So Be It!
by Mariano Guardino II
Edited by M. Constance Guardino III

January 2013



Chapter 1: A New Boy in Town

    I entered this world with little fanfare, January 5, 1920, in San Jose, California. I was named Mariano Guardino after my paternal grandfather. My mother was born in Palermo, Sicily, December 8, 1900. My father came from Omaha, Nebraska, where he was born October 11, 1895. His parents came from Trabia, a small town north of Palermo. Dad was small in stature, standing five feet six and never weighing more than 135 pounds in his lifetime. Mother was barely five foot one [four foot eleven] and always carried a few extra pounds for cushion, throughout most of her life. Dad died at 64 from prostate cancer and my mother at 84 from heart disease.
    Longer than I can remember, I was nicknamed “Mino.” Later I changed it to “Monte” because I liked it better. I was the eldest of six surviving siblings; a sister died in infancy during the 1918 flu epidemic of World War I and was buried January 1, 1919.
    I was enrolled at Grant Grammar School at age six. The school was located just around the corner from our small, modest, always crowded home, located in the center of “Little Italy,” one block from Holy Cross Catholic Church, hub of the lively, Italian community, which had a distinctive Sicilian flavor. It was the first language of many of the elder inhabitants. There were other “Little Italys” in San Jose, but this was the big one.



    Backesto Park was located near the church, where the elders played the game of “bocce,” a form of outdoor bowling. The youngsters, myself included, played American baseball which produced some pretty good players, such as “Yankee Clipper" Joe DiMaggio from nearby San Francisco. ”Little Italy” in San Jose’s Northside was a closely united and highly prejudiced community within a community--anyone not being Italian, and specifically Sicilian, was missing a lot and was often regarded as an outsider!
    At age 12, I graduated from Grant Grammar School to Peter H. Burnett Junior High, located two miles away, through Chinatown into a predominantly non-Italian environment. The graduation was particularly challenging to me and my Sicilian buddies. We were gang oriented and our social perceptions were shallow. We walked to the new school in groups, boys with boys and girls with girls, for protection, just in case we were set upon by other ethnic groups, such as the Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos. It never happened. We were being our own worse enemies!
    Chinatown, by reputation, was a spooky, shady place, especially at night and during the weekends. All of of our fears proved to be fruitless. It was the Italians, and specifically the Sicilians, who were the most likely troublemakers.

Chapter 2: Growing up Fast

    As heads of the Guardino family, Joseph and Jennie had more than their share of problems raising six super charged, highly excitable, house full of children. Joe was a lifelong cannery worker, starting as a family breadwinner at age thirteen. He worked during the summer in a cannery when school was in recess for three months, as helper to an older, adult sister, who was employed as a fruit cutter, namely apricots, pears and peaches.
    When summer work ended and schooling resumed, little Joseph won his argument to continue working at a job offered him in the cannery warehouse, potentially a year-round employment, if he worked hard. His family offered little resistance, for they desperately needed the added income to the family coffers. Dad gave what he earned to his mother and kept very little for himself.
    Twenty years later Joe was promoted to a warehouse foreman position. He was now hard at work raising his own family. He met my mother in the cannery cafeteria during the summer of 1917 when they were both working.
    Dad stayed on the job 52 years, until one hot summer day when he collapsed at work while pushing a heavy cart. He was loaded into a car and transported to a nearby hospital, cursing all the way, first at his not wanting medical attention, because he didn’t think he had a serious problem...and look at all the work he was missing!
    He was diagnosed as having prostate cancer and never worked again. As a full-time, year-long employee, his employer, California Packing Corporation (Del Monte Brand), had provided him with cost-free annual physical examination. But he was too proud to ever admit he was ill. He put up a strong, but losing battle, with the expectation of someday returning to work. He wore his working clothes whenever he could while hospitalized.
    His penis became cancerous and was surgically removed at the University of California Hospital in San Francisco. After that traumatic event, he went into deep depression and complained to family members that he was no longer a man and deserved to die.
    He had a large funeral, and his body rested in his modest coffin. A five-diamond company service pin was in his lapel, each diamond representing ten years of hard, dedicated work. He was buried in his Sunday church suit but I am sure he would have preferred his foreman's work clothes! A cherished Holy Rosary had been placed in his hands.
    With this sketch of my family background, I’ll return to my entering junior high at age twelve in June 1932. It was the start of an exciting new chapter in my young life. I was still a cocksure Sicilian-Italian-American, but now I faced a big new world, getting away from the restraints of  “Little Italy”...and later facing my own medical problem!
    Upon finishing the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades, I was promoted, with fairly good grades, to San Jose High School in 1935, a non-segregated seat of higher learning, with an enrollment of 1,800. It was the only high school in town, except for a related technical high across the street and sever church-sponsored schools.
    At San Jose High, I widened my social contacts, made a lot of new friends, many non-Italian. I especially enjoyed meeting pretty girls with light brown or blond hair, which contrasted with my olive skin and jet-black hair, which was often pasted down with olive oil. I stayed clear of the Italian girls. I had learned at a very young age that Italian parents, mine included, were too strict with their daughters. If you showed the slightest interest in their protected daughters, mama and papa went on the defensive: “You date my daughter, you marry her!”
    I had long been a movie buff and seldom missed a Saturday matinee at the Jose Theater, preferring western and war movies, and the rougher the better. I was usually accompanied by a buddy or two. In school I became interested in drama and acted in several short plays and skits. I was truly smitten and felt that I had found my goal in life, to be a movie actor in the mode of Rudolph Valentino, whose handful of movies I saw over and over. I particularly enjoyed the relationships he had with the leading ladies. If he could do it, why couldn’t I? It is interesting to note that my mother adored Mr. Valentino, while my father was more into Tom Mix and Buck Jones. Seems I was born into the best of two worlds. I was told by many that I bore a resemblance to Tyrone Power and some said more like Cary Grant. I believed them all and figured somewhere in between. Some even said I was too “cocky” for my own good. My mother settled it for me. She favored my looking like Mr. Power!
    But she would proudly declare, “I like my boy better!”
    Come June 1938, at age 18, I graduated from San Jose High School with strictly mediocre grades. I enrolled across the street at San Jose State College (now San Jose State University) as a speech-drama major, with music as a minor, as a result of my having played a backbreaking, hand-me-down, full-sized professional model accordion since I was twelve. The best description of my high school scholastic achievement came from a school counselor who said, “You only got good grades when you like a subject. Better change your attitude, young man, or you’ll go nowhere!”



    I knew where I was headed and looked forward to my career in the movies. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was determined. And if I didn’t make it on the silver screen, I could always fall back on my “Stomach Steinway,” the accordion. I had been playing the instrument at parties and similar social events, usually with a saxophone player, who also played the drums, with a strong beat.
    As a parting shot of San Jose High, I did not attend the Senior Prom. I had a date in mind, but came to the realization that I was stepping out of my class for the event. Her family was notably wealthy and mine, especially me, was notably poor. I could never dress up  to her status, not even on a rental basis...expensive corsage, limousine service, which was the current rage, dinner at an expensive restaurant, dancing at the Country Club...all too rich for my blood.
    I made myself scarce as the prom date approached and practically hid from the girl. She had lovely brown hair and pale blue eyes. I was also embarrassed by the sound of my given name...Mariano. It sounded great in Sicilian, but lost much of its beauty in its American translation, sounding more like a girl’s name. My family and friends knew me as “Mino” but to the uninformed, I was Morono, Maritone, Marsano, Marconi, etc. I was looking for an excuse not to attend, anything to stay clear of the prom, traditionally one of the biggest days of the high school years.
    On the day of the big event, I wilted and went into hiding. A buddy and I went to see a western movie instead. We drove his father’s broken down Chevrolet and went Dutch treat, each paying for his own ticket, each knowing what the other was thinking. The date I could have had went with someone else. She rarely spoke to me again. What a lousy Valentino I turned out to be! Perhaps I was not as cocksure as I thought I was. I was socially embarrassed and ashamed, as never before in my life, especially when I learned that the prom was, for the most part, stiff and unexciting, and I chuckled to learn that the guy who dated my “dream girl” was somewhat of a creep.
    The last I heard, my should-have-been prom date was enrolled by her parents in a prestigious Eastern college. I was content to be enrolled as a speech-drama major at San Jose State, at this pint a little shaken in confidence and not at all sure where this would lead me!

