Vintage Van Nuys


Phillip DePauk lived in Van Nuys in the 1950s. His grandfather owned a photography studio located at Gilmore and Van Nuys Blvd. These photos come from his archives and he kindly consented to allow me to publish them.

Widening of Victory Blvd.

In Mr. DePauk’s images, one can see some of the rapid changes that came to Van Nuys in the late 1950s and early 60s: demolition of old houses on the site of the Valley Governmental Center, the widening of Victory Blvd.

USC Digital Library: Van Nuys, CA circa 1945

Before WWII, Van Nuys had been a small town surrounded by orange and walnut groves. One could literally walk from Van Nuys Bl. over to Hazeltine’s agricultural area. After the war, the Valley and California exploded in population. Every square acre of land was developed for housing, shopping malls, freeways, and factories.

We often think of the 1950s as a halcyon era of perfect families and happy times.

Flooding in Van Nuys 1/4/1952

1948. Grandfather's home at 14248 Sylvan St. Van Nuys.

1/4/1952: Van Nuys Bl.

1/4/1952: Near Van Nuys Grammar School/Tyrone & Gilmore Sts.

But the seeds of California’s destruction were born in the 1950s.  The car was king so roads were widened and pedestrians marginalized. Vast shopping centers destroyed local shopping and emptied out Van Nuys Blvd. Historic old houses were razed and replaced with faceless office towers and parking lots. Citrus groves were obliterated and local agriculture disappeared from the San Fernando Valley.

And conservatives welcomed vast migrations of undocumented workers to California as a source of cheap labor.

And liberals championed an ethnic centered curriculum to teach children that American history mattered less than group think identity. And that ethnic empathy for some triumphed over lawful behavior for all.

And conservatives said that government was evil. The same government which might have enforced the law.

And liberals said that government could do everything. Robbing individuals of the consequences of their own actions.

And Californians went to the polls to ignorantly legislate by ballot those issues that were already decided by lobbyists spending millions on TV advertising.

And today we live in the midst of what we have wrought.

No place in Van Nuys looks as good today as it did in 1950 and Mr. DePauk’s photos, even of flood ravaged streets, somehow seem more civilized than a sunny day on Vanowen and Kester in 2010.

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8 responses to “Vintage Van Nuys

  1. Boy were these pictures fun to look at. I grew up in Van Nuys starting at Hazeltine and Sylvan, then moved to 14151 Haynes St. Then moved back to Hazeltine. I was born there in 1947 and my oldest daughter 1968 then my youngest daughter in 1969. We all have the same address on our birth certificates. My dad and Uncle had Mathews Shoe Repair at Sylvan and Van Nuys Blvd. and it is no on Gilmore. I remember playing in the Tyrone wash in the summer and the bridges in the winter. What a wonderful place it was to grow up. I don’t think I want to see what it looks like today. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Sue Mathews Kizer

  2. I can even remember that there were pontoon bridges stored along Tyrone St–east of Van Nuys Elementary School–as late as the l960′s–
    for when Tyrone St flooded.

    A laughable joke for those who platted Van Nuys is that they built the town on the wash which became Tyrone St–and so Van Nuys Bl would flood–many times–almost every winter.

    And so–when William Whitsett, the town’s biggest booster from l9ll on, built his own “memorial”, his S+L Valley Federal Savings building, the tallest building in Van Nuys, (just north of Vanowen–the now-called Phoenix Building) it was built on one of the most flood prone lots in town. A marvelous irony exists for one who looks–by l960, an expensive flood control project directed the old wash through Pacoima to the concrete Tujunga Wash–but the odd paved-over gully from Van Nuys’ “every winter’s nightmare”, the Tyrone Wash, still remains as the “dip” in the back parking lot.

  3. I lived at the Erwin Street house pictured above next to the municipal parking lot with sign in the corner advertising the future home of an Administration Center. Where the house stood there is now The Van Nuys Public Library. Adjacent to the library stands the Van Nuys Division of The Los Angeles Police Department. Such a wonderful discovery finding your shot of what was 14339 Erwin Street, Van Nuys, CA

  4. Pingback: Christmas 1948: Van Nuys | Here in Van Nuys

  5. I live in van nuys now. Right near tyrone and Victory. interestly enough, in that picture, I was able to identify exactly where it was before reading the label. thanks for the photos

  6. Thank you for these pictures…lived in Van Nuys from 1951 to 1960..went to V.N. Elem and V.N. Jr.Hi….pictures bring back many memories..used to live on Sylvan and Tyrone area…remember the “bridges” they put over Tyrone….

  7. My father had a TV repair shop on Ventura Blvd in the late ’40s and early 50s.
    I am trying to remember exactly where it was as we left when I was about 6.
    It was called Bill’s TV Repair. Anyone remember it and where it was?

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