The Patio - November 1966

Dad's big obsession was Hawaii. Not that he ever wanted to live there or anything, he just had this idea that the ideal, leisure-oriented back yard should look Hawaiian. (He was by no means unique as this seems to have been a national trend. Click here for an explanation of the exotic musical stylings of Martin Denny, who was at least partially responsible for the South Seas craze to which Dad succumbed.) We went to a yard sale in Burbank years later and I was stunned to see the Hawaiian motif in the back yard, done bigger and better by the owner. Anyway, Dad had a big Hawaiian music LP collection (yes, it included Martin Denny) that he'd play over the outdoor speaker, cunningly placed somewhere out of sight. Not seen in these photographs is a hanging conch shell that Dad painted with turquoise enamel. Also, there's a wooden bench in the corner, painted antique avocado. We had cans and cans of this paint, ready to transform any item to fit in with our decorating scheme.

The main civil engineering feat in our household was The Fish Pond. It always leaked. Dad poured coat after coat of water sealer into the thing, only to have it leak into the patio when filled. At this early stage he went in for the dramatic. In the lower picture you can barely see a garden hose snaking around the turquoise bamboo upper supports of our patio. This was connected to a bamboo tube into which Dad had drilled holes. When we turned the faucet on, water would dribble out of the tube and into the fish pond, conjuring up the sights and sounds of a tropical rainstorm. It was one of the most successful things Dad ever did. (Well, I got a kick out of it and since it was one of the attractions of the house tour, so did every visitor.)

We put the patio lean-to up without municipal permission, of course, and our neighbor reported us to the City of Burbank, who made us take it down. We later replaced it with a more permanent, city-approved patio. By then, however, that neighbor was dead and no longer a threat to our house plans. We later got revenge on his widow by planting pine trees along the fence that grew into monster evergreens which blotted the sun from her back yard! (If you played suburban wars with the Clarks you'd lose.)

See the green scum in the pond in the lower picture? We never did arrive at a solution to this problem. Pouring in chlorine would kill the fish (I did, once). Not pouring it in would lead to the development of unsightly scum. Brushing it clean required maintenance. Pouring in green food color didn't mask it. I suppose installing something to circulate the water might have kept it from becoming stagnant, but we never thought of that.

(NOTE: The lean-to patio idea did not spring fully-formed from Dad's mind in 1966, no. It was an evolutionary concept first put into place in the back yard of our rented house on Robinson Street in the Silverlake District of Los Angeles. Click here for a photo circa 1960; I appear to be about three. And yes, for some weird reason I'm running around in the back yard naked. Just call me Nature Boy.)

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