Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Growing Up

The San Fernando Valley, a suburb or Los Angeles, CA, was a good place to grow up.  Summers were hot and we could spend our vacations barefooted in old cords or gym shorts.  It was just rural enough so we lived on 3 acres.  There was plenty of room to dig holes, make forts, ride bikes.

We were close enugh to the beach to make several trips per summer.  In fact, we camped at the beach for several weeks one summer, our parents taking turns spending a week each with us. The Valley was close enough to do that.

We were close enough to Hollywood to go the movies there..at the famous Grauman's Chinese theater; the one with the stars footprints in the cement. Our football team played Hollywood High.  A few movie stars lived in the valley and you saw a celebrity from time to time.  We had to idle the car while Liberachi crossed the street in the pedestrian zone. Larraine Day and Leo Durocher came to our house looking for their lost dog. We drove past Ruby Keeler's and Paul Muni's houses daily. (Remember them? They were celebrities in those days.)

Alas we had no pool, but the "plunge" was within walking distance. And we could fill a hole in the back yard with water and play in the mud puddle resulting. There was a row on chicken houses, and when there were no chickens in them, they made neat play houses for cops and robbers using rubber band shooting hand guns.  "Now, be careful, you could put someone's eye out," said Grandmother.  Getting hit with a rubber band, made out of old inner tube was like a slap in the face, but no one lost an eye.

When I got older, one chicken house was converted to a dark room and I learned photography there.  There was a huge fig tree outside my bedroom window, and I used to slip out my window at night and climb the fig tree in my birthday suit.

We never saw snow nor threw a snowball unless we drove for hours to the mountains.  But we had rain...and floods...and an earthquake or two.  Our high school was large...well, the junior and high were both on one campus.  Most of us rode bikes or walked, or took the bus.  A lucky few, very few had cars.  No one used a skateboard. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and Bob Waterfield went to that high school.  Jane Russell was in a senior class play.  Waterfield went on the play a bit of pro football, I believe.  Marilyn Monroe's first husband was the student body president. 

In WWII we "blacked out" at night so there would be no glow in the sky to show Japanese submarines or aircraft where the city was nor illuminate the friendly cargo ships just off the coast. Our senior prom was held in the afternoon so everyone could be home before dark. Grandfather was an air raid warden and the counsel for the draft board. Grandmother went regularly to a closed room in city hall that connected with all the aircraft spotters stationed around the valley.  No enemy planes were ever spotted, but at least, we were ready. The famous P-38 fighter planes were first tested over the Valley from Van Nuys airport.  We watched the secret F-80s, the first fighter jets, being trucked, covered with tarps, past our front door from the Lockheed factory to Van Nuys airport. 

I was reared in the valley and lived most of my life in the valley. I am not sorry a bit that I am not an urbane New Yorker or Chicagan.  Washington DC ruled us and Detroit sent us our cars but we had room to learn to drive 'em in the back roads of the valley.

Did I mention we had orange trees in the front yard.  You wanted an orange, you went out and PICKED IT OFF THE TREE.


bamawmn46 said...

It sounds like a wonderful way to grow up, Chuck!! Those are great memories! Thanks for sharing them!

jckfrstross said...

what great memories:)


mavarin said...

Sounds great to me!

kateh2ocolorart said...

I enjoyed that Dad.  You failed to mention Jay Siverheels (Tonto) and family and Dale Robertson that lived down the road when you were grown up, and their children went to school with yours.  And that your daughter was a friend to Doug Dicences long before he was a pro baseball player...I'm sure there are others, but I too, have forgotten.

tendernoggle said...

Awww man Chuck.....an orange tree right in your front yard??? I loved going down memory lane with you.....Thanks!
love ya,

tellsg said...

Chuck, it sounds a lovely childhood that you had.  Tell us more!  Hugs.  Terry x

garnett109 said...

Wow ! What a great story Chuck Thanks for sharing!

reconcilinglife said...

Great story!! Bam