You may be familiar with this wall; let’s say you’ve gone to Angels Flight and on your stroll back to the car parked beneath Pershing Square—you passed by, glanced over and wondered hey, is that, something?
To understand our wall, we have to go way back, to Old Hill Street. It was once quite residential—
Hill Street grew increasingly commercial. During the uptick of building that occurred after the fallout from the financial crashes of 1893 and ’96, but before the next downturn of 1907, there was a good bit of construction. Note in the comparison between the 1894 and 1906 Sanborn maps, how the area has much of its yellow (wooden) street frontage removed, and replaced by pink (brick) structures.
And note, for our purposes, the STONE WALL 20′ that come 1906 (I believe the wall was built ca. 1903) runs from 343 South Hill, to the north. That stone wall still exists, here:
So: you say, Nathan, there were once buildings lining Hill Street, north of Fourth? Really? What did they look like?
So the block went on minding its own business, surviving through the decades—heck, few if any people knew that stone retaining wall lurked behind…until the structures were demolished via the Community Redevelopment Agency’s bulldozer policy, leaving and revealing the wall once hidden behind 329-343 South Hill St. If you really wanted to crawl behind there, you’d see this:
Here for example is the void left by the removal of the Steere Block, leaving A. C. Martin’s Dunn-Albright-Ames all on its lonesome:
And soon all the structures were at the bottom of a landfill, leaving only our wall:
My pressing need to write about/share photos of this wall stems, of course, from the wall’s fate: imminent destruction. Of course, that corner of Fourth and Hill has long been the proposed site of…something.
Then, when the California Plaza project got underway, there were plans for three matching towers, with one on the Fourth and Hill property:
Thus, at some point in the near future, expect a vast number of demolition crews with earth movers to begin tearing up the parcel, and, in time, it will look (presumably) something like this:
Thereafter, this remaining remnant of Edwardian-era Hill Street will be gone. Of course, we still still have our beloved Angels Flight clattering adjacent, but, that notwithstanding…I for one will be sad to see this piece of vintage Bunker Hill erased.
There were four Googies in the coffee shop chain; the second of the four was designed by legendary coffee shop architects Armét & Davis, with all the atomic-era exuberance that had come to define Googie style—an angular roofline, ebullient signage, lots of flagstone, and walls of glass that erased the boundaries between inside and out.
That second Googies was downtown, at Fifth and Olive, attached onto the San Carlos hotel; it made an appearance in Bunker Hill, Los Angeles in “Modern on the Hill,” as part of how the San Carlos (née Auditorium) Hotel was stripped of its Edwardian ornament and brought into the atomic era. Page 148:
A close-up of our coffee shop in question:
I bring this up specifically because the most amazing book has been recently published. No, not my book—though yes, I’m not ashamed to say this new book also hails from Angel City Press, titans of book publishing. The book to which I refer is Googie Modern:
And, holy moly, this book is killer. If you’ve any interest in mid-Century—you may have a familiarity with Hess’ twobooks on Googie—this is essential. 208 pages! It’s got interviews and essays and tons of images no-one has ever seen. More to the point for our purposes here, it contains the rendering reproduced above—in a nifty “then and now” configuration the book utilizes—
—plus SIX PAGES of Googies downtown renderings and design studies! Not to mention a freakin’ essay on the Fifth & Olive Googies!
I’ll just tempt you with the mere mention of those images…no, I’m not going to actually SHOW them to you; to see them in all their glory you have to in fact BUY the dang book, ya bum. Rather, I’ll obscure them, and the essay, with this nifty Fifth & Olive menu. Ha!
Oh, and you might remember the other day I mentioned you should come by USC for some Bunker Hill book-signin’ fun? Well, my pal Alan will be there too:
In fact, he and co-author Michael Murphy will be there both days! They along with all sorts of literary luminaries:
So, to sum up, go get Googie Modern, or better yet go to USC this weekend and get Googie Modern, and then I’ll see you at Pann’s!
