Tag Archives: san gabriel valley

Piltdownlad #8 – The Olympic Spirit


Piltdownlad #8:

The Olympic Spirit and Other Stories

Stories from the San Gabriel Valley

“The Baudrey Boys”
At the house there were five of us. We were a pack a marauding pre-teens, wandering the streets of the neighborhood, always on the prowl for trouble. Or candy. Whichever came first.

“The Olympic Spirit”
The Olympics were in town. We were just as excited as everybody else. But not about the sporting events. No, we were psyched about the McDonald’s promotional game called, “If The US Wins You Win.” The prizes were McDonald’s food, which was the holy grail of all fast food. It was the best summer of our lives.

Emmaus sucked hardcore. It was better than public school, but we had the stink of poverty and ridicule on us. And the upper class kids had their own methods for keeping the weak ones down.

“A Totally Different Head”
We all had our own theories on how to blow thirty million in thirty days. Mine was foolproof. I’d start a band. Hire all the best musicians and stage benefit concerts that rivaled anything by KISS or the Rolling Stones.

“Ditch Em”
As far as any of the adults could tell, Rick was a good influence. Around adults he was careful to find his manners. But out of view, he was a ceaseless provocateur. A Peter Pan to our Lost Boys.

“The Joyride”
“So here’s the deal: I work your stick and then you work my stick. A joyride for a joyride. Deal?”

The Summer of The Stalker
That summer, there was a killer on the loose. And high school was right around the corner.

“Marlboro Country”
Across from Mark Keppel High, between a dead end road and the faculty parking lot, there was a small patch of scrub with a few palm trees. This was Marlboro Country. Where the cool kids went to smoke. I lit a Benson & Hedges and tried to fit in.

“Parents without Partners”
For years, the old man sat there, taking the brunt of these dinner-time gripe sessions. Until one night, he set his fork down, calmly pushed back his chair, lifted up his plate and dropped it onto the table. Crockery and tuna casserole went everywhere. “Enough,” he said and walked out the door. Never set foot in the house again.

“The Bachelor Pad”
It was hard to believe that my own father lived in an apartment complex. I’d always thought of people who lived in apartments as different from us. Apartment people. Not Baudreys. We lived in run down houses that smelled like cat piss with old furniture covered in crayon graffiti and food stains. When the old man asked if I wanted to spend the night, I said, “Does the pope shit in the woods?”

typewritten | 52 pages | half-size | staple bound | color cover | illustrated


Related Posts:

The Teenage Candy Sales Racket


It’s funny how Junior Careers continues to pop up in the weirdest places.

Over the past few years I’ve had two encounters with kids claiming to sell for the same company I sold for when I was 12 and 13. They were not impressed by my stories, however. They, like I was no doubt when I was in their situation, just wanted to sell a box of candy and make that percentage.

I recently read this article from 2012 on an Indiana local news site. The kids are saying they’re from Junior Careers. They even use the same speech:

A few weeks later, I-Team 8 spotted two boys who said they were 13. Their sales pitch was familiar. The first teen, holding a brown box said, “I work for the Junior Career Program. The JCP is a program to help kids off the street and stay away from violence and drugs. I just wanted to know if you’d like to help us out today and purchase a box of chocolate.”

The Department of Labor is not too happy with Junior Careers In fact:

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Injuries, and even deaths, have occurred as the result of young children engaging in youth peddling activities.” These include “indentured servitude, physical and sexual abuse, and criminal activity.”

All to make that buck.

Oh, hey, check out one of the stories from my zine Junior Careers about my time selling candy door-to-door as a teenager in the San Gabriel Valley: “Primo Territory.”




Related Posts:

The Olympic Spirit

It was the summer of 1984. The Olympics were in town. Everywhere you looked there were advertisements for the games plastered on bus benches, newspaper boxes and billboards. Almost all the commercials on TV had something to do with the games. By the time the torch bearer lit the flame at the Coliseum, the city was rabid with Olympic fever. My brothers and I were just as excited as anybody else. But we didn’t care about the sporting events. We were psyched about the McDonald’s promotional game called, “If The US Wins, You Win.”

