Showing posts with label Who Knew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Who Knew. Show all posts

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!

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

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.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Who Knew #4 Before the Los Angeles Dodgers the City of Vernon Tigers!

Who knew that before the Dodgers moved to LA we had the City of Vernon Tigers! 

Of course not a Major League Baseball team but a Pacific Coast League team. The Vernon Tigers were a Double A team meaning that some baseball players made a pit stop before being selected to play in the majors.

The Vernon Tigers franchise played from 1909 to 1925, the Tigers biggest rivals the Los Angeles Angels. (not to get confused with the current MLB team from Orange County, the LA Angels were the original team from 1890-1952, the now Angels took the name as a tribute to the old Los Angeles Angels)

I am assuming those still reading are questioning why did such a small city like Vernon have a professional baseball team, there are no libraries, parks, schools, or people but the reason is....... Money and Alcohol!!!

Vernon's single biggest attraction was that the sale of alcoholic beverages was legal within its city limits - as opposed to the bordering City of Los Angeles, which was dry! (The early stages of prohibition)

With the ability to serve liquor, the Vernon Tigers became a popular baseball team among LA natives.

The Stadium

The Vernon Tigers played in two different stadiums during their tenure in Vernon. In 1913 the team briefly moved to Venice in an effort to attract more fans, as the capacity for the first Vernon stadium was not very big. The Tigers played around the Los Angeles region for the next couple of years and were  considered the Vernon Tigers or Venice Tigers depending on their home stadium.

In 1915 the team was moved back full time to the City of Vernon and they brought the stadium from Venice with them too!

The team played in Maire Park (named after the Tigers owner) until the 1920 baseball season. After the 1920 season they would occasionally use it for practice games. The stadium was demolished in 1930.

I could not find any pictures of the actual stadium but the location of the stadium was in the intersection of Santa Fe Ave and 38th Street!

The Demise of the Vernon Tigers

In 1920, The Eighteenth Amendment had been ratified, criminalizing the production and sale of alcohol everywhere in the U.S., including Vernon. It took effect in 1920. The small population of Vernon became a liability, as fewer people  were willing to travel the distance to watch a game in a dry town.

The team was eventually sold and moved to San Francisco,  changing the name to the Mission Reds. The Mission Reds were moved back to Hollywood in 1938 up until the arrival of the first Major League Baseball team the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Famous Vernon Tigers

The Vernon Tigers were actually a pretty good baseball team from 1918-1921. They won the Pacific League Title in 1919 and1920.

Bob Meusel was probably Vernon's most famous player. Mesuel started his career with the Vernon Tigers, before having his contract purchased by the New York Yankees. Meusel was part of the legendary murders row Yankee team. According to this book that names the 50 greatest Yankee players, he is considered to be #30. He was not as popular back then because he played with legends like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig

Friday, August 22, 2014

Who Knew #3 Vail Field in the now City of Commerce

Who knew there was an airport called Vail Field.

Through hours of research I did not come across an exact date of when Vail Field became an airport but it dates back to the mid 1920’s. Vail Field was historically important for being one of the first airports in Los Angeles to deliver mail by flight.

In 1925, the United States Postal Services began to give airlines contracts to carry air mail throughout the country. Western Airlines (first incorporated in 1925), was awarded a mail route from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, Utah.  Western Air Express originally purchased six Douglas M-2 mail planes for service between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Vail Field was named after the brothers who sold the land to Western Air Express.

Los Angeles Times recently republished an article from 1929 about the Western airmail service,

The first east-bound night air-mail plane of the new coast-to-coast service roared away for the East last night from Vail Field at 7 o’clock with Jimmie Jones, veteran pilot of Western Air Express at the stick. New Yorkers are scheduled to receive letters contained in the 591-pound load of mail tomorrow morning, this saving a complete business day over the daylight air-mail run.
Today at 5:30 a.m. the first plane load of mail on the westbound trip is expected to arrive at the Western Air Express terminal at Vail Field….
Four new Boeings have been purchased by Western Air Express to rush the mail through the night on the 600-mile Los Angeles-to-Salt Lake leg of the national airmail hook-up. The ships are capable of 150 miles an hour and have a cruising speed of 125 miles an hour. Each plane is powered with a Pratt & Whitney motor of 525 horsepower and carries the latest equipment for night flying….
If the night planes stick to schedule the mail which left here at 7 p.m. yesterday arrived at Salt Lake at 1:45 a.m. today, left at 4 a.m. and will arrive in Chicago at 6 o’clock tonight. Two hours later it is scheduled to leave for New York and arrive there at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow, early enough for delivery on the second day after the local takeoff.


Interesting Fact: Western Airlines turned into Delta Airlines in 1986

 Charles Lindbergh:

In 1927,Charles Lindbergh was the first pilot to fly a single seat, custom built airplane, non-stop flight from New York to Paris. It took him a total of 33 hours to fly from the U.S to France.  

After his transatlantic flight, Lindbergh went on a nationwide tour on his Spirit of St. Louis and actually stopped on Vail Field. 


By 1947, Vail Field was known for having  220 planes and was considered the busiest airport in LA County.

  Mines Field which competed with Vail Field during the 20's and 30's transformed into the Los Angeles Airport by the end of World War II (Present LAX) Vail Field was evidently closed at some point between 1950-53 due to development around the area.