Chapter 3: Rude Awakenings

    Now enrolled at San Jose State, I plunged into my studies with much enthusiasm and great expectations. I petitioned for the classes that I felt would lead me to Hollywood as the next Valentino, although he had been dead several years and lost much of his luster. Nevertheless, stand by everybody, I’m on my way!
    Unfortunately, most of my classes were not what I wanted. I did, however, enroll in a beginning acting class. At last, I thought, I was on my way, but who needs all that other stuff... economics, social studies, etc., to be a movie actor?
    Then came what I thought was my first big break. There was a notice on the bulletin board announcing auditions for the play “Brother Rat,” a popular movie and stage play of the day. The movie version starred Ronald Reagan. I hurried to the school library and checked out the play, quickly read it and decided to try out for the lead.
    Come audition day, I was ready to take on all comers. The audition went well. I was told by the director, one Hugh Riley, that I had read very well. He announced that the cast selection would be posted on the bulletin board. I could hardly wait. I just knew that I had the part I wanted, but was prepared to settle for a lesser role...anything to get on the stage...anything!
    A couple of days later the cast was listed on the bulletin board. My name was not listed. Surely, there must be an error. The director said I read well. What possibly could have gone wrong? I was eager to find out.
    I ran from the bulletin board and charged into the director’s office, my Sicilian temper seething and my blood boiling. The usually placid secretary saw me coming and was alarmed at the sight of me. My right fist was doubled as I stopped in front of her desk.
    “I want to talk to Professor Riley!” I demanded.
    “I’m sorry, but he’s in conference.”
    “Let him know I’m here! I gotta talk to him!”
    She offered me a glass of water. I snapped back that I wasn’t interested. “All I want to know is why I was left off the cast of “Brother Rat!”
    “I have no idea. You’ll have to take that up with Professor Riley! I’m sure he had his reasons.”
    “What would that be?”
    “I have no idea!”
    I sat down to cool my heals. A few minutes later the door opened and the visitor left, hesitatingly leaving the door open. Over the intercom I heard Dr. Riley’s booming voice coming through. He sounded angry. “Would you send Mister Guardino in?”
    The secretary smiled nervously as I jumped from my chair and charged into the office, pulling the door hard behind me and ready to do battle. Professor Riley, without offering me his hand, pointed to the chair in front of his desk and fairly screamed at me, “Sit down! I want  to talk to you!”
    I sat down nervously, not knowing what to expect. His Irish eyes were not smiling.
    “So you want to know why you were not listed in the cast of “Brother Rat”? Well, I’m going to tell you straight from the hips and I hope it does some good!”
    He was now looking me straight in the eye, his face flushed.
    “You are not only one of the most egotistical persons I have ever met, but you are not even a good physical specimen for had we had in mind for the part you wanted!”
    “What does that mean, I’m not a good specimen?”
    “I don’t wish to insult you, but you are swayback.”
    “Now what the hell does that mean?”
    “Oh, come now...you...you should have known you don’t stand up straight...like a military man should. Yee gad, do I have to draw you a picture? You flunked the audition!”
    Then simmering down a bit, he added, “Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but that’s the way it is.”
    I sat there petrified. I had no idea what he was talking about.
    “Oh come now! Don’t act so surprised! Someone must have told you that you have a very unmilitary posture!”
    He lowered his voice a bit. “Didn’t anybody ever tell you that your back is...bowed from the middle of your shoulders clear down to your butt?”
    “No, sir!” I began to feel humble in his presence.
    “Well, I’ll be damned!” He was again looking me straight in the eye. “If I put you on the stage as a specimen of the virginia Military Institute, the audience would laugh us both out of town!”
    Having made his point, and sorry he had done so, he forced a smile and offered his hand in friendship, which I was reluctant to take. “All isn’t lost. Would you accept a walk-in role? I left one open for you. The experience will do you good.”
    My first impulse was to tell him in to shove it in English and Sicilian, but I remained mute, too shocked to respond.
    “Well, you think about it and let me know.” He checked his wristwatch. “I’m running late. I have a class to teach.”
    “I’ll take it!”
    “Good! I’ll add your name to the cast. Rehearsals start Monday.”
    “Yes, sir!”
    I departed sheepishly, leaving the door open. I half-smiled at the bewildered secretary and departed the building as fast as I could, without running!
    “Swayback! How in the hell did that happen?” I stood nude before a gymnasium, full-length mirror asking that question as I checked out my unmilitary posture.
    “Poor posture? What the hell’s he talking about? I’ll be damned! My back does cave in from my shoulders to my butt. How come I never noticed it before? Why didn’t somebody tell me? How did it happen?”
    Now I knew why my weight was normal for my size, five foot nine and a half, yet my stomach stuck out in front giving me the unexplained pot belly effect. I had been told many times to suck in my gut. Now I knew why. Didn’t seem possible! What a bummer! What a freak, and nobody told me...till now!
    I spent the next few minutes before the mirror studying my posture from every conceivable angle, while muttering curses in both English and Sicilian, as my father would do when he was extra mad--like the time at work when he helped to unload a boxcar of coal to keep the warehouse warm during a cold winter. As the coal came down a large chunk fell out and landed on his foot, breaking it. He was hauled away in an automobile, cussing all the way, to a doctor’s office. He was madder than mad at his misfortune. Now I was mad as if a heavy lump had fallen on my head. Mama, mia, did it hurt!
    I was also reminded that my dad’s foot was put in a cast and he was told to stay home for about a month while the foot healed. Three days later he was back on the job working as best he could while on crutches. I wondered if I was as tough and strong-willed as my father. I doubted it very much but a tiny voice inside of me was screaming in English and Sicilian...”Get up and fight!” And that I did!
    What caused the swayback? I was determined to find the cause and hopefully a cure. Was I born that way? I didn’t know of any swaybacks in my family. My parents, brothers and sisters all had straight backs. Was I the only freak in the family?
    To me, a swayback meant an old, worn-out horse with a caved-in back. I hoped I didn’t look like that. Why hadn’t someone told me before Professor Riley dumped on my head like a ton of coal? The thought would not go away. I became obsessed! There had to be an answer!
    A short time later as I was playing my accordion, the answer came to me like a bolt of lightening. It was that damned clumsy thing I was holding in my arms...the accordion, my beloved accordion that I had been wrestling with for the past eight years, since I was strapped into the thing when I was twelve years old. The damned accordion! I yanked it off and set it down hard on the floor. I moved over to a sofa and stared at the monster. There was no doubting it! Then I mentally tried to relive my history with the “Stomach Steinway,” and this is what I came up with.
    As a boy of twelve I had seen a young man play the instrument at a wedding. I fell in love with his playing and let my father know that I wanted to be an accordion player. I knew that he had an old accordion in a closet gathering dust. I begged to play it, and to shorten a rather long history of the instrument, I recalled that my father started playing the “squeeze box” as an adult, when his strong body was fully developed. He played solely for his own pleasure. His father, for whom I was named, also enjoyed the accordion, although he never strapped one on, just the proud father of a son who did.
    My grandfather died of a sudden heart attack in September 1924. And on that day my father had played the accordion for the last time as a sacrifice to his father’s memory.
    Dad was in tears as he removed the bulky instrument from the case. And without putting it on, he stretched the bellows and pressed a few keys. It sounded ghostly and groaned like something out of the eerie past.
    Family members gathered around and requested that he play a song. With tears freely flowing, he declined as he recalled the oath that he had made to his father’s memory.
    I finally convinced my parents that I had nothing to do with the oath and the instrument now logically belonged to me, through inheritance. I was a big boy now and man enough to handle the accordion. I weighed 105 pounds; the accordion weighed 23 pounds and had a four-pound carrying case.
    After I won the argument, my father strapped the “monster” onto me for the first time. My shoulders drooped and my back caved, pushing my stomach forward and my feet barely touching the floor. I was too happy to know how miserable I felt. I worked the bellows in and out, while pressing the keys, to show that I could make music and how easy it would be to play once I got the knack of it and had a few lessons.
    My dad gave me a few preliminary lessons until he found a qualified teacher. His name was Tony Pascarello. He stood six-foot-four, had been a semipro football player and weighed 240 pounds. He toyed with the accordion, said it had a good tone. He thought the instrument was a bit large for me but he rationalized to me and my father that I was a strong looking boy and would easily grow into it. Lessons were $1.25 a week for thirty minutes and I could start immediately. It was suggested that I restrict my practicing to one hour a day until I grew more into the instrument.
    I soon learned to love the monstrosity and pushed myself into practicing more than an hour a day...much more.
    Now I knew what caused my back to sway. Over the past eight years, I had weight-lifted myself into a strong but crooked back! Who was to blame? Was it my father, the teacher, or my own stupid brand of Sicilian tenacity and stubbornness: I was quick to rationalize... ”all three!”

Chapter 4: On With the Show

    I showed up for the first rehearsal of “Brother Rat.” Professor Riley said he was glad I took the part. He assured me there was definitely a place for me in the theater, but obviously, not as a leading man. Move over Tom Mix and Buck Jones! Valentino’s replacement no way!
    As a walk-in in the play, I had exactly two words to say in chorus with two other hopefuls. We shouted on cue, “Turkey, Turkey,” when we spotted women passing by as we were looking through a barracks window. Actually, I felt like the biggest turkey on the set.
    Suddenly, I didn’t want to become an actor anymore or a professional musician. The cost had been too high in both categories. I felt low on that stage during the rehearsals and three performances. I should have rejected the part instead of caving in to the insult. I doubted very much if my absence from the stage would be noticed, if I had walked out on the first performance, as I was strongly tempted. What a bummer! What a way to treat a proud Sicilian-American!
    After my flop in “Brother Rat,” I took an oath that I would never again be so humiliated on anybody’s stage. My career was ended, for damn sure! I was a walk-in who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I thought about changing my major. I dropped the music minor and drastically cut back on my accordion playing. I found myself hating the device that had just about squeezed me out of an acting career.
    I had been told somewhere along the line that I had a pleasant speaking voice, probably in high school, and that I should give thought to a career in broadcasting. Not a bad idea. Soon I found a new idol to emulate...Don Ameche (Dominic Amici). I had long been intrigued by the miracle of radio, and invented by Pisano Marconi and brought to its ultimate entertainment perfection through the fine touch of Mr. Ameche. I had found a new direction...radio broadcasting, remindful of the fact that Don Ameche had started in radio and made it to the silver screen. Perhaps, somehow, there was still hope for me. It was worth a try, a million-to-one shot!
    All had not been lost, for sitting in the audience opening night of “Rat” was a beautiful young student who saw something in the swayback that interested her. Her name was Harriet Beulah Smith, definitely not of Italian origin, more like Scotch-English. Her home was in Grants Pass, Oregon, and she was enrolled in the School of Education, with the expectation of becoming a grammar school teacher. She had seen me in “Brother Rat” and told a girlfriend, with whom she saw the play, “There is the man I am going to marry!”And I thought Sicilians were forward!
    After the performance, she kept an eye open for me on campus and spotted me in the library at a table talking with a pretty blond. She moved onto the table, dropped her pencil to the floor to attract my attention. I reached for the pencil just as the bell sounded to change classes. The blond smiled a quick “goodbye” and left the scene without acknowledging the pencil dropper.
    The pencil dropper thanked me for retrieving her pencil. We became engaged in conversation. This led to my walking her to her next class. We spent the next few weeks, then months getting acquainted better. She admitted the pencil dropping incident was a ploy to attract my attention...and save me from that “terrible blond!” She had spotted me in “Rat” and wanted to know me better. I was cautiously complimented!
    “What did you notice about me on stage?”
    “Well, I noticed that you limped a bit. Did you hurt yourself?”
    I explained that two days prior to the opening of “Rat” I had injured my knee playing gymnasium soccer. “I’m surprised the director didn’t drop me from the cast. I guess my part wasn’t that important!”
    “Well, I’m glad he kept you in. I may have never met you!”
    I was nineteen;Harriet was eighteen. The year was 1939.
    There was some talk about a long relationship and even the possibility of a future marriage, but in considering our combined finances, this remained a very remote possibility... very!
    I accelerated my accordion playing to make some much needed dollars for dating. I played in several beer joints to help my finances, usually on weekends from 9pm to 2am. This proved very hard on dating and Harriet was quick to say she didn’t approve of such places. She had accompanied me on several occasions, which only embittered her and she begged off to that part of our otherwise fine romance. I had no car of my own, so I borrowed my dad’s when available or played with musicians who owned or had better access to a car. Harriet relied heavily on public transportation. I began to wonder how long our friendship would last with our awkward transportation needs, a major factor in our lives.
    Harriet lived in a small home with a young married couple from Grants Pass. She was enrolled in a federally sponsored student work program, which included raking leaves and doing janitorial work on campus. She received a small pittance from her parents. I was amazed at how well she handled her limited finances. Good wife material, I thought, and I began to wonder what she thought about the extremely poor status of my finances. I was still in college, barely, and my future bleak. I was not longer the cocksure person of my youth. I was now an adult, a frightened young man, deeply in love and not knowing what to do about it. At age twenty-one, I was still living with my parents.
    Come 1941, Harriet was still with me. Money was scarce and I was forced to make some quick decisions. I impulsively dropped out of school and took the first job I could find...a Class “C” salesman for a Union Oil Company Service Station. In plainer language, I was hired to pump gasoline and service automobiles. Harriet questioned my decision.
    Whatever happened to my dreams of movie stardom and maybe network radio? All of this “down the tube,” I thought as I humbly pumped gas for a living, on the graveyard shift, midnight till 8am, five nights a week and often including weekends.
    I made the best of my lowly position, after all my lofty dreams had been sidetracked. Harriet was patient and understanding, as she pursued her education, barely. I took a bus to work and was now pressed to buy an automobile. I cleaned out what was left of my cannery summer education funds, scraped up another fifty dollars, and paid cash for a 1931 Model “A” Ford Coupe, with the gas tank located in front of the driver’s compartment. I had two spare tires mounted in the side fenders and the all-important rumble seat. The car was in good shape for a ten year old, and I was now its proud owner. It was painted bright red and had a good heater. Harriet was pleased with my purchase and kissed me long and tenderly to show her appreciation. She kissed me again when I assured her that my next purchase would be an engagement ring.
    I began to regret living with my parents and five younger siblings. Somehow as I grew older, the modest home in “Little Italy” seemed to be getting smaller. It was time for me to move out on my own, and the sooner the better,for all parties concerned!
    Apparently inspired by my spark of initiative, Harriet dropped out of school, on very short notice, and got a job as a theater usherette. Her parents were disappointed in her decision, and so was I. We crossed our fingers and wondered what the future would bring.
    Another man was hired at the service station and I was no longer low man on the bottom. I was transferred to a day shift Monday through Friday and highly complimented by my manager who said he had received many favorable comments on my work and wanted me on the day shift because of my pleasing personality. I was promoted to Class “B” Salesman with a slight increase in pay...very slight, but enough for a good down payment on a wedding ring.
    We were married September 22, 1941 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, still in the heart of “Little Italy,” where my parents had married in 1917.
    The wedding was attended primarily by my immediate family and friends. Harriet’s people for the most part lived in Oregon and were not present for a variety of reasons, her parents included. We were married by a young Irish priest, who was an assistant to the Italian pastor. We were married outside the sanctuary, since I was Catholic and my bride was Protestant. We agreed to raise our children as Catholics. Six years later Harriet converted to Catholicism. We honeymooned in the beautiful Monterey Bay area, then settled into a nice apartment in San Jose.
    We both had jobs. There was plenty of food on the table and the future was nothing but rosy. Then exciting things happened. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor less than three months after we were married. Harriet was pregnant. She worked several months, quit her job and waited for our first child to be born.
    David Marius was born August 24, 1942 at O’Connor Sanitarium in San Jose. I was promoted to Class “A” Salesman, with a significant raise in pay, and in line for an assistant managership. Like everyone else, we kept a nervous eye on the war situation in Europe, as well as in the Pacific. I was signed up for the draft and knew that my call-up date was coming.
    My boss was disappointed, but understanding, when I resigned my position and went into war work in nearby Sunnyvale. The name of the plant was Bayshore Iron Works. They had been converted from making domestic goods such as fire hydrants, into a Naval Ordnance Plant making 21-inch above water torpedo mounts and later rocket launchers. I started our as a painter and in a few weeks was transferred to the operation of a turret lathe, where I became a specialist in making spindles and universal joints, as my contribution to the war effort. The pay was good and the nature of my work gained for me a draft deferment as an essential war worker. But as the war progressed and the Navy was caught up in its need for spindles and universal joints, I was accepted into the United States Navy in March 1944. I was sent to Boot Camp in San Diego for eight weeks. In the meantime Harriet found a good baby sitter and went to work as a nurse’s aid to supplement the $90.00 a month Uncle Same was paying me.



