City of Champions Thinks There's No Place Like Home

This column is by Times staff writers Patricia Lopez and Gerald Faris.

It was Magic time in the City of Champions.

Los Angeles may have hailed the conquering Lakers on Tuesday with ticker tape, dignitaries and 30,000 fans, but it was Inglewood that welcomed them home .

That's because for the Los Angeles Lakers, Inglewood is home. It's where the Fabulous Forum is. It's where Laker guard Byron Scott grew up and still lives. It's where the hours of sweat and strain were poured out before the Lakers finally won Sunday's sweet victory at the Boston Garden.

After Los Angeles staged its massive noontime parade, Inglewood held a more intimate 8,000-fan pep rally to salute the hometown team and to proclaim Lakers Week in Inglewood. (Los Angeles, some sniffed, had proclaimed only Lakers Day .)

The Forum parking lot was a sea of yellow and purple as radios blared out such newly significant tunes as "Down in Birdland," and "That Old Black Magic."

Holding handmade "We Love You Cooper" and "Rambis Youth" signs, slurping watermelon and chugging beer, thousands waited boisterously in the hot sun for a glimpse of history--the knights-errant who had slain the Boston dragon in its lair.

For many Inglewood residents, the victory seemed all the more special because of the kinship they feel with this team.

"It might seem silly, because they are the Los Angeles Lakers, but I feel like they belong to us more because their real home is here," said Inglewood resident Charis Jones, 19, as the Lakers loped on stage. "It was cool to watch the games on television and hear the announcer say Inglewood, California. We were famous."

That particular thrill, though, was one that took some hounding, according to Inglewood Mayor Edward Vincent.

"The Lakers have been here since the late 1960s, but it's only this year that we've gotten the networks to consistently say Inglewood instead of L.A.," he said.

"The Forum people were very supportive, but it took a while to break the networks of the L.A. habit. Maybe now we can get to work on changing it to the Inglewood Lakers," he said wistfully. "Wouldn't that be something?

"I feel the championship belongs even more to Inglewood than L.A.," he said.

While most of the Lakers consider Inglewood home because of the Forum, for Scott the feeling runs deeper.

Gazing at the crowd Tuesday he yelled, "I'm from Inglewood. I went to Morningside High School. I see a lot of fans that went to Morningside. I still love Inglewood."

And so do many others in this city that has fought hard to portray itself as a "City of Champions" and a "City on the Move," not one in decline.

The next day everybody would go back to worrying about crime rates, unemployment, political hassles and jet noise from nearby Los Angeles International Airport.

On Tuesday, though, the only problem for most in the crowd was the sight of the Inglewood High School band.

Like so many red flags waving before 8,000 angry bulls, the Inglewood High School band stood before the crowd garbed entirely in green and white--the hated Boston colors.

"They ought to change their colors or go to Boston," said an indignant Sharon Brown, 18.

"It's the first time I've ever been embarrassed about my school's colors," wailed Margarita Huaco, 18, of Inglewood, who was sporting a green and white cheerleader's uniform.

"Well," she added cheerfully, "at least the band is playing 'Purple Rain.' "

Flag Day Celebrated by Few

President Woodrow Wilson thought the American flag was important enough to deserve a national celebration, so in 1916 he established one by proclamation.

The United States Congress, too, was sufficiently impressed by the Stars and Stripes that in 1949 it recognized June 14 as Flag Day.

Flag Day, which marks the day the Continental Congress adopted the flag early in the American Revolution, appears on many calendars along with Christmas and Thanksgiving.

But among South Bay cities, the special day that will be marked again Friday cannot hold a flag to splashier holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Only five of the area's 15 cities--Torrance, Gardena, Hawthorne, Manhattan Beach and Lawndale--plan to celebrate the day by flying the flag along major business streets. Gardena and Hawthorne will keep their flags up through July 4 as part of a national "Honor America" event sponsored by a group in Washington, D.C.

In the 10 other cities, the day will be ignored unless residents put flags up at their homes or schoolchildren hold observances. Officials say Flag Day never has been observed in their cities, outside of a proclamation here and there, and no one in the community has ever been aroused enough to say that it ought to be.

"I've been here 30 years and I don't recall any requests that we observe Flag Day," said Iris Crochet, city clerk in Inglewood. "Memorial Day takes care of it."

There was a flag request three years ago in Carson, but it was for Samoan Flag Day, said city spokeswoman Eva Gatlin. The city's large Samoan population got permission to fly the flag at a celebration in a city park. As for American Flag Day, she said, "They city does not observe it, but some residents do."

"We've been putting flags out for the 20 years I've been here, and it goes back much further than that," said William Clement, recreation administrator in Torrance, who said 100 flags will line Torrance Boulevard on Friday. In Hawthorne and Gardena, officials said, there also is a long tradition of displaying the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day, with Hawthorne putting out 200 along Hawthorne Boulevard.

Six blocks of downtown Manhattan Beach are decorated by a Chamber of Commerce group, which started the Flag Day project a decade ago.

"They were looking for a patriotic gesture and felt this would be a suitable project," said Trudy Smart, chamber manager. The Lions, Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis and Boy Scouts help out.

Lawndale will mark Flag Day for the first time Friday by lining Hawthorne Boulevard with Old Glory.

Clement and Tom Quintana, a spokesman for Hawthorne, said the Olympics heightened public interest in the American flag and in patriotism in general. "We've always put the flags out for Flag Day, now we're flying them through the Fourth," said Quintana.

But at one South Bay flag store, there has been no surge in sales this week. "Our shelves were just about empty for the Olympics, but this week there has been no increase in sales," said Sherry Redasky, vice president of Franjean's Flag Specialty Co. in Torrance. She said Flag Day plays second fiddle to holidays like Memorial Day and July 4 because "people don't get a day off for Flag Day. They get up and go to work, and usually they're hurrying."

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