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.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coliseum History 1

With the Los Angeles Coliseum in the news, here's something you probably don't know about the structure:

Two years passed between the time Los Angeles Mayor Snyder approved the $950,000 stadium and its official completion in April 1923. The picture at left is of the Coliseum during its construction, and come from the website archives . Although the Coliseum hosted revivals, movie extravaganzas and fundraisers, and other events during the spring, the big grand opening was planned for August 2, 1923.

The President, Warren G. Harding, was set to appear.

In the days leading up to the President's appearance, plans were announced. A veteran of the Civil War would hand the President a flag. The radio stations of Los Angeles and environs all volunteered to go off-air during the time that President Harding spoke, so that his words could reach the maximum number of Angelenos. Universal Studios delivered loudspeakers for the occasion.

The Governor was to accompany the President from San Francisco. He would arrive in the morning and his motorcade (if that's the right term for 1923) would take him along 5th Street to Broadway to 7th to Figueroa. At the Coliseum, 80,000 schoolchildren would be waiting to hear a few words from their President. . . the first time, I'm sure, that Los Angeles school children ever looked forward to such an event.

The plans went on and on, but were never fulfilled. President Harding's health suffered during his western trip, which was billed as a "Voyage of Understanding." On July 15, he had been in Alaska, driving in the Golden Spike to complete the Alaska Railroad--as pictured above right.

He was diagnosed with pneumonia in San Francisco; a train trip south was out of the question. The 15,000 optimistic celebrants who came to the Coliseum an August 2 heard only the official announcement that Harding had died a half an hour before he would have dedicated the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum--at 7:35 p.m.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

From Sailors' Rest to Beacon Light Mission

"Soup, Soap, and Salvation" is the motto. This picture is from a March 1967 Los Angeles Times story about San Pedro's Skid Row.

Lots of comedians--David Steinberg comes to mind--made the joke linking the "Jesus Saves" sign to a fiscal institution. However, this Jesus Saves sign is on the Beacon Light Mission.

The Beacon Light Mission started out in San Pedro in 1902, when Capt. Charles Farr conducted revival meetings on an abandoned tugboat in the bay. In 1905 he moved his "Sailors' Rest Mission" to a facility on Beacon Street.

In 1911, Captain Charles H. Stanley, the "Converted Comedian," evangelized frequently at the Mission on Beacon Street, which was smack in the middle of the harbor's Skid Row. In 1927, according to an L.A. Times story, it conducted over 600 services around the harbor area, to about 22,000 men.

For fifty years, Gene McCann was a fixture at the Mission. He came on board as a cook in 1946, became Director in 1964, retired in 1996, and died in 2001.

In 1969, he said of the men served by the Mission: “A sailor had nothing to be ashamed about if, after a long voyage, he lost his pay while ashore and came to a mission for help. Everyone knew he would ship out again so he wasn’t considered a welfare case.”

At that time, McCann estimated that 1/3 of the men were truly transients--the rest were simply between jobs.

The Sailors' Rest changed its name to Beacon Light Mission in 1945. The San Pedro location fell victim to Community Redevelopment, and the mission--sign and all--moved to at 525 Broad Avenue in Wilmington in 1972.

There are 22 twin beds in one room, and in another, 30-60 meals are served daily. All this is done without accepting federal or state money, because of the many strings attached to such funds.

Thanks to a large donation, the Beacon Light Mission is ready to start building a women's shelter next door--and thus the Mission became the subject of a story in the local newspapers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Olde Redondo Beach

This 1905 brochure, held by Wally G. Schidler, a collector of paraphenalia, was photographed at the recent 2nd Annual Archives Bazaar Program, held at the Huntington Library in September. Just one of many priceless and fascinating pieces of the past on display.

The brochure features text and photos showing the Hot Salt Water Plunge built by Henry Huntington, whose Pacific Electric Red Cars took visitors to Redondo Beach. (The cost from downtown Los Angeles was a quarter, and the ride took 50 minutes.) In Redondo, visitors could relax at a Carnation Garden, the beach and pier, restaurants rich with art noveau adornments, and other venues. After 1907, they could also see George Freeth, the man who walked on water, surfing.

