Her Dress Matches the Curtains

Not too many young women sew these days. It is just to easy to go to an outlet and buy something dirt cheap. And stores now have a sale for any reason possible, going out of business, grand opening, Labor Day, Presidents Day, end of summer, start of summer, Mothers Day, buy one get one, buy one get one half, just buy one!!!!!. More and more fabric stores are closing down and it is harder and harder to find a place to buy fabric that is reasonable…

When I was going to school, home economics was required for at least one year. I am all for starting those classes again. Let’s be real, in your life how often have you sat down and used your “Chemical Bond” theories or your geometry formulas or had to gut a rat for dinner? But you eat every day, every day and usually three times a day. And before you leave the house, your are certainly going to dress. Business casual does not mean naked with a tie!!!. How many times have you put on a brand new top just to have a button fall right off or a seam split the first time out? The clothing companies now all use sergers and shortcuts. And the Chinese are so clever with every fabric. What was once called “ends”, when the fabric at the end of the bolt was faded and misprinted is now used to design tops and dresses. We used to throw those pieces in the trash, now they sell in every store.

Sewing and designing were my favorites and studing clothing construction for four years was one of my favorite endeavors. Curious girl was also creative girl and you never knew what I might show up wearing. We did not have to wear uniforms then, and I really wish they did not wear them now, especially the girls. It seems to stifle the creative juices. But it is what it is.

When my first was a year old, found and a fabric outlet that just enthralled me… They had a sale and a certain print caught my eye, and the entire bolt ended up in my creative paws… Immediately my sewing juices were released and as sew mode took control….. my machine began to whir and out came, curtains, tablecloth, a sun dress for the baby, and sunhat….

Of course, the curtains were in place and table set before midnight the same day.  The next morning “Tutu” my sweet mother in law called. She wanted to take me and the little darling for an outing. We got ready and she showed up…..  Never forget the first comment she made, after the usual “good morning”….. “Linda, her dress matches the curtains..”…     and  so they did…..

The Blending

   My father brought us to California in a Hudson Hornet and it was cramped in that back seat !!!!! Thank God it was a four door. It had a small trailer hitched to the back with our clothes a few belongings and only one piece of furniture: the floor radio.. We had never seen TV, it was relatively new then and where we lived in Rock Springs, Wyoming, there was no television reception. Everyone had beautiful, wooden, upright cabinet radios. Just like you watch TV now, we would gather around the radio and sit and listen to our shows. My favorite was the Lone Ranger. When I finally saw it on TV, I was so surprised that he and Tonto looked so much like what I had imagined. Unlike today, though, there was usually only one radio and every family member came together to hear the programs and of course it was our source for news.

Dad was a fight fan!! So much so that he even taught my brother and I to fight. He always said, “You may be a girl Linda, but you have an advantage with that left hand of yours, hit hard and keep your right in front of your face.” One of my favorite memories is sitting in front of the radio with dad and listening to the famous Floyd Patterson and Archie Moore fight in 1956. We could not see a thing but the announcers were so good. You could feel every punch and they would tell you exactly where the punch landed and if it was a light jab, a drive, head hit, jaw hit, chin tap, or body punch….. if they bobbed or weaved. In the first few rounds, there was blood on one fighter and they could not tell where it was coming from. They did not stop fights then for a little drop of blood and the announcer could not tell who was bleeding, we hung on every word waiting for more details. Finally it was revealed, a cut on Archie Moore’s eye. My dad was in a whirl of male testorone. He was for Patterson, “Hit him again, take him down, “. “Knock him out”… well Dad got his wish , Patterson knocked him out in the sixth round to become the heavyweight championship of the world. Of course Dad went wild, and told me I had just witnessed history…. he talked about that fight forever!!!!! and would look at me and say “She heard it, she was witness to history.”

When we finally arrived in California, we stopped on Harbor Blvd. Dad rented a portion of a triplex right there on Harbor, it was not the same busy street it is today. Shortly after settling in we met the neighbors. To the left was one of the most wonderful women, I have ever known. Mary Peralta, a widow and mother of seven sons. One had recently died and was near my father’s age.  When she found out that we had no family in California, she immediately pronounced that “God has taken one son, but given me another”. From that moment on we blended with the Peralta family. Her sons became our uncles and their wives our “tias”. Their children our cousins and so it was.

