Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shooting San Pedro Centennial 1910-2010

Shooting San Pedro Centennial 1910-2010

2010 marks the centenary year for location shooting in San Pedro. In 1910 D.W. Griffith “discovered” San Pedro—the same year he discovered Hollywood.  The film was The Unchanging Sea which he directed for the Biograph Company:

It was shot in March 1910 and released on May 5, 1910. The one reel, 13.6 minute film was shot on location in both Santa Monica and San Pedro. It appears that the village scenes may have been shot in San Pedro and the beach scenes at Santa Monica—but who knows. 

The story for the film was inspired by Charles Kingsley’s poem “The Three Fishers” and starts by introducing the fisherman (Arthur V. Johnson) and his wife (Linda Arvidson).

The happy young couple live in a “fishing village” at the base of the bluffs.

The wife forlornly sees him off to sea. (“And the women stood watching them out of town. For men must work and women must weep”)

Everyone waits in vain for the fishermen to return.

Their bodies are washed ashore. (“Three corpses lay out on the shining sands”)  One hundred years later a similar scene was filmed around the bend in Palos Verdes for Inception (2010) which opens with Leonardo DiCaprio washed up on a beach in PV (subbing for Japan) and “ends” with a van falling off the Henry Ford Bridge in Wilmington.

The dazed husband survives and is taken to a nearby village—but he’s lost his memory.

Years pass by.  His pregnant wife gives birth to a daughter (Gladys Egan) who grows up to be a young women (Mary Pickford) and leaves home to be married.

Leaving her mother alone, still looking out across the empty sea. (“For those who will never come back to the town”)

Meanwhile, he’s still dazed and confused—living as a lonely fisherman in the other village.

One day he comes ashore at his old village.

The familiar surroundings trigger his memory.

And the no-longer-young couple is reunited.

David W. Griffith (1875-1948) was born in rural La Grange, Kentucky on January 22, 1875.  At the age of 22 he sought a stage career as an actor and author.  Failing to succeed in the theater he reluctantly turned to the new media of motion pictures. He was hired by the Edison Company in 1907 as an actor when he failed to sell them a story.  In 1908, at age 33, he moved to American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.—still working as an actor.  In August he was promoted to director (at $50/week plus a small royalty per film) after their main director fell ill.  Within a year he was completing 2-3 films per week.  In 1910 (2 months before he made The Unchanging Sea) he shot the first movie ever filmed in Hollywood, In Old California, released on March 10, 1910 (during its filming he was also the 1st to utter the immortal words “Lights, camera, action!”).  He went on to be one of the most important (the Academy’s lifetime achievement award was originally named in his honor), prolific (over 450 shorts and over 80 features), innovative (inventing the flashback, the iris shot, the mask, the systematic use of the soft focus shot, the split screen, and false eyelashes while pioneering the technique of parallel editing), and controversial directors in cinema history. In 1915 he created the groundbreaking and racist blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, which redefined the industry and triggered riots across the country.  He was called “the Father of Film” by Lillian Gish (whom he discovered—along with her sister Dorothy, Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, and other stars) and “the teacher of us all” by Charlie Chaplin. He also co-founded (with Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Pickford) United Artists in 1920. (IMDb; Wikipedia)

Friday, November 12, 2010

San Pedro Stories: 1911

San Pedro Stories: The Nazarene, 1911

“The Nazarene” by John Fleming Wilson, Harper’s Magazine, Vol. 38, No.3, January 1912, pgs 274-277

San Pedro has always been home to colorful characters. The following short story by John Fleming Wilson about a silent seaman-preacher also captures the feel of life on the San Pedro docks in 1911 with brief descriptions of the Terminal Island ferry, wharfs and stevedores.

