Old Mack’s Tales

March 14, 2008

Gypsy Pilot

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 9:04 pm
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Mooney Mark 21 A Gypsy Pilot will fly anything with fixed wings, anyplace at any time, for a fee. It’s a tough row to hoe, and nobody I know ever got rich or even stayed solvent for long, doing this kind of flying. But it sure was a blast while it lasted.

I’d had a salaried job demonstrating new Beechcraft Bonanzas and Debonairs to prospective buyers all over Oregon and Eastern Washington; it had been fun for a while, but then it began to feel like riding a carousel horse. I logged a lot of hours in good airplanes, landed in countless farmers fields (wheat ranchers were our prime prospects) and at every airport on the sectional charts, but in the end I was getting nowhere fast. So I put out the word to fixed base operators that I would be happy to deliver airplanes for them, or take their buyers to the factories in Wichita, Kansas or Kerrville, Texas to pick up their new planes.

Ron Scott, the FBO and Mooney Aircraft distributor at Albany, Oregon called me one day. He reached me at Milt Ruberg’s airport in Springfield, OR, where I was consoling Milt for the loss of his son to cancer. Ron Scott said: “I’ve got three men who have to get to Kerrville to take delivery of their new Mooney Super 21s. Could you fly them down there?”

 “Be glad to do it, Ron,” I said, “If I can get Milt to fly me up to your place; he recently lost his son, and is in a funk. Maybe I’ll talk him into flying up in his Boeing Stearman. Some oil smoke and wind in his face might get his head straight.” I looked at Milt. The old man had half a grin on his leathery kisser as he nodded.

We’ll give you a call on the Unicom frequency, Ron,” I said. Milt was already shrugging on his leather jacket as I hung up the phone.

 

This is the best notion anybody has had, Mack,” Milt said as he did a low altitude barrel roll with the Stearman over Coburg, Oregon. As we approached Albany, Milt’s voice came through my head set:

 

“Thanks, Mack. Any time I can help you out buddy, just call me.” Milt greased the wheels on the macadam runway at Albany in a perfect three point full stall landing. He waved a gloved hand at Ron as I climbed out of the front cockpit. I barely had time to get out of the way of his empennage, when Milt hit full throttle and took off.

 

Ron and I watched Milt put on a show of aerobatics before he headed south for Springfield. Sadly, Milt’s name, his airport and his son’s name are all Xes in my address book now.

We walked into Ron’s office. He poured two cups of coffee and sweetened them with old bourbon. We toasted all the men like Milt that we knew or had known. Then we got down to business.

 

You’ll have to let these guys each fly a leg of the trip to Kerrville. None of them has much experience with the Mooney’s manual landing gear retraction and lowering mechanism, so let them get some practice landings along the way,” Ron said, as he wrote the men’s names down on my knee board.

One man was the FBO at the McMinnville airport, another lived in St. Helens and would meet us at the Hillsboro airport, and the third man wanted to be picked up at Portland International Airport at the Flightcraft office—my former employer; seeing me chauffeuring in a Mooney would not make my old boss happy, but so it goes.

 

As we walked out to one of Ron’s older Mark 21 aircraft, he pulled a wad of bills from his pocket and peeled off three C notes. “If this doesn’t do it, call me and I’ll wire you more cash,” Ron said. Then he added: “I’ll pay you your fee when you get back, if that’s okay with you.” I had agreed to do the job for twenty-five bucks an hour based on the time on the tachometer. I didn’t believe in charging for time I was on the ground due to crappy weather, or a hangover. 

I’ll lead them back here over the Mountains as far as Phoenix or Tucson. From there they should be able to get home by themselves. A buddy of mine is recuperating from crash injuries at the Grand Canyon and I plan to stop there for a visit before coming back. Will that be okay with you?”

Sure,” Ron said, “The weather should be better down there. But be sure to instruct these guys about the rotor zones on the lee side of the mountains before you cross the Cascades with them; I don’t think they’ve had much mountain flying experience, except for the guy from McMinnville.”

“Can any of them fly formation?” I asked.

“I doubt it. They’re not former military pilots, so you’ll have to teach them after you all leave Kerrville.”

That old Mooney Mark 21 was a tight fit for four full grown men. The guy from McMinnville flew the plane from his field to pick up the other two passengers; he was an experienced flight instructor and had no problems with the throw-over bar that retracted and lowered the landing gear. I sat in the right hand seat, sweating just as I always do when I’m not controlling the airplane I’m in.

