Lockheed Comes to Burbank (1928)


From The Story of Burbank from her Eventful Pioneer Days (The Magnolia Park Chamber of Commerce, 1954)



The history of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation reads like a story.


It dates back to 1912 - a scant five years after Orville and Wilbur Wright made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, N. C. - and proved for the first time that a powered plane could lift man!


Back in February of 1928, when Allan Lockheed moved his little airplane factory and 50 employees from Hollywood into a two-story brick ranch house at “Turkey Crossing” that provided offices and engineering rooms, and into a portion of a brick factory that became the woodshop, sheet metal and assembly area, probably no one dreamed that its coming would so vitally affect the future of this community.


Its location wasn't considered very desirable. Burbank's "poor house'' was at the dusty intersection of Empire and Lincoln Avenues. Three miles away to the southeast was Burbank . . .  a town of several thousand persons whose homes were, for the most part, clustered within a few blocks of Olive Ave.


To the west and south stretched miles of vineyards, fruit orchards, alfalfa fields and truck gardens, divided by an occasional tree and spots of un-reclaimed desert and rocky washes.


Even farther west was Pioneer Park with its baseball field and tin can and rubbish dump.


San Fernando Road already was a trucking and passenger artery that made a sharp “turkey-neck” twist across the railroad tracks. In fact, the intersection got its nickname - Turkey Crossing - in the middle 1920's when a freight train scattered a wagonload of turkeys, and gave people of the area a free holiday bird.


A dead-end street running southwest separated the group of factory buildings. Just southeast was the Empire China Company, where a group of experts from Liverpool, Ohio, employed more workers than Lockheed at that time making fine china dinnerware. The rest of the main factory building housed the Mission Gloss Works - manufacturers of pressed glassware.


But, because it was three miles from town, it was a good place to build and fly airplanes.


Back of the new plant, for a third of a mile along the Southern Pacific's coast route, workmen leveled the sagebrush and tumbleweeds for a landing strip about twice the width of a Lockheed Vega's 41-foot wing span. Twice a year this strip had to be graded to fill in the gopher holes and keep the weeds down. This was before planes had brakes, and the low embankment of the railroad spur into the factories often stopped the planes before they ran out into the dirt road to the east.


Pilots were able to "spot" Lockheed by the seven large brick kilns of the china factory and the two big chimneys of the glass works. Once in a while when a plane buzzed too low, its engines set up vibrations that knocked down a few dishes from the racks in the kilns, and brought complaints from the china factory. But generally all was harmony in the little industrial group.


Newspaper accounts hailed Lockheed's decision to move to Burbank as . . . "a great step in the town's desire to attract new industry and payrolls." One enthusiastic writer, more daring than the rest, went so far as to predict the new plant might ultimately employ as many as 200, and become the core of a southern California aviation center.



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