Tom LaBonge

by Richard Bogy, past president of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce

On January 7th Toluca Lake lost a great friend, supporter, leader and cheerleader with the passing of Councilmember Tom LaBonge. Tom was a man of limitless energy and passion, who possessed a huge heart. He loved people. He loved Los Angeles. He loved Toluca Lake.

Tom’s contributions to our community are simply too long to list here, but suffice to say that Toluca Lake continues to be a very special place thanks to Tom LaBonge.

Tom was born in the Silverlake community of Los Angeles in 1953. A generational Angelino who attended John Marshall High School, where he shined as a football player and later as a coach (while coaching at Marshall he mentored a young Andy Reid, now coach of the Kansas City Chiefs). A devout Catholic, Tom’s father was the publisher of the Catholic news “The Tidings.” Tom always had a loaf of pumpkin bread ready to say “thank you” to people who gave of their time for the 4th Council District. It was not just his way of showing his appreciation for people who gave to the community, but also his way to support the Monastery of the Angels, who baked the bread for him.



Tom loved Los Angeles and as a young man decided he wanted to commit his life to the City. In 1976 he went to work for Councilmember Peggy Stevenson, then joined Council President John Ferraro’s office in 1978. Tom also worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and was Chief of Field Operations for Mayor Richard Riordan. In 2001, after the passing of John Ferraro, Tom was elected to fill his mentor’s seat. He served as Councilman for the fourth district until he termed-out of office in 2015.
Tom was passionate about Griffith Park, the largest urban park in America. Under his leadership the Park acquired additional land, including expansions of the Cahuenga and Burbank Peaks, and he stopped planned development of surrounding open space. He worked to ensure the success of the Los Angeles Zoo and the Autry National Museum. Tom famously led tours through the Park, including his solstice walks to watch the sun go down over the City that he loved. He could be found hiking through the Park most mornings and was always quick to stop and talk to other park lovers. He especially enjoyed meeting visitors from other countries, and was always glad to tell them about the history and the sites of Los Angeles.

Tom famously carried garden tools, rakes, brooms and trash bags in the trunk of his car, and as he drove through the City if he was to see an overflowing trash can or litter in the street he would jump from his car, put on his orange safety vest, and clean the street, gutter and sidewalk.

Tom’s greatest love though was his family. The joy of his life was his wife Brigid, daughter Mary-Cate and his son Charles. Though we will all miss him greatly, he will live on in the memory of all who knew him.

A Sweltering Day in Toluca Lake

by Ron Babbini

It’s HOT in Toluca Lake, so a Toluca Lake story to make us feel cooler.:

In July, 1945, Mel Torme went to his song writing partner Bob Wells‘ home in Toluca Lake. There he saw Wells playing a catchy new tune on the piano.

It was a sweltering day, and they decided to write lyrics to the tune that would make them feel cool. Hence, they wrote one of the most popular ever Christmas songs (in my mind, a quintessential Manhattan song) in the heat of summer in Toluca Lake:

Watch Nat King Cole – “The Christmas Song” (1961)” on YouTube

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

So I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas to you

Songwriters: Mel Torme / Robert Wells

Remembering Toluca Lake

The China Trader

The location of the Trader is now partially a public green space, partially Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theater and partially a retail space. You can find some souvenirs from the China Trader on e-bay.

China Trader 300The China Trader was owned by Jack Webb, creator of Dragnet, Adam 12 and Emergency. Jack’s ex-wife was Julie London – who married Bobby Troup after she and Jack divorced. It was, however, a “friendly” divorce – and all three remained close friends, which is why Bobby (and Julie) were often found performing at the China Trader. The China Trader was opened when both Trader Vic’s (Beverly Hills) and Don the Beachcomber (Hollywood) were all the rage, and The Trader filled that themed South Pacific lounge/restaurant niche in the San Fernando Vallley. Continue reading “Remembering Toluca Lake”

Jack Ritter Photo Albums

Thank You to Jack Ritter for preserving these photo albums and memories.

Thank You to Peter Generales for sharing the albums with us.

Thank You to Steve Hampar for having some of the pages of this photo album scanned so everyone can see them.


These photos seem to have been taken in the 1980s and show the year each business was established. Notice the Bogy Company dating back to 1910. Please share with us any memories these people and stores bring to mind, and let us know if you would like to see more from these albums. Continue reading “Jack Ritter Photo Albums”

General Charles Forman Toluca Lake’s Founding Father

by Richard Bogy

One of the most popular television shows of the 1960’s was Bonanza, which told the story of a fictional character named Ben Cartwright. But was that character really fictional? Well, perhaps not entirely. There was a real person whose life greatly mirrored that of the television character, and that person is Toluca Lake’s founding father General Charles Forman. Continue reading “General Charles Forman Toluca Lake’s Founding Father”

When North Hollywood Was a Town Named Toluca

Toluca Lake birdseyeby Nathan Masters

Some of Southern California’s “lost towns” never actually vanished; they simply assumed new identities. That’s what happened to one small San Fernando Valley farming village that sprang up in the late 1880s — a village we know today as North Hollywood.

The town’s name was born unstable; in its early years, residents feuded over what to call their home.

Some preferred Lankershim — a name that honored James B. Lankershim and his father Isaac. In 1888, Lankershim subdivided the easternmost 12,000 acres of his father’s old wheat ranch, carving the vast tract into farms of 10 to 80 acres each. On the map advertising the new venture, the Lankershim Ranch Land and Water Company identified a prospective townsite where the old road to the San Fernando Mission crossed a newly graded road, Central Avenue. The map identified the townsite as Lankershim.

Many of the residents who settled there disregarded the map’s suggestion. Instead, they called their town Toluca. The name’s origins are… Read more at KCET.org

A Tale of Four Toluca Lakes

by Richard Bogy

Toluca Lake Park Sign
Toluca Lake Park Sign

Beginning in 1922, as construction of Lakeside Golf Club of Hollywood moved forward, a group of land investors began to buy the farms to the north of the Club. They had an idea to build what would become the first “bedroom” community for Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. Initially the project was to be called Toluca Lake Park. By 1923 the project was stalled. Investors from nearby Hollywood joined the project and formed The Toluca Lake Company. With new capital and fresh ideas the project moved forward. The community name was shortened to Toluca Lake, and a community plan was created that included an architectural vision and four distinct areas within Toluca Lake. Throughout the Toluca Lake community signs were installed that featured the Toluca Lake Company logo; a swan over rippled water. Some of those original community signs remained as late as the 1970’s. Continue reading “A Tale of Four Toluca Lakes”

History of Thee Toluca Lake Swan

by Richard Bogy

In 1923 The Toluca Lake Company introduced the familiar Swan Shield logo, which features a distinct white swan, poised in silhouette atop two rippling water lines and set against a forest green scalloped shield. Below the swan was the simple wording “Toluca Lake.” That logo was the first association between a swan and the Toluca Lake community. The design of the swan and shield was intended to bespeak the affluent, lush and calm nature that is our community. The Toluca Lake Company placed numerous signs throughout the community featuring the Swan logo, however by the 1970’s all of those original signs had been stolen.

In the 1950’s the Toluca Lake Company agreed to allow the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce to use the by-then famous image as their own symbol, and today – 65 years later – that historic Swan and Shield continues to be the identifying logo for the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce. Over the years some have tried to create alternative swan images for their own organizations, but there is still just one true and original Toluca Lake Swan logo carefully guarded by The Chamber and cherished by those who love this community.

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