Monday, November 27, 2006

Raisin Bread,

Shortly after moving to Redwood Valley, my oldest sister Juanita and her two daughters (Louise and Darlene) moved in with us. Louise was a little over a year older than me and Darlene was much younger.

Juanita meet Bill Dunbar, who's wife had left him with 3 young children. Bobby was younger than myself and Ronnie was next, followed by Brenda that was Darlene's age.

Bill and Juanita loved to dance and sometimes while riding in the car, they would stop, turn the radio very loud and get out and dance.

At first my dad did not like Bill very much but that changed over time. Juanita and her girls moved in with Bill and his 3 kids. My dad did not approve and hounded Juanita about the fact they were not married.

After Bill's divorce was final, they claimed to have eloped but no marriage license was ever seen and my dad never thought they were married (they were together for the rest of their lives) but at least it appeared they were and my dad let it drop.

They later moved from Potter Valley and ended up living down the road a couple of miles from us. By then my dad had seen my sister happy and was warming up to Bill.

My dad called Juanita "sister", and we visited them at least once a week. Juanita baked their bread once a week on Mondays. She would bake enough loaves for the week and freeze them. Along with the regular bread, she always baked Raisin Bread.

On Monday after supper, dad would say "lets go to sisters". When we arrived dad would talk to Bill while mom and Juanita would be in the kitchen. When the bread started coming out of the oven, Juanita would ask dad if he wanted some and he would say "no".

After awhile she would just bring him some buttered raisin bread and he would end up eating several slices. This went on for a long time and we all laughed about it behind my dad's back.

We might visit them on other days but he made sure we visited on Mondays.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The 50's in California were a great time to be a "car guy". Even though I was very young I was very much a car guy. There were hotrods and mild custom cars everywhere. I must had gotten it from my brother "Bob", who was the only car guy in our family.

I could recognize the brand of car as far away as I could see it. Even at night the headlights cast their light on chrome grills that made then easy to identify. Bob had a 1950 Ford that he modified with a "love shift". The streering column shifter were reversed so it now was shifted with the left hand. He said he could keep his arm around a girl and still shift gears. Dual exhaust with SMITTY mufflers were all the rage at the time but that was before muffler shops and you had to have factory pipes. Bob's car had single exhaust and to replace it with factory duals was cost prohibitive. At the time you could cut the pipe behind the muffler and buy a "Y" with two flexible pipes to run on each side of your rear bumper, add a couple of chrome tips and you had DUAL EXHAUST. Replace the stock muffler with a SMITTY and you "almost" had the sound.

My dad was not mechanically minded when it came to cars and he would buy $100 Buicks that never lasted very long. At one time we had 3 in our yard besides the one he was driving. He never wanted to buy anything on the credit but was finally convinced to purchase a like new 1950 Plymouth and he drove it until his death in 1959.

He was always building something so he bought a 1940 Packard limousine for his work car. He took the back seat out and could put lumber inside and close the trunk lid. I just loved that old car. It was black with that big chrome grill and lots of chrome down the side.

Bob bought a 1938 Chevy coupe hotrod from the son of the man that owned the sawmill where he worked. It was white with pink flames and black and white "tuck and roll" interior. The hotrod 6 cylinder engine was blown and he gave $550 for it and paid it out $50 a week. Bob, my brother Wilson, and my dad worked at the HEATH sawmill and were making $150 a week in 1957.

The Heath sawmill was what is normally referred to as a "cross tie sawmill". It was located beside a Douglas Fir Plywood Plant. They bought the logs not fit for plywood and the round cores off the lathes at the plywood plant. You may use pine cores in your yard. That is what your landscape timbers are. Cores are now about 8 inch in diameter but in the 1950's cores were only turned down to 32 or 36 inches. The sawmill would take 4 even slices off the sides, sell them as cheap siding, and make lumber and cross ties out of the rest of the log.

