KMPC – Johnny Grant Show – December 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Before it got pricey. Before it got crowded. Before the air was (mostly) clean. Los Angeles was rapidly becoming mecca in the eyes of many, especially on the East Coast. 1956 was the beginning of the Great Trek Westward – the urban centers of the East and Midwest were starting to shrink – people wanted to be someplace where it was Summer all year – where you could buy a house with “no money down”, where there was still a lot of space and where the problems of the city were in another world, another universe.
At least that’s what the Chamber of Commerce said. Anyone who lived in the Central and Eastern Time Zones were regularly treated to photo spreads in newspapers and magazines of the sun-drenched, pristine, carefree life in Los Angeles. And every Christmas the temptation grew unbearable when, like clockwork, those same newspapers and magazines ran full-page/full-color ads for Mission Pak Fruit – a mail-order service that specialized in Oranges, dates and every conceivable kind of Citrus in-between – all presumably from “sunny Southern California”, and the ads were swathed in visual depictions of Orchards and Palm Trees and smiling, blazing suns beaming down on smiling, blazing Angelenos.
Of course, by the time the indoctrinated managed to pick up their frozen stakes and flee to Los Angeles, a different picture awaited them. Yes, there was Sun – most days it was a hazy Burnt-Sienna ball hidden behind a curtain of smog – smog so thick there were warnings about even going out and enjoying the “pristine carefree life”. Yes, there were homes, lots of homes – homes packed together in tracts and lumped together in hive-like communities spread out all over the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, only reachable by Freeways. And yes, the problems of the city were remote, because downtown Los Angeles was remote – it was the only part of the city that resembled an actual city, complete with crime, congestion and urban renewal.
But L.A. became home to a lot of people, and they stayed. And they listened regularly to people like Johnny Grant and KMPC who routinely spun out the bad parts and spun in the good parts, but made you realize you were, after all, in a city like every other city. Here is Johnny Grant, before he became the Legendary Mayor Of Hollywood as well as voice and face of the Santa Claus Lane Parade which happened faithfully after every Thanksgiving. This is what he sounded like in December, 1956.
I don’t know what ever became of Mission-Pak – or the “no money down” homes, come to think of it.
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