When John DeMars was born the country was in a deep depression so he set out to cheer everyone up. It was July 18, 1932 in Detroit, Mich. His parents were Leonard Oliver DeMars and Mary Lee Childers DeMars. John died Dec. 13, 2012.
He had a favorite cousin named Viola who died of scarlet fever as a child and he always considered her his guardian angel.
He made Detroit his playground, skating on mismatched skates over miles of ice in winter, playing 3 positions in the sandlot baseball games, climbing everyone’s trees for the apples and pears, hunting deer in Northern Michigan with young Indian companions and selling those deer to the hunters who were actually in the cabin playing cards and drinking, helping themselves to the outside block of ice on the wagon in the summer, catching the back strap on the streetcar and riding all over town, checking out all of the wares in the local stores, serving as an Altar Boy.
Johnny also caught scarlet fever and missed two years of school, making him now the shortest and the oldest of his school class. He had a lifelong passion for learning but school was not feeling just right at that time. He became an exercise boy and a jockey in training until he outgrew that job. He never lost his love for horses.
He hitchhiked from Detroit along Highway 66 but was back home before long. He joined the United States Navy at 17 during the Korean Conflict. He was too short and too light to be accepted so an older sailor took him in hand and put cardboard in his shoes and encouraged him to eat banana after banana. He was accepted but served on the USS Neversail. He felt peaceful when, in training on PT boats, he was on the water with no other ship in sight and the marvelous night sky above. He was also impressed by the white sands of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
He attended almost an entire semester at Michigan State until they discovered that he wasn’t actually registered. He was a reader and a thinker and an expert observer of life.
On his second hitchhike to California he met up with hobos along the road and learned many of their lessons: to sleep with a rock or wall behind your back, to try to bring back one food item for the pot, etc. He enjoyed listening to all of their stories and found each “bo” to be different and interesting.
He met a girl who had inherited a homestead in Tennessee so they went to live there for awhile. Along the way, carrying a TV set and other furniture in the back of a pickup truck, they stopped at a small mountain home to visit and get directions. The farmer traded a pig about to give birth for the TV set. That farmer had no electricity and Johnny from the City was now a pig farmer.
That night, the sow bore a string of piglets and hearing him tell how they each had to be taken from some kind of a membrane in which they are born and then how the SowMom handled more babies that she had teats was hilarious every time. The house was dilapidated and the roof was falling in and the City was calling so Johnny came back to California.
He tended bar at the Senator Hotel in Sacramento where he couldn’t repeat anything that he heard and then he made his way to Southern California where he discovered Jazz. He hit all of the clubs and listened to the likes of Miles Davis and Shelley Mann. And he worked as a bartender.
One of his customers told him that the Movie Studios were hiring truck drivers so he applied and got that job which he held for 25 years. He hauled movie sets and was often on location in some interesting spots. He hauled the Food Wagon and sometimes chauffeured stars and bigwigs around town. Young actresses would tell him when he picked them up at 3 or 4 am, that if he looked upon their faces he was fired as they were on their way to be made up and made beautiful. He lived for many years in an apartment near Hollywood and Vine and walked to and from work, at all hours day and night. He saw many interesting people there.
One night, at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, where he had parked the truck after a long haul he was waiting for a room as he watched the dancing girls on the stage and played Video Poker which was his favorite game, He didn’t realize that the loud bells and whistles that started were for his machine as he had hit 5 7s and won over $75,000. He bought a Cadillac car and a lot at Salton City which sold for 10 times his purchase price.
One of his favorite spots was Santa Monica beach where there were always interesting people to watch and the surf and the sunrises and sunsets and his music playing on radio or tape.
When he was retiring he drove a friend to the Kern River Valley to visit a friend at Sportsman Park. Johnny walked around the Park, spotted a For Sale sign and bought a mobile home. He retired, loaded up his car with the belongings which the Northridge Earthquake had not broken in his apartment and moved on up. He joined the Elks, Moose and Eagles in the Valley to get to know the people here.
On June 10, 1995 as he was driving past the Elks Lodge he saw that the parking lot was full. Something was going on so he joined the party. Marian Adkins, recently widowed, had come to support the Ladies of the Elks event but was not used to being alone and was planning to flee out the door at the first opportunity. Johnny took her out on the dance floor and the rest is history.
Johnny and Marian married on the river at Laughlin, Nevada on 12 April 1997 and recently celebrated their 15th anniversary at the Elks Lodge.
Johnny was a Catholic, a Teamster and a member of the Motion Pictures Professional Society and an Elk.
Left to remember his stories and jokes and to pass them on are Marian, sons Joe Allen and wife Melinda of Yucca Valley and Reese Allen and wife Dana of Plymouth; grandchildren Joshua Allen of Yucca Valley, Sarah Allen Peddie and husband Christopher of Brentwood, Emily and Lehte Allen of the state of Washington and Paxson Allen of the state of Washington and the Open Road; great grandchildren Miss Haley Allen of Palm Desert, Victoria Peddie and Jacob Allen.
Johnny and Marian’s family also includes Andy and Heidi Canada of Yucca Valley, David and Crysta Leach and son Chance of Yucca Valley and Crystal Butler and son Brandon Pharris of Plymouth.
We will never forget his joy in living, his love for music, his loyalty, his good stories and that he never met a stranger.
There will be no funeral except the traditional Empty Chair Ceremony at the Elks Lodge. Donations in Johnny’s memory should be made to St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Wofford Heights.