Imagine eight people crammed into a 1200 sq. ft. home. Well, that was the McGrath clan, at 12022 Pacoima Court, coupled with a dog, an occasional cat, some stray birds, lizards and whatever else we brought home from the gully.
Looking back, I can’t imagine how we did it. But like any family, you just make the best of it, and we did, with all our antics, and activities.
As you know, we had two sets of twins. I guess this was the result of my parent’s interpretation of the Rhythm Method, which obviously didn’t work very well. Our parents could barely afford one child, but six? Things were crowded!
But what we lacked in space, we made up for with fun, and lots of it. There were always people around, including kids whose homes were less than stable. They’d hang out at our house, since it was always a mess, and they didn’t have to worry about breaking anything of value. Plus, my mom always made them feel welcome.
Bathroom time was always a challenge. I remember trying to take a shower, and attempting to have one private moment to myself. Inevitably, someone would come in and flush the toilet, and my moment vanished with that quick change in temperature.
Sometimes one of my brothers would fill up a tumbler of cold water from the faucet and dump it over the shower rod onto my head. What a wake-up call! Thanks Bro!
Since we only had three bedrooms, my twin sister and I shared one double bed, while my older sister Lynn slept in a single in the same room. Sometimes it was hard to sleep, especially when my sister came home from one of her dates, and wanted to unload about it for hours on end.
My brother Jack and Jim bunked together in the second bedroom, and I can just imagine what they did in the wee hours of the morning. No doubt they were plotting on how to best harass their sisters, without getting caught by Mom and Dad who were snoring in the other room.
My eldest brother Hal slept downstairs in the den since he was the eldest. Lucky guy!
Like most athletic kids, we liked playing ball in the house, much to my mother’s chagrin. One morning, we were playing “Pickle” with two magazines as bases. I was running back and forth, trying not to get tagged by my brothers, when I tripped on the carpeting, and hit my head on the marble-topped coffee table. Four stitches later, I was back at home, planning on when we could resume the game. A few months later, I slipped again and fell on our floor heater, and got a nice waffle scald on my thigh. I call it my athletic tattoo.
Teresa and I were always playing outside, and thankfully, there was a gully at the end of our block that provided lots of adventure throughout the years. One of our closest pals was Dennis Vitarelli, who was two years younger. The three of us spent many an afternoon in that gully jungle,
investigating the ominous storm drain that snaked under Carpenter Ave. We’d swing on the vines over the ravine, build forts, and enjoy the Tom Sawyer lifestyle that the area afforded us.
Dennis’ dad worked for Disney and this afforded their family many amenities that we didn’t have, including two tree houses along with a mini-train that his father built for us to enjoy. The three of us would pile into the little locomotive, and chug along the Laurel Canyon sidewalk, and onto Pacoima Court, where we would ride the train for hours.
But back to the McGrath clan. My brother Jack was always an entrepreneur at heart. One evening, my Mom, Teresa and I went out to see Mary Poppins at the Studio City Theater. The movie must have gotten out earlier than expected, because when we returned, Pacoima Court was pulsating like it had it’s own heartbeat.
As we navigated down the block, we noticed several randomly parked cars and hundreds of teenagers at our house. A live band was playing, and my brothers were selling tickets at the door. Jack was at the helm, looking like it was Christmas morning with a wide grin on his face, until he spotted my mom.
One look from her said it all, and as Teresa and I lumbered upstairs, I’m sure she was trying her best to keep it together. The following day, we found a toothbrush clogging the toilet, potato chips crushed inside the washing machine, and an army of beer cans all over the yard. That’s my brother-always at the helm of some activity.
As time progressed, the older kids moved out, and Teresa and I finally got our own rooms. I decorated mine with fluorescent posters to usher in the 70’s and Teresa finally enjoyed keeping all the windows open since I was always cold.
But somehow, things were a lot more fun when we were little, and crammed like sardines on Pacoima Court with six kids, two parents, a dog, stray cats, and a zoo of birds, amphibians and reptiles. I still miss those days…