Alma Imogene Payne Waters (1922 – 2014) at 14336 Gilmore St., 1952


screenshot_414DSCF0084 DSCF0083

Don Waters (b. 1954), who grew up in Van Nuys and now lives in Missouri, has been a longtime reader of this blog.

After seeing my recent photos of Gilmore Street, he recognized one particular bungalow court at 14336.

His parents, Donald (1929-2007) and Alma (1922-2014) had lived there in the early 1950s.

A 2007 obituary provides some family biography.

Don, very considerately, sent me a 1952 photograph of his mother, standing in the courtyard of the complex.

It must have been a quite pleasant neighborhood to live in: schools, government offices, stores, and churches, within walking distance.

In 1952, the San Fernando Valley was on the precipice of speeding into the future full throttle.

And now, in 2015, we look back and wonder what went so very wrong.

Nobody wears skirts in Van Nuys anymore.

116Imo@VNapts

Gilmore St. Between Kester and Tyrone


DSCF0021 DSCF0023 DSCF0030 DSCF0037 DSCF0040 DSCF0042

I walked along Gilmore this morning, a varied street one block north of Victory, and found old bungalows, church gardens, crappy apartments and neatly tended ones; along with a shoe repair shop, new Chinese food and a Mid-Century pharmacy.

Gilmore is an old street. A sidewalk was paved in 1929, but the road goes back further than that.

It was part of old Van Nuys, near town, school and church.

In the obliterating 1950s-70s, many old houses were torn down and replaced with rentable apartments, way before the revived fashion for “Mission.” If Gilmore had been preserved as only homes, it might look like today like a neighborhood of Pasadena.

 


DSCF0060 DSCF0064 DSCF0067 DSCF0074 DSCF0075

Guns, gangs, crime.

One might understand a small shopkeeper viewing the aforementioned with fear or suspicion.

A Photographer?

Yes it is the photographer, with a camera slung around his neck, who gets the nasty stares and the unwanted questions.

At the colorful Kovacs Pharmacy, a pharmacist came out, confronted me and wanted to know why I was shooting photos.

She asked for my card. I had none. I told her I was a photographer.

She went back inside.

Does one need to have an answer for taking a photo? Would you ever dream of walking up to a stranger- talking on the phone- and asking who they were calling? Would you walk up to a driver stopped at a light and ask, “Why are you driving?”


 

DSCF0077

DSCF0082 DSCF0084

At 14417, next door to Kovacs, time stands still as faded light illuminates a garage set way back in the yard, the kind of house and garden that once dotted this street.

At Sylmar Avenue, the Van Nuys Elementary School is still handsome and historic, roofed in red tiles and painted in warm tan.

The infamous spray marker of the Barrio Van Nuys (BVN) marks a fence outside of a bungalow court across from the school.

DSCF0093 DSCF0095 DSCF0098 DSCF0099 DSCF0101

The Central Lutheran Church, whose white and red brick façade on Victory at Tyrone seems sad and neglected, has a surprisingly vigorous and lush group of edible gardens spreading over at least a half acre or more of land. Very well-tended and green, the vegetables and plants propagate magnificently in fertile soil alongside wooden stakes and raised beds. It looks like a future bumper crop. Its gentle greenery stands in stark contrast to next door car repair and vacant parking lots.

When people talk about the revival of Van Nuys, of making the community better, they might start by visiting a street like Gilmore. Narrow and walkable, tree-shaded and neighborly, it has a variety of both individuals and institutions who are already contributing positive change to this district. They are feeding the homeless, educating the children, planting organic gardens and making Van Nuys come to life in the most unexpected and surprising places.

12012 Chandler.


$(KGrHqN,!oMFBlWKBW,RBQqwCPDGC!~~60_57 BRL61-0294 BRL64-0116 Honeywell Service Center Building Back Honeywell Service Center Building Front

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


Train_vs_auto_accident_at_Vineland_Avenue_and_Vanowen_Street_1957

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.

95786032_4d1671cc02_o

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.

Dec 11 Burbank:VNB:CVS

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

DSC_2838

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.

IMG_4830

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

IMG_6776

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)

LaMaida St. NH July06

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

Oct 2007 Radford

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


Picking Olives Front

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.

Lankershim VN Front Lankershim VN Back

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.”

IMG_0028

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.

IMG_0012

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)


Page-06 Page-01

Page-08 Page-04

Page-07 Page-03

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.

Page-13

Page-12

Page-09Page-10