The Innocent Years

They called me Billy.

Willard Mayo was the name—taken from my great grandfather. However, when the day approached for me to enroll in school for the first time, my parents wisely changed their minds. They decided on Byron as my first name—the same as my dad. (A few years ago, I sent off to the State of Oregon for a fresh copy of my birth certificate. It arrived—still showing Byron as a hand printed entry in front of the original name registration.)

For me, Byron was a quick and easy change. I liked my dad’s name. But my irrepressible Aunt Phoebe, God bless her, continued to call me Billy—or Bill—until the day she died. My grandfather, Jim Dewey, also had a problem getting used to the switch-over. He’d sometimes call me Billy one day and Byron the next. I just went along with the flow—answering to either name.


A few months after I was born, my dad landed a good job up in Idaho, working on the new veteran’s hospital being constructed in Coeur d’Alene. He took my mother and me along. My dad told me we lived in Coeur d’Alene for a year and a half, until the hospital was completed.

Returning to Oregon, the folks bought a small, white bungalow on a dirt road in the outskirts of Portland—at the base of Mt. Tabor. It had a big, front lawn with no sidewalks, and a little garden in back—one of my earliest memories.


Memory does play tricks—especially in recalling the earliest years. A blur of images comes to mind.. Hazy chronology. Yet, within that disorder, paradoxically, separate fragments remain sharp and clear.

Bringing my mother a small bouquet of flowers that turned out to be weeds—my dad and my mother singing around the house—holding hands while we walked in the woods—the day my dad proudly drove up the driveway in a brand new Overlandtouring car—the smell of freshly – baked cookies in the kitchen—family trips to Cannon Beach—watching my dad lather up and shave with a mean-looking, straight razor—sitting by my mother at the piano while she played—digging in a dirt pile along with the kid next door—a surprise birthday party—skipping rocks into the Zig Zag River while my grandparents tried to fish—and the firstsnow covering our front yard and all of Mt. Tabor: These are among the joyous memories I treasure from those brief few years at the little house in Portland, Oregon.

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