News & Announcements

12/30/05: New home page

As the faithful already know, the home page spawned a photo slideshow several weeks ago, and now sports a zippy DHTML menu system. (DHTML is pronounced just as it’s spelled. Har har har ... )

Credits: Dominey Design of Atlanta for the slideshow, and the good-hearted Brits at Milonic for the menu. Milonic provides the menu free of charge to nonprofits like ours.

(Utterly no idea what this entry is about? Just see the same home page that’s been there for several years? Your computer is without version 7 or later of the Adobe/Macromedia Flash Player; the slideshow won't show or slide without it. The Flash Player's price is right; it’s free.)

12/02/05: Museum of Latin American Art

Graham, Miramonte, Ninety-Second Street and other South L.A. schools in the Blue Line corridor, have we ever got an art museum for you: the Museum of Latin American Art, at Sixth and Alamitos in Long Beach. We’ve taken you to LACMA and hope to take you back, but MoLAA’s much closer. Ride the Blue Line south to the Long Beach Fifth Street station. Walk east on Sixth fifteen minutes to Alamitos, and you’re there.

MoLAA isn’t as big as LACMA and doesn’t have the Norton Simon’s audio guides, but they offer a simply superb weekday tour and workshop package. The photos show docent Rosana Jeronymo and art instructor Vanessa Martinelli with our group from Graham Elementary. Today’s program revolved around the kinetic art of Jesus Rafael Soto, on display through March, 2006.

Although the tour and workshop package is available only on weekdays, MoLAA offers great Sunday programs for families.

(And who’s the handsome gentleman riding alongside one of our charges on the Blue Line? Metro’s Melvin Clark, DEO of rail transportation, serendipitously met on the southbound train.)

11/13/05: NexGen Family Sunday

Maybe you’re a grown-up and maybe you have your own computer, credit card, mortgage, payroll deduction, spam filter and so on, and can eat all the candy you want whenever you want, but YOU probably don’t have a Mayan bamboo flute.

But these kids do, thanks to the L.A. County Museum of Art, which sponsored the crafts workshop in which the flutes were made.

NexGen Family Sunday, that’s what LACMA calls it: a Sunday afternoon workshop for kid-friendly, make and take craft activities on the LACMA plaza. You can book a spot for your children or child as early as 11:00 a.m., but the crafts generally take place from about 12:30 to 3:30. They’re usually related to a grown-up exhibit: today’s intensive with the bamboo – capably led by Martin Espino – meshed neatly with the exhibit Lords of Creation: the Origins of Sacred Maya Kinship.

If you’re up for a Sunday field trip, this is a great reason to book it for LACMA.

(Although our charges tooted endlessly into the “flutes” on the way home, a reminder of why unrequested musical instruments tend to be little appreciated by parents as holiday gifts. Try giving a big set of bongos or a used Fender guitar to a relative's tenager and see what kind of reaction you get. Just try.)

11/10/05: Aquarium of the Pacific

No, there’s nothing wrong with your video card: it’s a real fish, the ordinarily camera-shy humphead wrasse – aka napoleon wrasse, for you budding oceanographers – captured in an all too rare public moment in the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Tropical Pacific gallery.

You can almost always spot this big dude at the aquarium, but he seems to prefer lurking about the sides of the tank to taking a well-earned spot in the limelight in front of potentially appreciative admirers. These shots are unlikely to be repeated, unless the wrasse appreciates this news entry and decides to be a bit less Garbo-like from now on.

(Incidentally, one of our visitors today was disappointed that the aquarium includes no mermaids. Aquarium staff?)

This beautiful fish is endangered; read why in this BBC article.

Incidentally, as long as we're sharing the dish about the fish at the aquarium, the Army Archerd on the parrotfish -- long a favorite of our Tropical Pacific gallery visits -- is that it has been 86'd to a behind-the-scenes gallery. That's why we haven't seen it for awhile.

The reason? Poor behavior with the other gill breathers. B-i-t-i-n-g. Although kids and teachers understand time-outs for breaking rules, we can only hope that this aquatic enfant terrible learns the error of its ways and soon draws a parole.

