By Linda Levi
WESTERN STATES JEWISH HISTORY JOURNAL
Vol. xxxx NUMBER 3
When I came, Los Angeles was a sleepy, ambitionless adobe village with very little promise for the future... I believe that Los Angeles is destined to become, in not many years, a world-center, prominent in almost every field of endeavor; and that, as nineteen hundred years ago the humblest Roman, wherever he might find himself, would glow with pride when he said, “I am a Roman!” so, in the years to come, will the son of the metropolis on these shores, wheresoever his travels may take him, be proud to declare, “I AM A CITIZEN OF LOS ANGELES!”
-Harris Newmark, 1913, “Sixty Years in Southern California: 1853-1913”
My great-great grandfather Harris Newmark wrote the above statement. Every time I read it I get chills, as it must be one of the most prophetic statements ever made about a city.
I have always loved Los Angeles, perhaps, because my family has long deep roots here, and I have always felt “at home.” Los Angeles seems to be the hero of my story. If she hadn’t have been so receptive, open, generous, and had such great weather, I would have been born in San Francisco or New York. But my ancestors chose to live here permanently. They dabbled with San Francisco, but there were too many people and not as much opportunity for new arrivals. When Harris went to New York City to set up a new branch of the business, that venture was cut short because of the death of the relative running the business in Los Angeles. So, because all the stars were aligned, my ancestors stayed in the paradise of Los Angeles.
When I was growing up I felt that Los Angeles was an easy way of living. There were very few hardships because of weather, and I could develop my life in a neutral landscape in which the weather was neither an enemy nor a deterrent. I was free to determine my own life and could do it with little natural intervention. Los Angeles was a smaller place then and seemed friendlier and more helpful than other large American cities.
Although, Los Angeles may have been ideal for my family and me, it did have its faults and underbellies in the 1940’s and 50’s. Even though there appeared to be little poverty, slums or ghettos, behind the neatly trimmed homes in South Central, or East L.A. there were poor blacks and Latin’s, ghettoized in their area and little seen unless they worked in menial jobs or as servants.
I never talked to my parents about Los Angeles as paradise, but I think they would have agreed. They lived a comfortable life, resided in pleasant neighborhoods, enjoyed school, had loyal and good friends, played golf, tennis, cards, did what they wanted and worked at what they liked. They had the normal stresses of life but seemed to overcome them with great strength. In particular, my mother was a very positive person.
My Great-Great Grandfather, Harris Newmark
Both of my parents were from pioneer Los Angeles families. My father was John Newmark Levi, Sr., whose great-grandfather, Harris Newmark, came to Los Angeles from Prussia in the early 1850s, shortly after his brother, Joseph P. Newmark. When he came there were only a few thousand people in Los Angeles and only sixty Jews. Both these pioneers had significant roles in establishing a prosperous and benevolent Jewish community. Harris, in particular made a fortune in real estate, the wholesale grocery business, hides and wools, and became a leader in the local Jewish community and the city at large.
My mother, Aimee Nordlinger, and her relatives were the Norton, Nordlinger, and Kleins who also came to Los Angeles in the 1850s and 60s and were successful merchants. Because there were few Jews in Los Angeles, most of the pioneer Jewish families were quite close and married each other (including first cousins, Sarah & Harris Newmark). My mother was also a Newmark relative but not related to my dad.
My father at 44;
John Newmark Levi Sr.
My first ten years were lived during two of the major catastrophes of the 20th century-the Great Depression and World War II. I was unaware of the impact of the Depression as I was very young and we were quite comfortable. My father was an executive in a family owned flour milling company, Capitol Milling Co, located in downtown Los Angeles. It had been owned and operated since its beginning in 1883 by two families-the Levi’s and the Loew’s. Until it was sold in 1999 the Mill was the oldest family-owned business in Los Angeles.
However, the stock market crash in 1929 did affect my parents, who had just married. My father graduated from Stanford in 1926, where he was a Social Science/Journalism major (he had been editor of the Stanford Daily and President of the Stanford Journalism Club) and entered the financial world as a stockbroker with Sutro & Co. When the Crash hit, most of his clients “lost their shirts,” and his father Herman Levi, who was president of The Mill then, said, “Why don’t you join The Mill,” which he did.
I was just six when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and the United States declared war against the Axis. America soon began the rationing of critical goods. I was aware of these deprivations, but the affect seemed to be minimal in my life.
However, when I was around seven I received a bike as a present, but the bike was not new, but used. Looking back that must have been due to the war, because parts and rubber were necessary to the war effort.
As I recall we didn’t have air raid drills and shelters; everyone I know in Los Angeles mentions blackout shades, but no one seems to remember having them and I certainly don’t. What I do recall is, for one reason or another, whether for WW2, the A and H Bombs or earthquakes, during all my school years, we dropped on the floor under a desk or table and we covered our heads at the proper signal.
My mother, Aimee Nordlinger Levi in her 30’s
We also had a small victory garden growing various vegetables. Dad wanted to join the Navy as an officer but he was rejected because of his hearing and wouldn’t have been drafted anyway, as he was too old and in an essential industry.
I did have relatives in the service, or ones who contributed to our victory in WWII. My Uncle Richard Levi taught flying as a non-military person in Casper, Wyoming. Two cousins on my mother’s side were aeronautical engineers. One Phillip Coleman helped design the first jet in America. The other, Dr. Arthur Klein was a professor at Cal Tech who designed the wind tunnel with Clark Millikan. He invented and designed parts for airplanes and his role as chief consultant to Donald Douglas of Douglas Air Craft aided the war effort.
Another cousin Jack Loew was head of an officer’s club in England and came home with a European bride whom he later divorced. His brother Bob, I believe, was a navy pilot and a Lieutenant.
My mother was a stay-at-home wife, handled the supervising of the house and balanced the household checking accounts. We had a full time cook and housekeeper who lived in the maid’s quarters downstairs. We had a cleaning person who came once a week, and did the laundry and ironing. A gardener came a few times a week.
The appliances that we now take for granted were not common in the 1930s and 1940s. For example we had a washing machine, but no clothes drier. All our washed clothes were hung outside to dry in our backyard on a clothesline using clothespins.
I also remember a woman who would come to the house and wash my hair. I had long wavy blonde hair and if it needed setting mother would do it. Mother also did all the shopping, drove my brother and me everywhere, and had time to see all her close women friends whose lives were similar to hers.
My brother Johnny is 4 years older than I, so we really didn’t have much to do with each other when we were young. He was a typical older brother from what I can determine from other people in the same situation and I don’t think he was thrilled when I came along. But, I admired him, as he was athletic and good-looking. When, we were young we didn’t have the same friends, but as I got older into my late teens and 20s I dated some of his friends.
Johnny married Judy Ash Levi, who was a year older than I, and whom I had known in high school and college. Judy and I had many friends in common and as a result Johnny became friends with many of my close acquaintances.
We lived in a two-story English brick house located at 857 S. Rimpau Blvd. in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. Most of our other close family members lived in the same area. On my fathers side my grandparents Rose and Herman Levi’s house was located at 611 S. Irving and my various Uncle and Aunts’ homes were nearby. Leon and Dottie Levi’s address was 222 S. Alta Vista, Louis and Elizabeth Levi Lissner lived on Kingsley, and Richard and Arlene Levi’s residence was on Maryland Dr. Our cousin Fanny Emily Nordlinger (Fen) Abrams and her husband Milton, “Bud,” Abrams lived around the corner from us in the 800 block of South Hudson.
