I was born in central California in 1924. We left there and went back to the mountains in northeastern California when I was small. That’s where I was raised. I never saw a flush toilet. Dad lived to be in his 90s, and worked until he was 87 or 88. My dad was a general building contractor and plastering contractor; he was a builder by trade. He did well in his life. I worked for my dad all my summers as a hod carrier; how I hated that. I have two brothers; one older; one younger. My younger brother is still alive somewhere in Northern California. It was a good life, though. I did a lot of hunting, and climbing in the mountains.
World War Two – I joined like everybody else because I didn’t want to be drafted into the Army. I wanted to go into the Navy, but I got disappointed because they wouldn’t take me in the regular Navy since I was colorblind. They put me into the construction battalions, which I didn’t want to be. I went to boot camp in Virginia, and then to Port Hueneme for advanced training with the Marines. The outfit I was with was attached to the 2nd Marine Division. I was in for 33 months and 10 days. I shipped over in 1943 to the Solomon Islands. I was on about six different islands, total – Tulagi, Gavutu/Tanambogo and Florida Islands in the Solomons for about 14 months. I was directly across the straits from Guadalcanal. It was a 12-hour boat ride going over. After that, I was on Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls and Saipan in the Marianas.
I didn’t like Eniwetok. The highest point was only about six feet above sea level; a good, long, strong wave would go right over the top of it. I was only there for about two weeks, and was glad to get off.
The last island I was on was Saipan. I was there for a year and a half. I was there for the invasion of Saipan. I didn’t make the invasion, but we were right behind the Marines from the 2nd Marine Division. We would get up close behind them as they went ashore. My construction division would build out-buildings and showers. As soon as the Marines went in on an invasion of an island like Saipan, we would get busy building showers, four or five big flat showers platforms with a half a dozen showers in each one. The first thing those guys wanted when they got out of the fight was a shower, and we had them ready for them. I felt sorry for those poor bastards (Ed: The Marines of the 2nd Mar Division). A lot of them got killed. I lost one very good friend there who had made the invasion.
Saipan was good to me, made a lot of money on Saipan trading Japanese souvenirs with the flight pilots for booze. We would go into places that were off limits – like caves and old camps – gather the Japanese rifles, pistols, shoulder holsters and all kinds of stuff. I could get 3 to 4 quarts of booze per rifle, and then sell the booze for $35 a pop.
Going home, I had Hari Kari knife, some Jap pistols and a Samurai sword all in a sea bag. The guys that were discharging us said I needed to put the stuff up. I said I’m not putting it up, I’m taking it with me. The officers said I was still in the service and you will do what you’re God damn told. They threatened me, and I knew that they were going to steal it, and they did. I went to the commanding officer, and I even had an argument with him. I said you all aren’t but a pack of thieves around here, right to his God damn face and he never said a word, he just stared at me. They stole every souvenir.
There was also the night I was called to check on a generator – not sure what the problem was; could I go look at it. It was midnight, so I grabbed a flashlight, and I had a look. It had run out of gas. I was looking at the gauges, and somebody hit me over the head with a piece of iron pipe. It didn’t knock me out. I turned around, and there was 11 Japs standing there. They didn’t know what to do; they wanted to surrender. I told them to stay right there. They were scared to death. I went down to the radio shack, and told the shore patrol. They came back and took the Japs in. Put them into confinement and later let them go. It was in the paper the next day that the local shore patrol had captured 11 Japs. Lucky, I wasn’t killed.
I was able to stow away in a B29 once. Got permission from the flight officer to go on the flight to Yokohama, Japan. Took 12 hours. Just wanted to experience it. Those guys up there thought I was crazy.
Couple of them felt sorry for me and rounded up a cushion for me to sit on. I had to sit right behind the cabin on the floor, a small area. Not a pleasure flight. I was one tired son of a bitch when I got off that plane. Out the window, I was able to see a lot of city below, pilot made one circle around after he dropped the bombs, instead of going straight out. There wasn’t much competition up there. I could see the bombs hitting down below. It was a long way down. We didn’t lose many planes, lost more planes to running out of gas and going into the ocean. 520 of those giants (B-29s) took off out of Saipan, Tinian and Guam in the morning and 12 hours later they would return. It would take hours before they would all be on the ground.
Got to visit several other islands – Guam and Tinian. We weren’t supposed to; we were still at war with Japan. My partner and I steamered over for a couple of days and then came back.
I was discharged in either 1945 or 1946. As soon as the war was over, they sent me home. I was “booted out.” Processed out on Treasure Island in the Bay area. They sent us home on leave first because the island was so loaded with people being discharged. It took 2 weeks to go through the process; what a mess. I don’t know where any of my military stuff is now.
After the military, I took a year off and the got into the lumber industry. I fell timber for four or five years. It was a good business, and I loved the work. It was a business that you had to work to make money. If you wanted to make big money you could. You had to work your ass off, and I did. I could work 5 times to some of those other guys. They paid top dollar to timber fallers. To me, it was fun. Everything I did in the woods was fun. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was hard on my back. I still feel it today, but I was in good shape in those days. It came in handy during a couple of Saturday night bouts that I got into. Did any work I could throughout my life.
Spent 20 to 25 years in the trucking business, I drove line rig cross country, and logging trucks. Didn’t enjoy the logging truck much – too dangerous and too many damn fools behind the wheel. I was very serious about driving those logging trucks. I took my time and made sure the job was done right. Drove mostly out of Susanville, California. Went up to Alaska and drove a bit, 2-3 years. Logged out of Ketchikan; worked for Juneau Spruce.
I was a jippo logger ( Ed: piece work) and did a little of everything. Back then, you had to do the whole job. Buck the logs and limb the tree. I could swing an axe pretty good and limbing a big tree didn’t bother me any. Bucking (cutting into sections) them trees is a different story, that’s a job in itself. All by hand saw, no chainsaws. Whipping sticks they called it – hard work. Finally, I bought a chainsaw when they first came out, paid $1000 for it.
Coming back from Alaska, drove truck part time. After driving cross country for a few years, I decided to buy 3 trucks. Get rich, you know, like every other idiot. Hour after hour chasing trucks, trying to keep them running. Never home, more time in my car than my bed. Hell of a life! Finally, I realized what I was doing to myself and started selling the trucks. Interesting life in a way. Then I decided to go back and drive for somebody else. Drove and smoked cigarettes. Started smoking when I was 15. Smoked 3 packs a day in those damn trucks. Had an episode once, thought I was having a heart attack. Doc was surprised I hadn’t. Quit the cigarettes. Finally, I couldn’t stand the trucks without the cigarettes, so I quit the trucks too.
Been married several times. Had one daughter and three sons. Only 1 son living now – with an ex-wife in Arlie, Montana. We stay in touch, seeing them a couple of times a year. He’s a good kid and a hard worker. He takes good care of his mom.