Revisiting “Dream Street”

It was my great pleasure to meet the legendary director George Sidney just before the turn of the millennium, while I was program director for the American Cinematheque. I was concurrently the newsletter editor of our Society newsletter, Culver Historical Highlights. George was kind enough to write a piece for the Winter 2000 newsletter, entitled “Dream Street,” his homage to Washington Boulevard. In my view, this was his love letter to the film history of Culver City. Enjoy these excerpts and visit our website for his entire article.

George Sidney’s cover letter, submitting his “Dream Street” article for Winter 2000 Society newsletter. (Judy Stangler)

Everyone has a favorite street—Broadway, Bond Street, Canal Street, Rue de la Paix, State Street, Via Veneto, even the Yellow Brick Road. I first saw mine and walked on my “dream street” in 1930: Washington Boulevard in Culver City.

My footprints shared the path with the entertainment greats—factual, historical and fictional who worked at the studios of the reel cinema world which were created and built along its curbs, such as Triangle, MGM, RKO, Pathé, and Desilu.

From Ince, DeMille, Mayer, Roach, and Selznick came forth a mecca of creativity which encouraged the talents of Thalberg, Freed, Stromberg, Welles, Ford, Stevens, Capra, and Flemming, as well as Minnelli, Lubitsch, Wilder, Leonard, Frankenheimer, and Spielberg, among so many others.

My footsteps echoed alongside those of the Munchkins, Garbo and Lassie, Trader Horne and Lena Horne, Clark Gable and Captains Courageous, Lawrence Tibbet and Elvis (along with Frank and Bing), Astaire and Kelly, and the Nicholas Brothers.

I watched Mickey and Judy grow up; Our Gang remaining kids forever; Tom and Jerry wreaking havoc. I experienced the burning of Atlanta and Gone with the Wind, the San Francisco earthquake, locusts and The Good Earth, and Singin’ in the Rain.

I strutted along with all of these stars and celluloid giants who paved the way for those who will continue to matriculate on this street for the entertainment of 2000 and beyond. It all happens on my “dream street” in Culver City.

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Spring 2019 Message

Hope ParrishWith so much rain, we are guaranteed a beautiful Spring!

When I joined the Culver City Historical Society in 2008, I had no idea that I would be as involved as I have become. I needed a little something to do while I was recovering from back surgery. I was given some fun tasks to research, which started my curiosity about our town. Hours were spent in our volumes of printed newspapers, dating from 1920-mid 1930’s, reading about the stars, the studio executives – not just MGM, but all the studios in Culver City – even scandals of the day! As a person who loves history, especially ours, it was very exciting for me to read and absorb what Harry Culver and our forefathers did to bring us homes, schools, jobs, and community services.

In the Archives, we also have volumes of newspapers on microfilm, which until now could not be accessed without the proper equipment. With a very generous donation from Society members and current Vice-Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells and Karim Sahli, we now have a state-of-the-art microfilm machine (see photo below). Our microfilm rolls start in the 1940’s and continue to the 1980’s. I can’t wait to discover the history in them!

As Culver City continues its growth, I am also thrilled with the many opportunities to meet and help our local neighbors and students on our open Sundays. They come to the ARC looking for information for their various projects. We will now be able to help access more information, so this is exciting!

Our docents are in the process of digitizing these rolls. If you would like to get in on the fun and get involved with this and other projects at your Culver City Historical Society, please contact us at info@culvercityhistoricalsociety.org.

We can’t do this without you!

Hope

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April 17 General Meeting and Program

From Barney Fife to Beats: Culver City’s 40 Acres Backlot

From 1927-1976, the backlot known as 40 Acres played host to Tarzan, Superman, Rhett Butler, King Kong, Captain Kirk, Batman, and Gomer Pyle. It was roughly bordered by Higuera to the north, Lucerne to the west, and Ballona Creek and Jefferson to the south and east, and though it may have been as large as 42 acres at first, it eventually became more like 29 acres due to the construction of Jefferson Boulevard, and flooding from Ballona Creek before it was paved over.

