Life On Comey Avenue

Life Revolved Around Comey Avenue


It was the only street in the world... In fact, the world was Comey Avenue for the first sixteen years of my life.  It is funny how life expands outwards and meets reality.  It was in a lower middle class neighborhood with the poorer people to the east and the richer to the west.  My friends tended to be on the western side of our place with a few from the eastern side.

It was a childs delight... Nearby schools

(The) Old Man

Kids must be mean and I was indeed one of those mean kids once in a while.  However, my recollection is that it lasted one summer and then I either grew out of it or Dad knocked it out of me!

A vacant lot, our old battle field, was ignominiously turned into a house.  Gawd, what a loss!  It was directly opposite another vacant lot which meant we lost the capability to join teams and lob grass bombs at each other.  Alas, such terrible events.

Anyway,  when the house got finished we took out our anger on "The Old Man".  we rang his doorbell, watered down his newspaper, threw an occasional egg, made loud noises whenever we could... Pretty much made his life miserable.

One day during the summer, we were doing something bad and I got caught.  He saw me doing something bad and he called me over to him.  I didn't run away. I went over like a kid should showing respect to the adult.  My parent real lessons kicked in!  I was thinking I was going get killed.  He just asked "Why me, young man?"  I think I told him and he apologized for living on our childhood battlefield.

He offered lemonade (it was hot); I took lemonade and we became friends!

From that point forward, the Old Man and I were friends and waived at each other for years!

1/4 - 3/4 Eye Color


There was this girl, of course it would be a girl.  Her name was Patti and she lived in a house down the street on Comey Avenue. 

We became an item (if one can become an item at ten years old).  Anyway, her aunt was eight years old and was always hanging around us

What I remember is that the aunt have one eye that was 3/4 hazel and 1/4 green.  Odd because I do remember looking into it and zip, Nada.  If her right eye was a clock, midnight to three was green and three to midnight was hazel. 

Very distinct color difference.   It must have made an impression on me as it  is now 50 years later and those eyes popped into my head. 

American Bandstand Was Real

American Bandstand

I know; I watched it. In black and white on a little screen trying to pick up on some of the dances. 

1st song played on the national edition was Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotto Shaking Going' On."

1st Guests: Billy Williams, Chordates

Bandstand began as a local program on WFIL-TV (now WPVI), Channel 6 in Philadelphia on October 7, 1952. Then it was hosted by Bob Horn and was called Bob Horn's Bandstand.

On July 9 of 1956 the show got a new host, a clean-cut 26 year old named Dick Clark. When ABC picked the show up, it was renamed American Bandstand, airing it's first national show on August 5, 1957.

The show was moved to Los Angeles in 1964. From 1963 to 1987 Bandstand was on only once a week, on Saturday. Briefly it was part of the USA Network with new host David Hirsh but went off the air in 1989.

Beach Cruiser Before Beach Cruisers

Don't laugh, they were great!  Today we would call them "Beach Cruisers" or "Choppers"  because of the big balloon tires. 

What was my favorite things to do?  Make the front spring flatten out by going over large bumps!  This puppy was the first "dirt bike".  The spring kept ones body from shattering when we hit the curbs.

The Shockmaster coiled-sprint front fork, chrome-trimmed horn tank, rear carrier with taillights, and a Searchbeam headlight which was unusually powerful and tempted us kids to stay out after dark.  But we didn't; porch light on means kids are inside!

Bicycle of te 1950's

I cannot remember whose bike I am riding when we went bicycle mobiling.  I think it was Ed Heyman's

Berry Picking Next Door

Growing up on Comey Avenue was much like many places back east, that is, we had no fences between properties.  We might have had a small picket fence or some bushes but no block walls.  Next door there was a older gentleman whose name now escapes me but I believe it to be Joe.  We had a large garden and a large part of his garden was boysenberries and blackberries.


We used to go next door and gorge on berries.  There was at least two 50 foot long rows of berries and more than one could ever eat.  We would bring the hose around to the bush, what them while they were still attached, and lay in the grass eating berries until every thing we were wearing was stained with berry juice.

I knew when summer was here by the size of the berries.

Joe passed on in the early 50's and the house was bought by the Miyauchi's.  The took the berries out but it took years and years to get those berries out of the yard!  Berries do have a propensity to take over their surroundings.

I miss the berries so this past year, I added berries to my garden.  Two in buckets and one in the ground!  The ground is taking over everything else.

Blue Canvas By The Ton

Our next door neighbor was "Brownie".  To this day, I do not know his real first name but the last name was Brown. 


Brownie was one of the head camera men at the Culver City studios, primarily MGM but occasionally Desilu.  He often brought home scale models from sets and he had a complete collection of war vehicle he collected over the years in his large bar behind his garage.   Tanks, trucks, artillery, jeeps, all the joys of childhood!

He knew many stars and had Mom, Dad and I  visit the sets. He did know Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan fairly well.

