prune picker

This is the blog of a prune picker. (Native born Californian) Retired oilfield. I am an old man. (91) I blog a lot about my body and getting old. As I approach death life gets more interesting. More interesting is not good. I still drive. I attend sports, music, and civic events. I am writing my memoirs. I attend swim class three times a week. Some of my blogs might be interesting. A lot of my blogs are silly and trivial. None are very long.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My favorite childhood neighborhood.

I started a writing class in Monroe on Monday. My first assignment was to write about my favorite childhood neighborhood. I was puzzled at first because I lived in a couple dozen neighborhoods growing up in Pomona. But I soon settled on an obvious choice. It was really the only choice. It was where we lived after my Mother passed away and my Grandmother came to live with us for a couple of years.

I used Google Maps and obtained a picture of the house we lived in around 1933. It is still there after 80 years.

The dormer window is a dead giveaway. My Dad, two brothers, and I lived in the upstairs bedroom. My Dad set his bed on fire, smoking, behind that window. There were no driveways or chain-link fencing in 1932. Everyone had a garage on the alley.

Below is a picture of the neighborhood.

Google Maps is really something. You can drop in and look at the front of most any house on the map.

Pasted below is my paper for the writing class assignment.

My favorite neighborhood was in Pomona, California. Pomona is about 30 mile east of Los Angeles. Pomona is in the Pomona Valley. Most of the city is on flat land. Fruit orchards surrounded it. Some of the orchards were in the city. Fruit and nut orchards, but most were orange orchards.

The streets of Pomona were laid out in straight lines. My favorite neighborhood is a block on East Third Street. The block is between Towne Avenue and Caswell Street. My home was on the north side of the street about in the middle of the block. There was an alley behind the house. Houses on the other side of the alley fronted on Second Street, which is a busy street.

There were houses on both sides of the alley. The Coates Brothers had a bike and tennis shop out to the sidewalk on Second Street. Watching the Brothers work was a favorite pastime. Especially fascinating was the restringing of a racquet.

A block or so away at the SW corner of Towne and Second there was a grocery store named Torley’s. I can remember crackers and peanut butter in great big barrels. You could order a waxed cardboard bucket full of peanut butter. I remember that the bottom of the bucket would be soaked with oil by the time we got home.

I lived there a couple of years. It was 1932, plus or minus. I was 7 plus or minus. My Mother had passed away when I was five. Her Mother came to live with us and we moved into the house on East Third. I spent some pleasant hours with my Grandmother. We would listen to soap operas on the radio in the evening. We listened to Amos and Andy, Lum and Abner, and One Man’s Family. We would sit and look at the radio while we listened.

This time is the last time that I spent with an extended family during my childhood. Present was my Grandmother, Father, sister Dallas, and brothers Keith and Warren. I remember visits by the families of older married sisters and their children. Although I was an uncle to these children, our respective ages made us more like cousins. One of these nephews was only 21 days younger than me.

I would say that it was a lower middle class or blue-collar neighborhood. I was familiar with two families that were Okies. One of the families lived across the alley from us. They had many children. My oldest brother Keith married one of the older girls, LaVerne. Keith was a lucky guy. Okies make good wives and mothers.

There were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. We would gather in the evening in the center of the block and play hide and seek, kick the can, and run sheep run. Do you remember olly olly oxen free?

Max Dunn lived down the alley a block. Max was a character with a fixation on the military life. I did not think that it would ever amount to anything. However years later I was going over a booklet from my fiftieth anniversary of Pomona High School, I found out that Max was a retired Army Colonel!

We would take a fruit crate and nail it to a short piece of 2 by 4. On the bottom of the 2 by 4 we would nail a skate. The skate was in two parts. A part of the skate was nailed to each end of the 2 by 4. On the top of the crate we would nail handlebars. Walla! We had a scooter. Up and down the sidewalk we would go. Some of the crates were big enough for a little boy to fit in, as a passenger.

In the next block to the east there was a vacant lot. One of the older boys started digging a hole. I remember it as about three-foot square and five or six feet deep. The dirt came out via a bucket and a rope. He had no explanation as to why he was digging it. It was fascinating to us. We would go and watch him dig.

There were many lug boxes around in those days. Probably fruit was sold in them. Each end of a lug box was a good piece of wood about 3/4 inch thick and about 5 by 15 inches. It was just right for sawing out two rubber guns. You played with rubber guns, didn’t you? A rubber gun had a handle and long barrel. A clothespin was nailed to the back of the handle. The rubber ammo was obtained from old tire rubber inner tubes. Strips would be cut across the tube. Then you had a large rubber band. It would be pinched in the clothespin and then stretched over the end of the barrel. You pointed the gun and squeezed the clothespin. If handled correctly a rubber band could give you a good sting. Some would increase the power of their shot by tying a knot in the rubber band. Of course we had duels and shootouts.

Across the alley was the Pomona Broom Factory. It was a ten-foot square shed behind Ward Batsford’s home. Ward ordered broom straw and broom parts from back east. I remember watching him comb the seed out of the straw. I was recently at a fiddle fest in Oklahoma and a man was making brooms with the same type equipment. I visited many hours with Ward. He was a nice guy.

That time in that neighborhood was a nice time in my life. Soon every one left except my Dad, brother Warren, and I.

 And we moved.

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