Previous Did You Know?

The Denny's Restaurant chain, now found nationwide, was founded in Lakewood in 1953 by Harold Butler and Richard Jezakin and first opened as a single donut shop named Danny’s Donuts. The partners added more shops during the following year and also added sandwiches and other entrees to the menu. The shops were later renamed Danny's Coffee Shops. By 1959, the chain had expanded to 20 restaurants and was renamed Denny's in order to not be confused with another chain named Doughnut Dan's. The chain remained headquartered in Southern California until 1991, when it moved its home office to Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Denny's Restaurant, Monrovia

Postcard showing Denny's Restaurant in Monrovia, California, circa 1959.
Courtesy Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Collection.

Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena (695 East Colorado Boulevard), opened in 1894 and is Southern California's oldest independent bookstore. During World War II, according to its own historical accounts, Vroman’s donated books to Japanese American internees in the Los Angeles area. In 2009, Vroman’s purchased fellow independent bookseller Book Soup in West Hollywood (opened in 1975)after the owner died and the store faced closure.

The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles (453 South Spring Street), offering an inventory of some 250,000 books, boasts to be the largest bookstore in California. It opened in 2005.

UCLA Store Bookzone on the campus in Westwood is the nation’s largest independent university bookstore.

Once Upon a Time in Montrose (2207 Honolulu Avenue), opened in 1966, is reported by Publisher’s Weekly to be the oldest children’s bookstore in the nation.

Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena

Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

People from at least 130 countries are residents of Los Angeles County. In fact, Los Angeles County has the largest foreign-born population of any county in the United States (one of every three residents), including the largest populations from Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands. The largest communities outside their homeland of Mexicans, Koreans, Filipinos, Armenians, Salvadorans and Guatemalans live here. Additionally, the largest concentrations of people in the United States born in Iran, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, Cambodia, Thailand, Lebanon, Belize, Indonesia, Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Netherlands, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Fiji, New Zealand and Kuwaiti make Los Angeles County their home.

Photo of Los Angeles at night tweeted by astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station on September 23, 2015.

Because of the marriage of one of their players, the Brooklyn Dodgers, later our own Los Angeles Dodgers, were originally named the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1890-1898). Their name was changed to the Brooklyn Superbras in 1899 and then to Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers in 1910 because of the trolleys prevalent in Brooklyn at the time. Later, in 1913, the name was changed again, this time to Brooklyn Robins. Finally, in 1932, the team became known as the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, 1913. Liggett & Myers Co., Benjamin K. Edwards Collection, Library of Congress

Los Angeles may be the largest city in America with people of African-descent as founders, but another storied city in Los Angeles County can claim the same origin. Two of the original settlers of Los Angeles, Antonio Mesa and Luis Quintero, were black men and two others, Manuel Camero and Jose Moreno (and the wives of all four) were mulatto (part African descent). In 1838, the granddaughter of Luis Quintero, Maria Rita Valdez de Valle, a widow of a Spanish colonial soldier, was deeded the land grant Rodeo de las Aguas that would later become Beverly Hills.

Often, Angelenos refer to the 40-mile stretch from just north of Castaic to the bottom of the grade where the I-5 enters the San Joaquin Valley as “the Grapevine” (the orange and yellow portion of the I-5 in the map below). The stretch is almost as well known to Angelenos as the Hollywood Freeway. Actually, the Grapevine is only the six-mile portion between Fort Tejon and the bottom of the grade (the yellow portion of the I-5) to the north.

So why is it called "The Grapevine?"

In 1772, searching for a shorter pass between San Diego and Monterey, Acting Governor of Alta California Pedro Fages discovered a canyon pass that led to the Santa Clarita Valley. He named it "La Canada de Las Uvas" or “Canyon of the Grapes” because of an abundance of wild grapevines along the route. Although it proved to be an excellent pass, early travelers were forced to hack their way through thickets of wild grapevines. Today, you can still see wild grapes growing along the canyons that, at quick glance, easily resemble ivy.

Click on map above to see larger version.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the first woman physician to practice medicine in Southern California was Dr. Elizabeth A. Follansbee (1839-1917). She began her medical education at the University of California in San Francisco, but, after suffering there the endless indignities of hazing by fellow male students, transferred to the more woman-friendly University of Michigan Medical School. She was licensed in 1877 and moved back to San Francisco, where she worked with several other woman physicians at the woman-founded Children's Hospital of San Francisco. For health reasons, she later moved her practice to Los Angeles. In 1885, she joined the inaugurating faculty at the new medical school at USC as a professor of pediatrics, the first woman faculty member at a medical school in California. Woman physicians were not fully accepted by male peers at this time. They were tolerated only as long as they limited their treatment to women and children. Among Dr. Follansbee's pioneering efforts were to arrange for woman USC medical graduates to intern at Children's Hospital in San Francisco because it was the only West Coast hospital accepting female interns and residents. She died in poverty at Los Angeles County Hospital. This remarkable woman was, according to her obituary, "noted for her liberality and friendship to any woman in distress." She had apparently given away most of her income to charity.
Special thanks for research by Helen Haskell and Cindy McNaughton (Los Angeles Public Library), Mike Germroth (MCLS Reference Center) and Cecilia Rasmussen (LA Times).

