Friday, March 6, 2009

Google Searches = Detective Work? Fun!

The end of this month, I'll be driving my Mom and Step-dad down to Southern California. We'll be spending a couple days in Death Valley, then heading for Barstow, the city my Step-dad grew up and then we'll go to Riverside to visit with family. My Step-dad expressed a wish to get in touch with some of the fellows he grew up with, so one evening last week I badgered him into giving me some names so I could try to find any information about them. He gave me three names. George H., Rex D. and Alfred W. (For privacy's sake, I'm not going to publish the men's full names.)

So, when I got home I started doing some Google searches on the three names. Naturally, the searches produced thousands of "hits" for the names. So I started narrowing the search parameters a bit by including the name of the city with the men's names. I got one good solid "hit" on one of the names! Rex D. had been one of the "pioneers" of the Fire Department in that city (back when it wasn't even a real city!) and his name appeared on the history page on the Fire Department's web page. I saved the page to a word document with Rex D.'s name highlighted and emailed it to my Step-dad so that he could read it. The other two men's names still brought up too many entries. So, I thought about trying to find the web site for the high school that my Step-dad and his buddies attended. Unfortunately, I found one of the names on a memorial page, George H.. He passed away in May of last year.

So, one down and two to go. I looked up the phone number for the Fire Department and gave them a call. I explained to the woman who answered my phone what I was trying to do. I wanted to get in contact with Rex D. and was hoping that someone there at the Fire Department would know him. I left my name and phone number with her so she could ask around and pass the information along that my Step-dad was going to be in town and would very much like to get in touch.

Days passed and I didn't hear anything from Rex D. and I started thinking about it. This man wouldn't know who the heck I am! Why didn't I leave my Step-dad's number? lol.. One of those "Doh!" moments, I guess. So, I called the Fire Department again on Tuesday and spoke to the same woman. I gave her my Step-dad's phone number to add to the message to Rex D., if and when someone could contact him. Yesterday, my Step-dad got a phone call from Rex! We'll be meeting up with him once we get there... My Step-dad is really happy that he'll be able to reminisce with his childhood friend.

Rex also gave us some information about the third fellow, Alfred W. He apparently is living in North West Washington... Oddly enough, he lives in the same town as my great-aunt! Last night, I did a little more googling and came up with a phone number for Alfred. My Step-dad has the number now. I'm not sure what he's going to do with it... Perhaps wait until he meets up with Rex.

When we get together with Rex, I'm going to ask him and my Step-dad if they were involved in an incident that I stumbled upon while searching for information on the three men's names.. It seems that out in the Southern California desert there are a number of extinct volcanoes. Apparently one of them, the Pisgah Crater, is fairly near Barstow. The story is that the kids from the high school spent months hauling trash and burnable stuff out to the crater. Tires, old lumber, creosoted railroad ties and lots of other stuff. Then after building a huge mound of stuff, they lit the pile of junk on fire. Apparently the smoke column rising from the crater alarmed enough people that they shut down the highway (Highway 66) that runs near the crater, stopped the trains from coming past the crater and even evacuated the town! The hoax was exposed when the Los Angeles Times hired a pilot and plane to take a reporter and a photographer out to fly around the crater and the burning pile of junk was discovered. Hmm.. Maybe I'll print out that story and slide it across the table to my Step-dad and his childhood chum and see what their reactions are. lol...

It was fun tracking down my Step-dad's childhood buddies. And what made it best was the fact that I had located them and that we'll be meeting up with one of them in a few weeks. I'll be taking this laptop with me on the trip and I'll try to post some photos and travel stuff whenever I can get an Internet connection. This trip (and others like it in the future) is one of the big reasons I bought the laptop. I won't be so completely out of touch while traveling like I was when we've done the other excursions we've taken. Plus, I've loaded some of my Step-dad's favorite games on here and my Mom and I can leave him with the games and go window shopping or whatever... lol

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