Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Video: Take A Whimsical Trip Down Historic Olvera Street In The 1930s

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

A vintage promotional film of Olvera Street offers a whimsical—and at times peculiar—time capsule of the historic downtown street.

We recently explored the history of Olvera Street when it was named one of the top five "Great Streets Of America" by a national urban planning non-profit. And now an unearthed video titled "A Street Of Memory" offers a colorful glimpse at the bustling activity of what's considered the city's oldest street. The 1930s film about the Mexican-themed shopping plaza is full of dad-jokes—and not without its awkward, dated descriptions—but it definitely adds to the charm.

The video takes us from the street cars, vintage autos and the "bustle of business" of L.A. during the era, and journeys down the street, which "throbs with the spirit of the past" and had only recently been converted into a tourist attraction with historical designs. The video shows shop keepers, pottery makers, food vendors and entertainers dressed in traditional Spanish and Mexican attire. We see shoppers browsing for flowers and exploring the "Indian trading post, El Navajo" for saddles, chairs, drums, arrowheads and more. Other visitors enjoy iced tea and "marvelous Mexican meals" at the still-standing Golondrina Restaurant.

Support for LAist comes from

We also get to see a marionette theater—a precursor to Bob Baker's theater—where the puppets portray the early history of California, which is accompanied by the Mexican Orchestra. There's also some strange, dated moments like when a group of young boys waiting to shine shoes—aka "boot blacks"—scramble to catch money tossed at them.

The video is not without its anachronisms, but it's definitely a fascinating portrait of a moment in L.A.'s past.