Sunday I went on a micro-tour of Echo Park history with Nancy Stone Bernard, an archeaologist who was raised in EP, and Nancy’s friend Joan Weber, who is an artist. The two have been close since childhood, attending Thomas Starr King Junior High together in the late 40s as well as Marshall High School (which was out of district for Nancy).
One of the things I was hoping to gain from a morning walking and driving the neighborhood (and visiting, it turned out) was more knowledge about ‘40s and ‘50s Communists and fellow travelers in Echo Park, which once was nicknamed Red Hill and Red Gulch by the people who lived here. But you really can’t have an agenda when it comes to someone else’s childhood, and so, what I found instead of Communists was a Russian film editor named Jack, his Echo Park-raised wife, Ludmilla, and a pair of dogs named Rasputin and Nicholas, as well as many fine nuggets of EP history.
In Nancy I found a lively, engaged woman who by nature seems oriented in the present – despite her own specialty in “lithics” or stone age technology. She contacted me after reading a review I wrote of the book “Bohemian Los Angeles,” which is about Silver Lake and Echo Park from the 1910s to the 1950s. She was particularly interested in Fellowship Park Way, which some of her parents’ friends had created, in honor of Ralph Waldo Emerson and, perhaps, Benjamin Mills of the Los Angeles Fellowship, a spiritual group modeled after the Ethical Culture Society.