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Remember When August 2018 edition | Fast Williams, Bass Lake swim, beetle battle and more

Bass Lake, where in 1978 three members of the Ahwahnee Hills Boys School swimming team swam the width and back, an estimated one mile.
Bass Lake, where in 1978 three members of the Ahwahnee Hills Boys School swimming team swam the width and back, an estimated one mile.

Compiled by Debby Carter from the archives of Fresno Flats Research Library and the Sierra Star

50 Years Ago

Renaming roads – Robert L. Wall, Madera County planning director, announced a meeting of the Road Naming Committee in the Coarsegold Community Center building. Residents of the Coarsegold area are urged to attend this meeting and voice their opinions and thoughts on renaming the numbered county roads with historical or local names.

Kearney_Bowl1968
Kearney Bowl in Fresno was the place for Friday night super modified racing until 1970, when the track near Chandler Airport closed. Among the racers who made a name at the famous track: Morrie Williams of Bass Lake, who remains active in motor sports today as a sprint car owner.

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Driver Bud Kaeding of Campbell and car owner Morrie Williams of Oakhurst combined to win the 2017 Northern Auto Racing Club/King of the West sprint car championship.

Innovative Williams – A Friday night super-modified hardtop race at Kearney Bowl in Fresno saw an improved Morrie Williams of Bass Lake place his No. 32 car in the trophy dash, usually reserved for four of the fastest cars on the track. In the main event, Williams finished 13th. His car, over a foot longer and several years older than the 90-inch-wheelbase “hot dogs,” is powered by a 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet engine. It goes fast in the straights against other cars, but doesn’t handle in the turns as well.

(Williams is still active in motor sports as a car owner, and last year won the Northern Auto Racing Club/King of the West sprint car season championship with driver Bud Kaeding of Campbell.)

Telephone upgrade – Mariposa County Telephone subscribers took another step forward into the space age recently when they joined millions of nationwide phone subscribers in using direct distance dialing. The service speeds long distance station-to-station calls by enabling the user to dial thousands of communities countrywide without waiting for an operator’s assistance.

40 Years Ago

Movietime – Playing at the Ponderosa Pines Theatre: “Coma” starring Genevieve Bujold and Michael Douglas; “Saturday Night Fever” starring John Travolta.

Record try – Summer and the backyard swing seem to go together, but two Coarsegold residents, Kathy (Rose) and Gloria Remone, are going swinging in a big way. The sisters hope to set a new world’s record for continuous swinging, the current record being 182 hours. According to Guinness, the swing must be occupied by one of the two participants at all times. The five-minute breaks don’t allow for anything but the barest necessities, so all meals will be taken on the swing. Shampooing and hairdressing will also take place on the swing. (Followup: After 106 hours of continuous swinging, the girls abandoned their attempt when Gloria started hallucinating.)

Lake crossing – Three members of the Ahwahnee Hills Boys School swimming team swam the width of Bass Lake. The threesome, along with school art instructor Mike Tomazin, started their swim at the Skylake Yosemite Camp Cove at 6:30 a.m. They swam across the lake and back, an estimated distance of one mile.

Gorbachev
Leslie Pedroza of Oakhurst says she’s usually not starstruck, but she became flustered in 1988 when she met Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev while in the Soviet Union on a singing tour during the summit talks between President Reagan and Gorbachev.

30 Years Ago

Soviet surprise – Leslie Pedroza of Oakhurst says she’s usually not starstruck, but she became flustered when she met Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev while in the Soviet Union on a singing tour during the summit talks between President Reagan and Gorbachev. Totally unannounced, Gorbachev approached Pedroza and a few members of the Fresno State Concert Choir while they were on a sightseeing trip to Red Square.

Leg up – Men from all walks of life are coming forward to enter the Mr. Legs Beauty Contest for the cause of Mountaineer Days and upkeep of the Oakhurst Community Center. Dave Kraft has entered his right leg in the Best All Around Legs in the Mountains and has entered his left leg in The Hairiest Legs in the Mountains. The Mr. Legs Garter Committee is working night and day to meet the demand for Official Garters for all candidates to wear during the campaign.

20 Years Ago

Name game – Mountain Area residents and visitors alike are invited by Yosemite Entertainment to join in celebration of its new name at a community open house. The original design studio of computer gaming pioneer Sierra On-Line with its more than 100 employees and their families will be hosts at the facility on Sierra Way. Sierra On-Line founders Ken and Roberta Williams chose Oakhurst as the site from which to grow their computer game company in 1979. Now known as Yosemite Entertainment, it is sometimes referred to in the industry as “the birthplace of computer gaming.”

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Raffle for coveted doll – More than 200 adults and children crowded around Dorsey’s Hallmark one Friday morning, each with one desire: to purchase a favorite Beanie Baby. At 8 a.m. sharp, Dave Dorsey, the owner, stepped outside the store with two paper bags, one for adults and one for children, each filled with tickets previously deposited by hopeful customers. Alternately drawing from each bag, the customers were let into the store as their names were called, with the hope that they would find the Beanie Baby model they sought among the latest shipment. The most popular designs of the day were the Princess Di bear; Erin, the St. Patrick’s bear; and Glory, the Fourth of July bear.

Elderberry Longhorn
The elderberry beetle that was at the center of Brad Ditton’s battle with Madera County, Caltrans and the federal government.

Beetle battle – It started out as an innocent cleanup project and turned into a two-year legal battle for accused “criminal” Brad Ditton, a prominent area Realtor. He and a friend were working around his Coarsegold office. Unbeknownst to Ditton, his friend was cutting trees that were not on his property, but on Caltrans right-of-way. While doing this, his friend made a three-inch cut from the branch of an elderberry bush.

A neighbor reported the cuttings, Madera County filed a criminal complaint, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service filed a federal complaint, and Caltrans billed Ditton for about $21,000 in damages. The reason? The elderberry longhorn beetle, an endangered species since 1980, is completely dependent on its host plant, the elderberry bush, making it illegal to cut.

Subsequently, Madera County dropped its criminal complaint, the USF&W changed Ditton’s case to a civil matter for which he agreed to a very expensive settlement, and he sued Caltrans, which countersued.

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