FAIRFIELD — Growing up in Fairfield was not always easy for 4-foot-5 Irving Scible Jr. While he was mostly treated with respect, there were still bullies who picked on him. One of his other problems was finding clothes that fit.
“I could find shirts and shoes and socks, but not pants,” Scible said.” I went shopping at the Hilltop Mall with some friends back when shorts started to get longer. What were long shorts for my friends, were off-the-rack long pants for me.”
Scible was born with Achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism, at Travis Air Force Base in 1958. His parents naturally had questions about how their son could fit into society. Their fears were eased a bit, however, as they had already had experience with another little person, the accepted term today, named Ellis Harper.
“It made it easier for my mom and dad because he got them in touch with The Little People of America,” Scible said.
Founded in 1957 by actor Billy Barty (“Under the Rainbow”), The Little People of America’s mission is to improve the quality of life for people with dwarfism.
“Billy Barty and I become good friends. Like a lot of organizations, what it really does is show you that you are not alone,” Scible said.
Jobs that Scible held included working in the Daily Republic press room and at Bonser’s gas station. Fairfield was smaller then and most everyone knew each other.
“I remember one day walking downtown during Easter vacation and Joe Lozano (original owner of Joe’s Buffet) didn’t know I was on break and called my mom.’Did you know Irving is downtown?’” Scible said. “I grew up with more than one set of parents.”
The very day he got his driver’s license, Scible experienced something that later happened to him on a routine basis.
“I used to have a four-wheel drive Ford pickup and the first day I got my driver’s license, I drove down Texas Street. A cop saw me and pulled me over,” Scible said. “When he came to my window he said ‘Irving, I just have to see how you’re driving this thing!’ ”
Scible explained and demonstrated the special pedal extenders he used to drive, but other officers had to see it for themselves.
Scible’s aforementioned friendship with Billy Barty lead to his being cast in motion pictures and meeting other famous people. It all started at the now-closed Baskin Robbins that used to be on North Texas Street.
“Max Baer, Jr. (“The Beverly Hillbillies”) was filming ‘The McCullochs’ locally and I was in Baskin-Robbins with my friends and some guy asked me if I wanted to be in a movie,” Scible said. “I said ‘Yeah, right’ then the guy dashed out and came back with Max Baer.”
Another little person in the film, Billy Curtis (“The Wizard of Oz,”),was also Mayor McCheese in McDonald’s commercials and had to go to Los Angeles. Scible filled in, but got no movie credit in the film.
In the mid-1980s, “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas produced two made-for TV movies, ostensibly for his daughters, featuring the teddy bear–like Ewoks that co-starred in his 1983 movie “Return of the Jedi.” Scible’s connection with Billy Barty and Billy Curtis got his foot in the door and soon he was an Ewok.
The film that Scible was in, “Ewoks: The Battle for Endor” was the sequel to the 1984 feature “Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure.”
“My most prominent scene is when we were on a hill knocking down logs on top of the marauders (the film’s villains),” Scible said. “In another scene, when they blow up a wall and an Ewok covers his eyes, that’s me.”
Scible enjoyed the three months he spent making the film and met stars Wilford Brimley, Johnny Weissmuller Jr. (whose father had played Tarzan in movies) and little person actor Tony Cox.
“The most impressive thing at the end of filming was when George Lucas remembered my name and we had only talked once,” Scible said.
“Ewoks: The Battle for Endor” premiered as an ABC TV special Nov. 24, 1985. Scible had a special screening with friends at Chuck E. Cheese’s. The film is now available on YouTube.
Other celebrities Scible has met include Jerry Lewis, Lorenzo Lamas, Ed McMahon, and at a George Lucas Fourth of July barbecue, Michael Jackson.
For more than two decades, Scible ran Downtown Photo and Frame, but his business was doomed by technological advances. At the moment, Scible finds himself seeking employment.
“I really need a job. Right now I need anything that will pay the bills. I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t want to be living in Mission Solano in a year,” Scible said.
Now 55, Scible looks back on the love he received from his parents, now both deceased.
“I am driven to make good of what my parents did. They could have gave me up for adoption, but they stuck by me,” Scible said. “My goal now is to make my parents proud.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]