Pete Rodriguez: A Voice for Latinos in Broadcasting

Thirty years ago the Los Angeles Public Library embarked on a ground-breaking, collection-building project – reaching out to the diverse communities of the region for family photographs that would provide depth and nuance to an understanding of this region’s multi-cultural history. The project and its results are called Shades of L.A. The support group Photo Friends of the L.A. Public Library was formed to assist in that effort. The group endures.

Los Angeles is a place literally built on the intersection of cultures: from the Tongva and other Native tribes that lived here for centuries to the Spanish, Mexican, and Black pobladores who established the pueblo in 1781, to the Hispanic and White cultures that duked it out for dominance in the early 19th century. As so often happens, the dominant culture, in this case the White American settlers, was quickly able to put their stamp on the historical narrative.

In the 20th century, Los Angeles has seen further waves of immigration, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East Africa, and Latin America. Asian immigration has come in distinctive waves, beginning with Chinese in the late 19th century, to Japanese and Filipinos in the first part of the 20th, and, more recently, Southeast Asians, the refugees of the wars that decimated that region.

With major funding from Security Pacific National Bank and California Humanities, LAPL staff and volunteers were able to reach out to many ethnic communities and collect or copy over 7,000 images documenting family businesses, celebrations, religious and cultural traditions, and ordinary life. In addition, volunteers and staff taped a dozen oral histories from participants. These photos and stories go far to balance the collection of the library. For a more detailed overview of the project, see https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

 

Pete moonlights as bartender at Carioca Bar in Boyle Heights, 1949. Image #00002145, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Collection.

Pete Rodriguez was a toddler when his family migrated from Sonora, Mexico, to the Los Angeles area in 1923. In 1994, Pete sat for an interview with interviewer Sojin Kim.

Pete’s dad was involved in the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910 and left that country to protect his family from the repercussions of his political activity. Pete inherited his father’s activist spirit, becoming an advocate for Mexican Americans in the entertainment industry. He told Kim that he considered California a conquered part of Mexico:

I don’t consider myself an immigrant. I consider myself a migrant, because we came to Mexico — occupied Mexico. And even though I may fight some of the things that are done here . . . I still like America.

 

Studio portrait of Pete Rodriquez, 1949, Saldana Photography. Image #00002133, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

Rodriguez’ family moved several times around the Southland, living in the Hispanic neighborhood called Old Sonoratown (downtown L.A. around Olvera Street) and Russian Flats (a section of Boyle Heights). The family also spent a stint on Catalina Island where Pete’s uncles were working in construction. Later he moved with his mother and brother to a small town in Orange County called Olive — a town which was soon swallowed up by the City of Orange.  Here he became, in his words, a “Mexican Huckleberry Finn.”

I didn’t like school. I couldn’t understand what was going on, so I’d try to get out of it as much as possible. I would fish all day in the reservoir. No fishing allowed! But I became friends with the caretaker. I was nine years old. I’d fish all day and with my slingshot I’d hunt in the hills for crows.

In 1931 the family returned to the Boyle Heights neighborhood, an ethnically-mixed area:

I grew up on Soto Street and Brooklyn Avenue there with Russians. They used to call me “Rodriguezov,” can you believe that? Because I used to hang around with a lot of Russians, you know, and Armenians. [I went to] Stevenson for Junior High. And then to Roosevelt [High School]; they used to call it “Jewsavelt,” there were so many Jewish people. Great friends, great people to me. I was drinking tea and eating bagels when I was 14 or 15 years old at Canter’s and Ratner’s Bakery, you know? We used to have bagels and cream pies.

He also recalls hanging out with Blacks and Japanese, as well as fellow Mexicans. From a Japanese friend, he learned a bit of Kendo, a form of martial arts using bamboo sticks.

Youth on the Edge

While Pete describes something of an idyllic childhood, he acknowledges that in his teen years, things got a bit rough. Social and ethnic divisions became more pronounced. The “friendly rock fights” he remembers having with Russian kids became more serious:

We’d be down here and then, they’d see us and we’d throw rocks at them just to — ah, kids, you know! — And they’d throw them back and we’d have all these terrible rock fights on Sundays when they’re going to [Russian Orthodox] church.

I remember just that we were having a ball at the time. The Big Band era was around and we used to have these record dances. And people from all over different neighborhoods would come to these dances: Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and all those big band guys. Duke Ellington — we were very influenced by Black music in those days. [But] there’s another thing that I’m not too proud of. We got a little wild. It was during the beginning of what they called the Pachuco Era, Zoot Suit era, you know. My mother didn’t like me to dress with those tight pants — she tore a couple of my pants. But we got a little wild. And it was the beginning of the gangs in East L.A. We were influenced by these guys, what they call Pachucos — really, like people from El Paso who came from El Paso to Los Angeles to work during the war. And we were hicks, you know, here in L.A. compared to them. And they used to dress real sharp and have these zoot suits and tailored clothes and dance real good. They used to talk real funny — what we call “Caló .” And we learned how to imitate them, and we started to get a little out of hand. And we were starting to get into some different fights with different neighborhoods.

The reputation of the zoot suiters for violence, whether earned or exaggerated, resulted in one of the worst outbreaks of ethnic violence in the history of Los Angeles: the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943. In fact, what the media of the day described as rioting between Mexican gangs and White servicemen based in L.A. was really a coordinated beatdown of Mexicans by Whites whipped up by a biased press. Hundreds of Mexican young men were targeted, beaten, and stripped of their zoot suits during a weeklong free-for-all. Allegedly, the attackers were incensed by the generously draped apparel at a time of restrictions on material goods.

A zoot suit sported by a young Mexican American youth, 1944. Image # 00002818, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

Pete managed to avoid the worst of the violence. However, he recalls vividly how he and his friends were called out by a group of “goons” that he believed were sent by the FBI. The men, who had badges and guns, warned them to stay out of fights or be killed.

 


From right, Eddie and Pete Rodriguez set up for the first Spanish language television and radio simulcast of the Rose Parade in 1952. Image #00002144, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Collection.

On the Air

In the late 1940s, Pete’s life took on a new direction. He credits his older brother, Eddie, with introducing him to the world of radio, and later television, broadcasting. Eddie Rodriguez was making a name for himself in Spanish-language radio, beginning with a small station in Pomona and later at KMPC Los Angeles. Pete joined him, learning the trade.

So I started working with him. And I began to enjoy it. I began to enjoy radio. I started just bringing him the records that he’d ask me for and answering the phones for requests. Mexican people do that a lot; they call in for requests — “Will you please play a song for my birthday?” and the name of the show was “Buenos Dias,” “Good Morning.” And it was from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. It’s amazing. I didn’t know there were so many people up so early in the morning, you know what I mean? It had a great rating.

[We played] all the old Perez Prado, Trio Los Panchos, and mariachi music, and big band. We even used to play Anglo music. That’s what made it so different. My brother used to play Mario Lanza, this big operatic song, and then he’d put on these dogs barking in the background. He’d do these crazy things.

Eddie became involved with early Spanish-language television programming, beginning on KHJ, and Pete came along for the ride learning film editing and producing on the job.

It was called “The Spanish Theater Hour.” And then he got another program after that was called “Momentos Alegres,” “Happy Moments.” And this used to be a Latin variety show, and it was “Pachuco Boogie” and all this stuff. Then we got “Fandango,” which was a highly rated show in Los Angeles on KNX TV [CBS affiliate]. Do you know what a Fandango is? Fandango is a big Mexican party. And we were on for 86 weeks.

Eddie and Pete Rodriguez at CBS, 1955. Image #00002166, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

Working for Justice

Following Eddie’s death, Pete’s career took another turn. He had been on the production staff of two movie shorts: “The Cadillac”(1962) and “The Legend of Jimmy Blue Eyes” (1965) — both nominated for Oscars as best short subjects. However, he found himself increasingly bothered by the treatment of Latinos in the entertainment industry — from negative and  stereotyped roles in Hollywood to limited opportunities behind the camera. He was drawn to the activism of Justicia, a radical group that fought for better treatment of Chicanos in movie making. Justicia staged protests and boycotts, demanded meetings with studio executives, and confronted actors directly, accusing them of complicity.

We made a lot of demands — that they stop stereotyping Mexicans as ‘sleeping under a cactus,’ lazy, worthless, no-good, treacherous, and killers; that they give them some meaningful parts and hire people that can help them do this. They listened! That’s the reason I got the job at ABC. A lot of people got jobs in television and the movie industry. Still, it’s not fair.

In the hurly-burly 60s, Justicia earned a reputation as a fringe group, became the target of police harassment, and eventually disbanded. Nonetheless they had an impact. As a result of talks with ABC Television, Pete was hired as community affairs director to oversee relations with the Latino community beginning in 1972. From that point, he allied himself with Nosotros, a group of Latinos in film and television led by Ricardo Montalbán, attending fundraisers and mingling with celebrities. Nosotros established an award program for those working to promote positive images of Latinos in show business (the Golden Eagle Award, established 1970).

