Across the USA (Pt. 7)

We spent eight long, boring, centuries in Santa Ana.  In the early decades of most centuries, my brother and I would sit up in the small apartment over the garage and shoot rubber bands at each other for amusement.  My grandmother used to work as an accountant and she had a giant box of them on a shelf in the closet.  Then we would shift to play the ‘guess which relative we’re going to see today’ game.

At about the fifty-year mark we would have lunch.  It was almost always peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk.  Occasionally, my grandmother would throw in a slice of pie.  After a quick clean up of the kitchen, we’d pile into our bus and head for AuntUncle Whomever’s house.  I really don’t know why all we kids had to go because we didn’t have a clue as to who they were.  After all, if we didn’t get a Christmas present from them, they didn’t count.  We would arrive back home after dark and either have a quick snack (if we hadn’t had one elsewhere) or just flop down into bed and try to sleep in the heat.  Central air conditioning hadn’t been invented yet.

In the initial years of the fourth century, we got up early and, as promised, went over to Disneyland.  We drove around the parking lot for what seemed like hours while my dad tried to find a spot ‘just a little closer’.  Hey man!  Just park it already!  I’m not going to even try and describe our visit to the park.  Suffice it to say that we all had fun; expensive fun, but fun nevertheless.  The ticketing structure was an interesting facet of the park.

In June of 1959 the ticketing structure changed.  Each of us had to have what they called a “passport”.  This passport contained a general admission ticket, a lot of coupons for pennies off their overpriced food, and several pages of tear-out stamps marked from “A” to “E”.  The “E” ticket had just been added.  We were warned in very strong terms that we were NOT to tear out the tickets but, instead, let the ride operator tear it out.  Printed plainly on the ticket was the caveat ‘Void if Detached’.

The “A” and “B” tickets were mostly for stuff like Main Street rides and kiddy rides.  “C” tickets escalated into more challenging rides like ferryboat rides and the Rainbow Caverns Mine train ride.  Tomorrowland and Fantasyland was where you spent most all of your “D” tickets on things like Autopia and the Astro Jet rides.

We all prized the “E” ticket rides, but you only got two “E” tickets in your passport.  I spent mine on the TWA Rocket to the Moon and the SP & D Railroad train (naturally).  I went back and used my own money to buy another set of tickets so I could ride the Matterhorn bobsled ride.  It was this ticket that gave us the catch phrase “a real E-ticket ride” for any fast moving, or really scary ride in any moving object.

To this day I do not remember what my dad shelled out for these ticket books but he moaned about the cost for a month afterwards.  It was this reason we did not go to Knotts Berry Farm this trip.  I would have been happy to go there instead of Mr. Disney’s theme park.  We did spend the entire day from when the park opened to watching the fireworks while standing in the middle of Main Street on our way out to the car.  We spent an hour just getting to the road from our parking spot.

Somewhere in my house I still have all the 8mm film from my dad’s movie camera that he shot of us kids having fun.  I’ve seen it and plan on transferring it to a DVD soon.  ‘Soon’ being a relative term that actually means ‘just before or during the next millennia’.  (Oops, it’s 2010 now and I still haven’t done it.)

I did finally find someone to hang around with in the fifth century.  Her name was Harriet.  She lived two doors down from my grandmother and was lucky enough to have two bicycles.  I felt just a little silly riding a girl’s bike, but it did get me out of the house and away from the family for mornings or afternoons.  She had finished the school year about a week before we got there so both of us were kinds bored.  She was only fifteen, but since I was only seventeen it didn’t matter.

She was kind of plain looking but did a lot of smiling with perfectly white teeth.  She knew all sorts of places within range of a bicycle that we could visit like the local library, the swimming pool, a small amusement park and the farmer’s market.  I tried to get my dad to let me take the bus, but he said he was worried that I only had an International Drivers License.  For some reason, it was not valid here in the United States.  He’d let me do a little driving on the trip, but here in Southern California it was different.  Actually, being able to buzz around on a bicycle was pretty cool.  We could take shortcuts not available to cars.

The day before we were scheduled to leave, Harriet and I pedaled down to the municipal pool and splashed around for a while.  She introduced me to about six or eight friends, most of them girls, and only two of them were brave enough to wear the new bikinis.  The rest of them wore one-piece suits.  All the kids around me were very tanned and healthy-looking.  Must be all those oranges for breakfast every day.

We packed up the night before our departure and went to bed early.  Our target time of leaving was five in the morning.  This was done mostly to try and beat the traffic of the morning rush.  We hit the road only fifteen minutes late and swept up north on highway 99.  By the time the sun rose, we were well down into the valley past Bakersfield and headed to Fresno.

The rest of our trip was pretty uneventful.  When we got almost to Stockton we cut west and drove over the hills to Richmond.  We crossed the bridge, got on highway 101 and went north to our temporary home at Hamilton Air Force Base.  We had reservations in the guest housing so we could look around for a place to live.

Three days later, my parents settled on a little house up in Petaluma.  When our household goods arrived in a month we met the flatbed truck carrying the shipping containers at the new house and watched as they unpacked everything and carried it into the house.  Neighbors came over to say hello and brought food for our hungry tribe.

Once the dust settled, the next phase of my life began – fitting into the sun-worshipping, surfing, car-crazy kids of California.

T.O.M.

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