Verdad y Vida


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Near the corner of Saticoy and Sepulveda actors in Verdad y Vida (truth and life) washed cars, stood outside the Tangiers Motel, rode to the D&K Liquor store on bike, and dramatically flashed police car lights to pull over, frisk and handcuff a suspect and his large bag.

And a little man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth confronted me as I photographed.

“Why you take picture of motel and police? Why you do this? Why you take picture of me near motel? What you doing? You not supposed to take picture!”

I showed him the back of my camera, the digital review of images just shot.

There were signs and more signs and no close ups of people.

He was not in my camera.

“You not supposed to take picture!” he said.

 

 

Hart Street, Firmament Avenue, Sherman Way and Sepulveda.


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Yesterday, between the rains, after the air had been washed, the skies were radiant. And enormous cumulus clouds towered above, bottoms gray, tops white. The sun came and went. Streets of dark shadows ended in blinding light.

I walked in the wind up Sepulveda, north of Vanowen, and went left along Hart Street.

This is a neat neighborhood of mostly well-kept houses on generous lots. It is not rich here, but the general feeling seems contented. There are no sidewalks but lots of walkers.

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Near Sepulveda, at 15322 Hart, there is a burned-out house with a lovely second floor balcony and no trespassing signs on a gate; secluded and romantic, it awaits rebirth from ruin.

At 15439 Hart, someone is selling a 1970 (?) Yellow Ford pickup truck.

15521 Hart (built 1952) is a white house with blue awnings. Though it faces south, into the hot sun, there are no shades trees in front.

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Firmament Avenue is the last street in this neighborhood east of the 405 freeway. Large houses and empty lots, well kept estates, battered weed infested places, townhouses and bungalows, all are found on the block between Hart and Sherman Way.

These are the kind of typically Californian streets that make people from other states uneasy. They mix danger with intoxicating beauty, ruin next to richness. Is this a good or a bad place? In this area an old lady might come outside and offer you apple pie… or aim a gun at your head.

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7110 Firmament could be a location in a 1940s Van Nuys movie with its roadside mailbox, cyclone fence, picket gate and wood houses set way back behind mature trees and overgrown ivy.


Next door, at 7128 Firmament, a brown stucco house with a red tile roof and white balustrade bedecked wall is carefree and liberal with its architectural elements. They are seemingly picked out of air and dropped onto a large lot hidden behind black screened fences and decorative lanterns. A Nury Martinez election placard is planted near the driveway.

Up at 15549 Sherman Way, Helen Towers (built 1972) is a large, 93-unit apartment building with a pool and lots of parking set on an acre and a half property right next to the on-ramp for the Northbound 405. Strangely bucolic, it seems well kept, if a bit dated.

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At the Starbucks (15355 Sherman Way) a man ignited himself in burning flames last week and later died. I stopped off there for iced green tea. There were no signs of death, only life, and frozen faces glued to phone and screen.

My walk back home took me past the Royal [6920] Sepulveda Apartments, a “K” shaped, two-story complex frivolous in design, far from royal. Built in 1961, the 92-unit complex seems sex-soaked and secretive, untethered from anything around it, a floating, decadent motel of licentious and libidinous acts. Surrounded by parking, for quick escapes and quick arrivals, behind its closed drapes lie transient guests.

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More Postcard Observations


Budweiser FrontBudweiser Back

 

The Joseph Schlitz Brewery on Roscoe in Van Nuys was an especially popular destination in the 1950s through the 70s.

The adjoining Busch Gardens, with its array of exotic birds and lush waterfalls, was another fantasy environment of natural artifice, like Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm, a fake beloved world for visitors to Southern California to write home about.

I have scanned many cards (owned by Valley Relics) of the famed gardens, and one in particular caught my eye.

Postmarked March 4, 1960, it was addressed to Miss Donna Friedl, 1921 Maynard Avenue, Cleveland 9, Ohio.

 

It read:

 

Hello Donna,

 

I did not pay for this card they give it to you for visiting the brewery, from Grandpa Friedl.

