1953 – 1955 Fremont, Work and a Woman — Part 1

In the last Chapter I talked about my mom and Tony breaking up for the last time. But before we say good bye to him here’s one last note about Tony, my step dad.

The last time I saw Tony was late 53 or early 54 when he showed up drunk on his ass.  I think it was shortly after the last break up he and my mom had.  He came into the house, picked up the coffee table with one hand and hit each of the four the legs, breaking them off.  He tore the refrigerator door off the fridge and then he put his foot in the TV set

It’s funny what you remember about dates and events because at the time I had a 16 gauge shotgun and I ran to my room to get it. When I showed up at the hallway door, Tony was pulling his foot out of the TV, he turned looked at me and asked me if I intended to use it.  I was so scared I just turned and ran back to my room. Yes I was scared, I guess I could have shot him, but I didn’t know why? That one decision probably changed my life for the better.

My mother had already called the cops and it’s important to know that Tony, in his rampage, never laid a hand on her, in fact unlike all the statistics Hollywood and the feminists want you to believe, I never saw him lay a hand on her, ever.  The only times he spanked me were on her orders, but at this point those days were over.

The cops arrived and the fight started in the house and out on our front lawn.  As drunk as he was, it took eight cops to take him down and get the cuffs on him.  What a man.  Every time he nailed a cop I was rooting for him. It sounds weird, but I never lost respect for Tony and my mother never lost her love for him. Ever!

Tony died about twelve years later around age fifty seven, an alcoholic. I still think of him with happy thoughts.

Before all this happened by November of 1953, I had met a girl (woman) who worked at the food counter inside the Von’s La Cieniga. Her name was Jan and soon we were getting quite chummy.  One day she asked me how old I was and I said eighteen.  I was actually sixteen.  Jan was 21 and had a ten month old baby.

We were pretty chummy and then in December of 1953 she asked me if I was going to the Von’s Christmas Party.  I hadn’t planned on it, but what the hell she appeared to be opening a door. We ended up going together.

I had never had a drink before that night, I certainly wasn’t old enough, but she would sneak drinks to me.  I was drinking Screwdrivers and ended up flying high. I had never danced with a girl since that day in junior high when I danced a box step waltz with Virginia, but I got so messed up that night that Jan and I ended up winning the jitterbug contest.

Before this stuff was happening my uncle Danny had moved in with us and he was a real player.  He had some of the hottest girlfriends on the planet and always dressed up in a suit when he went out. He had about a dozen suits and his suits happened to fit me to a T.

Having my car got me home from work at about 9:30PM because the store was open 24 hours and I worked 4:00 to 9:00PM.  No more tearing down the wet stand. Oh happy day!

Almost every night I would get home and take a shower to get ready to go out. My mom would be banging on the bathroom door saying things like, “You’re not going out tonight, you’re too young to be doing this.” I would shave dry off open the bathroom door and go into Uncle Danny’s room to pick out the suit I would wear for that night.

She’d be right behind me ordering me not to go out. She was actually cute because as I backed out of the drive way I could hear her yelling, “You’re not going out tonight!”

I would go to the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach or Zardi’s and The Haig in Hollywood. I wouldn’t drink alcohol, just coffee, but I looked cool. I was a big tipper and people got to know me as a regular in most of the places. Then something happened out of the clear blue sky.

I received my 1953 W2 and I actually looked at it for the first time.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe how much I made.  At that moment it struck me in the head like a baseball bat that in 1953 my mother had vacationed in Mexico, visited my aunt in San Francisco and bought a mink stole.

 Social SecuritySocial Security Record of payments

I thought, “What the hell is going on,” and I woke up for the first time in my life after looking at the numbers. I asked mom where the heck all the money went and we started to argue. Finally I said she had better get a job because I would now pay for room and board only.  She was now going to get $50 a week and I was back making the big money.

She was devastated. I basically traded places with her and my pay check.  She got so mad at me she started screaming at me and swung to slap my face. I caught her hand in midair. As I brought her arm down to her side she tried swinging the other hand and I caught that one too.

