Rediscovering Los Angeles — And Timothy Turner

Nov. 4, 1935, Angels Flight

I have had a copy of this drawing over my desk for years as a reminder that I really ought to write a series of posts on the subject. This is the first in a series of columns featuring Charles Owens’ drawings of Los Angeles landmarks with commentary by Timothy G. Turner. This series appeared for 49 installments between 1935 and 1936, and was followed by Nuestro Pueblo, by Owens and Joe Seewerker, which was compiled into a book published in 1940.

As far as I know, Rediscovering Los Angeles was never published in book form, although The Times urged readers to clip them out and compile them into a scrapbook.

What I find most interesting is that Los Angeles in 1935 already needed to be “rediscovered,” because these days, people seem to be most interested in the 1940s, which were still several years away.

For those who don’t recall my previous posts about Turner, he was quite a character, who wrote several books and was recently “discovered” by Times book critic David Ulin, who didn’t bother to find out that Turner used to write for The Times.

Who was Turner? He appears to have been a local journalist, but other than that, not much is known.

Nov. 4, 1935, Rediscovering Los Angeles

Here’s a post I wrote on Turner in 2005 for the 1947project:

Women in Slacks – BY TIMOTHY G. TURNER


Having led a long and wicked life, it ill behooves me to wax censorious. But ere I die, and may my soul rest in peace, I am going to raise my weak, small voice, so help me, against women wearing trousers.

The late Harry Carr once wrote that women never would wear pants because “they are far too decent.” How wrong he was. The slack craze came in nearly a decade ago and, like red fingernails, folks said, “It will be over in a season or two.” But it seems to be increasing and women of mature years vie with young ones in looking as much like men as they possibly can.

The craze was begun by a European actress, who used it as a publicity gimmick. Marlene Dietrich, be it noted, only wore them for a short time, and then returned to the short skirts and sheer hose which made her the darling of cheesecake photographers. She started it, but she quit. Not so the rest, the sillies.

It has been the fashion of late to reproduce cartoons and line drawings from magazines of the last century. Several of these, in denouncing woman suffrage, showed what the “new woman” would be like. They depict her in trousers and otherwise gotten up in just about the way she now gets herself up. They depicted her leaning against a bar chatting with male hoodlums. She always was shown smoking.

Now I have no objection to women drinking and smoking, for I believe in liberty, but why women should try to dress like men is beyond me. It violates the law, lay and divine. I am astonished by what I am about to do: I am about to quote Scripture. In Deuteronomy, it says: “A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto man, neither shall man put on a woman’s garment for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord Thy God.”

+ + +

Timothy G. Turner was a prolific, long-established writer for The Times, beginning with a feature on Anna May Wong in 1921. While he retired from the paper in 1954 (having taken a few years off to work in public relations), he continued contributing articles until his death — in fact he wrote a cover letter on a submission to The Times a few hours before he died in 1961 at the age of 75.

He was a bald, lanky man with glasses, and the unsmiling mug shot with his obituary makes him look serious, cold and, in his signature bowtie, a bit eccentric. However, the story says he took delight in poking fun at all pretensions, lived downtown and refused to learn how to drive a car.

For much of his career, Turner covered hotels, which meant interviewing all sorts of celebrities (his final column, on parody, recounts how he infuriated poet Robert W. Service by quoting a once well-known satire on one of Service’s Yukon verses). He also wrote a book about his experiences as an Associated Press correspondent with Pancho Villa’s army, “Bullets, Bottles and Gardenias,” and an anthology of short stories about Los Angeles, “Turn Off the Sunshine.”

Turner was one of those prolific, old-time reporters, turning in 54 columns for 1947 out of more than 1,000 stories in his career at The Times, from long features to a few paragraphs launching a series in 1924 on “The Most Interesting Place in Los Angeles.” (He chose Sonoratown, then located on Main Street between Temple and the old plaza).

And despite his rant on women in slacks, he could be an evocative writer. Here’s part of a column about the park next to the downtown Los Angeles Public Library:

Library Park once had its tragedy. People at their breakfasts in the many windows thereabouts saw a man, apparently sleeping, on a bench. It was too cold to sleep in comfort and they wondered. The long-legged library gardener finally came up and shook him. Then he went away.”

“Then a policeman and a man who wore no uniform came. They threw a sheet over the man on the bench. Then a wagon came and took him away. They also took away the revolver, with one empty chamber, that lay by his side.

“The gardener washed off the bench with a hose and the sun came out and dried it off. I wondered who would be the first to sit down on it. Soon they came, a young man and a young woman, who sat down on the bench and talked earnestly for a long time. Then they sat saying nothing, just sat there holding hands.”

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1935, Architecture, Art & Artists, Columnists, Downtown, Nuestro Pueblo and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rediscovering Los Angeles — And Timothy Turner

  1. David Klappholz says:

    What are some of the other sites that Turner wrote about?

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