A Brief Story of Four Pals
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 by Bill Neville
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      The time is Fall, 1948.  They are all Freshmen in high school.  Three of the four “pals” have known each other since Kindergarten.  The fourth has only known the others since the start of the school year.  Before graduating from high school three of them will have competed for the school in track and field, two in football and one in wrestling. One will have been elected senior class president.  All will have been considered “average” students in high school although Marine Corps and University of California testing would determine that one of them to have a 160+ IQ.

They eventually will have accumulated in their “greater family” 18 children, accomplished two bachelors’ degrees; one Master’s degree; leadership of the U.S. Congress Budget Office; ownership of a heavy truck repair business; management of a space age machine tool design shop; ownership of an auto parts sales store and several apartment houses; and leadership of a municipal fire department, and of the National Fire Academy.  The pals will, in the long run, have led very different lives, but they shared their passions and love for bicycles, motor scooters, cars, sports, and of course girls.

The first boy will join in the Marine Corps for three years before achieving his high school diploma, then, after earning his GED with the Marine Corps, graduate from UCLA in three years with a master's degree in several Chinese languages.

He will go on to live in what, at the time, will be considered a remote part of the world (Indo-China) working in obscure positions for the U.S. State Department. He will describe his positions in vague terms, such as “tracking Chinese news media accounts of agricultural production”. His friends will come to suspicion this was actually a “cover” for his serving in the Central Intelligence Agency. On direct questioning he will artfully dodge questions on the subject.  It will be discovered by later by one of the three that he is on a first-name basis with Henry Kissinger.  He will marry, sire two children, divorce, and remarry.  After retirement from the Federal Government as Chief of the Congressional Budget Office, he will become a licensed public accountant, but never practice. In retirement, he will live almost as a hermit just outside Washington DC

The second boy will, during his senior year in high school, get a full time job on the night shift in the aircraft industry.  He will work five nights a week, get six hours sleep and finish high school.  He will reconstruct (with the other three’s help) a 20 year old pickup truck that will accelerate to nearly 100 mph in a quarter mile drag strip .He will leave his hometown to serve in the Army as a helicopter mechanic.  He will return from Army service, work as truck mechanic, then start a successful heavy truck repair business and until retirement, remain living and working within 25 miles of his birthplace.  He will marry, have a child, divorce, remarry and sire two more children..  In retirement he will move to a small town in north-eastern Washington State where his second wife will suffer from dementia and lead a somewhat insular life while he will make acquaintance with many of the townspeople and lead an outgoing, happy life in retirement.

The third boy will, until retirement, reside within 35 miles of his elementary and high school.  He will marry his wife, (for 50+ years), the summer of graduation from high school.  They will produce three children.  He will accept a four –year “machinist” apprenticeship in the aerospace industry immediately after high school graduation.  During the second year of his apprenticeship he suffers the loss of an eye in an automobile accident.  The company policy will clearly state that all machinists must have both eyes.  Although he will be quite concerned about future employment, the company will offer to train him as a “tool designer”.  The training will lead to his becoming a non-degreed engineer and eventually he will be given supervision responsibility for the tool design used in the manufacture of advanced satellites.   He will buy, renovate and resell, cars, boats, and apartment houses and will eventually buy and operate (with his wife and son) a successful auto parts store.    In retirement he will move to Northern California and live a happy Grandfather’s life.

The fourth boy will work for his Father in construction during weekends and during school vacations.  He will attend university for two years while still working for his Father. Still having no career path in mind he will quit college to take a full-time position with his Father’s company.   He will marry a “high school sweetheart” and they will have four children.  After working for his Father two years, he will decide that the field does not hold great interest for him and he will look for a job that will allow him the time and energy to finish university (still with no career in mind).  The future Father In-Law of Pal #2 is a Fireman and during a party at her house he will try to recruit all of the young men in attendance.  He will convince Pal #4 that several firefighters do attend university while still working for the Los Angeles Fire Department.   Pal #4 will have a varied, successful, and largely happy career in the fire service and earn his degree in Public Administration. During this period, he and his wife of 20 years will separate.  Much later, while attending an awards event for one of his sons, he will “re-meet” another woman with whom he attended high school.   After a lengthy “courting” they will, while vacationing in Hawaii, decide to marry and he will thereby gain six more children.  Three of her children and one of his children will, for varying periods live with them. 

After being promoted to an Assistant Chief position for the LAFD and finding himself representing the Department at City Hall, he will become disillusioned and frustrated with the political environment of the City and will retire to accept a position as Fire Chief in a smaller community in the San Francisco Bay area. Six years later, after a Nation-wide competition, the Regan Administration will appoint him Superintendant of the National Fire Academy in the Washington DC area.  He will serve at the Academy the remainder of the Regan Administration and then accept a Vice President’s position with the National Fire Protection Association in the Boston area. He will serve this “not-for-profit” organization in creating national standards for the Nation’s fire service.  He and his wife will return to California after several years to begin a consulting business which they continue to operate.

The boys will remain, though sometimes geographically distant, pals throughout their lives.