Comments from MrDavila

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MrDavila commented about Golden Gate Theatre on Dec 22, 2004 at 2:40 pm

The other day I drove down to Whittier Blvd, after many years away, and I could hardly recognize the place I once knew. So, I decided to park my car off a side street to stroll around and take a closer look. I walked along Whittier Blvd the same very same path I took while growing up in East L.A. To my horror, instead of being sentimental about being in my old stomping grounds I was in culture shock. I have to admit I felt like I was somewhere in a third world country. The place seemed so foreign to me. I have visited the Tijuana main shopping district on a few occasions and Whittier Blvd today mirrors it. It is evident that the new generation of immigrants have transformed every aspect of the area to reflect the environment of their origins. District politicians and area Supervisors have turned a blind eye or encouraged Whittier Blvd social and physical decline instead of fighting for it’s preservation apparently to appease its new residents. It is sad because gone are the distinct American cultural icons I remember growing up i.e. those lunch counters and hot dog/hamburger stands, coffeshops, the five & dime stores, department stores, drug stores, professional businesses, and the handsome shows like the Grand Golden Gate Theatre that once called this famous boulevard home. On the day of my visit, these places were almost unrecognizable remnants that were either condemned, in bad decay or hidden behind overdeveloped storefronts that all seemed alike to me. The many shops along the Boulevard were overdeveloped tightly packed one next to the other. The storefronts were cloned storage unit designs with a roll top security grate front entryway. It was hard to tell where the doorway was. It was just an open space between the sidewalk and the inside to the store. I noticed, also, that many of the shops were Spanish named. Any effort that was made, by some shopkeepers, to write in English were marred with mistakes and miswording. It really didn’t matter though becuase much of the advertising was done in Spanish. I was trying to find at least one store I could recognize, from my youth, with its traditional frontdoors and wide glass panels featuring mannequins adorned with the latest fashions or merchandise neatly displayed behind the windows inviting customers in. Sadly, I could find none. The merchandise, from many of the stores on the boulevard, were laid out like fruit in a farmer’s market and being sold like at a auction. I noticed so many pushy employees out front trying to hustle their wares in Spanish. It made me feel very uncomfortable. The times sure have changed. Long gone are the days of service with respect and a smile. Back then, any employee rude to customers would be immediately reprimanded or worse fired. It seemed like those pushy employees were more concerned about a quick sale rather than offering good decent customer service. I decided I had and seen enough so I went back to my car and I drove west on the Boulevard toward the Long Beach Freeway. Off to my side, my eyes caught these skinny solitary steel beam towers that were grey in color placed on every other corner which I hadn’t noticed while I was walking. I guess everything seemed to overwhelm me while I was on foot so they were obscured and the fact that they were grey blended into with the color of the sidewalk. Finally, before I reached Ford Boulevard was this huge hideous drab grey steel half soccer ball netted arch structure over Whittier Blvd. If this was a monument of some kind it really looked out of place but so did everything else on this boulevard including those grey skinny steel beams and row upon row of delapidated plain storefronts. Funny thing though the only thing that seemed to match was the color grey. Everything seemed grey and drab. The street I once loved as a kid is only a cherished memory now. The Whittier Blvd of yesterday is a thing of the past yet so much of East LA is too. The K-Mart Shopping Center is overdeveloped too and almost entirely unrecognizable of its former self. Gone too is the classic Army recruiting station near Goodrich & Whittier, as is the Goodrich Tire Company and most of the three great moviehouses on Whittier Blvd. Unfortunately, even streetnames are fair game without regard to preservation. In my personal view, the renaming of Brooklyn Ave was a mistake. The street name was a classic one and familiar to generations of residents. They could have honored Cesar Chavez by renaming Belvedere Third St. Civic Center after him instead of forever erasing Brooklyn Ave from the map. Anyways, Nothing fits like it used to on the day of my visit to Whittier Blvd. It was like scattered puzzle pieces trying to figure out what went where. It is a pity. I truly do not understand why the classic American landscape that was once Whittier Blvd. was not preserved and shared alongside shops that reflect the culture of foreign lands