Telling stories of the barrio in the shadow of the broken Sixth Street Bridge
Shmuel with the broken arches of the Sixth Street Bridge.
For the past few months the demotion of the Sixth Street Bridge has been pushing its ways through the Boyle Heights Flats. Knocking its way through an area mostly filled with industrial and wholesale produce warehouses, just adjacent to a residential neighborhood and low-income housing projects.
A couple of weeks before we came out to see the aftermath of that part of the viaduct demolition, finding before us an eerie bridge to nowhere. With the connecting eastern spans of the bridge already removed, and only the glory of the arches hanging high against the skyline. [See the previous video, “Sixth Street Bridge: The bridge to nowhere.”]
Since then the easternmost arches of the classic Sixth Street Viaduct were removed, and I have been stuck considering these vital questions:
How are we going to be able to continue to tell our important local narrative when so many places are being demolished and changed all around us? What is the real cost to our local storytelling when we see have our historical landmarks demolished?
Today we are coming to witness what it all looks like from up close. And to try to recapture some memories for ourselves and posterity.
See the full length video here:
This day we choose to come in from the direction of Fourth Street, and enter by the train track inlets located there at Mission Road. Making our way towards the direction of the Sixth Street Bridge, which could be seen just beyond the rows of boxcars and tankers on the commercial trains tracks that line the eastern bank of the Los Angeles River.
In terms of the storytelling of this area, this really is the most authentic way to make our way down towards the riverbed. For people who come from the Flats and from the more dense parts of Boyle Heights north of here, this is the path remembered most for taking for when venturing over the train tracks. This is the past most often taken by old school locals from the barrio who linger around the riverbed. Making our way to the hole in the fence which leads to the riverbed below.
Since the earliest days these areas have always attracted the local kids like magnets. Especially the area around the train yards. The train yards have been here since the beginning.
Actually in the first booming years of Los Angeles, this was even more active with train activity than today. Just on the other bank of the river there was the main train terminus for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, located at La Grande Station just over on Santa Fe Road. Which required vast areas of train yards, yards where traffic often slowed down in the evenings and to a hault on the weekends.
Quickly this surrounding area became a youth hub, for kids who had nowhere else to go. And not just for local kids. The train yards also became the home of the hobo boxcar kids that were coming west during the Great Depression.
For many reasons this area became associated with the youth subcultures.
Now I have to stress this. So much a part of the local narrative is this place and our relationship to it that it is enshrined in our local art and writing, and also on film.
You will see the Sixth Street Bridge memorialized in notorious barrio themed films and cult classics.
“Blood In, Blood Out.” (1993) In this infamous shot you can see our old hangout right between their heads, the best observation point on the Sixth Street Bridge.
In “Blood in. Blood Out.” (1993), the dramatic ending of that film brings the story and the characters back to this bridge to fully evoke a sense of youth-like nostalgia. And in doing so this film captures some of the most impressive views of this bridge as the camera rises from the riverbed and takes flight over the viaduct at the very end of the film.
These bridges here also play a central role in the finest family film about the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, “My Family. Mi Familia.” (1995) The film opens with gorgeous shots of the Sixth Street Bridge. Bridges which Paco, the narrator, says remind him of his family. In that narrative the bridges always existed. And they tell the story of parents who have always crossed over these bridges in the early mornings in order to fulfill the needs of the city on the westside of the river, and then stream back at the end of the day to the eastside. In that film it repeatedly recalled our relationship with the bridges as part of the life cycle of the neighborhood. It also regards them as launch points into the world. Though it also regards them as boundaries, in that people from the westside seemed to never cross into the eastside. [We will soon explore this movie more deeply, I promise!]
The reality is that historically these bridges have served dual purposes in our lives, edifices which have united and divided us. These bridges which have connected us with the bustling city center, these same structure have long since mentally marked the lines of segregation. And this is not by accident that these bridges come with this complex psychology.
In the Jim Crow era it was clear that a Mexican American’s place downtown was as the help, but not for recreation and pleasure. While the older generation tended to abide by this apartheid, it was the youth who would challenge these boundaries and dare to take claim to the city that they felt was just as much their as everyone else; which came with backlash, as witnessed during the notorious beat-downs of the so-called Zoot Suit Riots.
Since then legal segregation has ended, yet the racial and economic divide here has only grown.
Therefore for generations of youth, our coming here has been a challenge to the boundaries of the racial and class divide which has defined this area for almost a century.
So it should come as no surprise that my friends and I come to congregate here. To both feel free in our own domain, but also to challenge and push the boundaries of the ethnic enclave from which we come. [Learn about my friends and our long occupation of the bridge: “The Spot Called ‘Nowhere’ on the Sixth Street Bridge.”]
Though now as these landmarks are having holes ripped through them, its hard not to feel like they are demolishing part of our story.
July 9, 2016 – The bride to nowhere, and the double arches.
August 6, 2016 – The eastern arches removed.
Exploring Childhood Memories of the Sixth Street Bridge
For those of us who have grown up on the eastside, we have always had this complicated relationship with the bridges. I have so many memories. Some of them good and some of them bad, but they are all part of my life story.
As a child going over the Sixth Street Bridge into the westside came with a great sense of trepidation, for us to be crossing over into a world that was unknown to me and often seemed more hostile towards us Mexican Americans. And then passing back to the eastside – either going over the bridge or driving through her expanse stretching over the freeways of the East LA Interchange – I always felt this great sense of relief. As soon as we crossed I could exhale: I was home!
The first time I started going to the westside regularly was when my sister started chemo therapy for childhood leukemia back in 1984; she was four years old and I was seven years old. My sister was getting treatment at Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. This really amplified my anxiety, I didn’t like going westside.
Though as we came over the Sixth Street Bridge on our return I would get all excited and have my face plastered to the window. I was just enchanted with the area surrounding the viaduct. My mom would warn me to stay away from there, but you know as soon as I was old enough I started hanging out there myself.
Many years have passed since then, still that sense of relief that would wash over me while passing back to the eastside by way the Sixth Street Viaduct, that would remain until the very end.
Sitting on one of the broken stumps of the art deco pillars that once graced the eastern end of the classic Sixth Street Bridge.
At the eastern entrance of the classic Sixth Street Bridge there used to be two huge monoliths standing mightily like sentries at the gates of the city, at the point where the expanse of the bridge began its extension from the bluffs of Boyle Heights and jetting towards downtown Los Angeles.
These two matching pillars which stood there, they were part of ornamental walkways built into the structure. They were key elements of the art deco-streamline modernist style of the bridge. Wrapping around the sides of both of these pillars were long abandoned stairways which once lead to the both industrial and residential areas on the eastern bank of the river known as the Boyle Heights Flats.
Eventually these public stairways would be closed when the first primitive highway routes pushed through here decades ago.
And eventually these artistic features of the bridge would come to sit in the middle of the East Los Angeles Interchange, an intertwining network of freeways which would be built through our neighborhood two generations ago.
Which means they were visible to bridge traffic, and also to the freeway traffic which ran past and through the bridge. For us eastside kids these monoliths had always greeted our comings and goings. I have always looked out with great anticipation for these landmarks to welcome me home as we passed.
So I’m very pained to see them gone.
May 2014 – The art deco pillars on the eastern end of the Sixth Street Bridge
May 2016 – Sitting on the demolished Pillars
1932 – The newly constructed classic Sixth Street Viadcut, and her pillars.
In the evenings I often find myself making my way towards this spot. Staring out towards the horizon during sunset. Captivated by the beauty of the downtown skyline, as it rises over a foreground of broken concrete and terrible destruction.
In the evening I often see local young people and photographers coming out here too. To witness the demolition zone. And even to stand on the last remaining stumps of the art deco monoliths.
Standing in the shattered remains of the art deco pillons.
Picture looking up towards the stump of where Whittier Blvd and the Sixth Street Bridge once met. While one of our buddies is standing on the remaining stump of one of the demolished pillars.
And as I sit on my piece of broken bridge in the midst of all this, watching people frolic, I can’t help but be reminded of similar stories I often heard from my elders from their youth. Of when the freeways came demolishing their way through the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, when they were kids in the late-1940s and through the early-1950s. And I remember their memories they have shared about demolition zones and the roads which were closed to traffic, and of how they often became vast playgrounds for many local kids. Coming out to play make-believe on top of the sleeping tractors, and to run and play tag in what would eventually become the middle of the freeways.
Like I said, I have often heard these stories from my elders. Though I never thought I would experience anything quite like it in my days.
See the video of this experience here:
Pictures from the demolition site:
The love of my life, Robert Warren Robertson; Caltech grad, originally from Blossom, Texas.
On February 20, 2016 Los Angeles Cruise Night and many local working class car enthusiasts gathered for a one year anniversary of their revival of the classic cruising route of East Los Angeles.
Even though the Sixth Street Bridge has been recently closed to traffic, that has not stopped the local classic car cruisers and car clubs from basking in her glorious backdrop.
There was a great turnout. A lot of classic car enthusiasts and their families coming out on this day to get some good pictures and video of this cruising phenomenon in its most authentic environs, before the glorious bridge is demolished.
The local working-class car culture has always been tied to this area. Racing in the Los Angeles riverbed below the bridge, and the cruising of Whittier Blvd which begins upon the bridge above.
“Build your dreams: Working class cultura.” Banner hanging over the tunnel under the Sixth Street Bridge that leads to the Los Angeles River bed.
Today the riverbed entrance tunnel built into the viaduct is festively dressed with a banner above it saying: “Build your dreams: Working class cultura.”
