Peg O'Los Angeles
 The American Italy: Southern California

By J.W. Hanson, A.M., D.D.

W.B. Conkey Company (Chicago, 1896)

The Boom of the 1880s, fueled by the railroads competing for passengers, promotional efforts by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and books and magazine articles waxing poetic about the Land of Sunshine, drew hordes of visitors and new residents. One book, Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, even created a tourist industry all its own.
            While his book fits the genre of booster literature, Hanson assures readers that “Not a word has been written in the interest of any locality or from any local prejudice.”  He has written for “the average stranger, whether tourist, invalid, pleasure seeker, or intending settler” providing them with all the information they might need.
           Hanson was certainly not in the same category as the colorful Benjamin C. Truman who wrote a similar book twenty years earlier, titled Semi-Tropical California. Among Truman’s many endeavors was chief of the literary bureau of the Southern Pacific Company where he was responsible for producing the company’s promotional brochures. Both men served in the Civil War, Hanson as a chaplain and Truman as a war correspondent. Hanson was a Universalist minister based in Chicago known for his writings on history and religion, including his own edited version of the New Testament. Truman is remembered as a journalist and too much more to cover in this essay.
           Modern readers might find the prose of both books a bit florid, but they yield nuggets of history (often not in textbooks) that help us visualize what this heavily populated area of today was like just over one hundred years ago.
            Hanson’s book evolved from notes on photographs he had collected. In late nineteenth century Los Angeles, photographic images sold from photographers’ studios or curio shops were popular with residents and tourists alike and also with magazine publishers, property owners, and merchants. Hanson was especially drawn to views attesting to the area’s superlative climate and fertility like one of a rose bush that covered an entire house or tomato plants so huge one needed to climb a ladder to pick all the ripe fruit.            
           Not surprisingly, his prose often lapses into religious allusions like this description of the route to Los Angeles:  “ … at all approaches, except by sea, the paradise is guarded, as by an angel with a drawn sword. The horrors of the desert interpose to ward off intruders. Heat, thirst, desolation assail those who would enter the modern Eden.” He follows that with a 40-page chapter on the climate and 30 pages on soil products (the soil may look like a gravel bed, but “its fertility is astonishing”), to confirm Southern California’s status as Eden. Other chapters discuss the flora, the mountains, and the seaside. In the section on Los Angeles County, we are told the correct pronunciation is “Lows Ahnheles—popularly corrupted into Laws Angelis.”
            As perfect as Southern California might sound, Hansen acknowledges that it has shortcomings which he discusses in a chapter called “Outs.” The most prominent “out” is “the difference in temperature between noon and night, and sunshine and shade. The invalid and the delicate must guard against this change.” But he concludes “this lowering of the temperature more than compensates for its inconvenience, for it gives a night that no land can surpass for sleep.” Other “outs” include earthquakes, of course, but the “tornadoes, cyclones and blizzards in all the states east of the Rockies, work more mischief in one season than all the earthquakes of Southern California have ever wrought.” Another out is the absence of lakes and rivers: “an acknowledged defect in the scenery here … the rivers during a large part of the year are upside down—-that is, sunk in the sand.” And in those days the California flea was “ famous—away from California … After four years I have never encountered the ‘wicked flea.’”
           Hanson was based in Chicago where he would have connected with his publisher, W.B. Conkey Co. He and his wife purchased a home in Pasadena and spent many winters here, which is how he became so knowledgeable about the area. Sadly, he was on his way to Pasadena in 1901 for his yearly visit when he died of a heart attack on the train in Flagstaff.
            American Italy is one of the sobriquets writers and promoters used to describe Southern California. According to the author, others were “The Land of Sunshine,” The Land of the Sundown Sea” “Poppy Land,” “The New Italy,” “The Better Italy,” “our Italy….” But “In fact, no name has yet been suggested that fully describes the fascinating realm that weaves a spell of enchantment around all comers from all lands and climes.” The sobriquets for Los Angeles have changed over the years, but the city still weaves its own spell of enchantment for some, if not all, comers.

 

 

 The American Italy: Southern California

By J.W. Hanson, A.M., D.D.

W.B. Conkey Company (Chicago, 1896)

The Boom of the 1880s, fueled by the railroads competing for passengers, promotional efforts by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and books and magazine articles waxing poetic about the Land of Sunshine, drew hordes of visitors and new residents. One book, Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, even created a tourist industry all its own.

            While his book fits the genre of booster literature, Hanson assures readers that “Not a word has been written in the interest of any locality or from any local prejudice.”  He has written for “the average stranger, whether tourist, invalid, pleasure seeker, or intending settler” providing them with all the information they might need.

           Hanson was certainly not in the same category as the colorful Benjamin C. Truman who wrote a similar book twenty years earlier, titled Semi-Tropical California. Among Truman’s many endeavors was chief of the literary bureau of the Southern Pacific Company where he was responsible for producing the company’s promotional brochures. Both men served in the Civil War, Hanson as a chaplain and Truman as a war correspondent. Hanson was a Universalist minister based in Chicago known for his writings on history and religion, including his own edited version of the New Testament. Truman is remembered as a journalist and too much more to cover in this essay.

