By 4th Grade, the Country Kitchen must have failed and we were living on Broadway in Spokane and I was attending Bryant Elementary School. Roger was a crossing guard and wore a badge.
I remember him getting me into trouble when a little classmate girl gave me a kiss or I gave her a kiss and he reported it to the principle. At least some of the afternoons were spent in Bible class even though this was a public school. The whole class would be taken out of class and walked across a bridge over Maple street to what is now Christian Redeemer church. I'm not sure if that is the same church that had the property in 1960 though. I remember Donna visited us there and she and I were walking back from a store a block or so away and we got robbed by a Hispanic boy.
Mom got a new restaurant about this time in the skid-row area of Spokane called "The OK Cafe." It was another greasy spoon and most of the clientele and employees were down on their luck types and alcoholics. That part of town was razed a few years later when Spokane hosted the 1974 Worlds Fair. Mom spent much of her time there and we kids were left alone more and more. I remember being fascinated my monsters and reading "Monster" magazine and going to movie marathons of horror movies that would go from noon to midnight and the sleazy Ritz or El Ray theaters where one would have to dodge the dodgy pedophiles that lurked there. By this time, I think I was a little less naive and knew more of the score and would know to move to a different part of the theater if an older man came and sat down by me. I was there to see the movies! I wanted to see Dracula and The Blob, The Fly, The Werewolf, and go to The Center of the Earth. I was a Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Junior fan.
In 1960, while we were still living on Broadway, Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" was released and played at the Fox theater in downtown Spokane. The line went around the block. I think I had seen the previews and, being a fan of horror, I was excited to see it. It was the most terrifying moving I had ever seen up to that point and it didn't even have a traditional monster in it! I became an immediate fan of Alfred Hitchcock. I was already of fan of "Monsters" magazine and had read about hollywood makeup and how latex was used to create werewolves and other beasts. After seeing Psycho, I became more interested in the way stories were told on film and the film making process itself.
I remember watching Johnny Carson at night on Broadway street. I think that was because my mom would be out that late. Actually, I think I probably first started seeing Johnny Carson and the late show in Toppenish when I would often fall asleep on the floor in front of the television. Dad and Irene were also often gone until two in the morning.
When we were living with my mom in those days, we were living in poverty really. It was such a different life than when we would visit in Toppenish. Sometimes we went without hot water and I remember heating water on the stove to take a bath and it was often the case that bath water was recycled for siblings- one would take their bath and then the next would take their bath in the same water and with each subsequent sibling, the water got cooler and dirtier.
Sometimes there wasn't much to eat and we would eat white rice or cinnamon toast. I don't remember my mom every taking us anywhere but Goodwill or Salvation army to buy us clothes. Roger got the clothes from Goodwill or Salvation Army and then I got his hand-me-downs. My mom was a child of the Great Depression and she knew how to save a dime and how to scrape by. In those days, there was no concern about fashion or style or concern about whether any of us fit in with the other kids at school. There was no concern about what school we went to or how we were doing in school or how long we went to any school. I don't think my mom or dad ever attended any parent-teacher meetings in those days. We were essentially on our own.
Living with mom, there was many a time that I remember eating white rice with milk and sugar and having nothing more than cinnamon toast for dessert. Soda pop was a rare treat when we were with my mom, while at dad's house, they drank it like water.
I came very close to burning the house down on Broadway. At school, we had done a project where we went out an collected leaves. Then we brought the leaves back to the classroom and placed them between two pieces of wax paper. Then the teacher sealed the two pieces of paper together with an iron. I figured I could do the same thing at home. By this time, I was using the stove by myself to melt paraffin wax to make vampire teeth and it didn't seem like any big deal to use the iron, except that I was intending to go downtown Spokane on the bus and it was almost time for the bus. I ran out of the house to the bus stop in front of the house but I missed the bus. When I came back into the house, there was a small fire. I had left the iron on and the wax paper had ignited. If I hadn't missed the bus, the house would have surely burned down.
