The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on March 31, 1994 · Page 59
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 59

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Thursday, March 31, 1994
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LOS ANGELES TIMES F THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 1994 B5 Around the Valley - ( Sleepless in Lancaster, or How I Learned to Love Metrolink By JOHN CHANDLER TIMES STAFF WRITER We are the few, the proud and the sleepless. It's shortly after 4 in the morning as we trudge into the Metrolink station in Lancaster little more than a tent and ticket machine alongside the railroad tracks to catch the first train south to city jobs for the day. I'm there just to test the system, but for most of the two dozen - bleary-eyed folks waiting, it's an everyday ordeal. Welcome to the world of Antelope Valley commuters, who ride the Metrolink trains begun on an emergency basis a week after the earthquake. Jarring me out of the darkness of sleep, the alarm clock went off at 2:30 in the morning, time enough to quickly shower, dress and drive to the station. On the first day, I figure, you want to allow a little extra time. Then I think again with dismay, "2:30, that's a time for going to bed, not for getting out of it" But these days, extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary responses. With the normal commute route along the Antelope Valley Freeway closed for months due to collapsed overpasses, and the hastily arranged bypasses a frequent traffic nightmare, crazy alternatives suddenly start to sound sane. So with the 4:11 a.m. train rumbling nearby, I queue up to plunk my fare into the automated ticket machine, $6.50 one way for the trip south to Sylmar and then a van on to work in Chatsworth. But even the machine doesn't awake until 4 a.m., leaving those of us who lack monthly passes a slim 10 minutes to grab our tickets. In the end, no one is left behind. But the crowd VMamar' " lJ1-:-. , 1 i Photo Illustration by RICARDO De ARATANH A Lot Angeles Tlmei gets more than a little edgy as one man gums up the machine trying to insert his bills the wrong way. When my turn comes, the machine efficiently takes a $5 bill and a $1 bill, only to reject the final frayed $ 1. Fortunately, I have others to try. A Metrolink-riding tip: Carry lots of crisp, new bills. Inside, the rail cars are a pleasant surprise clean, free of obvious graffiti and with comfortable, mauve-cushioned seats in marked contrast to the dirty, permanently etched and battered RTD buses I've ridden in the past. With the doors closed, we begin rolling south for the two-hour ride into the San Fernando Valley. "This is actually a late trip for me. When I drive, I leave earlier," confessed David Banks of Lancaster, a supervisor with the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority who works in downtown L. A. He too gets up at 2:30 to make the morning train three days a week, showering the night before and skipping breakfast until work. He makes me feel better. Banks says he's been driving for 23 years. Before the earthquake, he left home at 3:30 a.m. to get to work by 4:45. He could have begun work later but always left early to miss freeway gridlock. Now, after the quake, his former 75-minute drive is a 2V4-hour train ride. His train typically gets to Los Angeles just before 7 a.m., about 15 minutes late. Despite the loss of time, Banks and others say they'd rather relax reading the newspaper and snoozing on the train than fight the freeway commute. Banks figures that he'll ride every day if Metrolink can cut 45 minutes off the trip by this summer, as promised. Meantime, many neighbors stay with their cars, he says. The trip out of the Antelope Valley is unexpectedly quiet and soothing, with only an occasional clackety-clack on a section of rough track to disturb the morning. Seta Baltakian, a bank supervisor who boards the train down the line in Acton, where she lives, calls her daily round trip to downtown L. A. "a third job," after her family and work. "You're spending six hours on the train for nothing," said Baltakian, who gets up at 3:30 a.m. and is lucky to get to bed by midnight. But she still calls' Metrolink a blessing, saving her from traffic hassles. "Coming home was the problem. I drove one day and I said, 'No more.' That day when I drove home, it was horrible. People were mad, driving like crazy," she said en route to Santa Clarita. "No one wants to drive." Some people move to the Antelope Valley and find they can't hack the 120-mile-plus round-trip commute. Many more stay and bear the stress that has multiplied since the earthquake. But ask people like Banks and Baltakian if they would trade the open spaces and peace of their homes for a shorter commute, and the answer is a resounding no. So we get up at insane hours, fight the freeways or spend one-fourth of the 24-hour day on the train. Yes, Metrolink's north county line the system's busiest, carrying about 9,000 passengers a day often runs late because the trains tend to stop suddenly between stations and wait up to 10 or 15 minutes for track clearances. There are restrooms on board, but much to the dismay of passengers, there's no on-board food service, leading one rider to jest: "There's airline flights shorter than this that serve dinner." And regulars tell stories of the times that their trains hit . a truck (or a person who wants to end it all), and the ensuing delays. By 6:15, about 15 minutes late, my train finally pulls into the Sylmar station after a two-hour ride. A 20-minute wait for the van and then a 30-minute drive to Chatsworth gets me to the office by 7 a.m. For the record, that's a three-hour trip