Everyday, I walk the long stretch of railroad tracks that run along Culver Blvd. on one side and MGM Lots 1 and 2, on the other. Train tracks are really cool. Older kids tell me if you put your ear on the tracks you can hear and feel the trains rumbling towards you, even before they blow their horns, or are even recognizable.
A long, rusty path for steel horses stretches into the distance, as far as the eye can see, and when they pass by, they are temptingly slow enough to jump on… especially inviting are the empty box cars… or the caboose. It’s neat to watch a single, distant round light get closer and closer. The noise increases as it passes each street corner and I watch it coming from the MGM Lots.
I often put coins on the tracks right before the diesel passes me by – this creates what we call slugs. Flattened coins. These slugs still work in gumball slots just like the penny that existed before Abe gets flattened.
This utility road is just inside the studio fence. The train tracks are 10 feet away. A fence is all that seperates the two.
These tracks are just a short few feet from the studio fences and this utility road. The train conductor sits so high up he can easily see over the studio fence. More often than not, my friends and I are staring back from the villages and homes that exist inside that fence.
These would be MGM’s own train depot, the German village and its towering church, and a street very similiar to those of which we live. It is called Maple Street. Twilight Zone captured this street perfectly in the episode of the same name.
Other episodes… Stop Over in Quiet Town and Black Leather Jackets capture the ambiance of my tiny fake street and neighboring village. The ending credits in the episode Stop Over in Quiet Town are stenciled over a camera angle from the roof of a massive backlot wherehouse that looks down the entire Maple Street. Various backlot sets, as well as LMU and Playa Del Rey are in the far distance.
Playa Del Rey, LMU and LAX are the distant landscape, beyond the backlot.
Inside the warehouse we find an ocean liner, a submarine coning tower, rocketships and stage coaches. Past, present, and future is how this place rolls.
This view is one we share frequently. The roof of the warehouse is just behind the church and its steeple… the ones that are used in these episodes. This warehouse looks downward, as if looking down on a miniature toy set below. Just like the episode narrative…
Most recently, this neighborhood that lies inside these fences was used in a movie with James Garner… They Only Kill Their Masters.
Andy Hardy’s house doubles as Phil’s bakery in the building beyond Mr. Lawford’s head. He sits here with Katherine Ross in a very nice sports car.
As usual, as one show leaves, another comes in. That would be a TV pilot titled Hawkins. My friend Jimmy and I watch as another Jimmy, Jimmy Stewart, walks door to door in the make believe town of Beauville. Mr. Stewart is trying to get a petition signed by residents. He has a lawyer office in the main square. His office has a sign hanging, that says: William J. Hawkins Attorney at Law.
Later, after this pilot failed after an all-too-brief airing, I took that sign home to my expanding museum exhibit, that I hung on my side fence, at Huron. This would just about be it for Mr. Stewart’s involvment at MGM. His last MGM cameo was to be a couple years later, where I met him on the set of That’s Entainment 2.
This same area of the lot would be entirely refurbished in the 1977 spectacular Sgt. Pepper, starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees.
The ragged banner hanging from the second story in the picture below, is from Hawkins. It says, Beauville Civil War Week. I took it home but it lasted just a short time before my dad tossed it.
The houses and this neighborhood are quiet indeed, when filming is not taking place or being prepared for.
Airplane Wardens starring Laurel and Hardy … top/bottom
This picture sequece is an example how this very little square can cleverly be dressed and touched up for any numbers of eras and locations. But in reality, it is just my backyard.
When you enter homes through the front door, you first pass through the doorway, just like in real homes, and then you see things like, a table, a vase, a picture on the wall, and carpet on the floor. We prefer back doors, unless no one is around. These basic set dressings will be our furnishings, in the future, as we begin building forts all over the backlot.
The church on Maple street has a pointed top perfect for one owl to sit on, and hoot, as we practice night trespassing. We decide to take a bench and a carpet upstairs for a simple, crude rest stop, in what was used as Andy Hardy’s home, located in the middle of the block. It is a four sided complete structure. One side residential, the other, a Bakery that looks down from the second story to a small train depot.
This depot is where Judy Garland sang Clang Clang Clang Went the Trolly, in Meet Me in St Louis. Bobby Vann danced from Andy Hardy’s house on 1 leg with a dog dancing alongside, on two legs. Priceless images we recreate in our minds, as we sit and tell jokes and day dream all our troubles away.
All stories written and lived by Donnie Norden
Edited by DQ