A Guard Tower at Stalag 13

In the summer of 1973-this story begins…

Teenagers will be teenagers, fun can be had anywhere. Anywhere for me almost always involves a backlot. I have a pretty girlfriend, named Maureen. She’s a female me, she likes excitement and smoothly and efficiently climbs razor sharp fences, usually in cut offs. We trespass at MGM Lot 2 all the time, it’s part of living so close. But my shiny new first ever girlfriend has heard so many cool stories about Desilu, she wants me to show her around. Like a 13 year old Gentleman, I agree.

A Green- Culver City bus drops us off on the corner of Van Buren and the driver reminds us “bus service stops at 10 pm.” We cordially nod in approval. I paid our fare with change from my dad’s Blue- Santa Monica Bus coin dispenser. It’s like my own personal piggy bank. Nickels, dimes, and quarters are at my beckon call when dad mistakenly leaves this money contraption on our kitchen table. Yes- my dad is also a bus driver with the Venice/Santa Monica beach route. Sometimes Jimmy and I ride with him just for the views. There are always plenty of nice girls riding along with the newest trends in beach attire, which is barely any attire at all. It’s cultural and educational.

Maureen and I exit the folding glass doors across from the Culver Hotel, at a Richfield Gas Station. It’s just a short walk from here to the La Ballona Creek. As we head in a southern direction, we small talk back and forth as we briskly walk to our destination. We slow the pace down as we pass where Bruce Lee once lived during the filming of The Green Hornet, “”He lived upstairs here,” I point upwards to the second floor in a duplex right behind Desilu. Every teenager “DigsBruce Lee and sadly he just passed on at the age of 32…His death shocked me like when Jimi Hendrix died, or when Vince Lombardi, Pete Duel, and Venice legend Jim Morrison died, all recently. It seems to us young teens… The Good Die Young!

We pause in respect likehe’s here!

We continue down the street and climb down a cement slope and into the La Ballona Creek. This is where most trespassers begin their journey. There is no fence at all. Barb wire chain link surrounds the studio, but no obstacles here. Guard Dogs have disappeared that use to guard this place. It has a new owner, Laird Studios, and Hogan’s Heroes was just canceled last year. That is the main destination tonight, Stalag 13. It’s just past 6 PM on a summer night, with a bright orange sky highlighting itself against a gracefully aged backlot.

We hold hands as we go up that same cement embankment and peek between eucalyptus trees that line the creek on one side and a dirt road that leads all the way to Mayberry. The first set we pass is Goobers Gas Station. I show her around, first inside where empty shelves used to sell motor oil. There is still a pump and an icebox, left behind out front. Off to the side is a dirt pit that cars drive over so Goober or Gomer can change your oil. There are a lot of holes around this backlot. We both jump over the pit at the same time because- “we saw Opie Taylor do it!

I cut through some Eucalyptus trees pulling Maureen behind me through a face full leaves where we enter the King of Kings set, built in 1927 by Cecil B. DeMille. “Me and the boys just built this fort” as I proudly walk upstairs to the second floor. It’s narrow inside and we have a table and chairs…they are actually boxes that say Explosives that we found at the camp. I quickly realize there is no comfortable place here to relax and talk school. This is a mans fort- so we move on.

Downstairs and after one last farewell glance backward, we proceed forward under a plaster archway . We’ve now entered the old west. Like a pair of tumbleweeds we roll through town. All’s quiet so far, we are the only people here this evening. As the sky becomes a more dramatic orange with whipped up white clouds, we head towards the infamous Hogan’s Heroes tree stump.

I hold open the lid as Maureen proceeds down a 6 foot wood ladder into the dark abyss, not hesitating at all. The entrance is being lit by the remaining daylight which suddenly turns to pitch black as I slam shut the hatch. Just me and her in the pitch dark inside most famous tree stump in the world.

