In the post-war era the San Fernando Valley rapidly transformed into the quintessential American suburb. Tract homes, swimming pools and shopping centers replaced dairy and fruit farms and vast ranches. With the availability of affordable housing and jobs from the thriving aerospace, aircraft, and manufacturing industries, the Valley’s population boomed. The promise of prosperity inspired new opportunities for leisure time, family life and civic engagement. Membership in social and service clubs soared. Whether people united through shared identities or shared interests in hobbies, civics or philanthropy, the prevalence of club life defined the Valley’s growing community.
The Valley Times newspaper, published from 1946 to 1970, documented the changes to the Valley’s physical landscape through suburban development, but also revealed how social networks impacted society. The activities of organizations representing all aspects of the community dominated the pages of the Valley Times. The variety of clubs from the American Legion to the PTAs, all participated in fundraising drives to support schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, community centers and local charities that were necessary to accommodate the increasing population. Staff photographers documented the numerous benefits— bake sales and bazaars, fashion shows and festivals, luncheons and luaus, poolside barbecues and theme parties. The photographers approached their jobs with creativity and enthusiasm, promoting these events with imagery that was unlike anything seen in any other Los Angeles area publications. At its core, the Valley Times had the sensibility of a small town newspaper that was ingrained in neighborhood life. Readers were invited to see the interworking of its North Hollywood offices, and many staff members, some who were actual members of Valley clubs, were often photographed as active participants in local affairs.
While social and service clubs are by no means extinct, they were an integral part of the social fabric of the post-war era that differs from the way we construct our social lives today. The Valley Times collection provides a unique visual history of the ways people connect to build a community.
Christina Rice | Senior Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection