536 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles, California 90071 was the address my grandfather, Sewell, lived at in Los Angeles, California in 1926. My grandfather, a Kentucky boy, met my grandmother, Hazel, a Kansas girl, for the first time after he had turned left, and walked to the corner of 5th Street and Hope Street, Los Angeles, California in 1926.
Unfortunately, you cannot make the same evening stroll because the little house he lived in no longer exists, and the L.A. County Library has taken over the space between then, and now. If you Google map the address, if you turn left, as he had, it provides the library’s side entrance to gaze at to imagine a forgotten time and place.
How could I possibly know this?
This is the part that makes writing fiction A LOT of fun. I actually do have my grandfather’s diary. As the pasted photo will attest, within, on the first page, there is a square, thumb sized picture of him from December 24, 1926. He was barely 21, his eyes full of life, gazing out into a universe that he could not possibly have imagined. I know the exact location and date he met my grandmother because on the very next page within the diary, he had written a diary entry with the exact day, the location and that he met a girl named, Hazel.
Can you imagine knowing and reading the date and location your grandparents had met, in your grandfather’s handwriting? And let’s not even go into an existential discussion about the photo and time and place stuff … it would be boring.
I’m 50 pages into my next writing project, it is entitled, 5th & Hope. It tells the story of a highly successful, unhappy, middle-aged man finding his grandfather’s diaries, and then his wife deciding they needed to retrace his grandparent’s journey.
Remember learning about, Manifest Destiny and Horace Greeley advising, “Go west young man …”?
But then, in 1931, they married in a modest home in Pomona, California, and they drove back east to the heart of Kentucky in a Model A Ford. They drove across the United States along Route 66, before the Eisenhower Interstate System, shopping malls, fast food emporiums, and navigating without the benefit of a Global Positioning System.
And my grandmother left behind her entire family, a cartoon mouse, Mickey, a sign on the side of Mount Lee, ‘Hollywoodland’, she only knew my grandfather, and that she loved him unconditionally.
How do I know that little golden nugget?
Sewell told me the afternoon I drove him home after her funeral. I was sixteen, I can remember our conversation as if I were watching a home movie. But that’s why I love to blend fact into fiction, and writing a novel as if your grandfather talks to you from rice paper thin pages.
I wonder where it will take me? (By the way, I do know the ending …)