I pulled over and stopped in front of the apartments at 1212 N. San Gabriel. Raylene and I had lived in apartment B for about a year when we were first married. Our apartment still looked exactly like it had when we lived there. I shook my head remembering our time there. Could it have really been thirty years ago? It didn’t seem possible. Where did all the time go?
I drove down to Foothill Blvd and headed east, continuing on my little trip down memory lane. Driving past the city hall I couldn’t believe how little it had changed. It still looked exactly as it had in the sixties. When we were kids there had been an enormous evergreen on the front lawn. It must have been fifty feet tall! Every winter it was transformed into a giant Christmas tree complete with lights, ornaments and a large gold star on top and a live manger scene in front of it. It was incredible! The tree blew down in the big wind storm of 68 and though it was replaced, it was never quite the same.
I continued east past Baker’s (now called California Burger), Whites Funeral Home, St Frances of Rome Church, and the Foothill Drive-In. The drive in had closed several years ago and was purchased by Azusa Pacific University. As teens we use to go to the swap meet at the drive-in nearly every Sunday. My parents thought I was going to the 10:15 mass to sing with the school choir and were more than happy to let me go. I’d usually meet my cousin Dave, Pete Smith or some of the other guys in front of the church, then we’d go in and stand near the glass doors in the back until just after the sermon, grab a bulletin, then make a quick exit and head for the swap meet. The quicky church stop was just in case we got the third degree from our parents, we could, give them a bulletin, tell them about the sermon, who the priest was and what color vestments he was wearing. It was a perfect plan. We never once got caught.
After the swap meet we’d usually stop at McDonald’s for a burger and fries or go across the street to A&W for a root beer. Sometimes we’d go up to Azusa Lanes, which was next to the drive in and buy cigarettes from the vending machine. Like the drive in, McDonalds, A&W and the bowling alley were now only memories.
I made a right turn on Rockvale, made my way back to Cerritos Ave and drove by Azusa High School, my alma matre. Actually I had attended Bishop Amat until the middle of my junior year then transferred out, but that’s another story.
My one and only year at Azusa High was a strange but memorable one. My apathy nearly cost me graduation. Two weeks before the ceremony my mom received a letter from Mr. Jackson, my counselor, informing her that I had failed a class and would not be graduating. She was irate. When I got home that day she was laying in wait. While in the bathroom I heard my car start up, so I cut things short and quickly headed outside. I found that my mom had pulled my car into the garage and was padlocking the door. “What’s wrong? What did I do ?” I shouted. She wouldn’t answer me. She was on a mission.
Next she went into my room and began gathering up my clothes and carrying them into the garage. She tossed them into the small storage room that would serve as my new bedroom. Dave and I had cleaned out the room a few summers before to serve as our private little sanctuary. She had moved in a folding cot and taken out the few remaining tools my dad still kept in there and replaced them with me! I kept asking her why, but she wouldn’t responded.
After several trips all my stuff was in the garage. She then went back in the house and returned a few minutes later with the letter she’d received. She proceeded to lay out the terms of my new restricted life. Since I was not graduating, I was grounded indefinitely, I would no longer have a room in the house, I could not eat with the family, my car was gone, and last but not least, I would have to move out as soon as I turned 18. I tried to explain to my mom that I could go to summer school and still get my diploma, but she wouldn’t listen to me and walked away. It was bizarre. For the next two weeks I was like a ghost, going into the house after everyone else had eaten, scavenging the left-overs, showering, then disappearing back into my little dungeon in the garage. It was horrible. My mom was not speaking to me at all, and my dad, well my dad, was the same as always, a hard nose.
To be Continued… July 2o