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1914-1916 Part 1

1914-1916 Part 5

30 Years Ago in
Free Venice
Beachhead

30 Years Ago in Call Someplace Paradise and/or Ghost Town

John Hamilton

Free Venice Beachhead archives selected articles 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1983

Beachhead Archives 1984

Lighthearted Beachhead pieces

People of Venice (from Beachhead)

Windward Avenue Articles from Beachhead

Art in the Beachhead

Venice institutions from the Beachhead

Venice in Books A-C

Venice in Books D-K

Venice in Books L-P

Venice in Books Q-Z

Quotations about Venice

Venice in Magazines and other ephemeral sources

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

Birth of Venice:
old-timey magazines

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard
Townsend

Lions and Gondolas

Rana Ayzeren

Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

"Brick" Garrigues

The Spectre

Venice Historical Society

1969 Police Riots

Jack the Liar

 

 

1914-1916 Part 4

Sports and Entertainment
by Kathleen MacAndrew

from Free Venice Beachhead #125 May 1980

This is the fourth in a series of articles dealing with the history of Venice between 1914-1916 prepared by students at Long Beach State University and published by the Beachhead in celebration of the 75th anniversary of this community. Supervision of the research was handled by Professor Arnold Springer. Research for this paper was gathered by Nancy Hogan, Art Kuhlman, Mark McIntire, Marilyn Cavanaugh, Ralph Migliozzi, John Haber, Kathleen MacAndrew, and Maureen Burns. The final paper was written by Kathleen MacAndrew, revised and edited by Arnold Springer. Copyright 1980 Trustees of California State University

In 1915 Venice was primarily an entertainment town. Its economic base stood on the foundations of tourism and amusements. Thus there was always something exciting to do and usually a wide selection of activities to choose from. From the pages of the Daily Vanguard a picture can be drawn illustrating what people of all ages did for entertainment in Venice. Activities included: movies of all kinds, concerts, athletic events, parades, dances, children’s programs, vaudeville, hotel openings, and fun and games on the several area piers. According to the Vanguard, "The chief end of art is to set aside all limitations and permit people to revel within the light of their larger dreams." Venice provided a fine opportunity for such escapism

MOVIES

Historically the first movie made in Hollywood was finished in Oct. 1911. This date marks the birth of the film capitol of the world. Venice had an intimate relationship with Hollywood, geographically and spiritually. This certainly is evident in the pages of the Vanguard since every issue of the paper contained large amounts of advertising for and reviews of various movies playing at the theaters of the Bay area. Movie stars frequently visited Venice and some even stayed, purchasing homes or summer cottages. The movie houses of the Venice area were: Auditorium (Venice Pier), Venice Theatre (Ocean Front Walk), Neptune Theater (opposite the plunge), Rosemary Theatre (Ocean Park Pier), and the Empress Theatre on Ashland Ave. and Ocean Front Walk. The Orpheum in downtown LA also received a large amount of publicity.

It is difficult to say what type of film Venetians liked most because of the wide variety of films shown: Westerns, dramas, mysteries, adventures, romances, news, travel, and slapstick. Charlie Chaplin was Venice’s favorite male actor while Mary Pickford and Fay Tichner were two of their favorite female stars. Other stars of the period were Ethel Barrymore, Dustin Farnum, Arnold Daly, Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Henry Dixey and the Keystone Cops.

Some of the films seen by Venetians were: Chelsea 7750 starring Henry E. Dixey, a movie which combined "the thrill of a detective movie and the romantics of a love story." Others may have seen Ethel Barrymore in her first film, The Nightingale, or they may have seen Marie Dressler in Tillie’s Punctured Romance. Still others may have seen A Gentleman of Nerve, Bird of Paradise, Spitfire, Prince of India, or The Better Man.

Charlie Chaplin films were the all-time favorites among Venetians. Various theaters put on many of his movies such as A Night Out, His New Job, and Caught in a Cabaret. Said the Vanguard in a review:

Charlie Chaplin in A Night Out and Syd Chaplin in Gussie’s Day of Rest will be presented, and it is certain that after seeing 4,000 feet of continuous comedy, enacted by these two brothers, that one will have laughed for a week.

During May and June of 1915 Chaplin had two hits playing in Venice. They were The Champion and A Jitney Elopement. Charlie Chaplin delighted the City when he took part in the Essanay Company Ball at the Venice Dance Pavilion. He was a guest of the Ship Café for two nights and was reported to have said that he "was delighted with Venice."

