• Two Valley boys

    Daniel Pearl the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, was a son of the San Fernando Valley. So too is Gregory Orfalea, the author of this year’s The Arab Americans: A History, described as “a landmark in the multicultural history of America.” Orfalea is a professor of creative writing at Pitzer College and he was inspired by Pearl’s death to submit “Valley Boys” to the Michigan Quarterly Review. Here are some excerpts with observations on the Valley that rank with the truest I’ve had the pleasure to read: I am an American writer with Arab roots; Daniel Pearl was an American writer with Jewish roots. We…

  • This still around?

    Anybody know if this Chatsworth rock formation survived time, construction of the Simi Valley Freeway, rocket testing at Rocketdyne (now Boeing) and development of the Iverson movie ranch into condos? The 1912 photographs (left and right) are in the Online Archive of California, from the papers of Owens Valley aqueduct builder Joseph Barlow Lippincott. They are identified only as “rock back of Chatsworth Pk,” from a time when the northwest Valley corner was known as Chatsworth Park. So it could mean almost anywhere in the Simi Hills. I don’t know the boulders in the Garden of the Gods well enough to know if this face is a well-known landmark. But I’ll bet the Chumash had a…

  • Don’t give him anything to hit

    In today’s Los Angeles Times, writer Bill Shaikin catches up with Jose Canseco, the 1988 Most Valuable Player in the American League who now lives in Encino. He hit 462 home runs in the major leagues, plus three in the World Series, and played seventeen seasons. These days, when he isn’t talking about steroids in baseball, the 41-year-old Canseco swings an aluminum bat for the Valley Mets of the Los Angeles Mens Senior Baseball League. Players have to be 28 or over and out of the pros for at least three years to join the amateurs who play for teams like the Toluca Lake Drillers and Sherman Oaks Indians on fields at Valley…

  • Rabbit trouble

    Wild (or at least feral) rabbits that chew up backyard lawns and gardens are riling up folks in Tarzana and Woodland Hills. Daily News garden columnist Joshua Siskin ran some letters Saturday from homeowners who consider the intruders to be pests. “No amount of Liquid Fence (a deer and rabbit repellent), hot pepper spray or even our 100-pound German shepherd keeps them away,” wrote a woman from the Tarzana hills. (Actually I’m kind of surprised the dog doesn’t take care of business for her…) Personally, I enjoy it when rabbits come around. I’ve lived in two neighborhoods now where black cottontails occasionally appear at night on lawns, though not in big enough…

  • Laurel Canyon Freeway

    A theme I intend to develop here someday is big things that were proposed for the Valley but for assorted reasons never happened. Disneyland, Los Angeles International Airport and a stadium lead the list, but freeways are close behind. The east-west Whitnall Freeway across the center of the Valley would have destroyed my family’s Northridge neighborhood. Now a new blog about Laurel Canyon recalls the 1950s plan to bludgeon through the wild canyon. Only one fragment of the Laurel Canyon Freeway ever got built—the stub of wide lanes where La Cienega Boulevard veers off the northbound 405 near LAX. The freeway would have sliced through historic South Carthay, up the Crescent Heights corridor…

  • Landmark pony ride

    Today’s Los Angeles Times notes the passing of Linda Menary, who ran the ramshackle barnyard petting zoo and pony ride called The Farm that has been at Tampa Avenue and Lanark Street in Reseda for about four decades. She died May 1 of a heart attack suffered while driving to Bakersfield for a horse auction. Her animals at the Farm included a yak named Margaret and an ostrich called Monster, often visible while driving down Tampa. “She figured she was the last hope to keep the ranch lifestyle alive in the Valley,” said Alexandra Gravani, 28, who began volunteering at the pony ride when she was 11. “What Linda has given the…

  • Readers remember…

    Some memories and some questions: ♦ “Just an update !! Kiddieland was located on Van Nuys Blvd. between The Moongate Chinese restaurant and the Panorama Bowling Alley.” — Thanks, Doug Stephenson ♦ “I am trying to find some old photos of a place that was located in Sun Valley. The name of the place was “CRAZY BURGERS” or just “CRAZYS.” This was a favorite hangout for teens back in the 60’s, located on Glenoaks Blvd. near Sunland Blvd. I will be attending a reunion of many of those kids that spent time there in July. It would be great if we “old folks” could see some pics of the old “hangout.”…

  • SFV in the press

    From the Sunday papers: ♦ In a Daily News feature piece on how being a lowrider saved Abel Perez’s life, some memories of Cruise Night: On Wednesday nights, they’d cruise Van Nuys Boulevard, mingling with the hot-rod guys, the surfers and their friends with the metal-flake rides with the little whitewall tires. The girls were nice, the coup de grace, but the ultimate compliment was when another driver said you had the baddest car on the block. As Abel recalls it, he always did. “Getting the car ready, that was the best high in the world. You didn’t need drugs, you didn’t need a beer, just the anticipation of driving around with…

  • Not in my neighbor’s backyard

    When the porn company began to shoot on Hayvenhurst Avenue on Easter Sunday, there wasn’t much the Encino neighbors could do but complain. The crew had the proper filming permits, and the city doesn’t get any say on the content of productions. Still, as the Times reportsin a front-page story, “Sure, the neighbors concede, they didn’t actually see any nudity or obscene activity, but the mere idea that it was going on next door bothered them.” Posted April 30, 2006 10:13 PM

