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