Gas up your jalopies, throw on your raccoon coat and make a beeline for USC—this Sunday!—where I’ll be beneath the statue of Tommy Trojan, signing books as part of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
Among all that bibliomania, find the Angel City Press booth, #119, right here:
Six months later theLAnd published this interview with Rechy wherein he states “There was no riot at Cooper’s.”
Which is an important statement. Remember, Rechy is the sole, lone source of the story. It’s his story: there’s no other evidence, so he alone dictates canon.
When I say it didn’t happen, much less at Cooper’s, so what, who am I but a lowly historian? But when the guy who actually came up with the story now says nothing happened at Cooper’s, that’s a major wrench in the cultural consciousness—when you consider the hundreds of descriptions of Cooper’s presently on the web. The t-shirts and patches. The enthusiastic artwork. Cooper’s Do-nuts even re-opened, in a fashion. Heck, people are getting Cooper’s tattoos.
So, where was this other, not-Cooper’s donut shop? According to the 1959 Yellow Pages the only other downtown donutery was Angel Food Donut at 423 South Hill, in the Subway Terminal Building. If we’re married to Main Street, Pat’s Donuts, at 654 South Main, opened in March 1959; too late if the riot happened in 1958 (Rechy told Los Angeles Magazine, and others, it had occurred in 1958) but in time for “spring of 1959” as Rechy originally told the story in 2005—though Rechy did insist his donut place was between Harold’s and the Waldorf, placing the action across the street and a block north from Pat’s.
On to other things: of the collection of Coopers around downtown, there were two a stone’s throw from Pershing Square, Rechy’s renowned haunt. One was just north of the park, on Hill above Fifth, which I covered extensively in the aforementioned post, and of which I provided a nifty color photo, about which I was pretty happy.
The other Cooper’s was down Olive, just south of the park, the other side of Sixth. And I struggled to find an image of that 628 South Olive Street location. For the darnedest time the only shot I had was this one:
Then, I recently picked up a new Clifton’s slide, and we have now been blessed with this:
And there you have it! As far as I’m aware, the first sighting of the Olive Street Cooper’s.
As long as I’ve got you here. I also searched for an image of the initial incarnation of Cooper’s Donuts at 215 South Main, when it was still in the Albert Cohn Bldg (Morgan & Walls, 1908), before that location went out of business in January 1958. All of a sudden, this site popped up: https://www.cooperdonuts.com/ And on said site is this shot:
That’s demo scaffolding in front; the building owner applied for a demolition permit in November 1957. It’s made a parking lot in mid-January 1958; in 1959 the Cooper folk take out a permit to build a little standalone on corner of the site:
Those, then, being some further tidbits about Cooper Do-nuts. Yes, I know, this is ostensibly a Bunker Hill site, and these nuggets of Old LA are perhaps merely tangential to the Hill—but I say we get a pass since there were two Cooper’s on Bunker Hill, and hey, it’s all grist for the mill (nudge nudge, if you want an image of the Cooper’s on Bunker Hill’s Third Street flats, go buy Bunker Noir).
You’re of course familiar with the Big Four—Crocker, Huntington, Hopkins and Stanford—well, the Big Five, actually, as people always forget Edwin Crocker, since he’s Charles’ brother.
Similarly, when it comes to the great Bunker Hill photographers, there’s the Big Four—Hylen, Reagh, Connor and Hall—well, the Big Five, actually, as people always forget Nadel, since he was a pro on a mission for the City rather than a Bunker enthusiast.
The photography of Theodore Seymour Hall, however, has remained in the shadows, undigitized at the Huntington, viewable only to those with the gumption to go to the library and see his work in person. The best place to see a selection of Hall’s work is in Bunker Hill, Los Angeles. So, grab your copy and check out pages 6, 41, 97 (bottom), 108, 134 (left and right), 135, 155 (bottom right), 158, 159 (bottom right), and 174. Those are all Hall images. Heck, a Hall even graces the back cover!
