When I was six or seven years old, our family was starting on a new adventure.
My father was a plasterer on the original Disneyland. For some reason unknown to me he decided to find a way to work for himself.
We had lived in a small trailer and moved around on the west coast and traveled to where there was work. My father worked on new housing developments after the war. This Disney job was coming to a close I suppose and he was trying to set us up with a permanent home of some sort.
I’m not sure, but that is what I think led him to this new opportunity. My father had already leased one restaurant and had learned the ropes. I think he had decided to move on to a bigger building and a brighter future. He was a gambler by nature.
My mother was a hard working woman. I never heard her complain in the most difficult times, and we had some. We moved a short distance to the bigger location and settled in.
We parked our trailer in the back parking lot and my mother and father tried to bring this large Mexican restaurant back to life. I started school and life seemed normal. I had two older siblings and one on the way.
All of us had to work to make this happen. At six or seven, I was sweeping and washing dishes and doing all sorts of menial jobs around this large and spooky place.
It consisted of a large kitchen with a huge steel, two hole sink, four bathrooms and three large rooms, a bar, a cafe and a dancehall. I can still remember being bathed in that sink.
I was a wild child and often ran loose and without much supervision. When I as captured, I was always in need of a bath. I played army in the dirt with my green plastic solders constantly.
Between the bar and dancehall was a large storage closet constantly filled with cases of beer to be loaded into the coolers of the bar and dancehall.
I would often see inside that room as I wandered around or past by sweeping the floors.
One day I saw my father talking to a friend outside of the room and noticed a candy apple red bicycle sitting deep in that room. It was beautiful. The chrome gleamed and the handlebars were wide with black rubber handles that looked as if they were made for my hands. I was thrilled.
I think it was around Christmas, even a seven or eight year old knows when Santa is coming. I had older siblings and must have heard something about it, so my heart was racing when I saw the bike.
I knew that it was going to be mine. I was thrilled and counted my lucky stars that Santa had missed or forgotten about all my childish and selfish behavior over the last year.
We had the tree set up and decorated in the restaurant. I can still see the blue and red decorations that our family used. There was no room in the trailer for a Christmas tree. There was barely room in there for four of us.
On that Christmas morning I went in to see my bicycle set up in front of the tree and found socks and a sweater instead. I was crushed. What the heck had happened to my beautiful bicycle?
It had turned out that the bicycle was a gift for my father’s friend’s child. My father’s friend had no place to hide it at home and so brought it over to my father to keep in that large, deep closet.
I learned a hard lesson on that Christmas day. Don’t always expect things to work out the way you think they should or might.
Interestingly, that same man brought over a puppy for us a few months later. He was a merchant marine and had brought back a Dingo from
We were allowed to keep her as we had plenty of land around our place and she would eventually make a good watchdog. We named her Lady.
That dog was still my friend long after the bicycle had been left behind by a growing boy. I guess that Dingo was a much better gift in to me in many ways than the bike would have been.
I learned the responsibility that came with caring for a pet and she gave became my companion.
She was my friend for several years. She gave birth to many half Dingo pups. That blood line is still running around in southern California, decades after her death, I am sure of that.
Every once in a while I see her face on a stray dog running down the side of the road.
This was the beginning of a history of strange pets that my family allowed me to have. There are other stories about them here on my website.
I wish you Happy Holidays in this difficult year and hope you are all well and with those that you love.