Melrose Avenue
circa 1944 - 1948

Notes for a Screen Play  

Manfred von Borks
vonborks@gmail.com

Introduction: The following notes describe true events and activities concerning my friends and me during our High School years in the Hollywood/Los Angeles area prior to and following the end of WW II when Southern California was a much different place than it is today.  The storyline centers around Dave's Texaco Gas Station on Melrose Avenue located across the street from RKO & Paramount Studios in Hollywood…

 
Preface: In the early 1930’s my family was living in the then upscale Wilshire District, the Great Depression was settling in, diminishing finances requiring relocation, we moved to the modest Melrose/Bronson area. The family next door had a boy 3, my age, his name was Eddy and we became fast friends and constant playmates. Over the years I moved often but our family’s managed to keep in touch.  It’s early 1944, I’m 15, a senior attending John Burroughs Junior High School when I learn that my old playmate Eddy was attending Le Conte Junior High and both of our families were getting ready to move down to the Olympic/La Brea area.  The move meant that the following September Eddy and I would be attending Los Angeles High School. Eddy and I meet near his house the following Saturday at a Texaco Gas Station, we didn’t recognize each other but quickly renewed our relationship. Eddy introduces me to Dave who operates the Texaco Gas Station. Eddy and I are both interested in cars and girls; we are looking forward to be 16, to be in Senior High School, obtaining our Driver’s License and having cars of our own.

Table of Contents:
Dave’s Texaco Gas Station
John Burroughs Junior High
Fairfax High School
Los Angeles High School - 1
Hollywood High School
Los Angeles High School – 2
Van Nuys High School

Naval Reserve
The Airliner Lounge
My 1936 Plymouth “Hot Rod”
Cosmo Florists/Shelly Winters
Flowers/Day of the Dead
Doc’s Office
Lucy’s Restaurant/Lana Turner
My Pal Hal
Leroy Shoes & Jazz
.38 Smith & Wesson
My New Rifle
The Melrose Grotto
Highway 99
The Polar Palace
Spyders Pool Hall
The Haunted House
Watch My Car
The Beer Garden
The “Pusher”
The Gang Bang
The Shotgun
The Beach
Mothers
The Cheese Sandwich
Older Women
Robert Mitchum & Lila Leeds
Max the Bookie
Santa Anita
Hollywood Party/Hollywood Jail
Adios Packard
A Few Pictures
Bon Voyage
The 12 Hour Pass

In Conclusion



Dave’s Texaco Gas Station: I don’t know just when Dave acquired the franchise to operate the Texaco Gas Station, I’m guessing he had it for many years, it seemed like everyone knew him, Dave’s was like the official Paramount & RKO Gas Station, Dave was well liked and the Gas Station was certainly the center of the neighborhood with cars and people coming and going all day, many local business and studio people came in just to chat often bringing along a few beers and others just to read the Daily Racing Form and place a bet. The gas station was a “Drop” for Max the local Hollywood Bookie. Dave ran a tab for several regular customers and many neighbors, a few neighbors never seemed to be able to pay off the tab but Dave never complained, he seemed to enjoy their almost daily company…

Dave’s Texaco Franchise required the station be open for business every weekday from about 6:00 AM until 9:00 PM, Saturdays 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM & Sundays from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Dave and a mechanic worked weekdays and Saturday until 6:00 then one of us boys would work the 3 hour night shift and Sunday. We were paid $2 for the three hour night shift and $4 for six hours Sunday. If we did any minor repair or service work at night or on Sunday, like a lube, fix a flat tire, change a fan belt, etc., we were able to keep the labor money. At the end of the our shift we would take our pay from the register and leave a chit showing same, if we bought anything like gas or oil we would put a chit in the register and Dave would do the books in the morning. It was pretty much of an honor system…

At the time Texaco and their big red star logo was the best known chain of gas station in the USA with many radio commercials and jingles like: “You can trust your car to the man that wears the star”, etc.  Dave’s was a typical Texaco Station, small but attractive and very clean, the white building included an office, two car bays with hoist, two restrooms and a 3 pump island (one pump for FireChief @ 18 cents a gallon and two pumps for SkyChief, the higher octane premium @ 20 cents a gallon). Dave had a full time mechanic doing lubes, oil changes, tune-ups, minor engine repairs, brakes, etc.  It was not possible to make a living just selling gasoline; maintenance was the only way a gas station could survive and even with a full time mechanic in a good location Dave just barely got by. Watching and working with Dave and his mechanic was how we boys learned to repair and take of our own cars and of course a great place for us boys to just hang out…  

Just across Melrose was a liquor store, we were always going over there to pick up beer for Dave who unfortunately drank too much, at the end of the day he was often unable to drive home alone so one of us would drive Dave’s car with one following taking him home to his apartment in Glendale. Dave’s wife was always nagging and complaining about something, Dave often mentioned that he was afraid to go home sober, thus the gas station from about 6 to 6 was his life. Dave spent Sunday usually sleeping and sobering up for the coming week...

As mentioned Dave would go home about 6 and one of us boys would work the nights, it was not much work, after 6 PM Melrose Avenue was a dead zone, if we had two customers a night it was a big night. We spent most of the time working on our old cars, and they always needed work. On Sunday one of us opened at 9 and worked until 3. It was rare if a customer came in on Sunday however the station was always busy as many of our friends came over with their cars or parent’s car to buy gas, change the oil, do a lube, a wash, minor repairs or just to hang around…

John Burroughs Junior High School – 9th Grade 1944:  I’m 15, a Senior in the 9th grade, WWII is still raging on, being a senior in Junior High I’m too old to ride my bike to school like the junior kids so I walk, or hitchhike. There are Military Bases and Servicemen stationed throughout (or passing thru to the Pacific) Southern California, the Servicemen are our hero’s, we have been reading and seeing in the movies stories and pictures about the War every day for years already and all the boys I knew where anxious to join up, get a neat uniform, go to the Hollywood Canteen, have lots of pretty girlfriends, get medals and be hero’s. Our future was pre-planned and we had no complaints…

My hobbies were building model airplanes and photography, my Uncle had a Kodak 35 mm Retina camera, a very advanced high grade camera for that time, and he loaned it to me. I found a book in the school Library on how to develop, print and enlarge your own pictures and how to make your own 35mm photo enlarger. There was a big Photography store in Hollywood near Sunset Blvd. I bought a Photo Developer Kit, a lens and a few basic parts to make an enlarger and I bought a B&W 35mm negative of Rita Hayworth, a very popular WWII Pinup Girl in her famous black negligee. I made 5” x 7” prints and sold them for up to 25 cents each to boys at school, I was planning on selling them in front of the Hollywood Canteen but never made it up there…

I remember my Agriculture class; it was the last class of the day. Each student was given a very small parcel of land on the school grounds ranging from four to eight feet square. You could plant whatever you wanted. The class grade was based upon your crop yield and gardening skill. I opted for the smallest plot, quickly raked the ground a bit and sprinkled a couple bags of radish seed all over the place, covered it with some dirt and a quick sprinkle of water. I convinced the junior kid in the adjacent “farm” to sprinkle my farm when he watered his cause I had very important things to do every day after school.  The radishes grew like well “weeds” and eventually blossomed into flowers and then dried and to seed. To say my overgrown radish/weed patch stood out from the others is an understatement, it was in stark contrast to all the other “Farms” that were picture prefect in every way. Mine was the only plot that did not have a surrounding white string fence or my name sign. The Instructor was aware of my absents and rewarded my apparent lack of effort with an “F”. Bringing home an “F” would be a problem, to make a long story short I was able to convince the Instructor that it was my intention, an experiment from the onset to prove that one could produce a seed crop in a natural unmanaged environment (sans weeding, fertilizer and insecticides) thus it was not necessary to visit the “Farm” every day, infringing upon nature so to speak. (Was I ahead of my time or what?) We had two very interesting meetings on that subject, eventually he could not control himself any longer and we both started laughing so hard our sides hurt, and he changed the grade all the way up to a “B”…

A friend’s father invites me to go deep sea fishing; I’m into hunting and have never been deep sea fishing so I’m happy to have been invited. Early in the morning we drive over to Santa Monica and board a big old boat with about 30 other guys and head out to sea. There is a pool going for the biggest fish (by weight), everyone chips in 25 cents.  Some of the men had larger $ private pools going on amongst themselves but we were only in the main boat pool.  It is a very cold rough day and my pal is sea sick, spends almost the entire trip hanging over the rail. We go to one site after another catching nothing, each time I drop my live bait over something gets it so I’m spending all of my time re-baiting my hook with a live sardine, the live bait tank is very cold, my jacket is wet and my hands are numb, I’m not enjoying the trip…

Every time we go from one site to another I had to reel in my line, re-bait and the same thing all over again, I’m seriously wondering why anyone would pay to do this when you can go hunting wearing a dry warm jacket and warm gloves while walking on very solid ground, and you always bag something even if it’s just a “stick squirrel” or a “dirt clod rabbit” and it’s all free. I’m thinking I need a permanent lure,  we brought a brown bag lunch of cheese and baloney sandwiches, I wrap up a slice of cheese, baloney and my hook with tin foil form a cigarette pack, squeezed it real tight, tossed it over and let it hit bottom.  We are again changing sites, I’m tired of reeling in, I just drag my lure along the bottom behind the boat, Captain soon stops, at that moment I get a bite, I can hardly reel it in, feels like a log, I finally get it near the surface, a Deckhand takes over and brings it aboard, it’s a really big ugly Grouper.  Everyone on board is cheering and clapping me on the back and tossing in lines with renewed vigor. At the end of the day I still had the winning fish and won the pool of about $7. I gave my friend’s father $3 (he paid for the trip) my pal $2 and I kept $2.  It was a great fishing trip…

Eddy and I were doing some yard work for an old women living near his house, in her garage we found an old car covered with years of castaway junk, after removing the junk we brushed off the old car and found it to be a 1927 Chevy 2-Door Sedan, the car had been hit very hard in the right-rear end, the frame was bent up about a foot, the car sat there tilted on flat tires, a very strange sight. Eddy’s Dad was a mechanic always fixing up old cars for sale with Eddy helping so Eddy knew something about old cars. Eddy said except for the frame bent all out of shape and the flat tires the car and engine looked good. We thought it was something we would have some fun with so we asked the old women about the car.  She said her late husband had an accident years ago, could not afford to fix it so just stored it in the garage. She asked us if we knew anyone who may be interest in buying it, she wanted $15.  That seemed fair, so we agreed but needed maybe a couple of weeks to get the money…

We visited the car several times a week and soon had about $10 but she wanted the full $15, eventually agreeing to settle for $12.50, a week later we bought the car, repaired the tires and pushed it over to Eddy’s house. We cleaned it up and with the help of Eddy’s Dad got it running. Eddy could drive and was going to teach me, we drove that old car all around the neighborhood for several weeks but almost every day something would go wrong, we spent more time working on it than driving it. Then one day the old Chevy stopped on the street about a mile from Eddy’s house, we had the hood up working on it when a guy stops to ask if we needed any help? Seems he knew that model, said it was a good engine, and asked if we wanted to sell the car and offered us $25 cash, he said he could use the engine in his fishing boat. We sold it on the spot, he drove us home in his car where we signed over the papers and happily divided the money…

Eddy and I graduated Junior High in June 1945; I was going to spend the summer with my father working for the Navy at the then secret Naval Ordnance Test Station in the desert at China Lake, California. My father was an engineer and I was going to work in his department and he promised to teach me to drive. The Atomic Bomb was dropped on Japan on August 6th my 16th birthday and the War was soon over. I earned $350 that summer, a tremendous amount of money. I got my Driver’s License and bought a 1934 Ford Coupe for $300…

Eddy worked the summer at Dave’s Texaco Station, he sent me a letter saying he met a really beautiful Jewish girl at the beach, she was going to Fairfax High School and that we too should figure out a way to go the Fairfax, problem was that we were both living in the L.A. High School district. It’s about a week before we are to check into Los Angeles High, Eddy is totally committed to Fairfax, so we decide to just go over there and enroll, say we will be moving in the Fairfax area within a month, we are going give false addresses. It’s very crowded with students checking in, we just get in line, fill out the forms, talk to an enrollment person and we’re in, just like that. We tell our family’s that
L. A. High was overcrowded and the school allowed us to attend Fairfax, no problem…

We were living around the Olympic/La Brea area a long ways from Fairfax High. I had recently purchased a 1934 Ford so we had good transportation, but only for a short while. Seems that the transmission and differential gears were worn out, heavy grease and cork shavings had reduced the gear noise so that it was almost impossible to know the gears were shot until many miles later. At that time I did not know how nor could I afford to repair the drive train so I just refilled it with new grease and cork shavings and sold it for $325 to a gal who loved it and probably drove it for years ignoring the increasing noise of growling gears.  We had no wheels for a few months now relying on the bus and hitchhiking. The Bus was cheap but hitchhiking was much faster, problem was that if you were a young boy hitchhiking at least 50% of the rides offered were with Queers, they would come-on to us within a few blocks, we would say we are not interested and just wanted to get to school, usually no problem, occasionally one would be more aggressive, in that event we just bailed out of the car at the next stop light.  We never thought much about Queers, that’s just the way it was, par for the course….

Fairfax High – 10th Grade - September 1945 to June 1946:  I liked Fairfax High from day one, the kids at Fairfax (mostly Jewish) were for the most part very friendly, the girls were sociable and on average good looking and always nicely dressed.  OK teachers, except my English teacher, she was old and ugly (I don’t think she was even Jewish), she was into diagraming paragraphs on the blackboard, boring, boring. She did not appreciate my disinterest and graded me accordingly…

Neither Eddy nor I were rich kids or into school sports nor at the time had a car, meaning that there was no particular reason for any attractive girl to take an interest in us except that Eddy was, according to the girls, “tall, dark and handsome” they all seemed interested and wanted to date Eddy, he was nonplussed by all the attention, just a nice guy, talked to them all but rarely asked them out.  Often a girl would approach me at school and ask what Eddy and I were doing Friday or Saturday night, said something like: “there was a party at a friend’s house, that she had an attractive girlfriend that was very interested in meeting me and that the four of us should meet at the party”, I usually said OK and Eddy usually went along… 

In the school yard open at lunchtime stood a small Kiosk that made grilled cheese sandwiches, they were very popular; I think that they were 20 cents each? I kind of remember thinking that with two thin dimes I could buy a grilled cheese?  I had one for lunch almost every day.  There was a crap game going on in at least one of the Boys bathrooms during every class break and during lunch, I had learned to shoot craps from the Sailors during the past summer at China Lake and I was pretty good at it, at school we bet nickels and dimes, I made a bit of pocket change almost every day, it paid for my grilled cheese…

Many of the senior boys at Fairfax High with their older brothers now returning from WW II were into building and drag racing hot rods, for the most part those cars were created from 1927 thru 1932 Ford coupes.  We considered an ultimate Hot Rod to be a combination of parts starting with a chopped Ford Model “T” “A” or “B” chassis fitted with a “full race” Ford V8 Engine, hydraulic brakes, top-of-the-line wheels and tires, Porter Mufflers and the radiator covered with a “B” shell, these were very expensive handmade machines. Eventually the name “Hot Rod” was loosely applied to anything and everything that was a bit “soup’ed up” …

One Friday evening I was picking up a girl at her house and she asked me to come in to meet her parents, so in I go and there is her father, mother, grandmother and a few other adults finishing dinner. The girl introduces me as her friend “Manfred”, all look stunned, and her father asks me if I am a “Son of David”? I didn’t know what he meant, I said no, that my father’s old family name was “von Borks”, then he shouts “Nazi” and swore at his daughter who only laughed as we left.  Being of German descent in the 1945 Fairfax area was unusual. I was always known as “Manny” and all at Fairfax assumed I was Jewish, this girl knew otherwise and knew my given name but she never used it, except on this one introduction to her parents, later she said she was just having some fun…

Eddy was working at Dave’s after school and I was looking for a job, I was trying to save up about $500 and buy a really good car like maybe a 1936 Ford. A girl in my Home Room was working for a company that bottled a very up-scale French cologne, she said they needed a guy to help in the shipping room, she introduced me and I got the job. She and 3 other girls from Fairfax were working there on the assembly line a few hours a day so after school we walked together to the factory.  The girls told me that the guy I was to work for in the shipping room was a jerk and part time film maker, he made dirty movies (then called “Blue Movies”) he was always trying to get the girls to “Star” in his films but no takers. One Friday he tells me about his movie business and wanted me to be the “Star” in a new movie, so I asked just what I had to do? He said that I only had to walk along the beach, two attractive Negro girls would call me over, I would go over and they would pull me down, tear off my trunks and “turn me every which way but loose”. So for about 15 minutes of partying he would pay me $20. That’s big money and it sounded like it would be a fun thing to do, I told him I’d think about it…

The next day I went over to Dave’s gas station to meet Eddy, there was a Paramount executive in Dave’s office picking up his car, I told them about my potential starring role, the Paramount guy starting laughing, said it was an old story, the real script was going to be slightly different from what I was told, i.e.:  When the beautiful Negro girls were finished with me they were going to quickly turn me face down on the sand and hold me down, then a really big black ugly giant Negro guy would materialize and screw me big time.  Next Monday on the way to work I told the girls the story, they jokingly suggested I do the part and they wanted to watch. The Shipping Room guy never showed up for work again, I guess he went full  time into the Blue Movie business and made million$...

