Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Militant's Epic Militant CicLAvia Tour XXXIX!

 Interactive Map! Click on green points to view hotspots, or click here for larger view.

After a half-year of no CicLAvias, the first open streets event of 2022 has finally arrived, albeit in the second half of the year. This 39th iteration of CicLAvia takes us back to South Los Angeles - the same region where the last one was on December 5, 2021, but this time on a totally new route - a three-mile straight stretch of Western Avenue from Exposition Boulevard to Florence Avenue. This is the 6th unique route under the CicLAvia South L.A. name.

As "CicLAvia South L.A." is not just one route, but many, so is the area itself. South Los Angeles is not just a community, but a collection of several communities and neighborhoods. This time, we trek through Jefferson Park, King Estates, Chesterfield Square, Harvard Park and the Florence corridor to give you 14 points of interest along the CicLAvia route.

For the casual observer, Western Avenue might seem "boring" or "uninteresting," but dig deeper and you'll find a lot more (a typical Militant theme here...). The area encompassed by this CicLAvia route gave the world such people as poet Amanda Gorman (who grew up going to St. Brigid Catholic Church on Western and 52nd), pioneering animator and filmmaker Ray Harryhausen and MLB All-Stars (and early '90s Dodgers players) Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis. It also was where a legendary burger chain began, and where - up until a decade ago - your Twinkies were baked. And a popular 1990s motion picture which garnered a couple Oscar nominations was filmed here. So there's a lot more goin' on than meets the eye.

As usual...stay safe, stay healthy and see you or not see you on the streets this Sunday!

1. Site of the Original Fatburger
3021 S. Western Ave, Jefferson Park

The legendary Fatburger chain started at this very location by a Black woman entrepreneur named Lovie Yancey, who operated a three-stool hamburger stand. Originally named "Mr. Fatburger," the salutation was dropped in 1952 and a legend was born, propelled to fame by Black celebrities such as Red Foxx and Ray Charles. Yancey sold Fatburger to an investment firm in 1990 but retained control of the O.G. location until 2007, when it was sold to a developer which built the existing surrounding apartment complex. Yancey died in 2008 at the age of 96, but in 2009 the original stand was preserved to its original 1950s-era look by the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. The Militant paid a visit to the stand, pre-redevelopment, back in January 2008.

2. South LA Cafe

1700 Browning Ave, King Estates

Opened in November 2019 by owners Celia Ward-Wallace and her husband Joe - both longtime residents of the area - to address food inequality (they also own the South L.A. Market on the other side of the minimall) and create a cultural hub in the neighborhood, South L.A. Cafe not only sells caffeinated fare and pastries, but also provides a venue for open mic and poetry performances. The cafe also sells various clothing which bears "South L.A." and "South Central" for locals who wish to represent with neighborhood pride (or for those from outside the area who just want to front).

3. Civil Defense Air Raid Siren #60
1662 W Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, King Estates.

If the Russians ever invade Los Angeles, just know that we have 179 Civil Defense air raid sirens in place around the City (which may or may not still work...), like this one along the CicLAvia route, which is identified as Civil Defense Siren #60 at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Western Avenue. Built in 1940, this siren is classified as a Federal Model SD-10, or the "Wire Spool" style.

4. Tejuinos El Pichirilo

4245 S. Western Avenue, Chesterfield Square.

Rolling down Western Avenue, this bright yellow plywood shack stands out from the urban landscape and only bears the words, "Tejuinos El Pichirilo" and a drawing of a smiley face. Tejuinos, a cold fermented beverage made from masa (corn dough, as in the stuff that tortillas and tamales are made out of), are popular drinks from western Mexico that have recently gotten some attention. They taste like a butterscotch-lime margarita (the drink is non-alcoholic, but can be upgraded with tequila (sorry, not provided by Tejuinos El Pichirilo). The proprietor, a gentleman named Elias, told The Militant that he originally started a tejuinos cart in 2020 and later decided to go brick-and-mortar - or rather, plywood and nails - on the corner of Western and 42nd Place in March of this year. Elias hails from Guadalajara, and makes his drink in his regional style, with more of a lime flavor to it. He sells tejuinos and only tejuinos in 24-oz ($5) and 32-oz ($7) sizes and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 12 noon until 5-ish p.m., or until he runs out. Sunday is his busiest day, but he already knows about CicLAvia and will stock accordingly.

