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From the full version of Sunnysides Lousy Book.


On the Road at Sixteen

My little sister baby sat for a neighbour who was a painting con-tractor and she got me a job working for him after Jake didn't work out. The first day of working for him, I had to wire brush the back wall of a building supply's warehouse and there were a couple windows to mask-off. It took me almost a half hour to mask just one small bathroom window because I tried to put the tape on the edge of the plastic and then stick it onto the window frame. It was a mess to say the least. Then one of the painters came along and said, "Hay, you put the tape on the window frame first."
      "Oh I get it," I said, and from there out I kicked ass as a masker.
       Rocky bought a house on the lake from a neighbour of his who lived next door to the small cottage he rented from his dad. Rocky asked me if I would paint it for him in trade for his used 1975 Suzuki RM 125 dirt bike. He rented a pressure washer and airless spray outfit and supplied the paint. It wasn't long thereafter; Jack and Irean figured since I worked for the neighbourhood painting contractor and just painted Rocky's house, the thing to do is to get me to do their son's house as a side job, so they turned me on to their son for another side job. As the side jobs came along, I began buying my own hand tools to add to my collection. I’d rent the pressure washers and airlesses as I needed them at about fifty dollars a pop.
       When things slowed down at the end of the summer, my boss laid-off the journeyman painters and he began doing more of the work himself with me as his helper. I ran across one of the journeymen painters he had laid-off earlier, and he said I should have held out for more money, because I was a faster masker than the journeyman painters were.
       My boss kept me busy working through the winter and took time to train me right. I was a fast learner and within six months I was already pretty good behind a spray gun. With money and a car I entered into the dating scene and I had a few hit and or misses you might say. Everything revolved around partying though. I learned that if you got to know the girls, you would know where the parties were.
       As a way to get $50 together for a keg of beer, there were a few times some of the girls from our area had wet tee shirt car washes. It wouldn't take long to get the money together because they'd sure have the cars lined up.
       After the car wash we'd go out to the Fort Lewis reservation and pull into the woods off of Pole Line Road. We'd have a bon-fire; tune our car radios to the same station and place our speakers on top of the car's roofs. That's the time when my power booster amplifier came in handy. I had one of the loudest stereos going at the time, but it was nothing to compare to what people drive around with today. I just don't know how some of these folks can even think with 500 watts blaring in their ears.
       Though my 63 Comet used about a quart of oil every week, it was the best damn car I've ever owned because it only let me down once, and that was when a sparkplug I'd cleaned fell out on my way home from the Monday night party gang’s get together. I put on over 47,000 miles on it in the first year; changed the oil once and bought a used set of tires for it. Every time I see one; I think of the good-old-days, when glove box doors were made of steel and the radio and gauges were dressed in chrome. I feel that the folks who own the two-door or convertible models sure have something to admire.
       The Monday Night Gang originated during football session when a neighbour Hiccup and a few of his friends and I would get together to get drunk and stoned and watch a football games. The group had so much fun at our little gatherings that we made it a ritual to get together year around every Monday night.

Over the following summer I got into the local painters union because the neighbour I worked for had a school to paint and it required union painters. At the end of the painting season he had to lay me off, but he called in to the union and put in a good word for me. When I was about to sign my name amongst several other pages of painters that were out of work, the representative behind the counter said, "Don't sign in there." He slid a drawer open and pulled out another binder and placed it in front of me on the counter. "Here -- sign in this one." opening the book to a page with only a few names that hadn't been crossed out yet. The next morning I got dispatched out to Fort Lewis to work on painting the barracks.

By then I'd sold my car for $200 because the front end was getting so loose it was hard to drive strait down the road. It turned out to be a bad idler arm in the front suspension. The guy who bought the car spent $11.00 on a new one on and gave it some fresh spark plugs, then turned around and sold the car $300.

While I was saving money for a truck I was using my dad's truck to go to work. I saved up about a thousand and then went over to Spokane for a government auction with my parents. While we were there we stayed at my Uncle Gus's house. I won with a bid of $1,150.00 for a 68 Chevy short step-side pick-up. To this day I haven't found a truck I’ve liked better. Through my needs are for something bigger, I truly think the 67 and 68 are the sharpest looking low rider trucks ever made.

When fall came around, I began attending the Manufacturing Housing course at the Clover Park Vocational School. At the same time I was attending the class, I was attending the alter-native high school offered offer on certain days of the week. That's if would even remember to go to the classes because it was only on certain days of the week, so if I didn't realize which day of the week it was, there was a good chance I'd forget to drop what I was doing at the carpenter shop and go to class. Needless to say I wasn't doing very well with anything that required homework or things on paper especially when it’s "work at your own pace."
       About mid-term the instructor of the class started whittling the class of forty down towards the goal of twenty like he said he would at the beginning of the year. I didn't mind because I realized that starting out as an apprentice carpenter I would end up making less than I was already as a painter. The problem with the course for the guys that enrolled was that they were being used because there was only enough work for about 10 to 15 and the scam was the money the school could bring in by enrolling forty. A couple of guys figured the scam out when the first round of eliminations when down and they quite voluntarily.

