In the dead of the night, Union Station a popular location for music videos

This is the sixth in a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

Just as the movies, television and commercials frequently shoot in Union Station, the music industry often uses the building as a location for music videos. Most are shot in the wee hours of the morning so that patrons are not bothered by the lights, cameras, electrical cords and occasional redecoration.

More recently, Union Station played a starring role in Pharrell Williams’ music video for “Happy” — in particular the 24-hour version of the song from which these stills were taken:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Above, the Fred Harvey Restaurant is a great venue for Fiona Apple and her entourage, although it’s hard to say which is more engaging: the music, the room or the children.

Below, the Brian Setzer Orchestra swings and the Fred Harvey room looks like a ’40s dance club.

Here, Union Station is a beautiful backdrop to a love story by Lifehouse.

You have to stay vigilant to see it but the Ticket Room is just visible in “Wings of a Butterfly” by the Finnish band HIM. This video was Number 1 on the Rock Countdown on MTV2. No doubt, it was the setting.

RELATED:

Metro and The Academy release only known film of Union Station’s grand opening

Metro Motion celebrates beautiful Union Station’s 75th anniversary

Union Station: a grand opening

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen celebrates the opening

How Harvey House restaurants changed the West

Union Station: a man worthy of respect

Union Station: a star of big screen and small

Our first podcast: filming over the years at Union Station

Our first podcast: filming over the years at Union Station

A scene from the "The Dark Knight Rises" that was filmed in the old ticket room  at Union Station. Credit: Warner Bros.

A scene from the “The Dark Knight Rises” that was filmed in the old ticket room at Union Station. Credit: Warner Bros.

Good morning, readers and listeners! Above please find our first Metro podcast. The subject: filming at Los Angeles Union Station over the decades, a subject that Kim tackled earlier this week as part of her ongoing series of posts on Union Station’s 75th anniversary.

We’re new to the podcast thing and it’s going to take a few of these to completely find our footing in the audio world. If we sound like podcast rookies, well, we are. Please bear with us!

That said, I’m really excited about this. It’s great to post articles on the blog, but I think it’s also important for our riders and taxpayers to literally hear the voice of their government. I hope you enjoy our initial offering and we should have more podcasts soon.

 

Union Station: A man worthy of respect

This is the fourth of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

Amtrak conductor Irv Hirsch

Amtrak conductor Irv Hirsch. Photo by Kim Upton/Metro

He’s an Amtrak conductor based at Union Station and has been since 1974. But among his fondest memories is his time as a porter on the trains between L.A. and Chicago.

“I still have my old card that says I’m a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Sleeping Car Porters – the historic Black union,” he recalled. “If you were a Pullman sleeping car porter you were a man worthy of respect.”

As a porter, Irv Hirsch was in charge of one car. Each cubicle was a seating room during the day. It was converted by the porters to sleeping berths at night. A porter in those days was bellman, maid, upstairs waiter and concierge to the travelers in his car, in Hirsch’s case, on the Amtrak Southwest Chief’s 43-hour trip between Los Angeles and Chicago. The African American porters were men of distinction, Hirsch said, who would have thrived in any career. They were proud of their positions and he was proud to be among the few white porters at the time.

Continue reading

Union Station: Here’s how Harvey House restaurants helped change the West

This is the third of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that we are running this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3. 

When English immigrant Fred Harvey opened the first of more than 80 restaurants serving rail stops from the Midwest to California, he could not have imagined the contribution he was making to a social movement that would outlive the restaurants themselves. Nor could he have understood how those restaurants would influence the character of the West.

But Harvey waitresses — made famous by the 1946 Judy Garland movie “The Harvey Girls” — contributed more than labor to what some call the first restaurant chain in America. They helped gentrify the West and took part in a movement of young women away from the home and into self-sufficient employment.

“The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound” — a terrific documentary by L.A. filmmaker Katrina Parks — tells the story of the women who worked as wait staff for Harvey House restaurants, including the one at Union Station, beginning in the 1870s.

Unlike other diners near rail, Harvey House restaurants were clean and sold good, reasonably priced food on table linen and china. For 75 cents (in a 1943 menu) customers could dine on broiled fish almandine, potatoes O’Brien and Hawaiian slaw. A slice of apple pie was 15 cents. And the restaurants guaranteed that patrons would complete their meals before their trains — often loading up on water and passengers — were scheduled to depart.

