"I can't handle him anymore. You are going to have to take him."
That was how the summer of '78 ended. My son Robb had been becoming more and more difficult and Sue, my ex-wife and his mother, finally arranged, with cooperation of a court appointment, to send him to a summer youth camp in northern Minnesota.
Linda and I had just got back from our month-long bus trip and received our assignment to the Los Angeles House of the ICA. We had to arrange to pick up Eric, travel back to Boston, pack our belongings, arrange our transportation to LA routing through Minnesota to pick up a wayward son, and arrive at our new assignment by Labor Day. And we did not even own a car.
Thanks to my generous Green Bay in-laws who floated us a loan to buy a nineteen-sixty-something VW bus, we were able to pack all of our worldly belongings and make the long trip with Eric and Robb sprawled across bedding topping off the back of the van, arriving at 1450 Magnolia in Los Angeles just in time to take charge of a house that had been used to running itself and did not seem to need us.
Readying the VW Bus for the Boston to LA Trip
Robb in front of LA House in Happier Times
Since there was a Town Meeting '76 "mop-up campaign" going on in the San Joaquin Valley, Linda was sent up to help with that project. I was left to try to manage things on the home front. On weekends everyone headed up to our community development project in Richgrove, a small farming town near Delano, the headquarters of Cesar Chavez.
Eric began 5th grade at Hoover Street Elementary and we enrolled Robb in Berendo Junior High as a 9th grader. The community was heavily Hispanic by this time on its way to becoming what is now Korea Town. An added complication was that a contingent of the 18th Street Gang lived in a house on the opposite side of our street. Robb continued getting into trouble and we continued living in denial until an incident involving Robb, some gang members, and a couple of LA detectives made it clear that things were spiraling out of control.
Linda and I made a combined executive decision that it was time to salvage what was left of our family. We began a search for a community in Southern California that we could move to and settled on a town of 35,000 near San Bernardino--Redlands. We were fortunate that we knew two couples who were ICA colleagues, Bob and Donna Wallace and Lance and Nancy Ternasky. Bob was pastor of First Baptist Church in Redlands. We found a ready-made church home and schools that would take our kids to finish Eric's 5th grade and Robb's 9th grade year, along with a couple of caring teachers and school principals.
We made the move to Redlands in May of 1979 and purchased a "fixer-upper" house at 540 Center Street with the help of my mother and her new husband, Harold. Now what to do to support ourselves after 10 years of no gainful employment, no retirement savings, health insurance, or any other visible means of support? The job market was not looking too promising for us. The country was about to enter a recession and inflation was going out of control.
So what would any unemployed ex-clergyman do under these circumstances? I know! I'll go back into the life insurance business! We should be able to make up for the decade of self-imposed impoverishment. How hard can this be for a smart guy like me?
So I took the battery of tests and joined the fine old established Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee. I was now "Special Agent" Milan Hamilton for the Quiet Company.
Look out world of the un-and-under-insured--'Special Agent' Milan Hamilton of The Quiet Company was on the job!