Tuesday, February 23, 2010

School Days...

I think I have put this in a blog at some time before but, anmyhow, here it is again with a bit more added to it.

Mother took me to register for the first grade in the autumn of 1940. The school officials said I had to be five years old to start. So Mother took me back in January of 1941 and enrolled me in the first grade. I finished the first grade that year and advanced to the second grade when I was still five years old. I went to Galen Clark School.
The following year just before school started Mother took me to the school cafeteria to get my shots. I don’t remember what the shot was for but I know it must have been terrible because every kid there was whimpering or crying out loud in anticipation of the shot. Mom and I got in line and I didn’t have enough sense to be scared so I just went along with line until I reached the nurse who was giving the shots. She smiled at me and told me to roll up my sleeve and I did. She gave me the shot and it stung a little but I didn’t flinch or cry. She looked up at my mother and said,” My, what a brave little Man!” Mom said,” Yes he is.”
Floyd Bue, who would later be my stepbrother, also went to Galen Clark. Floyd had a high squeaky voice and, although he was a tall boy for his age and as physical as he should be for his height, he was timid and afraid of just about anyone who wanted to terrorize him. There were a lot of Mexicans enrolled in school and three of them liked to wait for Floyd and pick at him as he was walking home from school. The last time they made him cry, he told them that his brother was going to school soon and they had better watch out. I started awhile later and sure enough, on the way home that first day, the Mexican kids were waiting for him. Floyd was taller than I was but I was fatter than he was and that made me seem bigger. Floyd told me ahead of time about the boys and we were ready for them. When they approached us, one of them said,” Is that your brother?” and Floyd said it was and he is tough. The boy walked over to me and asked how tough I was and I punched him in the mouth. He started running away from us and the other two followed him. They never bothered us again. Floyd and I spent a lot of time together and we never bothered anyone and, after that incident, no one bothered us again.
I vaguely remember a water tower we climbed. I don’t remember what we did on it; I think just looked around. I thought up most of the things Floyd and I did together and he usually just went along with them.
The following is something that happened which, for whatever reason, has stuck in my mind as one of the most disappointing things I can ever remember happening to me as a child.
The carnival was in town and it is the first carnival I can ever remember. I was very excited about going and thought about it all day the day I was supposed to go. I went to school that day and mother told me to wait at the gate on a certain side of the schoolyard after school was out. I waited at the wrong gate and when everyone didn’t find me at the right gate, they went on to the carnival without me. I waited until almost dark then went home. There was nobody there and I didn’t know where the carnival was so I didn’t get to go. It left town the next day. All anyone could say to me was, ” You should have been at the right gate.” Sure. Thanks! I hated everyone for a long time after that for not looking for me. Sometimes I feel like I still do.
Not long after that Mother was canning some fruit on a kerosene heater in the kitchen (I think this is what happened- maybe the heater was just on for heat) and the heater caught on fire and blew up and the house was burned down. We lost almost everything. Uncle Nick lost everything.
I don’t remember much about what happened immediately after that. I know we started for Modesto. Dad was there with us. We had a two-wheeled trailer that was pulled behind our car. The trailer had a frame for the top that could support a canvas top to make it like a covered wagon. Mom and Dad slept in the trailer and us kids slept on pallets on the ground. When we were traveling, Dad would dig a hole in the ground where he wanted to build a fire. He carried a piece of tin with him to make an oven to cook biscuits. He would mix the biscuit dough and grease a pan and put the biscuits in the pan. Then he would put the piece of tin over the hole and build a fire on top of the tin. The hole under the tin would get hot and Dad would put the pan of biscuits in the hole and use the hole as an oven to bake the biscuits. It worked very well and Dad’s biscuits were always perfectly browned and extremely tasty.
We never had a whole lot to eat but we always managed. Sometimes Mother would boil water and put in sugar to make ‘sugar syrup’ for breakfast. We almost always managed to have chicken (chicken was very cheap in those days) at least once a week. Sometimes we would have bacon and once in a while we’d have spare ribs. But mostly it was biscuits and potatoes and gravy for dinner and biscuits and cream (or water) gravy or biscuits and sugar syrup for breakfast. Mother and Dad used a lot of canned cream instead of milk for gravy or other milk dishes. Canned cream went a lot farther than milk because it could be diluted to whatever strength was needed and, when there was milk left over in the can, they could put a tiny piece of bread in the hole to effectively plug the can and preserve the remaining milk. It’s amazing how long canned milk kept without spoiling.
I remember spreading my pallet under an apricot tree to go to sleep one night. I was, of course, sleeping with someone else, probably Joan. During the night it started to rain. Joan went to the trailer and told mom it was raining and mom said to pull the quilt up, so we did. It was very warm under that quilt that night. I couldn’t get cool and the next morning I found I was covered with chicken pox bumps. Mom looked them over and said I had chicken pox and needed to keep warm and dry for a few days. No one else caught them from me. There were no ill effects from the disease.

That'll do it for this time. I won't wait so long next time.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bear Creek Camp...

*I'll start another episode here as I recall it. Some of my story may be duplicated; maybe I remembered the same thing over and re-inserted it into my journal. The next episode will start, "School Days." This one is, "Bear Creek Camp."*

My family lived in a couple of farm-workers cabins at a place called, ”Bear Creek Camp.” We had a Jersey milk cow and a 1931 Buick car that ran pretty well. We must have been there for a while because I remember a lot of things that happened there.

