Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Rockin' and rollin'

Rockin' and rollin'
The author of Mark's Work

Coleus flowers

Coleus flowers
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Heinz tomatoes, used for catsup

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
Painted Lady

Fall Jewels

Fall Jewels
Praying mantis, attending services on a zinnia...

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Exhibit A

This is another in my series on the three spiral notebooks Mama wrote about my childhood. I have been savoring the moment when I posted this one; it is especially delicious.

Exhibit A

May 19th, 1963: Mark is a character and causes me lots of headaches…on the other hand he is usually smiling and clowning (when he isn’t crying and whining)…

July 31st, 1963: During the last month Mark and I have reached a lengthy and complicated agreement regarding the dishes…

July 1st, 1964: Mark is quite a problem at times-he is very contradictory in nature.

April 26th, 1965: He is a paradoxical character-very much like his older brother Brian, superior, intolerant, sometimes has to have his arm twisted to do a job…

[Editor’s note: From the same entry date came this beauty] He [Mark] is absolutely the most stubborn, persistent, one-way character I’ve ever seen. Once he gets an idea into his head, he never lets it go.

October 15th, 1965: Mark is in eighth grade and is supposed to be at the top at St. Martha’s. He doesn’t always act like it.

{Same entry date] In a way I feel kind of sorry for him because since the big boys aren’t available, all the chores seem to fall on him.
Exhibit A. I can't believe she put it in writing.
February 8th, 1967: On June 24, 1966 Mark went to work for Augie at Sunrize [Market] as bottle boy. On April 16, 1967 he went to work for the liquor store…Phil likes him and he is a very good worker. He gets paid $1.25 per hour, and of this he keeps 20% and the rest goes into the household.

I will refer to this as Exhibit A from all points forth.

Enough of the buildup, already, since this final quote is really all that I ever hoped it would be: incontrovertible proof that everything I write about this little saga is the honest-to-Buddha truth. Granted, it is a truth still immersed in an era long since left behind, The Great Depression, but then again, the sixties did not happen yesterday, either.

In November of 1960 (I was eight years old, washing dishes for seven kids and two parents) Mama writes that, “For some reason lately he has had a passion for doing the dishes. Previously he was just a helper-he dried and put away for the other boys, but now he prefers to wash and dry and put away by himself. So he is being promoted to work for himself.”

Finally, on October 16th, 1961, she wrote, “Mark is the troublemaker in the family, always stirring up some kind of mischief here or there. Yet he is the one who can be persuaded to help with the dishes or go over to help Brian at Ferrill’s. And last month when Eric poured cement for Mrs. Ousterhout, Mark mixed cement for him all day!”

I remember working for Mrs. Ousterhout, one of my best days ever. I wore my blisters proudly, with nary a complaint, proud to have taken my place alongside the big boys. How many just-turned-nine-years-old kids have you encountered who could mix concrete all day? Besides HeadSodBuster, I mean.

I see two recurring themes in my growing up: I was a pain in the backside, while being able to work that same backside into the ground. I had three older brothers to boss me around, and three younger brothers to similarly educate, once Kevin came along in 1966. I naturally sought attention by whatever means possible.

However, amidst all this maneuvering through big-family politics, was the fact that any time I worked outside the household, I received only a small percentage of what I actually brought home and handed over to Mama. And just so we are clear here, it was Mama, and not Papa, who handled these matters. I never once broached the subject to the guy who worked full time in a steel factory as a welder. I knew I had it easier than he.

The passage above indicates that as an eighth grader, I earned twenty cents on the dollar. The following September, 1967, when I went to work for Augie as a box-boy and joined the Retail Clerks Union, I made $1.75 an hour. In a week’s time I might have brought home a paycheck pushing fifty bones. 

Imagine a thirteen-year-old busting his butt, earning fifty bucks, and being given ten of it back to live on.

