Sunday Afternoon on Kittridge St.

It was late Sunday afternoon in December, here in Van Nuys.

The air was brisk, the sun was low, a pork butt simmered in the slow cooker.

This is the time of the year when you can see the mountains beyond the orange trees.

Days are brief and what gets done gets done quickly. The Christmas season is sewn in living threads joyous and melancholy, lonely and familial; aching, sad, reverent and intoxicating.

Football, films, electronics envy; shopping, eating, packing presents; drinking orange beer under red lights where the smell of pine, vanilla and chocolate is pervasive, these are some of the elements placed here annually.



I walked yesterday, in waning light, along Kittridge, a neat and well-kept street of homes between Columbus and Van Nuys Boulevard.

West of Kester, Kittridge is a ranch house neighborhood entirely built up after World War Two. Within living memory of some, this area was once entirely agricultural. What lay west of Van Nuys High School was the vast beyond of walnut and orange trees, ranch lands and open spaces. Within 15 frantic years it was developed or destroyed, depending on your viewpoint. And by 1960, it was the Valley we know today, structurally, not demographically, of course.

The homes here are solid, the lawns (mostly) cut. The flat streets and sidewalks recall a Chicago suburb, a place where American flags are flown, and bad news and bad behavior is kept quietly behind drawn drapes.

Van Nuys, CA 91405

Two friendly eccentrics were outside yesterday: a man who looked like Fidel Castro with an engraved “RICK” metal belt buckle, and his beer mug holding friend. They stood on the corner of Kittridge and Lemona as workmen re-sodded Rick’s lawn.

I spoke to them briefly, repeating my infernal line. “I write a blog about Van Nuys called Here in Van Nuys.”

“Here in what?” asked the beer mugger.

Here in Van Nuys,” I said.

“You work for the government?” he asked.

“No. Let me take your photo,” I said.

“No. You got a card?” he asked.

I handed him my printed business card.

“So you write what?” he asked.

“A blog, called Here in Van Nuys,” I said.

The older man with the Fidel Castro beard knew exactly what a blog was. He also complimented my camera and my quilted jacket.

I moved on after that, and crossed to the east side of Kittridge.






On the east side of Kittridge, north of Van Nuys High School, the street is grounded in civic and religious solidity by the presence of St. Elisabeth’s Catholic Church and the enormous VNHS.

Rod Serling might have come here to film an episode of The Twilight Zone, so awash in normalcy and Americanism that one could be dropped here and think that nothing had changed in Van Nuys since the Eisenhower administration.

Notably eccentric and interesting collections of houses line the street, ranging from neat bungalows to sprawling pre-war ranches. They are placed on long, narrow lots, going back far, into deep yards, but they seem to have been immunized from the decline into squalor infecting some older streets in Van Nuys.

I stopped and stood in the parking of St. Elisabeth’s across from a tall white spire bathing in the remaining daylight. People were gathered, under umbrellas, for an event involving food and prayer.

And the second part story of my Sunday walk will continue in another essay….



Christmas 1948: Van Nuys




These 1948 clippings were just sent to me by Phil DePauk, who grew up here in the 1940s and 50s and now lives in Virginia. The photo of Van Nuys Boulevard at Christmas, however, is from an unknown source but is also dated 1948.

Mr. DePauk has a large collection of photographs and memorabilia, some of which is related to his family’s former business, photography.

Before regional shopping centers, Van Nuys was a regional shopping center, centered on a street, Van Nuys Boulevard. There was a streetcar running up and down, diagonal parking, and many thriving businesses.

And there was a Van Nuys Christmas parade attended by many.

California Terrace, Pasadena.

It is Christmas on Califonia Terrace today in Pasadena near the Arroyo Seco.

On a slope, under the very large homes along Grand Avenue, the smaller, intimate, picturesque and cosseted grounds of California Terrace contain a collection of domestic dreaminess.

