The Richard Jackson Saga: Tenth Grade
Monday after my run and exercises I contacted the studio to let them know that I would be missing in action from the beach. I also made the point that I would work at home on keeping my tan. I also asked them to pass a message to the stunt yard that I had a change of plans, but should be in next week.
I was dressed and waiting at the front entrance for Mr. Robertson who was punctual. We went downtown LA and he proceeded to teach me how to spot a tail. The biggest trick was to look behind you without it being noticeable that you were looking. This meant using every reflective surface possible and being unobtrusive when turning around.
This was combined with looking at who was behind you and remembering them for second looks. This part was the hardest for me. I hadn’t realized how little I really looked at my surroundings. He called this situational awareness. While training me, he was rather focused and a little short tempered as he dropped into an instructor mode.
I couldn’t believe how mentally tired I was when he dropped me off at Jackson House. His parting words were, “There will be a real tail tomorrow so you must pay attention; though I think this is all a waste of my time.”
That statement certainly made me feel better. I must really be wasting this man’s time for him to have such an attitude.
After lunch, I went up to the tower and thankfully there were no signs posted so I sunbathed for an hour to keep toned up. I then drove over to the studio to see if anything was going on. I was no sooner in the stunt area than I was drafted into being an extra in a movie. They needed someone my height to be a Roman soldier. It was that or have a shorter guy stand on a box, which they could do, but part of the scene was marching the prisoner along and it would take a while to set up.
Last week I spent five minutes getting into costume and ten minutes in makeup. This time it was almost no time getting dressed and five minutes in makeup. The scene took all of ten minutes to shoot. I asked why they were a person short. The director’s assistant pointed to a corner where a drunk was sleeping it off.
“He was celebrating his career in movies. This was his first and now last opportunity.”
I was heading back to costume to disrobe when an office boy found me.
“Mr. Monroe heard you were here. He wants you in his office right now.”
“Give me a minute to change.”
“He told me right now, so change later.”
We headed over to Mr. Monroe’s office. His secretary Donna told me to go right in. As I went past her I heard, “I always like a man in uniform.”
I looked back to see a smirk.
When I entered the office Mr. Monroe looked up. From the startled look on his face you could tell he had not been expecting me to be in costume.
“Aren’t we paying you enough, Rick?”
“Yes Sir, I mean you are paying me enough. They were short an extra so I filled in. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even sign the paperwork to get the standard day rate.”
“Do that before you leave or you will never see the money, you know how those studios are. Why didn’t you change before you came over?”
“The guy you sent wouldn’t let me take the time.”
He shook his head at that.
“I asked him to ask you to stop by before you left. These young kids get so wrapped up in things and don’t listen.”
“You realize that young kid is probably ten years older than I am?”
“He may be older in years, but that’s it. I need to hire more mature people. Anyway, I asked you to stop by because the team would like to invite you to their next presentation a week from Friday at three in the afternoon.” They have fully implemented the core team concept you helped them develop.”
“I know you really developed it, and then led them to discovering the concept themselves. You know I can never repay you for that. They have blossomed as a team. It is all coming together. I can tell you this; we now have recovered from the financial losses caused by having to sell our theaters. It has put ahead of the competition.
“Not that the competition are dummies. Rick, you may have single handedly saved the movie industry, or at least give us a business model that works.”
“I will be there at the meeting, but I’m not sure I did that much. Yes, as a member of the team I brought forward the extra-board concept from the railroad, which someone else developed a long time ago. That and facilitated the team into coming up with a solution.”
“Yes, but you did it, not someone else; now on to more important matters. Nina says hello. She is having a wonderful time at school in Switzerland, but does miss you.”
“Tell her I said ‘Hi’ back.”
“I will, I think it is fair to tell you that she is dating a boy she met there.”
“I understand, I wouldn’t expect anything different. We were just doing some high school fun dates. Neither of us thought it was going anywhere serious.”
‘Are you seeing anyone Rick?”
“I have a first date with a girl this Friday, other than that no.”
“Well enjoy yourself.”
“I suspect I will, see you later.”
After returning home, it was back to the books, both school and flight.
