Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"The Siren": Boyle Heights Junior High School Newspaper, Issue #2

A previous post covered the first issue of The Siren, the school newspaper of Boyle Heights Junior High, soon renamed Hollenbeck Junior High.  The second issue, published on 26 October 1922, had a number of interesting components, some of which might be found in a similar publication today.

One was a short front-age commentary by student council president Robert McElvy, who noted "I'm hoping that we may develop more and more school spirit" with the goal of having it be "the finest and best school in the whole country, with the cleanest yard and halls, and the most helpful spirit."  Calling for loyalty, trustworthiness, and cooperation with fellow students and teachers, McElvy ended with the desire "to give my school a good reputation."

Part of the front page of the second issue of The Siren, the student newspaper of Boyle Heights Junior High School, now Hollenbeck Middle School, 26 October 1922.  The original is in the collection of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.
An editorial, probably by Editor-in-Chief Maurice Nathan, lionized former President Theodore Roosevelt, whose birthday is on 27 October, praising him as "one of the biggest men our country has known" and quoting at length a statement by the Roosevelt Memorial Association about the many qualities of the man who "made himself a lion of courage . . . one of the great doers of all times" and who could be "terrible in battle, but tender to the weak."

Not surprisingly, a new high school in the works in Boyle Heights, but not opening for another year, was named for the former president and Roosevelt High School is nearing its centennial, which will be in 2023.

A portion of page two of the paper showing a cartoon about chasing down graduation, a humorous "Faculty Comment" and other items.
Inspirational essays were sprinkled throughout issues of The Siren and there were two in this issue.  One asked "Are You a Quitter?" and admonished students not compare themselves with others who they think have the easy life.  Instead, the editorial cited the example of another legendary American, Abraham Lincoln, stating, "Lincoln made his chance, and success came to him through his own efforts," intimating the same could happen to any Boyle Heights Junior High student.

The second was aimed at "The American Boy" and suggested that "he must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig."  Moreover, "he must work hard and play hard.  He must be clean-minded and clean-lived . . ."  These quotes, of course, were from Theodore Roosevelt.  Another was from Isadore Rozzen, a student who wrote "we have a right to expect that every American boy should become a worthy American citizen," though he cannot become this if "he is always afraid to fight, or if he is a bully picking on smaller boys than himself."  Finishing his work and putting "business before pleasure," Rozzen concluded that "if he does this all through his life he will grow up to be a man of whom we all can be proud."  As the son of Russian and Polish Jewish emigrants, Rozzen likely represented many fellow students in a community largely composed of immigrants.

An essay about "The American Boy", a photo of one of the school's classes, and some ads are featured on this page.
Another common feature of any newspaper was the humor section--this one was titled "Rib Ticklers" and included such jokes as: "If Olive Street were moved one block west wouldn't it be Grand?" or "Spaghetti should not be cooked too long—about 10 inches is right" and "How many hairs in a cat's tail?  None at all; they're all on the outside."  Another item was "The Boyle Heights Movie Theater" in which current film titles were identified with the school, as in "Foolish Daughters" equaled "Our Boyle Heights Flappers"; "The Long Chance" meant "Ditching"; "Blood and Sand" was "A Football Game"; and "Ten Nights in a Barroom" equated "Staying After School With a Mean Teacher."

Then, there were sports.  In this issue there  were lists of soccer teams by class, news about local football, baseball, boxing and other games and contests, including standings for local high school football teams, which had just completed the second week of their season.  There was also a "Ten Commandments" of "a good sport," including the first being "Thou shalt not quit," the third being, "Thou shalt not gloat over winning," and its corollary, number four: "Thou shalt not be a rotten loser."

A snappy ad from a Boyle Heights restaurant is one of the many found in the paper.
Other elements of the eight-page paper were recipes, alumni news, the development of forthcoming music classes, a teacher's account of her European trip the prior summer, ideas for throwing a Halloween party, and news of a "penny drive" to raise money for the PTA's Scholarship Fund.

Finally, there were local business advertisements from such enterprises as the Boyle Heights Feed and Fuel Company; J. Rubin's Shoe Repairing Shop; Meyer Bolotin's Barber Shop; B. Sapkin's Hardware Store; the Hollenbeck Pharmacy; Wilson's Flower Shop; the Poppy Theatre (admission 20 cents for adults and 10 cents for children); and even Bede Johnson's undertaking establishment.  A stand-out ad, though, was for "The 5 Cent Joint" at 6th and Mathews, which used snappy language and little jokes to grab a junior high student's attention, including the statement that punch came "right from Niagra Falls" being boxer Jack Dempsey's "famous punch" and that "everything is fresh except the cook."

