Contact: Rich Kurz   Page content last updated September 1, 2021


First Memories

While self-sequestering cuz of COVID, my mind wandered back to my first decade of life and my earlierst memories. So I pulled out my parents family slides and looked for what they had from that time. None of them were exactly what I remembered seeing, but they did show scenes from the same day and same locations.
The earliest memories are hard to order after the fact, and sometimes I don't know if it's a snapshot of a moment or of a dream. Or maybe it became both! They are brief moments, almost static images, interspersed by moments of black nothingness. Finally around the age of four, continuous consciousness kicks in. It is of course intriguing to compare my memories to my parents photos. Those photos help me now to chronologically arrange the memories.

George AFB, 1955

Memories from when my dad was in the service in California are my first timestamp. My dad served at George AFB north of San Bernadino, CA and next to Victorville and Apple Valley, the home of Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans. . . and Trigger! I have a number of memories there. I remember going to San Bernadino and going around a bend in my dad's '46 Buick while looking out the front windshield as we descended toward the town. And I think I remember parking on a main street in town, but I was confused about where we parked so I am not sure if it was, instead, a dream.
I recall being in a crib at some care center, likely on base, with two other boys in cribs by me. I could hear other childern somewhere past my vision in a large room inside that building. The boys called out to me, but I was too scared to talk to them. I was wondering where were my parents.
Another time, my parents went to Tijuana for a one-day trip. It must have been the time I recall being with this older couple who were very nice. But still I was afraid because I did not know who they were or when my parents were ever coming back.


I remember our base housing - a small, one-story, two-bedroom townhouse. Those buildings are being used now by the military to practice house-to-house combat. On our black-and-white TV I recall watching Dinah Shore, and Burns and Allen, and Davey Crockett. Once I looked out the kitchen window in back and thought it had snowed. "No," I was told, 'there had been a sand storm and it was just the desert sand.'
I can remember taking my baths in a 1950s-shade-of-green tile bathroom. And of being scared every night watching a shadow on my bedroom window that looked like a giant frog (it was a bush)! Oh, yes - I remember being in the enclosed patio for my 3rd birthday party and getting a 1955 Cadillac plastic model. A true prize. Behind the unit was a row of garage spaces, enclosed on three sides. I was not sure which ones my dad owned. I thought he owned many. It turns out he owned at heast two and he kept selling them and buying another.

Knotts Berry Farm, 1955

But the highlight of that year HAD to be going to Disneyland. Looking back, I realized we went in the fall of the year it opened! How neat was that?! I don't have anything that tells me what day or month, just the sequence of the slides. It was September or later, perhaps two months after it opened. But my memories are tinged with discomfort as I think back on them.
I think we went to Knotts Berry Farm first. I only have one visual from it. It was the train ride. We were riding in a passenger car, on the right side next to my dad, and I had the window seat. When all of a sudden, bad men came thru the car from the back faces covered by neckerchiefs and shooting their pistols (pointed up at the ceiling). They were real and really shooting and it was loud - louder than on TV, AND NOBODY WAS REACTING OR TRYING TO STOP THEM! I was scared out of my wits and confused and dumbfounded by everyone else's reaction. They didn't try to stop them! No one even budged or tried to protect me from being stolen or even shot! But the bad men kept going forward to the next car and were soon gone, and my rememberance ended.


Disneyland, 1955

I can remember two rides and one scene from the day at Disneyland. I think we started at Adventureland and went around clockwise, if the slides are in order. I remember the giraffe and I think there was a crocodile. That's when it started to become frightening. There was a waterfall we passed behind. And THEN there was a HIPPO that rose out of the water and opened his mouth - all the way! And then the boat driver pulled out his pistol and fired it right into the mouth of the hippo, who slowly sank back into the water. I was ready to get off of THAT ride!
Next I found myself on the waterfront of the western town. Lots of people were gathered round in something like a large circle, WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN . . . A GUNFIGHT BREAKS OUT . . . RIGHT IN FRONT OF EVERYONE!!! This was NOT exciting, but dangerous for me. I might get shot! In fact, one of the gunmen DID get shot!
Then I remember standing in line to go on a ride to the moon. I could hardly believe it - we were actually going to the moon! Could that really be true? I sorta rememeber going in and then into a round room with rows of seats on higher and higher stages. I was not good with heights and climbing so I was anxious and trying not to trip and fall thru the railing getting to our seat. I remember watching the round screen in the center bottom floor as we saw the earth get smaller. I can't recall how the flight (or movie) ended, but I do recall having a splitting headache by the end of it.
Later I think I experienced heartfelt disappointment because I never saw Davey Crockett there and I thought he was suppose to be. I was a HUGE fan of Davey Crockett. I read the Golden Book story every night till I had it memorized and could (and did) sing the theme song (often - ask my parents). So, I can't remember anything fun about it. But by my 9th birthday, I wanted to go back, and we DID! THAT is another story.