 

The firebrand founder of the Justicia movement, Ray Andrade, is pictured surrounded by Chicano actors in 1973. These may be bit players in one of the films of Sam Peckinpah, a favorite target of Justicia for his racist and violent depictions of Mexicans. Later, Andrade had a hand in mounting the first English-language sitcom to feature a Chicano character: “Chico and the Man”. Image #00002174, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

 

From left: Pete and his wife, Helen, at a carnival at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 1960. The second woman is Pete’s sister-in-law. Image #00002168, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

Pete Rodriguez, second from left, and a group from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists meet with Israeli President Yitzhak Navon in Israel, 1978. Image #2154, Shades of L.A:  Mexican American Community.

 

Pete Rodriguez and Howard Cosell of ABC Sports at a fundraiser for the International Youth Boxing Club, 1978. Image #00002139, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

 

Pete and Helen Rodriguez with famed actor Cesar Romero at a banquet for Nosotros, 1980. Image #00002173. Shades of L.A: Mexican American Community.

 

Pete with Ricardo Montalbán at an event for Nosotros, 1980. Image #00002153, Shades of L.A: Mexican American Collection.

 

While the entertainment industry has increased opportunities for diverse groups, including Mexican Americans, much remains to be done.

Shades of L.A.: Picnics in the Park

Thirty years ago the Los Angeles Public Library embarked on a ground-breaking, collection-building project – reaching out to the diverse communities of the region for family photographs that would provide depth and nuance to an understanding of this region’s multi-cultural history. The project and its results are called Shades of L.A. The support group Photo Friends of the L.A. Public Library was formed to assist in that effort. The group endures.

Los Angeles is a place literally built on the intersection of cultures: from the Tongva and other Native tribes that lived here for centuries to the Spanish, Mexican, and Black pobladores who established the pueblo in 1781, to the Hispanic and White cultures that duked it out for dominance in the early 19th century. As so often happens, the dominant culture, in this case the White American settlers, was quickly able to put their stamp on the historical narrative.

In the 20th century, Los Angeles has seen further waves of immigration, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East Africa, and Latin America. Asian immigration has come in distinctive waves, beginning with Chinese in the late 19th century, to Japanese and Filipinos in the first part of the 20th, and, more recently, Southeast Asians, the refugees of the wars that decimated that region.

With major funding from Security Pacific National Bank and California Humanities, LAPL staff and volunteers were able to reach out to many ethnic communities and collect or copy over 7,000 images documenting family businesses, celebrations, religious and cultural traditions, and ordinary life. In addition, volunteers and staff taped a dozen oral histories from participants. These photos and stories go far to balance the collection of the library. For a more detailed overview of the project, see https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

More than food

Picnics are universal. Despite cultural differences, picnics seem to be one thing we all have in common: who doesn’t enjoy eating outdoors with friends and family?

Shades of L.A. provides us with a wealth of documentation about the ethnic groups that make up the Southland. In these collections of family photos and oral histories, picnics appear as a common thread. We see how the age-old staple provides more than just a meal; it becomes a way to hand down customs and traditions from generation to generation. Picnics are a way to sustain cultural community within a huge, sometimes impersonal, megalopolis.

Many communities hold picnics that include organized games and sports activities, speeches, dances, skits, and music. Stories are shared and acted or danced out. Traditional foods are eaten. And, perhaps, families that might feel a sense of isolation are able to connect with others who share their heritage. Picnics frame and reinforce cultural identity.

The earliest dated photo of a picnic in our collection is this one of an Italian American gathering at Sycamore Grove Park along the Arroyo Seco. Sycamore Grove became an official Los Angeles City park in 1905, several years after this photo which is dated “circa 1898.” Prior to that time, the area had a reputation as a somewhat “shady” beer garden. Shades of L.A.: Italian American Community, #00025540.

Chinese American kids enjoy watermelon at a church picnic, about 1985. The picnic was organized by St. Bridget’s Chinese Catholic Church. Shades of L.A.: Chinese American Community, #00003365.

Japanese children line up for a foot race at the annual picnic of an after-school program in Hollywood, 1921. “Japanese School” was a common element of life for Nisei. Shades of L.A.: Japanese American Community, #00004248.

Much more than a picnic, the Native American pow wow is a ceremonial expression of indigenous cultures of North America with formal music and dance performances. Here, a Navajo couple, Myron and Virginia Denetdale, attends a pow wow organized by the American Indian Employee Association of Rockwell International in 1976. Myron served in World War II. The couple founded The Navajo Club of Los Angeles, helping Indians from the reservation adjust to urban life. Shades of L.A.: Native American Community, #00004601.

In her 1994 oral history, Glenda Ahhaitty explains how the warrior tradition is honored at pow wow:

There isn’t an Indian event that doesn’t begin without the flag and the [national anthem] being sung. And at the end of it they usually sing warrior songs honoring military veterans. Warrior songs that are sung talk about ancient battles, but they also talk about all of them from WWI forward. And in their words they’ll talk about the Battle of the Bulge or they’ll talk about the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

Marilyn White at her family’s annual picnic, Val Verde Park in the Castaic area. Shades of L.A.: African American Community, #00001287.

We profiled Marilyn White‘s career as an Olympic athlete and teacher in a recent post. In her 1992 oral history, she relates the enduring tradition of her family’s picnic:

Last year was the 50th year of our family picnic. It started before [19]40 in Kansas City when my mother was a kid. And the people would go around and they had two trucks. The first truck went around and it picked up all the people who were going to the party. And the second truck picked up all of the food. It was once a year. And it continued once a year all the way here into Los Angeles which is where most of the family is now. And my cousin and I have been in charge of the picnic for the last three years. This year we’re going to have it at Westchester Park. We’re hoping to continue this tradition; we don’t want to let it slide.

Iranian American Ali celebrates his birthday in Roxbury Park, Beverly Hills, 1991. Shades of L.A.: Iranian American Community, #00034358.

A group of Armenian Americans, including the Dakessian family, picnic in 1961. Many Armenians immigrated to the United States during the 1940s and ’50s as refugees from persecution. A large number had been prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. Shades of L.A.: Armenian American Community, #00000017.

A Fourth of July picnic in 1912. Immigrants from many lands enjoy celebrating the preeminent summer holiday of their adopted home. Shades of L.A.: Jewish Community, #00005542.

Picnics may be family affairs, or they may be organized by a church, a school, or a cultural or fraternal organization. Angela Weil, above, plays with a balloon animal at a picnic organized by the Bakers Confectionary Union in 1960. Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, #00002284.

Music and dancing are expected at a Greek picnic such as this one from 1928. One man plays clarinet (or klarino) while the others prepare to start a line dance. Shades of L.A.: Greek American Community, #00005982.

Korean American children play a bean bag toss game at a picnic hosted by the Korean Institute of Southern California, 1995. Shades of L.A.: Korean American Community, #00079723.

Japanese Americans picnic in the sand within sight of the oil wells at Signal Hill near Long Beach, ca. 1920. Shades of L.A.: Japanese American Community, #00004252.

In her 1993 oral history, Alice Ito describes some of the places Japanese Americans would go for picnics in the years before World War II and the importance of the cultural connections to young Nisei:

Every so often we’d pack up a picnic lunch and go either to the beach or to the park. At that time what is now Marina Del Rey used to be Del Rey Beach and many of the Japanese families used to go down there and have their little picnics. It had a little canal there and that’s where we used to find other Japanese American families. And another place, in the San Pedro area, used to be called White Point. Down the rocky, craggy cliffs we used to walk and do a little fishing and abalone hunting. It was quite the place to be because they used to have many of the Prefecture picnics there. Prefectures [provinces] from Japan. That was a big thing. Not only picnicking, but they’d have cultural dances from the region, and the food! It was really something we looked forward to because it was all new to us [second generation]. They set up a stage and they all had on the costumes of that area — very colorful! Musicians accompanied the dances. And there were songs I’d never heard before.

Pakistani American children celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting in the Islamic calendar, Glendale, 1995. The children may be preparing to put on a skit, or simply playing dress-up. Shades of L.A.: Pakistani American Community, #00080518.

A different sort of picnic. A group of Japanese Americans takes time out from tobogganing in the San Bernardino Mountains to picnic in the snow. Shades of L.A.: Japanese American Community, #00004240.

Marilyn White – An Olympian Forever

Thirty years ago the Los Angeles Public Library embarked on a ground-breaking, collection-building project – reaching out to the diverse communities of the region for family photographs that would provide depth and nuance to an understanding of this region’s multi-cultural history. The project and its results are called Shades of L.A. The support group Photo Friends of the L.A. Public Library was formed to assist in that effort. The group endures.

Los Angeles is a place literally built on the intersection of cultures: from the Tongva and other Native tribes that lived here for centuries to the Spanish, Mexican, and Black pobladores who established the pueblo in 1781, to the Hispanic and White cultures that duked it out for dominance in the early 19th century. As so often happens, the dominant culture, in this case the White American settlers, was quickly able to put their stamp on the historical narrative.

In the 20th century, Los Angeles has seen further waves of immigration, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East Africa, and Latin America. Asian immigration has come in distinctive waves, beginning with Chinese in the late 19th century, to Japanese and Filipinos in the first part of the 20th, and, more recently, Southeast Asians, the refugees of the wars that decimated that region.

