Homage to the song

This is the week in 1944, West magazine tells us, when Bing Crosby’s song San Fernando Valley reached number one on the national hit parade. The magazine pairs the observation with a snippet of dialogue about the Valley from Robert Towne’s script for Chinatown. Sample:

CROSS: . . . you know when we first came out here, he figured that if you dumped water onto desert sand, it would percolate down into the bedrock and stay there, instead of evaporating the way it does in most reservoirs. You’d lose only twenty percent stead of seventy or eighty. He made the city.GITTES: —and that’s what you were going to do in the Valley? . . .

CROSS: (after a long moment) —no, Mr. Gittes. That’s what I am doing with the Valley. . . .

GITTES: There’s going to be some irate citizens when they find out they’re paying for water they’re not getting.

CROSS: That’s all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gittes. Either you bring the water to L.A.—or you bring L.A. to the water. . . .

Both sources allude to mythologized valleys. Chinatown spins a fictional yarn about violent water wars. The song San Fernando Valley was written by Gordon Jenkins for a Roy Rogers film of the same name. Jenkins and Rogers had lived here — and the movie was made by Republic in Studio City — but the lyrics weren’t about any San Fernando Valley they knew. Jenkins wasn’t even a fan of the Valley himself — he moved out soon after the song took off. Crosby also moved on from the Valley about that time, but his rendition enticed war-weary Americans with images of a place that sounded pretty nice.

Oh I’m packin’ my grip and I’m leavin’ today,
cause I’m taking a trip California way
I’m gonna settle down and never more roam,
and make the San Fernando Valley my home.

I’ll forget my sins, I’ll be makin’ new friends,
where the West begins and the sunset ends
Cause I’ve decided where yours truly should be
and it’s the San Fernando Valley for me.

I think that I’m safe in statin’,
she will be waitin’ when my lonely journey is done
And kindly old Rev’rend Thomas made us a promise,
he will make the two of us one

So I’m hittin’ the trail to the cow country,
you can forward my mail care of R.F.D.,
I’m gonna settle down and never more roam
and make the San Fernando Valley my home.