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By Jim Colombo


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Chapter One



Mika woke up and heard someone pounding on the front door downstairs.  He


was too tired to open his eyes, and heard the wind blow across the wooden rooftop like


a screaming ghost, then the front door slammed shut.  Startled, Mika sat up in bed, cold


and shivering, and heard a loud voice demanded hot coffee and Henka's two sons.


"Who is the loud voice and what time is it?” Mika mumbled.  He squinted from the ray of


light coming from the open bedroom door, and focused. His older brother’s bed was


empty.  Mika got up and wrapped himself in the heavy blanket that lay on his bed.  He


felt the cold wooden floor through his wool socks.  The loud voice continued to make


demands.  Mika crawled from the bedroom to the stairway in the hall, and peeked


though the banister supports on the second floor.  He saw his mother Henka and his


older brother Yanko talking to the leader of the resistance. The man wore thick, heavy


clothes to protect him from the cold winter.  His rifle leaned against the doorway wall. 


Bong.  Bong. The grandfather clock began to chime five times.  Yanko was dressed in


heavy clothes and carried a bundle. Where was Yanko going?  Mika was fascinated by


the power the leader had over the other men.  “Where’s Mika?  Where’s the boy?”


yelled the leader. 


            “He’s only eight.  I’m giving you one son.  Let me have the boy,” pleaded Henka.


            “I need someone small to crawl under fences.  Mika, come down, now!”


“No.  He’s all I have.  No.  Mika go back to bed.”


            Mika crept halfway down the stairs to see what he looked like.  The leader caught


a glance from Henka’s eyes looking up and turned and spotted Mika.  “Come here, boy. 


Let me see you.”


            “Please don’t take my boy.”  Henka fell on her knees and began to cry.


            The leader smiled, extended his hand, and persuaded Mika to come downstairs. 


He approached Mika at the steps but Henka intercepted her son, covering him with a


loving hug.  Mika looked up at his mother an said, “Don’t cry, Mama I’ll be okay with


Yanko.  We’ll be back tomorrow.”  Mika smiled and kissed his mother.


            The leader gave Mika a fatherly smile and rubbed his shaggy brown hair.


            “Wait.  Go upstairs and get your winter clothes.”  Henka returned from the kitchen


with a bundle like Yanko’s and gave it to Mika.  She buttoned up Mika’s heavy coat and


gave him her wool gloves.  The boy was going with his older brother on an adventure


with men who looked much older than their years after seeing the horror of war. Their


faces were carved with deep character lines like the jagged mountains that surrounded


their farming valley.  Their eyes looked tired and void of emotion.  Henka watched her


two sons walk out of her life.  She wiped her tears and prayed that if they died that it be


without suffering.  Mika turned and waved good-bye.  His smile dissolved when he saw


his mother overwhelmed with sorrow.  Henka held her mouth, trying to silence her grief,


and waved a tearful farewell.


“This is war.  You’re no longer a boy.  You do what I say.  My name is Janos but


you will call me sir or lieutenant like the others.  


            “Stay close to me,” said Yanko.  Mika was filled with curiosity.  He had heard


about war.  His father had died two years ago in the war.  Men fight in war.  Mika


thought that he was a man now.  Men die in war.  He wondered what it was like to die, 


and what was it was like to kill someone.  They walked all morning along a narrow path


up the snow-covered mountains that touched the sky.  The cold wind ran down the


mountainside biting every exposed area on Mika’s body.  The path veered left and right


as they climbed up to the first summit. This would be his first time seeing what was on


the other side of the mountains. 


They reached the second summit, and twenty men and a boy rested and ate


lunch.  Mika ate bread and cheese with Yanko.  “We’ll be on the other side by dinner


time,” said Yanko.


“What does it look like?” asked Mika.


“I don’t know.  Papa said that a big river runs through the valley.”