The concept was simple. The cashiers handed out game cards, no purchase necessary. All you had to do was ask. On the front of the cards was a round foil medal that you scratched off to reveal an Olympic event. If the US team won the gold medal in that event, you got a Big Mac. For the silver medal, you got fries. Bronze, a Coke.

Of course, we didn’t know shit about politics at the time, but the Soviet bloc had boycotted the games that year. So the US team, with very little competition, was kicking some serious ass. This meant lots of free McDonald’s food for us.

We ate at McDonald’s two or three times a day. Each morning we walked the five and a half blocks to the McDonald’s on Garvey to redeem our winning game cards and get new ones. In the lobby, they’d set up a board with the results of all the events. If we were lucky we got a card for an event that had already been played. Otherwise, we’d add the game card to our collection and wait.

It was the greatest summer of our young lives.

Related Posts:

From the Alhambra Wash to Marrano Beach

When we weren’t embroiled in an epic game of Ditch ‘Em, we’d ride our BMX bikes to San Gabriel High and climb the roofs. In the empty dirt lots around town, we’d carve out off-road courses with abandoned shopping carts and practice jumps. We’d scale the fence that barricaded the Wash and ride through the concrete channels to Marrano Beach, where we’d play Rambo in the scum-laden, swampy water. And since there usually weren’t enough BB guns to go around, one of us would have to be the human prey while the others took pot shots from the trees along the bank.

— from A Masque of Infamy


image via

Related Posts:

“Primo Territory” from Piltdownlad #3: Junior Careers

The story “Primo Territory” from the zine Piltdownlad #3: Junior Careers, Adventures of a Teenage Door-to-Door Candy Salesman

Read more »

Related Posts:

the freeway wall

I was born on the San Bernardino Freeway. Eastbound side. A twelve-foot concrete wall separated our backyard from the fury of one of the busiest freeways in LA: six lanes going west, six lanes going east and down the center, the Union Pacific. Behind the wall, traffic was a constant roar. During rush hour, the cars crept by, with faulty mufflers sputtering, transmissions grinding, brakes squealing and stereos blasting. Motorcycles mainlined while sedans idled. Eighteen-wheelers struggled in low gear. The occasional voices, franticly shouting into the callbox…

At night, the cars came in waves. A few seconds of silence followed by a steady current. In the ebb and flow of late night transit, I discovered infinity, like a strip of gauze stretched taut.

Related Posts:

Piltdownlad #3: Junior Careers, Adventures in the Candy Trade


In my early teenage years I sold candy door to door for a company called Junior Careers.

Every day after school, the Bossman pulled up to the house in a beige Econoline and blew the horn. You knew it was time to go when you heard that unmistakable pattern, two shorts and a long. Morse code for, “Get the fuck out here! Right now!” The Bossman did not like to wait. You learned fast, if you were gonna make it on his crew you had to show some serious hustle. He had ten rules and “Don’t waste my time” was number one. As soon as that horn blew you hightailed it into the back of the van and joined the other kids crammed against a wall of boxes like chickens in an overcrowded pen. If you were lucky you’d be able to sit down on the floor too, otherwise you’d be standing, hunched over the boxes of candy, hoping nobody pulled a lame-brained stunt like that one time Felipe yelled, “Oh, my god! Stop!” and the Bossman slammed on the brakes. We all tumbled forward into a massive dogpile with the boxes on top, everybody totally freaking out. The Bossman was frantic, shouting, “What is it? What is it?” thinking somebody’s fingers were caught in the door again. But then Felipe goes, “A roach was crossing the street… you almost ran over him.”

We cracked up bigtime. Except the Bossman. He was pissed beyond belief. But that was no surprise. He was always pissed off. If it wasn’t one thing it was another. His patience was razor thin. And no wonder. It’s not like we ever made things easy for him. We dragged ass and talked shit nonstop, as if we got paid more for our snotty attitudes than the candy in our boxes. I mean, none of us really wanted to pound the pavement for hours on end when we could be home watching the tube. We did it for the ten percent of each sale, our cut of the profits. Slave wages, sure, but there weren’t many employment opportunities available to the under-sixteen set. So you dealt with it. Until you couldn’t deal with it anymore. And then you bailed. That was the beauty of the job. You could always say fuck it.

