Deade - My years From 13 - 17

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Called of God
Dec 17, 2017
Chapter 2 – Years 13 to 17

My Navy aunt had to move, so it was back to Watts for the 8th grade. In a school of about 6,000, we were two white males that started that fall. The other white boy pulled out after about a month and a half. I had fights just about every day. My mother loved me in spite of not having bonded: I have no doubt about that. If I stayed out without calling, I had a switch waiting for me when I got home. I realized she worried, so I needed to accommodate that. I never got in trouble with her for fighting, she would ask me If I had to: if I said yes, she forgot about it. Sometimes, I had to take a swat at school for it because that was the only time I could retaliate. They couldn't gang up on me there.

I finished the 8th grade there and started the 9th. In Los Angeles, the 9th grade is still junior high school. One of my uncles' wife was about to domino so he asked me to stay with him in La Puente in the San Gabriel Valley. Naturally, I agreed: Oh boy, a white high school! Once she gave birth they wanted me out because she was going to nurse the baby. I had another uncle, in La Puente, and stayed with him so I wouldn't have to transfer. Eventually, because of problems at that place, I moved in with the Navy aunt for the last week and a half to finish the school year. My aunts and uncles always made me feel welcome to stay with them. During the summers I usually worked from about 13 years old on. I worked at a dairy across the street from us, as did most my family at one time or another. I remember washing bottles for 50 cents at 8 years old. There was also a building contractor on our block, and I sometimes worked for him.

When it became time to start the 10th grade, my mother tried to get me transferred to a half white school. They were trying to re-integrate the Watts high school, so they refused the transfer. On the last day of school that high school had five stabbing incidents against 3 teachers and 2 cops. My mother said she wasn't going to get me killed over some social experiment. So, she kept me out: I was only 15. So, I went to work full time at Scotsman’s Dairy which was about 2 miles from home. He was to pay me $40 a week, this was 1961. This man was just building his dairy up with a lot full of first-calf heifers. We started milking about 40 each shift with two shifts a day. He had hired an illegal Mexican and me to do this work. The Mexican put on the milking machines and I hand stripped the cows after. At the end of each shift we would have to find any heifer having a problem delivering. We would then bring them into the barn and pull the calf. One breech was so stubborn, we ended hooking a chain onto the calf’s legs and to a pickup to pull it out. We had already given up trying to save the calf. It turned out we saved the calf and the cow.

After about a month working there, my mother felt sorry for me riding my bicycle to work so she bought me a Vespa on her Sears card. I was to make the payments for it. Nearly three months into this job, our hours were getting so long we started losing sleep. We had doubled the heifers we were milking and get more almost every day. I started sleeping on the haystack every other shift just to get some sleep. We kept asking the owner to hire more help. Him being a cheapo, he wouldn’t do it. It finally became unworkable for me and I had to quit. I was offered a position at the dairy across the street to wash bottles for $25 a week. He also had me work the cash and carry store for extra money. I ended up making about the same as I had on the other job. I even pulled off a couple of milking shifts for the milker, a friend of mine.

I mentioned I gave up on God at 14 and I was smoking again. I had started at 10 then gave them up at 12. The previous summer, at 14, I hung out with the youngest uncle and his wife. They were in California looking for work. He had mustered out of the Air Force in Knob Noster, Missouri. He married a gal from there. They were staying in East Los Angeles in a housing complex. It was a fairly rough neighborhood, so we bought beer and cigarettes and locked ourselves in on weekend nights. We usually played Canasta or Pitch all night long. When they went back to Missouri, I started writing his wife. She wrote one time that she really missed me and she wished I could stay with them. I wrote back that I was looking for someplace to go to school. The next thing I know, they call on the telephone and told me to come on. He was working in an implement shop in Holden, Mo. I had enough money saved so I bought a bus ticket and went. It was October but they still let me in school. I enjoyed that.

