Posts Tagged ‘biographical’

I travelled a lot from six to eleven, but not as a vacationing child of rich parents. So for this article, we will just leave that as a maybe blog down the line. For our purposes we will concentrate on my travels overseas courtesy of the Marine Air Wing commands. (By the way, all pictures are in Gallery format, so if you click on them they will enlarge and then you can arrow back and forth.)

My first stop after a year of boot camp, infantry training, Avionics school, and a short stint in a training squadron was landing on the Island of Okinawa. Now all of the marines I came over with were grunts, or infantry, with the exception of one other guy. They were all shipped out the next day, but they left me and this other guy, both of us to be assigned to an air wing somewhere, dangling for a week or so. This is where I met my best friend for my Japan deployment, he taught me how to play tennis, his name was Doc Holliday. To this day I do not know what his real first name was!

After a week and couple of days we both got orders to Iwakuni Japan. I was, at the time, a navigation computer tech, he worked in the photo lab of a different squadron. We kept in touch however. I eventually got myself transferred to his squadron by a lucky coincidence. They needed avionics techs on the flight line, and I wanted out of the windowless computer van that was my home 10 hours a day. I loved working on the actual aircraft. It was not long before I moved out of the barracks and into a small house with a couple of other Marines from my new squadron. This is where I met my other best friend, Neal Regan. We were not best friends yet, that did not happen until we went to the Philippines and Nam together.

Doc and I spent our time in Japan travelling. I was licensed to drive pretty much any tractor, jeep or 6×6 truck the squadron had. They also got me a license to drive outside the gate in Japan proper, so I bought a car. I don’t even recall the model; I just know it had a two-stroke motorcycle engine for power. It was a little miniature station wagon. Had to fuel up with mix gas, which back then was available at all gas stations. Ecologists would be aghast now! I was the only person in the squadron, enlisted or officer to have a license and car that was legal outside the base. Made me a popular guy. Mostly picking up officers wives at the airport in Hiroshima. They would even give me time off work to go and pick them up. They had some kind of agreement the officers wives could get a three month visa. We enlisted didn’t rate diddly.

This car allowed Doc and I to explore the country around Iwakuni and travel to places like Hiroshima regularly, and basically just get lost on a duty free weekend. We both had critical MOS so did not get assigned but the minimum duty required. (MOS is a job designator)

We made friends with a farmer by scrounging up a pump from the base, rigging up a transformer to make it work on his electrical grid and installing it at his water supply. He was a rice farmer packing water by hand. He spoke no English; we spoke basically no Japanese beyond hello, goodbye, excuse me, and thank you! The only other word I knew at the time was koko, which would get a taxi to stop and let you out! It means “here”. He had a niece that spoke English and he would invite her whenever he had us for dinner. Dinner was usually rice, fish, and a lot of Sake! At first we had stopped and proceeded to help him haul water. He had a fit. But we refused to go away, and when we installed the pump, well we were family! He turned us on to a little sandy beach we could pitch a tent next to a stream that had fish in it. I don’t know what kind of fish they were, they resembled perch. Cooked up well and had very little fishy taste to them. We fished by sitting legs spread in the shallows at the downstream end of a pool while someone else went to the upstream end and started slapping the surface vigorously and wading towards us. Fish would appear between our legs and we would scoop them up and throw them onto the bank.

About this time, Reagan and I had just made L/Cpl and got orders to the Philippines and then missions run out of Danang Vietnam. It turned out that we were both scheduled to go home, there were no NCO’s trained in our particular MOS, so they meritoriously promoted us to Corporal to extend for a second tour, which we did. They then bribed us again with meritorious promotion to Sgt if we would extend again. Best thing that had ever happened to either one of us! We were inseparable as much as possible, watched each others backs! We ran missions out of Danang, but due to reasons I will not go into now; we fixed the aircraft in the Philippines. Broke our little hearts.

When I was in Cubi Point in the Philippines I rented and lived in a three-bedroom house, one bath, complete kitchen. It came with a live in maid, gardener, and security. There were three of us sharing rent, Regan being one of the others. All included with groceries, I spent forty dollars a month. We lived in one of the nicer areas of Olongapo. Normal housing had no running water or toilet facilities. Were one or two rooms mostly, apartment houses were a little nicer, but had community bathrooms, but no bathing facilities. Our maid, unknown to us for a while, slept in a big round chair in the living room. She would stay in the kitchen until we all went to sleep before bedding down, and up and cooking by the time we got up! We increased the food allowance to include her and gave her a raise when we discovered this. We had no place to put her, so we just left the sleeping arrangement as it was. She was around 16, I think. We all treated her with respect, she was not flirted with nor were any remarks made. I had friends with morals, so did not have to police their actions. She cried when Regan and I had to rotate back to Japan and home. We tried to find good people to take our place with her employment guaranteed. It was all we could do. We were never able to find out who her parents were, or even if she had any. So back to Japan, everyone we knew was gone, then back to the world, that is what we called the U.S..

