Classic Films Commemorative T-Shirt

The city motto of Culver City, California, is “The Heart of Screenland,” and this is not hyperbole. During the Golden Age of major movie studios in the 1930s more films were made in Culver City than in Hollywood.

The Historical Society has memorialized this part of our city’s heritage by commissioning a tribute to classic movie posters that brings to life four memorable and popular images of the town’s history:

The landmark Culver Hotel flatiron building was featured in countless Keystone Cops, Laurel and Hardy, and Little Rascals films. The original King Kong was filmed on Culver City’s RKO backlot in 1933. The “Spruce Goose,” the largest wooden airplane ever built and a pet project of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, was built in what’s now Playa Vista. Lastly, The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1938 at MGM, the world’s largest film studio at the time.

These iconic events were re-envisioned by talented artist Jason Moser of Hudsonville, Michigan. The first use of the colorful artwork is a full-color, high quality t-shirt now available in the Historical Society’s online shop.

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Holiday Message 2020

Season’s Greetings, Members and Friends of the Culver City Historical Society!

As we near the end of the year 2020, I find myself reflecting on how difficult this year has been. And, unfortunately, it is not over yet. We must all continue to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many of us got creative with ways to communicate, work, and stay in touch with our family and friends. Smaller gatherings of 10 or less, staying six feet apart and wearing masks are our new normal. If you are like me and my family, we have become dependent on FaceTime, Zoom, and the myriad other virtual options to stay in touch and see the eyes of our loved ones.

The Historical Society, tenants of the Veteran’s Memorial Building, are required to follow their protocols and safety guidelines. Until the building reopens for public gatherings, we will unfortunately remain closed. Please know we miss you at our programs and our Sunday open afternoons and remain hopeful that the Society will reopen in 2021.

Movie poster from the holiday classic “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944)

We cannot wait for the day we can put out our “Open to History” signs and greet you at the door! It will be a time of great celebration. When the virus spikes subside and it is safe, it is our hope to “dip our toes” back and work in small groups of volunteers to ready the Archives and Resource Center for visitors. The collection has received so many new and wonderful items that will be put on display. In the meantime, we are exploring how to bring our conversations and programs to you through a virtual modality. I encourage you to take time over this holiday season with a cozy beverage and enjoy the new videos that Mark has uploaded to our YouTube channel over the last several months.

On behalf of the board of the Culver City Historical Society, we want to wish you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday season, and a brighter 2021!

With warmest wishes,

Hope Parrish, President

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In Memoriam: Sharon Shore (1943-2020), Costume Chair 2012-2015

It is with great sadness that I report the untimely passing of my friend and colleague, Sharon, on September 26, 2020, from cancer. Many of you remember her as the Costume Chair before she moved to San Simeon. She also wrote a column in this newsletter from time to time. 

Sharon at Hearst Castle copyI know she took pride in helping the Historical Society with the costume collection, and I was so grateful that she was there for you all when I had to return to England in 2013. Before COVID-19, she enjoyed her jaunts to Los Angeles, and walking and knitting with Julie Lugo Cerra.

In San Simeon, Sharon created a beautiful home by the sea and a stunning studio in downtown Cambria, where she worked on all manner of creative projects. She was a revered textile conservator and mentor, and her clients were numerous, including the Getty Museum, the Broad Museum, Hearst Castle, the Fowler Museum, and the soon to open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

I was honored to spend her last week with her in San Simeon, and Sharon’s last words to me were “No regrets.” Since most of her family is in Missouri, they will be holding their own celebration next year when they can gather. Sharon wished to be cremated. I am hoping to honor her on her birthday, March 1, 2021, if we are able to gather then.

Louise Coffey-Webb
Lifetime Member
Former President and former Costume Chair

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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!

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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

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