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California here we came!

August 19, 2019

First, you should know my wife and I were Jerseyites. Born, raised, educated, and married in northern New Jersey. It was the spring of the year in 1957, and I had just finished a three year tour in the Air Force, stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane Washington. Much to the disappointment of our parents, rather than returning to New Jersey and my job at Curtis Wright I accepted a job with Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, California. It had been a bitterly cold winter in Washington, with the frost level going below 4 feet. We were definitely ready to thaw out. 

Upon arriving we soon found that having a year and a half old daughter and a large collie made it somewhat difficult finding accommodations close to my employment. Most apartments wouldn’t accept animals, and many didn’t want anything to do with young children.

The bulk of apartment hunting was accomplished by my wife Lynn while I was busily becoming a rocket scientist at Douglas Aircraft. Lynn, constantly modifying her approach, finally convinced a Brentwood landlord that we would be an ideal tenant for their only available, two-bedroom, ground floor apartment. Little did we know that we were about to be among the infamous and famous.

Our apartment was located at the intersection of Barrington and Montana, and, being the ground floor corner apartment, we had an entrance on Barrington which was our primary address, and an entrance on Montana which was our kitchen back door. The intersection was a stop Street on Barrington.

One block south, at Barrington and San Vincente, was the Westward Ho market and the Carousel ice cream parlor. The former frequented by the motion picture stars living in the Brentwood area and the latter by the Mafia.

Across the street from our apartment, and ½ a block up on Barrington, was the apartment complex where notorious gangster Mickey Cohen lived.

As a result, my wife often sparked the evening conversation at dinner telling me which star she saw at Westward Ho that day. My pleasure came when walking our dog on a Saturday or Sunday morning and seeing Candy Barr, Mickey Cohen’s burlesque queen girlfriend, dressed in a light négligée, walking her poodle.

The stop Street intersection provided periodic traffic accidents, and our apartment door was the first one knocked on when those involved needed a phone. Invariably they would be a famous movie star’s son or daughter. Their parent would arrive and also use the phone. I can truly say our living room was graced with such stars as Vincent Price.

Now most accidents were fender-bender’s with minimal damage, but often broken glass. Thus, my wife kept a broom by the door to have available for sweeping the glass from the middle of the street.

Mickey often joined the crowd and chatted with those of us watching the activities of the police and the towing service that was normally called. He loved to give the police a bad time and tell those of us there, how different it would be if he were involved.

Needless to say, my early exposure to Southern California more than fulfilled what I had imagined it would be like. Who would’ve thought we would be entertaining movie stars and chatting with Mafia gangster neighbors.

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