Media Life: Yard sale mystery find leads Texan on Placer County search

Friday the 13th Jason at Thunder Valley; Neverland at Nevada County Fair
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Where have you gone, Dr. Donald Betterley? Kim Otwell of Ingelside, Texas would like to know. And by a quirky twist of fate, her search has turned to Placer County, where her mystery man may have had a presence at one time. Otwell’s search started after her sister discovered an aged envelope tucked into the pages of “Friar Tuck,” a well-thumbed hardback published in 1912 that she picked up at a yard sale. The envelope, addressed to Dr. Donald J. Betterley, contained a photo of a man in what looks like a U.S. Army Air Corps uniform. He’s smiling in the shade of a tree between whitewashed barracks. The man’s hands are clasped behind him and a shy but confident look crosses his face as he averts his eyes from the camera lens and photographer. The man is Betterley, according to the handwriting on the back. The photo is dated 1942 and the location is Camp Robinson. The camp is in North Little Rock, Ark. and was used during World War II for basic training and housing German prisoners of war. The writing on the back of the photo goes on to say that Betterley soon after shipped out to Gulf Port Field in Biloxi, Miss, a World War II Army air field. Also in the envelope was a U.S. Army projection operator’s permit, dated 1946, made out to Betterley. It allows him to screen Signal Corps training film library material. The letter itself was postmarked May 1956 and addressed to Betterley at Sandia Base. The Albuquerque, N.M. Army base was the top-secret location for atomic weapons tests. The letter was from the College of Design Metaphysics, Indianapolis, Ind. Otwell contacted Media Life because her Google search turned up a listing connecting Betterley to Placer County records in Newcastle. With little else to go on, she’s hoping to get some leads and reunite the package with its original owner or surviving family members. DOUBLETAKES AT THE CASINO The United Auburn Indian Community’s Thunder Valley Casino has a familiar set of eyes walking its corridors these days. The face likely won’t ring a bell for many when they come across new vice president of casino operations C.J. Graham. He’s newly arrived at the Roseville-area gambling Mecca from the Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, where he helped oversee table games and poker operations. But 20 years ago, donning an old-school hockey mask that left little but his eyes showing, Graham played the role of never-say-live Jason Voorhees in “Jason Lives: Friday the 13th, Part 6.” Graham turned out to be a one-hit wonder, never making another major motion picture. And his move to Placer County gives the area claim to not one but two Jasons. Graham’s one-off performance as Voorhees was followed by four straight Friday the 13ths in the hockey mask by Kane Hodder. While Hodder seems to be about the most elusive interview Media Life has ever encountered, the fact is he’s an Auburn product. Hodder, who continues to make movies while cashing in on his Jason fame with appearances at fan fests, was born in the city in 1956 and was reputedly Auburn’s heaviest newborn. THRILLER IN NEVADA COUNTY The Nevada County Fair is bringing in a little Neverland to its midway. The fair, which starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday, will feature a ride called Balloon Samba purchased from the late Michael Jackson’s infamous Neverland Ranch private amusement park. Butler Amusements, the fair’s rides operator, bought the Balloon Samba ride along with five others from the cash-strapped Jackson last September. Balloon Samba looks like a hot-air balloon and seats 32 children in six carriages. Other Neverland rides are on the Butler Northwest circuit, operating at Coney Island, N.Y., at the Stanislaus County Fair, and in Butler’s winter quarters in Santa Nella being refurbished. It would be no surprise to see a Neverland ride at Auburn’s Gold Country Fair in September. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at