My dad did not hunt or fish and as best I can remember his only hobby besides building things was "visiting". Seems we were always going over to someone's home to visit. We had several friends and relatives in the area so there was never a shortage of places to go.

On one such visit to my Aunt Rosie's home over in Booneville, I heard my first rumors of the aunts not so secret life. She was showing my mom her car that she had just bought in Santa Rosa. My aunt never worked outside of the home, and Uncle Frank (like most men of the era) handled the money from his paycheck. But here was my aunt with this beautiful Ford coupe.

Seems my aunt had a few boyfriends that were generous with their money. I loved my Aunt Rosie but she was not an attractive woman and was in her 40's at the time. Her and Uncle Frank were "oil and water" and no one knew why she stayed with a man that was overbearing and mean. I never saw him hit Aunt Rosie but their adopted son was his personal punching bag.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A small detour.

My dad was born in 1902 and two days after his 46th birthday my mom presented him with me. My dad had no formal education and could neither read nor write but he was very good with numbers.

On all our trips my mom was the navigator and this trip had a little funny twist to it.We never stayed in motels and always just pulled off the road and slept. A very common practice in those days. One night as we were heading west on route66 ( yes the mother road ), my mom dozed off and my dad kept driving. He liked to drive most of the night as there was less traffic. He could read the numbers on the highway signs but not the towns.

Sometime after mom had fallen asleep, dad came into a town and had to take a detour. He drove thru the detour and finally found a "rt.66" sign and drove until just before daylight before pulling off the road and getting a nap.

My mom wakes up with the sun shining in the windshield. Not a good sign when you are heading west. My dad had gotten back on what he thought was rt.66 west and headed back the same way. He had driven over 100 miles in the wrong direction. Towns were few and far between and most just looked alike in the middle of the night.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Side note

My sister Juanita was a petite gal all her life ( about 4' 10"), a real "looker" and somewhat of a "pistol" in her earlier years.

In the late 1940's (she was about 20 at the time), she was living in Dallas, Texas with her first husband and working as a waitress at a diner.

Every day this guy comes in and sits at the counter and only has coffee. Day after day and only coffee. He was there just to "check her out". He would accidentally let his arm rub against her as she reached over the counter to pour his coffee.

One day the counter was busy and he reached out and pinched her boob. She looked at him and asked, "Would you like to play with those?". Before he could answer, she reached in her blouse, pulled out her "falsie" and flopped it down on the counter next to his coffee. Juanita was so flat -chested that two fried eggs produced more cleavage.
She said for some reason the guy never came in the diner again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Settling in.

We moved into a shotgun house on Laughlin Way in the country in Redwood Valley. It truly was a valley. It was about 2 miles wide and the bottom was almost flat with the mountains rising sharply on the sides. Laughlin Way was a mostly gravel road at the west side of the valley that connected to West Road that looped into the valley before becoming East Road on exiting the other side.

Our landlords were from Missouri and he was a sheep rancher. The shotgun house had been their home until they built their house on the other side of the yard. The front of the house was long room that was a living room and a bedroom with small kitchen in a separate room. A front and back porch. The steps were on the left side of the back porch and then there was another building that housed the bath and another bedroom. Sort of like a "double wide trailer" only back to front instead of side to side. My brother Bob ( about 18 ) and my brother George ( about 12 ) used the "outside " bedroom.
Later my sister Juanita and her two daughters came to live with us and we added another bed in the living room.
Our water was piped off the mountain into a open top wooden water tower. Yes, just like on Petticoat Junction.
My brother Wilson and his wife lived about a mile and a half away. They lived in a converted barn that was very nice on the inside.
Redwood Valley, Ca.

When we moved from Thornton, Ar. back to California in late 1954, ended up in Redwood Valley. It is less than 10 miles from Calpella. We were back with friends and family. We had about as much family out west as we had back in Arkansas.

