HISTORY OF LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles, California is world famous as the center of the motion picture industry. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Area is the second most populous in the United States, with 18 million souls in residence. It is a fabulous place for a vacation. During my most recent trip there I took a good look around, concentrating on Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Malibu and Catalina Island.
The land where now sits Los Angeles was explored and claimed for the Spanish Crown in 1542, but not settled until 1781. After Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, Los Angeles became a part of it for 27 years. The United States purchased California from Mexico in 1848, and within two years it became the 31st state in the union.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles was only a small village of roughly 1,000 people until the 1880s when the Southern Pacific Railroad linked it to the rest of America, setting off a boom in citrus farming. By 1890 Los Angeles had exploded in population up to 50,000 residents. In 1892 oil was discovered and within ten years the number of people living there had doubled. By 1920, Los Angeles would supply 1/4 of the world's oil consumption.
There was a major problem: a shortage of drinkable water. To solve this, William Mulholland built a 419 mile-long aqueduct system and only because of this, was Los Angeles able to grow any larger. By 1932 the city would boast one million residents.
In the 1910s, the inchoate film industry moved from New York to Los Angeles, to take advantage of the wide open spaces and wonderful weather, with the village of Hollywood as its epicenter. It has dominated cinema throughout the world ever since. With the movie makers came the movie stars—glamorous and larger-than-life. 175,000 people call Hollywood home today, and there is much to see there—besides the sign.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame features over 2,000 "stars" embedded in the sidewalk, a tradition that began in 1958. The Chinese Theatre displays footprints, handprints, and signatures of Hollywood stars, gradually accumulated over the past 90 years.
The nightlife is fabulous. I enjoyed what was Johnny Depp's night club, The Viper Room. I also visited the famous "Whisky a Go Go" nightclub to see the stage, which since 1964 has supported performances by The Byrds, The Doors, Van Morrison, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Cream, and Led Zeppelin.
Beverly Hills, population 35,000, is where many movie stars live. It naturally follows that it is also the most expensive real estate in America; and contains the largest collection of mansions in the country. Rodeo Drive is one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world.
Malibu is an ultra-expensive enclave for the rich and famous that is essentially a 21 mile-long beach. 13,000 people live there. This land was private property until 1929 when the state of California sued the owner for the right to build the Pacific Coast Highway through it—and won.
THE DUST BOWL
The next population explosion came about as a result of devastating drought in the Plains states in the 1930s. 100,000 people, or more, flocked to the Los Angeles area from Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas; in what became known as the "Dust Bowl" migrations so poignantly evoked by John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath. They discovered that California was no paradise. The vast majority could not afford to buy land; and people who were formerly white-collar professionals, salesmen and retail workers found themselves picking fruit or cotton; living in tents and shacks. The Native Californians viewed them as frightening, revulsive, dirty scum—because they were living without sanitation.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
As the winds of war blew around the globe in 1939, America rapidly built a huge defense industry in and around Los Angeles, which by 1943 had become the leading manufacturing center of the nation excepting Detroit. These jobs led to millions of Americans moving west for work.
In 1965 black folks launched a frenzy of rioting, looting, violence and mayhem in the Watts community of Los Angeles, killing 34 people and causing $35 million dollars of property damage. Essentially, they burnt down the commercial district of their own neighborhood and most merchants never came back. This was very odd because it came one week after the most historic Civil Rights legislation in 100 years had been passed on their behalf, by the United States government. Liberals were stunned. Los Angeles had been considered the most prosperous and desirable city for blacks in America at the time. Instead of celebrating they were devastating.
LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA
The racial and ethnic composition changed rapidly in the 1980s, due to changes in immigration law, as the number of people of Asian and Hispanic origin doubled. By 1990, two million Mexicans lived in Los Angeles, more than any other city besides Mexico City. This period marked the first time in the history of America that the majority of its immigrants did not come from Europe.
In addition to legal immigration, a horde, in the millions, of illegal immigrants swarmed in from Mexico; crushing the budgets—and straining the capacities—of public schools, hospitals and social services. "Illegal immigrant" means they snuck across the sovereign border of the United States in violation of the law. All nations have immigration laws to control—and maintain an awareness of—who is in the country. Ironically, those of Mexico are very strict. The United States has a strikingly unusual law that makes anyone born in the country an automatic citizen. This law was passed in 1866 so that the children born of former slaves would not be denied citizenship. It was never intended to apply to illegal immigrants. These illegals prefer to speak Spanish and live in their own enclaves while retaining the culture of, and allegiance to, from whence they came. This has led to conflict with American Citizens who, as taxpayers, are footing the bill for their use of public services; and are concerned about the lack of shared civic values that is fracturing the unity necessary for a nation to survive.
During my stay in Los Angeles I visited the famous resort city of Santa Monica, an oceanfront community of just under 100,000, and a favorite for tourists. It has long been popular for entertainment, amusements, shopping and surfing. The Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade are among the highlights.
I also made sure to visit Venice Beach and its well-known boardwalk. It features a cornucopia of street performers, vendors, skateboarders, bodybuilders, surfers, volleyball players, and basketball courts. Venice (pop. 36,000) was so-named after its initial developers built a plethora of canals to drain marshlands.
Finally, our journey ends with a one-hour catamaran ride out to Catalina Island, 22 miles from Long Beach. The island is roughly 20 miles long and 7 miles wide and home to 4,000 people. From 1919 to 1975 it was owned by the Wrigley Family from Chicago—famous for chewing gum and the eponymous baseball park now occupied by the Chicago Cubs. Catalina Island is beautiful and charming.
After returning to Long Beach, I enjoyed the Queen Mary—now a hotel—that for over thirty years was one of the most popular luxury ocean liners in the world.