The City of Redondo Beach maintains a history page, of course, with lots of details. The Carnation Gardens picture comes from them. The garden covered 12 acres east of Catalina Avenue, around Ruby and Saphire.

Another site with Redondo's history is maintained by the Chamber of Commerce. The Heritage Court Museum in Redondo Beach also has some online history.

Here's a 1916 postcard of the Hot Salt Water Plunge, the largest in the world, currently for sale on Ebay.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pantages Lobby

If you've been to see Wicked, you might wonder how much of the elaborate lobby decor in the Pantages Theater has been redone to enhance that production.

The answer is "Not much."

This picture, from the Los Angeles Library's online photo collection, was taken in 1930--the year the Pantages opened as part of the Fox Theater chain. According to the website , the opening bill on June 4, 1930 consisted of:

"MGM's The Floradora Girl, starring Marion Davies, an edition of Metronome News, a Walt Disney cartoon, Slim Martin ("The Maestro of Mirth and Melody") conducting the Greater Pantages Orchestra and finally, a Fanchon and Martin stage piece, The Rose Garden Idea."

There was a Depression going on, but the theater had been designed and built before money got too tight. 40% of the Pantages space is in the lobbies and lounges,. The building cost $1.25 million (that's $10 million in today's dollars, according to the website above) and that's excluding the sound, theatrical, and projection equipment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mrs. Cubbison

The Real Estate section of the L.A. Times this weekend (11/18/07) made the former home of Sophie Cubbison their Home of the Week. It's in Mount Washington, price is $1.4, and you can see all the beautiful pictures here.

Surprised to learn that there was a REAL Mrs. Cubbison? Show of hands?

Having established her existance, a picture is in order. This is Sophie Huchting in 1912, from the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo website.

According to the biography on, Sophie cooked for at least 40 men, using field kitchens on her father's ranch in San Diego County. From age 16, she (and one assistant) started work before dawn to serve breakfast at 5 am, sweet snacks and coffee at 9, dinner at noon, more snacks at 4, and supper at 8:30. This was around 1906--no handing out Hostess goodies or Dunkin Doughnuts.

Sophie and her new husband bought a bakery in downtown L.A. in 1916, and moved to Pasadena Ave. & Avenue 34 a few years later. Her stuffing debuted in 1952, and the rest is history.

Mrs. Cubbison's company, btw, is now part of IBC, the Chapter-11 Interstate Bakeries that recently shut down Wonder Bread. If you want to learn more about her, click on the Mrs. Cubbison link on the right.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ice Skating in Westwood

Once upon a time . . .

An ice rink was built on the southwest corner of Gayley and Weyburn in Westwood. According to the Polar Palace website, that's Gayley on the left, with the car driving down it. This picture, found at the LA City Library online archive, is dated November 7, 1938.

The arena was called the Tropical Ice Garden, and it opened in November 1938 as the world's first year-round outdoor ice skating rink.

If the location is correct, the Ice Garden sat across from O'Hara's, where the brick building housing the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is now. Of course, it was much bigger (it held 12,000 people) so it probably took up a few of today's blocks.

The Tropical Ice Garden did quite well, apparently, and was a big hit. The Polar Palace/Squareone site quotes the Los Angeles Times description of the St. Moritz Express show, an extravaganza that was accompanied by Ted Fio Rito and his orchestra, engaged for the run of the show.

The rink hosted hockey games, ice dancing shows, comedy and animal ice shows, as well as skating clubs. In 1945 the Tropical Ice Garden merged with the Mercury Figure Skating Club to become the All-Year Mercury AFC.

By 1949 it was the Sonja Henie Ice Palace, but was torn down to accommodate a UCLA expansion. Since a Coffee Bean sits there now, it's hard to imagine what expansion demanded the sacrifice of the big arena.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Picture History of the Theme Building

OK, so it's out of order.

Since a thousand-pound piece of stucco fell last February, just missing the roof of Encounters (the restuarant), the Theme Building at LAX has been off-limits to diners and tourists.

The scaffolding will stay up and outside work will probably take till next year this time to complete. The metal substructure, victim of rust, is being replaced with galvanized or stainless steel.