5. Ray Harryhausen's Childhood Home

4822 Cimarron Street, Chesterfield Square
(Private residence, do not disturb occupants)

Influential animator/filmmaker and Los Angeles native Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) grew up in this very house in the 1920s and '30s. Upon watching the 1933 film, 'King Kong' he was inspired to create his own stop-action animation. Though his career, Harryhausen befriended the likes of Ray Bradbury and Frank Capra and is known for bringing fantasy, prehistoric and mythological creatures to life in films like 'Jason and the Argonauts' (1963) and the 'Clash of the Titans' (1981), influencing everyone from Steven Spielberg to Tim Burton to George Lucas.

6. Russell Westbrook Why Not? High School

1755 W 52nd St, South Los Angeles

Okay, okay, stop your snickering, Lakers fans. This is an actual place, and for a good cause. This school, established in 2021, which utilizes the brick-and-mortar facilities (Hey now, no '"brick" jokes, okay?) of the now-closed St. Brigid Catholic School campus (built in 1960), is a partnership of the L.A. Promise Fund and Russell Westbrook's Why Not? Foundation to provide transformative educational opportunities for youths in the South Los Angeles area. It is the second educational academy founded by an active NBA player for underserved youth (the other was founded by Westbrook's Lakers teammate LeBron James in his native Akron, Ohio).

7. Chesterfield Square Park/Los Angeles Railway 8 Line
1950 W. 54th Street, Chesterfield Square.

Developed in the 1910s by brothers R.D. and Charles List, this neighborhood, in what was then a newly-annexed part of Los Angeles, took on the Anglophilic moniker of "Chesterfield Square" (to blend in with the decidedly British-named communities of Hyde Park, Windsor Park and Manchester Avenue). The characteristic Craftsman homes and Washingtonia palms were planted along its streets during its new home construction heydey of the 1920s, and the rest is history. This park, which features a pair of diagonally-crossed walk paths (a la O.G. Pershing Square in DTLA), was part of the original neighborhood layout, and was constructed alongside 54h Street - once a very transit-oriented street, as it was the western leg of the Los Angeles Railway's 8 Line.  Just a few blocks west is Metro's Division 5 Arthur Winston Bus Yard, which is the direct descendant of the Los Angeles Railway's Division 5 streetcar yard on the same location.

Los Angeles Railway 8 Line Yellow Car on 54th Street in 1955.

8. Slauson Super Mall

1600 W. Slauson Avenue, Harvard Park.

Name-checked by nearby area native rapper Nipsey Hussle in his 2018 song, "Checc Me Out," this gigantic indoor urban bazaar, which opened in 1986 (in a former storage warehouse building built in 1957) features over 100 vendors selling everything from clothing to shoes (which may or may not be legit brands), to mobile phones and accessories, to bicycles, to sporting goods, to...well, just about anything.

9. Santa Fe Railway Harbor Subdivision

Paralleling Slauson Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard, South Los Angeles.

Just south of Slauson Avenue, the CicLAvia route crosses a set of railroad tracks...but there are no tracks to the east or west of Western Avenue. Whatup with that?! Well, this abandoned railroad right-of-way was an important part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (a.k.a. the Santa Fe) and Los Angeles transportation. It was built in the 1880s as the railroad's access to local sea ports (initially Redondo Beach in 1888, and later extended through Torrance to Los Angeles Harbor in the 1920s). It provided freight transport access for local industries - particularly the oil industry in El Segundo, as well as passenger/local commuter rail service up until the early 20th century. The line was abandoned in 2002 with the opening of the Alameda Corridor, providing a shared, direct access to the Harbor for all of the freight railroads. It is now owned by Metro, where parts of it are already being used for the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line (Metro K Line), and a future extension to the South Bay. The eastern segment of the line along Slauson is slated to become a bicycle/pedestrian path.