    I finished Boot Camp and was accepted into the submarine service as a Seaman Second Class, at a pay increase. I was transferred to the Sub Base at Mare Island, then to Pear Harbor by Army transport. At Pear Harbor I was assigned as a relief crew member on the Submarine Tender USS Sperry (AS12).
    I rode the Sperry to Guam and lived on the ship in Agana Bay, while servicing submarines going to and from war patrols. My name was put on a replacement list for war patrol duties. My parents and Harriet were horrified at the prospect of my being lost in a submarine. I had my apprehensions. On January 1, 1945, I was promoted to Seaman First Class. We had spent six months in Guam when the Sperry was ordered to Mare Island for a long-overdue refit.
    San Jose was just about 60 miles away, an easy hitchhike home, where I spent my frequent liberties. A month later we hurried back to Guam, zigzagging all the way for twenty-one days, always on the alert for enemy warships.
    And by the time my mail caught up with me, I was informed that my lovely wife was again with child. And feeling very lonely and homesick, she quit her job, sold what little furniture we had, gassed up the Model “A’ and she and little David drove to her parents’ home in Grants Pass, where our second child, Mary Constance, was born December 18, 1945.
    While overseas, I was made Yeoman Third Class and served as a yeoman in the Captain’s Office, Submarine Division 361. My pay was now $120 a month, with the increase in rank, overseas and hazard duty compensations.
    Regretfully, I never made a war patrol. My name was listed a number of times as a crew replacement, but I was always left behind. A fellow yeoman verified what I had come to suspect. All of our outgoing mail was censored by officers, and when I wrote about my two-year-old son and another child on the way, they vetoed my chances of going into dangerous waters. In other words I was “too damn old” and had a growing family responsibility, and with the war winding down, they looked to younger replacements, unmarried and unattached. I was in my mid-twenties!
    Soon the war ended and I was returned to the States and honorably discharged in April 1946. I met our new daughter for the first time when she was three months old.
    It was my basic plan to rest for a couple of weeks in Grants Pass before taking my family back to San Jose and return to my guaranteed job at Bayshore, which was being retooled to again make domestic items. I wasn’t too happy about returning to a turret lathe, but I had to restart somewhere. Turret lathe here I come! It would do until I got on track toward a real career, like being a movie star with a crooked back or perhaps a top-rate radio announcer, a la Don Ameche. The dream was still faintly there, but very faint! Going back to the turret lathe or possibly pumping gasoline seemed more realistic. I wasn’t too worried about my future, just deeply concerned. I thought about going back to college on the GI Bill, but that thought soon faded. I would worry about it tomorrow or after I rested a couple of weeks. “Che Sera Sera!”
    As I review my story to this point, it is interesting to note that even though I flunked the high physical standards of VMI in “Brother Rat,” I had no problem meeting the high standards of the United States Submarine Service! Are you hearing me, Professor Riley? This notation dated April 16, 2003...sixty-five years after my “Turkey” performance.

Chapter 5: A New Beginning

    Two weeks out of the Navy and seriously pondering my future, I was listening to the one and only Grants Pass radio station, when I came to the realization that the station was void of good announcers and felt that I could do as well if not better. I impulsively visited the radio station and met with the manager of KUIN, a low-power station that barely carried beyond the city limits. I informed the congenial manager that I was just out of the Navy and was interested in a career in radio broadcasting. I had been a Speech Major at San Jose State, had developed a good typing skill as a yeoman, had sold magazines door to door as a child, was promoted to a Class “A” Salesman in the petroleum business. We both laughed when he confessed to having pumped his share of gas in his younger days. He was now thirty-three, married with three children. He best described his wife as “perfect.” He loved his work and was content to spend the rest of his life in Grants Pass.
    As the conversation continued, I let it be known that I had written a number of skits in high school and college and had a part in the highly successful production of “Brother Rat.” I was glad he didn’t ask what part I had played. I went on to say that I played the accordion.
    Within an hour, I had talked myself into a broadcasting position as an announcer, disc jockey, salesman and copywriter...and I agreed to ”swab the decks” if called upon to do so, one of my recently acquired skills courtesy of the US Navy. The starting pay was modest, but much  more than what Uncle Sam was paying me.
    I was elated and hurried home to break the news to my family. This meant a new direction in our lives. The family return to California was put on hold till later...much later.
    Eleven years later I was still at KUIN. I did everything I was asked to do and did it well, broadcasting wrestling matches from ringside from the local fairgrounds to calling a rooster crowing contest from nearby Rogue River. I was the first announcer to have accomplished this feat and more than fifty years later it is still a colorful event. I recall that “Hollerin' Harry” was the winner that first year, with something like 130 lusty crows in thirty minutes.
    My biggest accomplishment at KUIN was the creation of my own disc jockey show as the “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy,” three hours daily Monday through Friday from 1 to 3pm. I gave away 1,800 of my autographed pictures and became extremely popular in our broadcast area. The program title was suggested by a listener who said I reminded her of a song made popular by the Sons of the Pioneers. I felt uneasy using their song as a theme to my program and felt more at home when my coworkers, family and friends referred to me as “The Spaghetti Wrangler!”



