OM128 - Jacqueline Cochran

John’s mom being a computer programmer (OM128)

See RW38 on why John’s mom became a computer programmer, also RW106

Early computer programmers like John’s mom were women. They were able to take that field at a time when men hadn’t decided to take it over yet because it wasn’t prestige work and therefore not traditionally masculine. Only later did the field get gentrified by men claiming it was for people like themselves and at that point it self-selected and young kids thought it was for men and they were not good at that. Computer programming was data-entry at a keyboard and was originally considered secretarial work. Women were recruited into computer programming because it seemed like women’s work and women pioneered the fact that it was really advanced mathematics that required special and theoretical thinking.

Gender-neutral occupation nouns (OM128)

Amelia Earhart was the most famous American aviatrix, which was the term of art at the time, but it is a less common turn of phrase now. Ken got in trouble in 7th grade for putting poetess on some essay he was writing about Emily Dickinson. He didn’t know about gender-neutral nouns yet and he thought he was very precise, but a very serious recent grad-student had to sit him down and explain to him why we don’t say poetess. John doesn’t use the word actress anymore, but he says actor, which seems like a gender-neutral term, although the Oscars are built on the premise that male and female acting are very different fields. John does like to use the word aviatrix because it is such a beautiful word. He also says dominatrix and does not call them dominators, which is also one of the most beautiful words. Ken’s aunt was the executrix of her dad’s will, which is very beautiful with two ”x”, but is very difficult for John to say properly with his complicated tongue architecture (geographic tongue, see OM94).

Bush-pilots in Alaska (OM128)

For stories about bush pilots, see RL9 (Serial killer bakery) and RL244 (Becoming a bush pilot)
Reverse bucket list RW81, John’s dad was a bush pilot, see Parents

In the episode about the bodies of Mount Everest John mentioned his old pilot-friend Cliff Hudson who flew small planes up to Denali. He is retired and his sons have taken over (actually he passed away in 2010). Cliff is one of several legendary bush pilots who landed on Denali (see HH8) and his chief competitor was Alaska’s most famous bush pilot Don Sheldon who crashed his airplane on Denali several times and walked away from it. He also pioneered a lot of routes. These guys are very laconic Alaskan pilot types who don’t talk a lot and John was fascinated with Don Sheldon as a little boy because he was very rakish and he has a daughter John’s age (see article here).

Many years later John was extolling the virtues of Don Sheldon who was dead at that point and he knew that he and Cliff Hudson were competitors. Cliff Hudson told John under his breath that Don had crashed his plane 23 times and Cliff never crashed a single time, but Don is the one everybody writes all the books about. Cliff Hudson had done all the incredible feats as well! It is not fair that Amelia Earhart was the most celebrated female aviatrix, because she is primarily famous for crashing, whereas one of her main competitors in the time rivals was Jacqueline Cochran.

John graduated last in High School (OM128)

John mentioned graduating last in KPJR1, but there he was last of 364 students. See also RL178 and some of John’s history with High School and university in RW84, RW90 and RL313.

John was an under-performer in High School and graduated last in his class of 386 graduates at Anchorage East High School in 1986. He really had to work hard to graduate last, which is also what the principal of the school said when he called John into his office, handed him a print-out of all the graduating seniors and said ”I’d like you to find your name on this list!” and John started looking at number 1, but he was not number 1. John and the principal (Don Shackelford) were close. He then said ”Turn to the back!” and John saw that there were 18 kids with a higher GPAs than John who were not graduating and being held back. The principal said that John had worked really hard for four years to be in this last position and John said ”High five!” They graduated him because they wanted him out of the High School and holding him back would only damage them. They were tired of the pranks being done to the Captain Cook statue.

John reading through essays of an essay contest (OM128)

John briefly mentioned this story in RW84

At one point John's principal Don Shackelford was a judge of a state-wide essay contest of seniors around the state. John liked him a lot and they would sit and chat, and when John was sitting in the principal’s office to shoot the bull, his teachers were happier too, because he wasn’t in class causing problems. One day John was sitting in his office with his feet up on his desk and he said ”If you are going to sit in here all day, skip class and disrupt me, why don’t you make yourself useful and read these essays from around the state and put them in 3 piles: Good, fine and bad!”

