"From the Desert to the Sea, to All of Southern California." - Jerry Dunphy

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Flying Tiger Line

The story goes that John Wayne adopted the nickname "Duke" after working on the movie "Flying Tigers". Duke Hedman, the premiere ace of the Korean War Flying Tigers acted as an adviser on the movie. If it isn't true it should be. i wish I had known this bit of trivia when I flew with Duke Hedman back in the 1960's when he was a Captain with Flying Tiger Line. My dad worked for Flying Tigers so I flew a lot back in the days. Being a freight airline I sat and slept behind the crew in the cockpit. I loved the noise and the motion of the Lockheed Connie in the picture above. Flying from Los Angeles to Cleveland was a little longer trip back then. Chicago and Detroit were the usual stop overs. One day I got to sit in the co-pilots seat while we were flying from Chicago to Cleveland. Imagine my surprise when I touched the wheel and the plane banked a bit. To this day I don't know if the pilot was having fun with me or it was the auto pilot. I do remember we were over the Great Lakes at the time.

For the curious there is a picture of Duke Hedman on my Flickr (Link to the right of this page) sight. He is in a photo with Robert Prescott, my dad and few Tigers who are receiving their 25 year plaques back in 1975. There is also a link to the Flying Tiger Pilots Association. There are many old photos as well as updates by Flying Tiger employees.

Speaking of famous old pilot's I can drop the name of Bud Gurney. Mr. Gurney used to barnstorm with Charles Lindbergh. He was in one of my dad's Masonic lodges. His daughter was an active member of an equestrian stable in the San Fernando Valley and my parents used to go watch her practice and compete. I met Mr. Gurney a few times but never had the chance to ask about his flying days. There is a little information about him scattered around the internet and a few small pictures. If you have seen the movie about Lindberg starring Jimmy Stewart you will see Mr. Gurney being portrayed by Murray Hamilton.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Van Nuys Blvd., Hollywood Knights and Aloha Bobby and Rose

Two movies hit America's theaters in 1979 and 1980. Neither made it above back seat drive in quality but they are significant for others reasons. The first was called "Van Nuys Blvd". The movie was a poor rehash of American Graffiti but is notable to us in the San Fernando Valley for its locations.

The other movie was a similar piece of work called "Hollywood Knights". The local significance being the sight where the car club met called Tubby's was actually shot on Van Nuys Blvd. near Saticoy Street as I recall.

A few years earlier in 1975 another movie was released which featured a few Van Nuys Blvd. shots. This movie was called "Aloha Bobby and Rose". It featured Paul Le mat of American Graffiti fame. Aloha Bobby and Rose had a darker plot and was a small notch above the other two movies. It had some night time scenes of a red 1968 Camaro on Van Nuys Blvd to the sounds of Emerson Lake and Palmer (Karn Evil 9) as well as Elton John.

Though it is not an L.A. movie does anyone remember a movie called "Vanishing Point" with Barry Newman and a white Dodge Challenger?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2008

Last week the names of the 2008 Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame class was released. Arguments always ensue with this kind of discussion but here goes anyway. I was pleased with the selection of The Dave Clark Five. They were the number two British band behind the Beatles for the first wave of the British invasion. This is probably not a popular choice among those who frown on well crafted Pop. The same was said about the Loving Spoonful years ago when they were inducted. Hopeful lead singer Mike Smith will be able to attend. He is a paraplegic since he suffered a fall at his home.

The Ventures deserve the nod as the premier instrumental guitar band of the sixties. John Mellencamp probably deserves induction as one of the top mid-west populist of his day. Most people have probably not heard of Leonard Cohen. He is a Canadian poet who turned to song and has produced some of the most influential albums among his peers. An acquired taste but I am glad for his induction. Lastly we have Madonna. I understand this was inevitable, but personally I don't see it. Cultural icon aside, her music never resonated with me. I am sure my good friend Arnold is happy.

