Nixon in Panorama City: November 29, 1956


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Not long after VP Richard M. Nixon and his boss, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, won the 1956 election, Nixon and wife Pat toured Southern California.

Introduced by Congressman Edgar W. Hiestand (R), a staunch anti-Communist and a member of the John Birch Society, Nixon spoke to an enthusiastic shopping center crowd under a banner sign which read: “Panorama City Welcomes Dick”.

(Photos courtesy of the USC Digital Archives)

1949 and 1953: Two Aerial Views Over Panorama City and the GM Plant.


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1949

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1953

From the USC Digital Archives comes these stunning aerial photos over Panorama City and the large General Motors Plant. The top on is from 1949. And then one taken four years later on January 13, 1953 showing the rapid growth of the area.

Some 15,000 new homes were built in 1953, and some 30,000 new structures added. The vast agricultural landscape was transformed into a suburban, single-family section of Los Angeles, peopled by young families with children.

The map shows that the streets, 61 years later, are still the same. The vast GM Plant closed in 1992 and is now occupied by “The Plant” shopping mall. Panorama City still teems with new arrivals.

Rain in Van Nuys: November 14, 1952



From the USC Digital Archives come these photographs of flooding in Van Nuys at Tyrone and Sylvan Streets (a block east of the Valley Municipal Building) after heavy rains.

Caption reads: “Mrs. Agnes Snyder removes debris from car on flooded street. Wayne WIlson (bare foot) crosses St. Overall views of flooded Tyrone Ave. — cars submerged. Kids in stalled car.”

There are smiles on the faces of people, a lack of jadedness, that seems characteristic of that era. The hardship is harmless, nobody is getting hurt, the flooding is inconvenient and messy, but they are making the best of it.

Imagine the same situation in today’s Van Nuys.

A herd of fatties stuck inside their SUV, DVD player and boom boxes blaring, everyone on their mobile phones, three enormous women with tattoos, dressed in black leggings, broadcasting their “movie” on their smartphones with scowling and angry faces, never knowing how to live in the moment.

Van Nuys: A Look Back.


Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Another election, another possibility to change the direction of Van Nuys and reorient this community into progress and prosperity.

Over the last 100 years, men and women, with much less technology and money, managed to build, plan, create and civilize a vast, semi-arid valley, a place of schools, homes, factories, industries, churches, women’s clubs and fraternal organizations. A sense of local pride was evident, as seen in these photographs.

When people had less, it seems, they valued what they had more.

Photographs on this page are taken from the USC Digital Archives, CSUN and LAPL.
The 1926 images are from the Dick Whittington Studios now archived at USC.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

Van Nuys 1926. Dick Whittington Studios.

California Bank Van Nuys Blvd/Sylva (circa 1925)

California Bank Van Nuys Blvd/Sylva (circa 1925)

GM Plant on Van Nuys Blvd (circa 1950)

GM Plant on Van Nuys Blvd (circa 1950)

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Van Nuys Circa 1945

Van Nuys Circa 1945

Old Van Nuys Women's Club (14852 Sylvan near Kester).  Now Eglesia de Jesuschristo.

Old Van Nuys Women’s Club (14852 Sylvan near Kester). Now Eglesia de Jesuschristo.

Van Nuys Blvd. at Friar (circa 1950). Notice diagonal parking and streetcar wiring.

Van Nuys Blvd. at Friar (circa 1950). Notice diagonal parking and streetcar wiring.

Cindy vs. Nuri


On Tuesday, July 23rd, two women, Cindy Montanez and Nuri Martinez, will face off in a special election to decide the next leader of LA’s 6th District which includes Van Nuys, Arleta and Sun Valley.

After a dozen non-productive and self-destructive years of Councilman Tony Cardenas, the district is still one of the least appealing areas of the San Fernando Valley. Downtown Van Nuys is dying, its post office closed, its shops vacant. The Van Nuys Neighborhood Council is a long-running joke, producing theatrics and anger instead of cleaning up the streets.

Why Van Nuys should continue to suffer is one of the strange mysteries of our city.

It is centrally located, adjacent to North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, an easy commute to Woodland Hills, Studio City and Hollywood. It is served by buses and three freeways, so it certainly does not lack transportation. On many streets there are stunningly beautiful homes often used for filming movies and commercials.

The downfall of Van Nuys, which was established in 1911, began after WII when regional shopping centers replaced mom and pop stores. The widening of Van Nuys Boulevard and Victory, the elimination of diagonal parking, the ripping down of old houses to make way for large government buildings, the influx of immigrants who were poorer and less educated, the slumlords who bought up apartments and let them decay, the emptying out of legitimate business to make way for pot shops, massage parlors and bail bonds, all of these contributed to the El Crappo aura. And basically El Crappo is all one sees driving along Van Nuys Boulevard.

Whomever wins on Tuesday, Ms. Montanez or Ms. Martinez, both ladies (I like that word) will have to dig in her heels and bring shovel-ready action to Van Nuys, and concentrate with all her might in rebuilding a civilized and thriving district that is no longer the laughing stock of Los Angeles.