The guy from St. Helens had to get used to more than the landing gear; he’d never flown a high performance, low wing plane before. He got the gear down okay, but tried to land twenty feet above the runway at Boise, Idaho. I told him to take a “wave off,” but he didn’t comprehend. “Go around again!” I shouted into his right ear. Then I had him make three touch and go landings before making a final and swapping seats with the man from Oregon City whom we’d picked up at Portland International. 

Oregon City guy did fine until we landed in Salt Lake City. He would have landed gear up, if I hadn’t reminded him. He too had to make several touch and go practice landings before we could all go in for lunch. After lunch, I put Oregon City back in the command pilot’s seat and gave him the Omni heading for Colorado Springs.

The damned fool tried to take off and climb directly over the mountains east of Salt Lake City. I could hear McMinnville in the back seat groaning as the mountain loomed ahead of us. I was determined to let the guy make his own decision, right up until the last minute. With four men and our overnight bags in the plane, it was operating at full gross weight. I explained that the Mark 21 didn’t have as much power as the Super 21 he had bought from Ron. He gave me a blank stare and continued on course, climbing at less than 100 feet per minute. When it was obvious that we couldn’t clear the mountain, I told him to execute a climbing 360º turn and get more altitude before trying to cross it.

While he was climbing, I lectured all three men on the danger of rotor zones on the lee side of mountains: “They can smash you right into the damned ground. So keep at least two thousand feet above the tops of mountains. Winds are lifted by the mountains and break like an ocean wave when the go over the top. On the windward side you get plenty of free lift, but when the wave breaks, it’s like being in an elevator with a broken cable; downdrafts of thousands of feet per minute lurk on the leeward side of the hill.”

When we landed in Kerrville that night, I was exhausted, even though I’d flown the plane for only an hour during the trip.A rep from the Mooney factory drove us to a motel and put all of us up for the night.

 

Before the three men went up with a check pilot from the Mooney factory, I briefed them all on the basics of flying formation, using a couple of model airplanes in the instructor’s lounge. I asked the check pilot if he would show these guys how to intercept my airplane as I circled over the field. He said that it was against company policy, but if I just happened to be circling up there within ten miles of their airport, he’d demonstrate the intercept maneuver.

 “How tight do you want these guys to fly on your wing?” he asked. I told him to feel them out. Wingtip separation and step-down would be up to him. “Just don’t bump into me, okay?” McMinnville slid in on my port wing very smoothly, but then he got sucked. That is, he took off too much power and fell behind. After a bit of throttle jockeying he managed to hold a good position at a 45º angle, in a left echelon and twenty feet lower than my wing. Crossing him from left to right, under my fuselage was a bit nerve wracking for me and the check pilot, but after a few tries McMinnville got it. The guy from Oregon City would have nothing to do with formation flying; he said he’d take his time and fly VFR back to Oregon by himself via Wyoming and Idaho. The St. Helens dude tried like hell to maintain a formation after completing a rendezvous, but would not, or could not move in closer than 100 feet between our wingtips. That would have to do, as the check pilot couldn’t spend more time with us without catching hell from his boss.

Oregon City took off heading for Wichita, Kansas, but put the airplane down at Midland-Odessa airport and called it a day, the Rep from Mooney reported. McMinnville took off first in his new Super 21 and orbited west of Kerrville, where St. Helens joined him in a very loose formation. I joined them and took the lead, moved them into position off each wing like goslings. Their airplanes could out run mine easily, so I set the pace for them.It was a beautiful day. Clear all the way to Santa Fe, but beyond that there was a squall line. Both men were in a hurry to get home, but neither was instrument rated, or at least not current. They agreed to follow me through a notch in the mountains west of Deming where the bottoms of the thunder bumpers were less than five thousand feet above the summits and lightning was striking the peaks on both sides of the pass.

We had to circle east of the pass to gain altitude, but just enough to keep our heads out of the clouds. Then we headed for the tunnel of light over the pass. Half way through that eerie green tunnel we met two Air Force fighter jets coming at us head on. Whether those two jet jockeys had us in sight or on their radar is doubtful. They screamed over our planes close enough to bounce us around in their wake.

We landed at Tucson International and had a drink together before they went on their way. I noted as we bumped our shot glasses together that all of our hands were trembling.

After a night in Tucson, I flew up to the South Rim and landed. When I called his number, I got the word that Elling was recuperating at the North Rim Lodge. I asked the FBO about the small air strip on the north side of the canyon. He told me that it was on a side hill with several humps and dips in it. “But it ain’t that bad,” he said.

