Los Angeles

September 24, 1957 – The Dodgers’ Last Game in Brooklyn

Ebbets Field. Photo: Major League Baseball

Ebbets Field

On September 24, 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at beloved but decrepit Ebbets Field.  Originally founded in 1883 as the Brooklyn Athletics, the venerable team which signed the Major League’s first African-American player, Jackie Robinson, was also known over the years as the Grays, the Bridegrooms, the Grooms, the Trolley Dodgers, the Superbas, and the Robins before “Trolley Dodgers” was shortened to Dodgers in 1932.

After businessman Walter O’Malley acquired majority ownership of the team in 1950, he worked with the mayor and city planner of Brooklyn to get permission to build a much-needed, state-of-the-art stadium, but they refused to “play ball”.  O’Malley took the Dodgers on the road to New Jersey for several games in 1956 to signal the seriousness of his intent to move the team unless the situation changed.  Brooklyn’s Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. refused to budge.  Los Angeles, originally angling to acquire the Washington Senators, offered O’Malley land for a stadium, which he would own, and complete control over all revenues.  O’Malley took the Dodgers to LA, convincing New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to bring his team (also suffering a home-field “disadvantage” in a crumbling stadium) to San Francisco, instead of the then-contemplated move to Minneapolis.  Stoneham agreed, and the Giants-Dodgers rivalry permanently moved west.

After having won the World Championship in 1955, only two years before, the Dodgers could be forgiven for being disappointed that only 6700 diehard fans showed up for their last Brooklyn game.  On this Tuesday in autumn, at 44-year-old Ebbets Field, O’Malley’s team won one last victory before going “Hollywood”, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.

Image Credit: Major League Baseball

September 21, 1957 – Perry Mason’s First Case

Hamilton Burger, Arthur Tragg, Della Street, Perry Mason, Paul Drake

On September 21, 1957, defense attorney Perry Mason tried – and won – the first of many cases in the Los Angeles County Courthouse, as one of television’s most successful and longest-running legal series premiered on CBS.  Broadcast from September 1957 until May of 1966,  Perry Mason featured Raymond Burr as cool, brilliant, masterful Mason, Barbara Hale as his attractive, husky-voiced, confidential secretary, William Hopper as blond, handsome, semi-playboy private detective Paul Drake, William Talman as hapless, clownish District Attorney Hamilton Burger, and Ray Collins as smug, thick-skulled police Lt. Arthur Tragg.

Each episode title began with the familiar phrase “The Case of the . . .” and the show progressed following a formula, as well.  The first part of the show set up the audience for the murder of a disagreeable, deserving victim and the presence on, or near the scene, of a likable, innocent, soon-to-be defendant to the crime.  Perry would take on the case, Drake would investigate (dropping into the office through his private back entrance and calling Della “Beautiful”), and soon the courtroom drama would begin.  Over-confident DA Burger would present his case, with evidence from gloating Lt. Tragg, Perry would call witnesses, examine and cross-examine, the real killer would get uncomfortable, Drake would arrive at the courtroom in the nick of time with an important envelope, and all of a sudden Perry would force an anguished or angry, emotional confession from the real murderer.

It was formulaic, but it worked.  Perry Mason was highly popular.  Most everyone could hum the show’s theme song, “Park Avenue Beat”.  Many famous actors and actresses appeared as guest stars over the years, including (just to name a few) Robert Redford, Bette Davis, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Angie Dickenson, Louise Fletcher, Burt Reynolds, Barbara Eden, Ryan O’Neal, Diane Ladd, Fay Wray, Cloris Leachman, Lee Meriwether, Dick Clark, Jackie Coogan, De Forest Kelley, Werner Klemperer, Harvey Korman, June Lockhart, and Marion Ross.  Erle Stanley Gardner, the detective fiction author who originally created the story’s characters, played a judge in the final series episode on May 22, 1966.  From 1985 to 1995, 30 made-for-television movies aired on NBC, most starring Burr and Street, with other actors filling in the main roles.  The original episodes are in syndication to this day.

KPTV in Portland, Oregon – where I was born – continuously carried reruns of Perry Mason from its final episode in 1966 until September 4, 2012, when Perry adjourned to another local Portland station, KPDX. Alas, KPDX retired Mason in September of 2014. Diehard fans can now find Perry weekdays on Me TV, at 9:00 AM and 11:30 PM Pacific time.

