The Akira Kurosawa Movie Mystery



All In The Name Of Love

TG Rouse

Nursing is a profession that seldom gathers fame or fortune, but its practitioners touch lives and define altruism in a way that cannot be measured.

Zelma McMullen, R.N., personifies the tradition of Florence Nightingale and Mother Theresa - endless compassion and selflessness. She has worked with profoundly disabled children at Carey Junior High School for four years.

"None of the students in my classroom, except for one with muscular dystrophy, speak," Zelma said. "All of them have feeding tubes. They're all in wheelchairs." The students in her class have seizure disorders, some have cerebral palsy, birth trauma or suffer from unknown causes.

"Another student I had, at 11 years old, was a straight A student," she said. “A friend of his came over to show him how to load a gun and it went off in his left temple. He's my boy - all these kids are. I get so attached to them."

A native of Bidgeport, Neb., Zelma is a graduate of the University of Wyoming. She, her husband Darrel and four children have lived in Cheyenne since 1977. Zelma previously worked for 12 years at the Cheyenne Children’s Clinic.

"These kids are gifted and talented in their own way - the humor they have, the love they give," said Zelma. "They may not be in the Trailblazers Program, but I think they've gone through a lot more, just to live. They're caught in the shell of their body.

"It's not just a job with me; I really do love these kids. They're so disabled, they can't tell you if they hurt, where they hurt, or anything. It's like having an infant that's crying and you have no idea why." Zelma's hands are expressive. Her body quivers and her voice breaks when she talks about the traumas "her kids" have suffered.

In her office is a necklace and a porcelain turtle dove, remembrances of one of those kids, Micah. Micah's mother made the necklace and gave it to Zelma after his death. There were two turtle doves, the other was buried with Micah. Zelma remembered the time she went into surgery with Micah in Cheyenne. His body couldn't tolerate anesthetics.

"The anesthesiologist asked: 'What can we do?' Micah loves it when people burp or belch or hiccup," Zelma said. "The anesthesiologist sat at Micah's head and was belching and Micah would laugh and the surgeon would cut. And he needed no anesthetic because of that."

Not quite a year later, Zelma was with Micah on a Flight To Life emergency plane to Childrens' Hospital in Denver. His feeding tube had slipped out of position and food had gone into his peritoneal cavity rather than his stomach. It was 1 a.m. and a very tough, bumpy flight along the Front Range. Zelma tried to comfort Micah who was in great distress, groaning with obvious pain. "We rode in the ambulance, with the sirens and lights, through Denver. I didn't expect him to die." But Micah died a few days later.

"I have a kid with Duchennes muscular dystrophy and we have such a relationship, it's going to kill me when he dies 'cause we're just so close," said Zelma. "He's the one that can talk, he's very mentally competent and alert. We talk about things that he doesn't discuss with other people. We've started planning his funeral, which is really tough to try and talk about with a 17 year old. We talk about heaven and what heaven's like and try and dismiss some of his fears. We cry together. When he goes to heaven, the first thing he's going to do is ride a big black horse. He's going to go fishing with Micah, the boy who died."

Zelma takes students to Denver for medical attention and once she took a student for wheel chair fittings. "I don't get paid for things like that, but that's OK, it's not the money," she said. "They don't have enough money to pay me to care."

Zelma works to support the parents as well. "The parents out there are so lonely and don't have a lot of support," she said. "I think that when you have a disabled child, so many people shy away or don't know how to help, kind of like a death or something. You know how people don't know what to say, so they stay away? It happens a lot with these parents. It means so much to them when somebody will go up and hug their child, love their child, and truly care for them.

"When a parent dies, you lose the past. When a parent loses their child, they lose the future. That's really hard."

Zelma credits the whole team at Carey, the principals and aides as well as Barb Corriveau, the classroom teacher, for the job they do in supporting the students. She also credits her supportive family and strong faith that keep her going.

Most of the children in Zelma's class don't have a life-span past their teenage years. Many wouldn't live as long as they do if it weren't for technology. Last year, three children in her class died. "But we still can't save their lives," Zelma said. "That's the hardest part of this job. I hate losing the kids. I don't do well with death. I don't think I ever will. That's really tough."


Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, 1995


Holding Her Own in a Man's World

TG Rouse

During World War II, the Marines were looking for a few good women and they found at least one - Peggy Snyder Gannon. Sgt. Luvenna "Peggy" Snyder - all 5 feet, 90 pounds of her - supervised a division of aircraft mechanics during the war for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Peggy, a resident of Laramie since 1959 and now retired, was born and raised in Pennsylvania. She worked in a munitions factory at the beginning of World War II, before enlisting with her mother's consent at age 20. Peggy said she chose the Marines because she didn't want the Army and didn't like water.