I topped off my fuel tanks at the South Rim airport.  I planned to look over the strip on the north side and land on it, if it looked okay. I figured I’d have to hike to the lodge where Elling was holed up.

Hot air is less dense than cold air. The higher the airport, the lower the density.  The power an engine can put out, the lift of the airfoils and the thrust of the propeller are all directly proportional to the air density. Landing at an airport  8,000 feet above sea level when the temperature is 90 degrees is like landing on the top of Mount Whitney; the density altitude is around 14,000 feet. You have to land hotter, which takes a longer roll out than you’d need at sea level, or on a colder day. This dirt landing strip is draped across three fingers on the side of a hill.  It was long enough, but only because it was tilted upwards from the north end to the south. The whole landscape tilts upwards from 7,000 feet to almost 9,000 feet there on the high plateau north of the Grand Canyon..

I landed okay, but the roll out was like riding swells on a surfboard. Heavy braking got me stopped short of some scrub junipers at the south end of the dirt strip. A jeep driver from the lodge picked me up and delivered me to Elling Halvorson’s retreat.

My reunion with Elling was interesting. His crash injuries had been extensive and life threatening, but he had mended more rapidly than I’d expected.  Elling’s experience had transformed him; he’d been “born again,” The main topic of our conversation was his religious experience, and his new corporation for taking tourists on helicopter rides in the Canyon.

I’ve never been able to sit long for sermons. I cut the meeting short, saying that I had to make it to Las Vegas before dark. I concocted something about navigation lights, as I recall.

I got a ride out to the strip. The driver returned to the lodge. I debated with myself about having the driver return with containers so I could drain most of the Avgas from the Mooney; without the weight of gasoline, I knew I could take off and land at the South Rim. On the other hand, if I could get off the ground with full tanks, I could spend the night in Vegas.  Of course there was also the option of spending the night at the lodge and leaving in the cool of the morning, but that would have been out of character, as writers say.  I chose the riskier option; I would attempt to take off with full fuel tanks and fly to Vegas.  I was young and foolish back then.

Maybe the heat and altitude affected my critical faculties, or maybe I just wasn’t using my head.  The wind was dead calm. I could have taken off to the north and it would have been all down hill. But no, I sat at the north end, revved the engine and released the brakes. As soon as the wheels broke ground, I raised the landing gear. I climbed until the plane would climb no more, and then found that I had only fifteen or twenty feet between my butt and the deck. The landscape was climbing as fast as I was.  At the far end of a long meadow there were tall ponderosa pines that I knew I couldn’t clear.

It’s beginning to look like I’ll have to ditch the plane.  I  have barely enough altitude to bank the wings a few degrees without dragging a wingtip on deck. I am munching the seat cushion with my puckering strings.

Ah, there’s a glimmer of light reflected from water in a brook flowing west through a break in the forest. I gently bank right and fly between the trees, following the water. It cascades over the rim of the canyon.  I follow it in a steep dive, gaining surplus airspeed, before zooming upwards. I felt like I just made my point on a craps table.

I know it’s my lucky day, as I point the nose of the old Mark 21 toward Vegas, trim the plane and light a Winston. A cigarette never tasted so good before or since.

One of my instruments wasn’t working properly.  It was the gage that should be telling me whether I’m on course to my destination or off in restricted airspace somewhere.

 Those two Air Force interceptors buzzing around looking for me gave me the clue that I had wandered into Nellis Air Force Base’s Restricted air space. Ground Control Intercept radar obviously picked up my blip on their scopes.  I dove for the deck, turned south and wove through the canyons until I came out over Lake Mead.  The interceptors either lost me, or lost interest after I left their area.  Over the Lake I climbed up to traffic pattern altitude and landed at Thunderbird Airport in Las Vegas.

A Tech Guy from the electronics shop checked the instrument. He said he would fix it in the morning, and then gave me a ride into town..

He parked at the Travel Lodge Motel. That’s when  I realized that four singles were all the cash I had left. I had blown the money on fuel, meals, and motel rooms for all four of us. I used my Mobile credit card to rent a room for the night, and then bought  Tech Guy a drink at the bar.

While he sipped his drink, I took the dime and quarter change and put them into two slots. I pulled the handles at the same time and hit a jackpot on both machines. There was a flood of dimes and quarters. After converting the change to bills, Tech Guy suggested that we take a look at the new casino across the road which had “Grand Opening” signs fluttering behind some fantastic, illuminated fountains.

