THE WAR YRS.

My folks and me headed to California in the Spring 1942

California or bust

Whenever I think back to my boyhood, they are some of my fondest memories. And I reflect in my mind back to those distance years so long ago. Sometimes when night falls, when my eyes become heavy with sleep I dream of days long past. The days of youth, long forgotten.

I think how fortunate and blessed I’m, to have my wife Belinda. When I think back to my boyhood, some of my fondest memories with my Mom and Dad were our visits to our extended family that lived throughout the western US. Since we were not a close knitted family – I always looked forward to seeing my aunts, uncles and especially my cousins. To be honest I was impressed that my cousins lived in houses and their families had taken roots somewhere because we lived a 12’x50’ trailer and my little family moved from town to another nameless town since my Dad worked in heavy construction we moved whenever the job was over. Now that I’m retired to Philippines I found how much I missed out.

WE ALL have had the best possible ride anyone could ever have had. Because most of us were born after the “New Deal” had become a done deal, we all enjoyed incredible opportunities. Thanks to the Fair Labor Standards Act, we didn’t have to work ourselves into the ground for a poor man’s wage. We all could actually live on what we made. And thanks to widespread unionization, even if we were in a non-union shop, we still got taken care of better-because a good employee might have jumped to a union shop if he or she wasn’t treated well. Your and my parents, who suffered through both an awful Depression and then WW 2, did everything in their power to make sure that we all never had to suffer what they had gone through. The post-World War  Two era saw American opportunity for everyone who was willing to work for the chance, including minorities and women in due time.

My Dad as roughneck in East Texas.

My Dad as roughneck in East Texas.

My Dad who was oil field rough neck moved his family wherever the Shell Oil Company told him to move. When I was very young say around three or four years old I lived in Brownsville, Texas and in fact I learn Tex-Mex before I could speak English. Since the year was either 1939 or 1940 I can still remember some my boyhood experiences then. One thing that sticks out in my mind was stories to my folks and retold to me about the Mexican Revolution; a major armed struggle that started with an uprising led by Francisco Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Diaz, and the notoriety “Pancho” Villa, the Mexican Revolutionary general. Please remember this struggle happened thirty plus years before 1939. I thought I’d share the stories I heard a long time ago. On most weekends the Anglo Americans from their side of the Rio Grande River watched the battles rage between the revolutionary forces and the federal troops; while men sipped on their cold beer – while their wives set-up the family’s picnic and atmosphere took on festival mood. Then suddenly the battle stopped around three or so – it was siesta time! After their siesta was over both sides would begin their battle once again.

Those were the days,  I learn to love Mexican culture and food. On almost any Sunday afternoons my Dad with my Mom and me in tow would drive over to Mexico for a quiet Sunday afternoon dinner.  I can remember even to this very day the small white canteen where we ate. It was right across from USA near the shore of the Rio Grande River serving spicy full of flavor Mexican food and a gent in the corner playing soft music on his guitar as his fingers danced gracefully over the strings. Those were the days.

Have you been fondle by the fickle finger of fate?  Me, I guess I have been there at least once or twice – I have to admit.   I guess everyone has been there in their life time. The past month or more our internet provider and their service were very terrible. Full of hiccups on and slow to boot. Like someone playing with the light switch on then off, back and forth, click I’m on –I’m on, click I’m on once again–I’m on, click I’m off –I’m off. Show me the service while ask, show me the money. What a frustration. Thank God for my wife’s patience. It’s going when provider shut down the net as it has been for the past two weeks and my trying my best to retool this blog. Plus working on one brain cell. Give me a break!

I have lost so much, can’t walk, can’t hear and can’t think straight but I try my best to never to give up. NEVER GIVE UP. Life is an adventure…. Life goes on. Sometimes life is like riding a roller-coaster at neck breaking speeds.

As the c horizon looked darker and darker and then war clouds appeared. The World War two showed it’s face in Europe and in Asia. One could almost hear the heels of  Strong Troops. Then the war came to American.

My Grandma's house in Pratt, Kansas in 1941.

My Grandma’s house in Pratt, Kansas in 1941.

We were living with my grandmother in Pratt, Kansas when the war broke out. I remember as  I set here at my lap top life was calm and simple and then Pearl Harbor came without warning. My Old Man without a job decided to go to California in search of  work. With my Mom and me in tow we left my grandmother’s home headed straight to the Golden Bear State. California here we come! California or bust.

Driving across the bone dry plains and empty towns, seeing an abandoned farm occasionally. The Rocky Mountains grew larger as we got closer. The war seemed to be in far way place. On the road one day we met a truck packed with personal belongings. It was friends from east Texas going home from California.  My Dad and his shook hands, one to east Texas and to California.

Arriving in California with no money we moved where my Mom’s sister and her family was living at the time near Fairfield. With no job to pay the rent or to buy food we three worked as fruit pickers in the nearby fields. No money no place to live, no money no food, it was that simple, no complains from my Mom or me. That was the time I learn the word of hard work at 5 years old. And I learn responsibility.

By the time when  school started we moved to Vallejo where my Dad and Mom found work at the U.S. Naval Shipyard. I went to school daily and then to child care afterwards while my folks were at work.   The streets were always full of marines and sailors coming from or going off to war. Ships leaving the harbor to sink the “Jap” ships and to help marines on landing on some nameless island beaches.

Uncle Bill with his wife while my parent visited  them. Photo was taken before in the army.

Uncle Bill with his wife while my parents visited them. This photo was taken before my uncle went  in the army.

