In 1971 I was TV news anchorman at KRNV, the NBC affiliate in Reno, Nevada. November 24 had been an otherwise calm news day. Just about the time we went on the air at 5:30 with the news, we got a news flash from the Associate Press wire service that a Northwest Airlines passenger jet had been hijacked from Portland, Oregon...my hometown. All we knew at the time was that the jet, Flight 305 to Seattle, had been hijacked and was on the ground in Seattle. It turned out the a man who had booked his flight lunder the name Dan Cooper (a reporter mistakenly identified him as D. B. Cooper which stuck) had demanded a ransom, several parachutes, and instructions to take him to Mexico. We reported this on our newscast. Before the newscast ended at 6pm we updated our report of the hijacking that the aircraft had left Seattle and was heading south.
I was both the early and late news anchor and realized this story was going to fill much of our newscast at 11pm. About 10pm we got word that the hijacker had parachuted out of the aircraft and it had been ordered to land in Reno.
Following is how it began as reported on the internet on Wikipedia...Cooper had justs handed the flight attendant a note.
"Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him (Cooper) in a jumpseat attached to the aft stair door. Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman's phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse. Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb."
The note was printed in neat, all-capital letters with a felt pen. It read, approximately, "I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked." Schaffner did as requested, then quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper cracked open his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders ("four on top of four") attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery. After closing the case he dictated his demands: "I want $200,000 in unmarked 20-dollar bills. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff or I’ll do the job."
It took the airline and FBI several hours to raise the ransom. When Cooper got the money, he allowed most of the flight crew and all of the passengers to be released. The aircraft took off and about 8pm a light came on signaling that the aft exit had been opened...it was directly under the tail of the aircraft.. Cooper had parachuted out the rear door. The plane was ordered to land in Reno where it sat for hours while the FBI inspected it for fingerprints and other clues.
In that interim, I must have spoken to two dozen news directors in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, and Portland. Not long after that, the CBS affiiliate in Portland called and I was soon anchoring the news there.
DB Cooper was never found. Only a portion of the money was recovered...read the Wikipedia article for details.
Coincidentally, several years later I was news director and anchorman of the CBS affiliate in Santa Maria, California, when the Hearst Castle caught fire under suspicious circumstances. I had a reporter nearby who shot the only film of the fire. CBS News called me and asked to have the film. They flew a jet from Los Angeles to Santa Maria in time to have film coverage of the event on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. We were the only network to have film coverage...pretty exciting stuff.
I was 7 and a half years old when (hey - didn't we all make sure our audience knew each of those extra months...we were in surh a hurry to "grow up" - little did we know) - Where was I, oh yes...when my kid sister Judy burst into life. I can't think of a better expression for her entry into the world. She was the happiest baby I had ever seen in all my 7 and a half years, despite my vast experience in this regard. She would cry occasionally of course, when she wanted a new diaper or to be fed. At first my mom wouldn't let any of us touch her (me, my older brother Rich or my younger bro Tommy - who was four going on 21). My dad would hold her on occasion but he never was the cuddly type, so that let me the chance every now and then to sneak up and hold her myself, or change that dreaded, scumbly diaper she sometimes inscrutably wanted to be rid of.
One day mom who had surrepticiously been watching my every move, decided she could trust me to do the job right...I even disposed of the diaper into the laundry basket the way she wanted. Hey - no one had those discardable jobs in those days and besides we couldn't have afforded such a luxury. Poor Judy just had to trust that we wouldn't encumber her with something less than snowy white and soft as silk. Before I knew it, I was bathing her. Can you imagine ME, Roberto Reado, "adult" enough to do two such tasks without fear of retribution from my parents?? Rich, who was very grown up at 10, wouldn't have deigned to stoop to such a low task in life. Tommy - well, Tommy wanted to help in the worst way, but at four he was still mostly fingers and thumbs in such delicate and important tasks.
