25 Years Old : Lawndale Eluded the Gobblers

Times Staff Writer

A quarter of a century ago, this farm-town-turned-working-class community incorporated--as the official record puts it--"to forestall being gobbled up by surrounding communities through annexation."

And all this week, the city will call attention to what has happened since as it celebrates its 25th birthday with festivities ranging from a celebrity basketball game and the 1985 Miss Lawndale pageant to an all-city picnic.

"We're having a party because we have 25 years of progress to celebrate," said Mayor Sarann Kruse. "Our commercial area along Hawthorne Boulevard is growing and meeting the demands of the '80s, housing in the city has turned around with multiple-units, and we are moving ahead to provide programs for senior citizens, expand the Civic Center to better serve people, develop a minibus system that will encourage more Lawndalians to shop in Lawndale and revitalize Hawthorne Boulevard."

Neighboring Torrance was almost poetic in praise of Lawndale. In a congratulatory resolution, the Torrance City Council said Lawndale "offers the advantages of small-town living and ideal weather, coupled with near-perfect location and easy access to beaches, mountains and metropolitan centers."

Once a part of Rancho Sausal-Redondo, Lawndale made its first appearance on maps in 1897 as an agricultural community. Small farms--raising crops, sheep and poultry--characterized Lawndale until the 1920s when an oil boom brought derricks and oil workers. Housing needs of World War II defense plant workers sparked a building boom that continued long after the war,

Community improvements, together with the promotion of Lawndale as a place to live and work, were in the hands of the Civic Assn. and later the Chamber of Commerce. They worked with the county as an unofficial government until cityhood on Dec. 28, 1959, after local voters went to the polls in a last-ditch effort to avoid becoming a part of other cities--notably Hawthorne--attracted by the sales tax generated by bustling Hawthorne Boulevard.

The birthday celebration will start at Monday night's City Council meeting when proclamations saluting the city will be presented by government officials.

There is a celebrity basketball game Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Leuzinger High School, 4118 W. Rosecrans Ave.; the Man and Woman of the Year Dinner on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Alondra Club, 16411 S. Prairie Ave.; a teen-ager dance in the Leuzinger cafeteria Friday at 7 p.m.; a girls indoor soccer tournament at the Leuzinger girls gym Saturday at 10 a.m. and, also on Saturday, the Miss Lawndale Pageant and Coronation Ball at 8 p.m. at Hawthorne Memorial Center, El Segundo Boulevard and Prairie Ave.

The celebration will end next Sunday with the All-City Picnic from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Addams Park, Compton Boulevard and Freeman Avenue. There will be entertainment and prizes and soft drinks, cake and souvenirs supplied by the city.

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