I meet Leo and we became good friends, I often go home with Leo after school, his grandmother lives with them, she makes homemade kosher dill pickles, keeps them in a crock on the floor in a closet, they were the world’s best kosher dill pickles. Leo has an older cousin, a senior at Fairfax High. Cousin has a steady girlfriend that lives just next door, he tells Leo and I that he and the girl have sex every Wednesday, the night her parents go to some social thing, said that they have been doing it for years. Leo and I don’t believe him, just another story, so he says we can watch; he will leave the window shade up just a crack so we can peek in. After school we go home with the Cousin and he points out the house window, it is surrounded by a big bush blocking the window from the street, he says there is room between the bush and the window for us to hide and peak into the room. I tell Eddy and Eddy tells a few other guys. Finally it’s Wednesday evening; Leo, Eddy, I and two other boys are sitting in a car just down the street, the parents leave and Leo’s cousin goes on over, we watch as he pulls the shade down and then back up an inch or so.  We are out of the car and quietly sneaking around the bush, but there is not enough room for five boys, we are all trying to peek thru the bottom of the window but there is room for only about three heads, we are pushing and shoving each other for a look, they are on the sofa in plain sight doing it but they appear fully dressed? There’s not much to see and we are making too much noise, Cousin gets up and pulls down the shade…

About the end of the first semester Eddy was kicked-out of Fairfax High. Eddy cut too many classes; he told me he was seeing an “older women”? Eventually Eddy’s absence was noted and acted upon, in checking up on him they also found he had given a false address. So Eddie was transferred over to Los Angeles High School.  About the end of the second semester I was caught (for the third time) shooting craps in the Boy’s bathroom, the Boy’s Vice Principal, who had previously warned me if caught again I would be kicked out of Fairfax investigated and found I had had given a false address, he let me stay until the end of the semester and then transferred over to Los Angeles High…

Los Angeles High School I  11th Grade 1946:  Eddy and I were now going to L.A. High, neither of us cared much for L.A. High, a big three story formal building with many students, not the friendly social atmosphere of Fairfax. I enrolled in the easiest classes available, those with almost no homework which gave me much free time after school for work and working on my car.  I had acquired a 1936 Plymouth Coupe at a very good price, I figured I could fix it up, sell it and make maybe $100 profit. With many Servicemen coming home with money and all looking for cars it was a great time to be in the used car business. My dream car, a 1936 Ford Phaeton (a four door convertible) was rare and now priced out of my reach, needing transportation I went for the cheap Plymouth…

L.A. High supported a “class system” wherein the seniors (12th graders) had special privileges, seniors were like a ruling class and they let us all know it.  Two of these privileges really peeved me: Only seniors could wear Corduroys, although Levi’s were standard I and many others liked Corduroys, typically I would wear my Cords once or twice a week. If you wore Cords and were not a senior they would gang up and “pants” you.  The other major annoyance was the “Park”.  Across the street from the school was a very nice park, a neat place to park your car and hang out, the seniors named it Senior Park and said only senior students could go over there, other students found there were quickly run out, the Park was not even a part of L.A. High property.  Eddy wore his coal black hair in a slick “Duck Tail” with lots of Vaseline and usually a nice long sleeved sport shirt, the girls loved Eddy, always inviting him (us) out to parties and whatever, and this made the senior boys extremely jealous. Physically Eddy was a big tall guy; they feared tangling with him so they just harassed him. In truth Eddy was a pussy cat, I never saw him hurt a fly, his size served him (and I) very well…

Eddy was still working part time at Dave’s Texaco way up on Melrose, a long ride from L.A. High thus limiting the few hours he could work; he thought Dave would hire me part time too if we could get up there, so with the situation at L.A. High deteriorating we opted to enroll in Hollywood High the following semester. Sometime near the end of the semester I came down with pneumonia and was in the hospital for a week or so, the doctor recommend that I take it easy and not to take Phys. Ed., gave me a note which was accepted by the school. I used that doctors note as an excuse to get out of PE for the rest of my high school years…

Hollywood High School – 11th Grade – 1947:  Eddy and I enrolled at Hollywood High at the beginning of second semester saying we had just moved into the area giving as our new home address Dave’s gas station. As expected it was no problem registering. The Doctors note recommending I not take Phys. Ed. was accepted. School regulations required everyone had to take PE even if you just sat around doing nothing. I took PE first period, I told the Coach, a good guy, that I had a job in the morning and asked if I could just skip the class, he agreed…

I liked Hollywood High right away, much smaller than L.A., friendly teachers and students, over the years many movie professionals and movie stars had attended Hollywood High and many of their kids were now attending, several of the students were performers themselves and it seemed like most of the students’ parents worked in or around the movie business at all the various levels from moguls, performers, technicians, crafts people, vendors and sub-contractors. Almost every weekend some girl’s parents went out of town and there was a party (or two or three) where almost everyone was welcome and many of the parties were at big homes in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city, or maybe a beach party at a Malibu home or a “sand” party at Hansen Dam where we could have monster bonfires. It was obvious that the students at Hollywood High really enjoy themselves and of being a part of the “Hollywood” scene…

At Hollywood High I met up with previous friends Lon and Ron Chaney, (the sons of the famous actor Lon Chaney, Jr.), from 1940 thru 1943 we three attended a private boys boarding school and shared a room together for about a year, we had become very close friends. Lon was a year older than I and Ron a year younger, I saw them often at school and at a few parties but by then the age difference put us in different grades and we each had our own circle of friends, we sort of drifted apart… 

I developed a close knit group of about 5 friends, next to Eddy my closest pal was Hal. Hal lived just down the street from Dave’s gas station.  Hal’s physical appearance was the exact opposite of Eddy. Hal was of Norwegian decent, blond hair, blue eyes, a weight lifter, a Letterman on the Hollywood Gym Team. You could say Hal looked like a classic Greek statue and Eddy an Italian Gigolo, the only thing they had in common was they were both into cars and both very popular with the girls. Now girls were asking me to introduce them to Hal and Eddy extending party invitations. I think Eddy and Hal spoiled me, seems like I never had to ask for a date. 

Eddy’s habit of ditching school only worsened at Hollywood High, too many extra-circular activities, after only a few months Eddy was kicked-out and returned to LA.  I too had many things going on; in addition to Dave’s gas station I had a part time job pumping gas at a Signal Gas station and was doing other small chores like deliveries for a florist and a shoe repair shop to the RKO & Paramount and to Western Costume. Now and then when they were overloaded I worked a few hours in the Paramount Mail Room sorting and delivering stuff and in the Wardrobe Department pushing racks of costumes around the lot and I helped park cars for Lucy’s Restaurant next door to Dave’s. For several months in the morning before school I worked for “Max the Bookie” he paid me $2 for delivering “Tip Sheets” and a Racing Form to six gas stations that were a “Drop” (as was Dave’s gas station) for betting on the Horses. Horse Racing was a major attraction in the Hollywood area, everybody was following the horses. After my deliveries prior to going to school I went to the Coffee Shop in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, a short walking distance from Hollywood High, where I had a waffle and a glass of orange juice. It was a very busy coffee shop in the morning with 3 waiters working the counter, they were all horse players, they and most of the regular morning customers all knew I was working for Max, warmly greeted me each morning as they were anxious to know of any good “tips” I may have picked up in my travels. Over breakfast I studied the Tip Sheet, compared it to the Daily Racing Form and the morning Newspapers always looking for a long shot that would make me rich.  I think a waffle was 20 cents and small orange juice 15 cents but the waiters always gave me the large orange juice which was freshly squeezed. After breakfast I walked over to school leaving the Racing Form, Tip Sheet, Newspapers and 50 cents on the counter for the breakfast and tip and of course my pick of the day…

Hal had a good after school job at a machine shop, a girlfriend’s father owned it and she worked in the office, she got me a job there too, I learned to operate a lathe and a precision drill press, a great job and good pay but over too soon. One of our pals had an Uncle that owned a grape vineyard in the San Bernardino area that was overrun with rabbits, I think he paid us about 10 or 15 cents per dead rabbit, we kept the tails for proof of a kill. We visited often living in a little cabin on the property, shooting rabbits and enjoying an evening rabbit Bar-B-Q with a big Mexican family living and working at the Vineyard.  Around the end of the semester I ditched two days in a row, the school sent a Truant Officer to check on me, he found my “home” was a gas station, Dave tried to cover for me, told the Truant Officer that I worked there and slept over many nights, showed him a portable surplus army cot we had folded up in the corner of the office, they didn’t buy it, I was told I would not be enrolled in the next semester, it was back to L.A. for me…

 Los Angeles High School II -  12th Grade – 1947:  L.A High was not happy to see me back, the Boy’s Vice Principal knew me and my record only too well, told me that I had one of the highest IQ’s and the worst attendance and grade record of any student that ever attended LA High, he was going to keep an eye on me every day, said he expected me to maintain a “C” average, one screw-up and I was out for good and into the work force, period.  My previous job with the Navy at China Lake and my association with the sailors convinced me to join the Navy after graduation from high school so when I turned 17 I immediately joined the Naval Reserve; we met at a Naval Reserve Facility in Pasadena about 6:00 PM every Friday and went to various classes until about 10:00 PM.  It was great fun and after class we all went out on the town in our uniforms like real sailors. If we eventually joined the regular Navy that Reserve time would “count” helping in promotion, pay, etc. So high school for me was just biding time before joining the Navy…

Eddy and I were now taking turns working at Dave’s nights and Sundays. At school I kept a very low profile, came to school every day but had no time for homework, I managed to leave school early by making my last class of the day Phys. Ed, I managed to get a new note from a Doctor (who had an office near Dave’s) saying that I had a severe sinus problem and had recently recovered from pneumonia and must take it easy for a while and should be excused from Phys. Ed.  Everyone had to take PE every semester thus I had to check-in for class but just sat around doing nothing. The PE Coach, an ex-navy guy knew I was in the Naval Reserve and that I had an after school job so like the Coach at Hollywood he let me skip PE the entire semester and even gave me a “B”.  At the end of the semester the Boys Vice Principal calls me in, my report card was two “F’s” two “D’s”, one “C” and a “B”, he could not figure out how I managed to get a “B”, anyway even with the “B” I did not make the “C” average thus I would not be allowed to return to school the following semester, I was out…

I was expecting low grades because I did “0” homework however I received a passing grade on all the tests thus I was expecting a “C” card average so the final grades were a surprise. I explain that I am living with an Aunt and Uncle, they just bought a home in Sherman Oaks and we were moving to the Valley and into the Van Nuys school area. I said I now realized that I must graduate from high school and promised to change my ways if he only gave me another chance and allowed the transfer to Van Nuys High. With some remorse he agreed, actually it was an easy out for him; he was getting rid of me, this time for good.  He allowed the transfer but seriously doubted that Van Nuys High would accept me after reviewing my high school record…

Van Nuys High School – 12th Grade -1948:  Enrolled in Van Nuys, presented the Doctors note re Phys. Ed., I was accepted with no problems, I immediately liked that school and my grade average went up to a “C”, at that time a “C” was a pretty good grade, a “B” average was considered very good, a “B” average was required for admission to UCLA.  An “A” was considered like perfection, you really had to earn an “A”.
I spent a full year at Van Nuys High but was unable to graduate with my initial 12th grade class, I was lacking two courses thus was required to attend school the next semester. I took the two necessary classes, Senior Problems & Physical Science, but had to take three additional “fill” classes as one had to take at least five classes a semester…  

One fill class was Boys Foods; there were not enough boys for an all-boys food class so we few boys were placed into the Girls Foods II class.  It turned out to be of the most enjoyable class of my entire high school tenure. I was paired with a rather plain girl but she really loved cooking and we made a great team.  It was my first class of the day and we could make our own breakfast or brunch, the school provided all the food stuffs, we were instructed to try something new and different every day. Not only was my partner a good cook but she seemed to enjoy cooking for me and cleaning up as well. I hardly ever cut that class. My gal partner got a well-deserved “A” and I got a “C” for praising her wonderful food offerings and encouraging her to greatness in the kitchen… 

Another Fill Class was “School Service” I was supposed to walk around the school grounds picking up litter, I had a long stick with a nail embedded in the end for stabbing trash and a gunny sack to hold the trash, students were more responsible in those days and there was not much trash to pick up so I usually just sat out in my car chatting with other students who were cutting a class…

Then there was “Senior Problems” a class I needed to graduate,  I don’t remember exactly what it was all about, I liked the teacher, she was the youngest and most attractive teacher at Van Nuys High, I rarely cut that class but she gave me a “D” anyway? So we had an after school meeting, I told her the only Senior Problem I had was the “D” grade, that I needed a “C” to graduate and enlist in the Navy, she said that I cut her class too often but agreed that when I was there I was an attentive student and I did pass the tests, so she thought about it a few moments and raised the “D” to a “C” and wished me good luck in the Navy…

I got a job at an auto parts store in Van Nuys delivering parts after school to many small gas stations and auto repair garages located throughout the entire area west of Van Nuys all the way to Semi Valley, a very large geographic area. The store owner expected me to do the route in 2 hours (he did not want to pay me for more than two hours a day). When I arrived after school he had the van loaded and ready to roll, handed me a clip board with instructions and told me to “get moving”.  I drive fast but it always took more than two hours to complete the delivery’s, the owner was always yelling at me to work faster (meaning drive faster), eventually I got a traffic ticket and he refused to pay it, or even half, just started yelling at me for driving too fast, I just walked out. Later I learned from friends at school that the same thing happened to a few other boys and no one would work for him…

