Segarini: Stockton, Daring-Do, and Cruisin’ the Miracle Mile: Part Four – The Best of Times

GE DIGITAL CAMERAPart One can be found here

Part Two can be found here

Part Three can be found here

1958 was the year I entered my teenage years.

By then I was immersed in the worlds of radio, music, and longing to be doing what my friends were doing…driving a cool car up and down Pacific Avenue, belong to a car club, and be in high school, dating high school girls, and having Betty and Veronica vie for my attention while Reggie looks on with jealousy in his beady little eyes and Jughead eats hamburgers and is my own, personal Milhouse. If you’re going to dream…dream big.

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The Best of Times

Even though it was just a matter of a few blocks, after moving from Ellis Street to Monterey Avenue when I turned 12, my friend base changed dramatically. My old neighborhood had a plethora of same-aged kids, but susan beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!this new one left me the youngest kid on the block. Oh there was Patti, and Tina, Renee, and Evette, all beautiful and sweet and powered by pre-heartbreak estrogen, but my attention was focused on Guy Waltz, 3 years my senior, (as was another street-mate, Richard Aunger), and Susan Berry (The Most Beautiful Girl in the World) and Donna Ratto, (The Second Most Beautiful Girl in the World), both two years older than me, and Barbara Kleppinger, who was my age, but somehow much more worldly and mature. When she moved away without saying goodbye, I was crushed.

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A year after we moved and I turned 13, Guy and Richard had cars and were seniors in high school, while I was still walking around, not wanting to ride my bike much anymore because it was (in my tiny little mind) no longer cool to do so, it began collecting dust in the garage except for weekly round trips to Miracle Music and Freitas every Tuesday to check out the new record releases, and the occasional trip downtown at midnight to take a cup of coffee to the overnight jock at KJOY and sit in wonder in the glassed in KJOY Croppedstudio on the corner of Eldorado and Weber watching him spin 45s on two state of the art turntables. I wanted a car, dammit!

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California, that catch-all state of dreamers, Midwest immigrants, and sunbathed hopes, was, at its core, ground zero for North America’s Car Culture…an unspoken tenet that proclaimed that without a car, you were not only a second-class citizen, but bound by gravity to a life of hitching, mom drop-offs a block from your destination, and the perpetual owner of the Riding Shotgunworst real estate in a car; the middle of the back seat, on the uncomfortable hump, sandwiched between two big-for-their-age meatballs who both had a window to oogle out of while you stared at the backs of the front seat occupants’ heads. Oh, to be able to yell “Shotgun” quicker than the others.

Thanks to my cousin Phid, I had transportation, and his friendship and mentoring (he was an incredible 18 years old) led to even MORE older friends and an education that was equal parts Tom Sawyer, Rebel Without a Cause, and Hogwart’s.

Phid was the coolest guy in the world.

Some Great Phid Memories….

Being handed the keys to his large collection of rock and roll 45s, an educational library of teen-centric angst, joy, and experience, wrapped up in melodic swaddling and spoken in guitar, bass, drums, and piano. The words and rhythm more than enough proof that no matter how lonely and detached I felt, I was not alone.

Girly Magazines

Boy's LifeBeing given access to his sock drawer, which contained not a single sock, but a large number of Adam, Nugget, Playboy, and Stag magazines. I quit reading my Boy Scouts of MadAmerica approved Boys’ Life magazines, although Mad magazine remained a staple.

The evening out at Shower’s Park-In I mentioned in the previous chapter of this tale

The night he and his juvenile delinquent cronies held me down on a bench and made me drink a 6 pack of beer as an initiation into their teenage Circle of Hell, which I passed with flying colours.

The night Phid had his friend Willie Ingles ride on the hood of his Mercury, a barrel of laughs in the “Hey, Watch This!” Tradition of Bad Ideas until Phid stomped on the brakes to avoid another car and Willie slid off the hood onto the ground, barely missing the hood ornament and leaving his nut sack on the car while the rest of him lay sprawled out on the road like a cheap rug.

Stockton CivicThe biggest Phid moment took place right after he moved in with us, on October 20th, 1957. That was the day that Phid took me to a matinee at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium to see all the artists I had been listening to on the radio, whose records I had been spinning over and over, and whose music was and is, the inspiration that fueled my life-long love, creation, and involvement in music. It was, in all honesty, a turning point in my life, a defining moment that was $2.50 at the door, but worth so much more.

