These are some blurbs out of websites that have the history of the Burbank and Magnolia Park area of my grandfather, Earl Loy White. Earl Loy White had two sons, Loy and Perk (Perk, my dad was really named Percy, but he hated the name so he called himself Perk). Grandpa White lived from 1891 or so to the early 1970’s. I remember seeing the wall behind Grandpa White’s desk, it had mumerous licenses of all types and awards, he really did get involved in life. He was involved in the Burbank YMCA, and Loy was also even until he was 90+ years of age. There is a YMCA camp named after Grandpa and Grandma White, “Earl Anna” in Tehachapi, California. I remember visting him one day at his apartment in Sherman Oaks a few years before Grandpa and Grandma White died (she died about 1 year later than he did). The thing that stands out to me is he said, “The Lord takes good care of us”. That phrase is one of the reasons I am still involved with a church today and I am 61.
Burbank is a city built by People, Pride, and Progress. These three ingredients turned a tiny, rural town into the thriving community it is today.
In the beginning, the land occupied by the present City was part of two large Spanish land grants. The first was the vast Rancho San Rafael, granted to Don Jose Maria Verdugo by the Spanish government in 1798. Nearby Rancho La Providencia was created following Mexico’s successful bid for independence from Spain in 1821.
The real history of the city, though, began when a New Hampshire dentist headed west with the thousands of Americans seeking new opportunities. This was at a time when men like Isaac Lankershim and Isaac Van Nuys were changing the face of the San Fernando Valley.
Investing In The Future
Dr. David Burbank was active in Los Angeles real estate when he purchased portions of both ranchos in 1867. He combined them into a large ranch where he raised sheep, built a ranch house (on what was later Warner Bros. backlot) and occasionally sold off small plots of land.
The 1920’s saw a period of growth and real estate development with the population increasing from 2,913 in 1920 to 16,622 in 1930.
Earl L. White knew the value of a connecting link from Burbank to the Cahuenga Pass. When he couldn’t get help from the City, he cleared the underbrush through Dark Canyon and graded the street. This link is now Barham Blvd. and Hollywood Way. Earl L. White knew the value of a connecting link from Burbank to the Cahuenga Pass. When he couldn’t get help from the City, he cleared the underbrush through Dark Canyon and graded the street. This link is now Barham Blvd. and Hollywood Way.
White developed the Magnolia Park area and by 1929, more than 3,500 homes had been built. The area had a shopping center at the corner of Hollywood Way and Magnolia Blvd., a bank, Burbank’s first radio station, KELW, and Magnolia Park’s own newspaper, The Tribune.
White developed the Magnolia Park area and by 1929, more than 3,500 homes had been built. The area had a shopping center at the corner of Hollywood Way and Magnolia Blvd., a bank, Burbank’s first radio station, KELW, and Magnolia Park’s own newspaper, The Tribune. Earl L. White knew the value of a connecting link from Burbank to the Cahuenga Pass. When he couldn’t get help from the City, he cleared the underbrush through Dark Canyon and graded the street. This link is now Barham Blvd. and Hollywood Way. White developed the Magnolia Park area and by 1929, more than 3,500 homes had been built. The area had a shopping center at the corner of Hollywood Way and Magnolia Blvd., a bank, Burbank’s first radio station, KELW, and Magnolia Park’s own newspaper, The Tribune.
Magnolia Park, established on Burbank’s western edge in the early 1920s, had 3,500 houses within six years after its creation. When the city refused to pay for a street connecting the subdivision with the Cahuenga Pass, real estate developer Earl L. White did it himself and called it Hollywood Way. White was owner of KELW, the San Fernando Valley’s first commercial radio station, which went on the air February 13, 1927.
The city’s Magnolia Park area, bordered by West Verdugo Avenue to the south and Chandler Boulevard to the north, is known for its small-town feel, shady streets and Eisenhower-era storefronts. Most of the homes in the area date to the 1940s, when they were built for veterans of World War II. Central to the community is Magnolia Boulevard, known for its antique shops, boutiques, thrift shops, corner markets, and occasional chain stores.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 set off a period of hardship for Burbank where business and residential growth paused. The effects of the Depression also caused tight credit conditions and halted home building throughout the area, including the city’s Magnolia Park development. Around this time, major employers began to cut payrolls and some plants closed their doors forever.
Around this time, Burbank City Council responded by slashing 10% from the wages of city workers. Money was put into an Employee Relief Department to help unemployed. Local civic and religious groups sprang into action and contributed with food as homeless camps began to form along the city’s Southern Pacific railroad tracks. Hundreds began to participate in self-help cooperatives, trading skills such as barbers, tailors, plumbers, or carpenters for food and other services.
