My second most memorable incident involving snow on Sunset Ridge is no doubt of first importance to Joe Snelson, my Assistant Chief Engineer at KHOF-TV, Channel 30. Joe and I had gone to the transmitter one Friday to perform some necessary maintenance, driving the station’s 1972 Chevrolet four wheel drive ½ ton pickup. Joe called it’s color butterscotch. I called it something unprintable. I don’t remember that we were aware of an approaching storm but it began to snow before noon and continued as we attempted to finish our tasks in time to get back down the mountain so that the operator for the air-shift could use the vehicle to come back up. I was getting concerned that we would not be able to get out and began driving the truck down to the snowline and back in an attempt to pack down the snow and keep the road navigable. After the third trip the snow was so heavy near the transmitter that I could not make it all the way back to the top and had to hike the last hundred yards. I attempted to dig out the truck as Joe started the on-air shift but I had to give up as the snow kept falling. Joe was anxious to get off the mountain because he had a “hot date” the next day.
Comments by Joe Snelson:
I will add to Bernie’s story by expanding on my trip down to the jeep.
I asked the person who hiked in (Bernie and I think it was Gaynor MacClaren) how far down the road the jeep was located. He said Paul Hohman was going to wait for a while but didn’t know how long. So I got myself moving and started down the mountain. I was not really equipped with clothing or footwear to be hiking in snow, but I proceeded anyhow. I took a short cut down the south side of the mountain and met up with the front road. I walked along in the dark, with snow blowing and flashlight in hand. As I walked further down the road it began to get slightly foggy, colder and quieter. All of a sudden there was a big flash in the haze followed by a loud clap of thunder. I was startled and kept walking, but still no jeep and no Hohman in sight. Frankly, I was getting a bit worried. I just knew I was going to come to a place in the road and find tire tracks but no jeep. I prayed hard and kept going forward rather then turning back. I went some distance further and all of a sudden I saw a glow of tail lights. I started yelling and waving my flashlight with the hope the jeep wouldn’t start driving away. I got closer and there was Paul Hohman standing on the outside. I had never been so glad in my life to see anyone. He told me I looked like the abominable snowman. We had a great time talking down the mountain and it was raining when we reached the bottom.
I will also add that Paul and I became very close friends and shared many other experiences going up Sunset Ridge.
© 2007 W. Bernard Marston
SNOW ON SUNSET RIDGE #2
By Bernie Marston
The old white Toyota Land Cruiser that we had driven to the transmitter for years even after it survived two roll-overs had been stolen about a month previously from the Shell station in LaVerne where we parked it. I had been notified a couple of days earlier that the insurance company was ready to pay for its replacement and I had located a new red one at a dealer in Alhambra. I called Paul Hohman, a Faith Center board member and one of the station’s most faithful boosters and always willing to help us any way he could. After explaining our predicament I asked him to go to the Toyota dealer, buy the new vehicle and drive up the mountain with the relief engineer. Paul succeeded admirably with our request and started up the mountain. It was night by then and the snow was so heavy that they got barely to within a mile of the transmitter. The relief operator hiked the rest of the way to the transmitter, leaving Paul with the Toyota. We had no radio in the new vehicle and this was in the days before cell phones, but Paul had said he would wait for an hour or so in case Joe and I wanted to get out. I decided to stay over but Joe wanted to get home so he took out on foot down the road in the snow storm, hoping that Paul would still be there. Joe said later that one of the best things he ever saw was the red tail-lights of the Toyota shining through the snow. He was about half frozen and would have been in real trouble if Paul had not waited.
I hiked down the mountain the next morning to the Mt. Baldy road via the route of our buried power line. It took me two hours instead of the forty five minutes needed when I previously slid down all the way in heavy snow. It was about a week before we opened the road and dug out the truck.
Our old Land Cruiser was recovered in Huntington Beach a few days later. I was happy to turn it over to the insurance company.
Joe made his date.
WBM – January 2007
Photo taken by engineer Burt Lehman on top of the tower some years earlier after a snow storm