    My time off the air was spend selling air time and writing commercials. I loved it, and perhaps, too much. Within a year or so, I had a client list of more than fifty accounts. I wrote all of my own commercials and did much of the production work. I became innovative, and to add zest to an otherwise dull commercial, I would prepare them as skits, reminiscent of my high school and college writing attempts. They were received well. My manager was pleased and I received frequent pay raises. he was particularly pleased at my ability to write commercials at the point of sale or service in the customer’s presence. He also expressed the fear that I was using his station as a training ground and I had higher aspirations.
    He was right. At the tenth anniversary of my being at KUIN, I began asking myself, “Is this the end or just the beginning of my radio career?” I had it all in small-town radio. It was definitely time to move on and conquer other facets of the industry, such as Coast to Coast Network Radio. I hadn’t forgotten my earlier dreams. Don Ameche was still my idol. Surely, there was room at the top for me. There I go being cocky again!
    I spent much of my eleventh year at KUIN with an eye to a higher calling. I sent out numerous audition tapes and resumes. There were few worthwhile takers. I was beginning to think that maybe I had been in small-town radio too long and there was where I belonged. I began to wonder and worry. Maybe I had waited too long...and middle age was catching up on me. I was 36, Harriet was 35, David 14, Mary 11, Patricia 6 and Barbara 5.
    As you can see, life in Grants Pass wasn’t entirely boring. From out of the blue I decided to try my hand at play writing. Professor Hugh Riley of “Brother Rat” fame had made the statement in one of his classes I attended that play writing was a fine art and few had the talent. I decided to accept his challenge and write a successful full-length play and dump it on his lap!
    I gave it all I had and soon I was pounding the typewriter as hard and as fast and I could...well into the night, holidays and weekends. There was no stopping me and the harder I pushed myself the harder I worked. Who said I couldn’t write a successful play? Just you watch me...Professor Riley!
    The script I started on was called “The Old Plowhorse,” the story of an old man who refuses to die until he has given something to the world. I wonder where I got that idea. Was it the “swayback” resurrected? I wondered as I typed, typed and typed!
    I was typing more than a hundred words a minute on a well-worn Royal manual typewriter, when my usually sweet and understanding wife casually remarked, “When my husband dies, he wants his typewriter buried with him.”
    This prompted my reply, “Make sure it has a fresh, new ribbon, for I plan to do a lot of typing, a hellava lot of typing!”
    Finally, I heard a new radio station going into Gilroy, California, a small city 25 miles south of San Jose, close enough, I thought, as a step toward my ultimate goal of big-time San Francisco network radio! Boy, did I guess wrong! The year was 1957.
    I applied for a position in the new station before it went on the air. I was selected as general manager of KPER, Gilroy, garlic capital of the world. I heard it said that one can smell the garlic in a plane flying low overhead during the processing season.
    I didn’t take me long to realize that I had made a dumb move in my anxiety to get out of Grants Pass. The Gilroy job turned out to be a major disaster. I was thinking in terms of American radio, with a major consideration to serving the heavy Mexican population with sufficient Spanish language programming. I made allowance for two hours a day starting at 4:30am, when the station started its broadcast day. I hired a handsome, intelligent, young flour salesman to do the announcing and music selection. He was exceedingly well educated in Spanish and English and I knew he could handle it.
`    Within a few days on the air, he sold out the two hours and was requesting more time. I added an hour a day. This was still not enough. Soon he was on the air five hours a day, Monday through Friday with a friend filling in on weekends.
    I was astounded at the phenomenal success of KPER in a so short a time. It was a gold mine from the inception. Soon we were broadcasting in Portuguese and with a growing list of languages wanting in...Italian, Yugoslav, etc. My plan to work in the “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy” never did materialize. Shall we say my horse did not speak Spanish, which soon accounted for 85 percent of the available time!
    Who needs a manager when the station practically ran itself? The station owner was aware of this fact and let me know his feelings. I took the hint and started looking for another mailing address. It was time for the “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy” to trail off into the sunset with his ever-growing family in tow.  We had been in Gilroy eight months. I was 37, Harriet 36, David 15, Mary 12, Patricia 7, and Barbara 6. Lori, our Garlic city daughter, was a few weeks old, born October 17, 1957.
    While searching for a more practical job, and nervously awaiting the birth of our fifth child, I turned back to play writing, joined the Dramatist Guild and hoped for the best. I finished “The Old Plowhorse” and sent it out everywhere looking frantically for a producer, director, publisher! Anybody want to buy a good play cheap?

Chapter 6: Another Direction

    My next radio gig was in Salinas, California, 28 miles south of Gilroy and still within striking distance of San Francisco and closer to Los Angeles, now 300 miles away, and cross-town to Hollywood!
    KSBW was a well-established, well-managed and highly regarded broadcast company operating under one roof a TV station, AM and FM radio and recently the acquisition of a MUZAK background music franchise.
    This is where I came in. The station was looking for someone to take over management of the MUZAK division, selling installations of telephone background music to super markets, shopping malls, showrooms, restaurants, elevators, etc. MUZAK as being halfheartedly sold by their TV radio time salesman as a part-time addition to their regular duties. They were looking for someone with my background to sell the installations as my only product. I could hire as many as three salesmen or go it alone for awhile. I decided to go it alone.
    The owners put two big challenges before me...installing background music at nearby For Ord Army Training Center and the Monterey Wharf,with its large contingent of Italian restaurants operated by a “bunch” of Sicilians. I gulped and said I would tackle the Army first.
    Six month later, after I had numerous smaller installations and knew my product well enough, I was ready to tackle the Army and the Sicilians, still in that order.
    I went through a number of Army brass channels and was finally directed to a purchasing officer who turned out to be of half-Italian ancestry, although not Sicilian. We hit it off well. He listened to my elaborate presentation...visual aids, music samples on discs and my enthusiasm for the product.
    He said rather abruptly, “Cut the sales talk, Pisano, I’ll buy it!”
    “Where do you want it installed/”
    “Wherever you think we need it! Do a survey the Fort and make your recommendations. I’ll present  it to the proper people. We’ll either buy it or reject it, okay?”
    We shook hands and he gave me a pass to survey likely installation areas.
    A week or so later we got an approval. I ordered a telephone line through our engineering department and soon background music was heard in the Officer’s Mess, the noncommissioned Officer’s Mess, the bowling area and similar locations, about ten selected places.
    Soon after we had made the perfect, scientific installation, I received reports that members of the Signal AARP had tapped into the phone lines and soon MUZAK was being heard all over the Fort...machine shops, garages, various work and play areas. I complained to my officer friend.
    His reply was, “Look Pisano, if you wish I could have all the music shut off. The Army has always had a good relationship with your company, the TV and radio stations. What’s a little music between a couple of Dagos? You talk to your boss and get back to me.” We shook hands and I left a bit worried, not knowing what to expect.
    My boss said, “Forget it” and congratulated me for having made such a fine installation. “Now let’s see how good a salesman you really are. What about the Monterey Wharf?”
    I gulped a first time, then a second time. I told him I was ready when psychologically I wasn’t but a challenge is a challenge and I jumped in!
    I went to the wharf and let it be known that I was a fellow Sicilian who was going to make a proposal they would find hard to resist. I piqued the manager’s curiosity and I was invited to make a presentation to a select group of owners and managers.
    “What in the hell is this music you’re talking about?” was the  opening question.
    I did my best to explain...”music for the subconscous...music to work by, music to love by, the right kind of music around the clock, twenty-four hours a day, scientifically planned and programmed!”
    There was a lull in my presentation.
    “Did you say ’music to love by?’ I’ll take it” growled one of the elder gentlemen. Everybody had a hearty laugh and I sensed I had made a sale. The Monterey Wharf was son MUZAKed in all the restaurants including toilets, kitchens and outdoor speakers strategically placed to completely cover the wharf. I thought to myself, “This should please my boss.”
    It did. He awarded me with a pay hike and let me hire an assistant, who was to sell the small installations while I tackled the “big boys.” I wondered what else he had in mind!
    Everyone of the restaurant owners was happy except one, who complained of “too many violins!” It put his diners to sleep. He said he was going to put in his own background music system playing Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Dean Martin. I warned him that by putting in his own background music he would be in violation of federally protected ASCAP and BMI music licensing organizations.
    “What the hell does that mean?”
    “It means that when you put in your own music system you must pay the license fees or get fined.”
    “Who’s going to fine me...why?”
    I tried to explain but he wasn’t listening. He got mad and like I had heard in my own home, he started cussing in English and as his temper increased he reverted to cussing in Sicilian. I understood every word and I was worried.
    “You get your ass out of here and don’t come back. I’m putting the Dago records in tomorrow. My customers eat better with Italian music and nobody’s going to stop me! What the hell’s this ASCAP/BMI crap?” Then he laid into me hard. “Caesar Petrillo, head of the musicians union, is a friend of mine. I’ll ask him about this ASCAP/BMI crap!”
    I told him I was on his side and I would look into the matter and let him know. “If you’re going to play your own music, why not include Connie Francis, Julius LaRosa, Frankie Lane and Tony Bennett?” He simmered down before I left. He put in his own music and, frankly, it sounded good. I discussed the matter with my boss who aid, “Forget it! There’s no winning over those people. You made a good sale! Why don’t you see what you can do with the Santa Cruz Wharf?”
    I told him it would take me a long time to recover from my Monterey Wharf experience.
    “Why don’t you try again in six months?” We both agreed that was a good idea.
    I ran out of challenges selling MUZAK, never made it to the Santa Cruz Wharf and was ready to again change jobs. I felt long overdue in my return to San Jose and let it be known to my ever-growing family.
    Harriet spoke up for all to hear, “Before we leave Salinas, and after I deliver this next baby, I’ll let you know when I’m ready to move again. I like Salinas and so do the children!”
    Our sixth child, John, was born July 26, 1959 at Salinas Memorial Hospital.
    The MUZAK violin music was beginning to get to me too, and I lost interest in my work. In self defense, I turned to my play writing, which I had long neglected. It now seemed like the only avenue I had remaining for the kind of personal success that I had longed for.
Was it too late? I began to think so. The year was 1963 and I was on script number six. I was still selling MUZAK but the old fire was gone. I needed a job change immediately. John, our youngest child was now four. I was 43 and Harriet 42. She assured me that John was to be the last of our children. She was tired and needed a respite. It had been twenty years since I had left “Little Italy” and I was now ready to return.
    Harriet was no longer listening. She lashed out at me that San Jose was no longer my “Shangri La.” It was no longer the city of my childhood. It had grown from a population of 68,000 in 1940 to more than 3000,000 in 1963. The computer chip was now king replacing the prune and the apricot. San Jose was now one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, if not the world. She hammered on the theme that the Garden City had now become the “Heart of Silicon Valley.” I found it easier to argue with the Army at Fort Ord and the Sicilians of Monterey than with my wife who was beginning to show more and more of the English Bulldog in her.
    Finally, a family decision. “What is wrong with going back to Oregon where I could do my play writing in the peace and tranquility of the Great Northwest?” Harriet agreed and so did the children.
    A friend of mine from the old Grants Pass radio days knew of an opening in Eugene, Oregon, 150 miles north of Grants Pass, heart of the beautiful Willamette Valley. The station was looking for someone with my experience and the pay was good. I contacted the station owner, who was looking for a seasoned sales manager. After a brief discussion with my family, I took the job and the family prepared to move to “God’s Country.” David, our eldest, now 21, married a fine young lady from Carmel Valley, and they were already in Ashland, Oregon, both attending Southern Oregon College.
    I joined KORE on my birthday, January 5, 1964. The rest of the family joined me in July of that same year. While waiting for my family to join me, I finished play number six and was hard at work on number seven.
    The KORE job last four years, when my jovial boss decided to sell the station. He thought I might be interested in buying it. Neither was I happy with the new ownership, so I moved across town the KZEL, a western music station which was beginning to program “hippie, underground” music. I did a double-take and within a few months moved to a third station, which also carried the MUZAK franchise. I put in a few installations, including the new, gigantic Valley River Shopping Center. I then rather impulsively decided to get out of the business entirely. I think the violins finally go to me and selling radio advertising was no longer fun.
    On my last day on the job, I showed up wearing my Sunday finest. My boss wanted to know if I was going to a funeral. I told him he had guessed right. I had been in radio and related fields thirty years and this was my last day, and you might call it a funeral. He invited me out for a drink, even though he knew I rarely touched the stuff. He tried to keep me, but I wasn’t buying. He offered me more money, a better company car to drive...”Just tell me what you want!” I informed him I desperately wanted out of radio and MUZAK and had accepted another position in the same town, selling, of all things, cash registers. I though he was going to fall out of his chair.
    “Cash registers? Is that the best you can do?”
    I playfully reminded him, “There is ‘money’ in cash registers.”
    He didn’t think that was a bit funny as he quickly finished his drink and reached for mine.
    “Well, good luck,” he said as limply offered his hand.
    I reiterated my bum joke about there being money in cash registers. He smiled weakly and ordered another drink for himself. Thus ended my thirty-year career in radio broadcasting. Don Ameche had nothing to fear, and I had given up on my dream of being another Valentino years ago, when I cam to the conclusion that he wasn’t so hot! Could it be that I had chased this dream too long? The answer was “yes”...much too long!

