People People Envy

In 1961, the Valley Times newspaper ran a contest to promote a new insert, Weekend.  The winners produced a clipping of Miss Weekend Weather and claimed a $10 prize if they were chosen. 

A photo essay, with pictures of the winners, entitled, “People People Envy” ran on September 3, 1961 in the Valley Times. All the women were courteously named, in the custom of that time, with their husband’s names, i.e., Mrs. Patrick McGarry.

It was an era when women were not considered complete unless they had a husband. 

September 3, 1961 

Mrs. William A. Rygg, 13430 Oxnard St., Van Nuys; Mrs. Walter Schulte, 8720 Hazeltine Ave., Panorama City; Mrs. Brace Gurnee, 11744 Otsego St., North Hollywood; Mrs. Jay David, 7519 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park; Mrs. Frank Dalton, 926 Parish Pl., Burbank; Mrs. F. W. Walpole, 17500 Minnehaha St., Granada Hills; Mrs. S. E. Meck, 9132 Yolanda Ave., Northridge; Mrs. Patrick McGarry, 5104 Woodley Ave., Encino; Ruth Fulton, 6619 Wynne Ave., Reseda, and Mrs. William Schmitt, 14201 Remington St., Pacoima. 

Crossing Ventura.

Sometime in late 2018, early 2019, I’m not sure exactly when, they created a pedestrian crosswalk, with flashing lights, across Ventura Boulevard. at Ventura Canyon Avenue.  The crossing is about a block east of Woodman and a few doors down from Yok Ramen at 13608 Ventura where I go about once a week.

This is in the heart of Sherman Oaks, where stores that paint your nails, sell used records or live birds are sprinkled along the boulevard along with massage, dry cleaners, and laser skin treatments. And Floyd’s 99 Barbershop where every customer from 18-80 is a rock star.

I’m familiar with this area and its friendly banalities.

About 20 years ago, I knew a divorced woman in her 40s, with a little girl’s voice, who spent most weekday mornings at the location where the ramen place is now. 

Back then it was a bakery and a coffee shop with big muffins and big mugs, chocolate croissants and caloric treats. She sat at a table with her journal and wrote music and poems. Today she is retirement age, married and living in rural England.  And that’s how I got to think about the time passing and the way people pass time on Ventura Boulevard. 

As Orson Welles once said, “The terrible thing about L.A. is that you sit down when you’re 25 and when you stand up you’re 62.”  

And if you spent a couple of decades eating chocolate chip muffins on Ventura Boulevard what have you got to show for it?

To keep people alive, and moving, mostly in cars, the people and “leaders” of Los Angeles have devised, through the years, the same kinds of ideas to make safer the naked and shameful stunt of walking across Ventura Boulevard.  These include longer pedestrian signals, traffic islands, and painting the street with lines or figures to indicate that humans on foot also roam in the land of cars.

We tweet in seconds about trivialities like nuclear war, impeachment or the fires in Australia but we cannot assume that six decades will correct the urban failures of Los Angeles. Photographs from the past prove my point.

On November 30, 1959, Dr. Louis Friedman, Dentist, painted his own crosswalk, with a corn broom, on the pavement at Murietta and Ventura, to protect his patients. He had unsuccessfully asked the city to do so but his requests were ignored. So he took the initiative and laid down the lines.

That same year, Carl Stezenel, 10, of North Hollywood stood at the corner of Radford and Ventura and tried to cross in the time allotted, 9 seconds. If a 10-year-old boy found that challenging, imagine the typical woman of that era in high-heeled shoes, gloves, hat and a cigarette pushing a baby buggy?

Carl Stezenel’s plight may have influenced a December 1, 1960 dedication for a new landscaped traffic island at that same location. Men in suits (a sure sign of importance) attended the event, in a district whose distinguished architecture featured auto dealerships and gas stations. 

Five years earlier, in 1955, motorists on Ventura near Dixie Canyon Avenue were warned that they were approaching a nearby school by a painting on pavement of a running boy with a ball. 

People who worked and shopped in the area did care about how it looked. Years before it was considered normal and decent to allow tens of thousands of intoxicated and mentally ill people to live on the streets with garbage filled shopping baskets, the issues of why there was no tree cover on the boulevard haunted the civic minded. 

The palm tree, with a trunk so skinny it could never crowd out a Cadillac at the curb, was the obvious solution.  