The Last Old Places


Valerio w/ of Hazeltine

Valerio w/ of Hazeltine

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Valerio w/ of Hazeltine

You think you know Van Nuys.

And then some small remnant of old property appears. And you are pulled back into a long lost world: unguarded, spacious, verdant, shaded, open and expansive.

It happened a few days ago, when I was traveling on Sherman Way and turned up Katherine Avenue, west of Hazeltine, to avoid late afternoon traffic.

As I approached Valerio, I saw the old San Fernando Valley in an apparition: a few large parcels of land, shaded by large trees, a ranch house set back from the street, unenclosed by fences, iron, brick, or barking dogs.

I returned last night with Andreas from Up in the Valley to explore the neighborhood.

At 14203 Valerio, we found a long driveway, headed with a sign of a family name: “The Schaefers”, and beyond, in the distance, many rose bushes, the long exterior eaved porch; all the indicators of normalcy and domestic tranquility that once presented itself in abundance around these parts.

I was surprised that some industrious Armenian had not bought up the land, torn down the houses and erected a cul-de-sac of concrete and columns, but there it was, a lone sweet house, a place that seemed welcoming, not hostile, unafraid and hopeful, a residence of grace and generosity, without violent defenses, grotesque proportions and malingering meanness.

There were no large SUVs, pit bulls, cinderblock or steel window bars. This was Van Nuys as it once was, up until perhaps 1975, a lovely place to live.

There was a large unpicked grapefruit tree in the yard, an old tree, another symbol of the post WWII days when organic was the only type of eating, and unselfconscious Californians ate well in their own backyards.

This house and this land will probably not survive in its present incarnation much longer. If there were a Van Nuys Historical Society it might honor this home with a citation. But for now only the camera can capture what was and what still is.

Lankershim and Victory: 1930


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83-years-ago, the San Fernando Valley was an all together different place than today.

Rural and urban, it was dotted with Spanish style gas stations, grocery stores, small houses; orange and walnut groves, neatly designed and well-kept businesses, with swept curbs and gracefully articulated architecture. Store signs were designed to fit into architecture and each letter and every proportion was sensitive to the greater architectural whole.

Photographer Dick Whittington worked this region back then, and his images are kept, for posterity, in the archives of USC.

Heartbreaking it is to see what has become of the corner of Lankershim and Victory today, a grotesque piling together of cheap plastic sprawl and indifferent commerce, junk food and junk culture. Even without looking, people know the location Lankershim and Victory is synonymous with ugly. Guns, crime, speeding, littering, illegal everything…that is what it is today.

What started out with great promise, California, is now ready for the apocalypse.

Historic Fire Station No. 39


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July 15, 1940

July 15, 1940

The Los Angeles Fire Department has a collection of vintage fire company photos.

In the LAFD archives, I found images related to Van Nuys’ Engine Company #39 which has occupied a building or two at 14415 Sylvan St. since 1919.

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Chuck Madderom Coll.

Chuck Madderom Coll.

Curiously, it seems that present structure, dating to 1939, is merely an Art Deco remodeling of the original neo-classical structure. I could be wrong, but comparing the two buildings, which are in exactly the same location, seems to indicate this.

In the midst of the Great Depression, a grand and completely modern structure was erected or refashioned for a little over $4 a square foot.

Statistics from 1939:

Date Opened
July 25, 1939

Land Cost
Donated

Building Cost
$66,514.

Sq.Ft. Main Bld
Main Bld. 15,004
Garage & Storage 1,256
Hand Ball Ct. 1,122

Sq.Ft. Site 100×140
100×140 14,000

Number of Poles: 3

The DePauk Family in Van Nuys.


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Gilmore studio

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Phil DePauk, who now lives in Virginia, has been a follower of this blog for a few years
and he graciously sent me some new (old) photos from his family archives. He is the young boy in these photos.

Phil DePauk and his extended family lived in Van Nuys in the 1940s and 50s and operated a well-known local photo studio located at Gilmore and Van Nuys Bl. It closed in the early 1960s.

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One of the other addresses that pops up is: 14204 Haynes St. a block located just west of Hazeltine. Phil either lived or spent time here.

A recent Google Maps view shows that the neighborhood is still single-family residential, but now many of the once plain and friendly houses are sheathed in ironwork and other embellishments of modern paranoia.

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There are many cars in these photos. Phil’s father worked at Wray Brothers Ford which was located near the intersection of Calvert and VNB, two blocks n. of Oxnard.

I wrote to Phil this morning to clarify some family facts and here are his words:

“My Dad worked as a mechanic at Wray Brothers Ford from 1948 to 1958.

After Ford, my Dad worked at Pacific Tire and Battery Co. on Sylvan St. across from the old library.

My Uncle Ed (now age 83, sharp as a tack and living in Canoga Park) started working at California Bank (Sylvan and VN Blvd) after his discharge from the Army.

He subsequently worked at numerous other banks before retiring as a Vice President. My Uncle Dan was the manager of the McMahans used furniture store before his transfer to Marysville. My Uncle Bill started his own photo studio in North Hollywood. My Uncle Ed lives in Canoga Park and always enjoys reliving memories and making new friends if you have an interest.”