Two gun-toting supporters of law and order,...
Two gun-toting supporters of law and order, one a future sheriff, the other a singing cowboy, are among the notables in Lawndale’s hundred-year history, which also includes a cyclone and a crooked contractor who fled to Mexico with the funds for a new civic center.
In the 1930s, Lawndale’s streets were happy trails for young Leonard Slye, who would become Roy Rogers. He and his fledgling Sons of the Pioneers entertained neighbors from his parents’ front porch.
And 25 years later, in 1956, a rookie deputy named Sherman Block, who would become the county sheriff, patrolled the streets of Lawndale while working out of the Lennox station.
In spite of Lawndale’s long history, it was only in the 1980s, when it paved the median strip on Hawthorne Boulevard with artificial grass, that the city gained much public notice. The ersatz turf was torn out after rival burgs ridiculed the city as “Astrodale.”
Locally, though, Lawndale’s biggest quandary was distinguishing itself from its bigger, better-known neighbor to the north, Hawthorne.
In 1906, partners S. L. Hooper and C. A. Edwards bought up some fields of wild oats and mustard, subdivided the land into two areas and named one Lawndale and the other Lawndale Acres.
By 1911, the two Lawndales had plenty of houses, but the nearest butcher shop was in Inglewood and the closest drugstore in Redondo Beach.
One of the town’s earliest residents, William Anderson, who would start the school district, bought a half-acre lot for $1,200 and settled in. Residents later recognized his leadership by naming a school after him.
“Oil!” was the cry in the 1920s, as 63 steel “rocking horses,” each taller than the tallest building in town, were pumping across Lawndale’s two square miles. But Lawndale’s hopes for an oil-rich future sank when only six of those wells kept producing.
In March 1930, a cyclone ripped through town, and after residents repaired their homes, they launched a building fund drive for a city hall. The highlight was a Labor Day fair, but no sooner had the receipts been counted than the contractor skipped town with the money. (A city hall was finally built on 147th Street a few years later.)
Alongside the houses, wood-frame shacks had gone up during the search for black gold. They finally disappeared after World War II as the population boomed.
The blue-collar community always felt the ripple effect of the economy, and in the early 1970s, when beef prices skyrocketed, the 250 or so winged residents of Lawndale’s Alondra Park Lake were sitting ducks for poachers.
A more severe crisis than beef prices hit the city in 1987, when--years before Orange County’s financial scandal--the city lost $1.7 million in a speculative securities investment. The city is still feeling the impact.
Today, the once-booming hometown of aerospace industry’s riveters and engineers--where one family in five owns its home free and clear--is best known to outsiders as the spot between Redondo Beach and Hawthorne where diverse small businesses line Hawthorne Boulevard.
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LAWNDALE Inside Out / By the Numbers
Date incorporated: December 28, 1959
Area in square miles: 2
Number of parks: 3
Number of city employees: 34 fulltime; 35 part time
1996-97 operating budget: 7 million (capital & restricted funds excluded)
Average household size: 3
Median age: 29
MONEY AND WORK
Median household income: $34,552
Median household income / L.A. County: $34,965
Median home value: $227,000
Employed workers (16 and older): 15,135
Women in labor force: 61%
Men in labor force: 85%
Married couple families with children: 31%
Married couple families with no children: 17%
Other types of families: 21%
Nonfamily households: 31%
1989 HOUSEHOLD INCOME:
$0 to $14,999: 16%
$15,000 to $24,999: 17%
$25,000 to $49,999: 38%
$50,000 to $74,999: 19%
$75,000 to $99,999: 8%
$100,000 or more: 2%
LAWNDALE RETAIL STORES
Total stores: 210
Total employees: 1,192
Annual sales: $144 million
Source: Claritas Inc. retail figures are for 1995. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.