There is a small plaque along the overgrown pathway outside the house where Candy Cane Lane’s Ebenezer Scrooge lives — designating it as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
It sits on the corner of Lubao Avenue and Oxnard Street where, every Christmas season, neighbors residing on half-acre lots here display elaborate holiday decorations for thousands of families to slowly drive by with dimmed headlights and their kids wide-eyed in the back seat.
Bah, said Scrooge, let them have their Candy Cane Lane. I want no part of it. I’ll have my wildlife sanctuary, and provide shelter, food and water for birds, squirrels, and small mammals needing a safe haven in the city to have their babies and a place to rest.
But time softened Scrooge, and he decided to put up one holiday decoration outside his wildlife sanctuary to welcome people during the holidays — a large peace sign painted on plywood rimmed with Christmas lights.
“I had begun to feel like Scrooge,” 86-year-old Alan Pollack said. “I had to do something instead of just telling people I was an atheist, so I put up the peace sign.
“The first night it went up my youngest daughter dropped by and came into the house laughing hysterically. Daddy, she said, that’s the Mercedes Benz sign, not the peace sign. I was missing one leg.”
Meet Alan Pollack, a thoroughly engaging fellow marching to his own drummer. He moved his family to Candy Cane Lane in 1968 when he opened the psychiatry department at nearby Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. He rode his bike to work for the next 27 years.
Pollack retired in 1995 to a hobby of building large, intricate model ships that he displayed all over his home until he ran out of room, so he switched to large doll houses he donates to hospitals, women’s shelters, and schools for therapists to use in child development.
“I like to work with my hands, as well as my brain,” he said, putting the finishing touches on his 125th dollhouse to donate. At his side was Finny, a 10-year-old, small rescue dog.
Finny finally found a home in Pollack’s backyard wildlife habitat.
“After retiring, I began to re-landscape my very boring garden that was mostly lawn and Algerian Ivy,” he said, as we took a tour. “I didn’t know what I was doing at the time, but I was making it wildlife-friendly. I tore out all the concrete, blacktop and lawn, and put in mulch and native California plants.
“Soon, I began to notice all these birds, butterflies, and small mammals finding shelter in my yard. When one of my trees fell, a family of raccoons moved in and had babies there. I’ve identified 55 bird species, five butterfly species and a variety of possums and raccoons, but no skunks.
“Everyone seems to get along. I don’t hear any war going on. They’re just looking for food, water, and shelter, a place to raise their young. I give it to them.”
He’s not sure whether he’ll return to being Candy Cane Lane’s Scrooge again this Christmas or put up his peace sign with the extra leg. Whatever he decides, people still like and respect him, says his neighbor and friend Mark Einbund.
They see him up every morning at 7 a.m. walking Finny with his grabber, picking up trash thrown from cars cutting through Oxnard Street on their way to the freeway.
They know old Scrooge is a good guy.
Sometimes, when he sits alone in his backyard at night, the squirrels will come up and take peanuts from his hand, or the birds will walk between his feet pecking away at the seed he has left them on the ground. They feel safe here. Trust him.
Before he goes inside to work on another dollhouse to donate, he’ll lift his nose to the sky and take a big whiff.
Nope. No skunks, yet, in his backyard wildlife habitat on Candy Cane Lane.
Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at [email protected].