Soon we bought a house in Garden Grove. Down through the years Mary would teach my mother, her favorite Mexican recipes. Mom was an excellent Southern cook, and had learned Italian dishes from her best friend and Polish dishes from Wyoming and now enchiladas, tacos, tamales, beans, salsa, chorizo, flautas, quesadillas, rice became main fare. Christmas was the absolute best… We would gather at the Peralta home in Santa Ana, where they raised their own chickens. Christmas Eve. day they would wring the necks of about a dozen and let them run until the blood drained. That expression, “Running around like a chicken with it’s head off.” is grounded in reality. Believe me it is a wild , wild scene. Then the men would pluck them, clean them and give them to the women. We would take them into the kitchen and cook them in huge pots covered with water, to get good stock. While they were cooking we would prepare the tamale masa and laugh and talk and just have a great time. The actually making of the tamale we would do in like an assembly line , one would put on the masa, another the chicken, another wrap and then they would steam in giant pots. Later we would eat and the men would drink beer and play cards. We women would clean up and play other games.

As I grew up,  I thought that I was  Mexican. one day I realized i was not,  but my “adopted ” family was and it would really hurt when people would say mean things about Hispanics. As a teenager, I started thinking more about God and since my parents did not take me to church, I started attending different services on my own. Since my Mexican family was Catholic , thought that would be a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

Where’s Watts?

   The summer of 1965 was very hot, then California was still known as sunny Califorinia. The summer was winding up and by August I was ready and excited to go back to school.. It would be my senior year and you know seniors rule. It was mid August and I was still living in Garden Grove.  About the second week of August it hit the news that there was a race riot in Watts, near Los Angeles. I think there was only one channel that was reporting the riot and  I believe it was KTLA out of Los Angeles. This was way before cell phones with cameras, long before the internet, You-tube Twitter, Facebook and we had only the small amount of information that the one channel provided. Curious girl just had to know more. I was told that it was so bad that the National Guard was called and that martial law was declared. That was just unbelievable to my ears. Are you kidding me? in America , martial law, rioting, soldiers. I had to know more.

   My good friend Carmen was up to the challenge. We decided we would go on Saturday night, the riot started on a Wednesday or Thursday, so we figured it would be all calm by the weekend. We just had to get a better understanding. I did not know any black people and could not understand what would cause anyone to riot. So we would investigate ourselves. The plan was simple we would put on our cocktail dresses, that was standard fare for the clubs in those days and just drive to Watts. If anyone was to stop us, we would just say we were lost . We had no fear, no sense of danger, I don’t know if we were naive or just plain crazy. Either way on Saturday evening, we got dressed, filled up the turquoise Mustang, I believe it cost us a whole $5.00 to FILL IT UP,can you imagine, we pay that for a gallon now, but then gas was 25 cents a gallon, cigarettes if you smoked were 25 cents a pack, so you could have a royal weekend on $10.00!!!!! We went to the clubs a lot, we loved to dance and had an in with the doorman at Whisky a Go Go, that was our main spot. We were not old enough to drink, but with the right clothes, make up and our fake Id, we had no problem .

   We really did not know where Watts actually was and we did not have GPS, or map quest, we actually had to get a map and figure out what freeway off ramp was the closest.  We left around 8:00 PM and we got there in no time at all. I can not remember the actual exit we used, but we got off and turned down on the first street available. Suddenly I did not feel sooo good, it got dark real quick. All the street lights were off and it was too quiet. The streets at first looked empty and not a person anywhere and then I saw it..a big gray tank, yes a tank sitting at the end of the street. By the time I realized it was a tank, I saw two armed cars, one on each side of the street. They were dark, gray looking and the windows facing the street were lowered and I saw men with helmets and machine guns pointing at us. Carmen saw them , just about when I did and she slowed the car. “I’m turning around and getting us outta here.” she said. “Good” I thought, I was like ready to wet my pants.   I was a bit afraid now, thinking, “Is this really America?.. are those really machine guns? is that really an army tank in the middle of Los Angeles? are we going to die? and in our cocktail dresses?.Before I could even completely finish these thoughts, there was a huge bright light shining in our face and a soldier with a machine gun and a bull horn in front of us shouting “FREEZE, FREEZE, STOP YOUR VEHICLE NOW!!!!!

  Quickly Carmen looked at me, ‘”Remember, we are on our way to Hollywood, we just got lost”. She lowered her window as the soldier approached, we could see that he was carrying a machine and was very angry. “What the hell are you doing here? You are in extreme danger!!” We played it like Oscar contenders. “Oh , officer, what is going on , we are scared, are we near Hollywood?” as corny as that sounds, when you are young , attractive and in killer cocktail dresses, you can get away with almost anything. And of course the soldier’s whole demeanor changed. He told us to turn around and he would have a car lead us out of the area and to the freeway entrance. He was extremely helpful, but then he was white , the soldiers were white and so were we.

