Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Lieutenant Ralph Foulks: 1-5-68

by Margaret Sizemore Clark

    This simple inscription was on a metal bracelet my sister wore back in the early 1970’s. 
It was kind of a fad to wear one, so a lot of people wore them, but then stuck them in a jewelry box or footlocker and forgot them. To be sure, some of the kids wearing them wore them because “everyone” was, but for a few those names inscribed on the bracelets belonged to real people, and they were worn for the purpose for which they were made: to keep POW’s and MIA’s in the forefront of people’s minds.

    My sister is one of those people.  In remodeling her home this week, she was going through boxes of things that had been moved several times, but now needed to be seriously thinned out.  In her jewelry box she found her bracelet and wondered what had become of that serviceman.  Had he been found?  Did he return home after the war?  Had he been a POW?  More importantly, where could she find out how to return her bracelet to Lt. Foulkes or a family member?  Her questions started a chain of events that that resulted in nothing short of a modern-day miracle. I assigned that status because had she tried to make her inquiries during one of her previous moves, the bracelet could not have revealed its story. The information wasn’t there, and if it was, she would have to have gotten permission to see it and probably would have to have personally gone wherever it was kept to actually view it. Additionally, the information held some surprises for us as well as some of those people who were able to find the information that was needed.

    The Vietnam War ushered in a scary time for those of us who had been born after the Korean Conflict. We had known nothing put peace and safety during our young lives, but the advent of television brought the brutality and violence of Vietnam right into our living rooms every night. Thousands of men and women, some of whom we knew, were being sent to Vietnam to fight a war that was extremely unpopular with the public. Those of us who lived through those years can recall the protests, riots, and marches, and young men burning their draft cards. The numbers of those killed, wounded, or missing in action were in all the newspapers and magazines. All this turmoil was directed at the government with the clear message: the United States needed to get out of Vietnam.  

    A couple of college students, Carol Bates and Kay Hunter, wanted to DO something positive, but what?  They tossed around ideas that weren’t met with much enthusiasm by other students or the public, but they persisted.  They went to meetings and talked with others who felt the need to do something to support the families and friends of those who were killed or lost.  At one of these meetings, they met Bob Dornan, a former fighter pilot who had survived two ejections and now was a vehemently anti-Communist television talk show host.  He was wearing a bracelet he had received from a Montagnard tribesman in Vietnam.  The Montagnards were an Indigenous minority who fought alongside American Special Forces, which made them a target of the Communist People’s Army.  His bracelet was made from the metal of crashed aircraft and it had the word “Montagnard” inscribed on it. The tribesman had asked Dornan to wear the bracelet while “thinking of my suffering people who are being murdered and killed by the Communists.  Do not take it off, till my people are free.” Dornan vowed he would not.

    The idea of inscribing the name, rank, and date of loss on a metal bracelet hit a chord with the girls and started the ball rolling, but it wasn’t an instant success. There were those who were concerned about what would become of the money the bracelets made, and who would manage it. Some of the families of the lost service people didn’t want their loved-one’s names being used without their permission.  Over the months the objections were ironed out. Carol Bates and Kay Hunter met Gloria Coppin, a wealthy Los Angeles socialite, the adult advisor of VIVA (Voices In Vital America), and she joined their cause.  She supplied her checkbook and tireless energy to further the cause of making and distributing the bracelets. Gloria’s husband donated enough metal to make 1,200 bracelets, and the girls found an engraver, Jack Zelder, who agreed to make prototypes of the bracelets. The bracelets caught on, orders started pouring in, and the demand increased. Nearly 5 million were sold, and notable persons such as John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Fred Astaire, and Billy Graham started wearing a bracelet.  

    My sister’s bracelet carried the name of Lt. Ralph Foulks, a Navy pilot.  He was shot down on January 5, 1968 but that’s the last the family heard about him.  No wreckage of his plane could be confirmed. 

