Saturday, December 29, 2007

Janss to Eurochow to Yamato

Eurochow is now Yamato, as S. Irene Vibila's very inviting review in the Los Angeles Times tells us. And it's a good thing she tells us, because Yamato's own website doesn't even mention the new location.

The most recognizable building in Westwood (which is saying a lot) was originally the office of the brothers Janss and their father, Peter, a trio which built much of Westwood.

Edwin and Harold Janss laid out the streets and buildings south of Wilshire in the early 1920s. When UCLA decided to locate to Westwood in 1925, bonds were passed by the cities of Santa Monica, Venice, Beverly Hills, and Los Angeles so that acreage could be bought from the Jansses for the school, at a cost of $1.3 million. (Some sources say the land was donated.)

The Janss Corporation planned Westwood Village--business and housing in support of the 5,000 anticipated students--literally from scratch. A bowling alley and malt shop were included in the designs, according to the Daily Bruin archives. By 1929, 2,000 homes had been constructed, and 25 businesses opened. The Fox Theater went up in 1931. All shared a Mediterranean style.

But the first to be built was the Janss Corp's headquarters, in 1929--now Yamato. True to the Janss' philosophy, it had men's dormitories on the second floor. This picture was taken in 1930, and is online at the L.A. City Library.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Battleship Arizona and Los Angeles

The Arizona, which we all know sank in Pearl Harbor with nearly 1,200 crew men in 1941, was actually a 25-year-old battleship by then. It was commissioned in 1916 and saw service in World War I.

This picture, from the site, shows the Arizona in Long Beach in 1939. It was taken by Paul Ayers - (Copyright The Inman Co., Long Beach, CA)

From August of 1921 through the mid-1930s, the Arizona was based in San Pedro. From there she sailed to the Caribbean--often to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba--Central America, and Hawaii, on maneuvers and frequently as the flagship of a Battleship Division. She was modernized in New York in 1931, then carried President Hoover on a visit to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Since she was a stone's throw from Hollywood, the Arizona was used in a 1935 James Cagney film, Here Comes the Navy. She was moved to Hawaii in 1940, but made a couple of trips back to Long Beach during the first half of 1941.

This picture of Battleships in San Pedro Harbor, 1938, is from the Frasher Foto Postcard Collection of the Pomona Public Library.

The next picture, again from the site, was taken at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on November 28, 1924. It shows the USS Arizona 8th Annual Ball. has great shots of its football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, and rowing teams, all taken by men who served on the ship; I include only those that were clearly marked as being taken when the ship was in port in Los Angeles County.

The last picture from that site , Courtesy of Jack Rouse via Paul Stillwell, is of a mid-1930s Race boat crew preparing for a race at Long Beach.

(Most of the information about the Arizona itself is from the US Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, which is reprinted online at various sites.)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kwanzaa Started in Los Angeles

Kwanzaa started right here in Los Angeles County in 1966. The first mention of it in the L.A. Times, as far as I can tell, was not until December 1973. By that time Kwanzaa was being celebrated nationwide.

Seven years earlier, however. . .

In the wake of the Watts Riots (summer 1965), Maulana Karenga (ne Ron Everett) designed a 7-day holiday specifically for African Americans to celebrate, starting on December 26. It excluded "the dominant society" in favor of an alternative holiday revolving around Black history and reinforcing a sense of community.

Who was Karenga? A scholar and a mover-and-shaker in the Black Power efforts. In 1965, Karenga formed US, which reportedly stood for either United Slaves Organization or "us Black people." US was a radical group that rivaled the Black Panthers, but without the Marxism. In fact, a power struggle between the two groups sparked a double murder at UCLA in 1969. When the Times ran their 1973 Kwanzaa story, Karenga himself was in prison, convicted of leading others in the torture of two women in his home. So the Times went all the way to Chicago to find a professor they could quote.

