Honey Writes About Carey McWilliams

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April 1, 2012 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)

I debated with an acquaintance about where a very-well known writer, journalist, editor, activist, historian and lawyer lived in Echo Park, so I researched the question and found that he lived in several places in Echo Park and Silver Lake.

Carey McWilliams ‘ friends included Jake Zeitlin, John Fante, Robinson Jeffers and H.L. Mencken. His first published book was a biography of Ambrose Bierce (1929).

In the 1930s, he worked with the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild and represented workers, helped organize unions and guilds and served as a trial examiner for the National Labor Relations Board.

His Southern California: An Island on the Land (revised edition 1973) is the seminal book on injustice in Los Angeles and inspired the screenplay for Chinatown. His Factories in the Field (1939) shattered myths about Central Valley agriculture. The book condemns the politics and consequences of large-scale agribusiness.

He never joined the American Communist Party; yet, the FBI denounced him as a known Communist. His Witch Hunt (1950) attacked the McCarthy era. J. Edgar Hoover placed him on his Custodial Detention List, which made McWilliams a candidate for detention in case of national emergency, although he was a prominent state employee at the time. (Peter Richardson, American Prophet: the Life and Times of Carey McWilliams, 2005).

Mike Davis’s City of Quartz (1990) — premised on the thesis that Los Angeles is both the utopia and the dystopia of advanced capitalism — relies in part on McWilliams’ work and sparked a renaissance of the older writer’s analyses and research.

Wikipedia lists the author/lawyer’s address as 2401 North Alvarado (built, according to the Los Angeles County website in 1920).

Glen Creason, map librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library, (Los Angeles in Maps) researched for me where McWilliams lived.

According to voter registration records and the 1930 census, McWilliams lived on Sunset with his mother in 1930. In 1938, he lived at 4047 Berryman, in 1942 at 2250 Lake Shore, in 1944 at 3633 Carnation, and in 1948 and 1950, he is listed at 2041 North Alvarado.

Mr. Creason believed that North Alvarado was in the Silver Lake District. I sent him the link to the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council district map, which shows North Alvarado is in the Echo Park District.

The Los Angeles map expert wrote back in a message: “As far as Echo Park-Silverlake boundaries go, I have never been able to accurately figure it out. Once you go in those hills you never know where you will end up. I know I left a clutch on Baxter one day.” (January 12, 2012 email message)

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