My father used to say that opportunity doesn't knock twice. Though I remember very little about him, those words were something that always stuck with me. Seize the day- when a chance arises, don't be afraid to take it. I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't live those words- I'd undoubtedly be six feet underground in a pine box, long dead from a bullet wound to the back of the head or blunt trauma or some similar violent end.
I was the oldest of my parents' four children- 2 boys, 2 girls. I hardly remember my siblings- their faces are just a blur to me now really. I was born in Detroit on a bleak December morning in 1917; my father worked on the assembly line for Ford Motor Company building Model Ts while my mother stayed at home raising us kids.
Growing up was rough, but then I doubt there are many people who've had easy childhoods. I didn't spend a lot of time at home growing up, and what time I spent there was mired in chaos and argument- fairly typical for the families in our lower class neighborhood.
I left home when I was 16. The Great Depression had caught up with my family and the last thing they needed was to try to feed another mouth when I was perfectly able to fend for myself. I hopped on a train heading west- a terrible cliché, but it got me to where I wanted to go. I never said goodbye, leaving in the dead of night while the rest of the family slept.
I spent the next three years taking whatever odd jobs I could find, hoarding what little money I was able to make. Life was hard, I won't lie, but there was something unequaled in the freedom I felt being on my own and making my own way, a burden on no one.
After working long hours in the fields or on random Government construction projects during the day, I'd often seek out bars as a way to unwind. The recent end of Prohibition made this an easy task. I wasn't always just looking for a drink- I admittedly was also often times looking for trouble- I found getting into a good fight was just the thing to release tensions that might otherwise build up to intolerable levels.
As I said, I tried to keep my eyes open for opportunity. Sometimes it was obvious- a pair of discarded shoes, a pocketed apple. Most of the time, however, opportunity wore a disguise. Part of the trick is seeing through the disguise even when your current situation might make that seemingly impossible.