I grew up in the North Meyer Barrio by the old Tucson Electric Power Company plant. I came from a broken family, so we lived with my grandfather on my mother's side.
My grandfather was a building contractor, a stern, no-nonsense person. During the Depression when money was scarce, he would work for chickens, or whatever, to keep us fed. He had migrated from Mexico during the revolution. He had had a freighting business and when the Villistas came through, they took his animals. Then the Federales would come through and do the same. It was a no-win situation. His main trade was carpentry. He believed that a man did not need an education. If you were going to be a ditch digger and took pride in what you were doing, you were a success in life. You were a professional if you could dig a straight and square-cornered ditch.
As a kid, my duties were to keep a supply of chopped wood for the stove and to keep the back yard clean and tidy. As I got a little older, my grandfather would take me with him on his jobs. I started digging ditches for him and worked on up to whatever else had to be done. In those days, you didn't subcontract your work; you just hired your own trades people to do the work for you. So I learned a little about everything. I had very little time for fun and games. I loved sports, so every once in a while, I would sneak out to play some. To my way of thinking, if my grandfather had been a D.I., he would have been a bad one. I guess he knew what he was doing. He sure kept me on the straight and narrow. I dropped out of high school to work full time.
I had decided a long time back that I wanted to be a Marine and I had been trying to enlist since I was fourteen, but they would run me off because of my age. I did manage to join the National Guard and did some training with them. Then, someone told me about the Marine Reserves, so I got my mother to sign for me and got a friend to notarize a paper saying I was seventeen.
I attended one summer camp with the Marine Reserves and it seemed we had just gotten back when we were activated. Next thing I know, I'm on the train headed for Pendleton. Evidently, when they reviewed my record and saw I also had National Guard duty, they decided I was combat trained and assigned me to "Able" Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as a rifleman, BAR ammo carrier and scout. Before too long, I was on board the U.S.S. Noble, headed for Japan.
I remember when we got to Japan, they took us on a limbering-up hike on the outskirts of Kobe. Everything looked so green and tidy. I was impressed! The ship was being used as a barracks for us while we unloaded and combat loaded for Korea. I only went on liberty twice because I was in trouble since Camp Pendleton for talking back to a sergeant. I was being punished with kitchen duty since Tin-Camp-Two. Even on board ship, I was doing duty in the food lockers. I would be called top side whenever there was a lecture or calisthenics, but I'd be sent right back to the freezers when they were done with me. I even slept down there. I just used my assigned bunk to keep my gear on it.
When the much-talked-about typhoon hit us, I had to sneak out to have a look. It was bad! I was looking at a warehouse through the porthole one minute, next minute, it was gone! There was a jeep out there with water up to the windshield. Two "M" boats were pushing on the ship's side to keep it from breaking its mooring lines.
When we were in Pendleton, my mother had told them I was only sixteen, although my records showed me to be eighteen. So I was brought before the captain and the chaplain and I had to admit I was under age. Then the captain asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to stay with my company, so that settled that. In Japan, I had heard that all seventeen-year-olds would have to stay in Japan, but they couldn't find me to tell me officially; so I got all the way to Inchon on the Noble before they caught me. I didn't make the landing, but a day later, I was taken ashore, along with some other seventeen-year-olds on a working party to unload an L.S.T. We could hear some shooting around us. The ROK's were doing some mopping up in Inchon. We stood guard duty at night. We were there three or four days until the tide came back in and we were taken on board ship and back to Japan. They were waiting for us and they took us to Camp Carver, then to Camp Otsu to "Casual" Battalion. "Casual" Company was mostly Marines from the brigade who had been wounded. They would wait there for a draft to be shipped back to the states or back to combat. I ran into Larry Esquivel there. He was a Tucsonan who had been at the Pusan Perimeter with the 5th Marines. We both wound up on the same draft back to Korea at Masan. We were kept busy putting up tents and setting up a bivouac area. I was getting ready to rejoin my outfit when I received orders to go home on an emergency leave. I was trucked to Kimpo Airfield and from there, to Japan. I wound up in Yokuska, where I waited for a flight out. After a week, I was put on board an Army ship, the Mitchell, headed for San Francisco. I went on my emergency leave which eventually turned into a hardship discharge. My grandfather had had a heart attack and I was needed to support the family. Grandpa lasted another year or two.
After my leave, I went back to Treasure Island, where they had already cut my papers for a hardship discharge. I didn't want to leave the Corps, but they told me that when I straightened things out at home, I could come back. It took some time but the family was set, so I went to re-enlist. They would not wave my hardship discharge. So I married, and next thing I know, I had been drafted by the Army. When they brought my records up to date, they found out my wife was expecting a baby so they deferred me. I wound up in the Naval Reserves, from which I retired after twenty years.
As part of my hardship discharge, it had been prearranged that I would work for Arizona Sash and Door. I worked there until I cut my finger on the joiner. The pay wasn't good, and by that time, I was married and we had a baby, so I quit and went to work for Neil B. Waugh Lumber Company. From there, I went to work for Magma Copper Company. Having learned how to climb poles stringing out phone wires in the National Guard got me a job in the electrical department. I was set with the beginning of a good trade. Besides hands-on experience, I also attended school to learn the technical end of it. In 1959, I left for California during a labor dispute. Over there, I worked out of the union hall as an electrician. Four years later, I came back to Tucson and was rehired at Magma. I was made a lead man in charge of the electrical construction department. Having had some design engineering experience helped me to get ahead. When I finally left there, I was a department head. I left when I couldn't advance any further.
In 1969, I went into business for myself, contracting. I started small and built the company up. I had as many as ten or twelve people working for me on a steady basis. My qualifications were there so I went mostly after industrial jobs. In 1975, I quit the business and went to work with Blue Star Electric. I was with them until I retired wearing different hats: general manager, project manager, designer, and general all-around man.
The wife and I haven't had much of a chance to travel since my retirement, mainly because of the problems I had with my leg - the surgery and all.
I still get together with my friends at the Marine Corps League Club House. There's a bond there that makes a man feel good.