I was driving an 1935 Ford 2-Door Sedan getting it fixed it up for sale, installed a pair of carburetors on a Y manifold, twin exhausts and various little things on the engine giving it a “hot rod” look, to the average person it looked very sharp. One day around lunch time I’m sitting in the car and a couple of Mexican kids drive up in a 1937 Packard Convertible Coupe and park behind me, they’re from San Fernando and brothers. They said they had noticed my car a few days ago with the For Sale Sign and were interested. I opened the hood and they drooled over the twin carbs, the neat clean layout and the sweet sounding twin exhaust pipes, asked to take it for a spin, no problem, I had the ignition well advanced so the car at idle “loped” a bit as if it had a racing cam, the rear tires were over-inflated, as a result it had a very quick “spin the tires” take off, they loved it. They said they inherited the Packard from an uncle who recently died and they were trying to sell it, wondered if I was interested in a trade? Offered to trade straight across, their Packard for my Ford. …

I was interested, the Packard had a long straight 8 cylinder engine, same engine as used during WWII in the PT boats, the body was in perfect shape, convertible top was gone but the frame was there, body clean but needed a bit of paint here and there, and it sported beautiful big whitewall tires (one tire was about gone) and a rumble seat, it even had a radio that worked. It shifted very smooth; the engine had a slight “knock” that I immediately recognized as a loose rod, a worn bearing/insert, something I could fix. It drove down the street like a big long boat kind of bobbing up and down; flying wing thing on the radiator looked very sharp, I liked the car. We made the deal right there on the spot, they agreed the next day to bring over a replacement tire, I said Ok not expecting to see them again. I checked them out on a few things with the Ford and they took off spinning the rear tires… 

I drove the Packard over to Dave’s, everyone was surprised to see me drive in with that big long elegant Packard, a little rough but obviously at one time a real Movie Star kind of a car.  The next day at lunch the brothers arrive in the Ford, in the back seat is a really cute girl and a near new white sidewall tire still on a wheel with a hubcap and the tire nuts, they quickly jacked up the Packard, the wheel is mounted in a second and the old tire/wheel thrown into the Ford. The girl is their sister, seems that the Packard was left to the three of them, she loved the Packard, has been riding in it since she was a little girl, she came over with them to hug the Packard and say goodbye. They could not thank me enough for the Ford; all their friends thought they got a great deal so we were both happy…

There were a few hundred students in that 1948 graduating class, we were all lined up in the football field in a very long line according to our grade point average, it was a slow march up to the stand to get our diplomas.  I recall that there were only about a dozen students in line behind me nonetheless we had a lot of fun horsing around during the long two hour march to the stage and we too got a big round of applause with our diplomas…

Naval Reserve:  The WWII Draft was still in effect, if in the Reserve you were exempt from the Army draft. As previously mentioned it was my intention to join the Navy as soon as I graduated from High School, when I became 17 I was eligible to enlist in the Navy Reserve.  The meetings were held at a Naval Reserve Facility in Pasadena every Friday night from 6:00 pm (or earlier if we could make it), the time would be spent in training and learning about Naval History, Ship Board Procedures and Protocol, viewing lots of Navy Training Films and Movies. It was very interesting but casual, the sessions usually broke up by 10:00 PM but if you had something important going on Friday night you could get out early. The first night we all showed up and checked-in, there were about 40 of us all standing in columns, after muster an officer asks if anyone can type? I took typing in Junior High, I am the only one to raise his hand, the officer asks me to follow him to his office, informs me the regular Yeoman (office person) is out sick and he would appreciate my help with the ID’s. In the office is a desk with a typewriter, he tells me to sit, hands me the muster list with each person’s name and date of birth, etc. and hands me a box of blank Navy Identification Cards, tells me to make an ID card for each name, then have each guy sign his name and place his fingerprint on his card and return all to him for his signature..

As I’m typing the cards, especially the birth dates, I’m thinking that the Officer does not know us or our actual birth date, he just trusted everyone to sign in and enter their correct personal information.  So as I’m typing along I get to my name on the muster list, I get to birthdate line, I type 192 and pause, the Devil takes over and types in a 5 instead of a 9, so immediately I am officially 21 years old, born in 1925 instead of 1929, and now I and can have a drink at all the Bars that had previously kicked me out.  But I tell the Devil “it’s no fun bar hopping alone” so the Devil makes out three more cards for my pals who are not even in the Naval Reserve.  I get all the new sailors to sign and thumb print their cards, I do mine and place my thumb print and sign my pals names on the three extra cards, take them to the officer for his signature.  He looks at the neat professional typing, thanked me very much for doing such a good job and signed all the ID Cards. Next day I give ID Cards to my three friends, they can’t believe it, they are going to take me out on the town and pay for everything.  There was one special quite little Lounge just around the corner in the middle of Hollywood’s main business section, the “Airliner”…

The Airliner Lounge:  Just a few feet or so off Hollywood Blvd on Wilcox (?) was a small Bar, if walking West on Hollywood Blvd. it was hard to miss the neon airplane sign in the window and a sign advertising Moscow Mules, “Drink Three and Keep the Mug”. In Hollywood the Moscow Mule was a very popular drink consisting of vodka and ginger beer over ice with a lime squeeze in a copper mug. Of course we teenagers had to be into Moscow Mules but we had no copper mugs and it was hard to find ginger beer, so we just mixed vodka and ginger ale in a tin coffee cup. The chance to taste a real Moscow Mule and get a free copper mug was irresistible.  We’re all just 17, a few Bars will look the other way and serve us but most kick us out, the only way to know for sure was to go in, look for the darkest table way in the back, sit down, lay some money on the table and wait for the waitress to come over. So the four of us are sitting there at the darkest back table, the waitress, a Terrific Looking Gal, comes over, we have money on the table and quickly order three Moscow Mules (we could not afford four drinks thinking would share three drinks and get the free copper mug).  Terrific Looking Waitress just smiles and says Ok boys, but just let me have a peek at your Driver License. Gosh, very sorry but we all left them at home. She smiles, sorry boys, see you all in a few years…

Several months later I joined the Naval Reserve and managed to score a few officials Navy ID Cards indicating a slightly earlier birthdate, we are now all 21.  The first place we go to celebrate our new birthdates is the Airliner Lounge. The same Terrific Looking Waitress is there; she recognizes us immediately, smiles, shakes her head and says she was not expecting us for a few more years. We are all smiles and hand over our new Navy ID’s, she looks and starts laughing, looks like you were all born in the same week, August 6, 7, 8 & 9, 1925, she takes them over to the Bar Tender, he looks carefully at each card, over at us and shows them to some guy sitting at the Bar, he shakes his head and tells the waitress if we can pay its Ok.  We order three Moscow Mules and pay with tip up front when delivered, then spend most of an hour just talking, joking and sharing the three drinks, and they taste great and we have to find a source for ginger beer. When finished we all get up and say thank you, we will be back and start to leave with one copper mug. The Bar Tender and the Terrific Looking Waitress shout out in unison “HEY”, we say what? We bought three and the sign says we get a free mug? The Terrific Looking Waitress tells us the sign means that’s three per person, no sharing. We think they are trying to rip us off, the Terrific Looking Waitress see our point, tells the Bar Tender she will pay for the mug, we say thank you again and leave with our prize. I treasured that copper mug for more than 30 years and then it was gone, misplaced or tossed out, probably by my ex-wife?


My 1936 Plymouth “Hot Rod”:  I was starting Los Angeles High for the first time, I was looking for a 1936 Ford but they were priced out of my range, one of my Uncle Bert’s closest friends, Arty, had a used car lot on 3rd and La Brea. Arty knew me since I was little kid; I liked Arty; he just returned from the Army, was a bachelor, always had a neat looking girlfriend and always had time to chat with me. I visited Arty’s lot often checking out his merchandise, his always beautiful secretary’s and hoping he could find a ’36 Ford.  On this particular day he had taken in a ’36 Plymouth Business Coupe, meaning no back seat, just a large shelf up and behind the front bench seat just below the back window. Business Coupes were often called “Sally Rand’s” after a famous Burlesque Stripper, these cars were really stripped down bare, and they were the least expensive new car sold. Arty’s price for the old used ’36 was right, he told me to take it home for a few days and see if I liked it. It ran pretty good and I needed transportation so after a few days I bought it…

A few weeks later I’m cruising down Olympic Blvd., maybe a little too fast, and ready to make a right turn at a stop sign, there is a big truck in the right lane but room for me to squeeze between him and the curb and make my turn, I get just a few feet from the corner and the truck makes a right turn alongside me and my car is crushed between the curb and the truck. Two guys get out of truck and see if I’m Ok, they were very apologetic and said they did not see me, what can they do for me, I know it was my fault so I say no problem I was going to remove all the fenders anyway and make a “hot rod” so don’t worry about it, they get some tools from the truck to pry the fenders away from the tires so I can drive it home.  I have no insurance, cannot afford to fix or replace the two left fenders, so I remove all the fenders, sell the two good right fenders to a junk yard for a couple of dollars and attempt to “soup up” the 6 cylinder engine. It is without doubt the ugliest pseudo hot rod in the whole world; I’m almost too embarrassed to drive it, but low and behold it is so ugly that the girls think its macho cute…

The car had one unique feature, when I striped out the back shelf it opened into the large trunk. So from the front seat you could crawl over and into the big back trunk without ever getting out of the car. The back easily held two people very comfortable on a big sleeping bag. We eventually noticed that if lying on your back in the trunk with heads forward at a Drive-In Movie the screen reflected perfectly off the rear window, you could see the entire movie screen as well as if sitting in the front seat. Drive-In Movies charged by the number of persons in a car, with a couple unseen in the trunk they would only charge for two, not only saving us money but the couple in the trunk had like a private room. Needless to say as the word spread everyone wanted to double-date with me in that ugly but macho cute Plymouth…

The Overhaul: I ran that Plymouth long and hard, went thru a lot of oil, many used tire inner-tubes, many used and re-grooved tires and many second hand batteries. It was wearing out, piston slap and rod knock were about as loud as the radio, and it was smoking even with heavy 40W oil spiked with Pep Boys “Motor Honey” additive. It needed an overhaul.  My Dad thought it would be good experience for me to rebuild the engine myself and I could do it but needed parts, the parts would cost more than a shop overhaul. My Dad said he would take care of the parts. Within days a truck pulls up to my Aunt Alice’s house (where I am living) and guy unloads many boxes of new auto parts: Pistons, rods, pins, inserts, valves, springs, carburetor, fuel pump, distributer, generator, belts, gaskets, spark plugs, clutch, pressure plate, etc., etc., Eddy comes over with some special tools and we go to work, it takes us a couple of days to strip the block, we have parts laying all over the garage, and where did they come from and where do they all go? Can we ever get it back together again and will it run?  It takes us about a month to finish the job, only problem was the distributor, we forgot to mark it and the spark plug wires on removal, took forever to install it correctly and set the timing.  When it finally started I think we both were crying and laughing in disbelief at the wonder of it all. We ran that car for another year or so with no serious problems…

Eventually I had a major accident at a residential cross street on the way to school, I was Ok but he car was a total loss, I had Insurance and the right-of-way but I also had a cheap crooked broker, he said the other guy said I was speeding, thus my fault, said the Insurance company would not pay.  Later on I’m thinking he took my money but most likely never actually insured the car and probably conned the other driver out of a couple hundred dollars as well…

Cosmos Florist – Shelly Winters:  Cosmo was a Greek guy that operated a florist across from Dave’s gas station on Windsor, the Studios and the Hollywood Cemetery/Funereal Parlors were his major customers. Often he would have one of us boys hanging around Dave’s deliver flowers to a studio or a funeral. Cosmos was not an over generous person expecting us to work just for tips, when we returned from a delivery he would ask; “how big was the tip”, we always lied and he gave us maybe a quarter for the walk-over Studio delivery and maybe 50 cents for a big funeral delivery wherein we used his van or our own cars. I always looked forward to a Studio delivery especially to an “End of the Movie Stage Party” where the tips and snacks were very good…

On one occasion I was told to deliver a bouquet to the Leading Lady personally and tell her who sent it, and loud enough so that everyone in the room would hear, not a problem.  So I get to the Stage and enter, big party going on and the Leading Lady way over the other side, as I enter the room some Production Assistant “a Gopher” asks me who the flowers are for, I say and he tries to take them from me, says I can’t go in and he will deliver them for me, a problem, no tip for me.  I know he’s just a nobody so I ignored him, started to walk in but he grabs me, I quickly get away and to the Leading Lady where I completed the delivery, I don’t remember her name but she asked a guy standing near her to give me a nice tip, he gave me a dollar.  On my way out an executive, a horse player who knows me from the gas station stops me and apologized for the Gopher, tells me to go over to the well-stocked buffet table and make a sandwich to take with, I made a really big one and took several deserts as well, I shared the deserts with the Gate Guards who always waved me thru. It was a successful delivery…

On another occasion I was delivering flowers to a stage party on an upper floor, as the big freight elevator opened I see a familiar mid-range executive, very short in stature, who I always considered a cheap jerk because  when he comes in for gas he always calls me “Kid”, like Kid give me 5 gallons of Ethel (Ethel or SkyChief was the premium  gas @ 20 cents a gallon), Kid check the oil, Kid check the tires,  Kid check the water, Kid wipe the windshield and don’t leave any smears, and then he hands me a dollar for the gas and takes off without even a “thank you”.  So this jerk is stepping out of the elevator with a very attractive girl, the girl is obvious drunk, she is taller than he, he is like holding her up (or feeling her up?), in her left hand she is holding and nibbling on a big turkey leg and has a stalk of celery in the other hand, I naturally assume he is taking her to his office for an “interview”,  I’m thinking this is a classy looking gal, he is way out of his league, when she sobers up and realizes he’s only a small  spoke in a big wheel she will kill him. I can see the headlines in the morning Hollywood paper: “Paramount Executive Bludgeoned to Death with a Turkey Leg, No Suspects”…

So I’m staring at this very attractive girl and the jerk says, in a very respectful voice: “Hello Manny, nice to see you, delivering flowers to the party eh, good show, be sure to take something to eat on your way out, and say hello to Hollywood’s next big star “Shelly Winters”.  I never heard of her but I say hello, kind of shake her celery hand, get in the elevator and make the delivery.  Years later I learned Shelly Winters was at that time, the late 1940s, sharing a room with another unknown actress, Marilyn Monroe….

