Interview with Patty HodginsPatty is a former editor, social worker, and a traveler who has recently embraced Yachats as her home.
TYG: So I hear you used to be a social worker?
Patty: That is true!
TYG: What was that like?
Patty: It was really good. There were a couple of really bad experiences, but it was a big career change for me, because I used to be a book editor. So when I went back and got a social work degree, it was totally different. Ultimately it was a really, really good change, and the last job I had especially, I just loved. It was with older people—of which I am now one myself—it was just really neat.
TYG: How did you get into book editing?
Patty: Well, I started out as a proofreader at the Geological Society of America, and they published books and journals. But then I became an editor there at the Geological Society, and then I just kind of morphed into regular, more general books. But mostly I did scholarly publishing kinds of stuff.
TYG: Just something I’ve always been curious about: How do you tell—especially in geology, you’re going to get a lot of abbreviations and stuff—how do you tell what’s a misspelling, and what’s an abbreviation and stuff?
Patty: Well, when you’re actually doing the work as an editor, you know what’s an abbreviation.
TYG: Okay, so there’s a list you have, a cross-check.
Patty: There’s a style, a whole style.
TYG-Graphic Design: Isn’t that like the MLA (Modern Language Association)?
TYG: Yes, true.
Patty: Yes. But it was a really good place to learn editing, actually, because there was a very clear-cut style, and I learned how to hew to that. Then when I got into more general books, I knew what it meant to be a rigorous copy-editor.
TYG: Often, in the fiction I read, you have crazy names!
Patty: I didn’t do fiction so much.
TYG: I imagine fiction is a lot harder than non-fiction.
Patty: I think it is [from] the few that I’ve done. Especially because—believe it or not—authors sometimes don’t even remember what the name of their main character is, from the first of the book to the last of the book. [laughs] Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not a whole lot! Like the heroine has blue eyes on page 43, and brown eyes on page 112. If you’re a good editor, you’re picking that up.
Patty: Yes. So you have to be always vigilant for the details.
TYG: That’s amazing! I didn’t realize it would be quite that extreme.
Patty: Oh, there are all kinds of things that you have to be on the lookout for. There’s a really funny one that I’m remembering: Sometimes you can get a proofreader or an editor that doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing. One time I was working on a book—I was the project manager for it, I guess—and there was the term force de frappe, which means “striking force” in French. But the proofreader had thought that was a mistake, and she made it “force de frappé” (with an acute accent over the “e”). [laughs]
TYG: In other words, something else entirely—I’m not quite sure exactly what that would mean.
TYG: “Force de frappuccino” or something? [laughter] In a thing like that, how do you address the author, or the proofreader?
Patty: For the proofreader, they’re working with you, so you can tell them, “This was actually correct the way it was.” But with the author, when you’re editing, you write little [notes]. Back when I was doing it, we weren’t all computerized yet. We actually used little sticky notes, and we’d write questions on little sticky notes and attach them to the pages.
TYG: That’s basically the same way we do it today.
Patty: It is, except not so manual.
TYG: Sometimes I’ve used the “track changes” function in Word, and it can be really complex! I’m guessing all the stuff comes from the old, manual way of doing it.
Patty: I guess so, yes. I’ve never, ever edited anything digitally, but I’ve seen how that works. And the whole left margin is full of stuff! You know, with the little lines going to where it’s supposed to be referring to. It’s very hard to make out where everything goes and what it all is.
TYG: It’s especially really cool when it’s one or two, which I can manage. [...] What happens if you’re reading [the book] when you’re editing it, and suddenly you notice the plot just starts falling apart and doesn’t make any sense?
Patty: You mention it. Tactfully, to the author. You have to kind of say, “Sense, question mark. Not sure if...” something, something, something. You have to be very tactful.
TYG-GD: But wouldn’t that be the work of the person who buys the book for the publisher?
Patty: You mean, the person that’s brought the book into the publishing house? That’s the development editor.
