The Personal Side of History – Shades of L.A.: African American Community

Over 25 years ago, while organizing the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, librarian Carolyn Kozo Cole found many photos that documented the city’s political and professional history – political rallies, building construction, front page stories – but few images showing the personal side of its history – church picnics, school fairs, family photos. Moreover, there was little (if any) photographic evidence of the rich ethnic diversity in greater Los Angeles.

When a patron came to the library in 1991 and asked for historic photos of the Watts neighborhood, the only photo in the folder marked “Watts” was of a railway station. For Cole, this was a watershed moment. Garnering assistance from librarian Kathy Kobayashi, project coordinator Amy Kitchener, and a team of volunteers (plus financial support from Security Pacific National Bank, Sunlaw Cogeneration Partners, California Council for the Humanities, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, and the non-profit organization Photo Friends), the Shades of L.A. project was launched to broaden the Library’s photo collection and showcase the City’s multicultural makeup.

The first year of the project (1991) focused on the city’s African American communities, with the first “Photo Day” occurring at the Vernon Branch on South Central Avenue. Local residents showed up bringing family portraits and personal snapshots. A large part of L.A.’s personal history – previously tucked away in shoeboxes, scrapbooks, desk drawers, and family bibles – was now to become part of the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library.

In honor of Black History month, here are photos that capture African American life in Los Angeles, from home life to high life.

NOTE: All photos in this blog post are from the Shades of L.A.: African American Community collection. Whenever possible, dates and photographers have been noted.

Emma Millhouse and friend at work

Emma Millhouse (right) poses with her friend at their after-school job in a record store. Millhouse had also worked at the National Youth Administration office in Los Angeles, a New Deal agency formed to assist young people between 16 and 25 years of age in finding jobs. This photo was taken in 1941.

Student with trophy

A student poses with the trophy he won in an architectural contest between students at Polytechnic High School and Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. This photo was taken in 1917.

Sharp shooter Dr. Eugene and trophy

Dr. Eugene, the winner of a sharpshooting competition, poses with his trophy and his weapon in 1935.

Boy Scout and badges

Boy Scout William Legget poses with his merit badges in 1936.

Joe Louis and Gordon Sheppard in Shepp's Playhouse

Boxer Joe Louis (center) poses with a woman and Gordon Sheppard in Shepps’ Playhouse, a breakfast club (open all night until breakfast) in downtown Los Angeles that boasted the likes of Coleman Hawkins, T-Bone Walker, and members of the Duke Ellington band. Sheppard, a former Hollywood cameraman, opened the club in Bronzeville, a neighborhood that sprang up in Little Tokyo during WWII.
Rozier Family Store

Liney, a  store clerk, stands behind the counter at the Rozier Family Store, a family-owned grocery market in Los Angeles. This photo was taken in 1906.

Amanda, Joseph, and children

Amanda and Joseph pose with their children Grace, Raymond, Mildred, and Alphonso for a formal family portrait taken in 1907.

A girl enjoys Val Verde Park, also known as The Black Palm Springs. (Many African Americans frequented this area when they were barred from visiting public beaches and swimming pools.) This photo was taken in 1954.

Dr. Maye Jones poses in cap and gown at her graduation in 1957.

A woman attends the 42nd Annual Congress of the International New Thought Alliance. This photo was taken between July 21 and July 26 in 1957.

This photo shows the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Watts being picketed in 1948 for not hiring African American or Mexican American tellers.

 

Raymond Austin in front of home

Raymond J. Austin poses in front of his home in Pomona, California, in 1945.

A young soldier poses in front of a fireplace. This photo was taken in 1943.

 

Crowds gather outside RKO Hillstreet Theatre (located at 8th and Hill Streets in downtown Los Angeles) to see a 1945 appearance by Josephine Baker, the African-American chanteuse who mesmerized France and openly discouraged segregated audiences.

L'Tanya Griffin

Fashion designer L’Tanya Griffin, who once designed gowns for Ida Lupino and ran her own dress shop in Hollywood, strikes a pose in this publicity photo. Photographed by John E. Reed in 1945.

Sebastian's Cotton Club

Sebastian’s Cotton Club (originally named the Green Mill) was owned by Frank Sebastian and located in Culver City. It boasted three dance floors and full orchestras, including an orchestra featuring “the world’s greatest trumpet player, Louis Armstrong, with the world’s fastest drummer, Lionel Hampton.” In this 1931 photo, you see an orchestra with Lionel Hampton, the drummer, at the top.

Zenda Ballroom

A trio gather at the Zenda Ballroom, a huge nightclub at 936 West 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles. This photo was taken in 1939.

Tola Harris at Wedding

Tola Harris attends a wedding reception. The photo is dated November 9, 1996.

NAACP awards

Five women pose in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the NAACP Awards. Photographed by Robert Douglas in 1968.

children of rodger young village

The Small Town in a Big City – Life at Rodger Young Village

During WWII, thousands of men and women left Southern California to serve their country wherever they were needed. Thousands more men and women came to Southern California to work in factories supporting the war effort. As raw materials were needed for weapons, aircraft, and other related goods, construction of new housing ceased during the war. This created a housing shortage for veterans returning to the area after the end of WWII. This housing shortage spurred a housing boom, but veterans needed housing immediately. The Los Angeles City Housing Authority responded by building housing projects that offered affordable yet temporary housing for veterans and their families.