           Modern readers might find the prose of both books a bit florid, but they yield nuggets of history (often not in textbooks) that help us visualize what this heavily populated area of today was like just over one hundred years ago.

            Hanson’s book evolved from notes on photographs he had collected. In late nineteenth century Los Angeles, photographic images sold from photographers’ studios or curio shops were popular with residents and tourists alike and also with magazine publishers, property owners, and merchants. Hanson was especially drawn to views attesting to the area’s superlative climate and fertility like one of a rose bush that covered an entire house or tomato plants so huge one needed to climb a ladder to pick all the ripe fruit.           

           Not surprisingly, his prose often lapses into religious allusions like this description of the route to Los Angeles:  “ … at all approaches, except by sea, the paradise is guarded, as by an angel with a drawn sword. The horrors of the desert interpose to ward off intruders. Heat, thirst, desolation assail those who would enter the modern Eden.” He follows that with a 40-page chapter on the climate and 30 pages on soil products (the soil may look like a gravel bed, but “its fertility is astonishing”), to confirm Southern California’s status as Eden. Other chapters discuss the flora, the mountains, and the seaside. In the section on Los Angeles County, we are told the correct pronunciation is “Lows Ahnheles—popularly corrupted into Laws Angelis.”

            As perfect as Southern California might sound, Hansen acknowledges that it has shortcomings which he discusses in a chapter called “Outs.” The most prominent “out” is “the difference in temperature between noon and night, and sunshine and shade. The invalid and the delicate must guard against this change.” But he concludes “this lowering of the temperature more than compensates for its inconvenience, for it gives a night that no land can surpass for sleep.” Other “outs” include earthquakes, of course, but the “tornadoes, cyclones and blizzards in all the states east of the Rockies, work more mischief in one season than all the earthquakes of Southern California have ever wrought.” Another out is the absence of lakes and rivers: “an acknowledged defect in the scenery here … the rivers during a large part of the year are upside down—-that is, sunk in the sand.” And in those days the California flea was “ famous—away from California … After four years I have never encountered the ‘wicked flea.’”

           Hanson was based in Chicago where he would have connected with his publisher, W.B. Conkey Co. He and his wife purchased a home in Pasadena and spent many winters here, which is how he became so knowledgeable about the area. Sadly, he was on his way to Pasadena in 1901 for his yearly visit when he died of a heart attack on the train in Flagstaff.

            American Italy is one of the sobriquets writers and promoters used to describe Southern California. According to the author, others were “The Land of Sunshine,” The Land of the Sundown Sea” “Poppy Land,” “The New Italy,” “The Better Italy,” “our Italy….” But “In fact, no name has yet been suggested that fully describes the fascinating realm that weaves a spell of enchantment around all comers from all lands and climes.” The sobriquets for Los Angeles have changed over the years, but the city still weaves its own spell of enchantment for some, if not all, comers.

 

 

 A Southern California Album, Selected Photographs 1880-1900

By Wayne Bonnett, Foreword by Gary F. Kurutz

Windgate Press (Sausalito, California, 2006)


This album features the photographs of William H. Fletcher who arrived in Los Angeles from Vermont in 1884 along with hordes of other emigrants from the East and Midwest looking for Paradise and to get rich growing oranges. After all, that’s what the city’s promotional literature promised. Fletcher planned to open a drug store and cater “to invalids with respiratory ailments.” But alas, there were already enough druggists so he pursued photography, real estate, fruit growing, and oil drilling to make his living.  He did not have a studio or gallery and despite the excellence of his work, is not well known today. The Huntington and Los Angeles Public libraries have some examples of his work but most of his images—including the ones reproduced in this book—are in the California State Library in Sacramento.

            Fletcher photographed all over Southern California from Redondo Beach to Mount Lowe capturing the wide-open spaces of the Cahuenga Valley (from the tower of the Belmont Hotel) and the bustling streets of downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. He documented special events like San Pedro’s free harbor jubilee in 1899 and the fanciful floats of La Fiesta de Los Angeles. Among his 1,300 surviving images are examples of both public buildings and private homes, including J. Cather Newsom’s delightful Victorians.

            The album shows the work of more than two dozen other photographers, in addition to Fletcher, including these two familiar ones, William Henry Jackson and Charles C. Pierce. Many of the more than two hundred photographs had not been published previously.

            While many of the images may be found online, “viewing them reproduced in a book such as this is a much more enriching experience,” wrote Kurutz in the Foreword. We agree – the reproductions are stunning and the book an important contribution to the photographic history of Los Angeles.

 A Southern California Album, Selected Photographs 1880-1900

By Wayne Bonnett, Foreword by Gary F. Kurutz

Windgate Press (Sausalito, California, 2006)

This album features the photographs of William H. Fletcher who arrived in Los Angeles from Vermont in 1884 along with hordes of other emigrants from the East and Midwest looking for Paradise and to get rich growing oranges. After all, that’s what the city’s promotional literature promised. Fletcher planned to open a drug store and cater “to invalids with respiratory ailments.” But alas, there were already enough druggists so he pursued photography, real estate, fruit growing, and oil drilling to make his living.  He did not have a studio or gallery and despite the excellence of his work, is not well known today. The Huntington and Los Angeles Public libraries have some examples of his work but most of his images—including the ones reproduced in this book—are in the California State Library in Sacramento.

