By: Walt Wheelock
My first trip to Mt Wilson was with a Glendale High School Science Club. This was in 1927, almost three score and ten years ago. We hiked up the Little San Anita's seven mile trail. It was a package deal, which consisted of evening and morning meals and a night in one of the Hotel's Basic Rooms. It was in a small cabin with a cot and no inside facilities, all for $5.00. Yes, a dollar was money in those days.
After touring the grounds and eating, we went to the 60-inch dome. No, there was no long line, so we each had a couple of turns at the ocular. We were really fortunate, for our object was Saturn with its rings and six of its nine moons.
My next viewing was in 1935. After spending four years out, trying to raise some money, I enrolled in UCLA. I took a BA in Astronomy that year, UCLA's first.
In that year and the next I served as a "teaching aid". We conducted a weekly "quiz session". The elementary course was a large lecture class, and this gave the students a chance to talk with an instructor. We also discussed topics that were sure to come on tests, and read the quizzes. For this we received $.35 per hour.
An option was a bus tour up the old toll road to Mt. Wilson. After touring the grounds, we enjoyed one of the hotel's meals. But this viewing session was much shorter, as we soon headed down that winding narrow grade, to return to the campus by midnight.
A previous Newsletter mentioned the "arduous drive" up the road. It was not too dangerous, as traffic was limited to one-way drives, an hour up and then an hour down, and you were not driving in high gear.
Yes, it was winding and narrow, but really quite safe. During all the years that it was open to the public, I drove it a number of times.
In all of this time, there was but a single fatality. I don't know how many of you remember the old Dodge touring cars. These cars were built much better than the famous "Model T" Fords. One of Dodge's claim to fame was its unique shifting pattern. They claimed that you merely pushed the shifting lever forward to go forward and pulled it back to get into reverse. Almost all other cars had this reversed, so that reverse was up on the left side.
The unfortunate driver had recently purchased a Chevy Touring Car. He had stopped part way up, and parked to look out over the valley. After some, time, he returned to the Chevy, started the motor, and pulled the stick back and stepped on the gas. As he was now in low, he sailed off into eternity.
On the Angeles Crest Highway, accidents are no longer rare.
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