Wilshire, The Grand Concorse WVRC on July 27th
New member BARRY MARLIN led the Pledge once again. LENNY FRIEDMAN and RICK CULLEN led us in God Bless America, and while Prexy MIKE was kind in saying we sounded better, let’s not forget from where we started…(If singing is the standard, we is in trouble!)
PP RUDY ALVAREZ didn’t rush to start the Invocation, but his lead-time was well spent. There was some ribaldry (that means rowdiness) over who had the better haircut, and I must remind some of you that some of us are sensitive about this subject.
Instead of asking us to bow our heads (note, we were STANDING during all this palaver (that means digressions, I think) PP RUDY suggested that another culture favored looking upward during these moments, and if we do that, we can see the whole universe.
He then gave his traditional Invocation, starting with, “I live for those who trust me”, nicely rhymed, ”for the cause that needs assistance” and ending, “for the good that I can do”. RUDY, this covers a lot of important ground we thank you.
Guests were introduced. PDG ANDY ANDERSON was with Pat (and we learned later that a mere 33 years ago, she had another name - Bryant - plus a byline in the LA Times)
MIKE YOUSEM introduced his Special Guest, Curt Smith, overcoming the expected interruptions at his back table. I had two Special Guests John Woodall, the new Senior Minister at that Methodist church nearby, and David Hawkins, who was described by another member as “The guy who plays golf and is twelve feet tall”. I’m not exactly sure how this next reported item was inserted, but another member of that back table then rose to point out, unnecessarily, that I now have a new pair of glasses. This revelation cost me a hundred clams, and while I won’t encourage such behavior by naming the rat who fingered me, let’s not forget the power of the press when reprisal time comes along!
It was birthday time. Those who came along in July included ED GAULD and HANK HEUER, who are here combined since they both chose, along with Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 4th ED in Long Island, and Hank in Yonkers (and for those who may be geographically challenged, both places are in New York state). MAX LICHTENBERGER jumped over to Steyr, Austria, electing the 6th. This led CLAWSON BLEAK to choose St. George, Utah, on the 10th. HENRY TSENG came along in Yokahama, Japan on the 12th (and it was only his ninety ninth!) PEGGY BLOOMFIELD got us back to California that same day, honoring Escondido. GORDON FELL decided on the 18th in LA, while YOSH SETOGUCHI arrived the next day, again choosing LA. SALLY PHILLIPS decided on Cooperstown, ND on the 29th, and TERRY M. WHITE elected Santa Monica, finishing WVRC for the month on the 31st. In a nice switch, Prexy MIKE then turned gift giving around, asking those named above to sign the bookplates on several books, which they are giving to the Westwood Library!
CHRIS BRADFORD spoke briefly on our wonderful Ambassadorial Scholar Program.
He and SHANE WAARBROEK are our Co-Chairs this year, and they will be selecting our candidate to submit to the District. Rotary International gives out about 900 Scholarships each year, which involve students leaving where they live and studying aboard. It provides up to $26,000 for a year’s study, and is better than a Full bright, for example. Being a local sponsor for an incoming scholar is something to consider you become their counselor, and help them get settled, etc. Try it you’ll like it!
PP STEVE DAY came forward to announce the Annual Paul Harris Celebration, which will be on Saturday, November 4th, at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. The last time the Paul Harris dinner was at a Studio, we had a lot of fun, and this should be the same.
So save the date details to follow. And speaking of dates, don’t forget the Combined Family Fun Day & Picnic it will be Sunday, August 20th from 2 to 5 pm. ELOISE SISKEL has once again offered her lovely garden and picnic area for the event. The food will be from South of the Border, plus salad, ice cream, Popsicles, beer, wine you get the idea! Cost is $10 per person, or $25 per family. BE THERE!
AL BELANCA has been our Photographer for the last couple of years. He’s looking for some help, and can give you the details. (The pay isn’t great, but the perks ARE!) This announcement apparently reminded Prexy MIKE of a joke, which follows herewith (that means afterward). The CEO of a very large company invited all his executives to a party at his home. In the back, he had a huge swimming pool the largest pool any of the guests had ever seen. However, it was filled with apparently hungry alligators. “I think executives should be measured by courage, so here’s a challenge. Anyone who dives in and swims to the other side of the pool will receive anything he desires my house, my job, anything”. Suddenly they all hear a loud splash. It’s the CFO, and naturally, he’s swimming like mad for the other side. He reaches the side just in time, and pulls himself out just before the gators catch him. The CEO says, “That’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen. Tell me, what can I do for you?”. The CFO says, “Can you tell me who pushed me into the pool?”.
