Friday, November 29, 2013

New eBook Free Thru December 2

And–the eBook is FREE from November 29 through the following Monday, December 2nd.

Plus, I’ve joined some new program on Amazon where, if you buy the print book ($38), you can get the eBook for .99.

What is this book about? Everything, almost, that Baby Boomers remember from Christmas past:
  • Aluminum trees, real tinsel, Bubble Lites, and all the other decorations
  • The foods! Butterball Turkeys, Green Bean Casserole, Chex Mix and more
  • The songs! The holiday hits of Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Elvis, Alvin and the Chipmunks–and Nat King Cole singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire “
  • More entertainment: The origins of NORAD’s Santa Tracking, the Nutcracker Ballet, and all those wonderful TV specials
  • The TOYS!
Barbie and Ken and Chatty Cathy Stingrays and bikes and skateboards Hula Hoops and Frisbees and SuperBalls Candyland, Clue, Life and more Costumes and Guns and Dummies and Models andPaint-by-Numbers and Rat Fink! and so many other delights . . .

Why Free?
Because I think that once you see this gorgeous, full color book, you'll realize it is the perfect Christmas present for the Baby Boomers you know.

So grab your copy now!

Here are all the links you need:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Old Pictures of Los Angeles

A friend sent me these--thanks, Dan!

Pictures of our fair city from 1898 through the 1960s, on

I have no idea what Imgur is, but there are 33 photos of things like a Jack In the Box from 1964, or Broadway decorated for Christmas in the 1940s. So enjoy.

To whet your appetite, here are two photos: the first at 3rd and Hill in 1898, the second at 2nd and Hill in the 1950s:

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Mystery Mosaics in Long Beach

Today's Mystery Mosaic adorns a building in Long Beach, at 3728 Atlantic--just down the street from the Historical Society of Long Beach. Unfortunately, though, the HSLB was not able to tell me anything about it.

The current tenants, Prudential California Realty, were very nice and apologetic, but had no information either.

Clearly, the mosaic is of an Old Testament story that most of us remember hearing, just because it was so appalling.

And I say "clearly" because the moscaicist thoughtfully included the book and chapter where the story can be found--see it there on the far left? Kings iii or First Book of Kings, Chapter 3 (verses 17 to 28, if you're interested).

And by the way, I'm bumping up the font here just to take up space because I have so little to say. If anyone can tell me more about these mosaics, I will either put that information in here or in a new post, and credit you.

Thanks in advance--

The gentleman on the left is Solomon, of course, the wise king of Israel.

The creepy story goes that two women came to see him. They had a baby they were arguing over.

Lady 1 said the baby was hers. She said Lady 2 used to have a baby but rolled over him while she was sleeping, and suffocated him.

Lady 2 said the live baby was hers. She claimed Lady 1 had suffocated her own baby in her sleep and was now trying to grab her child.

When I first heard this story, I figured I understood why my mother never let me crawl into her bed. I could get killed that way!

Anyway, the wise King Solomon ordered that his trusty swordsman cut the live child in half, right down the middle, and give one piece to each woman.

So of course, the REAL mother cried out "NO! Let her have him!"

Clever Solomon to know that only the real mother would care if a baby was vivisected right in front of her, huh?

When I went in search of an online link for this story, I found that the BibleGateway King James version of the story refers to both women as prostitutes, while other versions do not. Why, and why does that matter to the story?


Was this building once a temple or church? A library?

If you know, or if you remember anything about these mosaics, please leave a comment and point me in the right direction.

I did, btw, look for the address and a few other things in the Long Beach Libraries' collection and in their newspaper data base, but without success. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Forget Turducken; Have Ostrich this Thanksgiving!

Ah, me. Don't we miss the quaint and lovely ostrich ostrich farms of Old Los Angeles?

You know about them. right?


While we all wax nostalgic over Red Cars, Bullocks and their Tea Rooms, and the dirt roads that are now freeways, no one sits back and sighs over the lost ostrich farms of LA. Notice that?

I'm guessing--not having farmed anything, including big birds, I don't really know--that no one could really miss the honking, the dust, the giant droppings, and anything else you can think of that would make living downwind of an ostrich farm less than idyllic.

Los Angeles' history with ostrich farms goes back well over a century. In the LA Library's photo collection I found pictures of the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm, which was in business at least from 1892 to 1941; it's address was 3609 N. Mission--at Lincoln Park.

But the Lincoln Park farm was not unique!

A farm started in Anaheim in 1882 was the first, and spawned a second farm (same owner) at Los Feliz Rancho, soon connected by rail line to 2nd Street and Beaudry in LA. These were  followed by Al Cawston's Ostrich Farm  in South Pasadena (which existed from 1886 through 1935, and which was reputed to be the largest in the country when Edwin Cawston sold it to a syndicate of bankers in 1911). Then there was the Wilshire Ostrich Farm on Grand and 12th and an Ostrich Park Farm in Glendale in the 1880s. Briefly, there was one at 2nd Street Park, and one in Norwalk and even Santa Monica. We were awash in ostriches.