Chapter 7: End of an Era

    Indeed, I was now a cash register salesman Monday through Friday. The pay was good. Selling the product was easy. I drove a new company car and had a long list of fringe benefits. It only I could sell a play along the way. It is interesting to note that in my many years of selling I had rarely sold a solid object such as a cash register. Most of my selling had been of the intangible type...radio commercials and background music. I did, however, sell magazines as a child and peddled gasoline. But, mostly, I was a “hot air” salesman. If I sold a play to Broadway, what would that make me? I suppose more hot air!
    The cash register selling job lasted an incredible nine years and I hated every minute of it.
    I retired on my 65th birthday, January 5, 1985. Harriet had proved to be smarter than me. At age sixty she took a part-time job and earned enough Social Security credits to qualify for a small but much appreciated government retirement check. In 1985 we both comfortably retired and our children long gone from home and the grandchildren began to arrive, arrive and arrive. Too bad my play writing wasn’t that prolific. “Ah, there is still plenty of time,” I would tell myself...plenty of time to put a play on Broadway, or was there? I was determined to find out!
    I became completely engrossed in my play writing, revising old failures and developing new plots, trying always to be different and innovative. I hounded dozens of agents, producers and directors, anyone whom I thought might be interested. One potential agent wrote, “Five thousand plays are written in the US each year, ten are considered for serious production and one or two make it in a good year...good luck!”    
    I contacted several Eugene area drama groups and got pretty much the same answers. Such a negative business, I concluded, but I wasn’t about to cave in, not this old plow horse! I had too much time invested in play writing. It had to pay off!
    One Eugene group agreed to look at one of my better scripts. I entrusted a play to one of their officers. It was agreed that they would read the play with the stipulation that the playwright not be present. I agreed to the condition.
    Four months later they hadn’t gotten around to reading my script. They requested a thirty-day extension. I declined, while muttering some appropriate words in both English and Sicilian.
    I had contacted the University of Oregon Drama Department, inquiring if someone might be interested in reading the works of a hometown playwright. I was referred to a “gung-ho” graduate student, a young lady who said she would be delighted to read one of my plays. She also suggested that I submit several plays to her, to be read and critiqued by other graduate students. What a tremendous idea! She bubbled over with enthusiasm as I entrusted her with three plays, one to be read by herself and the others by fellow students. Would I please call back in three months?
    After three months, I tracked down “Miss Congeniality.” She had forgotten who I was, like someone out of her distant past. She was a bundle of nervous energy as she explained she had been too busy to read beyond the title. She said she would check with the other readers to see how they were doing. She begged me to come back in two weeks.
    I called her two weeks later. She still  hadn’t read beyond the title. One of my scripts had been returned completely mutilated. Apparently someone had used it as a door or window stop. Script number three was lost forever.
    She was full of excuses, as she emoted all over the place, with tearful apologies, as I walked away with one and a half manuscripts. I chalked  up the experience as total time wasted. I knew that becoming a successful playwright would not be easy but my last two experiences made me wonder whether maybe I should try something else, other than play writing. The name of the missing play was one of my favorites, “Weep Forevermore!” I was the one who was now weeping...big tears!
    A few months later, the dues time arrived for the Guild. They caught me in a bad mood. Instead of sending them a $50 check, I typed the following note on the billing invoice and mailed it to them.

    “Over the past ten years I have written a sizable number of full-length stage plays with no successes to report. Today at age 72, I have decided ‘to hell with it!’ Time to try something else! Please enjoy a good chuckle at my expense!”

    Thus ended my play writing career, for the moment anyway. It was back to my old backbreaking friend, the accordion, to help occupy my retirement house...as I planned my next move.
    Back in 1985 at age 65, I had written a letter to the editor of the Eugene Register-Guard, to complain about something-or-other. Much to my surprise my first letter was printed on December 8. Since that date I have had 70 letters published by the Guard on a multitude of subjects from world topics to pot holes in the street. In 1991 I decided to bind photocopies of my letters into a booklet, which I titled “Monte’s Views and Opinions.” A second part of the booklet I devoted to “Selected Rejects.” I’ve been told by many that this was the better part of the booklet. My last letter was published, to date, June 8, 2003. I give the books away to family and friends. It costs $4.00 per photocopy and 39 cents for a binding folder. Who says I’ve never been published!
    With still too much free time on my hands, I decided to tape record several of my better plays. I selected six out of nine, sat down at my home-improvised broadcast studio and started taping. What a thrill it was, as it took me back to my old radio broadcast days. I finally convinced myself that I was no Don Ameche, but at my age, who cares? Unfortunately, as I write this, Mr. Ameche is no longer around!
    In retirement I enjoy lying on my den cot and listening to tape recorded playbacks of some of my better theatrical efforts that never quite made it anywhere. These are one-man productions with yours truly handling all facets of the play production...introduction of the characters, setting the scene...playing all parts, sound effects, etc. It is tremendous fun and gives me a sense of fulfillment. And what a learning experience!
    As I listen to each play I am able to rip it apart bit by bit. I know why my plays never sold and the reasons are many. My characters for the most part were well drawn, but they had the tendency to talk too much! Could it be the Sicilian in me? I discovered that my actors were given overlong speeches and my plays tended to drag, taking too many words to move the plot along. A good play needs to move, move, move! I promised myself to do better in future efforts, despite what I had written to the Guild canceling my membership. But who knows when that would be? It is little wonder that I usually fall asleep while listening to one of my plays. This gives me an idea. “Why not sell Monte’s plays as sleeping aids?”
    “Why hello there! Are you in need of a good night’s sleep at any cost? Well, the cost is low when you order one of Monte’s sleeping tapes. Simply insert one of his plays into a tape recorder, turn on the tape, lie down comfortably and listen to one of Monte’s better plays. Guaranteed to put you to sleep or your money back. You’ll be amazed at what one of Monte’s tapes will do to you and for you! Order yours today while supply lasts. Remember MONTE... SLEEP...TAPE! The cost is minimal. Call 1-541-344-8625. That’s SLEEP TAPE 1-541-344-8625. If you hear a recorded voice directing you to dial all over the place, you’ve got the wrong number. Try again!”