With major funding from Security Pacific National Bank and California Humanities, LAPL staff and volunteers were able to reach out to many ethnic communities and collect or copy over 7,000 images documenting family businesses, celebrations, religious and cultural traditions, and ordinary life. In addition, volunteers and staff taped a dozen oral histories from participants. These photos and stories go far to balance the collection of the library. For a more detailed overview of the project, see https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

 

L.A. born and raised

Today we are featuring Marilyn White who grew up in west L.A. and achieved excellence as an athlete and as a teacher. She spoke to the project’s director, Amy Kitchener, in 1992 as part of the Shades of L.A.: African American Community project. All photos were provided by Marilyn, except where otherwise indicated.

 

An early photo shows Marilyn, center, with her parents Mary Lorenzo and Nelson, young brother, Robert, and twin baby sisters, Donna and Ela, at their home on West 43rd Street in L.A. Some years later, Marilyn and her family recreated the photo with her own son taking the place of young Robert (minus the toy handcuffs). Image #00001459.

 

Marilyn grew up in a close-knit home in various neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles. Her father, a hard-working school custodian, was a hero to her. She counts her mother as the most influential person in her life.

I remember that I used to always follow my dad down to Central [Avenue]. He would walk down to Central to go to the market. I loved hot dogs, so my dad would go to the market and he would always get me a hot dog. The neighbors said “Every time you see Nelson White, you’re going to see Marilyn because she’s his shadow.” And that’s quite true. It’s always been true.

In high school, Marilyn was introduced to track and field sports. About the same time, she was discovered by a trainer, Fred Jones, looking to put together a team of female track athletes to compete locally; Marilyn became a member of the L.A. Mercurettes. Her family was very supportive of her athletic ambitions. Her father dug out a pit in the back yard and filled it with sand so that she could practice the long jump there.

 

The photo above appeared in the Valley Times in 1963 under the headline: “Is there a gold medal in her future?” Marilyn, second from left, ran in the L.A. Invitational, beating both 1960 Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph (center) and Jutta Heine (second from right), the German champion in the 60-yard dash. Alan Hyde, photographer, Valley Times Collection. Image #00053730.

Los Angeles

In the fall of 1962, Marilyn enrolled at UCLA. (She later completed her undergraduate education at Pepperdine.) She began training hard with Fred Jones and the Mercurettes.

I ran in the L.A. Invitational in 1963. And I could not believe that I actually had beat Wilma Rudolph, but I had. And in the process I had beat Jutta Heine of Germany, the German champion. So I received the Athlete of the Meet Award. And, as you can see, we didn’t even have uniforms. We just had sweat clothes and that’s what our team wore because we were such a new team. But this was just the amazement of my life.

Marilyn with the Athlete of the Meet Award (the [distance runner] Mike Portanova award), L.A. Invitational, January 19, 1963. Image #00001691.

The sports media of the day marveled at the upset success of the “tiny” American runner, particularly when contrasted with the nearly six-foot tall German. A Sports Illustrated article, which gushed over the physical presence of Jutta Heine and framed the event as a contest between the German and Wilma Rudolph, had to acknowledge the surprise outcome at the Invitational:

The only trouble is that, while Jutta and Wilma were worrying about each other, an unknown 18-year-old UCLA freshman named Marilyn White ran away from them both.

“I never saw her,” said Wilma.

“I never heard of her,” said Jutta. Neither had anyone else.

Why neither Wilma nor Jutta could see Marilyn during the race is surprising, since she was right there, two yards ahead of them all the way.

(Roy Terrell, “A Dash of Style for Track and Field,” Sports Illustrated, January 28, 1963)

After the Invitational, Marilyn participated in the Pan-American Games in Brazil in April, but did not earn a medal. Next on the horizon were the 1964 summer Olympics!

Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan, hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics. The city again played host to the games in 2021, 57 years later.

Marilyn was chosen as part of the American track and field team. While she missed out on a medal by inches in the 100 meter run, she and her teammates took the silver medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay race.

We boggled our pass and we came in second instead of first. So it was a frustrating games, but it was a learning experience. It was a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, because once you are an Olympian, you are an Olympian forever. And nobody can ever take that away from you.

I think that was the last of the non-political Olympic Games, in ’64,  because as you know in ’69 there was just turmoil. It was wonderful.

Marilyn and Japanese athlete Makiko at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Image #00001300.

At the games Marilyn became acquainted with a Japanese sprinter, Makiko Izawa. Although they eventually lost touch, the friendship had long-reaching effects:

We had become friends and we exchanged gifts. And during the 1984 games [in Los Angeles] I attempted to try and find Makiko again. An in my attempt, [an] article was run in the Japanese newspaper and my whole class and I started receiving all kinds of mail and trinkets from people in Japan who had read the article about me having been in Tokyo [in 1964] and looking for Makiko. And people just started writing and we wrote back. And we had pen pals for the whole year. My class made their own kimonos out of sheets. We had an “Olympic Games.” We had everything at the school and it was all an outgrowth of this attempt to find Makiko.

Marilyn shows off her Olympic medal at her alma mater, Bishop Conaty High School in Los Angeles, circa 1965. Marilyn credits much of her success to the education she received at the all-girls Catholic school. “I was really introduced to track and field in high school at Bishop Conaty. We had a field day once a year and I still have my very first trophy that I got there. It was great fun and it turned me on to excelling in something. It felt good to excel.” Image #00001690.

 

Marilyn (far right) and her relay teammates display trophies won at the Mt. San Antonio College games in Walnut, California, 1965. Charlotte Cook, at far left, became Marilyn’s roommate during the year she taught in Washington D.C.  Image # 00001290.

 

Marilyn with decathletes C.K. Yang and Rafer Johnson, 1966. Yang and Johnson were students at UCLA who competed against each other in the 1960 Olympics, taking the silver and gold medals respectively in the decathlon. Image #00001291.

While a student at UCLA, Marilyn took a work-study position teaching PE at the Santa Monica Boys Club:

And at the end of that year we had a field day. And it was a field day, it was a dog show, it was a carnival; it was a wonderful event that we had at Santa Monica Boys Club. And I invited C.K. Yang and Rafer Johnson to it. And they came!

Asked to pinpoint the highlight of her sports career, Marilyn recalls the thrill of the Olympic Trials on Randalls Island, New York City, in 1964:

I remember the night that I qualified for the 100 meters calling home and having my whole family laughing and crying and yelling on the phone at the other end. That was really good. And I was just grateful that I was able to go to the Olympic Games while my father was still alive to see it. Because that man worked so hard as a custodian and then in the evenings he would take me to practice and sometimes he would be asleep at practice because it was just so hard on him.

I remember my father saying that, as a Black person, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to go half as far. And I’ve always remembered that.

Born to teach

Marilyn’s experience as an athlete led her to a career as a physical education teacher, first for one year in Washington D.C., and then back in Los Angeles. Ultimately she transitioned to classroom teaching, but kept up her interest in athletics, competing again in an amateur league at the age of 40. She was still teaching as of the date of the interview.

I think I had been a teacher since I was age two or three. I really believe that teachers are born, they’re not made. And I can remember when we lived on 43rd Street, my backyard had this pomegranate tree and it was a giant tree that opened out and looked like a cave. There was a little dark area you could go inside. I used to play school out there. I’d make my little sisters and my brother sit there and I’d play school with them, and, you know, sometimes the kids in the neighborhood would come over and we’d play school. I was always the teacher.

Diving into family history

Toward the end of the interview, Marilyn talks of her new-found passion for genealogy and family history, sparked by a workshop during Black History Week in 1988. She describes tracing her family’s history on both her mother and father’s sides back several generations, meeting relatives in the process. Her stated goal, she tells the interviewer, is to travel to West Africa for further research:

I haven’t crossed the ocean yet, but I’m standing on the shore.

 

Shades of L.A.: The Filipino American Experience

Thirty years ago the Los Angeles Public Library embarked on a ground-breaking, collection-building project – reaching out to the diverse communities of the region for family photographs that would provide depth and nuance to an understanding of this region’s multi-cultural history. The project and its results are called Shades of L.A. The support group Photo Friends of the L.A. Public Library was formed to assist in that effort. The group endures.

Los Angeles is a place literally built on the intersection of cultures: from the Tongva and other Native tribes that lived here for centuries to the Spanish, Mexican, and Black pobladores who established the pueblo in 1781, to the Hispanic and White cultures that duked it out for dominance in the early 19th century. As so often happens, the dominant culture, in this case the White American settlers, was quickly able to put their stamp on the historical narrative.

In the 20th century, Los Angeles has seen further waves of immigration, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East Africa, and Latin America. Asian immigration has come in distinctive waves, beginning with Chinese in the late 19th century, to Japanese and Filipinos in the first part of the 20th, and, more recently, Southeast Asians, the refugees of the wars that decimated that region.

With major funding from Security Pacific National Bank and California Humanities, LAPL staff and volunteers were able to reach out to many ethnic communities and collect or copy over 7,000 images documenting family businesses, celebrations, religious and cultural traditions, and ordinary life. In addition, volunteers taped a dozen oral histories from participants. These photos and stories go far to balance the collection of the library. For a more detailed overview of the project, see https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

Filipinos in Los Angeles

Two persons who immigrated to this country from the Philippine Islands provided oral histories for Shades of L.A.: Royal Morales and Helen Brown. This essay is based in part on their stories. All photos are from the Shades of L.A.: Filipino American Community Collection unless otherwise indicated.

