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Shared memories of Boyle Heights' Wyvernwood

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A post from earlier this week featured a video produced by the Los Angeles Conservancy telling the story of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, a unique 70-acre Boyle Heights complex built in 1939 that, for much of its existence, has been home to generations of immigrants and their Los Angeles-raised families. Much of the footage was contributed by residents who are trying to save the complex, eventually scheduled to become the site of a new condo, apartment and retail development.

In passing, I mentioned a fascinating Facebook page on which former residents, some of whom were raised amidst Wyvernwood's sprawling grassy lawns and winding paths, share memories of growing up there. The most recent entries are a few months old, but they provide such a rich slice of Eastside life, both good and bad, that they're worth sharing in detail. Here are a few, unedited.

From Joe Diaz:

I lived there in the 70's, lost both my grandparents there. It was a great place to grow up Lots of room to play. Had many football and baseball games there friends everywhere so much room WOW what memories. remember hanging out with my best friend Paul in his room with that big ass stereo, He would shake the room with that thing...........

From Gary Perkins:
When we moved here from Iowa we were so lost..
The neighbors took us in and befriended us..
We had never seen an Avocado or a tortilla before..
The neighbors just kept feeding us until we became real Los Angelenos..
As i said before my experience was very positive
I have gone back there many times..
I stopped in the 90's because it got scary
I wish i could go back there now and just walk around all the places i remember.

From Mary Arviso:
This place used to be the best place to live in the world, I wouldnt change my childhood there for anything else ! I cant believe how run down and how many stupid little gangs there are now, its just heartbreaking! My time there was from 1964 until 1982 and if it can be saved and cleaned up as well that would be great! I honestly think that is wishful thinking!

From Matthew Maldonado:
Man I joined this group so I can say this place should be burned to the ground. Besides what do you mean Garden City Community??? hahahaha I lived here 24.5 years!!!Best place to grow up and better place to take your kids and tell them, this is why I moved out!!! lol

From William McKnight:
I moved in this neighborhood in 1981. I was one of the first kids that moved into a section that was once call "grannie-land". Back in the mid to late 70's, they were able to keep families with children out of this area found closest to 8th and Soto just behind McDonalds. When I moved in it was well maintained, gorgeous grass and just a pretty nice spot to live. By Mid to late 80's, gangs began to take over the neighborhood. You knew your neighborhood was rough when Pizza delivery would ask you to meet them at McDonalds. Still it was home. Leaving in 1989 was the right thing for us to do at that time. We left the neighborhood with some fond memories of great neighbors and lifelong friends I made during my stay.

I recently drove by the neighborhood. Things have changed. Fine's Supermarket looked run down. Sears looks like it may fall over. Dacotah street school, my elementary had a different name. Things have certainly changed. At the same time, so much is still there. The Sears I bought my awesome bike when I was 11. walking to Fine's with my buddies to buy chips and springfield soda, and having water balloon fights in the grassy fields in summertime. Seeing the renditions of what may become of this place so many people call home is absolutely scary! Urban redevelopment at the expense of low income families is a disgrace! Hopefully all families can unify and fight this cause for the sake of the community. My heart is still in Wyvernwood: though the good and through the bad.

While demolition isn't imminent, plans were announced in 2008 to replace the 1,187 existing units, home to about 6,000 residents, with 4,400 condominiums and apartments plus retail space. The developers have said some units will be set aside for affordable housing, but many current residents, some of whom have lived there for decades, fear they will still be priced out.