Monday, December 7, 2015


What an odd word; recollect? Isn't that a word that grizzled old prospectors would say to the Lone Ranger? "I recollect y'r right, masked man." Do we use this word anymore? And why did it pop into my head just now, as I was searching for a word to title this post? There are three questions that I can probably postpone answering for quite awhile.

My head is full of odd thoughts this morning. Memories, actually. I've been seeing that happen quite a bit recently and I think it's because of the change in pain meds. There's nothing unpleasant about it so it's a side effect that I can put up with.

I remember my mother doing the washing down in the basement of our house on Center Street and right above her, in the kitchen, was a pantry door and when you opened the door, you could look down, through the screened in bottom of the pantry and watch my mother at work. I loved to watch the clothes going through the wringer and coming out flat and stiff as they emerged from being squeezed. That was in 1948 so she was lucky to have a washing machine. I remember that there was a 1937 Chevy coupe sitting in the driveway of that house. New cars were also hard to find. I should say 'inexpensive' new cars. It was also in 1948 that my dad got a new job and a 1947 Oldsmobile two-door fastback sedan. The Chevy was retired to Chevrolet heaven...

That same year I was sent to Colton, California; To live with the family of a long time family friend. I had asthma and the doctor had suggested that a change in climate might help me. There was certainly a climate change between Manhattan Beach and Colton. I had spent some weekends there before and I remember just how hot it could be. Remember; it was the 1940's and central heat and AC for the average residences didn't exist. No AC in the cars either.

The drive to Colton in the 40's could take close to six hours as there were no freeways. It might take you four hours today....during rush hour. Ninety minutes if you drove it at 1 in the morning. Since it did take so long, I spent some time on the train. My 'host' family would put me on the train on a Friday afternoon and my dad would drive me back to Colton on a Sunday afternoon.

I was fascinated by Union Station in Los Angeles. It was (and is) an architectural marvel; in my eyes. And it was only nine years old when I first saw it. Sometimes my dad would have mom and my sisters with him when he picked me up at the station and we would go over to nearby Phillipe's for a French Dip sandwich. Phillipe, The Original, exists today.

That memory contains memories of the porters that worked on the trains and at the station. They all were black. I had never seen a black person before. No African Americans lived in Manhattan Beach. And it was about seven years later that I saw another African American. That was Jesse and he worked for my dad as a Hod Carrier. For some years before I met Jesse, I heard stories about him during dinner time. My dad respected Jesse and would tell us about how hard Jesse had worked and what he done that week. When a job finished up, dad would keep Jesse working on odd jobs as long as he could or until another job started up. All this time, I never knew that Jesse was an African American.

My dad wanted to buy a car for the two of us to work on and one that I could then drive, I was fifteen then. Jesse had a Model A that he drove to work every day and he sold it to my dad for $10. Jesse brought the car out to our house on a Saturday. I remember meeting Jesse and after getting over the shock of seeing a black man, a Negro, an African American, in our driveway and then shaking his hand, I was fascinated by him. Very tall and slender. Soft spoken. He took his tools out of the back seat of the Model A and put them in dad's car. We shook hands again and then dad drove him home.

Four years later, 1959,  and I was in the Navy, stationed in North Carolina. Civil Rights did not exist. I saw how African Americans were treated there and was shaken by it. It still bothers me when I think about it.


As I read and re-read what I've just written, I wonder if I have written this before? It seems familiar. And if I did write this once before, are the facts still the same? These kinds of doubts only occur after the age of seventy. I think?

Another memory was of one of my favorite haunts. The automobile junkyard, on Rosecrans Blvd, owned by Mr. Jones. I had a Model A and so a junkyard was an appropriate place for me to be. This was in pre-OSHA days and to enter into the junkyard you only had to show up in Mr. Jone's office at the front of the lot with some tools in your hand and a declaration of what it was that you were looking for. That's all. You were then free to wander through the immense property. After a few trips I knew where most things were and could locate what I needed in minutes. But, I was interested in everything else that was in that yard. Amazing stuff! I remember a 1936 Cadillac limousine that had barely been touched. It was immense, black of course, and had twin fender mounted spare tires. I would often sit in it and wonder if I could come up with the $200 that Mr. Jones wanted for it.  

Even more amazing was the fact that no one that I knew of had ever hurt themselves while salvaging auto parts there...the good old days.

Gotta go...I'm having one of those side effect dreams and I don't want to miss it.


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