Decade 3
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The Third Decade: 1949-1959

I graduated from Caldwell High School in 1949. The College of Idaho (now Albertson's College of Idaho) was only a few blocks from home, so I attended there one year. I didn't do too well, so didn't go back the next year. I had met a young lady whom I thought I wanted to marry, and she took precedence. We married in 1950. By the time our baby, Gareth Leslie Mark, was born, we had moved to Portland, Oregon, which was in the throes of a recession. I was unskilled, and unable to get a good job. Times for us were really rough.

Lois, my wife, could not take the austerity, and moved back to Idaho, leaving the baby with me. She eventually remarried. I tried unsuccessfully to take care of the baby, found I couldn't, and asked a couple I knew to care for him. They did so until he grew up and left home. Lois and her second husband remain married to this day. Lois has been very successful in the tax business, and is now retired. I am glad she had a happy and successful life.

Next I got drafted into the army. I underwent basic training at Fort Ord, California; from there I was sent to an air base at St. Nazaire, France, which was then a mudhole. We were trying to rebuild and enlarge a German airstrip. The whole area was below sea level. We had bulldozers disappear into the mud, which at places was 16 feet deep. I was only there for a short time, when by a fluke I was sent to Frankfort, Germany, to study soils testing. (The fluke was that the First Sergeant was always confusing the names of my buddy and me; he never could keep it straight which was Don and which was Al. When he had to make a list of people he thought would be good to send to a school in Frankfort, he decided Al would be a good candidate. But he got the names mixed up and wrote my name down. By the time he found his mistake, it was too late to change it. That mistake made the next eighteen months a much more pleasant experience for me than it would otherwise have been. Thanks, Sarge.) The Air Force was starting to build bases for the Cold War, and needed to train people to build them.

Next I was sent to Greenham Common, England. That was the coldest place in the world; we were working on a runway down which the wind blew the drizzle unobstructed for a mile. I would wear: a) underwear; b) two sets of long johns; c) fatigue uniform; d) field jacket with liner; e) overcoat with liner; I would still shiver. Nice. Many years later Greenham Common was the site of anti-nuclear protests.

My next assignment was to travel around Great Britain with a team from the US Coast and Geodetic Survey to ascertain if old WWII airstrips were worth rebuilding. I was one of their truck drivers. I had never driven a truck before, and this was England, folks, where they drive on the wrong side of the road. Every morning when we started out, the rest of the crew had a bet going about how long it would take me to realize I was driving on the wrong side. If there wasn't much traffic it could take me quite a while.

When I got out of the army, I enrolled at Portland State College (now University), in Portland, Oregon. I studied to be a teacher. Four good years, partly paid for by the GI Bill, a great government program which should be revived and extended to all who serve in either civil or military capacities. Socialism at its best. I had wanted to be a high school history teacher for a long time. No one told me that history teachers were actually coaches who needed to teach a few classes to justify their pay. Since I didn't want to coach, I never was able to obtain a job teaching history.

My second wife, Connie, and I were married while I was still in college. Our first child, Donald Herbert Mark, was born before I graduated.

As far as education is concerned, by the time I graduated college and began teaching, I felt I had a pretty good education. I had a smattering of intellectualism, had read quite a bit of good literature, enjoyed good movies, etc. The people I associated with seemed to respect my learning.

I had finally waken up as far as religion was concerned. One day during basic training, in 1953 or 1954, I heard two fellow soldiers talking about the church. One was telling how a friend of his believed in the church, knew intellectually that it was right, but couldn't yet "see" the church. I thought, "These guys must go to the Church of God." But, no, they were Mormons. It occurred to me that probably all churches feel that they are the one true church. That was an awakening. Because if that were true, then how much else of what I had been taught was also nonsense. Probably a lot. The next awakening experience for me was reading Outline of History by H.G. Wells. His chapters on religion made me realize that religion is mostly a sham, at least the "church" aspects of it. And the third thing was seeing an ad about Unitarianism which asked some questions about religion, and made me realize that freedom of thought is not only possible but a good thing, and that I was as qualified to answer ultimate questions as anyone else. But mainly I just quit going to church and having any religious life at all for the next 30 years. And being well satisfied about that.

The Fourth Decade

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