Rodger Young Village (also referred to as “RYV”) was one such public housing project. Built in Griffith Park and dedicated on April 27, 1946, RYV was named for Rodger Wilton Young, an infantryman in the U.S. Army killed during World War II. Rodger Young Village consisted of 750 Quonset huts, with most residents being young couples with children. RYV boasted a market, drug store, and theater plus delivery service for milk, diapers, and baked goods. Telephones were located outside throughout the village; a ringing phone would be answered by the nearest bystander who would then fetch (or get a kid to fetch) the intended recipient of the call. Churches came to conduct services in the theater (with the Catholics bringing their own kneelers), the Fuller Brush man made rounds throughout the compound, RYV had its own firefighters. Perched inside a park, it offered children plenty of space to play and explore.

Open to veterans of all races and branches of the military, Rodger Young Village was one of the most diverse communities in Southern California at the time. Adults and children befriended their neighbors with little regard to their ethnic background, educational levels, or personal beliefs. (One exception was the couple of Sidney and Libby Burke. There were evicted as it was determined that Sidney did not hold the proper veteran status but also because Libby had distributed supposedly communist literature.) Such acceptance of diversity helped end the practice of racial segregation in many local restaurants. (RYV residents often went to nearby eateries to dine with their neighbors. If a restaurant refused to serve someone in their party, the entire group would leave and often never return. Restaurants, faced with losing business, dropped discriminatory policies.)

As veterans bought homes or found housing elsewhere, the Rodger Young Village began to lose residents. RYV was demolished in the early 1950s. The parking lot for the Los Angeles Zoo and part of the Autry Museum now occupy the site where returning WWII vets and their families lived while waiting to move into their dream home. No physical trace of this housing project exists on the grounds today, but the photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library can help you see how life was in this small town inside a big city.

With housing scarce and veterans returning en masse to the Los Angeles area, construction (conducted by William Radkovich Company and Zoss Construction Company) of Rodger Young Village was made a top priority by the Housing Authority.

The building of a Quonset hut is seen here.

building of quonset hut

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Edwin Eichelberger on April 22, 1946.

While no huts had individual telephone service, all homes in Rodger Young Village had electricity. Here we see an electrician connecting wires to the Quonset hut homes.

construction of rodger young village

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Louis Clyde Stoumen (no date given).

The main entrance for Rodger Young Village was on Riverside Drive, with the Santa Monica Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop for the housing project.

rodger young village in griffith park

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Edwin Eichelberger on April 22, 1946.

An aerial view of Rodger Young Village shows its size and layout.

Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, photo taken by
White’s Studio circa 1940.

The dedication ceremonies for Rodger Young Village were held on April 27, 1946. Here we see a map showing how to get to the festivities.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection (photographer and
date of photograph unknown).

Many new and prospective residents attended the dedication festivities.

post-war veteran housing

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Louis Clyde Stoumen
on April 26, 1946.

Mrs. Nicholas Young, the mother of Rodger Young (the war hero for whom the housing project was named) attended the Village’s dedication ceremony as well as then-Mayor Fletcher Bowron.

mrs. nicholas young

Herald-Examiner Collection, photographed on April 26, 1946.

Each family would occupy one-half (front or back) of a Quonset hut, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen in their living space. Single veterans or childless couples would share a Quonset hut with each having their own bedroom but sharing the rest of the hut.

A family lounges in a model unit of the newly-built Quonset huts to see if it meets their needs.

post-wwii los angeles

Herald-Examiner Collection, photographed by Howard Ballew on April 26, 1946.

A model unit also showcases a child’s bedroom in a housing unit in Rodger Young Village.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Otto Rothschild on February 21, 1950.

While RYV was designed as temporary housing, residents took pride in their surroundings, planting gardens to add a homey touch.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Leonard Nadel on July 19, 1950.

John Barnes and his family pose outside their home (Unit 606) in Rodger Young Village.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Leonard Nadel on February 4, 1952.

Mrs. Lourdes Benigno and her children gather by the garden at their home (Unit 1147) in Rodger Young Village.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Leonard Nadel on February 4, 1952.

Mrs. John Breslin, a German war bride, helps her children dress for the day in their home at Unit 1279.

life in Rodger Young Village

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Leonard Nadel in 1952.

As most residents of Rodger Young Village were young families, children were everywhere – playing by their homes, in the park, at the zoo, and at events organized for them. Here we see kids playing outside their homes, having fun and making friends in their temporary neighborhood.

children of rodger young village

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Leonard Nadel on November 16, 1951.

Children always enjoy dressing up for Halloween, and the kids at Rodger Young Village were no different.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed in October of 1947
(photographer unknown).

Santa Claus knew there were plenty of children in RYV, so he flew (via helicopter!) to visit them and their parents.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Louis Clyde Stoumen
on December 21, 1948.

Adults also had plenty of activities to attend at Rodger Young Village. Here, Bette Davis confers with Rodger Young’s mother during a luncheon at RYV.

Bette Davis at Rodger Young Village

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photographed by
Floyd McCarty (date unknown).

People mingle and look at exhibits during a Negro Week program held in RYV.

negro week

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Louis Clyde Stoumen (date unknown).

Negro Week (also referred to as Negro History Week) at Rodger Young Village also included a firefighters’ parade that featured a marching band.

Housing Authority Collection, photographed by Louis Clyde Stoumen (date unknown).

The arrow in this photo points to Rodger Wilton Young, the war hero for whom Rodger Young Village was named. This is the last photo taken of him before he died on July 31, 1943, in the Solomon Islands. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Herald-Examiner Collection, photograph dated 1946 but
taken in 1943 or earlier (photographer unknown).

