I believe that those of us who have spent a lifetime in what is known as recreational reading might recall that the subject matter we chose came along in spurts. We recall, for example, that period of time when Western lore was our calling. We could not get enough of Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour or Clive Endicott or any of the other greats that personified that man of the West as the hero among heroes. Then we somehow slipped into mysteries and our hero was of another ilk. He was the superman, or woman, created by James M. Caine, or Raymond Chandler or some of the later ones, Sue Grafton or John Grisham who held us spellbound as we went through that phase.
We also recall the times we slipped into the classics and reread those tomes that we had not touched since high school, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and even some Shakespeare and, perhaps, our cultural level was raised a few degrees as the result of this sidestep.
There were the times, of course, when we were forced to stray from the recreational reading and get serious with text books that went along with some course that was part of our learning journey. But, in a short period of time, we would revert back to the type of reading that informed us as it entertained us and we found ourselves in another phase.
This, I know, is a roundabout way of getting to my current subject matter: biographies. But biographies of a special type written by persons of my generation. Two local residents, Pete Komasa and Gayle Fredsti have loaned me two books, autobiographies, written not by persons who are well known but by ordinary folks writing simply because they have a story to tell, a story that might be solely of interest to relatives or close friends but interesting nevertheless.
One of these, titled Trail Dust is by Henry Stanton who tells us about life on farms, particularly in Colorado. The other is by a Bonita resident, Alfred Monahan who tells about growing up in Montana and then his career as aU.S. Naval Aviator.
What I like mostly about these stories is the many ways that the youth of those days had of making a living.
One will recall that this generation lived in the time of the Great Depression, a time of strife for most. In the recent vacation jaunt that son, David, and I took up the coast I was reminded of one such incident and though it was a different time and place. it still was similar to the ones of which I had read.
We were driving in an area of the coast that is strictly farming and those things relating to farming. There were many dairy farms where one could see herds of brown cows grazing prior to being milked.
I related to David that when I was 12 years old I worked with cows. For whatever reason when one reached that age he was somewhat transformed. Twelve was the magic number.
You paid full price on the street car, you paid adult price at the movies and you were eligible for most jobs, tending cows being one of them.
We had a milk delivery dairyman named Robinson who, I suspect, worked out a deal with my mother. I would ride in the truck with him as he made the morning deliveries of his route. It would be my job to take the bottles of milk to the doorsteps, retrieve the empties and return to the truck. I don’t recall the exact number of customers that we had but they were substantial.
This delivery was in the morning. I suppose I would be awakened at about five because my poor skinny body had to be prepared. My mother would wrap a generous amount of newspapers around me to act as a windbreaker and then clothing over that, sweaters, coats and anything else to keep out the cold. For that my family received the milk necessary for daily sustenance and I received a dollar a week.
I also worked for Mister Robinson in the summer time but that’s another story. Oh, but as you can see. When one reached 12 years of age he also reached the age of high finance.