The Joseph Schlitz Brewery on Roscoe in Van Nuys was an especially popular destination in the 1950s through the 70s.
The adjoining Busch Gardens, with its array of exotic birds and lush waterfalls, was another fantasy environment of natural artifice, like Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm, a fake beloved world for visitors to Southern California to write home about.
I have scanned many cards (owned by Valley Relics) of the famed gardens, and one in particular caught my eye.
Postmarked March 4, 1960, it was addressed to Miss Donna Friedl, 1921 Maynard Avenue, Cleveland 9, Ohio.
I did not pay for this card they give it to you for visiting the brewery, from Grandpa Friedl.
Something in his wry comment leads me to imagine Grandpa Friedl as a white-haired, humorous, kind man who might have snuck past his wife to offer his granddaughter Donna some candy before dinner.
That was a long time ago.
Nobody has a young daughter named Donna any more.
“The Fabulous San Fernando Valley” is another postcard unintentionally funny.
For here is a view of what looks like Sepulveda Boulevard, somewhere east of the 405, (today’s Galleria) with the dam and mountains in the distance, and thousands of cars packed into the foreground.
Fabulous? The grandiose superlatives of Southern California (best weather, best women, best bodies, best schools, best place to live) were spoken of so often, that the actual truth seemed blasphemous. It was, and is, sometimes very ugly here, boring beyond belief, polluted and blindingly plastic. An early 1960s walk up a Sepulveda, north of Ventura, would lead you past auto junkyards and tacky motels, but you were in a “fabulous” place, didn’t you know it?
Sixty or seventy years ago, many restaurants fashioned themselves as Western places, with steaks on the menu and wagon wheels on the wall.
Saddle and Sirloin was a small chain with “steaks aged to tenderness” and at their Palm Springs location, in 1949, Daddy and Mother were sitting down to eat a steak and found time to write to their daughter Florence in Newcastle, Indiana and tell her just that.
“We’re about to eat a steak, it’s balmy outside,” Mom wrote. Her appetite and her temperature lead one to salacious thoughts. Perhaps she looked like Jane Russell, with dark red lipstick. With love and dinner and hot weather….. could the bedroom be far behind?
Otto’s Pink Pig Restaurant at 4958 Van Nuys Boulevard was another well-known place whose warmhearted postcard promised “Otto’s Famous Baked Ham Sandwich, Best in the US” and “Mike O’Shea’s Special Salad Supreme.”
Their motto: Big Enough to Serve You- Small Enough to Know You.
Eating out, dining in a restaurant, was not done several times a week, as is the case today. People ate at home. They ate what Mom cooked.
So it was a special treat to go to Otto’s and dine on such fare as Filet of Sole Marguery or Roast Long Island Duckling (shipped fresh by refrigerated freight train?).
Hearty, friendly, generous with drink and food, sensibly priced: was it all of those things?
Long gone and obliterated, the neighborhood, an off-ramp of banality, is now home to strips of office buildings, medical offices, and Sherman Oaks Hospital. There is nothing exotic, fun or magical here as there was when Otto’s Pink Pig lived here.