I didn't pay much attention to the whole process and am not sure who is in and who is still out of the Rock Hall of Fame. The last time I tuned in was a few years back when Bob Seger was finally inducted. Of course I have a few names that I believe have been overlooked. Joe South, the wonderful singer songwriter from the sixties. How about The Blasters, the best roots rock 'n roll band to emerge from Los Angeles. Speaking of L. A. bands I think my first choice would be that amazing Rock/boogie/soul/country band called Little Feat. Check out any Little Feat record along with the solo efforts by the late Lowell George. Time to go crusin' and put on your Sailin' Shoes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Van Nuys Blvd. Memories

With Christmas looming large I started to think back to Christmas in Van Nuys and things that used to be, but are no more, including me in Van Nuys. One of these was the annual Bethlehem Star Parade which used to take place every Christmas season on Van Nuys Blvd. I remember going to the parade sometime after we arrived in Van Nuys (1960). I believe the parade was finally canceled due to lack of interest sometime around 1970. By then I was 15 years old and into music and didn't give it a lot of thought until I got older.

As you get older it seems the vague memories start to haunt you more than the things you remember clearly. One of those places was a restaurant called, Otto's Pink Pig". My parents used to take me there once in awhile. Somewhere in my office I have a matchbook from Otto's. Another place on the boulevard I remember but was never very fond of was Farrell's Ice Cream. Friends and I usually went there on Wednesday cruise night. A loud place that was even louder on cruise night. Does anyone remember, "The Zoo" and "The Pig's Trough"?

I also recall liking to eat at a place called "Oscar's". Now I don't recall if they had a location on the boulevard but I do recall they had one at the corner of Sepulveda Blvd. and Sherman Way. My Dad almost always ordered a Chili Size. When Oscar's closed it was replace by a burger place who's local claim to fame was having red hamburger buns. Now does anyone remember that place and the name?

The picture above from the 1958 Bethlehem Star parade is from the CSUN digital library. I recommend their website for anyone wanting to view images from the past. Be prepared to spend a night at your computer.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Butler Brothers Department Store & Builders Emporium Hardware Store

Here are a few more friends and co-workers we are looking to reconnect with:

From Butler Brothers Department Store:
Patty Russmann, Bob Russman, Mr. Gordon Axelrod aka Mr. A, Mr. Harold Anderson, Mr. Kirkpatrick, and I'm sorry I can only remember first names of the following: Gwen, Angie, Walt (warehouse). Frank (furniture department).

From Builders Emporium Hardware Store:
Shirley Naito, Jennifer Newman Joe Ceruli, Robin Pesso, Sandy Be Miller, Don Burr, Karen Larini, Brian Hospadar, Sam Melman, Leslie McNair, Lee Durgin (also Van Nuys Demolay), Kathy Montgomery, Lori Nieman, John Nichols, Diane Billie, Steve Lafferny, Jeff Morris, Karen Willis and Rene Midler.

I apologize for any misspellings and for the maiden names.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Van Nuys Demolay Members

Here are the names of a few Van Nuys Demolay members. Some of are still in touch while others are still out in the wilderness. If you are one of them, or know one of them we would love to hear from you:

Rusty Baingo, Larry Bittke, Richard Bowman, Kevin Bowman, Jim Bullen, Alan Butts, Jeff Coleman, Doug Corbett, John Crippen, Dave Farrand, Chuck Fox, Jim Fox, Paul Glassco, Tom Hart, Tom Martin, Keith Nance, Howard Mitchell, Dave Mitchell, Bill Mitchell, Karl Inman, Tom Raden, Ben Gordon, Garry Russell, Ron Steiner, Dan Swanson, Bruce Timbers, Greg Timbers, Jim Thomas, Scott Thomas, Curtis Thornton, Alan Trusler, Jim Drew, Keith Barrett, Ken Barrett, Brian Lincoln, Will Thurston, Chuck Weymouth, Bruce Arnold, Bob Harmen, Hal Weiblen, Lance Braun, Larry Thornhill, Ken Winte, Gary Zeiger, Duane Joslin, Lee Durgin, Mike Campbell and so on.