One afternoon he took Dad and I to a large set on the MGM lots in Culver City. As we walked through the make believe town toward the huge backdrop which was blue sky, we spotted a LARGE pile of blue canvas.  This was the material the artists used as backdrops. as I remember the backdrop was almost like a football field turned on its side.

Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other functions where sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used as a painting surface, typically stretched, and on fashion handbags and shoes.

He asked Dad if he wanted some of it as they were going to toss it out.  Dad, being pretty smart, said sure.  We loaded up the back of the station wagon with this canvas.  It was hundreds of pounds of canvas and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

According to

A heavy, coarse, closely woven fabric of cotton, hemp, or flax, used for tents and sails.
A piece of such fabric on which a painting, especially an oil painting, is executed
A fabric of coarse open weave, used as a foundation for needlework

When we got it home, Mom of course asked "What are you going to do with that?"

Well, it did not take long for me to figure it out.  Dad got it for me.

The kids and I  in the neighborhood cut off a small piece and hung it over the clothes line in the way-back yard... Instantly, we had a theater.

Next we found the largest poles we could get and drug a mess of the canvas to the vacant lot about three doors down,,, Magic,  a circus tent.

We hung it over the entrance to the garage, sat up chairs in front of it, and... Amazingly enough, a small theater.

Thank mess of canvas lived in our yard for years becoming car covers, patio covers, clothes (Mom could do anything with materials), tents, and about anything else one could imagine.

Best gift in the world.  Canvas and rope.

Brownie Was A Borrower

You have read about Brownie, we he did have a habit of "borrowing things without permission".  I can remember Dad looking for a tool and finally giving up and going next door only to find it in Brownie's tool shed.  It was not hidden and he wasn't stealing it... just borrowing it anytime he wanted.

Building With 2 By 4's

2x4's, a kids delight

Hey, I was a boy and a typical 1950s boy!  Play outside until you drop.  Build, teardown, build. Construction was a favorite pastime of my generation and Bob Coolmer and I were pretty involved with this endeavor. 

Anytime there was construction going on we would go and obtain the leftover pieces of wood and hide them away for a building day! 

We built forts (out of whatever we could scrounge up from the famous Comey Avenue alleyways) and cars and boats and anything one could imagine!

We learned how to use tools, how to drive nails, how to make the weak strong.  It was a learning time.  

Canasta Parties

Playing Cards

Canasta everywhere!  The ladies on the block  and all the relatives played Canasta all night long!  Single Canasta, Double-Canasta, etc.

Canasta became the game of the decade! The game of Canasta is said to have originated in Montevideo, Uruguay, around 1940. From there it spread to Argentina, the USA and throughout the world. It was extremely fashionable in the 1950's, threatening for a while to displace Contract Bridge as the premier card game.

The rules were standardized in North America around 1950, and it was this version of the game, which is called Classic Canasta  worldwide popularity. In many countries, Classic Canasta is still played in more or less its original form, sometimes alongside a number of variations. In North America, however, the game of Canasta has continued to develop, and the version now favored by many American players.

Shuffling machine hand cranked

Canasta is generally agreed to be best for four players, playing in partnerships. However, there are playable versions for two and three players.

Friday and Saturday nights the neighborhood got together to play cards... for hours and hours!  On the weekends, Canasta was played nearly anywhere we went.

I do remember the fancy card shuffling machines.  Canasta could be played by many and therefore more decks of cards would be needed.  These machines allowed one to put the cards in one end and then turn the crank and voila, shuffled cards came out the other end!

Chicken Coop (Trailer) That Went To Mars

Chicken Coop

Bet I flew a million mission to Mars in a trailer that my parents used as a chicken coop until I needed it as a place to play!  Wow, what a deal, huh?

Seeks in the late 30's, Mom and Dad got a deal on an old trailer.  You must remember, this is the 30's and everything is wood.  So they parked the trailer in the way-back yard and from what I remember, it served as their chicken coop. 

Yes, Mom and Dad  were in the heart of Los Angeles and we raised chickens and had a vegetable garden. The chickens stayed there for years and I so vaguely remember going into the trailer with Mom and getting eggs from these fine chickens.

This is NOT the real one but it is meant toshow our younger readers what a Chicken Coopwas in the olden days.  My coop was about twiceas big and began as a trailer house in the 1930's

It is my guess but after Word War II was over, I think the chickens went away as we didn't need to produce out own eggs besides egg prices where going down!

Mom and Dad must have cleaned up the mess but the trailer stayed.  As I was growing up, we used the trailer as a "playhouse".  Darn we had some good times in there.

Two Distinct Memories Come To Mind About The Playhouse.

Billy Coomler broke his leg while climbing on the top of the playhouse.  The rook was only made of 2x2 lumber and would not hold a lot of weight so one day, Billy was on top and wham, he fell through.  He was fine and today he works for the Aerospace Corporation.

Flash Gordon's Rocket Ship The greatest memory was making it into a Rocket Ship!  The old coop had three small rectangular windows.  The inside was plywood, courtesy of Dad.  So we painted and drew Rocket Ship controls on the walls, put in official crew seats with safety belts, and prepared to blast off!