I was nervous Tuesday morning when we started our walk through downtown LA. It took an hour but I finally described a man who I thought was tailing me. Mr. Robertson shook his head. The next guy I was to tail took me until lunch time to spot. It turned out it was the same man who had a reversible jacket.
Mr. Robertson was really encouraging.
“I was beginning to wonder if you would ever spot him. Don’t take this up as a living because I don’t think you would live very long.”
Boy was that good for my ego. I became determined to do better tomorrow.
I went home for lunch. Mum was there and quizzed me on my morning. I told her about Robertson’s comments. She didn’t say anything, but I could tell she wasn’t pleased. The question was, was it with Robertson or with me? Rather than fret about it, I asked her directly.
“Mum, am I too slow at picking this up?”
“No Rick, you aren’t. The fact that you were able to figure them out at all on your first outing is good. Mr. Robertson appears to think it is below him to teach you. Let’s see how this plays out.
Flight lessons after the morning were wonderful. Mr. McGarry took me through my paces in the air while quizzing me the whole time. He kept asking what I would do if various inflight emergencies occurred. At one point he put the plane in a spin and I had to recover. We lived.
As we flew he had me talk each move out loud as I told him what I was doing and why, this included letting him know that I was aware of my surroundings, especially all aircraft in our area. I didn’t realize how many private planes were flying around us, until I had to keep track of them. I figured that my neck size would grow. I had read that happened to the surviving pilots in the Battle for Brittan.
One thing for certain, when I bought my own airplane I would see about radar. I voiced that thought to Mr. McGarry. Bad idea. He went to great lengths to explain how technology was a help, not a crutch and that Murphy’s Law was alive and well. When I needed that radar the most it would fail. Get used to looking around.
Just before dinner I received a phone call from Susan Wallace. Jack Parr had heard of the tiger incident and wanted me to appear on the Tonight Show. I explained how busy I was and that the week end was the only time I had free. She told me she would check on something and call me back.
Within fifteen minutes she called with a proposal. I would fly to New York Saturday afternoon, tape a segment Sunday morning, and then fly home.
This seemed like a lot of work to me, but Susan convinced me that I shouldn’t pass up the chance to be on the Tonight Show. It certainly would give me more exposure. When I told Mum and Dad the plan they thought it would work.
It was interesting, I could decide to fly across the continent and back and they didn’t care. Announce I was going on a date with a girl my age and they were all over it!
I went to bed a little early and slept all night. I think the thought of the coming weekend made me tired.
Wednesday was more of the same. It took me almost two hours this time. I asked what I was doing wrong.
“Your tail put on and took off his jacket three times, so you never noticed him. You can quit anytime you know.”
I just loved the encouragement and support I was getting.
After lunch, I went for another long run. I could tell I was getting frustrated and needed to clear my head. Even after running I was still frustrated so I did sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups until I couldn’t do any more. My arms were like rubber. I hadn’t kept count, but I think I may have set some personal bests.
After another shower, I hit the books. I was still slightly ahead of schedule on the lesson plan I had been given. I got kind of lucky on a history chapter. It was on the Ohio Valley American Indians. I did that work in no time.
I spent several hours typing up my essays I had for English. One thing for certain, I would never be a writer. I would rather be out doing things than sitting at a typewriter. I had read about the future of computers in Popular Mechanics. They predicted I would be using them to do my homework.
I could picture that with the advent of the transistor, but not for a long time. That kid I pulled out of the water at the Santa Monica pier would be lucky to see it in his lifetime.
I bulled my way through that work and then got on to my newest delight, flying.
The flying textbooks were so interesting that they had to summon me for dinner. The more I studied the theory of flight and its mechanics the more I enjoyed it. But that all paled with the thought of being up in the sky.
I read about an ex-vacuum cleaner salesman named Wormold, he should have stayed selling vacuum cleaners. He did know his Shakespeare. Actually, I doubt if I would have done as well as he did.
Thursday was a nightmare; it was eleven thirty until I realized that my ‘tail’ was in front of me.”
Robertson wasn’t very kind in his remarks. I know he didn’t want this assignment but he must never have heard of grin and bear it.