Men play cards at the Filipino Community Center in 1977. Herald Examiner Collection, image #00048180, Conrad Mercurio photographer.

The Philippines has a long, complicated history, including a unique melding of cultures and ethnicities and a special, if not always happy, relationship with the United States. For centuries the islands were subjects of the Spanish Empire. In 1898 the country was freed from Spanish rule only to become a far-flung territory of the U.S. Independence finally arrived only 75 years ago.

A benefit of American governance was that Filipinos could immigrate to the states more easily than other Asian peoples (at least until 1934 when immigration quotas were established). They were called “Nationals.” This was not the same as being a citizen; Nationals could not vote and faced similar discrimination as members of other ethnic groups.

In his 1993 interview, Royal “Roy” Morales described a center of Filipino activity in Central Los Angeles that moved about according to the changing demographics of the times, as well as urban development in the Bunker Hill area and freeway development. At the time of the interview, he describes the new Filipino Town as “the Union and Temple area to further down to Alvarado and west.” The area includes both the Filipino Christian Church and the Filipino Community Center (now the Filipino Cultural Center).

 

Royal Morales at his desk at Chapman College, City of Orange, about 1953.  Image #00003825.

Roy was born in Los Angeles in 1932, but moved to the Philippines with his family at the age of two. He returned to the states at the age of 18, alone, and enrolled in college. He earned a master’s degree in social work from USC and went on to a long career in the field, using his talents to help young Filipinos.  He sat for an interview with Amy Kitchener in 1993.

Arriving back in the Los Angeles area at the age of 18 was a bewildering experience for Roy:

I saw the big trees the big ocean. I saw the mountains and snow, very impressive, very clear, beautiful country. Seeing this vast, big country was very impressive. And then going directly to the campus, of course, that was my acculturation, the campus, the school. And right away the other connection was going to the Filipino Christian Church. That became my anchor.

Nativity play at the Filipino Christian Church, 1955. Image #00003678.

 

Helen (second from left) and friends received master’s degrees from UCLA in 1939. Image #00003946.

Helen Brown was born in Manila in 1915 to a Filipino mother and Caucasian American father, one of many mainlanders who went to the Philippines to teach in the early part of the century. Her family immigrated to the Los Angeles area in 1933 when she was a teenager. She graduated from UCLA and went on to receive a master’s in education from the university in 1939. Most of her working life was in schools, both in teaching roles and as an advocate for child welfare.

Although she counted white girls among her friends growing up, she often felt she was treated as a curiosity:

We’d have parties and sometimes we’d have slumber parties, and I remember we would be talking, sharing experiences. And, well, you know: “Where were you born?” I’d say I was from the Philippines and, well, that would start the frowns, you know. “Where was that?…Was it near Hawaii?” “No, a little bit further than that.” [Sometimes] I’d say I was from Hawaii, you know, or Czechoslovakia, or whatever.

Forbidden to Marry

Shortly after graduate school, Helen met Bill Brown, a Caucasian. Although she herself was half Caucasian, the couple were turned away when they went to get a marriage license in 1941. California still had a miscegenation law on the books, dating from statehood in 1850, which outlawed marriage between Caucasians and members of any other race. (Hispanics were considered white in this context.) The couple went to Nevada to marry. It was common at the time for mixed-race couples to marry out of state. Seven years later, the statute was struck down in the state Supreme Court case, Perez v. Sharp.

 

An ethnically mixed group of workers pose for a picture at the San Pedro Naval Supply Depot. Image #00025397, 1945.

Wartime Opportunities

World War II brought opportunities for ethnic minorities and women, groups that often faced discrimination in employment. Helen Brown trained as a welder and found work with CalShip (the California Shipbuilding Corporation) working on the Liberty Ships. CalShip and other yards had a mandate to turn out hundreds of new cargo ships to support, and sometimes carry, armed forces. Much of the work crew was made up of women.

The work was also an opportunity for Helen, and others, to mix with women of other ethnicities.

I had gotten acquainted with the others — the Blacks and the Hispanics — and so I went to work with many of them in the shipyard. And I was assigned to weld the sides of the ships — they were called the bulk heads of the ships, these Liberty Ships — later called the Victory Ships. …  I was so interested because some of them were used to land the troops or the marines in the Philippines, as well as other islands.

There were all kinds of women, there was even one flapper kind of young thing, you know; she’d make us all laugh with all of her adventures, you know! And then also, I know that was the beginning of women’s empowerment, because it was the first time that women of color really had the chance to earn a good living, because the pay was very good. And enjoy themselves, and they learned this skill. First time they were out of their homes, you know.

 

Filipina American Tawa and her friend Ethel sport athletic sweaters at Roosevelt High School in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of L.A., 1944. Image #00025415.

Cultural Identity

The sixties was a turbulent decade in America, as many racial and ethnic groups organized to demand recognition and an end to discrimination in housing, jobs, and education. These movements also served to foster pride in ethnic identity and culture. Filipinos who may have come from quite diverse backgrounds in their home islands now began to see themselves as one group: Filipino Americans. Both Helen Brown and Roy Morales, who became friends and allies, were involved in establishing Filipino American associations.

Helen, who had been quiet and shy in her youth, recalls finding her voice and purpose:

We as a group were hearing the Blacks talk about their experiences. We Asians began to hear about the Chicanos and were saying to ourselves, “Hey, you know, we feel the same way. They’re saying things that we feel that we have never expressed.”

The terms “Pilipino/Pilipina” were adopted by many activists as a way of establishing self-identity, rather than the “Filipino/Filipina” ascribed to them originally by Spanish conquerors. Helen explains:

And then they gave us our name: Filipinos with an F. And we didn’t even have an F in our alphabet, see? And they’re defining who we are and everything.

Today both terms are used.

Cultural pride was a big part of changing times. Helen Brown felt unexpected pride when she first saw a dance troupe from the Philippines perform in Los Angeles:

I saw this for the first time at the Shrine Auditorium in 1954 when a dance troupe called the Bayanihan came to perform. So I went over to see it and I’m telling you, Amy, this was the most beautiful presentation that I’ve ever seen, you know. And it was all this Philippine music with all the dances and costumes and everything. It was just beautiful! And I said, “Hey, you know what, that’s part of me!” And that was really the beginning of my pride in being, you know, who I was.

The Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company perform “Wild Plumes,” balancing bowls on the dancers’ heads, in 1988. Image #00087675, Herald Examiner Collection, James Ruebsamen, photographer.

The group Pisante performs at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture, 1994. Image #00005705.

Royal Morales described some of the cultural traditions that received new recognition during the sixties and seventies as young Filipinos discovered their heritage:

Well, the ethnic studies and then empowerment, getting into certain positions of importance, getting further into the roots, heritage, a lot of the games, culture, kite-making, sipa [rattan ball and the game that utilizes it], parol making [a decorative Christmas lantern], poetry that is a combination of Pilipino and English. And artists, writers were coming up. A few books were beginning to be written — Drama, poetry, essays, articles, arts and crafts were all part of the seeking of roots.

A student in Roy Morales’ lantern-making workshop at the Filipino Community Center shows off his ‘parol’ in 1993. Image #00005701.

Acculturation, not Assimilation*

Helen Brown described the change in mindset that came about as a result of the ferment of the sixties and beyond:

So now, what they’re doing is to begin to think in terms of — yes, we are from different regions of the islands, but still we’re from the Philippines. And so, if we’re going to have more of a part of this country here in the United States that we’re making our home, we want to be a part of this, you know; we have to make our part known, too. It’s not assimilation, it’s more of an acculturation. So we keep our differences as Filipino, but we also become a part of the United States. This is the Philippine culture contributing to this society.

*Merriam-Webster defines acculturation as a blending of cultures, as opposed to assimilation which occurs when one culture is absorbed into that of the dominant culture.

 

Royal Morales is with Jennifer Paz, a star of the musical Miss Saigon, and the young daughter of Roselyn and Florante Ibanez at the 1996 Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture. Miss Paz is more recently heard in the cartoon series Steven Universe as the voice of Lapis Lazuli. Image #00005707.

 

Featured image: Tawa and George, a sailor, in Long Beach, about 1947. Image #00025404.

Heritage Reclaimed: The Story of Glenda Ahhaitty

Thirty years ago the Los Angeles Public Library embarked on a ground-breaking, collection-building project – reaching out to the diverse communities of the region for family photographs that would provide depth and nuance to an understanding of this region’s multi-cultural history. The project and its results are called Shades of L.A. The support group Photo Friends of the L.A. Public Library was formed to assist in that effort. The group endures.

Los Angeles is a place literally built on the intersection of cultures: from the Tongva and other Native tribes that lived here for centuries to the Spanish, Mexican, and Black pobladores who established the pueblo in 1781, to the Hispanic and White cultures that duked it out for dominance in the early 19th century. As so often happens, the dominant culture, in this case the White American settlers, was quickly able to put their stamp on the historical narrative.

In the 20th century, Los Angeles has seen further waves of immigration, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East Africa, and Latin America. Asian immigration has come in distinctive waves, beginning with Chinese in the late 19th century, to Japanese and Filipinos in the first part of the 20th, and, more recently, Southeast Asians, the refugees of the wars that decimated that region.