Blue Eyed Devil

   When I first moved into what the locals call  “The Eastside ” an area made famous by rappers like Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, etc, , there were a lot of things that were new and very different from what I saw growing up in Orange County. This was Long Beach, and Los Angeles County.  We lived on Olive avenue near New York avenue. When my own family had disowned me, my husbands family became mine. .  My mother in law, lovingly called  “Tutu” and my father in law, “Pops”, lived across the street. “Good Grannie Willie ” and Iverson (the grandparents) lived two doors down, we were close to Poly HIgh school, our church , the market and “Mickey D’s” (Mcdonalds for the uninformed).

   The corner of Pacific Coast Hwy and California avenue was a hubbub of activity. There was a liquor store, Whistlers,  (it is now VIP records) and later came P&G Restaurant. P&G had the best fried fish, “you buy, we fry” , and fried shrimp. And as far as I know the only place to buy fresh gumbo in the area.  If you walked across the street, catty corner , you would be at the fence around Poly High School. They eventually renamed this part of California Ave. to Martin Luther King Blvd. But it only stretches through the socalled “Eastside”. MLK starts in the “Eastside” and ends abruptly in Signal Hill, and does not continue into Bixby Knolls, an upscale white area, where it again becomes California Ave.

   Curous girl used to see a young man stand on the corner of PCH and California everyday, wearing a suit jacket and black bow tie. He was clean cut , slim and always immaculate. He sold a newspaper and bean pies. Of course, I had to know more, so I inquired and was told he was with the Nation of Islam and they made bean pies to raise money and of course the newspaper. A lot of people used to stop at the intersection and buy right from their car and of course passerbys and liquor store customers bought, all day long. One day I drove over , parked and went up to buy a paper. He looked at me very strangely and said, “You want a newspaper?”. Yes, I told him and he sold me a paper. Went right home to find out what it was all about.  “The Final Call”, is still sold all over America and is published by the Nation of Islam, which is not to be confused with the religion of Islam or the beliefs of the Muslim nations, which follow the Koran.

   At the time the Nation of Islam was still lead by Elijah Muhammed. As I began to read the articles, it became obvious now , why the young man was surprised by my purchase. The phrase “blue eyed devil” was used regularly in referring to white people in America. All references to us were linked with the word devil. It was very upsetting to me. I am neither blue eyed (mine are green), nor a devil. However I could relate to the anger and frustration spoken of in every article. Despite the hatred for white America, which I totally do not condone, I could understand the root of it and could see every day circumstances which would lead a person of color to be bitter and angry. Black Americans after having endured all that they have in this nation and yet rise above and overcome and smile are to me one of the greatest miracles of God in our history.

   After reading the paper,  I did study the Nation of Islam for awhile, I just wanted to get a better understanding of their history and of Elijah Muhammed and Malcom X. As time went by , I would see the young man selling his papers and pies. He was consistent and daily on the corner, from morning to evening. He became like the sign post because he was so familar. Then after awhile, I guess business fell off and he went door to door. One day he knocked at our house and he remembered me, “Oh you live here?”.. “Yes, I do.”… Just at that moment the Lord gave me a little insight about him, and I shared that .. He was quite surprised, because it was something only God could have revealed to me and he lingered for just a few moments and then left.   That was many years ago and I had not seen him in a long time. Then one day I had to go pay a gas bill downtown and there he was, still with the suit, still selling the paper, but no more bean pies. I smiled and waved, he smiled back. I always wondered if he really believed I was a “blue eyed devil.”

Would you date a Black man?

   My senior year was so much fun but I was ready to move on. My applications to college had been sent out and I ran for the mail everyday to see who wanted me.. To my great pleasure and surprise UCI, the new university in Irvine had accepted me. Wow, only three in my school made it in and for me that was major. My parents could not afford to send me out of state and at the time we lived in Anaheim and I could easily drive to Irvine..

   Irvine was undeveloped when the university opened .  On Macarthur road  you were likely to run over squirrels, possoms, rabbits and other creatures and there was still a buffalo farm about a half mile away. Students would go over to the old buffalo farm to “watch the buffalo roam” at night… that was similar to parking on the beach and watching the submarine races, if you get my drift. I went there one evening with a date in a Nash. The Nash was an “endangered” car and has long since been put to rest, thank the Lord!! You see it had a very peculiar feature, the seats then were not divided, the front seat was just one long seat, like the back. And with the click of a lever the front seat fell al the way to the back seat.!!! I jumped out of that car (that is another story :)..

   The campus was so nice and because it was new and in Irvine the students had come from all over the country and from around the world. Most of the students had wealthy families, I was the exception… And my circle of friends was made up of many different nationalities. But my circle of girl friends was a small one of five. Dana , the preacher’s daughter from Oakland,  Maria, the mafia princess, Jeri, hometown girl, Marnie, the New York sophisticate and me, the one with rose colored glasses and the “I am a virgin, what is your problem” button. Buttons were very big then. My favorites were my Beatles and my Angela Davis. Every one wore a button of some kind on campus, it was part of your accessory tray..

