the 40s & 50s

1940 dryers barely existed

‘Movie palaces’ in Los Angeles had pretension of a canny sort: statues, fountains, bas-reliefs, finials, murals, urns, sconces, lamp stands, medallions, carpets, grilles, column, balusters, balconies, bays, etc. the mighty Wurlitzer organs, suspended starry ceilings, all-around architectural embellishment. it was impure, profuse, exotic, eclectic, kitschy, skilled, ooo and ahh architecture.

1940 only a minority of homes had wringer-washers.
‘41 radar; lst modern detergent

‘43 zippers scarce during wwII and you couldn’t get metal toys, only 8000 homes had TV’s

After WW II – air cond (which made living in the sun belt easier) supermarkets,, frozen foods, 33 rpm records, penicillin

Family Folklore

[hap and jeff are my bros.]

(In the 20s our neighborhood was at the outskirts of Santa Ana, Calif., a citrus town of 30,000. The homes sold for $3k-$6k. Ours was built in 1930 for $6K. We moved in in l940.)

1940s ——————————————– – – – –

Hap got his name from being a happy baby; the only way you could get a picture of him crying was to take his bottle away.

Our phone number was Santa Ana 0205-J.

Jeff and I rode a bike that had no tires on the rims.

Keith remembered stars on the ceiling that glowed in the dark, peanut butter & honey on whole wheat, and sliding on the wet driveway.

The folks used to listen to Fred Allen, Charlie McCarthy, and Jack Benny. Our toaster was not automatic. We burned the toast often, then scraped it.

June Bright remembers mother making apricot sandwiches.

Mother baked a lot of cookies – some of persimmon. She made so many that cookies from the store were a treat.

As a kid I ate a lot of cereal, and while eating, I’d stare at the back of the cereal box. It seemed each one came from Battle Creek, Michigan.

When I heard of Radio City. I thot it was a city made of radios.

We always asked our folks, ‘What’s there to DOOOOO ? ‘

Wee Willie Winkie. Three Billy Goats Gruff. Sparkle Plenty. In the movies the stagecoach wheels went backwards.

We dug foxholes. Jeff had a half shovel. He used to skip on one foot. We made ‘forts,’ making the inside as dark as possible.

I used to listen to the radio before falling asleep. The glow of the radio dial drew my eye like a campfire, as I heard ‘The Adventures of the Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Shon?Du The Magician, and Straight Arrow who each time rode out of a cave yelling ‘kamewa fueri.’ That still send chills up my spine. I sent in box tops for a trick that made pennies turn into dimes, figuring I’d become rich. I visited this house, 2l09 flower, in the 80s. Behind the house number was a small squirrelly bulb, trying to do its job. It had been on since at least 1970, as there was no switch!

The old street lamps are still used; the city keeps extras.

In 1948 the taxes on our house were $192/yr. We sold it for around $20,000 and moved ‘out in the country’ to Baker st. with its walnut and orange groves, dry river bed, and dog pound. There was no sewer line beyond a few houses north of ours.

47-50 tv spreads [it is a status symbol and central piece of furniture in living room]
5l 1st modern credit card

52 My parents rented a TV for a company party ? couldn’t get the kids away from it.

50s ————— – – – – –

We had to ask the operator to dial the number [ki 3-2507].

Jeff got his picture in the paper crossing l7th st. Hap and I were just off camera in case the photographer needed someone else.

When our hollow front door was being worked on, I put a letter inside it. I put another in a globe. A friend’s mother later found it.

Root beer floats, radio flyer wagon, making breadcrumbs, smoking pencil shavings in bamboo pipes, getting into a jam and saying ‘kings x’, getting out electric trains on rainy days.

Someone put a horseshoe over a branch while mowing the front lawn. It was forgotten and the branch eventually grew around it.

Osceola summer camp – a week for $l7.

Early dips in water so cold, it made your skin tight. Crafts, campfires with skits, hikes. Mom sent us clothes with candy and gum hidden in the pockets.

Once I put a small disk in a lamp socket that made the light blink and then went off on a camping trip. The light kept blinking, putting the folks in a stew. They were all over the room trying to figure it out.

When fireworks made my ears ring, I went to the piano to see what key they were ringing in -‘G’ (they still do).

Christmas Decorating the tree with popcorn and cranberries. Xmas cookies. Saving the wrapping paper. ‘Come find me’s’ presents. Best present I bought was a boat for $l.25 for my brother. You filled it with water and put a candle under a diaphragm. It putt-putted around the bathtub. Absolutely couldn’t wait for him to open it.

