Much Ado About Coincidence

To set the record straight, Richard Gunther did not try to sell Nikita Khrushchev a house and a lot in suburbia U.S.A., when the Soviet premier visited the Southland in 1959.

"There's no truth to that at all," Gunther said recently, recalling that earlier flash of publicity. "A series of concidences . . . nothing more."

So, how come the Chronology of American Cities lists the incident among the salient events in Los Angeles for that year?

Four months earlier, builder/developer Gunther and his wife, Lois, had been on a tour of Russia, he said. While visiting the Kremlin, the pair just happened to run into the Russian leader as he was walking out of his office.

Khrushchev flashed a broad grin at the Americans, shook their hands. "But we didn't become instant buddies. What followed was mere coincidence," Gunther added.

While in the Soviet Union, Gunther asked to visit a housing project and a tour was arranged. It so happened that Khrushchev was equally curious to visit an American housing project, and such a visit had been scheduled for his American tour.

Two types of homes had been cleared for the Khrushchev inspection--one tract in the $17,000 class and the other in the $22,000 class, both located on Sophia Drive in Granada Hills.

Little did Gunther dream that of hundreds of housing projects the one selected for Khrushchev's inspection would be in Gunther's own Granada Hills development.

Another coincidence? Well, it just happened to be on Khrushchev's route.

When notified, Gunther was recovering from brain surgery but he was on hand at the housing project to greet the distinguished visitor, bandages still wrapped conspicuously around his head.

A crowd of about 300 persons also waited for several hours to observe the Russian premier's reaction to an American model home.

As it turned out, an earlier visit to 20th Century Fox had cut into Khrushchev's time, and his only inspection of the housing project was a fleeting glance from a motorcade.

Nowadays, Gunther barely remembers the incident except to say: "I guess I missed my big chance to be on the cover of Time magazine."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World