TYG-GD: I’d be surprised that they wouldn’t catch something like the plot not making sense.
Patty: Well, if it’s a really glaring error, that’s true. Again though, I’m talking about scholarly publishing—fiction, I don’t know how that goes at all. But yes, the development editor in scholarly publishing does that, and the project manager takes the manuscript, looks it over, gets a sense of what’s there to be done, to say to the copy editor, “Look, here’s what I’ve seen that you really want to watch out for, and go light on this thing (or whatever it is)...” You just give the copy editor some general instructions. And then you look it over when the copy editor brings it back and see whether it was done okay or not. And then the proofreader, after it’s been set and typed. It used to be that they would set galleys from the manuscript, galley pages that weren’t numbered. Then, after the editing, the type-setter would then make it into pages, and the proofreader would proofread it.
TYG: Now it’s all condensed into one process.
TYG: So that sounds like a really fun job.
Patty: It was. Well, it wasn’t always fun. You’d be pretty amazed at how many boring books there are out there, especially some of the scholarly ones. But there were some interesting ones too. Once, I got to edit a book on the ethnic groups of China, and that was fascinating. But you have to be very, very detail-oriented. And I am very, very detail-oriented, so that was fine, but I got to a point where I went, “Do I really want to be just becoming more and more detail-oriented for the rest of my career? Yes, I’m good at this, but.. so what.” It just wasn’t really feeding my soul anymore. So, there were some things that led up to my choosing social work as a change in career.
TYG: So how did you make the transition from book editing to becoming a social worker?
Patty: Uhm. You take a big, flying leap into the unknown. [laughs]
TYG: You just went straight for it, then?
Patty: No, actually it was a fairly lengthy process.
TYG-GD: You probably had to go back to school, didn’t you?
Patty: Oh I did, yes. But what led up to it was, first of all, being in a job... It wasn’t a book-editing job, it was a magazine job that a lot of people would have killed for, but it just wasn’t ringing my chimes. It didn’t feel like I was doing anything valuable. So I started thinking about, “Okay, what’s missing in this job? What’s missing in general?” And I went into this long, long process of reading career-change books, and then [going to] career-change workshops, deeply inquiring as to what I should do. But then a couple of things happened that made me see that in fact social work was going to be a really good thing, and the first thing was that my brother got ill with cancer. I was with him when he died, and I was able to be there, in that situation. Even though it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, I was also good at it in a sense—I could really sit with him while he was dying, and be present, and be okay. And then my mother was becoming demented, and shortly after my brother died I had to go down to Florida and clear my mother’s house out, and get her into assisted living. I eventually brought her out to Colorado. Both those things were extremely difficult, and I was good at both of them, so I decided that social work would be okay. And it was.
TYG-GD: So where did you go to school for that?
Patty: University of Denver.
TYG-GD: You grew up in Florida though, right?
Patty: [...] I just went out to Boulder one summer and fell in love with it, and moved out there and finished college. And that was that for 46 years, until I fell in love with Yachats!
TYG: How did you come to Yachats, and how did you find this place?
Patty: You know, it was one of those almost-random things, like so many people, so many stories... major serendipity. I had been curious about the Oregon coast for a pretty long time. I’d seen photographs of it, and I thought, “Oh! That looks so beautiful.” And so I finally decided it was time to come out and see it. I didn’t know anything about what was on the coast—I was just Googling around, and I happened to light on the website for Ocean Haven, which is eight miles south of here, is up on a one hundred foot cliff overlooking the ocean, and there was a photograph of the interior of one of the rooms with the ocean spread out before it, and I said to myself, “That’s where I want to be!” Very specifically. So I did get to be there, in that very room. [laughter] And that was sort of the beginning. And then there were several other times when I came out. Other people knew before I did that I was going to be moving here, but I didn’t really consciously know. So I came out one time on a little two-month road trip, and I stayed at Tillicum Beach, and it was wonderful. And then I came back in January/February, and stayed for three and a half weeks at Ocean Haven, to see if I could stand the winter, which everybody had said was so rainy and depressing, and I loved it and it was fine. [laughs]
TYG: The weather is one of the best parts about this place! You can get this kind of summer weather anywhere!
