Mom had one sister named Mary Kathryn Lewis. Mary Kathryn married Raymond Hale prior to WWII and moved to California. Kaye, as we all called her, had two children. Tom Hale, my age, and Gayla, who is several years younger.
Tom and I spent quite a bit of time together specially in later years when he came to live with us in Los Angeles.
During our school years, Tom and I would always be together in the summer time either in Los Angeles or in Stockton. Here are just a few of the stories I remember about these days together.
Aunt Kaye And Uncle Ray
Ray was an outdoorsman! Hunting, boating, hiking anything outdoors was what he liked to do. Aunt Kaye was more of an indoors person! Aunt Kaye was always a happy person and delightful to be with. Ray passed on in the 1990's and Aunt Kaye is still living in Stockton and as active as can be!
We visit Kaye whenever we can and spend time together a few times a year. She is a spry 80+ year old who is like the energizer bunny.
Tracy & Stockton California
My grandparents lived in Tracy, California, when I was growing up. Tracy was still fairly rural in those days as I remember the septic tank was always giving them fits, telephone service was shaky at best, and electricity finally stabilized in the early 1950s.
I would go up to Tracy, usually with my parents, and spend a week playing with my cousin Tom Hale. We would go at it for the whole time generally terrorizing the animals on Fred's farm and causing havoc around us.
Next door to he grandparents was Fred's farm. Maybe 20 acres. It had a big barn, vegetable garden, and all the farm-trimmings. Fred and Adel, his wife, were odd ducks with rumors about them ranging from being an escaped axe murderer to a mental patient. I think it was all bunk as he was pretty nice most of the time.
Do you have any idea how large and deadly a garden snake can be when you are a kid?
Anyway, Tom and I took a long walk across the pasture over towards the sweet potato factory and on the way back, the animals got even.
We were messing around not paying any attention to where we were going and we darned near stepped on a giant poisonous boy-eating snake about 30 feet long and 5 feet in diameter.
Not expecting it, we yelled like little school girls and ran like the wind. While we certainly assumed it was a super deadly rattler-viper, in reality, it was a garden snake or some other snake that enjoyed bathing in the sun and scaring the crap out of two city kids.
As I get older, I can vision how Laurel and Hardy may have looked running away ninety miles and hour followed by a trail of dust!
Driving To Louisiana
Marion Gillick, our Comey Avenue neighbor, had some friends our for a week long visit an those friends had a daughter who I fell in love with in one day flat! So after she left to go back to New Orleans, Tom and I jumped in the old trusty Chevy and off we went! We drove almost straight through and spent a week in the New Orleans area. We had a lot of fun visiting the swimming holes, eating at Brennan's and trying to get back home with about $4.00 in our pockets. Thank goodness Aunt Kaye was wise enough to send Tom with a gasoline credit card!
Getting Run Over By A Train At Knott's Berry Farm
It was coming down the track and all I could remember is the
line from an old movie.... "Feet, don't fail me now"... They did!
We were adventurous and perhaps a bit wild? Tom and I went to Knott's and for some reason we started walking down the railroad tracks where we should have not been. Talking and goofing around was primary activities. All of a sudden Tom yells "I think I hear the train!". Knowing Tom, I ignored it but sure enough, 200 feet in front of us was the train blowing its whistle saying "Get your happy butts off the track and off the bridge!".
I start running and sure a heck, foot goes between the ties and down I go. Tom pulled me out with my torn pants and blood streaming down my leg. The park police found us and were worried to death. I was sore but mostly embarrassed that I made a fool out of myself.
Those were the days when lawyers were NOT called, a fuss was NOT made, and my tiny little rump became as sore as my leg thanks to the swift reaction from my mothers hand!
I'll always remember looking up from the tracks and seeing the old train coming right at me.
Hoppyland! - Yep, there was an amusement park called Hoppyland after William Boyd (Hoppalong Cassidy)! William Boyd opened his "Hoppyland" theme park on May 27, 1951 in Venice, California.
The kiddy park featured a 35 foot high Philadelphia Toboggan Company Junior roller coaster called the Little Dipper, John Kissane's two train, mile long miniature railroad that circled the park, several pony tracks, a lagoon boat ride in motor-driven boats, Zeppelin and Whirlwind aerial rides, a Tilt-a-whirl, Octopus and Scooter rides. In 1951, this was the biggest and scariest things Paul had ever seen! We only lived about 4 miles from Hoppyland then. Sue wasn't born yet!
Roller Coaster Madness!!! - I can remember my cousin, Tom Hale and I going to Hoppyland and riding the gigantic wooden roller coaster (the 35 foot high Philadelphia Toboggan Company Junior roller coaster called the Little Dipper)... many many times!
Hoppy To The Rescue! - After the Venice Amusement Pier closed in 1946, there was hope that they would rebuild elsewhere in Venice. Plans were announced in May 1947 for a $2.5 million park to be built on a 70 acre tract at Dell Avenue and Washington Street. This Ocean View Amusement Park would include the 30 acre Lake Los Angeles (location of the present Marina del Rey harbor) to be developed as an aquatic sports center. The park would have an elaborate midway, roller coaster, merry-go-round, children's rides, bowling alley and skating rink. A shortage of building materials prevented them from immediately starting construction.
