For the First Time in My Life
(A Grandpa’s Apology to His Grandchildren
For the World That We Left Them)
By Dr. Bob Christensen
Copyright by 2013
Covenant Marriages Ministry
“Behold the Lord thy God has set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers has said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged.”(Deut. 1:21)
As grandparents, Lynne and I have a right and a privilege to be concerned about the future of our children, our grandchildren, great grandchildren and all of those who follow. I know that our primary concern is that all will come to know, accept and follow our Lord Jesus. We want to be able to fellowship in the hereafter with all of those generations who follow our moment on this earth. We also know and firmly believe, there is no other name but Jesus by which mankind can be saved.
So, first, we would like to dedicate this book to Jesus, who made redemption from all of our sins possible. But then next, we dedicate this book to all of our family members who follow us down this path called life. Each generation has been given the privilege, opportunity and call to mentor those whose lives follow behind, in a way that each life lived will portray its own legacy, and hopefully to the glory of God.
Having said all of that, both Lynne and I recognize that the opportunities of life which we were fortunate to enjoy and begin with, are not the same opportunities we have left behind for future generations. That saddens us and is the reason I have attempted to write this book.
Today, it seems that the opportunities available to former generations, appears to being going in a backward direction, mostly due to the choices which these more recent generations are making or have made. I am not excusing many of the choices which were allowed or made in all of the earlier generations, including my own. As a grandpa, I am more than grieved by the choices we all have made that takes us farther and farther from God’s plan for we His people. Some of those bad choices include abortion, divorce, homosexuality, greed, lack of caring for others and a host of other poor choices.
Do any of us feel that this pattern can be reversed? I suspect we of the older generation would hope so, but we likely remain very skeptical. It seems, for many, they are oblivious to the slippery slope we are on. Other nations, such as most of Europe, have gone down the same path and we see the devastation that is occurring, yet we seem to be following at a steadily increasing rate.
I felt, that I should attempt to write a short book about just a few things that I, as an 88 year old grandparent, have seen and at times endured to at least wave a flag and say, I’m sorry we have not done better.
So, Grandma and I would like to dedicate this book, especially, to all of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We would be remiss if we didn’t also dedicate this to all of the grandchildren of this present world. We would have hoped to have left you a more beautiful, friendlier and opportunity filled world, but we can’t say that has happened. Please accept our heartfelt apology.
I also dedicate this book to my Christian friend and book editor who has spent so much of her own valuable time, helping me put together some 23 or more books. Truly, she is an angel sent by God, and I am so pleased to be able to let, the reader, know of her friendship and writing talent to keep this old cowboy from Julian on course. Her name is Lenaya Casados and she also designed the cover. Our grandson, Chris Johnson and his cohorts took the two spectacular photographs used for the front and back covers. He is a pilot with American Airlines. See if you can figure him out from the cover photo?
As I began to even think on this subject and how the world seemed to twirling around us all, I began to think not only of my ten children and then their children, and their children’s children, but of children all over the world. I suppose from time immemorial, each generation has built into them the desire to leave the world a better place for those who come after. I know that has certainly been my heart.
Mistakes made by each and every one of us can have a deleterious effect on those who follow, but so can the areas where we may have succeeded in improving the situations around us. If we look back in the history of man portrayed so fully in the Bible we see the horrific consequences of man’s first disobeying God’s original command. “Of that tree, you shall not eat.” What an effect that had on the lives of all who followed. It is and was our heavenly Father’s perpetual wish to see us attain our God-given goals and to be able to live our lives joyfully, fruitfully and certainly peacefully. On the other hand there is an enemy, which the Bible tells us, wishes to steal, kill and destroy. The choices have always been ours to make, for good or evil, because God did give each of us a free will.
It has become so vividly portrayed in the period in which I have been privileged to live, that when we make those good choices we most frequently will see some great opportunities come forth, but as we turn away from God’s will, the consequences become more hurtful. To bring attention to this and to make a small apology to those future generations is exactly why I chose to write this book.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Before There Was a Me
Even in a Bright Future, There Can be Pain
But Now the Unthinkable Occurred
What Now Lord?
What Was America Like In 1925?
Mother’s Dilemma and Decision
Moving Ahead In America
In The Beginning
Now What Happened?
America in 1930
How Did The Great Depression Affect the Country?
A New Life for Eva, But the Ending of Fred’s
America in 1935
The Young Cowboys of Julian
War Clouds over Europe 1939
America in the 1940s
WWII Begins In 1939 in Europe
Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch
Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941
1940-1945 the Christensen Family
Chuck, Bob and Shirley in the 1945-1950 Period
The Korean War Years
Another Change of Direction
America in the 1960s
The beginning Innovation Years for Bob
America in the 1970s
The Late 1960s and 1970s in my life-Back To the Ranch
TWA Captain Dale Black, God’s Aviator, My Mentor and My Friend
More About the Christensens in the 1980s
1.Trust God With the Whole of Your Life
2. See Healing As God’s Work
3. Ministry or Business?
4. Barbara, the Ever Present IRS Agent
5. See Your Struggles In Light of God’s Wholeness
America in the 1990s
TMJ Implants, Inc,, Medical Modeling Inc. and the FDA
For The First Time in My Life
(A Grandpa’s Apology to His Grandchildren
For the World That We Left Them)
Many moons have passed since I was born in the Bronx in 1925. It seems so very much has happened in the intervening years, much of it was good, but now some of it bad. I was blessed to be born in America and at a time when almost every citizen could not only make the statement he or she was proud to be an American, but a time when every adult was thankful of being able to say to his or her children, we are expecting even better things for you in your life. Somehow, things have changed.
As we parents, grandparents and great grandparents look ahead to the future, most of us are struck with the horror of what we are leaving as a future for our children. Certainly, none of my generation ever felt embarrassed to be an American, and yet those thoughts are permeating the minds of many in the previous generations. How can that be? Let me describe some of how my own generation lived.
Certainly, I don’t wish to infer that everything my grandparents and parents did was perfect. The Bible clearly tells us none are perfect and that our perfection is as filthy rags. There was only one who lived a sin free life, and He was the Son of God. But, we as mortals are supposed to strive for perfection and when we don’t, there are penalties for us and those who follow us to pay. That is the premise of this new book which the Lord has placed on my heart. Was I looking to write another book? No, I was not. I have already written some 23 books and was certainly not wishing to write another, unless of course, I was prodded by the Lord, and this I feel I have been. Now let me start at the beginning.
Before There Was a Me
My grandparents were ordinary, hardworking Middle Americans. Granddad on my mother’s side was, Fred Sutherland, and he was apparently born in Nebraska in about 1879 or “80, while my grandmother was likely the same age or possibly a year younger and her maiden name was Margaret Kirkpatrick. They lived either in Enid Oklahoma or Lawton where I believe they had a mercantile store. In 1899 their first and only child was born. She was my mother, Eva. At that moment in history, at least for them, there was a great deal to feel appreciative for. The Civil War had stopped some 35 years earlier and there would seem to be little on the horizon to fear. But, sometimes that is not the whole truth. At least the National outlook appeared to be bright, for the moment.
Unfortunately, shortly after mother was born, Fred and Margaret separated and were later divorced. That was not a usual thing back in those days at the turn of a new century. Though I know very little about the actual moment and circumstances, I Can feel the pain which both Nana and Granddad endured, because covenant breaking is not God’s best. In fact God tells us He hates divorce and marital separation. Jesus even said it was because of the hardness of our hearts.
Both grandparents were able to get on with their lives, despite the inevitable scars inflicted by the enemy to God’s plan for their lives. Fred moved to San Francisco from Lawton and entered the San Francisco police Force rising to a position of lead detective in the drug enforcement section and went through another couple of marriages before his early death in 1931 at age 51. He had become quite the entrepreneur and civic legend in businesses in San Diego where he finally resided. His story truly is one of those amazing stories of hard work and the American Way. I would love to have been able to discuss with him later in life the path and adventurous life he lived. At one point he owned all of the taxicabs in San Diego, plus his own stage line named after him, plus and 800 acre Grey ranch near Cuyamaca, plus a lodge known as the Pine Hills Lodge, near Julian. If that wasn’t enough, he had a 100 year lease on a downtown hotel in San Diego plus a one square block garage for his taxicabs.. I am sure there was more, but all was lost after his untimely death. Many of those years which he lived were before the income tax burden was instituted and all of the burdening government regulations which these later generations have had to endure.
Whereas, Grandma and mother stayed in Lawton where Margaret eventually married once again to a Mr. William Hart and then, together, ran a mercantile store in Lawton for many years. Mother apparently went to a Catholic girl’s school in Lawton and from there went to Skidmore college in Columbia Missouri, which was a well thought of 2 year college. From there she transferred to Columbia University’s teachers College in New York City where she graduated with her B.S. degree just after the finish of WWI.
You see, I am beginning to make the premise for this book which is for generations, since the founding of these United States, all people have desired to leave the country and the world a better place for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We have always wanted to have even better opportunities available for those who might follow us. That is truly on man’s heart from the earliest of times. God builds that into our lives so that there will truly be a desire to improve the lot of mankind.
So, I am sure that not only was Eva glad to be able to attend college, which in the years around WWI, was not the normal for many women and truly not for many men either, but also for Fred, her father, who by this time had remarried without more children, and who was residing in the small Navy town of San Diego, but prospering as an entrepreneur.
For mother finishing up her college at Columbia University, God had another plan, and apparently it was not just teaching in high schools. You see, during her first year at Columbia, mother required some dental procedure and was referred by someone in administration at the University to a respected dentist practicing in NYC. His name was Dr. Charles J. Brophy, who apparently, sometime the following year asked mother to join him for some civic occasion. From there more dates occurred and eventually, about 1921, they were married. I suspect it truly was a match made in heaven.
They took a residence along upper Riverside Drive in Manhattan pretty near where Columbia University was located. Charles had graduated in 1913 from the New York Dental College which later was part of New York University and located on East 23rd Street close the medical college and Belleview Hospital. Dr. Charles was followed by his brother Fred in dental college and they joined in practice on Central Park South (59th Street) and 6th Avenue, across the street from the prestigious New York Athletic Club.
Dad was some 13 years older than mother and within the first year or so; they were expecting their first child, my brother Charles, who was born on August 27th, 1923. Next it was me, Robert on April 6, 1925 followed by Shirley on January 29th, 1927. This would all seem to be in God’s overall plan for Eva and Charles, but as in life generally, everything is about to change. The WWI had ended in 1919. Fred was an Army officer in the Dental Corps and served in France during the time of the battles. Charles had been deferred for some reason so he took care of their joint dental practice until Fred came home and re-joined him in the practice.
It would seem that life was going very well for the Brophy boys at this moment in time. They had also an older sister, Katherine, known better as Kitty. If my memory serves me she later married a dentist, also. Their mother, whose name I am not recalling, worked as a seamstress and supported the family. From what I hear she truly was the matriarch of the family. It seems the father, Michael, was not much of a provider. Fred years later said he was a good for nothing man. Fred, also known by family members as Harold, was slow to speak ill of anyone, but he appeared to have little regard for Michael, his father, which I find too bad.
It must have seemed to grandmother that life was beautiful seeing her children grow up and all amount to something special. They all were very bright, very compassionate and basically very excellent people. For mother to have been led from the small mid-western town of Lawton Oklahoma to be educated at Columbia University and then to meet and marry Charles, had to be a calling of God on their lives. Yes, in these post war years, things in America were definitely looking up. This was the time of the Roaring Twenties. People were employed, life was good. Each generation of Americans was pointing to a bright future for their offspring for generations to come.
Even in a Bright Future, There Can Be Pain
Mother and Dad’s lives were about to change. Sometime in 1926, Dad got sick with a persistent cough and since there were cases of tuberculosis in various parts of the United States, the physicians suspected that Charles might be infected, possibly from some infected patient. It was suggested they he and mother and I guess us children were to spend a year or so at Saranac lake, NY, where the Trudeau Sanatorium was located for TB infected patients. Some of the more seriously infected patients were transferred to locations in Arizona because of the warmth, dryness and the occurrence of many sunny days.
I recall Mother telling us, Charles progressed very well and was about to be released a year later, in the summer of 1927. Shirley had been born in January of that year, I would be about 2 years and 4 months old and Charles, the son, would be 4 years old on August 27th of that very year. Mother had her hands full, with a somewhat ill husband and three very young children. But things were definitely looking up. Dad would be recovering and finally going back to join his brother, Fred, who had been holding down the dental practice for over a year. Yes, you are correct, Dad also had done that for Fred when he was he was away overseas during WWI, in the Army. So, fair is fair.
But, though life in general was looking to be improving for all, some storm clouds were on the horizon for the Charles Joseph Brophy family, which no one could have predicted and likely no one could have curtailed. There is a photograph taken the week of August 23rd, 1927, showing my dear father, dressed in a tweed business or sporting suit, with a straw brimmed hat, at a pistol range shooting his handgun and looking quite dapper. He was a very handsome gentleman, slim and a bit over 6 feet, one inch tall. He and mother made quite a couple as both were very good looking and seemed perfectly fit for a life with each other. He had been born in upstate NY some 41 years before and she came from the more Western styled town in Oklahoma, which had not too many years earlier gained Statehood. The residents of that State were affectionately known as the Sooners, as they ran to stake out claim for unclaimed lands at that moment.
I am sure that Mother and Dad were counting their blessings for Charles being healed if he ever truly had TB, and for the upcoming 4 year old Charles’s birthday, for which a party had been planned.
But Now, the Unthinkable Occurred
It was about the same day as that wonderful picture of Charles was taken at the outdoor shooting range in upstate New York. Dad had noticed a boil like skin lesion occurring on his left cheek about an inch below his left lower eyelid. It at first seemed inconsequential, but grew more rapidly and seemed to be affecting the subcutaneous tissues more than he would have liked. A day or two elapsed and he and mother decided they should visit a local physician for his observation and professional suggestions.
The physician was concerned. The area around the boil or carbuncle was redder, more indurated than in the surrounding tissues. It appearded the tissues were firm and reacting to some foreign type agent. The doctor concluded that since Charles had spent the previous 12 months recuperating from possible TB, he had better do all he could to stop this infection, from whatever cause, from penetrating further into Charles’s body. He decides to lance the area with no or a minimum of “Novocain”, a local anesthetic. The care-giver knew from experience that local anesthetics hardly work at all in the presence of bacterial infections. His trained eye made him feel this was likely a staphylococcal type infection. He and Dr. Charles fully, but briefly, discussed the pros and cons of his suggested treatment. They felt it needed to be lanced.
At this moment in time there had been no antibiotics innovated to combat the various infections which can so ravage the human body and cause such devastation. This was 1927 and the first sulfanilamide and later penicillin would be over a decade until those first courageous and most innovative scientists would bring forth such miracle drugs. In the meantime, many talented and bright minded people would suffer and some would die due to infections which were on the horizon, but with no effective antibacterial treatment quite available.
This day and this week would be one of those days in history where a young talented dentist would have to suffer along with his dear, sensitive, talented and lovely young wife and three very young children. The lesion was lanced, by the physician, but only a moderate amount of frank purulent discharge would escape. For any seasoned professional of that day would know that if the lesion was not “ripe” for drainage, a more serious consequence might occur. The infection then might increase and travel to inward parts of the body and sometimes quite quickly.
He would certainly have been aware that from this area of the face the drainage and likely penetration of the organisms could well be toward the brain and if so could cause the dreaded cavernous sinus thrombophlebitis. In that instance the infection and subsequent hemorrhage or thrombosis would penetrate the large venous structures of the brain and there would be little anyone might do to save the patient. This was the case as Charles’s fever spiked and he slipped into a come within a day, died and his funeral was on the very day of his son, Charles’s 4th birthday and party.
Mother and Uncle Fred, had no thought that this would be the outcome, but it was. An excellent husband, father, dentist and friend of many, was lost that week of that year. How does anyone related ever recover? How does a young mother of three, away from her own mother and her distant father, ever come through such a terrible blow? It was much like the WWI widows who, too, were left alone at an early age and sometimes with very young children and little resources for the future.
This book is supposed to be about how each generation points their children to a better life in the future, but at this moment in time the heavens have fallen and there would seem little hope for this young woman from Lawton, along with three small children. But, the Bible tells us to never lose hope. “I know the thoughts I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you and expected end.” Trust me, our God is the God of the impossible.
What Now Lord?
Mother had not even had time or energy to alert Charles’ brother Fred as to the seriousness of the infection on his brother’s face. It all happened so quickly and now the funeral and her precious husband have been placed in the ground on a hillside in a gorgeous cemetery in New York not too far above White Plains. As I recall this story and attempt to write this part of the book, I am struck with how difficult this had to have been for my mother. She was a very smart, attractive and compassionate young woman whose life had been increased by attending two well-known colleges. Stephens College with the Founder, Dr. Woods as President, who had a great reputation for turning out talented, smart and resourceful young women. Then for mother to have been admitted to Teacher’s College at Columbia in which she travelled to NYC alone from Oklahoma, she had to be courageous, smart and very resourceful. I really admire and thank her for all she did at that moment, but then even more through all of the years of our lives as we approached adulthood and then we all went away to war.
Just a bit more about my Mother, and then on with the rest of the story. I believe mother’s mother, Margaret Kirkpatrick Sutherland Hart, travelled by train, since there was little or no such thing as commuter airlines, to New York. I believe Dad’s body also travelled by train from the Saranac Lake area to the Valhalla Cemetery where his body finally found its rest below an evergreen tree on the side slope of a small hill. What a sad reunion that must have been and again, the day of his funeral and I suppose his burial was on August 27, 1927, which was my brother, Chuck’s fourth birthday. Charles Joseph was a tall good looking gentleman with a very kind and compassionate personality. His brother Fred, better known to most in the family as Uncle Harold, was the most benevolent and kind man I had ever known. I later in my college days at NYU, during the Navy years was able to live with he and his wife, Muriel. He was wonderfully kind and loving. His wife was also. They had two boys and two girls, each of whom was most talented and bright. I would love to have known my Dad very personally in my adult years, but I know he was not only very smart but also very kind to his wife Eva, the young woman from Lawton Oklahoma.
What was America like in 1925?
To start with, there were far fewer people. Actually where today there are approximately some 310 million Americans as citizens and likely another 10 or more million non- citizens living here in the United States, then the population was much smaller.
When I was born in 1925 there were just over 100 million citizens in America. Many of these were living on either Coast of the United States, but probably the most concentrated area was the Northeast region, where the immigrants from Europe were most likely to reside and find employment. Actually there were about 2 million of the workforce unemployed and that represented about 5% unemployment.
WW I had ended in 1919 and the life in the United States and in Europe was appearing rosier. There had always been a hope and a desire to see each generation have the opportunity to benefit from the toil and sweat of the previous generation. Americans felt like they were much greater opportunities developing due to the innovation of the earlier scientists and motivators, much because of the freedoms experienced in our culture. After all, we could speak freely, marry whomever we fell in love with, and raise our children to be farmers, plumbers, school teachers, scientists, physicians or even the President of the United States. There was almost no limit. Woman suffrage had occurred less than two decades earlier, the blacks had been set free, and although the Federal Income Tax had just been started less than a decade earlier, few felt constrained in their freedoms. Life was beautiful, especially for the young married couple living on the upper end of Riverside Drive in New York City.
After all, life expectancy for the male was about 54 years and for the female, about a year longer. The War had ended and nearly 650,000 young men returned from War to civilian life to take their part in the industrial revolution which had started some half century earlier. The average monthly income for those working had finally broken the $100 per month which was allowing young couples to marry and start their own families. Teachers at that time were averaging about $25 less per month but the medical and dental profession was making double the national average. For Mother and Dad, this had to have been a great moment as their second son was now arriving on the scene, and surely there would be more.
The mood in the nation was one of hope and progress. Nothing could stop this upward looking generation. Even decades later they would be referred to as the “Greatest Generation” That story will be told more fully as we progress down this path.
At that moment the Stock market was stable at a high of 100 and a low of 67, but what is around the corner will shake the world and cause many investors to even go so far as to take their own lives. But we are now in the Roaring Twenties and full steam ahead. The paved roadways of America are limited to about 387,000 miles and travel from coast to coast is taking about 2 weeks, which is much shorter than the times of the covered wagon trains less than 50 years earlier.
Yes, even though there are gangs, murders and racketeering in America in this post war era, the future seems to be bright, but like any other moment in history, which is a snapshot, there might just be a storm a brewing.
Mother’s Dilemma and Decision
But let’s see what next was happening in the life of the young Brophy children in the moment just after my father’s passing. Mother was in an awful predicament, her brother-in-law Fred Brophy would be taking over the dental practice on Central Park South in Manhattan, and the only money coming to mother was the $25,000 of insurance money which the dental practice had taken out on the lives of these two fine dentists. She now had to figure what she was next to do. Her mother, Margaret, lived with her second husband William Hart in Lawton, Oklahoma, while her biologic father, whom she really didn’t know, lived in the mission Hills area of San Diego.
I believe Nana Hart must have come to New York City at the time of Charles’s funeral, or shortly thereafter, and sometime later, perhaps, she and mother and we three very small children boarded a train for the three day travel to Lawton Oklahoma. This had been the decision which Mother had apparently made.
We arrived in Lawton sometime late in 1927 or early 1928 to live with Grandma and Grandpa Hart. I remember seeing a picture or two taken in which I am sitting on my tricycle right next to Grandpa Hart next to a rock wall, likely in a driveway by a garage. I certainly don’t have any recolection of those days other than a picture or two taken at that moment in time. I would be just less than 3 years old with my big brother, Charles being just under 5 years old and Shirley just about a year old.
Somehow, Mother and Nana must have decided it would be better for the Brophy clan to go reside with Mother’s father, Fred Sutherland, in San Diego. So sometime that summer, I believe, we again boarded the train to San Diego and to live with Granddad Sutherland in his house on St James Place, in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. It was a very comfortable house for all of us. Granddad was at that moment not married so he slept in the one downstairs bedroom, which may have been his office space earlier. Not sure. Mother and Shirley each had their own bedrooms up stairs while Charles and I shared a bedroom.
We were very comfortable living with Granddad. He was a man’s man and quite the entrepreneur. At this moment in time as I have said before, he owned the Yellow Cab and Checker Cab Companies of San Diego. Besides those interesting business ventures, he owned a resort in the mountains northeast of San Diego called the Pine Hills Lodge, which was situated just three miles from the gold mining town of Julian. It was a very picturesque lodge which had about 6 or 8 bedrooms and then had another 5-10 cottages in the surrounding woods for use by guests and another few smaller cabins for workers who tended the Lodge.
So now mother was raising we three children in Granddad’s home and within another year or two Granddad purchased another home in the Point Loma area of San Diego, where apparently he lived alone. Sometime, by about 1930 mother met a gentleman named Lee Christensen who was in the contracting and termite extermination business and they began to date more seriously. But that is another whole chapter.
