BITS and PIECES # 61

2

November 21, 2016 by palamow

 

 

Hello again from Luquillo,

I hope you all are well and looking forward to sharing a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday meal with family and friends – Pam and I will be eating our turkey and trimmings in advance of Thursday when we share our feast with friends, and give thanks for the blessings in our lives at our local church on Sunday …

Lately, it seems that the politically-charged issue of immigration and the status of immigrants in our beloved country has occupied center stage with political parties, elected and newly-elected officials (and, of course the media …

Accordingly, BITS and PIECES # 61 describes a couple of immigrants who impacted my life when I was a very young boy …

I hope you will find my story both entertaining and thought provoking, regardless of your position on this controversial issue …

So, here it is:

MR. SPAGHETTI AND MR. KISHIMOTO

I was fortunate to have some good friends as I was growing up. I have written about my ‘adventure’ with my friend Mr. Muller, our German immigrant Arden Farms milkman in BITS and PIECES # 60. The kindness and understanding shown to me by Mr. Muller and two other immigrant gentlemen; Mr. ‘Spaghetti’ and Mr. Kishimoto was equally formative during the early years of my youth…

When I was four years of age my parents would occasionally determine that my behavior and observance of manners had improved to the extent that they entitled me to visit the Good Humor man’s ice cream truck …

Getting there from our Beverly Hills home involved a fairly long trek for a four year old – up the steepish hill behind our house on Chevy Chase drive and then down a half-mile segment of tree lined Angelo drive until it intersected with Sunset boulevard as this famous thoroughfare curved westward toward the Pacific ocean. In the late afternoon, ‘my’ Good Humor truck was customarily parked for a half hour or so on the shoulder of the road, in the shade of a pleasant-smelling, eucalyptus tree. Its driver/ice cream purveyor, and valued friend Mr. Alphonse Szigetti, a short, ruddy-faced gentleman of Italian ancestry, was clad in the traditional Good Humor Man uniform: white, long-sleeved shirt, short black leather apron, and black twill pants, the impressive ensemble topped-off by a leather-billed cap emblazoned with the distinctive Good Humor Company’s badge of office …

From the beginning of our relationship, I purposely mispronounced Mr. Szigetti’s surname – he was Mr. ‘Spaghetti’ to me, a sobriquet that he accepted willingly, with characteristic Italian bonhomie …

Mr. Spaghetti’s memory was prodigious – my favorite Good Humor ice cream bar flavor was chocolate covered mint – Szigeti/Spaghetti never failed to remember this salient fact – when he saw me coming, he would declaim “Hey ‘Butch’” (honesty compels me to reveal that my mother had bestowed this odious nickname upon me at a tender age), “I think I’m out-a the mint today, how about-a the butter pecan?” I would stoically stand my ground while he buried his head and shoulders inside the tiny door that gave access to his frozen treasure, making a great show of searching around for a minute or so while the icy fog from the refrigerated compartment escaped into the warm southern California afternoon. He would finally emerge in triumph with my longed-for mint and chocolate bar, exclaiming “Well what-a you know, I found-a one last mint bar and by golly it has-a your name written right-a here on the stick!” (as always, he had surreptitiously penciled the pertinent information on the wooden stick when he perceived my imminent arrival) …

Mr. Spaghetti and I never tired of playing-out this standard routine, although my Swiss nanny Bertha Vonweil, who supervised my afternoon ice cream marches, would roll her eyes heavenward, tapping a sensibly clad foot impatiently on the curbstone as we concluded our inevitable ritual …

I would thank Mr. Spaghetti effusively as I shook his chilly hand with my tiny, chocolate encrusted paw – and we’d agree to reconnect again soon …

The walk home while I consumed the remains of my favorite Good Humor bar was all the more satisfying as I reflected that my friend Mr. Spaghetti and I had once again persisted in the performance of such a mutually important transaction …

