I recently encountered a Facebook group titled, “You know you grew up in the San Fernando Valley if…” Since I moved from Detroit to North Hollywood at the age of 11, I qualified as a bonafide member of this group, Other Valley girls and guys were posting pictures of iconic Valley sites and expounding on school spirit, favorite eating spots such as Bob’s Big Boy and the Bear Pit, drive-in movies and all kinds of mischief we got into in towns ranging from Sylmar to Calabasas. Common themes included the freedom kids enjoyed back then (riding bikes helmet-less through the streets, hanging out in a pack till the street lights came on, drinking from unfiltered water fountains, well, you get the gist.
As I read the posts and added some of my own, memories of people and places I never think about came flooding back. There were the long walks to and from the public pool at Sun Valley Recreation Center, the party I had in the parking lot behind my apartment building when I was about 13. “You cheated, you lied” was spinning on the record player, and slow dancing with a guy from one of the car clubs who had crashed the party was beyond exciting.
I remembered the trips to the beach riding unrestrained in the back of Betty’s dad’s pick-up. He liked to knock back a few (or more) beers and open container laws meant nothing to him (or us). and how would I know when I was 11, that I would forever remember the names of the popular kids in my sixth grade class? There was the trio of Gary’s (Lloyd, Holder and flame red haired Sopko), Diana Bolton, Diane Hudson, Carol Morgensen and Sharon Lee, and who can forget Gary Sopko and Sharon Lee dancing in the gym to Buddy Holly’s “That’ll be the Day.” They seemed to be the epitome of cool and completely removed from the world I inhabited. During P.E. we square danced to “They’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.” and Anthony Garcia always turned to promenade in the wrong direction and ended up dosy do-ing with Philip instead of one of the girls. The other girls and I would just stand there laughing hysterically even though the teacher seemed to find our antics less than amusing.
On Saturdays, while my mother did the weekly grocery shopping I would get to partake of the sublime hot roast beef sandwiches at the nearby Thrifty Drugs lunch counter for the princely sum of $2.55. We cruised Van Nuys Blvd. on Friday nights, and the Classic Cat 90’s was our Wednesday night destination and the scene of my crush on the too cool to dance, Corvette driving Gary We’d hang out in the quad at Poly High School scarfing down a huge cinnamon roll during what was dubbed “Nutrition.” Not what we would call that now, but they WERE yummy.
Someone was always sneaking off to smoke in the school restroom, and smoldering trash cans were not uncommon. The fumes from the liberal use of Aqua Net hair spray was a killer. People always claimed to know Richie Valens who went to the rival San Fernando High School, and I ended up in the newly created C-9 homeroom for incorrigibles for chewing gum three times in class.
On the FB page, I posted about the most boring history teacher ever, Mr. Jorgenson, and some guy actually posted back “I remember him, tall and thin with funny glasses.” “Did he wear bow ties?” Never in a million years did I think I’d ever have a conversation with someone who remembered my old high school robotic speaking, beyond dull teacher. When I mentioned the recipes we were forced to make in Home Ec such as Kraft marshmallow/ground beef casserole, this same guy responded “I saw more than one of those.” By then, I was laughing hysterically and virtually vibrating with nostalgia.
“Class, there’s going to be a movie, take notes” was our cue to write boyfriend’s names unendingly across a blank page or for the bolder kids, crawl out the back door, sit down volleyball in the gym during rainy weather provided an excellent chance of being beamed in the head by a fast moving ball, being forced to take showers by a determined gym teacher even though it left us damp and late for 4th period…these and so many more are all part of my growing up experience in the 8l8 area code.
Oh, to go back and do it all again for a week or so, remembering to savor how it feels to be young, fearless and always up for an adventure in the San Fernando Valley. What do you say, Facebook buds? Like…are you all in?