Amid 100th anniversary commemorations for Toluca Lake, the community celebrated another centenary this summer — that of longtime local resident Ollie Vick, who marked her milestone birthday surrounded by more than 65 close friends and family members at Lakeside Golf Club on June 1. Vick, who lives alone and is fiercely independent, is well known by residents for being “sharp, witty and always smiling,” according to friend and neighbor Anna Vossler Kelly, who helped conduct the interview for this story. “Even at her age, she has constant visitors coming in and out of her home due to her cheerful and lighthearted disposition,” Kelly adds. Here, Vick reflects on her life and memories of living in the neighborhood, as well as how it feels to share her centennial birthday with the community she loves.
Vick was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1923 to parents who had emigrated from Naples, Italy. When she was 6 months old, Vick and her family traveled by train to California, where they settled in the Echo Park/Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. (“I had a really good childhood and great parents,” she reminisces.) She attended Hollywood High School and then Woodbury University. Her first job out of college was as a bookkeeper for Bank of America, but as soon as World War II started, she left her position there and went to work at the Lockheed Aircraft plant in Burbank “because I wanted to do my part,” she says.
After her time at Lockheed, Vick held various jobs before landing at a company that manufactured movie equipment for the nearby studios. While there, she met her husband, Ken, who had just come home from the service and had taken a job at the company. “We became good friends and married in 1951, had a child in 1954 and had a good marriage until Ken passed away at 93 in 2014,” she shares.
ick and her husband relocated to Toluca Lake from North Hollywood in 1999. “Ken came in one Sunday and said, ‘It’s time for us to go,’ and so I just packed up and we came here,” she recalls, noting that the upkeep of their previous residence had become too much for them after they reached a certain age.
Life in Toluca Lake was pleasant. “Everything was available here, all the shops and the post office. Ken could drive his scooter all around town and take care of things for us,” Vick says. One of her favorite things about the area was its warm, friendly atmosphere. “I like the small community, and you do get to know the shopkeepers because it’s a small, little neighborhood.”
She recalls frequenting many of the now-bygone eateries in the neighborhood, like Sorrentino’s and Alphonse’s. “We had some beautiful restaurants here; it was a great place to go out for the evening,” she remembers. To this day, she still enjoys her favorite burger in town from Bob’s Big Boy, one of the handful of places that have remained since she moved to the area.
Vick says they also enjoyed many community traditions, such as the Holiday Open House, the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck and the elaborate displays of Christmas lights and decorations throughout the neighborhood, which she and her family would drive around to admire.
Along with enjoying the charms of the neighborhood, Vick always found time to give back to it through her volunteer work with various organizations, most notably as a prominent member of the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center’s Guild for 53 years.
She started her work at Saint Joseph’s when her son, Ken Jr., was in high school, handling the bookkeeping for the hospital’s gift shop. “I enjoyed every minute, made wonderful friends and still have those same friends,” she says. In addition, according to St. Joseph’s, she’s held nearly every office in the Guild, including hospitality chairman, finance director, treasurer, vice president and parliamentarian. She counts the “delightful fashion shows and fundraisers” as some of the most memorable things about her time at the hospital.
As Vick reflects on sharing her centenary with the community, she says it’s been fun to be a part of it all, “to know it’s been 100 years for both of us.” Along with the party at Lakeside, she received more than 100 birthday cards from loved ones — but this didn’t come as a surprise to her. “I usually get that many,” she says with a laugh. “Last year was the same. It’s just that now that I’m older, I guess I’m getting more cards and things.”
When asked how she gets so many well wishes each year, as most people, especially at her age, don’t even know 100 people, Vick says that she holds her friendships dear to her heart. “I kept friends with everybody I knew; I didn’t just drop them on the wayside. I enjoyed their company, and I made sure I continued to see them and visit with them.”