Sunday, April 12, 2015

This is all that's left...

...of the childhood home of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and his two younger brothers, Dennis and Carl. The actual house, at 3701 West 119th Street in Hawthorne, California, was razed in the mid-1980s to make way for the construction of Interstate 105. (You can click on any of these pictures for a larger view.)

Ever since my pilgrimage to Hawthorne in February, I've been desperately trying to think of a way to write about it that would be remotely interesting to a casual reader. But I give up. Unless you're as big a fan of the Beach Boys as I am, you probably need read no further.

After dropping off my wife at the airport, I drove another five miles or so down to Hawthorne on a typically beautiful southern California Monday morning. The city, incorporated in 1922, became the home of the Northrop Corporation in 1939 and flourished amid the manufacturing boom of World War II. It was probably one of the first suburbs of Los Angeles, and an older woman who moved there from Minnesota told me it resembled a small Midwestern town when the Wilsons were growing up there in the 1950s.

But more about the town later.

This post is about the house in which three of the founding members of the Beach Boys lived. Two others, David Marks and Al Jardine, also grew up in Hawthorne. The last, Mike Love, a cousin of the Wilsons', was raised in the Baldwin Hills and View Park neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

While the Wilsons' house is no longer standing, of course, here are three other houses nearby which should give you a feel for the neighborhood:

As you can see, it isn't exactly Beverly Hills. Hawthorne actually reminded me more of the town in which I was born, Westchester, Illinois. Or Levittown, New York, if you prefer. It struck me as the kind of place where returning servicemen from World War II (like my dad) could buy a new house and start a family.

The Wilsons' house was similar, I think, to these: a one-story, two-bedroom structure on a small lot with a one-car garage. If I remember correctly from my reading, the three boys shared the larger bedroom (which would have been the master) while their parents occupied the other. As the boys got interested in music, their father, Murry (yes, Murry), converted the garage into a room for them to practice. In time, Brian made it his bedroom and slept on a bed or a cot next to the piano. It eventually became the inspiration for the song, "In My Room," above.

Next: Where Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys went to school.

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