The Life and Times of Michael C. McGoodwin
Earliest Years Through Junior High School 1944 – 1957

Youth is wasted on the young.
(George Bernard Shaw)

Jim, Mike, Russ, Tina, and Scott McGoodwin in 1954 (photo J. R. Wait)
Jim, Mike, Russ, Tina, and Scott in 1954     HiRes

Topics Discussed On This Page

Earliest Years 1944 – 1950

Michael McGoodwin in 1945
Mike c. early 1945

I was born in Houston in January 1944 during the height of World War II.  (Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, 1933 – 1945, followed by Harry S. Truman, 1945 – 1953).  The story of my origins and early years is partly told on my parents page. 

Houston Home 1944 – 1947:  We lived in a suburb of Houston, Bellaire, at 4403 Jonathan Street, until I was three.  (Google reveals some imposing two story houses at this general location now, but I believe our neighborhood consisted of one-story ramblers at the time.)  This neighborhood is about 3 miles WSW from Rice University and 6 miles SW from downtown Houston.

208 Brightwood Place San Antonio 1940s
208 Brightwood Place in Alamo Heights (San Antonio) Texas in the late 1940s

First Alamo Heights (San Antonio) Home 1947 – 1953: In 1947, we moved to San Antonio, to live at 208 Brightwood Place in the city of Alamo Heights (which is surrounded by San Antonio and described here).  It was also a modest house, with asbestos shingle siding.  We tried to keep cool initially with a large and noisy cubical evaporative cooler hanging in the back window—this preceded the widespread home availability (beginning in the 1950s) of the more effective Freon-charged window unit air-conditioners.  The neighborhood was new and pleasant, and there was a great deal of vacant land just to the east across N New Braunfels Avenue, and also to the north.  A mile or less to the west was the limestone quarry and cement plant which belched white smoke—Russ recalls hearing the occasional sound of dynamiting coming from that direction.  Downtown San Antonio was 5 to 6 miles to the SSW.

Mike and Russ McGoodwin in Medina Texas August 1945
Mike and Russ at Medina Texas in August 1945
Mike and Russ McGoodwin in Medina Texas August 1945
Mike and Russ at Medina Texas in August 1945

Church and Camp Capers: My mother insisted that the family attend church, and we joined St. Luke's Episcopal Church, located at that time about 10 blocks south on Cloverleaf Avenue.  I was soon christened there (and will have more to say about religion elsewhere).  A favorite outing for Tina and her kids (while Jim apparently played golf with colleagues) was a trip to Camp Capers, the Episcopal Diocese's camp and family retreat site on the Guadalupe River near Waring Texas. 

Other Family Outings: In leisure time, the family initially also made trips in Texas to the Gulf Coast at Rockport (a mainland town on Aransas Bay) and nearby Port Aransas (on the north tip of Mustang Island), as well as the Texas Hill Country destinations of Kerrville and cabins on the scenic Medina River and Lake

Although I recall only fragments from those early years, according to my mother, I was a contented child, was self-motivated, played with blocks happily and creatively by myself, was an avid learner, was fairly quiet, and did a lot of napping.  My mother relates that I once fell out of the upper bunk bed with a loud thump but remained blissfully asleep—this pleasant recollection seems implausible to me!  I attended the church's nursery school beginning at age 5, but according to my mother had a hard time learning to play with the other kids and was apparently rather shy, a mother's boy.  My mother tells me that I was eager to hear what my brother Russ had to say about what he had learned at school, that he lovingly taught me about numbers and words, giving me a head start on reading by the time I began first grade.   (This was of course long before the availability of the outstanding Sesame Street.)  The family car was a 1947 Chevrolet, and in 1948 my parents bought a 1949 gray Chevrolet (the car I took to college).

Elementary School Years 1950 – 1955

Starting School 1950: I apparently started first grade at Cambridge Elementary School in about January 1950—my teacher was probably Ms. Cox.  Although the details are fuzzy, I skipped part of first grade, entering second grade at the age of 6 probably in fall 1950.  My second grade teacher was probably Ms. Anderson, and my third grade teacher possibly Ms. Richter.  In May 1950, my youngest brother Scott was born.  By that year, there were also some marital difficulties developing according to my mother, making the home environment less optimal.

Visiting My Grandmother: At about ages 6 to 9, I went each summer on enjoyable week-long visits to the small town of Sealy Texas, about 150 miles to the east toward Houston.  I stayed with my loving grandmother MaMaw (Catherine) and her second husband (my step-grandfather) Bob Sellingsloh, who sold brooms to help make ends meet.  I loved being like an only child there with special attention from MaMaw, and liked the easy going small town feeling, the iron-laden red dirt streets, and their simple house with dirt driveway and garage floor.  (I did not enjoy the rusticity quite as much as Russ did—Bob for example taught Russ how to set trot lines to catch catfish, how to shoot guns, etc.)  Life at Bob's was rather austere, and he could be crude and somewhat miserly (though understandable in view of his limited means).  I was reading the Hardy Boys and other adventure stories during some of these visits in Sealy, and remember also going to the local drug store, which had a soda fountain and was a good source of comic books. 

Friends: My childhood friend Bobby McBride, who lived in nearby Terrell Heights with his mother Zela, often visited his grandparents living near our Brightwood home.  His grandmother Mrs. Bee Davis had a green thumb and raised lovely house plants including coleuses and succulents such as the "mother of thousands" (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) that I enjoyed viewing.  This exposure helped to kindle my interest in botany at an early age.  I also was close friends with a male friend Tylee Cool, who unfortunately moved away too soon to Cleveland.

