Saturday, February 25, 2017

Snow in Los Angeles, 1949

Los Angeles hasn't been blanketed with snow very often, but it has happened. In 1949, snow fell on the City of Angels for four consecutive nights - January 9th through the 12th. Below is one of the headlines from the L.A. Times. 

A 1999 "Times" article stated that the Civic Center (downtown) received more than an inch of snow, while "...The San Fernando Valley was pelted with the unfamiliar white stuff for three days, accumulating almost a foot".

My grandparents and my mom lived in Encino (which is part of the San Fernando Valley) at the time. When they moved there, it was "the sticks"; my grandpa liked it because they could have a large yard, and my mom even had a horse. If you went north of Ventura Boulevard - half a block away - it was all groves and farmland.

Here's a photo of their home on one snowy morning! Notice the grapefruit trees along the fence. I loved that ranch-style house, and spent many wonderful days there. The upper level (painted brown) was the attic - you had to climb a ladder that was in a closet to get up there, but it was worth it. I loved to explore all of the wondrous things; my mom's old toys, as well as her collection of rocks and minerals, fossils and seashells, and stacks and stacks of "National Geographic" magazines going back to the 1920's.

Here's my grandmother, and my then 13-year-old mom, bundled up on her way to Van Nuys Junior High School, which was brand-new at the time. My mom said that they chose the school colors (gray and green), as well as the mascot - the mustang.  I love this picture!

The Encino house had a big front yard, and an even bigger back yard. Just next to the back patio was this bronze fountain (called "Joy Fountain") by artist Edith Barretto Parsons. It shot water straight up into the air, tons of fun on a hot day when I was a little kid! 

After a bit of research, I found another copy of this same fountain on public display in Lincoln, Nebraska. It's like seeing an old friend.

This is the view up the driveway; to the right was the orchard, which had roughly 30 citrus trees, mostly navel and Valencia oranges. Throughout the property there were also lemons and grapefruit, as well as persimmons, peaches, apricots, kumquats, figs, and tangelos. There really was nothing like a big glass of orange juice from fruit picked right off the tree - the stuff that you buy at the grocery store is some kinda bug juice.

I think that's my grandfather with the hat (to the left), but I have no idea who the other fellow could be. Perhaps they are wondering if this season's crop of oranges had been ruined. 

This shot is amazing - we're facing south (Ventura Boulevard would be about a block behind us) - the whole area is so built up now that it's hard to believe that there were once large undeveloped lots. 

My grandmother used to talk about going to city council meetings, and big stars like Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and John Wayne would actually attend.

I hope you have enjoyed your snowy visit to Encino!


TokyoMagic! said...

Wow, what a special post! Local history and also a peek at your family history. Is your grandparent's house still standing today? And what happened to that fountain? Thank you for sharing these with us, Major!

Nanook said...


Well, it's nice to see some images of the Major's 'clan'. Your mom looks like she's ready for a great adventure marching off to school in the snow-!

It must have been quite the time for Angelenos getting to frolic in all the 'white stuff' - that is when they weren't trying to drive through it. HA-! Good luck to them. Of course back then folks had a great deal more common sense than what passes for that these times, and I imagine they figured out at least some of the skills of navigating 1930's & 1940's-era autos through the snow. (Yes - just "ease-up" on that clutch...) The amount of snow seen in these images really is quite the picture for L.A.

A friend's dad still had a double lot in the Sherman Oaks area in the late 1980's where his chickens were running around. Unfortunately the sprawl that attacked the San Fernando Valley didn't stop there. It continues seemingly everywhere.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Wonderful post! It's nice to see some of your family history presented here as well. I too remember lots and lots of National Geographic magazines at my grandparents house dating all the way back to the early part of the century. Sounds like you have some real warm memories in these photos. I'd also love to know what happened to the house and property and if it's still intact. Thanks for sharing your personal memories and family photos with us, Major.

Scott Lane said...

A rare glimpse into the Major's past! Enjoyed this one immensely. Thanks for sharing!

Chuck said...

Major, this post drags up a ton of memories and emotions of my own of visiting grandparents.

I remember being fascinated by the different technology in their homes (fiber-wrapped wiring, window fans, laundry chutes, staircases), the fact that they had mature trees in their yards, the different wildlife. To this day, the sound of a mourning dove or a cicada reminds me of laying on the bed in one grandmother's bedroom and watching the evening slowly fade away through the back window, and the sound of a bluejay reminds me of watching the birdfeeder through my other grandmother's kitchen window.

