Sunday, January 10, 2010

...And So, Moving On To California...

We lived in Glendale, Arizona and Phoenix just before we moved to California. Mother and Daddy talked about going to California and who would go first and who would stay. Daddy had tuberculosis (or something else like consumption) and so mother decided she would go. She took my brother and me and caught a freight train. Later, down the line somewhere, we hitchhiked. We made it to Planada, California where Vernon Bue and his family lived.

Later Daddy and the girls caught a ride to Bakersfield. On the way they got a ride in a large, fine car. My sister, Mickey, had to ride in the back seat and got carsick so she was given crackers to settle her stomach a little and was put in the front floorboard of the car and stood up between the seat and the dashboard the rest of the way.

Daddy was sick with TB (or something) and broke when they got to Bakersfield. The Bakersfield police saw him and the girls and their situation and put Daddy in a sanitarium and the girls in an orphanage. As it turned out, our cousin, L B Johnson, lived in Bakersfield and when he found out what had happened, he had the police let Daddy and the girls go to his house. Later the whole family got together again.

There are several accounts of Mother and some of us kids hitchhiking to California and other places. There are also different accounts of us all moving to California. Evidently, after Mother, Buddy and I hitchhiked to California and Dad and the girls came, we all returned to Arizona for a spell. My brother, Buddy, says we all moved to California together in our 1931 Buick.

He said that when we loved in the desert near the dump (it was about ¾ of a mile away and down wind) he raised a hundred chickens. He would pull his wagon to the dump every day and get food for the chickens to eat. When the chickens were large enough to eat, he took them to Phoenix and sold them. The money was used to help buy the Buick, (Betsy Buick) and that car was what we drove to California.

The first place we moved to in California was Hemet, in Southern California. We weren’t there for long then went on to a Eucalyptus Tree grove north of Merced. This grove would later be cleared and Castle Air Base built there. From there we moved to Winton where we worked in the fruit harvest.

I can remember the girls working at a dry shed, a place where peaches and apricots are cut, dried in sulfur ovens and packed. I remember the girls buying blocks of Longhorn Cheese and enjoying it as if it were candy. They had learned to enjoy this particular kind of cheese when we were in Arizona. My Dad had an account at the grocery store and the girls would charge the cheese to that account. Dad put a stop to that after a while.


We lived at a place called the Johnson Ranch for a while. I think that is the place I nearly died from gasoline inhalation. We had a 1931 Buick we called,’ Betsy Buick,’ and it had a luggage rack on the back just below the spare tire rack. On the left of the car, just in front on the luggage rack, was the gas tank filler pipe. I took the cap off of the tank and, for whatever reason, I lay across the rack with my face at the open gas tank filler pipe and was getting giddy and quickly going into a sleep from which I would never awaken when one of my sisters saw me and rescued me. I sure felt good for a while as I was being walked around and revived.

My brother, Buddy, says I used to ride to town and back perched on the luggage rack that was attached to the rear of the Buick. He didn’t say how often I did this. I think I was about four years old there. I remember carrying around a Prince Albert tobacco can with me because those were the first words I remember knowing how to spell.

California Lands

We had a chicken pen there and a bunch of chickens. We had a big, tall yellow rooster (a Shanghai Rooster) that was really mean. One time he hid behind the coop and, when my sister, Joan, came into the coop, he attacked her with his spurs. I think he pecked her, too, and drew blood. Then, either my mother or brother beat him with a broom until he was almost crazy. He finally escaped to the outside and stayed gone for a couple of days. When he came back, he was much more subdued and understood that people are allowed in the coop.

A number of eggs hatched and there were baby chicks in the coop. My brother took a piece of screen and placed it in the coop on the ground and hooked wires attached to a magneto to the screen and sprinkled seeds on the screen. When the chicks walked on the screen to get the seeds, Buddy turned the magneto and sent an electrical shock through the screen. The chicks would peep and hop at the same time then go back to eating. He did this a bunch of times and we thought it was extremely funny. Everyone laughed. The hens finally stopped going onto the screen but the chicks never learned to stay off the screen.

Once a snake came into the chicken coop and started to swallow a chick. My mother saw it and got the snake and picked it up by the tail and whipped it like a whip. The snake’s head wouldn’t come off and the chick didn’t come out so my mom put her foot on the snake’s head and pulled it in to. She got the chick out of the snake’s mouth and it lived.

I recall my dad was in and out of our lives. I never saw a lot of him and don’t have any tender memories of him being with me when I was a child. My mother was always dominant; with everyone.

Once some relatives came to visit us from New Mexico and Texas. It seems like there was always some relatives visiting us. One of them was a cousin named Homer Johnson. He was the grandson of my Grandpa’s twin brother. Also there was our friends, the Bues.

Anyhow, one day Buddy, Big James, Bobby and Homer were walking down by the river and Homer said to Buddy,” I’ll bet you can’t hang by one hand from that limb and take your pants off with the other hand!”
Buddy, always good for a dare, said he could and he jumped up about a foot and a half and hung by one hand and loosened his pants and dropped them to the ground. Suddenly Homer grabbed Bud’s pants and ran as fast as he could back toward the camp. As soon as Bud realized what had happened, he gave chase and almost caught Homer at the front door.
When everyone saw Buddy without his pants, they began to laugh with Homer laughing the loudest. Homer laughed so hard that he couldn’t run anymore and Buddy caught him and retrieved his pants. He wouldn’t put them back on until he left the room. He stayed mad for about five minutes then he, too, laughed. It was very funny.

That'll be all for now. More later...

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