Chapter 8: Warning Signs

    Harriet and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary September 22, 1991, to which many of our family, friends and relatives attended. A large tent was set up in our backyard as a hub center for the day’s festivities. The entire event was captured on video and is one of our valued treasures. Present were four of our six children and nine grandchildren. We asked for no gifts; however among the notes and cards of congratulations was a card from George H. and Barbara Bush, which we now permanently display in our hallway photo gallery.  I was 71 and Harriet 70.
    The year 1991 was memorable in many ways. In March, I detected a tremor in my left hand. A Eugene neurologist ordered an MRI, which proved negative to my fear of having picked up or developing some dreadful disease. The neurologist put me on Mysoline and discharged me in 1992. The tremor worsened and was centrally located in my left ring finger. I soon lost control of the now trembling finger, which became agitated at the slightest touch. I suspected the gold band Harriet had put on my finger at our wedding fifty years previously. I had rarely taken if off, but in later years it was extremely difficult and painful to remove. I finally removed the ring permanently. It was too tight and uncomfortable to wear. Harriet was disappointed but understood the problem. My finger remained a sore spot as the tremor worsened.
    In July 1992 I checked into the Veterans Administration Clinic in Eugene and was given a multitude of tests to determine the cause of my badly stressed finger.
    The VA Clinic checked my entire body and came up with a number of faults. In addition to the “twitchy” finger they detected a heart murmur and a benign prostate enlargement. Depression was also detected and I was put on a number of medications, which seemed not to help, because in my estimation, I was not depressed...temperamental and anxious “yes,” but not depressed. The prostate discovery increased my anxiety when I remembered how tragically my father had died with a cancerous prostate that led to the surgical removal of his penis.
    On June 11, 1995, at age 75, I tripped and fell on my face after parking my car and heading for a supermarket. I never made it. I picked myself up, with the help of terrified strangers who, at my request, led me to my car, and with a badly bleeding face and mouth drove myself to the emergency room of McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in nearby Springfield, just across the river from Eugene. An emergency room doctor said I had a badly lacerated mouth and cut tongue. He stitched me up and I headed home to an anxious wife who wanted to know why I had taken so long to pick up a gallon of milk.
    In August 1996, my regular doctor, aside from the VA Clinic, noticed that I was showing early signs of Parkinson’s disease, and that we should keep a close eye on it. I had complained to him that my ring finger and those adjoining it “twitched” uncontrollably at the slight touch or aggravation.
    I checked in again with the VA Clinic. They, too, suspected Parkinson’s. Soon I was losing control of my entire left hand. It seriously hampered my accordion playing and my typing. In both endeavors I went downhill fast. I lost control of my left hand and was forced to give up the instrument I had played for the past 63 years.
    I had pushed my typing skill to well over a hundred words a minute and could beat out rhythmic key tunes in the process. Now, almost overnight I lost it all. The fingers in my left hand could no longer accurately response to my brain commands. Soon I was skipping words and my spelling fell apart. My left hand lost its dexterity. I could no longer type intelligently. I panicked and the harder I tried to remedy the problem, the worse it got! My typing speed almost overnight dripped to thirty sloppy words, then ten, then none! I was devastated. Soon my whole body began to shake intermittently. I had the horrible fear that I was the unfortunate victim of the “mad cow disease,” which was making daily headlines.
    I went back to the Eugene VA Clinic. they set up an appointment for me at the VA Hospital in Portland, and so advised my regular doctor. In the meantime I tried my best to regain at least some of my typing skill and the best I could do was what I am doing now...using my right index finger in preparing this manuscript. I tried the two-finger “hunt and peck” system but I lacked the proper coordination and failed at it miserably. I have read in a number of medical journals that Parkinson’s was a slow moving disease. I was now asking myself, “How slow is slow and how fast is fast?”
    In my mind I could feel Parkinson’s affecting the total functions of my aging body, insidiously hour by hour, minute by minute. I tried to force myself to play the accordion. I could barely lift it out of the case, let alone play it. The only thing I had going for me was the one-finger typing and I wondered how long that would last!
    My Portland VA Hospital date was set for Mary 12, 1997. I drove while my wife sat nervously beside me, ready to take over at any moment. I kept asking myself, “How slow is slow, and how fast is fast? How insidious is insidious?”
    After we arrived at the Portland VA Hospital Neuro-Geriatric Clinic, I had a meeting with Dr. Berry Monroe. After a thorough examination, it was determined that, indeed, I was showing signs of Parkinson’s, but more importantly, for the moment, I was diagnosed as having Essential or Action Tremor. Dr Monroe prescribed Neurontin (Gabapentin) 300mg six times a day. I was given a callback date of six months. And since that first meeting with Dr. Monroe, I have visited the Portland VA Hospital three or four times a year, seeing a rotation of nine or ten neurologists and rarely the same on more than once or twice. I never saw Dr. Monroe again but was told he had moved on.
    The disease seemed under control, as I tried to recapture lost skills and bodily functions, but to little avail. It became insidiously more destructive to my once healthy body, except for the swayback problem, which I had long ago learned to ignore.
    I was soon being treated with Sinemet for Parkinson’s, in addition to the tremor medication. As the years rolled by, I could never tell where a tremor ended and the Parkinson’s began. My prying into the status of my health did little to explain what was happening to me.
    And to break the monotony of my declining health, Harriet and I took time out to celebrate our sixtieth wedding anniversary, September 22, 2001. The celebration was held at the new St. Mary’s Parish Center in Eugene. There was a large gathering of family and friends. We now had thirteen grandchildren and picked up three great grandchildren since our 50th anniversary. As previously, the entire event was videotaped. Highlighting the event was a congratulatory card from President George W. and Laura Bush, which we placed in a matching frame alongside the President George H. and Barbara Bush greeting of ten years previously. I was 81 and Harriet admitted to being 80.
    On June 3, 2002, one of the Rotation Doctors decided to phase me out of the tremor medication and increase the  Parkinson’s medication. He gave me what I thought was a rather short phasing out period on the tremor pills,when over a period of five years I had taken more than 11,000 of them. He increased the Parkinson’s medication considerably.
    On June 17, 2002, two weeks later, a family member took me to the Eugene Urgent Care Center. I was extremely weak to the point of collapsing. I lost my sense of balance and my motions were similar to that of an animal with Mad Cow Disease. Dr. Jenkins of the Care Center phoned the Portland VA Hospital, for a conference with someone familiar with my case. One of the Rotation Doctors  responded. I had been decided at my last visit that it was time to eliminate the tremor medication and increase the Parkinson’s. My next scheduled appointment had been set for August 9. The Care Center made some adjustments in my medication and the matter was resolved for the moment.
    It had been concluded that because of my advanced age, the phasing out period should have taken longer. I was wheeled out of the Care Center to a waiting automobile to be taken home.
    On June 29, 2002, I was rushed to Eugene Sacred Heart Hospital Emergency after having collapsed from extreme fatigue. I stayed there three days, while my case was again being debated and my medication adjusted. I was of the opinion that my worn out body didn’t know what was happening and was reacting violently in protest. I remained hospitalized until July 3, the first time in my 83 years that I had ever been hospitalized overnight. I thought I was going to die and wasn’t ready! Strangely...I was not in a cussing mood, in English or Sicilian. Instead, I found myself “praying,” as my mother had taught me as a child in her lap, more than 80 years ago.
    “Hail Mary, full of grace...”