A trip into their storage spaces (attics and basements and upstairs closets or even under one grandmother's bed) was a trip to a wondrous land of family history, physical evidence that my parents' stories of their own childhood were true and props to illustrate new stories from my grandparents. I sometimes wonder if my own grandchildren will feel the same way about digging through the detritus of my life. There sure is enough of it for them to dig through...

This must have been a wonderful place to grow up for your mom and to visit for you and your brother. I'm so glad you have photos to remind you of how it was, and greatly appreciate that you have graciously shared them with us.

Irene said...

What a great post! I love these pictures and hearing your stories. I was only 3 months old when the snow storm hit LA so obviously have no memories of it. But I do remember by Mother telling me about it some years later. Having spent some time in the Valley for several months because of my brother I have great appreciation for the sprawl that has taken place versus how it used to be. I hardly ever went over the hill to the Valley even though I was born and raised in LA. I recently read an article and saw pictures of where Lucy and Desi had a ranch out in the Valley and then brought up current day Google maps. I drove right by their place and didn't even know it apparently! I too am curious as to what happened to your Grandparents house - guess curious minds want to know :)

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, thanks! See below for more about the house (since so many people asked). The fountain is in my mom’s backyard, though she never did get it hooked up to the plumbing like she’d always planned.

Nanook, I can’t even imagine how many accidents there must have been on those snowy days. I went to Wisconsin a few years ago, and it snowed so much that it completely covered the road - you couldn’t tell what was road and what was a ditch or field. I had no idea how people knew where to drive!

K. Martinez, that house was one of my favorite places; every once in a while I’ll smell orange blossoms or something like that and it takes me right back to Encino. After my grandmother died, my mom kept the house for about five years. But the upkeep was expensive, plus a $1000 water bill, property taxes, a new roof, etc. She finally sold it, and the new owners immediately resold it to developers, who tore the house down and built three large houses on the property. Needless to say, it was painful to watch.

Scott Lane, I may post more old family slides as well! Though they are all from long before I was on the scene.

Chuck, wow, what a beautiful comment! My grandparent’s backyard was always full of mourning doves (and families of quail!). No cicadas though. I also think of the smell of the wood that was used to build the small stable for my mom’s horse (the horse was long-gone by the time I was around), or the nearby eucalyptus trees on a hot day. Strangely, the house had a “root cellar”, in a city where basements don’t exist. I was always scared to go down there when I was really little! They also had a “cedar closet” full of wonderful things. I sure miss it, but as the saying goes, “All things must pass…”.

Irene, I was really surprised when I found boxes of 35mm slides in my grandma’s home after she passed away; I never knew that, for a while, my grandfather was sort of a shutterbug. So discovering those snow photos was very fun; not to mention seeing color photos of my mom as a child, and my grandparents before their hair turned gray! I didn’t know Lucy and Desi had a ranch in the Valley, though I’ll by my grandmother knew.

Unknown said...

Wunnerful, wunnerful. I saw it snow exactly once in my childhood, somewhere around 1967 or '68. There were flakes in the air but nothing on the ground. This iis a great post not only weather-wise but in bringing up fond memories of the kind my old box of family photos (not many slides) holds for me. Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

Wow...what a find. This is more than just a dusting. It was the real deal! At that time, my father's aunt and uncle had a 20 acre ranch in Northridge near Balboa Ave. It mostly had walnut trees with the main railroad line running along the rear of the property (still there). I loved to waive to the engineers as they passed by. Ronald Reagan was a nearby neighbor. Today of course nothing remains of what I remember other than the service station on a corner of the parcel that they sold back in the 60s. There are some 15-20 homes uniquely tucked into the rest of the site now so it's easy to spot the location using a satellite view. KS

Sunday Night said...

Thanks for sharing these. I have vague memories of some agriculture still going on in the valley into the early 60s. Seems like I remember corn fields near the Sepulveda Dam.
I remember what a fun experience it was to drive up to Sky Forest and actually see snow on the ground!

Tom said...

This is awesome. I absolutely love old photos and stories of simpler times and happy memories like this. This reminds me so much of my own grandmother's place where my brothers and I shared so many great times. And look at all those orange trees! That would take a lot of upkeep, but what a bounty! Biggest surprise was that snow actually fell in LA, and for that long. Amazing post, thank you so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Major, thank you for these pictures and stories. Great stuff.

My Dad grew up on the family ranch nearby to this, but they moved to Colorado in the early 1920's. The region was covered with orchards and vines at that time, according to him.

He said they could hear the lions roar in the Universal City Studio zoo up on the mountain.