Life in Lynwood

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Ray and I were separated. The boys, Steve and Mark, and I, were living with Mom and Dad in La Mirada. I was driving from there to Firestone Tire & Rubber Company in South Gate. The commute became a bit much, so I began looking for a place for us that would be closer to my job. I found a cute one-bedroom upstairs apartment in Lynwood which was just a few miles from work.

The next problem I had was finding a sitter for Steve and Mark. As luck would have it, Mrs. Kozick was just down the street from our apartment and that seemed like an ideal situation. She was very strict and stern, but I sensed that the boys would be well-fed and safe in her care. Mark was 2 years old and Steve was nearly 7.

Things went very well for quite a while, until one day when I picked them up after work and Steve told me that Mrs. Kozick (he called her “The Sarge”) had spanked Mark. When I questioned her about it, she told me that Mark had messed his pants. I wasn’t pleased with that and knew I had to find another sitter. Meantime, I called Mom and told her what had happened. I’ll never forget her saying, “I’d like to wring the Sarge’s neck.” That was so unlike Mom, but hey, “The Sarge” was messing with her grandson!

Not long after that, the woman who lived in the house in front of us said she would watch the boys. She had a son between the ages of Steve and Mark. Again, this was a convenient situation for me. She was a very kind, caring and responsible lady and I was fortunate to have her watching my boys.

One day while they were out and about in the car and Mark was in the back seat, Mrs. Storm had to make a quick stop and Mark fell forward, hitting his mouth on the metal floor divider. I was called and left work; he was in the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital, and they needed my signature before they could proceed with the needed minor plastic surgery (it wasn’t minor to me, it was major).

Of course, I raced to get there, and found that his upper lip had been completely split open from beneath his little nose. To this day, he has a bump under his top lip and a fine line or scar that spans from the top of his lip to the corner of the right side of his mouth.

It was a heart breaker to see my little guy in pain and having stitches. I guess I was just grateful that it wasn’t worse (something mom always said in similar circumstances when it was one of her six).

Another incident while we lived there was that we frequented the neighborhood mom-and-pop store “Charlie’s Market.” There was a short cut to get there so we didn’t have to take the busy boulevard. Mark was probably three or four years old by then. It was just a short distance, and it was very familiar to them and I knew they would be safe.

So, I sent them to buy milk or bread. (Nothing even close to that would be safe in today’s society…what a shame). Anyway, I forget now what it was but Mark came home with something that hadn’t been paid for. The three of us immediately returned and I paid for whatever it was that Mark had taken. I just knew it was important to have them with me when I explained the situation and paid Charlie.

Taking another jump back in time, Mark had problems with his feet being pigeon toed. I’m guessing that was why I had him checked by the doctor. He ended up having to sleep with his feet in shoes that were attached to a brace that turned his feet outward.

I hated having to put him through that every night. I knew it was cumbersome and uncomfortable. There were times when he’d shake his little head “no-no” and whimper. And there were times when I would give in to him, but not too often, because I knew it was for his own good.

I had been told by the doctor that it was a common orthopedic condition and that he would outgrow it as he developed better muscle control and coordination, but that the brace would help to speed up the correction. So, I did what I had to do, and the doctor was right. I’m thanking the Man upstairs again.

Ray and I reconciled: he had his real estate license; Tracy was born, and we began house hunting. The year was 1964, and we would soon be leaving our life in Lynwood.

Sharon Benson Smith is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.