Free Skid Row history tour and rooftop screening of lost 1949 Downtown L.A. film

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Kim Cooper

Sep 18, 2013, 11:49:50 PM9/18/13
WHAT: Two free back-to-back downtown Los Angeles history events: 1) "Union Rescue Mission Walking Tour: 122 years on Skid Row" and 2) Rooftop screening of "Of Scrap & Steel," a recently-discovered 30-minute color film shot by the Union Rescue Mission in Downtown Los Angeles in 1949 with box suppers available for purchase to benefit the URM
WHERE: Screening held on the newly renovated rooftop of the Union Rescue Mission, 545 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90013; walking tour departs from same location
WHEN: Walking tour is Thursday, October 10, 5-6:15pm; screening is 7-9:30pm (in the event of rain, both events will be rescheduled)
WHO: Event jointly organized by LAVA - The Los Angeles Visionaries Association, the In SRO Land time travel blog and the Union Rescue Mission
COST: Walking tour and screening are free, but space is limited and reservations required from the links below after 9/24: TOUR and SCREENING
RELATED BLOG: Discover the URM's Skid Row history at the In SRO Land blog

LOS ANGELES- October is National Archives Month, and it's also Archives Month in the great state of  California. To celebrate, LAVA - the Los Angeles Visionaries Association is scheduling a pair of free events exploring the newly discovered archives of the Union Rescue Mission, an incredible document of more than a century of little known downtown Los Angeles history, architecture, entertainment and charity. 

On Thursday, October 10, a select group of downtown history fans will gather at sunset on the newly renovated roof of the Union Rescue Mission to see a lost piece of downtown L.A. history come to life and to get an introduction to the URM's century-plus of community service. 

"Of Scrap & Steel," a 30-minute color film shop circa 1949 on Main Street and along Skid Row, is just one of the most remarkable artifacts of mid-century Los Angeles to emerge from the research that contributors to In SRO Land (a time travel blog in the 1947project series) has been doing in the newly-discovered archives of the Union Rescue Mission.

Also offered that afternoon is a free walking tour of historic Skid Row locations associated with the Union Rescue Mission and other institutions that served the needy and addicted in eastern Downtown Los Angeles from the late 19th century through the 1990s.

ABOUT THE FILM: In mid-1948 the Board of Directors of the Union Rescue Mission approved the expenditure of $5,000 to make the 30-minute film "Of Scrap & Steel" which portrays the redemption and good works of Arthur Hawkins, an alcoholic executive who ended up on the streets of Los Angeles and was whose life was saved when he turned to the URM for help. Porter Hall (Arthur Hawkins) is one of only two actors in a film otherwise populated by real Los Angeles characters. (You may recall Hall's performance as the pesky guy on the train in "Double Indemnity.")

"Of Scrap & Steel" was only shown in screenings organized by the URM or related organizations, and would have been completely lost if Liz Mooradian, URM historian, had not saved a deteriorating 16mm print and had it transferred to video before it was too late. "Of Scrap & Steel" is just one of the remarkable artifacts discovered in the Union Rescue Mission archives and explored in the In SRO Land blog.

This entertaining and powerful short film is a compelling snapshot of life on Skid Row (Main Street) circa 1949, and a fascinating document of the important work that the URM continues to do with the most needy in the community. Although downtown Los Angeles features in numerous noir films, it is extremely rare to see color images of eastern downtown, and rarer still to see full-color live-action footage of the vibrant street scene that included rescue missions, pawn shops, amusement parlors, bars, restaurants and the ever-patrolling paddy wagon in search of drunkards to haul away to jail or County work crews.

ABOUT THE SCREENING EVENT: This free rooftop screening is jointly organized by the Los Angeles Visionaries Association, the In SRO Land time travel blog and the Union Rescue Mission. Seating will be provided, and attendees are encouraged to dress warmly for the cool night air. 

Gourmet box dinners, "Meals with a purpose" will be available for purchase ($7, cash only), with a choice of sandwich (vegetarian, roast beef or chicken), cookie, fruit, crackers and beverage. 100% of proceeds from your meal donation goes to the URM, and the proceeds from each dinner will feed two other people.

Rain check: if it's raining on October 10, this event will be rescheduled. 

6pm - Doors open 
7pm-8pm - Box dinners available for purchase
8pm - Introduction to the URM by Rev. Andy Bales, CEO; Historians Nathan Marsak & Richard Schave introduce the film in the context of the neighborhood's history, and their work on the In SRO Land blog.
8:30pm - Film screening
9pm - Q & A
9:30pm - Event ends

To sign up for this free event visit  

ABOUT THE WALKING TOUR: Please join Nathan Marsak & Richard Schave of 1947project and Rev. Andy Bales of the Union Rescue Mission (URM) for "Union Rescue Mission Walking Tour: 122 years on Skid Row," a 90-minute walking tour along the historic paths that have delineated Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. This tour derives from the ongoing 1947project In SRO Land blog series that uses the archives of the URM (founded 1891) as a tool for exploring the social and architectural history of the forgotten people and places of Downtown Los Angeles.

The tour begins with a survey of the early history of the outreach by the URM through its gospel wagon and at two now-lost buildings: the original home at 145 N. Main (now City Hall Lawn) and the long-time location at 226 S. Main (now a parking lot next to the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral).

