When I think back about my Uncle Will, I see it all in black and white.
I remember him taking me to the Newsreel Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
There were streetcars then and there was an Orange Julius shop almost next to
the Newsreel where I always chose a Medium Julius.
The cinema at the Newsreel Theater consisted of black and white news-film about the rebuilding of Europe following the war and about President Harry Truman and what he was up to. It was all silent film and was accompanied by extremely dramatic orchestral music and almost melodramatic narration.
Once, my Uncle Will took me there to see an actual movie. It was called The Third Man and I loved it. I didn’t understand it, but I loved it. It was so mysterious and full of shadows and light.
To this day, I remember the music and, whenever I hear it’s distinctive theme, I remember my Uncle Will.
Movies weren’t the only things to which Uncle Will introduced me.
On weekends, he would take me to the beach and would show me how to shuffle my feet in the
in the shallow water, so that I would frighten away anything living in that soft sand. Things like sand sharks and sting rays. Thanks to those early lessons, I have never stepped on a sand shark or a stingray.
Uncle Will lived in an apartment down the hall from where I was living with my mother.
She and my father had divorced about two years earlier and I had lost track of him and lived with her. At the time, I did not understand the implications of where we were. All I knew was that we now lived in Hollywood.
So, when I walked home from school and when Uncle Will got home from work, he worked as a sports writer for the Hollywood Citizen News, I could easily head down the hall for a visit, which was, for me, an adventure.
One day, he taught me the “Secret Door knock”.
The secret knock consisted of me rolling my knuckles back and forth across his heavy wooden door. When I did that, he knew who was out there. Cool.
Once inside his apartment, I could smell the aroma of Cuban Cigars, Maraschino Cherries, Limes and Tequila.
He would always offer me a Maraschino Cherry when I came for a visit. They were super sweet.
He was a big fan of anything Mexican and spoke fluent Spanish.
Consequently the Tequila and the Cigars.
Uncle Will seemed to enjoy his work. Before the Citizen News, he had been a sportswriter for the Las Vegas Sun.
Writing, no matter what kind, takes imagination and courage. Uncle Will had both.
He was like a father to me and I loved him unconditionally.
Once, he returned from a trip to Mexico, or somewhere south of the border, and brought me a stick of sugar cane. This was a huge lesson to me because I never knew that sugar grew that way
In fact, I never knew that sugar grew at all! At my young age, I had never given a thought to where just about anything came from, let alone sugar.
One day, Uncle Will brought a lady home to meet my mother and my aunt, who was his other sister and lived further down the hall, and me.
She was really nice.
She was pretty, polite and everyone seemed to like her.
But, when she left our apartment, my mother and my aunt spoke angrily and said bad things about her. Things like, “She’s fat” and other things I didn’t understand. Behind her back, they did not like her.
I liked her. She would accompany us on out beach trips and we would go shopping together. Just the three of us.
We got along really well,
Her name was June. I think her last name was Townsend.
June Townsend. Nice name.
I don’t remember her father’s name. His name was probably Townsend as well.
She said once that her father worked for The Bank of America and that he was about to retire.
Since I had no idea what “Retire” meant, I thought, “Good for him”. And, as I was to find out, it was.
My mother and my aunt just continued to grumble negatively about June and seemed to be, what I learned since, jealous.
So, this is the end of the story of my Uncle Will. I know it doesn’t seem like the end, but it is.
I do not remember the last time I saw him, June or her father. Sadly, that memory has faded.
No one has seen any of them ever again.
It has been about 70 years since the three of them disappeared.
70 years…… and nothing. Not one word. I guess they’re dead.
Oh, there is one final note about them and their disappearance.
About ten years after they vanished, two gentlemen in suits, who introduced themselves as agents from the FBI knocked on my mother’s door and asked
if she knew of her brother’s whereabouts.
She burst into tears and cried, “No!”. Then, she said, “No wait! I did get a post card from them about 5 years ago and it was postmarked “Cincinnati, Ohio”. On the card was written, “We are having a good time!”
The agents then told my mother that June’s father had retired as planned, and
had managed to embezzle one million U.S.dollars cash from the branch of the Bank of America where he had worked.
After that day, no one has ever seen any of them again.
“Cincinnati, Ohio”? You say?
I say,”Viva Mexico Uncle Will!. I love you still”
$1,000,000.00 in 1949 had the same buying power as $10,535,213.68 in 2018