Chapter 9:  Long Look Back

    While lying in a hospital bed, I had plenty of time for reflection on what had put m,e into this deplorable condition. What happened? How the hell did I ever get myself into this mess My first reaction was to chalk it up to the ravages of old age.
    “How did I ever get this horrible disease? There had got to be a reason! There has got to be a cure!” I wasn't about to give up, although I had been assured many times...”There is no cure!”
    I had plenty of time to ponder my predicament and to pray as my tired body lay stretched out in the monstrosity they called a hospital bed.  I soon had a better name for it! It was split in three sections with sharp folds in the upper and lower thirds, and a bend in the middle, or was it a four-section bed? I could never figure the damned thing out! Mounted on one side was an electronic control panel that shaped the bed into various configurations, designed, no doubt, to handle all contingencies. The bed was equipped with a number of sensing devices piped into a nurse’ station a few yards away. Upon pressing a service button, an attendant would come rushing in, or if you tried getting out of bed unauthorized, an alarm sounded at the nurses’ station and you were chastised for a violation. and to make matters worse, I had been issued a bulky, poorly designed bed gadget that must have been created in the Dark Ages. It was worn backwards, impractical and terribly ill-fitting. The bed sheets were starchy and stiff. And adding to my misery, I was instructed in the use of a male urinal device attached to the side of the torture chamber. It, too, was poorly designed and upon use, I got more urine on me than in the urinal.
    I kept asking  myself, as i increased my praying, why was I being so badly treated?
    An Army or camping cot with a strip of canvas stretched over four legs would have been more comfortable. Even a Navy hammock would have been more practical. Suddenly, I found myself wishing I was in a Navy hammock. What had I done to deserve this cruel treatment, in this 83rd year of my life? Even a lethal injection table would have been more comfortable and, at this low point in my life, more desirable.
    As I lay in my torture chamber, totally miserable and bored, I decided t mentally trace my life’s medical history. At my age I knew it went way back, but now I had plenty of time for recall and reflection. Somewhere there had to be a starting point for my Parkinson’s. Immediately, I started looking for answers.
    As I scanned the deepest recesses of my brain, I saw nothing in the first ten years of my life that would even suggest or give a hint as to the possible start or cause of my Parkinson’s. Starting at age eleven or twelve, I had worked several summers cutting apricots and pears, followed by the backbreaking job of picking prunes after they had fallen off the trees to the ground. All of this fruit I remembered had been sprayed from time to time in the growing process. I later learned that various insecticides and pesticides had been used, and we were warned to “wash the fruit before you ate any. ”Didn’t mean a thing. Water wasn’t readily available and it was standard procedure to “wipe it off” before eating the fruit. Now, as I thought about it, I ate more than my share of apricots, pears and prunes, unwashed and tasking so good. could this innocent childhood procedure have been the start of my Parkinson’s? I put that down as suspect number one...insecticides and pesticides.
    Years later I moved my family to Gilroy, 28 miles from San Jose, and in the same valley. We lived across the street from garlic farms and prune orchards. They were sprayed cherry trees nearly.
    From Gilroy, we moved to Salinas, the Salad Bowl of the World, where lettuce was king and the spraying of fruits and every type of  vegetable was a year-round, never ending procedure. I well remembered how an airplane or two, in follow-the-leader formation, would swoop down over our house and spray the farms and orchards nearby. It was common knowledge that if you wanted to escape being sprayed, you should stay indoors until the “air attack’ was over. I recall the many arguments, public and private, over the wisdom of poisoning the fields to save the crops. With this thought in mind, I was convinced that insecticide and pesticide spraying, as it was done forty years ago,was indeed, a prime suspect in causing my Parkinson’s, and deservedly remains suspect number one. All of this and the related summer cannery work as a young man working my way through college.
    At age twenty, I went to work in the service station business where I was surrounded by petroleum products including oils, gasses, and a variety of solvents and cleaning agents. All of this in a heavy carbon monoxide site, where cars and trucks were plentiful.
    I recall soaking my hands in solvents and gasoline while packing wheel bearings and the like. We used gasoline and solvents in keeping the work and driving areas clean, without giving one thought to the potential harm to our bodies, including the super sensitive nervous system. I did this type of work three years. For obvious reasons I name petroleum products as a strong and logical suspect as a possible cause for Parkinson’s and related neurological disorders, of which there are many.
    Logical suspect number two...petroleum and related products.
    As I lay in that horrible torture chamber called a hospital bed, over a three-day period, I continued to probe for answers. In mid-1943 at age 23, I went into war work at the Naval Ordnance Plant in Sunnyvale, first as a painter using leaded paints. Then, as part of the painting department, cleaning heavily coated packing and shipping grease off gigantic training gears, using solvent. We reeked of the stuff and the fumes kept us in a constant headache, as my coworkers and I “washed away” the grease using heavy paint brushes. What a way to make a living! I chalked up the effort as necessary to winning the war. The product was apparently more important the worker.
    After a few months of the solvent exposure I was transferred, mercifully, to the operation of a turret lathe, where I was taught to make a variety of spindles and universal joints, as my new contribution to the war effort. We used a caustic cutting agent in this new endeavor, and I could still smell the fumes emitting from the paint department, even with the exhaust fans going full blast day and night. Serious suspect number three...paint and solvents!
    I had a lot to mull over,while lying in the torture chamber. “There had got to be a reason and once I found the reason, then, hopefully, the cure.” These words kept me probing further.
    Could it be the time a friend of mine ran out of gasoline on his way to work? He hailed me as I drove by and begged for assistance. “Hop in. I’ll take you to a service station.”
    “No.” He had a better idea, and we didn’t hurry he could be late for work. “I have a gas can and siphoning hose in my trunk. Why can’t we take a half gallon or so from your tank? It will only take a few minutes. Then I’ll have enough to get me to work and I won’t be late. I’ll pay you back later.”
    “Go ahead,” I said “and take out a gallon.”
    “But,” he exclaimed, I just came from the dentist and had a tooth pulled. I’m afraid I might get infected. Would you siphon it for me? What do you think?”
    I should have walked away and told him what I was thinking, but impulsively, I took the can and the hose, took the lid off my gas tank and after a few failures, I got the hang of it and siphoned about a gallon. “That should get you to work on time!”
    “That was sure nice of you! How much do I owe you?”
    I could only nod and indicate by hand that I was too busy ridding my mouth of the gasoline residue to answer.
    He said a hurried “thanks,” stowed his can and hose, jumped into his car and sped away. I stood there by my car telling myself what a dummy I was to have fallen for this stupid stunt. The guy never paid me back and avoided my presence. He was afraid, I am sure, that I would ask to be compensated for the gasoline he did me out of. At twenty cents a gallon and wartime rationing, I had made a stupid error at a time when every drop of gasoline was as precious as gold. This was 1943 and I was old enough to know better. Suspect number four...gasoline siphoning...just one time. How stupid can one man get?
    Soon it was time for me to do more for my country tan making spindles and universal joints. I was drafted into the Navy in March 1944. I was 24. After boot camp, the Navy greeted me with a paint brush and chipping tool.
    It was a happy day when I traded these in for a typewriter as I became a yeoman striker! Suspect number five...Navy paint from San Diego throughout the vast Pacific War Zone!
    Upon leaving the Navy in 1946, I joined my family in Grants Pass. I was there eleven years during which time I came into contact with another no-no, carbon tetrachloride. I learned to use the highly toxic solvent freely as an all-purpose, cleaning agent. I used it frequently and noone put me wise to its highly toxic effect on sensitive human tissue. It was worse than soaking my hands in gasoline, cool to the touch but extremely harmful. Carbon tetrachloride was designed primarily for use in the engineering department for cleaning electronic components. I was later shown warnings about its many harmful effects on the human body. Parkinson’s suspect number six...carbon tetrachloride.
    Another no-no of my own making was the occasional use of the dish detergent Ivory Flakes to brighten my teeth. It was cheaper than buying toothpaste and left my teeth snowy white for which I received many compliments. I was born with a perfect set of teeth and there was no need to enhance their beauty, just my stupidity. I casually mentioned to a dentist what I was doing. He exploded and raked me over the coals but good. What I was doing was not only ridiculous but extremely harmful. I changed dentists out of embarrassment. Parkinson’s suspect number seven...Ivory Flakes.
    In the September 1998 issue of the VFW Magazine, I read an article that attracted my attention. It was titled “Diseased on Guam?” The article read in part: ”A research project development of Parkinsonian dementia complex to serviceman who served on Guam during World War II is being conducted by the VA in Reno, Nevada. If you served on the island, please contact Dr. Charles Palmer, Chief, Neurology Service, 1000 Locust Street, Reno, Nevada.”
    I responded immediately stating that I had spent two tours of duty on Guam for a total of 14 months. By return mail I received an extensive questionnaire, which I filled out and returned immediately. That was the last I heard of the research project. I mentioned this to one of the VA Rotation Doctors in Portland, who said he was aware of the project and it was decided there was no merit to the suspicion. Makes me wonder why they suspected Guam in the first place. Parkinson’s faint suspect number eight... Guam.
    As I reminisced in my torture chamber, i concluded there may have been other reasons for my Parkinson’s and possibly a combination of causes. And the more I probed, the finger of blame was increasingly pointed inward in my direction, to my own carelessness in many instances.
    Where do I go from here? I was feeling miserable at my discoveries but still no definite cues. I searched further and came up  with another theory pointed in my direction, my old friend, the accordion, my favorite scapegoat.
    Not only did it cause my swayback, but I recalled at age 15 or so, my inner arm just above the wrist began to ache when I worked the bellows. The sharp edge of the accordion that pressed against my body cut like a knife into the arm causing it to ache with pain.  And in an effort to correct the situation, I bought a protective wrist band. It worked, although the pain persisted for weeks until I was conditioned to wearing the band. And for many years I carried a red streak across my arm as a solid remembrance of my young accordion days. I wore the wrist band for years until I lost it and never replaced it. Now that I thought about it I remembered the hurt. Why hell, I can still see a slight reminder of the red arm streak. Parkinson’s suspect number nine...the accordion!
    Then, as I lay there in my private chamber, I decided to take another long look at my ring finger as a possible offender, that ever-twitching digit that held my beloved wedding band for more than fifty years. Truly, it had become a part of my finger and I still had a sense of guilt for having removed it forever several years back. Could it be that my ring finger, where I first noticed the neurological problem, was in reality, the starting place for my Parkinson’s? The thought was revolting to me, but in my endeavor to seek out the cause of my illness, I had no choice but to declare my ring finger as Parkinson’s suspect number ten!
    My three days in the torture chamber, someone had misnamed a bed, were the most miserable I had ever spent in my life, and I often thought that dying would be a welcome relief from my “mad cow disease” as I now regarded it.
    But much to my surprise, I noted that the nurses and support staff were friendly and sympathetic. They were well organized and supremely courteous in their treatment of the cranky old swayback.
    In charge of my treatment was an exceptional nurse, whom I will identify as Caroline. She was quick to point out the multifaceted functions of the $5,000 torture chamber. All the push buttons were installed in the control panel for a purpose, and she explained each function, always with a pleasing, warm, sincere smile on her face. She assured me that my doctor would visit me soon.
    “In the meantime, why don’t you lie back and watch television?” She put a TV remote control in my hand and showed me how to use it. Still smiling, she adjusted the “chamber” to get me a better TV viewing. I had the feeling that I was going to like this nurse.
    “Before I leave, is there anything I can get for you?” Caroline asked.
    I said, “Yes,” I’m terribly constipated. Is there anything you can do for it?”
    “Sorry, but I can’t do that without a doctor’s permission. But,” she smiled, “I have  an idea. Excuse me. I’ll be right back.”
    She returned a few minutes later with a paper cup filled with prunes...and a bigger than ever smile. “This should work for you.”
    I gobbled down a sizable number of the biggest prunes. “This will do it I’m sure!” And shall I say I knew my prunes? The situation remedied itself in a short time.
    And boy, did I know my prunes! It was part of my summer trilogy as a lad, working in the fruit...first cutting apricots, then pears, and finally prune picking. Ah, yes, I knew my prunes and now they were working for me. How well I remembered two large buckets to a box and at eight cents a box I made $2.40 a day, plus an extra penny a box bonus if I stayed the whole season. I always stayed and was proud as a peacock to turn over my meager earnings to my mother, who in turn used the money to buy my school clothes and supplies. It’s amazing what I thought about while confined to the torture chamber. Somehow Caroline made it seem less gruesome.
    Caroline assured me that my medication had been changed and I would be put on a new schedule and discharged from the hospital in a couple of days. Then I began to appreciate what a kind person Caroline was. I strongly suspected that she treated all her patients as well as I was being treated.    She did her best to make me forget the bed trap I was in. She thought it an excellent idea that I mentally research my medical history.
    As soon as she left, I turned off the TV, stretched out on my back as best I could, shut my eyes tight and continued my probing. At 83 years of age I had a long history to cover.
    I might add that Caroline was 35, married and had three children, and obviously one on the way. Her husband worked in the medical field.
    As I lay in the “chamber” with my eyes still shut, the first words coming to mind were Caroline telling me, “Only God knows the answer to your disease, Monte. Trust in him!”
    “Will you pray for me?”
    “Of course I will!”
    I’m sure she meant it. I closed my eyes tight and tried again to recall my earlier years...probing, probing, probing...
    My three-day stay at Sacred Heart was about to end. Seemed to me I had been there a month. My doctor ran a few tests and it was his conclusion that, perhaps the leveling off of my medication was done to rapidly in view of my advanced age. No one was at fault. No serious mistake had been made. It was must my 83 years working against me. The doctor made a few adjustments in my medications and scheduled my release for the following morning, thus ending what I had come to recognize as a prelude to hell!” However, I had no argument with the treatment I had received from the hospital staff, especially from nurse Caroline.
    On the day of my discharge, I woke up early and standing beside my bed was Caroline gently holding my left hand and praying.
    “I came to say goodbye to a very special patient. God loves you and wants you well!”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yes...”
    “I’ll do my best!”
    “I know you will!”
    She patted my folded hands, smiled, turned away from the bed and walked through the open door, never looking back. A short time later I was wheeled out of the hospital and taken home, a place I thought I’d never see again. A therapist was to visit me in a few days to assist in my recovery.
    About a week later I was contacted by a hospital therapist who was to meet with me several times, teaching me how to better handle the multitude of problems associated with Parkinson’s...  stumbling,  falling... how to use a walker, then a cane, how to get out of a chair, a car. In a relatively short time I was able to walk up and down the street with a cane, often carrying it in my hand, as I walked without it.
    I contacted the Portland VA Hospital and the Eugene VA Clinic to report on my progress in therapy. It was agreeable to them that I was seeking a Eugene area neurologist for treatment, to save me and my wife from making the long trip out of town. I had given up driving hopefully just temporarily, and at 83 was not keen about driving in the congested big city traffic.
    Thankfully, I remain a patient in the VA Administration Hospital System!
    I have no complaint with their services rendered, and I can well understand the use of rotation doctors. There are so many veterans... and so many in my age bracket. They do the best they can. What more can we ask?
    I do, however, have two more suspicions to add as possible causes or aggravations to my Parkinson’s...they many prescription and over-the-counter prescription drugs I have taken throughout my lifetime for a multitude of ailments from arthritis to headaches, all having their effects and taxing my central nervous system. Yes, I’m sure of it...Parkinson’s suspect number eleven...prescription and over-the-counter nonprescription drugs!
    And noise pollution comes to mind as a possible factor to the erosion of the central nervous system, and even more menacing, invisible radio waves. For the past twenty or so years, we have been sleeping with a clock radio installed in the headboard of our bed. We often go to sleep and waken to radio sounds. Often, it is all night!
    Should this be considered as another assault on the overly-taxed nervous system and another parkinson’s suspect? I’ll need to analyze this further to my satisfaction. In the meantime, I’ll give it a number...Parkinson’s suspect number twelve...noise pollution and radio waves!
    
Chapter 10: A Scent of Roses

    One day while I was browsing around the house being lazy, I decided to clean out a dresser drawer, with its many years of disorganized junk and memorabilia. Among the items slipping through my fingers was a paper box filled with an assortment of religious pictures, which, I believe, came from my mother’s estate. It was a portrait of St. Therese of the child Jesus, as painted by her sister Celine. A notation in back indicated it to be a most authentic representation of the saint. St. Therese had long been one of my mother’s favorites. I separated it from the others and went to a encyclopedia to learn more about St. Therese.
    St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) was born in France. Her full name was Marie Francois Therese Martin. She entered a Carmelite Convent at age 15. Latter she suffered from depression and religious doubts, which she mastered by prayer. She died at age 24 of tuberculosis. She chronicled her own spiritual struggle in a series of letters published after her death in 1898. She was canonized in 1925. Her feast day is October 1.
    Instinctively, as my mother would do, I kissed the picture gently and put it to one side. I recalled my mother lighting candles and praying on her knees before the Little Flower of the Child Jesus statue prominently displayed in a side altar at Hold Cross Church. And now I was curious to know why.
The answer was quick in coming as i remembered my mother saying that St. Therese had always been extra special to her. She reminded me that her mother was named Therese and so was one of my younger sisters. i recall her having said on numerous occasions that St. Therese had done her many favors and she was eternally grateful. I recall her squeezing me warmly and with a gentle kiss to my forehead, as we knelt together before the statue. Now I understood that I was one of the favors my mother was talking about. I was her second born, preceded  by a sister who died shortly after birth, a tragic victim of the flu epidemic that swept much of the world in 1918. My sister was a few months old when she was buried January 1, 1919. I was born a year and four days later on January 5, 1920.
    I kissed the picture again as I held it firmly in my hand.  There was something that held me mesmerized and I wouldn’t let go. Then it hit me like a ton of coal falling on my head! Why, it’s CAROLINE, my nurse at the hospital! There’s no mistaking it! What a coincidence! Was I hallucinating? The picture of St. Therese and my remembrance of Caroline were identical as though they were twins! I continued staring at the picture and could feel warm tears forming...tears of joy! I felt the presence of my mother! I well remembered what she said about St. Therese: “I will spend my time in heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall from from heaven...a shower of roses.”
    Now I was beginning to understand how St. Therese had suddenly come into my life, as a scent of roses. There were a lot of people praying for me as I struggled with Parkinson’s...my grandmother, my mother, my sister, St. Therese, family members and friends, and now Caroline! I was further encouraged in my illness, when I detected a scent of roses in a bouquet I had bought for my wife as a token of love. She, too, had been praying for me and continues to do so!

