Saturday, May 29, 2010

Congrats to the BHS Grads of 2010!

Graduates Mary Beth Medina, left, and Amelia Nino snap a photo together at the Burbank High School Graduation held at Starlight Bowl Friday. (Alex Collins)

Burbank High School: 'This is it' for 670 students

By Max Zimbert
May 29, 2010
Burbank Leader

Ani Vertanous and Sabina Agazarian said they've been friends since middle school, but walking up the hill to the Starlight Bowl for their Burbank High School commencement Friday, they started yelling.

They weren't going to be sitting next to one another for the ceremony, but they said that didn't take away from their sense of accomplishment, relief and joy.

"It feels amazing," Vertanous said. "It's the end, and I accomplished everything."

The two will be going to Pasadena City College next year, representing two stories among the almost 670 graduating seniors who became alumni Friday night.

"Senior year was the best year," said Tyler Wells, who'll be enrolling at Glendale Community College.

His family flew in from the Bay Area. For his mother, Fran Wells, reflecting on her son's accomplishments and growth in the last four years almost made her cry, she said.

"I'm so proud and excited for him," she said. "And he's going to be around, and we're happy to have him."

While Tyler Wells will be in the neighborhood next year, the commencement theme "This Is It" rang true for many others who'll be moving far from home, like Aaron Frank.

"In ninth grade we had a speaker who said, 'No regrets,'" said the incoming Syracuse University freshman. "I pushed myself and made sure I never regretted any decisions I make."

Same with Sophie Irwin, who'll be going to college in Alabama. Her father, Steve, said he's gotten accustomed to not seeing Sophie much.

"This year, we barely saw her," he said. "She'll be back on major holidays. We have a small house, the extra elbow room might be nice."

Baseball teammates Sam Levitt and Lonnie Kauppila said that with several graduating seniors, the lineup is likely to enter a rebuilding phase. Kauppila will be playing baseball at Stanford University next year, while Levitt enrolls at UCLA.

"I'll see him when he's in town [playing UCLA]," Levitt said. "It hasn't hit me yet. I'm looking forward to the future, but I'm trying to remember everything that happened during high school."

Clad in blue caps and gowns, students milled around the grass behind the bowl's seats, taking pictures and celebrating their final moments in Burbank Unified.

"They are so close with one another and friendly, and just really nice kids," said Carolyn Grogan, an English teacher.

For Daniel Flores, one of the student speakers, it was a moment he wasn't sure he'd see.

Freshman year was his low point, he said. The next year, he transferred to Monterrey High School, made up 127 credits and returned to Burbank High, giving up horseplay for career goals.

"The message is, no matter who you are or what you want to do, you can do it," he said. "This is a very special moment for me right now."

That's what "This Is It" was all about, said Mary Beth Medina, the school's student board member and a graduation speaker.

"This expression depends on every senior here," she said in her address. "It's not what you say, it's about what you do . . . We made it through. Now, welcome to your future."


MEMORIAL DAY: Mickey De Palo (BHS '64) & Greg Alaimo (BHS '66) in the Burbank News

Memorial Day about all vets
Vietnam veteran heads up committee to remember residents who died serving their country.

Looking over names for the Memorial Day Ceremony of the Rose at McCambirdge Park War Memorial in Burbank are, from left, Mickey De Palo, Doris Vick and Greg Alaimo, on Friday. Memorial Day festivities will include a flyover by the Condor Squadron. (Raul Roa)

By Joyce Rudolph
May 29, 2010

Vietnam War veteran Mickey DePalo continues to serve his country — and his city — as chairman of the Burbank Veterans Commemorative Committee.

DePalo works with about 14 other members to organize programs for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other programs that salute Burbank residents who have served and are still serving their country.

"I think the committee's purpose is that we want to honor all veterans and honor and remember all the soldiers and Marines who have died in service to our country," he said.

Also important to the committee, he added, is the support of the loved ones left behind.

"We want them to know that we do care, and we are indebted to them for the service their loved ones have made for us," he said.

Monday's Memorial Day service at the McCambridge Park War Memorial will start out with a fly-over by the civilian Condor squadron and the Burbank Community Band playing patriotic music. The Ceremony of the Rose follows.

"We have committee members read the names of all the soldiers and Marines that appear on the memorial plaques, and Boy Scouts lay a red rose at the memorial for each name," he said, describing the ceremony. "That's the highlight of the day."

