Asthma Vapineze - Mystery Solved
|1026 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles. Photo by Larry Underhill, 2008|
For decades, we've been driving by the Asthma Vapineze sign at 1026 North Fairfax Avenue, West Hollywood. There is a wrought iron fence around this overgrown property. Once in awhile, late at night, up until the early 2000s, we would see the neon sign lit up in all it's glory! The sign is definitely vintage 1930s. We've always wondered who lives there, what is Asthma Vapineze? Last weekend we finally found out.
Larry noticed that there was to be an estate sale on the property. Between us, we uncovered a bit about the history of this residence. It seems that a man named William McKinley Thompson lived here. He passed away almost 3 years ago. The executor of his estate just couldn't deal with disposing of his property until now. We heard that he also owned a home in North Hollywood. I found Bill Thompson's obituary online. He was born in Hollywood in 1931 and passed away in Burbank, 2015.
Bill's father was a pharmacist. It seems that the pharmacist's, wife, Mrs. Thompson had a severe case of asthma and died when her son was very young. This prompted her husband, Bill, Sr., to invent an inhaler that he called "Vapineze Inhalant."
|Larry found the box for the inhaler, but NOT the actual inhaler!|
Apparently, the Fairfax bungalow was used as an office for the company. Later, it seems that Bill, Jr. lived here. One of the commenters on my blog in 2008 spoke to Bill's neighbor a few years back. Her name was Maggie. "She described him as about 70 years old, tall, skinny and often walks around the neighborhood with no shirt on. Maggie said that she told him that there were a few websites online of people wanting to know what the sign was about. She asked him if he knew this and apparently he doesn't pay any attention to the internet. She went on to explain to us the story he told her that in the 1960's he had a business which sold a product for asthma and the bungalow was the office. The product didn't work out but he now lives there and enjoys the sign so he keeps it on. She said he wouldn't really explain what the product did. Even though the business didn't work out, he still keeps the sign up and now lives there with many pet birds in the backyard."
|Young Bill Thompson|
|Bill Thompson, Center|
After looking at the contents of Bill, Jr.'s bungalow on Fairfax, we figured out that he'd graduated from UCLA with a business degree in 1961 and worked as an insurance agent for a number of years (Larry found a business card). I also found a certificate that he had completed a course toward a Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics at Loyola Marymount University Center for Pastoral Life in June of 2000. There were lots of photographs of priests, along with religious items on the walls at the bungalow. There were also many photos of Ronald Reagan and the Statue of Liberty!
Bill's obituary states that he was President of the Legion of Mary and an active member of St. Victor Church in West Hollywood for over 50 years. Being part of the Legion of Mary might explain all of the Shamrock Beleek china from Ireland that I saw throughout the home. The Legion of Mary was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1921. It is an international association of the faithful of the Catholic Church who serve the Church as volunteers.
|Shamrock Beleek China|
The house was PACKED with china, pottery, glasses, crystal and other serving and kitchen items, as well as many religious artifacts. It was like walking into a time capsule. Everything in the kitchen was ancient, including the stove and refrigerator! I read on Zillow that the house was built in 1920 and that the property would be worth over $1 millon if sold today. This was a typical Hollywood-style, modified Craftsman bungalow that had been stuccoed over years ago. A few of the rooms were closed to the public, but we could see more overgrown trees and plants in the back yard.
|Vintage Ovens and Stove|
|The Refrigerator still works!|
There was lots of antique furniture too, including an old record player, chairs, bureaus, dining room furniture and an ottoman covered in textured, green frise' fabric! It was slightly cluttered. Yes, a single man lived here for decades. He did have a sense of humor though, check out the light switch plates!
|Light Switch Plates at Asthma Vapineze Bungalow|
The wallpaper and floor coverings were ancient too!
|I rather like this vintage wallpaper|
So, that's it. We now know the story behind the Asthma Vapineze neon sign. There is talk that the City of West Hollywood may buy the sign for display along Santa Monica Boulevard. We also heard a rumor that the sign may be donated to the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale. I certainly hope that the sign will continue to be enjoyed by the public!