Op-ed by Carleton Cronin
The prospect of going to Plummer Park to be on hand for the installation of John D’Amico as our new mayor has brought to mind my continuing concern with the several Depression Era buildings in the park, all currently at risk of demolition.
I wondered about such things as legacies, the ideas, trinkets, histories and structures from former years, left to us to expand, treasure and tend.
The only item in my care I could call a “legacy” is a 160 year old every day family item.
The one family relic I have from several generations back is Grammy Prescott’s candy dish. It is not a distinguished bit of glass, certainly not Tiffany.
The design is one of another age, of course, and would not find much favor in today’s sophisticated world of design. It is made of two pieces: an upside-down cone shape on a flat base and a spindle-topped cover. It stands about nine inches tall. Both parts are engraved with simple designs and gold leaf remains even on the edges of each piece.
It was given to my maternal great- grandmother on her wedding day by her neighbor, Mrs. Slater, so goes the history I was given of the piece. That would make the item about 160 years old. I have seen it all my life and fondly recall it containing nonpareils, a favorite candy in earlier days. It gets only occasional use these days, sometimes holding Hanukah gelt – since we celebrate everything in this mixed heritage family.
This glass object is pretty much all that is left after years of the family splitting into generations, moving about the world, members dying, yet it is in my care along with some papers and old photos taken with the early Brownie camera.
They are in my charge to keep well and to move them on to one of my children who would care for them.
Along with other letters, photos and newspaper clippings and photos, they constitute the physical elements of our family legacy.
Not very much to retain, to manage, certainly not a burden. I have enclosed all the paper items within plastic sleeves and have done the same for the photos, so that whichever of my children will take care of these mementos, they will arrive to him in good order.
But, what good are they in this day of electronic memory, extremely short attention spans and a distaste for anything “old.”? I suspect that it is too old-fashioned for today’ sophisticated citizens to bother, but, as the eldest of four children in my generation, it became my duty to keep these items, especially Grammy Prescott’s candy dish, for it is one-of-kind and nearly all members of my family have used it as long as it has existed.
I consider it a welcome duty to retain touch with the past. Some days it makes all the writhing and twitching of existence worthwhile when I take time to ponder how my ancestors might have had to live. It was a harsher time 160 years ago, and to think that they could have had the opportunity to enjoy a piece of candy now and then makes them more relevant for me…
It is a relic of our past, yet still usable. Thus, we come to Plummer Park, allegorical candy dish in West Hollywood.
These two buildings, with design features familiar to Southern California’s Spanish heritage are well-built – have “good bones” as my architect son says. Sure, the utilities are probably a couple of decades old and creaky, but they can be replaced. The roof tiles are still being manufactured out in Riverside Country and available to replace the broken tiles, to protect the roof.
Fiesta Hall is basically – well, a hall.
It’s big enough for a basketball court – almost.
There is nothing in it which could not be replaced or repaired.
The place still has charm, faded, yes, but recognizable.
Yet, you and I know that the idea of moving the buildings to another place (where?) is merely a holding inaction.
The buildings are not recognized by the council as a legacy. It has become a burden to a city council which still wants an underground garage – though they say not.
For me the whole business comes down to whether or not these buildings are recognized as a legacy by the people we continually elect to represent us, to take care of our needs while they also disregard with our wants.
My energies for challenging Council actions are pretty well sapped by now and I only regret that we cannot see into the future to see how other legacies will be treated.
For instance, will our new library have to be razed one day to make way for more parking spaces? Perhaps a day will come when there is no such thing as protecting a structure or a place as a legacy, when everything is as replaceable as a razor blade and valued less.
I hate to think of Grammy Prescott’s candy dish being used as an ash tray or discarded as irrelevant. Who will there be to care for such things?
Discarding the irreplaceable is an all-too human trait and done usually for the shortest term rewards.