1945 - Survey Says!

by Susie Hodgson

It was 1945 – a momentous time for Burbank, the United States and, of course, the world.

World War II was fast coming to an end and everyone knew it. To Americans’ shock, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dropped dead in April of 1945, never to see the actual end of the war, as his Vice President, Harry Truman, took over. In May, the war in Europe ended with Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun committing suicide in their bunker. The war with Japan wouldn’t end until August with the dropping of two enormous bombs by the U.S. All in 1945.

Here in Burbank, in March of 1945, more than 10,000 members of the Conference of Studio Unions went on strike. The strike continued and got violent six months later when October 5 was declared Bloody Friday. Burbank was also preparing itself to take in Japanese-Americans who had been locked up in internment camps. (Burbank was a “repatriation center.” Temporary housing was erected for them off Winona, as well as near the airport and on Magnolia.)

It was on March 14, 1945 when the City of Burbank Parks & Rec Department conducted a survey among the town’s seniors. It was a historical questionnaire, asking when people came to Burbank, and even more telling, “What was the most important event that happened in Burbank?” (The survey in its entirety is here.)

Ernest, who lived on 10th Street (now Bel Aire) said he went to Burbank Grammar School starting in 1899. The most important event he witnessed in Burbank was the arrival of the electric car in 1911. This was the new, fast way to Los Angeles. Most other respondents answered that question the same way! This was without question the #1 answer to this pivotal question. Literally dozens of respondents mentioned the importance of the electric train.

And here are some other participants’ responses:

Annie, who moved to Burbank in 1904 because her husband was Constable here, echoed that the electric car line was the most important event in Burbank’s history. Annie’s husband, Constable Charles, said he moved from Glendale to Burbank because he liked being out “in the country.” (Burbank was in the country!) But to him, the most important event was “when Burbank gave away the rights to the Midway Gas Company.”

Viola moved to Burbank in 1910 to work as a teacher. She said that what drew her here were the beautiful pepper trees. In addition to chiming in about the most important event being the coming of the electric car, she threw in a second: the paving of San Fernando Road. Other participants would report this paving, too, becoming the #2 most popular answer to this question. Another answer that popped up more than once was the memorable teacher named June Luttge, a member of the pioneering Luttge family. They owned a popular small grocery store and a good amount of land.

Amy came to Burbank with her parents who started a chicken ranch here. She agreed that the Pacific Electric train that was built from Los Angeles to Burbank (and vice versa!) was a biggie, but also listed the following as other big deals: the building of Union High School at the corner of Cypress and San Fernando Road, the paving of San Fernando Road in 1912 and the building of the Moreland Truck Factory in the late 1920s.

Howard, who moved here in 1906, stated that his first address in Burbank was on the First National lot [now Warner Brothers]: the old Dr. David Burbank House. He also took note of the time the Santa Rosa Hotel caught on fire, plus seeing Dr. Thompson [Elmer Thompson. Burbank’s first doctor] riding on his bicycle all around town to visit patients, and further marveled at watching people on horseback along the streets.

John, a Burbanker since 1894, remembered, in his words, when “the West L.A. Water Corporation developed considerable water on the west part of Burbank and the Tom Story Ranch piped it into Hollywood and gave employment to many people. The line came in on Flower Street and crossed Los Feliz into Hollywood.” The Story family was a big name in early Burbank, with Tom Story being the first mayor. He and his family owned Story Hardware Store (now Story Tavern on San Fernando) and they owned a lot of land here. Sarah cited the establishment of Warner Brothers and added “air plane [two words!]plants” to the list of points of interest in Burbank.

Fletcher, who arrived in Burbank in 1896 when his folks bought a farm on what is now Alameda, specifically called Lockheed the most important part of the city and C.H. pointed out that another important event was when Burbank won first prize in the Rose Parade.

George moved here in 1901, remembering fondly that he came with his family in a “camp wagon.” He was also nostalgic for Cash Edmonds Store, Schuster Flood Market [it clearly says “Flood,” not “Food”], 1903 Story’s Livery Stable Melon Day, Hunters Hay Baling and dances in the Brick Block. Leon said he was “forced to” move to Burbank. They had family here and the 1906 earthquake destroyed their previous home. Leon wrote that the most important event he knew of was watching early inventor and eccentric character Joe Fawkes’ “arguments against the City of Burbank remaining an incorporated city.” (Fawkes notoriously DID want Burbank to be a part of L.A., but Burbank locals were against it.)

Emma, whose parents moved to sunny Burbank because of her father’s poor health, pointed out other momentous events: “bringing gas to Burbank and having electric lights and also paving the streets.” Henry was born in Burbank in 1884 on a ranch on what is now Burbank Blvd. He considered the building of the First National Bank a noteworthy event in the history of Burbank. Clyde reminisced how fascinating it was to see Burbank go from “farming fruit to the coming of banks to the present time [1945].” He wasn’t kidding about the fruit. Cantaloupes were on the very first city seal in the early 1900s!

Want to learn more about Burbank? Come visit us!

The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site: www.burbankhistoricalsoc.org
Email: ghowardmuseum@sbcglobal.net

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