Life Magazine has opened its archives and I found a treasure trove of photos - from the expanse of the Crenshaw Mall to Fats Domino on Central Avenue.

You can see saxophonist Herbert Hardesty playing his instrument on floor as rhythm section of Fats Domino's band accompanies him in "Don't You Know," at 54 Ballroom on Broadway in 1955.

A series of photographs were taken of the "Crenshaw Center" shortly after it's 1947 opening - making it the first mall in the United States.

In this 1949 photo, the trucks entered Crenshaw Center through a tunnel, never blocking traffic. Hard to tell where that is but you can see the May Co. in the background.

The parking lot of the Crenshaw mall. But look at those Baldwin Hills, View Park and Angeles Vista. Nothing is there in 1949.

Many of the photos marveled at the 10.5 acre parking lot. According to MallHistory.Com, the mall "encompassed 555,000 square feet of retail space, and included a Woolworth 5 and 10 and Von's supermarket.

In this 1953 you can see the Woolworth's. (info now at "The shopping center's orientation may seem strange today. Storefronts were built against the sidewalks along Crenshaw Boulevard and Santa Barbara Avenue, with thirteen acres of parking being situated in the rear. The "parking lot in front" plan had not yet become the shopping center design standard.

This open-air, linear shopping center underwent a major renovation in the late 1980's. Portions were torn down, and a multi-level, enclosed, mall structure added to the rear of the Broadway store. This extended over Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, to join with the May Company building on the other side of the street. A multi-level parking garage was also built. Around this time, the center, which now had 850,000 square feet of retail space, was renamed BALDWIN HILLS-CRENSHAW PLAZA.

Magic Johnson Theater came in 1995 and in 2003, Walmart opened its first three-level store, occupying the old Broadway building.

The caption from the July 1966 photo from Life: "Children holding hands while crossing street, w. storefront in rear covered w. graffiti fr. '65 Watts riots indicating black-ownership & support of violence." Is that really what the graffiti meant? Anybody know?

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Comment by enhager on November 28, 2011 at 10:16am

Check out this question about the 54 Ballroom on Broadway -

Comment by Eric L. Wattree on December 1, 2010 at 5:17pm
Hey Ernie,

Do you remember how exciting it was to go to downtown L.A. during the Christmas season, with all of the people milling about, the smell of popcorn and candy from Newberry's and Kresse's in the air, and Santa Claus, right there in the flesh, ringing his bell. And everywhere you looked there were goodies and toys - bicycles, skates, and real American Flyer electrict trains, just like the ones on the Engineer Bill show.

But check this out - I think Engineer Bill had a private joke going on at our expense. Do you remember when he would go off the air saying, "Happy Highball, engineers!" I think that's why after I got grown I had this irresistable urge to have me a highball every night. As a matter of fact, I think I'm about to have me one right now.

M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E - See ya soon, kids.
Comment by Eric L. Wattree on December 1, 2010 at 4:56pm
Me too, Ernie. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking home after taking a sax class on Wilmington and Imperal. As I was walking North on Wilmington everything seemed perfectly normal. But when I reach 103Rd. Street, and turned the corner, all Hell was breaking loose. People was breaking windows, tearing down those metal gates in front of the stores, running down the street with sofas and television sets, and one group commadeerd one of those old Atkins buses and filled it up with furniture out of Nat Diamond's. It was the damndest thing I'd ever seen.

But there was one thing that struck me about that episode, even as a kid. While the media played it up as a race riot brought on by anger in the community, I noticed that they weren't so angry that they took that madness outside the hood. For most of the people I knew, hey were just whipped into a frenzy over the opportunity to get something for free. That's when I first began to realize how the media creates its own stories. After the people got hom and heard the media saying that it was a race riot over their new television sets, people started sayin', "Yeah, that's what it is - a race riot!" Then the demagogues took over and ran with it.
Comment by Ernie Mixon on April 13, 2010 at 11:01pm
oh yea, about the signs on this building regarding "burn--" a very popular radio DJ on radio station KGFJ 1230 AM - named Montague... had a catch phase he would alway say ... "Burn Baby Burn" ... which actually meant burn the midnight oil towars reading your books to learn... - but rioters in the streets of LA during these riots shouted "burn baby burn" as they tossed moletove (sp) cocktails into building when they burned and looted them.... taking a positive phase and making it a deadly negative one during the riots... That's what tha "Mont--- out of view was about... Monteque! - The graffiti on this building was identifing it as a black owned business...
Comment by Ernie Mixon on April 12, 2010 at 7:11pm
Wow! Eddie.. these pictures take me all the way back to my youth in Los Angeles. I remember the old big Crenshaw Mall... I would get excited when my Mom would take me and brothers and sisters to it from the East side of LA. It was big deal to me as a kid. I remember seeing the 54ballroom on 54th & Broadway also... I knew it was a famous place... that black/white with my man on the floor blowing that Sax is classic! ...

Thank you for allowing an ol "baby boomer" like me to take a trip down memory lane. I am going to check that site out. It's great being a part of the Leirmert Park Beat... It keeps me connected to my roots.
Comment by maria on April 12, 2010 at 10:59am
I believe the building is still there. It was just a bunch of little stores I think, I would have never guessed that it was a club before. Its a shame that its not preserved. I'll check out the record, and it might be a nice gift for my brother's upcoming birthday since he's a huge fan of doo wops and L.A. history. Thanks!
Comment by enhager on April 12, 2010 at 10:42am
Recorded in Aug 7, 1965-Aug 8, 1965, not that long ago really. not long at all.
Comment by enhager on April 12, 2010 at 10:41am
Ahh it's the 5/4 ballroom.

Check out this record - Stax Revue Live at the 54 Ballroom [Live] - and the line up!

1. Green Onions - Booker T & The MGs
2. You Can't Sit Down - Booker T & The MGs
3. Summertime - Booker T & The MGs
4. Soul Twist - Booker T & The MGs
5. Bootleg - Booker T & The MGs
6. Don't Have To Shop Around - Mad Lads (1)
7. Candy - Astors
8. Last Night - Mar-Keys
9. Any Other Way - Bell, William
10. You Don't Miss Your Water - Bell, William
11. Every Ounce Of Strength - Thomas, Carla
12. Do The Dog - Thomas, Rufus
13. Walking The Dog - Thomas, Rufus

Is it still there? What did it look like when you were growing up?
Comment by maria on April 12, 2010 at 10:34am
No, just that I grew up around there in the 80's and my brother would tell me it used to be a cool place where famous singers would perform. I couldn't believe it. lol
Comment by enhager on April 12, 2010 at 10:27am
SO noted! Thanks for the correction - any recollections you can share?

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