With the prospect of an uncertain future, and the lack of security that every kid needed, Clint found himself daydreaming in class. He’d sit gazing through the class window, fantasising of becoming a great pilot. ‘He was a dreamer, he always had a lot of imagination’ recalls Jean. ‘I saved more people on the operating table than any other surgeon alive,’ he says. ‘Curiously though, I never dreamed of being an actor.’ Education was always going to be tough; constantly on the move to whatever town his father could pick up work. He’d walk into a new school, and find there were totally different standards and inevitably they would be at a different level of any given subject. Clint never felt ahead of the game. He felt he was constantly falling behind and always running to catch up. There was never time to settle, and he found it increasingly difficult to either fit in or hang out with a regular group of friends ‘It wasn’t a lot of fun’. He was always the new kid in class or the new kid on the block. ‘I must have gone to eight different Grammar schools. I didn’t have a lot of friends; our family – my parents and my younger sister and I – was a unit.’ The loneliness of a long distance traveller firmly helping to cement the well attributed loner image.
Talking to Tom Snyder in 1980, it was clear that Clint had typically drawn on the positive aspects of life on the road as a child. ‘It was hard, but I think you can find something good out of anything bad. I would have preferred to stay in the same place and enjoy the same people throughout the growing years. But I suppose there are benefits to it. You learn to get along with a lot of different people, in a lot of different places.’
Clint’s father always stood by his belief; ‘You don’t get anything for nothing he kept telling me, and although I rebelled, I never rebelled against that.’ There was a harsh truth to those words, Clint continues, ‘There was no public assistance then. There was no fallback position for anyone. You didn’t know how things could turn out. I think it left me with a feeling of uncertainty about life.’ Clint admired both his parents, especially his father’s ethics; an engraved philosophy that he would instil upon his own children later in life. He didn’t grow up to resent his father, he realised he had great parents and was lucky to have them. ‘When I look back now, I know dad had to think pretty fast at times because there was a lot of people out of work in America.’ Clinton Snr took any form of work to battle against the economic hardship, as long as it put food on the table. Clint recalls, ‘We weren’t hungry and my parents were always cheerful, but you saw people living in broken down vehicles on the roadside or in chicken shacks beside the field.’ By the time Clint had reached his early teens, the family had settled in Oakland. His father had found a stable job with the Container Corporation of America, and for the first time in his life, Clint felt some sense of stability, regularly attended Piedmont Junior High School. It was while here he made some lifelong friends including Don Kincade.