But alas, how can one blast of into the future when the viewports contained Brownie's back yard or a view of the alleyway? 

So I found some cardboard from the load alley, went to Dads shop and found dark blue paint and painted space like I know it had to be!

For stars, we used nails and punched holes through the cardboard and when it was light outside, the stars were a real is it gets. We were Flash Gordon and Dale Evans and Dr, Zarkov  and we fought off the likes of Emperor Ming The Merciless.

The playhouse was so popular with the kids in the neighborhood I even remember coming home from Arkansas and the whole thing was redesigned with new controls and new universes and everything! Those WERE the days when material wealth was small but imaginations were unlimited!

Color TV Was Indeed Magic

Old TV    Back of a tube TV

RCA was the only name I ever knew... but there was "Mad Man Muntz" now that I think about it!.

We got our first color TV in about 1954.  It was just in time to watch Disneyland on TV.  Seeing the NBS peacock spread those colorful feathers was just simply amazing.  The heat generated by the 30 vacuum tubes in the color TV chassis was also amazing!

The thing I most remember was that the TV could not be moved once it was set up!  

 The fellow that came out with the TV admonished Mom..."Never, never move it"... Well... you know Mom... she moved it all around the house and it did not seem to make a big difference.   It had something to do with magnetic fields because the repairman went through a lot of steps in "setting up" the TV.  Mom did not believe the mumbo-jumbo!

The very first RCA color TV was dubbed "The Merrill," model CT-100, and it sold for a suggested retail price of $1,000 in 1954 - roughly equivalent to $6,000 in today's money and about the same price as an automobile for the 1950's consumer.

Featuring an innovative 15-inch Tri-color picture tube, fewer than 5,000 of the first RCA CT-100 color TV receivers were produced in that first year. Today, Thomson's high-volume television manufacturing facilities can produce more RCA digital high-definition color TV receivers in two days than RCA was able to make in the initial year of all-electronic color TV production.

1950: The FCC approves the first color television standard which is replaced by a second in 1953. Vladimir Zworykin developed a better camera tube - the Vidicon.

1956: Ampex introduces the first practical videotape system of broadcast quality.

1956: Robert Adler invents the first practical remote control called the Zenith Space Commander, proceeded by wired remotes and units that failed in sunlight.

1960: The first split screen broadcast occurs on the Kennedy - Nixon debates.

1962: The All Channel Receiver Act requires that UHF tuners (channels 14 to 83) be included in all sets.

Radio 1962: AT&T launches Telstar, the first satellite to carry TV broadcasts - broadcasts are now internationally relayed.

1967: Most TV broadcasts are in color.

1969: July 20, first TV transmission from the moon and 600 million people watch.

The NBC chicken was exciting to see... not all stations were color in those days... so when a program started and the NBC chicken (peacock) spread his feathers, it was time to call everybody to the set!

The word television literally means "vision at a distance." We like to think of a television screen as a "window" through which a televiewer can watch a scene that may be taking place many miles away. 

I must show you what we called tubes, glass envelopes that held high voltage components that made the set work. There are four in the back between the two housings.  This set probably had 17 or so in total.

I Learned How To Fix TV's From George Bauer

George worked in a TV repair shop and drove a panel truck so he could visit TV's and fix them in the home.  Remember, TV's were 100+ pounds.  He also repaired them at home in his garage in the evenings and that's where I learned a lot of electronics.  I was amazed a how George would take a set that had no sound or no picture and he would pull out the High Voltage cage, replace some parts and voila'.

Electronics magazines George and I would work together and I got pretty good at repairing the sets.  We also had some shocking experiences as those sets were full of high voltages!  150+ 350+ 25,000 volts were all over the place.

So how did I learn to read? One of the places was Radio News.  Radio News  was an American monthly technology magazine published from 1919 to 1971. The magazine was started by Hugo Gernsback as a magazine for amateur radio enthusiasts, but it evolved to cover all the technical aspects to radio and electronics. In 1929 a bankruptcy forced the sale of Gernsback's publishing company to B. A. Mackinnon.

In 1938 Ziff-Davis Publishing acquired the magazines.

Ziff-Davis Publishing would develop two categories of magazines; the professional magazine such as Radio & Television News and the leisure time magazines like Popular Photography. In October 1954, Popular Electronics was created for the hobbyist market. It became the largest selling electronics magazine, 250,000 copies per month by 1957 and 450,000 copies by 1965.

Dirt Bombs Forever

What is a dirt bomb?  Simple.  A dirt bomb is a hunk of tall grass carefully pulled from a wet area so as to contain an ample quantity of dirt in the roots.  Once we would pull out a sufficient quantity of these "dirt bombs" we would toss them at one another so as to maximize the amount of dirt that would hit the other person. 

We never aimed to hurt.  We aimed to "dirt".  The kids on Comey Avenue just loved the winter when we would get rain and then go out and dirt bomb the neighborhood!

