Tag Archives: 1930s

Classic Hollywood #55 – Party At The Cocoanut Grove 1937

Bennett, Roland, Davies and Fairbanks Party at The Cocoanut Grove -1937

constance-bennett-gilbert-roland-marion-davies-douglas-fairbanks-party-at-cocoanut-grove-february-10-1937

Looking at this picture the first thing you notice is, “It sure looks like these elegant people are having a lot of fun.”

The date is February 10, 1937 and the place is the Cocoanut Grove nightclub located inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The people partying were at the time among the biggest stars of Hollywood, past and present. From left to right, Constance Bennett, Gilbert Roland, Marion Davies and Douglas Fairbanks.

Who the party was for I could not find out, but almost every night there was a party at the Cocoanut Grove. In 1940 the Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Cocoanut Grove. The Ambassador Hotel closed to the public in 1989. Amid outcries from preservationists, the hotel was demolished in 2006 with the promise that portions of the hotel would be retained for the future, including the Cocoanut Grove. But due to the poor structural condition of the Cocoanut Grove most of the nightclub was eventually demolished leaving behind just one wall that still stands.

A brief note about the people in the photograph. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #68 – Broadway and Fifth Avenue 1933

Broadway and Fifth Avenue -1933

Flatiron building Sept 10 1933Looking south from 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, this sidewalk level view was taken by a tourist and dated on the back, September 10, 1933. The focal point was obviously meant to be the world famous Flatiron Building at 23rd Street where Fifth avenue and Broadway meet.

Mercury -photo via photobucket user steven19798

Mercury -photo via photobucket user steven19798

In the foreground however, there is something very interesting to look at. Although it can barely be distinguished, on top of the traffic signal is a statue of Mercury, the Roman god of shopkeepers and merchants, travelers and transporters of goods.

Beginning in 1931, these 17 inch bronze statues were put up on 104 new traffic signals and poles that ran along Fifth Avenue from 8th Street to 59th Street. Continue reading

If You Were An Animal, Here’s A Contest You Wouldn’t Want To Win

Win This Contest…And You Die 

From Steer Of The Year To The Dinner Plate in Two Weeks

A Contest Where The Winning Bovine Gets A Trip To The Slaughterhouse

lucky-boy-1-copyright-life-magazine-jan-8-1940Reading old Life magazines, you can come across some unusual pictorials and stories. This  graphically illustrated story from 1940 could lead you to vegetarianism. Unlike dog and cat shows, livestock shows don’t necessarily have a happy ending for the winner.

The Life story concerns a steer (a castrated male bull) ironically named “Lucky Boy II.” Below is the brief text and photographs from the January 8, 1940 issue. Continue reading

Boston’s New Fenway Park Packs In 45,400 Fans -1934

How They Squeezed 45,400 Fans Into Boston’s Fenway Park

Fenway Park April 22 1934There’s only one way to get 45,000 people into Boston’s Fenway Park and that is to let the fans sit everywhere, including the outfield.

Yes that’s right, square on the field of play.

Boston’s owner Tom Yawkey never spared expenses when it came to his beloved Red Sox. After the 1933 season during the height of the Great Depression, Yawkey decided to update Fenway Park.

The biggest changes would be the new outfield stands in center and right field. And of course the new 37 foot tall left field wall which would eventually become known as the Green Monster.

During the renovation on January 5, 1934, a large fire destroyed the bleachers and the outfield walls which had wood, oil and debris stored under them.

After the clean-up,  work was quickly resumed and the new outfield stands were made fireproof, being encased in reinforced concrete. The new electronic scoreboard indicating balls, strikes and outs was an innovation. The feature known as Duffy’s Cliff, a hill in left field, was removed, leaving only a small incline.

Continue reading

Coney Island on July 4 in the 1930s

2 Historic Photos Show the Enduring Popularity of Coney Island

This is what Coney Island looked like in the 1930s:

Coney Island July 4, 1934

Coney Island July 4, 1934

Million Turn Out At Coney Island

Here’s part of the 1,000,000 New Yorkers who visited Coney Island, a summer resort, on July 4 to get away from the heat of the city, as they disported on the beach, many of them shirtless. Credit line: Acme -7/4/34

Many of them shirtless, imagine that! Don’t you love the old news captions?

While Coney Island doesn’t get a million visitors a day any more, it still gets crowded during summertime. One thing you might notice: there are probably lifeguards present in their high perch chairs to watch over the throngs of swimmers, but I cannot see any in this photograph.

Below – Coney Island Beach three years later in 1937. Continue reading

Incredible, Strange Silly Laws

It’s No April Fools’, These 12 Incredible, Strange Silly Laws Are Real

There Ought To Be a Law dustjacketAmericans are under the impression that there are too many laws. Maybe so. There are many laws that seem unjust, unnecessary and in some cases foolish.

Compared to the past however, there are fewer silly laws on the books. Look back at American history and you might be surprised how many strange laws there once were.

William Seagle’s There Ought To Be A Law (Macauley), 1933, scoured state law books and compiled a couple of hundred laws in effect in 1933, many of them bizarre, others just confounding or silly.