Mika’s legs were sore from hiking and his shoulders were sore from carrying the


backpack of dynamite.  He had never climbed a mountain before, and he was more


tired than hungry, so he lay on the ground and watched fluffy cotton ball clouds slide


behind the mountaintop.  His eyes became heavy, and he sunk into a comfortable rest. 


Suddenly the ground shook and he woke up to see a wave traveled across the


mountain raising the ground, tossing trees, rocks, and people off the mountain.  Mika


was rolling, falling, then grasping for anything at the edge of the cliff. He saw his brother


and others falling into the valley. Their screams echoed in his mind, then silence.  He


lay on a ledge, holding a bush, numb, confused, and cold. He closed his eyes and his


mind drifted away. He saw Yanko again with his eyes wide open filled with fear and


heard his high pitch scream for help faded as he fell like a shot bird to the valley.  Mika


watched, then silence as Yanko bounced and tumbled.  Mika woke up in shock, his


heart was beating fast, and he was cold.  He looked down at his brother’s limp tangled


body. He was hanging on a bush at the edge of the cliff and pulled himself across to a 


secure position on the ledge. He felt weak, and his leg felt hot with pain. He lay on his


back and saw heavy gray clouds hang in the overcast sky. The nightmare had ended.


The screaming had stopped. It was quiet and calm.  Mika fell asleep and escaped the


moment.  Maybe he died.  He lay in a dark world without time or feeling.  It was peaceful


like floating in water, but there was no water.  There was nothing, just tranquility.     


            The image of the sun was wrapped in a vail of gray clouds that hid halfway


behind the mountain when the old man came to help.   Mika was cold, in pain, and


hungry.  The old man stood at the edge of the cliff and lowered a rope.  Mika tied the


rope around his waist.  The old man tied the other end of the rope to the cart and


prompted the horse to backup.  Mika was pulled up and lay by the edge of the cliff.  He


rolled away from the cliff towards the old man and the horse.  The old man untied Mika


and offered help to stand up.  Mika tried but fell down.  He yelled in pain and it echoed


across the valley. His right leg was broken.  The old man helped Mika hobble to the


cart. The horse turned and looked at the boy, then faced forward. Mika lay in the back of


the cart with farming tools.  They began the slow descent down the narrow path to the


valley.  Each jolt shot an electric shock of pain through Mika’s leg.  He was still a boy


crying from the pain.


            Two days passed and Mika was resting in a convent with nuns who wore white


robes with beaded belts that had a crucifix hanging to the right side. They spoke Italian.


The young attractive nun was from a small town in Yugoslavia by the Italian border. and


spoke a dialect of Yugoslavian similar to Mika   His brother, the leader, and seventeen


others had died in the earthquake.  Mika and one other had survived.  A week later the


young nun with the kind smile read a letter to Mika that changed his life.  His mother


had died in the earthquake, and he would remain at the convent until he was eighteen. 


He was an orphan, a victim of a cruel time. 


            The war ended in June 1945 when Mika was ten.  The nuns had raised and


educated him and Mika spoke fluent Italian.  It was August 1953. The old nun had died


and the young attractive nun was thirty-two.  She explained to Mika in their dialect that


he would leave the convent to attend the University of Milan.  She gave Mika an Italian


passport.  He opened it and saw his picture with another name.  “You are no longer


Mika Tarvic.  You are Milan Tarvo. A friend of your father will pay for your first year of


college.  You have to get good grades to continue going to college.  He will send money


each month to the president of the university for tuition and your allowance.”


“Why change my name?” asked Mika 


“Mika Tarvic died ten years ago in the earthquake. Your name was changed to


protect you from the Germans during the war.  Here is a letter of introduction, a train


ticket to Milan, and six hundred lire.   God bless you.”


“Why did I need to be protected?


“When you graduate from college I’ll tell you why.  I’ll write to the president of the


university and he will let me know how you are doing and we’ll keep in touch.  Your


mother’s cousin was my mother.  We’re second cousins.”


“Why the secrets?  Why couldn’t you tell me ten years ago that we are related?”


