Back Then, $15,000 Bought My Family's Dream Home

My parents' first house is on the market in Studio City.

A little house just went on the market in Studio City, on the corner of Sarah and Simpson.

My parents and two brothers lived there before I was born, from September 1947 to April 1953.

This two-bedroom, one-bath cottage was their dream home, a purchase made possible through assistance from the GI Bill.

My parents, who last year celebrated their 70th anniversary, moved in 1947 to what was then called North Hollywood from an apartment on Hayworth near Beverly Boulevard.

They were just like a lot of young couples in postwar America, with its new, growing economy, finding opportunites in the San Fernando Valley.

When friends from Los Angeles would visit the far reaches of Los Angeles, known as North Hollywood, they would ask, "Should I bring water? Are the roads OK? Are there hotels?"

My dad owned a jewelry store on Lankershim Boulevard called . It was named after the two original partners, Ralph Goodman (my dad) and Bill Mallet. It remained a major part of the North Hollywood business scene long after Dad sold it to the watch maker and manager Tommy Jakels.  

Ramal Jewelers was across the street from Rathbuns Department Store and a bank. The old bank building is the location of a new nightclub called

When they moved to the house, my mother joined all kinds of civic organizations, and spent her time raising my brothers, Barry, then an infant, and Alan, the 6-year-old.

The kids went to Carpenter Avenue School, and later transferred to Colfax Elementary when Colfax expanded.

There was no telephone service at the house for the first few months so they would line up, with the neighbors, at the Safeway near Riverside and Colfax to make phone calls.

There was no 101 Freeway back then, so North Hollywood, Valley Village and Studio City felt like one big community. The new freeway arrived a few years after our family sold this home, and some neighbors lost their homes to the project.

My parents had a variety of well-known and interesting neighbors, including Erle Stanley Gardner. Gardner was a lawyer and author, best known for the Perry Mason stories. He also used a variety of pen names, including: A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J. Kenny, Les Tillray and Robert Parr.

My mom remembers some wonderful neighbors named Ray Mayor and Edith Evans. They were a famous vaudeville team from the '30 and '40s.

"They invited us over every Saturday night to hang around their piano, sing songs, and raise hell," she recalls. "Among their guests were Donald O'Connor,  Sidney Miller, Ann Sothern and loads of actors and dancers."

My mom adds, "In those day, nobody locked there doors. You just didn't need to. ... Besides, someone might want to borrow a cup of sugar."

Sonja Henie was down the street. She was an Olympic champion figure skater and film star. Henie won more Olympic and world titles than any other female figure skater. At the height of her acting career she was one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood.

A lady named Vera Zorina lived around the corner. She was a Norwegian ballerina, musical-theater actress and choreographer. Her husband was Columbia Records President Goddard Lieberson.

There was also an actor who lived down the street. My parents now are not sure of his name. His career was going great, until the House Un-American Activities Committee ruined him, they said. He had spent extra time coaching my mom on her lines for a part in a local show. My mom remembers when the FBI came to our house to ask questions about this man and our families' political affiliations.

Some folks are not sure of the value of real estate as a long-term investment. I have no question. At the peek time of the real estate bubble this little house on the corner of Simpson and Sarah was probably worth $850,00 or more. It is now on the market, as a trust sale, for $500,000. This is certainly a loss from 2007, but consider the long term.

My parents spent about $15,000 to purchase the house in 1947. It was a long negotiation. The seller wanted an amount closer to $15,400. My parents were hoping for $14,800. In 1953, they sold the property for about $18,000. We then traded the equity as a partial down payment for a brand new house on Valley Spring Lane in Toluca Lake.

I was born in the Toluca Lake house. It was across from the golf course. It was big and had a pool and lots of famous neighbors, but that's another story...

george April 01, 2011 at 06:28 PM
My grandparents owned a house on Sunshine Terrace just off Laurel Canyon around this time. My grandfather owned a car dealership right on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura, where the drug store is now. Since the property all around them was undeveloped at the time, they owned a beautiful white movie horse named Thunderhead. I have pictures of my mom and my grandparents riding. The horse used to get out a lot and they'd find him way down Laurel Canyon and would walk him back to the house. My grandmother also was very active in civic activities. She was very active in local politics and knew all the movers and shakers at the time, and she was always a part of the Chambers of Commerce wherever they lived. They owned a few car dealerships in L.A., then moved to Palm Sprngs where they owned a Toyopet dealership and a Sambos, and one of the original motels there. Later they moved to Vegas where they owned a restaurant, shopping center, and my grandfather had many friends at the Holiday Inn and other hotels, we never asked about them, but they were 'business men'. They always had friends, neighbors, local politicians and interesting people over at their house, my grandfather used to do business lunches at the house over soup. He was Polish, and a big fan of soup and borscht. They knew everyone in the neighborhood. That was a time when everyone knew their neighbors. Joseph Barbera was among them. It was the best time I can recall, probably never to be quite the same.
Barry Erbsen April 02, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Hey Joe: Barry Erbsen here to say hi and enjoyed your column about the early days of N Hollywood. I had cousins who lived in the area but no idea what street but I think off fRiverside dr. where it parallels the freeway heading up towards N Hollywood Park. I have a big family photo of many of us in a park and I have a feeling was taken in N Hollywood park before the freeway split it in two. My guess is that I was about 5 yearts old so would have been 1945 or so. The bank building you referred to was the old Security Bank on Lankershim where I believe I banked about 40 years ago. Lastly, about Earl Stanley Gardner, he wrote a story in the Examiner?, about my dad who was a criminal defense attorney for many years in LA. It was the "Keyhole Case". Ask me about it at the gym sometime.Was a good court story. Good "patch". Barry not your brother
shebangs@aol.com April 02, 2011 at 06:19 AM
I was born a poor immigrant on the corner of Ventura and Laurel Canyon Blvd. Literally. We didn't have such things as hospitals and cars and whatnot back then. My daddy even wrote a song about it called, The Immigrant Song, and gave it to a little band called Led Zeppelin. Of course, back then, we didn't have Starbucks to hang out in, so we would go to the library to use the internet. Man, I can remember one year, we didn't have a heater, and temperatures dipped down into the low 40's. My tan suffered considerably. Well, we had some stars that lived near us too. Stars whose light has faded considerably, like, Pee Wee Herman, John Holmes, and even Weird Al Yankovic. I had considered a career in the Adult Film Industry, beings that I lived in the San Fernando Valley, well, it just made sense, but producers just didn't know what to do with a man as endowed as I happened to be. Anyway, that's old news. Now I just like sitting under what used to be an old orange grove, now the shade of a Ralph's, and ponder the old times like when we used to play Atari, and ride skateboards with our cell phones, and listen to Orson Welles scare the bejeezus out of us with his War of the Worlds broadcast. Well, here's to old times.
Bill Kapler April 07, 2011 at 11:54 PM
Joe: How special for you and your folks to come up with all this history from 60 years ago about the happenings around Sarah and Simpson in Studio City. It brings such flavor to the corner and the neighborhood. I remember Rathbuns so well and Lankersheim, THE main drag. Ventura was more like a highway in those days. Lankersheim was the village, the local "town" and the park was where everyone gathered in the area. I played baseball there. Thanks for sharing this. Very Sweet. Bill


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