My earliest memory is undated, unlocated. I was in a bed, maybe my crib, looking at the room I was in. There was a door—a cabinet, or a closet—and I wondered what was behind it. I had some sense that the room door led to a corridor. That’s the whole thing.
Another early memory has a time and place, thanks to others in my family that I’ve told it to. We (no consciousness of who I was with) were walking along a gravel (I suppose) lane in a neighborhood. Someone said something about “along the beach,” or “Long Beach,” and I wonder where the beach is. We pass a house with a swingset in the yard, with a swing where the two seats face each other. I wanted to be on that swing, but didn’t try to go to it. Then we arrived at our destination, the back porch of a house (actually a cabin) where I see a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, possibly near a hot plate. I’m informed that this was Aunt Linda’s cabin in Long Beach, California, and it was most likely 1959.
I would occasionally dream of California in later years, but for the most part I was putting in names and places my family had talked about. I doubt that these have much of value as valid memories. My dream of driving toward Disneyland may have some accuracy—we were going through groves of orange trees. If I didn’t get that from someone else, it’s a bit of a real memory.
Stories are told of our California days. They used to have me on a leash and harness so I wouldn’t dash out into the road. The harness still hung on a nail on the wall of the outside back porch of our house on Horsetooth Road (2221 Horsetooth Road, aka Rt 1 box 276N, aka Rt 5, box 276N, aka 2221 W. Cty Rd 38—they changed the street name after we were gone). We visited the Russian River in California, and were wading in it, and I went out too far and was caught in the swift current and floated off, laughing, while everybody panicked and ran along the bank, until they fished me out somehow. Should have had me on a harness.
Photos exist of our California days. We visited the San Diego Zoo (“Go San Diego?”) and the Griffith Observatory and Apple Valley (where the girls were so cute eating pie they got their picture in the LA Times, and Givhan’s name was printed as Gixhaix, a nickname that stuck) and Roy Rogers’s ranch/museum in Victorville or Silverado, whatever.
There’s one of Dad and me, possibly in Colorado. It’s dated 1958, so it would most likely be in the hills of California, which sometimes can pass for the ones in Colorado.
In the Fall of 1959, we moved from California to Colorado. I was mostly oblivious to what was going on, but the Streamliner that Mom and I were on was memorable. While Dad was driving the girls cross country (Martha or Givhan had a nightmare once that they were driving through the desert and an arrow came out of nowhere and hit Dad in the head.), we were following the track, including the famed Georgetown Loop, through the Rockies. I was impressed by the green glass domes on the observation car, though all I remember doing up there was playing on the carpet for a few moments. Then Mom said we had to give someone else a chance to enjoy it (a real Momism) and I didn’t see it again. I was probably wasting my chance to look outside, playing on the thick carpet.
The really memorable thing about the train was the bathroom. A metal stool, integral with the tread-metal flooring, and the pedal on the floor made the bottom drop right out of it, and EVERYTHING JUST WENT OUT THE BOTTOM OF THE TRAIN AND ONTO THE TRACKS. How could I not be impressed by that? By the time I was in sixth grade, I had discounted the memory as a child’s fabulation, but I learned later that I had remembered it exactly right.
We arrived at Denver’s Grand Central Terminal and were met by Grandma Mimi and Aunt Mary. Walking out of the station, we passed a display of flip-flop blocks, flipping and flopping automatically on a motorized display. Of course, I wanted those too. I eventually got some at a thrift shop a few years later, which fell apart after a while. And for a time, I had a wallet that worked on the same principle. I think if you flexed it just right, all your bills fell right out, though I don’t think I really possessed any bills to test that theory.
If any other California memories pop up, I’ll add them.