A Great Loss… Our Sol and Martha Sigall

Sol and Martha SigallMartha Sigall passed away in December 2014, preceded by her Sol.

Martha Sigall, an energetic longtime Culver City resident began her career in animation in 1936 as an apprentice painter with Leon Schlesinger Productions, which was located at Warner Bros. on Sunset Boulevard. She took part in the development of characters like Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Tweety. Martha went from “journeyman painter” to “inker,” tracing cartoon characters. From 1943 to the end of WWII, she worked at Graphic Films as a camera assistant on U.S. Navy training films. She met Sol in 1944.

At the end of the war, they married and Martha worked locally at MGM in the Cartoon Unit on Overland Avenue, while Sol attended UCLA on the G.I. Bill. Martha continued inking cartoons like “Tom and Jerry” for Hanna-Barbera. Martha and Sol moved to Culver City in 1949 and Martha took a “hiatus” to raise their babies, then arranged to freelance from home while the boys were young. Bob and Lee attended Culver City Schools.

Living Life inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of AnimationMartha’s lifetime commitment to “the industry” included serving with Sol as docents in their retirement at Warner Bros. Martha received the prestigious “Annie Award” in 2004. She wrote her book, Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales From The Golden Age of Animation, and of course the Sigalls gave freely as Culver City Historical Society members, serving as co-chairs most recently of the Museum/Archives. Martha loved children, so contributing to the Farragut Elementary School Art Program was a joy for her. She and Sol spent days working to identify hundreds of movie photos for the society using production numbers. We know we were very lucky to enjoy Martha and Sol and benefit from their generosity. To remember Sol and Martha, we have the Sigalls’ Comcast interview scheduled to air in the Society Archives on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 1:30 PM.

See some videos of Martha talking about her animation career on our YouTube channel.

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Spring 2015 President’s Message

Dear Members,

Happy Spring! Your Historical Society volunteers have been making great use of the “cold” months. Sharon Shore and Mo de Koff have completed the gargantuan task of digitally cataloguing the collection’s costumes. One of Harry Culver’s grandsons, Chris Wilde, was a guest speaker at our January 18 open Sunday. We had a great crowd, who laughed at Chris’ stories and enjoyed the memorabilia he brought to share.

A few volunteers took up my call for help in the last newsletter issue and have been retyping articles from past newsletters, so that we continue to build our own history on our website. (Thanks to master typists Joan Jakubowski and Adrienne Bernardin! There’s still more to do, so email me if you would like to join the fun from the luxury of your home computer!) By the way, have you checked out the website recently? I think you should! We just completed a thorough section on our marked historic sites (including Google maps, so that you can find them), and moved the online store as part of our site.

I called the first meeting of a Centennial subcommittee to explore the ways we can, as the Historical Society, participate in this once-in-a-lifetime, year-long celebration. Many great ideas were brought up and there’s room for more. If you have any thoughts for events or projects that would be appropriate for us, please email me (michelle@culvercityhistoricalsociety.org).

Please note that the Archives will be closed on Easter Sunday, April 5, and will be open again on Sunday, April 19. Chris Wilde’s talk was only the beginning – check out the calendar on the back page for our next open Sunday guest speaker!

Thank you for your support of YOUR Historical Society! As you just read with Martha and Sol Sigall, and for countless others, it makes a difference!

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The Sorrento Market Story and the Story of Albert Vera

Albert Vera, JrAlbert Vera, Jr. will tell the story of his father, Albert Vera, the founder of the Sorrento Market, at the general meeting of the Culver City Historical Society, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room in the Veterans Memorial Building at 4117 Overland Avenue, Culver City. Albert Vera, an immigrant who came to America to pursue the American Dream created the famous market on Sepulveda Boulevard and the Vera Family holdings. He served time in the military, raised his family in Culver City and eventually became a member of the Culver City Council and Mayor of the city. Albert Jr. will present a power point presentation and discussion of the family’s history with other members of the Vera family. Door prizes will be offered and there will be a drawing for Julie Lugo Cerra’s cookbook Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble. The public is invited to enjoy this free program and students are encouraged to attend. Entry is through the Archives and Resource Center in the back parking lot.

