Photograph caption dated February 23, 1955 reads “Posing with custom, are, from left, Wally McIntyre, president, Stylers of Van Nuys, and George Weinstock, secretary-treasurer. Sleek showpiece is ’48 Olds with unaltered engine but complete customizing, including ‘Frenching’ (recessing) headlights, ‘shaving’ (taking ornaments off) hood and ‘deck’ (trunk), new upholstering and rungs, choming windowsills and painting dash to match general color scheme (Mandorin (sic) red and white).”
Tom Cluster (b. 1947) lived at 6944 Columbus with his sister and brother and parents from 1955-1962. The family then moved to Pacific Palisades. He now lives in Northern California and has been sending me his recollections of life in Van Nuys in the 1950s.
Here are some excerpts from his emails to me:
“Everyone talks about the Bethlehem Star Parade on Van Nuys Blvd., and we’d go to see it also. It was a Big Deal in Van Nuys.
You write about Kester a lot, and thinking of Kester reminds me of my grandmother who worked at the MGM cartoon department in the 30’s and early 40’s. One of the cartoonists had a chicken ranch on Kester somewhere down near the LA River. I know this because I have a letter he wrote to my grandmother.
I had mentioned that the Valley was Lily White – what I meant was that there were (few) Blacks or Asians (apologies to the Jue Joe Clan). There were, of course, Hispanics. I remember riding my bicycle to a Mexican grocery just below Kester (on the east side, in other words) near Van Nuys High School. They had big pickles that I liked. I also remember that in my one semester at Van Nuys High (September 1961) a fight broke out in the quad between the Hispanics and the Whites. I’m not sure what words we used to describe these groups. We might have said “Mexicans”.
Valley Town Market/ Sepulveda Drive In
Note: Constructed in 1955, at a cost of $3,000,000, the Valley Town Market and the Sepulveda Drive-In Theater were located near Erwin and Sepulveda in Van Nuys, CA. The market featured some amusement park rides, animals and outdoor informal “fast” food.
The entire complex was demolished in 1992, and was replaced by Wickes Furniture, which was then torn down. And is today the site of LA Fitness and the Orange Line Busway parking lot.
Random mass murder was still a novelty in 1968.
In that year, Peter Bogdanovich directed “Targets” about an assassin here in Van Nuys.
Tom Cluster remembers: “There was a drive-in theater on Sepulveda north of Oxnard, and there were some gas storage tanks adjacent to it. The tanks are still there, up against the 405, near the Orange Line Busway. This drive-in and the tanks were featured in the Peter Bogdanovich movie “Targets” (1968).”
Other old photos of the Sepulveda Drive-In:
Cluster Family Photos.
First picture – two kids on the sidewalk – one is my brother. This was taken in front of the bank manager’s house – the Cerf residence is just behind the closest walnut tree. This is the fall of 1961. We’re looking south down Columbus, toward the hospital’s land in the distance. Notice how the walnut trees stop after the Cerf’s house, and notice also how you don’t really see any buildings at the hospital, compared to now, where there’s a virtual wall at the edge of their property on Basset because of their expansion.
Second picture – My sister on a trampoline, Christmas, 1959. There was a craze then for trampoline centers where kids could break their necks, so eventually they faded away. This particular center was on the west side of Kester, just north of Vanowen.
Third picture – 1958 – My brother and sister, with Marlin Place in the background. You’ll see that our windows still have the fake shutters. We pulled them off when we got the house painted and never put them back – I’m not sure why. You can see Mr. Guyer’s house in the background, on Marlin Place. I looked it up and Zillow tells me it was built in 1955.
Tom Cluster School Days
This ceremony was at the church on the southeast corner of Sherman Way and Kester. At the time I think it was a Baptist church, but if I’m not mistaken it’s now a Four Square Gospel [Church on the Way] (3.5 stars on Yelp). I was nominated for it by Mrs. Stitt, a social studies teacher at Fulton Jr. High. Poor lady, such an unfortunate name, but it fit her. I’m on the right, the first boy behind the woman with the fur, smiling and with my face partially obscured. I still have that certificate (I keep almost everything). My time in Junior High is clouded in shame that I shall never live down, which is one reason I didn’t attend the Van Nuys High School 50th reunion. As much as I would have liked to see my old classmates, too many of them would remember that I was a “Cadet” at Fulton, or, in generic terms, a “Safety”. We wore sashes that said Cadet and we were empowered to write citations for infractions such as littering and running. I even got elected to the student council, into the position of “Boy’s Safety Representative.”
Drive in Photos / http://www.garbell.com/drive-ins/drive-in.htm
Valley Market Town, Postcard of Van Nuys http://sanfernandovalleyblog.blogspot.com
Cluster Family photos courtesy of Tom Cluster
A few weeks ago I received a lovely email, and some photos from Tom Cluster, a reader of this blog.
