All my life I’ve heard stories about my Grandpa Ron’s escapades. Yes, he was a drinker, and that put a wall between himself and his children. But as my Grandpa, that was never a factor. He didn’t show me that side. Not once. So, I grew up remember the brighter bits of his story. He was a WWII veteran. He had “money in all the banks” in Santa Anna, California (see Episode 1 of Finding Ronald for more info on this). He helped build Disneyland.
I cherished these tales of bravery, humor, and skilled talent. Grandpa taught me how to do a dove call with just my two hands. He showed me how he grew strawberries in little mounds, rather than in rows. He built a TV (or was it just a repair?) from a Radio Shack kit. He traveled the world. It’s one thing to imagine such endeavors, to flesh them out in the mind in wonderment. It’s another thing entirely to actually get to see it happening.
Not once growing up had I considered that there might be photographic evidence of my grandfather building Disneyland. A few years ago, when I truly started making headway on the “Finding Ronald” docuseries, the most unlikely example of–call it coincidence; call it fate; call it a miracle–manifested itself into my life (into Mom’s life, actually) in the form of one Gloria Pedersen. Gloria had photographs!
You see, there were two (or three?) crane operators working for A. E. Fowler & Sons on the Dinsneyland project, my Grandpa Ron, Bonie “Bonebreak,” and a man named Ivan Myrick, who was Gloria’s father. My Mom, not too long before my stepfather Harry passed away from FTD, was on vacation in Santa Anna, CA when she just happened (???) to run into Gloria, who overheard my mother telling the story of Grandpa Ron placing the spires on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. One thing led to another, and that’s how these wonderful still photos came into my life:
Now, this was already an unexpected infusion of visual verification for my Grandpa Ron’s involvement in the project. I’ve truly cherished these images. In fact, I even used these images to create a 3D model of Grandpa Ron’s crane rig for use in the titles of “Finding Ronald.” I told myself that this was the crown jewel of photographic evidence, and that I was incredibly lucky to even have these.
And then I found the “Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic” series. When I watched Episode 9, “Building Walt’s Dream,” my jaw dropped to the floor and I almost stepped on my own tongue! Here, before my eyes, was actual footage of my grandpa Ron at work. Here was actual footage of his crane placing the spires on the top of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I wept. Sorry, but I did.
Episode 1 – “Meet Ronald,” which premieres live on YouTube on March 16th 2023, 7 PM Mountain, will look at both his life and work, as well as his disappearance. The going theory, which local authorities and media outlets immediately latched onto, was suicide. But evidence was left behind to suggest that the story may not be so black and white. I have two other, evidence-based theories, which have Grandpa Ron meeting his end at the hands of someone else. Grandpa himself warned that this might happen.
Episode 2 – “Ronald’s War,” will discuss theory number two. This theory relates to and couples together Grandpa’s WWII veteran status, his mechanical ingenuity, his world travels to known war criminal hotspots as well as to sensitive allied nations, such as Russia, and some oddities which I inherited from him after he disappeared. It also pulls in 1st hand accounts, told by my Mom, of the condition Ronald would sometimes return home in after his travels, as well as the fact that he wasn’t telling his family about all of the countries he was visiting. Only a select few made it into the “family history.” But his own handheld film reel (not sure if it’s 16mm or super 8), as well as a collection of currency from around the world, proves that he was definitely in many, many more countries than he was telling the family about.
Episode 3 – “Ronald’s Magnetic Motor,” is, for me, the most likely of the alternative theories for what happened to my grandfather. The idea here is that “Big Oil” may have killed my grandfather in order to suppress a magnetic motor that he invented, and was working to prototype. This theory has a sound historical basis when considered in the context of other independent inventors who met an unexplained, or untimely end shortly after making a technological breakthrough. People such as Rudolph Diesel, Louis Le Prince, and Stanley Meyer. Even more disturbing are contextual cases which prove that murder for “Big Oil” also has a historical precedent in stories such as that of William King Hale.
Grandpa was so worried that the oil industry might try to hurt him–or his family–that he sent semi-shredded bits of the plans for his invention to ten people around the world, who were supposed to release the invention in the event that anything happened to Grandpa. Two additional people had a list of all ten names to assist in the triggering of said release. Needless to say, they did not release anything. A childhood call to Australia, where Grandpa was having the motor prototyped, basically ended in a “we didn’t get it working” claim from an elderly Australian gentleman. But I have the letter from grandpa detailing the entire system that he dreamed up, and set in place, and warning of possible threat to him or to family members in order to kill the invention.
Episode 4 – “Finding Ronald,” will show the arduous, and somewhat dangerous process of trying to locate grandpa’s wreckage. I will attempt to interview MCSO to ascertain why grandpa’s letter was ignored during the original investigation, why they were hesitant in releasing his information to us (and still left some redacted). Finally, I will melt down spent brass shell casings, and make a poured brass plaque to memorialize Ronald’s life and final resting place. I will permanently affix the plaque to Grandpa’s car, which MCSO has deemed too difficult to remove from the site. It will be a permanent part of John Brown Canyon, at least until development creeps up there into the canyon, which will probably be long after I, too, am taking the “longest nap.”
“Stand by to stand by.” –Mad Squid