For the past ten years, I have been asked why this site is named "Victory & Reseda." Over these past ten years, the answer might have resonated with you. Then again, you think it's a cool name, even though you still cannot pronounce the second word of the title – the one after the "&".
Perhaps a history lesson is in order to understand what is behind this blog’s title. Maybe there's a need for context here that would be helpful to you as a reader, contact or casual observer.
After all, this particular intersection in Reseda, California wasn’t just any old corner.
The year was 1975. Saturday Night Live debuted bringing irreverence to weekend late night television. Disco was starting to spin into our consciousness. Every car sold in the USA had a huge bumper hanging off the front and back of it. Saigon fell to the communists and became Ho Chi Minh City. We had a recession and the OPEC oil crisis to deal with – still.
On top of all that, Generalisimo Don Francisco Franco of Spain died that year. The last time I checked, he is still dead.
At home, it was just my mother, my brother Matthew and I. Mom worked as a bookkeeper at a car battery remanufacturer in Canoga Park. Matt was at Sequoia Junior High (now the site of Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies) in the eighth grade and I was in the fifth grade at Vanalden Elementary. Matt had an easier commute as Sequoia was on the opposite side of Victory Boulevard from our home. I had a bit of a longer walk – I’ll say about three-quarters of a mile – to Vanalden.
Everything had its ebb and flow in Reseda. But, a lot did stay the same. In 1975, the intersection of Victory and Reseda Boulevards was home to Reseda Park, the community’s green and recreation space. The park had plenty of trees and open green space for picnicking on both sides of the Los Angeles River and several ball fields for sporting events. There was a small recreation building on the Victory Boulevard side that housed the offices for the park. The park seemed safe during the day – but not so much at night.
The other three corners housed service stations for Chevron, Mobil and Shell. The Chevron station was the corner closest to where I lived. The Mobil was across the street from the Chevron, while the Shell occupied the last corner. Next to the Shell was The Firehouse, a two-story burger-and-hot dog joint that was popular amongst us locals – despite my family rarely stopping by there. The Chevron has since been leveled for a mini-strip mall bringing a 7-Eleven, Subway and other stores and food places. This happened in the 1980s.
The Mobil station was owned by a guy named Ginsberg. Mom knew Ginsberg as he had a son who was in Cub Scouts. I do not recall whether Ginsberg’s son also attended Vanalden Elementary when I was there. It was simply the only place where we took our 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Luxury sedan to fuel up, get maintenance and repairs. If I am not mistaken, Matt was in Boy Scouts and went into a new troop at the time, as have I.
One of the things Mom had done on the Olds was to raise the rear end and stiffen the suspension to accommodate the dirt and gravel roads we had to drive on to get to camp sites or trail heads for Boy Scouts. Normally, a full-sized GM sedan would have a softer, lower rear in which you could see three-eights of the wheel cover if equipped with a fender skirt – which our Olds had. Instead, the center hub of the wheel cover was exposed below the fender skirt. We were probably the only B- or C-Bodied GM car with a jacked-up rear end for off-road driving at the time. I believe it was Ginsberg who did this modification at his Mobil station.
That Mobil station was a place where I learned about the true inner-workings of an automobile. To see a car up on the lift and understand what lies beneath it is something I internalized even today. Things were much more simpler then: Leaf spring rear suspensions, overhead-valve engines, carburetors, etc. Even though engineering and technology has changed over the past 36 years, looking underneath the cars in the lifts at Ginsberg’s Mobil helped ground my understanding of the subject I have a passion for today. With every new piece of engineering and mechanical technology, those cars in the 1970s were building blocks towards comprehending everything from robotic gearboxes to the active safety technology of today's machinery.
However, another development at the corner of Victory and Reseda took place in 1975 that would also shape my transportation future. The Southern California Rapid Transit District (now Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority, er Metro) had been monitoring population trends of the San Fernando Valley since development and a then-rash of housing starts penetrated more than enough land across the flatlands and up into the hills. There were plans to develop a mixed business-residential-retail area in Woodland Hills, called Warner Center. Not to mention that the population of the Valley had diversified in terms of ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic statuses.
Since there appeared to be an increasing demand for public transport in the San Fernando Valley, the RTD reconfigured their bus lines across the region into a "grid" system. Prior to March of 1975, service was extended east of the San Diego Freeway (I-405), then west. For decades, our community was served by a bus along Reseda Boulevard that turned onto Ventura Boulevard onward towards downtown Los Angeles. Victory Boulevard received a new bus line in 1974 that zigzagged its way across the Valley from Chatsworth down to Northridge, Van Nuys, and Sherman Oaks, turning around towards Reseda to Woodland Hills.
We had never rode a bus before, until the day Mom showed us a mailer from the RTD announcing the Grid system. It was significant on both my brother’s and my part. It made things more logical as the Victory Boulevard bus ran all the way from Burbank to Valley Circle Boulevard as a parallel routing with a new Vanowen Street bus. It was also Mom’s way of saying: “You’re old enough not to rely on me to drive you anywhere after school anymore.”
For us, a bus ride was a quarter in 1975. If we wanted to go to downtown Los Angeles, we had to pay more for freeway service surcharges. Yet, the Grid system opened a brand new world for me – just a couple of blocks away from our front door. It threw open the door to explore the Los Angeles area by public transit – perhaps to prove that one can do so without resorting to traffic jams and overheated radiators.
The four bus stops at Victory and Reseda paved the way towards the hybrid existence balancing the automobile and public transport within both my daily life and the primary context of this blog. That would be played out further as I got older – though the first driver’s permit to the relocation out of Reseda in 1987.
From my bedroom that overlooked the corner lot of our home, I dreamed of the many adventures I would undertake in those latter years. From 1975, I would arrive home from adventures on RTD buses or in various automobiles to places imagined in those dreams. Who knew that the world I lived in would propel me to this place today?
That’s where Victory & Reseda came from. Ten years in the making, the story still stands.
Photo by Randy Stern