SALLY BRANT came forward to introduce our Speaker, Kevin Roderick. He is a successful local author, with articles in the LA Times Magazine and LA Architect, and has written “The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb” plus his current best seller, “Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles”. Before he began his presentation, which was augmented with many photos all of which are in his book he thanked us for inviting him and noted that he particularly likes to speak before audiences who already appreciate the importance of Wilshire Blvd. Also, the Bel Air Hotel is special to him, since he and his wife spent their wedding night here.
He began by reporting that he hadn’t seen PAT ANDERSON recently he remembers her as Pat Bryant, as noted above. And he then asked if there was anyone present who was a relative of the Wilshire family since once before he told of some of the questionable projects Gaylord.Wilshire had sponsored, it turned out that a distant relative and her children were present, and she told him she was offended! Wilshire came out here from Cincinnati, and made a lot of money in the land boom of the 1880’s. He developed the beachfront of Long Beach, was active in Orange County, and at one time had the monopoly on all billboards in the city of Los Angeles. In addition to all this, he was the leading Socialist in California! He even ran for office as a Socialist, but never was elected. In his ‘other life’, he was a co-founder of the California Club, and of the Los Angeles Country Club!
Where did Wilshire Blvd start? Not downtown, but in Santa Monica first named Nevada Avenue, after the senator fro Nevada who lived in a mansion on the corner of what became Wilshire and Ocean Avenue. In the distance you could see a trolley, on rails but when Mr. Wilshire gave the land for the Los Angeles portion of the Blvd, he specified that there was to be no mass transit running over his gift. From the early 1900’s until 1919 they had a road race, along Wilshire to San Vicente, onto Ocean Avenue, and it really put Santa Monica on the map. Each car had not only a driver, but a mechanic, who rode along and was undoubtedly needed. Up to 100,000 people stood along the route to watch the race and since it was in the winter, the contrast between the date palms in Santa Monica and the snow in the east was one reason for the influx of easterners to California.
From Ocean Avenue, the story proceeded eastward, showing an older building at 7th street, which is now a condo. The first Douglas Aircraft factory in Santa Monica was located at Wilshire and 26th Street. Eucalyptus trees lined Wilshire, planted by Abbott Kinney another named street in SM. The still-standing church/synagogue on the grounds of the VA (then called the National Home for Soldiers and Sailors, which was for veterans of the Civil War) was shown in an early photograph. When one of their residents died, they asked a nearby rancher if they could establish a cemetery, and it now contains the remains of 87,000 veterans. He showed some 1930’s shots of Westwood Village, including a view of the Ralph’s Grocery and, across Westwood Blvd, Sears Roebuck. Westwood was planned as a low-rise Mediterranean Village, and that all changed in the 1960’s when skyscrapers began to appear, particularly along Wilshire.
There was an outdoor ice rink, where hockey was played, and this later became the Sonya Heine Ice Palace. Beverly Hills was next. It developed as a separate city, essentially because Mary Pickford lived there this drew other movie stars to move nearby it was the “In” Place to live. The Miracle Mile was shown and Desmonds moved west, being the first downtown store to leave. That building still exists. Wilshire was not only the widest street in the city, but was served by double decker busses some stores even had display windows on their 2nd story to catch the attention of bus riders. At one point, the corner of Wilshire and Western was the busiest intersection in LA. Traffic signals began to appear, which had been preceded by semaphores, and the streets Wilshire was first, of course - began to have centerline dividers. This started in the 1930’s before that, apparently, you just followed the oil drips ahead of you! The Brown Derby was discussed, and it turned out there were five of them at one time, with the prime location being across the street from the Ambassador Hotel. That was the social center of LA, with many events being held there, and the Coconut Grove was the top nightspot. Bullocks Wilshre was the first store designed for automobile traffic that is, the main entrance was from the parking lot.
The stretch from Alvarado east is the newest part of Wilshire, ending at Grand Avenue. And just to add some local flavor, PP DON NELSON had an office at One Wilshire, along with other Haskins and Sells employees! There was a problem in the concept of Wilshire leading from downtown to the sea, since Westlake Park interrupted it. This was finally settled in the 1930’s when the lake was bisected, and of course the name was changed to MacArthur Park.
Brief Q&A I asked for his comment about the subway coming out Wilshire. He agreed that it was the best plan, but it should have been done years ago, and the chances now are slim. PP MIKE NEWMAN asked why they don’t consider monorail or light rail, and part of the reason is that Beverly Hills is dead set against the idea. WARREN DODSON pointed out that Washington Blvd was once envisioned as the second main road from downtown, but it never happened. There were several ‘spokes’ considered, among them Venice Blvd. Sunset didn’t figure, since it was too curvy. WARREN then gave what he claimed was an unpaid tribute to Kevin’s book and a number were sold afterward. Our thanks to Kevin it’s a story we all liked to hear.