After opening things, we’d leave them out for a day or two so wer could appreciate them.

65 cent haircuts near bristol and 4th.

Five summers at El Moro. We’d wake up hearing the surf.

Good days coming home after school and making a peanut butter and jam ‘samrich.’

Bike hikes for a merit badge.

Laurel and Hardy. Charlie Chase.

In 6th Grade I and 3 friends formed a club. Once a year we’d shave and smoke – calling ourselves The Wee Weeders and Little Shavers.

Boy scout jamboree: bullwhips, catsup hamburgers, trading patches … .

In jr. hi. when walking the girls home, we had to pedal our bikes as slow as possible or push ourselves along the curb with one foot.

Before a party on the patio, I spent hours adjusting the colored lights for romance. This still tickles mom.

We showed girls how to crack the bull whip.

Pomade, Wild Root. Crusader Rabbit.

rookey reinstein, tricky stevens, billy boston beans, scallywag, alphenstien, alfredo Beans, alphenheimer, phonse de gardinero, fleadermouse, freak ltd, freak on the halfshell, freak fisticuffs, who-itz, sister-woman, barracuda, lizard, bonzo, screech-owl, stroker magurk, spanky.

Teenage expressions, etc.

Out in the skreet, who dat say dat, snit, hey now, gone to pot, scarfed it down, you’re a card, cut to beach, rack eye, rays, ratty, I waxed him, all stoked up, drizzly, to grease a date, cut a trail, a blow out or function (party), suds, make points with, birdog, buzz over to, make time with, take a girl to the pit, clue in, a tuff pair of socks, shag to beach, shot out of the saddle, bugged out, snake in the grass. What’s the skinney, the haps, the good word, shaken, tuff as a cob, mangy, raunchy, cold as all get out, come stag or drag, phone-o-call. Lovelies, chaquitas, lookers, surfettes. Record funny, the all time flic, gad-zooks, swelligant, splendific, don’t flush the falcon, tuff banana, dragon-wagon, cooties, gadgets (sweet rolls), threads, togs, togged to the teeth, putting on the dog, take gas.
I addressed letters to the folks with

Billy the kid, biff baker – usa, folks village, santa’s help-haus, sonny and cheer, los patrons, hayseeds, vonder­volk, sponsors of freak, zhivago & co, elwood p. suggins, caseload, folk city, garb, suburbans, garb haus, the old gang minus 3, christmas elfs, mutt and jeff, old dad village, until the postman told them, it would be easier if I used the family name.

Jeff liked and was typified by: the frog character, thaddeus j. toad, in the movie THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, the music of scott joplin (the sting), the old fashioned bike with the huge front wheel – the velociped, and the lollipop boys (in THE WIZARD OF OZ).

He would turn off his old car, get out, run, and … BAM … fall over dead, when it backfired. One Xmas I gave him Sassparilla.

Pets animolecules: boots, elmer fudd, jasper, gus, fritz. Mother used leftover medicine on them.

We got our dogs from the pound. We picked them for personality. When choosing one and leading him out, the others barked up a storm, knowing he was getting his freedom.

Most hated baths, but then went nuts – tearing around the yard at a 45?degree angle. We took them on deliveries. We’d try to get them to see themselves in the mirror or to watch TV.

One tried to bite the sparks of the fireworks.

Once we put a glass bowl over the dog’s food and watched him try to get it. Another time we heated his food.

Sometimes we’d eat a sandwich in front of him as he sat waiting for a bite. When we gave him one, he’d inhale it in a gulp – not even taste it – and look sadly for another. Inside the house Dad would hear us say, ‘Now NO!’ and later say how those two words told a story.

One called Jasper waited out front for the putt-putt of my motorcycle. I’d bring home a number l0 can from Norman’s restaurant with steaks, etc. The next morning his stomach bulged.

One entry in my diary reads, ‘Jasper bit a foreign student; we might have to pay for a few shots.’

Once mother took him to her class to show the students how he sang. He wouldn’t.

Once mother and I went to the pound for a dog and spied Gus. He was jumping to great heights. I said, ‘What about this one?’, and Mother said dubiously, ‘Well, he sure does jump ….’ (He later scaled a 5?foot fence.)

The neighborhood loved him. He’d sleep in bed with the Alexanders. He’d sit at the corner and monitor everyone. He wouldn’t let the fireman in the backyard when the Coffin’s had a fire. (Little Robert put his fireman’s hat on.)

