Mom and George had moved to Georgia because George had gotten a better job there and again, our needs, as children, were most likely never considered for a moment. As always, we were just expected to adapt to anything and anywhere, at any time. Our stability or education or relationships were inconsequential. George was the breadwinner and it didn’t matter if he could get a job anywhere. He was an aeronautical engineer and could have gotten a job anywhere and made good money but, with George, and probably even more so with my Mom, it was always about going where he could make the most money. It was not just Roger and I that got a raw deal on that. George had five daughters, too, and they never came first either. It was always the work. Nowadays, it seems amazing to me how parents are so careful to take into consideration the needs of their children and even turn down jobs if it means disrupting the lives of their children.
Ole and Gail had been living in Escondido, but at some point, they had gone back to Spokane. Roger and I must have got shipped off to Toppenish to live with my dad for a while. I guess the adults probably thought they would give that a try but I hated school in Toppenish. Roger had come with me and we both wanted to go back to Southern California. Somehow, I think we convinced dad to give us some money and Roger and I went back to Escondido and got our own apartment. Roger was 16 and I think I had probably turned fourteen by this time. Essentially, we were on our own.
I am pretty sure we got back to Escondido in Roger’s yellow 57 Chevy that had taken a beating over the time he had it and somehow we got an apartment. How does a fourteen year old and a sixteen year old get an apartment without anyone asking questions? I don’t know for sure since I don’t remember that but I know we got one and lived on our own and I even got back into school in Poway. Roger would either take me there or a couple of times I even hitchhiked. Mark Heideman, Roger and I continued our band, “The Luv Please.” Our friends in San Diego, Leslie and Marnie, who we had met playing at a car show in San Diego, used to bring us food they would steal from their parents houses. We were actually surviving but it didnt’ take long before I had stopped going to school. My girlfriend’s mother called the child protective services and a social worker showed up at our door. Against our will, Roger and I were put into a foster home in the town of San Marcos.
The foster home was pretty horrible for me. The family were Mormon and I remember the mother being the type that seemed to be seeking some celebrity in her life. I can’t remember what it was she did as far as art or performance though. I do know she made a point of talking about all the children that she had fostered and how they all would come back and see her and loved her and were so thankful for her.
I think the son resented our being there. He was about the same age as me if I remember correctly. The daughter was about Roger’s age. Instead of buying regular milk, only powdered milk was bought and I hated that. The mother also didn’t allow anyone to drink fluids with the meals. You were only allowed to have something to drink after you were done eating.
By this time, Roger and I had become friendly with Leslie and Marnie in San Diego through playing at the car show there. They had visited us in our apartment and had brought us food there. I stayed in telephone contact with them and they came to visit us in the foster home. I thought Leslie was going to help me run away and I had even gotten into the trunk of the car but she betrayed me and told them where I was.
Roger and I enrolled in school. I attended classes and remember feeling completely lost. What the other kids were learning and discussing was all Greek to me. It didn’t really matter because we were not there for very long.
For some reason, on one day, I got into an argument with the daughter of the foster parents and called her a “bitch.” Within a few hours, the social worker was at the house and driving me to a “receiving home” in the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego. Apparently they had decided that I was incorigable. Because Roger was 16, he was allowed to go live with our previous neighbors by the barn house on Summit Avenue.
At the receiving home, I had a room mate who was a couple of years younger than myself, who had some awful lung disease. He was wheezing constantly and coughing up a lot of phlegm. I don’t think it was anything as simple as asthma. I believe it may have been cystic fibrosis. This boy was really very sick in a chronic way. I got along okay at the receiving home though. After a week or so, my Mom flew out from Georgia to spring me from the home and I think she sent me up to Washington.
I think that was probably the year that I meant Dan, a Yakima Indian that would continue to be my best friend for the next few years. I had been allowed to enroll in Toppenish High and Dan attended there as well. I still had my hair down my back but I don’t think it was as long as Dan’s at the time. His wasn’t long because of the Beatles, His was long because of his embracing his heritage as a Yakima Indian. He was one of thirteen kids that his mother was raising in the absence of a father for the most part. I think his father may have been a farm laborer.
I also think I met Virgil that year. He was a pretty scary guy and the first time I met him, he was threatening to beat me up. Many of the girls at Toppenish High, including his girlfriend at the time, Dianna, liked my Beatle haircut and would innocently flirt with me. He took it much to seriously and I thought he was surely going to kill me and I don’t think I got any sleep that night. I think my dad tried to give me a crash course in boxing but I knew that was a lost cause. Dianna must have talked to him that evening and convinced him that her flirtations were only innocent because when I saw him the next day, instead of him wanting to kill me, he wanted to be my friend. He remained a friend and a protector for some years after that, and as much of a thug as he was, totally accepted it when I came out to him and told him I was gay.
It was amazing how several of these people in Toppenish back then, in the late sixties and early seventies accepted my sexuality. Henry was Mexican and another “thug” like Virgil. He was a dangerous guy that liked to drink and fight and womanize with my brother and Virgil but also liked to hang around Rogers’ band. By this time, I had lost interest in playing drums as practice sessions were always pretty awful. Roger was a perfectionist and I just wanted to have fun. Henry was another protector. If anyone made threats toward me or Roger, they would have to deal with Henry and Virgil first. I had a crush on Henry for several years and I am sure that he knew it but was always straight and macho.
It wasn’t long until baseball season at Toppenish High and there was no way that I was ever going to catch or hit a baseball and I could only tolerate the humiliation for a short while. I offered to continue going to school if I could be excused from physical education but that was out of the question so I just quit going to school. I got to know the truant officer at the time very well. He would come to the house and have coffee and cigarettes with me in the afternoon and try to convince me I should be in back in school One day, my dad saw me walking downtown, along Toppenish Avenue with Dan during a school day and he pulled over and told me to get into the car. You knew when my dad was not messing around and I think he was even sober at the time. I could tell he was pretty angry. It is the only time I remember him ever hitting me with a closed fist and I don’t think it was even in the face. I don’t remember exactly, but I know I cried and then he felt terrible and came and rubbed my back and told me that he loved me. I think that was pretty much it for me and Toppenish High though.