Downtown’s Living Museum

The "Once Upon A Book..." display at Williams' Book Store in downtown is one of many window displays the San Pedro Bay Historical Society have used as a living museum to tell the history of San Pedro.

In an effort to celebrate the past and the present of a city that so many have called home, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society has used the beauty of photos and downtown storefronts to give the residents a history lesson.

In lieu of an actual museum, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society has created a museum on the canvas of the downtown area through the project “Windows Into the Past.”

The project is the brainchild of Doris Theriault, a lifelong San Pedro resident and volunteer at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society.

As with most non-profits, money has always been a struggle for the historical society, but Theriault said she didn’t want money to be the reason San Pedro didn’t have a museum.

“Why not use the canvas that is already here,” she says. “I woke up one morning, and thought that the windows of businesses downtown would be a perfect canvas to create a museum for all of San Pedro to enjoy.”

Theriault and her colleagues at the San Pedro Bay Historical Society started approaching downtown businesses, going through photos and creating themes.

“It was a relatively simple process,” she says. “The history is great, the businesses were accommodating and the public’s response has been overwhelming.”

The project commemorates and celebrates San Pedro’s 125 year past, while educating both residents and tourists about the most critical points in the city’s history.

“The project has been a great success,” she says. “It’s allowed us to tell San Pedro’s story through photos – it’s been great for not only participating businesses, but each of San Pedro’s residents who have taken in photos and learned a bit more about the city they call home.”

“Windows Into the Past” has created a series of historical exhibits, each of which have the goal to tell a story and give a lesson of the past, in downtown business windows.

Lucero Newcomer, owner of the Le Grand Salon Lucero in downtown, says her customers have really enjoyed the display, titled “Smiles of the 70s.”

She says that all of her customers have asked about it. Adding that it is “really nice to have it, to be involved in such a cool celebration.”

“It’s really nice to have [the display], it’s beautiful,” Newcomer says. “We love our community, we love our old town – and this is a way we can contribute and help to celebrate San Pedro and all of its history.”

Vinyl historical posters line other businesses to continue the history lesson.

In all, there are 97 different themed windows at 55 locations in the downtown area. At these 55 locations, 17 have 2-D designs and 10 have 3-D designs. In addition, there are 29 locations that have posters, all of which are different and unique, these celebrate the 29 cultural landmarks in San Pedro.

The San Pedro Bay Historical Society received three grants from the Business Improvement District, which helped pay for the film that the photos were printed on. They also received a grant that will help produce the brochure that will be used and distributed for a walking tour.

Theriault says there was no shortage of themes, as San Pedro’s 125-year history is vast.

“We tried to focus on the crucial parts of the city’s history – development of the port, early modes of transportation, restaurants and more,” she says. “Once we had our themes, we tried to pair them with downtown businesses that matched the theme.”

Jerry Gusha of the soon to be closed Williams’ Book Store, says the window display, titled “Once Upon a Book,” has been a great addition to the store.

“Customers really seem to enjoy it,” he says. “It’s been very nice to look at, and it’s a nice way for us to contribute to the neighborhood and the city in which we live.”

The project kicked off last year, in May, and businesses have been eager to participate, says Theriault.

“The feedback has been positive,” she says. “These are photos that most people have never seen, and pieces of information that people, in most cases, didn’t know much about. It is exciting, and a great way to educate the residents and celebrate the city at the same time.

“This is our outdoor museum and it’s very exciting,” she says. “We were able to celebrate our city in a museum that we built on the storefronts of our businesses.” spt

That’s So Pedro

San Pedro is a very unique place with a culture that is extremely specific to our little part of Los Angeles. As San Pedrans, there are certain experiences we’ve all had whether we grew up here or adopted the town as adults: having a sandwich on the coast, our affinity for clothing with “San Pedro” written on it and running into people you know wherever you go. All of these things are SO PEDRO and they should be celebrated.

That’s why my good friend Megan Barnes and I have started a brand new podcast called That’s So Pedro. Not only do we want to celebrate everything Pedro, we also plan to scour the town for news, views and interesting stories to share with you.

Our first episode, released March 1, featured interviews with Doris Theriault, the mastermind of the historical society’s Windows Into The Past project, San Pedro Neighbors for Peace & Justice who recently celebrated their 10th anniversary and Councilman Joe Buscaino days before being re-elected for a second term.

