DePauk Family Photographs in Van Nuys: 1940s and 50s


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I had published some of these a few years ago, photographs sent to me by Philip DePauk, a one-time resident of Van Nuys who now lives in Virginia. His family owned a photo studio on Gilmore near Van Nuys Boulevard and his father and uncle also worked for a Ford dealership located here.

These images are both stunning and sad, sad for the lost way of life that once existed here, a gentle place where orange groves and endless vistas promised opportunities and happiness in a state where agriculture, industry and education were all advanced and the envy of the world.

Modern people often dismiss the past by citing the prejudices of that era. Women who could not work. Gays who could not marry. Japanese rounded up during WWII. Blacks and Hispanics who were relegated to ghettos, kept out of the workplace, discriminated against in every sense of the word. These were all bad aspects of law and custom thankfully banished.

Yet our landscape, moral and cultural, is degraded worse today.  This I believe.

This is our present.

Photo by Malingering.
Photo by Malingering.
Photo by Malingering
Photo by Malingering

Photo Credits: Malingering

Living as we do now, in a completely tolerant California, are we not victimized, all of us, by the crude violence, the grossness of language, the vulgarity of dress, the assault of trashy behavior, that demeans all of us?  We live in a Van Nuys that shames us. Some of us react by renaming our neighborhoods Lake Balboa, Sherman Oaks, Valley Glen.  Others just flee by moving away, abandoning Van Nuys Boulevard, crawling deeper into our digital drugs, withdrawing from human interaction which is often uncivilized and often barbaric.

One small example….

On my street, I often see cars parked in the shade. When the drivers move on, what’s left behind are fast food wrappers, cans, and bottles in the gutter.   And at LA Fitness, going to my morning workout,  I see a parking lot littered with junk food from last night’s fitness members.  At the alley next to SavOn, people urinate in broad daylight. Prostitutes walk the street.  And these are just examples of our less violent behavior.

Where is our respect for ourselves and for each other?


 

Serbers Foods. Hatteras and VNB. This building stood until 2014.
Serbers Foods. Hatteras and VNB. This building stood until 2014.

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1949 snowfall.
1949 snowfall.

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In the DePauk Family, typical of that time period, there is a certain modesty to behavior.  There is no “attitude” just hard working, well groomed people who conduct themselves with some decorum.

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And for the generation whose lives were tempered and toughened by the Great Depression and World War Two, a flooding street was a good photo, not a moment for an emotional breakdown and an online fit of anger.

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Flooding in Van Nuys, early 1950s.
Flooding in Van Nuys, early 1950s.

The one negative photo in this set, in my mind, is the widening of Victory Boulevard (1954) and the cutting down of trees that once lined the street. For this act of civic “improvement” spelled the end of civilized Van Nuys, making the hot streets hotter, the speeding cars faster, the abandonment of walkable and neighborhood oriented life lost to the automobile.

Widening of Victory Boulevard: 1954.
Widening of Victory Boulevard: 1954.

 

 

9 thoughts on “DePauk Family Photographs in Van Nuys: 1940s and 50s

  1. I love these pictures. We came in 1955 so I never saw the old Victory Blvd – that’s an eye opener for me. I remember flooding on Kester soon after we came – you’re right, the big storm drain projects solved that problem but we’d stay home from school in the meantime. (No complaint from us kids!) I loved the picture of Wray Brothers. My brother was named after Lou Grande – not sure if Lou’s in this picture, it’s been so long. Does anyone remember the old Rivoli Theater? (Later it was renamed, before it was torn down.) It was right next to the Unclaimed Freight place. We’d see the cheap sci/fi and monster movies there on Saturdays. It had seen better days – I remember that old socks were hanging out of the light fixtures. On the other hand, the Fox, on the other side of Victory, was the place to go for first run movies in Van Nuys. I remember when the Fox was remodeled – they removed the marquee that extended over the sidewalk and replaced it with the more modern flat kind. Another memory is the Thrifty Drug at Van Nuys Blvd and Vanowen with the lunch counter in the back. I would get my haircuts up the street on Vanowen, at Jim’s Western Barbers. There was also a bookstore on the other (north) side of Vanowen – Bennett’s books. That’s where I’d get my Tom Swift Jr. and Hardy Boys books. I love what Andy does on this web site. Thank you, Andy!

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  2. I was particularly interested in the picture of the Wray Bros employees. My dad, Harry (Bud) Nugent was the truck sales manager at that time and is shown on the second man in from the far left. We lived in VN from 1946 to 1959 when we moved to Woodland Hills. I could write at length about how fun it was growing up in the SFV during those years. From playing in the flood control basin as akid to cruising VNB as a teen – it was great.

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  3. Sight and Sound was where you went when a TV tube blew out and you needed to buy a replacement. Each one had a code number, something like E3RS2-33 and you just matched the tube that was faulty with the new ones on the rack. Then you went home and plugged it into the back of the set. It seems like we went there every other weekend to get something or other. We lived near Sherman Way and Louise. in the 1950s.