An End to the Dry Spell

In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. One year later, prohibition began. The production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages was now illegal. America went dry – or so it was thought.

Supporters of prohibition believed that getting rid of booze would get rid of America’s social ills – alcoholism, public intoxication, petty crime, poverty, mental illness, venereal disease. Prohibition would also reduce taxes as there would be less need for courts, jails, hospitals, asylums, and other institutions supported by tax dollars. The country would be richer and safer if it were sober.

Unfortunately, as journalist H. L. Mencken noted in 1925:

“Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. … Not only are crime, poverty and disease undiminished, but drunkenness itself, if the police statistics are to be believed, has greatly increased. The land rocks with the scandal. Prohibition has made the use of alcohol devilish and even fashionable, and so vastly augmented the number of users.”

On December 5, 1933, prohibition was repealed, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring, “What America needs now is a drink!” People across the U.S. celebrated and Los Angeles, never a city to miss a party, joined in. The online photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library show that while certain public officials in L.A. took prohibition very seriously, most of the public took its repeal even more seriously.

Members of the Coast Guard unload 1,200 cases of illegal whiskey found on a fishing boat in San Pedro.

Coast Guard unloading contraband liquor

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated March 25, 1932.

An officer takes inventory of liquor that was seized in a raid on a warehouse in Long Beach, California. Police believed the warehouse was being used as a distribution center by bootlegger Tony Carnero (a/k/a The Admiral and Tony the Hat). The liquor was valued at $62,000 — $910,781 in today’s currency.

bootlet liquor distribution by Anthony Carnero

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1931.

John L. McDonnell of the District Attorney’s enforcement squad and Pearl Stephenson, secretary to Chief Investigator Lucien Wheeler, dump $45,000 worth of bootleg liquor used as evidence in liquor arrest cases. (Incidentally, that would be the equivalent of $635,000 worth of booze today.)

disposal of liquor during prohibition

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated February 16, 1929.

Members of the Sheriff’s office dump wine, whiskey, imported champagne, and various liquors they had confiscated. The alcohol – most of it high-end and meant for Christmas, New Year’s, and other holiday parties – was valued at $150,000 at the time. Today, this contraband booze would be worth roughly $2,004,500.

christmas spirits seized in raids

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated January 17, 1927.

Unable to buy a drink legally, many people resorted to partaking of Jamaica Ginger – also known as Jake – in place of a cocktail. Sold as a medicine, this concoction included an additive that affected the nerve cells that control movement, leading to paralysis for some unlucky imbibers. The Herald-Examiner alerted Southern Californians as to the dangers of drinking Jake.

Jamaica Ginger and the trouble it causes

Herald-Examiner Collection, drawings photographed in 1931.

As grapes were no longer becoming wine (with the exception of a select crop used for sacramental wine), the California Vinyardists’ Association created National Grape Week in an effort to dispose of a bumper crop of grapes during Prohibition.

National Grape Week

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo dated September 14, 1928.

In spite of the law, Los Angelenos (like folks everywhere) still liked to discuss business, meet friends, and relax over drinks. This elegant home at 4412 Wilshire Boulevard served as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

speakeasy in los angeles residence

Los Angeles Photographers Collection, Marlene Laskey/Wilshire Boulevard Collection,
photographed by Annie Laskey in 1978.

While the complete repeal of Prohibition occurred on December 5, 1933, the Beer and Wine Revenue Act (commonly referred to as the Beer Bill) was put into effect on April 7, 1933. It gave states the right to sell beer and wine. In this photo, crowds wait to enjoy a beer at the Belmont Grill in downtown Los Angeles.

belmont grill

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated April 7, 1933.

Here is the scene inside the Belmont Grill that same day.

belmont grill and the beer act

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated April 7, 1933.

When the Beer Bill came into effect, Eastside Brewery in Lincoln Heights wasted no time getting back into business. The first truckload of beer rolled away as movie star Jean Harlow christened it with a bottle of (what else?) beer.

jean harlow christens beer truck

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated April 7, 1933.

People couldn’t wait until prohibition was repealed to celebrate its repeal! Here, revelers at Club Airport Gardens celebrate the repeal of prohibition on November 8, 1933, with a skeleton of the 18th amendment.

club airport gardens celebrates repeal of prohibition

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated November 8, 1933.

With prohibition repealed, the quaint Malamute Saloon, designed to resemble a cozy log cabin, reopened after 13 years. Los Angeles residents and visitors could imbibe while enjoying a somewhat rustic experiment.

malamute saloon

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo dated 1933.

A group of Mexican-Americans celebrates the end of Prohibition and the freedom to enjoy a drink with family and friends.

mexican-americans celebrate repeal of prohibition

Shades of L.A.: Mexican-American Community, photo taken by Harvey
(see lower right corner) in 1934.

Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month. The land that now constitutes California once housed the most diverse population of indigenous people in the Western hemisphere, with 150 different Native American tribes inhabiting the area. While the population of these native people decreased significantly in the 19th century due to disease (including malaria and cholera epidemics), there are still over one hundred federally recognized Native American tribes in California. The Photo Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library offers a glimpse of Native Americans celebrating holidays, remembering their heritage, and living their lives in Southern California.

Members of the Golden State Gourd Society (which originated in Maywood, California, in 1971) gather at the first annual Kateri Circle pow wow.

