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MEMOIRS FROM

THE ROAD TO EVERYWHERE

THE ROAD TO ROCK N ROLL



SEBASTIAN JAYMES


Copyright © 2017 Sebastian Jaymes

All rights reserved.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

ISBN-10: 1542892317

ISBN-13: 978-1542892315

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Cover Art: © Sebastian Jaymes

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For

Jim And Helen

You gave all you had to give

For that I will always be grateful.



And


For “Ace”

It was your generosity that led me to

The Road To Everywhere



Go In Peace


CONTENTS

AUTHORS NOTE

PROLOGUE

PART ONE: FROM WHENCE I CAME

1. I’m Born

2. 1980’s Lake Tahoe

3. Immigrant Roots

4. Dad

5. Mom - Ingersol Road

6. Mount Carmel Road

7. 1948 - 1950

PART TWO: WAITING FOR THE WORLD TO BEGIN

8. 1951 - 1953

9. A Catholic Upbringing

10. Clover Blossom Drive

11. Cub Scouts And New Friends

12. Life Goes On, On Clover Blossom Drive

13. The Beginning Ends

PART THREE: THE ROAD THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL HELL

14. Public School: Friends And Bullies

15. Back To Life On Clover Blossom Drive

16. The Good The Bad And Jr High

17. From Clover Blossom To Camelot

18. High School Hell

19. Independence

20. BG Boys

21. 1964 - A Pivotal Year

22. 1965

PART FOUR: ENIGMAS, MYSTICS, AND MISFITS

23. 1965 - 1966

24. 1967 - The Enigmas

25. Mystics

26. The Misfits

27. The Misfits Again, And Again

PART FIVE: BLACK CAT

28. The Fifth

29. Ann Arbor, Michigan

30. Sonadyne

31. Mill Road House

32. Black Cat Farm - The Winter Of Discontent

33. New York City

34. Holland Manor

35. Los Angeles

36. When It’s Over, It’s Over

37. Start Again, From The Beginning

38. Sad Ending To A New Beginning

AFTERWORD: 1980’S VAN NUYS, CALIFORNIA

AUTHORS BIOGRAPHY


“I knew A Lad Who Went To Sea

And Left the Shore Behind Him

I knew Him Well The Lad Was Me

And Now I Cannot Find Him”

Song Lyric:

Theme from the film “The Gallant Men”


AUTHORS NOTE

This memoir, no doubt, does not contain 100 per cent truth. It is simply the best of my recollections, an attempt at deciphering the timeline of the adventures and musings of my personal journey through life based on memories, some more than four decades old. Names have been changed, and therein, to the best of my understanding, lay the only untruths.

At the time of this writing, many of the paths i’ve crossed on my personal journey have changed direction. Many opposite personalities have emerged and many life paths have been altered, most for the better. Past indiscretions have, in most cases, been forgotten or forgiven, and many rivers have changed course.

This book is only the beginning of an epic journey, a true tale nonetheless. An epic, an odyssey, a journey; and a path through a life remembered. I share it all as i rant, rave, suffer, celebrate, rejoice, despair, wonder, lament, philosophize, and examine the patchwork of experiences that have made up my life. I’ve tried to be as truthful as i know how, and as accurate as memory will allow. The goal was to format the snapshots of my journey to fill the largest screen of all; the one between the readers ears.

Many years ago i composed a first draft i thought might be of some interest to the general public. I shopped it around and it got nowhere. Long years, and many life experiences later now, i realize what makes my life, apart from my own passion and curiosity for life itself, so interesting to me. It is the continuing interactions with the people i’ve been fortunate to come in contact with along the road. This, in itself, is a personality conflict; as i have always, from birth, been a solitary soul. Nonetheless i’ve been afforded over the years the opportunity to meet or work with people from all walks of life from all over the world, especially from the higher levels of popular music and mainstream entertainment where I have been gainfully employed in one capacity or another for over 49 years.

By compiling the stories, vignettes, and recollections of my life, it is not my intention to slander, malign, trivialize, sensationalize, or “tell all” about the characters who weave their way through the history of my life. Some are, or were, famous, some are not, and some are so obscure as to be remembered only in my own memory.

This book is a memoir, a travelogue of the inner and outer journeys of a life, my life a well travelled life, to say the least, which has been interesting, exciting, and enlightening.

The people I refer to in my memoir are human beings in varying states of just being alive and coping with their individual lives as affected by their chosen paths. My intention is merely to celebrate, honor, and share their spirit and our common past experiences by way of our interwoven life stories, eccentricities, quirks, foibles, and humanities. In most cases, I have done so without excess of judgment, or intent of malice.

I have changed names to keep focus on the stories and not their social or media status and to avoid any negative misconceptions or embarrassment that might arise from the telling.

If in my zeal I have unduly or unknowingly offended or embarrassed anyone I offer my heartfelt, humble, and most sincere apologies. I only ask that the reader, understand the spirit in which it this was written


PROLOGUE

Like most of my peers in the post world war II 1950's, I was a product of the mass migration from the ethnic harbors of the inner city, to the new american ghetto, the tract house suburb. this is where much of the melting in the melting pot of my life occurred. most of us were the sons and daughters of mothers and fathers from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Their parents had pulled up centuries of roots in the towns, farms and small villages of their native countries to come to america. They made the daring move across the seas to find a better, more prosperous way of life. They brought with them a certain rebellion, a curiosity for life, and a restlessness that would be handed down to us through their children, our parents.

Most of our grandparents arrived in this country shortly after world war I, "the war to end all wars," had torn apart and uprooted most of europe and the balkans.

With nothing to lose and everything to gain, many of these displaced persons decided to strike out for america, the land of milk and honey, where it was thought even the most common man had wealth beyond comprehension.

