Monday, October 8, 2012

Excerpt from Wrong Side of the Tracks: A Memoir by Ron McElroy

Excerpt from Wrong Side of the Tracks: A Memoir
By Ron McElroy

Introduction: Wrong Side of the Tracks is full of stories about growing up in a dysfunctional family. This excerpt gives a brief look at the dynamics between my parents and how my mom made sure we always had what we needed to get by.

I was no stranger to these family search-and-rescue missions. Sometimes it was my dad we were dragging home. He was usually marooned at one of the many bars in the neighborhood, rehydrating with the rest of the after-work drinkers. Always a treat to find his unmistakable dirty, bright orange, early model Ford pickup. We kids would get to sit and watch my four-foot-eleven Mom try to yank my six-foot-one angry Dad away from his ice-cold brew and inebriated cronies.
Mom is and always has been fighter for what she wants. Sometimes I question exactly why she wanted Dad, but that’s all water under the bridge by now.
After they got married in the VA hospital, Dad eventually wound up attending the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota and working part time at several jobs to support the family. He could draw pretty well, and had done portraits of his friends in the navy to make extra money. He intended to become a commercial artist, I guess, but that didn’t work out. Billy was born in 1955, Susie came along in 1957, and I followed one year later, in 1958. By that time, Mom had had it with Florida and missed her family.
In 1959, with Dad only a few months away from graduation, Mom decided to take us kids and move back to California to live with her brother Clarence. Every Monday morning, Dad would send her a check. Then one day he just showed up.
 “One morning there was a knock on the door, and there was your dad,” she told me. “He missed us so much that he packed the car with all our belongings and drove all the way to California.” It sounds romantic, the way she tells it.
So Dad didn’t finish art school, and never did become a commercial artist. But Mom 
always finished what she started, and then some. She had started out as a shipping clerk when she first started working for North American Aviation. She only took off work for a 
few years when we were little, at my dad’s request. But Dad just couldn’t cut it as a 
full-time breadwinner. He had an asphalt paving business the whole time we were 
growing up, but when he was drinking he wasn’t working, so his company never 
amounted to much in those days. 
So Mom got her job back and went back to work with a vengeance. She made sure the 
mortgage was paid, the kids had food, and the lights stayed on. She was smart, focused, 
and a great worker, so she was promoted to secretary and then administrative assistant to a team of engineers. She worked at North American and a few other incarnations of the 
same company—thirty-four years in total. 
Meanwhile Dad was working just enough to go out and drink. My dad made money and 
lost it all over the years of his rocky life, but Mom left her job with a great pension and 
Social Security to carry her through the rest of her years. 

About the Author:
Ron McElroy was born into poverty in Southern California where he survived discrimination, police violence and self-destructive peer group pressure. His mother “Tutu,” is an indigenous Hawaiian who grew up on the islands and was the greatest influence in his cultural and ethnic identity.  Street smart and reckless, McElroy graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Spending summers with his mother’s family in Hawaii, he learned to surf and became a high-ranking amateur surfer. But Ron discovered his true calling: real estate, gradually becoming an entrepreneur with his own companies in the shared office industry plus vacation residence and rentals in Mexico and Hawaii. He has three children, sons Brett and Cameron, and daughter Lockley, and lives with his wife Elizabeth in Laguna Beach, California. Additional information is available at