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Me & Dad Gulfport, Florida,1968


Part One: A New Dave is Dawning

My name is Dave and I was born on February 7th in our year of the lord 1968 in St. Petersburg, Florida. My parents divorced when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I lived with my dad in various places in Pinellas and Pasco counties in Florida because he worked for the grocery store chain Winn Dixie as a manager. I saw my mom on the weekends where we would go to the beach or to the movies. She would pick me up on Friday nights or Saturday mornings and drop me off on Sunday nights. I stayed longer on school breaks and summers.

 There was never any real animosity between my parents in the arrangement except for my mother getting annoyed at having to drive farther and farther to pick me up because of where my dad would be living because of Winn Dixie. Holidays were ok as well. I remember being with my mom a lot on Christmas Eve and being with my dad on Christmas Day.

 I guess I had a "normal" childhood with the exception of the above situation. But I consider myself lucky to have the parents I did and still do. My dad did the best he could. I have several fond memories of going fishing in the sparkling waters of Florida's Gulf of Mexico with my dad. My dad did get married a few times after he divorced my mom.

 If there were any dark period in my life at that point it would be my life with my first two-step monsters. I really don't hold any resentment towards them. Leslie was in her early twenties and didn't show any signs of being really mental until she was with my dad for about a year. There was nothing specific that she did or didn't do. I just think she wasn't a "kid" person and too young to deal with an 8 to 10 year old. I have a couple of good memories of being with her and bonding. She was physically attractive as well. I also remember her folks being divorced. 

 I remember being at their wedding. I was the ring bearer and the wedding was at the Don Cesar hotel on St. Pete Beach. The Don was one of the most expensive hotels on the gulf coast. It was pretty swanky. This was Leslie's first wedding and her dad was pretty loaded.  I think he was some sort of cultural attaché to Thailand or something like that. I remember Leslie telling me stories about living there. It was a pretty big to-do. My dad and Leslie got married outside on the beach during the sunset. I was pretty nervous and dropped the ring pillow. But Leslie looked like some sort of angel with her blonde hair all done up and wearing her wedding dress. I thought my dad was pretty lucky at that time. I also got pretty drunk at the reception. I remember drinking a lot of fizzy drinks out of these strange fluted glasses. I thought they tasted really good. I was only about 8 or 9 years old so at about my second one I was pretty faced. When my dad found me he was a little mad but he thought it was funny as well. At least that's what he tells me now. I think they went to the Poconos for the honeymoon. I can't remember where I went. I remember getting really upset when they were leaving and crying a lot. Maybe it was the liquor talking.

me in about 1971( a smartass from the get-go)


Part Two: Fry Daddy Elvis Has Left the Building

 My father stayed married to Leslie for about two or three years.

 A little side note- my memories are sketchy in a lot of areas of my life, without getting the facts from my father, which I'm not, I'll just have to muddle through this on my own recollections of these events.

 I'll continue, Leslie was an ok step-mom. Looking back I think she did the best she could under the conditions she lived in. I think she really loved my father. I don't know too many women would marry a guy who had an 8 or 9 year old me as a son. As I said before she was pretty young and I guess the pressure of having to raise me got to her a little and she took it out on me. My dad's job kept him away from home a lot so Leslie was "stuck" with me at the house pretty often.

  She and I would play with the Atari 2600. I was so excited when my dad bought one from the local Sears store. My dad, Leslie and I would play that thing for hours. We also shared a love of the game "Breakout" which was available on the Atari system. I still remember when she got such a high score that she rolled the scoreboard back to 00000. I was proud to be her stepson that day.

 I also remember coming home from school one day and she was sitting on the couch in the living room watching TV and crying. I had never seen Leslie that upset before so I asked her what was wrong and she told me that Elvis had died. I never even knew that she was an Elvis fan. Looking back I think a lot of people were affected by his passing even if they weren't big fans. He was up there in popularity like the Kennedys or the British royals.

 Leslie used to make beer battered fried chicken that was the best. She would make it with our "Fry Daddy". The whole house would fill up with the smell of deep fried goodness whenever she'd power that puppy up. She would fry up other things for dinner as well. I guess back then people fried things to eat a lot. Now we have the folks at Micky D's do it for us. I wonder if people still use Fry Daddys nowadays? Do they still manufacture them in our era of healthy living?

my family with my great-grandfather about 1975

Part Three: Death and Storms
 During the time my father was married to Leslie we moved around frequently. My father's rising postion with Winn Dixie had him going to a lot of different stores which meant moving to a lot of different houses and enrolling in a lot of different schools. My memories of of my elementary school years are just a blur of un-air conditioned, smelly, government built schoolrooms. I must of switched schools about 6 or 7 times.
  I just had a memory flash of when my father, Leslie and I lived on St. Pete Beach. I can't remember if they were married or not yet. My dad was the assistant manager of the Winn Dixie on Beach Blvd.We had a little bungalo style house near the gulf. My room had been done up in all red, white and blue for the 1976 bicentennial. Leslie even repainted my dresser and desk in that color scheme. I hated it. But no one really listens to your contrbutions when you're eight. 