Mike and Russ McGoodwin 1951 (photo J. R. Wait)
Mike and Russ 1951

Sports and Recreations: For about three summers (c. 1950 – 2), I attended Jack Tolar's River Ranch for swimming and kick ball, etc., and also took swim lessons at Alamo Heights Swimming Pool beginning at about the age of 6.  It was a great pool with a separate 14 foot deep diving pool to accommodate the 10 meter board.  There was a worrisome outbreak of polio (infantile paralysis) that peaked in the early 1950s and that caused my mother to put a stop to our swimming in the public pools.  Fortunately, the Salk killed-virus vaccine became widely available in 1954 or 1955 (and the Sabin live-virus vaccine became available in about 1963), so that we could resume swims in the oppressive San Antonio summer heat.  We also enjoyed swimming at the Westerner Motel pool, a favorite treat made possible initially when out-of-town guests stayed there, and later we were somehow given permission by the manager to use it on our own.  I had little interest in sports other than swimming, and did not follow my mother's suggestion to try out at Little League baseball.  I do however recall enjoying playing kickball and softball.  In c. 1949, we acquired our first dog, a boxer named Tuffy.  In the mid 1950s, we had a purebred toy poodle—sometimes called a French toy poodle—named Polly which bore us 17 puppies in 4 litters.  We sold these for about $50 each.  Once, the poodle was not thriving, and I was impressed that the veterinarian was somehow able to detect a rubber band that was encircling her furry neck and had become invisibly embedded under the skin.  In the late 1950s, we had a black Labrador retriever named Tar Baby (a dog Scott was especially fond of).

By 1952, I was taking piano lessons.  (The musical and religious aspects of my early life are separately discussed.)

Dining: A favorite dinner excursion was to Damon's restaurant to have scrumptious fried Gulf Coast shrimp.  We also liked barbecue at the Bun 'N' Barrel (a "curb service" restaurant on the Austin Highway with a smoking and blackened barbecue pit that looked like a scene out of Hades), Mexican Food at La Paloma and other later favorite Mexican restaurants including La Fonda on Broadway, and Cantonese Chinese food at Tai Shan Restaurant.  On rarer occasions, we enjoyed fried chicken at an atmospheric place well north from town called Wolfe's Inn. (Note 4)

Autos and Travels 1951 to 1953: On trips to Houston, we often stayed in the fancy Shamrock Hilton Hotel, a Texas-sized extravagance built by oilman Glenn H. McCarthy in the late 40's (and demolished in 1987).  My father allowed us kids to order room-service breakfasts, and I loved the huge pool (which had a 10-meter board).

We made the first of many family summer trips to Colorado in 1951 (Mesa Verde, Colorado Springs, perhaps Estes Park) as well as to New Mexico (Roswell, Taos, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque).  I was between second and third grades.  Colorado has long been a favorite retreat for Texans during the hot months.  We drove in our new 1951 Chevrolet De Luxe station wagon, a "woody".

We had a great summer trip to Colorado in 1952 after my third grade, staying near Creede (a silver mining town at 8,800 feet in the San Juan Mountains in Mineral County,  SW Colorado).  We were staying at a ranch or dude ranch at about 10,000 feet, possibly with "Ponce Valley" in its name, and rode horses high in those mountains.  (I remember mine was so eager to return to the stable when we turned back that I could not rein it in.)  We also stayed in Ouray, where we had a cozy cabin with a coal-burning stove to keep warm.  This was the first time I had ever seen coal—it was very shiny, presumably the now relatively uncommon anthracite form.  We also rode the Silverton to Durango narrow-gauge train, and I recall the smoke and cinders raining down on us from the coal-fired steam engine.  This Colorado trip was a favorite childhood recollection for me.

We also had an interesting trip in 1952 or 1953 for two weeks to Ogallala, Nebraska, where we stayed by a rushing river, presumably the South Platte River, while my father met with an inventor, a Mr. Goodall.  By this time, having the three sons get along on long trips in the car was getting to be a challenge.  A favorite family story recounts an episode on a trip to Colorado when I was accidentally left behind at a service station—the oversight was not discovered by my parents until they had driven on for several miles, perhaps because they were distracted by the noisy bickering of the remaining sons. 

Hunting: Jim began deer hunting trips at Tom Slick's hunting site near Junction Texas by 1951—Russ joined him there in later years for deer hunting (as well as for dove and some duck hunting at other locations).  I went some years later to the Slick hunt camp, in about 1959, but hunting just did not appeal to me, though I was a decent shot.  Although Russ and my father preferred hunting deer with a .30-06, I learned to shoot a tamer .30-30, specifically a classic lever-action Winchester Model 1894.  Once, I had a modest gun accident: a 12-gauge double-barreled shotgun blew out the side of one of its barrels near the muzzle when I practice fired it, leaving a gaping hole about 3 inches long.  Almost certainly this was because I or someone else had mistakenly lodged a 20-gauge shell near the end of the barrel at the point where it becomes more constricted ("choked").  Fortunately, this potentially lethal error only gave me ringing ears, but my hunting prowess was left in serious question (note 1).  I went on a few other hunting outings, mostly for white-winged dove, before losing interest in hunting completely.

