Back to being a kid

So I’m doing something unusual, watching some guy’s blog about hiking up to Lake Hollywood. He passes along Beechwood Drive and I see houses I knew more than half a century ago. There is a small market now and a shop or two, along with the real estate building (Hollywoodland) whose sign, truncated, became the famous Hollywood letters. Eventually, he finds a dirt path that will lead him down to the lake. When he gets there, he talks about walking across the bridge. No, I want to shout at him, that’s not a bridge; you’re walking along the top of the dam holding back the water in the reservoir!

I don’t know how many tons of dirt it took to “hide” the dam from being seen from down below, but from anywhere else it’s clear there is a dam holding back the water. The dam is named after William Mulholland, who oversaw its construction in the early 1920’s (1923, I think). You can walk around the lake–it’s 3 1/2 miles–and now cars can drive along the northeast side to a housing tract that went in a couple of years before I left California. It’s more built-up now and the rest of the road around the lake is gated, accessible only to Los Angeles Water and Power vehicles. Marina and I walked part of it a few years ago.

When I was in junior high and my brothers and I got home from school, we’d go with our mother for a brisk ride around the lake. We’d walk the bikes the block and a half up the hill and then whiz down to the lake. Mom and I had the fancy bikes, the “hot” bikes, three speed JC Higgins bikes with fenders and hand brakes. My little brothers had single speed bikes with coaster brakes. We took the two dogs and did our three and half miles without stopping. Later, we would stop because there were depressions that became ponds after a rain and most of the time we could find pollywogs. There were no cars to consider because at that time all cars were kept out by the gates. Down by the dam there was a large spotlight a caretaker told me once had been ready to use in the event of attempted sabotage during the Second World War.

There were two parts to the reservoir.The upper part was smaller and had the water intake from places like the Owens River or the Colorado. There was a large funnel near the earthen dam holding the upper portion of the lake. Water cascaded down the funnel and emerged on the other side, aerated by splashing down rocks. A wall and high fence kept people from the water itself and there were periodic patrols by Water and Power staff to keep an eye on things. There were fish in the lake, too but I don’t remember anyone fishing.

One house in particular always intrigued me and the guy’s blog didn’t focus on it. It was on the east shore of the lake, up high, with a gravel driveway leading to a sweeping white concrete walled drive to the large Mediterranean style house itself. The house had a stupendous view of not only the lake but a good chunk of Los Angeles. About the time I left California (1968) rumor had it that Madonna had bought the place. I’ve used elements of that house in at least one of my stories.

After rounding the lake, we’d either ride or push our bikes back up the hill and coast down Lake Hollywood Drive to home, with its sweeping view of the entire San Fernando Valley. It was great exercise and we did it regularly. Before I could drive and I had to be in Hollywood, say at church, I would ride my bike: up the hill, down to the lake, around the lake, down through the gate and along Beechwood and then a few streets east to Gower. It was safe. The only other way would have been the freeway.

My elder son, Aaron, left yesterday for Portugal where he lives. The French workers strike saw him stranded at the Paris airport for 5 hours and sitting 2 hours on the tarmac because air traffic controllers were striking, too. He did yeoman service while he was here, chainsawing trees downed by the recent tornado and splitting the wood for our stove. He also installed a small solar system for us. He’s off the grid in Portugal and gets his power from the sun and wind. Water comes from springs near the property and a well. Our solar unit is generating power that I’m using for lighting right now and I can see its potential for more. I appreciate Aaron’s efforts and generosity.

Next week I record the last of my short stories for WPCA-FM. That gives us enough fodder to take us to July, 2020. The stories air the first Tuesday night of each month at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. The station tells me they’d like to re-broadcast all of the stories. It’s a great privilege that not many writers get.