For me, though, as horrible as it would have been to burn the house down, nothing compares with the horror, shame and humiliation I felt when a friend found me in the apartment in drag. I remember playing "dress up" as a small child. In fact, there was a photograph my grandmother had saved of me in a dress when I was probably about five years old. There is 8mm film of me swirling in a dress around that same time. As a small boy, I remember having some of what nowadays would be called "gender confusion." Everyone has a self image of themselves. I remember feeling confused at the time about mine and who I was and what gender I was and how I fit in with others. I think this confusion persisted much of my childhood but came to an abrupt end in fourth grade.
There were a couple of times in early childhood, or maybe it was only once, that others dressed me up in drag for Halloween. This was probably in first or second grade. I know that we went trick or treating from Ole and Rex's house. Rex was a "teaser" and teased everyone and, for the most part, this was part of his charm. He teased me over repeatedly over the years about being a "girl." I am not sure if that started before that Halloween or after but it was another ongoing childhood humiliation and embarrassment.
There were often times that we were left alone in my childhood. I don't know now where everyone was at the time, but I remember being alone in the house and wanting to put on a dress. I think I might have put on one of mom's bras as well. High heels, if there were any available, I have no doubt. I don't remember all of the details but I was flouncing around in this drag and suddenly a boyhood acquaintance came bursting through the door to find me for something. Back then, nobody locked their front doors. I just remember him looking at me in shock and my looking at him, terrified of what he might tell others. I don't remember what he said or if he told anyone else but I remember it was one of the most humiliating and life changing experiences in my young life. To this day, a gay man in his senior years, I have never felt comfortable with "doing drag." Any time it has even crossed my mind for a second, I remember back to this horrific episode of being discovered, hiding in a closet.
Hebert must have been born by this time and he and Donna and David were living pretty well by comparison. They always had plenty to eat and never went without heat and even had color television! Irene, as good as she could be to us sometimes, she always seemed to have an underlying resentfulness of Darlene, Roger or I ever getting much of anything material from my dad and made sure that her kids always got something more or better. I guess protecting your own kids and providing for them is a natural maternal instinct and I suppose it was natural for her to want more for her own children.
In addition to Irene's resentments toward our receiving much of anything in the way of financial support, I think my dad resented the idea of child support itself. Like many men, he was fine with providing us with food and clothing when we were in his home but avoided sending money to my mom for those same things. My mom often said that if the judge would have given her the business when they divorced, she could have sent him twice the amount of child support he was supposed to be sending us and she could still provide for us kids and live well. That was not the reality of the situation though.
Is it better to live inside the asylum where you are fed and cared for and there is structure and predictability or is it better to live outside the asylum where nothing is predictable and change is constant and hunger is a common experience? Even though my step-sister and brothers, Donna, David and Hebert were having a relatively more stable home life in some ways, such as not moving around constantly and not going hungry or not wearing clothes with holes in them, the fact is that they lived in their own kind of hell. They lived inside the asylum with my dad and Irene and the drinking and the violence and the screaming and the pure insanity.
It was while living on Broadway that mom meant George. She had been going square dancing with aunt Billie and her husband Joe, who was a "caller" for square dancing. They were the parents of my cousins Don and Nola and we kids also spent quite a bit of time in their home when we were growing up.
Chubby Checker, who had brought us "The Twist" was now encouraging us to Twist again with his song, "Let's Twist Again." Chubby Checker also wanted us do another dance with his song, "Pony Time" and then he wanted us to do "The Fly." Of course, I learned all these dance fads which also included The Mashed Potato. Mary Griffin and I did all these dances together at The Candy Shop in downtown Palouse at one time or another. The Shirelles had several hits in 1961 that would go on to become classics, "Dedicated to the One I Love," and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and "Mama Said." Connie Francis upset my aunt, Bert, when she sang, "Where the Boys Are." Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack" is another song I remember from the Candy Shop jukebox in Palouse.