Patty: I know! And that’s part of what happened to me, in fact. I didn’t get any winter storms—I just got some warm, beachy weather. But that was really wonderful. And so then I ended up taking a year-long road trip and came back to Yachats, and camped at Tillicum beach again for six weeks. And that’s when I started realizing that I really, really wanted to move here. And then serendipity took hold even more, and I found the perfect house to rent, then I found the perfect house to buy, and yada, yada.
TYG: I guess you like to take road trips, then!
Patty: Well, the year-long one was only my second. But after I got done with the two-month one, I really didn’t want to go home, and I realized I wanted to go out a year, and so I did! And it was quite wonderful, absolutely lovely. And that feeling of, “I don’t know where I’m going to spend the night, and that’s okay because I have a roof over my head right now”—it’s wonderful! I had a little RV: a little bed, and a bathroom. [...] At the end of that road trip out here, I caravaned up to Alaska with a friend I had met on the road. That was really fun.
TYG: Woah! What was that like?
Patty: It was great! In large part because of this road buddy that I had unintentionally met back in Nevada at the beginning of the road trip. We just had a lot of fun traveling together. And then I got to see the bears, and the Dall sheep, and eagles of course. I got so used to seeing eagles; it was really cool. I realized finally that if you were looking at a tree, evergreen, and you saw some little white dot in it, that would be an eagle. So then you’d look for the rest of the body with binoculars. Sometimes you’d see a couple of white dots, and then you’d look through the binoculars and there would be like seven eagles. That’s one of my wonderful memories of Alaska: all those eagles.
TYG-GD: Did you do any fishing or anything?
Patty: No, fishing, heavens! [laughs] No, I went out on a couple of glacier-watching trips, but no fishing.
TYG-GD: I remember reading your book about that. [to the Publisher] She has a book about that.
Patty: Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Yes, why I’m glad you asked me about that Allen! I do indeed have a book about that! [laughter]
TYG-GD: Anyway, I remember reading in your book about the roads up there—in particular one long highway, or something.
Patty: There’s one highway, I think it’s called Top of the World Highway or something. That was exciting. But in general the roads in Alaska weren’t as bad as they’ve been [portrayed]. I just remember one that was a little hairy. But for the most part they were okay. But yes, while I was on the trip I started writing travelogues, and just e-mailing them to people.
TYG: And you condensed those down into a book?
Patty: That’s correct! It was very, very fun to do that, actually. I talked an awful lot about rocks, because I’m a rock hound. [laughter] It was really funny, because I realized that I wasn’t usually writing about people; I was just writing about rocks. I was gathering them up from everywhere. I was carrying I don’t know how many tons of rocks in my RV all around the country.
TYG-GD: Well that makes for good gas mileage...
Patty: [laughter] Yes. But I still have many, many of those rocks. And then, what’s really interesting is that the house I’m living in now used to belong to Leslie Carter and Nancy. Anyway, Leslie was a big rock hound, and so in the yard there are some of the coolest rocks. I’ve been noticing them even more and more—the big ones that border [the garden]. And then there are the littler ones too—there are terraces in there with gravel, and you’ll be looking around in the gravel and there’s this beautiful little agate right there.
TYG: So, what was social work like for you?
Patty: As I said, I had a couple of horrible experiences, but the last job I had, I had a couple of wonderful experiences, where I was really able to be creative, just had a lot of fun. It’s a bit of a long story to tell you.
TYG: Sure, terrific!