There is a only a partial list of the members during our era. Most of us were members during the late 1960's and early 1970's. If you were there before us or came after we would love to hear about your adventures.

If you were a member of and Job's Daughters or Rainbow Group in the Valley we would also love to hear from you. Bethel 80 and Bethel 303 met at Van Nuys Masonic Temple. We would also like to hear from our sponsoring Masonic Lodge, Van Nuys 135 Royal Arch Mason's, as well as Zenith Lodge and Van Nuys #450 Masonic Lodge.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Van Nuys Blvd.

It is impossible to speak of Van Nuys of the 60's and 70's without discussing Wednesday night cruising on Van Nuys Blvd. If you didn't spend time cruising you were at least aware of it, if not inconvenienced by it in your travels through the center of the San Fernando Valley.

Van Nuys Demolay met on Wednesday nights, about a quarter mile from the action on the boulevard. Those members who were old enough to drive, and trusted enough to drive alone were always anxious to get the meeting over with and hit the streets. If you had school the next day your evening probably ended after the meeting. Sometimes you were lucky and you hitched a ride to Bob's restaurant at the corner of Van Nuys Blvd. and Roscoe Blvd. What happened from there depended on your age group and mode of transportation. If you had a converted van like the drummer in our band, Desert Radio Rat, your options increased. Though I must confess he and I usually ended up parked somewhere watching TV in the back of the van,drinking what ever beverage was in his frig as we watched the cars and girls pass by.

Some of the local hangouts in the area were Mike's Pizza on Van Nuys Blvd., Lido Pizza on Victory Blvd. and the back of Butler Brothers department store where we worked. A few of our members worked at the Von's Market in that block and we would sometimes drop in and annoy them. We were like thousands of other kids. We cruised the boulevard and then left and found adventure other places. There is plenty of that for future stories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sound City Recording Studios

Being a musician I have always been interested in the recording process and the various studios around town. Los Angeles is full of current and past landmark studios. The Valley has quite a few popular studios tucked away in non-discreet buildings. One I have a particular fondness for is Sound City Studios in Van Nuys. It is on Cabrito Rd. which is just south of Roscoe Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd. I used to live on Langdon Ave. which is right around the corner from the studio.

During the time I lived in the area Fleetwood Mac recorded their 1975 comeback album at the studio. Later Tom Petty used Sound City to record "Damn the Torpedo's". Years later I found out Nirvana recorded parts of their "Nevermind" album at Sound City.

During those days I would come home late at night and exit the 405 at Roscoe Blvd. I would cut up Orion St. on my way home. More times then I remember I would see rock bands and expensive cars at the Denny's restaurant at Roscoe and Orion. A fun feature of the studio was its parking lot on the roof. The studio was recessed from the street a bit. You drove in the driveway under an arch and there was a ramp which took you up to the roof. Many times I took advantage of this ramp to disappear from a friend who was following me in his car. it was a great place to hide and confuse a friend. I never told them about my hiding spot until years later.

Curiously I lived near another recording studio when I lived in Valley Village and worked near a studio owned by Frank Zappa. More to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Marlon Brando, Jack Webb & Birmingham High School

The other day I wrote about Balboa Park and it's Hollywood connection. If you continue north on Balboa Blvd. from Burbank Blvd. you will come to the corner of Balboa and Victory Blvd. On the Northwest corner is Birmingham High School. Drive a little further north to the next light which is Haynes Street. Haynes cuts through the middle of Birmingham High School. The section from Victory to Haynes is the newer part of the school. The part north of Haynes is the old section.

This old section used to be the Birmingham General Hospital during and after World War 2. In 1950 this site was used for the filming of a movie called, "The Men", staring Marlon Brando and Jack Webb. In the picture above you can partially see a window behind Brando that looks out on another one of the buildings.