A lot of those essays were terrible, some of them were fine, and one of them was a thinly veiled fan-fic erotica by Don Sheldon’s daughter. She lived in Talkeetna and her dad was a state-wide and internationally famous bush pilot, although bush-pilot fame decreases dramatically when you leave Alaska. Her essay was about her being out riding her horse on the banks of the Talkeetna river as she sees a young man come down to the water and stare out across the river. She rides her horse over and says ”What are you doing here?” - ”I just moved here from the big city and I don’t know any of your Alaskan ways” - ”Get on the back of my horse!” The story it is basically a fish-out-of-water story where he doesn’t know how to light a fire, how to chop down a tree, how to walk across a beaver dam, or how to get an airplane running when the carburetor heat is permanently on or off, and she was just laughing at this character that she had created out of her own imagination, but also falling in love with him.

She had put herself in the role of the old salty sour dough because that is who she was at the age of 16 or 17. As John got done reading this essay he knew he had found the best of all the essays and he didn’t even realize it was Don Sheldon’s daughter at first, but he had to put it together. She didn’t go to John’s school, but she was from Talkeetna, a little town up in the middle of nowhere. John put a big gold star on it, but he doesn’t think she ended up winning the essay contest.

The different decades (OM128)

The 1970s started 1972
The 1980s started 1978 or when MTV started at 1981
The 1990s didn’t start until 1991

For the state of 1980s music (and the fact that the 1980s started in 1984), see RL251

Permanent hairdo, wearing an afro (OM128)

You never see permanents anymore, but when John was a kid you would see permanents a lot. Ken still sometimes smells them when he goes into a mall barbershop, a little old lady place, because that age group is still getting their permanent waves. It is a terrible smell of wet chemical animal and the hair does stay with that smell for a long time. It was popular in the late 1960s when Jimmy Hendrix had his extraordinary afro. Eric Clapton got a perm and a lot of the white members of Hendrix’s band got big afro perms. These days you would have a man-bun up there or some kind of weird high pony-tails like Baby Spice to make your head look bigger, or a lot of people will just wear giant rasta hats. Bob Dylan had a natural fro, you could call it a jew fro, but in the mid 1970s he also started wearing a giant hat because he was always ahead of the curve.

Yoko Ono’s makeup artist (OM128)

John knows the young woman who is Yoko Ono’s personal makeup artist. Every morning she goes to Yoko’s and puts on her face. Hiring a person like that is one of the things you can do if you are eccentric and have a lot of money. Sometimes she will come in and Yoko will still be asleep and she will climb in bed with Yoko and put her makeup on while she sleeps. She pets her hair, says ”It’s me, I’m here!”, puts her face on and leaves. Ken would 100% cuddle up to her in the Two Virgins-pose and put on her makeup while clutching on her like a tree. Sometimes Yoko gets up and immediately takes a bath because she doesn’t need her makeup done for that day in particular. The world is a marvelous place and John is lucky to know some crazy people.

People named Floyd and Hortense (OM128)

John has a good friend named Floyd who has recorded The Long Winters (Floyd Reitsma, John mentioned him on OJR as the one recording Putting the Days to bed), but there aren’t very many Floyds. Sport-naming your male child is a thing we do in our time and after so many kids named Patterson somebody is going to find Floyd. All these prog-dads are going to name their kids after Pink Floyd and there is probably a Floyd-boom going on right now. Floyd Odlum was married to Jacqueline Cochran, she was his manic pixie dream girl.

Floyd Odlum’s first wife was named Hortense. She did not think of adopting a sleek European name and it comes back to find her. John has now been in the elementary schools of Seattle as a parent for several years and he has yet to meet a Hortense. All the office secretaries are probably called Hortense, but John just doesn’t know because he doesn’t call them by their first name but he calls them sweetheart. There are definitely more people named Floyd than Hortenses these days. Hortense is past tense. It has the unfortunate first syllable and in English you can’t really conjugate a sentence using the whore tense and you are not going to nickname it very easily.

There is this Dorothy Parker joke on how to use horticulture in a sentence: ”You may lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think”.

John’s grandfather (OM128)

John’s grandfather died alone in a Los Angeles flophouse hotel in the 1950s.

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