounds of brass, when it was pumped, it was heard. I was sleeping in a double bunk in the port wing. Although the horn was not directed toward me it woke me. Then I heard Bill call my name. Eric and Mark already got out. Bill locked his legs and hands around the aft starboard handrail and looked up to their bridge windows. No one was there. A thirty foot high bow of steel slammed into the port stern of La Bella Anni. I rolled out of my bunk amidst wrenching reverberations of steel and sounds like cracking bones. The angle of my surroundings was out of kilter. The force drove me up the steps into the wheel house to view a large green wall pass through our boat faster than a man could run. From my vantage the steel bow had already cut through the deck and the wing I had been sleeping in to the other end. Now the rest of their ship was passing through with less hindrance. For Bill it was different. As the bow cut and crushed into the deck it ripped the port section of handrail from his hand and pushed the port side of our boat down under. This tipped the starboard side up. As it continued to cut and drag us along our forestay got hung on the top of their bow and severed. The composite "A" frame mast snapped and broke then our lights blew. After initially being pushed under, the port side sprang back up high like a buoyant cork as their bow began to exit from our port bow section. Continued force levered a crack on the opposite side of the boat between the starboard wing and pontoon. Then both vessels separated. I looked for a name below their stern light as they departed leaving us in swirling turbulence. Suddenly their en-
gines dropped to an idle but their momentum carried them further into the darkness. Within five or ten seconds their engine RPM was back to full throttle and they shrank away.
Poem written of 1973 accident by Bill's son Jay
Although the port wing and pontoon had been sheared away we were afloat and upright. "Where's Mark?" asked Bill. Mark was nowhere to be seen. "He dove overboard." Said Eric Bill hoped the nineteen year old hadn't been pulled into the propulsion screws or caught up in a net. A few minutes later we heard some one call. "Hey! I'm over here." After Mark dove away from the impact and swam off to the side he turned back and saw the silhouette of our boat for a moment between himself and the departing ship's stern light. From there he knew where to swim and stroked forward with his long arms. The La Bella Anni had been pulled away from the initial point of impact about one hundred yards. Mark swam to us and was now thirty feet behind our stern. We threw a life ring attached to a rope then helped him back aboard. The drone of the departing vessel was barely audible now as it carried back. Bill was worried they might come back to finish the job. "Why would they want to do that?" I asked "Hit and run would look bad. They knew they hit us. The man in the engine room shut her down. Ten seconds later their captain ordered him to throttle up so they could leave. No one was manning their bridge. They were going full throttle on auto pilot in low visibility. They don't want their insurance rates to go up. I just hope they think we sank." Bill put his ear to the deck and was able to hear the sound of the vessel diminish a little longer. "They've gone straight away without turning." Next he barked orders. "Secure that swinging piece of mast before someone gets hit in the head. Grab the axe and cut away that loose section of deck hanging on the edge before someone steps on it and falls in the water." I still wonder how after spending seven years of one's retirement building a dream boat a man doesn't just sit down on his haunches in shock and say, "Why me?". But Bill just took charge and never even hinted at that. I just wish he would have had enough spare money after completing the boat to buy some radar equipment. Perhaps it was more expensive in the early seventies. Today a law rocket might be considered essential equipment for sailing around the world to deal with possible pirate threats. Although gouged a bit near the bow, the main hull was intact. A wing and float (pontoon) had been sheared away and the other float was like a loose tooth. We were now an out rigger. Damage to the main hull was well above the waterline. We were still dry and would stay upright as long as the outer pontoon remained attached. Bill rigged up a ham radio with a long copper wire antenna extended bow and stern with 18 foot oars and sent out an S.O.S. We were picked up by an operator in the Los Angeles area who we were scheduled to contact later once we got into the Sea of Cortez. Bill informed him it wasn't a joke. Bob Swanson then informed my mother (Bill's daughter). Then they notified the U.S. Coast Guard. When it got light we heard choppers in the overcast skies but never got visual contact. If our boat had been a mono-hull of substantial construction and sleek design and both vessels engaged each other in a bow to bow inclination or any glancing side swipe then I believe we would have survived basically unscathed (Unless a hole developed below our waterline). If on the other hand we were hit in the side or at any fairly obtuse angle our boat's lead ballast would have assisted holding us in place while being cut in half. From there the lead would have taken us to the bottom instantly. In that case Mark would have had the best chance to survive. Now if our boat would have been a trimaran of lightweight unsubstantial construction without flotation in all the unusable spaces there would have been at least floating wreckage to pull oneself onto. In the case of Bill's boat all openings for passage through the center of each bulkhead that ran crosswise in locations from stem to stern were like what you would expect on a submarine. You had to lift a leg and duck. It was quite substantial.
