Monthly Archives: February 2018

In January, we asked our Los Angeles Service Academy (LASA) students what questions they had about Los Angeles. As a year-long program for high school juniors, LASA provides an intensive introduction to the infrastructure and institutions of greater Los Angeles. Since we’re halfway through the program, students shared a range of macro and micro questions they still wondered about their city. We’re sharing some of their questions with answers provided by the ICW staff. We’ll be updating this list of questions and feel free to chime in as some of their questions range from the thought-provoking to the light-hearted.

Question: What sports will be added to the 2028 Olympics?

Answer: Surfing comes to the 2020 Olympics but in a relatively limited capacity. By Los Angeles’ 2028 Olympics, let’s imagine a range of surfing events such that Olympic Surfing is as multi-faceted as Track and Field.


Question: Why is LA so spread out? Is freeway expansion a cause or product?

Answer: Los Angeles is so spread out for a couple of major reasons.  One, the Los Angeles Basin is so huge; people have traditionally lived in far-flung settlements (dating back to pre-contact times).  Two, the early metropolitan decision-makers, following this pattern, decided to try to build a new kind of urban region, opting for suburban sprawl, with towns or communities separated by distance and open space.  And three, the early transit systems, especially the trolleys, aided this decentralization by way of their routes and spider-web systems.  It all happened before the car showed up, but the car certainly played a role in ‘firming up’ what was already in place.


Map of the Pacific Electric Railway courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Question: Why can’t school start at 9:30 am? Can election day be a holiday?

Answer: LASA students – you know the answers to these questions. Strategize. Organize. Make your voices heard. Students drive conversations and change!


Photo of students walking for peace (circa 1986) comes from the Los Angeles Public Library.

Question: What’s LA most known for?

Answer: Los Angeles is most known for the film industry. And the weather. And the beach. And the diversity of its population. And LASA.

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Hollywood premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theater (circa 1929) courtesy of USC Libraries.

Question: What’s the official dog of LA?

Answer: According to Bill Deverell, “the official dog of Los Angeles is Petal Deverell, a five year old pug who lives in Pasadena.”


Petal Deverell courtesy of Bill Deverell.

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Japanese and Japanese Americans near the Civil Control Center in Venice, California, before being sent to Manzanar in 1942, courtesy of The Huntington Library.

This year Presidents Day and the Day of Remembrance share February 19. As we honor our presidential leaders, we are also mindful of their failures to foster liberty and justice for all. On this day in 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The executive order resulted in the displacement and incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans from the western coast of the US. Congressional and state political leaders, the military, significant sectors of the American public, and the Supreme Court share responsibility with FDR. On this Day of Remembrance, we listen to the histories of those impacted by FDR’s presidential action. On this Presidents Day, we consider the magnitude of presidential power and those who have and have had the privilege and responsibility to exercise such power.

Father-figure Frederic Bryton

Image courtesy of the Huntington Library.

In commemoration of Valentine’s Day, we offer this poem of familial love written by a California daughter:

A Poem for My Father

A man saw a bird and wanted to paint it. The problem, if there was one, was simply a problem with the question. Why paint a bird? Why do anything at all? Not how, because hows are easy—series or sequence, one foot after the other—but existentially why bother, what does it solve?

           -Richard Siken


My father is a mountain man,

both in practice and in preach.

Every morning,

upon waking,

he greets the trees.

“I pine fir you,”

he says to the trees.

“I long for you,”

he says to the pale grass.

How to fit so much love

in one brain?

How to teach all that

one knows?

My father is a scholar,

a wonder,

a friend.

“Teach me how to live,”

I say to him.

“Here’s how,”

says my father.

And, suddenly, life!


By Li Wei Yang

As one of the first Chinese Americans admitted to the State Bar of California, Y.C. Hong was a major figure in the Los Angeles Chinese community during the period of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a federal law in effect from 1882 to 1943 that prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States. This letter, dated May 4th, 1929, from Y.C. Hong (Alfred, as he was known back then) to Mabel Chin, expresses his love for her during the long courtship. It’s also apparent from the letters that there were many potential suitors for Mabel, so Y.C. Hong was facing stiff competition. The courtship lasted roughly two years and the couple was married in 1931. It’s worth noting too the gender balance between Chinese American women and men was not equal. For example, the gender ratio for Chinese American men to women was approximately 10 to 1 in the 1920s. Chinese Exclusion made it difficult for many Chinese American men to form families.

May 4th, 1929

Dear Mabel:

You have certainly been nice to me!  I really can’t find a way to express my gratitude, and I am not going to try.  I’d rather be indebted to you for the rest of my life anyway.  Your wire came this morning just as I got back to the office.  Thanks a lot for the kind thoughts.  Your favor of the 30th (?) reached me yesterday and your letter dated the 29th came the day before.  To show my appreciation in my humble way, I am writing you on my birthday.  I have just gotten home from a heavy Chinese dinner, and if this letter should turn out to be a tiresome one, please blame it on the said dinner.