Flowers - Day of the Dead:  Early Thursday evening a girl I recognize drives into the gas station with her girlfriend and ask for a dollars’ worth of FireChief. They are throwing a surprise engagement party for her friend’s older sister that Saturday; they’re wondering if maybe I can get a deal on some flowers from Cosmos?  They would like to spread flowers all over the house, they’re thinking of about $3, just loose flowers are Ok.  I’m sure I can do something for $3 and will run them over to her house Saturday afternoon.  Saturday is like the “Day of the Dead”. Saturday mornings are when we make most of the funeral delivery’s, that’s also when Cosmos gets rid of his old flower stock (at full retail prices of course) flowers that will die before Monday (Cosmos is closed Sunday). I’m thinking that for $3 Cosmo will sell me a lot of dying leftover stock for the engagement party?  Saturday morning turns out to be a very busy; I’m thinking that maybe not too many old flowers left over? There is a big delivery to a Hollywood Funeral Home, three very large free-standing arrangements; they require careful handling like two people. Eddy and I load Cosmos’ van to make the delivery; I’m in the back kind of holding things together. When we arrive there are so many flowers already there that they ask us to unload in their back garage. We unload two Arrangements then we’re thinking that the Funeral Home will not use our flowers for that funeral, probably sell them to another funeral, so we clip the tag off the remaining Arrangement and hung it on one we delivered making it appear that two parties shared the one Arrangement.  We’re laughing like crazy as we race over to meet the girls at the engagement party house. We arrive and tell the girls to hold open the door as we have a few flowers to deliver, we carefully carry the large Arrangement into the living room, it looks twice as big in the small living room. The girls are all excited; mother comes out of the kitchen looking like “What”?  We tell them the flowers were on location for a movie shoot Friday and now there are just day old throw-away stuff and yours for free.  Girls give us both a big hug while the mother is in the kitchen making a couple of sandwiches to go…

Doc’s Office: On Melrose near the Paramount Bronson Gate and cat-corner to Dave’s Gas Station was a small group of buildings; one housed the office of “Doc”. Doc was the Doctor On-Call to RKO and Paramount and he had a busy neighborhood practice. He employed a Beautiful Nurse who also ran the front desk.  Both Doc and The Beautiful Nurse had their cars serviced at Dave’s so we came to know them, every time one of us boys pinched a finger changing a tire or some minor injury or a cough or sneeze we would rush over and have The Beautiful Nurse check it out, The Beautiful Nurse always cheerfully examined us, applied a bandage or whatever and never a charge…

There was a continuous string of attractive gals in nice cars visiting Doc’s office; a few would leave their cars off at Dave’s for servicing while visiting Doc’s office. I was soon to learn that Doc performed regular VD exams on many of the upscale Hollywood Hookers. I was working when late in the afternoon Doc comes over to the gas station to pick up his car; Dave was always kidding him about the Hookers, this day Dave tells Doc that one of his “Patients” left her car off for service and was gone for two hours finally showing up with a big smile on her face and says “Doc said it was Ok to charge her car service to Doc’s office tab”.  So what was that all about???  Doc says “well when my Beautiful Nurse is out I’d occasionally offer a few select Hookers a choice: “Pay or the Pole,” and they always took the Pole”… 

Lucy’s Restaurant – Lana Turner:  Lucy’s was located next door to Dave’s Gas Station sharing the block along Melrose between Bronson and Irving. Lucy’s was owned by Steven Crane, former husband of Lana Turner and a very well-known Hollywood raconteur dating Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Mamie van Doren and many more. To the general public Lucy’s was unknown, it was in fact a very exclusive restaurant popular with movie industry executives, it was the place where movie deals were made, where actors were traded back and forth and movie stars were created or blacklisted. It was not a place where movie stars went to be seen, if movie star was there it was usually by invitation only, many of the tables were permanently reserved for important studio moguls who met there regularly for long afternoon lunch meetings (and maybe a little Gin Rummy). That entire area across from Paramount is now a parking lot, the present Lucy’s restaurant just west of the parking is no relation the original Lucy’s)

There was an alley that ran behind Lucy’s and Dave’s, from Bronson to Irving that sort of tied the restaurant and gas station together, Lucy’s had an adjacent parking lot across the alley, the lot was run by Ralph, I think maybe he had an exclusive deal to operate the valet service. Ralph was a Negro guy well liked in the neighborhood, always helping out, he often parked his new 1946 Plymouth Coupe in Dave’s lot and when not busy parking cars he hung around Dave’s working on his Plymouth. When Lucy’s was busy Ralph would hire whatever boy(s) were available to help park and retrieve cars for Lucy’s exclusive cliental, tips were very good but we gave them all to Ralph who in turn paid us very well for an hour or two of work…

Every few months or so Lana Turner driving her custom powder blue Cadillac Convertible with top down, wearing a matching powder blue cashmere sweater, would pull into Dave’s for gas and park while she visited Steven. Lana always had the Cadillac tank filled and Dave charged Lucy’s tab. One day it was cloudy and a bit cold, I asked Lana if she wanted me to put the top up, she said no, the studio wanted her to keep it down? Later Dave told me it was all about exposure and publicity. It should be noted that in that time period traffic was very light in the greater Los Angeles area, a pretty girl driving a top down Cadillac was quickly noticed by everyone.  One afternoon Lana pulls in very fast, tires squealing as she made the turn off of Melrose, her daughter Cheryl, about three years old was in the passenger’s seat, Lana seemed upset, asked Dave if I could sit in the Cadillac and keep Cheryl company while she visited Steven. So I sat there for about 20/30 minutes helping Cheryl with her coloring book, Lana returns, even more upset, thanked me, gave me a dollar and quickly departed speeding down Melrose Avenue.  Dave told me later that Steven was always late paying Child Support, at that time Lana Turner was a very big movie star making a ton of money but she continued to hound Steven every month for the child support payments, often coming over to collect in person…

My Pal Hal: Hal is one of my best friends from Hollywood High, he lived about two blocks from Dave’s Gas Station, Hal shares the night shifts and Sundays with Eddy and me. I would often go over to Hals for breakfast, his mom and stepfather would leave early, his mom always left a pan of hot coco on the stove, a loaf of wheat bread, peanut butter and honey on the table near the toaster, after breakfast Hal and I would usually drive one of our cars to school or wherever.  Hal’s stepfather was a real Russian Cossack, a White Russian who fled Russia to the US just as the Revolution was ending. His name was “Slavak” a big husky bear of a guy (Hal’s mom was very small and petite); Slavak is working as a machinist.  Slavak drinks at least a bottle of vodka a day, is drunk every night, not mean, just drunk. He tells us many exciting stories of the Russian Revolution, he was a Cossack, on horseback he would lance a Red and toss the body over his head and go for another one. Hal’s mom said that Slavak had nightmares every night seeing the faces of those he lanced, slashed with his sword, shot or just run down with his horse, so she forgave his drinking…

One Saturday morning I’m there for breakfast, we are going to the beach. Slavak is sleeping, Hal’s mom and another gal are in the kitchen, Hal is at the table, I sit down and can tell immediately that Hal has something very important to tell me; he puts his finger to his lips so I say nothing and the four of us have breakfast. After breakfast we say goodbye and climb into Hal very neat 1939 Chevy 2-door Sedan, before we even get out of the driveway he is talking.  Seems he got home from a date about midnight, his mom and her girlfriend had just returned from a movie, his moms girlfriend was going to spend the night sleeping on the couch, Hal goes into his bedroom closes the door and goes to sleep, an hour or so later he is woken by someone getting into his bed, it’s his moms girlfriend, she says nothing but is all over him, she turns him the preverbal “every way but loose” for over an hour, still saying nothing she returns to the couch in the living room. Next morning she is in the kitchen with Hal’s mom, she says Good Morning Hal, how about some breakfast? Hal said he thinks he was blushing, afraid his mom would notice and does not know what to say, and then I arrive…

Leroy’s: Across the street from Dave’s just down from Cosmos Florists was a small Shoe & Leather repair shop owned by Leroy.  Leroy was a very skilled guy repairing and modifying shoes, boots and leather gear for RKO, Paramount and Western Costume. On many occasions Leroy would have us boys take finished orders over to the Studios and Western Costume often returning with additional items for repair. Musicals popular at the time used many dancers, wore out a lot of dancing shoes and the Western movies tore up a lot of leather keeping Leroy very busy.  Leroy’s had a unique hobby, raising pedigree champion Chow Chow Show Dogs, being a Negro he thought it unwise to show his own dogs thus he hired professional handlers to do the shows. Leroy’s dogs won many trophies’ and ribbons which were on display all over his shop walls. His #1 dog was available for stud and Leroy was paid in puppies, which he sold for big bucks. Leroy had a few other things going on as well…

One day Leroy ask if I like Jazz, said he and a friend just opened a Jazz Club, I said sure so he invites me and my pal Hal (who lived just down the block) to join him next Saturday evening meeting at the shop about 10:00 PM, we would have to dress sharp in a suit with tie, nice shoes and a hat, like you would see in a high class Harlem Jazz Club movie. He knew we did not have such classy duds but he knew Hal’s mother and that she worked in Paramount Wardrobe, he’s pretty sure she will fix us up. So Hal tells his Mom and she drops by the shoe shop and talks it over with Leroy, Hal and I are 17, Hal’s Mom agrees to dress us up but made Leroy promise we would not drink and he would watch after us making sure we would not get into any trouble. Leroy assured her he and his girlfriend would take very good care of us so not to worry...

Late Saturday afternoon Hal, his Mom and I walk over to Paramount, she and another lady dress us up like we are going to star in a movie, when finished we look, well, “different”.  That evening Hal’s Mom helps us get dressed and her girl friend from make-up comes over and touches us up a bit, we are all having a pretty good time laughing about everything but Hal’s Mom is worried, knows for sure we will be the only kids, and white at that, that would be there, reminds us to stay close to Leroy, not to drink and not to talk to any of the “pretty negro girls” even if they talk to us first, we agree to everything. We’re in front of the shop at ten, we are surprised to see Leroy drive up in a brand new white Cadillac Sedan, his girlfriend is beautiful, both are very well dressed, they laughingly approve our outfits and off we go.  Leroy’s girlfriend was very outgoing and a lot of fun, She told us once the girls got a look at us we would be the center of attraction, Leroy said that’s what he was afraid of, under no circumstances should we make eye contact, talk or dance with anyone, we were to just to sit at the table and enjoy the music…

We are laughing and joking all the way over to South Central L.A. driving down some pretty dark streets finally pulling up to a building in an industrial area, as we stop two guys materialize and open the car doors warmly greeting Leroy and his girlfriend, they look at Hal and I and kind of shake their heads. We approach the warehouse door and another guy quickly opens and we enter into a warehouse full of people, tables and a band playing, a guy that seems to be the manager greets us as if were old friends, we follow Leroy over to the only empty table, it has a sign “Reserved for the Boss”, then we realize Leroy owns the place.  It had the look of a make-shift operation, a bandstand, dance floor, bar, many tables with several attractive waitresses working the floor serving only champagne in upscale fluted glasses.  Next to our table was a new galvanized water bucket filled with ice, 2 bottles of champagne and two bottles of ginger ale, ginger ale was all Leroy allowed us to drink, but it looked like champagne...

The atmosphere and music was great, just like a Harlem Jazz Club movie, they played very long sets with only short breaks, during the breaks several of the musicians came over and sat at our table, I got the impression they have known Leroy and his girlfriend for a long time. A lot of very pretty girls were smiling and looking at us and a few came over and asked us to dance but Leroy’s girlfriend politely refused for us. At the beginning of one set the band leader introduced Leroy’s girlfriend, apparently everyone in the audience knew her name and clapped loudly, the band leader asked her to sing a song and the audience chanted “sing, sing, sing” and she sang a few songs, she was fantastic, the audience clapped forever…

The music and champagne flowed on and on, about 2:00 AM everyone was getting a little high and a girl comes over and grabs Hal insisting he dance with her but he politely refuses and she gets upset, but her boyfriend watching is even more upset, he grabs and slaps the girl and then goes for Hal but several big guys instantly surround Hal and I and Leroy says “We better leave, right now”, as the door opens we see the big white Cadillac with doors open waiting for us, we jump in.  It was a great grand opening; we all had a good time.  Leroy’s girlfriend is joking on how all the girls wanted to get a piece of us “tender little white chickens”, she said she told all the girls that we sweet innocent little white rooster chicks were her private property and she was not sharing. So more jokes and laughter, Leroy was happy about the turnout, thought he made enough money that first night to pay for all the interior improvements including the tables, glasses, bar, musicians, champagne, everything. Hal’s Mom was waiting up, she was relieved to see us arrive home safely, that we were not drunk or hurt and the cloths all in good condition. I stayed over that night, she made brunch the next day and we told her all about Leroy’s opening night…

.38 Smith & Wesson:  One night just before closing a car drives in, I go over to the driver’s side window and give the official Texaco greeting “Yes Sir, how may I help you?” and the guy picks up a handgun on the seat beside him and swings it in my direction, I’m thinking “this is not good” but he quickly says he would like to trade the gun for some gas and oil, he hands me the gun. I know about guns, it’s an old 38 Smith & Wesson Police Special revolver in poor condition and no bullets. He says he will trade it for full tank of gas and whatever oil was needed…

I fill the tank, it took about twelve gallons and two quarts of oil, so with gas at 18 cents a gallon and bulk oil at 15 cents a quart it comes to about $2.50, not a bad deal, I deposit the correct amount in the cash register.  I cleaned the revolver and it looked pretty good but the barrel was badly pitted and the trigger was undependable. But it was a Smith & Wesson so I figure I can sell it for at least $4 or maybe even $5.  A few days later I take it across the street to the liquor store and showed it to the owner, told him I traded with a friend, the gun belonged to his father, and it was not a stolen gun! I suggested if he did not have a gun he really should buy this one for protection, he was not interested, didn’t think he needed a gun but after some conversation he agreed to buy it for $4 cash and 10 nickel candy bars and I agreed to get him 6 cartridges.  It took a few days to scrounge up a few loose cartridges, I took them right over to the liquor store, he was not a gun guy, did not know how to open the cylinder so I load it and showed him how to use it, he thanked me and said he never thought I come back with the ammo, told me to take a candy bar, I took one of the giant 10 cent bars…

My New Rifle:  I have been into hunting and target shooting since I was 8. I won the shooting trophy two years in a row when I was 11 & 12 attending Palomar School for Boys, an upscale private boys boarding school. At Palomar marksmanship, archery and fencing were very popular activities. During WWII the Government encouraged marksmanship, wanted all boys to be familiar with rifles, provided free (or at very low cost) .22 caliber ammunition to all recognized (National Rifle Association) marksmanship programs.  At Palomar I was on the Range almost every day. The school provided the rifles but I always wanted my own .22 caliber target rifle.  It’s now 1946, WWII has been over for a while and sporting firearms are becoming available. I see a Magazine Advertisement for a Mossberg .22 clip fed bolt action target/hunting rifle that “will soon be available”, I think the price was about $20? There was a large sporting goods store on Hollywood Blvd. right in the middle of the main drag; it was the place to buy Levies during the War and thereafter, and when in stock it was only one pair per person.  I’m there early the next day and place an order for the rifle...