Mary Pickford, who in 1914 had signed a $104,000 contract with the Paramount Famous Players, was also a Venice favorite. Her film The Diamond from the Sky was well attended and the local newspaper dutifully reported on the Farewell Ball given in her honor at the Shrine Auditorium upon her departure for the East Coast.

Venetians held a special place in their hearts for Miss Fay Tichner. Her victory in the 1915 Bathing Suit Contest earned her a $50 first prize and a front page picture in the local paper. She decided that the best thing to do with her prize money was to spend it on her friends in the City that had been so good to her. She threw a big feast and party for Venetians at the Strand Café. Subsequently she appeared in a movie about the Bathing Suit Parade which was filmed in Venice.

One of her films which played in Venice was titled Ethel’s New Dress. Fay Tichner was Venice’s favorite. She promoted the City and the citizens loved her in return.

Tom Mix and Nat Goodwin were two other movie stars closely associated with Venice. Mix "wintered" in and was well known here. One of his movies playing at the Venice Theatre was called Roping a Woman. Goodwin lived in the area, and he owned a café named after him located on one of the several piers in Ocean Park. The Rosemary Theatre showed his film When We Were Twenty-One. Whenever Nat was coming or going to his Santa Monica home that news was printed in the paper.

Probably the most popular film shown in Venice was The Hypocrites. It played at the Rosemary Theatre in May 1915 and was a big hit. It appeared again about mid-month at the Venice Auditorium on the pier. It was billed as "The photo play that startled the entire country."

The shallowness of politicians’ honesty, the thin veneer of society, the mockery of love, the blindness of virtue and the average parent’s attitude toward truth in all forms, these together with the farcical modesty of the modern smart girl…and the great and worldly changes that the present living generation have affected towards the principles of truth and love will be explored.

The "spirit of truth" in the film was played by Margaret Edwards, in the nude. The local paper described Ms. Edwards as "…supremely modest and holds the mirror to the darker sides of politics, wealth, and fashion."

The Vanguard also printed stories about the rest of the country’s reaction to the film. In Corsicans, Texas, seven ministers were sued when they got a court order restraining a local theater from showing The Hypocrites. It was finally shown there for two days, but the Texas theater alternated one show for the women and another for the men.

Venice did not have special showings for men and women but they publicly justified their interest in the film’s nudity by emphasizing its positive social and moral statements. The impression is given that Venetians were proud that their community was not narrow-minded and that a certain "liberal" attitude prevailed here; they wanted to be trend-setting and modern.

An interesting series of movies was shown at the Neptune entitled: Who Pays. Before the series could run a committee composed of leading club women was called upon to sanction the event, since the films dealt with themes like divorce, crime, and unintended pregnancy. Individual film titles were: The Price of Fame, The Pursuit of Pleasure, When Justice Sleeps, etc. In general the films were highly moralistic and dealt with issues such a self-centeredness, greed, selfishness, and other ambiguous social/moral problems or, as the Vanguard put it, "…a remarkable delineation of life, it shows temptations the result of sin and the thorny path of virtue and fame."

It is interesting that Venetians enjoyed this forerunner of today’s soap operas. They had the added advantage of knowing what was going to happen in the films beforehand since the paper ran d daily synopsis of the films. It appears as though human nature has not changed too much. We always like to hear about people who are worse off than we, and we love to stick our noses into other people’s business.

Film reviews differed substantially in tone and emphasis than those of today. For example:

Rule G had its first public exhibition at the Rosemary last evening, and because of the sensational nature of the subject, drew a large audience. The great features of the picture, the head-on collision, the wreck of a two-story building by a locomotive plowing through it, and the destruction of a wagon and team of horses by an onrushing train furnished plenty of thrills. Several novel bits of photography are introduced, just prior to the collision, that make the climax particularly effective. Rule G is a strong temperance sermon; it drives home the lesson of overindulgence in liquor in no uncertain terms and the picture should take its place beside Ten Nights in a Barroom as a weapon in the cause of temperance.

An ad for the film Aftermath read:

A powerful domestic drama of error and atonement; it is the thrilling story of two souls that emerge from the depths…Virginia Pearson and Owen Moore play an American married couple who come from the depths of poverty and despair to the heights of prosperity and happiness - during which they are confronted with the tragic past of the wife - for a time the vortex of shame threatens to engulf both, but dominant love finally lifts them up.