12 – Mission Beach Ballroom – San Diego, California
13 – Memorial Auditorium – Fresno, California
15 – Shrine Auditorium – Los Angeles, California
17 – Auditorium – San Jose, California
18 – Auditorium – Sacramento, California
19 – Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, California
20 – Matinee: Civic Auditorium – Stockton, California
21 – Oakland Auditorium – Oakland, California

These were the California dates on the tour, just as hilariously routed as they could be. Seeing as how the next stop on the tour was in Oregon, the routing should have been, San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, and then a straight shot up what was then Highway 99 to Oregon. Rock and Roll, Baby!

And what did we see for $2.50? We saw THIS.

CA poster

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Dianne SegariniBetween Phid and my cousin Diane, I had the kind of childhood most kids only dreamed of. Loving, supportive parents (well, my mom was supportive of me and my dad tolerated it), good friends, and an environment conducive to exploration and discovery were already part of my life, but those two brought an experience far removed from most kids’ education.

Phid provided a ringside seat to rock and roll, naked women, (the Sock Drawer Library), juvenile delinquency, “Hey watch this!” hi-jinx, and cruisin’ in a cool car with a babe pressed up against you even though there was plenty of room on the bench seat for her to be a couple of feet away. Diane, on the other hand, provided a premature but important class on partying, parent-defying rule bending, and how to hold your liquor, starting when I was around 6 and lasting until I was a teenager. When our parents went out for dinner at the 276 Club and dancing at the Elks or Moose Lodge, Diane’s friends would pull into the driveway on Willora Road 60 seconds after they left and the party would start. I was part of the entertainment. Who doesn’t want to see a 6 year old kid drink beer from a dog dish and smoke Lucky Strikes while he mixed Cuba Libres for the revelers? She was the babysitter-Aunt Merc & Uncle Johnny, Feb 1958from-hell of most parents’ nightmares, but not only delivered me back to my parents (who were usually out with HER parents, my aunt and uncle) uninjured and happy (if not a little drunk), she kept me OUT of trouble by keeping me IN trouble. Call it supervised delinquency, Hoodlumism 101 with training wheels.

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Amos Alonzo Stagg Senior High School

The first year of high school was a bitch unless you had a birthday that landed you there at 16, or you were a doofus and held back a year in grade school or junior high. Otherwise your freshman year in high school was served without a license…and that meant no car.

stagg_1238Stagg High is and was a rambling, ranch style maze of low buildings and grassy interludes. It lain spread out like a pat of butter in the middle of muddy fields that were decades away from becoming upscale subdivisions complete with a golf course and a man-made lake. Facing a levee designed to hold back the Calaveras River, it was too far to access by walking or bicycle from where I lived (though many made the trip, I was inclined to avoid it at all costs) and taking a school bus to school was tantamount to wearing clown makeup to a funeral, arriving by automobile was (to me) the only acceptable way to get there.

Gym ClassMy freshman year was spent cadging rides from anyone I could talk into giving me a lift, dodging bullies, and figuring ways to get out of gym class. Laziness is the mother of invention, and soon, two of my friends and I came up with a solution to the phys-ed class problem. I won’t go into details, but the result was two consecutive lunch breaks every day and no Gym class. We were never caught. We managed the same stunt for our sophomore year…but I didn’t make it all the way through my second tour at Stagg…I left in a snit over William Shakespeare.

Stephen Bros. BoatI may have had some good teachers at Stagg, but I cannot recall the name of even one with any fondness. Not even my Journalism teacher, who became a friend outside of school because he was sweet on Susan Berry, and would end up on some of our weekend boat trips on Susan’s mother’s rather impressive 1945 Stephens Bros. 60 ft. Captain’s boat. Boat, my ass…it was a fucking yacht!

Brubeck Time OutAlthough I observed neither hanky, nor panky, I know the teacher had his eye on Susan, chivalrous façade or not, but he was a good guy. Turned me on to Dave Brubeck and modern jazz, and taught me a lot about journalism, most of which I forgot until about 3 years ago. As old as I perceived him to be back then, he was probably just out of University and either in his late 20s or early 30s. Regardless…I saw him more off campus than I did on, so his class was always very comfortable to attend.

