I grew up in south Texas, Corpus Christi to be exact. My parents moved there from Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1936, just in time for me to be born. They had lost their Scranton business in the Depression in 1935. Within a year, my father established himself in the advertising specialties business and was really beginning to prosper when, in 1941, World War II began.
My early spiritual/religious life was Orthodox Jewish. During World War II, Corpus Christi was the location of five U.S. Navy bases. So at Passover, my mother and father would invite 10-15 Jewish sailors for the Passover meal.
My mother was strictly orthodox, but my father was not. In fact he introduced me to my first taste of ham, but forbid me from telling my mother.
When my father died in 1946, my mother became fanatically dedicated to keeping his memory alive and aside from forcing us to walk to the synagogue for services and for Hebrew school, she had little time to spend with us (Us includes my brother four years younger.) We essentially raised ourselves from that point on. Fortunately, I committed myself to school, but especially to the band and orchestra. I found there a father substitute.
Chet Malins was a Naval officer during WWII, the G.I. benefits allowed him to transfer to the Naval Reserve as a Captain and to get his Masters in music education. Chet was a stern but caring teacher and helped me develop the discipline to succeed as a percussionist, so that by the end of my third year, I was a tympanist of some skill, playing in the city symphony as well as the high school band, orchestra and marching band. In addition I was playing drums in a professional dance band.
During high school, I became an amateur radio operator (Ham), built my own equipment; the pinacle was a four way between me, a Swedish ham, an Israeli amateur and a Russian ham. (This was the height of the cold war.) The Russian's wife had just had a baby and we drank a toast to her over the air.
Also in high school, I found the Photo Club. Ralph Sunderland was the club's teacher/sponsor. The only camera I had was an old Kodak "Autographic" from the 1920's that my mother let me modify. It really had none of the sophistication that even cheap Kodak box cameras had in 1950.
Mr. Sunderland was in the Occupation Army in Germany and before he was returned to the US for discharge he purchased several excellent German cameras. As I remember, he had a Rolleiflex, a Praktica and a Leica. When he saw me trying to learn photography with that old Kodak, he let me use his Rolleiflex (Under his own watchful eye, of course.) and I was finally able to take some fairly decent photographs; learn to process, print them, and make enlargements. By saving my pennies, I eventually purchased an Argus C3 and was on my way.
This was the period when my Judaism grew thinnest. The relationship with my mother was always poor and always strained. Her ultra-orthodox religion hung over everything. Eventually I was no longer interested.
The state of Texas entered the United States under treaty. Unlike all the other states, Texas had been a nation itself and had an army and a navy. That treaty had several interesting provisions, one of which was that Texas would still have its own army and navy. While the Texas navy was never more than token civilian boats, temporarily marked with Texas flags, the Army of the Republic of Texas was a small but essentially real army, even if all it did was meet as "weekend warriors."
When I turned 17, I entered the Texas army. It was my introduction to military discipline and to the use of heavy weaponry. I learned military skills and used my ham radio training to work on the electronic equipment, most of which was surplus US Army and Navy.
Even before this, I developed an interest in guns and joined the Rifle and Pistol Club. The Korean War was only just over. There was a surplus of small arms ammunition available at very low cost for members of the club. While I started shooting with a .22 caliber rifle, I soon bought a surplus Garand rifle. This was the rifle carried by our soldiers during both WWII and Korea. Pistols were inexpensively available to club members and I graduated to owning handguns as well with the meager money I had, I was still a good ole' Texas boy. Before I finished high school, I owned several weapons, both rifles and pistols and was quite good and comfortable with them. (We did not walk around carrying weapons. That is a new phenomenon.)
Graduation led me to move to New York City, where I entered a technical school to learn to work on shipboard radar and radio, while working for RCA. Graduating, I returned to Corpus Christi with newly-minted commercial radio licenses and found a job helping to build the first two color TV stations in the area.