The Venice Theatre advertised The Mystery of the Glass Tubes, which was about cocaine smuggled into England in eggs. The Straight Road concerned "a young girl’s struggle against the temptations and evils of the big city, who rises from the mire into the heart of achievement and peace and who is called upon to make one of the greatest sacrifices to which the heart of woman is capable."

In 1916 D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation was shown for the first time in Venice. It was popular and drew thousands of people to the Venice Auditorium.

All in all Venetians probably were frequent moviegoers. The fact that the city was so close to Hollywood, and that many stars made Venice their home or vacation spot, created a close relationship between the two. Movies were even made in Venice on occasion. The number of movie theaters in the community testifies to the popularity of the medium.

VAUDEVILLE

Vaudeville was an alternative to film and was another form of popular entertainment. The Auditorium often featured such things as The Jim Black Trio, featuring Mr. Black, a one-legged dancer, who also sang and was a comedian. On the same show there was an act which consisted of 35 "highly educated" cockatoos who presented a comedy skit called "A Night in Birdville". Each bird was said to be "an actor and comedian." In another show N. E. Gabaini, a "well-known" star of the Italian Grand Opera, made his first West Coast appearance in Venice. He was billed as an unusual tenor, "the second Caruso."

Will Black, "the Yiddish Comedian," well known throughout Eastern vaudeville circuits was booked at the Auditorium, while at the Venice Dance Pavilion the Ocean Inn Entertainers put on a skit called "It Pays to Advertise."

The Orpheum in Los Angeles also put on vaudeville. "The Bride Shop" was a popular light comedy it put on in May 1915. George H. Rosener did impressions there. The character sketches he was known for were his "dope fiend" and "old Soldier" acts. Sylvester Shaffer put on a one-man vaudeville show which involved stunts, cards, animal trainers, athletics, and violin-playing.

Fred Fuller of the Arcade Barber Shop on Windward Avenue had a great idea. He wanted to offer cabaret entertainment in all the barber shops of the area. The idea was not born out of a sober moment. Quartets would serenade their customers with the likes of "Silver Threads Among the Gold," "E’en Your Hairs are Numbered," "Selection from Barber of Seville." "Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down Her Back," "Not Because Your Hair is Curly," "Why Wasn’t I Born a Blonde?", "That Barber Shop Chord," and "Sister Get a Spy-Glass, Baby’s Got a Hair."

But there could be serious moments as well. For example, when the poet Edwin Markham was scheduled to recite at the auditorium of the Venice Grammar School (Westminster) he got rave advance publicity. Markham was known for his short poem, "Outwitted."

He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and I had the with to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.

By far the most peculiar entertainment hype in Venice concerned a figure named Raffles. Every day for one week the paper printed a photo of the top of a man’s head (from the eyes up). Beneath this picture the text would reveal where this man Raffles had been and with whom he had conversed on the previous day. Anyone finding this Raffles who brought him in to the newspaper would receive a prize of $10.

The "dog-eating, semi-cannibal" Igorrotes from the Philippines were displayed on the Venice Pier and caused a sensation. There were 22 of them, men, women and children, and they were in Venice for a short time, on their way to the Panama Pacific Exposition.

The Igorrotes are known as "head hunters" from the fact that they take the heads of enemies fallen in battle and preserve them as trophies and as evidence of their valor on the field of battle…The natives are from the highlands of the Philippines and unlike most people living under the equator are energetic. The men and women complete the designs of the men of the tribe. The body designs on the men indicate the number of engagements they have been in and tattoo marks on the head and face tell of heads taken.

Their habit of eating dogs was played up in the paper. A want ad was run…by the dog catcher. "Wanted: Misc. dogs at Igorrotes Village, opposite Ship Care, Venice Pier."

The Barnes Circus arrived from Redondo in November 1914, but only after three cars carrying animals had been derailed in heavy fog. A parade was held and the management announced that any Venetian could view the animals in their cages at any time. Since the circus was to winter in Venice it was promised that many local men would be employed and the local economy would benefit from its presence.

