Old Style Street Signs.


I’ve long been an admirer of the older street signs in Los Angeles.

They emit the characteristic and regional style of a time and place. Their lettering is crisp, stylized, and easy to read.

According to this LA Times article, the city began to produce the distinctive shotgun shaped, dark blue porcelain, metal signs in the 1920s.

As the city grew, in the 1930s and 40s, the signs became markers of urbanism, uniting the vast region under a single style.

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Along Kittridge Street in Van Nuys, near where I live, I found this poetic sounding trio of survivors: Norwich, Lemona and Saloma.

Metal poles with decorative finials add elegance.

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Further east on Kittridge, a newer sign, in medium blue, looks cheaper and functional. It is attached to a plain metal pole.

It does its job, like a vinyl replacement window in an old house.

But a public sign should, in a civic sense, not only shout out a name, but do it with a flourish, and a sensibility.

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Imagine Berlin or San Francisco without their unique street signs.

The old sign makers understood that we as a city are lost without proper signage.

Valerio at Van Nuys Boulevard


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A few weeks ago I posted a two-part photo essay about my walk around Van Nuys Boulevard north of Sherman Way:

Part 1

Part 2


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I’m posting a few more images here, of buildings and businesses at the corner of Valerio and Van Nuys Boulevard.

I caught them at dusk, which was close to 8pm on August 4th.

Ay Papa Que Rico Ay Papa Que Rico

Ugly during the day, the strip malls and the small businesses mellow out as the sun goes down.  Hard working people come home. Some stop off for grilled chicken, fried plantains, cool and delicious aguas frescos, roasted peppers and yellow rice at Ay Papa Que Rico.

Some climb to the top of a second story mall to smoke a cigarette in an open air parking lot.

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And dwellers from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras live at English West, 14436 Valerio, a building whose name, perhaps, sounds foreign to their ears.

All photos were shot by me: Andrew B.Hurvitz.

DePauk Family Photographs in Van Nuys: 1940s and 50s


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I had published some of these a few years ago, photographs sent to me by Philip DePauk, a one-time resident of Van Nuys who now lives in Virginia. His family owned a photo studio on Gilmore near Van Nuys Boulevard and his father and uncle also worked for a Ford dealership located here.

These images are both stunning and sad, sad for the lost way of life that once existed here, a gentle place where orange groves and endless vistas promised opportunities and happiness in a state where agriculture, industry and education were all advanced and the envy of the world.

Modern people often dismiss the past by citing the prejudices of that era. Women who could not work. Gays who could not marry. Japanese rounded up during WWII. Blacks and Hispanics who were relegated to ghettos, kept out of the workplace, discriminated against in every sense of the word. These were all bad aspects of law and custom thankfully banished.

Yet our landscape, moral and cultural, is degraded worse today.  This I believe.

This is our present.

Photo by Malingering.

Photo by Malingering.

Photo by Malingering

Photo by Malingering

Photo Credits: Malingering

Living as we do now, in a completely tolerant California, are we not victimized, all of us, by the crude violence, the grossness of language, the vulgarity of dress, the assault of trashy behavior, that demeans all of us?  We live in a Van Nuys that shames us. Some of us react by renaming our neighborhoods Lake Balboa, Sherman Oaks, Valley Glen.  Others just flee by moving away, abandoning Van Nuys Boulevard, crawling deeper into our digital drugs, withdrawing from human interaction which is often uncivilized and often barbaric.

One small example….

On my street, I often see cars parked in the shade. When the drivers move on, what’s left behind are fast food wrappers, cans, and bottles in the gutter.   And at LA Fitness, going to my morning workout,  I see a parking lot littered with junk food from last night’s fitness members.  At the alley next to SavOn, people urinate in broad daylight. Prostitutes walk the street.  And these are just examples of our less violent behavior.

Where is our respect for ourselves and for each other?


 

Serbers Foods. Hatteras and VNB. This building stood until 2014.

Serbers Foods. Hatteras and VNB. This building stood until 2014.

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1949 snowfall.

1949 snowfall.

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In the DePauk Family, typical of that time period, there is a certain modesty to behavior.  There is no “attitude” just hard working, well groomed people who conduct themselves with some decorum.

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And for the generation whose lives were tempered and toughened by the Great Depression and World War Two, a flooding street was a good photo, not a moment for an emotional breakdown and an online fit of anger.

