After writing Wood’s Addition, I felt like there were a few other events I wanted to tell you about. So I will.
I’m sure we moved to the Bakersfield area, because we had relatives living there. My father’s sister, Cora lived in Bakersfield and sister, Minnie lived just up the street, at the corner of DiGorigio Road and Rose Street. I have very fond memories of these women and their families for they always showed us love.
Aunt Minnie’s husband, Bill worked in a vineyard. We received some benefits from this, which I remember. One, we would get a box full of Thompson seedless grapes on occasion, which I loved. I still look for them when I go the produce section of the grocery. Secondly, we were allowed to swim in the irrigation ditches. These ditches had sloped concrete sides, which we would inch down toward the water. Sometimes it was a little scary for me if the current was too strong. On Friday nights, we often had supper with Uncle Bill and Aunt Minnie. While supper was being prepared, the guys would be in their little living room to watch “Gillette’s Friday Night Fights” on a black and white television. Uncle Bill and my dad really seemed to enjoy it. I enjoyed the animated parrot that announced the number of the next round.
In the Wood’s Addition story, I told you about thinking I was a California Highway Patrol (CHiP) officer. I had two influences which made me think that way. One was the television program “Highway Patrol” starring Broderick Crawford. The second was Aunt Minnie’s daughter, Jeri’s, husband. John G was a Kern County deputy sheriff. I remember well when he would pull in to Aunt Minnie’s drive in his patrol car. John G was a clean shaven, square jawed good looking man. Looked like Hugh O’Brian to me. When he would open the black and white patrol car door and step out, standing straight in his neatly pressed uniform with a “sam brown” belt which ran from his right shoulder across his chest to the left side of his trim waist to merge into the leather of his gun belt. Handcuffs were on one side. His service weapon was on the other. Man! What a Man! Later on, I was exposed to Dragnet with Jack Webb. Jack Webb wasn’t anything like John G.
I went to Vineland Elementary School. It was located about four miles from our addition. I would ride a stub nosed yellow school bus. I liked to sit up front to watch the driver. Because it was a stub nosed bus, the steering wheel laid flatter than the steering wheel of our car or pick-up. I was fascinated watching the driver, as he would make a turn. His hands would move quickly around the large wheel. It reminded me of the wheel on a sailing ship, except almost horizontal. At school, the science classroom had a rattlesnake in jar filled with a preservative liquid. The snakes mouth was lift open to torment me each class.
At Vineland, I was not very socially advanced. During recess, the girls would go in one direction and the guys would head toward the baseball diamond. Team captains were selected and with a baseball bat launched vertically, one of the captains would grab it, usually about half way up the bat. The two captains would alternate fisting the bat to the top with the last one, who could hang onto the end of the bat without dropping it, having the privilege of making first selection. On most days, I was chosen last or next to last. I wasn’t a very good player. I had never had the rules or premise of the game explained to me and I would try to catch the ball in my right hand, not realizing the purpose of the baseball glove on my left hand. I can’t really blame the others for not wanting me, but I think some instructions, from someone, would have been appreciated.
Lamont is located in the San Joaquin Valley. The dirt was wonderfully black and rich in nutrients. In the proper season, my mom and other relatives would go to the fields to pick cotton or potatoes. Brenda and I would be taken along, on the days when a babysitter was not available. While it was still dark, well before sunrise, our car would find its way to the ice house. A block of ice was purchased and placed in a large water cooler, which was then filled with water before driving to the field. Pickin’ was hard work. You would start early and stay late. Cotton and potatoes were picked differently. A cotton sack was made of canvas with a wide strap which crossed ones shoulder and with the bag trailing for either 10 or 12 feet. Cotton gloves would be worn to protect your hands from the pointy cotton head. When a cotton sack was filled, it was dragged over to a scale, weighed, and emptied into a tall trailer. Potatoes were gathered with a heavy sack with brass grommets in the open end. The picker wore a wide cotton army belt that had a 1 x 4 piece of wood attached to it and on the 1 x 4, two open hooks were embedded into the wood to correspond to the grommets.. The sack was place on the hooks. The sack was to be dragged between the legs, with the picker bent over all day, picking the potatoes from the dirt and throwing them into the back of the sack. I did not participate in either of these jobs. At an early age, I realized I would be called to office work. I would find a shady area and go to sleep.
Financially things went badly for us at the end of our time in California. Bankruptcy was required. Possessions were returned or sold. We were forced to leave. Before we left California, we lived for a short time, at the Weedpatch Government camp. If you have seen the movie “The Grapes of Wrath”, you may remember when the Joad’s arrived at the camp. A ditch crossed the entrance to slow traffic. That’s the same place we stayed. Back then, most of the cabins were Quonset huts. We had the foreman’s house. One night, Uncle Bill and Aunt Minnie came for supper. We had pork chops. There was one pork chop left. Uncle Bill and I went for it at the same time. I unintentionally, stabbed the back of his hand with my fork. He let me have the pork chop.
I do not have space to write of the influence the 1950’s tv had on me. You may recognize some of the Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny, or The Wonderful World of Disney in my life. Some things silly (gestures), some cultural (classical music from Bugs), some expressing values (trustworthiness from Daniel Boone), are influences, that I still shape my thinking.
Let me know if you had similar events in your life. I appreciate your comments, likes and shares.