Patty: Okay... The first job I had gotten out of social work school was with an agency that served older people with vision loss, partial vision, and I learned a lot about that that I had not known before. So when I got to this very last job, which served frail, elderly people, and I worked in a center where people came in for the day sometimes, I was able to start a little vision support group. So I did that for pretty much the whole time I worked there. One day, after I’d been doing it for a couple of years, there were a couple of women in the group who were total live wires, even though they were very, very disabled by vision loss. So one day, we were talking about music, and they were talking about how much they had loved to dance. I had this sudden brainstorm, and I said, “We could dance in our chairs!” And they got all excited by that idea, and so did several of the other people in the vision group, so I knew I had a good thing starting there.
I left the group and was going back to the office, and I ran into my colleague Patricia, who had a degree in dance therapy. So I dragged her into my office, and I said, “Hey listen, I’ve had this idea.” And she was into it as well. It’s somewhat of a long story, so I won’t go into it, but we did start the chair-dancing group. It was huge fun. Patricia and I applied to make a presentation at an annual meeting at the kind of agency that was where I was working, and our proposal was accepted. So we choreographed three numbers that the group could do—we did a waltz, and a country song, and we did Peggy Lee’s Fever; three different dances with those styles of music. We rehearsed and rehearsed. Then when the time came, they took us into downtown Denver. We did the presentation, and the group did their three dances, and we got a standing ovation! Everybody loved it and was so excited.
TYG: Just because it’s increasing range of movement, and keeping people active?
Patty: That’s only part of it. The beauty of it was, beyond [the things you mentioned], it was something they could do to express themselves without it being about them being old, they got to just be themselves, and they could do it safely without having to stand up. They were expressing themselves and making stuff up; we laughed, we had the best times—it was just all about them as people, other than as old people singing You Are My Sunshine with the [waving the arms].
TYG-GD: Yeah, I can see there being a big wall in perception between being old—defined as all the things you can no longer do—versus being seen as a person, yeah, you’re old, but that’s part of you. So you’re doing things because you’re a person, and that’s what you can do—not that you are being restricted from what you used to be able to do.
TYG: So it’s about viewing the present versus viewing the past.
Patty: Yes—and being the whole you. So that was incredibly rewarding.
TYG-GD: So were all of your clients elderly, in all of your jobs?
Patty: No, I also worked with developmentally disabled adults. So it was either with people who were disabled in some way, and/or elderly. I was more of a case manager social worker than a therapist. I never did therapy.
TYG: Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?
Patty: Why yes, there is! I’m so glad you asked. [laughs] The thing that I’m doing now that is the most fun is: I’m taking photographs of interesting clouds, and I’m sending them out to people who are interested in seeing them. The project is called Cloud du Jour, and I’m just really having a lot of fun with it.
TYG-GD: So it’s kind of like a travelogue, but it’s a travelogue about clouds.
TYG: About the various patterns that created them, and just their inherent beauty?
Patty: Yes, it’s more about the beauty than about the science. It’s not really a travelogue except the clouds are travelling—but I’m not. [laughs] But I’m not doing “in the shape of.” [...] There are some amazing clouds out there—when I first got to Oregon I didn’t think there were any great clouds. I started doing this in Colorado, because there are really, really wonderful thunderheads. But there have been a couple of days when I couldn’t get anything done because there have been such amazing clouds all day long. So—what can I tell you.
TYG: Sounds like a fun hobby!
Patty: One of the coolest things that’s grown out of that is that [I’ve found] an actual organization called the Cloud Appreciation Society, started by a gentleman in England. It has over 43,000 members now, and they have started organizing trips.
TYG: To see clouds?
Patty: Actually, the first ones are to see the aurora. So the first one was last year to Yellowknife, Canada, to see the aurora, and they’re doing it again this year. And I’m going, and Peggy Speer [another Yachatian] is coming with me! It’s actually out in the wilderness, a little plane ride away from Yellowknife. Maybe we see the aurora, and maybe we won’t, because you never know.
TYG-GD: Remind me again where Yellowknife is?
Patty: It’s in the Northwest Territories, on the shores of an enormous lake called the Great Slave Lake. And it’s right at the Arctic Circle. That’s going to be so interesting, because all these other cloud-lover people are going to be there.
TYG: Thank you so much for your time!