Leslie, my dad and me about 1976

I remember waking up one morning to the sound of terrible thunder. We had just moved into the house so I was a little confused and scared at first. The noises and flashes were awful. It was the kind of rainy thunderstorm that only Florida gets. It's like God is pissed about something and we don't know what. I cautiously tiptoed out of my room and went into the living room. It was dark in the living room for a second and BAM! lightening flashed and the weird blue light filled the room just for a moment. I turned quickly and realized that the front door was open. Then I noticed Leslie's rocking chair in front of the door. I walked to the door and saw that Leslie was sitting in the chair watching the storm. I hadn't thought about that in more than a decade. The memory is still very vivid. I guess it's the imagery of the silouetted rocking chair by the lightening.
  I have another memory from that period. One that I'm not too fond of. But I think it'll be good to get off my chest. The neighbors acroos from us had two sons, one was in high school and the other was closer to my age. His name was Frankie.  I think he was a couple of years older, maybe nine or ten. He was an ok kid but he liked to really pick on me from time to time. After a while I grew to resent him a little. His mother wasn't too healthy and late one night I remember being woken by the sounds of sirens. The next morning my father told me that Frankie mother passed away that night from a heart attack.
 Frankie didn't go to school for a few days afterwards. But when he came back he decide to pick on me as we we're walking home from school with some other kids. I remember the other kids laughing at something he said about me and it really got me mad. I still remember clear as day what I said back to him that afternoon.
 I began to chant, "Frankie's mom died.....Frankie's mom died....."
Frankie ran home bawling his eyes out and the other kids just looked at me. I walked the rest of the way home knowing that I had done something very bad. I guess Frankie told his dad or someone what I did because when my dad came home he was furious. I can't remember what he said exactly but I do remember he made me go to Frankie's house and apologize for what I said.
 This still eats away at me to this day. I couldn't believe how evil I could be at the tender age of eight.  

me in the mid-70's (nice shirt! where's the disco?)

Part Four: Snake Croquet
  In the late 70's my father, Leslie and I moved from St. Pete Beach to Holiday. Our first house in Holiday was pretty small, but I liked it because of the neighborhood. There were a lot of other kids to play with nearby and I liked the school I went to. I even had my first "real" kiss with a little girl who lived in the neighborhood. It was in this auto wreck yard near our house inside a old mack truck. She was cute and I distinctly remember her using tounge.
 My father found a nicer home for us a few miles up the road in a section of Holiday known as Aloha Gardens. All the streets there were named after women, we lived on Betty Place. For a 10 year old kid it was hell. Almost all the houses had old people living in them. If  I wanted to play with other kids I had to ride my bike about a mile to a nearby neighborhood. 
 One cool thing happened there that I'll never forget. Behind our house was a huge cow pasture. Whenever my dad would the mow the lawn the cows would listen for the lawn mower. As soon as they heard the motor they would come running to the fence by our backyard and wait for my dad to dump the lawn clippings into the field. It would become a bovine feeding frenzy.

1979 wasn't a good year for haircuts....

In the summer of 1979 we got record amounts of rain. I mean it was like we lived in Thailand during monsoon season. The roads flooded out and so did the cow pasture. It was in lower ground so the field had about 3 or 4 feet of water in it. Florida is well known for it's variety of reptiles, especially snakes. Some snakes like water, but most don't and being cold blooded they need to stay warm. Well, the poor waterlogged snakes in the field behind our house decided to warm up using the many driveways and roads of Aloha Gardens.
  The day after the rain stopped the sun came out and dried up most of the lawns. The field didn't though because it had flooded so bad. I went into our backyard and must of seen at least 6 or 7 different snakes sunning themselves on our sidewalk. My father came out after I hollered to him to look at what I had found. He was amazed as well. he did his fatherly duty of pointing out which snakes I should stay away from. Later I rode my bike through the neighborhood and saw a bunch more, but most of those had suffered at the tires of motorists. They were still cool looking though with their flattened bodies and squashed heads.
  My step mother didn't share my glee as it was no surprise that she was afraid of snakes. Whenever we'd go out at night snakes would occupy the space on our driveway where the car used to be to warm up when the temperature dropped at night. I remember pulling up to the driveway and seeing all the snakes lounging by the beam of the headlights. Leslie would shudder at the sight.
 Now this is the part where a shrink would go "A-ha! This is why Dave is the way he is!" My dad would make me get out of the car while he and Leslie would wait inside. I would go to the garage and get a old croquet mallet and take it out to the driveway. Then I'd precede to bash in the heads of all the snakes and toss them out to the lawn. When the coast was clear Leslie would get out of the car. 
Aaaah....summer days, going fishing, flying kites and splattering the brains of innocent reptiles on the driveway. 

