Life on the West Side

Neff and my mother slept in the big front bedroom. Gladys and I slept in a pull-down Murphy bed. It took up most of the floor space in a small study down the hall. During the day, the polished wood wall featured a full- length mirror. At night, when you pulled down the counter-balanced face of the wall, and snapped the legs in place, it became a full-size double bed.

On that bed is where my earliest sex education began.


It wasn’t long before Gladys and I were curiously exploring each other. By the end of the week, our curiosity had turned into a lot of playful fiddling around. We’d snuggle in bed and feel each other and rub and romp and wrestle and just have ourselves one helluva high old time. We didn’t know what we were doing. But we knew it was exciting, it felt good, and it was a lot of fun.

These nightly games lasted maybe two weeks, maybe less. One night, my mother walked in on us, right in the middle of a most enthusiastic session. The bed was badly rumpled. And so were we.

All hell broke loose, My mother was absolutely lived as she stammered out, “No-no-no, you mustn’t do that”— for reasons that were never explained to us. Then Neff jumped into the act. He went sort of berserk. He bellowed out his anger in my direction. For a grand climax, he threatened to thrash me within an inch of my life and send me to Woodburn. (I learned much later that Woodburn, Oregon, was the location of the state reform school for wayward boys.)

Gladys and I lowered our heads, put on contrite faces, and kept our mouths shut.

In the end, I suppose virtue triumphed. From that night on, I slept on a cot in an alcove next to the dining room. And I remained a virgin until I was almost seventeen years old.


My new school, where I entered second grade, was adjacent to Lincoln High, only a few blocks away from the apartment, this made it an easy walk to school. My mother came along the first week or so. Then we were on our own.

Gladys showed me her favorite route. It took us along an attractive street of little neighborhood shops and stores and restaurants, clustered in the blocks around the Lincoln Theater movie house.

Living in this kind of urban atmosphere was a wide new world for me, of course. I found it very intriguing.


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