After lunch, I went over to the studio for the afternoon. I spent time at the archery butts and talked one of the stunt men into some sword play. At least I thought it was a stuntman. I should have guessed he was too old for that.
We started out slow, so I made the mistake of taunting him. The next thing you know, my sword was in the dust and his was at my throat. I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut after that. He was kind enough to give me some tips, and even walked me slowly through some moves.
After showing me, he would take me through them at quarter speed, then half speed, then full on.
Man, for an old guy he had reflexes. Every time I thought I had his measure he would disarm me. I should have been embarrassed, but it was so much fun I didn’t bother. We gathered an audience along the way. As people walked by they would stop. By the time it was done there was a crowd of twenty or so.
After an hour, he came to a halt and told me he had an appointment. We shook hands, but he didn’t give his name. I didn’t push it, anyone that good with a sword could do what he wanted, at least as far as I was concerned.
Dick Wyman was there. He came over shaking his head.
He started with, “Rick, you lucky SOB.”
“You just crossed swords with the greatest swordsman in the movies! Didn’t you know?”
“No I didn’t, I thought he was a stuntman; then realized that he was too old, then I was too busy fighting for my life!”
“Well you just crossed swords with the greatest swordsman in Hollywood and maybe the world.”
“There is no question he is great, I didn’t have a prayer. My reach is greater, I’m faster, and he made me look like a chump.”
“Not a chump Rick, more like a student, mind you a good student, but one never-the-less.”
On the way home I thought about how I would present it to my parents. I decided on nonchalant. It played out exactly like I wanted. At dinner, I was asked about my day.
I filled them in on the disaster of the morning. Then told them I went to the studio for some swordplay. I wound up fighting some old guy. He was fairly good.
I have never seen Dad sputter before.
“You fought with who I think you did?”
“Probably, for an old guy he sure is good.”
I guess that was over the top because Mum gave me a head slap. It didn’t really hurt, but did get my attention. I had seen her do that to a friend of Eddies when he mouthed off a little, I don’t think Mark will forget that very soon. But I was surprised when she did it to me. Matter of fact I don’t think I will forget it soon.
When we were finished eating, Mary handed each of us boys a written invitation to a tea party starting in one hour. She had hand printed them on Mum’s best stationary. A quick glance at Mum and I knew that she was in on this, otherwise Mary would be hearing about the use of her paper.
The invitation was for tea, it stated formal dress, RSVP and signed your Loving Sister Mary.
Denny was about to kick up a row, but a glance from Dad stopped that. Instead we all filed to our rooms to get dressed. I put on my best London suit and vest figuring I might as well go all out.
Both Denny and Eddie did us proud wearing suits and ties. From the neatness of the tie I’m certain they had help from one of the parents.
The tea was to be held in the Reception so I made my way there on time. Mary was there along with Mum and Dad. All were dressed to the nines. We had just got sat down and a maid brought in tea. Another had a plate of dessert cookies and cakes. This was a real tea.
Mary thanked all of us for coming. Now we boys aren’t totally dense so we were on our best behavior. I asked Mary what the occasion was for.
She replied, “This is a practice for when I have my friends over for tea. I want to be able to do it right. I had to obtain Mum’s permission, arrange a menu with cook and write the invitations. This was more work than I thought.
“So we are your guinea pigs?”
“Yes, I wouldn’t want to practice on my friends, boys don’t care if things go wrong.”
“So I won’t be invited to tea anymore?”
Mary got a pensive look on her face.
“Rick I don’t want you to feel bad, but you are really too old to be having tea with five and six year olds.”
“I think you are right, maybe we could go out to dinner when you are older.”
“Yes, I would like that. I can’t go to any of the good places yet because it would be past my bedtime.”
“Okay squirt when you are all grown up, maybe ten?”
“Oh, I would think by the time I’m eight.”
Eddie had to jump in and spoil this conversation.
“Rick, girls have cooties, you don’t want to go out with her.”
Dad can do a head slap as well as Mum.
“I would be delighted to take the beautiful Mary out to dinner when she is older.”
After that we spent time talking about how good the desserts were. Since there weren’t any left, they must have been good. I wouldn’t know as I only had three cookies and two slices of cake.