Golden State Gourd Society

Shades of L.A., Native American Community; photograph taken in 1990.

Astronaut Robert Crippen (center), who flew on four space shuttle missions (three as commander), is of Cherokee heritage. Here he is photographed with Native American employees of Rockwell International in Thousand Oaks, California. These employees are of Wichita, Comanche, Choctaw, Cheyenne, and Oto tribe heritage.

Native Americans in the Space Race

Shades of L.A., Native American Community, Comanche Community,
Wichita Community, Cherokee Community, Oto Community,
Cheyenne Community, Choctaw Community; photograph taken in 1981.

Margo, a Native American of Comanche and Wichita heritage, attends a pow wow at the Orange County Indian Center in Stanton, California.

orange county indian center

Shades of L.A., Native American Community, Comanche Community,
Wichita Community; photograph taken in 1980.

Two Navajo girls reenact the age-old practice of grinding corn at the South East Indian Center in Huntington Park, California. The ceremony included singers, feather dancers, and gourd music.

na3

Herald-Examiner Collection; photographed by Myron Dubee on May 21, 1974.

Father Paul Ojibway, a Catholic priest and member of the Fond du Luc Band of Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota, sought to build bridges between Native American Catholics and the wider Catholic community. He served in Native American ministries in California for over twenty years, becoming Director of American Indian Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and also serving as Director of Native American ministries in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Here he is seen serving Mass at a pow wow at St. Francis High School in La Canada.

Father Paul Ojibway

Shades of L.A., Native American Community, photograph taken in 1991.

Navajo artist Kin-ya-onny-beyeh (also known as Carl Nelson Gorman or Carl Gorman) exhibits his artwork in a gallery in Woodland Hills, California.

carl

 

Valley Times Collection; photographed by George Brich on June 20, 1963.

Youngster John Nolan from the Pima Pagago Reservation in Phoenix, Arizona, participates in a Drum and Feather War Dance held at the Burbank recreation hall while Mrs. Fred Gabourie, a Cherokee dancing champion from Burbank, watches.

na4

Valley Times Collection, photographed by Bob Martin on December 7, 1964.

Carl Fisher, an African American with Choctaw heritage, became an Auxiliary Bishop for the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1987. He was the first African American Catholic bishop on the West Coast and supervised 70 parishes, 53 elementary schools, and 10 high schools in the San Pedro Pastoral Region. Here he poses with Native Americans at his first mass in the Los Angeles area.

na10

Shades of L.A.: Native American Community; photograph taken in 1987.

Mary Robinson, a young woman of Choctaw heritage, is photographed at 13 years of age practicing her ballet steps. Mary later moved from Salinas, California, to Los Angeles and became a professional dancer and actress.

na8

Shades of L.A.: Native American Community, photograph taken in 1927.

A dancer from the Tony Purley Tribal Dancers performs at the sixth annual American Indian Artistry program at the County Museum of Natural History in Exposition Park.

na6

Herald-Examiner Collection; photograph undated.

Navajo students at Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, California, don native dress and ride on the hood of a car displaying Navajo blankets and a Navajo rug during the school’s Indian Day parade.

na11

Shades of L.A.: Native American Community; photograph taken in 1970.

Filipino American History Month

October is Filipino American History Month (also known as Filipino American Heritage Month). The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) has been observing October as Filipino American History Month since 1991, with California officially recognizing the month in 2006 when the California Department of Education placed it on its celebrations calendar. Filipino American History Month was established to commemorate the first documented landing (over 425 years ago) of Filipinos in what is now the continental United States. The photo archive of the Los Angeles Public Library has an extensive collection of images documenting the rich history and influence of Filipino Americans in Los Angeles.


Members and friends of Kilusan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Organization of Progressive Youth) attend the East-West Community Partnership Forum held at Castelar Elementary School in Chinatown.

Kilusan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Organization of Progressive Youth)

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community,
photograph taken in September, 1996.

Monty Manibog was the first Filipino American attorney to pass the bar and practice law in Southern California. He was also the first Filipino American to serve as councilman and mayor of Monterey Park, holding office from 1976 to 1988.

Monty Manibog

Herald-Examiner Collection, photographed by Paul Chinn, May 22, 1988.

Barbara Gaerlan (Assistant Director of UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, pictured at right) interviews Dr. Virginia Agbayani (Professor Emeritus, Department of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines) at an event held at the Filipino American Library of Los Angeles.

Filipino American Library of Los Angeles

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photograph taken in 1996.

Members of the Philippine American Annak Ti Batac of Southern California enjoy their annual picnic at the Long Beach Naval Station. Annak Ti Batac translates as “Children of Batac”, Batac being a city (the hometown of former President Ferdinand Marcos) in Ilocos Norte, a province in the northern tip of the Ilocos Region in Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines.

children of batac

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photograph taken in 1994.

Filipino American Roman Gabriel (Number 18) was the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams for eleven seasons beginning in the mid-1960s. He was named the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1969 by the AP (Associated Press) and NEA (National Education Association) and also 1969 Player of the Year by the UPI (United Press International).

Roman Gabriel

 Herald-Examiner Collection, photographed by James Roark in 1969.

Joseph Batugos and other prominent members of the Filipino American community in Los Angeles hold a reception for Earl Carroll, president and cofounder of the Philippine American Life and General Insurance Company (Philam Life). Interned in Santo Tomas Prison Camp in Manila from 1942-1945, Carroll was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom for services rendered to American and allied nationals during World War II. He resided in the Philippines for 33 years.

