“Capital within a Capital”: Covert Action, the Vietnam War, and Creating a “Little Saigon” in the Heart of Northern Virginia

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“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Springfield resident and Vietnamese American talk show host Liem D Bui told journalists in 2012. The flag to which Bui referred is that of the fallen South Vietnam government and it along with an American flag fly over Eden Center shopping plaza in Falls Church, VA, a symbolic embodiment of Vietnamese American culture that some call “a capital within a capital,” for D.C.’s 80,000 residents of Vietnamese descent. Unfortunately, in recent years, the shopping center has garnered attention for more than its restaurants and markets. A murder-suicide left two men dead in July of 2012 and gambling raids in 2011 linked Eden Center and its flag … [Read more...]

125 Years of 4th of July Parades and Liberalism in Maryland’s Takoma Park

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“We’re compromised,” an exasperated Julie Boddy told a Washington Post journalist in 2012. As a sitting member of the Nuclear Free Takoma Park Committee, Boddy and other committee members expressed sharp reservations about a recent city council decision. “What kind of reputation do we have if we fall down in that way?” Ian Barclay, a town native agreed. “It’s just a slippery slope … when you start letting this slide then where are you going to end up.” The issue at hand you ask? Town librarians had ordered a set of Hewlett Packard computers to replace older outdated models. However, HP’s historical association with the production of nuclear weapons led librarians to “stash” them away in … [Read more...]

Fighting for Leisure: African Americans, Beaches, and Civil Rights in Early 20th Century L.A.

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"These people worked on the railroad, they saved their money, they put up a resort, and they lost everything," lamented Bernard Bruce in 2007. "How would you feel if your family owned the Waldorf and they took it away from you." Bruce, the grandson of former beach resort proprietors Charles and Willa Bruce, spoke to the Los Angeles Times after a contested Manhattan Beach city council vote of 3-2 confirmed the city's official commemoration of his parents' beach resort as a historic landmark. "There's a kind of tension," longtime resident and local historian Robert L. Brigham added, "between people who are very conscious of the history of Bruce's and those who would rather forget about the … [Read more...]

I Live in America’s Most Dangerous Suburb

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According to Movoto.com, East Point, Georgia is America’s most dangerous suburb. As an eight-year resident of East Point, I received this news with a curious mix of pride and loathing. On the one hand, anyone who lives in a “most dangerous” anywhere must by definition be tough and manly—and I have always wanted to be tough and manly. On the other, I was not aware that I had been living in a suburb—and I have always, always been an impassioned opponent of suburban living. Of course, no one should really take the Movoto.com article seriously. It is based upon sloppy methodology, faulty assumptions, and questionable conclusions. To paraphrase Dean Yeager from Ghostbusters, "you are poor … [Read more...]

Retail California: Shopping Centers, Malls, and Creating a New Consumerism

Broadway-Crenshaw Center in 1947. Photo by Loomis Dean.

[Editor's note: This article first appeared on April 4, 2013 for the Intersections column at KCET Departures. Part of a 3 part series on Southern California's retail history, Part III (below) explores SoCal's role in popularizing shopping malls  Part II on the convergence of the Big Lebowski and Ralph's as a symbol of SoCal's early embrace of the grocery store and new "advances" in consumerism can be read here. Part I examines Los Angeles' role in creating the drive in market, a precursor to the dreaded strip mall. It can be read here.] "It was a peculiar and visionary time, those years after World War II to which all the Malls and Towns and dales stand as climate controlled monuments," … [Read more...]

Retail California: Cars, Drive-In Markets, and Consumers

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[Editor's note: This article first appeared on March 7, 2013 for the Intersections column at KCET Departures. Part of a 3 part series on Southern California's retail history, Part II on the convergence of the Big Lebowski and Ralph's as a symbol of SoCal's early embrace of the grocery store and new "advances" in consumerism can be read here. Part III on SoCal's role in popularizing shopping malls can be read here. Part I, below, examines Los Angeles' role in creating the drive in market, a precursor to the dreaded strip mall.] When C.L. Peckham opened Ye Market Place on Los Feliz Road in Glendale in 1924, few realized the influence the drive-in market would have on urban planning and … [Read more...]

Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification: Best of AHA 2014, Part 1

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Going to conferences is one of the great mixed blessings of the academic life.  On one hand, it offers the chance to get away (to New York or LA, or sometimes even exotic destinations like Richmond, VA) and travel, like an Actually Important Person (AIP), sometimes with your department or university picking up the tab.  We get to reconnect with old friends and have more than the appropriate number of drinks--on the pretext, of course, of "getting a feel for the city" (or in Richmond's case, not). On the other hand, there is the actual conference itself--a dreary procession of monotonously recited presentations, ranging from the navel-gazingly esoteric to the merely boring.  And if it's … [Read more...]

Only Some May Follow: Southern California, Asian Americans, and Housing during the Cold War

Japanese Internment - Not America's greatest moment

“Years of media abetted conditioning to the possibility of war, invasion, and conquest by waves and waves of fanatic emperor worshiping yellow men,” the late writer Michi Nishiura Weglyn pointed out, “invariably aided by harmless seeming Japanese gardeners and fisherfolk who were really spies and saboteurs in disguise – had invoked latent paranoia as the news from the Pacific in the early weeks of the war brought only reports of cataclysmic Allied defeats.”[1]  Indeed, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and internment, the U.S. government questioned the loyalty of its Japanese citizens. The F.B.I. and Naval intelligence had performed exhaustive surveillance of the Japanese minority and … [Read more...]

Too Much to Choose From: Searching for Inspiration in Asheville

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Asheville is an Appalachian Shangri-La. This year-round resort town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, draws a funky mix of New Agers, fleece-clad mountain bikers, antiques lovers and old-time farmers. And what's there not to like? Charming yet surprisingly cosmopolitan for a town of about 73,000, Asheville has a Southern appeal all its own. There are lazy cafes and buzzing bistros, Art Deco skyscrapers and arcades reminiscent of Paris, kayaking and biodiesel cooperatives and one of the world's largest private homes — the Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-style mansion with 250 rooms. No wonder so many locals first started out as tourists. -- New York Times “Freak … [Read more...]

Swimming in Dysfunction?: McCarren and the Long Perspective on Municipal Pools

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This is the third installment of our Summer 2013 pool series: Part I - A Dive into the Deep End: The Importance of Swimming Pools in Southern California - a cultural history of the pool in Socal (published at KCET Departures) Part II - Waters of Community, Waters of Hostility: The Messy History of Urban America and the Municipal Pool After reopening in summer of 2012 following decades of dormancy, Brooklyn’s Robert Moses era 1937 landmark, McCarren Pool, resumed operations for its second season in late June.  In New York,  media outlets from the New York Times to Curbed NY  to New York Magazine eagerly jumped on stories emanating from the pool; Curbed enjoyed deploying the term … [Read more...]

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