Seagle writes that archaic laws remained on the books due to the passage of time and with no enforcement, legislators forgot that these laws were still statutes. Occasionally laws would be reexamined and states would rid themselves of the stranger ones. The following laws were repealed in the early part of the 20th century:

In Florida: “An Act to Prevent the Indiscriminate Digging of Holes in the Woods”

In South Carolina: A law that made it criminal to draw a check for less than one dollar.

In Massachusetts: A law prohibiting  the showing  of any movie lasting longer than twenty minutes.

Some laws that Seagle found strange, don’t sound so strange today.

For instance this law in Wisconsin doesn’t seem out of place with all the revisionist history happening now: A law forbids the use in the public schools of any history textbook “which falsifies the facts regarding the war of independence, or the war of 1812, or which defames our nation’s founders, or which misrepresents the ideals and causes for which they struggled and sacrificed.”

Seagle questions the intelligence of politicians and lawmakers. What event transpired that brought some legislator to write each one of these bills to enact the law?

How many of these laws are still in effect today? I would imagine most of them have been repealed. But you never know.

1 – Delaware: It is a misdemeanor to “pretend to exercise the art of witchcraft.”

2 – North Dakota: A law regulating carnivals expressly prohibits the dancing of the “hoochie -koochie.”

3 – Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota: It is a criminal offense to dance to the music of The Star Spangled Banner. Continue reading

The Original Entrance To The George Washington Bridge On The New York Side

The George Washington Bridge as seen from 179th Street – 1934

George Washington Bridge from Manhattan 1934

This is the way the George Washington Bridge looked in 1934, three years after opening in 1931 from the New York side. The changes that have occurred in the past 80 years are abundant. This view was photographed from between West 178th and 179th Streets.

Before finding this photograph I had always wondered what the George Washington Bridge looked like before several changes occurred to the original layout. The construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway / Alexander Hamilton Bridge connection; the addition of the lower level to the bridge; and the Port Authority bus depot; all in the early 1960s, changed the original roadway approach and exit configuration.

The light traffic is indicative of the era. A total of 6,148,876 vehicles crossed the bridge in 1934. Today over 114 million vehicles make the crossing.

What else has changed? Continue reading

The Restaurant Fire That Ended The Life Of Tom Stacks: The Most Unique Voice In Jazz -1936

The Tragic End of Tom Stacks, Star Crooner of The 1920’s

Tom StacksOnce you have heard Tom Stacks sing you would recognize his voice anywhere.

Tom Stacks was a tenor and a drummer appearing on hundreds of recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, primarily as a singer with Harry Reser’s band.

Stacks was a small man with an adolescent voice that sounded like he was singing with a perpetual smile.

Best demonstrating Stacks unique ability to turn a song into his own, is his rendition of a tune written by Richard Whiting and Byron Gay, Horses. If there was ever a novelty song with witty lyrics that epitomized the roaring twenties, this is it. (see lyrics at end of article)

Another song, Masculine Women and Feminine Men, a song written by Edgar Leslie and James V. Monaco seems more apropos for today rather than 1926. Continue reading

Rae Samuels & The Last Bottle Of Beer

Vaudeville Star Rae Samuels Tries To “Steal” A Heavily Insured Bottle of Beer

Rae Samuels last bottle of beer Dec 30 1932Will Prohibition Be Finished? – The last bottle of beer that was distilled in the U.S.A. before prohibition and that during several years was a fine attraction of theatres and shows in Chicago – Americans like a good joke, will surely “have lived.” This bottle of beer has been insured against “accidents” for $25,000.

You know, it’s funny how some stories change when you start looking into them.

When I first started to write about this news photograph the focus was on the end of prohibition. But then I wondered who was the unidentified woman in the photograph? It turned out that her story was more interesting than the beer bottle and the end of prohibition.

The woman being “pinched” by the cop is Rae Samuels, for over 20 years one of vaudeville’s biggest stars, earning $2,500 per week. She is so forgotten today that she does not even have a Wikipedia page. Continue reading

Gangster Al Capone Goes To A Baseball Game

Hall-of-Famer Gabby Hartnett Signs Autographs For Al Capone and His Son – 1931

Al Capone sees a Cubs game with son as Gabby Hartnett signs autograph 1931 9 10Associated Press Photo From Chicago

Al Capone takes his son to the ball game surrounded by his watchful lieutenants. Chicago’s gang chief and his 12-year-old son, Al Jr., get Gabby Hartnett of the Cubs to autograph a baseball just before the Cubs defeated the White Sox, 3 to 0, in a charity game before 35,000 spectators at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Sept. 9. Pictures of Capone before the public are not frequent, and a pose with his son is rare. He affectionately calls the boy “Sonny.”

Note the watchfulness of one of his bodyguards directly behind him. A pop-corn vendor evidently rubbed his shoulder and he looks ready to protect his chief. 9-9-31

This photograph made me wonder if Al Capone’s bodyguards were licensed to carry firearms and if they were packing heat when they visited Comiskey Park? It certainly looks like the bodyguard is reaching into his jacket to pull out his “roscoe” or maybe it was his wallet to pay for the popcorn.

One other thing to note: “Sonny,” does not look thrilled to be at the ballpark, much less getting an autograph from Gabby Hartnett.