Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's been over six months since my last post. My daughter Sheri, and her husband Todd, along with their two children, Andy and Ethan, moved to Sacramento, CA this week. She is the first to leave Utah. They will be missed but there is little doubt that leaving her extended-family nest, they will become more like the "Sheri and Todd Monette family" and not just an extension of the Campbell family; which is probably a good thing; tough to handle, but a good thing.

Life with Kelli remains amazing. I am still writing a column for the Ogden Standard-Examiner, which a fun to do and hopefully helps a few people along the way.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

It's been a while since I've posted anything here. Since my last post, Kelli Allen-Pratt and I were married (just five days ago on July 4, 2011). Wow, a few years ago, I couldn't have imagined any such thing. Kelli Allen-Campbell...I like the sound of that and I love her. It's been a long time since I have been this happy. My life is now better than my dreams.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I have had many great comments about this blog. It was really great to hear from my brother's (Bud Harold) granddaughter and to hear from a relative of the Woolleys (Lillian's brother's, Verile, granddaughter).

Thanks to all.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Early childhood - Life on Lindsey Street

My earliest recollection of my childhood is my twin brother, Don, and me jumping up and down on the mattress of our crib as our sister, Mymrie, played peek-a-boo from behind the door. I remember seeing her in the space between the door and the door jam and being thrilled beyond anything that I could tell when she was about to jump out and scare us. Our home was a small yellow house at 3854 Lindsey Street in Glen Avon, California that sat on two and one-half acres of land. I remember the front porch was made of knotty pine. It even had a white picket fence and enough land to have a horse and some pigs.

A little history. My dad, Valiant Otto Campbell (Val), was born in Fortescue, Missouri on June 21, 1907 (the actual year of his birth is not sure; he always said 1907, but it is believed that he was born a few years earlier). My mother, Ruth Martha (Benschneider) Campbell, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 22, 1911. They were each married previously and had other children. My dad had been married to Alice and had my sister Mymrie. My mother had been married to Harold Marcroft and they had my brother, Bud Harold Marcroft and my other sister, Sheryle Arlene (Marcroft) Mann. At the time that Don and I were born on February 3, 1947, Bud and Sheryle lived with us and Mymrie visited on the weekends. My brother and I were born in the Long Beach General Hospital and came home to a home where our parents lived in Lynwood, California. When we were three months old, we all moved to the home on Lindsey Street.

Other memories while living in the house on Lindsey Street were all basically positive. I guess we were poor, but I had no clue of such at the time. It wouldn’t be until years later that I realized what my parents did so well to hide (and to make the very best of).

There were a number of legendary stories about Don's and my escapades that survived our childhood as my dad, in particular, was an amazingly entertaining ‘story teller.’ For example, according to family legend, Don and I took off all the door knobs in the house when we were two or three years old. We also apparently jumped onto our colorfully-dyed Easter eggs from atop a new TV (the old, old style with a small round picture tube) and smashed them into our brand new white carpet (what were our parents thinking to buy white carpet with young and energetic twin boys?). A story that didn’t get repeated much in later years, but one that I remember vividly, is Don and my breaking out all the windows of an old car that my dad was trying to restore. We took turns throwing rocks and dirt clods through all of the windows and loved seeing the windows break into tiny pieces. I also remember missing the glass from time to time with the rocks and seeing them create cool dents in the body of the car, usually on the doors.

A legendary story that I also remember well was how Don and I would pee across the road to see who could pee the furthest. We also loved to take a large cardboard box and put it into the middle of the street, place ourselves in the box and jump out at the last minute as a car would approach. It now obviously scares me to think about such foolishness and I marvel that we somehow survived this. Wow, we were very fortunate.

One day, my dad was shoveling along a fence in the back field behind the house and he had only one extra shovel. A lesson about our incentive to work was born for me that day as Don and I were arguing over who would get the second shovel. My dad, apparently tired of hearing us argue, gave one of us his shovel and said, “There, you both can shovel now” and then he proceeded to visit with a neighbor across that same fence. Don and I looked at each other, dropped our shovels and went back into the house without saying a word to one another. I learned at that moment that we were not arguing over who would get the second shovel, we were arguing over who would shovel with our dad.

