Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Moving On From High School

Part VII, Tacoma was just about done…..
The end result?  Two totaled cars, the Chevy and the Chrysler, and a pretty hefty fine for brother Mike.  I was ordered to get a driver’s license, or more correctly, my parents were ordered to make sure that I got one.  There was a certain irony in this, as I had taken driver’s ed at school (in those days it was offered at no cost, as a regular part of the high school curriculum, believe it or not), but had not been able to go for my license exam, since there was either no money, or the old man wasn’t available to take me.
OK, back to the next move……..At any rate, we lost that house late in my senior year, and moved into the “projects”.  The sequence of events was that we had to move out before the old man even got out of Steilacoom, or, possibly he got out one day, and the next day, we moved.  I think this area that we moved to was called Hillside, but I am not at all sure.  We only stayed there until I finished high school.  Actually, we moved the day after I graduated from high school, to a small town (Enumclaw) almost due east of Tacoma, making it southeast of Seattle.  I stayed with my parents mostly because I had no clue as to what to do with myself.  I certainly was never encouraged (or informed enough, for that matter) to look into going to college, so I rather foolishly and desperately looked for work.  If you recall the time, you would realize that I had a monster bulls eye on me that said something about cannon fodder (but, then, that term is probably too old for this era, huh?), since I was ripe for the Draft.  I eventually ended up obtaining some limited training under the Manpower Development and Training Act of 1964 that purportedly had me ready to seek gainful employment as an attendant in a Mental Health facility.  This was at Rainier State School, in Buckley, Washington, very close to Enumclaw.  In those days, almost all mental health facilities that were not exclusively private, were State run, and therefore often had pretty bad reputations.  Think of the Academy award winning movie, with Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Meanwhile, after the next school year ended for my younger brother, David, we moved yet again, back once again to the Eastern part of the state.  This time we moved to a town called Moses Lake, near the boom town (a pretty large area of what had formerly been mostly desert enjoyed something of a boom due to the increased irrigation provided from the nearby Columbia River) of Othello, WA, where my father had gotten a position as a bookkeeper in a frozen food processing plant (peas, corn, etc.).  He got me a job as a forklift operator, and I worked most of that summer a full year after I had graduated (graduated in June of 1964; this was 1965).  I was able to buy my first ever car, a 1954 Ford Crestline Skyliner.  I had a choice between this car and a 1952 Cadillac, two door hard top.  The price for the Caddie was something like $150.00, and for the Ford only $125.00.  I bought it and never looked back.  Now, the car did not- ever – look as good as the below photo, but it was not all that bad, either.  Mine was two toned, blue and white, and had been converted from an automatic transmission to a stick.  This resulted in a three speed, on the floor, with a cheap knock-off of a Hurst Conversion, that had been installed backwards (forward should have been first gear, but was actually reverse):
            1954 Ford Crestline Skyliner – note the plexiglass roof (wasn’t called a sun roof).
I finally got smart enough to leave home (or, finally reached the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore) late that summer.  OK, here’s what happened:  While I was working at the plant, I opened my first ever checking account, and that is actually how I was able to buy the car when I did.  My best friend, Rich Oxley, had come up from California, where he was going to college, to spend the summer, and to work with me.  After the plant had processed all the peas in the area, and before it switched over to the next crop, which I think may have been corn, we had a short break, so the plant was closed.  Rich and I took off on the Greyhound to go see some old friends (former neighbors of mine, actually) in Tacoma.  This family had a place on one of the many lakes near Tacoma (I think Spanaway), and we stayed with them.  These were the Cresos, mom, dad, daughter, Connie, who was maybe two or three years younger than us, two smaller boys, and another girl, who was our age, who lived with them, and served as sort of a nanny to the little boys.
While Rich and I were there, I got the opportunity to buy that Ford, and I paid for it by writing a check.  Rich decided that he did not want to go back to Moses Lake with me (I wonder why), so I drove back on my own.  Upon my arrival, I first learned that my father had lost his car to repossession (like that never happened before).  He had been driving a ’57 Chevrolet since we had lived in Enumclaw.  Not only had he lost his car, but when I took him and me to work the next day, I learned that my job was gone, and I had been demoted to scraping the spills off the plant’s floor (it seems that the nephew of the plant manager needed my job more than I did).  So, I was, of course pissed at this, and immediately quit.
Somehow, the old man hustled the management at the plant to help him find another car.  This necessitated a road trip down to Hermiston, Oregon (might have been Umatilla).  So, I took him, my mother, and little brother David in my car down to that place on a Sunday.  The people at the plant had arranged for a dealer in Hermiston to give the old man a car, with the understanding (I guess) that they would stand behind the deal.  He picked out a Rambler station wagon, maybe as new as a 1960 model.  This was actually a pretty decent car, especially for him.  At any rate, we then drove back up to Moses Lake, and the next morning after the old man had left for work, I packed all my earthly possessions into my car, and took off for Seattle.  I hope that I called Mike first, to warn him that I was on my way, but that was the end for me.  I did not see the folks again until after I was out of the Army, and married.  And, I did not want to see them.
It was after I moved in with Mike that I learned that the old man had found my check book (the spare checks, anyway) while I was gone on that trip to Tacoma.  I guess he had decided that he needed some of my money more than I did, so he wrote a check on my account.  The bank naturally came after me, but since I had one of the world’s worst chicken scratches for hand writing, it was very easy for them to see that someone else had indeed written the check (of course it bounced; my money went for my car).  I did tell the bank to look for him, though.
 Well, as I say, I was fortunate enough to be able to live with my oldest brother, Mike, in Seattle.  I even got a job as a Ward Attendant at a state school in Seattle, in the early fall.  Unfortunately, I also got my draft notice not thirty days after beginning my new job.
I spent three years in the Army, going from Seattle to Ft. Ord, California, for my Basic Training, then to Ft. Dix, New Jersey, for Advanced Infantry Training, then Ft. Gordon, Georgia, for Field Radio Repair School, then to Korea for thirteen months, and finally, I was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas, until I was discharged in late 1968.  It was while at Ft. Bliss that I met Blanca, and we were married a short five months after our first date.  Here is where we were married on June 22, 1968:
                                Ft. Bliss Center Chapel as it looks today.

We did move to Seattle after my discharge, and I went to work for Boeing as an Aircraft Electrician/Installer.  We only stayed there for about 14 months, before returning to El Paso, mostly because Blanca was miserable so far from home, language, diet, family, and so forth.  So, let’s take a break, until Part VIII……..

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Passing of the Fourth Estate

When I was young I learned about something called "The Fourth Estate," and, I seem to remember that it was a term borrowed from the French.  Basically, it referred to the existence, or presence of something beyond the groups of people represented by government, which had the potential for affecting the actions of the other groups.

This Fourth Estate included those who reported the news, and the most common synonym for it was "The Press," taken from the printing presses which printed the news for popular consumption.  The people who gathered that news were called journalists.  As a well respected group, they had very strict rules that they followed, and upon which was built a high level of public trust in them, as regards the reporting by them of only facts, which facts included only who, what, where, and when.

             This was a real newsman, who often spoke truth.  Not like what we see today.

There was no room for speculation or opinion in the reporting of news, because it was a given that the readers of that news were capable of making decisions based on the news because they were well informed.

Personally, I have come to believe that that Fourth Estate is pretty much dead, and last year's Presidential election proved it.  The Fourth Estate is now referred to as "the media," I suppose because it now encompasses print and broadcast sources.  I also believe that the media created the most horrific candidate for President in the history of a once proud nation.  They created this monster, not by simply reporting to us what he said or did, or what was happening around him, but by giving the impression that there was mass approval of him, his actions, and his words.  The fact that he was already notorious before he was given a "reality" television program was celebrated by this media.

Gleefully, they reported his every action, the more bizarre, the better.  They shaped and formed public opinion of this horrible man by presenting all of this with such happy reports and reporters.  Instead of showing the traditional restraint in news reporting, by reporting what he said or did, they presented that information with a slant that persuaded the poorly informed public that it was all good.

