Janey Way Memories #144
One hell of a man
My father had a tough life. Like all of the people from his generation, he survived the Great Depression and World War II. Not only that, Dad lost his father when he was 5 years old.
Consequently, he was raised by a step father who didn’t always treat him kindly. My aunt recalls an incident which took place when dad was 10. He was playing in his front yard on 5240 14th Ave. when his misbehaved. So, his step father picked up a piece of metal wire and struck him on the back. When Dad cried, the doctor who lived across the street came over and said: “Mr. Petta, if I ever see you do that again, I will have you arrested.”
After that, according to my aunt, Dad’s step father never struck him again. Dad went on to star in football and baseball at Sacramento High School and Sacramento City College.
When World War II broke out, Dad worked first in the Richmond Naval Ship Yard before serving honorably in the U. S. Navy.
When he returned to Sacramento in 1946, he got a job working as a milk truck driver for the Golden Gate Dairy. Then, in 1948, he got on as a patrol man with the Sacramento Police Department where he had a successful 31-year career. He started in patrol, but subsequently served as a detective and finally as the chief of the newly formed Warrants Division.
I worked for him there as a student assistant when I was in college. I remember talking to a lieutenant one day in the patrol room at the old police station on 6th and H streets. He said, “Your father is one hell of a man. At 5 feet, 9 inches, he is probably the smallest man in the department, but he is tough. If I was in a scuffle on the street, your dad is the man I’d want backing me up.” That made me proud of my dad.
However, my dad and I didn’t always get along after I reached teen age. I remember an incident which took place when I was a senior in high school. Dad, mom, my brothers and I went to Berkeley to watch my cousin Tom play for Cal in a college football game. Cal won that day, and after the game, my little brother John ran down onto the football field. So Dad looked at me and said, “Go get him and bring him back here.” Like a good son, I went down to the field to retrieve John.
Unfortunately, about 10,000 Cal fans dotted the field that day cheering on the Bears, so I followed the crowd through the tunnel to the Bear’s locker room in search of my little brother. There, I found John along with some of my aunts, uncles and cousins, and waited for my family to follow.
When they came, Dad was mad at me. So he walked toward me with his hand raised as if to hit me. I stepped backward, but he continued to approach me. Then I turned around, ran about 50 yards and said, “Do you think you can catch me?” When he kept coming, I turned and ran and ran, and ran, half of the way around the Memorial Stadium.
Eventually, I stopped to look back. Dad was no longer in site. So I began walking and wondering what I would do. Fortunately, I suddenly ran into my older sister Pat, leaving the game with her husband Gary. She said, “What’s up Mart,” so I explained what had happened. Then she said, “Don’t worry, we will take you home.”
When we arrived home, I walked through the front door and saw my family, seated at the dinner table eating. I walked right by them, down the hall to my bedroom. I didn’t eat dinner that night.
Next day, Dad didn’t say anything about what had happened.
I often wonder if he didn’t think to himself: “My son Marty is one hell of a man.”