One Million Frogs

Down the street was a vacant lot (something one never sees today).  it was of course ful lof dirt and weeds.  after one particularly wet winter, the water became full of polywogs and finally frogs... Thousands of frogs grew up and we gave away frogs to every kid we knew!

During the tadpole stage of the amphibian life cycle, most respire by means of autonomous external or internal gills. They do not usually have arms or legs until the transition to adulthood, and typically have dorsal or fin-like appendages and a tail with which they swim by lateral undulation, similar to most fishes.

As tadpoles mature, they most commonly metamorphosize by gradually growing limbs and then (most commonly in the case of frogs) outwardly absorbing its tail by apoptosis. Lungs develop around the time of leg development and tadpoles late in development will often be found near the surface of the water where they breathe air. During the final stages of external metamorphosis, the tadpole's mouth changes from a small enclosed mouth at the front of the head to a large mouth the same width as the head. The intestines shorten to make way for the new diet. Most tadpoles are herbivorous, subsisting on algae and plants. Some species are omnivorous, eating detritus and, whenever available, other tadpoles.

Evenings With Gillick

Marion Gillick was our beloved neighbor on Comey Avenue.  She was definitely an aristocratic New Orleans lady who married an accountant and moved to California.  Marion was a kick in the britches.  Devout Catholic, and I grew into high school and college, I'd go visit her (and her beautiful daughter) and just argue with Marion to argue.  We would fight, disagree, tease and otherwise look like two fighters about to come to blows.

But she was a lady first and a prim and proper person who will always be remembered as a good friend and a flower of the south!

Falling On A Picket Fence

Pickett fence

I was over at the Perkins place and for some reason (probably because the gate was not working), I climbed over the picket fence.  About half way over I slipped and landed on the picket.  I knew I was hurt but had no idea how badly.  I limped home and then noticed blood coming through the new hole in my jeans.  Where was this new hole?  In a place it should not have been... the groin. The groin is the crease (either fold or hollow) at the junction of the torso with the legs and the adjacent region that includes the external genitals, also called the crotch. The term may be used as a euphemism for genitals, since the names of the latter are taboo words in some cultures. When someone has "pulled his/her groin muscles", usually, this person has pulled a muscle in the inner thigh.

Now what does one do?  I naturally called for Mom as I was nine or ten at the time.  I pulled off the jeans and there was a large hole in the crease where the picket decided to go in.  She immediately got on the phone and called the doctor who came within a few minutes.  He cleaned it up and put several stitches in several layers of skin.  The scar is still there to this day (fifty years later) and the lesson was learned... Do not climb over picket fences (or anything else that is sharp!)

Fixing Televisions

On Comey Avenue, the people were simple folks who went about doing their jobs.  John Coomler was an auto-mechanic for Chrysler, Brownie was a cameraman for Desilu; Gillick was an accountant; Charlie Miyauchi ran an auto repair shop; Dad managed dime stores but George Bauer fixed TVs.
Fixing and Television, these were two favorite words of boys in the 1950s.
People didn't make a lot of money in those days and George Bauer wasn't alone in working side jobs.  I do not remember where he worked during the day but he might have been up on Pico Boulevard and he drove a panel truck with a TV store advertisement on the side.
He had a shop in the garage and boy did I learn a lot in that garage.
I learned how to read schematics, resistor and capacitor color codes, I learned about wire sizes, learned how to solder, learned how to strip wires, and learned about the 25 most popular vacuum tubes.  I still remember the 6V6 (audio) and 5U4 (rectifier).
The 6V6 is a family of octal based beam power pentodes which were widely used in mono and stereo amplifiers, musical instrument amps, and in the audio outputs of television, motion picture and public address equipment. They were very popular in the USA during the period of 1940-1970 as they were inexpensive to make, and packed a pretty good audio punch in a small octal based package.

B&W TV I learned about 7 and nine pin miniature tubes along with the 7 and 8 pin standards. I learned about shocks too!  It smarted when you grabbed the B+ by accident!

George taught me about tricks on the trade and how to check tubes by substitutions.  He even knew by heart which tubes could be substituted in an emergency!
TV�s lasted only a few years in those days as the heat generated form the tubes finally dried up the components. Electrolytic capacitors, used to make AC into smooth DC would be the first to go.  It amazes me and I am sitting in front of a 23 inch color TB I bought in 1988 and it still works fine and never been in a shop!
It is my belief that George and his little garage shop steered me into engineering as an occupation instead of following in Dads footsteps into the retail world.

Granny "B"

Her last name was Beatty and she was one-quarter Cherokee Indian which makes me one thirty-second??  Granny-B came to stay with us on Comey avenue and she had a small little room at the front of the house.

I remember the old radio shows that she would listen too and I remember sitting with her many morning and "marching around the breakfast table" .