I have the advantage, I control the lid. Her laughter turns into a scream as I grab at her childishly. She has located me in the pitch blackness and begins punching me as I reopen the lid for my own safety. As I help her out of this wood and composite stump chock full of spider webs- I notice her forehead and hair has some fairly large cobwebs on them, like camouflage.

We reset our bearings to approach our next target- Klink’s Office. We enter from the backside of his headquarters while walking and taking in 6 foot tall licorice plants. The entire backlot looks and smells like this wonderful fragranced gift from nature. We arrive quickly taking one step into the tiny, widely exposed backside and stand between a wild wall that hides this field from camera as -the front door opens. It’s my turn I turn to twist that black metal door handle and we step out on the covered porch overlooking the Stalag, we are at this moment like – Colonel Hogan and Helga.

I really want to make out, so does Maureen...I think. I feel electricity usually reserved for when I’m being chased, or hitting a home run, or scoring a touchdown-It’s that feeling!

We walk to the dog kennels located next to a wishing well and a utility hut. I tell her “I want one of these for my dog Pebbles”- who sometimes trespasses herself. I know all the tricks here, I say “under one of these 6 dog houses another backlot hole exists,” she finds it and celebrates like some hidden Golden Easter Egg. There is a certain moment of satisfaction when you see this particular camp entrance that supposedly begins at the tree stump yonder. Here it is- in all its glory.

Next we browse into a P.O.W. bungalow which happens to have… rope cots. We sit, then lay on them but we reject them as very uncomfortable, like potential “rope burn” uncomfortable. Close but no cigar. We open the P.O.W. door and look toward the main gate. “let’s go climb up into the guard tower, shall we?

We run in anticipation, stopping to look in the Red and White striped guard shack. Close by, a ladder invites you upwards toward the guard lookout vantage point. The gigantic searchlight has been removed as was the machine gun. We look over the Stalag as the sky just begins to darken. We are in the Tower farthest right looking outward beyond the Main gate, toward the grassy snow covered knolls.

A lot of kids watch sunsets at the beach, but Maureen and I dig backlots and find Stalag 13 very romantic. Eventually we get sick of standing and just lay on the floor of this tower…making out like sophisticated 13 year olds. I remind her to be careful not to fall through the hole the ladder rises up through. Maureen looks beautiful as the sun sets on her already golden blonde hair. As I remove one more cobweb…”We begin the Art of Making Hickeys” on each other’s necks to the sensual sound of crickets.

Definition…For those who don’t know- those are marks left on the skin, usually after sucking, and, can take 10 days to disappear.

Sometimes, I just like to soak in my surroundings. She likes to talk. I guess it’s what you call “pillow talk.” I find myself fading in and out but hear something that spikes my interest. She said, “when I get older, my first time has to be special, like in a barn with hay and moonlight.” I nod in polite concurrence. She may think I’m not listening, yet I feel that we have ratified an agreement, like a treaty between two countries. I think to myself… Desilu has three barns. Three! Whee! Three! Be careful what you wish for young lassie. Pillow talk… I can dig it.

Every time we watch the episode of Hogan’s Heroes when General Burkhalter arrives at that main gate, we share a secret. We were the last scenes at this Stalag…with those same two giant Southern California Palm Trees off in the distance. We each gave our personal stamp of approval on this iconic set. “Don’t let your mom see this for Ten Days-at least!

Written and Lived by… Maureen Miller and Donnie Norden

We’re off to Desilu! The Number 7 takes you past not only MGM- but Desilu too. MGM Studios pictured on the right.

Love American Style… this is how I felt after leaving the guard tower with Maureen!

The tower farthest is our landing spot. This is where we discover “necking and hickeys”.

Our love nest is the tower on the right.

This picture was taken right before Stalag 13 was torn down. It was dressed a bit different for She Wolf of the S.S. They painted the guard shack neutral and added a medical cross on the roof of Klink’s office.

Just behind those Eucalyptus trees lies Camp Henderson from Gomer Pyle. The Baldwin Hills looks downward like a balcony seat.

