Charlie Courtois

Escapades of a 19 Year Old in LA Circa 1955-58

By:  Charlie Courtois  •   •  11 years ago  •  1 comments

Escapades of a 19 Year Old in LA Circa 1955-58

Part II of 12 Parts

61_blogs.jpg The City of SMOG & Warm Weather
Los Angeles, CA

We resume this story from Part I, Why I Fled Ohio & Went West, and begin with first things: get a job, and find a place to live. Now that I know I can't be a HVAC Estimator, and my $200 dollars is down to less than $100 dollars, the business who says, "Yes," will be my first employer in the city which we now call "The Land of the Fruits and Nuts." The lucky employer was Cadillac Motor Car Division in downtown LA.. My illustrious position was, Mail Carrier, or something like that. Now I can speak disparagingly about it, but at the time I was exceedingly grateful to have a paycheck, and to be able to get back and forth to work on the bus line.

For a place to live, I chose an apartment in South Pasadena at Fair Oaks Parkway and the entrance to the Pasadena Freeway, actually the first freeway ever built in Los Angeles. My rent was $65 dollars a month, sans utilities. My new stipend from Cadillac Motors was $200 dollars or so per month. And, you know what that meant! I had to wait a whole month for some cash-o-las. My money won't last, so, I had to do something to get some walking-around-money until the eagle landed.

Back to the want ads. I found an ad for a door-to-door salesman to sell Cutko Knives and Cutlery which paid cash for results. Sounds good! I liked the merchandise I saw and there was but one little obstacle, they wanted me to pay for the samples. Well, I talked them out of that by explaining my situation, and they lent me a couple of hunting knives and some nice brochures to market the rest of the line. I was pretty sure I could hustle those knives and collect cash on the spot (even then there were many Latinos there and they loved knives, that much I knew), and return the next day to deliver the goods. Instant cash. It worked, and I made twenty or so dollars the first week. By the third or fourth week Cutko trusted me enough to give me the full complement of samples, and I continued knocking on doors at night, and carrying the mail dutifully, daily, at Cadillac Motors.

I decided that I could get appointments if I told people that I would come by and sharpen their knives for free, if they would listen to my sales pitch. It worked, and every week I would send out thirty or forty $.03 cent postcards with a hand written note saying I would be by one night the next week. This kept me from getting the door slammed in my face, and I actually sold some full sets of cutlery for a pretty good pop. I didn't like door-to-door selling but for the while it would have to do. Pretty soon I was able to get a telephone, keep all my bills paid, and was saving for a car. The one advantage of Cadillac Motors was that the used car sales manager got to know me, and I was able to get a 40's model four door Cadillac for about $150 dollars. Now I had wheels, some new threads, and everything was full speed ahead.

62_blogs.jpg My Draft-dodging Attempt

In Ohio I was a member of the National Guard, and I had to go register in the California National Guard to keep up with my eight year obligation, so register I did. There I met a fella named, Richard Rohlffs, who was the Battalion Sergeant Major, that seemed to want to share a Murphy's bed walk-up apartment. It seemed OK with me, and now I could have a little more green stuff left over each month. We bunked-up together, and he saw to it that I was promoted to Sergeant right-a-way, so I guess I could call that fortuitous or lucky.

It turns out that Dick worked for the National Guard full time and he offered me a job in one of the Tank Battalions as an ASMT, translated to: Administrative, Supply, & Maintenance Technician, paying a hundred bucks a month more than Cadillac Motors and that was nothing to sneeze at for me at that time. Money was still tight and driving my beat-up old Cadillac didn't attract too many ladies to date. So, we decided to look round for a full time night job, and then I could stop selling knives and get a pay check for sure. We both found jobs working in the transit clearing departments where the banks sent all of their check transactions daily. Each bank had their own central clearing. Dick went to work for Security Bank, and I went to work for the Bank of America, on the night shift making more than our day job, and we got free bank accounts! So, naturally our wardrobes improved, and we began to go out on some dates.

In a few days, Part III, Vegas, a Union Oil 76 station, a bowling alley, the fiasco of my first sally into the world of business, home-ownership, and much, much more!

63_blogs.jpg La Jolla Ocean Shore midway between LA & San Diego,
where real estate costed an arm and a leg!

At this rate, this sounds more lake a soap-opera; so, we will see. When you get a little jingle in your pocket, it's amazing what can and does happen.

See you in a couple of days. Other parts; Part I


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Charlie Courtois
Freshman Silent
link   author  Charlie Courtois    11 years ago

When I lived in LA the first time I never called it the "Land of the Fruits and Nuts," but that's what the rest of the U.S. called it. And there was more than an ounce of truth to that handle. California was loaded with immigrants from all over the world. So, this was definitely "a buyer beware" part of the universe fraught with danger galore from opportunists and phoneys from far and wide. Of course this was no different than any other big city, but still a teenager seeking his fortune I didn't know enough to foresee the pitfalls. Ignorance is forever bliss!