The place was called “Caesar’s Palace,” and it looked like one. Inside the dealers and waitresses were clones May Britt, blond hair, long legs and short vestal virgin white togas, enticing the few suckers present, including me.

I sat across from a lonely blackjack dealer with emerald eyes the size of quarters and bumped heads with her until my stacks of silver dollars were about to topple. My Tech friend had gone home, so I dined alone in splendor. After paying for the meal, I returned to the Travel Inn, showered and hit the sack.

The next morning, when Tech Guy picked me up, I counted my winnings; it was close to three hundred bucks. That’s not a lot of dough, unless you were down to your last buck when you made it. Then it feels like a fortune, heavy yet comfortable in the pockets.

It took Tech Guy only minutes to fix my gage. The instrument worked fine all the way back to Albany.

Ron paid me off, and then flew me down to Springfield, were I was living in a boarding house near the University of Oregon campus. That night I went to the “Down Under” night club in Eugene and listened to Monty Fisher and his band “Amazing Grace” play some fine mountain blues.

I was enjoying my new career as Gypsy Pilot.  I would not make the same mistakes in the future; I would make different mistakes. End 

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March 13, 2008

Why’d we leave Oklahoma, Ma?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 7:17 pm
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“It’s a long story,” She said the first time I asked.

For many years that question was stuck in the back of my mind, unanswered.  I’d asked each of Ma’s sisters the question; they’d shooed me out of their kitchens, told me to go milk their cow or feed the chickens.  All of the sisters knew the answer, but none would tell me.  After a while I quit asking, assuming there was something about our leaving they’d sooner forget.

I finally got my answer in 1990, while pumping Enfamil from a syringe into the nasal tubes going into Ma’s stomach; the tumor in her throat prevented her from swallowing, yet she was still able to talk.

“First off, your father quit the Army.  He got discharged over at Fort Sill.  Times were hard.  So we hitched to North Carolina, up in the mountains where his people live.  No jobs there either, but Claude and his brother, Jim, went up with the CCC to make trails and build a cabin on what they called ‘The Appalachian Trail.”  Meanwhile, Jim’s wife Virgie and I hiked round to cabins in some very remote places to teach grownups to read and write; I loved Virgie and it was fun to go off with her and meet those people.  But I was pregnant with you, and it got to be a chore.  Sissy stayed down at Granny Laura’s cabin all that time.

“Your Granny was the sorriest cook I’ve ever known.  That woman put a handful of hog lard in everything she cooked.  I nearly gagged on her cooking.  So one day, while she was up at the corn crib, I cooked up a mess of butter beans with a ham hock.  You know how I love butter beans the way I cook ‘em.  Well, that old biddy came in and scooped a handful of rancid lard in my pot of beans.  That was the last straw, son.  I took you kids and hitch hiked back to Marlow, back to Papa Calhoun’s.

“The hard times were there in Oklahoma too.  But on top of that there was the drought.  Papa Calhoun was down with dust pneumonia, and Momma Calhoun was beside herself, worrying about Papa—his sons. . .well, they were kind of nasty towards Momma, but that’s another story.

“You were born, just like Sissy.  Doc Barnes delivered you too.  I couldn’t pay him.  I didn’t have a red cent to my name.  I still owed him a dollar for delivering Sissy, so he refused to make out a birth certificate on you until he got his money.  Funny how Doc Barnes had changed in so short a time; it was the Depression, I’m sure; it affected everybody, even the nicest folks.  Doc Barnes died and never collected what I owed him, in case you’re wondering why you have no birth certificate, honey.

“Well, your father came traipsing in, about a month after you were born.  He’d been to Detroit looking for work, hadn’t found any, so he rode the freight trains back to Marlow.  He had a bit of money, not much.

“We chewed grit in every mouthful of food we ate.  Dirt storms were terrible.  Dust sifted through hairline cracks round the windows and doors; it covered everything.  You can’t even imagine it, honey.

“A man from Kansas had been out buying up cars at the auctions from farmers going broke.  He had ten cars.  He had them hooked together in pairs with tow chains and he was looking for people to drive them out to Los Angeles for him.  Your daddy paid him ten dollars so we could drive a pair of his cars in a convoy.  Claude drove the tow car; I steered the one being towed.  You and Sissy rode with me.  Most of the way the roads were dirt and the dust wasn’t much better than what we’d left.  But it was kind of fun in a way.

