* What follows is an excerpt.
I’d like to take a moment to discuss a few things. First, there’s no font for sarcasm. So when my sarcastic jokes and comments bleed through, I apologize if you don’t “get the joke” I’m trying to get across. Don’t worry, my kids, my wife, and sometimes myself don’t get the jokes. I’ve done my best to limit them.
Second, I’ve excluded certain information from my story due to privacy concerns and simple respect for the parties involved. As of this writing, my parents are still alive and as much as I want to share everything, I want to respect their desire to live their own lives without getting an earful from a neighbor or friend about this, that, or the other thing. There are also things that just shouldn’t be shared. One of the biggest in this story is the [spoiler alert] divorce of my parents. For me, it was normal and no big deal. For my parents, it was a huge deal. In my research, I learned more about how big a deal it was and I’m even more amazed that they both not only put me first but still remained friends afterwards. It’s a true testament to how wonderful they are as people and how lucky I am to have them as parents. But I just don’t feel comfortable sharing a lot of details about the divorce.
Finally, I have written and rewritten the beginning to this story many times. This time I intend to finish the story. The story of my life. I began just before my parents met in the early 1970s and have yet to pick a stopping point. Right now, I’m thinking somewhere around the late 1990s when the Internet, email, and digital cameras are just coming into power and sounding the death knell of ephemera.
And it’s okay if you don’t know what “ephemera” means, neither did I when I first heard it. So go grab a dictionary real quick and learn a new word.
Okay, let’s start with the beginning and just see where we end up.
My story starts many years before my birth. My mother, Gayle, was born as the youngest twin to her parents Dorothy (Hollingsworth) and Andrew Lester. She was also the youngest of all her siblings: Dan, Diana, Susan, Irving, and Gary (her twin). My father, Gary, was born to Bertha (Phillips) and Claud Richard. He was the second of four sons: Harold, Gary (my father), Dennis, and Randy. I could spend a long time talking about any of these people or their ancestors. But this is my story, not theirs.
Claud Richard often has his name spelled “Claude” and rarely as “Claudie.” Based on his signature on a March 19, 1977 farm lease, he spelled it without the extra “E,” even though the contract has it spelled with the extra letter. There are also several census records and various family photos that have his name written on the back by Bertha where she spells it without the “E.” Names with and without an extra letter are still a topic of discussion within the family. I’ve used Claud’s signature as the definitive answer since it was in his own hand.
My story is an average tale of an average guy.
My father had left the Army in the early 1970s to work for the government in Oxnard, California. My mother had graduated high school and moved to Oxnard with her mother and stepfather. The stars were slowly beginning to align. Around the time of that alignment, in January of 1972, my father went to visit his Uncle George and Aunt Wilma in Sun City, Arizona.
I was actually named after Uncle George and Aunt Wilma, getting my first name from him and my middle name from her.
Before my self-proclaimed average life began, my parents had to meet each other. A mutual friend, Ed Roush, set them up on a date. Ed and his wife Linda lived in an apartment complex that they managed and Dorothy and Ted Hollingsworth (Dorothy and Ted were my mother’s mom and step-father) lived next door in the northwest corner of the second floor.
The apartment complex was on the corner of Nautilus Street and Mandalay Beach Road in Oxnard, just a few blocks from the beach. Dorothy and Ted moved into the apartment in June of 1971 right after their wedding. Gayle met the Roushs when she and her brother Gary drove a load of Dorothy’s personal effects to California in the summer of 1971. Dorothy and Ted only lived in the apartment for about six months.
Ed Roush also worked with my father at Point Mugu Naval Base in southern California. Between all parties involved, namely Ed, Linda, Ted, and Dorothy, my parents were set up on a blind date with each other in January of 1972. They went to El Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant, where my mother spent most of the time in the bathroom sick. Her mother told her to get a tostada but Gayle had never had Mexican food before. She wore a “double-knit pantsuit” that she purchased from Sears. It had long, bell-bottom pants, was blue and grey in color, and had a vest that went to her ankles. Under the vest, she wore a white long sleeve shirt.