When I attended Birmingham I had heard that the hospital morgue was located beneath the cafeteria. Many people told me they had ventured below and seen the morgue. I never did, nor can I verify their claims. True or not it was a curious bit of lore that stayed with you whenever you ate in the cafeteria chowing down on a grilled cheese sandwich.

I had quite a few classes in this old section. If they are still in use I hope they have finally air conditioned them. One of my few fond memories is having lunch in the old section with a tall brunette with long wavy hair and deep brown eyes. We were both writers and we shared what we wrote. I don't recall how we came to have lunch together. She was a nice, insightful girl. As I recall she was a member of the drama team at Birmingham. I went on to avoid school as much as possible and as such avoided sharing more lunches with my friend. I have gotten smarter since I left school.

Monday, November 19, 2007

We Miss Joe Peeps Pizza

The other night we had pizza for dinner. Now Lakewood Ohio is a great town for food and drink, and they have wonderful pizza joints, but I still miss my favorite place in the valley.

After dinner as I sat in my chair bopping in and out of consciousness, I started to think about Joe Peeps on Magnolia Blvd. in Valley Village. Joe Peeps is near the corner of Whitsett and Magnolia. It is in the strip of shops on the south side of the street. You probably have seen the castle like US Post Office next door. Joe Peeps is usually at or near the top of the list for any poll of favorite pizza joints. And Joe Peeps is a joint bordering on a dive. But a great dive.

You have to walk in the back door because there is no public front door. There is only a window where one of their employees prepares their fresh pizza crusts and gives them an occasional toss up in the air. As you walk through the back door you walk down a short hall filled with graffiti notes from what seems to be everyone who ever visited the place. Don't forget to bring your sharpie. However once you are in your nose draws you up to the counter which is right in front of the open kitchen.

We usually ordered their "Blue Collar" pizza. This is a thin style New York pizza. They also have thicker crust and a variety of toppings. They also make the best steak sandwich I have ever had. One sandwich is usually enough for two meals. They also have a hearty garlic bread made from their pizza dough. If you are lucky you might see a round loaf of bread on the counter which is also made from their dough. Buy it, it is not always available and it goes fast when it is.

If you go do not be tempted by the Pizza Hunt across the street. I admit we went their once or twice, and we felt so guilty we walked home on the other side of the street until we were out of view from Joe. Don't rob yourself of the wonderful local flavor. After your pizza you might want to walk west across Whitsett to the Firefox Room. It is a small neighborhood bar opposite Rite Aid. We were there once and it was okay. It's distinction is being a filming site for a scene from the movie "Magnolia". If you see Sam, the unofficial Mayor of Valley Village walking down the street say hello, because he will.

While I am at it I feel the need mention we also miss Western Bagel's On Sepulveda Blvd., Dr. Hogly Wogly's Texas BBQ, the Cigar Warehouse on Ventura, with their walk in humidor and finally we miss the best video store in the valley and maybe L.A., Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. Happy Trails.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Balboa Park & the RKO Movie Ranch

I really did not want to post anymore pictures of myself, however this was the only picture I had of Balboa Park in Van Nuys CA. I believe it is now called Lake Balboa. Balboa Park is a good size park located at the corner of Balboa Blvd. and Burbank Blvd. Back in the 70's there were tennis courts and baseball diamonds where Van Nuys Demolay and others played baseball and softball. Desert Radio Rat and I once coached a girls softball team from Builders Emporium that played here. He was the head coach and I was the third base coach. I had the fun job.

Years later I found out Balboa Park had an interesting history. It used to be the site of the RKO Encino Movie Ranch. The most famous movie shot at this location was "It's a Wonderful Life." On this movie ranch they built the exterior for the town Bedford Falls. Every exterior in the movie that took place in town was filmed here, in the height of summer. Many of the trees from the movie are still located in the park on the western side. There are now houses built on what used to be part of the studio ranch.

