Downtown Christmas Shopping District from “The Brady Bunch”Dec 21st, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: Michael's Guest Posts, TV Locations
Today’s Christmas-themed post comes, once again, courtesy of Michael, the fellow stalker who gifted us with the fabulous write-up about The Golden Spoon café from The Brady Bunch back in November. While visiting L.A. last week, Michael tracked down and stalked another BB locale, this one with a holiday slant. After returning home to Minnesota, he asked if I would be interested in having him write a second guest post about said locale and I very enthusiastically replied yes! (I’d also be interested in a third, a fourth and a fifth guest post, if the mood ever strikes you, Michael! ) So without further ado . . .
Fully cognizant that this may now typecast me as the very Brady guest blogger, I’m back with another Brady Bunch location…a very merry Brady location. In the first season episode of The Brady Bunch, “The Voice of Christmas,” Cindy asks Santa Claus for a laryngitis-struck Carol to get her voice back in time to sing the solo at Christmas church services. Before the department store scenes with Santa (filmed on a soundstage at Paramount), brief establishing shots of an outdoor shopping area are shown.
After looking at the establishing shot more carefully, I noticed that the name on the building, although obscured, read “Radio Shack.” Even though the the shot was assumedly framed to emphasize the Christmas trees and Toyland sign in the windows, garland and bow on the lamp post, and children hauling a Christmas tree down the street, I knew Radio Shack was my best bet for tracking down the address.
Last week, while on vacation in Los Angeles, I stopped at the Central Library to search through their archived Western Los Angeles phone books from the 1970s. Letting my fingers do the walking, through the 1975 edition, I found less than 20 Radio Shack locations. Thinking that the establishing shot was of a pedestrian mall, the first listing that caught my eye was for the Golden Mall, in downtown Burbank. Perhaps Mike really was being accurate when he told Carol, “We’re going to go downtown and finish the shopping.”
I then started researching the Golden Mall, and came across a postcard that showed the same unique cane-shaped lampposts with glass globes as in the Brady Bunch clip. Fairly convinced I was on the right path, it was just a matter of finding out more about this shopping district. [Postcard scan courtesy of San Fernando Valley Blog]
In the 1960s and 70s, many downtown areas closed off vehicular traffic to their major shopping streets and created pedestrian malls in an effort to help compete with the growing popularity of suburban shopping centers. Burbank followed suit, and in 1967 closed off six blocks of San Fernando Road, from Magnolia Boulevard to San Jose Avenue. Then, removed of cars, the street was landscaped with grass, angular paths, modern playground equipment, benches, fountains, hexagonal planters, and public restrooms. [1973 photo courtesy of Burbankia]
By the 1980s, the mall was showing its age. There isn’t one definitive reason for the decline of the mall, but some oft-repeated theories involve business owners leery of updating the appearance of their stores only to have the city gobble up their properties as part of a City Centre Redevelopment Project, customers finding parking at the mall to be a chore, and the popularity of more modern nearby regional shopping centers siphoning shoppers away. [1985 photo courtesy of Burbankia]
In an effort to revitalize the shopping district, in October of 1989, the mall was reopened to traffic, and in 1991, Media City Center (now named Burbank Town Center) opened at Magnolia and San Fernando, abutting the former Golden Mall.
Since the Radio Shack address listed in the phone book—100 S Golden Mall—no longer exists, I tried searching for its present-day equivalent—100 S San Fernando Boulevard. Much to my surprise, I came up with a listing for Radio Shack at that address. A recent Google Street View showed a Bank of the West branch in that spot, but archived Street Views showed Radio Shack in its place as recently as 2011.
Worried that everything fell into place too easily, I contacted the good folks of the website, Burbankia. They quickly helped me confirm that the Radio Shack was indeed at that site from the 70s into recent years.
A May 1969 advertisement trumpets the grand opening of the Golden Mall Radio Shack. Seeing as this episode of The Brady Bunch aired in December of 1969, Radio Shack would have been in the midst of its first holiday season during the filming of the establishing shot. According to a recounting posted on Burbankia, this Radio Shack was located in the Gregg Building, which prior to the electronics retailer, housed a drug store.
Metal panels over the second story windows—a mid-century technique to modernize traditional brick buildings—have since been removed, ostensibly leaving the structure closer in appearance to when it was built in the early 1900s.
Although the facade has had some superficial changes over the years, I was happy to notice one similarity between my photos and the establishing shot—the placement of the bus bench along Olive Avenue.
After enjoying breakfast at nearby Frank’s, it was time to check out the former Radio Shack for myself. Although it was a Sunday morning, I’m happy to report that the restaurants lining the former Golden Mall were bustling, and Burbank Town Center was abuzz with families visiting Santa. One can only assume his wish-granting powers are as strong as in ’69.
Thanks again to Mike and Wes at Burbankia. If you’re interested in seeing more photos from the Golden Mall, or learning more about Burbank’s history, I highly recommend their website. Thanks also to the always informative San Fernando Valley Blog for sharing your photos of the mall. And, of course, a BIG thank you to Lindsay for giving me the opportunity to write another Brady-centric post. [Editor’s note – a BIG thank you to you, Michael, for the fabulous write-up! Here’s hoping for more in 2016!]
Stalk It: Bank of the West, aka the former Golden Mall Radio Shack, aka Downtown Christmas Shopping District from The Brady Bunch is located at 100 South San Fernando Boulevard in Burbank.