The following “postcard” shows the San Pedro and harbor experienced by the author of the story—including the ferry, the “main town” and the Terminal Island wharfs at night. It also shows both of the larger “modern” steamers (the Yale and the Harvard) that started running at that time and which made the discomforts of “deck passage” much less common.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

November in San Pedro

November in San Pedro

01 November:

1860: John T. Gaffey born in Great Britain (arrives in California at age 7)

1911: Thousands visit harbor to see Congressional review of 24-ship Pacific Fleet; parade led by the recommissioned USS Oregon, the 1st battleship built in California (Union Iron Works, San Francisco, $3.18 million) and popular hero of the Spanish-American War known as “McKinley’s Bulldog”; Admiral Thomas and guests review fleet from the little gunship Vicksburg; on November 2nd the USS Oregon is opened to the public for tours (the Oregon became California’s 1st and only battleship when transferred to the California Naval Militia on 02/17/1916)

02 November:

1886: John T. Gaffey, deputy clerk of the Supreme Court of the Southern District, elected to the State Board of Equalization (District 4)

04 November:

1944: 1st recovery of a Japanese E77 balloon bomb; found in Pacific Ocean by the U.S. Navy off San Pedro, California; the balloon was salvaged but the payload was lost; Japan launched over 9000 balloons (33½‘ diameter with 25-65 pounds of incendiary and antipersonnel bombs and 3 dozen sand-filled ballast bags of 3-7 pounds each) between November 1944 and April 1945; an onboard altimeter controlled the release of hydrogen and sand bags to maintain an altitude of 30-38,000 feet and the Jet Stream carried them to North America in 3-4 days; the following video is an excerpt from On a Wind and a Prayer:

1950: Over 400 police stand guard in Wilmington; two rival unions threaten violence in dispute over the unloading of C-Trader, a steam lumber schooner at Berth 200

05 November:

1836: Juan Bautista Alvarado, Monterey customs collector, leads revolt against Lieutenant-Colonel Nicolas Gutierrez and replaces him as acting Governor of Mexican Alta California; Gutierrez and officers detained on the English brig Clementine at Cabo San Lucus on 11/11/1836 before expulsion to Mexico

1872: Southern Pacific (“Espee”) subsidies approved by Los Angeles County voters; LA City donates 60 acres for a new depot, proposition authorizes subsidy of up to 5% of the value of taxable property in LA County, and Espee gets control of the Los Angeles and San Pedro (LA&SP) railroad; total value of subsidy: $610,000—$1.06 billion in 2009 dollars using the Relative Share of GDP Index; Espee takes over the LA&SP by 1873 as per the negotiated enticement for building an overland route to the City of Los Angeles City (thus connecting it to northern California and the transcontinental railroad); Phineas Banning loses his monopoly over LA shipping and is hired by Espee as a “Railroad Agent”; Banning's LA station at Alameda and Commercial becomes just a flag stop for the Southern Pacific and is torn down in 1888;

In the 1880s the Southern Pacific Company acquired the rights of way and buys land bordering the west side of the deepened main channel in San Pedro and extends the LA&SP line over the lagoon to downtown San Pedro onto their newly constructed wharfs—totally bypassing Banning’s landing in Wilmington and its exorbitant charges for lighterage; the Espee monopoly in San Pedro supplants the Banning monopoly in Wilmington—results in the real birth of the modern port, a multi-decade economic decline for Wilmington, and the “Free Harbor” fight of the 1890s

1923: East coast ship captains complain of the numerous desertions of seamen at San Pedro who were lured to the desert by Hollywood to be movie extras; probably due to one or both of Hollywood’s 1st two epics: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (2,500 actors and extras) and James Cruze's The Covered Wagon (shot on location in Utah and Nevada with a cast of thousands)

06 November:

1851: William T.B. Sanford (the future employer, business associate and brother-in-law of Phineas Banning), of the firm Douglas and Sanford, is appointed LA’s 2nd U.S. postmaster; Douglas and Sanford are commission and transportation agents with “stores” in San Pedro and Los Angeles

2007: Grand Opening of the $5.1 million (according to the 5/26/2004 Ruiz Brothers Construction Co. bid) Fire Station No. 36 at 1005 North Gaffey Street, San Pedro,

