The Heritage Chapter Seven Lives Next Steps
It was a bit difficult to believe, but I had just completed my first year of college.
It had been more than a challenge having to deal with issues as having been out
of school for the two years. After serving in the Army and having to get used to
being a student again. Then there was a matter of having enough money to live
on. What I had saved working for my uncle, what little I received from my GI
Bill funds and a part-time job I had made life really tough. Of course, it didn't
help that I decided to try out for the football team. I loved the sport, and this also
added an addition to my life as a student, but making the team as both a running
back and safety made it worth the effort.
My first year at South Valley Junior College was now behind me, and I needed
to start putting together funds to make it through a second year. It was nice to
know that I would soon be receiving in addition to the GI Bill some scholarship
funds for playing football. This would start once I made the team in the fall. I
knew my uncle would have me working for him at the used car and parts place.
It stood on the property where both he and my aunt lived as well as his two
daughters, my loving cousins who seemed more like sisters. I would also be able
to make a bit more working at the gas station and repair garage he had open in
Life’s path seems to take many strange turns. I didn’t have the slightest idea of
where I was going after graduating from Clayton High now three years ago, and
now, I was here. I had made up my mind to enlist in the reserves; however,
halfway thru basic training, I changed my mind and made it a two-year
enlistment. This choice came about because this would qualify me to obtain the
GI Bill, which should pay in part for a college education. Those two years in the
service, most of it spent in Germany as a mechanic in the motor pool passed
quickly now, I was a college student with one year completed.
It was good to be back in my tiny eleven by ten room in the house of my aunt
and uncles’ home. I was more than happy to have the room which was the
bedroom for my aunts three daughters. Two of which were now married and
gone the youngest Doris now had the place the boys had all to herself.
Augustine and Antonia Mondragon saw their two sons enlist into the service, one
to the Army and the other had chosen the Marines. Both had decided to make it
their careers and a way to get out of Clayton and its shortcomings.
This was destined to be a busy summer for Johnny as he would sometimes refer
to himself. There was working for two jobs for his uncle. Remaining in the
reserves after his two-year commitment he would have to make a two-week
commitment plus weekend end meeting once a month. Which he was allowed to
miss during the football season at South Valley. One other promise made to his
closest friend Samuel Tamayo and that was to work with him when cutting logs
for the local sawmill and firewood to homes in the winter.
Two weeks had passed since my return back to Clayton, living with my uncle’s
family, working 12 to 14 hours each day and the day or two with Sam. The
Tamayo family lived in a secluded Colonia or village outside of town. The valley
with some other families who worked the lumber for a living. The Tamayo’s
were a part of a religious sect who practiced strict methods in the observance of
their faith know to some as Pentecostals and to others as holy rollers. During
the school months, they would load up the children of the village into a flatbed
truck. The vehicle would now call a camper and get them to the school campus
which housed elementary, junior and senior high school.
It was at school where I first met Samuel in the first or second grade. I
immediately like him because he was a tough kind of kid who would go out of
his way to avoid any kind of confrontation. I resented the other boys in school
calling him and the few others like him as holy rollers behind their backs and at
times to their faces. Sam would stand his ground. I only knew of him physically
taking on an aggressor once perhaps twice and teaching them a lesson on
respecting both himself and others of his faith.
Sam would be my closest friend all through school, and I wished he could be
able to participate in sports he did not. First, because he had to be on the truck
after school to get back to his village. Second, his faith did not see playing
football or any sport as a good practice. We were good friends, I could never get
him to spend the night in town, yet I was invited to visit with him and his family
every once and a while.
Sam's parents Modesto and Christina Tamayo were not only the foundation of
the household, which consisted of Sam's three sisters but the Colonia called Los
Lillios de las Villias. The Lilies of the Valley where Modest served as the
Pastor. While I visited with the family a few times, I only spent one weekend at
their home. It was then that I attended a church service with the members of the
community, which I would say was the entire village. It was perhaps the
strangest church service I would ever witness at least at the time I attended. I
nor any of the Mondragon family were religious and seldom attended services at
the local Catholic church which for the most part was participated in by the
Hispanic families of Clayton. As a family, we believed in God but had little ties
to the church a reason that was kept quiet by the Mondragon elders of the house.
I did have one kind of particular reason for going down usually on Monday or
Tuesday this to work with Sam in the logging camp. After a hard day of
working, I would join the family for supper. It was during this time I could
glance across the table at Sam's youngest sister Stephanie who was about 15 or
16 at the time and was charming. The young ladies in the Tamayo family were
very modest. This was true of all young ladies in the village, they avoided any
interaction with the boys or young men around them. Especially if they were
what was referred to as non-believers. I was never able to have any words with
Sam’s sister but never the less she was so very, very pretty.
So far, my summer was proving not to have the opportunity to enjoy much free
time. I had a continued desire to have a day or two to fish and once again get a
chance to hook El Viejo. For more years than I could remember I had been
trying to put this fish in my net, and although I wanted to catch him, I knew I
would release him quickly. I was getting ready to take advantage of a free
afternoon and drown a few worms. It was on this day that I heard the sound of
a horn outside of the house. Figuring I would find someone needing my help
for their vehicle I reluctantly stepped outside the door fishing pole in my hand.
