Recent Acquisitions – Fall 2020

We have recently grown the Historical Society’s collection thanks to our amazing community of friends and members.

Last year, The Culver Studios and Hackman Capital Partners began conversations with the Society to discuss the future of four cinematic historic windows that had been hidden away for 80 years at The Culver Studios. One was from Gone with the Wind (1939), which can be seen in the final scene after Rhett has left Scarlett and she climbs the massive staircase. The other three are from The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), directed by Orson Wells. 

It became evident during preliminary discussions with Steve Auer, VP of Operations for The Culver Studios, that the remodeling of the lot was prompting the urgency to find a home for all four windows. With the help of Society member Karim Sahli, we got to work figuring out a pressing challenge: If we got these massive set pieces, where would we store them, and how would we move them? While working through several scenarios, I received another call informing me that The Culver Studios and Hackman Capital Partners decided to restore the Gone with the Wind window and the two largest windows from the Ambersons and put them up for display on the lot. Historic preservation is alive and well in Culver City! 

Steve then informed me that Hackman Capital wanted to gift our Historical Society the smaller of the Ambersons windows. Because our storage space is at a premium, there was some relief with their decision. After board approval and an introduction from past president Louise Coffey-Webb, we engaged the services of Elizabeth Patt of Patt Conservation to begin the preservation process. With restoration complete, we plan to install it in the Archives and Resource Center over the holidays and cannot wait to reopen for everyone to see.

If you lived on Fairbanks in the Lindbergh Park neighborhood, you might remember Woody and Martha Tolkien. Woody worked in Hollywood as a character actor, seen in hundreds of films. Their son, Eric, reached out to donate some wonderful pieces of Culver City history! We are excited to now have Culver Junior High yearbooks from 1955-57, a sign from MGM Studios, and a trolley stop sign. The Tolkiens were also longtime friends of another Fairbanks resident, Fred Parrish. (No relation to yours truly). Fred was a motion picture still photographer, and Eric donated many items of Fred’s that were used in his craft, and many photos that were part of Fred’s collection. Thank you, Eric!

Some time back a fellow Property Master, Tim Wiles, saw me at a prop house and said, “I have something for you…” While working on Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula on the Sony lot in 1991, he noticed a high stack of original seats from the original MGM theater on the main lot, the Cary Grant Theater, ready to be hauled away from outside of Stage 20. After asking if he could have a set of seats, they took up residence in his living room for a couple years, and then found their way to his storage unit where they sat for the next 20 years. When Tim heard about my connection with the Culver City Historical Society, he knew where the seats needed to go next. I called Chuck Eskridge, Hollywood stand-by painter and generational resident of Culver City, to ask if the seats could be restored to their original luster so we could display them in the ARC—which he did beautifully! We look forward to inviting you back to the archives to sit for a spell. Thank you, Tim and Chuck!

Laura (Ackerman) Shaw, Culver City High School 1977 graduate and childhood resident of the Lindbergh Park neighborhood, came across fan mail for Red Skelton while going through her mother’s possessions. Laura shared with us that her mother worked for Mr. Skelton and has donated 50-plus pieces of fan mail addressed to Mr. Skelton to the Society! Some of the letters were addressed to MGM Studios, but the majority were to his office in the Culver Hotel. Laura also donated a beautiful haberdashery display case that was her mother’s. Our VP of Museum and Archives, Tami Eskridge, cannot wait to add these items for display. Thank you to Laura and the Ackerman Family!

As a cinematographer, Mark Morris, Historical Society Media Archives Chair, has documented many people and filmed lots events of our local history. Mark has done a yeoman’s job digitizing these videos, building up our YouTube channel with videos featuring Red Skelton, Fred Machado, the Helms 1995 reunion, and our Sister Cities Kaizuka Project. Mark has also begun a new project for the Society, generously pairing his cinematic talents with interviewing local residents who have stories to share. If you have or know someone with a great story of our city’s history that could be lost, please email us. Collections are not built just with actual items, but also by documenting and continuing to build our oral histories.

Lastly (for now!), did you attend our program on Hollywood backdrops last year, which included four backings that the Society was gifted? (If you missed it, it can be viewed on our YouTube channel.) Following the program, we were contacted by Thomas Walsh of the Art Directors Guild, offering us a few more backdrops. Ever resourceful and always with a great idea, Mark reached out to our landlords at Veterans Memorial Building and Heather Moses, CCUSD Arts Coordinator, to inquire whether these backdrops might be of interest to the city’s public spaces. While these are ongoing discussions, it highlights that we at the Society continue to get creative in making room for all these wonderful pieces of Culver City history. If we can help find good homes for some pieces that will be cared for and used for education, we are happy to share the wealth!

Fall 2020 Message

Dear Members and Friends,

Hope ParrishIt’s hard to believe that nine months have gone by since your Historical Society’s Archives and Resource Center (ARC) was last open to the public. We miss you! While Culver City (and Los Angeles County) slowly moves into next phases of reopening, Veterans Memorial Building remains closed to the public.

While we do not believe that we will permitted to reopen before the New Year, we felt it was time to share updates of the goings-on with your Society because we have found safe ways to stay busy in quarantine! The board continues to meet each month via Zoom. Since our January installation of the board, Mara (Sherman) Bommarito, long-time Culver City resident and CC High School 1976 graduate, has joined as secretary. Welcome, Mara!

