Five Favorites for a Hometown's Centennial

Reseda Theater
Home. Photo by Randy Stern

The memo never crossed my desk…

It was supposed to be a big memo – one that crosses civic pride, heritage and my current work. I had to get my information from YouTube from a video featuring music and images from my hometown.

Then again, I seemed to have forgotten that this year marks the 100th anniversary of my hometown of Reseda. You'd think I would have this on my calendar somewhere. This is what happens when you live miles and decades removed from home.

How to do I celebrate the centennial of the place which is this publication's namesake? A Five Favorites would do the trick – but with some caveats. It would be reflective of automotive moments throughout Reseda's history. Believe me, there were plenty…

To begin, we start with a community's economy…something that was a familiar sight along Reseda Boulevard and Sherman Way…

YOU BOUGHT YOUR CARS HERE: Reseda was a marketplace for the automobile at one time. Though you can get many makes along Van Nuys Boulevard or over the hill somewhere between Hollywood and Santa Monica, Reseda had its fair share of retailers selling a wide variety of brands. In 1970, you can buy Dodges, Chryslers, Plymouths, Imperials, Simcas, Sunbeams, Fords, MGs, Triumphs, Rovers, Jaguars, Austins, Chevrolets, AMCs, Hondas, Volkswagens and Buicks right in Reseda proper. Names like Kolbe, Rancho, Sanucci (later La Torre) and Butlin were on the license plate frames of vehicles that also proudly had Reseda emblazoned above. By the 1980s, these dealers began to disappear one-by-one. Sadly, we never bought a car at any of Reseda's dealerships that I recall – no clue as to why, really.

DRIVER'S TRAINING, RESEDA STYLE: After Coach Quick's Driver's Education class, the students at Reseda High were sent to the Los Angeles Unified School District's free Driver's Training program. The mobile unit was transferred amongst area high schools on a rotation. Slots were limited since the program occurred either before or after classes – sometimes during a period or two. For a period of time, you were in the mobile unit working on a simulator. That way, you get to understand the rules of the road as doled out by California's Department of Motor Vehicles. Then, you are thrown onto the road in either a worn down 1976 Plymouth Valiant or one of a few blue 1978 Plymouth Volares. Needless to say, I had a hard time learning with a car full of my classmates. No wonder why my mom sent me to a private driving school after I "failed" Driver's Training.

CASA DI PIZZA: In every town across North America, teenagers find ways to engage with car culture by cruising, hanging out somewhere and just living life with an automobile at their hip. Reseda is just like most places (despite it being a part of the City of Los Angeles deep in the middle of the San Fernando Valley…and so forth). It is a tradition after Reseda High football games to head west on Victory Boulevard about a mile or so to Loehman's Plaza. Just past Sav-On drugs is a pizza place where we hung out, eat and dream of hoisting a beer or two when we turn 21. Outside, we filter towards our vehicles. Some do donuts in the parking lot. Some even try the patience of the West Valley Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. My 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight was part of the mix – sometimes. That is, of course, if mom let me take said car to the game and Casa Di Pizza afterwards. After all, it was the place we hung out on Friday nights in the fall…

THROWING MONEY AWAY: When I turned 21, I learned that I could rent a car instead of owning one. It was a habit that ended just recently, but it began at home in Reseda. The first car I took home that wasn't mine was a 1985 Ford Thunderbird from Hertz. In those days, Hertz was touting the fact that you could step up into luxury by driving one of their two-door full-sized cars – i.e. a personal luxury coupe. This was partly true as it was the base T-Bird with a few options from the catalog. It was nice to run around feeling like a big shot. These runs helped enhance my driving skills and competence into today's work. I'm certain that Hertz, Avis-Budget and Vanguard made a killing off my habit…better than booze and drugs, I say!

THERE ARE NO FREEWAYS IN MY YARD! Leave it to Tom Petty to paint a pseudo-fictional view of the flatland community of Reseda. California had several ideas for a network of freeways – one proposal one had them running through Reseda. Luckily, that did not happen. It wasn't that we opposed such freeway construction in our community – it wasn't logical, nor the need was not there. However, Reseda was accessible by the existing freeway network. A few miles to the south is the Ventura Freeway (US-101). Since 1960, the Ventura served as the main connection between the West Valley, downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and into Ventura County. It was the first freeway that I have ever driven. To the east by several miles is the San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405), the busiest roadway in Southern California. If we wanted to go to The Forum or LAX, it was up and over the Sepulveda Pass in The 405. By the 1980s, the Ronald Reagan Freeway (CA-118) was built well north of Reseda and Northridge, capping a northerly spur for commuters. Perhaps we should be thankful that the Antelope Valley Freeway (CA-14) was never constructed south of its junction with Interstate 5. If it did, Tom Petty would have correctly waxed poetic.

Happy 100th, Reseda! Thanks for the memories!

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