PAUL THOMPSON

e-mail address:   thompzach@acsalaska.net                                   Residence:  Alaska

Link to 2010 reunion questionnaire response

Life since high school:
(September, 2001)  Amazing how many faces I can put to the names I see in classmates.com. I lost my yearbooks about 25 years ago. Here's my personal info:

On the morning after the all night party I didn't go home and go to bed and wake up and wash the car and feed the cat (ed. note - only Mark Stephens did that). I went to CSM and took the college entrance exam. I don't remember too much about that except it being very warm in the cafeteria and really not wanting to be there.

I spent the next two and a half years going to school at CSM in the winters and working summers at my stepfathers logging camp in S.E Alaska. That's where I had lived until I came to Pacifica to live with my father. I remember riding on the bus to CSM with Paul Barhart, Lani Leonard, Jeff Boyden and no doubt others. I also ran into Ed Hart during this time. I was hitching a ride to San Luis Obispo to pick up my MGA which had broken down there. He picked me up in San Bruno and took me all the way. I remember he had a brand new Camaro. It was a good trip after he got the engine points changed in the dealership in some little town along 101. He was still in the Marines, recently back from Viet Nam.

After finishing at CSM, I went to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. I had always wanted to return to Alaska to live. I spent three and a half years there, working in the woods in SE Alaska in the summers and goofing off at school during the winters. I finally graduated in the winter of 1972, with a BS in biology. More realistically, I was an unskilled worker with six years spent in college.

Then, college degree in hand, I went out into the world, made millions and got the Nobel Prize in biology. Do I detect a note of skepticism? Well, yes. And rightly so. My first post graduate position was as a janitor for the university. Fairbanks in January is a cold dark place, and I wanted to stay in Alaska. You took any job at all then in the winter. That's where I ran into Howie Burton (TN '66). He was traveling and wound up there.

Come springtime, I went back to SE Alaska and worked a last season in the woods. I left there in the fall and went to Pacifica to visit family. I bought a used Ford pickup at Serramonte Ford, built a canopy on it, and traveled around the country. That trip was the first time I realized the size of America. Like a lot of people on the west coast, I figured the east coast was just past the Sierras.

On returning home, I goofed off until the next fall, when I started working for a housing contractor in Anchorage. Not as a carpenter. Not yet. I was a nail pounder and laborer. After a year or so with them I got a job with another contractor. In retrospect, this was one of the best breaks of my life. He was what I would now consider a master carpenter. More importantly, he saw it as his responsibility to teach me the trade. This he did, so that I was able, with not too much extra studying, to take and pass the journeyman's exam at the local union. His name was Jack Bardon, originally from Nova Scotia. He was an uncouth alcoholic, but he did mighty well by me. During this time I had a conversation I've never forgotten. I was shlumphing around in mud or wet sand, looking for a pipe or a wire or something. One of the plumbers, after watching me a minute or so, said "Is it true you've had six years of college?". Me: "Yep". He just shook his head and walked away. I don't imagine he tried too hard to talk his kids into going to college.

I started work that August (1975) on the pipeline in Valdez. I stayed there until December, when I quit. I flew to New Zealand and traveled the country on a motorcycle, something I had always wanted to do. After returning I worked in Valdez again for the next thirteen months, leaving at the end of the job when the pipeline was done. I had lots of money in the bank, as well as ten acres I had bought at the mouth of the Kasilof River, on the Kenai. I wanted somewhere to call my own. Up until then, everything I owned could fit in the back of my truck, with room left for me to sleep.

I lived there the next several years, in the barn the previous owners of the land had built. After I plumbed and wired and insulated it and put in windows it was my house. Somewhere in there was a trip to the Philippines and Borneo.

The summer after the aforementioned trip, I had one of those life's turning points, or epiphanies, or jolts of self realization. It was on a trip into the Brooks Range with my best friend Dave. It involved flying into the fairly remote eastern corner of Alaska and hiking west for about 20 days to Arctic Village and flying out. Here I was with my best friend in the best place in the world, and I could barely get two words in a row out. I had always stuttered; sometimes badly, other times not. This was about the worst ever. I realized that what I was willing to do with my life was being increasingly limited by my stuttering, and I had to do something about it. That something involved, after a couple of years, a one month course of quite intensive speech therapy in San Francisco, probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. So ended the aimless meandering part of my life.