With major funding from Security Pacific National Bank and California Humanities, LAPL staff and volunteers were able to reach out to many ethnic communities and collect or copy over 7,000 images documenting family businesses, celebrations, religious and cultural traditions, and ordinary life. In addition, volunteers taped a dozen oral histories from participants. These photos and stories go far to balance the collection of the library. For a more detailed overview of the project, see https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

Two Worlds

Young Glenda with her pet chicken at her grandparents’ home in Bakersfield. “That chicken acted like a dog. If you put your hand out, it would put its head out so you could pet its neck.” Image #00004628.

Glenda Griggs was born in 1941 in Texas to a Cherokee father and a French and English mother. The family moved to California in 1954 where her father continued his career in the oil industry. In 1994, Glenda sat for an interview with Sojin Kim for the Shades of L.A. project. She also donated a number of family photos and images of Indian ceremonies and cultural events. These have become part of the collection Shades of L.A: Native American Community. All images below are from this collection unless otherwise indicated.

German-born photographer Herman Schultheis snapped this photo of oil derricks in the Long Beach/Signal Hill area in 1937. Herman J. Schultheis Collection, Image #00096720.

So he took the job in California and we came out here crying. We didn’t really want to leave [Oklahoma]. And this was such a strange place. We got here during the winter and Christmas day we went to the beach; it was 90 degrees. And we would do crazy things like drive around Long Beach to smell the oil wells.

Gradually Glenda learned to love the area, particularly the beach:

I fell in love with the ocean. When I was young I went surfing. That was a great adventure. My dad liked to surf. I had the opportunity to do that before it became a fad. My kids tease me about surfing on an ironing board.

A Navajo couple attend a pow wow hosted by the American Indian Employee Association of Rockwell International in 1976. Image #00004601.

Children perform at an event sponsored by the American Indian Employees of Los Angeles County, date uncertain. Image #00004600.

This 1965 photo shows the Mark Twain steamboat in Disneyland’s Frontierland attraction. The “Indian Village” is seen behind it. The “burning cabin” lies around the bend. By the 1970s, the narrative of “unfriendly Indians” torching the settler’s cabin and murdering its owner was replaced with a pirate theme; later the “burning” was completely doused. Herald Examiner Image #00105265.

The Disney Connection

As a teen, Glenda started working at Disneyland shortly after it opened. Many young Indians worked at the amusement park. Ironically, Glenda had to prove her Indian heritage in order to obtain a position at the park’s Indian Village; the proprietor was only hiring Native Americans, presumably for a bit of authenticity. Working at Disneyland was formative for Glenda in a number of ways. In addition to meeting her future husband there, she was, for the first time, introduced to other young people from indigenous cultures. She also experienced discrimination first-hand and became aware of labor and social justice movements:

Unfortunately, Disney never really treated the Indians very fairly…the entertainment management didn’t have much respect for the Indians who were performers. And they paid them less than they paid the people who were dancers in some of their other production shows…But they organized, and they went on strike, and when they had the audacity to strike Disneyland, [the park] closed the Indian Village and built Bear Country [instead]. So there have been no Indians at Disneyland since the Indians went on strike. And as close as they can get — which is very racist — is their “burning house” [cabin], and when they go around in their steamboat, they tell them, “look out, look out, wild Indians are attacking!” 

 Melvin Ahhaitty, Glenda’s husband, in his Marine Corps uniform. Image #00004615, 1959.

Marriage brings new perspectives

Glenda’s husband, Melvin Ahhaitty, served in the Marine Corps, a fact he hid from Glenda at first due to her disdain for the young marines she had encountered. He was a full-blooded Native of Kiowa and Comanche heritage. When they married in 1961 Glenda became even more immersed in Native American culture. This was a contrast to her childhood, where, aside from family, she knew few Indians.

And it was really because of marrying him — [once] I married him, we did not have any social contacts that were not Indian…I mean, I am of mixed background and had a mixed background in how I had grown up, but my husband and I have been married 35 years and from his life point, I did not have contacts except with Indian People. The only contacts I had with non-Indian people were those that I happened to be with at work.

She also learned to understand the warrior tradition that led so many young Indians to join the armed services.

You know, Indian people are conquered within their own country, but there’s nothing more important to them than their country. So there isn’t an Indian event that doesn’t begin without the flag and the flag song being sung. And at the end of it they usually sing warrior songs honoring military veterans. Warrior songs that are sung talk about ancient battles, but they also talk about all of them from WWI forward. And in their words they’ll talk about the Battle of the Bulge or they’ll talk about the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

Glenda Ahhaitty is pictured second from right at an Indian Youth Leadership event at Vandenburg Air Force Base, about 1975. They are holding a model of a satellite. Image #00004609.

Women’s Work

In her thirties, Glenda went to work in the aerospace industry, both at Rockwell International and McDonnell-Douglas. Starting as a file clerk, she worked her way into increasingly responsible technical positions, including drafting and programming.

When I started working at Rockwell they were doing the last of the Apollo space launches, which were the Apollo-Soyuz missions with Russia, and later on the space shuttle, so it was a very exciting time in our nation. The engineers I was working with at Rockwell, they were working with Russians; they were opening up a new frontier in technology….Women were just beginning to demand a presence in engineering. There were women who were degreed engineers who were classified as secretaries.  We fought very hard for women to have a technical presence in engineering. So I had the good fortune to benefit from some of that.

She joined Indian professional organizations and began to work on Indian causes and to mentor Indian youth. At the time of the interview, Glenda was serving with the Los Angeles City/County Indian C0mmission (now the Los Angeles City/County Native American Commission) as Executive Director. Her personal life revolves around her family: four children and three grandchildren.

My children have grown up singing and dancing. We have a drum group called Red Tipi and we travel all over for dances and pow wows. That’s very much a part of our lives.

Walter, Glen, and John of Red Tipi perform at the Hollywood Bowl, date uncertain. Image #00004605.

Glenda Ahhaitty experienced a turbulent period in the history of the Southland. She watched the Watts Riots unfold on her television screen while in labor with her daughter in 1965. She was closely involved with the booming aerospace industry of the 70s and 80s. And she took part in the fights for racial equity of the last decades of the 20th century. She continues to advocate for the rights of Native Americans.

Shades of L.A.: Strong roots – the photos and story of Alice Ito

Aiko Alice with her cousin Niki and brothers Hitoshi and Ise (Isamu) playing at the family’s flower farm in the Los Feliz neighborhood, about 1930. Image #00004245.

 

Thirty years ago the Los Angeles Public Library embarked on a ground-breaking, collection-building project – reaching out to the diverse communities of the region for family photographs that would provide depth and nuance to an understanding of this region’s multi-cultural history. The project and its results are called Shades of L.A. The support group Photo Friends of the L.A. Public Library was formed to assist in that effort. The group endures.

Los Angeles is a place literally built on the intersection of cultures: from the Tongva and other Native tribes that lived here for centuries to the Spanish, Mexican, and Black pobladores who established the pueblo in 1781, to the Hispanic and White cultures that duked it out for dominance in the early 19th century. As so often happens, the dominant culture, in this case the White American settlers, was quickly able to put their stamp on the historical narrative.

In the 20th century, Los Angeles has seen further waves of immigration, from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East Africa, and Latin America. Asian immigration has come in distinctive waves, beginning with Chinese in the late 19th century, to Japanese and Filipinos in the first part of the 20th, and, finally, Southeast Asians, the refugees of the wars that decimated that region.

With major funding from Security Pacific National Bank and California Humanities, LAPL staff and volunteers were able to reach out to many ethnic communities and collect/copy over 7,000 images documenting family businesses, celebrations, religious and cultural traditions, and ordinary life. In addition, volunteers collected a dozen oral histories from donors. These photos and stories go far to balance the collection of the library. For a more detailed overview of the project, see https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/photo-collection/shades-la.

A Tradition of Flowers

This essay looks at the life of Aiko Alice Ito, a Japanese American woman whose family established an enduring flower growing business in the Loz Feliz area south of Griffith Park. Ito’s story parallels that of many Nisei – the first generation of Japanese Americans born in this country. After establishing their business, the family lost it precipitously when they were “evacuated” to a concentration camp during World War II. Unlike many, the family was able to return and reestablish the business which lasted until 1961. Alice and her husband continued in the floral profession by building and running a successful retail shop on Western Avenue. They were active in both flower industry associations and Japanese American organizations.

In addition to donating use of many family photos, Alice Ito sat for an oral history interview with project director Amy Kitchener in 1993. All the quotations below are her own words. All images are from the Shades of L.A.: Japanese American Community, unless otherwise indicated.

Kiyo Kuromi, Alice’s mother, circa 1915. Shades of L.A. image #00004921.

Between two homes

Alice’s mother, Kiyo Kuromi, arrived from Japan in 1906 as a child – “in the year of the San Francisco earthquake.”

“My grandfather used to come and go [from and to Japan]. An when he found that there were much better chances for his children, he brought all three of them and then mother stayed here and the others he took back again…She remained with her uncle and he grew flowers for quite some time and then he retired and went back [to Japan] and then she was on her own here.”

