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A Chronicle Of The Passing Scene


Heritage Takes Center Stage

The San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center is a place to learn about one's Japanese heritage.

It is also a place to learn Japanese pride.

"Japanese youngsters are never going to be white," says Harold Muraoka, a past president of the center. "We want them to be proud, not ashamed, of who they are."

Parents send their children to preschool here, and there is day care for the community's senior citizens.

On Thursdays, the soft, lute-like sound of Asian music emanates from the center at 12953 Branford St. in Pacoima.

Inside, 10 kimono-clad females, ranging in age from schoolgirls to working mothers, forget the real world hustle-bustle as they learn the intricacies of traditional Japanese dance.

There are also classes in ceramics, judo, basket making, doll making, calligraphy, bonsai and Japanese language.

The center is nonprofit and, outside of some state and matching funding, is supported by the members. About 1,000 member-families pay about $45 annual dues, according to center Executive Director Bill Richards.

Harold Muraoka has been Community Center president "three or four times"--he can't remember--but he does remember going to the old Japanese-American Club in San Fernando when he was a teen-ager. The Japanese-American Club became the Community Center in 1960.

Muraoka is a fourth-generation Japanese-American who spent part of his childhood in a relocation camp.

He says the center membership is composed mostly of Japanese residents of the Valley, but about 10% is interracial.

"Our programs stress the beauties of the Japanese heritage but attract members of the Hispanic, Chinese and other Asian peoples," he says.

Giving the Candidates Fair Treatment

Background checks were high concept during the numerous nominations for attorney general, but final candidates for Antelope Valley Fair manager are in for nothing less.

More than 90 people submitted applications for the $70,000- to $80,000-a-year job as fair head honcho. Candidates ranged from a fast-food store operator to bank officials.

The 54th Antelope Valley Fair is scheduled from Aug. 27 until Sept. 6 at the Lancaster fairgrounds, according to Mel Simas, who is serving as interim fair manager until the winning candidate is announced about March 15.

Ideally, the perfect candidate would have previous major fair experience, as well as solid administrative skills like the ability to hire staff, oversee the $3.8-million budget, conduct contract negotiations with subcontractors, oversee the booking of entertainment and work with the many community leaders and organizations that are an integral part of this event, according to Simas.

Now that the candidates have dwindled to a precious few, a background check is the last hurdle to overcome.

While the manager candidate might not be as meticulously vetted as a national governmental appointee, the check is a serious part of the selection process.

"We will go to the person's friends, employers and neighbors to make sure he or she is who and what they say they are.

We are particularly looking for someone who is considered a valuable member of his community," he says, adding that someone whose resume seems impressive may not look as good in his own back yard.

The Rush to Russian

If you are looking to turn a quick profit from speaking the lingo, forget Lawrence Mak's Russian language class from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, March 3 to May 26 at the Olive Recreation Center in Burbank.

"Many people are in a rush to learn the language, so that they can do business in Russia now that the trade barriers are coming down," Mak says.

Not in the next couple of weeks, next couple of years or, maybe, this lifetime, the language instructor says.

Learning Russian takes years, usually about three years of concentrated effort, according to Mak, who says he has a master's in linguistics from Boston University and has been teaching Russian workshops for about 15 years.

Many English-speaking people find it difficult to ever master the language because it is a matter of learning a whole new alphabet.

"What I do is provide an informal atmosphere to help refresh the language skills of emigres from Russia and give them a chance to converse with others who are also brushing up their languages skills," he says.

Pass the borscht.

Pie Tin Alley

Bakers Square Restaurant and Pie Shop's latest promo seemed like a Pavlovian-perfect lesson in recycling.

The flyer at the counter of the Northridge store tells it all.

Bring back up to six pie tins by March 31 and you get a certificate for a free slice of pie for each tin when you make any other purchase. According to one employee, customers can bring back any kind of pie tin, but if you bring back a Bakers Square tin, you'll also get the 55-cent pie tin deposit back.

According to a company official in Santa Fe, N. M., the concept of the promotion is working out just fine, although there was one unexpected problem. "One person brought in more than 100 pie tins," he said.

The person, an ex-employee, did not get certificates for 100 pieces of pie. The flyer plainly says no more than six tins may be converted to certificates at any one time.

The official didn't want to volunteer what the man did get, but his voice indicated that coal in his stocking would have been just about right.


"Our service club wanted to invite all the candidates for mayor to speak at our next group luncheon, but we decided not to. If we had had to feed them all, it would have emptied our treasury."

--Sherman Oaks woman to friend on the phone

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