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………