Summer Camp c. 1951 to c. 1953: I attended YMCA camp near Hunt and Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country starting in about 1951 or 1952 for two week periods, going for about three consecutive summers.  (This is presumably the same camp that is now called Camp Flaming Arrow, which was founded in 1927.)  This experience of course was character-building for young San Antonio urbanites like myself.  I liked the swimming in the Guadalupe River as well as the archery, but I recall being homesick and not enjoying it as much as I should have.  We had to worry about getting ear fungus in those days from the slow-moving murky waters of the Guadalupe River.  I can still recall my family's beloved general practitioner, Dr. Marvin A. "Monk" Childers, scraping my infected eardrum and causing me to almost pass out from the pain.  We learned to prevent this problem by using alcohol drops (or a mix of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar) after swimming.  I also remember how the nurses at camp would paint our sore throats with bright red Merthiolate (containing thimerosal or thiomersal) or Mercurochrome (containing merbromin).  This form of internal therapy was common at the time though I wonder how much if it was officially condoned by physicians.  Such products have now been banned entirely in the US because of their toxic mercury content, aside from the use of thimerosal as a preservative in vaccines and certain other pharmaceuticals.

Other Activities: I was a cub scout for 1 or 2 years starting in about 1952, but not very enthusiastic about it.  I remained especially fond of swimming and diving.  According to my mother, I loved school and school lessons, entertained myself well, always stayed busy, experimenting, trying out various German-like "dialects", etc.  I performed a quasi-scientific experiment of dropping the family cat off our swing set upside down to confirm that it would indeed land right-side up.  Fortunately, it did land safely and quite upright on the soft grass below.  (Of course I know better now than to do or encourage such a test.)  I enjoyed stamp collecting and also had a collection of prized marbles (leafies, agates, steelies, etc.)—I made trips downtown to purchase these treasures, some at [Norman] Brock's Hobby Shop.

Politics:  In the early 1950s, we were in the President Dwight D. Eisenhower years (1953 – 1961), though I was oblivious to politics.

New Elementary School 1952: In 1952, I entered fourth grade at the newly built Woodridge Elementary School, which I also probably attended for fifth and possibly sixth grade.

Tina's mother, Russ, Jim, Mike, and Tina in Estes Park Colorado c. 1953
Tina's mother, Russ, Jim, Mike, and Tina in Estes Park Colorado c. 1953
Tina's mother, Mike, Tina, Jim, and Russ in Estes Park Colorado c. 1953
Tina's mother, Mike, Tina, Jim, and Russ in Estes Park Colorado c. 1953

Estes Park Colorado Trips Beginning c. 1953:  The family in about 1953 began taking annual trips to Estes Park Colorado for several years.  Estes Park was a lovely mountain village where my mother Tina's parents had been summering.  I loved Estes Park—taking in the mountain vistas and the dry pine-scented air, walking along the cool clear streams, carving walking sticks from riverside alder, and collecting the interesting granite and quartz rocks available in the area.  Russ occupied himself collecting and making many things, perhaps taking up fishing by then.  When I was 9 or 10, I got lost one afternoon in the nearby hills for about 6 hours shortly after the family first arrived at their Estes Park cabin.  Russ and I were rolling rocks down a hill, one of which hit the side of a house.  Russ recalls that someone yelled up at us, and we went running off in opposite directions.  Though he made it quickly back to our family's cabin, I did not.  My mother was extremely worried—she recalled years later (probably with some exaggeration) that she had read recently about a boy in Colorado being devoured by a bear.  Her father reassured her that I was alright, but she was not very comforted.  Eventually, a stranger found me and figured out how to return me to the cabins where my family was staying.  (I did not even know the name of the place).  Tina recalls how her mother provided homemade soup to us all one day, and how she and her mother got to know each other again after a long period of strained relations.  (After Tina's marriage, which her parents had opposed, Tina felt her mother had been rather distant to her and to us kids as well.) 

Recreations and Mischief: Before we moved from Brightwood Place, I recall making adventuresome bike trips a few times with friends out as far as Shorts Corner, a small rural store on a country road.  (Current maps place it at the intersection of Nacogdoches Road with Old Perrin Beitel Rd, about 5 miles NE from my home.)  On the way was a shooting range.  One time, my friend Bobby McBride and I gathered up several pounds of lead bullets embedded in the range's dirt bank backstop.  We melted these down in a pan on his mother's stove at home to make a lead ingot, but we accidentally dropped water in the pot and molten lead splattered over us, grazing my forehead.  (Now of course I know it is a bad idea to melt lead in one's home and breathe the fumes, not to mention mixing water with molten metal!)  Another time, Bobby and I bought (at a fun and magic shop) some small exploding wood-sliver devices, one of which he put in his mother's cigarette as a practical joke.  The first and only mini-explosion occurred unfortunately while she was working over an oil painting (painted by-the-numbers).  She was understandably hacked off when the resulting tobacco fragments were scattered onto her wet painting.  Bobby and I also enjoyed fireworks, and a few times launched cherry bombs with Wham-O slingshots into nearby yards while trick-or-treating, etc.  We were experimenting with mischievousness that could have gotten out of hand, but fortunately I quickly outgrew these undesirable behaviors, and believe that our acts were generally harmless fun that caused no significant damage.  I also joined several kids in a vacant lot across New Braunfels in order to dig a deep hole to make a hideout—it was quite deep and would not have received OSHA approval. 