    The war ended in 1973 and soldiers began returning home to a country that wasn’t interested in hailing them as heroes.  These soldiers had “lost” the war and it stung.  Everyone would just as soon forget Vietnam and move on, but not everyone did.  Several organizations were born over the years that wanted closure for all the service people that didn’t come home.  They wanted answers and slowly they were able to get the information they needed from military records, and the periodic return of remains of service people to the United States. Lt. Foulks’s remains were repatriated in 1988, but authorities were unable to positively identify the remains of Lt. Foulks until 1993. 

    When she discovered her bracelet my sister put a picture of it on Facebook, hoping to get an idea of where to start looking for any family of Lt. Foulks that might be living, with the goal of returning the bracelet to his family.  Within minutes she received replies from several classmates from high school that knew where to go for such information.  One classmate was able to find a website that could match the bracelet to Lt. Foulks’s family.  Another classmate was able to find that the lieutenant’s remains had been discovered and returned. He also learned that Lt. Foulkes’s city of residence was given as Ridgecrest, the town located outside the gates that guarded Naval Ordinance Test Station. It was where our father worked and where we had been raised.  (Lt. Foulks’s sister told me that her brother had graduated from the high school we had attended, and that he had played on the tennis team!  

    Those helping to garner this information had also gone to the same high school.) Next, a friend of my sister found yet a third website that provided contact information for the sister of the lieutenant, but it was from 2006.  My sister wrote to the email anyway and received an immediate reply from her!  When my sister told her what she had, Lt. Foulks’s sister was surprised.  She recounted the day when she was 12 years old, and the Navy chaplain had come to the door to inform her mother that her brother had been lost in action.  She told my sister that she thinks of her brother every day and she was very appreciative to get the bracelet.  In just a matter of hours, thanks to the skills and knowledge of several people, the needed information was gathered that would allow the bracelet to complete its journey home. The technology and websites that exist in 2024 allowed all the connections to be pieced together, thirty-one years after the return of the lieutenant’s remains, and 56 years after he was lost. That is a miracle!

    I contacted Lieutenant Foulks’s sister, and she graciously agreed to allow me to tell the bracelet’s story. She also supplied a few details about her brother and other members of her family, such as their father was serving in Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed.  Another of Lt. Foulks’s sisters was one of the first 16 ‘experimental’ women accepted into ROTC and went on to retire as a commander.  She explained that Lt. Foulkes’s medals and Vietnam paperwork are being donated to Naval Air Station Pensacola, and that Lt. Foulkes, along with both of his parents, are interred at Barrancas National Cemetery.  The pride and tradition of service to the United States was evident by the profuse thanks Lt. Foulks’s sister gave my sister and me.

    My sister summed up the experience best. “It does my heart good to know my bracelet made it back to where it belongs.” 

    I would like to recognize and thank Coronado Magazine and Taylor Baldwin Kiland for the facts they supplied describing the story behind the POW and MIA bracelets.  Additionally, my sister and I would like to acknowledge and thank Kitty Reeve, Michael Peacock, Linda Blake, and Stephen Harrison for providing their expertise in knowing where to start looking, locating military information, providing the answers to what happened to Lt. Foulks, and finally, where to return the bracelet.


Wednesday, March 13, 2024


My Show Biz History

 By Gil Tisnado

I was a constant embarrassment to my older sisters, Marie and Ginger. From the time I could walk and talk, I was always singing and dancing. It didn’t matter the location. I would perform at restaurants in front of jukeboxes, standing on a chair at our converted gas station Baptist church, or simply on the sidewalks of our San Diego suburban neighborhood. After much urging on my part, my mother decided that I could audition for a weekly local children’s television show on Channel 8 called “Tiny Town Ranch.” I was seven years old.

Mom called the television host, Monte Hall, to inquire about an audition. Monte Hall is not to be confused with Monty Hall of “Let’s Make a Deal.” The Monte Hall of San Diego was noted for his children’s variety show and children’s amusement park called “Monte Hall’s Playground.” As a local TV celebrity, he often appeared in parades as a western rider on his horse Comanche. During the initial phone interview with my mom, Monte asked, “Does your son have any talent?” My mom replied, “Well, you’re talking to his mother.” Monte then asked, “Is he photogenic?” Mom responded with, “Well Mr. Hall, you’re still talking to his mother?” An audition was arranged.

