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HomeTheGoodStuffThe Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

The Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

Susanville’s UFO sightings made national news in November of 1975.

By Shelley Bennett

As contradictory as it may sound, part of the “good stuff” in childhood, is being a little scared. Not in terms of being actually afraid of something or someone, but that feeling that kicks your imagination into overdrive. As a kid growing up in the 1970s in Susanville, my imagination was definitely active, maybe over active at times.

To start with, remember that TV show “That’s Incredible”? It actually started in the early 80s and featured incredible acts in nature and otherwise. One of the top stories was about a man who had experienced spontaneous human combustion. Yes, that’s right, a man who just erupted into flames one night with absolutely no reason or cause.

My brain nearly spontaneously combusted while trying to assimilate this information. I could do my part to prevent forest fires, learn how to stop, drop, and roll, follow all of the safety tips my volunteer firefighter dad taught us and STILL burst into flame? It was almost too much.

Which leads me to the UFO sightings of Lassen County in the 70s. I swear that I remember listening to KSUE one night when citizens called in and described their encounters with “bright lights” and “saucer-shaped objects” in the night sky. The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind had just come out and UFOs were seen all over the country. I was not a fan. I still haven’t watched it!

Was it not enough that I had to worry about the Boogey Man who my uncles Scott and Beaver described as living in their barn? Now I had to watch for little green men when I went out to do the chores.

Another scary place was the park. My brother and I were NEVER allowed to go to Memorial Park without an adult. That was my dad’s number one rule. I’m not sure what scary events actually occurred at the park, but in my mind, it was a place of razor-blade infested apples and areas of quicksand. Kind of like the Bermuda Triangle of Susanville.

The scariness of my childhood ramped up with the kidnapping of a school bus full of children in Chowchilla in 1976. After 28 anxious hours (although it seemed like weeks), the world watched as the 26 children and their bus driver were rescued from their underground prison. I’ll never forget those scared faces as they were paraded past the reporters.

A couple years later, I heard about the Jonestown Massacres. It was right before Thanksgiving. I remember the news reports of the how the members of the People’s Temple drank grape flavored drink mix to commit mass suicide and pictures of bodies piled up like discarded toys.

I think it was the fact that these atrocities occurred in places I had thought of as safe. A school bus. A church group. Yet, the twisted minds of a few people turned them into tragedies. UFOs and Boogey Men seemed silly compared to what others suffered from. It took away some of my innocence.

As I grew up, so did the scary factor. I learned about the unsolved crime of Jenny Borghi’s murder and witnessed Christie Furniture engulfed in flames. There was a man shot as he opened up the door to a stranger and a couple of kids hit by a drunk driver on Main St. A perverted old man accosted my friends as they skated down to Memorial Park. (I guess my dad was right!)

The realities of life made me wary. As I look back, I’m surprised at the turn my fears took. From adrenaline-laden jump scares to all out violence. I learned that Susanville comes together in times of tragedy. Reaches out to families, helps each other heal.

The experiences and memories made me question strangers, look under my car before I got in, and to be aware of my surroundings. It also gave a fascination with True Crime.
We like to remember the 70s and 80s in a Kodak-chromatic haze. The nostalgia blurs the harsh lines and lives are pictured in a golden glow. You can’t quite make out the details, but you get the idea. And the good stuff always outweighs the bad.

Remember when news was ‘newsy’? When you read about weddings, family events and engagement announcements in the newspaper? If you have something that might be newsworthy, please submit it to [email protected] and I’ll do my best to include it here in “The Good Stuff.”

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso Publisher/Editor
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