Studio City is now lined with palm trees, a species that provides no shade to sidewalks that are baked in sunshine 350 days of the year. In 1954, the first palm trees were planted as part of a beautification scheme. Fully grown, their trunks look like posts without billboards, a perfect style for this city.

The sameness of businesses in the late 1950s along Ventura Boulevard presented problems. We, who are of CVS, Starbucks and Chipotle, may understand that historical plight.

Studio City and Sherman Oaks had a competitive streak. 

To bring customers between the two districts, a special free bus was introduced on February 18, 1959. If you had a watch that needed repair, wanted to purchase panty hose, a typewriter ribbon, or a cigarette case, now you had a no fare bus to take you up and down Ventura Boulevard, opening up a world of possibilities. 

That bus must have been cancelled after 10 episodes.

Further east, at Balboa and Ventura in Encino, the traffic situation was already dire in late 1953 when work-bound suburban residents were forced into only two lanes of eastbound road, while the westbound, going into less populated Tarzana and Woodland Hills was free of congestion. The solution: three lanes in the morning, and then move the cones and make it three lanes westbound at night. 

Eventually, the current road was widened into three lanes in each direction, with an advanced staring-into-the-sun design for morning and afternoon drivers. 

High rise office buildings sprung up in the 1960s and 70s, some as high as 15 stories, but nobody in the single-family neighborhoods nearby cared because the occupants were white and well-paid. Today, a four-story tall apartment with 130 apartments, and 3 affordable units is considered social engineering and overcrowding by many in Encino.

We are now into the third decade of the 21st Century and Ventura Boulevard still lacks safe pedestrian crossings because most drivers and pedestrians are looking into their mobile devices.

Photo Credits: LAPL/ Valley Times Collection

Builders Emporium, Van Nuys, CA, 1950s

1948: Builder’s Emporium

Item: Valley News, October 30, 1955

With $1,013,430,131 LA building permit valuations recorded for the first nine months of this year, all indications point to 1955 topping any previous year in the history of Los Angeles County construction, according to Ouentin W. Best, chairman of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Construction Industries Committee.

The January through September figure marks only the fourth time that construction activity in the county has gone over the billion dollar figure in any one year. The Chamber report pointed out that since three months still remain giving the 12-month total for 1955. There can be little doubt that the year will record an all-time high, Houses Gain 14%! Unprecedented construction during the same nine months of last year. A total of 51,067 residential permits have been issued to date in 1955, compared to 47,699 at the three- quarter mark in 1954, A total of 15,522 building permits were issued during the month of September with a valuation of $885,428.934.

[Permits were issued for the construction of 32,008 units in 2016, down 6 percent from 34,034 the year prior] (Source: KPCC)

Population of Los Angeles County in 1955: 5.1 million

Population of Los Angeles County in 2017: 10.2 million (State of CA)

And in Van Nuys, CA, at the corner of Oxnard and Sepulveda, Builders Emporium, established 1948, was doing a booming business.

Not only did it sell building supplies, tools, and machinery; it also seems to have had quite a golf and fishing, sporting goods department.

What follows are mid 1950s publicity photos connected to the store. They were published in the Valley Times Newspaper (LAPL). Their original, great captions cannot be improved upon by satire.

Here they are:

Photograph caption dated April 29, 1955 reads “Motion picture and TV Eyeful Norma Brooks gets close supervision on proper stance to be used when teeing off from attentive golf pro Jim Curtis, preparatory to free four-day clinic of Builders Emporium.” The store is located at 5960 Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys.


Builders Emporium, 5960 Sepulveda, Van Nuys, is launching a new sports department and this outdoor group is helping to announce the fact to the public. Left to right, back row, are Sherry Hall, Rea Regal (sic) (Miss Van Nuys) and Kathy Sellers. Merchandising Manager Pete Campbell is on the left while Doye O’Dell, popular TV cowboy star, is examining the rifle on the right.


Circa 1957.

October 13, 1955 : “First slice of spectacular 40-foot birthday cake is being served by Victor M. Carter, store president, at ninth anniversary celebration of Builders Emporium, Sepulveda Boulevard and Oxnard street, Van Nuys. Cake was served with ice cream to thousands of visitors who joined in festivities.”

