This piece was read at the 2002 DOLOP Reunion in Chowchilla on the occasion of Max's birthday.

Max's Road: The Road Well Traveled

Max's Vital Statistics

born Tuesday, June 24, 1919 - - he was such a cute baby

has lived 82 years and 362 days

insurance tables give Max 6 more years - - 7 had he not smoked

at age 27 he married Doris who was taken from us

at age 56 he married Janet

June, Max's birth month, is a month of memorable anniversaries for both Max and Janet - - anniversaries which, cord-like interweave, entwine and enhance profoundly our family wreath of love for each other.


Max's Road: The Road Well Traveled

The Fates had destined big things for Max William Poteete. However, at his birth, Providence, or God if you are a believer, placed him securely into the arms of Lowery and Opla, two humble but grateful parents for this their first baby boy.

How were they, of all people, qualified to examine the inner workings of their young son's maturing brain? The one thing they were certain of was that it was a good, healthy thing for every human being to pursue a vigorous work ethic, particularly on one's own property. And what was more, here was their growing albeit reluctant young son who would soon be bending a strong back to the necessities of their small farm, rich with the promise of the California Dream.

Max, however, possibly while gazing out of the wide hayloft doors on over the tops of Lowery's young peach and plum trees, could see much farther than Lowery; he could look right over the Howards' roof and tree tops, clear over Crown Court there on Chester Avenue, on beyond Riverview past the bluffs to the tranquil blue-range of the Tehachapi mountains with all the unknown, wonderful things behind them such as other towns, people, places - - the back of beyond. While Max's inner being was busy marching to the beat of a drummer different from that of Lowery's, he probably was little aware of the real drums that were beating over in those far off places that for him up to now, existed only in movieland.

In the picket-fence neighborhoods of Riverview and Oildale young Max was being shaped and molded not only by his family but also by his school classes, the births, lives, and deaths of relatives and friends and by regular church attendance.

Eighth-grade graduation from Standard School at age 14 came with his class picture showing pretty girls in their very special occasion dresses and the boys showing their respect for the occasion by being uniformly dressed in white shirts with matching bow ties and dress pants. There sat Max on the front row step. His hair had been tamed and parted and he presented a serious face to the camera.

Next for him came Kern County Union High School with its overwhelming enrollment of thousands and along with it the unlimited human potential of that generation. There was a time in high school, maybe a flashpoint of inspiration, or maybe after a long, simmering burning when he told his mother that he would like to join the drama club. Where Opla saw the shady side of the world of stage and drama, and its notorious public figures, Max saw stage lights, cool people doing fun-make believe things - - the world beyond Oildale. With his mother's fire-extinguishing propensities Max's idea became another one of those "what ifs" to which most of us can relate.

He graduated into the real world of not much money anywhere and of people only having just enough of things - - not too much. In those days the word "landfill" meant excess dirt for putting on a site of land, not a location for cast offs from a consumer society.

Steady income from a job at Wards, a pretty girlfriend up the street and a draft call came pretty much in that order. Max and millions of his peers suddenly found themselves marching in a broad swath to the beat of the same drummer. The elite "Road Less Traveled" turned out instead to be a heaving ocean with no boundaries, plowed and furrowed with troop ships, again carrying Max and thousands of others and bound for destinations that were just giant question marks for the travelers. An ongoing attitude adjustment was called for here and that outrageous rhyme of "ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do or die" made the rounds and helped rational minds to accept the irrational.

The broad highway quickly narrowed down to a pathway of learning how to fly medium bombers through seemingly trackless but flack-filled skies, and how to follow orders. He was now in a tunnel with no light at the end with only one direction to go - - straight ahead. Do or die were the marching orders and now Max found himself in those far away places, half of which were already destroyed and he himself was busy destroying bridges and mountain scapes over which he would have liked to travel one day.

How does a youth let himself be led to a place to which he doesn't want to go and even hand over his life if necessary? Because in his era, to do the right thing was the only option.

Providence, or God if you are a believer, is a far kinder master than is Fate, and one day, rather like Alice in Wonderland, Max found himself jettisoned from the tunnel of darkness to the sun-dappled shade of Lowery's spreading fig tree - - a Distinguished Flying Cross to be tucked away in his drawer. The new turn in Max's road was radical and he saw that things would never be the same for him again.

Another broad new road to the doors of academia was marched on by Max and a throng of armed services survivors. Seeing again the long, looping lines, forms, applications and looking ahead to years of restricting course work gave Max a bad case of déjà vu and he turned around and proved that you can come home again. Devoting his brains, brawn and tax dollars, Max, with his generation not only rehabilitated Europe and the Pacific but helped to usher in an American High that was the greatest society the world has ever known.

Max has gladly handed his road map to the generation that follows his. As for him, he is finally on that road less traveled and which scripture says, is found only by a few. Red carpets, checkered flags, crowns, and things reserved only for winners will await him at his destination. He will never again have to scan the horizon because he will already be there.