I was shocked as I put the pieces together.
I was about five years old. I lived on Saturn Avenue in Huntington Park, California. I lived six blocks from Miles Elementary School school which I attended until I was finished second grade.
My stepfather was in the navy, and was stationed at the Navy Operations Supply Center, east of my elementary school. This is where the shocking discovery starts.
One Sunday afternoon, I stayed with my father at the supply center while he was on duty. He fell asleep on one of the couches in the over-sized recreation room. I became bored, and decided to walk home. I climbed over the high wire fence enclosing the base, and started walking.
To get a better feel for exactly how far I walked at that time, I looked up the area on my Google Satellite map. In my mind I thought the navy base was about eight or nine blocks further east from my elementary school. That, in my mind, would have made the walk pretty dramatic for a five year old. It would have been approximately fourteen or fifteen blocks.
But according to the map, the base was fifty five blocks away from my home. It is now sixty five years later, and to say it startled me when I saw this, would be of the biggest understatements I’ve ever uttered. According to Google, the distance was 4.8 miles. Google also says that an adult can walk this distance in 1.5 hrs. And a five year old, how long would it take? Not even Google has an answer for that.
The satellite map shows I walked along the railroad track until I crossed over the Los Angeles River. After that, I crossed two major boulevards, Salt Lake Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. Both were large avenues jam packed with traffic.
After crossing Salt Lake Avenue, there was a park with a wading pool. I took some time and wadded in it.
There was no straight shot to my home. I navigated through several neighborhoods and several commercial areas.
Frankly, as I look back on this, I’m lucky I’m alive.
The year I did this was 1950. I’m tempted to say that times were different back then. However, I remember my mother telling me on numerous occasions not to take candy from a stranger. ” You don’t want to be kidnapped do you?,” she would say in a serious voice. In fact one time I was offered candy a half block from my home where a man asked me to get into his car.
Times haven’t changed that much from then. We’re still just as worried about kidnapping today as we were then; the only difference being, kids played outside most of the day back then. Today, kids play in the house most of the day, and are driven directly to dance class and little league practice, etc.
I was a kid who played outside most of the time. I frequently traveled around the neighborhood square block, making friends with adults and children. Paul, the cook at the hamburger diner, would cook me up a hamburger occasionally. The barber cut my hair for free and without my mother present.
I wandered and met friends. I was known as a kid who who wandered off at times, so it wasn’t unusual for people seeing me out and about.
Nevertheless, the event was . . . chilling as I look back on it.
I’m fortunate I’m still around, and I’m impressed I can remember that far back. I’m sorry I put my parents through that, but my lingering suspicion is my father didn’t wake up during the entire period I was gone, and my mother didn’t know I had walked all that way until I arrived home.
I guess the only person who is freaked out about it is me. And it’s taken me 65 years to put the pieces of the puzzle together. My life is full of lots of gratitude.