Thank you Mr. Spaghetti …

And then, of course, there was Mr. Kishimoto:

I had turned six years of age in 1940 – World War II was raging in Europe and the Japanese empire was completing the planned subjugations of its Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, but none of this had yet affected the tranquility of our back yard on Chevy Chase Drive …

My father had enrolled me in something called the ‘Men of the Trees’. which encouraged enrollees to plant seeds and trees and most importantly, entitled me to wear a tiny badge that featured an illustration of an evergreen tree. When wearing the badge, I imagined that I was a forest ranger, roaming among the trees and plants that comprised our backyard ecosystem on make-believe forest adventures …

Our gardener/landscaper was a fascinating old man named Jimu ‘Jimmy’ Kishimoto. Mr. Kishimoto arrived twice a week at an early hour in his battered Ford pickup truck – the tools of his trade – push lawnmower, edger, clipping shears, shovels, spades, seedlings in small cardboard boxes and seeds in linen pouches, were organized carefully on the truck’s wooden bed …

Mr. Kishimoto radiated a fascinating aroma comprised of equal parts of earth and vegetation, a compelling combination of smells for a six year old forest ranger …

He was typically clad in worn jodhpur breeches stuffed into high rubber boots, a work-soiled, long-sleeved khaki shirt and a worn leather vest, topped-off with a battered, sweat-stained, broad-brimmed fedora hat, and of course the ubiquitous bandanna wound about his sun-tanned neck …

His language was strange – his r’s always sounded more like l’s to me – and vice-versa – I was captivated by him, and dogged his footsteps, relishing each encounter with this mysterious man from far-off Japan …

Mr. Kishimoto was extremely patient with me, he was meticulous and devoted to his work, but I sensed that he welcomed the opportunity to pause and pass-on bits and pieces of his vast botanical knowledge to his tiny tow-headed assistant …

He communicated his consuming love for trees, plants and all growing things by showing me how to plant, trim and graft new limbs on the trees in our backyard – I watched fascinated as he planted a lemon tree in an area he had carefully cultivated next to the swimming pool (it became our ‘Victory Garden’ during World War II) and a pomegranate tree and some poinsettias next to my sister’s playhouse …

He instructed me carefully on the mysterious manner in which bees pollinated the avocado tree dad had gotten as a gift from gossip columnist Luella Parsons, showing me how their busy endeavors caused the reluctant tree to finally bear fruit …

A few years ago, I was able to visit my old home, to find that after seventy-odd years, many of the trees that I helped Mr. Kishimoto plant still flourish and bore fruit, and the poinsettias still flowered around Christmastime – a tribute to Mr. Kishimoto’s botanical acumen, and his adept planting ethos …

I followed him around faithfully for over a year – and then suddenly, it was December 7th 1941 – our family listened to FDR’s ‘Day of Infamy’ speech on the Philco console radio in dad’s study – soon after that Mr. Kishimoto disappeared – dad later discovered that, like so many Japanese-Americans, he and his family had been taken from their home and interned in a camp in northern California for the duration of the war. I vaguely recall dad’s attempts to intercede on his behalf to no avail – sadly, I never saw Mr. Kishimoto again …

These days, as I write natural history booklets, stories and articles about the rainforest eco-systems that begin quite near our condominium home in northeastern Puerto Rico, I like to think that if I have developed any skill in describing vegetation and wildlife, it was nurtured by Jimmy Kishimoto – his infinite patience with a bothersome little botanical acolyte, jump-started my lifelong interest in our planet’s flora and fauna.

Thank you Mr. Kishimoto …

© 2016 – Alan Mowbray Jr.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “BITS and PIECES # 61

  1. Rose says:

    How nice to see a new Bits and Pieces in my mailbox Alan. It’s been too long! I enjoyed your story. I felt like I was there with you getting a Good Humor and working on the garden. You certainly have a writing gift. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  2. mkhulu says:

    Welcome back Pard.

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