   We had what was called the “Quad”, which had a restaurant and some very large booths, that was our daily meeting place for lunch. We had so many deep conversations at our favorite spot, but we never seemed to settle anything because by the time we really got deeeeep, lunch was over!… We were young and discovering so many things and we tested everything we had ever heard, at least verbally. I had one Philosphy professor that had me hanging on every word he said. We would meet twice a month at midnight on a Friday night on the beach in Newport. He would bring wood and about forty of us would sit and listen to him talk and talk. I Ching was one of his favorites, I really did not understand most of what he said, but he had such charisma., who cared.

   One day it was raining and so I left a class early and ran all the way to the quad, when I landed, my girl friends had not yet arrived, but Bernie, from my Statistics class, was there alone. So why not join him?? he was okay with that and we sat down and starting debating the need to study statistics, since we were political science majors. We both decided that rats had nothing to do with law, boy were we naive.. We were laughing over this when my group entered. I waved at them, they saw me, but kept on going and sat down at another booth. In fact, Marni even looked at me rather angrily… I was disturbed and told Bernie, “What’s their trip?”…  “Maybe they don’t like me”.. he said…  “Don’t be ridiculous, they don’t even know you.” He left shortly after that, said he had an apointment in the lab.

   When he left, I moved to my friends booth and sat down. “Hey, why did you shine me on earlier?”……. Marnie looked at me with a very stern face, “We do not eat with Jews.”..  “Ok, what are you talking about?”… Marnie again “Bernie is a Jew.”   The anger rose up in me and I spoke back  “Bernie is my friend, I don’t care what he is, are you serious?”.. They just bowed their heads and went back to eating. I left rather confused. What did his religion have to do with friendship? and being the optimist that I am, I was sure that in the future, they would come around.

   That first year and my last,  it turns out I was not ready for college. 12 years of straight A’s had started to have it’s effect on me, burn out was showing up and I really wanted to just party, party, party!!!!!!! One of my most favorite friends of all was VT… that is what I called him, his real name was something like this Vahanajipanjara, (something like that). It was a very long Siamese name (Thailand then was called Siam). He was of royal blood and was a prince. He was exceptionally tall for his people, standing over six feet. To me he was handsome, funny, extremely smart and we became close. He also was artistic and he told me that in his culture, he had to learn certain dances that had been handed down and in one of them he could actually bend his hands backward, almost to his wrists. This was something he had practiced since childhood, not something you could learn overnight. He could cook and had a cute little apartment on Balboa Island. Balboa Island was very expensive and it was cool to have a friend there, and we went to a lot of parties on the island.

   He was a great cook and I have been hooked on Thai food every since, especially the pho soups, and pad thai. He invited  me to a dance  and of course, I said yes, Dancing was my thing, just loved to dance, my body did not always co-operate with me, but it did not matter. Some of the best songs ever written, were written in the sixties. Even today Motown still makes you want to move!. We were hanging again in the quad and talking about our dresses for the dance, mine was a grey and white polka dot, mini dress and it was killer. So of course we were all comparing notes. Marni asked me who my date was and I told her “VT”………. she got real, real ,real ugly…. “Tell me you are not  going out with that Gook.” she practically yelled. That was it!!!!  “Don’t ever call him that again, and as of 12:35 PM, which is in about 1 minute, you are no longer my friend.” She had issues and she was out of my circle, clip, remove, gone. chain is shortened.

   Dana had called for a little picnic in her dorm room later on that month and she assured me that Marni, was not included, so I showed up. We were laughing and having fun. We talked about Marni and agreed that she did not fit. Because of her comments, the subject of interaccial dating popped up. “You are a real radical Linda for dating VT, you should be a hippie.” Hmm, I thought to myself, I wonder if hippies party…

   As we rambled on Dana threw this thought out “Would you ever date a black guy?”  Maria  our token mafia princess,was the first to answer, “Absolutely not, my father would have him snuffed, if he is not Italian, my father will not even let him in the house.”… Jeri was right to the point, ” I never thought about it, but probably not, I love blond, blue eyed men, especially if they surf.”    ( Yes she was a little shallow)….and she turned it back to Dana, “What about you?”.. Dana told us this “My father is a Christian Minister and I think he would be very happy if I did .He has always taught us to love every race.”.. the only one left was me and for me it was real simple “I probably never would date a black guy, just beause ,I don’t even know one black person. .”   NEVER SAY NEVER….

Salt and Pepper

Our oldest daughter out front leaning on the white picket fence.

