The Early Years
I was born in Galveston, Texas on January 16, 1925. I was an only child and a sickly one. When I was a kid I had convulsions, headaches and other physical problems. They put me on phenabarbitol, to calm my nerves I suppose. I don't think that it did any good but they gave it to me for nearly twenty years. I guess that I was a bit doped-up all of the time.
When I was about five or six, my father got on with the fire department. During the war he was assigned to the MV City of Galveston, an all metal-hulled 100ft. fire boat. He stayed on the fire boat until it rusted out and sank at its moorings in the early 1950's. My mother stayed home and kept house and took care of me. I didn't like school. I never was a good student. I had trouble reading and keeping things straight so I just didn't have any interest. I went to Sacred Heart School run by the Dominican nuns. The teachers just thought I was stupid and I was pretty rebellious. Years later I was diagnosed with dyslexia, but way back then nobody knew anything about that.
We spent a lot of time with my great aunt Annie Sheppard Bunde and her husband, Louis Bunde. Annie, who was my grandmother's younger sister, was more like a sister to my dad and his brother, Pete than their aunt. Dad and uncle Pete were teenagers when their mom became an invalid. Annie was like a mother to my aunt Rose who she raised after my grandmother died when Rose was just a girl.
Much of my childhood we lived in a house on the alley behind my Aunt Annie and Uncle Louie Bunde's house at 911 Avenue C. My Aunt Rose lived with the Bundes. Both my father's parents died before I was born. Though I had no brothers or sisters, there were Traverso and Sheppard cousins on my dad's side and Smith cousins on my mother's side. Both of my maternal grandparents lived until I was grown. I had lots of family around when I was a child. I spent lots of time with my cousin, Martin Cheever, the son of my mother's older sister, Elizabeth. And there were the four Faust boys, sons of my father's aunt, Rose Traverso Faust. I grew up in the Great Depression but we lived OK and always got by fine. As an only child, I usually got what I wanted.
I ran around with a slew of guys in the neighborhood. The east end gang - we all lived near St. Mary's Infirmary and the University of Texas Medical School and John Sealey Hospital. There were the Garlands - four boys and three girls that lived on my block. Terry Garland and I were friends since we were about five years old. Terry later shipped with me in the Merchant Marine. There was Johnny Grasso who later went in the Navy and Jens Williamson who also went in the Navy. Harvey Whitehead was a good friend - he later joined the paratroops. Terry Stelges died later in the war in the Marine Corps. George Fredricksen went into the Navy and after the war was in the Coast Guard. And there was Mickey Parsons, a nice quiet little Irish kid, who was very religious. When they took Mickey in the Army he told them he'd serve but he wouldn't carry a gun or hurt nobody. He became a decorated Army Medic. We all ran around the streets in the neighborhood, played ball together and hung out. We weren't like these gangs today. We didn't get in any serious trouble with the law - never involved with anything more than a prank or a fistfight.
I met Della Lopez when I was fifteen. Johnny Signorelli said one day "I'm gonna take you out to meet this girl". We got in his Plymouth coup and drove out to the West End. We saw her walking home after school but she didn't much like me then. Johnny was older than me but we were pretty good friends. Later I was with Johnny Signorelli when we ran into Della. She was in a car with a bunch of girls and boys. She was with Johnny Irwin and a big guy named Red Davis. Red got into a fight with Johnny Signorelli and I went up and hit Red Davis in the face. I bloodied his eye and he quit fighting Johnny. We put Della in our car and went off to take her home. Well, we had just gotten to her house and here comes a car load of guys, all older than me, with Red Davis. They had come to get even, see. But when they found out I was the one who bloodied Red, they started laughing. "You let little Danny beat you?" Red said I had hurt him and they laughed harder and went off. After that Della and I started dating.
I dropped out of Kirwin High School, an all boys Christian Brothers' school, when I was sixteen. It was the first day of school and we had a new principal. He was rough. I don't know what I did but he called me up to him. "What do you want me for, what did I do?" I asked. "Never mind" , he said, " stay after school and write forty pages out of this book before you go home. " He was holding this book when he called me over. I just turned and walked out of the building - he followed and watched me go. I got in my Ford Model "A" and left. I never went back. This one French brother, Brother David, called me at home and begged me to come back to school. He really liked me and I liked him. "Hell no" I told him. I wasn't doing any good in school anyway.