Why so many? Well, ostrich feathers were big at the end of the 19th century, especially in Europe. In fact, after Mr. Cawston bought fifty ostriches from South Africa and brought them to California, he sold plumes plucked from the birds every six or seven months for two or three dollars apiece. Each bird could supply 25-30 feathers. That was big money!

Plumes were the main product of the farms, but vast numbers of tourists also paid to have their pictures taken in ostrich-drawn carriages. The petite wagons held one person and were hitched up to two yoked ostriches . . . there's gotta be a good pun in there somewhere. I must be tired.

We were gonna corner the ostrich plume market!

Cawston likely provided the ostriches for the other farms that spread across the Southern United States. The site of his farm, btw, is now home to the Ostrich Farm Lofts, carved and modeled out of brick buildings that (I think) were part of the original farm.

One fanciful 1914 article claimed that "The boy is now alive who will behold the wharves of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego some day laden down with bales of ostrich feather for import to foreign lands, while through the Panama Canal en route to New York will go quantities for distribution to the crowded centers of the distant East. The ostrich is a first-class multiplier and greatly assisted by the various American ostrich farmers by the scientific methods adopted for the incubation of the eggs. This means an immense American ostrich population in the distant future and consequently much to the glory, honor and profit of the people of California."

Um, yeah. Sure, you bet.

But as these pictures demonstrate, not all visitors came to ooh and aww over the plumage, or to sit in the cute little cart and send a postcard to Aunt Gertrude. Some visitors came to eat ostrich. Did they pick their bird the way we pick lobsters at the pier? Ugh!

If ostriches weren't enough to draw you into Lincoln Heights--and I just can't imagine such a case--there was also an Alligator Farm there, built in 1906 and owned by the same folks as the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm.

It was right next door, which makes one wonder whether any ostriches ended up as 'gator snacks.

An excellent site for more information and pictures is the History of Lincoln Heights website. That's where I learned that the bungalows and parking lot that sit there today are actually residential units for those in treatment for chemical dependency. One ancient pepper tree (a non-native species, ironically--just like the birds) is all that remains of the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm.

The first picture above is from our library's photo collection and was taken at the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm across the street from Lincoln Park in 1929.

The other photos come from a blog post of the California Historical Society, and were digitally reproduced by the USC Digital Library. They're part of the Title Insurance and Trust and the C.C. Pierce Photography Collection.

They are also labeled Lincoln Park though undated--but I'd put them at around 1929.

But really, check out the Lincoln Heights History website, and its ostrich page. They have text from the old brochures ("Take the Yellow Car marked Lincoln Park and get off at the farm. Fare 5 cents")and postcards of folks in the little carriages from all over the world.

If you want to see live ostriches, you'll probably have to drive north to Solvang.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Louis Zamperini: The Man, Movie, and the Airport

Torrance's own home-town hero for the past . . . well, 70 years if you want to count from his Olympic career, is pictured below with Angelina Jolie, who is directing the movie based on the book about his life: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (herself a woman with an amazing story).

The book, of course, is about Louis Zamperini, who ran in the infamous 1936 Olympics (the one where Jesse Owens took so many medals and embarrassed the Nazis)and who was expected to be The Man Who Broke the 4-Minute Mile Barrier (at age 17 he was clocked at a 4:21 mile, and in college at 4:12)--but instead ended up fighting in World War II. His plane went down in the South Pacific, where Zamperini and another soldier set a different kind of record: the most days surviving being lost at sea on a raft (47).

Unfortunately, they were found by Japanese forces and ended up in a camp for prisoners-of-war, under the command of men who were often sadistic. And that's just scratching the surface of the story.

Amazing that no one did the movie before, but here are some of the fist photos from it now: one of Jolie & Zamperini, and one of the filming itself, above.

This is all linked loosely to an event at the small airport inTorrance called Zamperini Field (that's the link--the name, honoring Louis Zamperini).

On Saturday, Nov. 16, those who want to sit in the backseat of a T-6 aircraft can pay for a short flight, which is a pretty rare opportunity. The event happens between 10 am and 3 pm; the flights cost $165 for 15 minutes or $375 for 40 minutes.

Col. Marv Garrison will talk about the air war in Vietnam (he was chief of the fighter section of the 7th Air Force there), and there will be events for children too

For reservations on the flights and more information, contact (which stands for Western Museum of or call 714-300-5524.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Airport Mosaics

This post will not be about the Long Beach Airport WPA mosaics, because I've blogged about them before, here and here.

No, today's post is for travelers. We have fifty-year-old mosaic walls along the concourses as LAX.

And travelers who see those walls are often going or coming to other airports that sport mosaics so we'll mention those as well.

But first: LAX.

Interior designer Charles Kratka installed the LAX walls--each 300 feet long--in 1961.

