Friday, September 26, 2014

Who Knew #9 Telegraph Atlantic Airport

So after posting and writing about Vail Field a few months ago, I came across  people who told me about a possible  airfield on Atlantic and Telegraph in the City of Commerce. As I was doing research on the Alhambra Airport I found a few maps that clearly label this small airfield. It was hard to find much information but hope you enjoy a few things I dug up.

1931- Map that Shows Vail Field and  an airport without a name in the intersection of Atlantic and Anaheim-Telegraph Road

Little research that I found, it was called Ace Field in the 1920's, then renamed Sprott Field in 1931. One of the other many names and most popular one was Telegraph-Atlantic Airfield

According to Aero Files , the location of the airport was on Telegraph Rd, West of Atlantic, South of Telegraph. Right around the Bristow Park area. Perhaps in the 5 freeway area now.

I came across an LA Times article from 1932, about a very well known Southern California pilot who died in an accident after flying from Sprott Airport
Hurtling from 2000 feet over the Sprott Airport at Atlantic Boulevard and Telegraph Road, Maj. John Clifford Bryan, widely known Southern California aviator and former World War pilot, died instantly

The following picture  captures another airplane wreckage in the Sprott Airport. This picture courtesy of the UCLA library.

Crash of Tony Schwamm's Plane, Wreckage from crash that occurred near Sprott Airport at Telegraph Road and Atlantic Boulevard. Pilot and passenger survived. Man next to plane may be George (Tony) Schwamm, pilot of plane and son of former Fire Commissioner Anthony Schwamm
I could not find any information of when the airfield was ceased, with the emergence of Vail Field, I personally think it did not last much. No pictures of the airfield were found or any other mentions in the Los Angeles Times database. The last map I found was a 1939 map that also points out the airport as Telegraph Atlantic Airport.

If you have any further details or information, feel free to share your knowledge.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Historical Landmark #10 Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena

Location: Pasadena, California

U.S National Register of Historic Places # 81000156
 Added: February 12, 1981

The Colorado Street Bridge is 101 years old. Construction began in July 1912 and lasted 18 months, employing 40 to 100 workers on any given day. Built with 11,000 cubic yards of concrete -- made from gravel collected from the arroyo -- and 600 tons of steel reinforcement, the bridge cost a total of $235,000.

During that time the bridge was considered the biggest and tallest bridge in California History. The bridge being part of Route 66, allowed travelers to cross the arroyo seco in wagons  into the City of Pasadena. As the boom of the automobiles increased, the bridge was expanded and widened and Colorado Street turned into Colorado Blvd. The bridge kept its name Colorado Street Bridge but soon to many residents and nearby communities it became known as Suicide Bridge.

The first tragic accident that was documented by the LA Times , was when a construction man fell over the bridge and died. The first suicide was on November 16, 1919, and nearly fifty of the suicides occurred during the Great Depression from 1933 to 1937. Another report predicts that ninety-five people committed suicide from the bridge between the years of 1919 and 1937. In 1981, the bridge was declared and registered in the National Register of Historic Places. Due to an earthquake in 88, it was closed off until it was repaired in 1993.

As you now walk around the bridge, there are railings that make it a little harder to commit suicide. The City of Pasadena and suicide prevention organizations also have a poster and hotline numbers all over the bridge.

My visit to this site occurred on September 14, in order to take a look under the bridge you must take little streets. The road under the bridge will actually take you the Rose Bowl. There are many sight seers and hikers.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Who Knew #8 L.A.'s Booming Auto Industry a Thing of the Past

When you think about car plants and factories,  automatically you think Detroit, Japan something other than Los Angeles.  From the 40's all the way to the 60's the booming auto industry cut through the heart of Los Angeles County.

There was the Chrysler plant in the City of Commerce, the Ford plant in Pico Rivera, the General Motors plant in South Gate, the Studebaker plant in Vernon and the Willys-Overland plant in Maywood. All these plants within miles of each other turned Los Angeles into the second-largest auto-making center in the nation, behind Detroit.

