The Los Angeles Public Library has been the custodian of the photo collection from the Valley Times newspaper (1946-1970) for over thirty years, since receiving as part of the donation from the Security Pacific National Bank in 1981. Not much attention had been paid to it since then, except for in 1986 when many of the prints suffered water damage following the Central Library fire. Perhaps at the time of the donation, the scenes depicted in the collection, which document the San Fernando Valley's post-War suburban growth and optimism were not distant enough to be interesting. Or maybe, the many bright and cheery images were too stark a contrast to the social cynicism that eventually set in during the 1970s. However, at this point we are far enough removed from the time to appreciate the crew cuts, civil pride, and culinary treasures (can there really be enough coverage of casseroles?) that permeate the Valley Times photos, along with the seemingly endless parade of social clubs, science fairs, and shopping malls. And so we finally turned our attentions to this long neglected collection.
North Hollywood architect Lucille Raport was one of the 350 licensed women in her profession in the United States in 1961. She studied with Richard Neutra and designed residential, commercial, and public buildings. Raport's advice for working in a predominately male profession was, "Look like a girl, think like a man, act like a lady and work like a dog."
Once we dove in and started aggressively organizing and digitizing the images from the Valley Times, we started to discover a few things. For one, the photos themselves are at times exceptionally good and have a very different look and feel from the images in our Herald Examiner collection. Former Valley Times photographer George Brich revealed that the newspaper's staff were the first in the region to use 35mm film. The editors was so impressed with the results that they began advertising their five staff photographers as "five good reasons to read the Valley Times."
Another thing that has become apparent is that while the Valley Times photos do have a picture-perfect 1950s "Leave it to Beaver" element, they also represent a gradually turning tide of political activism, racial integration, and women's liberation. The latter has become especially obvious as we continuously come across one photo after another portraying women in professional settings.
Mrs. Olive Salembier, one of only two women presidents in the National Security Industrial Association, inspects packaging done at SPEC [Specification Packaging Engineering Corp.] Packaging in North Hollywood. Salembier who was a packaging engineer worked by the motto, "If you want your packaging by noon yesterday, you have to get it here by at least tomorrow."
Musicians, artists, librarians, flight attendants, police sergeants, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, business owners, architects, stock brokers, and physicists are just some of the positions held by women whose accomplishments were captured by the Valley Times cameras. There are also the uniquely "Valley" women such as celebrities like Ann Blythe and Jane Russell who used their time away from movie cameras to be involved in their communities. And let's not forget the pioneers like Frances Muir Pomeroy who's roots were so deeply planted in the San Fernando Valley that she became the region's chief historian and most stalwart preservationist for a number of years. One cannot underestimate the impact a company like Rocketdyne had on the Valley who at one point employed over 2,200 women in positions ranging from secretary to rocket scientist.
Francis Muir Pomeroy, chief historian of the San Fernando Valley, poses with a bell, the first one used at North Hollywood High School, and peaches representing the days when North Hollywood was known as 'Lankershim, Home of the Peach.'
The accomplishments of these women have largely been buried in file cabinets for decades, but are now being resurrected through our efforts to digitize the Valley Times collection. On July 7th, a new Central Library exhibit will be unveiled highlighting the remarkable women of the Valley Times. "Defining Their Identity: The Changing Roles of Women in the Post-War Era as Documented by the Valley Times," will be on display through the end of the year with a companion catalog available for purchase in the Library Store.
An opening reception will be held on Tuesday, July 15th from 6-8pm at Central Library with retired City Council Member Joy Picus delivering opening remarks. This special event is open to the public, so please join us as we celebrate the Valley Times and the women it documented
Top photo: Betty Edwards of Canoga Park is UCLA engineer. Her work is designing installation of electrical utilities throughout Rocketdyne facilities in Valley. Women play important part in company's space age.