TCS: Street of Memories

Good Morning!

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on
Monday mornings. TCS is an Open Thread forum, so if you
have an off-topic opinion 
burning a hole in your brainpan,
feel free to add a comment.

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“The town was paper, but the memories were not.”
― John Green, Paper Towns

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I was inspired by a friend’s post yesterday of film footage, showing New York in 1911, so I went looking for some film on Los Angeles. I always find the old travelogues of the “As the sun sinks slowly in the West, we bid a fond farewell . . .” variety to be a “guilty pleasure.” They do give us pictures of the past, but the narration is often cringe-worthy. This look at Olvera Street is no exception. Eighty-one years later, some things have changed, but much remains the same.



Like many American cities, Los Angeles is a city of constant change, often with little regard for the value of its older buildings. Sometimes there isn’t even a plaque to mark the spot where a significant building once stood. But somebody figured out that you could make money selling reminders of the city’s past under Spanish and Mexican rule. Olvera Street has been a tourist destination ever since.

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Olvera Street, March 2018

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Most of us “real Angelenos” avoid downtown Los Angeles, unless we work there or are called for jury duty. It’s a traffic nightmare, and parking usually involves paying a lot of money for a narrow spot in a parking structure, were you hope the guy parked next to you won’t ding your car as he struggles to get out of his SUV.  If my husband and I do go there, it’s usually on a Saturday, and our destination is the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, the jewel in the crown of the library system, which has survived earthquakes, fires and even the floods of water to put out the fires.

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The Los Angeles Central Library — a cathedral for the written word,
opened in 1926, with an extensive addition added between 1988 and 1990

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Flower Street entrance to the library — dwarfed by the more recent
skyscrapers around it, with cypress trees hiding the bulk of the building

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Professor Hartley Burr Alexander came up with the themes and mottos without and within the building. Above this entrance, from Lucretius Book 11:79: ET QUASI CURSORES VITAI LAMPADA TRADUNT — freely translated: “Like runners they bear on the lamp of life.” Directly below, a relief of horsemen passing a torch. The remainder of the façade consists of two monumental figures, Phosphor and Hesper, the morning and evening stars. Beneath each figure’s feet, emblematic representations of sunrise and sunset suggest the cardinal points East and West. The history of knowledge is implied by the quote on the left and right scrolls: “Founders of the five great Oriental religions–Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucious, Mohammed–and second, of the sages of the Eastern nations, Lao Tse for China, Hillel for the Jews, Avicenna for the Persian and Algazali for the Arabian Mohammedans, and Badarayana for the Indian metaphysicians.”

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The library’s central lobby — they really don’t build them like they used to

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I wish you a mouthwatering Monday and an even better week!

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 45 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband and a bewildered Border Collie.
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2 Responses to TCS: Street of Memories

  1. Terry Welshans says:

    I grew up in Burbank, California. In 1949, the year my sister was born, it snowed. First time in many, many years. I worked in downtown Los Angeles in the 1970-1980s, not far from Olvera Street. The Spanish heritage is strong in Southern California and I recall the street and city names that ‘Easterners’ always mispronounce. My fondest memory was eating Valencia oranges, the more tasty version of the common Naval version. Thick, easily peeled skin and huge with a glorious taste

    • wordcloud9 says:

      Hey Terry –

      Your sister was born the same year I was, but I was born in Phoenix. It snowed there for about 5 minutes on my 12th birthday, but the tiny snowflakes melted before they reached the ground. Every year, on the first day of school, we would be asked to say our name and where we came from. Almost always, I would be the only student who was born in the Phoenix area. I don’t think that would be case now.

      And yes, the mangling of Spanish and Indian names by tourists and newbies has long been a source of amusement throughout the Southwest and in Southern California.

      But now I want a Valencia orange, and we don’t have any in the house!

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