The annual bathing suit parade was held on May 1, 1916. Latest suits were provided by local distributors for Pacific Knitting Mills, H. P. Dyas Sport Goods, and the Guenther Knitting Mills. Automobiles were provided by the Overland Auto Co. It was the largest parade with 102 women entered and participating.

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1916, Venice secured the presence of a US Navy flotilla, including the USS Milwaukee, to help with the celebrations.

July 4 was celebrated by a carnival and a rodeo called "the Grand Wild West Show and Rodeo" attracted large crowds. One of the attractions was airplane flights by Tex LaGrone. Broncobuster Daredevil Downing was also featured. He performed "hair-raising" stunts and was an expert roper. Another attraction was Peggy Owens who "rode any bronco no matter how wild." She was one of several women riders with the rodeo.

Special events were important to Venice because they kept the people interested and active. Anything was used as an excuse for a special parade or event. It was a way of attracting outsiders to Venice who in turn spent money and kept businesses in Venice going. All of the activities must have been fun for locals. The citizens had the opportunity to be in the limelight and participate in the fun and excitement.

AMUSEMENTS

Venice offered many amusements which were located on and near the piers. The Ocean Park and Venice amusement parks boasted the $90,000 Ben Hur roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, and an aerial swing that was 100 feet in height and was able to spin a total of 200 people in 20 cars at a considerable rate of speed. The roller coaster extended from Pier Avenue 400 feet into the sea. The Ferris wheel, located in Ocean Park, was loaned out to so many different cities that Venetians hardly ever had a chance to use it. Besides these attractions there were also the Plunge, Ostrich Farm, and Race Thru the Clouds.

On the Windward Avenue Pier Louis Klein who was known for his "wonderful representation of the sinking of the Titanic" came up with "a new and far more terrible depiction of the loss of the Lusitania." This concession was opened a couple of days after the real sinking happened! Captain Felix, owner of a large curio store in Ocean Park, made arrangements to exhibit an Indian village on the pier. It was a replica in miniature of a genuine desert camp. Some of the finer points of display were the arts, crafts, and blankets; "life in a Teppe" was shown. A new concession opened on the pier in the shape of an observation tower, "which had been established over the ostrich farm."

Edward A. August, totally blind, was in charge of this concession. The customer could watch passing ships from powerful marine glasses and a telescope. "The owner tells of what may be seen, the wonders of the coast line, and the boats that pass the pier, none of which Mr. August has ever seen."
In July 1916 a new amusement was introduced called the "Spanish Bull Fight" at the Race Thru the Clouds. It was said to be like the exhibitions in Spain and Mexico. Antonio Rivas Moreno was the leading toreador. An added attraction was a Spanish fiesta in which "Spanish Senoritas" in native costume performed gypsy songs and dances.

Stuntmen were very much a part of the Venice scene. They often entertained with all kinds of daring feats. Frank Stites was a stunt flyer who had a contract with the Kinney Company. Stites performed all kinds of stunts at the beach. For example, he perfected a cork spiral dip that was executed at the speed of 250 miles per hour. His specialty was the loop to loop which he did in the presence of crowds usually numbering in the thousands. A wealthy Austro-Russian count named Sergius Apraxin was so impressed with Stites that he offered him $50 to take him flying and $2,000 to repair the damages of his plane after Stites had wrecked it during a stunt.

W. M. Morton was a balloonist and a parachuter who also performed stunts. Morton boasted that he had a stunt no one else had ever attempted. The event consisted of a cannon that was chained to the bottom of a plane. While the plane was in flight, Morton positioned himself to be shot from the cannon. He accomplished this by detonating the powder from inside the cannon which shot him into the sky. Morton said that he had self-inflating balloons in his vest that would fill as he was falling to the ground.

Another daring aviator was Eddy Mussick with his $6,000 military aircraft. Mussick gave a night flight amid fireworks while flying at an altitude of 3000 feet above the pier. As the fireworks lit up the sky he performed spirals and back dips. Airplane stunting seemed to be a fascination with Venetians.