In those first days after the great war, immigration standards in the U.S. were loose and poorly regulated. Until 1935, when stricter, more rigidly enforced quotas were initiated; anyone with the price of passage and a proper passport could take a chance at a new life in the land of the free.

In most cases, our grandparents arrived only to be confronted with the poverty and degradation of the great depression. The milk and honey were not flowing as freely as they had imagined. Higher aspirations aside, they could only nurture their dreams, bear their frustrations, and go on surviving day to day under the very poverty conditions they had hoped to rise above. for the time being, the wants and dreams of a whole generation were put on hold.

With poor language skills, little or no education, and a vague understanding of the customs, these new americans were left with few prospects in a depression era job market that was virtually non-existent. Life was frustrating at every turn; everything seemed to be against them. Looked down upon by most god fearing citizens, they were considered to be ignorant intruders threatening the survival of a population already hard pressed in the worst economic drought in american history.

Our ancestor's original motivations to better themselves in the new land, as well as their current frustrations, kept them hard driven and fine tuned to the realities of survival at its most basic level. Backs against the wall, financially destitute, and too proud to return to their homelands even if they could, they made a stand right here in america.

Their offspring, our parents, though born American citizens, never had much chance to prove themselves beyond the hopes and dreams of their immigrant families. They grew up within the tight knit bi-lingual atmosphere of ethnic communities that retained the customs, language, dress, ideals, and mannerisms of the lands their parents had left behind. sheltered by the warmth, security, and familiarity the ethnic ghettos had to offer, our parents took refuge from the hostility, prejudice and differences of the outside world. In the italian community the Catholic church was often the nucleus of the community. The church not only provided spiritual solace and moral guidance, but physical activities as well in the form of social gatherings, recreational programs, sports, and numerous youth programs. Local clergy were often bi-lingual and sometimes acted as spokesmen for the community.

As our parents were coming of age, the great depression was winding down, and Eorld War II began to escalate.

With america’s involvement in WW II came new depravations, new hardships. families were separated by the call to the military, curfew and rationing imposed.

World War II did something else to the American population: it brought individuals out of the ethnic enclaves of the ghettos and into the defense plants, foxholes, and front lines in every aspect of the war effort, side by side with members of every race and nationality. and while the men went to war, the genders were learning to cooperate in a side-by-side effort as women cast aside traditional roles as wives, mothers, and housekeepers, and stepped into demanding roles in defense plants all across the country.

Many of those deferred by the military were called upon to become producers of the goods and services that kept the war machine rolling. And produce they did. The allies out produced their opposition at new unheard of levels never before achieved by any nation on the face of the earth. Near its end, the war took on a new facet. High technology: rockets, jets, computing machines, transistors. Devices previously imagined only in science fiction were becoming a reality.

Finally in the biggest theatrical production ever staged by mankind, the end of the war was punctuated by the one event that would loom largest in the nightmares of future generations: the atomic bomb.

Subsequently, the instant, no money down, GI loan financed culture of the 1950’s was born. The middle class thrived and was reflected in the early days of television production. It was a Leave It To Beaver World, in an Ozzie And Harriet mood, living the everyday Life Of Riley, with an underlying Howdy Doody consciousness.

Still geared up for war time production levels, the American war machine switched to the production of consumer goods for the hungry masses unable to indulge themselves, first during the great depression, then during strict war time rationing. toasters, radios, vacuum cleaners, nylon stockings; luxury items were being force fed to the general public, its pockets bulging with either post war cash or newly instituted instant credit.

Advertising was in its heyday. With increased media coverage available through TV., radio, and magazines, the american people could be led to the purchase of almost any product when packaged and presented in the right setting.

My peer group was the result of what has occurred since the beginning of time when every conquering army in history returned to their homeland: a baby boom.

We grew up with all the mass produced luxuries our parents credit could provide; we ate good hearty food in abundance, were clothed in current fashions, enjoyed educational, recreational toys, lived in new mass produced tract homes, and were entertained as only royalty of old could have expected, right in our own homes. the hopes and dreams of our grandparents had finally been achieved: we were wealthy beyond all expectations. milk and honey flowed freely in america.

From our youngest days we were spoon-fed a mixture of conflicting dogmas, all spoken and sworn upon as gospel; each bearing its own promise in guilt of eternal damnation and "hell fire". Most advocated a promised land in the hereafter reached through years of worthiness, earned by selfless trusting in principles of devotion to a supreme being, who, as just reward would personally escort us, upon our departure from this life, into his holy kingdom in the great and unknown beyond.

In exchange for this right and privilege, we were told all that was required of us was a life of high moral and spiritual devotion to the higher principles as set forth in each particular sect’s holy book. Most agreed on those principles being love, compassion, self-sacrifice, and devotion to a central deity: god.

As we grew older, other ideals began to seep into our consciousness. From day one on the playground we knew it was not going to be easy. Get hit: fight back, be a winner. Turn the other cheek: be a victim, you lose; you're a loser: branded.

From the media, pounded into our brains at two beats a second: "Pepsi Cola hits the spot,” buy more, eat more, use more, more is good, more is God, less is weak, less is bad. Sexy women said: "buy this car”, “wear this cologne", use this product: fall in love: be a man. You are powerful: money is power. Use your power: buy, spend; be superior. Rule the elements, rule the world, you are God; you are wealthy. Use your power, buy, buy, buy. achieve, climb to the top, be strong, never fail, produce, consume, dominate, be dominant, run the world. Compete, compete, compete.

The race was on. as a nation, we had reached the pinnacle of world dominion. as children we were confused with conflicting ideals, saturated with media bombardments and afraid of the bomb. “Big Brother” was approaching puberty.

