Life in Los Angeles in the 1930s
Above photo: Downtown Los Angeles in 1930.
The corner of Temple and Broadway, circa 1930.
Howe’s “At the Sign of the Indian” Complete Motor Service, located at 7456 Melrose Avenue, circa 1930. Proprietor: Leon D. Howe. (Photo: LAPL 00057621)
The Umbrella Service Station, General Petroleum Gas, circa 1930, once located at 830 South La Brea in Inglewood. By 1946, the gas station was gone and a retail strip center was built on the site.
A Standard Oil Station located on the corner of Beverly and La Brea. The photo is undated, but possibly from the late 1920s to early 1930s since Pope and Burton Architects didn’t open their Los Angeles office until 1927.
The seventeenth annual Los Angeles Automobile Show held inside the Shrine Auditorium’s Expo Hall in February 1930. (Photographer: Art Streib / LAPL 00105791)
The Toonerville Trolley Sandwich Shop once located at 1635 W. Manchester Avenue. Out signs advertise tamales, chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, sodas, a sandwich special, and free coffee.
Dean Cornell (far left), and an assistant working on a mural for the Los Angeles Public Library from his Kensington Studio in London, circa 1930. Note the model with the basket on his head.
USC’s “Tommy Trojan” statue, created by Roger N. Burnham, nearing completion in 1930. The iconic statue was completed at a cost of $10,000.
The Los Angeles Times’ Hoe Super Production press consisting of 18 units in a line, which allowed for a new style of color printing in their daily newspapers. These machines were designed to print over 200,000 32-page newspapers in one hour. Postcard circa 1930.
The Great (Josef) Satani, was a nineteen(ish) year-old member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, who performed at the Los Angeles Coliseum on April 30, 1930. According to the Los Angeles Public Library, he was there to expose how these tricks were done. Satani came from Converse, Indiana, and was a popular entertainer with Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, Rotarians, etc.
In this photo, he poses with film star Raquel Torres, left, and Frances Lee, right, as he reveals the ol’ write-a-secret-question-down-on-a-piece-of-paper-and-I’ll- tear-up-the-piece-of-paper-before-I-answer-the-question- with-the-crystal-ball trick.
How was it done? Bait-and-switch on the pieces of paper.
Satani also demonstrated how to levitate a table. The trick had to do with a special button that released a latch on the tabletop that allowed a finger ring to hook onto it as the two arrows demonstrate.
He then convinced the innocent participant that their psychic energy was responsible for harnessing the paranormal to lift the table.
Helping him was Frances Lee, who participated in Satani’s act at the L.A. Coliseum on April 30, 1930.
Lastly, Satani demonstrates how to lift a table. Left to right: Ned Connor; Thomas Barker, Deputy Labor Commissioner; Doc Joseph Jasin; B. Wayne De Hart, Deputy Reality Commissioner; Joseph Taylor, Chief of L.A. Detectives; and Dt. Lt. Swan. Photo dated: April 30, 1930.
Mines Field (later the site of LAX) in 1930 during its dedication ceremony.
A scenic view of Topanga Canyon from around 1930.
Dancers at Laguna Beach in Orange County, circa 1930.
Cooking school in Monrovia, circa 1930. (Huntington Library)
A 1930 billboard somewhere in Los Angeles. (LAPL 00104476)
The Los Angeles City Hall in 1931. The landmark, designed by John Parkinson, John C. Austin, and Albert C. Martin, Sr., opened in 1928.
Adolph Hamer’s grocery store at 4311 S. Figueroa Street in 1931. That’s probably him standing in front.
A zany publicity stunt from 1931. A Goodyear blimp named the “Volunteer” hovers above the Evening Herald building, located at 1111 South Broadway, to pick up a bundle of newspapers for a special delivery at city hall. (LAPL)
In November of 1931, the Florida ‘Gators came to Los Angeles to play the UCLA Bruins at the Los Angeles Colosseum on Thanksgiving Day. The Bruins blanked the Gators 13-0.
Snow on the grounds of UCLA’s Royce Hall on January 15, 1932.
Sunset Blvd. and Laurel Canyon, circa 1932. Photographer: Harold A. Parker. [Huntington Library Archive]
The McDonnell’s Ever Eat Restaurant at 301 N. La Brea Blvd. Not sure what the year is, but it would have to be after 1932 in order for it to be at that location. (California State Library)
The Garden of Allah Apartments at 8080 Sunset Blvd., circa 1930s. (LAPL)
Members of LAPD Captain Hynes’ “Red” squad throwing a woman in the back of a car during an attempted political meeting at the Plaza on June 28, 1932. William Foster, the Communist political candidate for U.S. President at the time, had legally tried to get a permit to speak at the Plaza but had been denied. Frustrated by the lack of cooperation, he announced that he would be there at noon. The picture tells the rest of the story. (LAPL: 00039797)
Two photos of Wilshire and Western, circa 1933.
