Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Early Memories

My mother, siblings, and me lived in Chula Vista on Woodlawn Street in what in retrospect was an okay two bedroom apartment.  It was on the second floor.  My brother Ron and I shared one bedroom.  My three sisters shared another bedroom, my mother slept in the living room.  I assume there was one bathroom although I have no memory of it.  The kitchen was adjacent to the living room and had a small window overlooking the elementary school where my youngest sister, Marilyn attended. 

I vividly recall helping my mother and sister putting up some sort of class president banner for Marilyn which makes me wonder if she was actually in junior high.  The banner was covered with matchbooks.  I think the slogan was either that she was matchless as a candidate or that was a perfect "match" for the job.

Being on the second floor, some of the neighbor hooligans would push my tricycle down the stairs.  The structure survived better than it should have.  The pedals would pop off and reattaching them requiring a cotter pin and pliers.  I am not sure why nothing was said to the hooligans' parents.   We were all poor people and perhaps good behavior was not expected.

There were garages behind and under the second floor on the west side of the building.  Woodlawn ran north/south just east of I-5 (or perhaps it was still U.S. 99)   There was a path through the bushes that let out directly on the highway so this was likely still U.S. 99.  An Interstate would have been fenced.  Looking at the map I had forgotten the railroad tracks we had to cross.

One day, my peers managed to score a six-pack of beer.  I think I was in first grade but maybe before first grade.  They made rather a big deal of this, using the school's hose bibs to punch holes in the end of the cans.  (Pull-tabs were still years in the future.)  

My first exposure to beer was a stunt by a babysitters husband when I was just under two and cans meant soft drinks.  The flavor was so disgusting that I never wanted to taste beer again.  Whike my peers were slurping beer I was keeping my distance. 

The San Diego Union, before its merger with the Tribune got a kick of making its readers multilingual.   They provided at very low cost books and records attempting to teach us Spanish, French, and maybe Russian?  I recall these vividly.

My brother was even then starting to exhibit the problems that would spiral down into schizophrenia.  As we were falling off to sleep, we would talk and he would mock me, repeating every word that I said.  

But overall,  relations with my siblings were good.  My middle sister tells me that zron was bored and taught me to read by two.  By first grade I was reading,  enjoying, and learning from his high school chemistry textbook.

My father worked for Todd Shipyards in San Pedro.  He was wanted by the FBI for interstate flight to avoid prosecution.  This was largely a misunderstanding when the bank without explanation closed his checking account just after he drove to San Francisco to look for work.

He lived in a tiny house on a hill overlooking San Pedro.  It was very old.  This is I think where it wasI think where it was. My sister taught me my times tables through 12x12 while we were there one weekend.


  1. All that privilege!

    My dad drank beer on occasion, but never to excess. Itwould have offended him (and mom). One or two on Saturday afternoon after he mowed the lawn. He gave me a tiny sip of beer when I was probably four or five, about1964. I thought it awful.

    10 years later I was working a summer job as a go-for for construction company. We finished up one day at the boss’s house putting away equipment. He brought a beer out of his kitchen and handed it to me. First beer since that sip in 1964. Tasted glorious after long hot humid Indiana summer day. I managed not to go wild afterwards.

    July 1981 my 21 year old self was on the backstep at our house polishing my boots. Although an Air Force ROTC cadet, I had just come back with jump wings from the Army’s Airborne School at Fort Bragg.

    My WWII vet and retired Chief Master Sergeant dad came out from the kitchen to sit with me and handed me a beer, cracking a smile as he said “I doubt this is your first.” That was true, but it was my first from him since that 1964 taste test. I suddenly felt like I had just made the jump from “kid“ to “man“ in his eyes as I told him about jump school. It made me very proud that day. Today at 64 it makes me cry.

  2. That is a good story. Can you tell if the apt on Woodlawn is still standing? I see 1K square foot homes on that street sell for 750K.
    Did your Dad happen to build Knox class frigates for US Navy? All the best. Jim


      I am not sure what ships he worked on.