            Fletcher photographed all over Southern California from Redondo Beach to Mount Lowe capturing the wide-open spaces of the Cahuenga Valley (from the tower of the Belmont Hotel) and the bustling streets of downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. He documented special events like San Pedro’s free harbor jubilee in 1899 and the fanciful floats of La Fiesta de Los Angeles. Among his 1,300 surviving images are examples of both public buildings and private homes, including J. Cather Newsom’s delightful Victorians.

            The album shows the work of more than two dozen other photographers, in addition to Fletcher, including these two familiar ones, William Henry Jackson and Charles C. Pierce. Many of the more than two hundred photographs had not been published previously.

            While many of the images may be found online, “viewing them reproduced in a book such as this is a much more enriching experience,” wrote Kurutz in the Foreword. We agree – the reproductions are stunning and the book an important contribution to the photographic history of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles and its Environs in the Twentieth Century
A Bibliography of a Metropolis
Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., Editor
The Ward Ritchie Press (Los Angeles, 1973)

If you need suggestions for books to read about Los Angeles, this bibliography has almost 10,000 entries covering the years 1900 to 1970. And the complementary volume (same title) for the years 1970 to 1990 has more than 5,000 entries, assembled by the city’s first archivist, Hynda Rudd. The listings include articles, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations as well as books, grouped in more than 80 categories from agriculture to welfare. The first entry is an article on agricultural in 1929 and the last one, #9895, William Stewart Young’s history of the Hollenbeck Home in the category of welfare. While in the welfare section, our eyes landed on the entry for Tom Griswald’s “A Bum’s Guide to Los Angeles,” American Mercury, December 1940. It’s a fun read. Here’s a link: http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury-1940dec-0040
            Rudd’s complementary volume was published by the Los Angeles Historical Society in 1996 and features lists of public and special libraries, community, ethnic, and religious newspapers, and photographic and oral history collections in addition to the bibliography.
            The amazing variety of articles culled from such diverse publications as Southern California Business, the Pomona Valley Historian, Publishers Weekly, Saturday Night, and Los Angeles Realtor results in a dizzying array of entries, documenting seemingly everything of possible importance in twentieth century Los Angeles. Not everything, noted Nunis, who hoped the bibliography would inspire more research and more articles on areas not covered or covered inadequately. The goal of the bibliography is to assist “anyone who had a question about, or who sought background reading in any aspect of life in greater Los Angeles.”
            While these two are perhaps the most ambitious bibliographies of the city, there are other more modest lists, including Msgr. Francis J. Weber’s California Bibliographies (Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1991). We picked up a free copy at LA Heritage Day recently. Weber first compiled this bibliography in 1968 with 121 entries. Reprinted in 1991 to celebrate the centennial of the historical society, the list had grown to 292 titles. As noted bibliographer (and Henry Huntington’s first librarian) George Watson Cole pointed out “No bibliography is, in an absolute sense, complete.”
            Among his entries, Weber lists Gregg Layne’s Books of the Los Angeles District (Dawson’s Book Shop, 1950), “a minutely detailed compilation of fifty-five titles published between 1872 and 1948.” Layne used his introduction to tell us why he did not include some important books, especially ones that have a lot of information about Los Angeles. For example, he was “sorely tempted to include Robert Glass Cleland’s History of California: The American Period for the reason of his one chapter in that book, ‘Queen of the Cow Counties,’ which has more than once been referred to as a gem of historical writing.” He stressed that the books in his list are “wholly or in the main about the Los Angeles District alone.”
            Weber listed his own bibliography of Los Angeles, A Select Los Angeles Bibliography 1872-1970 (Dawson’s Book Shop, 1970), in which he “appraises 250 representative titles which deal exclusively with the sixty-mile radius which comprises the city’s land area.”

            These are just a few examples of the many bibliographies on Los Angeles subjects. There’s even a bibliography for the Dodgers: The Dodgers Bibliography: From Brooklyn to Los Angeles by Myron J. Smith (Mecklermedia, 1988). We love bibliographies so will share other ones we like from time to time.

Los Angeles and its Environs in the Twentieth Century

A Bibliography of a Metropolis

Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., Editor

The Ward Ritchie Press (Los Angeles, 1973)

If you need suggestions for books to read about Los Angeles, this bibliography has almost 10,000 entries covering the years 1900 to 1970. And the complementary volume (same title) for the years 1970 to 1990 has more than 5,000 entries, assembled by the city’s first archivist, Hynda Rudd. The listings include articles, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations as well as books, grouped in more than 80 categories from agriculture to welfare. The first entry is an article on agricultural in 1929 and the last one, #9895, William Stewart Young’s history of the Hollenbeck Home in the category of welfare. While in the welfare section, our eyes landed on the entry for Tom Griswald’s “A Bum’s Guide to Los Angeles,” American Mercury, December 1940. It’s a fun read. Here’s a link: http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury-1940dec-0040

            Rudd’s complementary volume was published by the Los Angeles Historical Society in 1996 and features lists of public and special libraries, community, ethnic, and religious newspapers, and photographic and oral history collections in addition to the bibliography.

