‘Distant Land’ of downtown L.A.

Here’s a great vicarious tour of downtown L.A. circa 1938 from Bo Caldwell’s “The Distant Land of My Father” (p. 125), as the grandmother escorts the 7-year-old girl newly arrived from Shanghai around. This was all one paragraph but I’ve split it in half for easier reading:

“She took me to Olvera Street, the oldest street in the city, and we ate taquitos and held Mexican jumping beans in our palms. We shopped at Woolworth’s and at the Broadway department store, where she bought me Bass Weejun loafers and Keds sneakers. We walked through Pershing Square and listened to soapbox preachers and browsed through the books at the Parasol Library. We bought strawberries and watermelon and just-baked peach pie at Grand Central Market, then rode Angels Flight, a small funicular railway that went up and down Bunker Hill.

“We went to Germain’s Nursery on Hill Street and bought packets of California poppy seeds that Gran said we would plant in the back corner of her yard. We stopped at Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakers and bought Dutch Girl cookies and coconut macaroons and Saratoga potato chips that tumbled out of a metal chute as they were cooked. We ate lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria, or went to Philippe’s for French dips and lemonade, where I drew patterns in the sawdust on the floor with the toe of my shoe.”

Nice to see that about half the stuff she name-drops is still around — of the 11 places, five still exist, and that will be six when Angels Flight is back in service. I have no idea what the Parasol Library was, btw.

If you haven’t checked this blog for a few days, or are a first-timer, scroll down this page to the post from last week titled “Clifton’s Cafeteria,” which you may also find of interest.

Everyone in Claremont is supposed to be reading “Distant Land.” Are you?

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  • Mo

    Now that I know I am supposed to be reading the book, I have ordered a copy. I will admit to checking the Amazon reviews first. (The book got excellent reviews from the Amazon readers.) I should be reading by tomorrow. Sorry, I missed that column. I must have been on vacation.

    [I'll let it go this time. Just teasing. -- DA]

  • Mo

    Sorry, I just had to post on this old entry one more time. I drive down Mountain Ave. almost daily without paying too much attention. I FINALLY noticed the signs yesterday. I realized that the red “political” signs on some lawns actually read “The Distant Land Of My Father.” I guess the suggested reading in Claremont is some serious business.

    I finished the book a few weeks ago but I didn’t post. I really don’t have much to say about it.

    [I finished it a few weeks ago too and don't have much to say about it either! -- DA]