This blog will go back periodically and revisit other issues of The Siren so check back and see what all the noise was about.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.  The issue of The Siren is from the museum's collection, which is available for public research.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Historic Photos of Boyle Heights: Los Angeles Cable Railway Construction, 1889

Here are a couple of really cool photographs showing the construction of the Los Angeles Cable Railway along First Street in Boyle Heights sometime in 1889.

A cabinet card photograph from 1889 showing trenching for the construction of the Los Angeles Cable Railway at First near State streets in Boyle Heights, Stanton & Burdick.  Courtesy of the Historical Society of Southern California.  Click on any image to see them in expanded views in new windows.
The first photo has an inscription indicating that the scene was on First and State streets (check out, roughly, what the area looks like today here) looking west.  A crew of workers is busily employed digging a trench to prepare for the tracking.  At the right are a couple of residences, while a some commercial buildings are down the street and to the left.

The second view, a little further east on First near Cummings (click here for what the general location is like now) as noted on an inscription, was obviously taken some weeks later as the tracks are being installed up to the point where the group of people is congregated.

Notice that there horse-drawn streetcar has been halted to demonstrate the contrast of the "old-fashioned" 1870s system to the new technology of the cable system.  A mixture of residential and commercial buildings, including a grocery near the streetcar at the left, are partially in view.

Another cabinet card view showing the laying of the Los Angeles Cable Railway's tracking system along First Street near Cummings, presumed by Stanton & Burdick.  Courtesy of the Historical Society of Southern California.
Both photos have, on the reverse, more notations stating that the line was "first cable line in L.A.."  On the second view, a further set of notes read, "Broad gauge, double track horse car line, which W.H. Workman built to Boyle Hts & sold to cable company."  It is worth noting that William H. Workman, who created Boyle Heights with partners John Lazzarevich and Isaias W. Hellman, had just completed a two-term as Los Angeles' mayor during the famed Boom of the 1880s.

The inscriptions go back to at least 1933 because there are other inscriptions asking that borrowers "Return to Mrs W.H. Workman," this being Maria Boyle Workman, the daughter of Andrew Boyle, who bought Paredon Blanco, the property of Esteban López in 1858.  After Boyle's death in 1871 and, as Los Angeles was undergoing its first sustained period of growth, Maria's husband, William, subdivided much of the Boyle property into Boyle Heights.

Only the first image has a photographer's stamp, though it is likely both photos were taken by the same partnership of Stanton & Burdick.  Thomas E. Stanton, born in Iowa in 1854, worked with veteran L.A. photographer Henry T. Payne through the first half of the 1880s before going out on his own.  By 1888, he was joined by Chester W. Burdick, though their collaboration seems to have lasted just a couple of years--making their images pretty easy to date.

The photographs are in the possession of the Historical Society of Southern California, which gave its permission for their use with this post.

Speaking of photos, come down to the annual Boyle Heights History Day this Saturday the 7th from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.  Among the presentations will be one at 10 showing old photos of the community, as well as other talks and performances.  The location is the Boyle Heights Senior Center at 2839 E. 3rd Street, between Saratoga and Evergreen.  For more information, call (323) 313-2731.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fred Sands and Daniel Thompson: Boyle Heights Figures Who Made History

This week the Los Angeles Times included an obituary of Fred C. Sands, who was one of the most successful real estate tycoons in Los Angeles (another more colorful figure in that word also from Boyle Heights is Donald Sterling.)  Sands, who was born in New York, moved to Boyle Heights at age 7 in 1945 and was a graduate of Roosevelt High and U.C.L.A.

According to the obit, Sands started in real estate by flipping houses before becoming a realtor with industry giant Coldwell Banker in the 1960s.  After a few years there, he branched out on his own, forming his business in 1969.

In time, Sands presided over one of the largest independent residential brokerages in the nation, having 65 offices (some franchised) and 4,000 employees with volume of over $9 billion a year.  In addition to real estate, he was involved in turning around distressed businesses, including radio stations and title insurance firms.  At the end of 2000, weary of the amount of work it took to oversee an empire, Sands sold out to his former employer, Coldwell Banker.