May 29, 1956:  “Pete Campbell escorts Ree Regul, Miss Van Nuys, on tour of enlarged fishing section of sports goods department of Builders Emporium, Van Nuys. Recently expanded fishing section will carry complete line of equipment to satisfy needs of all fishing enthusiasts, according to Campbell.”

April 9, 1955: “‘This bunny is a honey’ say the ‘small-fry’ making their pre-holiday visit with the Builders Emporium Easter Bunny at Sepulveda and Oxnard in Van Nuys. The ‘B. E. Bunny’ passed out thousands of free chocolate rabbits to the youngsters at the giant hardware store.”

August 30, 1955 reads “Claire Weeks, Miss Van Nuys of 1955, learns workings of $239 De Walt Power Shop, which will be awarded Sept. 22 as grand prize in Builders Emporium toy building contest. One hundred additional prizes will be awarded. All toys will be donated to Childrens (sic) Hospital, City of Hope and St. John’s Children’s Hospital. Polk Riley, power tool department manager, demonstrates outfit. Entry blanks are available at Builders Emporium.”




Fighting Smut in Van Nuys, 1959

When fighting smut, 58 years ago, it was required to first visit the hairdresser, put on a string of pearls, some earrings and dark lipstick, and select a nice dress with a flattering collar. Only then would your observational and judicial powers come alive to fight that moral blight which arrived in a plain brown envelope.

Source: Valley Times/ LAPL.

October 21, 1959 reads, “Officers of Sierra Cahuenga District Junior Clubwomen read reports by postal authorities on mail-order pornography problem in United States and pledge their organization to help fight ruthless racket. From left are Mmes. I. M. Kenoffel, district president; Edwin Flues, president of Van Nuys Alpha Juniors, and Paul H. Parker, district youth committee chairman.”

(Two of the women are incorrectly identified as “Edwin” and “Paul.)


Drunk Driver Arrested: September 23, 1963

Foolish Robert Norris, 25, of 4809 Sepulveda Blvd, Van Nuys, was celebrating his last day on probation and decided to celebrate. He got drunk and went for a drive. After he was pulled over, near Balboa and Vanowen, he told the police, “You’ll have to shoot me to take me back.” Then he ran away but was subdued by four cops and taken into custody.

This is a glimpse into the good old days of Van Nuys when criminals were thin and white and had Anglo-Saxon names.

Photos: Jeff Robbins
Courtesy LAPL/Valley Times






Opening of the Financial Center Building (14545 Victory), 1963

In the 1960s, Van Nuys was booming, respectable and the site of progressive, modern banking.


In this October 7, 1963 photo, from the Valley Times Collection at the LAPL, actors and local business and financial leaders gather to snip a ribbon at the new headquarters of the Financial Center Building. The building still stands, just west of Van Nuys Boulevard.

“Dressed in a custom-made Lincoln-style outfit, Martin Pollard, left, chairman of the board of Lincoln Bank, 14545 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys, snips the ribbon with the symbolic rail-splitting ax to open the new headquarters in the Financial Center Building. Assisting Pollard in the opening ceremonies were Arthur D. Aston, president of the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce; Ed Begley, actor; La Rayne Richards, Miss Van Nuys; Miles Rhyne, president of the bank, and Horace Heidt, honorary mayor of Van Nuys. Following a two-day grand-opening Thursday and Friday, the bank has returned to regular schedule of hours, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.”

Not only was there a Lincoln Bank in the new Financial Center Building, but also a Jefferson Savings. In the photo below, men in suits and women in high heels smile at a bright future of home loans.


“First visitor to Jefferson Savings’ new headquarters in the six-story Financial Center Building is Mrs. Jones Hawley of Encino, left. She is given a warm welcome by president William Ravenscroft, left center, executive vice president and manager Larry Kirwan, and Miss Los Angeles (Jackie Jansen). Miss L. A. served as official hostess during Jefferson Savings’ open house celebration. New building is at 14545 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys.”

Four days before President Kennedy was assassinated, an oil portrait of Thomas Jefferson was presented to Jefferson Savings.

November 18, 1963 reads, “Famed artist Josef Silhavy (left) talks about his finished oil painting of Thomas Jefferson to president William Ravenscroft (right), and executive vice president and manager Larry Kirwan, Jefferson Savings and Loan Association. Painting hangs in Jefferson Savings’ new headquarters in Financial Center Building, 14545 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys.”