Chrysler Plant in the City of Commerce

Location: 5800 Eastern and Slauson

The plant began in 1932,  making Plymouth and Dodge. Dodge cars were added in 1941 before the plant was taken over for World War II needs to assemble airplane engines and  B-17 and PV-2 cabin tops. Car production began again 1948, this time adding DeSotos to the lineup.

By 1965, the plant,  took up 86 acres and was making 57 cars per hour, nearly one per minute. 2,100 employees worked in the plant itself, and $14 million went to 75 local companies

Ford Plant in Pico Rivera

Location: 8900 E. Washington Boulevard and Rosemead Boulevard


If you been to the Pico Rivera Town Center (Walmart, Lowes, Marshalls, Ross) you are in the location of the Ford Plant!

The site covered 157 acres and  produced a total of 1,400,000 automobiles in its lifetime. The Ford Plant was known for its Ford Falcon, Ford Thunderbird.


Fun Fact: After the Site closed down, it was purchased by Northrop Grumman, who developed the B-2 Bomber.

General Motors in South Gate 
Location: 2720 Tweedy Boulevard, South Gate, California.

General Motors opened up shop in this small industrial city south of Los Angeles in 1936 as their West Coast plant for building Pontiacs. South Gate always built full-sized cars, except for a short spell building compacts for Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile in the early 1960s. This site produced Chevrolet Impallas in the 60's and Chevrolet Vegas in the 70's.  It kept on building various GM products until its closure in 1982

1970's Chevrolet Vega

Fact: The site is now South East High School

Studebaker Plant in Vernon 

Location: 4530 Loma Vista Ave. Vernon, CA

Studebaker was a United States wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana.  The Studebaker Plant in Vernon opened in the late 30's and would produced on average 64 cars a day. The plant was close in 1956 due to small production and economic struggles. Studebaker automobile company ceased operations in 1966 with the last plant closing in Ontario, Canada

 Willys-Overland Plant in Maywood
Location: Unknown

The Maywood plant first opened in 1929 to supply vehicles to the Pacific States. The company from Toledo, Ohio opened a state of the arts 1.5 million assembly plant and employed about 900 people. Willys-Overland was the second major automobile manufacturer to build a company in the area. Like every other plant during World War II the plant focused on vehicles that would support a war fight. This plant began an an assembly of Jeep Trucks. The plant closed in 1954, after Kaiser Motors purchased Willys-Overland.

Fun Fact: Willys-Overland is credited with the Jeep, when Kaiser Motors purchased the company they changed their name to Kaiser Jeep. When Kaiser Jeep was purchased by AMC in the 1970's they became the Jeep Corporation which still operates today!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rancho Los Amigos AKA Downey Insane Asylum

As Halloween approaches I am sure I will hear stories or people talking about going to this spot right behind the Downey Courthouse.

Located on 56 Descanso St, Downey CA, stands an abandoned Rancho Los Amigos hospital also known as the Downey Insane Asylum, Hollydale Mental Hospital. 

There are many stories behind this place some more truthful than others. I've heard numerous absurd stories about this place, examples like a doctor going crazy himself and killing his whole staff and patients or a patient killing a guard and freeing everyone from the mental institution. But really, wouldn't you think this would of been all over the news? That would make a really interesting horror movie but lets look at the facts and history!

This site dates back to the 1880's and it was known as  the County Poor Farm/ Rancho Los Amigos. Here, residents could work on a large farm which sustained most of the hospital's dietary needs, in lieu of paying for room and board and medical care. These tenants were typically the homeless who drank too often, and just needed a few sober weeks of manual labor on the farm. Others worked on crafts such as wool clothes and rugs, which would be sold to the public.

According to an LA Times Article,
The story described male residents' living quarters as "immense," with as many as 30 beds along the walls. Three men's wards opened to a central courtyard, and each resident was provided with bedding, a chair and a small bed stand. There was a large reading room filled with several hundred books "for those who can read," the story reported. Another building housed female residents.
 The paper noted that the farm's newest building -- "the insane ward" -- was a one-story structure that housed 25 "harmless" patients.The Poor Farm was renamed "Sunny Acres" in 1931 by officials seeking a "less odious name," as one county supervisor put it. The farming operation was phased out in the '30s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt's social welfare programs kicked in.

