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Got My Car Stuck in the Sand
Chapter 12 (1) (2) (3)  (4) (5) (6)


Mom Chased Carl Out of Our Apartment

Stuck in the Sand at Santa Monica Beach

Had to Call the Police to Get into Our Apartment
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Carl Arthur Von Papp

Had to Leave Our Apartment

Outside Carl was white as a sheet. "Did you see that look in her eyes?" he asked. "And she almost caught me! Man, it's a good thing she didn't have a knife in her hand!"

Now I really must stop here and say something about how this story has changed somewhat over the years—when told by Carl. At first he would say my mom looked liked she wanted to kill him as she chased him around the apartment. Later he would add emphasis to the story by saying, "It's a good thing she didn't have a knife in her hand!" Finally it became, "Did I ever tell you about the time Don's mom chased me out of our apartment with a butcher knife?"

Now I admit this was a very traumatic event for all of us—especially for Carl, since he was the chasee—but I don't want to make it worse than it already was. (However I'm still not sure I've ever convinced Carl that she really was NOT brandishing a knife that day.)

But back to the story—now what? My mother had our apartment, and we were out on the street—with no place to go. It was Friday—so we went to the beach.

We were nearly broke—we had just paid two months rent plus a security deposit for that apartment and were left with just a few dollars between us. But walking in the sand at Santa Monica on a warm summer night would be free. We could sleep in my car and call the police in the morning.

This was back in the days when you could actually find places at the beach where you could drive right out near the water. As I started to leave the asphalt, Carl said, "Aren't you afraid of getting stuck in the sand?"

"Naw, I'll leave the back wheels on the pavement. I just thought it would be nice to get as close to the water as we could." The words were no sooner out of my mouth when we felt the back wheels slide off the asphalt into the soft sand. Oh, oh.

Well, I thought I'd better see if I could get the car back on the pavement before we did anything else. Knowing the likely futility of the idea, I nonetheless gunned the engine into reverse. We felt the car dig its way another six or eight inches into the sand.

"Well," I said, "I guess this is where we're spending the night. Might as well make the most out of it."

In the meantime, a few beach walkers would stroll by, and some stopped to ask if they could help. (It was pretty obvious the car had not been placed up to its hub caps in sand on purpose.) It was a moonless night and starting to get pretty dark—so we thanked them for their offers, but said we'd wait and take care of it in the morning.

We made the best of it, but didn't sleep too well as we contemplated the options for getting my mother of our apartment—and then maybe moving to New York or Australia or someplace where she might have trouble finding us. In any case, we were sure it was going to be a whole lot easier to get the car out of the sand than to get my mother out of the apartment.

Good Samaritans

Daylight found more people coming on to the beach, and several stopped to ask if they could help. One said he'd seen some old boards over by the pier and that, with some help, he was sure he could get a couple of them over here to make a ramp for the back tires.

Several guys volunteered, as more people gathered around and looked at the car. It seemed to have sunk a few more inches during the night. The hubcaps were now totally out of sight. By the time the plank committee returned with the boards, the car had become surrounded with about three dozen people who said they were going to help push it onto the boards and out of the sand. One was a Santa Monica Policeman.

Two or three leaders had emerged from the group and were now giving directions as to what everyone else should do. One of the leaders asked me for the key as he slid in behind the wheel.

"Okay," he shouted toward the back, "Have you got those planks down under and as far forward as they'll go?" He was assured that they did.

"Okay, I'm gonna gun the engine, but let the clutch out slowly. All you pushers out there—as soon as you feel the car start to move, lean into it for all you're worth." Carl and I could have been out having breakfast.

It took less than a minute, and the car was back on the pavement. Everybody cheered and shook hands. One of the leaders came over to admonish us about going easy on the brakes for a while, because there may be sand in them.

Illegally Parked

Finally, the uniformed one, who had helped with the pushing, came over and asked to see my license. "I suppose you know it's illegal to park in the sand." he said.

No, I didn't, but it was an accident anyway, I explained. "We just sort of slid into the sand."

"Just sort of slid. Uh huh. Well, I'm giving you a warning this time, but if I catch you in the sand again, it's gonna cost you."

"Yes, sir! Thank you, sir! That's very nice of you, sir!" I said, with all my old army protocol starting to come back to me. "By the way, sir. Can I ask you a question?"

He nodded.

"If someone moves uninvited into your apartment, and she refuses to leave, what can you do?"

"What—she expects you to marry her?"

"No, not a girl friend. It's my mother."

"You want to kick your mother out of your apartment?"

"You don't understand. We haven't gotten along in years. She sneaked in while I was at work, you see, and now she won't leave."

"How far is the apartment from here?"

"It's in Hollywood."

"And you're asking a Santa Monica cop? Hey, we got our own problems. Go find an LA cop—and keep that jalopy out of our sand."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," I said.

So we went and got an LA cop. (Hollywood is part of Los Angeles, in case you weren't aware.)

Actually, it was two policemen who met us at the door to the apartment after we called from a phone booth. They listened politely as we explained the problem. They got real attentive when Carl told how she'd literally chased him out of the apartment."

(Continued in Next Column)

"What do you want us to do?" they asked. "Are you willing to sign a complaint saying that she tried to inflict bodily harm on your friend? That could be hard to prove, you know."

"No—we just want her to leave," I said.

