50 years ago — SACRAMENTO — The Val-Air Co. Inc., of Brawley, is one of two agricultural pest control firms that were suspended Tuesday by the State Agricultural Department for violating state pesticide safety regulations.

The second company is Warner Crop Dusters Inc., of Santa Maria.

The two companies’ licenses were suspended for 90 days with 70 days stayed on condition of three years probation.

The department also revoked the license of crop-dusting pilot M. R. Dickson of Brawley, employed by the Val-Air Co. His license was revoked, the department said, because he sprayed an alfalfa field with a highly toxic pesticide “in a negligent manner that resulted in physical injury to two persons.”

“There can be no excuse for careless or improper application of pesticides,” State Agriculture Director Jerry Fielder said. “The rules and regulations are clear and must be followed to the letter. ‘Safety First’ must be everybody’s motto in applying these chemicals.”

Ken Johnson, owner of Val-Air said today he would appeal the suspension, but he did not wish to comment further on the action.

Johnson said the pilot cited in the case was not a permanent employee of Val-Air but was just “helping out.”


40 years ago — The De Anza Search and Rescue Unit was instrumental in assisting in the rescue of two men who had been stranded in one of the more remote parts of the desert south of the border.

“We received a distress call at 1:30 p.m. Sunday,” said Fred D’Albini, president of the organization. “The call came from a Mrs. Laura Morey in Mexicali, who said two Americans were lost. They had been driving a Volkswagen Baja Bug and were stranded somewhere between a place called Tres Posos and El Chinero.”

D’Albini and pilot “Hack” Nickols flew their plane to the area and located the vehicle, but the two men, identified as Graff Moore and Mike Sprong, residence unavailable, had disappeared.

“It turned out that they had made their way to Tres Posos,” D’Albini said. “But that’s not much of a place — just one man is living there at the wells. He gave them food and water.”

He said it is a wonder that the two made it to Tres Posos, because of the 13 people lost in that desert since the rescue team came into existence, seven died. The others were rescued by the unit.

The two men had been lost since Saturday, D’Albini and Nickols on Sunday managed to locate the friends of the two men who were camped on the San Felipe Highway, and notified them that the two were at Tres Posos.

The friends took care of bringing the two home safely.


30 years ago — IMPERIAL — The skies were a little cloudy, but not one discouraging word was heard Saturday as local and corporate dignitaries officially opened the Convair facility and voiced firm commitments to one another.

Touted as a potential catalyst for industrial growth in Imperial County, the 65,000-square-foot plant was built only after protracted negotiations between the Board of Supervisors and company officials in 1989 produced a last-minute agreement in which both sides agreed to share its cost. There was little mention of the battle and plenty of back-patting and award-giving as speakers addressed a gathering of several hundred in the plant’s decorated parking lot.

Officials said Convair will not only provide economic opportunity for the 100 county residents who will eventually work there but also create a ripple effect on the area’s economy. Standing in front of a partially assembled Tomahawk cruise missile during the plant tour, El Centro resident Victor Avila echoed those comments.

“If I didn’t get hired I was thinking of going upstate. It’s hard to find a good-paying job with benefits. It was hard to get in, but I think it was a good opportunity,” said Avila, who was working in an auto parts store when Convair hired him.


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