Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Hawthorne "A"

If you had a friend living in southern California about the time we graduated from EHHS, and were able to spend a few summers visiting there, you would consider yourself lucky. I recall a cute blonde girl named Sandra Fish at Meadowbrook Jr. High who moved out to California about 1960 and when she came back to visit a year or so later, her speech patterns, dance moves, and mannerisms were so different from ours that it was amazing. After a short time she was no longer a naive young Texan, she was pure surfer girl.  In those few years we were at EHHS, Southern California brought forth Gidget in 3 incarnations, several Beach Blanket movies with Frankie and Annette, and the Boys...the Beach Boys.

My first summer out there was a real culture shock. It took me almost 2-years to figure out how to effectively communicate with them. The sixties California youth culture was a combination of a number of different interests; fast custom cars, surfin, hobie cats, cutting edge rock music, long-haired beach-bunnies, hip-huggers & bell bottoms (thanks, Cher), and sports cars of all kinds. Long-haired hippies and drugs were still 2-3 years away; preppie and surfer-style was still in.

Add about 8 or 9 other youth cultures, all doing their things at break-neck speed, and you had a massive amount of living going on—all of it being done within the confines of each culture…they didn’t mix with one another and there was very little conflict between them.  Back in Ft. Worth, we had just begun to consider that we might just grow together with Dallas and become an "area" but Los Angeles was already an "area" containing a population about 600% larger than DFW.

Besides the daily treks down to the beach to look fruitlessly for Gidget and Annette, my friend said we should go up to the Hawthorne "A" one weekend and watch the cars drive through.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  However, to the "A" we went one Saturday night, getting there early enough to claim a rare parking spot.  The show that night has remained burned into my memory for almost 50-years now; and finding a picture of the Hawthorne "A" is a rare accomplishment, indeed--it was torn down long ago.

Hawthorne is a smallish blue-collar community about 5-miles inland from Manhattan Beach, just southeast of the LAX airport.  It's where the Beach Boys grew up and went to high school.  And by the time I got to see it, the "A" was famous throughout the Los Angeles youth culture, drawing kids from the furthermost suburbs in all directions who came with their custom-built hod-rods just to drive through the "A" and show-off.

The show was amazing...candy apple paint jobs, big motors with cut-outs pulled, a lot of chrome, and one of every kind of car imaginable.  Off-duty Hawthorne police handled traffic control, lining the cars up along the curb as far back as the kids wanted to line-up.  And the endless parade would start...once through slowly, and then out the back, down the alley, back onto Hawthorne Blvd., up to the end of the line, and start the process again.  This went on for hours every Friday and Saturday night.

The Beach Boys had moved to the fancier part of town, Brian was starting to screw himself up, Sonny & Cher had just started singing their stuff, Caroll Shelby was building his remarkable cars a few blocks away, and the current crop of LA kids were completely caught up in the surfer culture--it was their life, that and the fast cars.  Some of the lyrics of the Beach Boys song, Fun-Fun-Fun are said to refer to the Hawthorne "A".

Well, she got her daddy's car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand, now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man, now
And with the radio blastin' goes
Crusin' just as fast as she can, now
And she'll have fun, fun, fun 
'Til her daddy takes the T-bird away
(Fun, fun, fun, 'til her daddy takes the T-bird away)


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