|Oliver Hardy, I presume. (John is out of frame)|
(Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)
John was a friend that was/is so creative. John and I were always the last two in line. We were the shortest in our class at Holy Family School in South Pasadena, California. From year to year, we traded places in the line-up. We always ended being at the very back of the line. Not sure if it was the nuns or just school policy that we line up by height with the shortest at the very back. We got to be friends.
Best friends. We were altar boys (that’s what they called it then) together. We got paired up far too often. His was the first overnight sleepovers that I got to do as a child. Fort building, Lego collecting (he had thousands, I had one 140 piece set).
I recall that during recess in 4th grade, we used the length of outdoor lunch benches to be the length of the tunnel’s that we dug out from our POW camp. John was always the Steve McQueen (Ref. The Great Escape - 1963 Mirsch Company) character and we enlisted 7 or 8 others to be the various other parts. This led to bigger and better things.
We were Laurel and Hardy for two years at the school talent show. (Olly seen in photo above). He was often Captain Kirk and for whatever reason, the short Portuguese kid played Scotty. I could wrangle out a Scots, "Ayee." We did radio plays on his dad's tape recorder (Google that if you don't know).
Google Map of those Woods - still there today.
In those woods, we found so many things. We shot up Nazi's, hid from aliens, and dug up treasures. Hide and seek was amazing when you could hide, take a nap and then sneak up on someone who had also fallen asleep to tag "it" again. The trails traveled up and down and in a loop. The backyard wall to John's house was the drive way up to the property. We often walked a few houses up to a spot where the wall was lower and had a block or two missing to just hop over.
The woods behind the church were epic and led to further endeavors later on by ringing a gigantic bell at the front of the church. By late high school and into early college, several of my friends and I would compete for the maximum number of times we would ring that bell before running off into the woods.
He went with our family the summer before sixth grade to Lake Arrowhead to spend a week at a cabin. It was on those TV less (and please note there was no public internet in 1975) we would do small act plays. John would often monologue and we were inspired by Tim Conway and Harvey Korman from the 1970's Carol Burnett shows. We tried to make each other laugh.
John went into one monologue while we talked about being in a fox hole. It was stunning to watch him and all I can remember was that it was almost like he was not acting. He told a story and there was a small lesson to learn. This coming from sixth grade minds might have you think, "What do they know." It was a free flow of creativity.
Both our families ended up with movie cameras and we started making movies together. I wanted to create a space epic worthy of 2001 A Space Odyssey. John was always into the effects and war battles. We collaborated on the Hindenburg and several other pieces.
And then my family moved 11 miles away to another town. We stayed connected for a while and in fact completed the Hindenburg after I moved. New home with a pool that made for epic flight over the Atlantic Ocean scenes of the model Hindenburg that I had made.
John was and I am sure is still one of the most creative people I have ever met. We would do shows for our family when on vacation together. He always had stories that had a little lesson and I would try and tell jokes and puns.
He showed me that play was a great way to think. We determined our roles in life from play as children. I became a lover of outdoors and creating spaces that were safe, fun and engaging for children.
I am so ever grateful to John for those lessons in creativity and imagination. Cardboard boxes that became forts and star ships and eventually grew up to become tents and cabins' in the woods. Thanks to John and those amazing moments that I am forever grateful in creating as we have spent over 50 years in these United States.