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Flooding in Van Nuys, early 1950s.

Flooding in Van Nuys, early 1950s.

The one negative photo in this set, in my mind, is the widening of Victory Boulevard (1954) and the cutting down of trees that once lined the street. For this act of civic “improvement” spelled the end of civilized Van Nuys, making the hot streets hotter, the speeding cars faster, the abandonment of walkable and neighborhood oriented life lost to the automobile.

Widening of Victory Boulevard: 1954.

Widening of Victory Boulevard: 1954.

 

 

Juvenile Gang Style, Van Nuys, 1951.


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Members of a juvenile gang (“Jack’s Gang”) wait outside of the Valley Municipal Building, August 14, 1951. They were charged with possession of numerous weapons.

Gang members in the early 1950s were quite different from our modern gangsters.

Thin, lanky, well-groomed, they wore argyle socks, dress trousers with cuffs, or, like one young man, dark jeans with graphic t-shirt (“Hollywood and Vine”). Another sports a Hawaiian shirt and rolled up denim jeans.

Their parents seem perversely proud and non-plussed by their boys, as if the young men were just going through another male rite of passage.

Photos: USC Digital Archives

Incident at Wendy’s


This morning, as I drove through Wendy’s parking lot on my way to LA Fitness, I saw a man lying face down on the parking lot asphalt.

I stopped my car and asked him if he was all right. He barely responded.

Not knowing whether he had overdosed, been stabbed, shot, or merely collapsed, I called 9-1-1.

Within minutes the LAPD showed up, followed by the LAFD.

What follows is, in my opinion, a fine example of professionalism demonstrated by law and safety officers.

 

Friday Night Lights at MacLeod Ale


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I stopped by MacLeod Ale in Van Nuys last night.

The mood was low-key. Scottish music played. People sat on stools in the cool air-conditioning. The servers were jokey.

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Brewer Andy Black, serious and studious as usual, was in back testing his brew for sugar content.

At the new wood tables up front, people sat, drank beer and ate pizzas and truck food from Haute Burger.

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This good looking couple came all the way from Haskell Street in Lake Balboa.

And outside the brewery, as night closed in, the dented cars and steel fences stood motionless as another long, hot day on Calvert Street went dark.

Calvert St.

 

Ed Ruscha’s Aerial Photographs of Van Nuys: 1967


Edward Ruscha [roo-SHAY] (b. 1937) has had a long career in Los Angeles making poetry out of banality. His photographs of Los Angeles apartment buildings, gas stations and other drive-by scenery was ground breaking art in the 1960s.

Twentysix Gasoline Stations ( Source: http://oliverjwood.com. Oliver Wood. License: All Rights Reserved.)

Twentysix Gasoline Stations
Source: http://oliverjwood.com. Oliver Wood. License: All Rights Reserved.)

“26 Gas Stations” (1962) ,with its now widely available Rockwell Standard Font, has been copied so much it has turned Rusha into cliché.


 

I found these fascinating studies of parking lots seen from above that Ruscha made in 1967. They show Van Nuys (and North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks)  paved over and baked in sun.  Patterns of suburban development, diagonal lines and box stores, trailer parks and shopping centers, become cubist abstractions from Ruscha’s bird’s eye view.

These are all in the collections of the UK Tate Gallery. They sell for many thousands of dollars, are collected by wealthy people, and hang on the walls of large homes from East Hampton to Knightsbridge.

When you are sober, remember:  some very important people in the art world consider aerial photographs of Van Nuys’ parking lots as collectible art.

14601 Sherman Way

14601 Sherman Way

7133 Kester

7133 Kester

7101 Sepulveda

7101 Sepulveda: ED RUSCHA Parking Lots #20 (7101 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys), 1967/1999 Gelatin Silver Print image: 15″ x 15″ / paper: 20″ x 16″ Signed and editioned in pencil verso Edition 9/35 $8,500 framed Walker Waugh Director Yancey Richardson 525 West 22nd St. NY, NY 10011 Tel: 646.230.9610 Fax: 646.230.6131

14655 Sherman Way

14655 Sherman Way

14425 Sherman Way

14425 Sherman Way

Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks

Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks

6610 Laurel Canyon

6610 Laurel Canyon