At the same time that they glorified this truly awful son of a bitch, they also gleefully spread the most horrendous lies about his opponent.  Those lies were based on a thirty year campaign of lies about Hillary Clinton, and they culminated with the announcement just days before the election that "evidence" was forthcoming, which evidence never did materialize.  Whatever the reasons for that late release of misinformation, I believe that that last minute kerfuffle was enough to ensure the election of the worst possible candidate.

Then, after their poorly thought out (but successful) campaign resulted in his election, they scrambled to explain why it happened.  Guess what?  It was never the job of the now deceased Fourth Estate to tell us why anything, and it is not their job now!  I don't want to hear about how so many voted for him because they wanted change!  The media persuaded masses of ignorant clods that the rich TV personality was the instrument of the changes the ignorant supposedly wanted, without ever showing them how he was the last person on this earth who could ever effect positive change!

The media aided and abetted in the lies.  They aided and abetted in spreading misogyny, and racism, and bigotry, and hate.  They helped to create a false promise of change that has not been forthcoming.  They - for whatever reasons - led the ignorant, poorly educated, and misinformed electorate down a primrose path that plunged this nation into an abyss of doom and gloom.

Hate was already on the rise across the nation, as people from different political parties all of a sudden lacked any ability or desire to work together.  Threats are being made on all sides.  I hope the media is happy with its product.  I hope they enjoy it as fascism takes away our liberties, and their ability to ever inform anyone ever again. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

My High School Years, up to a point

Part VI….We’re still on Cushman Ave………
In the spring of 1963, my Junior year at Stadium, JFK came to town, so they closed all the schools, with the idea that students from all over town were to go to a big rally at Tacoma’s Ben Cheney Stadium (home of the Tacoma Giants, an affiliate of the SF Giants, and a very nice little ball park).  Ben Cheney, incidentally, was some sort of pioneer lumber man, which means a very big deal in that part of the country.  A large group of us decided to go to the beach, instead of the rally, so we spent the day at a State park (possibly Dash Point State Park), over on Puget Sound, and missed our only opportunity to be able to say that we had seen JFK.  Then, on November 22, 1963, I happened to be home sick.  I was listening to my radio in my room, down in the basement, when they announced that JFK had been shot.  So, I got up, went to the living room and turned on the TV there.  Naturally, I spent pretty much all of the rest of that day in front of the TV, getting the live reports, as events unfolded.  I remember that the next night there was to be a party, maybe even at my house (in the basement), and all we did was sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, trying to come to grips with what had happened to us.
I recall one night that Cassius Clay (known at that time as “The Louisville Lip”) defeated somebody important, before he met Sonny Liston (that didn’t happen until Feb. 25, 1964).  We were at someone’s home for another party, and all the guys were crowded into whatever room had the TV, watching that fight.  Cassius Clay, who you all might know better as Muhammad Ali, was truly awesome to watch.  And, the fact that he was such a brash, over confident, loud mouth was part of his charm – especially when he so easily demonstrated that he could do more than just talk.  A weird thing about this recollection is that I have carried this image in my mind for all these years that the fight that we watched that night was the one where he took the title away from Sonny Liston, but that doesn’t add up, as the title fight took place on a Tuesday evening, and we only had our parties on Fridays or Saturdays.  So much for one’s memories.
I have to say that we did party a lot (my friends and I).  We also went to a lot of ‘sock hops’ usually in our own high school gym, and most often held after a home basketball game.  Most guys in my class did not dance, except for slow songs.  But, I was willing to dance to the fast songs, so I was usually busy at parties and the high school dances.  Besides that, I had a group of guys with whom I played poker on a regular basis, either in my basement, or at the home of one or more of the others.  Nothing big, and I usually had to borrow from someone to get into a game, but we really enjoyed it.  It was also a big deal to try to attend all of our football and basketball home games, and even those of our prime rivals, when they weren’t too far away.  Our big rivals were Lincoln High and Wilson High.  I think a new high school opened while I was at Stadium, Mt. Tahoma.  Another important rivalry was Bellarmine High School, the city’s Catholic Boys’ high school.  They usually had a good team, and we all knew some kids over there, ‘cause some of them had gone to Junior High with us. 
I also remember what I think was the single most exciting basketball game I have ever seen, in which the final score was something like 7-8.  This was, I believe an away game for us, against the hated Lincoln High School.  This was obviously in the days before the shot clock, when defense was still an important part of the game, and when ‘freezing’ the ball was a legal and proper offensive tactic.  This involved passing with great skill, from player to player, spread out over their end of the floor, keeping the ball away from the opponent, thus ‘freezing’ it.  Again, obviously, this tactic was employed by both teams on this occasion.   Regarding our main rivals, I no longer recall what their mascot was (we were the Tigers; Gold and Blue), but according to their current web site they are now the ‘Abes,’ and quite frankly, that just sounds too lame for that time and place. 
The minor league (AAA) baseball team that played its home games at Ben Cheney Stadium was the Tacoma Giants.  I got to see more than one of their games, and they were very special to see.  The father of one of my friends, Gary Grenley, had box seats for his business, and whenever it wasn’t being used, Gary and I, and other friends of Gary’s would be allowed to go to the games.  We would take a huge paper bag full of peanuts in the shell, sit right up close, and watch players (just to name a few) like Jesus and Matty Alou, Jose Pagan (my personal favorite, whose name is misspelled in the old stats I was able to find online), Jose Cardenal, Dick LeMay, Julio Navorro, Bob Perry, Manny Mota, Dick Phillips, Gaylord Perry, Dusty Rhodes (by this time, he was a former major leaguer, hero of the 1954 World Series, where he hit very well as a pinch-hitter; he was kind of like our own hometown Babe Ruth), Moose Stubing, Willie McCovey, and a great pitcher, Juan Marichal.  There were others, of course.  This was, after all, a minor league team, and most of these guys either made it to the bigs, or had already been there.  Oh, well, we’re moving (literally, and again)……………..


That’s Dusty Rhodes, coming home after hitting a grand-slam in his first ever World Series game, 1954.

Just when I thought things were going just fine, my old man went from bad to worse.  I never knew any details, but late in my senior year, he ended up in the Western State Mental Hospital’s alcoholic ward.  I have long suspected that this was deliberate on his part for two reasons.  He was indeed an alcoholic, but he never was serious about fighting it, so right there – even then – I had to wonder.  He was in trouble yet again with debt I believe, and had undoubtedly lost yet another job.  With him in the nut house, obviously, there was no way to pay the mortgage, or anything else. 
While the old man was in Steilacoom (an old fort by that name had been turned into Western State Mental Hospital), I wanted to attend one of many parties one evening, and the car was in the garage, but wouldn’t start.  Mike had come home from the Army by this time (actually, I think he most likely ponied up some coin so that the folks could buy that house, in the first place), and was living at home, while working at the Tacoma Public Library (yes, he was instrumental in my having secured a part-time, after school job at the library).  Mike was the proud owner of a 1952 monster of a Chrysler.  I’m talking tank-sized, four doors, and a great big in-line six cylinder engine.  His car was running just fine, but he had a previous engagement, likely a date.  There was a light rain falling.  The sun had just set.  Now, he should have known better (after all, he was a U. S. Army Veteran, right?  And, he was over 21 by this time, too!), but neither one of us was thinking very well that evening.  We somehow hooked up his front bumper to the rear bumper of dad’s 1956 Chevrolet (Bel Air, four door, but with that really wonderful 256 cu. inch V-8, for which Chevy received a lot of recognition).  We had to pull the Chevy backwards, up out of the garage, because (at least in my recollection) there was a bit of an incline from the street down to the garage.
Well, we got the Chevy up onto the street, and pointed along the street, heading north.  For you younger people who don’t know these things, let me tell you that the windshield wipers on 1950’s cars were not powered by an electrical motor, but by a vacuum motor, that only could work when the engine was running, and able to create a vacuum.  In other words, in case you need more explanation, if the motor wasn’t running, there was no way to move the wiper blades, so as to keep the windshield clear in the rain.  Did I mention that there was a light rain falling?  And, to make matters worse, did I also mention that the sun had just set?  So, no wipers, and no headlights, right?  This is not reason enough, so let me also point out that the Chevy in question had an automatic transmission.  We did not have jumper cables, but we figured that we could get that sucker going on compression, which for an automatic transmission requires a minimum speed of 30-35 miles per hour, pushing or towing.  We didn’t have the necessary chains or rope for towing, so we elected to get this thing running by Mike pushing it with his monster Chrysler.
I would have to freely admit that the primary responsibility for what happened next would be mine, since I proposed to be behind the wheel of the ‘lead vehicle,’ as it were.  We started off, and got up to a pretty good speed, within about 50-60 feet of our starting point, when I realized too quickly to do anything about it, that I couldn’t see two feet in front of my face.  It was raining, and it was dark!  That’s when the Chevy slammed into the rear – smack dab in the middle, too – of a neighbor’s parked car.  And, he was one pissed off neighbor, too.  I don’t think I made it to the party that night.