We just recently released our second episode highlighting the annual International Hypnosis Federation annual conference that brings hypnotists from all around the world to our little port town and talk skating with Andy Harris and Bill Sargeant of the San Pedro Skatepark Association.

In addition to the interviews, we infuse the show with headlines, hot topics, sound bytes and a very fun segment called Ask Marija, where the advice is served piping hot by one of San Pedro’s best baristas.

You can listen to the podcast by visiting our website www.thatssopedro.com or directly from our Facebook at facebook.com/thatssopedro. We’re always on the look out for interesting stories, if you have some ideas you can reach us at thatssopedro@gmail.com.

If you have a “So Pedro” to share with us, we have a call-in line where you can leave us a message at (424) 703-4220.

Let Me Show You

Spring is here and the weather in San Pedro is even more perfect than normal. That makes it the perfect time to come out on a walking tour with me. A must see Pedro Primer is the all new San Pedro Conservancy Tour that hits all the gems of downtown. You can check the tour calendar at www.towneetours.com for times.

Those of you who were followers of my first blog, San Pedro: Block by Block, will be glad to know that I have gone back to my roots and started a brand new blog. Show Me, Romee is my way of doubling down on capturing the Pedro experience. One of my most notable segments is the ‘Wheel of Worship’ where I have tasked myself to visit every church and temple in San Pedro that has its own building with a story to tell. I’m also trying to work out the kinks of another ‘spirited’ segment called “Pedro on Tap.” I really love exploring again! You can find my new blog at www.showmeromee.com. spt

A Little Story About Serendipity

It’s funny how things happen.

There we were, ensconced in premium box seats on a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon at the Hollywood Bowl. Esa-Pekka Salonen was on stage conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in rehearsal for an upcoming Saturday night concert. Other than our party of four and the orchestra, the Bowl was completely devoid of people. The orchestra was, in effect, playing a private concert, with editorial comment by the conductor, just for us. The funny part is that we were only there through a crazy series of errors, miscommunications and a serendipitous meeting.

The path to our private concert actually began at a charity fundraiser luncheon arranged by a local pet rescue organization. As is customary at many such events, there were tables full of silent auction items on which to bid. Above each bid sheet on the table was either the actual item offered for bid, or something that represented that item. While perusing the items, my wife, Arlene, came upon a beautiful painting of the Port’s venerable old fireboat, the Ralph J. Scott. She thought it would look nice on the wall at home, so without further thought or investigation, I bid on it. We were surprised and excited when, during lunch, we were told that we had won it. However, when I went to the check-out table to retrieve the painting, I was handed a white envelope with a certificate inside that stated that it was redeemable for a one-hour ride on the fireboat, for a party of four, and dinner with the firemen at the fireboat station. Had we actually read the bid sheet, we’d have known that the painting was just there as a representation of the actual bid item.

The ride and dinner sounded great anyway. So, as instructed on the certificate, we called the appropriate phone number and were given a date and time to be at the fireboat station. To fill out our foursome, we invited our friends Bob Beck and his wife Doris Theriault. The four of us arrived at the fireboat station at the appointed time and – another surprise – no one knew anything about us or our ride and dinner. Someone had failed to notify the firemen on duty that day. Showing the adaptability you would expect from our firemen, however, they made some excuse about one of the guys needing more “water time,” the fireboat was readied and we were off on a wonderful two-hour cruise around the Harbor. Upon our return to the fireboat station, however, we found that the firemen were not planning dinner at the station that evening. There were no provisions or manpower available. After receiving many apologies, and a promise that we could return at another time to join them for dinner, we bid farewell to the men of Fireboat Station 112 and decided to have dinner at Ports O’ Call Restaurant instead.

It was a beautiful evening, so we chose a table on the patio. During dinner, Doris noticed an older man dining alone at an adjacent table and struck up a conversation with him. He introduced himself as Richard Kelly. He told us that he was the long-time principal bass player for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and for the next two hours we listened, transfixed, as he regaled us with stories about playing at all the world’s great orchestral venues. As we said goodnight, he invited us to be his guest for that great Los Angeles Philharmonic rehearsal at the Hollywood Bowl.

In the end, we don’t have a nice painting on our wall, but we certainly do have some great memories. I’ve thought about that serendipitous sequence of events many times over the years and now, whenever things don’t go as planned, I think, “That’s okay, maybe there’ll be a Hollywood Bowl ending.” spt

Herb Zimmer owns PriorityOne Printing in downtown San Pedro