Moving Ahead in America
Some of the other things occurring during the time of my birth had to do with what has been termed as early modernism in the design area, both for clothes and for buildings. It was just after this moment in time when the world’s tallest skyscraper was designed and built. The Empire State building in Manhattan was finally completed in 1931.
But, back to 1925, the time of the second child’s birth to Charles and Eva Brophy. The president of the United States, at that moment was a gentleman originally from the State of Vermont, who became a lawyer and then entered politics in the State of Massachusetts. His name was Calvin Coolidge, but he was also nicknamed “Silent or Cautious Cal”. He had been elected to office as the 30th President of the United States who, I believe reigned from August of 1923 until March of 1929. This must have been over a two term period.
It was in 1928 that President Coolidge, while delivering his State of the Union speech, made the following statement, “, he noted that America had never "met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time." Americans had a lot to be proud of back then: World War I was thoroughly behind them, radio had been invented, and automobiles were growing cheaper and more popular. Sure, the disparity between the rich and the poor had widened within the past decade, but Americans could now buy goods on installment plans — a relatively new concept — and families could afford more than ever before. Stocks were on a tear: between 1924 and 1929, the Dow Jones Industrial Average quadrupled. At that time, it was the longest bull market ever recorded; some thought it would last forever. In the fall of 1929, economist Irving Fisher announced that "stock prices have reached what looks like a permanent plateau." Oh, yeah. Just wait a moment.
This was what any parent, or for that matter any American or citizen of any country in the world, wishes for themselves and for all of their offspring. At that moment in time we are experiencing that accomplishment, thanks to the sacrifice and perseverance and foresight of all of the generations of Americans who had paid the price before them. This truly was the American Way. The American Dream. This vision started with the earliest of the Founding Fathers for this great country we call America and certainly continued right up through this time period. Certainly, there were moments in our history where things did not look too positive. One of those moments might have been during the Civil War when brothers are fighting brothers. But through even that difficult moment in American history, ther was much good to come through and much to be thankful for.
Let me change direction here a bit to bring in another totally different thought. That thought reflects on what was God’s plan for mankind from the start. His plan will give us an idea what He expected and where we failed.
In the Beginning
If we go back to the very beginning of the Bible we can read what God said about things when He created the heavens and earth and all that was in it. Let’s start at that point.
The Bible tells us God created the earth and the heavens and there was no form. He said, let there be light, and there was light. Then He divided the light from the darkness. He called the light Day and the darkness Night.
He made the lands, the waters and the heaven. He called the dry lands Earth and the waters the Sea and He saw that it was good. He went ahead and made grass and fruit trees, all with their seed so they might reproduce.
He put lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night. He also made two great lights, one the sun, the other the moon. He then created fishes for the sea and birds and other animals to inhabit the earth. God saw that it was good. He told the living things to be fruitful, to multiply and to fill the seas and the land.
And God said; let the earth bring forth every living thing after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing after his kind. But now He stated, let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, over the cattle and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created him; male and female created He them. He commanded them to be fruitful and to multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air and over every other living thing that moves upon the face of the earth. He saw that all He made was good.
When we think about Creation and God we see that everything was established brick upon brick. It was all quite methodical and in each case He wishes for everything to prosper and increase in value and size and to be an even bigger blessing for future generations.
As we have taken God out of our schools and removed the bible and His word from all we do, what can we expect? It is His plan that as we choose man’s ways over God’s he will allow us to reap the benefits of such foolishness. In Romans 1:28 Paul states that. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”
We see evidence of these things as we look at abortion or murder of our unborn, or the acceptance of same sex marriage which is mocking the God plan for the marriage covenant for the devil’s lie about satan’s plan as being some form of truth. It is a reprobate mind that would do such things, just as the Lord said in Paul’s words in Romans.
No wonder or culture has and is going south. I am sorry for our children.
Now What Happened?
Remember, President Coolidge has just made a prophesy about how well he felt the Nation was going to do moving forward. The prospects were excellent he felt for a great and mighty future. That is what we all want for us and for our children and grandchildren.
The economy was booming along and everything seems to be stable. People were for the first time deciding to purchase normal household items on installments.
Cars which had been invented at the turn of the century were growing cheaper and more purchasable by the normal, middle-class Americans. Each family could afford more of everything. Life was great. Stocks were rising. There was a very long bull market. Everyone was cheering. More people were entering the Stock market, which brought more to purchase on margins. Banks were lending more and more to patrons and more and more was being used to purchase Stocks on the margin. But something was about to happen.
About September 3rd, 1929 the Stock Market peaked. It was some 25% plus points higher than in the year 1928.
It wasn’t long and the Stock prices began to fall and as they did they appeared like a brand new waterfall just going over the cliff and then the deluge hit. It was just over 45 days later, on October 23, 1929 the bottom fell out. Hoover was now President and the next day he went on the radio to reassure the American people that businesses were doing well and there was no need to panic.
By October 28, 1929, better known as Black Monday, the Stock prices fell to a point where the Dow was down nearly 14%, the most in the history of the Stock Market. Many large companies such as U.S. Steel and General Electric began to take a fall.
The next day was Tuesday and many have said that the opening bell at the Stock Exchange never rang, but in truth it was drowned out by hundreds of voices crying out “sell”, “sell”, ”sell”. In the next half hour over 3 million shares changed hands with a loss of some $2 million dollars. It was a horrible day on Wall Street as the Western Union telegrams flooded the market. No one could even guess how much money they were losing as they traded down on Wall Street on that cool October day.
There were rumors of people literally hurling themselves out of windows as if the building were on fire. Most of those rumors at that moment in time proved to be unfounded, but certainly there was a lot of hurt on that October day. The Board of the New York Stock Exchange considered closing the Market the day of the gigantic slide, but were afraid that might trigger an even bigger slide.
For those who could not pay up their margins, the brokers just sold the stocks away from them. When the day was finished at 3:00 PM some 16.5 million shares had traded and the Dow had dropped another 12% What a day for what a year. The actual loss was over $25 billion dollars. In today’s market that amount would reach the staggering height of about $320 billion. The bottoming out occurred in mid-November, but, I believe the Stock Market slid slowly over the next 5-8 years as the country moved toward the next attack, WWII. But let’s see next what was happening in the life of the young Brophy children.
America in 1930
Just a few items about the period of time beginning in 1930 and going forth. Remember that President Hoover has followed President Coolidge and the crash of the New York Stock Exchange has occurred the year before with millions of workers losing their jobs or having to seek part time work. It seems that president Hoover took little action to curb the effect of that crash for workers of America. He believed the free market approach to righting itself was the better way to go.
To give just an idea of what the money situation was by that time let me list just a few.
• The average income per year was $1970 or $147 per month. By the time the decade had finished in 1939 that figure would drop to $1730 per year.
• The average house cost $7145 but by 1939 it would be $3800
• A gallon of gas would cost 10 cents and would remain at that price in 1939
• The average price for a new car was $640 and would rise to only $700 by 1939.
• A Firestone tire would cost about $3.69
• A 10 piece bedroom set would cost $80.00
• Whereas a steak weighing 1 pound would cost 20 cents
• A little idea of what a house of that price range would look like: Let me tell you.
This is what the average house looked like in 1939 in America.
5 Room Stucco
But how did the Great Depression affect the Country?
It was of course started by the crash of October 23, 1929 and it was felt around the world to probably varying degrees. The Great Depression was the aftermath. But what was the cause of the crash? Likely much of what we are seeing today, where with the War ended, people started living beyond their means. The government of the United States changed hands. in 1932 when Franklyn D. Roosevelt was elected as the 31st President of the U.S.
His philosophy for growth of the economy and jobs was different than President Hoover’s. He felt that government was the source of a good economy so he increased taxation and created numerous Public work projects which were then funded by the government to the tune of several billions of dollars. But though the Federal expenditure tripled in the period of 1933-1939, it was mostly from borrowed money.
The bread lines were long for the people who had lost their jobs. Many companies had to close their doors thus causing more economic woes for the citizens of America. Many people in the dust bowl State of Oklahoma began to migrate west to California in an attempt to not only find employment but a more favorable climate to raise their families. For many of us living in California, the migrants from the dust belt were known as “Okies”. That term was not appreciated by those who had to migrate nor by those who were still residing in the State of Oklahoma, as you can imagine. A typical scene would be for an old car to be stuffed full with the family members which included several children, a dog a cat and possibly a pig. Oh, yes, furniture might be strapped on top of the car.
But, this was just the beginning of the Great Depression. Now let’s see what was happening in the Brophy family living in their granddad’s house in San Diego because the Depression will go on for a total of 10-12 years.
A New Life for Eva, But the Ending of Fred’s
Mother had met a gentleman at a dance class she was taking in the 1930 time period. If I remember correctly, Nana Hart came over, from Oklahoma, to spend some time caring for us children thus giving Mom a break. It was at that time Mother must have felt she needed to get out of the house a bit and I think that is when she met Lee Christensen. He was about 3 years younger in age, but they apparently hit it off dancing and dating, too. I believe it was within a year they took the step to get married, I think by a Justice of a Justice of the Peace in Las Vegas. Nana Hart was taking care of us and I think they didn’t even tell her until sometime later. She was never too fond of Lee, I suspect because he was not overly kind to us children, as I feel he was always jealous of Dr. Brophy, our biologic father. We were never allowed to mention Dr. Brophy in our conversations. It was just understood, but not necessarily said to us.
Granddad Sutherland seemed to take a likening to Lee so in time Mom let everybody know they had eloped. Lee was a hard worker and so was Fred. I believe that helped cement a reasonable bond of friendship between the two of them. I suspect Granddad was mighty glad to see his only child, Eva, get a new chance at married life. She was still very beautiful and talented and gracious, which made her a likely candidate for marriage even though she had three small children.
It becomes a bit hard for me to remember dates, at this time in my life, but I suspect it was within about 6 months of Mother’s marriage to Lee that Granddad, Fred, developed an acute appendicitis, for which there were still no antibiotics and after being admitted into Mercy Hospital in San Diego, he promptly died. This loss, on top of Mother’s earlier loss of her husband had to have been a real loss to her. As a young 5-6 year old, I was quite fond of my Granddad. I think Charles and Shirley were too. Not too long before Granddad died he had bought we children a large box of small toys. It must have been for Christmas but it seemed we spent months pulling out small, but fun, toys out of granddad’s big gift box. He was a good looking gentleman who had a very nice smile, a full head of snow white hair, and yet he was only but 51 years of age. He was definitely a hard worker, a strong, and an energetic entrepreneur. I would have loved to have been able to spend time talking with my granddad, Fred A. Sutherland, in the latter years of my own life. I’ll never forget seeing him lying on a bed in the Bonham Brothers Mortuary in San Diego during his funeral. There was a sheer cheesecloth appearing, transparent sheet laid over him and covering his head and face. He appeared so serene, peaceful and handsome. That was the last time I saw my granddad, Frederick A. Sutherland. But come to think about it, that was likely the last time any of us saw him, with exception of the mortician.
Charles and I had been attending Grant Elementary School in Mission Hills. I had previously been enrolled in a Montessori School kindergarten which was only doors from the Grant Elementary school. I went through the second grade at Grant, but then the folks sold Granddad’s home in Mission Hills area of San Diego and leased a smaller home in East San Diego on 59th Street. It was a much smaller home but adequate and now we entered a two room grammar school called Andrew Jackson. There were three classes per room where I was in the third grade. We stayed there for one year while dad, Lee, was building us a three story concrete block appearing stucco house on Fairmount Avenue next to another school called Alexander Hamilton Elementary School. When I became 8 years old, I helped to nail the subfloor on the top floor of this house Lee was building for our family, whenever I was out of school. Many times I was taking used nails out of some previously used 4 or 6 inch board, then straightening the nail with a hammer against the concrete and using the previously used nail to nail the subfloor in our new home, to be.
The neighborhood was just average with the cost of the small homes across the street, which were new, being sold for $2800 including the lot. Our home when done cost about $5500 but it had a big lot running down behind into the canyon.
I believe it was a year or two earlier that the folks also bought a 2 acre parcel in Pine Hills adjacent to the Pine Hills Lodge property which Granddad had purchased some 5-8 years earlier from Colonel Ed Fletcher of San Diego. There was quite a history about the Pine Hills Lodge. The cost of the 2 acre lot was considered a bit high at the price of $2000. The folks purchased that lot at possibly $25 per month and without interest but the whole transaction being done with a handshake. Dad used us kids to help him collect granite rock from the countryside to build the foundation and the large fireplace for our new mountain home in Pine Hills. This would be the beginning of what I affectionately called the labor camp years all the way through the Great Depression and up until college for both Charles, Shirley and me. By this time Charles name had been shortened to Chuck and Robert to Bob. But that wasn’t the only change of names. Mother and Dad felt it would be better to have all of our names the same so Brophy was changed to Christensen. I suspect we three children, in later years would have preferred to keep Brophy, but I don’t think we were given that option earlier.
Things began to be more involved in starting a cattle ranch in the vicinity of Pine Hills and of the small gold mining town of Julian. In those first years of owning a cow or a horse, we ended up with three Shetland ponies. One was Babe, another was Pee Wee and the third was, Buck, We three children learned to ride horses by riding those three Shetland ponies. One early picture shows Chuck and me all decked out with chaps, spurs, boots, cowboy hats, and Levis, with holes in the knees, standing next to our two horses all saddled and ready to go. We later bought a small “paint” named Heart. She had been maltreated and gave us a bit of trouble over the years. I got dragged by Heart, with my foot stuck in the stirrup down a dirty road , with my head being dragged down the road on the ground. I ended up with a 5 inch gash in the back of my head which had to be sewn up by a Dr. Fuller in Julian under local anesthetic. They gave me a Tetanus injection from a vaccine which, Iater, I became so allergic to that I came close to dying. But, through it all, we lived well and survived those interesting and sometimes, difficult, years. I do think being subjected to much hard work and discipline helped me in my later career as a surgeon and as one who desired to innovate some better ways of doing things. I had forgotten to mention there was another time when Chuck was riding Heart and she went straight over backward on top of him. We dragged him home where he recovered. Concussions were probably not that unheard of in our home on the range. There was even another time when Heart reared up and struck me in the back of the neck with her two front hoofs. That attack could easily have ended my life. But. I think God had a better plan…………………………………………………………
Within a year or two we had purchased another two parcels of land, for a total of about $5000, whose acreage totaled about 115 acres. Now we needed to find some rangy, white faced cows to start the ranch herd. For that we would go to hot Yuma Arizona in the summertime. What a trip that was for this 9 year old, want-to- be cowboy from Julian.
The nearly dozen rangy whiteface cows, each with calf for $25 a head, including the calf, were a sight to behold. One cow was so angry that she chased me around an outhouse in Yuma alongside the corral. The temperature was 125 degrees in the shade. Our hotel was not air-conditioned as that had not yet been invented. Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich were filming “The Garden of Allah” in the desert and at night were staying in our hotel. She fainted on the set that day. It took us three days in the sun before the brand inspector came to inspect the cattle we had purchased so we could travel across the Arizona State line back to California. The brand inspector had a fit when I repeated what our cowboy friend, Henry, accompanying us had just said, that “the brand inspector didn’t know a brand from a scar.” That’s what this 9 year old cowboy heard Henry Hoskins say. Boy was I treated poorly by my stepdad. I was placed under the truck for the remainder of the day at the corral. He picked up his bag to leave. It took another day before the inspector would calm down enough to inspect that small herd of range cattle we were attempting to purchase. I guess you could say, I was learning the ways of a real cowboy. Over the next 8 years, Chuck, Shirley and I learned a lot more about being real cowboys with cattle drives, roping, branding, cutting, herding, doctoring and whatever else was required. It was hard work and at times quite dangerous, but we felt right at home. Chuck and I built a lot of cattle fencing around several hundred acres of ranch property over those same years, and all by hand. I had started my daily job of milking our Jersey milk cow, whether in the summer months when we housed her in San Diego next to Hamilton Elementary School or in the summer months when she travelled with us back to the Julian ranch where I could milk her daily, times two, out in some pasture. But now let’s take a look at the years starting in 1935.
America in 1935
Life in these United States was getting much more complex. People were beginning to lose some of their enthusiasm for the opportunities which one had always felt were available and would be present for themselves and for the next generation that followed. Was the free market capitalist society really successful or might that be a pipe dream?
The dust bowl exscapees had lost all of their possessions except what they could pack into their cars with family and dogs and cats. It was not a pretty sight. Most came to California. We who lived there saw them on a daily basis. The average income dropped from about $2300 to some $1400 between the time of the Crash and about 1932 or 1933. It was a sad day for Americans. It was no longer an opportunity, it was now clearly survival for so many Americans, especially from the dust bowl.
As a young 10 year old boy living in San Diego and during the summers in Julian, it was very obvious who were the Okies. Their cars were old and were filled to the brim with their “stuff”. Although we were not rich and living from termite job to termite job, our lives were definitely better than what we were observing. You just couldn’t help but feel sorry for what they were having to endure. Some of the early pictures of Chuck and me and Shirley on the ranch looked much like we were straight from the dust bowl. Holes in our worn out or handed down Levis and also in our shoes and even socks. There just wasn’t much discretionary money in those days during the Great Depression. The folks were doing all they could to build a bigger ranch, and that took money.
There is no getting past the fact that the opportunities which all Americans desired were slipping away. The land of opportunity was becoming the land of despair. Were the truths which they as Americans had held on to, were they true? Was individualism and free market enterprise the correct way or was there some other collective way? Attitudes, institutions and mostly lifestyles all changed, but through it all, Democracy prevailed. Our constitutional government prevailed even though other European states were heading into, or been captured by dictators.
Franklyn Roosevelt different than Hoover, his predecessor, felt the government was the answer to getting the public back to work again. Hoover believed in the free enterprise, capitalist approach. So, Roosevelt set up the Social Security Act of 1935 to ensure an income for the elderly, then came the Wagner Act of 1935 which gave workers the right to unionize. Joseph P. Kennedy, a Massachusetts progressive was appointed Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commissions.
By the beginning of the next decade the United States had gone from a laissez-faire economy that oversaw its own conduct to an economy regulated by the federal government. The debate over which is the best course of action still rages today. These were interesting times in America, but I suspect the coming years will even bring more challenges, and yes, they did.
The Young Cowboys of Julian
The ranch and the cowboys are growing in size, stature and experience. Shirley and mother were doing the home based chores needed for ranch life as well as providing all of the provisions. Chuck and Bob were called upon to help construct the homes, barns and fences, which was a never ending job. Besides that we all were part of caring for the animals. The cattle herd was growing and the ranch parcels were increasing. One section which we leased was the Barnes property over in Wynola, about 8 miles from the ranch base at Pine Hills. It was about 138 acres of good rolling hills, with some areas of natural water, good feed, pretty well fenced and about a mile off the Hwy 78.
Another 160 acre property called the Sentenac Ranch was also near Wynola and was a gorgeous piece of property which I think Dad paid $5500 total. We build a loading and holding corral on this property and Chuck and I, also, did quite a bit of fence building on this property. It was surrounded on three sides by the Hoskins Ranch which totaled about 5000 acres of wonderful pasture land. Henry Hoskins Sr had a beautiful Victorian house sitting on a small hill, adjacent to the town jail, overlooking the one block town of Julian. The senior George Hoskins had come over land sometime in the 1800s from the East in a covered wagon. He now rode his horse sitting tall in the saddle and almost always with a six shooter on his right hip. He was a handsome cowboy probably in his 70s at this time. He and his wife had two sons who were very much the cowboys and who took Chuck and me under their wings and taught us all about being real cowboys. Henry was the older and George Jr. was the younger. They were very colorful cowboys with angora chaps and all. The folks bought another 138 acre parcel of mostly rolling hills near El Cajon for a total price of $1,200. Not bad. Forty or so years later those same properties each would bring over a million dollars. Not a bad investment in those years
Chuck and I spent many a day riding the Hosking’s 5000 acre ranch. There were some other times where we were invited along with them on cattle drives off of the 35,000 acre Warner Ranch owned by George Sawday. Mr. Sawday owned 3 or 4 large ranches in San Diego County that probably in the aggregate making up 100,000 acres or more in total. We always saw George Sawday and George Daley, another large ranch owner in the San Diego County, at the annual Lakeside Rodeo where we camped out for a week each summer. Chuck and I helped to move cattle and horses around in the rodeo grounds. Dad was VP of the Lakeside Rodeo Association. That Lakeside Rodeo always got the best talent from around the country, as contestants. When this rodeo was finished the participating cowboys just vanished to either Cheyenne or Flagstaff for their roundups, rodeos and frontier days. We always looked forward to those rodeo times as we were out of school and we were doing what we enjoyed most. Just being cowboys.
When I talk about our fencing a ranch it was always a major undertaking. We would get the 8 foot in length, quartered cedar fence posts from the Indians on the Volcan Mountain Indian reservation. The Indians cut the posts which were from fresh cut cedar trees, then quartered them and then make them available to any rancher who might need them. After buying them from the Indians we would bring them back to our ranch, treat the bottom 3 feet with creosote and then take them by truck to the actual ranch property where we then would hand dig, with post hole digger and a bar, a suitable hole about three feet deep, often in quite rocky soil. We then would place a post in the hole, make the post straight up using a level and then forcing soil around the post and tamping the dirt with the bar to make the post very solid and upright. We would do that around the entire 138 acre parcel going up and down hills, with each post being placed about 16 feet apart. That is a job my friend, and we did that around lots of different ranch properties.
I had forgotten to mention I was also in charge of milking daily and caring for a Jersey milk cow that gave probably 4-5 gallons of milk each day. That job was mine daily from 3rd grade until I left for college and Navy service in WWII. We named our Jersey cow Bossy, and that she was.
I hadn’t mentioned earlier that our winter months home was in San Diego on Fairmount Avenue. Actually, the region known as East San Diego which was basically a middle class area of San Diego, but certainly comfortable for us as a family. The canyon behind our $5500 house was where I kept Bossy and the chickens and rabbits which I was raising. This provided the milk and some of the meat and eggs which we consumed. These were all mine to care for daily. Actually, alongside of the house was a small lot which Dad owned and which he had constructed a very small gas station with a small 2 room house behind the gas station in which the attendant lived. At times, during those Depression Years, I could make a dollar for a full day of being the attendant at the gas station, while the main attendant would be gone. I always appreciated the opportunity it presented, if we weren’t gone working at the ranch. This was the only opportunity we had to receive any pay.
So, when school was out for the Summer each year, Mother, Shirley, Chuck, I, King the German shepherd dog and Bossy would pack up and go spend the next three months on the ranch and caring for it. Dad would stay in San Diego during the week and work in his termite exterminating company and caring for whatever chickens might be left and gathering their eggs. The rabbits didn’t usually last until Summer, but were consumed by our family during the winter months.
