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Saturday, April 21, 2018

50 years ago this month

Fifty years ago my mom, dad, sister and I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. 

We lived in a pretty fab "brownstone" in the Lincoln Park neighborhood just north of downtown. Check out the apartment buildings right behind our home. 

My dad worked a couple miles away at the Prudential Building on Michigan Avenue. The sea of cars you see here eventually became Chicago's Millennium Park. 

Family photo our last year living in Chicago.

Chicago as a city is pretty great. The weather, not so much. In fact, after a couple of particularly harsh winters (and the impact it was having on my mom and my sister's health) my parents began to think about a possible move to California. So my dad jumped at the opportunity to relocate when his advertising firm asked if he'd be interested in a job transfer to Los Angeles. 

The firm, Needham, Harper & Steers, was located in the second office building (the white one) on Wilshire Blvd in Westwood, in Los Angeles. 

Here's another view. What's not to love the "Googie" style Ships Coffee Shop that was located next to his office at the time?

Julius Shulman's iconic 1960 photograph of the Stahl House (also known as "Case Study House #22"). This one photo was the greatest influence on the kind of house my dad wanted to live in someday. No chance of this happening in Chicago. But we were moving to California. 

And how can I forget 1967's California My Way by the Fifth Dimension? It was released the year before we moved and my dad played it over and over and over again as we packed up for the big move. 

My dad had flew out about a week or so beforehand. My mom, sister and I flew about a week later. It was in 1968 sometime in the second half of April. I don't have the exact date - so, let's just say April 25th. Paul Williams' 1961 LAX "Theme Building" was only seven years old, looking super futuristic at the time. Here's a link to a previous post with some additional "Theme Building" photos. 

We moved into a small rental home on Mount Holyoke Avenue in Pacific Palisades. At the time, the community felt fairly middle class. Today, not so much. In fact, not at all. The median home price in the Palisades is now over $3 million. 

Despite the passage of time (50 years, yikes!) here's a few things I remember arriving in Los Angeles in April 1968: 

Driving through the McClure Tunnel. Driving on the relatively new Santa Monica Freeway towards the ocean, my dad said "there's an amazing view right after this bridge." We went under the Main Street bridge, pictured above. Nothing.

 "No wait," he said, "we've got to go through this tunnel."

We went through the dark, curvy tunnel, coming out to this incredible view of the Santa Monica Bay - best captured by artist Susan Haskell. Fifty years later, this view coming out of the McClure Tunnel still manages to impress. 

Other memories: seeing succulents for the first time. I'd never seen or touched anything like this Jade Plant. 

California had so many different types of plants and trees I'd never seen before in my life. Most of them - like us - where immigrants from elsewhere. 

And, of course, the weather. How could I forget that? Chicago was still cold and rainy. 

My mom enrolled my sister in I at the local elementary school for the last six weeks of the school year. The building looked so different than the three story red brick school I had attended in Chicago. I went into my new 1st grade class through an interior hallway. 

At recess, the teacher opened a second door, this one going out to the playground outside. I walked outside - and just stopped and starred at these palm trees, visible from the edge of the playground on Swarthmore Avenue. What amazed me wasn't just the beautiful palm trees. It was that the kids were running around and playing, and not stopping and staring at them. 

Walking around our new neighborhood, my dad, sister and I passed by some kids rolling by on what looked like a sled with wheels. I'd never see this before in my life. I thought "California is different. There's no snow here, so kids here have to have wheels on their sleds here." Little did I know that California had plenty of snow - in the local mountains. These 1960's era Flexy Racers might have existed in the Midwest, but, as a kid, I have never seen them in Chicago. 

This was the view three blocks from our little rental. 

Chicago has a lake. It's a pretty awesome lake, but it's still just a lake. Los Angeles has the Pacific Ocean. As a 7 year old kid, I didn't realize how stellar this was - and is. Fifty years later, I have a much greater appreciation. 

I mentioned how influenced my dad was by that single photo of the Stahl House. While the suburban ranch house we had built certainly wasn't the same style Stahl House, it was up on a hill. This is on Lachman Lane in Pacific Palisades. And like the Stahl house, had a equally incredible view. That's my dad's red 1968 Mustang in the driveway while the house was still being built. 

A month later it was painted. A month after this photo was taken, the landscape was in. 

Oh, and mountains. How can I forget mountains? Until we moved to California, I'd never even seen a mountain. Chicago, like the rest of the Midwest, is flat. Now we weren't just looking at mountains, we were going to live on one. Here's a link to a previous post on hiking - decades later - to that high peak in the distance. 

My sister and I were talking recently. How would our lives have been different if we lived in a different neighborhood in the Palisades? Say, closer to where we lived the first few months while our house was being built? Down in the flats. We had a beautiful home, but - as a kid - flat streets were more appealing.

Or how would our lives have been different if we moved to a different community somewhere else in Los Angeles? 

And then my sister said, "what if we had stayed in Chicago? What if we never moved to California?" 

I honestly can't even imagine what my life would have been life. They say immigrants often have a greater love for their new home, because they remember where and what they came from. Don't get me wrong. Chicago is a great city. But I'm so thankful to my parents for moving to California back in 1968. It impacted my life in so many ways: the friends I made, the experiences I had, where I went to college (UCLA), the career I choose, the person I married ... and, most of all, my relationship with God, which began ten years later (here's a link to previous post focusing on what has become the most important part of my life).

Both my mom and my dad's parents were in Chicago, and all four of them eventually followed us to California a few years later, both living in Pacific Palisades for a time before purchasing homes in elsewhere in metro Los Angeles. Even by the early 1970's, the community had already gotten a little too pricey. Some things haven't changed. 

© 2018

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved your story and all the pictures ! Great memories growing up in the Palisades...we were very lucky! TY for sharing..