As a kid I never got a lot of stuff for Easter and my parents didn’t hide eggs. We lived on an egg ranch with 10,000 White Leghorns in the back yard so eggs were never considered expendable. They were our bread and butter.
When I was growing up, I didn’t always get a basket, but I always got a new outfit for Easter. Mom and I went to church in our new clothes and then went over to North Palos Verdes Street for a big feast. That’s where several of my dad’s cousins lived in San Pedro. For Easter the main course was always lamb – a whole one cooked slowly on a spit in the back yard. The cousins traded off turning the spit, basting the meat and fetching another bottle of wine.
The women peeled potatoes and made ready spinach from the garden, a salad of dandelion greens dressed with olive oil and homemade red wine vinegar and traditional Easter bread. Each grandmother in the clan had her own recipe for Easter bread and the loaves all looked different. Some were round and others were braided but they all tasted the same kind of delicious –– sweet and fluffy with a hint of anise flavor.
In 1962, when I was almost 12, we gathered at my dad’s favorite cousin Vince and his wife Jenny’s house. They had two sons, Mark and Vince Jr. Mark is my age and Vince is a couple of years younger. Our cousin Johnny, a year younger than me, was there, too.
The cousins and I were restless. We were too old to play hide and seek with the little kids, although that used to be our game of choice while our parents sat on the benches in the back yard and talked about the old country or fishing.
We weren’t old enough yet to have wheels or friends with wheels so we could drive somewhere –– anywhere –– like we would do in the not too distant future. So, that Easter, after lunch, we moped around, bored, wondering what to do. Then we decided to ask our parents if we could go to the show.
Mark, Vince, Johnny and I felt the first breeze of independence as we walked side by side, each of us clutching two quarters, the dozen or so blocks to the Strand Theatre on South Pacific Ave. to see “The Miracle Worker.”
The Strand had been around since the 1920s. Mom went there as a kid when movies were a nickel and, as she often told me, she rarely had a nickel. She’d seen silent movies there and then the talkies.
I sat with my boy cousins feeling grown up and cool at the movies on Easter Sunday. The theater was nearly empty that afternoon while Patty Duke and Ann Bancroft held us captive with Helen Keller’s story. Truth is it could have been any movie because we just enjoyed being out alone –– together.
I remember it well, and the grand old theater, too, with over 800 seats and the balcony. I heard the Strand was converted into a church in the 80s but has since been demolished and now is a parking lot.
Easter of ’62 is the one I remember best. My cousins and I spent many holidays together after that, but it was never quite the same. We began to bring our transistor radios or went off into another room to use the phone to call a friend. We didn’t travel as a pack ever again and eventually we went our separate ways. Last summer we had a reunion and talked about getting together at Easter for a lamb barbeque. Guess it won’t be this year.