I was born while my family was living in Wartime Housing. Henry J. Kaiser had travelled through the Midwest, recruiting workers to come to the shipyards on the West coast.
He had built the shipyards, and he had built living quarters for the workers to stay. It was good money for the work, and the rent was cheap.
The buildings were similar to barracks, two story structures, upper and lower apartments, mirrored with two more on the opposite side. Each building with four apartments sharing a common “stoop”, or stair entrance.
They were well built, but you could hear through the walls and floors, even though the floors were solid oak planks. The floors were first rate!
It was close living, everyone knew everyone else, even our phones were on “party-lines”. One of the secret pastimes was to listen in on the other lines conversation, especially if the neighbors were quiet that day. It was rarely lonely.
Since two apartments were “mirrored”, they shared a common wall with the same rooms. Kitchens were next to kitchens, bedrooms and living room opposite as well.
I must have been at least four when I first noticed. In 1952 television had a new series debut, it was Superman from D.C. Comics. We didn’t have a television but one of our neighbors did, and they invited the block kids in to watch the Man of Steel, with X-Ray eyes, fight crime and evil.
So it would make sense that I was about four when I first noticed. I was in the kitchen having my breakfast cereal, probably Cheerios or Wheaties. My mother was moving back in forth in the kitchen, getting my father’s breakfast ready.
I looked up at the wall separating us from the Stott’s apartment next door, and said to my mother, “There’s Mrs. Stott making breakfast too!” And sure enough, I could hear her moving back and forth in her kitchen just like my mother.
The only thing was, I could actually see her. I saw the dress and the apron that she was wearing. My mother clarified that I was only hearing Mrs. Stott, but then I mentioned the dress and apron. Not missing a beat my mother reminded me that Mrs. Stott had just minutes before had come over to borrow a few eggs for the breakfast she was now cooking.
Hmm, so then I described the table and chairs, and their placement. My mother then said that I had been over to their apartment many times, and I knew what their kitchen looked like. Besides, there wasn’t much room to make a difference, everyone placed their tables in the same place. The icebox was the same, the stove was the same. The rooms were “mirrored” and everything in the room was mirrored as well.
My mind was just letting me know that the sounds I heard made sense because our apartments were the same.
Then I told her, “What about the clock? The clock in the wall right there!”, as I gestured with my breakfast spoon. My mother was taken a little aback, but quickly said, “You have been over there many times, you simply remember there was a clock on the wall just about where you are pointing.”
Well, that made sense, I thought. Maybe I cant see through walls. For the few moments, while it lasted, I concentrated to remember my vision, and then ate my cereal with milk. All the way to the last spoonful, where there was just a little bit of sugar mixed in with the milk.
Over the years I thought I was remarkable because my X-Ray vision was not used to see girl’s underwear beneath their dresses. No, I used it to see architectural details, of course I was only four.
But I remember the vision I had memorized, as my mother loved to tell the story, “Johnny used to think he could see through walls, haha!” It was a cute story to her as I was developing the ability to have complex projected thinking.
I may not have described to her that I saw the back of the refrigerator with the rack of cooling coils. They had a refrigerator, we still had an icebox. Or, that I saw the back of the clock where it hung on the wall, not the face with the hands and numbers that I still struggled to understand. I didn’t really mention it because I could no longer see through walls anyway.
And I no longer had plans to jump off the roof for a quick flight around the neighborhood.