Mack and I, See A Ghost, or Was It?
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by Frank Shortt
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Who, in their right mind, would believe there could be ghosts in Sacramento? Sure, there
are many spirits traversing the halls of the Capitol building, but these embody human beings.
This story had its beginning when I was stationed at Mather Air Force Base in Rancho Cordova, just east of downtown Sacramento. This
was in early 1960. Mack Laughter, an airman from Nail, Arkansas, came by my barracks one Saturday afternoon in his brown ’53 Pontiac.
“Hey Frank, wanna go to the Coconut Grove tonight? I hear that Del Reeves will be playing
down there. Maybe you’ll get a chance to get on stage with him for a couple of songs.
be glad to, I replied. I don’t have anything planned for this evening.”
Even if I did,
I had no way to get there.
We drove down to the main street of Sacramento, as was
our custom, checking for stray girls. There was nobody stirring on J or K streets, so we continued on south to Franklin and Fruitridge,
the location of the Coconut Grove Ballroom. Downstairs was the Caballo Blanco Mexican Restaurant, so we decided to hang out there
until the C.G. opened. We were both almost broke, except for the entrance fee to the show, which in those days was probably a couple
of dollars. Mack ordered a Coke, I did likewise, and so we just sat there sipping our sodas until the Grove opened hoping to meet
some unattached girls to spend the evening with, dancing upstairs.
Del Reeves was a very
flashy musician from Sparta, North Carolina. He got his start in show biz doing honky-tonks and country venues. He hated to be upstaged
by anyone. I learned this all too soon when some of the guys from Mather AFB cajoled Del into having me up on the stage for a couple
of tunes. I do not remember what I sang that night, but it was enough to raise the ire of the featured artist. The men from Mather
were a little too enthusiastic with their applause, raising the rest of the crowd’s approval rating to a fever pitch. I was soon shooed
off the stage by Del who thanked me enthusiastically as he gave me the boot. At that time I was singing with the Muleskinners, a group
started by T/Sgt. Joseph Katzburg, better known as Jody Gibson. He is in the Rock-a-billy hall of fame for a song he did entitled,
“Good Morning Captain” done differently than anyone had ever recorded the same song, called “Muleskinner Blues”. We won the Base singing
contest in 1961 as best Country/Western group, along with Ralph Moore, another singing airman.
Things went smoothly as the night wore on. We had decided not to do any drinking that night as we wished to enjoy the music and whatever
female company came along. As is the case, the evening ended with us in the car, discussing the evening, and heading back to the barracks.
Mack and I usually sang all the songs we knew the words to as we headed back to duty. We both had similar raisings as Hillbillies.
After driving up Fruitridge north for a ways, we headed east on the back streets toward the Base. We soon came to Hedge Avenue that
was as dark as pitch as there was no street lights out there at that time. For some odd reason, Mack and I became ultra-quiet, very
strange for us as we were both very talkative and usually couldn’t cut in on the other with a sharp knife. The darkness brought on
a very eerie feeling.
Suddenly, we both looked upward out of the windshield at the same
time! There leaning over the car was a giant figure, bent over at the waist, looking down upon us. Dumbfounded? We were speechless!
When a person is panicked, they are just clean out of it. The figure did nothing, except smile his smirky smile!
Mack gunned the car, taking us back to the Base in the quickest time ever. We spoke not a word as we entered the gate by the Air Police
guard shack. Mack’s permit on the windshield allowed us to come and go as we pleased. We went straight to the Civil Engineering barracks
where Mack was assigned, ran up the fire escape, instead of going to the front door like normal airmen, and as we were safely inside
Mack’s room, we both said at the same time, “Did you see that?” Of course, we had both seen it, but neither had an explanation of
what we saw. We discussed it for a while afterward, and I left for my barrack and the safety of my room.
Mack and I had made arrangements before we parted to go back to Hedge Avenue to see if we could find any trace of what we had seen
the night before. We both thought that it could have been an overhanging tree along the road, but trees do not have large eyes, a
scraggly face, and a smirky smile that gave us both the creeps. We drove back and forth in the area of the incident, but no trace
of the giant. We even checked for footprints. No such thing!
If you are ever driving
along Hedge Avenue in Sacramento some late night be on the lookout for a tall, green-clad man, looking somewhat like the Midas Muffler
Giant, but uglier. If anyone ever figures this one out, please do not hesitate to let me in on it.