Looking from Wall Street between 8th and 9th Streets. “Japanese and Negro District”

The California Historical Society has a fine website with old photographs of Los Angeles. The Anton Wagner Collection is especially notable for its images of our city in the 1930s.

The Great Depression was in full swing and Los Angeles was a place where people also struggled to make a living, even though photographs show new buildings, apartments, public works, farms and industries. It seems everyone was working and the city was thriving despite hard times.

One thing that stands out is the spectacularly tidy streets with swept sidewalks, clean curbs, and not one sign of shopping carts filled with garbage or mountains of trash.

This was during the most severe economic downturn in American history, yet Los Angeles functioned as a functioning city, where the presentation of tidiness, order, and cleanliness was foremost.

There were many poor, destitute people in the 1930s. But Los Angeles did not create a dystopian city where people shit in the streets, or lived along the road, or slept on bus benches, or roamed mentally ill in parking lots, or set up tents on residential streets for outdoor trash camping.

There were not two-story high trash piles that authorities promised to remove in three months time.

Cheap structures on Eagle Rock Boulevard, looking east from north of York Boulevard

There was a crisis and it was called the Great Depression, but government and people, here in this city, were not seized in panic and unable to respond or knocked over by circumstances.

They ran the city well, with pride, and these photographs of ordinary life in the City of Angels, 85 years ago, should fill our modern, jaded hearts with shame for what we have allowed Los Angeles to become under Mayor Garbageciti.

4 thoughts on “A Once Neat City.

  1. Ten minutes ago I drove up VN boulevard. Nury Martinez, LAPD Van Nuys station and SPA2 have quietly and without public notice created a de facto Skid Row North along the busway, Aetna, Bessemer and along the boulevard up to Vanowen. No proclamation, no public referendum, no voting, no paper trail.


  2. Bubalah. I say this with love. You either need to make peace with the Van Nuys that exists, or you need to move. Both are pretty good options… You’re in a better position than most people to choose as you may. But this kvetching about the imperfection of the world just isn’t healthy. Might I interest you in a gin and tonic and some mahjong with the girls?


  3. — Everything you say is true. Though as to the Depression…….We all know about the Dust Bowl and all that. The stories around the dinner table many years ago suggested that one grandfather (an electrical engineer for GE who installed hydroelectric generating equipment at dams) was out of work for quite a while, and the other (a Detroit tool and die maker) could only find work in western Michigan and went back and forth for a number of years. California actually weathered it pretty well – better than most other states. Hence the Joads.

    — There was a vastly different population then. Make of that what you will.

    — If, as I suspect, you are the type of person who loves geeking out over old photos as much as I do…….You’ll spend several weeks here.

    “Noirish Los Angeles”. Now up to over 2500 pages. There’s no real organization to it, but fun to skim through some of the old photos and comments. I suspect it has every photo on the links you provided – and then some….LOL



    1. I love the Noirish page, yes there are some great images in there.

      As for the cleanliness of our city, I don’t blame the “vastly different population” because some of the filthiest and worst maintained apartments and mini-malls, are (surprise!) owned by wealthy people in BelAir, Encino, Beverly Hills.

      What’s different is what is allowed in public. That is true from everything from garbage to foul language to how people comport themselves and what is considered respectable and normal in public.

      In the old days, the bad old days, they picked “bums” off the street and if you were vagrant and sleeping on a bus bench in Mid-Wilshire, you would probably be arrested. If you just set up a blanket on a sidewalk and started selling your old underwear you would put into an insane asylum. But now, in 2019, LA Weekly would call you a hero for selling pot brownies in Echo Park, and if you were in a category of victimhood you would be even more respected. If 5000 people are camped out along the freeway, and if 10000 people are camping out in the parks, and they produce 3 tons of garbage, schoolchildren are asked to come and clean up needles and feces. This is not normal. This is beyond belief. And this is what LA is today. A filthy mess with a hapless government that puts on virtue signaling and does little.

      Some behaviors should be illegal and impermissible in public. And then you deal with the lawful ways to house people. You don’t allow lunacy to take over and then try to make peace with it. By then it is too late.


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