The Breakfast Club was radio's longest running network entertainment show. It made its debut on June 23rd, 1933 and left the air on December 27th, 1968. During its first decade it was carried by the NBC Blue Network. Thereafter it was heard over ABC, the successor to the NBC Blue.Don McNeill was the host.

Granny B was kit and knit all day and rock in her chair. When she got older, she moved into by grandparent home in Tracy where she passed on at the age of 103.

Grapefruits And The Fireplace

Grapefruit At Christmas time, Dad would often get gifts from the major sales people he dealt with during the year.  We received a case of grapefruit one year from Mo Gotleib, a toy salesman.  The case was pine and about 12x18x18 and contained freshly picked grapefruits... A real joy at Christmas.

Now being Christmas, we had a fire going in the fireplace.  Not that we needed it, after all it was California.  We only needed the atmosphere.

Dad gets a great idea, burn he case!  Not piece by piece but he whole thing.  Dad puts it in the fireplace, much to he dismay of Mom who was busily determining the dimensions and assuring Dad that it would not fit.

Not to be proven wrong, Dad stuffs it into the fireplace which had a small fire going and all of a sudden... Wham!  Flames start on all sides of that case like it was soaked in gasoline.

The flames from the front of the case start escaping into the living room going right up the front of the mantle.  Mom darts for the kitchen bringing in bowls of water; Dad darts for the hose in the front yard.

After a few minutes of panic, the fire is out; the mantle is covered with smoke; the ceiling is grey, and Mom was red-faced.  Dad, I remember, had this sheepish grin on his face knowing full well that Mom was right again!

Grass Bombs

OK you ask, "What is a grass bomb?"

Simple... It is the grass and the clump of mud attached to that grass after a nice rain!  You pull a hand-full of grass out of the vacant lot next door and heave it as far as you can!  It leaves a great mark on the wall and becomes a "grass bomb".

I'll bet Bob Coomler and I threw 10,000 grass bombs... Not at each other but at things.  Sometimes just straight up into the air as high as we could and then run like heck to avoid the fallout!

In the 50's, things were simple.

Green Trailer

My first real professional project was the design and build of a green trailer to match and hook up tomy red race car Dad built.  I drove that little car down to the end of the street and then into myfavorite alley way so I could explore the wonderful treasure left behind for me to use.

But alas, how could I carry these treasures home in the front seat of my car, specially if I had a friend on board?

Necessity was the mother of invention!  I found an axel and some wheels (I do not remember where) and proceeded to follow Dad's approach using plywood as a base.  I used the remaining plywood around the trailer leaving the back open for large loads... including other kids!

Going through Dads left over paint supplies. we found no red so green was the order of the day.  It was apple green, and OK match or clash to the red car.

That little trailer was attached to and drug behind the car for years and hauled the mot delightful things home. At this time of night the thing I remember most is the meat locker people threw out a mess of magic white ice that smoked and made charmingly weird noises when it with water.  I knew little of dry-ice in those days but now remember what it was.  I brought home about 200 pounds of dry ice which I unknowingly did in Dads favorite dichrondra grass and provided many neighborhood kids the opportunity to squirt it with the hose.

Those were the days!



These were cement devices everybody had in their backyard and we used them to burn our trash! Well it seems that in my youth I must have enjoyed steam because one day after Mom and Dad had a great fire going... I turned the garden hose on the side of the incinerator... to watch the steam.. and it cracked! I go a whooping' and a lesson in building a new incinerator!

It used to be fun to take out the trash!  Fill that puppy full and throw in a match!  I remember (to my mothers horror) soaking the contents in gasoline and tossing in a match!  She was so mad when she came out the back door and fire was shooting up the stack and going 10 feet into the air!  Ours was CONCRETE so there was nothing to  rust (except the door on the front) and it was heat immune Proburn Incinerators have no moving parts, which makes for trouble free operation. They rely solely on their innovative design to provide fast, efficient burning. They only take a few seconds to light and can be left unattended to burn their load. The material is loaded and ignited manually through the top loading door. The flames are fed with primary air from the holes in the cleaning door which flows up through the grill floor and the air intake cone. Once burning has started, secondary air is drawn between the outer casing and the combustion chamber, causing intense secondary combustion for the efficient destruction of the smoke and gases.

A third stage air supply is drawn from the underside of the hood to complete the afterburning process in the reheat chamber. This reduces the original bulk by 97% into a light, sterileash which falls through the grill floor into the ash pit. The ash only needs to be removed when it builds up and not after every burn. They also have the advantage of retaining all the ash within the outer casing, thus keeping the surrounding area clean and tidy. When the first load has burned down, more waste can be added.

Proburn Incinerators can be used in many different ways e.g. once a week, once a day, many times a day or constantly, what ever suits your needs.

Lazy Sam`s Alarm Clock

Lazy Sam's Alarm Clock I know I have told you about the alley-way behind Comey Avenue.  On the end, actually on Venice Blvd was small red building which housed a print shop.  I got to know the owner because I carried away most of what he threw out!  Paper, signs, almost anything he had a scrap.

