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WHITE FRONT, SOCAL, 1961

White Front department store

White Front? That’s false advertising!

Giant color blocks and a grand space age span of an entrance glorify one of SoCal’s first suburban “big-box” retail chains.

Inside there is no “moody” department store lighting – just a ceiling full of fluorescents. Business is brisk. The parking lot is full. On the right the gull-winged and cat-eyed tail of the 1959 Chevrolet stands out. And on the left a top-of-the-line 1961 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon beautifully trimmed with fake wood trim.

White Front started in Watts in 1955. Mr. Blackman was the owner. He drove a white Cadillac. The name refers to the white fronts of refrigerators he sold. He didn’t offer the decorator colors of the day as other dealers did.

Growing up, my family often shopped at the White Front in my hometown of Ontario, Ca. But one visit stands above all the others. I’ll never forget one Saturday morning in 1970, my mother woke me up and said “Get ready, we’re going to White Front to meet the Brady Bunch!” Before I could say “What?” I was dressed, in the car and ready to go. The Brady Bunch was my favorite show. We got there and stood in line for hours to buy their Christmas album. Then stood in yet another line again to meet them and have them all sign it.

Immediately when we returned home, I played it on the stereo console. But, nobody in my family liked the way the Brady Bunch sang so we never played it again. So there the album sat in the record closet. Decades went by.

One day I decided to go looking for it. Before I got to the old record closet, my mother said, “Oh too bad, I last week donated it to the Goodwill.” So out there somewhere a record collector has a Brady Bunch record with my name on it! I hope they at least like the way the Brady Bunch sings!

Cheers to Colorful White Fronts, the Brady Bunch and you!

Charles Phoenix
Los Angeles, CA