Appearing at noon on KPTV (except for a brief period in the mid-70s when it was moved to 12:30 PM), Perry was a daily lunchtime staple for faithful fans in the Rose City. For many years, I was one of those faithful fans. As a young adolescent, I found much to love about Perry, a strong, mature man who could always be counted on to protect the good and the innocent. I have to admit that Paul Drake added his own special, erotic thrill.

Image Credit: CBS Corporation

July 15, 1957 – LA Times Publisher Norman Chandler on the Cover of Time Magazine

On July 15, 1957, Los Angeles Times publisher Norman Chandler appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.  The city, the man, and his paper were the subject of the lead story, “CITIES: The New World“.  Norman’s grandfather, Union Army Colonel Harrison Gray Otis, had arrived in Los Angeles in 1882, bought up a quarter-interest in the Times, served as its editor, and four years later bought the publication outright.  In 1886, the paper had a  circulation of about 2500.  By 1957, what had once been a small pueblo settlement on the Pacific Ocean had transformed into a 455-square-mile city of over 2 million inhabitants, with satellite communities covering 4853 square miles, three times the size of Rhode Island.  As of the date of the Time article, the LA Times circulation numbered 462, 257.

Harrison Otis’ tenure at the paper saw the arrival of two railroads and a population surge into the city.  Around the turn of the century, ambitious circulation boss Harry Chandler married Harrison’s daughter Marian.  Chandler took over the paper soon after and became a major driving force in the growth of the City of Angels.  He played a significant role (and enlarged his personal fortune by many millions of dollars) in the construction of an aqueduct to bring water and agricultural prosperity to the San Fernando Valley. Harry was also instrumental in establishing LA as the center of a $2.5 billion aircraft industry (Douglas, Lockheed, North American, Northrup), and had a hand in the development of the California Institute of Technology, the Memorial Coliseum, Union Station, and the Hoover Dam.

Norman Chandler, age 57 when the article was published, politically conservative, grew up on his family’s ranch north of LA and studied business at Stanford University.  He married Dorothy Buffum (“Buffie”, namesake of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion), came back to work at the Times and then took over when Harry retired in 1941.  Norman and Buffie managed a multi-million dollar business empire which included paper manufacturing, real estate, securities, television, commercial printing, ranching, and oil.  They funded the construction of the Hollywood Palladium, the Los Angeles Music Center, and the restoration of the Hollywood Bowl.

“Today’s Los Angeles is too amorphous for one man to rule, one newspaper to command,” the article pronounced.  Republican Chandler and his paper nevertheless strongly backed California G.O.P. political candidates, including Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  “I think Dick Nixon would make one of the finest Presidents the U.S. has ever had, ” Chandler asserted.  “[California U.S. Senator] Bill Knowland is a fine man, but if they are both candidates for the G.O.P. nomination in 1960, Mr. Nixon will get the support of the Times.”

Image Credit: Time Magazine

June 18, 1957 – Los Angeles County’s City of Industry is Incorporated

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San Gabriel Valley’s City of Industry

On June 18, 1957, the founding fathers of the City of Industry in Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel Valley received ratification of election results creating the municipality.  Residential development was spreading rapidly in the valley, and local citizens, many of them farmers, wanted to reserve space for industrial expansion as well.  Increased jobs and property values motivated the owners of the largely rural five-square-mile strip between two railroad lines to incorporate.  As of 1957, the residents of the area numbered a little over 600 and the land was valued at about 2 million dollars.  Within five years after designating the town 100% zoned for restricted heavy manufacturing, the number of industrial firms quadrupled, the number of jobs almost tripled, the payroll almost tripled, and, through annexations, the city doubled in size.

City of Industry 1957

City of Industry’ original City Hall building from 1957

Currently, the City of Industry (aka Industry) has approximately 440 residents on almost 12 square miles of land zoned 92% Industrial and 8% Commercial.  A portion of Industry is now designated a Foreign Trade Zone, an customs-free area within the United States that provides advantages for businesses with international trade.  According to the its website, the City of Industry “with only 3.1 percent of the total land area in the San Gabriel Valley, is the economic engine of the San Gabriel Valley. . . generating employment for over 67,000 people and total sales of over $31 billion dollars.”

Image Credit: City of Industry website