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Friday, March 27, 2015

The Van Nuys Grammar School Mystery

A photo postcard of Van Nuys Grammar School, built in 1912, was enough to spark another road trip. What had taken its place? A quick internet search proved fruitful.  The LAUSD website included an early history of the school.  Click HERE to read the history that was written by Oletha Sterns, the school’s principal from 1924 to 1953.  When she became principal children were bussed in from five miles in every direction! Be sure to check out her explanation of why the eucalyptus grew so tall, and also the “highly anticipated joy” that every A6 class looked forward to in the early years.

According to Sterns, the 1912 grammar school was demolished following the 1933 earthquake.  Thanks to the Los Angeles Public Library, patrons are able to access the historical Los Angeles Times archive via their ProQuest database.  An August 11, 1912 article in the Times featured a photo of the cornerstone being laid for the $50,000 grammar school.  Sterns mentioned that the original school’s cornerstone was inset into the rebuilt school in 1935.   So I took a trip out to the ‘new’ Van Nuys Elementary School at 6464 Sylmar Avenue.  The cornerstone, to the left of the front entrance was easy to find.

As an added bonus: Don’t miss the beautiful old and gnarled Australian Tea Tree, or Leptospermum, in front of the school.  It is right at the corner of Sylmar & Gilmore.  If you’re lucky it may still be in bloom!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Things to see and do during CicLAvia in the San Fernando Valley

Don't forget to visit Campo de Cahuenga on March 22, its right on the CicLAvia path.   During CicLAvia you can bike or walk your way down the center of the street on Lankershim Blvd, from the North Hollywood Metro Station to Ventura Blvd., then along Ventura Blvd to Coldwater Canyon.

I was also going to list a dozen things to see and do along the route but CicLAvia already has!  Here's a link to their 60+ page Neighborhood Guide which also includes historical details and places to eat.  One thing I would have liked to see in the guide was a shout-out to the location of the Cinnamon Cinder (11345 Ventura Blvd) which played host to a press conference during the Beatles first visit to Los Angeles.  What else should they have included in the guide that's along CicLAvia's path?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fun FREE things to do in the San Fernando Valley: Garden of the Gods

The San Fernando Valley offers hundreds, if not thousands, of free things to do on your day off if you just take a look around.   I recently came across a blogpost showing a postcard of the ‘Sphynx Rock in Chatsworth Park’ which featured a close-up of the railway handcart with two men on the tracks. 

Sphynx Rock Chatsworth Park Canyon - vintage postcard in the Archives of the Museum of the 
San Fernando Valley - gift of Gerald Fecht September 2009

I’d never heard of the Sphynx Rock and wondered what it looked like now so I did a little digging.  I checked the museum’s copy of The San Fernando Valley, a book by Jackson Mayers (1976) but came up empty handed.   The internet didn’t yield much when searching ‘“Sphynx Rock” Chatsworth’ so I tried changing the spelling to Sphinx, which did work.  This led to an enjoyable hour-long trip through Iverson Movie Ranch history on this blog.  The website not only showed me photos of the Sphinx Rock (it didn’t look like the postcard), but also pointed me towards a map of its location (in what is now called Garden of the Gods).

Copy of the postcard in hand (along with the map, a camera, and a bottle of water) I set out for Sphinx Rock on my next free day.  There was plenty of parking and no one else around.  The view overlooking the Valley was amazing, the lizards were scurrying, and the wildflowers were blooming. 

It’s a very short and easy hike to Sphinx Rock.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the same Sphinx Rock as the postcard.  But as I looked around I saw remnants of movie history (a mounted camera track).  

Wandering in the Garden of the Gods I turned a corner and found this view across the street!!

It was a beautiful ‘road trip through history’ in the Valley.  There was no admission fee and my search for a match to the postcard was achieved.  There are still mysteries to be solved- does the train still run through there and when was it built? Are the rock formations there known by any specific names? Those questions will be brought to the Chatsworth Historical Society on the first Sunday of the month, when they are open.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A San Fernando Valley Milkman's Kindness

Manfull Dairy Farm - Milk Cap - Gift of Gary Fredburg to the Archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. (click on image to enlarge)

Manfull's Dairy located on Wentworth Street in Pacoima was just one of many dairies located in the San Fernando Valley.  Its amazing what one small item like an old milk cap can start.  I've just spent the last hour learning about the dairy's union trouble in the late 1940s.  The union protested the fact that Manfull's loyal milkmen refused to join, and (unsuccessfully) canvassed the milkmen's routes to persuade the customers to buy from another dairy.  Another article in the Los Angeles Times caught my eye.

A 1957 human-interest story by Gene Sherman describes the actions of a helpful San Fernando Valley milkman who went above and beyond the call of duty.  One of his customers was a widow that had moved to Pacoima from Milwaukee in 1955 with her eight children and ailing husband to fortify his health.  He died later that year and she struggled to make ends meet.

When the widow told her Manfull Dairy milkman, Andy Bancroft, that she could no longer afford the five quarts of milk a day her children drank he took it upon himself to see if he could help in any way.  Mr. Bancroft asked if she had any insurance, to which she replied just a few old policies that lapsed long before the death of her husband.  Mr. Bancroft persuaded her to let him take the policies to his own insurance agent to see what could be done.  Long story short – the young widow received a check for $1313.73 (comparable to approximately $11,000 today) thanks to an “extended term” clause.

When Cyrus Manfull, the owner of the dairy, heard the story he ordered that her milk delivery be reinstated free of charge.  Score one for San Fernando Valley neighborly kindness.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pre-CicLAvia Weekend! North Hollywood "NoHo" Walking Tour (3/14/15)

PRE-CicLAvia Weekend!

If you are planning to attend CicLAvia: The Valley edition this month but want to explore the neighborhood first come to on the North Hollywood "NoHo" Historic Walking Tour on Saturday, March 14, 2015.

Learn about real cowboys, pioneer families, movie television and recording stars, the Spanish conquest, Mexican ranchos, great steam trains, vast ranches and orchards, land barons, wars, architecture, and much more! 

Tour highlights include:
Amelia Earhart Statue
Amelia Earhart Library (1928)
St. Paul’s First Lutheran Church 
NoHo Fire Station #60
So. Pacific Railroad Depot (1896) 
Weddington Family 
Air raid siren
El Portal Theatre (1926)
NoHo Arts District
Lankershim Arts Center (1939) (S. Charles Lee, architect)
North Hollywood Masonic Temple Lodge 542
Lankershim Elementary School (Marilyn Monroe attended)

RSVP: 1-818-347-9665 or email at Please leave name, email address and phone number

Cost: $10 per person suggested donation; Okay to pay on site or at Please RSVP if you can and pay in advance with credit card or PayPal. Go to the website and click on DONATE button.

Parking: Street and metered parking in area

Tour meets at Amelia Earhart Statue; NW corner of Tujunga St. & Magnolia Blvd. (at corner of Library)
Please visit us on the web at

Thank you to our sponsor Universal City/North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Tour Repeats:
May 9, 2015
July 11, 2015
September 12, 2015
November 28, 2015 - WALK IT OFF TOUR!