Our home at 857 S. Rimpau Boulevard in Hancock Park
Hancock Park, including Freemont Place, was a very social gentile area with a scattering of old pioneer Jewish families like ours. Eventually all these families would move further west to areas closer to the beach. Now, their off-spring also live on the Westside or have moved out of Los Angeles.
During my grandparents lifetime the families remained fairly close, although my parents were very social and had many other friends. My grandparents, on my father’s (the Newmark descendents) side who were called by the family Schatzi and Papa had a family dinner every Tuesday evening for the immediate family as well as friends and distant cousins (whom I didn’t realize were related). The previously mentioned aunts and uncles, their children, my first cousins, and my grandmother’s brothers and their children came to dinner most of the time. I don’t remember going until I was around 10, so probably kids were not allowed until they were older and could act properly.
There were usually about fourteen people and it was very lively. My father’s family was of German/French descent and they were very opinionated and argumentative. My mother seldom entered any of these discussions as she was charming, flexible, and got along with everyone. But the evening was interesting as they were all quite intelligent and seemed actually to get along well.
The food was very good as they had a cook and also a caterer, Elsie, who would do some cooking and always served dinner. She was terrific and would serve in the same capacity over the years at my parent’s dinner parties.
Both my Uncle Louis and Aunt Liz Lissner, and my grandparents Herman and Rose Levi sold their houses when their kids left and moved to an elegant apartment house on the corner of Sycamore and Beverly Blvd. When I was an adolescent, after the family dinner, I would go across the hall from my grandparents to my aunt and uncle’s apartment and watch television.
Sometimes, friends would eat with us. One was Allie Wrubel who wrote the songs “Zip-a-Dee-Do-Da,” “The Lady From Twenty Nine Palms,” “Lady in Red,” and “Music Maestro, Please.” He would play the piano with my Uncle Louis and sometimes he would solo and make up funny crazy lyrics. (He was the uncle of David Epstein, the editor of this Journal).
My grandmother Rose (Schatzi) Loeb Levi in her engagement dress which she wore at a reception for President McKinley in 1901
These dinners had a great impact on me and I drew portraits of my family from them. My grandmother Rose (Schatzi) Loeb Levi was very beautiful, amazingly so as Newmark genes wouldn’t have suggested that she would be so attractive. Maybe it was the Loeb ones. As I remember her, she was pretty but was a little plump, but it is from the earlier pictures around 1900 that I recognized her beauty. She was educated in private schools, for a short time at Marlborough School, and then Girls Collegiate where she graduated. She didn’t go on to college, as she was married at 18 to my grandfather, who was 31, an age difference which was apparently normal for the times in Los Angeles.
Rose was a Shakespearean and Bible expert, I recall she took me to see Macbeth when I was 13. She spoke with an elegant British-American accent, and my father told me that she used to have long and heated philosophical discussions with Rabbi Edgar Magnin.
Rose was a devout Christian Science. A few times, when she went to church, I went with her to Sunday school, but even at 13, I didn’t believe in their religious concepts.
I barely remember my grandfather Herman Levi as he died when I was fairly young. Mother said he didn’t know what to make of me, as I wasn’t very docile. But she said he was a very sweet man.
My Uncle Louis Lissner (Meyer Lissner’s son) was very patient and sweet and was an attorney at my great uncle’s Loeb and Loeb law firm, which was then and still is an important firm. His wife, my Aunt Elizabeth Levi Lissner, was more like her brothers, to quote my Mother “she could be difficult but she has a heart of gold.”
Uncle Leon Levi also practiced at Loeb and Loeb, handling, among other clients, the Max Factor account. In the late 40s they asked him to head and resurrect their European plant in England. After some years, he returned to practice law at Loeb and Loeb, and run the office. When his first wife Dorothy “Dottie” Bachman, from a pioneer family, died of cancer in her 30’s, Uncle Leon married a nurse, also a Dorothy but we called her “Dee.” She was very pretty, not Jewish, and from Missouri. Besides practicing law he had a ham radio, was a sailor, and taught power squadron. He and Dee spent almost every weekend on their boat.
My uncle Richard Levi was the baby of the family, at least, 10 years younger than the other three children. He was a very nice man, and had an insurance company. His first wife was Arlene Woolach who also died in her 30s. Richard had several marriages, but he finally met and married a lovely woman, Loretta. He had one daughter Joan Levi Check.
My great uncles Edwin and Joe Loeb were studies in contrast. Joe was proper, intelligent, and conservative and developed the corporate law at Loeb and Loeb, including Union Bank and Trust, and Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (Cedars/Sinai). A Newmark relative, Kaspare Cohn, founded both. Joe was a member/president of many organizations, i.e. President of Hillcrest Country Club and President of the Jewish Welfare Fund. Earl Warren also appointed him to the State Board of Education. He and his wife Amy Kahn had an apartment at the Town House and then spent weekends at their grapefruit ranch in Claremont.
Edwin was charismatic, amusing, and ribald, and he brought in all the entertainment business. He was a fast friend with all the movie moguls, including Louie B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn, and Carl Laemmle, and helped set up many of the Hollywood studios like MGM, United Artists, and Universal. He was a founder of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that presents the Oscars. Edwin lived in Silver Lake, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and Studio City. He was divorced from his first wife Bessie Brenner and after many years together married my great aunt Callie.
The Lissner boys, Bobby, Dick and Johnny were there a lot, and I particularly knew my cousin Johnny Lissner and his wife Jeannie (Badham). Jeannie was the nicest person I’ve ever known and perhaps the most beautiful. But sometime in her late teens she got polio, which was the scourge of my generation. So, when I met her she was in a wheel chair and was paralyzed from the waist down.
They bought a house on the Playa Del Rey cliffs, which was adapted to her height. They had two children Chris and Andy. One day in her twenties, Jeannie had a blood clot that affected her lungs and breathing, and caused her demise. It was a great tragedy and led to eventual problems, separation of Johnny from his children and his adoptive parents Liz and Louis Lissner. At some point he even changed his name to London. Ironically, all of his working life was spent in the family business, the Mill.
We also saw my mother’s family. Her parents were not alive so I never knew them. Both had died when they were 54, and my mother never expected to live beyond that, but she is now 97 and living in a Century City condo.
Her father Louis F. Nordlinger was in the family jewelry business, S. Nordlinger & Sons, a pioneer Los Angeles firm, and her mother Esther Norton (another pioneer Los Angeles family) Nordlinger had a teaching credential, but didn’t work.
Mother was close to her brother Steve and his wife Dorothy Nordlinger. Steve owned a wholesale clothing business Klein-Norton Company. Steve liked everything new and that affected his housing choices. He had at least two houses and his business building built on the West side by noted Los Angeles architect A.Q. Jones. They had two children, Steve Jr. who is now deceased and Stephanie who is an attorney with whom I’m friendly. Both graduated from UCLA.
At home our life was fairly routine. Dad would go to work, mother would tend to the house, and Johnny and I would go to school. I would eat breakfast in the downstairs pantry before I went to school. My brother Johnny would also, but he is four years older than I, so our schedule was different. I don’t remember eating breakfast with my parents as dad had already left for the Mill since he had to open it, and my mother usually ate breakfast in bed. A sandwich was made and packed for me for lunch.