Here is one excerpt:
I just discovered your blog about Van Nuys. I’m entranced by it. I’m almost 70. Our family moved to 6944 Columbus Avenue in the summer of 1955. It was a small tract of new homes. We moved from Westchester (near LAX). A lot of people moved from Westchester to the Valley because the airport was expanding and streets were being eaten up. Our new neighborhood was between Kester, Vose, Sepulveda, and Vanowen.
The local celebrity was Andy Devine, who still lived in his big house on 6947 Kester, down near Basset. At Halloween he’d hand out small boxes of Sugar Pops. There was an old swimming pool across the street that he had built years before – the Crystal Plunge – and we’d swim there in the summer. We had smog alerts in those days and if there was a big rain we wouldn’t go to school because Kester St. would flood.
There was a family on Vose who sold eggs from their chickens – the mother and father had survived the Holocaust and had the tattooed numbers on their forearms.
[Then as now] It would get hot and there was no air conditioning, not at Valerio School (which in 1955-1956 was at the corner of Kester and Valerio, consisting entirely of temporary buildings with a dirt playground) and not in our homes. Still, I have fond memories of Van Nuys.
The area where the Presbyterian Hospital is now was a big empty field full of tumbleweeds – we’d make forts and paths there. When the hospital was built it was small compared to what it is today. It was just two circular wings designed by William Leonard Pereira. (1909-1985) of Pereira and Luckman.
(Valley Presbyterian Hospital images courtesy of LAPL)
If you look at a map, you’ll see that Noble, Burnett, and Columbus extend from Basset to Marlin Place – the 6900 block. The houses from 6900 up to 6932 were built in 1951, the houses beginning at 6932 were built in 1955. Our houses (6932 and up) were in an old walnut grove, so there was plenty of shade.
I’ve attached a picture out front of our house. The older end of the street didn’t have walnut trees and it always seemed hot. What we didn’t understand was that the walnut trees would all soon die because sidewalks and asphalt and lawns aren’t good for them. At that point our end of the street got hot and the trees that had been planted at the other end of the street grew up and gave it shade. We moved out in 1962. The people who bought our house are still there – probably the longest residing family in that block of Columbus.
If you look at Street View for 6944 Columbus you’ll see that it’s perfectly manicured. The builder of our little tract was named Arthur Guyer – he built tracts throughout the Valley. He built 15153 Marlin Place for himself in about 1957.
There was another local celebrity on that street, although he wasn’t famous then. The Cerf family lived at 6932 Columbus, and Vinton Cerf, the oldest son, was attending Robert Fulton Jr. High. Vinton is famous as the “father of the Internet”. He and a buddy invented TCP/IP while at UCLA. The Cerfs left Van Nuys about the same time we did.
I won’t bore you with my memories of all the commercial establishments, but I will mention that Kenny’s Automotive at 14852 Vanowen, near Kester, was there in the 1950’s, just as it is today. Another hold out from the old days is Lloyd’s Market, at 7219 Kester. It was called Lloyd’s even back then, and we’d stop there every day when we walked home from Valerio.
More to come…..
Phil DePauk, who now lives in Virginia, has been a follower of this blog for a few years
and he graciously sent me some new (old) photos from his family archives. He is the young boy in these photos.
Phil DePauk and his extended family lived in Van Nuys in the 1940s and 50s and operated a well-known local photo studio located at Gilmore and Van Nuys Bl. It closed in the early 1960s.
One of the other addresses that pops up is: 14204 Haynes St. a block located just west of Hazeltine. Phil either lived or spent time here.
A recent Google Maps view shows that the neighborhood is still single-family residential, but now many of the once plain and friendly houses are sheathed in ironwork and other embellishments of modern paranoia.
There are many cars in these photos. Phil’s father worked at Wray Brothers Ford which was located near the intersection of Calvert and VNB, two blocks n. of Oxnard.
I wrote to Phil this morning to clarify some family facts and here are his words:
“My Dad worked as a mechanic at Wray Brothers Ford from 1948 to 1958.
After Ford, my Dad worked at Pacific Tire and Battery Co. on Sylvan St. across from the old library.
My Uncle Ed (now age 83, sharp as a tack and living in Canoga Park) started working at California Bank (Sylvan and VN Blvd) after his discharge from the Army.
He subsequently worked at numerous other banks before retiring as a Vice President. My Uncle Dan was the manager of the McMahans used furniture store before his transfer to Marysville. My Uncle Bill started his own photo studio in North Hollywood. My Uncle Ed lives in Canoga Park and always enjoys reliving memories and making new friends if you have an interest.”
From the whimsical collection of Shorpy, I found this 1950s photograph of a car, on San Vicente, which hit a light pole.
Most likely, the driver was not texting while driving.