Wednesday, January 30, 2008

L.A. Traffic and Drivers

On 1/29/08, our mayor gave out the details of his plans to alleviate traffic in Los Angeles, while admitting that public transportation is the only real long-term solution.

His press conference is a good excuse to dredge up previous complaints about traffic, or at least about drivers. How about the pet peeves of movie stars who needed to get around the city . . . back in 1938 ?

According to the CBS write-up on Mayor Villaraigosa’s announcement: “Right- and left-turn pockets, new street lights and landscaping will also be added to the city's most congested intersection at Highland and Franklin avenues.”

That’s good, because Carole Lombard hated drivers who made left turns from the right-hand lane.

Other irritants, according to a Los Angeles Times piece of Jan 4, 1938:

“Gary Cooper could murder the road hog who drives about ten miles per hour in the center lane and will not give an inch. George Raft dislikes the gent who blows his horn and speeds by, and then slows up.” That's George, driving Humphrey Bogart and--I think--Ann Sheridan in the aptly-named They Drive by Night.

Joan Crawford complained of drivers who hit stop signals at high speeds and rear-ended other cars. Can’t say I blame her. That's her in 1935, a thumbnail of a movie still found on

My favorite peeve came from Fred MacMurray.

He “gets sore at the person who fails to give a hand signal when stopping or turning.”

Hand signals? Would anyone flip off Fred MacMurray?

Of course, hand signals meant something slightly different in 1938—which was 22 years before My Three Sons debuted on television. Back then, cars weren’t equipped with turn signals. According to Wikipedia, those weren’t offered to buyers until 1939. Drivers tootled along with their windows down, and stuck their arms out to indicate right or left turns, and stops.

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