Short Snorters and Prospector Pete

November 17, 2015

File this in the category: Things I didn’t know before…. 

Spent a very, very nice afternoon on the bay with my aunt, uncle and mom last Saturday. The bay is Alamitos Bay, part of the protected network of waterways and harbors inside the Long Beach breakwater.

First off, here’s the view from their porch:


Naples, Treasure Island, Belmont Shore.. are all off to the left of this photo; the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club to the right; and, across the water and visible here is the Boathouse, the restaurant we ate at a few weeks ago (oh yeah, and owned by Eric).

I LOVE hanging out at their house…have they lived here forty years?! I remember being so disappointed when they moved out of their other house which was so cool because it was three stories! And because the top floor was an octagon! And they lived on an island! And they had a great ping pong table and a boat and their own dock! I was a kid: their house seemed like a castle playground with its own moat. What can I say, I was bummed.

But they didn’t go far; you can actually see their old house from their new house. Bob and Eric were tiny tots, so they decided it was safer to be on the beach. And that actually turned out to be cool, too. Maybe cooler. Lots of beach parties, lots of swimming. We dragged lots of sand through the house. It was great.

Still is.

One place I’ve never spent much time in, is my uncle’s office. It is quite the sanctuary of memorabilia, books, and photos. This is where I learned, today, about short snorters. With the help of Wikipedia, this is what I now know:

A short snorter is a banknote inscribed by people traveling together on an aircraft. The tradition was started by Alaskan Bush flyers in the 1920s and spread through the military and commercial aviation. During World War II short snorters were signed by flight crews and conveyed good luck to soldiers crossing the Atlantic. Friends would take the local currency and sign each other’s bills creating a “keepsake of your buddy’s signatures”.

So, he’s got a long row of short snorters, displayed end to end, framed, that represent all the countries he flew over when he was in the war (WWII). And not just flew over, but piloted the plane over. It’s a lotta paper money–a note from each country.

I’d heard this other story before, but was again blown away by it: My uncle, just a week or so before his 16th birthday (1940) decided, because he knew how to fly a plane (seriously), to join the Air Force. He was welcomed right in and told to report to a base in Burma (I believe). It took him weeks and weeks to get there, a trip he made without any travel experience or money to speak of, just the goodwill of people along the way.

His trans-global journey is marked by a thick red line on a world map that hangs on the wall above the desk in his office. It goes from the US, to Central and South America, across the Atlantic, through Africa, through the Middle East and up into China.

He even took control of a plane for one leg of the journey, somewhere over the Atlantic, somewhere east of Ascension Island, and thus earned his first short snorter.

Can hardly fathom a 15-year-old even contemplating such a thing, much less carrying it out. Which he did. He went on to fly airplanes for the Air Force. Because he was underage (which they may or may not have been aware of initially), his duties were limited, but fly he did. Mostly he buzzed bridges to clear them of civilians, making way for the of-age guys to come in and do all the ugly work.

I’m sure I’m missing some details, but all I can say is, I hope memoirs will be written. Uncle Bud’s stories don’t stop there!

Anyway… we had a nice lunch:


Took a few pictures for posterity:



(Uncle Bud has his own way of soliciting smiles…beware that right hand around the areas of the ribs…)

We moved inside because it was actually chilly (probably in the lower 70s!). I’m a fan of their living room… I have to believe that in designing our own, I had theirs in mind: built-in white bookshelf stuffed with books, piano in the corner (theirs is a player piano), colorful art, ceiling beams, wood floor.


Our house is missing the bay view… but similar concept, no?


Anyway… we talked for another couple of hours. And here’s the second thing I learned that I’d never known: The Long Beach State mascot–Prospector Pete–is named after my grandpa…


Campus founded in 1949 (49ers, gold minors, prospectors…), grandpa founder, first president… thus Prospector Pete. You can actually buy one of these in the CSULB book store. May just have to get myself one!

Anyway, enjoyable afternoon.

Some parting shots:

Uncle Bud coming out the back door:


Typical neighborhood flora:


And a shot on the ocean side of the peninsula driving north toward downtown LB, the iconic oil rig islands just offshore:





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