I got married in the spring of 1982, a few months before that speech course. Mary my bride is Canadian. We met in LA. The wedding was in Victoria, BC, on one of the prettiest weekends ever in one of the prettiest cities there is.

We returned to Alaska, where I continued to work construction in the summers, attending nursing school in the winters at the university in Anchorage, finishing in the spring of 1985. I by then had ten years in the carpenters union, so was vested when I got out. Since then I have been working at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, except for just under a year spent in Victoria. Most of that time was spent at a step-down unit. I just recently changed jobs, moving to the endoscopy unit.

Mary kept her last name when we married. It is Zacharias. She is also an RN. We have two children. Jeffrey is seventeen. He will be a senior this fall. He is an excellent student, unlike me in high school. He is also about two inches taller than I am (I am six feet tall). Katherine is fourteen. She will be a freshman. She also is a good student. She isn't two inches taller than I am. She wrestled in junior high. She is strong and aggressive as Hell when she wrestles.

In passing, I'll mention the house, the lawn, the dog, the cats, the ferret and the gerbils. I arrived here by kind of a roundabout way, later than some. In a lot of your stories are mentions of grandchildren. None here yet. I don't think I would change a thing in my life. I might have made better choices sooner, but things really couldn't have turned out better. Oh, I suppose I could have put my pipeline money into Microsoft, but who knew?

I'm a little liberal in my politics, a little conservative in the things I do and have. I still have the suit I graduated from Terra Nova in. I can still wear it. If I choose not to breathe, I even can button the pants. I still have the same truck I bought used in 1972. I commute to and from work on a bike. It is a road bike. I have no desire for a mountain bike. I generally put a little over a thousand miles a year on it; usually more. Sometimes a lot more, depending on when the last and first snow comes.

Having kids helps me understand my parents better. I am bugged by my kids waste, as I see it, of time on the computer and in front of the TV. As my parents were by my time spent with comics and the TV. When my kids sleep until well after noon, I realize how right it was that my father would leave the loud, mufferless lawn mower idling under my open bedroom window on Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of one in the afternoon. When my kids balk at riding their bikes, I remember how I stopped riding after the one time I rode to school on the first day of our freshman year.

I still hunt and fish, although not as much as I used to. My eighty year old stepfather sees it as his life's work to see that we have all the fish we could ever eat. He uses my land and cabin in Kasilof a lot more than I do. I won't hunt this year. No time, and I still have a lot of meat from a moose I got last fall. I won't miss the meat, but I certainly miss the canoeing down the river. There are few things nicer than a fall canoe trip down a river, or watching the sun rise over a lake you have to yourself.

Lastly, I'm going to tell you who my favorite teachers were at Terra Nova. They were all the English teachers; Mr. Olson, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Campbell. There was a pretty young woman in our junior year whose name I am ashamed to say I have forgotten. If any of you remember it, I'd be thankful if you'd let me know. I never made a dime off of anything any of them taught me, but the appreciation of literature I learned from them has given me more pleasure in my life than anything else.

I never said much in high school. I have a little more to say now.

Here you go, Jean. Brevity is not one of my virtues. (NOTE: Happily, for us!)

Subsequent messages:
(September, 2001)
Another summer is just about over here. There is fresh snow on the mountains around town. Not much, but any is too much to ignore. Not too many more lawn mowings to do this year. We just came back from our cabin in Kasilof where I performed the ritual I do every fall of getting the place ready to be left for another winter. Two more weeks and studded snow tires will be legal to use here. People talk about foggy, cold Pacifica but I find it almost exotically tropical when I go there.

