Here in Van Nuys

About, but not limited to, Van Nuys, CA.

Tag: San Fernando Valley

12012 Chandler.


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Scanning through some of the postcards loaned to me by Tommy Gelinas at Valley Relics, I came across this 1963 postcard of a new building at  the corner of Chandler and Laurel Canyon in North Hollywood.

12012 Chandler was the home of “the first Honeywell 400 computer service center in the US.”

The Honeywell 400 was a system the size of a room, so nobody who worked with one carried it into this building for servicing. It was an early 1960s workhorse for processing payroll and other functions of business and industry. According to Kraza, Honeywell was part of a second generation of computers that came of age when transistors replaced vacuum tubes.  ” Transistorized computers were more powerful, more reliable, less expensive, and cooler to operate than their vacuum-tubed predecessors.”

The black and white photographs above show the Honeywell 400 in operation. However, they are not from 12012 Chandler.

Man in Truck Killed By Train: 1957


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In the 1950s, movies were censored.

Violence was off-screen.

Death, dismemberment, bloody accidents, injuries: all of it was hidden.

But real life photographers back then rushed to the scene and photographed the daily gore that makes the daily news.

One such example is this photo from May 5, 1957, near Vineland and Vanowen, where the lifeless body of Louis Bell, killed by a train in his truck, is lifted onto a stretcher.

Today we watch computer generated “entertainment” scenes of virtual gore that
would have made 1950s audiences vomit.

But who shoots real news photos today?


 

image.Train vsauto accident at Vineland Avenue and Vanowen Street14 May 1957Louis Bell (dead).Caption slipreads: "PhotographerGlickmanDate1957-05-14AssignmentTrain vsTruck 1 killedVineland Ave. and VanowenNoHollywoodG300/301/214/215Ambulance attendants lift body of Louis Bell onto stretcher; in background is his demolished truck".

The Changing Valley (2005-2014)


When I began “Here in Van Nuys” in March 2005, I was not on a mission to document the soon-to-be-demolished parts of the San Fernando Valley.

But through time, some of the buildings I photographed and wrote of are now gone.

Below are some of these.


These buildings stood on the west side of the Van Nuys Airport along Balboa Blvd. They evoked, especially in fog, the WWII era. They were functional and plain and were bulldozed in 2013 to make way for new development.

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The intersection of Burbank and Van Nuys Boulevard presented an opportunity to create a new, cohesive, architecturally significant corner. Alas, CVS, Chipotle and Chase Bank were all designed in vastly different styles and the area, upgraded, looks newer but without distinction.

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A community organizer from Chicago ran for President in 2008 and attracted these followers.

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The LA River in Encino near the Woodley Avenue Bridge was a river of plastic in February 2010 before the sweeping plastic bag ban was put into effect.

Feb 2010 LA River Near Balboa

In May 2010, the “Russians” came to Studio City and transformed a Brady Bunch era commercial shop into a twin onion domed monstrosity.

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Future home of “The Federal Bar” in North Hollywood before. (Circa 2008)

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Many lovely homes from the 1920s and 30s were demolished along La Maida St. in North Hollywood to make way for pre-crash condos. (July 2006)

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October 2007 along Redford St. in Studio City: more condos across from CBS.

Oct 2007 Radford

“This is the club where Bing Crosby belongs….”


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Some of the enormous, picturesque, and historic postcard collection amassed by Tommy Gelinas and his Valley Relics has passed through my hands.

The San Fernando Valley, only 100 years ago a largely agricultural area, dotted with newly established towns, became the fastest growing part of the United States in the 15 years after WWII.

Postcards from visitors who passed through here; visited olive groves, rode streetcars through vast planted lands, absorbed all the sunshine, boosterism and hucksterism of that time; radiate in words and pictures.

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Around 1910, Pacific Electric advertised a 101-mile-long, one-day trolley trip for one dollar. “The Scenic Trolley Trip” visited 10 beaches and 8 cities.

“Paralleling the mountains from Los Angeles to the ocean, then 36 miles along the Seashore. Parlor Car; Reserved Seats, Competent Guides. FREE ATTRACTION-Admission to largest Aquarium on Pacific Coast; Ride on the LA Thomspon Scenic Railway at Venice; Admission to Camera Obscura, Santa Monica.”

It sounds thrilling.

And imagine, men in suits and women in long dresses riding all day in wool coats, felt and feather hats, with many layers of undergarments, not even an ankle exposed.

Tower Motor Front

Thirty or so years later, the Tower Motor Hotel at 10980 Ventura Blvd in Studio City was smartly streamlined with gas pumps in front, steam heat and air-cooled rooms.

Lakeside Front Lakeside Back

Bing Crosby, who lived in Toluca Lake, was the most successful singer of the 1930s. A postcard sent from a fan who visited Lakeside Golf Club near Mr. Crosby’s home wrote: “I’ve seen him playing two mornings this week.”

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A 1930s view of Van Nuys, along Sylvan Street, towards the Valley Municipal Building, shows diagonally parked cars and a “Safeway” store.

On another postcard, showing the Encino Country Club, a Model T is parked under a shady oak in a verdant landscape of hills and orange trees.

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It may be too much to extrapolate truth and fact from these postcards. They were advertisements for businesses, meant to promote and sell.

But my heart tells me that Encino, Van Nuys and the rest of the Southland were magical back then.