Earl Carroll

Valley Times Collection, photographed by George Brich on January 20, 1964.

Philam Life

Valley Times Collection, photographed by George Brich on January 20, 1964.

A Christmas play is held at a Filipino Christian Church in Los Angeles.

Christmas play at Filipino Christian Church

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed in 1955.

Campers gather around picnic tables at Camp Throne, a summer camp (located in San Dimas) of the Filipino Christian Church.

camp throne

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed in 1955.

Delegates attend the 23rd Annual National Convention of the Filipino Federation of America Inc. at the Moncado Mansion in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. The banner in the background partially reads “Welcome General Moncado, Guest of Honor.” Hilario Camino Moncada, a political activist and mystic, founded the Filipino Federation of America on December 27, 1925, and remained its President until his death in 1956.

convention of Filipino Federation of America

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed on December 28, 1948.

The first annual banquet of the Caballeros de Dimas-Alang, Inc. in Southern California was held at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The Caballeros de Dimas-Alang is a Filipino American fraternal organization which began in San Francisco in 1921.

Caballeros de Dimas-Alang

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed on January 15, 1951.

Philippine National Day, also known as Independence Day or Day of Freedom, commemorates the Philippine Declaration of Independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.  In this photo, a group of people stand behind a table covered with Filipino food during a National Day celebration held at CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson, California.

Philippine National Day

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed on June 12
(year unknown). 

Friends head out for a dip in the Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach, California.

Filipino Americans go for a swim in Colorado Lagoon

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed in 1945.

A group of first generation Filipino immigrants, all born and raised in the Philippines, pose for a photo in the Los Angeles Harbor area. One of the men, Romy Madrigal (top row, second from right) became President of the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles. All the men spoke the same common dialect of Cebu and worked in fish canneries located on Terminal Island.

first generation Filipino immigrants in Los Angeles

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed in 1935.

Reverend Casiano Coloma (seated on the far right), minister of the Filipino Christian Church, poses with friends on a bench outside the Los Angeles Public Library.

Reverend Casiano Coloma and friends at Los Angeles Public Library

Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community, photographed in 1930.

Style and Strength — Historic Los Angeles Architecture

The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library contains many photos taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the nation’s first federal preservation project. HABS created an archive of drawings and historical reports plus black and white photos documenting the country’s buildings and built environments. The following photos (with captions below each photo) display examples of the unique architecture to be found here in Los Angeles.

KEHE/KFI Radio Broad Studio

The KEHE/KFI studio was built in 1936 and designed in the Streamline Moderne (also referred to as Art Moderne) architectural style, utilizing long lines and aerodynamic curves to create a streamlined and modern look. The KEHE studio was originally constructed for Hearst Radio, Inc. but was sold in 1939 to Earle C. Anthony who took KEHE off the air and ran station KFI in the studio until 1975. The building served various purposes for the local Koreatown community before it was demolished in 2003. (Note: The scrolled grilles over the windows and doors were not an original part of the building but were added in later years for security purposes.) All photos of the radio station were taken in 2004 by photographer and Photo Friends Board Member Tom Zimmerman for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

KEHE/KFI studio

Southeast corner of KEHE/KFI radio broadcast studio on North Vermont Avenue

habs-2

Main entrance and tower of KEHE/KFI facing northwest

habs-3

Southern side entrance of KEHE/KFI studio facing westward

OLIVE SWITCHING STATION

Located on San Fernando Road, the two-story Olive Switching Station was built between 1916 and 1917 at the mid-point of the electric transmission line that ran from San Francisquito power plant No. 1 to the central receiving station in Los Angeles. This facility of the LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) made it possible to repair single circuits without disrupting or diminishing electric service, thus providing reliable utility service to the greater Los Angeles area. The original station has been demolished. All photos of the Olive Switching Station shown below were photographed in 1994 by photographer Bill Agee for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

olive switching station

View of the northeast side of the Olive Switching Station
from the north side of San Fernando Road facing southwest 

habs-5

View of the east corner of the Olive Switching Station
from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lot

habs-6

View of first room on the first floor and main control panel
of the Olive Switching Station

Swan Hall, Occidental College

Architects Myron Hunt and H.C. Chambers laid out the original master plan for Occidental College in 1914, with an emphasis on healthy and comfortable living. The campus featured many open air spaces, verandas, fireplaces, and assorted greenery. (It was said that Hunt would walk around the campus dropping eucalyptus seeds as he walked.) Swan Hall was designed and built as a men’s dormitory. In 1960, Swan Hall was remodeled and converted from living quarters into administrative offices. In 2011, Swan Hall underwent an expansion that more than doubled its size. The photos below were all taken in 2011 by photographer and Photo Friends Board Member Tom Zimmerman for the Historic American Buildings Survey.

 

swann-1

East facade of Swan Hall (with fence surrounding building
during maintenance) as viewed from the northeast

 

North entrance on Swan Hall‘s east facade

This is the third part of a three-part feature on the photos of the Historic American Buildings Survey.

All Hail the King – Or, More Accurately, The Ambassador

It is no small surprise that the Ambassador Hotel was a prominent subject of the Historic American Buildings Survey. The hotel was a part of both Los Angeles and world history. The Los Angeles Public Library photo archive has a number of photos of the hotel.

