Vista in the Valley

Woodland Hills, 1949, courtesy the CSUN Oviatt Library digital collection.

Steve Shuken, the founder of Vista Ford on Ventura near Canoga, has died. In his obit, it says that he opened the place in 1974. I was raised in the West San Fernando Valley, and it must have been funny to open a place in that spot back then.

It was pretty damned nice, but fairly rural. I was still a squirt in 1974, and we’d hop on the traffic-free 101 for a few stops to the Canoga exit to get to Topanga Plaza. At the bottom of the exit there were horses in a very large pasture (now the Warner Center apts that were just converted to condos with some more fabulous sounding name). Kaiser Permanente’s rather large campus off DeSoto was a corn field. Pierce College had more acres of unencumbered farm land.

Topanga Plaza, now in the process of becoming a behemoth Westfield Shopping City was a big deal — an enclosed, air conditioned mall that featured (to us kids) a “fountain” that dripped beads of oil down large strings suspended from the ceiling. It was surrounded by a circular rainbow tiled floor (!) and my sister and I pondered it a lot as kids after a trip to The Jolly Roger, where it was dark, foreboding and at one time they even had a magician who my sister called “The Man Magic” after the Heart song (She was 3 at the time).

As you can see, 25 years or so before Steve moved in with his Fords, it was pretty much farmland. Our house in the Van Nuys went up that year. Thirty-two years later and it’s a suburban metropolis by comparison. I’m not entirely against progress, but a little nostalgic about the open space. Let’s hope that they keep Pierce from becoming some horrible development. Meanwhile, Burt Boeckman might be rubbing his hands together over at Galpin Ford. We bought a car there, and the employees were swell, but I hope Vista stays open because Mr. Shuken ran his service dept. a bit better. Bye Mr. Shuken, we’re glad you came to the party.

7 thoughts on “Vista in the Valley

  1. Fire Monkey Fish

    and don’t forget you could ice skate at the Topanga mall too. I grew up in West Van Nuys as a kid in the 60’s We also had horse property in our neighborhood …a few blocks from Birmingham HS.

  2. Ilene

    Right right right! I can’t believe I forgot to mention that. The other day we were eating in the “food court” and it occurred to me that it still looks exactly like the ice rink — with the center sunken in the exact formation and the sides where the vendors are was the outside of the rink. I was about at coordinated as a kid as I am now, so ice skating was not on my agenda much.Growing up we lived near Vanalden and Ventura, where the entire of Vanalden used to flood, and the rest of the time it was teeming with horses on vast properties.

  3. Andrew

    What a horrendous photo of Woodland Hills in 1949!All I see are orange groves and lots of agriculture. How could people live without Best Buys and Fry’s Electronics? What did they do for fun? Ride horses and listen to the radio? I’m sure glad we have gotten rid of those awful days.

  4. Anonymous

    Ha, ha, ha.That fawning front page “obit” about the Vista visionary in the Woodland Hills paper kinda missed the mark.There was no “farmland” between the Ventura Fwy and Ventura Blvd, 300 feet to the south, when Vista opened up for business there. The boulevard strip was Just a bunch of little local businesses, like gas stations.They were survivors from the 1957 grading for the Ventura Freeway. Twenty years later they were slowly swallowed as Vista moved it and, er, “expanded.” Wanna stroll down memory lane about beloved car dealerships in what was once called Giraud (after subdivider Victor Girard)?Why not look into what happened to the demolished, Paul Williams-designed VW dealership in the late ’60s that was a block or so east of Canoga, on the north side of Ventura Blvd? It was trashed and “remodeled” into a into a more “modern” car showroom for a newer (not VW) car seller. (You know who Paul Williams was, right?)By the way, more recently (like 3 years ago!!) another Paul Williams-designed dealership that currently houses the WH/Keyes Honda dealershi on Topanga across from Westfield’s Promomande shopping center, (or whatever the Australian mall mavens call it now) was also “updated.” But I’m glad that Mr. B at Galpin got some props in rival Steve’s DN send-off, though. Advertisers pay the bills in the real media.

  5. Steven Rosenberg

    You’ve gotta name-check Bert Boeckmann, he’s the KING OF THE WORLD. But as Ilene says, Galpin Ford service is an exercise in frustration. Vista Ford is not so overrun. You make an appointment, drive up, then you’re out in 5 mins.However, Saturn of the Valley (or Galpin Saturn, more accurately) has great, no-wait service. And I’ve heard good things about Galpin Jaguar, but you get what you pay for, no?

  6. Rubygirl214

    Ilene, I grew up by West Hills Hospital, which in the 70’s was one small building. There were all horse properties, and NOTHING beyond Pomelo Drive Elementary. Thank God they left the Lederer estate alone!! I can’t believe all of the McMansions out there.No more ranches :(. I spent mass amounts of time @ Topanga Plaza! The oil beads!!! The skating rink!! Orange Julius!!!!! I miss the Old Topanga, also the old outdoor Falbrook Square. Such a bummer they trashed all of that!

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