Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh Christmas Lights

It's surprising to think that a street named after a humble 3x5 card could be so ostentatious, but drive along Index Street between Louise and White Oak on any December evening and you'll be dazzled by the number of houses with elaborate, twinkling Christmas light displays. The show continues as you wind through the neighborhood on Donmetz, Lahey, Encino, "Candy Cane" Lasaine, and Jellico streets.

This density of decorating can't be an accident, I assume; it looks like an agreed-upon, coordinated effort. And in fact it is, but only in part. This neighborhood light display grew somewhat organically -- one house started up, and then the house across the street from them, and so on, and so on. And ground zero for this explosion of Christmas cheer is Cheryl Ford's house on Jellico Avenue -- the one with the Ferris wheel.

"My husband and I moved onto Jellico avenue in 1977, so this is our 32nd Christmas here," Cheryl says. "When we moved in, there was the energy crunch, and the utilities were encouraging people to conserve, but we had babies, and we wanted to put lights up. It was a mature neighborhood when we moved in, with homes with the original owner, or homes with just one owner that were fifty years old and over, so they had the lights, but they had just gotten out of the habit of putting them up. And then another family moved in with a youngster, and they put lights up, and the next Christmas a few more who had older kids -- they had the lights, and it just kind of grew. And so it really started on Jellico Avenue, where we had houses in a row doing it.

Cheryl says that the annual light show has created a very close-knit community. "It has had such a bonding effect for the whole area, because now over the last ten years, in the square between White Oak and Louise, and San Fernando Mission and Index, we have an annual street party. People bring Toys for Tots, the Fire Department comes and brings a truck and lets the kids climb all over it and take the kids on a ride." The neighborhood parties, which rotate from street to street annually, traditionally take place after the Granada Hills Holiday Parade, which is also the neighborhood's official display turn-on date. "Everybody brings stuff, byob, potluck, and they have a moon bounce. And we put out the first flyer in November, and if anybody needs help, or anybody can help someone else who may be older or whatever put their lights up, they do. So there's a lot of participation that way."

When somebody new moves into the neighborhood, are they warned about what they're getting into? "Absolutely," Cheryl says. "The broker lets them know. But then again, some people want to move here because of all the participation, how fun it is. There's a regular parade of cars going through here."

Asked if there is a downside to the light display, with traffic or any other problems, Cheryl answers with an emphatic no. "It hasn't gotten to the point like that area near Pierce College, Candy Cane Lane. People park their cars, walk the street. Or people drive by, they get out, they take pictures of their kids in front of the Ferris wheel or in front of the other displays at the other houses. And we have carolers who come here, because people who decorate for Christmas are receptive to hearing Christmas carols. Bruce on Lahey, he had the American Flag on his house for a number of years after 9/11, and airplanes would fly over, helicopters would fly over, just to see that flag. That was a real treat for everybody."

Cheryl describes a scene that is quintessentially Granada Hillsian -- the town putting on its best, and certainly most well-lighted face. If we are in fact "The Valley's Most Neighborly Town," then it sounds like the Index/Mission/White Oak/Louise quadrant is the most neighborly town's neighborlyest neighborhood, and Jiminy Christmas, that's neighborlyness cubed.

"People on my street, Jellico, are very involved in the community," Cheryl says. "We consider Granada Hills a Mayberry. It's different from a lot of places -- it still has kind of a small-town feel. Here on Jellico Avenue, it's a very stable community with very little For Sale signs. People have been here a long time. The camaraderie of the neighborhood, a lot of that started because of the Christmas lights."

7 comments:

  1. I really miss the house with the giant light up American flag over the garage. It's been MIA the past few years.

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  2. I was born in Granada Hills, I grew up in Granada Hills, and now I live here with my wife and daughter. It is truly a Mayberry, just like your blog says. However, I don't remember Floyd's Barber Shop having Korean writing..... just stating the obvious.

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  3. That sounds like something Otis would say.

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  4. My family and I live in the Knollwood area of GH for 11 years now and have visited the GH "Candy Cane" Lane each year. We absolutely love the small town feel GH has to offer in LA County.

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  5. It's interesting how there will also be pockets of beautifully decorated homes in areas that are not doing a lot of lighting. For example, there is a house on Mendel Drive, which is a short cul-de-sac off of Westbury Drive where I live, that has a great Christmas light display every year. Clearly they are in to it too because it changes and grows bigger a little each year. We always walk up there to see what they have done each year.

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  6. Maybe next year you should knock on one of the doors of one of the houses that's not decorated to ask how they feel about living on a street that gets constant traffic throughout the month of December and ask them if they perceive any downsides.

    I'm just waiting for one of the idiots driving with his headlights off to hit one of the other idiots walking down the same street with no sidewalks in dark clothing.

    I don't really care how or whether people decorate their homes and I don't really care that other people want to come and look, but please do drive at a reasonable and safe speed, do NOT turn off your headlights for a better view, and don't walk in the middle of the street in dark clothing with no reflective material.

    Just saying, it's not all fun and light.

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  7. I enjoy this area every year. We make it a point to do so. We are Jewish, and so this has never been a part of our traditions, but seeing the lights "Christmas lighting" as my dad used to call it, IS a tradition. We live close by, and love the beauty, and appreciate all the hard work the people do to make such a great place.

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