Dick Griffin – The Beginning-1931-1938

Actually I was born before I knew it! In fact it was almost 3 years later when my brother, Mike, was born that I realized I must have been born, too. My mother remembered my arrival to be about 1100 AM on Wednesday, the ninth day of 1931. January 9th was probably sunny and warm because it was Los Angeles, CA, in the days before smog filled the basin and before the freeways and a population greater than several hundred thousand, mostly mid-westerners, existed.

We were in the Good Rice Hospital of Hollywood, a building like so many others that doesn’t exist today. When my mother’s sisters came to visit us that first day, they asked for Mary Griffin’s room and were directed to a room holding a stranger. On complaining they were told the woman was Mary Griffin; so they clarified it by asking for the mother of Richard Griffin.

Again they were told it was the correct room. Finally, a further check of patients indicated the presence of two Mary Griffins with newborns named Richard. (I’ve never attempted to find my “ Hospital Twin”!) My mother selected my name: “Richard” because she liked it and my middle name, “Beckett”, was her maiden name. (I actually liked my brother’s middle name, “Stephen”, better than “Beckett” so I took it as my confirmation name. Now I’m happy with “Beckett”, since I’m the only one carrying that name because my uncles did not have male children.) I came home to a Christmas tree, because my mother wanted it there for my first homecoming!

A later home visit by my aunts for coffee and to admire their new and first nephew was highlighted by my mother changing me on top of the coffee table; and as she removed the used diaper I arose to the occasion by squirting a perfect arc through the air directly into Aunt Margaret’s coffee cup. Aunt Mag had often said “I always knew you didn’t like me, Richard.” Actually, she and her sisters called me by a horrid nickname, conferred by Mike who would try to say “Richie”, but it would come out “Chi Chi”. I believe they ceased it when I was in my 20s or 30s, slipping sometimes to “Cheech”.

My parents, Frank and Mary Griffin and their siblings had migrated to Southern California during the late 1920s and early 1930s from Missouri (fathers-side) and Kansas (mothers-side). We lived in Hollywood and North Hollywood for a couple of years after I was born before returning to Kansas City, where my brother was born in 1933.I’ve been told that the big entertainment on Saturday nights was family get-togethers to play Pinochle. We kids were dumped on the bed with the coats if it was at someone else’s home when it was bedtime. The adults would usually play all night and sometimes into the next afternoon. These card games followed us back to CA, but the long nights weren’t as often. (I learned the game young so that they could use me when not enough adults were around.) Pinochle isn’t so popular today; rarely do I meet anyone who plays anymore.

There was no work and weather in Missouri, not as nice as CA, so we returned to CA. We lived on Morningside Court in Hollywood for the next 4 years. This little street with the beautiful name is the first street west of Vine St. and our block ran from Sunset Blvd south to DeLongpre. A developer must have been creative in naming the street when he built the houses on vacant land on the east (morning) side of the street. There was only one house on the west side; the remainder of the land was vacant or commercial. In fact we initially rented the westside house until it was torn down and we moved across the street. The houses no longer exist, being replaced by high rise buildings and a bus station.

My father was a service station attendant at Muller Brothers, a huge gas station just around the corner on Sunset. A 50 foot (at least) stack of tires near the front was an attention-getter.  Muller’s was the eitome of “service stations” with my dad and all the attendants in their white uniforms and “Sunshine,” the greeter and windshield washer in his fancy uniform.


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