by Ski Ingram
I grew up in Redondo Beach, California in the 50’s and 60’s. It was a great place to grow up. I owned a 1964 Austin Healy Sprite (English sports car) and two surf boards, a 10.2 David Takayama “Noserider” and an older board made by Greg Knoll.
I worked at the local department stored named the May Company and in general had a pretty good life. While working at the May Company I was noticed by one of the female managers. I wish I could remember her name. I don’t know why but she took me under wing and began to train me to be a department manager. She also had a very pretty daughter who worked at store named Jane.
One day Jane’s mother asked me to go to Los Angeles and work at the May Company during the annual sale the company had there every year. After I told her I would, I found out that it was huge honor to be one of the two employees asked to be a part of the large warehouse sale. I was also happy to discover that she had picked her own daughter, Jane, to be the other person to go with me.
On the first day we were to work Jane and I drove to Los Angeles in my 1964 Austin Sprite. We became good work friends from that day on. I found out that she had a boyfriend who didn’t like to kiss. I immediately volunteered to kiss her anytime. There is no reason to keep you in suspense, she never did let me kiss her. While working at the LA warehouse sale I discovered that most of the workers treated this as a way to get out of work. Jane and I were part of the few who did work and we worked hard.
The news of my work ethic got back to Jane’s mother. She called me into her office and told me that she wanted me to train to be a department manager. I was very happy. I didn’t tell her I was getting ready to go on a mission for my church in a few months. it was during this time that I was filling out the paper work and going to all the interviews.
I was working in the Linen department and didn’t like it very much. I finished manager training and was told that I was to take over as the manager of the Linen department. I asked to be made the manager of the Sporting Goods department, but was told that my friend Bucky would be the new manager there. I couldn’t see myself being the manager of the Linen department so I quit work that day.
A few days later I got a job at the Sears store at the Del Amo center in Torrance. I was working as a tire installer putting new tires on cars. I was making pretty good money and it wasn’t very hard work. After a few weeks one of the managers asked if someone knew how to install air shocks on a car. I told them I did even though I had never done it in my life. I was now the new air shock installer. I figured out how to do it and did a pretty good job. I liked that job. I was my own boss, working by myself and at my own pace.
I had been working at Sears for about a month, while waiting for my mission call to arrive. One Saturday afternoon my mother called me at work and told me that I had received a letter from the US Government. I asked her to open it and read it to me. The letter started with the word “Greetings.” I knew exactly what it was, my draft notice. I would be reporting to the Induction Center in Los Angeles two weeks later on September 9, 1969. I hung up the phone, walked over to where my boss was standing and told him that I had been drafted. I quit work that very minute.
I called my friend David York, who had just been discharged from the Army. We decide to go to the Torrance Strake dance that night. In the meantime, David began to tell me all about the Army and serving in Viet Nam. At the dance I saw Terry Timberlake, a very pretty girl that I was interested in however she didn’t fill the same way about me.
There was a girl named Janet Starkey who seemed to be following me around all night. She was very cute but looked like she couldn’t be more than 16 years old, too young for my 19 years. Since I wasn’t having any luck with Terry Timberlake, I asked Janet to dance. I found out she wasn’t 16 years old, but 17 years old, closer to my 19 years. I spent the rest of the dance with her and then took her home at the end of the night. Janet and I spent a lot of time together during the last two weeks I had before reporting to the Army. I was sitting in her house on evening when I met Janet’s younger sister, Diane. She had just come home from a church meeting. Ten years later we would be married. So far, we have been together 43 years and have 4 children and 7 grandchildren.
While in Basic Training I wrote to Janet. One day I received a letter from Diane. Even though she was only 15 years old I was happy to get her letters. After 60 days in Basic Training, it was time to graduate. I invited Janet and Diane to my graduation. They rode to Camp Pendelton with my parents. That night, while my parents stayed in their motel room, Janet, Diane and I went to into town for dinner and a movie. It was then that I found out that I had more in common with Diane than I did with Janet. . A few weeks later Janet returned to her boyfriend Bob Olson. They just celebrated their 50th anniversary a few months ago.
Diane and I continued to write to each over and saw each other alma couple of times when I was able to come home on leave. There was only one time that we didn’t. While in Special Forces training, I came home to go with my parents when they took my younger brother, Doug, to the Missionary Training Center on Provo, Utah. I only had a 10-day leave and most of it was taken up going to Provo. When I returned to Redondo Beach I drove to Diane’s house in San Pedro. I knocked on the door and her mother answered. She told me that Diane wasn’t home. I don’t remember where she was and I never got to see her before returning to Fort Bragg, North Caralina.
The next time I saw Diane was after leaving Special Forces training before going to Viet Nam. I spent most of my 30-day leave with her. My leave time was running out and I wanted to take Diane to Disneyland. I didn’t have any more money so I went to Fort McArthur in San Pedro to get an advance on my next month’s pay. They gave me $200.00. That was a lot of money in those days, I was rich.
Diane and I went to Disneyland and had a wonderful time. We had such a good time I was late reporting to Fort Lewis, Washington before going to Viet Nam. I was chewed out by an Officer for being late and fined $200.00. Yes, it was worth it.