Tuesday, April 17, 2007

30th Street Memories - Part 2

The first part of this series is here. I covered my childhood in the first part, and want to cover my age 10-14 years in this Part.

It was great to be a kid in San Diego in the mid-1950's.

From the time I was 10, my bicycle became my vehicle of choice. Close behind was my Flexy (a Flexible Flyer, essentially a sled with wheels and handlebars). For long trips to school, to the Park, or to visit friends far away, the bike was used. The Flexy was used for close trips, and my paper route.

One of my hobbies during these years was to map the streets of San Diego. I had street maps, of course, but I was searching for mistakes on the maps - and I found several over the years. I think I rode down every street in San Diego between Pacific Highway (west) and La Mesa (east), Market Street (south) to Mission Valley (north). I also collected some of the more esoteric things related to the streets - the names of the sidewalk contractors, for instance. And I was mesmerized by the early names of some streets when East San Diego was not part of San Diego city. I also collected baseball cards, bottle caps and stamps.

Over about 10 years, I only had one accident - a fellow opened his driver's side car door and knocked me down at 73rd and El Cajon Blvd (about 8 miles from home). Luckily, I wasn't hurt and the bike was not damaged. He didn't appreciate my potty mouth, though.

I had a much more serious accident on the Flexy - but only one! We would go down the 30th Street hill to the dime store at Beech Street - riding on the sidewalks, going off the curb at the end of the block, swinging out into the street and using the first driveway on the next block to get on the sidewalk again. At Date Street, I went off the curb, swung out into the street, looked back, and saw a bus bumper about 5 feet behind me. Oh #$%#^&%... I crashed on the curb, flipped off, hit my head and had a concussion. Somebody took me and my brother home, and the doctor came, and I ended up OK (at least I think so!) after a few days.

My brother had a Flexy accident also. Ivy Street west from 29th is downhill and a dead end with a circle and a concrete blockade with a slot in it at the bottom of the hill. We would race each other down the hill and back up. My brother went down too fast once, hit the curb at the blockade and was vaulted through the two foot high slot in the blockade, landing on the hillside below. It could have been worse than it was, of course! I won that race as I recall.

My brother and I had a paper route for about 8 years. We were not allowed to use bicycles to deliver our twice-a-week neighborhood newspaper. We used the Flexies with boxes filled with rubber-banded papers that we threw onto the porches, except for our special customers - the ones that paid 50 cents a month for the paper. Those we delivered to the front porch and put in the door handle. Mr. Stotler was our favorite customer. He was an elderly gentleman who lived alone in an apartment, and he hosted card games one night during the week. We always timed our "collection" night for a card game night, so we could "show off" to his buddies. Mr. Stotler would give us money if we could recite some lessons - the state capitals, the alphabet backwards, the National Parks, the books of the Bible, etc. It was great fun - we appreciated Mr. Stotler for both the extra money and, in retrospect, for the memory lessons - I can still say the alphabet backwards real fast.

My brother and I received BB guns (and coonskin caps) for Christmas in 1955 or so (during the Davy Crockett craze). We carried them over to friends houses, down to the Park, up to the shopping area, etc. We were always looking for birds to shoot, and if not birds, then something that would make a noise, like a trash can lid. I don't think I ever hit a bird or an animal no matter how hard I tried. One day, my friend Butch was down by the garage, and I was up on the back stairs landing. There was a metallic thing fixed to the garage wall, so I shot at that, and hit it. The problem was that the ricochet hit Butch just below his eye. His parents, and mine, were really mad at me. Butch cried, then laughed.

Butch's parents were in the jukebox business - they sold, rented and repaired big Wurlitzer jukeboxes to restaurants, bars and hotels. We were always over at Butch's house to listen to music and watch his dad repair the jukeboxes. Occasionally, they took me along on deliveries. Butch's parents flew small airplanes competitively - his mom won the Powder Puff Derby several times. In 1956, they were going on vacation, flying to Sacramento CA, Medford OR and Bellingham WA to visit friends and family. I was invited to fill the 4th seat and be Butch's companion. We had a wonderful time - it was so neat to see the land below and all of the geography that I had seen on maps but not in person. My mother was beside herself until we returned - she had second thoughts about letting me go after we left.