"They treated us just like men and they kept saying to us: "You have come in here to be men, you will be men!" she said. "And so we were men. But I never asked for any favors, 'cause I thought, 'I'll be better than they want me to be - nobody ever puts me down.'"

Peggy said she didn't mind that it was tough because she became stronger. "I came from a small town where women were more or less in the background," she said. "You were just to get married and have children and that's all. But I said: 'That's not my life.'"

Basic training at Camp LeJeune meant doing everything the men did, said Peggy. "Boy we had to march. Some of the girls had fever, they were fainting and falling. You had to keep on marching. If your friend next to you went down, you didn't stop. And the girls in the back just stepped over her."

After basic training, Peggy was sent to Cherry Point Naval Air Station, only 40 miles away. Because the barracks were barely constructed, the group had to wash their dungarees in helmets. "I think they were doing that just to see how strong we were," she said.

Peggy said that with 2,000 women stationed on the base with 10,000 men, there were plenty of dance partners. "But we didn't have any of these problems that the girls claim they have nowadays," she said. "The only problem we ever had was with the men who were drafted. They were angry because they knew that when they brought us in, they were going overseas. They'd yell names but we just didn't pay any attention."

We had to learn to take down and put together all of the parts of the engine," said Peggy. "When a plane crashed, we had to go out. We took body bags. We picked up parts of bodies and plane parts. We were Marines."

Peggy said she has made at least 100 parachute jumps, partly her Marine training. She remembered her first jump. "I came up to the door and I looked up and said 'You know, I don't see the reason for leaving a perfectly good plane.' Out you went," she said, making a pushing motion with her arm. "That was to impress you with doing a good job. I loved that," she said about parachuting. "The kids won't let me do it anymore." She has three children and four grandchildren.


One day a Navy pilot flew his plane into Cherry Point to have a faulty valve repaired. "He pulled his plane in and they called me out," said Peggy. "He said 'Unh, unh, no woman touches my plane.'" While the pilot was at the bachelor officers' quarters, Peggy worked on the plane. Because she was small enough to crawl inside the fuselage and knew what the problem was, Peggy quickly fixed it. She didn't see the pilot again.

Years later, after Peggy was discharged from the military and was attending a New York business college, she was offered a blind date with a Lt. John Gannon. She was reluctant and the first date left her with a strange, deja vu feeling. It wasn't until the second date, when both wore their uniforms, that the realization struck home.

"I came down the steps, he looks at me and says, 'I do know you from somewhere...where?' He was shocked when I told him it was at Cherry Point. You told me you didn't want me to touch your damn plane, but I fixed it anyway!

"So he stood there, and I can still to this day hear him, he said, 'Oh my God. You what?' and I said, 'I fixed your damn plane.' So then we started dating and then we got married."

During the war, John flew from the carriers Hornet and Enterprise in the Pacific, Peggy said, He once dropped a bomb down the stack of a Japanese destroyer, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Only days after the war was over, he was shot down over the ocean by Japanese renegades on an island. He was rescued by a PT boat.

After the war, the Gannons lived in Indiana where Peggy learned to fly, then moved to Laramie, where John studied civil engineering at the university. John was a crop duster in Wyoming for 12 years, often flying his plane just 10 feet off the ground. He had more than 35,000 hours in the air. He was killed in a highway accident in 1972.

Peggy has logged more than 5,000 hours in the air, mostly in Pipers and Cessnas. She was commander of the Civil Air Patrol in Laramie for four years, training cadets and flying search and rescue missions.

"I loved to fly," said Peggy. "If only I had wings..."

Nobody ever put Peggy down. You bet.


Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, 1995


It's Been A Wonderful Life

TG Rouse

Move over Jimmy Stewart, you have company.

"It's been a great life," Fred Albert likes to say. Fred once owned and operated Albert's Telesonic at 17th Street and Central Avenue, but in recent years, he has found plenty to keep himself busy.

As a youngster, Fred's father delivered bread to Buffalo Bill Cody who was living in New York City. Buffalo Bill pumped the elder Albert full of stories about the West, so sometime around 1905, he came to see Cheyenne Frontier Days. Five years later he went to Texas, worked on ranches, built windmills, cooked on roundups and came back to Wyoming with one of the last trail herds about 1915. Not long after, he homesteaded near Lusk.

