Memories of Garden Grove - A Poem by Gary Matthews

To: Adelma Dale, for planting the poetry seed in us.

Good Place to Grow Up

Garden Grove, a lovely name for our idyllic town:
Scented orange groves giving way to bright new homes
Teeming with optimistic families, full of promise.

Rural smells--blossoms, incinerators, smudge pots.
Doves, hu-huuu-hu-hu-hu; blue jays, mated for life.
Primeval horned toads wriggling into rich, sandy soil;
Blue belly lizards could leave you their tails.

Ice cream trucks luring us with monotonous tunes
And frozen delights on blissful, summer days.
The astonishing drawers of the Helms Bakery trucks,
Pulled out to reveal a rainbow of sugary indulgence.
Gas station Cokes lifted from their ice water maze.

Frosty milk on the front porch; eggs delivered, too.
Driving through impenetrable fog to the nearest mall,
In Lakewood, for holiday shopping at May Co.
Choking smog alerts and howling Santa Ana winds.
The incongruous blare of the Friday Civil Defense horns.
Lehigh 9-2306, rotary dial; ours, a "shared party line."
On summer nights, the reassuring rumble of the 9:00
Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom; from our roof, dazzling.

Quaint, local businesses--so friendly and welcoming:
Sivie's/Bonnie's/Buster's; Evan's/Kennedy's/Martin's;
English/Alber's/Zlackett's; Priscilla/Shi's/Vinzant's.
Then came White Front in Santa Ana, a "discount" store;
All those bargains and open on Sunday!

Our bikes, never locked, at the bowling alley or
The Gem Theater for "Bambi, Snow White, Oklahoma."
5 cent candy: Dots, Jujubes, Good and Plenty, AbbaZabba,
Snickers, Almond Joy, Necco's; our teeth pay the price.
At our skating rink: Simon says, "Don't go!" Gotcha!

An equestrian relic, our Polo Field, paid 35 cents, to hug
The goalpost and signal goals, surrounded by snorting,
Thundering horses; 50 cents, to curry comb them.

The Greenbrier Inn--secluded, mysterious, PRIVATE!
Workers yelled, "Get out!" as they chased our bicycles.
Was this oasis really a rehab for Hollywood types?

Kids everywhere: cannon balls into glistening pools,
Water balloons twisting through the air,
Brodies on bikes at street's end, gravel flying.
Oranges thrown a city block with handmade slings;
Fourteen oranges eaten one day, just for fun.
Belated apologies to the farmers.

Mustard plants, vacant lot on Brookhurst Way.
Forts built. Plants pulled up, dirtballs attached.
Perfect, yellow/green missiles. PSHHH! PPPH!

Summer meant baseball and beaches,
Over-the-line for hours at Sunnyside School.
My coach, Lee Barr, is now a park. Fitting.
Family trips to Huntington Beach through
Bountiful fields of lima beans and tomatoes;
No stop lights on Brookhurst, signs only.

An old skate, a plank of wood, some screws made
One precarious skateboard. Driveway swept;
A piece of grit meant sucking concrete.

One rainy day, swinging between hay bales
And jumping waist deep into the granary
At the "cow barn," south side of Trask,
Busted! Police car home, bikes in the trunk;
Neighbors watching, mothers mortified.
G.G. Freeway annexed the place. Retribution.

Paper routes--Press Telegram, Garden Grove News:
Saddlebags with folded papers, "...on the porch, please,"
Dog attacks. Collected at night, paid my bill,
Then back again for the slackers. Enough of that.

Bored police, or just bad timing? 10:40, after a movie,
First night out in anyone's car. Burger joint raided
For 10:30 curfew!! Who knew? Those under 18,
In the clink; fingerprinted. 20, in 8-bunk cell: teens
And "regulars." 2:00 A.M. release to perturbed pops.

Homemade belly boards gave way to surfboards.
Fog at the pier, no wet suits, trench coats and fire
To warm up. No boards after 11:00, but The Wedge
Is up! OMG! Bodysurfing headfirst into sand!

At A and W, cars side by side, everyone tuned to
"Come Go With Me, Teenager in Love, Runaway,
Don't Be Cruel, Blue Moon, I like It Like That,
Mama Said, Johnny Angel, At the Hop, Wah Watusi."
At Bob's, "...Big Boy and Cherry Coke, please."

Cruising Oscar's, cars were king: some...blowers,
Fuel injected, dual carbs, jacked up, chrome rims,
Headers open--BUMpupu-BUMpupu-BUMpupu!
"Hey, guys, where's the action tonight?"
"That bitchin, Caddy-powered, orange Model A,
Racing now on Paper Mill Road. We're outa here!"
"American Graffiti" in our little town.

More vernacular: cherry, tough, sanitary.
Highway 39 Drive-In for: "Breakfast at Tiffany's,
Westside Story, Splendor in the Grass, The Hustler,
Summer Place." But who's watching the movie?

Rancho Alamitos: new, state-of-the-art. We were
"...the Vaqueros, and we couldn't be prouder..."
A good, positive place--decent kids, caring staff.
Out of the closet, in flapper dress, danced Miss Pic'l.
Callard, Ambrose, Johnson--respectable, considerate.
Effective Miss Dale, so serious and thorough.
Act up in Chemistry, Kaylor threw an eraser. Hilarious.
Many others worthy of mention: lessons well-taught,
Impressions made. Memories added to the
Reminisces of those fortunate years, when we
Lived out our youth, in idyllic Garden Grove.

Gary Matthews
Rancho Alamitos High
Class of 1962