“We’d all pull off the road in some pasture at night and just like the Pioneers we’d circle those cars and build a bonfire in the center of the circle to cook on.  God knows we ate a lot of rabbits and prairie chickens on that trip.  You were still nursing, but Sissy had to eat what we had.  That’s probably why she hated bologna sandwiches when she started carrying her lunch to school; light bread and bologna is mostly what we ate when we were on the road.

“Your father got a Mexican to drive the towed car when we got to my sister Sylvia’s house in Redlands, because that’s where we got out.

“That fellow who owned those cars tried to charge Mack for something, and I reckon he got nasty about it.  Mack slugged him and nearly killed the man.  So the first thing we did, after he got back to Redlands, was to climb into Dale Wright’s hay truck and skedaddle up to Tracy.

“Truth is, the Santa Anna winds blowing across the desert ain’t much better than the dirt storms we left behind.”

 

 

March 8, 2008

The Channel Swimmer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 2:56 pm
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There was this sand spit, see.  Then there was a channel and beyond it an island where big kids went to make out.  I wasn’t interested in watching older kids make out; I wanted to prove to myself that I had as much guts as those big kids who swam that channel to get to the island to make out.  What I had to do was swim across that channel.

All I knew about swimming was from watching Johnny Weissmuller swim in those Tarzan movies.  I stayed in the Tower Theater all one Saturday, watching the same movie three times, paying close attention to Tarzan when he swam, going like a bat out of hell to rescue Boy or Jane.

When it came time to try swimming across that channel, I backed away from the water, maybe a hundred yards on that sand spit, which was hard and flat as a street, not sandy like the beach; my feet hardly left any prints on it.  And then I ran full blast towards the water.  I must have been going sixty when I got to the water’s edge and flung myself forward, arms outstretched my skinny body flat as a board.  I hit the water belly first with a smacking sound and shot forward like a speeding bullet.  I didn’t even slow down a bit.  My arms were churning, just like Tarzans and my feet were kicking like mad.  I was going too fast to worry about how deep that channel was, or what might be down there in it; I was still flailing my arms when my hands dug into the sand on the island.  I popped out onto the dry sand.

I was so happy I just ran all around that island.  Big kids, who were making out in the sand dunes, naked as plucked chickens, got mad and cussed me out.  I didn’t care.  I just ran like the wind as I came back to the edge of the channel.  I didn’t even have to think for a second about it.  I just dove in and swam back to that sand spit.  God!  It felt fantastic.  I felt bigger than Tarzan and twice as strong.

Monday, when I went back to school, nobody messed with me.  They could see that I’d changed.  I wasn’t the new kid who was younger and smaller.  I was a force to be reckoned with.  The same guys who had tormented me for weeks now wanted to be my best friend.

 

I told my new friend Roy about the island and that channel.  I even offered to teach Roy how to swim, but his mom wouldn’t let him swim in the bay.  So we talked our moms into getting us memberships at the YMCA, where I taught him to swim in the tank.  Roy and I swam every day after school, and when we were good enough we both signed up for the Red Cross life saving course. Right after Christmas I had to move again, so I never got to see Roy swim across that channel, but I’ll bet he did.

The End.

March 4, 2008

Integrity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 6:44 pm
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”It beats me, Captain.  There was a lot of vocabulary on that GED test, especially on the 2 yr College Equivalency Test.  And God knows most of the Flight Aptitude Rating Test was vocabulary, Sir.  But I’m damned if I’ve ever heard the word integrity before.  What’s it mean?” I asked.

Captain Baker shook his head and thought about it for a minute before he spoke: “Well, Mack, I don’t suppose many enlisted men could define it.  It’s not something they make you learn by rote in Recruit Training, not like the Rifleman’s Creed, or the UCMJ.”  Baker scratched his prematurely balding head hard enough to make me wonder if he too had caught pediculosis from wrestling on the mats in the gym.  Baker slurped his coffee, apparently trying to think up an example; he had a habit of using metaphors, similes and symbols when he tutored me.

“The Corps places a lot of emphasis on this business of integrity, Mack.  The surest way for an Officer to ruin his chances of rising is to write a check with insufficient funds in his bank account.  It’s even worse for an Officer to buy things on credit and be unable to keep up the installment payments; God help him if his CO gets a collection call.  A friend of mine, a very sharp Captain, got passed over for his majority after his ex-wife wrote to the CO complaining that the Captain hadn’t made his alimony payments for two months.  All of those are considered a lack of integrity, Mack.”

Just as I was trying to make sense of Baker’s information, the PA blared: “Captain Baker . . . You have an overseas phone call in the Company Office, Sir.”  Baker naturally left the mess hall, carrying my Service Record Book and the results of my tests with him.