Our grandparent’s dreams had come to life in us. We were better educated, healthier, wealthier, enjoyed more leisure time and had more information available to us than they could ever have imagined. Yet that wasn't enough. Something was missing. We thought there should be more… so we rebelled. transistor radios blasting rock n roll music, drag races, beach parties, Elvis, Punks, James Dean, Jack Kerouac, Beatniks, Hippies.

We were the first to express the personal power that mass production, instant credit, prosperity, more leisure time and television and movies had bought us. More knowledge equals more power.

We carried our rebellion through high school and into college years: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Mods, long hair, drugs, eastern philosophies, loose morals, civil rights, free love, women’s lib, meditation, Hippies, Yuppies.

Throughout the adolescent years and beyond, we brokedown the parental and societal bonds that tied us to the dogmas. We openly questioned the basic morals, values, and social systems we had been taught to worship. The world in general became involved in a quest for something unknown, unnamed, as yet unheard of: a whim, an ideal, and an inspiration for a better way of life. we sought a place where our instincts and worldly heritage could blend our expanding consciousness with the cosmos and form the way of the future. we sought the ultimate truth.

Life on earth had changed and we were the first to know it. the first to feel the growing pains of an expanded consciousness achieved as a result of modern pharmacology.

Some revelled in new, inner discoveries, and celebrated them. Some enjoyed the new climate of freedom and pursued it. others perverted it. And yet, there were those who in going with the flow, reached out, taking in the good and rejecting the bad. And unfortunately, there were those, who as a result of their excesses were casualties of their own exuberance. Thus was born the Nineteen-Sixties when many of us set out into life on the journey that should never end: the search for self, self-awareness, and higher consciousness.

A few of us were extremely fortunate. in our search for ourselves we found a never-ending adventure; on a road that led to everywhere.





PART ONE

FROM WHENCE I CAME


1

I’M BORN

I was born on this planet we call Earth shortly after the end of the Great Second World War; on the North American Continent, Great Lakes region, of the United States of America. And so I came to be; to exist, physically alive.

I understand there are vast components to my being. From the beginning I have questioned the nature of my existence. I have always wanted to gain an understanding of my existence, to grow within and beyond the framework of my existence. I was born with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, especially when gained through life experiences.

Physically, I know I’m just a machine. An eating, drinking, air breathing, organically structured machine. My Essence exists within an organic space suit; a taut covering of dead cells and micro-organisms over living tissue, on a framework of matter of various forms and functionalities intricately assembled as a vehicle for that essence to survive in and adapt to a hostile, yet friendly, somewhat compatible, physical environment that is constantly evolving.

It has been said by some, more scholarly and learned than me, that the human body is 10% human being and 90% habitat for various viruses, germs, and other microscopic life forms. Presently, I am one of approximately 6.8 Billion similar, yet uniquely different beings on the planet.

The machine, though organic, is animated. It is able to propel itself through the environment, and nourish and refuel itself from other organic sources within the environment. It can perform all manner of automated tasks, extract nutrients, convert them to energy and torque, and expel all used and unused matter in an efficient way. My body is the Space Suit my real essence requires to complete its mission within the environmental conditions of Planet Earth. I also have a mind, a learning machine. An organic central processor that outputs direct physical manifestations of the impressionable, emotional, academic environmental affectations it gathers.

Yet, I know I am more than just a body and a brain. What is the force that animates me? What fuels the mind that drives the body and compels it to think and move in any direction? There is something. I know this.

There is a force, I feel, beyond the realm I live in. It drives the mind, the body, the physical urges, the appetites, the lust for life and knowledge that all humans posses. I can’t see the force. I can’t touch it. I can only sense it from deep beyond the background noises of my inner being. Sometimes it is faint, drowned out by the workings of the mind as it plots the riddles, the puzzles, and the problems of everyday life. Yet, it is always there. Sometimes it rises to the top faintly. Often, it blares loudly from deep within me. It peeks out at me from the far reaches of my mind, showing itself with a little voice here, a beacon of light there, a sensation, and an urge to think or physically move in a given direction. Yet always to learn, to experience, to grow and retain experiences in memory, share them with others and compare notes. It drives me to assimilate knowledge and grow and expand my awareness.

To what end? I don’t know. I can only hope that my life’s observations and experiences, as played out in the stories of my life, and the others I have shared experiences with in the brief time I have been given to be alive, might give us all a clue that hopefully brings us closer to a clearer understanding of what it is we are really doing here, why we are alive at all, and where it is we could possibly be going. Or, at the least, allows us to take comfort in an understanding of the similarities many of us are largely unaware of in our individual existences. I believe this can be a baby step on the road to tolerance. And tolerance, a baby step toward understanding, which is hopefully the path to enlightenment and an ultimate peaceful existence


2

1980’S - LAKE TAHOE

A Lear jet roars down a runway at the tiny Lake Tahoe airport picking up speed. Taking flight it corkscrews upward between the mountains through puffy clouds. Gaining altitude, the plane soars higher through the low clouds that almost touch the Tahoe basin, seeking the smooth sailing of the clear blue skies beyond the tops of the mountain peaks.

A thirty something me sits relaxed in a plush leather seat, cold Mineral Water in hand, marveling at the wonders of nature and the buoyancy of it all: every element finding it’s place in the bubbling stew of the universe.

The little jet corkscrews higher yet, almost on its side, spiraling farther and farther upward. The view out my window holds me riveted. The sky darkens and we enter the clouds, then clears as we exit between snow-capped mountains. Glistening lakes and green forests scroll by below us as we clear the High Sierra mountain peaks.

I’m thirty-something, fit, healthy, and living the dream. I have good friends, nice clothes, money in the bank, cash in my pocket, a home to return to, and I’m seeing the world on someone else’s dime. I’m literally on top of the world looking down; doing what I was born to do.

I enjoy my job as tour manager for a Famous Celebrity Artist known for his song writing and hit records, live performances, TV shows, and movie roles.