we ate LOTS of beef in my house

 Part Five: Dixie Days Done

 Love doesn't last forever and neither did Leslie and my father's marriage. I don't have too many memories of the breakup. I faintly remember going out to dinner or something with Leslie and some guy one evening. The guy was her boss at some office where she worked. I was about 10 and was vaguely understanding that Leslie and this guy had something going on. I guess my dad wanted me to still spend time with her even though the marriage was over. That must of not lasted too long because I don't remember doing anything like that again. I wonder what she's doing now.

 My father once reminded me that she used to get sick sometimes. Doctors couldn't pinpoint what was wrong with her. My father told me that he had heard she wasn't well. That was several years ago, I wonder if she's OK? Wow, it's interesting how people ebb and flow through our lives. We see them a while and then they're gone. You usually don't hear about them again until something bad happens.

 Shortly after my dad's breakup he quit the grocery business to go into the financial services business. He was introduced to it from a friend of his in the Jaycees. As a kid I didn't understand what he did so I didn't take to it right away. When he was a store manager I knew what he did. My friends would go to the store and see my dad there. They'd tell me stories about how they saw him stop a shoplifter or how they helped someone's mom get a refund on something. It was a very tangible job. People saw him all the time and he was very good at it. I was proud of him and proud to be his son.

 You can see my reluctance to his choice of changing careers. He told me later about how tired he was of his job at Winn Dixie. He hated working the messed up hours. He hated the idea that was as far as he'd go if he didn't kiss some butt. He'd reached the top of his profession and was tired and bored.

 Enter A.L. Williams. 


yup....my mom bagged her milk
Part Six: Ringing Up Mary Ann
 While my father was making a career change getting out of Winn Dixie, my mom was still busy pursuing her career at another Winn Dixie as a cashier. 

  She worked for my grandfather (her dad) when he was a Winn Dixie manager back in the 60's. My dad came into Winn Dixie as a bag boy and worked his way up to, I think it was produce manager at my grandfather's store. It was there he met the beautiful and talented Jayne Gibson (my mom). Considering I wasn't born yet my recollections of what happened at this time are rather hazy. I also think in a general guy judging another guy way that it was pretty cool that my dad was banging his boss's daughter. (even though it was my future mother)

  After my parents separated my mother went back to Winn Dixie to cashier again. It paid well and she got good benefits. She was able to purchase a house in St. Pete and generally enjoy life. I can't believe she liked the work. I find my mom to be a highly intelligent woman and ringing up groceries eight hours a day isn't exactly taxing to the brain. She later left Winn Dixie after I believe over ten years to go to work in real estate. It was there she met my stepfather. He's a really great guy and she's lucky to have him. They're still in real estate today and work as a team. I'm glad my mom found something that brings her happiness as a career.

  When my mother was at Winn Dixie, she worked at a store on the beach. The store was located right across the street from the Gulf of Mexico. Dawn Wells, the actress who played "Mary Ann" on "Gilligan's Island" had a house on the beach and would shop at my mother's store often. When my mom told me that I was extremely impressed. I was even more amazed at how covered my mom's car would be with seagull poop at the end of her workweek. It looked like some sort of modern art project using bird feces as paint. It was disgusting.

Does my hair look too poofy?

My mother worked Monday through Friday so she could see me on the weekends. I remember that we'd go to the movies a lot. I think it was her influence that got me to love the cinema. She's still a fan of the old Universal monster films like "Frankenstein" and "Dracula".  
  When I was about nine I really wanted to see the remake of "Dracula" that starred Frank Langella. I mother knew it would be too intense for me but I made her take me anyway. I told her I was a big boy and movies didn't scare me. I spent about 80% of the film with my face buried in my mom's arm. I saw the film again a couple of years ago and wondered what I was so afraid of because the film's a stinker.