Upland’s History In New Book

New from Arcadia Publishing is this book in the Images of America series, Upland

Saturday, Feb. 14, I went to the Cooper Museum in downtown Upland for a book signing.

Images of America Upland, by Donald Laine Clucas with  Marilyn Anderson and the Cooper Museum, takes you through the history of Upland in photos.

What a great life the people who lived here in the first half of the twentieth century had. Upland was a tiny agricultural community with a lively downtown and what seems like no shortage of town characters to keep everyone from falling asleep while they picked and packed lemons and oranges.

Here’s what the website says about the book: “Upland” tells the story of how a portion of the original Ontario colony, which had been established by George Chaffey in 1882, split off to become North Ontario in 1886. The foothill community enjoyed great success with its citrus production, and growers claimed that it was because the fruit was grown on higher ground. When an association of local citrus packers was formed in 1897, it took the name Upland Citrus Association.

The name was such a hit that in 1902 the community of North Ontario petitioned the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to change its name to Upland.

Cityhood came in 1906 when Upland voted to incorporate. The new city also adopted a nickname, “City of Gracious Living,” that residents still swear by to this day.

I got Don Clucas to sign my copy, as well as Marilyn Anderson.

I remember Marilyn, a talented graphic artist, from twenty years ao when she did brochure design work for First Financial Credit Union. I was advertising coordinator at First Financial at the time.

Marilyn, probably the only person I ever ran into who was actually born in Upland (besides my nephew, Jasen), is now director of the Cooper Museum in downtown Upland, over on “A” St. across from Boomers coffee shop and the Metrolink station.

You can see many of the original photos from the Upland book at the museum.  There is a school photo, circa 1955, from a first-grade class at Upland Grammar School that, if you’re a baby boomer like I am, will tug at your heart strings and dust off ancient memories.


Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

These words drive me crazy.  It must be insanely difficult to learn the English language! I update this regularly, so keep checking back for new entries, and let me know your favorite confusers.

arrant Extreme (arrant nonsense)
errant Traveling, straying

aural Relating to the ear or sense of hearing
oral Spoken

baited Nagged or teased; set a trap
bated Restrained, reduced: bated breath

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date

Favorite Quotes

Isak Dinesen said,

“All sorrows can be borne, if you put them into a story.”


I think Karen, or Isak, had a life much like mine: full of disappointments and let-downs, but also with a certain joy in just being along for the ride, and for experiences beyond the mundane and ordinary. Anyway, we are defined by our sorrows, not by our joys, because sorrows are so much more interesting than joys.

From The Writer’s Almanac for April 17, 2010… It’s the birthday of Isak Dinesen, born Karen Dinesen on a rural estate called Rungsted near Copenhagen, Denmark (1885). She came from a wealthy family of landowners and writers. As a girl, she loved listening to stories about Danish mythology. She started writing at an early age, and one of the first stories she published was about a woman who has a love affair with a ghost.

She and her husband then moved to Kenya, where they started a coffee plantation. She fell in love with Africa, and she said, “The grass was me, and the air, the distant visible mountains were me, the tired oxen were me.” But she and her husband separated in 1925. Alone and unhappy on the coffee plantation, she said, “I began in the evenings to write stories, fairy-tales and romances, that would take my mind a long way off, to other countries and times.” After a swarm of locusts and a drought, she finally had to sell the farm to a local developer.

But just as she was leaving Africa for good, Dinesen sent some of her stories to a publisher, and they were published as the collection Seven Gothic Tales (1934). The book was full of wild, magical stories about such things as a group of people telling jokes while trying to survive a flood, and a woman who exchanges her soul with an ape. Dinesen wrote, “Truth is for tailors and shoemakers. … I, on the contrary, have always held that the Lord has a penchant for masquerades.”

From The Writer’s Almanac for April 17, 2008

It’s the birthday of the woman who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen, (books by this author) born Karen Dinesen on a rural estate called Rungsted near Copenhagen, Denmark (1885). Her grandfather was a friend of Hans Christian Andersen. Her father committed suicide when she was 10 years old, and she spent the rest of her childhood in a house full of women: her mother, her grandmother, and all her aunts. As a girl, she loved listening to stories about Danish mythology, ghosts, or the magical powers of women.

As a young woman, she and her husband moved to Africa to try being colonial farmers. In order to pass the time there she wrote her first collection of short stories, Seven Gothic Tales (1934). The book was full of wild, magical tales. One story is about a group of people telling jokes while trying to survive a flood. Another is about a woman who exchanges her soul with an ape. Dinesen said, “Truth is for tailors and shoemakers. … I, on the contrary, have always held that the Lord has a penchant for masquerades.”

Dinesen had written Seven Gothic Tales in English, and the book made her famous in the United States and England. But when she translated it into Danish, the critics in Denmark attacked it as shallow fantasy. She kept copies of the negative reviews for the rest of her life.

