Will Strike for Sideburns
I attended high school from September of 1966, until June of 1970, a period of our nation’s history when a lot of new ground was broken. With the “police action” in Vietnam now requiring 500,000 troops, there was political unrest throughout the country, as millions protested our involvement in a conflict on the other side of the earth.
Unlike the unification that WWII brought to this land, Vietnam divided it down the center, fostering incendiary incidents like the Kent State shootings, May 4th, 1970, a month before I walked across that high school stage. Berkeley sit-ins were common in the news, love-ins in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park took place, and bodies came home in boxes. Thousands of them.
In January of 1970 Max Yasgar was sued for $35,000 by neighboring farmers, for damage done to their property, by attendees of the 1969 film festival, Woodstock, even as Simon and Garfunkel were releasing their final album together, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”
Dissension seemed the name of the game, with “Let It Be” being released in May of 1970, only five weeks after Paul McCartney had shocked me (and the rest of the universe) by announcing the breakup of the Beatles.
Was nothing sacred?
“The Magic Christian,” starring Ringo Starr, debuted in February of 1970, a film I was to see while sitting on top of a 1964 Ford van, at a drive-in movie theater, while traveling in NorCal with friends. We were in the midst of an epic adventure beginning the night of high school graduation, 1970, and lasting for three timeless weeks. *
|John and I, New Year's Eve, 1970|
This excursion with my four friends, one of them John, was the origin of what I called the Strike for Sideburns chapter of my life. The entire saga is a sordid example of what happens to a kid who was reared in such a tumultuous period of history, but whose family values still reached out and grabbed ahold of his collar, and gave him a good yank, now and again.
Or a shove, depending on the circumstances.
I mention that because one specific shove occurred in the backroom of Sunrize (sic) Market, upon my return from that voyage of discovery, when my boss placed both of his hands in the center of my chest, and knocked me flat on my back.
My crime? I had returned to work with a set of flaming red sideburns, that extended well below my ear, a no-no of extreme proportions at Sunrize Market. White-walls and dress shirts (with tie) were the uniform of the workplace, and nowhere was there a sideburn to be seen, let alone two.
Like the weasel, I popped back up on reflex, and got in his face so fast, he took a step back himself.
“You shoved me! That was stupid. I am on my way to the union so fast it will make your head spin!” and I brushed past him on my way toward the door.
“I did not shove you!” he roared, “You tripped!”
“Tripped? With your two hands solidly on my chest? I tripped? You messed up, Augie, and you messed up with the wrong guy! Find yourself a new flunky to shove around. I quit!” I screamed. I didn’t care if Eddie or Harold, the produce guys heard me, and I sure didn’t care about Jimmy Richardson hearing me either, though his name was to come up in the conversation in the next day or two.
Angie and I had begun our dialogue down at the end of the cereal aisle, where he was building an end-display, an Augie special. As head box-boy, I’d had almost three years to watch Augie in action, but he had never laid a hand on me up until that point.
When I had come into work the first day upon my return from that three-week journey, I was rocking a tan that couldn’t be matched, and the three-week-old growth of beard that was flaming red, partly because that was its natural color, and partly because we had just come from five days at Big Sur, where we spent much time down on the sand.
Well, not the entire beard, of course, just the part that allowed my “sideburns to hang in there,” as we used to say. Angie was having none of it, “Get home and shave, and don’t come back until you do.”
The conversation had gone downhill from there, quickly, necessitating the move to the backroom, where I strode purposefully, turned around to face my boss, and got met with the shove that came out of nowhere.
It is a testimony to the time period that I would never have dropped the f-bomb in my argument with my boss. When I said I “messed” up, that is a direct quote, but I was dead-serious about quitting, I was that confident that I could find another, comparable job. My friend John, who originally worked at Vons on Pass Covina Rd, switched over to Sunrize, for a spell there, without any problem, so I figured I could make a similar move.
I was wrong.
Confidence and a quarter would still get you a cup of coffee in 1970, but it did nothing to get me a job. I started with Alpha Beta, then Vons/Shopping Bag, and moved on to Market Basket, in downtown La Puente, before I began to realize that I had overestimated my own worth on the open market.
I pressed on to the Ralph’s and finally Safeway, in the GemCo Shopping Center, before giving up the quest and going back to face Augie. The reality is that as much as I wanted to make a statement, my mom had made a statement to me, when I informed her of my rash actions.
|Mama, June of 1972|
“You march right back up there and ask Augie for your job back. And you better hope that your father does not find out what you did. Imagine! The unmitigated gall of some people’s children. Quitting your job! Hmmph!” Mama was fit to be tied.
Sigh. With my shirt-tail tucked in, and my face clean-shaven, I slunk back in and begged Augie for my job back. Forgotten was the shove, the sideburns, and everything except for the fact that I was jobless, and did not want to go back to sweeping alleys.
Angie sized me up, recognized Mama’s work at play and smirked.
“Go get your apron on and get up on the front to relieve Jimmy, so he can fill the milk-box.
Stunned, I just gawked at him. “Jimmy’s? I’m working the front? I don’t get it.”
“No, but you’re going to. Jimmy is my new head box-boy. I’ll tell you one thing, I don’t have to tell Jimmy to get his sideburns cut.” He turned his back and stalked out.
He was right about Jimmy, who’d once described his girl friend to me as having “peanut butter legs; they spread easy.” I was suitably impressed. Then, when she ended up pregnant a few months later, and a hasty marriage was conducted, Jimmy was done fooling around with sideburns. Having a kid will do that for you. It would be thirteen years down the line before my first son was born.
|283 bored out to a 301; Mickey Thompson Pop-up|
Pistons. What on earth was I thinking?
As a plain box-boy, my many talents were wasted, so a transfer was arranged over to Sunrize Market number one, in Charter Oaks, the first of the four Sunrize Market chain. Newly ensconced in my brother Noel’s Chevy Nova, I was pleased as punch with this newfound freedom. I knew I would thrive in this environment, because there was no Augie.
Besides, my new workplace was only a five-minute spin to the In-N-Out on Arrow Highway. Benefits. Who’d a guessed?
* See Big Deal at Big Sur http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2011/08/big-deal-at-big-sur.html