Newspaper Article of boat accident
From there we motored (propulsion was intact) south then turned to the coast and entered a small harbor called La Jolla just south of Ensenada Mexico and anchored. There a Coast Guard Helicopter with landing floats put down. Before Bill had a chance to swim over Mark dove in the water and told them everything was all right and they left. Bill wasn't pleased. Even though we were all alive he didn't feel everything was all right. We rowed our dinghy to shore. A small village of Americans lived there in mobile homes. One of them took Bill to Ensenada where he bought some lumber to stabilize the starboard pontoon. The next morning we climbed into the pontoon (mostly used for storage) to lap over and brace the wood where needed. The following day after motoring into the port of Ensenada and anchoring a man on another boat rowed over to us. He brought two empty buckets of green paint. It matched the color embedded and scraped onto our boat. Bill asked where the paint came from.
Cuauhtemoc "It came off the Cuauhtemoc. It's the newest and one of the biggest fishing seiners in Ensenada's fleet. She's 150 feet, 230 tons, and was built in Spain for seven million dollars, (keep in mind this is 1973). I was with them drinking in the bar the night they left. They finished their drinks at midnight and hurried to their boat to depart. The next day I was out fishing and saw them again. A Mexican Patrol Boat was alongside helping her get painted by the waterline. Someone threw the empty buckets in the dumpster by the pier. When I saw you coming I put two and two together and grabbed a couple to show you before I came over." "We were hit at 3:00 in the morning the same day you said they left. Would you be able to testify for us,
if we went to court?" "I don't know if I can do that. I might not be around here in a week." "Well thanks anyway." We kept the buckets. Bill spoke with the port authority and we were given a spot on the pier to tie up across from the Rodriguez Dockyards. Bill felt he was getting the run around. One time people in the office said they didn't understand English. When he walked around the corner they picked up a phone and spoke English to someone on the other end. Neither Bill or my brother and I ever had problems with the day to day people at the grocery store or the barber shop. Once we tried to find a laundry mat to wash our clothes. Apparently it was the cleaners. They told us to leave them off and come back tomorrow to pick them up. Our "T" shirts were heavily starched and stapled. We paid and eventually found a real laundry mat. It was just a minor misunderstanding. We found it a little funny though walking back to the place we paid to have our water jugs filled. Around the corner behind the wall was a garden hose hooked to city water. Stupid gringos. One day in a dirt lot, a skinny little dog with its ribs sticking out and crusty eyes walked up to us. Bill gave him some food and water. For two or three days we returned there at the same time. Bill fed him until he didn't show up. Bill met with the owner of the fishing boat company. At the time a new forty one foot boat cost about forty one thousand dollars. Escalante and Bill had negotiated a settlement that would have the tuna fishing company pay Bill thirty five thousand dollars. When Bill came for the check Escalante told him his hands were tied because he only owned forty nine percent of the company. The Mexican government own fifty one percent. It was a nationalized company. My brother and I stayed there over half the summer while Bill went back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. Eventually the three of us left in the middle of the night and motored (along with a jury rigged sail) the evidence to San Diego. Bill caught the Cuauhtemoc having refrigeration work done in San Diego then borrowed some money from his brother Jim to get a U.S. Federal Marshall to go aboard. The Marshall prevented the fishing vessel from going out to fish until they signed a document agreeing to go to court. This expedited court proceedings and a date was set. Bill hired a maritime lawyer named Coates who in fact didn't have maritime credentials. So Coates got his associate Zumwalt who did have the proper credentials to represent us. I remember Judge Turintine smiling to Bill and us as we walked up the steps to the courthouse in San Diego. "You don't have a thing to worry about. We'll get you a new boat." Zumwalt was being paid a percentage. The opposition's Lawyer, Sam Carpenter was being paid by the hour.
