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Nostalgia & History > Christmastime Memories

Date: 12/16/12 17:34
Christmastime Memories
Author: africansteam

I stumbled across this photo on the Internet. It comes from the camera of the late Walter Abbensath and the archives of the Orange Empire Railway Museum. Walter was responsible for saving several PE Hollywood Cars and PE business car 1299. All reside at the museum.

I can connect with nearly every element in this scene. As a youngster growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I always looked forward to the annual December evening that began by boarding a PE 5050 class car in our hometown and riding over Chauenga Pass into Hollywood to see the Christmas decorations. We would detrain at the Intersection of Highland Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard – marked here by the tall building on the right of the photo and walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard looking into all the store windows and enjoying the lighted metal Christmas trees with their painted snow that were mounted to the light standards, and the bells and stars strung across the street. In the center of these strings there was a usually a wreath surrounding a smiling Santa.

With the abandonment of rail passenger service to the Valley in 1952, GM busses like the one behind the 5151 took us over the Pass for the Christmas ritual.

In 1953, after it had completed its exclusive run at the Grauman’s Chinese, The Robe, the very first wide-screen Cinemascope movie, moved on to smaller theaters like The El Portal in North Hollywood where Mom took me to see the film. As an eight-year old I was bored silly, the glory of Cinemascope notwithstanding.

While in high school I joined the Orange Empire Trolley Museum and had the opportunity to run those wonderful Hollywood Cars of my early childhood. The museum has since changed its name to Orange Empire Railway Museum to reflect the expansion of its collection into other areas of railroad preservation.

In 1962, I took a summer job with The Cliff Line, a model railroad equipment manufacturing company in the North Hollywood. At one point business got slow and the owner, Harry Weiss, found work for me at Ulrich Scale Models. Among my duties was gophering for Charley Ulrich. The shop vehicle was a light green GMC Suburban that was virtually identical to the Chevrolet in the photo. I once commented to Charley about his similarity and he stated he had chosen the GMC because it had a fully pressurized oiling system, whereas the Chevrolet used a splash system. This was good information in the event that I should ever be in the market for a pre 1954 Chevrolet product. Together Charley and Harry did much to advance what I call my practical education. Harry went beyond that, providing less important material, helping me to become a true railfan. In Harry’s view a true railfan was also “a walking fountain of useless information”.

Mom, Harry and Walter have passed on, but the last I heard Charley was living in retirement, having sold Ulrich Scale Models to Walther’s. To them all, I wish a Merry Christmas, and thanks for the memories.


Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 12/16/12 21:23 by africansteam.

Date: 12/16/12 18:44
Re: Christmastime Memories
Author: nycman

Very interesting story, Jack, and thanks for sharing it with us. I was raised back in upstate NY, so did not get to see some of the things in your photo until my new at the time wife and I migrated to CA. I do have memories of LA when it was kinder and gentler. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Date: 12/16/12 21:05
Re: Christmastime Memories
Author: engine3420

Hey Jack, this brings back many memories. We lived in a two story apartment just a few doors west of the Hollywood Rosevelt Hotel from 1948 to the end of 49. My father travelled a lot in his job and a few times a month my mother would get a call to go to the studio to do some costume work ( part time on call). She would leave me with the babysitter who just happened to be the Doorman for the Rosevelt. I would sit in my small chair outside next to the entrance and watch all the traffic and I had just about this same view. Remember this was the forties. Would not happen today.

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