Dad came home one evening and showed me (at Moms disapproval) a small 6 inch candle with a ruler and instructions on the label attached to the candle.  It was `Lazy Sam's Alarm Clock` and the instructions stated, "Light the candle, insert the candle into your bottom before you go to sleep to the dept indicating the number of hours you wanted to sleep.  Be careful not to roll over and certainly make sure you do not pass gas to prevent a major fire".

Dad thought this a pretty funny gag so he carefully gave me instructions to go to the print shop and have a thousand labels made up.  I took the order, gave it to the printer, and a few days later I went to pick it up.  There were 2,000 labels.  He said, 1000 for you and 1000 for me!

That Christmas and for years to come Dad would give away "Lazy Sam`s Alarm Clocks".

Moving To West Los Angeles

When Mom and Dad first came to California, they lived with my Aunt and Uncle in Paramount California and soon moved into an apartment a block or so away.  This is 1936 and things are still pretty bad from the depression.

By 1940, Dad had a solid job with Ralph Lebowtitz, a fellow who came from New York to open a "five and dime".  Dad started as a part time window dresser in the Long Beach store.

By 1940, Ralph had three stores and Dad and Mom moved to West Los Angeles.. a few doors from Venice and La Cieanega (Spanish for "Swamp"). 

This won't mean a lot unless you knew it was only a few blocks from MGM, two miles to Rodeo Drive, on the Red-Line, etc.   The war came along and Ralph went into the Army serving in Northern California.  

Dad, because of the childhood polio could not get in the military... he ended up running the dime stores while Ralph was gone

My Ships

Memories start to fade but I remember having about a dozen wooden ship models each with electric motors and many times I would bring them to Ralph's pool ad do the regatta thing. I will try to remember them below:

Junk - The junk was given to me by a friend of Dads who went to Hawaii with him

Battleship - The ol' Missouri complete with a marking on the deck where the Japanese surrendered.  This model was about two feet long and ran on eight "D" cells and even had two propellers.

Sailing Vessel - Hand carved by Byron during one f is voyages as a member of the merchant marine.  It was a beauty and setting the sails correctly would make it go from one end of the pool to the other.

PT109 - Well, I do not know the number and this was well before Kennedy but it was a PT boat.  Probably 18 inches long, it had a red light on top, metal rails on the side, and plenty of speed.

Naughty Pine

Knotty pine Our den in the old Comey Avenue house had one wall that was knotty pine. 

The wall was beautiful and in fact after one of the many remodels, we took the wall out and several people came by the get the wood that was left.  It was a warm feeling wood and was darker than this background.

Mom and Dad has stained it many many times over the years and I think they put it on the wall because it was indestructible. 

Having a wild kid around the house was no problem for knotty pine!

Yeah... I know the title of the article is NAUGHTY PINE because growing up that's what I thought!

Paper Tree House

Odd name huh? Well, the tree out front of our house had small stickers and the back was paper like... In fact, we often carefully tore off pieces to write notes on it.

Anyway, the tree bas big and was difficult to climb because the stickers would cut you to pieces. IT grew oddly in that the inside of the tree was "dead"... No greenery! So, naturally... Armed with gloves and a load of stupidity, I went to work finding a way into the center of the tree and then slowly over the course of a summer clearing out the inside of the tree.

Power Lines And Earthquakes

Earthquake Kern County, California 1952 07 21 11:52:14 UTC Magnitude 7.3. I was laying in bed looking out the window of Mom and Dad's room (I just recently got the master bedroom for me!).  All of a sudden the room starts to move and sway, earthquake!


This earthquake was the largest in the conterminous United States since the San Francisco shock of 1906. It claimed 12 lives and caused property damage estimated at $60 million. MM intensity XI was assigned to a small area on the Southern Pacific Railroad southeast of Bealville. There, the earthquake cracked reinforced-concrete tunnels having walls 46 centimeters thick; it shortened the distance between portals of two tunnels about 2.5 meters and bent the rails into S-shaped curves. At Owens Lake (about 160 kilometers from the epicenter), salt beds shifted, and brine lines were bent into S-shapes.

Many surface ruptures were observed along the lower slopes of Bear Mountain, in the White Wolf fault zone. The somewhat flat, poorly consolidated alluvium in the valley was erratically cracked and recontoured. The cracking along Bear Mountain indicated that the mountain itself moved upward and to the north. Southwest of Arvin, on the San Joaquin Valley floor, ground cracks traversed and spilt the concrete foundation on one house, causing partial collapse. The ground slumped; cotton rows were offset more than 30 centimeters; and pavement on one highway was crumpled for more than 300 meters. East of Caliente, one large crack, about 1.5 meter at its widest point and more than 60 centimeters deep, was observed. Fill areas in the mountainous regions along U.S. Highway 466 (now State Highway 58) settled from a few centimeters to more that 30 centimeters in places, and a large part of the highway was cracked and wrinkled. Northeast of that highway, the ground was displaced vertically about 60 centimeters and horizontally about 45 centimeters.