He then formed the private equity firm, Vintage Capital Group, LLC and turned his attention to regional malls and shopping centers that needed upgrades and improvements.  While his profile was decidedly more low-key, which is, apparently, how we liked it, Sands was very successful in that endeavor, as well.

Sands endowed a real estate institute in his name at Pepperdine University, was an avid art collector and a big supporter of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and had involvement with the United Way, Los Angeles Police Foundation, and Los Angeles Opera, among others.  He died in Boston of a stroke and was 77 years old.

A little over a month ago, a lesser-known figure with a Boyle Heights connection passed away.  Daniel Thompson was born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1921, but his family relocated to Boyle Heights shortly afterward, where Thompson's father, Meyer (Mickey), born of Russian Jewish parents, operated a bakery, where bagels were made the traditional way by hand.  The family resided in the northwest corner of the community near St. Louis Street, near where Interstates 5 and 10 meet.

The listing from the 1930 census for the Meyer Thompson family in Boyle Heights.  Daniel, who invented the mass-producing bagel machine that the Lender's Bagels company popularized was a boy, but only a couple of years from starting to work his father on the early prototypes for the invention. 
During the Great Depression years, the Thompsons migrated to the Fairfax district and Daniel, a graduate of Fairfax High and U.C.L.A. (and a veteran of the Second World War), was a junior high and high school teacher.  He later moved to Cheviot Hills, which is where he began to experience success as an inventory.  One of his first projects was developing a folding ping-pong table, having been frustrated at the time needed to set up existing tables.  The money he realized from selling the rights to a prominent maker of tables allowed him to move on to his next project.

Bagels were usually made with four-man teams, involving much labor and expense.  Meyer Thompson tried for years in his garage to develop a practical machine to make bagels and Daniel began at age 11 to assist him.

After decades, in the late 1950s, after much tinkering in his own garage, Thompson came up with a viable bagel-making machine that double and then tripled the output compared to traditional hand-made products.  A few years later, he leased one to Murray Lender and other companies jumped on board the concept, taking the bagel from a limited market among Jews to mainstream mass popularity.  Later iterations of the machine churned out 5,000 bagels an hour, an amazing change from the 120 an hour achieved by the fastest of those using the hand-made method.  The Thompson family business is now run by son Stephen.

Boyle Heights is a place that has been the home of a number of prominent figures in all walks of life, like most communities.  The recent passings of Fred Sands and Daniel Thompson are just two examples of how this vibrant neighborhood has helped shape our region and times.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry and Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board Member.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Forsyth Memorial School for Girls/Evergreen Hostel

Sitting at the corner of Evergreen and Folsom streets in Boyle Heights is a 1914 Mission Revival structure that has recently been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

The facility was originally the Forsyth Memorial School for Girls, an institution established by the local Presbyterian Church as a facility to "Americanize" Latinas.  The complex was designed by architect Henry M. Patterson, who worked on many regional Presbyterian churches, and built by The Willard-Slater Company.  There isn't that much information out there about the Forsyth School, but it is notable to read some of the thinking behind the work being done by it and similar institutions of the time.

The Forsyth Memorial School for Girls, Boyle Heights, from a 1927 lantern slide.  Courtesy of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.  Click on any image to see them in enlarged views in new windows.
A short-lived organization called the Interchurch World Movement (IWM) emerged within weeks after the end of the First World War, late in 1918, proclaiming its mission to bring together the various Protestant churches in America and coordinate programs and services promoting Christianity, including to peoples who were either not Christian or were, but not Protestant.

In 1920, G.Bromley Oxnam spearheaded a survey of Los Angeles under the Survey Department of the Home Missions Division of the IWM called "The Mexican in Los Angeles."  An introductory statement in the report lays out the objective of the program:
the Christian task [is] not only to place the dynamic of God's life into the heart of the individual Mexican, but also to put the redemptive force of Christianity into the community itself, saving the Mexican from poverty, disease, crime, industrial injustice, exploitation and ignorance as well as from sin.
Note that Oxnam refers to "Christianity" as if Mexicans were not, by being Catholics.