The Boss is a decent guy, a sharp, extremely successful good ol boy from the Lone Star State who treats myself, our traveling troupe of Singers and Dancers, Musicians and technical crew, as extended family.

Normal days on the road are long. Most often there are commercial flights and rental cars, hotel check ins and check outs, sound checks, rehearsals, room service meals, some bar time, and a little sleep before dragging bags to the door for a bellman to collect so the cycle can begin again for the length of a tour of one night stands. I’m bulletproof, and the lifestyle fuels my spirit, confirming that I’m alive.

This trip was a breeze. Two weeks in Lake Tahoe, high in the California/Nevada Sierra Mountains. There, it was two shows a night in the showroom of the largest Casino in town, sleeping in a Five Star luxury hotel under fresh sheets in the same bed every night.

True, the nights were long with two shows per night then a few hours of decompression at the hotel bar and/or gaming tables. But the days at the lake also offer the quiet serenity of nature, as well as day trips to ski lodges, ghost towns, hiking trails and nearby Basque Country.



The Lear Jet levels off at cruising altitude high above the clouds soaring through the clear blue sky toward home in Los Angeles. I settle in my seat and as I often do, silently give thanks, reaffirming a personal connection to a higher power that answered the adolescent prayer allowing me this experience from within the framework of my very ordinary existence. True to my nature, I constantly look inward, back in time, to review events that have led me to a particular place and moment in time.


3

IMMIGRANT ROOTS

In 1905 Theodore Roosevelt was the U.S. President. The Territory of Oklahoma was granted Statehood, and writer Philosopher Ayn Rand, who would later proclaim that the middle classes were the future of Society, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. In Baseball, Ty Cobb made his major league debut and hit a double in his first at bat for the Detroit Tigers.



1905 was also the year my maternal Grandfather-to-be came to the U.S. from his Native Calabria in Italy. He settled on Ingersol Ave. in the predominately Italian neighborhood I was born in. He and his wife raised three sons and a daughter there. In the 1930 census, Grandpa Frank’s occupation is listed as “Sewer Worker.”

Frank’s wife passed on shortly after giving birth to their youngest. Heartbroken, yet a practical man, he set out to find a wife and mother for his children. As was the custom and tradition among Italian immigrants, Frank sought out the advice of the neighborhood “Padrone” or “Godfather”.

Back then the term “Godfather” was generally used to describe a man of the Italian community who had learned quickly how the local politics and subcultures worked in America. This person functioned as a self-appointed spokesman for the neighborhood. He offered protection from injustices, settled internal disputes, and brokered deals between members of the community and the outside world of the “Americani.” The concept, brought over from the old country, gave the Padrone certain inherent business, political, and monetary advantages. It was part of a traditional feudal system of social and conflict resolution, most prominent amongst Italians of that time. To the Italian-American community the Godfather was a benevolent guardian, a Champion who got things done for his people, and often profited as a result.

Frank was eager to have his Godfather’s help in brokering a deal for a new wife to help raise his children. Conveniently, the Godfather knew of the perfect woman back in their village of Altavilla in Calabria. The woman, my future Grandmother Giovanina Imbrogno, was coincidentally the first cousin of Frank’s deceased wife.

The Godfather began corresponding with Giovanina’s father and made arrangements for a formal betrothal. Soon a dowry was set. Giovanina’s father made it clear to her that she was now properly betrothed and that all ties to a local suitor, who fully expected to be her husband one day, must be broken.

Then on March 1, 1921 Giovanina departed Italy from the port of Naples on The SS Patria bound for New York. She was met In New York by “Paisans” of The Godfather who cared for her while they implemented the next stage of her long Journey to Frank. Her next stop, pre-arranged by The Godfather, was Buffalo New York. Other “Paisans” made her comfortable while they arranged her ultimate transfer to her final destination on the North Coast.

On arrival, the formal courtship period began in the Old Italian tradition. When the courtship ended, Frank and Giovanina were married in the neighborhood church. My Mother, Helen Marie was a product of their marriage.

Grandma Giovanina once said that the day she and Frank were married he gathered the family together and declared: “This is your Mother: you disrespect her you disrespect me.”



Not much is known about my paternal grandparents journey to America. Family tradition says that Angelina and Sebatino came from the Catania region in Sicily at around the same time as Grandpa Frank. My Dad was born to Sebatino and Angelina on July 9,1922.

Sebatino was a street Peddler. He sold fruits and vegetables from a horse drawn wagon on the city streets. Dad had few memories of his father. He had one distinct memory though, of a time as a toddler, when he hid under the seat of the wagon so he could spend the day with his father. Sebatino died while my father was still a child.

Dad also spoke of an uncle that lived with his family and how one day, climbing the steep stairs from the basement, he collapsed dead on the kitchen floor.

When my father was still a young boy, Angelina was remarried to a man I knew as Tony B. They were the Paternal Grandparents I grew up knowing.

I recall Tony B as a slow moving, large framed, stoop shouldered man with a droopy head, huge bags under his eyes, and a deep resonant voice. Angelina was also big boned. She had loose fitting dentures and large hands. Her skin seemed to hang loosely in folds from her ample frame. She spoke a Sicilian dialect and very little English, her voice hoarse, barely above a stage whisper, like an elderly female Don Corleone.

As a boy, I visited their home on 144th St. in the Kingman Ave. neighborhood often. What was once a neighborhood of proud Italian and Jewish immigrants was, by then, a poor predominately black ghetto. Their drab 2 bedroom living quarters were on the first floor of a Two Family over and under style home. Dad’s younger brother, Nino, occupied the 2nd bedroom. His sister, my Aunt Carmella, lived in the upper unit at the top of a long, dark, steep stairway with her husband and twin boys.