Patty: Thank you so much—it’s been a pleasure!
Interview with John W. Thornton
TYG: You were in the US Naval Reserve. What was that like?
John: I was on active duty for two years, from 1956 to 1958. I went to school first, in Pomona—guided missile school. My first duty station was at Crane, Indiana: Naval Ammunition Depot. I was in the Guided Missile Service Unit 217. I was there about a year. Nobody had any missiles at the time, so most of the year, they were just getting set up. And then I got orders to the Naval Ammunition Depot in Fall Brook, California, where I was assigned as the guided missile officer, and as the assistant ordinance officer. Since we just had a building, and not much going on in the building, I was mostly the assistant ordinance officer. A couple of things I did besides that job: I was the courier for any kind of classified material that came into the base or left the base—I was the courier for that.
TYG-Graphic Design: Where did you grow up? Why did you get interested in the Navy?
John: Let’s see. I was born in Boston and lived in the suburbs there. Graduated from high school, a place called Matick. Then I got an academic scholarship to Tufts College, which is in the suburbs of Boston. I majored in electronic engineering. Graduated in ‘56 there, then went to that guided missile school in Pomona.
TYG-GD: So did you choose that, the missiles?
John: No! I knew nothing about it. I wanted to be on destroyers. I signed up for Destroyers—Atlantic; second choice Destroyers—Pacific; third choice was Destroyers—Mediterranean. Then I got the guided missile school instead.
TYG: Probably because you had that major in electronics...
John: Yes, I think so. Let’s see, what else can I tell you about Fall Brook... Oh—the other thing I did: I was assigned as a convoy commander for transporting special weapons up and down the coast of Southern California.
TYG-GD: “Special weapons”? What are those?
John: Nuclear weapons.
TYG: Wow! And you were the convoy commander?
TYG-GD: So on the ocean, you guys would...
John: Not on the ocean—we mostly got them down Highway 101. Mostly down to Seal Beach, which was about 80 miles away.
TYG-GD: Why did you have to transport them?
John: Well, I don’t know. The Navy wanted them in a different place. [laughs] Who knows!
TYG: Something I’ve never quite understood: How big are nuclear weapons?
John: Well, the ones we had were about like this [gestures with his arms].
TYG-GD: Oh, so they’re small!
John: Not very big. The first ones... Well, the very first one they detonated down at White Sands was huge, about three feet around because of the type of detonation that they used. In those days, there were two different kinds of detonation. That one was called Fat Man. The full outside of Fat Man was like a sphere, and it had detonators all around. You had to fire them in the right sequence, and then the whole thing would go “Boom!”
TYG: So that’s a less targeted one.
John: Oh no, it had nothing to do with targeting. It just means what kind of explosion you got. [Fat Man bombs] were made to explode 200 feet above the ground, something like that.
TYG-GD: So they were dropped from an airplane? How could they detonate in sequence when you drop them from an airplane?
John: Yes. Well, it’s all programmed in. The other kind, what they called a gun, they took two half spheres—you fired the gun, and it shoved the two half-spheres together. A simpler kind of thing.
TYG: So it’s a double detonation, in other words. One, conventional explosive; and the nuclear explosive.
John: I guess you could say that. It just pushed it down the tube. The two halves come together, and then you have a critical mass. So we tested both of those at White Sands. [...] At the end of the [Second World] War, the US managed to capture a lot of the scientists that were developing the V2 rocket, including Wernher von Braun. So they got them all to move to America. So we had a built-in group of scientists and engineers who helped us very quickly to develop ballistic missiles. That was taking place in Huntsville, Alabama.
TYG-GD: Why Alabama, of all places?
