Here in Van Nuys: Facebook
Photographer and writer.
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Thank you very much for great blog, Andrew! I’ve been living in Van Nuys for more than 4 years and I’m surprised how little I knew about Van Nuys. Looking at these articles and photos are like opening up a whole new door! Keep up the great work.
I worked at the Ontra Cafeteria as a busboy in the early 70s. (Note the spelling, O-N-T-R-A). They featured an accordion player every Monday night. Horrible job, awful people. but I made 1.25 an hour and got food. I was 15… I too have very vivid and fond memories of the Valley in those wonder years. I remember Steak Burger, Otto’s Pink Pig, 4’n 20 pies, Coffee Dan’s, Stanley Burke’s/Corky’s/Lamplighter, VNHS (Class of ’71-we have a Facebook group) Wednesday night and Bob’s (the vanilla shake machine was ALWAYS broken…chocolate only) and the newsstand on Van Nuys and Victory. The Fox Theater, The Helmsman (beeeeep beeeeep). And all those car lots on Van Nuys Blvd. I lived at the park, swam in the pool, and watched the fireworks every 4th. Goota go, I am getting al little…..
Thank you for your memories Dan.
I seem to be missing how to comment on each post?
You know back in the day when Bob’s Big Boy was the place to go, the place to cruise through, the smells, the boys, the fun. Across the street was a vacant field and I remember them having a circus there and watching them erect the tent and seeing the elephants work. And now it is part of a car dealership???? So sad. I remember getting my allowance on Saturday and practically running up to Woolworth’s to get $.10 in candy from the candy counter. And then a silly toy, and still have money for a soda at Curries on Victory. I could ride my bike anywhere I wanted to and not a worry in the world. But now, here in N. California (Lodi) I am scared to have my grandson even ride his bike. It’s like you are a moving target. Times have changed so much. I was lucky enough to grow up in a cool town, with cool parents that cared about me, I wish we could go back to such carefree childhoods.
I love reading your stories, it really takes me back. Your great. Thank you.
Great story, Sue! By the early ’60’s, the Ontre Cafeteria was directly across that street with the car wash next to it (it’s still there, believe it or not). My grandma used to love that Cafeteria and would take me there. I guess places like that are all but dead to today’s “fast food” audience. The old Red Car tracks were still on Chandler, winding their way to Van Nuys Blvd. in the mid-1960’s. But soon enough, they were also removed and trees planted down the middle of Chandler for quite some way-almost to Coldwater. Just before that area there was an older home with chicken farm where you could still buy fresh eggs every day at very reasonable prices. Ultimately, the zoning commissioner drove those last places out of L.A. City-to which we are all imprisoned/still! If you ever got as far as Kester and Magnolia, you might remember the old Fox Market; it later became Food Fair and then Dales Market before the Feds. took it and built a giant Post Office. Across the street were all those old businesses stretching from Magnolia/Kester to Lemona…now an entire block of additional Condominium/apts. has replaced those old businesses. Originally there was a Winchell’s Donut Shop, a Chicken Delight, a pet shop, cleaners, Blue Fly Wines and Spirits some medical offices and a pharmacy on that corner; behind it was one of the original Blue Chip Stamp warehouse/buildings…all gone now. It was appropriately written: “if you build it, they will come”…and so they have. Kester is now loaded with impassable traffic during morning and evening rush hour traffic…mean, frustrated drivers who would prefer to run you over, rather than allow you to access” their spaces”…Yup, all has changed. Well, at least we got underground drainage to the L.A. River; so those uncommon floods now force us to sandbag our homes. But then, the brunt of neighborhood homes are now 8-10,000 sq. ft. McMuffin Mansions high above the ordinary/the normal/the neighborly…along with rod iron gates, locked down sites and folks who rarely speak English, let alone look up at those of us who still take walks on a daily basis. After dark, you are advised not to walk at all…Van Nuys Blvd. went to cruising nights, to cruising for a new or used car-from Magnolia to Oxnard. It’s a strange feeling as you drive and have to really dig deep to remember what used to be/vs what is there now. That #2 Bob’s Big Boy truly was a gem/early hang out for the car lovers; but, again, it seems to have morphed into a different version of/for car lovers as yet another addition to one of two very successful dealers/dealerships expanded their spaces right over it! The entire Valley is about money/and every possible way to make more of it. Sadly, fewer and fewer residents are amongst those making larger enough sums of it to actually remain here and thrive…
Hey Andy, just wondering why you don’t have a picture of yourself on YOUR WEBSITE? it certainly goes a long way in appreciating the photos you take of others! (aaaaah…..writers!) Of course, under my own e-mail I show a picture of Harley-one of dogs (lol)
Thanks….so many photos of me on the internet. Just Google+ or FB or Flickr me.