When I got home from school I’d play with someone in the neighborhood read or do artwork. Then, at 6:30 pm the entire family would eat dinner in the dining room. The dinners were very good and well balanced. We had a salad first, then meat, fish, or chicken, vegetable, and potato. Usually there was no dessert, and when we had dinner company the food was even better. We’d have scrimp salad, stripper steaks, lobster, cheese soufflé, and some delicious dessert, chocolate mousse, homemade blueberry pie, a seven layer lemon or chocolate cake from Frieda Schroeder.
After dinner we’d listen to radio (we got a television around 1948 when I was thirteen). We’d all listen to programs like Jack Benny, Fred Allen, George Burns and Gracie Allen. We’d also listen to albums of Broadway shows like “Oklahoma.” I had my own radio so if I were home sick I’d listen to the soaps in the daytime like Ma Perkins or Mary Noble Backstage Wife.
On Saturday morning there was “Grand Central Station,” and “Let’s Pretend.” I listened to mysteries like “The Shadow,” “The Whistler” or “The Long Ranger.”
Linda at 4, 1939
I loved the Los Angeles Angels, a Pacific Coast League baseball team. If the games were still on the radio past my bedtime, I’d listen to the broadcast under the covers. I also listened to music and singers like Kay Starr, Bing Crosby, and Nat “King” Cole.
Our cook would be off Thursdays and Sundays so when I was old enough we would usually go out to dinner those nights. We ate Mexican food at a small one room restaurant on Western called El Cholo, roast beef at a restaurant where you needed a key, Barkley’s Kitchen on La Cienega, or go to my parent’s favorite restaurant, one of the top four in Los Angeles, La Rue on Sunset. I liked all the restaurants and enjoyed eating out.
My parents were very social and went out to dinner, cocktail parties, and nightclubs several times a week. If it were the cook’s day off they’d hire a baby sitter.
My dad recognized my interest in sports and took me to different venues. As I said before I loved the Los Angeles Angels, (PCL baseball league) so he took me to baseball games at Wrigley Field. Also, I played tennis so he took me to the Los Angeles Open at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, which was the second most important tournament in the United States, and I saw players like Jack Kramer, Poncho Gonzales and Louise Brough. In 1947 we went to the Rose Bowl Game where my favorite college team UCLA was slaughtered and upset by Illinois 45-14.
My mother filled the artistic side of my life. She took me to museums, and I particularly recall going with her to a big Matisse show on Wilshire Boulevard. She put me in a ballet class and when I was nine she hired a private art instructor to come to our house. Both lasted one day. The ballet class because I had no talent and wasn’t interested and, the art instructor was dismayed that when he came, I was practicing sliding into 2nd base on the wood floor of the closet. But we were doomed, when he wanted me to paint a ship on the ocean realistically, and gave me no instruction or photo. He ended up doing the whole painting, which is a horrible way to teach. He never showed up for the next lesson and never called. Years later when I was teaching painting at Cerritos College, I saw his name applying for a teaching position in art. I was on the hiring committee. He didn’t get the job.
My grandmother, Schatzi, introduced me to the arts by taking me to the theater, and when I was nine to the Huntington Museum in Pasadena to see the art and gardens.
My parents didn’t travel that much because of my Dad’s responsibilities at work. However, some of the few times they left Los Angeles, I went with them. They took me to Palm Springs several times during Easter vacation.
They and my Uncle Leon and Aunt Dottie Levi rented a beach house one summer when I was three, and my parents took me on a trip to Catalina when I was nine. Now, I realize that renting a house at the beach was something that all the Newmarks did each summer to escape the heat and dust of Los Angeles. They frequently stayed in Harris and Sarah Newmark's large 1311 Ocean Ave. beach house in Santa Monica until the family sold it in the 1920’s.
Our trips to Palm Springs during my Easter vacations were fun. One time we stayed in Palm Springs at The Lone Palm Hotel owned by Horace Heidt who was a famous bandleader at the time. We stayed there in a bungalow right near the pool and directly across from us in another bungalow was Jimmy Durante and his large shnozola. Besides swimming everyday, I went horseback riding with my dad. A few years later they rented a house and again I swam and went horseback riding.
Dad Horseback Riding, (mounting and riding) in Palm Springs. Horse on right, perhaps, meant for me. 1940’s.
Dad had begun to play golf again so he played at O’Donnell’s Public Course in Palm Springs. He had also joined a country club in Los Angeles, the California, to play golf. California was torn down to build homes in Cheviot Hills. Soon after, dad rejoined Hillcrest Country Club and he played golf three times a week until he died at 67 in 1973. Our family had been founders of Hillcrest in the 1920’s when dad was a teen-ager. He was one of the youngest members.
Dad at Stanford
From my earliest years, I remember the animals we had, whom I loved dearly, and played with all the time. Mitzi was a small light brown dog that was a mongrel. There were no leash laws, so she would roam the neighborhood, but be home at 3:30 waiting for me to come home from school. When daylight saving time switched the hour back or ahead, she’d still be there at 3:30. She was a wonderful dog and quite intelligent.
My next dog was a brown shorthair dachshund named Suzy. She was older and already trained by her owners, my parents’ friends, Vic and Bobette Joffee who had moved and couldn’t take her with them. She was the sweetest, most well behaved, smartest dog in the world. But mostly she was a very warm loving animal. We would play together all the time, and I’d invent games. In one, I would tell her to stay in my room upstairs. Then I would go downstairs, leave the back door open and hide somewhere in our backyard or in the garage. I’d call out her name and she’d run down and always find me. Like most dogs I would throw a ball a short distance and she’d return it to me, or she’d catch balls in the air. When, she got older her back legs became paralyzed. My parents said because it was too hard for her to get around they were giving her to a breeder to take care of her. I remember I cried and cried, as I loved her so much. In fact I’m crying now. It hurts to write this.
There were several people who worked for us that I remember fondly. The first was Valerie Green who was my nurse from my birth to her departure to get married, when I was three or four.
When, I was nine and ten, Margaret was our cook and housekeeper, and I was very close to her. My parents went back to New York, so dad could have an ear operation, thus, Margaret was in charge for quite a while. On New Years day, 1944, she took me to the Rose Parade. We went early in the morning. It was so foggy we could hardly see in front of ourselves. We took the bus from Olympic Blvd. and Rimpau Blvd. and got off to transfer to another bus going to Pasadena. In the bus station, on the platform, I saw my first dead person. He had been stabbed and was lying on the cement. It was upsetting and eerie.
My brother, John Levi, Jr. at 19
As far as organized religion goes it was almost non-existent in our family. I knew that I was Jewish, but we never went to temple, never celebrated Jewish holidays, and seldom ate Jewish food. In fact we celebrated Christmas with a big tree. I always went to school on Jewish holidays. All my young life, on Christmas Eve, and Christmas day, our friends and relatives had parties, open houses and many had big trees. Most of them were Jewish and if they had a religious affiliation they were likely to be Reform Jews.
Even though mother and dad didn’t celebrate the rituals of our religion, they were very involved with Jewish charitable work, particularly Cedars of Lebanon Hospital where Dad was an officer on the board and Mother was a volunteer for many years.
Many of my close relatives married gentiles. My father’s two brothers Richard and Leon’s first marriages were to Jewish women but both wives died young and afterward they both married non-Jews. My mother’s brother Steve married a gentile, and their two children were brought up like me. Mother never mentioned religion, but I do know that Dad went to Congregation B’nai B’rith (now Wilshire Blvd. Temple) but was never confirmed. Not surprisingly, my niece and many of my younger cousins have intermarried and even converted to other religions.