John: I have no idea. [...] In those days there was so much money being spent on ballistic missiles and all kinds of electronic stuff that there weren’t enough engineers, project engineers, or managers, or anything else. So there was a lot of recruiting going on. In fact, one time I got a call from a recruiter, and he wanted me to take an interview in Huntsville. My wife said, “I’m not moving my kids or me to Alabama.” That’s when all the racial stuff was going on, and she didn’t want any part of that. Anyway, so I didn’t even go for an interview. And there were other reasons—I didn’t really want to work for NASA. Yes, NASA was a madhouse. People were working 70, 80 hours a week. Later on, when I was in Oklahoma City, in the military communications department, that’s when we first started developing a military satellite communication system. I was the electrical system engineer and the project engineer on that job. At one point things weren’t going well, putting together the first system and getting it to work and whatnot, so myself and another guy were both working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. We did that for about seven or eight weeks, and my boss’s boss calls me one day, and said, “I understand you’re thinking about taking vacation.” And I said, “I have to take vacation if I want to keep my wife and family. I also have to have vacation to keep from going crazy.” He never said anything back to that, but about six months later we shut down that business. Most of the people I knew were invited back to work in Utica, New York again. I was not invited.
TYG-GD: Oh! That was your vacation?
John: I guess! I had to get a new place to work. By that time I had a piece of my pension, and I didn’t want to leave GE [General Electric Co.]. Of course, they treated me very well, and that’s when I got the job in Philadelphia with the missile and space vehicle division. My job there was what they call a subsystem engineer. My first project was for the flight test program for Minuteman-III.
TYG-GD: Huh. What is Minuteman-III?
John: Minuteman-III, for a long time, was our primary ICBM [inter-continental ballistic missile] program. What was different about it, from Atlas and some of the earlier programs, this one had three, independently-targeted ballistic missiles that separated during re-entry. You could direct where you wanted the missiles to go.
TYG-GD: Wow. I didn’t know you had worked on all this! So, what do you think about North Korea’s recent testing of ICBM’s?
John: I have no idea what’s going to happen. The Atlantic had a very good article last month about the options we have. And the conclusion was that we have no good options.
TYG-GD: I understand that. I was just wondering, from a technical point, where you think they are right now.
John: I really don’t know. I don’t imagine they have multiply independently-targeted missiles, though. That’s a long stretch, and a lot of testing has to be done before you can get close to it. In fact, what I was involved with was what’s called a penetration aid system. This was designed to mask, or otherwise blank out, the radar that the Russians were anticipated to use to spot an RV [re-entry vehicle] coming in, and eventually, the ability to shoot it down.
TYG: So these are space-going missiles, then.
TYG-GD: They don’t go into orbit, do they?
John: No. They go up about one hundred miles, or something like that. That was some incredible stuff. In fact, we had a control room, where everybody in the whole group met every morning. It was interesting, because one wall was a simulator, showing all the different steps that had to take place, and it was so complicated that they had to have two technicians maintaining the simulator! [laughter] So, a lot of crazy stuff going on.
TYG-GD: Who was president at the time?
John: Let’s see—that would have been Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy was shot in ‘63. And Johnson was re-elected for a full term in ‘64, so he would have been president at the time. So we had all this stuff going on, and my job was mostly involved with telemetry with flight test programs. They had system tests going on at Cape Canaveral for the different sub-systems, and they had a problem with my sub-system. There was a lot of noise on the channel—I’m talking about electronic noise, not audible noise—so they rushed me down to Cape Canaveral to solve the noise problem. At the same time, there was a hurricane supposed to come. [laughs] It was a little scary.
TYG: That’s the one thing I’m confused about: why they chose to put one of their greatest assets, their entire launch facility, right in the path of most hurricanes.
John: Well, they never got into much trouble with it. But I think it was because they wanted to not go over land very much. They wanted it to all be over the ocean in case something went wrong, in case something blew up. That’s my understanding of it. Anyway, I figured out what was the cause of the noise, and I got it fixed, and quickly rushed back to my motel, got ready to go, and headed for the airport as fast as I could—because of the hurricane. I got out of there, but the hurricane stayed out at sea, and we didn’t have a problem. I can’t believe what crazy stuff went on.
We will continue John Thornton’s interview in Issue 72.