After Grandpa Dyer threw us out of his apartment, Mother, Aunt Margie, my sisters, and I moved to the Noe Valley region of the Mission District in San Francisco. It was there that I lived for the following 11 years.
At the end of our block was Fitzpatrick’s, a small grocery store where later in the war I could get bubble gum if I treated young Joe Fitzpatrick right.
I went to a school called Hillside University. That’s the name Father Kennedy gave the small school to distinguish it from the big middle school on 29th and Church. The school was a straight shot from our apartment, but it wasn’t completely direct for me because I had to cover both sides of the street going and coming from school. On my side there were great low cement walls where I could practice tightrope walking, and on the East side were beautiful gardens and a scary house hidden behind a tall fence.
Only four blocks away on Jersey Street was the Noe Valley Public Library, where I spent many happy hours. School and books were my delight.
Although I loved school and was very obedient, I did get in trouble once when all of the students were gathered on the playground, chatting about what was in our lunch bags. That morning, I had a box of candy cigarettes that I wanted to show off to my friends. When I pulled them out of the bag, a book of matches came with them so I pretended to light one. My eagle-eyed second grade teacher spotted me doing this and grabbed me and scolded me. She thought because I had the matches that I was responsible for the fire that had been set in the boys bathroom recently. I protested my innocence since I had never been inclined to arson and certainly would never have set foot in the boy’s bathroom-even on a dare. I finally convinced her and was let off the hook, but I deeply resented the accusation. At 7, I was living in my own little world, but I never forgot being manhandled by someone who should have known me better.