A few weeks later I get a phone call that the gun is in stock, they will hold it for two days so I have to get up there ASAP.  I’m living near La Brea and Olympic, a long ways from Hollywood Blvd, I’m either between cars or my car is not running so I will hitchhike. I forgot to ask the exact price so I quickly gather up all the money I have and borrow $10 more from my Aunt and hitch up to Hollywood. The rifle is a beautiful thing, I buy the rifle and a sling, the Salesman installs the sling and gives me a 50 round box of ammo for free.  I don’t want to hitchhike with the rifle so I get on a Bus on Hollywood Blvd. just near the store front entrance, put a dime into the box and get a transfer from Hollywood Blvd to the Bus on La Brea.  The rifle is in the original box, no bag or cover paper, the Bus Drivers see the rifle box, says “Wow that looks like a neat rifle”, yeah it is, I take it out of the box so he can get a good look, he likes it, I show him the free box of ammo in my pocket. I note that he is wearing a silver bracelet made from Army Air Force Wings, I think he was Bombardier.  Several passengers on the Bus smile and give me approving looks. I transfer at La Brea, Bus Driver sees the box, smiles and nods approvingly, other passengers same, all are sharing in my joy of owning a brand new rifle…

The Melrose Grotto: Located across Melrose and a block west from Dave’s was a very popular local eatery, it had been a hangout for RKO and Paramount people since the 1920s. Out of sight of the main dining room they had a quiet little back bar adjacent to the kitchen, during Prohibition the back Bar was a Speakeasy. In my time it still had the “secret” backdoor that I think went into the RKO or Paramount studios back lot as studio people were still coming in for a quick “shot” and back to work. Once in a while I would treat myself to an early dinner at the Grotto before going to work. The back Bar was very comfortable, you could see and smell everything the chefs were preparing, I ordered the same thing every time: A large wood planked chopped sirloin steak covered with grilled onions and mushrooms surrounded with a fat ribbon of garlic mashed potatoes, a deluxe mixed green salad served in a giant wooden bowl, a basket of fresh French bread and butter, and I could have all the salad, bread, butter and ice cold water in a big glass with clear ice cubes that I could handle, and it all cost about $2. Two Bartender/Waiters worked the Bar, they knew me from Dave’s, were both horse players and made sure I left the Grotto well fed…

One day the head Chef from the Grotto comes over to the Gas Station to pick up his car and notices a few abalone shell ash trays in the office, asked where they came from, told him that we dive for them at Malibu just north of the old pier in a restricted area of private homes mostly owned by movie people. I told him there were plenty available in shallow waters; we threw out the muscle and just saved the shells as ash tray gifts.  He offers me 50 cents apiece for about a dozen if delivered by the following Friday before noon, instructs me to gather only white or pink meat Abs’ and avoid the green and blacks, previously we never noticed the color nor were aware that people actually ate them.  The next Thursday three of us cut school and head over to Dave’s to make up a couple of floating bags from old tire inner tubes and gunny sacks suspended in the middle, we borrow a few tire irons and head for Malibu.  We would sneak thru a fence and settle down on the beach near the water, the local Sheriff would always show up, he has caught us there many times before, in the past we gave him a few Ab shells for ashtrays, he reminds us again that we are on private property and to stay away from the houses, we say Ok and he takes off…

Ocean diving then was called “Skin Diving”, “Skin” because that’s all we had, no wet suit, no fins, no mask, no snorkel, no nothing, just skin and an old tire iron. Fortunately the Abs’ were close to shore and in shallow waters.  We quickly realize that only about half of the Abs’ were pink or white so after about five hours of diving and just fooling around swimming in the clear kelp forest, unsuccessfully trying to spear a fish with a frog fork on a bamboo pole, we finally get 12 nice big Abs’, we carefully wrap them in fresh kelp and place them in a wet gunnysack for delivery.  The Chef was surprised to see us, seems he did not believe my story about Malibu, checked the Abs’ carefully and gave us the promised $6. Over the following year or so we made a few more Ab dives for the Grotto Chef…

The Best Little $2 Whorehouse on Highway 99:  I’m 16 going to Fairfax High; my pal Leo tells me he was listening in as his Uncle, a truck driver, was telling his Dad about a fantastic whorehouse in Delano, a little city on Hwy 99 between Bakersfield and Fresno.  He said it was the best $2 whorehouse in all of California with trucks lined up all around the place day and night. Leo and I have to check it out; it takes a week or so to get things worked out. I get a road map and plot the course, it was a lot further away than we thought but we are going to do it anyway. Leo gets together four other boys making it six guys to share the cost of gas, snacks, soda and beer. Leo and his friends will furnish the beer, soda and snacks, I’ll borrow my uncle’s big black 1941 Pontiac 4-Door Sedan and we all split the gas…

We are set to go Friday evening as soon as my Uncle gets home from work, I tell my Aunt and Uncle were are going to a beach party and may be home late, so not to worry. I pick up the guys, provisions, fill the gas tank and off we go.  It’s a great trip, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, cookies, soda and a case of Los Angeles finest local beer, good old “102”. We spend the long ride laughing, joking and lying about all the girls we have had, everyone had an amazing story to share but I’m pretty sure we are all virgins…

Considering the distance we arrive in like no time and quickly note just off the road a bunch of parked trucks around an old house.  We carefully check to make sure everyone has at least $2, we now know exactly how much gas it will take to get home, we leave enough money in the car and in we go. There is a couple of truck drivers in the waiting room, an old gal in a tired worn out red velvet dress with tarnished gold embroidery welcomes us with a big smile, an please wait just a minute, she takes the truck drivers in and returns. Leo tells her we are from Los Angeles, that his uncle, a truck driver, said this was the best $2 deal in all of California and we each had $2. She asked to see the money and quickly shoves it into her pocket, said they offered a “Special”, if it’s your “First Time”?  I quickly raise my hand, the other guys after lying the entire ride up there were hesitant to say anything, they just sat there staring at me. The old gal gives me a wink, goes in and returns with a small young slim great looking honey colored Negro gal wearing only small white silk string panty, she’s all smiles, so it’s your First Time?  Holds my hand and takes me down a hall into a tiny room with just a cot, small table with a wash basin, pulls down my pants and washes me down a bit, and then proceeds to “turn me every way but loose”, like WOW… 

Minutes later it’s all over and she’s out but quickly returns, say’s my five friends are all waiting for me up front, but she says just sit here and I will come back for you in about five minutes and we will play a joke on your friends. She’s servicing other customers and I’m just sitting and waiting, she finally returns, takes my hand, when we get up front she is hugging and squeezing me telling me what a great time she had and come back real soon and the next time for you it’s free. The guys are staring dumbfounded, I’m just looking nonchalant; we get to the car, I give Leo the keys and I get in the back seat saying I’m too tired to drive. On the way home I’m making up some of the most outrageous stories one can imagine as to what the “First Time Special” was all about.  I say she wanted me to stay all night, would not let me go, I left only because you guys had to get home.  They can’t figure out if I’m telling the truth or what? After an hour or so on the road Leo turns back to me and asks “why did I say it was my First Time?”  Leo, you know me, I always go for the “Specials”, all whorehouses offer a “First Time Special” and every time I go to a whorehouse I take the Special, and if it’s not on the menu I always ask for it!  Everybody is very quiet and staring at me, I’m almost choking trying to stifle a laugh, but can’t and it bursts out, and then we’re all are laughing and joking all the way home.  It was a great adventure, we couldn’t wait to get back and tell the guys at Dave’s Gas Station and our friends at Fairfax High about the best little $2 whorehouse on Highway 99… 

The Polar Palace:  About 5 minute drive from the gas station is the Polar Palace, a well-known ice skating rink and a great place to pick-up girls.  A friend from Hollywood High, I think his name was Bud, his parents owned the place; he works there almost every night after school and weekends and all during the summer. He’s a good guy and when he can he lets us in for free.  Once in a while after I close the gas station at 9 I will go over and see what’s going on. One night I notice a very attractive girl wearing a short skating skirt, she looks like a pro, when they announce a “couples only” set I note several guys will ask her to skate but she always refuses and sits the set out.  Bud says she is there almost every Wednesday evening…

A few weeks later after work I go over and she’s there skating, the “couples only” set is announced and a few guys ask her to skate but she refuses.  So I go over and say Hi, I’ve seen you here before, you’re really good, are you a professional? She says no but the look on her face says “how many times have I heard that line?” Undaunted I introduce myself: “I work down the street, I know the owners and their son Bud, I often drop in after work and have a hot chocolate”.  Would you like to join me? She notices that I’m not wearing skates, says Ok, that would be nice. Her name is Marilyn, she is beautiful, we chat, I tell her I skate almost as poorly as I dance, that I get in free but only chat with Bud. She offers to give me a few lessons, I say thank you, maybe another time.  I watch while she skates a few more sets, during the “couples only” round she joins me in the seating area. Bud comes over; I introduce him, he says he noticed her there many times, if she ever has a problem or needs anything to just ask for Bud.  After the rink closes I drive Marilyn home, we stopped at a Drive-In for a Coke and Fries, says she was glad to have met Bud, she sometimes feels lonesome there alone and now knowing Bud she will feel more comfortable…

Every few weeks or so over the next year I would go over to the Polar Palace, sometimes she would be there, sometimes not. When she’s there I’d get a pair of skates and she would give me a few lessons. The first time we skate as a couple I was afraid I would trip us up, she said just hold her lightly, follow her movements and she will skate us around the rink, and it worked.  I don’t believe that I ever actually dated Marilyn, I would always drive her home and we would always stop for Cokes and Fries. The Wednesday before I left for the Navy I stopped by the Polar Palace, she was not there, I told Bud to say goodbye for me…

Spyders Pool Hall: Spyders Pool Hall was located on Santa Monica Blvd between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica just across the City Line in L.A. County. It was easy to know when you crossed the Line because the street was dirty and in disrepair and the buildings were shabby. Spyders was in one of the many low rent shabby buildings. It was a big pool hall with parking in the back; most people came in the back door. As with many pool halls of the day glassy eyed local losers and winos would be hanging around drinking, smoking, mooching, boasting about past glories or just passed out…

Spyders sold the usual stuff, beer, soda, stale candy, cigarettes (in packs or singles), bagged tobacco with cigarette paper to roll your own, cigars, chewing tobacco, condoms, and the infamous TJFB’s (Tijuana Fuck Books).  From nder the counter he sold ½ pints of cheap booze and wine wrapped in brown paper bags.  TJFB’s were 10 cent comic books published in Tijuana, they were about 6 to 8 small double page pamphlets when closed about 4” x 5”.  The contents depicted all the famous comic book and nursery rhyme characters engaged in the most outrageous perverted sex one could ever imagine. There was Popeye and Wimpy doing Olive Oyl, Mickey Mouse and Goofy doing Minnie Mouse, Minnie Mouse doing everybody, Donald Duck playing with himself, Goldilocks honking papa bear. And there’s Little Red Riding Hood naked in spiked heels wearing an open cape with a bull whip cursing and whipping an impotent cowering Big Bad Wolf. Then there was Superman’s girlfriend Lois Lane cursing Superman who was not so super after all, and the truth about what was really going on between Batman & Robin, between the Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver and more.  All of the characters were drawn to perfect likeness; rumors were that the original artists were involved in the business, an outlet for their inner frustrations?  After viewing one of those books it was difficult if not impossible to look at a real comic or nursery rhyme book without thinking about what was really going on between the lines…

There were a couple of pool tables way over on the side in a darkened area, they seemed to be reserved for teenage boys, when back there we were out of sight of the front and back doors, we would have some adult buy us beer, if the cops came in we would see them first and hide the beer. We would usually go with a group of four to six friends and spend a few hours shooting pool, looking at the well-worn TJFB’s and talking to the losers occasionally coming over to mooch a cigarette and to tell us a dirty joke. The losers at Spyders were a valuable lesson to us teenagers of what we don’t want to grow up to be. Every teenage boy needs a Spyders Pool Hall…

The Haunted House:  One weekend a few of us are exploring the Box Canyon area around Chatsworth looking for a place to hunt rabbits, no one around for miles in any direction, in the hills are a few old houses that were abandoned many years before, we were following an old dirt road that appeared to have not been traveled in years, we come upon an old two story house, must have been elegant in its time but now stripped clean to the walls, nothing in it but one old mattress on the floor in the upper bedroom. We’re thinking this is neat, a place to stay over when hunting and have a ghost party…

A few months later I close the gas station but I don’t feel like going home so I’m driving around and eventually get to Spyders Pool Hall in West L.A. thinking that a few friends will be playing pool and I will hang out awhile but nobody I know so I drive down Santa Monica Blvd and find myself at the Santa Monica Pike Amusement area. I’m walking around when I see a girl I recognize from a North Hollywood party I attended several months previously, she recognized me and we stop to talk, her hair is kind of messed up and she seems uneasy and distraught, she is definitely pleased to see me. I ask what she’s doing down here at night alone, says she ran away from home, her girlfriend was to meet her but never showed up. I said she could hang out with me and I would take her home, she didn’t want to go home, asked if I knew somewhere she could stay the night.  I didn’t have a clue as to where to take her but then remember the old house in Chatsworth with a mattress in the bedroom, perfect…

An hour later I find the old house, I have a flashlight and an old beach blanket, we go up to the bedroom, old mattress still on the floor; we lean part the mattress against the wall and sit with our backs into it. With the beach blanket pulled up tight we settle in. We are talking about nothing in particular when I note we are not talking but whispering? I turn off the flashlight and suddenly its stone cold black, zero visibility, I quickly turn the flashlight back on, we’re sitting close and whispering about this and that, she seems comfortable and relaxed so I shut off the flashlight to conserve the batteries.  Then a coyote howls sounding like it’s just out the front door and several more are howling in the distance,  then something runs across the roof and a scraping noise against the outside wall, she’s  tense and scared, I’m trying to be nonchalant but scared too, she says we ought to get out of here but I say that I don’t think the car will start, as we were slow driving up the dirt road the headlights were dimming, I’ve had that problem before, battery about dead, I’m sure car won’t start and we don’t want to be out there in the dark on a moonless night with animals and who knows what all over the place. The car is my old Packard convertible with no top, not like we can lock ourselves in the car and hide out. Only solution is to sit tight and let the car battery rest until morning…

Then it sounds like something or someone is walking around the lower rooms and the old building is creaking, the coyotes sound like their fighting with some dogs (or maybe a werewolf?). Whatever thoughts we may have had about making out vanished, it’s now all about just surviving the night. We spend the entire long, long night sitting really close and tight, she is holding the flashlight and clicking it on once in a while and we’re just whispering to get our minds off the ghosts that we are sure are all around us, I pull the beach blanket up and over both our heads hoping were are invisible…

At first light were outside, the Packard won’t start, battery dead, fortunately the car is parked on a slight rise and it’s pointing down the road, I release the brake, give a little push and were coasting, finally getting up enough speed to pop the clutch in second gear and start the engine. I ask her where she wants to go, says maybe I better go home, I ask why did you run away? She thinks a moment and says “I’m not sure”…

Watch My Car:  I’m working at the gas station when about 8 PM a car pulls up to the curb right in front of the station, a guy gets out and says “Hey kid, I’m going over to Paramount, how about keeping an eye on my car, be back in about an hour”, I say nothing and he walks across the street leaving his car. I don’t remember anyone ever parking on Melrose right in front of the gas station, a car there blocked the lower Texaco sign near the sidewalk. Most people were more considerate and parked elsewhere; the entire street was empty and available for parking.  The Paramount gate is manned 24/7, if the guy was important he would have driven over there, obviously he was a Bozo. If he had pulled into the station and bought a dollars’ worth of gas I would have cleaned his windshield, checked his water, oil and tires and let him park in our lot for free. The car is a no-nothing 1940 Standard Chevy Sedan; but I note it has new full-wheel aftermarket hub caps and a shiny new radio antenna indicating it had a radio. (Radios were not standard equipment, only about half of the old cars had radios). There was a big market for used radios and deluxe hub caps. 

