Famed author Gertrude Stein wrote in her book, “Everybody’s Autobiography,” that when she returned to California on a lecture tour in the 1930s she expressed a desire to visit her childhood home in Oakland. She couldn’t find the house, and wrote, “There is no there there.” Many (mostly so-called media mavens and Westside wonks) have thought she might just as well been writing about Our Valley. There are those ill-informed few who still think of the San Fernando Valley as an endless collection of post-World-War II cracker box houses. ‘Taint true. Our communities have as much personality as any others in the country we’re just better at not taking ourselves too seriously. Johnny Carson’s beautiful downtown Burbank wasn’t a put-down, it was a wry grin in the mirror. When Bob Hope said, “You know what San Fernando Valley is? Cleveland with palm trees,” he forgot to mention that Toluca Lake was his beloved home for decades and decades and decades. Our yesterdays and todays blend into a seamless time progression that defy easy chronologic divisions. In the past, you knew you lived or worked in the Valley when: – There were towns named Fernangeles, Girard, Platt Ranch, Dundee, Monte Vista, Oat Hills, Zelzah and Roscoe now all long gone. – You ate at Otto’s Pink Pig, Mary’s Lamb, Don Drysdale’s Dugout, the King’s Arms, Tail o’ the Cock, Moongate, or Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. – The newspapers were all writing about the latest likely traffic enhancements for the Valley, including the Reseda Freeway, Laurel Canyon Freeway, Sunland Freeway, Whitnall Freeway, Malibu Expressway, and theMulholland Expressway. – Just a few of your favorite tourist and recreational attractions were: Bird Wonderland in Encino, Busch Gardens in Van Nuys, the San Fernando Valley Fair at Devonshire Downs, the Iceoplex in North Hills, and the RollerCade in North Hollywood. – You listened to KGIL or Magic 94FM the Valley’s own radio stations. – You listened to jazz at Donte’s, danced to country music at The Palomino, or rocked out at Bob Eubanks’ teen-age club, the Cinnamon Cinder, where he staged The Beatles’ first West Coast press conference in 1964. – All of your favorite movie stars lived in the Valley: Clark Gable, William Holden, John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Robert Redford, W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, James Cagney, Barbara Stanwyck, and hundreds more. – You watched (but couldn’t yet smell) the Budweiser plant going up in Van Nuys, in 1953 55 years ago. – You were a member of the Road Runners, Valley Vegas, Vandits, Lobos, Valley Hi-Los, and Igniters, or one of the Valley’s other car clubs that cruised Van Nuys Blvd. on Wednesday nights. Today, you know you live or work in the Valley when: – “Over the hill” relates to South-of- Mulholland, not your age range. – You know at least five neighborhood streets that help you avoid the 405/101 interchange. – You wait more than 90 minutes to be seated at Maggiano’s. – At least two of your City Councilmen are also cops. – You don’t know anyone who has flown in or out of Whiteman Airport. – You can see business signs in English, Spanish, Armenian, Hebrew and Chinese all in the same block. – You don’t have a single radio or TV station devoted to your 1.8-million-population region. – “Rapid transit” means a bus. – There are more Starbucks than hospitals. – There are more Starbucks than gas stations. – There may be more Starbucks than people (OK, just a slight exaggeration). – When you’ve driven 17.2 miles of Ventura Blvd. and gone through six communities (Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Universal City) and never known where one ended and the next began. – You Google “San Fernando Valley” and get 194,000 listings. – You know that El Cab is not Spanish for a taxi. “Yesterday” began long before August 5, 1769, when the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola led his group of 64 men and 100 mules through the Sepulveda Pass. Yesterday more likely began with the first Native American settlements, hundreds of years before that. “Today” is gas hitting $4 a gallon, mansionization and a Performing Arts Center at CSUN. What is truly fascinating is to watch one morph into the other, in fits and starts, ups and downs, pluses and minuses, as we observe Our Changing Valley. “The historian is a prophet looking backward.” Friedrich Von Schlegel, German philosopher Martin Cooper is President of Cooper Communications, Inc., President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission, Founding President of The Executives, and Vice Chairman of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley. He is a Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and Past President of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mcooper@ coopercomm.net .
There Really Is a Here, Here