SHIP BY ANOTHER NAME: In her remarks Monday at the Memorial Day observance in Richmond, Lois Boyle highlighted moments of naval gallantry during World War II and the Korean War -- and also shared a tidbit of history: The ship preserved and commemorated in Richmond as the SS Red Oak Victory was originally slated to have a different name.
In fact, the original name of the ship, the SS Frostburg, was painted on the hull, and the outline of the letters are visible upon close examination, hidden beneath layers of paint.
It was decided in 1944 to name a ship for the city of Red Oak, Iowa, which had seen a disproportionate number of losses during the war relative to the size of its population.
"All the plans had been made for the ship's launch -- the wife of the mayor of Red Oak, Iowa, was coming to Richmond, books had been donated by the library and citizens of Red Oak for the ship, and the date set -- Nov. 9, 1944," Boyle said. "But the designated hull was not going to be ready."
The ship under construction was hull No. 544, which had already been assigned the name Frostburg for a mining community in Maryland. The name had even been painted on the hull.
"But not to fear," Boyle told the audience. "Permission was given to switch the hulls, and on top of that name Frostburg was emblazoned the name Red Oak Victory."
A later hull was assigned the Frostburg designation by the U.S. Department of Customs, which oversaw naming cargo ships during the war.
Boyle said afterward that she researched the naming of the ship after Richard Arnold, who volunteers as the ship's keeper of the Red Oak, noticed and pointed out the earlier name.
SPEAKING OF MEMORIAL DAY: Most of Navy veteran Dan Franklin's memories of D-Day are the kind he'd rather forget. But Franklin, 86, a Rossmoor resident who on Memorial Day received the French Legion of Honor Medal for his heroism during the invasion of France, did recall one lighthearted moment after Allied forces established control, and he was stationed on the bluffs over Omaha Beach.
"We were up there for three days," he said, "and there was a big poppy field there. It was mined pretty sufficiently. I only weighed 94 pounds or something, and everybody wanted to take a poppy home from France. I still have mine. So they put me on their shoulders, and together we leaned in to the minefield to pick poppies. I think about it today, and I think, 'Get out of town.' "
DELTA LEAK: The Eye couldn't help but notice the irony last week when listening to a conference call by critics of Gov. Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan. During the portion of the call where reporters from around the state asked questions about plans to move water from the Delta elsewhere in California, The Eye heard what sounded like the occasional drip of a faucet.
The Eye contacted another participant in the call to see whether he heard the same. The reporter confirmed that The Eye wasn't going crazy.
SILVER SCREEN DUMPSTER DIVING: Ohio transplant Mark Smith hit the mother lode last month when workers were clearing out the dome movie theater in Pleasant Hill shortly before it was demolished. Smith says he was having a beer next door at the Loaded Hog biker bar (RIP) when he saw employees pushing carts loaded with cardboard tubes.
The tubes contained scores of original posters for films that screened at the iconic movie house, according to Smith. He waded knee-deep in a dumpster to retrieve three van loads of glossy posters for Disney animations, rom-coms, sci-fi epics and indie favorites.
Smith knows from experience that original movie posters can command top dollar -- he wanted a few for his home theater but settled for less expensive reprints instead. He hopes to spin his fortuitous find into personal box office gold. Would he be willing to donate a few posters to the local historical society that seeks mementos to commemorate the dome theater's 46 years as the most recognizable landmark in Pleasant Hill?
Not likely. "A guy's gotta eat," Smith said.
Staff writers Chris Treadway, Gary Peterson, Paul Burgarino and Lisa P. White contributed to this column.