MGM fixed the broken down fence that the tree fell through, leaving me with a huge problem. How do we fulfill our taste for exploration of this wonderland?
I ride my bike to St. Augustine Catholic School almost everyday. The path I take passes alongside MGM Lot 2.
I peek through holes as I ride to school. One glimpse usually hijacks my imagination… I want to play inside the studio all day. My school is directly across from the Irving Thalberg building—the very same one that Louie B Mayer once occupied.
All the other kids on my street go to the more laissez faire, public schools. But myself, and my little Irish-tuff guy friend, Pat, attend what is similar to military school. Nuns run the place. No nonsense. Do not compare them to Debbie Reynolds, who portrayed the Singing Nun in a 1966 film that also starred Ricardo Montalban and Chad Everett. It was filmed on the other side of the very fence I stare through every morning.
To keep my fantasies alive, I need a new way in. Pat, my schoolmate, is amazed by the stories and props I have collected so far. He wants in. Both literally and figuratively. After school, we case every foot of fence line. What we come up with is a pole draped with barbed wire. It connects a gate that allows railroad cars and trains to enter the backlot.
This train gate on one side has the tracks to eternity, but inside, it connects three train depots. Grand Central, better known for the classic, The Band Wagon, is what we see on the inside. That starred Fred Astaire in 1952. Up the tracks is a second depot, a nomadic type, often used in the Rat Patrol. Farther up, is where Meet Me in St. Louis was shot… with the famous “Clang Clang Clang went the trolley,” which was performed by the great Judy Garland. The most famous railroad tracks in the USA.
I needed a way in. Behind Grand Central we find it. This barbed wire pole actually works like a ladder with spikes.
We “test climb” up the pole, over and over again. This will work! Plus, it does not give an appearance of forced entry. Plush Pullman passenger cars line the tracks at grand Central. This depot is the most famous of all the backlots, only challenged by Desilu’s depot for Gone with the Wind. Actually, no tracks run to the Desilu depot. It is just a mock up.
Grand central and Lot 2’s railroads do tie to real working railroad tracks. This is often in use for wood deliveries and for moving large props, such as stagecoaches, etc. The classic Brothers Grim was shot here.
Pat and I sit in luxury inside an old train, peering through dusty windows, looking and listening for the dreaded Bronco. Our sole mission in life at this moment is to avoid security. Once we enter this depot, we hide and wait. But, time is irrelevant, we want to savor this moment, however long this moment lasts.
Overlooking this depot is the church that sits upon the hill, often used in Combat. It’s vantage point is very strategic. To get there, we need to run from the trains, up a little cobblestone road. Once the opportunity exists, we hurriedly cover that distance. The church tower allows us a view all the way to the main gate.
As it was in Combat, this steeple is a key to seeing what is taking place anywhere on the backlot.
Don’t turn that channel!…..More to come