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Southern California – Anaheim, Orange County…
The first time I went to California was in 1982. I was 12 years old and I was off to see my cuz, and best bud, ‘Gazzy Galdo’ (Garry). Garry was my auntie Brenda’s son, and Brenda was my Da’s sister. Garry was a year older than me and he had emigrated to America with his Ma and Da and baby sister – Susan, a couple of years earlier.
Garry and I were Scottish – from Greenhills, in East Kilbride. East Kilbride is a Post 2nd World War ‘New Town’ on the outskirts of Glasgow (Scotland), built around the old village of East Kilbride in the 1940’s and 50’s.
At the same time as East Kilbride was being built, Glasgow – a few miles down the road, was being demolished.
After the war, Glasgow Housing Corporation bulldozed its notorious slums and began to build the sprawling housing schemes that surround the city to this day: Castlemilk, Easterhouse, Drumchapel etc..
Our family (the Carroll’s) were from the Anderston area of Glasgow (on the Clyde, and close to Glasgow City Centre), and like many Glasgow families, for one reason or another, we ended up in East Kilbride rather than the sprawling schemes of Glasgow. Greenhills was a new housing scheme in East Kilbride – built in the 70’s, and even then, the majority of my neighbours and pals were from Glasgow.
Anyway, I wasn’t in Greenhills anymore – I was on a plane, to California, to see my ‘bro’ – with my auntie Ellen, my Da’s other sister.
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Kojak, and Diff’rent Strokes, New York City – big skyscrapers and all that… I had my head in the wrong state. California wasn’t like that! Everything in California was low down because of the earthquakes, except for downtown Los Angeles…
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But I wasn’t in LA. I was in Anaheim – in Orange County, the next county over from LA County. And there were no skyscrapers in my auntie Brenda’s street… I should’ve been thinking ‘Starsky and Hutch’…
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Our reunion (the two long-suffering pals) was a joyous occasion. Two years had been and gone but you would never have known it. We chatted naturally as if we’d last seen each other yesterday. When Garry had departed for America we had thought that if we got big enough masts we’d be able to keep in touch via CB (Citizens band) Radio. But in reality – with a decent-sized mast, in ‘Polo Mint City’ (East Kilbride), you were lucky if you could pick up somebody in Blantyre, just a few miles down the road. ’10-4 for a Copy…’
Anyway, it had been a long journey to California from East Kilbride – 6,000+ miles, and I was ‘pure knacked’ by the time we got there, but I stayed up because Garry wanted me to see the Disneyland firework display that happened every night in the tourist high season.
When it was time (10pm or so) we clambered onto the roof of his single-story house and lay on the shingles watching the best firework display I had ever seen in my 12 short years.
I stayed in California for three months that time and my auntie Brenda and uncle Graham took me everywhere.
San Diego, Tijuana (Mexico), LA, Hollywood, Beverly hills; they took me ‘Boogey-boarding’ in huge waves at Newport Beach, they took me to ‘Big Bear’ in the Southern California Mountains (where it snowed). And they took me to Disneyland, and Knotsberry Farm, and Magic Mountain…
California was a different world to what I was used to!
Every day me and Gazzy got up to all sorts of mischief. We stole oranges from orange groves, chased skunks through gardens, and had a few fights with black dudes and Mexicans. Garry had never lost his accent so we were just two wee Scottish cats ‘hittin’ aboot’ Cali.
That holiday to California opened my eyes to the world. And I think it was on that trip that I caught the travel bug…
Fast forward to 2014 and I was back in California for my dear cousin’s funeral at the slender age of 44.
The details behind Garry’s passing is irrelevant to this story, except to say that it was a tragic and untimely death and a complete shock to everyone who knew and loved him.
After that first holiday to California, I went back again – a few times, and worked with Garry and my uncle Graham at PSM (Pacific Sewer Maintenance), and got to know all Garry’s pals: Craig, Ron, Rod, Scot, Greg, Leonard, big Brian, wee Finn, and loads more…
The night of his funeral we (me and my cousin Jason – another Greenhills boy – my da’s brother’s son, my brother Owen, and some of Garry’s oldest and closest pals) went back to my aunt and uncles house and reminisced about Garry till the wee hours of the morning. It was good to see old faces and catch up with old pals that I hadn’t seen for twenty-two years. But the face that I wanted to see most of all that night wasn’t there…
Southern California will always have a place in my heart but it’s not quite the same for me now, with ‘Gazzy Galdo’ gone…
Garry Hawley – ‘Gazzy Galdo’ – handsome devil
1969 – 2014
‘In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.’
Copyright © 2017 Raymond Carroll