Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Backstory: The Grove in Los Angeles

Hi guys-

A few times, my Grandfather Jim makes reference to "The Grove" in his letters to Grandma Margie. If you are familiar with LA history, you likely recognize it as The Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. If you are not familiar, or are of a younger generation than I am, you probably think he is referring to the Fairfax area shopping center near the Farmer's Market. Nope. Here's a brief history lesson about this lovely nightclub.

The Ambassador Hotel opened for business on January 1, 1921 in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. From 1930 to 1943, the Academy Awards were held at the hotel  - the same time period when my Grandparents would go dancing at the hotel's night club, the Cocoanut Grove. The nightclub had many a famous singer, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, just to name a few. As Grandpa mentions in his letter, Glenn Miller played there with his orchestra.

Here's a picture:

And, if you are in the mood for a little soundtrack while you read this, here is a sampling of Glenn Miller's greatest hits:

Listening to Glenn Miller on Rhapsody. Check it out!


July 18, 1940: Dearest Margie

Chicago, IL

Dearest Margie:

I received both your letters the same day and I was really excited over your second one saying you could meet me in San Francisco. I can hardly wait, now especially, to get out there. It won’t be this summer and I’m not sure what month it will be, but Al says I am going out to the coast on my first trip, so I will be there at least before Christmas. I hope in October sometime or before. What a time we will have, and as you say, there is no one to bother us like we would in Los Angeles. I don’t know where you would rather stay, but I can fix my plans to yours and and maybe we can go on down South together.

Well I finally got into the Democratic Convention. A brother SAE came to the Temple and gave us some tickets. We were in the session being there at the time Roosevelt was elected, or I should say nominated. The damn Mayor in this town has a bunch of fake tickets printed up and gave them to his political friends in the balcony. They slept and ate up there, and nobody else could get seats. Then they kept yelling for Roosevelt. Well I’m telling you we really had a time. After an hour of shoving we got to where we could see everything and I took some pictures and home one of them turns out, but I’m still just learning and I don’t know if I had my camera right for flashlite shots.

Did you happen to be listening? If you were did you hear anybody yelling for Wilkie? Well if you did it was little me and Al. We had a great time and got a lot of dirty looks, but it was worth it.

We stayed until the balloting was over, and then left about 1:30. I was sure a tired boy, but I feel it was worth it, and is an experience I shall never forget.

Did I tell you in my letters that Glenn Miller was here? I don’t think I did. I hope I can get down and hear live before he leaves. Why don’t you hop on a plane and we will go together? Then the next night we would go hear Ray Noble and all the time I could be telling you how much I miss you, or should I say missed you. If I don’t get out to San Francisco soon you're likely to meet a crazy man when I do, because this is agony not seeing you. But at least I have it to look forward to.

Say that’s marvelous of you to send back the records. I haven’t received them yet, but when I do, I’ll probably spend all my time listening to them and wishing I was at the Grove with you, or any place with you for that matter. Al says I get that dreamy look in my eyes when I plan my records. It certainly must be awful to see.

I haven’t seen “His Favorite Wife” yet, but I’m still trying.

Other than going to the convention, I haven’t done a darn thing but work, which is by the way getting very interesting. Al is showing me the different problems that I am going to have to solve when I get on the road. Its really swell because he has already shown me the chapters that need a lot of help, and he just turns them over to me and says to figure them out the way I see it. That’s the way I like it and he says he believes I could do it as well as he which gives me that added confidence. I know I'm going to like it a lot, because although I am my own boss here practically, on the road I have complete say so and what I say goes, and Al backs me up. I’m not saying this to brag, but merely trying to show you how it stands and why I like it so.

I’ll really have a lot to tell you when I get to the coast, but all I can say now is that I wish it was Wed night and I could tell you I love you again personally, so I’ll ditto it here in the letter. Until Sat. Margie.

My Love,

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Backstory: July 16, 1940

Reading this post, a few items stood out to me. First, I had to laugh at myself (and all of us) with digital cameras. Remember when you took a picture and had no idea how it turned out until you went to pick up your prints? God knows I still have many a crappy picture, simply because I paid to develop the darn thing. I wonder how many of those fun, goofy pictures would simply have been deleted from my iPhone simply because it wasn’t perfect. Like this winner:

Notice how grandma looks great, Grandpa totally distracted, and me posessed. It's a classic Hastings family pose, pre-digital age.

