In my memoir published in 2015, I describe my childhood and youth depicted as a boy locked into a day-to-day struggle to survive but determined to learn how to control his temper and find another way to live.

Book Cover "Gone for the Day..."

Bibliographic Information

Gone for the Day: A Childhood Memoir
Publisher: Richard Pepitone; 1st ed. (Jan. 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1941820107   ISBN-13: 978-1941820100
Paperback: 167 pages

**Available on Amazon, Apple Store or various individual book sellers.

The experiences described in the eighteen chapters of my memoir serve as a prelude to my six-decades in the arts that followed. I offer the following excerpt from the book to pique the interest of prospective readers where I describe my first big venture on the road as an eleven-year-old Brooklyn runaway**.

Here is the excerpt from  Chapter 11, “California Here I Come. 

....In 1947 a homeless eleven year old Brooklyn runaway in Los Angeles wants to return home.

After two weeks, I was running low on money. If I didn’t want to be out on the streets or in jail, I’d have to come up with some work fast. The only thing I could find was migrant farm work that paid daily. It was tomato-picking time, and I had to get up at 5:30 each morning to meet up with a crew in another part of the city. From there, a farm truck picked us up. We were packed in the back of the truck like sardines in a can for the hour and a half it took to get to the farm site. No one was paid for traveling time.

No matter how hard or how fast I worked, I couldn’t make more than fifty cents an hour: four dollars for eight hours of work. I was so tired from bending over the crops and working in the sun, I started to sleep late and sometimes missed the farm truck.

It wasn’t long before I went back to my old ways, panhandling and stealing as I had in New York. I stole loose change from the newsstands’ change boxes. After a while, I had taken so much change that I worried that sooner or later the newsstand owners would set up a stakeout and I’d get caught. No longer able to afford the Y, I slept in the all-night film houses that showed porn movies. I’d wait until I was tired before I went in; then, I would fall right to sleep. Around five o’clock in the morning, the movie house would shut down and I would be out on the street again.

One night when I didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket, I fell asleep in Pershing Square Park, a seedy place in downtown Los Angeles that bordered the porn movie district. Just as I had been warned, the police paddy wagon made the rounds and found me. I was picked up along with the other hobos. A hard whack on my shoes from the policeman’s Billy club woke me up. The officer didn’t have to say anything—he just pointed to the paddy wagon with his club.

I thought the jig was up. Surely this time, the police would get wise to the fact that I was a minor. The paddy wagon raced to the county jail, a large dismal building just outside of the city. The body stench from the half-dozen hobos in the truck was stifling. At the jail, I was fingerprinted and photographed for a mug shot. Next, they made us take showers, and our bodies were sprayed with some awful-smelling antifungal stuff. Everyone was issued clean clothing and taken to a small cell block, where each of us had a private cell.

Not one to brood about my situation, I dealt with the flow of things as they happened, and I’d go through the motions until the next set of events played out. I felt my life was like that of a superhero in a serial movie, played out in chapters. If anyone wanted to know what was going to happen next, they’d have to go back to the movie house the following week to see the protagonist get out of his next death-defying situation.

But I was actually living it. I never thought about what was in store for me next. I just lived a day-to-day existence. That’s what my life had been like in Brooklyn and that’s what it was like in California, although California was better. In California, I was free from the neighborhood bullies and didn’t have a hateful brother picking on me. That made the ordeal worth it.

County jail was lonely. There weren’t any exercise periods or games or any first-run movies or big band shows to see. The guy in the adjoining cell was quarantined because of a rash that covered his body, and I was worried I’d catch it. I didn’t have any cigarettes or soda pop. Nevertheless, I kept tight-lipped about my actual age. I wasn’t ready to give up my act and be sent back to Brooklyn. I spent most of my time sleeping. When I wasn’t sleeping, I read until it made me sleepy-eyed, and then I’d go back to sleep.

After the first week, things got better. A Bible group began to visit twice a week. They read the Bible with each prisoner one-on-one, and gave us each cigarettes and candy. If it weren’t for the Bible people, I wouldn’t have had any smokes at all. I liked reading the Bible and even memorized a page of the Gospel according to Saint John. It was challenging and interesting like learning the lyrics to a difficult song.

After three weeks, I was released back onto the streets with no money in my pocket. I needed a place to stay, if I didn’t want to be picked up again. The releasing police sergeant warned that a judge would sentence recidivists to at least three months at the state-run work camp. According to another man being released with me, the county jail was a country club compared to the work camp.

I had to think of something fast. I thought of Eddie Jackson, a lifeguard at the Y who had befriended me. He might have an idea where I could stay.

When Eddie came on his shift that day, I told him what had happened with the police. Without hesitation, Eddie offered to let me stay at an empty house his fraternity was still leasing. The fraternity had moved into a larger building, while the rent was paid on the old one until the end of the month. There wasn’t any electricity; it would be for sleeping only. I stayed there for two weeks.

I was finally beginning to get fed up with the day-to-day struggle; I yearned to return to New York, to go back to school, to live the life of a normal kid. The next time I saw Eddie at the Y pool, I told him I had been lying for the last four months. “On January second, I’ll be twelve years old,” I said.

Eddie was astonished that I had fooled him. “Well, if that’s the case, then you can’t stay at the fraternity house anymore. You’re a minor, and I don’t want to get my fraternity in trouble. Now, what am I going to do about you?” I watched Eddie pace the floor, deep in thought. It was a relief to finally talk with someone and tell the truth.

“You should give yourself up to the authorities,” he finally decided, “and let the system give you food and a place to stay until they can send you back to your family, which is where you should be. You want to go back home, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I want to, but the police will lock me up again in the county jail until they’re ready to send me back.”

“No, they won’t. You’re a minor. They’ll send you to Juvenile Hall. You’ll be with other kids your own age. You’ll have three meals a day, your own bed to sleep in, and fun things to do to pass the time, instead of living in a dark, dusty old house or on the streets.”

Eddie convinced me it was the wisest thing to do. Then, he called the police to let them know that a runaway kid wanted to give himself up. The police made arrangements with someone from social services to meet with me that afternoon; I waited in the movie lounge.