Her American publisher wanted her to write a new book as soon as possible, to capitalize on her success, so she decided to write about her experiences in Africa. Instead of writing an ordinary memoir, she wrote about her time in Africa as though it was a half-remembered dream in her book Out of Africa (1937).

She wrote, “Looking back on a sojourn in the African high-lands, you are struck by your feeling of having lived for a time up in the air.

And, “[I watched] elephants … pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world … [and I once saw a] lion … crossing the grey plain on his way home from the kill, drawing a dark wake in the silvery grass, his face still red up to the ears.”

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My Toastmaster Speech “Monkey Business”

Here’s the text to a Toastmaster speech I gave in February. The project involves using visual aids, and you can see the photos from my PowerPoint.

The title is Monkey Business, and it’s about the wild animals I encountered during a year-long trip through Central America in the late 70’s.

I only had five to seven minutes for my speech, so I limited my animal stories to encounters with vampire bats, giant land crabs, and monkeys.

Left out because of time constraints are sharks, tree sloths, snakes, assorted nasty insects, and raccoons.

Please let me know what you think!


We’re all familiar with the animals that live with us—dogs and cats and such–but what’s it like when we live with wild animals?

I had the opportunity to find out when I was a young man and went on a yearlong trip to Central America.

Along with two friends — who were both also named Steve: we were the Three Steves — we traveled to remote areas… in the mountains, rain forests, and tropical beaches where the only footprints in the sand were the ones we made.


That’s me, more than 30 years ago, on top of one of the pyramids at the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, Guatemala. Tired, hungry, hot. One of the other Three Steves, Steve Rankin, is loading his camera a few steps down. Steve Call snapped this shot.

We surfed, fished, explored ancient Mayan ruins—and we lived outdoors, where there were very few people, and lots of wildlife.

A few adventures will show what it’s like when your neighbors are snakes and scorpions, parrots and monkeys.

We camped in a field in Costa Rica. There was a herd of cattle. And when we got in our hammocks at night, the cattle came over and bedded down with us. I could reach out and pat a steer. But in the morning, we saw trickles of blood running down the necks of some of them. Vampire bats. The next night I slept with a towel wrapped around my neck.

Vampire bats do millions of dollars of damage to the cattle industry in Central America.

Vampire bats do millions of dollars of damage to the cattle industry in Central America.

That was a nervous night, but it wasn’t the most frightening. That happened one rainy night and we were in our tent sleeping on cots. You don’t sleep on the ground in the rain forest, for reasons that you’ll soon learn. We were awakened by clicking noises…CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK CLICK.

We lit the lantern and into the tent marched a dozen or so giant land crabs, some as big as my hand. They were clicking their claws at us and tried to climb up onto the cots.

I think they wanted to eat us! A battle raged and in the morning their broken shells littered the floor.

And we cooked and ate some of them.

Some of the land crabs had shells as big as my hand, and their claws were especially intimidating

Some of the land crabs had shells as big as my hand. With their vibrant purple shells, they looked imported from outer space.

We ate the crabs because food was scarce. Animals spend all their time looking for food. And when our supplies ran low, so did we.

The rule in the rain forest is Kill and Eat. Kill and Eat. Or, in the case of monkeys, Steal and Eat.

Monkeys believe in sharing: What is monkey’s is yours; what is yours is monkey’s. Monkeys not having anything, you can see how that works.

Spider Monkeys like sharing... your stuff!

Spider monkeys like sharing… your stuff!

We stayed several weeks on a lonely tropical beach where the rain forest came right up to the sand.


As our supplies gave out, the only thing we had to eat, if we couldn’t catch a fish, was rice and beans.

While the other two Steves were fishing, I went into the rain forest. I found a banana tree, with a big bunch of green bananas. I carried the bananas triumphantly back to camp.

We strung the bananas from a tree to ripen. But when we were away fishing, the monkeys came and got them. They left us two or three bananas. Because monkeys believe in sharing.

One monkey befriended us. Chiquita, as we called her, must have been someone’s pet, and when she got big and stinky, they released her back in the jungle.

Chiquita invited herself into our camp one day for lunch. Then she moved in. Every morning when I climbed out of my hammock, there was Chiquita sitting on Steve Rankin’s lap, sharing a cup of coffee.

But Chiquita was the exception. People and wild animals don’t mix. We don’t understand them, nor they us.

We take it personal when they try to suck our blood, or eat us, or take our property.

But the animals, like some Mafia hit man, will tell you, “Hey, nothing personal. It’s just business.”

The Three Steves. From left, Steve Rankin, Steve Call and me, Steve Blaszcak. Known to locals as “Los Tres Borracios” or “Gringos Perdido” and once, “Los Tres Insectos” — The Three Drunks, Lost Gringos, and The Three Bugs. Photo taken in 1978 at remote “restaurant” on east coast of Costa Rica, near where monkeys stole our bananas.