Oddities in Simi Valley

Simi valley was originally ranches. As the need for housing exploded in Southern CA, it became a valley full of tract homes.  It’s a lovely area, but not quirky, well except for Santa Susana Knowles.  There is something about building up into the hills that makes for funky neighborhoods. I’ve seen it in Woodland Hills, Sierra Madre, Alta Dena, – the artistic types like to live in the hills in interesting homes.Because this is an unincorporated area, no one has rules about the exterior of your home. Since this was ranch land, there are plenty of old farm tools to be used.This is probably a real covered wagon that came west, with new canvas of course. The original would have rotted years ago.Another example sits outside a local restaurant.An old windmill for a well.Plenty of interesting garden art, a lovely example of stained glass. Birds.Birdbaths for the real ones. Interesting mailboxes.Keep on walking!



It is cool enough for Sunday hikes

This time we went northwest into Simi Valley. I have quite a few books with local hikes. This particular one was published when the 10,000 steps was all the rage. So the author put together walks of about five miles. We started out in Corrianville Park, named for a Hollywood stuntman. Turns out a lot of Westerns were filmed here. This is Stunt rock, where many a stuntman was shot and fell into Robin Hood Lake.  Clearly no one has kept the lake up, so it’s a dry bed with a bunch of kids on bikes and skate boards. Today there is a modern Studio right near by.Complete with it’s own ‘backlot’. Fellow hikers told us there was a major Western filmed here recently, they built a whole facade of a town in the park.The rock formations are unique around here, even the hawk likes them.Simi Valley is quite the suburban area now. It is a very friendly safe place to live.The community next to the Park is called Hopetown. That is because Bob Hope used to own this land as well as the filming locations. They were donated as a park, and the community took his name. The old Santa Susana Railroad Depot and museum. We got there too early, the museum wasn’t open yet.So we enjoyed the displays outside. Like this citrus truck. Tapo is the name of a nearby canyon. Sunkist is still the large cooperative of Southern California citrus growers. Sadly, this label wouldn’t be allowed today, something to do with cultural appropriation. The local Indians never wore these headdresses, but that isn’t why this isn’t OK, rather than accept our history and move on, people feel the need to erase it. Maybe that is why it is behind a screen, so it won’t be vandalized. The train came by! No trains stop here anymore. It’s just a museum. The Santa Susana pass is very steep, modern trains can handle the climb, but back in the stagecoach days, the climb and then descent into Chatsworth were very scary and dangerous indeed.

More on what we saw in the next post.


More time in Bakersfield

Standing outside Woolworth, looking over at the neon sign of the Padre Hotel. Time to head over and check it out.The hotel was built in 1928 and renovated a few years ago. I just took a few pictures. I just love the name and design of the cafe. Sort of harkens to the idea of a lunch counter in an old drug store. But look at the real pitchfork and the little tractor. Someone is extremely creative.The tin ceiling in the bar area.As well as this image on the ceiling, celebrating the hotel. I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express, which actually exceeded expectations. But this place looks really cool. The cafe, restaurant and bar were all hoping in the middle of the day.Back outside, a Beaux Arts building made of brick with that flat overhang of a roof. Built in 1894 as the Kern County Land company building.  It survived some serious earthquakes as well as that desire to tear down old buildings. I’m happy to say that many towns love murals, Bakersfield is no exception.  This is on the side of the Woolworth building.Around the corner is this massive mural, country music and a picknick basket. Unfortunately, the empty parking lot tells a lot, not much is happening here.Two years ago Zachary Thomas painted this large mural honoring American War Veterans.  From the Statue of Liberty, through a number of wars up until the wars in the middle east. I love how the statue has a three dimensional flame and the Iwo Jima Marines are raising a real American flag.Then there is the mural that really isn’t aging well. 30 years ago the artist Christo came to the Bakersfield to assemble his installation, yellow umbrellas in the Tejon pass. I was newly arrived in Los Angeles and I wasn’t very adversome in those days, so I didn’t go see them.  Just before they were removed a very strong wind killed a young woman who viewing them. Tragedy happened.

So I guess at some point someone painted this, probably around the time of the exhibition. Sad and peeling, I bet most people have no clue what this mural represents.

