Saturday, March 29, 2008

Park La Brea Anniversary

On March 30, 1948, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company announced the development of "ParkLaBrea" (all one word) a collection of 18 buildings, each 13 stories high, on Fairfax between 3rd and 6th.

Two hundred 2-and 3-bedroom apartments would be built, starting in 60 days, with parks and green spaces. Nearly 3000 families would be housed there eventually, it was said. Construction had actually been started in 1941, but wartime needs interrupted the project.

NO mention in that 1948 Times article about the Masonic symbolism of the layout of Park La Brea, but Wikipedia's on top of that. This undated picture is from the Los Angeles Public Library's Herald Examiner Collection, and shows the site on November 8, 1951, still under construction.

Wasn't this where chunks of Miracle Mile (1988) were filmed? Great movie. . . in fact, time to see it again. I'm going to Netflix now.

Artfully Dodgers

A story about Chavez Ravine and its former residents, another about Steve Garvey clicking in the infield, and a 2-page spread about the Dodger's tenure in the Coliseum, are all part of the Los Angeles Times special handout/website titled "Dodgers 50th Anniversary in LA."

Of course, I'm partial to my own take on the Chavez Ravine story (there's a link at right), but the Times spread and all the pictures are pretty nifty.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Radio History

Is the old KFWB studio on Yucca a public nuisance, and will it be demolished next week?

The Los Angeles Times posed these questions in a story March 25, 2008. As the text reads:

"Over the years, 68 radio stations and virtually every Los Angeles TV station were based there." KLTA (channel 5) and KCET (channel 28) still broadcast from there, but the building will face the wrecking ball (or demolitions experts, or other devices of destruction) if it's not rehabilitated by April 3.

This picture, shamelessly copied from, shows the dismantled KFWB sign that until 1976 stood at KFWB's studio on Hollywood Blvd, and was then moved to the Yucca Street building, and later (at least as of 2006) lay discarded behind the new facility.

Along with this story, the Times listed "Radio Landmarks" in a sidebar, telling us what happened to each:

  • Columbia Square on Sunset Blvd: CBS moved from there last year, after 69 years. Developers may turn the building into condos. This 2004 blog entry from is full of pictures and history relating to that site.

  • West Coast Radio City at Sunset in Vine, home to NBC for years, was torn down in the 60s and is now a bank building.

  • Metromedia Square--Channel 11's home on Sunset and Van Ness--is now an LAUSD site. The building with the ladder-y logo was demolished in 2003--Variety covered the story.

  • Vine Street Studios, home of ABC, was abandoned, but preservationists managed to save the facade of the building. It's now part of a retail center. Here's a blurb from Hollywood Heritage.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

High Hopes in 1954 for a Monorail

Since describing the 1951 plan for a monorail a couple of weeks ago (here), I've come across a couple of 1954 articles rounding out the story. Why do we not have a monorail system in Los Angeles, since at one point all concerned officials gave it a big thumbs-up?

In early 1954, the Board of Supervisors spent $100,000 on a feasibility survey. The study reported that the proposed monorail could carry 70 million passengers a year, but advised that it should not be taxed, and that it should be kept out of the hands of the Public Utilities Commission.

The plan was for a 45-mile route with 16 stops, going from Panorama City to Long Beach. The cost at this point was guesstimated at a little over $165 million. A major part of the construction was an underground tunnel running from Sunset to Washington, under Hill Street. According to a map printed in the Times, the monorail would parallel Long Beach Blvd. north from Ocean, turn west on Florence, then north again at Main. Once past City Hall, it would jog west and north, following Ventura, Chandler, and Van Nuys boulevards.

Eliminating smog was part of the appeal. Police Chief Parker said, "Just look at the muddy, brown haze that hangs over our streets and in our tunnels during rush hours."

It would be operational by 1959. Just think, we could be planning an anniversary celebration next year. . . but the City Council refused to approve the plans. Exempting the monorail from taxation was a stumbling block, but other dialogue was interesting. Councilman Burkhalter of the San Fernando Valley said, "There will be a coast-to-coast monorail line in 20 years that will make possible a transcontinental trip in 25 hours."

That wasn't the end of the matter, but it'll do for this post.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Addella Walker, Police Woman

LAPD Patrolman Samuel L. Walker died during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. He left behind a wife, Addella, also ill with the flu, and three small children--one newborn. The couple had been married only seven years.

Addella recovered. She had to leave the new home the couple had bought at 526 N. Bonnie Brae (the house still stands) to move back with in with her mother. In March, 1919--a few days after what would have been her 8th wedding anniversary, she joined the LAPD as an officer in the Juvenile Bureau.

Addella was not the first woman on the police force. That honor goes to Alice Stebbins Wells, who in 1910 became the first female police officer in the U.S. with arrest powers, right here in Los Angeles. You can read about Mrs. Wells on the official LAPD site. The second woman was Minnie Barton.

Could not find out anything about Addella at the LAPD site; this picture and information came from the Los Angeles Times of March 15, 1919.

Friday, March 14, 2008

During the Earthquake

The 1933 Los Angeles Times ran a Hollywood version of earthquake trivia, a week after the March 10 temblor. Among the gems:

Groucho Marx was at the Brown Derby when an earthquake shook the place. Groucho got up on his chair and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, this time tomorrow--A Volcano!"

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were working with story editor Sam Marx (no relation to the brothers), playing a tune on the piano for a new show. When the room shook, Rodgers dove out the window, taking the screen with him. The other two followed. A truck driver who didn't even feel the earthquake (his truck was already pretty shaky) hollered, "What's going on in there?"