So now I’m holding her hands next to her side, she’s struggling to get let go. I looked her in the eyes  and I said, “And that’s another thing, you’ll never hit me again.” She got the message and never did.

One night after I started seeing Jan on a steadier basis, it was early 1954, I was leaving the house and my mom was doing her yelling routine, but this one had an added twist.

“If you go out tonight your clothes will be on the porch when you get back.”

She meant it and later that night when I got back, more like 2:30 AM, all my clothes, shoes, underwear, the works were on the porch.  Mounds of them. With that I packed the clothes in the car and headed for Jan’s house. I was free as a bird and didn’t have to pay the room and board, I was rolling in dough.

Jan welcomed me with open arms and it seemed at 16 I was settling down while I was still in high school. I would play ­­­SH-Boom on my way to Jan’s and life was good. So I thought.

Before I had left my mom had started dating a big Mexican guy named Frank.  He was big and stupid and I didn’t like him at all.  He would brag about wishing Tony would come over while he was there so he could kick his ass. All I could think of is I to wished Tony would come back to kick this guy’s ass.

There is nothing worse than a bragging Mexican and this guy was that. I really disliked him and couldn’t understand why my mom was involved with him, but it was none of my business.

After a few weeks without my room and board money, my mom asked Frank to take her to Von’s one night so she could try to talk me in to coming home. I refused but she kept coming back almost every night.

Then something a strange thing happened to me.  I woke up one morning with Jan laying by my side and her baby in the crib starting to cry.  I looked at the kid then at Jan, back at the kid and came to a quick decision.  I got out of bed and started packing my stuff, Jan woke up and I told her I was going home.  So much for Jan, I wasn’t really happy with the situation. The honeymoon was over. She stopped talking to me at work and I stayed away from her as much as possible.

After that morning leaving Jan’s place I started trying to get my with my high school sweetheart. Yes, I had a girlfriend, her name was Maria, a beautiful Italian girl. I saw her the first day of high school back in 1952.

I had broken up with her in early 1954 because of Ann, the Lighthouse, my working and not relating to school kids.

A quick flashback to Fremont, First Day of School

On that first day of school 1952 I saw a girl who stopped me in my tracks. It was Maria. I thought she was so gorgeous I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I first saw her in the auditorium where we had to sign in to Fremont and fill out all the cards required by the school.

Later that day I learned she was going steady with a tall good looking blond haired guy with a crew cut and I knew that was it for me. So, not being able to do anything I put any thought of her on the back burner.

To make a long story short Maria and her boyfriend broke up while in the 11th grade, mid 1953. By then I was on the school newspaper and the day a buddy of mine and I found out she was no longer going steady we raced to the Pathfinder office where they had a duplicate set of all the students cards with names addresses and phone numbers. He had the hots for her as well.

When we got to the room, we fought (not a knock down kind of fight) to open the file and grab her card. We each had a hand on the card and during the scuffle the card tore in half. My half had her address and phone number. Oh lucky me!

I had just started driving my car during the summer and when school started after summer vacation I would cruise around in my cool new car. After learning of her break up I would seek her out while she was walking home.

I would go around the block a couple times, pull alongside of her and ask her if I could give her a ride home. She must have said no a hundred times and I couldn’t spend too much time trying to convince her because I had to go to work about 45 minutes away.

Finally one day she gave in, got in the car and I felt I had just climbed Mount Everest. I can’t remember how long after that we started dating, it was probably about a month. Soon after that we were going steady and the world was all good.

It took me awhile to get back with Maria, but it worked out and that’s all I’m going to say about her except we got married in late 1955. That’s it, no more about that.

After the Jan episode, luckily for me, Von’s had just opened a new store in Gardena CA and they needed a good man they could trust to help the opening. The area supervisor asked if I would go and I jumped at the chance. It was quite an honor to be selected to open a new store.

I don’t remember a lot about the Gardena Von’s except it was a smaller store and didn’t have the hustle and bustle of the La Cieniga store. I was only there a few weeks before I got a call from you know who. Good ole uncle Pancho.