Back to 1966. Karenga was in the newspapers frequently, giving speeches, leading panels and grass roots efforts to establish economic cooperation and self-determination in Watts and other neighborhoods. He even performed marriages, at the US Headquarters. Karenga was not a fan of European Christianity, believing that it diminished human worth. He took issue with principals like original sin and a vengeful God--although his later writings about Kwanzaa show that he's mellowed in his outlook. Still, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African holiday in America, not a religious one.

By the late 1970s, Karenga was appointed Chair of the Black Studies Department at California State University Long Beach. He'd picked up a 2nd PhD from USC in the 90s. In the new century he's added filmmaker to his cv. Here's a biography from History Makers, which is where the above picture appears.

The other picture is from the Herald Examiner collection at the L.A. City Library and was taken by Steve Grayson. It's the rainy Kwanzaa parade in 1988, near Crenshaw and Exposition.

There are many sites about Kwanzaa, but the one maintained by Dr. Karenga is here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mystery Photo

The Los Angeles Times put this photo on the front page of the California section 12/20/07, with a story about how the photographer, Howard Bingham, still hopes to identify the girl in gold after 39 years. (The Times says the dress is actually red.)

39 years? There's so little in the photo that dates it. Look at the faces, the clothes, the street. It could have been taken from the movie Bobby. Or it could have been taken two months ago, with a guy bearing a passing resemblance to RFK.

Photos usually look old. This doesn't.

In point of fact, though, it was taken near 103rd Street and Central, in early June, 1968, days before the California primary and Robert Kennedy's assassination. State senator Mervyn Dymally and labor leader Ted Watkins are also in the picture.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Iowa Courthouse in Torrance

In 1980, an odd building opened just south of the 405 on Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance. It looked like a turn-of-the-century courthouse, although most people saw it erected and could testify that it was a new building.

In December, though, the man who built it, Dudley Gray, died. His obituary in both the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Breeze outline how, in 1977, Gray--who was both a lawyer and a real estate developer--whimsically decided to plant an Iowa Courthouse in the South Bay.

He ran an ad in an Iowa newspaper, offering to buy a courthouse.

The Pottawattamie County Courthouse in Council Bluffs happened to be available. According the Pottawattamie County Historical Society website, the white limestone building was begun in 1885, finished three years later, and cost a whopping $180,000 to finish.

"Designed by architects Eckel and Mann. . . in the Second Empire style with steep mansard roofs, projecting pavilions, a central tower, and above the entrance a statue of Justinia bearing a sword and not wearing a blind-fold. "

A shaft for an elevator was included in the design, but no elevator was installed until 1947. The unstable clocktower was removed in 1950, and by the 1970s the building was sinking measurably on its foundations. Justinia's statue toppled in 1974 and fell onto the sidewalk. The citizens of Pottawattamie County had enough, and began constructing a new County Courthouse in 1975.

Dudley Gray came along a month before demolition of the old building, to salvage the columns, marble floors, cast iron stairways, and some furniture. He paid $3,600 for the lot, according to the Times, the spent $2.5 million hauling the stuff to Torrance to be included in his new 4-story office building just south of the freeway--a building that stood alone and without neighbors for years. Gray's own law firm was on the 4th floor, until he retired in the 90s.

"My colleagues thought I was a ding-a-ling," Gray said in 1980. Umm. . . really?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Local Airport Histories

The Daily Breeze, Long Beach Press Telegram, and who knows how many others published compact histories of the small local airports on 12/12/07. Trivia Highlights:

  • Daugherty Field (pictured in 1941, from the city website), now Long Beach Airport. Earl Daugherty started out performing with wingwalker Wesley May around the WWI era. He developed the air field for the world's first flight school in 1919. Like all the other airports, WW2 made Daugherty Field important, as Douglas Aircraft opened a plant for B17's there. Howard Hughes used it for his Spruce Goose.

  • Torrance's Municipal Airport is named for WW2 hero/Olympic runner Louis Zamperini ( reports that Nicholas Cage is developing a movie about him). The airport was a lima bean field until 1943, then became a training ground for Lockeheed P38 pilots.

  • In 1941, Jack Northrop built a plant and airstrip that he named after himself in Hawthorne. He gave the airport to the city seven years later.

