"From the Desert to the Sea, to All of Southern California." - Jerry Dunphy

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Night Driving in L.A.

It has been over 2 years since I last drove through the San Fernando Valley and L.A.. I miss grabbing my keys and music to disappear for a few hours into the hills and canyons. I must have spent half of the 1970's just driving and playing music. Sometimes I would drop off my date and drive for an hour or so afterward. Usually I started on Victory Blvd. coming back from the West Valley, through the Sepulveda basin into the hills and sometimes L.A.

I had my music with me so there was no rush to get home. I remember driving through the basin to the sounds of Jeff Beck playing "Diamond Dust" as I watched the lights glitter on the Hollywood Hills. Other times the mood was somber and I would go in search of Springsteen's "Darkness on the Edge of Town". Seger's "Night Moves" was a constant companion as was "Katmandu" which played whenever I wanted to just get out of town. Other times "Free Bird" would propel me faster than I should be going, even at that late hour.

Here in Cleveland there are really no places you can just stretch out on the road unless you go to the countryside. It's an odd thing to miss given the traffic situation in L.A. You'll notice I didn't say I miss day time driving.

This picture is from the LP "Late For the Sky" by Jackson Browne. I have passed many places like this in L.A.. Curiously enough the picture is a composite of 2 pictures. The sky in the picture was taken in Ohio. I can imagine driving around all night in that car blasting tunes and just getting lost.

"I swear I'll drive all night just to buy you some shoes - And to taste your tender charms - And I just wanna sleep tonight again in your arms"- Drive All Night by Bruce Springsteen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hazeltine Ave. Elementary School & The Cuban Missile Crisis

Here is another class picture from October 1962. You might remember October 1962 being the month of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I do remember those days of the early 1960's full of drop drills and air raid sirens. You would not suspect the cold war tensions in the air by looking at these young innocent faces. I do look a little disheveled in my picture. Perhaps I partied too hard over the New York Yankees beating the Giants in the World Series.

My Hazeltine friend Bob Walance have been swapping e-mails of certain school memories. One thing I recalled was the fairs we used to have at school. My days were filled with trying to toss a ping pong ball into a glass which held a goldfish. I know other things went on at the fair but neither Bob or I can recall anything else. If anyone remembers we would love to hear your memories.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Robert Fulton Jr. High School 1969

The collage above is from the June 1969 A-9 Graduating Class yearbook.

1969 Class Officers and Council

The Behind the Scene Crews

More Behind the Scene Helpers

Last but not least our faculty. I should have taken a picture of Mr. TeMaat, the Boy's VP since he was so...memorable. I remember years ago watching a BBC documentary on Marilyn Monroe in which Pete Dye's name was mentioned. As I recall he was married to someone with money. If anyone remembers that documentary or if the information is right I would love to know. I also remember one of our teachers had a Dune Buggie but I forget who it was. That was pretty cool at the time.

Before I posted this I check out classmates.com to see if any of my fellow "Elysians" were on there. A few were but I only found one picture of someone I knew. The photo's above are taken with my camera and not my scanner so the quality is poor, but good enough to spark a few good memories. Going through the book I spotted many girls who I had crushes on at the time. One in particular but she can remain a mystery.

P.S. I just received an e-mail from my friend Bob Walance and he sent some scans of the 1986 Fulton yearbook. In it was a picture of someone special who I forgot. Tammy Francis was one of my teachers at Fulton. Her husband was also a member of my Dad's Masonic Lodge. She was friends with my Mom and I used to run into Tammy when I went to Lodge events with my Mom. Truth be told when she was my teacher I had a crush on her. I'm sure I was not alone.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sahara Hotel Las Vegas

Here is a flyer from the Sahara Hotel. I'm not sure of the year but the buffet prices were great.

I saw one show at the Sahara Hotel. It was Nancy Wilson with The DoodleTown Pipers. I ticked my parents off by ordering a bowl of spaghetti. But it was a huge bowl and I was as happy as could be.







Here is a map of the Hotel which probably dates from the 1960's. I believe the two towers are still there but the old two story rooms on the perimeter have been removed.








Here is a listing of the popular shows around town. It appears to be from around 1966 or 1967. It was a few years past the original Rat Pack Days but still in their era.









Here is a cloth shoe cleaner from one of their rooms. Somewhere I still have some note paper, a pen and postcards from the Sahara Hotel. And the prize of my collection (Which is not much to start with) a Sahara Hotel ash tray. Ash trays are still legal to own right?

Rainbow & Demolay

Here is a Van Nuys Rainbow Assembly button from 1979. From the collection of Al Wilson.

Here is a newspaper article by Agnes Viola Dow of the Van Nuys Daily News about a Demolay Installation. Over the years Mrs. Dow wrote up almost all the articles about local Masonic related events.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hy-Lo Drug

I found this partial newspaper ad on the back of something my Dad had cut out of the paper. Hy-Lo Drug was located in the shopping center at the southeast corner of Sherman Way and Sepulveda Blvd. Hy-Lo Drug became our destination of choice when we moved to Haskell Ave. in 1965.

As I recall the shopping center included a Food Giant Market, a Thom McAnn shoe store, an Oscar's Restaurant and Alfie's (Spelling?), a small coffee shop in between Hy-Lo and Food Giant. You could walk into Alfie's from Hy-Lo Drug. I probably ate the majority of my life time intake of French Fries there, as well as chocolate Coke's.

When we wanted a change we went to Oscar's where my Dad almost always ordered their Chili Size. Years later Oscar's went out of business and was taken over by a restaurant that featured red hamburger buns. I wish I could recall the name. It didn't last very long.

Over the years I remember a barber shop where my Dad got his haircut, as well as a Bank of America, and I think there was a bar at the end of the back section. Later Food Giant turned into Food King and a Wherehouse Record Store was built where Thom McAnn and Oscar's used to be. As far as I know the small ice cream stand is still out front near the sidewalk, and again I forget the name.

We moved away from the area in 1973 but I would still drive by and watch the changes over the years. My Dad would still drive to the Mobil Station on the Northwest corner to buy his gas from the station owner he knew. Van Nuys Demolay once had a car wash at the Shell Station at that corner, a newspaper photo which is on the Van Nuys Boomers Flickr Photo Site.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Radio Rat is Now a Jethawk

This past week the Lancaster JetHawks, the local class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox named our Radio Rat as their new General Manager. Congratulations Radio Rat.

In addition to his illustrious radio career in the High Desert, Radio Rat was the JetHawks stadium play by play announcer for many years. This career move from radio to baseball will allow Radio Rat to indulge his baseball passion. He was a star with our Van Nuys Demolay team in the Southern California Jurisdiction during the early 1970's as well as being a member of the Monroe High School Team.

When Radio Rat was with Clear Channel radio he was instrumental in raising his stations profile by getting Clear Channel to sponsor the JetHawks stadium. His marketing experience will help expand the teams exposure in the High Desert and beyond.

A few summers ago my wife and I and some friends attended a JetHawks game and it was a total blast. If you are anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area you should make it a point to attend a few games next season. The minor league experience at Clear Channel Stadium is great fun and a wonderful place to take your family. Check out their website for more information and keep an eye out for the 2009 season schedule.

As Radio Rat said when he sent me the e-mail telling me he had the job, "Play Ball"

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Debra Winger at Monroe High School

My Hazeltine Ave. School friend Bob Walance just sent me this page from the 1972 Monroe High School yearbook he found online. Debra Winger is in the second row. This was news to me. I sent Radio Rat an e-mail because he went to Monroe. We never talked about it so I'm not sure he knew. The only Celebrity I recall from Radio Rats class was the former NFL quarterback Guy Benjamin. Benjamin went to Stanford after Monroe and than was drafted by the Miami Dolphins.