As I have discussed before, the car culture of East Los Angeles is the best of both worlds for us local Mexican Americans. It comes with all the elements of the All-American classic and kustom car culture, which has multi-cultural roots here in this area. While also embodying unique expressions Mexican American agency. [See “The Cruising Culture of East Los Angeles.”]
The thrill of unsanctioned car cruising and riverbed racing has long been associated with this area. And the bridge itself has been recognized as the starting point for the classic land yachts, as they began traveling their way eastward for an evening of cruising on the Whittier Blvd strip of East Los Angeles.
Over several decades car cruising and would be repeatedly banned throughout the city; most notably during the hight of the car cruising phenomenon in the 1970s. Then again in the early 1990s, when increased pressure from law enforcement would seem to finally end the classic cruising route here in East Los Angeles.
And for years, the classic car cruising of the area would be mostly be kept alive in the memories for those of us who experienced it during the hight of the phenomenon, and by a few die hards and their car clubs.
Then a few years ago the classic car clubs would start to come together again to revive a few of the classic cruising routes around the southland. The first of them being the Van Nuys Blvd strip in the San Fernando Valley back in 2010, among others.
Then last February in 2015, the eastside car clubs teamed-up to revive the old Whittier Blvd cruising route here. Drawing out a mixture of car club veterans reliving the good old days, and youngsters eager to make some of their own classic memories here before this place is demolished.
And thus was born the Los Angeles Cruise Nights weekend meet-ups one year ago this day. Regularly meeting in the vacant underbelly of the Sixth Street Bridge at Santa Fe Road, while it still remains.
Now do I think that the cruising culture is going to persist here on this side of Boyle Heights even after this symbolic landmark for this movement is smashed apart?
In fact as the area surrounding the Sixth Street Bridge has become closed off to traffic more often, the Los Angles Cruise Nights has already started meeting-up at another popular car club destination just up the river and adjacent to another classic viaduct. Meeting alternatively in the familiar El Pato parking lot and train yard, at 1st Street and Meyers Road.
The classic car culture of the area is a family affair, for people who pass this down as their heritage.
And all this gives me hope, knowing that the classic car culture is as resilient as our working-class people who embody this as a lifestyle and pass it down as their heritage.
Though a lot of people are still anxious and have a lot of questions that will haunt us until we get some answers. Will we be able to return here when the new bridge is built and the riverfront is redeveloped? Will the riverbed tunnel remain and be accessible to the classic cars? Will this working class car culture which has celebrated this place for generations be welcome back?
Looking through the first hole in deck of the classic Sixth Street Bridge.
On the night of February 5, 2016 the demolition of the classic Sixth Street Bridge in Los Angeles began. And on that night I was there firsthand to capture this tragic point in our history.
Long had I been given notice to the people of Boyle Heights of its impending destruction, giving warnings as though the sky was falling for years. However, the realness of it all would not hit me until that night. As I looked through the dust and the sparks, to see great machines plunging holes and flooding light though the deck of the bridge; all over head as I witness this demolition of this most beloved landmark.
It was a night I will always remember and be haunted by.
See the full video below:
The Sixth Street Bridge has played a dual role here in our community; as a symbolic guardian to my native eastside, and also as a connecting point to launch our residents into society beyond the barriers of the barrio. They have served generations of ethnic minorities and working-class people of East Los Angeles, and therefore have played a profound role in our narratives.
And so much has this one bridge played a role in my own life story, that I have been compelled to be there each step of the way. As this beloved landmark met its demise.
The upcoming demolition of the Sixth Street Viaduct was the big news topic, and all anyone could talk about for a couple of weeks. When I arrived early in the afternoon, all the local new media was already set-up over the top of the freeway at the eastern end of the viaduct, near Whittier and Boyle.
The Slowjam, a 48-hour period which would disrupt the traffic around the 101-Hollywood and the Santa Monica-10, forcing traffic to divert to the Golden State-5 and the 60-San Bernardino Freeways. Leaving traffic slow and the roads jammed all weekend long.
The reporter asked me about this: “Have you heard what they are calling this one?”
“Oh yes, the Slowjam, it makes it sound like it’s a golden oldies weekend.” I say with amusement. Though I do make the point to then soberly interject, “You know, but really its kind of the end of the golden oldies for some of us on this side of town.”
Only hinting at the ominous nature of the drastic change taking place around here.
As I continued to linger into the evening capturing photographs and filming the viaduct, I struck up conversation with the demolition crew. They advised me of the general play-book and timetable for the demolition, helping me to plan out where to best capture it from.
It seemed that the best location would be from Clarence Street, just on the eastern edge of the freeway-interchange. I wanted to get a look at this area before it was ripped up. So in the final glow of the evening, I walked through there. Before making my way back to the neighborhood. [See the footage of this area before the demolition began: “Sixth Street Viaduct, before demolition began.”]
For the next few hours I was able to linger with my friends, who had long since taken up residence at the art installation of Boyle Henge at Boyle and Whitier Blvd. Near the top of the demolition site. We would exchange stories of the good old days and share a few beers there, before Zero and Illyria would head back home.
While I would make my way back to the bottom of the demolition site, joined by our friend Squared. And we would wait in vigil for the demolition to begin.
The 101/10 Freeway ramp at 4th Street and Pecan. The freeway was eerie and without any traffic, but that didn’t stop people from playing there while it was shut down.
And as we made our way back it was just astounding to see the freeways begin to close. As these massive highways begin to empty and grow silent. This was too amazing to pass up. Entering in through the Pecan Street freeway on-ramp, we would find ourselves running and playing tag on the freeway. It was almost surreal.
However, this cessation to traffic also meant that the demolition could now begin at any time. And all the demolition machines began to align themselves into place. So we began to rush back to the area of the bridge.
Arriving in the flats around through Pico Gardens – the housing projects up against this demolition and rebuild project – you could see the residents peeking out in annoyed curiosity. And understandably considering they would find themselves up against this construction project for the next four and a half years. Hearing it, breathing it.
I waved to them and said a little prayer for these families as I made my way by.
And this is where my footage of the demolition begins. At the gates of the demolition site.
When I arrived the demo crew was busily rushing about. And crews of classic car cruisers were lingering nearby the gate. The workers seemed surprised at the sight of nostalgic spectators, curiously waiting.
Waiting for damage. And we would certainly witness damage that night.
As it was explained to me by the demolition crew earlier, the demo needed to begin with knocking out the concrete sides and sidewalks. Then banging through the concrete decking of the bridge with machines from atop of the bridge. And then finally banging out the rest of the bridge from below. Breaking it down to the bare pillars.
As the crew started to lock the gate to begin their work, we started to make our way to the spot I had chosen to record. Making my way down Anderson to Jessie Street, to come around to Clarence Street.
And as we turned the corner, the real pounding of the demolition began. The first clouds of dust from the demolition began to kick into the air. And as the breaking sounds made by the demolition machines began to reverberate, channeled down the corridor of Jesse Street.
And at that point I just couldn’t help but cry out in complete shock and amazement.
And I wasn’t the only person to be caught aghast in the terribly awesome sight of it all.
Even the police officers who were patrolling this night, stood in total awe. Looking up, transfixed at the sight of this calamity. For the longest time, standing completely still in the shifting light of the destruction. Several photographers would beautifully capture this moment of astonishment and wonderment.
As I arrived at our chosen spot on Clarence Street – almost directly under the spans of the bridge being demolished this night – there were quite a few more people who had come out to witness and photograph this. Several local residents I recognized, trying to get a few good shots of it on film.
Even some of the workers from the wholesale produce facilities on the block, they began coming out to watch too.
And so for the longest time we all stood there just watching. Some standing there in complete silence.
As the night was drenched in flood lights and fierce sounds. Sounds of banging and clattering filled the air, causing the very air around me to vibrate and pulse with every blow of those great machines.As they pounded away at the concrete, and as they cut at the metal reinforcements revealed beneath it. Sending both dust and sparks into the air, which they battled with huge streams of water which kept sweeping over the sides of the now crumbling bridge.
And as the bridge began to break apart, I could see the first breaks of emotion on so many people’s faces. And their shock as we watched the machines knock over some of the remaining art deco light standards, sending them tumbling down with a metal clank and a pitiful crash.
At this point most people began to leave. They had enough of all this destruction.
Though we would remain with a handful of people for hours to come. The demolition had begun shortly after midnight. And it would take a few hours for them to break through the deck of the bridge.
And it would not be until they actually broke through the decks of the bridge that I would really begin to accept the reality of it all. When I could see the light shinning through the bottom of the old bridge. and those monstrous machines clawing through.
When I found myself right up against the very pillars of the doomed bridge, staring up and through the growing hole in the deck of the bridge. With concrete dust and sparks of metal flying in my face. Still as a couple of guys and I continued to inch as close as we could. Until we could no longer breathe from all the falling dust. Sending us retreating and gasping for air.
Now as bridge began to crumble, debris from the structure above began to fall severely towards the freeway below it. The surface of which had been covered with huge mounds of dirt in order to absorb the impact of the pieces of falling bridge. Saving the surface of the freeway itself from damage.
Once the upper deck of the bridge was throughly smashed apart, the demolition machines began to ascend the dirt mounds in order to demolish the bridge from the side.
At this time we began to make our way back the way which we had come.
Shmu at the first night of demolition of the Sixth Street Bridge.
Now once we swung around to Clarence and 6th Streets, we could see the machines smashing their way through the side of the bridge. Like mechanical titans, these massive machines relentlessly pounding a massive cavity through the concrete until everything around it gave way. Then screamingly cutting through and pulling apart the metal frame within.