Writing that the city included about 30,000 Mexicans among its residents, Oxnam stated that "Consequently the Christian [Protestant] forces should draft a long-time program, seeking the complete transformation of all anti-social conditions, and the building of a community life that approximates the demands of Jesus."

A short reference to the Forsyth Memorial School for Girls in the Santa Ana Register, 17 January 1919.
Among the many community institutions cited by Oxnam in his report was the Forsyth Memorial School for Girls which "is a boarding school taking care of 75 Mexican girls" and had a property value of some $50,000.

In 1925, Anna Browning Diveley submitted her master's thesis to Boston University on "The Problems of Mexican Immigration in the Southwest".  Diveley opened her work with the admirable statement that, "A mutual understanding of the people of the United States, and of the Mexicans, who came to us, is necessary for the happiness and well being of both."  She further noted that Mexican "peons" emigrated to America "in search of new horizons" and wanted "better conditions, more work, better wages and schools for the children."  They were drawn by "railroad companies, beet growers and others who were in search of laborers" and "offered them what to the Mexican was a good wage."

Diveley cited a 1924 report estimating that there were about 100,000 in Los Angeles—a significant difference from Oxnam's 1920 estimate.  She went on to suggest that "the Mexican has come to the United States to stay" and that "he remains to increase America's wealth as well as her problems of housing, poverty, crime and all attendant evils."  She also claimed that,
These immigrants are at heart Mexicans . . . A very small number are even naturalized. There are logical reasons for this. This peculiar attitude, on the part of the Mexican has a historical, a temperamental and a social background, So many of them are so near the mother country, that they cannot realize they are in a different country. The Mexican has very much of the Indian characteristics. Always watchful, they are by nature superstitious and view almost every news with suspicion. There were seeds of hatred sown early in the nineteenth century, during the days of the Mexican war. That hatred, with their natural fear of changes and their undeveloped intellect, coupled with their inherent patriotism make it hard to become a citizen. 
As "a national as well as a border problem," Mexican immigration had to be dealt with, as Oxnam argued, by promoting to migrants "our ideals, our standards" and that they "should not be left a victim of shiftlessness or of revolutionary or anarchical tendencies."

The San Bernardino Sun, 25 December 1931, included a reference to Forsyth Memorial School for Girls scholarship student, Erlinda Carreon, a Fontana resident.
Diveley ended her thesis with the observation that,"It is the privilege and the duty of the government of the United States, also of the Christian people to help these less fortunate people to a higher plane, and to do this, they need better housing, less crowding, and a wholesome training for citizenship, and an uplift of clean joy."

She offered that, "Every race in America has its vices, also every race has its virtues, and it is the task of the Christian people to burn the dross and strengthen the virtues."  Notably, she went on, "The Mexicans have a religious background but they do not have a practical Christian education. Catholicism did not furnish this. Protestantism is supplying this need to some degree."

This work by Protestants had been best done "through community centers where the Christian home
atmosphere is found. From such influences, the Mexican is responding."  Presumably, the Forsyth Memorial School for Girls was one of these "community centers."

As noted above, specific information about Forsyth is lacking.  Occasional newspaper references mention Protestant groups from Long Beach and Tustin visiting the school and providing canned fruit, sheets and pillowcases to the students there.

In August 1928, the Santa Ana Register reported on a United Brethren church picnic in Anaheim included a talk by Constance Ward, a teacher at Forsyth, "who presented a picture of her work among the Mexican girls in this training school." 

The San Bernardino Sun in its Christmas Day 1931 edition noted that an honored guest at a Fontana church function was "Miss Erlinda Carreon, student at the Forsyth Memorial school in Los Angeles."  In the second of a five-year scholarship, Carreon was a "protege" of the Fontana church "and was chosen from a number included in the Americanization classes at Chaffey union high school for the scholarship."

It may be that Carreon was barely able to finish out her scholarship, because Forsyth closed its doors in 1934, probably because of the crushing effects of the Great Depression.  For a time, the facility functioned as the Hebron Community Center, another Presbyterian endeavor.

Jun Oyama and two unidentified boys at Evergreen Hostel, Boyle Heights.  From the Foto East L.A. collection, County of Los Angeles Public Library.
Then, with the conclusion of another world war came a new, temporary use.  Reconstituted as the "Evergreen Hostel," the site was utilized for the resettlement of interned Japanese-Americans sent to concentration camps throughout the U.S. during World War II.