Now, however, there is a rather detailed finding aid. I’ll admit I’m a little proud to have lent a hand on the project. But the real credit goes to Huntington archivist Suzanne Oatey, who did all the heavy lifting. In short, Hall put out three self-published 11×14 photobooks in 1962-63 of various Bunker Hill scenes, and now you can read what’s in ’em.
Someday, of course, I’d like reissue all three books in one volume with deeper commentary and so forth, à la Hylen’s Bunker Hill: A Los Angeles Landmark but, all in good time.
One last thing. Strictly speaking we should include Virgil Mirano, the least-known of the Bunker photographers. So, from the Big Four to Five to Big Six. But now we risk confusing our photographers with the Big Six, so, we’ll call them the Bunker Six. Mirano is also undigitized, and his finding aid doesn’t tell you much, but you can see some of his work in BHLA on pages 38 (left), 68 (left), 112 (bottom), 156 (left), 156 (top right) and 163 (top).
How is it that, to go to the Greatest Los Angeles Film Festival of All Time, you have to go to Minneapolis?
Proving once again that at being Los Angeles, we continually and embarrassingly fail.
Thus, I lift a hefty Arbeiter Moneymaker and toast the greatness of Minneapolis, and the Trylon Cinema-in-conjunction-with-The Heights, the only theater(s) brave enough, cool enough, to have a Bunker Hill Film Festival, starting two weeks from tonight.
Europeans invented photography; it took Americans to perfect it, of course. It is therefore appropriate that a European immigrant/naturalized American produced a defining work in the medium, with a book titled, appropriately enough, The Americans.
Robert Frank criss-crossed the United States in 1955-57, shooting some 27,000 images, famously capturing tensions of race and class against the backdrop of wealth and patriotism in mid-century America. Of all the images Frank shot, eighty-three made it into the book; some are bone fide classics you’ll likely recognize, like these:
For my money, the best photo from the book is this one:
See how it contrasts a big happy neon arrow that connotes progress! forward! with the man trudging toward an aimless future. The neon sign also an innate touchstone of noir, is it not?
So, being merely titled Los Angeles, through the years, have you not wondered, where was this image shot? Glad you asked!
Frank was standing at the yellow X, peering over the four-foot parapet from the top of this retaining wall, looking down at the neon arrow, attached to the Hope Street side of 701 West Third Street.
Between Second and Fourth Streets, Hope Street split into an “Upper Hope” and “Lower Hope.” Frank stood on Upper Hope, just south of Third Street, looking down onto Lower Hope. From above:
And a map:
A great image by William Reagh, shot in 1956, the same year Robert Frank captured his:
Frank was peering down at the neon arrow, which told drivers coming out of the Third Street tunnel they should make an immediate right turn so as to get to the Hotel Elmar a half-block up Hope.
Now it’s time to fly in real close, because here’s something you wouldn’t know unless you really looked—there were THREE of these neon arrows hanging off the side of the building!
Given its position vis-à-vis the stairway structure on the roof, we conclude Frank’s arrow is the center arrow of the three arrows:
About the three arrows: on July 3, 1946, the Hotel Elmar, 235 South Hope, pulled a permit to install some neon signage. They called up Pacific Neon Maintenance Company.
And these were there plans:
Now then, lets take a look at another shot by Reagh, shot from the other direction, captured four years later, in 1960:
It would seem we have lost Frank’s arrow. A close examination (very bottom left) reveals what appears to be the tip of the first arrow, but the second two arrows appear to have disappeared:
Mind you, the “arrow” image was not the only Los Angeles image to appear in the The Americans; it wasn’t even the only Bunker Hill image. Frank shot a few rolls around Los Angeles (producing eight that ended up in The Americans, including this and this and this and this) and this one, titled Rooming House–Bunker Hill, Los Angeles:
Another iconic Frank shot. Half-a-pensioner in a decaying world.