Beautiful Downtown Burbank
You’re probably familiar with the expression ‘Beautiful Downtown Burbank’ which was applied wryly to that part of The Valley in the greater Los Angeles conurbation known as the City of Burbank. Home of TV and movie studios now, but 75 years ago it was no more than a peaceful rural area on the other side of the Hollywood Hills. They canned peaches there, and the peaches were grown locally.
In 1934, New Zealand radio listener Eric Shackle regularly tuned to the early morning show from short lived Burbank radio station KELW on 780 kc. At this time of the day, KELW broadcast a two hour Spanish language program hosted by Pedro Gonzalez, one of the earliest Tejano music performers.
KELW was a radio station on air for only ten years from Burbank, roughly between February 1927 and 1937. It was started by Burbank real estate developer Earl L White, who gave his initials to the new radio station.
The first night of broadcast, on Saturday, February 12, 1927, saw many local and civic dignitaries join Earl White at the KELW studios. White was soon proud that KELW could be heard as far to the east as New York City, and was heard well throughout the western states.
During this time of ‘chaos’ in American radio, when stations could choose their own frequency and transmitter power, KELW used the wide coverage frequency of 560 kc and an initial power of 250 watts.
By mid-1927, the new Federal Radio Commission forced ‘wavejumper’ KELW to move to 1310 kc. Here it could still operate almost fulltime, as KPPC in Pasadena, which shared the frequency, only broadcast for a few hours on Sundays and Wednesdays. By 1928, KELW had increased power to 500 watts and famous personalities lined up to be heard, including evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and humorist Will Rogers.
Unfortunately, about 15 months later, The White Spot of the Fernando Valley as KELW called itself, was compelled to move yet again, to a new frequency of 780 kc. Worse, it had to share time on the frequency with KTM Santa Monica, which meant that advertising and sponsorship income fell from November 11,1928.
When the Great Depression hit in late 1929 and 1930, White was wiped out financially, and couldn’t afford to keep KELW running. It was then taken over by a group licensed as Magnolia Park Limited.
White had developed the Magnolia Park section of Burbank with tract homes, a shopping center, a movie theater, his own newspaper The Tribune and his radio station KELW at 3702 Magnolia Boulevard. So, with White out of the picture, KELW remained in the studios on Magnolia.
KELW now promoted itself as Official Broadcasting Station for the Federated Church Brotherhoods of California (authorized by W P Willimott, General Secretary on June 19, 1934) as well as the American Legion Post 150 with ‘news and programs of Legion activities broadcast daily’.
At this time, the KELW schedule was 4am-6am, 10am-1pm and 5pm-8pm daily, or just eight hours a day. Although located in Burbank, the station also maintained a sales office in Los Angeles to increase advertising income. The rest of the broadcasting day on 780 kc was given over to KTM which used a more powerful transmitter.
By 1935, KTM had become KEHE, named after the Los Angeles Evening Herald Newspaper and was the Los Angeles station for Hearst Radio Inc, part of the Hearst media empire. At the same time, KEHE bought KELW and ran both stations, sharing the same frequency of 780 kc. This effectively gave Hearst Radio a fulltime signal on 780 kc although via two separate FCC licences, two callsigns, and even two transmitters.
In 1937, KEHE was authorized by the FCC to increase power from 1000 to 5000 watts daytime and from 500 to 1000 watts nighttime, and to merge operations with KELW. At this time, KELW had been operating with 1000 watts daytime and 500 watts nighttime as well.
The KELW licence was deleted in 1937 and KEHE went on to eventually become KABC on 790 kc. With 5000 watts, KABC has always been heard well in New Zealand. And the studios at 3702 Magnolia? They were demolished around 1995-1996. Whilst living in Los Angeles in 1988-1992, like many others, I must have driven past the old KELW building more than once without knowing it was there.
In a 1934 letter from KELW to its New Zealand listener, the Program Director wrote: We broadcast a Mexican program every morning from 4am to 6am PST. What you heard was an imitation prize fight. They put it on just for the fun of it right in the studio. I think the programs from 4am to 6am are rather interesting as they are always putting on something a bit different. Have you heard their duck? He performs over the mike quite often.
As well as this duck, a former telegraph operator from Chihuahua in Mexico, one Pedro Gonzalez, also performed over the KELW mike in the mornings.
Listeners in Burbank, all over southern California, and as far away as New Zealand, were actually listening to the birth of tejano music, the music style which has now become a multi-million dollar industry reflecting the culture of the borderlands between northern Mexico and southern California.
Pedro was a refugee of the Mexican Revolution. Originally condemned to death by firing squad by Pancho Villa, his life was saved when local schoolchildren placed themselves between him and the firing squad. He was later to marry one of the schoolgirls, but in the meantime, he was given a choice, join Pancho Villa or die. He stayed with the army of Villa until 1917 when it fell out of favor in Mexico.
During the 1920’s and early 1930’s, Pedro Gonzalez became immersed in the emerging Chicano culture of Los Angeles, and eventually became one of the most popular radio announcers, writers and singers in the southwest during a period which witnessed an explosion of Spanish language broadcasting and recordings.