07 November:

1871: Drum Barracks closed

1885: The 17 pound potato (33.4 inch diameter at its widest part) brought from San Pedro yesterday by Captain Hanna of the Eureka is now on exhibit in San Francisco

1886: The Belvedere sails from San Pedro in ballast for cargo of coal from Nanaimo; goes aground at Bonilla Point on 11/30/1886; assumed a total loss (fully insured at $25,000); one crew boat still missing

08 November:

1887: Surveyors on Rattlesnake Island revealed as employees of the “English syndicate” which recently bought Santa Catalina for $400,000; deal was made with Santa Fe railway for seaport terminal and right-of-way from LA to East San Pedro; syndicate plans to run boats to their Catalina resort; may also ship low grade ores from island to England and import coal; scheme designed by noted English scientist Henry De Fly; the competition between the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and the Santa Fe railways for ownership of Rattlesnake Island was a popular topic of speculation throughout 1887 with conflicting rumors and announcements regarding its sale to Jay Gould and the Union Pacific in May and to Richard Smith of New York in June

1887: At the height of LA’s “Big Boom” more lumber is received at San Pedro in 60 days than at San Francisco in 12 months

10 November:

1906: U.S. Treasury agent “explains” to the San Francisco Call why there is no custom house in San Pedro; apparently, land-locked LA’s non-existent “port of Los Angeles” is the official Port of Entry; the Treasury Department still confuses San Pedro and Wilmington—an error created by Banning’s misrepresentations to congress in the 1860s (by naming his development on the mudflats “New San Pedro” he led them to believe the town of San Pedro had actually moved 4 miles up the creek, so congress moved the designated Port of Entry to Banning’s private wharf); the federal government’s confusion between San Pedro and Wilmington was never resolved but became mute when both cities consolidated with Los Angeles in 1909

1921: Batteries in the forward department of USS L-6 (SS-45) burst into flames on run from San Diego to San Pedro when the sub is still 15 miles from its San Pedro base and 10 fathoms below the surface; 7 injured; enters harbor with crew on surface deck and smoke billowing from conning tower and hatches; the L-6 was a 456-ton L-5 class Lake-type submarine built at Long Beach, California and commissioned in early December 1917; the L-6 had returned to California in February 1919 after WWI service in the Atlantic; it was decommissioned in November 1922 and sold for scrap in December 1925

11 November:

1860: Abraham Lincoln elected president with 32.3 percent of the vote in a 4-way race; Abel Stearns (a Douglas Democrat and member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors) elected to California Assembly (District 1); Stearns was the “Sindico” (Trustee) of San Pedro from 1836-1849; he expanded facilities at the Hide House and called it “Casa de San Pedro”; Stearns also represented the LA area at California’s 1st constitutional convention

1918: World War I ends: 2 million Russians, 1.8 million Germans, 1.3 million French, 1.1 million Austro-Hungarians, 0.9 million Britons, 0.6 million Turks and 0.5 million Italians are dead

1933: Babe Ruth is delayed at San Pedro while federal agents search an ocean liner for the kidnappers of Brook L. Hart of San Jose

1942: Fleet repair ship USS Hector (AR-7) launched by Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation on Smith Island in San Pedro, California (529.5’ length, 73.5’ beam, 23’4” draft, 19 knots, 16,200 tons displacement); Hector was the third in a series of four Vulcan class Repair Ships; commissioned at San Pedro on 2/9/1944 by Captain Schuyler F. Heim, U.S.N., Commandant, Naval Operating Base, Terminal Island; crew of over 1000 with 4 repair divisions; returns to San Pedro Bay on 2/3/1946, dry docked at San Pedro, and stationed at Long Beach; out of service 2/1/1962-5/28/1962 for regular overhaul and dry docking at Bethlehem Steel Corporation on Terminal Island, San Pedro; extensive overhaul in 1969 at Todd Shipyard, San Pedro (see November 17); served in 3 overseas wars (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), 3rd oldest ship in the US Navy when decommissioned on 4/20/1987 after 43 years of service; see the official website of the USS Hector (AR-7) Association

