Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Little Red Tricycle

Back to California when Grandpa is four years old. He was in Kindergarten, says he thinks his mother must have pulled some strings to do that, but in school. The infamous Mrs. Stonehouse was watching him in the afternoon, and of course, totally drunk, so he was on his own this particular day.

Turns out the little guy who lived on the street behind him told Grandpa he could ride his new tricycle. Well....Grandpa wanted it SO was new, shiny, red, and had a really neat bell. Now this is the part that reminds me of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bit by bit, Grandpa convinced himself that his friend told him he could ride the tricycle, so that meant he could HAVE the tricycle, and therefore it was really HIS tricycle after all, etc. Walking around the block to his friend's house, he found nobody home, went into the backyard, and there it was in all its glory! Too small to lift it over the fence, he found a wood 2x4, propped it on the fence, and slowly pushed the tricycle up and over into an adjacent empty lot. Then running back around got on and had the time of his life until his mother came home around 4:00 p.m. She asked him whose tricycle it was, and Grandpa answered it was his :) Then she asked where he got it, and he told her he found it in the abandoned lot....(well he DID find it in the abandoned lot....after he put it there!) Long story short, sometime between 5:00 and 5:30, Grandpa was knocking on his friend's front door with a tricycle and a very sore behind.

The moral of the story according to Grandpa, was that there he was a little four-year-old child, coveting, stealing, and lying, and of course proving the Scriptural view of human nature entirely correct! Fortunately his mother also provided the Scriptural remedy to his backside...

Grandpa wanted to ask everybody who hears this story a question:

Are there any "little red tricycles" in your life? What things have you wanted so badly you were willing to commit wrong before God and man to get them?

All of us have been there I am sure!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

High School Follies

Not sure what year this was, but sometime during World War II, probably 1943 or 1944. Grandpa's Dad and brother were both away in the service, and Grandpa was alone with his mother. They lived at that time in a little house at 1403 Rincon Avenue in Montrose, but Grandpa went to high school in Tujunga, at Verdgo Hills High. At this point, his brother was in the 802nd Aviation Engineering Battalion behind Japanese lines in the Aleutian Islands, building secret airstrips. The Japanese fleet passed, they removed the camouflage, launched B25 bombers and P40 warhawks armed with torpedo bombs, and stuck the Japanese from behind. Confused about the direction of the attack, they turned around and left.

Now back to California, where Grandpa was in high school. At this time, he was dating a young lady named Patricia, and often stayed at the home of a friend named Ed Castlemann, due to the distance to his home in Montrose. Grandpa had to take a public bus to get to his own house, but could walk to the Castlemann's. When he stayed overnight there, he slept on a pull-down couch in the living room. One night, he missed the last bus home, because he was out late with his date. He walked to the Castlemann's about midnight, knocked lightly at the door, and hearing no one quietly let himself in and took off his shoes. He found the couch already pulled down and ready. Thinking this was a very thoughtful gesture on the part of the Castlemann family. He crept into bed. At this point, a he discovered he was in bed with a strange woman, who, upon waking let out a loud scream! It turned out this was an Aunt who had come to visit, and hence used the couch. Grandpa ran out of the house carrying his shoes and walked down Foothills Boulevard in the dark. At this time, all coastal areas were under a strict blackout and curfew due to the war, so he could hardly find his way. Around 2:00 a.m. a police patrol spotted him and gave him a pretty hard questioning. The took his ID, put him in the back of the car, and dropped him off near his house. Grandpa later used this incident in his entrance essay to UCLA and was exempted from his freshman English requirement!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Desperate Times

Here are a few stories Grandpa related about his Depression-era childhood.

In 1932 when he was four years old, Grandpa's father,Doug, and his mother,Lena, were struggling just to survive. Grandpa's brother, also named Doug, was sent to Montana to stay with his Aunt Jenny and his Aunt Ruth and his Uncle Arthur. Doug had asthma and they couldn't afford to keep him, so off to Montana he went. This left Grandpa alone with his Mom and Dad in California. There was no work available for his Dad. His Mom worked as a teacher but the school district was broke and paying in "scrip" which was essentially an I.O.U. In the end there was no food and no money, so Grandpa's dad robbed a grocery store! Lena was the "wheel-man" and drove to a small grocery on a side street. They had to take Grandpa, as they did not want anyone to know they had been gone during the robbery. Grandpa remembers his Mom telling him to get down on the floor and not to get up and look. Then she sat nervously at the wheel staring straight ahead. Realizing his mother was not paying attention to him, he got up and looked just in time to see his father in the back of the store waving his .38 revolver at the store keeper. Sure enough his dad emerged with a sack of groceries, and....voila! Dinner was served!

By 1933 Grandpa was in kindergarten and his mother asked a neighbor, one Mrs. Stonehouse, to watch him in the afternoon while she worked. Unknown to Lena, Mrs. Stonehouse was a drunk. At this time they lived the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, somewhere on Edenhurst Avenue near the top of the hill. The afternoon in question was very hot, and Grandpa came home from school thirsty. He knocked on Mrs. Stonehouse's door, but she would not answer. Grandpa tried to turn on the outside water-faucet, but it would not budge. Looking around, he discovered a bottle of ant poison, opened the top, and took a sip. It was sweet and syrup-like, so he drank the whole bottle! He remembers getting tired and lying down in the driveway. Fortunately for him (and for us) his mother arrived a few minutes later and found him. His next memory was waking up at Dr. Farnum's office having his stomach pumped out! I don't think they ever left him in the care of Mrs. Stonehouse again!

Sometime during this period, the communists were active and agitating due to the extreme economic trouble. Grandpa remembers having dirt-clog fights with his brother and other friends in an abandoned field nearby. One day, grandpa pulled up a dirt clog to throw at his brother, and finding a shiny red object beneath, took it home. Upon seeing it, his father grew very quiet and said, "Son, hand that to me." It turned out to be a home-made bomb!

At Christmas time in 1933, there was still no money. Grandpa's dad brought home some pieces of canvass and his mom cut-up her fox stole to make fur-lined chaps for Grandpa's Christmas present. He remembers his mother sitting at the kitchen table crying while she cut up the only article of value she owned. When he asked her why she was crying, she told him she was just tired. Years later his mom told him the truth.

Through all of this, Grandpa never remembers his mother or father complaining about "being poor". They worked whenever and wherever they could and gave their family a roof over their head and food on the table somehow!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Earthquake

The year is 1932, the location southern California in a small suburb between Los Angeles and Glendale. Grandpa is four years old. His Mom and Dad have invited his uncle Jack over to their house. Uncle Jack arrives in his old truck and Grandpa's mother (Lena) gives him strict instructions not to get into the truck. The adults then adjourn to the house, leaving Grandpa in the yard, and of course with the irresistible temptation to climb into the old truck and pretend he is "driving". Naturally valor prevails over discretion, Grandpa climbs in, and has a great time pretending he is off for a wild ride, when suddenly the truck starts to shake and jump seemingly of its own volition. The adults run out of the house, see Grandpa in the truck and begin hollering at him to get out.

"Get out of the truck!" his mother yells. "Get out of the truck! There is an earthquake! It's under the truck!"

Now we switch scenes to South Carolina in January 2009. Grandpa relates the story and then admits with a twinkle in his eye:

"I didn't know what an earthquake was, but all I knew was it was under that truck and there was no way I was going to get out and risk having it grab me!"