Stagg had a killer football team, the Delta Kings, who played their games (some of them, at least) at the UOP stadium. I have very fond memories of UOPhanging out at the University of Pacific’s student coffee shop, The End Zone, and watching the games later, snuggled up under a blanket in the bleachers, always with a wonderfully warm girl from school, her cheeks glowing red from the chilly weather, and the truly invigorating smell of wood burning fireplaces from the surrounding homes, and sipping sloe gin out of a flask I had found in my dad’s work bench in the garage. Autumn in Stockton is still beautiful, and I miss those fall evenings to this day.

The two names I DO remember from Stagg High belonged to the Dean of Boys, George Tharp, and my 6th period English teacher, Mr. Leonard Fass.

Mr. Tharp….

Mr. WeatherbeeWe were at war from the time we met. I was a cocky, self-assured asshat who knew he was going to be a rock star, and Mr. Tharp (who bore an astounding resemblance to Riverdale High’s Mr. Weatherbee, was a pompous, angry, red-faced man of some girth who assumed the children in his charge were up to no good.

At Stagg, if you acted out in class, you got what was called a ‘Blue Slip”…a one way ticket to the Dean’s office for whatever offense, a reprimand, and enough time to duck behind the portables and catch a smoke. Being a mouthy kid, I made my share of trips to his office, ‘yes sir’d’ and ‘no sir’d’ my way out of there as quickly as possible, and grabbed a Marlboro or two before going back to my class or the next one if the bell had rung after my walking papers were received. Looking back, I would have disliked me too, so in retrospect, Mr. Tharp probably had good reason to suspect me of dastardly behavior, but still…I grew to dread seeing him in the halls.

Once, after being suspended for two days for being (in my humble opinion) incredibly funny in my math class, I managed to get him in the seat of his grey suit’s pants with a well-aimed stream from a squirt gun. I will not divulge what was in the squirt gun, but it wasn’t water.

One of the last times I saw him was because of Mr. Fass, and William Shakespeare.

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Romeo and JulietBefore my eyes started to go bad and before audio books and the Internet, I was a voracious reader. I read constantly, sometimes reading 4 or 5 paperbacks at the same time, a chapter or two from this one, a few chapters from that one, replacing the finished ones with yet another novel and repeating the process. I was at the peak of my reading frenzy when Mr. Fass introduced me to the works of William Shakespeare, by assigning Romeo and Juliet as our reading assingment.. It was love at first glance. I will always be indebted to him for that, but not for what followed.

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By the time the incident with Mr. Leonard (The Canary Kid) Fass took place I was half way through my Sophomore year at Stagg. In August, less than a month before school started, I finally got my license, and my first car.

1960 Dodge PolaraI got the license on the first try. Besides driving Lonnie’s illegals back in Junior High, I had been rolling my mother’s new Dodge Polara out of the garage at night and driving to San Francisco to go to the teen nightclubs that held sway over Broadway in North Beach, since I was 14 years old. I had also been smoking pot once in a while since the 9th grade, having bought some from a school chum who was even more of a delinquent than I was, it came in a little wooden matchstick box for 5 dollars a pop. To celebrate my 16th birthday, and the passing of my driver’s test (you got a ‘learner’s’ permit at 15 and ½ in those days), my mom let me take her new car out on the town, not knowing my friends and I would make a beeline to the Bay Area and hit the clubs. CHPNaturally we smoked some pot in the car, and that led to me getting pulled over by the California Highway Patrol cruising down the Bayshore Freeway on our way to Redwood City from San Francisco to see my cousin. When we rolled down the windows of the 4 door car, a cloud of smoke emerged that the cop waved away with his hand. By the time we had pulled over, we had all lit cigarettes, but back then, the police weren’t looking for 5 white kids smoking pot in a brand new car. Most of them didn’t even know what it smelled like. It was 1961.

After the usual ‘see your license, show me the papers’ and my babbling about Kingdon Drag Stripmy birthday, all of us grinning like idiots, the officer leaned down and asked, “Do you know why I stopped you, son?”. I admitted I did not. Could I have been speeding? My cousin had taken the Dodge out to Kingdon Dragstrip on more than one occasion and had done well in the ¼ mile, after all, it had a hemi- head engine in it. Then the officer told me what I had done. “You were going 15 miles an hour. The minimum speed on this stretch of highway is 45, so please, drive faster or you are going to cause an accident.”

