A Balcony View:

With my birthday a couple of days away, my girlfriend asked me if I had any wishes. My wish for a monthly column in Vanity Fair aside, I do have some desires relevant to Glendale.

I wish the drive-in at Bob’s Big Boy on Colorado was still there. I know our cars have become too precious to eat in, what with our onboard navigation systems and Italian glove-leather seats. But I remember pulling up in my mom’s Rambler station wagon and enjoying a burger, fries and shake from the comfort of the back seat.

And who could forget the neon sign? I think it may have been visible from space. Yes, it may be silly to long for the days when a waitress would hitch an aluminum tray of food to the side of one’s car so that you could smear ketchup and secret sauce on your dashboard. But I miss it nevertheless.

I wish Lum’s Hot Dogs was still around, too. Long before Pinkberry and Cheesecake Factory rolled into town with green tea yogurt and entrees the size of Volkswagens, we had hot dogs boiled in beer. And inside the dark little eatery, there was a tiny little train that chugged around the interior on a little track suspended from the ceiling. It captured my imagination 40 years before the trolley circling the Americana.

And because I’m wishing for the things that have gone the way of the dinosaur, I wish I could see one more Saturday double feature at the Alex, Capitol, Roxy, Glendale or Sands theaters. I have such great memories of my mom dropping me off for an entire afternoon of movies.

Of course, I realize the seats weren’t nearly as comfortable and the floors had a distinct stickiness to them. There was also no Dolby surround sound, digital 3-D or 18 movies to choose from every day, but there were signs outside the theaters that proclaimed they were “cooled by refrigeration”! On a hot day in Glendale, that was worth the $1.50 price of admission.

I also wish I could roller skate to work like I used to when I worked as a box boy at Market Basket on Pacific Avenue and Stocker Street. What I wouldn’t give to have my daily grind though traffic be a five-mile skate instead of my present 27-mile commute to El Segundo. Clearly, it wasn’t just the distance that made it better, it was the method of travel. I remember skating home late at night down a silent, deserted Brand Boulevard.

As far as the job, instead of the intense pressures of meeting sales goals, the biggest concern was making sure I didn’t put the eggs in the bottom of the bag. And while the market itself is still there, it’s no longer the one I worked at. It’s a Ralphs now.

There’s no one there I recognize. The super cool produce guys and checkout ladies, the ones who knew the customers by name, have moved on just like me. Gone too are the local Hoover and Glendale High School cheerleaders and prom queens, whom the management always seemed eager to hire in abundant supply.

I never thanked them for that. Then again, I think they saw the gratitude on all the box boys’ faces every single day. Looking back, perhaps there was a method to their madness. I’ve never seen a group of bag boys work so hard to keep their jobs. We ran through the store to get price checks, and when carts need to be rounded up from the parking lot, we hustled.

I guess, like so many birthday wishes, these won’t be coming true. The places of my youth in Glendale are gone, replaced by progress — some better and some not. But that’s life. It moves on, usually for the better. There’s always new places to eat, new movies to see, new jobs to challenge.

So before I blow out the last of those 48 candles on my cake tomorrow, I’ll make one more wish — that the memories my kids eventually get out of Glendale will be as fond as mine.


Get in touch GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is senior manager of communications for DIRECTV and a copywriting professor at Pasadena Art Center College of Design. Gary may be reached at garyrhuerta@gmail.com.

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