Inglewood, California – Home of The Forum, a Loving Memorial, and a Giant Donut!

Neek sez:

If you are a basketball fan, you might recognize The Forum in Inglewood, California.  It opened on December 30, 1967 and was an unusual and groundbreaking structure in that it had no major support pillars.  It was created by Architect Charles Luckman and engineers Carl Johnson and Svend Nielsen and was famous for being the home of The Los Angeles Lakers before moving to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.  Now the venue is rented out for special events and concerts.

Across the street from The Forum is the Inglewood Park Cemetery.  The cemetery was built in 1905 and has a number of notable entertainment and sports figures such as Ray Charles, Betty Grable, Ella Fitzgerald, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Ray Corrigan (the actor who owned Corriganville where we had previously visited the remains of his western amusement park).

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Lex,Sar and I have visited here many times to pay our respects to a relative of mine who is interred here.  The grounds are beautiful with rolling hills and memorials to those who have passed on. A Canadian goose was having a great time on the warm sunny day.

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One memorial has always caught our attention while on our visits and it is a sculpture of an angel lifting a woman to heaven.  The faces are quite detailed and the base is carved with two rings in which one is broken.  We did some research and found who they were.

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The models are of Alfredo Codona as the angel carrying his wife, Lillian Leitzel in an embrace.  They were circus performers.  Lillian Leitzel was only 4 ft 9 in (144.78 cm) but  incredibly strong and could do one armed flips over her shoulder repeatedly while the audience counted and cheered.  She performed for the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus and was posthumously inducted into the International Circus Hall of Fame.

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Lillian Leitzel had quite a temper and was famous for throwing things and slapping people who didn’t work to her expectations.  In contrast, she was also known for her kindness toward the circus performer’s children who called her “Aunt Lillian”.  A little mental maybe?

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In 1928, Lillian married Alfredo Codona who was a trapeze artist, famous for doing the often dangerous triple somersaults.  Their relationship was quite tempestuous and their diva-like personalities were well-matched.

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While performing in Copenhagen in 1931, one of the hand rings broke and Lillian fell to the hard floor.  She died a few days later at 39 years old.  Even though they had such a troubled marriage, Alfredo Codona’s love for Lillian Leitzel was quite evident by creating this beautiful memorial to his wife.

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One of the last surviving Southern California mimic architecture is Randy’s Big Donut.  Mimic architecture started in the 1920’s creating a trend in designing structures in the shape of the product that was sold there.  By the 1950’s building such structures were out of style and too costly.  Randy’s Donut was built in 1953 and was the second location of a number of donut shops owned by Russell C. Wendell, a donut machine salesman.  The giant donuts are constructed of steel bars and a dry type of concrete called gunite usually used in swimming pools.

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Originally, there were 10 Big Donut Drive-Ins but only 4 have survived.  In the 1970’s Wendell sold off the donut shops to concentrate on his “Pup in Taco” chain (Lex is wearing one of the old shirts) which was then sold to Taco Bell in 1984.

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If the Randy’s Donuts looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in various TV, movies, talk shows and music videos.    My favorite is the big donut in Randy Newman’s 80’s hit “I Love LA”.

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Lex, Sar and I stood in a line to get a bag of apple fritters and a buttermilk donut.  I almost dropped a dollar bill and lost it to the wind but a kind man in a beige hat fetched it for me.  The donuts tasted great but when I was a kid, I really wanted to take a bite out of the big one.  Good thing I never did because it’s got bird poo all over the top of it!

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Abandoned Earthquake Ruins – Olive View Hospital

Lex sez:

As a child growing up in Southern California, I was always fascinated with earthquakes.  In particular, I was interested in the February 9, 1971 earthquake which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale and had an epicenter in Sylmar.

It happened before I was born and my parents always talked about how scary it was living in a nearby North Hollywood apartment with a newborn baby!  Continue reading

The Preserved 1920’s Mansion of Western Movie Star, William S. Hart

Lex sez:

When Neek and I first walked into the William S. Hart Museum foyer, two immediate impressions of the man formed for me: his love of art and his love of the Old West.  This 10,000 square foot Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion completed in 1927 was designed by Arthur Roland Kelly, who was also responsible for designing the Arthur Letts, Jr. estate in Holmby Hills, more popularly known as The Playboy Mansion where Hugh Hefner lives.  I noticed that along the spiral staircase leading up to the second story, there were beautiful paintings of Western motifs.  It seemed very inviting, but Neek and I decided to explore downstairs first.

Usually they have guided tours, but Neek and I happened to arrive on a day where they were presenting the place “open house style.”

Continue reading

The First Western Movie Star – William S. Hart

Neek sez:

William S. Hart was not always a western movie star.  He first started acting on stage in New York City doing Shakespearean roles but he was most well-known for his portrayal of Messala in the original 1899 theatre production of “Ben Hur”.

William S. Hart was already 50 years old when he transitioned to silent films.  His choice to work in Westerns was greatly influenced by his childhood memories of traveling the Old West with his father, Nicholas Hart, a machinist who dreamt of owning a grist mill.

Continue reading

One Man’s Vision of the West – Old Trapper’s Lodge Folk Art

Lex sez:

In the interior of Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California, there is a fascinating collection of statues, fake tombstones and other examples of folk art.  These are what remain of Old Trapper’s Lodge.  It took Neek and me a long time driving around to find it, but hidden in a more rural section of the college where a rooster was crowing loudly, we finally stumbled onto it.

Entering the display, two things caught my attention right away.  One was the historical plaque for California Registered Historical Landmark #939.  This told the story of John Ehn (1897-1981), who was a trapper before moving to California, who opened a motel near the Burbank airport at Arvilla Avenue and San Fernando Road called the Old Trapper’s Lodge in 1941.  Continue reading

The Desert Dwellers – Visiting the Vasquez Rocks Interpretive Center

Neek sez:

I love interpretive centers!  They are thoughtful, informative and give you answers to questions about the places you visit.  So, starting off, this is what I learned:

The history of Vasquez Rocks starts with the native people, The Tataviam who were here from 200 B.C., years before the first Spanish explorers met them in 1769 when they numbered in the hundreds.  Continue reading

Do You Recognize this Place? – Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California

Lex sez:

In the town of Agua Dulce in the Sierra Pelona Mountains is a 932 acre area called the Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.  These are huge rock formations from an uplift about 25 million years ago.  The Tataviam people were living here in grass huts within villages for centuries before the Spanish arrived.

But it was bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who used these rocks to hide out from authorities in 1873 and 1874, whose name is associated with this amazing formation. Continue reading