We stood there for some time watching these teams of machines rip through the bridge, smashing from north to south. As the demolition swarmed directly over the East LA interchange.
We stayed there somberly watching until around 4:30am. Until the machines started to break all the way through the structure, bisecting the bridge. Then we would back our way out of the Flats the way we came.
Around that the time we were ending our nighttime vigil, Zero would be making his way to the bridge to witness the dramatic sight. In the pre-dawn hours before the city began to stir awake to the reality of the broken skyline. He would be interviewed by KNX 1070. Recounting his own memories of the Sixth Street Bridge and his difficulty to comprehend this destruction. His delusional sense of its permanence, meeting with the harsh reality of its demolition.
And so it was that we would leave the site of the demolition early Saturday morning. Covered in a layer of concrete dust and with pieces from the bridge in my hair. And emotionally shaken to my very core, I just couldn’t watch anymore.
Though some time has passed since this event, it has taken a great deal of time for me to really emotionally work through it all. I just haven’t had enough words to describe the sights, sounds and the feelings which were dug-up that night.
And it has also been a near full-time task, keeping up with documenting the massive demolition project. And keeping record of the changes which are coming to the vicinity surrounding the demotion-rebuild of the Sixth Street Viaduct.
The story of how we protested the groundbreaking event
“The New Bridge Sucks!!!” – With sign in hand, Jessie (Illyria Exene) Elliot came out to protest the groundbreaking.
When I arrived at the underside of the Sixth Street Bridge at Santa Fe Road a crowd was already arriving. And there in the expanse of the underside of the viaduct stood a John Deere machine for show, and row of golden ceremonial shovels.
This was the groundbreaking for the new Sixth Street Bridge Project. Though there was no real breaking of ground, just soil held by plastic sheeting for the officials to play with for show.
I had actually noticed this all start to come together the day before, when I found there was already a brand new excavator tractor to be found here; partially wrapped in black protective plastic, just sleeping like a beast.
This was the first vivid and tangible symbols of the destruction which was to come.
It actually took everything in me to resist the crazy impulse and uncharacteristic desire to deface this shiny little prop for the upcoming regalia.
Only two days before had it been announced that the city was planned a ceremonial groundbreaking and press conference. Which was announced only listed in the Los Angeles DT News website.
Though there was no real outreach to eastside residents to be part of this milestone event.
For this reason the event was filled with officials, developers and Art’s District businessmen. While from the Boyle Heights neighborhood there were just a few officials, and an assortment of high school kids also present for show. All of us lingering through the huge model of the bridge.
Just then I heard someone call out to me.
“You’re here! I was hoping to see some familiar faces from Boyle Heights.” It was our journalist friend Sahra Sulaiman, who I had met the year before at the unveiling of the new Sixth Street Bridge Project. [See the “The Inequity of the New Sixth Street Bridge Plan.”]
If there was one thing I have been good at, it has been keeping myself and my friends up to date on the news regarding the viaduct. Ever since I had learned about the reality of the upcoming demolition and reconstruction of the viaduct.
I had full intent of continuing to be there for every major step of this project. And at my side was my buddy Squared. Though knowing most of our neighbors had to work at that hour and how time impoverished our locals are, we were worried that we would be pretty much alone this day.
When just then the crowd of cheap blue suits seemed to part, like a shark was coming through, As Jessie came marching in, sporting a Mohawk and a protest sign saying, “The new bridge sucks!” Direct and to the point.
We embraced in the thick of the growing crowd. We actually hadn’t seen each other in some time because of a huge conflict in our circle a while back, but today we came together almost instinctively.
And so here we were waiting for the presentation and press conference, almost directly under the spot which we had occupied on the Sixth Street Bridge for years. In the cavernous underside of the bridge, where the curves of the bridge and the afternoon shadows came together to grace the light golden expanses. Just in view of the graceful steel arches, which had long been painted and repainted in a thick, faux blue resembling a copper patina.
Long had I swore that I would be present on this day to bark at some gutless bastards for selling out our community with this new bridge project.
And here in view off all of this which we were losing, the sense of righteous indignation rose as these smug developers patted themselves on the back.
This entire event was a farce. It wasn’t any sort of community event.
It was simply an opportunity for politicians like the city council members, to use a media covered event for self-promotion during an election season. And also get their name attached permanently to this project before the termed-out left office or i case those who were running might fail to get re-elected. Just a few steps away from the bridge model, Jose Huizars people had placed a table and were campaigning for him.
It was not long before the press conference was called to order. And well, we were pretty orderly… at first.
Until our city councilman Jose Huizar took to the podium.
At that moment Jessie turned around the protest sign. The other crudely mocking his inept leadership in this redevelopment, “No way José (Huizar).” With a mocking picture on it of one of the Olsen twins giving a raspberry. As Huizar looked up from the podium to take notice, he actually started to laugh and was momentarily distracted.
As for me, while he spoke I responded to his trite remarks and platitudes. Responding back to his speech, rebuking him in a regular tone of voice, just up until his shtick became too much to tolerate. I yelled out, “You gutless thugs! You crooks. You sold us out in the end!”
In response, you could see some of the people in suits turn around to voice and give thumbs up in support. For some people, it seemed like we were preaching to the choir. And it was only one person who in the end had a spasm; just one uppity young, property investor whining, “But I’m trying to listen!”
Though we would not be silent this day. Not by a long-shot.
Then everything erupted with my full on exacerbation and rage, following the very telling and completely shameful comments of Congressman Xavier Becerra. (House Dem, 34th Dist.)
He first tried to make his whole speech about boasting how some people in the federal government actually make things work, taking pride in this pork-barrel project they secured here. Saying that in the end this was all about creating jobs; even though we are already aware that the jobs he’s talking about account to about a week of work at most as part of a 4.5-year rebuild project, translating into no real job gains for our local working-class residents.
Then Congressman Becerra just couldn’t resist and thus showed his true colors, when he made the following statement to the crowd of suits and developers in front of him. He gushed that he had a secret “tip” for the crowd. As quoted by Sahra in StreetsBlog LA:
“Buy property real quick here” before the area changes and values go up. “This is going to be a great place! Buy now!”
And that point my frustration could not be muzzled. I cried out, “You bastards! You aren’t even bashful that your selling us out to developers!”
Now by that point the media had already begun to surround us. ABC, NBC and media writers from KCET (PBS).
What they expected to find was just a few punk rockers with off the wall things to say. Though once we explains what we meant, we noticeably effected the journalists. And each of them walking away focusing on a different aspect of the issues we had with this redevelopment, and focusing on the realities and sentiments they were unaware of.
“A protestor from Boyle Heights | Photo: Carren Jao” (KCET)
Journalist Carren Joa from KCET – a PBS affiliate in here in Los Angeles – spoke to us most about the inequity of the new Sixth Street Bridge Project. Staking how offended we are that our neighborhood is getting none of the cultural and artistic redevelopment that we were promised us when this rebuild set out, promises made to appease the residents. Though now we are find out that in the end they are giving an amphitheater, art park and other impressive features to the newly gentrified Arts District. While leaving the Boyle Heights side of this bridge project – of which the majority is on our side – a barren corridor, vulnerable to aggressive redevelopment. All while displacing jobs and heaving hardship on respectable businesses in the Boyle Heights Flats.
We also made the case that the neighborhood of Boyle Heights has always been expected to take the brunt of aggressive and unpopular redevelopment. As often stated by Lucy Delgado and Gloria Molina, Boyle Heights has always suffered as the dumping ground for the public projects not wanted in other communities. That this minority, working-class community is once again being disregarded and disrespected in pursuit of Los Angeles’ notoriously unfair road works which have been imposed on us for generations.
“Boyle Heights resident, tour guide, and writer Shmuel Gonzales takes an even more confrontational stance. As his friend holds up a sign that says “The new bridge sucks,” Gonzales explains, “Every day people on the other side [Boyle Heights] are wondering what’s going to happen. Businesses are anxious. We don’t know what the future is and the city didn’t give us any information.”
“Gonzales says that even today, residents of Boyle Heights still don’t understand that the Sixth Street Bridge, a “symbol of the Golden Age of Boyle Heights,” according to Gonzales, will eventually disappear. He adds that his neighborhood seems to be getting short shrift, receiving less that the amenities being planned for the Arts District side. He even notes that during the groundbreaking only about a dozen people from Boyle Heights were present. “We’re hopeful,” says Gonzeles, “but there has to be a dialog.”
“A bridge is always used to connect one place to another, but in the case of the future Sixth Street bridge, it seems that it’s ironically becoming a divisive symbol that needs to be addressed.”
When we spoke to KABC news we mostly spoke about the important role that these viaducts play in the narrative of the people of Boyle Heights.
I began to relate that their role has always been symbolic of our sense of place as people of Boyle Heights and the greater Los Angeles eastside. How these bridges are not just connectors, as they are also symbols of the complex relationship minorities have long had with this city of Los Angeles. To our eastside minorities who find much symbolism in our daily crossing over to fulfill the needs of a bustling city, to a westside we have long been segregated away from on the other end of these viaducts. They have become symbols of our sense of place. While at the same time these viaducts have also been symbolic points by which we could challenge the boundaries set before us.
For years I’ve promised you all that i would be there to bitch at some gutless people for not preserving the historical integrity of the area with a complimentary redesign.
I insisted that the viaducts have become symbols of the historic eastside, which we regard as our cultural heritage. For this reason they have long have been destinations for longtime resident and even the local classic car club movement, because of the classical style.