Had some leave in Australia, short hops and stays in China, S. Korea, and a few over nights in Europe, but very short, so I might include them in another blog, but I have let this one run to long as it is!

A Story About a Boy

Most people think they know him, and one or two do now, but most have no clue who he is or what his life was like before they came to know him in what we will call his home town. He showed up the summer before his 8th grade, raw, pretty much uneducated, pissed off at the world, didn’t trust a grownup, especially if that grownup represented a local church!

So lets go back to when he was just a little tike, just him, his real father, his mother and a dog, living in Beverly Hills, not rich, but had their own house, and the father with a good job working in special effects animation for the Technicolor Corporation. Dog was the offspring of Lassie, I don’t know which Lassie, but one of the ones on TV and movies over the years, trained by a professional to guard, you guessed it, the boy! He still has a picture of him and this dog; he even remembers a couple of adventures with said dog, whose name was Robbie. So everything was going fine, he probably would have grown up spoiled, or at least a bit of snob if things had continued on as they were during this period. Both came from decent families, especially the Father, his grandmother was the first women superintendent of schools for Oklahoma City, also making her the first women in the state to hold such a position. So the stock was good, if you give any credence to those kinds of things. Then it got worse!

About this time, the life of this little family went into the crapper! The father had brain cancer. Cancer, being extremely misunderstood at the time, had been misdiagnosed as some kind of dental infection, so the VA in their vast wisdom sent him to the dentist for a year on and off until they finally realized, from a Doctor outside the VA system, what the real problem was. He had served in WWII as a combat photographer in all three major campaigns of the European conflict, was still in the reserves, hence the VA was where he was getting his medical care. The cancer was not treatable, so as his health declined they treated the pain as best they could, but the house was lost, the job the Father reluctantly had to give up! As time went by his mother and he moved to a small apartment in Venice on the last block before the canals started, and one block off the Venice beach. Then things got even worse.

The mother was kind of a party gal, beautiful, and lonely. She had been a wild child and several years younger than her husband. She had settled down with married life under his influence, but the father was by this time spending a lot of time in the hospital and coming home only when his health permitted. He spent every second of that time with his son, and the son is not sure if he allotted much time to the mother, adding to her loneliness! Also about this time, the mother became pregnant with their second child, and by the time the sister was born, the cancer had spread so that the father was not coming home much at all, so she had no memories of him. The mother of course found work, and became the breadwinner with two small children to look after. Then it got worse!

In order to work full time, the mother had sent the son to board with a full time caretaker, if you will. This caretaker had three children who went home at night, one other like him that stayed all week and only went home on the weekends, and a son of her own, who I think was probably the son of Satan. He was a few years older than the boy of our story who was preschool and kindergarten age while there. Needless to say, he did not like it. His sister had not been born when he first got there, and when she was born they would not take an infant, so his mother had to make other arrangements. His father had always driven a Cadillac convertible, and he had just traded up for a new one when he found out what was really wrong with him. The mother did not drive, so the car was stored and not driven. She traded it to the landlord where he, and now a sister lived with the mother in Venice for childcare while she worked. Then it got worse.

The father was still alive, but almost continually in the hospital and medicated heavily against the pain. She started dating, never handling being alone well, and she was probably also scared of being left on her own with two children to raise. This is supposition, as he was not around later on to ask her these questions, as you will see as his story develops. He however chalks some of it up to her being a party girl and not willing to give it up. She would leave him at the caretakers on weekends quite often if it interfered with a party or date. Plus she would show up with men to pick him up as she did not drive and the bus and trolley cars took up a lot of travel time back and forth. After a while, husband still alive, but now confined to the hospital, she moved these boyfriends in the apartment, but most did not last long, not with two kids in the mix! This was a good thing for the boy as the men often got physical, with her and with him! The baby so far was safe. But then it got worse!

Just before his father passed, she met the man she was to spend the rest of her life with. Well our boy heard the mother survived his passing, but that was many, many years later. He was, I think unknown to the mother at first, an alcoholic, wino is the correct term for what he actually was, con man, thief, wife beater of wife number one, and soon of the mother, breaking bones and cutting her up with fists to the face. He would not allow her to get medical help of course, and she never left him over any of it, she just hit the bottle with him, and they both went on a lifetime drunk.
And so it got much worse!