Some other memories of life on Lindsey Street include watching my sister Mymrie stand barefooted on top of a galloping horse that my dad was running around in a circle in the field behind the house. I remember seeing the smile on his face that said, "Yep, that's my little girl." He used to refer to Mymrie's small size by saying "Why, she's no bigger than a pound of soap." I remember, at my very young age, thinking that a pound of soap was "about the size of Mymrie."

While most memories on Lindsey Street were positive, I remember my mom and dad verbally fighting one day. I ran into the back yard and looked into the sky, praying for Superman to come down and stop them. If faith could have produced Superman, he should have shown up at that very moment. I was literally shocked when he didn't. I remember walking back into the house and finding that all the yelling had stopped and things were back to normal. This is the only negative experience I can recall during our nine years on Lindsey Street. I am sure other negative things happened, but they are long gone from my memory. The positive experiences seemed like life as Ozzie and Harriett (for those too young to know, they were the all-American, seemingly idyllic family of four on television—including the teen idol singer, Ricky Nelson, one of the sons).

Regarding the belief in Superman, Don and I used to argue with our dad that Superman was real. He tried to explain that Superman was a character played by an actor and it is not real. We argued that the beginning of the show always started with, "Superman, the man of steel who could leap tall buildings in single bound...and stood for truth, justice and the American way.” We said, "See, it says 'truth,' and they couldn't say that if it went true."

We were fortunate to have a cousin, Larry On White (yes, that really is his middle name) living down the street. We came running out of Larry's house one day to the sound of sirens coming down the street. We followed it and found that the fire trucks stopped at our house. My dad had had a heart attack and they took him to the hospital in an ambulance. It seems fire trucks are also dispatched during an emergency such as a heart attack. Go figure. It all turned out well and my dad was soon home. This was the first of many heart attacks that he had until his death, of a massive heart attack, over 20 years (and many, many positive memories) later.

We had two dogs while on Lindsey Street; one was brown and white and the other was black and white. The brown and white dog was Don's and my dog and his name was 'Brownie.' The black and white dog was named 'Blackie' (the creative naming of our animals was not a strength in our early childhood). We later got a third dog that was a blonde cocker spaniel; her name? Good guess…yes, it was ‘Blondie.'

Don and I spent a lot of time visiting with a friend, John Nix, who often came to visit his grandmother who lived across the street. His grandmother was known to us as Aunt Sue. The thing I remember most about Aunt Sue is her feeding us—seemingly every day, but much, much less often, I am sure—Campbell’s tomato soup (made with milk, not with water like the same soup at home) and soda crackers. We seemed to get along well with our friend John Nix until later years (high school) where we seemed to go our separate ways and not associate much at all. Our friendship with John did, however, provide Don and me a sweet and endearing association with our beloved Aunt Sue.

At the end of Lindsey Street, at Mission Blvd, my dad built a 76 gas station and ran it for a number of years. It was called Campbell’s Community Service. He also fixed cars in the garage bay next to the office (he was a profoundly excellent mechanic…and anything else he chose to do). Our sisters, Mymrie and Sheryle, pumped the gas (this was long before self-service) and we seemed to get a lot of cars with young guys buying their gas at Campbell’s Community Service.

Regarding gas, I remember to this day the words my dad would use after he no longer had his own gas station as he purchased gas. He would say, “Gimme five gallona gas.” Back then, gas was about 24 to 29 cents a gallon. I always wondered why he didn’t just ask for a dollar’s worth or a dollar and a quarter. In later years, when I purchased my own car, a ’63 Chevy Impala, my dad went with me to pick it out and buy it. He said, “Let me buy you some gas to get you started.” We pulled up to the gas pump, the station attendant walked up and my dad said, “Gimme five gallona gas.”

It was during these years that we traveled to Norwalk, 15227 Gard Ave, to visit our cousins, Donnie Carl, Diane, Gerri and Layne. Don and I spent all our time there with Donnie Carl. They were the children of my mother’s brother, Carl Fredrick Benschneider and his wife, Lucille. Donnie Carl was nine months older than Don and I and he was always a blast to play with. He was always the leader of the three of us and we let him because we always had fun. We sometimes did adventuresome stuff such as climbing trees at night and turning the flashlights onto our faces (from under our chin and the light facing up) at the last minute as cars drove by. Donnie Carl was a close friend as well as our cousin. The main ingredient of our time together was having pure fun.

