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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNIVAL OF THE ARTS, 1937

Suburban Cowboy: 1963

Suburban Cowboy: 1963

I just started scanning my sister's photos of her kids from the 1960s. Here's why she was smart to have saved the negatives. Back in 1963, they lived in South Gate, California, in a neighborhood full of classic cars, it seems. My nephew Jimmy in a 2¼-inch square Kodacolor negative. View full size.

"Just a snapshot "

As beautiful as any William Eggleston photo I've ever seen, and I consider him a genius in the world of photography. This is just utterly enchanting -- I can't take my eyes off it. (Same is true for the photo you posted a while back of the young man in a sea of blacklight posters.) This is just the best website ever!

South Gate memories

My folks had a house on Kauffman Avenue until 1968, when they bought their house in Downey. It was very close to the old South Gate water tower, near South Gate park. I'm sure you remember the area. I only have vague memories, as I was just a toddler when we lived there. I should see if I can find some of the photos my folks took during the time they lived on Kauffman. I'm sure they look very much like these!

Cowboy Jimmy

Honest to Abe, this is one of my favorite pictures of yours!

Re Pure Evil by Random Numbers

Random Numbers said: Great pic. It reminds me of my own childhood, before childhood was destroyed by the culture of fear we have today.

The irony I see in Random Numbers' remarks is that this kind of negativity sounds just as whiny as today’s “nanny state," and serves the unintentional purpose of proving that life--or at least People--haven't changed much at all since the 1960's--when grumpy old people even then lamented how much better (more real, more sincere, etc.) things were when THEY were children.

Anyway, I trust that Random Numbers and his like-minded baby boomer peers are “keeping it real” by not giving in to today’s "culture of fear" paranoia and availing themselves of the myriad medical advancements and pharmaceuticals that have increased well-being and longevity by decades as compared to those fun and free “good old days” when people routinely died in their 60s! (--Wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite.)

p.s. tterrace your photos are WONDERFUL!

Same here

My mother and I watch Mad Men and love it. But she'll always point things out while we're watching and say "My parents had those! And those, and those!!!" "I remember using that!" Apparently they get everything "down to the t" when it comes to the setting.

Some things aren't so different

My childhood was like this in northern Illinois. However, there are still some pockets of America like this. In my subdivision outside of Denver, small children play up and down the street just like Jimmy.

If you look around, you can provide a life like this for your children

Suburban names

No, they had names like Jimmy, Mary and Davy.
Their Mom

The Melting Pot

Oh yes, I remember the days when all the kids in the suburbs had Anglo names like Will, Paul, and Rosemary. Today we have a much more diverse society.

Dang, That Could Have Been ME!

Boy, does that look familiar. My grandparents had a house in South Gate, at Tweedy Boulevard and San Luis Street. I was even born about the same time. And I had my trusty steed "Tricycle" and my Mattel Fanner 50!

Status Symbols

We started with one car in 1960 but had to have another since we both worked. Then, we had a teenager and, then, another. Soooo -- 4 cars. Walk? Bicycle? Ha! Not in California. Now, it is a nationwide problem. Thanks for reminding me.

Pure Evil

No helmet, knee pads or elbow pads denote a neglectful lack of regard for poor Jimmy by his mother. That hat no doubt contains lead-based pigments; clear evidence of child abuse.

And what's this?? A toy GUN??? That poor child's evil, troglodyte mother should be thrown in jail for creating another gun-crazed criminal!!!!elevnty1!!

(/nanny-state nutjob)

Great pic. It reminds me of my own childhood, before childhood was destroyed by the culture of fear we have today.

Status symbols

For the younger Shorpyites that might not remember the 1960s, most working or middle class families had only one car (if they had one at all). It was a point of pride to park your car either directly in front of your house or prominently displayed in the driveway. The more obvious the better; bright colors helped even more. Take that, you Joneses!

Also, you scored big status points with of those gangly omnidirectional TV antennas on your roof as seen in the background. Indoor "rabbit ear" antennas just had no class.

Grew up nearby

I grew up in the SF Valley in the same era, that photo takes me back. I also watch the TV series "Mad Men" and the cars, furniture, fashion etc. are all things I remember. The easy days of riding your bike up and down the neighborhood with your friends, not a care in the world. Sigh.

Takes me back...

I think THIS is the turning point. This photo captures the apex of our society. I see the dreams of so many families right here. A house of your own. A clean street. Meticulously maintained homes. The kids free to play in the neighborhood. A perfect blue sky.

This photo makes me cry.

Cool Hat, Kid

Love the photo. I had a had just like that as a kid and think I have photo somewhere of me wearing it while sitting on a pony at a neighborhood birthday party.