I also insisted that the Sixth Street Bridge which is neo-classical modernist in style in actually part of a progressive theme demonstrated by the various eastside viaducts over the Los Angeles River; demonstrating different neo-classical, deco, moderne, as well as gothic styles. Each one of the bridges following a theme, designed to be complimentary and to play off the style each other. I maintained my stance that to lose the Sixth Street Bridge as the glory of these bridges, for an ultra-modern monstrosity, takes away from the historical integrity of the rest of our gorgeous and time-honored viaducts.
In the end, I would get just a few words in to the nightly news on KABC evening news. When they reported that not everyone was thrilled about the rebuild. I was quoted as saying:
“It would have been nicer if they had taken account the viaducts around it and planned something that fit more close to us, that had a little bit more of those golden memories.”
And so we stood there for a while being interviewed, almost directly under the spot we had occupied as friends for years.
And so it was that we defending the honor of the classic Sixth Street Bridge and the historical legacy of Boyle Heights. Representing the local demands for respect of our heritage and for equity in this redevelopment. Insistent upon not letting the passing of this bridge go by without people understanding what we are losing here.
That evening I would be bombarded with messages from many friends who were excited that they had seen us on television! For weeks to come I was flooded with calls from so many different people sharing their own precious memories of the classic Sixth Street Bridge – some of them good and some of them bad, but all remarkably significant in their life stories.
The memories of this day are very precious to me. Though this protest almost never happened. Not just because our circle of friends had already pretty much disbanded at that point. And not simply because this event came as such a surprise when announced last-minute, making it hard to schedule.
Immediately after the groundbreaking and press-conference at the Sixth Street Viaduct concerning our bridge being replaced because of “concrete cancer” and bad bones, I was scheduled for an appointment with a specialist surgeon in Long Beach. For him to take a look at my left hand that had been fractured for some weeks and to identify a large tumor in the bone; initially with the fear of cancer.
At first I was afraid I would be forced to sacrifice the groundbreaking, in order to make it all the way across the county for this urgent doctors appointment. But knowing how much it meant to meant to me, Squared offered to wildly drive me to both the event and the doctor.
So immediately after the groundbreaking ended, we rushed our way out to Long Beach. My head up against the window, heavy in thought and pained on so many levels.
The surgeon I consulted with was confident that it to be a most likely a benign tumor which has been growing outward from inside the bones in my hand nearest to my index finger. It has grown until the pressure of it was enough that it fractured the bones in my left hand, breaking it two places as it broke its way outward from the bone marrow.
It was determined that tumor needed to be removed, and the bone cleaned and rebuilt with bone shavings taken from a long bone near my elbow.
The surgery would be a success in the end.
However, the next year would be painful both emotionally and physically. As I tried to keep up with documenting the harsh changes coming to our classic eastside; all well nursing my arm in a huge cast. With my body and this bridge, seemingly locked in painful tragedy together.
[Read more about my recovery in my inspirational blog entry here.]
Pictures related to this post:
The scene of the farce of a groundbreaking.
The prop of a John Deere backhoe. No really, they didn’t even use it at all.
Representing the eastside. Shmuel Gonzales, Boyle Heights.
The emotions that hung in the air the morning after
We awoke to the next day, hung-over in our bitterness from the events of the night before. The morning was met with gloom, yet the breaking day felt harsh. Like someone had turned the white way up on a TV screen.
As we made our way off the block and on to Whittier Blvd, the reality of how complex this day was going to be really set in. The morning traffic we immediately noticeable.
Traffic stayed pretty much stalled as far back as Euclid. We rushed as we walked passed the frustrated commuters heading west towards downtown. It seemed that we made down the boulevard by foot faster than the people in their cars.
I was expecting this. All this traffic.
And was the city, because they called in traffic guards to direct the traffic at Boyle Ave. Diverting traffic that would usually pass over the Sixth Street Bridge to the other adjacent viaducts, the Seventh Street and the Fourth Street viaducts.
What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was to see the pedestrian senior citizens staring westward. Staring at the newly erected concrete barriers and chain link fences, placed just before the art deco pillars of the bridge entrance and the on-ramp to the 101-freeway’s northbound entrance.
I don’t know why it hadn’t really occurred to me that the final walk on the Sixth Street Bridge would be only be allowed from the Art’s District end.
Though when I saw the awe and confusion on the faces of elders here on the Boyle Heights end, that really captured my attention and concern. And I really forgot about everything else. I just wanted to be there with my people as they expressed both their awe and their disappointment.
So for a while I stood around talking to the other residents.
Some just stared towards the barriers. Others stood about complaining about a community that was changing far quicker than any of them had ever imagined.
And as we lingered there the corner of Whittier and Boyle seemed to attract even more people to the site like the aftermath of some calamity. And that’s exactly how it felt at this intersection, In the shadow the charred debris of the laundromat and Domino’s pizza.
An older lady sat at a bus stop for which a bus would never come. And the old guys chatted amongst each other and shook their heads in disappointment.
Emotions had already been high at this corner ever since the strip-mall went up in flames. Destroying the corner laundromat and a Domino’s Pizza location.
The corner of Whittier Blvd and Boyle was already torn-up like an open wound, after a fire ripped through the strip-mall just a few weeks before the bridge closure.
Given the long history of property investors wanting to redevelop this corner and the fact that this fire happened just coincidently right before the bridge was closed for years.
These businesses had promised to stay open through the construction, even though many wondered how this was sustainable considering that they would be loosing vital traffic for years. Then this happened less than three weeks before the bridge closure.
So hanging in the air there were wild rumors of transa; conspiracy. Some throughly convinced the businesses were torched for insurance money, while others insisted it was to make a clean slate for development around the area of new bridge project.
I just listened as people as they let out their fears and anxieties, over what was happening to a town which had been pretty much unchanged for so long.
“You know, they have been trying to develop that corner with condos for years,” one of the older men tells me. Explaining that ever since the late 1970s developers hoped to take advantage of various propositions and ballot initiatives in order to change that whole side of the street, Starting with eliminating that retail strip. He wondered if this would now open the way for huge housing changes at this corner, at the entrance to the new Sixth Street bridge.
Now this corner was as ripped-up as an open wound. It’s hard to just dismiss the panic and confusion about. And the bitterness.
The television news media had set up in the middle of the street and began reporting.
The locals tried to get me to talk to the media. Which I had lost patience with, as they mostly wanted to just talk about the sense of excitement over a new bridge that wasn’t widely felt here among us here.
At one point I actually had a cold interview with the Univision reporter. When I began to speak about how the eastside was still being neglected in the plans for cultural and artistic redevelopment features in this new project. She insisted such features would certainly be included. I asked her to cite her sources and point in the plans to plan where these items were being represented. She said that she had heard and “just knew it was going to be done,” then ended the interview abruptly with a bitter face.
From that point on, I had enough of the media for the day. And for that reason did everything to avoid them as I continued to linger about the viaduct.
As everyone else made their way to work or back to their homes, I continued to explore. And eventually made my way over to the westside of the river, and over into the downtown Arts District.
Now you can come along with me for that experience in this video here:
The barriers were just as imposing on the western side of the bridge. And their presence was just as stark. Just as shocking to behold at first.
I was glad to at least run into some of our homeless friends, people we have met who have lived on and around the bridge for years. We have been really worried about what is going to happen to them.
Just then someone had motioned for me to follow her in, wanting to help me pass myself off as part of the junket. Though I resisted the urge, knowing I was the last guy these suits wanted in there for their exciting milestone media spread (especially after my last appearance at their press conference).
As you see in the video, I ended up talking to one of the photographers as I made my way over to the riverbed.
Notice the conversation we had. Why does the eastside need anything additional planned for our side? Why is the development in the Arts District not enough and why can’t we just go there instead? So I do find that I have to make the case that we have our own cultural identity and local heritage.
Though when I point to how many of the plans for redevelopment and in the end never fully follow through. Leaving whole areas in blight. Now that he could agree with, you could hear him reply in the background, as we parted ways.
As the press conference dispersed, I found that a few of the artistic and cultural community liaisons connected to city hall were out and about to capture some pictures on the riverbed.
So interestingly, after grabbing their attention I spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening trying to push the idea of a Boyle Heights heritage and cultural arts corridor to these very establishment people, who just didn’t know what the facts and sentiments were of the everyday people in the barrio.
There are certain days which come with excitement, and some approach with dread. And this day came with a great sense of both. Long had we been awaiting the final closure of traffic to the historic Sixth Street Bridge, and these were our few and precious final hours.
When I arrived at the viaduct the morning was already turning to bright noon. Without a hint of winter, the sun as strong and warm as a summer day.
The crew was already at the bridge, standing at Nowhere when I arrived. Along with them they had brought the silly plastic mascot of Boyle Henge, “Hedgie the Snowman.”
The bridge was already starting to buzz with photographers and news media. And people walking back and forth in order to capture a few final memories and connect with history. Many people coming out to pay their respects to this glorious landmark.
As we were standing there just communing with the bridge we were cheerfully approached by Merrill Butler III and his wife, he is the grandson of the designer and builder of the viaducts; including this very bridge here.
Merrill and his lovely wife spent a great deal of time hanging out on the bridge with us, and sharing their family stories regarding this place. It was a rare moment to receive and share some deep personal history. We also got to toss around ideas on how to preserve the history of this place.
One of his finest ideas on how to maintain our connection to the old bridge we all love so much, was when he personally suggested to the city planners that they preserve one of the original metal arches and some of the decorative light posts from the classic Sixth Street Bridge. For setting down in the area of a future park below the future bridge.
