Wednesday, July 13, 2011
IN SEARCH OF THE OLD CITY
I have always loved the city of Los Angeles. I was born and raised about 30 miles south of LA, in the city of Long Beach. My mother and dad were married in LA, my grandma used to take me on day-long "binges" (her word) to LA, where we would eat lunch at Clifton's Cafeteria and then ride the escalator at one of the large department stores downtown. When I spent two summers in El Paso with an aunt and uncle, my folks drove me to the big train station in LA and picked me up there when I returned. The La Brea tar pits in those days were just what their name said: tar pits. Bones of prehistoric animals were recovered from the tar and displayed inside the museum. There were large statues around the park showing what the animals looked like.
Everything changes from what we remember as kids, and Los Angeles is no exception. The Church of the Open Door is one of my early memories, as it was close to the Central Library and one couldn't help but see the big signs on the top that said "Jesus Saves." For years if you were in the downtown area at night you would see those big neon signs offering their message to anyone who saw them. As I understand it, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, known as BIOLA, started in this building, and although BIOLA and the church ultimately moved out to the San Gabriel Valley, the signs even now are still shining brightly in LA at night. I think it is quite amazing that they have been allowed to stay up.
In high school my friend Ro and I often took the Red Car (electric train) into downtown LA to do research at the Central Library. So it wasn't surprising that I chose to attend George Pepperdine College at 79th and Vermont in LA when it was time for college.
Another place that isn't there anymore is the old Turner's Inn, a Hofbrau near 15th and Figueroa where a bunch of us kids from Pepperdine used to go on a Saturday night to do some folk dancing.
At that time Pepperdine was a strict Church of Christ college, and there was no dancing whatsoever allowed at any of the college functions. But there was a PE course in folkdancing (in case you have never done the schottische or the polka, believe me it qualified for physical education!). We would take the bus over Manchester to Figueroa and then transfer to the bus that let us out right at the door. We're talking about 1953-54 now, and it was safe then to have a bunch of 18 and 19 year old girls (I don't remember the guys coming with us) running around in that neighborhood after dark. What a blast we had.
And the last of today's rememberances is a funny one and it really had nothing to do with cars, although the famous Harry Mann's Chevrolet store was involved. I was out on a date one evening and we were headed to a restaurant for a piece of pie after going to a movie. We had stopped for a red light and I glanced over at the building. I saw two doors with a sign over each. One said "Harry Mann - Service" and the other said "Harry Mann - Parts." The latter sign struck me absurdedly funny and I burst out laughing. I wasn't comfortable enough with my date to point out what it seemed to say, and he couldn't figure out why I was laughing so hard. I kept saying to him "Never mind, never mind. It's not important!" And then I'd laugh again.
To be honest with you, after these many years I don't remember who I was with, but I do remember that it was the first and only date I had with him. He probably thought I was a nut case. And I wouldn't have blamed him a bit. Harry Mann's Chevrolet isn't there any more either, so I can't go back and check it out. And anyway, today no one would think it was funny. But I sure did then!
And of course Pepperdine isn't there anymore either, having moved out to Malibu. But whenever I go into the city, I can sense a change in atmosphere - the air is heavier and there is a bit of an ocean smell in the afternoons when the wind blows in from the west. It's then I have the feeling that I am forever linked to Los Angeles, with my special years at Pepperdine lurking right behind my actual awareness. Memories come so easily in LA.
I often wish that I lived in LA. I have 2 cousins and a daughter and her family that do and I envy them so much. Thank goodness I still have reason...and health...to drive in every so often. It's just my favorite place!