Friday, February 27, 2015

Looking Back 61 Years, Feb 27, 2015

Insanity runs in my family.
It practically gallops!
~Cary Grant

Hello family and friends and greetings to all of you from San Francisco, California where Cindy and I are concluding our recent cruise down the Mexican Riviera. 

Today is the birthday of my younger brother Darrell Shepard of Kirkland, Washington. Darrell and his wife Mary Medina Shepard are the parents of three children (Chris, Rachel and Patrick) and are now the proud grandparents of three (Logan, Mason and Kellan).

Darrell was born in early 1954, child number 4 of our parents Eugene and Maida Gower Shepard. When Darrell was born we were living in a 2 bedroom apartment on Ulric Street in the Linda Vista community of San Diego. Our home seemed old at the time as part of a large housing complex built after World War II in the northern part of the city. The war had created a massive influx of families who had moved to Southern California from places like Oklahoma where both the Gowers and Shepards had come from. They could not build apartments like ours fast enough to meet the need for affordable housing.

This first picture shows our apartment building in about 1954. The woman and child were among our neighbors. Unfortunately I cannot identify them (If you can, please let me know). Our particular apartment was the unit at the far left end of this building, barely visible here. It was on the corner of Ulric and Dunlop Streets, across the street from the Linda Vista shopping center. The apartment we called home is still there today, having been repainted and refurbished many times over the last six decades. Actually it is looking better today than I remember it being all those years ago.

Darrell's birth meant that there were now four of us kids with our parents in that small apartment. When Darrell was born, Gary was 7, I was 5, and Linda was 3. Mom was 29 and dad was 32. It must have made for crowded living conditions. But I have no memory of family conversations regarding it being a problem. This second picture shows our Shepard family of 6 in 1954: parents Maida and Gene, kids Gary, Linda and me, with baby Darrell in mom's arms.

Darrell's birth must have been a concern for mom and dad. Living with 4 kids in a 2 bedroom apartment? Even for country folks not many years removed from farm life in Oklahoma, they must have felt the pressure to move to a larger place. And move they did within a few months. This second picture shows our family looking happy. Except dad. He looks burdened with the responsibility of a family of 6. Or did he just get home after a long overtime shift? Dressed in drab work clothes, his mood stands in stark contrast to the rest of us who seem to be happy to be in the picture. As a young father making a very modest living, now with 4 young mouths to feed, he must have been feeling the pressure of providing for his family.

Darrell's birth was the occasion of my very oldest memory. We moved into the Ulric Street apartment in 1950 and moved away in late 1954. I have several vague memories of life there: climbing on the flower trellis, eating breakfast at the dining room table, walking to the nearby store for milk, going to the Linda Theatre. But it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when they occurred. One memory however, I can pinpoint because it happened shortly after Darrell was born.

At the time, I was a kindergartner at Kit Carson Elementary School in Linda Vista. My kindergarten class was in a bungalow across the street from the school yard which was behind the main building of the school. One morning in my class it was "show-and-tell" time and I had something to tell. I stood before the class and proudly reported that I had a new baby brother. What cemented the event in my mind was the fact that my teacher was much more impressed than I had expected. Her response gave me pause -- within my family this was just another birth, nothing to get too excited about. But to my teacher it was something special. It has been 61 years since that moment in Kindergarten, but the unexpected response of my teacher and the feeling of surprise it provoked in me are clear in my mind.

This third picture shows Darrell and me just a few years later while on a camping trip, buddying up to each other, with smiles and striped shirts.

In September of 1954 our family of 6 moved from Ulric Street to the Point Loma community of San Diego, into an old, small military housing project within walking distance of where dad worked at the Naval Supply Depot. It was still only a 2 bedroom place, but it also had a garage as well as a sun room that functioned as a small third bedroom, giving us more living space, at least for the next couple of years.

These events occurred long ago, in the middle of the last century, but the memories are still ensconced in my brain and the importance of those days are still clear. And the joy and importance of child #4 is still remembered. Happy Birthday to Darrell!
- - -
Steve Shepard

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