As we spoke you could actually see work crews all around us painting primer on the items which were being selected for later removal. For which he also noted that the two bridge dedication plaques had already been removed. The eastside plaque being stolen by vandals. Something which stings for Merrill, as his grandfather’s name was honored on that piece of the old landmark. While luckily the westside plaque was then removed for safe keeping, and is now kept in storage for future display.
Merrill then explained how he is also going to be opening up his own art gallery in the Boyle Heights flats below, on the eastside of the river near Mission and Jessie streets. Re-purposing the buildings of old food and cold storage facilities which have recently called it quits. In an area where several notable and trendy art galleries have already opened up. [More about that later; as I hope to get to interview him soon and let him tell you in his words about his plans and vision.]
To say the least, the meeting was something which awed me both as local geek and as a historian! And also gave me a lot to think about, as I face these tides of community change and try to secure the best outcome for our homegrown eastsiders.
Now in the span of our hanging out the steady increase in the number of sightseers and brought out an unusually tense presence of the LAPD. Which at one point started to get all snappy with our crew for no reason, for which Merrill asked the cops to take it easy and leave us be because we were cool, before departing himself.
Though as the crowd grew it became clear that the police, which normally ignored this area and shirk at patrolling the top of this bridge, were today going to be relentless. As their sense of cautiousness became soured by their bitter resentment of being tasked with maintain order here.
Sadly, the repeating theme of the day was that of the police making a huge scene all for one person.
The following video I took about two hours before the sweep and posted to Facebook on a shaky mobile connection:
No doubt there was a party-like atmosphere to the entire afternoon and evening. And there most certainly was an ecstatic sense of festivity and also chaos. As a mass of locals and tourists descended on the entire viaduct.
The bridge became covered with a steady stream of car cruising and pedestrians. Taggers and photographers. Cars racing and spinning in the riverbed. The sky overhead constantly buzzing with helicopters.
And in these final evening rays spent at this most important spot to us, everything seemed to culminate into one overwhelming sense of how special this moment was. And also triggering this cruel sense of imminent loss and gnawing uncertainty for the future.
As the day turned to night, we continued to congregate. With each minute the excitement rising.
So how did it end? How did we end our final night on the bridge?
After all these years of dedication to maintaining our spot on the bridge and also being the fiercest demonstrators for the historical preservation of the viaduct, people wondered how we would walk away from this. I certainly know that most people expected me to chain myself to the bridge, refusing to leave.
In reality we ended up leaving the bridge just an hour and a half before the police sweep, of our own accord.
With crowds of people swarming in from both east and west, the atmosphere quickly became unruly. Sometime after sunset my parka jacket had caught on fire, a casualty of the ruckus of people and fire-spinning (don’t worry Chris, I patched it up buddy!). And still it seemed like nothing would put a damper on our closing night celebrations.
So it was a total shocker to me when in the middle of me doing some broadcast interviews, my friends picked-up from our spot and started walking back home towards the eastside. Startled to see them go, I quickly broke away and followed after them in concern.
When I caught up with them they explained that some westside hipsters started getting aggressive, with some outside revelers wanting to pick fights with them. Instead of resorting to violence, they had decided to leave.
So it was decided to regroup and grab more beer, and come back.
Though I was very reluctant to leave, I wanted us to be together for this last night. I began leaving the bridge while vowing to return when things had slowed down a bit. Wanting to have a more intimate farewell. Though it was clear to everyone that I was nervous this might actually be my last chance on the bridge.
As we walked back towards Boyle Heights, there was a sense of numb shock that came over me. And a painful grating felt inside caused by the rising sounds of both tense crowds and swarming police which rose from all round the viaduct.
And then for moment I stopped and took a moment to step back a few steps, and like Lot’s wife I looked back and stood their just paralyzed in my desperate attempt to take it all in one more time.
These are the final image taken from the bridge. One of my final moment of awe being captured by Zero. And the other, my last photo taken from the entrance of the bridge.
Zero ccaptured this photo of me looking back in awe, one last time.
This is my finial photo taken from the bridge, before its closure.
As we walked back home via Whittier Blvd my agitation grew, as something was very wrong at the bridge. I had never seen anything like it. And a few times I stopped and contemplated going back immediately.
Though by the time we arrived at the house, it was already all over the TV news. And people were messaging me to make sure that I was safe. Because something was already going down at the bridge.
It turned out that the crowds were stopping traffic on the bridge near the eastern set of the arches. The crowd was being asked to disperse by a police officer. At some point one police officer inexplicably grabs for the skateboard of a girl named Lydia. She grabs her skateboard and pulls it back to keep hold of it, with the officer lunging to grab it from her. She began to resist, and was taken down to the grown and arrested. All of which resulted in the crowd crying foul over this and groaning.
It was reported that the LAPD police officer felt threatened by the crowd and called for back-up. The backup arrive with the police coming in shoulder to shoulder, and both from the top and streets under the bridge, my local friends who did linger were dispersed by police holding the position of a skirmish line; brandishing batons and rifles.
The bridge was thus officially closed to all traffic at around 9pm on January 26th, 2016 by police in riot formation.
So I never did make it back to the top of the bridge to actually pay my final respects; something which left many unresolved feelings for me.
Car clubs. photographers and fanatics at the Sixth Street Bridge to capture some memories.
The bridge was supposed to have closed right after the New Year’s holiday weekend. Luckily for us, the project has still been lagging. Giving us a few more weeks with our condemned landmark.
As the project has been pushing dates back and back, no one is exactly sure when the demolition process will really start. Though with the date quickly approaching for the bridge’s permanent closure to traffic, people have been coming out in large numbers to capture a few final pictures. With the largest crowds coming around sunset.
Though the daytime exploits have also been really exciting too. Watching as many classic cars and lowriders have been coming out for some final rides. Though to be honest, many of them are just here for some final pictures too. With many guys even bringing out their absolutely finest cars on flatbeds, and not even riding them. Just to get a few good shots from this classic bridge.
And as the evenings turns to dusk it has even become common for everyday motorists to stop their car in the middle of the bridge and start snapping off pictures, standing halfway from their doors to capture the downtown horizon.
Now climbing the arches was a pretty rare thing until the past year or two. It all started happening a while back after people started posting their arch-top pictures on Instagram, which went viral. After that a steady stream of urban explorers and hipsters started coming to capture the experience for themselves.
The problem is that people do get stuck up there occasionally and have been found stuck hanging on top of this main traffic artery. So the police do sometimes come and shut down traffic in both directions while they get them down and ticket them.
All of the while for our the locals, who are trying to get to and from the places of their busy lives, are they stopped dead in traffic on the bridge. Tired, exacerbated and cursing motorists stuck behind the wheel.
However, for the most part it has been pretty orderly around here. With car clubs and scooter crews having their fun on the bridge, with their presence well-coordinated and not really impacting traffic too much.
The car clubs have been pretty good about coordinating their rides and directing traffic, even if they are stopping traffic. Often the clubs having members temporarily get out and stop traffic for both lanes in order to get their make their procession and grab their photo ops. Then quickly restoring the flow of traffic without incident.
It has been wonderful seeing how the Whittier Blvd cruise clubs, which was only really revived the old classic cruise route last year, have been coming out in full force.
Even the scoots come out for a lasts ride
Also most interestingly, during our last days we also encountered the Hive Crew scooter club of East Los Angeles. This local scoot club was also started just last year in 2015.
Hive Crew Los Angeles, Sixth Street Bridge (Photo credit by: Zero Renton)
As I approached the bridge I just had to put down my six-pack of Guinness and start to record these guys riding their Vespas together in group, riding back and forth over the bridge. And occasional stopping to line up at the arches.
As the day grew later and as the lowriders started coming out in larger numbers, it became harder for both the lowriders and the scooter club to keep flow.
Now as both a big fan of both the scooter and the lowrider subcultures, it was amazing to see both of these worlds collide for me, and to see them rub elbows with each other!
Update: Recently I was checking out the Hive Crewwebsite and saw this amazing picture captured from this same event as the video above. Right between their helmets and the words Los Angeles here, you can see my skinny ass in the distance!
I encourage everyone to support this local club and encourage scoot culture in our area, by coming out for their Swarm LA Scooter Rally the weekend of July 15-17, 2016 and by 0rdering one of their rally packs.
In the video featured in the last post you hear Squared telling me “they are up there” during the recording, referring to some of our friends who up at our spot on top of the bridge. All while he and I are still lingering below, before going up to the topside of the bridge ourselves. So let me tell you a little bit about it.
The choicest spot on the classic Sixth Street Bridge has always been the northwest observation point: a spot called “Nowhere.” For the past few years it the favorite spot for my circle of friends to hang out at.
The spot we call “Nowhere.”
You can follow several paths to how the name came to be… and Zero most certainly does. Though the name has stuck because of one reality; the bridge is nether here nor there. It’s nowhere.
You see this spot where we congregate, high upon the bridge and just to side of it’s western arches is the exact point were this classic bridge transitions from downtown’s Sixth Street to the eastside’s Whittier Blvd. So this spot, it seems nether here nor there.
And this is especially true in the way that this spot has long been regarded by the city and police. Being located right in between to LAPD stations, Downtown Central and Hollenbeck, with the midpoint of the bridge being considered the division. Resulting in the top of this bridge being generally neglected by both. Each insisting they shouldn’t have to cross.
A reality which know all too well after often finding it near impossible to describe this place to the 911 emergency responders after accidents and crashes, because of the lack of a defining address.
This spot is nowhere.