BUT . . . Encounters reopened to serve lunch and dinner this week, 11 am to 9:30 pm. Those hours will hopefully be extended as reservations start pouring in.

LAX started as Mines Field in 1928, but commercial airliners didn't use it until 1946. The current terminal complex was laid out in 1961, with the 2.2 million dollar Theme Building as a centerpiece.

A previous post gave specifics but this picture bears repeating. It's the 1959 rendering of the Theme Building, conceived by Perreira and Luckmann.

This picture is dated 1960, during construction.

The flag-waver is Don Belding, President of the Board of Airport Commissioners.

And finally, below is an aerial shot of LAX in 1962. The United Airline terminal is on the right.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scratch-n-Sniff Art?

This is not about history, really. Or even about Los Angeles.

The website publishes this picture and many more in an article about artist Robert Irwin. The Los Angeles Times used the photo too, with their review of Irwin's show at San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art. The picture is of "Light and Space," a composition of wall-mounted fluorescent lights.

Robert Irwin is the man who designed the Getty garden, btw. So there is a shred of a Los Angeles tie-in.

I couldn't help but notice the resemblence to this second picture.

This is "Ziggy Diamond," a scratch-n-sniff wallpaper from a New Orleans company called Flavor Paper.

I would really like to know what scent is in the air at the San Diego installation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Veterans March in Filipinotown

Sunday the 11th, mustering between 10 & 11:30 am at Lake Street Park--here's the flyer. There's a community fair at 2. . . which means food, I'm sure. Lumpia and adobo. Pancit. Good stuff.

According to SIPA, the 2.1 square mile Historic Filipinotown is:

"bordered on the west by Hoover Street, on the east by Glendale, on the north by
the 101 Freeway, and on the south by Beverly Boulevard.The 2000 U.S. Census reports that there are approximately 300,000 Filipino Americans living in Los Angeles County. Over 100,000 reside in the City of Los Angeles. An estimated 6,900 live in Historic Filipinotown. "

The Arcadia book Filipinos in Los Angeles (CA) (Images of America) can be bought at Amazon.

On the 17th of November, the Filipino American Library at 135 N. Park View St. will conduct free bus tours of the area. Check the website for times and to RSVP.

More Filipino history and links here.

There's a Filipino American National Historical Society too, which houses the National Pinoy Archives--but they're in Seattle.

Finally, an effort is also underway (through SIPA) to restore the “Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana” (“A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy) mural by Eliseo Silva. Painted 12 years ago, it's the largest Filipino American mural in the country.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Claremont and Pomona Art Notes

Art Ltd features an article rounding up the art scene in Claremont and Pomona, by Avital Binshtock. Some old, some new, many non-profit, most undiscovered. Her article should be read for its breadth if you are at all interested in the Inland Empire art scene, especially the new Claremont Museum of Art in the refurbished 1922 College Heights Packing House.
(these are before-and-after pictures of that structure)

Binshtock gives the art history of the area, from the downtown galleries and museums--including the recently relocated Latino Art Museum--of Pomona. Curators were interviewed and exhibits listed.

The Claremont Colleges are a world of art as well:

  • Claremont Graduate University has the Peggy Phelps Gallery

  • Scripps College has the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery

  • Pomona College Museum has the Gladys K. Montgomery Art Center--which houses not only modern pieces, but Renaissance Italian panel paintings and Pre-Colunbian American art.

  • Not mentioned in the article but worth a trip east all by itself, is the Jose Clemente Orozco Prometheus mural, and the Genesis mural by Rico Lebrun, in Pomona College's Frary Hall. The Lebrun mural, started in 1960, uses Biblical imagery in black and white, while the Orozco work--in 1930, the first mural by a Mexican artist in the US--uses vivid colors.

Friday, October 26, 2007


In 1925, a thousand acres of the Palos Verdes Peninsula was set aside for the Southern Branch of the University of California. (The Northern, original branch, of course, was in Berkeley.)

Until 1922, the PV Peninsula was owned by one man, Frank Vanderlip, who had great plans for the area. He sold part of it--the part that would become Palos Verdes Estates and Miraleste--to real estate developer H. G. Lewis that year. The thousand acres that would have housed UCLA can be seen on the map as the area left open, right in the center. That area is now home to the Peninsula Shopping Center and the high school. (Maureen Megowen's history site has more details.)

