Just as Mark Twain plumbed his boyhood along the Mississippi River for tales of his fictional heroes, so the Cheviot Hills Neighborhood of the 1940’s and 50’s provide the fodder for boyhood memories framed not by a river, but by open spaces from south of Pico Blvd to west of Robertson Blvd. These memories will be not of fictional heroes but real kids (now in their dotage) whose actions and observations will be shared in coming issues of these newsletters.
Before it was reestablished as a public golf course and park in the 1940’s, The Rancho Park Golf Course was just wild open spaces full of rabbits and other critters. The kids and their dogs would go there with bows and arrows and chase whatever was available. Two movies that were shot on the old field included the Story of GI Joe starring Robert Mitchum and Sea of Grass with Spencer Tracy. Sea of Grass used the area as a pretty good representation of the midwest and its open spaces. The cultured and organized baseball facility that is now part of the park was different then. The boys of the neighborhood dragged their own field on to the area where there are now tennis courts. It really was the field of dreams and gave reality to the word sandlot. On the days we were not running around the open spaces,we could sneak into the back lot of 20th Century Fox which is now Century City. Back then it was relatively easy to enjoy an alternative reality with all the old sets and pioneer settings that we could wander at will as long as the security guards did not catch us.
As for Beverlywood, that area was strictly bean fields with lots of agriculture obvious after wandering in the hills that it was full of oil. The tar oozed up and you did not need to be a geologist to know that there was liquid gold underfoot. The area of the Cheviot Hills neighborhood now known as the County Club Estates was another departed golf course known as the California County Club. The kids in the area could run on the greens when the golfers were down the fairway and grab their golf balls hoping they would give chase (which they often did). When one walked to Hamilton High from Cheviot Hills, the easiest way was through a road on the golf course. However,once a year the owners blocked the use of the road so that no one could claim a perpetual easement over it. The other golf course in the area was Hillcrest which was founded by the Jewish entertainment poobahs of the west side because they were not allowed to be members of the club that had preceded it. So the Hillcrest Country Club was popular with the Jack Bennys and George Burns’ of the day. When the Cheviot Hills neighborhood was originally developed, it did not include the area below Glenbarr Ave. That area was slightly newer and maybe more upscale and was known as Monte Mar Vista, definable because it had concrete streets as opposed to the tar macadam of old Cheviot. Everybody attended Overland Avenue School and after school, hung out at the Marshall P Riddick Youth Center for the Cub and Boy Scout meetings. Interesting that after all this time the Riddick youth center still provides a facility for after school and extra curricular activities.