Chapter 11: Hope

    Several weeks went by and I had settled into a daily routine learning to cope with a stubborn, unrelenting disease that spreads insidiously day by day. It is true that I was highly encouraged by the influence of St. Therese, but I also know that time is not on my side and any help from heaven would have to come soon. I am hopeful in this regard as I recite the Lord's Prayer in saying, ‘Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” I force myself to be patient and to know that my day of healing will come.
    Now that my entire body seems affected I can name a long list of inconveniences... nervousness, sleep problems and related disturbances. What is really annoying to me is the fact that my typing continues to suffer, even when I am down to one-finger typing. I am still making too many mistakes as I “peck” the keyboard. Too many misspelled and skipped words! My confidence is shaken and more so with each passing day. I wake up each morning praying that I can use my typing finger more effectively. I have so much to type and I am hurrying to finish this story. “Please, Lord, give me the energy and patience to complete what I have started!”
    Long gone are the cocksure days of my youth and the supreme confidence of my younger adult years. I am now facing my to my 83 years and have many questions. Will I make it to my 84th? I am confident that I will. With all those people praying for me, I dare not disappoint them!
    A few more weekends had gone by. I was having good days and bad days, and was beginning to wonder if all the prayers by so many people were being heard. I could feel the bad days taking over and my prognosis grim.
    One bright, sunshiny morning while I was watching the dismal news on TV, the telephone rang. I muted the idiot box and picked up the receiver. It was a lady church worker from St. Mary’s. she identified herself as Sarah Gilman. she was on a committee to administer Holy Communion to shut-ins like me and Harriet. I never liked the designation “shut-in” because it made me feel helpless and I’m sure my wife felt the same way.
    But there was something in Sarah’s voice that made me want to listen. She was asking me if my wife and I would be receptive to receiving Holy Communion at home on a regular basis. And without consulting my wife, for I knew she would agree, I said “yes,” and set up a date and time for the following week.
    On the appointed day, we dressed as we would for Sunday church. The doorbell rang. Harriet rose to answer it. From a few feet away, as I sat at the kitchen table I heard a warm, sweet voice say, “I’m Sarah. I’m from St. Mary’s. I came to bring Holy Communion to you and your husband.”
    “I’m Harriet. Won’t you come in? My husband is at the kitchen table. We’ve been waiting for you.”
    Sarah entered. Harriet led her to where I was sitting, with my cane beside me and the walker nearby. She extended her hand and smiled broadly. I told her how much Harriet and I anticipated her coming. The three of us sat at the table.
    Sarah can best be described as a middle-aged, attractive woman with a warm handshake and a beautiful, warm, sincere countenance to match. After a brief period of getting acquainted and introductory remarks, she reached for a golden locket, about 2 1/2 inches square, from around her neck, and placed it unopened on the table before her, creating a portable tabernacle. She asked that we bow our heads and recite The Lord’s Prayer!
    She opened the locket that contained two communion wafers, giving the first to Harriet with words, “Receive the body of Christ.” She then turned to me and repeated the ritual. She held our hands and offered a closing prayer, which included a request that our bodies be healed of all infirmities.
    The whole visit and communion service lasted about 15 minutes. And for many weeks to this day, we have kept to the communion schedule as a highlight of our week. On occasions when Sarah was unable to come, an equally qualified person administers our Holy Communion. Truly Harriet and I have found a new ally in our efforts to defeat my Parkinson’s and Harriet’s increased arthritis. It is my belief that Sarah Gilman is the answer to my prayers asking for a sign that my petitions to St. Therese be acknowledged. Sarah Gilman is, indeed, a welcome “rose from heaven.”
    Then it’s back to monotonous living. I became increasingly bored with waiting for dramatic things to happen in my life, like a miraculous, instant recovery. I find myself hating television, when I realize I am spending too much time being entertained when I should be devoting my time to more productive pursuits, such as starting a new play or at least rewriting or revising the twelve or so that I have already written. but the energy is no longer there, not at this moment anyway. The date is April 25, 2003, and my prime activity is confined to taking therapeutic walks, washing dishes and doing minor chores around the house, and doing my best to remain alert. I have tried reading more, but my eyes readily tire. I have prescription glasses bust rarely use them. Seems that I never got “the hang of it!” Perhaps in the future I will do better.
    I budget my limited energy to getting things done on a priority basis, such as preparing this one-finger manuscript. I become increasingly nervous as I pound away on this dilapidated typewriter. I know that my recovery will take a miracle. I am ready to accept it anytime. And with the help of those praying for me, I WILL BE HEALED! The ultimate decision will come from Jesus, in the manner set forth in The Lord’s Prayer. “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven!”
    “Only say the word, Lord, and I shall be healed.”

Chapter 12: Winding Down

    I had my first meeting with my new Eugene neurologist, Dr. Mary Simpson. I was highly skeptical that she could do me any good, but I was willing to it the old college try. I was greatly relieved to know that I no longer had to travel to Portland for treatment by the rotation doctors. Immediate help was now at my fingertips by phone and less than three miles away by car.
    Dr. Simpson was in her mid-thirties and came highly recommended by my regular Eugene physician.
    At my first meeting with her, she was eager to read the paper I had prepared that traced the story of my Parkinson’s from my first suspicions throughout the years to the present. I titled the piece “Tracing My Parkinson’s,” which became the genesis for this story. She said the information was invaluable to her and she would evaluate it carefully. I was skeptical but left her a copy anyway. She made a few medicine adjustments and invited me back in three months.
    In the meantime, I haven’t driven a car since my hospital confinement at Sacred Heart six months ago. Harriet first became my full time chauffeur, even as her arthritis worsened and she finds it more difficult getting into and out of our 1984 Datsun, which, by the way, still runs good. I am now 83 1/2 and Harriet is close behind at 82.
    I has been a long, interesting journey for Monte and Harriet. We have come a long way since she was the old swayback on the stage as a nobody walk-in in “Brother Rat” as staged by San Jose State drama department more than 60 years ago. Shall we says she had better taste and judgment than did the old professor, Dr. Hugh Riley! May he rest in peace wherever his soul might be!
    Since our marriage On September 22, 1941, three months before Pear Harbor, we have lived in five communities and managed to have a child or two in all of them except Eugene. Our children are now scattered from Wisconsin to Tennessee to Portland, Denver and Eugene, and I am sure each has an interesting story to tell.
    And today, as this story winds down, I sincerely believe that I have hit on the cause or multiple causes for my Parkinson’s, most of which involves my own lack of knowledge or just plain stupidity, such as siphoning gasoline and using dish detergent to whiten my already perfect set of teeth. As my mother would say, “Stupido,” which is Sicilian for stupid. “You have only yourself to blame!”
    No truer words were ever spoken, and as I finish this loquacious flow of words, I am reminded that Harriet and I will celebrate our 62nd anniversary come September 22, 2003. We are both trying our best to make it. It has become a habit. You might even say a “tradition!” And, furthermore, I am still sitting on a dozen or so full-length plays I’m trying to peddle one way or another. Anybody what to buy a good play cheap? also for sale, and 80-year-old accordion. Will take best offer. Must be over twenty-one!
    In the matter of Guardino, the man, versus Parkinson’s, the disease, the situation has not been resolved. I have, however, make definite conclusions pertaining to my struggle, in which I have learned the following, and pass on to anyone who might benefit from my experience! “Beware of all insecticides and pesticides. Stay clear of petroleum products by touch and by smell. Avoid carbon monoxide, leaded paints, improper use of detergents, tight-jewelry and ill-fitting devices such as musical instruments. Be extremely careful in the use of medications; beware of side effects and conflicts. And not to be overlooked, noise pollutions and all forms of invisible radio waves!”
    I firmly believe that the human body has the capability of healing itself, God willing, once the cause of an ailment has been determined. I sincerely hope that the above has been useful to anyone reading these words. I am working yard on my own cure. Be interesting to see what happens.
    This takes me down to the last and final word on this one-finger manuscript...AMEN (So Be It).


Oregon History Online Hot Links!

Early Words and Sermons (1): An Online Ministry of Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel
Early Words and Sermons (2) Early Words and Sermons (3)

Introduction by Rev. Marilyn A. Riedel I  II
Oregon History Online: Volume I Volume II
Volume III Volume IV Volume V
 Volume VI Volume VII Volume VIII
 Volume IX Volume XOregon History CD Edition
1870 Benton County Oregon Census A-ICensus J-RCensus S-Z
1870 Polk County Oregon Census A-M1870 Census N-Z
Wild Women West: One-Eyed CharlieWestern Warrior Women
Black Pioneers Settle Oregon CoastYaquina Bay Oyster Wars
Wolf Creek SanctuaryRogue River CommunitiesGolden Campbellites
Murder on the Gold Special: The D'AutremontsTyee View Cemetery
Eddyville CemeteriesOlex CemeteryApplegate Pioneer Cemetery
Thomason CemeterySiletz Valley CemeteriesSiletz Indian Shakers
Glenwood, Harlan, Chitwood CemeteriesElk City Pioneer Cemetery
Eureka CemeteryToledo Pioneer CemeteryGuardino Family History
"So Be It" Autobiography by Mariano Guardino 
Dobbie-Smith Genealogy "Aunt Edie" by Harriet Guardino
Dobbie Obituaries and Letters
Historic Oregon Coast AlbumHistoric Grants Pass Oregon Album
"The Great Pal" by Harriet Guardino


WebweaveR
census@wi.net