CALIFORNIA HERE I COME

Soon after my graduation from high school, a cousin of mine, Bertha Ellis, asked me if I would like to accompany her and her husband, Earl, to California. He was recovering from a recent heart attack and she didn't want him to drive. I was delighted to have the opportunity to drive that much and that far. In 1939 there weren't any freeways or outer belts around large cities, so we did see the U. S. even though it took much longer. Also, there were no rest stops, so one used rest rooms, bought pop and other snacks when it was necessary to stop for gasoline. The restrooms were nearly always dismal places, out of soap and often out of toilet paper. However, the autmobiles got more attention than did the passengers. There were no self-serves and the attendants washed the windshield, checked the oil, checked the tires and filled the tank with gasoline.

This trip was my first time out of the big state of Texas, except for a few side trips to Louisiana to visit my Mother's relatives during summer vacations. It was a long day the first day to get to El Paso. Earl had been in World War I and knew some of the men stationed at the cavalry base there. The base was Ft. Hood. We stayed in a hotel in downtown El Paso. There were few motels in those days. It was a thrill for me to get to watch a parade at the Fort the following morning and see all the horses.

I can't recall where our next stop was, but it was in New Mexico someplace. I remember we traveled much of the time at night, when it was cooler, as the car was not air conditioned. I remember stopping in a small restaurant someplace in New Mexico in the early hours of the morning. When the waitress asked what I wanted, I replied, "Just a cup a coffee" in my natural slow drawl. She said, "What part of Texas are you from?" I was surprised that she knew my accent was not really Southern, but Texan.

Several days later, when we crossed the border into Southern California from Arizona, I could hardly wait until I got a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I had never been near an ocean, the closest being the Gulf of Mexico on a visit to Galveston. What a disappointment, when we drove into Long Beach and there was heavy fog. We couldn't see the water, but could smell the salt water and even hear the waves pounding on the beach a few blocks away.

Bertha and Earl were returning to Texas in a few weeks, but I stayed on the entire summer with my Uncle Homer and Aunt Bertha in Alhambra, California. Aunt Bertha loved the beach and we were there many times that summer. I had a cousin, Sue, who lived in Long Beach with her grandmother, and I spent several days with her at various times during that summer. We could walk down to the beach from her apartment.

Uncle Homer managed a small airport in Alhambra and he rented it to various movie studios, as a set where they made movies. I remember his den at home had autographed photos of various movie stars of that time which had been given to him. He also rented to several producers and one of them, Norman Demming and his wife Anne, became close friends of my aunt and uncle.

The last week in August, I returned home aboard a diesel streamlined train. There were two trains that ran non-stop from Los Angeles to Dallas, one was named the Zepher and the other, The Silver Streak. The morning when my Uncle Homer put me on the Zepher, he gave the porter in charge of the coach I was on a $10.00 tip and told him to take good care of me. That was a large amount in 1939, and that porter was very good to me all the way home. The news from Europe was grim, as Hitler was marching through the western countries and taking over. This news was broadcast throughout our train over the radio speakers in each car. I was only seventeen and world affairs was far from my mind. I never realized at the time that in two more years, the bombing of Pearl Harbor would take place and I would be most anxious to serve my country.