Jay Beeler

In an old vaudeville routine the straight man says, “Think the rain will hurt the rhubarb?” The top banana replies, “Not if it’s in cans!” A century or so later you’ll still hear farmers repeating that line and slapping their knees in laughter.

That question was also the title of a 1984 Glenna Wheeler Fitzgerald book that’s available on Amazon for $90. At that price I’ll skip the opportunity to learn more. A free Google search states that rhubarb is a fleeting spring vegetable with bright pink stalks. It tastes sour, but when you cook it with sugar it becomes pleasantly tart. Knowing this, I really don’t care if the rain is hurting the rhubarb.

The “pineapple express” that passed through earlier this week was a welcome deluge of rain that should hold off any predictions of drought this summer. The 51-mile-long L.A. River reportedly carries 60 million gallons of water a day and – SURPRISE – the bureaucrats and politicians have finally figured out that capturing that water in aquafers is the answer to most of our annual water needs.

It is amusing to listen to the local weather forecaster’s predictions of calamity over a few inches of rain, especially if you come from other areas of the country frequently hit by tornadoes and hurricanes. We did not have many extreme weather conditions where I grew up in Waynesboro, Penna., except one doozy that blew through on October 15, 1954.

Hurricane Hazel was the deadliest, second-costliest, and most intense hurricane of the 1954 Atlantic hurricane season. The storm killed at least 469 people in Haiti before it struck the United States near the border between North and South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane. It caused $382 million in damage with winds of 134 mph.

The only other weather extreme that I vividly remember was in January 1964. I was stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota at that time, where we were responsible for positioning and maintaining 150 Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles – armed with atomic warheads to keep our friends in Russia at bay.

North Dakota could get very cold at night. On Feb. 15, 1936, the city of Parshall recorded a record low of minus 60 degrees.

On weekends I was a disk jockey at KCJB radio in Minot and  was working the late shift, meaning we went off the air at midnight. My 1956 Chevy Bel Air had an electric engine heating plug that was supposed to make it easier to start on cold nights. It failed to do its job at minus 23 degrees. The only choice was to curl up next to the warm AM radio transmitter and get help in the morning.

The following summer I visited my brother, Tom, who was living in Belmont Shore and working as an aerospace engineer for North American Rockwell in Downey. The nights were balmy. There were parties to attend.

One did not have to be a rocket scientist to determine that Long Beach would be my next stop after serving in the Air Force. Using the GI Bill, in the 1965 fall semester, I started taking classes at Long Beach City College. I graduated from Long Beach State in 1970 with a bachelor of arts degree in radio, TV & film – minoring in journalism.

Fifty years later this rocket scientist believes that he made the wisest possible choice. I have loved it here.


On the following page you will find a ballot in our Best of Long Beach contest series, now in its 23 year. Perhaps we should be flattered by seeing the other local newspapers copying our idea.

What keeps the contest going strong is having local businesses participating by providing a minimum of 12 gift cards valued at $25 or more. These are distributed to readers who complete the ballot and have their names drawn at random.

Thank you for participating and thank you to our sponsors.


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