Through Any Given Door

1.59 The Sight of Blood

Jan 1950 • Larry’s diary (age 15)
Jan 4  Started carbon work in typing. Carlson led band, Hagemeyer sick. Had mock trial in Business Law. Called up Curnow and checked homework
Jan 7  Started reading book How to Win friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Washed windows for C. Williamson for 1st time
Jan 8  Rained all day. Saw show Johnny Stool Pigeon and Once More, My Darling, fire warning goes off three times at noon because of the cold
Jan 9  Saw show Tell It to the Judge. There was no T.C.B. as yet. Called to office for Chemistry. Nosebleed in P.E. Hit Smith in back of head with my face.
Jan 11  Went to show Joan of Ark at Upper $1.10 very very good. School let out early because of snow. Got adds for Wildcat. B. Church stayed overnight
Jan 14 (16th birthday) Quit window washing jobs at Maxwells, Lode O’ Gold, Blisses, Adrians, and Sprouse Reitz. Worked there for almost 7 years. Got leather jacket and started getting allowance of $3.00 per week.

Jan 15  Snow on top of church came down loudly during 11:00 o’clock mass. Had $20.52 return in sheet music including Christmas
Jan 16  Got sick and had to leave first period chemistry, almost blacked out. Dawson sent me home with bus driver
Jan 17  Stayed home today.
Jan 18  Saw A Song is Born with Danny Kaye and many jazz favorites. First day back at school after illness. Bought shirt at Pennies
Jan 19  Went to T.C.O. set date for concert. Played basketball at noon and took shower without towel. Went to typing room 6th and typed for Wildcat.
Jan 21  First Saturday that I haven’t washed regular windows altho I washed Art Schultz and Gem Cafe. Wore new clothes
Jan 28  Washed keys and other parts of typewriter, took it apart and cleaned out inside, also cleaned out and mopped and waxed toilet room
Jan 29  Had High Mass at church lasted one hour, Choir sang. took bath downstairs because pipes upstairs are still broken.

Feb 1950 • Larry’s diary (age 16)
Feb 1  Learned to play Canasta, played over 4 hours. Won every game but 1.
Feb 4  Saw Larry Rotelli washing Blisses windows. Played Canasta for second time. Got haircut, cut off wart with nail clippers
Feb 5  Went to Redwood City with Dad, drove part way. Stayed overnight. Went downtown tho it was raining, got book
Feb 8  Went to scout meeting and signed up with air scouts. Baby Cathy is sick with cut finger.
Feb 9  Went to T.C.O. (Tuolumne County Orchestra). Dawson and rest picked me up. Polished up bottom half of horn. Dropped it on way home and made big dent in it.
Feb 12  Lots of skiers in town, mostly girls and women. Am still sore in neck and arm from tumbling. Bought a nut roll.
Feb 13  Holiday today. Burned up bunch of pocket books and magazines. Took pictures out of room and cleaned it
Feb 16  Played a little tennis, went to T.C.O. (Tuolumne County Orchestra), not many there. Asked Dad about getting a tuba this summer, he said maybe.
Feb 17  Bob Gorman (Larry’s scout leader and local Sonora policeman) was killed in a motorcycle accident below Jamestown
Feb 26  Dad was sick so I kept store open all day alone. Started making new control envelopes for Victor red seal records

Note: Larry had daily entries in the months of January and February, typical of those in the past dealing with school, sports, band, and work; I only noted what would be of most interest of those two months in the entries above. He’s pictured in his new leather jacket in the Commercial Club group photo in the 1950 Green and Gold yearbook


Feb 8, 1950 • Sonora, California ~ Mom’s ham and cheese sandwiches were our favorite lunch. She ground the ham with her metal meat grinder which she vise-locked onto the edge of the yellow Formica kitchen table. After filling the soft hot dog buns, she rolled them in waxed paper, twisted the ends, then heated them on a cookie sheet in the oven.

She let me help this one time. I was a year-and-a-half, perched on the chair between her legs, my hand just big enough to fit through the opening into the metal housing, my finger pushing the meat in. Now the way these contraptions are constructed, when something gets ground in and jammed, you have to turn the handle in reverse to unjam it.

Cathy Clemens 1949 Sonora one year old


Betty said I didn’t make a sound when it happened; my eyes grew huge, I didn’t cry or move, I merely turned ashen. My right index finger was jammed in the gear piece with the metal blade cutting into the bone above the first joint. The handle wouldn’t budge in reverse. Mom and my sisters screamed, watching the blood running out the front of the grinder into the bowl. The girls flew hysterically to the store for Daddy who came home on a dead run. He unscrewed the grinder from the table, scooped me up, and sprinted to the Sonora Hospital. With my finger wedged in tight and wrapped in blood-soaked towels, he handed me and the grinder over to the doctor. The room began to spin, he broke out in a cold sweat, and then my father keeled over.

He always fainted. He fainted when Carleen jumped off the back porch and ran a nail clear through her foot, and when she ran both arms through the wringer washing machine and her right arm broke and Mom had to hit the safety release to get her out. He fainted when she broke her left arm bike riding with Larry (Mike Symons had given his bike to Carleen, but he neglected to mention it had bad brakes. Coasting down Baretta and unable stop, she fell and broke her arm. Larry was in shock; he felt like he should’ve protected her.) He fainted when she fell on her roller skates, breaking her right wrist while her arm was still in the cast. Dad waited until he got us to the hospital, then he fainted. The only living things he mortally harmed was the rooster that crowed at 4:00 a.m. and the dog he accidentally killed when he whacked it over the head with a shovel to stop it from killing the baby chicks; he fainted both those times, too. My father was only tough on the outside.

to be continued…

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. One of my nephews is named after Larry Rotelli. He and my brother-in-law were friends.

  2. Jim Chatfield says:

    I don’t blame your dad from feeling weak when it was something happening to his children. When my youngest daughter was about 3 and fell off neighbores porch and had a large cut above her eye and I took her out to base hospital, the doctor told me to go out to waiting room because he didn’t want to take care of two patients. I was white as a sheet. I can sympathize with your dad.

  3. Edna Bowcutt says:

    What fun to read about an L. Rotelli. I am hoping it is the L. Rotelli that I know!

    • Hi Edna, Larry said L. Rotelli was Larry, a boy a couple of years younger. His brother Delbert was in my brother’s class, and their mother was Treana Rotelli. She was two years older than mom and worked for our dad in the Clemens’ store.

  4. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    There is a word for those “fainters”. My husband had it. Called Vaso Vagel. He could skin a deer while sitting on it eating his sandwich for lunch, but when something on me or our kids was bleeding, out he’d go. I thought it was called Vasco Vagle, but when he was in hospital last year, nurse corrected my spelling–like it was going to matter then 🙂 Was that you writing below the *** Catherine?

    • Larry suffers fainting also. I’ve only fainted twice, when my older son broke his hand and the doctor snapped the bone back in. He had smelling salts for both of us and caught me as I was going down. I also fainted outside the doctor’s office when he was little and had head stitches, once again. Yes, anything written above or below the diaries is my commentary. I wrote the book, then when Larry sent me transcripts of his diary, I interspersed them within the story in a chronological timeline. Hmmmm, I’m wondering if there is a way I should make that more clear.

  5. I spotted Larry (handsome in his new leather jacket) right away. What a sweet dad. Wonder if he stayed out long. Do you remember your finger episode? Yikes!

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