For my 100th blog post since rolling out LATE BLOOMER on Earth Day 2012, I debated on what my topic should be. Should I do as usual, and simply report on the day, or should it be more meaningful in some way? I decided to report on the day yesterday, which turned out to be meaningful in a number of ways. What did I do? I pruned my pine tree.
Let me backtrack, a bit. When we moved to this street in Pacific Palisades, CA, in 1994, it was quite a bit different. There were three old, small houses on either side of us, where four McMansions (big houses with tall ceilings on small lots) now stand. In those three old houses, lived three old men, their wives long dead. Directly to our right, facing the street, was Werner Gerber. I called him Mr. Gerber, and he was very dear to me. Here he is with his roses in 1995. I photographed him several times for the next ten years, and wrote an article for the local paper when he died. He swept my driveway every day, and I gave him fresh green juice, and oatmeal, since he would often forget to eat. “Mr. Gerber, I’ve got your rocket fuel!” I would call out to him. I’d like to think it helped him live longer.
Of course, back then, all I shot was film, usually on a 1953 Twin Lens Rolleiflex camera. Mr. Gerber was even more locally known for his dahlias, which he would bring out every August to display on risers just behind his rotting picket fence. He also grew beans and grapes in the back yard.
In October of 2005, with Mr. Gerber moved to a facility in the Palisades, they tore down the house. They left the kitchen for last. He bought the single lot for $750 in 1939, but, couldn’t afford to build a house on it till 1941. The area was all bean fields when they laid out the lots and put in sidewalks in 1939. The neighborhood filled up over the next ten years with engineers who worked at Northrup. The lot sold for, well, a lot. Try to imagine his 50′ Coastal Redwood that resided near the back corner of our house.
To our left, lived Mr. Zordich, who had raised four kids in a 1300 square foot house on a double lot, which he bought for $1500, in 1939. A smoker all his life, his health started failing at 85, or so, and his son, Lee, returned from his wanderings panning for gold in Australia, to live in the shack out back and look after him. Lee grew up here and went to the local high school and had quite a reputation around town and spent every afternoon in the Irish pub in Santa Monica before retiring early. Here he is in 2003 in their wild, lush back yard. Out of view behind him soared two 50′ Coastal Redwoods. They were the first to go after the house sold for, well, a whole lot, when Mr. Zordich died at 89. Lee took up residence in Maui till he died, also.
On the other side of Mr. Gerber, in the little mint green house, lived retired engineer, Ed, not to be confused with Eddy across the street from him. Ed had a prized avocado tree for which he engineered an electric device to keep the squirrels off. Ed had remarried after his first wife died, to an English lady who performed occasionally at the community theatre. Tall and lean, Ed was fastidious with his lawn, and into his late 80′s could be seen on his hands and knees popping out weeds. He died at 92. Eddy still lives in the house he grew up in, his mother having died in her early 90′s.
Next is Clarence Hagar, affectionately known as C.L., who lives across the street from me. If you have been watching LATE BLOOMER, you have seen and heard about C.L. He was also an engineer and has been here since 1961.
Here he is with neighbor co-hort, Dennis, who also grew up here and lives three blocks away in his original house. He’s been dropping by every day for years. Here they are in healthier times. Dennis has also made appearances in LATE BLOOMER.
The last visit of Mr. Gerber to the neighborhood was warmly received. C.L. drags chairs down to the sidewalk every afternoon to catch the last rays of sun. This was a chilly day in early March.
And the last character in this neighborhood play is my pal, Gene Cornelius, former effects man in the movies. He worked on a ton of movies, like, “Blade Runner,” “The Doors,” ”Strange Days,” “Jaws,” (I have a photo of him and the shark) and has tall tales to tell. I met Gene hanging out at C.L.’s, where all these guys congregate, and Gene being a big swimmer, he got me to start swimming at the Santa Monica College pool. He’s an early riser from all those years working in the movies, so it’s easier for him to hit the cold water at 6AM, than it is for me. Gene lives with his wife three blocks away in the house she grew up in.
But, back to the pruning. Because I have always worked as a freelance actress and photographer, I was around on the street during the day to get to know these guys. And we all helped each other out. Especially, C.L., who, ten years ago, could as easily been found up in my Acacia tree trimming it, as repairing my fence or rewiring my lamp. C.L. was very close with Mr. Gerber, and Ed, but they are gone, and he’s had his own health issues. So, yesterday, when he saw me pull out these old pruning tools left by the previous owners, he couldn’t resist being a part of my effort. His contribution was to advise me, then, he went and got his sharp clippers and trimmed the bigger pieces down so it could all fit into the bin.
This took at least two hours, during which he reminisced about the good old days on the street. He said he missed Mr. Gerber, and the way it was. I do, too. I caught him by surprise with this shot. He was actually very happy helping me.
He said this tree trimmer, which hasn’t been used in 15 years at least, must have been 50 years old. With a few drops of oil, it was good to go.
The name “Seymour Smith U.S.A. Snap-Cat #113″ was stamped into the square pole. Try finding a new pruner, or virtually any tool, made in the U.S.A. today.
There was a shorter pruner, with a round pole, without a saw blade, with the brand “Companion” stamped in the metal.
It wasn’t long enough, so C.L. duck-taped a fruit picker pole onto the end of it. It was a bit shaky hoisting that thing 15 feet up over my head, but, I wasn’t about to climb up in that pine tree, something I wouldn’t have hesitated doing ten years ago.
I posted a notice on Late Bloomer Facebook page yesterday asking what I should write about for my 100th blog. One of Late Bloomer’s followers, Lois Elden, wrote back “About you?” I thought, nah, I’m writing a garden blog. But, in recollecting all the pruning and helping each other out on the street over the years, and all my neighborly neighbors, some of which are gone now, I guess I have written about my life. Creating community is what LATE BLOOMER is all about, and I hope by sharing my story of my neighbors and friends, it will give you pause to think of the old-timers in your neighborhood – and old tools – and how they have enriched your life. These are my pals. What about yours?
Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye
PS – Many of these photos were taken for a portrait photography book entitled “Old Friends,” which is yet to be published.