You’re a good man, Andy…and it’s nice to see someone recording pictures of the modern-day San Fernando Valley. i noticed you’re branching beyond Van Nuys to Burbank, Tolucca Lake, etc. I felt saddened for having never taken a picture of the #2 bob’s Big Boy on Van nuys Blvd.-now just another extension of a car dealership. In fact, right across the street, yet another recent expansion of a car dealership removed the original “Ontre Restaurant”-a cafeteria where you walked down a line and picked things along the walk for your meal. the building had remained until last year (2012) when it was removed and another 2-story car storage was added. but a bit further up the street-@ Killion-is one small token of landmark buildings. in 1928/’29, my real grandfather, james C. Lee had partnered with a movie actress (I think it was Norma Talmadge). Anyway, they bought that block and he developed it, building a number of Spanish-styled homes (probably your basic 1-bedroom/1-bath homes). Anyway, he finished them in August, 1929-so the story went. She got her money out and his profit was in, then, selling said homes. Along came Oct./nov. and he had $100,000 in cash in the stock market-controlling over a million in stocks. As his portfolio evaporated, and the margin call arrived, he lost it all. Within a year or two, he had lost the block on Killion St. He would later lose his business on the corner of Manchester and Western-a real estate office. He began a slow decline into the bottle. By the late 1930’s, he had lost their house on Wiltern, then another and then my grandmother. His last hurrah was a visit to hear my dad-his only son-forced to sing the song: “Daddy” written by anther family friend (Bobby Troup) on Catalina Island in August, 1941 @ the Carousel. On the trip over, he snuck ale on the ferry boat for all the guys in Jerry Wald’s band-for which dad played trumpet. After the show, they all crashed in a single bungalow behind the hotel. Grandpa’s life pretty much faded away after that. he did remarry to a sweet lady who supported him until his liver finally gave out in 1951. He left behind two daughters, a son and .19 cents on the mantle piece. Dad related how he had to borrow the $8,000 it cost to bury him at the old Forest Lawn in Glendale…but what a spot he got back then…as the song went: “Memories Are Made of these”…
best wishes for the holiday season… Robert e Lee
Thank you for your great story. It seems people back then actually built things, including neighborhoods, but invariably something tragic happened and they went into decline.
Today, we only think big virtually, and seem to imagine we can float into eternity youthful and healthy.
But we have the truth of human struggle to refute our own illusions.
Thank you REL. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year and thank you for reading this blog.
I sent an email to you … have a look when get a chance.
actually just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say great job!-
just moved to Van Nuys From Burbank and am trying to check out whats going on around here- Im a television and Film editor trying to get connected to like minded people here in Van Nuys- just moved into the historical district near Hamlin-
looking forward to learning and discovering more about my new city!
Hello, I’m wondering if you have any information on what is going to be built on the location that the American Red Cross (14717 Sherman Way) was at that is now a land lot?
I am sorry. I have not heard of anything.
Development of something residential doesn’t seem like it would happen in this fragile economy.
Your photos and blog are just beautiful. As a wedding and portrait photographer in San Jose, I know that it’s challenging photographing outstanding pictures. I’ll definitely comeback to keep checking your site.
Hi Andrew – Do you know what’s happening @ 14717 Sherman Way (site of the old Red Cross bldg)? They’ve finally demolished the old structure. Do you know who owns the land & what’s going up there?
I will investigate it and see if I can come up with any answers.
The author is a genius. Keep posting
I thought you were a genius. Now I’m certain of it. Tried FBF, but couldn’t find you on FB.
