Monday, March 1, 2010

On To Modesto...

As a child I don’t recall missing not having someone to play with. I spent a lot of time alone, playing cars with wooden blocks, arranging the dirt and rocks into roads and buildings and making streets through them. I spent hours sometimes just playing by myself, cars or cowboys and Indians or a wealth of other games I could imagine.
When I was too little to pick cotton, Mother would sit me at the end of a row while she picked the row of cotton and back. She’d tell me to ‘sit there and play until I get back,’ and I would. Later, when I was bigger, she’d make a cotton sack for me out of a potato sack with a shoulder strap so I could go along behind her and get what she missed. Of course, after I was ten and older, I had my own sack, probably a six-footer.
I’ll tell more about cotton picking later.

On to Modesto...

After some time (I have no idea how much time elapsed between Merced and Modesto) we got to Modesto in the covered wagon. We went to a place under the 9th Street Bridge. Later it was called Ingalls Auto Camp. I remember spreading my pallet on the ground and going to sleep and being awakened in the middle of the night and told to move my pallet. The river had risen and we were almost in the water. We moved our pallet and weren’t swept away. We weren’t at the camp for long.
The next thing I remember is living in a small upstairs apartment over Pate’s store, a small market. Daddy, Buddy and Eva were somewhere else; I don’t know where or why. That left Mom, Mickey, Joan and me. I started to school at Washington Elementary School, in the second or third grade, I don’t remember which.
The war was on (WWII) and cigarettes were at a premium. Along with Lucky Strikes, Camels and Chesterfields were new cheaper brands like, Alligators, Dominos and some others. Mickey was sneaking around to smoke and once in a while Mom would catch her and raise Cain with her and order her to stop smoking. Mickey didn’t stop smoking though; she just got smarter about hiding her cigarettes and chewing gum to hide her smoke breath. Then Viceroy came out with the first filtered cigarette and Mickey showed it to Mother and Mother said she could smoke if she only smoked Viceroy. That ended the battle about smoking. At least for Mickey.
I think Mother went to work at the Hedley Hospital while we lived above Pate’s Store. I guess I passed to the third grade while we were there.
The highlight of that part of town was the 9th Street Bridge. It was the main thoroughfare through Modesto from the south and it was unique. It was of average width and two lane (one in each direction) and about four hundred yards long. So far, so ordinary! But, what made it unique were two very large Lion statues at each end of the bridge; one on each side of the bridge entrance, both north and south! I rode those lions at least to Africa and back a hundred times; that is, when someone else wasn’t riding them! Remnants of them are still there. And the Railroad Bridge that ran parallel to the bridge was a source of adventure for us kids.
Underneath the railroad bridge was a narrow catwalk. We had to be very skillful acrobats and athletes to get onto that catwalk from the end and it was really an adventure to climb over the side of the bridge and down to get to the catwalk. And we had to be very careful not to be caught by the train while crossing the bridge or climbing over the edge. As an added attraction, it was about a mile to the river below! At that time it was the highest RR Bridge in the world! Now it is a lot shorter distance from the bridge to the river below. I don’t know what happened to cause that. (Could be because I got older)
The Modesto City Limit sign was at the bridge. The population was 17,000.