The Angelina and Tony I knew lived a sad, colorless existence. Angelina never said much; she was cold and distant. In contrast, my memory of Tony is of a warm and friendly old man who spoke decent English with a Sicilian accent from a deep baritone voice, and made wine in huge barrels in their dungeon of a basement. I believe Tony B was a good man, but devoted to Angelina more out of a sense of duty or obligation, and purely for companionship, rather than any deeper love.

Angelina and Tony were TV Wrestling fans. On Saturday afternoons they could be found sitting side by side on a couch staring stoically at the tube. I recall winter visits, when they were locked in on the televised matches, the heat from the coal furnace so high as to be unbearable to me. To keep from falling asleep from the heat and boredom I took long walks outside in the winter air to revive myself. Even now as I recall those visits, I feel trapped, confined, and enslaved. That feeling of trapped confinement has been a motivating factor for me, a thread that runs quietly through my entire life.

Angelina was an abusive mother. When Dad literally ran around the neighborhood she chained him to their front porch earning Dad the nickname “chain-gang” amongst the other neighborhood kids.

Tony was kinder and earned my Dad’s respect. When Angelina went into one of her tirades he would slip my Dad a few coins just to get him out of the house and away from her, playing nicely into Dad’s natural inclinations to wander freely.


4

DAD

Sometime in my adolescent years Dad discovered my passion for Civil War history. Remembering a Bayonet he had acquired from that era as a boy, he thought it might still be hidden amidst the rafters in the dungeon-like basement of Angelina and Tony’s house. On our next visit, Dad led me down to the basement where he stuck his hand in the rafters. He fished about for a moment then extracted a real Civil War era Bayonet and proudly presented it to me. That Bayonet was with me for years through various show and tells and school reports. In my late teens it somehow mysteriously disappeared.

Dad spoke little of his real father, except for the time he hid away in his father’s wagon. Sensing my eye for adventure, he did occasionally mention his own adolescent adventures.

As a teenager, Dad took up boxing for a time in the Golden Gloves program. He also spoke fondly of the time he ran away to Atlantic City with friends in a Model A Ford. He earned his way there as a waiter.

Another time, Dad and some other boys from his neighborhood broke into an office above a local movie theater and made off with a treasure trove of ancient coins, a few of which survived into my childhood..

My Dad also piqued my childhood imagination with tales of hidden rooms and bootleggers tunnels between houses and storefronts in his old 144th St neighborhood.

The best thing my Dad ever did for my imagination was to encourage my love for books by supporting my participation in the book club at our local library.

When he was a teenager, a teacher slapped his sister, my aunt Frannie. My Dad, boxing then and presumably in great shape, punched him and broke his nose. He was arrested by juvenile authorities and convicted of the crime. The judge gave him a choice, a jail sentence or the CCC’s. He wisely chose the CCC’s.

The CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps, was a President Franklin D Roosevelt work relief program for young men. Part of the New Deal from 1933 to 1942. It was a depression era make-work program whose focus was on conserving our Natural resources. A popular program, it was in operation in almost every State of the Union. Though not a correctional facility or branch of the military, the young men lived in rural camps, wore Army Uniforms, and conformed to strict Military discipline.

My Dad often spoke fondly of the CCC’s and how they’d sent him to Green River Utah, Reno Nevada, and Idaho. The camp life, rigid military discipline, and hard physical work building dams, roadbeds, erosion control, and fire roads, was good for Dad. I’ve always assumed that with his newfound freedom and sense of purpose and discipline that this is where he blossomed.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor In 1941, many of the CCC men quickly and easily made the transition from the CC’s to the military. Over 7,000 of them immediately enlisted in all branches of the armed forces. Some suspected that Roosevelt set up the program with just that in mind knowing the US would eventually have to enter the war that was already being waged in Europe.

In 1941, at the age of nineteen, Dad was released from the CC’s. In December that year after Pearl Harbor was attacked he was a truck driver, hauling gravel locally. Then on September 26,1942, Dad was drafted into the Army. Army life was good for him in the same way the CC’s had been. He was assigned to the 322nd Infantry Anti Tank Company of the 81st “Wildcats” Division. The original Wildcats, in 1917, had the distinction of being the first to adopt a distinguishing shoulder patch: a black “wildcat” in an olive drab circle.

The Wildcats moved to Camp San Luis Obispo California for advanced training in November of 1943 and spent Christmas there. A short time later, they moved to Camp Beale, California, then shipped out for jungle training in Hawaii.

World War II reached its peak in the early part of 1944. In January, the Allies landed at Anzio to take Italy. In February the Massive bombing campaign against Germany began. By June the Allies had captured Rome. Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of German occupied Europe began on June 6,1944 on the beaches of Normandy while my Dad was in Hawaii training to fight in the Jungles of Asia.

June in the Pacific theatre saw the invasion of the island of Saipan in the Marianas and the US Defeat of the Japanese in a massive air battle that was to be known as the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

By late August in Europe, the Allies, deep in France, had liberated Paris and dominated headlines around the world.

in the Pacific, US Marines methodically landed on beaches and slogged their way through one island at a time at a cost of thousands of lives. The Wildcats were still in Hawaii preparing for what would become one of the bloodiest, most controversial campaigns of the Pacific; the assaults on Angaur and Peleliu Islands.

About that time British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery’s Operation Market Garden, “A bridge Too Far”, failed to find it’s way into the back door of Germany through Arnhem in Holland. On Sept 17, in the South Pacific, Operation Stalemate, the invasion of Angaur Island, was launched. Service records show my Dad initially drove a truck there “in combat conditions, hauling ammunition and rations at night under blackout conditions over unfamiliar terrain.”

