That is complicated to answer. An abusive stepfather complicated my life and my mother’s life. My mom left him several times. One of those times, we left him in Minneapolis and went west to Denver, Colorado. He convinced her that he had “changed,” and we returned to him in Minneapolis.
A few months later, I had had enough and ran away, this time by myself. I hopped on a bus by myself and headed for Denver. I had learned there was a circus operating there and intended to join it. (Yes, I really did “run away to join the circus.” On the bus, I fortuitously encountered a man that was returning to the circus. He had been a clown with the circus. He dissuaded me from joining that life. So, once I got to Denver, I didn’t join the circus. Instead, I got a room at a rooming house and a job at a nearby store. It was summer, but I registered for school in the fall and intended to live independently, go to school, and work enough to pay for food and a place to live. I was 14, living just off East Colfax, and working at a Safeway (I lied about my age) just a few blocks away from my rooming house. I was in Denver for about four weeks.
Then, one evening, I was walking home quite late and the police stopped me. I didn’t have any ID and they suspected I was underage, so they brought me in for a “curfew violation.” I didn’t want to give them my address, but after a few hours, I finally gave them 2419 Bryant. A few minutes later, a furious policeman came back to inform me they sent a car there, but there was no 2419 on Bryant. I thought I had been so cute, but they didn’t think it was funny. It was then I told them it was 2419 Bryant, Minneapolis (not Denver).
Apparently, they contacted the Minneapolis Police Department, because the next day, the police informed me that my “parents” were informed where I was, and they were going to have me fly back to Minneapolis. I don’t recall if it was the third or fourth day being in custody in Denver, but I was eventually taken to the Denver airport and put on a non-stop flight to Minneapolis. The social worker person told the flight crew I wasn’t to be allowed to slip out of the plane. The plane was met in Minneapolis by my mom and my stepfather.
I learned to not be cute, clever, or difficult with the police. I also learned making a life for yourself is difficult.
Things with my stepfather improved for a while. First, my stepfather didn’t get on me for a couple of months, then my parents bought a new house, and we moved to a temporary home for a few months while the new house was being built. While in that temporary house, one of my step-sisters lived with us. My stepfather was always “good” when she was around. Anyway, she returned to her mother’s about when we moved to the new house in the suburbs. It was several months before I ran away again, but that is another story.
1) Driven 100 mph: I think only once, however, I’ve been a passenger in cars doing so several times. (None in the past 45 years; oh, the stupidity of youth.)
2) Ridden in a helicopter: Several times in the Navy to and from the Kitty Hawk. Once from Clark Air Base (Philippines) to Cubi Air Station (Olongapo City, Philippines) with the door open (safety harnessed in with a short leash). What a way to see the country for the first time!
3) Gone zip lining: No and I’ve never had a desire to do so.
4) Been to an NFL game: yes, many, had season tickets the Vikings for several years. I was at the last game at the old Met Stadium (where the Mall of America is now).
5) Been to Canada: As a teenager, I went to the Boundary Waters area and canoed in and out between Minnesota and Ontario many times. I have also visited Winnipeg, Windsor, and Vancouver.
6) Visited Florida: Yes, many times, mostly for work but a few times for pleasure.
7) Visited Mexico: Yes, Tijuana when I was in the Navy stationed in San Diego.
8) Visited Vegas: Yes, several times mostly during my Navy Days, but also a few times for work.
9) Eaten alone at a restaurant: Yes, occasionally, I’ll have breakfast. I don’t recall ever having dinner alone in a restaurant, except while traveling.
10) Ability to read music: Not really. I can see a note on a piece of paper and can find it on a piano, but slowly. Let’s see…. “every good boy does fine” EGBDF and “FACE” are the mnemonics I learned. Humm, they go from the bottom up, right?
11) Ridden a motorcycle: Yes, I’ve owned several. My first was a Yamaha 60, a 2-stroke, which was the first motor vehicle I owned (I was 15). My last was a Yamaha Virago 750. My knee was getting too bad to enjoy long rides, so I sold it and bought a convertible.
12) Ridden a horse: Yes, when I was a teenager living in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, I cleaned a barn & stable area at a farm nearby in order to ride the horses there. Also, when I lived in the Oregon desert in the early 1970s. Not since then.
13) Stayed in a hospital: Yes, clavicle (as a kid), shoulder (twice while in the Navy), and a knee operations.
14) Donated blood: Yes. When I was young, I gave often, when I was young and feeling really broke, I’d give plasma too. While I was in the Navy, they’d have blood drives. If you gave blood, you would receive early liberty. We called that “vampire liberty.”
15) Been snow skiing: Not really. Cross country a few times. Never downhill.