I don’t want you readers to think that East San Diego was a rural area with lots of horses and cows and chickens and rabbits. To the contrary, we were the exception. I think it probably was a good move on Dad’s part, as long as I was available to care for the animals, and, my labor was very inexpensive. Actually I was paid zero. These chores were expected of me during these difficult times during the Depression Years. The interesting part of this story was that we lived on the edge of our elementary school, called Alexander Hamilton. I was mortified if any of my schoolmates learned of my caring for a cow during the day and night, right next door to the school. Every morning after my milking Bossy, I then would lead her out on a long rope with a stake on the far end where I could take her into some adjacent canyon to stake her out for her grass feeding during the day time. That way we bought very little hay for her and the milk became very affordable.
We would get more milk than we would need so occasionally we would sell some gallons for a quarter each or I would be in charge of making some butter using a hand turned churn. I began my innovative ways at an early age by hooking up a 1/4th horse power electric motor to a belt and then to a pulley which I had attached to the butter churn handle. It worked quite well making all the butter our family consumed.
Up on the ranch during the Summer was always a treat, but also a lot of hard work. It was nice not having to be constantly under the thumb of dad who always was forcing us to do some chore. He came up to Julian just on Friday night and would leave early Monday mornings. However, he always left Chuck and me a list of chores for the week.
But a point I want to make was that we always felt the future would get better for all of us as we pursued whatever purpose we felt compelled to follow. We never felt the world owed us a living but that because of the freedoms we enjoyed in America, that we somehow would succeed. There was little in the way of negatives such as gay rights, abortion on demand, pornography etc. The Country was definitely a better place to bring up young children in a family. I feel morally we were much more desirous of being in tune with God’s plan for our lives, even though we not have any real relationship with God. We certainly were not born again believers. Looking back I realize how this Country was founded. It was founded on the Christian biblical principles found in the bible, as the Founding Fathers stated on more than one occasion. After all, the principles found in the bible are non-changeable. They are the truth. When, as we see later, we found our beliefs on man’s wisdom, we will later see the foolishness of that principle.
We might have been quite poor by any standard, but we were always encouraged to seek a better life. I think Mother was by far the more encouraging influence on all of our lives. That may possibly always be the case. Mother had pursued her own dream of finishing college and teaching, but which for the reasons mentioned earlier were thwarted, but she always pointed us and encouraged us toward our dreams. When back in about the 2nd or 3rd grade I got the idea that I wanted to follow in Dr. Charles’ footsteps and become a dentist, Mother was always there to encourage me. It seemed like a far out ambition for a young child in San Diego in the early 1930s, but it finally became a reality some 15 years later.
San Diego in the 1935 era, was a small Navy town with a population of about 150,000. But, this was the year of the World Exposition in Balboa Park of San Diego. People flocked from all corners of the World to be part of this Exposition. There were concerts in the Ford Bowl, trips to see the animals in the adjacent, world famous San Diego Zoo. It truly was a time of celebration right in the very midst of a terrible Depression, and for us who were living in San Diego, it was not only available, but basically free.
We all graduated from Hamilton Elementary School at the end of our 6th grade and then entered Woodrow Wilson Junior High School for 3 years and then on to Hoover High School for the balance of the next three years. Both Chuck and I were members of the Varsity Football team at Hoover. I received my three years of football letters playing the position as an end. We had a lot of well-regarded players on those teams in those years. Ted Williams had played baseball at Hoover about 4-5 years before my attendance there. I played with George Brown and Ben Chase on the football team. They later became All Americans on the Naval Academy teams during WWII.
It was at the end of this 5 year period of 1935-40 that another interesting thing was occurring but I will explain in the next chapter.
This is Bob on the Arabian geldine which the folks bought at an auction in the corrals and stables at the Hearst Castle, when Mr. Hearst was still living there. We broke him and made a cowpony out of him. He was very fast, to say the least.
War Clouds Over Europe 1939
In Germany, the aggression of Hitler’s Nazi Party was looming big on the horizon. Many in America, still remembering WWI and our casualties in that War and were not anxious to be drawn into another foreign conflict. After all, it was our County’s founder, George Washington, who advised our Citizens to refrain from being drawn into foreign conflicts. That certainly was excellent advice, but unfortunately, we were unable to refrain from such later adventures. I do think how we were drawn into WWII was one in which we were given little choice but many of the later skirmishes might have been better to not have been drawn into.
Let me give you a small glimpse into what Hitler was saying and thinking at this moment in time, since it will have such an impact on the lives of us Americans. As much as I would like not to place a speech of Hitler’s into this book, I suspect the short one that follows may be helpful to the reader.
Appearing before the Nazi Reichstag (Parliament) on the sixth anniversary of his coming to power, Adolf Hitler made a speech commemorating that event and also made a public threat against the Jews...
“In the course of my life, I have very often been prophetic and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance only the Jewish race that received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and with it that of the whole nation, and that I would then among other things settle the Jewish problem. Their laughter was uproarious, but I think that for some time now they have been laughing on the other side of their face. Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"
Adolf Hitler - January 30, 1939
For us living and working or being in schools during this period, it may have seemed distant and possibly not too threatening, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Even Great Britton and Europe, generally, had taken the Hitler threats during the former 6 years, too lightly, as Poland would see in 1939 when the Nazi Army would invade their homeland.
On 29th September, 1938, Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Edouard Daladier and Benito Mussolini signed the Munich Agreement which transferred to Germany the Sudetenland, a fortified frontier region that contained a large German-speaking population. When Eduard Benes, Czechoslovakia's head of state, who had not been invited to Munich, protested at this decision, Chamberlain told him that Britain would be unwilling to go to war over the issue of the Sudetenland. This is what compromise to principles does. It’s a little like the live frog in the frying pan where the water to start with is cold, but the flames below will change that picture to the horror and demise of the frog.
The Munich Agreement was popular with most people in Britain because it appeared to have prevented a war with Nazi Germany. However, some politicians, including Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, attacked the agreement. These critics pointed out that not only had the British government behaved dishonorably, but it had lost the support of Czech Army, one of the best in Europe. Chamberlain told his private secretary: "If Hitler signed it and kept the bargain, well and good... if he broke it, he would demonstrate to all of the world that he was totally cynical and untrustworthy... this would have its value mobilizing public opinion against him, particularly in America.
It was about this same time that Neville Chamberland, the Prime Minister of Great Britain who would visit Hitler and come back and release his infamous statement “there would be Peace in our Time.” Chamberlain later became known as the great appeaser. Winston Churchill knew well the harm that a tyrannical Hitler could inflict on those in Europe and also in the UK.
Edward R. Murrow, a U.S. radio commentator, was a critic of appeasement and on 2nd September, 1939, he argued: "Some people have told me tonight that they believe a big deal is being cooked up which will make Munich and the betrayal of Czechoslovakia look like a pleasant tea party. I find it difficult to accept this thesis. I don't know what's in the mind of the government, but I do know that to Britishers their pledged word is important, and I should be very much surprised to see any government which betrayed that pledge remain long in office. And it would be equally surprising to see any settlement achieved through the mediation of Mussolini produce anything other than a temporary relaxation of the tension."
Edward R. Murrow was correct as Hitler invaded surrounding countries and forced his Nazi Party on each one. Neville Chamberlain died November 9, 1940, never fully seeing the ravages of War that would come against France and Great Britain.
Roosevelt was still the President of the United States and the citizens were mostly in tune with staying out of Europe’s War. After all, we had been dragged into WWI and we certainly did not need to go to that expense again. Anyway, we could begin to see progress of our coming out of the Great Depression, if we could benefit from supplying war machines to any of our friends in Europe who might be attacked by Germany.
But now it is time to look at America in 1940.
America in the 1940s
This certainly became the War decade. We had started by making an agreement with Great Britton that we would sell our surplus war items so they might fight an effective war against the Nazi’s. Roosevelt was President and in the first year of this decade, he signed the Naval Expansion Act which increased the size of the U.S. Navy by some 11%. Congress approves a first time conscription act which will allow for the development of a larger armed forces if it becomes necessary. That was followed by the Lend Lease Act which would allow our manufacturers to gear up and make armaments for sale to GB and eventually the Russians. We also occupy Iceland in an attempt to prevent the Germans from getting a foothold there in which they might attack the U.S.
It was the end of 1941, the infamous day of December 7th, when the Japanese military began a surprise military attack on the U.S. military establishment stationed in Pearl Harbor. They inflicted great damage against our military in that attack. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes. They were launched from 6 aircraft carriers and came in two waves. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. I believe we lost about 2400 military personnel plus another 1800 who were injured. There were also almost 200 U.S. aircraft destroyed in that attack. It was a pre-emptive strike by the Japanese military in an attempt to keep us from entering a war which they were planning against the properties of the UK, US and the Netherlands in the Asian area. The Japanese lost about 30 aircraft and another 65 servicemen in the attack and 6 midget submarines.
As a young high school student of age 16, I well remember where I was the next morning when President Roosevelt got on the radio and told the American people about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I had been playing catch with a football with a friend on the school ground of Hamilton Elementary school right adjacent to our home on Fairmount Avenue. In that radio address before Congress the President proclaimed “that December 7, 1941 would be a day that would live in infamy.”
Now what were some of the facts which allowed this period of war to begin? If we go back to the Germany of the 1933, we see that a young house painter by the name of Adolf Hitler has risen to the position of Reich Chancellor. He then began to consolidate power into his own hands and by 1934 he had appointed himself as the supreme ruler of Germany. In his quest for power he came up with the idea of a pure German race which he labeled the Aryan people. Along with that he rearmed Germany, against the earlier restrictions (Versailles Treaty) placed on Germany after WWI, so he could increase his land space for his “superior” race.
Hitler had earlier signed a pact with Japan and Italy against the Soviet Union and then in 1938 Hitler sent troops to occupy Austria and then in 1939 he did the same against Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union and America did nothing. But neither did France nor Britain.
WWII Begins in 1939 In Europe
Even though Hitler and Stalin had signed a nonaggression pact few in Britain or France found any comfort in it. Behind the scenes, Hitler had long planned an invasion of Poland. But the two countries of Britain and France had guaranteed Poland of military assistance if attacked by Germany. It was on September 1, 1939 that German forces invaded Poland from the West, but then on September 17th, the Soviet Army also invaded Poland from the East, each wanting to partition off their half for their own good.
It was only 2 days after the Germans invaded Poland that Britain and France declared War against Germany. This set off a whole string of divide and conquer actions by the Soviets and by Germany. Poland had fallen quickly, then it was the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, followed by the Russo-Finnish War which was one by the Russians in short order.
Although little happened in the first few months on land the German U boats were actively targeting the British merchant ships sinking over 100 in the first 4-5 months.
In April 1940 the German army invaded Denmark and Norway so the War began fully. That would be followed in quick succession by the Germans invading Belgium and the Netherlands. Shortly hereafter it was France and their Maginot Line fortress which didn’t turn out to be as impenetrable as the French had hoped.
The German’s began their air raids against London which became known as the Battle of Britain. Hitler had planned to actually invade Britain but possibly because of the U.S. lend lease agreement with Britain, he did not start a ground invasion, fearing he might lose the whole war.
Meanwhile, Back At the Ranch
It is getting a bit harder to separate the years as my age increases. But I do remember several things that were occurring in those years. Chuck had started high school at Hoover High in September of 1938. He was on the varsity football team in 1939 and 1940. He played the position as an end and was behind such stars as George Brown who later went on to play on the Bethesda Naval Academy football team, to be captain of that team, be regimental commander and even became an All American Football player on the Navy team. Consequently, Chuck didn’t get as much playing time as he might have liked, but when he did, he was outstanding. He, too, played in the end position on both offense and defense.
It was during those pre-war years that Chuck, Shirley and I were most helpful to the folks in doing most of the ranch chores, of which there were many. Chuck was a particularly good horseman and ended up breaking several horses to be good cow horses. I was more of the cowman, not only having to be the daily cow milker, but also in roping, branding etc. Chuck had asthma so he had to be kept away from the hay handling type of chores, but like Shirley, we all had plenty to do.
Shirley and Mom had plenty to also do to keep the ranch running smoothly. Shirley was good horsewoman, too. We all got quite good as cowboys/girls and for the most part enjoyed that life. We all got taught by some of the area’s best cowboys, like Norm Coleman, George Hoskins and Henry Hoskins, to mention a few. These guys were really good, no nonsense cowboys who took us on several cattle drives off of the large Warner ranch over at Warner Hot Springs. We would drive several hundred head from the Warner Ranch down the steep and curvy grade, behind Julian, to Imperial Valley. You would go from about 4200 feet ASL to about probably 100 feet ASL.
The Depression was still in force and most people were just getting by. We were also, but there always seemed to be a little money to buy some piece of ranch land quite cheaply, compared to today’s market. Actually the average income of the American worker was down a bit from what it was at the start of the Depression. Despite Roosevelt’s attempt to spur on jobs and the economy, it was still not doing well. We children almost never got paid for any work or chore, but I well remember in about 1942 when Dad asked me, actually more like ordered me, to assist him after my school day to help in his termite exterminating business. The average worker he employed was getting $5.00 per day and I would at times be paid just $1.00 per day for the same work. But, no complaining. A dollar was a little better than nothing.
I’ll never forget that during my senior year at Hoover, since I had to work with Dad in his termite business in the afternoons after school, I was unable to go out for football practice. Despite that fact, Coach Walker let me play every game and get my football letter, for which I am, and was, very grateful.
Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
In June of this year Chuck had just graduated from Hoover high School and I had just entered my Junior year and was enjoying my first string position as an end on the varsity football team. I usually played through all of the game as either defensive or offensive end. Orville Ball was our quarterback and he and I were the best of friends. Ben Chase was a halfback on the team and later went on to play on the Navy team with George Brown. Both became All Americans on that Navy team which was fourth in the Nation. Dorsey Booker played a back position and like his father, joined the U.S. Marines and was later killed in the Pacific. His sister, Muriel, and I went steady my Senior year and during her Junior year. She later married George Brown after the War when he had returned from submarine duty and then graduated from medical school and started his internal medicine practice in San Diego. He truly was a gem and Muriel and he had a happy married life.
Just about 4 or 5 years before me at Hoover was Ted Williams who everyone knows about. Our teams whether it be track, football, baseball or basketball became well known in their professional spheres of activity. Being War years we mostly lost track of each other. But there certainly were some excellent athletes who came through Hoover High School in those pre-war years of the Great Depression. Many also gained recognition for their war time exploits. They truly were a hardy group. None were raised with a silver spoon in their mouths. They later became what has been described as the Greatest Generation. Whether that description holds forever will depend on the patriotism, honesty and heroism of some future generation. I must say because of my time on the varsity football team, I really did enjoy my high school years.
On December 7, 1941, at about 8:00M the warplanes of the Japanese military swooped down on the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor causing massive destruction to our Navy. Some 20 American Navy vessels were destroyed and some over 2000 American soldiers and sailors lost their lives. As Roosevelt said, it’s a day that will live in infamy. The following day Roosevelt went before Congress and asked Congress to declare war against Japan but within the week, Germany and Italy joined Japan in their declaration of war against America. It was a most interesting moment in time to have lived through.
In the beginning of the American experiment, George Washington advised the citizens and government to stay clear of foreign entanglements. Washington knew the history of Europe, and even the world, and could see how deleterious this might be for a young Democratic Republic. But, this attack of Japan on our nation, tilted the scale and it would now be impossible to refrain from joining the battle. So, now instead of lend lease materials being shipped to Britain, we would now be able to ship all sorts of military equipment and personnel into Europe and Britain to actually fight a war. But also, we had to gear up and go after the Japanese on the Pacific Front. This would take the commitment of a Nation of people but also that of the leadership of a strong and decisive President and Congress.
This war basically started in March 1942 and was comprised of several fronts over the next 3 years. Below, I just want to present an outline of some of the particular battle areas we were engaged in so that the young reader will see a glimpse of the size of the battles which their grandfathers, grandmothers and great grandparents were engaged in and had to win. These were with allied military joining the battle.
• Marshalls-Gilberts raids
• Doolittle Raid
• Coral Sea
• Gilberts and Marshalls
• Marianas and Palau
• Burma (1941–45)
• Indochina (1945)
• Indian Ocean (1940–45)
• Strategic bombing (1944–45)
• Philippines 1941–1942
• Dutch East Indies 1941–1942
• Portuguese Timor
• New Guinea
• Philippines 1944–1945
• Borneo 1945
• Aleutian Islands Campaign
• Estevan Point Lighthouse
• Fort Stevens
• Lookout Air Raids
• Fire Balloon Attacks
• Project Hula
• Mariana Islands
• Naval bombardments
• Sagami Bay
• Hiroshima & Nagasaki
• Japanese surrender
Actually, the unannounced Japanese invasion or expansion began back in about the 1931-32 period as they attacked both Manchuria and later, 1937, China. It was just after that time that Japan joined a pact of military support with both Germany and Italy. They became known as the “Axis”. The United States placed economic restraints on Japan which made Japan even more desirous of getting America out of the Pacific Region, thus Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese forces made headway in Guam and Wake island. In the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the Japanese Naval Forces sustained serious losses and from that point on the United States remained on the offensive.
Late in 1944 the American Forces retook the Phillipines and began a relentless attack on Japan. It was in early 1945 that President Roosevelt died and the office was taken over by the Vice President, Harry Truman. On August 6, 1945, the United States Air Force, with Truman’s OK, dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Tens of thousands of people died in the initial explosion, and many more died later from radiation exposure. Three days later, the United States dropped a bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Approximately 120,000 civilians died as a result of the two blasts. On August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria. An interesting fact of that time was the fact that the planning and development of the atomic bomb had not been made known to V.P. Truman, yet after Roosevelt’s death, it became Truman’s responsibility to agree and order the bombing of Japan in hopes of ending the War. Truman showed unusual courage to make that attack a possibility in order to save many American lives.
After Japan agreed to surrender on August 14, 1945, American forces began to occupy Japan. The actual surrender of Japan occurred on September 2, 1945 to the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, who entered the War at the very end.
1940-45 The Christensen Family
As I have related before, the Christensen children are all in high school at Hoover High in East San Diego, or as in Chuck’s case he has gone off to college first at San Diego State and then on to USC. His desire is to study and to become a Civil Engineer. Since his asthma has always been a problem, and since his help is needed on the Julian Ranch, he was given a military deferment, at least for a time.
As I graduated from Hoover in the mid-term period of February, 1943, I knew that I would be either drafted into the Army or I would need to enlist in whatever branch of the military which might accept me. I decided I didn’t feel I needed to romp around on the ground in the Army, and since I was already started in my pre-med course at San Diego State, I would join the Navy V-1 program for those who were enrolled in college. I thought I had been told that those who at that moment were taking a pre-med college course would be allowed to go on through to entering into medical school later. But then by April, I received a card from the Navy which said if I wasn’t already in medical school, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to continue in the premed Navy College Training Program, which was a real bummer. Now, I had to make another decision, did I want to pursue the 90 day officer training route to becoming a Navy ensign or would something else be more desirable?
I elected to see if I might join the Naval Air Corps and be able to go through the one year program to become a Navy Pilot. The medical exam was a three day exam at los Angeles and was quite rigorous. I passed and now was in the Navy V-5 program heading to become a pilot and then likely the Pacific Theater of War. But, hold it again. When I returned a day or two after my physical to San Diego State, I was told I just received active duty orders to Notre Dame to continue in the V-12 program as a pre-med student. That changes everything. Now, what have I done Lord?
Actually, I was able to jump back out of the Navy Air Corps College training program known as V-5 and return to V-1 which later got termed V-12. But then doing that switcheroo my orders got changed to my being transferred to USC instead of Notre Dame, which turned out to be better for me. I was able to stay closer to home for an occasional visit to be with my folks.
I finished my tour of duty as a premed student at USC in the Navy program and along with some 4 other pre-med Navy students, who also were finishing their premed course, we were all sent out to the Corona Naval Hospital in Corona, California, to be medical corpsmen in different departments. I was most fortunate to be assigned to work with CDR Ed Durling who was a Navy reservist from Boston. His field in private practice was oral and maxillofacial surgery. When he was called to active duty, he was assigned to be head of the oral surgery department at the Corona Naval hospital facility.
Having no idea that would be my final field and specialty it had to have been the hand of a loving God to place me with Commander Ed During. Only God could have known that the field that I would eventually spend my professional life in would be oral and maxillofacial surgery. What a miracle. I did learn a lot from my surgeon mentor as we were treating a lot of injuries from the Pacific War with Japan. Some were pilots with jaw fractures, others with needing other simple and sometimes more complicated oral surgery. A few were the captured German soldiers who were held in a war prisoner camp out on the desert near Riverside. That was always an interesting time caring for members of the enemy’s Army. They were young men and generally spoke no English. We, all, always treated them with respect and kindness.
When we four corpsmen had been present about 4 months we were all sent to various dental colleges at universities across America. Whereas, we had all been apprentice seamen during our undergraduate Navy days we were now all elevated to the position of midshipmen, which was certainly better as we received more pay and certainly more respect.. The uniforms were those of Navy officers and the pay increased from $50/month to $600/month.
So now I travelled by troop train to NYC to attend NYU College of Dentistry, where my father and uncle had graduated some 30 plus years earlier. This was going to be an interesting time for this young Navy man.
Chuck was finally taken in the Army in either late 1943 or 1944, and he went through infantry training at Ft. Benning Georgia in the Army and to eventually be sent to Europe to be in the Battle of the Bulge. Fortunately, he got frostbite to his feet and was sent back to a hospital in France, at first, and then later to Britain. He was able to avoid some of the horrific battles in that part of the War, for which we in the family were very glad. Ft. Benning has been the Army’s infantry basic training facility since WWI and has turned out some remarkable Army officers and men. Chuck, was no exception. I believe he rose to SSgt in his military career during that WWII period of active duty. I can still remember when he returned to New York City from his tour in Europe and we were able to re-unite. The entire family was most grateful for his safe return.
Shirley was in the class at Hoover which graduated in June, 1945 and I think she went on to matriculate at Stephens College in Columbia Missouri, where mother had gotten her AA degree before going to Columbia University’s Teachers College in Manhattan. Right after that, Shirley, I believe, joined the Nurse Corps training program and took her training at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, where I later took my oral and maxillofacial surgery training. She would later marry Al Lindgren and they would have three very talented and nice children, Gary, Greg and Leslie. Al was an engineer and had, too, been in the Navy as a line officer.
I suspect Mother and Dad were proud of the fact that one way or another all three of their children were all involved in serving their beloved country. Certainly, that was the general feeling about our America during those War years and before. Because very little was handed to us young folks during the years of the Great Depression, but I think much was expected, I feel it made us more resilient and self-motivated to accomplish something and certainly not to be an embarrassment to our folks, siblings and friends. We all had a job to do and boots to fill, and for that we were content, but always looking for possibly a better way.
