Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Searching for ABW - Silverlake adjacent

First and Vermont, 1930

In an essay written near the end of his life, [The Man I Love]'s grandfather ABW says that he worked in Santa Monica as a linotype machine operator until 1930. After that, he says, he returned to Los Angeles and began working for a community newspaper called the Southwest Wave.

The 1930 census shows ABW now living at 2904 Belleveue Street, in a neighborhood northwest of downtown Los Angeles. North of MacArthur Park and south of Sunset Boulevard, it's considered part of Silverlake today.

Today, shabby single-family homes, small commercial strips, stucco Spanish duplexes, and mid-century apartment houses run up and down the rolling foothills of the Santa Monica Range that begin the further north you go from MacArthur Park and Wilshire Boulevard.

In ABW's day, it was a suburb, former farmland being developed into residential streets. This 1930 photograph shows the intersection of Silverlake Blvd. and London Street - just a few blocks away from ABW's home at Bellevue and Occidental, looking southwest. The large building in the center of the photo is the 1928-built Pacific Telephone and Telegraph building on Beverly Boulevard at Temple Street. Today the building is a storage facility and U-Haul rental site.

The Sanborn Insurance Maps show a small structure, probably a bungalow, on ABW's property. Its value was $5,000.00, and ABW is listed as the owner of the property.

This house, located a few blocks away on Lafayette Park Avenue, was typical of the homes in the neighborhood.

Across the street from 2904 Belleveue, was this modest retail building. In 1930 it probably housed a neighborhood market, just like it does today.

These duplex houses, across the street, have been stucco-faced and remodeled over the years, but they probably date from the 1920s and 1930s when the neighborhood was developed.

ABW doesn't mention it in his essay, but the census shows is that ABW lived there with two other people - his wife, Emma P. and her son, William E.

According to the census, Emma P. was from Texas. She was 47 years old, and had been married before, at the age of 23. Her mother had been from Germany. Her son's father was from Indiana.

The Los Angeles City Directory show Emma and William living in the small house at 2904 Bellevue during the 1920s, before ABW joined the family. As a boy, William attended nearby Belmont High School.

At 23, William was seven years older than ABW's son Richard, living in Santa Barbara with his mother.

We don't know anything about how ABW and Emma met, the story of their relationship. We know from census records and other documentation that they lived together at 2904 Bellevue for about nine years. We know that they split up, sometime around 1939.

Just after ABW moved in with Emma, his son Richard came to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara, transferring from Santa Barbara Teacher's College to UCLA. He was young and precocious - seventeen, a few years younger than the young man sharing ABW's home. Did he come to Los Angeles to join his father? How did he feel about his father's new family?

What kind of relationship did ABW have with his wife's son? Were they friends or were they uneasy living in the same house?

We don't know.

But while trying to find out more about ABW, we discovered a fascinating story about his stepson, William.

Coming up next. Stay tuned.


JCK said...

This is a great story. I'm tuning in!

mo.stoneskin said...

Dang, leave me on the edge of my seat why don't you...

I find this particularly interesting because even the more recent photos are fascinating to a Brit!

cactus petunia said...

Can't wait to hear more!

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

I like the 1930s picture with the trolly tracks in the road!

Will Campbell... said...

Amazing stuff! I live on Occidental south of Sunset.

Jason, as himself said...

Very interesting! As usual, well document with great photography.