The greatest time in a person’s life has to be the growing-up years. Adolescence is full of experiences which intern help to shape our lives in many ways. Where you grew up will forever be with you.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley was an awesome experience. In its heyday, it was the place to be. The Sherman Oaks Galleria made famous for the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Plaza Mall, General Motors plant, Northridge Mall, Northridge Skateland, schools, cruising Van Nuys Blvd., and safe neighborhoods made the valley one of the most coveted places to live.
The San Fernando Valley was also a place that many popular television shows were produced such as The White Shadow, The Brady Bunch, and The Lone Ranger to name but a few.
I digress. Enough about valley history.
In the family were my father, mother, brother, little sister, and myself. We were a unit and we did everything together. We were Seventh-day Adventist and we went to church on Saturday which was considered the Sabbath. This also meant that Friday at sunset our sabbath observation began. This was awkward as our friends often viewed this as being strange or odd. That we had to come in the house and could no longer play until the following evening at the end of our sabbath at sunset. In fact, many of our friends thought we were either Jewish or Jehovah witnesses. But as I learned later on in life there are quite a few Sabbatarian Christians. Being a Seventh-day Adventist gave us a lot of structure.
Summertime was the best growing up. My brother and I along with our neighbor would often spend our days at the local public pool. The three of us would walk about two miles to the Valley Plaza Park and spend the majority of the day learning how to be like fish.
When the day would turn to evening we would spend it playing all sorts games and activities. With all the kids in our circle of friends out and about looking to enjoy the cool evening while having fun, we play hide-and-seek, tag your it, kickball or dodgeball to name a few.
In the mornings before it got hot, the three of us would often play hot-wheels in the flower bed just underneath our front windows of our home. We would craft roads and imaginary homes with driveways just of the main road. This went on for several hours before if became too hot to continue.
If the opportunity presented itself–that is when the parents weren’t home–we would find ourselves gathering pots and pans to set up our rock band in the living room. It was silly I know. With a tape recorder, pots and pans, microphone, and some vocals we created a kids version of homemade rock and roll. I still have a tape somewhere with this nonsense recorded.
Then there were the BMX bikes, skateboards, and roller skates, makeshift slip-and-slide in the front lawn; lounging around being lazy and silly while drinking homemade iced tea or lemonade and talking about nothing.
Break dancing–an urban art form of dancing–was at its zenith during this time and of course we tried hard to master the style and technique. Cardboard spread across concrete with a ghetto blaster–as they were called–blaring the early days of hip-hop was the recipe. But talent was not in our favor. To this day I still can’t dance well enough to save my life.
My mother took us to our first scary movie Friday The Thirteenth 3-D. I remember having nightmares about Jason for a long time afterward.
Sometimes we would opt to go the drive-in theater. There were two we would visit; the Van Nuys Drive-In or the Sepulveda Drive-In. The sound quality was lacking with the freaky little speaker you would hang from the window and the view could be obstructed by passengers in the car with you. It wasn’t very comfortable either sitting in a car with a claustrophobic feeling of needing to get out after a while to stretch your legs. But the best part for kids was to go to the playground often situated right under the giant screen and play until it got dark and the previews began. That was our cue to get back to the car. One of the best was to enjoy a summer night was going to the drive-in theater.
It is obvious that this was a time before computers, game consoles, or the internet were invented. The late 70’s to early 80’s were a great time to grow up. The lack of technology gave kids the ability to use the imagination to enjoy themselves.
There was MTV. Everybody at school watched it and talked about their favorite bands and videos. It was pop culture and gave us kids a way to express ourselves. MTV also influenced fashion and trends such as the MOD Style of dress and New Wave Music to go along with it. Performers such as Blondie, Adam and the Ants, The Cure as well as many others created the 80’s look for many kids.
For me, I embraced the preppy look. Penny loafers, Izod polos with the collar up of course, and argyle sweaters draped over the shoulders when not in use.
We did so immensely.
As I write this I am filled with fond memories. In reflection life just seemed to be easier back then. Maybe that’s due to the fact that at the time the only responsibilities we had as kids were to go to school and do as well as you can, listen to our parents, and use our imagination to keep ourselves occupied and entertained. Yes, for the most part, that was simple enough. Besides some of the mischievous things that many kids do, we did well be mindful.
Driving through the old neighborhood is painful. So much has changed. It’s crowded and unfriendly in nature. The homes are not manicured and well kept as they once were. I realize that life is all about change and this is no different I suppose.
There are things I don’t care for that have changed the neighborhood I grew up in. But there are the memories that can never change about where I grew up. A place that no matter where I may find myself living will always be a place full of fond memories. The San Fernando Valley, it will always be home.