Looking back on my life, I now realize how fortunate I was. I was raised in a rural setting and went to school in a two-story white wooden school house with a Bell Cote on top of the structure. The bottom of the school house held the first and second grades on the left and the third and fourth grades on the right. Upstairs were the fifth and sixth grades on the left and the seventh and eighth on the right. I would never experience the atmosphere of the seventh and eighth grade classrooms, for by the time I reached the seventh grade level our grade school had been consolidated with the larger nearby school district and I would be bussed off five miles away to Junior High. There was a band of woods surrounding the baseball fields with oak and fir trees that were cloaked in climbing ivy. We would often play Robin Hood in those woods, making bows and arrows and using the ivy vines for the bowstrings.
How does one become best friends with someone? I still don’t know the dynamics of how those relationships occur and what makes you closer to some people, than with others. At any rate, I became best friends with Scott. He was an only child (until the stork visited his household again a few years later). I had an older brother and sister and was a few years younger than them being what parents sometimes call ‘a surprise’, wryly. Scott always received the newest and best of whatever fad tickled his fancy at the time.
The Greatest Generation
I was raised in what could be described as a stick and frame wooden one-story farmhouse. The boards that were used to build it were rough-sawn and not the typical dimensions of lumber, as it was built before lumber mills became standardized and was built using square nails. We had a kitchen, living room, my parent’s bedroom and my brother’s and sister’s bedroom had been partitioned-off from one room. As I became older my own room was partitioned from my parent’s room. The bathroom was in a building in the back of the house that my dad had built. Later on he would create a bathroom in the house by enclosing the back porch. There was a long front porch that took 3/4 of the front of the house and I remember my Grandmother sitting in a rocking chair on that porch when she would come from Sacramento to visit. This was the second house I lived in and our first was much nicer, but, I can’t remember much about the first one, except that I would always like to visit the Jones’s across the street and raid their cookie jar, and I was infatuated with the Jester’s daughters that lived next to the Jones’s. My father and Mother were part of what Tom Brokaw coined ‘The Greatest Generation’. He served in the army as a cook during ‘The Battle of the Bulge’ in World War II. He had worked as a baker in several bakeries in California and that was the trade that he loved, although he was working in a sawmill to support his family. While he was working at the sawmill during the day, he decided to follow his dream and start his own bakery. He had a carpenter build a very small building in front of our house that would serve as the store front, while the building behind our house would hold the mixers, oven, table where he would knead the dough into bread (he had his own sour dough recipe), and the donut fryer. I remember the carpenter that built the store front having a wooden leg, but, that obstacle didn’t hinder him from doing the job. Later this small building would be moved and an addition would be added as the bakery grew. My dad worked in the sawmill during the day and baked at night. Later in life I would have a taste of working in a large production bread bakery and I gained some deep respect for what my dad did; it is very labor-intensive, much more so than many people can conceive of. The word ‘entrepreneur’ that is bandied about these days wasn’t spoken of back then, but, if ever someone deserved that title, it was my dad.
Girls, Beatles, Turtles and a Touch of Envy
I guess you could say I grew up in a ‘lower-middleclass’ family. I always had a roof over my head, never went without meals, shoes, or clothes, even if they were hand-me-downs. But, we were far from rich. If there were a TV show that captured what life was like for me growing up, it would be ‘The Wonder Years’. I identified a lot with the character played by Fred Savage when that show came out. About the time I was in sixth grade, the notion of having a girlfriend was circulating amongst the boys, and vice-versa amongst the girls. Anne was my first girlfriend. She had freckles, short curly dish-water blonde hair and buck teeth. Maybe she couldn’t be described as being cute, but she was the apple of my eye. I would have dreams of her (I will spare you the details). Then there was Nancy- she was cute; had long dark brown hair and big brown eyes. She wore mini-skirts and white go-go boots. She knew she was cute and all the boys followed her around like lost puppy dogs. Nancy changed boyfriends like moms change sheets. One day Nancy made up her mind that I would be her new boyfriend, so I broke-up with Anne in a heartbeat. That lasted for a sum total of two weeks of bliss walking around holding hands with the cutest girl in school- and then, out of nowhere, Nancy broke-up with me and broke my young tender heart. That’s what Nancy did- she was on to the next unsuspecting, infatuated boy. Of course, after this, Anne wouldn’t have me back.
Scott turned me onto music and introduced me to the surf scene that was sweeping California; The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and The Turtles. He also introduced me to The Beatles. ‘Rubber Soul’ was the first LP I ever owned. At one point we were toying with the idea of having our own group. They would be ‘The Jaguars’. But, that idea, like our comic books, faded with time.
As I mentioned earlier, Scott always got the newest and shiniest of everything. I am quite sure that I was a tad bit envious of Scott. When we had learned to ride bicycles, Scott got a brand new ‘Stingray’ bike with high handlebars, a banana seat and a smaller front wheel, which was all the rage at the time. One day when I was going to my Dad’s ‘shop’, as he called it, in the back of our house, there was a used bicycle with 24" wheels and painted Gold, leaning against the building. I didn’t pay much attention to it and figured some neighbor’s kid had been visiting my Dad and had left it there. When I came back into the house my Mom and Dad asked me if I had noticed anything. I said that there was a bike leaning against the building and asked who’s it was. They replied, “Well, it must be yours”. At first I was kind of dismayed that it wasn’t brand new and shiny, and wasn’t keeping up with the “cool” trend of the time, but, soon it would become my pride and joy. My parents had bought it from a local one-owner bicycle shop, where the owner would take used bicycles, repair them and re-sell them. That was my parents; always supporting the local small business owner- something that I came to appreciate in later years.
When Scott’s interests turned to motorcycles, he got a brand new Honda mini-bike. I never got a motorcycle, but, I did learn to ride his used 50cc Yamaguchi.