The very first car I owned was a 1969 Dodge Dart, my Aunt and I went to Cal Worthington Dodge and I fell in love with it right off. It was $1499.99 and I had saved all my money of what I could working as a counter girl at Orange Julius. I had worked there since I was 15 ½ and wages at that time was $1.20 an hour. Not only did it become one of my prized possessions, it would be a means of escape when necessary. Although I must say from all the walking I did and riding my 10 speed bike I had pretty strong legs, but those two methods of transportation did not afford me shelter from the elements or what could happen.
Life with my Aunt and Uncle had moments of ok while they were sober. My Aunt also told the school district that I lived with Norman so I could stay in the same district and continue on at Warren High school. She got up every morning and drove me the ten miles to school from South Gate to Downey. Aunt Cloyds heart was in the right place, actually they both were, but alcoholism is a dreadful disease taking its toll on many and those around them.
Each and every night like clockwork during the week at 4:00 in the afternoon the drinking started. Aunt Cloyd graduated from Pink Chablis wine to Seagrams 7 with a water chaser, while Uncle Frank still drank his Seagrams 7 and Fresca. Within an hour my Aunt would start with her sarcasm to irritate and needle Uncle Frank. I always dreaded this, because in short order it would begin to escalate between them. I never understood why my Aunt was so full of anger at that time, but later I feel it was her emptiness at the inability to have children and dreams that were dashed. But I tried in vain to intercede to deter my Aunt from needling my Uncle then she would start on me. She delighted in telling me things like, “Too bad you’re not pretty like Peggy, she is a model now. If you were pretty you could be too since your tall.” Or, “your mother spoiled you, you don’t appreciate anything.” And the list goes on, but you have the idea. To me I rather would have her turn her attention to me than to start the inevitable fighting both physical and emotional that would occur between her and Uncle Frank.
They lived at Thunderbird Villa in South Gate, CA. They owned a nice mobile home in what I guess you could say was an upscale mobile home park. There were no other teens or children there it was specifically for adults without children. They had to get special permission for me to live there.
My Aunt and Uncle were both born in 1918 and grew up in the late 20’s and experienced the tail end of the roaring 20’s, prohibition, and the great depression. Aunt Cloyd was my mother’s cousin, although my beautiful grandmother raised my mother as her own, she was my loving grandmother’s sisters daughter. My grandmother adopted my mother from her sister Bernice since Bernice had my mother out of wedlock.
Aunt Cloyd and Violet were raised as sisters (although my mother never knew she was adopted until she was 18) and the only two children of Enid and Benjamin and raised on a farm in Iowa showered with love. My Uncle was one of 9 children raised in Oklahoma in a very dysfunctional household. According to “stories” my uncles’ father beat the boys, and did not allow his daughters to leave the household until he had his way with them first. It took its toll on all of them. My uncle’s sisters, all at the age of 13 and 14, were taken to the doctor and hysterectomies were performed so they would not become pregnant.
Finally when my uncle was 9 years old he ran away from home never to return only much later on in his adulthood. The details of how he survived are sketchy, but he married young the first time and was jailed for robbing a gas station trying to feed his family. That marriage dissolved, but not before he had 3 children. The horrors my uncle underwent at his young age are understood now, but were not at the time I lived with them or known for that matter.
My Aunt had the typical Irish ire (myth or not it’s true), and all her pent up emotions would come out when drinking. One night as we sat down to T.V. trays with dinner, they set up in front of their recliners and mine at the couch, boiling emotions had already started. Uncle Frank picked at his food not particularly interested in it as he was already well on his way to drunkenness as was Aunt Cloyd. The bantering started and words were exchanged. I sat back in the couch and held on for the impending ride, one you won’t find at Disneyland. Uncle Frank had had enough and exclaimed the food was not fit for a pig. With this statement my Aunt jumped out of her chair and kicked the T.V. tray from underneath and the food sailed everywhere. Hitting the ceiling of the living room and splattered all over. At once they were on each other, pushing shoving and choking ensued. I couldn’t take it and ran past them both outside and to my car driving to a friend’s house until all settled down. They both normally were in bed by 8:00 p.m., so I waited until 8:30 and went back home.
It was dreadfully quiet when I got back, so I took my position on the couch where I slept ready to sleep. My Uncle must have been waiting for my return and it was dark inside so I didn’t see him. I merely crept quietly to the couch in hopes of a night’s sleep. All snuggled in and ready to sleep a dreadful feeling came over me. I opened my eyes to see my Uncle towering over me with a knife raised above his head. It was an enormous butcher knife and could not be missed. I was paralyzed with fear! He chanted all the words he always told me, you’re no good, you were never meant to be born! I was terrified and couldn’t move. You would think when faced with possible death your immediate response would be flight, but I had nowhere to go or to even get past him. I looked up at him begging him, “Please Uncle Frank I love you don’t do this, please.” But he still ranted on as my words fell to deaf ears. I closed my eyes and trembled and begged God please don’t let him kill me please…