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.

The day was warm and the themed parade, “Railroads Build the Nation,” started late and lasted for hours, according to the L.A. Times. Some watchers were taken ill by the heat. Some hung from trees to get a better view. There was a long parade featuring steam engines, horses, marching bands, carriages and covered wagons.

“We saw trains coming down the street. We saw floats. The mayor was introduced and all the politicians made speeches. I was so excited,” Rosen said.

The parade was just the first part of the three-day celebration. It was followed by a 45-minute highly choreographed presentation called “Romance of the Rails — California’s story of transportation” for people who had managed to secure tickets, which cost $1.  “Romance” was repeated several times a day for the next three days. The station itself opened for travel on May 7.

Rosen didn’t see the presentation but the memory of the Union Station opening has stayed with him throughout the years, even though his life has not been boring, he says.

Rosen grew up in City Terrace, across the street from Joe Gold, who was making body building weights in his garage long before opening what became the world-famous Gold’s Gym in Venice. Rosen says he was personally interested in body building and at Gold’s garage he met a man named Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel who offered the young body builder a job. (His dad recommended he decline). Rosen also says he and his dad were in the first car to enter the Arroyo Secco Parkway when it opened. And yet …

“The Union Station opening was really a highlight of my life. I had never seen crowds like that.”


Union Station: a grand opening

Metro Motion celebrates beautiful Union Station’s 75th anniversary