Later when I returned to my room, I placed Mary’s invitation to tea with other items I wished to keep.
Friday was the worst day of all. I never spotted my tail. When I asked, he laughed.
“There wasn’t any. I wanted to show you what it would be like most of the time when you thought you were being tailed.”
He went in with me when we returned to Jackson House. Mum was waiting in the reception room.
“Lady Jackson I have finished my assignment. He has only shown a modest aptitude for spotting a tail. I didn’t bother to teach him evasion as he won’t be able to evade what he can’t see.”
“Thank you, Mr. Robertson, for your valuable time.”
I started to hold out my hand and thank him, but he abruptly turned and left.
“What a rude man,” I exclaimed.
“I agree. That makes what is going to happen next most pleasurable.”
“Next week I’m going to be teaching you evasion and refining your ability to spot a tail. I suppose I should have done that in the first place. I will certainly be working later with the other children.”
“How will that affect Mr. Robertson?”
“In a little while he will be calling his office to report his task as complete. He will find he is going to spend the next six weeks teaching other agents how to tail. Their target will be you. He shall have to follow while you lead them all on a merry chase”
Note to self, do not irritate Mum.
I spent an hour in the office catching up on business. Well five minutes on business and the rest rehashing last week’s open house. The business part was good, our first full shipment of cargo containers was on its way to Argentina to be picked up by Howell Freight.
I was at Emily’s home in Santa Anna promptly at 6:30 on Friday night. I had dressed California casual, sport coat, polo shirt and slacks. The convertible top was down so I felt pretty sharp when I pulled into their drive way.
I was mentally ready to meet her parents and go through that awkward introduction period. It was as bad as I thought it would be. Bob and Susan Weeks came across as easy going people. I suspect that is because Emily had two older sisters in college and they had rounded the edges off her parents. That was until Emily told me she had to change her sweater.
That gave her father an opportunity to lead me to the kitchen to talk. Why was I nervous all of a sudden? That was quickly dispelled when her Dad winked at me and whispered.
“Rick, this is something I have always threatened to do, but I think you are enough of a good sport for it to work.”
At that we sat down at the kitchen table and he unfolded a cloth where a forty-five colt semi-automatic lay disassembled.
He continued to whisper. “The girls will kill me for this, but I always said I would talk to Emily’s boyfriend while cleaning a weapon.”
I laughed lightly. Did it have a hint of nerves in it? You bet it did. Mr. Weeks, no longer Bob to me, continued on.
“Our rules are pretty simple, Emily is allowed out until eleven o’clock on Friday and Saturday night, no dates during the week. Sunday afternoons end at dinner time. No phone calls after eight o’clock in the evening. You must always tell us where you are going and call if there is a change of plans. Oh yes, always with another couple until Emily is seventeen. She will turn sixteen in two months, any problem with these rules?”
“Good, now I just saw Emily and her Mom peek through the doorway, so she is ready. When she asks tell her I wanted to know your intentions.”
Keeping an eye on the weapon he had just reassembled, I nodded my head, yes. Thankfully there wasn’t a clip in it.
Her next-door neighbor Jill Thompson and her boyfriend Bill Spurgeon had joined Emily in the living room. We couldn’t get out of the house fast enough to a chorus of drive careful, don’t be late, and call if there is trouble.
Emily had a conniption over her dad’s actions. I first relayed to her what I had been told to say. After that in fear for her Dad’s life I told her the actual conversation. It calmed her down a little, I don’t think I wanted to be her father tomorrow morning. As a matter of fact, I wondered how the conversation was going at home. Some ideas while sounding funny; were better to think of, than to be put into practice.
I don’t think I will tell Mum about his having a weapon.
As far as dates went it was uneventful. Not that I was an expert on dates, not having had many. We first went to a drive in and had pizza in the car. This was an excuse for us to talk and get to know each other. Of course, they all seemed well versed on my life. I didn’t know it was so exciting.
I made certain to ask questions about their lives. They didn’t understand that their supposedly normal boring lives were only something I had seen from the outside. I had a little taste of it in Bellefontaine and it sounded wonderful to me.