Brian Niiya, in an article for the online Densho Encyclopedia, noted that Evergreen was "one of the first hostels to open on the West Coast, [and] it was one of the largest and most highly regarded."  The structure was rented by the Presbyterian Mission Board to the American Friends Service Committee and first used to house Japanese-Americans forced out of Terminal Island in 1942.  In 1943-44, the structure was utilized by the U.S. Army.

James, Jennie and Gary Shimokawa arrive at Evergreen Hostel and are greeted by Rev. Sohei Kowta.  Photograph by Charles E. Mace, 1 June 1945.  Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.
On 1 March 1945, after renovation work, the hostel, managed by Esther Rhoads of the AFSC and Presbyterian minister Sohei Kowta, opened, following by several weeks one in Pasadena.  The initial capacity of 60-75 was enlarged to over 100 with furniture used in concentration camps transferred to the facility.  Room and board was $1 to $1.50 for adults and half that amount for children and residents were required to do housework as a condition of residency.  Hundreds of persons were housed there in the roughly two years of operation.

For the full article by Niiya, click here.

Lunch served to residents at the Evergreen Hostel, Boyle Heights,  Photograph by Charles E. Mace, 1 June 1945.  Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.
In recent years, as cited in the National Register application, the facility had been known as the "Fellowship House of Los Angeles," and appears to have been used as a sort of hotel, based on a short description on a blog post that also features some great 1945 photos of the Evergreen Hostel.

For that blog post, click here.

Henry Suenaga and Ben Nishiyama in a men's dormitory at the Evergreen Hostel.  Photograph by Charles E. Mace, 1 June 1945.  Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.
Although the National Register nomination was made on the basis of the Forsyth's history as an "Americanization plant" for Latinas, the use of the complex for the hostel seems another obvious reason for receiving recognition as a place of significant historical interest.

George, Ann, and Robbie Jeane Yanase with Rev. Sohei Kowta at Evergreen Hostel.  Photograph by Charles E. Mace, 1 June 1945.  Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.
For the National Register nomination, click here.

For a City of Los Angeles report with the Cultural Heritage Commission's support for the National Register nomination, click here.

Contribution by Paul R. Spitzzeri, Assistant Director, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Travels and Travails of the Haym Salomon Statue, Part Three

This is the third and final part of a post by Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez on a little-known statue for a largely-forgotten figure from the American Revolution, Haym Salomon.  We hope you've enjoyed this post and come back soon for more posts on the fascinating history of Boyle Heights!

Demographic changes began quickly in Boyle Heights at the end of World War II as many longtime Jewish residents began moving to West Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley or other regional locations.

By 1951, when many Jewish residents had already moved from Boyle Heights, plans were made by the Haym Salomon Committee and the Jewish War Veterans of America to relocate the Haym Salomon statue to the west side. The March 21, 1951 issue of the Los Angeles Daily Examiner reported on the activities surrounding the removal of the statue from Hollenbeck Park.

Los Angeles Daily Examiner, 21 March 1951, courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
The 12-foot tall, 13-ton monument was hoisted onto a flatbed trailer along with a sign announcing its new location on the western edge of downtown Los Angeles—this being the recently-renamed MacArthur (changed in 1942 from Westlake) Park on Wilshire Blvd. The opening paragraph of the Herald story described its relocation as a move, “[f]rom its obscure place amidst the trees and shrubs of Hollenbeck Park . . . to a position of prominence” in its new home.

Los Angeles Times, 9 April 1951, courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
The rededication ceremony in MacArthur Park was held April 8, 1951 and that date was declared Haym Salomon Day by the city. The two-hour program featured a parade, an address by Mayor Bowron, a printed program for the event, and claims of a bigger crowd than that of the original dedication. 

Los Angeles Times, 9 April 1951, from microfilm at the Los Angeles Central Public Library.
Due to vandalism in its last few years at Hollenbeck Park, the statue needed much repair and refurbishing before the event. By this time, the original artist, Robert Paine, had passed away, so the restoration of the statue was handled by sculptor Frederick Martinez. Evidently, the statue may not have fared any better in terms of vandalism in its new home at MacArthur Park because, on December 8, 1958, the L.A. Times reported that another ceremony was held for the “refurbished statue”.

