Advertisement

It’s Not a Shell Game: Turtlemania Grips Reseda Household

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

To the sugar addicted, turtles are nut clusters decorated with caramel and chocolate.

To kids, turtle is the family name of a cartoon guy, whose first name is mutant ninja.

To Betty Alice Kinder of Reseda, turtles are family.

In addition to raising two sons, a dog, two cats, some rabbits and a guinea pig, she is also den mother to a bale of turtles.

Advertisement

“Let’s see,” says the “Turtle Woman of Reseda,” We have several California desert tortoises, a Texas tortoise, several hybrid Texas and California guys, three box turtles and three red-eared sliders. Most of them were given to me.”

She says her fascination with turtles comes from her mother, who got her first turtle at the time the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was building the spillway in Castaic for the Los Angeles Aqueduct that would bring water to the San Fernando Valley.

“My mother’s father, Sam Arthur, was paymaster on that project when one of the workmen found a motherless baby turtle. My grandfather brought it home to my mother, who named it Petie,” she says. She eventually passed the turtle, and her love of turtles, along to me.

Turtles are perfect pets because they don’t chew up shoes, cause noise pollution or try to dine out on the neighborhood mail carrier, Kinder contends.

Advertisement

They can, and will, however, make a meal of any garden flower you happen to prize, she warns.

Kinder also has found they can nonplus your friends and neighbors. One particular instance with a particularly large tortoise leaps to Kinder’s mind.

“Once, I was out on the patio with my woman’s church group. We were all sitting around in a circle with our heads bowed in prayer. Our minister’s wife, a fine and proper lady, had just finished giving a blessing when she opened her eyes and looked into the face of Big Mama. Her ‘amen’ sounded more like ameeEEEEEEK,” Kinder says.

Kinder admits getting her husband, who once suffered from turtle appreciation deprivation, hooked on the reptiles, though it took a while. But she has always had a way of getting Robert Kinder to change his mind.

Advertisement

The two Van Nuys High School graduates met cute, as they say about movie meetings.

There were two mothers who looked alike and both shopped at a Hughes market in Van Nuys in the late ‘50s, where the 18-year-old Kinder worked as a box boy. The two mothers were amazingly similar. Their two teen-age daughters were not.

“I was your typical blonde, beach-bunny babe and the other girl was a sultry brunette type,” Kinder remembers. “He asked my mom if she thought I would go to the zoo with him that day, thinking my mom was the mom of the sultry brunette.”

Robert Kinder did finally get to take out the sultry one; but he ended up marrying the perky blonde at the Sherman Oaks Church of the Chimes three years after their first date.

Advertisement

Robert grew to like turtles in proportion to the size of the herd growing in his back yard. He is now president of the San Fernando Valley branch of the California Turtle & Tortoise Club, which meets in Canoga Park monthly.

His wife still presides over the family horde of creatures in the back yard.

“We’ve lived in this same house in Reseda for more than 30 years and we’ve always had a yard full of kids, turtles and other animals,” Kinder says.

The Kinders say they have been given almost all of their animals by friends or people who couldn’t keep them, or didn’t know how, adding that their understanding of turtle needs has come from an adult lifetime of conferring with vets, trial and error, and information they’ve picked up by networking with other turtle shelterers in this country and abroad.

Advertisement

Betty Alice Kinder says that although tortoises get eaten by wild animals or pecked to death by ravens when left in their natural environment, it is man who is their worst enemy.

“People like to go out to the desert and use wild desert turtles for target practice. Some go off the road trying to kill them with their cars. You wonder who would want to kill one of these lovely, nonaggressive creatures. What kind of lives can these people have?” she asks.

Nevertheless, turtles live to be a lot older than humans do, and as for survival techniques, we humans could learn a thing or two.

Once, Kinder says, she was having some work done around the house and Pinkie, who is probably 50 years old, was sealed up under the house for several months until he was discovered by a spa repairman. “We had searched everywhere, including under the house for him and couldn’t find him,” Kinder says. “When we did, we were amazed he was still alive.”

Advertisement

She says she spent weeks babying him, carrying him around and trying to get him rehydrated.

Old Pinkie made a miraculous recovery.

Now Pinkie is once again roaming the back yard of the Kinder home in Reseda, scarfing all her prized roses. She says she doesn’t care.

Donor Found in Glendale But No One Wants Transplant

Advertisement

Have you heard the one about the town that wanted to be an organ donor, but couldn’t find anyone who wanted a transplant?

Unfortunately this is not a joke, at least not to the people at the Glendale Redevelopment Agency who have been trying to find a new home for a Wurlitzer organ that they can’t get rid of.

The organ, built for a San Francisco theater, was bought for a private Southern California mansion in the early ‘60s.

The homeowner died and the home was turned into a museum with the Wurlitzer still inside.

Advertisement

But when the good citizens of La Canada Flintridge heard about this organ--which is bigger than a bread truck and has pipes that are taller than a four-story building--the good citizens said no organ performances, Not In My Back Yard.

So, the La Canada Flintridge City Council sold it to the City of Glendale, where the preservation-conscious Glendale Redevelopment Agency thought to install the organ in the city’s restored Alex Theater.

Only problem, according to the agency’s Kirk Pelser, was that the organ wouldn’t fit into the building. “The only way we could have gotten it in the theater is to have permanently removed all the theater seats,” he said.

Glendale, which has spent many thousands of dollars having the thing dismantled, crated, stored and what-have-you, now is not sure just what to do with it.

Advertisement

According to Jeanne Armstrong, the agency’s director, the city has spent many hours trying to find a home for the grand old musical lady, who can even produce the clomp, clomp, clomp sound of horses’ hoofs.

So, if you are looking for a spectacular item for your club or organization’s blind auction, does the city of Glendale have a bargain for you.

Overheard

“No, I never did think about going to Woodstock ’94. There isn’t any more Woodstock, just a bunch of people trying to hustle a buck.”

Advertisement

Young man to mother in Calabasas.


Advertisement