I often wonder if that led to my being the first to innovate the TMJ and jaw implants as well as the first three dental implants in this country and possibly the world? It had to have had a bearing. My mind has always looked at things to see if I might just find some different, or hopefully, better way. I suspect this was God’s call on my life and in the long run He would order my steps in most every way. When I think back about being placed in a position as a medical corpsman in WWII with an oral surgeon, Dr. Ed Durling. and then being sent back to the dental school my father had attended, NYU, College of Dentistry, and then be led down strange paths to where I would eventually specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery, it is too strange to just call it a coincidence. God had a plan and He was showing me the way.
America in 1945
This post war era was a time for the return of our military servicemen and women to their native land. The GI bill was allowing many to go on to college and either finish what they might have started, or to begin a course they had not started. That was a real help to many families and certainly there were many returning home who wished to get married, start their families and find adequate jobs. I suspect without that government financial assistance most would have had a tough time going into or back to college. Most of us coming through the Great Depression were fortunate if we had enough clothes to wear. That was certainly true for my brother, Chuck, and me. Our folks could not have spent much to get us educated past the high school level.
America in general was working to see how we could assist Europe and even Asia from the devastation they had endured because of WWII. But another threat was also occurring and that was the threat of the Communist nations of the Soviet Union and China. The NATO Pact was set up to unify the European countries who wished democracy versus the Warsaw Pact which was made up of the countries controlled by the Communist Soviet Union. America built on her industrial superiority and her superior nuclear arsenal. The War had ended on May 8, 1945 with the U.S. and British military and the Soviet Union’s military lined up along what became known as the Iron Curtain. It bisected Berlin and Germany.
Most of us at that moment as Americans or as American service people did not like what was happening militarily at the time that Berlin was being conquered. General George Patton had spearheaded the earlier battles in North Africa and now had come up through Italy, I believe, and was moving to capture the Nazi Forces in Berlin. He and his American Army were curtailed from overtaking Berlin as the U.S. President Truman and the General of the Army, Dwight Eisenhower would not supply him the fuel he needed to move his military forces up through Germany, because they wanted Russia to overtake one third of Berlin. It was a shame. They just plain stalled his Army. I well remember thinking and saying, we should have not only taken Berlin first but continued up into Russia to conquer Russia at the same moment as we would likely someday be required to do just that. Many others felt the same way. We never trusted the Russian Communists.
In Asia, the Communists took over China and were attempting to take over Korea, thus in July 1950 the Korean War started under a UN flag with the U.S shouldering most of the burden.
On the domestic front the economy seemed to prosper and rise due mostly to the need for goods which had been curtailed during the War years. The U.S. was the only major industrial power whose economy came through, basically, intact. Roosevelt had died just before the end of WWII and Truman had followed him as President of the United States. It was Truman who had ordered the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Japan. President Truman, as Roosevelt’s Vice President was never made aware of the Manhattan Project which had the task of building the world’s first atomic bomb. What a shock that must have been for Truman, to learn as the President that we had the capability of actually wiping Japan off of the map. Most Americans give Truman much credit for having the courage to drop those massive bombs on the warring Japanese nation. That act ended the War and kept many American servicemen from losing their lives in a protracted battle.
It was Winston Churchill who was the strong Prime Minister of Great Britain. He took a strong stand against Stalin, President of the Soviet Union, when Stalin was “acquiring” most all of the neighboring Eastern European and Baltic States. After the War it was the Marshall Plan which gifted some 12 billion U.S. dollars to help rebuild the western European economies and countries
For the next many years and decades our foreign policy had to deal with containment of the Communist Soviet Union. But in America things were looking pretty bright. The 12 million returning veterans found employment in a society changing from a war economy to a consumer culture. The average national income was somewhere between $3000 and $10,000 which was a great improvement from the days of the Great Depression where incomes had fallen to the $1500 range. People now were having extra money to purchase items which they now desired. In most ways Americans were the envy of most of the world. There was hardly a person alive who didn’t think his or her children wouldn’t be better off than he or she had been thus far. After all, this was the American Dream.
Chuck, Bob and Shirley in the 1945-50 Period
In 1945 Chuck came home from the European Theater and was given an honorable discharge from the Army. He reinstated himself in the engineering school class at USC and within another year had graduated from the Engineering College. He took a position as a Civil Engineer with the City of San Diego. He married his pre-war girlfriend, Barbara Louise Kruger. Her folks had purchased the Pine Hills Lodge during the early years of the Great Depression and had managed the Lodge for the next 30 or more years. That was the very Lodge that granddad Fred Sutherland owned at his death in 1931 and mother managed for the next 12 months or so. Granddad had purchased it from Colonel Ed Fletcher who certainly became a legend in San Diego over the following 20 years or more.
Chuck and Barbara had four children, Charles, Patrick, Anthony and Angela. Young Charles became a successful attorney in San Diego whereas Tony and Patrick joined the senior Charles in his civil Engineering private practice which flourished in San Diego over the next 60 plus years. Patrick, besides earning his engineering degree, also earned his DDS thus splitting his time between engineer and dentistry. Angela married and had two children, but in her early adult life Angela developed MS and later became wheelchair bound and lived in a caregiving residence. She is and was a loving young woman who I believe has two grown children.
During these early post war years Bob found himself still a student at NYU, College of Dentistry and finally graduated in June, 1948 with his DDS degree. During his senior year at NYU, he and his sweetheart, Ann Forsyth were married and they then lived on North Brothers Island in the East River off of the 138th Street of the Bronx. Ann worked for a world famous ophthalmologist, Dr. Daniel Kirby, whose office was on Fifth Avenue and Bob continued through his senior year. Bob successfully passed his California State Dental Board Examination in 1948 thus allowing him to set up shop in California. He and Ann began his dental practice in the Northern High Sierra small town of Chester where they began their family. Their first child, Robert Jr. was born in a small adjoining town of Westwood in Plumas County on November 11th, 1948 during that first year of his dental practice. Most of that story has been written in Bob’s other book, “Just Remembering….A Surgeon Recalling the Past” published in 2012 by Xlibris Publishing Company. Bob, Ann and Robert “Chris” would leave Chester in January 1950 so Bob could begin his oral and maxillofacial surgery training in the Oral Surgery Department at Los Angeles County General Hospital.
Shirley and Al Lindgren were married in about 1948 or 1949 and began their family of three children. They continued to live in the Los Angeles area until at a later time they moved to Fanwood, N.J. where they and their three children, Gary, Greg and Leslie lived.
The folks continued in the termite extermination business in San Diego and continued to raise registered Herefords on the Julian Ranch which was spread out over several parts of San Diego County. Dad had been appointed by the California Governor to head the Structural Pest Control Board for the State. That was an honor for Dad which he well deserved. Sometime later he and mother moved permanently to live on the cattle ranch near Julian and that was a good move for them in their more retirement type of years. Neither one would ever fully retire as they kept busier on the ranch than they had been before, but they sure did enjoy those latter years, for which we children were most grateful. They had both worked so hard for their many years together, first raising we three children, but then working all those following years to gain the resources required to somewhat retire in comfort. They were both well thought of and liked in the small mining town of Julian, California. Mother’s roots had gone back to the early 1920s at Pine Hills when we moved to San Diego to originally live with her father, Fred Sutherland who owned the Pine Hills Lodge plus his other endeavors which included owning Yellow Cab of San Diego and all of the other cab companies, too.
The Korean War Years of the 1950s
It was in June 25, 1950 that the Korean War got started when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army crossed over the 38th Parallel and invaded the territory of South Korea. The World at that moment was in the post War period known as the Cold War. It is just 5 years after ending the fighting of WWII, and now another War. For those young enough to not know what the Cold War was, it was the chilly relationship the free world had with the Communist world, and here in the Korean War that relationship was being openly challenged or broken. Would this bring on WWIII? Who knows?
The National Security Council of the United Nations had encouraged the United States to use military force to thwart the expansion of the Soviet Union. It absolutely needed to be done, but America and the World were not thrilled about being placed in that predicament. Actually, Truman made the statement “if we let South Korea down the Soviets will just keep on going and swallow up one after another.” He was certainly correct. Most of us young veterans and other Americans were not thrilled with us being included in the U.N. military force. Nor did we like the fact that the United Nations to be situated in Manhattan.
In WWII the Korean Peninsula was divided into two halves. The northern part would be under Communist control and the southern half would be under U.S. control. The boundary was the famous 38th parallel. President Kim ll-Sung’s North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea and quickly overran South Korea using Chinese tanks.
When you look at the battles for mind control as seen over the past 50 years and the same going forward, the enemy always attempts to divide and then conquer. It doesn’t matter whether it is a country or things like God’s plan for marriage. He first attempts to get individuals to forget there is a God, or God’s word and finally such blasphemy as saying we should accept such abominations as the “right” of the homosexual to “marry” or abortion on demand. You can’t compromise with God’s word nor can you compromise with honesty, freedom and truth. When a population does, they lose. It is God’s word that says homosexuality is an abomination. Instinctively we know that, unless the devil has warped our thinking to where we accept such rubbish. The same is true of abortion. There is no “right” to have an abortion, to kill the unborn child. That is known as murder, but our minds are being altered by “disinformation” where a lie is substituted for the truth. Some 60 years later a former Romanian Intelligence Officer wrote a book titled, “Disinformation” which speaks of the lies which are being fed to the Americans byt the Russian leadership. This brainwashing unfortunately is being promulgated on the American citizenry by our own government and the abortion and homosexual “right” are a part of that disinformation.
The U.S. quickly entered the Korean War in July of 1950 under the banner of the United Nations Forces. General Douglas MacArthur, who was a signer on the surrender treaty of Japan in WWII was moved from Japan to command the joint UN American forces in Korea. He took a position at Pusan which is on the east coast of Korea. He then planned a rather brilliant amphibious landing attack at Inchon on the western side of Korea. As planned, when he attacked the North Koreans his Army literally crushed their army in a pincer-type movement and then he re-took Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. Mac Arthur was a mover and a shaker. He felt we should push on to the North and capture all of Korea to prevent the same thing from occurring again and again. The Chinese secretly sent an army across the Yalu River and was warning America if we continued over the river that we were inviting WWIII. President Truman was fearful that General Mac Arthur’s desire to actually win the War would escalate into WWIII.
I had been called into active duty in the U.S. Navy in August 1950 and remember thinking, as did Mac Arthur, that by Christmas this War could have been won. But the politicians had no desire to “win” the war. They wanted a stalemate, so Truman on April 11, 1951, fired Mac Arthur as Commander in Chief of the UN Forces in Korea for insubordination. Truman and his new military commanders began peace talks as early as July 1951.
The Korean War finally ended in July 1953 with some 5 million military and civilians losing their lives. Actually some 40,000 American military died in that war and another 100,000 were wounded. Korea lost about 10% of their population in that war. We ended up with a stalemate and a divided country of Korea, which today, some 60 years later represents evidence of a failed policy and less than courageous U.S. leadership. If we are going to send our men and women into battle, there truly is “no substitute for victory” as General Mac Arthur related in a letter to House Republican Leader, Joseph Martin. That was the statement that caused Truman to get peeved enough at Mac Arthur to fire him for insubordination, but the general was right.
I had been called back into active service, as a Navy surgeon, to be stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and to be in charge of the oral surgery department to help prepare for battle the 18,000 recruits entering service every 13 weeks.
Here I am writing this book in 2013 and the present Korean president is saying that he is nullifying the Armistice signed between the US, UN, GB and USSR in May 1953. Does that mean I’ll be called back into Navy service at age 88? ? Wouldn’t that be a pretty sight? Would I come back in as a Navy Lieutenant or an Admiral?
More about that in the next chapter.
Another Change of Direction
When you look back your life after perhaps some 80 or 90 years of living on this planet, you cannot help but be amazed at some of interesting turns in the road which have occurred. Sometimes they seem so unusual, but from this vantage point they seem definitely as though God was nudging you this way or that way.
Here we are in the last few months of 1950 when I was just finishing my training in oral surgery at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, our first two children, Robert and Joan, have been born, we are flat broke and now the U.S. Navy calls me to active duty. I am to report to the 11th Naval Command Headquarters in San Diego. When I do I am first assigned to the San Diego Navy Recruit Depot, but when I arrive there, I am then sent over to be stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, better known as MCRD, which is also in San Diego where I will take over the leadership of the Oral Surgery Department.
Since the Korean War has just started the number of recruits entering the Marines is massive. About 18,000 recruits would enter that facility for their 13 week basic training, every 13 week period. I was stationed at the Dental Unit buildings on the Base and then was assigned to be in charge of the oral and maxillofacial surgery department at that facility, for the next 24 months.
This was going to be a challenge accomplishing all of the surgery which these young recruits would need so they would be ready to later be stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside just before they most likely would leave for battle in Korea.
At that time the dental corps staff increased from about 15 dentists to over 50, with an appreciably larger staff of corpsmen. In my department I had 2 operating room suites with 6-7 corpsmen assigned to work with me. There was a tremendous variety of medical and dental problems to be seen in this age group from all over America.
Many recruits had never had any dental care and consequently many would lose some teeth. For some 200-300 recruits each month I would have to extract all of their teeth and keep them functioning in their training with hopefully not losing over a day’s time out of training. That was an almost impossible job, but we did it. Besides that number of recruits, there were many times that number where I would need to remove sometimes a single tooth, but many times multiple teeth. There would be some presenting with jaw or oral tumors, jaw fractures or some other bizarre pathology. It was always a bit of a challenge taking care of their needs and in a timely and efficient manner, but with good assistants, we got the job done. Before I arrived to take over that position, they had a regular Navy CDR who was doing the surgery, but he was so slow and inefficient that the Marine Base Commandant, a General, was chewing out the head Captain, Captain Arthur Logan, of the Dental Corps because the recruits were being held over a week or more just to complete their necessary oral surgery. He was not pleased, so my job was to change all of that, and I did.
During that time of my active duty during the Korean War we had our third child, Elizabeth Ann who would be born at the San Diego Naval Hospital. Her mother and I would be buying our first brand new home in East San Diego overlooking a canyon to the East. That brand new, one story ranch style, 3 BR home cost us $14,000. It was a very nice home for us at that time in our lives. It was situated in a new subdivision and on a cul-de-sac. It was brand new.
When our tour of active duty ended in October 1952, we moved to Pasadena to begin my private practice as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Though we were associated that first year with an established oral surgeon, who happened to be the father of one of my Navy corpsmen, we separated at the end of the year and I began my own private practice.
Those next several years progressed nicely with my getting established in the city of Pasadena as a well-qualified oral and maxillofacial surgeon and on three important hospital staffs. We rented a home in a nice area of town for those first few years. So life was good in America and in Pasadena where we were getting a start treating patients in our own practice. All was well for the Christensens.
America in 1955
These were the post Korean War years and Eisenhower is President and Nixon is Vice President of the United States. The Warsaw pact of Communist bloc nations has just formed. Of interest is the population of the U.S. which is now 166 million people. The GDP was 415 billion dollars, the Federal spending was 68 billion, the Federal debt was 274 billion, unemployment was 5.5 and the cost of a first class postage stamp was 3 cents. It was that same year that Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. At the moment of my writing this book, 2013, all I can say is, “My, how things have changed in the past 58 years.”
The economy of the United States gets booming with car sales approaching 8 million in one year. The average wage is near $4000 annually, with the minimum wage being raised to $1.00 per hour, and the first McDonald’s was started in that very year. Remember, I was being paid $1.00 per day, not per hour, by my Dad for helping him in the termite business just about 15 years earlier. The yearly inflation rate in the U.S. was about 0.28% whereas in Great Britain it was almost 13 times higher at 3.5%. The average American house was now costing some $10,900 and cars were less than $1900.
The culture was still more like the old days where people are respected, but Elvis and his Rock and Roll are taking over a bit. Also the TV is here to stay and they are owned by a substantial number of people. There is little talk of the homosexual lifestyle. In those days it is still recognized as sin. Abortions are not on demand and are still recognized as unlawful. The Civil Rights Movement is gaining strength, partly due to Rosa Parks’ courage while sitting in the front of the bus in Montgomery Alabama. Martin Luther King organizes a year-long, black, public boycott against the Montgomery bus system. It took another year for the buses to be desegregated. This was, also, the year that the young American actor, James Dean, dies in a car accident. His movie, Rebel Without a Cause is a smash hit.
By 1955 it seemed like everything is going our way. We have just purchased a two story Spanish home with 5 bedrooms and sitting on 1.5 acre, fully landscaped residential lot in Altadena. It was built as a show house in about 1921 and has a full sized swimming pool with diving board. It was a beauty and cost us only $43,000 total. Our family has increased in size with 2 new additions. Actually their birthdates are as follows:
1. Robert W. Jr “Chris” 1948
2. Joan Brophy 1950
3. Elizabeth Ann 1951
4. Peter Forsyth 1952
5. Mary O’Neill 1955
The next children came in the years from 1960-64.
The children who were old enough were enrolled in St. Elizabeth’s Catholic school which was attached to the church of the same name. It was on Lake Avenue and was also in Altadena. The architect of the church and our home were the same person and I believe they were built in the same year, 1921. He received a lot of publicity for his architecture, and rightfully so. The house was of the Spanish variety and was not only beautiful to look at but was very comfortable, durable and functional.
The children were very much at home in this house and began to learn how to be excellent swimmers. It gave me a chance to practice my simple dives and my more perfect cannonballs, which they enjoyed observing. Those in school at St. Elizabeth were doing well and my practice was doing well and affording us our nice living.
We truly were being blessed.
America in 1960s
It seems to me the 1960s are the beginning of many changes in the Nation and also in the World. Certainly, one of the more important things to occur, at least in the social realm in America, was when the four young African-American college students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College began protesting a denial of service to them at the lunch counter at a Woolworth Store in Greensboro, South Carolina. Sometimes it just takes a single person like a Rosa Parks or these young men to cause a Nation of people to do what is right. Later this caused a demonstration by over 60,000 black and white college students. What a change for the better was brought forth by these young men, but I am sure they each one paid a price for their courage.
The year before Hawaii had become our fiftieth State so now the American flag has 50 stars. What an interesting thing to have happen in anyone’s lifetime. Kennedy succeeds Eisenhower as the U.S. President. It followed Eisenhower’s two terms as President. The Nation is excited about this new charismatic Massachusetts Senator becoming President of the United States. We Republicans are not as moved by his charm and we all voted for the present Vice President under Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon.
In these next five years a number of things would happen and be remarkable one way or another. President Kennedy announces the goal of putting a man on the moon within ten years and Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr. becomes the first to accomplish a suborbital space flight at 116 miles above the earth inside a Mercury capsule fired from Cape Canaveral, FL.
It truly is a remarkable time to be living in America and with all of the space exploration getting started, it encourages all Americans to think out of the box. To become the God given innovators they are destined to be. It is a great time for our young children to grow up as they can get a slight vision and hope for their own lives.
In the world there are a number of not so great things happening like the thwarted Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the building of the Berlin Wall by the Russians and the looming of a future Vietnam War.
At home John Glenn becomes the first astronaut to circle the earth 3 times in a Mercury 7 capsule. Over the next 10 to 20 years there will be any first time things occurring, especially in space, but even as perhaps some off shoot, in medicine, computer world etc.
The Beginning Innovative Years for Bob
Maybe because of the challenges for America, or maybe because of the fact that I had been doing surgery for a decade or more and could see that some changes needed to be made, whatever the reason, I began to see some need for innovation in the surgical field I was in. If patients were going to get the best care possible, we somehow had to be on the cutting edge and to be looking for those God given geodes that contain something new and wonderful. I then must become a geode hunter.
Starting in the late 1950s I began to explore the possibility of designing and manufacturing some new method of anchoring a false tooth or teeth to bone. I had been thinking along these lines since the late 1940s, but somehow never got started on the project. By the late 1950s I seem to have gotten the bug to innovate a new method by which people who were stuck having to wear a full or partial lower denture might be able to literally anchor it to the lower jaw bone. If I was successful, it would certainly be a major breakthrough. Let me show you what I was able to come up with, and without any government help or grants.
• The Circumferential Dental Implant
It was in those years between about my age of 35 and 45 years that seem to be my more innovative years. I suppose a person needs to get ample experience behind him so as to begin to know what works and where innovation and creativity are necessary. I had always felt there had to be some way to anchor teeth to the jaw bone as a permanent tooth replacement for improvement and substitution for the more cumbersome and awkward dentures which people without teeth were wearing. After all the idea of dentures went back before George Washington’s time without much innovation occurring. I had first given that some thought back in 1948 when I had just gotten out of dental School at New York University.
As the years went by it was even clearer that a simple method of attaching a single tooth or multiple teeth should be made available. The only technique which had come forth with any success was the so called sub-periosteal implant devised by Drs. Goldberg and Gerskoff in about 1950. It was a very cumbersome type of implant in which the surgeon had to take an impression of the lower jaw’s top bone surface, when it was surgically exposed. Then have a laboratory design and cast a Cobalt-Chrome metal framework which was meant to cover the superior surface of the entire mandible (lower jaw) and have four posts protrude through the mucosa on which to attach a lower denture. It was a remarkably complicated technique in which post-operative infection can torpedo the entire event to everyone’s dismay.
I sought after a simpler, single or multiple tooth replacement type of implant, which would require no earlier surgical technique or special laboratory procedures; something that would be pre-fabricated and useful in any patient at any instance.
My original dental implant I called a Circumferential Dental Implant and sought a U.S Patent for it in the late 1958-1960 time period. First, I placed them in dogs and cats as my own financed and accomplished research project with success, and then placed them in patients and made a motion picture film of the entire procedure, and being accomplished on several types of patients.
That early surgical film was titled “The Circumferential Dental Implant-The New Way” and appeared on the Annual Program for The American Dental Association occurring in Los Angeles in
October 1960. The L.A. Times wrote a medical story about my innovation and presentation at that same moment. It made quite a splash with the American Implant Society who’s members were having their own meeting in conjunction with the ADA meeting. No one was aware of any of my work and were mighty surprised when they saw the film. Many questions were asked by the over 1500 professionals present. That truly was the beginning of a major industry
That, truly, was the original, individual dental implant in the United States. Many more were to follow. Since then the dental implant sales in the United States and world has soared to over 2.6 billion dollars annually, yet almost no one today knows of my early work in this field. There were more innovations to follow.
• The Circumferential Dental Implant
• The TMJ Implants
This next part of this chapter deals with my innovation of implants to reconstruct the temporomandibular joint. It truly starts in the late 1950s and more specifically in 1960. As a successful oral and maxillofacial surgeon practicing alone in Pasadena California, I was being asked to treat many difficult and complex patient issues.