The MacArthur Park rededication ceremonies took place in the height of the Cold War period, when the “Red Scare” hung low in the civic atmosphere. Unlike the wartime focus of war bond sales drives when the statue was installed in Boyle Heights, the core concern of the ceremonies was a call to a more vigilant type of patriotic spirit because of fears that “the enemy” might be domestic, as well as foreign, communists. As one rabbi stated in the 1958 rededication, “this spirit is important in an age where we must deal with crafty enemies who try to twist our intentions and our words.”

After some twenty years at MacArthur Park, changing times led the Haym Salomon statue to change its home.  In an Los Angeles Times article from April 29, 1972, concerns again were raised in the Jewish community that, due to further damage, as well as Jewish residents leaving the MacArthur Park area and moving further west, the statue should be relocated. 

Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1983, from microfilm at the Los Angeles Central Public Library/
So, on January 1984, with the Jewish War Veterans financing the move, the statue was once again hoisted onto a flatbed trailer and relocated to the now bustling Jewish neighborhood of the Fairfax district. According to Al Goldfarb, public information officer for Recreation & Parks in 1984, “Salomon's is the most frequently moved statue in the city's park history.” The statue's third location (if you're counting) was now in front of the new West Wilshire Recreation Center, at 1st and Gardner streets, the site where the historic Pan Pacific Auditorium burned down in 1989.

Los Angeles Times, 2 November 2005, from microfilm at the Los Angeles Central Public Library.
The statue remained at the location for only 11 years. Plans to expand the recreation center and the surrounding area required that it be moved. Some thought the statue might be more prominent if it served as part of a new gateway entrance to Pan Pacific Park at the corner of 3rd and Gardner, a block east of the Grove shopping center. The work to remove the statue began on November 1 2005, but, as an L.A. Times article noted the next day, movers were surprised it clung stubbornly to its concrete base, and an estimated 30 minute job to remove it turned into a 4-hour project.
On June 12, 2008, councilman Tom LaBonge, and the Jewish War Veterans Department of California, Hollywood Post No. 113 sponsored a re-dedication ceremony to celebrate the statue on its “final stop on its journey West.” This was its fourth location in 64 years.

The Haym Salomon Statue at Pan Pacific Park.  Photo by Rudy Martinez, June 2015.
Like the community that honors him, the statue appears, after its journey from its original Boyle Heights location, firmly established in the Westside's Fairfax District.  However, if the neighborhood's demographics should change at some future point, the custodians of the Haym Salomon statue have displayed a determination not to leave it behind.

As mentioned earlier, a plaque installed at the foot of the statue lists the names of the parks where the statue has been located, in chronological order, sans any dates; but if you look to the bottom-left side of the chair on the statue itself, though, you can still see the engraved, original dedication date, January 6, 1944.

The original inscription from the 6 January 1944 dedication of the Haym Salomon Statue at Hollenbeck Park on the bottom left of the chair/base.  Photo by Rudy Martinez, June 2015.
On a closing note, one mystery remains. From all the newspaper articles and the other various reports that have followed the statue's move from east to west, there are no reports of whether or not, at some point, anyone recovered the copy of the 1939 Warner Brothers short, Sons of Liberty, which was placed in the base of the statue in the original 1944 dedication in Boyle Heights.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Travels and Travails of the Haym Salomon Statue, Part Two

This is the second part of a post by Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez on a little-known statue for a largely-forgotten figure from the American Revolution, Haym Salomon.  Enjoy and check back soon for the next installment!

After a good deal of planning was instituted for the installation of the Haym Salomon statue at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights, a letter was sent to the supporters of the project by the federal Treasury Department on behalf of the Haym Salomon Day Committee with the date for the unveiling (January 6, the anniversary of Salomon's death) and details for the accompanying war bond sales campaign. 

A letter from the Haym Salomon Day Committee inviting the recipient to the 6 January 1944 dedication of the statue at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.  Courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles
A follow-up invitation was soon sent out, inviting supporters to attend a fundraiser on December 18 at the Boyle Heights Victory House located at Brooklyn Avenue (now César Chávez Avenue) and Soto Street. Organizing the event with Monte Salvin was businessman Meyer Pransky, who was well-known in Boyle Heights for organizing a number of successful war bond drives that earned city-wide attention. For example, a particularly impressive 21-day drive raised $300,000 by mid-January 1943, culminating in the christening of a B-12 Flying Fortress Bomber as “The Spirit Of Boyle Heights.”  Meanwhile, a letter was also sent out by the Haym Salomon Day Committee to numerous civic leaders and organizations inviting them to Hollenbeck Park for the unveiling.