Some of my favorite memories during this time were to go fishing with our cousins. My dad and my Uncle Carl were avid fisherman. As brothers-in-law, they couldn’t have liked and respected each other more. Much of that respect was because they knew the other loved to fish as much as they did. My dad used to say, “You will never find a crook or a thief fishin.’” We would set up tents the night before and get up early in the morning and fish all day long. Don and I would follow along with our own poles and fish along the banks of the river. We learned to dig for our own worms when we ran out of worms. Years later, after my Uncle Carl had a severe stroke, he told my brother Bud, “I don’t really want to live anymore since I can’t fish.” My dad’s last days were spent living in a home that was within walking distance of a lake (Clear Lake, in Northern California)…so he could fish, I am sure. My guess is that if there were only one word that could be written on their headstones, they each would want it to say, “Fisherman.”

When we were seven years old, we had a wonderful vacation road trip to Missouri to visit with my dad’s two sisters and a brother. We pulled a trailer and camped on the side of the road along the way. Our car was a 1949 Chevy and we called it “Betsy” (all our cars had names given them by our dad). We first visited with our Aunt Effie who lived on a farm with her husband Maynard. Don and I loved our Aunt Effie. We went squirrel hunting, helped kill chickens for dinner and had a blast doing all of it. I remember being shocked when the chickens ran around and around without their heads.

One event that taught me a real lesson about manners is when, on the first night after arriving at Aunt Effie’s, I saw a mouse run along a wall in the living room. I got my dad’s attention and told him that I just saw a mouse and I pointed to the wall where it had been. He turned to me, put his index finger up to his lips and said, “Hush.” I did so, and in so doing, I learned a great lesson about courtesy, manners and respect.

As we were all leaving to go to St Josephs to meet his other sister, Bertha, Don and I threw an absolute tantrum. I imagine now, in thinking back, that it had to make Aunt Effie’s day. We begged them to go ahead and pick us up on their way back. I remember begging and begging and getting, obviously, nowhere. We left with Don and me in tears and still begging.

We visited with our Aunt Bertha and her husband in St Joe, as my dad called it. We had good ol’ rocky mountain oysters (bull testicles). None of us knew what they were until after we had devoured our delicious dinner. My mother, to the day she died, attributed all her stomach problems later in life to those rocky mountain oysters.

We then visited our Uncle Walter who lived alone in a small house. As we walked into the door, Walter had a parrot who said, “Hi Val.” At seven years old, we were in awe that a bird would remember someone after so many years. In hindsight, it is obvious that Walter had trained his parrot to say that as we arrived. To seven year old boys, it sure was impressive though.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that we never spent one night during our entire childhood in a hotel or motel; we camped in our trailer or in tents, or we stayed in someone’s home for vacations throughout our childhood. What’s interesting about this is that since I have been an adult, and mostly through my work—but also some wonderful vacations—I have stayed in a hotel or motel a minimum of a thousand nights, but not one night as a child. This comes back to how poor we really were, but I had no clue of such at the time. My parents made the very best of everything we ever did. While I have tried to teach all of my children one of my favorite phrases, “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out,” my parents lived their lives demonstrating that phrase, not just saying it in a clever phrase.

And thus ends these few snippets of the history of our life on Lindsey Street (unless, of course, I can think of a few more; then I’ll come back later and add it).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Later Childhood - Moving, moving and more moving

Our parents sold our home on Lindsey Street and purchased a half-acre lot on 44th Street—still in Glen Avon—for a whopping 500 dollars (9132 44th Street). They then purchased a very popular home design to be built on our new lot from a company called Harmony Homes for another whopping 6,000 dollars.

We rented a small home on Mission Blvd during construction and moved into our brand new home after about nine months. We were in our new home long enough for our dad to build a very large patio, workshop and carport in the back. It wasn’t long, though, before we soon moved to Caliente, Nevada (a very small town in Southern Nevada) where our dad had lined-up a job as the regional brand inspector.

We took Betsy and our trailer and drove out to Caliente. We slept in our trailer the first night after arriving. My dad was already friends with the town’s Chief of Police, Claude Davis, and we parked in the parking lot of the Chief’s small one-room police station. The town siren stood atop a tall pole next to our trailer. Sometime shortly after midnight, the siren decided to spontaneously do what sirens often do, erupt into an unbearably-loud siren sound. It seemed to go on for hours as our mother was in tears wondering, I am sure, what brought our family to such a place and why we had to endure such a dreadful night.