But first, some history:

Designed by renowned architect Myron Hunt (whose architectural masterpieces include the Rose Bowl Stadium, Occidental College, and Caltech), the hotel opened in 1921 boasting 500 rooms and occupying 23.7 acres at 3400 Wilshire Boulevard. While it eventually sat empty (except for occasional filming) for 15-plus years before its demolition in 2005, it had a glorious heyday. The Ambassador Hotel saw every form of celebrity, from film stars to foreign dignitaries. Bob Hope hosted the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony in its glamorous nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove. Carole Lombard and Joan Crawford competed in the Grove’s Friday night Charleston contests. Nikita Khrushchev stayed at the hotel during his time in America in 1959. Jean Harlow had a residence there for a time, as did Howard Hughes. A young model posed by the pool, she would later become Marilyn Monroe. Bing Crosby started a singing career there, and Sammy Davis and Frank Sinatra performed in the Cocoanut Grove often. Seven presidents including Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, and Richard Nixon stayed there. Haile Selassie, then Emperor of Ethiopia, ate lunch there in 1954. The hotel housed the jury for Charles Manson’s murder trial for nine months in 1971. Presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy was shot in the hotel’s kitchen in 1968 after delivering a speech. (He would die the next day in Good Samaritan Hospital.)

Even if you’ve never been to Los Angeles, you have probably seen the Ambassador Hotel. It has been photographed extensively and used in many television shows and films. It appeared in episodes of Beverly Hills 90210, Mod Squad, Starsky and Hutch, Dragnet, and Murder She Wrote. Musicians including Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Tom Waits, and Beyonce filmed videos there. Its impressive movie portfolio includes Nightmare on Elm Street, Foxy Brown, Lady Killer (with James Cagney), Scream 2, and Forrest Gump. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode a horse through its lobby in True Lies. Richard Gere played a piano in its main ballroom in Pretty Woman. The high school reunion in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion occurred at The Ambassador. And most famously (or infamously), The Graduate’s Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) conducted their affair in a suite at The Ambassador. (Cue Simon and Garfunkel.)

All of the photographs below (except for the menus shown in separate end section) were taken between January and March 2005 by photographer and Photo Friends Board Member Tom Zimmerman for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Captions are beneath the image.

ambassador hotel embassy ballroom

Ambassador Hotel, Embassy Ballroom. 

ambassador hotel main lobby

Ambassador Hotel, main lobby. 

ambassador hotel honeymoon cottage

Ambassador Hotel, honeymoon cottage interior

AM-4

Ambassador Hotel, interior of hotel bar (Note: This is not the Cocoanut Grove.)

ambassador hotel casino level

Ambassador Hotel shop interior, casino level

ambassador hotel and cocoanut grove

Ambassador Hotel and the Cocoanut Grove

ambassador hotel and fountain

Ambassador Hotel and fountain

ambassador hotel cabana

Ambassador Hotel cabana

ambassador hotel southern entrance

Ambassador Hotel southern entrance

 

Would you care to see a menu?

Interested as to what you might have eaten for lunch, dinner, or at a banquet at the Ambassador Hotel? Visit the Menu Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. For a preview, look below:

AM-10

menu for banquet at ambassador hotel

Menu showing what was served at banquet honoring Secretary of War and various governors; banquet was held at Ambassador Hotel circa 1933.

 

a la carte menu at ambassador hotel

a la carte menu for ambassador hotel

A La Carte Menu at Ambassador Hotel

 

cocoanut grove menu cover

Front cover of menu for Cocoanut Grove, autographed by Fred Martin (date unknown; Fred Martin and his orchestra played the Cocoanut Grove numerous times from the 1930s to the 1970s.)

AM-15

cocoanut grove menu

Menu for Cocoanut Grove (menu dated December 16, 1944)

Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on the Historic American Buildings Survey.

An Architectural Treasure Trove — the Historic American Buildings Survey

In 1933, Charles E. Peterson, a young landscape architect employed by the U.S. National Park Service, had an idea. He conceived of a project that would not only provide jobs for the many architects, draftsmen, and photographers unemployed during the Great Depression, but would document the country’s architectural heritage. Funds were obtained from the Civil Works Administration and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) was born. This survey not only produced photographic archives and meticulous records of America’s buildings but brought to light the importance of historic preservation. (Peterson is often referred to as the founding father of historic preservation.) The survey still continues to this day. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) has a huge collection of photographs taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey, with a selection shown below.

NOTE: All photos in this post are included in LAPL’s Historic American Buildings Survey collection with individual photographers credited accordingly.

The Gateway West Building, built in 1963, was designed by Welton Becket, an architect who designed many buildings in Los Angeles and whose popularity saw him working for celebrities such as James Cagney and Robert Montgomery. The building’s twin, Gateway East Building, stood directly across the street from Gateway West Building. These two buildings were constructed on what was formerly part of the 20th Century Fox Studio lot and marked the entrance to the Avenue of the Stars. Gateway West was demolished during the expansion of a nearby shopping mall.

Gateway West Building

Front view of Gateway West Building in Century City. Photographed by Jim Simmons in 2014.

Gateway West Building in Century City

Gateway West Building in Century City. Photographed by Jim Simmons in 2014.

The Westinghouse Electric Supply Company warehouse was designed in the Art Deco style of architecture. Opened in 1930, it consisted of two attached warehouses and served as storage space and shipping point for Westinghouse Electric Supply Company (WESCO), one of the country’s largest electronics companies from the 1930s through the 1980s. With a freight spur (railroad track for loading and unloading) just east of the building, the warehouse received and distributed electrical goods to and from companies throughout the United States, thus playing an important role in the industrial development and history of Los Angeles.