Future TrespassersLocation, location, location… Proximity to the studios would set our fate. At this age, machine gun fire echoed through our street from the T.V. series Combat, filming close by. I was born in the middle of WW 2-on T.V. anyway.

Partners in crime…Maureen on the left/Donnie on the right. Yearbook photos at Culver Jr. High. Funny thing here is “I never carried Identification but I did carry a brush-everywhere.” We were constantly brushing our hair. She was always reaching in my back pocket. That’s life in the 70’s.

50 years later on the site that used to be MGM Lot 3

Up this stairway- in that square windowless room is my first Desilu fort. Inside we have six of these “explosivstoff” boxes to sit on. Built by boys for-boys needs.There were about twenty of these boxes inside the barracks at Stalag 13. This fort often saw extensive teenage partying. Soon after more forts popped up. One in a saloon which had a rolling phone to call “off lot.” We had pizza delivered to the saloon. Then another fort in the farm home used in Mayberry R.F.D. Our last fort built was in Andy Griffith’s House, upstairs. That had a church pew for a group prayer if need be, we removed it from the church across the way. This fort burned down in the Mayberry fire.

A four foot deep square hole lies under one of the six dog houses. This was where the POW’s would enter and exit the camp. The tree stump tunnel was how our Heroes snuck back into Stalag 13. They were both just- holes in the ground.

Of the three stumps, only one opens. This lid shuts by that rope handle. It had an incandescent light at one time for the actors that were put inside. This evening had no such amenities…Pitch black darkness awaits us.

This wooden cross piece was part of the top lid that opened and closed. It’s all that remains from my tree stump that was towed across town on a steel wheel cart when Stalag 13 was torn down. I wanted a dog house but those were already removed. “I need something from here” were my thoughts as I began to panic. The camp was down to guard towers, cots, and rooftops painted as if covered with snow, removed from the barracks. I then realized …”The tree stump is still here” so my best friend Pat and I used resources we could find around the 40 Acres backlot and devised a way to ‘Bring it on home.” It was a fixture at my home for almost another decade before finally collapsing from “over use- by big kids!”

The main gate of Stalag 13 has two towers on each side of the two gates that swing open and can be latched shut.

This gaurd tower has had many occupants in the past. Our fearless Camp Commandant can be seen peeking over the edge.

This is the actual interior of the P.O.W.’s barracks. These cots were inside without the cushion tops. Rope was all that we had to lay on and was not comfortable at all. Somewhere, we will find- our sanctuary. These cots ended up on Western Street and made it upstairs to our Saloon Fort. The fort with the Rolling Phone. We dialed 9 to get “off lot.” We called all over the country, just horsing around, whoever picked up the other end was told “Hello, we’re casting agents in Hollywood” The studio came looking for this phone because a large phone bill must have been attached. The saloon was boarded shut! “Damn, We’re out of business”

Stalag 13 was used in the Mission Impossible episode Trial by Fury (1968). Both are Desilu Productions.

The Guard Tower being used in the Mission Impossible episode Trial by Fury (1968)

Prison Camp in an unnamed South American country, in episode Trial by Fury (1968)

A great shot of the underside opening of the roof

Klink’s Office, South America style… Mission Impossible.

In this scene you can accidently see the parking lot just beyond the truck which is used for the cast and crew.

In this overview, you see two guard towers at the main gate. A third would later be added the left end of the barb wire fence. Marion Davies’ dressing room is located over there and Hogan’s Heroes used her old make up facility for touch- ups. I would rediscover this mobile heirloom in 2021, after hiding behind it in 1972. Camp Henderson is the Quonset Hut section of buildings on the right side of this picture. These two legendary movie sets often filmed side by side in the real-TV Land.

3 thoughts on “A Guard Tower at Stalag 13”

    1. Thanks for letting me know – I dig the his stuff. Fun way to forget I’m getting old. 50 years ago story!


      div>Appreciated Cynthia 

      Sent from my iPhone


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