Westwood Blvd. near Kinross in 1932. (LAPL 00104402)
The Griffith Observatory under construction in 1933. If you look closely, you can see a man sitting on one of the steel girders. (LAPL 00063956)
According to the USC Digitial Archive, this dwelling on Juan Street in old Chinatown was allegedly haunted in 1933. Note the “For Rent” sign next to the door.
Before “Black Friday,” there were annual Dollar Day sales in the major downtown department stores. These photos were taken on “Dollar Day,” September 1, 1933.
Afton Place (between Fountain and Sunset), circa January 1934.
A window display at the Mullen and Bluett Clothing Store, located inside the Walter P. Story Building (610 S. Broadway), circa 1934. (California State Library)
From Olvera Street, circa 1934.
A 1934 view of the old Temple Auditorium’s box seats. (LAPL 00032526)
To read more, click here: https://sites.google.com/
The auditorium was used for theatrical productions, as well as Sunday morning church service. The venue later became the Philharmonic Auditorium before it was demolished in 1985.
Oil field workers for Lane-Wells, based in Vernon, pose for a photo in 1934.
A film crew shooting the horse races at Santa Anita Park in 1935. (LAPL 00081704)
California’s White Cane Law unofficially launched in 1931 when the Braille Institute began dispersing free white canes with red tips to legally blind people. When motorists saw these canes, they were supposed to yield the right-of-way. Visually impaired pedestrians could then safely cross streets and thoroughfares.
While a few California cities recognized the right-of-way policy, many state politicians questioned the effectiveness of the white canes. Hoping to win political support, Frank Look, the Institute’s blind public relations director, demonstrated the cane’s effectiveness in front of politicians. These demonstrations took place in Oakland and Sacramento in 1933.
As a result, the California State Legislature passed the White Cane Law, which went into effect on April 30, 1935.
The Pan-Pacific Auditorium at 7600 West Beverly Boulevard. It opened in 1935 but was destroyed by fire in 1989.
Griffith Observatory after it was completed in 1935.
Photographer Herman J. Schultheis snaps a photo of his wife Ethel on the opening day of the Griffith Observatory, May 14, 1935. (Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis / LAPL 00068738)
Part of a fashion show at Bullock’s Wilshire around 1935. (LAPL)
Tennis anyone? Models working at a 1935 fashion show at Bullock’s Wilshire pose for a gag photo. (LAPL 00073183)
Photo is dated Oct. 19, 1935, with a caption that reads: “Celebrating the completion of a modern highway over one of Los Angeles’ oldest trails, Sepulveda highway will be dedicated Sunday with gay fiesta where the highway joins with Sunset boulevard. Angeline Pagones is shown with her horse on the bridle path inspecting the new roadway. The highway follows a trail used ceturies [sic] ago by the Indians on their way to the sea.”
A peaceful day at Hollenbeck Park (415 S St Louis Street) in the 1930s.
A point-of-view shot from an automobile traveling south along the Teddy Roosevelt Highway in the area of current-day Point Mugu Naval Base.
The wreck of the “Lady Luck” at Rocky Point sometime in the 1930s. Rocky Point is a part of Redondo Beach. (UCLA)
USC’s Mudd Hall in the 1930s.
A vintage postcard of the downtown Bullock’s department store building, probably dating back to the mid to late 1930s.
It seems as though every Woolworth’s store in America had “The world’s longest lunch counter.” This is true in Delaware, Colorado, Minnesota, Texas…and California! The list goes on. Here is a postcard of the Los Angeles store at 431 South Broadway, circa 1935.
The Eastern Columbia Building at 849 S. Broadway, c. 1930s.
A fortune teller stands outside of her place of business at the La Casa Santa Cruz adobe, once located at 728 N. Broadway. The building was an old throwback to Sonora Town and was formerly owned by Ysabel Santa Cruz, who had purchased it from Benito Valle in 1864. The photo was taken in 1936. (LAPL: 00067652)
Members of El Teatro Mexico in 1936, hanging out in the Childs Grand Opera House’s green room, where Sarah Bernhardt once waited to go on stage in 1891.
The photo was taken on April 8, three days after the 1884 theater building closed. Once located at 110 S. Main St., it was quickly torn down to make a parking lot. (LAPL 00036861)
The prop room of the Childs Grand Opera House in April of 1936. The items belonged to its last tenants, the El Teatro Mexico. (LAPL 00036860)
An art deco-dressed woman (L. Taylor) at Santa Anita Park in 1936.
