Notes from Your City Historian
by Julie Lugo Cerra
PRIMARY RESEARCH IS INVALUABLE
Not only does Culver City enjoy a rich and varied history, but since the city is relatively young, we have had the advantage of learning from the city’s leadership first hand.
Primary research has also been possible through city records, the Society’s own files which include bound copies and microfilm of local newspapers, and, perhaps most meaningfully, access to documents and photos saved by wise and far-sighted families who share our history on a very personal basis.
BEBE PERALTA COWAN & MERALTA THEATRE MEMORIES
A particularly exciting recent “find” is our introduction to Bebe Peralta Cowan. Bebe is the niece of Laura Peralta, who, along with Pearl Merrill, established the Meralta Theatre. The Meralta continues to evoke many happy memories for those who grew up in the city.
Although we have some photos of the theatre, our information on its founders has been minimal until we started looking through some Culver City Woman’s Club scrapbooks. Laura Peralta served as CCWC president in the 1930s, and the newspaper coverage of her parties and activities is detailed.
Marc Wanamaker recently wrote an article on the Meralta Theatre in his “Reel Culver City” column for our newsletter, citing Peralta and Merrill’s fascinating and colorful vaudeville background.
Then, Jeanne Conklin, our CCHS Secretary, made a connection through a friend to Bebe’s daughter, Victoria. This led to a wonderful meeting with Bebe at our Archives, where we were given a CD full of photos and notes that Victoria had put together for us. Bebe’s recollections were taped by Steve Fry, who will also transcribe them as part of our oral histories project, which he has also volunteered to manage – thank you, Steve!
An added benefit is that Bebe also worked for the City Clerk in Culver City. Interestingly as well, she is related to the Saenz family. Sy Saenz owned the Boxing Arena that was located on the current site of Culver Center – adding information through another facet of our history.
This is just a teaser…..we will have a lot more to share soon!
On other fronts, my city historian work has included speaking to the folks over at Raintree on the history of their property (formerly, MGM’s Lot #3), YMCA Adults, and helping the City’s Engineering Department with research. And most recently, I met with a grad student from USC who is doing her thesis on some of the studios, the sale of their backlots, resulting land use issues and the Culver City/Hollywood rivalry . . . who has more fun?