I arrived at school for my freshman year of highschool and received my class schedule. I was standing in line at a table behind a sign that said, “Freshman H through L.” When I got to the front of the line, the PTA volunteer seated behind the table said, “Your name please.”
“Jeremy Jones.” She looked through what appeared to be a shoebox full of papers, pulled one out, picked up another paper from a pile next to the box, and handed them to me with a smile.
“Here you go.”
“Rosemarie Jones,” said the girl in line behind me after I had stepped aside.
Rose and I had the same last name. I hadn’t seen her before. She hadn’t been at Potter Junior High the previous term. But there she was in the freshman “H through L” line, picking up her class schedule right behind me. “Hi,” she said.
“Hi, are you new to Fallbrook? My name is Jeremy.”
“I’m Rose. Yes, I’m new this year. My dad got transferred to Camp Pendleton.”
“My dad works there too. He’s been there as long as I can remember.”
“Is he in the military?”
“No, he’s a civil engineer.” I looked at my class schedule, I had World History first period, then something caught my eye, “Boy’s PE!” I said out loud. I was expected to report to the boy’s locker room for 4th period PE. A wave of fear swept over me as I realized I couldn’t do that. But I can’t just ditch! What am I going to do?
“They put you in boy’s PE?”
“Yeah. This is terrible.”
“They made a mistake. You can probably get it straightened out. — Looks like I’ve got PE first. See you around.”
I had until 4th period to get it changed, so I reported to World History, my first period class. This teacher didn’t assign seats, so I sat down near the back.
When 4th period came around the lines had dwindled and I went to the office and to get my schedule straightened out.
I reported to the girl’s locker room, 10 minutes late, with an add slip. Being the butt of jokes, even if unintentional, was humiliating. I knew very little about sex and sexuality. I just knew there was male and there was female. Why had my parents given me a name that everyone said was a boy’s name?
Other than having a vague feeling that there was more to it than I understood, I would not have minded being male. I liked long, grueling bike rides. I liked playing with snakes. I enjoyed playing in the sand with toy cars and trucks. I enjoyed a good scuffle and was often victorious in fights with one brother or the other. Of course, I also liked teddy bears and dolls. And I couldn’t really picture myself with male genitalia; in fact, just the attempt to imagine that was revolting.
Two years earlier, a 16-year-old 8th grader used to ride my bus when I was in 7th grade. I was 11 and 12 that year and had not yet started to develop. Ray used to tease me, calling me Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn, the voluptuous blond actress, had just passed away, August 5, 1962, a few weeks before school opened for the fall semester of my freshman year of high school. She was 36. She had overdosed on barbiturates. She had been depressed about having been used as a “piece of meat,” I would learn later when I read her biography.
Rose and a Book
“Jeremy,” someone said, pulling my attention away from the rantings of Captain Ahab and the Moby Dick open on my lap, “I feel sorry for Jo.” It was my book buddy. We sat on a patch of grass between rows of buildings at Fallbrook Union High School most lunch periods and read books instead of eating lunch. Skipping lunch was Rose’s idea. She wanted to lose weight. She wasn’t fat, just a little fluffier than she liked. I tried it with her and I liked having the extra time to read. I didn’t miss the food, I ate when I got home from school, around 3:00. I didn’t need to lose weight. I was slim and muscular. Rose was reading, Little Women.
“I know,” I said, “but it ends okay.” I looked at the grass, then up at Rose. Framed by her dark hair, her white face reflected yellow sunlight on her forehead. “I’m a little worried about this Captain Ahab. What is the crew going to do?” I said, grateful after all for her companionship.
“That’s a good book,” she said, “But I probably shouldn’t spoil the ending for you.”
Decades later, most of the one story buildings of our high school days would have become double deckers or more, and our grass area would be blacktopped over to accommodate nearly a ten-fold increase in the campus population. The demographics will have changed. The campus was mostly white in our day, with a small number of First People from Pala reservation. Perhaps the mascot, the Fallbrook Warriors, was named in their honor. In ensuing decades, well over half the campus population would be students of color, with the largest increase among Latinos. The area is being reclaimed by the descendents of the first people who had been slaughtered, pushed onto reservations, and deported to Mexico.