At various times, the 40 Acres Backlot was owned by Cecil B. DeMille, David O. Selznick, Howard Hughes, Desi Arnaz, and Lucille Ball. It had areas known as the African Jungle Set, Mayberry, the Arab Village, Stalag 13, and Tara, and buildings known as “Ship Deck,” “Submarine Enclosure,” “Adobe Indian Hut,” and “Meat House.”

Today, the area that included and surrounds what was 40 Acres has become known for architectural marvels by Eric Owen Moss, offices that are home to companies like Apple’s Beats by Dre and restaurant Vespertine.

Authors and historians Marc Wanamaker and Steven Bingen will give a presentation based on their book Hollywood’s Lost Backlot: 40 Acres of Glamour and Mystery. There will be copies of the book for sale, and the authors will hold a book signing after the program.

The public is invited to this free program at 7pm on Wednesday, April 17. The entrance to the ARC is from the back parking lot.

 

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An Unexpected Culver History Lesson, Part 3

I could write thousands of words of what I learned about Harry Culver and his family on my two recent trips to Nebraska over the last eight months.

Harry Culver home in Omaha, NE. (Hope Parrish)

It all came into focus when I learned that Harry moved to Omaha in 1908. He became the manager for real estate developer George P. Bemis. Harry purchased a home in the Bemis development at 3401 Hawthorne adjacent to the Bemis Park. I drove through that neighborhood and found his home beautifully located up on a hill just north of downtown (see photo).

The following year, Harry decided he should go into business for himself and opened his own brokerage office in Omaha’s National Bank Building. He sold large parcels of farm land, offering exchanges of property with merit. “We make a specialty of exchanging Property.”

When Harry arrived in California, as many know, he worked with Isaac Newton Van Nuys, developing the valley. In my opinion, what he learned from Van Nuys, Bemis, his father, and others provided him the tools that he needed to take on this task of developing his own city.

Not stopping there, he became president of the National Association of Realtors, flying around the country, giving hundreds of speeches each year. When I was in Nebraska, I felt a familiar sense of home. One telling sign, it occurred to me that no matter the size of the town I visited, there was a park in each neighborhood. I have read that one of the requirements Harry Culver instilled in his developers was that they should have a park in their neighborhood plan. Coincidence? Culver City has ten parks and five elementary schools that give our children and families a place to gather, learn, and enjoy.

Is this why our town is so unique? Could it be why many say Culver City is a “model city”? Harry H. Culver gave to my family and many others a beautiful city with jobs, homes, and community. Thank you, Harry Culver, for your vision, passion, and service to the world.

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Winter 2019 Message

Hope ParrishHappy New Year, Members and Friends!

As we welcome in 2019, I would like to say that it has been my pleasure to be the Society’s President. My first year was busy and exciting. We discovered some wonderful items in the ARC, and some incredible items were donated to us this year. We closed the ARC in June, which allowed us time and space to change up the displays and present you with something new. In October, we brought back our Sunday Conversations with a guest speaker, archaeologist Robyn Turner. Her conversations about local archaeological digs are always interesting!

Ryan did a great job with the programs this year—they were fun, interesting, and loaded with Culver City history. I cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the coming year!

A special highlight from this fall was collaborating with the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum and the Wende Museum to present us all as the Culver City Cultural Corridor. This was our first time opening all three spaces for a crossover event. Our hope is to hold more events on the weekends, to include more of the public.

I have said before that it takes a village, which grows each day due to the generosity of our members, our donors, and the creative ideas and dedication of our volunteers including Jeanne, Tami, Judy, Michelle, Fred, Ryan, Tito, Denice, Sharon, Denise, Art, Ellen, Julie, Dennis, Margie, Michael, Annie, Nick, Stephen, and Julio.

We can’t do this without you!

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