Ice Wagon

By Beacon Staff

I am now in the final stages of editing my biography after a four-year struggle writing about the ups and downs through a lot of years. Some parts of my life are probably only interesting to me, but I’ve put it all down on paper.

I have been privileged to live through a lot of changes during the first few decades of my life growing up and living in Southern California. It was a virtual desert in 1924 when I was born and I think there are a couple of memories worth sharing.

The ice truck that came through the neighborhood once a week was pulled by a giant horse and all of the families that could afford ice that week got 25 pounds chipped off of the big ice block. We kids followed along behind it and scrambled for the small ice chips that fell out of the wagon in the process before they melted on the hot asphalt. These were real treats as this was long before we could afford to have any kind of store-bought cold drink, ice cream or a popsicle.

You could buy a brand new 1930 Model A Ford for under $600 and a well-running, one-year-old car for somewhere between $100 and $200. The higher-priced ones had almost new tires.

There was a big red streetcar that ran west on Santa Monica Boulevard to the oceanfront in Santa Monica and then the tracks turned left and went south along the beach as far as Redondo Beach. I could ride that entire distance for 25 cents, but usually hitchhiked because the 25 cents was almost two weeks profit from selling Saturday Evening Post magazines door to door.

In 1930 when I was 6 years old and living in the Encino Country Club, I helped herd horses while they were grazing in the deep green grass on the property. It was a great feeling to walk barefooted down a dusty road and feel the dust squirt up between my toes.

Today, when I watch a robot landing on Mars, I realize that I have lived through such huge, gigantic changes in everything in America. The only place you can see a horse-drawn carriage today is for tourists in Central Park in New York City or the Budweiser beer wagon in a parade somewhere.

Who is to judge which days were better? Who cares?

In Topanga Canyon, we lived in a $5 a month shack with an outhouse. There was a yacht club down on the beach that was run by the Los Angeles Athletic Club with big regattas on Sundays. My life was changed forever by a fisherman from Hawaii who lived there who taught me to bodysurf.

The young children of today are spending a lot of their spare time exercising their thumbs playing computer games instead of paddling for a wave. To me, the water, the mountains, just being outside means a lot more freedom than sitting on the couch with a computer game.

Today, there is a waiting list for people to take a space ride and a few laps around the Earth. Why not, if you can afford the $20 million ticket to ride?

I have no desire to travel to Mars or to the moon for that matter. If I wanted to do that, I could go out to the desert east of Las Vegas or to the Craters of the Moon in southern Idaho. I was lucky enough to wander around out there a few times when I produced movies for Nissan about racing across that desolate part of the world.

Memories are just what you make of them. As I wind down on writing about my 88 years of living a way-better-than-good life, I have written about some of the stuff that won’t be in the finished bio, because some of it is just for me. My wife pointed out that some experiences seem pretty negative, but it’s good for me to get it out there.

On that rainy night in October in 1924 when I was born in Hollywood there were fewer than 1 million people living in the Los Angeles basin. When I moved to the Northwest about 25 years ago there were almost 16 million. That is a pretty prolific environment and a place with a lot of job security if you are involved in building freeways.

Though there aren’t be any horse-drawn ice wagons anymore, the one thing you can count on is that there will always be change.

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