Growing Up Marin
To start about me we first need to start with my family before me. Why? you may ask. To learn about me you need to know where and how I became me. So we first look to my heritage and how I got to be in Marin and how I grew up here and have learned to stay here.
Both sides of my family started from the shores of another country. I am mostly of German and then some Swiss and English stock. Plus a few I don’t know who my parentage was thrown in for good measure. Some of the I don’t knows are the fun ones in my book. Back in the older times perhaps not.
My mom’s parents came from Oklahoma, grandpa was an oil digger. He moved with the companies digging for black gold. If the well came in they got paid, if not they all got nothing. My mother learned colorful words from those men and later taught them to me. Grandpa also made bathtub gin and he made homemade beer. They moved to Portland, Oregon after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. My grandfather was considered 4F and could not go to fight but he needed to do something since his brother died on the USS Oklahoma. So he went to work on building ships in Portland. My grandmother did also.
My dad’s side of the family started moving west to Oregon along the northern states after WWI. They made it to the Portland, Oregon area by 1941. My grandmother made clothes in the Portland woolen mills. My grandfather worked as a mechanic. My mom and dad were born in the same year and went to different high schools in the area. Dad went to West Linn High School and mom went to Milwaukie High School. They met at a dance. They were both juniors and they danced together and went steady through high school. My mom went to a business school and my dad went to University of Oregon and was in the ROTC program during his four years. After college and business school mom went to work and dad he was lucky enough to get called up for the Korean Conflict. Luck had nothing of course to do with it. He missed getting pulled into the battle for the pacific by the dropping of the Atom Bomb. However, the world had more ideas for our men at home and dad was called in to the Army. Before he left, he asked mom to marry him and then they left for California and the military.
They lived off base and about 9 months later my grandparents (dad’s parents) came to visit. They were expecting a child of course. How funny that none was available to show, well at least not yet. Mom and dad had to drive to the east coast for more training and for dad to get on ship bound for Korea. Mom drove back to Oregon with her grandparents. I cannot imagine how one feels saying goodbye like that but it must be hard for all the families that say goodbye when someone goes off to serve. So here and now I say my thank you to service men and women for all the goodbyes and welcome homes they have had.
When dad came home from Korea, mom and dad moved to a little home in Portland. This is where they met my godmother and godfather as next door neighbors. They had three boys and mom and dad finally had their first kid. He was the perfect kid. So they say! His name is Neil. He went to bed and slept, he ate his baby food and did all the things good babies do. They wanted three kids. Mom and dad only had themselves, no siblings to play or fight with. So they lived there for some time and then decided to move down to California. They first moved to an apartment in Oakland. From there they decided to look for a house to buy on the VA loan program. My dad started working for several bay area companies at this time. His most fun job to my way of thinking was a taste tester for Borden’s Ice Cream. They looked in the San Mateo area and in Marin County. They finally decided upon a new project of homes located in a small area known as Terra Linda. In Spanish it means “Beautiful Land” and it was at that time and still is.
Now here is a kicker. Mom was pregnant in Oakland. She went to the doctor and found out she was three months pregnant. Then she had a problem and aborted. The doctor said she had a clean abort and said try again. In April 1957 they moved to Terra Linda and within two months mom went back to a new doctor saying she was pregnant again. She felt she was one or two months along. Hey doc, what gives? I am five months pregnant? Ok, so here is the first kicker, number one problem child, you just have to laugh. Without laughter in a book about me would be so dull. So dazed and confused, she came home and told my dad that a child would be arriving a bit sooner than thought.
I was supposed to arrive around August 3, 1957, their anniversary day. What a present I would make! My grandparents (mom’s side) came down in July for a visit to see how things were going. They took them all around San Francisco and Marin County while they were here; they went for a day ride around Marin, up Mt Tamalpias and all over the county. Then on July 14, 1957, my family took my soon to be grandparents over The Golden Gate Bridge and to the Ferry Building. Mom climbed the steps all the way up and down the clock tower. Then they took the ferry over to Oakland for my grandparents to take the train back to Portland.
Mom and Dad and Neil went back home and mom cooked dinner. Hot Dogs and beans, she began to not feel well and thought she had an upset stomach and went to lie down. Finally she thought it was not gas or and upset stomach, she was in labor! It was Sunday night and my dad took Neil to the next door neighbors and took mom in the car to Marin General Hospital. A quiet Sunday ride, it was not. Every one and their brother were driving back home from somewhere. Everyone was driving south into San Francisco or beyond on a two lane highway bumper to bumper. My dad drove much of the way on the inner divider. Then drove a few miles west to the hospital, he dropped my mom off at the emergency doors and went to park. As my dad tells me that when he got to the maternity ward I was already out and crying.
When my grandparents got home to Portland from the train trip they received a telegram saying, “You are the proud grandparents of a baby girl named, Arlene Caris.” Ok, he’s the second kicker and I am only a few hours old. What gives? I am still laughing.
So the third kicker in my very young life is that Neil is named after my mom’s dad and his middle name Henry is for my dad’s dad name. Now thankfully, my mom did not name me for my grandmother’s first names. They were Katherine and Iris. Both are very nice names but certainly not me. So my mom named me for my godmother Arlene. My middle name is Caris which is a cross of Katherine and Iris but my mom spelt it with a C not a K. Oh darn. Guess who got a ration of shit for that oops!
You know back then at the hospital moms got to stay in the ward for two or three days and if they were C-sections a whole week. Not bad to get pampered for a few more days. Also my mom had me with laughing gas. What they got to laugh about as I popped out I never heard from her. Maybe because she cannot remember, maybe the laughing gas is why she spelt Caris with a C and not a K.
Well I got to go home to the house soon enough. I do not think Neil was so happy to be the older brother and not the only kid in the house. I have pictures of us at this time and he does not always look happy. I do not look happy much either. Mom has to wrestle with me to get a diaper on. She learns to put her leg over me to hold me down. I do not like the bottle that much (yeah I got the bottle, sure Neil got the tit) I get to be baptized as a Lutheran. I am one of the first kids in a new church to be baptized. Our next door neighbor Nina was a stand in godmother for Arlene who could not come down from Portland at the time. Nina has been like a second mom to me since then.