Every Sunday you could count on it, my Old Man would fire up his 1938 Dodge black coup on back market gas and back market tires and then we’d go off on a Sunday drive. Sometimes stopping off at Chinatown in San Francisco or seeing my Uncle Bill before he was drafted and then shipped to the South Pacific as a army machine-gunner. My Mom’s Dad, my “Grandpa Charlie Jones” who was by then a fireman would come over to apartment for Sunday dinner. I remember to this day when my two uncles, Uncle Bill and Uncle Eddie stopped off together for a short visit before they shipped out to the South Pacific. It was and now a very special day to all of us.

That's me guarding our housing prjoect's building around 192.

That’s me guarding our apartment  building around 192.

Every night with dark green window shades pulled closed to no light to be seen my parents and I would listen to Tokyo Rose on the radio telling listeners how  Japan was winning the war and then play a few popular songs such as “I’ll be home by Christmas.” My Dad grew a victor garden of fresh vegetables for his family. His sport was to hide behind our front window and watch for neighborhood dogs to come and dig in his victory garden dirt and then shot would fire out from my a one-shot BB Gun in their butt. Soon no dog came near our housing project apartment.

As the war dragged on, one night a loud explosion shook the whole apartment building. A naval ammunition blew up at Port Chicago, no it wasn’t the Japanese. It was terrible accident that shouldn’t have happened.

Blaming the young black sailors the whole group appeared next to the housing project as they marched under guard in the hot sun.

I recall one Sunday afternoon stopping at the housing project’s  caletia with my folks to grab a mike shake and hamburger then I noticed a group of young marines coming in the front doors, laughing and happy and then I saw one happy young marine missing his right leg. Yes those were the days.

Corrigidor  - World War 2 guns pointed to Batten.

Corregidor – World War 2 guns pointed to Batten.

I remember in early 1942 as a young boy hearing on the day when Corregidor fell to the Japanese Army so well today. It was a day of sadness and disbelief…. A few years ago I had a chance to visit the formal fortress in Manila Bay. A place of remembrance; a place of scare soil to all Filipinos. The ruins of the old military fort are now over grown with weeds and jungle. Where once proud soldiers paraded to the call of the sound of bugles is now occupied by chatting monkeys. Old cannons are now silence as they should be. How could Japan beat use us everyone ask? Then the horrible stories came in a flood, the Batten Death March, treatment of American P.O.W, the suffering of the people in the Philippines… the rape of an island country called the Philippines and the treatment of both American and Filipino P.O.W. at the hands of the Japanese. Today I remember the west coast of the states guarded with armed soldiers guarding the beaches for an invasion that never came. Everyone was saying, ‘those damn Japs.”

My wife’s Dad was hidden as young boy by her grandfather from the Japanese invaders. Her grandfather is one of the unsung heroes of that war and who fought on in the hills, jungles against the Japanese invaders. With no material on hand or even provided but with hope and a strong heart he fought on.

I now recall an unforgettable experience with my cousins, Carol and her brother George and I had. When the war started back in 1941, their family had already moved to California sometime before we did in the spring of 1942. They were more or less settled in near Fairfield. As it was wartime there was hardly any space to rent or a place to live. After we arrived from Kansas my folks and I moved in and rented a one bedroom cabin the same camp where they lived in. I believe it had been a fruit pickers’ camp before the war. It wasn’t a classy Holiday Inn motel that’s for sure. Next to our cabins was an enclosed fenced off large pasture inhabited by a sole inhabitant who happened to be one very large bull. This bull was the king of his pasture. Naturally he didn’t much like people especially kids who teased him. Well it was too hard for us to pass it by, consequently we use to tease him every chance we got.

Since I was born in the depths of the Great Depression.  My parents sense they knew ‘hard times’ and were New Deal Franklin D. Roosevelt Democrats. Yes I remember the days when my shoe soles had holes, a nickel ice cream was a big treat and there never seem to be enough money in the family money jar. While President Herbert Hoover and his political party were for the rich Wall Street bankers, President Roosevelt was for the common man, the working man. There was no such thing as special interest or focus groups. My folks and their friends almost idolized the president. As young boy I listen faithfully along with my parents to the president’s fireside chats as he cheered on Americans to better times whether it was in the depths depression or in dark days of wartime. What wisdom this man had! In my young mind he seemed to know all the right answers and it seemed as if he was talking directly to my family but of course he wasn’t. I now recall no one much liked his wife Eleanor since was too socialist for Americans taste. Besides she was a busybody and wore silly looking hats. With a charisma president encouraging them on everyone rolled up their shirt sleeves to win a war and to build a prosperous and a confident American. I remember the unforgettable “Rosy the Riveter” doing her job – building tanks, airplanes and ships while her men folks were far away from America’s shores. When I was a young second grader I did my part by collecting scrap metal for the war effort and saving my nickels and dimes to buy War Bonds. Since the Great Depression had passed and the war was on it’s last breath and then the day came when I was nine years old seeing the American flag flying at half-mast. Looking up to the 48 stars flag I wondered why this was so; since I had always seen our flag flying at the very top. Upon reaching home both my parents were sadden, my Mom in tears and my Dad who had gotten the day off from work at the Mare Island Navy Shipyard was wondering what the country would do without President Roosevelt.  The good news was then we were out of the hard times, we were winning the war against our enemies and better times were ahead. And who was this new fellow Harry S. Truman?

I can still remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then later the street dancing celebrating V-J Day… the kiss from a beautiful young happy woman… the war was over! Now they are all just old memories of an old man.

After the war ended, our family of three packed up and moved to Salem, Oregon, where my parents owned a five acre farm about five miles outside of town.  Once we all were settled in my Dad started to build trailer houses with my Grandpa Charlie Jones, my Mom and me as his helpers.

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