I hate to leave you hangin’, but hey, this is enough space for one Part…..we’ll see what happened to those intrepid young men when next we meet, in Part VII……..

Friday, June 16, 2017

Baby Killers and Politics.

I think that most folks who know me do know by now that I believe that there is no place for religion in politics, and that political decisions, or voting choices made by citizens need to be based on the law and on seeking the most benefits for the most people.  That has a lot to do with what I remember being taught during my years of public school education in the State of Washington.  "Majority rules," we were taught.

So, to carry this idea to a logical (to my mind) conclusion, I believe that it is not necessary to ask any candidate what their religion might be, and I believe that the candidates for whom I want to vote are those who I feel will support and enforce the laws that exist, and work to change those that may be unfair, or somehow against the common good.

I also think it is important to keep in mind that this is a large nation, with a diverse population, and the way in which it has succeeded, to the extent that it has succeeded, is by all of us working together.  Therefore, it is important to recognize that we are not all the same color, we have not all attained the same educational level, we are not all the same religion, and that we are all influenced by our families and by our environments.

For me to seek out candidates who I believe will support my religious views over yours is inherently wrong, and could be very damaging to the very foundations of this nation.   So, when I encounter anyone who seems to have made a voting decision based solely on their religious beliefs, it is - to say the least - very upsetting.  To me such a decision is tantamount to you forcing your religion on me and everyone else, thus denying all of us our basic right to choose.

Likewise, to say that one is "Pro-Choice" does not mean that one necessarily supports abortion.  What it means, essentially, is that I, as a person who advocates Pro-Choice, do not believe that I am the boss of you, and your choices.  How can I, in a free country, ever presume to impose upon you my choices, my life-style, or my values?  If you believe in the freedom that was established by our Constitution, then you cannot reasonably expect me, or anyone else, to give up our rights in favor of yours.

It is that simple, and that complicated.

The reason I started this piece way back in September of 2016 was because we had a conversation with some old friends who told us how they could not in good conscience support Hillary Clinton for President because she was a baby killer.  In their minds, anyone who supports Planned Parenthood, or who declines to tell women what to do with their bodies is nothing more than a baby killer.  Never mind that abortion is just one of many health related services offered by places like Planned Parenthood.  Never mind that abortion is one of the least frequently performed services.  Never mind that the number of abortions carried out is actually significantly fewer in an atmosphere where all female health related services are available.  As long as that one service is offered, all services are condemned, and to be denied to all women, in the minds of these people.

It is my belief that these women did go ahead and either vote for the sick man who currently inhabits the White House, or perhaps for a third party candidate, but I consider people like this to be the main reason this nation is today faced with a serious crisis.

And, I say, "Damn you!  Damn you all!"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Because Gunz

Yesterday morning, yet another shooting took place.  This was counted as number 154 of such similar incidents so far this calendar year.  This was not the first time that a member of Congress got caught up in the gun fire (Gabby Giffords, Arizona, remember?), but it is the first time that members of the Greed Over People political party were targeted.

Apparently, they did not enjoy the experience.  Especially the one who is listed in critical condition today, Rep. Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip of the House.  Incidentally, it was this person who famously trumpeted about a victory enjoyed by his party over President Obama's attempt to bring some semblance of rational thought to the entire gunz control mess, referring to the outdated Second Amendment, not that long ago.

In the wake of this latest shooting, instead of hearing any talk of finally trying to do something about all the deaths of Americans, by American gunfire, what I am hearing is pretty much insanity.  I heard some rethuglican on NPR yesterday calling for 'beefed up' security for members of Congress.  And, of course, we hear the NRA screaming that this is further proof of the need for MORE damn gunz, and fewer restrictions on firearms!  All of this with the same, empty platitudes and plain bullshit about prayers and "If you do this to one of us, you do this to ALL of us" is also getting mention.

Personally, I wonder why that last sentiment does not apply to literally ALL OF US, instead of just to members of Congress, few of whom give a shit about the REST of us. Maybe if members of Congress have to finally accept the same level of security as the rest of us, they'll finally understand that it is freaking insane to allow any old Tom, Dick, or Harry to buy or own a gawdam gunz!  It is wrong to allow people to walk around with gunz!  It is wrong to have to be shot by a crazy person with a gunz just because an amendment to a more than two hundred year old document said that we could have a "well regulated militia!"

Crazy people with gunz are NOT part of any well regulated milita!  Not now.  Not then!

So, here it is, America!  A serious, for real moment of truth!  Will you now, finally, get after Congress to pass some meaningful laws to protect the general public (as well as members of that same damn Congress) from crazy people with gunz?!  Please?!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I have just become Rev. John

Just for the record.  I have taken the life changing step of becoming an ordained priest of Dudeism.  So, from now on, you may call me Rev. John.





Monday, June 12, 2017

"The Beat Goes On"

Part V, we’re still in Goldendale………
Another kid I spent time with was Paul Nehmi (I think that was the spelling).  He was rich, by my standards, because his father was the manager of the local Penny’s store (as in, J. C. Penny), and he lived some blocks away in a modern house.  Not only did they have indoor plumbing, but his mother cooked on an electric stove!  One interesting side note about Goldendale comes to mind:  Basketball was big stuff in this little town, with a population of around 2500.  The coach at the high school was worshipped, and his program encompassed the entire town, with the P. E. coaches at the elementary and the middle school, working hard to bring the younger guys along, so as to get them ready for the big kid’s game.  All games were broadcast on the radio, and it was a given that Goldendale would go to State each year.  At that time, schools at that level of competition, like B (?) went to their State Tournament in Tacoma every year.  The bigger schools of course had their state tournament in Seattle.
Later, when I was a senior in Tacoma, I skipped school and attended some of the games at UPS’ (University of Puget Sound) Field house, and saw some of the guys I had attended grade school with, now in the big show.  By that time the former coach from Goldendale had ‘made good,’ and had become coach of the basketball team at UPS – Coach Bud Wilkerson, or Wilkinson?
We stayed in that small town, in the same rented house until the night Mike graduated high school (I had just finished 7th grade).  I recall that Mike had been awarded a medal (sponsored by Bausch, as in Bausch and Lomb, I believe, for outstanding Science achievements).  But there was no time to even congratulate him on his achievements, as we were all herded aboard a Greyhound Bus that very evening, and ended up back in Tacoma (of course, I did not know at that time that we had lived in Tacoma before), this time at my paternal grandfather’s home (for some reason he was never grandpa or grandfather, but instead, he was called Granddad by all; no, it is not likely that this had something to do with that most excellent Bourbon, Old Granddad, because that is good stuff, and I don’t think he could afford the good stuff anymore than the old man could).  We stayed with him and his second wife (Margaret) for that summer, and then moved to a rental house just before school started that fall.  It was while we lived here (N. Division Ave., is all I recall; just two doors from Frisko Freeze, the best burgers and shakes anywhere) that we got our first television.  Naturally, it was a used one, with a big wooden cabinet, and a very tiny screen. Remind me sometime to tell you about what we watched on TV in those days, and, now that I think of it, at the same time I can write about what I remember from the radio in those years before we had TV, and our first record player, and first records.