12 November:

1849: James Collier, newly appointed collector of customs in San Francisco, reports that San Pedro is the 2nd busiest port in California (recommends upgrading the port’s official designation)

1853: Lt. E.O.C. Ord writes Superintendent A.D. Bache (U.S. Coast Survey, Washington, D.C.) complaining of a heat wave disrupting work on the plain north of San Pedro: "The plains here are still perfectly dry - and the hot air dancing over them before sunrise and after sunset - so that I can only erect signals - To understand the climate here it must be remembered that it is of the latitude and as hot on the plains as the northern part of Sahara."; a month later he was frustrated by heavy rains and flooding, just as George Davidson had been in 1852 when he initially failed to complete the San Pedro Baseline (he finished it the following Spring before he was relieved by Ord on August 17, 1853);

As in 1949, when he made the 1st ever survey of the City of Los Angeles, Ord supplements his government position with private contracts; in February 1855 he wrote his recent bride that “I have or was asked to make surveys by Sepulvedas, Domingues, and Diegos.... I surveyed the Pueblo & lands -- & the new town of San Pedro” [Wilmington]; Ord was succeeded by Assistant Greenwell on the Coast Survey in May 1855; by the Fall of 1855 Greenwell was in San Pedro correcting errors made by Ord (possibly made during the 1853 heat wave and floods)

2003: Authorization of artificial reef construction project at San Pedro

13 November:

1849: California voters approve the State Constitution

1888: John Ryland Brierly (76th District Assemblyman and Speaker pro tem 1887-?, Wilmington District Collector of Customs 11/1882-10/1886, San Pedro School District Board of Trustees clerk ca.1884-1886), and Judge R.M. Widney addressed LA’s new chamber of commerce on harbor conditions and needed improvements; Chamber decides to promote the harbor by inviting Senators Stanford and Hearst to visit San Pedro as their guests

14 November:

1888: Los Angeles, Utah and Atlantic Railroad Company formed to build a road from San Pedro Bay through Kern and Inyo counties to the eastern border of California

15 November:

1907: Steam schooner Berkeley bound for San Francisco from San Pedro destroyed by fire off Gaviota, California; entire crew manages to escape on a single rowboat

1908: Reported attempt to create a state harbor commission for San Pedro; opposed by Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Captain Amos A. Fries of the U.S. Corp of Engineers; proposed $1.5 million appropriation viewed as a take-over attempt by Sacramento and a vehicle for graft

1928: The 33,000-ton aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) breaks the world’s record for speed (34.5 knots) and power (210,000 horsepower) for large ships in speed trials at San Pedro; the Lexington was one of the U.S. Navy's first two aircraft carriers capable of serious fleet operations due to their size and speed; commissioned on December 14, 1927, the Lexington joined the battle fleet at San Pedro on April 7, 1928; while based at San Pedro the Lexington was a pioneer in developing naval aviation techniques that proved critical in World War II; the Lexington became the 1st U.S. carrier lost in WWII when gasoline vapors exploded after she was hit by 2 torpedoes and 3 bombs at the Battle of Coral Sea on 05/08/1942

1963: Vincent Thomas Bridge opened for traffic; construction cost was $21 million (equivalent to $511 million in 2009 dollars using the relative share of GDP index—probably more if indexed to the relative share of LA’s GDP); the bridge spans the Main Channel connecting “Smith Island” in San Pedro with East San Pedro on Terminal Island; 3rd  largest suspension span bridge in California (after the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge); 1st welded (rather than riveted) suspension bridge in the United States; Only suspension bridge in the world supported entirely on piles; Named after Assemblyman Vincent Thomas of San Pedro; 2.2 miles long (LA County Route CA-47); Los Angeles City Council declared the 33-year-old bridge LA’s official welcoming monument in 1996; Tower Height: 365 feet; 185 feet (35 stories) above water; Length: 6,060 feet (2.2 miles); Roadway Width: 52 feet with a 6.5 inch concrete deck; Center Suspension Span: 1,500 feet; 19 cables (11 interior and 8 exterior) with 212 wires each; 990 steel piles (supporting 145 tons each)

