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Time Marches On Series
Part I: Big Creek Flats Story - Printer friendly
Part II:WWI Breaks Out - Printer friendly

Part II of VII Chapters

WW I Breaks Out!
By David H. Redinger
, Engineer

    SHAVER LAKE -- In one respect, any construction job is like a large circus-even including the clown. As soon as the "show" is over, the outfit moves elsewhere. Rex Starr became affiliated with the Pacific Light & Power Corporation hydraulic engineer, with Arthur Blight as assistant.
Hundreds of others scattered to the four winds. After the exodus, there was a lull in the area with respect to major construction, but not with the the large power houses just completed, as they settled down to grinding out kilowatts for rapidly growing Southern California, the job for which they were built.
    On the door of one of the many offices in the newly-built Marssh-Strong Building in Los Angeles, later renamed Rives-Strong, appeared the sign, "Banks & Redinger"-who were to take on various and sundry jobs of an engineering nature. We realized we had to seek new affiliations, and were of the opinion that while doing so, it would be desirable to have some spot to which we could return to "rest our legs." If, in the meantime, the sign should attract something, all well and good. Apparently we did not use the right kind of "fly paper," because nothing of consequence came our way, although we did have a few nibbles and much fun out of the venture for a while.
Then the situation took on a different color since office rent was not being donated and we had to live, Banks and I were resting our "dogs" in the office one day, planning some more moves, when our 'phone (yes, we had one) rang.
    Both jumped as if it were a fire alarm. Starr was calling for Redinger, and wanted to know if he would be interested in a job). We had to present a good front, of course-or at least we thought we did-and indicated that we had several very good prospects at the moment, but that we would be glad to listen to any proposition, while at the same time being careful not to be "dropped of the hook."
    He was given time, with some difficulty, to hang up his receiver before I rushed into his office. The firm of Banks & Redinger dissolved shortly, both individuals going to work for the Pacific Light & Power Corporation and what a sigh of relief we gave. Starr sent me to the Redondo Steam Plant to do what was necessary to reinforce the pier supporting the large pipe line which carried the condensing water from the ocean to the boiler  as an unusually heavy sea was threatening serious damage.
    This assignment was cut short when a United States marshal suddenly appeared with a subpoena requiring my appearance in Seattle
immediately, in connection with the Alaska coal land investigation on which I had been engaged before coming to Big Creek.
    Upon my return to Los Angeles several weeks later, Starr took me to the Azusa power house, now owned by Pasadena, to make some tunnel repairs. A bad cave-in had occurred between the in-take and the power house, causing a complete shut-down. After finishing this, I returned to Big Creek, located the intake portal of the tunnel to be driven between Power Houses 2 and 3 (the latter not yet built); also the outlet portal of the tunnel headed for Mammoth Pool on the San Joaquin River.
    Although both tunnels were started shortly thereafter-it was now June, 1914, a slow schedule was adopted and followed until there was a change in plans at the time of an urgent need for additional power, resulting in tli( birth of Power House No. 8. Having located these portals, along with the first tangent both tunnels, my party was preparing to move to headquarters when we heard about the forthcoming arrival in Big Creek of a large group of girls from the Fresno State Normal School.
    One can hardly imagine the excitement which resulted among the few engineers left at that time. It certainly put us on the que vive. Fifty young women arrived on July 3, having enrolled in what was to become one of the major enterprises in this area, the Summer School of the Fresno institution.
    The Fresno State Normal School
had been established in 1911 and was renamed "Fresno Teachers College" in 1921. By an act of the State Legislature the present name, "Fresno State College," was adopted in 1935.
    The quarters occupied at Big Creek for that first summer session consisted of several of the rough buildings such as bunk-house and mess hall remaining from the I9I2-I9I3 construction. Such primitive accommodations did not encourage continuation of the project, but because of the Pan-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 there were no classes that year.
    By 1916 a site had been selected at Huntington Lake near the Huntington Lake Lodge, which had been built in the meantime, where the school flourished each summer until 1926, when it moved to a permanent base-a forty-acre tract adjacent to Lakeshore on the north side of the Lake.
    At that location the school has continued each season with an enrollment of 250 to 350, until war conditions prevented its operation in 1943, 1944 and 1945. The sessions have always been very popular in such environment, since the student are able to enjoy unusual recreation while making professional progress.
    The Black-Foxe Military School of Los Angeles occupied for several years the site relinquished by the summer school near Huntington Lake Lodge.
    It was amazing how much work we suddenly found close to headquarters after arrival of the summer school group, but our plan were quickly frustrated when we learned we were to leave Huntington Lake early on July 5 for reconnaissance along the upper South Fork of the San Joaquin River, twenty-five to forty miles distant by trail. This sudden change in plans did not interfere with our attending the dance at Big Creek the evening before-even though we knew we would have to hike to Huntington Lake afterwards in the wee small hours of the morning.
    We reached the engineers' quarters at Huntington Lake about four o'clock-allowing us about an hour before we would have to get breakfast and have our bed-rolls ready to turn over to the packers by six o'clock. We did not think it worth while undressing, let alone opening our bedrolls, and scattered throughout the large room upstairs looking for a place to "flop." Suddenly it occurred to me that I might sneak into the only room in one corner of the spacious upstairs and "sleep soft."
    The room had been made, furnished and set aside for the use of the "brass hats," and usually the door was kept locked when unoccupied. I thought perhaps someone might have failed to lock it, and no one else in our group would think of making any investigation. There had been no "brass hats" around during the day, so to the room I went, feeling my way and being careful not to fall over anyone stretched out on the floor.