My Family Friendships
I was close to two members of my family when growing up, Louise Abrams (Earn) and Pat Levi (Isaacs). Louise was also the great-great-granddaughter of Harris Newmark, and the daughter of Fanny Emily Nordlinger “Fen” Abrams and Milton “Bud” Abrams who lived on the block behind us on Hudson. We were close and saw each other all the time, but because there was six months difference in age, we were never in the same grade and never had the same school friends. One of us was at the other’s house frequently and we did all sort of things together, like playing hop scotch or jacks, cook fudge, during this period.
I never walked around the block. I would climb over a fence in our back yard into Louise’s next-door neighbor’s backyard, and then climb over their fence into the Abrams backyard. Usually her mother, Fen, was home, but upstairs. Louise had a sister, Barbara Jean, but she was three or four years younger so we didn’t play much with her.
When we were around eleven, a few times we used the Abrams phone and randomly called people during the day and we would say if they could identify a song we sang they would win something like a refrigerator. By the time we’d sung the song, off-key, we’d be laughing so much that the person would catch on and say goodbye. I’m laughing now at the absurdity of it, as our voices were so young. We are still friendly, in fact, I just talked to her.
Pat Levi (Isaacs) is my first cousin. She is the daughter of my dad’s younger brother Leon and his first wife Dorothy Bachman. Patty is my exact age and lived in the same area so we went to the same grammar school, were in the same class there, and also attended the same junior high school. We shared so many activities together it’s difficult to remember them all. We spent a lot of time at each other’s houses.
But, there was a difference in interests. Patty was always a homebody who loved to cook and sew, and she was not particularly interested in sports or art as I was. Her mother had died when she was young and this increased her maternal instincts and it’s no surprise that she has five children.
In junior high it was required that girls take a class in both cooking and sewing. Patty was my partner in the cooking class and did most of the cooking. She got an A and I a C. And I was happy to get the C. In sewing, Pat did most of my projects. But, “our” gym bag, the final project, was late so my final grade was a D, and Pat received an A. Pat and her husband Dr. Hart Isaacs Jr. live in Del Mar now. She has a younger brother Doug, and he and his wife Judy live in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles.
My Parents' Friends
My parents had many dear and good friends over the years. Of course, they were still close to their family and business partners.
At each stage of their lives their friendships depended on their activities. During the time period that I’m writing about they played bridge together at the Langdon Club, which was located in a building on the corner of Beverly Drive and Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. They played cards with a lot of well known people but I only remember a few: George S. Kaufman, Harpo and Groucho Marx. Sometimes on Sundays when they played I’d go to the nearby Beverly Hills movie theaters, the Warner Beverly Hills Theater or the Beverly Theater.
One Sunday, when I was 10, I visited the club soon after I saw the movie “Nob Hill” with George Raft and out he walks with my parents. I told him how much I enjoyed the film and he picked me up with both hands and held me over his head and said “thank you.” I was so excited!
Their good friends were a mix of merchants, lawyers, entertainment executives, and doctors. But, unlike their ancestors, they were no longer primarily family, but extended out into the larger Jewish Community. They were generally well to do and connected, and they had either gone to school with them, knew them through Hillcrest Country Club, or met through mutual friends. I was friendly with quite a few of their children.
One of the reasons that they had so many Doctor friends was our family’s involvement with the primary Jewish hospital in Los Angeles. A member of my father’s family Kasper Cohn founded what is now known as Cedars/Sinai Medical Center. The hospital was first known as Kasper Cohn Hospital and then Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. Dad was very involved with the hospital for many years as President of the Men’s Council and then Secretary-Treasure and Vice President of the Board of Trusties. He spent many unpaid hours and days donating his time to Cedars. Mother was a charter member of the Women’s Guild and a leader in its volunteer Services.
My parents’ friends entertained frequently. They would have dinners, take friends to dinner, or host small and large cocktail parties with sometimes a small band. Mother and dad would reciprocate, but at times they would handle their social obligations by taking over a restaurant, or part of one, and have hundreds of friends for cocktails and dinner. I remember a party they held in a very good downtown Italian restaurant near Ord Street and another at an elegant Pan Asian restaurant on Beverly Blvd. in West Hollywood.
Third Street Grammar School
I went to Third Street Grammar School in Hancock Park. Since we were several miles from 3rd. Street, a school bus picked me up and took me home, most of the time. But there were occasions when mother picked me up or I walked home. The walk was a fairly long distance and I know I was wary of strange men in cars, even then, when LA was supposedly safe. My mom had impressed upon me the dangers of talking to strangers. The school had an underground tunnel to get across Third Street, as there was no signal. It was scary to walk in it. It was dark and you never knew if someone would be lurking there. I think my antenna was up more than most because when I was around seven there was an incident, which occurred down at the corner of Rimpau and 9th street.
I was riding a box like construction, which was on rollers and had handlebars. I had stopped to cross the street. All of a sudden a man appeared and he lurched at me and said, “gimme a kiss.” I reacted by, immediately, running down 9th street to my brother who was playing football. Meanwhile, the neighbor across the street saw it and called the police. They came, instantly, and found him wandering around a few blocks away and said he was drunk. It was a terrifying experience.
I’ve always liked school, and I was a pretty good student; I liked to read, and learn new things. Mother said she taught us to read before we went to school.
I had two passions when I was young art and athletics. I was like most of my immediate family, a fairly natural and good athlete. My father was a fine swimmer, and was on the water polo and swimming team at Los Angeles High School. He was, also, a good golfer, playing at his best, with an 8 handicap. My mom was also a good swimmer and tennis player and it was she who first took me to the Los Angeles High School courts to hit some balls.
My brother Johnny, 4 years older than I, was an all-league gymnast at LA High and was on the UCLA gym team. I remember his parallel bars set up in our Rimpau back yard.
My grandfather, my mother’s father Louis Nordlinger also was very athletic. I have four gold medals, for first place, that he won for track and field in 1888 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
I also had some talent in art, again, seemingly inherited from my mother’s side. She was talented and did art work for her high school annual, LA High (also, my high school). She never really did anything with art after that. She went to UCLA, and then to Europe with her mother who had a stroke and so they stayed for months longer than they planned.
Soon, after she returned, she and my father were married. She must have gotten her art talent from her mother. There is a large painted tapestry of a figure by her mother Esther Norton Nordlinger that my cousin Stephanie Nordlinger has in her possession. I have an old faded photograph of my mother’s family living room on Wilton and the tapestry is hanging on the wall.
Third Street Grammar School enabled me to pursue all these interests. Artistically, we had art projects in some classes. I remember spending a long time painting a bowl of flowers in watercolor in my 6th grade class. Athletically, I loved recess and class sports. I loved baseball, dodge ball, kickball, and tetherball at school, and even played some football with the boys. I was usually chosen the first girl and before some of the boys. However, all this energy didn’t make me a teacher’s favorite.
In the 4th grade they moved me out of the A4 class, Mrs. Hazen’s, to the one ahead the B5 for a while. If I were a problem why place me ahead, why not behind? The older class wasn’t difficult, but I missed my friends. Soon, they moved me back.
I got a kick out of seeing my great grandmother Estelle Loeb’s report card in 1870, not only didn’t she get good grades but she got unsatisfactory in cooperation and work habits. I can identify, although I got better grades, carrying a B+ average into Berkeley, UCLA and graduating cum laude with the same average. I was plagued with “U”’s all though school.
