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Old-Timers Witness the Area’s Changing Face

When Melba and Max Ennett decided to leave their native Utah and move to Los Angeles County in 1946, they wanted to settle in a rural setting. So Max, who had just been discharged from the military after service in World War II, and his new wife bought a home in Lennox.

“There were empty fields everywhere,” Melba recalls. “Jack rabbits and everything.”

The Ennetts, who live in the same home they purchased 45 years ago for $9,500, were among a wave of settlers that sparked Lennox’s first development boom. Cow pastures, chinchilla ranches and chicken farms still dotted the horizon. But increasingly, the open land gave way to houses for the predominantly Anglo, blue-collar workers drawn to the area by emerging aerospace industries.

Today, Lennox is among the most densely populated communities in the South Bay--and it is plagued with a host of urban ills. The old Army airstrip nearby has become Los Angeles International Airport, the fourth busiest in the nation. A dairy farm is now the site of Lennox Middle School. And many of the early single-family homes have been turned into duplexes and apartment complexes.

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“We had no idea it would be like this,” Melba Ennett says.

In the mid-1970s, another group of settlers began to transform Lennox. The community emerged as the “port of entry” for immigrants who had just arrived from Mexico and Central America. As with previous residents, the new arrivals were drawn to Lennox because of nearby work. Hotels, restaurants and airport-related business employ a majority of Lennox’s largely Latino residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The impact of the new immigrants is vividly demonstrated by the changing makeup of the Lennox School District, which consists of a middle school and five elementary schools.

In 1968, Anglos accounted for 81% of the district’s students. By 1975, Anglo students numbered 40%. In 1985, the number of Anglo students dwindled to 3%.

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By contrast, Latino students, who in 1968 numbered 16% of the students enrolled, had increased to 85% by 1985. During the 1990-91 school year, Latinos accounted for 93% of the district’s 5,600 students.


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