Technically, the Southern Branch of the University of California already existed--as a Teachers College on Vermont, in Los Angeles. In September 1919, that school first opened for about 1500 students. But the Southern branch didn't have a permanent campus, and other cities--Palos Verdes, Fullerton, and Burbank--wanted to host the new school. Los Angeles wanted to keep it too, and thought it would fit nicely onto a 200-acre parcel in Westwood. Turns out they were right.

(this is the Vermont campus)

The Southern Branch (on Vermont) handed out 28 Bachelor of Education degrees in 1923--its first graduates. That same year, the first African American sorority was chartered: Delta Sigma Theta. An African American fraternity followed: Kappa Alpha Psi. That location became Los Angeles City College.

According to UCLA History, boosters for a Westwood location--called the Beverly site--exerted a massive effort to pass Proposition 2, a bond measure that would raise 70% of the needed funds to purchase the site. Leading up to voting day, May 5, 1925, students used the radio airwaves to promote their cause (radio had only been around for 5 years, but everybody had one by 1925). They even produced a 10-minute film to be shown in local theaters!

This is Westwood in the 1930s--the campus is surrounded by farmland.

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) the proposition/bond passed and the Beverly site reaped the benefit. The campus was dedicated in 1930.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jury Duty

Why doesn't my civic duty come with any perks, like free coffee and doughnuts? Is that asking too much?

Instead it comes with technically-dense demands on my time, allows for no physical exercise, and requires gut-wrenching decision-making.

In view of that, coffee and doughnuts are not enough. We should be served caprese and expressos. What is wrong with our justice system?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bulldozing History in Phoenix

A few weeks ago I said that Las Vegas was the only city more cavalier about their history than Los Angeles. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Phoenix, Arizona is vicious. Their oldest Denny's, classic Googie, converted to a Mexican restaurant in 2004, and for all I can tell may be abandoned now. The onlyr ecent pictures show the large windows boarded up with plywood.

A First Federal Savings with a zig-zag roof, turned into a piano store but was torn down in March 2007. A Chase Bank on Apache with a geodesic dome--gone.

Another Chase Bank on Camelback--a truly unique building designed by Frank Henry--survives, but just barely. And no guarantees--no protected status.

What is it with us?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jergins Subway

A secret tunnel, built in the 1920s (nothing to do with Prohibition, though), closed off for forty years. . . . gotta be a history buff's private dream.

The Jergins pedestrian subway in Long Beach was built in 1927, after a survey determined that over 2000 people an hour were crossing Ocean Blvd at Pine Avenue--4000 on weekends, since tourists and merrymakers were crossing Ocean to visit the beach and the Pike.

Since Ocean was already being dug up to realign the Pacific Electric tracks (the Red Cars), putting in the subway was cheap: $100,000. It could have been cheaper, but the Jergins Trust Company added $20,000 to add a skylight and fancy tile. The skylight is gone, but the tile's in pretty good shape--floor, walls, and ceiling. The subway tunnel was 181 feet long and between 30 and 35 feet wide.

Who was Jergins and why were they so generous? The A. T. Jergins Trust Company had something to do with drilling for oil and gas on 140 acres owned by the city of Long Beach, and selling the resource at a handsome profit. Their building--originally the Markwell Bldg, erected in 1919 and enlarged upward (to 10 stories) in 1929, controled one of the entrances to the tunnel. The picture of it was taken a year or two after completion.

Besides the Jergins Trust, the Jergins building was home to a radio station in the 1920s, and the State Theatre (originally for Vaudeville shows), and until 1960, it housed the Superior and Municipal Courts. In the film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a car chase is filmed going right by it.

In the 1930s when the Depression was in full swing, vendors put up booths along the walls. The pedestrian subway closed in 1967. It was reopened on Oct. 11, 2007 for a few dignitaries and historical society-types.

On October 28, a big to-do will be held to reintroduce the tunnel to the public. Go to Long Beach's University-by-the-sea website to learn more and get tickets. Some websites imply that the tunnel will be open for future use, others that it will be reburied. Pictures showing the tilework--floor, walls, and ceiling--are here.