i A Time and a Place...: Remembering Again...When I Was Ten...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Remembering Again...When I Was Ten...

I was thinking about people with disabilities and remembered a guy from when I was a child, about 1946 or so.

I lived in Modesto on the east side by the airport, in the Airport District, also known as, 'Little Okie.'

*By the way, there is another 'Little Okie' in Modesto. It's better known as, 'South Modesto Acres.' But the Airport District is and has always been Little Okie.

Anyhow, there is a small town east of Modesto called Empire. In 1946 Empire was five miles from Modesto. Now, due to tremendous growth, it is closer to two miles, if that.

There are many big houses on Yosemite Boulevard, the road that goes from Modesto to Empire.They seemed then to me to be very big, considering I was raised in a one room shack, about 12X14.

When I was a kid, I passed by those houses a couple of times a week for one reason or another. There was one in particular that stood out. It was a white, two story frame house that sat in the arc of a circular driveway, about a hundred feet from the roadway.

One day I noticed a small room, a shack of sorts sitting between the house and the roadway, about twenty feet back. It might have already been there for a while when I noticed it.

It was about ten feet high and it was round with a floor that was built up about two extra feet from the ground and it had windows on all sides of it so anyone inside could see out in any direction.

One day I noticed a fellow inside of that room, just sitting there on a chair,looking at the road and the people who passed by. I waved at him and he waved back.

He looked young, maybe in his late teens or early twenties. I started to go over to the room but then I noticed something that stopped me from approaching him.
The right side of his face and his chin were gone from the nose down. So I just waved and kept walking.I was ten years old.

I heard later, the story was that he had cancer and was dying from it. The cancer had already claimed part of his face and would spread until it killed him.He didn't have any friends who would come to see him in his condition so his folks built the room so he could see the street traffic and see people walking by him and wave at them; so he could watch the world go by while he was still able to.

I never saw him being put into the room or taken out and I never saw anyone talking to him. It isn't that people were mean or uncaring. It's just that sick or crippled people were looked at in a different way back then than they are now. What a difference for him if he lived today instead of 1946.

I don't remember just how long he sat in that room. I can't recall the day I walked by there and noticed for the first time that he was gone. I do remember that at some period of time everyone knew he had died.

The house is still there but, as near as I can recall, the room is gone. And the house is a lot smaller now than it was then, when I was ten.



Blogger Mountain Mama said...

That's quite a story. You are so right. If only things had been defferent back then.
In my town, people seemed to isolate their handicapped, maybe for fear of them being made fun of. I was never really taught how to deal with seeing a handicapped person, only told. "don't stare because it isn't polite." There was no explanation. Somehow I think we felt they were 'odd' or maybe even demented or something. I was always a bit afraid when I did see someone in a wheelchair, or a deformity of some kind.
I believe todays children are better educated concerning these sort of issues and this makes me happy because no handicapped person should ever be hidden. We all differ in one way or another and we are all one in the Lord.

1:49 PM  
Blogger CA said...

I posted this comment on the wrong post so I'll re-post it here.

"I could write all day about different people I knew as a child. Mr and Mrs Farmer (Johnny Farmer) were two. they were midgets who owned a neighborhood grocery store on Monterey St in Little Okie, about three blocks from my house on South Conejo Avenue. When anyone saw them for the first time, they would have their stare then Johnny or his wife would smile and ask if they could help them; from then on Johnny and Mrs Farmer were just like normal people to the new customer.

It's funny, everyone always called him by his first name, Johnny, but always addressed his wife as Mrs Farmer. Go figure." (Our up-bringing, I reckon)

10:20 AM  

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