For some of the problems, there had been no effective treatment and I was attempting to think out of the box to be helpful to those patients. One area of surgical treatment in which there was no consensus and certainly no satisfactory treatment modality, had to do with the surgical TMJ problem. The problem could manifest itself in a host of ways from fractures of the joint all the way to agenesis (congenitally missing segments of the jaw) or even tumors of the particular structures. But the most frequently seen pathology or disease process requiring surgical intervention was degenerative joint disease, just like we also see in the hip and knee.
I had examined many patients, during my training at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, who had suffered trauma to the lower jaw and who consequently may have suffered a fracture of the condylar neck, unilaterally or bilaterally. The usual treatment being recommended at that institution was the closed reduction with immobilization of the mandible, in occlusion, to allow the fractured condylar portions to heal in whatever position they found themselves in after the trauma. As I started my own specialty practice, after the Korean War period, I began to see a pretty significant number of similar patients. I wasn’t comfortable with not attempting to do what we now call an open reduction and skeletal fixation of the fragments allowing the displaced portion of the jaw to be replaced into its normal, pre-fractured position.
As time went on I found I had a great deal of success with this surgical method and the patients were delighted with the results. Was it a more risky procedure than the closed reduction? Yes, definitely. But I really did master those operations and in the next 8-10 years I had probably operated some 35-45 such patients, in this manner, with measurable success.
With this background, it is easier to see why I began to operate on the degenerated and painful temporomandibular joint patients. Their joints didn’t have any fractures, but were deteriorating much like the degenerated hip or knee joint patient. The problem was there was no excellent surgical technique which would give any long term, good or predictable results. We might do a disc removal procedure, but overtime that would cause more serious problems within the joint because now the two opposing bone surfaces would function directly on each other. Or, we might do what is called plication of the disc. In that instance, the displaced and somewhat degenerated disc, was placed back over the condylar head, in hopes that it would stay in that position, and secondly that it wouldn’t repeat the disc dislocation or it would not just plain wear out.
There were other procedures, and to be truthful the success rate was usually less than 20% for any such procedure in the first 5 years after surgery. Not a compelling reason for doing those particular procedures. In 1960 I was referred a young Catholic Sister named, Sister Lucille in her mid-thirties, who has had a prior disc removal seven years earlier which was later followed by a high condylectomy some 3-4 years later. Her condyle, the ball of her lower jaw, is now anchored or fused to the skull base with almost no jaw motion possible. Her pain is daily and rather severe.
Now what, Lord? All I could think of was the physician’s motto, “Physician, do no harm.” And yet both of the procedures already accomplished on this young Sister were accomplished by a very knowledgeable surgeon, who happened to be an orthopedic surgeon in the Central Valley of California. Was he negligent? No. He was doing the only treatment considered effective at that period of time. But how could I help this young Sister have proper pain free joint function? This was the challenge I was faced with that winter day in 1960.
Was I capable of improving the situation? I certainly had been recommended very highly by the surgeons at St. Luke Hospital as well as Huntington Memorial Hospital there in Pasadena. But, would that be good enough? I certainly could operate on Sister Lucille and get an immediate relief from pain and a greater amount of jaw function, but would it last more than a few weeks to a few months? The problem which would occur after any surgery, normally accepted at that time by the medical community, would be that the bones would grow together again and she or he would be worse off after another surgery than if we had performed no surgery at all. Only God could really make a difference.
Either the Lord would miraculously heal Sister Lucille, or He would show me how to operate on her temporomandibular joint and make it well. In 1960, as I was driving from Pasadena toward Santa Barbara, God placed an idea in my head which was so simple, so perfect and so just as easily condemned by the naysayers. He showed me that I could take the ten human skulls which I possessed and I could then fabricate a metal, somewhat S shaped implant to cover the bone surface at the base of the skull. This bone surface was the upper joint surface which the degenerating condyle (ball) would normally function against, and would attempt to attach to. Wow, that was easy. So, it was December 1960 when I began to work on my new project.
It meant I would need to place all ten of my skulls on a laboratory table, unhinge the lower jaw (mandible) and make wax patterns to precisely cover and duplicate the base of the skull in the area of the TMJ. The implant would need to extend laterally over the rim of the zygomatic arch root (the cheek bone) and have 3-4 holes placed for the screws which would be required to secure the implant in place. The implant would be very thin and would take the shape of the glenoid fossa and cover its surface and go forward even over the articular eminence. This would mean that basically all of the temporal bone surface in the joint area will be covered with the thin metal implant.. This was getting exciting, but could I pull it all together? If when I got the first wax patterns developed, what metal should I use to cast the final implants?
What made me think that I could make any of the ten implants, which I would fashion, actually in surgery, fit Sister Lucille’s skull base accurately enough? That was the biggest challenge. If, at surgery, I had her left TMJ fully exposed, and the new implant didn’t fit, what then? She would be no better off than the earlier surgeon and she would have trusted me, and I would have failed her.
Well, it took me the next couple of months to fashion 15 implants for Sister’s left TMJ. But then I would also have to do some corrective bone surgery which would allow the condylar neck to reside within the metal fossa portion of the implant. This would allow me to give Sister the best chance for proper jaw function after surgery, if all went as I had hoped and planned. I decided to do all of this “mock” surgery on an actual skull, including the bone corrective surgery which would have the effect of lengthening that part of her left mandible and putting the articular portion back into the cup configuration of the new TMJ implant. It was all getting more complicated, but exciting.
I decided, with Sister’s permission, to make a surgical film of the entire operation. I had fully explained the surgery to Sister Lucille and she and I explained it to the Mother Superior of her order of Dominican Sisters. We were now just three days before the actual surgery, when I made a costly mistake. There was an excellent general dentist, whose office was near mine, that I made the mistake of telling him about what I was contemplating. He taught at USC, and of course had many colleagues at that institution. It turns out they were having an office party that very evening, and my friend Dr. Ray Contino let his comrades know about what Dr. Christensen was doing the next Tuesday at St Luke Hospital on a young Catholic Sister named Sister Lucille.
There were a couple of dentists at that party who likely were not too friendly with anything I might be doing. It was nothing more than jealousy. Thus, on Monday early afternoon, one of those darling doctors took it upon himself to phone the Sister-Administrator of St Luke Hospital to ask “if they allowed experimental surgery to be done at St Luke Hospital?”
The custard hit the fan. Sister Lucille had been admitted in the hospital and was awaiting surgery to begin at 7:30 AM on Tuesday. She was unaware of what had transpired over the weekend and was now occurring on Monday noon. The Sister-Administrator found herself in a pickle. After all, Dr. Christensen had been on staff for about 8 years, had taken his rotation as head of the OMS department of the surgical staff, and was very well respected for doing a great deal of excellent surgery, and sometimes on the Sisters, at no charge of course, but even surgery on the Catholic priest at the hospital.
She had to call me and explain I would not be allowed to do that “experimental” surgery in St. Luke Hospital and especially on a Catholic nun. That last part added by me. Won’t the devil attempt to stop God’s plan at every turn? After all it was God who showed me how we might effectively treat this type of problem; and now what? Only God could have orchestrated the next words out of my mouth. I said calmly to Sister, “I would like to go before the Executive Committee.” She replied It just happens that they were meeting that very night. She gave me the OK.
Well, PTL. The doctors on the Executive Committee listened quite attentively as I explained what I have just written, and long story short, they allowed me to operate Sister Lucille the next morning. The surgery on Sister Lucille went perfectly. The implant fit like a glove and then I was able to secure it with four small screws. My assisting surgeon, Dr. Douglas Donath, and I accomplished the other bone corrective surgery to elongate the condylar neck to fit within the new implant and the patient was returned first to ICU then to her room on the surgery floor of St Luke’s Hospital of Pasadena, California where the first Christensen TMJ hemi-arthroplasty was accomplished in 1961. That was a momentous moment for future TMJ sufferers and for the history of TMJ reconstructive surgery in America and in the World..
It was rather interesting that within a year or two of operating Sister Lucille I was referred another Sister who was on Staff at Santa Terescita Hospital in Monrovia. I believe it was the Sister Superior-Administrator who made the referral. The new patient was a very young Sister who, during a hospital picnic, had fallen over a dry waterfall some 75 feet to land on a ledge below. She had multiple facial lacerations and had compacted her mandibular condyles into the base of her skull, bilaterally. I believe there had also been bilateral condylar neck fractures. A local surgeon, who was also on staff at that hospital was a Dr. Charles Petty, of Monrovia, who immobilized her mandible to her maxilla with intermaxillary wire fixation for some 6 weeks. When she was seen by Dr. Petty some 6 weeks after the original fall, he removed the wire fixation and allowed the patient to move her jaws. Over the next month or two her ability to open her jaws became very restricted to where only soft or liquid diet was possible. It was at that point, about four months after the original fall that she was referred to me for the surgical reconstruction of her ankylosed, fused, condyles. After the proper imaging and pre-operative workup we decided that bilateral hemiarthroplasty was required, with the insertion of the Christensen Fossa-Eminence prostheses. The surgery was performed at Santa Terrescita Hospital and the patient had an uneventful and complete recovery.
Sometime near that same time period, maybe in the 1950s, the chaplain of St Luke Hospital required an orthognathic surgery to correct his congenital prognathism, or protruding lower jaw syndrome. I performed bilateral osteotomies in the rami of his mandible and pushed the mandible back about 5/8ths of an inch. It greatly approved his appearance but even more his dental occlusion and ability to masticate foods. Over the next 15 years I had the opportunity of operating on hundreds of patients with a variety of TMJ problems. The surgery was proving to be more successful than I might have first imagined. I was a staff member on some 17 major hospitals in the greater Los Angeles area and I was the first to perform that procedure in each of those hospitals.
It was in 1964 that we put on a teaching symposium on TMJ arthroplasty at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where I performed a live surgery which was televised to about 200 surgeons from across America who were present for the symposium. The actual program is seen below.
The TMJ Symposium at Hollywood-Presbyterian Hospital, January 1964
The staff we had assembled for that Symposium was spectacular. We had a leading neurosurgeon, the heads of otolaryngology at Loma Linda University Medical School and at USC, School of Medicine, a lead general surgeon who had been President of the Pasadena Medical Society, the chief of orthopedic surgery at Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital, the world’s leading anatomist for the head and neck region, two leading oral surgeons and a gnathologist. It was a most remarkable gathering of scientists and surgeons for this type of surgery.
That TV program on TV 13 in Los Angeles brought a lot of attention to the work that I was doing and was featured as a news story in a number of papers and magazines across America. TV Channel 13 in Los Angeles filmed the actual, live surgery and it was shown a couple weeks later on a prime time, one hour program called, “Surgery 64” and narrated by Bill Burrud. It was seen by likely hundreds of thousands of people in the Southern California region.
The patients continued to be referred to me from across the country and many of them had severely arthritic TMJs to where they had not had any jaw function or mobility for over 20 years. The successes were phenomenal, and I give all of the glory to God. It was God who showed me very simply how to correct these problems. There were always the naysayers somewhere in the crowd of professional people, but the successes were so spectacular anybody really reviewing them couldn’t help but be impressed.
Shortly after that, I started a company called Implants Inc. back in the 1960s but I was just too far ahead of the curve. The public was much more attuned to why this technique would work, but the profession was cautious and at times some mocked my attempt to correct the problem.
The TMJ Partial Joint Implant
• The Transosseous Dental Implant
My next innovation occurred about 1964 and was what I called the Transosseous Dental Implant. It was an implant for which I held the U.S. Patent and was a dental implant which traversed the mandible in the chin area. I had learned earlier that the “Implant-a-band”, also known as the “circumferential dental implant” was not the best approach. It allowed, at times, for an invasion of bacterial infection to occur along the band and around the mandible, especially on the lateral aspect. It was obvious that coming through the mandible would be more successful. I began to design various patterns with a couple of different heads to see what might be best.
I might say that tackling and accomplishing all that I was accomplishing was taking monetary resources from my family as well as time from being with my family. It also required that I develop a working relationship with people in the metal fabrication business and also with a veterinarian who was most helpful in some of my animal studies. I also had to determine which metals might be best and then to find where I could secure limited amounts of that metal or alloy. This was a more challenging accomplishment than one might think, but I truly was on a mission.
With this implant, my thought was to come all the way through the bone of the mandible, anterior to the mental foramen on either side. In this way I would avoid injuring the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve which traverses through the mandible in the area of the molars and bicuspids so that no numbness of the lip would occur. The length of the implant was important so that it would penetrate the entire mandible which could be variable in many patients and then extend into the oral cavity above the gingival mucosa overlying the bone. The screw thread area should be only long enough so as to stay within the variable bone heights, in the individual patients. The actual thread size would also be important as the bone density at the cortical margins would have a limiting constraint to the diameter of the actual threads on the implant. Too large of a thread and the implant couldn’t be screwed through the inferior cortical bone region or would cause a fracturing of the cortical bone at that point of entry.
I had placed several of these in dogs and cats and had the opportunity of observing some of them for as much as nine years with total success of the implants. Like with every other innovation I had accomplished, I made a surgical motion picture film of the procedures on patients and used those films at ADA and other national and even international conventions or meetings. Those films were very well attended, usually by some 1500 doctors and staff viewing each session. This truly was the beginning of the dental implant revolution in America. This Transosseous or Transosteal implant has remained very successful over many decades and could certainly still be used as an important implant in our armamentarium. Some years later a Dr. Irving Small copied my implant and with a slight variation he was able to secure a U.S. Patent sometime after mine.
• The Transosseous Dental
• The Endosseous Implant
This was my most recent dental implant innovation in the middle 1960s and certainly an excellent, al purpose dental implant. A very interesting thing was happening at this very moment. I had been referred a gentleman by the name of John D’Costa. On the day of his first visit for the extraction of a single tooth, my folks were visiting my Pasadena office from their ranch in Julian. I had been sitting in my private office talking with them, when John was ushered into a treatment room to be examined by me and then to have this single bicuspid tooth removed.
After I had extracted the tooth under local anesthesia, John and I got talking about how the tooth might be replaced. I was really at the point where I wanted to develop my third dental implant innovation and so I mentioned that to him. I let him know it would be fairly expensive to develop such an implant. Out of his mouth came the words, “How much would it cost, Doc?” I let him know, I really didn’t know but at least probably twenty thousand dollars. He asked how much I would need to get started to innovate such a tooth implant. I casually said probably $2000. He immediately reached in his left back pocket and began to pull out a wad of $5.00 bills.
I told him I would get my receptionist to come in and count the money, so I found my receptionist talking with my folks. So without any explanation to her, I just asked her to accept $2000 from John, then give him a receipt and have him back in a view days so I could see how the extraction site was doing. That was the beginning of my development of the third of my dental implants, which was the precursor of all future dental implants in the U.S. Today that dental implant industry brings in some 2.6 billion dollars, annually.
Another interesting part of the story was this. I learned later that John, a Belafonte appearing young black man, was a very educated and charismatic person, but more importantly it turns out that he was California’s most noted drug dealer in the 1960s. Before we got done, I had followed John from his being incarcerated in the downtown Los Angeles jail to several maximum enforcement prisons in the Central Valley of California.
Another patient, and a man I called a dear friend, was the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. It was Judge Donald Wright who finally had John incarcerated. When Don came into my office sometime later, I said, “Don, you arrested and jailed one of my patients.” Don let me know this man was California’s biggest drug lord and one they had suspected earlier had killed his own father, a physician in San Diego. Don also let me know they had some 26 federal Agents on his tail when he was in Ensenada, Mexico in I believe a Post Office. When John recognized who they were he dropped a paper bag which contained some $26,000 in cash. Before I got done treating John he had paid me $20,000 and I had been able to develop and implant the first of these endosseous implants in John’s jaw.
The Christensen Endosseous dental implant was designed and made like a sheet metal screw with large screw threads. I had my first ones fabricated in Ti Al V (known as 90-6-4 because of its metal concentrations) and this became the precursor of most of the more recent dental implants. I developed it in several lengths and widths and then I developed a screw driver in order to place them in bone very quickly after a pilot hole has been drilled through the mucosa and ino the bone. This implant could be used as an individual, single tooth implant or as a multiple tooth or full arch dental implant. At that time I made a new surgical film titled, “The Endosseous Implant-The New Way”. This implant was a great success and we placed hundreds of them in patients over the next dozen years.
I required a couple of them a few years ago in my own jaws and they have been so very successful. We have always been able to have the final crowns placed on them and they could be masticated on as soon as they were placed. These implants have started an industry that today in 2013 has a gross sale volume of well over $2.6 billion annually. Sometimes God uses the foolish things to confound the wise. I would never have guessed that it would be through the resources of a drug kingpin that we might be able to innovate the world’s most successful and long lived dental implant. The surgical film about this innovation, later received The Golden Eagle Award from CINE for it’s ingenuity and perfection. Film producer Bob Chapin and I were very pleased about that award.
• The Endosseous Dental Implant
• The Modular Mandibular Implant
This was the final implant to be developed by me in the mid-1960s. The cost of innovation and gaining U.S Patents was beginning to overcome my resources and so I decided to not attempt to patent anything after that. This implant was designed as a sectional or a modular way of replacing the actual mandible, or any part of it. Over all of my earliest years in practice if I were going to do an excision of a large portion of the tumor patient’s mandible I would either use a bone graft from the iliac crest of the patient’s hip, or a portion of the patient’s tibia or possibly a rib graft. Then there would be times I would use some standard bone plate, like a Sherman Plate, and would modify it to the desired shape and proper length that I would require in replacing that patient’s lower jaw.
Later in the early to mid 1950s I would take a thin sheet of stainless steel and use tin shears and drill bits to fashion a somewhat anatomically shaped implant to replace the patient’s missing mandibular section of bone. I could actually fabricate these replacements in my garage at home. This technique worked very well but if for some reason one’s pre-surgically determined bone excision was incorrect, then you would be faced with a difficult way of replacing the missing bone, without going back to the laboratory, or garage, to fashion an implant for later placement.
That is what I did to accomplish reconstruction of a part of the lower jaw during the period of the mid to late 1950s. In the 1960s I submitted the drawings for a U.S. Patent approval for the modular mandible and it became the first U.S. Patent accepted for this type of device. It was about this same time that I was also appointed to the position of Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, in the Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Medical School of the University of California at Irvine. This gave me the opportunity of placing the earliest of these modular mandibles in a cancer patient where half of her mandible was resected. In my years teaching of the 4th and 5th year residents at that University, I had the opportunity of teaching TMJ reconstructive surgery and jaw replacement surgery to the benefit of these early surgeons and patients alike.
• The Modular Mandible
America in the 1970s
The nineteen seventies was an interesting time here in America. For many of us “older folks” there was beginning to be a bit which was foreign to us. The attitude that Father knows best was definitely a thing of the past. The Second World War had disrupted the family as a conclave to be respected, mentored by and even to be admired. We were definitely losing the good effects of the family members mentoring each generation which was to follow. I believe it was that good and respected family mentoring, plus the freedoms we enjoyed, which helped make this country so exceptional. In those earlier Depression Years, we still retained the knowledge of God and were willing to teach that wisdom to our children. But things were beginning to change in ways many of us in the older generation were not pleased with.
Our family members were being spread across the Nation and around the World in their employment, just as they had been in the WWII years, frequently by our new multinational companies. With the need for more income our family members were much more likely to see the father and mother both being employed outside of the house, thus having a somewhat disjointed effect on our children and family members in general. Homes which had cost $2500-$3500 during the Great Depression years had risen through the $15,000 to $30,000 range in the early 1950s and were now much higher.
The hippy generation which had been so vocal the decade before became even more vocal about their opposition to the Vietnam War. The social progressives in America began to be more prominent in the political realm. They were all pushing for “world peace”, but probably few knew what that truly would look like. Certainly all of us wanted to see the world a more peaceful place to live but it would only be possible, as Reagan later stated, through being fully prepared for war.
The decade was certainly a time when there was growing hostility to government and any degree of authority. Such movements as seen when the environmentalist attempted to disrupt anything that seemed to smell of change or improvement or innovation.
The decade was termed the Me Decade or even Me Generation by novelists like Tom Wolfe in an article which he had written titled the Me Decade and another as The Third Great Awakening, both published during this time in the New Yorker magazine in 1976.
Interestingly, later in the 1970 decade, Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first Conservative Prime Minister of Great Briton, probably since Winston Churchill. She turned out to be an excellent force in the British government and was a strong ally of our President Ronald Reagan, himself a Conservative. This decade began to make people feel like they could accomplish something. Pride in one’s being and accomplishments were beginning to be felt again by the average American. There was self -determination and an improved U.S. economy.
There was an increase in violence in the 1970s particularly in the Middle East as Egypt and Syria declared war on Israel. Later in the 1970s, the situation in the Middle East was fundamentally altered when Egypt signed the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty. Anwar El Sadat, President of Egypt, was instrumental in the event and consequently became extremely unpopular in the Muslim world. In 1981 Sadat was assassinated. Political tensions in Iran exploded with the Iranian Revolution which overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty and established an Islamic republic of Iran under the leadership of the Ayatollah Khomeini. What a horrible change that has made in the Middle East. Especially up and through the period of the years of today, 2013.
I suspect those changes in that part of the world have just unleashed the terror monsters of Islam who are bent on destroying the Western culture that has led the entire world to see more peace and prosperity, but then, I’m getting ahead of the story.
The Late 1960 and 1970s in My Life,
Back To the Ranch
These years were interesting years but somewhat unremarkable. In the mid-1960s I required multiple lumbar laminectomy procedures, some of which likely related back to my early ranch experience, but then some of it due to my occupation as a surgeon leaning over a surgical table for so many years of my life.
Ann and I and the children had moved our home from Altadena to Palos Verdes which was some 50 miles from my office in Pasadena. With my back falling apart, that move was not the wisest thing we could have done. In the midst of that Ann and I ended in a divorce. This was certainly before I was a born-again Christian and the Lord has certainly since shown me, divorce is not the answer-Jesus Is!
Some 8 or 10 years later I met and married a young woman named Lynne. She worked for an investment banker in Pasadena as an administrative assistant and happened to live in the same apartment house as did I.
Some year or two later, Lynne and I bought a beautiful 100 acre ranch in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. It was equal distance from Grants Pass to Medford. This was considered the banana belt of Oregon as it was sunny and dry.
It was a cattle and hay producing ranch which rested in a valley along the Williams Creek which eventually ended up going into the Rogue River. There were two pretty good sized ponds also on the property. It was surrounded by beautiful, snow covered peaks rising to about 6000 feet that gave an even more majestic and beautiful appearance to the ranch. Our nearest neighbor was a quarter of mile away and the nearest town of Grants Pass was about 16 miles away.
Lynne had never lived on a ranch or farm and knew very little about the care and raising of cattle and horses. Since I had the benefit of living on a cattle ranch when I was a young boy it was like going home for me. Since I had been compelled from 3rd grade until college and the WWII years to daily milk the Jersey milk cow, I felt I would never voluntarily do that again. When I saw a sign in which the rancher was selling a beautiful, five gallon a day, Jersey milk cow, just like Bossy, I succumbed and purchased her. We called her Josephine, after the county we were ranching in.
