Upon leaving elementary school, I entered junior high (Gompers); there was no such concept as a middle school at the time. The play days of elementary school were behind me and the rigors of junior high was a new concept for me. Yes, I was an A/B student in elementary school but my first semester was a killer, for I came home with straight “Ds” on my first progress report card, with the exception of P.E. for which I got a “B.” My parents were so upset with me and the grades I received, I was forced to quit my Boy Scout troop, which I loved dearly.
Let me digress for just a minute and write about one of my Boy Scout experiences. We would travel to our camps in the bed of a pickup truck, which you can’t do today, but it was such fun traveling down the highway with the wind blowing through one’s hair. My first camping experience was at Green Valley Falls in the Cuyamaca Mountains of Eastern San Diego County. Well, our first day was exhausting and that night I fell quickly to sleep.
But to my surprise, the next morning I found myself tied to the center of my pup tent. I must have been really exhausted to not be awake during that episode.
Saturdays found me watching cartoons such as Mighty Mouse, or Captain Kangaroo and the afternoons was Tarzan Theater and The Silent Service. Television for me was very limited, I always had to ask permission to turn on the television, and programs other than cartoons, Batman (Pow, Wham, Bam, etc.) on Saturdays, had to be newsworthy, documentary, or educational. While most of my friends were watching Dragnet, Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, or other popular television programs of the day, I was building model airplanes and ships, reading, building my own skateboards or coasters as they were known then, using old skates and scraps of wood, etc. However, this didn’t mean I didn’t watch some of these programs—I most certainly did, but had to sneak around doing it. Saturday nights when my parents when out clubbing or dancing, I would watch these popular shows, Gunsmoke, Twilight Zone, Hogan’s Heroes, or Saturday Night Movies.
Our house was at the top of a hill and at night when my parents returned home, the car headlights would shine on the window and I would quickly turn off the television, place a damp cloth on the television channel selection knob to cool it down, and just before they came in the door remove the cloth and scamper to bed, pretending to be asleep. Years later my mother mentioned to me that I didn’t fool them about watching television when they went out, because one night I forgot to remove the damp cloth—how stupid of me.
Back to my first year in junior high. After receiving such poor marks I buckled down and by the end of the year I was honored for having made the greatest progress in my social studies class. Therefore, at the end of the school year assembly, my social studies teacher presented me with a certificate of accomplishment and a book about Harry Houdini.
I was an avid reader, and I still am. While in junior high, I read every single book in the school library about the west: Kit Carson, Sitting Bull, Daniel Boone, etc. And, on some Saturdays, I could be found either riding my bike or taking the bus to the downtown library to check out more books. Imagine my surprise, when one day upon returning home from the library my mother said to me that one of her friends had observed me giving up my bus seat for an elderly person—the bus was full.
Although I was unaware at the time, my mother Sophie and grandmama Antoinette continued to write to me in the hope that my father would relent and let their letters be read to me; they never were. This is one of the many letters I received but was never able to read.
30 December 1963
My Little Danny
I could not write you for your birthday because my health was not very good. I have been in hospital during three months and I am only better now.
I think very much to you my dear Danny and now you are 14 years old. I suppose you are a clever boy always making good work at school.
Your mammy and your pappy send to you all their affections with many kisses.
While in junior high one of my favorite activities was fishing at the end of the Broadway pier in downtown San Diego where we would catch Bonitas and Barracudas. Some Saturday mornings would find me, my brother and a few neighborhood friends, piling into the taxi of one of my friends’ father and being driven down to the piers to fish, at 4 o’clock in the morning. At the end of the day, we either took the bus home or my mother would pick us up, but not before we turned in our Bonita for cans of tuna fish at the tuna factory in town. That was when San Diego had a tuna fleet. The San Diego tuna fleet is no longer in existence.
I also had my share of fights in elementary school and junior high, but the one I really remember, occurred when I was in the 9th grade and late for school. As I walked along the sidewalk in front of the school, there were five older boys walking towards me. As they approached closer, this feeling of dread overcame me as I thought that I would be jumped on. As I passed them, one of them hit me in the chest. Of course, my father said “don’t you ever start a fight, but if you find yourself in one, I expect you to finish it.” Well, I couldn’t stand up to five older boys pummeling me. I threw down my books and ran to my first class, which was Mr. Avery Wold’s 9th grade science class. He took one look at me and asked what happened. I explained to him the situation and off to see Mr. Rodriquez, the Vice Principal I went.
Mr. Rodriquez called the police, I went with them to the school where these five boys attended and pointed them out. Off to Juvi those students went. Because of that incident, my parents felt that it would be best for me to not attend the high school in my district. My mother successfully appealed to the school district psychologist to have me transfer from Lincoln High School to Crawford High School. However, there would be no transportation for me—I would have to find my own way to attend that high school. During the summer of 1964, I saved my money from odd jobs and allowances and bought a new 10-speed bicycle for $50.00—adjusted for inflation, that is $399.00 in 2018 dollars. Thus, I started my three-year journey riding my bike every day for the 10-12 mile round trip to school.
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 10, 2019
It’s never too early to start talking about Father’s Day on The Good Men Project. We’re looking for sponsors and contributors for our #ModernDayDad campaign. https://t.co/WJvKqq2kTe pic.twitter.com/j66LNCY0VG
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
We celebrate Gay Pride all year long. But this year, we’re doing some special programing for a large-scale campaign #LoveEqually. We’re looking for both sponsors and contributors. Check it out! https://t.co/tkraXFPxLL pic.twitter.com/X2FlBEZb8Y
— The Good Men Project (@GoodMenProject) March 11, 2019
Photo courtesy of the author.