   When I was pregnant with our second child we really wanted to buy a house. We were renting on Olive Avenue in Long Beach, in a racially mixed area. At that time ,there was an invisible line drawn  that started at Cherry Avenue. The invisible ink let evey real estate agent know that “No Blacks” east of Cherry. Growing up in Orange County, which was almost all white, with a sprinkle of Hispanic and Asian is was real simple to figure out who lived where. That was detemined by how much money you made. If you were middle class you lived in certain areas, if you were professional and made over $100,000. you lived in a different area.. and if you were richer than that, you lived in homes near the beach, or in the hills or in the gated communities. Every thing was determined by the money you had.

   When I moved to Long Beach, wow what a difference. Your money did not matter at that time. If you were black you lived west of Cherry , end of conversation. Well the good news for us was that we lived west of Cherry, so we thought, “No problem, we are working, let’s buy a house.”… A senior white couple, the Geislers lived down the street from us and they were getting older, the area was changing and they wanted to retire in Austin, Texas. They had known my husband since he was a child and  wanted us to buy their house. What a blessing and of course we stepped up , went to their real estate agent and filled out all the papers. They said they would get back to us, but they did not. After a few weeks I called them and was told that they already had another buyer for the property. I called Mrs, Geisler and asked her about the other buyer, she said that she was surprised and thought we were the buyers. She then called her agent and the agent said that they were not able to get financing for us and they did have another buyer. in mind. Mrs. Geisler was upset and asked me if I knew any real estate agents, because she sensed that something was amiss. Just so happened that my best friend was a real estate agent, in Garden Grove. So I called her , asked for help , and if so Mrs Geisler would agree to use her and she would make the commission. Cecilia was my best friend , she was white, an angel, really smart and hated bigotry with a passion.

   She came to Long Beach and pretended to have a Garden Grove buyer for the house on our street. She was able to see all the paper work and found out that the Long Beach agent had written S&P on our application. When she told me, in my ignorance, I asked “Well, so what does that mean?”… “Linda it means, salt and pepper, meaning you are a mixed race couple and they do not want to help you.”… I started crying, how outrageous is that I’m thinking to myself. But Cecilia stopped me… “Oh no, Linda, they are not getting away with this, don’t worry, you will buy this house or no one will!!”  You know that woman was determined , thank God and within 6o days we had a house……

   I loved the house and the street we lived on . As I said Blacks were restricted to certain areas because of skin color only and not money.  My husband and I were blue collar workers, but on our street and the next block lived two pastors, a nurse, a computer programmer, a millionaire property owner, a radiator shop owner, two government employees, a pharmacist, a cook, an accounting clerk, a navy man, a fireman, an obstetric nurse,  all living in this area, though most could afford any house in Long Beach. One lovely elderly Black  woman , very educated that had been a school teacher and was now a school principal, married to a dentist, told me she had looked at a house in Belmont Shore, (a very, very nice, very, very white area near the beach).. “It is so nice there and you can walk to the beach, and all the stores on the strip, when are you moving?” I said. 

   “I won’t be. ” she replied.    “How come, I know you two have plenty of money.” I laughed, because we both used to joke about her frugality.  “I wish it was that easy.”                   “Well what happened?” I asked…. Here is what she told me… “I called the real estate agent about the house I saw in the paper and I asked her if they allowed Blacks in the area and she told me “Oh don’t worry, absolutely not, not now, not ever:”  My friend said she hung up the phone and cried….

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1954

      As long as I can remember I have had CGS (curious girl syndrome). Meeting new people, reading a book, learning , trying differnent foods and in general just wanting to know about my surroundings is part of my nature. Living in a coal mining town like Rocks Springs, Wyoming gave one plenty to discover. Naitonalities from all over the world came to this small place to work in the mines. Charlie , the Indian, believe he was Shoshone, was just one of many interesting neighbors.

   There were some Chinese in the area, but they were not very friendly to me , which was so strange, because for some reason everyone liked me and was always inviting me into their house. I asked my mom one day about the Chinese, she said they kept to themselves because of what happened. Ok, so tell me what happened. That she would not do, she just repeated, “Thats just the way they are and you can’t change it. They live on the other side and some of them live underground, so you probably won’t see too many anyway. Just go play.” It was not until many years later that I got my answer. You may never have heard of Rock Springs, Wyoming, but the city holds a place in American history as the home of one of America’s first and worst race riots.

