My mother was constantly telling my father how much she hated the Bronx and wanted to move. So when I was 7 years old, my mother, father, me and Peachy, our parakeet, boarded a Greyhound bus from the Bronx to Los Angeles. It took about a week to get there. Try getting a minyan on that bus. I remember our bus driver pulling up to some Indian reservation in Arizona to stop for lunch and announcing we should all be careful not to get scalped by the Indians. If he said that now, he’d be fired in less than ten minutes.

My family was like a Jewish Beverly Hillbillies, just without money or a beat-to-heck car. We lived in Los Angeles on Cochran Ave for a little over a year. The whole time we lived in Los Angeles, my mother kept telling my father how much she hated Los Angeles so eventually we took a train from Los Angeles back to the Bronx. Peachy sang his head off both ways probably happy he didn’t have to fly there himself.

We moved from the Bronx to L.A. We were like the Jewish Beverly Hillbillies, just without the money.

When we first arrived in Los Angeles, my father had trouble finding work but eventually he landed a job as a city bus driver. It’s hard to fathom that we moved cross-country with no money. But we did. And for some unknown reason to me, my mother went to a church rather than a shul to borrow money so we could get an apartment in Los Angeles.

Captain HuxleyOne afternoon, my mother needed to go shopping for food so we walked to a Ralph’s supermarket a few blocks away. It’s amazing we didn’t get arrested because back then, no one walked anywhere in Los Angeles. I didn’t know it but my life and outlook on life was about to change forever as my mother and I enter Ralph’s Supermarket.

While walking up some aisle, I spotted Captain Huxley also pushing a cart. Captain Huxley was the name of the character that actor Roy Roberts played on a TV show called Oh Susanna that also starred Gail Storm. I screamed to my mother, “There’s Captain Huxley” and I ran over to him at about 90 miles an hour. He was tall with a pencil thin mustache and very distinguished looking. I had never met an actor from a TV show before. I said, “Are you Captain Huxley?” He said, “Yes I am.” I said, “Can I have an autographed picture of you? He said, “I don’t carry them with me but if you give me your address, I’ll mail you one.” The whole way home I kept mumbling out loud to myself like some poor homeless guy, “I met Captain Huxley. I met Captain Huxley.”

That night around 8pm, there was a knock at our apartment door. I said “Who is it?” and the voice said, “It’s Captain Huxley.” I screamed so loud you would of thought I discovered a dead body in the closet. I screamed, “Captain Huxley is here! Captain Huxley is here!” My mother yelled back, “Captain Huxley?” Now she was walking down the hall mumbling like some homeless person, “Captain Huxley’s here. Captain Huxley’s here”. She came in and opened the door and there he was with a big smile and a package in his hand. He handed me the package and said, “Merry Christmas Mark.” I ripped open the package and saw an 8 by 10 framed autographed picture of him dressed in his captain’s outfit. He said, “I know how much you wanted the photo and with this being Christmas week, I knew if I mailed it to you, it might not get there for a few days. So I decided to drop it off.”

I didn’t tell him that we’re Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas. I just couldn’t believe Captain Huxley was standing at our door! I must have said thank you three hundred times. Even to this day, some 50 years later, every time I see the photo, I think about being a better person. The whole event changed my perception of humanity and adults. Up until that point in my life I did not have much trust for most adults. People would promise me things and many times not deliver on those promises. Not a great thing to do to a kid. Then Roy Roberts turns it all around with a simple little act of kindness and sensitivity. The Captain may not have been Jewish but to me he was a great teacher of character traits. He taught me in one simple act that people are good, people are decent, and people can be trusted. He was what the Sages call a “Lev Tov”, a good heart. Not bad for a TV captain.