By fifth and sixth grades, I was developing an interest in Greek and Roman mythology, science fiction, science and math books, Popular Science magazine, National Geographic, and various Golden field guides for animal and plant identification.  I also recall an early interest in a comely lass with long blond hair named Roberta V. 

Health: I was in good health in these years growing up.  I had the usual childhood infections still prevalent in the era (chicken pox, measles, and mumps), underwent surgery for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, and ran into poison ivy while catching "chameleons" (green anoles) in a brushy lot.  The only worrisome medical development was a prolonged bout of "nephritis" when I was maybe 8 or 9, causing me to have facial edema (presumably from nephrotic syndrome) for several weeks.  I recall that my worried parents took me for specialty consultation at the Minter Clinic in San Antonio.  This was probably my first encounter with an autoimmune disorder.

TV and Movies: Favorite TV shows from my childhood included the Honeymooners (with Jackie Gleason) and The Wonderful World of Disney.  It was easy to go to movies in San Antonio, and we could sometimes be admitted to the local Broadway theater for as little as 9 cents for Saturday morning matinees.  Movies I especially liked back then included King Solomon's Mines (1950), The African Queen (1951), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), Rear Window (1954), and Forbidden Planet (1956).  I recall going with my family to see The Thing (aka The Thing From Another World, 1951).  When they opened the closet door to reveal the monster (played by James Arness) lurking within, I was so terrified that I insisted on leaving immediately (a response duplicated years later when my 6 year old daughter was so frightened by Monostatos in Bergman's 1975 The Magic Flute that we also had to leave).  The worst movie experience of my childhood was going to the 1953 Mankiewicz version of Julius Caesar, in which Brando plays Antony—it was terribly boring to a 9 year old (but not to my literary mother).  As an adult I came to realize it was actually a pretty good movie based on a great play.  (Incidentally, the Internet Movie Database is a handy place to look up information about old movies.  Throughout this memoirs, the year I have listed for movies is the approximate year in which they were released in the US, and not necessarily the year in which I first saw it.)

875 Estes Avenue in Alamo Heights (San Antonio) Texas (photo J. R. Wait)
875 Estes Avenue in Alamo Heights (San Antonio) Texas

Second Alamo Heights Home and Neighborhood 1953: In October 1953, we bought a large two-story older home at 875 Estes Avenue.  It was on an interesting corner where Cambridge Oval and Morse Street converge with Estes Ave.  My mother found it, fell in love with it, and talked my father into its merits.  As she recounts, her creativity in decorating was at its height, and she had a lot of fun fixing it up, while Scott looked on in fascination.  Jim was initially put off by the age of the house and its old fixtures, but eventually was very pleased with it.  In about February 1954, we moved into this newly remodeled home, where we lived until 1963.  Tina bought a used baby grand Baldwin piano for the living room, and Russ and I continued our piano lessons (see music).  I was pleased that each son had his own room, mine being on the northwest side, upstairs and overlooking the backyard.  The living room was a spacious 33 x 15 feet and faced southeast.  There was a large enclosed room just to the northeast of my bedroom, and I was allowed eventually to convert half of it into my private lab for rats and other scientific items.  The downstairs had on the southwest side a nice isolated one-story den with its own bathroom—my father enjoyed it as his private retreat (though I ended up spending time there with his books and talking on the conveniently out-of-earshot phone). 

Our next door neighbor to the southwest was William Remy, who raised racing pigeons.  We gave our cat to him to take out to his ranch about 90 miles away, so that Russ could safely raise some pigeons Mr. Remy gave him.  We were amazed a month later to find the cat, apparently dissatisfied with ranch life, at the doorstep of our new house, although according to my mother he had never been to that house before!  We had a notable French artist, Etienne Ret (or Étienne Ret, 1900 – 1989), living next door to the north, and we bought and were given several of his works.  I recall a friendship and budding interest in a sweet dark-haired girl L., who lived in our new neighborhood.  Her younger sibling helpfully informed me once when I called that she could not come to the phone because she was receiving an enema. 

Club Memberships:  As we gradually rose in economic status, my parents joined the nearby Argyle Club.  It was in a stately historic building, originally the 1859 mansion of Alamo Heights pioneer Charles Anderson, had became a hotel in the 1890s, and was later transformed into a dinner club (I dined there a time or two).  Also, we joined the modest Seven Oaks Country Club in San Antonio, primarily for me and my brothers to use the swimming pool and to play golf on the 9-hole par 3 golf course.  I enjoyed swimming there in the summers, probably through the end of high school (note 3).

Autos and Travel c. 1954: In about 1953 or 1954, we bought a new green 1954 Oldsmobile 88 sedan. 

We traveled in the summer c. 1954 to Gallup New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado on what was partly a business trip for my father.

In 1954, my father went to Anaheim, California, working with C. V. Wood on the future Disneyland (see parents), and this began a second period of long absences from his home and family (the first having been his wartime work with the Committee for Economic Development).

My father took us to Port Aransas in about 1954.  My mother liked to tell the story that the family checked in at the historic but un-air-conditioned Tarpon Inn (originally built in 1886), but Jim surprised the family by leaving us to check into a nearby air-conditioned motel.  Such was his dependency on air-conditioning by then, and this probably also reflected a divergence in priorities between my parents (note 2).  We always enjoyed seeing the porpoises (bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus) on the ferry crossing at the end of the causeway going from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas, walking the beach looking for shells, swimming (though always looking out for Portuguese Man-of-Wars and sting rays), and having some of the excellent local seafood including blue crabs, the large Gulf shrimp, and gumbo.  Our family made several nice trips to this area over the years, usually staying in Port Aransas or Rockport.

