The California that I Remember…

I was born in Los Angeles in 1950. My father was born in Los Angeles in 1920. As he told me very little of his life, I learned a lot from his friends and relatives. Since he died, I have learned a bit more from my mother.

He went to UCLA, and to pay his way through college, he worked as a page for then NBC-Radio. Although a page, he was acquainted with a lot of the stars, such as Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and others. I told my mother that it is a shame he didn’t write a book of his experiences.

Like a lot of young men of that time, shortly after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army in 1942 during his 3rd year at UCLA. He became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, telling his mother that advancement was fast in the Airborne. My mother later asked him if he considered why advancement was so fast…

After the war, he had a hard time finding work before he took over his fathers import-export business, and my mother and I wonder why he didn’t use some of his contacts at NBC to get work there. Although I can’t see him as a studio exec.

His cousin there told me as boys they would ride their bicycles down the middle of Hollywood Blvd early in the morning. That’s hard to image today.

While my mother’s family was from Virginia and later what became West Virginia, some from the earliest days, she had a 150 year family mystery solved a few years ago. There were 2 Scottish brothers who came out to California during the Gold Rush, and they then seemed to disappear.

Nobody heard from them again.

Growing up in my imagination I wanted to think that they discovered a huge vein and were killed for it.

Thanks to the Internet, after 150 years she got a call  from one of their descendants who lived surprisingly just 20 miles south of her in Sacramento. They weren’t killed, but like most who came out looking for gold, they found it too back-breaking for too-little payoff and found other ways to make a living.

What they eventually did I haven’t a clue, but some, like Leland Stanford, made fortunes in selling supplies to the miners.

My mother grew up with 2 brothers and a sister in West Virginia. Like so many post-WW2, all but one brother decided to call Los Angeles their home.

I grew up in Studio City, which was (and is) about 7-10 miles from Universal Studios. Get on the Ventura Freeway and assuming there is no gridlock you are in Hollywood in 10 minutes.

CBS for many years had a huge television complex there – it is where they made the Carol Burnett Show, just as one example. I believe that the complex was recently sold off. What was originally US-101 became Ventura Blvd. Ventura Blvd was, and is, the main artery of Studio City as so many other towns – Encino, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills….

The California I remember 2

Downtown Ventura Blvd, Studio City, Looks pretty much the same as the year we left in 1959.

I can remember for many years riding with my mother in her 1950 Pontiac on that freeway towards Hollywood or downtown LA, and seeing what looked like white Roman columns up on the hill overlooking the freeway. I don’t know what they used that for filming, but to Angelenos seeing things like that doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

Two of my father’s aunts and his cousin lived up in the hills above Warner Brothers Studios – about a 15 minute drive from our house, and my great aunt told me once they were fixing breakfast and saw a wagon train out the window.

My parents bought a new house there in 1953. My Dad had just gotten back from Korea. It was at the base of one of the large hills that separate the San Fernando Valley from Los Angeles proper. During the spring you would find snakes in your backyard, which came down through the hills. Some big ones, too. Both rattle snakes and king snakes. Some were 4-5 feet long. Let me tell you, it was a shock to go out to the back yard and seeing one of these things sunning on the cement. One time I was riding my bicycle on a vacant lot near that hill, ran over what I thought was a long rope, and the “rope” had a forked tongue. I dropped that bike and ran as fast as I could. To this day…I hate snakes. Although in truth the snake probably liked that encounter even less.

The California I Remember 1

Goodland Ave, Studio City. My house was the faux-English Tudor right in the middle behind the magnolia. The big house on top is new.

When I went back there a few years ago,  some parts had changed and others were the same as 1959, the year we left.

The Sportsmen’s Lodge during our time there was this wonderful rustic place with a restaurant and a man-made pond stocked with trout. You could rent fishing poles. They would cook the trout that you caught. You can see a bit how it was here.

When I went back it became a huge facility. Don’t know if the man-made trout pond was still there. I suspect that it is long gone.

I read that John Wayne taught his son how to fish there. Robert Kennedy, I believe, stayed there a day or 2 before that fateful evening at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968.

As you can see, it has quite a history.

There used to be a small amusement park complete with Ferris Wheel on Ventura, but that was long-gone. However, Dupar’s Restaurant, which had been around since 1938, was still there and it seemed that it hadn’t changed a bit since the 1950s. We would frequently attend church services at Hollywood Presbyterian and then have a Sunday brunch at Dupars.

This on Ventura hadn’t changed in all the years I was gone in nearby Sherman Oaks.

I went to school at Dixie Canyon Elementary in nearby Sherman Oaks. Just down the road on Ventura, of course. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Clarke (amazing how we remember some things!) was an avid proponent in teaching children how to read phonetically. I had thought that she was a phonetics pioneer, but subsequently learned that that teaching method had been around for many years prior.

In any event, she published a book on her methods. During this time, California public schools were the envy of the nation. They aren’t anymore.

Today, Dixie Canyon is a charter school, which is still a public school that is independent of school districts.

The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for greater accountability. As public schools, charter schools are open to all children, do not require entrance exams, cannot charge tuition, and must participate in state testing and federal accountability programs. The schools draw up their own “charter” which is a set of rules and performance standards that they are held accountable to.

As our public schools in school districts have deteriorated, charter schools have become more popular.

Other things I remember? My aunt taking me and my sister to Santa Monica beach. She had a ’54 Chevy since new until the day she died in the 80s, with 3 on the tree and that clear plastic people would put over their seats to keep them looking like “new”.

Of course in the summer your butt would slide all over and , well, perhaps I have said enough on that matter 😉

But she’d drive no faster than 45 mph on the Ventura Freeway with people behind her honking. Tends to leave an impression on a young man.

Other things? Evening trips to the Hollywood Bowl. Trips to the Griffith observatory. Weekend picnics in a Hollywood park.

I had mentioned today that it is funny how we go through life and never know which times we will cherish as we get older. These times in Los Angeles, along with my Army days, are some of those times.

Sometimes with age, even some hard times are later cherished.



Filed under History, Hollywood

2 responses to “The California that I Remember…

  1. Mike M.

    My father was born in Long Beach in 1939. After about 1975, he would not willingly go back to the area. It had changed too much, become too alien. He claimed that San Diego, circa 2000, was more like the Los Angeles of his childhood.

  2. Pingback: Me n Sam | The Lexicans

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