I have a friend who knows a guy who knows a guy that operates a Midnight Radio and Hub Cap business, I make a phone call, in about five minutes a Station Wagon pulls up with two guys, they look at me and I point to the car on the curb, in two seconds the radio and hub caps are gone and the Station Wagon is cruising down Melrose Avenue.  About 5 minutes later the phone rings, a guy says:  Hi Manny, I’m Mark, a friend of Al, just checking if my boys made the pickup, I say “yes”, Mark asks how long did it take, I say about four heart beats, he says “they should have done it in two”, we laugh, he says I owe you one, just call Al.  The Bozo returns as I am closing the station, he comes running in and starts yelling at me that his hub caps are gone, I know nothing, suggest he use the pay phone and call the police. He declines and returns to his car, I’m looking back as I drive away, he jumps out of his car and is yelling about his radio, I drive on…

The Beer Garden: Close by L.A. City College was a very popular Beer Garden, served draft beer in pitchers. I think the beer was Los Angeles’s own local “Brew 102”. The waitress’s wore Bavarian Dress and on weekends there was a big Oomph Pa-ha Bavarian band, it was an inexpensive and fun place to hangout, a centrally located meeting place. Of course you were supposed to be 21 to drink but it was easy to beat the system: It was a big spread out place, half the customers were WWII veterans and many more were still in the Service and many of them not yet 21. As a general rule if in military uniform the ID was just glanced at, there was no law that said a Waitress had to be able to read, she was there to serve beer, period. The beer was paid for when served, no tab. Us boys would wander in and walk around waiting for a party to vacate a table, we would quickly sit down and grab the empty glass’s, drain the empty pitcher and start talking like we been there all day, the Waitress would come around and ask if we want another Pitcher? Ok, bring us one more. If a friend wanted to join us he had to bring over a glass, and there were plenty of empty glasses on tables all over the place…

The “Pusher”:  When I was going to Hollywood High I recall this rather plain girl, her father owned the local Studebaker Distributorship; she was the only girl I knew that had her own car, a brand new Studebaker. I knew her only by sight; she was going steady with a Spanish looking guy that I also knew only by sight. Anyway about a year or so later she was having a party and I, via a girl friend of a girl I knew was invited. I arrive after work about 9:30 and meet my friend, she introduces me to the Studebaker gal and her boyfriend, he is a small tight wired guy dressed like a Spanish Bullfighter in a black out-of-the-ring suit, like I’ve seen in some movie, the girls all think he is very romantic, I think he looks like a pimp…

Both she and her boyfriend are now seniors and members of the Gym team, it is rumored that they engage in very weird sex, doing various gym routines in the nude, and have made Blue Movies, after seeing the way he is dressed I figure that maybe they are going to act out a scene like a bullfighter sticking little probes into the girl (Bull) as she, in the nude, is stomping and charging around on all fours, then ending in the ceremonial “Final Sword Thrust”. I share my thoughts with my date, she tells me that they are “a very nice couple and don’t believe the rumors”. So after a while the guy says that we all form a circle in the living room, there are about 12 couples so it is a pretty big circle, like a bull ring?  I knowingly look at my date and wink; she scowls back at me…

The guy passes around a bottle of Tequila a couple of times and we all take a slug, then he lights up a funny looking handmade cigarette, takes a drag and passes it around, I again look knowingly at my date, nod and smirk, she shakes her head like “why did I invite this guy?”. The “reefer” comes around, I don’t even smoke but I take a little puff and pass it to my date who has finally figured out what it is and just passes it on. He asks if we want another round, all shake their heads and/or say “NO”. Then the tequila goes around a couple more times and he suggests another “reefer”, but no interest, then he passes around a container of little blue pills saying “they will keep us awake so we can party all night”.  Finally he announces that if anyone wants to buy any “reefers” or “bennies” just call him, and the circle breaks up. No bull fight, I’m disappointed about that but not surprised that he’s a Dealer and a Pusher. The dancing and drinking resume but my date is uncomfortable so we just kind of sneak out the backdoor unnoticed…

It should be noted that drugs were not, in the 1944/1948 High School period a part of our culture. I did not know anyone that was into drugs. We heard many stories of Hollywood movie celebs and marijuana parties so we knew drugs were easily available and cheap.  During our few trips to Tijuana Street peddlers always tried to sell us marijuana but we had no interest. Our peers were the GI’s of WWII, they were into booze and girls, not drugs, and that suited us fine…

The Gang Bang: I’m not sure exactly how it all started but I recall it is a warm summer evening and a few of us are in an acquaints car, don’t know him very well, we’re just cruising down Melrose heading toward La Brea going to Pink’s for a hot dog. His girlfriend, I think her name was Dorothy, is sitting next to him and one of my friends is sitting next to her, I’m in the back seat just behind the driver with two other pals, we’re joking around sharing a beer.  I note the girl leans over and whispers something to the driver, he nods then shouts out: Hey, you guys wan ‘a have a Gang Bang? Dead silence, then my pal in the front seat says “well Ok, but after the hot dog”, we all laugh and the driver makes a quick right turn and we head up to Mulholland Drive, he finds a dark spot off the road and parks, we all get out, the driver opens the trunk and unzips a big sleeping bag and spreads it on the ground, the girl pulls up her skirt removes her panties (but not her skirt) pulls off her sweater, she’s not wearing a bra, and says “let’s do it”, her boyfriend goes first…

I’m kind of detached, like a “fly-on-the-wall”, it’s all so surreal watching these people taking a turn, they all seem kind of awkward in various stages of undress, it’s totally ridiculous, a very funny sight, I’m almost chocking trying to hold back a laugh, and then it is my turn, I’m last, but I can’t do it and suddenly burst out laughing, I can’t stop laughing.  Dorothy is not pleased, curses me, gets dressed, we car up and take off, dead silence in the car, driver takes Dorothy home.  As we drive off one of the guys in the back seat asks the “host” in a very serious tone: “and when are you and Dorothy getting married”?  Then everyone bursts out laughing and we go for the hot dog…

The Shotgun:  I’m attending Van Nuys High now driving a Packard Convertible, no top but even so it is a very elegant looking car. I park it close to school; friends know it’s Ok to sit in it between classes, sneak a cigarette or whatever. On this afternoon there are two girls sitting in the Packard, I know one from Home Room, she is one of the “Most Popular Girls” at school, I’ve never talked to her knowing I would be just wasting my time.  Van Nuys High is my 5th High School, for some unknown reasons my personal charm, exceptional good looks, wit, humor, classy cars, money, enviable grades, excellent attendance record and so much more never seemed to impress the “Most Popular Girls”? So to my surprise there is a real “Most Popular Girl” sitting in my car. She says “Hi Manny (she even knows my name!) I hope you don’t mind us sitting in your car” She introduces her friend who is a rather plain fat chick, seems she attended Van Nuys and graduated last year and was working part time in town.  I’m wondering why one of the “Most Popular Girls” was sitting in my car? A few friends walk by, notice the Most Popular Girl and give me thumbs up. After a few minutes small talk I offer to drive her home. The Most Popular Girl gives me directions to her house; I assume the other one is staying over but when we arrive the Most Popular Girl says “thanks for the ride, I would invite you in but I have to help my mother” and Manny, would you please take Patti home?  I’ve been had and Patti probably lives in Africa?

Patti lives way out Roscoe Blvd in the boonies, after a long ride we finally arrive at a small ranch, farm or whatever, Patti wants to show me around, I just want to go home but I’m am always polite, say Ok but I only got a minute. As we walk thru the house I notice a room with a few shotguns on a rack, we go in, one is an old WW I Winchester Model 1897 Trench Sweeper 12 gage Pump Shotgun complete with sling and a bayonet, there is a very old double barrel shotgun with twin hammers, and a shot-shell reloading bench. Patti says her father has lots of guns. I’m into guns and hunting, been hunting with my Dad since I was 8, a competitor shooter at private school, with my uncle shooting ducks and with recent pals shooting rabbits, been a Junior Member of the National Rifle Association since I was 10, I read all the gun catalogs and magazines, I have a shotgun, a revolver and a couple of rifles. I figure Patti’s Dad must be a good guy and I definitely want to meet him…

In the back yard are chickens, bales of hay, a hay stack, a barn, a few horses, a goat, a big garden and lots of old farm equipment. We’re just walking around the haystack when all of a sudden Patti puts her big arms around me and we are down in the hay. About 30 minutes later I’m brushing hay and straw out of my hair and off my cloths, I say thank you but I got to go, she says “come on back anytime”, OK, I’m off but I still have straw and hay in my hair and in my shorts, I’m itching all the way home to Sherman Oaks. My Aunt Alice see me, says “you have dried grass or something all over your new sweater, I say yah, I was helping a friend feeding his horses and the wind came up…

About a week later I’m off work, nothing to do so I make the long ride out to the “Farm”, maybe I will meet Patti’s Dad and we can talk about guns and reloading. It’s getting dark when I arrive, she says her Dad’s working (I think at GM in Van Nuys) and will not be home until midnight, I say I was hoping to meet him, she says that’s not a good idea, so I drop the subject. We are sitting on her front porch swing fooling around a bit when she sees car lights making a turn into the dirt road to her house, she jumps up and shouts “it’s my father, run and hide in the backyard”. I’m thinking we’re just sitting on the swing, what’s the big deal? But when an excited slightly undressed girl says “run, it’s my father” I figure it’s best just to follow my primal instincts and run…

I’m thru the house out the back door over the porch and behind the hay bales when I  hear the car door slam shut, her father’s shouting “I’m going to get you you little son-of-bitch”. I hear him running thru the house, back porch light comes on, I‘m peaking over a hay bale, he’s holding the Winchester Trench Sweeper, I hear him cycling a round into the chamber, I duck, he fires into the air and cycles another round. There is no sound more distinctive and foreboding in this world than the sound of a 12 gage pump gun cycling a round into the chamber. Patti is screaming “it’s not Bill, its Jane’s boyfriend who just drove me home”, father says “bull shit, I’m goanna nail his ass to the barn door”, fires off another round and cycles. Patti finally calms him down, they go into the house, she comes out in a few minutes and tells me it’s Ok to leave. I’m in the old Packard in a flash, I had been having some battery problems (would be another 8 years before I bought my first new battery) but the trusty old Packard fired right up, with peddle to the metal I’m flying down their dusty dirt road to the main highway…

Next day the “Most Popular Girl” stops me in the hall and apologizes for her friend, explains that Patti’s father caught her and boyfriend, a guy named “Bill” with Patti naked in the back yard hay stack, almost got him with a pitch fork, ran him off promising to kill him if he ever returned… 

Santa Monica Beach – Roadside Rest:  During the spring, summer and into the fall going to the beach was the big thing, kids from all the high schools and colleges co-mingle on the sand in one big mass of humanity. The most popular beach was in Santa Monica, an area called Roadside Rest, just a short walk north of Venice Muscle Beach. The name originated from an old Auto Club sign posted along an off the highway parking area where cars in the 1920/30s could stop and enjoy the ocean view. That area was now taken over by a Hamburger stand that served the beach area. The hamburgers, like maybe 50% fat, were cooked on a big old flat iron grill that had never ever been cleaned; the aroma and smoke from the fat burgers grilling saturated the entire beach drawing customers from miles around…

Many former Servicemen who had previously passed thru California for training prior to departing to the Pacific had returned to California and were now working or attending local colleges, the beach was where they relaxed almost every weekend. A popular pastime was Craps, these former GI’s would lay out and stretch tight an old army blanket and a big well attended crap game would quickly develop, this was not your typical Las Vegas dice game, guys would completely surround the blanket sitting/kneeling in the sand at the blankets edge keeping it tight and guys standing behind them  two to three deep would lean over and place bets that were quickly covered by someone standing around, at times there were two or three crap games going on all day every day throughout out the long summer season.  The action was very fast, one had to pay very careful attention or your money would just disappear, I often played but those ex-GI’s were too sharp for me…

Mostly we went to the beach to pick-up girls, and it seemed like there were hundreds of girls lying on the sand, wading or walking back and forth between Roadside Rest and Muscle Beach. Typically two or three of us guys would go down to Roadside Rest together in whosever car was up and running, coming home in the late afternoon with a car full of friends and girls.  On Santa Monica Blvd not far from the Beach was a Discount Gas Station that sold regular gas for 16 cents a gallon (all Brand Name Regular gas was 18 Cents a gallon). We would always stop for gas on the way home and everyone in the car would come up with some change like pennies, nickels and dimes, usually less than a dollar but enough to get everybody home. One day with a pal we head to the beach in my 1935 Ford 2-Door Sedan, around noon we meet two girls and moved our stuff to their location, after a while I decided to check out the crap game, walking over to see what was going on I run into two old friends from Fairfax High that I had not seen in about two years, we three were regulars at the Fairfax High Boy’s Restroom crap games. We talked about the game and how it was almost impossible to make any money, the GI’s were just too good and too fast…

They were with a girl I had also known so I invited them to join us, the seven of us hung out the rest of the day swimming and spending some time at Venice Muscle Beach, we boys watching the girls who are watching the muscle guys do their routines. Our group of seven kids was made up of two girls from Dorsey High, three from Fairfax High, my pal from Hollywood High and I from Van Nuys High. Meeting old and new friends was what Roadside Rest was all about.   At the end of the day I offered my Fairfax friends a ride home, told them it would be a very tight fit as I had a couple of big old sleeping bags and other stuff in the back seat, anyway we managed to jam two boys and two girls, our beach gear and all my junk in the small back seat and three of us up front on the bench seat. The Ford had a standard floor mounted stick shift, the person that sat in the middle of the front seat had to sort of straddle the tall shifter, if it was a girl wearing a bathing suit or short shorts it made for an interesting ride as it was impossible to shift up and down thru the gears without your hand and wrist brushing against the girls inner bare legs, and then someone in the back seat would always be making some joke like, “Hey Manny why are you in low gear so long?”  “Why is your hand always on the shift knob?  “Why are you always shifting back and forth between second to third”, and the girl in front usually coming back with some comment like “Shut up, Manny’s a professional driver, don’t distract him”, or “you’re just jealous cause you’re not driving”.  It usually took an hour or more to get everybody home but with a car full of happy carefree friends it was always a fun ride…

On this day we made the usual stop at the discount gas station, the girl I just met was sitting next to me, she reached into her purse and hands me a half dollar, that was big money so naturally I start to give her back some change when she refuses and says the money is for her and her girlfriend, I return a quarter anyway. We drop the Fairfax kids off first, on the way to the girls house we spot a Drive-In so we stop for a snack, we order four small Cokes and four small fries which are quickly delivered  and attached to the driver’s side of the car, I’m thinking the Cokes and Fries were 15 cents each so the bill was like $1.20 + 15 cents for a tip, total of about $1.35, then the girl I’m with pulls out two dollar bills  and insists on paying, period.  I’m thinking not only is she attractive but a class act, I should really get to know her better. When we drop the two girls off I tell them that we are going to check out a few party’s that evening up in the Hollywood Hills and they were welcome to join us, they agree.  A typical summers day at Roadside Rest…

Mothers:  I hear a lot about “Mothers”, seems Mother was a harmless old Fag that lived just a block north of Hollywood Blvd’s Main drag.  It was said that her apartment was always open; you could come over anytime day or night and get a snack, a beer, soda, play cards or just hang around. It was said that Mother would pay if your let her play with your pole. Some said that Mother was really and old gal that liked young boys. It’s rumored that a couple of girls at Hollywood High actually dressed up as tender young boys went over and checked “it” out and confirmed mother was really a “he”.  It seemed that just about everyone at Hollywood High knew about Mothers except me so I have to check it out.