On December 22, 1943, Mayor Fletcher Bowron signed a City of Los Angeles proclamation designating January 6, 1944 as Haym Salomon Day.  An accompanying photo showed Bowron signing the proclamation with Salvin and film actress Marjorie Weaver, whose best-known film was 1939's Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda, and whose last film was only a year away, witnessing. The document specifically mentions Hollenbeck Park as the site for the unveiling event.

Actress Marjorie Weaver, Los Angeles mayor Fletcher Bowron and Haym Salomon Day Committee chair Monte Salvin at the signing of the proclamation of Haym Salomon Day.  Courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
In a community event almost completely unknown today, the unveiling of the Haym Salomon statue was met with great civic fanfare. The four-hour program included a military parade, a concert, a celebrity emcee, and a live broadcast over KFWB radio. The mayor, prominent citizens, representatives from various faiths, and even the local vice-consul of China were present.

A large crowd attended the dedication of the Haym Salomon statue at Hollenbeck Park on 6 January 1944.  Courtesy of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner photo collection, Los Angeles Public Library.
According the Los Angeles Times, about one thousand spectators were in attendance, but this number may not even include those who lined the parade route. It was also reported that “more than $250,000 worth of war bonds were sold,” an impressive amount but far short of the committee's very ambitious goal of $3,000,000.

The cover of the program issued for the 6 January 1944 dedication of the Haym Salomon statue at Hollenbeck Park.  Courtesy of the Western States Jewish History Archive Collection, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
A two-page program was published for the event.  A closer look at the document revealed a Hollywood connection literally hidden within the statue. In 1939, Warner Brothers released a two-reel (about twenty minutes) film titled Sons of Liberty based on the life of Salomon and starring Claude Rains, a four-time Oscar nominee in such films as 1939's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and 1942's Casablanca.  Sons of Liberty went on to win the 1940 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.

Starring Oscar-nominated actor Claude Rains, the two-reel short film, Sons of Liberty, about the contribution of Haym Salomon to the Revolutionary War effort won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-Reel.  From The Film Daily, April-June 1939, courtesy of The Media History Digital Library.
The second page of the program indicated the ceremonies included the “Sealing of Archives in Base of Statue” that included a copy of the film. It's interesting to note that, in depicting Salomon in any medium, artistic license has to be used because no contemporary likeness of him exists. No one today really knows what he looked like, so who knows if the British-born Rains bore any resemblance!

The 7 January 1944 edition of the Los Angeles Times featured this article covering the unveiling of the statue.  Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Public Library.
In Boyle Heights smaller-scale “anniversary ceremonies” continued at Hollenbeck Park over the next several years. Noted historian and philosopher, Will Durant (winner, with his wife Ariel, of a Pulitzer Prize for one installment of the 11-volume Story of Civilization), addressed a Hollenbeck Park audience on the one-year anniversary on January 8, 1945. The war ended seven months later, signaling the beginnings of a population shift that would soon change the character of Boyle Heights and the location of the Haym Salomon statue.

The next part of this series discusses how the Haym Salomon statue for points west, so check back soon!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Travels and Travails of the Haym Salomon Statue, Part One

This is the first part of a post by Boyle Heights Historical Society Advisory Board member Rudy Martinez on a little-known statue for a largely-forgotten figure from the American Revolution, Haym Salomon.  Enjoy and check back soon for the next installment!

In June 2008, a small rededication ceremony was held for a newly-installed, twelve-foot tall statue at the southeast corner of Pan Pacific Park in West Los Angeles. The name of the subject, who had a pivotal role to play in the American Revolution, is rendered with a simple etching at the center of the concrete platform: Haym Salomon 1740 – 1785 American Patriot. 

The new plaque added with the figure hints the statue might have traveled a somewhat circuitous route before arriving at its present location, but no timeline is given. However, a second smaller engraving at the work’s base reveals that the statue’s beginnings go much further back then 2008 – yet, even this revelation hardly begins to tell the entire story of the Haym Salomon Statue.

