Irving 

Warner:

The Making of an Author, 1941-

 

by Irving Warner 

or R. Aubrey Richards 

AKA (R.A.R) when writing about himself

as though another pens it)

I cannot vouch for other writers and poets in regards to how they were “made’, but I can for myself; it was an unusual and not always enjoyable genesis. Being born seventy-eight years ago had much to do with its tone. Furthermore, I was born a storyteller not a writer; even after I learned to write, I had little urge to write stories. 

The distinction between these two is not ‘fine’, but wide and obvious. What caused nearly all my problems for over twenty years, was that parents, teachers and just society in general—not excluding myself—had years before lost the value of oral storytelling as a way of making your living!  

First thing I can remember is that listening to stories and telling stories, or trying to, were outstanding doings, and I had a naturally voracious ear for narrative. This penchant was not earned or attained and I don’t know how it happened. Meaning, I did nothing to cast measurable credit upon myself for having it. Somehow the skill came out that way genetically, as music did for my brother Russell Warner born earlier in 1936. 

                                                     

My birth place was Modesto, California in March 1941, which back then was a small agricultural town in the Central Valley of California. The town is the county seat of Stanislaus County, named after the Lakisamni Indian leader Estanislao who rebelled against Mexico in 1827.

 

Modesto is now an unholy mess of asphalt, ticky-tacky housing, strip and mega malls, and surviving fields of diverse agricultural products. There, food is still raised to feed people, then processing plants and factories initially screw it up, and ship it to cities to complete the job. 

By 2019 this hypnotic economic system both employs and straps the people to railroad tracks with a fast freight headed their way. 

Been a lot of progress made since March 1941 when it took you an extra hour to make a cake. 

                                 

* * * 

1947, Fire Department, Modesto—ready to roll.

 

Between my birth and late 1945, life was dominated for me and everyone in the United States, Canada and Mexico by world events caused by approximately 153.7 million people working hard towards the destruction and/or conquest of nearly the entirety of Eurasia, Europe, and the South Pacific, to wit World War II.       

                     

Political Cartoon, WWII:  Nazis

As Angel of Death, and British Spitfire

Opposing. 

 

         

Political Cartoon, WWII: Military Leader of 

Japan (Tojo) eagerly supporting food waste

by Americans practicing strict rationing. 

 

I remember a little from the World War II years. Years ago, when I told my mother some of those memories, she was unimpressed, and thought I’d read about them in a book.  She and my father, like most parents from that time, imagined toddlers to be self-actuated balls of flesh and blood without the sort of brains that accumulated memories and such! To the contrary, snippets of memories abound, and some entire narrative flows, like Victory of Japan Day (VJ Day), August 15th, 1941. 

 

Certainly when I began school (1945) I was seeing and hearing new things every hour, but also experiencing them at home and out. My entire early life was filled with kick-ass stories, and I drank them up like an eager young ‘mudhen’, (coot!).  And countless question arose because of these. My father, less my mother, mostly answered them, until absolutely overwhelmed they would tell me to ‘shut up’, or just to ‘scram’.  My mother (“Emily”) not being a theoretician rather a very Italian “Dirt Mother”,

(photo scan of Mom)

would often answer questions through demonstration. She hated cats, and did not need to explain to me why.  One of my earliest memories was of her charging out the back door and down the steps with any weapon available in hand, with Christy, the next door cat, ‘picking them up and laying them down’ escaping for fear of life and limb.  She would announce after the conclusion of each chase, “Goddamned cat pees on my herbs.’ 

I would sit on the sink while she worked—with fire still remaining in her nose—she would add-on indictments re—the evils of cats, not the least of which they possessed the evil eye.  

 

* * * 

To those who remember the 1940’s and 1950’s it was a confusing time of unvarnished victory, a demand for normalcy and fear of communism. Most  people in the United States and Canada were influenced by WWII and its cultural/political aftermath, and in fact still are. If you were a burgeoning storyteller of any age at this time, astounding stories came end on end, spiraling almost out of control.  

I lived in a maelstrom of stories with such newly arrived virtual dragons as the atomic bomb, the ensuing atomic age, and the awful fear of Joseph Stalin’s drive to conquer the world with communism. 