The restored Harvey House restaurant in Kansas City's Union Station. Photo by Kevin C., via Flickr creative commons.

The restored Harvey House restaurant in Kansas City’s Union Station. Photo by Kevin C., via Flickr creative commons.

At first, the Harvey company hired men to serve as waiters, since women were in short supply in the West. But the men — both customers and waiters — could be rowdy. So Harvey began advertising in Eastern and Midwest newspapers, offering employment to clean-cut, well-mannered and attractive women between 18 and 30. The pay was $17.50 a month plus tips. Room and board were free. The Harvey Girls wore distinctive black-and-white uniforms, worked long hours and had to abide by strict rules, including curfews. But for many, it was the first taste of freedom and freedom can be delicious, as the above clip suggests.

For more information about the Harvey Girls, visit the Harvey Girl Historical Society at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum in Perris, Calif. Or watch the Katrina Parks video. The old Harvey House restaurant space at Union Station is currently vacant, but frequently used for special events and filming. Metro, the owner of Union Station, hopes to one day see another restaurant occupy the space although considerable and expensive work will be needed to rebuild the kitchen.

A recent view of the Harvey House restaurant. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A recent view of the Harvey House restaurant. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

RELATED:

Metro Motion celebrates beautiful Union Station’s 75th anniversary

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen celebrates the opening

Union Station: a grand opening

Union Station’s 75th: Seymour Rosen recalls the opening

This is the second of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays this month. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

In this video interview with Seymour Rosen, a member of the Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council, Rosen talks to Metro Community Relations officer Rich Morallo about attending the opening of Union Station in 1939.

Rosen was a teenager when his father took him to the Union Station opening parade on May 3, 1939. They went early to try to secure a good vantage point and ended up standing right in front of Union Station. He and his dad were among the half-million onlookers.

What Rosen remembers most was the crowds. He had never seen so many people in a single location.

“You have to remember that Los Angeles in 1939 was not New York City. This was a major thing. There were so many people. And to see such a grand structure. It was an exciting moment in my life,” Rosen recalled.

Continue reading

Union Station: A grand opening

Click on a photo to see a larger version or click on the first version to begin a slideshow-type display. Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles Railroad Heritage Foundation Collection.

This is the first of a series of posts on the history of Union Station that will run on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout April. The station celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 3.  

The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal finally opened to the public on May 3, 1939 and it was celebrated with a massive parade down Alameda Street. The theme was the history of transportation and the parade included covered wagons, stagecoaches, Pony Express riders and several massive steam-powered locomotives.

The station’s grand opening was a huge deal for what was still in many ways an unsophisticated western town, albeit one whose population mushroomed since 1920 to about 1.5 million people in 1939. The city finally had a central passenger terminal. The L.A. Times reported that people hung from trees to get a better look at the festivities. Some fainted from the heat.

The parade was followed by tours of the station and a 45-minute production called “Romance of the Rails.” The free show along the tracks inside Union Station was subtitled “California’s Story of Transportation,” and the program notes that it was adapted and directed by John Ross Reed. No one now seems to know who John Ross Reed was. Was he a famous Hollywood director of the time?

Continue reading

Then & Now: Vermont & 8th, 1950 vs 2013

unnamed

DSC_4031

Our latest installment in our Then & Now series takes us to the intersection of 8th & Vermont in Los Angeles. The top photo was taken Sept. 2, 1950. I took the bottom photo last month, so roughly 63 years later.

What’s changed? The Bank of America building is there still — sans the bank and now under a coating of stucco or stucco-like substance. The church is still there, too — now with solar panels.

The old Los Angeles Transit Lines streetcar is, of course, gone to the mists of time. Matching the photos was a bit difficult as the Vermont bus no longer turns west onto 8th Street. But you get the idea.

Again we find that a lot of Los Angeles’ past has survived into the 21st century. I think in some ways that’s a good thing — but it sure would be nice to see a lot less stucco and newer buildings a little more architecturally inspired than the apartment building in the bottom photo between the old bank building and the church.

