Tag Archives: Los Angeles

10911 Michael Hunt Drive

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Plummer baptism

After my home, Epiphany is the place that looms largest in my South El Monte life. It was where I attended elementary school, walking home with my sisters after school in our saddle shoes and plaid jumpers, me carrying my backpack over just one shoulder so as not to look like a nerd. It was the church where we went to Mass every Sunday and where I received my first Holy Communion and my first Reconciliation in a tiny room with shaggy carpet on the walls.  It was where I went to Confirmation classes for two years during my freshman and sophomore years, before being confirmed by Cardinal Roger Mahoney and choosing an obscure saint’s name because I needed to be different from all the Agnes’s and Bernadette’s. (Go, Lutgardis!) It was where I was baptized as an infant, where I went to a funeral and saw my first dead body. It…

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Structured Unrest: The Rumford Act, Proposition 14, and the Systematic Inequality that Created the Watts Riots

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fairhousing

 

If “you keep telling people that they are unfairly treated and teach them disrespect for the law,” Chief William Parker told reporters in the aftermath of the Watts Riots, then violence is inevitable. Parker’s commentary, an attempt to deflect his own department’s culpability for the civil unrest veered into increasingly racist territory. In Parker’s worldview, trouble only started “when one person threw a rock, and like monkeys in a zoo, others started throwing rocks.” Calls by assemblyman Mervyn Dymally for a civilian police review board were little more than a “vicious canard,” argued the imperious police chief.[1]

The legacy of the riots, fifty years old next year, has reverberated throughout Los Angeles and Southern California history and its echoes can still be heard today. Undoubtedly, the riots accelerated white flight from communities like Compton, where ironically, black, white, and Latino residents had repelled looters. While discrimination persisted in…

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1181 Durfee Avenue: 1983-1986

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Print

Between the fourth and sixth grades, you are seized by three deep and compulsive obsessions:

            Marvel comic books (all things Daredevil and X-Men and Spiderman).

BMX bicycles (yours: a second-hand Mongoose, unwieldy and spray-painted black after you stripped the frame down to its bare chrome-moly tubing).

And video games.

Your parents find all three activities doubtful.  Comic books are allowed since they get you reading something else besides MAD magazine and therefore seem remotely educational.  And when you’re on your bicycle, you’re out of the house, out of your parents’ way, and doing something sort of athletic, even if the extent of this athletic activity is you and your friends racing up and down Parkway Avenue, seeing whose tires can leave the longest skid, and assembling ramps from plywood scraps.  (One day, your friends will shove a few extra bricks under one of these ramps, raising it higher than…

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Not Bowling Alone: How the Holiday Bowl in Crenshaw Became an Integrated Leisure Space

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377785513_13a0cf28f0_z-thumb-630x432-58257 Top: The Holiday Bowl sign today. Photo: Your Pal Dave/Flickr/Creative Commons

In May 2000, the New York Times reported the upcoming demolition of the Crenshaw District’s Holiday Bowl. Built by Japanese American investors in 1958, just as Crenshaw and neighboring Leimart Park were reemerging as one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, the bowling alley served as an integrated leisure space where African, Mexican, and Asian Americans could interact. “It’s like a United Nations in there,” longtime employee Jacqueline Sowell told writer Don Terry. ”Our employees are Hispanic, white, black, Japanese, Thai, Filipino. I’ve served grits to as many Japanese customers as I do black. We’ve learned from each other and given to each other. It’s much more than just a bowling alley. It’s a community resource.”

Even amid the traumatic 1992 riots, numerous patrons, including Rodney G. King, sat outside the alley protecting it from looters telling anyone who…

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Fighting for Leisure: African Americans, Beaches, and Civil Rights in Early 20th Century L.A.

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00001270-thumb-630x426-72604 Caption reads: “Verna and Sidney in the segregated section of Santa Monica beach known as the Ink Well.” | Shades of L.A. Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

“These people worked on the railroad, they saved their money, they put up a resort, and they lost everything,” lamented Bernard Bruce in 2007. “How would you feel if your family owned the Waldorf and they took it away from you.” Bruce, the grandson of former beach resort proprietors Charles and Willa Bruce, spoke to the Los Angeles Times after a contested Manhattan Beach city council vote of 3-2 confirmed the city’s official commemoration of his parents’ beach resort as a historic landmark. “There’s a kind of tension,” longtime resident and local historian Robert L. Brigham added, “between people who are very conscious of the history of Bruce’s and those who would rather forget about the whole thing.” 1

Indeed, the story of…

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The Pirates of Los Angeles: Music, Technology, and Counterculture in Southern California

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[Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in the Intersections column on the KCET Departures website, June 27, 2013.]

In 1978, with a new album on the way and a growing popularity that had started among the Hell’s Angels in Southern California, the Doobie Brothers made an unlikely guest appearance on the television show “What’s Happening!!” Set in Watts, the popular series focused on the comic tragedies that befell its three main characters (apologies to Dee) Raj, Dwayne, and Rerun. In a February episode, the Doobie Brothers planned to hold a fundraiser for the Watts High School music program, a show all three boys hoped to attend. However, as these things go, tickets proved scarce. When a burly man intervenes, offering the boys free tickets in exchange for their clandestine recording of the event, the trio accepts — only to regret their choice when the Doobies expose Rerun’s failed attempt at…

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Seventy Years Later: The Zoot Suit Riots & the Complexity of Youth Culture

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zootsuitriots-thumb-630x470-52167 Top: Zoot suit riot erupts in front of the Hippodrome Theater on Main Street, Downtown Los Angeles, 1943

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared under the Intersections column at KCET Departures, May 30, 2013.]

In the film “American Me,” Pedro Santana, fresh from having his devotion to wife Esperanza tattooed on his arm, prepares for a night on the town. His wife, accompanied by another couple, wades through Los Angeles streets on their way to meet Pedro, as a soundtrack of sensationalized news reports of zoot-suited thugs, dangerous riots, and retributions delivered by U.S. servicemen blare in the background. His friends exhibit a clear wariness regarding the evening’s disruptive personality, but Pedro appears unconcerned, more focused on “walking the boulevard with his woman.” Just then several sailors burst into the shop, accosting them violently with wild cries of “pachucos.”

The scene descends into a disturbing violence…

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Shifting Lanes: The Demise of the Southern California Autotopia

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To understand the City of Angels, Joan Didion once wrote, one needed to immerse oneself in the freeway experience or, as she put it, “the only secular communion Los Angeles has.”1 Between 1968 and 1979 Didion published three books — two collections of non-fiction essays: “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” in 1968 and “The White Album” in 1979; and one work of fiction: “Play It as It Lays” in 1970 — that depicted a modern Southern California, buffeted by “the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse,” but grounded by its highways and relaxed by its pools. Southern California combined the elemental extremes of nature with the rigidity of the decade’s car-centric urban planning. For 1960s and early 1970s Californians, the car provided solace in an age of discomfort; but soon after the liberating effects of the freeway appeared increasingly diminished.

Prior to the age of gridlock, few writers captured the essence…

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