Thanks again Bob for the update. I wonder who we will find next?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Builders Emporium Reseda 1977

In 1977 Radio Rat and I made an audio tape for a farewell party he was having, in Van Nuys, for a fellow employee who was moving on to a new job. We did a few comedy bits and then spent the afternoon calling people on the telephone for comments to include in the tape. We let them know they were being recorded and that is where it all fell apart. We decided to include the failed attempts on the tape as it happened and in the end it provided more laughs.


The audio file is now available at the Van Nuys Boomers Audio site. As I recall the music at the end of the clip is called "Cruising with the Fonz" from the TV show Happy Days.

Radio Rat Air Check

In the process of transferring my old cassette tapes to digital CD's I discovered quite a few old nuggets, embarrassing and otherwise. I will upload the good ones to the Van Nuys Boomers Audio site over the next few weeks.

Tonight I uploaded a radio station air check from 1983 of Radio Rat at the beginning of his career. Due to the poor condition of the tape I could only salvage a few parts. This particular air check begins with the stations (KMOR-FM 89.9) newscast followed by a commercial and Radiorat.

That is me behind the microphone at Radio Rat's station KAVL/KAVS in 1985. I would have put a picture of him up here by I didn't have one of him at the microphone. I have one of Phone Rat at the mic, but he hates the picture, even though he looks like a natural. I apparently was having a Johnny Fever (WKRP in Cincinnati) moment.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Van Nuys Demolay Reunion


The main reason for starting this blog, last November, was to get back in touch with friends from our Demolay/Job's Daughters/Rainbow, work and school days. To that end we have been very pleased with the response. So much so that a few of us are wondering if a small reunion might be possible. It can as simple as meeting at a restaurant such as "Bob's" or gathering at someones house.

If you are interested please contact me at this blogs E-mail: vannuysboomers@gmail.com

Since I am 2400 miles from Los Angeles I will forward all communications to Phone Rat who is more able to handle the logistics. Many thanks to everyone for your comments and memories and here's hoping we can all make new ones.




Please visit our Van Nuys Boomers YouTube page for more trips down memory lane.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tape Geeks

The ION turntable is a record player that hooks up to your computer USB port so you can transfer your LP’s to a digital format and put them on a your computer, CD or portable music player. You can also run another device through it, such as a tape player and transfer tapes as well. Phone Rat has kindly sent me his ION turntable so I can transfer my personal tape archive and maybe my promotional copy of Bob Seger's album "Back in '72".

My personal collection consists of tapes of family, friends, our band, and other various people and events. I may also copy a few tapes I made off the radio over the years. Us tape geeks used to sit at our desk with our radio and tape recorder and try to catch a song we couldn't get out of our head. I remember sitting at my desk on Haskell Ave. for hours trying to catch a clean copy “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors. I finally nailed it, minimal DJ interruption aside.

During the early 1980’s I would tape such things as Roy of Hollywood from KPFK, who from the Midnight hour on played tapes of Alan Watts, Mae Brussell, Dave Emory and a whole host of alternative programs. I also taped Bill Jenkins of KABC 790 AM who used to have a weekly paranormal show called "Open Mind" that was a precursor to shows such as "Coast to Coast AM " with Art Bell and George Noory. Late at night I would catch Ray Briem of KABC in the middle of a rant about politics or how much he hated electrified musical instruments. Other nights I taped the world with my Tandy recorder and Radio Shack (Sangean) DX-440 shortwave radio.

I have uploaded a few clips from my collection and of Phone Rat’s to the vannuysbbomers audio blog. It includes air checks from Phone Rat using his Pioneer RT 707, and a few snippets of comedy (Or not) skits we used to produce back in the 1970’s. While in retrospect these are silly, they were great fun for the Three Rats to make. We taped spoofs of TV shows and popular TV and radio commercials of the day. In 1975 Phone Rat and I visited Radio Rat when he lived in Phoenix Arizona. When we got back home we produced a tape to send back to him which included comedy bits and messages from many of our pals. When Radio Rat and I worked at Builders Emporium we made a spoof tape for a party we were having, of TV Shows we’d like to see with co-workers as the stars. I recently listened to it and had forgotten so many names.

Phone Rat’s main rig back in the 1970’s was a Teac 4300 reel to reel recorder which he used to record air checks and music. I started with a modest Panasonic stereo cassette deck I bought on layaway from Butler Brothers in Van Nuys where I worked. I later upgraded to a solid Pioneer cassette deck which I wore out. My portable recorders began with a cheap Electrophonic mono recorder bought at Hy-Lo Drugstore on Sepulveda Blvd in Van Nuys. When I wore it out I switched to numerous Tandy models. When I was in Junior High our neighbor Lucille gave me a portable reel to reel recorder. Unfortunately I no longer have it, or the tapes I made with it.

When I attended Los Angeles Valley College I had a modern art class for which I had to turn in a semester project. The class and the teacher were a bit silly. So I decided to forgo paint brush and pencil and make an audio piece of "art". One day I taped a microphone to my rear bumper and drove through the Hollywood Hills capturing every gear change and tire squeal. I then took the tape home and mixed the tape with Richard Nixon's Inaugural address and the song "One" by Three Dog Night. Ridiculous you say, well I got a "B" on the project.

During the 1970’s I made numerous trips to my hometown of Cleveland Ohio to visits my Mom’s family. I always brought my portable cassette recorder. Sometimes I would be sneaky with it but most times I would set it on the table and try to draw people out. Sometimes it was a conversation and other times a party. These tapes are priceless now that so many family members are now gone. Some family members, such as my Uncle Ed got into the tape thing and made tapes for me. We got silly and created fictional characters (Spies) for ourselves and we sent tapes back and forth across country.

So thanks to Radio Shack, Sandy’s Electronics, Electronic City, Cal Stereo and all the stores we haunted looking for electronics, stereos and tape stuff. May the big reel keep on turning.

P.S. Happy Birthday Radio Rat, you caught up to me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Parlor Games of the 1970's

Within Demolay there were two types of parties. Sanctioned and unsanctioned. Having a responsible adult at sanctioned parties is a good idea for kids that age. There is nothing wrong with good clean fun. Unsanctioned parties were for the most part still tame, but a bit more fun. One of the popular parlor type games at these parties was called "Choo Choo." The game requires one bloke who has never played the game. Everyone lines up alternating girl than boy and so on. The new guy is put at the end of the line as the trains caboose. Music starts and everyone does a line dance walk of sorts around the room with their hands placed on the hips of the person in front of them. When the music stops the first girl turns around and kisses the boy behind her. The music starts up again and the line works its way around the room again until the music stops. This time the boy turns around and kisses the girl behind him. This goes on until the music stops for the last time and it's time for the the caboose to receive his kiss. The last girl turns around and smiles at the guy as she leans her head slightly forward. As the guy closes his eyes and sets himself up for a big wet one the sharp sting of a hand slap snaps his head sideways as his deflated ego crashes to the floor. He stands there stunned as everyone laughs and he tries to assemble a good natured smile from his aching cheek and bruised ego. Many years have now passed and I think I can say, I have forgiven Michele.

Another popular game was called "Black Magic." This is a two-man game performed on an unsuspecting group. The object of the game is for one of the men to identify an object in the room that the crowd picked out while he was away. This clairvoyant is asked to leave the room while his accomplice explains what will happen and asks the group to pick out a special object from the room. The clairvoyant comes back and takes a seat. His accomplice then moves about the room pointing out various objects until the clairvoyant correctly identifies the chosen object. What the crowd does not know is that somewhere in the game a black object is picked and found not to be the object. That is the clue to the clairvoyant that the real object will follow after a agreed upon number of objects are offered up. If your number is two, then the second object picked after the black object will be the real object. Hence the name "Black Magic."

A popular game when I worked at Builders Emporium was called "Truth or Dare." It was a step up from the clean cut level. We were a group of people who worked hard and played hard and there was at least one party a week, often more. If the crowds mix was right we'd tempt the hormones and play a game called "Truth or Dare." Most of the questions and dares involved mildly embarrassing sex questions. Even the dares were tame by today's standards.