We started on the ranch by purchasing a herd of registered Black Angus cows and a bull. Now we had a Jersey milk cow along with the herd of 25 Black Angus, which were great looking on our beautiful green pastures. Having been raised with the red, whiteface cattle with pretty lengthy horns, these polled Angus were an interesting change. I had forgotten to mention that Lynne and I had purchased two nice riding quarter horses for us when we were living on our 1.5 acre horse property in Palos Verdes. We brought the horses to our new “Little Creek Ranch”. My horse named Tara was a spirited, sorrel cowhorse with a blazed face and 3 stocking feet. For me she was just perfect.
I suspect we felt we were in seventh heaven about this time in our lives. Lynne took to ranching like a duck to water. We made friends with several of the ranch people we were either neighbors of, or we had done business with or had been introduced to. In a year or so we had our first child, Andrew and about three years later had his brother, Matthew. Andrew had been with us on the ranch and we felt so blessed to be able to have him beginning his early years enjoying the ranch life. He really enjoyed the smaller animals.
The 100 acre ranch had about eighty acres of hay producing pasture land where we were able to grow about 400 tons of excellent grass hay each year that we might bale and sell to others. There was more to place in our large to feed the cattle we owned to take them through the colder and rainier winter months. That grass hay would get so high that it would be over our heads. It was beautiful. I’ll never forget when my step dad, Lee, came to visit us on the Little Creek Ranch, probably after Mother had died. He couldn’t get over the 6-7 foot height of the grass hay. Grass hay never got that tall in the drier Julian climate.
We finally got to where we had about 80 head of Black Angus, including the bull and some calves, and we sold them at varying times, but the income was never equal to the outflow of cash. There was a steady drain on our economics, especially after I had sold the practice and retired just to the ranch, but we really did enjoy that ranch life. It was hard work for both Lynne and me as we moved 300-400 tons of hay around each year, and I had three prior spine surgeries in which my 5 lumbar discs had been removed. I had been told to not lift anything heavier than a phone book. Oh Yeah! Those are hard instructions to follow if you are running a hay and cattle ranch.
One of the many interesting things that happened while we were ranching in Oregon had to do with my need to be a surgeon for one of the animals. We had a young heifer that developed a serious neck infection which was disturbing her ability to breathe. I finally decided the time had arrived for me to do a tracheotomy so I put the calf in the corral and tied her up on the ground and then gave her an injection in her neck with a local anesthetic so I could perform somewhat painless emergency surgery. I performed a routine tracheostomy and placed a tracheotomy tube in her neck. Following that we gave her several days of penicillin by injection and she recovered. Lynne was always right there to help me do whatever surgery or ranch chore that was needed.
There were other times when I might be treating injured birds or an injured deer. It was all part of the job of a surgeon being also a rancher. I was glad to be able to be helpful to the hurting animals. Lynne and I were always interested in caring for animals nd the price was always right.
Lynne just reminded me of a time when we took some gentleman we had met in Oregon, in our car down to where the highway would cross the border into California so I could, under local anesthesia, extract a tooth for that particular person. That way I was legitimate since I was only licensed to practice in California. These State licensing requirements are another political obstruction and really are detrimental, unfortunate and silly. With the need for more physicians and dentists in this time of Obamacare, these regulations should be scrubbed so that we can get the most efficient use out of our medical personnel. Individuals who have gone through the 8-12 year or more education, should not be hampered by State borders, but that’s another story for another time.
After about the 5th year we sold the Little Creek Ranch and moved onto a small 8 acre parcel half way to Grants Pass. We developed the land and had a big barn put on the property, then used our Case 450 dozer to build a road into the pad which we had bulldozed for the double wide T shaped mobile home. By this time I had gone into the land developing business with a backhoe, Cat, dump truck and a few other smaller items. Again I was lifting a lot more than telephone books and wasn’t sure how long my ability or stamina would last. But, somehow, I had to make a living.
I would be contracting jobs to build a road into someone’s property, or dig a swimming pool, or dig septic test pits, and even occasionally putting in a whole septic system. It was an interesting life, and certainly a challenge for this somewhat retired oral and maxillofacial surgeon. I suspected this life of a construction worker was not destined to last but I was enjoying the out of doors.
I used those talents and that equipment to develop other small land parcels which I could purchase and sell after I had improved them a bit. It was an interesting adventure and we were able to keep eating and living. At times we would have a well drilled on the property which we were developing to sell. I would usually have to select the area where a well might be drilled and it was always interesting to see how well we did in that selection.
In one instance in which we drilled a well in our own property, we instructed the well driller, whose name happened to be Bob Christensen, to drill at this particular spot to a depth of 200 feet. When he got to 190 feet he had found zero water, but within 5 more feet he hit an artesian well producing some 100 gallons per minute. I plumbed that well and our house and even the pond without ever putting in any water pump in the line. The natural pressure was more than enough. PTL
At some slightly latter point in time, we bought a 20 acre parcel along the McKenzie River in Springfield, Oregon. It was actually nearer Blue River, Oregon which lies on the actual river. On the property was a new three story house was actually right in the flood plain, adjacent to the fast moving McKenzie River. Boy, it was beautiful, but when the rains came, it was most dangerous. One winter, we had nothing but water running on all sides of our home. It was treacherous, and the home may actually have been damaged by flood waters after we left that area. It was such a beautiful location and property. Our two sons were still very small, but I had a chain linked fence put around all of the living or home area which allowed us to feel remarkably safe as far as the children were concerned.
Often, I would take the boys with me on the D-4 Cat or even on the backhoe when I would either go to do some job, or do some work on our own property. It was interesting in that Matt’s first words were “dum” and “doze” which stood for dump truck and dozer. We had kept our horses and we built a small barn on the new property. It was so beautiful and we felt so fortunate.
Actually, in Ed Werner’s design of the house he had made two roofed areas as sod covered roofs. Old, Ed Werner would say, “and it was engineered to never leak.” Give me a break. We had so much rain water pouring through the roofs into our living room areas that the ceiling board panels began to actually fall into the living room. What a mess and what a job to attempt to replace with a normal tar paper and tar roof.
I used the 5 yard dump truck which we owned and we backed it right up to the lower part of the building below the roof and then began the arduous job of hand shoveling the many yards of top soil off the roof, which had covered the visqueen layers or “water barrier.” We did that on two separate roofs which had the third story peak rising between the two flat area garden roofs. When I got it all off then I had to lay down tar paper and begin to tar the entire roof, which I had learned to do in my youth during the Great Depression. I really felt more like tar and feathering Ed Werner, but he was an older gentleman, and that would not have been good.
After we had moved from that area of Oregon, down to the Ukiah area, we were still attempting to sell this property. One of the disadvantages of the property was that the house was definitely in the flood plain, which had been allowed by Ed’s persistence with the Springfield Planning Commission that this property and house were perfectly safe. It was just about as safe as that visqueen roof.
When we had left the area of Oregon, but were attempting to sell the property, I decided I should attempt to dam up a large area of the property’s river bank along the McKenzie River as it swirled around the region of the house. Lots of luck on that venture, Bob. I had gotten to know the gentleman that owned a large island, just downstream from us, but within the river. He had a D-9 Cat with a blade 8 feet high by 16 feet wide and he went around that whole island pushing river rock up against the banks. I believe he owned the Coca Cola bottling company in Eugene, so as long as we all kept drinking, he kept pretty well off. The Fish and Game and State Troopers visited him frequently and undoubtedly fined him heavily, but he persisted until that island was much more protected for the golf course they had allowed him to place on it.
I somehow got in touch with him and asked if I could fly up from Ukiah, in my own P-210 Cessna airplane and bank up those pesky banks around the house area using his D-9. He was very kind, so I flew up for a weekend and took that D-9 right out in the fast flowing McKenzie River and began to bank up the banks with the large river rocks that made up the McKenzie River floor. In most areas the water would be about 4-5 feet deep, but there were areas along a section of our home where the water probably got nearer 15 feet deep.
And since I didn’t want the world to know what I was doing, I decided I would do much of that damming up after dark, and there were no headlights on that D-9, at least which I could find. I got some poor soul sitting on the right fender area, with a flashlight in his hand, attempting to let me know if I was getting too close to the abyss. It was a rather dangerous mission, and I well remember when I borrowed another contractors brand new D-4 to enter a smaller riverbed within my property to clean out some of the silt. That hadn’t worked out well as I buried that Cat in a 6 foot deep mass of silt, that I felt sure was only 2 feet deep. Anyway, I got through that late night adventure on the D-9 Cat, but I had the feeling some eyes might have been watching me from the 80 foot high river bank, where the only other houses were located.
The next day was Sunday and I was doing some of the same, but in a more normal and less dangerous area, knowing I had to leave by about 3:00 PM and then fly back to Ukiah. Lynne was out watching me when a truck arrived with a State Trooper and a Fish and Game official approaching. I was below normal ground height as they approached, but I knew I was in trouble. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out as they got closer and asked if I was Dr. Christensen? I looked more like the wetback from some other planet in my old clothes and pretty much covered with dirt. Although they didn’t draw the heat on their hips, I just figured I’d better be straight with them because they certainly had the upper hand.
The Trooper seemed a little bit friendlier than the Fish and Game fellow. If they gave me their names, I have forgotten them. I actually probably never remembered them, but who cares. They explained with some authority that to bank up your river banks this way was not lawful and that certainly a permit and hearing would be required to ever build a retaining wall. Yes Sir, I suspected that might be their position. I let them know I had flown up from Ukiah so I could do something to prevent all of my 20 acres and 1/3rd mile of river front from taking all of my property away, which certainly would not be good for the fish and plant life and certainly wouldn’t be good for my little bride and me. Right?
The Fish and Game fellow had no sense of humor and looked more like a mudsucker out of water. He wasn’t a happy camper. I thought I perceived a small smile from the Trooper’s mouth. I asked the question “if they would be back anymore before 3:00 PM” and the Trooper said, “No”. I was thrilled as that would allow me time to finish and to give the D-9 Cat back to my neighbor across the McKenzie River. I felt very relieved, I had apparently not gotten a fine; maybe that is because I looked so poor. Just think if I had been there in a suit?
Sometime after that we apparently sold the 20 acre parcel with Ed’s home in the flood plain, with the new tar roofs and the newly banked riverbanks.
It became apparent that we were going to have to return to California for me to get back to my principle occupation as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, in the State where I was licensed to practice. Now we would have to make a decision as to where we might go in the State of California, and we opted for the Ukiah area as a nice place to live and raise our two sons.
We started an oral surgery practice in a small town near Ukiah and stayed there for 2 years until the Lord called us to start a medical device company alongside of a marriage ministry in Golden, Colorado. While we were there, a young assistant of mine raised horses and one of them got kicked in the head and received quite an injury. She had the local veterinarian examine the horse and he told her that the horse could only be treated by the veterinarian department at UC Davis. The cost would be beyond what my young nurse could afford, so I agreed to examine the horse. When I did I found the horse’s eye had dropped down into his maxillary sinus and the supra-orbital rim had been seriously fractured. I suggested if I could get the local veterinarian to put the horse down with an anesthetic for 1 hour, then I felt I could repair the supra-orbital fracture and likely the eye would rebound into a more normal position. We got agreement with the Vet and so I began to prepare for doing this surgery at night, in the pasture under the headlights of my truck. This might be an interesting adventure but I had little concern that I could not perform this surgery, but there was a bit of effort and time to get prepared. I would need to prepare a surgical tray, then bring a Nitrogen tank to the field so that I could use my surgical drill and burrs to place wire or bone plate on the surgically reduced fracture, providing I could reduce the fracture.
The Veterinarian had thrown me a bit of a curve in that he could only give me 30 minutes of general anesthesia as he had to drive to San Francisco. I accepted the challenge and so at night with my surgical trays set on bales of hay and the truck lights shining on the surgery scene. The minute that horse hit the ground, believe me I was injecting Xylocaine in the tissues around the eye and I started my supra-orbital incision. It took me no time at all to expose a massive supra-orbital ridge on this animal, and sure enough it was fractured with part of this 1 inch wide bone impacted medial and inferior to its normal position. Remember, I had no ability to have an x-ray taken so my examination and judgment produced my wisdom in this area. I had to take a small tire iron, to be used like a periosteal elevator to separate and position these two fragments of the supra-orbital rim. Then with my Hall drill I placed a hole in each segment and then fed a 20 gauge stainless steel wire through one hole and then the next and tightened the wire by twisting and the two fragments came back into their correct position and the eyeball, which had been depressed, now took its natural position in the orbit. Before I could begin the wound closure the Vet was driving away and the horse was awakening. I was able to close the wound under the local anesthesia I had given and then gave the horse some penicillin by injection. He recovered nicely and my nurse, Connie Bell, got it all done for zero cost. Praise the Lord for He is good.
It was sometime after we had started our surgery practice up north that Lynne felt she wanted a divorce, so unfortunately we divorced. I began to stand for healing of my marriage. It was sometime later that we all ended up in Southern California near the city of Pasadena. I had learned to fly single engine airplanes some 20 years earlier and through the years we had owned several airplanes, such as a Cessna 182, a Cessna 206 and then a Cessna Citation P-210. I had picked up my private, my twin ratings as well as my instrument license. When the divorce occurred, we lost all of our planes as well as a medical building, medical practice and a newly purchased home. But also a ranch in Oregon.
After Lynne had left with the children, I was finishing my multiengine training in the Ukiah area, I kept hearing I was to learn to fly jet aircraft. But why? God had a plan which I was going to learn more about. As I moved down to the Southern California area to see if I couldn’t find some way to get my marriage back together again, I kept hearing the Lord tell me I was to learn to fly jet aircraft. So, a few months later, when I sought out where to go to learn to fly jets I was directed to a jet flying school situated at the Long Beach Airport. It was called Eagle Aviation.
It was there that I met my instructor and the owner of the jet flying school, Captain Dale Black. Not only was I going to learn to fly jet aircraft, but more importantly, I was going to become a born-again Christian. God had to take me some 600 miles to learn to fly jets, when in the middle of a most hurting situation, I will finally be brought face to face with my need for salvation. I have asked Captain Dale Black to write a few words telling about what he saw God doing in my life and how Dale and his dear wife, Paula, would play such a pivotal role in my coming to meet the Lord. If this story doesn’t convince you that God moves on the heart of His people, and in mysterious ways, then nothing likely will.
America in the 1980s
We have just come through a period in which we had a peanut farmer from Georgia for President and with near disastrous effect. That was President Jimmy Carter. No one could quite figure how this unknown person might have been elected to such a high position. Years later, we had another unknown elected for two terms as President and the effects on America were even more disastrous. In this instance, he was likely unqualified to even becoming President as in all likelihood he was born in Kenya and is reported to have been our first openly gay President. We’ll have more to say about this man later on.
It was in the Iran Hostage Crisis in which many American citizens were held hostage by an enemy Nation that President Carter didn’t seem to have clue as to how to get them released. That Crisis certainly helped to defeat Carter’s re-election. In the Carter years the gas prices soared and interests on loans such as home loans rose to about 22%, if my memory serves me. It was awful. Don’t blame me I didn’t vote for him.
Wow! What a relief when Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. You could just feel the lift in the way citizens were feeling about their Nation. We finally had a true Patriot elected as resident of these United States and one who new history very well. I had heard him speak at a Goldwater Convention a number of years earlier and was greatly impressed with his knowledge and forthright manner of speaking. Of course, the liberal Press spoke of him as an uneducated movie star. They were dead wrong.
As I just said, I had been privileged to have been at the 1964 Goldwater Convention in Los Angeles when the actor Ronald Reagan was giving the keynote address. We all were overwhelmed by Reagan’s masterful talk that evening. He didn’t need notes, he well knew of what he was speaking and he was endorsing the Conservative Goldwater. I was sitting at a table right in front of the podium and had the opportunity of shaking Reagan’s hand and later I was given an autographed photograph of Barry Goldwater which I cherish even until this day some nearly half century later.
In the 1964 period New York was the most populated State in the United States followed by California, but something was happening. The Midwest, Southwest, Mideast and California and Florida had populations which were rising. The Sunbelt was coming into its own in the demographics of these United States of America. With that change in the population centers of this Nation the political persuasion was also shifting toward the Republicans and the Conservatives.
This change in the population areas was having an effect on the large urban regions in the Northwest. People were migrating to the suburban areas where there was less regulation and lower taxes. This had a very deleterious effect on cities like New York. It almost went into the bankruptcy column back in the mid-1970s. I think that record would wait many years until either Stockton or San Bernardino would gain that first.
The Russian Communist government was expanding into many areas of the world, and was certainly helped by the weak appearing Presidency of Carter. Ronald Reagan made no apology for his stance against Communism. He intrinsically knew Communism was bad and that the liberal bent of the Country in the 1970s had allowed the Russians to flex their muscle against a weakened United States. Reagan had been Governor of California and that helped to prepare him well for the highest position in our country.
Reagan picked his chief primary rival, George H.W. Bush to be his Vice Presidential nominee. They carried most all of the primaries. Reagan came against big government and promised to return to supply side economics. The Presidential election that year lifted the conservatives and for the first time the religious right of the Sun Belt States.
In Reagan’s first year in office, on March 30, 1981 Reagan was shot by a disturbed man, but Reagan fully recovered. Reagan, loyal to his earlier promises reduced government regulations and reduced government programs which allowed the economy to bounce back from the Carter years.
Reagan's foreign policy was generally considered more successful and well thought out then his domestic. He favored a hawkish approach to the Cold War, especially in the Third World arena of superpower competition.
But Reagan was a staunch critic of the United Nations and began to withhold funding to that body. Later on it was restored.
One of President Reagan’s most notable accomplish-ments had to do with his stature against the Russian Communist Party. He developed a hardline stance against the U.S.S.R. which eventually resulted in the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and in time resulted in a more reasonable relationship with the Communists. All in all, the 1980s in America were one of improvement because of the stands which our President was taking. There was no ambivalence where Ronald Reagan stood on many issues. He was certainly a student of history and was not wishing to repeat the mistakes of the past, for which the average American citizen benefitted and should be most thankful.
The Christensen’s in the 1980s
For our family this was a decade of much turmoil and blessing. We had left cattle ranching in Oregon and had relocated back in the northern California towns of Willits and Ukiah. It was in Willits where we re-established ourselves in an oral surgery practice in hopes of restoring some needed income for our family. It was in 1983 that our family went through the turmoil of divorce.
We had originally given up on my practicing surgery back in about 1975 after I had come through another lumbar back surgery. It is then that we bought the cattle ranch on the Williams Creek of the Applegate Valley of Oregon. It was in an area known as the banana belt of Oregon as it was much dryer than Portland and was generally warmer. We had enjoyed those next 5 years to the time when we decided we needed to get back to a surgery practice. That would of necessity have to be in California where I was licensed to practice.
We decided on the small lumber town of Willits in Mendocino County. We had bought a medical building and a new home and things were looking generally good with our two young sons, Andrew and Matthew, but Lynne felt she wanted to leave the area and the marriage. Divorce was the outcome. She had moved with our two boys back to the Los Angeles area to be closer to her mother and father. That caused me a few months later to leave Willits and to move close to where Lynne was living so I might be closer to the two boys, but also to her. I was always hopeful we might get back together again.
It was in that setting where I kept knowing in my spirit that I should learn to fly jet aircrafts, but what a strange thing to even consider as I had just lost everything including the last plane which was a Cessna 206. It was a beauty and I enjoyed flying it.
The next chapter will tell the story of my meeting a young ex-TWA Captain named Dale Black who would not only teach me to fly jet aircraft but through him I became a born again Christian. If that wasn’t enough, Dale showed me I could stand on God’s word for the restoration of my marriage. Only God could have made all of that possible through a time of great personal disaster which was overtaking our family.
Captain Dale Black, God’s Aviator, My Mentor
and My Friend
( In Dale’s own words)
I’ve tried to remember about our times together back in the early 80s. But since this will be a chapter about your life’s work, let me tell you what I do remember.
I distinctly remember Dr. Bob Christensen calling me on the telephone sometime in the early 80s, probably 1983 possibly 1984. Bob was eager to learn to fly a jet aircraft, his eagerness came through his voice on the phone. He had an extremely pleasing personality. I knew immediately that he and I would get along beautifully. He was already an accomplished pilot, so I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to help an already professional pilot learn how to fly a jet. In this case it was a Cessna Citation jet airplane which I was a specialist on. At the time I owned a company that provided pilot and maintenance training for the citation jet and the Learjet. Bob lived in Northern California. My wife, Paula, and I and our two kids lived in Garden Grove, California.
My first day of meeting Dr. Bob was just like I had expected because of our phone conversations. He was extremely outgoing and smiled a lot. He seemed to feel secure about himself, but he was clearly not arrogant. Immediately after talking with him, I knew he could lead … I wondered if he could follow. Some strong entrepreneurs that I’ve trained in the past had troubles in this area. Being such strong personalities and powerful people, is why they have risen to heights, but working with me, sometimes could be a challenge to some of these rare individuals. Within 10 minutes I realized Bob was the ideal balance of both leader and follower. When he needed to lead he led. When needed to follow, he could follow too. Our safety was at stake. I realized that he and I would be in the cockpit of a fast moving jet together, and that I would need to keep us safe, primarily with my words, as Bob would do the flying, I would do the instructing.
It was obvious he and I were going to get along very well. What I did not know is that we would get along in a way that both of our lives would be changed.
I don't actually remember the reason why he came to our house the first time, but I do remember that Dr. Bob was in our upstairs room in our house in Garden Grove. I cannot remember if we conducted our flight and ground school from our home or if we had an office nearby and we just invited into the house. Bob maybe you can remember that part? (it was in their home) While talking about his medical practice, which was obviously flourishing, we learned a lot about the man. He was an extremely well-to-do, self-accomplished, millionaire who was used to having a very elaborate and successful lifestyle. He owned his own offices his own homes. He owned more than one airplane through his aviation career. He had many of the other conveniences that only a few successful American entrepreneurs can sometimes afford. He shared about his life with a kind and humble demeanor. He was amazingly humble throughout.
While we talked about his life and his training as a doctor…We also talked about his family. I should say that Dr. Bob not one time indicated in any way, to my wife Paula or to me, that he was arrogant, selfish or materialistic. Instead, he seemed to be a supercharged human being who wanted all that life had to offer. Underneath his words was a humble and extremely friendly individual.
That night, while in the bonus room, Bob eventually shared that he was going through divorce with his wife, Lynne, who he adored. His heart was hurting. He mentioned that his wife had run off with a good friend of his and without his permission or knowledge they had sold his airplane and used the money for their own personal purposes. The man that his wife had run off with, strangely, was someone I was somewhat acquainted with. It's not that he and I were friends, but I certainly knew who he was because he was a vital part of the aviation community in El Monte California.