In December 1954, all five of us plus my grandmother MaMaw flew to Denver Colorado on an Humble Oil DC-3 with Richard and Loraine Gonzalez.  We were met by Chuck and Toni Davlin (who managed a dude ranch in Colorado) and drove at night over the mountain passes in two cars to Carbondale near Glenwood Springs (there was no Eisenhower tunnel then, but Jim was a good driver).  We stayed at the Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, which was managed by John and Ann Holden—according to my mother, wonderful, athletic, intelligent people who were supplementing their income a little by providing winter lodgings.  We stayed about a week, sledded in the snow, sat around the fireplace, admired the long icicles etc., though we did not have very warm clothes. We also swam at the outdoor Glenwood Springs Hot Springs pool, which steamed in the freezing winter air.  Tina enjoyed the good conversation with Richard and Loraine and found this one of the best trips she ever made—Scott also enjoyed it and enjoyed playing a small marimba.  It was a very pleasant trip.

In about this year, I also made a trip with my father to the site of an oil drilling rig probably in West Texas, where I was shown core samples and got to keep some of the interesting minerals in white cloth specimen bags.

Photography and Other Recreations:  I developed an interest in photography and had my own camera by about 1954, a 35mm Kodak Pony 135.  I was given a used enlarger, chemical trays, tongs, vignette mask, and other darkroom equipment by a relative, possibly my mother's brother Jack.  I put this to use developing and printing black and white prints of photos that I made the following summer at Disneyland (regrettably I no longer have these important photos from my childhood). 

I was also in the church youth choir for a season or so, probably before I entered junior high school. 

The Great Disneyland Summer of 1955: In the summer of 1955, between my sixth and seventh grades, we had one of the most interesting and remarkable summers of my childhood: my entire family went to California for the opening of Disneyland.  We stopped first in Midland, Texas to visit Tina's sister Jennie and her husband Joseph "Joe" McSpadden.  Tina recalls that Jim was asked to park our overloaded station wagon out of sight in back (apparently we looked too much like "Okies"). 

Family at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas Nevada 1955
Family at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas Nevada 1955

We also spent three weeks in Las Vegas at the newly remodeled New Frontier Hotel while Jim met with various businessmen and promoters including C. V. Wood.  We saw Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, and Sammy Davis, Jr. perform in the nightclubs, and us kids did a lot of swimming.  

At Disneyland, future president Ronald Reagan was the emcee for the televised opening, which took place July 17, 1955—also in attendance were entertainers Art Linkletter, Bob Cummings, and the Mouseketeers, as well as California Governor Goodwin J. Knight, and almost 30,000 guests.  We all met Ronald Reagan, but much more importantly we met the great Walt Disney, to whom Scott said in adoration "Oh, Mr. Disneyland!".  He invited us up to his office, which thrilled us all.  He talked to us about his plans for other parks and Tina was very impressed with him.  Russ and I had "press passes" during that summer, which entitled us to ride all the rides without cost and as often as we wished.  We went virtually every day to Disneyland, roamed freely, and must have been real Disneyland brats.  I especially liked Tomorrowland and the simulated ride on a rocket.  (This rocket exhibit as I recall used authentic footage shot from an early desert-based rocket launch.  One exhibit was called Rocket to the Moon and another was called Space Station X-1, but I do not recall which included the rocket footage.  In 2009, I found a 1957 movie on YouTube showing the impressive 80-foot high "TWA Moonliner" rocket ship, a prop which somewhat optimistically was said to have been "designed to use nuclear energy as fuel".)   We also liked the Adventureland Jungle Cruise; the cars resembling Thunderbirds that we could drive on a track (at the Autopia in Tomorrowland); and the generally charming old-timey feeling of Main Street with its Penny Arcade, fire wagons, and Main Street Cinema.  Tina recalls a slow-paced ride in which a donkey pulled a wagon—one of the few times she recalls having Jim to herself on this trip.  An unofficial timeline and history of Disneyland during this time in the 1950s can be seen here.  This was an exciting visit for me, the only time I recall being exposed to such a large and diverse assemblage of artistically creative persons, so different from the more sober scientific/medical types in most of my future life.  The many famous Hollywood celebrities we encountered that summer are mostly a blur to me.  But Russ recalls our seeing Fess Parker (who played Davy Crockett), James Mason (who played Captain Nemo), and Rita Moreno (who later starred in West Side Story) when we dined at a restaurant.  He also recalls personally conversing with Johnny Weissmuller (MGM's Tarzan) at a nearby country club, possibly the Beverly Hills Country Club.  Russ says that Mr. Weissmuller picked up a large snail crawling along the ground and pretended to show him how he liked to eat them.

