I'm Dreaming of an L.A. Christmas

Million Dollar Theater

On Sunday afternoon and in a holiday mood, I went with some friends downtown. We had tickets to a showing of Miracle on 34th Street, a movie that I remember in fragments from the days of black-and-white TV. (Edmund Gwenn is Kris Kringle; a very young Natalie Wood learns to make-believe; and the spirit of Christmas is saved by the sly commercialization of the movie's anti-commercialization message.)

Miracle on 34th Street was shown at the historic Million Dollar Theater on Broadway as one of the Los Angeles Conservancy's programs in the street's grand movie palaces. The Million Dollar Theater led them all in 1918. Its 2,300-seat auditorium was at least half-filled for the showing. We sat high in the first tier of the balcony.

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We laughed at the broad jokiness of the movie, but also marveled at the performances by a cast of notable character actors. They were superb: Gene Lockhart, William Frawley, Jack Albertson, Thelma Ritter, and others.

Grand Central Market

When the movie ended and we walked out in a throng of attendees, we turned right and into the Grand Central Market. It was packed, too, and warm. (It was a cold afternoon and, near sunset, getting colder.)

Angels Flight

The market steps up the slope of Bunker Hill, making the Broadway side a little lower than the Hill Street side. The vermillion arch that marks the terminus of Angels Flight funicular is almost directly across Hill Street. We stepped up into the narrow car when it docked and climbed up to seats midway. (The two cars are built like a flight of stairs matching the slope of the track.)

We got to the top of the hill, turned to take some photos is the fading light, and rode down again.

Coles

We retrieved our car and drove down Hill Street to 6th and then across downtown to Coles. Admittedly, it's a hipsterized bar-restaurant today, but the people are friendly, and the bartenders are expert. A couple of drinks later - and after a bowl of chili con carne for me - we drove to the freeway, past long rows of tents and makeshift shelters put up by the city's homeless - a reminder of that miracles were unlikely that night on 6th Street.

It was a thoroughly L.A. holiday season evening, not too nostalgic and tinged with the knowledge that other people's needs are still unmet.

Some might say that the only thing missing was snow. But, who knows, maybe next year.

Snow in 1949

D. J. Waldie, author, historian, and as the New York Times said in 2007, "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history," writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.

The images on this page were taken by flickr users and are used under a Creative Commons License.
Million Dollar Theater by Monk Turner
Grand Central Market by Thomas Hawk
Angels Flight by Thomas Hahusseau
Coles by Alejandro De La Cruz
Snowfall posted at the The Museum of the San Fernando Valley

About the Author

D. J. Waldie is the author of "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir" and "Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles," among other books about the social history of Southern California. He is a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times ...
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