Endure it we did and we soon settled into a small home—with two bedrooms finished in the attic area for Don and me—in Caliente. My dad inspected cattle and rounded up cattle rustlers as part of his new job. We often went with him, traveling all over Southern Nevada. Our dad’s work vehicle was a 1957 white Ford station wagon with a red light on top and a siren. For ten year-old boys, it was very impressive.

One day, Don and I wondered when Primary was so we could go (this is back when Primary was during the middle of the week). My dad said, “Don’t worry about it boys, you will know when Primary is.” We wondered what he meant until the following day when we saw a whole herd of kids walking down the street. We walked out of our house into our front yard and some kids yelled at us, saying, “Hey boys, we’re headed to Primary. Come with us.” What our dad knew and we soon found out was that Caliente was made up almost exclusively of Mormons. Caliente was founded under the direction of Brigham Young in the mid 1800s. It became, and survived, as a railroad town and as such, had many bars for tourists and railroad pit stops.

Our fifth-grade teacher (I wish I could remember his name) had traveled the world and decided to live in Caliente, or so he told us. This always impressed me. It made me feel like I was in a cool place and certainly in the right place at the right time, which in hindsight, may have been his exact purpose in his making such a claim. I loved this teacher as he made us all feel like he really loved us and loved living in Caliente. Gosh, I wish I could remember his name.

Behind our home was a huge gully. Don and I would often venture a climb down to the bottom of the gully and climb back up to the other side. In later years, I went back to Caliente to take some pictures and I walked out to that huge gully. To my shock, I could have jumped over it in many spots…it just simply wasn’t as huge as my memory had recalled; in fact, it was quite small.

I am not exactly sure how long we lived in Caliente, but we later moved to Reno where we lived in three different homes and went to three different schools in just two short years. All the schools had Catholic names, like St Mary’s Elementary, but they were all public schools…and they all had the same design, so finding class wasn’t ever a problem. My dad had been promoted to “supervising brand inspector” and was also a state policeman.

As we left home to register for school one day, we met a friend, Ralph Fry, and decided to go to his home after registration. We stayed quite late and decided to walk home. As we walked, we began to see police cars driving slowly up and down the streets. We got home to find that our dad had called the police thinking we had been kidnapped. Don and I got a whipping with our dad’s belt. While he didn’t resort to physical discipline very often, he did do so from time to time and this was one of those times. In hindsight, he only really got seriously mad and physical when he was scared; when we had done something that put our lives at risk and it scared him. While I can count on one hand how many times we got a spanking or the belt, he often just had to reach for the buckle of his belt and we immediately got the point.

One event that pushed our luck—despite some stupidity that Don and I always seemed to get away with and somehow survived them all—is when we were playing with a next-door neighbor in our backyard at 101 Keystone Street in Reno. We were playing with 22-caliber bullets. I threw one against the stucco-finished garage behind our house and it fired. It was shocking and we all went running. It seemed so scary. Since then, however, and after now learning much more about physics, I have learned that it was not the lead bullet that went flying; it was the much lighter-weighted shell casing that exploded against the wall and we were never in any real danger at all. At the time though, we thought we had ‘dodged a bullet.’ This is an incident that I am sure my dad was never made aware of; thankfully.

After many years reflecting on Daddy’s strong discipline, the reality is…it worked. While I was often afraid of ‘the belt,’ I just never, ever wanted to disappoint my dad. I admired him and felt he was the strongest and smartest and wisest and best dad anyone could have…and he was.

One incident that demonstrated our dad’s way of handling our growth and development is when Don and I went to the corner grocery store one day to pick up some items for our mom. Once in the store, a bully-type older kid came up to us and said, “When you leave this store, I am going to pants you both.” (“pantsing” someone meant pulling down their pants…it was very popular at the time). We were afraid and called our dad from a payphone to “tell on” the bully and get our dad’s help. Well, Daddy simply said, “Ignore it and get home. You’ll be okay.” We took deep breaths and proceeded home, looking around for the bully all the way home. We didn’t see him, but we did see a 1957 white Ford with a red light on top that was sneaking around so we couldn’t see it. Daddy had come to make sure we were okay without our seeing him. We didn’t let on that we had seen him at all. We learned that we were cared for, but we were expected to deal with our own stuff. To this day, that lesson has borne much fruit.