RELATED POSTS:

Then & Now: 11th & Broadway, the land that time forgot

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Brand Boulevard in Glendale

Photo gallery: streetcars in Los Angeles in the 1940s in glorious black and white

Then & Now: downtown Sierra Madre

Then & Now: In L.A. getting rid of streetcars easier than getting rid of billboards

Then & Now: a streecar and a bus in Highland Park, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: streetcars along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Florence Avenue in Inglewood, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: 11th and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, i.e. the land that time forgot

Untitledattachment00048

DSC_4071

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The top photo was taken at the intersection of Main and 11th streets in downtown Los Angeles on May 21, 1955, most likely from the front of a streetcar. The bottom photo was taken by yours truly on Friday, who had to quickly shoot and dodge cars turning south onto Broadway.

Southbound buses didn’t quite cooperate with my shooting schedule and the buses run curbside now, not down the middle of the street.

I don’t see much difference in the area in the past 58 years. The single story building at left at some point got a makeover. Everything else is still there. The other three corners of the intersection are depressing: a mostly empty Herald Examiner building (southwest corner), the Railway Building that appears vacant that was built by Howard Huntington in 1920 (son of Henry Huntington, northeast corner) and the old YWCA building that was (not sure if still is) used by the L.A. Job Corps (southeast corner).

They’re all great buildings, all sited on a busy transit street and just south of the many theaters on Broadway (some still theaters, some subdivided into tiny businesses). The Herald-Examiner closed shop in Nov. 1989 and the building is apparently used mostly for film shoots with occasional talk of redevelopment plans.

The proposed downtown L.A. Streetcar would travel through the 11th & Broadway intersection. Obviously there are some questions about the project’s budge in the news these days, but anything that could bring some much-needed investment to this intersection would be welcome. I love the old buildings. But they need some love, people.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

RELATED POSTS:

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Brand Boulevard in Glendale

Photo gallery: streetcars in Los Angeles in the 1940s in glorious black and white

Then & Now: downtown Sierra Madre

Then & Now: In L.A. getting rid of streetcars easier than getting rid of billboards

Then & Now: a streecar and a bus in Highland Park, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: streetcars along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Florence Avenue in Inglewood, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Brand Boulevard in Glendale

PE_#5025_Glenoaks_BL_&_Brand_BL_bound_for_LA_Apr_12_1955

DSC_3999

The top photo was taken at the intersection of Brand and Glenoaks boulevards in 1954 or 1955. The bottom photo was taken at the same location on Wednesday afternoon.

Can you spot the similarities and differences? Here’s one: the 92 bus doesn’t appear to make the turn onto Brand Boulevard in the same place as the streetcar.

3214036380_e1b186fc52_o

DSC_4002

The top photo was taken in April 1955 at Brand Boulevard and Mountain Avenue — literally the end of the Pacific Electric line. Bottom photo was taken yesterday.

The intersection hasn’t changed dramatically in the past 58 years. At some point since then, development creeped into the mountains above.

RELATED POSTS:

Photo gallery: streetcars in Los Angeles in the 1940s in glorious black and white

Then & Now: downtown Sierra Madre

Then & Now: In L.A. getting rid of streetcars easier than getting rid of billboards

Then & Now: a streecar and a bus in Highland Park, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: streetcars along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Florence Avenue in Inglewood, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: streetcars at 6th & Main in downtown Los Angeles

pebuilding

 

Brian Hsu was gracious enough to allow us to run this Then & Now he ran on his urban diachrony blog.

The top photo is looking north on 6th & Main in 1941 with a streetcar heading out of the Pacific Electric Building — once a major depot in downtown Los Angeles. The bottom photo was taken from the same location in 2012. Three of the big buildings on the east side of the street remain!

Brian has more Then & Nows — check them out here.

If you’ve enjoyed our Then & Now posts, then you are morally obligated to check out the Metro Library’s Historypin page, a sophisticated mapping tool that allows you to overlay historic photos with current street views. It is, trust me, epically cool. Here’s a Source post from last week explaining Historypin; check out the photo from Crenshaw and 60th on Historypin. Very cool.

RELATED POSTS:

Photo gallery: streetcars in Los Angeles in the 1940s in glorious black and white

Then & Now: downtown Sierra Madre

Then & Now: In L.A. getting rid of streetcars easier than getting rid of billboards

Then & Now: a streecar and a bus in Highland Park, 1955 and 2013

Then & Now: streetcars along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment

Then & Now: a streetcar and a bus on Florence Avenue in Inglewood, 1955 and 2013

Photo credits: Top photo from the Metro Transportation Library & Archive Flickr stream. Bottom photo: Brian Hsu.