Long Beach, California
It always seemed big to me during the years I lived in it.
We were crammed in nicely; a house full of women, except when my father was in port. Grandma, my mother and her sister Corinne and various female renters made up our family.
Aunts and Great-Aunts have had an influence in most of our lives, some of whom are elevated to “Auntie”, as if setting them apart from just being an ordinary Aunt. I had all of these, with Grandma’s sister Georgia at top of the Auntie list. Given the fact of my birth to my nineteen year old parents in a shaky economy and in an unusual living environment, Auntie and Uncle Phil wanted to adopt me, which obviously did not happen. However, their Highland Park home formed my alternate home throughout my younger life.
Running up the middle of American Avenue, now Long Beach Avenue, was the Pacific Electric Railway, otherwise known as the Red Train. This rail line was the brilliant idea of Henry Huntington, one of the Big Four railroad tycoons. The streetcar connected us with Los Angeles where My mother would hand me off to Auntie in the morning and Auntie was waiting with me to be returned at the end of the work day.
The Red Train holds other memories as well of my kindergarten beau Richard, with red hair and freckles, whose father was the conductor of the Red Train. The ultimate job for a father to have.
By the time I entered school we had spent time in San Diego twice where I have fleeting memories of one room apartments/bathroom down the hall, and being very glad to come back to Grandma’s house.
I had a police record of sorts when I was lost at the age of four. Victimized by six year old twin boys who thought it a grand idea to desert me at the bottom of a deep ravine near our apartment. Later, when returning in the third grade, I met the boys again, who obviously remembered the thrashing I had given them when I was recovered, because they avoided me like poison, as I had been given lessons in self defense by my father, who did not tolerate cry babies.
Navy life was filled with hellos and goodbyes; some happy and some not. In the times we were stationed somewhere for a time, life was good. It was the three of us and my father was home each night.
We were stationed in Bremerton, Washington twice, and lived across the Sound in Port Orchard, where puppies came into my life. Grandma did not tolerate dogs; dogs were dirty and had fleas. She would not be happy today to know that Charlie, Master of the House, sometimes slips into the room where her large favorite chair provides a night’s resting place.
I have written about our time in Port Orchard in second grade on a previous post and the fear I had in walking to school passing the camp of gypsies. This is similar to my memory of it as I ran past. There was also the collapse of the large sand hill where we played which buried two of my classmates.
My mother became active in the Navy wive’s club, where the Admiral’s wife took an interest in us. They frequently sent the shore boat over to Port Orchard and I was sometimes allowed to steer the boat. Thrilling on a windy day. I repaid this kindness by climbing the Admiral’s cherry tree and falling out breaking up a perfectly sedate tea party, and sending me to the infirmary for patching up.
The other good thing I remember about the second grade is being selected to hang the class paintings which probably gave rise to my future occupation in the art world.