My family frequently went shopping at the BurCal department store.

My family frequently went shopping at the BurCal department store.

For years and years, when I told people that my hometown was Burbank, California, I always got a smile back, along with the reply, “Beautiful Downtown Burbank!” When I told anyone that I graduated from Burbank High School, I got the same reaction, “Beautiful Downtown Burbank, right?!”

Announcer Gary Owens

Announcer Gary Owens

Well, it’s been exactly 44 years since that phrase was coined in a show called “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.” Hosted by comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, the show had its premiere in 1968 and was broadcast on NBC, one of those buildings you always drove past on Alameda Avenue. It was Gary Owens who was the announcer for Laugh In, and coined the phrase. Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show frequently joked about being broadcast from “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.”

I think it was meant to be a joke — of course when we graduated from Burbank High, the downtown area was pretty ugly, nothing worth remembering. When I heard the phrase “downtown Burbank,” I thought it referred to that retail area on San Fernando Road that at one time became the Golden Mall. Now — there was an experiment gone bad. The city planners decided to convert the area to a pedestrian mall and discovered that people were unwilling to get out of their cars. Consequently no one went shopping there anymore! The area was reopened to traffic in 1989.

Today the phrase “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” is a service mark owned by the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. I found out this information from our classmate, Roger Guggenheimer, who turned me on to a website all about Burbank, written by Burbank High grads Wes Clark and Mike McDaniel.

Did you know that NBC is leaving Burbank and will be moving to Universal City? Watch the YouTube clip below.

About Katherine Crosier

I am an organist in Honolulu—a rare breed of folks who play the King of Instruments! Through stories, photos, and videos, this blog is a diary of my musical journey ... and my family just groans!

2 responses »

  1. bozo1111 says:

    Kind of sad to think NBC won’t be in Burbank any more…but things don’t stay the same forever, it’s a sign of the times.

  2. Amanda St. John says:

    I used to work at Luigi’s on Riverside Drive, worked at Lockheed next to the Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena Airport, worked at El Chiquito Inn on Olive, and The Butcher’s Arms near downtown, near the mall. What happened to these places? my old triplex I rented a unit in is still there on Warner and Rose, yet it seems everything else has changed..where would I be able to find information about the favorite places of mine? I used to take a break at Luigi’s to play the grand piano and sing a few sons while bartending there. Amanda 951 543-6699

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