RT Cunningham

Blogging For As Long As I'm Able

My California Memories Are Better Than California Today

Tagged with barstow, california, los angeles, oceanside, san diego, united states on February 18, 2024

California California is only one of the fifty states in the United States, but it’s the one with the largest population, and it’s the third-largest state in land area. I’ve already spent far more time in California than most other nonresidents. The way things are in the state today makes me want to avoid it altogether.

Unfortunately, my older son’s wife is in the United States Air Force and stationed near Sacramento. My wife, Josie, and I promised to spend most of 2025 with them.

My history with California began with a trip to visit my maternal grandmother in Fremont, when I was too young to remember details. I can barely remember my grandmother. Although I have clearer memories of most of the time I spent in California after I became an adult, I obviously can’t remember everything.

My First Few Military Years in California

I attended United States Marine Corp basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. I turned 18 a couple of weeks before graduating. After graduation, I was sent to my class “A” school at the 21 area of Camp Pendleton, near Oceanside.

After I graduated from that school, I was transferred back to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot as a member of the permanent personnel. I eventually ended up at Casual Company, Headquarters Battalion. That unit was responsible for the military personnel at the alcohol rehab center, the drug rehab center, some specialized education programs, and for processing Vietnam era deserters after they were pardoned by President Carter in 1977.

I was single back then, so I lived in the barracks on base. My off-duty hours would be incredibly boring if I didn’t find things to do. You have to understand that this was years before home computers became commonplace, and even more years before the Internet became available to consumers. Mobile phones hadn’t even been invented yet.

I played video games at a mini-arcade in the bowling alley on base during the week, and at larger arcades in downtown San Diego on weekends, but not every weekend. There were enough movie theaters, including drive-ins, that I could usually find something to watch a couple of times a month. When all else failed, and when I was broke, I would spend my time at the base library.

There were other places I went, but not regularly. I visited Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, and Pacific Beach, as well as Presidio Park in a neighborhood called Old Town.

Trips from Arizona to California

A few years later, I was stationed in Yuma, Arizona. While she was pregnant, Josie started craving “Indian” mangoes, which weren’t available in Yuma. It took me more than three hours to drive to the commissary at the Navy base in San Diego because the speed limit was 55 miles per hour back then. When we found out they were out of stock, Josie bought some other fruit that we couldn’t get in Yuma, so it wasn’t a complete waste of a trip.

Several years later, while I was assigned to the recruiting station (but not as a recruiter) in Phoenix, Arizona, I had to make several trips to California. I went to the recruiting district headquarters twice while it was located at Naval Station Treasure Island, in San Francisco Bay, and twice after it was relocated to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego.

During one long Independence Day weekend, I took my family to Disneyland in Anaheim. That was a mistake because we ended up spending more time standing in lines than anything else. It was a mistake I never repeated.

My Last Military Years in California

For my last two years in the Marine Corps, I was assigned to the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, California. I didn’t want to move my family, so I lived as a geographical bachelor in the barracks. It was a six-hour drive, one-way, from Barstow to Phoenix, so I couldn’t go home every weekend.

By that time, I had a crappy, yet expensive desktop computer and a dial-up Internet connection. I stayed on base and kept myself occupied with Internet activities until the day I traveled to Phoenix for the last time.

There were a few times when I went to places with the people who worked for me. We went to two studios, Warner Bros. in Burbank, and Paramount in Los Angeles, to participate in studio audiences (we made money for the MWR services on base). We also went to a couple of pizza places in Victorville.

After Retirement From the Military

After I retired and before I moved to the Philippines, my family took a few trips to Los Angeles. We stayed at the apartment of a great uncle (called “lolo” in Tagalog) in an old hotel on Wilshire Boulevard once, and later at a house near Sunset Boulevard. We once visited one of Josie’s cousins in Huntington Beach, and a couple of her other cousins in National City.

Other than the Los Angeles airport (LAX), we haven’t been anywhere in California since sometime before 2003, when my father-in-law passed away. In all the times I’ve been in that state, and for whatever reason, I never saw the filth that exists today, mainly due to all the homeless people living on the streets. California isn’t alone in that regard. I’ve actually seen a lot of homeless people in Hawaii and Washington State.

Now, I know I haven’t mentioned all of my experiences, but I’m not trying to write an autobiography. An autobiography would have to also include the other places I’ve lived or visited, including other countries.

Image by TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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