Cast of Characters, Part Two

"The Girl Next Door": Viki Gardemann

Well, okay, Viki wasn't quite "the girl next store" - she was the diminuitive girl across the street. We pretty much grew up together and attended the same schools. She was a fellow sufferer with me in Miss Johnson's combined 5th/6th grade class in Monterey Avenue School. (I had the horrible wretch for a teacher for two long years.) Her older brother Kim (the Lincoln Street counterculturalist I mention here) used to push me around a lot, and Viki's younger sister Jamie, now sadly deceased, was a friend who used to climb trees with me. Viki's father, a good-natured, bluff and hearty man who worked for the City of Burbank's power department, was known to all the neighborhood as "Duke," and whenever I go back to Burbank to visit I make a point of seeing him. Duke got most of my dad's eclectic LP collection when Mom moved out of Burbank, because we knew he loved and appreciated all kinds of music. When I visit the Duke he usually gives me back some of them, now that I realize their sentimental value. (I do this without guilt. I once gave Viki's cerebral older sister Valerie a beautiful turn-of-the-century edition of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" I found at a yard sale. I have regretted this action but once, and that constantly.)

I will admit to having had a crush on Viki when I was about 12, but nothing came of it save some painful conversations she had with me, admitting her crushes on other boys. (Another girl I had a crush on, Viki's friend LouAnne, had the same sorts of topics to talk about. She wound up marrying one of the boys Viki admired passionately, and I was glad.) Finally being tired of the rejection I drew a crayon picture of a guy using one of those plunger devices to blow up a heart inscribed "W.C. + V.G." outside of Viki's house, on the sidewalk. When she asked what this signified, I mysteriously evaded the question and, swearing off girls forever, labelled Viki with the worst term a pre-teen could invoke: "conceited."

I used to give Viki and Jamie wild backyard shopping cart rides. We lived near a Ralph's grocery store, which provided the shopping carts. With great effort I would break off the basket portion of the cart - nowadays they're made of plastic, then they were made of plated steel rods - and the rider could sit on the two bars that supported the basket and be pushed around by someone. (Richard Springer and I used to spend hours in the Ralph's side parking lot pushing each other around in this fashion - the lot where I later learned to drive Dad's Karmann-Ghia.) Since sitting on the bars was somewhat painful, I used one of the discarded sofa cushions in our backyard as a seat. Viki and I called them "ass pads." I used to take her out onto Lincoln Street in the shopping cart and, being a husky 12 year-old, swung her around in circles, with the cart actually lifting off the ground, Viki screaming and holding on for dear life. (She and Jamie loved it.) Once when I did this the cushion flew off and a little onlooker - who couldn't have been more than three or four - brought it over to us with a helpful, "Here's your ass pad."

Ever since I was a little kid I have loved Disneyland and rides of nearly every sort, especially the so-called dark house rides: Peter Pan, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, etc. I'm sure Viki still remembers the ones I created in the backyard. I would wheel her through some mud (nearly dumping her) - this was the African Safari portion of the ride - to the corner of the yard, onto a perilous plywood bridge over a big hole I had dug. At the bottom of the hole was what I billed as a "fabled lost city," covered with glitter stolen from Mom's crafts box. Then it was past "the graveyard of lost planes," which was my World War II plastic model airplane collection half-buried in the ground for scenic effect, as if they had all crashed mysteriously. Some of them displayed blackened marks from being lit with the gasoline Dad kept for the lawn mower. From here it was over to the back of the back house, where bamboo grew abundantly, "Viet Nam Land." I had a Captain Action figure (dolls for boys) on display here, punctured with bamboo spears and liberally doused with Testors red enamel in mute and graphic testimony of the horrors inflicted on innocent American soldiers by the Viet Cong. ("Viet Nam Land" was added to the ride after Richard's father took us to see John Wayne's "Green Berets.") Then it was a short ride over to the front of the back house, where Viki was told to wait for a moment or two before entering the "Haunted House." (I had to go in first to turn on the red overhead light and situate myself near the pedals of our old player piano, hidden by a sheet.) Viki would enter and the piano would mysteriously begin playing by itself, as if a ghost were playing it. (I think this part was inspired by a Don Knotts film of the period, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.") After Viki expressed suitable admiration, I'd wheel her back outside and onto Lincoln Street for a high speed circular spin, where she would be in danger of losing her ass pad.