What to sing? We approached our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Bennett, who was a classically trained opera singer and a church organist. She agreed to teach me a song. The song choice was “April Love” a pop hit by Pat Boone. I tried not to giggle as Mrs. Bennett sang a Pat Boone song in her operatic style. The song was learned and I was ready for my audition. Mom and I made the trek to the downtown studio of Channel 8. The high ceiling room with a piano in the middle seemed enormous to me. With sheet music in hand, I walked over to the pianist. With all the confidence a seven-year old boy could muster, I burst out in song about young love in April. Apparently, I was a hit, because Monte Hall in his trademark cowboy hat rushed over to me, picked me up, and swung me around the room. It was agreed that next Saturday morning I would appear on “Tiny Town Ranch.”

Since the theme of the show was western, I thought I should be dressed like a cowboy. That would have come later. Now the task was to find appropriate clothing for a boy who had outgrown his Easter Sunday suit. Obviously, my usual clothes of t-shirts and jeans wouldn’t work, so neighbors were recruited to help out with my television debut. Mrs. Wooten offered up her son’s grey slacks. With cuffs rolled up and waist at mid chest, the too large pants would have to do. Our neighbor, Winnie Graham, who used to have a dance studio, loaned me tap shoes and a shirt. To this day, I wonder why I wore tap dance shoes when I wouldn’t be tap dancing. Nonetheless, they were black and would pass as dress shoes. Mrs. Graham also pulled from her costume trunk a puffy sleeve, mustard-yellow shirt with a clumsy looking choirboy bow. I recently asked my mom, “Gee Mom!  Why did you dress me so funny for my TV debut?” She said, “I don’t know. I just thought since Winnie was a dance teacher, she would know what to wear, and I just followed her advice.” Even though I was chosen to sing, I looked like I was more suited to play “O Solo Mio” on the accordion.

My one TV appearance would turn into a three-year gig. When I was ten years old, Monty Hall died and “Tiny Town Ranch” died with him. Within two years, I would retire from show biz, a twelve-year-old has-been.

Fast-forward sixty years! Amberlee Prosser asked me if I would play a role as a grandfather for the Voices of California production of “Once Upon a Song” at the Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom. For anybody else, I would have said “No thanks!” However, because the request came from the beloved Amberlee, I agreed. Then she emailed me the script. As I watched the printer spit out five pages of dialogue, I started to panic. “Oh shoot! Why in the heck did I ever say yes to this?” Any senior citizen with short-term memory issues will identify with this. However, just as I had taught my former fourth graders, I decided I would simply “chunk it” into smaller pieces of information to learn the lines. I would retype the script in much larger type, and then tape the pages to the wall. I would also photograph pages into my phone for easy access. Flight or fight definitely kicked-in. But then I figured, “Oh hell, if I forget a line, I’ll just improvise something close.” My teaching career and the ability to “wing-it” would help me here.

Yesterday was the performance. Actually, there were two performances, a matinee and evening performance. I kept sneaking glances at my script on my phone to calm my last minute nerves. My co-star, the wonderfully talented twelve-year-old Christian Cabral, and I opened the show. I had to make sure I didn’t blow the opening. “Oh dear God! Just get me through the first lines.” The spotlight was on Christian and I as we began our dialogue from the audience and then proceeded to walk onto the stage. We were off and running. Then I was fine. Actually, I was more than fine. There was a moment when I thought; “This feels oddly familiar like I’ve been on stage forever.” I guess old show biz ways die-hard.

As I struggled with the preparation for my acting role, I decided that after sixty-years of being on and off stage that this would definitely be my last performance. But then Amberlee said, “Hey, I have an idea for a show where you could. . .”

