Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Memories of Baldwin Hills Village


The Miller Family at their three bedroom apartment at the newly opened Baldwin Hills Village, ca. 1943


Memories of Baldwin Hills Village
By Georgiana Miller Searles, June, 2010

     Georgiana Miller Searles, who now lives in North Carolina, made a return visit to the Village Green in 2009.  She has graciously allowed me to share her recollections of her early life at Village Green, and these photographs.  She also shared some more extensive memories of the Baldwin Hills School, which will be incorporated into a future post.
     Not only are oral histories and old photographs like this entertaining and interesting, but they help  when we research the history of the Village.  They have proven invaluable for tree and plant species identification,  paint application styles, as well as other changes over time.

     My family moved to 5212 Village Green in the winter of 1942/43 because my father, C. Edward Miller, had taken a job at North American Aviation, his contribution to the war effort.  My mother was Jean Denney Miller.  Both she and my father went to Los Angeles High School and graduated from Pomona College in 1933.  I was born in December, 1936 and my brother, Denney Miller, in April, 1939. 

     The years in “The Village” were magical for us kids and this is especially significant because we were living through World War II, a time of serious limitations and fears.  The Village was a safe place with good people all around and great places to play, indoors and out.  



The playground of the first Baldwin Hills School.  The school had temporary structures, but was in the same location as the current Baldwin Hills Elementary School.


     In my case, I also had extended family living in The Village.  My mother’s parents, Albert and Eleanore Denney, lived there, as did my father’s Aunt Betty, Elizabeth Miller, who raised my father and his three younger brothers after their mother died when my father was 7 1/2.  Marjorie Swift Miller, the wife of one of those brothers, George, and their young son, Kendall, lived in The Village too, while George was serving as an Army major in the Phillipines.  In late 1945, he returned and also lived in The Village, just across the green from us.  This meant that I could wander and play freely and safely, I could visit my grandparents or my aunt (who was like a grandmother to me) often.  


Georgie's friend Naomi "Ann" Dillon, ca 1946

     The Village was a great place to play.  No streets, multiple playgrounds and “greens”, and the garage courts which were great for playing “Hide and Go Seek”.  The olive trees on our green were great for climbing!  The edges of the playground in our court, anyway, were planted in natal plums which were awful to roll into because of their thorniness!  I also recall seeing my first TV in the village, about 6” square, fuzzy, and, of course, black and white, but quite a marvel to us.  We had a great time trick or treating, planning our “tricks” and going from apartment to apartment.  


The Miller apartment at 5212 Village Green, 1943.

     The clubhouse was used for many things.  I recall great 4th of July parties, including a dunking booth in which my dad was the “dunkee”,  3-legged races and other such contests.  There were also many adult activities in the clubhouse.  My dad was a square dance caller and my parents loved to dance, so I spent many hours watching the dancing.  There was a small pre-school in the clubhouse where my brother went before he was old enough to go to school.  I also remember going to a Sunday School class in the clubhouse and while there, hearing of Franklin Roosevelt’s death.

     This was war time and many families, including ours, planted “Victory Gardens” across Coliseum Street from The Village, which was then just open fields. We also used to play in those fields which smelled, delightfully to me, of fennel.  The Victory Garden was one of many patriotic efforts during this period.  I also remember saving “tin foil” off everything including gum wrappers, string, and bacon grease.  My mother had to use rationing stamps to buy much of our food.  Gas was rationed so we couldn’t travel much, another reason we were fortunate to have so much family in The Village.



Jean Denney Miller, Georgie Miller and Denney Miller at 5212 Village Green in Garage Court 3.
     I remember “VJ Day”, when the war finally ended.  We drove around The Village honking the horn on our car.  Something bad, from my point of view, came of that, though, because we left our cat inside and she had an accident while we were gone and my dad banished her from the house.  Living outdoors, she soon got into some poison and died.   


Georgie Miller outside 5212 in 1946.  Photographs like this help us identify plant species, and this photo helped to pinpoint the year the paint palette changed.

     In the late summer of 1948 we moved to Glendale.  Our house was a “prefab”, encouraged by one of the Village architects, Bob Alexander, who was a friend of my parents.  My mother tells me that me the move was prompted by an experience in which my brother wanted to pitch a tent on one of the greens and was told he couldn't.  Camping was important in my family!  But, I know they also felt it was time to have our own home and property.  


3 comments:

  1. Fascinating. Well written. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Where do you suppose the picture with the title, "Georgie's friend Naomi "Ann" Dillon," was taken?

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  3. She is standing outside of Building 13, in Garden Court 2/3. Your bungalow is in the building in the background, on the left.

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