NORTHRIDGE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The massive earthquake of 1994 put Northridge on the worldwide map.
But long before that, Northridge was the center of my world. Happy times, growing up in a very different time.
"You'd leave in the morning, and be gone all day. You might hear your parents ringing a cow bell or something and realize it's time to go home for dinner. Today we won't let kids out of our sight," said Michel Stevens, the president of the Museum of the San Fernando Valley, who grew up in Northridge.
This community in the far northern reaches of the city of Los Angeles is a fitting place for The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. The museum's various rooms hold lots of artifacts that chronicle a simpler era in the San Fernando Valley, and in Northridge.
Which was an ideal place for my parents to raise two boys, with good schools, like Darby Avenue Elementary. Darby is still a good school today, winning numerous awards and being named a California Distinguished School.
After Darby, I attended Nobel Middle School, Granada Hills High School, Pierce College, and Cal State Northridge. You could say I loved being in the San Fernando Valley!
And since I got around Northridge on two wheels in my early days, I decided to do a tour via pedal power! My old Schwinn Varsity is long gone, but riding any kind of bicycle around your old neighborhood is a great way to revisit memories of childhood.
Not far from our house on Reseda Boulevard was the intersection of Devonshire and Reseda, a sort of "center of my universe," starting with a growing kid's favorites for food. The McDonald's restaurant of my childhood was torn down a few years ago, replaced with a modern rendition in the same spot.
But right next door, Shakey's Pizza still looks exactly the same.
Well, on the outside anyway. The Shakey's interior has changed a bit with remodels over the years. But this is essentially the place where generations of Northridge families ate pizza, celebrated the weekend, and listened to the player piano. The piano is still there, plinking out favorite tunes to the delight of children who love watching the keys move up and down by themselves.
"A majority of our customers tell us they came here as a kid. And they now bring their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren here," said Kasim Idrees, whose family operates the Shakey's, after taking over for the long-time operator who ran it for over 50 years.
"While a lot of things have changed, Shakey's stays the same," added Idrees.
Continuing my bicycle tour down memory lane, I made a familiar stop at the showroom of Baher Chevrolet on Devonshire to peek inside at the new models. Actually, it used to be Baher Chevrolet, but now it's Rydell Chevrolet in the exact same location. Any chance I got, I'd stop by there to daydream. And if I was lucky, I'd score some brochures for new Corvettes and Camaros, and then hop back on my bike to go home and plan for the day I'd have my own car.
But I knew I could forget about a new Corvette as a teenager. I had to set my sights a bit lower.
And If I wanted to buy any kind of car, I'd need to earn some money. Dale's Supermarket was right across the street, and it was there that I landed my first real job bagging groceries.
The building that was Dale's store #31 is still there, but it's now Smart and Final Extra. In between, it was a Lucky Market, then Albertson's. The store is still a hallmark of my old neighborhood, and still a great place for a first job.
Just ask Sanestina Hunter, a recent CSUN graduate who works at Smart and Final. She and I chatted quite a bit about working in retail as a young person, and agree that doing so adds great life skills.
"You want to build customer service experience. These are life skills, which you can take with you, and they can teach you a lot," she said.
Other staples of the intersection of Devonshire and Reseda were Bob's Big Boy (turned into a Carrow's years ago; now that's gone too, replaced by a Chick Fil-A), The Fox Northridge Theatre, the Peppertree Three Theatre, Northridge Little League, and the huge ice cream parlor called Farrell's
For playtime, kids like me learned that hot Valley summers meant trying to find a cool spot, so Northridge Park often came to the rescue. It always had lots of shade, and a huge pool, which was upgraded in 2008 to become the Northridge Aquatic Center.
For those triple-digit Northridge summer days, it's still a solution to cooling off.
"Nothing like getting into a nice cool pool when it's 110-plus outside," said Dwayne Finley, the director of Northridge Recreation Center.
Northridge: it was a great place to grow up.
And it still is a great place, all these years later.
Dave Kunz will join Leslie Lopez live on ABC7 at the Northridge Park aquatic center Wednesday. Come out and say hi from 4:30 - 7:30 a.m. and join Eyewitness News In The Neighborhood!
In the Neighborhood: Dave Kunz offers tour of hometown Northridge
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