Memoir #2: Bob Martin: Memories of Childhood

(Shards of a tyke, San Francisco, California, 1942-43)

Early Memories as a Child

Parting is hard to do, especially for the very young. A case in point was Bobby’s habit of spending numerous waking hours with his dad.

True, the little tyke spent innumerable hours with his mom. She talked with, read to, and played with him throughout the course of her homemaker’s chore day, between laundry sequences, meal preparations, house cleaning, shopping, and maybe a stop at the playground.

When Bob took him out, it meant a shoulder ride through the streets, inspecting the latest buys in the used car lots along Van Ness Street, sharing a chocolate bar together or getting his own Cho-cho malt ice cream.

On some days, the two of them would go to the "Up Town" movie theater on Fillmore Street. The theater must have been built around the turn of the century, and probably was used first as a vaudeville palace. By the time that dad and Bobby went up its rickety old wooden stairs, leading up to a well-used ticket booth, it had definitely seen better days.

For them, passing through its large fading painted wooden doors meant an hour and a half, or so, of great entertainment. They both enjoyed the action cowboy westerns together. The films were usually one and two reelers, running just the right length of time for two fellows out of the house, giving mom some time to complete her household day.

The cowboy films were shown continuously, with an obligatory cartoon or two, previews of coming attractions, and a few minutes of newsreel.

Non-stop showings were ideal for a kid. There was no “coming in late, waiting in the lobby for the next show to begin, nor lining up early to get a good seat.” The two always managed to sit side-by-side. That was necessary if they were going to share a bag of popcorn. Bob held the bag, he was always more steady with it. Bobby sometimes became absorbed in the movie, tipping the bag a bit too far over and spilling some of the kernels on the floor. Bob never did and besides, Bobby could always count on big Bob to share whatever he had, and then some.

If the day’s films were especially good, the little tyke wouldn’t have minded seeing a sequence or two over again; but Bob always knew when the cycle was repeating itself. He would lean over and whisper, just loud enough for Bobby to hear, “Let’s go, this is where we came in”.

So maybe it wasn’t so unusual, if Bobby was up in the morning, to join his folks for breakfast and have every intention to tag along with dad afterwards. The scenario always seemed to be the same.

Mom would tell Bobby that his father was going to work, but the concept of work didn’t hold much efficacy for a child who was a three or four year old.

Bob would pick the little tyke up, give him hug, and say something like, “We’ll be going out later on today,” and hand him to mom. Even as she tried to wave good-bye, Bobby would begin squirming out of her arms, not wanting to lose this great opportunity to be with his father. By the time that he was free, Bob had already reached the bottom of the stairs and already going out of the first landing door.

Going as fast as his legs would carry him, Bobby could never manage to catch up with Bob at that critical juncture in the morning. So when he reached the landing door he would call out to him, trying to get his attention and so get him to return. Even slapping his hand on the door’s glass center portion had no effect. It never worked. It was always in vain.

Bobby would often end up crying himself to sleep on the entryway throw rug

What the little tyke didn’t know was that his mother always came to scoop him up in her arms, carry him back up the flight of stairs and into the kitchen, placing Bobby in the breakfast nook booth.

There she would enjoy his company, both while sleeping, and soon after wards, when he awoke for new adventures.

—Copyright © R. M. Martin; Shards of a Tyke, San Francisco, California; 1942-43.

Memoirs Directory for Robert M. Martin.