I think that by this time, Roger must have already been taking guitar lessons in Spokane and was singing Ricky Nelson's "Travelin' Man." I can still remember the first couple of verses from that song after all these years.
One of my all time favorite novelty songs from back then is "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavor." As a little boy, I learned all the words and loved the silly sound when Lonnie Donegan sang the words, "...does it catch upon your tonsils, and you heave it left and right... eh eh... does your chewing gum lose it's flavor on the bedpost over night?" Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John" also had a lot of appeal at the time. This was also the year the classic "Stand by Me" was released by Ben E. King.
Somehow, by third grade, I was attending Grant Elementary in Spokane. Darlene remembers a street named "Milton" but I don't remember it at all. If I remember correctly, Grant was not considered by some as a very good school. I suppose that part of that was socioeconomics of that side of town and racism. Grant was the first real integrated school that I attended. There were African-American kids and Asian kids there. I remember being friendly with an African-American boy and going with him to his house but I had to wait outside rather than come in his house. This was the fist African-American that I ever knew and I remember liking him.
We lived on 10th Street in Spokane during this period. That is where I had a dog which was named Taffy. There are very few things that I remember about that house. I know we were pretty poor at the time and had our heat shut off at one point while living there and it was very cold. I think I had a birthday party there in which most of the kids were more interested in playing with Roger than playing with me and I was hurt by that. I remember one time that I spent a night alone with Taffy in that house when my mom thought I was in Palouse but I had come back early with my cousins Nola and Don and their dad, Joe.
I don't remember what my Mom was doing at this point? Was she working? I don't know. I only know she was depressed. It seems to me that she was depressed for much of my childhood. She would sometimes be crying for reasons that I didn't understand and she didn't just cry, but she would sob as in much emotional pain. I wanted to help her but didn't know how. Darlene often seemed to step in to play the role of mother when mom was in such emotional turmoil or my aunt Ole would step in.
By the end of 1959, we had been bouncing around from one place to another quite a bit. We would stay in Ole and Rex's basement, or stay with Billie and Joe, or be shipped over to my aunt Bert in Palouse. Life was full of chaos. Maybe it is because of all this chaos in my early life that I have always craved stability as an adult.
At some point during all this turmoil, my mom came to have a restaurant outside Spokane, along the old highway out toward the airport, called Carrol's Country Kitchen. The restaurant had a small apartment in the back. We attended school at a place that I thought was called "Four Square" but Roger doesn't remember going to school from Carol's Country Kitchen at all. When I tried to find a school on the internet called "Four Square," I was unable to do so but I did find an area called "
Four Lakes" near the area in which I think the school existed so maybe I have just confused the name over the years. I do think it was near Cheney, Washington which is outside of Spokane and would be in the right direction. I do remember that there were several grades in my classroom. This was similar to how it had been in Palouse as well. This was another small, country school that didn't have enough students to fill each grade level so several grade levels would be taught within each class. I don't think we went there very long, like most schools of my childhood, but I remember taking an interest in some of the reading from above my class level. We took a bus to the school each morning.
|The restaurant was just a greasy spoon sort of place, serving burgers and fries and had a jukebox and each table had it's own wall box where a patron could remotely select three songs for a quarter that would play on the jukebox. There were a lot of "novelty" songs in those days, or at least what I would call "novelty" songs now such as The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace," Dean Martin's "My Heart is an Open Book" was popular at the time. I remember LOVING "Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley and "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters. We were all singing The Kingston Trio's hit, "Tom Dooley." Jerry Lee Lewis tore it up with "Great Balls of Fire." Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash" was fun as was "Beep Beep" from The Playmates. Everybody wanted to have "Personality" that Lloyd Price sang about. It was a more innocent time. Check out my iTunes list for more great songs from that era.
I helped peel potatoes for the spiral french fries. My Mom worked long hours and I think some of her sisters might have helped out at different times.