We stayed right next to the Pacific Ocean in Corona Del Mar (a part of Newport Beach, south of Disneyland) for about one month, in a rented house or cabin.  Alec and Caroline Head and their children came from Houston and rented a place next door.  I recall the succulent ground-hugging iceplants (a non-native now considered an invasive pest) along the bank leading to the beach; swimming in the cold Pacific surf; and the kelp.  The tar on the beach (probably from offshore drilling or ship ballast discharges) got on our feet, and we had to remove it with carbon tetrachloride (toxic, no longer advised).  Russ recalls body-surfing at nearby Balboa at this time—Balboa is famous for its unusually high surf at The Wedge and a high incidence of resulting spinal cord injuries.  We made a boat trip to Santa Catalina Island, which is 22 miles from the mainland—I remember vividly the numerous sharks we saw along the way.  Tina enjoyed having their friend Roy Lofton visit—he commissioned painted caricatures of each of my family members on ceramic cups as a parting gift.  He was an ex-Navy man who also helped to keep us boys in line. 

We stayed several weeks after the opening of Disneyland and also visited Knott's Berry Farm, which had a Ghost Town and other tourist attractions (but could not hold a candle to Disneyland).  Subsequently, we drove down the coast to San Diego, visiting its Aquarium, and then on to Tijuana.  On the trip back, Russ and I cut down some banana plants at an El Paso motel, trying out our newly acquired machetes from Mexico—for which my father had to compensate the irate proprietor.  On some California trip, possibly this one, we visited the Riviera Country Club, located in the Pacific Palisades part of Los Angeles.  I remember the vista from the clubhouse overlooking the elegant golf course as truly beautiful and suggestive of the ultimate in luxurious living.  On one California trip, we returned homeward by driving across the hot Mojave desert during the daytime—my father was in his usual hurry and did not want to wait until evening as had been recommended.  On another California trip, possibly in 1954 or 1955, I returned to San Antonio on the train, one of the few long train trips I recall having made outside of Europe.

We stopped on one of our southwest trips at the Petrified Forest National Monument (now a National Park) in Arizona, where we boys collected a box load of Late Triassic Period rocky souvenirs.  (Certainly this is not permitted now, was surely not even then, and though I regret this behavior in retrospect, Becky assures me this was a common kid practice back then.)  

Junior High School Years 1955 – 1957

Cambridge Junior High School 1955: In the fall of 1955, I entered the seventh grade at Cambridge Junior High School.  Russ began his freshman year at Alamo Heights High School and was less a part of my life now that he was off at a different school.   My brother Scott had attended Jack Tolar's day camp previously as I had, and was in the Trinity Tigers, a day school with sports and horseback riding, which he enjoyed.  

Michael in 1956
Mike in 1956

Junior High School Courses: My English teacher was Ms. Clark.  She was old-fashioned and emphasized outlining and memorization, particularly of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  She disparaged the poems us boys wanted to memorize instead—poems like Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade, or maybe Robert Service's The Shooting of Dan McGrew.  I joined the junior high school band (see music) and also took mechanical drawing, in addition to the usual academic courses.  I might have half-heartedly tried out for track then, but did not have much interest or aptitude at this or other sports aside from swimming. 

Growing Math and Scientific Interests: It was about in seventh grade that I purchased my subsequently much-used and beloved slide rule, a 10-inch Keuffel & Esser Log Log Duplex Decitrig model (which I assure you I never wore on my belt), as well as my prized 1955 – 1956 edition of the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.  (I still have these and a few other mementos from my early scientific days.)  By this point I was also enjoying reading or looking through math books such as E. T. Bell's Men of Mathematics and some of the College Outline Series and Schaum's Outlines books on various science and math subjects including calculus.  While not understanding everything I was reading, I was fascinated by the arcane symbols used in math, especially the Greek letters and the gracefully sweeping integral sign, and was hoping to gradually assimilate some of these difficult topics.  At some point, I also started writing private logs in English but using Greek letters, a sort of simple ciphertext.  

I also liked to hang out at the Alamo Heights Pharmacy, where I enjoyed a special relationship as a budding scientist with the kindly pharmacist.  He seemed to like me and trust my company, and allowed me the privilege of wandering among the drug shelves, learning about the mysterious contents including some named in Latin.  I often purchased medicinals (such as clove and cinnamon oil, which we kids soaked toothpicks in), chemicals, bottles, and other items for my primitive experiments.  I marvel to recall this freedom—how impossible such unrestricted access by a kid to the drug shelves of a pharmacy would be now! 

The Fascinating Microscopic World: Probably as a seventh grader, my parents gave me a serious scientific instrument, a very nice Bausch & Lomb microscope.  It had a maximum magnification of 600x and a revolving turret with 3 objectives and 2 oculars, and came in a sturdy wooden case.  The quality was much higher than current student microscopes I have seen.  With the helpful guidance of Headstrom's Adventures With a Microscope, I enjoyed using this favorite scientific device for examining onion skin cells stained with iodine, Brownian motion (a phenomenon involving random molecular movements that Einstein explained in 1905), insect wings and body parts, blood and cheek cells and other tissues, plant leaves and stems in cross section.  I was particularly fascinated by motile protozoa (paramecia, stentors, amoebas, vorticellas, etc.), rotifers, volvox, euglenas, algae, bacteria, and other magical life forms found in pond water (some of which I gathered in Brackenridge Park at the Junior Angler pond).  This was my first real introduction to the otherwise hidden world of beauty and fascinating biodiversity revealed through the use of scientific instruments, and I was forever hooked thereafter.  I also loved the aromatic smell of Canada balsam used to mount specimens between cover slip and slide.  I am happy to say that this instrument lives on with my brother Scott. 