In the surrounding area we had , Uncle Presley and Aunt Jessie May, Aunt Rosie and her husband Uncle Frank Dorey, their oldest daughter Jeanette and her husband James Wright, and all the kids of said families. Also we had James and Sybil Gatling and Sybil's parents, the Snirleys from Arkansas that were long time friends of the family.

Down the road about 60 miles was mom's baby brother, Uncle Henry, his wife Hazel and family.

Everyone works in the sawmills or timber business except Uncle Henry. He was a mechanic at a Ford dealership.

My brother Wilson and his wife Georgie May, my sister Juanita and her two daughters were also there. With mom, dad, brothers Bob and George and myself the only one of our family not there was my sister Vivian.

In the early 50's if you took all the Arkies and Okies out of California, the state could have shut down.

We lived in Redwood Valley about 2 and 1/2 years before my dad became ill. It was the happiest time of my life. I had mom, a healthy dad and I was just getting old enough that I can really remember my life and not just "bits and pieces".

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thorton, Ar. circa 1954

Even at six years old there were a few things that made an impression on me. My dad split Hickory and made axe handles. I remember him using a "draw knife" to shape the handles and smoothed them with pieces of broken coke bottles. He would drag the edge of the broken glass over the handle and small slivers of wood came off until he had them smooth. Sandpaper cost money and this did a better job. He then rubbed them with an oily rag.

My mom moved the dresser with mirror from one side of the room to the other. That night when she came back from using the bathroom she said to my dad, "John, someone was peeking in the window". Dad got up and saw no one and went back to bed. Next night the same thing happened. Dad got up turned on the light and even went outside to check around. He came back in and when he turned off the light to come to bed, he saw his reflexion in the dresser mirror that was now in front of the window my mom thought someone was peeking in. Needless to say, the story was told many times. Not by my dad but by my mom. Dad was the serious type and didn't go in for what he called "foolery".

If you went out our back door and across the yard you would wind up at the back door of Dr. Ryan's office. His office was a small building that resembled a "junked up" store. Tables with stuff piled everywhere, a few chairs toward the back and a small office/examination room. When he finished, no need for a prescription for he just filled your medicine needs from the bottles he had on the tables and in the shelves. What stuck in my mind was that my mom was "an old woman" (born in 1907) and this very doctor "home delivered" her. He doctored into the 1970's. His daughter wrote a book about him that sold well locally because everyone had been his patient at one time or another.

On other thing I remember ( don't forget this is the early 50's in the south ), there was a black man dragged behind a car until he could run no longer run and then dragged to his death. He was the suspect in the rape of a white woman. Very heavy stuff in a small town. Though I was very young I still remember that there was not much interest in finding the one responsible.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Thornton, Ar.

I started the first grade in Thornton, Ar. in 1954 but by Christmas we were on our way back to California.

My dad had come home to Arkansas in hopes of starting a "ground hog" saw mill. It was not to be. He acquired the saw mill and was getting it set up in our back yard. I was a little young to really know the details but I think he had it ready to take to the woods and start cutting cross ties. He traded our Mercury for a Chevy log truck.

I remember he and mom talking about the truck needing tires and it would be ready to go to work. My uncle Elbert (mom's baby sisters husband) Landers was "well off" and we went one Sunday to borrow money from him to put tires on the truck. Dad came home empty handed and with a broken spirit. I was young but I can still remember the hurt on my dad's face that day. I don't know if that was his only option for the money or if it drug him down to far to recover. Over 50 years later my blood still boils when I write this.

Dad sold the mill and traded the log truck to Uncle Lloyd (mom's sister Sallie's husband) for a 1941 2dr. Ford sedan and we were off to California again. Aunt Sallie and Uncle Lloyd had the first TV I ever saw. I remember we would go see them on Sunday and stay for the Ed Sullivan Show.

My dad said he would not come back to Arkansas again. Later when he was too sick to work, we did move back to Arkansas so mom would be close to our extended family when he died.