Los Angeles, 1940s
The historic district of downtown Los Angeles is in constant battle between new and old. Itís noisy. The streets are filled with people (yes, there are pedestrians in Los Angeles) and a massive flood of cars. Ahhh, city traffic.
With all of the distractions, itís easy to pass by the beautiful vintage buildings and hardly notice them: The Orpheum Theatre, Biltmore Hotel, Million Dollar Theatre. And modern commercialism hasnít made it any easier; the Bradbury Building, a stunning solid red brick building with tremendous wooden doors, houses a Sprint Store and a Subway sandwich shop.
When you look up, the sky is smattered with modern-day skyscrapers.
Grand Central Market on Hill St. is bustling, perfumed with the scent of spices, meat, guacamole, coffee, fish, Chinese food. Then, something sweet. Fruit. Lots of fresh fruit. (Just remember to bring cash. Most vendors do not except plastic.)
Directly across the street from Grand Central Market is Angels Flight. This, I wanted to experience!
Angels Flight is a funicular (a cross between a train and an elevator) nestled on Bunker Hill. Built in 1901, the cars were at the peak of operation in the 1940s, carrying passengers to downtown offices and shops. Although moved half a block, Angels Flight was recently put back into operation!
I stepped inside the cars. In the wood, the seats, the view, I sensed the presence of the 1940s. I felt the tracks under me as the train moved upward with slight jerks and unexpected bumps. I closed my eyes and imagined myself there in the 40s, an empowered woman, working toward my familyís security and prosperity. Determined. Understanding a place and time period is really about relating to its people, right? This quick ride is a glimpse into every day life of the people in 1940s Los Angeles.
Back on the street, I couldnít keep myself from thinking about LAís lifeline (then and now), the Cinema. How can you truly experience Los Angeles and not see a film? The streets are lined with these gorgeous, extravagant theatres called Movie Palaces. Sid Graumanís first theatre in Los Angeles is the Million Dollar. As I walked into the theatre, I was overwhelmed by its elegance and detail. The theatre is ornate and classy. In the 40s, this is how you watched a film: The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Cane, The Curse of the Cat People. Can you imagine anything more visceral than watching a B-horror flick surrounded by gargoyles? This is escapism at its best!
Of course, you canít possibly get a full feel for the 40s without a healthy dose of celebration and indulgence!! This is a decade of extremes, remember? When World War II ended, Los Angeles knew how to party it up Ė and I did not want to miss this experience.
I decided to explore First & Hope Supper Club. All night entertainment. Cocktail hour, indulgent fried food, live music, foreign cocktails (like tiki) and European wine, that were kindly brought back to the U.S. by servicemen with good taste!
First & Hope is a terrific replica of a 1940s Supper Club that specializes in cocktails from the time period. One visit to this classy spot and you begin to understand how people of this generation would party hard while still managing to look elegant.
In downtown Los Angeles there are enduring pockets of history Ė architecture, traditions, style Ė that have been pushed into the 21st century. Yet, somehow, they remain intact. Ya just have to find them!
(Angels Flight historic photo reprinted with the permission of Los Angeles Angels Flight by Jim Dawson. Theatre District historic photo reprinted with the permission of Theatres in Los Angeles by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck, and Marc Wanamaker. Available from www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665)