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.