I guess my Mom was "dating" by this time. I'm not so sure that the divorce from my Dad had actually been finalized yet or not. I remember one fool that my mom saw briefly used to say that you should only call a woman, "lover or Mother" but not "Mom." He was pretty creepy to me but I don't remember much else about him.
At some point during third grade, I must have stayed with my Aunt Bert in Palouse and went to school with my second-cousins David and Alec. The school in Palouse consisted of one, two story building. The upper floor was high school and the lower floor was grade school. There would be more than one grade level in a classroom as there were not enough students to have a classroom for each grade level. Somewhere along the line, my cousin, Guy, was giving me a haircut. Alec, David and I had seen the movie, "Last of the Mohicans." It must have been the 1936 version with Randolph Scott and Bruce Cabot as the next version that came out was in 1963. Like most kids, we liked playing cowboys and Indians and when Guy was cutting my hair, I asked for a Mohawk haircut. He obliged and then would suffer the wrath of Bert, later when she came home and saw what he had done. I loved it, though, and begged to keep it. When I returned to Spokane, to a little elementary school near John R. Roger's High School, a note was sent home with me that told my mom that the haircut was inappropriate for the class. I don't think I was kicked out. I think I was just given another hair cut to even everything out.
After Jim's suicide notes, I went to Spokane and stayed at my aunt Ole's. I remember being at Ole's and telling them of the last few months in San Francisco, with Kenny overdosing and drinking the drano and Jim disappearing. I also told my mom about the flyer I had seen at the employment office about the training program for Psychiatric Technicians and told her that it sounded interesting. She and George were heading back to Southern California.
I think I wound up going over to Toppenish and bar tending for my dad which I really hated. Dad was hard to work for because he expected more from his kids than his employees, yet wanted to pay them less. The bar was a pretty rough place with derelicts, winos and Yakima Indians always wanting to fight with Mexicans for some sociological reasons. It was bitter cold there in the winter which would make it hard to breathe for me in the mornings because it felt like it was freezing your lungs. There was absolutely nothing to do in Toppenish for entertainment and even less to do there if you were gay. Occasionally on the weekends I would drive over to Seattle.
After one of the trips to Seattle, I was giving my father a ride. I'm not sure who's car it was since I don't remember having one of my own so it must have been his car or a car he let me drive while I was visiting there. He was drunk in the back seat. It seems like David might have been with us. He started rambling on about knowing what I had done in Seattle and that he had a private detective follow me there since I was his employee and he had to check out all his employees. In his drunkeness, he told me that he knew all about me and that he loved me. He rambled on about his being the best "actor" in the world. It was all pretty incoherent but apparently he had someone discovered that I was gay and knew where I had been going in Seattle.
There were several times that I worked for my dad at the Brunswick and it is all pretty sketchy in my mind. Before I was twenty-one, I could only work in the restaurant side of the establishment as a waiter and dishwasher. After I was twenty-one, he had me working behind the bar. It was a pretty awful place and at one time, I think it was open twentyfour hours a day. I was fired from the place one time because I left for California without my dad's permission but there was no way I could live happily in this dying small town.
By 1973, mom and George had moved from Washington to Upland, California, which is outside of Los Angeles. Mom had looked into training programs for Psychiatric Technicians and had found on in La Puente, not far from Upland. She must have called me about the program and offered to let me come and stay with her and George in Upland. I was eager to get out of Toppenish. I am not sure if she bought the ticket or if dad did. I doubt that I would have had any money saved but I guess that is a possibility as I was living in dad's house and probably didn't have many expenses. Regardless, I got the money together from somewhere and got out of that hell hole and made my way to Upland, where I would get enrolled in the Psych. Tech. program at Valley Vocational.
I don't know how long it was after my mom met him, that George moved to Texas. I don't remember him being around all that long in Spokane. Mom had dated a few men since separating from my dad and none of them seemed very consequential. I guess kids can be oblivious to what is going on with the adults around them. I don't know what it was that motivated my mom to follow George to Texas.
