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The City Designed For Living

It's nothing new. I was in junior high graduating classes of 1958-60 in Santa Rosa California, then promoting itself as "The City Designed For Living".

Kids committed suicide back then. Often you'd barely know a kid, even in small town Santa Rosa in the fifties, because there was just a little too much age difference.  I maintain that in youth, in school, once you cross that three year age difference, it's often like you're from different worlds. 

I was just a kid in grade school when a young guy who attended Santa Rosa High School committed suicide. I didn't know him at all beyond seeing him once in a while, being I was probably in 3rd grade (1952-53), and he was in high school. He lived with his parents just three doors down from us on Belmont Court. The day he ended his life, he came home from school, did his chores, set the table, then went out back of the yard and shot himself. There were no grief counselors offered or available. It was LIFE in Santa Rosa, California, first half of the 1950's.

Kids killed back then. I had a classmate in 7th grade. I can't remember his name, but he was a lean kid with slick black hair. I only knew him from gym class. I think his name was Wayne. One day, this kid, barely 13, lay in wait for a girl on or near her back porch. When she came home, he surprised her and killed her with a sharp instrument. I was told it was a broken bottle, best as I remember. There was no grief counseling. It was LIFE in 1958 in Santa Rosa, California.

But sadly, there's more. A well respected educator, Dr. Evatt, tragically lost his wife around this same time. He was so stricken with grief that he shot both his children to death in their beds, then went out behind the garage and did himself in with the same shotgun. The daughter was the oldest, just into high school. Her younger brother, Bill was close to my age and was just a super nice kid, but he too was a victim of his father's grief.

I learned of this tragedy from KJAX, the local top 40 teen station at 1150 on the AM dial, as I was attempting to slumber to a rock and roll beat on a school night. I'm nearly asleep when the announcer broke in with a bulletin. I was shocked, and stumbled out to the den only to blurt out to my parents, "Dr. Evatt shot himself and his kids!", my dad sternly told me not to joke around, but soon realized I was serious.  I recall a dear friend's father, on returning from helping to clean up the house, "I can understand him, but WHY the children?" Those were his words. No grief counselors were available or offered to the adults or the children. It was LIFE in Santa Rosa, California, circa 1958.

Years later, around 1968, a friend of mine from junior high got into some trouble with weed, and did a little time. He reported seeing Wayne at this time. He said Wayne was a white zombie in appearance, who appeared heavily medicated and being handled by a couple of guards in restraints. That was TEN YEARS out from his murder conviction. A murderer, yes, and he surely paid with his life, every day. I bet HE got some counseling.

One Comment

  1. izzy March 14, 2019

    Almost a century and a half ago, Luther Burbank famously called Sonoma County the “Chosen Spot”.
    That was then; a lot of things have changed. Human nature, maybe not so much.

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