During the sewing retreat, a bunch of us went to Dewars, the ice cream parlor, it is on Eye st.This is the candy section, which was empty, the counter and tables in the ice cream section were packed with people.Everything here is old time. We took a number, then gave in our order and when it was delivered to us, then we paid.I got a double scoop Sundae with caramel sauce and nuts.  Another reason to get out and explore. Btw, we initially parked around the corner, it said Dewars, might have been their old plant. Someone across the street saw us and shouted over to us that the actual ice cream parlor is one block down. Who says people aren’t friendly and helpful?



Where ever I go, I know I will find something interesting to see.  Bakersfield is a large city in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley. It’s got agriculture, oil and it’s own brand of country music, the Bakersfield sound. It’s famous musicians were Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.  Buck Owens created the Crystal Palace and it’s still quite busy,  as a restaurant with performances. Sort of like Dinner theater – but with music.

What brought me to Bakersfield was a quilting retreat. We spent two days at Thimble Towne sewing away. You know me, a retreat is fine, but before I got there, I had to stop off in downtown Bakersfield to see the sights.First stop was the old Woolworth’s. Today it is an antique mall. There are plenty of antique shops here, many specialize in records. Another legacy of the Bakersfield sound.I had a burger and fries sitting at the lunchette counter. I will admit to not being able to take any of the cool aid, I guess I was chicken and was worried that my teeth would fall out. All I could think of is sugar overload.

There was a cute couple next to me, they were visiting from Ireland, on their way to Sequoia and Yosemite. They found this place on Yelp. I wandered around a couple of the stores. Old quilts and an old machine. It was selling for $190, I don’t know how good that is. It isn’t a featherweight, it is larger than that. Maybe if it is in good condition than it would be worth the money. The label says it’s from 1947.I need to clean my camera lens! All these spots are my fault! Anyway, this is the Kress building, an office building across from Woolworths. Really lovely Art Deco. Pay attention to the street signs, I’ll be mentioning them again.Look at the gorgeous Art Deco details. Love the design, love the color, of course I’m wondering if it’s Gladding McBean tile. There must have been other tilemakers in California. OK, so if you noticed the street signs in the previous picture, you see that the number streets go east-west and the letter streets go north-south.

Someone has a sense of humor, this is Eye St. what otherwise would have been I street.There doesn’t seem to be any irony here. I happen to like it, but I can’t find any explanation for who was the creative person who came up with this. Btw, Thimble Towne is in a modern Industrial area, it’s on Unicorn St. right off Pegasus St. That is it for the mythical horses, but other streets nearby are named for Zeus, Mars and other Gods.An old theater that is brightly painted. It was built in 1925. Today it is called Cinema 19 and it’s an Adult theater. I found an older image online, it wasn’t brightly painted then and it had 100 channels, not just 60. See what the internet has done! I guess it’s not just for viewing movies, but they also sell stuff now. Also, the Tattoo parlor used to be a pawn shop.Built in 1906 as the Bakersfield Opera House, it was renovated in 1937 by famous Theater designer S. Charles Lee. He added the Art Deco facade and town as well as turning it into a movie theater. It has faired much better than the Virginia, today it is a Church.And then we have the Fox Theater, The luckist of them all. Also designed by S. Charles Lee, this theater opened in 1930. It survived an earthquake, it survived the 1970’s when box theaters in malls were the rage. It sat empty for a while, until 1990 when The Fox Theater Foundation bought and refurbished the property. Today it is an events venue, for both live and movie performances.


Stained Glass in a mausoleum

Have you figured out that I enjoy visiting cemeteries? I think it started 40 years ago, we were newly married and on our way from Israel to the US. We stopped in Germany to visit a college friend of Joel who had recently married a German woman. In a small town near the Rhine, she took us to the local cemetery. She wanted to show us the little Holocaust memorial there. What struck me, was that the cemetery was full of Jewish names, but the town had no Jews. Since then I find myself walking through cemeteries – to learn about the history of a place.