As I said, participating in sports was my love. After school, I played tennis; I took group lessons with Norvel Craig on the La Cienega playgrounds courts when I was around seven or eight, and after that private ones at the Los Angeles Tennis Club with Loring Fiske, and then Hillcrest Country Club with Carl Earn whose brother Billy married my cousin Louise Abrams.
My father threw me into the pool at Black Fox Military Academy when I was 3 and I was terrified. He also took me swimming at the beach in Santa Monica. I played tackle football in the winter and hardball in the spring with the neighborhood boys. One of the boys had a badminton court, and I had a tetherball pole in our backyard.
I took horseback riding lessons in West Los Angeles and went riding in Palm Springs with my dad. I listened to baseball, the Los Angeles Angels and football, UCLA, and the Los Angeles Rams, on the radio. I read the newspaper’s sports section and also sport books some of which had statistics about sports, and had my mother quiz me if I were home with a cold. My parents even received a letter from a famed radio sportscaster, Bill Stern, that he had heard about this young girl who had a remarkable interest and knowledge of sports and he wanted to congratulate them.
Birthday party at Third Street Grammar School, 5th or 6th grade.
Linda is in back row 4th from the left
If no one were around, I spent hours throwing a baseball up in the air and catching it, and pitched hard balls against our garage wall imagining a target. I had read that Alice Marble, the great American tennis player of the 1930s, hit tennis balls against her garage wall, so I did it for hours. I had many sports heroes: Jack Kramer (tennis), my tennis racket was a wood Jack Kramer, (I just heard John McEnroe, and Billy Jean King say they used the same racket), Ty Cobb and Hal Newhouser (baseball), and some female ones: Babe Detrickson Zaharias (all sports) Alice Marble, and Louise Brough (tennis).
My sports activities led me to be labeled a tomboy. I don’t think my mother, who encouraged my artistic side, was too happy. Tennis, yes, football and baseball, no.
I understood how my parents felt as I had requested a bat and ball, but I didn’t get them. I also asked for a horse and a swimming pool and was told neither was practical. A few years later when I was in high school we moved and we had swimming pool.
I became aware of anti-Semitism in my neighborhood and my school. Most of the kids on the 800 block of Rimpau, the ones I played with, were Catholic. I understood that our friendship began and ended with playing sports. I was never invited into their homes, and I felt their parents were remote. If I wanted to play with one, I either joined a game or went in front of their houses and yelled out “Billy” can you play?
Of course the situation was vise versa. They were never asked into my house. Nothing derogatory was ever said to me, but mother said Johnny, my brother, was called an anti-Semitic word by one of the older siblings.
At school, there was nothing done overtly, but there were some subtle actions. At the beginning of Third Street, our class, a large spring/summer one was broken into two classes from kindergarten on. This division decided our friendships for much of our lives. Our class had about twenty-five girls and all were Protestants except for five of us Jews. The Jewish girls, who were all good friends of mine, seemed to be from older Jewish families or more assimilated ones. In the other 6th grade class, almost all the girls were Jewish. When, I was older, I recognized the situation.
In 2004 we had a Third Street reunion of the girls in our 6th grade class, and I was sent a picture of the girls in the class. Quite a few of them transferred to private schools, primarily Marlborough which was an anti-Semitic private school in Hancock Park. Several of my good friends went to John Burroughs Junior High School and then went to Marlborough for high school.
In regards to Marlborough there is a great story about my grandmother Schatzi that my aunt Elizabeth Levi Lissner told: “Marlborough didn’t take Jewish girls. My grandparents (Leon and Estelle Newmark Loeb) sent my mother (Schatzi) to Marlborough in the 1890s, and she had been there a few days when the head mistress called my grandmother in and asked her not to recommend this school to any of her friends. So Estelle said, if I leave my daughter here it is a recommendation, so I'll take her out.” Then, my grandmother, Estelle, sent her to Girls Collegiate, which had a “mixed” student body.
John Burroughs Junior High School
JB as my junior high was called was just a few blocks away from our Rimpau House, so I walked to school and back almost everyday cutting through a vacant lot between 8th St. and Wilshire. I crossed Wilshire and walked on the asphalt schoolyard and entered through the back. I don’t think I ever saw the front of the school.
There was a period when I was driven to school. Above our garage we had chauffeur’s quarters, and usually no one lived there. But for a time, Louise Abram’s Grandmother Rose Loew Nordlinger’s chauffeur Roy lived there, and he would take us to JB. Louise and I were so embarrassed because, we thought everyone would think we were wealthy snobs and that wasn’t cool. He drove us in his coupe, which reeked of his cigar smoke. But, otherwise, he was a lovely man.
Rose Nordlinger was the first cousin of my grandmother Rose (Schatzi) Loeb Levi, and Schatzi also had a chauffeur whose name was Vaughn. He worked for her, forever. I remember him as a grump. The two Roses were in their mid -twenties when cars first came to Los Angeles, and most likely, rarely, if ever, drove a car.
When asked if I were aware of my family background, I would say, “somewhat,” but not as much as my parents or my grandparents who lived here when there weren’t so many people and so many Jews, and our family was more significant in Los Angeles.
In my case, most people know about a location or historical event, but not that the Newmarks were involved in it. For example they know there is a town called Montebello, but not who developed and built it, my great-great-grandfather Harris Newmark and his nephew Kaspare Cohn. It originally was named Newmark, but was changed in 1920 for selling purposes. There is a main street in the general area called Newmark. There are many other examples I could give, in fact, Harris Newmark’s important book “Sixty Years in Southern California: 1853-1913”, is a great reference for the early Newmark family accomplishments.
Linda, 14 years - old and second from left,
on All-Star Team, John Burroughs Junior High School in 1950
The only time I recall, that anyone ever mentioned my family was in a 7th grade class. It was the beginning of the semester and the teacher was calling roll, and she called out “Hal Newmark” and asked him if he were related to the prominent Los Angeles Newmark family? And he said no. I was sitting at my desk dying to say, “I am,” but I didn’t.
JB was great for me. I combined an active social life with sports and art and some studying. Almost, all my girl friends from Third Street had transferred to JB, and we formed a club called J.U.G.'s or Just Us Girls. I have a group picture of us in the 9th grade, and looking at the makeup of the group, now, there were 10 gentiles and 5 Jews. I really liked everyone. Most of the girls were smart, attractive, talented, popular, athletic and involved in school activities.
Linda’s club J.U.G.’s at John Burroughs in 1950.
Linda is first from right in front row, and her cousin Pat Levi is in back row second from left.
Barbara Osthaus, (in the J.U.G. picture third from the left, back row) was a good friend of mine; she was a good athlete and her family belonged to the LA Tennis Club so she used to invite me there to play. Also, as I said, before, I took lessons there. I was very cognizant that the club was anti-Semitic, and after my lesson, when I walked through the club, I felt very uncomfortable. Barbara, after JB, went to Marlborough, another anti-Semitic bastion. I saw her again in a summer art class I took at USC from Richard Diebenkorn. Time passed, and again, in the 1980s we ran into each other and socialized for a bit. She is a successful interior designer and plays tennis almost everyday at the LA Tennis Club.
Ironically, although neither of us knew about the other, she is also from a pioneer Los Angeles family. Her great-great-grandfather was California Senator Cornelius Cole. I saw her a few years ago at the 1st Century Family luncheon where she gave a presentation about her family.