Over the years the parties and games grew a little wilder. I'm sure we all have our own R-rated 'Twister" story. These are just the games it is safe to talk about. Most of our parties did not involve games. Most nights we would meet somewhere, talk, drink, flirt and find a dark corner if there was one. If not we were off to the Submarine Races...up periscope!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Whoa, Aaay

This worn leather coat is now retired, hanging in my closet. Sadly it no longer fits, rather I no longer fit in it, its not the coats fault. The last person to wear it was my grandson who recently wore it, along with a safari hat I have. He had seen the coat in my closet and wanted to dress up like Indian Jones and have me take his picture.

He asked where I got the coat and I told him I used wear it on my adventures with Indiana Jones. His mouth dropped and he said "wow Grampy". I told him I used to have a yellow whip (True), but I lost it in a battle with bad guys. He is six and a half, so I can still have fun with this stuff. To complete the look I gave him a sword to pose with that my Dad brought back from Japan after the war.

Though this coat now looks as if it's been through many adventures and battles, the real story is far less exciting. I started wearing this coat in 1974 as a lark after my girl friend made a remark over one of my "Fonzie" moments. You'll remember "Happy Days" the TV show was new, and many of us adopted Fonzie mannerisms as a joke. That night I remembered there was an old leather jacket in a closet, so I decided to wear it on our next date which was to the beach. On the way I told her we were going there to see the "submarine races". She said "the what?" I said you'll see. Yes we were that silly sometimes. It was the 70's! Thats my defense and I am sticking to it.

The previous owner of the jacket was my Dad. He wore this coat back in the 1950's when he was a cargo handler with Flying Tiger Airlines in Cleveland Ohio. After he graduated to an office job the coat went into the closet until I liberated it some 20 years later. I wore it for quite a few years until it became too fragile to wear on a regular basis. It served Dad well at work during the 1950's , and me during my Happy Days of the 1970's. "Aaay".

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shaking Hands with the World

Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" is a seminal book for many baby boomer's. I confess I never read the book, but I am familiar with its premise. One day when I am less anxious or able to explore, I will sit and read the story of a man's journey across this country as youthful optimism turns to a weathered realization that things are not always as they seem. The disappointment is inevitable in any story, but what matters for my purpose here is the journey, the physical act of exploring. I am thinking back to my previous post, "The Wireless Home", in which I wondered if our kids even see their country as they travel through it. The enemy is not technology but the sense of adventure which its omnipresence diminishes. There is no discovery in a video game or a movie. The only way to really discover something is live and in person, exposing all your senses to the mundane and magnificent.

At the age of 15 I stood in front of the Grand Canyon looking out at the vast expanse. I never understood what my eyes saw until I leaned over the rail and threw a rock down into the canyon. I was a kid doing a kid thing to test the reality before me. I required all my senses to discover how deep and real it was. I did not comprehend the size until my rock landed many seconds later far below me. I'll never forget how long that rock took to land. I then shouted out into the canyon to get a sense of its width as my voice echoed off the canyon walls and back to me. No photo, no IMAX movie or video game can replicate that moment. It is the same impulse that makes us skip a rock across a pond. Or walk the rails of a neglected train track in Gallup New Mexico. Exploration is how we shake hands with the world and life.

Kerouac's book takes you many places to meet a variety of characters. When you are finished reading it I imagine wanting to rush out the door and discover world, for yourself. Video games are fine, but they can never do that for you. Lets not park our sense of adventure and the discovery it brings. If you're "On the Net", get off and get"On the Road" and shout at the world, throw your own rock of curiosity and shake hands with the world.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Wonder Years Tour

A little over 2 years ago Phone Rat, Radio Rat and myself went on what I called "The Wonder Years Tour'. I was moving out of town and wanted to visit some old friends and hangouts before I left. I wrote up an itinerary and one rainy March morning we went back in time.

Our first stop was in Burbank to pay allegiance to our tours namesake by visiting the house used in the TV show The Wonder Years. A picture I took of the house is on my Flickr site link to the left.

Our next stop was Van Nuys Masonic Temple, site of our Demolay meetings, installations, and band gigs. Here is a picture of the dinner and dance hall. I took this picture in 2006 but it could be 1971, it hasn't changed much. Here our band played on the stage as kids danced below us. When we weren't playing we were those kids out on the dance floor.

Next we drove out to Canoga Park to visit Gary who now rides around in a bright red truck with a long hose and a siren. We swapped old stories and new ones. Mostly we talked about old girlfriends and cars. We love our wives but part of us never gives up the ghost, and that is ok. After that we picked up Radio Rats sister and drove to Bob's Restaurant in Toluca Lake for lunch. After lunch we checked out a few more places and then made our way home.

It was sad to imagine moving away from the town where we all met, bonded and went out to take on the world on our terms. For me these relationships are the most powerful of my life. These are the friends who were there with me through many important rites of passage. It is to these friends that this blog is dedicated. Thankfully this blog keeps the Wonder Years Tour alive.

We might be accused of living in the past but I don't believe we are. By staying in touch we keep the past vital while still living in the present, where we make new memories. So this blog has brought some old friends back into our lives, and given us support through some trying times. Call up an old friend this weekend and meet them for lunch and a short trip around the old neighborhood. Perhaps one day we will all meet again for a sequel.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Wireless Home

Last night my wife and I met a few of my cousins at a local Pub called Merry-Arts Pub & Grill in Lakewood Ohio. We met to say goodbye to my cousin Eric who is moving to another state. Thursday night at Merry-Arts is also taco night so that was an added bonus. In all my time in Lakewood I had never been to this, the oldest pub in the city. I wish I had gone there when the pub was a refuge from our homes and work, and a place to met friends.

We sat in a large corner booth by the front window. From my seat I could see 7 televisions, not including the booth's that had small TV's. The Cleveland Indians game was on. They were finally winning so the chatter and clapping combined with the music made it even harder to talk. I hadn't expected the place to resemble a sports bar. I failed to realize that TV and loud music is everywhere we go. Aside from my cousins, my endearing memory of last night will be the noise.

I have this old school notion that the reason to get "out of the house" is to escape what is at home. Not anymore. Picture this; Mom is talking on the her cell phone, dad is watching TV and the kids are engrossed in their Game Boys. A scene of domestic bliss from any home across America? No, it's a scene from any restaurant, waiting room, or gathering place outside the physical home. The new home is wireless. We are a nation of virtual homebodies. You can walk the streets connected to your ipod or cell phone, oblivious to the world around you. You carry you comfort zone like you carry your wallet. The new definition of an outdoors man might be someone who travels around town unconnected to a cell phone, ipod, Game Boy or other electronic distraction.

On a larger scale we travel the country without looking at it. Dad drives us to our destination while his kids watch movies in the back of the van unaware of the countryside on the other side of the shatterproof glass. You get to your destination and check into your hotel where there is more TV and more movies. One of the 10 most important books I've read is "Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman. The subtitle is "Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business". Mr. Postman's book addresses the media onslaught of modern times, with particular attention to the power, and dangers of television, and how it's altered the way we relate to information, that is now presented as entertainment. He pulled the curtain on this aspect of our future. I will have to re-read it to see if his words foretold this ugly detour.

I remember our family trips when I was a kid and asking the age old question, "are we there yet". I remember being bored to tears driving across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I still remember those trips. They gave me a sense of my country, of the people how different their worlds were from mine. Yet we seemed to share a core essence of a place outside ourselves. I realized over the years how much I learned from those seemingly boring moments. My memories are filled with ordinary small towns, old barns, Burma Shave signs, Howard Johnson Restaurants and all the things that used to populate Route 66. What we used to experience as America. I pity a generation that will not even remember the video game or movie that occupied them as they drive across New Mexico unaware of the simple majesty. I can envision a day when each home might have a "Star Trek Holodeck", into which we program the sights and sounds of the world we missed, or the world as it is then. Actual Homebodies once again.

