OUR SANTA MONICA ROOTS GO DEEP
I may own more “Santa Monica” t-shirts, but my wife Dian, a third generation San Pedran, is more Santa Monica than I am.
Three generations before we moved to Ocean Park from Beverly Hills — a smart step up, in my book — on New Years Day 1986, she had a family history here going back to her grandmother, and great grandfather John Barragar. He moved his family from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles in 1903, but wasn’t so enamored with LA, when a friend recommended that he keep going west, to the sea. In 1905 he took that advice, and viola, another early convert to Bay City.
Barragar rolled down the Rockies to the coast with his wife Mary Elizabeth (unrelated but interesting: she had been a seamstress for Thomas Edison, back in Colorado) and their four children. He was an interior decorator of some note, and a painter, a building painter. Family history believes he worked on the massive Mineral Palace in Pueblo, CO, but he definitely helped finish the spectacular Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, the Church of Latter-day Saints equivalent of the Vatican.
BURIED AT WOODLAWN
Back then they mixed paint by hand with wooden stirrers, unaware of the lead content and its poisonous effects. Barragar, born in 1851, died in Santa Monica at 65 in 1916, of what was described in the newspaper obit as “severe indigestion” (??). He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery here (next to Lee Marvin — no, not that one), in the section reserved for members of the Elks, local BPOE 906, still active at 1040 Pico. but Barragar likely attended meetings in the older building on Main Street. We gave the current Elks Lodge leaders his ancient membership card and they seemed delighted. The receipt for his Woodlawn burial plot shows a charge of $30.25 for “perpetual care on grave 179, Elks Rest,” plus “labor” $12.50 and “box” $7. I wish I could get a parking ticket that cheap in Santa Monica.
His second son Ed served in the Santa Monica Fire Department in his 20s. He died in his mid-30s in 1932, of tuberculosis. We had a family photograph of him with his fellow SMFD firefighters, all in spiffy uniforms of the time, circa 1920s, which we donated to the Santa Monica History Museum, located in our Main Library building, on 7th Street. Ed graduated from Samohi and we also donated his diploma, in a pigskin jacket and signed by Principal William F. Barnum (yeah, that one), to the museum, after letting longtime Samohi dean Catherine Baxter take a photo of it for their archives. So at least some little piece remains of our historic high school. In the museum. Where it won’t be devalued and demolished.
MILDRED PLAYED POST OFFICE
Not really. She was a good Catholic girl. But Dian’s grandmother Mildred Michell worked there, as a young woman. She lived one block from our iconic longtime former main post office building on 5th Street and walked to work. There is a “family-famous” photo from the ‘20s of Mildred posing in a swimsuit on the beach with the palisades as the dramatic backdrop, looking just the same as now. The palisades, not Mildred. (Though above and below have changed dramatically.)
Her younger sister Pauline probably walked to work too. She was a WAC in World War II, where she met her husband, and after the war they settled in her hometown, living three blocks from our airport, on Marine. They both worked in the aviation industry, at Clover Field, probably at North American Aviation.
Her older brother John became an electrician who worked on the remarkable lighting fixtures at the famous Bullocks Wilshire. We believe he also attended Samohi, but the two girls were sent to a private academy.
Decades later, Dian lived on Pier for three years, before I met her, and half a dozen years before we wound up where we are, just a few blocks from there.
One last connection, more recent, that didn’t happen until after we moved here. Dian’s parish priest when she was a kid at Holy Trinity in San Pedro was… then Father, now Monsignor, Lloyd Torgerson. (He gave her and another student the Religion Award in 8th grade, she wanted me to tell you.) We beat him to Santa Monica by a good five years but that’s OK, we decided to let him in. A fellow Pedran, you know. He has been the pastor for 25 years at St. Monica’s here in Santa Monica, and Dian has a sister named Monica.
For a third generation San Pedran, Dian has quite a family history in Santa Monica. (Note: if you say it Pay-dro instead of Pee-dro, you’re obviously not from there.) Don’t forget, there was a huge political, money battle more than a century ago as to where the port would be built, and Pedro won out over Santa Monica. (The Port of Los Angeles is in San Pedro; Long Beach is a separate port.) I’m glad they won. I like our bay the way it is, without half the planet’s shipping clogging it up. And Pedro has always been a port town, that’s their tradition.
The two small cities remind me a lot of each other. Except, San Pedro honors and mostly preserves its rich history.
MAIN STREET CLOSURE #2
This is not a full report but I do have a couple of things I observed.
Local architect and Ocean Park activist Bob Taylor (one of the founders of the neighborhood group Ocean Park Association, involved in the redesigns of Lincoln and Ocean Park Boulevards and our Carnegie Library, and in 1980 part of a study group to revitalize Main Street) has taken an interest, like me, in this “pilot project” to close off part of Main Street for a weekend to all vehicular traffic. How does that affect the businesses on Main Street, and the surrounding neighborhood of residences?
Between the two of us — not working together, but comparing notes — we found that nearly every business we spoke to, around 12-16 in the two-block closure area weekend before last and 8-10 the first weekend, said the closure, intended to help struggling Main Street businesses, had either no effect or a slightly negative one. Only Toy Crazy said it was a big help. There were definitely more families with kids there the second weekend. Some very good music, too.
Two more are planned.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org