When John Wayne Came to Van Nuys High School.


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John Wayne, 42, actor, father of four school age children, went to Van Nuys High School in November 1949 to get a tour of one of the city’s first mandatory driver’s ed programs.

In a November 28, 1949 LA Times article, Mr. Wayne learned that Van Nuys was equipped with a fleet of driving school automobiles, donated by local dealers. 285 students in their sophomore year were enrolled in the instruction program. The school was in the vanguard of teaching drivers ed, the first to do so.

It was a time when education in Los Angeles partially derived its pedagogy from auto dealers. They supplied the tools. The schools provided the teachers and the students.

The driving instruction course was now mandatory across the city of Los Angeles, which was the most automotive centric place on Earth.

Mr. Wayne’s appearance at the school caused fluttering female hearts to beat faster, and provoked admiration from the boys.

So complete was the coming transformation of Los Angeles that eventually all the streetcars would be ripped out and replaced with wide boulevards and freeways and we would all get to breathe that brown air and sit in traffic for the next 80 years.

General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Packard Studebaker and Hudson were like Honda is today: they made it their mission to help the community advance towards gridlock, smog and sprawl.

And Van Nuys, once a walkable little town with nice little shops, would find its instructional lessons applied in destructive ways.

 

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