Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How the Freeway Came to LA, and other links

Time to share a bunch of interesting links related to the 1930's.

If you're interested in maps, geography, and civil engineering check out Matt Roth's talk on "Concrete Utopia: Roads and Freeways in Los Angeles", which he gave at the Huntington Library a few years ago. It's an interesting lecture, talking a bit about how the LA freeways came about, as well as the challenges of getting folks to pay for major infrastructure improvements at any time in the past.

Available here, or in the "California and the West" series of talks in iTunes.

I found this as part of my search for interesting podcasts. I've been listening to a bunch on my drive into work - both oral histories such as interviews with Los Gatos resident Richard Mors, as well as You Can't Eat the Sunshine, a Los Angeles history-and architecture series that interviews folks interested in Los Angeles and its downtown. The creators of "You Can't Eat the Sunshine" also worked on the 1947 Project and On Bunker Hill. Both websites documented the seedier side of Los Angeles through newspaper articles, crime stories, and historical research on old hotels.

If you're modeling the 1930's and want some reminders of what life was really like, Frederick Lewis Allen's Since Yesterday documents life in the United States from September 1929 (just before the great depression until September 1939 (just before World War II). It's a remarkably readable book, combining major news items, trivia, and a strong sense of how our grandparents might have seen the changes occurring before their eyes. Allen wrote a similar book, "Only Yesterday", about the 1920's.

And finally, for some San Francisco content: the YouTube channel Dirty Old Bar visits old-style neighborhood bars around San Francisco to meet the folks who run them and who visit them. The visits hint at San Francisco history; for example, their visit to Clooney's, a Mission-district working-man's bar that opens at 6:00am, lets you one of the last bars catering to swing-shift workers coming off duty. It's easy to imagine the place filled with cannery workers, machinists, and longshoremen; the Vasona Branch deserves a bar like that.