My father was a jack of all trades and was afraid of nothing, or so it seemed to me when I was young.
He was a housing tract lather and plaster as were many of his brothers and they could do anything. They had no money to speak of and with fourteen siblings they had to everything to survive. Their father did not work, but that’s another interesting story for another day. They built their mother and father’s house during the depression when no one had anything. My father’s last union job was lathing Disneyland in Anaheim.
We traveled from housing tract to housing tract in a trailer and he worked until the work ran out and we left for greener pastures again. I can remember San Francisco and Oceanside, but my older brother can recall Los Vegas before that and perhaps other stops along the way.
When Disneyland was finished off, he went looking for more work. He talked to a fellow about plastering his vacant restaurant and instead signed a lease and we were instantly in the restaurant business in Santa Ana. My mother was a trooper, I must say. Our life was not very predictable, but at six or seven, I didn’t know much other than what I had experienced.
Everyone’s life seems normal until you have something to compare it to. Anyway, my dad sold the trailer and used the money to purchase beer and all of the food stuffs one needs to fill a bar-restaurant and start the ball rolling. I often wonder what my mother thought, but she stuck it out until the end.
We slept in a storage room with no heat or bathrooms until the roof leaked and caved in and then we moved into the restaurant. We slept in the booths and went to school like everyone else. I thought my life was normal.
We all worked in the restaurant and I started waiting on tables and washing dishes when I was about eight or nine. I was always working in the kitchen and cleaning up where ever needed, as were my two older brothers. My oldest brother became a chief in our Mexican restaurant as did my mother. They were taught by a woman that my mother hired to help in the kitchen.
We had the largest Mexican restaurant and bar in Orange County, California for nine years.
We had a large dance hall as well and had big name entertainment like Ike and Tina turner to name just one act. My life was full of interesting people and adventures. Most of my childhood friends were adult criminals, drug addicts or alcoholics. I quit smoking at thirteen. I have never drank on a regular basis and have not had any alcohol in thirty-six years. I learned what not to do from all of my criminal friends.
We all worked after school and saw things that young children should not see. We lived through gang wars and shootouts, stabbings and brawls as well as more uplifting things that happened there as well.
We would sell fifty cases of beer on a Saturday night. Guess who filled those coolers. That’s right, my brothers and myself. And guess how all of those people behaved after drinking all of that beer.
We did much sweeping and mopping and other chores as needed to make a go of it. In 1962 we had a recession and our rent was increased. We left that location and moved to Bonsall, California and started the same business over there in a new location.
I had my own apartment at that building as we all did. I was in the eighth grade. It was a step up from the other place. Sadly it didn’t last long.
We were flooded out there after a year and came back to Orange County where my father went to work for Douglas Aircraft as a flight line electrician on the DC 8. He could do anything!
We all learned about hard work early in our lives and it was a good thing. Life is hard at best and not nearly long enough, though it seems pretty long when you’re looking at a stack of dishes taller than you are.
I was always self employed after working for my father for ten years in the plastering business. I never knew anything else. When he retired, I took over the business. Yes, plastering again. It was fun and kept me in shape and fed the family. I met many wonderful and interesting people along the way. I learned a lot from everyone I ever met and wouldn’t change a thing.
Bad people can be good examples of what not to become. It worked for me.
By all rights, I should be dead or in prison. People might think that living that lifestyle would guarantee it. I think just the opposite. Show your children what the world is really like. Don’t hide the rougher side of life from them. Use it as an example of what might happen if you make just one bad choice.
Read Dreams of Costa Rica on Amazon if you want to meet a fellow who made a few bad choices in his life. It is true to some degree and involved a close family member.