NIGHT LIFE

Night life in Venice was active. There were two major dancing pavilions in the Santa Monica bay area. At the Venice Dance Pavilion a monthly ticket allowed the buyer to dance to the music of the Lew Lewis Orchestra which celebrated its third anniversary in Venice in June 1916. Edward Allen White and Haylie Eyler were the dancing instructors there. At the Ocean Park Dance Pavilion the instructors were Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Smith. They adapted current news themes to the popular dance steps of the day. Thus they introduced the "Preparedness Fox Trot," the "Aviation Waltz," the "Zeppelin Fox Trot," and the "Dardanelles One Step" to Venetians. Manager Middleton of the Ocean Park Dance Pavilion booked the Sierra colored troupe which also attracted large crowds. Other area dancing pavilions included the newly opened Santa Monica Dance Pavilion managed by A. T. Mayor, and the new Schleuter Dance Pavilion between Ocean Park and Venice. It was still being built in 1916.

Municipal dances were often held at the Venice Pavilion. Women and children were admitted free every Monday night. In Santa Monica the Municipal Dance Hall was often the site of balls or dances. On one occasion 1,500 people paid to participate in a "movie ball" held there. Many were also said to have attended a "moving picture makers" dance.

The Venice Dance Pavilion always had a full schedule of events. On Saturdays the children of Venice usually had parties, heard music, or put on plays there. For example the children put on a sketch of Rip Van Winkle, and another time Cinderella was featured. Venice was probably a very enjoyable place for a child.

But the Pavilion was primarily for adults. The Venice-of-America Band played there as did special guest bands such as "The Great Joker Band and the Honolulan Three Step." Professor George Carr, operatic baritone from Los Angeles, visited Venice and was invited to sing with the regular band at their Sunday afternoon and evening concerts. Other guest performers were Nell Hartman who performed a "Globe Trot Spanish Gavotte," while "A Night in Old Japan" was the hit in May 1915. Professor Nema, "the celebrated jiu jitsu and fencing expert" demonstrated his skills, assisted by six Japanese dancing girls. Thus just about anything went at the Pavilion. The "Race Thru the Clouds Entertainers" put on the "Great Houlah, Houlah Dance" which was praised as one of the "best attractions ever" in Venice.

The Venice Auditorium also put on various programs. For example La Monaca Band held a Grand Concert. Two famous musicians played with them, Mr. John Marquardt (violin) and Mrs. Alexandra Marquardt who played the harp.

The hotels and restaurants of Venice also offered entertainment. The Melody Mirth Makers were featured at the Ship Café. The Ocean Inn Café featured a "Rag Trio" and when the Hotel Waldorf opened La Monaca’s Band participated.

DANCING

Dancing in cafes was apparently a big issue because some people objected to dancing in a place where liquor was sold. But business was business. With the summer season in full swing "beach officials think it would be unjust to curtail the café men and it’s a hardship for them to do business when other cafes allow dancing and keep open till 2 a.m." Those other cafes were in Los Angeles where officials announced that they were prepared to relax the "blue laws" to permit such dancing, so Venice had to compete.

The Venice Auditorium offered many music and dancing shows. One of these was Russian. Called the "Neffsky Troupe" it consisted of six dancers, singers and instrumentalists who had come to America from Moscow. They were touring the world and had already performed at the Hammerstein Theatre in New York. The leader was Ivan Neffsky, a former ballet master in the Imperial Theatre, billed as one of the foremost interpreters of Cossack and folk dances of Russia.

BOXING

Boxing and prize fighting were popular spectator sports and drew large crowds to the Venice Auditorium. Boxing was controversial but every Friday night there was boxing and wrestling at the Auditorium where local favorites such as Heinie Schwartz could be admired for their skill. Many minorities participated in the Venice fight game including Mojave Indians, Mexicans, Filipinos, Welshmen and Englishmen. Columns dealing with prize fighting read like an international roster" Tham Langford, Frankie Burns, Joe Lopez, Sailor Petrosky, Bill Murray, Freddie Welsh, Jack Lundgren, Kid Williams, Jimmy Johnson, Bombardi Wells, and Kid Lewis.

But boxing was considered an evil affair by some and the Reverend Fenwicke Holmes led the opposition. Others only opposed professional prize fighting. In November 1914 legislation was passed which forbade professional fighting in California. The Vanguard printed an article on the matter:

It should never be allowed to run again in California under the conditions that finally ruined it. Boxing in California has been conducted in pavilions that were more like cattle pens than amusements. Men sitting on rough benches are apt to act like men sitting on rough benches. People in pig pens act like pigs.

