Where were you born, Gerald?
In Lowell, Massachusetts.
What was it like where you grew up?
I wouldn’t know it now. Then it was pretty rural. We were five children–four brothers and a sister–and I’m the youngest.
What kind of work did your parents do?
They had a farm. My father designed heating systems for factories. It was the Depression, and a lot of people lost their farms. My father took off when I was born, so I don’t know about him after that. My mother worked in a parachute factory and later had a boarding house. I was put in foster care when I was five. I was too young to know much about it.
I didn’t see my mother again until ten years later. I’d been at a home for wayward boys, and then went to live with her again for two years. I helped her in the morning, and she and my brother John got me a job at night.
What kind of education did you get?
I got moved around a lot in foster care. That messed up my education. I went to school through the 8th grade. Most of my schooling was at parochial Catholic school. I loved school and did well there. I was learning Latin and everything, and I was going to be an altar boy. Those nuns disciplined me and kept after me to do my schoolwork. Then the state moved me to a halfway house, and I went to a public school. It was no good. Nobody cared whether I did well, so I didn’t.
Did you ever serve in the military?
No. I’ve never killed anything.
Did you marry, have children?
I was married when I was 36, in Hayward. She walked out on me, so I got an annulment. We didn’t have kids. She did have a baby from her boyfriend before me.
What kind of work did you do when you were younger?
I worked at a lot of different things when I was young. I was a good worker, but it was hard to get jobs, and they weren’t always jobs I could do well. I worked for my brother John for a while in Chicago. I worked in bakeries in my twenties, but wasn’t fast enough to do the different bakery jobs. I also operated a high lift and cubed cement blocks.
When and why did you come to San Francisco?
My brother Ed and I drove out here about 40 years ago. I couldn’t take the Chicago weather anymore.
What was it like to make the change to San Francisco? Was it different from Lowell and Chicago?
I did okay. I drove a truck for the Masonic Home for five years in Hayward, worked for Goodwill in San Francisco for two years, and then worked in Tahoe. But that Tahoe work was seasonal. I needed to work all the time, so I came back here. I worked for the newspapers for 30 years: I had newsstands. Then they closed my corner two months ago and laid me off with less severance than it takes to pay my $500 a month rent.
Do you ever think about leaving San Francisco and going back east?
No. I’ve lived most of my life here.
What are some of the reasons you might consider leaving here?
I have a lady friend in Salem, Oregon. I met her on a Greyhound bus when I was traveling. We talked a lot. I’d like to be near her.
What ambitions do you have?
I don’t have any ambitions now. I thought of relocating to Salem, but rent’s very high there. I couldn’t afford it on my $625 Social Security. Relocating is expensive too. So we talk on the phone. Maybe I’ll get to visit.
What kind of services do you need that you haven’t been able to get?
I’m 77 and I’ve had quadruple bypass surgery. I can’t get around like I need to now. I’d like a motorized, mobile chair. I like to cook for myself. I don’t have home care; I’d rather take care of myself. The social worker has a food locker to help.
When was the last time you had a really great experience that made you happy?
Meeting Martha, on the bus back from L.A. And I love the people here at Curry. They’re very understanding.