Official records are murky and Dad’s service records conflict with memoirs by Veterans of the campaign, making a serious timeline Dad’s activities on Angaur difficult. But his reminiscences and his service record shows that on Sept 28, 1944, he was seriously wounded in an enemy mortar barrage. Over Three Thousand troops lost their lives in Operation Stalemate, an operation which many thought was unnecessary.

Dad’s extensive wounds, mainly on his feet and back, were complicated by the large amount of shrapnel he took all over his body. He was evacuated to a hospital ship, then back to the US where he spent the next several years recovering from his wounds.

My Dad never said much about his combat experiences, but he did speak fondly of the visits entertainer Bob Hope made to the hospital ship and various other Hospitals he was in while recovering from his wounds. The outcome of his participation in the battle of Angaur Island would play a huge part in Dad’s destiny and the shaping of his succeeding generations.

On March 21, 1946, Doctors signed off on Dad’s honorable discharge from the Army due to his disabilities. He continued to undergo treatment at Crile Army Hospital, later part of the Veterans Administration. It was there he was destined tomeet my mother.


5

MOM - INGERSOL ROAD

In 1922, Babe Ruth was thrown out of a game for the fifth time. Commercial TV did not yet exist. Radio was the latest big thing. Radio stations were popping up all across the country, and Ed Wynn was signed as the first national radio performer



Grandpa Frank and Grandma Giovannina (Jenny) were married in 1921. On September 27,1922, Giovannina gave birth to my Mother, Helen Marie.

Everyday life in the neighborhood revolved around the Catholic Church. Priests delivered bi lingual sermons and ministered to their parishioners with respect to old country customs. Every village group from Italy brought over it’s own patron Saint. To honor their saints they marched in colorful procession’s that wound through the neighborhood. Each neighborhood also had its Religious Societies devoted to that Saint. The Societies offered private help, such as death and sick benefits. Each Society had its own marching band from the neighborhood. The bands marched with them on all the processional days. Old women with veiled hats and big corsages, from small towns and villages all over Italy, marched with children and altar boys carrying candles and burning incense.

Festive occasions honoring other saints were held in the streets with food and music, games and dancing. Statues of the celebrated saint were hand carried through the streets led by the Parish priest. The bands and Society marchers also made themselves available for funerals. At times, a Bishop, Cardinal, or other local dignitary attended. Mom’s Parish Church was called Our Lady Of Mount Carmel and eventually Ingersoll Rd was renamed Mount Carmel Road as well.

In 1924 a younger sister, Florence, was born. Florence died of Leukemia at the age of nine, leaving Mom the only remaining offspring of Frank and Giovanina’s marriage

In contrast to Dads turbulent, restless, and abusive childhood, Mom had the normal upbringing of a middle-class, blue-collar all American girl raised in an Italian American household. The Family lived in a two family home on Ingersoll Road practically in the shadow of Luna Park, then a popular local Amusement Park.

My Mom’s life was centered in the neighborhood, revolving around family and friends, school, sports, and the Church. She was an average student with many friends both male and female. She was a good softball player, which earned her the nickname “slugger” in her Catholic Youth Organization league.

Mom went to a public grade school in the neighborhood. High School got her out of the neighborhood for the first time. Monroe High, built in 1923, the year after she was born, was a twenty-minute bus ride away. Ironically, in 1937 when she attended, she rode the bus from her city neighborhood to the then suburban school. In 1962, I would ride a bus from the far suburbs to the same school, considered then to be in an urban area.

When War Broke out in 1941, my Mom and thousands of other women, went to work in an aircraft assembly plant. This was the first step in women’s equality. No longer viewed as just baby makers and housewives, women became a mainstay of the war effort.

Sometime in early 1946, Carmella, a friend and former co-worker, asked Mom to accompany her on the long bus ride to visit her brother at the VA Hospital. There, Mom and Dad fell deeply in love and were soon married. They spent a short honeymoon on a farm owned by friends of the family. Mom always said there was no mystery about how I got here. I was a result of that honeymoon on the farm.


6

MOUNT CARMEL ROAD

My earliest impressions of life were formed on Mount Carmel road. The taste of freshly made Italian lemon ice and homemade root beer from the little ice cream store in front of the neighbor’s house; the smell of the grocery store up the block; the mysterious “grill on the hill” where my dad occasionally went for a cold beer; father O’Donnell, the parish priest, playing cards and drinking with the men in the neighborhood; dad, helping grandpa dig his garden; my baby sister and a newborn baby brother on the day of his christening when my parents went off to the church in a high backed 40’s car as i watched from the living room window; a beagle named lucky, who wasn’t, and got killed by a car; and a young me sitting on the front porch with the family, crying, because lucky wasn’t coming back. Then Grandpa Frank was gone too. “up to heaven” they said, where I would see him some day when I joined him there. “Where is this place,” I wondered.

The first concrete memories of my existence began at that house and the first inklings of wanderlust emerged. In an impression that occasionally surfaces in my mind I’m riding my tricycle up and down the sidewalk, unsupervised at last. What great imaginary adventures I had.

A right turn out of our driveway, a short ride two doors away, led to Mr. And Mrs. Fusco’s house. They were the Old Italian couple that lived in the house on the corner at 111th street. The single-family brick and stone home and yard were monuments to the stone masonry craftsmanship the old man brought with him from the old country.

The low fieldstone wall that surrounded the property was crowned with wrought iron fencing of a previous era. Behind it lay a mysterious garden and a gurgling stone fountain. A grape arbor spanned the rustic pathway that led through patches of lush plant life. I always stopped and stared through the iron bars allowing my mind to wander the pathways in fantasies now forgotten.

At the end of the block, I’d round the corner to the right. If I I was lucky, the doors to the Fusco’s garage, more of an old horse barn from a previous era, were open and I’d catch a glimpse of the shiny black motorcar that was antique even in 1950. “Electric,” someone once said. “Old man Fusco’s got an old electric car in his garage.”

