I was born in Los Angeles during the Depression on Sept. 4, 1931.
My father, Lee Bird, was from Missouri. He and his brothers hopped a freight train to come out to California. He met my mother Louise in Los Angeles and they were married there.
My father’s employment took us to Coalinga, later to Avenal. He was employed by Standard Oil. I lived in Avenal all my school years when it was a beautiful little oil town. A rich oil town. We had good schools, good teachers. A lot of good people lived there.
I have been very thankful that my parents introduced music in my life at the very young age of 4. Times were very hard and money was very short, but because of my parent’s love of music and dance, they wanted me to experience the joy of music as a means to buy me a 12-bass accordion. This started me in the direction that would be the foundation of my future music career. Music was a big part of my young life.
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One of my first jobs was when I was 11 years old. I was a shoe shine boy at Clarence Flemming’s Barber Shop. This shop was located across the street from the Bank of America where my mother worked. (I think now, it was because she could keep an eye on me!) With all the money I made, she made me open a savings account in which 50 percent of my earnings were deposited. My mother did a good job of teaching me how to stretch the dollar and I thank her. I went to Avenal Elementary School where I met the love of my life, Lois, in the eighth grade. We were high school sweethearts. We later married and had two children, our daughter Robbi and son Steve. We now have four grandchildren: Jen, CJ, Scott, Jillian. We also have five great-grandchildren, Keira, Baylee, Marlee, Jace and Ellie.
I worked many jobs while getting my college degree, such as machine shop, oil field drilling rigs and eventually PG&E. PG&E offered me all night work so I could go to college during the day. I graduated from the Coalinga campus of West Hills College and transferred to Fresno State to get my degree in teaching music. I taught music in the schools for 30 years, retiring in 1990. My teaching years were very fulfilling. The students were eager to learn and their parents took such an interest in their learning. I had good students and parents.
One of my desires in life was getting my private pilot’s license. Our son received his private pilot’s license his senior year in high school. I received mine after that. I had some interesting stories of some of my flights.
Lois and I have enjoyed dancing – ballroom, western, and line dancing. We have enjoyed our many trips and cruses to Caribbean, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Mexico and South America. We have walked at the Sierra Vista Mall for the past 24 years and enjoyed all our many walking friends.
We have volunteered at the Clovis Senior Activity Center for the past 20 years. I have been a blood donor since 1960, giving every eight weeks, whole blood. I have played in many bands around the Valley, including the Rhythmaires, for 17 years. I had the honor of playing with the Fresno Community Concert Band for 21 years. So my life is good, full of music, good friends and good times to come.