                                     [Frisko Freeze, in Black and White]


                   Frisko Freeze at Night (the way I most often saw it)

We actually stayed in that house all through my 8th grade, and most of my 9th, then moved to yet another rented house, in another part of town.  Now that I think of it, however, there are a couple of things about this house that come up in my memory.   This house was actually sort of special, in that it had some unique features in – of all places – the bathroom.  The countertop was stainless steel, and the bathroom was overly large, with a separate stall for the toilet.  The story was that this had been a house of ill repute (how appropriate) and a busy ‘entertainment’ center during the years of prohibition.  Maybe that is why that upstairs bathroom was so fancy.
There was something else about that bathroom that was special.  Now, what was that?  Oh, yeah, this was the bathroom where the old man passed out while on the toilet.  Keep in mind that most of my younger years feature this memory of a mean, mean drunk.  The mean drunk who, when in his cups, and at his ‘best,’ would look at you with serious mayhem, if not murder, in his eyes, just for coming within eyesight of him.  He would also mutter incomprehensible drunkenly slurred things to himself while ‘at his best,’ as it were.  And, basically, you knew better than to get within easy reach of him.  Then, of course, when he was on a real tear, and was beating up on the old lady (who never did learn to leave well enough alone), you would try to plead, grab an arm, or somehow get him to stop (and, her, too, because she was usually just about as drunk as he was by this time).  He never did until he passed out, and peace descended upon whatever shack we were living in at the time.
Well, let me tell you, when he passed out on the toilet, and wound up laying on the floor, with his pants at half mast, and with the slobber running down his chin, a lot of the fear dissipated.  I only wish somebody had a camera, and that we could have preserved that image for posterity.  Of course, today, such a thing would be a no brainer, ‘cause every frickin’ kid has a cell phone with a camera built right in, and that sucker would have been all over you tube and facebook, and the internet within minutes.  I guess that’s one nice thing about progress.  No, I did not own a cell phone at the time I wrote this (and, if I still had kids at home, the only way they would have one would be if they went to work to earn the money to buy their own damn phone, and to pay the damn bill, too)!  Well, that was one of the fonder memories of that house.  But, you know, the fun has to end sometime, so……..
            We moved again before my sophomore year of high school, requiring me to attend a school different from where most of my friends were.  Actually, there were two moves.  First, south of down town, and the huge gulley that runs through the middle of Tacoma, kind of east to west, to a small place a block off Pacific Avenue (maybe on Wright St.).  We only stayed here a few months, and I seem to remember we had to ride the city buses to and from school, up until the end of my 9th grade.  This place was memorable mostly for its proximity to King’s Roller Rink, where I learned to roller skate, and where Dennis and I (and, likely David and maybe, Pat) had some good times.  Then, before my sophomore year began, we moved again, way north, to North Verde Street.  We pronounced it as ‘vurd,’ because we did not know that this is the Spanish word for the color green, pronounced as vair-day (accent on the ver).  After the end of that school year, we moved yet again, to the first (and only) house that my parents ever tried to buy, located at 625 North Cushman Avenue.
  

Above is that house as it looks today – pretty much what it looked like all those years ago.  (recent photo courtesy of Richard T. Oxley, a guy I went to Junior High and High School with, all those years ago.  He spent a number of nights in the basement of this place).

I was in heaven, but that’s another story.  We stayed in that really special (for me) place all through my junior year, up until the last month of my high school, while I attended one of the most special high schools anywhere (which is yet another story, but look it up on the ‘net; it was featured in the 1999 movie, 10 Things I Hate About You), Stadium High School.  Meanwhile, Pat and Dennis both graduated from that school one and two years ahead of me.  We’ll pick this up again, when Part VI gets done…………

                         Stadium High School, Tacoma, Washington

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Part IV of the Continuing Saga that is sorta my Life Story.



Part IV, in which we will move yet again (surprise)……

It was while we lived in Goldendale that Mike had a huge paper route (really bigger than his resources could handle) for a time, and so did Dennis (a more modest enterprise, one that could be walked).  I used to help Dennis with his route, and one year, for having signed up a certain number of new subscriptions, he managed to accumulate enough points that he and I both got to go on a chartered Greyhound bus, all the way down the river to Portland, Oregon (the newspaper in question was probably the Portland Oregonian, but it might well have been the Oregon Journal).  In Portland, we were taken to Jantzen Beach, a large amusement park, known far and wide.  We spent the day and had a great time.  Dennis also managed to buy himself a bicycle at the local Western Auto.  Speaking of Western Auto, this was truly an American original.  Every town of any size had a Western Auto.  These stores sold everything for the car, from batteries to tires, and all parts, plus most things for the home.  They carried hardware, great bikes (and everything you needed for your bike; Western Flyer was their brand), their own line of radios, TV’s, appliances, and parts for appliances.  These were just a few brands carried by Western Auto:  "Tough One" Batteries, "Wizard" Tools, "TrueTone" electronics, and "Citation" appliances, and “Revelation” firearms, (and I think, also sporting goods, like footballs, basketballs, and the like).
Also, in downtown Goldendale, on Main Street, very close to Western Auto, was the local ‘five and dime,’ or dime store, like a Woolworths.  I guess these stores were sort of a high class Dollar store, if you can believe that.  I mean, obviously, if they sold mostly stuff that only cost a nickel or a dime, that price range might well suggest junk.  Yes, they had a lot of Japanese junk, all right.  (It must be understood that literally everything from Japan, in the fifties, was very poor quality, and that meant both workmanship as well as raw materials).  But, everything was displayed more openly, and instead of racks and hooks, and shelves to shop from, there were these big, open flat-topped bins, with everything reachable, and touchable, and easy to get hold of – oops!  Can’t end a sentence with a preposition, now can we?  Let’s say, easy to reach, instead.
Goldendale’s Main Street, in addition to the theater, featured a small supermarket, locally owned, the newspaper office (the Goldendale Sentinel, a weekly publication),