Something in his wry comment leads me to imagine Grandpa Friedl as a white-haired, humorous, kind man who might have snuck past his wife to offer his granddaughter Donna some candy before dinner.

That was a long time ago.

Nobody has a young daughter named Donna any more.

Busch Front

 


 

Fabulous SFV Front

“The Fabulous San Fernando Valley” is another postcard unintentionally funny.

For here is a view of what looks like Sepulveda Boulevard, somewhere east of the 405, (today’s Galleria) with the dam and mountains in the distance, and thousands of cars packed into the foreground.

Fabulous? The grandiose superlatives of Southern California (best weather, best women, best bodies, best schools, best place to live) were spoken of so often, that the actual truth seemed blasphemous. It was, and is, sometimes very ugly here, boring beyond belief, polluted and blindingly plastic. An early 1960s walk up a Sepulveda, north of Ventura, would lead you past auto junkyards and tacky motels, but you were in a “fabulous” place, didn’t you know it?

 


Saddle and Sirloin Back

 

Sixty or seventy years ago, many restaurants fashioned themselves as Western places, with steaks on the menu and wagon wheels on the wall.

Saddle and Sirloin was a small chain with “steaks aged to tenderness” and at their Palm Springs location, in 1949, Daddy and Mother were sitting down to eat a steak and found time to write to their daughter Florence in Newcastle, Indiana and tell her just that.

“We’re about to eat a steak, it’s balmy outside,” Mom wrote. Her appetite and her temperature lead one to salacious thoughts. Perhaps she looked like Jane Russell, with dark red lipstick. With love and dinner and hot weather….. could the bedroom be far behind?

 


Otto's Pink Pig Restaurant Back

 

Otto’s Pink Pig Restaurant at 4958 Van Nuys Boulevard was another well-known place whose warmhearted postcard promised “Otto’s Famous Baked Ham Sandwich, Best in the US” and “Mike O’Shea’s Special Salad Supreme.”

Their motto: Big Enough to Serve You- Small Enough to Know You.

Eating out, dining in a restaurant, was not done several times a week, as is the case today. People ate at home. They ate what Mom cooked.

So it was a special treat to go to Otto’s and dine on such fare as Filet of Sole Marguery or Roast Long Island Duckling (shipped fresh by refrigerated freight train?).

Hearty, friendly, generous with drink and food, sensibly priced: was it all of those things?

Long gone and obliterated, the neighborhood, an off-ramp of banality, is now home to strips of office buildings, medical offices, and Sherman Oaks Hospital. There is nothing exotic, fun or magical here as there was when Otto’s Pink Pig lived here.

 

 

 

Rancho Pequeño and Other Places….


Rancho Pequeno Back

Rancho Pequeno

Kester Street, for those who don’t know her, is a narrow road halfway between Van Nuys  and Sepulveda Boulevards, paralleling both.

Before WWII, it was on the fringe, out on the wide land, beyond settled Van Nuys.

Rancho Pequeño at 7050 Kester (near Vose) was significant enough to have its own postcard.


These are postcards scanned from the collection amassed by Tommy Gelinas at Valley Relics.

They provide pictorial fantasy, mined from fact, of the places and events and people who once lived in the San Fernando Valley.


 

Malaya:Van Nuys Back Malaya:Van Nuys

A 1931 postcard shows two men in Malaya (Malaysia) procuring exotic birds for shipment back to Bird Wonderland, Inc. in Van Nuys.

It was located at 15640 Ventura Boulevard, Van Nuys, CA, a location that today is known as Encino.

80 years ago, the name Van Nuys was used all the way from Beverly Glen south of Ventura up to Roscoe west past the present day 405. There was no shame in the name.

Our Ventura Boulevard has an interesting article on Bird Wonderland, which also had exotic animals, including, Jackie the Lion who allegedly inspired the roaring one seen in every MGM movie.


 

Take It Easy Take it Easy Back

No motel on Sepulveda today enjoys an entirely good name. Much of them, especially those north of Victory, are havens for prostitution.