Location of Vail Field

Now you ask someone from Montebello to tell you a brief history of Vail Field and they would say that it was under their city limits ask everybody else it belong to  Los Angeles. (Commerce became a City in the 60's) All of the articles that I found list Vail Field as an airport in Los Angeles. Now there is not an exact location or address to where I can say Vail Field was located but if we look at our current existence of streets it was somewhere near the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Washington Blvd

Overall, the location of Vail Field is located in the border of Commerce and Montebello

Interesting tidbit: There is a Vail Ave that runs from Commerce to Montebello near the area of the field and it intersects Mines Ave. (Short 1 mile street in Montebello that be named after rival airport Mines Field which became LAX)
Note: There was a smaller airfield in Maywood in present Atlantic and Slauson and there was also an East Los Angeles Airport somewhere in that area.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Who Knew #2 Before the Citadel Outlets the Tire Companies

Who knew that the building has existed since 1928? Who knew it was national registered landmark? The Citadel Outlets have existed since 1990, as I moved to the City of Commerce in 1996, I remember it being a small mini-mall. It only consisted of a few stores such as Old Navy, Toys "R" Us Outlet, a food court and a hotel, but its expansion in 2005 made this into one of the biggest touristic outlet malls in California.

 In 1928, Adolph Schleicher, owner of Samson Tire and Rubber Company had a small factory in Compton, California but decided to move to a bigger location in East of Los Angeles. The factory in East Los Angeles became the largest manufacturing facility to the West of the Mississippi; it  took 8 million dollars to create. This factory was modeled after the 7th century BC Assyrian Palace of King Sargon II, the wall surrounding the tire plant featured heraldic griffins and bas-reliefs of Babylonian princes. 

 In 1930, the Samson Tire and Rubber Company opened and the castle like building became known to many as the Citadel 

The Samson Tire Company only operated for a year and sold the factory to the US Tire Company due to effects of the Great Depression. In 1962, the US Tire Company changed its name to the Uniroyal Tire Co. After 40 years of operation, the factory was closed in 1977.
Picture of the abandoned citadel right after the Uniroyal Tire Company closed in 1977

For most of the next decade the building became abandoned,  In 1982, California State Historical Resources Commission approved  the site nomination to the National Register of Historic Places in order to preserve the building. The following year the City of Commerce purchased the property for a total of $14 million dollars.

According to a  Los Angeles Times  article in 1990,

Trammell Crow won the right to develop the project after assuring city officials that it would tread lightly on the landmark. It spent $6 million to restore and renovate the administration building and walls
Overall the Trammel Crow Company spent $118 million, on the  742,000 square foot mixed-use project which included a factory outlet retail center, five office buildings, a food court and a 201-room Wyndham Garden Hotel.

In 2003, the Craig Realty Group purchased  the Citadel Outlets for $53 million from the City of Commerce Redevelopment Agency and expanded the Citadel into one of the biggest outdoor outlet malls in California. 

Interesting Facts:
Ben-Hur (1959) was filmed at the Citadel, this movie won a total of 11 Academy Awards and 3 Golden Globes. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Who Knew #1 Did the High-Five Originate From the Dodgers?

You think about high-fives and you think that  they have always existed. I mean what did professional sports athletes do when they celebrated after success? The term high-five became part of the Oxford Dictionary in 1981, so it can not be really old.

Although there are many different theories on the evolution of the high-five the most intriguing one and perhaps the most documented one in sports is that the high five originated in 1977.

According to online magazine The Week,
IT WAS OCT. 2, 1977, the last day of the regular season, and Dodgers left fielder Dusty Baker had just gone deep off the Astros' J.R. Richard. It was Baker's 30th home run, a wild, triumphant moment as the Dodgers headed to the playoffs. Glenn Burke, a young outfielder whose astonishing physique and 17-inch biceps earned him the nickname King Kong, was waiting on deck. In front of 46,000 screaming fans at Dodger Stadium, Burke thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. "His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back," says Baker, 62, who's now managing the Cincinnati Reds. "So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do."
Burke then stepped to the plate and launched his first major league home run. And as he returned to the dugout, Baker high-fived him. From there, the story goes, the high five went ricocheting around the world. This simple, timeless gesture, it seems, was invented then and there in Dodgers Stadium by Burke, though sadly the game was not televised, and no footage survives of the first man to go up top.

ESPN did this documentary of this special moment and actually revealed that Glenn Burke creator of the high-five was gay.  Apparently his career was derailed  due to being openly gay. His situation was very similar to Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier but was not very successful. This video which talks about the high five goes more into detail about Glenn Burke career and story.
According to ESPN,
By 1980, the Dodgers were selling "High Five" T-shirts with a trademarked logo of two upraised hands connecting. A promotional poster explained: "The 'High Five' salute has become the Dodgers' standard salute during the 1980 season. It is given customarily following a home run, good defensive play or Dodger victory." 
Glenn Burke walked away from baseball after four seasons with a career .237 batting average. But as he told a newspaper reporter years later: "You think about the feeling you get when you give someone the high five. I had that feeling before everybody else."
Whether you want to believe this version of the creation of the high five or not it is still a great story. Who Knew!