by Jim Bulls
It’s Friday circa 1947 — the weekend is almost here — but first I have to get through the day in Mrs. Shellenberg’s kindergarten class at Lincoln School. Friday was spaghetti day and I could hardly wait for lunchtime. When the clock finally rolled around to noon, I sat beside Kenny Parker in the cafeteria while waiting to be served. I thought it might be fun to take my straw and blow bubbles in his milk carton. Bad decision. Kenny was a pretty tough kid, I could have been heading for a black eye or a bloody nose! Instead, those big blue eyes broke into a stream of tears, flowing across his freckled cheeks. He cried, “Jimmy Bulls spit in my milk!” Mrs. Tabler kicked me out of the lunchroom; no spaghetti for me. I was exiled to the Eucalyptus trees to wait for my punishment from the principal.
While waiting, I picked up the little yellow, cone-shaped seed pods and wet them on my tongue so they would stick to my fingers like claws and my forehead like horns — just like a little devil. Mr. Crousey, the principal, ushered me into his office. He opened the bottom drawer of his desk, revealing a huge, coiled up belt. “Do you see this Jimmy?” he asked. “Yes sir,” I replied. “I never want to remove this from that drawer. Do you understand?” “Yes sir,” I said. “You are excused.” I tried to be cool as I left his office but, as soon as the door closed, I high-tailed it to the restroom before I wet my pants!
After school, I always walked to General Grant Junior High where my Dad was a teacher. On the way, I stopped by Jackie’s Junior High Service. Mike Shamoon worked at Jackie’s and I would play in his old Hudson Super Six for a few minutes before going on my way. Mike used the car at Fiesta time, for the Whiskerino Posse who all hung out at Jadoon’s Bar. When I finally got to Dad’s classroom, I sat with Sugar Crane until school was out. After school, Dad and I would drive back to Lincoln School to pick up Mom, who was also a teacher.
Friday night was always movie night. It always started with supper at Arrowwood’s Café on G Street. The Arrowwood girls would always sit in the front booth so they could see who was going down Main Street or shopping downtown. Pretty soon, Art Nelson would walk in to get a piece of deep dish pie and share his daily joke or story.While my parents caught up on the gossip and looked to see who was in town, I hurriedly devoured my burger and fries so we could walk around the corner to take in the double feature at the Reedley Theater.
On Saturday morning, I always woke up to Big Jon and Sparkie‘s “No School Today.” This was a children’s radio show that featured Buck Rogers and the Space Cadets. There were always a few chores to do before lunch, and then I could go to the Saturday afternoon matinee. For the next few hours, I would watch a cowboy movie that featured Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or the Cisco Kid, a dozen or so cartoons and then the afternoon highlight — whatever serial was playing at the time. I couldn’t wait until the next week to see how the Black Knight escaped certain death. After the show, I hopped on my trusty J.C. Higgins Hiawatha bike to go home. It sat outside with 60 or so other bikes with no fear of being stolen.
Saturday evening, my family always spent sitting around the radio and listening to Amos ‘n Andy, The Whistler and The Shadow. “Off to bed Jimmy, church in the morning,” Dad would say. Sometimes I would lie in bed and listen to the sounds of the town: the clock on St. Anthony’s clock tower striking 11 o’clock, 11:30, 12 o’clock and the Santa Fe or Southern Pacific switch engines moving train cars in preparation for hauling fresh Reedley produce to the rest of the world.
Sunday morning’s wake up call was the bell from St. Anthony’s calling parishioners to early Mass. That was soon followed by the chimes at the Methodist Episcopal Church reminding the Protestants that it was time for Sunday school.
After church, Mom usually had a pot roast for dinner, and then we would go for a Sunday afternoon drive in the country or the foothills. Sunday evening was again spent around the radio listening to The Original Amateur Hour, The Jack Benny Program and Sky King. Before long, it was bedtime at 8 o’clock.
Television was a decade away. When it finally arrived — and my Dad won a wagon full of money playing black-out Keno at the Reedley Theater — he went downtown, bought our first TV and became Reedley’s first couch potato.