Bill heading to court in San Diego
Bill built a small scale model of the boat for demonstration purposes. Over the long delayed period before the trial Coates and Zumwalt broke off pieces. I'm not sure why, but at the trial when Bill was demonstrating our fog horn he left the horn swiveled toward the floor and barely pushed the handle down with two fingers. He could have pumped the cylinder hard and made it ten times as loud. Norman Cross a leading trimaran designer whose credentials included perfecting the Delta Wing design for U.S. fighter planes came to the trial and estimated the speed of the Cuautemoc at fifteen knots. Antics in the courtroom from both Carpenter and Zumwalt berating Norman Cross's ability to properly estimate Cuautemoc's speed left him so pissed off he walked out. The opposition at first said they weren't aware they hit anything. Then they thought they hit a log. Bill had paint samples from both boats spectral analyzed to prove we had transferred paint during the collision. Not only that, but that they had covered up the matching samples from underneath with more paint. Later they said they circled around to look for us because their reverse gear was out and that was the reason they were going to San Diego for repairs. Bill found them going back for refrigeration work. Bill had done all the ground work, building a model, arranging for Norman Cross to testify, the paint analysis, and getting the Federal Marshal to initiate his actions. It was becoming obvious considering the Mexican government had a stake in the fishing company that they didn't want the pride of their fleet to look bad even if it cost them more than what a reasonable settlement would have. Zumwalt had already been bought. This was not a jury trial. If he could make it last a little longer for Carpenter's hourly rate then Carpenter could help him out. The judge and lawyers from both sides left the courtroom to speak in private chambers. When they came out the judge had come to a decision. The boat was a back yard built boat. Instead of forty one or forty two thousand it was worth eighteen. It was half our fault for being there. That makes nine thousand. Thirty three percent for Zumwalt drops it to six thousand. Court costs amount to five thousand dollars. Gee, Bill probably spent a thousand dollars on gas just running around. In hindsight we probably should have contacted the newspaper, Yachting World, or Sea magazine, and gotten more public exposure. That might have added pressure to make the outcome more equitable. Apparently Zumwalt hinted to Bill that the Mexican government was going to stop tourists from going to Tijuana. What kind of pressure is that? Just the opposite would have been better for our case. "Don't go to Tijuana when Mexican Tuna Boats are running down American sailors and leaving them for dead." The real issue was that Zumwalt was a lazy spineless lawyer that wanted to take the easy way out. Then when you consider the back room deals it puts into question the integrity of the whole lot including the judge. Needless to say Bill appealed. A written statement went to San Francisco. The next time I saw Bill he was driving a used Pontiac and had sold his old Dodge Dart. Bill had the La Bella Anni removed from the water and taken back to Multi Hull City and basically sold for the cost of removal. He felt there would be too much time and money involved re-building it.
Decision after appeal
Billâ€™s respnse after the decision
Life moved on. One of Bill's former employees at his tire shop in Phoenix was a balloon enthusiast. When I went to visit I got the opportunity to go up. Needless to say after going over some tall high voltage lines we decided to put down in a large wheat field. As soon as our 100 or 150 foot rope touched the ground we found that the wind was going in just the opposite direction from what it was 200 feet higher. We didnâ€™t want to be pushed back into the high voltage lines. Dave pulled a cord. The top of the balloon opened up in a fifteen foot wide circle. We went down fast and landed safely, but with a thud. Later Dave came to Leucadia California to float the balloon, tethered, for our furniture store grand opening.
Balloons in Phoenix, AZ in the 1970's Later Bill came to southern California for a visit. We went to see my uncle Jay, Billâ€™s youngest son. Jay had almost gone to the Olympics for diving. In fact in earlier meets he had beaten some of the finalists that did go to the Olympics. I don't know if he had been disqualified because he'd gotten paid for diving at a nightclub or what the situation was. I was pretty young when I saw him dive.
Jay diving in 1950-60's One of Jay's friends was Joe Girlock the "Human Fly". Jay told me Girlock used to dive out of a tethered hot air balloon and land on a four by eight foot porta-pit. Jay was with him at Knot's Berry Park for the stunt waiting at the bottom by the porta-pit. Jay wanted to make sure everything was lined up before Joe dove off. The wind kept shifting and the crowds started to disperse. Jay wanted a little better alignment before signaling Joe. Joe saw the crowds below begin to leave and dove. He landed on the porta-pit but his heels whacked the ground. Apparently with that type of work Joe had little flat spots on the back of his heels and the back of his head.