 

 

 

Foley’s Donuts and North Hollywood (via Japan and Vancouver)


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On a recent visit to Vancouver, I met a naturalized Canadian named Christopher Foley, who by coincidence comes from a family that settled into the San Fernando Valley in the early 1930s. Chris lived in both the SFV and San Francisco and later emigrated to British Columbia.

He showed me, in his digital scrapbook, some fascinating old pictures.

His grandfather, a movie photographer, had moved from West Virginia in the early 1930s to work in the studio system.  Later on, the family opened up a donut shop in North Hollywood called, not surprisingly, “Foley’s”.

His mom, actress Mary Foley, played a band member in “Some Like it Hot” (1959/Dir. Billy Wilder) which starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

His father served in Japan after World War II, and I asked Chris for these fantastic images of his dad and people in that country.

Their clothes, including selvedge denim, are what collectors these days call “Heritage” and are sought after in both Japan and the United States.

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Historic Van Nuys: Katherine Avenue and Vicinity


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Is Van Nuys, as some believe, a hopelessly hellish place beyond redemption?

Perhaps not.

Hidden just east of Van Nuys Boulevard, south of Vanowen, is a secret garden neighborhood of historic houses, quaint architecture and lovely homes. Katherine Avenue is the heart of it, and it has a landscaped traffic circle, a construct of such ingeniousness and calmness that it is a wonder that it is not used everywhere.  Shadier, slower moving, safer, the neighborhood could almost pass for Pasadena.

Along Katherine, and down Kittridge, there are many old houses, some dating back to the early 20th Century, with large gardens and an eclectic bunch of styles: Mission, Spanish, Wooden. Many fly the American Flag on a front porch, a marker of civility, pride and patriotism signaling that our best hope for America begins at home.

Writer and comedian Sandra Tsing-Loh lived here for a few years and wrote a satirical novel about her experience: “A Year in Van Nuys”.  Unfortunately, her humor was less remembered than her brutal depiction of the suffering of having to live in Van Nuys. 14132 Kittridge 14127 Kittridge


Walking this neighborhood I found a Mid-20th Century apartment building on the corner of Katherine and Vanowen which had been stylishly and subtly updated with a good-looking wood and iron security gate. Roofline edging was added, smartly and economically emphasizing dark horizontal strips of wood.  The whole place was neat and well-maintained with an aura of Japan. DSCF0055 DSCF0054 DSCF0053


There are also ugly new projects (14310 Vanowen) that some call improvements, including a gross trend, seen around these parts, of painting plain buildings in burgundy and gold, pasting thin stone veneers on walls and the lower parts of structures, and dropping decorative lanterns into the mix. Security lights are on all night illuminating a deluxe prison. I wrote about this trend last year at another desecration: Kester Palace. DSCF0039 14306 Vanowen


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Again, what is missing in Ms. Nury Martinez’s Sixth District are big investment and big plans. There is gridlock in Van Nuys because the people who live here are not making enough noise. They are not demanding that their community go in a better direction. The passivity of the area is understandable as many who live here are just surviving and trying to get by. But what about the larger city of Los Angeles and the re-development of the San Fernando Valley? Must it be done so poorly and so haphazardly? How many more years will Van Nuys sit with its empty stores, empty parking lots, filthy sidewalks, and battered down signs?

Mayor Garcetti and Councilwoman Nury Martinez will no doubt be attending LA River clean-ups and “pride” events but will they be building the buildings and businesses in an architectural and civic plan worthy of a “great”city? Will the city which counts among its citizens the wealthiest celebrities in the world say it has no money?

If you walk, as I did, along the better parts of Van Nuys, you will learn that there are people and places worth saving. The powers that be must recognize it.

Boulevard of Blankness.


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According to City Data, the area of Van Nuys bounded by Roscoe Boulevard on the North, Woodman Avenue on the East,Burbank Boulevard to the South, and the 405 on the West, an area of 7.2 square miles, contains some 100,000 people at a population density of 13,271 per square mile. The LA Times claims 110,000 lived here as of 2008.

Heart of this district is a blank-walled canyon of bleakness, Van Nuys Boulevard. It was once a thriving commercial street, full of fine looking Mid-Century Modern banks, small stores, and family run businesses where the windows were washed and the sidewalks swept daily.

In the 1950s through the 1980s it was a cruising area, taken over by young people and cool cars.

And now it is a dump.


 

It seems that this blog, for over 8 years, has reported ad nauseum on this wasteland of shuttered shops, littered parking lots, and vast expanses of asphalt surrounded by decay.

And yet, two blocks from Van Nuys Boulevard, there are some lovely and historic streets, well maintained houses, people and their properties who are trying to keep neatness and bourgeois respectability evident in their front yards.

The bottom line is the bottom line. There is not a plan, nor a large scale investment, nor a vision for Van Nuys Boulevard. There are piecemeal and weak proposals put forth by well-meaning people to make it “bicycle friendly” or “pedestrian friendly”. But who the hell wants to spend time in the 100-degree heat, soaking up the smell of urine in doorways, stepping over dog shit, as the smoke of illegal food vendors blows over the parked cars and idle trucks who have flunked their smog inspections?

The current environment is a hellish place, one whose continuing demoralizing existence blights the whole community of Van Nuys.

One hundred thousand people who live here deserve better.

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