Saturday, August 13, 2011

Berlin Wall Reaction, Fifty Years Ago

The Berlin Wall went up--or began to go up--fifty years ago, August 13, 1961. The kick off was the closure of the East Berlin border, halting a stream of refugees who wished to escape to the West.

On August 14th, the Los Angeles Times headline--over the masthead--read "Iron Curtain Halts 80,000 WOrkers." Under the masthead:

Reds Hurl Tear Gas
At West Berlin Mob

The paper reported that our government--in the person of Dean Rusk, Secretary of State--protested the border closure because it violated agreements made in 1949 between the US, Britain, France, and the USSR about the free right of travel within Berlin. Rusk waited to see "how violent the East German popular reaction would be."

What else was going on?

In Long Beach, a ten-foot porpoise wandered into shallow water off Cherry Avenue, but got away from the beachgoers who tried to seize it.

The temperature got up to 83, and in the evening humidity was 90%. Yuck!

Redondo Beach's new $30 million King Harbor Marina project was moving right along. Basin 3, which I believe is today's International Boardwalk, had replaced Pacific Avenue and fishing boats were berthed there. Parking meters for yachts were being installed.

Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers threw a 100th birthday party at Pickfair for Clementine Van Quaethem. Who was she? An immigrant from Flanders, Belgium, who arrived in America in 1948--when she was in her late 80's. She spoke only two words that could be understood in English: Mary Pickford.

Mrs. Van Quaethem's widowed daughter lived at Pickfair because her husband had been the head gardner. Her mother moved in, never learned English (geesh, she was only 87!) and that's all I know--could not find any further mention of the lady anywhere.

The picture of Pickfair, showing the pool on the lower left, is from the LAPL collection and was taken in 1926. It's not attributed to any particular photographer--wonder if it was Robert Spence?

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