But back when the area was a main highway into the San Fernando Valley, before the freeway, it hosted many family owned motels.

Take it E-Z Motel at 5764 Sepulveda was owned by Mr. and Mrs. GB Parrott.

The motel is still there, at Hatteras, across from Target, and is planned for tear down next year with a new replacement.

The postcard shows two people sitting in chairs on the side of the building, facing the western sun.


Gene Autry Front Gene Autry Back

Dorothy visited Hollywood and sent a postcard of Gene Autry’s home in Toluca Lake on August 5, 1947.

Writing to The Chalfants of Waynesboro, PA, she reports, “Saw two radio shows today, Queen for a Day and Heart’s Desire. Both good fun.”

Things may change in Southern California. But people still text and email the folks back home to tell them how they came in contact with celebrities and how wonderful the weather is.

 

Waiting for the Bus on Sepulveda


Bus Stop Crebelley, Vaud, Switzerland © 2013 Gerald Verdon
Bus Stop
Crebelley, Vaud, Switzerland
© 2013 Gerald Verdon

Later this year, friends and family from Zurich, Switzerland will visit here in Van Nuys. In that lovely nation public transport is dignified, clean, cheap and abundant. (see photo above)

The visitors will see Los Angeles with Swiss eyes, a city where trash sits on Sepulveda in both human and inhuman formations. Only Disneyland and Magic Mountain will come close to presenting an ideal city. That’s our American dream.

But for the bus riders who must wait in the sun, without protection, for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes, before a bus arrives, for these people trudging up to work at low paying jobs putting bagels into bags, or unloading boxes, imagine how their day starts before work?

Imagine they must sit here at the beginning and sometimes the end of their day. And think of what this says about Los Angeles, that our bus system is so neglected that people are treated no better than garbage.

What do Mayor Garcetti and Councilwoman Nury Martinez plan to do about this?

734 Bus at Sepulveda and Busway, Van Nuys, CA.  By Andy Hurvitz
734 Bus at Sepulveda and Busway, Van Nuys, CA. By Andy Hurvitz

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LA Fitness Van Nuys.


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Fast-food wrappers and soda containers litter the parking lot of the LA Fitness on Sepulveda in Van Nuys.

For at least five months, discarded lumber, illegally dumped, has lain scattered.  Members on their way to step class or leaving the gym scarf down burgers, fries and dump their refuse right on the pavement.

The culture of Van Nuys.

 

The Police, the People and the Prostitutes.


CVS, Erwin at Sepulveda, 9:30am
CVS, Erwin at Sepulveda, 9:30am

A few months back, April 17, 2013, to be exact, this community held a meeting at the Columbus Avenue School led by LAPD Officer Vince DiMauro. The topic on everyone’s mind was prostitution, its egregious and omnipresent existence a fact of life on our streets.

The group was well attended and there was seeming agreement that the vice problem was under control. Officer DiMauro assured us that what we thought was a growing problem was actually getting smaller as the LAPD monitored and restrained the famed whore motels, so the Room #37 Blow Job and Penetration Special at the Voyager, was now conducted in cars on Hamlin, Lemay, Burnett, Columbus and Kittridge.

Anecdotal stories are now pouring in from neighbors that the whores are back and bigger than ever.

The morning drive along Sepulveda now includes fat blondes in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels and pink satin dresses; and skintight pink leggings longingly leaning against the light pole at Erwin and Sepulveda. A neighbor, who works nights, assures me that when he returns home at Midnight there are more walking women than drivers in Van Nuys.

The idea that prostitution is under control because it’s out of the motel room and into the streets is ludicrous. What we see and know is what’s going on. The evidence of illegal activity is as apparent as the abandoned couch along the sidewalk.

There was just an election in this ungoverned section of Los Angeles and a new Council Person, Nury Martinez, will represent District #6. Along with her upcoming appearances at Cinco de Mayo festivals, she should take a walk on Sepulveda, camera in hand, in the morning, afternoon or night, and see the spectacle for herself.