The most sincere form of flattery is imitation, and once Viki and Jamie put together a back yard ride of their own that wasn't bad. I remember enjoying being pushed around in the shopping cart by them for once.

The picture here is one from our senior year, the back inscribed with the typically girlish "To the little friend of mine, all 8 years I've known you you've always been taller than me. You shrimp. Have fun in the future and be a good Batman, my hero. Good luck, Viki (conceited)."

Richard Springer

As a 6th grader, Richard was a fellow sufferer with me and Viki in Miss Johnson's class. For awhile we were also great friends, although our interests weren't always in sync. It was Richard who was Tom Sawyer to my Huck Finn, and we also passed the time by building models of World War II airplanes. We both hung them from the ceilings in our rooms, but mine wound up in the backyard, burned into little black balls in experiments with gasoline, outdoor torch fuel and wood.

Richard was also the purchaser of my beloved Schwinn Sting Ray.

For some reason, I'm not sure why, at one point we ceased getting along together and went our separate ways, never to speak to one another again. It may have had to do with the fact that he was a grade ahead of me, and was in junior high when I was still in elementary school, or it may have had to do with the fact that he was interested in sports and I wasn't.

This is the only usable picture of Richard I have, from high school in 1972 - long after we split.

Kitty (Kathleen) Holland

Look at that flip! Isn't it awesome?

I have to admit, when I was a boy back in the Sixties this picture used to set my heart all a-flutter. Kitty Holland lived with her sisters and parents in the house next door to the one we lived in before we moved to Burbank; close association with my parents ensured that we became family friends. So when I was five and six, Kitty used to babysit me! Our parents always remained friends and would get together for the holidays, so we would see each other then. This pinnacle of Western civilization and masterpiece of the photographer's art is Kitty's high school graduation picture - I think it was taken in 1966.

Kitty was my dad's pal - in a way, the daughter my dad never had and an adored big sister to me. She was present in the hospital when Dad died, and it seemed appropriate that she should be. She was also present at the graveside service I had for my mother twelve years later

In a dark day for the bachelors of America, Kitty got married in 1969 (I was present as an insolent 13 year-old, snapping the suspenders of the groom), and she and her husband bought a house in Burbank. She still lives there. (I visited her in 1995. Here's the proof.) I stay in occasional contact with Kitty, and she visits my parents' gravesite at Valhalla cemetery every now and then.

Flips like the one Kitty is modeling here are back in, and I, for one, say Hooray! Women can complain all they want about the lacquer and structural underpinnings required for such a shape, but beauty has its price and, let's face it, there is simply nothing more dramatic or just plain American than the flip, a hairstyle guaranteed to quicken the pulse of any male who came of age in the Sixties. So there.

Two high school girlfriends, Becky and Gail

Becky Smith (the blonde on the left) might protest as she was never really my girlfriend - she was more Mike McDaniel's girlfriend, sort of. I wanted her to be my girlfriend, but it never really worked out.

Gail Applebaum, on the other hand, was my girlfriend for awhile, sort of. It was a short, confusing experience that I wasn't mature enough or emotionally prepared for. She was attracted to me more than I was to her, but I was too polite to tell her so and drop her. The result was a month or so of hand-holding, togetherness, an occasional party and utter confusion on my part. What was worse was that Becky, the girl I was really interested in, perceived me as being Gail's boyfriend. I perceived her as being Mike's girlfriend.

Throw into the mix Maureen Russell, a friend of them both whom I also dated, sort of. (A photo of all three is here.) I think she must have assumed she was my girlfriend, because once, when I drove up to Becky's house to fix a stereo of hers, I demanded a kiss from Becky as payment for services rendered. (She paid up.) She then obviously told Maureen about it, and Maureen never spoke to me again. No big loss; by this time I had decided that I had more fun with my friend Mike and Bob anyway, and forswore the confusing company of women for good. (Until three years later when I was in the Marines, and tried to reestablish a relationship with Becky, which went nowhere.)

At the Burbank High School 20th year reunion, Becky and her husband and Gail were seated with me, Mike and Bob Avery. Maureen didn't attend the reunion, which was unfortunate because I was hoping she'd help sort all of this out for me.

Ah, love's folly.

All's well that ends well, however. In 1979 Mike set me up on a blind date with a friend from church, and we married a year later. I have been happily married ever since.

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