Revisiting the Old Neighborhood

This afternoon I had to pick up my wife and daughter from LAX, so I drove down a little early to visit the old neighborhood. I grew up in Westchester and Playa del Rey, communities just north of LAX. We live there until 1972, at which point we moved up to the Brentwood and Pacific Palisades area, and I moved from Orville Wright JHS to Paul Revere JHS (and eventually, Palisades High).

This morning I drove down by the old house on 80th Street, and parked on 79th, just in front of the gas company property, and walked about a bit. The neighborhood has changed quite a bit. There seem to be more and more houses packed in: there are more on 79th, and even more one street over towards the wetlands (Veragua, which didn’t exist when I was young–neither did Cabora). When I was little, I hadn’t noticed the houses. Walking around as an adult, I notice how the community wasn’t cookie-cutter. Each house was different, and many were designed with decks to catch the open breezes. I contrast that with the San Fernando Valley, where you can see common floor plans in neighborhoods, and common layouts even in mid-priced areas. I also noticed how the square footage down there was smaller, and consquently, houses were consistently multi-story. In our neighborhood here in Northridge, we’re mostly single-story ranch homes.

I walked by my old house, which I can still recognize from the driveway. Most of the other houses in the area I don’t recognize anymore, and many of the vacant lots have houses now. That’s not a surprise–it has been 30 years. More surprising is that areas where there were Gas Company pumping spaces now have houses. I wouldn’t want to live in those houses (such as near the corner of Gulana and 83rd).

I walked down to the market, which is still a Dales Jr. The Union 76 (owned by Bill Yarnell) is now an AMPM, and the Chevron at the far end (owned by someone whose daughter, I think, was named Kathleen) is now a private auto service. Other than the Dales Jr., only the Elks and KoC remain from the 1970s.

In the other direction, I walked up 80th to Berger, up to 81st, across 81st to Zayanta, down and around a bit, and back to my car. Pretty houses, but I don’t recognize much from the 70s. There must have been a lot of remodeling going on. The dirt hill that used to be on the other side of Berger is all filled in (that is, the area between Berger and Hastings, and between 80th and 85th). Further, all the houses on the other side of 80th are new. I wonder if anyone from my era (1965-1972) still lives there. I doubt it. There were a few vacant lots; I’m guessing those are former Gas Co. pumping station lands).

I then drove past my elementary school (Paseo Del Rey), and over by my first house. It seems that the airport has taken even more land. I don’t remember the last street being 91st, and most of the land near St. Bernards being gone. Westchester HS nearly back up onto the airport now! I remember there still being houses over on 92th. We lived near the top of the hill on 90th (that’s the first hill W of Rayford), and there was nothing I could recognize of that house.

I did some more driving around. Most of the original Airport Marina hotel is gone, although the back parking structure looks the same. I saw where my brother went to elementary school (Loyola Villiage). I also drove by Emerson Adult School, which I’m guessing used to be an elementary school before the airport got too close (I’m guessing elementary because the only JHS’s were Wright and Airport, and Airport was torn down in 1971).

It was an interesting walk and drive, providing quite a few compare and contrast memories.