Christmas, 1955

The year ended with memories of Christmas in Winthrop, Massachusetts, my mother's hometown. I think my dad was out of the Air Force because I doubt they would have given him a leave for the holiday.
I recall being thrilled to wear my new red-and-black cowboy suit, and being in the living room looking at my parents and my grandparents and my great-grandparents, who lived a few blocks away. I think I remember them taking the picture! And then it fades out.
Then, I am at my Aunt's home for the birthday of her daughter. Once again, I recall looking at my great-grandfather and not being exactly happy to be playing sweep-the-floor. I remember going to the dining room for my cousin's birthday cake and both of us blowing out the candles. I was unsure about doing so because it was HER birthday and HER cake! My first experience of cognitive dissonance, and I was only three!
Scanning the photo at high res, I now see that my mom and my aunt (they are sisters) put three candles on one side for me and two on the other for my cousin. I thought I was helping my cousin. I missed what the parents were trying to do for us. And then things are blank for awhile.


"George Air Force Base in California: decaying structures, apocalyptic landscapes, and a lot of tumbleweeds"
DESIGNING DISNEY, "The Grand Opening of Disneyland"
BuzzFeed, "This Is What Disneyland's Opening Day Looked Like In 1955"
Diz Avenue, "Disneyland Map Evolution 1955-2015"


This shows the main locations in SoCal of the California photos.

This shows the base, my Dad's PX (green dot), and where we lived (orange oval) - I don't know which unit.

The ORIGINAL Disneyland, with all the memorable events of that day.

Don't know where Winthrop is? Well, it's east of Boston!

George AFB

Looking out from the base toward the western mountains

My dad was in charge of the base clothing store located in this building.

Here's another view of it.

I think these are some of the men who worked there.

A view looking away from the building, I think.

A view looking down along the street toward the control tower and runways.

Officer housing also came with a covered parking space. Here's my dad's '40 Cadillac.

Another view of the carports

Here are the officers quarters. Ours was on the right end, #119. My bedroom was the corner room. The frog shadow fell on its patio window.

One of the neighbor families. I don't know their names.

This shows a view like the one I thought was snow. You can see why.


My birthday - a bunch of towheaded boys + water

My first Cadillac - a powder-blue '55

And the climax - cake & presents!

San Bernadino & Apple Valley

The descent into San Bernadino

Does anyone know where this cut is?

A view overlooking the town.

Anotbher view overlooking the town.

I think this is in Apple Valley.

And this as well.

And another view.

A view of the Apple Valley Inn, an out-of-the-way celebrity hangout.

The middle sign points to the Inn

Knotts Berry Farm

Here are scenes from the western town section.

I really don't remember them specifically.

Looking toward the train.

Note the figure of an old miner in the foreground.

This locomotive was authentic and used in movies, such as "How the West Was Won" I certainly remember the train ride holdup!!


An idylic view

I never realized just how big their theme park was. Disney did not have a zoo!

Circle the wagons. We're gonna be seranaded by the cowhands tonight!




The ORIGINAL Disneyland, fall of 1955. Scenes from it probably populated my dreams for years.

Dig the Hawaiian shirts! I think this is by the Jungle cruise.

The Jungle Cruise itself turned out to be a scary ride with crocs and hippos popping up and the captain shooting at them!

And I remember going behind a waterfall some time on the ride and being relieved to get off that ride.

Nearby was the western town waterfront where the gunfight happened.


Cinderella's Castle as it originally looked.

Here's Tomorrowland. That's my Mom in the dark-gray Bermudas holding my hand.

Winthrop, Christmas 1955

At my aunt's house. Me and my cousin racing. She won.

It's her birthday! We are playing cleaning day. I don't look happy about that.

That's my great-grandfather behind me. He was a real gentleman and loved children. He said little and looked huge.

Dolls and a fire hat. Okay, I'm good with that.

Hooray! Now for the cake. That's my mom and my aunt behind us.

Look carefully at the cake. 3 candles for me and 2 for my cousin.

Christmas day! My parents and my grandmother.

Here! You can play with my special train. It's more fun than a broom.

My dad helping me blow out the dinner candles. I loved that cowboy suit!

Miscellaneous 1955


Two views of San Francisco looking east

I think this one also looks east. Tell me if I'm wrong.

The Pacific looking towards the Goldern Gate. I am guessing it's near the Cliff House.

This is a purchased slide of the Cliff House from that time.


The tourist ghost town of Calico, CA, noreast of Barstow.

The Pacific coast, somewhere, I think on the way to Tiajuana.

Just inland from the coast.

Tiajuana street scene. My parents did a one-day trip to there with another couple from the base. The other couple had a different idea of fun and I don't think my parents enjoyed the trip.