16) Been to Disney World or Disneyland: Yes, I’ve been to Disneyland a few times back in the 1970s. Once for a “Navy Day,” where the park was closed except to Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families. A three-minute wait at “Pirates of the Caribbean” and no wait at the “Matterhorn” made for the best theme park experience by far!
17) Slept outside: Not intentionally, I prefer sleeping in a tent or RV. The Hilton doesn’t count as “outside,” does it?
18) Driven a stick shift: Yes. I’ve owned many stick shifts when I was young — “four on the floor,” “three on the tree,” and “three by the knee.” I don’t think I’ve driven a stick in twenty years.
19) Ridden in an 18-wheeler: Yes. I had a license to drive one while I was stationed in Oregon and one drove there. My license also had fire engine and bus endorsement.
20) Ridden in a police car? Only as a juvenile. The first time was when I cut my wrist going through a window (NOT intentionally) and a police car took to the local hospital. They didn’t want to wait for an ambulance.
21) Driven a boat: Yes. My stepfather had boats and I did drive his occasionally. The Officer of the Watch was too smart to even consider handing over the con to me while I was on the Kitty Hawk.
22) Eaten Escargot: Sort of. I had snails once while in the Philippines. I got so sick; I’ve never eaten snails again. I don’t know if what I ate were land snails or sea snails. Either way, I’m playing it safe and not ever eating them again.
23) Been on a cruise: Do three and a half years aboard the USS Kitty Hawk count? My wife wants to take a cruise and thinks it’d be nice if I came along. (She’s said, “No thank you,” to our visiting the Kitty Hawk.)
24) Run out of gas: Not that I recall. If I had, I would probably want to forget about it anyway.
25) Been on TV: Yes, as one in a crowd or audience, not as an individual. That doesn’t count community TV or a “TV Productions” course I took in college.
26) Eaten Sushi: Yes, I have my particularly desired rolls (Philadelphia, Alaska, California). There are some I’d never touch – Snail sushi — <Shudder>. (See 22 above.)
27) Seen a UFO: Possibly. Back in the 1950s I saw something I didn’t recognize. A few moments later I saw two fighters speeding after it. I never heard what the military called the event.
28) Been Bungie jumping: No. I wouldn’t do it on a bet. With my knees, I’d probably split into two.
29) Visited another continent: Yes – Asia & Africa. While I was in the Navy. I lost three 36-exposure rolls of film I shot when at Tsavo National Park in Kenya. The photos would have included why I think hyena’s are the scariest critters ever. They look at you and you just know they think you’re food.
30) Been to Ellis Island? No. I have no ancestors who came through Ellis Island, so I’ve never had a personal interest to visit.
As I go through this list, I’m amazed at how many of the items I did while I was in the Navy.
I’ve seen several blog posts from folks about their best Christmas family experiences. So, I thought that I’d go against the grain and write about my worst Christmas. It was 1961.
It had the potential of being the best Christmas ever. My mother married Budgar on December 8, 1961, and the two returned from a short honeymoon on December 10th. For Christmas, we were going to have a family get together. Budgar’s daughters, my new stepsisters, were coming and my grandmother was cooking a turkey with the fixings. Eleven-year-old me, had a hard time waiting until my stepsisters got to our house, but we waited so we could open presents together.
We opened our gifts and everyone was pleased. I’m not sure I remember exactly what my big present was. It might have been a “Paladin gun with holster,” maybe it was a toy “Rifleman cap gun,” I’m not sure which year I received which. I’m sure though I received new army men to play with; I received army men every year for several years. My stepsisters, ages 11 and 10, were especially excited about their new Barbie dolls and a Barbie game – The Barbie Game: Queen of the Prom – “A fun game with real-life appeal for all girls.”
After a short while, my stepsisters wanted me to play their new game with them. I said, “No.” I was 11 and enjoyed playing with my toys by myself, as I had done in previous years. Besides, I wasn’t about to play a “girlie game.” They insisted and then whined to their father, Budgar, that I needed to play with them because the game “wasn’t any good for just two.” They needed at least three players. So, Budgar took me away from my new toys and made me play the Barbie Game with his daughters. I was mortified.
Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and my grandmother’s cake put me in a better mood later that afternoon. She was an excellent cook and an amazing baker.
Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
By Don Taylor
The Weekly Genealogist, produced by NEHGS, regularly has a survey question designed to make you think about your ancestors’ lives. They recently had a question asking if you or your ancestors traveled “across the country” not by airplane. In this case, “across the country” was a trip of more than 1500 miles.
Randy Seaver, in his blog, Genea-Musing, suggested taking that idea, cross country trips, and write about it.[i] I thought about the question and realized that with Detroit to Portland, Oregon, is over 2300 miles, my grandmother, mother, and I have all have had such travels, several times.
My Cross-Country Trips
I’ve made trips across the country several times.
