Looking Back at Favorite Spots on Ventura Boulevard in the '60s

Whatever happened to some of my favorite haunts?

Ah, Ventura Boulevard with its many facelifts over the years.  Back in the day, the number of places to visit in Studio City was paltry. Compared to the many stores that are plentiful today, Studio City was pretty barren. So, let’s take a walk down Ventura Boulevard and see what was there when I was growing up.

Let’s start with Thrifty Drug Store, on the southwest corner of Ventura and Laurel Canyon boulevards, where we’d be-bop by feeding the table jukebox just a few coins. 

I remember having French fries, milkshakes and real Coca Cola, while we’d swivel back and forth in our chairs, high on salt, caffeine and sugar. The Beatles, Everly Brothers and Elvis wafted through the airwaves as we chowed down with our Camp Fire pals.

Thrifty's also sported a loyal worker in their ice-cream department named Lemon. Lemon was a charcoal-skinned straw of a man who was so old that he looked like he was born at Thrifty’s. Cordial and attentive, he’d scoop our favorite flavor into one of those sugar cones, and we’d be off to another adventure.

Of course, there was down the street, with its huge bovine murals gracing the walls. Holstein, Guernsey Maid and Jersey Maid cows loomed above you from their sepia pastures as you watched your server cram the cone with flavor. If you were lucky, you redeemed your birthday postcard for a free ice cream cone.

Down the street was the infamous Queen Mary, a drag-show venue that introduced me to my first real experience with alternative lifestyles. Transvestites, transsexuals and all types of persuasions frequented this wonderful place. 

I was amazed that so many men could pose in prettier fashions than most of my female friends. I’m sorry that it’s no longer in operation. I wonder what happened. Too much estrogen?

Heading west, I remember the Pump Room, a place our family couldn’t afford, with its neon sign winking in the twilight. I’m sure I must have eaten there upon occasion, but it was a pricey place, dimly lit, catering to the well-heeled. The dark-paneled walls held many secrets for those who freely imbibed in stiff pours, the patrons all smartly stuffed into its red-leather booths.

What’s Studio City without mention of the, with its trout ponds,  and celebrity status? Even today, it still holds much of its vintage charm.

My mom frequented the Ventura Club, a hangout for single adults. I know she met some suitors at this dance club, only a few of them lucky enough to make the cut to enjoy my mother's company on a more personal basis.

Casa Escobar was very popular back in the day as well. My Aunt Kaye, who owned the Mexican Flea Market near Vineland and Ventura, was a big fan of this restaurant. I'm sure the chips were good and the margaritas were strong, as my aunt loved her cocktails. Maybe the busboys gave her good service. After all, she liked those Latin types.

Let’s not forget the famous which still stands today. Old-school favorites like chicken pot pie, bear claws and date nut bread were some of the items I favored. I didn’t have much success as a cashier there, due to my short attention span and inability to multi-task, but who cares? It makes for a good story.

So, what places do you remember, and whatever happened to them?

