Monday, October 28, 2019

Ack! Fire!

Bel Air Fire, Stone Canyon Road, 1961. Photo by Jon Woods for the Valley Times.
We are experiencing fire once again on the Westside of Los Amgeles today. This fire centers around the Getty Center Museum, west of the 405/San Diego Freeway, north of Sunset Boulevard, South of Mullholland, west of Temescal Canyon. The Santa Ana winds are blowing from the east, out to the ocean, fanning the flames. Here is current coverage of the Getty Fire. Many homes have already been lost and more people are being evacuated.
The Getty Fire, October 2019

One of the worst fires in my memory was the Bel Air fire of November, 1961.  So many homes were lost. My Aunt and Uncle owned a home in Bel Air and I remember my Uncle telling me that he was up on the roof with the home's Caretaker, both wielding garden houses to wet down the wood shingle roof and keep the sparks from igniting. It worked! Marvin and Louis save the house when so many structures all around them were damaged
LAFD, near the Bel Air Fire, 1961.
Photo by Alan Hyde for The Valley Times
Click HERE to see KTLA-TV news coverage of the 1961 Bel Air fire.
As a direct result of the Bel Air fire, the City of Los Angeles initiated a series of laws and fire safety policies which included the banning of wood shingle roofs in new construction. There were also new laws about hillside brush clearance. Thankfully, these laws stand today. 
Luckily, Larry and I live about 8 miles east of The Getty Fires. The winds are blowing to the west. I truly hope the fires are contained quickly, the wind stops and we get some much-needed rain.
Stay safe today, my Westside friends. 

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Friday, October 25, 2019

The Great Pumpkin

Even though we're having summer weather here in Los Angeles (90 degrees yesterday), our thoughts have turned to fall, carving pumpkins, preparing our Halloween costumes, etc. I am reminded of Smilin' Jack in Wilmington, a sight to behold!  To get you in the Halloween mood, check out this UnoCal storage tank at the refinery in Wilmington!

Photo by Thomas Kelsey, 1986 for the L.A. Times
Photo description in the L.A. Times:   Oct. 23, 1986: Painter applies last-minute touches to 3.3-million-gallon storage tank at the Unocal (now ConocoPhillips) storage tank at the company refinery in Wilmington. The tank, nicknamed ‘Smilin’ Jack’  has been painted every Halloween since 1952.  About 100 gallons of paint are used to freshen up the 73-foot-long smile and 18-foot-tall eyes.  ‘Smilin’ Jack’ is located at 1660 West Anaheim Street in Wilmington.
Photo by John Malmin, 1965 for L.A. Times
Photo description in the L.A. Times:  Smilin’ Jack’ sits among storage tanks at the Union Oil (now ConocoPhillips) refinery in Wilmington. Photographer John Malmin took this photo from a low-flying helicopter while on his way to a financial assignment in Los Angeles Harbor. 
Smilin' Jack will be on display this year!  Let's visit!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

My Little Corner of the World

Photo Courtesy of LAPL Archives
The caption for the photo above that appeared in the L.A. Herald Examiner in 1960 reads, "Commemorating the work of eight film pioneers who led the fight against Beverly Hills' annexation by Los Angeles in 1922, a 30-foot marble monument was dedicated at Beverly Dr. and Olympic Blvd. on March 9, 1960. A spiraling bronze replica of a strip of motion picture film is topped by a 14-karat gold star. Among filmland personalities taking part in the fete are, left to right, Conrad NagelCorinne GriffithMary Pickford and Harold Lloyd."
I was at this dedication. Sooky Goldman, photographer and reporter for the Beverly Hills Courier, recruited our Brownie Troop from Beverly Vista Elementary School to participate in the dedication ceremony for the statue. There was a photo of our troop, saluting in front of the statue in the BH Courier. My copy of the photo is long gone, but I still remember the day.
Beverly Vista Brown Troop, 1960 - L-R: Jeri, Denise, Allison, Erica, Jody, Ellen, Nancy, Leslie, Sharon, Eva, Ria, Mandy, Dana, Sandy, Karin, Gayle - Back row: Troop Leaders, Mrs. Milner, Mrs. Martin
Our neighbor, Sooky Goldman, later became active in the preservation of Franklin Canyon Park
The statue is still on Olympic Blvd. at Beverly Drive, right near Von's Pavillions Market. It's in the middle of this traffic triangle. I must go over there again and photograph the statue! I feel proud to have participated in this small piece of Beverly Hills history.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Exotic, Fun and Delicious

Saturday night was girls' night out! We met at the newly renovated Formosa Cafe on the edge of West Hollywood. I used to stop here with friends after work when I worked in Hollywood, 35 years ago. We NEVER ate dinner there, just had drinks and appetizers. The food was dreadful, but the drinks were fab and the ambiance was VERY old Hollywood. You can read a bit of the history HERE

The 1933 Group spent loads of money on refurbishing the Cafe, trying to replicate the glamor of the place. The Group also bought many of the elements of the shuttered Yee Mee Loo Bar, originally in DTLA, and incorporated them into the design. Leading to the back room, you can see the most beautiful, carved booth, along with the spectacular carved bar.
Carved decorative booth from Yee Lee Low

Of course, we ordered exotic drinks before dinner. 
Alyson, Darcy and Joan 
Ellen and MaryJo

A few of us had been here before, so we ordered some of our favorite dishes and some new ones. There were more, but I neglected to get photos. Everything was really delicious.
Marinated Cucumbers
Walnut Shrimp
Braised Pork Belly 
Chile Won Tons
General Tso's Cauliflower
We had a really nice time, lots of fun conversation, excellent food and drinks.  You must check out the new and improved Formosa Cafe!