It was during this time that I really liked taking a dose of Vic’s Formula 44 cough syrup; somehow, I liked the taste and the strong sensation. I used to sneak a swig from time to time. One night, our parents had left to have dinner with some friends. I snuck into the back porch of our house, got a stool and reached for the cough syrup. In the dark, I took my usual swig and very quickly learned that I had reached for and drank some liniment. It was awful and I became scared to death. It seems that the liniment and Vic’s Formula 44 had the same size, shape and even the same dark brown-colored bottle. We called our parents. My dad said, “Oh, you’ll be okay.” Our parents soon came home. In hindsight, my dad surely knew that I had spit out most of the liniment and I would be okay, but at that time, I thought I had really blown it and would be really sick. I wasn’t at all.

While Don and I created legendary stories about our childhood, our dad created his own along the way. We were entertained with stories of arresting cattle rustlers, his being a riverboat captain on the Missouri river when he was young and one in particular about dealing with an evil Republican politician.

Daddy came home one day and told our mother about spitting in a “big fat Republican’s” face at an official dinner party of the government department that dealt with brand inspections in Nevada. They had been arguing about something. The Republican was running for Governor of the state of Nevada. When the Republican won the election, we were on our way back to Glen Avon and back to our new home—at least that was how the story was told as Daddy explained why we were leaving Nevada to come home to California.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Early Teen Years – Life on the ranch

Coming back home to California seemed as natural as going to bed after a long day's work. The home on 44th Street looked, felt and smelled the same as when we left for Nevada. We weren’t home long though, before we found ourselves moving to Colton, California onto a small ranch along the Santa Anna River. I think the ranch was about 160 acres. My dad and a partner, Jim Anderson, leased it to raise and care for cattle. The ranch was called the Tropicana Ranch and was just off of Tropicana Drive in Colton.

Don and I were in heaven. We could ride horses at will. We did our chores; fed cattle, drove the tractor, hauled hay and ground dry corn into corn meal. We raced our horses up and down the river bottom of the mostly dry Santa Anna River. One of the horses was a Quarter Horse and was fast; usually winning the race no matter who was riding him. Don’s and my horse was a Pinto Paint and her name was Lady. We loved Lady and rode her every chance we could.

On the ranch was an old broken down flathead four-cylinder engine Jeep that Don and I wanted to drive around the ranch. At just 12 years old, we were told that if we could get it running, we could drive it. We asked what was wrong with it and Daddy told us that it needed a new head gasket. Well, he took us both out to show us where the head gasket was and left us on our own. We replaced the head gasket and got the thing running.

In addition to riding our horses, one of our favorite things to do was drive the Ford tractor down to a canal head-gate toward the entrance to the ranch and dive into the water from a tall ledge along the side of the canal. The water was only a few feet deep so we had to dive and use our hands to push ourselves flat and basically skim the bottom of the canal. It was a blast.

We would race the tractor as fast as it would go down a steep hill on our way back to the house from our swimming and diving. One time, we decided to get the tractor going really fast with the transmission in reverse and the clutch pushed in. We released the clutch to spin the engine in reverse. Oil came out of the carburetor and we were there a while before we could get it running again. After some panic and cleaning oil from everywhere, we got it running and meekly went home.

The owner of the ranch had a pretty daughter who came to visit from time to time with her family. We always went horseback riding and the daughter (I can’t remember her name) and I always seemed to pair off and talk and talk and talk. We never kissed, but we knew we liked each other. A few years later, we went to visit with the family who owned that ranch at their family home. My friend’s mother asked me to encourage her daughter to make better decisions and to do better in school. I did so. Her mother came in to the room very shortly after and we left without ever seeing each other again.

My dad cut hair for whomever was willing. Sheryle’s son, Randy, was sitting on top of a glass picnic table in our patio area as my dad was cutting his hair. Suddenly, the glass broke and Ron Mann, Sheryle’s husband and Randy’s dad, was able to grab Randy before he hit the ground amidst a pile of sharp shards of glass. It seemed like such a miracle at the time.

We took care of Charolais cattle for some rich millionaires from New York. After apparently doing a good job, my dad was asked to find a bigger ranch for one of the millionaire’s son, John Konwiser, to buy and my dad to run. We went to a few ranches in Northern California, but my dad wanted a ranch that he found just out of Medford Oregon. It was called the Gardner Ranch, named after the owner.