To my surprise, the first thing I saw was a familiar looking car, one I had
worked on a year or so back. Standing there looking the same as I had seen her
last after a day of fishing was Mary Ellen Cassidy.
Hey Johnny, good to see you, Mary Ellen greeted him in her usual cheerful
manner, what you up to. Don’t tell me your going fishing and didn’t even think
to call me.
Hi yourself, how are you doing, I just thought of fishing a few minutes ago, well
maybe an hour or so. How could I tell you I haven't the slightest idea of how to
get in touch with you even if I had a way.
Just kidding Johnny, wow it's good to see you were here quick response.
I now figured this day of fishing was now history as we stood outside the house
by her car sharing the last few years of our lives. I shared a little about my time
in the Army and my first year of college. Mary Ellen filled me in with life at
State College and in her senior year, working on her major in business
management. It was now the plan for her father to give her full reins of the
Cassidy enterprise. After graduation and a few more years of learning from her
dad how things worked. Sadly, her brother Wayne was not in good standings
with her dad having found more of a desire to playing around then focusing on
running the business. Never the less it was serving as a sort of figurehead with a
plush office at the principal office of the company.
Johnny, Mary Ellen inquired, why don’t you come to the office and apply for a
position in the company for a summer job. You can probably make more in less
time doing all the work you’re now doing.
Sounds good, Johnny answered, but I have already committed myself to work
with my uncles. Plus the reserves and Sam’s family and I don’t want to back
I can understand that Mary Ellen replied. Well, maybe the next time you go
fishing, you can give me a call, and hopefully, I can come along.
Okay, I'll do that was my reply, it was nice seeing you again. The conversation
ended, and each went in different directions, a direction that would not see them
cross paths for more than a few years.
For the remainder of the summer of what was now 1951, Johnny made sincere
efforts to full fill the plan he had laid down until he returned to South Valley.
Things were going much better than the previous year. The burden of not
having to work a part-time job did not enable Johnny to focus more on his
academics more so when the scholarship for football was increased. Playing
football went exceptionally well for the South Valley team. Even more so for
Johnny, setting several records in the league in his role as the running back. He
dropped the double roll on the defense as safety which he did the previous year.
The success of football season for the SV’s was catching the attention of the
scouts from several 4 years state colleges and universities as was the numbers
being put up by Johnny Morales. He was now being approached with
scholarship offers from two or three of the top schools, and Johnny was now
seeing the possibility of two more years of college. SV would, however, fall short
one game of winning the division championship. But never the fewer things
were still looking great for Morales and his future as at least Division II starter
and the opening for a four-year degree. However, a new obstacle now loomed
for Johnny in a country thousands of miles from Clayton and Johnny’s future
dreams, a place called Korea.
Although his reserve unit gave Morales a good deal of leeway on his duties, he
was still a member of the Army Reserves. Within days of his graduation from
SV, he would find out that the entire reserve unit had been called on active duty
and destined for South Korea. Johnny was promoted from a Corporal to a Buck
Sargent and place as the platoon leader within the Headquarters S3. He was
now part of the team that would generate the orders for combat actions, taking
the orders to the line units often time by foot in the middle of the battle
It was a terrible spring and summer for the Mondragon’s as they soon learned
that both of their sons, now career servicemen had been deployed to Korea.
Julian, the oldest was assigned to the motor in Pusan and Freddy who was 15
months younger, was assigned to a combat unit in his role of a Marine. Upon
finding out that Johnny was now going to Korea, his Aunt Tonie cried, feeling
that it was not fair that her three boys were off to war. As far as his aunt was
concern Johnny was no different than the two sons she had actually given birth
A few days before being shipped out with his reserve unit, Johnny made a trip to
La Colonia to say farewell to his friend Sam and the rest of the Tamayo family.
Upon arriving at the home of the family, Johnny founded out that Sam had
already been drafted into the Army. His family wanted him to claim the status
of a conscious objector because of his religious affiliation as others in the
Colonia had done, but Sam chooses instead took the avenue of applying as a
Medic and could serve but not have to carry a weapon. Johnny's only hope was
that if the two crossed paths, it would not be having to need the help of his
The Korean war was beginning the second year when Johnny and his unit
arrived and were assigned to a larger group in Pusan. The fight by this time was
in full force, and many of the GIs in the support was being called up to the front
lines, Johnny was given another stripe and found himself running between
headquarters and the front with combat orders when radio contact was lost with
the units serving in direct combat. It would be close to one year when Johnny
met up with his brother Julian who was also finding himself close or in the front
lines repair or hauling vehicles of all sorts back to the motor pool. The first
subject that came up between the two was the question of Freddy who was now
listed as missing in action, no one knew if he was alive or perhaps in a prisoner
of war camp.
Several months after meeting with Julian, Johnny was to find out that Julian
had received a severe wound while trying to recover a down tank. As he moved
toward the tank connect the hook and cable to the tank, he stepped on a mine.
This would eventually cost him the loss of his leg and returning back to the states
and his home and family in Clayton. Johnny would also find his friend Sam
recovering from a wound he received while going to the aid of soldiers who had
been shot in combat. The injury would keep him at the aid station for the
remainder of the war, Johnny could breathe easier for his friend until he was
shipped home in the early spring of 1953.