They must have hit it off because they traveled together to meet Gary’s Aunt Wilma and Uncle George a few months later in May 1972. George was a World War II veteran and had many adventures in life before settling down. His wife Wilma had just as many adventures herself. Together, Wilma and George were key figures in Gary’s life as well as mine, acting as parents, grandparents, and of course an aunt and uncle.
On August 18, 1972, Gary purchased his first home. The list price was $19,995 but in the end, due to various fees, the total cost was $20,574.17. The house is located at 600 Foxglove Place in Oxnard, CA. Built by the Woodside Homes, a division of the Tanco Development Corporation, the house was located on Lot 22, Tract 2201-1 and is listed in Book 58, Pages 95 and 96. The three bedroom, two bathroom house is listed as “Plan #4” with 1,013 square feet. Although, according to Gary, the house was less than a thousand square feet. I checked the measurements myself and sure enough, the living area was only about 700 square feet. When the garage was included, it was nearly 1,100 square feet.
The development was built where Gary thinks an orange grove once stood, although Gayle thinks it may have been a lemon grove. Based on what little information I found, they were both wrong, but close. In both 1947 and 1967, that specific plot was an open field but an orchard was nearby. She moved in with Gary by December 1972. Carpet was installed but drapes were apparently a long time coming. Newspaper was taped to the windows for some time apparently. The carpet was exactly what you would expect of the 1970s, long shag. Carpet World, formerly located at 555 North Oxnard Boulevard, installed “Fiesta” in the living room, hall, and closet and put “Barcelona Blue” in the master bedroom and closet. Both carpets were made by 8th Wonder. The living room carpet was olive green, gold, and rust in color and would be referred to as “peanut butter jelly carpet” by my father (because if you dropped a peanut butter jelly sandwich, you wouldn’t see a stain). Much more practical than the solid gold carpet my mother wanted to get. The bedroom carpet was multiple shades of blue.
Three types of roses were planted on January 14, 1973; Lowell Thomas, Pink Radiance, and Matterhorn. In March 1973, Chrysler Imperial and Improved Blaze Climber were added. And later in 1973 John Rivers Nectarine, Rio Oso Gem Peach, Sims Peach, and Mariposa Plum were also planted. To keep the roses, grass, and other plants growing, Gary installed a watering system.
The living room had a six cushion sofa with pale gold color and a bit of shine to it. There was a chair with plain brown arm rests and legs that was olive in color and another that was orange. The coffee table was even more plain and a simple white. Next to the sofa was a speaker with small carved Buddha statues acting as bookends.
The master bedroom had quite the floral pattern for matching drapes and bed spread. The dresser was a four drawer style with various personal effects on top. These included a wedding photo Gary was in as a child, mirror, wallet, and lace doily. The second bedroom was much more plain with simple floral curtains and a white bedspread. All the wall where white with a dark brown baseboard trim.
In May of 1973, Bertha and her second husband Merle Yaryan, came to Southern California to visit. Bertha, Merle, and Gayle went to Disneyland. In August 1973, Gary and Gayle took a trip around the Western United States visiting family and friends.
Gary ordered an engagement ring on February 7, 1974 and presented it on Valentine’s Day a week later. Gayle wrote “got engagement ring from Gary.” The two were married on August 17, 1974. Gayle was 21, Gary was 29. Gayle wore a simple white dress with hand embroidered violets at the bottom. Gary wore a grey blue plaid suit with white shoes and a dark tie. They each sewed their own wedding outfit. Their marriage license was filed on August 22nd.
They were married at the Immanuel Bethel United Church of Christ on Lincoln Avenue in Dolton, Illinois. After the ceremony, they had an “informal picnic” at the Riverdale Park Memorial Building on 137th and Perry in Riverdale, Illinois. It was catered by Bozo’s, an area hot dog place where Gayle used to work. Nearly a week after their wedding, they were visiting family and friends in Nebraska. On August 22, Gayle wrote “stopped at Mullen, Neb. to see Gary’s old teacher Hazel Conser & her sister Hester.”
In June 1975, Gary would graduate from West Coast University with a Master of Science degree. The newlyweds would also visit the House of Yesterday in Hastings, Nebraska and the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago, Illinois. They would also travel to Hawaii in December, around Christmas, and also visited Gary’s brother Harold, who was stationed there with this family. They visited Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii, but spent most of their time on Oahu.