Alice’s mother married a man named Harue, but it appears that the couple chose to keep Kiyo’s maiden name, Kuromi, as their surname, a relatively common practice among Japanese when a family name was at risk of dying out. Together they opened a floral nursery in the Los Feliz area of the city, in the shadow of the Griffith Observatory. Here they grew sweet peas, chrysanthemums, ranunculus, and other popular varieties, taking the cut flowers to sell at the flower market on Wall Street in downtown L.A. Alice and her two younger brothers grew up roaming and playing on the flower farm.

Sailing day  in 1931. A crowd gathers to bid farewell to relatives returning to Japan. The Nippon Yusen Kaisha line also carried tourists to exotic locations before hostilities put an end to the trade. Image #00004246.

Alice’s grandfather continued to keep a foot in both countries. He embarked upon business ventures in Los Angeles, but returned to Japan every year or so. She recalled day-long excursions to see him off at San Pedro.

“If grandpa was going to Japan, it was by boat. We would see him off. We would take a picnic lunch. It was an all-day affair.”

Advertisement for N.Y.K. Japanese liners. Image # Travel_Poster-00118, Travel Poster Collection.

In 1939, when Alice was about 20, the entire family traveled to Japan to visit the ailing grandfather. Alice elected to remain in that country and attend college. In addition to beefing up her scanty Japanese language skills, she had the opportunity to study traditional arts which stood her in good stead later as a florist:

“It was a wonderful challenge. In addition to books, over the weekends I decided to fill in with flower arranging classes, the Japanese tea ceremony, silk painting, and calligraphy. There was lot there to learn! Silk painting was wonderfully relaxing. Flower arranging has been a wonderful influence because, as we went into business, I found that the basic lines were important to follow, even with the [fuller] arrangements that we have here. They do like the vines, but homes in America need a little more than the few flowers we use over there.”

Late in 1941, Alice’s sojourn in Japan was cut short when all American citizens were urged to return home. With war clouds looming, she had to scramble to find transportation back to Los Angeles.

“In my second year they asked that we return. When I was finally able to get a boat to give me passage, that ship was one of the last to unload its passengers here in San Pedro. The one right after that ship had to turn around and go back. So I was just lucky. Those friends of mine that were on that ship had to spend their lives in Japan during the war.”

Happier Times

Although the family worked long and hard at the flower farm, there were occasional outings. In addition to seeing her grandfather off at San Pedro, Alice recalls picnics small and large.

“Every so often we’d pack a picnic lunch and go either to the beach or to the park. What’s now Marina Del Rey used to be Del Rey Beach and many of the Japanese families would go down there and have their little picnics. They had a little canal* there and that’s where we used to find other Japanese American families. Another place was San Pedro — they called it White Point. We’d walk down the rocky craggy cliffs and find a spot, do a little fishing and abalone hunting. They used to have many of the prefecture [families with roots in a specific Japanese region] picnics there.”

*See our blogpost Grand Design: The Canals of Venice for a description of the canal.

Ready. Set. Go! Children line up for a foot race at a picnic sponsored by their after-school Japanese language program. Image #00004248.

“Evacuation”

The terms “evacuation” and “relocation” are euphemisms still often used to describe the forced upheaval of Japanese and Japanese Americans from the West Coast states during World War II. We described the process in our 2017 blogpost There and Back: Los Angeles Japanese and Executive Order 9066. In the spring of 1942, Alice and her family were sent first to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, a horse race track, and then to Gila River Internment Camp in Arizona.

“Well, as you know everyone had to be evacuated. And here we had this acreage and all our equipment. And so we put it into a barn, locked it up. But of course during the course of the war there wasn’t a thing left. Not one item was in there when we came back after the war. And so we started from scratch and were able to take over little bits of land which grew into forty-four acres again. And we were able to grow flowers until 1961 when the property was finally sold.”

Alice with her family at Gila River War Relocation Center, about 1942: Mother Kyo and Alice standing; father Harue kneeling center; Isamu at left; Hitoshi at right. Image #00004265.

Life in the camps was a series of indignities, including the requirement to bring one’s own eating utensils.

“They had a list of items [you could take with you]. For instance, for the mess hall they asked that we buy a tin plate and a cup so that we could get our food and line up and then — just the bare essentials. We just tried to take whatever we felt was necessary, mostly in clothing. And of course any items like knives or scissors or things of that nature were confiscated.”

In 1943 Alice was given permission to leave the camp to marry her fiancé, Arthur Ito, who was in the service. She was allowed to remain with him in Minnesota (far from the “exclusion zone”) and while he served overseas, while she taught Japanese to GIs.

Alice and Arthur Ito married on Valentine’s Day, 1943, in the base chapel, Camp Grant, Illinois. Image #00004253.

At war’s end, Alice’s family was allowed to return to Los Angeles where they managed to reclaim a portion of their land. Sadly, the family patriarch, Harue, took ill and passed away shortly after the return. Alice and Arthur took on the running of the business. When they sold the nursery in 1961, they opened a full-service floral shop, Flower View Gardens, on Western Avenue in Hollywood which was still open at the time of Alice’s 1993 interview.

The Itos became prominent in the flower industry and in the Japanese American community. Arthur rose to become vice president of FTD (Florist Transworld Delivery, as well as president of the Hollywood chapter of the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League). Alice became active in the Executive Women’s International, a women’s professional organization. Family papers make up 52 boxes in the Huntington Library archives.

Culture Clash

Toward the end of the interview, Alice is asked what she thinks of the many changes in Los Angeles. She describes the many waves of new immigrants and, while acknowledging the challenges population diversity brings, she sees hope for growing understanding and tolerance.

“I think we, too, as citizens have to learn [about] the cultures of all these other people that are here. However, it’s very hard to do that because it’s so completely different. For instance, the Asian community: we have the Thailand group, the Cambodians, the Vietnamese, of course mainland China; there’s a few in our area Taiwanese. And then, on the other hand, we have the Latino group and then from the Middle East we have many Armenians and I can’t even begin to tell you what nationalities are all in there. But I’m sure as citizens, it’s up to us to learn. As as business people we have to do that. We’re confronted with many of these problems because we don’t know, but I think in time, I hope, we’ll be able to understand each other a little better.”

The featured image at top shows an unidentified family in Japan, c. 1900, probably Alice’s mother’s family. Image #00004293.

Rancho Los Amigos: Meeting changing needs

The County Farm in 1928: the institution for the indigent, aged, and disabled was designed as a bucolic setting with winding roadways and shade trees. The superintendent’s house is seen at left. (On a side note, the house was used as the principal setting in the comedy horror film Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002.) Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00072843.

Since the dawn of time, we have struggled with the question of how best to help the unfortunate: the poor, homeless, sick, disabled, and elderly. One institution that has paralleled changing approaches to human services is Rancho Los Amigos, a sprawling complex in the city of Downey. Photos from the library’s collection document the life of this enduring public charity.

Beginnings – the Farm

Rancho Los Amigos had its origin as the Los Angeles County Poor Farm, a term that has fallen out of favor. In 1887 the county purchased open land near the town of Downey and built a large facility to handle an overflow of indigent and disabled persons from the county hospital. The first residents arrived a year later.

The poor farm concept was nothing new. It had its origin in the centuries-old Elizabethan poor laws and the idea that indigent people should work for their living unless they were completely disabled by age or infirmity. At the Farm able-bodied residents were assigned to work the fields, the orange orchard, or the dairy, producing food for the facility as well as for sale. By 1923 the charity had 400 acres of farmland and 150 milk cows producing 500 gallons of milk a day.

A “milk maid” prepares to milk a cow at the County Farm, circa 1923. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00072851.

Transitioning to a Medical Facility

In the decades that followed, the farm gradually pivoted toward serving more residents with chronic illnesses and severe disabilities, including mental illness. Ultimately the farm operation was abandoned and the institution became exclusively medical in nature. Name changes reflected the shifting focus: in 1918 the term “poor farm” was dropped in favor of the simple name Hondo, after the community and river in the vicinity. In 1932, the name changed again — to Rancho Los Amigos, “Ranch of the Friends.” More archaic terms, such as almshouse, insane asylum, and sanitarium, are fortunately largely forgotten.

The Rancho grew over the years, building new facilities on the abandoned farmland and expanding to the north where more modern buildings were sited. The institution earned a solid reputation for innovations in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and the use of medical devices, such as the iron lung and the halo vest. In 1982, the it became Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center; two decades later the hospital was given one more name: Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, with modern facilities concentrated on the north campus. About the same time, the south campus was abandoned to become a curiosity for urban explorers and ghost hunters.

The property’s Spanish Colonial style administration building was completed in 1923. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00072850.

 

 

Job-training was a big part of the Rancho experience. In addition to farm and dairy work, residents could learn to operate laundry equipment, build furniture, or work a printing press. Others benefited from the facilities available at the Rancho. These young women, part of the New Deal’s National Youth Administration, press sheets in a large mangle in 1939. These women were employees, not residents. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00047239.

Public Health Crisis: the Polio Epidemic

Today we can hardly comprehend the fear that accompanied the polio epidemics that bedeviled the United States, and other countries, in the 20th century. It can compare only to other little-understood contagions such as AIDS in the 1980s and COVID-19 today. Poliomyelitis is a crippling, virus-driven disease with a history going back to ancient Egypt. Increasing urbanization, with crowded and unsanitary conditions in the late 19th and early 20th century led to widespread outbreaks. Unlike AIDS and COVID, polio hit young children particularly hard. While many of those infected suffered only minor symptoms, a significant number developed severe illnesses that included muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, and paralysis. Many died until the development of polio vaccines in the 1950s and 60s.