And now we get to one of the reasons I am telling you this story. The mother got a social security death benefit monthly for both children because of the real fathers passing. It wasn’t much, but enough they could stay in wine and cigarettes without having to work very much. They would move a lot, rent an apartment, then wait to be evicted, never paying rent again for the 90 days the eviction took, then the stepdad, well not really even that, he did not marry the mother for years, would steal an old beater car, rip out the back seat, pack our belongings up, stick his sister and him up on top of this pile in the back seat and leave the area, usually state, then do the same over again. The boy never went to school. They always stayed in rural areas so the boy could pick fruit, beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, cotton, or pretty much anything that grew! He was big for his age, he was almost 7 when this period in his life started, eleven when it changed, realizing I did not say it was over, just changed. During this period, both parents were drunk all the time. There was never any food in the house, just wine and cigarettes. Once in a while the stepfather would buy a bag of beans, some flower, and powdered milk when the checks came in, but only if the mother happened to be sober enough to complain and make him. No yeast, no salt and pepper, and if there was such a thing as Bisquick back then, they never got any, so they had unleavened bread and pancakes with nothing on them except some boiled beans if lucky, and cooked by a small boy. So the boy usually, and I hate to write this about the boy, stole any kind of food he could lay his hands on. It was common during this period in history for women to put baked goods in the windowsill to cool by supper. The boy could smell food for mile, so the local cooks, mothers, and housekeepers learned to keep their baked good inside the house out of reach after his family moved into the neighborhood. You have to understand he was responsible for feeding his sister as well as himself. Usually, and he did try to steal an old one that did not look like it was being used anymore, but a wagon had to be procured immediately upon arrival at a new locale, because he kept the neighborhood and surrounding roadsides free of bottles. This was the only income that his stepfather knew nothing about and did not take from him. They lived on fries and 25-cent hamburgers. In some towns the authorities would notice that the boy was not in school and that would shine a light on the situation. Within days of that happening, before the slow arm of the law would react and actually do something, the beater car would appear with no rear seat and of course no real ignition switch and off they would go. Whenever they arrived at a new destination, the stepfather would sell the car for a couple of bucks to a junk yard, who I am sure knew it was stolen, so paid very little for it. In that way the authorities were never able to track where we had gone. Then, believe it or not, it got worse!

The stepfather by this time was in the habit of beating the mother frequently, whenever he imagined he had been wronged, with was pretty much all the time! He had also happened on a plan in where he would rent what he called flop space to anyone by the night in whatever apartment we had landed in, thereby allowing him to stay even more drunk. It did nothing to increase any groceries or anything else in the house. He and his sister wore clothes from goodwill or from some religious charity or other, neither wore shoes, and since we always wintered in southern California, then followed the crops north in the spring, winding up with fruit picking until late fall in Idaho, was basically never. The people he let stay in the vicinity of the children were winos like himself, drug addicts, and prostitutes. The prostitutes were actually preferred by the boy, as they were usually nice to him and his sister, and sometimes brought food to them if they stayed more than a night. Yes, they sometime brought in customers, he and his sister would sleep on the floor in the same room with the parents while this was going on, because they were using the couch if available, and the floor if not. Luckily the sister was too young to realize what was going on, and her brother never mentioned it. Of course she is probably reading this now and cussing up a blue streak! Then it got worse!

The boy was eleven by now, and feeling like he should do something about the stepdad and his beatings, if nothing else. He did not beat the sister, but the boy was another matter. He was a mean drunk, never beat on anyone sober, so the boy had learned to keep all doors and windows unlocked and escape paths planned, so mostly he got away. The mother, usually also drunk was not so lucky. In the last place they all lived together, the mother would try to escape out the back door of the two-room apartment they were living in. They had to use a gas station or the alley if they needed to relieve themselves. It had an ice box, no running water, and they never put ice in the box, so you can see it was pretty basic, even for them! Well as I was saying the mother would always run for that back door, sometimes making it, but always getting caught before she got very far, then drug back in by the hair. There was a tree in this alleyway, a pretty big tree, with limbs coming out over the area where this back door was. So the boy built a crude platform, found a an old abandoned truck tire and rim and levered it up into that tree and positioned it over that rear door. Whenever he knew they were fighting, or were about to, as he was very good at discerning when the stepfather was going to blow, he would position himself with his truck tire and rim, and wait. One day the mother actually made it out the door, and with him all set in his tree! As soon as she cleared the little mud porch, he rolled his tire of its perch, hoping of course that the stepfather was right behind her. Well the stepfather was a little too quick. The giant missile missed, just barely, destroying the porch in back of him as he reeled out of the door and after the mother. He stopped, drunk as a skunk, looked at the porch and the tire and rim, never looked up and disappeared back in the house. The boy decided he had better get down out of that tree. Then things got worse!