“It’s time to go to Latin,” Rose said, right before the bell rang that spring day in 1963.
“Okay Rose, see you later!”
I was grateful for being taught to read. I was grateful for Robert Heinlein, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, Judy Bolton, Nancy Drew, and other writers (or books) who had made my childhood more bearable and interesting. I was grateful for the educational opportunities given me. I loved learning.
I gathered up my books and headed for French Class.
“This long,” he said, showing a distance between his thumb and middle finger. “Here, I’ll cut the first one for you.” Daddy had recruited my help with one of his concrete projects. It was for some kind of a tunnel that would channel water into the big pond (which we also referred to as the “lake.”) My job was cutting lengths of galvanized wire that he would use to join lengths of steel rebar that would be strategically placed in the form he had built out of the 2x4s and 2x6s that he used over and over for numerous concrete projects on the property. Then a cement truck would be contracted with to pour concrete into Daddy’s form while the rest of us tamped it into place. For smaller jobs he mixed up the concrete in his own cement mixer.
The family had left Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles, where my brother, Jeff, and I had been born and moved to a small, rural town near a military base where Daddy worked in the civil service as a civil engineer. My earliest memories are associated with the concrete block south-facing solar house and the surrounding rural land where the family moved before I was a year old. There had been no contractors working on the house. My parents built it themselves block by block. Here another brother was born, Kerry. I had spent most of my childhood with these two siblings.
When I was growing up, there were few houses in the neighborhood, the traffic on the street that surrounded my family’s property on three sides was light. There was an untamed stream that flowed through the property, and passed under the street in a culvert. There were acres of native habitat to explore. By the time of this writing, 5 decades would come and go. Everything would change. The street would become busy, many houses would have been built in the area and surrounding areas. The stream would be completely tamed with two earthen dams, and the former areas of native habitat would have been put to other uses.
As a freshman in high school in the spring of 1963, I was grateful for the wilderness area where I lived, and the freedom to play there. I was glad for the opportunity to help my father and to learn something about construction, and earn 25¢ an hour, although, at 14, I probably could have happily played.
Daddy and Diet
The family had gone on a camping trip a few years earlier. A man in a neighboring campsite had killed a rattlesnake with a rock. He had only wanted the rattles and had given the rest of the snake carcass to my dad.
We had been camping somewhere in Butterfield Country. Mama and Kasey, the latter still a baby, had stayed home. Daddy fried the rattlesnake in the camping skillet over a campfire. I thought it tasted a lot like fish. Much of the meat that was served at our family’s table had been raised by us and butchered by my father. A family that produces their own milk on the ranch will typically breed more animals than they will use as milk animals, because six to eight months of an animal’s milk production will require a birth, which will, in the case of goats, typically be a multiple birth. On a family farm, the extra offspring are raised for meat. Some dairy farmers give away or sell the extra animals. But my dad had a vision of a self-sustainable family farm in which everything had a use. I always had a goat that I milked twice a day for most of the year, barn stalls to clean and manure to haul to fruit trees or garden plots. I became a willing butchering apprentice, and learned the steps in preparing chickens for the table, first by watching Daddy and helping, then by doing it myself under his direction. Eventually, I would be able to start with a living bird and put it through all the steps necessary to serve it for dinner, including killing, feathering, cleaning, and cooking, all by myself, and would do so many times.
My father had become interested in health while in college. He had probably been aware of the writings of Dr. Weston Price, because the Paleo Diet, advanced by the Price Foundation, is pretty close to Daddy’s idea of diet. Daddy wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible, with garden, orchard, dairy and butchery. Food was eaten in as natural a state as possible, not overly refined or processed. Daddy learned the benefits of unrefined foods while in college. Mama made this adaptation after meeting him.
My parents had been born during the second and third decades of the 20th century. As babies, they had been among the first consumers of the “great liberator” – infant formula. Their diets had lacked in nutrients and their jaws had failed to hold all of their teeth. They had suffered diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps and chicken pox. They had lost teeth to decay.
