To California — To Finish High School

in World War II Blog

My name is Gerald W. Thomas. I am the author of Torpedo Squadron Four – A Cockpit View of World War II, an account of my service in WWII as a VT-4 Torpedo Bomber Pilot on the USS Ranger, the USS Bunkerhill, and the USS Essex.

In 1935, my brother Daniel and I graduated from the 11th grade at our Medicine Lodge school. That was the last grade the school offered.

We knew we wanted to attend college, so we had to finish High School somewhere. Mother asked the advice of an Aunt in Pasadena, California, and she suggested Mother rent a house there, take in boarders, and enroll us in John Muir Technical High School. Dad agreed even though it meant he would do all the farm work normally shared by Mother, Daniel, and I. We took a neighbor’s son with us so he could also finish High School.

Dad built a 4-wheel trailer out of a old Model-T Ford and we loaded chickens, potatoes, apples, canned fruit, and other living supplies in the trailer. We hooked the trailer onto a used, beat-up Model-A Ford we bought for the trip. Our outfit would only manage about 25 miles an hour, so it took us several days to get to Pasadena. We camped out along the road.

Model A Ford With Trailer Made From Model T Ford

Packing for California. Dad made this trailer out of our old Model-T Ford. We loaded it with food and supplies, hooked it to Model-A, and Mother drove. 1935.

Every day in California was exciting. We had lots of time after school and on weekends — no cows to milk, no pigs to swill, no horses to harness or other farm chores. We were only a few blocks from the high school so we could play tennis, shoot baskets, and practice baseball.

When High School started, we went out for baseball. I didn’t make the team, but I did become the co-manager of the Junior Varsity. I soon met Jackie Robinson, who was a short stop for the Varsity team. Mother had rented a house in the same neighborhood as the Robinson family. I frequently played tennis and shot baskets with Jackie and his older brother Mack.

John Muir Varsity Baseball Team with Jackie Robinson

John Muir High School Varsity Baseball Team with Jackie Robinson, who played short stop.

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