My Earliest Homes
Few of even my closest friends realize that I am not a Massachusetts native. My parents had lived in Maryland and were preparing to move to the west coast late in my mother’s pregnancy, but her doctor recommended that she stay behind until after I was born. She went to stay with her parents while my father went to start his new job. That’s how I came to be born in Connecticut even though that was only a temporary stop necessitated by circumstances. So I was sort of like the baby Jesus except, you know, not God.
I got thinking about the homes of my younger years today at work, when I was assigned a case of a disabled client in Canoga Park, California. I don’t usually pay much attention to the exact locations of my clients, only because it’s usually just their state of residence that is relevant to my job. But I used to live in Canoga Park, many moons ago.
It was to there that my parents picked up and relocated because it was the site of a new company that gave my father a great job. They rented a house in the San Fernando valley, in the Canoga Park section of Los Angeles (though that particular location is now considered a part of West Hills). I don’t remember much about it. OK, I don’t remember anything about it. But it was significant because we lived next door to an actor named Don Dubbins and his wife, who became good friends of my parents. I knew them as Uncle Don and Aunt Jeanne until sometime in the 1970s when my mother and I saw him in a guest spot on the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless. (Oddly, his IMDB profile doesn’t list that role, even though it spanned several episodes.) I’m told that back in the day, my mother used to take me over the fence to swim (splash, really) in their swimming pool, and somewhere in a box of old photographs in my parents’ attic is a Polaroid of me wearing a diaper and a smile, being held my my mother in their pool. Since Uncle Don was in a few big movies in the 1950s, I suppose I can say that he was my first brush with fame.
After a couple years and for reasons I don’t know and never bothered to ask, we moved north about five miles as the crow flies, over the hills to Santa Susana, which was the east end of another valley now known as the city of Simi Valley. You might remember Simi Valley as the site of the 1992 trial of the L.A.P.D. officers who beat Rodney King on videotape a year earlier. When we were there, we weren’t far from the Spahn Ranch, the site of a commune inhabited by sociopath Charles Manson and his merry band of murderers. But Manson didn’t get famous until a year or so after we left and, unlike in Canoga Park, we didn’t have any show business neighbors in Santa Susana, although the lady next door had been a high school classmate of Norma Jean Baker and then as an adult was friends with Lucille Ball‘s housekeeper. I remember that house much better, including the hills at the end of our street where occasional brush fires burned and drove the snakes down into the valley and we had to be careful when we took our daily walk. I also remember construction taking place in the hills behind our neighborhood, when they were building a state highway now known as the Ronald Reagan Freeway. I ended up with my picture in the local paper when a rock dislodged by the blasting hurtled a great distance and crashed through the roof of our screen porch, where I was playing. That newspaper clipping must be in the same box as the snapshot of Ma and me being ladies of leisure in the Dubbins’ swimming pool.
It’s worth pointing out that I couldn’t have taken this walk down memory lane, complete with pictures, if Google hadn’t driven all over creation taking pictures of houses. The images in this post of the houses where I lived as an infant and toddler are recent, captured by me using Google Maps. The home we lived in after moving back east when I was four years old isn’t yet available on Google Maps, nor is my own house now.