The committee members will also read the names of the two Burbank members of the armed forces who died during the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I work with a great group on the committee and city staff who are really passionate in making sure our ceremonies are as dignified and sensitive as possible to the veterans and their families," DePalo said.

The committee also worked to bring The Moving Wall, a half-scale replica of the Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, for a week to the McCambridge Park War Memorial in 1998. It displays more than 58,000 names of soldiers who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

"We had 20,000 people who came to see it during that week," DePalo said.

People made etchings of the names of loved ones by scratching a pencil over a special paper applied on top of the name.

"This was an opportunity for families who couldn't get to Washington, D.C., to see it," he said.

The commemorative committee also organizes a military banner program, an idea introduced by member Chris Welker. Families can have their children's names placed on a banner that is hung on sign and light posts around City Hall.

"When that soldier or Marine comes home, we present the banner to the service personnel who have completed their active duty," DePalo said.

DePalo's commitment to the commemorative committee was touted by Gaby Flores, deputy director of recreation services for the Burbank Parks Recreation and Community Services.

"Mickey's passion for the Burbank community and veterans everywhere is really exemplified through his leadership in the Veterans Commemorative Committee and through his continued dedication of veterans," she said. "Mickey has helped cement a communitywide awareness of the plight and sacrifices of our fallen and living heroes."

Retired from 41-plus years with the recreation department, DePalo took a military leave of absence from the city from 1969 to 1971 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Following basic training he was assigned to military police school and then stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where he worked as a military police guard for the U.S. disciplinary barracks.

After four months there, he was sent to Vietnam where he was a military police sergeant at the U.S. Army Installation Stockade at Long Binh in Vietnam.

Following his service, DePalo returned home to Burbank and continued working for the city of Burbank in the parks and recreation department. He retired in 2008 as a recreation supervisor overseeing the Verdugo Recreation Center.

In 1988, he was asked by Rich Inga, then-director of the parks department, to be the city liaison to create a Vietnam War memorial plaque at the McCambridge Park War Memorial.

He worked on that effort with World War II veteran Bob Lundigan and Frank and Roberta Bullock, whose son Brian died during the Vietnam War. They also created a plaque of names for Burbank residents who died in the Korean War.

"We came up with the plaques, and the memorials were built, and on Veterans Day Nov. 11, 1988, we dedicated those memorials," DePalo said.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Summertime!

The Jamies were an American singing group, led by Tom and Serena Jameson whose 1958 single for Epic Records, "Summertime, Summertime," reached #26 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Burbank's Kessler Jewelers Closing

Sorry to read this today...

Allen Kessler helps Carol Nerone with a ring at Kessler Jewelers on Tuesday. The family-owned jewelry store that has been doing business for the past 43 years at the same location is going out of business. (Scott Smeltzer/The Leader)

Jeweler forced to close
Business that has been in Burbank since 1967 falls on hard times.

By Christopher Cadelago
May 26, 2010

Kessler Jewelers, the family-owned business that for more than 40 years has been a fixture of the downtown shopping district even as everything around it changed, will close its doors for good next month, the family said.

An award-winning shop whose grand opening in 1967 coincided with the opening of the Golden Mall, Kessler served as the last remaining holdout of an era that saw seven downtown jewelers shut down in the last 50 years.

A sluggish economy, Internet competition, soaring downtown rents and the mass migration of buyers from brick-and-mortar jewelers to big-box chains have made for an especially tough last three years, the family said.

"Ever since the writers strike, things have been really tough," said Barry Kessler, 50, who began working for his father, Allen Kessler, at age 16. "Put simply: The rent went up, and what didn't go up was our profit margin."

Kessler Jewelers, whose four full-time employees boast a combined 135 years of experience in the business, has remained in the same building for the last 43 years. Founded by Allen Kessler, the company survived lean times by handcrafting and customizing much of its retail offerings.

Customers personally designed and altered everything from engagement rings and wedding bands to pieces for newborns, children and sweet 16s. Other customers brought in watches to repair and rings, necklaces and bracelets to clean.

"They've been an institution in Burbank for decades," said Gary Olson, president and chief executive of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. "As far as the business community is concerned, it's a big loss."

