Thinking of Milton Bratton on Veterans Day

By Kitty Bratton

Today is Veterans Day and also my dad’s birthday. Milton Bratton would have been 84 today if only he had survived 1987.

In his 63 years he had lived all over Venice Beach, and had a bookstore there, on Dudley for years.

He knew so many people and was so loved, his ending just did not fit that life.

He stayed at 517 Ocean Front Walk from ‘68 till ‘85, when the building was suddenly sold, with only a couple days to put his things in storage and find somewhere to live, it was unreal, we did the best we could, but it was such a shock at the time, I did not know the Boardwalk was for sale. And nowadays it happens all the time, progress instead of people, greed instead of good.

So my dad drifted from place to place, among our small family, sometimes staying in cars or with friends.

One time some mental health group found him on the beach, and forced him into a shelter, they called me and said I had better pick him up or he was going to jail, or a hospital. These folks were going to put a stop to homeless, broke people living on the beach. Where are they now?

Most of the time I had housing and my father stayed with me and his four grandkids.

We would take breaks here and there, we were on one of those breaks when his, and therefore, our tragedy happened.

He was, unknown to me at the time, just sleeping out on the sand, at the same beach he had met and married my mother, the same beach we had rode the tram countless times to POP (Pacific Ocean Park), the same beach we had strolled on daily to Harold’s Bakery, Al’s Deli, the Lafayette Cafe, or Nupars Restaurant. It was the same beach the drummers played on and old friends met on. And those who cared, tried to get him in somewhere out of the elements, in those last days of May.

A bus became available to sleep in and the owner was in jail. But some warned there were drug people with an axe to grind. Dad did not heed the warning, he had lived outdoors in Mexico during the 50s, he had survived the army, he was known for his inner strength and calm manner.

He just wanted to lie down somewhere comfortable, the arthritis of his knees made it hard to get around.

I was back in Escondido, thinking about the couch I would soon be getting for him, and how I would welcome him into my new apartment in grand style, when I got an urgent call from the police. The insane drug people had gone thru with their plans. My dad was horribly burned by their firebombing of the bus. He only lived five days longer, and pulled out his breathing tube himself, because enough is enough.

Homelessness can and will happen to anyone, we all need compassion and help.

We also need mental hospitals/healing hospices open again instead of passing folks around, getting nothing real done, just prescribing chemical restraints.

Meanwhile, my kids and I strive to recall the good times we had with my dad;

There was a time when he knew everybody on the beach, and the future looked bright. I spent those golden summers with him, going to the bookstores, movies, the Apple Pan restaurant....I guess I am trying to say to cherish your loved ones now, lend a hand, because they can be gone tomorrow.

Until my next inspiration, best regards to all,

Posted: Sat - December 1, 2007 at 07:16 PM