Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


This is the 15th in a series if articles about a trip to the interesting country of Turkey.


By Charles N. Stevens

After morning prayers echo among the buildings of the cold, dark city, we roll out of bed to prepare for the long trip ahead of us to Cappadocia in the interior of Turkey. From our window a reddish glow in the east silhouettes the tops of buildings.

We leave at 7:00 in the early light of dawn. Traffic begins to increase as bundled people stride along the street on their way to work. A disheveled man, a collector of cardboard, drives his donkey cart among the cars.

Once out of town, we head northward toward the foothills of the Taurus Mountains. We begin to ascend to the higher plain through stands of rounded pines and scattered patches of snow. Far back and below us, the city of Antalya lies nearly hidden in a blanket of smoke and haze. We roll along the plain, its flatness only broken by the sharpness of minarets, cypress trees and naked poplars. Blackbirds fly over the brush and rocks near where a group of men huddle around a bonfire of burning sticks. As the plain slopes upward toward the mountains, more snow appears on the ground, and ice crusts the puddles by the side of the road. The road finally tucks itself into the folds of the foothills where olive trees with a blanket of snow at their feet hold their own against the cold. The snow’s still frozen in the shrubs’ branches and leaves and drapes itself like flannel blankets over the chaos of a rock quarry. Overburdened log trucks, their loads stacked precariously high, labor up the highway grade and through craggy road cuts. Small birds scamper away at the side of the road, and several large crows who have found something luscious on the pavement scatter at our approach. More trucks loaded heavily with either bricks, gunny sacks of grain, sacks of cement, gasoline or unknown goods shrouded under tarpaulins ease themselves slowly down the grade.

Entering a snowy valley, we see a village in the dark shadows of the mountains. Light from windows peeks out from beneath snow-laden roofs. The delicately beautiful scene reminds me of our friend’s Christmas display, lighted toy houses nestled in a snow of cotton and spun glass. So much snow tops the roofs of this Turkish village that it nearly blends in with the white background of the mountains. Unfortunately, a murky scarf of coal smoke wraps itself around the town.

We now run into dirty gray patches of ice and snow on the road, some of it strewn with gravel to increase traction. Soon after this section we turn into a roadside stand called Ozeller. Carefully avoiding scabs of ice on the walks, we use the restroom facilities. Icicles hang down from the roof and from the winter-dead branches of a trellised tree. Inside the warm restaurant many tables, most of them empty, fill up the large floor. Flat metal pans of steaming food wait in a row along the counter for hungry people coming in off the road.

On the bus again, we’re concerned that our driver can’t regulate the throttle. Our waiting in the cold temperatures has managed to freeze the throttle linkage wire in its cable. We ease out onto the highway, our bus only able to move slowly. We pass a truck angled at the side of the road, having slid off on the ice. In some places wind has sculpted artistic ripple marks on the snow, and some of the snowfields show the dashed lines of animal footprints. A sign at the side of the road steams as its coating of ice melts in the first rays of the morning sun. As we struggle up the road, all the naked trees become coated with thick, white ice and frost so that they look like ghosts appearing out of the haze. An ice fog dims the road ahead. As the fog thickens, the trees become obliterated, but they appear again when we come upon clear spots with the fog laying around their edges like soft, white fur. Delicate frost patterns begin to spread over the windows of our bus, so we can no longer wipe the windows clean. Another truck carrying liquified petroleum has slipped off the road.

We turn off the road at Bucak, our tires popping and crunching on the ice and frozen snow, to have auto mechanics look at our problem. The floorboards come up so that the mechanics can get to the engine. I look down on the greasy and somewhat rusty engine quivering noisily in an aura of exhaust fumes and think it strange that this tarnished collection of metal and pipes is what propels all of us in complacent comfort along the highway. The mechanics decide that the throttle cable and wire must come out, and that they must try to free the wire inside or provide us with new equipment.

I get off the bus for some cold but fresh air. I walk into the garage where the mechanics and helpers who are not working huddle around a single, detached oil heater. The ineffective stove strives to ward off the freezing cold air that constantly pours in the open front of the garage. To keep warm they burn all of the old oil they drain from cars and buses.

Dolores and I walk over the grease-spotted floor close to an old bus that is being repaired then stroll closer to the front where the air is fresher, and a square of feeble sunlight can provide a little warmth. Olcay, our guide, talks to us. When we all talk to each other, the lingering steam from our breaths forms a twisting cloud between us. We are disturbed that several children work in the garage. They may work in a trade full time if they have performed poorly in school or that their parents can prove the expense of going to school is a burden on the family. They then work for very low wages, but they learn a trade that will later bring in good money to them and the family. One little boy wears greasy-black coveralls and an old, soiled shirt but has neither a hat nor gloves for protection against the constant cold. He dutifully brings the mechanic a pair of pliers when he yells at him. As teachers, Dolores and I both are horrified by this arrangement.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 49 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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