Total freedom was not mine, yet. My boundaries were clearly defined. Mom’s firm instructions were to, “never go past the end of the Fusco’s lot,” where 111th street crossed Notre Dame Avenue. The dutiful obedient kid I was then always stopped short of crossing the line. But I spent a lot of time gazing beyond it, projecting my uncluttered little mind into the mysteries of what lay in the unknown territory.

Left turns out of our driveway brought a completely different adventure. A little wood frame ice cream shop stood in front of our neighbor Mr. Olivo’s two-family home. Farther up the block, a row of similar looking cracker box houses stretched up the slight grade in the road that bent left until it reached the confluence of Notre dame Ave and Mount Carmel road.

Our lady of mount Carmel church and grade school, occupied the pie shaped lot where the two streets met. They were the focal point of neighborhood social life, religious education, and moral and spiritual dogma. My boundary in that direction ended at the bend in the road and left me some distance short of exploring the church grounds.

The little me always rode the trike to the farthest allowable point.

Once, I stopped at an old single family home to watch the smoke coming from its chimney. I had been told that a little boy my age died there, and was now up in heaven with the angels. Gazing at the house and the smoke rising from the chimney, my young mind equated the smoke with the little boys passing, as if it were his essence rising to heaven. I wondered where it was we all go when we too, as smoke, floated away. It was a great mystery and I was curious. I sat there on my trike at the edge of my boundary, one with the rising smoke, pondering the mystery.

Another day when I turned left, i discovered the neighborhood grocery. The little store in the heart of the neighborhood was curious to me for its densely stocked shelves that held the basic staples of life. The trike offered the perfect vantage point from which to sit and observe the short rows of shelves and bins between the narrow aisles that held colorful little boxes and tins, bags, bottles, and barrels of products that mom and grandma could turn into a meal, or a snack, or use in a variety of other ways around the house.

A mixed bunch of older boys and girls were playing in the street in front of the store. I watched silently as they spun around in circles flying a small bowtie shaped cardboard device tethered at the end of a ribbon. They turned around and around in circles, sometimes snapping the ribbons like a whip, creating a whiny whistling sound like a powered model airplane. I watched from a distance as other kids entered the store, exiting with brand new devices that expanded the droning, filling the entire neighborhood with the sound.

The trike and I once explored Mr. Olivo’s long driveway. It led past the little ice cream store to the back of his two family home where the driveway opened up to a large fenced-in concrete pad and a long row of garages.

I rounded the back of the house and heard a group of kids screaming and yelling in a hostile and aggressive way. I was curious and pedaled around the corner where I spotted two groups of older kids facing off for a fight. One group had been ambushed and was trapped with their backs to the fence at the farthest point in the yard. In desperation the trapped group picked up rocks and stones and threw them at their opponents.

A stone throwing battle broke out and the trapped kids tried to make a run for it. Stones flew everywhere as the defenders ran for the driveway, the only way out. I passively observed from a distance outside the battlefield until I was hit in the forehead by an off target missile. Quickly abandoning the trike, I ran home, hurt and crying, bleeding from my forehead, demanding justice from my mom. I demanded retribution as well. I wanted the perpetrators hunted down and punished for their crime. I wanted justice for the innocent gentle observer of life that I was. What had happened to me was not fair and I knew it. The rude, insensitive, and brutish had violated my delicate little sensitivities. It was a life lesson learned and the root of a lifetime of similar incidences I would learn to deal with. I was a victim in the crossfire of life’s aggressors and had become so much collateral damage.

My values and defenses were beginning to form. But it would be a long time before I accrued a sense of my own personal power and learned to defend myself, both physically and mentally against the bullies that pop up often throughout the timeline of my life.

There is metaphor in that early time; left and right turn choices. One, is a quiet, peaceful contemplative way of life. The other is a more material side with inherent physical challenges, unsolvable mysteries, and basic material resources. It was then that a pattern for future life choices was set as a template for my life.

Pouring over a satellite map at the urban blight the old neighborhood has become, I find a gaping hole where our house once stood. I feel as if someone ripped a page out of my life, leaving only the tattered jagged edge of that era remaining. The Archeological evidence proving the reality of my earliest existence on earth is gone. Only the memories I carry inside remain.


7

1948 - 1950

Many of the earliest impressions of my life are now worn and faded, fractured like old sepia-tone photographs, yet still discernable, laying in a bottom drawer of my mind where they have accumulated since the time of my birth.

My dad returned home from World War II in a litter and remained hospitalized for the next few years and on and off for the rest of his life. In my earliest recollections of dad he is sitting on the stoop of grandma and grandpas home on Mount Carmel Road where we lived until I was five years old. Our family lived on the first floor of the house and my Uncle Joe, my mother’s half brother, and his family, lived in the upper unit.

Old family photos of my Dad back then show a hybrid of the 1940’s stars Robert Mitchum and Dean Martin.

I can still call up images of baby me sitting on the porch with my Mom and Grandparents while my Dad trades comic books with the neighborhood kids. A two year old me sits on grandpa franks knee eating oyster crackers in milk as kids today eat cereal. A tiny me splashes around in the ancient kitchen sink as my mother sponge bathes me. I see myself sitting with dad in front of an early 10 or 12-inch TV screen. A big magnifying glass enlarges the picture so i can better enjoy Howdy Doody, Mr. Bluster, flub a dub, and Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring .

An old Italian man, Ianod, comes to visit often. He gives me candy treats wrapped in cellophane called Root Beer barrels. Ianod goes fishing with my dad. Little me sits in a tiny rocking chair in the living room, alone in the dark. I am still, and unafraid, quietly enjoying the solitude.

