1956 Trip to Chicago

Two little books my mom gave to me in 1956 when I was 3 1/2 years old, for our road trip with my grandfather and grandmother back to Chicago (where my mom was born).

Check the inscription in my mom’s handwriting in one of the pictures…

My grandfather used up all his vacation time every year to go back and help his mom – making repairs around the house, doing yardwork, etc.

My great-grandfather had built the house with his own hands, and out of all the brothers and sisters (some of whom came back to visit their mom) only my grandfather helped fix up the place and used his entire vacation to do it until she died in the mid-1960s. That has always inspired me.

This is the only trip we all made together. I have just one memory of the trip out by car – I moment, more like a photograph of me in the back seat playing with a toy telephone truck that had a remote control on a wire attached to a hand-flashlight sized metal cylinder with a forward button and a reverse button.

This was one of the first plastic toys available. Most everything was either die cast or stamped sheet metal in those days. And remote controlled toys in 1956 were virtually unheard of. So, I don’t know who loved me that much to get such a toy, but I do recall playing with it all the way there, though I only have one memory where I actually see it and the back seat.

I only have blurs of memories of the actual time in Chicago, but I know my mom and I flew back to Burbank, with my grandmother I think, and my grandfather drove back when he had finished helping his mom.

I also don’t recall the plane flight itself, though I almost do – there’s something blurry around the edges of my mind – more like half a feelings of waking up briefly, hearing the sound, my mom telling me it’s okay and go back to sleep, but it is so faint, perhaps that just my imagination filling in gaps.

What I do recall with certainty is that my Aunt Toots met us at the airport. In those days, you just walked down the stairs from the propeller plane and people met you at the bottom out on the tarmac.

We took a short trip to my aunt’s rather than to our house, and she made breakfast for us. I know this from a flash of memory at her house, in my mom’s arms, with the smell of bacon in the air and the sizzling in the background. Perhaps we took a red-eye? Don’t know, but in my memory it seems like it was dark at some point in all this.

Anyway, for me, having these books with my mom’s inscription is an amazing thing. I had completely forgotten about them until they turned up in one of the boxes I’m sorting this very morning.

My heart smiles

My Hand Print – Age 5 1/2 – 1958

This hand print was made is some kind of molding or sculpting material – seems rather sand-like, though could be flour paste that has crystallized. Since the inscription on the back says Sunday – perhaps it was made in Sunday School.

I actually don’t remember ever going to Sunday School, though my mom did want me to have exposure to religion. Later in my elementary school years, I got off from class once a week for “religious release.” Those whose parents signed the form would be led about two blocks from our school by a teacher – little ducklings in a row – to the Little White Chapel in Burbank – a non-denominational Christian house of worship that remains today – open to everyone, excluding no one. Perhaps I’ll venture back after the pandemic to see if I can recapture some of the mood.

We would make things – lots of craft projects like disciples with moving arms using “brads” – those little brass fasteners that went through holes in paper. Loved the paper punch, but what kids doesn’t…

Sometimes we’d make pop-up books or build little paper arks, replete with Noah and fauna crew. We learned a moral code told in parables and set in place by physical representation and the motion of the hands.

All of which brings us back to the hand that made the print in this picture. My mom saved and dated everything – a habit I picked up and still use to this day. Facebook makes that pretty easy now. It is good to look back and be able to place the most memorable and personally significant events placed in the timeline of our lives. Like this impression of a young impressionable hand.

This one has been battered just a bit. It is in three pieces now, and I have reassembled it here for the pictures. The edges are getting a bit warn and crumbly as well, after 62 years, but who isn’t?

I also have hand prints of both my kids, and I’ve seen that my kids also have hand prints of their kids as well. Wouldn’t it be nice to create a multi-generational family plaque with all the hand prints and room for more from the next generation?

But then, which of my kids would get it? Hmmmm…. Perhaps with today’s technology it would be possible to scan and 3D print all of them so that everyone can have a copy to carry forward the family history. Perhaps the originals should be placed in a designated safe space that all family members have access to, should anyone want to touch the fragile originals from time to time, and hold hands across the ages with their ancestors.

Polaris

These two 16 x 20 posters from the mid-1950s mean an awful lot to me. They are from my dad when he was a project engineer on the Polaris missile project – the first missile that could be fired underwater from a submarine.

After my mom and dad got divorced when I was just one year old, he was as good a father as he could be to me. He’d come to see me every Saturday, almost without fail, unless he was back in DC on business.

When he was away, he’d always send a note or a postcard or a picture of some place he was or something he was working on, as in this case.

Now I don’t recall if he sent these by mail when he was away or gave them to me in person during one of his visits, but I had them on the wall next to my bed for many years. I was so very proud of my daddy!

The poster on the left is glossy and the one on the right is matte finish. I liked the glossy one best because of the shine, but like the picture on the matte one better.

My dad inscribed the lower right corner of the glossy one:

“To my son, David. With love, Daddy”

Made me feel so special. Years later when I had my own kids and had be away on business, sometimes across the country, I tried to always send them notes, postcards, and little gifts just as my dad had done.

In fact, a few months ago I found one of the notes I sent to Keith, along with package of balloons, and a message saying I missed him and looked forward to seeing him soon.

My mom also wrote on the glossy photo at the top saying, “Daddy was project engineer on this missile.

My dad continued to come to see me every Saturday until I was 12. Then he came every two weeks until I was sixteen. And then he said I was old enough we ought to exchange visits.

