The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Parks and Recreation

Yorty Elected Mayor!


  June 1, 1961, Times Cover  

  June 1, 1961, Comics  

June 1, 1961: Sam Yorty defeats Norris Poulson in the mayor’s race. Poulson says one reason for his loss was the Memorial Day riot in Griffith Park in which a mob of African Americans attacked a small group of LAPD officers. The riot broke out when the operator of the merry-go-round tried to eject a teenager who had gotten on without paying, The Times said. Two men were eventually convicted in the incident.

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Pages of History -- Morrow Mayo's 'Los Angeles'

  Los Angeles, Morrow Mayo  

Dec. 17, 1927, Express Cover

The Evening Express,
Dec. 17, 1927


Dec. 20, 1927, Express Cover
  The Evening Express,
Dec. 20, 1927


Dec. 17, 1927, Times
  The Times,
Dec. 17, 1927
Dec. 20, 1927, Times
  The Times,
Dec. 20, 1927

I haven’t forgotten about my little project on Morrow Mayo’s “Los Angeles,” but there are so many stories and only one Larry Harnisch. I spent part of Tuesday at one of my favorite places in the city, the Los Angeles Public Library’s History and Genealogy Department, going through microfilm of the Los Angeles Evening Express coverage of the Marion Parker killing. (Sorry about the quality of the scans. The readers at the library can only make printouts.)

I will delve into Mayo’s treatment of the Parker killing in the days to come, but I was left with some immediate impressions after reading the Evening Express.

First of all, notice the screamer headlines. The Express brought out extras nearly every day in the Parker case, unlike The Times, which mostly kept the killing on the cover of the second section. (Which is why there is nothing about the case on the Dec. 17, 1927, front page, above).

And second,  I think we tend to forget that this tragedy occurred during the holiday season. Putting  the murder in its historic context in the pages of a newspaper adds a haunting contrast between the horror of the killing and the ads for Christmas gifts and pictures of Santa Claus.

Finally, I am always thankful that I can go to my local library and have access to such a wealth of historic resources.   

Fact-Checking “Los Angeles” – Part 1
Fact-Checking “Los Angeles” – Part 2
Fact-Checking “Los Angeles” – Part 3

A Notable Absence – Updated

Sept. 16, 1910, Mexican Centennial

Sept. 16, 1910, Mexican Independence

Note: A bloodless bullfight at Schuetzen Park. [Update: Schuetzen Park was renamed Rose Hills Park about 1923.]

Sept. 16, 1910: Many writers have noted that Gen. Harrison Gray Otis wasn’t in Los Angeles when The Times was bombed but almost no one examines the reason. Here’s what happened:

Otis was one of the prominent Americans representing the U.S. for Mexico’s centennial celebration in Mexico City. Other goodwill envoys included Massachusetts Gov. Curtis Guild Jr.; Judge James Watson Gerard; Sen. Lee Slater Overman of North Carolina; Rep. Edwin Denby of Michigan; Rep. William Marcellus Howard of Georgia; Col. Charles A. Rook, founder of the Pittsburgh Dispatch; Sen. Coe Isaac Crawford of South Dakota; and Rep. David J. Foster of Vermont. 

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Pages of History

Big Table 3

"I was seeing Pershing Square, Los Angeles, now for the first time…the nervous fugitives from Times Square, Market Street SF, the French Quarter -- masculine hustlers looking for lonely fruits to score from, anything from the legendary $20 to a pad at night and breakfast in the morning and whatever you can clinch or clip; and the heat in their holy cop uniforms, holy because of the Almighty Stick and the Almightier Vagrancy Law; the scattered junkies, the small-time pushers, the queens, the sad panhandlers, the lonely, exiled nymphs haunting the entrance to the men’s head, the fruits with the hungry eyes and jingling coins; the tough teen-age chicks -- 'dittybops' -- making it with the lost hustlers … all amid the incongruous piped music and the flowers -- twin fountains gushing rainbow colored: the world of Lonely America squeezed into Pershing Square, of the Cities of Terrible Night, downtown now trapped in the City of lost Angels … and the tress hang over it all the like some type of apathetic fate."

-- JOHN RECHY: Big Table 3

dropcap_I_vadisf you read Norman Mailer’s article for Esquire on the 1960 Democratic National Convention, you might notice a description of Pershing Square by John Rechy and wonder “What’s Big Table 3?” Thanks to EBay, I now have a copy of the magazine and here’s the answer: 

Big Table (1959-1960) was edited by Irving Rosenthal and Paul Carroll, who began the journal after resigning from Chicago Review over criticism of what was intended as the first installment of William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch.”

In fact, almost the entire staff of Chicago Review resigned after Chicago Daily News writer Jack Mabley wrote a scathing column about the issue headlined “Filthy Writing on the Midway.”  As reconstructed from the Village Voice and the Chicago Reader, Mabley's Oct. 25, 1958, column read in part:

"Do you ever wonder what happens to little boys who scratch dirty words on railroad underpasses? They go to college and scrawl obscenities in the college literary magazine. A magazine published by the University of Chicago is distributing one of the foulest collections of printed filth I've seen publicly circulated.