            The amazing variety of articles culled from such diverse publications as Southern California Business, the Pomona Valley Historian, Publishers Weekly, Saturday Night, and Los Angeles Realtor results in a dizzying array of entries, documenting seemingly everything of possible importance in twentieth century Los Angeles. Not everything, noted Nunis, who hoped the bibliography would inspire more research and more articles on areas not covered or covered inadequately. The goal of the bibliography is to assist “anyone who had a question about, or who sought background reading in any aspect of life in greater Los Angeles.”

            While these two are perhaps the most ambitious bibliographies of the city, there are other more modest lists, including Msgr. Francis J. Weber’s California Bibliographies (Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1991). We picked up a free copy at LA Heritage Day recently. Weber first compiled this bibliography in 1968 with 121 entries. Reprinted in 1991 to celebrate the centennial of the historical society, the list had grown to 292 titles. As noted bibliographer (and Henry Huntington’s first librarian) George Watson Cole pointed out “No bibliography is, in an absolute sense, complete.”

            Among his entries, Weber lists Gregg Layne’s Books of the Los Angeles District (Dawson’s Book Shop, 1950), “a minutely detailed compilation of fifty-five titles published between 1872 and 1948.” Layne used his introduction to tell us why he did not include some important books, especially ones that have a lot of information about Los Angeles. For example, he was “sorely tempted to include Robert Glass Cleland’s History of California: The American Period for the reason of his one chapter in that book, ‘Queen of the Cow Counties,’ which has more than once been referred to as a gem of historical writing.” He stressed that the books in his list are “wholly or in the main about the Los Angeles District alone.”

            Weber listed his own bibliography of Los Angeles, A Select Los Angeles Bibliography 1872-1970 (Dawson’s Book Shop, 1970), in which he “appraises 250 representative titles which deal exclusively with the sixty-mile radius which comprises the city’s land area.”

            These are just a few examples of the many bibliographies on Los Angeles subjects. There’s even a bibliography for the Dodgers: The Dodgers Bibliography: From Brooklyn to Los Angeles by Myron J. Smith (Mecklermedia, 1988). We love bibliographies so will share other ones we like from time to time.

 A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles

 & Southern California

by David Gebhard and Robert Winter

Peregrine Smith, Inc (Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1977)


Once called The Blue Brick by Los Angeles Times columnist, Jack Smith, this 728-page book is chock full of photos (600), maps (120) and hundreds of examples of  L.A.’s built environment. The introduction offers a good overview of the city’s architectural history and is illustrated with images of iconic buildings now gone. If the introduction inspires you to learn more, you can choose from among the titles listed in the ten pages of bibliography. The acknowledgement list is long and includes many familiar names (Esther McCoy and Julius Shulman, for example) and unfamiliar ones like Sally and Eugene Lesner who tracked down every entry in the Los Angeles section of the earlier guide, “noting address and map difficulties and making sometimes sharp criticisms of our choices.”

            A modest version of this book was written as a guide for members attending the joint meeting of the College Art Association and the Society of Architectural Historians in Los Angeles in 1964. Later distributed as a member benefit for the opening of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1965, it was updated in 2003 with new photography and re-titled An Architectural Guide to Los Angeles.  Some readers prefer the1977 edition because “it has more information,” including listings for all of Southern California; the later edition is limited to Los Angeles County. 

            Occidental College is awarding an honorary degree to Robert Winter on Sunday, June 22, in recognition of his teaching career there from 1964-1996. (Co-author David Gebhard, professor at University of California Santa Barbara, passed away in 1996.)

 A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles

 & Southern California

by David Gebhard and Robert Winter

Peregrine Smith, Inc (Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1977)

Once called The Blue Brick by Los Angeles Times columnist, Jack Smith, this 728-page book is chock full of photos (600), maps (120) and hundreds of examples of  L.A.’s built environment. The introduction offers a good overview of the city’s architectural history and is illustrated with images of iconic buildings now gone. If the introduction inspires you to learn more, you can choose from among the titles listed in the ten pages of bibliography. The acknowledgement list is long and includes many familiar names (Esther McCoy and Julius Shulman, for example) and unfamiliar ones like Sally and Eugene Lesner who tracked down every entry in the Los Angeles section of the earlier guide, “noting address and map difficulties and making sometimes sharp criticisms of our choices.”

            A modest version of this book was written as a guide for members attending the joint meeting of the College Art Association and the Society of Architectural Historians in Los Angeles in 1964. Later distributed as a member benefit for the opening of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1965, it was updated in 2003 with new photography and re-titled An Architectural Guide to Los Angeles.  Some readers prefer the1977 edition because “it has more information,” including listings for all of Southern California; the later edition is limited to Los Angeles County.

