The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: June 8, 2008 - June 14, 2008

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June 14, 1958


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Dropcap_p_1906_2 eople sometimes ask me if I'm related to the Rev. J. Lester Harnish, above. The answer is no, but here he is. Folks tell me he was quite a good preacher.

At left, the country is in a terrible fix. Speaking at the 28th annual convention of the International Assn. of Accident and Health Underwriters, E.H. O'Connor says Social Security is a mess. "There must be a halt to helter-skelter and misguided philanthropy," he says. He also calls on the industry to oppose mandatory health insurance legislation.

J. Edward Day, also addressing the conference, criticizes rising medical and surgical costs in Southern California. Day calls on the medical profession to prescribe the same care and service for the same fees, regardless of whether a patient is insured.

And at Baskin-Robbins, pink grapefruit ice...

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June 14, 1938

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Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Police Capt. Earle Kynette before altering his appearance for his trial in the Harry Raymond bombing.
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Dropcap_p_1937 erhaps it came as a shock -- at least to Police Capt. Earle Kynette, if no one else --that he was convicted in the Harry Raymond bombing. At the moment, the trial is in its final few days. Not to give anything away, but the jury is going to find him guilty quite soon.

We also have the third installment of Ed Ainsworth's series on traffic problems in Los Angeles, which included the illustration above.

For some reason, Ainsworth illustrates the problem of traffic by using three women who are running errands, which I'm not sure is entirely fair or accurate. His point is that surface traffic is prone to congestion: "Automobiles and streetcars were mixed in a jerky, slow-moving mass, all practically paralyzed."

Next, he explores the strengths and weaknesses of subways, particularly the cost of tunneling (sound familiar?) and Los Angeles' lack of densely populated urban areas that benefit most from underground transportation, he says: "In Los Angeles, the sprawling population is too spread out."

The conclusion, according to Ainsworth, is to build elevated transportation. To be continued...

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June 14, 1908

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Wilshire and Westmoreland via Google street view

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Lake and Hoover via Google street view
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Dropcap_n_1928 ow if only research led in a straight line -- but thankfully, it doesn't. Research corkscrews and jets off at unexpected angles. Today's project was supposed to be about the home of the week -- in this case, the house built by Reuben Shettler at Wilshire and Westmoreland. At top, we have the home as it appeared in 1908 and the corner as it appears today via Google street view. (Bonus view: Hoover and Lake, the site of the other home of the week.)

Of course, it would be nice if I had a little information on Reuben Shettler, so I dug up the personal note about him and his wife entertaining Ransom E. Olds, maker of the Reo automobile, at 3100 Wilshire Blvd. It turns out that Shettler's son Leon was an early Los Angeles car dealer.

But in tracking down that information, I stumbled across new details on the Chinese massacre of 1871 -- on the society page, of all places. The woman being interviewed, Mrs. William LeMoyne Wills, says her father sheltered Chinese to protect them from the violence of the mob. This is the first I've ever heard of anyone offering sanctuary to the Chinese during this tragic incident.

Then, in researching the Chinese massacre, I came across a photo of our old friend the dragon in Chinatown that was once part of The Times' flagpole.

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I really need to go looking for this thing to see if it's still there.

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Bad traffic, 1938

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Dropcap_p_1921 erhaps this isn't the most sophisticated illustration of how traffic evolved from caveman days to the mid-20th century. But the panels do tell a story. Times reporter Ed Ainsworth describes the rise of cities in the Middle Ages, sort of the way old Disney cartoons explain rocketry. "Most streets had been created haphazardly, primarily for men on foot." (And yes, we are still in the caveman days in terms of inclusive language.)

Now this sounds familiar: "Men discovered that because of the railway lines they could work in one place, live in another possibly miles away where they could have the rural atmosphere for which mankind has always seemed to yearn -- fields, flowers, livestock, fresh air, a retreat 'out in the country.' "

Ainsworth describes how human beings built rail lines radiating from a city core like the spokes on a wheel, with minimal traffic between the spokes. (This scenario, in fact, has been used to describe early 20th century Los Angeles.)

"As new subdivisions were laid out, there was provision, of course, for automobile roads. But these were not correlated with the roads of other subdivisions. Dead ends and blind alleys abounded. Bottlenecks were created on every hand," Ainsworth says.

And this was in 1938.

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Giant bomber

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Above, The Times' drawing of Douglas' bomber, June 13, 1938.
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Here are a couple of photos of the XB-19 from the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The XB-19 made its first flight in 1941.

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My thanks to P.J. Connolly to pointing out the XB-19.
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June 13, 1958

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Dropcap_n_1902 ow here's an interesting way to beat traffic, at least if you're Judge Leo Freund. It seems that Freund didn't care for being stuck while big dump trucks building the San Diego Freeway used Santa Monica Boulevard.

Freund decided that Benjamin Frank White was doing a poor job stopping traffic at the construction site. So he complained to police. Officers put White under surveillance, then complained to his boss, Robert Check, who fired White that day.

White's fellow members of Laborers Union, Local 300, complained that Check was being unfair. Finally, someone called Judge Freund, who said he didn't want White fired; he just thought the man was doing a lousy job. So White got his job back -- at a different location. 

Judge Leo Freund died Sept. 29, 1976, but was reelected to the bench because the ballots had already been printed. He was replaced by Nancy M. Brown.
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June 13, 1938

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Dropcap_c_1887 orrect me if I'm wrong, but this plane at left looks like a DC-4E. Either that or a very weird B-17 with six engines and the tail of a constellation.  Times staff writer James Bassett takes a look at the "flying dreadnought" being built by Douglas ... (My, is that a hed bust on Page 1? Oops!)