I remember thinking, or knowing at some point, that life had been pretty miserable for her, and us, after the divorce from my dad. and I think she was looking for a way out of that misery and poverty. I think she may have seen George as a way out. That may not be true at all and maybe there was much more passion than I realized at the time, as I was very young, but I do understand such motivation as being very possible and being much more reasonable than passion anyway. As I got older, I realized that even in my own life, it is not the fire hot, passionate relationships that sustain you the most through life. Those come and go. It is sometimes practicality and stability that make a good relationship. Regardless, I think that my mother did grow to love George over the years they were together and it was a different kind of love than what she had experienced with my own father.
Abilene Texas was one of the worst experiences of my life up to that point. I traveled there by train with my mom and my mom used to tell the story of the kind conductor giving us a free berth to sleep in one night. As I remember it, this was one of those old fashioned kinds of berths which I have only seen otherwise in the movie "Some Like it Hot." The berth consisted of just a space that you could lie down in. There were both upper berths and lower berths and I think there was only a curtain that came down over the berth to give you privacy. I think that entire trip took about three days.
It never occurred to me when we went to Abilene that it would be such a life changing experience. I just assumed it would be another temporary location like all the other transient, temporary locations in my life. I was enrolled in school there and the first day or second day I came home from school, my mom proudly showed me her new wedding ring. I was distraught and hysterical to think that my mother had married George without preparing me or discussing it beforehand, but in those days, as I said before, the adults I knew rarely took into consideration the feelings or needs of children. You were just expected to go along with whatever the adults decided based on their needs and feelings.
The elementary school in Abilene was the first and only time I ever attended a segregated school. The school bus on which I rode to school picked up both black and white kids. The white kids segregated themselves in the back of the bus and the black kids rode in the front. As far as I can remember, they did not interact. The black kids would all get off the bus at an old schoolhouse out in the middle of nowhere and then the white kids would be brought to the modern, new school in town. For some reason, there was a kid in my class that I think was partially Hispanic. He was the only friend I remember having in Abilene. Most of the kids at the school were pretty horrible to me. I was teased on both the school bus and at the school for talking with an "northern" accent. Of course, it was not me that had an accent at all.
One day, one of the older white boys wanted me to lift up a girls dress and I refused to do it. He kept haranguing me to do it and when he asked me why I wouldn't do it, the only answer I could think to give was "because I'm a Christian." From then on, the horrible Texan white boys on the bus would call me "Christian." The fact is that I was really not religious at all. I had been in a church choir for a while with my cousin Nola in Spokane and I had enjoyed the Bible Study class when I attended Bryant, but otherwise, I really wasn't religious and I don't remember ever attending any church while we were in Abilene.
I don't remember Roger on this racist school bus of hate but in recent conversations, he remembered riding the school bus in Abilene. I remember Darlene being there and actually fainting one day when the redneck hate mongers were teasing us. It happened just as we were arriving at the black school and she was taken off the bus for a moment. I think that she returned to the bus and we continued on to school but I am not certain about that. School was pretty awful too. For instance, in Washington, children were taught that Lincoln was one of the great Presidents, but in Abilene, our teacher only questioned Lincoln's greatness. The teacher must have been fundamentalist Christian and taught against the theory of evolution..
Roger had actually been sent back to Arkansas when my mom met George. He says that he was out of control and he thinks mom wanted to get him out of the way so he wouldn't affect her new, budding relationship. I don't remember that at all. I do know that we were expected to act differently around George and be on our best manners. I was up to that task most of the time as I think I was always eager to please others. George was the first person I had ever known that didn't smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. He was balding and what some might call a "nerd." He was an aeronautics engineer, although I had no idea what that meant. Apparently, when Roger went back to Arkansas, Darlene was shipped off to Toppenish.
Phantom Lake smelled pretty nasty much of the time. When mom and I had first arrived there, it was shortly after a flood and the cabin had been flooded and had the stench of the lake.