Everybody quit eventually.

It happened all the time. The van pulled up to a house and a kid would come out with a string of excuses. “I got too much homework.” Or, “I gotta do such and such for so and so.” The only thing the Bossman hated more than excuses was being a man short. “If you’re on the schedule and I show up at your house you better be ready to work.” That was rule number two. But it didn’t stop some kids from trying their luck. Except the Bossman had a keen eye for bullshit. No matter what you said you knew it wasn’t gonna be easy.

Once this guy Mike tried to take an unscheduled night off. But instead of facing the Bossman himself, he sent his little brother out to say he couldn’t work. It was cowardly, true, but you could hardly blame him, seeing as how mad the Bossman got when you flaked on the job. You’d be a fool to think you could get out of work that easy. You had to be on your deathbed before he’d even consider letting you off the hook.

Sure enough, the Bossman went off, shouting at the top of his lungs in case Mike was hiding behind the curtains, “You tell that lazy little blankety-blank blank blank if he doesn’t get in this van right now I’m gonna drag his useless ass out here myself.”

And he’d do it too. We’d seen it happen. More than once. He’d march right into some kid’s house and drag the culprit out by the collar like he was a bounty hunter going after America’s most wanted.

The Bossman always got his man.

Mike wasn’t the first kid to try the little brother tactic either. No, the Bossman had seen every play in the book. But this time was different. Mike was playing hardball. He wasn’t coming out. No matter how much the Bossman threatened him. So after a few minutes of hollering he threw his hands in the air and said, “Good riddance. That boy was useless.” Then he gave the little brother the once over. “What about you, kid? You wanna job? Or you gonna be useless like your brother?”

The Bossman had a thing against the Useless. When I first signed up for Junior Careers he met with my mom to give her the rundown and let her know I’d be safe on the job. Not that she was worried or anything. Before I started working for Junior Careers I wandered the streets aimlessly, getting into trouble. Then one day I noticed a flyer stapled to a telephone pole by the Alpha Beta.

According to the bold print, Junior Careers was an opportunity for kids twelve to sixteen to earn extra money, win special trips and have fun.

The prospect of a real job was hard to pass up. So I called the number and the next day the Bossman showed up at the house. He was a big guy, his brown hair kinda long and wavy, like he used to be cool, before he got old, and just forgot to get a crewcut. In this loud, booming voice he went off about the philosophy behind Junior Careers. “This job is about Life Lessons. I’m preparing your son for the real world. And in the real world there are Earners and there are the Useless. Those who go out and make things happen, these are the Earners. Those who let things happen to them, the Useless. The Earners come home with cash in their pockets. The Useless, they just waste my time.” As my mom nodded her head—I could tell she liked the sound of this—the Bossman looked me square in the eye and asked, “So which one are you gonna be?”

“An Earner?” I asked it more than I said it because I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about. But then, I woulda gone along with anything if it meant making a few bucks. It had been ages since I’d had an allowance. Room and board, that’s all we got from the folks. For everything else–candy, magazines, cassettes and video games–I was on my own. The prospect of being an Earner and coming home with cash in my pocket was almost too good to be true. However, after a few weeks it became obvious that it was too good to be true.

I wasn’t much of a salesman.

I was one of the useless.

But I didn’t really care. I was only in it for the junk food. As long as I had a little cash at the end of the day for a trip to the liquor store, I was satisfied. Besides, most of my earnings went to the candy I scarfed on the job anyway. The same overpriced candy I was supposed to be selling. Many a night I came home empty-handed after blowing my meager profits on company goods. It was just so hard to resist opening a box as I went along my route. Dealing with all that candy, I got the munchies something fierce. I’d try to resist the urge, but, consoling myself with the fact that I made my ten percent off what I’d eaten, I justified my splurges with the fact that it was kinda like I got paid to eat candy.



Available from PILTDOWNLAD or, if you got a dollar burning a hole in your pocket, you can buy a copy on etsy.

Related Posts:

%d bloggers like this: