The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: February 10, 2008 - February 16, 2008

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Mass transit


Hey look, it's the Gold Line pulling into Union Station! Oops, I'm about 50 years ahead of myself. Does this elevated train look familiar? Or maybe you remember this artist's conception of an elevated train, below, from January 1907.



And why would we need elevated trains in 1907? Because of the congestion. For example, this traffic jam on Main Street in January 1907. Now there are people in this world who don't believe streetcars caused congestion in the early 1900s. I know, because I hear from them whenever I refer to our "sainted" transportation system. As difficult as it may be to accept in 2008, the people living in the early 1900s complained bitterly about the streetcars. In fact, the Los Angeles Times said the streetcars caused "a daily blockade on Main Street."



And no, the elevated trains didn't get built in 1907 nor in 1958. We just talked about them. Nor did we follow through on the plan to put light rail down the middle of the Hollywood Freeway when it was being built in 1947. Because one thing we like to do in Los Angeles is talk about the terrible traffic. We talk about it, we study it, we draft plans and then we put them on the shelf. The transportation plans that have been performed for Los Angeles over the last century would fill a library.



Yes, it's another transportation map. Note the big loop circling downtown Los Angeles--obviously this never got built. I hope I can find the original as it's a bit difficult to make out what they had in mind.



Speaking of transportation plans that never got built, here's one from 1923. Again, all roads lead to downtown Los Angeles. And in February 1958, Times reporter Ray Hebert took a look at the latest transportation plans being advocated by the MTA. By the late 1960s or early '70s, everything would be running smoothly, he said.



Click below to read Ray Hebert's full story

Page 1:  Download 1958_0216_hebert1.jpg

Page 2:  Download 1958_0216_hebert2.jpg

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Dream home


Honestly, if you've seen one 1950s suburban tract home you have seen them all--Everything shiny, new and safely banal with no more soul than an empty shoe box! Of course now they have mature landscaping and burglar bars. I wasted an hour going out to find a model home only to discover that it looked nothing like the drawing. So here's the consolation prize. Note that this neighborhood (unlike Rigoletto Village) is close to downtown Los Angeles.

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Feb. 16, 1968


Feb. 16, 1958




Black comix

Here's 50 years of "progress" in the portrayal of African Americans in newspapers' Sunday comic strips. The top panel is from Windsor McCay's "Little Nemo in Slumberland," as published in The Times on Feb. 9, 1908. To be fair, McCay used this Valentine's Day piece to caricature all the characters in his strip--which is, granted, a fantasy--but Imp comes off the worst by far. I love McCay's draftsmanship and I've always wondered why someone who drew so beautifully was so terrible at lettering. But Imp, even making a generous allowance for the context of the prejudice and stereotypes of the early 1900s, pains me, and I find the character deeply offensive. Which is why "Little Nemo" rarely shows up in the Daily Mirror



Then we have the great strides in human compassion and equality as shown in "Tarzan," by Dick Van Buren and John Celardo, published in The Times on Feb. 16, 1958. Granted, blacks are no longer so grotesquely caricatured, but the superstitious native tribesmen still need a smart, brave white man to boss them around and the "Ape-Man" to save the day. Of course, the natives are merely foils so Tarzan can leap in and catch the villain, in this case, a murderous, plotting Frenchman. (And for the record, even as a kid I thought "Tarzan" was a stupid strip and refused to read it).



It will be decades before we get to strips like "Jump Start," "The Boondocks" and "Candorville" (below, a panel from Feb. 10, 2008).



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Mystery photo


Photograph by Wayne F. Kelly / Los Angeles Times

OK, who are the men with former Dodger Roy Campanella?

Here's a clue: It was extremely unusual for the man on the left to be mentioned in The Times. When his name appeared in the paper, he was usually identified as a civic leader.

  • Well, that's C. Norris Poulson in the middle, if I know my mayors. (Nathan Marsak) Absolutely right. He's the "easy" one. The other two men were prominent in Los Angeles in the late 1950s.
  • On the right, Bernard S. Jefferson of the Urban League? (Nathan Marsak). Awesome. That's two!
  • Joe E. Brown? Sorry, no.
  • County Supervisor Ernest Debs? Interesting guess! But no.
  • County Supervisor Burton C. Chase? Sorry, no.
  • Councilman John S. Gibson? No, sorry.

OK, I apparently stumped everybody with this one. The man on the left is Franklin S. Payne, publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner, which is why The Times usually identified him as "newspaper publisher Franklin Payne." He died in 1970 at the age of 74.

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Raymond bombing

Feb. 16, 1938
Los Angeles





Little Nemo

Feb. 16, 1908
Los Angeles


Home of the week

Feb. 16, 1908
Los Angeles


Don't go looking for the A.P. Macginnis home on the southwest corner of Bonnie Brae and Miramar--it's gone. But what a place: A 30-room house with an attic and a basement, Tiffany glass fixtures for the electric lights and hand-painted frescoes.  Did I mention the 12 bedrooms and nine bathrooms on the second floor?  The basement had a bowling alley, billiard room, gymnasium and a "plunge" (a.k.a. swimming pool). Cost was $80,000 ($1,758,963.88 USD 2007).

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Feb. 16, 1888




Feb. 15, 1958


Feb. 15, 1938







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