Westinghouse Electric Supply Company warehouse in Los Angeles

Front of Westinghouse Electric Supply Company Warehouse. Photographed by Tavo Olmos in July, 2012.

Westinghouse Supply Company building

Interior of Westinghouse Electric Supply Company Warehouse. Photographed by Tavo Olmos in July, 2012.

The Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles was designed by William and Clifford Balch, who also designed the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles and the Fox Theater in Pomona. The Golden Gate Theater was built in 1927 and designed in the Churrigueresque-style which features lavish adornment in the Spanish baroque style. Theatergoers accessed the theater through the courtyard of the Vega Building which surrounded the theater. In 1987, the Vega Building was severely damaged by an earthquake and subsequently demolished. The Golden Gate Theater remained standing but sat vacant for 25 years. The only building in East Los Angeles listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was reopened in 2012 as a pharmacy.

Decorative molding and mural of Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles. Photographed by Tom Zimmerman in 2011.

PHOTO 6

Main entrance of the Golden Gate Theater, with clamshell backdrop of the concession stand visible through the middle door. Photographed by Tom Zimmerman in 2011.

PHOTO 7

Chandelier in auditorium of Golden Gate Theater. Photographed by Tom Zimmerman in 2011.

The Stationers Building, built in 1922 at 525 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, was designed by architect and engineer W. L. Schmolle and served as loft space for the York Realty Co. The Stationers Annex at 523 S. Spring Street had been built in 1913 as a loft building for the Realty Fireproof Company; it was designed by Parkinson and Bergstrom, an architectural team that defined the look of pre-World War II Los Angeles. At the time the two buildings were built, the Spring Street district was becoming a high-rise district, with several buildings being ten to 13 stories high. It was believed that these two buildings were to be developed into high-rises, however, both parcels were acquired by the Stationers Corporation and no expansion took place. Through the years, the buildings were stripped of their historic features and eventually left unoccupied. Vandalism, leaking pipes, neglect, and the passage of time weakened them, and they were eventually demolished.

PHOTO 8

North corner cornices on third story of Stationer’s Building and Annex on Spring Street. Photographed by David Greenwood in April, 2005.

stationer's building in downtown los angeles

South end of east façade of Stationer’s Building in downtown Los Angeles. Photographed by David Greenwood in April, 2005.

PHOTO 10

Stationer’s Building and Annex (behind trees) on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. Photographed by David Greenwood in April, 2005.

This is the first of a three-part series, please check back for future installments!

Go Forth and Celebrate the Fourth!

The Fourth of July is a time when Americans remember their history, look toward the future, and celebrate the present. As the photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library show, Southern California takes its celebrations seriously, commemorating Independence Day with solemnity as well as fun and flair.

Less than 100 years after the United States was founded, a Fourth of July parade was held in Ventura, California. The Grand Marshall was Dr. Cephas Little Bard, a prominent physician whose brother, Thomas R. Bard, would become a U.S. Senator in 1899. Ventura had just become its own county one year earlier, having previously been part of Santa Barbara County.

Ventura 4th of July 1874

A Fourth of July parade is held in Ventura, California. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1874).

A parade should have its royalty, and this Fourth of July parade in Santa Ana, California, did not skimp on the princes and princesses!

FOURTH OF JULY SANTA ANA

A horse-drawn wagon carries costumed participants in a 4th of July parade in Santa Ana. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, July 4, 1890).

By the late 1910s, automobiles had been introduced into parades. Here, a group has decorated a vehicle and prepares to take part in Fourth of July festivities in Los Angeles.

FOURTH OF JULY MEXICAN AMERICAN

Marcelo Lopez and friends prepare to take part in a Fourth of July parade. (Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, 1918)

One of the essential elements of an Independence Day parade is a marching band. It plays the music that gets spirits raised, toes tapping, and crowds excited. In this photo, a marching band participates in a Fourth of July parade in Monrovia.

FOURTH OF JULY MONROVIA

Frank K. Carothers leads the Monrovia City Band in a 4th of July parade in Monrovia. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, ca 1920).

Wartime does not diminish holiday celebrations. A crowd gathers on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles to view the 1942 Fourth of July parade.

fourth of july downtown

Men of Uncle Sam’s Army march past spectators in Fourth of July parade (Herald-Examiner Collection, July 4, 1942.)

Don’t have a horse? Don’t have a driver’s license? This young American shows his ingenuity in a Fourth of July Parade in San Pedro, California.

FOURTH OF JULY GOLF CART

A boy drives a golf cart decorated for a Fourth of July parade in San Pedro. (Shades of L.A.: Norwegian American Community, ca. 1994)

The Fourth of July inspires family celebrations and home decorations, as this family in Watts proudly demonstrates.

FOURTH OF JULY WATTS

The Cazzara family with dog, flags, stars and ribbons on July 4, 2001, at their home Watts. (James W. Jeffrey, Jr./Los Angeles Neighborhood Collection, 2001)

L.A. and Southern California has a style all its own, and these low riders in Huntington Park show it during a celebration on the 4th of July in the city’s park.

fourth of july low riders

A collection of classic lowrider cars is displayed in Huntington Park for the Fourth of July. (Anne Knudsen/Herald-Examiner Collection, July 4, 1982)

El Sereno residents show their patriotism and panache with Fourth of July celebrations that include parades, celebrities, dignitaries, and fabulous costumes.

fourth of july el sereno

The El Sereno Fourth of July parade kicks off in high style. (Paul Chinn/Herald-Examiner Collection, July 2, 1983)

Space exploration and the use of rockets and satellites for national security were part of American life by the early 1960s, so when the City of Burbank displayed this model of Titan III during its Fourth of July celebration, it drew a considerable crowd.