"I don't recommend anyone buying the thing out of curiosity because the writing is obscure to the unbeat generation, and the purple prose is precisely what you can see chiseled on washroom walls.

"The beat generation has quite a representative on the Midway. I haven't had much contact with these people, but I get the impression they are young, intellectual, need baths and have extreme contempt for the less fortunate than themselves, which is almost everybody. I'm sure these words won't bother them because they wouldn't be caught dead reading anything so plebeian, even for a good sneer . . .

"The obscenity is put into their writing to attract attention. It is an assertion of their sense of bravado, 'Oh boy, look what I'm doing' just like the little kids chalking a four letter word on the Oak Street underpass.

“What is legally obscene and what is not? If anyone used these words orally in the street, he would be arrested. If the obscenity in the magazine were read in a public performance as a literary presentation, the performers would be arrested and charged with indecency, in my opinion. Yet, in print, stamped 'this is literary,” they get away with it.

"To save argument, let's concede that I am a bluenose. I am disturbed by the increasing legal tolerance of obscenity. I abhor public circulation of vulgarity and coarseness. I think it is evidence of the deterioration of our American society. I think it is dangerous. We are  going overboard in the liberal side -- in the courts, in literature, in popular men's magazines and paper-cover books. The Chicago magazine is abundant evidence of this trend.

"I don't put the blame on the juveniles who wrote and edited the stuff, because they're immature and irresponsible. But the University of Chicago publishes the magazine. The trustees should take a long hard look at what's being circulated under their sponsorship." (If anyone has a scan of the original column, please send it along).

But the controversy wasn’t over. More than 400 copies of Big Table 1, which included further excerpts of "Naked Lunch" and Jack Kerouac's "Old Angel Midnight," were seized by postal authorities because of "obscenity and filthy contents," according to the University of Chicago's website on Carroll's papers. An initial ruling found Big Table 1 to be obscene, but that was overturned on appeal by Judge Julius Hoffman (yes, the “Chicago Seven” Julius Hoffman). The journal ceased publication after five issues.

Bonus fact: The title of Big Table was suggested by Jack Kerouac, inspired by a note on his writing desk: “Get a bigger table.”

As for novelist John Rechy, the excerpt quoted by Mailer (who also had an item in Big Table 3) is from “The Fabulous Wedding of Miss Destiny,”  written about “a flaming drag queen”  while Rechy was renting a room on Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles. 

A highly revised version, titled “Miss Destiny: The Fabulous Wedding,” appears in Rechy’s “City of Night.”

According to WorldCat, Big Table is available in many local libraries.Or you can buy copies from various book dealers.

On the jump, a page from Big Table 3.

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Artist’s Notebook: Bastille Day

July 11, 2010, Bastille Day in Los Angeles
“Bastille Day” by Marion Eisenmann

Marion Eisenmann called Sunday and suggested we visit a Bastille Day celebration in Elysian Park. I practiced my rusty high school French on the way there with Marion quizzing me “How would you say ‘I’m hungry?’ ” (My teacher, Madame Royce, would be so pleased that I remembered).

Instead of Paris’ Champs Elysees, the Los Angeles festival, presented by Passion Productions, was held in Elysian Park, at a quite pleasant, grassy area near Stadium Way and Scott Avenue around the bend from Dodger Stadium. 

And yes, speaking of “I’m hungry,” there were pastries and other delicacies at a variety of booths and of course, some folks were watching the World Cup on TV. But most people were listening to the music and sitting at tables or lounging on the grass.  And in Los Angeles, a Bastille Day celebration included dancing by the Polynesian dance group Fetia Rangi from Orange County because it’s French Polynesia.

Marion says:

It was a great occasion to be surrounded by a European clique, with food and music from France, a country not far from where I originate. The illustration captures a peaceful and French ambience, of “picnicking” people, combined with a distinct view from Elysian Park overlooking parts of downtown. Very contrary to the busy and crowded celebration along the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Note: In case you just tuned in, Marion Eisenmann and I are visiting spots around Los Angeles in a modern version of what Joe Seewerker and Charles Owens did in the 1930s with The Times’ Nuestro Pueblo feature. 

Anyone who’s interested in Marion’s artwork should contact her directly.

An American Fourth of July


July 5, 1910, Highland Fling

July 5, 1910, Tossing the Caber

July 5, 1910: The Scottish American community of Los Angeles celebrates the Fourth of July with the Highland Fling and the caber toss. And there’s nobody on talk radio to tell them to go back “home” if they don’t like it in the U.S. 

On the jump, two items of special interest.

The first is the account of a fire at a brewery, which may – or may not – have been due to union agitators, depending on whether one reads The Times or the Herald. 

The second is accounts from The Times and the Herald about usage of the streetcar system from downtown to the beaches on the Fourth of July, 1910.

The Times said: "The exodus began early in the morning and officials of the Pacific Electric say that with the possible exception of fleet week, there has never in the history of Los Angeles been such heavy travel in one day."