The kiddy park featured a 35 foot high Philadelphia Toboggan Company Junior roller coaster called the Little Dipper, John Kissane's two train, mile long miniature railroad that circled the park, several pony tracks, a lagoon boat ride in motor-driven boats, Zeppelin and Whirlwind aerial rides, a Tilt-a-whirl, Octopus and Skooter rides. The lake featured a water skiing show with a legless skier. Free evening dancing centered around the large turn-of-the-century merry-go-round on the main midway, The Venice Wrangler's furnished western style music.
In 1951, William Boyd, better known as Hoppalong Cassidy, was brought in as a business partner. The new and improved 80 acre park opened as Hoppyland on May 26, 1951 and included picnic grounds, baseball diamonds, horseshoe pitching lanes, and a lake for swimming and boating in addition to nearly twenty thrill rides. There was a special kiddy land area featuring a miniature merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, sleigh ride, airplane, pony cart and auto rides. Velare's Double Ferris Wheel, previously on the Ocean Park Pier, was added to the adult lineup.
Making A Hay Bail Fortresses With Tom Hale
Summertime meant going to Grandma and Grandpa Lewis' home in Tracy California. As you may remember, Fred and Mabel lived next door on a small farm. Small as it was, it did have a barn and in the barn was bails of hay. Hay bails, the construction material of champions.
Tom (Thomas Hale, my cousin) and I would head for the barn and begin the days labor of construction a castle of hay bails with secret passages, hallways, large rooms, and whatever else we could think of using these fine materials.
Inside Fred's barn, we would tug and lift these bails of hay high up into the barn stacking them very carefully. Sometimes I wonder how we survived because it would not have taken to much to make the whole pile fall over burying us alive in hay.
Did You Know? - Small bales are still produced today. While balers for small bales are still manufactured, as well as loaders and stackers, there are some farms that still use equipment manufactured over 50 years ago, kept in good repair. The small bale remains part of overall ranch lore and tradition with "hay bucking" competitions still held for fun at many rodeos and county fairs.
Small bales are stacked in a criss-crossed fashion sometimes called a "rick" or "hayrick." Since rain washes nutrition out of the hay and can cause spoilage or mold, hay in small bales is often stored in a hayshed or protected by tarpaulins. If this is not done, the top two layers of the stack are often lost to rot and mold, and if the stack is not arranged in a proper hayrick, moisture can seep even deeper into the stack.
We got a set of muscles that summer from moving the hay all over that bar building tunnels
and walls and stacking the hay to the ceiling!
If my memory serves me correctly, we could stack hay bails almost 10 high inside the barn so we had many aching muscles at the end of the day. I also vaguely remember the use of ropes and blocks and tackle which assisted in lifting the bails high into the afternoon air. The passage ways were often just wider than a bail of hay and required us to crawl on our hands and knees through the edifice under construction.
Greatest thing about this activity was it exercised our minds in building bigger and better forts, castles, or whatever's. It also by the way certainly exercised our bodies. I remember after a day in the barn, we would be itchy and sore but ready for more the next day!
The Hail Bailer Had To Be The Army Tank, Naturally!
Tom and I would sit in the old farm machinery around Fre's place and imagine we were
off to the moon or chasing the bad guys or driving a tank!
Old Fred has a lot of machines around the farm once of which was a hay bailer! This fine dandy machine was the source of all of our fun!
Those were the days. Sometimes when thinking out these memories, I can almost smell the hay.
Mopping The Stores
College time is expensive, even in the 1960's! Dad used to have to hire workers to come into the dime store after hours and mop the floors but alas, the people would steal the store blind. Finally Dad turned to Tom and I to do the mopping and we were paid what the workers were paid. Hell's bells, we made a fortune. The two of us could whip out a 10,000 square foot store in about three hours and e did two an evening making a load of money. Dad did not have to worry about stealing except for an occasional candy bar form the candy counter, he he!
Tom had a Volkswagen and I had a Chevy Impala Super Sport. On many occasions, Tom took the Chevy on his dates and I chose to drive the Volks! We enjoyed swapping the cars and it benefitted both of us! He got the bigger car and I got the better mileage!
That car had stories to tell!
Throwing Eggs At The Cows
Here we are in the middle of summer at Fred's farm. Tom and I found some guinea egg which we promptly decided to toss at the cows.
We thought it quite funny to toss eggs at Fred's cows. For the life of me I do not know why we did it, all I remember is trying many times and finally we got a bulls eye and took off running!
Fred did get a little angry. Perhaps "little" wasn't exactly the right words?
We apologized and was again allowed on the farm but warned NOT to do something so stupid again!
It's lucky we did not know about "cow tipping" or that would have been next!
Tom The Cop Killer
No, he did NOT kill a police officer. However, he did run into the back of a patrol car on a Friday night at the main drag in Stockton, California in 1961. The poor officer was thrown to the floor of the cruiser and the police dog went nuts. Tom, a good guy, ran up to see how the officer was doing and could not even get in the car for fear the dog would take his head off.
You would not have thought this little beast could smash the rear of a policeman's car... It did!
Having this happen on the main drag of Stockton California at 9:00 PM on Saturday night was NOT the best conditions for avoiding teasing for the rest of his life!
Working In The Dime Store
Tom began working full time in the dime store in the mid-1960's under Dad's tutelage he became one of the executives. At Dad's retiring, Tom was the General Manager of the chain of Ralph's 5,10, and 25 cent stores. I chose not to go into the business and stayed in school working on an engineering degree.