"Lusk was great to grow up in. It was a loving community, mighty nice bunch of people," says Fred.

His first job was as a barbershop shoeshine boy for 10 cents a shine plus tips. Later he was a janitor at the movie theater and then the projectionist, screening first-run Shirley Temple and Hopalong Cassidy films.

A yellow house in Lusk was well-known as a "house of ill repute." As a child, Fred was warned not to go near this house, so any time he walked down that street, he walked along the opposite side. When he was older, he screened special movie matinees for the ladies of the yellow house because they didn't want to mix with evening audiences, many of who were their clients.

Fred entered the University of Wyoming in 1939, planning to be a dentist, but the war interrupted. Fred enlisted, was sent to radar school in Florida and was stationed for a while in Fort Monmouth, N.J., where he worked with radar units designed for British bombers. After the war Fred returned to UW, got degrees in botany and electronics and then worked with ultrasonics.

"Here I am, going to college full-time under the G.I. Bill, then I decide to buy a neighborhood grocery store. The reason I bought it was, a friend of mine got me a blind date with this girl. She worked in this grocery store. I said, 'I haven't got time for girls,' cause I was also installing sound equipment in the Wyo Theater. So anyway, George Forbes at the First National Bank and I bought it and let her run the store. When I sold the grocery store I figured it was cheaper to marry her than to pay the back wages I owed her." That was how he married Eleanor.


After graduation from UW in 1949, Fred taught electronics for a time at F.E. Warren AFB before taking a job with the Army and Air Force Motion Picture Service, installing movie theater equipment around the country. Fred was based in St. Louis, but traveling was hard on married life, so when he heard that RCA had an opening in Cheyenne, he applied for and got the job. He worked throughout the mountain region servicing RCA equipment on Atlas missiles, theater equipment, electron microscopes at Rocky Flats and installing metal detectors at a mine in Deadwood, S.D.

Fred bought some property for $500 at the Cheyenne city limits, which at the time was along Hot Springs Avenue, and built a house near what is now the Gibson Pharmacy. He recalls leaving messages on the site to the contractor: "Change this - FHA." The contractor said: "You know I never saw a house being built by the FHA that was like this one." Fred never told the contractor that FHA stood for Fred H. Albert.

Fred was repairing televisions and tape recorders in his basement when he figured there had to be a better opportunity, so in 1958 he obtained a franchise from Muzak and started a background music business in the basement of the Plains Hotel. "In those days we had Christmas music on each of the eight hour tapes. Every 15 minutes, the last piece of music on there was a Christmas song. You had switches that muted that particular segment out. The catch was, the machine had screwed up and I was playing Silent Night during Frontier Days.

Now the Muzak franchise covers Greeley, Fort Collins and parts of seven states. Fred's company handles billing and repairs from his current location in the former Wyoming Tribune-Eagle building on 17th Street.

"When I quit RCA in '64, I came back to Cheyenne and bought out a two-way radio business and part of the deal was that I had to do the sound for Cheyenne Frontier Days." Fred remembers running fans to blow air over the sound equipment to keep the tubes from burning up. This summer will be his 32nd consecutive year as sound engineer for CFD.

Fred's most recent project is creating the world's only Muzak museum with a collection of records, tapes and hardware. "I just hung onto all the old equipment," he says.


When he bought a building on 19th Street from Francis Warren (grandson to the senator), Fred found old Warren family records in the vault. Warren gave the papers to Fred with the stipulation the records of the Warren Livestock Company go to the university. But Fred kept the private papers and an extensive post card collection belonging to F.E. Warren.

Fred continued the TV repair business as Albert's Telesonic, later adding appliance and furniture sales. He sold the repair shop in 1991 but kept the furniture business, working with his daughter Debbie, until he sold it to Mossholder's two years ago.

"I've had a great life except for one thing," Fred reminisces. "My daughter got killed a year ago last October in Las Vegas. She got hit by a car. That's the worst thing that happened to me in my life. She encouraged me to buy the old newspaper building. I come down and work on the building about every night. I don't know, it just feels like Deb is here with me. I'd give everything I own now to bring her back. I could always start over again."

Despite the pain of this tragedy, Fred remains irrepressible about life. "I enjoyed everything I did. Life is what you make it." Fred is still making it. By his reckoning, he has another decade or two to work on it.

"Here's my theory on life. My grandmother lived to be 94. My mother lived to be 93. And all three of us were born on the 4th of March. So I figure I'm still good till 92, at least, so I got a lot to do."


Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, 1995