Author photo

By Pat Gracey
contributing writer 

Doin' what comes naturally

The Spirit of Tehachapi


October 29, 2022

Pat Gracey.

My mother used to like the song, "Smiles." It described how smiles can make you happy and even make you blue. Also, smiles that drive away the tear drops as the sunshine drives away the dew. Then, there are smiles that have a tender meaning that the eyes of love alone can see. Then it says, and I quote: "But the smile that fills my heart with gladness is the smile that you give to me."

Looking at The Loop newspaper I enjoyed reading Scott Ware's article about local folk smiling and speaking to people they meet on the street, grocery store or where ever one would encounter them. Having lived in Tehachapi during my growing up years, it seemed the thing to do. That's what mom did. Sometimes my mom's encounter on the street might take 10 minutes or so if the encountered person was to ask a question.

So, when we moved to Bakersfield for a couple of years, my mom told me not to smile at or speak to strangers. I tried. But, this was in 1942 and '43 during World War II and there was an overall attitude of camaraderie that prevailed of being together in a struggle. Patriotism was at a high. As above mentioned, I tried.

I would never get my shopping done if it were not for kind people and store clerks who offer to get items from the high places on shelves. Friends or strangers are always willing to help.

One time in a foreign airport I forgot myself and complimented a perfect stranger on her "polka dot" travel bag. She stared at me for a couple of seconds and then said a quiet thank you. She's learning.

I guess I was preparing, unknowingly, to be a military wife. One never meets a stranger. We talked in the commissary, the hospital clinic waiting room, new neighbors in military housing, checking on the children at playgrounds, etc. The conversations always seem to find subjects one possess in common. Kids are a great ice breaker, too. Before you know it you will be sharing good conversations.

As a child when mom would send me to the store I would tell the clerk that, "Mama said put it on the bill."

The clerk and probably owner, would smile and say. "Well, if MAMA said to put it on the bill, I'd better do it."

When I worked the early shift at the telephone office I had to walk a block at about 6:15 a.m. and stop in at Squires Café for a quick cup of coffee. If I was a little late and Coleen Redelsperger, the waitress, saw me pass by, she'd bring me a cup. The telephone office was next door to the café.

Later on, our Chief of Police, Officer Kline, found out I was out in the early morning and as I left the house I would find him waiting in his car, to drive the block. In bad weather it was good. He had a schedule to maintain. He picked up Elizabeth Cuddeback at 6 a.m. to drive her to her job as Head Nurse at the hospital. He was a good man and did his job well. One morning he missed coming by and later told me he had caught a man breaking into the liquor store and had to arrest him.

When I worked at the bank I had to show up at 8:30 a.m. The bank opened at 10 a.m. I still only walked a block, but down F Street instead of hitting Main Street across from the Depot. Sometimes, instead of walking, I would decide to run. Brick Jones lived on F Street and would call out a good morning and tell me, "You'll probably just sit down when you get there." I sure did but we had coffee at the bank waiting for us. Whoever arrived first made the coffee. The bank was a cheery place and conversations came easy. There was sometimes a "gloomy Gus" but that's life. In OUR bank when a person was overdrawn we just called them to "bring money" to cover it.

Getting back to Scott Ware's fine piece: about a smile and how it can mean a lot to someone who really needs cheering up. Actually, it's habit forming and when you meet someone on the street in Tehachapi and catch their eye. Just say a friendly hello as you pass them. After they recover from their surprise, they'll return your greeting. It's catching. Pretty soon they'll be doing the same.

So here is another song that fits the subject: "Let A Smile Be your Umbrella On A Rainy, Rainy Day." Sounds good to me and it's so easy to do and it's free. Besides, these days, a rainy day in Tehachapi, can put a smile on everyone's face.


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