My Last Trip To L.A. Part Four

4 Jan

My Last Trip To L.A. Part Four

By: Bob Gersztyn

All Photography Copyright Bob Gersztyn

26 Los Angeles, California from the 6th Street overpass1987

The first thing that I did when I got back to Los Angeles was look for a job, so I could make enough money to move my wife and four children to L.A. from El Paso. I had an interview with Underground Evangelism and ended up getting a job with a company called Safety-Kleen, that provided automotive cleaning agents to garages, car dealerships, and machine shops. I hated the job and couldn’t believe that after graduating from Bible college, getting ordained and serving as a minister in a church for four years that I was reduced to doing this. By the time I was in my second month with the company I decided to try and sell our service to a non customer, as they suggested at the weekly sales meetings. The first time that I tried it was in a Latino garage where nobody spoke English and I used a brochure that I pointed at the pictures with my finger, but made my first placement. I was dumbfounded, but decided to try other garages. In a couple of months I became the top sales rep for the entire Southern California region for opening new businesses, through circulating parts washer placements, which was the backbone of the company.

27 Safety-Kleen225

After I moved Kathy and the kids back to L.A., we rented a house at the Highland Park and Eagle Rock border that we got a good deal on through a friend. The house was on Alumni Street, just a block away from Occidental College, where future President Barak Obama was attending from 1979-1981. At the time I ran on the track at β€œOxy” and used their weight room, which was open to the public. We attended a variety of different churches rather than returning to HPNC. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey

28 HPNC outside from York Blvd

We stayed within the Foursquare denomination when we attended churches, beginning with Eagle Rock Christian Assembly, Glendale Foursquare, and Van Nuys’ Church On The Way. Mark Ballard ended up leaving HPNC in 1981 and Jim Kingsbury, one of my Bible college teachers took his place. We ended up back at HPNC, but it wasn’t the same, other than the fact that I was the church photographer again and put together a multi-media slide show of the dismantling of Meacham’s brick buildings, the lot clean-up and the construction of the new parking lot. I photographed everything from the beginning to the end, which was the official parking lot dedication, with Southern California Foursquare District supervisor Paul Jones presiding, with Pastor Jim Kingsbury and elders Jens Sorenson and Wally Krootzko.

29 Parking Lot Dedication


I still had dreams of being a minister in a church and we had our second home birth when Jeremy was born July 7, 1982, giving us a total of five children. The doctor, who performed home births, missed the birth by twenty minutes. So our friend Denise delivered the baby with me trying to help as best I could. I didn’t shoot any photos until after Jeremy was born, because I was too involved with the birth to document it. I know that today it’s common for people to document their lives as if they were journalists covering a story, but I started doing it with film, beginning in the 1960s. Exodus by Bob Marley & the Wailers

30 Birth Jeremy

I was promoted from a sales rep with a route, to a sales specialist who could go anywhere in the branch territory and open new accounts. I won an all expense paid for trip to Hawaii, as the top Sales Specialist for the Southern California Region in 1982 for opening new accounts and placing parts washers. However I gave it up for a transfer to Springfield, Oregon, in December rather than January. Leaving L.A. the second time was different than the first and this time I would fulfill the goal that originally drew me to Oregon. I would attend Faith Center, Roy Hick Jr.’s church in Eugene, Oregon. Hicks was a Maverick minister in Foursquare and like Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, he had a church in a hotbed of counter culture revolution that he harvested for Jesus and became a legend in Foursquare, along with Jack Hayford, Ralph Moore, and Jerry Cook. After I heard him speak at a Bible college chapel one time I decided that I wanted sit at his feet and learn what God’s will was for my life, so I moved back to Oregon for the second time.

31 Moving from Alumni238

When we arrived in the Eugene/Springfield area the first thing that I did was report to the Safety-Kleen branch that I was working at. Then we found a house in Eugene, Oregon to rent and the first Sunday after we arrived we attended one of the Sunday morning services at Faith Center. When the service was over I went to the front where Roy Hicks Jr. was greeting the people who came to talk to him. I waited until he was done with everybody and then I introduced myself to him and told him the ordeal that I went through to finally arrive at his church over the past four years. He scheduled an appointment with me the next week and I felt that I was finally back in God’s perfect will. Clear Sailin’ by Chris Hillman

32 Eugene Oregon240

Back in Spring 1980, when I first talked to Roy Hicks Sr., the Northwest District Divisional supervisor, he directed me to Greg Romine. I originally wanted to move to Eugene to learn from his son, Roy Hicks, Jr. However, Hicks Jr. told my pastor, Mark Ballard in 1980, that unless by not doing so was a direct violation against God’s will, that I shouldn’t come to Eugene because of the bad economy.