And I guess some of these reasons also explain as to why my friends and I have gone mostly undisturbed in our years of occupying this spot.
Squared, Illyex, Zero, Shmu at “Nowhere” WIth my best friends and the love of my life, Robert Warren Robertson; Caltech grad, originally from Blossom, Texas.
Here are some old videos we have taken at this place which is most special to us.
Believe it or not, I don’t have as many videos with them on camera as you would expect. They seem to be camera shy. Or more precisely, they shy away from a camera which they aren’t holding. Very Penelope Spheeris of them. LOL
The last Cruise Sunday of Whittier Blvd, from the Sixth Street Bridge
On Sunday, December 27, 2015 the Sixth Street Bridge attracted every local car cruiser, classic car enthusiast and lowrider for one last showy ride.
For as long as any of us remember the viaduct has been the local focal point of the car clubs, and has also served as the starting point for cruising in our area. From all around car enthusiasts have been drawn to race in the riverbed, show off their cars in the expansive underside of the bridge, and finally ascending it to cruise eastward into the evening.
The cruising culture is one of the finest manifestations of working-class subcultures. One which has long been maintained by successive generations of local Mexican American, working-class, young people and car club veteranos.
Today they were all out in force. As we approached the Sixth Street Bridge the traffic approaching from the east over the various viaducts was intense. Followed by every car making their way to the parade, starting at Santa Fe Road which runs directly under the bridge and in front of the river access tunnel.
And as each car arrives in procession, for a moment each car has it’s moment to shine as it briefly makes its pause. Before taking to the riverbed for a ride, or rolling in for parking under the bridge for exhibition.
This day the parade route is more packed than I’ve seen it in years. As each car comes around, the scene is buzzing as the crowd admire and cameras click. Each spectator trying to visually capture a memory of this teeming stream of chrome, curves and also classic streamline bodies. Some faithful restorations, others kustom modifications, and still others yet with bold lowrider customizations.
This day the underbelly of the bridge is packed with cars; lined up and basking in the golden rays of a Sunday afternoon. The cars of yesteryear properly vested in the atmosphere of the bridge’s deco-streamline modernist setting.
We spend a while mingling with the crowd. As the scene turns into the site of car-side parties. With everyone sharing details about their car builds, and ladies proudly showing off their own flawless pachuca style and others their rockabilly flair.
For a while we just take in the scene and the vivid nature of the site. Pensively considering the history of the car culture which is synonymous with this spot.
This has long been the chosen site for the start of the East LA cruising strip, which begins precisely above us at the point of the slight curve of the classic bridge marks the transition from downtown’s 6th Street to the eastsider’s main drag of Whittier Blvd.
But how long has the East Los Angeles cruising subculture existed here? What is the significance of car cruising movement? And more specifically, what role does this play in the local working-class community and the Latino youth culture of East Los Angeles?
The birth of the local youth car club culture
It is not possible to overstate that the city of Los Angeles has been uniquely shaped and its character defined by its reputation for having a car culture; to many this means that there is a pervasive sense of car dependency among Angelenos. The modern city we know today was very much shaped by the car.
However, it is also equally important to note that the car also uniquely influenced cultural expression itself. Especially the youth culture of the city, which with the aid of the car gave birth to various subcultures with distinct forms of self-expression here.
Though to explain why the car culture became ubiquitous to this area, it should first be stated that this specific side of town had developed a car enthusiast spirit quite early on.
The car enthusiast energy of the area stretches all the back the beginning of the 20th century.
It all began when Ford Motor Company establishing their first Los Angeles plant at 7th St. and Santa Fe in 1912, from there pushing hundreds of cars off the production lines daily in order to feed the need for commuting speed across an increasingly sprawling city.
The early car owners often brought these cars to the edges of the city to show off these new machines. Drawing crowds of people for spectacles of motor enabled brawn. To witness races between cars and horses, hill climbs and early speed trial races held by the early car owners at the seams of the city.
Though initially car ownership was something which was primarily held by the affluent.
However, that all began to change in the 1920’s – when the Ford Model-T gave way to the Ford A-Model roadsters – the technology of car making would greatly improve in bringing production cost down. Making it possible for a broader section of middle-class people to afford these newer cars.
So by the mid-1920s there were tons of used cars being tossed aside, which thereby enabled car ownership for eager young people who were more than willing to snap them up and fix them up for themselves. And others who were willing to strip them down for something even more exciting yet.
When young people eventually got their hands on cars, they were also naturally drawn to the outskirts of residential Los Angeles to try it all out themselves. But their exhibitions were purely for the trill of the car. Often removing the fenders and stripping the vehicles down to lessen their weight, to further push the limits of their vehicles for a thrilling ride.
However, the old auto spectacles would soon give way to a more defined form of car exhibition.
In the early days from the 1930s through the 1950s car clubs were encouraged and sponsored by civic leaders; as a way of steering people away from youth delinquency. However, in the 1960s sociologists began to attack this group form of re-socialization as building cohesion among urban youth they perceived as gangsters.
In the late-1920s the first car clubs in Los Angeles were born. And by the 1930s the youth club culture was something which was already being accepted by civic leaders, who began to support the transformation of these car clubs into officially sanctioned associations; all in the aims of steering young people away from the dangers of street-racing and youth delinquency.
And thus were born the early cruising clubs. Most people don’t appreciate that the car culture, which would give birth to the hot rod and the roadster car craze, dates all the way back to these early days.
While all this vibrancy surrounding the car culture would lay the groundwork for the popularization of the hot rod and the car club’s acceptance into mainstream culture, it would remain as a small subculture, being challenged by the rise of World War II.
The active growth of the modern car enthusiast culture is believed to have been curtailed during the war, on account of the limitations of resources and materials during wartime. And also more critically by the military deployment of the young men who embodied this cultural phenomenon.
However, these wartime setbacks would translate into gains for the movement after the end of World War II. As many of these returning men came back from war with advanced technical skill which would advance their automotive works.
As described by historical scholars regarding this presumed lull:
“The cessation of hot rodding during World War II promoted an apprentice culture in which hot rod enthusiasts from the prewar period tutored new teenaged participants. While ‘old timers’ provided the technical knowledge to sustain the development of the culture, teenagers became the mass participants who encouraged its growth and continuing evolution.”
To this day the car culture is something which still very much benefits from the direct apprenticeship of old timers, and the energy of the youth.
How the car culture challenged racial boundaries
The rise of the personal automobile in Los Angles for youth also coincided with the rise of widespread racial segregation which began in the late 1920s.
Racially restrictive covenants in housing became common after 1926 following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Corrigan v. Buckley, which validated their use. And then in 1934 discrimination in home loans began. Pushing minority communities to live on the edges of the city, and relegating them to the crumbling communities being left behind by the white middle-class.
Here in Los Angeles these minority designated “red lined” areas became the neighborhoods east of the Los Angeles River and South of Adams Blvd; this applied to all types of minorities including Jews, Latinos, Blacks and Asians.
Most often white historians talk about how the car enabled segregation in Los Angeles at this time, and it certainly did. However, it needs to be understood that the car is also what enabled youth to challenge those boundaries.
It is for this very reason the cruisers were often seen as a direct challenge to the Jim Crow system which was being more tightly woven into the social fabric of the city at that time. With their cars and clubs, these youth were exerting their freedom over these societal barriers and the urban geography of segregation.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that youth of East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights quickly became enthusiasts and were often at the forefront of this cruising culture.
1940s Mexican-American Pachucos in their Zoot Suits
One of the biggest influences upon these working-class youth of our community at the time was the energetic jazz nightlife found in the areas around Central Ave., in historic South Central. This area was then at the forefront of a jazz renaissance since the late-1920s. With many jukejoints in the blocks around the Dubar Hotel. And also huge jazz venues like the Lincoln Theater, which was in those days considered the “West Coast Apollo.”
This vibrancy of South Central Los Angeles attracted various minority groups, including the white minorities and working-class. And it was there that most of our locals became familiar with both the sound and style of jazz. As Filipinos, Latinos and Jews, along with their African-Americans friends developed a unique form of cross-over jitterbug style of their own: the Zoot Suit.
I’m told by old timers that for the Zoot Suiters from the eastside there was almost no greater joy than throwing on their “drapes” and riding on over in glorious procession together to Central Ave. And that tall feeling of walking into the clubs in all their glory for a night of dancing.
However, on account of the circumstances and traumas of history, the only Zoot Suiters people seem to remember today are the pachucos. It is upon these Mexican-American working-class youth that the growing paranoia of youth delinquency and the racial disdain of their era would be directed against.
“Mexicans in L.A., writes historian James D. Hart, got low wages, were crowded into barrios (ghetto neighborhoods), and were generally scorned by whites. Young people were stigmatized as pachucos (juvenile hoodlums). The “pachuco generation” was a term used by historian Carey McWilliams to describe these American-born [Mexican-American] kids who reached maturity in the early 1940s.
“The parents of the pachuco generation, McWilliams writes, generally stayed close to home, seldom venturing from East L.A. into the downtown sector. By contrast, the new generation was “by no means so docile and tractable as their parents” and was lured to the “downtown shopping districts, to the beaches, and, above all, to the glamour of Hollywood.” They made their journeys by car, and they liked to drive in style. Police harassed them but cruising continued – a bold assertion of freedom in the land of the free. They were “laying a claim,” writes scholar Ben Chappell – “this is my city, my street, as much as anyone else’s.””
