RoadTrip America

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 They Want Their MBTV!

Baldy Village Gets a New Antenna


On the Sunday morning when most Americans are making sure they have enough chips and beer to make it through the Indy 500, Mark and I found ourselves part of an elite contingent on the slopes of Mount Baldy, the snow-capped peak that reigns over the Pomona Valley on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County.


Dave Young, Patrick Reidy, Mark Sedenquist and Mark Helmlinger get ready to tackle the mountain

I was laden with a pair of hedge clippers and two sets of long-handled limb loppers. Mark Helmlinger, who'd invited us to join the expedition, was carrying a 15-foot long box on one shoulder. Patrick Reidy had a ladder of similar length and a knapsack full of food. Dave was weighted down with a large backpack full of screwdrivers, wrenches, a hammer, an entrenching tool, a signal-testing box, a television and a chainsaw. Mark wore a machete on his belt and carried a big blue tarp and a pruning saw in a canvas knapsack. We all wore leather gloves.

Dave widens the path with a chain saw

Our rocket scientist reads the directions for assembling the new antenna

Patrick demonstrates the elevation displacement device

Patrick said we looked like the kind of people who get wiped out first in disaster movies, the extras who buy the farm so the audience will know just what kind of danger the stars are flirting with. But we weren't saving anyone from giant lizards, radiation, asteroids, mutating bacteria, earthquakes, tornadoes, fire, famine or flood. Ours was a loftier mission. If we were successful, we'd bring fifty houses in Baldy Village local network television. Our task was to install a new community antenna on a knoll that has a view of Mount Wilson, the peak that's home to Los Angeles' television transmitting towers.

The trail was narrow and overgrown, so Dave went first with the chainsaw. Following his lead, we hacked our way across two ridges and finally arrived at the existing antenna, the direct descendant of the first antenna, which was erected in 1980. Mark H. and Patrick took turns with the entrenching tool to uncover a steel cylinder which holds a tuner that converts Channel 28 into Channel 6.

The rest of us spread out the blue tarp and prepared to assemble the new antenna. Mark Helmlinger, a physicist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, made sense of the directions while Dave, who is the head of the Mount Baldy Ski School and chief electrician of the Mt Baldy Mutual TV Association, extended the ladder and leaned it against the antenna pole.

After removing the old antenna and stowing in a nearby shrub, we were ready to raise the new one. Soon, with all ten hands, a pruning hook and two Elevation Displacement Devices (forked sticks) employed simultaneously, we held the antenna in place long enough for Dave to screw it onto the mast. When he climbed down, we all felt as satisfied as if we had trapped Godzilla in the Brooklyn Bridge. We felt even better after Mark and Dave tested the signal and reported that the residents of Baldy Village had never had a clearer picture. We hoped it was good enough to make them forget that we'd interrupted the Indy 500.


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