10/29/05: Orange Line Opening

Gleaming from prow to stern and oozing with New Bus Smell, the custom-built, fifty-seven foot Metro Liners slid open their silver doors to passengers this weekend on the San Fernando Valley’s new fourteen mile Orange Line.

What’s the Orange Line?

The Orange Line is a transitway. Busway. Expressway for buses only. It goes from North Hollywood to the Warner Center. Forty-two minutes.

Think freeway, sort of, although not as fast, but just for buses. No impromptu car, bike or moped shortcuts across the Valley via the transitway, unless you’re feeling sentimental about the last time you cut a big check for a traffic ticket. Buses only.

Ottawa has a busway. More than 200,000 Ottawans – you know those Canucks, eh?, civilized, well-behaved people – use the busway to get to work. Curitiba, Brazil has a f-a-m-o-u-s busway. Now Los Angeles has one, too.

$300,000,000+ pictures of old George, and not play money, either. 13 stations, 36 intersections. Five minute headways during rush hour, 10 – 15 minutes during the day, 20 minutes at night, or when you really need to get somewhere.

According to a recent Lisa Mascaro article in the Daily News, Supervisor Yaroslavsky and former Assemblymember Bob Hertzberg deserve much of the credit for the new busway. The Orange Line opening is a no foolin' big deal for many Valley commuters, but – and teachers, it’s better to be frank – may be less of a big deal for us.

A sentence on the Metro web site tells why:

Major destinations available along the line include Valley College, Van Nuys Civic Center, Woodley Lake Golf Course, the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, Lake Balboa Park, and Pierce College.

Now, this list does include possibilities. The 6½ acre Japanese Garden is close to the Woodley Orange Line station, and offers tours, albeit at hours inconvenient for most of our volunteers. A few years back, the L.A. Weekly called the Sepulveda Basin’s riverside habitat ‘one of the finest wildlife refuges in an American city.’ Some teachers may prefer this trip to Debs Audubon, although Debs offers better transit access for most of our participants, and an excellent ‘city wildlife’ program for third grade.

But what are we going to do at the golf course? Play in the sand traps? Hire the kids out as caddies? And, no offense intended, most teachers will think of a college tour at USC or UCLA before booking one for Valley or Pierce (although we might be able to cadge some free homework help from the undergrads). Overall, this looks more like a transit artery for grown-ups who want to go to work, rather than for TransitPeople. They didn't spend the $300 mil just for us.

Our little crew boarded at NoHo and rode eleven stops to a small harvest festival near the De Soto station. Orange Line crowds were modest at the start of the day and became progressively more formidable as the sun hove westward. The artic – transit slang for ‘articulated bus,’ see that elastic-looking joint in the middle of the bus?, lets it go around curves -- was standing room only when we boarded for the return trip to NoHo.

* * * * *

Update, 11/3/05: Let's wait awhile before booking that Sepulveda Basin trip: Orange Line crash

10/22/05: Exposition Park

Our TransitPeople group basked briefly in the glow of political celebrity today, as we encountered Congresswoman Maxine Waters during our outing to the Science Center. Like most of our head-to-heads with the high and mighty, this one happened by accident. We turned a corner, passed the admissions desk, and lo and behold!, there she was.

Ms. Waters undoubtedly had loftier folk to meet, but was the picture of hospitality while fielding questions. Teachers at 118th Street, 93rd, 92nd, and 49th Street, this is your congresswoman. Don’t send in those requests for stickers and erasers all at once.

The next two shots show the kids in the excellent Magic Exhibit, which will baffle, confound and amaze visitors to the Science Center's Weingart Gallery through year end. A can't miss destination for children.

3/19/05: Norton Simon Museum

For teaching grade schoolers about art, the Norton Simon just might be a better field trip destination than LACMA.

There. It's been said.

LACMA is bigger. LACMA is catty corner to the Craft and Folk Art Museum and next door to the Page Tar Pits Museum. True, the curricular connection between Cole’s L’Allegro and the rampaging, two ton ground sloth may be ... less than intuitive, to put it charitably, but the Page and LACMA are both all-star field trips for kids. We frequently visit both on the same day.

