The time was June 1962 and I was serving in the air force at Beale AFB when Barb and I were married. We rented a trailer at Rough and Ready, California, some 18 miles east of the base . We were so short of cash we couldn’t afford a television. Fortunately, one of my few personal possessions was a communications receiver I’d brought from the barracks. Since I usually worked the flightline six nights each week I set the radio to a strong all night station for Barb – KGO.
That was how she became acquainted with the remote broadcasts from a San Francisco night club known as the Hungry i. And when I returned home she always filled me in on the performances of Dick Gregory, Barbra Streisand, and many other who were destined to become stars. The Hungry i provided entertainment superior to anything television provided. Then, in 1963, the air force sent us to the West Indies.
Puerto Rico provided a host of fine activities – Latin music, Quatros, wild fruits for the picking, temperatures as warm as the generous as our neighbors.
But our home located on Isabella Calla was a great a distance from Rough and Ready, too far for us to capture the nightly KGO signal. So we wore the music off a LP record playing Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”.
We served our three-year tour and returned to the continent to learn that the Hungry i no longer existed and that the frequency was now occupied by a talk show host, Ira Blue.
While Ira Blue did a fine job with his talk show, we could not complete him he the Hungry i. During our absence we’d been burglarized. However, there were many who did not share our disappointment.
Watch “How Ira Blue’s KGO signal led fishing boats through the Golden Gate” on YouTube. Continue reading I Left My Heart In San Francisco
Photo Source: Internet
Tom lets the door swing shut behind him. He has just reenlisted, and he isn’t sure it’s the wisest decision he’s ever made. It was the bonus, the cash money. There is a raft of bull shit to shovel in order to survive in this man’s air force. And now he’s signed up for more of the same. Maybe he should have his head examined. But it was too late for that now, he thought, aware of his queasy stomach. He needed to concentrate on the money. That was the only option left – the money.
Flagging the shuttle bus, and disembarking at the A&E Comm/Nav barracks, he passes through the main entryway. The strong odor of floor wax is emanating from the First Sergeant’s office. First Sergeant Ringbloom is peering into an open file drawer, and then begins thumbing through the folders. His uniform has the three familiar creases across the back, but they are insignificant compared to his trousers. Tom had never seen a more military man, his posture, is uniform, his shoes, his haircut. He’s a by-the-book man, even down to entering his office. A single rap on the door frame was required even when the door is open. Tom followed through.
“Yes,” he replied, turning halfway in order to see who is entering.
“I’m asking permission to post a note on the bulletin board,” Tom states.
“What’s the nature of this note, Airman.”
“I’m wanting to buy a motorcycle.”
“Biggs, Thomas Biggs, that’s your name, isn’t it?” the First Sergeant states his eyes focused on Tom’s name tag.
“Yes sir, Airman Biggs.”
“I just received a phone call. Congratulations on your re-enlistment. A wise decision, very wise, indeed. I was, at this very moment, preparing to update your file.”
“About the ad. Write out what you want to say,” Ringbloom stated, shoving a slip of paper toward him. “After I’ve approved it, I’ll have my clerk type it up and post it. Was there anything else?”
“No, that’s it.”
Tom printed his ad on the sheet of paper Ringbloom had provided:
Wanted: an affordable motorcycle. A Harley K Model would be my choice Running is preferred, but not an absolute necessity. See Airman Thomas Biggs, room 215, A&E Barracks.
“Very well,” said Ringbloom, rising from his chair and turning his attention once more to the gaping file drawer.
Tom climbs the stairway to the second floor, taking the steps two at a time, and then moves down the hall to his room. Letting himself in, he stretches out on his bunk and closes his eyes. He’d been awake half the previous night stewing about this re-enlistment business. Obviously, he was more tired than he realized, because when the knock at the door awakens him the sun has already set.
“Yeah,” he shouts at the door.
It opened slowly. The room is dark, so he can’t recognize the face.
“Biggs?” asks the visitor.
“In the flesh. Who wants to know?”
“My name is Cedric Jones. It’s the motorcycle ad.”
