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Northeast Valley Oral History Project

In 2002, writer Emory Holmes II set out to establish a Poetry and Writers workshop at the Northeast Valley Senior Center in Pacoima, California. The project, entitled “Stories from my Hometown,” was largely funded by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Regional Arts Grants Program. As a key component of the workshop, elder citizens, local historians, and senior leaders living in the Northeast San Fernando Valley participated in oral history interviews which focused on migration stories and personal memories. In a culminating event, participants performed their original stories and poems and exhibited a collection of photographs and artifacts that represented their personal experiences. In partnership with CSUN’s Urban Archives in the Oviatt Library, each of the oral history interviews were preserved and made available for research under the title, Northeast Valley Oral History Project.

The Northeast Valley Oral History Project contains twenty-one Pacoima flood, 1978audio interviews of individuals who grew up or settled in northeast San Fernando Valley cities, such as Pacoima, Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, Arleta, and San Fernando between the 1920s and 1970s. This area of the San Fernando Valley has a rich and interesting history that has rarely been studied. The interviewees include an array of ethnically-, racially-, and culturally-diverse individuals, from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds.  

Ku Klux Klan Parade,  Panorama City, California, September 15, 1966While the project was intended to capture the personal experiences of individuals, the interviews also provide a valuable resource for researchers studying important events and issues, such as the first and second Great Migrations of African Americans, the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, US entry into WWII and Japanese Internment, the transition from agricultural to industrial economy in California, discrimination in housing, education, and employment, the effects of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, commercial development, housing trends, the evolution of transportation and road building in Southern California, social and cultural customs and traditions, religious practices, and trends in education.

Since the 1960s, oral histories have gained increasing popularity as important research resources, providing first-hand information about people, places, and events which may have been excluded from mainstream publications or scholarly literature. As a supplement to quantitative research, oral histories may reveal contextually relevant information that serves to support other forms of scholarly information, adding breadth and human dimension to the research experience. Images of some of the individuals interviewed for the Northeast Valley Oral History Project can be found in the Oviatt Library Digital Collections.

Joe Kawasaki, Watson Burns, Joe Louis, and Braxton Berkley, Sr. at a Los Angeles pool hall, March 2, 1938
Mortgage burning banquet for Calvary Baptist Church of Pacoima, January 1963
Mother Rosa L. Broadous receiving PTA of San Fernando Lifetime Membership pin
Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Carter (Julia) in white suits going to services at Community Baptist Church in Pacoima, 1950
Group portrait at a party at Bendix Corporation plant number one in Hollywood in the machine shop, 1960. Raymond Carter is visible at far left in white shirt
Cometa Street near Harding Avenue when there were only three houses on the street, ca. 1930s
Four youths picking oranges near 8th Street and Harding Avenue in San Fernando, ca. 1938
Jennie Endsley singing at the Cotton Club in Culver City, ca 1940
Group portrait of the Purchasing Department at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in Sylmar, 1956
Ground-breaking ceremony for the Mother Gertrude Balcazar Home for Senior Citizens, 1982
Mrs. Claudia Johnson with her daughter Tara at Vaughn Street School (now Vaughn Next Century Learning Center), 1973
Paula, Alfredo, Alfredo Jr., and Armida Lopez in front of their Pacoima home, circa 1955
Mother Ada Robinson, age 91, in white outfit and hat shopping for groceries at Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Osborne Street in Arleta/Pacoima, ca. 2002
Ada Robinson (right) and Viola Wilson (left) dressed for work at a wedding party located at Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles
Group portrait of members of the "Over 50 Club" of Pacoima, ca 1970
Mrs. Storey and a friend in front of their first home in Pacoima, December 1958
Final adoption of son Nathaniel by Mr. and Mrs. Storey, 1970
Angela Velez at Hansen Dam, April 1971

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