March 07, 2006
A Wandering Tour of L.A.
A Wandering Tour of Los Angeles beginning in Hollywood, 1909. From Hollywood to Los Angeles.
By Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
The Hollywood of 1909 was a quiet place, mostly large homes on one or two acres of land. Most families were beginning to exchange their horses for automobiles; their barns converted to auto garages while harness and other gear often lingered on hooks next to the collection of parts and tools the adventurous automobilist needed to keep his vehicle moving.
One such family lived on the corner of what was then North Palm Boulevard and what had recently been renamed Hollywood Boulevard. Their home was set on two acres and rose to two stories; fruit trees and a railroad the three children could sit in to ride wandered through the small orchard at the rear of the property.
Ernest , Jr. was as thin as a rail with a headful of soft, brown hair; Grace was decidedly determined but always wore a large bow in her hair. The youngest, Arthur, was blond with large, expressive eyes and a sunny smile.
For the children's pleasure a small roller coaster also held court near the back. The children played baseball there as well and occasionally the ball would be hit 'out of the park,' landing in the neighbor's property next door. Retrieving balls could be hazardous because the curmudgeon who lived there, a former journalist and writer, would pelt the kids with fruit if he caught them coming over the fence. They learned to peer over first to see if he was in the yard and run for the fence if the back door opened. The neighbor's most popular book would eventually be made into a movie in Hollywood. Although the kids owned a copy, reading it always reminded them that apples and lemons could sting even if Dorothy did find her way back to Kansas.
Many prosperous businessmen and professionals lived in Hollywood, commuting to Los Angeles via the Big Red Cars. The Pacific Electric Railway was established in 1901 by Henry Huntington and by 1914 the system had begun to reach out, creating communities along the routes of the railway. It was fast and cheap transportation.
Dr. Ernest S. Pillsbury, the father of the three children whose retrieval missions so annoyed their neighbor, took the Big Red Car from the corner near their home into his office in Downtown Los Angeles every day. He took his paper along to read on the trip.
Los Angeles was then a middle sized town with a sprinkling of taller buildings still girded by nicer housing, separated by broad fields and farms in every direction.
Many things were happening in 1909; aeronautics was beginning to capture the interest of more Americans all the time. Automobiles had moved from being the hobby of the wealthy to a frequently reliable form of transportation. And roads were beginning to keep up with the changes, thanks to the efforts of the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Sometimes Mrs. Pillsbury took the children into Los Angeles to have lunch with her husband. The family enjoyed a short excursion on the Los Angeles Incline Railroad, also known as Angel's Flight. Built in 1901 by Col. J.W. Eddy, it gave residents of the lovely Bunker Hill area, with its elaborate and brilliantly painted Victorian homes, access to the shopping available Downtown.
Arthur loved to hold his own nickel and pay for his own ride on the Flight.
At the top of Angel's Flight was also the Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Dr. Pillsbury had joined the rapidly growing organization several years before because of the good works the Brothers did and also because Lodge No. 99 had a wonderful dining room where he could take the family for lunch and for other events. After lunch the family walked Dr. Pillsbury back to his office.
The family was also looking forward to the annual Convention of the B. P. O. E., which was to take place in Los Angeles between July 11-17 of that year. Past annual events had brought out tens of thousands of Elk members from across the country. This would be the Forty-fifth Grand Lodge Session and 23rd Order Reunion. The Pillsbury family was not disappointed. 60,000 Elks and their families from all across the country met in Los Angeles for a program that included a long parade and musical events.
The Elks had been founded by a tiny group of actors in New York in 1867 for the purpose of providing for their members insurance against the uncertainties of life. One of the members of what had originally been called the Jolly Corks, a drinking group, had died and left his family destitute and unable even to pay for his burial. His drinking friends had pitched in to provide for the widow and children and decided that the world would be a better place if they could ensure that each knew such necessities would be paid for if necessary. Within just a few years there were dozens of Lodges across the United States.
Los Angeles was a wonderful place to grow up in at that time. The community centered on Downtown and was surrounded by rolling hills, fields, and farms that separated L.A. from the towns that all now meet. Vibrant, busy, and set like a jewel in the broad plain, Los Angeles possessed wonderful rapid transit, and heady possibilities. The Pillsbury Kids saw many of those changes take place.
Next month: Tea on Mt. Washington
Article by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster, President of the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation. http://www.acpillsburyfoundation.com
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