            Occidental College is awarding an honorary degree to Robert Winter on Sunday, June 22, in recognition of his teaching career there from 1964-1996. (Co-author David Gebhard, professor at University of California Santa Barbara, passed away in 1996.)

Chavez Ravine, 1949, A Los Angeles Story
by Don Normark
Chronicle Books (San Francisco, 1999)
In November 1948, while Carl Dawson and his family were settling down in Highland Park (see previous post), photography student Don Normark was exploring the hills nearby. He was searching for a postcard view of downtown Los Angeles for an Art Center class assignment. Instead he found the community of Chavez Ravine, which looked to him like “a poor man’s Shangri-La.” He returned to Chavez Ravine many times, documenting the daily lives of the residents. He assembled the photos into a handmade book, hoping to interest Life or Look magazines in publication. The magazines weren’t interested, so he went on with his life, which included 30 years as a Seattle-based garden and travel photographer for Sunset magazine.

            In the 1990s, when he began looking for other avenues for his photography, he found an audience for the important Los Angeles story of Chavez Ravine at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. The book became the basis for the award-winning documentary film, Chavez Ravine, with narration by Cheech Marin and music by Ry Cooder. Normark’s photos and essay were also an inspiration for Culture Clash who premiered their play Chavez Ravine at the Mark Taper Forum in 2003. A revised take on this popular play will open at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in January 2015.

            While perhaps best known to Los Angeles readers for his Chavez Ravine project, Normark spent several years photographing all the gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. His body of work became the Huntington’s first four-color book on the gardens, The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington (co-published with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996). The book has since been revised and re-issued. He was also the principal photographer for Camellias: A Curator’s Introduction to the Camellia Collection (The Huntington Library, San Marino, 2001).

In Memoriam: Don Normark, April 1928 – June 2014

photographer, writer, raconteur, dear friend

Chavez Ravine, 1949, A Los Angeles Story

by Don Normark

Chronicle Books (San Francisco, 1999)

In November 1948, while Carl Dawson and his family were settling down in Highland Park (see previous post), photography student Don Normark was exploring the hills nearby. He was searching for a postcard view of downtown Los Angeles for an Art Center class assignment. Instead he found the community of Chavez Ravine, which looked to him like “a poor man’s Shangri-La.” He returned to Chavez Ravine many times, documenting the daily lives of the residents. He assembled the photos into a handmade book, hoping to interest Life or Look magazines in publication. The magazines weren’t interested, so he went on with his life, which included 30 years as a Seattle-based garden and travel photographer for Sunset magazine.

            In the 1990s, when he began looking for other avenues for his photography, he found an audience for the important Los Angeles story of Chavez Ravine at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. The book became the basis for the award-winning documentary film, Chavez Ravine, with narration by Cheech Marin and music by Ry Cooder. Normark’s photos and essay were also an inspiration for Culture Clash who premiered their play Chavez Ravine at the Mark Taper Forum in 2003. A revised take on this popular play will open at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in January 2015.

            While perhaps best known to Los Angeles readers for his Chavez Ravine project, Normark spent several years photographing all the gardens at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. His body of work became the Huntington’s first four-color book on the gardens, The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington (co-published with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996). The book has since been revised and re-issued. He was also the principal photographer for Camellias: A Curator’s Introduction to the Camellia Collection (The Huntington Library, San Marino, 2001).

In Memoriam: Don Normark, April 1928 – June 2014

photographer, writer, raconteur, dear friend

 November 1948

by Carl Dawson

The University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville and London, 1990)


Ten-year-old Dawson remembers arriving in Los Angeles after a long journey from England by ship and train:


“Stepping from a transcontinental train into Union Station was to enter a world of illumination, color, and noise. Unlike Victoria or Penn Station, this seemed intimate, with rows of soft seats and bright tiles decorating the walls. Whether I saw these faces familiar to me from Saturday matinees, or whether such people were here just part of a California breed, I thought I saw them. Beautiful, tall people. some with large dogs, guided with their luggage by uniformed black men, who seemed to know everything and to be able to carry, on their dollies, a dozen suit and hat cases.”


            This memoir of his family’s relocation from England to Los Angeles was called a small masterpiece and Dawson a born storyteller by poet Charles Simic. And for Los Angeles residents, especially those familiar with the area where the Dawsons lived, it may evoke their own memories of that time and place. In his Los Angeles Times review of the book (August 12, 1990), John Espy wrote, “the mere naming of Toland and Scandia Ways, Eagle Rock and York Boulevards, Verdugo and San Fernando Roads triggers echo after echo…”

            The Dawsons traveled beyond Highland Park, including an auto trip to San Diego for their first Thanksgiving in America – his description of the route (clearly before freeways) includes the signs, “grapefruit and oranges for sale; fresh tomatoes; last chance for gas….and the Burma Shave ditties,” those delightful pieces of Americana.

            And it seems other longtime Los Angeles residents have stories similar to this one: Dawson’s paternal grandparents moved to Los Angeles in 1921 where they had a choice of buying property on Signal Hill or a small house in Highland Park (“once a flourishing center of writers and artists, now a decaying suburb”). They chose Highland Park and some months later, oil was discovered on Signal Hill.