Another good friend was Lois Richman (J.U.G. picture, first from left in back row), whose father, Frederic, was an attorney and owned boardwalk property in Laguna. Lois had a large house (mansion) on June Street and all the parties were held there in grammar and junior high school. She had a big rumpus room, a basketball, paddle tennis court, underground shooting range, and a swimming pool, one of the few in 1940s Hancock Park. We are still friends and she now resides in Corona del Mar.
My best friend all the way thru JB and later LA high was Linda Van Ronkel(J.U.G.picture -next to me in front). Although Linda went to Third Street, our friendship developed in Junior High. Linda was a very nice, generous, person. She wasn’t particularly interested or able in sports as she had a slight limp. We would be on the phone with each other for hours, gossiping about everyone. I stayed overnight at Linda’s house on Plymouth quite often, and when her family went away on vacations I was usually asked to spend a week with them. Linda later married Don Simon who was the son of the industrialist Norton Simon and when they were married the front page of the Los Angeles Times had an article with the headline: Millionaire marries Millionaire. Linda’s mother had died from cancer in 1956, and unfortunately Linda also died of the same disease in her early 40’s.
Lenore Schreiber was also a good friend. Her parents, Taft and Rita Schreiber, were friends of my parents. I don’t believe they were from Los Angeles, originally, but they traveled in the same social circle. Taft was executive vice president of the entertainment conglomerate Music Corporation of America/Universal Studios and in charge of MCA’s Revue Production. He was politically connected and a major fundraiser for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
In the 60s, they began to acquire a very fine contemporary art collection, much of which is now housed at M.O.C.A. I vacationed with them and also stayed overnight at their Hancock Park house. Lenore didn’t go to LA High but boarded at Chadwick, in Palos Verdes. When we were in college, both about 20, we went to Europe together on a 3-month trip our mothers helped plan.
Soon, upon entering JB, I, along with my contemporaries began to take notice of the opposite sex. I had an endless amount of crushes on any boy who was cute or athletic or both. In my first year at JB I was crazy about two boys, both Mike’s, and wore both of their Levi jackets that meant you were going steady. How I managed both situations I have no idea, except we were all young and very innocent.
One thing happened to make one Mike go way down on my list of boyfriends. He and I were walking across the playground to my mother’s waiting car on Wilshire Blvd. It was raining and he held my umbrella over us and then gave it back to me as I got in the car. A few seconds later mother said to me, “What a rude young man. He held the umbrella over himself and not you.” I was very embarrassed for him and for myself for not noticing and for being with such a dolt.
In the 8th grade, I had been very attracted to a handsome young man named Sheldon “Sparky” Medall but he was moving out of the district and leaving JB. I didn’t see him again until we were freshmen at Cal Berkeley. I went out with him, but we didn’t click as before. A few years ago I heard that he had become a successful engineer.
After that a new boy came to school, another Mike, also very cute (you can see what was important to me in my early teens!), and we did go on a date to a movie. I remember he got fresh and I said “hey, no!” He said that other girls didn’t mind, and, I said, “I did!” And that ended our relationship!
Finally, when I was a senior I had a crush on a handsome boy, John Irish. I went out with him on grad night, and we went to a big party at Lois Richman’s, and, afterward, we went over to Lenore Schreiber’s house. He took me home and as I was opening the front door, mother met us. We had “necked” and he had lipstick all over his face and I was mortified. Afterward mother and I talked, and I told her how I felt, and she never did that again, even if she were worried about me.
After school, my friends and I would go to Carnations, which was on Wilshire Blvd. a few blocks west on the north side of the street. We’d go to talk, have fun and eat ice cream. My parents always wondered why I wasn’t hungry for dinner at 6:30! But, I remained thin because of my eating habits and all of my physical activity.
Sports were important to me, as usual, and a significant factor in junior high school. They were more important there than in any other school I ever attended. Gym was one of my two favorite subjects (art was the other). We had physical education every day and one person was elected Gym Captain of their grade each semester and would lead the class. In the A7, I was elected Gym Captain. When I was nominated, my teacher Mrs. Harlan said, “She may be small, but she’s dynamic!” I’ve never forgotten what she said.
Girls also competed every day in noon league and almost everyone played. As in our gym classes, we competed in volleyball in the fall, and baseball in the spring. I was a Team Captain a few times in noon league, and in the A7, my team beat the A9 class for the school championship. I was also on the champion baseball team in the A9. I always pitched and didn’t allow a hit very often. When I did, the ball usually came back to me and I threw the batter out. In the 9th grade an all-star team was picked and I was on it. I was very honored. I wanted and expected to be the school’s Girls Athletic Commissioner in the 9th grade, but I got an “unsatisfactory” in work habits and co-operation from one of the teachers so I couldn’t run. I definitely wasn’t a teacher’s pet as I was rambunctious and talkative.
Along with my sports activities I loved art. I took an art class as often as I could, but it was an elective and I couldn’t take it every semester. I always got A’s in art as I did in Phys. Ed. Whenever I could I would incorporate art into my school projects.
“Scenes from Mexico,” Watercolor I did for the term paper on Mexico, 1950
One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Mary Ebbets (her husband was Ebbets of Ebbets field and she was the daughter of Judge Joseph Scott) who taught History and Social Studies. She was very feisty and strong but I got along with her and found her classes, History and Social Studies, exiting. We were given an assignment to do a term paper on Mexico. So, I wrote a paper about the history and culture of Mexico. It was handwritten and on each page I did small related ink drawings in the upper right hand corner, and I created six large watercolors showing scenes from Mexico. I got an A+ and she showed it to the class and I also received 2 A’s in her classes. I repeated this formula in my later classes with equally positive results.
I also drew and painted at home. I had a drafting table that was located in a small side room off of my bedroom. I would do pencil drawings from Life or Look magazine covers of famous people like Dewey or Eisenhower. I also drew from photographs of nature. From these early beginnings and encouragements, I majored in art, first at Berkeley, and then UCLA where I received a BA and MA in art, and became a professional painter and college art professor.
We had an interesting visitor in our 8th grade gym class. Caroline Leonetti who had a well known charm school and modeling agency and later married financier Howard Ahmanson, came to JB to teach our large gym class some manners, mores, and how to carry ourselves. Later, I went over to her school for personal instruction.
Around thirteen, I went to dance school. It was owned and run by Nico Charisse the ex-husband of dancer and actress Cyd Charisse. I loved it; we got to know all the popular dances like the Rumba, Samba, Tango, and Waltz.
I went dancing all the time when I was older to various venues like the Palladian in Hollywood and the top of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The dance class was co-ed and I only remember my cousin Patty Levi and Don Factor, a Max Factor relative. Later I knew Don, as he was a friend of a close friend of mine Dick Langendorf, who was the architect for Don’s house in Beverly Hills. Like the rest of my Dad’s family I had negative music ability genes, but I could dance pretty well, and guess it went with athleticism.
Camps and Vacations
In the summer, from the age of seven-and-a-half, I went to camp both day and away. I generally loved camp as I could do all the outdoor sports I liked, swimming, baseball, volleyball and horseback riding. My first camp was “The Outdoor Family Camp.” I was the youngest child there, and I think too young. The camp was in the mountains, and we lived four or five girls to a cabin. I remember swimming in a large Olympic style pool, and horse back riding on a special horse, Blackie.
