I grew up in North Long Beach, living in a little house ($13,000.00 for a two-bedroom house in the ’60s) on Del Amo Boulevard, between Long Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard. Del Amo is a six-lane highway, and our house was about thirty feet away from thousands of cars rushing by day and night, either on their way to or from the Long Beach Freeway, which was about a mile away. Besides playing catch in the driveway (or Poison, which was a game where our friend Kathy would be a baserunner, and my brother and I would try to tag her out when she would run from one base to the other), and trying not to get hit by a car if the ball went into the street, one of our main sources of entertainment was to go down the street to Dooley’s Hardware, where the giant lumberjack stood, overlooking Long Beach Boulevard. Dooley’s Hardware consisted of three buildings that were spread over three blocks – you could get anything there, from ten-cent hot dogs to eighty-nine cent 45rpm records to a new living room set. Oh, and they also sold hardware.
We used to buy our Christmas trees in the parking lot of Dooley’s every year; my father would tie the tree to the roof of our ’66 Impala, and curse for the whole block and a half ride home, while he and my mother would hold the tree down so it wouldn’t fly off and cause any major accidents. (“A Christmas Story” is one of my favorite movies; I really think my dad may have been the inspiration for Darrin McGavin, except that he wove a tapestry of obscenity while working on the family car, instead of the furnace).
I would also go every Saturday with my dollar allowance to buy a 45 single, making a carefully considered choice from the 93 KHJ radio playlist each time. The playlists were free to take home, so I would have a new one each week, and track my favorite songs to see how popular they were. I had a little square box with a handle (because you never knew when you would be invited to a slumber party, and have to bring your music) that kept my 45s safe.
Dooley’s has been torn down, and the property is now home to a magnet school: http://www.lbschools.net/dooley/. Even though I know this is a great and necessary development for North Long Beach, which has become a pretty sad place for me (more on that later), it’s hard to drive by without thinking of the giant lumberjack keeping watch over good, cheap hotdogs, and everything else you could ask for in a hardware store.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a decent picture of the store with the lumberjack in front, but this is a pretty cool website that shows a state-by-state listing, with photos, of the immense and terrifying monuments that we Americans like to erect and enjoy: