Friday, December 22, 2006

Johnny, Jerry and Mary

In the early stages of WWII the local airbase made an agreement with B. Barer & Sons to receive damaged sections of B-17 and B-24 bombers. Walla Walla was the final training base for crews going overseas and not all the pilots were ready for prime time. Uncle Dave arranged to rent a lot at 4th and Sumach for $75 per month.

My father advised that they look into buying the property as they didn't want to be in the spot of having to move the hulks if the owner found a more rewarding tenant.

Uncle Dave was reluctant as cash was short and Uncle Dave had some definite feelings about the advantages of staying liquid and turning money.

But Dad prevailed and the property off Main Street was purchased for $750.

This was prescient as after the war there was no market for WWII vintage alloys. After about ten years a speculator purchased the hulks for a smelter he was building. I think he went broke but the lot was clear. A truck scale was built on the place and it became the scrap storage yard.

Next to the lot was a small cottage probably built in the late 1800's. Two elderly sisters lived there. Apparently to enhance their income or maybe two women in the same kitchen didn't work, the house was converted to a duplex on the main floor and a bedroom bathroom set of quarters on the upper level.

At the death of the two sisters the house was rented to an odd triumvirate. Johnny had been married to Mary but she had taken a shine to Jerry their boarder. She divorced Johnny and married Jerry. Johnny then became the border.

Their was speculation as to how the arrangement faired since the men both had the same job but one worked days and one worked nights.

Arnie and I eventually purchased the property. The neighborhood became rougher and rougher
as did our tennants. One day I was approached by a clean cut young man who said he was a UCLA student with a summer job in the area. He parked a trailer in the yard and paid a month rent. Three weeks later a polceman informed me that federal narcotics people had arrested the chap and the trailer would be removed as evidence.

For the next couple of years I heard rumors of drug deals at the place culminating with the death of one of the tenants from tainted heroin.

Arnie and I had a conference and the quaint landmark was bulldosed.

I should have learned my lesson about clean cut Californians. In the scrap iron business there is always a job for a good oxy-acetylene torch operator. I hired this young man and he was a pro.
On the hottest days of summer his production was prodigeous. One evening I saw his name in the paper as one who had been arrested, no reason. I called the prosecuting attourney offering to post bail if it was a minor infraction.

With a chuckle he informed me "no way". He had received a call from the Los Angeles police department to keep an eye on this guy as he was a "hit"man for a gang and while in Walla Walla he had sprayed the parking lot of a convenience store where a rival gang hung out with automatic rifle bullets.