Goodbye Eric, we will miss you. One day we will drive down to see you, once I stock up on batteries for my MP3 player.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Our Cars

Last week Phone Rat and I got on the subject of cars. Cars we owned and those our friends had. Clearly the car in this picture is not a muscle car, but I am sure a lot of you will remember this car, its owner, and this charity event at the Shell Station on the corner of Van Nuys Blvd. and Sherman Way.

Phone Rat was remembering his 1966 Blue Ford Fairlane. Aside from numerous TP missions, what I remember most is the day a certain Sweetheart decorated his Fairline with shaving cream. Typical of the stunts many of us indulged in. Though it was just innocent fun this particular stunt set off a whole round of regrettable fireworks we still talk about.

My first car was a 1966 Pontiac Lemans. I used to drive it like a maniac through the hills. One of my favorite roads then was the dirt road section of Dixie Canyon. One day we were up there racing through the turns like a Midget car when Phone Ray shouts out, "Lock 'em up!" Like a damn fool I slammed on the breaks and we skidded left, then right until we came to a stop about a foot from the edge, which had no rails. After I restarted the car we continued on like nothing happened, such is youth.

Another memory is of an old Blue Chevy truck owned by one of the taller members of our group, "GZ". One day we were in the parking lot of the Van Nuys Temple. For some reason I was standing on the back of his truck, holding my acoustic guitar. All of a sudden the truck surged forward and I went off the back of the truck, face first with my guitar in front of me, onto the pavement below. When I got up I saw my guitar had taken the brunt of the damage. I was ticked off but the guitar did save me from serious injury. The fault was mine for standing on the back of an idling truck with a touchy clutch. The next time I rode with our tall friend was in his 1968 Plymouth Fury, which he called his "Grandfather Car".

Radio Rat used to run around town in an older Datsun station wagon blasting Deep Purples "Machine Head" on his 8-track player. Since that wasn't the ideal projection of cool he soon upgraded to a Chevy Vega Station wagon. Still not the epitome of cool, but functional for the things he needed it for, such as toting his drum kit to gigs, and so on, lots of so on. My fondest memory of the Vega was driving to the Ontario Motor Speedway the night before the race to hang out with another friend. But this was the era of van culture so Radio Rat traded up again for a souped up florescent yellow/orange Ford Econoline van. Into this "Love Truck" went the requisite shag carpet, television, refrigerator, quad stereo and I forget what else. There are too many escapades with that van to name one above the other. Perhaps Radio rat will elaborate. I hope he remembers this is a PG-Rated blog.

Other memories include me in my 1973 Ford Pinto racing "AT' and his Blue Ford Mustang down Sunset Blvd. It is written in my contemporaneous notes we reached speeds of 80 mph. I think that was top speed for my Pinto, while he was still in second gear. I recall another friend, "AB", who owned a Pinto, but this Green Pinto had a Mustang engine lurking under the hood. Another friend, "CF", had a Toyota Celica until one night when it met its fate. His next car was a low slung Lotus sports car. He told us he paid $10,000 for the Lotus. Exotic as it was, we all gasped and said we would never pay $10,000 for a car.

I also remember "JB" briefly owned a souped up Ford Mustang that I think he shared with his dad, "JB Sr". I seem to remember a Porsche 914, belonging to "GR". My favorite car was a Chevy El Camino owned by he father of our tall friend. Phone Rat remembers a 1964 Copper colored Plymouth Fury owned by "HW", and a 1954 Pontiac owned by "HM". I know there were a few more muscle cars out there you might remember?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Humble Harv, KHJ Boss Radio

Where is Humble Harv now? The last I knew he was at KZLA, but that information is over 10 years old. I found that information in Don Barret's book, Los Angeles Radio People Vol. 2. I remember when Humble Harv came to KHJ back in 1967. Here was a deep soulful voice speaking to me over the din of pop music and bubblegum. Here was a man who seemed to introduce each song as if it was the soundtrack of the apocalypse. The Rolling Stones were not just The Stones, they were the Stoooooooooooones with all the echo the L.A. canyons could provide. I remember that night in late 1968 or early 1969 when he introduced a song called "Games People Play" by Joe South. He told me all about Joe and the songs he had written that we all knew by heart. As that unique guitar intro jumped out of my radio I knew I was listening to one of the greatest records ever made, by a man who belongs in the Rock Hall of Fame. But that is another crusade.

Humble Harv was one of the first voices that made me listen to the jock and the music. The only other figure to capture my attention is those early years was Wolfman Jack from over the border in Mexico. As I write this post I have a Cleveland oldies station playing in the background. The playlist is a bit different than you hear on K-EARTH but the flavor is similar. The disk jockey is doing a journeyman's job but boy could I use Humble Harv right now.

I have this distinctive memory of sitting in my dark bedroom one night listening to the "Riders on the Storm" by The Doors and feeling a chill when Morrison sang about a "killer on the roam". I pictured the one armed man from the TV show The Fugitive roaming Mulholland Drive in the rain. Now I can't remember if Humble Harv introduced the song, but based on the mood I created I have to believe it was his voice that drove that killer right into my room. That is what a great disk jockey can do for the music. Thanks for the chills Harv.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A First Kiss

My first kiss happened while I was sitting on a bench next to the monkey bars at Robert Fulton Jr. High School. It was the summer of 1969 and our graduating class, The Elysians, had just completed our final day at Fulton Junior High School. A slow parade of students were passing in front of me when I heard a voice to my right calling out, "Goodbye Carey". It was Chris and she was waving goodbye to me.

Chris and I had one of those love/hate relationships in which you never seem to speak a civil word to each other. For three years we traded barbs and good natured insults. I waved back and said "goodbye" with a tone of sadness since I really did like her, and I knew I would not see her at High School. I watched her slowly walk away when she suddenly turned and ran toward me. I sat up expecting a goodbye whack on the top of my head. In an flash Chris was standing in front of me with her yearbook pulled tight to her chest and a somber look upon her face which I instantly understood. She paused for a second then bent down and gave me a quick, soft kiss on my cheek. She said "Goodbye" again and ran away. I watched her run across the Noble Ave. field, out of school and into my heart.

I was stunned and as happy as I could remember being in my short life. I got up and followed her path out of school, smiling all the way. There would never be another kiss or purely sweet moment quite like this. Thank you Chris.

Bill Smith of KTLA

I just read on L.A. Observed that KTLA Channel 5 has laid off field reporter Bill Smith along with other on-air and behind the scene employees. It is difficult to judge the quality of the news shows when I cannot view it, but based on what I have read the unique quality and position of KTLA since the death of Hal Fishman has been severely wounded. You have to wonder if Stan Chambers is next in the cross hairs.

In this era of TMZ style news I have to wonder if Mr. Smith will find another home on the public airwaves in Los Angeles. Television for me has been a lost cause for many years. Perhaps however a station such as KCET might pick him up for their news department. A Ralph Story type show or report would be a welcome addition, and a great venue for Bill Smith's unique perspective.

Changes are inevitable and we have all grown used to them. However changes in quality are disturbing in the news arena where quality is at a premium these days.

