A 1970 Home Movie. From Hollywood to Beverly Hills, San Clemente and Disneyland. My Parents’ First Trip to Southern California.
by Chris Dixon
My Dad, Jobie Dixon, on the beach with a horde of surfers in San Clemente, Summer, 1970.
Screen Grab from an 8mm home movie.
I reckon 1970 was a pretty good year for my parents. My dad, Jobie Dixon, was raised in the Air Force town of Sumter, South Carolina and graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1964. My mom, Gloria Ricks, came of age in a tiny tobacco and sawmill town called Soperton, Georgia – not far from the onion kingdom of Vidalia – and finished at the University of Georgia in 1965. Fresh out of college, pops hired a hot young assistant to work with him at a South Carolina textile firm. They married way too young.
By the time I came into the world in late 1966, Mom and Dad had gotten the hell out of the Civil Rights era South. Dad was an ambitious young marketing exec for Procter and Gamble in Ohio. There, he somehow convinced the mighty corporation to embark on the craziest promotion in its staid and storied history. For every purchase of a box of Spic ‘n Span floor cleaner, you’d get a free, live goldfish. Dad’s zealous pursuit of this seemingly unworkable idea nearly got him fired, and earned him the nickname “Goldfish,” but the promo was an unprecedented success. “Goldfish” also captured the imagination of the hottest ad agency on earth. In 1969, Dad was hired as a Mad Man for the Apple of the ad world, Doyle Dane Bernbach. The company’s work for Volkswagen – among others – was straight up iconic.
During the summer of 1970, Dad was asked to help oversee a commercial for SOS Soap Pads, which necessitated his first-ever trip to Los Angeles. He and Mom hopped on a big plane for mom’s first flight ever on a 747 and a stay at the Beverly Hilton.
Dad had spent his young summers beneath the clear skies along the sleepy coast of South Carolina and figured renting a convertible would be a good way to enjoy the warm California sun. When I showed this movie to Mom – part of a boxful of home movies we just had converted to digital – she laughed at the memory of the car. “We could barely breathe on the freeway from the smog.”
Like the other four-minute reels in the box, Mom and I found this a fascinating and melancholy little slice of the past. There are my parents, half my current age, wowed by the west coast. Mom was a babe (still is). Dad, who died in 2011 thanks to his long smoking addiction, looks like he’s fresh out of SAE.
The smoggy convertible. Photo: Gloria Ricks.
Passing El Morro on the way into Laguna Beach. Screen Grab from an 8mm home movie.
Driving into Laguna Beach. Screen Grab from an 8mm home movie.
In the film, we see Beverly Hills, Hollywood, the PCH, Laguna Beach and what I can only figure to be San Clemente – two towns I’d call home a generation later. And then, holy crap, there’s surfing! At a beach I’d one day surf myself! Mom reckons they probably chose to drive all the way down to San Clemente because Richard Nixon had just established his Western White House there.
Richard and Pat Nixon at the Western White House. Around the time this movie was filmed.
And then, of course, there’s Disneyland.
Mom at the Dumbo Ride. Screen Grab from an 8mm home movie.
The Magic Kingdom was already 15 years old when this film was shot. My wife, who grew up in Dana Point, remembers every scratchy detail – the Skyway, the Matterhorn and of course, the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – today bastardized into the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
How quickly tomorrows become yesterdays.
All else I can say after watching this video for the umpteenth time is, time flies. Hug the ones you love. And tell ’em you love ’em. — CD
The film, by the way, was digitized by Jack Bara. His company, Home Movie Studio, did a terrific job.