I meet a guy I know at the Beer Garden, he has been there before, he agrees to take me, we enter an upstairs apartment, it’s a big old apartment, about three boys looking at TJFB’s and other dirty book and pictures in the living room, it’s got a big old kitchen with a big old kitchen table, about five boys, none of whom I know, are sitting around the table playing penny-ante poker. I’m introduced to Mother and she tries to give me a hug but I duck around and take a seat at the table.  Mother wore a dress, an old women’s house coat, slippers, hair in a net, lipstick and rouge.  Mother looks and is acting like a busy house mother potchking around the kitchen seeing that everyone at the table had something to eat and was taken care of.  If you did not know she was a he would you would never have guessed. In a few minutes she brings over a plate of cookies and sets them by me and quickly gives me kiss on the back of my neck, everyone laughs, I laugh but I’m very uncomfortable, we leave…

In those days Servicemen referred to Hollywood as the “Land of Fruits and Nuts”, and it certainly was that.  While in the Navy when shipmates would learn that I was from Hollywood they would always ask: “Hey Manny!   Are you one of those Fruits or a Nut”?  And I never figured out a suitable snappy reply…

The Chinese Cheese Sandwich: The Melrose Tavern was on Melrose Avenue next door to Cosmos Florists, it was a small neighborhood watering hole, an “after-work for a quick drink with the boys before heading home” kind of place, they served a light lunch and dinner. The kitchen was operated by a Chinaman; he was both cook and dishwasher, was the only guy in the little kitchen, the bar tenders were the waiters. Often times when working at the gas station I would go over enter via the back door off an alley and buy a cheese sandwich to go. The Chinaman never said a word, not sure he knew much English. Anyway I’d go in and ask for a cheese sandwich on white bread. He would lay out two slices of bread, carefully smear one slice with a very thin layer of Mayo, so thin you could hardly see it, and then smear a thin layer of yellow mustard on the other slice.  Then picks up a very large brick of American cheese and sets it on the cutting board, using a big Chinese knife that looks like a cleaver, but is thinner and sharper, he quickly slices off one piece of cheese maybe twice the thickness of the Mayo, I could almost see thru the cheese, the cheese just covers the entire slice of bread, he carefully covers the cheese with the other slice of bread, wraps it in wax paper and hands it to me and I give him 20 cents which he puts in his pocket.  For 20 cents it is rip-off but I’m hungry and the Chinaman is just next door.  After a while when I walked in I just pointed to the brick of cheese, as he was cutting I would show him my hand with thumb and forefinger opened indicating a thicker slice but it never happened, he made the sandwich exactly the same way each time. I’d shake my head in frustration; give him 20 cents and leave, neither of us ever saying a word.  I am sure if I measured the cheese thickness and kept a record over the years the thickness of that slice of cheese would not have varied but a micron…

Older Women: I closed the gas station at 9, Harold, an acquaintance who had previously worked for Dave but now in the Navy and home on a pass invites me to have a drink over at the Melrose Tavern, the Bartenders know us well and we are welcomed.  We’re there only a few minutes when in come a couple of older women, one looks kind of masculine and the smaller one very feminine, Harold says there’re probably a couple of Lesbos.  They sit a few stools from us, the Bartender seems to know the smaller one, he pours them a couple of vodka on-the-rocks, the two women are in deep conversation, then the smaller one turns and is looking over like she’s checking us out?  She is small, slim and trim, I’m thinking for an older gal she is strangely attractive, kind of youngish girlish looking, and now she is looking right at me, I nod, the Bartender notes what’s going on, comes over and tells the women he knows us, that we work over at the Texaco Station. She nods and buys a round, Harold and I move over, I sit next to her and Harold reluctantly goes around and sits with the other one who is rather plain and heavy. The youngish gal buy’s another round, she’s a young-at-heart person getting a bit high but we are having a good time. From the conversation I gather she has a management position at Paramount. As we talk I’m seriously wondering how old is she? 40, 50, 60?  I catch Harold’s eye, he and the other women are not into it.  After a while she asks me if there is someplace we can go, play some music, dance and have a few drinks in private?

Harold’s parents’ have a nice home only few blocks away and they are out of town. The youngish gal motions to the Bartender and he places a bottle of vodka in a shopping bag, hands her the bag and she gives him some money, she hands me the bag and we all climb into her new Oldsmobile and drive over to Harold’s, he puts on some records, she wanted to dance so we’re dancing and she is seriously drinking, I’m a terrible dancer and not a big drinker so I’m just sort of going thru the motions when suddenly  she pulls me into Harold’s parents’ bedroom and slams the door. She completely strips in a second and in another second pulls the decorator pillows, bedspread, blanket, top sheet and pillows off this big oversized bed and tosses them into a corner, she turns on me and starts tearing at my clothes. She is a totally Wild Thing and we are soon bouncing up and down like on a trampoline.  Then a big “bang” and the old wooden bed frame cracks and breaks, the mattress and box spring are now bouncing on the floor, the Wild Thing seems totally unaware of the situation. Harold comes rushing in, starts yelling, almost crying, “You broke my parents antique bed and how are we going to fix it?  Wild Thing says nothing, we quickly dress, she, I and her friend leave. She hands me the car keys, tells me to drive giving me directions, we take her friend home first and then over to her apartment, it’s in an upscale building about two miles from the Melrose Tavern. I garage the Oldsmobile and we quietly walk upstairs to her apartment, nice big apartment, I notice a picture of a Marine Sargent on her bedroom dresser, I think too young for a husband so I figure it must be her son?  About an hour later she tells me I’d better go, she goes into the bathroom, I quickly dress, she is taking a shower, her purse is on the dresser, I open the purse and wallet and take quick a look at her Driver’s License, I calculate she is about 55 or 56…

It’s a  long walk back to my car, I’m kind of floating thinking about many things, her youthful appearance, naked she was completely uninhibited, looked and moved around the room like a sleek white snow leopard, I’m thinking of one of my favorite movies about Shangri-La, the ice, the snow and the beautiful  young but actually very old girl. I’m thinking about the evening, the broken antique bed, I’m trying to put the whole thing into perspective. I finally make it to the gas station, I thought it must be like 3 or 4 in the morning and I’m just going to sleep on the cot, but it’s only a quarter to 12. I was lost in an age/time warp…

Robert Mitchum & Lila Leeds - The Famous Reefer Party – September 1948:
I was working my last few nights at Dave’s gas station before departing for the Navy, about 8:00 in the evening I was washing down the pump island when I noticed Robert Mitchum and an attractive blond girl walking over from Lucy’s Restaurant, Mitchum had purchased gas in the past when he was working over at RKO and I think he recognized me, asked if he could use the telephone, said sure, it’s in the office, he had a piece of paper with a number and made the call, then asked if they could hang around the office waiting for a return call, Ok by me, he introduced me to Lila Leeds, I had not seen her before but was aware that a “Lila Leeds” was engaged to  Steven Crane, the guy that owned Lucy’s, Lana Turners ex-husband. I offered Lila the desk chair, only chair in the office and Bob Mitchum was just standing around, they were chatting while I was cleaning up getting ready to close the station, then we all just hung around making small talk. About 20 minutes later the phone rings, I answer and someone asks for Bob Mitchum, I hand him the phone, he calls out an address to Lila who writes it down. They thanked me and left walking back to Lucy’s, I kind of wondered why they didn’t use a phone at Lucy’s?

The next day the papers are sensationalizing the story that Actor Robert Mitchum and Starlet & Dancer Lila Leeds (her wearing only a bathrobe with “reefers” in a pocket) were arrested at a ‘Reefer Party”. At the time it was a very big story in Hollywood.  Next day I tell the story to Dave, Dave suggested I forget that they ever came in, he did not want police coming around investigating the station for fear they would discover that it was a Drop, the phone was ringing all day and with customers coming in placing bets would certainly make the police suspicious.  Dave received a nice commission from Max the Bookie; it was an important source of income that he could not afford to lose…

I learned later that Steven Crane quickly broke off his relationship with Lila, sold Lucy’s almost immediately and moved abroad so as not to become entangled in the affair.  A few years later Steven Crane returned to Beverly Hills and became a very successful restaurateur…

In the late 1950’s and 1960’s I entertained many of my important aerospace customers, clients and guests at the very popular Luau and Kon Tiki Polynesian Bar/Restaurants owned by Seven Crane…

Max the Bookie: Max was a well know and popular Hollywood Bookie, he had a good reputation, he always paid off. Max drove a nice big car, always well dressed, always wore a hat and always looked very sharp.  If Damon Runyon ever did a "Runyonesque" with a caricature of a Hollywood Bookie I’m sure it would read and look like Max.  Hollywood Horse Players (everyone played the horses) were comfortable betting with Max so his Drops around the Hollywood area were popular. Dave’s gas station was one of Max’s most profitable Drops. As noted previously I worked for Max several months while I was going to Hollywood High I delivered early each morning a “Tip Sheet” and a Daily Racing Form to several of his Drops.  Max actually wrote the Tip Sheets himself (carefully crafted in his favor) but told me to tell everyone it was the work of a Jockey/Trainer with inside information.  Max paid me $2 a day and always gave me a special “Tip” to keep to myself and lay the bet off on a competitor Bookie. I didn’t know any competitor Bookie so I usually just bet a $1 via Dave’s. Invariably the “Tip” either lost or was a favorite with very short odds thus Max usually got his money back each day. I was looking for better odds and soon studying The Daily Racing Form, Tip Sheets and the Morning Line in the local Newspapers penciling out my own picks. 

On occasion Max would give Dave a few Passes to the Club House to give to good customers, sometimes I’d take a couple, ditch school if need be and with a pal go to the Track. There were three Tracks operating in Southern California. Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar. There was even a special train out of Union Station to Del Mar just for Horsemen; it was a Horsemen’s Heaven, free coffee and a moderately priced full food and beverage service. The entire train was abuzz with hot “Tip’s” being whispered around. Hustlers selling secret information on supposedly “fixed” races, small old men wearing Jockey Colors running up and down the aisles selling Tip Sheets, Conductors asking and passing on rumors, everybody seriously reading the Daily Racing Form with pencils taking notes. Lots of activity on the way down to Del Mar, but mostly silence on the way back…

Some kind of a strange “Catch 22” law or maybe it was a local ordinance was passed that required all Bookies to buy and wear a special Bookie Stamp, caught making book without the Stamp resulted in a double fine. Of course Making Book was illegal and subject to arrest anyway, previously the Hollywood Police sort of ignored Bookies, they played the horses too. However if you wore the Stamp the Police would see it and then would have to arrest you.  Needless to say very few Stamps were sold. As a fun gift for Max several of his friends took up a collection to buy Max a Bookie Stamp, everyone contributed. When they gave Max the Stamp he was really surprised and offered a “Tip” for the next day, and I think the horse actually won paying big money…

The Mafia was moving into Los Angeles and trying to take over all the Bookie operations (and all other vices as well).  Max was well established and refused to go along.  Shortly after I left for the Navy I heard that the Mafia got to him, they took over his Book and Max dropped from sight…

Santa Anita: It’s January 1948, Santa Anita winter season just opened, earlier Max left a few Club House Pass’s. A girl drives into the station and say’s “fill it up”, most people say 5 or 10 gallons of Sky Chief, at 20 cents a gallon that’s and even $1 or $2, no change. I’m looking at her and we recognize each other, we had a class together at Hollywood High about a year and a half ago, she was out doing an errand for her Mom and her Dad told her to gas up the car. We’re now both seniors graduating in June, we are just making small talk when I remember the Club House Passes, on the spur of the moment I ask if she would like to go to Santa Anita the next day, she would have to ditch school, not her thing, after more discussion we agree that I will pick her up at school after a class about 10:30, that way she only cuts a few classes. I reminded her that The Club House at Santa Anita is very upscale and she may want to bring a change of clothes…

I borrow Dave’s nice clean car and took off for Hollywood High, I was only half expecting she would be there, and if there I figure she would probably back out, but she was there holding a beach bag full of cloths an ready to go. She said she would get in the back seat and change while I was driving, I suggested she wait and change at the Club House, I know the Men’s Restroom is very nice and I heard that the Ladies Restroom is even nicer and figured it was something special she should see.  We may miss the first couple of races but will make the third race for sure so on the way to the Track I have her reading aloud the Morning Line, the Comments, I’m asking questions and she is looking them up in the Daily Racing Form, by the time we get to the Track she really into the Sport of Kings…

The plan is I use Valet Parking, we quickly get to our Box, she goes to the Ladies Restroom to change and I get bet down on the next race. We meet back at the Box, order lunch and settle in. To my surprise we had a Box all to ourselves; I got a bet down and ordered one of their Special Club House Sandwiches’ (enough for two) and the Deluxe Tea Service (an English style tea service, very high class). She is in the Ladies Restroom like forever, when she returns she is all smiles, I hardly recognize her, she is wearing a beige skirt with a matching two piece sweater ensemble, her hair looks kind of different, and she looks very nice. She said it was the best restroom she has seen in her entire life, flowers and mirrors all over, very helpful attendants; one even helped her do her hair. I was wearing beige Cords and a matching ski type sweater, the waiter asks if we are brother and sister? He said we’re both wearing beige both had brown hair and brown eyes, we made a very handsome couple, and that earned him a really big tip…

While enjoying lunch we watch my horse win, it paid about $12, a very good omen. After lunch we go down to the Paddock, I introduced her to the two horses we bet on for the next race, $2 to Win and $2 to Show on a longshot.  I said hello to a couple of owners, trainers and good luck to a couple of jockeys that I didn’t even know, they thanked me and she was really impressed.  During the day we visited the Paddock several times getting a close look at our horses. I placed several bets for her, she hit a few times and I insisted she keep the money. I too was doing well; I came home with more money than I started with.  It was more fun going to the Track with a pretty vivacious girl than with one of my pals, it was a very good day at the Races… 

Hollywood Party – Hollywood Jail:  I was working one Thursday night at Dave’s when several friends come in and tell me of a party Saturday night at a big Hollywood Mogul’s house up on Mulholland Drive, the mogul’s daughter was the host, there would be plenty to eat and drink, said I would probably see them there.  Friday evening at the Naval Reserve I invite a fellow Sailor that I had come to know to do the beach with me the next day, Saturday, told him about the big party, suggested we try pick-up a couple of girls at the beach and then all go to the party. He had heard all about those Hollywood Hills Party’s but never been to one so he was good to go.  We met early next day at Dave’s gas station, take my ’35 Ford and head for the beach. We eventually met a couple of girls and invited them to the party, all is well…

At about 8:00 pm we gather up the girls and head over to Mulholland Drive, we find the house, lots of cars, had to park about a block away. It is a beautiful big house with pool and a panorama view of the city, many people, lots of upscale snacks, soda, beer, booze and Champaign, we are all impressed, a very classy party. I’m asking around as who is the Hostess so we can say thanks for the invite but no one seems to know where she is, so we are all just mingling, chatting and dancing when someone says they think a neighbor upset with the noise had called the police, not all that unusual.  There was a curfew in effect, all kids under 18 had to be off the streets after 10:00 PM, it was not strictly enforced but if caught drinking or drunk you could be taken down to the Police Station where the police would call your parents to come get you.  Within a few minutes most of the kids at the party had taken off. I had just turned 18 a few days before and the girl I was with was 18 as well, we figured no problem for us but her girlfriend was 17, so I suggested she and my pal leave, sit it out in the car and come back after the police left…

Several Police show up along with a couple of plain cloths Detectives?  There were about 20 kids still hanging around, they line us all up and say all over 18 raise hands, my date and I and a few others hold up our hands, about four boys and three girls, we seven are moved to the other side of the room, then a Detective who seems to be in charge asks who is hosting the party?  A very young girl (who I noticed drinking Champagne earlier in the evening) steps forward, says she is the daughter of the owners, they are out of town and her mother gave her permission to have a party, the Detective ask her name and age, she gives her name and says she is 14 years old.  The Detective tells everyone but us seven to go home.  He turns to us and says we adults are under arrest for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”?  I didn’t know what “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” was all about, she was drinking her own Champaign in her own house and we did not even know her and besides there were two real adults in the house, a cook and a valet/butler. Anyway they put just us seven into police cars and down the hill we go to the Hollywood Police Station, we four boys (none whom I previously knew) were booked and put into a cell, didn’t know what happened to the girls…

Early the next morning we are put into a caged police van and taken downtown to the main L.A. Lincoln Heights Jail where we are tossed into a huge cell filled with drunks, crazies and an assortment of really mean looking characters, just like in a “B” movie. There are a few bare steel bunk beds bolted to the back wall, we four huddle together on a top bunk, the weirdoes are checking us over, demanding cigarettes, eyeing and touching our shoes, asking what we’re in for? One of our new friends, a few years older than the rest of us, maybe 21, scowls at the creeps and tells them that we were in for murder; we looked at him like what? Are you crazy? He just says now the creeps will leave us alone, and he was right. The rest of the day is kind of fuzzy, some food was brought in but we ignored it and hung tight on the top bunk, we were in there all day Sunday and Sunday night, a sleepless nightmare, drunks puking all over, loony’s screaming, guys swearing and fighting, guards coming in with clubs breaking up the fights and every hour or so additional drunks and weirdoes were tossed in…