TITAN ROCKET

Model of deep space probe rocket on display at Fourth of July celebration in Burbank. (Valley Times Collection, June 24, 1964)

Anyone can celebrate! At Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica (an amusement park which closed in 1967), monkeys get in on the celebration with a Fourth of July aerial display. Here they test their equipment.

fourth of july monkeys

Boxco, Salty, and Dinky prepare for the final showing of “Fantasy Over The Pacific”. (Valley Times Collection, July 4, 1961)

Of course, your Fourth of July celebration is not limited exclusively to parades and fireworks. Here, a young group cools off at Venice Beach.

FOURTH AT BEACH

A group of friends at the beach in Venice on the Fourth of July. (Shades of L.A.: Korean American Community, 1931)

A group of friends gathers for a backyard barbecue, a Fourth of July tradition for many.

FOURTH OF JULY BARBECUE

Burcey, Oni, Dutch, Al, and young friend at a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. (Shades of L.A.: African American Community, 1980)

 

LGBT Heritage Month, A Time For Commemoration and Celebration

June is LGBT Heritage Month (also known as LGBT Pride Month), a time to remember the challenges that the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community has faced and to commemorate the contributions they have made. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library features many images documenting the struggles and triumphs of L.A.’s gay community in their quest for recognition, respect, and equal rights, as well as showing them as simply our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members.

During the 1940s, Malcolm Boyd was a hot shot junior producer of radio and television. He founded PRB, a production company, with Mary Pickford (America’s sweetheart!) before leaving the business world to become an Episcopal priest. Boyd was prominent in the American Civil Rights movement, participating as a Freedom Rider in 1961, riding interstate buses in the South in mixed racial groups to challenge segregation laws. He also actively protested the Vietnam War and was the author of 30 books. In 1977, Boyd came out and became the most prominent openly homosexual clergy person at the time. He became a spokesman for gay rights and served as writer-in-residence for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Malcolm Boyd

Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers converse with Malcolm Boyd, their TV-radio production partner, who is beginning theological studies, having been admitted as a postulant for holy orders in the Protestant Episcopal Church. (Herald-Examiner Collection, May 7, 1950)

The Briggs Initiative, also known as California Proposition 6, was on the California State ballot on November 7, 1978. Named for its sponsor, John Briggs, a state legislator from Orange County, the initiative was designed to ban gays and lesbians from working in California’s public schools. The initiative was opposed by a diverse group of politicians including Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown, Gerald Ford, and then-president Jimmy Carter. It was defeated by California voters.

Protest of Briggs Initiative

Members and supporters of Los Angeles gay community march down Hollywood Boulevard on July 2, 1978, to protest the Briggs Initiative. (Ken Papaleo/Herald-Examiner Collection, July 3, 1978)

In 1970, the first Gay Pride Parade was held in Los Angeles on Hollywood Boulevard. The parade was so controversial that the city’s police commission tried to stop it for fear that those who participated in it would be attacked. Today, LGBTQ pride celebrations take place in various venues and streets throughout Southern California, with the largest festival, LA Pride, occurring annually in West Hollywood.

Gay Rodeo Float at Pride Parade

A float from the Golden State Gay Rodeo Association is featured in the Gay Parade in West Hollywood. (Paul Chinn/Herald-Examiner Collection, June 23, 1985)

Proud Mom of Gay Man

A mother supports her gay son while participating in the Gay Parade and Festival. (Steve Grayson/Herald-Examiner Collection, June 26, 1989)

In 1979, Norman Laurila and George Leigh opened the bookstore A Different Light at 4014 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles. The store specialized in gay and lesbian literature and publications, often hosting signing tours and reading from LGBTQ writers. A Different Light eventually added locations in West Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York, becoming one of the nation’s largest gay-owned booksellers.

A Different Light bookstore

Two men (unidentified) in the gay bookstore, “A Different Light,” located at 4014 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Silver Lake district. (Gary Leonard Collection, no date)

In 1985, Marine Sergeant Rolf Lindblom, a computer programming instructor at the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, petitioned the Corps for an honorable discharge on the grounds that he was homosexual. The 25-year old Lindblom had an exemplary military record, had been named Marine of the Year in Los Angeles, and had two years left of service. The Marine Corps would not consider the petition until Lindblom provided proof of homosexual conduct, proof that Lindblom refused to give as he feared doing so would trigger a court-martial against him. After filing a second request, Corps spokesman said Lindblom had met all requirements for an honorable discharge and such discharge was granted.

ROLF

A crowd gathered outside the Marine Corps Reserve Center in Los Angeles shows support for Sgt. Rolf Lindblom who is seeking an honorable discharge because he is gay. (James Ruebsamen/Herald-Examiner Collection, October 21, 1985)

The 2004 LGBT Pride Parade celebrated gay life with lesbian bikers, Mr. Leather 2004 in a black convertible, stilt walkers, latex wearers, drag queen cheerleaders, and a contingency of Episcopalians quietly carrying signs with a powerful message.

Love is all you need

A group carries the message in the 2004 Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood. (Douglas McCulloh/Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, 2004)