The racetrack was the brainchild of Hollywood producer Hal Roach and Dr. Charles Strub, a San Francisco dentist, who formed the Los Angeles Turf Club in 1933 in order to raise money for the track. Santa Anita Park, designed by Gordon B. Kaufman, opened on Tuesday, December 25, 1934. The opening day’s attendance was 30,077 visitors. The admission price was .15 cents.
“Open Air Fish Market” at Newport Beach, 1930s.
A 1936 custom-made, three-wheel car for Arrowhead Spring Water. Photographer: J.H. McCrory. Photo: L.A. Times.
The photo can be found here: http://framework.latimes.com/…/06/11/arrowhead-teardrop-car/
More info can be found here: http://www.hemmings.com/…/sto…/2012/03/01/hmn_feature28.html
Two salesmen for Halsco Land Yacht (3587 Beverly Boulevard) demonstrate the efficiency and comfort of one of its 1936 travel trailers. (Photographer: Art Streib / LAPL 00044861)
Western Avenue traveling southwest as it approaches 73rd street. Photo date: 1936. (LAPL 00104404)
From the Los Angeles Times article “City to Blaze Tonight in Vast Light Festival,” dated October 9, 1936:
Like a streak of lightning – flashing 260 miles across mountains, deserts, and farmlands – power from Hoover Dam will be brought to Los Angeles at 7:36 p.m. today, flooding the downtown section with illumination vieing [sic.] that of the sun and opening a celebration which is expected to draw thousands of persons into the business district.
Shining with a radiance equal to that of 7,200,000,000 candles, the downtown area will be bathed in the greatest illumination that has ever been flooded over a city since history began, according to electrical and illuminating engineers who have been preparing for the celebration for several months.
Crossing Spring Street in 1937.
(Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis/ LAPL)
Pedestrian traffic on Seventh Street at Hill in 1937. Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis / LAPL 00097819
A four-door 1937 Studebaker is parked in front of a women’s clothing store somewhere in Los Angeles.
Two icons of Los Angeles: the Brown Derby Restaurant on Wilshire and the Ambassador Hotel across the street. From 1937. Both a memory.
An elephant with the Clyde Beatty Circus gets a wash from Teddy Metcalfe near the intersection of Grand and Wilshire, circa May of 1937. (LAPL)
Outside the (lost) Banner Theatre at 458 S. Main Street in June of 1937.
(Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis/ LAPL)
Alameda Street in Old Chinatown, c. 1937. Photographer: Herman Schultheis. (LAPL 00097498)
The intersection of Marchessault Street (now part of Sunset Blvd) and Los Angeles Street (right).
Westwood Village, circa 1937.
A great vintage photo of Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, circa 1937.
A carnival barker for the Dreamland Circus Side Show entertains a crowd of people attending the 1937 Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. (Photographer:Herman J. Schultheis / LAPL 00097289)
A sideshow carnival performer with the Parisian Follies dancers at the 1937 Los Angeles County Fair. (Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis/LAPL) Bizarre Los Angeles.
“Oil Island” was located on La Cienega Blvd., between Beverly and 3rd Street. The wooden derrick was originally constructed in 1907 in the middle of a bean field. When the city extended La Cienega to Sunset Blvd., there was a dispute over the cost of the well, so the city built around it. In 1946, an agreement was struck and the well was dismantled.
The Mona Lisa Restaurant was once located at 3343 Wilshire Blvd., east of the Gaylord Apartments and across the street from the Ambassador Hotel bungalows. The photo was taken in 1937. (LAPL 00008603)
Santa Monica Blvd. (between N. Doheny and Robertson) in 1937.
In late November of 1937, a mountain near the Figueroa Tunnels in Elysian Park collapsed, knocking down power lines and sending boulders crashing down a hillside onto Riverside Drive and into the Los Angeles River bed. The noise and sight of falling boulders created quite a spectacle over several days. So much so that one Angeleno mounted a telescope on his car so that people could witness the mountain’s collapse from a safe distance. Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis.
A wet day in January 1938. The photo was taken on the 800 block of Hill Street. Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis / LAPL 00100752
The intersection of Eighth and Hill in January 1938. The RKO Hillstreet Theatre (since demolished) is in the background. Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis/ 00100753)
The Los Feliz Boulevard Bridge from Riverside Drive looking northeast shortly after half of it was destroyed by Los Angeles River floodwaters in 1938. The Police Officer, left, is unknown. The man on the right is Van Griffith, son of Col Griffith J. Griffith, who gave Griffith Park to Los Angeles.
