Part VI, wherein we pick up again in Tacoma. Patty remembers this period in this way:
From there we moved back to Tacoma. We lived in a series of houses, Dad had a series of jobs, I finally graduated from high school and attempted to do college. Oh yes, in order to make the move there we had to live with Grandad and Margaret for a summer. He was a tyrant and Mom and I did lots of cooking and cleanup and Mom had to bake her great homemade bread once or twice a week. But just imagine them being able to take all of us in?
I met Mike [her husband] the summer between high school and college and we dated for the two years that I attended. Throughout all the years our lives were shadowed by Dad’s drinking and certainly Mom’s as well. Mom was tortured by his abuse and once when we lived in the first house there in Tacoma Dad got involved with another woman and not for the first time. I don’t think she could handle it anymore and she tried to end her life. Unfortunately back then she had to spend the night in jail instead of being taken to a care facility. She never received proper care and during the time we lived in the house on Cushman she had quite a few more problems. When Mike decided to go back home to Wisconsin to become a cop we married and made the move. Best thing I ever did!
It was also about this time that Pat got married, and she and Mike Roberts, her husband moved into a small apartment not too far away. Two things: Mike had the most gorgeous 1955 Ford, four door sedan, with the sweetest sounding dual exhaust pipes you ever heard. He had purchased it new, and kept it immaculate. Blue and white, two-toned paint job. Dennis had himself a girl friend, and wanted to take her out to something special, and persuaded Mike to loan him his beautiful car. Naturally, he crashed it, and it was totaled. This was truly heart-breaking stuff, this. Mike was getting close to taking his discharge, and he and Pat were already planning to move back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mike’s hometown. So, now, they had no ride. Mike picked up a (I think) 1952 Ford that had some engine problems. I was so impressed then, when he took that old car around back of his apartment, and parked it close to a phone pole in the alley. He then used several windings of GI commo wire, wrapped around and around one of the metal spikes imbedded in the wood of the pole, to pull that V-8 from his old ’52, so he could rebuild it. He then proceeded to do just that, and he and Pat had a pretty decent ride to get them back to Wisconsin. Maybe not as sweet as the ’55, but this ’52 had a nice sound to its exhaust, as I recall.
So, we’re still on Cushman, where my father, during these nearly four years, worked in some kind of mills, and obtained some training at a business school, and then began working as a bookkeeper.
But, nothing was ever stable. My old man couldn’t keep a job (did I mention that he was an alcoholic?), but also (I suspect) because he couldn’t take direction. His drinking was not a pretty thing to see, as he became a mean and solitary drunk (as I described above). He kept his booze (almost always cheap rotgut; I recall his favorite brand for some years was Four Roses, which was known to be a cheap bourbon), in the freezer. For you young people, who never experienced the refrigerators of the forties and fifties, they all had a main door that opened up from top to bottom. Then, inside, at the top of the compartment thus revealed, would be a second, smaller lightweight door (some of these were aluminum; some were plastic, and some were a combination of both) that opened to the small freezer compartment. He kept his booze in the freezer. It was the old man’s habit to drink his booze straight from the bottle, with a drink of water, for chaser. Before we get to his nocturnal drinking, though, let me ruin your day by presenting you with this truly unforgettable picture: The old man never wore PJ’s, and didn’t wear undershorts to sleep, just a T-shirt. He would grab the shirt around back, and bring that through his legs, and then pull the front of the T-shirt to meet the back, and then, hold it together with one hand, if someone else happened along. He was a truly disgusting sight! So, now that you’ve got that mental image fixed forever in your mind, now you can prepare yourself for the sound effects:
At any hour of the night (but, long after we all went to bed) he would get up, snuffling and snorting and coughing and gagging, and snotting, and make his way to the kitchen and the fridge. So, after announcing his eminent departure from the bedroom in this manner, he would make his way, in the dark, to the kitchen. Next sound was that of the fridge being opened, then the freezer door, then, maybe some more snorting and snotting, the water running for his chaser, the doors of the fridge and freezer being slammed shut, and then, back to bed he’d go, hacking and coughing, and snorting (and, likely scratching, too). Let’s not forget that he only had vision in one eye, and this tended to interfere with his ability to judge distance, not to mention the fact that he was stumbling - half drunk - around in the dark. So, add to the sound effects, the sounds of various obstacles being encountered during his nocturnal journeying, and of course, the truly horrific oaths uttered by him when some part of his anatomy came into contact with things like the corner post of the banister to the stairs, or the little shelf that jutted out from the wall in the hallway (where the single household phone rested).
Yes, we did have a phone on Cushman Ave., but for you young people, I suppose a little bit more information might be helpful. First of all, the phone was black, with a big round dial. It had a short cord (maybe three feet long) fastened to a connector in the wall. It was in the hallway for a specific purpose, and this was common to household telephones, all the years that landlines were the only thing going. By the way, here is what those phones looked like:
If the phone rang, anyone could answer it, but if it was a personal call, each person was limited to three minutes. So, phone calls tended to be short and to the point (since most of the calls were bill collectors, anyway, you know it did not take long to say, “No, he’s not here. I don’t know where he is. I don’t know when he’ll be back. I will tell him”). But, mostly as a result of this early conditioning, up to today, I don’t like to spend much time on the telephone. “Hello. How are you? We’re fine. Give my best to ……..,” and that is pretty much all I’ve got to say. You see, I only become long winded when I sit down in front of the monitor. OK, back to Cushman Ave., circa 1963………
But, first, now that I think of it, here is what the phone looked like when we lived on the ranch back in South Central Washington, near the little town called Roosevelt:
(Now, we’re back in the house on North Cushman……….) I was very happy in this house all the way through my Junior year and most of my Senior year of high school. I had friends all over the neighborhood, played football on the front lawn of the nearby Junior High, or went down to shoot hoops at Wright Park. I started collecting records at this time, first 45’s, then albums. I learned a bit about hooking up multiple speakers to an old time radio, as I had speakers all over the basement where I lived (thanks to Mike Roberts, who was (as I mentioned before) in the Army at that time, and who even contributed most of a roll of commo wire, I think it was called WD1, or something.
You see, it was Mike who showed me how to connect the speakers, and it was this simple “electrical” mystery opening up for me that led me to pursue a later – short – career in electronics. I learned to haunt a Goodwill store on (I think) South Tacoma Ave., at about this time, and found some really special old tube type radios for a buck or two. I worked part time at the Tacoma Boys Club, so I had a little spending money. Then, I worked for a short time at a branch of the Tacoma Public Library, until I was fired ‘cause I spent too much time reading, and otherwise neglecting my assigned duties. Did you ever spend eight hours sorting books, and then putting them on shelves? At any rate, I had stopped all pretense of part time work by early in my Senior year, so that year of high school found that basement to be pretty much party central for me and a host of friends.
OK, we’re making slow progress, but it is sure…………we’ll pick up again with Part VII….