Everything Old is New Again

There was no jaywalking in 1906 because there were no crosswalks.  There were no illegal left hand turns to make because there were no traffic signals. Automobiles and horse drawn carriages, cable cars and pedestrians  shared the roadway with men with brooms sweeping horse dung.  It is remarkable to think the people in this frame not only have no idea the earthquake is coming, but no idea we would, a century later, watch with fascination as they skittered across Market Street in black ankle length dresses and bowler hats and think: how primitive.  For them, compared to the Gold Rush days, this must have been the apex of modernity. Futuristic, even.


In 1954 the monorail was Los Angeles’ great plan for shuttling people to the Valley. No, really. This is the mockup. It wasn’t going to be loud, dark and dingy like the elevated trains of New York and Chicago. It wasn’t going to blight the neighborhoods it served. It was going to be sleek and fast like the looming Jet Age.  “A proper beginning of mass rapid transit throughout Los Angeles County.”  Among its most vocal proponents was none other than Ray Bradbury, a man who claimed never to have driven in a lifetime of living in LA.  In case you were wondering, there was a bond measure, and people voted with their tires.


They voted for this. For little ranch houses with breezeways and sprinklers and streets names chosen randomly from the English countryside. For freedom of movement. An entire car culture was built around this freedom. A mating ritual developed around the car culture.  People came from all over California, to Van Nuys, to partake of it.


They built muscle cars at the north end of the boulevard, and they sold them at the south end of the same street in the same week. There was no foreign competition for the Camaro, nor fuel standards, nor anti-lock brakes, nor airbags.  Eight cylinders and a gas pedal. Made to look cool and burn rubber and little else.

VN Blvd.-039-15

Between the GM plant and the auto dealerships, they had both means of production and a promenade between the two to display the products of conception. You rev your engine. The girls would flip their hair. The mating call was complete.  There was nothing to keep you indoors.  It was a holistic, self-contained world.  Until it wasn’t.

van nuys a 01

Now the arteries of Los Angeles are so clogged with cars, we are reviving the trains, along the very routes the track was once laid, then buried beneath asphalt.

Which brings us back to the beginning.

God isn’t making any more of it

Panorama City, built for the car
Panorama City, built for the car
Panorama Towers today. Fifteen years empty...
Panorama Towers today. Fifteen years empty…
Remnants of Panorama Mall today. Though the car is still king...
Remnants of Panorama Mall today. Though the car is still king…
There isn't the same car culture
…there isn’t the same car culture.
When the three people above were born...
When the three people above were born, it was thus…
When the streetcar was king....
When their parents were born, the streetcar was king….
Before that, the horse was king
Before them, the horse was king.


Here we are today. No streetcars. No horses. Plenty of cars. Houses built atop garages with no yards and no trees, squeezed four to a lot on the lots of old, ringed by a wall. It’s a single family home, but you can stick a broom out your window and scratch your neighbor on the shoulder while he’s shaving in the morning.  A century of Valley history squeezed into one frame.

At the Galpin Auto Show


…the torch is passed to the next generation.

DSCN1054 (1)

…they argue the value of an original Shelby Cobra.  Which was apparently an argument over what criteria one should employ before deeming it an ‘original Shelby’.   These two were a million dollars apart in their estimations. The owner kept pointing to the sign on the windshield: “Yes, it’s real”. It was 105 degrees in the parking lot…what better venue to settle the issue?

Cholo Heaven
Cholo Heaven
Old white guys wiping the finish
…old white guys wipe the finish
The Scooby van, always a big hit with the ladies
…the Scooby van is always a big hit with the ladies
Funny car-inspired re-enactment
….and funny cars inspire re-enactments