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.
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.
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.
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.