I shared with Dr. Bob about the fact that God can heal a marriage just as easily as God can answer the most basic prayer and as He could do everything else too. Bob mentioned to me that his wife had already filed for divorce and that the papers were forthcoming. I told him that the divorce papers were certainly not the final answer nor were they the final result. I shared with him that the final result is what we believe God has promised us in His word, the Bible. It gradually became clear that Bob was a strong and respectful religious man. He had a huge respect for God and for the things of God as he knew them. But I had no sense in my heart that Bob had experienced the new birth, or the born-again experience.
I asked lots of different questions. One of those questions was do you believe you will be going to heaven? He said yes he did believe he would be going to heaven because he believed in God. I recall him explaining about his belief that God was the Creator, that Jesus was the son of God and that Mary was the mother of God. He went on to describe what sounded like a very devout Catholic background.
We talked for a good hour and in that discussion we had moved to our living room downstairs and I asked a final question, “Bob, are you 100% certain, without any doubt, for sure, that you will go to heaven when you die?” I explained that many people believe in God. But believing in God doesn't assure a person that they will go to heaven when they die. As an example, even Satan the devil believes in God, and Satan certainly will not be going to heaven. I learned growing up in business, particularly in sales, that the sale is often “made in the questions”. So I asked Bob lots of questions. My wife Paula was there too, and Paula, has a wonderful capacity to say the same thing that I’m trying to say, but in a more “user-friendly” way. So she and I tried to be as loving and kind as we could be to Bob. We repeatedly asked the Lord for his Holy Spirit to help along the way that entire evening with Bob. Paula and I tried to do our best to allow God to work in and throughout the conversation.
I remember seeing Bob's eyes sort of “click” when he heard me say that there will be hopefully, many Catholics and Protestants in heaven, yes, but some Catholics and Protestants, I have found, unfortunately do not seem to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I asked Bob if he was willing to ask God to forgive him of sin, which is what I had done, what Paul had done, and it changed our lives completely. It turned our lives upside down so beautifully. I asked Bob if he would be willing to not just believe that Jesus is the son of God, but to go further, and invite Jesus into his heart and life as Savior and Lord.
Well, to make a long story short, I can’t recall anyone ever being as eager as Dr. Bob to become a Christian, and believer in the family of God. Bob repeated, what we call the sinners prayer, which was not some religious formula or some magical words. These words were simply spoken from the heart to God, asking His forgiveness and accepting the free gift of salvation paid for by the blood of Jesus.
Later that night we explained to Dr. Bob, (being a man with an extreme high intellect) that what happened in his heart was like planting a seed in a garden. You may not see the plant, not the next morning, but a seed has been planted. We explained how to water the seed by reading the Word of God, the bible with your heart, not just your mind. We taught Bob how to pray to God. It seemed very new to him. “You talk to God like a friend,” we told him. “You can articulate anything you want, Bob, and you obviously have a tremendous gift, so, use that gift and talk to God in the same way you talk to your patients, your family and friends”.
The next day I went and bought a Bible at the local Christian bookstore and had engraved on the Bible Bob's name and his wife's name. As I recall, the Bible said “Dr. Bob and Lynne Christensen”. Inside I wrote something similar to this, “Believing in faith for your family’s unity”, signed Dale and Paula Black.
Starting then it seemed likely that Bob was going to be an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime, powerful disciple of Jesus Christ. He also became like glue to my wife and me. We still laugh about this. He couldn't get enough talk about God, about Jesus, about what we had told him about the Holy Spirit. The next day we told him about the early disciples of Jesus. We described how and when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of hands. We explained that the Holy Spirit is the power of God to the Christian in today's life. I told Bob my own testimony how I have lived many years as a Christian but not with much power. The power came upon being filled with the Holy Spirit. Bob wanted this. So once again, like before, we laid hands on Bob and asked God to impart to Dr. Bob his precious and most wonderful gift - the Holy Spirit.
Throughout the rest of the time with Bob…He wanted to know both about the jet for that was the class he was actively enrolled in; and about the Bible, for he believed it was prayer to God and knowledge of the Bible that would save his family.
During the time he was in Garden Grove, without his family and while going through Cessna Citation jet pilot training, that I remember him being astonishingly interested and eager, almost desperate, to learn anything, and everything he could about being a Christian. Bob’s big challenge was that our pilot training school was highly advanced and extremely intense. We were teaching pilots, what normally took three months to learn, we were cramming into 2 1/2 weeks. So to say my class was total immersion is a gross understatement. But somehow Dr. Bob progressed right along with the class in every area just like everyone else.
Somehow he was able to do this while his mind was on his family, his marriage crisis, and on his business which began struggling, once his wife left. She too was an integral part of the business success. I’ve since learned that Bob's brain doesn't work like the rest of the human race. To say that Dr. Bob is one in a-billion is quite accurate.
Because of the intensity and the shortness of this cram Cessna Citation Jet course, several students in the class were not quite ready for their check ride. This is not an indication that these pilots are substandard in any way, shape or form. It simply means that different people learn at different levels and it also means that certain persons have a background that requires a little more training before they can handle a complex jet aircraft - with perfect precision. In Dr. Bob's case, he was able to capture the didactic portion but also the flying, hands-on part of jet flying. He passed the oral exam and was ready to complete the test ride, when Lynne let him know she needed $1000 which meant, Bob had to make the decision to leave the $1000 on the test ride, or scrub his test ride and help Lynne.
He made the correct decision, to give the money to his dear wife.
Dr. Bob was a skilled surgeon, not a professional pilot who flies day after day throughout the year. His absolute need for this jet rating would not be essential. After all Dr. Bob was on a mission to serve the Lord, but at the same time to see his dear family and marriage restored. We decided to go on a flight to El Monte airport where Bob had gone through much of his flight training many years before, but also where his wife was now working. So, with Dr. Bob flying the Citation jet we left Long Beach airport and flew directly toward El Monte airport. He asked me to radio the tower to see if they allowed jets to land at the 4500 foot runway at El Monte. The tower operator came back that it wasn’t disallowed but it was frowned upon. Bob and I both smiled as Captain Dale announced we are on course to land at El Monte Airport. Bob was beaming as we moved along the path toward El Monte Airport. Bob asked me the question, “Is that field long enough to land this jet?” My answer was, “Yes, barely”
We both agreed that since the El Monte airport has a short runway, I would likely need to do the actual landing myself. He could fly to and from, even make the approach, yet I’d probably need to make the actual landing. He didn't hesitate. So Bob and I flew en-route VFR to the Almighty El Monte airport, as I used to call it.
Bob few flew beautifully all the way there. He made a beautiful takeoff, and he held altitude and headings really well on the way. Once near the airport, he entered downwind, adding flaps and landing gear at the appropriate times. His speed was maintained very well, which is as tricky as it is important. As we turned onto the final approach, I took over the controls with Bob “following me through”. I conducted the landing while he laid “fingertip pressure” on his flight controls. This way he could feel my inputs at this very short and challenging runway.
Upon landing, we, both lowered the nose of the jet, then quickly jumped on the brakes and placed the thrust reversers into maximum reverse. It was a beautiful landing on a very beautiful day. Bob was amazing. He could have just as easily been a professional pilot, college professor or brain surgeon. His intellect, his drive, his mature and calm nerves would allow him to become anything he wanted…even an astronaut if he wanted.
Every pilot and mechanic and observer on the airport wanted to see who was bringing this expensive corporate jet to the small little airport called El Monte. Bob had other things to do while there. I remember being concerned about the airplane and making sure we had fuel and the weather was good for our return flight, etc.
Bob, to Lynne’s surprise waltzed into the aircraft facility that she was working at. He had not announced the fact that he would be arriving there, and especially not in this brand new Citation II aircraft. To his delight, their two young sons would be arriving there to be with their mother after school. So Dr. Bob asked if any of them would like to go around the pattern with he and Dale. Lynne said No, but 7 year old Matthew beamed and said, yes. So with my following through on all of the maneuvers, Bob took off and made a loop around the airport and then landed again, just as before. Bob well remembered the massive drainage canal and highway at the far end of the runway and if a landing was not exactly as it should be, we would likely end up in a fiery crash in that ditch. Not a pretty thought, but the thrust reversers deployed perfectly allowing the aircraft to complete the landing, with the use of the foot brakes, some 300 feet short of that canal.
We said goodbye to Matt, Andy and Lynne and Bob took that beautiful aircraft off of the field at El Monte like a pro. To Bob it seemed like he was in the Blue Angels leaving some field or aircraft carrier. We both had a great feeling of success, but sadness Lynne and the boys weren’t with us.
But now, the flight got really interesting. Dr. Bob had no problem finding his way back to long Beach airport. He had flown this route many times in his other training and in his own aircraft. He was looking forward to landing on the 10,000 foot runway and he made a perfect approach and landing, but then something spectacular occurred. After touchdown Dr. Bob deployed the thrust reversers, but they did not deploy, allowing the plane to rush down this 10,000 foot runway, only to be stopped by Dr. Bob and me getting on the foot brakes and finally bringing the plane to a stop.
This was a situation that Bob was not expecting in any way. Had this same thing occurred at El Monte on the two different landings, likely we both would have ended in the storm canal? What a sight that would have been for Lynne and the others, eagerly watching, but what an ending to two dedicated Christians. That was just a bit scary, but PTL we came through very well.
After two and half weeks with this incredible man named Bob Christensen our paths parted – but only for a while. We were on the phone with him regularly teaching him the ways of God through the Word of God. Bob was the eager one. He was the one that kept drawing nearer to God. He was the one that was completely engrossed in learning all he could learn and being all he could to be a powerful Christian, dedicated to God. He was seemingly driven to be worthy of God's salvation and in doing all he could to allow God to save his family.
Bob saw God work in his life on many wonderful and in very diverse ways. I even remember at least 100 occasions where he would call or send a little card in the mail to us about a license plate that he had seen while he was driving in which God used to send a message to Bob. Each time the license plate was used by God to encourage, and in some cases, even direct my wonderful brother in Christ, Bob. One that I know he remembers very well was UZMEGD which he saw one evening when he was coming to see Paula and me. He confessed the same, Use Me God.
Months later I was, again, highly impressed to see that Bob was such a DOER of God's word. By that time in my own life, I had met countless Christians who “know” the word of God but don't “do” the word of God in their personal lives. I've known countless Christians who are more interested in searching for “knowledge” yet who don’t do much with that knowledge in their day-to-day lives. I have met and observed countless Christian leaders who know so much – yet who do so little. But Dr. Bob is an exception to these. Bob was and is the ideal example of learning something about God through His Word, and then doing what he just learned. In short, Bob is a doer. Bob Christensen is the real deal. He was the real deal from the very first day I met him. He was the real deal immediately after he became born-again. He was the real deal after he asked for the infilling of the Holy Spirit in his life. I've known Bob for close to 30 years and let me say very clearly, he is the real deal. I’LL SAY IT AGAIN; DR. BOB CHRISTENSEN IS THE REAL DEAL. He lives what he shares and writes about in his books. He lives out in his personal life what he has learned about God and His ways.
I never told Dr. Bob about a little joke that Paula and I have mentioned to each other throughout the years of knowing him. First you should know that Bob is without doubt the most persistent person I’ve met. And with his persistence in mind, my little joke goes something like this. It is a play-off of the Scripture that says, “draw near to God and He will draw near to you." Well, with that Scripture in mind, I have said on dozens of occasions, when referring to brother Bob, I speak as if I were God speaking, “You know, I told my children to draw near to Me, and I’d draw near to them. But, in Dr. Bob's case, this is ridiculous”. Of course my entire joke is a wonderful testament and a compliment to how much I respect Dr. Bob for being persistent in pursuing God…as well as pursuing the things of God.
We're told in the book of Matthew that in order to build our house on the rock, one must do the word of God in their lives. That scripture somehow really stuck with Dr. Bob, because he does what he learns, as soon as he learns it. What a wonderful and precious brother in the Lord, Bob Christensen is to me.
Months later Dr. Bob brought his wife Lynne over to our house for dinner. I remember we had Kentucky fried chicken. We were so busy at that time in our lives, that we didn't have time to cook so that was an awesome way to fill our busy schedules with wonderful friends. When Lynne came over, we tried to make her feel comfortable. She appeared to be completely on guard. We had already been told that she thought Christians were weird and therefore she expected us to be even weirder. We talked to her through the evening and she seemed to become increasingly more comfortable as we shared with her. We didn't condemn her. We didn't talk about her problems. We didn't mention her situation at all. We only tried to love her and be real. Of course we asked God's help during the entire evening. Apparently she went away comfortably, because Bob told us later that she didn't think we were that weird after all.
She did pursue the divorce, however, as she had planned. And this was another one of the many lessons that Bob handled amazingly well. He handed handled it perfectly, in fact.
We told Bob that he needed to stand on the word of God, on the promises of God and not to be moved by the circumstances. We didn’t mean this literally, just figuratively, but we meant it with all our hearts. We too had gone through a marriage crisis of our own, and the word of God was our answer. Apparently, when Bob was in court with his wife in front of the judge, Bob took his Bible with him - put it down on the floor in front of the judge and said, “I’m standing on the word of God. I am not for this divorce. I will not sign these divorce papers. I love my wife. I love my kids and I believe that God will answer my prayers and restore my marriage. Your Honor, I believe that God can answer prayer on anything and I believe God will put my marriage together again”. Bob later told me that He and a dear flying buddy, Jim Fry, had taken the divorce papers and put them on the floor and prayed and stomped over them.
Lastly, may I also tell of something I have learned? One of the clearest verifications that a person has truly dedicated his or her heart and life to God, through Jesus Christ, is what they do with their lives, outside of their vocation. Also what they do with material things. Through almost 30 years I've watched brother Bob live his life. And while watching, sometimes from afar, I've seen again and again a consistent track record in his life that seems to say, “May God's will be done - not my own”.
God has truly gifted Bob. But Bob has dedicated these gifts back to God. Something else, sometimes a real sign of a genuine minister is what they do with their nonprofit organization. Bob is again a wonderful and rare example of how to be a giver rather than a taker. For years I’ve watched Bob take less than his expenses. I know this for a fact. And he's done this for decades.
Many ministers, many ministries, who started out with very altruistic motives, over time have become not much more than religious businesses. And when economic times are tough being a minister is actually a pretty good job. But the word ministry is really meant to be a servant of God and a servant of the people. Bob is a servant of God and he is a servant of people. He doesn’t run his business or ministry for personal gain. Nor does he do this for fame or recognition. Bob is a driven man. He has passion in living. He wants to help others find this same Jesus that he found when his life was turned upside down a short time before we met, praise the Lord.
It's an honor and privilege - to have met Dr. Bob back in the early 1980s and it’s indeed a great pleasure to watch what God has done with him, his wife and kids and his businesses. To say that I respect Bob is not a strong enough word. I love, admire, and COMPLETELY respect Dr. Bob Christensen in more ways than my words can possibly depict. I thank God for the time that I had with this wonderful servant of God who I'm honored to call my dear friend and brother in Christ.
Sincerely and respectfully,
To not allow this story to get too elongated, Lynne and I got back together again and remarried at Jack Hayford’s Church on the Way, with Gavin MacLeod, the skipper on the TV production of The Love Boat, becoming our best man. However this occurred on April 6, 1985, Interestingly, this was Bob’s birthdate. From that new beginning, we saw that Lynne and the boys all gave their lives to Jesus and now we returned to the Ukiah area to re-open our practice, but that wouldn’t last long as God had shown me that we would be starting a Christian marriage ministry and a medical device company, side by side. Wow! What a change of direction. We had failed in marriage, but now God was going to use us in the very area of our lives where we had failed. Isn’t that just like our God?
A Little More About the Christensens in the 1980s
Although I have written earlier about the fact that Lynne and I went through a divorce after some 11 years of marriage, I would like to share with the reader how God can use your life when you turn toward Him, no matter how far you may have fallen. After all, wasn’t the Son of God sent here for the express purpose of saving us sinners? Yes, He was! Some of this chapter may deal with some points of time after the decade of the 1980s but you will understand.
This next chapter I am taking from an earlier book which I wrote titled, “Run To Win”. In this decade of the 1980s our family went through the tragedy of divorce. That is a time which is hurtful to each member of the family and even extends out into the entire family.
1.Trust God with the “Whole” of Your Life”
From a human standpoint, there is no reason to ever link a medical device company and a marriage restoration ministry. I said to the Lord more than once, "You gave me two tough ones! TMJ problems are difficult to help and marriages are difficult to restore. The only thing these two entities seem to have in common is this ‘difficulty factor’!”
There may be very little conceptual link to what God leads you to do as a career and with what God leads you to do as a ministry. The link is going to be your life. You – with your unique need set of gifts, talents, skills, abilities, personality, and interests – are the very items God will use. It's what He has built into you which results in the success of your career and the success your ministry.
Don't wait for an obvious "Association" to appear between your business and your outreach to others. Look into your heart. What has God placed within you? What are your desires, your interests, your experiences? What are the areas of passionate interest and compassionate care?
I am a fully certified oral surgeon.
I am an ordained minister.
I am the CEO of a medical device company.
How can I keep these roles separate? I don't. I am why — the Lord knows the many facets of my life and to Him they work together as a whole. It's only we human beings who divide ourselves according to various labels and "job descriptions." As you enter our medical device company, for example, you will see these words prominently displayed on the wall: "To know Him and to make Him known." That is my purpose in life, and therefore, it is the purpose of all I do, including the medical device company.
A number of years ago when I was working as an oral surgeon in Ukiah, California, I heard about a 9 year old boy who is suffering from brain cancer. His physicians had given Matthew just a matter of a few weeks left to live. The Lord let me know I was to pray for his healing. Matthew and I, however, had never met.
I had met Matthew's mother about a year and a half previously and she was experiencing some difficulties in her marriage. We had met and prayed together, and I had led her to the Lord and pointed her toward healing of her won marriage. I was not a total stranger to her, although I had never met her husband, nor Matthew, or any of her other children.
Back in this period in our lives we had purchased another beautiful airplane. It was known as a Cessna P-210 which was the only single engine airplane that was also pressurized, making flying quiet and fast. Lynne and I began to travel the country in our beautiful plane which could fly at altitudes into the 30,000 feet ASL at speeds up to 200 or more MPH.
Then came the evening – a month after the Lord let me know I was to pray for Matthew – when I saw this woman and her family at a local Denny's restaurant. She recognized me as we came in to seat in a booth not too far from where she and her family were seated. Lynne had recognized her first and pointed her out to me. As they were leaving, she came to our table with her family and the Lord let me know again that I was to lay hands on Matthew and pray for him. Before that, however, I was to minister to the boy’s father, who I felt was unsaved. I shared with this man every instance of healing that I could recall Jesus doing and I concluded, "And He sent His Word and healed them all." We then joined hands for prayer over Matthew. I informed them that the Lord had impressed upon me some month earlier that I was to lay hands on Matthew for his healing.
As we prayed, I had absolutely no doubt that Matthew was being healed. There was such a heavy presence of the Lord in that restaurant that, looking back, I wish I had stood and preached a message of salvation to all those who were sitting there. I had no doubt that many people would have been saved!
I didn't see this woman or Matthew for about a year and a half. Whenever Lynne and I ministered across America I told the story of Matthew's complete healing that very evening. The day we saw each other again was the day that Matthew had been in for the results of his final CT scan. There was no evidence of cancer!
An oral surgeon holding a prayer meeting at Denny's restaurant is not the norm! But, for God it was His way to see this boy totally healed. I was more than willing.
It's not unusual for me to be preparing a television segment for Covenant Marriages Ministry and to be interrupted several times to read x-rays, check the model for a prosthetic device, or handle phone calls related to a particular TMJ case in a faraway city or nation. That's all in a day’s work as far as I'm concerned. I can't separate my professional work as an oral surgeon from my ministry work. The various aspects of my life make up the whole of who I am and what I am to be on this earth.
I believe that is the way, God intended for our lives to function. He didn't call us to be Christians only on Sunday or only at church. He calls us to be Christians, and obeyed His leading, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
No matter what skills the Lord has led you to acquire in your life…no matter what type of ministry gifts the Lord has given you…the Lord expects you to keep them all and use them for His purposes.. All gifts and all and all talents and all opportunities come from Him. We give back to the Lord our availability and willingness to obey. He is the One who blends who we are with the tasks to be done for the purpose of accomplishing His plans and purposes here on earth. What a wonderful adventure lies before us when we choose to obey the Lord with all that we have and all that we are! It's exciting to see what He brings our way in any given day. Just the way a person does his or her work can be a great witness to others.
I recently heard about one woman who had three people come up to her and say, "We know you are a Christian." She couldn't think of anything she had done that might have led them to that conclusion. She asked, "How do you know that?" They replied, "We've been watching you and listening to the way you talk. You never swear and you never use that language or tell dirty jokes. You smile at every person you meet even people who aren't very nice."
She was amazed that these simple actions, which she considered to be of virtually no account as a Christian witness, had led these coworkers to conclude that she was a follower of Jesus Christ. She said, "I admit it. I do try to follow Jesus Christ, who is my Savior. Why do you ask?"
They said to her, "Because we have been talking and we want what you have." She had a wonderful opportunity to lead these three coworkers to Christ during their lunch hour that very day!
You never can tell how and when and with whom the Lord will seek to use you on any given day. Make yourself available to Him and see what happens!
One day I encountered a woman I knew to be a fellow Christian and I greeted her and called her by name. I then asked, "How are you?" She immediately took my hand, dissolved into tears, and proceeded to tell me her troubles at length. There was just something in the way I asked a simple three word question that gave her the open door she needed to vent her pain and then to receive words of prayer, encouragement and counsel so that Christ might begin a healing process in her.
Did she care that I was an oral surgeon? No. Did she care or even know that I had developed prosthetic devices to help people with TMJ problems? Perhaps, but it wasn't at all important to her in the moment. Did she ask to see my credentials as a licensed minister of the gospel? No. What this woman needed was a caring Christian who would pray with her, share verses from God's Word, and believe with her that God had a plan for her healing and wholeness, and a plan for the healing and wholeness of her family.
2. See Healing As God's Work
Let me give you one additional word about healing from my experiences as both an oral surgeon and as a minister. Ultimately, God is the healer. No surgeon heals. No minister heals. God heals.
Does God heal every time a person receives prayer for healing? No. I've been healed by the Lord on occasion, and on other occasions, I have not been healed of certain ailments.
But as an oral surgeon, I know this – no surgeon "heals" a patient and not all surgeries are successful. A surgeon may rearrange, remove, or implant tissue or devices…or a physician may prescribe medication or therapeutic treatments…a hospital staff may do its utmost to prevent infections and to provide an environment that is conducive to healing…but in the end, it is God and God alone who heals.
