|1968 was a strange time for jumping. Equipment
and relative work were in Limbo in some areas and in revolution in others.
Even the PCA would change its name to the USPA.
There were few pigs in use relative to the total number of rigs which were still mostly surplus military rigs. There was certainly a good supply of new rigs about. The Pioneer LoPo and Security Tracker round systems could be had only on special order and there were few ordered.
The Security Crossbow Pig with a Paracommander in the main and a Security 26' LoPo with a T-gore modification was the norm if you bought commercial.
Irvine Air Chute Co in Los Angeles, not far from the Perris Valley DZ had a hang glider looking canopy on the market called the Delta II (photo left). Pioneer had less successful versions called the Rogolo Wing and the Parawing.
Back at Lakewood however, many things were happening. Hundreds of test jumps had taken place. Pioneer developed a single surface square called the Barish Sailwing and almost put it on the market, but a competitor patented parts of the design before Pioneer got around to it. Less than 50 Sailwings ever took to the air. Those who jumped it said it was both the most exciting jump ever made and the scariest! Lee Gylfoil broke a leg jumping it and when he healed he got a dead center under his PC on the first jump.
While the Para-foil was being tested, Pioneer's half ram-half single surface square, the Volplane was up there too and further development of the PC was ongoing.
It was strange for me too. I got my discharge and actually had a small tear in my eye as I drove out the front gate of the best base I'd ever been on. I was also leaving a good group of friends but in the service you got used to that and for a lot of veterans it was difficult to make any close friends for the rest of their lives because of the fear of loosing them.
At Altus, almost all my friends were jumpers but oddly enough at Hamilton AFB I was the only skydiver I knew of on base. The people at Hamilton were just as good friends as any other base if not more. I still have contact with a few of them.
I drove south over the Golden Gate Bridge, through San Francisco and down Rt. 101 to Santa Barbara and stayed in a motel in Carpenteria. I went to campus the next day, gave them my life savings for tuition and then got an address for some student housing on the economy. They didn't have dorms.
I ended up at 806 N. Nopal Street, the famous NOPAL NUTHOUSE of the school. Unload car, meet room mates, go to post office to get a PO Box (didn't plan on living there long and wanted a permanent address but lived at 806 for 3 years!) and then just looked around. Next day I found Santa Barbara Airport and looked for the NOTAM board. Bingo... Santa Ynez!
I couldn't find the time to get out there till July 21st
and good thing my reserve was in date because there were no riggers for
60 miles! I got to the town but couldn't find the airport without
help and finally found Alan Grant (D-2008), a Cessna 180 and a packing
mat. My jumping life there started with some relwork from 7500' and
my White 4-line Hustler got me into the peas beating out all the PC's.
While in Viet Nam and at Hamilton I kept in touch with Sgt. Art Bishop who was now C-4880. (Oddly enough I did some relwork with Bill Clouse C-4881! They must have sent in their applications the same day! I also logged jumps with the then well known Bob Palmeri D-1988.) Art invited me to try Perris Valley DZ and I went down on Sept. 21st. I gave up Santa Ynez for Perris and the better facilities but the 3 hour drive was a boring expensive trip. Gas was 24 cents a gallon! My GI Bill was $140 a month and my part time job was $35 a week take home. My car got 26 miles per gallon and there were no bunk house there then.
Perris was a much different place than it is today. As you drove in there was several lengths of outdoor packing tables under hard covers. Next to that was two suspended harness frames. Most interesting was the DZ truck. It was a car or truck body/frame with this huge flat surface put on it. The driver sat in a hole in the center and the jumpers sat all along the edges or threw their gear in the center and walked back.
The DZ itself had an absolutely excellent pea pit which I used to great advantage for silly landings. I can't believe its still not there and still used but maybe not?
My second time down there I took a drive down the road to Lake Elsinore and snuck in one. When I asked where their famous pea pit was the guy pointed to the lake and said 25 feet into the water! The lake had risen so much it was taking in part of the DZ and its airport. There was a jump movie made in the 70's (Master's of the Skies) that has lots of film shot at Lake Elsinore with good shots of the DZ and airport. Funny to think it would be a PI drop zone later on, it was Skylark Aviation then.