   The railroad in the late 1800’s had brought to the town many Chinese laborers, typical of corporate America, they were trying to find a way of building the railroad as cheaply as possible and did not want to pay the local people their worth. The railroad it seems also had ownership in the coal mines and the Chinese began working in the mines. The railroad paid them less than the white workers that had been living in the area. This angered the white workers and it also caused the railroads to tend to hire the Chinese at the lower wage than the American worker.Greed is a MOTHER.  This conflict eventually led to rage and one day the white workers attacked the Chinese and burnt their living quarters down. It was atrocious, and horrible. The death toll is recorded between 25 and 40 Chinese. They were beaten, burned alive and some tortured. The Governor of the state had to notify Washington, to send in federal troops to stop the riot. The Chinese to their honor did eventually rebuild and start over. However, from what I understand, when they did, they built their homes with basements, which is very common in Wyoming, but their basements were a little different. Some had been transformed into underground living quarters and my understanding is that they even had catacombs connecting some. I guess that is where mom got the idea, that they lived “underground”.

   There was a Black family a few blocks away, but they did not have any children my age so I never got to know them. There was a very beautiful lady “on the hill”, I say that because her house set up higher than others, it was larger and she always wore such pretty dresses. She did not have children, so maybe that is why she took to me. Often she would invite me in for cookies and tea. One day she had the most beautiful white linen hankerchief, we called them hankies. This was waaay before Kleenex tissues, so we all had cotton hankies of some sort. However, hers were beautiful and had edging and some were even round. She gave me my first job!!! Yes at five I was officially , the hanky ironer. She said she would pay me a nickel for every hanky and so I came by once a week and ironed… She would wash them and dip them in this starchy stuff, dry them and leave them for me. Loved it,especially when I ironed them in fan or triangle shapes. To this day ironing is one of my favorite things, something we do not do much of with all the polyester and wash and wear, which is great, but there is something to say for an ironed hanky. 

   One of my very favorite places to visit was Mrs. Radosevich (hope I am spelling it right).  She had emmigrated here from Poland. She was always cooking, she always had smells in her home and that is a good thing. Personally, you can have an immaculate home, all decorated and “untouchable”, great to look at, but so what?? Without cooking smells a house is not a home. That was not the case here at Mrs. R’s. She taught my mother how to make helupkah, which is stuffed cabbage, potica bread a wonderful yeast bread that is rolled and filled with ground walnuts, cinnamon  and butter. Her family also made the very best Kielbasa sausage and fried dough cookies. Later on in life, mom would bake several dozen potica loaves at Christmas, she would give them to the neighbors and of course we would eat as many as we could.

   One day , while visiting her we finished our snack and she said “Linda, I want to show you something, but you can’t tell anyone about it, it will have to be our little secret. Is that ok?”… are  you kidding me curious girl was up to the challenge..”I will not tell anyone, not even Johnny (my best friend).” After that we headed to the basement, which to my surprise was beautiful. It had a big dark red print rug on the floor and paneled walls, with lights everywhere. But what caught my attention and stopped me in my steps were the paintings on the wall. There were three that I remember, one quite large and square, the other two much smaller . But they were vibrant oil paintings and I had never seen anything like them before. She told me that they had to leave their country in the night and all they took was their clothes, their jewelry and these paintings.

   “Sometimes I come down here and just sit and look and remember my parents and my country.. It was so beautiful and such good memories, until they came.” “Who came,?” I asked. “Oh my. don’t worry your pretty head about that, I should be silent and it is time to go, remember, this is our secret.”

   I did not betray my secret, but when I came home I asked my mother why Mrs, R had to leave her country. She told me that there were some bad people n Germany that tried to hurt them and so they came to America. Where are those bad people and what if they come here? “Don’t worry , they can not come here.” and why not I wanted to know.. “Because in the War your dad and men from America and all over the world went to Germany to stop them and that will never happen again.”

     I wanted to know more about this war from my dad , but mom was adamant: “Your dad doesn’t talk about what happened so do not ask him anything.”… Ok, I did not ask him and decided one day I would know more, but in the meantime, something did not make sense to me anyway. If these people were stopped and this thing that happened, could never happen again, then why did Mrs. R. hide the paintings in the basement?  ..

1958

   Garden Grove, Ca was our new home now.. We lived on Otis Ave, very near Harbor and Chapman Blvd. Not far from that new theme park they called Disneyland. My father loved breakfast and one Saturday he said “Come on Linda , let’s go to Belisles.”.. I was ready in a hot minute, I loved Belisles. It was a local diner with good food and a particular specialty..everything, everything was supersized!! All food was served on big white turkey sized platters. The cups were about 32 ounces and the straws about two feet long. When you walked in the pastry case was right inside the door and they had apple pies that stood up about six inches, have no idea how they did it, but the food was fun and very good.

   We got in the car and Belisles was right on the corner of Harbor and Chapman, they were there for many years, but after Disneyland really got going , because of their location the spot was worth a fortune and they sold… This morning though my dad turned right on Harbor and went past the restaurant… ” Hey, where we going?”.. is what I said. Dad just smiled very big and said he wanted to show me something. We drove for a few minutes and then he pulled over to the side of the road. “This is Disneyland.” he announced. Half of it was still unfinished and he showed me the “river” they were digging for the Adventureland area…  Next week you and Nancy, (she was my best friend) can go. I was so excited , could hardly wait to tell her about it, but first breakfast.