Laboratory Animals: By some time in junior high school, I was seriously into raising laboratory animals (some of which came from the former Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research) in my private home lab next to my bedroom, and eventually had over 100 Sprague-Dawley white albino rats, as well as a few guinea pigs and mice, for various quasi-scientific purposes.  My mother indulged this interest of mine, even though it made the upstairs of our house stink.  I used ethyl ether (not the safest chemical to have around the house) to anesthetize them, and performed various surgeries such as splenectomies, examining their tissues under the microscope and learning some of their internal gross anatomy.  (When I was with my father and Russ on a deer hunt, I recall being fascinated by the elegant form-fitting design of the much larger abdominal viscera of the deer they killed.)  I would think differently these days about performing such free-form animal experimentation, in light of the ambivalence and for some the disapproval with which it is regarded.  (A few persons are even willing to go to extremes to prevent vivisection by committing terrorist acts against the experimenters, a lamentable development that has left legitimate biological researchers in fear of their lives.)  However, although what I was doing with animals was relatively unstructured, it certainly contributed to my anatomic knowledge and dissection skills that I drew on when I eventually went into medicine. 

Our Maid Inez: Although we had previously had part-time domestic help, we hired a full-time maid for the first time, Inez Davis, in the fall of 1955, and employed her for 3 to 4 years.  She was initially very supportive, conveying much love to the kids and to Tina, but eventually she became impatient with the work and more possessive of the kitchen, and she objected to the amount of ironing I was generating.  (I was probably insensitive on this matter).  Russ was especially fond of her and brought her fresh water perch he caught, which she cooked for herself.  Elsewhere, I recount a hazardous incident involving her, as well as a fondly-recalled prophecy she made during my high school years.  She lived in the small rooms on the side of our garage intended as maid's quarters, and for some of the time she had a partner Ernest or Eugene (who made me a handsome dark-reddish locking plywood chest for my treasures).  Inez returned to work for us half-days in about 1961 for about a year—her health was declining by then and money was getting tighter for us.  (Years later, Tina and Jim were passing near Fordoche Louisiana, and tried to look up Inez.  Unfortunately, she had died, but they enjoyed instead a nice visit with Inez's tall and dignified mother, who was then in her late seventies.)

My Mother's Graduate Studies 1956 – 1960: My mother desired a more meaningful role to play with her own life, and wanted to get away from some of the less satisfying aspects of her local social life.  To this end, she started taking courses in humanities at Trinity University from 1956 to 1960, working toward a Master's degree.  She also began substitute teaching in the San Antonio schools in English, History, and Art, doing this part-time until c. 1960 when she began regular full-time teaching at Alamo Heights High School.

Travels in 1956: The family visited Aspen, Colorado in the summer of 1956, after my seventh grade, and had a very happy time.  I have described my father's experience with the Aspen Executive Seminar on my parents page.  That summer or in summer 1957, we also drove to Yellowstone National Park, where we unwisely fed bears from the car (forbidden now of course), and made a lightning tour of the park as was my father's custom, also visiting Colter Bay on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.  On a trip to California in about this year, we visited San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf (where we partook of the plentiful abalone, now scarce), the Monterey Peninsula, and the Big Sur.

Mike, Scott, and other future campers in Camp La Junta publicity photo
Mike, Scott, Russ, and other future campers in Camp La Junta publicity photo 1956

Summer Camp 1956:  I attended a boys camp, Camp La Junta, near Hunt, Texas, in summer 1956 for 4 to 6 weeks.  It focused especially on horseback riding, but also offered swimming, riflery, and other confidence and character building activities.  By 1956 it was run by the rather roughshod Luther Graham along with his wife Tal.  I was honored as the "Most Improved Horseman", a consolation prize recognizing how unskilled a horseman I had started out as, and also received "Top Hand" (first place) medals for swimming and riflery.  We went on at least one overnight camp-out on horseback, and I suspect I spent some of the night worrying about having a rattlesnake or other ornery critter crawl into my sleeping bag.  I felt a little out of place at this camp, knowing that being a tall-in-the-saddle Texan cowboy was not really my aspiration, and I was a little intimidated by some of the highly accomplished horsemen coming there from ranches and other rural Texas settings, but did my best to survive and enjoy the experience.  (Scott in contrast took to horseback riding naturally and became quite good at it.)

Family Events 1956:  In July 1956, my father's father (William Ewing McGoodwin, Jr.  or "Daddy Mac") died in Houston of lung cancer—he had been a long-standing heavy cigarette smoker.  My mother tells me that my father stopped smoking cold-turkey at about the time his father died.  His death was a great loss to my parents.  The family drove to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the funeral—all except Russ, who was then at the Rocky Mountain School in Colorado.  It was very humid and hot, and a very rushed trip, but we enjoyed the opportunity to see my uncle Bill, his wife Dorothy, and my cousins there.  I recall my father purchasing a delicious Kentucky ham, a local delicacy which he probably recalled from his childhood.  (Kentucky hams are noted for their dry flavorful texture resulting from smoking and a long dry curing process.)

My mother's father J. R. Wait and my uncles Jack and Russ (all engineers) gave us boys especially interesting and useful scientific/engineering gadgets at Christmas.  I recall receiving a mechanical drawing set from her father, as well as a compass, a knife, a gyroscope, and a fascinating alcohol-powered steam engine.