a barber shop, a Dentist Office (Ol’ Doc somebody or other - West?), upstairs above some other business), the local creamery, a couple of restaurants (The Simcoe Café and Mac’s Café), various shops, J. C. Penny, and a Safeway.  I think there was also OK Tire and Rubber company (part of a chain that sold new tires, and ‘recaps,’ which were just that: old tires, whose rubber had worn down, but whose walls were still in decent shape, so new rubber was molded onto them; they typically cost a fraction of what a new tire cost, but the rubber was likely to come rolling off at speed, especially in hot weather).  Needless to say, the old man bought a lot of recaps.
I also got the opportunity to play Little League baseball, and our team traveled to places like White Salmon, maybe Lyle, and other towns down along the Columbia River.  The Old Man liked to fish, and while it was usually Dennis who went with him, I do recall going fishing a time or two.  This was strictly stream fishing using night crawlers for bait.  We kids had the job of getting the huge worms, and this was actually very easy to do.  Just go out into the front or side yard with a shovel.  Push it down into the usually moist earth, and lean it one way or the other, and look at the exposed earth.  Inevitably, you would see one or more worms moving (this was best done at night; don’t ask me why) by the light of a flashlight.  You just grabbed as many as you could, and put them into an old coffee can.  Fishing always required an early morning start, and it really did not take all that long to get a good number of good sized trout.  Occasionally, we went for Steelhead.  The myth (story I seem to recall hearing from the Old Man) was that a trout was the young version of a Salmon, and the Steelhead was the in-between version.  Supposedly, those trout that could make it from creek to river were able to grow into Steelhead, and then, if the Steelhead could make it down river, to the ocean, and then return, you had a Salmon (hey, that’s what somebody told me, and I’ve never forgotten it, nor have I ever researched it to verify it this is for real).
Actually, there was an incident involving fishing and a barbed wire fence that might be worth recounting.  On one particularly auspicious (? For lack of a better word) occasion, Dennis and Garun (I don’t know how to put the phonetics into the pronunciation of his name, as uttered by Bernie, his helpmeet, especially when in her cups - Oh, God, now I’m going to get side tracked big time, trying to sort this mess out – OK, time out:
Bernie, which is short for Bernice, my mother’s name, mistakenly thought – for many, many years – that the way to help and to try to control the old man’s drinking, was to drink with him, trying, as it were, to keep pace with him.  This was, of course, a hopeless task which she set for herself, as no one in their right mind would want to keep up with him.  Although - in a deliberate aside - in later years, keeping up with him became relatively easy, since his tolerance for alcohol decreased with the years, and he’d be smashed long before he could see the bottom of the bottle of his cheap booze of choice. So, she’d get mushmouthed drunk even quicker than he did, so that his name, when pronounced by her (she always called him Garland instead of the ‘Al’ that he preferred) in this condition, sounded something like, “garn,” as in, darn, but pronounced with a serious deep south accent, which, of course, she did not possess.  So, now, we’re talking about Gaaarrun, but say the last syllable very fast, so as to kind of pass over the ‘u’ – thusly, “I’ma…..I’ma……..I’ma gonna tel’ you sumpin’, Garn, you ‘bout drunk!”
OK, now that we’ve dealt with that important little matter, back to the fishing trip with Dennis and Garn……..
In order to get to the part of whatever stream they were seeking to plant their hooks in, Garn and Dennis had to get past a barbed wire fence.  Usually, this means, one person holds a top strand up, while the person crossing/passing through, pushes a lower strand down, so as to create a space big enough for the average person to get through.  Now, I wasn’t there, and Dennis may not have been the most reliable of sources here (mostly because to the end of his life, he could not tell this story with a straight face and a serious amount of giggling), but my understanding of the event is that somehow the lower strand was either not pushed down far enough, or it snapped up at the wrong moment in time, like when the old man was halfway though.  Somehow, one or more of those nasty barbs reached right on out and/or up, and snagged the old man’s jewel sack (um, uh, scrotum?), viciously tearing said sack (pun intended, Mike), causing profuse, one might even say, perfuse, or one whole hell of a lot of bleeding from said sack.  The fishing trip was thus cut short, not to mention other certain other well placed hewing or trimming, and they returned home post haste.  The old man subsequently, like right away, went to the doctor, where he underwent an emergency “re-sackification,” as it were, thus closing that particular gap.  OK, back to the narrative………..
Salmon fishing along the Columbia River was reserved at that time to what we now call Native Americans, or Indians.  Not too far from Goldendale, just upriver from The Dalles, Oregon, were the Celilo Falls.  These falls were impressive enough just to look at, but the Indians had built some very rickety looking scaffolding all over the rocks, to afford themselves of relatively easy access to the waters. 




They went out onto that scaffolding when the Salmon were migrating up the river, and speared as many as they could.  Most of the salmon was then smoked on shore, and sold to tourists, and anyone else fortunate enough to be able to get some.  That was good eating.
 Patty:
Next must have been Goldendale and I don’t remember what job Dad did there but I began babysitting there and earning money for clothes and whatnot.  We kids enjoyed being there and school was pretty stable for that period of time.

After having the chance to read what I had written to this point, Pat then sent me a email that added to this narrative:

Wasn’t Goldendale just the best little town?  I remember the five and dime and buying crayons and fresh paper and even paper dolls at that time.  The Penney’s store was the old fashioned set up with drawers that stocked the bras and panties each in its size and drawer.  I had some girl friends that I enjoyed and remember always hitting the studing and the grades.  My babysitting really took off and I sat for two families over the time.  Mom told me (I was starting this at the age of 11) that I had to buy my own shampoo and girl stuff which would include feminine hygiene stuff because I couldn’t expect Dad to pay for same.  WHAT?  I was 11 years old for heaven’s sake!   
I remember getting a terrible throat infection one time, the very worst I ever had, and friends being allowed to come and say, “Hi”, through the window as I was in bed for some two weeks.  When I went back to school all thin and white the teachers took one look at me and sent me home for another week.  That was also the house where Dad got involved with the woman next door, a single parent with a girl she was raising, wasn’t it?  She was a drinker too I think.  But overall, we did experience small town America at its best for sure.  Thanks for the memories…..Love,  Pat
Mike worked after school in the local creamery (for those not familiar with this term, small towns used to have local businesses that processed dairy products.  These were called creameries, and they would produce local butter, ice cream, and sell fresh, whole milk) at one point.  He also got placed by the old man, I believe, on some local farm for a large part of at least one summer, hoisting hay bales on the back of a truck, and into a barn, and performing other seriously manual labor, for some extra money, most of which was undoubtedly confiscated by the old man. 
Meanwhile after reading what I have so far, Mike has provided some more memories:

Drove wheat truck for Dutch Kelley in Roosevelt area (around age 16… lasted some 3-4 weeks) the next summer worked longer for…. ???? in the hay business, bailing hay and like you say, serious manual labor (damn bails weighed as much as I did). During school I worked at the “Reliance Creamery” whose products included butter, ice cream, and ICE. I recall providing ice to the same Indians for salmon fishing, poking the ice down to 100 or 50 lb. blocks and loading it in their cars. Cool, late model cars always dirty and trashed out on the inside. Ice cream was a farce… The owner purchased a mix “wholesale” and we merely “churned?” in a freezer type machine, dumped it into cardboard boxes (Reliance Brand) and it was sold in the grocery store you mentioned. The town did have two grocery stores… one being the Safeway and the other being this independent (actually, I think the owner was Thompson, the same dude that owned Reliance Creamery).
(Back to my narrative):  Yeah, that was another of his less lovable traits.  He’d require that we find work, and then take most of the money we earned.  I also remember Mike being involved with his best friend (Johnny Householder?) in experimenting with model rockets, a big time diversion for teen aged boys in the fifties.  They had some notable success, as I recall, too.  One kid I knew also had a rocket that was actually pretty impressive.  This was a clear blue plastic rocket ship that was filled with water.  Then, it was placed on its base, which had a hand pump affixed to it.  We would pump the hell out of that sucker, and then so much pressure was created that the rocket would fly very high up into the air.  I’d estimate today that it probably went up at least 20-30 feet.
One friend that Dennis and I had was a kid down the street, and across the alley from us.  His father was the town barber, and they had a normal family.  What a contrast to our house.  They had a root cellar outside their back door that was no longer used for its original purpose (a root cellar was basically a room underground, with rock and cement for walls and covered with dirt.  Its purpose was to store perishables, like potatoes, apples, canned goods, and things like that, before refrigeration was common).  We played WWI in that thing, since it served as a bunker, and we could easily imagine the trenches of WWI, as depicted in the movies.  Also, Mike (or whatever the kid’s name was) had an old WWI steel helmet that we all took turns wearing.

You know what?  We gonna cut this puppy off right here, and pick it up again, still in Goldendale, but in Part V………

Monday, May 29, 2017

Why do you need a dog?

Dog owners

Growing up, I recall that we always had a dog, and often one or more cats.  The years when we had a family dog were spent mostly on farms or ranches, or in a small town.

Based mostly on my childhood I have developed some very strong feelings about pet ownership.  And, to put it mildly, it just plain pisses me off when I see people today who own pets, but really seem to have no idea what the hell they are doing.

And, what has set me off at this time is yet another news report of someone's precious - little - doggies have reportedly been attacked by someone else's - big - dawgs.  What I'm talking about, in this case, is three little cock-a-whatzits attacked by some Pit Bulls.  Supposedly, this happened in the yard of the little doggies' owner, while she was not home.

Frankly, I see more than one problem here.  First of all, why the hell does anyone need more than one dog?  Why were those damn dogs alone in a yard?  Where did those Pit Bulls come from?  In my humble opinion, pet ownership has gotten totally out of hand. We should remember that most dogs are really stupid, unless trained for some specific task.

And, we should all be aware that dogs are very, very needy!  They need constant attention, and what kind of attention are they getting if they are left alone for ten hours a day?  They need lots of exercise, so I ask you, how much do you think they get if they're cooped up in an apartment or house all day long?  Do you really think they get adequate exercise when you walk them around the block long enough for them to take a dump on your neighbor's lawn?  Do you think it is dignified to be walking along, wherever a dog pulls you, with a plastic bag in your hand?  And, is it dignified to be picking up dog poop from the street, sidewalk, or the ground?