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  4. brilliant observation of the world we now live in..you’re 100 correct. I grew up in panorama city and the valley was my playground, we rode our bikes everywhere or took the RTD…now the valley is a former shell of what it used to be. where walmart is was broadway dept store, on the other side was Robinsons and in the back was ohrbachs and Montgomery wards…now its worse than tia juana

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  5. Really enjoyed looking at these old photos especially Victory Blvd. as the house I grew up in was right off Victory and Woodman. Thanks for sharing them. Don’t recall the shoe repair store but sure do remember House of Sight and Sound. Loved going there to buy records.

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  6. Great article and pics! I love especially what you had to say about the moral decline of today compared to yesterday, & the flooding that was so rampant back then. BTW, I have seen that pic of the car stuck in flood waters by the school when you posted it awhile back. I’m pretty sure the school is Van Nuys Elementary?? Looks like it.

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  7. Oh how I remember the before and after of Victory Blvd. it was lined with pepper trees and soooooo shady. Does anyone remember Mathews Shoe Repair on Sylvan and VN blvd! also on on Victory by Sight and Sound, both are gone now, the only one left is one. On Gilmore

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    1. Sue, when I saw the picture of DePaulk’s studio, a flash of memories suddenly overwhelmed me as I remembered both being a bit excited/awed when they leveled the city blocks that became the Federal buildings and surrounding area and shocked that they had removed the heart of Van Nuys’ business district in so doing. There went the oldest theater, Engineer Bill’s Restaurant where Lionel trains would deliver your food on a horse-shoe shaped track, and many other businesses that produced both jobs and healthy returns for the community. The reminder of cruising was that the turn-around was Oxnard Street. And I have seen the oldest pics. taken before development, where the train tracks used to cross V.N. Bl. was where the orig. land office had been when they began the great sale of divided properties! That was just north of Oxnard and was Leroy’s Liquor store in the ’60’s. The last of those two movie theaters was the old Fox with it’s glorious marble front and wonderfully cooling back end that showed so many great/watchable movies where sex and violence were not the mantra of the audience’s attention span-including “the Little Drummer Boy” and a number of classic, entertaining films for young people. Last I remember, it sold cheap shoes and finally they removed the marble front to make it match the trashie looking rest of the block (north on V.N. Bl. from Victory)! The loss of the House of Pancakes was the last blow to me…for a once-civilized neighborhood…

      But there were other floods too. In the ’60’s and before the storm drains had finally become city-wide, we used to buy plastic boats and row down some streets-as with Willis Ave., where some high curbs provided at least 3 feet of water depth in heavy rains. I think we bought said boats at Army/Navy Surplus? I noticed recently the Indians who had recently owned it, closed up shop for good on V.N. Bl…another landmark withered away and dead. The old mortuary that stood sentinel over a bygone era is part of the miles of car lots that have taken over everything south of Oxnard street to Magnolia (at least)-we can never have enough new and used cars in the neighborhood…2 miles/c. 50 jobs…ya, what a benefit to the area…but, hey, 3 or 4 men are making millions and that’s what’s important…they can never make enough!

      Your memory of those pepper trees reminded me of old Kester Ave. before they widened it and how they had simply taken the land form families like my own through eminent domain for said widening. Since they didn’t have a drainage system in place, most owners had to have sand bags handy for the floods that came off the old L.A. River on those rare occasions… Many had planted ivy to help build up a strong turf-looked like crap, but it did stop the torrent of water a few times. And perhaps saddest of all was when the horse ranch was removed back in 1952 and replaced with a Fox Market. For us, it was a breath of fresh air/the addition of civilization to our area. but really, it was an encroachment that would never end. Thereafter came an entire block of businesses on Magnolia NW corner for a block that provided a generation of jobs, entertainment and food, etc. The market went from Fox-to Food Fair-to Dales-and then another eminent domain of Fed. Gov. marching in and saying it will be a Post Office-with 2/3rds parking for employees-the rest park up and down all the side streets…the beginning of the end…Last year they removed the entire block of business and put in another housing development-for the money-and density just keeps going out of control. One wonders who is on the take to keep allowing all of this growth-while we e told there is no water to go around? Another condo replaced a single family residence after rezoning was attained? And now illegal rentals dot our neighborhood…allowing further degradation. And recently-without any fanfare whatsoever-the last fairly open space disappeered-on Magnolia and just west of the car dealership at Van Nuys Blvd. What was lost was a ’50’s style homes site with 6 homes in a horseshoe shape, an lovely little old ’40’s “A” frame to the west of that and a half acre orange grove next to that…now, wall-to-wall units spreading all the way back to an alleyway, all the way across the front and all the way to the car dealership. Not one inch was spared. This is defined by economists as ‘highest and best use” policy and it will ultimately undermine the lives and liberties and happiness of anyone stupid enough to remain behind. And it is why so many have moved away.

      I suppose best advice would be to follow Andy’s recommendation and check out the new brew/pub on Calvert St.-was it, Andy? If you can’t beat ’em, drown out the misery with a good brew-ski? lol best to all rl

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