Naturally what these young people with their first taste of American success wanted to spend their hard-earned money on was their clothes, cars and the nightlife. Their obsession with American boogie-woogie and it’s lifestyle not only came with ire from the larger white society, who felt this was an affront to social decorum and distastefully encouraged mixed-raced dancing.
The scorn also came from their own families. As described by historian Eduardo Pagan:
“These kids spoke to each other in English. And it was an English that was punctuated by jazz phrases: ‘cool,’ ‘hip’, ‘on time.’ …They didn’t speak Spanish,” describes historian Eduardo Pagan. As young Mexican Americans stepped out in their zoot suits, their parents saw their children disappearing into a different world, and they feared their kids would become ill-mannered “pachucos” — a word they used to mean “punks.””
On this side of history, what is hard for people to understand is that the pachucos and zoot suiters, that they were not hyper-ethnic hipsters. What they were was an emerging group of ethnic young people who lunged at the style and pace of American life.
Young people being stopped by the authorities.
And had this been understood, and these young pachucos not been vilified, othered and racialized they would have continued to fully assimilate into American culture. Instead they were violently persecuted and criminalized, by a public which felt these pachucos didn’t understand their place in society.
And this really came to a head amidst World War II. At that time many Mexican manual laborers – the braceros – started coming to United States to fill wartime jobs left vacant as American men went off to war. The population of Mexicans increasing significantly during this time.
Also with the interment of the Japanese of Little Tokyo, the neighborhood there would begin to swell with African-Americans and Mexicans; and would at this time come to hold the title of “Bronzeville.” The nightlife would thus move more closely downtown, and naturally brought these young people into direct and uneasy contact with downtown society.
In addition, these complications of wartime also exposed them to hostility from US servicemen who had flooded into the area during wartime. And the attacks of newly arriving mid-westerners who were often unfamiliar with and intolerant of ethnic minorities.
Servicemen of the day were regularly incensed by the appearance of the lack of support in uniform by Mexicans during WWII, all the while accusing Mexicans of making out well financially in industrial jobs they were called up to fill as the war raged.
This precipitated into the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943. Which was not any one event, but a series of riots throughout the city directed against this youth subculture, especially the Mexican-American Zoots.
Servicemen undressed and beat their victims. Defrocking these youth of their infamous baggy dress suits in public and tearing them to shreds as a protest to the supposed appearance of excess and opportunism during the lean times of war. An orgy of violence against those they perceived as draft-dodging and disloyal, which spilled into all the minority communities of Los Angeles. [Note: At the time there where actually as many as half-a-million Hispanics serving in the armed forces, making up almost 5% of the US armed forces. Which adds insult to injury.]
Though during this time many cars were mostly parked because of gas rationing limitations, servicemen would still drive up from as far as San Diego by the carload in order to beat the hell out of Zoot Suiters in Los Angeles. All with the instigation of the media, and the tactic approval and even repeated assistance of the police.
Zoot suit riot erupts in front of the Hippodrome Theater on Main Street, Downtown Los Angeles.
Zoot Suiter youth beaten and stripped naked.
In the aftermath of the riots which raged for a week, many Latino young were arrested and thrown into the criminal system.
And in the panic of what the county saw not as mob beatings but instead as race riots, the Los Angeles civic leaders called upon east coast sociologists to help them address this crisis they saw on their hands. Quickly, these sociologists came to define our youth clubs as “gangs,” and by extension their members “gangsters.” Projecting on to our local youth their mobster problems of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. And through criminal institutionalization, made this a self-fulfilling prophecy; Mexicans Americans forming their own mafia only later, while incarcerated.
And in the panic of what the county saw not as mob beatings but instead as race riots, the Los Angeles civic leaders called in East Coast sociologists to help them address this crisis they saw on their hands. Quickly, these sociologists came to define our youth clubs as “gangs” and their members “gangsters.” Projecting on to our local youth their mobster problems of Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia. And through criminal institutionalization, made this a self-fulfilling prophecy; Mexicans Americans forming their own mafia while incarcerated.
Rioting servicemen stripped some zoot suiters of their clothes in public. According to the Examiner’s caption, this arrested teenager took the turn of events ‘philosophically.’ Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.
Even though during the span of WWII was considered a lull for the advancement of the car culture, the events of this period had a dramatic effect on how it emerged post-war. The public and law enforcement would for decades be gripped with fear of new riots. And in the shadow of looming fear of dark-skinned people imminently rising up in vengeance, which never really happened.
Nonetheless, because of these traumatic events the civic leaders and law enforcement would become further obsessed with youth delinquency, gang violence, and protecting youth from intermingling with adults. And were now more than ever intent on keeping youth clubs in their own neighborhoods.
And this is how the perception of our cruising Latino youth as rolling gangsters came to be; both an insult, and a historical blunder.
The Rise of Modern Car Cruising
After the end of World War II and the Korean war, many people returned from war to pick-up their car enthusiasm again. Aside from the technical skill which many gained during their wartime service, these veterans also come home with the benefit of the GI Bill. Which gave them the ability to buy new cars, and the money to invest into their cars.
Cruisers stopped by cops on Whittier Blvd for sobriety check, in East LA; 1950s
However, in the years after the war the older pre-war car parts became much more expensive to produce. And new cars became much more costly as well, as the hot rods would begin to make their way toward mainstream consumerization.
In these post-war years the civic leaders once again began promoting car clubs; again to promote safety and deter from youth delinquency. And with the commercialization of show cars and hot rods, this also provided commercial sponsorship. While this granted legitimacy to mainstream middle-class car enthusiasts with the newest and best cars, this also began to further cause a disparaging of the working-class car culture.
The respectable white, suburban car clubs with the benefit of community approval and commercial sponsorship; these car driven social clubs, they rose up as uppity socials. While the same manifestation by the unsanctioned working-class car clubs, these hepcats in their rebuilt “bombs” were labeled greasers.
The car clubs of Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, were born as a racially diverse, working class movement. As it remained for several decades to come. Mikado Car club at the parking lot of the Evergreen Hostel, circa 1960. Japanese-American hep cats and their classic cars.
It is essential for us to remember though, that the eastside car culture persisted as something that was mixed race for years to come. And the reason is because the transformation of the eastside from an ethnically mixed working-class community to a nearly entirely Latino enclave was gradual. And for years to come the promotion of the eastside cruising culture would be a multicultural manifestation of the local working class.
The hands-on nature of the eastside car culture would be maintained from the post-war years and for decades to come by white, Latino and even Japanese hepcats.
Drag racing and car exhibition on the Los Angeles Riverbed, under the classic Sixth Street Bridge. c. 1956
One of the few places people could race on the eastside was on the riverbed. In 1964 some people even had suggested that the paved area be designated as a racing speedway; though it never came to be.
March 6, 1955: Police check licenses on hopped-up cars driven by teenagers drag racing on a paved section of the Los Angeles River bottom. Four squad cars converged on the racers. Photo taken at 6th Street Bridge. (Los Angeles Times, 1955)
The Emergence of the Lowrider
In time the car culture of Mexican-Americans would begin to distinctly emerge with its own character and style. And ultimately manifest some playful touches, culminating in the form of the lowrider.
Consider this for a second. When most communities talk about their car clubs, it usually involves racing. And this was most often the case in white, middle-class communities. And even more so in the suburbs and outlying communities. Though it should be noted, racing did occur on Whittier Blvd itself; though only in the more affluent suburban cities of Whittier and La Habra, where it was often was given a blind eye.
However, here in the working-class and more ethnic urban sides of town, speed was a privilege we couldn’t enjoy; with serious racing being too costly of a pursuit, and illegal street racing far less tolerated by our local authorities.
Therefore here in East Los Angeles our style emerged not based on the thrill of speed, but on the stunning effect of rolling bajito y suavecito – low and slow. The cars themselves became the full show.
And in order to accentuate this sense of parading, cars were often modified. This started as early as the 1940s. First, as people started adding frame skirts to cover back wheels, and even beaver backs to cars in order to exaggerate that land yacht effect. Rounding off the edges of their cars with sleek and wide curves.
And then in the 1950s people took it one step further and started altering their suspension, lowering their blocks, cutting their coils, and tweaking z-frames. Lowering cars also became much easier later on with the development of x-shaped frames in 1958.
In time this lowrider style, and all its flamboyance would be carried over to the more modern car and influence even more futuristic vehicles as well.
The lowrider quickly became the ubiquitous symbol of the Mexican-American car culture. Intended to be showy, and even seductive. Together these cars creating an armada of chrome vessels, leaving a party atmosphere in their wake. Carrying car loads of cruising guys and girls, mingling from vehicle to vehicle in a carnival of traffic.
And this of course troubled the authorities and the public; worried about the traffic and questioning the safety of these vehicles.
In response to this concern, in 1958 Section 24008 of the California Vehicle Code was enacted; which limited the types of lowering modifications one could make to their car. Including the requirement that no part of the vehicle be lower than the bottom of the wheel rims. Which in a single, clean strike of legislation seemed to outlaw the lowrider.
However, this would not be the end of this style. Indeed it only gave the lowrider image a new rebel mystique.
And it also lead to the most amazing evolution of these vehicles yet; with the addition of hydraulics.
In this early days this was achieved with adding aircraft hydraulics to one’s ride (which the x-style frames were ideal for). So that with the flip of a switch one could raise their car, in order to clear an obstacle or even avoid ticketing from cops rolling up at your side. And then with another flip, return back to a lowered cruising posture.
The addition of hydraulics would of course eventually inspire the hopping which is also a dramatic part of this form of street exhibitionism.
Today the most distinguishing characteristic of many of the lowriders of East Los Angeles would be their flashy Latino style.
