These places are our common ground, and it’s how two people who don’t know each other make a connection. Mention The Burbank Rose to someone of a certain age, and they’re likely to have a story. Mention The Dugout or Kojak or Topps or Korvette, and watch the expression of the person who recognizes that place. I just wrote a chapter for a new book about the Santa Trailer that used to be parked in Scottsdale parking lot next to Goldblatt’s. Remember that? I asked Santa for a Janis Joplin album. It was the first time I was aware of someone – in this case, Santa – doing a double-take.
At the end of the day, the places we most frequented become our life stories. How many times had I waited with my father at Service Merchandise for the stuff that we had paid for to be delivered via a conveyor belt? My father, who wasn’t a patient man, would grow angrier the longer we waited. Meanwhile, I became anxious because I knew my father was likely to create a scene. Once, he poked his head into the space where the stuff came out and yelled, “Where the hell is everybody?” I can’t hear the name of Service Merchandise without feeling a moment of anxiety and then thinking, “Good God, what a horrible idea for a store. A conveyor belt!” And then laughing at the absurdity of my father’s reaction to it all.
This list of businesses resurrected many memories, making me think about things I hadn’t thought about in years. I’ll mention only one so that you can enjoy the list for yourself: Henry’s Drive-In at 79th and Cicero. This was the place for hamburgers before there was a Kojak’s. And what I remember were those days when my mother would pick me up from school for lunch and then quickly drive me to Henry’s so that I could get a cheeseburger and fries, which I would eat in her car, a 1976 Ford Maverick, while she quickly drove me back to school. Many years later, when I was going to school in Lincoln, Nebraska, I stopped off at a rundown hamburger place, and the first bite brought back the memory of Henry’s, and I remembered what a treat it was whenever my mother decided to take me there. This list – seeing the name and location of the place – brought those memories back again.
I was happy the Burbank Beat sent this list to me. It’s like picking up a snow globe of Burbank from a decade that some days feels like ages ago and other times feels like yesterday.
John McNally, December 2014