The pot.

We started laughing, gut busting, marijuana fueled laughter. I had tears in my eyes. The cop gave us a puzzled look, asked us if we had been drinking (more gales of laughter) we assured him we had not, and with a smile he told me to enjoy my birthday and drive safely and walked back to his cruiser, got in, and drove away. 15 miles an hour seemed really fast on grass….

Having access to my mom’s car was pretty cool, but the week before school started, my dream of owning a car became a reality. It was a birthday gift from my father, and it literally was the car of my dreams.

Next: Goodbye Stagg, Hello Miracle Mile

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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11 Responses to “Segarini: Stockton, Daring-Do, and Cruisin’ the Miracle Mile: Part Four – The Best of Times”

  1. Glenn Gallup Says:

    Ahhhh, the Dodge Polara. Climbing that hill out of the Livermore Valley with the speedo needle buried behind the dash about two clicks past 120mph. San Jose (out by the Fairgrounds) to Lincoln Village in North Stockton in an hour and 5 minutes. It’s freeway all the way now and you would be hard pressed to do it.

  2. Pat Campbell Says:

    Hey Bob thanks! Another freat romp down memory lane. I too will always remeber Tharp & we called the principal chrome dome. That was 1964 – 1966 for my Stagg time.

  3. Pat Campbell Says:

    Sorry type O. Another GREAT romp down memory lane!

  4. Richard Schmidt Stagg"62 Says:

    Another great article. I forwarded it to Theo Stepehns (The Yacht)-And I’m with you I didn’t think Susan Berry could possibly be human -Hope she doesn’t read this-oh well it doesn’t matter she won’t know me anyway. Was Barbara Kleppinger’s dad an optometrist? I think we all ducked Tharp in the halls-’cause we never knew if he knew–

  5. Mark Vukovich Says:

    The Polara…the Polara…I will NEVER forget that car with the push button tranny…ooohh those were the halcyon days of our yut’s..! Thanks Bobby…Mr Tharp followed me from Webster to Stagg and Mr Fass…Gene Farthing and Eugene Starr used to pick him up and put him on one of the tables…he’d be so mad…red faced…hollering PUT ME DOWN PUT ME DOWN..! ;o)

  6. Dan Swanson Says:

    Mr. Tharp, we had many of fine discussions in his office and usually one sided and really not that long. It usually went like this, “Dan I see here you were absent from school here , here and here” and I’d say they were all legal and then in steps “Geurdy” the attendance keeper and would lay the excuse notes on his table and it was all over………A week suspension here, a week there and so my life at Stagg went, until Senior year (1965 ) I lived with my brother and wrote my own notes so now I could ditch anytime I wanted , “good by Tharp and Hello Santa Cruz”.

  7. Mickey Holmes Says:

    Well Bob, good thing you didn’t go to Stagg when it was at Delta and the first year on Brookside, Charlie Shiffman was the dean then, he liked little boys and you got a back rub and some “dirty” talk when called to his office, everyone knew it but the school district always looked the other way when it came to protecting their own..a lesson you didn’t learn in class.

  8. Mickey Holmes Says:

    The first day I got my license on a Friday in July of 1958 at 15-1/2 I called my friends up to go out to the Motor Movies in South Stockton, we got some beer out the back door of the 99 Club on Wilson way ,after drinking beer and partying at the show we headed home down on El Dorado st about 1:30 am, in those days the traffic lights turned off at midnight flashing red at intersections , I got to Harding way and went thru the red light with no other cars around, about a block later I noticed a car following me that came out of nowhere, it was a cop, he pulled me over so I told my friends to hide all the beer cans under the seats one of my friends started to throw-up ,I pulled over and my foot slipped off the brake hiding the cans sending the car down the road, I then heard the cop yelling “stop” and looked up to seen him running after me, i hit the brake sending all the cans out from under the seats, the cop asked for my license, i unfolded my new temporary license and showed it to him, shining his light on all the cans he simply said ” well your off to a great start son ” , he only gave me a ticket for running the light, and told me to go straight home, In those days the cops were very understanding…

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