July 23 General Program at The Hobbit Houses

Please note that this program will be on Saturday, July 23, 5-7PM.

Attendance is limited and pre-registration is required via Eventbrite. Address and parking details will be shared upon registration.

Have you ever wondered about the storybook buildings tucked away behind the condo complex on Dunn Drive? Now is your chance! The Lawrence and Martha Joseph residence and apartments, sometimes affectionately nicknamed “the Hobbit Houses,” were built single-handedly over several decades by Lawrence Joseph, a former Disney artist and aircraft engineer who worked on Lockheed’s Skunk Works. His wife Martha was the personal secretary to Lew Wasserman, president of MCA.

Current residents including Bob and “Critter” will share stories and all residents have generously agreed to open up their homes for tours. Bob, whose parents were personal friends of the Josephs, has lived at the residence off and on since 1964. Critter was a protégé of Lawrence Joseph in learning carpentry and design skills. Past residents include Zasu Pitts, Paula Prentiss, Richard Benjamin, and Gwen Verdon.

Following the talk and tour, guests can linger to hear music performed by two residents who are Grammy-winning artists!

Illustration by jones
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The Chamber Turned 100 and Honored Community Service

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In early March, the Culver City Chamber of Commerce celebrated its first 100 years of support for local businesses while recognizing its many members and volunteers in the business community, and also installing a new chair. It was a wonderful event that included live music, and it was a real treat to see everyone dressed up in person, rather than virtually.

For the gala and centennial celebration, Culver City Historical Society President Hope Parrish created a timeline of the Chamber’s accomplishments – from the first meeting minutes to the latest city proclamation. Business directories were on display, along with awards and photos of ribbon cuttings throughout the years. 

The Chamber’s Legacy of Service Award, voted on by the community and Chamber members, highlights a member who goes above and beyond in the community. This year’s nominees were Ed Wolkowitz, Jeff Cooper, Michael Hackman, and Hope.

The Historical Society was well-represented with a table full of family, officers, and members to showing support to both our Society and president.

We listened in anticipation to Culver City Chamber President & CEO Colin Diaz as he listed all the accomplishments, service clubs, time, and projects this person has been involved in over the years. Then he said, “You may have seen some of their work tonight.” We were overjoyed to hear Hope’s name called, knowing all her work and efforts over the years had been recognized.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been speechless!” Hope stated as she received the award.

Congratulations to the Chamber on 100 years, to all the award recipients, to Colin and his team, and to my mentor and friend, Hope.

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April 19 General Meeting and Program

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Up, Up and Away

Before there was a Los Angeles International Airport, several small airports peppered the Southern California landscape, including one in Culver City. 

By the late 1920s, Culver City was at the forefront of two pioneering and burgeoning industries: motion pictures and aviation. Did you know that the Culver City Airport was used by such notable aviators as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart?  

Join us on Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at 7PM in the Multipurpose Room of Veterans Memorial Building as historian Marc Wanamaker and Historical Society president Hope Parrish co-present this look of our early local airports and how Culver City played a part in this aviation history.

The public is invited to this free program. Regardless of vaccination status, L.A. County Public Health strongly recommends that people continue to wear masks that fit and filter well in all indoor public places.

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The Archives Come Alive Again

The first official use of the historic movie backdrops obtained by the Culver City Historical Society from the Motion Picture Art Directors Guild occurred this past summer in a very public manner.

Musical theater workshops are held year-round at Vets Auditorium by dee-Lightful Productions, Culver City’s own theater education program for kids ages 7-17. Involving weeks of work, two plays were presented last summer, presented to large public audiences who very likely had not experienced live performance in several months due to the pandemic.

The season’s inaugural production, “Honk!,” enjoyed added production value when it was performed in front of the Historical Society’s 30-foot landscape backdrop.

Dolores Aguanno, program director of dee-Lightful Productions, produces the workshops.  She was overjoyed at the enhancement to their stage setting and noted that the visual quality of the backdrop made all the kids more enthusiastic about the show.

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The P.E. Camp

The first line of my father’s 2010 obituary reads, “Fred Heredia was born at the Pacific Electric Railway camp for track laborers in downtown Culver City in1938.”When I wrote that line, I assumed everyone in Culver City knew about the “PE Camp,” which was housing provided by the Pacific Electric to Mexican and Mexican American employees and their families. I have since learned that the wooden, barrack-like buildings of the camp were essentially “invisible” to the residents of Culver City at the time and that the stories of the “traqueros” (track laborers) who lived in the PE Camp with their families are on the verge of being forgotten.

Four generations of my family, including my great-grandparents, grandparents, father, aunts, uncle, and a first cousin, lived in the PE Camp over a30-year period from at least 1920 through1950. My father didn’t talk much about the camp, but he loved talking about Culver City. He told me about selling newspapers to “studio people” at the age of six in front of the Backstage on Culver Boulevard, and of my Uncle Ruben playing with Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer in La Ballona Creek.

What my father didn’t tell me was how it felt living in poverty right around the corner from the glitz and glamour of the movie studios. He didn’t tell me about the dirt floors or outdoor communal restrooms and showers in the camp, or that his family didn’t have a Christmas tree or presents until they were given plastic stockings with fruit by the Culver City Fire Department.

Despite the hardships, my father loved Culver City until the day he died. He would be astounded to learn that anyone was interested in the PE Camp and would be especially grateful to the Culver City Historical Society for helping to preserve the history of the traquero families and their contributions to the growth of Culver City.

Editor’s Note: Please visit the Society’s YouTube channel to watch our interview with Amanda and her aunt Rosie Soto.

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