We moved to the ranch in Oregon and Don and I found another heaven. The ranch’s name was changed to the Jean K Ranch, named after John Konwiser’s mother who had passed away a few years prior. John, at 26 years old, moved to the ranch within a few months with his new bride, Annabelle.

Life on this ranch was the most amazing experience any teenager could ever hope for. It had a 55-acre lake on it and ski boats for us to use at our will…and we did. We could fish constantly and kill frogs to cook up frog legs, which we loved doing. We discovered that if we shot the frog through the stomach with our 22-caliber rifle, it would immediately bloat up and float, and then we could recover it. We would cut the legs off, freeze them and our mother would cook them up (and yes, they do taste just like chicken).

On this ranch we learned to weld, to design calf feeding pens and build them (our dad let us be creative on this and we were), assist in birthing calves, castrate bulls into steers, dehorn steers and bulls and basically work hard. From our house, the entrance to the ranch was a mile away. For school, we had to walk this mile twice a day. Daddy would sometimes take us on the tractor with each of us sitting on the back fenders (a large red Farmall).

Don and I each raised a steer for slaughter for our Future Farmers of America (FFA) involvement. We had to record how much we fed it and track its progress. At about 1000 pounds, we sold them at an auction and they each sold for about 32 cents a pound; which was about the going price at the time.

Our dog was named Shep and he was a great cattle dog. Our horses and Shep were trained in how to cut cattle and bring in strays that had wandered off. Daddy trained Lady and Don and I trained Shep. They both were great.

We had a ranch hand, Blackie, who admired our dad and would follow him anywhere. Later, as we moved back to California, Blackie brought his family to California to be near our dad, I am sure.

We also had an older white horse that was what our dad called a swayback. His name was Sleet. One day, Blackie was riding Sleet and Sleet reared up and fell backward onto Blackie. It was awful. Blackie survived with some serious back problems that I am sure stayed with him for the rest of his life.

As part of FFA, and our Vocational Agriculture class (Voc Ag), I made halters for calves out of rope. One morning we left for Corvallis, along with other local chapter members and members of our class, to represent our chapter and our school at a state-wide competition. I came in first place. As we came home, the principal of our school invited me to his office and congratulated me. Our teacher, Mr. Jim Collier, made a big deal of it during our next Voc Ag class. It felt pretty darn good.

One day, as Don and I were checking on the cattle that were out in the range area that the ranch leased from the Government, we came upon a dead calf that had obviously not made it beyond its first few hours after birth. I dismounted Lady and immediately discovered that the front knees of the calf worked opposite; it bizarrely allowed the legs to fold forward, not the normal backwards so it could walk. I showed Don and we then both knew that the calf was never going to make it, even if we had been there to help in its delivery.

Don and I often found rattlesnakes and killed them to cut off the rattlers as our trophies. By the time we finished our life on the ranch; we had killed and collected the rattlers from 13 rattlesnakes.

One of our friends, Tom Rose, was a neighbor at our house on 44th Street. Tom came to live with us on our ranch in Oregon for a full summer when we were all about 14 or 15 years old.

A lesson taught us by a situation with John Konwiser had to do with Tom being paid for his work on the ranch. As we would mention it, John joked with us about it all through the summer. As Tom left to go home, there was no check for his work…John thought we were always joking about his being paid. John sat Don and me down and told us to take time to get clarity on any business dealings…I remember thinking, Doesn’t the same apply to you? That aside, as we left the ranch as our mother was taking Tom to the airport, we looked back from the car window to see Daddy picking John up by his shirt, sitting him on the back of a trailer and put his finger in his face; lecturing him about not paying Tom for his work, I am sure. It was less than a handful of months later that we were packing our bags and heading back to California to our home on 44th Street.

Oh…the lesson I learned? My dad taught me to always stand up for what is right; even, like in this case, it added to the list of many such things that ultimately costs him his job and his family’s livelihood. The reality is, we survived and we survived very well. In the meantime, we learned many life-lessons; and certainly learned that life is never about money or image or cowering under any circumstances against what is wrong. Yes, we did survive well and to me, my dad stood—as Superman did—for truth, justice and the American way. To a young teenager, that reality never changed and his incredible example will be with me forevermore as I strive to live up to that example and be a better person in so doing.

