After World War II, thousands of young families moved “over the
hills” and into the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles. New
neighborhoods were springing up, replacing orange groves and open space.
Roads and schools were quickly established to keep pace with the rapid
population growth. Ringed by beautiful mountains, the entire Los Angeles
basin looked like a new, green, sun-filled paradise to the families
seeking a fresh start.
In the early 1950s, one of the common family chores in Los Angeles
was to carry the trash out to the stone incinerator behind the garage
where each family burned all of their dry trash. “Wet” garbage was
collected and taken to a city dump, where it was burned by the city.
Everyone throughout the city either used an incinerator or burned things
in an open trash pile—there were over 400,000 backyard trash
incinerators. On warm afternoons, peoples’ eyes would sometimes sting
and burn. People would stop, close their eyes, and let the cleansing
tears refresh their irritated eyes. They accepted this as a normal part
of life in sunny California.