            In 1995 Dawson incorporated November 1948 as Part I of the book Living Backwards, A Transatlantic Memoir (University Press of Virginia). On the jacket R.H.W. Dillard says this book “is rich in recognitions for one of Dawson’s generation, but it must also be as rich in revelations for those too young to remember life in America in 1948.” We agree.

 

 November 1948

by Carl Dawson

The University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville and London, 1990)

Ten-year-old Dawson remembers arriving in Los Angeles after a long journey from England by ship and train:

“Stepping from a transcontinental train into Union Station was to enter a world of illumination, color, and noise. Unlike Victoria or Penn Station, this seemed intimate, with rows of soft seats and bright tiles decorating the walls. Whether I saw these faces familiar to me from Saturday matinees, or whether such people were here just part of a California breed, I thought I saw them. Beautiful, tall people. some with large dogs, guided with their luggage by uniformed black men, who seemed to know everything and to be able to carry, on their dollies, a dozen suit and hat cases.”

            This memoir of his family’s relocation from England to Los Angeles was called a small masterpiece and Dawson a born storyteller by poet Charles Simic. And for Los Angeles residents, especially those familiar with the area where the Dawsons lived, it may evoke their own memories of that time and place. In his Los Angeles Times review of the book (August 12, 1990), John Espy wrote, “the mere naming of Toland and Scandia Ways, Eagle Rock and York Boulevards, Verdugo and San Fernando Roads triggers echo after echo…”

            The Dawsons traveled beyond Highland Park, including an auto trip to San Diego for their first Thanksgiving in America – his description of the route (clearly before freeways) includes the signs, “grapefruit and oranges for sale; fresh tomatoes; last chance for gas….and the Burma Shave ditties,” those delightful pieces of Americana.

            And it seems other longtime Los Angeles residents have stories similar to this one: Dawson’s paternal grandparents moved to Los Angeles in 1921 where they had a choice of buying property on Signal Hill or a small house in Highland Park (“once a flourishing center of writers and artists, now a decaying suburb”). They chose Highland Park and some months later, oil was discovered on Signal Hill.

            In 1995 Dawson incorporated November 1948 as Part I of the book Living Backwards, A Transatlantic Memoir (University Press of Virginia). On the jacket R.H.W. Dillard says this book “is rich in recognitions for one of Dawson’s generation, but it must also be as rich in revelations for those too young to remember life in America in 1948.” We agree.

 

The Beach Towns 
A Walker’s Guide to L.A.’s Beach Communities 

By Robert John Pierson

Chronicle Books (San Francisco, 1985)

Pierson was an educator, preservationist, urban designer, and according to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times in 1996, a “prolific writer on the neighborhoods of Southern California.”  He wrote this book almost thirty years ago so there are no guarantees that the directions are still accurate or that the landmarks are still there.  But Pierson offers more than just directions; he includes lots of history, architectural insights, and plant and tree stories in the communities from Santa Monica to San Pedro.

And nuggets like how Christopher Isherwood thinks Rustic Canyon was named. Pierson quotes Isherwood writing in A Single Man: “More probably the name was chosen for its picturesqueness by the pioneer escapists from dingy downtown Los Angeles and stuffy-snobbish Pasadena who came here in the early twenties. .  .”

Regular guided walks in Los Angeles neighborhoods now abound, from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica, from Long Beach to Highland Park, spearheaded by conservancy and heritage groups. Next Saturday the Big Parade—a 35-mile,  two-day walk from Grand Park to Griffith Park—steps off at 8:30 a.m. Musicians, historians, poets, and artists will entertain and inform walkers along the way. If that’s too strenuous, the singles section of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter is meeting on Hollywood Boulevard on June 14 for a “socially paced” walk, which seems appropriate for a singles group.

If Pierson were alive today he would no doubt be active with Los Angeles Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group that just published its first annual report, including a timeline of great moments in L.A.’s walking past. Turns out that contrary to the song lyrics about how no one walks in Los Angeles, in fact, Angelenos have been walking for a long time.

The Beach Towns

A Walker’s Guide to L.A.’s Beach Communities

By Robert John Pierson

Chronicle Books (San Francisco, 1985)

Pierson was an educator, preservationist, urban designer, and according to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times in 1996, a “prolific writer on the neighborhoods of Southern California.”  He wrote this book almost thirty years ago so there are no guarantees that the directions are still accurate or that the landmarks are still there.  But Pierson offers more than just directions; he includes lots of history, architectural insights, and plant and tree stories in the communities from Santa Monica to San Pedro.

And nuggets like how Christopher Isherwood thinks Rustic Canyon was named. Pierson quotes Isherwood writing in A Single Man: “More probably the name was chosen for its picturesqueness by the pioneer escapists from dingy downtown Los Angeles and stuffy-snobbish Pasadena who came here in the early twenties. .  .”