In 1932, the name was changed once again to Rancho Los Amigos, which translates to "Ranch of the Friends"

During World War II, the U.S. Army turned part of the hospital grounds into Camp Morrow, and at the same time the facility operated as an emergency hospital. It was reorganized once again as a long-term care facility after the war, mostly for victims of polio. Entire wards were filled with iron lungs in the 1950s, humming and clicking away, breathing for the victims inside as they recuperated.

Rancho Los Amigos, victims of Polio receiving treatment

 By the late 1950s early 60's, the farm, dairy, and mental health wards had closed, and most of the 600 acre property was divided and sold. Rancho continued to operate as a modern chronic-disease hospital, and later, a world-renowned rehabilitation center.

The 70 acre south campus which had almost everything became abandoned with no specific reason other than the north campus was more modern. The South Campus was used as a warehouse up until the 1980's and it simply became a ghost town with boarded down windows.

This abandoned site has been used for military tactical training and in 2006 they made an interesting discovery, according to the LA Times,
The macabre tale began Wednesday morning on the grounds of the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, the noted county hospital in Downey, where a group of U.S. Marines were using abandoned buildings as part of a military exercise.
The troops spotted a freezer inside one of the buildings. Upon opening it, they discovered a package full of mummified body parts. David Sommers, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes the hospital, said the freezer was in what was once a hospital morgue.
 On examination, a pathologist said the parts were amputated medical specimens and not the result of foul play. Hammond said the county-owned building hadn't been used for 25 years or so.
 Unsolved Questions 

You really can't say the staff left without giving a proper notice they simply transferred to the new site.

Why have they not demolished this area?
If you watch youtube videos of this place, there are files of old patients dating back to the 1940's and old supplies. Why did they not get rid of all these things.

I had gone with a group of friends back in 2011, but as soon as I passed driving we saw security guarding this area. So beware don't get a trespassing ticket!

Here are some pictures that were taken on September 7, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Who Knew #7 Cheli Air Force Station

 Cheli Air Force Station, a place who stay quiet but play a keep role in World War II, the Korean War and the Cold War. The 91 acre site was acquired in 1943 for the Maywood Army Air Force Specialized Storage Depot. The main function of this depot was to store and distribute aircraft parts. In 1947, the site was transferred to the United States Air Force when the Air Force became a separate branch. At this time it was named Cheli Air Force Station in honer of Major Ralph Cheli

 Who Was Ralph Cheli

Ralph Cheli born in San Fransisco served as the commanding officer  of the 405th Bombardment Squadron Army Air Force  until he was shot down. On August 18, 1943, Cheli piloted  on the first low level strafing mission against Dagua Airfield, a Japanese station. He was shot down by enemy fighters and ditched off shore. Cheli survived and taken prisoner by the Japanese. He was later transported and executed at Tunnel Hill (A Japanese prison camp in Papua New Guinea) during March 3-4, 1944.

Location of Cheli Air Force Station

The Cheli Air Force Station, was located off the 710 freeway at Atlantic. Its original 450-acre base was used between World War II and the Korean War to store military aircraft equipment. Decommissioned in the 1960s, the General Service Administration  continued to maintain the property, using it primarily as storage for federal agencies. Items such as equipment owned by NASA, government-seized vehicles and unused desks from federal offices were stored in one of the many warehouses located between Bandini and the 710 Freeway Cheli AFS was officially closed on November 3, 1961


Cold War
During the Cold War the Cheli Air Force Station became a radar bomb scoring site. This site used various ground radars , computers, and other electronic equipment such as jammers to disrupt operations of the bomber's radar navigator. It was a defense tactic due to the Red Scare of the 50's. During this time the site was heavily known as the  Los Angeles Bomb Plot #7, which began operation in 1952 and officially closed in 1960.