Marlene Dietrich was signing an autograph when the quake made her pen jerk. Under her signature she wrote, "Will you ever forget this?"

Several other anecdotes lose their punch because the comedians and actors are long forgotten. Ricardo Cortez and William Harrigan were filming; George E. Stone fainted. I confess my ignorance of these actors.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Long Beach Earthquake of 1933

On March 10, the Los Angeles Times and other publication recalled the 75th anniversary of the Long Beach earthquake that killed over 100 people. This picture is from the Santa Ana Public Library collection, and shows:

Damage from March 1933 earthquake to Woolworth and Lowe's on 4th Street on March 10, 1933. Truck and automobile are parked in front of the building. Men are picking bricks off the street. Whole walls on the face of the building are missing. Collected by Ada T. Ozmun, deputy probation officer.

March 1933 was also the month that FDR closed the banks, at least a week before the earthquake struck. In his autobiography Harpo Speaks! Harpo Marx remembered the day. Frenchie, the father of the Marx Brothers, had a heart attack and March 10 was the first day Harpo was allowed to visit him:

While I was in Frenchie's hospital room one of the biggest shocks of the earthquake hit Los Angeles. His bed, which was on wheels, began to spin around the room. For some stupid reason I tried to push it back where it belonged, and wound up pinned to the wall. Frenchie was more worried about me than about himself. I told him not to worry. I never had it so easy, I said. Every time the earth shook my harp was home playing be itself. I was being saved a whole days' practice.

This picture, copied from Wikipedia, is a screen capture of Harpo from an early film, probably Animal Crackers, 1931.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monorails Again

Good ideas just keep coming back (and we keep ignoring them).

A Los Angeles monorail system, first proposed in 1887 (see post) and again in 1937 (this post) cropped up again in 1947.

In mid-February of that year, the Board of Supervisors considered a system proposed by the Santa Monica engineering firm of A. Vinje and Associates. The trains would run up to 100 mph, on tracks 30 feet above the ground.

Four years and four months later (June 1951), the California Senate approved a bill creating a Rapid Transit Authority to oversee the construction of an $80 million monorail system that would run 44 miles--from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach!

The plans were for two lengths of parallel track about 70 feet apart, one dedicated to each direction. The tracks would run roughly along the Los Angeles River at between 39 and 55 mph, carrying 30 million passengers a year in air-conditioned comfort. The governor signed the bill the next month.

No state funds were provided. Private companies were to build the monorail over three years, and the money would be borrowed and paid back with bonds. Work was to begin by November 1951, and be completed in two years.

Wow. Wonder what shape the monorail system would be in if it had been built?

Lack of Time, not of History

Apologize for the low activity on this hub--urgent family emergencies (good emergencies, though) have kept me busy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Floods of '38

Five days of heavy rains left 200 people dead in the five counties of Southern California, 70 years ago. The Los Angeles Times blog, TheDailyMirror, carries some of the headlines from those days. A wooden bridge spanning the L.A. River in Long Beach washed away, killing ten. A dam in Santa Ana overflowed, and mudslides destroyed homes in the San Fernando Valley.

This picture is of the washed out Lankershim Bridge in Universal City, from the Los Angeles Public Library online photo collection.

Elsewhere in the world, those first days of March 1938:

  • Out of Africaby Isak Dinesen, is published by Random House

  • The Hobbitfirst appears in U.S. bookstores

  • 6,000 New York cabbies are locked out of their jobs because of strike violence

  • Stalin puts 21 highly-placed administrators and journalists on trial in Moscow, relying on confessions obtained by torture to condemn them for crimes against the Soviet

  • 16,000 pro-Nazi supporters march in a torchlight parade in Graz, Austria, overwhelming local police

  • After five years of exploring, Standard Oil finds oil in Saudi Arabia

  • Anti-British riots in Palestine lead to deployment of 1000 British troops. Planes strafe and shell terrorist hideouts, leading to the death of one leader

  • The Japanese and Chinese continue their war along the Yangtze

  • Barcelona is shelled 7 time in 24 hours as the Spanish Civil War rages

Ah, the good old days.

This was also the week that Reverend Martin Niemoeller entered a concentration camp in Germany. He's the man who wrote:

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak because I wasn't
a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me. . . and there was no one left to speak."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Al Jolson's Encino Estate

In 1935, celeb gossip columnist Read Kendall of the Los Angeles Times reported that Al Jolson was abandoning New York to become a gentleman farmer in Encino, raising cows, chickens, walnuts, and oranges on a five-acre plot of land.

Jolson remodeled the place and enlarged the house before he and wife Ruby Keeler moved in. They adopted a baby boy, and since Jolson practiced for his musicals and movies, a soundproof room was added so that the infant could sleep. Over the next year, great danes were added to the mix, sleeping outside the child's window (this was the era of the Lindbergh kidnapping).

The second picture (from the Los Angeles Public Library's online collection) was taken at the dedication of Encino's post office in 1938--a year before Keeler left and divorced Jolson. That's him right in the center, holding a white hat. Don Amechi and Edward Everett Horton are also in the photo.

So. . . Al's career flopped, the marriage failed, and Junior stopped using the Jolson name as he grew up. But for several years, Al Jolson served as honorary mayor of Encino and President of its Chamber of Commerce. He remarried, and lived in the house until his death in 1950.

The house maintained its movie pedigree as well. It's back on the market at $9.79 million. Coldwell Banker of Encino lists the now-2 acre estate with 9 bedrooms, and BigTimeListings gives its lineage: the current owner bought it two years ago from Charlie Sheen's trust, who bought it from Katey Sagal, who bought it from Kirstie Alley in 1997. If you ever wanted to live in a place with star power, this must be it.