The decade of the 1040's, especially in South Central Los Angeles, was a challenging time and place. It endured rationing; suffered endemic racial tensions; spawned incipient gangs; and stubbornly clung to the ravages of the depression. This was the milieu Arnie Crockett and his family migrated into when he was eight and he encountered such wonders as concrete buildings, electric appliances, indoor plumbing, streetcars, stoplights, dial telephones, smog, and special movies. L.A. was an urban sprawl unique among U.S. cities. It was crisscrossed by alleys and dotted with vacant lots - a serendipity of which Arnie took full advantage, turning 97th Street and environs into his exclusive fiefdom of fun. Arnie loved to play. He suffered severe asthma, a contentious relationship with his father, felonious cousins, an essential inferiority complex, and an early awareness of his mortality; but the exhilaration he felt when he played with his brother, Lenny, and his friends, Richard and Jimmy overcame all. A panoply of unique and fascinating characters inhabited 97th street: the crazy girl; the jungle lady; the fugitive kidnappers; the ghost of a suicide; the sweet old arsonists; and the evil custodian of the 97th Street School. In Arnie's back yard resided the world's mangiest dog; the world's largest chicken; a wiener-eating snake; and the world's smelliest duck, the demise of which turned out to be one of the most profound events in Arnie's life. Elwood Crockett, Arnie's father, was a complex man of varied skills and prejudices. But Elwood could not - or would not - show the love he truly felt for his wife and children other than by his stoic sense of responsibility. It was not until the daybefore Elwood's sudden, unexpected death that Arnie and his father finally came to demonstrate unequivocally their mutual love and respect.
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