And where was this one shot? I’m sorry and frustrated to say, I don’t know. Let’s see if its contact sheet provides some answers. It looks like this:
First off, 1-13, not Bunker Hill (the arched structure, that you see upside-down, upper left, is the entrance to the Castle of Enchantment on Melrose). Then, 14-17:
#14, a Black woman labors at the carving station under some heat lamps, and then we’ve got the entrance of the Town Theater, 444 South Hill St. (only place Land of the Pharaohs and Naked Alibi ever double-billed; also conclusively pegging this shot to the first week of January, 1956), and then a lady passes under the canopy of Zeemans, immediately north of the Town, and then there’s negative #17. It’s very dark—looks like light at the end of a tunnel in the distance, and a car, and a couple electric globes up top; unless I miss my guess, he headed west into the Third Street tunnel.
And then, curiously, negatives #18-23 are missing. My supposition being Frank shot those inside the tunnel, and they didn’t turn out, so that strip was simply tossed. This theory is given some credence when we look at #24-28 and the first three shots are folk emerging from the tunnel.
Then we’ve got 27 and 28.
Above, #27. Frank is standing here:
And the next shot is his rooming house shot(s). Frustratingly, it’s not a structure I instantly recognize. As I said, he shoots it from 28-32, and then come 33, he’s here:
That is, the “Rooming House” from Frank’s famed “Americans” shot is somewhere between these two points:
I’m pretty sure our mystery roominghouse is 331 South Flower Street, which was here, immediately east of where he stood for image #27.
This assertion I base on the following. Old Man Hat is standing at a structure with two bays on either side, sheathed in battenboard, with and central porch.
Note that to the right there’s another structure. When Frank shot, that strip of Flower looked like so:
Note 331, with the two side bays, and the projecting central porch, and the structure to the right (325/27).
331 was the General Miller Hotel. I wish we had a decent picture of the thing, showing us those central stairs to really clinch the location, but unfortunately the extant shots from ca. 1963 have enormous amounts of foliage in front:
I wish the 1940 WPA drawing provided more concrete confirmation about those stairs, though. That said, the stairs also look like a later addition, possibly postdating 1940. So, the search continues. (And yes, I checked around 4:46 on the world’s greatest movie.)
Then, just to round out that roll, the last few shots—
#34, the Bur-Mar Hotel, was a half block from where Frank shot #33, at 514 South Figueroa St.
Oh, right. I am actually not here to talk about Frank’s “Rooming House-Bunker Hill” shot, though I seem to be doing a lot of that. You may remember I came here to talk about his “Neon Arrow Shot,” and it was acquiring that contact sheet and having it in had that sent me down this rabbit hole in the first place:
Maybe it’s the same day in that first week of January 1956 like the roll discussed above. Maybe not. In any event and for whatever reason he’s on Hope above the tunnel. He looks around.
Right out of the gate, fresh roll of film loaded into his Leica, Frank gets lucky. He peers over the retaining wall and sees the fellow walking past and snap, shot #1, and it goes into the book.
Then, in shots #s 2-7 he shoots some more of the rooftop and the arrow. Then he turns to his immediate left and shoots #8 up a lonely Hope Street, one car headed his way. Then he turns his camera around and gets a couple shots, 9 and 10, at the looming backend of the aforementioned Alta Vista, which fronted on Bunker Hill Ave.
Then, in next strip, he shoots down the steps to his right, those steps built into the retaining leading from Upper Hope to Lower Hope—
Now note that he liked this one, and gave it a circling with the ol’ grease pencil, as it has our Lonely Fellow still trudging his way along Hope St:
Now on this next strip he gets another couple shots down the steps, then makes his way up the steps alongside the Alta Vista, to Bunker Hill Avenue. There he turns and nabs a shot of the side of the Alta Vista with its palms alongside and city in the west; he liked this one too, giving it a circle of the pencil but it also didn’t make the book. Then the next shot he attempts a snap of the facade but bungles it; looks like he got his camera strap in the way.