Please read Phone Rat's post on this blog for a past memory of Bill Smith in his days with KGIL.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Van Nuys Demolay 1924

The image at the left is a copy of notes from the first meeting of the Van Nuys California Chapter of Demolay in 1923. I could not find an article from any newspaper that mentioned this first Van Nuys Demolay meeting. I did find an article from the "Van Nuys News", dated Tuesday, May 6, 1924 about the 1924 Installation of officers. Unfortunately when you cut and paste from a poor copy to a Word Document you get some weird interpretations. I corrected what I could. Some of the original is too faint to make out so I apologize for the quality and incorrect names. I did however think the historical interest warranted this post:

LOCAL DEMOLAY

Installation

GEO. W. BUNTON GIVES

FINE ADDRESS

Officers Inducted Into Stations at Ceremony Attended by Masons, Families of Members and Hollywood Delegation

A 'public installation" of Van Nuys Chapter Demolay, sponsored by Van Nuys • Masonic Lodge, No. 450, was held in the lodge rooms at 8 o'clock Saturday night. The service was at tended by Masons and families o: members of the Chapter and by a number of Knights Templar of Hollywood Commandery. The address to the chapter was made by Geo: W. Bunton, first chair man of the advisory committee, am carried a "valuable message to the young men and their guests. The officers installed were: F. Waiton, Berkshire,. Master Councilor'; John Lamptt,. senior, counselor; Geo [Names cut off due to crease in paper] Kenneth Pierce and Gilbert Leslie, deacons; Kenneth .Gilbert and Richard Barling, stewards; Morton Colgrovc, chaplain; Sam Huffman, marshal; Frank K. Black, scribe; Draper Webb, treasurer; Samuel Morris, almoner; Alvis Murrel, standard hearer; Kenneth "McCartney, George Marsden, Lester Vincent, Harold Rasgosshek, Robert Phelps, Edgar Smalley and George Roth, preceptors; Henry Allen Lane, sentinel; Chauncey Chase, orator. Acting as installing officers were: Geo. W. Bunton, master councellor; C. E. Boag, commander of Hollywood Knights Templar, senior councellor; Thomas F. Marshall, Hollywood Commandery, junior councellor; M. H. Withers, Hollywood Commandery, orator; J. V. Tonkin, Hollywood Commandery, senior deacon; B. R. Holloway, past master Van Nuys lodge, marshal. The program included musical numbers, short talks by Ernest Gibson, master of Van Nuys lodge; George A. Chapman, chairman of the Demolay advisory board, and a number of others, concluding with the address by George W. Bunton. The service was impressive and gave visitors an insight to the splendid organization of Demolay. Refreshments were served the guests following the program. Van Nuys Chapter Demolay was instituted November 3, 1923, sponsored by the Masonic lodge. It is proving a very valuable organization
for young men, meetings being held four evenings each month. George A. Chapman is chairman of the advisory hoard, and the other members are J. P. Ingles, Rupert L. Stewart Walter Mendenhalll, Hugh C. Daugherty, Harry R. Bevis, W. W. Todd, S.L. Vaughan and C. M. Nance.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bill Cosby and Demolay

Phone Rat and I have taken on a special project over the past few days of delving through the archives of the "Valley News and Greensheet" for old articles concerning Demolay, Job's Daughters and Rainbow. One of my first finds was an article from August 12, 1971 about a special celebrity basketball contest against the Valley Demolay League All-Stars. Here is the text of the article:

Television star Bill Cosby will bring his celebrity basketball team to Birmingham High School tomorrow evening to battle a team of Valley DeMolay All-Stars in a special benefit contest.
The event is being sponsored by the Reseda Chapter, Order of DeMolay, with all proceeds going to the Shrine Hospital for Crippled Childien in Los Angeles. Included on the celebrity team will be such notables as Cosby, former Ram star Bernie Casey, former Angel first baseman Don Mincher and television actor Mike Connors ("Manmx'). The Valley DeMolay All-Stars -will consist of Buss Damn, 6 ft. 5 in. center from the Granada Hills chapter; Jim Fox, 6-1 guard from Van Nuys chapter, Kurt Krueger, 6-1 guard from Canoga Park; Pete Giammaria, 6-3 forward from Burbank; Bob Allen, 6-3 guard from North Hollywood; Craig Fletcher, 6-2 guard from Reseda; Mike Fennelly, 6-2 forward from Reseda; and Ken Inger, 6-£ forward from Reseda. There also will be two surprise guests on the program. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. tomorrow at Birmingham. Tickets are priced at $175 for students and $250 for adults. Tickets will be on sale at the Birmingham Gym prior to the game tomorrow For further ticket information or reservations, contact Mike Fennelly at 342-9588 or 478-4051.

Quite an event, its too bad I have no memory of it. I went to Birmingham and was in Demolay at the time, though not active. So this gives you a taste of some of the stuff we are finding. Most of what we have found is normal installation and fund raising news, but that is a also a kick, and some of them have pictures. Phone Rat is working on a special project within this project for which he still needs some additional information. I will leave that cat in the bag so not to give him a stroke from the pressure.

I wanted to change the background color of this blog to green in honor of the old paper but this template does not allow that change, so instead I have changed the text color from the original article to green. It would have been great to be there and watch Chet Kincaid drive the lane against our team.

Monday, June 23, 2008

All You Need is Ed Love

As a child I was frequently in the hospital for a variety of aliments, from asthma and Bronchitis to pneumonia. I eventually outgrew them and one could argue the sickness moved from my body to my mind but that is a tale for another time. In January 1966 I was in the hospital with the famous cartoonist Ed Love. Mr. Love animated everything from Mickey Mouse for Disney to Woody Woodpecker, The Flintstones and a variety of T.V. commercials. Scroll down on the link for a brief discussion and example of his work.

Mr. Love and I only shared a room for a day or so, but in that time he drew a few sketches on a piece of school paper, shown here by a rather poor photograph. It includes Pluto, Mickey and the Hamm’s Beer Bear. My first talent as a child was drawing. I was always drawing pictures at home and at school. I did not mind sitting at the back of the class because it gave me the opportunity to draw pictures. Early on I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist when I grew up so you can imagine the thrill of discovering you share a hospital room with one of the premier cartoonist of the era.

Later that year I was seriously bit by the music bug and it became my life long passion. I still drew pictures at school to kill time and at home while I listened to music. I once created a character called “Haskell”, named after the street we lived on. But Haskell only starred on my desk and never made it to the comic section or television. Still I went through High School and College as an art major even though the passion was gone. By this time the cartoon industry was increasingly being outsourced to places like Japan so jobs were becoming scarce so the writing was on the wall. I still love the art and I still have my yellowed school paper with the sketches of Mr. Ed Love, one of the masters of the last great era of cartooning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The F Bomb

NASA has its countdown before it launches a rocket and Moms have their countdown before they launch as well and it goes like this: 1 – 2 – 3. If she reaches 3 and you haven’t run, surrendered or fallen to your knees to beg forgiveness, you are in for the ride of your life. As I child I don’t remember pushing my Mom to shout the dreaded “3” but I’m sure I must have. I do remember constantly disregarding the infamous pre-launch Mom warning called, PDQ (Pretty damn quick). “Stop trying to shave the cat with your Dad’s electric shaver, PDQ", mom would yell. She left with the razor and I found more mischief to entertain myself with, while forgetting that you never receive two PDQ’s in a row. If she came back and found me messing up again, out came the big guns of 1-2-3!

So you ask what happened to me afterwards. I remember becoming very acquainted with every corner of our house or apartment. Sometimes I was sent to my room to contemplate my unsocial deeds. My Dad later questioned the effectiveness of this method by asking where’s the punishment in sending him to his room where he has a TV, a stereo, books and all his stuff.

One eventful day at grammar school I was introduced to the infamous F bomb by a fellow classmate. Naturally he failed to explain that the words meaning was bereft of subtle nuances. As I walked home down Sherman Way I kept repeating the word to myself. When I encountered someone I spoke the word out loud to them. Based on the looks I received I knew I was onto something. Here was a secret word that could startle adults and disfigure their faces. In the door of our apartment I walked, confident I possessed some powerful kid secret to use on adults. I walked over to my parakeet “Cookie” who sat on the venation blinds watching for me to come home. I picked him up and put him back on his cage. I heard Mom enter the room behind me so I turned toward her and launched the F bomb at- her. Like a Saturday morning cartoon her eyes shot 3 feet out of her head as she grabbed my arm and dragged me into the bathroom. I was stunned. I had no warning, I heard no PDQ or 1-2-3. To use another cartoon analogy it was like a Dennis the Menace cartoon where you see symbols and signs above his head, an indication of total confusion and chaos. The next thing I was aware of was the taste of Lava soap in my mouth and Mom’s words ringing in my ears, “don’t you ever say that again, do you hear me?” A nod of the head is all I could muster since I couldn’t hear anymore and had a mouth is full of the best and most corrosive hand cleaner on the planet, Lava soap! I survived the afternoon and we had a tense family discussion at the dinner table about bad words you should never speak as a child in private or public. To this day I still remember saying to my parents, “Ok but I can’t stop thinking about it.”

