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, childrens 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
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
Venices 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 Tillies 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 Gussies 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
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 Ethels
New Dress. Fay Tichner was Venices 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
The shallowness of politicians
honesty, the thin veneer of society, the mockery of love, the blindness
of virtue and the average parents attitude toward truth in all forms,
these together with the farcical modesty of the modern smart girl
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
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 countrys 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 films 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
It is interesting that Venetians enjoyed this forerunner
of todays 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 peoples 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 girls 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. Griffiths 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
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," "Een Your Hairs are Numbered,"
"Selection from Barber of Seville." "Her Golden Hair was
Hanging Down Her Back," "Not Because Your Hair is Curly,"
"Why Wasnt I Born a Blonde?", "That Barber Shop Chord,"
and "Sister Get a Spy-Glass, Babys 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
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 mans 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.
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
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 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
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 Monacas Band participated.
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 its
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 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
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 worlds champion
Irish violinist. Hes no Vsaye or Kubelik - but hes getting
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
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 Childrens
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 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. Marks 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. Patricks 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 worlds record. Although 20,000 people saw the race, it was a
financial loss to the City and to its promoters.
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 leagues 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 didnt 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
dont 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.
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
womens 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 womens 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
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. Venices 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.
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 citys 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.