Then, he crosses the intersection at Third and walks a half-block down Bunker Hill Avenue to 315 and gets a couple snaps of the Foss/Heindel house.
Therefore, thus far, his trek on this roll has been from Third and Hope, to Third and Bunker Hill Ave, to 315 South Bunker Hill:
And then the next two on the strip, “Lonely Walking Guy”—
Frank has walked south on Bunker Hill Avenue to where it dead-ended. There was a deep trench where engineers were cutting in the Fourth Street Viaduct. The fellow is walking down in it; if Frank really wanted folk trundling along in pits and among demolition he should have made the short hop north to the Fort Moore area of the Hill where land was being razed and prepped for the Civic Center expansion and Hollywood Freeway incursion.
Then #s 26-28 Frank has crossed over the trench and has shot a woman who has taken her dog off leash.
Then he walks over to the Fifth Street stairs and shoots south:
So Frank trundles down the fabled Fifth St steps and makes his way to the library, where he shoots this fellow—
Then, the final strip from that roll:
He continues on Fifth, hangs a left on Flower, heads south. Across the street is the recentish-built State Department of Employment at 525, so he shoots that:
Suitably joyless shot of a blank wall, but sans human element it doesn’t tell a story, does it? Not much of a Frank photo without the requisite dispossessed American. So Frank trotted another hundred feet down the sidewalk, to 555 South Flower, for the final three shots on his roll:
Aha! There’s a forlorn fellow! Oy, but where’s the pathos? Trouble is, you can’t sell America’s doleful descent into disenfranchisement when you’ve got the wonder and beauty of the Richfield Building, and your shlub is protected by Haig Patigian’s angels!
So Frank’s final three stops on this roll were:
And that, then, was that roll. We know said roll from its contact sheet; and we only know that contact sheet because one of the images from that roll/sheet managed to make it into the book. But Frank shot 757 rolls of film on his cross-country trip and only 81 contact sheets were put into the 2009 Yugensha book. I’m at a loss to discover where the negatives for the other 676 rolls of film reside, for there are certainly more Los Angeles and likely more Bunker Hill, and thus more fun trips to be taken along with Frank as he navigates the place.
Gauged only by these two rolls, it’s curious that Frank traversed the Hill, and its most picturesque part, and yet barely shot the place. He had a terrific opportunity to capture its vanishing architecture and that Hillian mixture of nobility and poverty in its denizens.
But maybe that was the problem wiht the Hill; it just didn’t fit Frank’s narrative. There was too much nobility up there. Other photographers certainly captured it. There was the prolific Theodore Seymour Hall:
And the ever-present Arnold Hylen:
And even Leonard Nadel, tasked by the Powers That Be to make the Hill look crummy, even he couldn’t help but infuse its enfeebled residents with dignity:
That being said, I still dig Robert Frank something fierce, and at some point will locate and sit down with all those other negatives, and report back.
If you like these sort of images, perhaps I should mention the Hall, Hylen and Nadel above are all reproduced in Bunker Hill, Los Angeles—along with another 250+ shots that’ll tickle your fancy. Pick up your copy at any fine bookstore. I would also heartily recommend Bunker Noir!, a little tougher to find, but I do know you can waltz into Vroman’s Pasadena and grab one off the shelf.
Postscript: On a similar note…in 2008 I composed a post for OnBunkerHill called Walker Evans visits First & Flower. It recounted how Life magazine sent Evans around America to document its threatened built landscape, and while in Los Angeles, he did a nice job shooting Bunker Hill for the piece, appropriately-titled “Doomed…It Must be Saved.” Although only a single Hill image appeared in that July 1963 Life magazine spread—in black and white—Evans shot an impressive array of Hill structures in color, which sit unannotated at the Met, but which I have identified and compiled for you here and here.
