Norman (Buzz) L. Bolex: Resident since 1989

This is an excerpt from Neighbors: Oral History from Madera, California Volume 2 by Lawrence F. Lihosit, a local historian. It is available at Maildrop and G.B.S. on Howard and on Amazon.com Books.


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The eldest of three, Norman L. Bolex was born on September 11, 1957 in Torrance, California (22 miles southwest of Los Angeles). Due to family strife, he moved to Ahwahnee where his paternal grandparents cared for him. During his time there he learned to hunt and weld while attending Wasuma Elementary School. He reunited with his father and moved to Fresno where he attended Hamilton Junior High and Fresno High School. Mr. Bolex married young, first earning his living as a welder and later, as a co-owner of a Madera janitorial services company. He and his first wife raised three children.


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I started going with her on her jobs at night. It didn’t take long, maybe two or three hours a night. I thought, “Damn. This is easy.” I started building up her accounts. We were married thirteen years too. She was wonderful. Towards the end, we had a problem. We gave it six months to try and rekindle. We tried but it didn’t work.


It must be a curse: I can’t get over that thirteen-year hump. A bad phase in my life started. As I was driving away, every cop in town surrounded me. They threw me on the ground and searched me. They found some dope. I fought it and they dropped it down to probation.


If you’re on parole or probation and homeless, you ain’t going to stay out of jail, dude. Any contact with the police and they take you. Every time I broke the restraining order to visit her and proclaim my love, they’d give me time. I was in and out of jail for a couple of years. She was the love of my life. I slept mostly in my old van which I parked in front of friends’ houses. It took a couple of years to get over it but we’re friends now. I seen her yesterday. When restaurants are open, I take her to lunch.


Everybody needs insurance. Years ago, I walked into Curtis’s office and he signed me up. I knew him when I was still married to the second wife. We hit it off and became great friends. My van got impounded, then burnt up on the freeway.


One day I showed up to visit and Curtis said, “Man, you look like hell.”


I told him, “It’s hard to sleep when you’re just laying in the park.”


“I’ll give you a key. You can come in at night.”


It’s been almost two years. I’ve got to get a place of my own but on social security… I put in an application at the old folks’ place and have been on a waiting list for two years. I’ve got to go see the lawyer, Steve Geringer. He’s a good guy. I used to clean his office and he’s been helping me for free. I don’t know if I can make it much longer on this bicycle. I huff and puff. On the other hand, the exercise might be keeping me alive.


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Just prior to publication, Mr. Bolex moved into an affordable Madera apartment.

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