I continue to work and rework my screenplay; Beach of The King: an epic that tells the story of the amazing contributions that Westchester and Playa Del Rey have made over hundreds of years to the City of Los Angeles. Many of the facts that fashioned this area have been lost to history, and one day this fascinating tale might be retold.
With the arrival of the European to our area in 1769, and the near annihilation of the local Native American, Rancho’s La Ballona and Centinella became the center of commerce in the region.
When Camp Latham was established at La Ballona in May of 1862, it was believed that Southern secessionists might attempt to seize control of the Pueblo of Los Angeles, by sending a armed flotilla up Ballona Creek to the city center.
And when one considers that the entire future town of Westchester was at one time owned by a soon to be Southern General: Joseph Lancaster Brent, there just might be some truth to the claim.
Grandfather of General George S. Patton, “Don Benito” Benjamin Davis Wilson, Daniel Freeman and General William Starke Rosecrans, all owned parts of our town. Our area is mentioned in Richard Henry Dana’s, Two Years Before the Mast, and in the Memoirs of, General William Tecumseh Sherman. At one point in 1886, Port Ballona was being built as the Port of Los Angeles. It’s remains are now at the Del Rey Lagoon.
When the faux “General” Moses Sherman laid street car track to the new town of Playa del Rey in 1901, and the Automobile Club of Southern California sponsored the building of the first modern road from Downtown Los Angeles to the coast in 1903: Speedway Boulevard, now called, more or less, Culver Boulevard, thousands of residents and tourists alike were introduced to our rich coastal setting, surrounded then by remarkably productive farming and ranching enterprises. The towns of Westchester and Playa Del Rey, as they do today as home of LAX, served as the coast’s transportation terminus: where spokes from the hub opened the entire region to new citizens.
Over the next five or six decades, names like Fritz Burns, Thomas Ince, Harry Culver, Father Joseph Sullivan, William Hannon, Tom Lieb, Howard Hughes, and so many more, would transform the simple out of the way rancho into a college center of higher learning, a center for film production, and an aerospace empire: the latter contributing greatly to the WWII effort, and even helped to put a man on the moon.
The gun batteries at Playa Del Rey protected our coastline from invasion.
We are the former home of the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordrome and the L.A. Municipal Airport Speedway: where cars raced from 1934 to 1936, and daredevils such as “Rajo Jack” DeSoto (Dewey Gaston), Rex Mays, Louie Meyer, Lou Moore, and Kelly Petillo, wore dashing scarves, white-cloth headgear and goggles during the races. And before we evicted him from his assembly plant at LAX in 1965, the place where Carol Shelby built his revered Mustang Cobra’s.
Charles Bickford, George Beban, Mae Murray, Ronald Coleman, Carmen Miranda, Richard deMille and Cecil B. Demille, built cottages and mansions here, and Jerry Buss, Jerry West, Don Klosterman and Maury Wills* also called our town home. Elizabeth Taylor learned to ride a horse for her role in National Velvet (1945), at the now defunct Del Rey Stables.
I am not a writer by trade, and twice I have registered for screenwriting classes at Loyola Marymount, and twice because of other commitments I had to cancel. Beach of The King, and an earlier screenplay that I have written: Green Rushes, based on the short stories of Maurice Walsh, whose story was partially told in the John Ford classic The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne, as always devour what little spare time I seem to have. But they are good stories and I am keeping the faith, and although I have not yet heard from either Spielberg or Scorsese, I am also keeping my options open and my cell phone charged.
I continue to be intrigued by the life of General William Rosecrans. Inventor, miner, railroad man, Ambassador to Mexico, Civil War General and United States Congressman (CA), Rosecrans did more in his lifetime than ten men might wish to accomplish. A devout Roman Catholic, it might have been his Catholicism that lost him the chance to be the running mate of Abraham Lincoln in 1864, and on several occasions following the assassination of Lincoln, his name was mentioned as a potential candidate for President.
Of course, it would be close to 100 years later when a Catholic would reside in the White House, when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected.
In 1869, Rosecrans purchased a 14,000 acre rancho for $2.50 an acre, which extended from Gardena, CA to our borders, and of course one of our main east/west local roads bears his name, as does Rosecrans Lane and Rosecrans Hall, located at our own Loyola Marymount campus. The Rosecrans family was great benefactors to the College.
For now, I will continue to get up early every day, and write a few words before heading to the office, or catching a plane to who knows where.
There just might be enough history in our town for a sequel.
ABOUT THE PHOTO OF GENERAL ROSECRANS
MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM STARKE ROSECRANS. In July 1861 he won a battle at Rich Mountain, West Virginia. He succeeded McClellan as head of the Department of the Ohio, and kept Robert E. Lee out of West Virginia. In 1862 Rosecrans was assigned command of the Army of the Mississippi. He became known as the Union's "fighting general" when he defeated Confederate armies at Iuka (Sep 19-20) and Corinth (Oct 3-4) in Mississippi. He then moved on to Nashville to become commander of the Army of the Cumberland. A memorial is being erected for the General at his hometown in Ohio. Donations are needed to finish the work on a statue commemorating this great man. For information, go online and donate, or contact; Ms. Polly Horn P.O. Box 362 Sunbury, Ohio 43074. (Complements, ‘Round The Clump of Willows, Author).