Apartment Opening……………#24 (the 50’s)

Lieutenant Roy Spears & family

Mike and his sisters enjoyed the covenant downstairs portion of the Willson residence as a their room for indoor activities.  Besides the one large room with its outside entrance,  it had a walk-thru kitchenette, with a small gas stove, sink, cupboard and a fold down wall table leading to bathroom consisting of a stool and shower.  The other bathroom door opened into the basement washroom which housed mike’s mother’s wringer washer, concrete double sink and the very steep stairway upstairs opening into the dining room. It was when Mike’s mother introduced him and his sisters to a couple and their two children and that he realized the loss of the downstairs room.  The Spears,  Roy, Polly, Bobby and the youngest, Judy, were a military family, Roy a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corp and would be leaving on assignment to Okinawa with the family to join him, but the outbreak of the Korean war dictating a change in plans, the family no longer able to join Roy in Okinawa.

Judy, Polly & David

  Polly and the two children remaining in the  downstairs room, now designated as “the apartment”,  her and the kids becoming ‘like part of the family’.  Polly’s prolong stay changed when her friend Dorothy came to visit,  giving notice that her and Dorothy were looking to rent a house in San Francisco.  The moving experience was swiftly completed and to Mike the downstairs was in one respect sadly vacant, but in another way, its status had presented unlimited possibilities.  The Spear family move to San Francisco found the Willsons visiting, Polly who had mentioned that Judy and Bobby really enjoyed the older kids.  During the summer Polly extended an invitation asking Mike if he would mind spending some extended time with Bobby.  Mike looking forward to traveling by bus across the Bay Bridge to the Muni Station in the Transbay Terminal, then boarding the L Taravel Streetcar for the extended ride to the ocean side of San Francisco, disembarking at 42nd street then walking the two blocks to Polly’s house. .

The only way to travel – San Francisco Muni Streetcar

   Polly’s house, unlike his Aunt Alice’s San Francisco house before they moved, came with a majestic view of the ocean. From Bobby’s bedroom window,  one could view the blue pacific, the sunsets, even the ship sailing  to and fro from the Golden Gate.  Foremost, the windows opened wide, enabling the onshore breeze to bring the sounds of the ocean waves breaking on the beach through wind-blown curtains, the atmosphere  providing a heightened sense of adventure.  Another plus was the 6 block proximity to the ocean, Polly and Dorothy not hesitate in exploring the beach with its washed ashore spoils waiting for discovery making the seaside excursions an inevitable treasurer.  Mike’s enjoying his first week long visit but longing to remain longer when his parents appeared.

Auntie Al (as she was affectionately called.)

Aunt Alice and Uncle Charlie O’Toole having sold their 538 Garfield St. residence of many years, Mike’s cousins now  both grown having enlisted in the Military, Pat in the Navy and Bud in the Army.   Mike always enjoyed spending time with his Aunt Alice  at the Garfield St. residence provided many lasting memories. From the Garfield house he could hear the roar of the lions at Fleishhacker Zoo at feeding time and his Aunt a non driver as was his Uncle Charlie would  venture on the Muni to Golden Gate Park,  downtown to the theater, acquaint the blue pacific, wading in the surf across from Playland at the beach Mike and his aunt having the opportunity to see the first 3-d movie,  Bwana Devil.

East portal entrance to the Twin Peaks Tunnel

  These moments would always be retained as lasting picture of a caring fostering  Aunt.  The change in lifestyle having taking a toll on his Aunt and Uncle, their current residence an apartment in an unsightly neighborhood on Castro Street two blocks south of Market St. and the entrance to the east portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel.   The Castro street abide was a rear apartment on the second floor of a very old building which hosted a variety of  characters including  a elderly man on the first floor,  a resident who had an extrinsic notion of the exploits of Christopher Columbus especial when abiding with an excess amount of “vino”.   Aunt Alice always  characterized the neighbor as   “1492”,   because he frequently mentioned that year in his long loud dissertations in his Italian accented broken English.

Best Pinochle hand - a double run

Best Pinochle hand – a double run

Something was amiss, Saturday afternoon Mike was asked to join his Dad, the two journeying across the bay to the Castro Street address of his Aunt and Uncle.  Mike having overheard a discussion between his mom and dad that his aunt and uncle’s phone had been disconnected and they were being evicted and with Uncle Charlie was still unemployed their life was in total disarray.  Mike was surprised when his dad didn’t ask his aunt and uncle but told them they were going to stay with us in the downstairs apartment until they could get their situation organized.  Mike realizing he would have to set aside his aspirations of moving from his small upstairs room to the vacant  apartment.  With their arrival  he discovered a side of his Uncle Charlie that he never knew existed, for the first time his uncle actually had a conversation with him.  Mike finding he enjoyed his company, discovering that he was an amazing card player,  demonstrating many slide of hand tricks and introducing the youth to the game of Pinochle.  The boy spending many hours playing the challenging three-handed version with his aunt and uncle.  As months progressed Mike could sense a conflict between his parents and his aunt and uncle, Alice and Charlie making no effort to find work or change their ongoing  status. Words were finally exchanged, suitcases packed, the couple announcing their son Pat who was stationed in the navy down south arranged for them to move to Anaheim.  Mike having mixed feelings, he would missed them,  but now the apartment would once again be vacant, opening the opportunity to convince his parents about moving downstairs.




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