This comment was part of an article that suggested that something could be done in the future to restore boxing in the state:

An effort to apply the Pulmotor to the dying boxing game will be made by T-Bone Riley, whose amateur fight club gives its first shindig tonight in Los Angeles. If T-Bone can induce enough young men to have their faces bumped out of their love for pure art, he will probably succeed in keeping the "game" alive until a friendly legislature comes along to rescue it. It is the history of reforms that in nearly every community where boxing had been put under the ban, the game has been allowed to reopen after two or three years.

The Venice Athletic Club hosted many boxing matches. A one-time resident of Venice, Johnny Kilbane, became featherweight champion of the world. He also planned to become a champion violinist.

Johnny has had the bug for some time, but since defeating Abe Attel in 1912 he has been so busy he gave up his violin lessons. Recently he has revived his musical ambition, his friends at Cleveland declare. He hopes to be the world’s champion Irish violinist. He’s no Vsaye or Kubelik - but he’s getting along.

After 1914 all boxing in Venice was supposed to be amateur, but when a fight was scheduled between Willie Hoppe and Joe Rivers in June 1915, Venice Police Chief Watson and Mayor Gerety appeared and stopped the match on the grounds that it violated a municipal ordinance prohibiting both professional boxing contests and sparring exhibitions within the city.

But boxing in Venice did not cease. In fact Vernon and Venice were famous for the number of prize fights put on there. Bill Aldridge often fought in Venice as did Walter Ehle and Battling Nick. A match between Eddie Shannon and Steve Dalton was seen by 2000 fans at the Venice Auditorium in August 1916. To get around the law promoters used various ploys. In November 1914 $324 in gate receipts were turned over to the Children’s Hospital. That was part of the gate taken from 3000 spectators who came to Venice to watch fighters Langford and Wells in training camp.

RACING

Racing was the most exciting spectator sport of them all for citizens of Venice. Road races attracted large crowds and so the city exploited the events whenever they occurred. For a particular race in 1914, Mayor Dudley of Santa Monica said that he wanted no purse less than $50,000 for the winner. Films of the sport were shown at local theaters. But there were also "naysayers" who complained that the sport was to dangerous. Many complained about the "death curve" on Washington Blvd. And the wrecks that it caused, while others said that innocent spectators were in danger of getting killed if a car went off the track. Complaints were patiently heard and the races allowed to continue.

The Vanderbilt Cuprace was a very big event in Venice. Crowds were said to have lined the streets in January 1914. Women became involved when Mrs. Leotia K. Northam entered two of her own cars. The starter for the race was Barney Oldfield, the first person to drive an auto at a speed of one mile per minute. Two other famous racers were Teddy Tetzloff and Louis Nikrent.

A speedway was proposed for midway between Venice and Ocean Park. J. Princes plans included a one and a quarter mile track with triple radius turns at 40 degrees and two straight-aways banked at 10 degrees. Speeds of 120 miles per hour were anticipated.

Venice planned a road race for March 17, 1915, to entertain residents and gain national publicity. According to the paper the City was not looking to make any money. The course was 300 miles long: "Washington Blvd., St. Mark’s Blvd, Victoria Ave., Lincoln Blvd., and Rose Ave."

Streets will be regraded, widened, and resurfaced where necessary. Telephone, telegraph and power and lighting poles will have to be removed at some points, temporary transplanting of trees and some extension of roadway over curb lines to avoid sharp angles will be done.

An $8,000 purse was offered, and national publicity was handled by Roy Compton, who placed ads in 120 papers and auto trade magazines. Rivalry between Santa Monica and Venice developed over the race. Prior to 1915 Santa Monica had held an annual race and so some elements in the city were upset about upstart competition. But according to the Vanguard, there were "wealthy interests" in Santa Monica who were opposed to the whole idea of racing in their city. The Grand Prix in Santa Monica was canceled and the one in Venice allowed to go ahead.

On March 17, 1915 the First Annual Venice California Grand Prix was held. Even representatives from the "Eastern Press" arrived to cover the race. The Vanguard reported that "never in the history of Venice has so much substantial and so much broadcast publicity been given. Mayor Gerety, Col. Thomas Prior, and Dana Burks went to Los Angeles to get Mayor Rose to declare St. Patrick’s day a legal holiday to support attendance at the race. Both Venice and Santa Monica had done so. Mayor Rose declined.