Performance Postscript

Truth be told, I really didn’t want any friends or family at my “swan song” performance. No flowers or fanfare! I just wanted to do my job, not fall on my rear, and be done with it. My ninety-one-year-old mother, Jeanne Bolstein, would have none of this. She would be there. She would buy her own ticket and arrange her own ride. At the end of the performance, I walked out to the lobby to find her. Carrying two tote bags and a cane, she wanted to give me a present. The gift was a beautiful, leather bound writing journal. Even though I really didn’t want or need any family there, it did warm my heart to see my mom’s beaming, proud face. It did seem especially fitting since over sixty years ago this woman walked me hand-in-hand into my first audition, and now was still here to offer a mom’s support. Boy, how lucky can a man get?






Friday, March 1, 2024

 MARCH 2024

A Celebratory Farewell and New Beginning
By Rev Protodeacon George A. Haloulakos

Thirty years ago in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation (aka TNG) concluded its seven year run in broadcast syndication with the Hugo Award winning "All Good Things," a series finale so well done that TV GUIDE Magazine rated it the number one finale for any television series!  It was filmed as a two-part episode, but shown as a made-for-TV movie that provided the segue for the classic small screen series to migrate to a series of major motion pictures in the ensuing years.  The Star Trek franchise historically has been very strong with its character development and the deep bonds of friendship between its crew members.  This is especially true for TNG, as the relationship of its bridge officers is noteworthy for following the same formula in this regard as the original 1960s series.  What makes this TNG finale so compelling after three decades?  The simple answer is that "All Good Things" serves as a template on how to bow out gracefully while simultaneously setting up a platform for future adventures in different venues.  From an artistic standpoint, it allowed the TV series to go out on top while from a financial perspective it established a platform by which to create multiple future revenue streams that opened up with the advancement in digital technologies.

The image of the starship Enterprise engenders wonderful memories for both casual and serious fans of the TNG franchise.  The features that made "All Good Things" an award winning film can be identified as follows:

> Innovative format that leveraged the theme of time travel.  Specifically, the story centers on the Captain Picard character travelling back and forth in three different time periods (past, present and future) in order to resolve a paradox in the space/time continuum that ultimately requires the reunion of the Enterprise bridge officers.  The viewer is able to see the action unfold from the Captain's perspective while interacting with the full group of TNG characters from its series run while traversing back and forth in the different time periods.  No other TV series or franchise has ever made more innovative or effective use of the time travel theme than Star Trek, and the TNG finale put an exclamation point on this.
> "All Good Things" was a fitting finale as over the course of preceding episodes, the series was able to tie up all the loose ends in connection with the storyline for each of the main characters.  The TNG finale was able to put a nice bow on its seven year voyage as a valedictory gift to its fans.
> In the closing scene, Captain Picard joins his bridge officers for their regular Poker game, after having shared with them the details of his time travels to help them avoid the missteps that would otherwise lead to them drifting apart.  Having affirmed their strong bond of friendship forged over seven years of interstellar space travel, the fadeout shows Captain Picard dealing out the cards with the promise that more adventures lie ahead!

Since the TNG series finale, there have been multiple Star Trek programs and/or series, some of which have involved the TNG cast to various degrees.  In several instances, we are treated to the TNG bridge crew and its starship Enterprise plotting out new adventures that reflect the passage of real time since the 1994 finale while also interacting with characters from the other Star Trek series that followed.  The advent of streaming technologies and fan fiction have generated enormous creative viewing opportunities and new journeys of imagination.  Needless to say, this was preceded by a series of big screen motion pictures that transported the TNG bridge officers to spectacular new adventures while forever cementing their lasting image as offering an optimistic vision of the future.  As noted, new streaming technologies concurrent with changing demographics and viewing habits have helped keep TNG fresh and vibrant, thereby attracting new generations of fans.

If you are looking for a made-for-TV movie that features imagination, character development, adventure and a truly satisfying ending that leaves the viewer wanting more, then "All Good Things" would be a worthwhile program to watch.  As inferred from the title of this blog, it is both an end and a beginning!