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Spring 2015 Notes from From your City Historian

Notes from From your City Historian

by Julie Lugo Cerra

Culver City’s upcoming Centennial (2017) offers a little time to delve back into our city history. We are fortunate to have access to some incredible documents, ads, and family history on Harry H. Culver, our city founder. Culver, who was born in Milford, Nebraska in 1880, took a circuitous route to California in 1910. The Society regularly displays local memorabilia, including a book of Culver’s original ads dating back to 1913 and pages from the 1929 scrapbook of his active travels across the USA as president of the National Real Estate Association. These are amazing glimpses back into time!

Wallace Neff designed home for Harry Culver and family.
Culver’s study of the land pointed to the advantages of this chosen location, destined to become Culver City. He referred to it as “The Home City.” The early “Culverites” had housing choices, with work opportunities –an early Culver “economic development” tool. In the ad pictured, the home was actually a sketch of Culver’s first house for his little family- he and his wife, Lillian, and their daughter, Patricia. The house was originally built on Delmas Terrace, a street in Culver City’s downtown area, named for Delphin Delmas, one of Culver’s business associates.

Culver grandson, John Battle with his wife Tammie and children in front of the Delmas Terrace home that was moved to and remains in Cheviot Hills.A young architect, Wallace Neff, was Culver’s choice to design his Cheviot Hills mansion. Harry Culver had their Delmas Terrace home moved to the new location, to oversee the construction of their new 1928 residence. Neff convinced Culver to build a Spanish style home, which is featured in books on Neff. The young Neff, destined to become a famous architect, went on to design for many familiar names, like Darryl Zanuck, Harpo Marx, King Vidor, Groucho Marx……

Our historical society has amassed a wealth of Culver information from many sources, starting with Pat Culver Battle, the Culvers’ only child, through her two sons, John and Chris and grandson, Robert, who has become the family historian/genealogist. Please stop in to enjoy our remarkable collection.

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Culver City, Where Hollywood Movies Are Made!

Julie Lugo CerraNotes From Your City Historian
by Julie Lugo Cerra

Harry H. Culver’s interest in the emerging movie industry paved the way for Culver City to host three major movie studios, smaller studios and support services. Moviemaking offered a source of employment and generated a significant part of the revenue stream for a balanced community. Many families boasted at least one friend or relative who worked in the industry. The wide scope of occupations ranged from actors to artists, craftsmen, writers, directors, barbers, to drivers and…

MGM Colonnade - Culver City Historical SocietyThe landmark M.G.M colonnade in 1937. Note the signal to the right. One of these,
is on display at the Archives (donated by former Mayor Richard R. Brundo.)

From early times, productions like The Last of the Mohicans, Ben Hur and Gone with the Wind offered locals a bonus, like a box lunch and a little added income to act as “Extras!” Other locals collected autographs at studio gates. Gwen Verdon lived in Culver City, where her mother taught dance. (Her “merry widow” from the movie of that name is currently on display.) Before Culver High was built, Myrna Loy lived in Culver City and attended Venice High. She was a student when she posed for the famous statue in the front of the school. Culver City’s “Mayor Emeritus,” Dan Patacchia, was a limousine driver for the studios before he opened Culver Park Realty. Linda Gray, destined to play Sue Ellen on MGM’s “Dallas,” grew up in the area south of the studio where it was filmed. Most locals have family or friends who worked in the industry. Martha Sigall worked in animation, June Caldwell worked for studio bosses, and our Parrish family boasts generations of prop masters!

This vintage Chamber of Commerce button, donated by the Reese family, is rare evidence of the spirited rivalry between Culver City and Hollywood. (currently on display in the ARC.) - Culver City Historical SocietyAs the movie studios grew, so did the city economy. The industry flourished in spite of The Great Depression. Moviemaking was a source of local pride. The current Culver City seal was designed in 1936. It reads: “Culver City, The Heart of Screenland.”

By the 1930s, most movie credits showed “Made in Hollywood,” or nothing at all. The locals’ irritation at the lack of credit reached its high point. It was estimated at the time that 60% of California releases were made in Culver City. The business community reacted. The Citizen newspaper ran a contest to rename the city. “Filmville” and “Cinema City” were popular entries. “Culver City, where Hollywood Movies are made,” appeared on the stationery of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce in the 1930s! In 1937, as irritation peaked, a “Bury the Hatchet” ceremony was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Culver City people rode to the event in vehicles from “The Prisoner of Zenda.” The governor was invited, and local officials watched a hatchet thrust into wet concrete. It was not until 1991 that Culver City was mentioned regularly in any movie credits.

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