Dr. Elizabeth Follansbee

The longest street in Los Angeles County is Sepulveda Boulevard which runs 42.8 miles between Mission Hills in the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach (26.4 miles through the City of Los Angeles).

The shortest street in Los Angeles is Powers Place, located in downtown Los Angeles. It extends a mere 13 feet between Alvarado Terrace and Bonnie Brae.

The steepest grade in Los Angeles (at 33.3 percent) is Eldred Street in Highland Park. It is the third steepest street in the nation. Incidentally, besides Eldred Street, there are three other Los Angeles streets steeper than any streets in San Francisco: 28th Street (San Pedro) at 33% and Baxter (Echo Park) and Fargo Streets (Silver Lake), both 32%. They rank 3, 4 and 5 in the nation, respectively. San Francisco’s steepest streets (ranking nationally 9 and 10) are 22nd and Filbert Streets, both at 31.5%.

Powers Place, Shortest Street in Los Angeles. Photo from Google Maps, Copyright 2017 Google.

Origins of Some of Our Local Food Empires

1926 - Orange Julius, founder Julius Freed, in Los Angeles
1936 - Bob's Big Boy, founder Bob Wian, in Glendale
1941 - Carl's Jr., founder Carl Karcher, in Los Angeles
1946 - Original Tommy's Hamburgers, founder Tom Koulax, in Los Angeles
1947 - Fatburger, founder Lovie Yancey, in South Los Angeles
1947 - Hof's Hut, founder Harold Hofman, in Belmont Shore
1948 - In-N-Out, founder Harry Snyder, in Baldwin Park
1948 - Winchell's Donuts, founder Verne Winchell, in Temple City
1951 - The Hat, founder (unidentified), in Alhambra
1953 - Denny's, founders Harold Butler and Richard Jezak, in Lakewood
1958 - International House of Pancakes (IHOP), founder Al Lapin, in Toluca Lake
1958 - Sizzler, founder Del and Helen Johnson, in Culver City
1961 - Wienerschnitzel, founder John Galardi, in Long Beach
1962 - Taco Bell, founder Glen Bell, in Downey
1972 - Gladstones*, founder Robert Morris, in Malibu
1978 - Cheesecake Factory, founder David Overton, in Beverly hills
1982 - Islands, founder Tony DeGrazier, in West Lost Angeles
1983 - Panda Express, founders Ming-Tsai Cherng, son Andrew Cherng and Peggy Cherng, in Glendale
1985 - California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), founders Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, in Beverly Hills
1999 - Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, founder Craig Hofman, in Long Beach

Replica original In-N-Out stand, Baldwin Park. Photo by Gary Thornton, Los Angeles Almanac.

The most intense earthquake ever recorded in the Los Angeles area (and one of the most intense in the nation, for that matter) was the Fort Tejon earthquake that exploded along the San Andreas Fault north of Los Angeles on February 9, 1857. The quake was believed to have measured 7.9 to 8.0 on the Richter Magnitude Scale. This magnitude ranks as a "Great Quake" where, in heavily populated areas, tremendous destruction and loss of life occurs (or about 20 times the magnitude and 89 times the strength of the 1994 Northridge earthquake). Despite the destructive power of this monster, only two people were reported to have lost their lives, due to the sparse population of the time. Today, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates a seven percent chance of a similarly-sized or greater earthquake for the Los Angeles area within the next 30 years.

Damage due to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Photo.

Immigration has long been a hot issue in California, even back to the days of California's Mexican period (1822 to 1846). Pio Pico, last Mexican governor of California, lamented:

"We find ourselves suddenly threatened by hordes of Yankee [American] emigrants, who have already begun to flood into our country and whose progress we cannot arrest….Shall we remain supine while these daring strangers are overrunning our fertile plains and gradually outnumbering and displacing us? Shall these incursions go on unchecked, until we shall become strangers in our own land? We cannot successfully oppose them by our own unaided power; and the swelling tide of immigration renders the odds against us more formidable every day."

Don Pio Pico in later years. Photo by Schumaker, courtesy of Library of Congress.