When I told my Phone Rat about this post he added the caveat that Dads never count to 3. I agreed and said that's a whole other post.

Monday, June 16, 2008

...And now its time to say Goodbye

"When one door closes another one opens." "There is a bigger and better plan for me." "It wasn't meant to be." The cliches continue to rattle around in my head. When i wake up in the morning, I will have nowhere to go. For the first time in 20+ years, my opinions, talents, insight and passion wont be needed in the office. Someone else will take over the reigns and become the head figure of my family of employees.

I was fired on Friday. I was told "it was time for a change", "it just wasn't working out", "we are heading in a different direction". Cliches again, and all of them make an idulible mark on my brain. In the world of declining economy, and rapid change in our industry, I became the odd man out.

I am not going to argue with the decision, I am not going to whine.

But instead I am going to let the people know how much they meant to me while working with them. In all those years of getting up and going to work, I have never been associated with a finer group of people. Normally in our business you have a mix of good and bad, mature and immature, sane and insane...but this group was truly special.

They have been successful for years, and even though revenues are down this year, they will perform far above the trend of our business industry wide. They are winners, and will continue to be no matter who leads them.

More importantly they will have fun, enjoy each others company and be successful as one unit....I admired them before I joined them and equally admired them as I worked with them.

As I say goodbye to them, I thank them for being a big part of my life over the last 4 years, I hoped that we would have grown old together, but that is not to be. so for.....

EP, MM, Bernie, SS, KJ, DA, DJ, VM, Martha, RM, Rich, Roxie, KM, JW, Angel, Leslie, JP, JD, KH, CQ, GR (i hope i got everyone)...

and especially JH, DF and LB who blindly followed me into new project and performed flawlessly, I thank you. God Bless everyone of you....and Goodbye

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dad


This morning I was channel surfing and most of the news shows were having specials on the passing of Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert. Most of the shows had a panel of guests telling work and personal stories. One network, MSNBC, re-broadcast a show of Tom Brokaw interviewing Russert about his book, "The Wisdom of our Fathers". It was a fascinating hour which brought to mind memories of my dad.

I remember the day my dad passed away and thinking I would never talk to him again, or hear his advice. I did not realize at the time that a relationship goes on long after someone is dead, and it continues to evolve. Especially with our parental realtionships. He is still there behind my ear with his approval and disapproval and advice. At night when I am alone smoking a cigar he is there in my thoughts. I see him smoking his own cigar. It is a wonderful calm ritual that will always play out that way for me.

I was fortunate to have a good man as a dad who was there for me when I needed him. Still our relationship was like most father and sons. Each of us could anger the other like no one else. A few hours before he died we were together in the hospital and I bent over and told him I love him and he said the same to me. We had said it before, but I was now that age where you didn't express it out loud. I am forever grateful for that moment. One of the commandments is to honor your parents. It does not say you have to love them. There is a wisdom at work that understands a parent child relationship is perhaps the most difficult and that love is sometimes not there or what it should be, but you must honor them. I was lucky and I loved my Dad and I work to honor him now by trying to live up to his standard. Happy Father's Day Dad.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Goblet, The Girl and the Street Sign, Part 2

The scene is Sherman Oaks California just off Valley Vista Blvd. Three slightly inebriated young men sit in a Bright Orangish Ford Econoline Van contemplating a crime. You see there is a street just off Valley Vista that shares its name with our beautiful brown haired brown eyed friend of Bob’s Big Boy silver goblet fame. There I sit with Radio Rat and another accomplice (Canid, not a Rat) staring up at the street sign trying to figure out how best to quickly remove the sign from the pole. We gather a few tools and emerge from Radio Rats Bright Orangish Ford Econoline Van, cleverly parked in a dark spot of the road. I stand guard as Radio Rat climbs the pole to remove the sign. A few tense minutes pass until he slides down saying it won’t come all the way off. Our accomplice is fresh and climbs the pole to take his shot at it. They take turns wrestling with the tight steel bands until one of them finally liberates the sign. He slides down with the sign and we run to the van, fire it up and high tail it out of there.

We laugh and snort as we flee the scene of the crime and drive straight to our friend’s apartment to present her with our trophy. We knock on the door and her Mom answers it. She calls her daughter as we stand there, three of Demolay's best holding a stolen street sign. She walks into the room and starts laughing when she sees us holding a city street sign with her name on it. We relate a slightly abbreviated tale of our larceny. She then takes the sign to her bedroom and places it proudly in her window. We take our leave and go downstairs. As we walk out we look up at her window. There she is with her sign and a big smile waving goodbye to her three slightly drunken if not devoted bandits.

The next day Radio Rat and I are working at Butler Brothers Department Store in Van Nuys. Sometime during the day I catch a glimpse of Radio Rat walking toward me looking as pale as a ghost that just saw a scarier ghost. He tells me he just received a phone call from a woman in Sherman Oaks who wanted something delivered to her house. As she was giving him directions she told him it might be difficult to find her house because last night someone stole the street sign from the street corner. Someone and I stood there in shock.

I suppose we could have told the woman where her street sign was but why break a young girl’s heart, or get tossed in jail. Our beautiful brown eyed friend had her street sign and I had my silver goblet, the spoils of our short career in crime. I hope she is happy and still has her sign displayed proudly in the window of wherever she lives now. Maybe if she one day sees this post she will send us a picture of it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Goblet, The Girl and the Street Sign, Part 1

This silver Goblet was procured from a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Van Nuys CA. I confess I am a questionable accomplice in its procurement. We were sitting in a comfy booth eating our meal when I simply mentioned to a friend I would like to have one of these goblets. We finished our meal, left a tip and walked out to our car. When we got into the vehicle my female friend reached into her purse and handed me the shiny silver Bob’s Big Boy goblet. We all laughed and hurried out of there just in case some eagled eyed waitress was on our tail. I was flabbergasted but I took it home and put it up on my memento shelf hoping my Mom would not ask where it came from. Accepting stolen goods is certainly a misdemeanor crime, however if a judge or God one day confronts me with my involvement I will throw myself on the mercy of whatever court and tell them it was given to me by the most beautiful brown haired brown eyed girl I had ever known. I won't claim insanity but I will tell you I was intoxicated by her smile.

This beautiful young girl and I did eventually go out on a date some time later. We had a nice time, but I am afraid I was so painfully shy that I never mustered the courage to ask her out again. We remained friends in spite of my ineptness. I have a fine memory of driving away from her place to Van Nuys Masonic Temple for our date. The radio was on blasting the hits of that period of 1973. So what song you ask plays in my mind now when I remember our date? My Love by Paul McCartney? Or maybe Love Train by The O’Jays? No, I recall rolling down Victory Blvd. to the sounds of Loudon Wainwright III squawking, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road”.

Not long after this I bought a top of the line Sanyo cassette player for my car. Never again would I allow the radio God's impose their will on my love life. In matters of the heart one still needs the proper tools. So now when my diet allows I break out the goblet and drop a scoop of ice cream in it, crank up iTunes and remember good times with a beautiful young girl, and a stinky old skunk.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Boy I love......., are you going to eat all that?