Outside the confines of a city, however, a worthwhile farm dog, is very valuable.  Let's face it.  Dogs were bred to work, and not to just be your "faithful companion."  They must be allowed to be out in the open, where they can run and exercise.  They do best when they are allowed to be tough, and to earn their keep.

At this point I was going to provide my list of basic rules for pet ownership.  However, a week or two ago, we spent some time with our youngest son and his family, over in Austin.  They have a Lab/Pit Bull mix as their family dog, and I have to say that they seem to make it work.  Biscuit is trained to mind, to stay in his own yard, and he is fiercely protective of his owners and their two little girls.

There are occasional problems, like when he is home alone, and a thunderstorm hits.  He is seriously upset with thunder, and pretty much loses it.  On at least one occasion, he has jumped the back yard fence, or dug under it, and taken off running down the street.  And, since he can come and go on his own through a pet door, he is prone to tracking mud in when the outside ground is wet.

Yes, they do have to clean up after him in the back yard.  And, they do spend time bathing him, once in a while.  And, they do feed him, and watch what he eats (one huge problem I have is the very thought that a dog cannot eat everything; Our dogs always ate table scraps when I was a kid, and we would go out of our way to ask the butcher for dog bones, as well), because dogs' digestive tracts have become rather delicate over the past several generations.

All of the positives aside, ultimately, I still believe it is a crime to realize just how much Americans spend on their pets, when human beings are starving, and miserable, right here in our own country.  I think we need to take care of ourselves before we decide to rescue all the dogs and cats that our long negligence has created.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

More Personal History.

Part III of the Continuing Saga of the Dungans……

Ever go on a road trip with Garland?  Believe me, this is not something you really want to do, ever.  By the way, this just seemed like a good place to bring this up, right after talking about gas stations.  First of all, Garland smoked.  A lot.  Secondly, he was a pig, what we call in Spanish, un grosero, as in uncouth, ill mannered.  He had a bad habit of ‘hocking oysters,’ which means he would clear his throat very loudly (and grossly), working up a great big gob of (what was it we used to say?  Oh, yeah, “Great Big Gob of Green Greasy Gopher Guts”) this truly viscious and viscous phlegm.  Now, he always drove with his window open, and his left arm out the window.  Once he had this gift for the road ready (we, of course, sitting in the back seat knew this was coming, and were already preparing ourselves), he would first turn his head to his right, and shout, “Duck!”  This was our signal to do just that.  Then he would turn his head back all the way to his left, and send that mess of easily-mistaken-for-road-kill-if-it-ever-gets-to-the-road gooey, slimey phlegm hurtling out his window, most likely to splat on that side of the car (shudder).  Then, he would turn his head back to the right, and say, “Unduck!,” and we would.
Garland’s favorite beer (and, here he actually showed some class, if not taste) was Miller High Life, which of course only came in clear glass bottles.  I seem to recall that there was a deposit on empty beer bottles in those days (a nickel for empty milk bottles, three cents for soda pop bottles, and maybe a penny for beer bottles), but that made no difference to Garland.  As he drove, he drank (surprise).  As he emptied a bottle, his routine was to fling that bottle, not just simply out his window, but out his window, over the top of the car, aiming for the right side of the road, as far off the road as he could get it.  Wasn’t that considerate of him?  His other goal, of course, was for that glass bottle to shatter loud enough so that we could hear it as we drove (merrily? Very seldom) along.  He would then report to us whether the bottle just thrown was a good one (it did NOT break), or a bad one (it broke).
OK, we left off with us living up in the Rattlesnake Hills, above Prosser.  I believe we stayed there in the Rattlesnake Hills long enough for me to get through second grade, and then moved to another ranch sometime in 3rd grade.  After getting this far, Mike remembered some more details, that he has graciously provided in order to set me straight:

Minor exception regarding chickens and churning: First had chickens and eggs on the Rattlesnakes… same with churning butter. Used the butter churn (glass jar with the wooden paddles) and at mom’s direction, we kids took turns turning the crank… hour after hour…. Mom later learned that the cream should be close to room temperature before starting the churn… We had gone from the refrigerator to the churn and it was a tiring – long process. Speculation is that during our long effort, the cream had come up to room temperature and then did proceed to provide butter.

Meanwhile, we had yet to move from the Rattlesnakes, down to the next place on our list.  This was to an area, way down close to the Columbia River, near a little wide spot in the road called Roosevelt.  This is where Mike, Pat, Dennis, and I all went to a three-room school for at least one school year, and possibly a bit more.  There was a ferry across the river there, to Arlington, Oregon, which was the nearest place with such refinements as a restaurant.  That ferry was important, because the second year we were in this area, Mike had to ride that ferry across the Columbia River every day to attend school in Arlington, Oregon, because our little school only went so far, and the nearest high school (heck, maybe it was only the 7th grade; what do I know?) was across the river.  And, of course the proximity to Oregon was a big plus for the old man, ‘cause they didn’t tax booze, beer, and cigarettes as much as Washington did at that time.  And, I seem to recall no sales taxes.  After seeing the map whose link I shared, Mike offered these memories of this place/time:

(4) 19. Ranch near Roosevelt… Think I found the exact on this one… about 15 miles W and one mile S… traced Old Hwy 8 and Sundale Rd [this was after looking at the aforementioned map] there is (was) [a] substantial orchard called “Sundale” not far down the road and I found a sharp turn in the road and recall the house located there where dad “finagled” [note:  finagled, as in “if you give me some gas, I’ll pay you………….sometime”………..NOT] some gasoline from the resident there… He (the neighbor) had one of the old glass top gasoline pumps where you elevated ten gallons to the top with a pump handle, the glass top was cylindrical in shape and graduated in one gallon increments, then a conventional hose handle affair to your fuel tank.

As Patty recounts:

After that we lived in another country setting and went to a three room school house that was remarkable.  We all had such a great time there.  Of course the house wasn’t much but I do remember churning butter and going down the road to an amazing apricot orchard where they were the size of peaches and the juice ran down our arms.

