One mom is excited because her oldest son in the Marines should be out of the naval hospital in San Diego and will be home for Christmas. She and the lady across the street have been working at The Broadway this holiday season, wrapping gifts. Brother #2 is in his junior year at Long Beach State and works in Frontier Land at Disneyland. Sister #1 is a senior at Sunny Hills and has been dating a nice Jewish boy from Sunny Hills. Both Mom and Dad like him but they're a little concerned. He'll start UC Berkeley in the fall, so the romance won't last. Sister #2 wants to become an airline stewardess, and she's been a hostess at Arnold's Farm House for over a year. Privately, Dad feels humiliated because he can't afford to help his children pay for college, at least not after he hurt his back at a construction site in Norwalk and had to quit. He hates his warehouse job but it pays the bills. Mom smiles and says she's still a Kern County farmer's daughter at heart, but the younger children have seen her crying while she works on the bills. Dad doesn't know her sister in Villa Park sent $300 to buy gifts and he dislikes the woman's husband, a dentist who acts like he knows everything. Dad's drinking too much and last week he yelled at the neighbor to turn down his stereo or else. Mom kind of smoothed it over. The Hunt Foods supervisor across the street is customizing a '36 Ford pickup with his sons, so Dad wanders over and chats. Their youngest boy stutters and Dad says it's a shame. He invited the boy to the Dodger game last summer when Koufax pitched a 3-hitter. Their family has the prettiest Christmas lights of anyone on West Oak. The Seventh Day Adventist family always had great lights but since the husband's mother developed cancer they're spent a lot of time with her in Dairy City, and they didn't put up lights this year. Their twins have been smoking cigarettes and running around with rowdy kids from over by Harbor Boulevard. There's gossip they're not virgins anymore and they're only 14. Their brother's a sophomore and last week he chose off a kid who said the twins were "stacked". Mr. Bresee broke it up but it's true. They already go to Retail with guys, and have been seen drinking at parties on Roberta and Eadington. A lot of families heard them sing at the Nicolas Christmas concert last week, though, and they sing like angels. That was the night the old lady on Lee bumped into another car in front of Irene's House of Fashion and the police came. People say she used to teach at Orange High School and her first husband was killed at Anzio. She's a widow now and she felt so bad she sat down on the sidewalk and cried. People are more emotional over the Christmas season. It was only a fender bender with a waitress from the Royal Coach Inn, and she said she didn't really mind. A woman came outside and drove the old lady home. They were going to call her daughter in Whittier who worked in a pharmacy. It was almost dark already and when the kids from the Methodist church came around Hill and stopped to carol, some guys were standing in a garage by a beat up '41 Ford coupe. One of the guys yelled out and asked why Sylvia Frantell wasn't caroling, and then one of his buddies yelled, "Because she's on the rag!" They all laughed for a long time. Later her brother was working at Carter Bowl when he heard what they said, so now he's after them.
His boss took the night off because his wife was about to have a baby at Martin Luther Hospital. Finally at 4:37 AM, she gave birth to a 6 pound 9 ounce baby girl and they named her Jessica Sue. Everybody back at Hill Avenue was happy because she'd already had three miscarriages. The two Mormon families on the block brought food and diapers and they were very nice. The nurse next door and her sister from Sunny Hills gave the family a beautiful quilt from Iowa where they visited their hometown every summer. When the new mom came home two days later, a bunch of ladies on the street stood in their yards and applauded. Later, when some of the families were at the river, they found out the woman had actually tried to commit suicide with by swallowing a whole bottle of Mydol, after her second miscarriage, The doctor said even two bottles wouldn't kill her. Baby Jessica kind of became famous that Christmas because people knew her father from bowling and kind of from the Lutheran church even though they didn't always go every Sunday. The ladies said little Jessica actually had red hair -- just a tuft -- and she was a sweet baby. Two days later, the new mom's parents drove up from Fallbrook, and it turned out her dad had been a Marine Raider in the war, when his best buddy Dr. Melvin Linthicum the Sunny Hills thoracic surgeon. Sure enough, a big Lincoln Continental pulled up and Dr. Linthicum got out with wife Isabel, a former Miss Waco, Texas. The two Marines talked a little about their fellow Marines who had died, and the Marine who'd been at most of the landings in the Pacific came across the street to talk, even though they'd never met. He said Dr Linthicum was a pretty nice guy. He said Mrs. Linthicum was a little snotty, though, but he was just a country boy from Alabama who didn't mean any harm, and a real nice fireman for the Lakewood Fire Department. The three Marines talked and when they went outside to smoke cigars, they helped the kid next door put the chain back on his Schwinn Varsity. Anyway, the new mom's dad brought home some donuts from Winchell's the next morning, which was Christmas Day.
Around 10 AM, they all heard a little girl's voice outside. She was calling, "Bllly? Billy?" and when they asked her, she explained Bill was her dog and he was missing. She was seven years old, herself. Right away the men formed a posse to find Bill.
Two men started west toward Gordon McPherson's house and Donna Baker's house, and the other two started east toward where Jeff Nix, Jeanne Christianson and Jeannie Skinner lived. Mrs. Nix came outside and held the little girl by the hand. Her name was Tammy.