By the time Judy was two, I had her working for me! I pretened I was falling off the couch and hollered for her to "save me." Sure 'nuf, she came hauling into the living room from whereever she was and pushed me back onto the couch. She always sighed "whew" and went on her way. I musta got away with my trickery for a month or so (hey, she was only two!) when one day she came in, grabbed me by my shirt, and pulled me offa that couch, dumping me unceremoniously on my butt. Well, I never! When I looked up my mom, Rich, and Tommy were all laughing so hard I couldn't help joining the fun - Judy was very proud of herself. She never "saved me" again.
Jantzen Beach was an amusement park built in 1928. It was the largest amusement park in the US at the time. It sprawled over 123 acres on Hayden Island...which lies at the northern tip of Portland. Vancouver, Washington is just across the Columbia River.
My favorite place was the swimming pool and then the huge Big Dipper Roller Coaster. My older brother Richard and our friend Jimmy Raxter used to get on the roller coaster and check out all the sites from its apex. You could see for miles. I was only six and sometimes worried I might fall out of it...there was only a bar across our laps. Rich and Jimmy loved to get the chair swinging back and forth with me in the middle holding on for dear life. I could easily have just slipped out between the bar and seat...they thought it was hilarious to see me screaming for them to stop...I mighta just been hollering into the wind for all the good that did. Sheesh!
When I was ten my mother took my little brother Tommy and I swimming. He was a real fish...he'd get in there and happily splash around literally all day. One day we had just taken time out for lunch and Tommy was back in the pool in a flash. I was standing on the side looking for him when I suddenly had a premonition that someone might be drowning. I scanned the pool and sure enough, there was a little girl right in the middle of the pool bobbing up and down. I was a fast swimmer and quickly reached her. She grabbed onto me coughing and sputtering, and hanging on for dear life. She was only 3 or 4 and had just somehow gotten in over her head. I looked around and sure enough her mother was by the edge of the pool crying herself and hugging me to pieces, thanking me for rescuing her daughter. I was pretty shy in those days, and simply muttered something like, "Ah, that's OK."
Now that was a "Feel Good" day.
I hate like the dickens even to bring this up but i'm old enough to remember when radio was the big deal...no one had even heard of a TV in our neck of the woods. Except when the radio serials were on in late afternoon...like I love a Mystery, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Buck Rogers, The Armstrong Boys, and the like, we entertained ourselves by rounding up our buddies (no girls allowed, thank you very much) and playing softball, going fishing, playing marbles, or even jumping off stuff...almost anything would do. I remember one day we decided to see how long we could walk along the top board of a wooden fence; that quickly moved into jumping off the fence, and finally to jumping off the garage roof onto the lawn, about a 10-foot drop. Crazy as that sounds we did it for about an hour or so...lemme tell ya, I was darned sore the next day, from my feet to my ankles, to my knees, to my hips, to my shoulders, well you get the idea, my eyeballs even hurt. This poor body was wracked with pain for a couple days. Course none of us would readily admit how sore we really were...no sissies in this crowd, no sirree.
We went fishing at Triangle Lake in North Portland. It was where the great Vanport flood of 1948 took place. Over 20.000 people literally ran for their lives, including our family ('cept when we stopped to pick up my spilled marble collection)...but that's another story to come. I sure don't wanta lose track of my real story here today...kid's stuff. Where was I...oh, yes, we wuz really lucky to have Triangle Lake so nearby...only about a 2 mile ride on our bikes. Some brave soul had tied about a 30-foot rope to a tree limb and we would swing out from a 10-foot high ledge and drop off into the lake....now I'm sure you can 'preciate how much fun that wuz...heck, we took along our lunches so's we could play all day there if we wanted. Sometimes one of the gang would bring his kid sister along cuz he was watching over her that day...but it was several years more before we 'preciated the wonder of having a girl in our midst. Nope, I ain't goin' off in that direction now either...just be patient, you'll see there's lots more to come on that score!