There are picket fence colonials, like the ones on Martha’s Vineyard, but bathed in warm December sunshine.

A ranch house, borrows from Norman France, with a tapered roof of wooden shingles, copper gutters, casement windows and rows of shutters.

In front of a one house are mission lights with hand-painted glass, gnarled oak trees, golden sycamore leaves, landscaped beds of succulents; herbs, lime, lemon, tangerine and orange trees.

A happy, clean-cut gang of young athletes, dressed in soccer uniforms, pours out of a house. They are laughing and pushing, jumping and running and piling into waiting cars.

This is winter in Pasadena because it is Christmas.

This is spring in Pasadena because there is rain in the air and there are green buds on the bushes, daisies, roses, lavender and rosemary.

This is summer– the brilliant blue sky and warm light tell me so.

This is fall because the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves on the ground and the there is much to rake up.

I must be in California because it is all happening at once and none of it is real.  Yet I stand here in reality; alive and merry on Christmas Day.

From the Daily News. More evidence of our advanced culture in Los Angeles:

A vandal or vandals used either a BB gun or slingshot to break numerous windows in businesses and autos Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009, in Reseda. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer) (Michael Owen Baker)

Vandals shoot out windows in Reseda,  Van Nuys

Updated: 12/25/2009 12:43:52 AM PST

Vandals with a Grinch-like spirit shattered several commercial and car windows on a 4.5-mile spree through Reseda and Van Nuys, officials said Thursday.

Armed with pellet guns or sling shots, the vandals took aim at the windows between 9:30-10 p.m. Wednesday along Sherman Way, and Sepulveda and Ventura boulevards, authorities said.

No one was injured, but the vandalism rattled nerves and left several wondering just who could be so cruel around the holidays.

“It’s bad — especially these days with the economy so bad,” said Kim Yoon, owner of Variety Printing and Graphics Inc.

“Business is slow, and now we have to spend money on this.”

The alarm company that provides security to the Sherman Way printing business alerted Yoon about the vandalism at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Vandals had shot up a 68-by-88-inch window — one of three large window panels — at the shop in the 17600 block of Sherman Way.

With the massive broken window removed, a shivering Yoon and other employees were forced to wear winter coats at work Thursday until it could be covered with plywood.

Less than one block away, a large window outside Marinello School of Beauty in the 18400 block of Sherman Way was also damaged.

On Thursday, plywood served as a temporary replacement next to images of manicures, haircuts and makeup.

Vandals fired at three car windows and at Peet’s Coffee and Tea on Ventura Boulevard in Reseda.

Employees were toasting bagels inside Western Bagel in the 7800 block of Sepulveda Boulevard when the window vandals struck around 10 p.m.A pellet marred the 60-by-40-inch window, which remained intact. The pellet missed a late-night customer by only a few inches and frightened employees, said manager Adilza Ramos.

The 24-hour eatery will replace the window.

Ramos said the vandalism was disappointing.

“They are probably depressed,” said Ramos, speculating about the vandals’ intent. “They wanted to do something to show that they were here.”

Staff Writer Jerry Berrios contributed to this report.

1957: Legal Immigrants in Van Nuys.

From the CSUN Digital Library.

Bethlehem Star Parade.

The parade was held at Christmas-time for many years.

In 1957, the Norrona Lodge No. 50 won 1st place.

Pictured here are Jake Olson, Ralph Rettledahl, Elsa Holmstraud, Pam Anderson, Janie Larson, Eileen Hill, Jan Riesser, Mildred Riesser, Jayne Applen, Lilah Mobraten, and Jan Seeger.

The Sons of Norway Norrona Lodge No. 50 in Van Nuys was organized on September 9, 1944. There were 121 charter members. The lodge currently has over 350 members.”

Norway Hall  is located at: 14312 Friar Street, Van Nuys, CA 91401. Phone: (818) 780-4778.

Photographer: Milton Fries.