Well, winter hit hard in Missouri and they had to lay off my uncle. We were staying in an old school-house belonging to the implement company. So we moved in temporarily with his wife’s mother. Looking around all the nearby towns there was no work. Just after the new year, my oldest uncle joined us there. My two uncles and I head off for their hometown looking for work. We stayed with the only aunt that had stayed in Indianapolis. They looked around there for work but couldn’t find any, so the uncles went to Chicago and found jobs. I intended to start school again when the semester started in February. They had 8 kids. One of my cousins and I came down with infectious Hepatitis. It almost killed me, or so I thought. After getting out of the hospital, I had to stay at home and rest for 6 weeks. By then it was too late to start school and they wouldn’t take me.

The day the doctor released me, I asked him if it was okay to work. He said yes. When I got home I picked up a paper and found an ad for a new Steak ‘n Shake. I called and they said come interview. Their oldest son 6 months older than me had been looking for work for 2 months. I got my aunt to run me out there and they hired me as a dishwasher for $40 a week (1962). My older cousin had a hissy fit about me finding a job so quick. I told him to relax, they were still hiring. He called and got hired as a curb waiter. I thought I was going to work on Memorial Day, but found out at the last minute I was off. I wanted to get tickets for the Indy race, but couldn’t at the last minute. My cousin (3rd oldest of theirs) had a paper route I sometimes helped him with. I asked him if he was selling papers out there. When he confirmed he was, I asked him to call his boss to see if I could help for the day. He called and his boss said “bring him.” We jumped on the paper truck and got a police escort to the race. We had NW bleachers on our paper sales passes, but I noticed they weren’t even reading them. I told my cousin we are going to the main stadium complex right above pit road. We walk right pass the guard as he waved us on. Wow! What excitement. We had to walk up and down the aisles or just watch over the banister. A.J. Foyt won that year. My aunt was going to California to see her mother in June so I decided to go home and find work there.

By June, I’m 16 and back in Los Angeles. My older brother had agreed to take over the payments on the Vespa. He never made a payment but took it out and tore it up. It lay in pieces there in the garage. I had saved $70 from my pay and told my mother to take it. She said she couldn’t in good faith, because she allowed my brother to have it. I needed transportation. There was a ’51 Chevy sitting in the driveway. I asked my mother if it was the oldest uncle’s because I helped him work on it. She said no that it belongs to my grandmother. I asked my mother if she thought she would sell it. Mom said “ask her.” I go next store and asked Grandma if she would sell it. She said she might. I asked her “how much?” She asked me “how much you got?” I said “$70.” She said “sold.” I had my first car. It had a worn steering gear and was hard to keep it straight in the lane. It also had bad gromets in the shifting linkage, and you had to play it into gear. So I take my mothers 1968 Chevy for the drivers test and aced it.

I look everywhere for work. I find some here and there but it is all mostly temporary. I pumped gas, sanded cars but nothing lasting more than a month. I get hired at a Denny’s as a dishwasher, and the manager assured me it was a permanent position. After two weeks a guy comes back from vacation and goodbye again. My brother was working at a roller-skating rink just as he had been when I left California. I used to go there and hang with him some. I was 16, he was 22 but everyone said I looked older. I was taller than him also. He got a kick out of introducing me as his “little” brother. Some had a hard time believing he was older he was such a baby-face. I had just about made up my mind to join the Marine Corp when I turned 17, as there wasn’t much work for a high school drop-out.

My oldest uncle came back from Chicago. He remained single his whole life and he liked to move around. He gave up more good jobs than most people get. He had been working at Langendorf Bread Bakery before he left. Being experienced it took him no time to get back on there. He was working on Memorial Day weekend when said got desperate for some workers. He knew I could handle hard work from my dairy experience. He told them he had a nephew out of work that he could call. They said “call him.” He called as warned me to say I was 18 because of the Union required it. I had just turned 17. Being just a temp to start, I worked most days. Just about the time to let some summer temp help go, a checker went on sick leave. A lot of the helpers wouldn’t work a checkers job as you needed to be good in math. I was good in math. So, I stayed on the job for the guy on sick leave.


Daughter of the True King
Mar 28, 2018
I’m really enjoying your life posts Deade. Looking forward to the next one :)