San Fernando Valley & Movies

Written March 1, 2013

I note that Dale Robertson passed away.

In spring 1963 Pi Kappa Tau President David Smith asked Rick Turton and I to be a housing committee to find a new fraternity house for us.  Our first house at 9000 Balboa was being torn down to make a shopping center and we needed to find a new place or else.

One of the houses we found was Dale Robertson's ranch in Northridge.  It was in a residential area with large lots.  The ranch has many attractive features and we thought with a little work we could convert some stables into bedrooms (like a bunkhouse).  David thought it cost too much and would strain the fraternity's ability to keep things affordable.  I remember how disappointed Rick and I were.

Later we found the house on Nordhoff, and that house was perfect for many years.

A few weeks ago Eve and I saw a magazine article about a forthcoming book on the making of John Ford's The Searchers with John Wayne. It looks like it will be pretty good.  I tried to find it on my iPad's iBooks Store, but it wasn't to be released for some weeks yet.  However, there is a new edition of the novel The Searchers by Alan Le May so I got that.  I was surprised and delighted by what I found in it.

Besides the novel and a nice tribute to John Wayne, there is a long memoir by Harry Carey Jr. about the days of making movies in the San Fernando Valley.  Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1950s and early '60s, we could not help but be aware of how the movies were in our geography--particularly true for Westerns.  I remember riding horses since I was 5 years old and covering the ground and movie sets in places like Corriganville and the Chatsworth mountains.  One thing striking to me about the movie Them! was the Los Angeles River in Burbank--we used to cross the river on foot to get to the horseback stables and then ride horses across the river to Griffith Park's bridal trails.  I actually learned to swim by watching frogs in the shallow water.

Anyway, for a nostalgic treat, get the book and read Harry Carey's essay.  You'll love it!

John Cagle

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