They wanted to change all of that for their children. No refined wheat nor refined sugar were allowed in the house. Babies were breastfed, at least for the first few months.
My brothers and I had been taught how to shoot a gun. I didn’t like shooting very much. The shot gun hurt my shoulder. The stories my parents had told me about people killed in careless, accidental shootings were intimidating, and rightly so. I preferred to let the others do the hunting. My parents prepared rabbit a couple of times. Later I would try both squirrel and raccoon with my first husband, Perry.
Daddy had been so pleasant to us kids on camping trips that I wondered when the other shoe was going to fall. Once on a hiking expedition on Mount San Gorgonio, Daddy had two oranges in his jacket pockets. Placing each hand under one of the protruding pockets he had joked, “If the old lady can keep up, maybe you guys are slacking!” My brothers and I laughed with abandon.
Sometimes Daddy told jokes at home at the dinner table. One joke he told mentioned a lady with the same name as one of our neighbors. A minister was addressing his congregation. “Helen Hunt is handling the raffle. If you want a ticket you can go to Helen Hunt for it.” My brother sprayed milk from his nose.
Dad was frustrated about how often we had colds. He tried rewarding the one who stayed healthy the longest, by giving that person first pick of the broiled goat stakes, which we all loved.
Later I would live over half my life as a vegan, I would learn what causes colds: animal products, refined foods, drugs and chemicals, anything that mucks up the “machine” necessitating a cleaning.
My dad knew about refined foods, drugs and chemicals. He also thought he knew about “germs,” but he was ignorant about the benefits of the plant-based diet, even though I would try to enlighten him in later decades.
Dad’s grandfather was a Swedish immigrant who spoke fluent Swedish, according to my mom. She must have met him before he passed away, although I never knew any of my great-grandparents. My paternal grandparents met each other on a Swedish campout on Mt. Wilson, according to my grandma, so my dad was named Wilson. He was born in Jamestown New York, then the family returned to California while he was in grade school, sometime during the great depression of the 1930s. His dad was a carpenter, so they had it tough.
Long Bike Ride
The high school was four miles away, up hill and down. I could have commuted to school on bicycle, although it would have involved a lot of uphill pumping. As long as I caught the bus on time, there was no reason to. If I missed the bus, I would have been late by the time I got myself there on bicycle. Mama would scold us, but drive us to school if that happened. Probably the main reason I didn’t bike to school is that it just wasn’t done in the early 60s in my town. Not that I was such a conformist, but I couldn’t have taken the heckling that would have come my way.
Once, around the time we were in junior high or earlier, my brothers and I had been out riding our bikes in Deluz, a wilderness area 4 or 5 miles from our home. I was in the lead and there was a snake lying across the trail just ahead. I hadn’t seen the snake in time to stop. I yelled, “Rattler!” as I rode my bicycle over it, lifting my feet as high as I could.
Kerry, stopped and picked up the snake. “It’s not a rattler, it’s a gopher snake,” he said. I walked up to have a look. The snake jumped out of my brother’s arms and attached itself to my cheek. It had been an ordeal removing the snake’s face from mine as rows of teeth, designed for holding and swallowing prey, had lodged into my skin from both the snake’s upper and lower jaws.
On another trip, a couple years later, my brothers and I covered about 100 miles round trip, riding to the coast, then riding down the coast for quite a ways to Del Mar, then returning home by another route. I remember following Jeff up to a house. He knocked on the door and asked for water. We were really thirsty and the water tasted great!
Sometimes I would bike to town and back, usually on a weekend day or a holiday, but up hill and down for two miles, it was quite a chore.
Kerry Liked to Ditch Jr. High
My brother Kerry was in 7th grade the year that I was a freshman in high school. The new junior high had opened that year, after I had graduated from the old junior high, that I rode the school bus to and from. The new junior high was closer to our home, so Kerry walked or rode his bike. The stinker liked to hang out in the eucalyptus grove he passed through instead of going to school lots of times. He forged excuses until he got caught.