Friday, March 20, 2009

Fathers, Part 7

(En route to Connecticut from Mexico, 1951)

The younger Alfred became a ship’s electrician and ended up with the occupation forces in Japan at war’s end. After his discharge, he returned to Connecticut to marry Irene, the Polish girl from New Haven whom he had met while at Taft and who had worked throughout the war as a telephone operator.

They bought a small trailer, hitched it behind their old Chrysler and headed west. It was their first home, parked first in Bloomington while Al attended Indiana University on the G.I. bill, and later in Santa Monica, Calif., while he studied at U.C.L.A.

In January 1949, Irene gave birth to a boy. They named him Alfred Parker Burroughs III. That would be me, and the trailer was my first home, too. Later, we’d move to university housing. I would become sort of a mascot, an honorary pledge, of Delta Kappa Epsilon, my father’s fraternity.

(Al and his son on the plantation, 1950)

After graduation, we went to Agua Buena, Mexico, where my father would work for almost two years on the sugar cane ranch. By then, my grandfather had married for a third time, this time to a Brazilian bombshell named Dee. Among my mother, Dee and the Mexican nursemaid, I learned to speak in a mish-mash of English, Portuguese and Spanish.

By 1951, Irene was pregnant again, and the political and social climate in Mexico had become dicey. Unrest had crept close to the plantation, necessitating a guard armed with a Thompson submachine gun outside our quarters at night. Irene vowed she would not have her baby in Mexico, and so they loaded up the car and headed for Connecticut.

It was there that Al began making his own way in the world. He would eventually become successful as a business executive, stockbroker and capital investor, but he started out walking around with a stopwatch in the Winchester gun factory in New Haven.


Anonymous said...

Is that when Mexico nationalized Standard Oil to PeMex? And, if so, what happened to the sugar cane ranch?

Park Burroughs said...

Nationalization on Mexico's sugar industry began in 1920 and continued through the end of the century. The railroads were nationalized in 1937, and Pemex a year later. The Agua Buena Sugar Co. was nationalized sometime in the mid-1950s, exactly when I am not sure.

Anonymous said...

The Tropico of Cancer photo is wonderful! The car, the luggage, the sign...really is a wonderful depiction of the era.

Park Burroughs said...

Yeah, it is a good photo. I was too young to remember the trip, but I do remember that old Plymouth from later days. I remember my mother telling me how dangerous it was driving in Mexico, and that my father drove the whole way with his .45 in his lap.