Between radio transmissions and helicopters and planes, the airspace over Echo Park has been a busy place for a long time, even though police activity has been quieter in the last couple of years: the spotlight searches that used to be commonplace, until a year or two ago, have become infrequent. But there still are the scores of choppers following the greenbelt from Griffith Park and Elysian Park into downtown. There still is routine police traffic, as there is a chopper parking lot not too far away, to the east of Chinatown, but pilots have agreed to fly higher in response to neighborhood pressure. The roof of Echo Park’s tallest and only skyscraper – the ten or so storied former CalFed building – has an active helipad. And then, of course, there are the airshows over Dodger Stadium. When I lived on Sargent Place, next to the Elysian Park, show planes would fly over: I remember the sky darkening suddenly as a giant bat – no, that’s the Stealth Bomber – swooped over our house from the west on its way to the stadium. Perhaps it inspired the Cacophony Society – a merry band of hipster-pranksters – in its launching a few months later of a “UFO” over Elysian Park, a giant, disk-ish shaped balloon with flashing lights that flew to helicopter airspace and drew a crowd on Sargent Place.
All this to say that, apparently, the busy skies of Echo Park are nothing new. Joe D’Augustine emailed me Sunday with a news that the LA Times had republished a 1937 news item, which described the acid rain that ruined the paint on cars. The poison rain came from an air show over Echo Park, and it reminded me of a vintage LAPD archives photograph that showed a downed twin engine plane in which an actor and his date had crashed on the west side of Echo Park, with no fatalities.