One day Blackie was not available and I took out another horse, a brownish one. On the trail I briefly stopped to talk to some people and when I looked around my group was gone. I proceeded on the trail I knew they’d be taking to try and catch up with them. All of a sudden my horse just stopped. I tried kicking him and using my reins and he would not go. Time passed and I was scared as it was getting dark and I did not know what to do or where I was, except I was in the middle of nowhere.
Finally I heard, “There you are!” It was one of the counselors. When the group returned home they had missed me so they sent someone back to find me. She told me to get back up on the horse and then she reached up high, (I was too short to do this) snapped a tree branch off, whacked him on the rear and off he went back to the stables. I never strayed from the group again.
Also, I was chosen to be on the camp volleyball team with the older campers, which was a big honor. We played a final big game against another camp and I was put in at the end when the score was tied. The other team served to me, since, I was probably four feet high. I set it to the captain and she hit a winner and we won the match. Everyone ran to the captain and congratulated her and no one said anything to me. I was very hurt that no one said, “You did well.”
When, I came home, mother said I was filthy and did not look like I had ever taken a bath. They were upset, and, as a result, I did not go away to camp for a few years.
The children of my parent’s friends and relatives usually went to the same camps. Susie Joseph who was three years older than I was at the ‘Outdoor Family.” Her father and mother, Eddie and Bob Joseph were good friends of my mom and dad. Eddie, who was from San Francisco, was the president of I. Magnins in Beverly Hills. Her brother, Steve, was a good friend of my brother. I visited him a few years ago in Seattle, and soon after I left I found out he had died. Unfortunately, Susie committed suicide years earlier.
I was talking to my next door neighbor, Helen Nicholas Devor, and I asked her what her parents’ occupations were, and she said her mother owned a camp in Wrightwood, in the San Bernardino mountains, called the Out Door Family. And I said, “You’re kidding, I think I went there!” It was the same camp. The owners were “Nicky” for Rose Nicholas, her mother, and “Cappy” for Lillian Capp, and they owned the camp from 1936-1954. Helen’s brother Fred Nicholas is a prominent lawyer and art collector who used to work at Loeb and Loeb.
The next summer I went to the Uplifter’s Camp, a day camp on a sight where the Uplifter's Club was located. The one thing I recall is they had a very high diving board, 30 feet or so. I wanted to dive off of it but it was too high and terrifying so I jumped off.
Linda Levi at Beverly Jills Camp, 9 years old
The following summer, I again went to day camp, Beverly Jacks and Beverly Jills, which as I recall, was not in Beverly Hills but the San Fernando Valley. I have a picture that shows me in a rural background, on my knees on the grass with a stripped t-shirt and short pants holding a baseball glove. That about sums me up as a child.
The next summer, I went to El Rodeo Summer School in Beverly Hills, which was like a camp then. I have one vivid memory of the school; I had signed up to take a horse back riding class, and went to the bus to go to the class, when there was an announcement that the class was canceled. Our riding instructor was killed when she was mounting the horse, and the horse fell, crushing her. It was horrifying to be told that, and I will never forget how I felt. After that, every time I got on a horse, I was very cautious.
I took some kind of crafts class working with metal which I hated, so I could often be found playing baseball on the playground. They didn’t have swimming at El Rodeo and we had no pool. So, after school my mom would pick up Judy Weisman and me and take us for private swimming lessons. Judy’s parents Ted and Evelyn were close friends of my parents. Ted was an attorney who had gone to Stanford with dad and Evelyn was my mother’s best friend. We’d go over to the house of other good friend’s Miriam and Norman Hanak. They lived on north Rodeo in Beverly Hills and had a big pool. Considering all the swimming I did as a young person and my dad and brother’s ability, I was just an OK swimmer. I never really had the leg strength to excel.
After summer school that year my parents and I took my Uncle Leon Levi’s powerboat to Catalina and they hired someone to captain the boat. We didn’t sleep on the boat but stayed in a bungalow on Avalon. This was right after the end of WWII and there weren’t too many boats in the harbor. The large St. Catherine Casino had been used by the military and was closed to the public.
We would go on day trips, to Cherry Cove and the Isthmus, and we were one of the few boats in those coves. I even went ashore at the Isthmus, and there was nothing there except foliage and a barren tree with a noose hanging from it.
Dad took some friends out deep-sea fishing and they caught a large bloody fish, I took one look at it, started to feel nauseous and went down below deck and got sick, From then, every time there was extreme motion I would feel ill; oceans, docks, and autos. I flew home by seaplane from Catalina.
I spent my final two summer camps at La Rue School for Girls in Azusa, CA. My cousin Louise Abrams was there, as were family friends Judy Weisman and Suzy Jacobs who were younger than I.
The camp was divided into two sections, each with a captain. We competed in sports and other events to become the Camp Champion. I loved swimming, riding, baseball, and any other sports in which we competed. We also had some craft classes, but I disliked them. The first year, I was 11, and the older girls were in charge of the major activities and responsibilities.
On Sunday all of us had to go to church, Catholic, Episcopalian, or Christian Science, no Jewish. I choose Christian Science because of my background.
When I went away to camp, I seemed to become a mischievous hellion. At home I was fine and seldom caused any trouble. There, I remember joining with others taking clothes and dumping them into the camp pool one night. For some long forgotten reason, I was moved out of my downstairs quarters to ones upstairs with the younger girls. Then after a week I was moved back.
The second and final year, when I was twelve, I was chosen by the counselors to be one of the two camp Captains, the other was a school friend Iris Granz. It was a big honor and I received a gung ho lecture about responsibility. The teams competed against each other for the whole summer. We even had our own songs. My team, the McBats, used the melody to “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
As far as activities, we really learned to ride horseback with English saddles and had to learn to post, not easy to do, and sit a canter. One day I was riding a horse bareback and I got thrown off but not hurt. Riding without a saddle was exhilarating.
In swimming, because we were in the Esther Williams era, we were taught to synchronize a large water ballet to be performed on Parent’s Day. I passed my Junior Life saving test. I had to float, tread water for long periods of time and rescue properly someone drowning.
We also spent a day with a nearby boy’s camp. My cousin Louise and I performed a sexy Frankie and Johnny with music. That is probably the reason the most attractive boy liked me. His name was Jerry Turner and somehow, I have his picture in a scrapbook.
Every thing was humming along fine with the Captainship until the Sunday before Parent’s Day. We were coming home from Sunday school, sitting in the back of an open truck, and were being followed by some young men in a car. My cousin Louise decided to get out of the truck and talk to them. I joined her. Our counselors were furious. Looking back, I can’t blame them. I was relieved of my Captainship and not allowed to ride when our parents came. I was able to swim though in the water ballet as they needed me as part of the whole.
The years I went to camp coincided with my grammar school days, and La Rue was the last camp I went to. I don’t think any of the away camps around LA were set up for girls older than 12. It was disappointing, as eventually I would have liked to have been a counselor.
My summer days in Junior High were spent at the beach, playing tennis and as a houseguest.
Linda Van Ronkel my best friend invited me to spend a week or so at her family’s rented house right on the sand at Laguna Beach. Linda and I played cards and I remember it vividly, as I disliked playing card games and she beat me most of the time. We were right next to the Laguna Inn and we spent a lot of time sun bathing and watching older people play volleyball.
