Once upon a time there was a street called Maple Street. At least… that’s what it was to us. You see, this street has had many names through the years. It existed long before The Twilight Zone, that’s for sure, and was once called New England Street for Minelli’s Some Came Running. But as I said, for me and my pals, this was Maple Street. When we first snuck through this set, we immediately recognized this location from several episodes of Rod Serling’s classic tales.
Stopover in a Quiet Town, The Shelter, Black Leather Jackets and Maple Street all used this street, located on the MGM backlot, extensively. We first explored this house, while running and sneaking house to house, like soldiers. What else could we be?… Combat Village is right next door.
This Saturday afternoon, according to my TV guide, KTTV will be showing a rerun of one on Maple Street, this afternoon at 12:00 pm.
All my friends and I enjoy a special TV land perk, being that we live just beyond the fence of so many of these sets. We watch stuff and then two minutes later we can be there. Out of the blue, Pat and I have a thought. Let’s grab my TV! It’s light and compact and easy to carry! All we’ll need besides, is an extension cord and a pair of pliers to change the channel (since the knob broke off).
It’s been decided. We will have a picnic in one of the houses that stands on this street, and watch this episode exactly where it was filmed. Like some black and white time machine. We purge my mother’s cupboards of goodies, and I find a treasure in the form of a box of Van de Kamp’s crumb donuts, immediately recognizable with the little blue windmill in the corner. I now realize she hides stuff from me. I’m taking the whole box. She’ll forget about ’em, I reason. We make bologna sandwiches, grab a couple bananas, and pack it all up carefully into this Rat Patrol lunch pail…
We are off to Maple Street, looking like the Beverly Hillbillies. We take turns carrying the TV since it is a bit bulky, but not heavy. We trade off: TV for lunchbox and extension cord, as we walk down the railroad tracks that lay just beyond the metal fence behind this iconic street.
This lunchbox and I have been through a lot together… it went to school with me every day when I was at St. Augustine’s Catholic School. When I would walk past the main gate, I would often see these exact vehicles parked up front, the same ones on my lunch pail. I would press it against the chain link fence at the main gate so it could see how it has its own hit TV series.
At lunchtime, I would open it up and be happily surprised by whatever menu my mom provided. As I sat in the schoolyard my imagination ran wild wanting to be on these sets instead of school… I kid that I am living out the images on my lunchbox!
We have arrived. With no traditional entry point behind this street, we climb in at the train station and then contort ourselves, willing ourselves to become invisible, as we move hunchbacked, along the inside of the fence line… with a TV in tow. This is a critical moment. It’s where anything can and often does happen. It’s an open space and we could easily be seen. It would be especially awkward to have to run from the Bronco with our arms stretched around a big plastic box with rabbit ears bobbing about all over the place. We keep our focus on finding cover… on Maple Street.
We arrive safely. We set down our supplies and now we must find a house with an electrical panel. Not every set has them. Andy Hardy’s house does. We set ourselves up on the second floor and slip the cord through the floor to a 120 volt plug below.
Now, our reconnaissance can shift its focus to figuring out if and where security is located. Not that we care… it’s just good practice to take roll call. Exiting will be simple; we can climb over a fence 20 yards away. The way these fences are built, you can exit anywhere. And we’re experts.
While we look out from the upstairs windows, we try to pull in a signal with these partially damaged rabbit ears. We twist and turn and quickly get a solid picture. Don Cornelius and the music show, Soul Train, dials us in, and Combat follows. We just climbed in at a train station I laugh, as I tell Pat “they should film that here too, we can make you a Soul Train”… But this moment is all about Maple Street, so we turn to channel 5.
–As we watch the iconic opening credits, Rod speaks… You unlock this door with the key of imagination… while clocks and doors and E=mc2 go floating across the screen, then suddenly disappear, like an invitation to play hide and seek… making you feel like you want to go chasing after these mysterious symbols into an enchanting land of magic… You just crossed over into… The Twilight Zone.
And then the camera pans down to the street. Two seconds into the episode and we already see the very building we’re hiding in! We become part of a land of shadows and ideas, as we open up my Rat Patrol lunch pail to enjoy a Maple Street picnic.
We only wish we had a pause button to slow everything down, so that we can take it all in and better examine our surroundings. We do the best we can to quickly compare the things we see around us to what the camera allows us to see, on screen. We see Maple Street below us, in full color… while we watch a black and white version of it, filmed over a decade ago. This is better than drugs, but we did bring some Kona Gold to add to the experience.
What’s real… is it the TV show or is it us…Well, these crumb donuts are real!
This is a trip, for sure. I have watched this episode a million times but not like this. We sit up high, on the second floor of this building, as we continue to float up… even… higher… and the black and white imagery becomes as colorful as the real Maple street below. And we become transported to some place that is a merging of the two… a land of both shadow and substance…
Above: The home where the car starts on its own. Below: The yard that is directly across the street from this house.
Our question has been answered… Yes, there is a guard and he has just pulled up in the Bronco. Worse yet, he is parking out front… what a buzz kill! We turn the volume down, while continuing to watch the mob scene taking place. We are looking down at the Bronco, with trigger happy Bob Coleman behind the wheel. On the TV, we see two aliens also looking down. We know the lines by heart, so the volume is unnecessary. It’s all about the visual. We feel like aliens, without a space ship to fly away on and ditch this killjoy. Actually, there are a couple in storage not too far away…
We keep a cautious eye on the Bronco below that sits in the light drizzle that begins to fall. We joke, why did he park here, could he also be watching this… ?
He leaves, as the end credits begin to roll. We just lived through an alternative ending, so to speak. Well, in a half hour, Combat is on… that show shoots right over there. Let’s pack it up, troupe!
Don’t change that channel! Actually… do change it… it’s on channel 11. This is how to spend a gray, misty day watching classic TV, right where it was made!
Above: The front side of the house that faces Maple Street. Below: same building, another side.
This is one of my favorite pictures… so much is here… in the foreground is the backside of Andy Hardy’s house. We have chairs inside, on the second floor. This building had the power we needed, in order to power up my TV. Also chairs and a table for relaxing. The backside of this picture is Maple Street.
If Rod Serling could see us now…He’d be proud !
Written and lived by Donnie Norden
Edited by Donna Quesada