At any rate Jay loved gymnastics. He'd started a business teaching. When Bill came over he brought some support legs Jim welded. Then Bill started laminating wood for a balance beam. Bill had his old high speed heavy duty buffing (sanding) wheel back in his hands. Pretty soon the beam took on a natural shape. Jay was pretty happy his old man could still handle the job. Later Jay built his own portable and specialized equipment for his business. But if there's one thing we all remember Bill saying, it was, "Sometimes you just gotta pick up the saw and start sawing or pick up the hammer and start hammering." The next time I visited Phoenix Bill was fixing up an old speed boat he bought. It was a Mc Cullogh double bottom. It had fins just like the old cars. It had an inch and a half layer of balsa wood planks to absorb shock between the fiberglass hull and a thinner layer of fiberglass on the floor bottom. The wood was soaked between the fiberglass so we drilled two inch wide holes with a hole saw to dry it out. Then Bill mixed up something, put it in the holes, and fiber glassed over it. After that we went out and had some fun.
Old boat Bill fixed up
Later we went to a hang glider, and ultra light aircraft, meet. He liked the Eagle Three because it had fabric on both sides of the wing. A person could warp the wings. On a turn they could make the inside wing fatter and the outer one skinnier. He mentioned that type of feature had been used recently when the Gossamer Condor finally won the hundred year standing purse for man powered flight. Two posts were set a specified distance apart on level ground in still air. A figure eight pattern had to be flown. The posts were at the far ends opposite of each other and had to be cleared by the aircraft. Attempts had been made before but when they turned to go the other direction the slower inside wing would lose too much lift. By warping the wings fatter on the inside and skinnier on the outside a better balance between drag and lift in the turn was achieved. The Gossamer Condor with its light frame, Mylar skin, piano wire tension strings and creative engineering finally won.
Bill Jr. looks on at his dads homemade doggy seat
Biking in Phoenix, AZ.
Bill wanted to fly ultra-lights but was still looking at the different designs. We somehow started to talk about some kind of tethered hang glider training or fun ride. The gliders would have to be attached to a pivoting yoke. The wind would come from powerful fans. In one type the wind could come out of a big pipe shaped like an elbow that could spin for a single kite. Others could be straight and have four or five gliders. It sounded interesting and made me wonder if it could be done. Then Bill said he wasn't feeling that good and we went back to his place. Not too long after I decided to join the navy and got out of the furniture business. A year later I heard he was sick and that he wanted everyone to come over so we could visit. He had planned for us all to go up to Rainbow Bridge on Lake Powell. Bill Jr., my mom Jan and her sister Sandy and their younger brother Jay were there. Bill was taken from his home to the hospital. "You guys go up without me and have a good time.â€? he said. My brother and sister and I went with the family to Lake Powell. Nicky stayed with Bill. We rented a house boat and had a good time. When we got back Bill had past on. The last thing my mom Jan, remembers him say while in bed by his wife Nicky was about how pretty her hair was in the light. The doctor said the cancer in his spine was like napkin rings around each vertebra but that he was sharp to the end. He said while we were gone at the lake Bill had half the patients in the wing over in his area sitting in chairs or rolled nearby in their beds listening to him tell stories. Bill practically lived off coffee and cigarettes. He worked with a lot of chemicals and never used a respirator. He lived to his mid seventies while his older brother was still welding at ninety one. But Bill packed in an awful lot of adventure in those years. Little notice was given for the funeral yet they had to open up and expand into a larger auditorium to accommodate all the people who came to pay their respects. Most of them I'd never seen before. I spoke only a few words about how Bill, my grandfather, even after finding his last dream smashed, got up enthusiastically to start and take on new dreams and new challenges.
Bill Moxley "Mox"
On the next pages are a few of Billâ€™s letters that refer to some of his early Naval experiences.
Although it's been thirty years since Bill passed away, I always thought his stories were interesting and finally decided to put a biography together. There is no guarantee of total accuracy but hopefully the story depicts various events with some of Bill's flair. Bryan G. Huber
Dedicated to all innovative individuals
Published on Oct 3, 2010