Schoolchildren with left arms bared prepare for inoculation against polio, San Pedro School, May 16, 1955. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00055422.

The vaccine came too late to prevent the worst outbreak in U.S. history, in 1952. Los Angeles saw serious outbreaks of polio throughout the 1940s and 50s. The Rancho opened a polio ward in 1944 with 32 patients, the start of what would become a premier polio treatment center offering the latest therapies.

 

The polio ward at Rancho Los Amigos, 1949. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00056927.

 

Newspapers and the public were fascinated with the strange contraption called the iron lung adapted for the use of patients with respiratory failure due to polio.  Photos of people confined to these tube ventilators, many for months or years, abounded. Here a Rancho boy confined to the machine is instructed in knot-tying by his Boy Scout buddies. A mirror placed at an angle allowed the patient to view something other than the ceiling. Valley Times Collection, Image #00123046, February 1, 1964.

 

This likely staged image from 1955 shows polio patients on a covered patio at the Rancho. A rocking bed, allowing for the patient to be repositioned such that gravity will assist respiration, is seen next to an iron lung. The nurse has access to a portable telephone allowing her patient contact with friends and family. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00047238, 1955.

 

A new polio center at the Rancho was dedicated in February, 1955, to meet the needs of growing numbers of disabled polio survivors. For the event, Mrs. Maezella Houdyshell demonstrated the model kitchen at the facility. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00047241.

 

Rancho Los Amigos may have been tucked away, but it was not forgotten. Many community charities and service organizations lent a hand. Here clowns entertain Rancho children at a Yule party in 1963. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00047236.

Today the modern Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center is a respected rehabilitation hospital serving approximately 2,500 people annually on an inpatient basis and many thousands more with outpatient services. Meanwhile, the old buildings of the original Rancho lie neglected behind chain link fencing, some of them already demolished. A number of plans have been proposed for these derelicts, everything from repurposing them for the homeless again to complete demolition. A proposal to replace the campus with county buildings was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in June 2020, despite appeals from preservationists. While the complex is closed to the public, many photos of the decaying structures are available via a quick internet search.

Going up the Country: Tales of Topanga Canyon

Los Angeles is a city and county ringed by mountains where it doesn’t touch the ocean.  With the mountains come canyons, lots of ’em. Some of the most famous declivities are Laurel Canyon, north of Hollywood, Malibu Canyon, and Topanga Canyon. Images from the Los Angeles Public Library give glimpses of life and loss in Topanga Canyon, a winding ravine descending from Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley to the ocean between Santa Monica and Malibu. It is contained within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA).

Topanga Canyon has a checkered history combining bohemian lifeways, sensational crime, and environmental catastrophes such as fires and mudslides. No doubt the remoteness of the locale and relative inaccessibility contributed to all three. Through it all, folks come to Topanga for its natural beauty and breathtaking views.

Early Days

The name Topanga comes from the local native people, generally called the Tongva, who originally occupied the area in close proximity to the Chumash. Despite its remoteness and unsuitability for ranching or agriculture, Topanga Canyon was part of two Spanish land grants in the early 19th century. By the late 19th century enough families were settled in the canyon’s folds to justify a small one-room schoolhouse. The chief occupation was cutting wood to sell to flatlanders. The beautiful canyon and its beach soon began attracting day trippers.

A 1902 photo shows students from the Topanga one-room school. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00024675. Below teacher Bessie Greenleaf stands in the school doorway in 1915. The Greenleaf family has deep roots in Topanga. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00069672.

 

 

The creek that carved the canyon ends at Topanga Beach. A group of folks enjoy an interlude on the sand, amidst seaweed, about 1898. A small child plays at left, background. Although the picture is labeled “Topanga Beach Picnic,” there is no food visible. The party likely arrived by horse cart and may have traveled over “Old” Topanga Canyon Road which had just opened. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00069667.

Away from it All

In the 1920s, Topanga attracted Hollywood stars looking for a quick getaway from the pressures of celebrity. Some, like Cecil B. DeMille and actress Pola Negri, built homes here.

Like so many other canyons, Topanga came to be a mecca for artistic types in the 1950s and beyond. The remoteness and natural beauty attracted many musicians. Neil Young recorded his album “After the Gold Rush” in his Topanga Canyon basement. Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson was inspired to write the rock anthem “Going Up the Country” here. Linda Ronstadt and Jim Morrison were frequent visitors. Beach Boy Dennis Wilson had a home nearby. More on that later.

Artists and fringe types still shape the culture of Topanga. The community includes an outdoor theater founded by blacklisted actor Will Geer in 1973, fairs and music festivals, and an annual film festival. A famous nudist colony closed in 2002.

Linda Ronstadt accepts a Grammy in the “best Mexican-American Performance” category, February 22, 1989. Photographer, James Ruebsamen, Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00083175.

The Dark Side of the Canyon

In the spring of 1968 Dennis Wilson picked up a couple of cute girls on PCH and brought them to his home just outside Topanga State Park. A day or two later he came home to find his house overrun with a group of strangers — a man named Charles Manson and his “family.” This encounter set off a series of unfortunate events, beginning with the murder of Topanga Canyon musician, Gary Hinman, who had befriended the group. That act was the first (or maybe not!) in a murder spree that took the lives of seven people (and likely more), including actress Sharon Tate and her friends.

Charles Manson, in a rare shaven appearance, during the penalty phase of his trail in Los Angeles, March 23, 1971.  The swastika he carved into his forehead is visible. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00020778.

An earlier crime also involved the canyon. In 1951 Valley resident Barney Mapes dumped the bludgeoned body of his estranged wife in the ravine. In an unusual twist for the times, Barney was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

Fire and Rain

Wild fires are a perennial problem in the hills of Los Angeles. Topanga is no exception; spectacular and destructive fires have broken out many times.

 The fire in this 1948 image destroyed 25 homes. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00045944.

 

Firefighters battle the 1938 fire in Topanga Canyon. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00045945.

 

A group of fire fighters rest in the shade of their headquarters vehicle in Topanga Canyon, in November 1948. How many do you see? Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00057029.

 

Women with a child and pets wait to evacuate the canyon in the wake of a 1943 fire which destroyed their home. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00057132.

 

Families fleeing the 1948 fire gather at the Topanga Canyon shopping center waiting for evacuation. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00057062.

Where there are fires, can flash floods be far behind? Topanga has suffered from repeated cycles of floods and mudslides, sometimes trapping residents for days due to washed out roads. In recent years, mudslides have been an annual occurrence.

 

Five people and a dog walk past mounds of muck following a 1973 mudslide that closed the main road for several days. Photographer, E. Bruce Howell, Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00045957.

 

Several cars were washed fifty yards down the canyon in a 1974 mudslide, about a month after the photo above. Photographer, Mike Mullen, Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00045960.

Rocks and fossils: The Ecology of the Canyon

Old Topanga Road (possibly still called simply Topanga Road at the time), with Calabasas Peak in the background, in 1937. Topanga Canyon Boulevard, now State Route 27, was put in at about the same time. Works Progress Administration Collection, Image #WPA 147.

Topanga Canyon is a geologist’s dream. Cliffsides contain fossils, everything from scallops to whales, left by retreating ocean waters millenia ago. Sandstone structures, part of what is called the Vaqueros Formation, make dramatic appearances on the hills. Remnants of indigenous culture are found in the many bedrock mortars, man-made holes used to grind food products.

Vaqueros sandstone monoliths stand near Saddle Peak Road in Topanga Canyon, 1937. Works Progress Administration Collection, Image #00030237.

Vaqueros sandstone outcropping, 1936. Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Image #00030364.

Scallop shell fossils uncovered during road construction. Undated photo, Works Progress Administration Collection, Image #00030359.

 

USC Geology students carry a fossilized whale flipper and vertebrae out from a dig in Woodland Hills, circa 1920. The professor in charge, A.J. Tieje, may have been the photographer. Herald Examiner Collection, Image #00071898.

 

Herman J. Schultheis Collection, Los Angeles Photographers Collection, Image #00097866.

We’ll leave with this magical view of Topanga Boulevard taken by prolific German-born photographer Herman J. Schultheis in or about 1937.

Those Daring Young Men: The 1910 Los Angeles International Aviation Meet

110 years ago a remarkable event took place on Dominguez Hill in what is now the City of Carson, Los Angeles County. A scant six years after the Wright Brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, an International Air Meet brought throngs to witness feats of aeronautical daring-do. The 11-day (January 10-20, 1910) meet featured lighter-than-air balloons and dirigibles, heavier-than-air monoplanes and biplanes, and some very experimental — and comical — machines that never got off the ground. The exposition was a media sensation, cementing the reputation of a number of aviation pioneers and establishing air flight as something more than a flash in the pan.

Photographs and images in the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection tell the tale. All images are from the library’s Security Pacific National Bank Collection.

