Tales of Tujunga

November 18, 2008 § 4 Comments

I know, most of my posts are tales of our waters, but it is something special to be able to sit down with an old-timer whose childhood included explorations and adventures in the days before concrete.  I met Don Mullally a month or so ago, at one of the public meetings for stream protection.  He was a fierce advocate for protecting our remaining waterways, and had extensive knowledge of the streams and trails in the Santa Susana Mountains.  I told him I wanted to interview him about the LA River, and he went above and beyond, writing his memories down for me.  I will present them, with additional notes from our conversation, over several posts.  Don was born in 1929, and has lived his life in the LA area.  His recollections on birds of the LA basin will also be published serially in the San Fernando Valley Audubon newsletter, Phainopepla.

Recollections of Don Mullaly:  North Hollywood and Tujunga Wash

Path of Don's childhood recollections on Tujunga Wash.  Compare his description with what's here today!

GoogleEarth image of path taken by Don and pals up the Tujunga Wash. Compare his description with what's here today.

From 1943 to 1945, Don and his boyhood friends would take streetcars from West Hollywood over the Cahuenga Pass to North Hollywood Park, near Magnolia and the I-170 today. From there, they would hike up Tujunga Wash to approximately where a May Company (now Macy’s, he believes) was later built.

“The Tujunga Wash…ran across the San Fernando Valley to the western side of the Park. It probably received storm water runoff from Pacoima Creek, Little Tujunga Creek, and Big Tujunga stream. The Wash was approximately 100 yards wide and when dry resembled a desert with very few trees and patches of low shrubs; buckwheat, I believe.

Our goal was to reach the Wash. Once there, we walked upstream or north searching for whatever animals lived in it. The Wash was flanked by wide open spaces having very few and widely separated houses. Observed in the Wash were rabbits, quail, mourning doves, small birds, and lizards. Also one huge green headed bullfrog washed down from some distant pond…

Within a mile or two an abandoned gravel pit was soon discovered on the eastern side of the wash. The pit contained a lake occupied by ducks and mud hens (coots). On one occasion a group of the mud hens was noticed to be foraging beyond the shoreline. Having read that these birds sometimes froze in place when surprised, I rushed down a slope onto the birds. One became immobile, was captured, and taken home. It proved to be of little interest and was released.

On two visits I brought my trusty Daisy BB Air Rifle. A couple of roosting quail and a dove were shot dead, taken home, and eaten for dinner…

On one visit I found Tujunga Wash in flood stage. The river was large and fast moving with trains at least three foot high standing waves in the current. Across the river a house was balanced on a bank: half over the water, and half on land. (Don later stated that he learned to stay out of the washes during rainstorms from this experience.)

On rainy days sea gulls flew overhead the length of the river. I once tried to shoot some down with bow and arrow. Strings were tied to te back ends of the arrows. No luck. As a youth I was a predatory Daniel Boone!”

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§ 4 Responses to Tales of Tujunga

  • Sebastian Hernandez says:

    … please check out this short doc I did about the river. [http://caljo.org/xdoc/deathlbc.mov]

  • […] Don’s tales of Tujunga can be read here. […]

  • Tom Giannini says:

    In the early 50s we lived in Tiara St and my Mom shopped at Alexander’s Market, which was located somewhere on the wash (I can’t remember where exactly – I would guess east of what’s now I-170 and south of Oxnard St.). After she did her shopping, she would get a large cardboard box from behind the store and put me in it (I was probably 4 years old) and give me a push down the gravelly bank of the river. We’d spend half an hour doing this repeatedly (until the bottom of the box wore out). I loved it so much; a really special time with my Mom and a really happy memory of growing up in the Valley.

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