After a year at the University of Washington in Seattle his father refused to further support him in his educational efforts, so he went off to San Francisco to see what Uncle Louie could do for him. Meanwhile, his sister, Jane, worked hard, got scholarships, and went to Northwestern University in Chicago, studying music and graduating in four years entirely from her own efforts. Neither of them returned to Spokane except on vacations. The youngest Ashlock sibling, Mary, remained in Spokane, married a local lawyer, raised a large family, but emotionally followed the pattern of both her brother and sister in eventual struggles with alcohol and tobacco.
In San Francisco, Rex had a head-on collision with reality. Uncle Louie was not what Rex had hoped him to be. He was a hard drinking, bigoted, womanizing, son-of-a-bitch, and Rex quickly lost all respect and admiration for the man. His career in journalism was soon to be a passing fancy, as Rex realized the degree to which he was attracted to painting and drawing. To get away from Uncle Louie, he took a job on the Turlock Journal in the hot, dusty, and rural Central Valley of California. He turned twenty that summer.
Without much in the way of resources, Rex moved into a boarding house in Turlock. There he met others his age, but his attention was towards a small blond girl, with a new bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon. Her name was Renée Mattingly and she also worked at the newspaper. Seemingly light years away from the townies in Turlock, Renée was from Berkeley, the only child of older than average parents for that time. Fawned upon by her parents since birth, Renée had an extraordinarily high opinion of herself, and was socially and culturally motivated to upward mobility. Rex and Renée began a courtship.
As World War II was breaking out, Rex had to deal with the draft board. In order to avoid the draft, he told them he was gay, and was assigned to civilian work, first, on the railroad in the Arizona desert, and later in the Richmond, California shipyards . Rex’s drafting skills had often served him well in a pinch.