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'Treasure!' Part 1

September 18, 2006|By Jennifer James | Times Staff Writer
  • Five-year-old Tommy Thompson takes the wheel of a pontoon boat rented by his father while on a family vacation at Lake James in Indiana. He became an inventor and treasure hunter.
Five-year-old Tommy Thompson takes the wheel of a pontoon boat rented by… (John M. Thompson Sr. )

"There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure."

— Mark Twain

ONCE upon a time there was a little boy named Tommy. He was curious and adventurous. He wanted to figure out everything in the world. Which is why he liked to take things apart and put them back together again. If he saw a rainbow he wanted to know how and why it existed. If he saw a machine he wanted to know how it worked. And when he was told that something could not be done because it was impossible, he would silently add, "Yet."

One day, when Tommy was 8, the telephone man came to his house and said to his mother, "Lady, if you want to have two telephones, you have to pay for them."

His mom answered, "We don't have two telephones!"

Unknown to his mother, Tommy had figured out how to make a telephone. He rigged up an old jewelry box of his mother's with wires. He couldn't dial out, but he could listen in on his sister's conversations with her boyfriend.

The phone man told Tommy's mother, "That little boy knows more about telephones than I do!"

When Tommy got to the third grade he couldn't read yet. So his mom provided him with science books and magazines like Popular Mechanics. His sisters taught him phonics, and within weeks he was reading! From the things he learned from reading, he built a control panel in his room with switches that turned on the lights and the radio.

Tommy knew he would be great some day. And he is. His name is Tommy Thompson and he grew up to become a scientist and inventor. Some people say he became the greatest treasure hunter the world has ever seen. He discovered the location of 21 tons of gold at the bottom of the deep ocean and figured out how to bring it back.

Tuesday: It all began during the California Gold Rush.


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