He and his mother once brought over an Xmas stocking full of stuff for Gus.

Years later Dad wrote ‘Hap drove out to Chloride, leaned out the window, and spoke casually to Gus, who began dancing around the truck. Hap got out and put his arms out. Gus took a running jump and landed in them, to the amazement of locals. Later he took a nip out of Bruno – to show he still had it.

‘Good old Gus – to us he will always be a very fine guy – much more than a dog.’

Years later when I saw movies of Jeff swinging him into a bush, I remember the fun we had with him, but realized how much fun he had with US!

Trips with burma shave signs and el rancho motels. We went to Hawaii when I was l6. As our ship pulled in, two gals were waving at me. I met one and stayed in touch for years.

On one family trip all the tourists were a large lodge watching KING OF KINGS. Mother thot to leave. She tripped over the cord, RIGHT during the crucifixion, bringing it to a halt.

Dad loved telling this.

When dad taught me how to drive in a pickup, I didn’t give it enough gas. The truck lurched ? jerk, jerk, jerk ? bouncing him on the seat. He got tired, but remained patient.

Cars power glide, overdrive, cruise-a-matic, dynaflow.

Hap’s old truck from Mr. Hup, the jeep, and the 39 Ford, passed from one brother to the next. Many a honnie sat in it.

3-D movies. Proms. Slides. Sea scouts. Life guarding.

49 – TV’s more common. They were the main piece of furniture in the living room; some had doors on the front. We watched Time for Beany, Space Patrol, Your Hit Parade. TV hurt the movie industry badly, but it much later recovered.

5l – flip comics, shredded ralston (Wheat Chez), Spike Jones. Smudge pots in orange groves. Cereal used to come in small 3 by 5 boxes. You’d lay it on the back side, cut open the front, pour in the milk, and eat out of the box.

52 – Let’s ‘mess off.’ ‘Hey now.’ Mad magazine. The boys used pomade and Butch Wax. When getting ready for a dance, we’d comb our hair for hours and try to think up conversa­tion.

53 – pink & black ¾ length shirts. blue suede shoes, peggers, starched blue denims. the boys rolled their sleeves up twice, argyle socks with angora wool. parties on driveways or in garages with the new 45 rpm’s record players. jr. promenade. the lindy.

Willard jr. hi [Marlon Brando went to Lathrop for a year]

dance classes upstairs at Carla Wonger’s. One girl went because ‘it was a chance to touch a boy.’ mel-arn donuts. floral village. the snack shop.

I’ll see you in my dreams. Goodnight sweetheart.

Students hung out under the huge tree in the patio.

54 – – italian boy shirts, cry me a river – by johnny ray. the bop, flying saucers [this is john Camron Camron. please turn off the bubble machine …]. girls used to wear hair in a brushup, also a poodle cut. saddle shoes, white bucks. the fuller brush man.

55 – elvis. Stan Freeberg. When the boys voices changed they couldn’t make the sound of tires skidding. the edinger dip. braces. We’d study ‘like all get out’. We’d ‘rank out’ somebody. Disneyland opened. We’d go ‘downtown’ to rankins, vandermasts, harris and frank, for clothes and to the blue-note or gracie’s for records. Disneyland opened.

/when did pizza come in

56 sha boom, day-o, the great pretend­er, root beer floats, cherry cokes,

the palladium with Ray Anthony or Harry James. 3-d (which ‘faked us out’), cinerama, cinemascope, panavis­ion, todd a-o. We used to ‘eat up that stuff’. Hi-fidelity came in. We’d cruise by girls’ houses (not knowing what to do if they came out).

57 – Lunch in the sch. cafeteria was 35 cents. They served apple crisp. Car washes, the drive-in, hayrides, cash­meres, flatops, crew cuts, so rare, april in paris, the platters singing ‘my prayer.’ passed notes in study hall. surfing stories. nash ramblers. cooties. learner’s permit. pony tails. moonlight in vermont. a street dance. putting soap in the org fountain. slumber parties. rebel without a cause. raunchy.

The guys’ ideal was to cruise in a shackled or hung car with a 48 merc. engine, bored and stroked, with a three quarter house cam, dual carbs, cut outs, high winding gears, fender skirts, and tijuana tuck and roll upholstery. 2nd gear rubber. asked friends for a quarter for gas. (all out of American Graffiti or Grease). ‘quaaaaa­ck’.

58 – S.A. freeway completed. Later one friend who had been the Spaceman at Disneyland married the gal who had been Alice in Wonderland.