What most interesting as well as scary was the high tension lines behind our house started swaying and when they got close to each other, electric would jump between the lines and lights would dim.  Sparks were flying all over the sky!

Red Race Car

Every kid had to have a gasoline powered car when growing up, it was just nature.  Most of my friends had the forerunners of go-carts with centrifugal clutches and frames that barely hung together.

My Dad did it the right way.  He started out with a piece of plywood and built the neatest racecar you ever saw.  Between Dad and Knute from down the street, this car was something else.  Four horsepower, a friction clutch, real drum-brakes (the brake lining made out of my Dad's good leather belt).  We put a lot of hours into that little car but it was bid enough for Dad and I to ride in it!

It had a level than when pulled back was the brake and forward was clutch engagement.  Had a real gas pedal and a solid stainless steel steering wheel.

The motor mount and clutch was made my Knute in the Aluminum Company where he worked.  He stayed late several evening and made this beautifully forged/welded assembly that was bullet proof.

The little car and a green trailer went to the desert many times and had a few thousand miles on it when I finally out grew it.  We have it to a neighborhood boy who may be still driving it today!

Rosters And Army Vehicles

Saturday Night Was Poker Night

That would be Saturday night either at Knut's or at our house.  Poker was a friendly game where a few bucks exchanged hands but a lot of chit-chat was the order of the evening.  A few beers and a lot of jokes.


TV had been around for a while when I was old enough to remember it but practically no one had a set before the mid-1950s.  One reason, there were few shows and people looked to radio and newspapers for entertainment and news.

In 1947 RCA mass produced a 7 inch TV and 170,000 of them sold. By 1949, 1 million sets had been sold. As the Fifties progressed the post-war boom included both babies and TV. In 1950 there are about 10 million sets in the U.S.

People were amazed by this invention.  I remember people in our neighborhood came over to see Mom and Dads TV.  Several people sat in front of this ugly round picture tub box. This was much better than radio. You became very popular, very quickly if your family had a TV.

The first thing you need to know about the early days of TV is that there wasn't much of it. Mostly, in the afternoons and evenings.  KTLA was the first provider of TV in our area and that was because its management staff had some Ham Radio operators associated with it... Always pushing the envelope!

TV was BLACK and WHITE. Actually, it was various shades of gray. Dithered, sort of. Even if color TV had been offered, your black and white set wouldn't have known the difference.

Remote controls, Nope!  The first remote control I remember was a box on a cord which was always breaking and then Zenith came out with ``Space Command`` which was a method striking tuning rods which sent out a high frequency audio signal.  Used to drive the dogs nuts it you would point it in their direction.

You received your TV shows via an antenna. A big ugly thing that stuck up way above the roof line of your house. The thing had to be pointed correctly to receive your local stations. If the wind turned the antenna or the storm was a little too wet, the next day we were up on the root adjusting the antenna.

The Antenna wire (twin-lead) was good for about two years and then the suns rays would make it crack and short out and then up on the roof again.

Customarily this directional adjustment was accomplished by Dad going outside to manually turn the antenna while someone with an eye on the TV yelled out an open window, "no, too far, come back a little."

The earliest TV shows were really radio and vaudeville moving to a new medium. Some of these were quite successful. I Love Lucy and Gun Smoke come to mind. Variety Shows populated the early years which gave many a vaudevillian comedian a chance to show off sight gags that radio wouldn't permit.

1953 the FCC had settled on the technical specifications for color standards, but broadcasting in color was expensive and few people had replaced those black and white sets with color ones.  Mom and Dad, well, Dad had to have the latest so in 1957 we can Color TV.

This would quickly change. By 1962 a million color sets had sold, by 1965, 5 million and the networks had gone to color, by 1970 there were 37 million color sets in the U.S.

October 1950 - April 1951
1. Texaco Star Theatre
2. Fireside Theatre
3. Philco TV Playhouse
4. Your Show of Shows
5. The Colgate Comedy Hour
6. Gillette Cavalcade of Stars
7. The Lone Ranger
8. Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts
 9. Hopalong Cassidy
10. Mama
11. Robert Montgomery Presents
12. Martin Lane, Private Eye
13. Man Against Crime
14. Kraft Television Theatre
15. The Toast of the Town
October 1955 - April 1956
1. The $64,000 Question
2. I Love Lucy
3. The Ed Sullivan Show
4. Disneyland
5. The Jack Benny Show
6. December Bride
7. You Bet Your Life
8. Dragnet
 9. The Millionaire
10. I've Got A Secret
11. General Electric Theatre
12. Private Secretary
13. Ford Theatre
14. The Red Skelton Show
15. The George Gobel Show
October 1959 - April 1960
 1. Gunsmoke
 2. Wagon Train
 3. Have Gun Will Travel
 4. The Danny Thomas Show
 5. The Red Skelton Show
 6. Father Knows Best
 7. 77 Sunset Strip
 8. The Price Is Right
 9. Wanted: Dead Or Alive
10. Perry Mason
11. The Real McCoys
12. The Ed Sullivan Show
13. The Bing Cosby Show
14. The Rifleman
15. The Ford Show
16. The Lawman
17. Dennis The Menace
18. Cheyenne
19. Rawhide
20. Maverick
21. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp
22. Mr. Lucky
23. Zane Grey Theatre
24. General Electric Theatre
25. The Ann Sothern Show

Tree House Next Door

Why in the world the city would plant these butt ugly stickery trees on our street I will never understand but we had them!  The bark was paper thin and the needles would penetrate jeans!  It always had needles so I guess that was a plus.  An ugly ever-sort-of-green I suppose.