Cheli Air Force Closure: The Cheli Air Force station closed in 1961, due to an excess of facilities. During this time some warehouses were left for storage and some were turned into homeless shelters. An article form the Los Angeles Times in 1960 mentions that the depot had many auctions to get rid of things like typewriters,  office desk and chairs.                                                                                   

 Cheli Air Force Aftermath Soon after its closure, the old station became highly wanted. In 1961, the City of Commerce attempted  to ask for 10 acres to use as a city park and library site and were denied. Montebello Unified School District also tried asking for 77 acres for a Junior High School and were also denied. Soon after the City of Bell annexed the entire federal site. Soon after Bandini Blvd. was expended to reach out to Eastern.

Going back to my sleepy lagoon post the reason why a lot of people say sleepy lagoon was in the City of Bell is because practically Williams Ranch was near or perhaps at the site of the Cheli Air Force Station. The sleepy lagoon murder occurred in 1942, and Cheli Air Force station was opened in 1943.
When you think about the City of Bell, your mainly think about the land that is sandwhich in between the city of Maywood and South Gate but now we know that the land of Atlantic and Bandini belongs to them.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Who Knew #6 City of Commerce Could Have Been Downey

 This is a short Who Knew post!

As I was going through old LA Times articles in the late 50's I came across something I had not heard before about the City of Commerce.

 Who knew that parts of City of Commerce nearly became the city of Downey

In the 1950s, Commerce’s booming industry and its central location in Los Angeles County proved attractive to neighboring cities casting about for ways to increase their tax-bases. Downey was one of the more aggressive cities attempting to grab a piece of Commerce. Area residents were also seeking some form of home rule at the time, whether it was by incorporating and setting up their own self-governing city, or by getting themselves annexed to a neighboring city willing to provide local services.

Downey’s annexation plan did not include services to the residents of Commerce neighborhoods, made up of Rosewood Park and Bandini at the time. Downey officials planned on annexing only the southeast industrial area of Commerce.

Downey solely concentrated on attracting  owners forgetting about local residents setting up meetings with local businesses. 

If Downey would have agreed to include services like those residents wanted who knows I would probably be living there.

Here are few screenshots of Los Angeles Times articles.

Los Angeles Times Article from October 25, 1959 

Los Angeles Times article June 28, 1959

Monday, September 1, 2014

Made In America Saturday-Sunday Aug.30-Aug.31 2014

I wanted to write a post about the Made In America Festival because it was the first annual festival in Los Angeles. Perhaps one day someone will be posting a blog post wth vintage 2014 pictures of this event or maybe its the one and only in Los Angeles.

On April 16, 2014 Jay Z and Eric Garcetti held a press conference to announce that the Budweiser Made In America would take place in the heart of Los Angeles during the Labor Day Weekend. This announcement generate different perspectives from residents in Los Angeles, some criticized the event, claiming it would lead to street closure chaos, heavy use or narcotics and vandalism at Grand Park. The positives of the event which were provided by the mayor himself claim a heavy injection of millions of dollars to the Los Angeles Economy.

The lineup was announced in May and it generated a lot of interest due to its diversity of music genres

The event itself was great, it feature some glitches the first day but the second day they had seem to fix those problems. On Saturday there were huge  lines to buy drinks and beer gardens were a waste of time. There was a lot of confusion on which stage the artist would perform. On Sunday that all seemed to be fixed lines were shorter and it just seemed more organize.

I was able to see Kendrick Lamar, Afrojack, Iggy Azalea, Sublime with Rome, Kanye West, John Mayer, Juanes, Weezer, Rita Ora, Cypress Hill

According to the LA Times, the event drew an estimate of 35,000 people a day which was a little less that there actually prediction of 50,000.

In opinion, this festival was great,  it does require a few tweaks but nothing big that would lead to questioning not having a 2nd festival.

Cypress Hill

Iggy Azalea
Sublime With Rome

Who Knew #5 Sleepy Lagoon

When I was a freshman in college I took a Chicano Latino course that focused on the history of Mexican Americans in California, one of the lectures heavily discussed  the Zoot Suit Riots and the Sleepy Lagoon murder case.

These events are important to Los Angeles history, Mexican Americans and criminal law books.