I do remember Roger swimming in the lake with me. He was very athletic then even and could swim from the shore on which we lived to the opposite shore. I would sometimes swim in the lake too but you would often see water moccasins and I understood that they were supposed to be poisonous and so swimming in the lake became less appealing.
I remember the scraggly mesquite trees and the inclement weather. We had a dog there but I don't remember her name. She had puppies in a shed out back of the cabin and I remember running out to try to get them into the house during a hail storm when the hail was as big as golf balls and I got hit pretty hard on the back of the head. There were tornadoes in Abilene, too, and I remember making plans for getting into the bathtub with a mattress over us to protect ourselves although it never did actually come to that.
I learned to hitchhike in Texas. I don't think it was too long after Roger arrived in Abilene that he had done something that had angered George. I had never really been disciplined by George that I can remember at that time but Roger was more rebellious. Whatever it was that Roger did, George hit him with a clenched fist. I don't think it was in the face- maybe the arm or a leg or something but it upset my mother quite a bit and she took Roger and I and we started walking toward town. I can't remember if she actually stuck her thumb out but I think she might have and we got a ride with a stranger who took us quite a ways, but not all the way into town. I think that George showed up in the Volkswagen about that time and there were some tears and he and mom made up and after that, he didn't really attempt to do any more disciplining of us kids. Mom was always pretty much "in between" as a "buffer" between us and him. George never felt like a "father" to me since we still had our own dad. He was the guy that married our mom. He was our mom's husband.
George was a pretty good man actually, He didn't drink or smoke and he belonged to the Sierra Club and was athletic and health conscious. He was a bit of a nerd too.
I still remember one present I got for Christmas while in Texas. It was a pictorial book about Broadway actors and shows. It may have had cinematic actors as well but I'm not sure about that. Regardless, it was the perfect gift for a young gay boy that wanted to be an actor when he grew up. At another time, George came home with a business card with the autograph of Jerry Lewis. I was a big Jerry Lewis fan and it was thrilling to have the little card. I think I saved that card for years and it was in mom's cedar chest when the cedar chest was stolen some years later.
All our lives that I can remember, my mom had an exquisite cedar chest in which she kept family heirlooms and treasures. One of Darlene's favorite dolls from her early childhood was in there. I remember an elaborate smoking pipe carved from white ivory. There were dishes and fabric and the record that Roger and I made later in our lives when we were with the Luv Please. All those treasures were lost one summer when mom and George left the cedar chest at their place in Hunters Washington.
George's parents lived in San Diego. He also had five girls there by a previous marriage: Sandy, Carol, Barbie, Connie, and Georgie. A few of them had visited the cabin out at Phantom Lake in Abilene but I don't remember anything about those visits. I know there came a time that Darlene and I might have gone back up to Washington or took a flight somewhere on the day that we were all dressed up. I think people got dressed up to fly back then. I'm not sure if Darlene stayed in Washington and I went back to Texas but the next thing I remember is taking a trip to California in George's blue Volkswagen bug. I seem to remember it was Roger and I in the back seat for that trip. I think that we stopped along the way at the Grand Canyon and maybe we went to Crater Lake on that trip but I'm not certain. George was a mountaineer as it turned out and did take us to such places.
I think it was on that trip to California that we went through San Francisco and Roger and I got sick after eating some clam chowder or something and we spent most of the time in a hotel room while Mom and George went out. We also stopped at Disneyland and that was the highlight of the trip for me of course. The trip ended in San Diego and meeting George's parents. I think we may have even stayed in their home but I'm not sure about that and I don't remember going back to Texas, so maybe we had actually driven out to stay in California but for some reason, I think we came out to visit for one trip and then moved on another trip. I am pretty sure Darlene was with us when we were there looking for a house. I do remember being in Escondido at some point and staying at a motel and mom and George taking our clothes to a laundromat and must have left them there unattended and they got stolen. I think that was the same day or around the same time that I had my first McDonald's hamburger or it may have been some other fast food place where hamburgers were ten for a dollar or ten cents a piece.