I was searching for info on the Van Nuys Choo Choo Restaurant and here I find someone else from Lincolnwood., Ill! I was born in Swedish Covenant Hospital and lived near a kiddieland park. Do you remember it or does anyone have any pics of it @ 1957-60? Such fun memories. Thank you!!
Yes, Kiddieland was near Devon and McCormick, running along the North Shore Sanitary Canal. It was torn down in the early 1970s and replaced with (what else?) stores.
Oh thank you so much for answering..sure wish someone had pics or old films…it would be great to jog my memory…I was very young.3 or 4.!
Here is a link for you to Kiddieland: <
Hello MM: I have some wonderful memories of the VN Choo Choo….
Van Nuys Choo Choo
Many baby boom kids celebrated birthdays at 6324 Van Nuys Boulevard, their burgers and milkshakes delivered on a miniature train. The restaurant closed in 1962, according to an auction notice in the L.A. Times.
I worked as a Short Order Cook at the Van Nuys ChooChoo for over a year. Started in the summer months of 1956, through my Senior year at VNHS, when I graduated with the Winter ’57 class of “The Castillians”. After graduation I worked for the Thomas Organ company, then moved to Oregon in August of 1959.
I have seen that you have choose one of my photos, the one which shows Lisbon. Thank you for your interest.
L.A. must be a wonderful and amazing place.
Best regards from Spain,
Hi Andrew: When I was a little girl my parents took me to a small resturant for my birthday. I think it was on Van Nuys Blvd & I think it was called The Choo Choo. It was small, had a U shaped counter with a railroad/train around the counter. The burgers were put on the train & sent to where you sat at the counter. Do you know anything about this place? Would love to know.
My kindest regards, Jessica
Someone just posted a birthday picture from Van Nuys Choo Choo on the Facebook page Valley Relics.
Thank you David.
I worked there as a short order cook summer of mr Jr. T
Year until after graduating with “The Castillians” Winter class of ’57. I moved to Oregon in the fall of ’59, & understand the owner, Denny, had problems and in 1962, the business was sold at auction .
Andrew, I’m impressed about the quality of pictures of the website! I was trying to find some pictures of Van Nuys airport – it’s so beautiful in the dask – but could not find any. Have you ever shot the airport? Look forward to see if it comes to your mind.
We met yesterday at the shooting location on Sylmar and Kittridge. Good going on your blog.
Same here. Nice work, keep it up. My family does have lots of pix from years gone by, and I’ll try and find some to post that might be interesting to a wider audience. I was born at Van Nuys Receiving Hospital, just off VN Blvd. near Hatteras (no longer there, I believe) and grew up a few blocks away on Tobias Ave. I remember as a little kid in the mid-’50s walking with Mom down to Serber’s Market on VN Blvd near the old train tracks (now a bus lane, I believe) and watching the Bethlehem Star Parade on the same boulevard. The House of Sight & Sound on Victory between Vesper and VN Blvd. was my favorite place in town — I picked up the KHJ Boss 30 song list every Friday afternoon on my walk home from grade school. Great times!
So many wonderful memories in all these posts. Lived in VN 1955 – 1962. I agree, you could bicycle anywhere you wanted without worry. I remember the Bethlehem Star Parade, the House of Sight and Sound, the Choo Choo, the Crystal Plunge – I could go on and on. We lived on Columbus in an old walnut groove. When we moved into the neighborhood there was a big lot on Vanowen filled with tumbleweed and we’d make forts in it. Eventually it became the Valley Presbyterian Hospital. I went to Valerio School and Fulton Jr. High and Van Nuys High. I miss those days. Thank you for this blog!
Tom, do you have any photos from back then? Especially Columbus?
I sent you a message, but it didn’t go through I think. Congrats on the awesome site Mr. Editor! I lived in Lincoln Square about 5 minutes from Lincolnwood. I was also born in Van Nuys at the Valley Presbyterian Hospital!
Great to hear from you and keep up the awesome work!
wow – very impressive. I just moved from Lincoln Square – about 3 minutes from Lincolnwood! This site looks like a full time project. What’s funny is I was born in Van Nuys at the Valley Presbyterian hospital I think it is called. Keep ’em coming Mr. Editor!
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