33 Eugene Oregon241

So after two years comprised of four moves racking up five-thousand miles and going for broke with a wife and five kids, I finally came to my original destination in Eugene. When the time for my appointment with Roy Hicks, Jr. finally came, I was as excited as a four year old going to see Santa Claus. However, when I got to the church office and told the secretary that I had an appointment with Roy Hicks, Jr., she told me that he was out of town and that an associate pastor would be meeting with me. She broke my heart. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted by Jimmy Ruffin.

34 Eugene Oregon243

I stayed in Eugene and attended Faith Center almost two years until June 1984, but Roy Hicks, Jr. never met with me. It was always the same associate pastor who tried his best, but he didn’t have a clue about what to tell me for advice, except for what I felt were the usual phony church answers, which really pissed me off. I didn’t show my anger or disappointment, but just sucked it in with the rest of the hurt and pain from trying to find God’s perfect will. I became the top Safety-Kleen sales rep for the Northwest region, and in 1983 I was the #1 sales rep for the most placements of new circulating parts washers, out of 800 in the entire USA.

35 Safety-Kleen224


I won another all expenses paid trip to Hawaii for my wife and I and was offered management positions but didn’t care or accept. I had a pile of salesman of the month plaques along with a salesman of the year ring and even bars of silver, but it all meant nothing to me. Safety-Kleen was one of the fastest growing environmental companies in the country and was expanding all over the world. I purchased 10 shares of stock in 1981, which split twice to become 30 shares by the time that I sold them in June 1984 to finance my move to Bakersfield, California, when I resigned from Safety-Kleen.

36  Safety Kleen Award252


Today in retrospect, I’m sure that Pastor Hicks realized that I was going down in flames and he didn’t want to be involved, because he didn’t know what to tell me. He could see that I was looking to him for answers and solutions to problems that I had to figure out on my own. I was one of the idealists who came out of the 1960s and I was living by the faith that he was preaching, but the time had come for me to stop looking to others to tell me what to believe and how to live my life and become my own master or Bodhisattva, as I would learn a decade later. I was 36 years old and was having a mid-life crisis, but didn’t even realize it. When I first became a Jesus freak, I couldn’t stop telling people about Jesus, but now I was a trained professional minister of the gospel that I loved and wanted to do it full time, as I had already done for four years. Somehow, I had to channel the energy that I used to use for ministry into something that would give me satisfaction and fulfillment.

37 Bob's 440 lb. Squat

So while we were living in Eugene, I began to compete in power lifting meets, beginning with the West Coast Open in 1983. I lifted in my first power lifting meet when I was in the Army back in May 1968 and continued lifting weights in all the years in between. Weight lifting was one of the things in my life that had to be weighed and judged when I first committed my life to following Jesus Christ. I even wrote a paper on it in Bible college, based on I Timothy 4:8. Weight lifting was the discipline that taught me how to work on a goal incrementally. I applied it in every area of my life from reshaping my physique to earning a college degree. Who I was when I graduated from Fitzgerald High in 1965 and who I was now were poles apart. Power lifting is where I channeled all my frustration and disappointment, as I met and became friends with other Oregon power lifters, including the World super heavyweight champion, Doyle Kenady, who I later trained with.

38 Bakersfield247


We finally left Eugene completely deflated and moved to Bakersfield, California, in June 1984 and I got a job with Bakersfield Uniform and Towel, a local company doing route sales. After we were there for two months, it became obvious that we made another mistake by coming there. It was the hottest Summer that I lived through, with temperatures breaking 100 degrees every day and sometimes going up to 112 degrees from the time that we arrived in late June until we finally left for the last time the day after Labor Day in 1984. At the same time, I hated the job and the company because it was going into reorganization and I had a completely neglected route that was filled with complaining customers who threatened to quit. The company manager who hired me was forced into retirement and he was replaced by an AT&T manager, who lost his job after the breakup. We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister.


39 Illinois Jartran


The trigger that caused us to move back to Michigan was when my mom had a heart attack and we decided to leave the West Coast and move back to our starting point in Michigan. It would be like starting all over again from square one, or in 2016 terms, hitting the reset button, but with a wife and five kids, plus Kathy was pregnant again. Since I already wrote about the epic journey back to Michigan from Bakersfield, California in two blog entries nearly two years ago, I won’t repeat them, but post links to them for you to read, before you read the next installment of The Last Time That I Was In L.A. Part Five.

40 jartran-indianapolis-indiana-1[1]


The Trailer of Wrath Part One

The Trailer of Wrath Part Two The Boys of Summer by Don Henley.




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