Regular guided walks in Los Angeles neighborhoods now abound, from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica, from Long Beach to Highland Park, spearheaded by conservancy and heritage groups. Next Saturday the Big Parade—a 35-mile,  two-day walk from Grand Park to Griffith Park—steps off at 8:30 a.m. Musicians, historians, poets, and artists will entertain and inform walkers along the way. If that’s too strenuous, the singles section of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter is meeting on Hollywood Boulevard on June 14 for a “socially paced” walk, which seems appropriate for a singles group.

If Pierson were alive today he would no doubt be active with Los Angeles Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group that just published its first annual report, including a timeline of great moments in L.A.’s walking past. Turns out that contrary to the song lyrics about how no one walks in Los Angeles, in fact, Angelenos have been walking for a long time.

 The Honeycomb

By Adela Rogers St. Johns

Doubleday & Company, Inc. (Garden City, NY, 1969)


St. Johns was born in Los Angeles on this day in 1894 and went to work as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald in 1913 when the paper emphasized scandal, crime, and the early Hollywood scene. According to this autobiography, she was the first woman to cover a police beat and the first allowed into a press box at sporting events. Her writing has sometimes been described as emotional and rambling but she was prolific and versatile, penning popular movie star interviews for Photoplay magazine and authoring novels, short stories, and screenplays. She was nominated for an Oscar in 1932 and received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. 

            In later years while still writing, she kept busy with such activities as teaching journalism at UCLA, guesting on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show, speaking to community groups, and appearing in Warren Beatty’s movie, Reds.

            This book is sometimes described as the second half of her autobiography because it begins with her job at the Herald. She wrote about the first years of her life in Final Verdict (1962), the biography of her famous criminal attorney father, Earl Rogers. She spent much of her childhood in a courtroom with her father and later reported with expertise on such famous trials as that of Bruno Hauptman (accused kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby) and of Patty Hearst for bank robbery.  She led a life sometimes as dramatic as her father’s (although many years longer). A poignant part of Final Verdict is the description of her father’s demise at age 53 from alcoholism. 

            Los Angeles Times book critic, Robert Kirsch, deemed Final Verdict as St. Johns’s “finest work and I think an enduring work of its kind,” at the same time acknowledging that it was “unashamedly sentimental.” He added that it is “of special interest to Southern Californians for it illuminates much of the past.”  Among Rogers’s many famous clients was Clarence Darrow, accused of bribing a juror during the trial of the McNamara brothers for the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times. 

            As contributors to the legal, film, and journalism history of Los Angeles, both St. Johns and her father continue to merit mention in blogs and books today.

 The Honeycomb

By Adela Rogers St. Johns

Doubleday & Company, Inc. (Garden City, NY, 1969)

St. Johns was born in Los Angeles on this day in 1894 and went to work as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald in 1913 when the paper emphasized scandal, crime, and the early Hollywood scene. According to this autobiography, she was the first woman to cover a police beat and the first allowed into a press box at sporting events. Her writing has sometimes been described as emotional and rambling but she was prolific and versatile, penning popular movie star interviews for Photoplay magazine and authoring novels, short stories, and screenplays. She was nominated for an Oscar in 1932 and received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

            In later years while still writing, she kept busy with such activities as teaching journalism at UCLA, guesting on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show, speaking to community groups, and appearing in Warren Beatty’s movie, Reds.

            This book is sometimes described as the second half of her autobiography because it begins with her job at the Herald. She wrote about the first years of her life in Final Verdict (1962), the biography of her famous criminal attorney father, Earl Rogers. She spent much of her childhood in a courtroom with her father and later reported with expertise on such famous trials as that of Bruno Hauptman (accused kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby) and of Patty Hearst for bank robbery.  She led a life sometimes as dramatic as her father’s (although many years longer). A poignant part of Final Verdict is the description of her father’s demise at age 53 from alcoholism.

            Los Angeles Times book critic, Robert Kirsch, deemed Final Verdict as St. Johns’s “finest work and I think an enduring work of its kind,” at the same time acknowledging that it was “unashamedly sentimental.” He added that it is “of special interest to Southern Californians for it illuminates much of the past.”  Among Rogers’s many famous clients was Clarence Darrow, accused of bribing a juror during the trial of the McNamara brothers for the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times.

            As contributors to the legal, film, and journalism history of Los Angeles, both St. Johns and her father continue to merit mention in blogs and books today.

 A Place in the News 

From the Women’s Pages to the Front Page

by Kay Mills

Dodd Mead & Company (New York, 1988)


The recent ousting of Jill Abramson as executive editor of the New York Times reminded us of Kay Mills’s excellent book documenting the history of the movement of women into newsrooms in Los Angeles and around the country. Mills, a Los Angeles Times editorial writer when the book was published, also discusses how the idea of what was considered news changed as more women began to hold important positions in the newsroom.
           One local story she shares is that of the legendary Aggie Underwood, appointed city editor of the Los Angeles Herald Express in 1947. Underwood was the first woman city editor in Los Angeles history as well as the first for Hearst newspapers and one of the first on a metropolitan daily in the United States.
            In the chapter entitled, “The Glass Ceiling,” Mills details the efforts of the Los Angeles Times to hire and promote women beginning in the 1970s. Other chapters discuss the issues confronting newswomen of color and women who wanted to cover foreign news or the field of sports. 

