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Los Angeles and Environs in the 1930's

The following essays are excerpted from a wonderful little guide to Los Angeles written by Elizabeth Webb-Herrick in 1935 entitled "Curious California Customs" published by Pacific Carbon and Printing Company. We've written a little introduction to each essay to bring you up to date.

Clifton's Cafeteria

In the forties this downtown Clifton Cafeteria was re-decorated in a south seas theme even though the food remained pure America. It's now closed but other Clifton's in the southland continue the Clifton tradition. You didn't have to pay for your meal if you didn't want to or you could pay what you could afford. Most payed the asking price. (gf)

If that dread affair, the radical predicts, the social Revolution ever does occur, we know we shall never be able to explain our predilection for most of the places in this book. We shall undoubtedly be far up in the lists of the doomed on account of our capitalistic leanings. But just before we are dragged off by the firing squad, we will make a final gesture. We'll urge you to pay a visit to Clifton's Cooperative Cafeteria and see how they're working things out in advance of the Commune.

Some day, when you're the victim of the big city blues drop around at 618 South Olive St. where all the employees are co-owners in the enterprise; where the fountains "give" limeade as well as water, where 26 cents sees you through a complete meal, and if you don't think you've got your money's worth, they will not accept a penny for it! For 49 cents you may eat the place out, if you so desire, because that's the maximum check, and for this you may have anything and everything in the house.

If you have a birthday, just place your name in their little black book and lo! on the evening of the day, you will find a cake on your table, with the compliments of the management, and places reserved for as many guests as you like! After this gracious gesture, you may eat only a bowl of soup, if you choose. They do not seem to be surprised at anything.

Julius K. Johnson keeps the mighty Wurlitzer going during meal times, and their "Get Together Board" puts you in touch with anything you wish to contact. For instance, there are always notices about people driving, east, west, north and south, and advertising for passengers to go along. There are numerous employment notices, both "Help Wanted" and "Jobs Wanted", with descriptions and intimate details for the reading. This would certainly be a novel way to find some highly specialized assistant we should think.

The Clifton Hotel, 928 Eighth Place, furnishes a home for their employees, as well as the public at such a ridiculously low rate, it's unbelievable. Dependents of the Company also find sanctuary there, and the house physician cares for all indigents and unfortunate cases. There is so much sweetness and light about this cafeteria, when you really get to understand the atmosphere, and it's so cheap we thought you would be interested in knowing about it.

Milk at 2 cents a glass, ice cream (made on the premises) 2 cents per dish, malted milks 2 cents - entrees 6 cents, etc. The procession of patrons is a real commentary on an organization run along the lines of the Golden Rule. Mr. Clifton did not wait until the New Deal was in effect, but we venture to say will be far up in the vanguard if there is any change in policy. Such naivete deserves great encouragement and success. Let's work with him, and do something besides drink the free limeade.

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The Brown Derby

There were two Brown Derbies: one on Wilshire and this one in Hollywood. The Hollywood crowd found other digs and the Derby fell out of favor. Both restaurants are now gone except in memory. (gf)

Vine Street and Hollywood Boulevard designated as the Pacific crossroads of the world, have quite a few of the places we want you to see. About half a block from the Boulevard at 1628 North Vine is the Hollywood Brown Derby, famous from coast to coast through the blurbs of the movie magazines and well known rendezvous of the cinema stars and starlets. There, any day, around noon, may be found a horde of autograph seekers, waiting to accost their favorites.

One of the specialties de la maison is hamburger, glorified and unrecognizable, well worth the $1.00 they charge for such a delicacy. Their little thin hot cakes and maple syrup (25c) have been silent factors in many a screen triumph where important studio executives "in conference" have been soothed and stimulated by their deliciousness until the "dawn broke over the Hollywood Hills". The Beverly Hills location is 9537 Wilshire Boulevard. Average luncheon check runs around $I.00.

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Another restaurant of the rich, the famous and the biz: closed but not forgotten. (gf)

When you arrive at Perino's at 3927 Wilshire Boulevard, the suave proprietor is always there to greet you, and the house is staffed with the most quietly efficient corps of waiters we have seen in many a long day. Everything moves effortlessly, and seems to be on smoothly oiled wheels, like the wagons constantly being trundled past your booth. After the menu has been handed to you with all the eclat of a real occasion, a bus boy carelessly drops by with a wagon of fruit compote, beautifully colorful in its silver setting, and very, very tempting.

Nine people out of ten who have already ordered crabmeat or some other cocktail, change their minds on the spot, and fall for that, and all through the rest of the meal, keep a weather eye out for the dessert wagon. That faraway look in the eye of your vis a vis, usually means the agony of soul which comes from endeavoring to make a choice of the numerous deserts.

It will always remain a mystery what these Italian restaurants do to string beans. This is something which no housewife can hope to achieve. Such bright, green tender and delicious tasting morsels, make vitamin-conscious folks completely satisfied for once with their lot. There is a soupcon of wine in the sauces, and traces of that "fine Italian hand" of a superchef throughout. The aroma of perfect coffee finishes a highly satisfactory experience.

