(Doesn’t Look a Day over 80)

With the holiday days away, this is my Valentine to the Ocean Park Branch Library and I’ll explain why. When I first got a computer I discovered the library’s website and began requesting books and DVDs online. It changed my reading habits from woeful to wonderful.

These days, getting email notifications that my requested items have arrived makes for a happy two-block stroll to the Ocean Park Branch. Today’s missive, however, is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our very special neighborhood library.

According to Richard Orton, renowned Ocean Park historian (and resourceful real estate agent) the Ocean Park Branch was always in the same location but with different street names. Originally it was at Lake and Sand but Lake became Washington, which became 2nd Street and Sand became Norman Place in honor of Merle Norman. (The founder of a cosmetics empire whose factory was directly across from the library!)

Richard discovered in 100-year-old Evening Outlook articles, that even the Santa Monica Police Department was helpful with the library’s opening. “To save the expense of hiring a transfer company to do the job of book moving.” Apparently, the SMPD transported excess books from the Main Library to stock the Ocean Park Branch in “Hurry-up wagons,” which may have been politically correct for “Paddy Wagons.” (That term considered an anti-Irish slur.)

Meanwhile, the article revealed that the S.M. Fire Department was also helpful. Station 2 was right across the street where the Shotgun House and the parking lot is now. They agreed to “Look after the library lawn and make the fires during the cold weather.” (Referring to a stove or furnace to keep the library warm in the winter, back when we actually had winters.)

As reported in the Outlook, however, the Ocean Park Branch officially opened on Monday, February 18, 1918. So technically the Library is 99 years, 11 months and 357 days old. (In the centennial spirit, I’m rounding up.)

When I recently commented to Karen Reitz, Ocean Park’s outgoing librarian, how our “neo-classic” designed library still looks great, she jokingly confessed, “Well, we’ve had a little work done.” (In 1984 the library received a “facelift,” including a new Community Room in the basement and an elevator.) Just returned from a brief skiing vacation, Karen is definitely not your father’s librarian.

In my childhood, librarians were almost as notorious as Catholic school nuns who roamed the classroom with knuckle-rapping rulers in a never-ending quest for silence. Libraries were like mausoleums where the slightest noise was treated with scorn. It wasn’t easy on restless pre-teens like myself who’d rather be outside playing baseball than learning about the Dewey Decimal system.

Let’s fast forward to the fun stuff, i.e. the Ocean Park Branch Library’s centennial celebration. Tomorrow, on the Library lawn, there will be an afternoon of crafts, games, the creation of a time capsule, light refreshments, and music by DJ Patrick Miller. It’s free to the public and all ages are welcome.

Let’s also pay homage to the origin of the Branch, due to the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, who came here as a dirt poor kid from Scotland. Often described as a “ruthless businessman,” by the early 1900’s, he was the richest man in America. (Brings to mind another “ruthless businessman,” our current POTUS, who, as opposed to growing up “dirt poor,” inherited $150 million from daddy.)

Later in life, Carnegie developed a social conscience so profound that he exhausted almost all his wealth on behalf of the public good. In addition to tireless advocacy for world peace via the League of Nations, he believed strongly in programs of reading and learning for the working class and poor.

So it was, Carnegie built approximately seventeen hundred libraries countrywide. Ours was among the lucky towns despite the meager population of 15,000 in Santa Monica.

As opposed to exhausting his wealth, our autocratic and Eco-unfriendly POTUS seems only interested in increasing his; or accusing those who don’t applaud his speeches of treason; or threatening government shutdowns; or demanding loyalty from the FBI Director and then grilling the Acting Director who he voted for.

Reminiscent of a 3rd world dictator, POTUS, an apparent Putin puppet (say that fast three times) is currently calling for a giant military parade. I can just see tanks and ICBMs rumbling down Pennsylvania Avenue like it’s Red Square. (It’d be cheaper to give the seemingly still 13-year-old Donnie Johnny toy soldiers and a fruit salad festooned General’s jacket so he can “play Patton.”)

Back to tomorrow’s Centennial Celebration, come one, come all to the front lawn of our beautiful library to partake in the fun. Oddly enough, I wish POTUS could come to the library. Somebody could read him the Constitution.

The Ocean Park Library’s 100th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration is Saturday, February 10 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at 2601 Main Street. For more info call (310) 458-8683 or visit smpl.org for additional 2018 Centennial Celebration programming. Jack is at jackdailypress@aol.com.

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