 I broke out my pocket dictionary and looked up integrity. “1: an unimpaired condition; SOUNDNESS. 2.: firm adherence to a code of esp. moral or artistic values; INCORRUPTABILITY.  3.: the quality or state of being complete or undivided; COMPLETENESS.  Syn. See HONESTY. 

I wrote the definition in my pocket notepad.  I intended to discuss it with Captain Baker, but he left Adak on an R4-D transport plane that evening carrying his B-4 bag.  The Captain never returned to the island.  So I have wondered ever since whether he’d had one of those problems with integrity. What made the Captain’s discussion scary was this: I had never had a bank account, had never purchased anything on credit, and hadn’t even had a wife to worry about.  Hell! I was 18, and just trying to get into the US Navy’s Aviation Cadet Program.  But I have to say that Baker put the fear of God in me; I never have bought anything on credit that I haven’t worried about making the payments.  It would be four years before I opened my first checking account, and when I wrote a check I agonized until the damned thing cleared, fearing that I’d made an error in the math and the check would bounce.  This fear of losing my integrity due to a bounced check stayed with me all these years. 

March 3, 2008

A Suit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 3:45 pm
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Not having a suit didn’t bother me, until they started taking photos for the Junior High School year book that spring before graduation. I might not have given the matter a second thought had it not been for Bob Resides getting a new suit for Easter that year.

I lived with Bob’s parents in their cozy bungalow in San Diego’s University District. So when Minnie Resides decided to buy Bob a new suit, I was compelled to ride the streetcar with them to the J.C. Penney store downtown. When Bob and his mom were about to go into the store, I told them I’d meet them later out front of the Spreckles theater.

I hiked on down Broadway to the Bay City Locker Club where my mother worked.Harry Gordon, the owner of the locker club, came down from his office on the mezzanine from which he could watch every part of the place, from the lunch counter to the ranks of steel lockers used by sailors to store their civvies to the store where he sold civvies and jewelry and tailor-made uniforms.

“Hi, Kid. Your mom is running an errand for me. She won’t be back for a couple hours. Anything I can help you with today?” Harry said.

One thing about Harry, he wasn’t tight. If I needed something, he’d buy it; if I was short of cash, he’d slip me a fin. You see, Harry was married, quite happily, with several kids—I knew about his kids from the photo Harry keeps on his desk upstairs. But mother had been Harry’s mistress ever since my first day in school, or longer. I nearly told Harry that I needed a suit for graduation, but I couldn’t; my pride wouldn’t let me.

“Everything is copasetic, Harry. Thanks anyway. I’ll leave a note for Ruth. I’m heading up to Jack’s Grill, and then maybe I’ll go see a picture.”

I scribbled a note to my mother telling her that I needed “something to wear for graduation.” I didn’t say suit because I knew she had a tough time paying the Resides for my room and board; and she also had to pay a family in National City to board Sis. And on top of that she had her own rent to pay for a tiny cabin at Comfort’s Garden Court Apartments.  Mother had to work two jobs. Days she ran Harry’s lunch counter and at night she served cocktails in the Sky Room of the El Cortez Hotel.

I met the Resides at Spreckles’ and rode home on the streetcar with them. Bob had his new suit in a bag, so I didn’t see it until later; it was a fine dark gray worsted suit with a single-breasted coat and two pairs of trousers. Right off the rack, it fit him perfectly. I was envious, but I never let him or anyone know it.

In the class pictures I’m wearing a long-sleeved sports shirt with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows.

Unable to buy anything for me, a suit was out of the question.  But  Mother could sew; so she remodeled her old camel’s hair blazer for me.

I’d worn the camel’s hair sport coat to school that morning, but I took it off the minute Gloria, Bob’s girlfriend, pointed out the button holes were on the wrong side.  She could tell that it had been a woman’s garment, and she told Bob and his buddies.

Bob was decked out in his new suit, Florsheim shoes and tie. I hate to admit it, but Bob looked like he could walk into a bar and order a drink without being asked for I.D. Although we were in the same class, Bob and all of his friends were two years older than I, and naturally bigger. Hell, even Gloria was bigger. Gloria was the biggest slut in the school; sometimes she’d take on Bob and several of his buddies on afternoons when her parents were working; it didn’t surprise me that she got knocked up. What surprised me was that Bob married her—I didn’t know about her pregnancy, or their marriage, until I stopped in San Diego twenty years later to pay Minnie a visit.

The End

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