 

It would strike me with disbelief when kids during story-time at El Dorado Elementary in Stockton, California (Twenty miles or so from Modesto, we moved there in the mid-1940’s) stood before us and came up with nothing but the most boring gruel. Then, when it was my turn, or I just forced myself into the limelight. I found out that the rules were: 1) your stories had to involve you, and 2) worst of all, they had to be TRUE. 

I tried to hybridize truth with fiction, with myself as a character, but either the teacher would get suspicious, or the girls in class would shout me down. Soon my insistent attempts at fiction saw me banished to standing in the hall, or worse yet (During the 4th grade, with a tough piece of work named Mrs. Heron) standing in the corner with my mouth taped shut. 

It was my first failure at school regards storytelling and would stick with me until I was a senior in high school, years later. But it didn't make any difference to me, much bigger things were, and had been, going on in my life regards storytelling and showing. 

 

* * * 

 

 

Radio Days

“Only the Whistler Knows”

 

As unlikely as it may seem now, there was about a forty year period when most of the family during an average day sat around and listened to the radio. You could start a radio station with simple equipment and low investment compared to that creeping abomination that eventually became known as television. 

The 1940's and early 1950's, American Radioland still was strong, though eventually it was changed radically by the presence of television. As a storyteller who was eventually to become a writer, the radio developed something that it did wonderfully everyday, and reading (therefore writing) was the only medium who equalled or surpassed it: The development of the creative eye within the mind. When a radio drama (such an installment on  “The Whistler” or “Gangbusters”) 

On air with “Gangbusters” cast, circa 1945

 

broadcast a scenario of voice and sound, the mind had to provide all the visuals, scents and feelings, for it only had your ears to work with, and that grey matter between them. So when, each week, “The Whistler” came on with its eerie song whistled expertly by some fiend, and The Whistler himself introducing the show with this unequalled bit of prose, which is more than worthwhile to include here:

 

“I am the Whistler, and I know many things, for I walk by night. I know many strange tales, many secrets hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows. Yes...I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak!”

 

And then, after that introduction, I was nailed to the floor with all sorts of self-generated visuals that extended through the entire show of (usually) crime mysteries, that always had dark endings. 

While at home radio nurtured the “readers' eye” the movies seduced the national heart. They offered up for kids of ordinary means the common delivery point of the movie house for visual and audio entertainment. The usual time and place for this was the Saturday matinee. 

 

Freedom

 

The first Saturday Matinee I recall attending was in 1945 or '46 with of all people my brother Russell, a cheerless sort assigned an even less cheerful duty, i.e. to escort his rambunctious younger brother to the movie. But, the point here is that the world of big-time storytelling opened for me. 

 

Though the popular culture of the Saturday matinee is another topic entirely suffice it to say that it was the genesis of non-reading entertainment for tens of millions of kids, certainly including me. Their place in American culture prevailed between the nineteen twenties through the 1950’s when television wiped them out.  

They worked like this: Kids would stand in line before the box offices of their neighborhood theater on Saturday, and not unusually you had a reduced price of admission for getting in before a set time, usually 1:00 p.m. The cacophony would start in that line, and continue through the entire Saturday matinee experience until you headed home, approximately three to four hours later.  

The 'layers' of afternoon entertainment would start with a cartoon or two, next possibly  a “short subject” {Pete Smith Specialties were common, comedy documentaries, typically one reel (9 to 11 minutes long)}, then often a newsreel. Then they would roll the serial such as “Zorro's Black Whip,” seen in separate chapters over thirteen or fifteen Saturday matinees. These serials were cranked out by the hundreds between 1910 and the 1950's. (Their format was taken whole cloth by the Lucas factory, into their adventure movies.)   

  

Linda Stirling and George J. Lewis, 

in the serial “Zorro's Black Whip”, 1944.

     

Now, I admit to possibly having these 'layers' in wrong order but after them came the double feature, a super hokey “B” immediately followed by a not-so-bad low quality feature. One or both of these were westerns. 

 

But the overwhelming influence of these Saturdays on me was without question, While walking home from the old Stockton Theater on Pacific Avenue, stories, plots, subplots, heroes, villains and diverse animals both real and unreal stampeded through my cranium like weldebeest across the African plains.

 

Poster of Leonard Sly (Roy Rogers)

icon of the popcorn cowboy.

 

* * * 

Libraries

 

 

Librarians, as seen by 10 year olds 

through 1955 , Texas, circa. 1865.

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