Sunday, April 20, 2008

Life wasn't always this good.

My mom struggled to raise three kids after my dad and her were divorced. I was about 12 at the time. My mom was a house wife that hadn't worked in 20 years, so of course her secretarial skills were obsolete. She eventually got a job working in a hotel office in Jacksonville for $60 a week. It was the early 60s and that $60 paid for little more than rent and bus fare for her to get to work. That didn't leave much left for anything else.

We ate a lot of bacon and eggs, grits, pancakes and cottage cheese with pineapple for dinner. She'd fry the bacon and then break the eggs over the bacon, which made for a very greasy meal. My brother still doesn't like eating eggs to this day because of that. When there wasn't enough money to go to the laundromat, our clothes didn't get washed, so my "clean" clothes came from the bottom of the laundry pile. I guess they somehow were cleaner than the ones at the top of the pile. When the kerosene ran out and there was no heat, we put old newspapers between the blanket and sheet. My brother read that newspaper was an insulator and we would be warmer. You couldn't prove that by me, so often slept in my clothes.

We lived in one of the poorer areas of Jacksonville on the second floor of a two story house not too far from the Gator Bowl and right down the block from a bridge over the St Johns river. There was a church on the corner across the street and a small grocery store on the far corner. I lived at the "white" end of the block and the "colored" lived at the other. That block was a "neutral" block, but neither the whites or coloreds dared cross the line and enter the other's territory or risk getting their ass kicked or worse. I never did cross the line.

I walked the couple of miles to school, Andrew Jackson Senior High School. Past the Chock Full of Nuts coffee plant and other plants whose names I've long since forgotten. Andrew Jackson was an inner city school with a Georgia clay play ground that we played tackle football on. Officially we played touch football, but the coached didn't stop us when we played tackle. I was on the play ground the day the word came that JFK had been shot. During math class, the principal made the announcement over the intercom that JFK had died and he was dismissing us for the day. The old man that taught us math broke down and cried. Many people cried that day.

I hung with the tough crowd at Andrew Jackson. Not because I was a tough kid, but because I was a skinny Yankee kid that would have gotten my ass kicked if I didn't. I was on the fast track to no good. I drank, smoked, broke into lockers at school and acted tougher than I really was. I wouldn't listen to my mom and pretty much did what I wanted to do. My older brother was in the navy, so he couldn't do anything about it either. Wednesday evening, midway thought the 9th grade, my mom told me to pack my bags, because Friday morning I was coming to work with her and she was putting me on a Greyhound bus for New York to live with my father and step mother. She explained how much they all worried about me and thought that living with my dad was best for me. Of course they were right.

7 comments:

Samantha Alice said...

Interesting line you're starting here...

lime said...

you have certainly come a long, long way.

jillie said...

I am sure it was hard for your mother to send you off. Sometimes tough love is the best love of all. From the way things have turned out, I can see you have come a long way. XO

Patti said...

Wow I like reading about your early years, I had no idea!

Libby said...

tony-how interesting! you sure have come a long way! i
m sure thzt was SO hard for your mom!

Blondie... said...

Wow you have really come such a long way. I am really interested in reading more and thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

wooooooooooooow I got chills reading this. there is something about seeing where people have come from and realizing where they are... I saw how people who knew no one that died 911 break down just hearing about the towers falling. I can only imagine what hearing the president has just died may have done to people. Wow. I dont know who to feel sorrier for - your poor mom. Or you the kid who didnt ask to be here and went through it... wow... just... wow...anocsanamun