Dad and Me in the Back Yard, 1959

Here I am, Dad's little pal, hair all slicked down by Mom for a series of photographs. Look at the camera? Why would I want to do that?

We're in the back yard of our rented house on Robinson Street in Los Angeles. We wouldn't move into Burbank until February 1965.

Check out that shirt Dad is wearing, a sort of tweedy or nubby Engelbert Humperdinck model with the front open. It looks like it was designed to be open that low... wow. And Dad is wearing socks with some kind of design on them which I can't make out. Mom once knitted some socks for him with martini glasses and beer glasses on the sides, but these aren't them.

Note the discarded metal thing at left. A roll-away bed frame, perhaps. This was an early indication of the path we Clarks would take for many years: When we got tired of something in the house - a sofa or a chair - it would get taken out of the house and left in the backyard to rot. So much easier than, say, taking it to the dump.

Check out the concrete and metal trash incinerator in the back. Can you believe that these were once commonplace, and that people got rid of their trash by taking it out into the back yard, cramming it into one of these and setting fire to it? Those were different times. Dad did this a couple of times (I always make sure to watch), but, generally, he just dropped our trash into a can which he hauled to the curb. And no, we didn't use plastic trash liner bags. Those didn't become popular until the Seventies...

You can see that at the upper right, our back yard was adjacent to a rather large parking lot for a supermarket and separated by a low wire fence. Later on Dad would put up a tall bamboo fencing material that gave us more privacy and became the foundation for his total tiki design, but in 1959 I used to delight in watching the cars come and go in the parking lot.

You can also see a rather scoungy tree that I used to climb, breaking branches.

Just behind the incinerator, forming a boundary for the parking lot, is a block wall perhaps four feet high. I used to like walking along the top of this. I used to think it was quite daring and acrobatic, being quite a drop. (When you're little, a four foot wall is high.)

The back yard of the house to the left of the low wall was fascinating; I used to drop over and explore all the time. The occupant of the property must have been an electrician, as the garage was filled with metal boxes, conduit, circuit breakers, etc. That garage was one of my very favorite places. It was dark and shadowy, with all sorts of interesting items. What were they used for? Rockets and spaceships? Plus there was the risk of getting caught snooping around that turned every visit into an adventure.

You can see some metal conduit leaning against the house just behind the tree. I recall seeing a lot of those items marked "Shalda"; one of the early words I learned. I found out later that Shalda was a California-based lighting company, and that my best friend Mike's father once worked there. Later on, while in the Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, the outdoor fixtures on base were all manufactured by Shalda. Small world!

That white block wall, being high with ivy on the top, was always an impediment to me. I couldn't climb up it, walk upon it on the top or see past it. It effectively barred me fom the neighbor's yard. No exploring there until my childhood friend Jimmy came on the scene, four years later...

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