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Monday, November 8, 2010



“Oh I remember – Chatsworth about 1962
by Mike Breeden

         You speak of the Munch Box and yes, it was such a special place that it still is a special place. It is a part of Chatsworth which seemed to have many special places.
          I could tell you of a few, oh yes I remember, I remember walking past the Candy Cat and the Country Squire and Sunset Liquors and Los Toros every morning on my way to Miss Lee's kindergarten class at Chatsworth Park Elementary, but let me share a memory of Chatsworth that though gone now, was cool and dim and beautiful and green and timeless. Let me remind you.
         When I was young, Chatsworth was in transition from a quiet agricultural town of endless sunny orange groves to becoming suburbia. Many of us were children of the city and the suburbs that technology created, but we were lucky enough to grow up in this quiet, idyllic village before it became part of the mega city that is
now LA.
         Walk with me up Canoga Avenue in another time when orange groves stretched from Topanga Canyon to Balboa. As you cross Devonshire you would cross Brown's Creek that starts far up in Oat Mountain. Cross the street and look at the huge row of eucalyptus trees on the left of the street protecting an orange grove from the Santana Winds. On the right are houses of the new people in town that work in the young aerospace industry, the movie industry and the new local business of the San Fernando Valley.
         Still, now Canoga is just a dusty dirt road running through farmland. On the other side of the creek is a large meadow that is a sheep farm that goes from the creek to Eton Avenue. As you pass San Jose Street there is a field on the right where they grow squash to feed cattle and small ranch spreads on the left backing to the railroad tracks including a pheasant farm. The sides of the road rise up to the thin fences of the fields. Tumble weeds line the road.
          Now you are walking in to Chatsworth as it was, a quiet place of farms that usually show no movement except in the frenetic times that mark the seasons of a farm. It is dusty. The plants have a brown cover from dirt the occasional car leaves drifting behind. There are dark brown beer bottles in the space beside the road. Not that so many are thrown there, but that there has been so much time for them to gather undisturbed. You cross Chatsworth Street, an adventure so pristine that no child today would be allowed in such an unspoiled solitary place. Then it was children that imagined monsters in the unknown. Now it is the adults. Really, it was just quiet farm fields beyond where the developers had ventured and the city had spread. To us then, it was nature undisturbed or just perhaps not despoiled by humans.
         I knew I was past where I was supposed to venture, but this was remote enough that my parents had not thought to forbid my venturing here. It was empty anyway. It was fields surrounded by giant eucalyptus with a majesty I was to young to understand, but still a presence I could sense. There were real giants when I grew up. They were ageless dark green giants and very mysterious. The farms had a vitality I could feel and still feel to this day. There was life in those fields, from the giant trees to the fragrant groves to the spreading vines and the big green caterpillars on the silkweed plants beside the road. I remember the buzzards circling high above that told of both life and death. It was quiet and empty and had the beauty of empty places and the peace of quiet places and then I would think I should go no further and I would head home to the familiar comfort of a so civilized home. Chatsworth sometimes seemed too wild even to an adventurous child as myself.
         The dirt roads were dusty, but as they were paved, the vitality and wildness vanished, but oh yes, oh yes, I do remember. Beauty and wonder like that must not be forgotten and the mountains will always be there to remind those that remember to look for those small remaining places of Chatsworth as it was.”

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