“You have a motorcycle for sale?”
“I do. May I come in?”
“Absolutely. Hit the switch by the door, if you don’t mind.
The overhead globe fills the room with a stark glare, and Tom is surprised to see that his visitor was a stranger.
“Tell me about your motorcycle?”
“It’s a 1952 Harley-Davidson K Model, forty-five inch engine, of course you probably already know that. It’s disassembled. It’s in a box.
Tom doesn’t immediately respond, hoping Cedric will clarify the word disassembled, but he doesn’t. He also wants to know what kind of money this Cedric fellow is expecting. But first things first, he decides, biting his tongue. Too much interest always influences the price, so he asks where he works, instead.
“I’m a cook. I work at the chow hall right off the south end of your barracks,” Cedric states as his eyes scan Tom’s room. “You’re a ham radio operator?”
“Yes, a general class. So how did you find out about the ad so quickly?”
“One of your guys from the Comm/Nav shop told me about it. Would you like to see it?”
“Absolutely. It’s on base, at the hobby shop?”
“Actually, it’s at Aunt Ruby’s. It’s not far.”
A ten minute drive brings them to a white cottage in North Charleston. The lawn is well-kept, hedges trimmed. Flowers line the sidewalk leading to a large front porch where a porch swing hangs. Cedric presses the door bell button. A moment later a large black woman with her hair piled high opens the screen door. She steps onto the porch, closes the screen and then folds her arms beneath her heavy breasts and then remains silent for a full minute.
“You come to haul away that machine you left in my shed?” she asks in an unfriendly tone.
“No ma’am, but I’m going to show it,” he replies, nodding in Tom’s direction.
“Well, alright. Be sure to lock up when you’re finished, ya hear?”
“Yes ma’am, I’ll certainly do that.”
Cedric leads Tom across the side yard and through a white, wooden gate, then along a narrow gravelled path leading around the house to an unpainted shed setting hard against the back property line. After fishing beneath a rust-colored clay pot containing a blooming geranium, he finds a brass key and unlocks the door. Yanking a string, a bulb fastened to a ceiling joist lights the interior.
“There she is,” he says, stepping forward and touching a large wooden crate.
“Wow,” declares Tom, following Cedric and peering inside. You weren’t kidding when you said it was disassembled.” Sorting through the parts, he recognizes the frame and then the rear wheel and tire. Further down is the headlamp. The engine and secondary chain are resting on the bottom.
“She’s all there.”
“You’re certain of that?” asks Tom, glancing at Cedric.
“Yes I put every piece in there myself.”
“Who took it apart?”
“How did you come to put it in a box like this?”
“Well, It’s Aunt Ruby’s shed. Mike said it would be okay to leave it here while I replace the secondary chain—.”
“And replacing the chain resulted in a hundred pieces in this box?”
Well, that’s part of the story. I hadn’t gotten started before Mike went TDY to Alaska. Aunt Ruby told me that since Mike was gone she didn’t want the motorcycle in her shed anymore unless it was in a crate or something. The next day I brought this box.”
“”Well, I’d be having a serious conversation if she were my aunt.”
“She’s not my aunt. She’s Mike’s.”
The story is growing more complicated by the minute, like it has life of it’s own.
“There’s an independent Harley mechanic not far from here, a couple of miles from the base. He could have—.”
“I tried him. He doesn’t work on black folk’s bikes.”
“Oh–I thought we were past that,” said Tom.
“Well, evidently, we ain’t,” Cedric replied, and Tom watched him tense up.
“So how much are you wanting for this in-a-box K Model?”
“Fifty bucks, as is.”
“Wow,” said Tom, moving back to the box again He found the package containing three master chain links. He found the saddle, the front wheel and tire. “Do you have a clear tile?”
“Okay. I’m going to offer you thirty dollars.”
Disappointment crossed Cedric’s face like someone switched off the light. And I felt like a heel.
“Look, I’m offering you less because I’m not totally convinced it’s all here. But if I can get it together and running I’ll pay you another forty-five bucks. Will that work for you?”
