The Mt. Fuji Experience

MNSN Don Knowles was on Azuma in 1958. Somewhat of a loner, he spent his liberty and leaves exploring Japan and taking in the cultural treasures. During one weekend, Don took the train to the foot of Mt. Fuji and joined a group of climbers to ascend Mt. Fuji. Even in the '50s, Fuji had become a commercial attraction. At each station of the climb, there were souvenirs and snack shops. The serious climber would purchase a climbing stick at the base camp and at each station, the stop number was burnt into the stick. At the summit stop, the peak station was branded on the top of the stick. Don returned to base with a beautiful trophy and was extremely proud of it. He brought it out to Azuma that Monday. At the time, I was in charge of the tool room and the paint locker. He asked me if I had any varnish that he could use to cover his trophy. I told him to leave it to me and I would do the best I could to preserve it. Sensing an opportunity for fun I took a broom and cut off the bottom portion. Mixing red and blue paint, I mixed a beautiful shade of purple which I applied to the broom stick. In order to present Don with a challenge, I managed to haul the pseudo-Fuji stick to the very top of Mine Assemble. Bear in mind that the building was tall, the overhead being 35+ feet off the ground. When the stick was properly positioned at the very top, the lifting string was cut and the purple staff swung from the rafters. Don came in on Tuesday morning, immediately seeking his the pride of his epic effort, fully expecting to see a varnished prize. Instead, a helpful buddy pointed skyward toward the purple stick hanging high above the floor. Sudden impulse took over and Knowles began climbing the rafters, higher and higher, toward his defaced trophy. After recognizing that he had been had, he sought me out, seeking to repay me for my mischief.

--Derick S. Hartshorn




Derick S. Hartshorn - 2009-present
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