I think any young kid worth his hyperactive body weight in breakfast cereal can attest to the sugar coated wonders of Disneyland, the park that famously and rightfully bills itself as the "Happiest Place On Earth" and what makes it even more happier, outside of the bells and whistles, is that it doesn't resemble the actual one we're living in. Even though you have to squint to block out the corporate sponsorship, the 'Land effectively removes all evidence of your ordinary world and substitute that with theirs.
As a frequent visitor to this alternative world, my favorite one was Tomorrowland (pre- mid-90's makeover from hell). Thanks largely to these visits and aimless pointless PeopleMover rides, I turned into a sub-conscience sucker of all that space age whiz-bang shtick that was everywhere during the 50's and 60's. After many of these visits, I began to notice samples of this 'whiz bang' world around me in unsuspected places like liquor stores, bars, office buildings, hotel/motels, bowling alleys and so on.
However, by the mid-70's, those romantic visions of this urban-rama were beginning to fade from my view, thanks to my banal bland times in El Monte and, even worse, spending the year of 1976 in a pisswater town in northern Utah, but I was in my early teens so there wasn't much I could do about it. To cut this mess short, I escaped from Utah and into the semi-heart of the San Fernando Valley: Northridge, California! My stay in this neck of the valley may have been short but I had a blast by regularly visiting an actual 70's period mall, a funky little neighborhood and had my first exposure to Las Vegas (long story, whole other web site). This was just a warm-up.
The business card from the former Westchester Music.
The location of Westchester Music, which is now The Parking Spot.
In late 1978, I moved to El Segundo. Even through this area wasn't totally new to me as I spent a summer of 1974 here, this was the first time that I was actually living in the middle of this space age urban-rama. Maybe it was visions of Utah in the winter that kept creeping up in my nightmares or it was the young impressionable age I was stuck in, but whatever the reason, my senses were heightened to what was around me. This was the first time that the urban-rama I kept seeing from the back window of our car was all around me and I couldn't wait to explore it. The biggest one right off the bat was the other LAX suburb on the other side of the runway, Westchester.
Westchester, mainly the Sepulveda Blvd. area, was four to five blocks of an amazing variety of retail stores of all sizes and interest! This place with its little characteristic flares here and there would very soon turn into my little alternative world like a scaled down Tomorrowland. The cherry on top was the Loyola Theater. Sadly, by this time, the other theater in this area, the Paradise Theater, where I saw 'Arnold' during that 1973 stay was turned into an office building.
One place of business that first got my attention was Westchester Music; It was on the SW corner on what are now Will Rogers and Sepulveda. It was a large independent music store that had everything from instruments, lessons, music sheets to records! On the record selling side, the store added a little bonus for its costumers and bored annoying slackers like me.
Placed on top and center of the single section was a small cheap Fisher-Price turntable that offered their customers a chance to play their selections before buying....and with yours truly taking full advantage of this kind offer. Sure, I did buy some of their 45's, but to this very day, I'm surprised they didn't kick me out. Thanks to their little listening station, I discovered stuff like Earth Wind & Fire, X-mas records and the seed to a much bigger obsession, the movie called Xanadu. Other than the 45 obsessions, I also bought a cassette copy of ELO's Out Of The Blue that I spent the next two years wearing out and beating up.
Their competitor was another small independent joint called Soundsations Records. They didn't have the 45 player (much less 45s), but this was were I bought some of my LP's as they also used/promo copies. I bought a promo copy of ELO's disco-ish next album from 1979 Discovery, thus jump starting my ELO obsession toot sweat.
This was also the last days of the luxury department store era. The Broadway Westchester and the JC Penny shared the same outdoor mall with a Woolworth that used to stand between them. By that summer, that old Woolworth turned into Westchester Faire, a two-story antique mall.
The Broadway Westchester was quite a place to visit. One could feel the old accessible glamour from another era here. In the center of the entire store was anchored by a grand center piece that contained escalators that headed to the second floor/roof, where a parking lot and a small cafe awaited. There was a brief time they had an operating juke box they used as a background piece for their mannequin displays and, as it was also free, I ended up playing my briefly fave tune of the moment, Arrow Through Me by Wings, over and over and over and over..;..surprised they didn't kick me out there, too!
ABOVE LEFT AND RIGHT:
The land of out of businesses:Joy's Gift Shop on Sepulveda Blvd. and Karl's Toys at the triangle.
The old Airport Marina Hotel tower years before the 2010 remodel....and parts unknown (!).
Then there was the Loyola Theater. I saw many fine late-70's features there like the R-rated 'The Blues Brothers, Used Cars and 1941. Mind you, they weren't REALLY checking them I. D.s in those days. As this place was built in the 40's and was well kept, the place was glamorous as hell. When there was a boring scene on the screen, I'd look up at the ceiling where the dark blue sky was littered with stars and do a bit of star gazing until something interesting happened with the movie, mainly an explosion (lots of those in 1941). Sure, the sky and its stars were fake, but so was the movie. It's called special effects. You get what you pay for.
Next to the theater was Compari's Italian Restaurant that used to be a Home Savings. Sadly, went there only once. Not a bad place. I frequently went the other Italian place, Andr's. Ate too much spaghetti there.
It wasn't until much later that I braved a stroll westbound down Manchester Blvd. where I found the old Marina hotel, more unique buildings and further down I came face to face with the Playa Del Rey Polynesian Village.
There were other places in this area that I should remember (outside the Fox Hills Mall, but that's in Culver City), but those memories don't have enough muscle over the major ones I just mentioned here. Yup, nostalgia can be so selective, ego and brain cells permitting. Or maybe I was too busy concentrating on the music coming out of my Sears boom box I used to carry around with me annoying those around me. Guess that;s the part of nostalgia that gets left out, how obnoxious you were to the world around you.
But then, I was also preoccupied with LAX. See THAT page for details, too.
When the Loyola Theater turned into a gray medical building, my stomach turned 360 digress and I began to turn into Art Bell on speed, I was loudly complaining to friends that they, for example, painted that poor thing gray just so to punish us all for enjoying THAT old theater and not in some shoe box, blah blah, etc.
That dropped kicked me into taking pictures of the area. Somebody had to, as even more local landmarks began to give way to the era of the chain stores.
Westchester Music shrank and went out of business in 1981 after 35 odd years of business. The old Ralph's was changing locations. JC Penny and the Broadway Westchester had their glamorous department store days suddenly come up dry. Compari's would change into the dreaded IHOP and the Marina Hotel had changed hands and started to desperately remove or painted over the unique characteristics from its past. Even the Faire itself would close up due to a thing called E-Bay by 2000. Luckily, Soundsations only changed addresses to a couple of blocks down. Despite the traditional change of time, the skeleton fragments are still here and my 'history' collection slowly grew.
By now, this is going beyond just plain old selfish nostalgia. It's trying to record a history, a more humane time before shtick like Fox News, cell phones, strip malls, deregulation, sandblasting and etc. that made the world more hostile bland and noisy.
However, you gotta keep your wits and perspective together. Think back to your days of 'innocent youth' and see how many people thought that the junk you love so much was just as trite. Especially if its something like disco coming out of a cheap boom box carried by some mindless obnoxious nerd......like me.
UPPER RIGHT: The sign of the old Bob's Big Boy on Manchester Blvd. in Playa Del Rey. I don't even know what the hell it is these days as I lost track of the changes. LEFT: Louis from The Temple Of Good Things at his old location. This was from a post card he made in 1997. ABOVE: his signature on my copy of the postcard.