Pedro’s show, commercially sponsored by Folger’s coffee was first broadcast on KMPC in Los Angeles, and later, KELW in Burbank.
Although these stations both normally broadcast in English, this early Spanish language program was possible because of the sponsorship income. Pedro broadcast live from the heart of the Chicano community from 4am to 6am every morning. Throughout the southwest, thousands of Mexicans, up at the crack of dawn to go to work in the canneries, factories and fields, tuned in to hear their favorite announcer and recording star.
Pedro’s show was to provide a vehicle for many young singers and musicians, who got their first breaks with him. Out of this confluence of talent emerged a unique style of music associated with Los Angeles. However, no group was as popular as Pedro’s own.
The group called themselves, aptly for the broadcast time, Los Madrugadores (The Early Risers) and they recorded over 100 songs on Columbia, OKEM, Victor and other labels. Pedro himself wrote many famous songs in this time including Sonora Querida and Lavaplatos.
The story of Pedro Gonzalez was eventually told in the Emmy Award winning 1983 TV documentary Ballad of an Unsung Hero on San Diego PBS outlet KPBS-TV and later broadcast nationwide over the PBS network.
More recently, Arhoolie Records of El Cerrito, CA released a collection of original recordings by Los Madrugadores, including a 28 page booklet with more information about Pedro and his program over KELW.
February 9, 1927 Los Angeles
Sure, while we’ve repeatedly reported to you about blindfolded drivings—today was announced something that actually guarantees splintering wood and crunching metal.
Finley Henderson has a really good idea: dive an airplane from a height of 1,000 feet, clip the wings from the machine between two telegraph poles, and crash into a bungalow with the remains of his plane at sixty miles an hour.
Don’t worry: he wears the shoulder and shin guards of the football field, the breast pad of the baseball umpire and a catcher’s mask. Kids, try this at home. Above your home. Into your home.
For the record, when the stunt was performed on February 20, Finley emerged unscathed, smoking a cigarette. And then noted for the wowed crowd and boys of the press “The stunt is easy if you know how to do it.”
Finley made the news again in June, when, at the Glendale Airport Air Rodeo, just as he was stepping into his plane (this time, to crash into a barn), in front of all those eager spectators, United States Deputy Marshal Charles F. “Spoil Sport” Walsh served Finley a summons. Hot on Walsh’s heels were pansy Capts. Walter F. Parkin and William B. Breingan, of the recently created Aeronautics Branch, United States Department of Commerce (oh, Mary), there to enforce their writ of injunction restraining Finley from performing the stunt.
Apparently, these hi-falutin’ aeronautics fellows have just made stunting within five miles of a regularly established and operated air line against the law…apparently also is flying a plane that is wholly unsafe, and is likely to collapse upon the audience when in flight.
But wasn’t that part of the thrill? No wonder we went into a depression.
On Sunday, March 4, 1923, a 450-acre tract opened in the Magnolia Park area. Earl L. White, a dairy operator, aimed his real estate promotion at the middle income group. White cleared the property with mule teams, graded and improved the streets, built some houses, and began a sales campaign. Two hundred fifty salesmen took prospective buyers around to view lots and houses. Mr. White knew the value of a connecting link from Burbank to Cahuenga Pass and asked for help from the city. When he was unable to get the help, he cleared the underbrush through Dark Canyon and graded the street. This “connecting link” is now Barham Boulevard and Hollywood Way.
Earl L. White built and sold Magnolia Park’s first plat of 147 homes. His company handled $18,000,000 worth of real estate transactions in seven years by attracting customers with street dances and spectacular airplane stunts.
Mr. White also built a shopping center at the corner of Hollywood Way and Magnolia Boulevard. It included a bank, sub post office, daily newspaper, radio station, dry goods store, beauty and barber shop, shoe store, hardware store, electric shop, and even a mortuary. The newspaper, The Burbank Tribune, had more paid subscribers than any other daily in the valley at that time. Publication of this newspaper stopped in the early days of the depression.
During the booming days of the 1920’s the Burbank Daily Tribune, a unit of the Earl L. White setup, flourished for a time but retired from the field in the early days of the depression.
KELW (Kall Earl L. White) started as a 1,000 watt radio station in 1927. The Hearst newspaper syndicate bought the station in 1935 and changed the call letters to KEHE. In 1939, the station was purchased by Earle C. Anthony and became KECA. In 1944, Mr. Anthony sold the station to the Blue Network. That same year the Blue Network was changed to the American Broadcasting Company and the call letters became KABC.
By 1929, over 3,500 homes had been built in the Magnolia Park area. The “Big Depression” of the 1930’s robbed Magnolia Park of its radio station and daily newspaper, and stopped all real estate promotion. It was almost 10 years before the area again boomed.