A View From the Top

p-1-backlot-1978In June 1960, when Rich Langsford was 12 years old, he got to do what many Culver City residents only dream of doing — go up in the tower of the Veterans Memorial Building. Fortunately for us, he brought a movie camera.


A glimpse of this set can be seen from above in Rich Langford’s footage. (Sam Cerra)

In town for his Culver City High School 50th class reunion in September, this Class of ‘66 alum presented the Historical Society with a DVD transfer of the film, which was shot on a Kodak Brownie 8mm camera.

The story goes that Rich’s mother, Marjorie, worked at MGM, first in the script department and later as personal secretary for Rod Serling, a screenwriter best known as creator and narrator of The Twilight Zone television series. One day Rich joined his mother for lunch at the Tower Restaurant, which once operated inside the Veterans Memorial Building under the tower, and he just so happened to have his camera with him.

Rich isn’t sure if his mother made an appointment to go up the tower’s elevator or if she just asked nicely, but somehow they were able to spend some time enjoying the view. In 1960 that view would have included a look into MGM’s Lot 2, which included backlot mainstays like “New England Street,” “Grand Central Station”, “Small Town Square,” featured in films like The Philadelphia Story, Meet Me in St. Louis and, yes, TV shows like The Twilight Zone. These days Lot 2 is where the Culver City Senior Center and the Studio Estates neighborhood are located.

“I just did a panoramic filming,” Rich says. “Of course I wasn’t a very good cinematographer when I was 12. It’s all kind of jittery. But it gives you a pretty good idea. You can see some things have changed since then.”

If you would like to see Rich’s 1960 view of Culver City from Vet’s Tower, the DVD can be screened at the Historical Society’s Archives and Resource Center during open hours.

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Searching History: Digital Newspapers

Alex King, a noted researcher/genealogist, led one of our “Conversation” series in the Archives and Resource Center - Culver City Historical SocietyOn Sunday, July 5, Society member Alex King, a noted researcher/genealogist, led one of our “Conversation” series in the Archives and Resource Center. Alex showcased resources like the University of California, Riverside digital library, from which he shared 1800’s era articles that offer insight into La Ballona School’s operation in 1875, and political meetings hosted by Jose de la Luz Machado.

Following are several links he suggested for online archives of digital newspaper images. Some are free, others have a fee to see the images. All are searchable.

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Fall 2013 ARC Update

by Julie Lugo Cerra, Vice President, Museum/ARC and City Historian


When you next visit the ARC you will see some changes in our display space. This is to accommodate the savvy new look accomplished by the Development Committee for our “Gift Shop.”

In the process of re-arranging, we have a “wall of theatres” in our “screening” area. We have learned more about our early theatres, thanks to member/researcher Alex King and from a 1945 re-opening program from the Meralta Theatre, donated by Museum Committee member William Barnett.


A fire closed the Meralta in 1943, and due to a wartime moratorium on building, for the next two years, the second floor auditorium of the 1928 City Hall was equipped as a theatre for the community. The Meralta re-opening program even shows sketches of the owners, Pearl Merrill and Laura Peralta, and the new theatre.

This is especially timely as our October program will showcase the Kirk Douglas (originally Culver) Theatre. Our oversize photo of the Culver Theatre shows its opening day marquee in 1947!


We have enjoyed some nostalgic moments with our returning Culver High grads – and the Class of ’63’s 50-year reunion was the last of the season on September 28. Those dropping by will see a beautiful rendering of the Helms Bakery Building, along with a replica of the cardboard Helms Coach that many young students enjoyed receiving on school tours of the Bakery. We also have a great vintage Helms postcard.


We continue to assist many students and others who are researching Culver City. Special thanks to Costume chair Sharon Shore and her crew (esp. Denice Renteria), who screened the movie Jumbo, to go with the costume exhibit. We will be showing A Celebration of the Movies video in September/October. (It features fun times, like “munchkin” Jerry Maren singing “The Lollipop Song” from The Wizard of Oz.)

During the Fiesta – which sent us record crowds – we met Tom Sparks, Class of ’64, who put together a book of photos on the building of the High School’s Robert Frost Auditorium (see the Summer 2013 newsletter). Sparks had not seen his “student project” that documented the building of the auditorium since 1964, and it was wonderful to see his expression as he went through the book he compiled with the school’s yearbook staff. We also have an architectural rendering of the structure as proposed. And thanks for our volunteers who give their time!

Special thanks to Laura Frakes, Library Manager of our Culver City Julian Dixon Library. As the library prepares to close for renovation and items are re-shuffled, we are becoming the beneficiary of many items to further preserve our local history. Thanks also to Lou Block who handed off some CC Rose Parade buttons from the 1980s – rarely seen!!!


In the works, look for upcoming displays that will bring various subjects into focus, such as Hispanic Heritage Month and the city’s anniversary of incorporation (September 20, 1917) – and don’t forget the Centennial coming up!

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