"Where do you live, sweetie?" Mrs Nix asked her.
"Over there!" Tammy said, and pointed west, but she was distracted. "We have to find Billy! Please!"
"We will. Over where, Tammy?"
Just then Jeannie and Jeff happened to walk outside their respective doors.
"Hi, little lady!" Jeannie said. "Hi, Mrs. Nix."
"Can you find Billy? Please?" Tammy asked Jeannie. She begun to panic, so Jeannie got down on her haunches and gave the llttle girl a hug.
"No! My dog!" Tammy exclaimed, and burst into tears.
"We'll try our best,"Jeannie promised her.
"You two go look and find out her address, Jeff. Then come back and we'll try to call her parents. We can drive over if we have to," Mrs. Nix said.
By now Jeannie held the little girl in her arms.
"Gotcha," Jeff said.
They started east, a little behind the men, and were met by Terry Messick walking around the corner at Citrus.
"Well, hi, Tammy! What brings you to this neck of the woods?" Terry asked the girl.
"Terry, there is no time to visit! We have to find Billy! He's lost!" Tammy said.
Jeannie and Jeff exchanged a smile.
"Well, sure! Let's go!" Terry said, and added over her shoulder. "She's my mom's friend's little girl. From over on Lambert near the Achays."
"Mom's name?" Jeff asked.
"Be right back," Jeff said and turned to walk back.
"We're wasting time, you adults!" Tammy complained.
"No, we're trying. C'mon! Are you sure he went this way?" Jeannie asked her.
"I think so. A big boxer lives on the other side. He's mean! Billy wouldn't go that way!"
They continued east toward Euclid and checked all the shrubs and between the houses. Tammy said Billy was the color of a penny and she didn't know how old he was.
"Five. Five and half? I don't know. We have to get him, you guys!" she said, and she'd turned pale with worry.
He was nowhere to be seen. The Achays lived quite a ways off. Jeannie and Terry exchanged a glance.
Then just ahead one of the men raised his arm: "Quiet!"
He listened and said, "I heard something in the alley."
An alley behind the houses, between them and a row of apartment buildings. Kids walked in the alley to a small shopping center with a McDonald's and Nick's Liquor, Prather's Barber Shop and Winchell's Donuts.
One of the Marines sprinted between houses, jumped the fence and ran to jump a second fence to the alley.
On the sidewalk, they waited and then heard a small dog whine.
"Billy!" Tammy squealed, and squeezed Jeannie's hand. All the men rushed up.
Two beats later, the Marine in the alley yelled, "Got him!"
As one, they walked and ran to the mouth of the alley, the only entrance.
On their way, Dr. Linthicum passed them in his Lincoln: coming back to see his Marine friends.
They had seventy yards to cover and approached the mouth of the alley breathless.
They saw the doctor outside his car, kneeling over a small dog lying on the asphalt, Tammy broke loose from Jeannie's hand and ran forward.
The doctor stood and caught her just in time.
"Is he your dog, honey? Somebody hit him. A car. But I didn't feel any broken bones. We need to take him to a vet!"
He motioned for her to hop in, and ever so gently, placed the dog on the floorboard where she could hold him."
"Keep him warm with this blanket!"
When the others came up, he asked them if they'd been looking for this dog. When they said yes, he pointed to Jeannie and Terry to come along. He thought they were Tammy's blg sisters.
"On to the vet!" he yelled and took off.
"Oh, Billy!" Tammy said, and put her head next to his.
"He's shivering!" she added.
"Let him rest, honey" Dr. Linthicum said.
As it turned out, there were no broken bones. Billy was a tough little dog, with bruises and cuts, plus mild shock. He'd need to stay overnight and they let Tammy in to see him.
"Not too hard!" Jeannie said when Tammy hugged her dog.
Tammy cried and so did Jeannie.
Jeff waited outside and then explained.
"Her grandma was supposed to pick her up, but she was late. Tammy's mom works at Kimberley-Clark."
"Where's her daddy?"
Jeff shrugged: he didn't know.
The escape and recovery of Billy almost overshadowed Christmas on Hill Avenue. On Christmas morning, though, kids in all the rest of the West Fullerton neighborhoods went outside to try out their new bikes, Hula Hoops, skates, pogo sticks, baseball gloves, dolls and every other present. Friends came over. By 1 PM, Christmas dinner started being served. The sound of a lone boy shooting baskets at Nicolas could be heard, or the growl of a '50 Olds being tuned on Knepp, the splashing of.a family of a pool on Houston, or the sound of a little record playing 45's on Ash.
Sometimes Tammy walked her dog to visit Mrs. Nix. Jeannie and Terry would come over to say hello. Jeff would chat, if he were home.
Dr. Linthicum invited Tammy to bring her mom and Billy to swim with his family and stay for dinner. They became friends. When he needed a new receptionist, he offered Tammy's mom the job, and she enjoyed it. Pretty soon Isabel moved back to Waco, Texas, and Dr, Linthicum and Tammy's mom got married. Billy had much more room to run around, and Tammy transferred to Hermosa Drive Elementary School. Her friends in Fullerton missed her.
But that's just the way it goes. There was always plenty going on.