Speaking of which, I did visit last spring. I came down alone to visit family in Sacramento and Clear Lake and drove down to Pacifica for the day with my brother. We drove by the house we lived in there. A three bedroom rancher on Toledo Court for sale now for half a million dollars. Amazing. We walked through Terra Nova. It hasn't changed much. The trees are a lot bigger and the kids seemed a little smaller. Also not all so white. Even had lunch at Nick's, the first time I'd ever been in the place. Pacifica really is in a very pretty place. Then we got caught in a terrible traffic jam getting out of San Francisco. I keep getting these little reminders of why I'm glad I don't live there. One bonus was that I missed the coldest day of the winter here while I was gone.

During the summer we took a trip to the east coast. Our son was invited to a conference in DC, so we took the opportunity to check out colleges there. Unlike me, he could likely get accepted at some big name schools. Interesting place. I can't say that I enjoyed the flight much. I did make a clean sweep, in that every airport I passed through was under construction. Also, I got my year's ration of humid heat. Of course to us 75 is killing heat. Interesting schools, though.

Last, I'll share the unlikely thing I do that might surprise you. We (my wife and I) have gotten into tango. Of the Argentine variety. Like a lot of things, it's something I wish I had started twenty years ago. There is a small but dedicated tango community in Anchorage, and we get together a couple of times a month. I can confidently report that I have progressed to the point that I can tango with a dedicated tanguera without too much ruining her dance. No bungee jumping yet, nor any intention to. Ever.

I was very interested to read in the last three newsletters what you are all doing. It is at the same time a little strange to me. Having seen none of you for over thirty years, my memories of you are a little out of date. The high school kids you still are in my mind's eye cannot be the same people with stories of children, grandchildren, and imminent retirement. Can you?

(October, 2001) It sure was quiet around here the few days after the eleventh. One doesn't realize how much air traffic there is around here until it's gone.

We live pretty close to the airport, and there are a few lakes in this part of town where people keep their float planes. All grounded. There was the military traffic from Elmendorf, but an F15 sounds a lot different from a 747. Lots of uncertainty in the world these days. That is to say, we are more aware of what I guess was always there. I've pretty well given up on awakening to find it's all a bad dream.

We made the transition into winter pretty quickly. From riding my bike to work every day to having a light snowfall that partially melted and refroze into just enough patches of ice to keep me in a car for the rest of the winter. Not enough to ski yet, but I have hopes. There really isn't much of interest going on in my life at the moment. Which is okay, considering that old Chinese curse, "May you live in  interesting times". I turned fifty-four this month, but then we're all getting older.

Does anyone else remember the Ventures? My daughter, who is in the ninth grade, asked me what my favorite band was when I was her age. I didn't really have one, but launched into a description of them for her; the pegged pants and tight suits, the drummer named Mel, "Walk, Don't Run" etc. You remember, don't you? Those of you who have (or have had) fourteen year old daughters will surely know what I mean when I say "polite disinterest".

Her favorite band is Green Day. They aren't too bad. Could be a LOT worse. One of the great joys of parenthood is bugging your kids about their crummy  and/or loud music. She made the cut to get onto the riflery team at her high school. They use air rifles on an indoor range. I was a little surprised. Unlike me at her age, she hasn't been around guns a lot. I think she shot my old .22 at our cabin in Kasilof but that's about it. Although I really don't care that much about sports, I am pleased. They sure helped break a lot of ice for me in school.

My son, who is a senior, was on the tennis team, of all things. But that's over with now. He is a National Merit Scholar Semifinalist. Where do my kids get this stuff? He is on the search for a college. He was offered a full scholarship at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks (my alma mater) but has his eye on bigger name schools, many of which he could likely be accepted to. We weren't too eager to have him go east before the 11th. You can imagine how we feel about it now.

Well, for someone who had little to say, I've said it at great length.

PHOTOS

(Above) This is Paul (red shirt) and his step-brother Bob looking over their fine catch of salmon from July, 2004 at the Kenai River

(Below) This is where Paul used to live before he was married.  Now it's his getaway - located at the mouth of the Kasilof River.  It has all the comforts of home:  a telephone, shower, toilet and kitchen.

Cross-country skiing in hills above Anchorage.