Thursday, July 20, 2006

And Now, For Something Completely Different...

I write a column for the local monthly paper, Temple City Life. My August column (due today) is below, just for fun.


With Glenn Layne

To Boldly Go…to Temple City

It’s been called the most famous split infinitive in the English language: “To boldly go where no man had gone before.” You remember split infinitives, right? The bane of High School English teachers, the split infinitive is when you insert a word between the “to” and the “go.” I read somewhere that the reason that split infinitives are supposed to be so evil (pronounce that “eeeee-vil”) is that infinitives cannot be split in Latin. In Latin, infinitives are always one word (for example educere, to educate). The old rule way, if you can’t do it in Latin, you can’t do it in English either!

Most modern grammarians aren’t as hard core on split infinitives, and I have a feeling that the famous Star Trek split infinitive may have something to do with it. Yes, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 45 years, you know about Star Trek. But do you know the Temple City connection to Star Trek? Attention Temple City Historical Society!

Most of what I’m about to share comes from the book Star Trek Creator (David Alexander, 1994), which is the authorized biography of Gene Roddenberry. As an authorized biography, it glosses over some of Roddenberry’s very deep flaws—especially his womanizing, something his first wife could not abide, but which his second wife, Majel Barrett (also know as Nurse Chapel and Lwaxana Troi, from her TV roles) did.

Born in 1921 El Paso, Texas, Roddenberry spent his boyhood in the Los Felix neighborhood of Los Angeles where his family had moved so his father could pursue a career with the LAPD. Gene took classes in police studies at LA City College and headed that school's Police Club.

In that role, he liaised with the FBI, thanking them for sending speakers and securing copies of the FBI Code and publications for club use, and attempted to take fingerprint records of the college community for the FBI's Civil Identification Division.

He later transferred his academic interest to flight and qualified for a pilot’s license. When the war broke out, Roddenberry joined the US Army Air Corp. He flew many combat missions in the Pacific Theater and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, he was a commercial pilot for Pan Am for a time. He received a Civil Aeronautics commendation for his efforts following a crash in the Syrian Desert, while on a flight to India.

Roddenberry left Pan Am to pursue writing for television in Los Angeles. He fell back on his early training as a policeman and joined the LAPD. He served the LAPD from 1949–1956.

Here’s where the Temple City connection comes in. While Roddenberry was flying for Pan Am (and living on the east coast), his parents moved out to the wide open spaces of the suburbs, to the new town of Temple City. David Alexander gives the exact address: 2710 Green Street. Now there is a Green Street, but no modern home has that address, so I suspect that some re-numbering has occurred. Gene and his first wife, Eileen, moved in with his parents to the house on Green Street in 1948.

Apparently, life in Temple City agreed with the younger Roddenberrys. Gene and Eileen moved into another house in Temple City a few years later. Again, David Alexander gives the exact address, 9855 Key West Street, which is indeed on the map, and yes, I was curious enough to drive over and have a look. Alexander says that the little house was at least partially built by Roddenberry and his father. This would be his home until 1964, the same year in which the original pilot for Star Trek would be filmed. Then he would move—where else?—to Beverly Hills.

Long before Star Trek became a reality, Roddenberry was writing scripts for many of the popular television series of the 1950s, such as Have Gun, Will Travel. Working in television had been his plan since leaving Pan Am; he worked his way up in the LAPD to become a public relations officer and a speech-writer for Chief Parker. He also managed to get himself assigned as a liaison between the LAPD and the entertainment industry.

If you follow the timeline, that means that Star Trek was born in the mind of Gene Roddenberry while living in Temple City. Why, maybe we need a plaque on the house on Key West: “Home of Gene Roddenberry, and Birthplace of the World Famous Star Trek Television and Motion Picture Series.” Maybe we need a Roddenberry Square and a Captain Kirk Avenue. Think of the commercial possibilities: Mr. Spock’s Science Academy. Mr. Scott’s Industrial Repair. Uhura’s Cell Phones. You get the idea. (Please note: tongue plated firmly in cheek.)

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

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