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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • VOLUNTEER FOR VICTORY

Brentwood-Bel Air Fire: 1961

Brentwood-Bel Air Fire: 1961

Life Magazine dubbed the November 1961 Brentwood-Bel Air Fire "A Tragedy Trimmed in Mink." My father-in-law Woodrow was a fan of the Hollywood stars. Hearing that some stars' homes were destroyed in the Brentwood/Bel Air fire, he went up in the hills to see for himself. The L.A. Fire Department put out a documentary on fire called Design for Disaster. William Conrad narrated in the detective story style of the early 1960s. View full size.

THAT NARRATION

When I was a kid, watching newsreels and hearing old radio broadcasts from the '30s through '50s, I just thought that people back then REALLY DID TALK LIKE THAT. Maybe that's a holdover from the way public speakers were trained before amplification?

The cab-forward fire trucks with bulbous front ends are by Crown Coach, still very much in use in the '80s and maybe later, with bodywork shared with their line of school buses. Many of the other fire trucks look like relics of the '30s. I see firefighters standing on the rear bumpers of moving trucks, something I remember from the '70s, which is definitely not done now.

Both of the houses my family owned in Southern California had cedar shake roofs, two decades later. We weren't in a canyon, but that seems positively insane to me now.

Old cars and trucks

Many good reasons to watch the documentary (thanks for the link, Deborah), including amazing fire footage, crisp sound editing, instructive graphics, William Conrad's narration, and a fantastic array of cars and trucks from the fifties and early sixties.

 
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOG
Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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