Toy Trains and Pencil Sharpeners

My dad always brought us gifts when he’d return from being overseas, as well as for our birthdays and Christmas. Some of the ones he gave me that stand out in my memory as “best loved” gifts are a wind-up bulldozer (dad recently told me he had always wanted a toy bulldozer but never got one, and he took great pleasure in getting me that one), a friction-powered tow truck, a big gas station/garage made of sheet metal (insert tab A into slot B – I "kind of" remember how frustrated dad got assembling that thing) that had a crank-up elevator to lift toy cars to the roof parking lot, and a Marx H.O. gauge toy train set. The latter is undoubtedly one of the sparks that ignited my life-long interest in trains.

I still have a metal pencil sharpener that he brought back to me from a tour of duty in Japan; although it’s worn and stained and the paint is chipped and it’s missing a few pieces like the slide out shavings drawer and the vacuum cup and the lever to operate it to make it adhere to a surface. But the sharpener still works!

- another excerpt from my autobiography

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"The" Talk

My dad had "the talk" with me one day when I was about 13 or 14: he was cutting my hair (being the Marine that he was) in the garage:

Him: "Uh, I suppose you've noticed that there is a difference between boys and girls..."

Me: "Yes."

Him: "Uh, good."

A few days later I came home from school to find a series of books laying on my bed, "The Life Cycle Library." Kind of an "As We Mature" book of things to expect during puberty. It was a little late.


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See the man. The man is frustrated.

See the sink. The drain is plugged. It will not drain. It is a pain. See the man. The man is on his back. The man took out the trap. See the trap. It is clean. The trap is not plugged. See the man find his snake. The snake is stuck. It will not come out.

The man thinks. He needs his ShopVac. The ShopVac will not suck the plug out of the pipe. The pipe has a vent on the roof.

Now the man needs someone to go onto the roof. The person on the roof will plug the vent. Then the ShopVac will suck the plug out of the pipe. Who will climb onto the roof and help the man?

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Summertime, and the pool was in the backyard

One year, dad put an above ground pool in our backyard. We kids enjoyed swimming in it in the summertime, and I remember taking the garden hose in with me so I could use the sprayer like a rocket nozzle and propel myself around the pool. Fun times.

Dad really did a lot to see that our lives as kids were as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. He even worked three jobs to try and make ends meet to take care of us, and I don’t think any of us ever appreciated that at the time (especially my mom, but that’s another story). In addition to being in the Marines and commuting each day to work on Camp Pendleton, he also was a part-time bus driver for Oceanside City Transit District (OCTD – which later merged into North County Transit District). When he wasn’t working nights for them, he was working as a night custodian at Maie Ellis Primary and Elementary schools.

- another excerpt.

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My Birth and the First Few Years

I started out as a baby and spent the first couple of years of my life in the small town – if you can call it that --- of Mehama, Oregon. Born to a Marine and his school teacher wife, I was an only child.

That did not last long, however, as my two brothers arrived on the scene two years later. Twins, they were, and twins they still are.

We bounced around between Oregon and California, moving to El Toro when my dad was stationed there, back up to Oregon to live at my grandparents’ home when he was transferred overseas (Japan, Okinawa, elsewhere), back down south to Fallbrook when he was stationed at Camp Pendleton and then while he was in Viet Nam.


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Please Don't Feed the Baby

Now, the longer version. Born to a Marine and his school teacher wife, I was an only child. I spent the first couple of years of my life in the small town of Mehama , Oregon, living with my mother in the single-wide mobile home my dad had set up in the back yard at my grandmother's house. I say I was living with my mom, because my dad, being a Marine, was overseas a lot during my younger years: Japan, Okinawa, Korea, elsewhere.

When my dad got transferred to Camp Pendleton, California, we packed up the motorhome and dad hired a contractor to pull it to Fallbrook, California, where dad rented a space in the Fallbrook Motel and Trailer Court which was back then located at the corner of Main Street and Aviation Street.

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On Becoming a Class Clown (My advice: Don't)

We lived in Jacksonville for two years, until my dad retired from the Marine Corps and moved us back to the home he had purchased in Fallbrook. Back with my old school mates, now in Mr. Maddox’s 6th grade class at Iowa Street School, I found that none of those old schoolmates seemed to want to have anything to do with me. Thus was born my class clown phase, as a way to get attention. If I knew then what I know now, I’d hopefully not go that route. The attention I got was not the kind I hoped for, and instead of making friends I became more and more the outcast.  I also began to be called derogatory names, and that really destroyed my self-esteem.

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I'm No Joe DiMaggio

December 28, 2010

I tried my hand at Little League and quickly determined I was not cut out for baseball. Frankly, I was afraid of the ball. The coach always put me out in right field so I’d not get much chance to lose the games for our team. We played at the field below what by then had become the Boys Club – the old gym building at Iowa Street School. Across the field, beyond the fence and on the other side of a creek, lay the railroad tracks and Fallbrook’s train depot. Those, too, are now long-gone. But if a train was in town, my attention was much more focused on watching the train than watching the game.

- another excerpt from my autobiography

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Moving to Florida

When my dad returned from his second tour of duty in ‘Nam, he was transferred to Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), in Florida. So there we went, immediately following the end of my second tour of third grade at Maie Ellis Elementary School, and I ended up leaving Fallbrook with an unrequited crush on a girl who didn’t know I even existed and one who did. One was a girl in my third grade class and the other was a girl who lived at the end of our lane. That neighbor girl had actually carved our initials inside a heart the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree across from her house -- “LW + CB” – it may actually still be there!

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My experience in The Emerald Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps

While living in Florida in the 1960s, I began to learn how to play the trumpet. I was too young for band classes in school, so my dad purchased a trumpet at a pawn shop (which I still have – the trumpet, not the pawn shop) and signed me up for lessons with a private tutor. Or tooter, perhaps, as the guy was quite an expert in brass.

Additionally, through that contact I was introduced to the Emerald Buccaneers Drum and Bugle Corps in Jacksonville, Florida, which had been organized by either the VFW or the American Legion, and I became the youngest member they’d ever had. Up to that point, anyway.

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