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!
Her brother and I were friends, you see . . . so, hmmm.... maybe it was her brother who carved those initials in the tree, because when we came back from Florida she’d have nothing to do with me.
Anywho, Dad rented out our house, placed an order with American Motors for a brand-new 1966 Rambler Classic 770 Cross Country Station Wagon to be delivered to the dealer in Salem, Oregon; Pyramid Van Lines came out and packed up our belongings, and we loaded up the family’s 1961 Rambler American sedan and headed north to visit our grandparents and other relatives in Oregon and wait for the new station wagon to be delivered. Aye, she were a beauty in her Aqua-Cortez paint color, 'tis true. It was a good car – My family kept it for many years and I later learned to drive in it, but that’s a story for later in this work.
Equipped with the new car (including clear vinyl diamond-pattern embossed seat covers), we began our trek to Florida. The car did not have air conditioning, but dad had bought and installed an evaporative cooler under the dash, which had to be filled with water often. It didn’t work, sloshed water all over the place, and it ended up being cooler to just roll the windows down. We stopped a few places along the way – a brief stop in an Idaho town, in Yellowstone, down into Colorado to see some relatives there, then ultimately made our way to Jacksonville.
There was a new song being introduced by radio stations that summer, and it followed us across the country. I’m sure my dad got tired of hearing “They’re coming to take me away hah hah ho ho hee hee.” (Google it. Napoleon XIV: 'They're coming to take me away’) but we boys loved it and sang it over and over and over and over again.
Finally, we arrived in Jacksonville, Florida. We spent the first several days, maybe weeks, at The Lamplighter Motel, as Pyramid Van Lines had lost our trailer. I guess the driver had had some kind of dispute with them and abandoned the trailer in some woods someplace. The roof had been damaged by trees and that had allowed water to get in and ruin a lot of our stuff. When all was finally delivered, my dad’s golf clubs and cart had gone missing. He was not happy.
Nevertheless, we finally set up housekeeping in a rental home on Samba Drive in the southwest quadrant of Jacksonville. My brothers and I were enrolled in the Oak Hill Elementary School, a few blocks from our new home. I was in the fourth grade that year.
- yet another 'cerpt