A slum in L.A., circa 1938. The address appears to be 311 N. Mission Road. The small room with the open door is a shoe repair shop. (UCLA)
The Vista Theatre at 4473 Sunset Drive, c. 1938. Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis / LAPL 00102309)
The intersection of Whittier Boulevard and Soto Avenue (in Boyle Heights) facing southwest. The photo was taken in 1938. (LAPL: 00104448)
Vermont Avenue facing southeast. The cross street is Wilshire Blvd. Date: 1938. (LAPL: 00104333)
The Cafe Trocadero (8610 Sunset Blvd.) in 1938. (LAPL 00045344)
June 8, 1938. Hula dancers perform inside the Los Angeles City Council Chamber accompanied by a ukulele and guitar orchestra. (LAPL)
September 7, 1938. Jitterbugging juveniles disrupt the L.A. City Council to promote the American Legion’s “Jitterbug” contest at Gilmore Stadium.
A billboard in a section of Old Chinatown, circa 1938. (University of California)
A 1938 fire engine parked in front of the LAFD Fire Station No. 50, circa 1948. The station was once located at 1524 Winfield Place.
Broadway between 4th and 5th streets in 1938.
A dance hall that once existed at 245 South Vermont Avenue from 1925 to 1939.
It was originally named El Patio. By the time this 1938 photo was taken, however, it was called the Palomar Ballroom. The following year, a fire destroyed the building.
(Photographer: Herman J. Schultheis / LAPL 00100741)
The Los Angeles Police Motor Patrol in 1938.
Ice skating at the Tropical Ice Gardens at Westwood Village in 1938 (the year that it opened). The outdoor rink was once located on the southwest corner of Gayley and Weyburn Avenues.
The Los Angeles Auto Show at the Pan-Am Pacific Auditorium in November 1938. (LAPL 00105773)
“Fandangos and salami were offered cheek by jowl at the opening of Rancho Pico, a super-market in Los Angeles. Super-markets, fearing that their customers have become too jaded to be attracted by conventional searchlight displays, now put on floor shows with their weekend sales. The Otto K. Olesen Illuminating Co., which supplies the searchlights, also produces the floor shows.” — LIFE Magazine, November 1938.
Ernie’s 5¢ Café, once located at 806 E. 5th Street, circa 1939. (Photographer: Burton O. Burt/ LAPL 00068906)
Before the Las Floristas Headdress Ball took on its present name, the social event was called the Bal de Tete, started by the Junior Flower Guild. Here is the second annual Bal de Tete, which took place in late April 1939 at the Victor Hugo, a trendy Beverly Hills restaurant once located at (or near) 235 N. Beverly Drive. Notice how small the headdresses were back then? (LAPL 00044842)
The second floor of the I. Magnin store in 1939. Its address was 3240 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90012
The intersection of Vermont Avenue and 3rd Street, facing north in June of 1939. LAPL: 00104345.
Flower Street, south of 8th, circa 1939. (LAPL 00104226)
Dancers do the jitterbug at City Hall’s portico in 1939. It was a publicity stunt to get Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron to attend the International Jitterbug Championship at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (LAPL)
Looking north on Hill Street from 5th in 1939. (Photographer: Dick Whittington / USC Digital Archive)
Dorothea Lange’s famous photograph of two men walking to Los Angeles during the Great Depression, circa 1939.
The interior of a Los Angeles Pacific Electric Streetcar in December 1939. LAPL
I’m researching a novel set in LA in 1936 and this site has been invaluable (and will be duly credited). Thank you so much!
You are welcome. That’s part of the reason why I created this website: to inspire and provide resources to writers, artists, actors, filmmakers, etc. As a writer and photographer, I felt that there was a need for a website like this.
Brilliant! And important! Many thanks for your efforts!
Researching a TV show and I second the above! Thank you!
So much fun and to pair it with ancestry findings really puts you where they were in the actual time period. Lots of fun. Do you an equivalent for the San Fernando Valley? I have lived in Northridge for the past 30 years and my neighborhood is now known as Sherwood Forest. I believe it to be the first addresses of Northridge near the corner of Louise and Rayen.
I hope to one day soon take some of the photos from other Los Angeles history posts to create a San Fernando Valley page. Also Glendale, Beverly Hills, etc. But definitely the Valley since it has a different look and feel from Los Angeles proper. — Craig
Am researching my ancestors, one of who rented a room at a Continental Hotel, at 802 E. 7th. St. around 1935-1940. He was employed at a business, (still here), called Germain Seed & Plant, which I found history on. I imagine the hotel was torn down, but do you know any info. on it? In 1942 he was stationed at Fort Macarthur in San Pedro. Thanks much for any help you can pass my way. Rita
Jaw-dropping. Many, many thanks! I’m contemplating writing a novel with this setting. Seeing what the city was really like is a value beyond price.
No mention of the rampant depression?
Your depressing comment is quite sufficient, Ms. Marcus.
I loved the pictures that depict the wonderful era. I notice I felt a little sad looking at these pictures because they depict a better era then the one we are in. These times/life looked so much simpler back then and safer, people dressed dapper and probably walked everywhere and that kept them in good physical shape. Nonetheless loved the pictures, thank you so much!!!