When I was in first grade, we lived on Marietta street in Spokane and I attended Cooper Elementary. I remember loving my teacher at Cooper and I played one of the wise men in a school Christmas play. For years after this, I thought I wanted to be an actor when I grew up. I also remember several humiliating experiences during that year on Marietta.
This was the first year that I had been anywhere that I remember having separate restrooms for boys and girls. I don't know that I had ever seen a urinal before. I must have, you would think, but I guess it is possible that I had always been with my mother in the women's restroom up until this point in my life? Since my father was pretty much absent by this time, I don't think I had been in many public men's restrooms and I was not used to these contraptions on the walls that the boys would walk up to and use, standing up. I tried to fit in and use them like the other boys, but I think one of them must have suspected my discomfort and teased me and made it a pretty miserable experience. I remember that I much preferred to hide in a stall to do my business after this.
First grade boys can be merciless. Since it is the first year that one is really out of the home for eight hours of the day, a hierarchy and power structure begins to develop. Those boys that are most comfortable in the world at that point and are fearless and aggressive, take the power. It was in first grade that I first had the experience of being subjugated by another boy. His name was Pat and he lived on the next block from where we lived, but I didn't know that the first day we met in a field that I was crossing on my way home from school. As I was crossing this field, I encountered Pat for the first time and he confronted me and for some reason, told me to roll up my pants a few inches above my ankles. I don't know why he would have wanted me to do that or why that would have been so humiliating, but I guess that it was more about his being able to inflict fear in me and force me to do something, regardless of what that something was. I know that I obliged and then went home crying... but after this, Pat probably became my first best friend for the brief period that we lived there on Marietta.
It was also in first grade that I remember becoming sexualized for the first time. A neighbor girl and I did some innocent minor exploration and my mom found out about it and I was reprimanded. First grade is when I first became aware of some of the cuss words and remember asking my mom what they met. It was also a time of exploration with other boys, including Pat.
Since I was in first grade at the time, and about six years old, Darlene must have been about ten. Now it seems unthinkable that such young kids would be left on their own, but I think that we were much of the time. Darlene tells of a couple of incidents when we were this young. One of the incidents involved a man in a park that tried to get her to come into the bathroom with him. Roger was there and yelled and screamed and rescued her. In another story, she had gone down by the Green Street bridge in Spokane where Roger was fishing, and some teenager about eighteen years old attacked her and her girlfriend went for help and a women responded and scared the teenager away. Somehow the police were involved and came to our home.
It also seems to me that by this time, I was going downtown Spokane by myself or my friend Pat when I was only in first grade. The Ritz theater in Spokane seemed to always be showing the horror movies that I loved and a ticket only cost a dime back then. The El Rey theater also showed horror movies on occasion when they were not showing more adult fare. I remember going to the movies at these old, decrepit theaters and adult men would come and sit beside me in the dark. I remember one wanting me to meet him by the Spokane river on a particular day, at a particular time, but even at this young age, I was wise enough not to go.
There would be other men in other situations that took advantage of my naivety. I know that I was not the only one of us kids that these things were happening to as others have shared their experiences with me later in my life. On the surface, Spokane seemed like such an innocent, ideal place to raise children, and I do think that in most ways that it was, but maybe because of this, and it being the late 1950's, parents were not on guard for predators like they are now. At the time, in the late fifties, people didn't really talk about such things and parents were much more naive. I realized very quickly, at a young age, that adult men could not always be trusted and that I was pretty much on my own when it came to dealing with them. I learned that you couldn't trust what you saw on the surface because men would sometimes have ulterior motives for being nice to you. The men that ignored you and made no pretense at being nice to you were actually the ones that you could trust the most- at least to be consistent and not want anything from you.
If adult men could not be trusted, they were also very scary to me. In my youth, adult men were much more serious disciplinarians than women and mothers. Sure, our mother might spank us with her hand or even a belt, but my father could do it with much for forcefulness and terror. All adult men had the power to terrorize children and apparently had societies permission to do so. It was a much different time. Nice men were not to be trusted and all the other adult men were to be feared.