   That afternoon was very hot and swimming sounded like a good idea. Wanted to tell Nancy about Disneyland and thought maybe Dad would take us swimming too. There was a big pool in Santa Ana at the time. It was located in a very nice area, where our family doctor lived. They called it the plunge and Dad often took me and my brother there. He would drop us off and for $1.00 we swam all day. No cell phones back then so when he said “Be out front at 4:00.”, well we had our butts out front. No texting “give me another hour,” or “I am late”…. no way. Dad did not play that, when he gave a time, that meant exactly that time and you better be ready….

   Dad was very agreeable this Saturday and we got Nancy and he dropped us off in front of the Plunge and said he would be back at 4:00. We got in line to pay our 50 cents. The line was long, lots of little girls and boys. I never noticed that they were all white, not something I thought about, so when we got to the counter to pay and the guy in the window said to Nancy, “We don’t let Mexicans in the pool.”, I was , can’t quite explain what I was… mad, shocked, sick to my stomach, not quite sure. But I know that was wrong and we were going swimming!!!! Nancy was crying and I did not know what to say to her.. so I just gave her a great big hug and said “I’ll call my Dad.”

   Now that was no easy task then. They would not let me use the pool phone, but even though we did not have cell phones back then, we did have pay phones about every other block. So we walked to one and waited a few minutes, I wanted to make sure my dad had made it back home. I called and mom answered, “Is dad there yet?”..  “Yes, what’s wrong?” she knew me, my loud voice always did get a little shreiky when I am emotional.  “I just need to talk to Dad for a minute”.. I could hear her say “Bud, it’s Linda”… she called him Bud and my first brother we called Buddy. When he got on the phone and I told him what happened, I could hear the anger in his voice. All he said was “Go back to where I dropped you off and stay there until I get there!!!”… He showed up allright, much quicker than we expected, he must have put that Chevy wagon into high gear. He grabbed me by one hand and Nancy by the other hand and led us up to the counter and walked up to the window.. Now my dad was not a huge man. He worked hard all his life and was muscular and slim, but his physical presence would not scare anyone by itself, but my father grew up in Maple Shade, New Jersey and South Philly, Pennsylvania, he lost his father, grandfather and uncle one day in a car crash, he went to work when he was thirteen, he fought in the second World War and bottom line… he did not take crap from anyone. He put his arm in the window, I do not know what he said, but in five minutes we were swimming in that pool. Swimming was fun, but the water in the pool could not wash off the pain at the counter….

1953

 To have a best friend is a good thing. Johnnie James was the best friend you could ever have and in Rock Springs, Wyoming, he was my only friend. I do not remember any girls on my block, maybe they were there, but I sure did not see them. Johnnie lived around the corner and we were together almost everyday. Things were different then, children actually played outside and our outside stretched for miles.

When the snow fell and was packed we would get our sleds, two cardboard boxes with the end cut out, doubled up and the sides folded down for handles and off we went. The hill across the way was perfect! Not too steep, no rocks on the slope, just a long slanted wonderful few minutes of pure joy. Sliding down the hill was just fun and easy and something we did until the sled fell apart.

   One afternoon we decided to take a hike and see what was on the other side of our favorite hill. What a nice day, until the clouds started to gather and the sky turned black and the thunder started to talk, then yell. We knew a storm was brewing and we tried to make it back, but then it happened, suddenly lightning, and rain and hail… hail is not your friend, it’s like it can’t make up it’s mind, “Should I be rain or snow?”.. and it seemed to me the hail balls were like little golf balls and they would hit you along with the rain, so not only are you wet, but it hurts…  We ran faster and all we could see in the thickness was a cave nearby, so of course, that is where we headed. It was sooo dark inside that we just barely entered, just enough to stay dry.

   We could barely see each other and when we looked out the sky was a blank except for the lightning.. We got scared, time passed and we stayed scared… sometimes you can’t say anything, we just held hands and waited by the entrance to the cave, hoping the rain would end.. It seemed forever and that hailstorm just kept on… but then we heard the voices.. “Johnnie, Linda, Johnnie, LInda”.. ..One of them I knew, “That’s Dad” I told Johnnie… We ran outside and there they were, the rescue party…. We were hugged and wrapped and taken on home. After the joy of our retrieval I thought “Oh no we are in big trouble for not making it back home before the storm”.  But to my surprise, everyone was so happy they found us, no punishment, just love and a great big dinner.. My mom could cook!!!