In the final epitaph of the argument with our dad about Superman being real or not, it appears that Don and I were both right and our dad was wrong. No, it wasn’t an actor playing a character by the name of Clark Kent who was Superman, it was a real live person by the name of Val...but we just called him Daddy.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Later Teen Years - Settling in with lasting friends

Our return to 44th Street this time would take us through high school and into the Navy. Upon returning, we finished up the ninth grade at Jurupa Junior High and went to the tenth grade at Rubidoux High School the following year. 1963, however, was the first year that the ninth grade shifted from Junior high to high school, so we started high school without being the new freshman on campus. It was great.

Our church was a small branch that met in a women’s club building, the same location as during our prior years in Glen Avon. It was called the Glen Avon Branch and Lyle Davis Hatch was the branch president (later to become my father-in-law). Through church, we made quick friends with Lynden Woolley and Mike Harrington, among others. Our friendships with Lynden and Mike were strong and based on common beliefs and a basic desire to do and be good according to those beliefs. During those challenging adolescent years, Lynden was probably the best example to have in living our beliefs. The entire Woolley family seemed to take Don and me under their wings and make us part of their family. We went to Wyoming with them for the summer and hauled hay to earn some spending money. In Wyoming, we basically lived on our own in a garage loft and cooked our own meals. Back in Glen Avon, LeRoi (Le), the dad, hired Don and me to help him build and remodel homes and even to remodel the outside of an old mortuary on Mission Blvd. While Don and I were always very handy and mechanically inclined, these experiences honed those mechanical inclinations into strong skills and abilities that served us both well for the rest of our lives.

While there are many experiences that I can still recall during these years, I will discuss just a few. As I mentioned before, Tom Rose was a neighbor, along with the Hay family. We made friends with George Terrace Hay (we called him Terry), a son in the Hay family. The Hays had come to California from Canada and settled into a home that they built next door to our home. It was during these years that a Hispanic family (the Rodriquez family) moved into a home across the street. Our dad, having grown up in Missouri, was actually very prejudiced against any non-whites for most of his life, but allowed Don and me to develop relationships with the Rodriquez family; it was clear that he respected their hard work ethic (they ran a mattress manufacturing plant and made their way through life fairly well).

It was probably the Rodriquez family who removed any and all prejudices that I may have unwittingly developed through our dad. I will be forever grateful to the Rodriquez family for their acceptance of us and for giving us an opportunity to love them as just a wonderful family; Hispanic or not. They gave that same opportunity to our dad, as you will see.

Back in the late 50s and early 60s, this acceptance was important for me, and for Don, I am sure. For example, Daddy hated Martin Luther King, but allowed Don and me our own moral compass on such matters. Daddy’s ability to see a bigger, more long-range picture was always paramount in his life; and as a father. In hindsight, it was such a bigger, more long-range picture that brought us life on the ranch; there is no question now that the entire ranch experience was exclusively for Don’s and my benefit, period.

Anyone who may hear of Daddy’s prejudiced ways and comes to any conclusion that it somehow diminished his character in any way simply doesn’t understand who he was. Who he was was a man of extremely sound moral principles who believed in and honored his own character to the finest and minutest detail. In a time—during the mid 60s—when being prejudiced was greatly frowned upon, he stood strong for what he believed and honored the way he was raised. In so doing, I had set before me—during my own critical adolescent years—an example of standing for what you believe, no matter what. That example is far, far more important than any negative influence that his prejudice ways may have created. Thank you, Daddy.

The Hays, again whose home was right next door, had a car-pit in their garage to which Don and I had unlimited access. We could, and did, work on the underside of our cars while standing in the pit. It was like heaven on earth. Our first car was a black 1953 Ford sedan that costs us $100. This car would come in handy for me in later years, as you will see.

There was an experience with Mr. Hay and my dad that taught me a critical lesson in life that I am sure my dad instigated. Mr. Hay came over to our home one day and gave me an old-fashioned typewriter to have as my own. As he left, I took it to my room and started taking it apart. I had it about halfway disassembled when Mr. Hay knocked on my bedroom door. I came out of my bedroom and greeted him in the hallway, not wanting him to see what I was doing. He told me “On second thought, I would like you to pay me one-dollar for the typewriter.” I went back to my room and collected enough coins to make up a dollar and went back out to give it to Mr. Hay. Once I returned to my room, I immediately started putting the typewriter together. With the exchange of a few of my hard-earned coins, the machine had become a much more appreciated and valuable item in my young mind. I am sure it is clear what the lesson was and I am equally sure we all can figure out who was behind such a critical life-lesson. Once again, thank you, Daddy.