More: LACMA has a childrens’ gallery. LACMA is centrally located. The Norton Simon lacks a kid-friendly facility for lunch. (The grassy strip at Colorado and Orange Grove is a half block distant and will serve for brown baggers, but this is a bit like chowing down in a parking lot.)

But what the Norton Simon does have may be important enough to tip the scales in its favor.

Not the Degas. Not the Rembrandt. Not the South Asian collection.

The Norton Simon has audio guides.

Look at the photos, from our trips here on March 19 and April 2. See the baguette-sized dealies the kids are holding?

Audio guides. Rent ‘em for three bucks each. Stroll the museum, key in the number for a painting you like, and listen to the recording. LACMA used to have these, but they’re no more, except for special events. (The distant Getty has them still.) The Norton Simon audio guides can play recordings for grown-ups and, for select art works, recordings geared specifically for kids.

For grade schoolers, this is unbeatable. For three bucks apiece, you can rent an audio guide for every student, or for half of them. Teachers, which scenario appeals to you more?

•Leading the group by yourself, speed reading the plaques next to the paintings you don’t know, and getting at least some of the information wrong when you try to explain it to the group,


•leading the group to a painting of interest, waiting while everyone listens to the recording, and then discussing the artwork together.

Docent tours are better still, but these are booked months in advance at LACMA, and are available at the Norton Simon only for grades 5 and above. Audio guides can be checked out by all grade levels anytime.

Transit access: the Gold Line offers great views, but the Atlantic Boulevard 260 is a better bet for some East L.A. groups – particularly Winter Gardens, a two block walk from the 260 stop. The museum is walking distance from Colorado and Fair Oaks, or you can grab a frequent running 180-181. Hollywood groups could ride the Red and the Gold Line, or take the 180-181 all the way; it starts at Hollywood and Vine.

3/5/05: Huntington Library

This a valuable field trip, as long as you don't ride the 79 here on a big day at Santa Anita race track. Whatever you do.

If you book it with us, the worry is ours, but if you travel on your own, no fooling, check with the race track first.

As even a kindergartner could guess, the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanic Gardens is named for a grown-up named Huntington: in this case, one Henry E. Huntington, scion to the Southern Pacific rail empire built by uncle Collis. Henry learned the choo-choo biz at Collis’ knee and then got to work on a rail empire of his own. Henry thought big: his Pacific Electric company built the largest interurban electric rail network on earth.

Huntington didn’t lay track for his masterwork in New York, or London, or Moscow, or Curitiba, or any of the other cities generally fawned over for their transit systems. He built it right here in Los Angeles. C’est vrai! In its early twentieth century heyday, some nine hundred Red Cars trod 1,100 plus miles in Southern California. You could ride the Red Cars from Culver City to Pomona, Santa Monica to San Bernardino, from North Hollywood to Santa Ana and Newport Beach. Metrolink’s five hundred miles seem almost quaint in comparison.

(What became of the PE transit infrastructure is another matter. You’ll find competing views here and here, on the Electric Railway Historical Association web site.)

Huntington, wealthy even by Gates and Buffett standards, picked up the two hundred plus acres of San Marino Ranch with some pocket change in 1902. Later, he built a mansion on it, to kick back with wife Arabella and family members, and to house his colossal art and rare book collection. (Which you and your students can see, too, as long as you check with Santa Anita first. (626) 574-7223.)

In 1919, he gave his estate to the public. The Huntington was born. Here are some highlights of what you can see here, after you call Santa Anita:

Art. The Huntington mansion now contains one of the country’s largest collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century British and French art. In the Scott Gallery, you’ll find American art from the 1730s on. Worthy of special mention are Blue Boy and Pinkie, two fabulously famous paintings that this visitor, at least, never expected to see out of an encyclopedia.

Any art collector worth his or her Christie’s catalog would contemplate felonious mayhem for the chance to wrap trembling fingers around these two gems, but they aren’t for sale and never will be – and yet you and your students can contemplate them at your leisure, as long as you check with the track before setting a trip date. You can try (626) 574-6352, if the 7223 number is busy. Not to belabor a point.

Rare books. Huntington collected them. A lot of them. There are a Gutenberg Bible in vellum (eh?), the Ellesmere manuscript of Canterbury tales, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, and the early works of Shakespeare.