Postscript II: This post was updated December 29, with the addition of information from the WPA drawings and the DBS neon permits. Much thanks for the kind and generous help of Mike Callahan and Rick Mechtly.
The gifting season is upon us! When you give unique and useful Christmas presents, you are remembered differently, because of the comfort they supply; they are as well every day reminders of your thought.
So remember folks, for that historically-minded person on your list, Angeleno or no, they are sure to be pleased by these swell, practical books.
Bunker Hill, Los Angeles: Essence of Sunshine and Noir. Available at all fine booksellers, though if ordered here, can be signed by the author and, on demand and with instruction, personalized to the recipient of your choice.
Bunker Noir! The 56-page vintage-style pulp digest regarding all manner of historic horrors upon the Hill. May I suggest you purchase yours at venerable, beloved Vroman’s? Or, again, if ordered here, the signature offer applies similarly.
The Bunker Hill book is $40 postpaid; the Bunker Noir! magazine $28 postpaid. They are, as a package, $65 together. Quite the holiday savings! And—you read that right! —we’ll pick up the sales tax and the shipping! ‘Tis a Christmas miracle!
Don’t be caught without the ideal Christmas gift this season! Let your loved ones know you care for them in the deepest of ways.
God bless us, everyone!
Paypal is email@example.com, as is the Venmo, or post your cheque to Nathan Marsak, PO Box 412636, Los Angeles, Calif. 90041.
Bunker Noir! details the crime and vice that occurred on the Hill, as well as all manner of dark goings-on: fires, car wrecks, cryptids, train derailments…up to and including its oddball architecture, specifically the roadside vernacular to be had in the early-1930s olde-tymie log cabins built by Kenneth Bemis for his White Log Coffee Shop chain.
The were three on the Hill; two standalones and, for a time, the commercial space just north of Angels Flight—which began life as a vegetarian café, and ended as the Royal Liquor Store—had concrete logs attached to become a White Log. One standalone was at Second and Figueroa; another, built in the autumn of 1933, was at Fifth and Flower.
The image I included in Bunker Noir! of 461 South Flower was okay, and depicted an elderly White Log, in its incarnation as the California Coffee Shop, shortly before its July 1964 demolition by the Community Redevelopment Agency.
There’s a lot to love in this shot. Behold, the Architects’ Building (with its advertisement, which reminds me of the old line “I drank Canada Dry, so I left”). On its opposite corner is the Monarch Hotel.
And, as we look west on Fifth Street, crossing Flower—
—we espy some Royal Crown Cola signage, competing rather meekly with the Canada Dry ad, on the rear of the Streicher/Striker Apts, which fronts on Figueroa. And then down below:
Note the original color scheme of the chimney and rockwork, before being whitewashed by California Coffee. And the jaggedy edges of its rooftop sign! Finding a vintage shot of this White Log fills me with no end of glee. But when was this shot? Hard to determine precisely, but I’d say into 1942 or thereafter, as we have a ’41 Studebaker driving past the USO Service Women’s Guest House—
Hey! I should mention that given its dark and demented content, Bunker Noir! makes a fine Hallowe’en stocking stuffer. Pick up a copy and present it to your loved one before the end of spooky month! Available from the source, of course, but I always suggest you pick up your copy at Vroman’s, because that’s so much more fun (and who also carry the Big Book, by the way).
Postscript—while we’re on the subject, there’s still not a really good image of the White Log next to Angels Flight, nothing I’ve found yet better’n the one I published in Bunker Noir!, but I did turn up this snippet:
I put some effort into contacting our poster, William Aurther, about the image he’d sent:
—which, I don’t have to tell you, is the greatest image ever photographed. It took a little time and doing, but I tracked down King Aurther—now 84, and a resident of Texas—and have a whole bunch more to report.