As I further recall (following her prompting), at this ranch we had a large side yard that we kids turned into a great big riparian adventure land.  We had rivers running all over the place, fed by the garden hose.  There was a milk cow, that the older boys were responsible for milking (I was scared to death of that sucker, and she knew it).  Chickens, also, and I didn’t care for trying to take away their eggs, either.  I also remember making butter in a large glass churn, with wooden paddles.  And, there was a falling down shed, between the house and the barn and chicken house, with the remains of a (I think) 1935 Ford.  I want to say that this was a convertible, and it was mostly intact.  It would undoubtedly have made a great project car for someone with the time and money.  I played in that sucker many times.
From this place, I recall the big events were monthly trips to the nearest town, Goldendale, which happened to be the county seat for Klickitat County, for grocery shopping.  This always happened on a Saturday, and part of the adventure was that mom would take us all to the library, where we each got our own library card.  At some point, I went through a series of books for kids, that all had the same basic cover.  This was burnt orange in color, with black lettering, and these were biographies of famous Americans, going back to Ben Franklin and George Washington, to Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln (did you know he was born in a log cabin?), Ulysess S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and so forth.  We learned that everything American was good (and not just because we had saved the world twice), and everything that was not American was pretty much bad.
By the time I was in fourth grade, we were in a town again (that same Goldendale), and my father was working in another sawmill.  This is where my brother, Dennis, and I had some of our greatest times.
But, I also experienced one of my more traumatic school-related events here, as well.  Not long after we got here, in fourth grade, I don’t recall the teacher’s name, but one day she started in on a verbal rant, saying “John, how could you?  “You have lied, and you have done……..” - this horrible thing, and that horrible thing, and I just could not believe that she was talking about me.  It had to do with a paper we had written and handed in, and all I knew was she had one in her hand, and she was looking at me, and just ranting………I was terrified, mostly because I had no idea what she was talking about, and did not know what I could possibly have done, not to mention I had never had anyone talk to me in such a manner.  I was also scared totally out of my mind.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I bolted.  Jumped right up, and ran out of that room, out of that school, and all the way home to my mommy, crying my eyes out…….well, this was one of the few times that she ever got involved in our schooling.  My mother took me back to the school, and to the principal’s office where we learned that the teacher in question was not even talking to me or about me.  There was another John in that class (how could I know?  I was new), only he spelled his name Jon, and it was he that she was so upset with.  Maybe that is when I learned to not put much trust in teachers (forgive me, Blanca).
Other than that experience, Dennis and I both had pretty good times in Goldendale.  We had free run of the little town, which was the county seat of Klickitat County, and had both the Klickitat River and the Klickitat Creek running along edges of town.  I remember a great big old tree just outside the back door, onto which somebody nailed some boards, to make like a ladder, so we could climb way up into its huge limbs.  And, the back yard had a large cleared area, obviously done for a garden, but we turned that into a huge play area for playing with all our cars and trucks.  We had roads, and gas stations, and all kinds of buildings and stuff.  I remember that the name brand, Structo, figured prominently in the toy trucks we played with (before Tonka got so big, Structo trucks were the tough trucks).  Old D cell batteries were the gas pumps at our gas station, blocks of wood served for buildings, a piece of wood was used to ‘grade’ our roads, and so on. 
Fairly early on, we did have our one and only childhood fight, with someone other than each other.  I have no recollection of the cause, but there was a large family who lived just up the street from us – the Rileys.  One of those damn Rileys was another boy, about the same age as Dennis and I.  For some reason he did not like us, and while it was Dennis who took most of his verbal abuse, I somehow got involved.  So, he took us both on at once, and beat us both very quickly and easily.  That took a while to live down, and eventually I think we achieved some sort of truce, if not better, by becoming friends.
We rented the house on West Broadway from the ‘rich’ old widow, who lived right next door, in a more modern, well equipped house.  This was Mrs. Bridgefarmer, and she also rented rooms in her basement.  I recall one of the renters there was a Chinese man and his son.  The man was employed as a cook in one of the local restaurants for a short while.  This was my first contact with a non-white person.  Just a bit of culture shock was involved.
Out back of the house, and very close, was a separate building on the property that was likely old enough to have been a carriage house at one time, or a stable, but we called it the wood shed.  It was – as I recall – at least two rooms, quite old, with upainted, and seriously weathered wood.  The floor on one side was just dirt, with the accumulation of many years of wood chips, and shavings from wood being cut for burning in either the wood cook stove, or a wood stove for heat, all that we had in that house. That building was our Cavalry Fort and/or the Sheriff’s office for whenever we played Cowboys and Indians. 
It was in Goldendale that Dennis and I became Boy Scouts, and learned a lot about the ideals of that fine organization.  We went camping, fishing, participated in paper drives, and worked on earning various merit badges.  The paper drive thing was actually something that I imagine no one today can relate to.  Not too far from Goldendale, also in Klickitat County, was the town of Klickitat, where there was a dry ice factory.  The point of the paper drive was to sell the papers to the dry ice company, which used them to wrap their product.  We raised money for scouting at the same time.  Interestingly, our meetings were held in the basement of the town library, where my main memory is a large open space that was very dusty.
Most Christmases were – to say the least – disappointing times.  Not much in the way of gifts for anyone, the Old Man usually was not home as evening came on (he was likely in a bar, pissing away his paycheck), so the anxiety level always grew.  The family tradition was to open gifts on Christmas Eve, and we had to wait for him to come home, all the time worried that when he did, he would be in a bad mood, and that was not good.  Too many Christmases were ruined by his lashing out at one and all (but, of course my mother took the brunt of his drunken anger), and what we had all too often was the classic scene of crying, frightened kids, and crying, bruised wife and mother.
However, on at least one Christmas, Santa did come through for me.  I desperately wanted a two-gun holster, with Mattel Fanner 50 pistols, ‘cause they looked like what Hopalong Cassidy wore.  (Here’s what they looked like)

And, I got them!  Even got some caps to shoot with them.  Wow, that was so cool.  At one point Dennis, I think, got a Red Ryder BB gun.  Or, Daisy.  And, on reflection, I think it was a pump action, instead of a lever cocking action, so that would likely make it the cheaper of the two types, I bet.  Here is a pic of a pump action type BB gun, similar to what I remember:  


We (Dennis and I) also played all up and down the creek, swimming in pools in hot weather, playing cowboys and Indians, Army, whatever we saw in the movies on Saturday afternoons.  John Wayne was naturally everybody’s hero, but since he couldn’t possibly make enough movies to satisfy our need for him, we kids looked forward to Saturday matinees, when we got into the local theatre for only twenty cents.  We got a quarter to spend, so that left a nickel for (usually) lemon drops.  Those movies included coming attractions (we called them previews), a news reel (short), at least one cartoon, the feature movie, and then a second movie.  There may also have been an episode of one or more serial that everyone looked forward to.  And, just about every kid in town was at that one showing. 
We also played baseball with a friction-tape-wrapped ball, and a very old and weathered bat, in nearby pastures using cow patties for our bases.  One of our favorite places to play was near the city dump.  There were some large rocks overlooking the dump itself, and up in the rocks, we found what we thought were caves.  We’d go through the junk when no one was around, and find ‘treasures’ that we took up to our cave, and used to decorate, or furnish the cave.  I also loved to play in the wrecked cars that were parked on a back lot at the local Ford dealer (or, maybe it was the Chevrolet dealer).  That dealership was the closest I ever expected to come to a newer car.

Sorry, but since this is again running long, we’ll take a little break here, and continue the report of the sojourn in Goldendale in Part IV…….

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Not So Brief History Continues

  Part II  (We left off in Rocky Ridge, and this is from Patty):

There we roamed the woods and played in a creek and had wonderful adventures…walked the train tracks and picked up rock salt to suck on.  We bathed on Saturday nights, the baby first followed by the only girl, and then you boys.  We slept in the loft where the snow filtered in and we had a baby squirrel for a pet for a time.
I think that was where Dennis was bitten by the dog and suffered terrible cuts to the face and had to have the rabies shots etc.  I saw him with the flesh hanging and his fear and all the blood and we were all pretty scared for him.  Thankfully the folks took good care of him.

Then, my recollection is that we moved to some sort of company housing in a small lumber town (Eatonville), followed by a rental house in that same little town.  I started First Grade at about this time, and we moved before I finished that year.  I do remember – vaguely – parts of First Grade, and how easy I found it to be.  I remember that Mike was part of a group of older students who created a massive snowman (or, was it a snow woman?) on the school grounds that winter (there used to be a family photo of this).
 
This was the school building next to where the massive snowman was built.  The snowman would have been to my left in the photo (your right). 




I vaguely recall that there was a building, like a garage, next to the house we lived in, and there was a pretty nice cabin cruiser (as in, a small boat) in there.  And, I remember playing in and on that boat.  There was something else about an abandoned building that had a number of rotten eggs in it, and that is how I know that odor so peculiar to rotten eggs.  Ain’t nothin’ like that nowhere, nohow. 
Meanwhile, Mike has offered that I may well have the order of which house we lived in reversed here.  He recalls the separate, stand-alone house first, followed by company housing, second.  Patty remembers:

The next place I remember was maybe Eatonville, a logging town, actually a company town.  Dad being an alcoholic never held a job very long.  He didn’t take direction at all well so this was the root of all the moves we made.  I myself went to 13 different schools growing up, thing was though, we all made the adjustments very well and everyone made terrific grades and made friends wherever we moved.  We just never brought any kids home to play because we always lived in shacks.  [Not to mention that] The alcoholism was too embarrassing to expose anyone to.

Mike, after looking at the map* I referred everyone to, had this to say about Eatonville:
  … I recall the other sequence such as free stand shack followed by company (see tar paper) housing off toward the mill pond… (Wow!!! Eatonville has an airport??? Shit, airplanes weren’t yet invented!!!!!!

In my memory, then our father’s work went from the saw mill, to a dairy farm, in another rural area, near the small town of Elma, some distance west, near Grays Harbor, on the coast.  Patty recalls:

The next place was maybe a dairy farm where Dad was a farmer’s helper.  We had great times playing in the woods and even built small log cabins out of sapling trees with the farmer’s permission.    Life went on.

