Becoming a Big Brother

by Big E

Tags: mt/ft, True Story,

Desc: : A young man becomes a big brother to the girl next door.

I won't bore you with a lot of background information; that will come as we go along.

After World War II ended people were looking for new homes all over the West Coast. People had seen how nice the weather was and how much room there was to live and raise children. After all the cold winters, floods and tornados, Southern California is where my parents started looking and they became just part of the ones looking for their place in the sun.

Now that the war was over, real-estate developers were doing things fast and simple and efficiently and that was the way they built houses. In 30 days they would come in and clear the land, put in the streets and utilities and lay out where the houses would go. There would be four or five floor plans and they just laid them out with the only change being that sometimes they would flip a floor plane over. After they laid out all the plans, next would be a swarm of ex-service men that were construction people, foundation people, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, and painters. They would start building homes at one end of the development and just keep going till they reached the other end.

It would take the buyers longer to go through the process of getting a mortgage and clear escrow than to build these homes sometimes. After I grew up I did some research and I found the paper work on the house that my parents bought and it showed that our home went from start to finish in just 17 days. Dad used to stop by the new house every night on his way home from work to see the progress. When our house was almost finished on the inside we moved in. The walls were still a little damp from the plaster, so we had to wait a week before the walls could even be painted, but Dad was raised as a painter so that was fine with him. This way the walls would get a better paint job.

I remember on the day we moved in our new home, seven other families moved in on the same street as well. That night we were an instant neighborhood, with kids, dogs, and cats; everything was there. Our new neighbors came from all over the United States. There were small families, large families, and even single families. Everything was new, the houses, the streets, the schools, and most of all the people. We had neighbors from Texas, New York, Minnesota, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, and even our home state of Montana. When the housing development was completed there were 486 families making a new life for themselves in beautiful sunny California.

For some unknown reason my mother only had one child and that was yours truly. All around me were families with three to seven brothers and sisters. Sometimes I felt left out, not having any brothers and sisters, but on the other hand I didn't have to share my parents' love or any of the things other families had to share. I had my own bedroom, my own toys, I didn't have to share with anyone and no hand me down cloths. When I was 9, I got a paper route delivering the Examiner in my neighborhood each morning.

I had my newspaper route about two years. One morning as I was turning on our street after finishing my route I saw the police and a fire truck at the house next door. I put away my bike and I walked over and I asked the fireman what happened and he told me that Mr. Puckett had a heart attack during the night and died. Mrs. Puckett and her daughters, Ruth and Lorraine, were sitting on the porch crying. A few of the neighborhood women were there helping them and doing all the things women did back then to take care of things for them.

It was about a month later that Mrs. Puckett put the house up for sale. She wanted to move back to Iowa to be with her family. The house sold in just two weeks and they moved shortly after that. Dad said that with the profits from the house she would be able to get a farm back in Iowa and not have to worry about anything financially for a long time.

Mrs. Puckett paid me $10 to keep the lawn mowed and watered till the new owners moved in. The Puckett's house stayed empty for what seemed a long time.

But about two months later on a Saturday morning I was doing my paper route and as I came down our street I saw a moving truck parked in front of Mrs. Puckett's old house. There were 8 or 9 men unloading the truck and they all had Army clothes on, not uniforms but work clothes. They didn't talk much; they just picked up things and took them in the house. By 9 o'clock the truck was empty and they were gone.

Major Laurence Goodwin and Family was now the name on the mailbox. They were now part of our neighborhood. My mother made one of her really good apple pies that afternoon and took it over as a welcoming gift. Being that they were our new neighbors I went along and since dad was working overtime it would look better for mom though if I came alone. Major Goodwin opened the front door and invited us in. He introduced us to his wife, Mrs. Sharon Goodwin, and their 10-year-old daughter Carol. We found out that they had been waiting for their belongings to arrive from Japan where they had been stationed and that was why it took them so long to get moved in.

WOW! As I looked around I could see that everything was already put away. ( It took mom 3 weeks to put all our stuff away and we didn't have as much as they did.) The dishes were in the china cabinet, the sofa and chairs had little doilies on them, they even had the books in the bookcases and there must have been at least a 1,000 books. And that was just in the front room. In the kitchen Mrs. Goodwin was making chicken soup and I swear I could smell homemade bread. After a few minutes of small talk we excused ourselves and went home.

My parents are the kind of people that made friends very easily with out being too pushy.

We found out one thing very soon about the Major: he would not let anyone call him by his first name. It was always Major Goodwin or Major. Even his wife called him Major. Carol just said "Sir".

Now this was a change from the way I was raised to show respect for your elders, that was for sure.

Whenever Mrs. Goodwin came over during the day and "The Major" wasn't around she was always smiling, a very warm and friendly woman, always willing to help with school, scouts whatever. However, when "The Major" was home she would be very reserved and quiet and stayed home. Their daughter Carol was just the same way. The one big difference in the way he treated Carol was he treated her as if she was a soldier, yelling orders at her, calling her names and NEVER, EVER, paying her a complement or telling her how good she had done. It always was "can't you do it faster" or "do it again and let's see if you can do it better this time, you slack off".

My parents and I could hear him yelling all the time. Our bedroom windows faced their house and we liked lots of fresh air so the windows were always open a little even in the winter.

In school Carol was the smartest kid in her class. She was so smart that she was promoted up a grade in the middle of the school year. Now she was in the same class as I was in and she was 2 years younger than everybody else. So you can just imagine how out of place she may have felt. The other girls called her a little baby and the boy's were not into girls yet so they just left her alone. So in a class of 45 students she felt like an outsider, the black sheep so to speak.

Mom and Dad raised me to be very open and to look at people as they were, not at how others thought they should be. I have been told all my life that I am the most unprejudiced person that they have ever meet, and I can say that I am very proud of that part of myself. So when Carol was left out of all the groups in school I sort of took on the responsibility of being her friend. And since we were next door neighbors we would walk to school every day together. We would have lunch with each other and after a while some of the guys started to sit with us; they liked the stories Carol would tell them about life in the Army. Then after school we would walk home together. In class she sat in the back on the left side of the room and I sat up in the front row so that I could see the black board better; later on they found out I needed glasses.

During our walks to and from school we would talk about all kinds of things. With her being an "Army Brat" she had been all over the world. Carol was born in Stuttgart, Germany, then the Army moved them to London, England and from there to Odakyu, Japan and now to Sunny Southern California. Carol would tell me about all the things she'd seen and the people she'd met but she has never been able to make any close friends. Just as they started to settle in, they would move again. Mrs. Goodwin was getting tired of all the moves and she told the Major that this was going to be their home from now on, no more moving. I guess he didn't like that. He would come home from the base and within an hour you could hear fighting. Every weekend they'd start fighting earlier and earlier, and it would go on longer and longer.

The summer of 1950 my Mom got a job working in a doctor's office doing the billing. She would go to work about 8:30 and get home around 6 o'clock. In the fall Mrs. Goodwin had decided to go back to school and get her degree.

Carol and I spent lots of time together that summer. Some mornings she would get up real early and ride with me on my paper route; she even helped when it came time to do the collecting every month. We split the tips 50/50. Some days we were together from 5 in the morning to 8 that night. But on the weekends she had to be at home with The "Major".

.... There is more of this story ...

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Story tagged with:
mt/ft / True Story /