At the time, Kratka was the head of Interior Design for the airport, answering to William Pereira and Charles Luckman,

 His idea was to make pedestrians think of the changing seasons, his daughter said. But as the Los Angeles Times pointed out in his 2007 obituary, tour guides today interpret them geographically. The blue as you start down the tunnel represent the sea, and the gold and brown tones are our nation's heartland. Apparently there is one vertical line of red right in the middle (I don't remember that), then at the other end, blue again: Sea to shining sea.

I've included a picture of that red stripe below, after the video.

Here's a YouTube video of the Terminal 4 mosaic--must be one of the few still open. From the comments I see that the fabricator was Alfonso Pardinas of Byzantine Mosaics in San Francisco.

It's also visible in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.

I haven't noticed them lately, so I was not surprised to read that many of these walkways were closed after 9/11, in the interest of tightened security. Not all are closed though.

In the early and mid-60s, my Grandma used to visit relatives in Utah once or twice a year, and walking along those corridors to take her to the plane or greet her on her return is a vivid memory. (That and her mink stole. She always broke that out to travel in style.)

After the 60s, they looked very dated to me--not bright or curvy enough to compete with more psychedelic designs. But 50s stuff--or more properly, Mid Century Moderne--is very much back in style now, so people can appreciate these mosaics once more.

The two pictures of LAX's mosaic is borrowed from the DesignerNotes blog.

NOTE: I've since learned that these mosaics are claimed by artist Janet Bennett, who worked for Charles Kratka. She is trying to clear the misperception that he designed these walls, and you can read more about that in my later blog post.

Now as to other airports:

A Wall Street Journal piece by Scott McCartney titled "Airports for Art Lovers" pointed out a few mosaics among the sculptures, light shows, and murals that ornament our terminals (LAX's mosaics did not get a mention.--his focus was on art installed in the last decade). He tells how many factors have combined since 9/11 to create areas--large open atriums, for example--that are ideal for art.

So here are some mosaics from airports around the country:

First, at Reagan International Airport in Washington DC, on Concourse C and Concource B, there are several floor mosaics in the forms of medallians worthy of your attention. The pictures are from the Public Art Photo Albums of the Metro Washington Airports Authority. There are man more pictures and more artists, so please take a look.

The first is based on a map of the Chesapeake Bay, by artist Joyce Kozloff:

The second is by Michele Oka Doner: It's called "Flight" and is of terrazzo and cast bronze:

Moving on to Miami International, another work by Michele Ok Doner is titled "A Walk on the Beach," which was done in the early 90s. Two thousand cast bronze images reflect the sea life of South Miami Beach:

Here is one from Lambert St. Louis Airport called "New Village" by artist Alicia LaChance, a native of St. Louis:

This next one is on a staircase leading to the car rental facility in the Kansas City Airport (Missouri).

There are tons more. I may do another post on international mosaics, since airports in Russia, Tunisia, and other countries have beautiful mosaics.
I'll finish with some of the MANY mosaics at Dallas Ft. Worth Airport. More than 20 artists participated in creating mosaics, and you see thumbnails of all the different works (very frustrating, though, because the pictures don't link to more information).

The Dallas-Ft Worth airport is also full of sculpture, glass and much more.

This particular 20-ft wide medallions in Terminal D shows cypress trees and snowy egrets, and is by artist Arthello Beck.

The "Concentric Orbs" are by Ted Kincaid, 22 feet across.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Duck Duck Goose

Warning: woman with camera and a book on birds.

I believe these are Chinese Geese. Both of them, the brownish and the white, match pictures I see. The White Chinese Goose I compare to pictures on Bird-Friends; the darker one I've seen on so many pages and in books.
Bird lovers, perhaps you can help?
These pictures were taken at Averill Park in San Pedro on November 3. There were hundreds of Mallard ducks and quite a few geese. I think they are Chinese Geese but would appreciate corrections.

As for ducks, the non-mallards have me confused. My handy-dandy National Geographic book on Birds of North American seems to have given ducks short shrift. I see no Poofy Ducks, which is how my friend and I referred to these black and white duckies with a big cotton-ball poof of feathers on their head.

They are also called Crested Ducks. Wikipedia says they are descended from Mallards.

They come in a caramel and white variety too, as you can see below. According to the 10,000Birds website, those could be Buff Orpington domestic duck.

Mallards, I read there, are dirty birds, cross breeding like crazy, which may explain some of the other ducks I saw. Like a mostly black duck with the emerald green head of a male Mallard. That's apparently a classic cross of Mallard and American Black Duck
.But Avian Web says that Crested Ducks come from South America, and they have a picture of  a duck that looks a lot like the one below.

November 23 update: please check out the comment from Doug Peterson, who identified the black duck at left as a Cayuga, and the ones at right as a Fawn & White Indian Runner, both crested and none, and the crested duck above with the Mallards as likely a Crested Ancona. His blog provides a lot more information on them! That blog is't know why it's not showing above.

This one is a Muscovy duck, I think.
When it comes to ducks, identification seems a lot fuzzier than identifying hawks or finches. I think it's because of those oversexed skanky Mallards, frankly.