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

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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).