The Bunker Hill Boy’s Club was founded and sponsored by Cecil Albert Keeble, born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1885, although his father, Samuel Keeble, was an English restaurateur from Essex; they emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1895. Cecil Albert made his way to Los Angeles, living in Montebello in 1930 and moving to downtown LA in 1931 to establish a successful plumbing business on Bunker Hill, on Third between Olive Street and Grand Avenue. The baseball image above image dates to 1940—that’s Keeble in the suit—he lived above the shop at 516, with wife Sarah Kathrine and daughter Marguerite Genevieve.
Here’s a shot of 516—the structure was a project of John R. Vogel, designed by Julius W. Krause, and built in 1907. (A year later, around the corner on Olive, Vogel would use Krause again to build the Kellogg.)
Below, the interior of Keeble Plumbing. If Bunker Hill was such a terrible slum, how is it the interior of a simple lowly plumbing concern there, then, was nicer than some fancy plumbing place in Beverly Hills is, now? Oh, right. Damn Schlimmbesserung.
Cecil Keeble was an interesting fellow—opinionated—adding to his signage in the early-1950s:
Below, in an image from the mid-1950s, the truck doors indicate Keeble’s new second location, on Figueroa in Highland Park. Cecil knew an ill wind was blowing and time was short for his perch on Bunker Hill.
Which was correct. Cecil Keeble was lucky enough to pass from our realm in April 1964, before he could see his old business on Third demolished by the Community Redevelopment Agency in February 1965.
If you’re asking yourself, where was Keeble Plumbing exactly, well, let’s see:
In the image above we look east on Third across Grand toward the upper terminus of Angels Flight at Third and Olive. Note Keeble’s white signboard, in the center of the block at 514/516.
By the way, Keeble—also president of the Bunker Hill Business Association—organized the Christmas Tree Lane on this block of Bunker Hill. Kodachrome was introduced in 1935; this happened in 1938. You find me color slides of said event, and I’ll see to it your descendants never go hungry.
So, having established where the baseball photo was taken, who was it, exactly, that sent it to us? This fellow, that’s who:
Li’l William Beryl Aurther, above, was born in September 1936 to William Dutch and Myrene (née Siegel) Aurther. In 1940, about when this image was shot, they were living, according to the 1940 census, at 524 West Third:
524, a block of flats built in 1891 and known in 1940 as the Illinois Hotel, was two doors down from Keeble:
Looking the other way, on Third near Olive west toward the intersection of Third and Grand—the Aurther’s 1940 home at 524 is just to the left of the auto, and Keeble has the two palms in front:
But by February 15, 1942, when William registered for the draft (his registrar’s report indicates he is white, 5’8″, 150lb, with gray eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion), he had moved the family three blocks west to 341 South Hope Street.
So now that we have established where William Sr., Jr., and mom Myrene lived, what was their story? Bill tells it:
“My dad, who took the picture, was a baker, worked at Globe Bakery [Globe Dairy Lunch, 248 Werdin Place, which had a bakery plant on premises; note also his contact on draft card—N]. But the money wasn’t so good so after a while he began to make book. He really knew the horses, so when I was growing up, I was in every track, Del Mar, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows in SF. So when he passed—he loved to drink and smoke Camel cigarettes, and died at age 45 of TB—we buried him so he could see Hollywood Park [William Dutch Aurther passed away 6 Jun 1947;he is interred atInglewood Park Cemetery across Manchester Avenue from the famed, now-lost, Hollywood Park racetrack].”
“We’d moved into 341 South Hope. Into the front house, not the bungalows behind [seen again here and here]. It was called the Princess Apartments. There was a guy named Herb who lived there, a horse racing bookie, got dad into making book. Mom helped dad keep the bookie paperwork. My father’s boss was Mickey Cohen. Mickey used to come by our place, they’d talk business. Very well dressed, wore a hat. You’ve heard of him, right?”
Uh, yeah! I’d be a pretty sorry Angeleno to not know the Mickster!
