The Daily Mirror

Los Angeles history

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April 19, 1908

April 19, 2008 |  8:13 am


The Great White Fleet arrives and the hills along the coast are blackened with people who have come to view the ships. Along the crumbling cliffs near Point Fermin, 40 people plunged 20 feet down a hillside when it gave way, The Times said.  Apparently none of them were injured, at least not badly.

Crowds hoping to see the fleet overwhelm the city's mass transit system to the point of collapse. Passengers began arriving at the Pacific Electric depot (6th Street and Main) at 2 a.m. and by 6 a.m., the area was so crowded that they were boarding the cars before they arrived at the depot to be sure of getting a seat, The Times said. 

"Before the day was half through, it was hard to fight your way within a block of the Pacific Electric Building. Main Street all the way to 9th [shout out to Bukowski Square!] was lined with men and women trying to jump the cars before they got to the depot.

"By the time the cars reached the point from which they were supposed to start, every one was jammed, with men and boys standing on the roofs and clinging to inch-wide ledges or to paint blisters on the perilous sides of the cars.

"Hundreds gave up the struggle altogether and went dejectedly home."

The crowds hoping to take the trains fared no better.

Chaos ruled at the Southern Pacific depot, with tickets sold "without system or sense," The Times said. Many people found a shortcut to the platform while other ticket buyers waited in vain to be allowed on the trains. The Southern Pacific's 11 a.m. train from Los Angeles to San Pedro was 3 1/2 hours late, The Times said.

You're wondering about autos.

"Had it not been for the long succession of overladen cars groaning by, you might have mistaken it for an automobile parade. There were thousands on the road.

"For weeks, every auto in this city has been engaged. Every garage has had 10 times the number of orders it could fill. By actual count there were 37 machines lying crippled in the ditch at one time yesterday."

As for the ships, "The approach of the fleet was magnificent," The Times said.

"It was first a long, single column of 16 ships turned slightly in toward Long Beach and giving the effect of a wide, oncoming line of prows plowing the water.

"Off Terminal Island, the column made a majestic turn to the left, sweeping around until the bow of the flagship pointed straight at the thronged cliffs, each battleship arriving at the tumbled swirlpools left by the turning Connecticut put across their helms and plowed after until the whole fleet was a vast Masonic triangle. Then came on in a tremendous, awe-inspiring battering ram 3 1/2 miles long."

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