Thursday, August 22, 2013

WHERE WE COULD GET BEER

CHERISHING OUR VALLEY                          2013

       When I was a high school boy, exploring Los Angeles was a big thing for me and my pals. Just as today, the city offered amazing things for us to see and do. On one school holiday, we visited the yet to be consecrated Morman temple off of Santa Monica Boulevard and the new Busch Gardens in north Van Nuys. Busch Gardens won our vote because we were able to score free beer there. The other place in the Valley where one could get a glass or two of free beer was the Schlitz Brewery near the railroad tracks in Panorama City.
       In the 50's and 60's singing beer songs was very much a part of going to college. Most people who went to Valley or Pierce College, or San Fernando Valley State have beer mugs gathering dust in their dens today. 
        My high school pals, Alex, Leo, Danny and I convinced ourselves that our German and Irish roots gave us the god-given right to drink beer. A miracle happened when our buddy Bert discovered that German restaurants never "carded" people when they ordered beer with dinner........ so, this set in motion the discovery of a whole bunch of European restaurants in the city. One of those restaurants changed my life; it was called Frank's Little Vienna in what is now Valley Village (then in North Hollywood.)
        Frank's Little Vienna was an absolutely marvelous place. Mrs Frank's Vienna? was a terrific baker and made the most incredible strudel imaginable! The restaurant has a grand piano and old time Austrians and Germans, and other Europeans, came for the schnitzel and to sing. There were visiting violinists and cellists, and then (about 11 pm) opera singers and musicians would arrive. Can you imagine, Notre Dame High School boys listening to, and talking with, the world famous Danish tenor Laurence Melchior or the great French soprano Lily Pons --- and being able to order beer as well!
           Like all boyish explortions, sometimes our adventures got a little scary. For example our pal Leo discovered Paul von Hindenburg Park on the border between La Crescenta and Glendale. On Sundays, after Catholic Masses and Lutheran services were over, beer trucks arrived and kegs were rolled down to the cheers of the crowd. Little did we know that the park had once been the site of pro-Nazi rallies before World War II. For my pals and me, it meant a place to buy giant hot dogs covered in sour kraut and cheap, very cold beer. One Sunday, we heard United States Senator Thomas Kuchel give a very animated speech in German. I don't speak German so I had no idea of what he was storming about, but the oompah band was wonderful and a large lady taught me how to polka.
There is a legend that the von Hindenburg statue was torn apart revealing hidden weapons inside. 

Monorail Tour - Busch Gardens - Postcard - Gift to The Museum of the San Fernando Valley from Gary Fredburg 2013. (click on the image to enlarge it.) 

"A thrilling and dramatic ride through the Los Angeles Home of Anheuser Busch Brewrey. Visitors will enjoy the custom designed, electrically operated "Skyrail Tour" monorail trains. The 3,500 foot ride is the most unique method for guests to view the brewery operations that produce Budweiser, Michelob and Busch Bavarian."

          Busch Gardens closed to the public around 1979. The Budweiser plant, sold to a Belgian corporation, still makes high quality beers there.  For a decade after the Gardens closed, people in Northridge and Granada Hills encountered wonderful exotic birds in their back yards. Today, my beer mugs are full of pennies.

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The Museum of the San Fernando Valley
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Woodland Hills, CA 91364-2230

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