Barney Oldfield won the First Venice Grand Prix and 60,000 people came to the City to see it. The P. E. ran three car trains into Venice at 5-minute intervals, 100 jitney buses were operating, and spectators came into Venice in horse and carriage, on bicycle, and on foot. 6,000 privately owned autos were parked near the course. Venice made the sports news from coast to coast.

On April 3, 1915 Venice hosted an International Motorcycle Race. The race was scheduled for Sunday at 12:30, "so as not to interfere with church services and at the same time allow those who wanted to attend church previous to the calling of the race to do so." Otto Walker of Oakland won the 300 mile race at an average speed of 68 m.p.h., and new world’s record. Although 20,000 people saw the race, it was a financial loss to the City and to its promoters.

BASEBALL

Venice had a pro team called the Tigers but did not support the team very well despite the fact that it had an ace pitcher in Doc White and that the Tiger center fielder was the league’s batting champion. According to the Los Angeles Times only about 75 fans showed up for Tiger home games, and not many of them actually paid admission. In an attempt to stir up interest, stunt flyer Frank Stites was called in to drop a series of baseballs from a height of 800 feet into the hands of a waiting player. But that didn’t seem to make any difference as far as attendance was concerned; it remained low. The team was owned by Eddie Maier of the Maier Brewing Co. of Los Angeles. Maier had substantial investments in Venice property. Happy Hogan was the popular manager.

January 1915 the players got upset when a half Chinese, half Hawaiian outfielder was signed by the team. Many of the players objected because he was too dark. But Tiger Walter McCredie was quoted, "I don’t think the color of the skin ought to be a barrier in baseball." Although Blacks were barred from pro-ball there was no rule clearly stated against Mexicans or Hawaiians.’’

SWIMMING

Probably the one sport that everyone participated in was swimming. Special swimming clubs existed and when they got together for a day at the beach competitions were held. The Ladies’ Swimming Club, the Athletic Club, and the Venice Bath House all sponsored swimming events. Such events attracted up to 5,000 people.

Venice made much ado about its lifeguards. One day an LA man got caught in a rip tide and was being pulled out to sea. Hundreds on the beach saw him waving frantically but mistook it "as a friendly salutation" and excitedly waved back. He was rescued. Many articles appeared in the paper praising the fantastic lifeguards and the many people whom they saved.

Two former Venice women, Nita and Lyba Sheffield taught women’s swimming at USC. And two nationally ranked amateur swimmers Aileen Allen and Dorothy Burns, lived in Venice.

Like everything else swimming was capitalized on as a tourist attraction. In June 1916 Venice publicized an aquatic festival in the Lagoon, which featured women swimmers, canoe tilting, dunking contests, diving exhibitions by champion female divers, surf board riding and a water-borne parade of floats.

Venetians participated in a wide variety of other sports, including golf at the Pinehurst Club, bowling, billiards, ice skating, and hunting bird and deer in Topanga Canyon. Venice had a Gun Club that sponsored rabbit shoots and trap or skeet competitions. There were occasional competitions with the Los Angeles Gun Club. Ralph Spotts was its champion while Heine Pferrman was the most well-known skeet shooter in Venice.

Bowling was popular as well with Venice, Ocean Park, Santa Monica and Los Angeles all fielding teams. Venice bowlers were sponsored by a local drug store and were known as "The Peoples Drug Team."

A women’s tennis club, a rugby club, and a Venice Boys Athletic Club also existed. The members of the Athletic Club entertained their parents and members debated the unathletic subject of "wet vs. dry."

Muscle building was also practiced and the center of activity here was the Venice Athletic Club which held demonstrations in club-swinging and bag-punching.

Venice High School was the focus of much sports attention. Track, field, swimming and football were all played. Venice’s founder Abbot Kinney took special interest in amateur athletics, especially for high school students. A special 8-event meet was held which Kinney sponsored and he provided a trophy for the winner.

CONCLUSION

Venice must have been an interesting and unpredictable place to live and visit in the years 1914-1916. There was much to offering the way of entertainment and sporting events. The city’s economy was dependent on entertainment to attract large crowds. The summer months seemed to be an especially busy time of the year in Venice. Any excuse was used to declare a holiday (even if it was not a legal one) in order to play and/or to make money. And the entertainment and sporting events were not second rate. The image seemed to be, then as now, that Venice offered something to everyone, it tried very hard to be all things to all people, but mostly it was really fun and games.

 

 

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