The Times also said: "Every bit of passenger rolling stock of the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Pacific was called into service and during the morning hours the trains were run as close together as they could be with safety."

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L.A. to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Many Languages

July 3, 1910, Liquor Cure

Maybe beer is something other than “liquid bread.”

July 5, 1910, Heraald

July 3, 1910: Los Angeles prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July with a parade in the downtown business district followed by a ceremony at the Plaza with a reading of the Declaration of Independence and -- what's this? A speech in Spanish? A speech in Italian? A speech in French? A speech in Portuguese?

In the meantime, the city's Scottish population will gather at Schuetzen Park for -- what's this? A bagpipe competition? And a highland fling contest?

And Joseph Scott will be the orator of the day at the Hibernians' celebration, which will feature red, white and blue bunting and ... an Irish flag?

July 5, 1910, Herald

At left, the Herald’s coverage of the Fourth of July. Notice that along with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Kammermeyer’s band played “The Marseillaise” and the Mexican national anthem.

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Random Shot – Pershing Square


Photograph by Rosanna Xia / Los Angeles Times

Rosanna Xia, a summer intern with The Times, visited an art show in Pershing Square on Sunday and took this photo of Dan Brown’s “Tribute to the King of Pop,” a portrait of Michael Jackson done with cola cans. (And yes, many of them are Pepsi cans).

Pages of History [Updated]


Central Park, later named Pershing Square, and Philharmonic Auditorium.

March 1, 1925, Pershing Square 

One of the most influential books ever written about the city is Morrow Mayo’s 1933 “Los Angeles.” It is, in fact, easy to argue that Mayo was the father of an entire school of caustic, iconoclastic writing about L.A., even shaping the views of contemporary authors who are unaware that they are following his well-beaten path.

In curious contrast to the continuing prominence of “Los Angeles,” very little is known about the author, born George Morrow Mayo about 1897 (some sources say 1896) in Kentucky. Mayo was an itinerant reporter who arrived in Los Angeles in the mid-1920s after working as a railway clerk and a partner with his father in the Hy Art Master Plays Co. of Washington, D.C. He served as a Navy gunner’s mate during World War I and wrote a widely published poem titled “Sons of the Flag” that was used as the lyrics of a popular song.

While in Southern California from about 1925 to about 1931, Mayo worked for the Pasadena Star-News and contributed pieces to The Times.  Evidently he was also working on the book, judging by a 1928 essay in  a journal titled Plain Talk, “Los Angeles – City of Dreams.” (This should not be confused Harry Carr's 1935 book "Los Angeles -- City of Dreams.")

It’s worth noting that Mayo evidently went back East by the time “Los Angeles” was published in 1933. A 1931 issue of American Mercury says: “Morrow Mayo was formerly a newspaperman in Atlanta and Los Angeles and a staff editor of the Associated Press in New York. He has contributed to the New Republic, the Nation and Plain Talk.” The New York Times 1933 review of "Los Angeles" says "he probably cannot now return without a regiment of infantry to protect him."

Mayo continued to appear in magazines and journals on an irregular basis up to 1952, when he wrote an article on Houston for the New York Times. No obituary appeared in the New York Times, nor in the Los Angeles Times.

Note: Expect to pay a good bit of money for "Los Angeles" if you can find a copy.

On the jump, Mayo’s 1925 sketch of Pershing Square.

[Update, Jan. 27, 2011: A previous version of this post said that The Times did not review Mayo's book. In fact, the paper reviewed the book, but ProQuest's search engine has trouble finding the item. The review appeared March 26, 1933, and will be the subject of an upcoming post.]

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City to Renovate Downtown Park

June 21, 1910, Pershing Square

Central Park, which was renamed Pershing Square in November 1918.

June 21, 1910, Bad Language


June 26, 1907, a headline that will live in infamy.

June 21, 1910: William Hicks is fined $10 [$227.39 USD 2009] for using “shocking language” in the presence of women. At least he wasn’t using a telephone!

On the jump, city officials announce plans for Central Park, now known as Pershing Square. Among the considerations is eliminating seats  to “rid the park of loafers and agitators who have made it a rendezvous for years and impaired its usefulness to the general public.” A century later, Pershing Square is a concrete moonscape intended to – wait for it – repel the homeless.
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Found on EBay – Alligator Farm

Alligator Chute


Although the ostrich farms get more attention, Los Angeles also had alligator farms, shown above in an image from USC’s digital archive. The postcard at left showing alligators at play has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $5.95.

Found on EBay – Central Park


Someone recently asked me when “L.A.” became a common term for Los Angeles. I said I didn’t know and was reluctant to speculate because at the Daily Mirror, we don’t guess, we look things up. This postcard of Central Park (now Pershing Square) listed on EBay shows that “L.A.” was in use by 1907, far earlier than I expected.  Bidding on the postcard starts at $4.21.

Notice the lush landscaping of Central Park, a stark contrast to the current moonscape, which was intended to repel the homeless.

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