16 November:

1854: Phineas Banning marries Rebecca Sanford (younger sister of his former employer)

1900: Vacant and abandoned Southern Pacific Hotel at Point Fermin (located in today’s Sunken City area) burns down; fire caused by explosion of gasoline stove used by oil drillers camping on the veranda; hotel cost $35,000 to build but was uninsured; the failed hotel tried to compete with Catalina as a resort but was built too late to profit from the rate wars boom; proprietor was R. Hillyear in 1886/87

17 November:

1969: USS Hector returns to her birthplace at Todd Shipyard (formerly the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation) in San Pedro; during its 4 months in the yard the engineering plant was extensively overhauled, two large cranes were rebuilt, a new communications center was installed, repairs were performed on the hull, and much of the exterior was sandblasted & re-painted; a day of sea trials was successfully completed on 03/20/1970

18 November:

1897: Harbor improvements at San Pedro are delayed by War Department claims that there is no appropriation designated for advertising; the San Francisco Call and other California newspapers offer to print the call for bids anyways and successfully pressure the War Department to finally begin the much delayed breakwater construction and create a deep-water port at San Pedro

1897: Mary H. Banning, daughter of Phineas Banning and his 2nd wife (the former Mary Hollister), dies at age 26

19 November:

1928: President-elect Hoover leaves Palo Alto on a train for San Pedro; “communist” demonstrators are arrested at the Palo Alto station

20 November:

1909: New steamer St. Croix (240’ long, 40’ beam, 25.9’ depth of hold, 1,064 tons net tonnage), owned by the North Pacific Steamship Co. of Seattle, leaves San Pedro on run for the Shelback-Hamilton Line to San Francisco; by noon the ship is abandoned due to an engine room fire and is destroyed off Point Duma; 105 passengers and 78 crew safely escape to shore at the Malibu Ranch

1928: Hoover receives 21-gun salute in San Pedro before he sets sail on the battleship Maryland for Nicaragua on his Goodwill Tour of Latin America

21 November:

1887: LA County Board of Supervisors passes resolution to pay the Sherriff for scab protection in San Pedro; the Shipowners Association of San Francisco had originally sent their agent, Edward H. Carpenter, to San Pedro with nonunion seamen for the Lucy Maten in a failed attempt to break the San Pedro strike; when they tried to ship a nonunion crew to the brig Discovery the steamer transporting them was intercepted at Santa Barbara; those sailors convinced to join the unionists were hidden in San Pedro to avoid breach of contract charges; Carpenter threatens to charge the unionists with conspiracy but San Pedro residents and police openly support the strike; constables from LA go to San Pedro and arrest 6 unionists on charges of aiding sailors to escape; street brawls breakout in San Pedro; Carpenter is assaulted (residents blame the mugging on hoodlums; Carpenter blames the unions); 6 unionists are arrested and acquitted; strike is broken when the ship-owners threaten to boycott San Pedro and San Diego harbors and a nonunion crew is successfully placed on the Discovery under the protection of the LA Sherriff

22 November:

1822: Luis Antonio Arguello becomes the 1st Mexican Governor of Alta California; he replaces the last Spanish colonial governor, Pablo Vicente de Sola

23 November:

1963: President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumes presidency

24 November:

1886: Russian Finn sailor, Peter Mueller, of the schooner Bear, dies after “falling” down the stairs at a San Pedro “dance-hall”

