1917 Hollywood: the bloom was on the chrysanthemum Consider 1917 — 100 years ago. In evolutionary time, 100 years is not even a whisper. The Russian Revolution, the entry of the United States into World War I, the first woman elected to Congress. But, when you look at Southern California, 100 years has seen Home the passing of an eon. Ground By 1917, by Southern Cali- Paula Panich fornia had emerged from three decades of real estate boom and bust and was just seven years past a period of industrial strife so intense that it amounted to “a state of war,” according to the historian Carey McWilliams, a battle that ended with the 1910 dynamiting of the “Los Angeles Times” building. But in 1917, the idea and place of “Hollywood” seems to have coalesced, and the days of the infamous warnings on apartment buildings — no dogs or actors allowed — were over. Money talks. By 1915, the payroll of the movies amounted to $20 million. The bloom was on the rose. (I think the novelist Rachel Field’s observation still holds: “You can’t explain Hollywood.
There isn’t such a place. It’s just the dream suburb of Los Angeles.”) “Flower Show Prizes Given” Well, the bloom was on the Hollywood rose in general — but in October of that year, it was especially on the chrysanthemums and dahlias in the “dream suburb.” It was the time of the Woman’s Club of Hollywood Flower Show, and on a Friday morning a writer for the “Los Angeles Times” was enthusiastic, writing that “the display was the finest the Hollywood Women’s Club has ever gathered for the annual show” and praising its “artistic mass of variegated color,” a rather variegated mass of words, don’t you think? Chrysanthemums and peonies were the main competition of the autumnal show, though prizes were given for other blooms and flowering plants. “More than ordinary interest was taken in the war garden exhibit,” the “Times” reported, “a feature added because of unusual interest taken in vacant lot gardens in the Hollywood District.” No doubt these were among the
forerunners of World War II victory gardens. Among the categories were “amateur,” “professional,” and a “school competition.” Special exhibits included the results of canning courses at “the Normal School, Hollywood High School, and the Ramona Grammar School,” according to the “Times.” The State Normal School, a teacher-training institution whose Los Angeles campus was founded in 1882, had its original site on Grand Avenue and Fifth Street. In 1914, the Normal School was moved to Vermont Avenue, now the site of Los Angeles City College, to allow the original site to be used to build a new Central Library. In May 1919, the Normal School became the Southern Branch of the University of California. The “Times” cup, donated by the newspaper for the professional category honoring the “largest and best collection of chrysanthemums,” was awarded to Laughlin Park, which began as the lushly landscaped private garden attached to Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood villa, built by developer Homer Laughlin. But in Los Angeles, nothing exists without the story of realestate developers, and flower
MR. AND MRS. H.J. WHITLEY and family. Real estate developer Whitley is often called, rightly or wrongly, “the father of Hollywood.”
shows are no exception. My friend Debra Prinzing bought on eBay this silver cup engraved with the name Mrs. H.J. Whitley. Although this was not mentioned by the “Times,” the cup undoubtedly was awarded at the 1917 Woman’s Club of Hollywood Flower Show. Margaret Virginia Whitley and her husband, Hobart Johnstone Whitley, arrived in Southern California in the 1880s. Banker, entrepreneur, land developer, city planner — think of Whitley Heights — Whitley’s mark was indelible. But was he the “father of Hollywood?” Or was that really Harvey Wilcox? Did Margaret Whitley dream up the name
WOMAN’S CLUB of Hollywood. Photo and floral design credit: Debra Prinzing slowflowers.com
“Hollywood?” Or was it Daeida Wilcox? (Please turn to page 13)
Published on Mar 30, 2017
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