Anyway, one day we discovered some wild blackberries had ripened so we took to working our way through the patch gettin' he good ones. After filling our bellies and notin' as to how our hands were now deep purple from the berries, of course we had to get back to the swimming hole to clean off. We wuz fine until the next day when we learned something certain that we had indeed walked into a nest of nettles gettin' them blackberries. You haven't lived until you've tangled with nettles. Nettles are sneaky little light green vines just oozing with stickers that have a nasty poison in them...sorta like poison oak or poison ivy, but maybe even worse. Needless to say, we didn't go blackberry picking in that spot again for awhile...well, until we couldn't resist them blackberries no more, so we got some long planks we found nearby to tramp down the bushes so as to avoid them nettles.
As a boy I entered every art contest I could and won just enough to keep me interested...usually getting exciting prizes such as a drawing book, new brushes, a small pastel set, or if I was really lucky, a baseball cap or a new pen. My pals and I mostly spent our summers happily biking around North Portland and Sauvies Island where we went fishing and swimming. There was a creek that in early summer was so coooooollllldddd that we could only stand to splash around in it for a few minutes, then away we went seeking another adventure, such a swiping fruit from "Mr. Sourpuss," a neighbor who always growled menacingly at us if we came anywhere near his yard...he was a tempting target for a bunch of 8-10 year olds.
One time we decided to relieve him of some of his juicy peaches just hanging there (doing nothing constructive) on the tree in his front yard. This caper naturally attracted half the neighborhood who wanted in on the action. We got the logistics worked out...and had "cased the joint" by walking by his house several times that day. We never even considered he mighta been watching us parade back and forth....sheesh! He had a wire fence around his prized possession...so naturally we decided the best time to pull off this heist was after dark. Where was I...oh yes, about 9pm all 15 or so of us snuck up "as quietly as we could" and proceeded to climb his wire fence. Now my best friend Jerry and I were naturally the ringleaders, the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of this motley group, so natch we had to show our daring by going first up the fence....it was one of those jobs that had "square" links you could put your foot in like a stirrup. It couldn't have been more than three feet high but at the time seemed twice that. I don't know 'bout the others, but my heart was pounding a mile a minute, mainly because we knew once we got into his yard, there was no easy escape, and besides, I was the slowest thing on two feet, which worried me considerable. Why it never occurred to any of us to simply open the gate and walk in I don't know. Of course it wouldn't have been half the adventure it was by scaling the fence.
Well, the little ones behind us got a little impatient to get this caper over and done with and had crowded in something fearful behind us and by now Jerry and I were on the top of the fence and about to climb over when Mr. Sourpuss roared out from behind a bush hollering "I've got you now!" and Oh my god I 'bout wet my pants trying to get outa there so I tried to leap off the fence but my foot got caught in the "stirrup" and besides those little squirts behind me got in my way and then Mr. Sourpuss grabbed my arm and I did wet my pants but frankly in my sad state I didn't even notice but took a fearful ribbing for it later by those damnedable little squirts who couldn't move fast enough for me but at this particular moment in time I had more important things on my mind such as Mr. Sourpuss with his beefy arm trying to pull me back into his yard and me scared enough to aggravate just wetting my pants into maybe havin' a heart attack and...where was I?...oh yes, at that minute I screamed bloody murder which musta scared even Mr. Sourpuss cuz he loosened his grip on me just enough for me to leap clear of the fence and light outa there and before I knew it I had blown by those little ones like they wuz standin' still. Later I wondered as how I did that but attributed it to me wantin' to get as far from Mr. Sourpuss's beefy arm as fast as I could. Once we realized he wasn't chasin' after us we stopped to get our breath and could hear him laughin' his fool head off. The good-for-nuthin' toad had been laying for us all along. Needless to say we gained powerful respect for Mr. Sourpuss...and went outa our way to avoid his house the rest of that summer.