(Ph.D. holders, by the way, may browse the volumes in the main research library. The Huntington also will admit Ph.D. candidates, upon presentation of a letter of reference from their dissertation advisor. The web site says nothing about admitting grade schoolers, even those who can boast a star and a happy face on a homework assignment. And you can’t eat chips or nachos while browsing those centuries old Shakespeare editions, so really, why bother?)

Plus 150 acres of botanic gardens, traveling exhibits and special events (a Shakespeare festival on April 24!). This isn’t a five star kids’ destination like the Aquarium or Natural History Museum, but it is well worth visiting, and is an especially restful place for grown-ups, too.

As long as you check with the race track first.

Now, what happens if you don’t check with the race track first?

Read on:

For all practical purposes, the one likely transit route to the Huntington is the #79.

The #79 also serves the Santa Anita race track.


The #79 runs every thirty minutes or so. That’s just fine, when the track is quiet and only a few thousand fans are out there, throwing away money on low-draw events like satellite wagering. But when the track sponsors a big event, the fans come in droves. 30,000 plus showed up for ‘Big Cap Day’ on March 5. MTA operates special, Santa Anita bound 79s on these dates, but this doesn’t keep the track goers from boarding the regular route buses.

Call the track and check first. A ride on a bus swarming with race fans might be a good field trip for college students studying Day of the Locust, but not for elementary schoolers. (If determined to visit on a race day, you might try the 485, but then you’d have to make like Jedediah Smith with the feet; figure a forty minute walk to the Huntington from the nearest 485 stop.)

Unfortunately, this caveat also applies to Arboretum trips. The #79 is the likeliest route for both destinations.

1/15/05: What do the Pio Pico state park and the Whittier Museum have in common? Three things, at least:

  • A bus line: the venerable Montebello #10, which starts at East L.A. College, ends at the Whittwood Mall, and does most of its to-and-fro between the two on Whittier Boulevard. The #10 stops at the curb next to the state park and within waving and hollering distance of the Whittier Museum.

No fine print on the transit pass requires us to visit both of these venues on the same day, but so far, we always have.

  • Plenty of oomph for a California history lesson. Fourth grade teachers, this combo was made for you.
  • Pio Pico.

Born centavo-less at the San Gabriel Mission in 1801, Pio Pico served as the last Mexican state governor, amassed one of the largest land holdings in California history, and squandered much of his fortune on investments that were either just lousy or lousy while guided by romantic good intentions1. (That, and the gaming tables.)

When he had lost nearly everything, he still had the 9,000 acres of El Ranchito, which he purchased as a country home in 1848. It is now a state park, restored and reopened to the public in 2003. Visitors may stroll the adobe rooms in which the former governor passed his twilight years, and linger among the fruit orchards and gardens between the adobe and the San Gabriel River.

Best of all, we’ve been able to book a wonderful free tour for each of our three visits here to date. Two were with the state park’s Ranger Fred, who definitely knows how to keep the little people on task and interested. The photos – snapped during our two visits here in ’04 and our first of 2005 – show a portion of what we did.

The park now plans to sponsor a Living History Day on the fourth Saturday of every month between 11 and 3. Activities will include adobe and bread making demonstrations, guided tours, period games for kids and more.

The Whittier Museum’s Pio Pico Gallery includes a replica of El Ranchito, a sight sure to elicit oohs and ahhs if the kids have just come from the real McCoy. However, if the late governor is the leitmotif at the state park, he’s just one passage of the symphony here.

Operated by the Whittier Historical Society, the Whittier Museum is about, you guessed it, Whittier: the life and culture of the Quaker community founded here in 1887. The townspeople named the town after poet and editor John Greenleaf Whittier. He never visited, but did polish off a nice little poem for his namesake, as follows:

My Name I Give To Thee
Dear Town, for whom the flowers are born,
Stars shine, and happy songbirds sing,
What can my evening give to thy morn,
My Winter to Thy Spring? A life not void of pure intent
With small desert of praise or blame;
The Love I felt, the Good I meant,
I leave Thee with My Name.