9

I was 9 years old in another part of California, but I had that tricycle and a similar little red wagon. My parents had a Ford Crown Victoria, my father worked, my mother stayed at home to raise me and the world I grew up in was truly both wonderful and wondrous. Even with the duck-and-cover exercises in school.

Instacowboy

Forty-six years later, Jimmy's 15 minutes of fame in the blogosphere have arrived. Now the top link on Instapundit.

Just fabulous!

Saw this link from Instapundit. What a fabulous photo! I love the comments, too, and the Google maps link.

Nirvana vs. Marshall Tucker

Just my opinion, Real Jimmy, but at least you were paying tribute to music that deserved it. I really hope there won't be any grunge tribute bands in the future.

Lamps

I believe the lamps were replaced during the time we were there.. Look at those in the background then look at the pic above. I dare say they're different.

Had I only known..

Geez.. had I known I was a branding opportunity, I'd have taken advantage of it a long time ago. I don't think I've been that cool since that day -- red wagon, cowboy, riding a possible Radio Flyer tricycle as well (I'm sure someone will sort out the logo, maybe it was Royce Union). Funny thing about that pic. Those years I only have memories of things in black and white. Maybe I only remember those years from pictures which were mostly black and white, I guess. Obviously there was color. My memories of color start about 1967, yet every television event memory I have was black and white until about 1970. Apparently we got a color TV then?

So what the hell happened to Jimmy? Well, without getting too personal and please forgive the third person narrative, here ya go. After leaving Los Angeles in 1971, the family moved to Marin County. Jimmy decided he was going to be a rock and roll star and started a metal rock band in the early 80's. The day Nirvana hit the charts, he knew that the music he was good at was no longer popular, so he joined a Southern rock tribute act and toured the Bay Area for 10 years. He then decided to get back to the original reason why he started playing music in the first place, for fun, and only plays local gigs, usually benefits. During this time he also got married and had two children.

He is now a media personality in Wine Country and owns his own web consulting firm. He also writes for several Wine country publications and does "flavorful" wine industry videos. If you're ever in Sonoma Valley, you may even run into him. Though he goes by James now.

A note from Jimmy's Mom

This part of South Gate was a blue collar area, consisting of single family homes, and "court" apartments. The lots there were fairly deep, and so people would put in two rows of four apartments, usually single story, with the garage or carport at the rear with the laundry room and clotheslines. The "court" was the central walkway between the two buildings where the entrances were, except for the front apartments. Just behind Willow Place was Firestone Boulevard, a heavy industrial area at the time. The big Firestone plant was there, and other manufacturing plants. Often in the evening, strange smells would fill the air. This era was also what I call "between the smogs." They had banned outdoor burning of leaves and trash in the Los Angeles Basin in the late 1950s, and the air was fairly clear most of the time. But with increased population, and the increase of jet travel, the smog was back by 1964. The only real clear air days were when the Santa Ana winds blew. The ugly building next door contained a restaurant as I remember, in its one-story days. It may have also been a small motel.

We moved to our first home in Diamond Bar, in the eastern part of the L.A. basin, in 1963. The red wagon makes an appearance there with Jimmy pulling his little sister in Little Red Wagons elsewhere on Shorpy.

The South Gate apartment was the inspiration for the Salmon Kitchen, also seen elsewhere on Shorpy. Our landlady developed a blend of paint that she used on all her kitchens. As I remember, it was part peach, part mushroom and some kind of off white. She said it didn't yellow, and when the tenant moved out there wouldn't be any shadows on the walls from where the clock or the calendar had hung. So she would not have to repaint every time, just have the walls washed. Our dad and mom liked this idea, and so was born the salmon kitchen in Larkspur.

Jimmy's Mom

How did Jimmy turn out

What is he, about 48 years old today?

The Salmon DeSoto

I know what you mean about auto paint being brighter back then. My guess is that paint trends were still built more around primary colors than the more subtle and "nuanced" tints and shades of today. I remember there was a year or two that featured flamingo pink, black, and white as a trio. Knocked your eyes for a loop. Especially on the big fin cars. Dad was looking at one, but ended up going with the pale blue. Too much pink for a man from the Ozarks, I guess, looking back on it.

Color

I think two things contribute to the burst of color. One is that color film is much richer than the digital stuff we have now. And, secondly, the cars WERE much more colorful then than the drab vehicles we see now. Unfortunately, I think some of the color has gone from our lives in many ways since then.

P.S. - From the glimpse of the back wheel well in the car in the distance, I can't help but wonder if it might not be an Olds instead.

You want sunshine

-- on a cloudy day? Some readers spoke about the past as always being bright and sunny like this picture. During a bout of temporary insanity many moons ago, I took leave of my senses and purchased yellow-lens prescription glasses. It did make every day sunny and the world brightened when you put them on. Or you can look just look through a colored cellophane candy wrapper and get the same effect. Just trying to be helpful.

