There were quite a number of boys that lived in our neighborhood, and we used to get together quite often, playing marbles, tops, and games of all kinds. We had a big barn in our back yard that had a hay loft full of hay, and we would climb up in the rafters and jump down into the hay trying to turn somersaults on the way down. There was a number of tall pine and gum trees in the neighborhood, and we would see who could climb the highest. I used to excel in these climbing stunts, and loved to climb to the very top and sit there looking out over the countryside and enjoying the cool breezes.
One of my boy chums who lived close by, there was a big orange orchard on their ranch, and it was a favorite place for the kids to gather. We would build two forts out of boxes, place them some distance apart, then gather up a pile of oranges and place them behind the forts. Then we would choose sides, and have what we called a "battle" trying to capture each other's fort. We really did pelt each other with oranges, and we thought this was great sport.
There was an irrigation ditch running between this boy's place and the ranch next to it, and it was quite often filled with running water. We would take advantage of this and strip off all our clothes, jump in the ditch, and let the water float us down the ditch. This was great fun, especially on hot summer days.
At this time in our lives we figured we were old enough to smoke; we had no money for tobacco, but this didn't bother us any. We made our cigarettes out of string rolled up in a piece of newspaper, or if we wanted a cigar we would roll up some walnut leaves in the shape of a cigar, but this wasn't too good. We usually hid out in the orchard when on a smoking spree. For our drinks we would fill a bottle with orange juice and carry it around in our hip pockets. We didn't care too much for this pastime. There were other things to do that were much more fun.
Another game we used to play a lot, was keeping a store. The girls would play this with us. We would set up a box for a counter, and get a lot of bottles and fill them with different colors of water, made by soaking colored rags in water. We used to get some very pretty colored water this way; it looked almost good enough to drink. Another game that was a lot of fun: we would get an empty shoe box and cut a hole in the top, pasting a strip of tissue paper over to let a little light shine in, and cut a peep hole in one end of the box. Then we would cut different pictures out of the funny papers and magazines and paste them around on the bottom of the box. We called this "Pinny-poppy-show", and would charge a pin to look in the box.
During fruit season when the apricots were ripe, Father used to get a job picking apricots, and he would take Mother and all of us children with him to the orchard. The owner of the orchard had a shed built that was open at the sides. There was a long table under the shed on which was placed a number of trays. Mother and us children and several other families would pit the apricots, that is, cutting them in half, taking out the seed and then laying the halves in the trays. A man would come along and pick up the filled trays and put them in what they called the sulphur house. Then they would close it up and burn sulphur under the apricots for a short time, then take out the trays and spread them out on the ground in the sun to dry. We were paid the sum of ten cents for pitting a box of apricots weighing 50 pounds. We didn't get very rich at this work, but the money we made came in very handy when it came to buying clothes and food for us children.
During walnut season, Father would contract to pick the walnuts in a large orchard. Mother and us children were on the job to help. Dad would shake down the walnuts with a long pole that had a hook on one end. We would put Mother and the girls under a nice shady tree, then Father and us boys would pick up the walnuts and carry them to the tree and make a large pile of them for Mother and the girls to hull. When we would get too tired picking up walnuts, we would sit in the shade and help Mother and the girls. Father got paid 25 cents a sack for this work, and the whole family working from early morning until sundown would make about $3.00 for a day's work. Other summer jobs were picking chili peppers, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. We also worked in the cannery. Dad used to bring home sacks of walnuts and peanuts for us to crack during the long winter evenings.