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An Unusual Reunion

Feb 16, 2014

Old Television 300x253 An Unusual Reunion Washington movie theater Pillers Pasadena history Michael Deak local history litcher printing company Kyle Farnloff Knotts Berry Farm Jonny Deak Jensens market Howard Piller Barbara Houck  photoTV’s were rare back then—back in1952—so all the kids would come over to Howard’s house, jostling for space in front of the 8-inch screen.

Howard, never Howie, also could boast about having the only pool on the block—but because both of his parents had to work, if no other parent could watch them, the kids couldn’t swim.

My name is Howard Piller, I’m 67 years old and have lived in Pasadena all my life. My best friend Jonny Deák, his brother Michael Deák, Barbara Houck, Kyle Farnloff, and myself, who all used to live just a few houses apart on Howard Street in Pasadena back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, have planned to attend an unusual reunion.

We are going to meet in front of 830 E. Howard St., the house I lived in, pose for a photo in front of that house in the same manner as the original photo, and then we will walk the block, visiting our old houses and reminiscing about our fond childhood memories of our life on Howard Street sixty years ago.

howardstgang 615x869 An Unusual Reunion Washington movie theater Pillers Pasadena history Michael Deak local history litcher printing company Kyle Farnloff Knotts Berry Farm Jonny Deak Jensens market Howard Piller Barbara Houck  photo

(L-R): Howard’s best friend Jonny De’ak, Micheal De’ak, Barbara Houck, Kyle Farnloff, and Howard Piller

In the photo, my guess would be (that we were) ages 7 to 11. I might have been eight, the two girls were a year younger than me, Jonny was a year and a day older than me, and Michael was four years older than me.

Michael and Jonny lived right across the street from me. When I met Jonny, I was two years old; Jonny was three. Jonny got in trouble for crossing the street to meet me. From that day forward, we’ve been best friends.

Howard says the Washington Movie Theater was a must on Saturday mornings—10 a.m. The Early Bird Show. For 25 cents, Howard and his friends could see “a bunch of cartoons, a short serial episode of Rocket Man, and a full-length movie.” The longest line he remembers seeing was for Abbot and Costello’s Meet Captain Kid. “It was similar to the iPhone lines today,” he says, though he adds, “Maybe just a little bit of exaggeration.”

Before the movie, Howie and his group would stop at Jensen’s Market on the corner and get “plenty of candy from Mr. Jensen’s famous Penny Box.” Piller’s memory recalls that Mr. Jensen looked like Sheriff John.

After the movie, the kids might go to the park.  “Washington Park was a great place for us to play. The park in those days was full of vegetation and plenty of places to hide.”

It was always fun to go to Kyle’s house (blond girl in the photo). She had a huge backyard, a large playhouse, and a lot of different animals, even a duck named Webster. Her mother taught us the best game ever, called Yahtzee. We couldn’t get enough of it. (We) listened to dance records and Kyle’s mother Marilyn would try to teach us how to dance. At Barbara’s house we listened to Fabian and the Supremes, and sometimes her grandmother would make us an Armenian food called Dolma, which we really loved.

Barbara’s family was Armenian, my family was Jewish, and Jonny’s family was Hungarian, (though) he found out recently that his father, who passed away when Jonny was a baby, was really Jewish but had to hide the fact because of fear of the Nazis in Hungary.

Jonny’s father was the manager of a liquor store called Gerlach’s, while his mother was a bookkeeper for Litcher Printing Company. Barbara’s mom worked at Knott’s Berry Farm, and Kyle’s mom was a tap dance teacher and her dad a school bus driver. Howard’s parents were in the clothing business and had a store in the Lake Washington area called Piller’s. His Uncle Jerry had a store on Colorado and Mentor and his Uncle Joe had a Piller’s in Eagle Rock.

We all attended Longfellow Elementary School. Sirhan Sirhan lived on the same block, just a few doors down from us, and was in Jonny’s class. We both used to play marbles with him at lunch break on the playground. He was just a regular, normal kid in those days.

Janet Landgard was one of our friends and used to come over and swim in our pool. She was in the movie The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster, and also starred in The Donna Reed Show. She lived in Pasadena, but not on our block.

And, oh, the little (big) things that make an impression that lasts decades:

We had an old Plymouth in the late 40’s and then we got a 1952 Dodge 4-door sedan. My father let Jonny and I take turns steering the car to and from school when we were only seven.

 An Unusual Reunion Washington movie theater Pillers Pasadena history Michael Deak local history litcher printing company Kyle Farnloff Knotts Berry Farm Jonny Deak Jensens market Howard Piller Barbara Houck  photo

(L-R): Jonny, Barbara, Michael, Kyle, and Howard; photo taken by Vin, Michael’s childhood best friend.

Jonny lives in Stockton and plays in an oldies band called RB/X. Barbara is retired and still lives in Pasadena, as does Vin and Howard. Michael Deák lives in Gig Harbor, Washington, and is an award-winning jazz pianist and composer, and Kyle is retired and lives in Yorba Linda.

 An Unusual Reunion Washington movie theater Pillers Pasadena history Michael Deak local history litcher printing company Kyle Farnloff Knotts Berry Farm Jonny Deak Jensens market Howard Piller Barbara Houck  photo

 

Link to reunion website: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/54637963/An_Unusual_Reunion/%22Walk_Your_Old_Block%22.html




1 Response for “An Unusual Reunion”

  1. Jon Deak says:

    Kat, That was a wonderful article. Thank you!

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