In looking back, high school in the 50s, it seemed idyllic and carefree like the TV program HAPPY DAYS, so I wrote:
Happy Daze

If you’re a middle ager who saw your friends in American Graffiti, dust off your pink and black shirts, your saddles, white bucks or blue suedes -lend an ear to yesteryear. Did you pass notes in study hall, sing in the glee club, sweat for the coach, come back form the beach with surfing tales? Did you join on and off campus clubs, make mischief, go out for sports, or hassle your folks? What were you trying to do … grow up?

Let’s find out by looking at a typical day in the 50s through eyes of big Sammy Senior the lst day of school. He’s watching Franny Freshman in braces and poodle cut. She’s dizzily walking in and saying,

‘Wow, how big everything is. I’m lost. where is everything?’

‘Right here honey, write down your phone number, I’ve got a car.’

‘What kind?’

‘A Nash Rambler.’


‘Well it’s my dad’s but its got whitewalls.’

‘Oh I don’t know; I’ll tell you later.’ She traipses off and along come Freddy the Frosh wearing a beanie cap over a freshly pomaded ducktail. He says,

‘Hi sir, where is P.E.?’ Big sammy senior says,

‘Oh knock it off punk; sign up for football. But lst, did you know that girl in jr. hi?’

‘Yeah, but she won’t talk to me now; she acts like I have cooties.’

‘Tough break son, but you’ll have to get a learner’s permit.’ Freddy leaves and along comes sara senior. Big Sam says,

‘Hi toots, how bout a date?’ Sara:

‘Sorry loser, I go out with college men.’ She floats away and big Sam murmurs, ‘Nuts, another dateless weekend. Anyhow, all the shackled and hung cars are parked which means it’s time for my lst nap .. ah er .. class. Ho hum Geo. Washington crossed the Delaware to .. fetch a pail of water.. no that’s not right. Who cares, when I get out I’m going to work or join the army. The coach says it’ll make a man out of me. But I already shave; what does he mean?’

Ring. Time for lunch.

‘Just how cool do I look walking down the hall greeting my buds with ‘quuuuuaaaaack! Now my locker. Let’s see – the old combination: 36-24-36. It won’t open.’ [kick, stomp, bang] ‘Oh hi, Mr. vice principal, must be a gorilla in my locker – they don’t respect property.’

Ring? ‘ah ha .. I’ll use a quarter for just enough gas to cruise lunch hour. I hope I see HER again. It’s tough being a teenager in love. Let’s see a little 2nd gear rubber, slow down by the place she hangs out, and pretend not to notice. Yep, that’s her pony tail. Man would she look good at the prom, dancing to Moonlight in Vermont. I can’t stand it.

She’s great except for a speck under her toe. My mom says the perfect girl doesn’t exist, but I know she does and probably goes to school across town. I think I saw her go by in a car full of girls, and I think she looked at me.

Ring. Time for practice.

Hut 2, hut 3, hut 4. Hey what does the coach think I am? This is work, and with helmets on, how are the chicks going to SEE me. I know, I’ll snake a touchdown in the game Friday and pretend the strap broke and my helmet will come off. That way they’ll really know who it is and my folks can get a shot with their brownie as I trot back to the bench. [The kid’s always a step ahead – quaaaaack]


Well, the weekend is coming. Last Friday we cruised Main st. until we ran into the jarheads. This Friday it’s a street dance, putting soap in the fountain, crashing a slumber party, or laying rubber in front of a chick’s house – but their dad’s don’t like that. How come?

Last year I didn’t know anything. This year I know it all. Why don’t my folks know anything? Imagine, dad never cruised in a 48 merc, bored and stroked, with a three quarter house cam, dual carbs, cut outs, high winding gears, and Tijuana tuck and roll. No wonder he’s weird.

They say these are the best years of our lives, but I don’t know; my allowance isn’t keeping up with my growing pains, I guess though, when you add up all the car washes, dates to the drive in, hayrides, cashmeres, and rama rama ding ding, shoe bop-shoe bob, it beats last year – last year I was a square.

— — — —

In my senior year in high school I and a buddy wanted to leave our mark. We were student government types, but wanted to stray off the straight and narrow. We were going to paint the year of our class on the town water tower. One day we parked in front of it to make our plans. No one was around except a man crossing the parking lot toward us. We were terribly nonchalant ? no one could have guessed our purpose. The man passed us with a bemused look and with one word blew our cool. ‘Tonigh­t?’

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