Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh yeah, where was I? 1951-

I sequentially resume my exploration of "me" with my earliest memories. It is difficult to ascertain whether they are actual or anecdotal, but who cares?
Mom told me I was born at around 4:30am at Kaweah Delta (what it must've been like then!) on the Fifth of July in year of our Lord 1951 Christian calendar. I have no idea whether Dad was in the USA or "in country" undersea off the Korean peninsula in the Flying Fish.
In any case, I do surmise that in the interim between Mom and Dad's marriage around '48 (I'm too lazy to document) that some sort of rubrics must've evolved because Mom and I were consigned to live in the Quonset Hut Village where COS main campus now sits at 198 and Mooney. It was standard military housing for dependents, so there had to be a reason Mom/Dad chose that living option over any public or family option with my grandparents. Hope Amah explains it to me one cosmic day in the hereafter. If you don't know what a Quonset hut is, it's basically half of a very large unpapered Campbell's soup can that can be plopped down on any relatively flat geography, uh, like the whole San Joaquin Valley. I assume the Navy contractors did the minimal foundational work: plumbing, some insulation, windows. Google 'em.
But what they didn't do was air-conditioning. My only true infantile memories are of windows on the side of the can, from which one could see another can. Other than that, the running gag was my first words parodied or parroted my mother's most ubiquitous utterance for the interminable summers in Visalia (May to November)-"DAMN FLIES!" Since one of the great weaknesses of my moral fiber is the tendency to cuss, I have no reason to doubt my mother's telling.
I do remember the heat. It seems natural. When Dad was on leave we must've taken a road trip to his parent's swamp house in Eastover NC, and that meant a trip along 66 in a sedan with one of those cylinder water coolers hung upon the front passenger window, and one or two desert bags full of water. That water, if needed between Barstow and New Mexico wasn't meant for human consumption, but for the car's radiator. But as an infant and by our second trip cross-country with a little sister (Marva) we seemed to accept the misery with stoicism that came naturally from parents and their parents who survived the Depression. But back to Visalia....
I vaguely remember, but am absolutely remember that when the conflict was over and Dad was back at home, we rented a little cottage house somewhere between Giddings and  Locust, likely on one of those parallel streets south of Noble of 198 like Kaweah St. I do have visual memories of that house, conceptually. I must have acquired by contrast to the  tin can life we had '51-'53.
I do have photographic evidence of the confluence of the nascent Culbreth and Smith families with the Hamiltons (my maternal grandparents) in the form of snapshots of family gatherings, I suspect Easter days, at the Johnson House where my great-grandparents, whom I only knew as Ma and Pa Whipple, my Amah's parents (I think my great-grandmother was a "Hannah") lived. She was already declining and wheel-chair bound and my memories whisper to me that she lived and saw the real coming of age of America. Perhaps like my grandfather's people from Freedom PA they migrated west during the 19th century, but that both of them were aged by WWI and lived into the fifties (Hannah) and the sixties (Pa) has to prove they knew America in the wild, the best and worst of times. Anyway, snapshots were taken of the whole mixed clan at Johnson House, along with my new cousins, Jen and Skip Smith (scions of Chief Bosun Bill Smith and my Zampa's apparent golden daughter, Andru Hamilton. We were a handsome extended, white Middle Class clan, all smiles that likely were a respite from deeply rooted familial conflicts.
Outside of these recollections, not much of pre 1955 Visalia has ever surfaced to me.

But then comes the move to Kingsburg, and eventually to Oakland. From one web to another. But Oakland became the prime mover (besides God) of my entire life.

1 comment:

Ron Rolling said...

Good heavens! We share the same birth date (me: 1962). Could we be painting Indy red this summer?