25 November:

1863: When the LA Sherriff proposes to arrest members of the LA vigilance committee who had hung 5 horse thieves and murderers, a cavalry company of volunteers march from New San Pedro (Wilmington) to LA in protest; the Sherriff decides to stop his proceedings

1885: 1st Santa Fe train reaches Los Angeles (see November 29)

1903: Railroad magnate Edward Harriman offers to “mediate” between the steamships (Pacific Coast Company) and lumber schooners to end passenger rates war; schooners are stealing the 2nd class passenger trade from Puget Sound to San Pedro; steamship company orders lumber yards to vacate its San Pedro wharfs; Henry Huntington plans to open competing lumber yard at the new Southern Pacific Slip and land fill at the old Timms Landing site;  Harriman threatens to use his railroads to put both the passenger steamers and the lumber schooners out of business if they don’t stop the war

26 November:

1602: Sebastian Viscaino anchors in San Pedro Bay and names it “Ensenada de San Andres,” thinking it was the Saint’s day of St. Andrew; cosmographer Cabrero Bueno compiles the description of Viscaino’s voyage and renames it Bay of San Pedro because Viscaino anchored in the bay on the Saint’s day of St. Peter of Alexandria; map drawn from Viscaino’s voyage is the first to show the then unnamed Deadman’s Island

1896: San Pedro flooded by cloudburst after a day-long rain; sound of water roaring down the gulch and city streets reportedly heard for miles; damage estimated at $50,000 ($11.6 million 2009 dollars using the Production Worker Compensation Index); no loss of life

28 November:

1922: 1st use of the new immigration station in San Pedro while it was still under construction; 19 Hindus and 1 Japanese are held for 10 days after arriving on the Rakuyo Maru

29 November:

1896: The New York Times reports that passengers on the small steamer from San Pedro to Catalina witnessed a dramatic sea battle where a large whale is killed by a swordfish; the story has a Los Angeles dateline of November 28 but is an almost verbatim copy of a February 23 article from The Sun (also of NY) with a February 15 LA dateline; the NYT story is later copied by the San Francisco Call on October 29, 1899

1885: The Santa Fe Railroad opens the second transcontinental rail line into Los Angeles (via the Atlantic Pacific), breaking the Southern Pacific Railroad’s monopoly in Los Angeles; by Spring a railroad rate war opens between the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe which fuels the “Big Boom” in the LA basin (LA’s 1st real estate bubble); passenger rate fares to LA from the east drop from over $100 to less than $5 (Lowest Fare: $1 from Kansas City—about $23.50 in 2009 dollars using the Consumer Price Index); results in a flood of visitors and newcomers to the LA area and the Great Boom of 1887; real estate boom is caused by an affordable “invasion” of speculators and newcomers and fueled by the California mythology propagated by popular memoirs, promoters and the press

Also in November:

1852: Phineas Banning arrives in San Pedro and is hired by the firm of Douglas and Sanford as a teamster, longshoreman and clerk; loads and unloads ships at San Pedro; drives “stages” and freight wagons to and from LA

1852: Mormons from the San Bernardino colony reported to have purchased land near San Pedro and San Diego for future supply depots and produce markets

1869: The Downey and Banning LA&SP railway cuts the cost of passenger fares from steamer to Los Angeles in half (from $5 to $2.50—from $81.20 to $40.60 in 2009 dollars using the Consumer Price Index); price of lumber shipments reduced by $7.50 per thousand feet; grain freight costs reduced by $5 per ton

1889: No reported deaths in San Pedro during the month of November

1891: San Pedro branch of the Coast Seamen’s Union asks the San Francisco headquarters if it can join the Los Angeles Council of Labor; permission denied because 25 miles was deemed too far away for them to attend the meetings

1917: Captain C.F. Preston, Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet (San Pedro), relieved by Commander H.C. Poundstone, USN (Poundstone exercised the additional duty until June 24, 1918)

1981: Construction begun on 370 townhouses on middle Fort MacArthur and the renovation of 33 existing houses for Air Force family housing