teresa mcgrath September 20, 2011 at 02:27 PM
great article mary....yes, those spots are tenderly etched into our memory banks...the mini juke boxes on thriftie's countertops were a nickel, and you could sip a vanilla coke listening to some fine tunes....kit kraft was a popular spot on ventura place too...when sav-on arrived, you could buy 3 king-sized candy bars for a dime, and we snuck those items into the studio city theater...unfortunately sav-on took some business away from thrifties....florsheim shoes was popular too, and off course next to dupars was tiny naylors, a great diner....
Mary McGrath September 20, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Right, I know you spent some time at Kit Kraft, and our dentist was on that street too...I think his name was Dr. Pershing...When was Oil Can Harry's erected? I know it's a gay bar now, I believe...country-western dancing and disco? I've heard great things about it...
Andy Steiner September 20, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Weby's Bakery. It seems my mother stopped there at least once a week after shopping at Food Giant. My dentist's office is two doors east of Art's Deli. I started seeing him at 10 years old and twice a year, I make the drive from Las Vegas as his son who took over the practice now takes care of my teeth. Albert and his wife bought the building back in the 1940's. It's two stories tall. They rented out the store on the first floor. In the dentist office upstairs, there's two small exam rooms that have a spectacular view of Ventura Blvd., a lab, waiting room and the receptionist's office. Behind all that is an apartment the family used to live in. How many people do you know who can say they grew up on Ventura Blvd.? Art's Deli is a treasure and always has been. Art and Sandy were very generous people to the community. I used to attend a weekly meeting across the street at the city councilman's local office. There was a public meeting room available free to any group who asked. And Art would provide a large urn of coffee to any group who asked. I first ate sushi at Terru Sushi and learned that A&B Stationers is the best little store for pens and pencils. Further to the east, Fat Jacks made the best burgers E V A R ! ! ! It's still there, but they sold their land and building to a developer who put up the first ever two story mini mall. Fat Jacks is still there but the newest owner has no sense of tradition and the burgers ain't what they used to be.
Mary McGrath September 20, 2011 at 10:40 PM
This is great stuff Andy, and I was hoping you'd post your poignant memories. Thanks for sharing...I remember Market Basket on the east end of Studio City, although we didn't shop there. Anyone remember Bonds Market on Ventura Blvd. I recall an ugly heater near the ceiling that was shaped like a tuba...
David Pearlberg September 20, 2011 at 10:53 PM
You remember Mr. Lemon as an old man scooping Thrifty ice cream(far less expensive than Baskin-Robbins) in the 60's. I remember him in the 70's and 80's. Just how long did he work there, and how old was he when he finally retired??
Andy Steiner September 20, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Andy Steiner September 20, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Forgot one. Being from Hungary, my parents were always eating at Hungarian restaurants or coffee houses with a European bent. Most were over the hill in the city, but one restaurant was on Ventura on the south side of the street at the curve between Tujunga and Vineland. Called Hortobagy, it was a favorite of our family. It closed about four years ago, the last of the truly family Hungarian restaurants that used to dot Los Angeles.
Mary McGrath September 21, 2011 at 12:22 AM
And I dated a guy who worked at the Moska Cliff (I think that was the name), a Russian restaurant. It was right near the Kirkwood Bowling alley...
Mary McGrath September 21, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Oh boy, I have no idea when he retired...wasn't he a great old soul? He seemed pretty old in the 60's, so your guess is as good as mine! I'm glad you remember him!
Mary McGrath September 21, 2011 at 12:24 AM
This is a great link to a wonderful vintage shot of Studio City...Thanks Andy!
Matthew September 21, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Alas, Fat Jacks closed earlier this year...surely due in no small part to the most recent owner not being able to maintain the standards set down in earlier decades. "Best meat in town! If you can't eat it...beat it!" Also, though the Hortobagy restaurant is no more, the cuisine pretty much lives on at Maximillian's, on Tujunga north of Magnolia. Chef Lazslo (chef for many years at Hortobagy) is still serving up chicken paprikash and goulash to loyal fans.
Mary McGrath September 21, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Wasn't there a pizza joint with the mantra, "Had a Piece Lately?" Anyone remember which chain?
Matthew September 21, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Mary: Perhaps it was "Piece o' Pizza?" I never actually ate at one of those establishments, but I do remember seeing them in my youth (1970s-1980s) throughout SoCal. Hilariously lampooned as "Cup O' Pizza" in Steve Martin's The Jerk.
Mary McGrath September 27, 2011 at 05:01 PM
That restaurant sounds familiar, but I don't recall if I ate there. Sounds interesting Andy...
Leah September 27, 2011 at 06:27 PM
I remember Lemon, Bond's Market, Stop and Shop Market, Lerner's Toy Store before it became Buddy Brown, Newberry's, Currie's Ice cream, those "log" cabins that were behind Dupar's, I think...and does anyone remember "Crazy Legs Hersh" Restaurant? And there was one, maybe the Pump Room on Coldwater and Ventura? Or "Meatball Manor"? It was a tiny place and I can't remember if it was on Ventura or Ventura Place. They had the BEST meatball sandwiches!!
Leah September 27, 2011 at 06:28 PM
I remember Dr. Pershing...my mom went to him!
Mary McGrath September 27, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Yes, the log cabins behind Du-par's! Yes, so many memories, thanks for sharing Leah!
Brian September 28, 2011 at 04:24 AM
How about Bella Napoli on Ventura next to the Pump Room...there was Sambo's where B of A is now...Bernie's Newstand next to Weby's...Coast Hardware (my parents loved that place) where Gap is now...Champion's Clothing Store on Ventura...remember when the stores were open until 9 pm on Wednesdays only. It seems only like yesterday...
Mary McGrath September 28, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Oh, Bella Napoli sounds familiar...Boy, what great memories you have Brian! Do you live in Studio City now?
Leah September 28, 2011 at 04:58 PM
I remember ALL of it!!!!!!!!!!! :)
teresa mcgrath September 29, 2011 at 03:17 PM
wow, what a memory everyone has:the log cabins behind dupars/tiny naylors...so quaint....sambos...coast hardware, buster brown, curries ice cream,bonds/stop-shop, market basket, and everything else that was mentioned above...mary, remember mom would occasionally pick up a large cheese pizza from john's pizza near kitkraft i think...anyone remember that one?
Mary McGrath September 29, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Hmmmm...I thought the pizza place was on Ventura Blvd. on the south side of the street near Whitsett...I think the building was turquoise blue...I could be wrong...Pizza on Friday nights since we couldn't eat meat since we were Catholic...
teresa mcgrath September 29, 2011 at 08:58 PM
i remember a little hole in the hole place named johns near there, but i could be wrong...leah, do you remember john's pizza and what street it was on?
Brian September 30, 2011 at 03:11 AM
I have lived in different parts of Studio City since 1961 (from Tujunga-just north of Ventura, to Sunshine Terr-just off Carpenter, to the Donas and now near Woodbridge Park (with a few other places in between). You mentioned in an article a while ago Dennis Vitarelli; I played on the same little league team as he back in the day...


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