All I remember from here was playing in and around woods and fields, in the early spring.  I remember May Day and flowers and picking wild flowers for our mother, while out in the fields.  We played Indians or something like that, and used these great big ferns as our spears.  We would pull them out of the ground, strip off the leaves, and the shaft that remained made an excellent spear for throwing.  This is where I also recall something like unfinished lumber that we stacked to serve as a fort of sorts.  I also remember the Saturday bathing, in the unheated kitchen, which was the warmest room in the house by virtue of the wood-burning cook stove that was always there.  The tub was simply one of those big old round galvanized things (a tub, doh), placed in the middle of the floor.  Mom would periodically add hot water, from a bucket that was placed on the stove full of water for just this purpose, while the bathing ritual began.  And, yes, it was much like Patty described.  We didn’t stay in the Elma area longer than it took for the school year to end, then we moved from western Washington, to East/Central Washington (near Prosser), where we moved in with my mother’s sister and her husband, on their little farm (way too small for all of us, plus the three of them).  Here, our memories take divergent paths, as Patty remembers a reverse order:

After that was the move to the eastern side of the state where we lived on a ranch and had chickens and I witnessed slaughtering a cow for meat for the freezer.  We had a horse we could ride named Blackie and once he got scared by a rattlesnake and took off running with me on his back and no saddle…Ohhhh Boy!
After that job failed [for dad, that is; she’s being very considerate here, as we all know full well that the job did not fail, but Garland undoubtedly did] we did spend a summer with Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Claire on their small dairy farm.  My gosh, what they must have gone through having Mom and Dad and five kids there.  They were very kind.  I once went with them to a Grange Dance on a Saturday night and was highly impressed to see the social setting that they were involved in.  They had a high old time.  Note:  After reading part of what I had written here, Patty says that she believes the order of stops was indeed Prosser/Aunt & Uncle, first, Rattlesnakes/ranch, second.

We stayed there, with Dorothy and Clare long enough to begin another year of school, and then we moved to a wheat ranch (up in the Rattlesnake Hills, north of Prosser).  I remember a ravine, down at the bottom of which was the barn, where we were allowed to keep a milk cow.  There were lots of farm cats, whose job it was to keep the mice under control.  Somebody killed a rattlesnake, down near the barn here, once, also.  There was at least one saddle horse, and I recall one Sunday, probably, we were all in the yard, and David was up on the horse.  But, he was too small to guide the horse himself, so I had the reins, and led that horse around the yard.  Well, I didn’t think of it, and went around the house, under the clothes lines, leading the horse.  What I did not realize is that the horse was much higher than I, and naturally, David was therefore way up there.  So far up, in fact, that the clothesline pretty much swept him right off the horse, which ducked under.  I arrived back at the area where the family was gathered with an empty horse (little plug there, for a very good book, by the way:  David Niven’s semi-autobiographical Bring On The Empty Horses). 
I also recall the wheat harvest while we were at this ranch.  Mom cooked for the harvest crew, which was no mean feat.  I got to ride in one of the trucks that ran out to the field to meet the combine, and into which the wheat (which the combine not only cut, but then separated from the chaff – nothing biblical implied) was dumped whenever the combine was full up.  Then, I rode with the guy who drove the truck to the grain elevator, where the truck was weighed, and its contents were then received and credited to the wheat ranch owner.  I recall that this truck driver, part of the itinerant crew, was from California, and that these guys traveled a circuit, so as to serve a number of wheat farmers, spread over a very large area (like, parts of three states), following the wheat crops.  I ate the whole kernels (I had teeth then) at his urging, and found them to be really good.
It was also while we lived here that Dennis broke his arm.  I don’t recall how, but I do vaguely remember that the rest of us kids waited at home while the folks took him to the hospital to get a cast, and then, he slept downstairs for a time.  There was something about someone had poisoned our dog, and/or some of the many cats about this time, and he could hear their agonized dying moans or wailing during the night.  I don’t have much more in my recollections of these events, but maybe he does, if he was willing to share his memories.
I know that we also ate a lot of fresh food then, things that you can’t find today.  There was sweet corn on the cob that we picked ourselves, from the field of one of many farmers down in the valley.  This, of course, was especially good, with the butter just dripping off it, lightly salted.  There were also great big huge, juicy, dripping red delicious apples (Sunday drives were a part of the old man’s routine, whenever he had a car) and more than once we went as far as the area over by Wenatchee, where the best apples in the world still grow.  Hermiston melons were the preferred watermelon (from Hermiston, Oregon).  The entire Yakima River Valley was serious agriculture.  Hops are still raised there (I believe this is the only place in the U. S. where they are raised), along with just about anything that you can think of that is good to eat, along with some crap you might not care for (parsnips).  There was at least one occasion when I recall everyone involved in turning the crank on an old-fashioned ice cream maker.
Let’s see, our evenings were spent listening to whatever the old man wanted to hear on the radio – Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, Bob Hope, The Shadow, Johnny Dollar, The Green Hornet, and on Saturday mornings, we kids listened to Sky King, or The Lone Ranger, or Roy Rogers.  I also remember daytime radio featured, besides the old soap operas, shows like Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club, and Arthur Godfrey (remember the hit song, “I Can See Clearly Now,” originally by Bob Marley?  Well, another version of that song, from Johnny Nash, came out in 1972.  Johnny Nash got his first exposure on the old Arthur Godfrey radio program.  There’s some real trivia for ya).
The first car I remember was a dark green, four-door 1942 Plymouth.  It seems like the old man was partial to Chrysler products, as this was followed by a two-door, light blue 1946 Plymouth sedan.  Then, there was a 1952 two-toned, two-door dodge sedan, but that was a few years in the future, from the time we were living up in the Rattlesnake Hills.
For those who never experienced a trip to a gas station, back when they were called – rightly – Service Stations, here is what I remember:  The car pulls up to the pumps.  The Service Station Attendants always (even for cheap skates like my old man who never had enough money to fill his tank) first asked, “Fill ‘er up, sir?” and then they “checked under the hood.”  This meant that they made sure the radiator was full of water, the oil up to the mark, and all belts and hoses were in good repair.  This ‘service’ included checking air pressure in the tires, and adding air as necessary, from the air hose that was part of every Service Station’s ‘Service Island,’ along with a water hose.  This was offered even when the response to the Attendant’s question was something from Garland along the lines, of, “Just give me two dollars worth of regular.”  Going back to the 30’s and 40’s, but still existing in the fifties was another thing that no longer exists.  On that Service Island, and between the pumps would be a wire rack, with slots for glass quart-sized containers that had metal spouts for caps.  Most of these were full to the mark with motor oil.  The attendants filled these glass jars/bottles from a fifty-five gallon drum of motor oil as needed, constantly cycling the empties, so that the rack always had plenty of full bottles.  This method of selling bulk oil was already becoming a thing of the past in the fifties, as cans of motor oils began to be more prevalent, and cans were taking the place of those glass bottles.
I do not recall my father ever working on his car, and as far as I know, most people did not do routine oil changes on their cars, anyway (just adding a quart here and there, as needed, which means that every car I ever saw had very black, thick oil in the crankcase).  Understand that we never heard of engine coolant, other than water.  I remember watching guys do major engine work, by the shade of a tree (thus, the term, “shade-tree mechanic”).  First, they would drain the crankcase, setting the used oil aside.  After they finished replacing the camshaft, or main bearing, or whatever major thing they had to do, they would reassemble the engine, and pour that same motor oil right back in.  Any necessary gaskets or seals were created out of whatever was handy, utilizing gasket paper only if it was available.
Antifreeze was commonly used only in winter months in those places where freezing was likely to occur, and then, it was always mixed with water using some formula that dictated so much antifreeze to so much water, depending on the likely low temperatures.  Motor oil was either 30 or 40 or 50 weight, and either detergent or non-detergent.  There was no multi-grade/weight oil.  My personal favorite was the brand sold by Union 76 Stations, called Royal Triton, which had the most beautiful purple color. 
I’ll get back to places where we lived in the next installment, Part III.


*I don't remember the web site, but I found a place online where I could mark certain spots on a map that referred to the many, many places we lived while growing up.  That is the map I reference at this point.