Also: A hiker finds the remains of an airliner that crashed in March during a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles ... the former French premier says France is ready to mobilize if Germany invades Czechoslovakia ...   Rudolf Hess accuses Czechoslovakia of being a menace to the peace of Europe ... And 30 prisoners at Lincoln Heights jail become ill from food poisoning -- either because of the lima beans or the rice pudding.

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June 13, 1908

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Dropcap_b_1908_2 eer, anyone? Remember that beer is a health drink -- liquid bread! Just a bit of alcohol to aid digestion ... (Isn't this old typography great?)

At left, a true novelty for the ladies --political speeches! The Times says 400 members of the Friday Morning Club got the "thrill of a real political meeting without the unladylike accompaniment of foul tobacco" when two male speakers addressed "machine politics." 

Mrs. Shelby Tolhurst "surprised the men present by the self-possession with which she presided over the political meeting," The Times says.

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June 12, 1958

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Dropcap_a_1920_2 bove, David J. Moke is arrested on charges of kidnapping a teenage girl from school. He's convicted and faced the death penalty under the Little Lindbergh Law, but the judge reduces his conviction to simple kidnapping because the death penalty requires robbery to have been a motive. 

Also, Dean Martin and Rosalind Russell are named the best-dressed stars of the entertainment world by the California Fashion Creators. Russell wears an Orry-Kelly gown and Martin wears a blue mohair "cocktail suit" ... Scientist Krafft Ehricke says space flight will enable us to someday meet intelligent beings from another solar system.
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June 12, 1938

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Dropcap_t_1901 he unidentified Times photographer who took this picture at Wilshire Boulevard and Alvarado Street in 1938  had no idea we would be dissecting it today. My best guess is that this is looking south on Alvarado rather than west on Wilshire, which has that gentle curve in it at MacArthur Park.

So what do we notice? Well, in 1938, there was curb parking in both directions ... and there's one 1902 model streetcar (1938 - 1902 = 36 years) in a line of vehicles. Realize that the streetcar would be stuck if the tracks were blocked by a stalled auto or an accident.

Now look at the modern picture from Google's street view ... There's no parking allowed at the curbs -- at least at the corner, although we have parked vehicles farther down the street.


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And we have a bus, which can maneuver around a stalled vehicle or an accident because it's not on tracks embedded in the street. What if we had a mass-transit vehicle on tires that was powered by an overhead wire? Well, we had a few of them after World War II. They were called the "trackless trolleys" and enjoyed a brief popularity in Los Angeles. 

As for The Times' series on traffic, as you might expect, Part I states the problem: Los Angeles' streets are congested. Compared with the 1938 photo, traffic on Alvarado today doesn't seem so bad, does it? Of course, we don't know exactly when Google cruised the streets, although it was apparently early in the morning. You might wonder whether our grandparents managed to solve Los Angeles' traffic problem -- or at least this particular traffic problem.

And in case you are wondering about the Earle Kynette case, it's Sunday and the court is dark.

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June 12, 1908


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Dropcap_y_1887 ou may (or may not) be wondering why the unfortunate Edson S. Fancher, at left, was sprinkling the street when he had an encounter with a streetcar at Darwin and Avenue 20 (see above). I would presume that this was to keep the dust down because the street was unpaved. I always find it startling to see the early photographs of Broadway with some of the same familiar buildings and dirt streets. (Bonus factoid: The home at 1929 Darwin Ave. was built in 1903, according to Zillow and Property Shark.)

Also: Henrietta Brown has no interest in young British nobles traversing America in search of adventure ... Salvador Malacara, formerly a tax collector in Mexico, is arrested at 114 N. Hope on charges of "extensive monetary irregularities" ... Two employment agents are charged with fraud for taking money from prospective workers in exchange for nonexistent agricultural jobs in the Imperial Valley ... And a police officer shoots an African American man who stole a hat from a store and threw rocks at the officer when he was ordered to stop running.

Speaking of Broadway, it was my great pleasure to hear Bob Mitchell at the organ of the Orpheum Theatre last night before the showing of "Goldfinger" in the L.A. Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats series.
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The streetcars


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Photograph by the Los Angeles Times, 1911
Dropcap_i_1886_2 seem to have antagonized some people by having the audacity to question the notion that Los Angeles' streetcar system was anything less than a shining glory and by poking fun of the idea that it was the victim of a shadowy cabal (think wheels within wheels of corruption). In Los Angeles, this is, of course, heresy of the worst sort. (And here are the results of a Google search for cabal, shadowy, conspiracy, streetcars, "Los Angeles")
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OK, let's go reality. Above, here's a photo of the Los Angeles streetcar system on Main Street in 1911, with a detail at left. Note how the streetcars are flowing with clocklike efficiency. Notice that the streetcars aren't backed up at the intersection. Yes, the wonderful old streetcars are gliding along the shimmering tracks, whisking  passengers to their destinations quickly and safely without a care in the world. (It's a bit difficult to tell from the photo, but I believe these are the "Huntington Standard" cars of 1902).

Don't take my word for it, read The Times editorial (Aug. 19, 1911) at left about the wonders of the city's streetcar system.

Let me quote a bit of it:

"Each car clings tenaciously to its overhead wire, waiting like a sailing vessel in the doldrums to catch some favoring breeze; "as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean." Once in a while a barnacle is detached and creeps painfully and laboriously from its resting place on the corner of 2nd and Main to another snug berth prepared for it between 2nd and 3rd. Then the great calm returns, the delicious peace of eventide settles again on the motorman and the conductor. The yellow and red dragon wags its tail and goes to sleep once more."

Don't get me wrong. I support mass transit and I use the Red/Purple Line almost daily. But history shows that congested traffic in Los Angeles is a century old and that the city's streetcar system was problematic at best. 

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