Being just out of school and in the work force in 1975 is quite different than want it would have been today. The most a guy could hope for was a 6 pack of beer, going to see a "R" rated movie, and maybe having a nice Stereo to play cassettes and records. There was no designer drugs, video games, cell phones, DVR, IPODS, Internet porn or Match.com. We certainly had more than my parents did at my age, but not nearly the advantages of today's youth (or is that disadvantages). Relationships with friends and coworkers was the key. Those relationships would be what our memories would be made of during our late teens. I guess that is why I look back upon our friends at Builders Emporium in Reseda so fondly. Working together, going out to dinners, playing softball, going to company parties and just hanging out are the times I remember best.

In a previous blog I mentioned that the cast of characters in our store was on par with any great sitcom of the day. We had everything...the beautiful sexy housewares clerk (Sandy), the old Jewish fellow (Ben), the ex-marine (Chris), the smart beautiful accountant (Joan), the connected Italian Manager (Mr. S), his sidekick (Mr N.), the trumpet playing nerd (Steve), quiet instigator (Carey), on edge older pack a day smoker (Ed), and Mr Cool...Don.

We called him our Fonzie. Although he was more like a combination of Fonzie, Robin Williams and Charlie Manson. On the outside he was cool and unapproachable. But on his "good" days (most likely induced by something), personality bubbled up. He was quietly funny, and could be very mean. Whenever there was a confused older lady looking for help in the electrical dept., we would all hang out in the next aisle and wait for the poor lady to meet Mr. Sarcastic. He would be nice at first and if the lady couldn't quite understand, he would dig in and rip her apart. He was the rude we all wanted to be for those "hard to please" customers.

If it wasn't the customers, it was the old Jewish man in paint. Prank phone calls, throwing things on the floor and having him pick them up and just general yelling out his name from 5 aisle away to see how fast he could get there, Don had his fun and we all looked forward to what was next. There was his dark side as well. He and Sandy must have had some history before I got there, as they hated each other. It was dangerous to be in the vacinity when those two went at it. Sandy had no problem getting physical, but Don would just walk away muttering really good nasty nicknames.

Everyday at the early morning break, I would go next door to get something to eat from ThriftieMart and bring it back to the breakroom upstairs. And like your dog smelling food in the kitchen, Don would come walking in the breakroom. It would get to a point that i would try to sneek in as to not get noticed by Don...but he would always find a way to make an appearance. He would look at your food and ask.."Boy I love (whatever is on the table)...are you going to eat all that". He would ask in the cool Fonzie voice and 9 times out of 10 he would get at least a bite (just to get rid of him). Same thing would happen at lunch. I really don't think Don ever bought any food....he just knew when food was around, and wasn't shy about asking for his fare share. Considering he was tall and skinny (and considered himself a sex symbol) we couldn't figure out where all the food went.

Don was written up many times, had his job threatened dozens of times, took out and "dated" most of the women at the store (including customers), almost got in fistfights with other employees (and customers)...and all in all one of my early heroes of my life. I don't know why, he just was able to do the things I wanted to do but couldn't. One day he was gone...don't really remember what finally did it....but it happened and we never heard from him again. The store family would miss The Fonz, but their were many other characters to fill the void.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Builders Emporium


I will never forget the night our father died. It was 1964 and The Beatles were making another appearance on Ed Sullivan's Show. We stayed up to watch the Beatlemania and then had to go to bed for school the next morning. As always, I went into my room and turned on my radio to go to sleep to the sounds of 93 KHJ and Boss Radio. My father was working his second job, trying to keep ahead of the bill collectors, at Shakeys Pizza. Before too long our house was full of relatives and I was told that my father had a massive heart attack and died at the Pizza Parlour. Life changed. My mother was a housewife with 4 children. No money to speak of. With the help of her mother, we stayed afloat. My mother did home shows selling fashions and detergent. A few other odd jobs came and went. It was a struggle, looking back, I never really gave her the kind of credit she deserved.

One day she was listening to talk radio and heard about the West Valley Occupational Center and how they can help train people to work in different fields. My mom actually called the radio station and got on the air as she asked how the school worked. She enrolled and learned how to be a retail cashier. She worked hard and got a job in different retail establishments such as Two Guys, Fedmart, Unimart and finally Builder Emporium. At BE, she started as a cashier and worked her way up to head cashier, regional training cashier and executive assistant. I grew up around some legends of the retail world in Southern California, and was always in awe of her work ethic and ability to work with some smart, tough Vice Presidents.

When I reached working age, after a short stint at Butler Brothers Department Store in Van Nuys. she talked me into coming to work in the receiving dock at BE 617 in Tarzana. I lasted two days. How dare they put me to work pricing cheap tools and burying me in the depths of made in Taiwan boxes. After all I was a manger in the Sporting Goods Dept. at Butlers! So back to Butlers I went.

But the money wasn't good, and I had just graduated from High School. I enrolled at the Devry Institute of Technology in Phoenix and ran off to trade school. That lasted one semester. I wanted to be a Disc Jockey on radio (Boss Jock was my preference) and they promised they would teach me how to do that. Once I got there, I found out that I had to go through a ton of theory classes and maybe by my Senior year I could work in the campus radio station. So it was back to Southern Calif, and plan B.

Once again my mother brought me back to BE, this time in Reseda. Store 618 was a smaller store that my mother had worked at on and off. She eventually went to store 601 in Van Nuys which was the mother ship of BE stores. In Reseda, I was hired as a part time Hardware (Dept. 13), Tools (Dept. 52) and Automotive (Dept 01). I learned a lot about the products I was working with and eventually got Full Time in the same Department.

The cast of Characters (and I mean Characters) was something right out of a sitcom. A dysfunctional family of people that I will never forget. From Don in Electrical, to Sandy in Housewares, to Ben and Carey in Paint, to Eddie in Lumber, to Steve and Ross in Hardware, to John in receiving, Chris in Seasonal, Tim in Garden and a variety of Part Timers working their way up the ranks. The stories were numerous. All hilarious, some terrifying (hot bacon grease down the back of mean boyfriends T-shirt), and all very memorable. I hope in future blogs (with some friends help) i can give you a taste of a time in my life that was very special. BE 618 was great experience, and i can thank my Mom for getting me the start. Like most things she did for me, she knew i would resist. Either getting a job with her company, getting me involved with Van Nuys Demolay, playing music with the family band, she knew it would help me.....and it did.

From BE 618, I was promoted to Store Manager of BE 612 in Thousand Oaks and then moved to BE 625 in Granada Hills were I met my future wife. It was a very hard day when I left BE after 9 years. It was even tougher telling my mom. She was proud of what I had accomplished in a short time.

I got the chance to go back to Broadcasting School and became a DJ. And now 25 years later I find myself back in the management role for a large Broadcasting Company. The times and lessons I learned early on in retail at BE are still with me today. Thanks to the start I got from Mom and all the terrific people along the way. I am hoping that this blog will find its way to some of those people that meant so much to me. I miss them all, and hope all their dreams have come true.

About a week before my Mom passed away, she called me and told me that BE had finally decided to call it quits. The Stores were closing and would liquidate quickly. That was a sad day for her and I as we found BE as one of many common grounds of our lives. They are all gone now. BE 618 was destroyed by fire and rebuilt as a Korean Grocery store on the corner of White Oak and Sherman Way. BE 612in Thousand Oaks is a Office Depot and BE 625 in Granada Hills is a Pep Boys.

More fun times at BE..coming....i hope you join in!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wednesday Night

This past Wednesday night Van Nuys Blvd. entertained two of its old road warriors. Gone were the muscle cars, vans and crowds of kids on the sidewalks. Wednesday night on the boulevard is now like any other night. Gone are the days when the boulevard looked like the 405 at rush hour, only more fun. Those days are a memory. For us Boomers Van Nuys Blvd. is better known now as Memory Lane. So it was that these old friends from the past found themselves cruising Van Nuys Blvd.