The next time I was there, I drove up and found 4 jumpers, 3 guys and a lady standing stark naked except for boots and helmet doing a gear check! They got on the plane and took off never to be "seen" again. It turns out they were doing a jump into the near-by Glen Eden Nudist Resort. I remember hoping that none of the guys was wearing a surplus B-4 harness with their family futures hanging about.
I drove back to New Jersey during Xmas vacation and managed to get in one jump at Lakewood with Art Cooke D-1888 from 3000' and we were scraping the clouds at that. The weather was so cold I was in pain and it didn't get any better for the rest of my school break.
On Sept. 27th (1969) I decided to try Taft DZ to see if it was closer to Santa Barbara and any cheaper to jump. I was still jumping at Perris up to that point and the line distance to Taft was quite closer but you had to weave in and around the mountains to get there and only saved 20 minutes.
I also needed to see a rigger. On Sept. 2nd Ho Chi Min died of old age and the one room mate we had who was not a vet (I lived with him and two X-Marines) got stoned and went on a rampage. He tore up the apartment and opened up my main and reserve and was trying to tear the reserve canopy when we stopped him. We tied his ass to the bumper of his car till he got straight and the next morning he found all his stuff on the front porch and the lock changed.
TAFT was a well known DZ at the time and oddly enough it was the preferred DZ of America's top woman jumpers. Jeanne Combs had been on several US Teams and I also logged jumps with Debby Reeves C-5126, Joan Emmeck D-1811 plus Bill Freeman D-2013, Art Woody D2270 and Canada's' Bill Smith C-334.
Taft was a funny place then. The airport was no way near the DZ. You drove for 10-15 minutes into the oil fields. The DZ and peas were in a built up creator that once had an oil storage tank in it. I saw some incredible landings there, most looking like judo roles or sport death! :-) You also had a major water hazard with a huge concrete canal passing by.
My most memorable jump at Taft was a camera jump. I had rigged up a magazine 8mm movie camera and I went up with two mates. I had played the old "pretend to blow your nose in the guys' new canopy" joke on one of them and he got even. We all got out on the strut and went on the nod and when I looked up they were back in the airplane and two birds sticking out the door. I got a good shot of my canopy opening up but that's it mate! I also put in one of my "century" jumps there and landed right on a cactus! I decided to go back to Perris.
On Feb. 22, 1970 I made my last jumps at Perris. Sgt. Art Bishop and Phil Christman D-2334 wanted to jump a Stinson Mule and I'm a sucker for jumping a new type of aircraft. It was a very weird experience indeed. If you have ever seen one of these birds you can realize what a strange and difficult experience it is to get out of one in the air. I made a soft stand up in the peas under my White Hustler so it was a nice jump. Art was transferred out of California soon after that and I haven't seen him since. (E-mail me if you are reading this Art, we have years of lies and tall tails to catch up on!) I jumped with a camera that day and when my gear gets in from Colorado, I'll post the photos.
The weather was very good to me at Perris. I never went down to find the winds bad or the clouds low, but the smog was bad even then. We could actually see the bottom of the smog layer and after we went through it we could see it below. We used to joke about making two PLF's for each jump at Perris, one on the smog and one on the ground.
I made my last jump in California (at Taft) on April 12th and had to hang it up for a while due to money problems, raising tuition and some problem visits to the VA Hospital. I got married in March 1971 and you know what that means!
I moved to Colorado in August 1971 and was happy to leave
Southern California. I didn't like it, especially Santa Barbara and
was very anxious to get back to Colorado. I paid a visit to Columbine
airport the first month I was back but there's no jumps in my log book
and I can't remember if I went up or not. Like many old timers, I
tended to forget to log jumps occasionally. I always carried one
rig in the car but not my log book.
This page last updated on 15 FEB 1999