The Whittier Museum occupies a plain brown wrapper of a building at Philadelphia and Newlin. Green marquee letters proclaim its identity to passersby, but that’s all. Many teachers who live in Whittier have never heard of it.

Inside, it’s a whole different story. You might, just might, find a museum elsewhere in Southern California that uses space so creatively; if you do, please write and share.

Look: you can step inside a miniature Queen Anne cottage, peer through a nineteenth century stereoscope, see how a farm family washed vegetables in a sink without a drain and took turns in the tub for the Sunday night bath.

A barnyard gallery includes a pump, more farm implements than a Green Acres re-run, and a full size, step-inside-and-shut-the-door-if-you-wish outhouse, guaranteed to make kids grateful that at least some adults studied and did homework long enough to invent modern plumbing.

More: a miniature Quaker meeting room. A step-inside, 5/8 scale Red Car replica. A horse-drawn buggy, sans horse. A turn of the century classroom, with kid-sized personal chalkboards. And this is all just on the first floor.

Like the Pico state park, they offer free tours! The museum’s volunteer docents understand children and do a great job of presenting to them. Three TransitPeople veterans have visited the museum and the Pico state park so far – Ms. Lezama and Ms. Hiatt of Winter Gardens, and Ms. Espinosa of Ford – and all have given a strong thumbs-up to this trip.

On January 15 we spent just under two hours at El Ranchito before boarding the #10 for a ten minute ride to the Whittier Museum; there, we passed another hour and a half. We could have stayed longer. The Whittier Museum also provides tours of the nearby Bailey House. These are a bit tougher to arrange; we haven’t been, at least not yet.

South L.A. and mid-Wilshire schools? Rent a school bus. This one’s just too long a trek for transit. But Ford Boulevard, Rowan, Winter Gardens and other East L.A. schools? If you want to focus on California history, this trip is a sure fire winner, and strongly recommended.

Bell Gardens and Garfield teachers might be able to do this one via a MTA Florence 711 or 111 to MTA Atlantic 260 to Montebello 10 combo (although this is a lot of bus and transfer time for elementary schoolers). There are other routes, but they require trips on infrequent-running lines, like the 270. Once an hour buses are a poor choice for school groups.

Thinking of doing this on your own? Be advised: from Whittier & Atlantic, every other #10 travels as far east as El Ranchito, the Whittier Museum and the Whittwood Mall. The others “short line” at Pico Terminal. The long-line Whittwood Mall 10s run every 20 minutes or so.

Photos aplenty are here, snapped during our two trips here in '04 and the first in '05.

1About Pico’s romantic good intentions: here’s how Mexico’s last California governor dropped a bundle while defending state honor against an Australian-born horse, as recounted by Harris Newmark in Sixty Years in Southern California: 1853-1913.

Historian Kevin Starr called Newmark’s tome “the single most valuable memoir to deal with the rise of the Southland in the 19th century” ... almost an understatement, IMHO. You can get contemporaneous with Mr. Newmark for free, courtesy of the Library of Congress California collection.

The most celebrated of all these horse races of early days was that between José Andrés Sepúlveda's Black Swan and Pio Pico's Sarco ... Sepúlveda had imported the Black Swan from Australia, in 1852, the year of the race, while Pico chose a California steed to defend the honors of the day. ... They were to race nine miles, the carrera commencing on San Pedro Street near the city limits, and running south a league and a half and return; and the reports of the preparation having spread throughout California, the event came to be looked upon as of such great importance, that, from San Francisco to San Diego, whoever had the money hurried to Los Angeles to witness the contest and bet on the result. Twenty-five thousand dollars, in addition to five hundred horses, five hundred mares, five hundred heifers, five hundred calves and five hundred sheep were among the princely stakes put up; and the wife of José Andrés was driven to the scene of the memorable contest with a veritable fortune in gold slugs wrapped in a large handkerchief. Upon arriving there, she opened her improvised purse and distributed the shining fifty-dollar pieces to all of her attendants and servants, of whom there were not a few, with the injunction that they should wager the money on the race; and her example was followed by others, so that, in addition to the cattle, land and merchandise hazarded, a considerable sum of money was bet by the contending parties and their friends. The Black Swan won easily.

2004 News & Announcements

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