One of the enjoyable web sites I've lately discovered is Walking In L.A., which features photographs taken on walks through various parts of Los Angeles and vicinity not often frequented by tourists and little known to anyone but local residents. Each walk is accompanied by a Google map of the area. In the site's archives, I found a walk from June 11th, 2005, along Garvey Avenue. It has only a few pictures of the street, and a few of areas nearby, most of which I don't recognize, but there is also one picture which immediately caught my eye. It is a picture of the Harmony Lane Trailer Court. To my delight, there was a link above that picture which opens an entire page devoted to pictures of the place.
Aside from the value of the pictures in presenting an example of a particular (and rapidly vanishing) residential type which was once common in Los Angeles, the trailer court, my delight was occasioned by the fact that Harmony Lane is a place in my old neighborhood. I lived a couple of blocks north of Harmony Lane for over twenty years, and probably passed by it thousands of times. I never paid too much attention to it when I first moved to the neighborhood, as it was just another trailer court. They were all over the place then, and their reputation was not particularly salubrious. They tended to be the last stop before homelessness for many Angelenos (many of them elderly and most of them single) in economic decline, and were also often the home of many members of the criminal classes. A common view of the residents was summed up in the still-prevalent term "trailer trash".
But in my childhood, trailer courts had been the frequent recourse of many respectable folk who found them, given the city's tight housing market brought on by the rapid growth of the region during the second world war, a necessary way-stop en route to one of the new tract houses then popping up in former orchards and pastures from San Fernando to Lakewood. I recall visiting friends of my parents who lived in trailer courts, and their places were pleasant and tidy, though restricted in size. In fact, I found the thought of trailer life somewhat alluring at that time. At five or six, the idea that people could just hook up their house to their car and take off was pleasing to me. I was even a bit envious of the trailer dwellers. Trailers seemed almost like land-bound cabin cruisers.
By the time I moved into the house on Jackson Avenue, near Harmony Lane, trailer courts no longer held any glamour for me. The were merely the places where people who couldn't afford real houses or even apartments lived- maybe a bit more bucolic than the SRO hotels downtown where other people in that economic situation lived, but essentially the same sort of thing. Harmony Lane was only one of several surviving trailer courts along Garvey Avenue and some of its side streets in the 1960's, but by the 1980's, when I left the area, more than a few of them had vanished, and each time I passed Harmony Lane, I was touched by a bit of nostalgia for a vanishing way of life. I expected that I'd see the place closed down one day, to be replaced by one of those ubiquitous mini-malls which were becoming a common feature of L.A.'s suburban business streets, but the Harmony Lane persisted, though ever growing a bit dowdier, and the trailers a bit more overgrown by the vines and shrubs which surrounded them.
I've seldom thought of Harmony Lane since moving away from its neighborhood, and finding pictures of it on the Internet was a surprise. In these photographs, it takes on an almost romantic air, though one that is more melancholy than that which it might have evoked for me had I visited it when I was a child and it was much newer and tidier. One of the trailers- a small Airstream of about 1940's vintage, I think- is now so overgrown that it calls to mind an industrial-age version of one of those old English cottages long romanticized by illustrators of children's books and publishers of chromolithographs. Looking at these photos, I can almost imagine myself living in a trailer at Harmony Lane. There are certainly places far worse. In these pictures, though, the driveways and parking spaces are overgrown with weeds, and the trailers appear to be abandoned. I suspect that the place was, at the time they were taken in JUne of 2005, nearing the end of its existence, and may be gone by now. One less bit of the old neighborhood, and one more mini-mall, most likely.
Using Microsoft's Terraserver (which I prefer to Google Maps), one can search on the address 7539 Garvey Avenue, Rosemead, CA, and select the "Urban Areas 2004" link on the results page to see a nice aerial view of Harmony Lane, on the lower left corner of the block. Enlarging the map and clicking on the lower right arrow a couple of times will also provide a nice aerial of Richard Garvey School, the intermediate school I attended in the 1950's. Just about everything else in the neighborhood has changed dramatically since then, though.