The half-acre building lot next to our home (on the opposite side from the Hay family) was never built on and made a great baseball field for Don and me, and our friends, Terry and Tom. We would play 500 where you get 100 points for catching fly balls hit into the field from home plate and 50 points for catching the ball after just one bounce; two bounces, no points. The first one to 500 points got to be the hitter who hit the balls out into the field. We also made up teams to play against each other. We shoveled a small mound for pitching and put together bases that were usually made up of rocks or pieces of old wood. It was a blast, plain and simple.

As we started high school, we also started attending seminary. We got up at 5:30 or 6:00 am and had about a 15-minute ride/drive to the stake center where seminary was held. We then had another 15-minute ride/drive after seminary to high school. Before Don and I had a car to take on our own, Le Woolley picked us up and drove us to seminary each and every morning. On many occasions, I would answer the door in my pajamas and exclaim, “I slept in. Go ahead without me.” Each time, his simple answer was the same, “We’ll wait.” It wasn’t long before such a tactic wasn’t even attempted on my part. When Brother Woolley wasn’t available to drive, Fred Harrington, Mike’s dad, took us—and employed the same answers about sleeping in. It is amazing to me how blessed Don and I were with such dedication in and outside our family. Truly amazing.

As I mentioned before, the very best influence for wanting to be and do good was Lynden, Le’s and Lillian’s second of four sons. Lynden truly was a good person, as was his entire family. As we all went to Star Valley, Wyoming one summer, Daddy prepared Don and me for our own credit by making arrangements with the local bank (Sterling Savings and Loan) for each of us to get a $50 loan and pay it back at summer’s end—what foresight on Daddy’s part. We drove to Wyoming with the Woolley’s, stopping by Le’s parent’s home in Logan on the way. Once we arrived in Thayne, Wyoming, we setup our sleeping arrangements in the loft of a garage that Brother Woolley had built; basically just spreading out our sleeping bags.

Our task in Wyoming was to earn money by hauling hay. We ended up hauling hay for a Mr. Hale of the Hale ranch. We were paid so many cents per bale and we divided it up with the four of us, Lynden, Don, me and Lynden’s older brother Len Roi. It was exhausting work. We eventually went with straight hourly pay for a larger ranch in Star Valley. It seemed Mr. Hale was never able to give us all the equipment we needed (a bale elevator in particular).

We often went to the movie in the only movie house in Thayne. The problem was that they showed the same movie for a week at a time, so we couldn’t go that often. We did have other diversions, however. We were flush with fire crackers as Wyoming had more liberal laws regarding the purchase and use of fireworks. Our most favorite were called “Black Cats.”

One day, while we were all resting in the loft; lying on top of our sleeping bags, Len Roi (who slept and rested in a boat parked in the garage) jokingly threw a lit Black Cat firecracker up into the loft. It landed on my back. I reached around to throw it off just as it went off in my hand, blowing a hole in my brand new polished-cotton shirt and embedding tiny black powder residue into the palm and fingers of my hand in what appeared to be tiny black blisters. Ironically, it didn’t hurt that much at all. Over the next few days, I had to use a needle to remove the black powder residue from my hand. I now wonder if the hole blown into my shirt was more from burning than from the explosion. That would explain why it really didn’t hurt that much. Secondly, I had picked up a handful of shirt as I grabbed the lit firecracker, so my back didn’t get any brunt of the blast at all. Additionally, my hands were surely quite calloused from hailing hay and the extra-thick skin protected me from excess pain, I am sure. I remember Len Roi being much more troubled by it all than I was—the whole thing looked a great deal worse than it really was; with a hole seemingly being “blown” into my shirt and hundreds of tiny powder burns in my hand. Hey Len Roi, you still owe me a shirt though…

Whether in Wyoming or visiting their home in Glen Avon, I always found it easy to talk with Lillian, Lynden's mother, and did so many times. On one occasion in particular, we talked about testimonies in church and how some may be saying things that go beyond what the person may deeply feel. It was a profound discussion for me at the time as we both concluded that however the person may feel at other times, what was said came from what they were feeling at the time; and that influence comes from God. Many years later, Lillian mentioned to me one day that she always felt like she had six sons. At her funeral, Don and I were listed on the funeral program as her "adopted sons." In many respects, we were.

More to follow: