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Early Sawtelle Stories

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West Los Angeles is a relatively new urban area. When the UCLA campus in Westwood opened in 1929, the area boomed. Dirt roads and empty fields became newly-paved roads and one-story bungalows. A small community of Japanese sprang up around Sawtelle and Olympic. They came to plant the grass, flowers and and other greenery needed to garnish the naked new residences. At the boarding house, single men with no experience but only a desire for a job, apprenticed as gardeners. They would get to be known as "brown men" for all the long hours toiling under the hot California sun. They opened barbershops, pool halls, gasoline stands, and markets. They started churches and a Japanese school for their children. The children would grow up to experience the relocation to American incarceration camps during the war and then came back to start their lives anew. They would not just watch, but participate in the growth of Los Angeles to a city of sky-high land values and eight lane freeways. Today Sawtelle is known for its Japanese eateries and boba tea cafes, and of course the Giant Robot stores. There is still a nursery on Sawtelle. The community center and the churches are still there. But the history of Sawtelle, as recent as it may be, is becoming a fading memory. The people who grew up in this neighborhood gathered together on Sawtelle one more time for a sharing of personal stories on Saturday, November 1, 2008.

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community history

bokinaka — Last modified Mar 02 2016 6:41 p.m.


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