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019

California Heights Home & Garden Tour - 2019

Lemon Avenue Home, built in 1929. Original cost, $4,500

On Sunday we drove down to Long Beach for the California Heights Home & Garden Tour. Our friends (and probably relatives), Ellen and Tom Underhill live there and are active in the community. 
There were many Craftsman style homes
From Wikipedia:  California Heights is a historic area of Long Beach nestled just south of North Long Beach and the neighborhood of Bixby Knolls and north of Signal Hill. Until the early 1920s California Heights was part of the Bixby Ranch and was used primarily as grazing land.  It was the discovery of oil on Signal Hill and the ensuing land boom in the 1921 that caused the Jotham Bixby Company to subdivide and sell of lots in the California Heights tract.  In 1927, California Heights included Chateau Therry (the subdivision on the west side of California Avenue) and petitioned the City of Long Beach for paved streets, sidewalks, curbs and ornamental lighting. The California Heights-Chateau Thierry area grew rapidly with approximately 250 families moving into the neighborhood between 1925 and 1927. The area continued to attract new families and by 1939 most of the building was complete.
Tudor Revival Style Home
The City of Long Beach has 18 historic districts. California Heights is one of them. I do love that many of the homes had Historic District signs posted. Most of the homes are of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. You can also see a few examples of Craftsman bungalows and Tudor Revival and Neo-Traditional homes of the late 30s and 40s. Some older homes were relocated to California Heights from downtown Long Beach.

It was extremely hot on Sunday, but we managed to trudge through the neighborhood and see most of the featured homes. It was helpful that the San Pedro Trolley made a loop through the area so we could catch a ride to some of the farthest homes.  We were not allowed to take photos inside the homes, but many had been remodeled for today's life-styles, most retaining many of the historical details of their original plans.
Tour Docent, Ellen Rooney Underhill in front of the Gundry Home, built in 1930 at a cost of $4,000
Our tour consisted of primarily Spanish Revival homes. I was surprised to see so many different types of architecture in one neighborhood though. We even ran into some modern ranch-style homes, labeled Cinderella or Swiss Miss homes!

Cinderella and Swiss Miss live in California Heights too!
I'm particularly fond of this modified Spanish Revival home. It's severe and almost modern!
The most modern home on the tour, Gardenia Avenue home built in 1939, original cost $2,200

All in all, we had a lovely afternoon exploring a new neighborhood in beautiful Southern California!
Our hosts, Tom and Ellen

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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Robert Reed, "Mike Brady," the Dad in "The Brady Bunch Series
We've been watching "A Very Brady Renovation" on HGTV for the past few weeks. A group of designers from HGTV has been totally remodeling the house that was used for the exterior location of the house on TV's "The Brady Bunch."  The split-level Studio City home used for exterior shots in "The Brady Bunch" was built by Harry M. Londelius in 1959. The interior of this house in North Hollywood, California does not resemble the set of the interiors used for filming at the studio at all. This was an effort to completely make over the existing interior to resemble those sets from long ago. The team at HGTV, along with the six remaining cast members of the show (the children) did a good job in re-creating the interiors. They had to add an entire new wing to the house, taking away most of the existing backyard. Even though the house looks good on TV, the way they remodeled and added rooms makes the floor plan rather confusing. It will be interesting to see if this house ever sells on the open market.
After watching a few episodes, I was reminded that "Mike Brady's" office exterior was the 1960's Beverly Hills Library.
Beverly Hills Library (1963), Martin Stern, Architect
When I was very small, the BH Library used to be housed in one of the top floors of the BH City Hall. I remember taking the old-fashioned, glass and wrought iron-door elevator with my brother. The view from the windows at the top of City Hall in those days was spectacular.
I guess the Library needed more room, so in the early 60's renowned architect Martin Stern was hired and built a beautiful building, finished in 1963. The mosaic on the sides of the building depicted an abstraction of book spines. Sadly, this building was demolished in the 80's so a bigger library and more offices could be built in the Spanish/Moorish Revival style of the City Hall.
Originally, the building looked like it was floating over this water feature. Eventually, the "moat" was filling in with landscaping
More about architect, Martin Stern. I had no idea that Martin Stern was the architect for my beloved Library building!! After a bit of research (love you, innernets!), I found out that Mr. Stern was responsible for this gorgeous building. Martin Stern was the designer of Encino Village homes, many Las Vegas Strip hotels and restaurants and all three Ship's Coffee Shops in the L.A. area!
There were probably 3 or 4 different shots in "The Brady Bunch" of Robert Reed walking into this building. Supposedly, this was the office of a hip, modern architect. I loved this building! It was definitely hip and modern. 
I salute you, Martin Stern, for beautifying Beverly Hills Civic Center (at least for a little while) and for your contributions to modern architecture in the SouthWest! I also salute Sherwood Schwartz, producer of "The Brady Bunch" who chose his locations well. 

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Hiren's BootCD
hard drive recovery