Where are they now?
Recently I was talking to my former science teacher from high school, and I was struck with how little I had achieved in the way of material goods acquisition.
I got out my grade school year book for 1952 where I was listed as a seventh grader. That makes my graduation date as 1953, and our class had a total of 18 members.
I was wondering if I could do a nonfiction piece in the order of what ever happened to Baby Jane?
Starting with me, I had the regular high school graduation, and then sort of stalled out for many years.
I had a year of junior college but did not know what I was studying for. The second year was rudely interrupted with an unplanned pregnancy, and hasty elopement.
For the next four years that was my life- baby, dirty diapers that I had to wash myself, small apartments, not much money and no allowance of my own.
By 1962 I did get back into the college game, and almost graduated.
However, I was under such stress that I withdrew, and then our family got moved to New York for the 1964 season of the World’s Fair, so that put a stop to my classes.
Gradually, I did take some night classes correspondence courses, and just for fun classes.
It was 28 years later when I got serious about getting a degree in Library Science, so I had to make up the fourth year of undergraduate work in SF before I could advance to getting a Master’s.
That was one of my strongest points in my application, that I never gave up, and kept learning stuff.
At age 58 I graduated with that Master’s and landed a job in Queens, NY, as the California market was closed to new hires in the library field.
After 6 years I retired on my ex-husbands Social Security and moved to a small town in western state New York.
There I scraped $9,000 together for a down payment on a small but newly renovated house.
Now, I have just that property, and very little savings.
I think my total worth comes in at under $20,000.
To compare with others who never left Contra Costa County is interesting.
Starting from the bottom, my lifelong friends through thick and thin, dropped out of high school, got pregnant, got married, got divorced or died.
The divorced one, Julia, had many similarities to my life, in that she had two girls and then two boys, had a German husband who cheated on her, did not encourage her to have a life outside the house, made her go on welfare while not paying any alimony, and very little child support, and in general acting like an alcoholic deadbeat.
She was the successful one, in that her four children all got good educations and good jobs, plus are home owners.
The boy that I knew as a child and whose mother was friends with mine grew up to be a fireman for the town, and when he retired went to work at Safeway as a bagger just to keep busy.
He is a tall man, and although divorced, still has good relations with his grown children.
His buddy, stayed in the small town of his childhood because he had land owning family, and being an only child of protective parents, parlayed a couple of farming acreages into a fortune in real estate.
His wife and he were married for almost 50 years, and they had three very smart and successful children. His passion was and still is collecting and restoring old cars. He puts on a car show every year and has many photos of his collection. His buddies have really valuable cars like a Ford “Woody” and get their picture taken with a certain celebrity in Hollywood. Jay Leno by name.
This man has at least ten rental units that he acquired in the last 50 years, and with no real formal education has found his niche and has done well. He relies on me for advice, and says that I should write a book!
There is a woman who graduated with me who ran off and eloped with what I deemed was a low class “Oakie”.
She lived in a mobile home in AZ and had five children. Her husband worked in construction, and when they moved back to the area, he was known for his infidelities, using the secluded levees for his afternoon delights.
I doubt if she ever knew about that, but with the long memories in the small town, there is possibility someone will snitch.
After husband number One died of cancer, she married another fellow who had grown children. They traveled a bit going to golf tournaments and she saw some of the world.
Then she got bored, so went to work at Wal-Mart’s. I used to quiz her on working conditions there with all the scab workers and no benefits.
She had a pretty good boss in that she has health insurance and no trouble with raises, as she had been hired on as a full time worker. She worked the cashier and stocked up the candy shelves early in the morning.
After husband number two died of heart failure, she found another gentleman, and after they married he asked her to retire so that they could spend the winter months in Yuma at his vacation house.
She still has money coming in from an oil company, and since she lived right down the road from me I always was disappointed that I never got in on the mineral rights even though I had ten acres in the plot.
My brother in law kept all the mineral rights, as he was a sharp operator with no sympathy for an impoverished sister in law living in her Volvo station wagon.
So now this “girlfriend” has various funds, a house, and a new love. Pretty good for a high school drop out!
Continuing with the saga of my elementary school buddies, we come to one of the girls who I knew had money from the start.
She had a good wardrobe too, and I always liked getting her cast off dresses. Of course I had other clothes from the rich land owners in the town, but they were boy’s clothes, and I could not wear them to school.
Nancy not only had horses to ride, but took me water skiing, and invited me to her slumber party where we jumped in her swimming pool and had a hot dog roast.
She later studied nursing and married well. Her son went on to be a doctor in New York.
One of my favorite friends in 8th grade was a Japanese boy. We had a friendly rivalry in the grades department. I read continually, had a vocabulary off the charts, and he knew he had no chance of catching up. I did get the English Award in high school, but he was a whiz at math.