Many of these more bold, modern and lush touches – the layered paint jobs, and airbrushed designs; the crushed velvet interiors – this would emerge with the rise of the Chicano civil rights era starting in 1968. Lowriders became a major player in the image of the Chicano movement at that time; it was then that the lowrider would rise-up as symbol of the agency of Latino culture itself. And therefore also subject to further racial and class oriented scorn.
For these reasons, despite the style and the fancy touches given to these working-class rides, they would continue to be branded as rickety and dangerous jalopies. And a reoccurring object of scorn by the establishment.
The Attempts to Ban Cruising in East LA
Cruising East LA in the 1970s Photo By: Gusmano Cesaretti
Though the cruising of Whittier Blvd has be a staple of the car culture for as long as anyone can remember, it has come with its ups and down.
In Los Angeles there were also several other popular cruising strips as well. Among them being the Hollywood Sunset Strip, Firestone Blvd in Downey (near the Harvey’s Broiler), Tweedy Blvd in South Gate, and also Van Nuys Blvd in the San Fernando Valley.
Generally cruising had to have a social destination. And this often meant the cruising oriented heading towards popular hangouts and night spots.
Cruising Whittier Blvd in the 1970s
Over the years the procession of cars here on Whittier Blvd. had headed ever more eastward. Eventually making its way into the commercial center and down the shopping corridor of East LA; near the more affluent area of old Belvedere. This didn’t sit well with the still mostly white store owners and the more middle-class residents. Lowriders and their cruising became seen as a more dangerous public nuance.
Though the hight of the cruising phenomenon of Whittier Blvd was in the 1970s. The car clubs membership would wax and wane, sometimes consolidating and other times restructuring; car clubs activity had highs and lows through this decade.
The biggest challenge came in the late 1970s, when Whittier Blvd was closed to cruising.
By that time the demographic of the area and almost entirely become Latino. And it becoming a destination for more and more Latino clubs. However, it also was well known to attract gangs as well. And the blvd often became a place of not just a party atmosphere, but also a volatile center which attracted many conflicting gangs and crews.
Starting on Friday, March 23, 1979 in response to the violence, vehicular cruising was banned entirely. And here in East Los Angeles, Whittier Blvd was blockaded starting at Eastern Ave. With the intention of protecting the boulevard’s shopping district of East Los Angeles.
The events of that ban and the mess left in its wake are described by lowrider historians this way:
“Whittier Boulevard was again closed in the late 1970s because law enforcement continued to make the claim that gang activity were directly related to cruising on East Los Angeles’s [sic] main street.
“The closing of Whittier Boulevard is the late 1970s brought adversarial tensions between lowriders and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to their highest point . Roberto Rodriguez, who was then a reporter for Lowrider magazine, recounts how he was almost killed by sheriff’s deputies on Whittier Boulevard on March 23rd 1979. He had been taking photographs of the cruising on the avenue and had been witnessed and attempted to photograph what he describes at the beating of an innocent and defenseless individual by the Special Enforcement Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He does not deny that there had been “troublemakers” on the avenue for most of the 1970s, but he claims law enforcement’s crackdown on lowriders gave sheriffs free rein to consider all Mexican -Americans on the avenue suspect. Rodriguez was attacked by deputies, had his camera and film confiscated, sustained serious head injuries requiring several days of hospitalization, and faced criminal charges for attacking the very deputies who had injured him. He later brought a criminal suit against the Sheriff’s Department to clear his name; he won his criminal trial won more than seven years later. Rodriguez describes the night of violent confrontation: “As a result of the incident, 538 people were arrested, countless individuals were beaten and harassed, the Boulevard was shut down, and by the end of the weekend, Whittier Boulevard in East LA resembled a war zone.”
However, despite the reality of there being negative elements which did come along with this cruising phenomenon, it would be wrong for us to only focus upon that, and dismiss the other truth that the car club culture also still continued to presented itself as an alternative to gang membership as well. As it had since the days of the early car clubs.
“The 1979 film “Boulevard Nights,” set on Whittier Boulevard, draws an explicit connection between lowriders and violent gang life – a controversial topic in the lowriding community. Although lowriders have indeed been used by gang members over the years, and gunshots have rung out at more than one lowrider gathering, the cars are largely a family affair, say some observers. According to James Sterngold, writing in the New York Times in 2000, mainstream lowrider clubs actively seek to wean Chicano youths from the lure of gangs.”
However, this reality is still sadly overlooked. And the history of car clubs as socially positive groups became almost completely obscured and forgotten at this time.
The ban on cruising would be maintained throughout the 1980s and for the next decade. And the war zone and police state atmosphere of Whittier Blvd of those days is something that even I personally remember to this day.
And so I can say with certainty that the cruising culture didn’t stop just because of a few road blocks. Actually in the end this motivated the cruisers to just go around the barricaded intersections, often making their way into the residential neighborhoods from East LA to Pico Rivera.
As a kid I vividly remember the excitement of all the flashy cars, and also the drama of the police spectacles. My family often getting caught into the caravans of traffic by chance. And other times by my watching the cars as they diverted through the residential neighborhoods my family members lived in, shinny cars being pursued by flashing helicopter search lights. Leaving me with my face pressed up against glass windows, thrilled by it all.
And a few times, I even joined my older uncles and cousins cruising!
First night of the Cruising Ban; Whittier Blvd, East Los Angeles, March 23rd, 1979.
Eventually by the mid-1980s the Sheriff’s Department would move their barricade more to the east; eventually barricading traffic where Whittier Blvd met Rosemead Blvd in Pico Rivera. Diverting cars north, towards an inevitable destination at Legg Lake Park by day and away from heading towards the suburban core of the City of Whittier. And by night, preventing the mass of cruisers from gathering at the Tommy’s Burger and Mario’s Tacos parking lots in Pico Rivera (again, due to gang violence).
So by the 1990s if you actually made it as far as Durfee Road, you were considered boss!
Eventually cruising was banned again in 1992 under the guise of anti-loitering laws, which were drafted by their sponsors with the city’s anti-gang ordinances in mind.
From the late-1980s through the early-1990s the cruising culture would be maintained in East LA by a few die-hards. Though the old car cruising clubs would continue to shrink, with many lowriders instead focusing their energies towards show cars and classic car competitions.
“One of the few positive indicators of continued interest in lowriding was the success of the large car shows. These shows served to shift the emphasis for lowrider clubs and owners away from cruising and toward the production of award-winning show vehicles. Another positive sign for lowriding in general was the integration of the African American and Chicano cruising scene on Crenshaw Boulevard.”
Which shows how the car clubs and working-class car culture ultimately found a way to once again challenge racial boundaries and make new connections across the city; as they had since their earliest days.
The Current Legacy of Eastside Cruising
Though the street presence of the car culture seemed to decline for many years, the popularity of the working class car culture has proliferated. So much so that by the turn of the turn of the 21st century it had moved from being a subculture, into being a celebrated form of expression by the popular culture.
Today if you walk up to any major newsstand you will find various classic car, hot rod and lowrider magazines. Filled with amazing oral histories of the car club veterans who helped propel these movements forward.
The working class car culture is something which today is a much respected form of urban expression. Even though it still holds a certain type of outlaw repute by those who remain inappreciative.
However, I ask people to look around at the car club events of today and take notice of the diversity of people who attend.
And more importantly, notice that the now senior-aged leaders of the original clubs have now become respected veterans of this local heritage. And they most often speak as honored sources of technological, historical and cultural wealth.
And also take notice of how the car culture continues to find new energy in the youth. Who continue to revision this urban expression for themselves. Youth who have continued seeking out the apprenticeship of the car club veterans; fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and elder friends.
In the past two decades, the cultural trends of our area have also helped spark a revival in the kustom car movement. Which has brought new life and passion for the car clubs. Both as an expression of the reemerging Chicano street culture, and also the all-American rockabilly subculture which is common to many working class eastsiders.
Though I believe the biggest sign of the sustained vitality of the local car culture has been the meet-ups and car cruise nights which still center around the Los Angeles viaducts. The cruising from this spot has never really gone away.
In fact, this passed February the local car clubs teamed-up to revive the old Whittier Blvd cruising route. Starting from underneath the soon to be demolished Sixth Street Bridge and again heading towards East Los Angeles. These meet-ups have attracted the older guys and their classic cars, to enjoy a final ride to recapture their glory days. And the younger people as well, who just want to try to capture some treasured memories for themselves.
The question still hangs on the minds of people: Can the local working class car culture of the area survive the wave of change which is coming to the eastside? And will the demolition of the Sixth Street Bridge place in jeopardy this age old tradition; not just by displacing and diverting the cruise route, but also blocking access for riverbed drives for years to come.
In light of the plans for the new Art’s District amphitheater planned for the underside of the new Sixth Street Bridge at the entrance to the riverbed at Santa Fe (in addition to the push for revitalization of the Los Angeles River), there is much doubt as to whether our car clubs will have anyplace to return to here once the redevelopment project is completed.
With all of this nostalgia and uncertainty hanging thick in the air, people have continued to come out in droves for these final days. And I suspect in increasing numbers right up until the very end.
‘Cruise Night’ big headache for policemen – Banned from their old haunts, Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles and Van Nuys Boulevard in San Fernando Valley, young motorists now converge on Hollywood Blvd. (Associated Press; 1981)
Cruise night returns to Van Nuys Blvd – After a 28-year break, car lovers meet once a month on Wednesday nights to show off their souped-up muscle cars, restored classics and lowriders in a scene familiar a generation ago. (Los Angeles Times; 2010)