Another summer, I stayed at a hotel on the boardwalk at Balboa with Lois Richman and her parents. Later I found out that Mr. Richman owned the hotel and much of the Laguna boardwalk property. We, of course, swam, and Lois, since she had the only pool at home, was a great swimmer. We would take foam mats out fairly far and then ride in on the waves. My father had surfed in Hawaii with his friends the great Olympic swimmers Duke and Sam Kahanamoka. But surfboards were not widely used on the mainland.
The Richmans and I also went to the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters. Even at that age, I hated the Pageant and thought it was clichéd.
When I was 13, I stayed with Lenore Schreiber and her parents Rita and Taft at the Jules Stein vacation house in Arrowhead. Stein was the president of MCA then, and Taft was one of the vice-presidents. The Steins had a large house on a hill with a dock down on the water. They had a speedboat and Lenore and I both took water skiing lessons. I was able to get up and ride waves but my knees were bent. A few years later my high school club rented a house in Arrowhead and I got to water ski again, and it was fun, but again my knees were bent.
We went fishing in the lake in a small boat and for the first time I saw a trout with its head still on served at the dinner table. Ugh!
Another day we went out fishing in the boat with famous movie actor Paul Henreid (Casablanca) and his wife. He was quite nice and unassuming. Taft may previously have been his agent.
During one Easter vacation I stayed in Palm Springs with Linda Van Ronkel and her parents. We stayed in Rudy Valle’s house. He had hundreds of pictures of himself. Linda’s father Jo was quite a sportsman. He had a small plane and I turned down invitations to fly with him as I thought it was too risky. Jo also was good friends and a hunting buddy with Baron Hilton (Conrad’s son and Paris’ grandfather) and one day Linda and I went and watched them skeet shooting.
In the winter of my last year at John Burroughs, Linda’s parents rented a house for 2 weeks at Arrowhead. She invited me for the first week and then the next week we were joined by some of her (and mine) other friends. It was great fun as I’d never been in snow before. We toasted marshmallows, threw snowballs and sled down hills.
Environment and Culture
We lived fairly close to the Miracle Mile, and my mother and I would go there shopping for my clothes at the May Company, and Chandlers Shoe Store. For better clothes we went to Bullocks Wilshire, I. Magnin, Robinsons, and Saks Fifth Avenue. My mother who had movie star (her best friend in school was Carole Lombard until Carole left) looks was very elegant and loved good clothes for her and me.
Later, I was the beneficiary of her interest in fashion, as she bought American designer clothes from Amelia Gray like Galanos and Rudy Guernreich for us.
Mother did all the grocery shopping, and she primarily went to Larchmont Grocery which was on Larchmont Boulevard There was a drug store down the street from the markets and she usually let me have an ice cream cone. In fact there used to be the Good Humor Man, who would drive around our neighborhood selling ice cream. When I was very young, there was an old truck that came to our house and sold fresh vegetables. One characteristic of mother was she would drive all over L.A. to get groceries from different markets and specialty stores like enchiladas from the Third Street Farmer’s Market. This was a time when people ate real and fresh food. There was no frozen or fast food. Food was expensive, and quality was difficult to find; people didn’t eat as much. It was also wartime and food was rationed.
We had the normal appliances for the times. For example we had a washing machine but no drier. The wet clothes from the washing machine were hung on clotheslines in our backyard. Our neighbors in back of us were still washing clothes by hand on an aluminum washboard. They also had one phone, which hung in the kitchen and was a party line. I don’t think anyone I knew in Hancock Park or Beverly Hills had air conditioning.
When I was young, I would ride my bike all over the neighborhood, mostly in the street, as it was fairly safe. I rarely used the buses or streetcars. I would go to the neighborhood movie theaters like the El Rey. There were drug stores that had fountains where I would sit and consume sundaes or sodas, and had areas where I could buy comic books like Superman and sports fiction.
I did have one bike accident but it was my fault. I was steering using my feet on the handlebars and I lost my balance and fell on the hard cement. The bike chain gashed my foot and I was really bleeding. Somehow, I got home and mother rushed me to our family doctor, Frederic “Chubby” Tyroler, and he gave me a tetanus shot. “Chubby” (actually, he was thin) was a very close family friend. He had gone to Los Angeles High School and Stanford with my dad, and then he went on to Harvard Medical School. His father Dr. Adolph Tyroler was an early LA doctor and was on the staff of the original 1902 Kaspare Cohn Hospital (now Cedars/Sinai). “Chubby” was that old fashion doctor that everyone talks about. He would come to our house even for a cold, even though he lived Northeast of us.
In Junior High I didn’t feel as much anti-Semitism as Third Street, but there was still some in the neighborhood, and a few incidences at JB. I had two friends named Sarah Ballard and Suzy Palmer, that were in an organization named Job’s Daughters and they asked me if I’d like to join. I said “Sure,” as I liked them a lot, and they put my name up for membership. About a week later they contacted me and said I was turned down because I was Jewish. They said there was a group which was Jewish and I could join that one. I said I wasn’t interested because the only reason I wanted to join their group was because of them.
Linda at 4, 26, and 40
Photo on right by Barbara M. Leif, 2005
The largest incidences of anti-Semitism were in the school system, private and public. I mentioned earlier that some of the girls from Third Street went on to Marlborough, which was anti-Semitic. Now, their parents were sending three of my good friends from Third Street and JB to Marlborough. They were Barbara Osthaus, Jane Hammack, and Lois Richman. Lois, who didn’t want to go, and disliked it when she was there, talked her parents into letting her transfer to LA High. But, at LA High School there was another example of Anti-Semitism, segregated high school clubs fashioned after sororities in four-year schools. Those clubs were a big deal. If you were not in one, you were a social outcast, so there was pressure to join the clubs. They weren’t part of the school itself, or sponsored by the school, thus, as outside clubs they could do what they wanted. There were gentile and Jewish clubs. This was five years after WWII and the Holocaust, and this nonsense was still occurring in Los Angeles.
My personal situation was symptomatic of the community itself and the schism between gentiles and Jews. Hancock Park was an upper class area with a small Jewish community of older families, like mine, and a larger group of the socially prominent gentile elite of LA the Chandlers, Ducques, etc. Besides schools like Marlborough, Jews were not allowed to be members of the Wilshire and Los Angeles Country Clubs, the Jonathon Club, (I believe Harris Newmark was a charter member), California Club, and the LA Tennis Club. We could not be debutants like Las Madrinas or members of the Junior League.
Ironically, Hancock Park bordered, perhaps, the largest Jewish area in Los Angeles, the Fairfax area that was primarily first and second generation Jews from Eastern Europe. Many had moved from the poorer Boyle Heights into this middle class area. A few of their children went to Third Street, some to JB, and most to Fairfax High School. Many, eventually relocated in the San Fernando Valley.
Occupying the worst position in the food chain, were the Black, Latino and Asian minorities. They couldn’t join anything and couldn’t even live in these areas, as there was a covenant in the mortgage or sales contract that one couldn’t sell to people of color. I do remember that it was epic that Rochester (Jack Benny Show) moved into the area, and later Nat “King” Cole and his children. I don’t recall going to school with any minority until I went to Los Angeles High School, and even then there were just a handful of Blacks and Asians, and no Latinos.
It was thought provoking writing this memoir, as I had to look back on the time period where many of my values and attitudes were being formed. If I were to use one label to describe my early life and background, I’d say I was privileged to have such a comfortable life and opportunities, and to have the parents, grandparents, family and friends that I did.