“Once in a while we got raided. The cops would come in, rip the phone off the wall. Take Herb and my mom and dad away. That left me all alone there as a kid, I guess they wouldn’t do that now anymore. My dad got arrested two or three times. Being a bookie in LA, the drug store at Third and Grand was a bookmaking place; the hotel at Third and Grand was one of his stops; a grocery store at Fourth and Hope [in the Gibson Apts., NE corner]; there was a bookstore on Hill next to Fourth [the Berean Book Room, in the Wright & Callender Bldg., SW corner Hill and Fourth], there was a backdoor to that bookstore that went into a bookie area. The Clifton’s on Olive was a stop. Philippe’s on Aliso was a stop. Usual day, let’s say a guy says here’s forty bucks, put it on the nose, the horse loses, dad keeps the money but part of it goes to the mob. But if the horse wins, he pays the guys out. My dad would keep some earnings and hang out at the bar at Third and Olive, he’d get drunk and fall off the bar stool and my mom would drag him home.” [If you want to know what Wm. Aurther did—filmed, in fact, where Aurther actually made book, in the very hotel at the corner of Third and Grand—click here. Cry Danger‘s New Grand Hotel horserace bookmaking is so eerily similar that one wonders if Hy Averback’s Harry the Bookie wasn’t based on Aurther himself.]
And here, in all his summertime glory, is William Aurther Sr. himself:
“Where did I hang out? Me and my buddies hung out down on Broadway, and a lot at the Woolworth’s on Hill Street [across from Bunker Hill, between Fourth and Fifth]. Pershing Square was a hangout, we’d go watch the guys preaching. We used to hang out on the corner of Fourth and Hope, northwest corner, that was our hangout, the local kids would go up into this one big house, and get up into the steeple area, we had a way of getting in.” [This was the Hildreth Mansion, which the Hildreth family occupied from its 1886 construction until they put it up for sale in 1945-46. It sold it to old-house enthusiasts John and Mabel Haufe in 1946; William Aurther Jr. was ten years old and getting into mischief with his pals in the old house as it was emptied and waited for a buyer. The steeple he mentions—its corner tower—can be seen below.]
William Aurther Sr. dies in 1947—”my dad passed away from TB, he smoke and drank too much, but as a local horse racing bookie working for the underworld you did all your work in the local bars”—and Myrene met one Oscar L Goodale, a lineman, marrying him in September 1949, and moving herself and little Wm. Jr. to El Monte.
William grows up, moves to Texas, and gets in touch with us Bunker Hill fanatics. Here he is today, sharing his reminiscences—
And oh! Added bonus: Bill sends along this image, his class from the Fremont Avenue Public School, where Bunker youth did their elementary education. It depicts an absolutely lost world. The kids march east, on the north side of the 900 block of West Third Street—
The Fremont Avenue Public School is out of frame to the right. Fremont Avenue School was designed by Robert D. Farquhar and built in 1922, with major additions in 1925 by Lloyd Rally.
Their playground was sliced into by a 1952 freeway onramp:
The school itself hung on until demolished in the spring of 1964. Everything in the photo with them, though, disappeared in the late 1940s in preparation for freeway construction.
Take a look here again, from left to right, there’s the Magalia Apts at 1010 W 3rd, the (former DelMar Garage)/paper company at 1016, the DelMar Hotel (“HOTEL” painted upon’t) on the corner at 1026 W 3rd, and then across the street at far right are apartments at 1017 W 3rd. The intersection is that of Third and Beaudry.
And now, note their disappearance—
And such is today’s tale of mobsters, kids clubs, bookies and buildings. If you like that sort of thing and haven’t yet picked up your hard copies of Bunker Noir! and/or Bunker Hill, Los Angeles might I humbly suggest you click here. Bunker Noir! is also available at Vroman’s, which I suggest because a trip to your local brick-and-mortar bookstore is good for the soul.
Lastly, a huge debt of thanks to my buddy Bill Aurther, without whom this post would not have been possible.
Oh, and a nod of thanks to Pumpkin Patch and Ghostie, who always infuse the production of these posts with their charm.