I was sitting at my desk working on a song when my cell phone rang. I picked it up to hear the voice of Phone Rat telling me he and our old friend Duane from our Demolay days had just left Coco’s and were taking a brief trip down memory lane. Before long we were remembering the old days, two bodies and one in spirit driving up and down the boulevard once more time.

Places and traditions change and so do people. The faces and facades change with the passage of time but the spirit lives on inside us. I hear that Los Angeles does not honor its history. To a large extent that is true. But the past does live on as a kind of ghost town. For Los Angeles the ghost town is Hollywood. Hollywood is as much legend as reality.

So it is with Van Nuys Blvd. It is still the main artery through the middle of the San Fernando Valley. It has seen better times and it has seen worse. I read and hear criticisms about the condition of the boulevard and Van Nuys in general. I understand them and have made many of the same criticisms. However distance and perspective over the past two years have made me realize it can't stay the same the way I want it or remember it. The memory is alive in the people we experienced it with. We old timers had it for a short time and that era still belongs to us. It has passed on to another generation. That is life in a big, vibrant city. While it is tough to watch your hangouts slowly disappear, in the end we keep it alive in our hearts and minds and that is how it should be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My Demolay Story

A welcome flurry of Demolay and Rainbow activity this past week has inspired me to relate a small (clean and censored) bit of my Demolay story in hopes of encouraging others to share their stories and memories. Each of us has individual tales we can all relate to.

To this day my most fond memories are of my Demolay days. These friends, many who are still friends are the group of people I made that rite of passage into adulthood with. Together we made our first trips out into the world on our own, free from parents. We could drive, party, play music, and chase the opposite sex. Much of it was good fun and much of was less innocent, which is probably best left to conversations and personal e-mails.

I joined Van Nuys Demolay at the beginning of 1971. I was aware of Demolay through my Dad who had been in Demolay during the 1940's in Lakewood Ohio. I remember his stories about his Demolay days and in retrospect they echo what I experienced. I still keep his photo's and memorabilia in my office. By the time I had turned 15 my parents began to ask if I would be interested in joining Demolay. I said thanks but no, I am not a joiner. I had school and that seemed enough of a burden without adding to it. They continued to work on me until one day I decided to make them happy and join. Since they never asked much of me in that regard I decided to at least join and see what happened. They told me if I did not like it I did not have to stay in it. That seemed fair.

I was initiated in January of 1971. I learned my ritual and went through the degrees and then let it all slide through the summer of 1971. Then in September of 1971 I received a call from Chuck Fox asking if I would like to be Almoner for him. He told me the person who was slated for the office had dropped out and he needed to fill the position. My initial reaction was thank you but no. Finally Chuck came to visit me and I agreed to take the position. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I began to attend the Wednesday night meetings at Van Nuys Masonic Temple. Slowly I worked into the fabric of the chapter and began to attend official functions and non-official functions. Soon after becoming active I was asked to come to a band practice at Ken Winte's house. In the Winte garage I met Larry Thornhill and Brian Lincoln. Soon after we became the trio know as "The Destinations". We practiced and began playing parties and installations. Soon we had our own little part time clique which consisted of Me, Larry, Ken and Gary Zeiger. Or as my Mom referred to us, Stud, Dud, Mud and Crud. I remember Gary was Stud, but as for the rest I forget who was who. Which is probably a good thing. I know I will catch hell for letting this out.

While Demolay had its fun social side it also was a serious organization which taught us all some valuable lessons and skills. It's true we sometimes had fun with the ritual but it did reinforce core values, and it did teach us how to speak before a group of people, which has served many of us well in our careers. I will admit that even I, the lone wolf did feel the sense of belonging to a special community with other Demolay members whether we were close or not. I believe this because it was something I wanted to be active in and not something I had to belong to.

A few of us followed up Demolay by going into Freemasonry. I never did. My dad went into Van Nuys Zenith Lodge right after I joined Demolay. In later years he served as chapter dad and for a time was also active with Van Nuys Rainbow. He received the Demolay Legion of Honor in a ceremony which included the famous cowboy actor Roy Rogers. My dad's dad was also a Mason as well as a Knights Templar. His ceremonial sword hangs on the wall right beside my desk. So while I have avoided the lure of Freemasonry I am forever grateful for their youth group called Demolay.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Aviation Hill LAX

Concerning the delicate subject of young people necking I submit the location know as Aviation Hill, next to LAX as the best spot in Los Angeles for a necking. That is it used to be back in the 1970’s. Aviation Hill was a small hill between Pershing Drive and Vista Del Mar at the west end of LAX. Ideally you would park at the summit or the downside facing the runway. It was a public spot and out in the open so your activities were usually limited to necking. For those youngsters wondering what necking is I am sure Google can supply an adequate definition.

I discovered Aviation Hill in the early 1970’s after I learned to drive and spent most of my free hours driving all over L.A. The airport was a natural hangout as my Dad worked at Flying Tiger Line on World Way West. I would sometimes go to work with him and walk around the hangars and watch the planes. When I was able to drive on my own I went looking for places to park and watch the airplanes takeoff. It was then I discovered the hill. One night I drove down to the hill and discovered folks parked in cars not taking advantage of the view to watch airplanes takeoff. I thought what a great way to share your love of airplanes with another as the roar of the plane rocks your butt. Back I came the next night with a female companion. What an ideal spot to watch airplanes on one side of the hill and submarine races on the ocean side of the hill.

I will spare you the details and names but I remember stopping at Aviation Hill many times before I took my date home. I might add the other great spot to hang out back in those days was the Queen Mary when you could just walk on board and watch the boats and water.

A little over 2 years ago my good friend Phone Rat and I went out to LAX one more time before I left town. We drove along Pershing and saw Aviation Hill empty and overgrown by weeds held back by a chain link fence. We sat there for a few moments lamenting one of our favorite spots. I closed my eyes and I could almost hear the planes flying over my car as the sound of Bruce Springsteen’s “Prove it All Night” plays on the stereo as I hold my girlfriend in my arms.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

1980

Where were you when the music died in 1980? I was driving home south on Van Nuys Blvd. to our apartment on Chandler Blvd. So many years have passed that I don’t remember where I had been, but I remember hearing Don McLean’s “America Pie” come on the radio and having the words finally sink in. KHJ Boss Radio was going off the air to be replaced by the Urban Cowboy and his posse.

By this time I was like so many others listening to FM radio for the extended playlists and lack of small talk and commercials. Still it was like the guilt you feel after hearing an old friend you hadn’t gone to see in so many years had died. The song and the moment brought back a flood of memories from the summer of 1966 when I was swept away by the Beatles, Rock and Roll and Boss Radio. I also remembered that our band used to play American Pie at every gig. The song had just been released and like so many other bands we had to learn it to survive. I didn't like the song back then. It didn’t have a Rock and Roll beat and I wanted no part of it. It’s only redeeming value being it was a good easy song to play while checking out the girls in the crowd.

As I took the long turn from Van Nuys Blvd. to Chandler Blvd. the song finished and the switch to country music came squawking out of my speakers. I turned it off and coasted the rest of the way home. I probably went upstairs and turned on the stereo as I lay in bed. I remember thinking this was the first time I had really listened to the song and I came to appreciate it over the following years.

Later that year I was sitting at home watching a Monday Night football game when the news came on that John Lennon had been murdered in New York City. I realized at once that this time the music really had died and not just gone away. I got up out of my chair, grabbed my dogs leash and motioned for her to come to me. I could not talk. We went outside for a long walk and some air. I wandered up and down the street but it didn’t help. 1980 took away more things than it gave us.

I greeted the New Year as best I could. But a few months in 1981 took away my real life hero, and the man who made music such an important part of my life, my Dad. It hasn’t been as joyful since. The happy major chords of youth gave way to the mournful minor chords of real life.

This post is dedicated to Pam who also lost her hero that night in December of 1980.