 

 A Place in the News

From the Women’s Pages to the Front Page

by Kay Mills

Dodd Mead & Company (New York, 1988)

The recent ousting of Jill Abramson as executive editor of the New York Times reminded us of Kay Mills’s excellent book documenting the history of the movement of women into newsrooms in Los Angeles and around the country. Mills, a Los Angeles Times editorial writer when the book was published, also discusses how the idea of what was considered news changed as more women began to hold important positions in the newsroom.

           One local story she shares is that of the legendary Aggie Underwood, appointed city editor of the Los Angeles Herald Express in 1947. Underwood was the first woman city editor in Los Angeles history as well as the first for Hearst newspapers and one of the first on a metropolitan daily in the United States.

            In the chapter entitled, “The Glass Ceiling,” Mills details the efforts of the Los Angeles Times to hire and promote women beginning in the 1970s. Other chapters discuss the issues confronting newswomen of color and women who wanted to cover foreign news or the field of sports.

 

California Classics by Lawrence Clark Powell 
(Los Angeles, Ward Ritchie Press, 1971)


This book has a long subtitle: ‘The Creative Literature of the Golden State, Essays on the Books and Their Writers.”  About half of Powell’s classics are about Los Angeles and half about the rest of California. In some cases, the writer was Los Angeles-based but, like George Wharton James, wrote about other parts of the state.  
Powell makes each classic sound so compelling, except maybe Bolton’s five volume-Anza’s California Expeditions which, because of its length, seems daunting but is most likely interesting. Although Powell might have questioned the word  “interesting” because his description is more ardent: “Everything about this book is classic, epic, legendary; the venture and its leader, the chroniclers, and lastly the historian who, a century and a half later, discovered, translated, and published the records of this great achievement.” And his description of Bolton: “Great egoist that he was and monolithic monologist, Bolton was nevertheless more interested in others than in himself, and of those others none did he serve more faithfully than Juan Bautistia de Anza.”  Powell quotes the New England historian, Samuel Eliot Morison, on Bolton: “Bolton wrote history that sings to the heart while it informs the understanding.” With such endorsements, perhaps it’s time to look into Alfred A. Knopf’s volume 1 of Anza’s California Expeditions, titled Outpost of Empire published in 1939. One volume seems doable, at least to begin.
The Anza book is the first of thirty-one titles Powell selected as California classics. These essays on the books and their authors first appeared as monthly columns in the Automobile Club of Southern California magazine Westways and were later compiled into a book published by the Ward Ritchie Press in 1971; the book was reprinted in paperback by Capra Press in 1982.
Powell’s discussions include the whereabouts of copies and whether the titles were still in print, lamenting when they were out of print. With print on demand, now almost every book is still in print, although the quality is sometimes debatable. Some titles may now be read on Google books or some other online source. Powell’s search for copies would be so much easier today with World Cat,  abebooks.com, biblio.com, amazon.com and other Internet sites.
This is only one of Powell’s many books on books some of which he wrote while managing the UCLA and William Andrews Clark libraries (1944-1961).

California Classics by Lawrence Clark Powell

(Los Angeles, Ward Ritchie Press, 1971)

This book has a long subtitle: ‘The Creative Literature of the Golden State, Essays on the Books and Their Writers.”  About half of Powell’s classics are about Los Angeles and half about the rest of California. In some cases, the writer was Los Angeles-based but, like George Wharton James, wrote about other parts of the state.  

Powell makes each classic sound so compelling, except maybe Bolton’s five volume-Anza’s California Expeditions which, because of its length, seems daunting but is most likely interesting. Although Powell might have questioned the word  “interesting” because his description is more ardent: “Everything about this book is classic, epic, legendary; the venture and its leader, the chroniclers, and lastly the historian who, a century and a half later, discovered, translated, and published the records of this great achievement.” And his description of Bolton: “Great egoist that he was and monolithic monologist, Bolton was nevertheless more interested in others than in himself, and of those others none did he serve more faithfully than Juan Bautistia de Anza.”  Powell quotes the New England historian, Samuel Eliot Morison, on Bolton: “Bolton wrote history that sings to the heart while it informs the understanding.” With such endorsements, perhaps it’s time to look into Alfred A. Knopf’s volume 1 of Anza’s California Expeditions, titled Outpost of Empire published in 1939. One volume seems doable, at least to begin.

The Anza book is the first of thirty-one titles Powell selected as California classics. These essays on the books and their authors first appeared as monthly columns in the Automobile Club of Southern California magazine Westways and were later compiled into a book published by the Ward Ritchie Press in 1971; the book was reprinted in paperback by Capra Press in 1982.

Powell’s discussions include the whereabouts of copies and whether the titles were still in print, lamenting when they were out of print. With print on demand, now almost every book is still in print, although the quality is sometimes debatable. Some titles may now be read on Google books or some other online source. Powell’s search for copies would be so much easier today with World Cat,  abebooks.com, biblio.com, amazon.com and other Internet sites.

This is only one of Powell’s many books on books some of which he wrote while managing the UCLA and William Andrews Clark libraries (1944-1961).