A vanished city lives again...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Where Mother was: Then & Now

In this old post, I told the story of my mother having had her picture taken by a street photographer somewhere in downtown Los Angeles in 1936, when she was a 19-year-old secretary for the Huntington Land Company. Some time later, I finally identified the location of the picture as having been the 900 block of South Broadway. Here's a nice clear photo of the locale in 1939.

USC Digital Library-Dick Whittington Photography Collection.

Anyway, thereafter, I decided that if I ever went back to Los Angeles, I would like to visit the place where my mother was photographed, 73 years ago. And three Wednesdays ago, during my recent L.A. vacation, I did just that.

Here's the exact spot, then and now.

J Scott Shannon.

Remarkably, relatively little in the background has changed in the intervening seven decades. The two principal buildings visible in the old photograph are still there – the 9th and Broadway Building (1929), and the L.L. Burns Building (1914); the latter is the one with the "Kelly's" ad painted on its side. (No ads today – this section of Broadway is not in any way the commercial hotspot it used to be.) The lampposts are noticeably different in height and style, but the bases themselves are apparently the same ones as when Mother was there.

Photo by J Scott Shannon.

And where was Mom walking to that day in October, 1936? Probably to a trolley stop at the intersection of South Broadway and Olympic Blvd., which is only a few feet in back of where the 1936 photographer was standing.

Heh, it's funny, when I was there last week, I tried to show Mom's picture to several passers-by, but nobody could be bothered. Admittedly, if I were walking on South Broadway and some stranger asked if I'd like to see a picture of his mother, I'd probably avoid the guy, too. ;-)



Gregg said...

Fantastic account. I love reading about Los Angeles history, and "before and after" photos are always a plus. But rarely does the writer have such a personal connection to the location. Nicely done.

SaraLime said...

Love your blog, love that you found the spot your mother was so long ago

Anonymous said...

Great picture! Thanks!

(And your mom was a pretty young lady. ;) )

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful photo that is of your mom---and what a tribute it was to her for her son to walk where she did so long ago! I'm a L.A. history fan too and I thank you for sharing this.
Rich (In 1979 I lived behind the Hungry Tiger restaurant in W. Covina)

Anonymous said...

I love then and now pictures and to have a photo of your mom at the same spot 75 years ago must be special. I ran into this website through a friend and even though I have never been in L.A. proper I feel from all the movies and T.V. shows I've seen over the years I have a real interest in these historical photographs. In 2009 I went through L.A. via I-10 and the 101 on the way to visit my son in Thousand Oaks. I live on the west coast of Florida since 1972 and originally I'am from the Philadelphia area. Thanks for sharing this site. Jim.

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