The dedication plaque for the 2008 placement of the Haym Salomon statue at Pan Pacific Park in west Los Angeles.  Photo by the author, Rudy Martinez 
Actually, the statue was initially unveiled in Boyle Heights in 1944 with great ceremonial fanfare and media coverage. The new park monument also served as a focal point for a spirited war bond drive during World War II in what was then a significantly Jewish eastside enclave. 

Two mayors in three different decades issued proclamations in recognition of the statue's symbolic importance, including Fletcher Bowron in 1944 and 1951 and Sam Yorty in 1969. However, by the time of the 2008 rededication, it also earned the unique distinction, according to The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, of being the most removed, relocated, and rededicated park statue in the city’s history.

To begin with, Los Angeles is not the first city to have a Haym Salomon statue.  In December 1941, the city of Chicago dedicated the Herald Square Monument, which depicts the Revolutionary War figures of George Washington, Robert Morris, and Salomon standing side-by-side. 

The idea for a Haym Salomon statue in Los Angeles began the following year. Artist Robert Paine petitioned the Los Angeles Parks Commission to approve a site for the monument he would create, claiming it would greatly assist the city's war bond-selling campaign. In February 1943, delegates from several posts of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States organization endorsed a plan to hold a Haym Salomon Day at Pershing Square, located in downtown, where the statue would be officially unveiled. 

An article from the Los Angeles Times, 20 September 1943, noting that "a tentative site" for the Salomon statue had been  found at Terrace Park.
To solicit private donations for the project and extoll the historical significance of Salomon, several prominent citizens created the Haym Salomon Day Committee. Taking an active lead in the project, Beverly Hills physician and Jewish art authority, Dr. Monte Salvin, presided as chairman of the committee. 

But what were the significant contributions made by Salomon that earned him a public memorial? 

Haym Salomon had a life story that deeply resonated with many Jewish Americans.  The subject of several popular books for adults and children, as well as academic studies, Salomon has been regarded as a figure that embodied both the ideals of a loyal American patriot, and a devoted Jew.

The 18 October 1943 edition of the Times noted a change in location for the Salomon statue from Terrace Park to Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights.
Born in Poland in 1740, he settled in New York in 1775. Fluent in several languages, he worked as a trading goods broker, but was arrested by British forces as a suspected spy for the colonists. Eventually gaining his freedom, he fled to Philadelphia in 1778. There, Salomon established a successful brokerage business, had a family, and became a prominent citizen. Like many of the elite citizens of Philadelphia, he owned at least one slave, who ran away in November 1780.

In 1781, Superintendent of Finance and signer to the Declaration of Independence, Robert Morris, enlisted Salomon to broker government notes to help finance the war for independence. Morris wrote in his diary that Salomon was highly respected for his ability to repeatedly obtain desperately-needed loans from foreign and domestic sources and he reportedly took little or no commission for his valuable services.

Salomon apparently also extended personal interest-free loans to certain members of Congress, including James Madison. He was also an active member of Philadelphia's Mikveh Israel Synagogue, even leading a protest against a state law barring non-Christians from holding public office. The law was removed in 1790, but Salomon did not live to see this change take place.

Salomon invested heavily in government securities and notes and experienced severe financial reverses when these rapidly depreciated after the war. This kind of insolvency, however, was not uncommon after the revolution.  For example, Morris also went bankrupt and spent several years in debtor's jail. Salomon, who nearly was bankrupt after all he had done to advance the cause of the revolution, died on January 6, 1785. 

Highly regarded for his contributions to the fight for America's independence, Salomon was buried in the Mikveh Israel Cemetery. But his estate was unable to afford a headstone, leaving the exact location of his gravesite unknown to this day.

This November 1943 announcement for the "War Finance Committee for Southern California" from the federal Treasury Department outlined the tie-in between the unveiling of the Haym Salomon statue and an ambitious two-month drive to sell $3 million in war bonds.  Courtesy of the Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
With Salomon's legacy as their motivation, the plans for the project put forth by the Haym Salomon Day Committee began to come together in September 1943 with the city offering Terrace Park in the Pico Union District as the venue rather than Pershing Square. 

However, on October 18, with the proposed statue already experiencing prospects for site relocation, The Los Angeles Times reported that Hollenbeck Park was the new official site. The Times also reported that the statue would be presented to the city as a tie-in to a United States War Bond selling program in support of the ongoing war.

Check back soon for the continuing story of the Haym Salomon statue!