10. 'Boyz N The Hood' Filming Locations

5900 Block of S. Cimarron St, Chesterfield Square.
(Private residences, do not disturb occupants)

Three 1923-built houses on this block just a few blocks west of the CicLAvia route were location shoots for the iconic 1991 John Singleton movie, 'Boyz N The Hood.' Filmed in October and November 1990, the locations include Brandi's house (5906 S. Cimarron St.), Doughboy's and Ricky's house (5911 S. Cimarron St.) and Furious Styles' house (5918 S Cimarron St.). Do not bother the residents, but if you do run across a resident on the block named Valerie Wilson, she'd be more than happy to talk about the movie with you.

11. Site of Hostess Bakery Complex

6007 S. St. Andrews Place, South Los Angeles.

A block west of the CicLAvia route, in a decidedly industrial area, was the regional bakery for Hostess Brands, which, for 88 years, baked Twinkies, Sno-Balls and Cupcakes and other Hostess goods for the area spanning from Mexico to Central California. Established in 1924, the complex contains seven buildings built between the 1920s and 1960s, with the largest being the Mid-Century Modern bakery building built in 1952. A railroad spur behind the building serving the bakery from the nearby Santa Fe Railway's Harbor Subdivision was built to ship in raw ingredients and ship out baked goods. Operations shut down in November 2012 when the parent company, Continental Baking Company, declared bankruptcy. Part of the factory is now used by Art'isan Bakery.

12. Harvard Park

1535 West 62nd St., Harvard Park.

Officially known as the Jackie Tatum/Harvard Recreation Center (Tatum being the first Black woman to become General Manager of the City of Los Angeles' Department of Recreation and Parks, circa 1990s), this large green space and athletic facility was where countless neighborhood youth played and became active in organized athletics. Two of them - former Major League Baseball (and Los Angeles Dodgers) players Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis - played here in the park's baseball diamonds as kids in the early 1970s for a youth league team called the Compton Moose. The park and its influence on the two MLB stars was the subject of the 2012 documentary film, 'Harvard Park.'

13. Tipu Street Trees

c. 1990s
Western Avenue between Slauson and Florence avenues.

It's no secret that higher-income neighborhoods have more tree cover than their lower-income counterparts, so to combat this in the early-mid 1990s (most likely to address inequities of the 1992 Riots), shade-bearing street trees were planted along Western as a community improvement project. The majority of them are Tipu (Tipuana tipu) trees, which are Bolivian tropical shade trees, which bear feathery, yellow flowers that are currently in bloom. The tipus are common sights all over this area, perhaps being the South Los Angeles equivalent to the jacarandas of central Los Angeles.

14. Florence and Normandie

Florence and Normandie avenues, South Los Angeles.

Everybody knows the flashpoint of the Los Angeles Riots erupted on this intersection on the afternoon of April 29, 1992. It's just a half-mile east of the southern terminus of CicLAvia. If you've never been here before, here's your chance. Though this corner has not changed much over the past 30 years, it bears a mundane, laid-back vibe that contrasts its stigmatized reputation to those outside the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the crown jewel of Flo-No, Art's Chili Dogs, an 80-year institution, closed down in March 2020 (unrelated to the Pandemic). But in its place is a new eatery called The Breakfast Shack (unfortunately closed on Sundays).

In 2009, the Militant paid a visit to Florence and Normandie. Other than the hot dog stand, it hasn't changed much since then.

Enjoy CicLAvia again and STAY MILITANT!

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