At one point the cow got loose and ran away toward the creek and we all had to chase her until she got tired to catch her. She had a huge bag and gave a lot of milk. No one ever got sick from drinking the raw milk.

Dad worked for a turkey farmer. When payday came, Dad, Mom and I went to the farmhouse to collect Dad’s pay. When Dad got out of the car and started to open the gate to go into the yard, a huge German Police dog ran at him barking and snarling with bared teeth. He wanted to eat my Dad. Dad wouldn’t go into the yard, even after Mom told him the dog wouldn’t bite him. Finally she said to get out of the way, she’d get the check, and she walked into the yard and told the dog to shut up and to go and lay down, so he did. She was fearless. She got the check.

The Bues were Vernon- the Dad, (who would later become my stepfather) Delia- the Mother, three boys; James, Bobby and Floyd, and two girls, Betty Jo and Joyce. Later we would call James Bue,’Big James,’ and me, ‘Little James,’ because he was older than I was.

Christmas came when we lived there. Christmas was never much about gift giving in those days. Money was too hard to come by to spend much on anything more than necessities. Floyd Bue and I were about a year apart in age, with him the oldest.
We got a cap pistol and a box of caps each for a present. I recall we played together for hours with them-until the caps ran out! We would climb on top of the cabins and jump from one to another trying to catch or get away from each other. I remember we played mostly detective games, cops and robbers because the guns were of an automatic type and not revolvers used by cowboys.

One time the big boys made a pair of stilts out of two 2 by 4s and some blocks of wood and straps. Everyone wanted to walk on them but Big James made them so he got to walk on them first. When he got up on the blocks with the ends of the 2 by 4s under his arms, one of the straps broke and he fell with his armpit onto the end of one of the boards and tore the underside of his arm up. Mother put some Merthiolate on it with a bandage. It was still sore when they left.
This didn't faze the other boys because they repaired the stilts and took turns using them.

While we were there, my folks traded our Buick for a Star car and a sow and nine pigs. We ate very well for a while.

When the Bues left, we all gathered around their car that had a trailer hooked on the back with their belongings in it. We were saying goodbye when the car pulled out. Buddy was standing near the right back seat of the car and, when it pulled away, his foot went forward and went under the trailer and the trailer tire ran over his foot. It didn’t break any bones but it surely flattened his foot!
We moved away shortly after that.

Just before we moved I seem to recall being in the car with Dad and Buddy. We stopped at a grocery store/bar for something and I was told to stay in the car until they got back.
While they were gone I played at driving. While playing, I pulled the emergency brake on and forgot about it. When they got back, we left and, after a while, smoke began to come up from under the car. Dad pulled over and Buddy got out and looked under the car and found the emergency brake band (which went around the drive shaft) was on fire. He threw sand on it until the fire was put out. They got mad at me and gave me hell for almost burning up the car. It’s strange I can still recall that so vividly. (I seem to always recall bad experiences vividly)

At one point, I remember we lived in a tent near a canal. I think it was at Triangle Ranch near Modesto. The tent had a wooden floor and was a lot easier to keep clean than a regular tent without a floor. One of the girls or Mother would roll up the sides of the tent every day or so and we would mix warm soapy water and pour on the floor and scoot around on the floor or skate around with rags on our feet or use a broom to scrub the floor. Then we would rinse it with buckets full of clear water. It kept the floor pretty clean. Mother and the loder girls didn't seem to mind that Joan and I used the floor like a skating rink; maybe because it got the floor cleaner and the others had less to do while cleaning it.

The next thing I remember was living in Merced. We lived in a house owned by a man named, Mr. Nick Buono, whom we called,” Uncle Nick.” I think Mother cared for him in return for lodging for her family. I don’t know where Dad was. We were there for a while; long enough to be visited by relatives from Texas.

One incident I remember is the time Lit Christmas, my half sister and her husband, Roy, were there with some of their kids.
Roy was mother’s cousin and Lit was Dad’s oldest daughter by his first wife.
They had seven kids; four boys-Roy Jr., (Cowboy) James, Billy and Johnny, and three girls, Leona, Eva Lee and Rosa Mae.

(Uncle Nick made his own wine and stored it in the cellar.)
One day Cowboy and Buddy sneaked into the cellar to steal some wine. Bud took a few drinks and Cowboy decided he would rather stretch it out a little. He lay down under the spigot and turned the spigot until the wine just barely dripped into his mouth. He did very well for a while but the wine finally caught up to him. He got so drunk that he couldn’t get on his feet without help.
Mom raised Cain with him and he staggered outside and threw up from the kneeling position until he passed out on the ground. He was carried inside and put to bed. He was still sick when he awoke and swore he would never again get drunk on wine. He stayed sick the rest of the day and all the next day.

*Next is an incident I recall happening in Merced while mother was visiting a lady friend.
I was playing with a little boy at his house and he was riding a tricycle. Behind it he had a push type rotor lawn mower tied to the trike and was pulling it like a trailer. Trying to play with him, I pushed the mower and a blade came around and sliced my right hand to the bone. It almost cut off the outside fleshy part of my palm. I ran into the house, scared to death, to show mother. She took me into the bathroom and washed it and put Merthiolate on and wrapped it in a bandage the lady gave her. Then she took me to the hospital where a doctor looked at it and put iodine on it, re-wrapped it and said it would be all right; and it was.

I'll end this here so this chapter won't be too long. I'll add, "School Days," later, before too long.