Monday, July 23, 2012

Spotter Planes

Did you know that the military has permitted beards at different points in history? This photograph of bearded crew members aboard the U.S. S. AMSTERDAM hangs in the I. Roy Coats Brass Room, the meeting room at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. It’s got a hidden spot on a corner wall, and likely portrays a treasured memory to those sailors pictured. The plane behind them is called a spotter plane used to scout conditions and enemy ships prior to the use of radar for that purpose. U.S. S. AMSTERDAM was a light cruiser carrying 4 planes in a hanger on board, but below the main deck. When going airborne, the planes would be launched by catapult, and when returning would land on the water next to the ship, then would be hoisted aboard on a crane that lifted them to the quarterdeck. The ship served in the Pacific 3rd Fleet in strikes against Japan, and was scrapped in 1972.

Crew of the U.S.S. AMSTERDAM CL101 circa 1944. This photograph is in the Collection of the Museum’s I.Roy Coats Brass Room.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See the book borrowing collection in our online catalog.

Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Place for the People's History

A People’s Guide to Los Angeles by Laura Pulido, Laura Barraclough, and Wendy Cheng. Published by University of California Press, 2012.

Of all the guidebooks you could pick up for insightful entries on what to see and where to go in Los Angeles, A People’s Guide to Los Angeles provides for your thirst to understand the people’s struggles as its citizens. Its historical information notwithstanding, this guidebook is happily light on dates and so emphasizes the meaningful aspects, the people's history reasons for visiting or learning about a place.

A regional map is the front illustration for every one of the book’s 7 sections, clearly identifying locations in the larger context of Greater Los Angeles. You can easily see, for example, that the Port of Los Angeles Liberty Hill Plaza, Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, and the Former Japanese Community (on Terminal Island) are within minutes of each other and very close to the 110 Freeway. Sites in this area are associated with such divers twentieth century struggles as racial discrimination, labor union strikes, endangered species repopulation, recognition for ethnicity, and historical military bases, to name a few. At the end of each entry mention is made of sites and restaurants you could visit close by. So after the discussion of labor strikes so important to the Port of Los Angeles and Liberty Hill Plaza, the Harry Bridges Institute and the Los Angeles Maritime Museum are listed. As well in this section you’ll find The Drum Barracks Civil War Museum and the San Pedro Bay Historical Archives, all with addresses and phone numbers and web site urls where applicable.

If you drive south on Harbor Boulevard, right to the coast, you'll arrive at White Point Preserve and Education Center, one of the southern-most sites on the regional map for The Harbor and South Bay. Not only is the area of interest for its two-level feature, both high above the Bay and at tide level, but it also has a peoples' history. A lower stretch of rocky coastline includes Royal Palms County Beach, which used to host Japanese fishing and fish-processing in the early 20th century and later a resort with hotel and spa. Then during World War II there were U.S. military operations in the area. Now a Superfund site for reduction of hazardous waste, the Preserve serves as a nature educational site and museum. See the web site for the Preserve for more information. Notes after the entry for White Point mention the Cabrillo Beach and Marine Aquarium and Point Fermin Lighthouse—sites available within minutes’ drive of the Preserve.

Friday, July 6, 2012

On the Meaning of a Name

California Place Names : The origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. By Erwin G. Gudde, revised and expanded by William Bright. Published by the University of California Press, 1998, c1949.

A fortieth anniversary edition of a book is a curiosity, especially if you compare the notion of age with the new book in your hands: this book’s publish date was fourteen years ago! I believe these days if you were looking for the meaning of a place name in California (or any other state for that matter), you would type such a name into Google, and the rest is easy, although maybe not complete. The treasure inside the covers of this book is related to the state’s exotic origins, its multiple cultures and the meanings of place names encountered by residents, tourists and etymologists—the people who study the origin and evolution of words. How could you get all that from one page on the Internet? This book is organized like a dictionary, with place names listed in alphabetical order. So if you open to the first page of the names’ explanations, the second entry is Abalone, an interesting fact in itself. We usually think of the name abalone referring to a kind of sea creature in a shell, eaten by enthusiasts of shellfish. If you live in this state you may or may not know where many places are located and what they are named---who lives near Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, near Rancho Palos Verdes, California would be proud of the history of shellfishing in their area. In this entry for Abalone, we learn that the word originated in the Rumsen (Native American) language, and developed from "awlun" to "abalone" in various groups from Native American to Spanish to English. To get an idea of the changes the state has gone through since 1542, see the tiny pamphlet in the Library titled California Under Twelve Flags by Phil Townsend Hanna and published by the Automobile Club of Southern California in 1969.

The Los Angeles Maritime Museum Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.