Ginia Desmond’s Story
I’ve been asked many times if this story has a personal connection. Yes, very personal. Our lives are grist for the writing mill, are they not?
Here’s my actual story:
My dad was Gene Autry’s biz partner, Vice President of Golden West Music Publishing Co., and a successful song writer (Here Comes Santa Claus+). In 1946 or so he was awarded Western Song Writer of the Year with 200+ songs (music and lyrics ). But in 1952 a heart attack brought him down and he retired at age 43. His doctor said, “Go to work and die, or go fishing and live.” My dad went fishing. We could live off his royalties.
My parents sold our house w/ the pool, bought a used 25 foot Alma trailer, and hooked it up to our late model Caddy. The first place we stopped for the night was 25 miles from Azusa, CA, where we bought the trailer. Dad was still getting the hang of it. I’m not sure where we spent that first night, but in those days, unless you’re in Palm Springs or Florida, the trailer courts were blue-collar. I remember peeking out the blinds that first morning to see how the other half live…old trailers (even then they looked old), old cars, junk. It felt hopeless. This was not the Southern California I knew.
From there, on to Palm Springs where I began the first of 19 school changes for the next 2 years, sometimes attending only 3 or 4 days, while my parents went fishing. And drinking…both professional alcoholics. Dad was arrested several times for drunk and disorderly. I was great at baseball AND jacks, a golf ball was my secret weapon, not those crappy rubber balls you get with the jacks. I had a baseball bat I loved that I got for my 9th birthday. I left it by accident in a trailer court in Alabama or Arkansas…one of those southern states. We were 40 miles away when I realized what I’d done.
Because we spent so much time in a car, I’d sometimes write down the license plate numbers if I imagined something suspicious taking place. Maybe I had a secret desire to be rescued while I thought about rescuing others. (No, I was never a drama queen.) Decades ago, in a short story class, the image of that first morning popped into my head. I hadn’t thought of it for eons. I used Junior as the POV character, the protagonist… pure fiction, and wrote a story about a bullied boy in a crummy trailer court. Initially it was set in Fresno, CA, but I moved the screenplay to the desert.
This story was also personal to our director, Steve Anderson. Possibly more personal for him then for me…it still makes him tear up. After he read the script he wrote that he couldn’t stop thinking about it, and if I ever had it produced, he’d love to direct it. Because of his sincerity, and knowing his talent, I wrote right back to say I’ll produce it. (Talk about a learning experience!)
It was a short script, but a good friend here, Victoria Lucas, said I needed to double the length. She’s been in development her entire career…in fact she’s ‘old Hollywood’, her grandfather directed Casablanca, for one, and her grandmother wrote scripts, was nominated for Oscars, and worked with all the Hollywood giants. Expanding the story is when Melissa became a ballet dancer. As I wrote it, I wondered if my granddaughter in Denver, a ballet dancer, with the right look, would consider auditioning. Lucky me!
Wrapping this up, I’ll end by saying my we finally settled in Scottsdale when I was 12 and bought a trailer park that looked ranch like…each space had a shake roof ramada. We called it Lucky U Ranch after my uncle’s TV and Radio show in L.A. featuring the Sons of the Pioneers, the singing group where Roy Rogers got his start. My daughter in Denver reminded me that the actual name of our trailer park was perfect: Lucky U Ranch — no one is lucky and it’s no ranch.