In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

8 Valley Boy i was only five years old in December 1973 when our blue Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon pulled up to our new home in the San Fernando Valley. My siblings and I had flown with our mother from the Newark Airport (close to our South Orange, New Jersey, neighborhood) the day before to join our father, who had flown into L.A. earlier to settle things in preparation for our arrival. Although I was young, I remember this first full day in Northridge. Rather, I remember a particular scene, looking out the window of our station wagon as we approached our white, ranch-style house on the corner. The car slowed. I’m sure that my father pointed out the house to us for our inspection, but my attention was elsewhere, as I had already spotted the two children on the sidewalk beside the macadam street. They were playing an odd-looking game, which involved a hard plastic ball and a set of hand grips. The grips seemed equipped with some sort of suction device through which my new neighbors had been attempting, none too successfully, to catch and throw the ball. I remember them stopping abruptly to peer inside my window, taking in this strange boy who was sizing them up just as deliberately. Before the moving van even arrived, my mother tells me, my siblings and I were playing with our new neighbors out on the street. My parents knew that they had chosen a good neighborhood for us. Had my across-the-street neighbors not been playing this odd game, I doubt I would remember my first day on Wystone Avenue. I don’t remember my first impressions of our new house, per se. But I must have taken note of the odd-looking glossy leaves of the rubber tree beside the front door, which I would soon discover oozed a white, gluey substance when Valley Boy • 9 shorn in half. The expansive sunken living room to the right of the foyer must have looked immediately formal and forbidding dressed in its stiff white carpet. Reaching the sliding door in the family room leading to the backyard, I must have been impressed upon glimpsing the expansive covered patio (my father would soon set up a Ping-Pong table), the large swimming pool down the few cement steps, and the veritable miniorchard of orange trees just beyond, holdovers from our subdivision’s citrus grove days. From the patio, I’m sure I gazed awestruck toward the Santa Monica Mountains off into the southern distance at the other end of the Valley. The closer Santa Susana Mountains loomed over us like a schoolyard bully to the north, just blocks away. A child doesn’t think of his experiences in terms of demographic trends or other apposite statistical realities. My parents didn’t think in these terms, either. Yet, in hindsight, their westward move to the San Fernando Valley might be seen as part of the mass postwar migration of Jewish Americans, principally from the Northeast, to the Sunbelt cities of Miami and Los Angeles. “After World War II,” a Los Angeles Times journalist reported in 1978, “the trickle from the East became a torrent, with hundreds of thousands of Jews stuffing their belongings into ’47 Nash sedans for the drive west.”1 Nearly a half million Jews lived in Los Angeles by the 1950s, which made L.A. the second largest Jewish community in the United States after New York City. The Jewish population in California , generally, grew 730 percent between 1930 and 1994, as the political scientist Raphael J. Sonenshein notes, while it illustratively dipped by 16 percent in New York State.2 Had my parents been a generation or two older, they most likely would have settled in Boyle Heights, the most ethnically integrated enclave in urban L.A., which attracted an especially high concentration of Jews, and sizeable Mexican and Japanese American populations as well. In my teens, I would have attended Fairfax High School, known as “a Jewish High School” in the 1950s, as the historian Deborah Dash Moore remarks in her book To the Golden Cities.3 The heavily Jewish Fairfax High, interestingly , would become one of the few public schools in L.A. to desegregate without a court order, once its district boundaries were redrawn in 1968. Its Jewish basketball coach, Marty Biegel, especially welcomed the influx 10 • My Los Angeles in Black and (Almost) White of talented African American...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.