While many people believe only in prayer and healing through "faith," others believe only in medicine. The fact is, God heals through multiple methods. We need to retain our confidence that not only can God heal, but that God desires to heal, because God's ultimate purpose is to bring us to wholeness.
Wholeness includes balance and health – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, relationally, and above all, spiritually. God always does what is most effective in conforming us to the image of Christ Jesus.
I mentioned in a chapter in an earlier book that I once had three surgeries on my back. Some years after the surgery on my back, God let me know that my back would be healed by Him. It occurred in 1984 in Jack Hayford's Church On The Way during a Sunday service. God used BOTH methods to bring me a complete healing – surgery and prayer worked together for "wholeness" in my back. Let me bring forth that earlier chapter.
Bob’s Back Is Healed By God’s Power
One of the most wonderful miracles that I experienced was the healing of my back. I had my first back surgery in 1964, when the neurosurgeons removed two lower lumbar intervertebral discs. I was a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon and had found that my ability to perform surgery was at times hampered by back pain. Two months later the neurosurgeons re-operated and removed a third disc from my back. Eight years later when Lynne and I had just gotten married, I had a third operation to remove my fourth and fifth lumbar discs. However, from that moment on, although for the most part I overcame the problem, the back pain persisted and was occasionally severe.
By 1975, I had retired from practice to become a cattle rancher in Oregon. Lynne and I were delighted to be on the ranch together and perhaps we worked too hard. I was concerned as to how long I might be able to continue due to the nature of my persistent back problems.
In 1981, we returned to northern California where I opened an oral maxillofacial surgery practice; however, as time went by, my back continued to be a problem, causing me to stay in bed a day or two at ate, due to the extreme pain.
In 1983, as Lynne and I separated and then divorced, I notice the pressures of the divorce having a deteriorating effect on my back. In 1984, after being “born again,” I began to believe my back would be totally healed by God’s power. That word of knowledge continued to burn in my spirit. As my faith in God grew, I began to seek God’s power for my healing. I began to know in my spirit that my back would be healed within the next few months.
In the fall of 1984, at God’s direction, I had changed my church affiliation to Church On The Way, in Van Nuys, California. Later on in the middle of the 6 month time period when I was instructed my back would be healed, I was in a Sunday Service when I heard Pastor Jack Hayford interrupt one of his messages to say, “Someone is being healed of an arthritic problem. Who is it?” My hand shot up, and then I stood as Pastor Jack said, “Tell us about it.” I briefly related my story of the thirty years of back pain and the multiple surgeries. I related how approximately three months earlier God impressed me that I would be totally healed. The congregation applauded and I sat down.
About two weeks later I experienced one of the most painful episodes of back pain I had ever experienced as I was lying in bed. As I was still living alone and had no one to help me through this, I began to claim my healing of two weeks earlier-letting the enemy know he couldn’t oppress me with that spirit of infirmity. Remember the devil comes to “steal God’s Word” through deception. I decided the devil couldn’t “steal” my healing. I was going to believe God and His promises and no the circumstance or the lies of the enemy would dissuade me. From that moment to this, over twenty nine years later, I have been totally healed! What a blessing it has been to our family and to me personally to have received this great healing.
One lesson to be learned is that one must continue to know and believe he has been healed, because the enemy will bring a spirit of doubt in to deceive God’s elect into believing no miracle has occurred. There were no medical or surgical treatments which would have made total freedom from the symptoms possible, “but with God, all things are possible.”
Never underestimate God’s love for you nor his desire to give you an abundant life. Your faith will be tested. What are you made of? Whom will you believe?
In Psalms we read, “If in times of adversity you faint, then our faith is small.”
Ask God to make you "whole." Trust Him to do the work that only He can do.
3.Ministry or Business?
Let me also address the issue of whether it is more "Christian" to run a business or have a ministry. Neither is more valuable than the other before God.
The ministry of running a company is just as potent as a ministry of teaching people about the covenant relationship a couple has in marriage. Through the years I have had numerous opportunities to minister to people with whom I have conducted business, and at the TMJ Implants Inc. Headquarters, we had a very strong Christian witness in the artwork and artifacts we had on display. I believe there is also a Christian witness in the products we manufacture and supply to hospitals and surgeons.
In my experience, a ministry is a very wonderful place to give people good business principles – and a ministry should certainly reflect the highest and most financially sound and godly business practices. A business is also a very wonderful place to spread the gospel! I’ll never forget being invited to minister and to at the same time teach surgeons in Ukraine how to do the actual surgery I had innovated so many years before. It was in Ukraine where I spoke to surgeons at the medical school of the University in Kiev. I also ministered every night for 3-5 hours to nearly 1000 locals about what God was saying about marriage and covenant breaking. I assisted in a surgery teaching how my implants could correct serious TMJ problems. It was following one of those surgeries that I was able to lead the two surgeons to the Lord. What a moment that was for me, but more importantly for them. The evening ministry was even more fruitful as hundreds would come forward at the end of the evening service wanting to accept Jesus.
4. Barbara, the Ever Present IRS Agent
A number of years ago we were audited by the IRS. The agent in charge of the body it was a friendly woman in her 60s whom I'll call Barbara, which I think was her name, but I have forgotten to be sure. We gave her a nice office in which to work at the TMJ Implants headquarters, and did our best to treat her well. From time to time, I'd have brief, pleasant conversations with Barbara, who always seemed to be very glad to have "set up shop" in our place of business.
As Barbara began to go through our books for the years in question, she discovered that our auditor for that year had made an error and we owed some $30,000 in back taxes. We quickly acknowledged that a mistake had been made.
The discovery of that error, which was a simple case of not transferring a number from one ledger page to another, seemed to prompt Barbara to continue her probe deeper and deeper, over wider and wider areas that were not covered in the initial audit request.
When Barbara's presence in our midst past the one-year mark, I realized that Barbara was trying to reinvent the wheel when it came to the way we conducted business and our business ledgers. I began to pray about what I should do in this situation and the Lord prompted the idea in my heart that I should relocate Barbara to a work area that was a little less "comfortable." I had been reluctant to move her, even though we really did need the nicer office in which she had been working to provide a good office to some new employee. Then, on one special day, some 14 months after Barbara had first visited our medical device company, the Lord impressed very strongly on my heart that TODAY was the day I was to lead Barbara to the Lord. I asked one of my associates to pray for me as I went to talk with her.
I grabbed my Bible and went to her office and said, "Hey, Barbara, the Lord wants me to talk to you about Him and to lead you to Him today.”
She said, "Oh, okay." I sat down and talked to her and led her to Christ Jesus. It was a time of great rejoicing. When I shared what had happened with an associate who had been praying for me, he said, "The Lord probably brought her here just so we could lead her to Him. Now she shall probably leave." And within two weeks that's exactly what happened!
Later, the IRS sent another agent to the office and this agent couldn't believe how much time Barbara had spent, or how much she had overstepped the bounds of her instructions related to the audit. This agent quickly closed down the audit; we paid the bill owed, and went down the road. The final statement with the IRS was for less than 1/10 of the amount that she was pressing for.
I was grateful to have the IRS audit completed…but even more grateful to have the opportunity to lead Barbara to Jesus Christ.
Now, from the world's perspective of "political correctness," I did just about everything "wrong" in this case. It didn't seem at all expedient or wise from the world’s standpoint to give this IRS agent a nice office space and then take it away, or to walk boldly into this woman's work space and talk to her about Jesus Christ. I knew deep in my heart, however, that I was doing precisely what the Lord wanted me to do. After all, we had a marriage ministry alongside of a medical device company and part of my calling was to be a minister for Christ. And in the end, my obedience to the Lord was what mattered. He used what I did to bring about HIS purposes and a conclusion that was to my benefit and Barbara’s. I pray she has recognized how her life has changed since she accepted Jesus Christ as her very own Lord and Savior.
That's the way the Lord has worked in my life again and again. He has always proven Himself faithful to His Word. Often, He has asked me to do things that didn't make sense from a rational, political perspective. Perhaps the Lord recognizes that I am willing to obey Him even if His Commandments seem a little foolish in the eyes of the world. Every time I have obeyed that deep inner feeling and doing what Hi Spirit is commanding, He has honored His Word fully and to always someone's eternal benefit – as well as to my earthly benefit and earthly and heavenly reward!
5.See Your Struggle in the Light of God's Wholeness
I encourage you today to see the struggle in which you are engaged as involving the "whole" of your life. It isn't just your marriage…or your health…or your career…or your business…or your ministry. The WHOLE of you is impacted by whatever it is that you are battling or enduring.
Also see that God intends to use the struggle in your life to bring you to great wholeness, spirit, mind, body, emotions, relationships, and finances. His benefits are always for the WHOLE of you. Trust God to make you stronger, more vibrant, and more effective AFTER this struggle than you ever were before!
That certainly has been and is our experience in the aftermath of the difficulties we had relating to the FDA. The very unfortunate set of circumstances in our lives with the eventual closing down and loss of the one exceptional medical device company and the having to walk away from the second excellent medical device company was almost more than we could endure, but as we re-focused on energy in just serving our Lord, it has made it all possible to get through. But, we will get into that a bit more in a subsequent chapter which will be dealing with the last decade here in America.
America in the 1990s
In many ways there was a great deal more enthusiasm and patriotism in the hearts of the average America. The years of Ronald Reagan had been good for America and then came George H.W. Bush, or President #41. He was very thoughtful and peaceful, but during these times we did truly become a bit of the police force of the World. It wasn’t necessarily because we wanted to be that controlling or overseeing, it just happened that way.
Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait started the Gulf War. That ended quite quickly thanks to President Bush’s decisive leadership. Then came Somalia, and the starving children under General Aidid. By 1994 we were sending troops to overthrow a military dictatorship in Haiti. In 1996 we were again sending troops to Bosnia as part of a NATO peace keeping force. It just seemed that the world was once again on the brink of war every-where, and not to our choosing, but we were again being drawn into the conflicts. Thanks to the military wisdom of Reagan and the military strength of America, we were prepared. Let’s look at what was happening on the home front.
As President #41 was replaced by #42, President Bill Clinton a number of scandals emerged. One was one known as the Tailhook Affair. It had to do with the accusations that some Navy and Marine flyers sexually assaulted some 26 women.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the sexual escapades of President Bill Clinton were rumored, first across Washington, D.C, but then more importantly across America and I suppose the World.
The Clinton years ended with him just barely surviving an effort to remove him from office because of perjury and obstruction of justice. What a legacy, but it seems if one lives long enough that scandal tends to fade away if one keeps his nose clean. But, at that time some 70% of Americans were tired of the Clintons. Some 25 years later it seems those percentages just reversed them-selves as Hillary Clinton is considering a run for U.S. President in 2016. There are many scandals surrounding her in her walk as Secretary of State, so we will see how this all irons out as we get closer to the time of her announcing her run on the Democratic ticket. Maybe she will somehow be overlooked at that moment for some more truthful candidate.
In 1993 the first acts of terrorism by an Islamic Jihad group manifested in the bombing at the World Trade Center basement in Manhattan. The Branch Davidian cult ambush and fire in Texas and then a year or so later the O.J. Simpson trial in Los Angeles.
The shock of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19,1995, was compounded by the revelation that the perpetrators were not foreign terrorists but were U.S. citizens led by a U.S. Army veteran, Timothy McVeigh.
In the months between February 1996 and April 1999 there were at least fourteen incidents of school shootings with the most lethal being on April 20, 1999 when 14 students and 1 teacher were killed and 23 wounded at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. That one tragedy touched close to home for Lynne and me as the first young woman killed in that Columbine shooting was Rachael Scott. Rachael was the sister of one of my co-workers at TMJ Implants, Inc. Her mother, Beth Nimmo, had worked in our company also for a number of years. They were a good Christian family. Darrel Scott, her father, was a Christian minister who later took the story of their family tragedy all the way to Congress. What an awful tragedy. Rachael’s sister was working in our packaging and order taking department at TMJ Implants, Inc. that very morning. I remember sending her home to be with her mother and her young brother, Craig, who was also at Columbine High School that very morning and was nearly killed.
But through it all, the Americans were making headway in the economic realm as unemployment was low and the minimum wage had risen to over $5.00 an hour and the Stock Market seemed to be flourishing as more of the populace were entering the market to be their own entrepreneur.
TMJ Implants Inc., Medical Modeling Inc. and the FDA
In the 1990s we saw our medical device companies grow each year. We had moved in about 1989 from our 600 square foot office in the basement in our Lakewood home to a nice 4000 square foot building in the Corporate Circle buildings in Lakewood. We now were able to bring the actual manufacturing of our TMJ implants into our own facility. Earlier we were having the implants manufactured in a metal casting laboratory in California which had been casting all of my implants for other types of jaw reconstructive surgery going back to 1952 when I entered my private surgery practice in Pasadena. That was the Rosiello Dental Lab which was originally in Pasadena but later moved to Monrovia. I had worked closely with the owner and founder, Ray Rosiello, to help him get up to speed on the fabrication of jaw and facial implants when I needed them for some hurting patient.
This now meant I needed to hire and help train my own casting technicians to accomplish the metal fabrication which I would need for this new venture. A young man named George R. Jones applied for the position and I hired him. His background was as a dental laboratory technician. He and I both had quite a bit to learn about the casting of these thin, small and precise implants, but over much trial and error we got it perfected and George became a real asset to the path we both were on. It was at that moment I was able to sever my purchases from my California friend, Ray Rosiello, who’s laboratory had plenty of other metal casting to keep them busy.
It was TMJ Implants, Inc. which we had originally brought from California in its infancy which was becoming the breadwinner or cash cow. It would be another 2 years or so before we would start a sister company called Medical Modeling Inc. That’s a whole other story of how I was brought to the innovation of manufacturing custom implants from the patient’s own CT scan data.
From the inception of our medical device company, TMJ Implants, Inc. was recognized as the leader in manufacturing and providing either the Partial TMJ implant or the Total TMJ implants to the oral and maxillofacial surgeons which is the specialty dealing with the TMJ problem in patients.
It was during my starting of my own surgical practice in 1952, after leaving active duty in the Navy during the Korean War conflict, that I began to see the need of having half jaws constructed for patients where I might be removing the jaw for tumor surgery or some other rather spectacular reason. It might be on a 17 month old child or a 75 year old patient. In either case I felt immediate replacement with an artificial jaw, or a bone graft from the hip or a combination of both was the way to go.
So through all of the early years of my surgery practice I was always watching out for better ways to do things which, hopefully, would benefit the patient. I well remember in my first practice in 1948 thinking there should be some easy method of anchoring individual teeth or multiple teeth to the patient’s actual bone so things like dentures or even partial dentures would be a thing of the past. That thinking was almost a dozen years before I innovated the first individual dental implants in America.
Before my innovation of three different dental implants in which I then gained U.S. patents, there were none. Back in the early 1960s I founded a company called Implants, Inc. in California where we attempted to market my dental implant innovations. The Los Angeles Times medical editor wrote an article about my innovative work in the October 1960 edition of the paper. I was showing my first film on my dental implant innovation at the Annual Conference of the American Dental Association which was being held in Los Angeles during that month. That was the beginning of the individual tooth dental implant usage in America and likely the world. From then on I innovated two more very successful dental implants for which I also received U.S. Patents. That was the beginning of the dental implant revolution and industry in the world which is now approaching a $3 billion annual industry.
Now, back to the innovation in 1960 of the first partial or total TMJ implants in America or the world, which would be used to reconstruct a diseased, dysfunctional or missing temporomandibular joint. In those early years in my surgery practice there was no satisfactory method of surgery to correct a degenerative process of the temporomandibular joint. Other procedures being advocated had to do with the removal of a damaged disc, or to repair of a damaged disc or removal of the bony portions of a diseased joint. None of these methods had any degree of success and often caused the joint to fuse so the patient would have no joint motion and would frequently be unable to open or close her or his jaws. This was not a good situation.
In 1960 a young Catholic Sister named Sister Lucille had been referred to me for consultation regarding her somewhat fused lower jaw. She was 30 years old and during the previous 7-8 years she had suffered a degen-erative joint disease of her left temporomandibular joint. This caused her much pain to where some treatment became imperative. A reputable orthopedic surgeon in the Central Valley area of California had treated her by first removing the disc which separates the two bone surfaces of a person’s TMJ. She did fairly well for part of the first year or two but then the pain began again and after about three years the pain required her to seek his care again. This time it became necessary for him to resect or remove the ball portion of the joint to reduce the adherence of the two bones which had subsequently occurred.
He was definitely a reputable surgeon, but doing a surgical technique which was basically bound to fail. Again, within a few years the two approaching bone surfaces of the joint refused. But this time things were worse because the height of the ball portion of the lower jaw was less than normal which caused the entire jaw to move toward that joint area and then the neck fused to the skull base. In short, for this young Nun named, Lucille, her world has turned upside down, thanks to modern surgery.
When I consulted with this very nice young Catholic Sister I was saddened by what had happened to her and knew that I could go back in and do surgery to free the joint and even to lengthen the jaw so that her bite and facial features would again be straight and normal, but the result would be just as disastrous as when the earlier surgeon had performed his surgery. I would not have corrected, permanently, the problem of a fused jaw. Then what?
I was having a time figuring how I might help this young Sister Lucille. One particular day, I had to leave my hometown of Pasadena and travel by car to Santa Barbara when just miraculously, as I was driving the Lord must have given me the solution as to how I might prevent these two bones from re- fusing. It was a totally new thought. If I could somehow take the ten skulls which I had purchased over the previous 5 or 6 years and if I could wax up a thin pattern to adapt closely to the bone shaped cup or fossa of the temporal bone, then cast that in metal, perhaps I could find it to be the very barrier that was needed to future bone to bone attachment. The problem was, how could I be sure anything I would make would be able to be fitted to the skull base? That truly was the $640,000 question.
America in the 2000s
This next decade for America is something to remember. Many call it the decade of the ugly rise of terrorism in America and around the world. As we shall see, that is quite true.
The decade started interestingly with George W. Bush being voted in as president of the United States with a slim vote victory over Al Gore in Florida. Gore had been bill Clinton’s V.P. and was known to be very liberal. There was a great deal of Hard feelings from the Gore group learning that they had actually lost the election. Their cries could be heard for the next decade. The U.S. Supreme Court was called in to decide the results of that Presidential election and they ruled in George W. Bush’s favor, thank God.
Hillary Clinton ran for public office later that year and won a U.S. Senate seat from New York. Montgomery Ward which had opened its doors some 128 years earlier folded and went out of business, with Wal-mart and other retail stores filling the gap.
By the end of 2001 life in America is going to drastically change. This is caused by a massive attack by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists when they hijacked four U.S. Airliners. This was not only a very bold move by a few terrorists but executed with a degree of precision one would normally credit to a military operation. Two of the hijacked planes struck the tall World Trade Center buildings in lower Manhattan, another struck the Pentagon and the fourth was overtaken by several very patriotic American passengers and forced into a corn field in western Pennsylvania. The building which this fourth plane was supposed to strike would have been the White House or the Capitol building. Those passengers who helped to take that plane down into the cornfield in Shanksville, Pennsylvaia truly were American heroes and patriots.
This truly was a day to be remembered as it changed much of what we thought or were doing at that time. There was a total of some 3000 deaths of Americans on that day by a very radicle, barbaric religious idealogical group that were bent on taking the World’s civilizations back to the stone age. The attacks were accredited to the Al-Qaeda organization led by Osama Bin Laden.
President George Bush had the courage to, along with the British, begin the War on Terrorism in November of 2001. That attack was against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. There had been talk and speculation that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Afghanistan.
If we had a lesser President such as we see in Obama, no reaction would have occurred. Everything about President George W. Bush shows his commitment to being a dedicated Christian, whereas years later when Obama is President, everything points to a man that is living as a Muslim. A man where honesty and truth are not part of his character. But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Within a week of the horrific jihadist attacks on the United States we are being attacked with Anthrax being sent through the mail to various news and government targets.
In 2002 the U.S. Olympics games are begun in Salt Lake City under tight security and later in the year President Bush addresses the United Nations that Iraq is a serious threat to the free world and if the U.N. doesn’t act, then the U.S. will need to act unilaterally. It would be the following year that the United States with a coalition of allies would begin the bombing of Baghdad.
By the end of the following year Saddam Hussein, the former leader of Iraq is captured in a small cave in Tikrit by the U.S. Army.
In February, 2004 The CIA admitted there were no WMDs in Afghanistan. Boy, the liberals cried foul over that revelation. Their resistance to this war was the same as their resistance to the Vietnam War.
The Freedom Towers which had been leveled by the terrorist bombings in 2001 are now being started to be rebuilt. This time the tower will be 1776 feet tall which includes a spire on the top.
Later in 2004 President George Walker Bush wins an election over the Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. It was a close vote of the populace with Bush getting some 50.7% of the vote. Too close for much comfort.
It was later that same year that a 9.3 on the Richter scale, earthquake hit in Southeast Asia causing a massive tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Some 290,000 people die in that tsunami. A point of interest for me was that Richter, who was a scientist at Cal Tech in Pasadena, his wife was a surgery patient of mine back in the 1950s.
On July 26, 2005, the first Space Shuttle flight occurred since the tragedy of 2003. This mission returned safely in August 2005.
It was that same year that hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast and caused massive destruction.
The population of the United States finally reaches the 300,000 mark in 2006. At the same time there is an active discussion on the immigration policy in the U.S. At the same time there are many illegals entering our country from the South without much penalty for doing so.
In November of 2006 both House of the U.S. Congress revert to Democratic rule. It was the aversion to the Iraq policy of President Bush that likely caused this change in membership from the more conservative Republican party to the more liberal Democratic party.
In 2007 the first female Speaker of the U.S. House occurred with Nancy Pelosi being sworn in. In that same month President Bush announces the troop surge in Iraq with General Petreus being the new commanding general.
By July 2008 the World is seeing that the benchmarks in place for the Iraq government taking over the reins in their ow proection and government are being met, indicating the surge of some 21,000 troops the year before is having a good effect on the county’s stability.
It was in August of 2008 that Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain chooses Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate against the Illinois State Senator, Barrack Obama who was running on the Democratic ticket.
Unfortunately, Obama wins handily over McCain in the national election making him the 44th U.S. resident and the first African-American. Many of us felt his credentials of his birth were never adequately vetted, making him the first Kenyan to run and win the U.S. Presidency. Almost every aspect of Obama’s schooling and birth were sealed from the sight of the Press and the American populace. Why?
I think the unintended consequences of that election will be felt in America for decades. The forthcoming depression in the United States and around the World will be hampered and elongated by this forthcoming President and the people who he surrounds himself with and whom he appoints to office around him. Let history be the judge, but for many of us in the so-called Greatest generation, we fear for the Americans who follow and for this wonderful country and for the many Americans who served in the military through so many Wars.