    The door was unlocked, and "what luck!"-so I thought. I opened it carefully, stepped in- side, and closed it so quietly a mouse would not have been disturbed. I sat down on the bed, removed my shoes and started to undress, when there was a woman's voice, "What's going on here?"
    I didn't know one of the engineers had brought his wife along. Out the door I went, without my shoes, and as for sleep the next hour, I had none. It was not altogether the shock, but the only suitable spot I could find to lie down on quickly was on some cold folded canvas, part of our camp equipment going out with us that day.
    There were two parties-one headed by H. L. Wheeler, the other by me-all men hiking except the packers. Saddle horses for such a group were not provided in those days, and if they had been offered we would have been very much surprised, if not offended.
    The trip to Blaney Meadows, via Red Mountain and Hot Springs Pass, was broken by camping overnight on the way. Wheeler started his work on the right hand side of the South Fork of the San Joaquin River, heading upstream, and I began on the other. A line of levels was carried all the way from Huntington Lake to Piute and Evolution Creeks.
    This was to determine the elevation above sea level of all important points of our work. We were investigating the feasibility of carrying water from the higher elevations across Hot Springs Pass and into the Huntington Lake watershed. We thought nothing of climbing as much as two thousand feet each morning to our work, and over terrain as rough as one could find.
    I recall one experience while we were running our line around and far up on the side of the Pavilion Dome, a steep cliff. Hand and toe holds along the sheer face were scant, but we had become adept in the use of "skyhooks" under such conditions.
    I got into a spot from which I could not extricate myself without leaving my six foot steel rod, which a chief of party carries when he goes ahead to assist in running a survey line. The rod, no doubt, is still there, as no one but an alpine climber would ever attempt to scale such a cliff just for fun.
    Blaine Riley, transit man, had a narrow escape when he slipped, but fortunately he was able to catch a hand-hold by letting loose of the Berger transit. A sheer drop of at least a thousand feet was below
    A good idea of the terrain may be had by my saying that one day's run covered a total distance of only one hundred yards. Our line was carried along on contour, and it was not unusual to look down on our camp, one to two thousand feet below. The camp was moved frequently enough to make our trips as short as possible horizontally, but nothing much could be done about the vertical distances.
    We were surprised and annoyed one morning upon arriving at the place on line where we had left our transit, tapes, axes, etc. the evening before, to find that during the night the string from our plumb bobs and the buttons from our coats and jackets had been eaten off and carried away.
    The transit could not be accurately set, of course, without a plumb bob, but we worried along through the day, since a round trip to camp for anyone would have taken several hours. We profited from this lesson about chipmunks.
    For pastime on Sunday, if we did not work, we would usually take a "postman's holiday"-go on a hike and climb some mountain peak, the highest in the vicinity. Being so near, we couldn't pass up a visit to Evolution Lake, and several were unable to resist the temptation
to climb Mt. Darwin, in spite of its elevationalmost 14,000 feet. The naming of the lake and mountain is credited to Theodore S. Solomons, in 1895. It is only natural for one to call to mind the Darwinian theory when confronted with the names of the above lake and mountain, and those on government maps-Wallace, Spencer, Fiske and Haeckel-all close High Sierra neighbors and often referred to as "The Evolution Group of Philosophers."
    The names or initials, with dates, carved on quaking aspens along the trails, attest to the fact our party went that way, but we were by no means the first, as we saw date scars of the 1870's. At the outbreak of World War I our camp was located far up on Evolution Creek. "Sippi" Johnson, from headquarters, had ridden through the night and most of the day, bringing instructions to "button up" the job and return to Big Creek.
    The next morning, August 20, we were up before daylight, and believe me, that was early. Our bedrolls were quickly made ready for the packers, and after a hasty breakfast we headed for Big Creek on foot, some thirty-five or forty trail miles via Blaney Meadows and Hot Springs Pass-all acting like a bunch of pack mules and saddle horses making for the corral after having been turned loose.
    Being in perfect trim for such a hike, we did not stop long enough for our light lunch, preferring to eat it on the fly, and literally slid down Pitman Creek into Big Creek. Our arrival was marred only by our method of entering camp. It was twilight, and to minimize embarrassment in case we should meet any women, we entered headquarters by a circuitous route. Even with such precautions we walked circumspectly at times, as the seats of our pants had been completely worn away by sliding over rocks.
    On the trail we wondered whether any of the summer school girls might have remained at Big Creek, but concluded such a prospect was hopeless, since we knew the summer session was scheduled to end August 15. We were delighted to find a few of those we had met on July 3 remaining over for a period of rest and relaxation, which was cut short by our arrival. The girls seemed not to object, and proceeded to entertain us royally with wonderful breakfasts and dinners, prepared and served in one of the old bunkhouses.
    It should not be difficult for anyone to understand how ten days of such treatment affected us, after having had no meals pre- pared by such lovely hands for nearly two months. It was the fore-runner of "disastrous" results for one member of the Fresno State College group who was the head of the Home Economics Department because about three years later, and after much persuasion, she became Mrs. Redinger.
    As a result of World War I, the Company stopped all field work such as that which we had been doing, and again, along with the other members of both survey parties, I found myself laid off as of September i, 1914.
[End Part 2 of 7 Parts.]

Letter to the Editor

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