Steven Burchik graduated from Manhattan College in the 1960’s. After graduating, he joined the US Army at the height of the Vietnam War. After training in the United States, Sergeant Burchik was sent to Vietnam to spend a year in the rice paddies north of Saigon as a forward observer with the 1st Infantry Division from June 1968 to June 1969. After returning from Vietnam, Burchik graduated from Michigan State University with an MBA degree, and was a successful marketing executive and food industry entrepreneur. He is the author of two books – Compass and a Camera: A Year in Vietnam, and Focus on Vietnam. The Town of Danville had a photo exhibition from November 1 through December 16, 2018, entitled Conflict and Compassion Through the Eyes of a Veteran, which had photographs from Steven Burchik.
Following lunch, President Tim Ernst introduced our special guest speaker, Dr. Matthew Stiles Bowdish, an allergist and clinical immunologist from Rocklin, California. Dr. Bowdish graduated from Humboldt State University with a BS in cellular-molecular biology, and minors in chemistry and political science. He graduated from Northeastern Ohio University’s College of Medicine with an MD degree. He completed his training in allergy and clinical immunology from Yale University School of Medicine. He has published on the subjects of allergy, asthma, HIV immunology, immunodeficiency, and cancer gene therapy in a number of scientific journals and textbooks. He is a member of over 65 hereditary societies, including the Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the Revolution, and Society of Colonial Wars. Dr. Bowdish presented a program on the health of George Washington. Dr. Bowdish stated that as a physician, he was very interested in the medical history of his ancestors, since many diseases run in families. He researched the causes of death as part of his family history and genealogy research.
Our guest speaker, Henry Baum, is president of the Pacific Locomotive Association, and spoke about the Niles Canyon Railway. The Pacific Locomotive Association was founded in 1965 by six train aficionados, who saw the end of the steam trains. They formed and operated the Castro Point Railway at Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot in Richmond, California. They operated the Sierra Railroad at Jamestown, California. The association has eight steam locomotives, with three of them in working condition, and 13 diesel locomotives, all in working condition. They also have 29 passenger cars, 10 cabooses, and freight cars. One of the working locomotives is currently at the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento. The association repairs, restores and operates trains and railroad tracks. The association spent 20 years restoring one dining car back to its original condition. When the Oakland Army Depot closed in 1999, one of the members of the Pacific Locomotive Association obtained track parts for use on association projects.
Our guest speaker, Frank Scudero, from the Diablo Valley Stamp Club, who gave us an introduction to stamp collecting. Frank is from a military family – he was a Vietnam War veteran, his father was a merchant marine in World War II, his uncle was in World War I, and his son served in the Navy on the USS Mobile Bay and on shore duty at the White House. Frank said prior to the creation of stamps, the recipients of the mail had to pay for the delivery when they received the mail. This system was not optimal – some people refused the delivery or could not be located, and some people wrote secret marks on the envelopes so the recipient would get the message without opening the letter, and they could refuse the delivery. In 1840, Great Britain created postage stamps so the mail would be pre-paid prior to delivery. The first adhesive stamp was called a Penny Black, so named because it had a portrait of Queen Victoria on a black background, and cost one penny. It had the word “Postage” on top to differentiate it from a revenue stamp. It was used to send up to one-half-ounce letters anywhere in the British Isles. The US Congress authorized postage stamps in 1847 – issuing a 5¢ stamp with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, and a 10¢ stamp with a portrait of George Washington. The original stamps had to be cut with scissors; within ten years, the British printed stamps with perforations to aid clerks in separating the stamps. The Bath Postal Museum in Bath, England, has one of the original perforation machines.