Cedric was slow to respond, but they finally shook and after locking up, they headed back to the base.
On the way Tom tried to recall who was first to say that a fool and his money are soon parted. Indeed.
The motorcycle trip went into planning stage around Christmas 2007. It wasn’t that the planning was so complicated, but rather John was anxious to start rolling. He called from Oregon twice each month. Sometimes he called more often.
At last it was warm enough to cross the Rockies. A few days later he called from his daughter’s house in Fort Worth and we set departure date as well as a place to meet – McDonald’s in at the intersection of US 82 and US 75 in Sherman at 0700. I rolled the forty miles up to Sherman and I couldn’t find a Mc Donald’s anywhere close to there. So,as,to not miss him, I rode west on 82 and set on the roadside so as to not miss him. After an hour I found a phone booth and called Barb. John had called her. The McDonald’s he was referring to was located inside Wal-Mart. He was mad as a hornet. Leaning out of the phone booth I spotted his motorcycle – dah.
CMe and John, Two Old Geezers
He was pretty antsy, but he waited while I had some coffee. As soon as I walked toward the trash can he started his bike. He was ready to go – past ready.
Heading north on 75, we were soon in Oklahoma and looking for the old home place where a mutual friend Rolla, a full-blooded Choctaw, had spent his youth on his grandfather’s ranch. Zigzagging north and east we finally reached Poteau. Since Rolla was 96 in 2008 things had probably changed.
From there we ventured into Arkansas, headed for Rudy where John lived as a toddler.
I might not have found this little town, he not been in the lead. Without much warning we darted from black top to gravel. Then I saw the sign. A bit farther we crossed a small bridge and we were in Rudy.
Only the store was open. The other few buildings were in various stages of disrepair. After parking our bikes we bought some soda and took a seat on a bench out front. That was when John told me about the yesteryear when his dad was town Marshall.
“There were rumors that Bonny and Clyde were not far away and headed toward Rudy. The town council called an emergency meeting and decided that John’s father should blockade the road and take them into custody, thereby putting Rudy on the map. But he said he wasn’t having any. A few nights later, while he was making his rounds he heard the crunch of tires. Just to be on the safe side, he crouched behind the horse water tank. He said there were no lights, but he saw the moon reflect off their car as it crossed the bridge and then passed on through town.”
John and I were about to head back to Dallas when we were joined by an elderly man and another who might have been his son. They both had been working on a building adjacent to the store. The old man talked non-stop. The son was busy chain-smoking roll-your-owns. He never uttered a word. The old man was wearing overalls with the legs cut off. He couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off our bikes.
“I rode one of those motorcycles once. The feller who owned it said it was a hopped-Harley and invited me to take ride. Well, I was young and foolish. As soon as it lit that sonofabitch took off with me only hanging by one hand. I made the turn and crossed the bridge, but just a bit yonder that dirty bastard shook me loose and I went through the barbed wire. It ripped me open from my ankle plumb to my ass,” he said, pulling up his pant leg, exposing a nasty, three-foot-long scar that looked as though it had been stitched with a length of rawhide. I glanced at the younger man but he was too busy with cigarettes. “Well, Ma probably has supper ready,” added the old man. They left without another word.
John and I headed back for Dallas.
There have been a host of discussions concerning the pros and cons of using Cursive. So while at our bank last week the teller jotted something on a slip of paper and when she handed it to me I asked her if she printed or used Cursive. The question caught her off guard. She said she’d not thought about it and after looking we decided she used both, kind of like mixing Spanish and English while speaking. I think they call it macoronic. It’s okay if you understand both.
So yesterday our oldest and youngest daughters – 50 and 55 (am I really that OLD?) – visited and brought with them a Father’s Day card which they had both signed. I took the opportunity to ask about Cursive. Evie, the oldest had learned it in school. Vicky hadn’t, but she told me she’d learned how to use from Evie.
I neglected to ask what age.
This photograph was published in the Omaha Bee Newspaper in 1919. This little boy might be 102 today if he survived this firecracker. I wonder if this little boy’s parents were elsewhere, or just stupid?