Thursday, February 2, 2012

Love Was All Around.

Even though I had fallen in love with working with leather, my head still advised me to be cautious. In late 1967, I was struggling to stay in college. This was after spending five and a half years in high school. I have to admit, I was not the best student but as long as I was in high school and still eighteen years old, the Select Service System, AKA: The Draft could not send me off to war. There was a group on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee called the Milwaukee Organizing Committee and they counseled me to remain in high school as long as I could. I slept through many a high school class and extended my stay at Riverside High. Best five and a half years of my life! Time came when I did have to graduate and my older brother Roger helped me enroll at the Milwaukee Institute of Technology. It is now known as the Milwaukee Area Technical College. After struggling all through grade school and high school, this college thing was working out. I had decent grades, which kept the draft at bay, and I had landed a part time job at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Center as an attendant. It was sobering work dealing with patients that were severely mentally handicapped. I had a few jobs before this, delivering papers and pumping gas at a local station but this attendant’s job was something else. Shades of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest still come to mind. The money was good. I think I was making a $1.90 per hour.

I bought my first motorcycle pictured here with that money and rode back and forth to work on it.

My First Motorcycle - 1967

I had built an apartment in my parent’s home on Bartlett in their attic. A huge and long staircase carried one to the best apartment a young dude could ever want. I had to build a bathroom, a kitchen and a combination bedroom, living room-party room. I even had a swing that hung from the high-pitched roof.

Here is a link to a rare video of a young woman swinging on my attic swing:  attic swing video

Life was good in 1967!

So when I fell in love with leatherwork in 1967, I still hung on to my job and I stayed in school. It was not an easy task, working at the MCMHC, attending classes and now I was a young leather worker with a partner and a shop on Brady Street. My girlfriend at the time was Christine Young. It was my first real relationship with a girl. I was in love with her and she with me. The attendant job paid the bills, school was dragging on and the new shop was sputtering along. My new partner at the shop, Ron Raffey, had his own ideas of what we should be selling. We started out wanting to sell leather, but incense, candles and posters were paying those bills. I was feeling disillusioned with the direction the shop was heading. Here we had all these neat machines to make leather stuff but we were drifting into being just a head shop. My patience was running thin and for a short time in early 1968, I actually disenfranchised myself from the shop. Little did I know that a turning point would come in May 1968 that set me on the path I still travel to this day.

Bill Odbert and Chris Young photographed by Gordy Simone
at the Avant Garde on Prospect Ave. - 1968

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