Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Moving to Ridgecrest

OK, the last time I saw Ridgecrest was during my July job interview. Now it is November 1985 and I have just moved here. The weather is just fantastic. 75-85 during the day, and a little chilly in the evenings. I lived with my best friends the first week in town while I secured semi-permanent lodging for myself. I managed to find a place the day before the moving truck with all my stuff in it was due to arrive. But it wasn't easy.

The Naval Warfare Center where I was going to work had been hiring a lot of young engineers. Ronald Reagan was building up the military and that included weapons research. So this little town had been undergoing quite a bit of growth. In the four months since my interview they had doubled the number of stop lights in town.

But about housing. There was very little available. There were no apartment buildings to speak of. I had rented a small house in Amarillo and had gotten to like it. I liked having a yard and a place to myself. So I prefered to find a small house here to rent. Unfortunately there weren't too many to choose from. I looked at one place on Norma Street that is the older section of town. The house was about 1000 sq. feet. Really small. However the landlord was really suspicous of a single guy who wanted a two bedroom house. He just wouldn't accept my explaination that I have 4 rooms full of furniture on it's way. I need one bedroom to sleep in and one for an office and storage. He grilled me so long on my hidden agenda, I decided that living in a house owned by this guy would be much more hastle than it would be worth. I had visions of living next door to Gladys Kravits.

The second place available was a four bedroom house on 5 acres out in the county. While too big for my needs it was a nice place. But the owner wanted about $900 a month rent. I had been paying $300 in Amarillo and most places here were going for $400 to $600. When I asked about why so high, he replied "Hey you'll be able to afford it. By the time you move three to four other people in here, it will be cheap. I tried to explain that I wasn't going to be looking for a room-mate, he flat out called me a liar and refused to rent me the house.

So two whackos down, one to go. I finally rented half a duplex in what was called Cimmaron Gardens. This was a neighborhood made up of 40 year old military housing that had been fixed up. That means they painted them.

It wasn't a very good neighborhood and the water had a funny odor. But the management company seem fairly normal. Besides it was the only option I had left. My friends were willing to let me stay with them longer, but we had no place to put my stuff. So I rented a place in Slimeron Gardens - barely.

I had to pay my first, last and damage deposit with a cashiers check. No problem! When I left Amarillo I had closed out my bank accounts and brought the balance with me in the form of American Express Travelers Checks. Good Anywhere! Right?

Well not in Ridgcrest CA in the 1980s.

I started at the NWC Credit Union where I planned on banking. They would not cash my travelers checks unless I had an account with them. They would not let me open an account with them until I was employed by the base. I tried to explain that I was going to start working on the base the next monday. They told me to come back on Tuesday and bring my new base ID.

All the other banks in town would not convert the travelers checks into a cashiers check unless I opened an account, and then there would be a 5 day hold on the money before I could touch it. Well I didn't have 5 days, I had 5 hours before the moving truck showed up.

Finally I ended up at Monument Savings. They refused me also, but did let me talk to a vice president of the company. I told him my prediciment and he started to refuse me. Then he noticed my name on the travelers checks. He asked if I was from Missouri. I told him no, and to the best of my knowledge none of my family was either. He scratched his chin and finally decided that the Cordes's that he knew in Missouri were pretty decent folks so he would trust me. He cashed my travelers checks.

This was not an isolated problem two years later I was eating dinner at Arbys that had just opened up. A Navy Captain was at the counter trying to cash an American Express Travelers check to get some dinner. They wouldn't take it. He was getting frustrated, he claimed his travelers checks had been refused everywhere he had tried to eat in town for 2 days and he was now out of cash.

I butted into the conversation, asked him for some ID, then had him sign two of his travelers checks over to me then gave him the last $40 that I had in my pocket. When I left the Captain was berating the manager about why the businesses in this town can't show the same helpfullness to their potential customers as a total stranger could.

Then next day I stopped into the bank to deposit my travelers checks and was told there was no trouble but that I wouldn't be able to withdraw that $40 for at least 5 days. So deposited them into savings and walked outside and used my ATM card to get $40 out of my checking account.

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