  • Clover Field in Santa Monica was named after a World War I pilot, Greayer Clover, in 1922. It's lease is up and 2015, and it may not survive.

  • Van Nuys Airport began in 1928 as Metropolitan Airport--on the 25th anniversary of the Wright Brother's flight (that fact and the picture comes from the airport website). Casablanca's final scenes were filmed here.

  • Burbank's Bob Hope Airport opened in 1930 as United Airport, and was bought 10 years later by Lockheed. The airport website has its own history timeline with photos--even the opening day programme from 1930.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Donut of Beauty Should Be a Joy Forever

Sometimes kitsch is so lovely it makes you cry.

The Los Angeles Times West Magazine ran a photo-essay on December 9. Bakers created their own edible homages to LA landmarks: Randy's Donuts, Capital Records, Hale House. Leilah Bernstein wrote the story; Ray Kachatorian took the photos, and I hope I don't get sued for copying one here.

This particular creation was from Rosebud Cakes of Beverly Hills.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pantages, Stage II . . . 77 years later

A 1930s picture of the Pantages Theater from the Los Angeles Library SPNB Collection. I believe that's the Equitable Building, now the Lofts at Hollywood &Vine, just barely visible on the left.

The big news: “The Clarett Group and James Nederlander are currently seeking entitlement to complete the 10 story, 200,000 square foot office tower,”over the Pantages, according to a press release here. The company is serious: construction could start in January 2008.

Marcus Priteca designed the Pantages Theater in 1929 to be topped by a 10-story office tower. The Stock Market Crash of 1929, along with Alexander Pantages’ sordid court cases (he was accused of raping a teenaged employee, and then of running a call girl ring), put the kibosh on that extravagant design, but now, 77 years later, it looks like the Pantages may expand to fulfill its original plans.

This idealized rendering of the proposed building is by Bruce Mayron of Mayron Renderings, and was run in the Los Angeles Times December 6, 2007.

Director Frank Stephan of the Clarrett Group noted that the Hollywood Equitable Building, built next door during the same time frame (1929-1930), was designed without windows on the Pantages side, anticipating the completion of the tower. A history of the Equitable/ Lofts at Hollywood & Vine is here.

And lastly, because old pictures are neat, here is a picture of the Equitable Building before condo-ization. Look at the bottom left--is this where the West Coast Variety office really was?

The Hollywood office was founded in 1933, just before Syme Silverman died. If you can't see the Variety sign here, a larger version of this picture is on the Equitable history site mentioned above.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Depression Era Immigration Crisis

In 1936, LAPD Chief James Davis--fed up with a lack of action by federal and state authorities--mobilized the Los Angeles Police and sent them to patrol California's borders, keeping out the "indigent transients" that weighed unfairly on the state and city resources.

This Dorothea Lange photo comes from the Shorpy 100-year Photo Blog. It was taken in March, 1936, in Nipomo, California, and shows a migrant mother, age 32, who has 7 hungry children to feed. These are the types of hobos and vagrants that Chief Davis (he's in the lower right) wanted to keep out--not aliens or illegal immigrants as we would define the term today, but Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. Okies.

On February 4, Davis' expeditionary force of 136 policemen secured the Arizona border. Other groups were sent to man the borders with Nevada and Oregon. Not all Californians approved of Davis' actions, though, and vindictive fights and name calling broke out in Los Angeles City Council Chambers.

Mayor Frank Shaw supported the blockade. He was tired of seeing California become the dumping ground for charity-seeking bums fleeing the harsh winters in other states. They would, Shaw said, "consume the relief so seriously needed by our needy people and to create a crime menace almost beyond conceivable control."

That same month (Feb 36), the Los Angeles Times and other papers reported that since 1930, immigration to the US from outside had virtually halted. Immigrant-bashing had to content itself with intrastate hobos.

Xenophobia at its finest! Davis remained Police Chief until late 1938, and the Federal Courts took up the legality of his "bum brigade" when the ACLU filed a lawsuit.