Growing Up in L.A. During the Reign of the Night Stalker
The summer of 1985 was the end of my innocence
Author’s note: this story now serves as the introduction in a book about the Night Stalker case, “Eyes Without a Face: The Night Stalker’s Reign of Terror”, available for purchase here.
By the mid 1980’s, the image of life for the millions of people who called LA’s San Fernando Valley home was idyllic. Affordable housing, good schools, and low crime made it one of the more desirable locales in Los Angeles County for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city’s Westside for some good old fashioned suburban peace and quite. Some would say it still is today.
Sure, the region was rife with the usual side effects of rapid growth: sprawl, traffic, and maybe a few too many strip malls. But by the mid-1980s, “the Valley,” or the 260-square-mile swath of land stretching from the Simi Hills on the west to the Verdugo Mountains on the east, had not only carved out a place for itself in the geographical identity of Southern California, but had begun to develop a personality and appeal of its own, too.
This appeal was enough to motivate my parents to put down roots in Canoga Park (or what would become West Hills a few years later). They purchased a four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom stucco home built on what had been a fully functioning orange grove just a few years before. Now it was a cul-de-sac of about 20 or so well-appointed homes.
This was the place where, by the time I had any sense of my surroundings, I found myself. In my first real memories, I was an undersized, nine-year-old Jewish boy with glasses attending fourth grade at Pomelo Drive Elementary.
My life, for all intents and purposes, was good. Los Angeles had served as the host city for the 1984 Olympics, widely considered to be the most financially successful modern Olympics, and the games had gone off without a hitch despite the Eastern Bloc boycott. L.A.’s mayor, Tom Bradley, was reelected in 1985 and became a larger-than-life hero, soon to have an international terminal at one of the world’s busiest airports named after him.
That year we watched The Goonies, Back to the Future, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Rocky IV, and The Breakfast Club on…