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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Name Dropping from Van Nuys


Here is a picture of my parents from 1960 in the driveway of our new apartment at 13760 Sherman Way. Thats the 1959 Plymouth we drove from Detroit to Van Nuys. Our apartment was on the top floor in front, in the building to the left of said parents and Plymouth.

I did not learn until much later in life that we lived in an interesting little piece of the San Fernando Valley. At the time the infamous L.A. gangster Mickey Cohen lived just around the corner from us on Wyandotte, between Ranchito and Woodman Avenue. He was renting a house with his wife just before he went to prison.

Also near our aprtment there used to be a ranch called La Posade which was owned by the family of the actress Jane Russell. The only information I can find on it states it was near the corner of Sherman Way and Woodman. If anyone has any additional information I would love to hear from you. Anyway, on the northwest corner of Sherman Way and Woodman there is now a Ralph's Supermarket. When we moved there in 1960 it was an empty lot. My friend Roberto Alvarez and I used to go over there and play soldiers. The TV show Combat was popular at the time and this empty lot full of stuff was a good place from which to take out German's. Since I found out about Mrs. Russell's childhood ranch I wondered if this empty lot night have been part of her family ranch.

One day progress moved into our neighborhood and a supermarket went up at the site of our boyhood battleground. When the store opened I recall going over there to see Engineer Bill. I think I walked away with an Oscar Meyer whistle, which I wish I still had. I seem to recall that Bill Cullan played Engineer Bill at the time. However I could be mistaken.

Fast forward to 1976 and you will find my parents and me living at an apartment building called the Taos West on Woodman Avenue, just south of Kaiser. Taos West was owned by Jane Russell and for a period of time she lived in the building while we were there. We would see here quite often and occasionally have a conversation. At the time I was also in Van Nuys Demolay with her nephew Gary Russell, though we ran in separate crowds.

The area has obviously changed, but a close look and you can still see an outlet of the old days. Si Gordon's Pharmacy is gone and is now a mini mall. But the lot on the southwest corner looks much the same as it did back when the Yankees ruled and cars still had tail fins.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

CH 9's Engineer Bill was always Bill Stulla.

Tim

Linda said...

I was a friend of her grandchildren and spent some time at their house which was in the place you described. There was an apt. and several houses on the property and they called it "Russellville"

Carey Wilson said...

Thank you Tim for the correction on Engineer Bill. I hedged my bet as I suspected I was mistaken.

Linda, I would love to read any memories you have of Russellville. Perhaps you could post a few?

Linda Brown said...

I don't really remember much - I remember my friends dad - who must have been Jane Russell's son. I just remember a big property - with a pool in the middle and lots of grass and a house and then an apt. buliding. Wish I could share more.

Esther Trusler said...

I married Alan James Trusler and Jane Russell is my cousin on my father's side. Russellville had Grandma Geraldine, Jane's mom, who held bible classes/worship services there. Tom and Nola Russell lived there with their kids. Their son Garrison is Alan's best friend in the whole world.

Guitar Rat said...

Thank you Esther for your comments. Please give Alan our best. We just reconnected with Tom Hart after all these years. He gave us an update on Alan and Gary Russell. If anyone has a chance they can reach us through the e-mail on this blog. Quite a few of the former Demolay's keep in touch through e-mail and telephone.

carping demon said...

In 1949 I moved to a small house on north side of Valerio, three blocks north of Sherman Way and east of Woodman. It is now a mass of apartment buildings, but in '49 it was a small house on the front of about an acre of land, with a barn way out at the back end of the lot. We only rented long enough for me to go to Hazeltine for the first grade, then we moved to universal city. The fellow who owned the place would gro corn on the lot between the house and the yard; he kept a tractor in the barn, and once in a while let me ride it.


The kids on the block were a bit rough for me, I had moved there from Beachwood Canyon in Hollywood, which was nothing like Van Nuys in the '40s. I was five and six when I lived there. The two boys down the street convinced me it would be fun to down to what they called "the wash" which was at the time just riverbed. It has since been concreated in, and getting me lost and leaving me there. Twits. But the point is that all the kids in the neighborhood said that down on the end of Valerio St. was Jane Russell ranch. I never saw Jane Russell there, but we did go trick or treating there in fall of 1950. All I remember about it is that it was big, big enough that I had no idea what lay beyond it. That's why I got lost in the river. No frontiersman I. There was all sorts of stuff goin' on in the Valley in those days.

carp

Guitar Rat said...

Thank you Carp for you recollections of Jane Russell and the SF Valley back then. I wish I had been aware of her ranch back in the early sixties when I lived in the area. Thanks again.

Jeffery Adolphson said...

I remember the Ranch well. It was at the end of Valerio just south of Vicabob trailer park west of the "wash". It was about 10 acres with a rather nice Spanish style home on it and a horse barn on the north end of the property.Heidi Russell, I remember, rode her horse along the wash between the tracks and Sherman Way.Around 1977 it was torn down to make way for much needed condo's.