Second, I thought this letter did a nice job of providing context of what was going on in the world at the time. Here are some details about an event and a move Jim references- Enjoy!

·        1940 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois – The big event took place at Chicago Stadium from July 15 – 18, 1940. President FDR was re-nominated for an unprecedented third term in office. Prior to the event, there was much speculation as to whether or not he would run for another term. Early indication was that he would not seek reelection, however, once Hitler’s rise in Europe starting to take off, FDR changed his mind. He desired to stay and see the nation safely through a Nazi threat.

·        “His Favorite Wife” – a 1940 Movie starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. Here’s the story line: Ellen Arden arrives 7 years after being given up for dead in a shipwreck, to find her husband Nick just remarried to Bianca. The overjoyed Nick awkwardly tries to break the news gently to Bianca. But before he can do that, an unpleasant surprise--news that Ellen has spent the 7 years on a deserted island with fellow-survivor Burkett. Nick's jealousy tries to find out the truth. Hilarious confusion reigns before Nick chooses his favorite wife. You can find out more details at IMDb here:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dearest Margie: July 16, 1940

Dearest Margie:

The hardest part in writing these letters is the opening sentence, it’s hard to know what to say first. However, I did enjoy your note form The Grove, it was swell. I also supposed by now that you received my masterpiece from the Beachcombers. That just shows to go you that we both got the same idea at the same time, which ought to mean something. Ask the fortune teller what that means. I don’t really know how I wrote it, could you read it?

Tomorrow night we are going to try and get in the convention. I don’t know what luck we will have, but if I do get in I’ll have my camera and flashlight equipment and get some pictures. So far I haven’t had any developed so I don’t know how I am doing. I would be glad to send you a picture if I had one, but unless I can get a good one through my camera I don’t know what I can do. I’ll be looking forward to yours.

Our boys are doing fairly good in the “All Star” vote. Schindler is third but the fellows from Notre Dame and Loyola in Chicago are running away with it because there are a lot Catholics backing them up and there is a voting list I think in every church. Maybe I should be more religious but I guess it just isn’t in me. I guess I had better be careful what I say with your cousin in Notre Dame and you escorting the boy around when they are in LA. I’m sorry.

I don’t know for sure where my first trip is but it had better be to the coast because I have got to see you soon. What did you think of my idea of you and Cope coming up to San Francisco? I hope you do win the “pot of gold” be sure you keep listening. Or why don’t you just keep on winning more money over the radio by answering questions and you can put it all in a “get to Hastings” fund. Maybe for every two dollars you win I could add $0.50 or a dollar and help it along.

It’s still cold weather back here, and I’m starting to wish it would warm up. I sent home $66 today. $36 of it goes to the bank to pay off part of the hundred I borrowed to get back here and $30 in my savings account. Makes me feel pretty good about it.

The other night an SAE offered me a job selling insurance when I finished this job. It wasn’t the ordinary kind, but was to train me to be a district manager. However, I told him I didn’t like selling but thanks anyhoo.

Chicago is just mobbed for this convention and in town all the drunken delegates come up and ask you what state you are from. Of course, I proudly tell them California and they want to make me one of them.

(Awful writing) “His Favorite Wife” is playing here and I want to go and see it. I can almost sympathize with him. Maybe the picture will give me some good ideas. The only thing in my case is that the favorite one was not the first one, but the one I really knew only a week. Let me see now, what was her name – ah, yes, Alman – Margie Alman. By the way, if you should see her tell her I am thinking of her always.

Say that fortune teller is uncanny, I certainly hope she is right.

Darn but I wish it would warm up. I sure miss my swimming. The only exercise I get is walking to my meals, and bowling now and then. I had a 180 average the other night, which makes me feel pretty good. And, oh yes, I almost forgot, we went to the amusement park the other night and I spent all my money trying to dunk the duck.  After awhile I got so I could hit the target and it was marvelous to see them hit the water.

Well they’re waiting to go to dinner so, as always – and I do mean it-

All my love,