So when an opportunity came up to visit Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, I signed up. This was another Atlas Obscura event.I am going to have to look into the concept of Mausoleum, it appears to be a big deal. Some people not wanting to be buried in the ground. These structures are beautiful. Here is the exterior, as you can see, there is a lot of stained glass.From the inside, looking out through the windows.There was also beautiful tile work, this building was constructed in the 20s’ decorative tiles were the rage in the LA area.   No use asking our guide, he was more interested in the Hollywood connections. I didn’t even ask who made the stained glass. The historical society says the glass is from LA Art Glass companyI find it very interesting, people run to Europe to see this kind of beauty. It can be found here in Southern CA, in churches and also in mausoleums. This one was designed in 1925 by Cecil E. Bryan. His specialty was designing mausoleums, and this is his crown jewel, he is buried here. This was the most expensive structure built in the LA area at the time. It shows, they used a lot of expensive materials. Some more examples of the glass.  I know that spiritualism and communing with the dead was all the rage at the end of the 19th century. Is that why mausoleums became popular? Instead of returning the body to the earth, were they hoping to preserve the body in a beautiful temple in hopes that they could reunite the body and the spirit? I have no idea, just speculations on my part. A new wing was added in the 80s, guess who made the glass, yup, my buddies over at Judson Studios. One of the reason I love stained glass so much is that light is so much a part of the artwork. This artwork is in the Chapel of the Pasadena Mausoluem. Btw, these were separate from the cemetery. At some point Mountain View acquired both. The famous person buried in here is George Reeves,  Superman from the 1950s TV show.

Our guide, Denny is also an actor and funeral director.  His interest is in Hollywood, so he informed us of all kinds of filming that happens here. The mortuary built two large coroner examination rooms, sets for the movies. It costs a lot of money to maintain a cemetery, being close to LA, this is a perfect revenue source. They also have a fake grave out on the grounds that is often used for filming. No pictures, sorry.The cemetery is also beautiful. Sure, a lot of the grass isn’t as green as poeple might like. It is a combination of tombstones above ground and flush with the ground. It’s not cohesive like Forest Lawn, but not as haphazard as Evergreen.Of course, famous people are buried here, probably one of the most famous is physicist Richard Feynman. We can probably thank The Big Bang Theory for that. This is where Joel found out about him. So yes, the episode of the gang visiting his grave, probably was filmed right here at his grave. You’ll notice, plain and simple.Another famous person,  Octavia was a local girl who grew up here in Altadena. Although when she died she was living in Seattle, someone wanted her to rest back home.

Octavia became a science fiction writer in the 1970s, Harlan Ellison was her mentor. Parable of the Sower is probably one of the best distopian novels out there. It upsets me that in order to keep feminism alive – feminists feel they must erase the successful people of the past. Today they scream about few women in Science fiction, or in the gaming industry. In order to do so, they have to erase the likes of Octavia, because it disproves their point.  Needless to say, I have no time or energy for grievence groups of any kind. Me, I prefer to celebrate the likes of Ocatavia.

For those who can’t make it in person, here is a 7 minute video filmed entirely in the Mausoluem, enjoy.



Back to Judson studios

I haven’t been able to go on the once monthly studio tour this year. My Thursdays were tied up. So now that it’s summer, I went. About 3 years ago I had visited their studios, then just last summer, I had the opportunity to visit the new location in South Pasadena. Honestly, I could probably take their tour every few years, since they are always working on something new. Over the entrence to the original building is this terra cotta tile, We Can. This was the motto of the USC art school when it inhabited this building.  It is a great motto for the family owned company. They take all kinds of jobs, from very small to very very large. They do traditional stained glass as well as a newer method of fused glass. These glass chips have been in the windows for close to 100 years.  You can see the effect of gravity on lead, the formation is bowing out. That is what happens, which is why a lot of the work is restoration. The glass is fine, it’s the supporting lead that desintigrates. Very traditional stained glass. start with a design, today this is done on a computer. Then map out how it will be constructed and cut out the glass.The paper has been cut, and traced onto the glass. It takes a lot of patience and experience to acurately cut the glass to match the paper templates.