The closure will mean a personal loss for Olson, one of the shop's regular customers. But with the price of gold steadily increasing, Kessler was done in by what one expert called the "Costco-Wal-Mart-Internet Complex."

The megachains and discount and tax-free online retailers have the buying power to make good margins even in rough times, pushing mom-and-pop retailers to the periphery, said Bruce Ackerman, president and chief executive of the Valley Economic Alliance.

"All of a sudden, customization and craftsmanship become secondary," Ackerman said.

Sales and holidays, of late, have done nothing to increase profits, Barry Kessler said. Christmas sales figures were down 70% compared with the previous year, and Valentine's Day, the annual high-water mark for jewelry sales, was "virtually nonexistent," he said.

The suffocating effect of the Great Recession only amplified the other impacts, he said.

"When it's a discretionary purchase — something you don't absolutely need that starts to fall into the 'want' category — I suspect it gets much more difficult," Olson said.

Despite the grim pronouncements, the only indication of the shop's impending closure this week were the dozens of signs alerting customers of "Nothing Held Back! Selling out to the bare walls," as well as "Doors closing forever. Save up to 70% off."

A clerk offered everything from a 2 1/2 -carat diamond ring to $200 and $300 earrings.

Joe Kovach, of Glendale, has visited the store about four times annually for the last 40 years.

On Tuesday, he browsed the selection with his sister, Rosemary Kolegraff, of Sylmar.

"You trust the family," he said, explaining why he's returned after so many birthday and holiday gifts. "They're just really good people."

Barry Kessler breezed through the showroom and toward his father, a magnifying glass in one eye, working to the very end. Allen Kessler was the 2008 recipient of the Robert B. Westover Distinguished Service Award by the California Jewelers Assn. A graduate of Los Angeles High School, Allen Kessler was a freshman at UC Berkeley when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He came home and took a job at another jewelry store before deciding to open his location in the 300 block of San Fernando Boulevard.

For the family, no job was too big — or too small. In the ensuing years the staff grew to include three graduate gemologists, including Barry Kessler.

He said one of the family's favorite stories dates all the way back to the store's opening, when a rival jeweler walked into Kessler and noted the carpeting and chairs spread out in front of eye-level glass cases. The competitor looked around and said: "Oh, that's for Beverly Hills. That's not for Burbank."

Barry Kessler said that at the time most shops were barren.

Allen Kessler, 80, plans to finally retire. Barry Kessler said he'll keep customers informed of his next move, which will include an online component to Kessler Jewelers.

"Jewelry is something given between people who love each other," he said. "Daily, we see customers that are saddened by the news of our closing. We're going to really miss the customers and the people of Burbank.",0,2108557.story

Kessler's Website:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Michael Torres (BHS '67) and Harmony Hill

This is great... thanks Michael!

Hi Cathy,
I am sending out our first CD we made together as a group. It is made up mostly off original songs written by Randy. I will give you a little history of our group. I met Randy while working with people with disabilities and he worked in a different part of the agency and we got to talking one day and he told me he was a musician and had wrote some songs . He asked me to listen to them and we became friends and started to play music together. I told him about my experience with recording music in California so he bought a small 4 track and we worked on his songs. I helped him with vocal and harmony arrangements and he said he had a friend at church (Doug) who would probably like to play with us and the rest is history.

We have been together now for about 19 years. We pooled our time and $$$ together and went into the studio to record our first album it was a cassette at first and then when CD's came out we transferred our recordings to CD's. We stated to get invites to do concerts at churches through out the States. We have been to Huston and San Antonio in Texas, Oklahoma City, Dell City, Heavener city and Wister all Oklahoma, De Moines, Iowa, lots of churches, fairs, city functions and restaurants in Arkansas. And we have sold our Cd's in Christen Book stores in the city of Fort Smith and where ever we play our concerts. By the way the name Harmony Hill came from an old band that I had played with in California back in the 70's. I asked for permission to use the name because it fit with the harmonies we do in our songs.

Have a Great Day


Monday, May 10, 2010

In 1961 Burbank Celebrated the Golden Years

Next year, Burbank will celebrate it's Centennial but in 1961, it was 50 years old and the city printed a booklet called 'A Brief History of Burbank, California' which Wes Clark has posted on his groovy website... CLICK HERE to see.

Thanks Wes!

1961 Ceralbus on E-Bay


And CLICK HERE to see BHS Class '61 Senior Photos!