Friday, March 6, 2009


The house where we lived from 1938 to 1942, from before I was 4 till after I turned 8, was then the last one; to my right as I sat on the front walk was the yellow grass of the mountain's slope.  I faced an empty lot, certainly not another house, across the street.   Alongside our house and continuing across our street, perpendicular to it, ran a track, and at 45° to our house, on the other side of it was a very important building, the home of our radio station, KVEC Mutual Don Lee, as they announced every hour, one white stuccoed cube.  None of this was paved.  The Model A was gray with a green stripe around it, just below the windows.  The upholstery was tan plush, a sort of tan plush that didn't wear out at all easily.  I think the spokes of the wheels may have been green, too.  The photo dates from the Spring of 1939, when I was nearly five and my little sister had turned two in January; my little brother, born in February, was still an infant.  The raison d'ĂȘtre for the car was that I would start school in September.  Before that day came, we took the car all the way to North Hollywood.  The Model A was not a new car, but it was our first.  I cannot use it to date trips to the beach or to the county park, because, more often than not, we went with my grandparents and in their 1931 Studebaker.  I do not have a picture of that car, but, like the Model A, it had running boards (on which my sister and I are sitting, and, no, I don't know why they were called running boards.  Webster's Dictionary says that it is attested as early as 1860, so I guess that as one ran along he could jump onto it when the carriage was already in motion).  In 1939 my grandfather got a new Studebaker, which seemed alarmingly different to us.  It had no running boards.  Not to be confused with the post-War famous Studebaker, still it made a break from square cars and rounded-off square cars (consider, e.g., a 1936 Dodge).  When we had been spending the afternoon with my grandmother, and my grandfather came home in the 1931 Studebaker, he let me stand on the running board, holding onto the upright between the windows, and ride down the sloping driveway in that way, then get off so that he could maneuver the car into the garage.  A brick garage, of course.  Its owner owned the brickyard.  To my mind, a car without running boards was hardly a car at all.
Our street address was 644; in what follows, I shall flag any recollection from this period "644".  My grandparents' street address, though on the other side of town, was "684", and that was where they lived for the rest of their lives.