Having been raised with this policy, and with the big boys paving a polished path with their industrious natures, I never really questioned it until I hit the big money as a box-boy. By then I was interested in the “honeys” who seemed to be flitting around me in the environment of Sunrize Market, unlike that of high school, where I was not such an attraction.

Now I wanted to be able to rock yellow corduroy bell-bottoms, with matching dress shirt, when I attended the sock-hops at Bishop Amat Memorial High School. I wanted to be able to hit Bob’s BigBoy afterwards, to grab a quick snack of a double cheese-burger, large fries, green salad, and just to make sure, a bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich.

My first wife Nancy was gracious enough to allow the server to place the BLTA sandwich in front of her, along with her tea, until it was up to bat in my lineup. Kids, you know? Eat all they want, and never give it a thought. These days, in the wintertime, If I even sneak a peak at a slice of sourdough toast, I gain five pounds.

In order to adapt this new lifestyle, I needed the bling, so I worked for it. Having graduated from throwing large rocks onto pieces of wood, in order to acquire firewood, I was thrilled to wear a white shirt and tie to work, because it meant a raise in pay.
Imagine the cultural shock that registered, when my friends all started to work and I found out that they did not have to give up 80% of what they made to the household. Indignation hath no fury like that of a teenaged boy who feels he is being crucified.

Did Mama and I occasionally get into discussions about these matters? January 23rd, 1967: “Where he has really been shining, and this comes as no surprise, is debate, his extra class.” Well, by her own admission, I was good at debating, possibly because I had so much practice.

She argued that the household took precedence over my needs; I told her, ‘Not from this corner of the household.’

She argued that this was the system in place when she was growing up; I told her, ‘That was then-this is now.’

She argued that the big boys had always done it; I told her, ‘All good things must end.’

She argued that it was the least I could do; I argued it was most I could do.

She argued that good children did not argue with their mothers; I informed her that I was not a good child.

And when it came to my rebuttal, I would reverse the order of my affirmative arguments, and add the clincher, “What I hate most, Mama, is being told I have to give you all my money. I would like to be asked.”

But it did not work that way in Mama’s world. She worked 24 hours a day to keep the household afloat, and she expected nothing less from us, and most of the time she got it without complaint. 

It was a tough job but someone had to do it. I did appreciate that Mama went along with my fib to the Retail Clerks Union, accidentally claiming to be sixteen, when I had just turned 15. Since everyone was in on it, Augie, Mama, Papa, assistant-manager Brian, me, it was solid gold. All of these adults lying for ME!

As the novelty wore off, however, and the honeys continued to be attracted to the kid who used to stand on the four-wheeled carts that we hauled the stock on, and scoot along dusting and “facing off” the top aisle of canned food, I needed compensation for my efforts. I was, after all, a star.

Mama understood, and said she sympathized, but that was as far as she would budge. What had always been, would continue to be, unless, of course, I was tired of living at home, and was planning on moving out? And not out back to the boat house, aka radio shack, either.

No, if I were going to live in Mama’s house, I would abide by her rules, and we would all live happily ever after. Fortunately, by her own admission, I did not carry a grudge around very long, and lo and behold, when I entered college at Cal Poly Pomona, the earth shook and Mama relented: 

She upped my share to one-third, instead of one-fifth, with the other two-thirds continuing to flow into the household. 

True story.


  1. I can't tell who that is in the photo, JT or me? I know I had a cowgirl outfit like that and I do remember that big teddy bear.
    Good story!

    1. I took it to be you but I wasn't sure. I have few pics. Thanks for reading! xoxo

    2. That is you, Laura, in the photo - funny how obvious it is to me but I can't say exactly why.

  2. Mark, you are such a strong writer. And , yes, she wrote a lot about you. I think I mentioned before that I don't hear a lot of positive in the stuff she wrote about me - she wasn't impressed, I guess. I sure don't remember you as stubborn or difficult in any way. But we allied with each other so likely I was backing you up on everything.

  3. I need to come up there with my baby book and we can check them out together!