The small California town where I went
to high school was nestled among these hills.
It still looks about the same as I remembered it.
My family moved numerous times when I was a child in Southern California. We lived in Glendora, Covina, Pomona, Anaheim - then the Small Rural Town, and finally back to Anaheim again.
Between the ages of 13 to 18 we lived in a small rural town nestled in the rolling hills, halfway between Orange County and Riverside.
Why don't you tell us the name of the small rural town, Jon?
Hell, you already know too much about me. I have to maintain some semblance of privacy. Besides, I don't want anyone delving into my high school records. Even though they were damn good.
Those six years were probably the best years of my young life. The town had a very quaint atmosphere and a sense of normalcy prevailed. We knew nearly everyone and had lots of friends, our neighbors were fantastic. If it wasn't for my father's usual violence and complete dysfunction, things would have been perfect.
I loved my high school and still keep in touch with a few of my old school friends. I always walked to school, which was nearly three miles one way. Two of my friends had motorcycles and they occasionally gave me a ride. Frank Kastin who lived on my street, and a black guy named Kenny Johnson.
I was an absolute nerd back then - - hopelessly tall, pathetically skinny, painfully self-conscious, astoundingly naive, and annoyingly bespectacled. In retrospect, it's extremely amusing to imagine me riding around town on a motorcycle with a black dude.
Yours truly at age sixteen.
I never wore my glasses, so I groped my way
through high school totally blind
So, what's strange about the small rural town, Jon?
You'd think a small rural town would be safe. Shortly after we first moved there, two big burly guys tried to break into our house in broad daylight. I was in the kitchen. They scaled the six-foot wall that enclosed our yard, came right into our screened-in patio, and tried to open the kitchen door. I pulled it shut and locked it, then yelled that I was going to call the police. They took off running and we never saw them again. I was thirteen at the time.
There was a Flasher in town. I had never personally seen him, but I'd heard plenty of stories. He had reportedly exposed himself to many unsuspecting strangers. Sometimes he was bold enough to knock on doors and flash his wares to whoever happened to answer. He was never caught.
There was the Wine Lady. At least that's what everyone called her. She was an alcoholic who wandered up and down the streets all day long while incessantly talking to herself. She often came past our house - - wildly gesticulating and having loud conversations with herself. At the time it seemed amusing. I didn't realize how pathetically serious it was.
I knew the Wine Lady's son Henry and his wife Sandy. They were nice, decent people who went to our church. Henry repeatedly tried to get help for his mother but to no avail. She was a hopeless cause.
A short block away from our house, on the corner, was a very old and tiny wooden house. It was occupied by an ancient lady known as Mrs. Brown. She was at least in her late 90's, possibly near 100. Mrs. Brown was afraid to go to sleep at night, so she'd sit up all night long in a chair looking out the front window. One night she died in the chair. They found her stone cold dead, still staring out the window. Shortly afterwards the house was torn down. I rummaged through the remains and found some old newspapers from the first World War.
One summer night when I was fifteen, there was a murder only three houses down from where we lived. It was a rental house and we never knew exactly who lived there. On summer nights I very often sat outside on the curb in front of our house talking with friends.
On this particular night I was outside with two friends. Suddenly a loud argument interrupted the serenity of the evening. It was coming from the rental house. Two Mexican men came outside fighting. One stabbed the other with a butcher knife. He staggered, fell, and died on the sidewalk only a few yards away from us. It happened in an instant and we saw the whole thing. Later, we learned that they were fighting over a woman.
The large rusty blood stains remained on the sidewalk for a very long time. That autumn, every time I walked to school I'd cross the street before I got to the blood stains - - so I wouldn't have to walk on them.
Hey, I'm just getting warmed up. These are only a few of the strange things that happened in our small rural town.
And Linda - if you happen to be reading this, I love ya - because we share the memories.