  • Iconic locales

    More than a month ago I gave Los Angeles Times editor-at-large Thomas Curwen some ideas for places that played meaningful but little appreciated roles in the history and lore of Southern California land and real estate. I’m happy to say he composed a nice piece for the Sunday paper that picks up on some of the suggestions and adds other locations in the Valley. Here are some excerpts: The fence, Pacoima — “My father had a thing about fences,” writes Mary Helen Ponce in Hoyt Street, her memoir about growing up in Pacoima in the 1940s. “I often thought that … it was important for him to fence, to secure the right of ownership.”…

  • Get a book and chat

    I’ll be signing copies of The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb at this weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. It’s usually a great chance for me to meet fans of Valley history, hear their stories and answer their questions about the book. On Saturday I will be at the Angel City Press booth outside Royce Hall from noon to 2 pm. On Sunday I will be there from 11am until about 12:30. Hope to see you there.

  • 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? . . .…

  • Median home: $615,000

    Half of the homes sold in the San Fernando Valley in March fetched more than the median, and half sold for less. It’s the highest median for the Valley on record, a 17% increase over last March. Yet, as the Daily News points out, it comes as homes are taking longer to sell so it appears that the rise in home prices is about to slow.

  • Remaking Valley Plaza

    Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and developer J.H. Snyder won’t discuss details yet, but they are talking up plans to reinvent and expand the Valley Plaza shooping center around Victory and Laurel Canyon in North Hollywood. A new Macy’s department store would apparently be part of the project. “That will be the biggest investment in retail in the Valley ever – $560 million – an investment that will be far beyond (any past retail development),” Villaraigosa told the Daily News.

  • Reply on Dick Dale’s

    Reader Harold C. “Hap” Rogers writes in reply to a query about Dick Dale’s. In answer to the question by Steve Clow about the bar & restaurant of Dick Dale’s on Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills. I remember it well. When I first remember it back in the ’40’s it was owned by the Costa family, as I recall. The Costa’s were a family that raised and had herds of sheep in the west end of San Fernando Valley. Also as I recall, the restaurant was primarily Italian food. Sometime later, maybe in the 50’s the restaurant was sold to friends of ours, Joe & Estelle (Tucker) LaTona and they specialized…

  • Hot pink ’57 Chevy

    Sure it was a long time ago, but I have to believe someone will remember Laurie, “Les Femme Fatales” in their red jackets and a hot pink 1957 Chevy with red interior cruising Van Nuys Boulevard. My girlfriends and I use to “hang out” at the “Teen Center” in (1967) which was on Victory Boulevard. I think it was in-between White Oak and Balboa Blvd. The Army Reserve Base was located just down the street from there. Every weekend the Teen Center would hold dances with local bands. One of the bands who played there went on to become “famous” back in the 60’s as they were known as “The…

  • Working at Dutton’s

    Marci Vogel got a lot out of her first job at Dutton’s Books in North Hollywood. She writes of it on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page: In those days, I lived east, way east, over by Roscoe Boulevard and the In-N-Out Burger. I was beyond the pale, outside the district, going to a good public school under cover of a family friend’s address. I was out of Dutton’s league, especially with its favorable location at Laurel Canyon and Magnolia. “There’s no chance,” M. whispered as my pencil scrawled hopeless notes. “Dutton’s only hires family.”Several years later, I was just returned from a junior year in Ireland and in need of a…

  • Rep. Brad Sherman’s porn name

    Can’t believe I mentioned this at LA Observed a while back, but neglected to link it here. “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central devoted a segment to informing viewers about the San Fernando Valley, and especially its 27th congressional district. Congressman Brad Sherman played along, answering Colbert’s questions with a straight face and mock-angrily objecting whenever the host brought up the Valley’s rep as Porn Valley. (Brit Hume on Fox News called Sherman “a good sport” for playing the straight man.) Blogger Matt Szabo reminded me of the clip and links to the video, saying it “defines the acronym LOL and is absolutely Must See TV for every L.A.-area politico.”

  • Valleywood adds another network

    The CW television network, which launches this fall, will call Burbank home. Created by a merger of CBS-owned UPN and Time-Warner’s WB, the new network will be based in the Pinnacle tower under construction at Olive Avenue and the 134 Freeway. CW joins ABC, CBS, NBC, Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, Bravo, DreamWorks, the Emmy-giving Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the film-ratings board of the Motion Picture Association of America in the ranks of major Valleywood facilities. Of course, there’s also a rich Valleywood history dating back a hundred years.

  • Greg from the newsstand

    Studio City blogger Jon Crowley writes at Hollywood Thoughts about the neighborhood regular who has sold newspapers and magazines at Van Nuys and Ventura boulevards for several years. He knew the man only as Greg. I never knew Greg’s last name, but I considered him a friend. He passed-away very unexpectedly last Sunday night after working his shift at the Sherman Oaks Newsstand (the corner of Van Nuys and Ventura boulevards). You’ve probably seen him a million times as you passed the intersection: he was in his late fifties… always wore a ballcap… and, of course, sported his trademark ZZ Top beard.I first met Greg about five years ago when I moved…