Dennis Parrish, VP of Programs (and my dad), had been working on the programs for the 2020 General Meetings when the pandemic put a halt in plans to host these presentations to the public in-person. Unfortunately, Dennis will be stepping down at the end of 2020. He has created so many programs over the years, which we know many of you have attended and enjoyed. This position is essential to the Society, highlighting local history and its residents. If you love research and are interested in Culver City’s history, this might be for you. Drop us an email and let’s chat!

The pandemic has forced us to reassess how we reach our members and friends, including how we deliver our programs, the print newsletter, and these email blasts. We continue to discuss steps to adjust and evolve, including moving to a digital newsletter. Printed newsletters will not go away entirely, but maybe mailed on an annual basis. If you have strong feelings on this, please email us. We want to hear from you!

In our Spring newsletter we announced plans to moderately increase membership dues in 2021. Because we have all felt the effects of the pandemic in our own personal ways, the Board felt that this was not the time raise dues, and so will continue at the same rates through 2021. If you are able, we encourage and appreciate you joining or renewing your membership online, and you can also help by shopping our online store. (We have great holiday gifts!) We can’t do this without you.

As we continue to grow our collection through generous donations, our volunteers have continued to carefully enter them into our database. With so many wonderful new items I wrote an article for our website with fun photos. We continue to plan for an ARC reopening as soon as it is safe to do so, and we cannot wait to welcome you back! If you have considered volunteering, there many opportunities to help.

On behalf of the board I would like to express our sincerest gratitude to the first responders, front-line and essential workers, our CCUSD teachers, and our city employees for all the hard work and dedication that they continue to give through these extremely hard times. To any of you who have lost loved ones during this trying time, you have our deepest sympathies.

As we move into the holidays, please continue to follow health guidelines and safe practices. We will get through this one day at a time, together.

With continued best wishes,

Hope Parrish, President

Spring 2020 President’s Message

Dear Members and Friends:

Spring is on its way! I want to introduce to you our 2020-2022 Board. If you missed the installation, the food was delicious and the evening was outstanding. I can’t thank Vice Mayor Göran Eriksson enough for his wonderful words that he spoke while installing us all. Yes, I am here for another two years at which time I must pass the torch, as I will be termed out. Emelie Gerard has moved into a new position. She is now our VP of Development, which involves fundraising, organizing the Founder’s Day Picnic, and purchasing new items for our store. I am excited to see what she comes up with.

Dennis Parrish (my amazing Dad) has taken on the position of VP of Programs. Some of you may remember the great programs he presented to us in the past. I cannot wait to see his next Program! Tami Eskridge is BACK…and she will now be our new VP of the Museum and Archives. With the many great donations we have received, I am looking forward to working with her on new exhibits for your enjoyment. Also, Carolyn Wispe-Burns will continue to be our Treasurer. Michelle Bernardin, our immediate Past President, has also been editing this newsletter. Let us know if you’d like to relieve her and join our team!

I can happily report that these dedicated committee chairs will be continuing in their current positions:
Denice Renteria – Costumes Chair
Andrew Weissman – Government Liaison
Julie Lugo Cerra – Historic Sites
Jeanne Conklin – Membership Chair
Michael Laase – Parliamentarian
Kevin Lachoff – Photographer
Mark Morris – Videographer

I cannot thank our Wednesday volunteers enough for their hard work and dedication to get the museum digitized! We continue to make huge gains, and it is through the generous support from you, our members, and the amazing people that I have just mentioned.

Thanks to you all, and I look forward to seeing you at our next General Program to see what Dad has in store for us!

The April 15, 2020 General Meeting and Program Has Been Cancelled

As we continue to monitor and adjust to the changing environment in our city and broader world, we are erring on the side of caution and minding the current city-wide recommendations for large gatherings.

Unfortunately, we are cancelling our next General Meeting and Program on Wednesday, April 15.

We are working on a program of the Culver City airports and Petrelli’s Airport Café, and look forward to presenting this fantastic program in July. Stay tuned!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and be there for each other in these confusing times. More than we value history, we value you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Winter 2020 Message

Dear Members and Friends:Hope Parrish

As we close 2019, reflecting on the honor it is to volunteer for this society, I want to recognize the many individuals dedicating time to this museum. I need to thank all of you. This society’s growth is dependent on its memberships, longtime to our most recent.

Dedicated volunteers, from our board to our youngest docent, you are the backbone of the museum. Since my term began, the Wednesday docents have worked very hard to update our database, allowing for more content description and photos of each item searched. The process of entering the data is very detailed, but our docents have made great progress getting our museum digitized. We have a state-of-the-art microfilm machine gifted to the Society from the Sahli-Wells family. Knowing we will soon be able to access the Star News from 1950-1980 will bring new light to researching.

Hackman Capital Partners helped us preserve four historic film windows

And the acquisitions! Where to begin? Iconic motion picture cast photos, Red Skelton’s fan mail, buried items at the Ivy Station dig, Stan Laurel’s bow tie, Little League collection and, on loan, the bible used in the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. Our two biggest donations (literally) were from the Art Directors Guild, four original MGM backdrops, and the 12’ x 3’ wide stained-glass window from The Magnificent Ambersons. I am grateful to Steve Auer and Hackman Capital Partners for including the Historical Society in the preservation effort of four film historic windows, three from Ambersons and the finale window from Gone with the Wind. Over the past 80 years, The Culver Studios property has had many owners, and housed these beautiful pieces of film history.

I look forward to another two years as President and hope we see you on January 15 for our board installation. Peace, Love, and Preservation!

Happy New Year!
Hope