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September 2, 2007 |  8:43 am



Sept. 2, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_0902_scrivner_mug Let's suppose you're a clever businessman. And let's suppose your city has the nation's busiest intersection: In three days, 205,022 cars pass through Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. Along with nine horse-drawn milk wagons.

Horses? You see, it's 1928, and Charles Wesley Scrivner, who died Sept. 1, 1957, is going to build a drive-in at Wilshire and Western.

Or so it says in Scrivner's obituary in The Times, which reported that he opened one of the nation's first drive-ins in 1928 at Wilshire and Western, and the Mirror, which declared it to be the first in the country.

Tracking down the truth is a little more difficult. The Times lists several early drive-in restaurants (southwest corner of Crenshaw and Vernon, July 27, 1930; northeast corner of Beverly and Rosemont, Sept. 21, 1930; Coffee Cup Drive-In Cafe, 9180 W. Pico July 26, 1931; Bogen's 3201 Wilshire at Vermont, 1933).

The Times also wrote about several drive-in markets in the period (Hollywood and Kingsley, March 4, 1928; Camden and Brighton, June 10, 1928; Sunset near Western, July 1, 1928; 6th Street between Alexandria and Kenmore, Oct. 21, 1928; Western and Florence, Dec. 16, 1928). But again, nothing at Wilshire and Western.

What do know is that Scrivner came to Los Angeles in 1912 and was a salesman for Meek-Barnes Baking Co. In 1921, he helped found 4-S Baking Co. with Frederick G. Scalzo and two unidentified men who presumably had an S in their names. The company was sold to Interstate Bakeries Corp. in 1930.

Scrivner opened the drive-in with Harry Carpenter, who ran a chain of drive-ins bearing his name. Scrivner was also on the boards of Henry's Drive-Ins and Hody's Restaurants and was a part owner of Thriftimart groceries.

Scrivner, 66, was a 32nd-degree Mason and a member of Al Malaikah Shrine Temple.

As for the story of the purported Wilshire/Western Drive-In, presumably it's serving burgers and malts in L.A. history heaven. If you have any more information, let me know.

Bonus fact: Harry Carpenter killed himself with a shotgun blast to the chest, July 24, 1954, while sitting on the steps to his basement at 625 Cumberland Road, Glendale. He was 67.

Bonus fact: According to the 1928 traffic survey, 1,388 trucks went through Western on Wilshire in 24 hours, even though trucks were supposedly banned on Wilshire.

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Below, The Times rants about Los Angeles' traffic problems in 1928. As I keep saying, Los Angeles' traffic problems go back at least a century and defy simple answers.