I was born in Venice, CA, during the year of THE BOMB. Venice, back then, consisted of four distinct sections: black, brown, white and poor. The poor section was the area consisting of the canals, which were built by Abbot Kinney in 1904~1905. Back then it was called the Venice of America, because Abbot thought the west coast needed refinement. Anyway, because of costs, and some political infighting, the canals were almost filled in and lost for good. The main canal, the Grand Canal, was filled in, leading to the stagnant, disease ridden system of polluted canals that I knew during my youth.
My best friend, Buddy, lived by one of the canals, and, in fact, contracted polio by virtue of the pollution. He made a complete recovery, and spent some time in the Army, and served in Viet Nam. We still keep in touch. I do remember a couple of incidents that happened on the canals. We were walking along one when we saw the police working at something in the canal. Closer inspection noted a dead body being pulled from the water. A too close inspection revealed a smell that sent us rapidly in the opposite direction. Another time, we saw the naked body of a black child floating in the canal. We knocked on the closest door, and when we asked the guy who answered to call the police, he informed us that if we didn’t want to join the dwad kid, we should get the hell off his porch. The police were arriving as we left, and being all of eleven years old, we didn’t stick around: remembering the smell of one body was enough to last us a life time.The canals have since been brought back to their glory days, and if one can find a house there, it will cost them in the neighborhood of one mil.
Hoppyland (named after Hoppalong Cassidy) was open on land now part of Marina Del Rey Harbour. It was pretty well a dump when I was a kid, having outlived its usefulness, but it was still fun to go there, and only a couple of blocks from our house.
Venice beach, on the other hand, was thriving, and has done so from its inception to the present. Most have heard of muscle beach, ocean beach pier and the characters inhabiting both. The pier is now gone, but was the place during my times there. I was a junior lifeguard at the beach, because I pulled a girl out of the water, when it got too deep for her. I was twelve at the time. That was the same year my friend, Buddy, and I made a pact to hit the water at the beach everyday of the year. We kept that pact; how, I really don’t know, but we did. The history of Venice can be found here: http://www.westland.net/venicehistory
I may ramble on in future posts about SoCal. An interesting place to grow up in.