I was born on March 1, 1928 in Beatrice Nebraska, to Bill and Edna Jenkins. My mother didn’t like the cold, so when I was 5 years old we moved to California where it was warmer. They bought 40 acres on the corner of Cornelia and Manning avenues near Raisin City.
I had one brother and two sisters, who are all deceased. My father died when I was 6 years old and we lost the farm, forcing us to move to the country 10 miles east of Fresno. Between the ages of 6 and 16, I picked grapes and worked on a hay baler for $1 a day.
My brother was drafted into the Army during WWII. I then became the sole provider of our family at age 17. Looking for work, I got a contract to buy and sell baled straw to the Poultry Producers Association. I needed a truck and a good neighbor friend offered to help me buy one. I had the exclusive run from Chowchilla to Bakersfield. I paid my neighbor back at the end of the summer.
My straw season lasted well into my school year and when I went back to school, I was far behind the other students. I told the principal I couldn’t continue, but he said I couldn’t quit school or he would turn me in to the county. I told him, “Do what you have to do,” and I quit school. Because of the war, there were no trucks or men to work, so I got a good job hauling bricks in the Fresno area.
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My brother came back from the war and together we bought our own hay baler and another truck, plus several acres of land for our headquarters. The following year I knew I had to go back to school — No. 1, to meet girls, and No. 2, to get my diploma so I could go to college.
But the Korean War started and I got caught up in the first draft. I was sent to San Antonio, Texas, to become a Chief Medical Aide and received orders to go to Korea. While I was walking down the street of a city with population of more than 375,000, I saluted an officer approaching me. He called “soldier” and when I turned around, he then called me by name. Now, this Major happened to have been my neighbor in the ’30s and his son was my age. He had gone through Europe with my commanding officer who was now a full Colonel. I had a good job in the medical school for the remainder of my time.
During my military time, I took a 10-day furlough to go home. I flew to Travis Air Force Base in California. Trains and buses were on strike and I had to hitchhike home in a heavy rainstorm. When I got to Fresno, my mother’s phone was out because of storms and I took shelter at a service station waiting for any car to hitch a ride with. One did stop and the driver said he was headed for the country. I said, “fine,” and got in. When we passed by a light I realized the driver was my brother. Soon after I got out of the service, my brother passed away and I continued running the trucking business.
I married my Patricia who had three children. I adopted her youngest, Jeffery. They are all retired now: Patti Lackey, an interior decorator, Michael Burton, a medical doctor, and Jeffery Jenkins, paramedic captain with Cal Fire. My Patricia died after 36 good years of marriage.
I married her friend Thekla who had one daughter, Linda, who is also retired. Thekla died after nine years of marriage.
I’ve been going to the Clovis Senior Activity Center for the past 10 years and this is where I met my current wife, Karen. We enjoy traveling in the motor home and the cruise to Alaska, where we were picked to be on the ship’s Newlywed Game. We won after only 25 days of marriage against 38 and 45 years of the other couples. My youngest son told me “Dad, I heard things a son should never hear.”
When we came home from our last trip in February, I was found to have a large abdominal aortic aneurysm and was operated on the day before my birthday. I’ve since been given a good bill of health and plan on continuing my life of traveling and dancing with Karen and friends for a long time.