Just previous to moving into this shack in Idaho, as it turned out, they had been on a ranch where his brother in law was foreman. I don’t think they got much work out of him, plus everything that was not nailed down went missing. The reason this is mentioned at all is because the brother-in-law had loaned the stepfather a pump 22 rifle with a tube loader capable of holding a multitude of rounds so that he could shoot rabbits and supply them with some meat while they lived there. When he pulled his midnight hat trick and disappeared from the ranch one night with his beater car he forgot to return said rifle. So just as the boy hit the ground at the base of the tree he staggered back through that door with that damn rifle in his hands and proceeded to unload it at the boy. New this alley butted up against the back of this shack and had high wooden fences on both sides for about fifty yards. The boy probably broke every record for broken field running that day. He survived, but the last thing he heard was the stepfathers voice promising that he would kill him first chance he got. Then things got worse!

The boy knew everyone that he could go to for food, and sometimes even a night, but he knew if he pushed it he would wind up in an orphanage, and he knew he did not want that. The stepfather and his mother had gotten in trouble with the law, but because of the children had been put on probation. They were being watched too closely, and in a small town, so they had to quit drinking. They both wound up the DT’s and where put in the hospital. You can look that up if you don’t know what the DT’s are. I don’t know where sister was, but anyway he escaped and found the rest of them ready to leave in the stolen car in the middle of the night, abandoning him, he assumed if he had not managed to show up on his own. Well that experience terrified him of ever having to live in one of those places. They did not place you with families back them, at least not until you had spent some time warehoused in one of these facilities. So he snuck back and watched the goings on, figuring that the beater car was going to show up and off they would go. He was right. Now the stepfather, most of the time did not remember a lot of what went on when he was stinking drunk, but as this was a major occurrence, and the fact that he obviously knew enough to get out of town, showing back up was a dangerous and a calculated risk, but he did not want to abandon his sister, so just as they were ready to cast off as it were, he crawled in on top of the pile in the back seat with his sister and hoped for the best. Then it got different, or worse, depending on how you look at it.

The stepfather had several relatives living in Idaho, in particular his parents, whose father was an evangelical preacher. He also had two brothers, one a preacher in an Assembly of God church, commonly called holy rollers as they supposedly spoke in ancient tongues when visited by the Holy Ghost. The other brother extremely religious and wanting to be a minister himself. I will not go further in my description here, as it will surely not be welcomed by some of my readers. The stepfather was the black sheep, it is surmised by the boy of our story, as a kind of rebellion over his strict upbringing and maybe an overuse of the proverbial switch, but that is also just a guess. At any rate nothing was said as they left and went straight to the stepfathers parents house an hour or so away. They needed to borrow money, borrow being used incorrectly here, in order to go back to California. When they got there, he took his sister, hid her, told the step grandfather what had occurred and told him if he did not hid them out, he would run away permanently this time, and try to take his sister with him. This was just before his twelfth birthday. The step grandfather actually agreed, told the mother and stepfather he did not know where the children were, but that he would find them and keep them for the winter. He gave the pair some travelling money, and they went on to California, not a care in the world. He has not seen them since. And then it got worse.