            “There are many secrets in war. You were too young to understand.  When you


finish college, come back to the convent and I will tell you all of the secrets.  You have


to trust me.  We’ll correspond.  It’s time to go.  Leave quickly, please.”


            Mika saw her tears before she turned and walked away.           


The gardener who worked at the convent took Mika to the Trieste train station in


an old truck that smelled like fertilizer.  On the way Milan wondered where the nun got


the passport.  Who was the stranger?  He had never planned to go to college.  When he


finished college he would go back to the convent and ask the young nun for answers to


his questions.  He would visit his town in Yugoslavia.  He was still Mika Tarvic.   


            Milan studied business and learned to speak English.  During the summers he


earned money as a tour guide and practiced his English.  America and American


women escalated his desire for the good life.  Milan was a good soccer player, but not


fast enough for the pros. In his senior year his letter sent to the nun was returned.  The


president of the university told him the convent was closed, because the nuns had


helped Hungarian Freedom Fighters escape the Communists.  Yugoslavia was closed


to western Europeans because of the cold war.  The answer to his past was held




Milan graduated in 1957 and worked at Fiat for three years as an accountant.  In


1960 Milan left Fiat and went to New York City with Paolo Verducci, a friend who had


attended the university with him.  Paolo had an uncle in Brooklyn who owned a fruit and


vegetable market.  This was not the glamorous America they had envisioned.  Three


months later Milan and Paolo left Brooklyn for Los Angeles to make their fortune.  They


would stay with Paolo’s uncle Guido, who owned an Italian restaurant in Burbank. 


Hollywood was close by, filled with rich American women. 


Milan and Paolo began washing dishes and making pizzas.  The passing


clientele watched in amazement as Paolo tossed pizza dough high into the air and


caught it. Paolo wanted to open an Italian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles near the


big hotels in Hollywood.  Milan enjoyed entertaining the ladies as a waiter. Why work


so hard when all he had to do was smile?  He quickly learned that plain ladies give


bigger tips than beautiful ladies.  He liked the challenge of finding that spot that each


lady had.  Some were easier than others but all had a spot, and once found it was a


matter of time and charm.  He referred to it as rubbing a cat’s belly when ladies


succumbed to his spell.  Milan always got what he wanted. 


            A year later Milan married a plain lady with money who was ten years older than


him.  Her husband had died of a heart attack trying to manage three liquor stores. 


Milan’s new money joined Paolo’s cooking talents, and they opened an exclusive Italian


restaurant on Wiltshire Boulevard.  Their clientele were young ladies with little talent


offering their youth to be discovered, young men with no money with tan physiques


waiting to lure foolish women twice their age, and those who enjoyed good Italian


cuisine.  The restaurant prospered with Hollywood want-to-bes and could-have-beens. 


Ten months later Milan’s wife finally accepted the reality that he wasn’t faithful. They


divorced and Milan was free from the chore of faking sex to a sow who never had


experienced an orgasm.  He was twenty-seven, single, and had a cashiers check for


sixty thousand dollars.  Milan and Paolo remained partners in the restaurant.  During the


divorce Paulo seduced Milan’s ex-wife to forgive the balance due on his loan.  She


agreed, and thought that she had gained a restaurant. A week later Paolo offered her a


glass of wine, and explained that the relationship was finito.  She could come by and


dine but she no longer owned a piece of the restaurant or him.  She looked surprised


and explained that she had bought two tickets to Las Vegas to celebrate their new


relationship.  Paolo offered her a second glass of wine.  While sipping her third glass


she noticed a young hunk of manhood with blond hair that covered his eyes, maybe a


surfer.  They spoke briefly and left.  A week later Paolo learned from the surfer’s friend


that she and the surfer had flown to Las Vegas and were married.  Let the fantasy




Milan moved to Santa Clara and discovered the electronics industry.  NASA


wanted to send men to the moon and government contracts were a lucrative business. 


He charmed civil servants as well as the ladies.  It was just a matter of finding that spot. 


