Every now and then I get homesick for Los Angeles. The nostalgia usually comes unbidden. This morning it came in a wave when I was writing down my thoughts, a daily practice that is my mental version of sweeping the floor. I thought about how my mind felt like a change machine from a city bus, the kind they used to have in the 60s. This took me to youtube looking for footage of the machine because I wanted to hear the music of it again, how it sounded like a combination of a washing machine full of change and the crank of an old fashioned gumball machine. The only time I ever got to hear it was when I would ride the bus with my grandmother. She didn't drive and so we would catch the bus on St George to Franklin then on to the shopping center at Vermont and Hollywood Blvd near Barnsdall Park. We had to transfer twice, so we'd pass the change machine every time we got on the bus. I found the sounds and smells of the bus intoxicating.
Before I could find a youtube of the change machine, I found this little snippet from Hollywood in the 40s. The camera is moving west on Sunset Blvd to turn south on Highland Ave. You can see Hollywood High on the right as they come to a stop in the left turn lane. It's the big white building behind that thick row of palms. In 1960, we lived on Citrus Ave, one block off Highland between Melrose and Beverly. That's about a mile south of this intersection. My father's animation studio was less than a mile behind the camera on Homewood off Sunset and Vine. We traveled this particular strip of Sunset regularly. But what I'd forgotten was the sign you see on your left in the first half of the clip, the upright for "auto service".
My brother and I had a game we played on Saturday mornings while our parents slept though I can't imagine how they could have slept through this game. We called the game "Auto Service". That sign must have been quite an impression on my brother, cuz he named the game. Our house had a curving staircase that arrived on the second floor just outside our parent's bedroom. It had a two inch-thick rope railing with brass end fittings that looped from brass hook to hook up the perfectly curved wall. We would take turns at the top of the stairs. The one at the bottom (usually me) would call out "auto service", then the one at the top would send a ball bouncing down the stairs. We had a myriad collection, from teensy rubber balls all the way up to the voit rubber foursquare ball. Just the different sounds of each individual ball was enough to have us laughing. But the kid at the bottom would have to get that ball back up the stairs without leaving the lower entrance hall where the stairs began and the best way to do this was to roll it up the curve of the wall. Second best was to throw a perfectly placed bank shot at just the right point of the curve. A miss would send the ball bouncing off the walls and back down the stairs. The sounds coupled with the frustration level would have us nearly peeing in our pants. This would keep up until our parents got up or we heard dad yelling "goddammit" from the bedroom. In retrospect I believe they were unbelievably tolerant, because we played this game quite a bit.
I learned to knit in that house and remember knitting inside, outside, in the play house, on the front steps. It was a beautiful house, of old brick, kind of an English style, set sideways on the lot with a brick courtyard complete with a small goldfish pond (a rectangular pool where you could sit and look at the fish). It was shaded by a huge Chinese Elm under which were planted camelias, azaleas, impatients and freesias in season. My most vivid 60s knitting memory was sitting on those bricks cross legged with a needle wedged straight up and down between my crossed legs, my first attempts at stabilizing my left hand needle. I'd enter the stitch with the right hand needle, throw the yarn in an enormous arc to make the stitch, then lift the RH needle up and over the tip of the LH needle with the aid of my thumbs, then pull the just made stitch up and off. Once I was proficient enough to do this rather quickly, my mom taught me Continental style. This is the scene that always comes to me when I remember her saying, "Now dear, let me show you an easier way."