Now that your hunger has been appeased, you will have time to sit back in the comfortable padded booth and observe all the details of the tastefully decorated room. It is essentially modern; only this time with a copper motif prevailing throughout, rather than the usual black and silver, and it's very striking, this effect.

The Continental luncheons, with their chafing dishes glowing cozily on your table for the hot courses, and the numerous salads temptingly displayed, are always a drawing card. These luncheons are 75c per person, and dinners are $1.50. A good many social registerites have made this place their rendezvous, and these people always know their chives and shallots. It's certainly one of the outstanding places in town.

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The Thistle Cottage

San Vicente is now zoned for apartments where the Thistle Cottage used to stand. But the armchair tradition continues to this day in other less-thorny manifestations. (gf)

On the road to Santa Monica, at 606 San Vicente Boulevard, you will find a rustic bungalow with a thatched roof in a lovely garden setting. This place looks for all the world like those lithographed English cottages which have made favorite calendars for years, and Anne Hathaway's home must have served as the original model.

The atmosphere is strongly reminiscent of a friendly call, as you take the stepping stones to the great front door, where the hostess smilingly unbars the upper half, and ushers you into the living room right out of the pages of House and Garden or Vanity Fair. You may sit on an antique sofa, or stretch out in solid comfort in a huge armchair, and if the day is sufficiently gloomy or chilly, the fireplace crackles and glows invitingly, as the ultimate gesture to the creature comforts. There are late editions of magazines scattered about, and reading lamps unobtrusively at your elbow to content you, as you wait for the luncheon or tea or dinner to he made ready.

Muffins and gingerbread must be baked to order, but time seems to be no object here, so don't attempt to dash in and dash right out again. Only in few homes can such luxury be attained, and once you have been out here, you will return again and again to repeat the experience. Luncheons are home cooked and every detail is perfect. Vegetables arc poems both to the eye and palate, and make us very bitter against the soggy, watery, unappetizing dishes we have had placed before us under the guise of "green" vegetables, at other times.

Try the triple salad luncheon, with three deliciously different kinds and piping hot muffins and fragrant tea for 85 cents. If the inner man craves slightly more substantial fare, why not the chicken in various forms? We can assure you that $1.25 will never bring you more real enjoyment.

Tea in an atmosphere such as this would put anyone at their ease, so when you get fed up with broiling yourself in the sun to develop a tan at the beach or wish to have a quiet chat with some intimate, we can think of no better place to send you, than right here.A nicer place for dinner could not be devised, especially on Sundays or after a long day's sightseeing. How men love the relaxation of those big arm chairs, instead of the conventional tea room windsors!

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The Mona Lisa

Restaurants come and go with the regularity of the Santa Ana winds in Los Angeles. Leonardo's namesake is no exception. (gf)

One of the most delightful of the Franco-Italian restaurants, and an ideal place to take a woman guest for luncheon, is the Mona Lisa at 3343 Wilshire Blvd. The food here is superbly prepared and served, and the place itself really artistic and marked throughout with that admirable restrained elegance one likes for a leisurely chat. They serve you a 50c luncheon, which cannot be duplicated anywhere for the money, as well as a Continental salad special At the dinner hour, men like the solidity and comfort of the side wall booths here, as well as the excellence of the food of the $1.00 dinner "with no nonsense about it." Put this on your list.

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The Bird of Paradise Tea Room

Located in what is now largely a bedroom community in the San Fernando Valley, the Bird of Paradise subscribed to a tradition which has largely disappeared: grow it on your own land, prepare it well, serve it with flair and give the customers a reason to go out of their way to come back. (gf)

A very interesting and diversified trip is to go out Ventura or San Fernando Boulevards to the little town of Chatsworth on Devonshire Boulevard, located in the beautiful West End of San Fernando Valley, and we are happy to call your attention to a cunning little place run by Docia Conley. Here is the home of those famous Kadota fig products, spiced, pickled and made into jam - they are all excellent.

You will have them served to you for your luncheon or dinner when you come out here, and thus fall victim to their deliciousness, and will doubtless wish to purchase some to take back in the car with you. Easterners especially rave over these delicacies, and Mrs. Conley cleverly contrives to have them featured on her menu in the dessert list under the guise of steamed fig pudding and special whips. While you are studying the fascinating tail feathers of the exotic birds which give the place its name, the biscuits are being baked to order, and the salads made up. The chicken is also undergoing an expert frying in a skillet under the eye of an experienced chicken-fryer, and all this is going on while the guests are seated at the tables. What do you care? You are doubtless just out for the ride anyway, and you'll find them well worth waiting for.

The vegetables are grown right there on the ranch, the gravy is that bland country variety, reminiscent of the fried chicken on the farm you have been vainly trying to eclipse ever since - and the salads are quite remarkable, some genius evidently devoting great effort to make them unusual. The chicken-noodle plate is awful good, but a bit starchy for some, and those chintz patterned condiment dishes with the different kinds of jam and fig products served with the flaky hot biscuits a real inspiration. If you can resist the fig confections which top off the meal, you're stronger than we think you are.

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Excerpts from: Webb-Herrick, Elizabeth (1935) "Curious California Customs - Los Angeles Edition" Pacific Carbon & Printing Company. Los Angeles, California. 116pgs.

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