about two hours longer than if I drove. It's now 4V$ hours into my day, and I'm ready to start work with a sour stomach and feeling like I've got a hangover, despite not having touched a drop. For the time, I decide it makes more sense to savor two hours of extra sleep every morning and then put up with the traffic. Yet I also keep thinking about Metrolink and hoping that it will become a workable and convenient alternative for me, eventually. And I remember what Banks told me about Antelope Valley residents who start their days when the night is still young: "It'll get you this afternoon." "is Wendell Niles, Veteran (Of Radio and TV, Dies b Broadcasting: The longtime Toluca Lake resident was announcer on shows by Bob Hope, Milton Berle. By DAVID E. BRADY SPECIAL TO THE TIMES Wendell Niles, a veteran radio and television announcer who worked with such golden age per-. Jformers as Bob Hope, George Burns and Milton Berle, has died at his San Fernando Valley home. He was 89. "A Toluca Lake resident for 55 i years, Niles died Monday of cancer, -said his son, Wendell Niles Jr. j?Among his many credits, Niles served as announcer for such radio iad television programs as "The JljDb Hope Show," "The Milton fterle Show," "The Colgate Come-M Hour," "The Tennessee Ernie t$rd Show," "It Could Be You" and JThe Chase and Sanborn Hour," With ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. J- 'He was one of the greatest radio t$rsonalities of our time and he Jwas a great friend," Berle said in a prepared statement. "He had one til the best voices the radio has Jrer known." Said Hope in a statement: "With . JSSendell's death, we're seeing the 3ssing of a great era. He was a Jfue pioneer." -Niles also appeared in more than JLfaree dozen motion pictures, intruding "Knute Rockne, All Amer ican," with Ronald Reagan in 1940. In 1960, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio. Born and raised in Livingston, Mont., Niles began his show business career in the 1920s as the leader of a nationally touring orchestra. In the early 1930s, he settled with his family in Seattle, where he worked as the announcer for radio station KOL. Niles came to Los Angeles in 1935, joining George Burns and Gracie Allen's radio show as the announcer. With his late brother Ken, he developed what would become the radio drama "Theatre of the Mind." During World War II, he toured with Bob Hope, entertaining armed forces across the globe. In 1953, Niles told The Times that announcers faced a challenge unique to live broadcasts keeping the audience's attention during the commercials. "An announcer has to perform like mad every second he is on camera or before the microphone to keep some semblance of attention so that the stars will have an audience when the sponsor's appeal is completed," he said. During the late 1960s, Niles cre- niK ma in am bi i u 11 y i ry - .i Obituaries Wendell Niles ated a weekly television spotlight of aspiring performers, "Your Ail-American College Show." He served as the program's executive producer. "When vaudeville dried up and radio quit, there were really no sources for new talent," he told The Times in 1968. "I realized new talent had to come from the colleges. There are over 3,000 colleges in this country and they're all loaded with talent." In addition to his son Wendell Jr., Niles is survived by another son, Richard Niles; a brother, Donald Niles; a sister, Grace Campbell, and nine grandchildren. At Niles' request, there will be no funeral. A private memorial service will be . held at a later date. Barney, Margaret M., 50, of Van Nuys, homemaker. Aftercare California Cremation & Burial Society, Van Nuys. Brlbiesca, Jesus Nicolas, infant, of Reseda. Rucker's Mortuary, Pa-coima. Brown, Jasmine, infant, of Panorama City. Rucker's Mortuary, Pacoima. Cooper, Timothy P., 33, of Sherman Oaks, dancer and choreographer. Aftercare California Cremation & Burial Society, Van Nuys. Cuzzort, Jerry Wayne, 59, of Littlerock, spot welder for Ronan Engineering Co. Bade's Newhall Mortuary, Newhall. Delbruegge, Sharon Lockwood, 55, of Northridge, assembler for Data Products. Eternal Valley Mortuary, Newhall. Duncan, Margaret H., 81, of Burbank, retired waitress for Bob's Big Boy. The Valley Funeral Home, Burbank. Gross., Carlo, 53, of Lancaster, owner of Grossi Tire Co. Murphy Mortuary, Lancaster. Jelinek, Mary Veronica, 77, of Canyon Country, retired security guard for Sears. Eternal Valley Mortuary, Newhall. Jimenez, Maria de Carmen, 47, of Lindsay, Calif., formerly of Pacoima, homemaker. Rucker's Mortuary, Pacoima. Karp, Beulah Mae, 72, of Moline, 111., formerly of North Hills, home-maker. San Fernando Mortuary, San Fernando. Lowman, Kevin P., 31, of Burbank, construction technician. Eckerman-Heisman Funeral Service, Burbank. Odess, Gertrude Silverman, 95, of Reseda, volunteer for Jewish Home for the Aging. Hillside Mortuary, Los Angeles. Ramirez, John, 44, of Arleta, inspector for Ruker Laboratories. San Fernando Mortuary, San Fernando. Ramirez, Jose, 80, of Pacoima, retired farm laborer. Rucker's Mortuary, Pacoima. Stefanic, Tommie D., 43, of North Hollywood, assistant manager for Sizes Unlimited. Pierce Brothers Valhalla Mortuary, North Hollywood. Troia, Jack F., 78, of North Hollywood, retired foreman for Continental Steel. Praiswater Funeral Home, Van Nuys. Ward, Jimmie L., 62, of Pasadena, systems analyst for Lockheed Corp. Chapel of the Valley Mortuary, Palmdale. ':) Whitehead, Kathryn S., 71,, of Burbank, retired clerk for Lockheed Corp. The Valley Funergl Home, Burbank. Obituaries are published free 'of charge as a public service to reader. They are based on Information provided by mortuaries. 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