Growing up in LA, smog alert

I picked up my friend, Oso from San Diego, today at Union Station. As we waited for the light at Broadway and Cesar Chavez to turn green so we could head north into Chinatown, he said, “I really like days like this in LA.” The sun was out, the wind was pleasant but not overpowering, it wasn’t cold nor hot, and visibility was great. It felt perfect and didn’t feel like LA is number one when it comes to smog.

I mentioned something to Oso about the air quality being worse when we were younger. He agreed and we reminisced over the effect of bad air quality and smog days. Oso lived in Orange County and I lived in the San Gabriel Valley. Most days, except after rain, we couldn’t see the mountains to the north.

Since we both lived further inland, the air quality was worse. I remember several afternoons in the spring or fall when the air quality was deemed too unhealthy by some standard I didn’t understand. My elementary school teacher would cancel P.E. in favor of another activity. In the summer, my mom would pay attention to the nightly news to decide whether or not it was safe for us to be outside during the day. A lot of times, the air quality sucked and we’d stick to indoor activities and wait until the afternoon to play baseball or tag out in the front yard. I remember exciting the Bradley Terminal after a trip to Australia in mid-August of 1994 and coughing immediately. Oso checked the Times each morning for the air quality to see if he’d have basketball practice. “LA doesn’t even compare to Mexico City,” he said. I agreed and we changed the topic to discuss the difficulty of reading academic journals in Spanish.

Ah, growing up in/around LA. Anyone else remember smog days or alerts?

8 Replies to “Growing up in LA, smog alert”

  1. I was under the impression that we still had smog alerts, it’s just that there hasn’t been a need to call one for awhile. Incidentally, the National Weather Service now calls them Severe Air alerts. They have called them very frequently in the past during brush fires.

  2. I remember the smog alerts in elementary school! Awesome. My one year at UCR, i remember how DISGUSTING the air looked on most days. There were even days where you couldn’t see the mountain behind the school that housed our giant C. heh. Brian’s first day in la last year he coined the name Ghost Mountains for those mountains suffocating behind the smog.

  3. Smog was just a fact of life for me growing up in LA. I became aware of it from 5th grade on. I can remember how much it hurt to breath after a day spent playing hard outdoors with the neighborhood kids.

    Sadly, one of the most beautiful sunsets in my memory came a couple years later in the late afternoon after finishing up my Herald Examiner paper route. There used to be an Akron store (kind of the predecessor to Pier 1 and Cost Plus World Markets) on Melrose near Western and for whatever reason I was kicking back atop the brick wall in the back of the store’s parking lot. The western sky was this mind-blowing orange and red with the sun just a brilliant glowing orb burning through smog so thick you could stare directly at it without it hurting.

  4. Rodger,
    You’re right. If I can still find that scale and check the air quality index in the times, I’m sure someone uses it. I remember the 2003 fires, that really did make the air suck.

    Brenda,
    I was at UCR last weekend and meant to ask you, what does that C stand for? Isn’t UCR’s mascot the Highlander? After the long rains of 1992 (or was it 1993?) when a lot of LA flooded, I remember driving west on the 60 with my parents to East LA. As soon as we got on the freeway, we could see the buildings in downtown. We only live about 20 miles away from downtown, but that was the first time I ever recalled seeing the buildings from Hacienda Heights.

    Will,
    Fact of life is a good way to describe smog. It’s like saying earthquakes will unpredictably occur and wild fires will threaten homes in the surrounding hills in late summer/fall. I still haven’t become accustomed to the thick layer of smog covering most of the mountains. I love that view, well when it’s somewhat clear.

  5. As bad as the air can be these days, it doesn’t come close to how bad it was in the 1960s. I remember it being so painful as a kid that, after a day at the LA Zoo in 1967, I cried all the way back to Ventura because my chest and my eyes hurt. Visiting family in Northridge and going swimming was always an invitation to burning lungs and red eyes, and I used to think it was because of the pool water. Nowadays, working close to the mountains in Pasadena, I’m amazed to see them every day, recalling when they were usually a hazy line in the distance…

  6. I grew up in Long Beach, so fortunately I didn’t experience the respiratory problems the rest of you did. But I do remember that the clear days where I could see the Downtown LA skyline and the San Gabriel Mountains seemed to increase over the 1990s. In the 1980s it seemed like I rarely saw the mountains from Long Beach.

  7. Lulu,
    You’re right. We shouldn’t just be so accepting of horrible air or other pollution issues. I just found out about a battery recylcler near my parent’s house and it makes me concerned for my family’s health.

    Gospodean,
    I wasn’t around LA in the ’60s so I had no idea it was even worse for the older generation. My dad confirmed some of those “burning eye” pains.

    Juan Carlos,
    I still get excited when I can see the mountains. It makes me feel like the air here isn’t so bad.

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