I was about 12 or 13 when we moved to Escondido, California from Abilene Texas. I remember we looked at several houses before "the barn house," as we always called it, was selected. It was the nicest home I had ever lived in up to that point and since that point. It was a spacious four bedroom with probably twenty-five to three thousand square feet. It had a laundry room and a separate garage. The living room had beautiful hardwood floors and there was even a small room between the living room and the kitchen which could be closed off which we called "the telephone room" as that was the only thing anyone ever did in there. Of course, it was a very different time from today, when everyone has a phone in their pocket. Back then, most people had one land line in the home that was either black or white. A few years later, the "Princess" phone would be the first to come in other colors.
We had a lovely brick patio in the back and a small slope covered in ice plant that led into an avocado grove. I had never seen an avocado before then and didn't care for them initially. The front lawn was huge and required regular mowing which Roger often did. We had a wood fireplace. We all just loved that house. I don't remember what they paid for it, but eventually, a couple of years later, Mom and George would sell it for about $30,000. Forty years later, I revisited the house during the real estate boom and am certain that the house was worth over a million dollars by then.
Roger and I enrolled at Orange Glen Elementary and Darlene must have enrolled at Orange Glen High School. I know Roger and I rode a school bus although there were some days that Roger would actually choose to run home instead of riding the bus. He was very athletic at the time and broke one of the track "records" at Orange Glen Elementary. That would haunt me later when the coach and other students would have some unrealistic expectation of my competing with Roger's athleticism. I was much more interested in playing games with the girls like "four square" or "tether ball." I had no interest in basketball or football or track or any of the rest. I also didn't like having to change clothes in a classroom with other boys and then come back to the class all sweaty as there were no showers at the school at that time.
I was terribly allergic to pollen in Escondido and lived on Dristan which had terrible side effects and was totally ineffective for controlling my symptoms. There were times of the year that I was constantly sneezing and would carry a handkerchief that would be soaked through by the end of the day. It was pretty miserable at times, but still worth the misery to be out of Texas and somewhere that people were a little more civilized.
Life was almost "normal" for the first time in years when we lived in Escondido. We no longer bought our clothes at Goodwill or Salvation Army. We actually got to buy new clothes. We actually lived there long enough that I was able to establish relationships and have real friends for the first time in my childhood. I think Roger must have felt the same way, although I'm not certain how Darlene felt as she was starting to have more difficulties by this time.
Roger seemed to be George's favorite. He was athletic and would go with George on mountain climbing trips. George was not interested in most other sports though. Roger was popular at Orange Glen because he was a musician and was on the football team and had a letter-man jacket with a big O.G. on it. It is odd that in spite of his accomplishments in high school sports, I don't remember Mom or George or any of us ever attending any game he played in. Nowadays and even back then, I think most families would try to show support for their kids and accomplishments but as far as I can remember, Roger's athletic accomplishments were essentially ignored. On the positive side, we were given a lot of encouragement and support for playing music.
One of my favorite things to do back then was ride my skateboard. It was tiny by today's standards and we didn't do the kinds of tricks that kids do now. It was called "Sidewalk Surfing" made popular by the Jan and Dean 1964 hit. We loved living in Southern California which seemed like the center of the universe for young people at the time.
Another favorite activity back then was reading. I read my first real "adult" novel when I was about thirteen. I started reading it while visiting Spokane and staying with Billie and Joe. I remember being in an old trailer they had on their property and coming across a book called "Peyton Place," by Grace Metalious. I think there may have been something on the cover about it having been banned and so that probably got my interest. I started reading this melodramatic soap opera where people actually had sexual desires and secrets. I loved it and when I returned to Escondido, I got the sequel, "Return to Peyton Place" and then Harold Robbin's "The Carpetbaggers" and then other Harold Robbin's books. I was hooked on reading and I continued to enjoy reading for many years after this. To
this day, I remember a line from Peyton Place- the rich get richer and the poor get children. How true!
From the time we had lived on Broadway in Spokane, before my Mom married George, to Abilene and now in Escondido, I enjoyed going roller skating. This was before the modern inline s
kates that kids use now. Back then, the roller skates had four wheels and you went to a "rink" to skate. Sappy organ versions of classic songs would be played that you skated to. In Escondido, I continued to enjoy roller skating and it was there that I would eventually meet Kathy and Karen. They were best friends and flirted with me and Kathy became my girlfriend and we "went steady" and almost "all the way" a few years later.
There was a neighbor boy that was a year or so younger than I that I spent a lot of my time with outside of school. Although he was a year younger than me, it seemed like he was less naive than I was in many ways. He also had an older brother that was more athletic than he was and I think he related to the same situation with Roger and I. When I got a little older and realized I was gay, and I looked back on this relationship in Escondido, I wondered if this boy may have turned out to be gay too.
While living in Escondido, George's girls, Sandi, Barbi, Carol, Connie and Georgie would visit regularly every other weekend. I got along well with all of them for the most part. Georgie and I were close to the same age. George had bought Mom a sewing machine that had a lot of bells and whistles that seemed to frustrate my Mother but George used it to make all of us back packs to take on camping trips. I would use mine for many years to come after that when I was hitchhiking up and down the West Coast and elsewhere.
Years later, Milton and I would take a trip to Southern California and we stopped by Escondido to see the old Barn House. By this time, it had been painted white and what had been the garage must have been converted to more living space and a detached garage had been added. It was now surrounded by homes and the orange groves and avocado groves were gone.