First Memories………….#1 (the 40’s)

Baby Mike and Dad

This is the genesis of a chronological journey spanning more than 70 years of remembrances of Gary Michael (Mike) Willson commencing at the age of two in 1943.  Gary Michael Willson achieved this world by the grace of God, his Mother Betty Irene (Potter) and Father Robert Willson on March 18, 1941, his father’s 22nd birthday.  The infants inaugural residency, Yreka California, population 2465, the county seat of Siskiyou County, central California’s most northern province.  The new-born not acknowledge by his given name Gary but endowed as Mike.  The first two years of his life spent in transit with his parents, abiding in many northern California communities as dictated by  his father’s employment.  Between the age of two and three with sparse uncertainties the remembrances of life events and surroundings began their implantation.

7 months and ready for the world

Tree house home in Atascadero

Mike and his Dad

Mike – 1942

Residing at 1368 Brookside Drive,  San Leandro in 1943  was an eventful time.  Two-year old Mike was excited,  his Dad having brought home a stray dog but sadly it wasn’t well and soon died.  What was surreal about the event was watching his Dad bury the dog in the backyard near the fence, it was dark and  was done by flashlight.  The toddler soon experienced an expanded world not just limited to his house or yard, but one that knew no bounds with thoughts of  venturing off.  One day to the dismay of his Mother he did so, only to be stopped several blocks from the house and returned by a Good Samaritan in a pickup truck.   The young adventurer soon experienced the meaning of being confined to the premises, his mother tying a rope around his waist to prevent his wandering off,  just long  enough to allow freedom to roam about the yard.   It was later in the summer having been told his mother was going to have a baby and on July 15th Mike’s sister Katherine Jane, anointed as Katy complemented the family with her arrival.

1368 Brookside Drive

The Apartment House, 215 Butte St. Yreka

Pearle and 3-year-old Mike

Mike and sister Katy

The country was still at war when the local draft board in Yreka summoned Mikes dad to report in August 1944.  His home in Yreka was in an upstairs apartment with his Mom and Sister Katy and was able to visit and spend time with his Aunts and cousins, but his interest was elsewhere.  The Westbrook family also lived upstairs and their daughter Pearle would visit reading to him, taking him to places that were exciting.  On one afternoon taking  him to a Frankenstein movie covering his eyes during the scary parts and on other occasions going on picnics and riding together on her horse. One afternoon they ventured on a walk crossing Yreka Creek to go up on the mountain where they were able to look down on the town below, what Mike thought was fun was that they didn’t cross the creek on the bridge, but under it, stepping on the rocks in the flowing water.

Mike’s mother Betty 1944

Mike soon discovered going to the store with his Mom was fun,  buying him candy, animal crackers and sometimes even Cracker Jacks.  One day noticing his moms purse with dollar bills sticking out, decided that this would be good time to go the store.   Taking only one bill, the three-year old proceeding out of the apartment to the store alone and once at the store the clerk however notified his mother of what was transpiring,  Mike learning a lesson, it’s best to go shopping with Mom.  He like staying with Aunt Ann and cousin Billie who lived on the other side of the Laundry on Main St.  For some reason the Laundry whistle,  which was extremely loud signifying the noon hour and the end of the workday, frightened him.  He would find himself hurrying pass the laundry going to and coming from Aunt Ann’s house and for some reason not wanting to be caught if the whistle would sound.

A favorite event at the apartment house was when the fuel truck would deliver the oil for the stove.  It would back up to the house, Mike could see it through the window watching the man hook up the hose and fill the tank,  thinking that someday he might be able to do this.  His life was not without tribulation, he got into serious trouble one day and learned a never forgotten lesson. He found the matches, the wooden ones used for lighting the stove discovering that by striking them on the side of the box they would burn.  Mike got caught and his mother gave him a good talking to, but he did it again only this time he got a spanking.  He knew better but it was still great fun deciding he would do it in secret  next to the house but out of sight.  He got caught the third time and his Mother proved to him that fire would burn.  She lit a match and burned the ends of his fingers and all the while telling him over and over again fire burns and to never play with matches.  It was lesson that was implanted permanently and never again would there be a desire to play with matches.

Mikes Dad with cousins Pat and Louis O’Toole

Getting attention was never a problem, Mike having an abundance of relatives, he and his sister were the youngest members adorning his mother’s family.  There was always visits from his many cousins,  Jerry and  Bobby Potter, Billy Potter,  Bud and  Johnny Eastlick, Pat and Lewis O’Toole.   He was told that a new family member was coming, and that he would have a new brother or sister, his mother asking him if it was a girl what name would he choose.  Mike had no hesitation, he liked the name Nancy, because his mother had a friend whom he really liked with that name.  On November 2, 1944, Nancy Louise Willson made her announcement to the world.

Six week old sister Nancy

Aunt Alice, Cousins,  Jenny, Bud, Pat, Johnny, Katy, Mike & Nancy

The summertime thunderstorms were exciting, four-year old Mike would stay out and watch the lightning strike the surrounding mountains.  He was not alone, the adults took an interest in it also, but their interest was a concerned one, they worried about forest fires as many family members  were in the logging business.

 

Dad

Mike was watching his Mom take down clothes off the clothesline one August afternoon, when the Laundry whistle started blowing and blowing, continuing  on for a long time.  Mike was curious to why the whistle was blowing for so long,  a person happening bye talked  to his Mom, he could tell by her expression that it was important.  She came over and with a smile said the war was over and his Daddy would be coming home.  She finished taking in the clothes and his Dad did come that Christmas Eve.

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