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Opinion

Verdugo Views: Local family’s history tied to camera shops

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Noah and Ruby Woodall opened their first camera shop in 1945. Eventually, all three of their children joined in the family business. Pictured from left to right: Noah, Lynn, Ruby, and Dalton Woodall, taken before 1963.
(Courtesy of Christa Woodall)

When Noah and Ruby Woodall opened a camera shop on Commerce Avenue in Tujunga in 1945, it was a small and “humble” place. That’s the way Ruby described it in a family history provided by her great-granddaughter Christa Woodall.

“What’s not in there is that it was her inheritance that gave them the seed money to start their own business,” Christa Woodall wrote in a series of recent emails.

“My great-grandparents moved to California from Arkansas during the Great Depression — in part, because of the economy but also because my grandfather, Dalton, had such bad asthma that doctors said he would die if they stayed in Arkansas,” she added.

Ruby Fowler Woodall taught school before marrying.

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“She started teaching at 16,” Christa Woodall said. “My dad (Howard) said that if it was today, Ruby would have gone on to get an MBA. She was smart and ambitious, the brains behind the operation. But back in that era, teaching was her only option. She was integrally involved in running the business, though, and taught Howard how to develop film.”

The family left Arkansas somewhere between 1935 and 1940.

“Some of Ruby’s siblings had already moved to L.A., and she and Noah already had years of experience in photography and film processing under their belts,” Christa Woodall said.

Supplies, including cameras, were in short supply due to the just-ended war, but a network of friends helped them get started.

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They “soon convinced Foothill residents that they could get the most out of every roll of film left with them for finishing,” Ruby Woodall wrote in her family history.

One son, Dalton, soon left for service in the Air Force as a photographer.

In 1953, Noah Woodall purchased Hagen’s Camera Store on Pacific Avenue in Glendale and moved the photo lab there. When Dalton Woodall returned, he took over the store — after completing a course at Los Angeles Trade Tech and marrying Doris Jensen.

Another son, Lynn, who attended Valley College and married Sharon Cary, managed the Tujunga store until his parents opened a third business, on Ocean View Boulevard in Montrose in 1955. It later moved to 2309 Honolulu Ave.

After Lynn Woodall passed away in 1963, the Montrose store was managed by Bill Hale. Meanwhile, Noah Woodall headed up the Tujunga store until he retired.

Their daughter, Jeannine, attended Cal State L.A., married Eugene Rickman, and raised three children.

“Gene worked in construction but was injured, so Noah and Ruby persuaded him to join the family business,” Christa Woodall wrote.

He learned the latest techniques at Kodak headquarters in Rochester, N.Y., purchased state-of-the-art color-film-developing machinery and ran the photo lab.

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In a 1955 “Western Photo Retailer” publication, Noah Woodall was quoted as saying they were limiting themselves to three stores to maintain close control of the “developing and printing aspects of the business.”

The writer concluded, “a friendly attitude toward the customers and the maintenance of adequate stocks to fill customer’s wants, along with plenty of old-fashioned service, have paid off for the Woodalls and now they’ve got three successful stores to prove it.”

Noah Woodall died in 1986, followed soon after by daughter Jeannine in 1989 and son Dalton in 1990.

Ruby Woodall moved back to Arkansas in the early 1990s and died in 2008 at age 100, “still sharp as a whip,” according to Christa Woodall, who describes herself as the family’s unofficial historian.

“Growing up in Glendale, it was fun that so many of my teachers knew me by my last name as part of Woodall’s Camera Store. I have so many childhood memories of being in the back of the store and joked that photo-developer chemicals ran through my veins,” she added.

Readers write:

Bonnie Frisk-Dombrowski emailed: “I enjoyed your article about the local Glendale hospital. Do you, by chance, have any information about the L.A. Lying In Hospital? My father was born there in 1927, and I am trying to locate it. Thank you.” Readers? Anyone know of this hospital?

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David Flynn, who lives in La Crescenta and works as a firefighter in Tujunga, emailed regarding the recent column on CCC Camp #902. “Might you be able to recommend a place where the fire station might find some of its own history and local photos? We’d love to show some local history here in the station.”

To the readers: I emailed one of my CV gurus, Mike Lawler, who connected Flynn with Regina Clark of the Little Landers (Tujunga) Historical Society, which has a museum at Bolton Hall on Commerce Avenue. Thanks, Mike.

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