Lost Boys

Posted: April 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

‘This is a wonderful old photo from one of my late gay uncle’s photo albums. This is a picture of a buddy of his named Carl Betts opening Christmas presents at his mother’s house in the early 1950’s. Carl had been in the Navy, had gotten drunk, and had been caught with another sailor aboard ship. The naked men were tossed in the brig and eventually out of the Navy.

A few days before Christmas, Carl went home alone to his mother’s house in Pasadena, California. He couldn’t tell her that he had been dishonorably discharged so he said he had been given extra time off for the holidays. This is the last photo ever taken of Carl. His mother snapped the picture as Carl sat quietly opening a few gifts on Christmas morning. Carl started drinking and in a few hours called my uncle and said he needed talk to him. Carl had told uncle some years before that he was gay but that he didn’t want to be like that. He wanted to marry, have kids and be straight like everyone else. Carl had a series of girlfriends but not a lasting relationship with any of them. He drank too much and when he did, he always wound up in a public restroom or an alley way, or even in a parked car with men like himself; drunk, naked and satisfying a lust he couldn’t control.

Carl never made it to uncle”s house that night. His body was found below the Colorado Street Bridge, his car engine still running on the bridge above. It wasn’t known if he jumped or if he got out of the car and, in his drunken stupor, fell over the edge. Uncle always thought he had committed suicide over not being able to face his gay nature. Carl’s mother believed her son just lost his balance and toppled over the railing. She never knew her son was gay’.


I found this photo and the accompanying story looking for photographs of sailors online. Don’t ask me why I was looking for photos of sailors. Needless to say my ethnographic interest in the history of homosexuality is much stronger and more rigorous in its research methods than any ability I may have to source ‘pornography’.

It broke my heart.

There’s more to say but I will leave the story to speak for itself.

  1. Papi50 says:

    QRG. It breaks my heart too, especially following the Real Men Don’t Rape post. This man, Carl Betts, is well-remembered and -memorialized by your words here. I wish it were enough.

    The time in which Carl lived was the time I went through my sexual growth and young adulthood. I can still remember how terrifying the word “homosexual” was to me (sort of like “communist”; although I had no idea what either was). I don’t think we can even begin to imagine what life was like for this man.

    You are a lovely and provocative writer.


  2. It wasn’t that long ago either. But these days I still think there is shame in being homosexual it is just different. it is almost now there is shame in not being a ‘proud’ gay. I don’t know. I think gay rights of the last 30-40 years have erased the lives of people like Carl even more than ‘homophobia’ of the 1950s did in some ways.

  3. it certainly does speak for itself. In a way we can look back and not believe it was like that then, and in a way things haven’t changed all that much.

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