Saturday, February 20, 2016

Shriners in Los Angeles, 1950!

A year or two ago I acquired a small group of slides featuring a whole lot of Shriners in Los Angeles. They're pretty fun!

On June 20th, 1950, the 135,000 Nobles came to downtown Los Angeles for several days of parades and general celebration (the full name for the Shriners, pre-2010, was the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Now they go by "Shriners International").

This first photo shows view of one of the three parades that took place; we're looking Northeast on S. Olive Street. Love that Alka-Seltzer sign! To the right is Pershing Square, right in the heart of L.A. As you can see, an enormous "Arabian Bazaar" was held there - wouldn't you love to see what wares were for sale? 

The June 21, 1950 issues of the Chicago Tribune reported: "The downtown parade which culminated in the coliseum was the high point so far in the 76th imperial session of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Some 135,000 Shriners are here from all parts of the United States. Deputations also are present from Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii".

The Trib continues: "...Prominently in the line of march were 280 richly-attired horsemen, six camels, and unique mechanized equipment ranging from a 1901 automobile from Louisville, Ky., to a cable car from San Francisco".

Hey, I think this is that very cable car, towed by a tractor!

Here's an unlovely screen grab from Google Maps' "Street View". It needs more fezzes.

Here's a second view, with crowds of nicely-dressed, curious people. Love the fedoras! Or are they Panama hats? At least one booth is serving fresh orange juice, which is one of my favorite things. Notice the banners on the light posts... "Welcome, Nobles". Looks like the city really rolled out the red carpet for the Shriners! At the time, Harold Lloyd was the the "Imperial Potentate", which is pretty cool.

On a related note, I wanted to include this scan from a two-page spread from Charles Pheonix's book, "Southern Californialand". It's a great book if you love amazing color images from the 1940's, 50's, and 60's. He really does have incredible stuff. Go see one of his live performances if you can! Anyway, this image is from the same Shriner's Bazaar, a fantastic view taken from the historic Biltmore Hotel.

I have a few more slides of this crazy event, if you are interested!


Nanook said...


After seeing these images I'm thoroughly convinced the world would be a better place today if we had more Shriner's Bazaars-! (I assume somehow these folks ended up at the Shrine Auditorium-??!!)

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Weren't some of the trees in New Orleans Square at DL taken from Pershing Square when it was being revamped in the 1960's? I wonder if any of the trees that we can see in the background of these pics are the ones that made the move to Anaheim?

Patrick Devlin said...

Where are the miniature cars? I was told there would be miniature cars! Parades need miniature car precision drill teams or they ain't really trying...

Irene said...

These bring back memories. My Uncle was a Shriner and I have clear memories (and color home movies) from the early 1950's of a Shriner gathering they had at Knotts Berry Farm. Lots and lots of Shriners marching through the dusty streets and parking lot. For years our family had his red fez but sadly somewhere along the line it went missing. Sure do wish I still had it.

Chuck said...

The cable car in the first photo is Municipal Railway of San Francisco #524. Originally built in 1887 as Ferries & Cliff House #534, it survived the 1906 earthquake intact and operated on several San Francisco lines, including Powell, Sacramento-Clay, Market, and Washington-Jackson, where it was the last car to operate on the line when it ceased operation in 1956.

In 1949, it was sent to the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair under the sponsorship of the Western Pacific Railroad, where it operated on a short demonstration line, complete with two turntables and a steep incline. It was the first cable car to operate in Chicago since that city's cable car lines were converted to electric trolleys in 1906 and also the last.

Happily, this cable car survives in operation today as San Francisco Muni #24 on the Powell lines.

At the Chicago Railroad Fair, 1949:

Returning from the Fair, 1949 (note sponsor Western Pacific's lettering on the flatcar):

At the LA Shriner's Parade, 1950:

Recently transferred to the reconfigured Powell lines, 1957:

As #24 in the 21st Century:

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I think it is safe to assume that they wound up at the Shrine Auditorium… the info is probably online, but hey, who has the time?! ;-)

TokyoMagic!, now that you say that, it rings a bell, but I don’t know for sure if any of those Pershing Square trees wound up in New Orleans Square.

Patrick Devlin, I thought the same thing… this must be pre-little cars (?).

Irene, oh, if only you had photos of your uncle at Knott’s Berry Farm in his fez! It’s weird that his hat has gone missing, those things are so distinctive. But I know that things disappear when people move.

Chuck, I am surprised to learn that the cable car is not only still around, but is back on the line in San Francisco. You must be a real cable car fan! Thanks for doing all of that research, it must have taken a while. I have a number of vintage SF cable car photos, what are the odds that they picture this same car?

Chuck said...

I was surprised at that, too. In fact, I was surprised that I was able to find out ANYTHING about that particular car, especially since so little of it is visible in your photo.

I'm guessing it was used for the 1950 parade because it had so recently been sent to Chicago. I find it ironic that a cable car was used by Western Pacific to promote California tourism when just two years earlier the mayor of San Francisco had tried to have the entire publicly-owned Powell Street system scrapped, citing it as "antiquated and unsafe." Friedel Klussmann's Citizen’s Committee to Save the Cable Cars fought to save the system and forced a November 1947 referendum. Car #524 (along with #527) was chartered by the committee two days before the election, which resulted in a resounding victory for the cable car supporters and placed a requirement to maintain the Powell Street lines in the City Charter.

Unfortunately, the privately-owned California Street Cable Railroad - not covered by the provision in the City Charter - filed for bankruptcy in 1951 and was taken over by the city in 1952. A deceptively-worded ballot measure in 1954 (a "yes" vote meant "yes, I want 3/4 of the cable car system shut down and torn up," which allowed proponents to confuse voters with a "Vote 'Yes' on Cable Cars" campaign) led to the closure of the O'Farrel, Jones & Hyde and Washington-Jackson lines and the Jones Street shuttle between 1954-56.

Friedel Klussmann passed away in 1986, but lived long enough to see the massive 1982-84 rebuilding and mechanical upgrade of the remaining cable car system. The Hyde Street turntable near Fisherman's Wharf was renamed in her honor in 1997.

I'd love to see your other cable car images, Major. It would be fun to see if there are any of #524/24.