This will be a large installation in a private home. Since in this case it’s all straight lines, they use zinc instead of lead. Here these shapes are being created and soldered.Final product, these chunks of glass will seperate larger octogans of different colors. Just creating those glass chunks took a lot of work. Just like at the glass workshop at Forest Lawn, Horse nails are used to hold the glass in place. Here a restoration is taking place, that’s the old glass on a table. He is taking rubbings of the old lead and then removing it. The glass on the table just needs to be cleaned and releaded. I’m thinking OSHA would have a cow,  looks at this room. It’s a half basement, there is no air conditioning, just fans, and very basic tools.  The photo in the background is from a recent job,  The Resurrection Window for a church in Leawood KS. It is because of this project that the new studio was acquired and a whole new world is opening up. This is a commission for a church in Arizona, very traditional work. Another large project has been ongoing for over a year, with more to come. There are monks in Wyoming who are building a monastery, by hand. They have commisioned these panels for themselves. Three are complete, at least 3 more are in process. Once they are installed, the only ones who will see them will be the monks themselves.The Judson trademark is on every piece of work.Many great saying are painted on the walls, next post, the new studio.





Family vacation

In our busy lives it hard to get all the kids and grandkids together. It took a lot of planning to find a date and a location. We ended up going for the weekend to a resort near Legoland. A great time was had by all. The pool and the splash pad were loads of fun.The playgound wasn’t large, but was very different from the ones at home. Westley is becoming quite the climber.This got the biggest workout of all.Some people sat and relaxed.Enjoying time with the Aunt.And others treated it like a roller coaster ride.We did go down to the beach, most of the pictures I took there are on my son’s camera, so I have to wait for him to share.Two gorgeous smiles, with Westley no so sure in the background.Reading books before bed.We made it to Legoland.

Went on a couple of rides and saw the aquarium. The one ride I wouldn’t go on is one I took pictures of.First you go up.Ready for action!Yup, then you get tossed! No thank you!Princess Leah with Princess Leia, I always tell people that my name is like the princess but I had it first. Not only that, I’m still around and she is gone. Oh well, at least the Lego Princess is doing just fine. I like how our hair almost looks the same, just mine isn’t in those silly buns.


Evergreen Cemetery continued


Blacks were never denied burial here, you’d think they would be segregated out. The Tombstone is new, although Biddy was a pillar of the community, she didn’t have much of a gravestone until the 1980s. It is wonderful to see that a granddaughter, who lived to 100 is buried with her. I need to ask my son in law to do some Ancestry.com research for me, I’m pretty sure a lot of her family is still around. For more info on her, come on my historic downtown tour! Biddy was an incredible human being.

I posted some pictures on Instagram and a friend tells me that her husbands’ mother and uncle are buried here! If only I had known!


This was always private, but when they opened the city asked for nine acres as a Potters Field, this is where the unknown dead are buried. By 1917, they were running out of room, so in 1924, the city sold that section back to the Cemetery, except for one corner where they built the city crematorium. Sorry, no pictures, I understand the need for a crematorium, as a Jew, it’s not something I share pictures of. These days, the old Potters Field is being reused as regular plots. Once a year there is a ceremony where the ashes of around 1,500 people are buried, with just the year. These are all the unknown and unlclaimed dead of the city.

The Chinese were not allowed to be buried here, or in any other cemetery. They came as single men to work the railroads and stayed, the thought was that without women, they would leave. The discrimination in very interesting, especially since until Roosevelt in WWII, The Japanese weren’t treated the same way – oh they suffered from discrimiation, but not like the Chinese. So for $10 a head, the Chinese were allowed to be buried in the Potters Field, at some point they wised up and simply created their own cemetary. Sad story, turns out, that most were buried in a mass grave that was only uncovered when the Gold line was built in the 90s. So There is a memorial garden from 1880 dedicated to the Chinese and this new memeorial and graves for the bodies that were uncovered.

History isn’t always pretty, there are a lot of terrible deeds done to all kinds of people. Remembering and learning is what matters. Harvard is one place these days that needs to learn the lesson that discrimination against Chinese or other Asians is not acceptable.One of the groups that started using the old Potters Field as burial grounds, were The Pacific Coast Showmen’s Association. This is an ongoing organization that offers burial as well as support for people in the ‘Circus’ industry. Back in the day, circus workers or performers often didn’t have a permanent home, they traveled. So they created this organization that helped with burials. What is interesting is men are on one side of the road and women on the other. I have no idea why.A current section, where burials are happening today. Aside from the fake flowers that don’t die, pinwheels are becoming a thing on graves. Also, looks like some of the families come and water their loved one’s graves.

