Thursday, June 17, 2010

Details:A Van Nuys Neighbor Remembers- Dave Zoraster

Besides asparagus farming, the Valley, in the pre World War II years ,had a number of large chicken farming operations . One of these was the Zoraster Hatchery close by to the Jue Joe Ranch . Dave Zoraster , a member of the Zoraster family, grew up in the Valley and works with my brother Richard . I think he also worked with my dad, Jack , when my dad was working at the county assessor's office. He was kind enough to send me this wonderful E- mail of memories and pictures. Thanks a million Dave !

(The chicken farming connection continued this year . My Auntie Soo-Yin went to her Van Nuys High School reunion two years ago and met a former classmate of her's , Ed Holloway . They fell in love and were married this year ! Ed's family also had a chicken farming operation in the Valley called the Holly Poultry Ranch at the same time Jue Joe and San Tong were farming asparagus there. It was fitting that at Ed and Soo-Yins wedding the guests were served chicken breasts and asparagus spears for dinner !)

Dave Zoraster writes :
Junior - As you probably know, I work with your brother Richard. I also went to Hayvenhurst and Birmingham with your aunts. More importantly, relative to your blog, my father had a hatchery and then a poultry supply store and manufacturing operation on Vanowen Street in Van Nuys, a half mile east of the Joe Jue Ranch, from the late 1920s (with a gap during the depression) until the early 1960s. I was raised around the corner from my dad's shop on Woodley.
Richard thought you would enjoy the attached photographs. The first one is my dad's shop on Vanowen, probably in the 1940s.

Note the limited paving or finsh to the roadway. Your father used to ride his bike by there and told me sometimes he would drink at the hose bib. At the left the roof was a small house we lived in until 1948 when my dad's business got good and my first brother (I am the oldest of four) was born. The combined need for space and availability of money allowed my folks to buy the abutting lot on Woodley and build a new house. My mother had a story that when they were designing the new house she went to George Chapman, who was the custom home builder in the area. He had built the Jue Ranch House and recommended that she look at it for ideas. (My mom went to UCLA, she may have known one of your great aunts.) Anyway, my mom's story was that based in part on the Jue Ranch House she had Chapman draw up plans for our considerably smaller house. Chapman also of course provided a cost estimate and, as a result, a number of features (a fireplace specifically) got dropped. It was also only one story and was much smaller - major additions were made later as more little brothers arrived. In the end there was very little similarity between the houses.

The second photo is my dad's delivery truck for his hatchery, probably taken in the late 1920s at the back of the Vanowen property. The brick building in the first photo was added on in front of the wood building in the second photo.

The third photo is the grandfather or great uncle of your new uncle. His family had a hatchery in Van Nuys also.
It and the fourth photo are from advertisements in my dad's 1921 and 1922 Van Nuys High School yearbooks.

The fourth photo just gives an idea how small town Van Nuys was then, advertsing a car's power by naming the local people (and their weights) and the local road the car could handle.

Birmingham was a six year school when I started there in the seventh grade, combining junior and senior high school. Your uncle Guy was student body president and I think a star swimmer, one of your aunts was junior high president or something like that. And an awful lot of the student body lived in the housing tract built out of the south three-quarters of the Joe Jue Ranch after it was sold and subdivided.
The theory that the spelling of the name was changed to avoid ant-jewish feelings makes sense, particularily at the time period. Many years later I remember my father enjoying making a crack about the "jews down the street" , to the confusion of whoever he was talking to - your brother Richard is still occasionally subject to such clever repartee. In retrospect I am not sure that my mother, who was jewish, thought it was all that clever either.
I never met your great aunts, but when I worked at the LA County Assessor's Office in the early 1970s I remember Dorothy had quite a reputation in the Van Nuys office. Pre-Proposition 13 property taxes were a hugh burden, particularily if you owned a half mile of unproductive major street frontage. She would come in and raise hell about the property tax assessment. I remember her being called the Dragon Lady by one of the appraisers, after a comic strip character.
I very much enjoyed reading the blog. It is very well written and obviously took a tremendous amount of work. You have a fascinating family. Thanks for sharing it.

Sincerely, Dave Zoraster


  1. Great photos and story! Dave Zoraster and I went to school together from Havenhurst's kindergarten through Birmingham's Jr and Sr high school. His mother, Mrs. Albert Zoraster, a member of Hayvenhurst Elementary's PTA, led the drive to turn a WWII Army Hospital into a Jr. & Sr. high school called "Birmingham," located at Balboa Blvd. and Vanowen St. She was very prominent in civic affairs. The 3rd photo is a baby picture of Uncle Ed's grandfather who founded Holly Hatchery in 1910. We all grew up at a time when rural Van Nuys was just beginning to urbanize. In the last years of San Tong's life he created a vegetable garden on a vacant lot and loved to spend time there. One day an admirer of San Tong's garden approached him. It turned out that he was the L.A. Assessor who re-assessed the Jue Joe Ranch after the lawsuit, and he recalled Dorothy's tantrums! Auntie Soo-Yin.

  2. Here's an addition to the Assessor story: After San Tong died the retired Assessor asked if he could have our father's vegetable garden that he admired so much. Auntie Soo-Jan said, "Yes," because she knew our father would be very pleased. San Tong had liked the retired Assessor very much. Dave Zoraster emailed me that he believes the retired Assessor was his former boss at the L.A. Assessor's Office. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  3. Walter Mendenhall was a friend of San Tong and frequented our home in Van Nuys. He co-owned the "Valley News and Greensheet" newspaper, and was also Vice President of the Van Nuys Land Development Company and Commissioner of the West Van Nuys Subdivision Committee. It turns out that Uncle Ed's father's cousin married Walter Mendenhall's son, Ferdinand. And Uncle Ed's mother's sister married Walter's copartner in the Valley News and Greensheet newspaper. The building in which the Greensheet was housed was owned by the Holloway family. Another friend of San Tong's was John Franklin Capps, owner of a meat department at the Tower Drive-In Market located at Van Nuys Blvd. and Gilmore Street. In addition, San Tong knew Margaret Farlow, owner of a lettuce farm, who led the drive to get Vanowen Street paved; and Walter Petit, along with his son Stanley, who owned a 500 acre beet ranch located adjacent to the Jue Joe Ranch. Walter Reece was another pioneer who introduced alfalfa and Hopi beans to the Valley, a valley which was growing into a major agricultural hub for Los Angeles. There were many other pioneers of the Valley who frequented our house, but these are a few that I particularly remember. Auntie Soo-Yin.

    1. Do you know of any photos of Margaret Farlow's house?

    2. Do you know of any photos of Margaret Farlow's house?

    3. Sorry John , we have no photos of Margaret Farlow's house

  4. Correction on #3 photo of Uncle Ed's grandfather: The baby picture is of Ed's Uncle Harry, the youngest son of Bert. R. Holloway who founded Holly Hatchery located on Sherman Way and Sepulveda in 1910. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  5. I also remember Mrs. Shipman. She was my sister Soo-Jan's piano teacher. Mrs. Shipman's late husband was an engineer who had built the Sepulveda Dam. I recall that Mrs. Shipman was thin and energetic, an older lady with white hair, who liked to swim in our pool on hot summer days. She was a Christian Scientist who introduced my siblings and I to Sunday School at her "12th Church" on Hamlin St. in Van Nuys. We attended Sunday School for about two years. Walter Reece who was San Tong's friend, as mentioned earlier, was also a Christian Scientist who attended the North Hollywood Church. I think he introduced Mrs. Shipman to my father when my father was searching for a piano teacher for Soo-Jan. Auntie Soo-Yin.