The scene

The organizers of the event sought out a site where planes could fly safely and that was reasonably close to public transportation (no freeways in those days!). They found it on Dominguez Hill, a part of the Rancho San Pedro owned by the daughters of Manuel Dominguez. The family was persuaded to allow use of their land in exchange for free passes to the tournament. With financial backing from a number of eager sponsors, the organizers leveled out the area needed, now called Aviation Field, built a huge bandstand, set up areas for concessions, and improved the depot at Dominguez Junction on the Southern Pacific line, a half mile walk away.

Postcard commemorating the first International Air Meet in the United States. Image #00007970.

Lighter than air

The Los Angeles Examiner, a sponsor of the meet, stationed a balloon at mid-field. Part landmark, part advertising, the tethered balloon can be seen in many of the photos of the event. One side read “It’s all in the Examiner.” Image #00007966.

A balloon, probably the New York, with passengers, descends to its mark on Aviation Field. Image #00007977.

Labeled “Race of Dirigibles,” this photo shows two air ships, the nearer one piloted by Roy Knabenshue and the farther by Lincoln Beachey. The men control the machines while standing on the struts. Photo by C.C. Pierce & Co. Image #00007981.

Heavier than air

A biplane flies over the makeshift airfield at sunset. Image #00007916.

 

This image shows some of the principal aviators heading over to a photo op: from right are Hillery Beachey (brother of Lincoln Beachey), Charles Willard, Charles Miscarol, Louis Paulhan, Didier Masson, Glenn Curtiss, and Curtiss’ business manager, Jerome Fanciulli. Frenchmen Paulhan, Masson, and Miscarol brought the “international” to the international meet. Other participants were Americans. Notably absent were the Wright brothers who chose not to participate in the meet. Image #00007882.

Louis Paulhan, the French aviator, was the star of the show. He arrived in Los Angeles with two monoplanes, two biplanes, his wife, a mechanic, two students, and a poodle, not to mention a lawsuit alleging patent infringement that had been filed by the Wright brothers. Here he is celebrated for establishing a new flight endurance record, 110 miles. He also achieved a new altitude record of 4,164 feet, although he said he had gone higher. Paulhan is also remembered for giving a ride to William Randolph Hearst, no doubt sparking that man’s interest in aviation. Image #00007883.

Honorable mention

Any number of intrepid individuals made valiant efforts to show off their inventions at the meet. One of the more extraordinary sights was Professor J.S. Zerbe, an amateur inventor, in his five-tiered multiplane or “scalloped-winged” plane. Alas, the contraption never got off the ground. Image #00007930.

Those daring young women

Some of the aviators and aeronauts at the meet offered rides to lucky enthusiasts, these women among them. They happen to be Celeste Paulhan (left), wife of aviator Louis Paulhan, and Mrs. Dick Ferris, wife of the event manager. Mrs. Ferris was well-known in her own right — the stage actress and singer Florence Stone. While no female aviators flew at the meet, it was not many years before aviatrices Katherine Stinson, Edna Christofferson, Dorothy Heater, and others — not to mention Amelia Earhart — proved that women could indeed fly. Image #00007884.

High-flying imagery

Among the collection of images are a number which are clearly “photo-shopped” for the occasion. No doubt images such as the one below fooled many into thinking the skies were crowded with flying machines! Image #00007950.

Like the picture above, many images showed planes flying impossibly low over the crowd, which here appears unconcerned.

Legacy

By all accounts, the event was a huge success, attracting some quarter of a million ticket-buyers. While there were any number of mishaps during the air show, no serious injuries occurred. Later meets were not so fortunate; only one year later aviator Archibald Hoxsey crashed and died in front of spectators at the second Los Angeles aviation meet, held at the same spot as the first. And at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Lincoln Beachey died when his plane fell into San Francisco Bay.

The media, of course, had a field day with the concepts and images of air flight. Many businesses were quick to capitalize on the event with special promotions and tie-ins.

Image #00007960.

More significantly, the air meet at Dominguez Field brought aviation home to the West Coast: Glenn Curtiss, Bill Boeing, and William Randolph Hearst are among the familiar names associated with airplane manufacturing who were at the show. On a more ominous note, the military took note of the possibilities flight presented; Army Lieutenant Paul Beck went aloft with both Curtiss and Paulhan where he tested the concept of aerial warfare by dropping sandbags on a target. Bullseye.

 

 

Bringing the heat!

Man and boys horsing around at Santa Monica Beach. Image #00025341, Shades of L.A.: African American Community Collection, c. 1965.

The Los Angeles basin cannot escape the fact that it’s climate tends to extremes, particularly of the hot variety. Global warming and galloping urbanization have exacerbated the situation Temperatures have increased over the past century, while heat waves are becoming ever more common and last longer.

While the sunshine draws many to the region’s palm-lined shores, there are dark sides to the bright skies. In this post we’ll look at how Angelenos both meet and beat the heat. The essay features images from the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library and the captions that accompanied them when first published in the region’s newspapers.

 

This fellow has found a way to enjoy the beach while still keeping out of the direct sun under the Santa Monica Pier. “Beach temperatures in the 80s and highs in the 90s inland.” Image #00043682 by James Ruebsamen, Herald Examiner Collection.

 

Thanks to industrial pollutants, the sun is often visible in the daytime. “Visitors from France and Italy seek refuge from the heat and smog in the Hotel Bonaventure’s pool.” Image #00051486, Leo Jarzomb, Herald Examiner Collection, July 10, 1984.

 

“Vapor locks stall traffic: Hot impatient motorists pulled to side of Hollywood Freeway, enroute to Valley, as vapor locks caused by excessive heat stalled at least 200 cars. Later afternoon traffice was near standstill, with one lane blocked off for stalled cars. Extra police and tow cars were assigned to area.” Image #00058807, John Rinaldi, Valley Times Collection, 1955.

 

Quintessential Los Angeles in summer: Surf, sun, and youth. Except that this photograph was taken on December 21, 1972 at Will Rogers State Park. Image #00050694, Herald Examiner Collection.

 

Another classic beach scene — a bit sweatier than the one above. “The current Southland heat wave has sent thousands scurrying to local beaches, as witnessed here in Seal Beach. Another scorcher is on tap today, with temperatures expected again to eclipse the 100-degree mark.” Image #00083385, Chris Hosford, Herald Examiner Collection, June 28, 1976.

 

“Real cool pool: Little David Allan Siddon, 2 1/2, splashes happily in his plastic wading pool….while young David was cooling off, temperatures soared to highest this year — a scorching 107.” Image #00112664, Valley Times Collection, June 4, 1957.

 

Valley Times staff artist Bob Hyde gives us a hot dog. The accompanying article described a proposed “pooch cooler” at Hoover Dam in Nevada for dogs and other animals. It is unclear what the proposed cooler was to consist of and unknown if it was ever built. Today no dogs are allowed at the dam site, with the exception of service animals. Image #00112760, Bob Hyde, Valley Times Collection, May 19, 1961.

 

“Valley geyser gushes: The Van Nuys intersection of Oxnard Street and Ethel Avenue became the scene of a geyser-type eruption Monday afternoon when heat caused the concrete roadway to expand, breaking a valve of an eight inch water pipeline.” Image #00125918, W.F. Gaskill, Valley Times Collection, August 8, 1961.

 

Newspapers love to provide life hacks for “beating the heat.” Here “Charles E. Lambert, office manager at the Union Ice Co. in Van Nuys, beats record Valley heat which rose to 110 degrees outside with ice block chair in company’s ice storage building. Ice house’s coolest room registered 30 degrees below.” Image #00143286, Valley Times Collection, September 1, 1955.

 

“There wasn’t much point to the gag of placing a 100 pound block of ice on the sidewalk in front of the Valley Times office, but the hot weather stunt did give folks something cool to talk about.” Image #00143288, Valley Times Collection, September 7, 1955.

 

“Road collapses in heat: Valley heat proves too much for road patch at Sherman Way and Havenhurst. Blacktop gave way, dropping rear wheel of bus into three-foot hole.” Image #00143290, Valley Times Collection, June 28, 1956.

 

“Harold L. Schrock, Winnetka, takes amazed look at road at Saticoy and Mason avenue which was buckled by 105 degree temperatures in West Valley. Pavement rose two and one half feet above dirt bed.” Image #00143292, Valley Times Collection, June 19, 1957.

 

“Desperation over perspiration: Los Angeles City Councilment James Corman, left, and Lemoine Blanchard are just two of city’s officials about to break precedent and loosen collars and ties in heat wave that has ‘really hit City Hall.’ Officials say they have it in for weatherman, building’s executive elevator, and its air-conditioning system. Elevator is on blink, making men walk up to offices; air-conditioner is out of order, will be for three weeks, and weatherman, only one of three working, is busy predicting more heat.” Image #00144159, Dean Gordon, Valley Times Collection, August 4, 1960.

 

“Dog comforts heat victim: Kathren Noerr, 75, of San Fernando, lies on on concrete after being felled by Valley heat. Her dog, Cha-Cha, guards mistress. She was given first aid on scene.” Image #00154679, Valley Times Collection, July 16, 1957.

 

 

And finally, one lucky enough to have a private pool: “A resident polar bear at the LA Zoo cools himself off after a dip in the pool.” Image #00084299, Paul Chinn, Herald-Examiner Collection, August 2, 1987.