The SoCal Trip 1975

main-street-parade-disneyland-1975

Have you ever flown on an airplane with a head cold? With your sinuses full up and all you can do is sit there with your eyes clamped shut and teeth gritted? The take-off had been no problem, so there had been no “theatrical trailer” heralding the excruciating experience waiting in the wings.

The landing was the horse of a different color. It felt like an invisible fiend was exploring the inside of my head with the point of an icepick. I chalk it up to the change of air pressure that occurred as we descended. It was with great relief that we finally touched down, and the experience was soon relegated to a distant memory, (with a note to self – never to fly with a head cold again). Our vacation could finally begin in earnest.

This was our first ever vacation to Southern California, and to some of its choice attractions – Disneyland and “Hollywood” to be precise. I do not remember the exact details as to arrangments but we had passes (open sesames) to each stop. It was through favor of the branch managers that my Dad knew (and I would later know myself when working at Saffle’s).

Our first day in SoCal was spent in the Magic Kingdom – Disneyland, courtesy of the BV branch manager in Seattle, Homer Schmidt. It was my second visit, and I think it was perhaps the second time for my wife. The park was prepping for the big bicentennial for the United States the following year, and had already added pertinent events – like America on Parade –  a bicentennial version of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

From here on out, “Gone with the Wind” seemed to be the theme for the rest of the vacation. For, the next day we had an appointment to take a tour of the MGM studio in Culver City, courtesy of the MGM branch manager Connie Carpou. We were driving up Washington Blvd in that fair city, when my wife’s eye caught a curious sight. It appeared to be the mansion from her all-time favorite film – “Gone with the Wind.” Or to be more precise the mansion on the beginning clip that announced it was a David O. Selznick production. There it was in all its glory. And what did we do? We turned the car around and drove back to get a closer look.

We found a side street and parked the car. Nearby we found the studio gate and its guard. As I remember it now, it was a bit of a tunnel, overhung like a garden arbor. So we questioned him about the lot and the mansion out front, and he confirmed our guess that it was indeed what we had seen in the movies. They did not allow visitors at this studio, and since we had our appointment at MGM to get to, we left.

MGM was only a short distance away. We checked in at the Thalberg building to begin our tour of the lot. We were taken through the east gate and down the main street (I think there was advertising for the upcoming release of The Sunshine Boys). First stop was the MGM Scoring Stage. Here we learned that the music soundtracks for the “Wizard of Oz,” “Ben Hur,” and, of course, “Gone with the Wind” were scored. (And to my amazement, one of my all-time favorites “Lawrence of Arabia”).

Our guide pointed out to us the water tank beside the main street, and informed us that it had been built for and used by the swimming film star, Esther Williams. We next got a peek inside an empty sound stage. It was just that, empty, and big.

The rest of the tour at MGM is hazy in my memory. I thought we went briefly into the back lot, where the exterior sets stand – like the New York set; the Carvel town set (Andy Hardy’s hometown), etc. But since “That’s Entertainment” had come out just the year before, I more than likely conflate my memories of its sequences that were shot on this same backlot with those of our tour. I recall mention of certain restrictions that were in place due to insurance concerns.

The last stop on our vacation was a tour of Universal Studios, courtesy of Russell Brown the Seattle branch manager for Universal. It was not at all like the amusement park venue that it is now. We actually got to get out and walk around in certain areas. I remember walking through covered areas where props and greens were set out in the open. We attended a demonstration of movie make up in which members of the audience were “made up” as the Frankenstein monster. (I did not volunteer). But the most memorable item (especially for my wife) was an exhibit that contained a Techincolor camera – one of the cameras that had been used when shooting “Gone with the Wind.”

Our trip back was via an Amtrak train on an over night schedule to Seattle. It had been planned that way from the beginning, not because of my recent experience on the plane. In the main it was memorable because we were sidetracked some time in the night due to heavy snow. We awoke to find that the tracks had just been cleared.

We enjoyed ourselves very much. So much so, that we have been back a number of times, the next one being the very next year.

A future post or posts on that experience to come.

universal-studios-makeup-demo-1975

Not in Kansas Anymore

Not in Kansas Anymore

It was a crazy month leading up to our wedding. I got pulled over by a cop one evening. It had been a long day – school in the morning and work at night. Since I was now an assistant manager at the UA Cinemas 150 and 70, I had the responsibility to stay until after the shows were out and lock up. By the time I hit Mercer Island on my way home my Roadrunner was slowing below the speed limit and wandering a bit. Or so the officer told me. He was suspicious that I had been drinking. I assured him that “no officer, I’m just tired.” I guess I passed muster on that count for he let me off with just a warning.

The day of our wedding was both memorable and a blur. We were so thankful to my folks for their insistence that we take time after the ceremony to take dinner with them and the rest of our new extended families before departing on our honeymoon. Besides my (now our) Roadrunner was a mess. Neither Karen’s folks’ home nor mine were adjudged safe places to hide it. We had parked it in a large shopping center lot in hopes that the crew at the Renton Cinemas could not find it to practice their mischief on. We were unsuccessful.

But we were not stressed at all about it. And that was due to the efforts of my sterling best man Dave. We did not learn what had been done to it until he had taken care of the problems. He retrieved it after the ceremony, but he had to clean it out before he could even drive it – it had been stuffed full of popcorn and ballons – about three garbage cans full. He cleaned off the shaving cream that decorated the outside. And then there were the hubcaps that had been taken off and stuffed full of dirt and pennies that rattled around when he tried to drive away.

So we were relaxed and no longer in a blur when we set out on the road for our honeymoon destination, Victoria, BC. Now as you may know you cannot “drive” to Victoria, you have to take a ferry. And we set our first stop – Anacortas – from where we would depart from its ferry terminal the next morning. I’ll never forget the sight we saw as we were driving into this town that evening. There is an oil refinery just outside town that was visible against the night sky, bathed a bright green light looking for all the world like the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz.

And like Dorothy, when we woke up the next morning, we knew that we were not in Kansas anymore.