Growing up in Tucson

I plugged in my portable hard drive I use to remove pictures from my iPhone and onto my other larger hard drive, going through the pictures to see which ones I could delete to free up space. I found this picture of me when I was a small boy, probably around six or seven. That would put the date circa 1967.

This picture was taken, I believe, on Christmas Day. You can see the wrapping papers scattered around. I believe that cat figure is a Disney character…Felix the Cat, perhaps? And the other figure is Frankenstein. I remember that cat, though, and it might be a bottle of shampoo, but I can’t be sure.

The object I’m touching may be a cassette player, but again, I’m not certain. I have little memories of my childhood, and I don’t remember many details. If it is a cassette player, I don’t think it was one of my presents but probably something for my older brothers or sisters.

Where I was living in Tucson on this Christmas Day is a mystery. We used to live on 25th and also on Eli Street, so it may have been one of those houses.

We were not a rich family and always had modest Christmases. At this point, I’m not sure if my real dad was in the picture or if my mom and dad had already divorced by this time. I’m thinking my dad was not in the picture at this point because I don’t remember him being there.

One of the interesting facts about this picture is the background with the book shelves. The bookshelf to the left of me, on the bottom shelf, is a set of encyclopedias, something, of course, is unknown today with the advent of the internet.

The other book shelf also brings back memories because of the books that are on the bottom shelf as well, right above where my right heel is. I believe those were Life books, full of wonderful nature stories and pictures. I enjoyed reading and looking through the beautiful color pictures and reading about the stories. Here is a screen grab off of Etsy where these books were put up for sale and sold:

The title of the Etsy listing is “Vintage Time Life Nature Library Set of 23 Books from the 1960s.”

(Picture below is my sister Mary, no doubt taken at the same time as the other picture. Note the date: January, 1967.)

What interests me is the fact that we had books around our house, evidently quite a lot of them. I remember I loved to read and read all the time, something I do to this day. Reading has been one of the main loves and pursuits of my life.

One question I have is, who was responsible for bringing literature into the Spears’ family? I don’t believe it was my mom as I never saw her reading. She loved watching t.v. but was not, to my knowledge, a lover of books.

My dad, on the other hand, did read, and I remember he would have a book by his cot when we lived with him in Crystal Lake, IL. I write “cot” because they was exactly what he slept on. Cots are not official beds, but small, portable items, like what you would find being used in a military barrack. This would make sense because he was in the Air Force when a younger man, training to be a pilot.

Knowing this, it would make sense it was my dad that may have been the driving force for having books in our home. If so, I have a debt of gratitude for him instilling a love of literature into our home; I attribute most of all my learning to books and reading and would feel very impoverished if reading had not been a major part of my life.

This is one of the many mysteries and regrets I have from my childhood: not knowing the genesis of where many of my interests originated from—like reading. As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, it was my dad who emphasized education. He put myself, my sisters Mary and Lisa, and my brother David (all older than me) into private Catholic school when we were sent to live with him in Crystal Lake.

Though he was a brutally perverted and vicious man, still, he had redeeming qualities. This is one of the many profound mysteries of life, the fact of the simultaneous light and darkness so common to many, reminding me of the Frankenstein toy given to me at Christmas.

This is an interesting toy because I have never been a huge Frankenstein fan. In fact, I don’t believe I ever read the book because it was simply too dark of a story for me and I never was attracted to it. Where I believe this toy may have been influenced by was the hugely popular “Addam’s Family” sitcom from 1964, something I remember watching as a kid.

My dad was weird in this respect; he enjoyed dark and violent stuff while I never did. He foolishly took us to see the horror film “Tales from the Crypt” at a drive in while living in Crystal Lake. It was one of the most terrifying movies I have ever watched and gave me nightmares for years. Never would I allow my own children to be exposed to this type of trash and did my best to keep them from its evil influence.

Again, part of that “mixed bag” of the human personality.