"Well, it's not that simple. We'd have to see some documentation to prove that it's really your apartment. Even then it could be difficult to eject somebody unless they're creating a disturbance or doing some damage of some kind. And even if she leaves on her own—what's to keep her from coming back and starting in all over again?"

Carl and I just looked at each other.

"All right," I said, "how about just keeping an eye on things while we go in and get our stuff out of there?"

By now our nextdoor neighbors had begun peeking through their window with perplexed looks on their pretty faces.

"All right," said the cops, as one rang the doorbell.

"Who is it?" came the disarmingly sweet voice from inside.

"Police officers, ma'm. Please open the door."

The door opened almost immediately. My mother appeared genuinely surprised as she looked around and asked, "Is there some kind of a problem officers?"

"These gentlemen say this is their place, and that you're not supposed to be here and that last night you chased him (pointing to Carl) out of the apartment."

Now my mother looked more surprised than before. "I chased him out of the apartment?" she asked incredulously. "Do you believe that?"

"Then what did happen?" they asked.

"Well, I just came by to visit my son. That's not a crime, is it? I fixed them both a nice dinner, and then that one got all upset about something and ran outside. Then my son, Don, went to see if he could help—and they didn't come back—till just now. I don't really know what's going on."

Now the cops were looking at me like maybe I was crazy.

"Do you mind if we come in?" they asked.

"Of course not, make yourselves at home. Can I fix you a cup of tea?"

They said, "No, thanks," and followed her in, still looking at me as though maybe I was nuts.

Our nextdoor neighbors had by now opened their door and were standing there watching as we all went in.

"Isn't this exciting?" was all I could think of to say.

Inside the apartment I said, "We're just going to get our stuff."

As Carl and I started hauling things out, my mother began to look a little worried.

"What are you doing?" she asked, looking at me. "This really isn't necessary, you know."

"That's all right," I said. "You just entertain the policemen—we'll be done here pretty soon." (It didn't take too long to collect all our stuff, because a lot of it hadn't been unpacked from moving in.)

My mom now began to look even more disturbed, but tried to hide it as she smiled and showed the officers her favorite book, The Natural Superiority of Women.

"Have you heard of this?" she asked. They hadn't.

So she started pointing out some of the highlights of the book, as she continued to watch us nervously out of the corner of her eye.

Finally we got everything out and stuffed into my car. I walked over to the policemen and shook the hand of each one, saying, "Thank you very much. You've done a wonderful job. We couldn't have managed it without you."

As Carl and I walked out of the apartment for the last time, I looked back over my shoulder. My mother was sitting there speechless with a look of disbelief on her face.

I only saw her once after that.

About a week later I happened to walk into a drug store on Hollywood Blvd. She was there getting a prescription filled. She spotted me before I could turn around and walk away. She rushed over to me.

"Don't you want to talk?" she asked hopefully.

"I think you said enough the other day," I said as I turned around and left the pharmacy. I never saw her again.

I know this sounds pretty extreme, and indeed it was. But at the time I was pretty upset. Carl and I had put just about every cent we had into the two months' rent and security deposit for that apartment—now we had no place to stay, and not enough money to rent another apartment.

Couldn't we have gone back and tried to reason with my mother? Well, you don't know my mother.

My intent was never to hurt her—all I ever wanted was to be left alone to live my life. But, from her point of view, I was all she had (she'd already been through four failed marriages and I don't know how many boyfriends) and she wanted desperately to cling to me as the one "steady male figure" in her unsteady life.

I'd never meant to shut her totally out of my life—but given the circumstances of the moment, I could see no other option. For one thing, it never occurred to me that she wouldn't "track me down" sooner or later.

Except for a few brief weeks in 1956 and 1959, I've never lived anyplace but Southern California, and my phone number has always been listed. Furthermore, Edrington is not a real common name, and anyone could have found me at any time with very little effort.

Trying to locate her, on the other hand, would have been a much more difficult job—simply because I never knew what name she was using at any given time. With four ex-husbands, sometimes she would use one's name—sometimes another's—and sometimes she'd go back to her maiden name.

Sure, a private detective presumably could have checked out the various names, but it seemed easier just to let her find me, if she wanted to. But she never did—and I have no way of knowing if she even tried.

Given the benefit of years of hindsight, I'm obviously sorry that it ended that way. But at the time I could see no other option—and for a long time I really didn't give it much thought one way or the other. I just assumed that, sooner or later, one day she would find me.

I was wrong.

These pages are still under construction. Please check back soon.

Prologue   Ch.1 Alameda—Los Angeles 1939-40   Ch.2 Echo Park 1943   Ch.3 Virgil Jr Hi 1944   Ch.4 Le Conte Jr Hi 1945-46
Ch.5 Gower Gulch 1946   Ch.6 Hollywood Hi 1946-47   Ch.7 Drop Out 1948   Ch 8 Norma Jean Salina 1948   Ch 9 Fort Ord 1949
Ch.10 Fort Belvoir 1950   Ch.11 Korea 1951   Ch.12 Back to Civilian Life 1952-1956   Ch.13 Cornet Stores 1953   Ch.14 Puerto Rico 1955
Ch 15 Signs by George 1956   Ch 16 Mexico 1958   Ch.17 Fullerton 1960   Ch.18 Fallbrook 1973   Ch.19 Costa Mesa 2000

More "Carl" Stories       Still Another Story Involving Carl