He worked for two years at Honeywell, flying from the San Francisco office to the Los


Angeles office.  He became the ultimate salesman.  NASA got what they wanted and 


Honeywell got the contracts.  Milan was promoted, given stock, and literally wrapped in


gold chains.  He invested his money in airline stocks.  His favorite was Eastern Airlines. 


When it tripled he sold and invested in Pacific Southwest Airlines.  It had the busy San


Francisco to Los Angeles route.  It also had the most beautiful stewardesses, petite


women with girl’s bodies, the perfect fantasy.  Milan could see the future: printed circuit


boards.  All electronic devices had circuits.  Some were harnesses or cables, and some


were a new technology using plastic with copper foil etched on one side, creating


circuits called traces.  The components were soldered on the other side.  It was called


solid state.  Resistors, diodes, capacitors, and a new device called a transistor were


state of the art.  Electronic components were creating the future, and were assembled


on printed circuit boards. 


Milan had moved to Saratoga and lived in a six-bedroom, four-bathroom


mansion in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He enjoyed entertaining guests, having parties,


and flirting with the young ladies who attended.  He liked making business contacts and 


he had met two men from Sylvania who shared his interest in printed circuit boards. 


Sylvania made communications devices for NASA and had a plating and fabrication


shop to make prototype runs of printed circuit boards.  Sylvania was experimenting with


fiberglass to replace plastic as the base material.  They were talking to Milan about


plated through-holes, which doubled the efficiency of connectivity with more


components.  Double-side printed circuit boards fascinated Milan. Plated through holes


and the transistor were the catalyst that created solid-state technology and the race to


the moon that would make a few men with vision very wealthy.  Milan wanted to start a


proto shop and make double-side printed circuit boards.  It was a race to wealth


somewhere between here and the moon


Milan had met Joe Steckle at Sylvania, who managed the plating shop and


the fabrication area.  Joe explained that it took four technologies to make boards:


photography, plating, machining, and silk screening. The boards were on panels and


drilled with different hole sizes for various components prior to imaging.  The positive


circuit image was transferred to film creating a negative image.  The negative film


created a positive image that was transferred to polyester mesh screens.  The boards 


were imaged on panels when silk-screened and created a negative image on the


copper clad plastic board.  Then the image was baked to harden it.  All areas not


covered with black ink were plated with copper, then tin-lead. The ink is called resist,


and was washed away exposing the original copper surface.   The panels were sent


through a conveyer that sprayed ammonia nitrate etch that removed the residual copper


exposing the brown plastic below the copper clad.  The dull tin-lead plated circuits on


panels were dipped into hot oil fusing the tin-lead to become solder at 400 F. The


contact edges were call tips or fingers, and were plated with 24 karat gold.  The


electrical current entered the board through the gold tips, traveled through circuitry, and


exited the board through the gold tips   After plating, while in panel form, the single


sided boards were cut to size per blueprint dimensions. 


            Technology was expanding, creating the printed circuit industry, the socket and


connector industry, and the electronic component industry.  Companies like Fairchild


Camera, Stewart Warner, Dickson, and Allen Bradley began the race to the moon with


technology and rich NASA contracts.  Others followed quickly, like Lockheed, General


Dynamics, Hughes, Rockwell, Hewlett-Packard, Litton, Varian, Sylvania, Motorola, and


IBM.  Small giants began to walk, like Intel, National, AMD, Texas Instrument, and the


printed circuit industry.  The late fifties and early sixties were a dynamic time of


opportunity with several industries beginning, such as electronics, fast food, and


experiments with silicon by Stanford engineers in Palo Alto and Santa Clara.  Words


 like binary code, buffer memory, and I/O hand shake for computers, base, emitter, and


collector for transistors, and electrolysis deposition for double sided printed circuits


boards were part of the new language in the valley that once was the prune capital of


California.  Milan was in the right place at the right time surrounded by the right people.



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Needs major revision

Excellent writing!



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Great work, Jim. I'm looking forward to future chapters.