The main themes will be the evolution of public policy on Skid Row, the transformative work of the URM, and the architectural history of the neighborhood.

The route will include Main Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets (for a then/now comparison of the surviving and demolished locations featured in the 1949 URM-financed short film "Of Scrap & Steel," which will be screened later in the evening in a free event that requires a separate reservation). At 3rd and San Pedro Streets we will discuss the Azusa Street Revival, a transformative event in the spiritual history of Los Angeles and the West. During the walk back to the current home of the URM, Rev. Andy Bales will talk about issues and challenges facing the neighborhood and the URM today.

The rendezvous point for the tour is the URM's headquarters at at 6th and San Pedro Streets. A free shuttle bus will take tour attendees to 2nd and Main Streets, where the walking tour begins. Registration is required, and each attendee must register separately, to ensure sufficient seating on the shuttle bus.

Rain check: if it's raining on October 10, this event will be rescheduled. 

ABOUT 1947project: Launched in 2005, the 1947project series of "time travel blogs" has revealed a forgotten and fascinating city through the lens of historic true crime, social history, architecture and urban development. Blog founders Kim Cooper and Richard Schave also took the show on the road with their Esotouric bus adventures tours, which include such popular excursions as The Real Black Dahlia, Raymond Chandler's L.A., Pasadena Confidential and The Lowdown on Downtown.

1947project readers have become familiar with the lost residential neighborhood of Bunker Hill as it existed before it was cleared by the largest eminent domain action in U.S. history, learned of fascinating true crimes of 1947 that have been overshadowed by the Black Dahlia case, and discovered dozens of incredible characters who came to Los Angeles to find their dreams.

In 2011, 1947project announced the launch of a very special new series, The Union Rescue Mission at In SRO Land.

Past 1947project blogs have always been based in historic newspaper research. That changed with the launch of the first 1947project blog series based entirely on original research in an historic, significant--and previously unknown--Downtown archive, the Archive of the Union Rescue Mission ( 

Since their arrival on Skid Row in 1891 and to the present day, the people of Union Rescue Mission have provided food, housing, clothing, counseling and hope to the most needy of the city, acting as a faith-based flipside to public policy. The very phrase "on the wagon" to describe a reformed alcoholic refers to the URM's famous Gospel Wagon which once rolled up and down the bar-lined streets of eastern Downtown, welcoming aboard anyone who asked for help.

Through this project, the InSROLand bloggers will be revealing never-before-seen documents from more than a hundred years of life-saving and soul-saving work among the poor, the diseased, the drunken and the mad along Skid Row. Themes explored will include TESTIMONIALS (the confessions of former sinners whose lives have been redeemed through the aid of the mission, starting with safecracker Bill Stiles, who claimed to be a member of the Jesse James-Cole Younger Gang: PUBLIC POLICY & POLICING ( WARTIME OUTREACH ( PHOTOGRAPHS (documents of now-demolished URM buildings and unpublished downtown streetscapes)... ARCHITECTURE (the history of the URM's early, now-demolished Main Street buildings, put into context with discussions of Victorian Downtown's removal to clear the way for the development of the Civic Center) and more.

PRESS CLIPS: Rolling Stone magazine has called 1947project: "[One] of the best true crime sites on the Net." LAist raved: "Brilliantly, unhealthily obsessed... We can't imagine our daily routine without it." And Wil Wheaton said: "1947project is much more than just a blog. It is fantastic literature which just happens to be presented in the blog format. If you're a fan of noir, or just a proud Angeleno, you're going to love it." 

ABOUT INSROLAND: explores the forgotten history of Downtown LA, up the grand entertainment boulevard of Broadway (where SRO means "Standing Room Only") and down the mean streets of Main (where SRO stands for "Single Room Occupancy," shorthand for a rented room with a sink in the corner, shared toilet down the hall). Between these two poles, straddling the financial center of Spring Street, modern Los Angeles was born. IN SRO LAND is home to cops and killers, stars and fans, architects and decorators, dancers nude and clothed, freak shows, classic Vaudeville, street preachers and blues shouters, dreamers and schemers, shoplifters, slumming millionaires, pulp writers, bar keepers, finger men and B-girls, the innocent and the profane. Tune in often to discover the lost lore of the Historic Core, and the fascinating souls who made this town their own. The blog's contributors are an eclectic mix of social historians and journalists, and include KIM COOPER (1947project creator, Esotouric bus adventures), BARBARA BOGAEV (public radio host "Weekend America" and "Fresh Air"), JOHN BUNTIN (author of "L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City"), ROB CLAMPETT (producer of " Beany and Cecil: The Special Edition" volumes 1 & 2, and manager of the Bob Clampett animation archives),  ADRIENNE CREW (LAObserved, LABrainTerrain), NATHAN MARSAK (1947project, On Bunker Hill, co-author of "Los Angeles Neon"), JOAN RENNER (tour guide for Esotouric bus adventures and the Los Angeles Conservancy, Vintage Powder Room blog) and RICHARD SCHAVE (Esotouric bus adventures). Additional contributors will be joining the team as the project develops.

For more info on IN SRO LAND, or to explore the first posts from the Union Rescue Mission Archive, please visit

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