The tree had no wooden planks as a tree house should but there was a hollowed out place inside the tree not viewable from the outside where we played all day!  I often designed "elevators" using my favorite rope and pulleys to haul things up into the tree including bicycles and water containers.  Oh, yes, I did fall out of the tree more than once!

I mentioned how Dad took our tree out but the neighbors was still standing.  One summer Bob Coolmer and myself began a hollowing out process where we sneaked into the tree and progressively removed branches and he contents from inside out.  This was cool!

We could see out through the thick limbs and needles but no one could see in.  We had a rope to lower to assist folks getting into the tree and even had running water (when the hose was available).  We probably had a safe perched about 35 feet up from where we could see the world.

That old tree was used for years and years by the neighborhood and I know one time we have about eight people up there swapping lies.  Those things that never happened were a lot of fun. I believe it was a Melaleuca Tree.

Two By Fours To The Max

Hey, I was a boy and a typical 1950s boy!  Play outside until you drop.  Build, teardown, build. Construction was a favorite pass time of my generation and Bob Coolmer and I were pretty involved with this endeavor.

We built forts (out of whatever we could scrounge up from the famous Comey Avenue alleyway.  

One day was special. I do not remember what happened but one day a truck show up with a half a bazillion 2x4 blocks ranging in size from 3-4 inches up to a foot or so long.  I mean a real truckload. I think John Coomler arranged for the load to be dropped in Bob's yard.

Now I must explain Bob's yard.  Bob Coomler lived in a large house across the street from me and his family also owned the empty lot next door.  A kids best dream come true, their own empty lot.  They had a summer house in the back of the property and a big set of swings right in front.  Big means three seater with a 20 foot tall set of poles.  One could get to swinging and launch ones self into orbit if you were not careful. The rest of the yard was plenty big enough to play croquette or other sports.

Across the street where I lived, our yard depth was almost 350 feet so we had a super large back yard actually divided into the adult area (front and closest to the house) and the kids area (divided by a tall block wall fence) and always a mess!

Blocks Anyway, the truck dumped the load of 2x4's and off we went. There were so many, we built a room 15 x 15 and six feet tall by setting the cutoffs on top of each other.  Took a good part of a day and it was a lot of fun. You can see from the pictures how we constructed with the 2x4s (these pictures are "art" or "sculptures" I got from the web).  We made rooms and hallways big enough to walk through!

A fun summer of building and rebuilding was had by all.

Walking The Tiles

Roof Tiles In our Comey avenue house, Dad put on Spanish Tiles so he could forget the roof for the rest of his life.  I do remember having to go onto the roof to replace TV antennas and some other little excursions.  I do remember Dad staying on the ground and giving me directions.  Key direction was "Do Not Crack A Tile Or do Not Come Down!!"

These tiles were heavy but except for being broken, they would last forever. I do remember that at the edges we had to make sure the birds did not get into the tiles as nests would form quite easily.

When I Got The Big Bedroom

Mom and Dad moved into the Comey Avenue house in the last 1930s and it was to say the least small!  It was one bedroom but had a dining room.  Mom and Dad were constantly remodeling it.  I drove by the old place last year (2003) and took some pictures of it.  The current owner can out and was curious.  I was amazed to find out he was the fellow Mom and Dad sold the house to in 1962 so he had been there 41 years!

My home
My Home Sweet Home

One of the major remodels was to add a second bath and bedroom to the right-hand rear of the house.  This was, in today's words, the master suite.  I stayed in the old bedroom until one day mom and Dad said "Son, with all of your Ham Radio equipment, would you like to have the back-bedroom".  That answer did not take long.

We switched, I am now in the big-peoples room. Mom and Dad moved into the little bed-room.  Now I had my own closet, bathroom with shower, and a large room where I could spread out.  I don't think I ever knew until now how lucky I was and how much Mom and Dad gave up for me.

After thinking long and hard about this, Mom and Dad now used the big bathroom in the hallway and their closet was smaller than mine.

The greatest thing about the new bedroom was the fact it had three large wooden-sash windows overlooking the backyard.  I built an eighteen foot long desk across the back windows so I could put my ham radio equipment.  To this day, I remember talking to "DX" stations and being able to look out the windows and look up 80 feet where I had a rotary directional yagi on a 70 foot tower.