I think that my mom was pretty depressed for some years after she left my dad. I think there were times that she would just lay in her bed and sob. I do remember other times that she read to us Greek mythology and encouraged us to learn poetry. By this time, I was beginning to have my doubts about Santa Clause but do remember a great Christmas where Pete and Jim visited Christmas eve and all of our presents materialized under the tree that night. We always seemed to have a piano and it was on Marietta, I remember Darlene and Roger learning to play violins. I think that Darlene played with her class in a concert that we went to and at some point was also learning the Harpsichord and the Hawaiian guitar.
There was a time that I was hit in the face by another little boy on Marietta street and was expected by the other kids to fight but instead of fighting, I went crying to my mom in the house. Her response was to tell the story of Jesus turning his cheek. I retorted "I'm not Jesus!" It did make an impression on me though. Although my mom never seemed religious, there were sporadic encounters with Christianity as I was growing up. I think that it was around this time that I might have been in a church choir with my cousin, Nola or maybe that was later. I know that one friend took me to a Catholic church around this time for Ash Wednesday and somehow I got the ash on my forehead. I think that I somehow even took communion as I remember I was told that I shouldn't chew the wafer that they put on my tongue.
Donna was also born about the time I was six years old. I don't remember seeing much of my dad up to this point. Maybe his life had been a bit chaotic too?
I don't remember anything about second grade and I don't have any pictures or video of that year. David must have been born that year as he is a year younger than Donna. I think part of the year may have been spent in Arkansas. I think that my fathers parents lived near Little Rock at the time. It seems odd to me that my mom and the three of us kids would take the train to Arkansas without my dad but Darlene says that mom was close to Dad's parents as they had lived or visited in Grandview. Dad's brother Pete had lived with us in Grandview as well and often credited my mom with being an influence in his life and education which led to his being a judge.
I remember very little about that trip. I think it must have taken about three days to get there. Roger says that we got off the train and spent a night in a hotel in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Darlene vaguely remembers the trip as well.
I think I always had a pretty good attitude under whatever circumstances I was presented with but I don't think I liked Arkansas. There were plenty of cousins and I remember playing in some red clay outside. I know I attended school briefly in Arkansas but I don't remember anything specific about it. I went out hunting with my grandfather and Roger and I don't remember anything about hunting except for mud puddles which had some kind of live creatures and wondering how they got there. I guess they must have been some sort of minnows or slugs or something or maybe it is just a dream I had. There was wood to chop at my grandparents house for the wood stove and Roger was strong enough to actually chop wood but I didn't have the strength. I got the only case of poison oak or poison ivy I ever had while I was in Arkansas. It was a pretty miserable place for me.
|The first time I saw Elvis Presley on television was that year at my grandparents house. I would have been six in January of 1957. He sang "Hound Dog." He made a big impression on me. 1957 was a great year for Elvis Presley with multiple hits such as "All Shook Up," "Teddy Bear," "Jailhouse Rock," and "Love me Tender." The Everly Brothers had a couple of hits that year with "Bye Bye Love" and "Wake Up Little Susie." Once Roger had started guitar lessons, he would come back to these songs of 1957 often. He did a version of "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog" at various times. I know we all loved Jimmy Rodgers' "Honeycomb." Debbie Reynolds had a hit with the theme song from the movie of the same name, "Tammy." Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard seemed to compete for songs that tore up the dance floor and had us screaming with Jerry's "Whole Lot of Shakin" and Little Richard's "Keep a Knockin." These are all songs that would stay with me for the rest of my life. 1957 was a very good year for music fans. Elvis would go on to have a long career as "The King."|
I don't remember how any of us got back to Washington from Arkansas. Darlene and Roger don't either. Did dad drive down to get us? I wish I could remember. We were in Arkansas, and then we were back in Washington. I think I finished out second grade or started third grade in Palouse. That is how much of my childhood memories are- fractured and shattered..