Later, he became a doctor in Cardiology and spent some time in Japan in the Air Force. He married a Japanese girl form Stockton.
When he was in his residency and practicing medicine, he told me I should have more babies to support the medical profession. Ugh- I just unfriended him!
Janet! My best friend in sixth grade.
We climbed trees together and I had one sleepover at her house.
Later, we had a falling out after her parents got divorced and she came to live in a cottage across the street from me.
She married her high school sweetheart, divorced him, married a doctor of the community who had a pilot’s license and flew off to Colorado. Later, she got a divorce from him and moved in with a woman contented to come out as a lesbian.
That was the only one that I knew of from our class of 1953.
There was one mystery woman.
At each high school reunion we had a call to give info on the red headed girl.
It is as if she dropped off the face of the earth, and not even Google search could find her.
55 years later, we are still asking- Where in the world is Pearl?
Why should we care? I think it is because she had such long beautiful red hair, and no amount of hair dye would ever match it.
The other people in my class from grade school stayed in the neighborhood and worked in the mills along the river. They got married, raised families, and built new houses on the lots where they grew up with outhouses and no real amenities.
No one had any feelings of wanderlust except for me, and they tended to raise families according to their tribes’ norms.
The “tribes” were Hispanic and Japanese. My Japanese friend once brought a pamphlet to class in Freshman Social Studies, which was immediately taken from me, as there was not supposed to be any religious matter in school.
The Hispanic families did not hold education to be the main focus of their lives; rather the family parties took precedence.
Since I had no tribe, they being left to their own devices in the land of Stump Jumpers (Michigan), I was free to daydream and carry on my imagination of a world adventurer.
It is funny how that came to be.
I wound up with only $9,000 cash at retirement, but since 1972 have journeyed to many far off countries including Turkey and Tibet.
Those classmates that settled for staying home and acquiring real estate, old cars and many spouses, just have a different dream.
One man had a good life in construction and retired after spending 22 years building tract houses. This man did many projects for the local museum, and was the guy to go to for anything in carpentering.
Lately he has had health problems and has become a “stalker”. The woman he is hung up on has not put out a restraining order, but lives in fear of him.
Last week he put some temporary restraints on himself in that he had an accident with a table saw and cut off his thumb and tip of his index finger.
The joke on him goes that he can’t stalk the woman anymore because of the thumb making it hard to drive, and the missing index fingertip makes it hard to shoot any other male rivals.
He used to be my driver when we both attended Junior college, and I used to write my essays and include him on the mailing list.
Lately I think I will stay away from the whole toxic situation.
Another hot head was a guy named Tony. He did nothing extra ordinary but really killed someone.
Some teens were driving up and down Tony’s street with a baseball bat, whacking the curbside post boxes.
They turned around and had a go at Tony’s side of the street where he was waiting for them and shot at the car.
He killed the back seat passenger and spent time in prison for manslaughter.
He never learned to curb that temper, and home protection with a firearm does not mean one can actually kill trespassers.
I think Tony recently died, in or out of prison.
The last one on my list was the boy that I had a crush on, but never actually connected with.
We had a Halloween party when all the couples pair off, went for a stroll in the moonlight and had a chaste kiss.
Start and end of the relationship.
My high school science teacher, who said that I had the potential to be a doctor, told him that he would never amount to anything, so out of spite my Romeo studied hard in college and obtained a Civil Engineering degree and went on to build bridges in Alaska.
He was married for a few years to someone from out of our town and high school but later married a girl who had stayed single so long that we thought she may become a nun. I think she did go off to the Peace Corps.
One childhood friend who did not graduate with me but was a stable person in my young life left school to marry a farmer. They settled in the larger town where I went to high school, and built their own house there.
When her husband retired they went to Mexico on vacation and a scoundrel cousin broke into their empty house to rob it. Then he set fire to it to conceal the crime.
When my friend and her husband were informed of the fire he decided not to interrupt his vacation, as there was nothing to be done about the house and no insurance.
They moved in with her dad for the time it took to rebuild the house from the foundation up. Fortunately there was a wall still standing, so the rebuild was under the permit allowing repairs and not an entirely new house. That would have entailed more money.
I always admired his relaxed spirit.
We do not always know how to deal with adversity and have to choose between earning a good living or just living well.
The man with the cars and real estate has a great many problems and frets about his belongings.
The poor Mexican BFF lives on under $600 a month in an affluent suburban area, and neither one of us could afford to live in Knightsen where we grew up, as it has turned into a wine growing region and horse boarding ranches.
What we thought was the “slum” area a half mile down Knightsen Avenue is now dotted with million dollar properties.
I think they are paying for the view of Mt. Diablo and the vista of wide open spaces, as it is still zoned as an agricultural county.
I still prefer my cool apartment by the Bay.