July 17, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

A New Look at Old Times

There’s a new book from Arcadia Publishing in its “Images of America” series, Brentwood. It offers a treasure trove of historic photos and information about Brentwood.

Author Jan Loomis met her future husband Robert when they were both students at the Claremont colleges. Bob is great-great grandson of one of the directors of the Santa Monica Land and Water Company, the business set up to handle the development of the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica after it was purchased from the Sepulveda heirs. Bob and Jan were the last owners of SL&W and have the company’s priceless archive of photos and documents in storage. Though still un-cataloged, it was the rich source of many of the photos and documents in the book. It is a portrait of our community at a time when houses were few and trees were small, when horses were more common than cars, when open fields were everywhere. It’s a world long lost to us, but a handful of people still have memories of a delightfully different Brentwood.

Gist Lavoie, when she was a teen, lived for several years with her aunt in Brentwood Park. Coming home from school (Warren G. Harding High, later changed to University High), she took the trolley to Bristol and then walked north to her house. One day, a long roadster stopped to offer her a ride. She climbed in and rode home with actress Zazu Pitts. She also remembers when her younger brother was out riding his bicycle along San Vicente with another boy. His friend’s bicycle crashed and another long elegant roadster stopped. The driver got out to make sure the boy was O.K. and then loaded both bikes aboard and drove the kids home. It was Will Rogers.

Helen Conner, who has lived her whole 95-plus years in West Los Angeles, remembers sitting with her sister on the side of Wilshire Boulevard, counting cars on dull Sunday afternoons. It was no challenge for the youngsters. Try that today without a digital counter. She worked on Saturday afternoons as an usherette at the Tivoli Theater on Sawtelle, now known as the Royal and still showing movies.

Helen walked from the family home west of Bundy to school at Harding High, across open fields. After graduation, she rode the Red Cars downtown to her job. As they traveled along Santa Monica Boulevard, she could look south and see well beyond Pico, with few houses to obstruct the view.

After Helen married her knight in shining armor (Wes), they lived on Bundy, south of Wilshire. She often went out in the late afternoon to sit on the front steps. Perhaps, Wes didn’t know it, but she was waiting to see Will Rogers come by so she could wave at him and usually get a smile and a wave in return.

Gist remembers empty lots scattered among the Brentwood Park homes in the early 1930s. She tells a wonderful story of an afternoon with her aunt. They often walked for exercise and fun. They were strolling above Sunset and came to a small house still under construction. It was open and no one seemed to be around…so they decided to look inside. Exploring, they were fascinated by the luxury they saw everywhere. Hearing laughter and voices, they went to unfinished windows in the back and peeked out. There was a big house behind and people gathered around a swimming pool; it was a party. Suddenly aware that they were trespassing, they quickly found their way back to the street. Later, they discovered that they were among the first (albeit uninvited) to see the new cottage being built for child-star Shirley Temple and her soon-to-be husband.

Brentwood
shows the lima bean fields that were here before the first homes, at the turn of the last century. Those beans won a Silver Medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. Early advertisements for Brentwood developments always told of breathtaking views of Los Angeles and the Pacific. The photos show how very little there was to block the sightlines; now I look up at tall buildings and wonder if they can see anything besides more tall buildings. The scrawled signature of William Lynton Brent, source of our community’s name, can be seen on a contract. And long-time resident Ken Chotiner discovered a distant relative who ran for City Council in the caption of a late 1920s photo.

On Saturday, June 28, Jan Loomis will be at the Brentwood/Kaufman Branch Library, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., to discuss her book and tell some of the wonderful stories she and Bob heard from his grandmother, Dorothy Gillis Loomis (Dorothy Street was named after her) and his great-aunt, Adelaide (Santa Monica’s Adelaide Drive). The Brentwood Historical Society is the sponsor of the event. For more information, contact Laura at (310) 473-0509. The book Brentwood is available at Brentwood Stationers as well as other Westside bookstores, and on the Internet at Arcadia Books. For more information, call Delores at (310) 820-5093 or e-mail deloresathh@verizon.net

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