A special corner

Yesterday’s Orange Line crash, in what used to be Van Nuys but is now Valley Glen, made me think about the corner of Woodman Avenue and Oxnard Street. I grew up in what they call a “garden apartment” not far from there. That it was an apartment complex was clear. The “garden” part was due to the trees and ivy, through which we would run, playing army, with baseball bats doubling as rifles, the last gasps of Vietnam nowhere on our grubby radar.

Back to Woodman and Oxnard. That corner was the center of my known universe. There used to be more shops than there are now. Most of those on the northwest corner were bulldozed to make way for apartments and condos. I remember when gas cost 43 cents a gallon at the Mobil station (which is still a Mobil station).

We used to go to a small grocery store on the southeast corner (since replaced by a mini-mall with seemingly nothing to offer — who needs a water store?). The butcher once gave me a hand-made sausage that looked like it had every kind of animal part on the farm in it. It was spicy. And don’t get me started on where or what the casing came from. I would get Bazooka bubble gum, with those little Bazooka Joe cartoons, for 2 cents apiece and Topps baseball cards, with equally card-like gum, for a quarter a pack.

There was a beauty shop where my mother went weekly to get her hair done, a barbershop where I got my hair cut.

On the northwest corner, right next to the laundromat, there was liquor store where I got comic books to read while our clothes were spinning. On the other side was Phillip’s TV, run by a quiet man named Phillip, who used to fix our set. Those TVs with tubes needed a lot of fixing. He even replaced the channel-changing knob a couple of times. (We barely had color, let alone a remote.) Not like today when you pretty much have a TV for 10 years with no trouble at all and throw it out when it stops working.

Remember those tube-testing machines they used to have at Sav-On and Thrifty? You’d pull your tubes from the set, take them to the drugstore and plug them into the appropriate socket. (I think they gave you little stick-on numbers so you’d know which tube came from which socket when you went to re-insert them in the back.) Then the machine’s meter would tell you if the tube was good or bad. We weren’t the type to even open the back of the TV set, lest we never get it working again. When I got a bit older, I’d take everything apart, but this was before I had access to a set of screwdrivers.

What’s now the Matterhorn Chef restaurant used to be called Old Heidelberg. I’ve never eaten there — Bavarian food wasn’t and isn’t something that appeals to the vegetarian in me. A funny place for a fancy-ish restaurant, but it’s nice to know it’s still there after all these years.