Cement galore…

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Continuing on with our road trip, we left Las Vegas the next morning and headed out to Hoover Dam. I remember reading about it my entire life, but I’d never seen it so I thought it would be interesting to see. 

While we were there, I opted to take the tour down inside of the dam itself. We took an elevator down and our guide took us through the inside tunnels and rooms of the dam. At one point when we were down near where the turbines are the generate the electricity from the water shooting through the tunnels and pathways, the guide pointed to the massive concrete wall behind us and said, “I don’t want to alarm you, but the water pressure on the other side of that wall is 45,000 pounds per square foot.” I was ready right then to go back up the elevator to the surface. 

But, as it turns out, we couldn’t. There was a problem with the elevator and we were stranded inside the guts of the dam for about an hour. My wife had no way of finding out what the problem was, and of course, our cell phones wouldn’t work while we were encased inside the concrete monster. We heard that eventually they got the elevator working and we got in a long line of other tourists who had been trapped as we waited to get into the elevator. Finally, we made it. I think they only could take something like 16 of us at a time, so it took a while. I was very happy to finally be out of the dam and off the top of the dam (just in case it would decide to collapse). 

Would I go back again? Yeah, I guess. It is pretty impressive: 726 feet from the foundation rock to the top of the dam, 6,600,000 tons in weight. More than 5,500,000 cubic yards of material were excavated, and another 1,000,000 cubic yards of earth and rockfill placed. By feature, this included:

Excavation for the diversion tunnels, 1,500,000 cubic yards; for the foundation of the dam, power plant, and cofferdams 1,760,000 cubic yards; for the spillways and inclined tunnels, 750,000 cubic yards; for the valve houses and intake towers, 410,000 cubic yards; earth and rock fill for the cofferdams, 1,000,000 cubic yards. In addition, 410,000 linear feet of grout and drainage holes were drilled, and 422,000 cubic feet of grout were placed under pressure.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1982, actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, were killed in an accident involving a helicopter during filming on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Morrow, age 53, and the children, ages six and seven, were shooting a Vietnam War battle scene in which they were supposed to be running from a pursuing helicopter. Special-effects explosions on the set caused the pilot of the low-flying craft to lose control and crash into the three victims. The accident took place on the film’s last scheduled day of shooting.

Twilight Zone co-director John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Animal House) and four other men working on the film, including the special-effects coordinator and the helicopter pilot, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. According to a 1987 New York Times report, it was the first time a film director faced criminal charges for events that occurred while making a movie. During the subsequent trial, the defense maintained the crash was an accident that could not have been predicted while the prosecution claimed Landis and his crew had been reckless and violated laws regarding child actors, including regulations about their working conditions and hours. Following the emotional 10-month trial, a jury acquitted all five defendants in 1987. The familes of the three victims filed lawsuits against Landis, Warner Brothers and Twilight Zone co-director and producer Steven Spielberg that were settled for undisclosed amounts.

Twilight Zone: The Movie was released in the summer of 1983. The film, which received mixed reviews, was based on a popular science fiction TV series of the same name that aired from 1959 to 1964 and was created by Rod Serling. In the movie, four directors– Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller–each adapted a different episode of the TV series, which chronicled the stories of people who found themselves in highly unusual situations.

Vic Morrow had previously appeared in numerous TV shows and such films as The Blackboard Jungle (1955) and The Bad News Bears (1976). He was the father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Margot at the Wedding). He was my favorite character on the TV show, Combat, playing Sergeant Saunders.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: King Ramses II is the first mummy to receive a passport. His passport lists his occupation as “king.

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