Early the next morning (Monday) the guards come in with a fire hose, washed the place down soaking several bums in the process.  After the wash-down they start calling out names and guys are saying “here” and rush to the open gate and disappear, at long last they call out our four names, we shout “here” jump off the bunk and run to the gate. They say we are free to go, give us our personal stuff and show us the door.  My Navy Reserve pal is waiting for me, the other guys have people waiting as well, we say goodbye and good luck to each other and quickly go our separate ways. My Navy Reserve pal tells me that he and his date followed us to the Hollywood Police Station and tried to get us out but were told we were being held while the girl’s father considered pressing formal charges, and that it could take up to 72 hours.  Fortunately the father decided not to press charges thus our release Monday morning. He said my date was released as soon as they arrived at the Hollywood Station and he drove both girls home, their parents never knew what happened.  I called my date later in the day, she was cool, enjoyed the adventure, said we would get together soon so I could tell her all that happened in jail, Ok, see you soon… 

I told Dave the whole story, he laughed, said it was a good learning experience; I went home and slept the entire day and night  A few days later Dave reads in the paper the background story, seems like the girl’s father was a big wheel in Hollywood, was getting a divorce and there was a child custody dispute, he claimed the mother was a drunk and an unsuitable mother and he wanted the kids, apparently the neighbor, his pal, was keeping an eye on the house and his kids so when the neighbor noted the wild party he called to report same, the mogul used his influence and had the Hollywood Police raid the party to obtain proof (Newspaper Headlines) of his wife’s behavior…

Adios Packard:  A couple of weeks before I was expecting to be called up for active duty in the Navy I went over to Arty’s Used Car Lot and asked him what my good old ’37 Packard Convertible was worth. He looked it over carefully, it is a sharp car, no top but it looks good. Arty says if the engine was in in decent shape (it was not), that a dealer would pay about $200 to $225, top it, a quick cheap paint job and sell it retail for about $499.  I want to drive it until the last day so selling it to a private party would be difficult; a sharp buyer paying the full price would want it for a day to have the engine checked out so I will pass on a private sale and wholesale it off.  Arty directs me to a few Used Car Lots that deal in that kind of merchandise. I fill the crankcase with heavy weight motor oil and a big shot of “Motor Honey”, the oil pressure is Ok and it’s running smooth.  I visit the Lots on the list but no takers, only one more to go, it’s a ratty old Lot and Garage full of Junkers located across the County Line on Santa Monica Blvd in the low rent district. I pull up in front of the Office, my Packard is the best looking car on the Lot, guy comes out, we talk, he floors the engine, pulls the dip stick, knows exactly what it’s all about, offers me $200. I try for $225 but no deal, I tell him I’m waiting to be called up for active duty and I need to drive it until the last day, maybe a week or two? Ok with him but keep in touch and call him every few days… 

I’m called up about two weeks later and given two days’ notice to meet at Union Station. I call the Car Lot and say I will drop the car off at noon next day.  I’m living in Sherman Oaks, no Freeways then, I take Coldwater Canyon (or maybe it was Beverly Glen) over the hill to Santa Monica Blvd, as I reach the top of the hill dense black smoke starts billowing out of the exhaust, bad news, I shut off the ignition and coast almost the entire way to Santa Monica Blvd.  I managed to get the car to the street curb in front of the Lot. I run in like I’m really in a hurry, say I’m off to Union Station and the Navy, guy looks over at the Packard, asks if everything is Ok? Perfect but the battery is shot, may have to give it a boost to get it started. I hand over the signed Pink and he makes out a Bill of Sale and check for $200. Tells a guy in the garage to take a booster battery, start and drive it on the Lot, the guys having lunch with a few other guys, says Ok, in a few minutes. Owner hands me a carbon copy of the Bill of Sale and the check, wishes me good luck and we shake hands…

I’m walking fast down Santa Monica Blvd, when out of sight I start hitchhiking, no rides but a Taxi Cab is coming down the street, I flag him down, show the driver the check and say take me to that Bank. It’s actually my very first Taxi ride; the Bank is only a few miles away. I pay the driver, rush in to cash the check but the Teller has to get Managers approval. I’m worried the phone will ring any moment and the Dealer will stop the check. Manager comes over and looks at check, I show him my Driver’s License and copy of the Bill of Sale and tell him the whole story, I’m running late, going to Union Station/San Diego the Navy etc., Manager Ok’s the check and wishes me good luck in the Navy, I get the cash in $20’s, hitchhike to Dave’s Gas Station, go across the street to a Bank of America branch and open a savings account for $200…

A few pictures:  August 1946: Hal sitting in my 1936 Plymouth “Hot Rod”.  Picture was taken in the Mojave Desert during one of our many off-road rabbit hunting and exploration excursions throughout Southern California.



Eddy and girlfriend Jeanne and Jeanne and I in front of Dave’s Texaco Gas Station.

Bon Voyage:  The night before I left for the Navy Hal and Eddy threw me a farewell party at Hal’s house, I think it was on a Saturday, I was staying over and they were going to take me to Union Station early Sunday morning.   I recall the party started early, like in the afternoon and continued thru Sunday Morning.  The popular drink at the time was the Singapore Sling; our version was just gin and some kind of a sweet heavy red Hawaiian Punch, an awful oversweet drink and I drank a lot, in fact it was the first time I drank too much and too soon thus the entire day, evening and next day are fuzzy.  I recall many friends I had known over the past years from Fairfax, Hollywood, L.A. and Van Nuys High Schools were coming and going the entire evening, it must have been a great party. I don’t know who all took me to the Station and checked me in. It was a long miserable train ride to San Diego, then they packed us all into a big Navy Bus and to the Training Center where we spent the entire day getting physical exams, clothing, aptitude and qualification tests, this and that and all the while people are screaming at us and yelling instructions.  I was really hung over and don’t know how I passed any of the indoctrination tests. When we finally got into our assigned barracks and a bunk I just collapsed.  It was the last time I ever drank a Singapore Sling…

The 12 Hour Pass:  I’m in the Navy attending Boot Camp, at that time an intensive eleven week training ordeal that converts a civilian into a sailor. Early one morning about the fifth week a messenger in a jeep shows up where we are training and informs me that I have an emergency telephone call from home, he drives me to Headquarters, gives me the telephone number and a telephone. I recognize the number as Eddy, I call and Eddy tells me that Dave has a problem, can’t pay for tomorrow’s gas delivery, meaning he could lose his Franchise. Eddy tells me several friends are chipping in to make the payment, Eddy asks if I can loan Dave some of the money I Banked from the Packard sale, no problem. I was given special permission to go ashore (to San Diego) to the Bank and transfer the money to Dave’s Local Bank Account and to return ASAP.  Shortly after noon I’m off to San Diego. In Boot Camp your hair is cut off leaving a bare head, your new uniforms are usually ill-fitting, like about a size or two larger than you need, and the hats are too big, so with no hair, a big hat and a hanging uniform everyone immediately knows you’re just a “Boot”, not yet a real Sailor (It’s called “Boot Camp” because the Recruits always wear “leggings” which look like “Boots”)…

I transfer the full $200 from the Packard sale to Dave and close my account, I’m heading back to Base when I notice I have what looks like a regular 12 hour Pass, meaning I have until 12 midnight before I have to report back to Base. I have my Naval Reserve ID Card indicating I’m now 23 years old, the same little devil that made that ID card is back and now wants me to check out the town! And why not, I deserve a little break.  So I go into the first saloon I see and nonchalantly set myself down at the bar and order, in the most mature voice I can muster a “Vodka & 7 on the rocks” the bartender looks at me and figures I’m about 15 cause I look about 15 with no hair, an oversized hat over my ears and the hanging uniform, he asks for an ID and I hand him my Naval Reserve ID and I tell him I’m in the Naval Reserve down here doing my regular 2 weeks of Active Duty, he looks at the card and me, shakes his head in disbelief and pours the vodka. Soon I’m checking out all the bars and shops along the main drag eventually stumbling into a small but very friendly Italian restaurant, the waitress is the owner’s daughter, for a little pocket change I have a big plate of spaghetti, bread sticks and a free glass of homemade red table wine. I leave a nice tip cause I will be back. Now I’m really feeling confident and pretty good after the past hard month at Boot Camp, I was thinking about having my uniform tailored and buying a proper fitting hat so I visit a few tailor shops but soon realized I did not have enough money, one tailor tells me the hat will shrink after a few washings and after my hair grows back, suggest if I want to look sharp for the girls I should buy a custom tailored uniform, I agree, tell him I will be back soon…

About 7:00 PM the town is really starting to jump, loud Western music blaring out of many saloons. San Diego was a 110% Navy town, Main Street was lined with bars, barkers, tattoo shops, tailor/uniform shops, pimps, hookers, wino’s begging change and cigarettes and all the other essentials dear to a sailors heart. There are Sailors and Marines all over the street and the bars are full, I’m really in the Navy now and no disappointments. I wander into a bar with blaring western music, lots of girls and sailors, a find a stool, sit down and order a Vodka & 7 on the rocks, the bartender looks at my ID and me and calls over a couple of oversized Navy Shore Patrol Sailors, I didn’t see them when I entered or I would have bypassed that bar, I’m a bit worried as they are carefully checking my ID, I tell them I’m on Active Duty for two weeks, they mutter something about “Feather Merchants” (that’s what regular Navy sailors called Reservists) and give the barkeeper the OK, I breath a sign of relief. The sailors sitting on both sides of me take off and two attractive gals immediately take their stools and we start talking, I tell them I’m in the Naval Reserve down here doing my regular two weeks of Active Duty, my civilian job is at Paramount Studios where I do such things as coordinate delivery of mail, costumes and flowers to the various performers, sets and stages, care for Lana Turners daughter when she’s shooting a scene and after work I hang out with my pal Bob Mitchum, and it all rolls so smoothly off my tongue I actually believed it myself. One of the girls said they knew there was something “special” about me because I was drinking Vodka and almost everyone else was drinking beer. The girls naturally assumed I had “deep pockets”…

So we’re buying each other drinks and other sailors are trying to move in but the girls tell them their with me and to shove off, then I realize they are a couple of hookers working as a team, soon going to invite me to “party” where they will toss me back and forth a few times, relieve me of all my money and deposit me on the street for the Shore Patrol to pick up and return me to the Base. Like how lucky can I get, I’ve only been in the Navy 5 weeks and already I’m making out big time, but I’m running out of money and then the girls will drop me like a hot rock, so I’m wondering what to do when an older sailor casually moves in close behind us and buys a round, soon we are a foursome and the girls suggest we save some money, just buy a bottle and go over to their apartment. They have a car, the sailor buys a bottle and we arrive at the girl’s apartment, their landlady is waiting, reminds the girls that their rent is due tomorrow, tells us to be quite, keep the radio down or she will call the Shore Patrol. We are as quite as possible but still having a good time, I stopped drinking earlier and was constantly looking at their clock , I see it is getting closer to midnight and I’m worried about getting back to Base, the girl I’m with notices my anxiety, she’s pretty sharp, was married to a sailor, she figures out that I’m just a “Boot”, not a Reserve on Active Duty, she asks what time I have to check in,  I tell her 12 midnight, it’s now about 11:30, she immediately goes into the back bedroom and tells the Sailor to drive me to the Base like right now, he is not happy about that but she insists, he gets dressed. I empty my pocket on the living room cocktail table, it’s about $4 and change, she smiles and shakes her head, wishes me good luck in the Navy, gives me a hug and her car keys to the other Sailor. It’s after midnight when we get to the Training Centers Main Gate, if I go in now I’m in trouble, the Sailor driving say’s not to worry, he starts cruising along and around the tall wire fence until he finds a nice dark spot, pulls the car right along the fence and tells me to climb on the car roof and climb over the fence, it looks impossible but no choice…

He tells me if a Base Patrol spots me walking around show them my Pass, tell them I came in the Main Gate about half hour ago but got lost and can’t find my barracks?  I’m up on the car roof, I somehow manage to crawl over the top barbed wire, climb down a few feet and jump, very lucky not to have hung up on the barbed wire and not have torn or broken anything. I wave him off and start looking for my barracks, I have no clue as to where I am, soon a Jeep Patrol spots me, I show them my Pass, tell them I came in the Main Gate about 30 minutes ago and now I’m lost!  They buy it and drive me to my barracks. Very quietly I sneak in, to my surprise several of the guys are up worried and waiting for me, the next hour I tell them all about my day in San Diego, the Bars, the Girls and the Sailor bringing me home.  And now I’m now the hero of “Boot Company 388” everyone is my pal all wanting to go on Shore Leave with me…

The ensuing four years in the Navy were for all practical purposes a continuation of the past four years in High School, but a lot more excitement, more fun and many more memorable adventures…

In Conclusion:  I was discharged from the Navy in August 1952 a few days after my 23rd birthday, my original three year enlistment was extended (Korean War) for an additional year. I was a Naval Aviator flying as a Radar/Navigator in a Skyraider Attack Bomber; I did three combat tours off three Aircraft Carriers.   I’m now thinking back to 1944 when I was 15, WW II was raging with no end in sight, Servicemen were all over Hollywood enjoying themselves for a few days prior to departure to the Pacific: “they were our hero’s, we have been reading and seeing in the movies stories and pictures about the War every day for years already and all the boys I knew where anxious to join up, get a neat uniform, go to the Hollywood Canteen, have lots of pretty girlfriends, get medals and be hero’s. Our future was pre-planned and we had no complaints”…

I did “join up”, I got those neat tailored-made uniforms, I never made it to the Hollywood Canteen (rumor was it never came up to WWII standards) but Bob Hope came aboard our Aircraft Carrier while we were in the combat zone and put on a terrific show, I did have lots of pretty girlfriends and I received a bunch of medals, and fortunately I was never a hero, the only hero I knew was dead, a good friend and squadron shipmate, Wallace Galyon, his plane crashed at sea…

Manny      Galyon

I visited Dave immediately upon my discharge; the old neighborhood looked pretty much the same, same people hanging around, new kids now working at the gas station probably doing the same things we did. I asked Dave to run me a tab for the $200 I lent him four years ago. I visited the gas station often over the following year; my $200 credit never seemed to run out. I moved out of the area and soon found work, then college, more work, more college, married a job in the electronics/aerospace industry, a new home, kids, extended business trips, busy, always busy. And then seemingly without notice decades had slipped by and I realized I had lost touch with old friends and old places.  

One day like maybe a half century later I find myself driving down an unfamiliar traffic clogged Melrose Avenue, I see that Paramount has a big new entrance gate and had taken over the RKO facility, I go over to the old Paramount Bronson Gate and take a look around, I note that Dave’s Texaco Gas Station, Lucy’s, Cosmos, Leroy’s, the Liquor Store, the Melrose Tavern, Doc’s Office, Western Costume and most of the old neighborhood had vanished. I’m thinking about Hal, Eddy and Dave, I recall that shortly after my Bon Voyage party Hal went off to college and dropped from sight. Eddy had married Jeanne and I eventually married Jeanne’s best friend. Eddy divorced Jeanne and I eventually divorced Jeanne’s best friend. And Dave, sad to say I don’t know whatever happened to Dave; hopefully he was able to hold onto the Station until he retired…