• A Desert Fish Out of Water

    by Jane Roland

    robertbullockThis is not the column I intended to write, but an obituary in the paper this week changed my plans.  Robert Keith Bullock died on Thursday, July 18 about 60 years from the day we first met.  I hadn’t seen him for many years, but thought about him from time to time as he was the Sports Editor of the Herald with which I have had a fond attachment almost sixty years.   It was the summer of 1952; Mother and I were visiting PebbleBeach and living in my Uncle’s home while he was traveling in Europe. Aunt Relda had died the year before and he needed time to get away and recover.    The house was facing the 18th hole of the famed golf course, with an unrestricted view of the ocean and Pt. Lobos. Today if you walk down the driveway and continue left to the end you would be on the site of the “President’s House.”

    I had not been a visitor for several years and there was nothing for a young girl who was not part of the inner circle.  Mother went two or three times a year.  I remember the day Uncle Sam came to our house in Tucson and said “I think you girls should come and stay in my house when I am away”.  I was thrilled and excited to be included as, previously, my presence was anything but desired.  In those days in a certain social milieu youngsters were shipped off to boarding school, camp and/or Europe.  Most of my mother’s inheritance had been embezzled by her guardian when she was young. It was only her sense of entitlement which accrued her benefits of a certain social status.  We lived in a tiny house, in the middle of the dessert, drove an old car and (according to Mother) were “dirt poor”, in retrospect I realize that wasn’t true, we simply had lesser means than those who were my Mother’s friends.

    We drove off to California, leaving in the middle of the night, due to the heat of the summer in the southwest.   I was, at the time, engaged to be married and Don agreed to housesit and take care of the house.   I considered myself an excellent driver, my mother’s foot was pressed to the floor most of the time I was behind the wheel. I remember stopping in Twenty-Nine Palms to catch a little sleep, before we drove on to San Jacinto, my Aunt Rosa’s home and a visit of a couple of days.  Then on to our ultimate destination. When we reached the gate Mother leaned out and said “We are going to the Morse residence.  Mr. Morse is my brother”.  The gatekeeper leaned in and said “Well, aren’t you lucky” and sent us on our way.

    I entered a life I had left more than ten years earlier, since that time, I revisited in books and movies.  Breakfast in bed every morning, should we wish, I did not “wish”, Mother loved it (a return to a life she had lost years before).  Dinner prepared and served by the only staff on duty at the time and wonderful cook whose name I have forgotten.   My parent immediately connected with old friends such as Mae Piggott, Charlotte Cruickshank and Virginia Stanton for lunches, cocktails and, of course, bridge..  She met new ones, among whom was Maureen Dalton, who was to become my Uncle’s wife, thanks to Mother’s getting them together that summer.

    I had little to do; I knew no one and was abnormally shy.   Oh, I was very comfortable in a small group of people but I was uncomfortable in crowds and fitting in was something that was hard for me.  Mary, my cousin, was married to Richard Osborne and lived in the house which is now Casa Palmaro.   It was large, comfortable and a little run down, much more to my liking than the perfection of our summer abode.   They did everything they could to embrace and entertain the young collegian.  Richard had a charge, Freddy Mills, the younger brother of his college room mate, who was  a recent Harvard graduate.  Freddy was a free spirit and we became good friends.   However, the condition of his stay was that he must find a job.  Freddy is another story for a different time.  In the beginning I had no one.  I liked playing tennis, but soon learned that I was not the caliber of those who were on the courts, so I would sit and watch, hoping to meet someone..  That’s when I met Bob Bullock.   He seemed to understand the frustration and loneliness of the young girl.  He suggested I come to a party at the Beach Club (in those days it was a real beach club not elegant at all).   He introduced me to girls who, because of the introduction by someone everyone loved, took me in hand.   Soon I was getting calls from these young women to come to gatherings and, someone, I don’t remember who, took me to the Mission Ranch, a Mecca for many years.   Bob was always there, “Hi, Knuckles (why Knuckles who knows), good to see you”. We shared many an evening at the Ranch drinking, singing around the piano and discussing the current plays on Broadway. Once someone introduced me as Sam Morse’s niece, Bob intervened, “She is Janie Christian from Tucson, the U of A, and a writer” It made me comfortable and happy.

    During that summer and in the years to follow, I became close to many who worked at The Herald, some were editors, publishers, and some were reporters or typesetters.  I spent time at the offices downtown.  I saw Bob from time to time over the next few years, but it has been decades. I will never forget him and his kindness to a “desert fish out of water.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 1, 2013

    Topics: Animal Tales and Other Random Thoughts

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