Until I was 12 I didn’t know he had remarried and that I had half-brothers and sisters. He kept the families separate until I was 16 and then I came to visit him at his home and meet my siblings and his wife for the first time.

We all struck it off so well. Instantly I felt like part of a larger family after having grown up as an only child. And his wife – my step-mom sorta, I guess, was so good to me, and we enjoyed a good friendship every time I visited throughout the years, first by myself, then with Mary and the kids, and eventually with Teresa and combinations of the others too. We were all welcomed as family.

After he died in 2014, my sisters told me that they had always wondered where dad went on Saturdays. All that time when I cried sometimes because I only had a daddy one day a week for a few hours, there were four of them, trying to get time with him on the weekend, and the one of me got him all to myself each week, and with travel time to and from, he must’ve been gone for half a day at least. It was a lot to parse.

Our families don’t get together often, but if any of us travel into the others area, we always catch dinner and have some good times. In fact, the summer before the pandemic, Mindi and Ed and their kids and I all got together with my sister Becky and her husband Bret at the beach.

Now you might wonder how my mom felt about all this, in those days so long ago, and how it worked when she remarried and my dad would pick me up from our home with my step-dad there. Well, it’s complicated. But everyone was nice to each other and I never felt torn – there was no pressure ever on me to be pulled one way or the other.

I’ve had a most fortunately life – feel guilty sometimes about how good my childhood was compared to tales I’ve heard from others. But in the end, I was loved, and I was given a chance to be myself, to find myself, and to share love with others, from my kids to those closest to me and extending to all of my friends.

It’s been a blessed live so far for a kid who was named David (which means “beloved”)

There’s a whole web of stores of my family in those early days, and I hope to have time to share the best of them before I’m done.

Perhaps the never to be made movie of my life will start like Citizen Kane: “What were his last words?” “Rosebud” Only for me it might be “Polaris” (or “Lamby” or “Orchid Bear.”)

But those are other stories for other days.

My first studio baby picture

I love this photograph, and the frame especially. I think the design of the frame really captures the artistic sense of the early fifties. My mom used to keep it on her dresser when I was a child. Her dresser was always bathed in bright indirect light from a window to the side, so it was a very cheery place to be.

This picture, then, became wrapped up in the warm sunny memory of freshness, nice and clean, all laid out in a pretty orderly fashion, and the baby blue color and the silver foil shine of the circles still bring me back to that day when we lived with my grandmother and grandfather, after my mom got divorced when I was but a year old, and remained there until I was seven when she remarried.

Obviously, the photograph was taken before the divorce. But that mood in that sunny room at my grandparent’s place – so fresh, bright, and clean – I feel refreshed just to think of it, and this picture always brings me there.

My mom still had hope in those days of a shining future in which her dreams might all come true. And though many of them did not, she and I were always very close and shared a special non-verbal connection both then, and later when my stepfather completed our little family of three – a family that was always tight. We had a mood that felt like “us” – something that was larger than ourselves and our own individual personalities – something of which we were all apart, exclusively of anyone else on the planet.

I’m really kind of surprised that the frame survived all these years through so many moves to so many different cities. And more often than not, it has been plopped in a box with a number of other memory-items without any wrapping or packing material – just almost tossed in there.

I just re-discovered it last week in such a box, and have now placed it in a drawer in my dresser. Though I’d love to put it on my dresser and re-create that moment (since I am back to living in that very same house yet again), I’d be afraid of cats and earthquakes, and think I’ll just pull it out of the drawer from time to time when the sunshine is just right, and place it on my dresser and reminisce until I am drawn for a few precious moments back to those days in the mid-fifties when the world was new and the future was all ahead of us.

My mom’s graduation picture from elementary school

I’ve decided to document my family mementos and personal memorabelia on video before posting pictures with written descriptions because there is so much (about 50 moving boxes full) that I don’t have enough years left to write about all of it as individual posts with still pictures and texts.

I’ll still do that for really special items, but for the sake of at least getting it all documented, it is video for now. My plan is to post it here, also on Facebook, and finally put a flash drive in each box with the videos describing each of the items therein. That way, family stories will not easily fade away, and those who deal with the boxes after I’m gone will know if something is good to keep, distribute in the family, give to Goodwill, or just toss in the can. Eye of the beholder and all that.So, here is the first in a long (and probably boring) string of remembrances.Oh, and just for the record, I say the video was taken on September 4, 2020 – had the date wrong: it was today, September 5 – must be precise…

My resume from the early 1980s

Found my resume as a Writer/Director/Editor from the early 1980s. Had some pretty solid credits, and quite few of them. In those days, had a lot of hope I would eventually break into studio feature films, but about 5 years after I made this resume I had to admit that my career had plateaued and I wasn’t really getting any close to my goal.

Besides, I had a young family to support, so I focused on my small video tape duplication service, taking the occasional freelance film job when one came up. But after a couple bad experiences, I ended up leaving the industry to work on a new theory of story structure called Dramatica along with my partner, Chris Huntley at his motion picture industry software company.

Turned out to be a good move. I’m still making money from our Dramatica software today, and the theory is being used by literally hundreds of thousands of people around the world including Academy award winning writers, producers, and directors, and best-selling novelists, including one Pulitzer-price-winning author that I know of. Back to cases, this resume captures me at the peak of my feelings of success and absolute belief in a shining future in film production.