I am about to alienate some step relatives of the boy and girl in this story, but it cannot be helped. The grandfather farmed the sister out to the minister of the Assembly of God church, and the boy to the younger brother, splitting them up, but at least they were safe, physically at least. I know more about the boys circumstance than the sister, even though for the next couple of years they lived in the same small remote town in Idaho, but saw very little of each other. Both brothers assumed that the brother and sister were the spawn of evil, I guess because they knew what and who the brother was, and assumed that evil was catching. So they set out to save their souls and remake them into good little Christians. So the boy embarked on a journey we will call the beatings of education and righteousness. The boy had never been to school, so they stuck him in the sixth grade, he had taught himself how to read since the stepfather lost consciousness a lot while driving and he had taught the boy how to drive. He did all of the driving except if he had to drive through a town, then he would stop and wait for the stepfather to wake. He had gotten a reading primer and used it to sound out words so he could read road signs, as getting lost got him beaten! He did not however know his ABC’s, his multiplication tables, how to write, except for some basic printing. So here is how it went. If the boy said, for example pitcher, when in fact he was looking at a picture, it was worth two swats for the first offence, bent over, drawers dropped with a paddle with holes drilled in it so it would not slow down from air pushing against it as it came whistling down on his bottom and the back of his legs. The next infraction or misuse of the English language caused the swats to be doubled, but a limit was put at twenty. This was also done to him for leaving a room with lights still on, using words like heck and darn, leaving an axe in a chopping block, and the list of rules went on, and on, and on. He was also the wood splitter, the Gardner, both lawn, and vegetable garden, dish washer, and responsible to iron his own clothes, name but a few. He had one set of school clothes, one for church and one for work If any of these got damaged walking without a limp the next day was a problem. You could ask anyone who knew him during this time that he was the most polite and industrious boy you had ever seen, but he could not get good enough to escape the spankings for a long time. When he did, the step Aunt actually recommended that he be spanked because he was getting to cocky about his success at not getting spanked. There are stories much worse, ones you would have trouble believing, as if you are not already in disbelief. But the step Aunt wanted him gone, she had a young one, and one born right after he arrived, and she had not been forewarned or asked before the boy showed up. I will give you one example, one I know to be true, and this will explain why he felt he had to run away again. She would stick the axe back in the chopping block, tell her husband outlandish lies to get him punished, some of which the neighbors actually came to him to tell him these things did not happen. So much so, that he quit spanking him, oh he still took him into the bedroom, still had him drop his drawers, but the swats were barely hard enough to make him grunt. This pissed off the boy more than the actual spankings, as he realized his step uncle knew the truth, but was not willing to face his wife with the knowledge, or even admit it to himself most probably. This, and a list of things too long to relate decided the boy to run as soon as he could. Without the sister, who as it turned out, was not having any better life, maybe even worse, as most of hers was a psychological attack. The people she was with were not honest. They were just con artists just as bad as the stepfather had been, just covering it up way better with the blanket of religion. The step uncle the boy was with, he believes, was too young to handle a teenager, confused by his wife, but was trying to do the right thing in his own mind. His brother, the minister and his wife he cannot say the same about, there were too many outright lies told, and just plain mean things done to the sister that he knows for a fact she did not deserve as he was witness to several instances and knew the truth for what it was. He has trouble with religion to this day, even though he left that church in the 7th grade and went to a different church were the minister was a great and kind man. He also met a minister later on in life, who was a great friend to him, but his distrust has several layers so we will let it go at that. Then it got better!

The boy had decided to run away, but he lived in a remote area and there was only two ways out, one north, the other south, and miles and miles from any other towns.
The family he was living with had a scheduled reunion, taking place with same step grandfather who had placed him where he was. This location however was in southern Idaho and gave him the opportunity he was looking for. When they went to the reunion he had put together an escape pack, and one night late he headed out. A women, a women not related except by marriage to these people, unknown to him had been trying to get him and his sister away from them. She had somehow figured out what he was up to. Promised him that she would get him away, he just needed to go back and play it cool for a couple weeks. She said that after she got him, she would treat him exactly as she treated her own, and that she was working on getting the sister also. He agreed, she came through, kept every promise she ever made to him. Things got way better!

So I do not believe for a moment I have fooled any of you about the identity of this boy. If you go to my blogs and read a thank you to Council, it sums up the story where this one leaves off. I wrote this, for many reasons, I needed to get it off my chest, I needed good friends who may not understand why I get pissed off when hungry children, abused children, or any of a multitude of sins against children is made light of, or said to be their own fault, and that we do not owe them any help. If I had not been rescued, and able to live with the good people I finally did, I shutter to think what I might have become. As it is, by senior year this boy was basically a straight A student. He was the editor of the school paper, and had been the year before, He had been class president, he was on the student council as a senior, he was one of the captains of an undefeated football team that same year, and a starter in basketball, and pitcher for the baseball team. He was the campaign manager for the winning student council president, loved school, still loves to read, is a good friend to have, loved by his family and wife of 38 years, and is a good father and husband. But not without help and the luxury of where he eventually wound up! I have hesitated to write this for years, knowing it would not be excepted by some, but as I get older I felt more and more that I could not let this story go untold. I have been asked to write a book, and believe me, there is much more I have not told, some much worse than has been written here, more than enough for book, but I doubt I will write it as it will be a misery to write and probably more than I want to share. As I stated, some feelings undoubtedly were hurt here, but if I wrote the whole truth and I attest that what I have written is the hard truth, some people would just go mad. I am sure I am going to have to suffer through some backlash as it is, but you that know me well may have a little better understanding of what makes me tick. Even I while reading this, realizing being hungry as a child for years and not knowing where or when the next meal was coming from is probably one of the reasons a like a full table and eat to much. It is definitely why I jumped on a good friend who did not deserve it, so I hope this helps him understand why.