Many westerns were shot here as well as the early version of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". You can check the internet for additional information.

As I recall there was and may still be an Ambers Chicken place across the street from the park on Burbank Blvd. They used to be very good. I would have to ask our chicken expert Phone Rat how they compare with Pappy Parker Fried Chicken.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Battle of the Bands

Here is yours truly from 1974. Behind the transparent blue drum set is Desert Radio Rat. Our bass player Norm is visible as a white pant leg. This picture was taken at Van Nuys Masonic Lodge on Sherman Way. This was our last performance as "Blue Ice". As I recall the name came after Desert Radio Rat bought his expensive drum kit.

Musically this was our best lineup. I think by then I had mastered the dreaded "F" chord. We usually opened up the show with Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" and closed with The Stones "Brown Sugar" In between we played everything from Creedence to Chicago. We even played "Precious and Few" when it was needed. I have forgiven myself for agreeing to play it.

I have other photos which show our "roadie" Phone Rat at the bottom of the stage. I'll have to ask his permission to post it as I think he was semi-naked with groupies hanging all over him. The photo credit goes to my Father, Al Wilson Jr.

Are there any other garage bands from the 1970's still out there either playing or keeping in touch? Does anyone from our Demolay circles remember "Boxwell's Band"?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Van Nuys Abandoned

I am afraid I am one of the guilty who has moved out of Van Nuys. First North Hollywood, then Valley Village and now Lakewood Ohio. The reason for this blog can be traced to my move over one year ago, and my almost daily conversations with Phone Rat. Phone Rat keeps The Valley alive for me in our phone conversations, e-mails and photos sent back and forth. Being so far away from my best friends is the most difficult part of leaving the valley. So much so that if I had to face the decision to move again I would not move. Yes I would put up with the hot weather, hot winds, the clogged freeways and everything else I used to complain about. However my dear wife who is from Boston, and did not like California that much might raise a ruckus.

So to retain our sanity Phone Rat and I talk all the time. It is our hope that this blog will eventually evolve as a meeting place for old friends who can reconnect from all corners of the country. The last time I moved out of Los Angeles there were no cell phones, there was no internet. There was only the mail and ridiculously high rats for long distance calls. Sorry Phone Rat. So these new technologies make it easier to keep in touch and feel a little at home while being so far away.

So thank you Phone Rat for being "our man in Van Nuys". We who abandon salute you. If I can get away I will meet you at Nat's on Burbank Blvd. for breakfast.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Greetings From Phone Rat

Greetings from Van Nuys. Since everyone bailed out the last couple decades, things have changed, so I'll have to update folks periodically. No problem.. More too follow later..

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Welcome to Our Van Nuys

This blog is being created as a virtual home for baby boomer's who grew up in and around the Van Nuys California area which is situated in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. It exists for those who still live in this general area, and for those of us who have scattered to other parts of the globe for our various reasons. While we may be out in the desert, by the lake or resting snuggly in some gypsy camp on the outskirts of town, we still have memories in our hearts we want to share with old and new friends.

So if you went to school, worked or cruised these streets at night we would like to hear from you. My fondest personal memories revolve around my years spent in Van Nuys Demolay near the corner of Sherman Way and Kester Avenue. From there we blazed trails to and through the front doors of restaurants, record stores, music stores and girl friends doors. Sometimes we used the back doors. Sometimes we raced through the hills to escape the trouble we caused on Wednesday night while cruising Van Nuys Blvd. So this is dedicated to all the friends who came of age and broke out into the world together. These friendships endure. I'm still in touch with some very close friends. I hope you are also.

We invite your memories and comments. This blog is a new creation and a work in progress by an analog mind so please have patience as I learn the ropes. Happy Trails from the desert to the sea to all of southern California (To borrow from Mr. Dunphy).