Around 1961 we were living in Sherman Oaks, California and all the neighborhood kids wanted skateboards. In those days, you didn’t buy a skateboard, you built it from a plank of wood with an old roller skate screwed to the bottom.
Across the street lived Mr. Holland, who must have been about 74 at the time. He had the most incredible workshop in his garage, with a band saw, a table saw, a drill press, even a lathe, and he would help all the kids build whatever they needed at the moment. He taught us how to use the tools, and to do it safely. The most dangerous thing about the shop was his crazy Manx cat who would scratch you every time you tried to pet him.
We must have driven him crazy because as I remember, we spent part of every day there. I remember going over and knocking on his door to ask his wife if Mr. Holland could come out and help us. I don’t ever remember being turned down.
He wouldn’t do the work for us, he would teach us how to handle the tools and guide us as we did it ourselves. And as we worked, he would tell us the most amazing stories of his life. He had been born in England in 1887 and ran away from home when he was 15. Hopping a merchant ship he traveled the world. I remember his showing us an old globe on which he had marked his travels with dotted lines that stopped short when he jumped ship in Vancouver and decided he needed to see America. Eventually he made his way down to Los Angeles about the time the movie industry was starting to get underway in Hollywood. He was there at the very beginning.