Throwback Thursday: Memorial Day in Santa Monica


Crowded beaches have always been a common sight in Santa Monica, even back in 1921. (Photo from the Santa Monica Public Library archive)
Crowded beaches have always been a common sight in Santa Monica, even back in 1921. (Photo from the Santa Monica Public Library archive)

Memorial Day weekend is approaching. For many, that means a three days off work and a chance to hit the beach. That was also true for those living in Santa Monica and Los Angeles some 70 or 80 years ago. But, Memorial Day was more than just barbecues and bathing suits in the Santa Monica of yore. All the Evening Outlook clips are from the Santa Monica Public Library digital archive.

“Ranks Grow Thin”

Memorial Day 1933On May 30, 1933, The Evening Outlook reported on the annual Memorial Day parade, which included veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and the First World War.

Though, by 1933, the Outlook notes that the number of Civil War veterans was dwindling.

“With less than a score of the old veterans who once marched in the serried ranks of the Grand Army of the Republic riding van, the Memorial parade started at 10:30 o’clock from the Santa Monica city hall, contingents of marching units, color bearers and bands alternating with groups riding in automobiles,” the Outlook reported.

The parade ended at Woodlawn memorial park, the city-owned cemetery on Pico Boulevard near Santa Monica College. The city still holds its annual Memorial Day observance there.

“The Spirit of Patriotism and Appropriate Sentiment”

Brunswick RecordsWhile we may observe Memorial Day with fewer parades today than in days gone by, one thing has remained constant: the Memorial Day sale.

This ad appeared on the sixth page of the Evening Outlook on May 28, 1923, imploring readers to do their patriotic duty and buy a phonograph — or at least some records.

“The spirit of patriotism and appropriate sentiment abounding in the following records make them exceptionally suitable for Memorial Day. Come in and hear them on this popular Brunswick York Model Console. Note the remarkable clearness of these reproductions that seem to bring the bands and artists before you in person,” the ad reads.

What is suggested listening for Memorial Day, according to Brunswick Records? Mostly marches.

Directly beneath the Brunswick Records ad is one for Hart’s Flower Shop, “the leading florist.”

“Cherish their memory with flowers,” the ad reads in bold text beneath illustrations of two soldiers saluting. “They heard the call, they responded, they fought and they died that we who remain behind, might live in peace and happiness. ‘Twas the greatest of all sacrifices that men can make.”

The ad continues, “And we owe them a debt of gratitude, even though they have passed on. And that is to cherish their memory. Let’s do it with Flowers.”

“Your Service To Take You, Comfortably, to Town”

Pacific Electric advertisementWhile it’s not Memorial Day related, per se, the following ad was enough of a historical oddity to include. On May 26, 1925, the Evening Outlook ran an ad for the now-defunct Pacific Electric Railway, colloquially known as the Red Car.

It’s easy to forget that Los Angeles County had an extensive mass transit system long before it gained the reputation of being dominated by the personal car.

“Eleven hundred miles of track,” the ad boasts. “Fifty-four incorporated cities in five counties within a radius of seventy miles from Los Angeles, are reached in this quick, reliable, convenient way… Suppose it were suddenly eliminated — what chaos would result!”

The conveniences of taking mass transit are clear: “Read your papers — all the news — as you sit back in your comfortable seat, relaxed and resting. Arrive down town refreshed and ready for the busiest days.”

“Try it for ten days and you’ll always go ‘the Red Car way.'”

Perhaps Metro could do a similar ad campaign once the Expo Phase II opens next year. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more we regret dismantling L.A.’s expansive mass transit infrastructure.

Jason Islas
Jason Islas
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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