During the summer, we would go to the Municipal Pool in Balboa Park to swim. This was great fun - we had diving and swimming underwater contests and the like. We also rode our bikes around the park - over to the Zoo, out to the Bocce Field on 6th avenue, to the museums along El Prado (I loved the Natural History Museum - all of those dinosaur and other bones). We also took up roller skating at Skateland at Utah and University, and bowling at Aztec Bowl at 30th and Meade.

I was in a bowling league from the time I was 10 or 12. As a kid of 14, my bowling average was around 135. My brother and I were in a Saturday kids league for many years. My dad bowled in several top men's leagues in the city, and as a teenager I would go with him on Friday nights to keep score or just watch. One of the absolute highlights of these years was Saturday mornings - my dad would buy day-old doughnuts, cream puffs, eclairs and other goodies on the way home and we would devour them on Saturday mornings. Funny what you remember, eh?

After elementary school, I attended Roosevelt Junior High School at Park Blvd and Upas Street. I rode the school bus in the morning, and took the #7 bus downtown and the #2 bus on the way home. When I was in the 7th grade, several bigger guys pounded me on the school bus going home one day, and I tried to avoid the school bus home after that. The benefit to that was that I could go to the San Diego public library downtown after school, do my homework, read there or check out books, etc. I learned a lot by browsing the stacks. It was great practice for genealogy.

Girlfriends? I was painfully shy, very small, with glasses. When I was 16, I was only 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds. I do remember going to dances at church and at school, but I was basically a wallflower. I knew and liked (loved?) several girls, but I doubt that they knew who I was. All hope and no action for me for a long time.

Junior High classwork was exhilarating - I loved Math and quickly went through algebra and geometry. English, History and Social Studies were great. I started Latin in 9th grade and excelled in it. PE was OK except for the showers...I failed miserably at wood shop, art and music, much to the dismay of my parents - why didn't I get those genes too?

Little League came to North Park in 1957 - and I was a year too old for it. My brother played and my dad coached, and I kept score for their team. My dad tried to get me into a nearby Pony League (for 13-14 year olds) but my lack of size, lefthandedness and bad eyes meant I couldn't hit a lick and could only play the outfield. I was scared of the ball - my baseball playing career ended abruptly. My brother did well, and I was never really jealous of his success, but my dad started to live his dreams through my brother's baseball skills. I kept score, pitched batting practice and learned techniques, strategy and rules.

I often retreated into my studies and found other things to keep my interest. We often listened to the Padres minor league team games on the radio. At the age of 10, I invented a baseball game using dice and played fantastic make-believe games keeping score and statistics of the players. I also announced the games just like the guy on the radio - funny how the Padres always seemed to win.

For me, every day was a challenge at school - I tried to be better than everybody else in my school work because I was not physically competitive in those years. I did what I had to do to survive and to feel good about my academic accomplishments. That made my folks happy - I was little trouble to them over the years, but it set a high standard for my brother.

I guess I'll talk about my high school years in Part 3. There may be a Part 4 too - college and my first job. I doubt if I'll deal here with my first real love (a girl, I mean, not baseball, bowling, football, geography, history or mathematics). Perhaps that will be in the real memoirs - I don't want my kids thinking I had no love life at all.

If you have read this far, I imagine you are saying to yourself "what a boring life." For me, it was a great time to be a kid in San Diego.

1 comment:

Jasia said...

Randy you make your childhood sound so idyllic. If everyone could have such happy memories of their childhood the world would be a better place... see how well you turned out? ;-)

I too remember my childhood as a happy time for the most part. I consider myself lucky and blessed.

Thanks for sharing your life!