Genesis Recalled : Home for Aging Loses Old Look, Keeps Memory
During the Depression of the 1930s, two Los Angeles men who were successful in the garment business decided to help some of their less fortunate friends who couldn’t find work.
Abraham Slopkoff and his neighbor, Nathan Ross, scraped together $7,500 and, in 1933, bought eight acres at what now is the corner of Sherman Way and Tampa Avenue in Reseda. They invited three or four families to live in a dilapidated, two-story farmhouse on the property.
“Somebody donated a cow,” recalled attorney Norman Obrand, Slopkoff’s son-in-law. “We brought some chickens out here. The people began growing vegetables. They fixed the place up. Everybody did what they could. Some people made things and sold them at a shed that was turned into a store.”
This 1930s San Fernando Valley version of the Israeli kibbutz was named the Industrial Center for the Aged, which later became the Jewish Home for the Aged. On Wednesday, Obrand was among the old-timers who watched as one of the home’s original buildings was demolished to make way for a three-story residential nursing facility.
Obrand said the home’s founders were pioneers in occupational therapy.
“You had to be 45 to live there,” Obrand said. “In those days, that was considered old. Employers were hiring teen-agers because they would work longer hours for less pay. There just weren’t enough jobs for people 45 and older. Here, everyone was given a job so he could still feel he was useful.”
In the 1940s, the farmhouse was replaced by other buildings so that more people could live at the site. During World War II, the home, which has changed names several times since 1933, was a refuge for about 40 Jews who had fled Nazi Germany. Today, it is one of two residential communities for the elderly operated by the nonprofit Jewish Homes for the Aging of Greater Los Angeles in Reseda.
Almost 800 elderly Jews reside at the two homes, with 520 people at a recent addition at 18855 Victory Blvd. and 250 at 7150 Tampa Ave., the original site, now called Grancell Village after the late Anna and Isaac Grancell.
More Building Plans
Most of the 1940s buildings have been replaced by more modern facilities and Walter Maier, board president, said three new buildings will go up within the next 10 years to increase the homes’ capacity to 1,000 residents.
Obrand, 77, said he was involved in Slopkoff’s project from the beginning.
“I was dragged out here all the time,” he said. “My mother-in-law cooked meals for the residents and brought them out here from Adams and near Central in downtown Los Angeles. It was 26 miles out here, a long trip in those days. We’d come over the Sepulveda Pass in an old touring car. It was a narrow, winding road.”
In 1947, Obrand, who lives in Los Angeles, was elected the home’s first president. He said that others in the Los Angeles Jewish community, especially those in Boyle Heights, where another Jewish home for the age was situated, criticized the founders for bringing people to the San Fernando Valley to live.
“They called it a wilderness,” he said. “There was nothing out here in those days but a few farms. Tampa was just a dirt road.”
In 1979, the two homes were merged and the Boyle Heights facility was relocated to the Victory Boulevard site.
With the outbreak of World War II and the resulting surge of jobs, there no longer was a need to house people in their 40s and 50s, Obrand said. But the need for housing for elderly Jews began growing and the age limit was raised from 45 to 65. The average age at the home now is 88, Obrand said.
The Grancells’ son, Sherman, a retired lawyer, and his wife, Sylvia, watched with Obrand as workers demolished the structure built with funds donated by Sherman Grancell’s late parents. They said they are not sorry to see the old building go because more people will be served in the new facilities.
“Dad and Mother built that building in honor of their parents,” Grancell said. “Originally, they told the home they would put up half of the $28,000 needed to build the building. Dad died when it was halfway built. Harry Friedman, the president then, took us aside and said they would have to mortgage the property to raise the other $14,000. So, we donated the rest of the money.”
Sherman Grancell is a director of the Grancell Foundation, a charitable foundation established by his father that supports the home and other projects. The foundation is financed with profits from his father’s invention, a pipe joint compound used in oil drilling.
“It only started to make real money in 1972 when oil prices went up and they started drilling more for oil,” Grancell said. “Now, it’s sold all over the world.”