PBS does a great job in talking  about what happened on that day of Aug 1, 1942 in Sleepy Lagoon,
The night of August 1, 1942, began with romance and ended in death. In the early evening several young couples from Los Angeles' 38th sarrived at the Sleepy Lagoon to spend some time together. Among the couples were Hank Leyvas and Dora Barrios. Hank was one of the oldest boys that spent time on 38th Street, and was feared and respected by many. Dora was his girlfriend. As they sat in their car, under the light of a waning full moon, they were suddenly and viciously attacked by a group of boys from a rival neighborhood. Hank and Dora were beaten mercilessly.
Later that night an injured Hank returned to 38th Street and gathered reinforcements. Finding people to accompany him was not difficult. Hank was immensely popular and the boys they were going after had violated an unwritten rule by beating Hank's girlfriend Dora. Close to thirty young people -- boys and girls -- piled into cars and headed for the Sleepy Lagoon.
That same night José Díaz, born in Mexico but raised in the United States, had decided to attend a birthday party on the Williams ranch where he and other immigrant families worked and lived. José had reason to join the party: in just a few short days he would report for induction into the Army and head for boot camp. The traditional fiesta was lively -- with food, music, dance and plenty to drink.
The spot where Hank Leyvas had been beaten earlier that evening was deserted, but he and his friends could hear the sounds of the birthday party at the Williams ranch. Convinced that the boys who assaulted him were there, Hank and the others converged on the small house. The fighting was brutal. Men and women, boys and girls struggled for about ten minutes. The fight had all the markings of an Los Angeles teenage rumble, except for what neighbors discovered shortly after the fighting. Lying in the shadows was José Díaz. He had been beaten and stabbed. He died later that night at Los Angeles General Hospital.

The Aftermath

Los Angeles used this murder as a call to action. The Los Angeles Police Department basically profiled Mexican Americans  and arrested nearly 600 youth.  Nearly 40 youth who were connected or simply lived on 38th street were arrested and charged for the murder of Jose Dias. The 38th Street kids were pachucos, young men who dressed in baggy pants pegged at the ankles, and used slang words.

22 members were convicted for the murder of Jose Dias and this led to the Zoot Suit Riots. The riots were between military service white men and Mexican Americans fighting for the rights of these 22 kids.

The Zoot Riots were ignited because the 38th street boys did not get a fair trial. First of all jury members were able to read the newspaper and saw all of the negative press that was given to the boys. These boys were all told to dress the same way to be seen as gang members for the jury.  The did not receive proper counsel and had a biased judge.

Their convictions were overturned a year later and were release from prison including Henry Leyvas due to a court appeal that rule that there were numerous errors.

Location of Sleepy Lagoon

The location of the sleep lagoon murder is considered a mystery. If you use Wikipedia they name Commerce as the location of the murder, if you use other sites they might mention Bell or Maywood, and old newspaper articles that go back to that day just say it was located in a reservoir of water in Los Angeles.

This map which was provided in an  acclaimed book "Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A." by Eduardo Obregón Pagán gives you an idea of where the place was located, after looking at this map I was able to outline and pencil in my idea of where the lagoon was located.

So here are the things to consider in the present day. 28th street is no longer on the map, it actually curves and ends at Bandini then it starts again in the Montebello/Commerce area. In the 1940's Bandini Blvd would end in Atlantic, it was not until the 70's when Bandini Blvd was expanded past Eastern Ave. There are now tiny streets on that section that lead to factories and companies. The street to consider in Lindbergh Lane which is a small street that runs parallel to Bandini. By looking at both maps William Ranch (the site of the murder) was located on now Bandini Blvd.

If you drive down Bandini  today from Atlantic to Eastern you are driving on top of the old ranch. You are literally driving over the old cornfield, the spot where that party was held, and the spot where Jose Diaz was murdered.

Newspaper always mention the accident as being part of Los Angeles, by that time the City of Bell and Maywood had been incorporated cities so newspapers would of mentioned those respective cities if the event happened there.

No one ever was charged with the murder of Jose Dias, despite Henry Leyvas being responsible for the attacks. The party that the 38th street boys were looking for were the Downey Boys which had left the party before 38th street got there. Hidden mysteries still remain like who really attacked the Henry Leyvas, who really stabbed Jose Dias?, but one thing for sure we know is the location of the accident. The sleepy lagoon was indeed in now present day City of Commerce.