By Dale Buchanan
I was born in 1946 in the Madera Sanitarium an only child with weak lungs. To survive, I spent my first weeks in an incubator. These frail lungs led to my being very spoiled. The hospital is long gone now and a modern bank stands on the site. I lived in Madera until 1979 when I moved to Oregon for college and my career in retail business. Today I am retired and have come back to my roots in Madera.
From this vantage point, it seems that my story can be broadly framed into family and business.
I was blessed with two sets of grandparents living nearby during my formative years. There were uncles and aunts in abundance and at least thirty-five cousins to keep life interesting.
I have vivid memories of my grandparents. Mom’s folks lived on a dairy with a nice home and a cement barn for the cows. With my cousins, I loved climbing their magnolia trees.
Weekends spent with Dad’s folks are among my best memories. As a city boy I thought all grandparents had outhouses. When they married Grandma and Grandpa Parker moved into a brand-new house that he built on the corner of Hwy. 145 and Pecan. Of course, today the house is long gone replaced by a suburban neighborhood.
Grandpa Parker was a county tractor driver dating back to the use of mules. As a teenager, he had one of his eye kicked out by a mean mule. Because my mother worked full time along with dad at Oberti Olives Company, my clothes were store bought, but Grandma Parker sewed all of her own clothes. On Saturdays we went to the Safeway in town. Grocery shopping was a big deal. They had a 1950 Ford and Granny always drove. Only five feet two inches, she had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel. Her shortness did not slow her down. She drove like a bat out hell!
Grandma Parker was born on December 9th, 1899, and I shared her December 9th birth date. Grandma Parker gave birth to three sons in the house on Hwy. 145 and Pecan: Melvin who fought in Italy, my father Myron who was musical and specialized in jazz, and thirdly came Uncle Larry who was crazy—a heavy drinker with an obnoxious personality. Uncle Larry was still in high school when I was a kid. I take after Uncle Larry 😊
An only child I grew up in an integrated neighborhood north of town. On my block there were fifteen or sixteen other children. Traffic was minimal and with a vacant field at the end of the street, we played my favorite game: cowboys and Indians. Dad converted my Red Flyer wagon into a covered wagon. My dog was the constant passenger and I always had to be the mother. Yes, I have always known and understood my orientation and been accepted by family and friends. In second grade I remember taking my blond doll Peggy Sue to school. Grandma Parker made Peggy Sue’s clothes. We went as a family to all the Madera High School football games, but I was never pushed into joining Little League.
Dad was a quiet man and mom was the boss controlling the purse strings. The three of us went to the movies at least two times a week and out to eat more nights than not. It just could not get much better for a spoiled little boy with weak lungs!
After high school, I rode a bus to Fresno City College where I spent time socializing and took up smoking. I was just not serious at the time. One day a bus load of us were taken from Madera to the Draft Board in Fresno to register. All the way down I was crying on the inside thinking about the popular folk song at that time, “Be the first one on your block to have your son sent home in a box.” It was not to be. I was sent back home that day classified as 4-F.
After Fresno City College, I enrolled at Northwestern Christian College located in the middle of the University of Oregon campus. I was in the best of both worlds—the hippy world of the university rubbing shoulders with the Christian college. I loved every minute of that heady mix!
After graduation I took a position as a Youth Counselor in a Christian church. My open discussion with their youth upset the congregation and I was forced to resign. This turned out to be a good thing. I took a job in Lipman’s Department Store in Portland and saw how the law of unintended consequences set me on a career path that served me well. I spent my entire working life in retail stores in the Northwest from Portland to Seattle. Along the way I served in the management of men’s departments, women’s hosiery, and furniture as well as being a buyer and a floor decorator. I was slated to move to New York and a dream position, but Madera was calling me home. Mom had passed away and dad had Alzheimer’s. I found a job in a furniture store in Fresno and stayed there until I retired.
Hard questions you are asking now, Dale. I will give them a shot. I believe that God is everything. I believe—kind of believe—there is a God. I guess I am like the man who told Jesus, ‘Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.’”