South Gate street view 1961

Here's 2819 Willow Place, along with the ugly building next door, a couple years earlier. Jimmy playing with a neighbor's puppy, and a selection of early-50s cars. Yes, those are different lamps on the railings.

Beautiful street

My children lived this kind of life on a street like this in the early 1950s in Detroit as hard as that is to believe.

2819 Willow Place

It looks like the place might be for rent, $895 a month.

Odd porch lights

Those garden lights were very common in our nearby suburb. They were mostly used along driveways, paths, or planters. This is a most unusual installation. And they are still there. I might give this place a drive-by at lunchtime.

By the hour?

It's worse than a warehouse next door. It's a skeezy motel. And it looks like it's been there since the '60s.

American Iron

I really enjoy the look of these old cars - especially the 1959 Pontiac ahead of the Ford. It's probably a Catalina. Many of these cars had a space age theme to their design.

Martini Lane

It's Mad Men!

Kodacolor wonderland

Don't you wish you could reprogram your brain to "see" full-time in Kodacolor? The world would be such a cheery place!

Was the big warehouse in the current Street View next door in 1963? It seems so out of place.

I had a car that was built there!

I used to have a '68 Pontiac Bonneville that was built at the South Gate GM plant. It was a great car, very well screwed together.

South Gate!

I grew up in the neighboring city of Downey and I would LOVE to see more pics of the South Gate area if you would be so kind as to post them! THANKS!

A lovely day in this beautywood

Love those Mr. Roger's blue tennis shoes. You could buy them at any Alpha Beta grocery store for $1.98. I grew up in a similar Southern California community around the same era. The loppy sidewalks remind me of the joyous hours I spent on roller skates with a skate key on a string around my neck. Were those times so much better or is it that we were just innocent kids?

The high, fine, sky of awhile ago

It doesn't happen as much as it seemed to 40 years ago when I was a kid, but every now and then, usually on a quiet Sunday morning or a Tuesday off from work, the sky will have that same tall, bright, look; gently spotted with clouds and a blue turning from light to dark off into space and there will be a slightly warm breeze and everything will seem clean and new and full of possibility. And you can take a deep breath and smell the trees and maybe some creosote from a power pole, and it's 1967 again.

Just so Ideal

I have to agree with the comments made under the heading Colour Saturation. I recently have been looking at photos of me and my family in our house as I was growing up and you know I don't remember that the carpet was threadbare -- yet it was. I don't remember that we had a broken down car in our backyard -- yet we did. I don't remember that our lounge suite was old and we needed a new one -- but we did. All I remember is that it was a safe, happy and fun place to grow up in and I had a great time. So yeah I think we all of us remember the good and not so much the bad, and isnt that the way it should be.

Sign of the times...

Any idea what the sign posted on your sis's house says?

Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

There's another classic Buick in this shot, the white one in the distance, straddling the sidewalk. There's not enough detail for me to tell, but it appears to be a '55 or '56 Roadmaster.

I'm sure that if anyone (visiting from the future) had told the owners of these Buicks that GM would be a tottering financial wreck in 2009, they'd never have believed it.

Great Picture

Love that "Jimmy" has been written on the back of the Radio Flyer!

South Gate Streetview

The cars were better-looking in 1963. Particularly the Buick next door.


View Larger Map

Ouch!!

The beautiful '56 Ford at the left has been tagged but you can see that it did naught but bend the bumper! It didn't disturb the paint! The good old days indeed! Today, that'd be a $3000 repair!

Street View! Street View!

Can you give an address so we can see how the neighborhood has fared?

Color Saturation

I can't help but wonder if most of us who grew up in the middle-class or upper-middle class white America of the 60's and 70's see our childhood memories in lavish Kodacolor.

When I was this boy's age, there were the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, coming almost one right after the other. I knew that the grown-ups were very worried, but I wasn't sure just why. Later, I figured out that the only thing that Westchester had in common with Watts was that both names begin with a W.

The innocence of childhood is fleeting, indeed.

The clouded crystal ball

Jimmy (now James) tells me that three years later and a block away from this idyllic scene, there were the Watts riots.

Old Red

That Radio Flyer sure brings back memories. Thanks.

Blue skies

I see why now people continue to believe in "the good old days." The color saturation, blue skies, happy, smiling kid -- looks like nothing would ever go wrong in this place, doesn't it?

Little Red Wagon

Almost everyone can remember having one when they were a kid. I bet this photo makes us all just a little nostalgic.

Thank you for sharing all of these great photos with us, tterrace!

 
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