Return to A True, Living Story

~ Chapter Four

My brother graduated high school and went off to collage. Dad had a new house built for us.  It was only about seven, or eight blocks from the house where I spent the first nine years of my life, but it was certainly a change.  In the over-all scheme of things, it was a small change, but some what of a precursor of much bigger things to come.

I soon learned that life can, and at times does, change in a heartbeat.

Six months after moving into our new house, dad became ill.  A few days later, on a hot, humid night, Dad died.  With a “boatload” of bills to pay, a ten-year-old son to raise, no job experience, no job opportunities in our small town, and very little insurance money to help out, Mom had to take radical action and it had to be taken soon.

To make a long story short, my brother withdrew from collage.  I had to give away my two dogs and we stored our things at grandpa’s and grandma’s place in Cumberland.

We were going to move to Southern California.


I had been in Southern California five years before. Mom, my brother, and I had ridden from Omaha, a town in Nebraska about sixty miles west of Atlantic, to Los Angeles, on the train, to visit to my dad’s mom.

The trains were rather uncomfortable to ride in those days, at least in the coach section where we were. We took our food along, as we couldn’t afford the high prices in the diner.

I remember the doors to the bathrooms were locked each time the train came into a town. When the toilet on the train was flushed, a metal stopper opened, and you could watch the railroad ties speed by, as the contents splashed onto the ground below.  No wonder they locked the doors as we went through towns!

The train was pulled by the relatively new, streamlined, diesel electric engines of the day. The big brightly colored engines looked very modern and powerful, however, they were underpowered. When we reached the mountain ranges, the train stopped and an old fashioned steam locomotive was coupled to the front of the diesel to help pull us over the mountains. Once on the other side, the steam locomotive was uncoupled, and away we went under the new diesel electric power, once again.

a bomb Nevada 2

Atom Bomb Test in Nevada Desert

I was sound asleep one night as we passed through the desert. Mom was looking out of the window just as an atomic bomb, being tested, was detonated in the distance.

While in Los Angeles we went to the beach, Knott’s Berry Farm, and rode the extensive trolley system in down town Los Angeles.  As we traveled down the crowded Los Angeles streets I saw these large machines along the sides of the road. They looked something like a huge eye plucked from some sort of gigantic monster. Actually they were military surplus equipment called searchlights. They were like huge spotlights that would swivel around lighting up the night sky. The original purpose was to illuminate enemy aircraft overhead. World War II had ended just five years before and these powerful, yet outdated, articles of war, were being used as advertising tools. They were placed in front of movie theaters, when showing a big new feature, and fired up after the sun went down. They would automatically sweep around through the night sky and could be seen for many miles around. Seeing the super bright light sweeping trough the night sky, people would know something interesting was going on and they would drive to where the light was originating. This equipment was used to bring people in for new store openings and big sales events as well.

Rotary phone

Rotary Dial Phone

California offered many things I had never seen, or heard before. Grandma’s rotary dial telephone was one of those things and I drove Grandma a little crazy playing with the dial.

It seems she was afraid I would make an unauthorized call, or two that would send her phone bill higher than those big search lights as they reach through the night sky.

Another of those sights and sounds, we didn’t have back home, was this little white truck that would drive past Grandma’s house playing strange music over a loud speaker.  I came to know it was the “Good–Humor Man” peddling ice cream.

Now that we were about to head back to California, I knew I would see many new things just as I had when I was there in 1950. There was this strange looking thing in Grandma’s back yard. It was an odd looking cement structure with a steel door. I had never seen anything like it before. I was informed that it was an incinerator and was used to dispose of burnable garbage.  Strange, we just used and an old steel oil drum back home, or gave it to the trash man to take to the local dump just outside of town. The dump had a large collection of trash from the town that burned twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, now that was a bonfire!


City Dump – Bon Fire

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