By Bruce F. Barber
I was given a book for my 5th birthday entitled “Bruce” (by Albert Payson Terhune). That Bruce was a dog: A collie. This “Bruce” is an old man living in Mexico: Me!
Why is an American living in Mexico. Why not? Most of us are free to move about as we desire …and Mexico is as good a choice as most other options.
If I recall correctly, there are at least one million of us (Americans) living here!. Most may be much farther south but I am a “desert person” who enjoys our local climate. Want to know what “hot” is? Come on down!
I was born at home in Alameda, California. I was born, I learned, in the same house my father and paternal grandfather were born. A great-grandfather was Alameda’s first postmaster. I never knew what my grandfather did but my father was a civil engineer who worked principally for the predecessor to “The Bechtle Corporation”: WABCO… The W.A. Bechtle Company.
My father was a good friend of Warren’s. In fact, our family was invited more than once to his home when he lived on the shore of Oakland’s Lake Merritt. But this is not about him, it is about me! And, I joined the navy as quickly as I could after graduating from high school.
Suffice it to say my father’s home was not the happiest place to live and I got out at my first real opportunity. In fact, I tried to run away earlier, while we were living in Yuma, Arizona. I was “captured” by local police and returned home. I may have been gone for four hours! But, I made it safely (in San José, California) three days after graduation from High School.
If I continue in this direction (my Navy days) you will learn of an epic journey spanning 22 years, 1 month and 3 days, during which I was married and had three children.
What would you do? I had a job. I had income. And, we had a place “to stay” albeit a tiny apartment housing many other Navy wives. I reenlisted! …and my first daughter was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania while I was in the Mediterranean Sea!
Later, we had a son who was born in the U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia. My name is Bruce Ferguson, his name was Bruce Alan.
We lived in City Housing at the time. A 2-story apartment in “South Philly”. During that time, I taught both our kids how to safely negotiate the stairway between our upper and lower floors. I made a game out of it by sliding down on our rumps!
Who could be happier than two young parents with a girl and a boy?
We lost Brucey six years later due to an apparent outbreak of Leukemia in the Philadelphia City housing development where we lived. Our next door neighbor had it and a girl about Brucey’s age in an adjacent apartment.
This was a difficult time but the three of us made it with a renewed faith in God and each other. Our daughter lost her brother. We, our son! Now, what do we do? I think it is fair (honest) to say I never really got over the loss of “my son”! And, to be “frank”, I have no doubt our daughter would verify that fact if she saw these pages. Eight years later we made a decision to have another child and our Pamela An was born in Pensacola, Florida while I was at sea.
“While I was at sea…” about 13 years… My loving wife raised our children!
I had “shoes and ships and sealing wax”. My Freda had colds and flu and loneliness! Suffice it to say “military families go through hell” for a retirement income that was, at the time 2 1/2% of the retiree’s income (plus applicable “raises” approved by the U.S. Congress) multiplied by the number of years served. Be that as it may, it was, back then, for the remainder of the retiree’s life.
At this juncture, I am inclined to offer a few words about the military wife. But, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it!” So, I humbly offer, “It ain’t no piece of cake!”
I retired from the Navy at age 41 (because I had 3 1/2 years of “broken service”. Then, because I had never before gone “job hunting”, I went to a State of California Employment Department and stumbled on “Experience Unlimited”; a training program offering its unemployed population an opportunity to find work.
This was a “teaching” program offering an opportunity to learn how to market oneself to prospective employers. In this case, the unemployed were taught how to create a letter to a company president designed to market him or herself. I was drafting my 5th letter when I received an invitation–the result of my first letter–for an interview with a company president. Result? I was hired! …and worked eleven years before a Naval Service injury (I underwent ten Naval Hospital knee surgeries) suggested I retire.
Once again, Freda and I returned to Planning Mode and decided to accept whatever we had amassed to that point and retire. Since the World’s Fair was opening in Vancouver, Canada, we decided “to kill time” until we could comfortably travel to Vancouver and enjoy the World’s Fair.
“Comfortably”? We contacted the (state of Tennessee’s) “Travel Units” Company to request an employee meet us in our home in Alameda, California to design a fifth-wheel model Travel Trailer. We also contacted a local Ford Motors Company to request a specially designed pickup truck to tow our new travel trailer.
Later, departing Travel Units, our goals were to visit my sister, a Catholic Nun living in Connecticut, to visit friends along our route through Virginia, to visit my mother in Nevada City, California, to visit our daughters (then living in the greater Los Angeles region), to “winter over” in Mexico, and to visit and enjoy the World’s Fair in Vancouver.
Too much? It depends on your pocket book and your determination. We were “retired”! And, we were going to enjoy it! But, on the heels of visiting our daughters, what now? We had no real plan for that winter! It was simply “to winter-over somewhere”.
Owing to RV Park prices at that time, we decided to learn about near-by Baja California’s RV Park prices before we made a decision. If “worse came to worse” we would spend the winter in a Yuma, Arizona RV Park.
Leaving our trailer parked at a Southern California RV Park, we drove to San Felipe, Baja California, examined seven of their parks, enjoyed supper at one of them, and spent the night. We then drove to Ensenada, learned a) about the local lobster industry and b) the sparsity of RV spaces, and returned to our trailer.
The following day we towed to San Felipe, parked, ate, and … Have not departed to this day! That is, we found a lot with a view of the San Felipe Cove, found a reputable builder, and moved into our incomplete house on December 1, 1987!
What did our daughters think? “MEXICO???? YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!!!”
Owing to present-day pricing I cannot tell what we paid for our 3,000 square feet, 3-level, 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom home with a full kitchen and built-In wine storage.
3-level? Yes. The lower level includes my office space, my wife’s office space, my work shop, and a library with more than 300 books! Ohhh, and we also have telephones and an Internet connection!
AND …there are an estimated 3,000 American, Canadian and Europeans living full- and part-time down here. We joined a local eleven-member social club and changed it to The San Felipe Association of Retired Persons. My wife was elected and reelected as its president a total of one dozen times. We offered local desert tours, local city tours, and 2- and 3-week tours into Mexico. We also offered well-informed (banking and investment) speakers from the local community.
Freda is gone now, a victim of Breast and Brain Cancer. But she and a friend, a neighbor woman, created our annual Cancer Walk and The San Felipe Cancer Center. May she and it live forever!