I found out that none of them were in what was considered the in crowd at school. Emily played the clarinet in the marching band, while Jill played the sax.
Bill’s claim to fame was an active membership in the local historical society. He loved to research the early settlers of the area. This seemed weird to me at first until I remember Chief Blackhoof and how fascinating his story was.
As we were eating our pizza in the car with the top down, I noticed that a lot of kids were making a point of slowing down and saying, “Hi,” to Emily or Jill. A few guys even talked to Bill at what seemed to be the urging of the girls in the car with them.
As the other cars pulled away, I could only hear snatches of the conversation. Words like, movie star, Knight, tiger, see in her. You could tell from their smiles that Emily and Jill heard most of it and were happy young ladies. It seems a few slights and scores over the years were being settled tonight.
Bill wanted to know all about the tiger incident. I gave them the short version; well there really wasn’t a long version. When I told them, I was flying to New York on Saturday night to tape an appearance on the Tonight Show they quieted down. I had intimidated them without trying.
I changed to the conversation to flying lessons and how I thought it was cool that Emily was learning to fly. The fact that I had just soloed was impressive but more in the realm of what was real to them. They thought twenty hours before soloing was a little long but acceptable. You could tell they felt Emily to be superior on that issue.
Now Bill and Jill had never flown and Emily hadn’t soloed yet, but I wasn’t going to bring that up. You could just feel their need to be ahead in something. I could understand that and took it all in stride.
After dinner, we debated going to a drive-in movie or the youth center. Bill was all for the drive-in. Jill followed Emily’s lead on the youth center. I had the feeling that Emily wasn’t ready to neck with me. That may have been presumptuous to think that, but since nobody knew what was playing at the drive-in, I don’t think I was wrong.
I followed the girls lead. I wasn’t looking for a make out session, I wanted some normal friends. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for making out.
After eating we did something I had never heard of before. We went to a shopping mall. I was told this was the coming thing in shopping. The Fashion Square Mall had opened last year. It was built onto Bullocks. It was interesting walking around the stores and looking in the windows. After a while, Neiman-Marcus, The Broadway, Harris & Frank, Desmond’s, and J.J. Candies looked the same to me.
I wanted to go into the candy store, but they dragged me into the tea room at Bullocks. We had PB&J sandwiches. They were awesome!
The real reason for going there was quickly apparent. There were kids from everywhere. This was the cool place to be on Friday night. The rec-center was history; this is where it was at. I think I was introduced to the student bodies of at least three or four high schools. Emily and Jill were taking full advantage of my fame.
Bill and I just went with the flow. He was a cool guy.
A few of the girls we met tried to be extra friendly, but Emily had her territory well-guarded. I thought it was cute of her. First, she was my date so I wouldn’t be rude and pay attention to other girls. Secondly, she was the cutest one I met.
There were a couple of flashy blondes that were cheer-leader types that thought they were hot stuff. Flashy was the thing that turned me off. When I thought of Mum, Anna and Sharon who were the best-looking women I knew, they all were classy looking, not flash. Emily was that same type of understated good looks. Like Audrey Hepburn.
After a while we guys let the girls know enough was enough. We decided to cruise down South Bristol Street between McFadden and Warner. Traffic was slow so we were able to talk to kids in the cars in the next lane. Of course, I had the usual offer to race for pinks, but wasn’t dumb enough to do it.
While we cruised we listen to the radio about, the British kept a-coming, 12th Street and Vine, a purple hat and something that told a tale on you.
Around ten thirty we headed back to Emily’s house. I enjoyed the company, but the evening wasn’t really that much fun. I hoped that future dates would be better. I guess that answered a question, I was thinking of future dates.
After dropping off first Bill and then Jill we headed back to Emily’s. After seeing the kiss Jill laid on Bill, I couldn’t wait to get to Emily’s front door.
It wasn’t to be. Her very harassed looking Dad met us at the front door. I wasn’t even given an opportunity to try for a good night kiss.
“Rick, I owe you an apology for my actions earlier this evening.”
I had to think for a moment.
“You mean the gun cleaning stunt?”
“Yes, I was way out of line. Susan has really let me know about it. Your parents took it in better spirit than she did.