  Rock Springs, Wyoming was a small coal mining town in those days. My parents had moved me there when I was just a baby. They told me later that they came West to get out of the big city. That they did, there was nothing big city about Rock Springs!!. Since their  resource was coal, the town was quite diverse. Men had come from all over to get jobs in the mines, many of them returning home from the war and many had settled there for several generations. Johnnie was my best friend and my only friend my age. All my other friends were much older. This coal miner’s daughter had a sense of adventure and curiousity too abound.

   Johnny lived around the corner with his parents. He lived in the Catholic house, I say that because his mom was consumed with the church. When you walked into his house you saw relics and icons everwhere. The light plates had the face of the Virgin Mary, there was an altar in the living room, crucifixes and saints plastered in every room. It was waaaay too much stuff I thought. And Johnny was forced to be an altar boy, I say forced, because he always told me how much he hated it… But his mother made him do it.. Wow, I wondered, I am not a Catholic, but if I was I would be so glad God doesn’t want altar girls.

   The streets there were very dusty then, not real ashpalt, but old roads and Rocks Springs is in the high desert , so in the summer it is very dry. And so naturally you had to get outside and explore. Down the street lived Charlie, the Indian… I mean no disrespect, but Charlie had moved from the Indian reservation and purchased a house on our street. When we met him that was his own introduction, “I am Charlie, the Indian.”..He was very nice and my father liked him. Later on in life I learned that my grandfather was Cherokee and English. His father had come from England and married a Cherokee woman. Charlie still had contacts with the reservation and they made money selling artifacts and souveners to tourists. He gave me a small cigarette box once and the lid was engraved with an Indian chief head, wish I still had that, but it is long gone. But I do still have the “Bully Good” Indian doll complete with beaded necklace and blanket wrap.. Seems strange today , but I can  still remember seeing the Indians often walk wrapped just like that….

Mom, am I a zebra?

When my first beautiful child started kindergarten I was so nervous.. Nervous because we had been soo close and she was now starting school and I knew I would miss her. At the time I was working at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Ca and rode a bike to work each day. My little girl, Nyree had a seat on the back and so off we went.

Later on when I picked her up and we went home for dinner she asked me some questions, of course! But when she asked me this, “Mom am I a zebra?”, I looked at her in surprise, “What is that all about?” I thought to myself.. And said immediately, “Of course not baby you are a beautiful little girl..”

After her bath and prayers she was a sleep in her bed. She was so beautiful, peanut butter skin, dark long, long , very curly hair, her smile could light up the world and she was soo lovable.  As I walked from her room it hit me like a brick, “Why am I so slow about things?” I said to myself. It was then that I realized, some one at school must have asked that, because I am white and her father was black.

I was not really prepared for the world I had walked into, coming from Rock Springs, Wyoming and raised in Orange County, California. This blog chronicles my experiences down through the years. They may not be in chronological order, but they are the events that happened to me and also my thoughts. Actual events will be headed with a year date. When I am thinking out loud, which I often do, there wil be no date. The events are actual and I have tried to be as accurate as possible.. The only variation from the truth is with some of the names. Those I have changed in some instances to prevent some hurt and also to protect some that are guilty. 

I am married to an American who is currently called a Black American… I really do not like such descriptions myself, since he, his mother, father, grandmother, great grandmother were all born in America. However ever since his ancestors were brought here, America has chosen to define them with some adverb that has to do with color. His actual shade is somewhere between weak coffee and strong tea. We have five beautiful children that are grown and amazing. They too have unfortunately been adverbally challenged down through the years, with the following terms: black, yellow, mulatto, mixed, peanut butter, zebra, half n half,, etc…just for starters.

I have been culturally depicted as Causasian, or white. One of our daughters was bathing one day , she was about 5 years old and she screamed very loudly, “Mommy , mommy come her quick!”.. So of course, I ran into the bathroom, “What is it?”.. she looked up and said “Give me your arm:”.. ok, here is my arm… She laid it on the porcelain tub and exclaimed very loudly, “Mom, you can’t be white!!” .. of course I asked, “Why not?”.. in her adorable little voice she simply said “Mom, you don’t match the bathtub”…

She was right you know , my white is more of a beige, but the world had decided long ago, what was black and what was white, without her input, so it is what it is.

Through the years after meeting my husband, I have also had some adverbs attached to me, some I can’t print, because I refuse to… really do not want to mention any, but I said I would record events as they happened so here are a few for your reading enjoyment: white trash, whore, wannabee, n…… lover, b……., scandalous, white stallion, honky, fay, a double scribble, etc.

So this is my first post.. not everything written will be about my marriage, because I was blessed to have some great experiences in my life and to live through some amazing historical moments… hope you enjoy….