Eighth Grade and Social Life: In the fall of 1956, I entered the eighth grade.  I recall a girlfriend, Alice D., whom I escorted to a dance or two, but there were no serious sparks as yet.  I took speech, hoping to improve my discomfort with public speaking roles—and though I wasn't as successful at it as my father, it helped a little to reduce my self-consciousness.  I took ballroom dance lessons at a local studio in seventh grade, doing passably well but certainly no John Travolta.  My mother made sure that her sons participated in the Cotillion in San Antonio, a series of black tie formal dance for young aspiring southern ladies and gentlemen intended to teach social skills, civility, and etiquette, etc.  The men signed up on dance cards for dances with the elegant ladies.  I attended these affairs, which as I recall were held at the San Antonio Country Club, two or three times a year during junior high and high school.  My mother also arranged for me and a friend Gene Kurtz to put on a party for our class at the Mule Stall, the local school teen center (so named because we were the Alamo Heights mules). 

Misadventures:  Here are a few junior high school mini-misadventures: I was once caught by a policeman and taken in his squad car to the nearby police station for what he believed was attempted theft of goldfish from a small pond in a city-owned traffic island.  Eventually I was able to convince him that I was innocent of stealing fish (true) as I was merely catching crawfish (which were fair game).  I recall a dangerous craze that went around among the junior high school boys including Wally H. (who was later killed in a Jeep rollover).  The subject would undergo vigorous hyperventilation, after which his partner would encircle his chest with his arms and exert a strong squeeze, leading to transient unconsciousness and sometimes even seizure-like activity.  Although I'm not sure of the exact physiology, I am certain this is dangerous—don't try this at home!  My friend Dick B. also learned how to do hypnotism at about this time, and practiced it on me, producing a panic-like reaction when a prickly trance-like state began to creep over me, an experience which I have never wanted to repeat.  He also invited me to join his family at their cabin probably on the Guadalupe River at some point.  He had me join him in target practice with .22 rifles, among other things "plinking" the heads of turtles when they surfaced.  I am reminded with regret that, in those days in Texas, it was common practice and considered good training for boys to shoot rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs, and other harmless creatures for sport.  Several years later when I was dating Becky, we practiced shooting at snakes at a pond on her farm a few times—many of these, as I probably rationalized, were venomous water moccasins.  But though I am not a conventionally religious person and also do not categorically oppose all forms of hunting, I gradually came to value the sanctity of non-human life more in later years, and to oppose shooting "varmints" or other non-threatening animals merely for target practice.  Furthermore, the pointless slaughter by thoughtless humans of innocent animal life, including turtles and prairie dogs, has contributed to making at least some of these species endangered.

Autos and Travels 1957: My father was constantly on the go in those days, out of town, working quite hard, and earning good money.  By then we had acquired a spiffy stick-shift silver 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air (which these days is regarded as a real classic).  

In the summer of 1957 (after my eighth grade), Tina and her sons flew to Albuquerque to join him.  We then went to Cortez and Grand Junction, CO, drove the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the "million dollar highway" from Durango to Silverton and Ouray. 

I recall making several out-of-state auto trips with my father over several years, probably including this summer, one of which took us to Cañon City Colorado (see parents page) for him to evaluate some mining-related equipment.  I got to be treated like a grown-up on these trips, kept detailed trip logs (regrettably not preserved), gave my father good companionship and love, and was very pleased with these solo outings with him—and he was always very proud to show off any of his sons.  These trips were more peaceful for me and much more satisfying than those involving my entire family with all of its complex dynamics, competition, and tensions.

Summary of Childhood Years: It is apparent to me that during these childhood years prior to 1957 and high school, I had grown up with many privileges; had been given ample opportunities to receive a decent education and to acquire desirable skills from reasonably good teachers and learning situations along the way; had had a rich stateside travel experience; and otherwise had led a mostly comfortable existence.  I was disappointed that there were some increasing difficulties brewing between my parents, but they had done what they could to make life for me and my brothers as satisfying as possible.


(1) Hunting Accidents: I note from Di Maio's 1999 text Gunshot Wounds that, only a few years after my gun accident, manufacturers began color-coding the various shotgun shell sizes, making 20-gauge shells yellow, but this desirable safety feature cannot be entirely relied upon.  I was not the only one of our acquaintance who had a hunting accident: once a lady guest of Tom Slick's named Virginia S. accidentally shot a fellow hunter Joe with her deer rifle, her husband if I recall correctly. 
(2) Tarpon Inn: When I first wrote these memoirs in 2005, the Tarpon Inn's web page touted it as a rustic (i.e., hot) experience—"The salt air and breezes are gently encouraged by old-fashioned ceiling fans"—but they have apparently subsequently succumbed to modernity and global warming by adding air-conditioning in all the rooms.  Interestingly, Russ recalls this family story about air-conditioning differently: he believes the un-air-conditioned accommodations that Jim fled to a motel from was a colleague's house.  And he reminds me that, "ol' J.V. liked rooms to be so cool that you could hang meat in there".
(3) Country Clubs: The more prestigious and expensive San Antonio Country Club, which was a sort of pinnacle for socially aspiring San Antonians (see cotillion), apparently remained out of range for us—or so it seemed to me, though I don't recall my father having any particular interest in this.
(4) Wolfe's Inn near San Antonio: According to a history blog, a plaque on two rock pillars is apparently all now that is left of this interesting historic place.  The plaque says it was established as a restaurant in 1915 at Nine Mile Hill, the first rest stop for horses and buggies travelling from San Antonio to Boerne, Fredericksburg, and the Hill Country.