The worst thing about getting kicked out of Voc's school was that I had to tell my parents sooner or later. Of course I wasn't going to until I had to. I didn't say anything about it until the next morning after my mother woke me up because I'd slept in. After I told her I got kicked out she said, "You ain't going to school, you ain't working; you ain't living in my house!"

Many times in my life I have met people that have had problems with their son. I've told them what my parents told me: "You ain't going to school, you ain't working; you ain't living in my house." Though I have never been too sure if it was the right thing for them to do, I've always thought it made me strong and a survivor as well. This little lesson could teach many lazy kids of today a strong sense of what the game of life is all about. No doubt the true meaning of life sets in when you have to deal with the responsibility of keeping up with bills that arrive every month.

At the age of fourteen when I entered the workforce as a paper boy, I learned that there is no day off. I learned early in life, that the work ethic comes in strong when the cost of living comes and smacks you in the face.
       I called around trying to find a job, (At the time there was only 35 painting contractors in the phone book.) but it was still a little too early in the season for the painting work to kick in. I think Rocky understood the predicament I was in so he was nice enough to let me move in his upstairs bedroom. Unfortunately my fish aquarium got a small crack in a corner of it in the process of moving and I didn’t notice it. It leaked and some water ran down through Rocky's front room ceiling and got his couch wet. Though it didn't hurt anything because the ceiling was of an old plywood type, I'm sure Rocky felt it was a good excuse to kick me out. I learned of it when I arrived home and found my stuff packed up in the back of my truck.
      I landed a job working for a friend Wayne whom was in partners with Paul whom just so happened to be a friend of Rocky’s also. I delivered and set-up waterbeds and moved supplies from store to store. They even used my carpenter skills for remodeling a show room in a new store they had opened. I opened up a wall and put in a large arched doorway. I designed a corner counter top which was open past through connecting to both rooms in corner behind the front desk.

One night a friend and I were out in the woods on the Fort Lewis reservation, getting high and drinking beer, a cop pulled up the dirt road behind us. He busted us and I ended up in Ramand Hall, a juvenile detention center. My parents told my case worker, "Keep him." It was three months from my eightieth birthday and after sitting in the detention center eight days, my case worker finally talked my parents into taking me back home.
       When I got back home I'd told Paul, about what happened and stated that I needed to get out of my parents house. He said he had just the place I could stay. It was a fixer-upper in the Hill Top area that had just gotten been broken into and the new carpet was stolen right off the floor in the front room. He asked me if I wanted to move into the place and house sit until the house sold. All I had to do was keep the place clean and pay for the utilities, but as it turned out I got ripped off three times in three months.
       George, the younger brother of Wayne’s who also worked for the waterbed store, landed a rundown house to rent. It was a four bedroom house on a five acre lot next to a wrecking yard. It was owned by George’s buddy's dad. The rent was only $150 per month so I moved in because $75 every month was worth not having to be cleaned out by thieves ever month. Since the garage was full of junk from previous renters and the roof was caving in on it, so we used the smallest bedroom just off the kitchen as our garage. In there George was rebuilding a forty nine flat head and I had my dirt bike and the tools and equipment I'd been collecting.
       After renting equipment for my side jobs the year before, I figured it was about time to just buy one of my own. I knew a manager of a paint store who bought used airlesses from con-tractors and rebuilt them in his spare time. I learned that he had a Super Bee for sale for $800.00 and decided to try to come up with the money for it.
       Since my dad had put $25 in a savings account at the Motorcouch Credit Union for each of us kids when each of us turned sixteen, the credit union was the place I went to when I needed to come up with the money. I was quite surprised when the lady said, "For that small of a loan, it should only take about a half an hour to process the paperwork."
       I had, no real job, no credit to speak of and there was no request of anything to use for collateral; just my signature. Not exactly how banks or credit unions do things now days. The payments amounted to $55 per month. That just happened to be the same amount of money an airless cost to rent for one day.

When I told my mother I had just taken out a loan to buy an airless, she flipped. She told me I shouldn't have done such a thing because she felt that I couldn't be responsible enough for such an obligation. The amazing side of it is that my parents never bought anything with cash. By the time my dad received his paycheck each month, the loans through the credit union whittled his check down to about $500.00. As soon as they would pay something off, they would usually have another want and turn around and roll the extra money available over onto another loan for their next purchase.

The first job to come along that summer was one from Paul. He had a rental that needed painting and I bid on it for $800. I did it too cheap, but I got it done in two weeks. Back then, a kid at 17 years of age making $400 cash in a week was pretty dam good money.

The next chapter of Sunnyside's Lousy Book is:
Party On

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