It was during that time that I took my first road trip. The memory is a series of impressions of two families, best friends, in an old forties sedan with a huge back seat. The words “Buffalo,” “Niagara falls,” and “Hotel” audibly float through my mind as I mentally witness the group checking into an old hotel with an oak paneled reception area and varnished oak hand rails on oak steps that lead to unseen rooms.

Over the many long years of my life when this memory returns I fondly let it pour into the vessel of my mind and swirl it around like sugar in lemonade; to keep it fresh and sweet. Perhaps that is where I was first bitten by the joys and mysteries of travel.



There was a heavy snowfall in the winter of 1951-1952 when I was four years old. I have a vivid recollection of standing with Dad in our freshly shoveled driveway on Mount Carmel Road, staring at piles of snow over my head by almost twice my height.

Soon after the weather broke that spring I was dropped off one morning with the neighbors and told I would spend the day with Rafael the teen-age boy next door that sometimes babysat me. My memory is of a wonderful day playing with his electric train set, exploring his attic, then just goofing off on his front porch swing.

Later that day, when mom and dad came for me, instead of going to our house next door we got in the car and went for a long drive to the far suburbs on the edge of town. We ended up at a small tract house bungalow in a recently built subdivision that had literally been carved out of former farm fields; the second house on the left, in the second block.

When I think of my childhood, this is the neighborhood I still consider to be the place where I grew up.





PART TWO

WAITING FOR THE WORLD TO BEGIN



“…waiting, waiting, waiting, always waiting.”

The Author


8

1951 - 1953

Alan Freed, a popular disc jockey in Cleveland Ohio, coined the term “Rock n Roll music” and threw the first major rock n roll concert on march 21,1952, called “The Moondog Coronation Ball” at the 9,950-seat Cleveland arena. 20,000 individuals attempting to gain admittance rioted. Fire Marshalls immediately shut down the event. The Korean War, known then as a “police action,” raged on. Atomic bomb testing continued near Las Vegas and in the South Pacific



In 1951, when Alan Freed coined the term Rock n Roll Music, I was 4 years old. I was in a new house, in a brand new suburban neighborhood of uniform bungalows built to provide affordable housing for returning Veterans of World War II.

Freed, was a disk jockey on a local Rhythm and Blues radio show where he carved out a special niche for himself in the history of the world. Most Rock and Roll historians agree that it was in Cleveland that Freed coined the phrase Rock n Roll Music from a big R&B hit that year by The Dominoes called “Sixty Minute Man.” The lyric speaks of the sexual prowess of the Sixty Minute Man as he rhythmically states, “I rock ‘em roll ‘em all night long, I’m a Sixty minute man.” Alan Freed was attempting to introduce R & B, or, “race” music to a broader white audience.

My love of music began when I became part of that audience. My Dad, a 29-year-old World War II veteran then, and a family man with three children, encouraged my love of music. He kept his car radio tuned to the Pop stations and I listened along with him. You might say my dad was “hip.” Rock and Roll music hadn’t quite hit its stride yet. Songs like “Too Young” by Nat King Cole, “Cry” by Johnny Ray and “How High The Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford, topped the charts. But “Sixty Minute Man” by The Dominoes and (the original) Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner, both released in 1951, nudged everyone a little bit closer to Rock n Roll as a genre.

Leo Fender, credited with inventing and building his first electric guitar in 1941, was turned down by the Gibson Guitar Company and ridiculed for his invention. But by 1948 he had successfully marketed the first electric guitar, the “Broadcaster,” followed in 1950, by the electric “Precision bass.”

Les Paul, an early pioneer on the electric guitar along with his wife Mary Ford, brought about several innovations that spawned Rock n Roll Music by their use of electric guitars, innovative licks, trills, and chunky chord progressions, as well as Multi track recording, overdubbing, deep echo delay, and close mic techniques. They changed the sound of music forever.

But Rock n Roll was born commercially in 1952 when an unknown musician, Bill Haley, and his band “The Saddlemen” released a record called “Crazy Man Crazy” under the name Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets. It became the first Rock n Roll Record to make the Charts. They shortened their name to Bill Haley and the Comets and went on to sell millions of Records with songs like “Rock Around The Clock,” “Shake Rattle and Roll,” and “See You Later Alligator.”

Bill Haley became widely accepted as the Father of Rock n Roll music.

The Pioneers in the early 1950’s had created a whole new Genre of music that emanated from radios across America and around the world. In their time, they had no way of knowing the broader cultural revolution Rock n Roll music would give rise to in future generations. And I had no idea of how music would impact my life from those days forward.



My journey into society at large began in the fall of 1952 when I entered Kindergarten. My memory of that summer is long gone, but my impressions of starting Kindergarten come back to me as both an exciting and frightening prospect.

My parents wanted me to have a Parochial School education and planned on enrolling me at a Catholic Grade School in our new Parish. The Church School had no Kindergarten and because of the date my birthday fell on within the school year, it was determined that I would be eligible to enroll in the second grade after completing Kindergarten and first grade at a nearby Public School, Gracemount Elementary.

Gracemount Elementary was a typical two-story East Coast style brick school structure with a series of attached wooden “portable” buildings, no doubt hastily built to accommodate the large number of baby boomers such as myself who entered the system in the early nineteen fifties. I have a dim impression of accompanying my mother to Gracemount that fall for registration. But my memory of that first day of school is crystal clear.

Kindergarten at Gracemount was held in a large open room that totally captured my imagination from the moment I arrived. The room was bright, cheerful and alive, awash with colorful images that flooded my minds eye and piqued my senses with impressions left by the many colorful toys, children’s books, crayons, easels, and water color drawings; the props and accouterments of pre-school Education. The aroma of crayons, chalk, paints, and colored papers blended with the musty smell of the aging building, the teacher’s cologne, and the bodily odors of the other children seated on the tiny chairs in a semi circle beside me. It was there we were staged to receive the first formal instruction of our lives.


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