When I was in the service, (Christmas 1969) three of us drove a Ford Falcon station wagon from San Francisco to Minneapolis. One person drove, one sat in the passenger seat, and one person slept in the back. Each person would rotate positions every three hours. We only stopped for gas and made the 2000 mile trip in less than 34 hours.
My second cross country trip was when I left Oregon to go to training in Vallejo, California, in 1972. After training, we knew I was heading to a ship at sea, so my wife and son moved from Oregon to Minneapolis. I drove Mary (my first wife), and our son Matt, the 1600 miles back to Minnesota, where they lived during my time at school. I flew from Minneapolis to San Francisco to training and again to the Philippines for my first cruise aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.
The next cross-country trip was when I moved Mary-Alice from her home in Maine to Minneapolis. Just a little over 1500 miles, it only barely qualified for this list. That trip was in her Dodge Caravan, loaded to the top with stuff. We arrived in Minneapolis just after the “Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991.” Before I had told Mary-Alice that Minnesota was colder than Maine, but we didn’t get as much snow. When we got to Minnesota, Interstate 94 was two ruts heading up out of the Saint Croix river valley because of the 28 inches of snow the Twin Cities had received. She gave me that look, that said, “We never had this much snow in Maine in October.”
In 1998, Mary-Alice and I moved to Long Beach, California (about 1900 miles). I drove the car and Mary-Alice drove her van. We kept in contact with little radios. When we got to the Mohave Desert, she kept asking where the desert was. We drove through it during a “once-in-a-century” flower bloom. It was gorgeous, entire hillsides yellow with flowers.
In 2000, Mary-Alice and I moved from Long Beach to Boston, Massachusetts. Our van was over-loaded with stuff and relatively old, so I was afraid to try the shorter 3000-mile northern route because of the mountains on the way. So, we took the 3200 mile-route through Phoenix, El Paso, and Dallas. That was a brutal trip. We stopped at a weird motel in Tennessee and had a difficult time finding our room. Little did we know that the 200 rooms were downstairs from the 100 rooms.
I made the trip between Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, as an infant, twice with my mother. I don’t remember either trip and rely only upon my mother’s telling of the stories.
My Mother’s Cross-Country Trips.
Back in 1950, my mother got a job with an outfit that sold magazines door to door. They had a crew of kids, my mother was 18, and moved city to city. I know they started in Detroit and ended in Portland, Oregon, in just a few months, stopping at cities and towns all along the way. I still wasn’t born yet but was born a few weeks after her arrival in Portland.
In 1953, my mother was pregnant with my sister, Glennis. Mom like the hospital I was born in and decided she wanted her second child to be born in the same hospital. She hitch-hiked from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon (1700 miles) with 3-year-old me. Wow—What a trip that must have been for her.
My mom and Budgar traveled between Minneapolis and Phoenix (over 1600 miles) many times.
On one occasion she traveled between Phoenix and Minneapolis by herself and then continued with me to Clarksburg, West Virginia (about 2600 miles in total).
My Grandmother, Donna
My Grandmother was a fantastic traveler. She was born in Albion, Michigan and lived there until about 1914 when she went to California to be one of Max Sennett’s Bathing Beauties and to be in the movie, “Birth of a Nation.”
She traveled from California to Massachusetts in 1915 and lived in the Boston area for a few years.
In 1919, Donna traveled from New York to Decatur, Illinois to join the cast of “Chin Chin.” She then toured with the show to Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts before the show ended.
Known locations Donna was at during the “Chin Chin” Tour.
In 1922 & 1923, “Donna Darling and Company” went on the road. They started in New York and went to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
In 1924, Donna went on another tour heading west from New York to include Montana, Oregon, and California with stops all over in between.
In 1926, Donna had another tour heading west from New York and including Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wisconsin, Michigan.
In 1927, Donna had another tour heading south from New York and across to New Orleans and back.
During her travels, virtually all of the trips were via train. A typical day, she’d board the first train out of a city, take the train with her crew, cast, and sets to another town, typically 2 to 4 hours away. The crew would unload and install the sets at the theater. She would then do a show or two that day. After the show, they’d head to a hotel for the night then head out again with the first train to another town. Sometimes, on longer travels, I’m sure they’d sleep on the train while heading to the next city. She had a train stuck in the snow in Nebraska for several days, a trestle washed out in Arizona (where they needed to carry their scenery past the wash-out on their backs), and had an earthquake break the tracks in California.
As I get more and more of her vaudeville career documented, I’ll create maps showing her travels and some of her many travel challenges.