The weather has been terribly hot the last few days.  The sudden change of temperature made me a bit out of tune.  I have been feeling fine ever since your telegram came.  Somehow, I’ve always thought medicine is supposed to be bitter and hard to take.  You are surely a paradox!  You’re so sweet and yet able to cure me of my ills.  Mabel, you are my “Candy-Kid” and “Medicine Man” all wrapped up into one.

The snapshots are adorable.  Once upon a time, some poetical swain said: “To see her is to love her; to love her is to love her forever”.  I heartily agreed with him, and how!  I am still waiting both patiently and impatiently for the photograph, Mabel.  Please be merciful and not make me wait too long, please.

Henry, Dan [and] I took in the Broadway Melody at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre last Monday evening.  The play was very nice and not a few of the songs were quite entrancing.  One particular song struck my fancy quite strongly because it reminded me of you and your brigade of Romeos.  The chorus no doubt repeats the sentiments of the “Romantic 15”, but I’d rather have you hear the words of the verse first because – well, because.  At any rate, the words are as follows:

“Life was a song, You came along;
I’ve laid awake the whole night thru.
If I but dare To think you cared,
This is what I’d say to you –
“You were meant for me,
I was meant for you.
Nature patterned you and when she was done,
You were all the sweet things rolled up in one.
You’re like a plaintive melody,
That never lets me free,
For I’m content the angels must have sent you
And they meant you just for me.”

I wish I could sing it.  Maybe I’ll try someday.  Dan said he’ll do it when you come down the next time.

So you are willing to marry the man who really loves you and who has the power to make you love him?  Well, the first condition is certainly easy to fulfill but the catch comes in on the second requirement.  Can you name me a few of the boys who you think can meet the second requirement?  We only live to learn, and I want to know who is he [and] to learn something really worthwhile before I die.  I am not flattering you Mabel.  You are surely a wonderfully adorable girl.  You certainly did upset my equilibrium [and] I don’t mean maybe!  I am glad of it however.  I won’t sue you for damages, such as loss of sleep, (?) et cetera.

I think I can furnish the Prince Charming, the next time you come to Los Angeles.  He is handsome, not quite tall enough but he makes up for that in some other nice ways.  He is quite a lady’s man, [and] many a girl had sighed hopelessly over him.  You know him too, so it is not necessary for me to tell his name.  Now aren’t you thrilled?  Henry Lowe said that Albert Quon will be back from China in September and he is coming back to America single.  Isn’t that just too wonderful for words?  He is one man who measures up to the conception of an ideal lover and prospective husband in the estimation of our co-eds with a few exceptions, [and] only a few is right.

Thanks for the address of the O.S. C. Students’ Co-op.  The “Royal” is supposed to have more modern features than any other portable typewriter on the market.  The one in my office is a “Royal”.  The “Remington” is supposed to be the most durable of them all.  You can have any make you want.  If you don’t care for the Royal, please be kind enough o give me the address of some Portland agent so that I can order thru him.  Do you like the “Corona”?  Why not drop in on some of the companies [and] find out what you want?  I know I’m impossible but you’re going to get one just the same.  No use to argue with me.

It’s pretty nearly one o’clock in the morning [and] I am getting terribly sleepy, so au revoir until later.  I hope to be able to write a more interesting letter the middle of the week.  Good night, charming farmerette!

Yours sincerely,

P.S.  Don’t pay too much attention to those Romeos [and] write to me at your earliest convenience.


For more on Y.C. Hong, visit the Huntington Digital Library: For researchers interested in accessing this collection, this 1929 letter can be found in Hong Family Papers box Y38 (1).

Li Wei Yang is curator of Pacific Rim Collections at The Huntington Library.

Huntington_Gold_Rush_Love_LetterA different sort of love letter. Here Sarah Nichols, beside herself with loneliness and fear, writes to her husband and son who have set off for the California gold fields upon hearing news of the Gold Rush. It reminds us how far away California was to most of those who either went there looking for gold or who remained home.

Buffalo April 7th 1849
My husband & Son—You know not my feelings I cannot live if you go any futher—Oh return home sell your things & return to me Save oh Save my life I cannot live if You go to California, there is war famine pestilence— murders—& evry evry evil there to await you have mercy on a poor mother oh come home I’m Sick & depres’d—I know not what to do, I think I shall give up the house—I’m not fit for any charge the boys are well—Mrs Clark thinks I will not live long unless you return home—come back Oh come, I fret & weep day & night, a cruel wife was I to let you leave me—remember If You will go on we never meet on earth again I’ve pray’d but get no relife If you do not return by May 1 I shall take my passage on a line of Steamers & start for san francisco my mind is decided If you will go to the grave, I’ll go with you Earth has no charm for me—unless you both will return—I have made arrangements to leave for California soon as you answer this— unless you will return I come to you—I’m almost heartbroken why should we be separated—George my son beg for me oh plead with your father ere it is too late to save a fond wife & mother Mrs Tiffany is dead grief kill’d, I shall soon follow. Answer next mail.

See the full letter on the Huntington Library’s web site.