One of the issues here is that no one is paying for all those old graves. There is always a possibility to pay an endowment, but when someone has been dead over 100 years, I don’t think the descendants feel much of a connection.There is a whole history just in this tombstone.  The daughter died first, then the mother, then the father. I wonder if Geraldine is Laptha’s daughter. I hope she is still alive today, if not, maybe she chose to be buried with her husband, not in the family grave. Also notice, people have been putting photographs on tombstones for a long time. Note that Gerladine’s is in color.I only took the close up of this beautiful African American woman with her lovely feather fan. The photos are of the person at their best, so although she looks young here, she may not have been.

And now, I need to go visit the Workman homestead, as well as the Jewish cemetery in Boyle Heights.


Cemeteries are a wonderful place to see history in action

On an overcast Saturday, I went to Boyle Heights to visit Evergreen Cemetery.  As the city started growing beyond the downtown area, Boyle Heights was one of the new neighborhoods, since it was wide open, it was also a place where people bought land for cemeteries, like this one in 1877. Evergreen is a popular name, although these days, due to water conservation, it quite brown.There is a wonderful old gate, the rest is surrounded by a simple Chainlink fence.As you can see, we are right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, one that is experiencing gentrification. Alongside the little old houses are now newer modern apartment buildings. The original chapel, still used today.This is a nondenominational private cemetery, today, everyone is welcome. In the past the Chinese weren’t and Jews always had their own places of burial. I find it interesting that the Japanese weren’t excluded and today there is a large Japanese presence, often just mixed among other graves. There were plenty of these kinds of graves, babies that died. In more modern Memorial Parks, like Forest Lawn, the babies have their own section. Because this was an early cemetery, many of the important families are buried here. William Workman was very influential in the Los Angeles area in the mid 19th century. He is buried on his homestead, but other family members were buried here.Not sure exactly where Nancy fits in the genealogy, I love how exact they were with her age.Two more important families, The Gilmores bought the land where Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax is today. They discovered oil, had a baseball team and although quiet today, are still and important business in the city.

The Bixby’s developed the Long Beach area. What is interesting to me is that there is a large monument, but many of the graves of the family are simply around these, with small stones of their own. Unlike later, when large mausoleums will be constructed in places like Hollywood Forever or Forest Lawn.    This family plot is dear to me, The Lankershims and Van Nuys families, the ones who really developed the Valley. 

Both men were Isaacs’, Lankershim ends up being Van Nuys’ Father in law, make sure the business stays in the family. Under this tomb lie both Lankershim and his wife as well as Van Nuys and his wife Susanna, Lankershim’s daughter.

This post is getting long, I will continue tomorrow…



Pasadena Chalk Festival

Every Father’s Day weekend, for the last 26 years there is a chalk festival at Paseo Colorado. This year it was overcast and cool, so the artists could work in comfort.June gloom in all its glory! I got there early on Sunday morning because by then, some of the images are finished, or close to it.There is a process of voting, I didn’t take part, I just walked around, enjoying the artwork.This one is so delicate with fine details.I am drawn to the ones that look like oil paintings. This guy here is really blending the chack. In some cases, they grind the chalk into powder, add water and paint.Plenty of cartoon characters, especially the Japanese Manga style. Probably my favorite, I just love the Art Nouveau style of drawing.Very appropriate to have this car here since at the same time there is a classic car show.I adore these old cars, so loved and well taken care of.Give me more of that Fire engine red, even if the original would have been a simple black. Everyone this year seems to have stopped at the carhop to get food and drinks.Love how this couple dressed for the occasion! It was very busy, a chalk festival, antique cars as well as Aliencon, I was expecting to see more people in costume. Very few were, I saw one couple in white capes and antennae on their heads. I guess most people are really serious about these aliens, it’s not another comic-con. In honor of my friend Becky, a 1947 Teardrop trailer. She owns a much newer one, but not a lot has changed. A very tight compact way to travel. It has everything except the bathroom. The best part about this one? A handmade quilt!