I don’t know anything about my biological father’s life travels, nor do I know about his parents’ travels. I know that grandpa Dick was in the service and probably traveled cross country with that. He served in Panama, so I’m sure he at least traveled from Minnesota to the Gulf (or a coast) as a minimum. My great-grandmother Mary (Manning) Brown never traveled 1500 miles (to my knowledge), but she did travel the 1000 miles, from Kentucky to Minnesota, by oxen-driven wagon. That trip was with her grandparents, Enoch & Minerva (Toliver) Mannin. I think a 1000 miles trip by oxen-driven wagon is much tougher than twice that distance by train or automobile, so it should count.
In my final article about schools I’ve attended, I decided to write about work-based schools and training I’ve had. Over the years I’ve had dozens and dozens of classes that lasted a day or two that I’m not mentioning here. Rather, these are the classes and training that I’ve had that changed my life.
TRW – Docuteller Cash Machines
After I got out of the service, I went back to Minnesota. There I began looking for a job. My best friend, Doug, worked for TRW, Customer Service Division. He worked servicing those new, cutting-edge technology, of cash machines. He suggested I apply there and sure enough, I got the job. This was the third time Doug and I worked for the same place. (Holiday gas station and Marty’s Grill, both in Crystal were the first two.) Anyway, TRW sent me to school in Dallas, Texas, for a month of training to work on Docutel cash machines – the Docuteller 300. It was a good school, besides learning how to do the mechanical repairs they taught us some of the basics in programming in machine language. On occasion, we would install a part, like a solenoid, and need to exercise it to assure it was working correctly. We’d program the solenoid to activate for a time, then release and remain released for a time then repeat. Simple things, but it taught me more about programming and understanding the differences between machine language, assembly, and higher level languages. The automated teller machines communicated to a central office using a modem, so the training also included synchronous and asynchronous communications.
The machines required the user to make deposits using an envelope and withdraws were in $25 and $50 packets that were put into a small drawer in the front of the machine. The drawer would open up for the customer to take the money or a receipt that said why the money wasn’t disbursed. I recall one customer who wasn’t happy and decided to get back at the bank. The person “tickled the machine” that is to say they put their bank card into the machine and then held the card so it wouldn’t go into the machine to be read. The ATM printed a receipt that indicated the card couldn’t be read, put the receipt into the drawer, then opened the drawer. The person took his receipt then filled the drawer with feces giving subsequent customers a surprise when they used the machine.
I also learned about (bank) teller terminals and terminal processors, which used 8” floppy diskettes. I worked for TRW for about nine months and then was laid off.
I went to work for DCMC at the Twin Cities Arsenal (TCA) inspecting bomblets. Mostly, I inspected the solder work to assure work to weapons specifications standards. I went to training for a week or so to learn soldering standards. After the TCA, I worked at the Honeywell plant on Stinson Blvd in Minneapolis. While there I learned NASA soldering requirements and inspected the work for various gyroscopes and accelerometers used in aircraft and missiles. I even inspected the hand controllers for the Space Shuttle.
I started working for NavPRO in the Quality Engineering Department and made a major career shift from Quality to Computers (See: Schools I’ve Attended – Metropolitan State University) While with the NavPro I attended training many times, including training about cc:Mail. cc:Mail was a product by Lotus, who was a big name in spreadsheet software back in the day. That training served me well when I transferred to the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).
Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA)
I continued working with computers with DCMA. I became one of the eMail specialists for the Command. Later, I went to Microsoft Exchange classes to learn Microsoft Exchange (the back end) and Outlook (the user interface). Eventually, I transferred from Minnesota to Los Angeles and became “Mr. E-Mail” for the Western District. Of course, DCMC being a government organization there were many short training experiences, particularly in leadership and personnel management. With DCMA training I developed a style of leadership. I also believe I developed a quotation I used the rest of my working life, “You lead people and manage things; when you manage people, you treat them like things.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
After 9/11, I transferred to the FBI. While with them, I took classes in project management, tested, and became a certified “Project Management Profession (PMP)” through the Project Management Institute. Eventually, my project management skills allowed me to became the lead for a large test group (NCIC, IAFIS, NICS) at the Bureau.
Information Innovators, Inc. & Gray Lion Consulting
After my retirement from federal service, I went to work for Information Innovators, Inc. (aka “Triple-I) for a short time. Then, I created my own company, Gray Lion Consulting, with a contract to provide project management services to Information Innovators. Maintaining my PMP required regular “professional development” classes. To enrich my knowledge about IT Security, I went to a week-long “boot camp” and studied some more to test and become a “Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Being both a PMP and a CISSP allowed me to manage a Network Operations and Security Center (NOSC) until my second retirement.
Don Taylor Genealogy
After my second retirement, I got very involved in Genealogy. I attend genealogical conferences regularly and plan for at least one hour of genealogical training every week, usually through a webinar or other online event. Throughout my life, I’ve learned the power of education and the importance of being a specialist in something.